Recipe: Vegan Shepherd’s Pie (and a confession)

I have something very important to own up to here today.

Are you ready for it?

I don’t understand the full-on pumpkin obsession that is happening right now.

I just don’t.

in skillet with handle - edited

As a foodie, a blogger, and a huge fan of fall, I feel a little bad about this.  I mean, anyone who has browsed through a blogroll lately, walked past a bakery or coffee shop, or even taken a trip to the grocery store has surely seen the pumpkin explosion that is taking over the food world.

Pumpkin is a big deal, y’all.  And, I just don’t get it.

It’s fine, I guess.  It’s alright. It’s O.K.   But, honestly, it’s not a flavor that I get excited about.  I think my pumpkin gene never fully developed.  I get excited about other fall flavors, namely apple, ginger, nutmeg, vanilla, and cinnamon.  I go nuts for steaming bowls of soup, rich broths, and earthy aromas.  I’m crazy about casseroles, root vegetables, and pots of warm chili.  But, pumpkin?

Eh.

I could take it or leave it.

cooking - edited

I realize I probably just lost a lot of cred with you all, but in the spirit of full disclosure, I felt it needed to be said.

In that vain, I hope you enjoy this dish.  It is perfect for a chilly autumn evening, eaten in a setting where you feel comfortable and cozy, in the company of those you’re most at home with.  And with nary a pumpkin in sight.

For those who are disappointed with me and think I’m missing out, don’t worry . . . I’ll probably cave in and bake some pumpkin bread soon.

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Vegan Shepherd’s Pie bowl - edited

Tweaked just a smidge from the wonderful Fat Free Vegan Kitchen

Serves 6-8

Ingredients:

  •  2 lbs potatoes (I used red), cubed (peeled or unpeeled – it’s up to you)
  • ½ cup soy milk creamer
  • 1 tblspn Earth Balance (or oil or butter)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 3 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 ribs celery, diced
  • 8 oz cremini mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 cups green beans, chopped into ½ inch pieces (I used frozen)
  • 2 cups packed spinach, chopped
  • 1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1-2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 tblspn Bragg’s Liquid Aminos (could sub soy sauce or tamari)
  • 1 tblspn red miso
  • 1 tblspn fresh thyme (or 1 tspn dried)
  • 1 tblspn fresh rosemary, minced (or 1 tspn dried)
  • 1 tspn fresh oregano (or ½ tspn dried)
  • ¼ tspn dried, ground sage
  • 1 1/2 tblspns corn starch
  • 2 tblspns water
  • Salt & pepper

Directions:

  1. Prepare the potatoes by boiling them in a large pot of salted water until tender, about 15 minutes.  When tender, drain and toss into a large bowl (if using a hand mixer/masher) or the bowl of a stand mixer.  Add soy milk and Earth Balance and sprinkle with a generous amount of salt and pepper.  Mix/mash until soft and creamy.  Set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, spray a large cast iron skillet or large sauté pan with cooking spray and warm over medium-high heat.  Add the onions and cook until they are soft and begin to brown.  Add the garlic, carrots, celery, and mushrooms to the skillet and cook, stirring regularly, about 5 minutes longer.
  3. Next, add the vegetable broth, Bragg’s, miso, kidney beans, green beans, and herbs.  Bring the broth up to a low boil and then reduce heat.  Simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until all vegetables are tender and cooked through.
  4. Add the spinach to the skillet and mix well.  Let the spinach wilt over the heat for 2-3 minutes.  Finally, mix together the corn starch with the 2 tablespoons water until smooth and stir into the skillet.  Cook for a few minutes longer, until the sauce has thickened up a bit.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  5. Remove from heat and turn on your broiler to high.  If you used a cast iron skillet, leave the vegetables in the skillet at this point and spoon the mashed potatoes evenly onto the top.  If you used another sauté pan, transfer the vegetables into an oven-safe baking dish and then continue on by spooning the mashed potatoes onto the top.    Place skillet or dish under the broiler for approximately 5 minutes.  Serve immediately.

My Birthday Weekend In Pictures

On Friday I turned 33.

I’m pleased to say that my (usual) birthday anxiety this year was fairly minimal, so I was able to enjoy it mostly stress free.

I took the day off work and enjoyed a (well earned) long weekend.  It was three days filled with amazing food, good people, and fun outings.

Since everyone else was at work on Friday, I enjoyed a leisurely day about town on my own.  It started with a morning run (of course) and then I headed to one of my favorite breakfast spots, the AND Cafe, for an absolutely delicious vegan, gluten free waffle covered with mushroom-dill gravy and savory tofu.  I scored a deeply discounted frock at J. Crew and returned home in time to rest up before heading back out with Mr. Move Eat Create and a good friend to catch The Pet Shop Boys in concert at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall.Friday Collage

When I returned home, the night was finished off with birthday cake!  If you’re ever in Portland, by the way, do yourself a favor and pay a visit to Back to Eden Bakery.  This 100% plant-based, gluten free bakery is amazingly delicious and my toasted hazelnut cake with vanilla bean frosting was so good I can’t even do it justice.

