The Real Food Journal

Vegan Meal Prep, In Bookstores Now!

Vegan Meal Prep Cookbook

My latest book makes your goals attainable!

Vegan Meal Prep, the Cookbook

I was talking about meal prepping to a young person, at some point while testing the recipes for Vegan Meal Prep, and she said, “It’s adulting.” Vegan meal prepping is, in fact, a very special form of “adulting.” Meal prepping is the smart practice of planning your kitchen time efficiently. It’s about deciding what you want to eat and buying, preparing, and storing the foods you need to meet your needs and goals.

My 11th book, Vegan Meal Prep;A 5-Week Plan with 125 Ready-To-Go Recipes is a really useful, practical book that will save you money. It makes it easy to be as vegan as you want to be. If you have wanted to eat a plant-based diet, and thought it was going to be a challenge, this book will lay out the steps for a very do-able, attainable, and dare I say, tasty plan to reach your goals.

Vegan Meal Prep Takes a Plan

If you’ve ever cooked a big pot of beans, or made a batch of spaghetti sauce to eat all week, you were meal prepping. Most of us do it occasionally, just because it’s easier to make the full recipe and use it up later. Take that up a few notches, though, and you can follow my carefully engineered system, then prep for a few hours on the weekend. The work of organizing the recipes and making the shopping lists is already done, so you can just copy the list for that week and make a quick run to the store.

Meal Prepping Tofu Burgers

Make a batch Of Tofu Quinoa Burgers for dinner and a lunch!

A 5-Week Plan with 125 Ready-To-Go Recipes

Taking charge of your meals with a prep plan is the way to set yourself up to succeed. Instead of coming home from work to gaze into a bare fridge, you’ll walk in that door to find your meal all set up. Instead of ordering take out, or eating the same packaged foods over and over, you’ll have healthy, plant-based, whole foods ready to go.

Meal Prep Tofu

Marinated and Baked Tofu, for a week of meals…

Whole Foods Meal Prep

When I built this book, I built it on a solid foundation: whole, real foods. Every week you’ll prep beans, tofu or tempeh, whole grains, and vegetables to use in delicious dishes. Instead of relying on pricey packaged foods, you’ll be eating the most healthful plant foods, and saving money as a bonus.

Dressings, Sauces, and Treats

Once your beans and grains and veggies are in play, all you need are some delicious sauces and dressings, breakfasts, and should you choose to make them, treats! A plant-based life is much easier when you have Creamy Cheesy Sauce, Cashew “Parmesan,” Aquafaba Mayo and Avocado Green Goddess or Creamy Cashew Dressing ready to go in the fridge.

You may notice all these shots of delicious brownies, bars and cupcakes: I took all of them while I was testing the recipes.

Life’s too short to give up your sweet treats!

Meal Prep brownies

Plant-based, fudgy brownies for the week!

I hope you’ll give my book a try, whether you are a new vegan or just dipping a toe in the plant-based waters. Everybody should be eating more plants, even if you don’t go all in.

Here’s a recipe from the breakfast section of the book, using some chickpeas and roasted sweet potatoes that you prepped on the weekend.

Happy Prepping!

 

Vegan Meal Prep

Tasty Cakes!

Sweet Potato Chickpea Cakes

These delicate cakes will take the place of a sausage patty, without trying to pretend to be meat. Chunky chickpeas and tender sweet potato combine with earthy sage for a fragrant and satisfying breakfast. Delicious with your favorite hot sauce, mayo, or even ketchup.
Servings 4
Author Robin Asbell

Ingredients

  • 1 cup mashed, baked sweet potato
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas or 1 can, drained
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons ground flax seeds
  • 2 teaspoons dried sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • canola oil for frying

Instructions

  1. 1. In a medium bowl, combine the mashed sweet potatoes and mashed chickpeas. There should be rough chunks of chickpeas throughout the mixture. Add the crumbs, flax, sage, salt and pepper and mix well.
  2. 2. Use a 1/4 cup (60 mL) measure to portion 8 cakes, placing each on a plate. Form each cake into a 3 inch wide by 3/4 inch thick disk. 
  3. 3. Heat oil in a large saute pan. When the oil is shimmering and hot, carefully slip the cakes into the pan. When all the cakes are in the pan and the oil is sizzling around them, reduce the heat to medium and cook for about 4 minutes, occasionally using your spatula to carefully separate each cake from sticking to the pan. 
  4. 4. Turn the cakes at 4 minutes, they should be golden brown. Cook for 4-5 minutes on the other side, and carefully lift the cakes with your spatula to drain on the paper towel lined plate.

