Falafel final The first time I made homemade falafel, just last year, I couldn’t believe how easy it was. I kicked myself for not trying it sooner – I missed out on years of falafel-eating happiness!

I started with Mark Bittman’s simple baked falafel recipe. Other than reducing the amount of olive oil used in the baking (just wasn’t necessary), my only big departure was the spicing; rather than cumin and cayenne only, I used berbere, an Ethiopian spice blend containing chiles, fenugreek, ginger and much more. I also included ground coriander and cardamom. As complex as it sounds, the spicing isn’t overwhelming at at all – the berbere adds a subtle but delicious layer of flavor. You can order it from EthiopianSpices.com, but I’ve also seen Frontier brand berbere at Whole Foods.

The great thing about making your own falafel is that you can eat it leftover for days (that’s why I’ve increased the quantity from the original recipe). You can also freeze the cooked falafel; it’s a handy gluten-free and vegan staple to have on hand. Recommended accompaniments include romaine lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, tahini sauce (just thin tahini with water and add a bit of lemon) and hot sauce of some kind. Pickles or even beets would nice additions, too. Eat your baked falafel in a salad, as a sandwich in pita bread, or just plain as a healthy snack.

One last note: falafel is made with raw, soaked chickpeas, and that is essential to the texture. Don’t attempt to make it with canned chickpeas. As long as you have a full-size food processor, it’s super easy to make – just throw it all in and give it a few pulses. Like me, you’ll be wondering why in the world you never made it before.

Baked Falafel with Berbere Spice
Adapted from Mark Bittman’s recipe

1 pound dried chickpeas
4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 large onion, cut into 8 pieces
2 tablespoons berbere (or substitute 1 1/2 tablespoons cumin and 2 teaspoons cayenne)
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom (optional)
1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, large stems removed
1 bunch cilantro, large stems removed
1½ teaspoons salt (fine salt is best here)
1 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil

Soak the chickpeas in a large bowl of water for 12-24 hours. Drain.

Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease a large rimmed metal baking sheet with a couple teaspoons of the olive oil (I do not recommend a nonstick baking sheet – the falafel won’t brown the same way.)

Put half the chickpeas and half the remaining ingredients except the olive oil in a food processor (don’t bother measuring half – it’s all going to get mixed together later). Pulse until the mixture is minced and grainy, but not pureed. Place in a large bowl, then process the second half and stir everything together in the bowl.

Form the falafel into rounded discs by putting a couple tablespoons in the center of your palm and giving it four or five hard squeezes with both hands as you mold it into shape (you can use your thumbs to help round the edges). Place them on the baking sheet very carefully – if they break apart, re-form and repeat. Fit as many as you can on the baking sheet without overcrowding; it may take three rounds of baking to cook them all.

Brush the tops lightly with olive oil. Bake 10 minutes, then carefully flip and bake 10 minutes longer. Serve immediately, or refrigerate and reheat by wrapping in foil and baking in a 350-degree oven for 15 minutes (30 minutes if frozen.)

 

carrot muffinsThe reason behind these vegan carrot muffins lies in my refrigerator vegetable bin. I belong to a CSA that goes through late December, and by the holidays I was drowning in carrots, sweet potatoes, beets and turnips. I made a beet salad for Christmas Eve, carrot & sweet potato soup for dinner last night, and these carrot muffins today. I’m making a dent … in everything but the turnips.

I started with the spiced carrot muffins on FatFreeVegan.com, and made some adjustments – namely adding extra spices, orange zest, oat flour and pecans. And while I didn’t taste the original recipe for purposes of comparison, my version came out really well – hearty, spicy and just a tad sweet.

While these muffins do have some sugar in them, they are vegan, completely oil free and whole grain. I didn’t feel too badly about eating two of them today!

Spiced Carrot-Pecan Muffins

Dry ingredients:

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup oat flour
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
scant ½ teaspoon salt
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom (optional)
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon fresh orange zest
1/3 cup chopped pecans, plus more for optional topping

Wet ingredients:

1 tablespoon ground flax seed whisked with ¼ cup water (see below)
1/3 cup maple syrup or agave nectar
1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
½ cup plain almond yogurt (recommend Kite Hill brand)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1½ cups shredded carrots

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly oil a muffin pan.

Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl. Whisk together the flax and water, then microwave for 45 seconds. Combine the wet ingredients, including the flax mixture, in another bowl. Combine the wet and dry ingredients, stirring briefly to combine. Add the carrots.