Outside - edited

Saturday was an absolutely beautiful day for my weekly long run (15 miles this week).  Coffee and my favorite oatmeal from Harlow re-fueled me afterwards.  Enjoyed along with a good book to read over breakfast, I couldn’t have asked for a better start to the day.

Oatmeal and book - edited

Saturday evening was my official birthday dinner at Portobello, my favorite place in town for an upscale, yet relaxed meal.  My delectable (vegan, gluten free) feast included an appetizer of pommes frites, a couple of whiskey drinks, the first pizza I’ve had in months, and a salted caramel hot fudge sundae.  In my excitement to eat it, I forgot to take a picture of the sundae!  You’ll have to take my word for it that it was beautiful and amazingly tasty.

What a meal!

Oh, and of course there was presents!  Here are a few of them.  Can you tell I’m a reader?

A few of my gifts.  Can you tell I'm a reader?

I wish I could do it all over again.  Here’s to another year!

Recipe: My Victory Loaf

Do you know what victory looks like?  If you’re not sure, I’ll show you.

Meet my Victory Loaf.

with end cut off

Besides finishing my first marathon, I can’t think of another victory I’ve had anytime recently that has felt this sweet.

Prior to finding out that I’m gluten-sensitive/intolerant, I ate a lot of bread and bread products.  Granted, I was almost exclusively eating whole grain, healthier bread varieties, but bread was a staple in my dietary routine.  Since having to give up gluten that has obviously changed.  For those of you are about to say, “Wait!  There are several gluten-free options available these days – eat those!”, please allow me to remind you that I am also supposed to be avoiding yeast, eggs, and dairy.

That eliminates most all the prepared bread and bread dough products I have been able to find in stores or online.

This has been one of the most discouraging parts of my gluten-sensitive diagnosis.  And, just to be clear, it’s not just about bread.  It’s really about having things that have traditionally brought me pleasure and comfort all of a sudden turn into things that harm me.  It’s about being excluded from social situations because I can no longer join in with the group in quite the same way.  It’s about feeling tense and afraid that I’m going to sick anytime I’m eating something I haven’t prepared with my own hands.  It’s about activities (baking/cooking) that I grew so used to turning to for relaxation and joy all of a sudden being fraught with stress and unease.  It’s about loss and grief and life changes that are at times complex, sad, empowering, challenging, freeing, and frustrating all at once.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that there’s a bigger picture here, People.  And all of this is why this bread, this Victory Loaf, left me standing over my kitchen counter shedding a few little tears of joy.

collage

I have tried gluten free, yeast free baking a few times since my diagnosis (most of what I baked before was vegan, so that part wasn’t so tricky to adapt to), and it never turned out very well.  Some items went straight into the garbage.  Others got nibbled at with desperate hopefulness and then found their way to the trash, too.  While a couple of items got eaten entirely, it was with some sense of disappointment because they still weren’t quite up to my standards.  All of this was done by strictly following recipes.  I had lost trust in myself.  Not yet feeling any level of confidence with the new flours and gums and grains that have taken over my pantry, I was hesitant to stray at all from recipes and followed them all to sub-par results.  I don’t know if I was just selecting bad recipes or if I was executing them poorly (maybe a combination of the two), but I was more than a little discouraged.

Until I decided to give myself a chance.

Drawing upon what I had learned about the new ingredients available to me and the kitchen skills I have gained over the last few years, I put together my own recipe.  I knew that it could fail miserably, but at least I was prepared to do so on my own terms.

But, it didn’t.

It didn’t!

with bowl of soup

In fact, it went better in so many ways than any gluten free baking I had done.  It was incredible.

I made bread that looked like bread, tasted like bread, and exuded nothing less than absolute delight when I took my first bite.

It was pure victory.

I ate my Victory Loaf dry, with Earth Balance*, with jam, with sunflower seed butter, with peanut butter, dipped into soup, and with edamame hummus.  I ate it every way that I could.  I ate it with joy, with pleasure, with feelings of empowerment, with smiles, with fervor, with delight, and with relief.

And every time it felt like a little victory all over again.

*This was my favorite pairing.

