I have recently returned from a Magically Restorative (and MUCH NEEDED) Tropical Vacation. Generally, I am a go-go-go-always-working-on-ten-projects-and-I-might-be-sitting-still-but-my-mind-is-ten-steps-ahead kind of gal, so removing myself from my normal routine and environment seems to be the only sure-fire method to ensure I actually RELAX.
I was unable to ever completely calm my inner hummingbird, because every time I would start to quiet my mind and simply absorb the beauty and tranquility around me, I would become inspired by a new sight, smell or taste and my mind was OFF TO THE RACES again!
One glorious day, I was sitting in an open-air ocean-side cabana/restaurant, sipping a frozen lemonade and soaking in the surreal clear blue view of the water. I decided to peruse the menu and one dish immediately leapt out at me: Watermelon steaks served on a bed of fresh basil, with feta, balsamic glaze and pistachios.
The moment it was served to me I began having squealing fits of euphoria, proclaiming THIS would be the flavor I would present for my Best-Gal’s Birthday the following week. In fact, the dish was so perfect and simple that I immediately started mentally reinventing it and turning it inside-out to share on www.militantfoodie.com as soon as I got back to the States 😉
The week before my vacation I had discovered a fermented vegan cheese recipe that I was itching to attempt, and wouldn’t this be the perfect opportunity to use it? And though Balsamic Vinegar is arguably a perfect condiment in need of no further improvement, I would LOVE to make a Watermelon Balsamic Glaze Reduction. Oh, the gerbil of my mind was in danger of running its little legs off on its Imagination Wheel!
So this week I will present two versions of a simple idea… with options to make it SUPER FANTASTICALLY INTRICATELY COMPLEX!!!! Also I will make reference to a couple of bad-ass-blogging-chicas who I’ve never actually met, but they make me weak-in-the-knees and they unknowingly contributed to this recipe’s success.
My casual research of Pho has lead me to understand that “pho” actually refers to the noodles, and not the broth/seasonings. My Sloppy Pho gives a nod to the broth flavors, the typical garnishes, and utilizes vegi-noodles (rather than traditional rice noodles) in an unconventional manner.
There are many gizmos out there for transforming vegetables into “noodles”. Some of them are quite spendy and sturdy, for the serious rawtarians and veg-oodling fanatics. There are also inexpensive “As-Scene-on-TV” devices that do a passable job for the casual vegi-noodle maker. I think it would be really fun to have one of the psycho-serious models, but I am able to make-do with a cheezy hand-held tool I picked up for $8 at a discount retail store.
Without further ado, I give you:
the “Slop” Ingredients
1 cup water
2 star anise pods
4 cardamom pods
1/4 tsp coriander
1/4 tsp cloves
4 cloves garlic (minced)
1/2 Tbs ginger (minced)
1 1/2 cups shiitake mushrooms (chopped)
2 cups portabella mushrooms (chopped)
1/2 cup Thai Basil (packed)
3 jalapeños (seeded and diced)
3 cups red cabbage (chopped)
2 cups Mung bean sprouts
1Tbs psyllium husks
1/4 cup pumpkinseed flour
1/3 cup chia meal
1 ½ cups water
2Tbs lime juice
If you have a tea strainer or a cheesecloth sack, place the star anise, cardamom, and cloves inside. If not, just leave them loose (but you will have to fish them out later.) Put these ingredients and 1 cup water in a saucepan and simmer for 10-5 minutes.
Remove the spices.
Transfer this liquid to a large skillet and add 1 Tbs Quoc Viet Vegetarian Soup base, minced garlic, minced ginger, and mushrooms.
In a separate container, combine chia meal, 1 ½ cups water, 1 Tbs Quoc Viet Vegetarian Soup base and lime juice. Let sit for 15 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes to keep chia from clumping. It should thicken into gelatinous sauce.
During this time cook the mushrooms uncovered on medium heat, until liquid has been absorbed, mushrooms have reduced and are starting to brown.