    Serve hot with desired condiments.

Make Purple Sweet Potato Gnocchi for a Colorful Bowl of Comfort

Purple Sweet Potato Gnocchi

Technicolor Comfort Food with Purple Sweet Potatoes

Gnocchi are pillows of joy. I’ve been teaching gnocchi-making classes for over 10 years, to sold out crowds. People just love the idea of making their own gnocchi, and we all get to roll up our sleeves and make mountains of tender dumplings. What few people realize before coming to class is that you can make gnocchi out of just about anything. Take these Purple Sweet Potato Gnocchi.

Purple Sweet Potatoes Make Beautiful Gnocchi

You eat with your eyes, before a single bite is taken. And when you take a look at these brilliant purple, bite sized dumplings, you are taking in a visual feast. Their beauty is more than skin-deep, too, with a sweet, nutty flavor that gives a plain potato gnocchi some real competition.

The Stokes Purple is Perfect For Gnocchi

I’ve written before about my obsession with the Stokes Purple Sweet Potato. Like here: Purple Sweet Potato Fries with Avocado, and in these Quesadillas, or a Wrap Sandwich or even this recent post about Hasselback Purple Sweet Potatoes.

But there’s a very good reason to make gnocchi with this particular variety of sweet potato. It’s perfect for gnocchi because the texture is relatively dry and meaty. The more moisture a vegetable contains, like say, a butternut squash or an orange sweet potato, the more flour it takes to make the gnocchi dough. The more flour, the tougher and less flavorful the gnocchi will be.

purple sweet potato gnocchi

Everyone will love it

Purple Means Antioxidants

So, not only are they show-stoppingly pretty, but they are extra flavorful and tender. The same pigment that makes them so gorgeous is also an antioxidant. Anthocyanins, the pigment that makes blueberries blue, gives the sweet potato superfood status. So far, scientists think that eating plenty of it will keep you a little safer from heart disease, cancer, dementia, and vision problems. So you might as well enjoy a delicious treat while keeping diseases at bay.

purple gnocchi dough

Brilliant and beautiful

A Good Gnocchi is a Tender Gnocchi

Gnocchi are such a simple, elemental food. A mash or puree of a vegetable or bean, bread, cheese, or grain, mixed with just enough flour to make a dough, then made into bite-sized dumplings and poached in simmering water. The dough pictured above shows the secret- just enough flour will make a dough without diluting the color.

Purple Sweet Potato Gnocchi

It’s like playing with clay

Always make the dough a little on the moist side and then cook a tester gnoccho, before adding more flour. If the dumpling doesn’t fall apart and is tasty, you can go ahead and shape the rest. You can shape the gnocchi and wrap the whole tray, then refrigerate for a few days before cooking, too. Once cooked, any leftovers can be microwaved for a delicious second meal.

Once you try purple gnocchi, those plain white potato gnocchi will seem, well, pale by comparison.

Purple Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Herbs

Get your purple food while enjoying a tender, pillowy gnocchi.

Servings 4
Author Robin Asbell

Ingredients

  • 1 pound Stokes Purple Sweet Potatoes
  • 1/4 cup chickpea flour
  • 1 cup unbleached flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh sage chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme chopped
  • 1 cup yellow grape tomatoes halved
  • vegan parm or parmesan if desired

Instructions

  1. Halve the sweet potatoes lengthwise and steam until very tender, about 10 minutes. Let cool completely before stripping off the skins and pureeing the flesh in a food processor. Place the puree on a clean countertop. Put on a large pot of water to boil for the gnocchi. Get a sheet pan and lightly flour it, and get out your spider skimmer, or a slotted spoon for catching the finished gnocchi. Place a large colander in a large bowl and reserve.

  2. Add the chickpea flour, unbleached flour, and salt. Gently knead the mixture together until well mixed and smooth, don't over mix. Pinch off a piece of dough the size of a gnocchi, roll it into a ball, then drop it into the simmering water. It will drop to the bottom. When it bobs to the top, scoop it out with a spider strainer or a slotted spoon. Test the gnocchi by biting it in half. If it's holding together and tender in the center, you are ready to shape the rest.

  3. Divide the dough into four pieces. Lightly flour the counter and roll each piece out to a snake about as wide as your finger. Use a bench knife or a chefs knife to cut the snake into 1/2 to 3/4 inch long pieces. Use a fork to press ridges in each gnocchi and place on the floured sheet pan.

  4. Once all the gnocchi are formed, you can cover tightly and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

  5. To serve, drop about 10 gnocchi at a time into the simmering water, and as they bob to the top, scoop them out. Place in the colander and drizzle with olive oil, shake to coat. Keep going until all are done.

