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No-Fat Vegan Ras el Hanout Couscous

No-Fat Vegan Ras el Hanout Couscous

Good news: my long-suffering oven has finally gone to meet it’s maker. Bad news: it is Sunday night and although I have a luscious long list of recipes to test bake, my oven is kaput.  I’m going to Plan B, which is to use the Ras el Hanout spice I was gifted recently to build an exotic batch of stove-top Moroccan couscous. The spice is widely available in the U.S., but it differs greatly in composition from brand to brand.  Mine has warm, fruity scent, almost like the spiced winter holiday pudding I love so much. Wherever you find yours, be sure to sniff to make sure it tempts you, and acquire only small amounts, freshly ground.

This recipe is savory, with sweet dried fruit, but pulls its bright flavor from fresh lemon juice and orange zest. It is finished with crisp toasted walnuts, scallions and chopped cilantro, for a fresh-out-of-the garden texture.  Oh my!

No-fat Vegan Ras el Hanout Couscous 

2 C dried dates and apricots, chopped
Juice of 1 fresh lemon
1 C dry couscous
2 C water or vegetable broth
1 TBSP Ras el Hanout spice
1 14 oz. can garbanzo beans, drained
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1/2 C coarsely chopped green onion
1/2 C cilantro, chopped
1/2 C walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
Zest and juice of 1/2 orange

Instructions

1. Put chopped fruits in a small bowl and marinate in lemon juice for 1 or 2 hours.

2. In a saucepan, bring the couscous, water or vegetable broth, Ras el Hanout spice, garbanzo beans and chopped onion up to a boil.  Cover and simmer on low until the liquid is absorbed, or 20 to 30 minutes. Remove lid and cool for 10 minutes.

3. Mix together the fruit with its marinade, couscous, & green onion.

4. Place the Ras el Hanout couscous in a favorite serving bowl and finish by squeezing the juice of 1/2 orange over all. Garnish with walnuts, cilantro and orange zest.

Individual Almond Tart Crust

Individual Honey Almond Tart Crust

I’ve been looking for a way to make fat free crusts for tarts and pies. One idea is to make a cookie that can be molded into individual tart crusts while it is still hot. I’ve adapted this vegan fortune cookie recipe from Vegan Treats & Eats blog. This recipe works perfectly well without any oil, so give it a try and fill it with some luscious mousse for a sweet and healthy end to your next dinner party.

Individual  Almond Tart Crust

3 tsp. EnerG Egg Replacer + 1/4 C warm water, whisked together
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. almond extract
8 tsp. water
1/2 C all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. cornstarch
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 C granulated sugar

Instructions

1. Cut out 12 5-inch squares of baking parchment paper.  You will be able to do 24 crusts, since you will use each paper twice by flipping it over to the unused side for a second crust. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg replacer, extracts, and water together well. In a separate bowl, stir together the dry ingredients until well mixed and then combine with the wet ingredients, stirring until you have a smooth, runny batter.

3. Set a parchment square on a large cookie sheet. Pour 2 to 3 TBSP of batter onto the square, making sure that the cookie is not larger than the paper.  You are aiming for about a 4-inch diameter cookie. Repeat until your cookie sheet is has six cookies.

4. Bake until the outer 1/2-inch of each cookie turns a bit brown, or 11 to 12 minutes.

5. Remove one cookie at a time from the oven and working very quickly, peel the paper from each cookie and mold the cookie into a cup over an inverted 2″ diameter form (the bottom of a jelly jar, or a metal measuring cup).

6. Hold the cookie around the form for 30 seconds or until it begins to harden in shape.

7. Repeat the process, doing 6 tart shells at a time.  Hold at room temperature on a cookie sheet until just before serving, then fill with any delicious vegan no-fat mousse. The unfilled shells will begin to soften after 8 hours, so just pop them back in a 300 degree oven for 10 minutes to re-crisp!

These tart shells are delicious, but so are these variations:

Chocolate tart shell:
Add 4 to 6 TBSP unsweetened cocoa to the batter (good with chocolate flavored mousse

Faux “Coconut” tart shell:
Add 1/2 tsp. coconut extract to batter, and sprinkle 1 tsp. whole oats in the center of each cookie before baking (good with chocolate mousse or honey-vanilla mousse with fresh berries).

No-fat Vegan Creamsicle Mousse

No-Fat Vegan Creamsicle Mousse

I have been playing with flavor variations on a basic vanilla vegan mousse. This one brings the bright sweetness of oranges together with vanilla, and reminds me of those creamsicle ice cream cups we used to buy from the neighborhood ice cream man in summers past.  It is wonderful served in a parfait topped with fresh raspberries or strawberries, or you can make the almond cookie tartlet pictured above.

