Chickpea Fritters with Cucumber Dill Sauce

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There are times when I am in a big rush and need to make something quick, yummy, and high-in-protein to serve alongside a big dinner salad.  On one of these days, I came up with these delightful, little chickpea fritters.

On the days when I am totally averse to frying, I use a griddle to make both sides of my fritters golden and then finish them off in the oven.  On the days when I am short on time, I will fry these babies up in a shallow, hot oil bath.  The result is crispy and extra scrumptious.

You can enjoy them with a big salad, cucumbers, or in pita bread with cucumber dill sauce!

My chickpea fritters are easy-to-make, satisfying, and most definitely delicious!  If you are ever pressed for time or expecting visitors, make these!  Your friends and family will be glad you did!

 

Chickpea Fritters

Servings: 2-3

Makes 9 2-inch in diameter fritters

Prep Time: 20-30 minutes

V, GF, DF, NF

 

Ingredients

1 tbsp flax meal

3 tbsp filtered water

1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

½ cup green onion, sliced

½ cup cilantro, chopped

1 ½ tbsp poblano chile pepper (or substitute jalapeno pepper)

½ cup oat flour (gluten-free)

½ tsp sea salt

½ tsp ground cumin

sunflower or grapeseed oil for pan frying

 

Directions

1. In a medium-sized bowl, add chickpeas. Mash the chickpeas with a potato masher, keeping in mind that it’s okay to keep some chickpeas whole since it’ll add nice texture to the patties.

2. Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl, except for the oil.  Using your hands or a large fork, thoroughly mix and combine all of the ingredients together.

3. a) Heat a medium sauté pan over medium heat and add enough oil to create a shallow bath to fry the fritters in.  Once the oil reaches 350 degrees, pan fry 2-inch in diameter patties until golden on each side, about 4-5 minutes, flipping once. Drain oil from the patties by placing a paper towel on a plate and folding it once. After frying, place patties on the paper towel.

b) Alternatively, form 9 2-inch patties and cook them on a griddle, sprayed with coconut cooking spray until golden brown on both sides.  Place the patties on a lined baking sheet and finish them off in a pre-heated 350 degree F oven for about 15 -20 minutes.

4. Serve with Cucumber Dill Sauce (recipe follows), salad and sliced cucumbers.

 

Cucumber Dill Sauce

Ingredients

½ cup cashews, soaked overnight, rinsed and drained

¼ cup filtered water

1 tbsp lemon juice

¼ cup cucumber, chopped

1 tsp dill, chopped

1/2 tsp garlic, chopped

1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

¼ sea salt

Directions

Place all ingredients into blender, and blend on high until smooth. If the mixture is too thick to blend, add some filtered water, 1 tbsp at a time. Serve with fritters as a dipping sauce or to dress salad and cucumbers.

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Chocolate Candy With Dried Cherry, Walnut, Hemp Seeds and Vegan Caramel

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In the United States, there is a popular candy store called See’s Candies, which can pretty much be found in any busy shopping mall.  Growing up, my parents would receive many boxes of See’s Candies Assorted Nuts and Chews chocolates for the holidays, hide them, and every so often take a box out for all their six children to enjoy.

Looking back, I can see how being the youngest in my family could have shaped my taste in chocolate candy, specifically See’s Candies chocolates. My sisters, older and bigger than me, would move swiftly toward the chocolate box and strategically choose candies of their choice leaving me with the undesirable ones.  This explains my exuberant passion for the candies that my sisters considered revolting.  For example, just this past holiday season, I noticed that my two favorite candies from See’s Candies happened to be the ones that were left in the box and untouched–Scotchmallows and Mayfair chocolates.  The Scotchmallows are “a layer of caramel with a layer of honey marshmallow covered in rich, dark chocolate.”   The Mayfair chocolates are “creamy soft center with walnuts, cherries and vanilla covered in smooth milk chocolate.”  I don’t quite understand why my sisters find those two flavors undesirable.   To me, they are awfully delicious and fun to eat!  In my pre-vegan days, I would stop in at See’s Candies just to buy one piece of either the Scotchmallow or Mayfair chocolate.  So good!