Add all remaining ingredients to the skillet and gently stir to evenly combine. Cook very briefly, until cabbage and bean sprouts are slightly softened and colors have brightened.
Remove from heat.
The “Noodles” Ingredients:
2 sweet potatoes
1 Tbs Chili Garlic Oil (or regular, boring Olive Oil)
Peel the sweet potatoes and use your preferred vegi-noodle-making-method. Toss “noodles” and oil in a skillet on medium-high heat until sweet potatoes are an al dente texture and bright orange (6-8 minutes.) Remove from heat.
Serve the Sloppy Pho with fresh cilantro, radish pickles and sriracha mayo.
*you can buy pre-fab sriracha mayo or make your own vegan version by blending vegan mayo and sriracha in a 2:1 ratio
My friend Chervyn is so much tech-savvier than me, and she has coached me somewhat through making a spreadsheet of the nutritional value of these components!
You COULD wrap it up in a butter lettuce leaf for a ridiculously flavorful and hearty vegan, low carb treat.
OR serve it on a multi grain bun and make everyone jealous of your Oompa Loompa Lunch!
OR transform your Sweet Potato Noodles into a BUN!!! (recipe below)
Sweet Potato Noodle Bun
I found this recipe for a healthier “ramen bun” and it was like the clouds parted and I heard choirs of preadolescent cherubs singing… it is FanF*ckingTastic. I don’t own what the author is selling (as previously mentioned), but the recipe is so good that I was almost tempted to splurge 😉
I was a little shocked when I tallied up the carbs and calories, so I thought “we can do better than this!”
I made a couple of modifications and I am also providing a vegan option. The flax meal and psyllium not only increase the fiber content, but they allow me to stretch this recipe to make 3 whole buns (6 pieces).
1 large sweet potato
1 tsp garlic powder
2 Tbs flax meal soaked in 4 Tbs water (OR 1 egg + 1 Tbs flax meal + 2 Tbs water)
1 Tbs psyllium husk
2 tsp preferred cooking oil
Peel your sweet potato and use your preferred method of turning it into long, fettuccini-like noodles.
Heat a medium skillet with a teensy bit of oil and toss in the “noodles”. Keep them moving. You are essentially just trying to heat them enough for them to turn bright orange and soften to al dente texture (6-8 minutes). Transfer the “noodles” to a large mixing bowl and remove the skillet from the heat.
Sprinkle the psyllium over the “noodles” and toss to evenly distribute. Pour the gooey flax mixture (or eggy flax mixture) over the “noodles” and gently toss (try not to mush or mangle the sweet potato).
Divide the mixture evenly between 6 ramekins (or equivalent) and gently press down into a flat patty. Place a piece of wax paper or parchment paper over the opening of the ramekin and set a jar or can on top to apply pressure to the sweet-potato-noodle-disc.
Place ramekins in the refrigerator for 15-20 minutes to cool and to “set up.”
After 15-20 minutes, gently turn ramekins onto lightly oiled skillet and remove ramekins (leaving the perfectly formed discs on the skillet). DO NOT CROWD. You need to have room to get a spatula flat beneath them periodically to check their progress. Set burner on medium-low heat.
Once the discs are nicely toasted on one side, carefully flip them over and toast the other side. They need to be a little seared to hold together.
Place them on a cooling rack or on a clean, dry towel to cool.
*If using egg recipe rather than the vegan version, cover the skillet once you are cooking the second side of the discs to ensure the egg gets all the way cooked (this is less crucial in the vegan version).
**these “buns” are a little mushy. They hold together great for the Sloppy Pho sandwich, but once you take a bite, everything is kind of the same texture. If you want them to be more “bread like”, place in the food dehydrator on 130 degrees for a couple of hours, or closely monitor them on the lowest setting in your oven.
*** make sure “buns” are totally cool before storing them in an air-tight container in the fridge.
I have created a handy-dandy chart to compare the different presentations for the Sloppy Pho.