There are a number of recipes on the internet for tofu-based mousse.  This one differs only in that I use both firm and silken tofu to give the mousse good body, which helps it stand up well to whatever flavors you choose to stir in.

No-fat Vegan Creamsicle Mousse

Stir together and chill until serving:

1 Recipe Basic vanilla Vegan Mousse
1 C no-sugar orange marmalade

Basic vanilla Vegan Mousse

1 container firm tofu, drained
1/2 container silken tofu, drained
a pinch of salt
1 to 2 TBSP. vanilla, to your taste
1/4 to 1/2 C maple syrup, agave, or honey, to your taste

Instructions

1. Process all ingredients in food processor for about 1 minute, or until very smooth.  Taste and adjust flavor until you like!

You may add any number of extracts and flavors at this point. Try 2-4 TBSP Hershey’s Special Dark Unsweetened Cocoa, or some Amaretto!  Use your imagination and enjoy! This makes about 3 cups.

No-sugar Orange Marmalade

No-Sugar Orange Marmalade

I’ve used marmalade as the foundation for several recipes lately, and to save money, I decided to make my own. This recipe is a no-cook version, and it is delicious and simple to make.

No-sugar Orange Marmalade

2 large seedless oranges
4 TBSP. frozen grape or apple juice concentrate
1/4 C. agave or honey (optional)
2 TBSP.  fruit pectin for no-cook freezer jam (I used Ball brand)

Instructions

1. In a stewpot, cover your whole oranges with water and simmer (no lid) for 2 hours on very low heat, adding water as necessary to keep them covered.  Drain and cool.

2. Cut off the ends of each orange to remove the stem area. Place all ingredients in the food processor and pulse process until you have the texture of peel that you like.

3. Spoon into clean containers (the new screw on plastic containers work fine) & leave 1/2 inch headroom. Store in the frig for 3 weeks or in the freezer for up to 1 year.

Vegan No-fat “Aussie Bites”

No-fat Vegan “Aussie Bites”

My husband loves Aussie Bites.  You know, those crazy-delicious bite sized cookie-cakes that just ooze honey, butter, fruit and coconut.  We originally became hooked on the Costco bins of these things, to the point that we carry a container of them in our vehicle at all times, just in case we need a fix.  Finally, I pulled down a recipe from the internet so that we could have a never-ending supply at a more affordable price.

Needless to say, this buttery confection does not quite fit my new vegan no-fat lifestyle, so I have created my version with no fat or coconut.  This new “Aussie Bite” is only roughly similar to the original, but can honestly serve as a delicious stand-in, and might be fairly called an “awesome bite”, and my husband loves it!  The foundation of my “bite” is orange marmalade and graham flour.  I use St. Dalfour Orange Marmalade, but any favorite brand will work.  I have also made my own marmalade from scratch, which is very affordable.  These are very quick to put together and bake only 6-7 minutes (do not over bake)! You will need a mini muffin pan for these.

No-fat Vegan “Aussie Bites”

1/3 C seeds (combination of whole flax seeds and/or raw shelled sunflower seeds)
1/3 C dry rolled oats
1/3 C graham flour
1/3 C dried fruit (combination of golden raisins, chopped dates, chopped apricots)
1/4 tsp. each: baking soda, baking powder, salt
1 heaping TBSP. potato flour
1/3 C no-sugar orange marmalade
1/4 C agave or maple syrup or honey

Instructions

1. Stir together all the dry ingredients.

2. Fold in the marmalade and syrup or honey and mix thoroughly.

3. Using a non-stick mini-muffin pan, fill with each muffin with about 1 TBSP. of dough, pressing with the back of your spoon to ensure there are no air pockets.

4. Bake at 350 degrees for 6 to 7 minutes or just until the top edges begin to brown.

5. Remove from oven and immediately use a sharp knife to loosen the edges around each bite. Give the pan about 5 minutes to cool, then use your knife to remove each bite.

6. Cool completely and store in an airtight container. Makes 12 bites.

Linguine With Braised Fennel and Marsala

Linguine with Braised Fennel and Marsala

Pasta is one of my favorite easy dishes to prepare without fat.  Any super nice looking produce from your local market or weekly farmers market can provide the inspiration for a new flavor or texture combination.  I always feel compelled to just buy the thing that looks most interesting or particularly delicious that day, no matter what I had on the shopping list.