Most recently, I went to the mall and when I walked past See’s Candies I was reminded of my beloved Mayfair candy.  Since See’s Candies does not offer a vegan variety, I decided to create my own version.  I’m calling it Yayfair because my name starts with a ‘Y’ and I like the word “yay!”   This recipe tastes like the real thing, only it’s not bad for you.  No cholesterol or refined sugar.  It’s simply chocolate candy with dried cherry, walnuts, hemp seeds and vegan date “caramel.”  It’s raw and such a nice, guilt-free treat!

Here’s the recipe. I hope you enjoy it!

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Yayfair Chocolate Candy

Makes 9 – 10 candies

V, GF, GFV, ND, R

Ingredients

Filling:

4 large and soft medjool dates (if not soft, soak in filtered water overnight in the refrigerator and drain the water), pitted

1  1/2 tablespoon almond milk

1/2 tsp almond extract (or vanilla extract, no alcohol)

pinch fine sea salt

1/2 cup dried cherries

1 cup walnuts

2 Tbsp hemp seeds

 

Coating:

7 Tbsp cacao powder

3 Tbsp coconut oil, melted

3 Tbsp cocoa butter, melted

1 Tbsp maple syrup

4 drops liquid Stevia and more, as needed

 

Decoration:

1/4 tsp hemp seeds

 

Directions

1. Place the dates, almond milk, sea salt, and almond extract (or vanilla extract) in the food processor. Process until smoothish, somewhat like caramel. Taste the mixture. Adjust the almond (or vanilla flavor), if you wish.

2. To the food processor, add the walnuts, dried cherries and hemp seeds and pulse a few times. You will still want texture from the nuts and cherries, so be careful not to over-process.

3. a) Scoop mixture into a silicone ice cube tray, adding just enough of the mixture to each mold to make a cube with equal sides. Flatten and level the top with your fingers.

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b) Alternatively, if you don’t have a silicone ice cube tray, line a loaf (bread) pan with parchment, using cooking spray to keep the parchment in place. Add the mixture to half of the pan and flatten, smooth out the top.

4. Place the candies in the freezer until frozen, about 3-4 hours or overnight.

If you are placing the candies in a loaf pan, remove from the freezer after 30 minutes and cut into 9 – 1  1/2 inch cubes, or however many cubes you wish.   Place back in the freezer to freeze completely.

5. When the candies are almost frozen, make the chocolate coating. In a small bowl, mix together all of the coating ingredients and adjust sweetness by either adding more stevia or maple syrup.

6. Prepare for coating the candies with chocolate:

a) Line a small sheet tray (1/4 sheet tray) with parchment paper.

b) Take out a fork and a large spoon to assist you with coating the candies with chocolate.

c) Remove the candies from the freezer and quickly punch out the candies from the silicone ice cube mold.  Alternatively, remove the cubes from the bread pan and parchment.

Note: When you start coating the candies, you will need to move quickly since the frozen candy will freeze the chocolate almost immediately.

7. If you’re right-handed, hold the fork in your left hand (opposite if you’re a lefty). Place the candy on the fork. Hold the spoon with your left hand. Quickly dunk the bottom of the candy in the chocolate. Wipe the bottom with the back of the spoon and very quickly, spoon chocolate all over to coat the candy. Remember, to work quickly or you will see layers of chocolate coating. Quickly, place the candy on the lined sheet pan and sprinkle hemp seeds lightly on top of the candy before the chocolate sets. Repeat until you are done coating the candies with chocolate. If the coating chocolate in the bowl starts to set, gently heat it so it’s easier to work with. If you run out of chocolate, make a little more.

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8. Store in refrigerator to set and until ready to serve.

Enjoy!