But if you still aren’t satisfied, throw that sh*t in a jar and eat it as a salad! 😉
I have received feedback from several sources (including my Standard American Diet significant other) that vegetarian health-foods with familiar, S.A.D. names set an immediate expectation that will likely disappoint a reluctant taste-subject.
For example: my first ever cookbook (Madhur Jaffry’s World Vegetarian) taught me a super-yummy “Black Eyed Pea Pancake” recipe that I have prepared many times. However, it is not-at-all related to the kind of food you would get at a greasy-spoon diner, drown in syrup and nosh with crispy bacon. It is actually more like a flat-bread or wrap, and is excellent for sopping up savory stews/curries or dips. However, for some, the term “pancake” evokes a very rigid expectation that will not be swayed. If I called the dish “not-really-a-tortilla-but-not-quite-falafel” or even “floppy discs” it might meet much less resistance…
Low carb/vegetable based pizza crusts are very popular right now. And with good reason: they are FANTASTIC!!! Cauliflower crust pizzas are getting well-deserved praise, but they aren’t fooling anyone into thinking they are REAL “Pizza-Pizzas”. I enjoy them at my house and I love to prepare them for friends and family, but I recently had an inspiration: mold the “dough” into in fun sizes and shapes for dipping! Great for Parties and fun for kids (as long as you are careful not to use terms like “pizza” or “ch__ken nugget” then people can just enjoy them at face-value).
My first experiments were with cookie cutters. Now, some people have “sweet” and “kid appropriate” cookie cutters, but at my house it’s either zombies or ninjas.
I initially rolled out the “dough” and tried to stamp out the shapes.
Huge. Stupid. Mess.
Then, I wised-up and just filled the cookie cutters one at a time.
Bada-Bing-Bada-Boom: wonderfully twisted “Zombie Nuggets” (that also could pass for a Sasquatch or Chewbacca).
If you have little humans in your house who like to make art projects with their food, there is a ton of potential for decorating with capers, olives, colorful shredded veggies, etc etc.
Since I still had quite a bit of “dough” I decided to see what would happen if I mooshed it into silicon candy molds (unicorn heads, of course). This process was possibly even easier than the cookie cutter method, but you run the risk of them sticking and coming out all mangled.
Half of the Unicorns were given a pinkish hue by adding a bit of red cabbage. Sneaking in other colorful vegetables is another opportunity to make it kid-appealing (as well as more nutritionally diverse.)
There are many options for dips to serve with these “nuggets”, but my favorites are mint chutney or the pumpkin bbq sauce.
1 1/2 -2 heads cauliflower
5-7 cloves garlic (minced)
3 eggs (or substitute 3 Tbs flaxseed meal soaked in 7 Tbs water)
1/3 cup psyllium husks
1/3 cup flaxseed meal
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
3 Tbs minced fresh herb of choice (I prefer basil or green onion)
½ tsp sea salt
½ cup shredded parmesan (or vegan substitute)
1 cup shredded mozzarella (or vegan substitute)
Discard the outer leaves and thoroughly wash your cauliflower. Cut Cauliflower head into quarters and remove the stem. “Rice” the cauliflower by shredding it in a food processor, or by using the largest holes on a box grater (be careful with your fingers!). Cauliflower should end up crumbly and sort-of rice-like. *For this recipe you will need 6 cups of “riced” cauliflower.
Press/strain/drain as much moisture as you can from the cauliflower (you can let it rest in a fine-mesh strainer for a couple of hours, periodically trying to press out some moisture. OR you can spread it out on a clean, dry towel, and press it gently with another clean, dry towel to blot off the moisture. OR you can spread it out on food dehydrator sheets and set on 100-115 degrees for about an hour. I use all of these methods, depending on my mood and available time.)
Combine all ingredients in a large bowel. This is your “dough”.