  6. To serve, warm the 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large saute pan. Add the garlic and herbs and bring to a sizzle, just until fragrant. Add the warm gnocchi and tomatoes and stir over medium heat until the gnocchi are coated with oil and herbs. Serve immediately.

Warm Up with Tasty Scones Made From Freshly Ground Flour

Vegan scones

Share a warm scone

Fresh Flour Makes a Great Scone

Nothing makes a snowed-in morning feel cozier than a batch of scones, still warm from the oven. Scones are so simple, simple enough that little shifts in technique and ingredients can make the difference between a decent scone and one that makes you stop and pay attention. To make my scones the best, I choose freshly milled flours. These Tender Scones with Currants and Orange Zest are made with freshly ground, locally grown Baker’s Field Flour and Bread flour. I also often grind my own flour, in either a mill or my trusty Vitamix.

(Try my Barley Chocolate Chip Cookies or Apple Galette with freshly ground flour if you want to delve into grinding your own…)

Vegan Scones

A Perfect Breakfast

You Grind Pepper, Why Not Flour?

There was a time when everyone bought pre-ground black pepper, filled a pepper shaker, and put it on a table to sit for months on end. That pepper lost most of its flavor long before anybody sprinkled it on their mac and cheese. The culprit was oxidation. All the volatile oils and nuanced taste and aroma either dissipated or went rancid, leaving the pepper stale and flat. It’s the same thing with coffee beans, and yes, flour.

Did you know that in industrial flour milling, every kernel of wheat has the germ and bran removed, so that the creamy white endosperm can be ground to make white flour? Whole wheat flour is then made by adding some of the ground germ and bran back into the white flour. It’s called fractionating.

There’s a revolution brewing, with stone millers opening up shop and spreading the word about a better process, and the superiority of freshly milled flour. Baker’s Filed Flour and Bread is one of the new breed of millers, sourcing grain from close by, and grinding flour to bake bread the same day.

Stone Ground flour is best

In stone grinding, a kernel of wheat is crushed and mixed with all the components that were held separate in the berry. The germ and bran contain most of the nutrients and the healthy fats of the grain. Because the stones don’t heat the grain as it grinds, the oils don’t start to cook and degrade in the flour. In the milling process, the nutrients and oils are spread over all the particles, even the endosperm that would be used to make white flour. When a miller like Baker’s Field makes flour, they can grind a whole grain, then use a sifter to remove the chunks of bran and germ, producing an all-purpose flour that is more healthful and flavorful.

If you try Baker’s Field freshly milled all-purpose flour, you’ll notice that the flour seems almost clumpy, and when squeeze it in your hand the flour holds a soft shape when you let it go. That’s fresh flour, with natural oils and moisture intact.

Vegan Scones

Butterfly Scones with Raisins

The whole wheat flour, whether from a stone miller or from your own mill or blender, will also have a less powdery texture. It will also have a brighter, more interesting flavor. You’ll be amazed.

Start tasting flour!

For this scone recipe, I started with a scone recipe on the Baker’s Field website, but made it vegan for my plant-based readers. Instead of butter, I used Melt solid spread, and instead of cream and half and half, I used an almond milk creamer, and used less. I zazzed it up a bit with orange zest and currants in one version, and did another batch with raisins, cut into butterfly shapes with a cookie cutter. Both gave the flours a chance to shine.

Try a comparison of fresh flour and old flour

If you don’t think flour makes a difference, make a half batch with grocery store flour and half with freshly ground. Then compare. If you can’t taste any difference, you don’t have to listen to me. But if you do, you are on the way to becoming a flour conoisseur. Even if you don’t care about the taste, fresh food is better for you.

Baker’s Field Flour and Bread sells their flours in Coops around the Minneapolis area. If you live in another state, it’s worth doing a google search to see if somebody is doing small batch milling in your area. You can buy a grain mill, too, I’m told that the Mock Mill is one of the best.

Once you sink your teeth into a meltingly tender, tasty scone made with fresh flour, you won’t want to go back.

(If you made it this far, you might be interested in taking a class from Steve Horton, the miller and baker behind Baker’s Field, or from me, on how to make great scones with fresh flour. Both will be auctioned off for a great cause at the Minnesota Les Dames D’Escoffier Dame It benefit on March 31st. Click here for tickets!)

Tender Scones with Currants and Orange Zest

Freshly ground flour from my local miller makes these scones especially flavorful and tender.