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Asparagus Soup

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Asparagus soup – one of my favorite meals as a child!  Strange, I know, but there is story behind it.  When I was 4 years old, my dad would sometimes watch me in the mornings while my mom attended school in the mornings.  I can remember my dad “attempting” to pick out my clothes, brushing the tangles out of my hair, and giving me messy ponytails.  He coached me on how to tie my shoelaces by having me practice tying bows on one of my dresses over and over again until I had it just right. My dad also encouraged me to practice reading by singing on the karaoke machine and flipping through our many volumes of the encyclopedia.  One day, I asked him to build me a tree house, and without saying a word, he stuck a cigarette in his mouth, and built the tree house.  I felt like a lucky girl!  I had my dad’s undivided attention (I am the youngest of 6 girls) and I could be a daddy’s girl for once.

Since all of my sisters were in school at the time, he’d usually take me out for lunch at Jimmy’s Restaurant. My dad always ordered me a big bowl of soup and after trying all of Jimmy’s soups, my favorites were the asparagus and the clam chowder.  I distinctly remember my dad noticing that I favored asparagus soup so after a while he only ordered me the asparagus soup.  I didn’t mind.  I loved  asparagus soup with 2 packs of saltine crackers on top.

Little did I know, the main ingredient in the soup was good for me.  Asparagus has tons of benefits!  The goodness is in the stalk, which is rich in B vitamins, known to regulate blood sugar levels; it is also a good source of Vitamin K, which is excellent for healthy blood clotting and strengthening bones, and vitamin A for better vision, potassium for smooth kidney functioning, and trace minerals that help boost immunity.  Asparagus is a good source of protein and fiber, making it great for digestion, and with it’s inflammatory compounds can help protect you from type 2 diabetes and heart disease.  Additionally, asparagus has antioxidants, such as glutathione, which protects the skin from sun damage and the effects of aging, and contains a unique carbohydrate known as inulin that remains undigested until it reaches the large intestine, where it helps to absorb nutrients better, cutting the risk of colon cancer.

Today I created an asparagus soup that’s super yummy.  This soup can be eaten raw, warmed, or cooked.  You decide.  I felt like eating it warm today so I simmered the ingredients in a pot on medium heat for about 7 minutes (until al dente) and then simply added half an avocado to my blender with the warm soup ingredients and voila, it was ready to eat. So good!  For a complete meal, this recipe is good for one serving, and as a starter, this will serve 2.

Since I always think of my dad when I see asparagus, I am dedicating this soup recipe to my dad who is no longer in this world.  I wish he had eaten more vegetables while he was alive so we could have shared more good times together.  For now, I am left with memories, and I will cherish all of the good memories of my dad, always.

This one’s for you, Papasan!

Dedication song, “Gold Dust” by John Newman.

 

ASPARAGUS SOUP

DF, V, GF, GFV, SF, NF R

Prep Time 5-12 minutes

Servings 2

Ingredients

1/2 pound (about 2 cups) asparagus, trimmed of fibrous bottoms and chopped into thirds

heaping 1/3 cup sweet onion

1 cup vegetable stock

1/2 cup almond milk

1/4 tsp sea salt

1-2 shakes cayenne pepper

2 tsp lemon juice

1/2 avocado (about 1/4 cup)

 

Directions

1. a) If eating this soup raw, place all ingredients into blender, except for 4 asparagus tops for garnish, and process until smooth.  Adjust sea salt, cayenne pepper and lemon juice to taste. Garnish with asparagus tops and enjoy!

b) If eating warmed or cooked soup, add all of the ingredients to a small saucepot, EXCEPT for the avocado.

2. Cover and place the pot on medium heat for 3 minutes.  Turn down the heat to a simmer (medium-low heat) until desired level of tenderness. If you want it less cooked, cook until the asparagus are al dente (with a bite, some crispness), about 7 more minutes. Otherwise, cook until tender.

3. Place the avocado in the blender, reserve 4 asparagus stems for garnish and texture, and carefully pour the soup into the blender and process until smooth.  Taste and adjust sea salt, cayenne pepper, and lemon juice to taste.

4. Pour into 2 bowls or one large bowl and garnish with the asparagus tops and enjoy!

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Lentil Soup

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I was away, on the east coast, for about 2.5 weeks.  Peyman and I spent time with our niece, Roya, in New York and had an amazing vegan food adventure.  We tried new restaurants almost every day for lunch and dinner.  When we left New York, he flew to Europe for business and I went to Florida to meet my mom and sister’s family, who recently moved there.

