Mac & Cheese Stuffed Poblanos with Red Mole Sauce

After a long hiatus, I’ve decided to start blogging again. Yay! Over the last year I’ve had to go gluten free, so I had to rework many of my recipes. So from this point forward, all recipes posted here are both vegan and gluten free.

To kick things off I’ve prepared a “3 in 1” dish: Mac & Cheese Stuffed Poblanos with Red Mole Sauce. You can prepare the entire dish, just the Mac & Cheese, or just the Red Mole Sauce (for enchiladas, etc.). This dish took inspiration from jalapeno poppers — spicy and gooey cheese. The mole sauce adds a rich, sophisticated flavor from the roasted seeds and spices.

Ingredients:

6 Poblano peppers

Mac & Cheese

1/2 package (8oz) gluten free pasta, prepared according to package directions
1 cup raw cashews
1 cup water
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 Tb olive oil
1 tsp sambal chili paste
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp turmeric

Red Mole Sauce

1/2 C pumpkin seeds
1T sesame seeds
10 dried chili peppers
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp peppercorns
1/2 whole star anise
3 shallots (not peeled)
1tsp oregano
1 large onion
2TB olive oil
12oz jar roasted red peppers, drained and chopped
28oz can crushed tomatoes
salt to taste

Let’s start with the peppers. Preheat your broiler. Wash & dry the poblano peppers and place them on a broiler pan. Broil until skin bubbles and has dark spots — about 10 minutes on each side. When the peppers are done, transfer them to a covered bowl to cool.

Prepare the pasta according to package directions if you haven’t done so yet.

While the peppers are broiling, get started on the Red Mole Sauce. Heat a small cast iron pan on high. Add the pumpkin seeds and toast until they begin to brown and pop. About 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a glass bowl and then add the sesame seeds, chili peppers, cumin seeds, peppercorns and star anise to the pan. Toast for a minute or so until the spices are fragrant and begin to pop. Add those to the bowl of toasted pumpkin seeds and set aside to cool. 

Now place the shallots in the same hot pan. You want the skins to char on all sides, so turn them in the pan every 3-4 minutes. In all it should take about 10-12 minutes to roast the shallots. Set aside to cool.

Place all of the toasted spices, seeds and dried peppers in a spice grinder (or coffee grinder) and grind into a powder. Peel and dice the shallots.

Heat a heavy bottomed stock pot on high heat. Add the olive oil and onions. Sprinkle with salt and cook for 3-4 minutes until the onions begin to soften. Add the shallots and roasted red pepper. Cook for another minute and then add the ground spice mixture and the oregano. Cook for 1-2 minutes and add the tomatoes and a little salt. Cook for 2-3 minutes and then reduce the heat to medium low. Simmer for 20 minutes. 

Transfer sauce to a blender and puree until smooth.
While the mole sauce is simmering, make the cheese sauce. Add all the cheese sauce ingredients to a high speed blender and puree until it’s creamy and begins to thicken. (I did three minutes in my Vitamix). Mix sauce and cooked pasta together. (If you’re making just the Mac & Cheese, you’re done!) Set aside to stuff into the peppers.

Preheat your oven to 350. Have a lightly oiled baking dish on hand for the stuffed peppers. The peppers should be cool enough to handle now. Gently peel the skins off the peppers. Make a slit in the side of each pepper and carefully scoop out the seeds. Stuff each pepper with the mac & cheese and place in the baking dish with the slit side up. 

Ladle 1/2 the red mole sauce over the top of the peppers. Bake for 3o minutes. Leftover mole sauce can be frozen or used for another meal this week.

Alternate serving suggestion: if you like the crusty top on baked mac & cheese, serve the mole sauce on the side for dipping instead of baking with the sauce.

Almond Butter Banana Bread with Pumpkin Seeds and Raisins

This morning’s creation turned out quite well! This hearty bread is not too sweet and would be great for breakfast or brunch (or snacking). I used a Corningware bread pan, which is slightly larger than a standard bread pan so you may need to reduce the cooking time a little if you use a standard size pan.