Course Breakfast
Servings 22
Author Robin Asbell

Ingredients

  • 240 grams all-purpose flour about 2 cups
  • 240 grams whole wheat flour about 1 1/2 cups
  • 1/3 cup organic sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil or Melt Spread chilled
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest
  • 1 1/2 cups almond creamer plain, plus more for brushing
  • 1 cup currants or raisins
  • Turbinado sugar for topping

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Line two sheet pans with parchment.

  2. In a large bowl, combine the flours, baking powder, sugar and salt. Whisk to mix. Use a grater to shred the oil or spread into the flour mixture, tossing to coat. Add the orange zest and creamer and stir just until almost mixed, then add dried fruit and gently mix until all the flour is incorporated.

  3. Spread a little flour on the counter top and scrape the dough out onto the flour. Pat the dough to 1 inch thick and use a 2-inch round biscuit cutter to cut rounds. Transfer each to the baking sheets. Pat the scraps together and form with the biscuit cutter, place on the baking sheet.

  4. Brush the tops with enough creamer to moisten, then sprinkle with Turbinado sugar. 

  5. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the tops are golden and the scones are firm when pressed. Transfer scones to a cooling rack and let cool to room temperature before storing in an airtight container.

Make Valentine’s Brownie Hearts to Win Your Sweetie’s

 

Luscious Valentine's Brownie Heart

Luscious Valentine’s Brownie Heart

Valentine’s Day Brownie Hearts

As Valentine’s Day approaches, it’s all about finding a chocolate treat that will woo your sweet heart. Sure, you can buy a box of chocolates, or take that special friend out to eat. But nothing says I love you like a home baked dessert. These luscious Valentine’s Brownie Hearts will give you both the chocolate thrill you crave, with a little hidden healthfulness from our favorite fruit, the avocado.

Chocolate, Chocolate, Chocolate

Is it possible to have too much chocolate flavor in a brownie? In these, the brownie and the frosting are both flavored with pure cocoa and melted semisweet chocolate, for a deep, dark chocolate kick. Instead of butter, there’s a combination of avocado puree and coconut oil in the brownie, for that richness that makes a brownie a brownie. Because they have no eggs, you can underbake them just enough to leave the middles nice and moist.

Vegan Valentine's Hearts

Take a bite!

Red Berries are Required

Every Valentine’s I look at the pale, white shouldered strawberries, flown in from somewhere South, and sigh. But it is part of the annual festivities to buy some out of season berries, and perhaps dream wistfully of the summer berries to come. The raspberries are usually better than the strawberries, if you don’t mind laying out the cash. Berries always feel a little luxe in the wintertime, and that is what we are going for on Valentine’s Day.

Vegan Avocado Brownie Hearts

Bite into a Luscious Brownie Treat

Heart Shaped Brownies, or not…

I have heart shaped ramekins, but if you don’t you just need ramekins that hold at least 3/4 cup, or you could even use a muffin pan. The baking times might vary slightly if you use a different pan, so just test them and don’t overbake. You want that slightly gooey middle. It’s sexier.

For some other Valentine’s Treats, you could always try my Boozy Truffles or Chocolate Mousse Filo Nests, or Valentines Treats with Aphrodisiac Magic.

Avocado Brownie Hearts for Valentine's Day

Your luscious Brownie Hearts Hide a Healthy Secret

Avocadoes are Aphrodisiacs…

When you make these treats, you are using one of the foods that is on all the lists of aphrodisiac foods. Whether it makes you feel extra frisky, it’s hard to say. There are plenty of people eating avocado toast these days, maybe they know something we don’t. I can promise that the avocado helps nourish all your sexual systems, with good fats and fiber to keep your heart healthy.

Have a healthy, happy Valentine’s Day, whether you spend it with a lover, a friend, or by yourself. You deserve a treat, and chocolate always works.

 

Valentine's Brownie Hearts

These plant-based treats are chocolatey and delicious, and hide the fact that they are made richer with creamy avocado.

Course Dessert
Servings 6
Author Robin Asbell

Ingredients

Brownies

  • 1/4 cup ground flax
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 cup unbleached flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil melted
  • 1 ounce dark chocolate chopped
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 large avocados mashed

Frosting

  • 2 large avocadoes
  • 2 tablespoons coconut cream
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 4 ounces dark chocolate melted
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • strawberries and raspberries for garnish

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Oil 6 heart shaped ramekins that hold at least 3/4 cup (6 ounces), place on a sheet pan and reserve. 

  2. In a cup, mix the flax and water and let stand to thicken.

  3. In a large bowl, mix the flour, cocoa, salt and baking soda.

  4. In a small bowl, combine the coconut oil and chocolate and microwave until melted. In a medium bowl, mash the avocado until completely smooth, then stir in the chocolate mixture. Stir in the brown sugar and vanilla. Scrape into the dry ingredients and stir only until mixed.