Today, that “thing” was a fennel bulb with its greens attached. It waved at me, and now its greens are building my homemade vegetable broth for the coming week, and it’s bulb is sliced and caramelized in Marsala with garlic, fennel seed, and lemon zest. I am kicked back in my garden with a little shot of limoncello and it isn’t much of a stretch to believe I’m actually in Sicily.

Linguine with Braised Fennel and Marsala

2 14 oz. cans chopped or crushed tomatoes
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. whole fennel seed
pinch dried red pepper flakes
1 whole fennel bulb, halved and sliced
1 Tbsp. capers, coarsely chopped
1/2 C Marsala
1 Tbsp agave or honey
1 tsp. salt
dash fresh ground pepper
zest of one lemon
chopped Italian parsley for garnish
3/4 lb. whole wheat linguine

Instructions

In your favorite sauce pot, bring first 10 ingredients up to a quick boil, lower the heat and cover, simmering for at least 45 minutes.  Cook 3/4 lb. whole wheat linguine in salted water until tender.  Drain, reserving 1 C of pasta water. Toss linguine with braised fennel.  Add reserved pasta water and toss on low heat for 5 minutes.  Garnish with lemon zest and parsley.

Grilled Stuffed Portabello with Spinach, Garlic & Sun-dried Tomatoes

Grilled Portabello Stuffed with Spinach, Garlic, and Sun-dried Tomatoes

Grilling without fat is my new puzzle to solve for the summer. I’ve got a winner this week with my no-fat vegan stuffed Portabello.  The ingredients I’ve used are succulent, but the real trick with this one is to grill it over some natural mesquite wood charcoal.  There are a lot of whole hardwood lump charcoal brands available.  I used Best of the West Natural Mesquite Briquettes, which I got at Fred Meyer.  A small 8 Cup tower of them burned to “ready” in 20 minutes and lasted perfectly for my batch of 4 mushrooms.

This mushroom can certainly be done in the oven, but it is a whole different animal after spending 20 minutes intimately mingling with hardwood smoke on my Weber tabletop grill.  This recipe is an adaptation of one from the Weber’s Real Grilling cookbook.

Grilled Stuffed Portabello with Spinach, Garlic and Sun-dried Tomatoes

6-8 C Chopped fresh spinach
1/2 large sweet onion, chopped
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 C halved fresh cherry tomatoes
1/2 C water-packed or re-hydrated sun-dried tomatoes, drained
1 Tbsp. capers, drained and coarsely chopped
salt and pepper to taste
3 or 4 medium portabello mushrooms
2 C fresh bread crumbs (Dave’s Goodseed or your favorite no-oil vegan bread)
1 clove peeled garlic
4 Tbsp. chopped fresh Italian parsley or cilantro

Instructions

1. Prepare the grill.  Make a stack of charcoal, enough for a single layer under your mushrooms, and light.  After 20 minutes, the coals should be ready to spread out in a single layer under the grate.

2. Gently rinse the portabellos and remove the stems. With a spoon, scrape out the black gills and discard.  Marinate the caps for 15 minutes with a few splashes of seasoned rice vinegar or balsamic vinegar.

3. Make the filling in a saucepan.  Put the first 7 ingredients together and heat over medium heat, covered with a lid, until the onion is soft, stirring occasionally and adding a small  amount of water when necessary to keep from sticking or burning.

4. Prepare the breadcrumbs in the food processor.  I use 2 slices of bread and 2 peeled clove of garlic.  Process and toast at 350 degrees on a cookie sheet for 10 minutes.  Chop your fresh herbs and set aside with the breadcrumbs.

5. Grill your mushroom caps for 10 minutes on each side.  Remove from the grill and stuff each cap with your filling.  Return to the grill (which should now be on a low heat- maybe 300 to 325 degrees) for 15 to 20 minutes, closing the lid and allowing the wood smoke to mingle with the mushrooms.

6. Remove the cooked portabellos from the grill.  Cover each cap well with toasted breadcrumbs and sprinkle with chopped herbs.

Vegan Custard

Vegan No-fat Custard Sauce

I’m a custard freak. My mother always had baked custard with nutmeg around for dessert when I was a child.  I loved to break through the nutmeg crust with my spoon and sample the delicious cold, caramel-flavor of that smooth egg custard.  As a no-fat vegan, I use non-dairy milk and cornstarch to achieve a similar concoction.  This can be made as a sauce to use with fruit crisp or as a stand-alone pudding.  Use whatever non-dairy milk you like best!