Now you have options:
I like to designate a portion of the dough as a frozen pizza crust for future use. To do this, I line a 9×16” pan with parchment paper and press 2-2.5 cups of the “dough” into a flat “pizza crust”. I put the pan in the freezer until the dough is totally frozen, then transfer it into a sealed container or freezerbag. This gives me an extra pizza crust that just needs toppings and to be baked at 350 degrees for 45 min-1 hr on a parchment paper lined pan.
You can just make a million fun-shaped-tasty nuggets (which could also be frozen as dough and baked in the future.) Cooking times will depend on the size/shape thickness of your “nuggets”.
* For my zombies, which were approximately ½ inch thick, I baked them on a parchment lined pan in a 350 degree oven for about 40 minutes. They are done when they are just starting to brown at the edges and are springy (NOT STICKY) to the touch.
*For my unicorn heads, baked in a silicon mold (which I greased with a thin layer of coconut oil), I baked 25 minutes at 350 degrees. I removed them from the oven and allowed them to cool about 5 minutes before turning them out of the mold, back onto the baking sheet. Then I returned to the oven for another 5-10 minutes until just browning at the edges and springy (NOT STICKY) to the touch.
It would be very difficult to accurately predict what size shape, and thickness of nuggets each person will make, so I’ve calculated the nutritional value as if this recipe made 10 servings. I also calculated for full-fat, real dairy cheese and eggs, rather than vegan alternatives.
I am a firm believer that a riot of (natural) color on your plate indicates an abundance of nutritional diversity. And it’s so PRETTY!
When we were composing our rainbow-themed menu for the StepDaughter’s birthday, it presented several fun challenges. I was thrilled with the flavor and visual brilliance of this dish, but I feel I should acknowledge: I know there is no true “Blue” in these Rainbow Pinwheels. I have yet to discover any natural edible that is blue, so I chose to let the deep purple kalamata olives be the place-holder for the missing azure element 😉
1/2 cup shredded red cabbage
1/2 cup chopped kalamata olives (purple)
1/2 cup finely chopped Sugar snap peas
2tbsminced Green onion
1 Yellow bell pepper (can use ½ cup pickled banana peppers, if preferred)
½ cup Shredded carrot
1 Red bell pepper
2 cloves garlic
2 Tbs lemon juice
1 Tbs apple cider vinegar/red wine vinegar/kombucha/ginger “bug”
8 ozroom temperature cream cheese (or hummus if you are making vegan pinwheels)
2 Tbs pesto
4 wraps of choice (e.g. whole wheat tortillas, nori sheets, or home-made Gluten-Free, lower carb, high protein wraps [I will provide instructions at the end]. )
Instructions in order of the spectrum:
*if you choose, all filling ingredients can be prepared well-ahead of time and assembled shortly before serving.
** keep all colors separated to maintain their bright, unadulterated hues.
Toss the red cabbage with 1 Tbs lemon AND 1 clove garlic (minced) and set aside for at least 15 minutes to let the colors and flavors intensify. Set aside/store in a separate container so its color does not bleed to other ingredients.
Chop Kalamata olives and drain off the juice.
Finely chop and toss together the sugar snap peas and the green onions.
EITHER roast the yellow pepper to boost flavor and remove the skin OR freeze and then thaw the pepper.
I’m sure there are many ways to roast a pepper, but I have a gas stove, so I just lay the pepper directly on the burner with the flame on med-high.
I periodically turn the pepper so I can evenly “burn” the outside. I’m looking for crisped black spots of skin… I keep turning the pepper so the spots are fairly evenly dispersed. DON’T BURN DOWN THE HOUSE!!!
I then toss the whole pepper into the freezer (or an ice bath) to cool for 10-15 minutes.
Once Pepper is cooled, massage the burned skin off the pepper, remove the seeds and stem and cut into slices.
Toss the shredded carrot with 1 clove garlic (minced), 1 Tbs lemon juice, and 1 Tbs of whichever vinegar or ferment you chose. Set aside in a separate container for at least 15 minutes.