  5. Use 1/2 cup portions to fill the prepared ramekins, and smooth the tops.

  6. Bake for 25-30 minutes, leaving the middles underbaked. Cool on racks.

  7. For frosting, place the avocado in the food processor and process until very smooth. Add the coconut cream, cocoa, vanilla and salt and blend. Add the melted chocolate and blend, scraping down and repeating until very smooth.

  8. Run a knife around the sides of each brownie and tap out onto a plate. Spread the frosting on the hearts. Garnish with berries.

Celebrate Valentine’s With Brilliant Beet Handrolls

 

Valentine's Sushi

Pretty and Plant Based

Valentine’s Day Sushi!

Valentine’s Day always calls out for a splash of red on the plate. Crimson hearts and ruby red beets just go together. So, for a heart-healthy flash of red, try my Pickled Beet Handrolls. There is pink pickled ginger, pink tofu, and curly red leaf lettuce in every roll, too, for a burst of color.

February is Heart Health Month…

So why not celebrate Valentine’s with a heart healthy handroll? While we like to think of paper hearts and romantic love, the truth is, we need a healthy ticker to keep the love flowing. Beets are famously heart-healthy, with a natural dose of nitrates that convert to Nitric Oxide, which relaxes your circulatory system, allowing blood to flow more freely. That boost in circulation is also a boon to sexual health, so beets should be required in all Valentine’s menus!

Vegan Beet Handrolls

Handrolls are Easy

Handrolls are the Easiest Valentine’s Sushi

If you are intimidated by sushi rolls, and don’t have a sushi mat, these handrolls are for you. Instead of crafting a cylinder, you create a little cone, with assorted delicious fillings that spill attractively out one end.

Quick Pickles Make Life Better

Steam a beet, slice it and toss with vinegar and sugar, and you have a quick pickle. Let is marinate for a while, and the juices double as a marinade for the tofu. Tofu takes on a lively pink tint from the beet juices, and a bit of sweet-tart flavor. You’ll probably have some left over, and you can use them on salads, in sandwiches, or just eat them up on their own.

 

Pickled ginger, wasabi and plant-based mayo add lots of flavors to this roll, as they nestle up to the soft tofu and crunchy beets. Tender brown rice and baby lettuce leaves provide unique textures to keep you interested.

Valentine’s Day will be more fun, if you eat something light and nourishing, instead of a heavy, rich feast.

Of course, you can always save room for chocolate!

Pickled Beet and Tofu Handrolls

Quick Pickled Beets provide a tangy marinade for the tofu, cutting a few steps on your way to showy, pretty handrolls.

Course Appetizer
Servings 12
Author Robin Asbell

Ingredients

  • 1 cup medium grain brown rice
  • 1 3/4 cup water depending on variety
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar

Fillings

  • 1 large whole beet
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1/2 block extra firm tofu
  • 1/2 cup pink pickled ginger drained
  • 12 leaves baby red leaf lettuce
  • 6 sheets nori
  • vegan mayo, wasabi, soy sauce for dipping

Instructions

  1. To cook rice: Place the rice in a medium bowl and cover with cold water. Swish with your hands for a few seconds, then pour off the water. Drain in a wire mesh strainer. 

  2. Place the rice in a small pot with water and bring to a boil. When boiling, cover tightly and reduce the heat to low. Cook for about 30 minutes, depending on the variety. When all the water is absorbed and the rice in tender, take off the heat and let stand, covered, for five minutes. Spread on a plate to cool.  Stir the vinegar and sugar in a cup, then drizzle over the rice, and fluff with a fork. Cover with a damp towel until time to use.

  3. Trim the beet into a cube, and steam over simmering water. When tender when pierced with a knife, let cool. When cool enough to handle slice into 1/2 inch thick slices, then stack and slice into 1/2 inch wide julienne. In a storage tub, stir the vinegar, sugar and salt and add the beets, toss to coat. Marinate for at least 30 minutes.

  4. Cut the tofu in strips in the same manner as the beets. Place in a bowl and drizzle with the marinade from the beets, and gently toss to coat.

  5. Assembly: Use sharp scissors to cut nori sheets in half, reserve. Prepare a bowl of cool water with a shot of rice vinegar added, and have a clean towel for your fingers. On each nori sheet, place a couple tablespoons of rice on one half. With wet fingers, pat the rice to cover a square area at one end of the nori, leaving the remaining portion exposed. The corner of the square of rice that is closest to the center is the point of the cone. From that corner, place a leaf of lettuce, pickled ginger, a piece of beet, a piece of tofu, and mayo, if desire . Roll the rice around the fillings, keeping the point of the cone closed. Dab some vinegar water on the exposed nori and dry your fingers. Roll the nori around the cone and press to seal. 

