Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Hibiscus Pink Lemon Bars

I am a big fan of the delicious tart taste of lemons in the summer and love lemon bars. I decided to experiment a bit, though, and came up with these which are a bit less tart, but have a great hint of fruitiness. The pictures really don’t do these justice – the bars have a hint of pink which is a pretty variation on the traditional lemon bar.
Hibiscus Pink Lemon Bars 2 hibiscus tea bags (Murchie’s Crimson Berry Rooibos or Tea Forte Hibiscus Berry are ideal, but any similar tea with hibiscus as the main ingredient would work) 4 Tablespoons boiling water 2 cups all-purpose flour 1/2 cup powdered sugar 2 Tablespoons cornstarch 1/4 teaspoon salt 3/4cup butter or margarine (Earth Balance is a favorite of mine and I used it in this recipe) 4 eggs 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar 3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel 1/2 cup lemon juice 1/4 cup unsweetened almond or coconut milk 1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray. 2. Place the two tea bags in a small heat-proof glass dish and pour the boiling water over them. Allow them to steep for at least 10 minutes. 3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the 2 cups flour, powdered sugar, cornstarch and salt on low speed. Add the butter and mix until course crumbs form. Pour mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 20 minutes, or until golden around the edges. 4. In a medium bowl, gently beat the eggs. Blend in granulated sugar, the 3 Tablespoons flour, lemon peel, lemon juice and almond milk. Squeeze the tea bags to release any tea concentrate and add the hibiscus tea concentrate to the bowl, blending thoroughly. Pour the filling over the crust and return baking dish to the oven. 5. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the center is set. Cool completely, then sprinkle additional powdered sugar over the top. Cut into bars and store any left overs in the refrigerator.

Beneath the Shadows

When Grace and her husband, Adam, move to the moors of North Yorkshire, England, they are expecting to establish a new life with their infant daughter, Millie, and escape the hustle and bustle of London. Within a few short weeks, however, Grace finds her world turned upside down when Adam doesn’t return from a walk and the baby carriage with Millie in it shows up abandoned on their front porch. Alone in a community with a frozen landscape and cold neighbors, Grace vows to solve the mystery of her husband’s disappearance. In this delightful thriller, Sara Foster crafts the story of a woman desperate for answers as she attempts to make sense after her husband vanishes. Although the novel starts off slow and has some decidedly British phrases, Beneath the Shadows emphasizes the isolation and disconnected state that can arise after a traumatic event. After one year away, Grace decides to return to the village from which Adam disappeared in order to clean out the cottage and perhaps get some answers. While trying to come to terms with her new life, Grace becomes connected with some of the residents of the village, including the local matriarch, Meredith, and her daughters, and Ben, an attractive architect. What Grace quickly learns, however, is that these individuals have deep secrets and share ghostly histories. Between trying to plan for an uncertain future and discovering the past of a missing husband, Grace gains insight into her strengths and resolves to move on for her sake, and the sake of Millie. Grace is likeable, but seems to get lost in her thoughts easily. The book does start off a bit slow, but the intensity and excitement builds as the novel nears its end. Foster is able to craft a clever and engaging story which is not fully resolved until the final page when all of the loose ends come together. This doesn’t have the excitement and adventure of a typical mystery novel, but Beneath the Shadows was enough to spook me a bit if I read it just before bed. The story is original with unexpected twists and turns and is certainly worth it, even if there were moments that were a bit slow.

Healthy in a Hurry

I am always looking for great cookbooks that have wonderful, healthy recipes with appetizing photos, but it is often hard to find ones that feature a number of dairy-free vegetarian recipes. With dozens of recipes that are fast and easy, Healthy in a Hurry is an ideal cookbook. The recipe below is delicious and even easier if you buy pre-shredded Brussels Sprouts. Sauteed Brussels Sprouts with Lemon 1 pound shredded Brussels Sprouts 2 Tablespoons olive oil Lemon zest strips from 1/2 lemon 1/4 teaspoon sea salt Freshly ground pepper 3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice 1. Heat olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. When oil is hot, add all ingredients except lemon juice, stirring consistently. Keep heat high, but adjust heat to keep sprouts from burning. Cook 7 to 8 minutes, until tender and golden around the edges. 2. Remove from heat. Stir in lemon juice for 1 minute. Serve immediately.

Quick Veggie Tex-Mex Soup

This soup is SO easy and is delicious. It is based on a recipe that I saw in Cooking Light, but I mixed it up a bit more to make it vegetarian. It is healthy and is great with cornbread muffins or some tortilla strips on top and tastes great as lunch the next day.
Quick Veggie Tex-Mex Soup 1 Tablespoon grape seed oil 1 small onion, chopped 2 Tablespoons crushed garlic 1 red bell pepper, chopped 1 jalapeno, seeded and minced 1 (12 oz) package Quorn “Chik’n Tenders” or other meat substitute 1 Tablespoon chili powder 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper 1/2 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon ground cumin 2 cups frozen corn kernels 3 cups low-sodium vegetable broth 1 (15 oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained 1 (15 oz) can diced tomatoes, undrained 1. Heat a pan over medium-high heat. Add oil, onion, garlic, bell pepper, and jalapeno. Saute 3 to 4 minutes. Add “Chik’n” tenders and cook for 2 more minutes. Add chili powder and next 3 ingredients; saute for 30 seconds. Add remaining ingredients and simmer for 10 minutes. Enjoy!