Spoon the batter into the muffin pan (I found that there was enough batter for 11 muffins). Sprinkle the tops with additional chopped pecans if you’d like. Bake for 18 minutes.

Makes 11-12 muffins

Vegan Thanksgiving Gravy

OK, everybody’s asking what I’m making for Thanksgiving, so I’m sharing my menu here. Lazy blogger that I am now, I haven’t come up with any new and exciting recipes for the holiday this year. But I have quite a delicious spread planned!

It’s always a challenge to create my Thanksgiving menu, as it must be both delicious and heart healthy. Don’t worry, I don’t go so far into the healthy direction that I’m sacrificing flavor – I’m not going to serve steamed broccoli on Thanksgiving. I do try not to go overboard with sweet flavors – my pet peeve about some Thanksgiving menus is that almost every dish includes fruit, sugar or maple syrup (not to mention marshmallows). This year I’ve found some great recipes that are more on the savory side.

Most of my menu is vegan, but vegans be forewarned: there are a few exceptions, including shrimp and – gasp – a turkey. The people need their turkey, people.

Pickled Shrimp with Satsumas from Food & Wine. This just looks fantastic. I even ordered the Korean chili flakes called for in the recipe (I see kimchee in my future.)

Faux Gras with crackers and crudites.
I know it’s a store-bought item, but this stuff is positively addictive.

Sage-Rubbed Turkey with Lemon Bay Gravy from Eating Well
I like that the turkey gets a dry brine, and unlike most recipes, this one doesn’t call for rubbing the turkey with butter, or even oil. The lemons sound refreshing, too.

Chickpea Cutlets from Veganomicon / PPK
This is a pretty legendary recipe that I’ve had my eye on for some time. Many vegan main dishes, like stuffed squash, seem to take the place of other sides, but this one is simply a protein-rich vehicle for gravy. ‘Nuff said.

My Vegan Thanksgiving Gravy
I have a lot of vegan gravy recipes running around my little head, but this in the top tier for sure. The pureed roasted shallots and garlic add an unusual twist, if I don’t say so myself.

Olive Oil Mashed Potatoes from the New York Times
I don’t think people ever notice that my mashed potatoes aren’t loaded with butter and cream. Potatoes are great in their own right. Yukon Golds are especially good for this lower-fat treatment.

Sweet Potato Casserole, Gratin-Style from The Healthy Foodie
I think I’m most excited to try this one. It’s difficult to find sweet potato recipes that aren’t overly sweet. Here, there’s just a bit of honey plus onions, mustard and spices to keep things interesting.

Healthy Green Bean Casserole from Veggie Num Num
Trudy from Veggie Num Num made this as a guest post for my blog a few years back, but I’ve never gotten around to making it. I love the nut-based sauce and the crunchy quinoa flake topping idea, and I’ll take fresh onions over those icky canned fried things any day.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pistachios and Cipollini Onions from the New York Times
I would never think of having Thanksgiving without Brussels sprouts. But I’m departing from my usual maple-mustard sauce version to go with a less sweet approach, in an effort to try and cut down the sugar in my holiday feast.

Apple Chestnut Stuffing from Healthy Happy Life
I’m pretty much of a traditionalist when it comes to stuffing, and this one fits the bill. The other one in the same post, Butternut Tangerine Pecan Stuffing, is also calling out to me but I’m worried about pecan overload in the meal. Bonus trivia: did you know that chestnuts are the lowest-fat nut? Now you do.

Clean Eating Cranberry Sauce from The Gracious Pantry
I was looking for a simple, traditional cranberry sauce that was lower in sugar. Bingo, this one looks perfect.

My Apple Cranberry Pie
It will basically be the same recipe as my Apple Raspberry Pie that I link to here, but substituting cranberries (maybe heavier on the apples, since cranberries are so tart.) My healthy-ish pie crust recipe continues to win over even the most hardcore butter crust lovers, so I urge you to give it a try.

Last but not least, my friend Robyn is bringing her famous Squash Pie. The recipe remains a mystery, but I’m very excited to try it.

Happy cooking and Happy Thanksgiving!

bowl of vegan split pea soupSplit pea soup is comfort in a bowl. And when you add a whole bunch of vegetables and cook them until they’re meltingly tender, it becomes extreme comfort.