You Need Meal Prepping, and Caramelized Onions Make Life Better

Caramelized onions make meal prepping delicious

The Pot of Gold for your meal prepping

Meal Prepping is The Key to Eating Well

Ask people what keeps them from eating healthfully, and most will say: lack of time. Somewhere along the line, we became convinced that it’s just as good to grab packaged food, to save time for other things. But the real solution to being “too busy to cook” is Meal prepping. So, being a helper, I wrote a book to solve the problem.

When I described my next book, Vegan Meal Prep; A 5-Week Plan with 125 Ready-to-Go Recipes to a millennial friend, she said, oh “it’s adulting.” I suppose you can call it that. Maybe you grew up with someone else making your meals. Now you are an adult and you have to invest a little time into making sure you eat well. A couple of hours on the weekend, and boom, you can be set up for weeknight meals. Taking responsibility, that is kind of grown up.

Try a Little Meal Prepping Today

The book is available for pre-order, if you want to change the way you are eating for the better. If you just want to dip a toe in the waters of meal prepping, try making some caramelized onions and roasted brussels sprouts, and see how you like having them all prepped for the week. Then you can make dishes like this Caramelized Onion and Brussels Sprout Cavatappi.

 

Caramelized onion and brussels sprout cavatappi

Those onions made this simple pasta really special

Caramelized Onions Are Magic

As a private chef, I often cook all day, prepping finished meals for clients. Because I have a whole week’s worth of food to make, the first thing I do is throw a panful of onions on the stove. While I cook other things, I can saute those onions, low and slow, and make an ingredient that will improve every dish it touches.

To understand what is going on in that pan, it helps to understand the onion. Inside each juicy onion, there are natural sugars. Applying heat to the chopped onion causes “pyrolysis,” and breaks the sugar molecules into smaller sugar molecules. Polysaccharides become monosaccharides, and the onions get sweeter. The heat also breaks down the structural elements, which are largely starches, into sugars, and makes the onions soft. There’s also another famous chemical trick going on in the pan, called the Maillard Reaction. That’s what causes browning in many cooking processes, and it releases lots of amazing flavors from the onions cells, as well.

This is all so cool that I can’t believe that anyone doesn’t want to do it immediately.

Caramelized Onion Pasta

Fancy enough for guests

Temperature, Moisture and Time are Key to Caramelization

Low heat allows the processes to happen as they should. If your onions get soupy, raise the heat a little to cook off the water, since caramelization occurs more readily in a dry pan. Be patient. You need at least an hour. Any recipe that claims caramelization happens in 10 minutes should be burned.

I’ve had editors try to change my recipes to make it 10 minutes. We all need to do our part to educate everyone we know. a hint of browning is not caramelization. There is no shortcut.

Meal Prepping Leads to Pasta

The onions add depth and complexity, and prep makes it instant

While Caramelizing, Do Meal Prepping

And as the anguished cries rise from the crowd, “but an hour is like, forever!” just remember, you can prep all the other things while the onions cook. For this recipe, we throw some brussels sprouts in the oven to roast for 20 minutes. Cook a pot of quinoa or your favorite grain. Throw a whole sweet potato or two in the hot oven and roast until tender, and you’ll have raw materials to make great meals.

Once you have baked Sweet Potatoes, you can make one of these recipes:

Cranberry Sweet Potato Scones

Prep a Sweet Potato, Make Scones

Cranberry Sweet Potato Scones

 

Sweet Potato Pancakes

Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

Caramelized Onions and Walnuts Rock the Sweet Potato

Caramelized Onion Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

Meal Prepping Makes Life Better

Once you get the hang of it, you’ll see. Whether it’s a tub of sweet, intense caramelized onions, or cooked quinoa, or a few butter-soft sweet potatoes, your prep will save you. Instead of calling the pizza place for delivery, you can take that prep and make a genuinely delicious meal. Save dollars, save time, and eat more plants.

Meal Prepping is the answer.