Follow the same steps from the Yellow Pepper. If you are choosing to forgo the roasting; simply remove the stem and seeds, slice the pepper, and allow it to totally freeze… then allow it to totally thaw. This gives it a similar, soft texture as the roasted peppers (but without the sweet, smoky flavor).
Spread your wrap-of-choice out on a clean, dry piece of parchment paper. Spread 2 oz of ROOM TEMPERATURE cream cheese/hummus evenly over the entire wrap, except for about the last inch of the far edge (the filling will smoosh over there during the rolling process.)
You can lay out your pretty colors in any order you want, but I’m a fan of the GLBTQ order. Try to squeeze or blot excess moisture from each ingredient before you lay it out in a line. Use 2 Tbs of each color per wrap. Once all your colors are laid out, give them a gentle pat to settle them into place.
Carefully CAREFULLY pick up the closest edge of the wrap and start to roll away from yourself. Do not rush. If ingredients start to slip or fall out the end, just tuck them back into place. Once you have made one full rotation, smear a thin line of pesto on the top outside edge of the wrap, so as you continue to roll the pesto will act as additional adhesive. Add another line of pesto after another rotation.
Once you have rolled up your beautiful rainbow pinwheels you need to slice them. You may find it is easier if you put the whole wrap in the freezer for a few minutes to “firm up”. Slice pinwheels approximately 1” thick.
This recipe makes four rolls that can be cut into 8-12 pinwheels. (nutritional calculations are per roll = 1/4th of the total recipe)
Gluten-Free Protein Packed Chickpea Flour Wrap
2 cups chickpea flour (aka garbanzo bean flour or Besan)
1/3 cup flax meal
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
1 Tbs garlic powder
¼ tsp sea salt
1.5-2 cups water
Mix all ingredients into a runny batter. Allow to sit for 5-10 minutes. Prepare a COOL griddle/skillet with a thin layer of oil. Divide the batter evenly into 4ths.
To make a rectangular wrap, outline the perimeter with batter and spread the batter inward to fill in the shape evenly. You may want to tap the skillet/griddle to encourage the batter to settle to uniform thickness.
Cook on very low heat. Eventually, the surface of the batter will appear dry and slightly puffy. Test the wrap by attempting to ease a straight-edged spatchula under an edge. When it seems dry, carefully CAREFULLY pry the wrap up, and turn it over on the griddle. Cook on the second side only 5-10 minutes. you want the wrap to remain quite soft and bendable.
Once the wrap is cooked, move it to a paper towel-line- plate to cool, and loosely cover with another towel to retain some warmth, but to prevent it from becoming soggy. Repeat process until all 4 wraps are complete. Roll into pinwheels as soon as possible.
This recipe was inspired by a Meatloaf and a Vegan Loaf. If available, shredded fresh veggies nicely enhance the dish. Shredded carrot, red bell pepper and celery are very complimentary and add a nice color-pop. (This recipe and the nutritional calculation are for the most stream-lined version.)
(1 loaf pan= 8 servings)
For the Loaf:
1 cup dry lentils (green/brown)
2 ½ cups water
3 Tbs flaxseed meal soaking in 6 Tbs water (or 3 eggs)
¾ cup rolled oats
½ cup finely ground oats
½ cup canned pumpkin
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp paprika
2 clove garlic (minced)
1 small diced onion
For the BBQ sauce:
2 cups ketchup
1 cup canned pumpkin
2 Tbs water
2 Tbs apple cider vinegar
1 ½ Tbs brown sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp chili powder
½ tsp garlic powder
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp liquid smoke
Instructions for the Loaf:
Cover lentils with 2 ½ cups water and bring to a boil. Once boiling, cover and reduce to a simmer for about 40 minutes. After most of the water is absorbed, remove from heat and allow to cool, uncovered.
Once the lentils are cool and the remaining liquid has thickened, blend/mash/puree about ¾ of the lentils.
Combine all of the “loaf” ingredients.
Transfer into an oiled and dusted loaf pan and bake at 350 for 45-50 minutes.