Vegan Strawberry Shortcake with Coconut Whipped Cream

This recipe is perfect for summer picnics. I couldn’t find a really good vegan shortcake recipe, so I made this one and couldn’t be happier. It is delicious and light, just as a strawberry shortcake could be. Enjoy!
Vegan Strawberry Shortcake 3 cups sliced strawberries 1/4 cup sugar, plus 2 Tablespoons 2 cups all-purpose flour 2 teaspoons baking powder 2 Tablespoons baking soda 1 1/2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar 1/2 cup vegan margarine 2/3 cup soy, almond, or coconut milk 1/2 Tablespoon canned coconut milk (use the liquid that remains from making your coconut whipped cream) Coconut whipped cream (recipe below) 1. In a small bowl, mix strawberries with 2 Tablespoons sugar. Cover and let strawberries soak in their juices. 2. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. 3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, blend together 1/4 cup sugar, flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Add apple cider vinegar and blend. Add margarine and blend until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add milk and coconut milk stir just to moisten. 4. Drop dough into 8 individual mounds on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake about 10 minutes, until golden. Cool completely before assembling. 5. When cool, cut shortcake in half, add strawberries, and top with coconut whipped cream. Serve immediately. Coconut Whipped Cream 1 (14 ounce) can of coconut milk, chilled 2/3 cup powdered sugar 1. Chill the bowl and whisk of a stand mixer in the freezer for at least 30 minutes.If they are not very cold, the cream will not whip properly. 2. Skim the solidified cream off of the chilled coconut milk and transfer it to the bowl of the stand mixer. Do not include any of the coconut water as it will prevent the whipped cream from developing firm peaks. 3. Add the powdered sugar to the coconut cream in the mixer and whip for a few minutes until stiff peaks begin to form. Work quickly so that the cream stays cold. Chill the whipped cream in a closed container in the refrigerator (the longer it is cooled, the firmer it gets).

Falafel Couscous Salad

This is an easy meal that is vegan and fast – it only takes about 15 minutes from start to finish. Normally, I enjoy falafel patties in a pita, but this is a wonderful change. It is delicious and packs in a lot of fiber and protein.
Falafel Couscous Salad 1 package couscous, prepared according to package directions (any flavor works – I used Toasted Pine Nut for this and it was delicious) 1/2 cup roasted red pepper, chopped 1 large tomato, chopped 1 cup garbanzo bean flour 1/2 teaspoon sea salt 1/2 teaspoon pepper 1/4 teaspoon baking soda 1 teaspoon parsley flakes 1 teaspoon ground cumin 1/2 teaspoon dried garlic 1/4 teaspoon onion powder 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika Juice of 2 medium lemons 1/2 cup boiling water 1 Tablespoon hummus (any flavor) 2 Tablespoons olive oil Hummus salad dressing (see recipe on post below) 1. Mix the tomato and roasted red pepper into the couscous. Cover to keep warm. 2. Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl. Add lemon juice and water and mix in the hummus. Allow to rest for 10 minutes. Meanwhile heat frying pan to medium-high heat and add olive oil to pan. 3. Drop falafel dough onto heated frying pan in about 2 Tablespoon mounds, flattening slightly. Cook each side for about a minute and a half, or until golden. Place cooked falafel patties on a plate lined with a paper towel. 4. To assemble salad, place couscous on plate, top with three falafel patties, and about 1 Tablespoon of the hummus dressing. Serve while still warm and drizzle with lemon juice if desired.

Vegan Stuffed Shells

This recipe is slightly modified from Chloe Coscarelli’s wonderful cookbook, Chloe’s Kitchen. She has beautiful pictures and recipes that are completely approachable, like the filling for these stuffed shells. In the cookbook, Coscarelli suggests using larger shells and provides a recipe for homemade arrabiata sauce, but I used organic store-bought arrabiata sauce and it was still amazing. This cookbook is the first vegan cookbook I have seen in a long time that is great for vegans, but wonderful for omnivores looking to include healthy recipes in their daily routines.
Vegan Stuffed Shells 1 pound large pasta shells 2 tablespoons grape seed oil 1 onion, chopped 3 cloves garlic 1 (14 oz) package extra-firm tofu, drained Juice of 1 lemon 1 1/2 teaspoons salt 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper 1 Tablespoon white miso paste 3 cups fresh basil 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano 1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. 2.Boil water in a large pot and cook pasta according to package directions, but leave al dente as the shells will cook a bit more in the oven. When cooked, drain and allow to cool completely. 3. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat and saute onion until soft. Remove from heat. 4. In a food processor, combine onions, garlic, tofu, lemon juice, salt, pepper and miso paste. Pulse until mixture is almost smooth but still has some texture. Add basil and oregano and pulse a few more times to incorporate herbs. 5. Stuff each shell with the tofu ricotta blend. Pour some arrabiata sauce into a 9×13 pan or baking dish so that it covers the bottom. Place the stuffed shells into the baking dish and pour remaining sauce over the pasta. Cover the shells with foil or the lid of the baking dish and bake for 15 minutes. Remove foil or lid and bake for another 15 minutes or until the shells are golden and the tofu ricotta is heated through.