Vegan Custard

2 C vanilla non-dairy milk (I use almond, but any, such as soy or rice, will work)
1/8 C agave or honey
1/4 tsp. nutmeg (or amount to your taste)
pinch of salt
Cornstarch

Instructions

1. Mix the first 4 ingredients in a saucepan.

2. Whisk in cornstarch as follows:

  • For custard sauce: 2 TBSP
  • For pudding: 3-4 TBSP depending on how thick you like it

3. Cook on medium heat until it just thickens.  Remember, it will firm up considerably when chilled.

4. Pour into glass dish or pitcher and chill.

No-fat Vegan Summer Fruit Crisp

No-fat Vegan Summer Fruit Crisp

My brother and I recently went on a no-fat vegan shopping spree at the fantastic Poulsbo Central Market.  We just went crazy in the produce section of the store, and for those of you who are familiar with this amazing supermarket, you know that is like going to Disneyland for a vegan. We left the store with a bounty of local  and fresh produce, including fuzzy nubby lychees, plump ruby and black currants, nectarines and local strawberries. For the 4th of July, I put together a no-fat fruit crisp using fresh currants and nectarines.   This is quick and easy, and you can use any fresh summer fruit or fruit-combination!

No-fat Vegan Summer Fruit Crisp

1. Toss together:
8 Cups fresh summer fruit (berries, nectarines, plums, rhubarb etc.)
1/2 C 100% whole wheat flour
1/2 C light brown sugar
juice of 1/2 lemon

2. Place in large pie plate or baking dish and drizzle with about 1/2 C agave (or honey).
3. For topping, mix well:
1 C 100% whole wheat flour
1 C dry oatmeal
1/2 C brown sugar
1/2 tsp. each: baking soda, baking powder, salt,  cinnamon

4. Stir 1/2 C water + 1/4 C honey + 1 tsp. vanilla into dry ingredients. You should have a very thick dough about the consistency of cookie dough.
5. Drop spoonfuls of the dough onto the top of your fruit.  It will spread out a bit as it bakes.
6. Bake on a cookie sheet at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.  Lay a piece of loose foil over the top and continue baking for 25 more minutes or until fruit is bubbling and topping is evenly brown. Serve warm with chilled custard sauce, or just plain with a cup of coffee!

No-fat Vegan Shepherd’s Pie

No-fat Vegan Shepherds Pie – adapted from Simply Recipes

My sister has embraced some serious no-fat vegan cooking. She is a creative gal who has a long history of cooking for a house full of hungry boys, so she will often adapt a meat-oriented recipe. Her new version Shepherd’s Pie -adapted from the website Simply Recipes, really works to satisfy that craving for ground round beef!  She is using a vegetarian ground beef product called Smart Ground, which I buy at Fred Meyer, Whole Foods, or Central Market.

The original recipe states that “Shepherds Pie is an English dish, traditionally made with lamb or mutton. Americans typically make Shepherd’s Pie with beef. The English (and Australians and New Zealanders) call the beef dish a “cottage pie”. Naming conventions aside, Shepherd’s Pie is essentially a casserole, lined with cooked meat and vegetables, topped with mashed potatoes, and baked.”

Easy Shepherd’s Pie Recipe

Prep time: 10 minutes…It takes more time than that!
Cook time: 50 minutes

2 pkg. SMART GROUND
2 onions chopped
3-4 cups vegetables – chopped carrots, fresh or frozen corn, peas
3 – 4 lbs potatoes (6 big ones)
Nondairy milk for mashing potatoes or water
1 to  2 cups vegetable or mushroom broth- double strength (depending on how “saucy” you like this)
Flour or WONDRA for thickening the sauce
2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Salt, pepper, (other seasonings of choice)

Instructions

1. Peel and quarter potatoes, boil in salted water until tender (about 20 minutes).

2. “Sauté” onions and carrots over medium heat in vegetable broth  in a non-stick pan until tender. Mix in corn and peas.

3. Add SMART GROUND in chunks  and sauté until browning a bit. Add salt, pepper, worcestershire sauce and a cup of vegetable broth and cook, uncovered, over low heat for 10 minutes, adding more broth as necessary to keep moist. Whisk in a tablespoon or so of flour or WONDRA to thicken the gravy.

4. Mash potatoes in bowl with a bit of broth, salt, pepper and your favorite non dairy milk until they are the consistency you like. Season to taste.

5. Put the SMART GROUND veggie mixture into 9 x 13 glass baking dish. Distribute mashed potatoes on top. Rough up with a fork so that there are peaks that will brown nicely. You can use the fork to make some designs in the potatoes as well.

6. Cook in 400 degree oven until bubbling and brown (about 30 minutes). Broil for last few minutes if necessary to brown. ( Or just heat in microwave)

Yield: Serves eight.