I’d usually pooh-pooh the idea of overcooking vegetables, but here the mushiness works perfectly with the peas. The fresh herbs keep it, well, fresh. To pump up the flavor, I used caraway seeds, tamari and importantly, smoked salt. (Like the black salt I described in my last post, smoked salt is an ingredient you should get your hands on.) I love this soup as is, but the next time I make it, I’m going to experiment with adding a whole head of roasted garlic, and triple the amount of fresh herbs. Because, why not?

Admittedly, this might not be the prettiest soup (I hope never to photograph split pea soup again!), but the nutritional value is pretty amazing. It’s packed with protein, fiber, vitamin A and potassium. And my recipe is vegan, gluten-free and low fat to boot.

This made my husband and I wonder why in the world we don’t make split pea soup more often. I think we finished a big pot in two days and still wanted more. Don’t let winter go by without making this one, ok?

Split Pea Soup with Vegetables and Herbs

2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, diced
4 carrots, diced (about 1½ cups)
4 stalks celery, diced (about 1½ cups)
4 small red potatoes, diced (about 1½ cups)
1 small zucchini, diced (about 1 cup)
1 small turnip, diced (about 1 cup)
1 pound dried split peas
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
5 cups water
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon minced fresh sage leaves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 bay leaf
½ teaspoon caraway seeds, or more to taste
Generous pinch smoked salt (optional)
1 tablespoon low-sodium tamari
Freshly ground black pepper
Salt to taste

Heat olive oil over medium in a large, heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven. Add the onions, carrots and celery, raise the heat a bit and and sauté for 10 minutes, until the onion is nicely browned. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, for 60 to 90 minutes, until the consistency is to your liking. If the soup gets too thick, add a bit more broth or water. Taste for salt and add more if needed.

Serves 8

Chickpea flour quiche vegan gluten free

This dish is the perfect answer to the age-old question: “What can I make for a vegan and gluten-free brunch?” This quiche is not only vegan and gluten-free, it’s delicious – omnivores will love it, too. And worry not, tofu haters, there’s no soy. It’s all chickpea (garbanzo bean) flour, a truly magical ingredient.

I have to say, I’ve always been a bit skeptical when people say chickpea flour can mimic eggs. But I think my quiche is proof positive. It’s got just the right texture, and an eggy taste thanks to black salt. This Indian salt really does the trick, so it’s worth seeking out.

There more reasons to love this thing:

• “Crustless” means it goes together in no time.
• You can vary the vegetables to your liking.
• It’s great left over and eaten right out of the fridge.

Happy brunching!

Crustless Vegan Chickpea Flour Quiche

2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium red onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise then sliced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1¼ cups chickpea (garbanzo bean) flour
1 tablespoon ground flax seed
3/4 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
2 teaspoons cider vinegar
3 cups water, divided
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (optional)
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
3/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
¼ cup nutritional yeast
½ teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt (preferably black salt – kala namak)
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat the oven to 375 degrees.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, zucchini and red pepper and sauté for 5-7 minutes.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the garbanzo bean flour, baking powder, flax, vinegar and 1 cup water and set aside.

Add the remaining water to the pan with the vegetables, along with the remaining ingredients, and bring to a boil. Whisk in the chickpea flour mixture and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. The mixture will be very thick and heat should be high enough to keep it bubbling a bit.

Use a spatula to pour into a 9” pie plate (regular or deep dish). Smooth over the top with a spatula. Bake 30 minutes. Let cool before serving. May then be served at room temperature, or reheated.

chickpea fennel saladHere’s another one of my no-recipe recipes. I could chalk it up to being a lazy blogger, but truth be told, quantities aren’t that important here. This is a universally appealing dish, as it’s both vegan and gluten-free, and provides some nice protein. I must give credit to my husband Tim for this fresh and bright salad, as he makes it often to take to his art studio for lunch.

Chickpea and Fennel Salad

This is the basic method:

Put some chickpeas in a bowl (I used 2 cans – be sure to look for BPA-free).

Add thinly sliced (with a mandoline) celery, fennel and red onion to your liking.

Throw in some flat-leaf parsley.

Squeeze on the juice of a lemon, and drizzle on a bit of olive oil.

If you’re feeling fancy, garnish with fennel fronds.

Salt and pepper, and you’re done.

You could build on this simple salad by adding orange segments, roasted red peppers, olives or cherry tomatoes. Let me know what you come up with!