Caramelized Onion Prep and Cavatappi with Brussels Sprouts and Pistachios

Servings 5
Author Robin Asbell

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds yellow onions
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil plus more for pasta
  • 2 pinches coarse salt

Brussels Sprouts

  • 1 pound brussels sprouts halved
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • smoked salt to taste

Pasta

  • 8 ounces Cavatappi or Gobbetti, whole wheat 3 1/2 cups
  • 1 large carrot finely julienned
  • 1/2 cup toasted pistachios chopped

Instructions

  1. Place a 12 inch skillet or a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Drizzle in the olive oil, then add the onions  and salt and stir to coat with oil. When the onions start to sizzle, reduce heat to  medium-low. Stir every 10-15 minutes, scraping the bottom of the pan, and if they start to stick, reduce to low. Keep cooking for an hour, they will shrink and turn the color of caramel candy. When you have 3 cups or so, take off the heat. Let cool. Measure 1 cup for the pasta, store the rest for other dishes.

  2. While the onions cook, roast the Brussels sprouts. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Spread the halved sprouts on a sheet pan and drizzle with oil, sprinkle with smoked salt. Roast for 20 minutes. Let cool. Reserve 1 1/2 cups for pasta, store the rest for other meals.

  3. For pasta, bring a big pot of water to a boil, add salt. Cook pasta according to package directions, about 12 minutes. Add the carrots for the last two minutes. Drain well.

  4. In the pasta pot, place the cup of caramelized onions and brussels sprouts, and a splash of olive oil just to keep it moving as you stir over medium heat. When heated, add the pasta and toss to mix, stir until all is hot again.

    Serve sprinkled with pistachios. 

Make a Fast Meal with Roasted New Potatoes and a Pumpkinseed-Cilantro Dip

New Potatoes with Pumpkinseed Dip

A little spicy, a little creamy

Everybody is in a hurry these days, especially when it comes to getting a meal on the table. I get it. I love writing recipes that people will actually use, not just aspire to make. Time is of the essence. In that spirit, I’m sharing this easy Creamy Pumpkinseed Cilantro Dip with Roasted New Potatoes.

Creamy Pepita Dip Is Fast

All you need is a food processor, and you can just throw in a few ingredients and blend them up. That’s easy and fast. It’s also made with nourishing pumpkinseeds, or pepitas, and fresh green cilantro.

Pumpkinseed kernels, not to be confused with the white ones still in the shell, are nutritional stand-outs. High in several forms of vitamin E, they act as antioxidants in the body. They are good sources of minerals like manganese, phosphorus, copper, zinc, and iron. They are especially valuable as a source of zinc for vegetarians, who aren’t getting it from meat. The fats in pumpkinseeds are good fats, and 1/4 cup provides almost 10 grams of protein.

This is a delicious way to finish off that bunch of cilantro before it wilts in the crisper drawer. There’s a hint of Mexico in the flavors, and fresh jalapeno gives it a teensy kick. It’s not hot by any means, so if you want a little more heat, add another chile.

Crispy New Potatoes Are Irresistible

Yes, these dippers do involve a knife and a few minutes in the oven. But it’s cold outside, and you deserve a hot meal. I used little Yukon Gold potatoes, simply halved, then tossed with olive oil and spice. Chipotle powder gives them some smoky heat, and turmeric makes them golden. Roasting them gives them a crispy edge for dunking into that bowl of dip.

Ditch the Fries and Try Pepita Cilantro Dip with New Potatoes

I know that vegans love fries, and many vegan restaurants are happy to serve what sells. But really, these roasted new potatoes are better. Why deep fry, when you can get the same bang for the buck without bathing your food in a bucket of oil?

To my taste, these have all the good qualities of french fries and aioli, with none of the downside.

So dip to your hearts content.

Roasted New Potatoes with Pumpkinseed Cilantro Dip

Crank the oven and make a quick meal, while the potatoes roast you can blend up a satisfying, whole foods dip.

Course Main Course
Keyword Pumpkinseed Cilantro Dip
Servings 2 as a meal, 4 as an appetizer
Author Robin Asbell

Ingredients

Potatoes

  • 1 pound new potatoes halved
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon chipotle powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • salt

Dip

  • 3/4 cup pepitas hulled, plus more for garnish
  • 1 cup cilantro packed
  • 2 cloves garlic peeled
  • 2 large jalapenos seeded
  • 1/2 cup non-dairy cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise your fave
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Place the halved potatoes on a sheet pan and drizzle with oil. Sprinkle on the spiced and a big pinch of salt. Toss to coat and roast for about 20 minutes, until tender when pierced with a paring knife. Take out and keep warm.
  2. For dip, toast the pumpkinseeds in a small skillet. Place over medium-high heat and swirl until the seeds start to toast and pop. Dump into the food processor and let cool. Add the cilantro, garlic and jalapenos and process until finely ground. Scrape down and process again to make a paste. Add the cream cheese, mayo and salt and process to mix. Scrape out into a bowl. Makes about a cup.