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Ingredients:
1 very ripe banana
4T flax seeds
1 C water
2 heaping tablespoons of almond butter
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 C raisins
3/4 C sugar
2 C all purpose flour
1/4 C pumpkin seeds

Directions:
Pre-heat your oven to 350. Grind the flax seeds in a spice grinder. Mash together the banana, flax seeds, water, and almond butter. Add the baking soda, raisins, sugar, & flour and mix until well combined. This will make a thick, moist dough Рnot a batter. Transfer into a greased loaf pan and distribute the dough evenly with the back of a spoon. Sprinkle the pumpkin seeds on top and gently press them into the top of the loaf. (Any pumpkin  seeds that are loose will fall off when you take the loaf out of the pan.) Bake for 1 hour or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow the pan to cool enough to handle before removing the bread.

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Strawberry Kumquat Muffins

Wanting muffins, but not wanting to go grocery shopping for ingredients led me to experiment with the fruit I had on hand. Muffin recipes are so versatile, that you can take a lot of liberties with the ingredients and almost always create something delicious. This combo turned out to have exceptionally good flavor and well-balanced sweetness. The texture is a little smoother than most muffins, so maybe the frozen strawberries added too much moisture. With a little tinkering an experienced baker (not me!) could move this recipe into cupcake land, maybe topping if off with a light kumquat frosting and fresh strawberry slices.

Strawberry Kumquat Muffins
Strawberry Kumquat Muffins

Ingredients:
2C all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda1/2 tsp sea salt
2T kumquat zest*
3/4C granulated sugar
1C nut (or other non-dairy) milk
1/3C olive oil
1T white vinegar
2C frozen strawberries

* This is the zest of 8-10 kumquats. A microplane will work better than a traditional citrus zester for this. They get very slippery as the zest comes off and you have less to hold on to — be careful!

Directions:
Pre-heat oven to 400F. Pulse frozen strawberries in a food processor until they are generally small pieces without getting liquid-y (they will start to have a snow cone texture).

Combine the flour, baking soda, sea salt and kumquat zest in medium bowl. Combine the sugar, nut milk, olive oil and white vinegar in a large bowl. Add the dry ingredient mix to your wet ingredients and whisk gently until the dry mix is fully incorporated. Fold in the strawberries.

Fill a greased or non-stick muffin tin with the batter. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool for 5 minutes then remove from tin and cool completely on a wire rack.

DIY Vegetable Broth

This is super easy to make, doesn’t have any weird thickeners, or added oils or salt. Vegetable broth is handy for soups, sauces, and can be used to make your grains extra flavorful by using instead of water.

Step 1: Save most of your veggies scraps from all the other things you’re cooking. This is things like onion & garlic skin, potato peels, carrot ends, apple cores, squash innards, etc. Do not include peppers, beets, bitter greens, or thick inedible peels (like avocado or banana). Place your scraps in a bag in the freezer and keep adding to it as you cook.

Step 2: When you bag is full you’re ready to make broth! You’ll need a few hours so this is a good weekend project. Place all your scraps in a big stock pot and cover with water. Do not add salt or seasoning — you’ll do that as called for in each recipe when you use the broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce to low and simmer for 20-30 minutes.

Step 3: Strain your broth into a large mixing bowl. I use a large size mesh strainer and squeeze out extra liquid with the back of my ladle. Put the veggie scraps in your compost bowl. Repeat until you’ve strained all the broth — you may need several bowls depending how large they are.

Step 4: Let the broth cool until it stops steaming. Ladle into freezer safe storage containers leaving about 1 inch of space at the top. Label & freeze.

Colcannon and Irish Soda Bread

It’s St. Patrick’s Day, so just about every food blog is posting their version of Irish classics. I wasn’t going to post anything, but then I ate the best Irish Soda bread ever! And it’s not even my recipe! Head over to Hell Yeah It’s Vegan and make it. I used Almond/Brazil nut milk, raisins, and 2T caraway seeds (by accident, but turned out delicious!).