Before my trip to the east coast, my sister and I discussed how I would consult her on cooking healthy, nutritiously and deliciously for her family.

Good thing they have a Whole Foods Market not too far away from her home.  We did some serious food shopping there for the week when I arrived.

One thing I love about cooking at home is that I’m in control of the amount of fat and salt in my food.  Eating out every day in  New York was a wonderful luxury and provided me with great research; however, it was so pricey and who knows if the cooks in the back were heavy-handed with oils and salt, if they used agave, had traces of gluten in their food, and what if the workers weren’t the most sanitary?! I’ve worked in professional kitchens– I know what can go on back there. EEeek!  I much prefer eating at home than going out all the time.  There are those days, though, when I need a break from cooking so we need to eat out to maintain my sanity.  That happens at least once a week.

While in Florida, we discovered that there is only one great Indian restaurant near my sister’s house and only one “vegan” restaurant in her city.  That “vegan” restaurant, however, was located one door down from a crematorium.  Sounds like a paradox, right?  I remember leaving the restaurant and smelling barbecue, but my mom, sister, and I noticed there weren’t any other restaurants around.  We were creeped out and don’t think we’ll go there again.  Too bad, though, because their food was good.  Just wish they had a better location where ashes weren’t floating in the air. Ewww…sorry for the visual.    

Anyway, we didn’t do much eating out while I was at my sister’s for a week and a half.

We started every day with a glowing green smoothie and I made quite a few dishes and desserts, including yellow curry, noodles with Asian peanut sauce, chocolate chai cookies, and my nutty creamy chocolate cake.  To my delight, my vegan and gluten-free recipes were a hit with the family, even the kids, and especially the vegan sweet treats!  It warms my heart to see them eat my food, smile, genuinely enjoy it and ask for seconds or thirds.

Speaking about warming the heart, it rains a lot in Florida, and usually the rain stops and the skies clear up.   One day, though, there was so much rain, thunder and lighting that my nephew and niece couldn’t attend their daily tennis academy.  I felt that a soothing, comforting and warming hearty soup was the best meal for a rainy day.  Since my sister had been asking me to make something with lentils since she picked me up from the airport, I decided to make a lentil soup.  While I was preparing it in the kitchen, my niece handed me a box of elbow pasta and said she really liked pasta.  At that moment, I decided to make my lentil soup an Italian lentil soup.  How would it be Italian? I decided to add some elbow pasta, and pasta is Italian!

It’s a super simple, hearty soup.  It’s super easy to make and soothing on a gloomy, rainy day.  I hope you enjoy it!

Here’s the recipe.

 

Italian Lentil Soup

Servings 6-8

Ingredients

1 medium onion, chopped

2 carrots, peeled and chopped

2 celery stalks, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

sea salt and cayenne pepper

4 roma tomatoes, diced

1.5 cup lentils

11 cups of low-sodium vegetable stock

4-6 fresh thyme sprigs or 1.5tsp dry thyme

1/4 tsp rosemary

1/2 tsp oregano, heaping

2 bay leaves

2/3 cup gluten-free elbow pasta or swirls (there are quinoa, corn, and rice pastas)

nutritional yeast, optional (for garnish)

Directions

1. In a large stock pot, add the onion, garlic, carrots, 1/8 tsp of sea salt and 3 shakes of cayenne pepper.  Saute for 5-8 minutes, over medium heat until tender. (You do not need oil since there is so much moisture from the veggies.  Stir occasionally, ensuring the garlic doesn’t burn and turn the soup bitter.)

2. Add tomatoes and their juices.  Simmer until juices evaporate a little and tomatoes break down, stirring occasionally for about 8 minutes.

3. Add lentils, mix to coat, then add vegetable stock and thyme. Bring to a boil over high heat.  Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes until lentils are almost tender.

4.  Stir in the pasta and simmer until the pasta is tender but still firm, about 8 minutes.

5. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and top with nutritional yeast, if you wish.

Enjoy!

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