    Serve hot potatoes with dipping sauce.

Chocolate Tahini, the new PB and Chocolate? Bake Some Chocolate Tahini Bread

Chocolate Tahini Banana Bread

The ribbon of Chocolate Tahini is rich and Creamy!

As a recipe developer, I pay attention to the food trends that are on the move. Some are absurd, like unicorn food, or charcoal in everything. But some flavors rise to the top by just being good. The latest seductive combo I’ve been flirting with is the merger of chocolate and tahini.

Chocolate Tahini is the new Peanut Butter and Chocolate

Is it possible that anything could be as beloved as peanut butter and chocolate? Maybe, maybe not. But in the quest for the new and exciting, chocolate and tahini is pretty cool. Tahini is a little bit more savory, and if you make it the way I do, the spread is not nearly as sweet as most chocolate spreads or sauces. If you want to add more sweet, you can, but I think it’s a little more grown up to enjoy the flavors of sesame and cocoa, with just a hint of sweet.

Chocolate Tahini Banana Bread

More Chocolate is a Good Thing

Banana Bread +Chocolate+Tahini= Yum

The Chocolate Banana Bread in this recipe is rich and  moist, almost a cake in its own right. It’s also sweet enough that it doesn’t need a sugary filling. I made extra chocolate Tahini to use as a spread later, just to gild the lily a bit. This bread is also terrific with a fruity spread, like orange marmalade.

Chocolate Tahini Banana Bread

Make a Little Extra Chocolate Tahini for Serving

Chocolate Tahini is Your New Spread

Once you make some chocolate tahini, you can branch out, too. It’s a fun dip for crisp apple slices and juicy pineapple chunks. Salted pretzel rods and pitas can serve as sturdy vehicles to get the chocolate tahini into your mouth. For a crazy good dessert, use the chocolate tahini over your fave ice cream, or spread it on a cookie. Just imagine a gingersnap with a schmear of chocolate tahini, and your mouth waters, doesn’t it?

Kind of Like Dippable Halvah

Halvah is one of those underappreciated foods in the US, probably because we don’t see anything but packaged, dried out halvah. There’s no reason sesame seeds can’t be a delicious dessert. Just check out my trip to a Halvah store in Amsterdam, and my recipe for Pistachio Halvah Eggs.

All the crazy flavors in that halvah store, including chocolate, work well with tahini, too.

Get in on the Trend Now, Beat the Rush

I’m sure you have some soft bananas in your kitchen, and I hope you have a jar of tahini. You should be set up to make this tasty bread, and see what the flavor-fuss is about.

I promise it will be better than Unicorn Food!

Chocolate-Tahini Banana Bread

Chocolate and Tahini make a ribbon of flavor in this moist, chocolatey loaf.

Course Snack
Servings 8
Author Robin Asbell

Ingredients

Chocolate Tahini

  • 1/2 cup tahini
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup organic sugar fine (grind in a blender if chunky)
  • 2 tablespoons canola or avocado oil

Bread

  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 3/4 cup unbleached flour
  • 1/4 cup cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup non-dairy milk
  • 2 tablespoons ground flax seeds
  • 1 cup mashed banana
  • 1 cup organic brown sugar or finely ground sucanat
  • 1/2 cup canola or avocado oil
  • 2 tablespoons Turbinado sugar for topping

Instructions

  1. For the smoothest tahini, blend in a Vitamix or other blender. Start by grinding the organic sugar until very fine and powdery, then add the tahini, cocoa, vanilla, salt, sugar and oil and blend, scraping down as needed. (You can just mix it all in a bowl, too.)

    Measure 1/2 cup for the bread, and transfer the rest to a small jar or bowl for use later.

  2. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease a 9x5 inch metal loaf pan. 

  3. In a large bowl, combine the flours, cocoa, baking powder, soda and salt. Whisk to mix.

  4. In a cup, combine the non-dairy milk and flax seeds and stir. Let stand to thicken slightly.

  5. In a medium bowl, thoroughly mash the banana and add the brown sugar, oil and flax mixture and mix well. 

  6. Stir the banana mixture into the flour mixture, just until combined.

  7. Spread about half of the batter in the loaf pan, then drizzle the half cup of chocolate tahini across the batter, keeping most of it centered in the pan. Dollop the remaining batter over the top and spread gently to even the top. Sprinkle with Turbinado sugar.

  8. Bake for about 55 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with no wet batter clinging to it. Cool on a rack for at least 10 minutes before slicing. Once cooled, keeps tightly wrapped in the refrigerator for up to a week.

← Previous Page