Irish Soda Bread

You’ll want something to go along with your bread, and I recommend Colcannon. Here’s my version:

Ingredients:
2T olive oil
2T coconut oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 cups shredded red cabbage
4 cups shredded green cabbage
6 large Russet potatoes, peeled & cubed
2 large spoonfuls Earth Balance

Directions:
Start the onion & cabbage part first, since that takes the longest. Heat both oils together in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until translucent. Add the cabbage and cover with a tight fitting lid. Reduce heat to medium low.
Meanwhile, place the potatoes in a large heavy bottomed pot. Cover with water & bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium high and cook under tender.
Stir the cabbage & onions every 5 minutes or so while the potatoes are cooking. The juices from the cabbage will deglaze your pan. You want everything to cook down and start to caramelize.
When the potatoes are done, drain except for 1/2 C of water. Add the Earth Balance and mash. (Using a little of the cooking water instead of a milk keeps them fluffy). Fold in the cabbage & onion mixture until thoroughly combined.

Colcannon

The purple & green combo is a nice color contrast. Add a little more Earth Balance when you’re heating up leftovers.

DIY Nut Milk

Making your own nut milk is as easy as using a blender. Why use store bought when you can have home made without any added thickeners, texture enhancers, or sugars? Using raw nuts bought in bulk from my local health food store, the cost of homemade is +/- just a few cents per ounce compared to store bought.

You will need a few kitchen tools to get started. A nut milk bag is a fine mesh nylon strainer. You can pick one up at most health food stores or order online for only a few bucks. The second item you need is a blender. If¬† you have a high powered blender such as a Vitamix, you won’t need to soak your nuts overnight. If you have a classic blender, then an overnight soak is a must.

Ingredients:
1 1/4 C raw (not roasted) nuts. I like 1 C almonds + 1/4 C Brazil nuts for a creamy texture. You can experiment with combos & proportions until you find the blend you like best. Don’t use peanuts for this.
5 cups water + more for soaking nuts — if you have municipal tap water, use a filter (Brita, Pur, etc.) to remove any chlorine remnants
1 tsp vanilla extract (optional)

Instructions:
Cover nuts with water and soak for 1 hour (or overnight if you don’t have a high speed blender)
Discard soaking water. Place all ingredients in blender and whirl for 1-2 minutes.
Strain the liquid through a nut milk bag into a pitcher. If you have a pitcher with a lid, you can use the lid to hold the bag in place while it strains. (Otherwise you’ll have to get creative with clothespins or tying the bag to a wooden spoon to suspend over the pitcher. You’re smart – you’ll figure something out!)
When the milk is done straining, you can squeeze the bag to get out the last bit. Keep refrigerated & shake before using.

Bonus:
The leftover nut mush makes a great face mask! Refrigerate until you use it.

Triple Nut Chocolate Chunk Cookies

I don’t consider myself an accomplished baker, and truthfully I rarely make dessert. But, these cookies got so many compliments from everyone who tried them that I have to share. My recipe was inspired by ones from The Joy of Vegan Baking, so show that page a little love!

Ingredients:
4 1/2 tsp Ener-G Egg Replacer (or 2T ground flax seeds)
6T water
1 cup coconut oil
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 package vegan semi-sweet chocolate chunks
1/3 cup each walnuts, almonds & Brazil nuts, chopped

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375. Line your cookie sheets with parchment paper.
In a food processor or blender, whip together the egg replacer & water until it’s thick & creamy.
In a large bowl, cream together the coconut oil, sugar and vanilla. Add the egg replacer mixture and mix thoroughly.
Combine all the dry ingredients except the nuts and chcocolate chunks in another large bowl. Mix well. Gradually add the dry ingredients into the wet, mixing thoroughly so there are no lumps of dry ingredients. Stir in the nuts and chocolate.
Scoop onto your cookie sheets using a spoon to make the cookies roughly equal in size. Press any stray nuts or chocolate back onto the cookies — these are so loaded that they fall off the dough easily when you’re scooping.
Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool on wire racks.