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Victory Loaf

A Move Eat Create original recipe

Makes 1 standard loaf

** Note:  You should note that this bread does taste of buckwheat and dark grains.  If you’re looking for a soft, white bread, this is nowhere near that.  But, if you like whole grains, dark breads, and buckwheat, then this just might work for you.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups buckwheat flour torn slice
  • 1 cup white rice flour
  • 1 cup millet flour
  • 2 ¼ cups room temperature water
  • 1 tblspn molasses
  • 2 tspns salt
  • 1 tspn baking soda
  • 1 tspn fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tblspns shelled sunflower seeds
  • 1 tblspn millet

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare a loaf pan by coating with cooking spray.
  2. Combine flours and salt in large mixing bowl and set aside.
  3. Add water and molasses to the flour mixture and stir until just combined
  4. In a small bowl, combine baking soda with lemon juice and whisk together.  It will bubble/foam (this is the yeast replacement and will help create a similar rise effect).  Quickly pour into the rest of the batter and stir all ingredients until well incorporated.  There is no need to mix aggressively or to knead this dough.
  5. Pour batter into loaf pan and gently pick up the pan an inch or two and drop it on the counter in order to settle the dough and get it to level out.
  6. Lastly, combine the sunflower seeds and millet together and sprinkle on top of the batter for a seeded crust.
  7. Bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.
  8. Savor every bite.

Recipe: Iron Boosting Spinach Pesto Rice with Navy Beans

I have an iron deficiency.  Have I mentioned that?

One of those pesky side effects of the gluten-damaged system that I am still healing is a lack of nutrient absorption.  Combine that with all the running I do and it adds up to a significant lack of iron in my body.

mixed up in pan

Iron deficiency is no joke, as it results in poor oxygen delivery throughout your system and can leave you feeling weak, tired, and cranky.  And, really, who wants that?

While taking iron supplements is great for getting that very low level up initially, I don’t want to have to rely on supplements forever.  I’d prefer to get as many of my nutrients from food as possible, and as such, I offer this dish here – brimming with iron boosting ingredients.

Spinach is a favorite of mine, anyway, and I don’t need any extra excuse to eat it.  But it certainly is a bonus that is so iron rich.  One cup of spinach has just as much iron as 3 ounces of chicken.  So, for all my fellow vegetarians and vegans out there, feel free to fire that fact back at those who think iron has to come from animal products.  It’s just not so.

Continuing to up the iron ante in this dish, I’ve included navy beans (which, seriously, are just like overflowing with the stuff), the bell pepper (one standard green pepper has the same amount of iron as the aforementioned cup of spinach), and pine nuts.  To top it all off, I’ve included lemon juice.

Why is the lemon juice important, you may ask?

plated

Well, besides the fact that it’s delicious, consuming vitamin C (as is found in citrus) with iron increases your body’s absorption rate.

How ‘bout that?!

So if you’re looking to address an iron deficiency of your own, I highly recommend this meal.  It will have you covered, nutritionally speaking, and will certainly be more satisfying than popping a supplement.

If your iron levels are just fine and where they’re supposed to be, I still highly recommend this meal.

It’s delicious.  And nourishing.  And simple to prepare.  And, did I say delicious?

Iron or not, that’s a winning combination.

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Iron Boosting Spinach Pesto Rice with Navy Beans

Serves 6

Ingredients:  Vegetables cooking

** For the pesto (makes about 1 cup):

  • 3 cups packed baby spinach leaves
  • ¼ cup pine nuts
  • ¼ cup packed basil leaves
  • 1 tblspn fresh oregano
  • 1 tblspn fresh thyme
  •  ½ tspn black pepper
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 3 tblspns vegetable broth
  • 2 tblspns lemon juice
  • ½ tspn salt
  • 2 tblspns olive oil

The rest:

  • 2 tblspns vegetable broth
  • ¼ of a large white onion, minced
  • 3 small carrots, cut into matchsticks
  • 1 bell pepper, cut into strips about ½ inch long
  • 2 cups cooked navy beans
  • 2 medium zucchini, cut into half moons
  • 1 cup of spinach pesto (recipe above), divided in two
  • 3 cups cooked brown rice (about 1 ½ cups dry)

Directions:

  1. First, prepare the pesto.  Place all pesto ingredients, except olive oil, into a food processor and pulse a few times to chop ingredients.  Then, let food processor run while you slowly pour in the olive oil.  Continue to process until ingredients are well chopped and combined.  Set aside.
  2. Warm large sauté pan over medium-high heat.  Add vegetable broth first, then add onion, pepper, and carrots.  Saute vegetables in the broth for 5-7 minutes, until vegetables have softened.
  3. Add beans and zucchini to the pan and continue to cook all ingredients, stirring often, for 5 minutes.
  4. Add cooked rice and ½ cup of spinach pesto.  Stir all ingredients together and mix well over heat.  Let all ingredients cook for 3-4 minutes, to warm everything through and combine.  Serve immediately with the remaining ½ cup pesto to be drizzled onto individual servings as desired.

A Move Eat Create Medley: Looking Back At Some Favorite Posts

It occurred to me the other day that I’ve been at this blogging thing for a bit over a year now.  I decided to take a few minutes to look through the content I’ve been putting up and to see which posts have been the most popular.  Like any good blog-mom, all my posts are special to me, and it was interesting to see which ones seem to have most resonated with others.

Here, in no particular order, are the top contenders.  Missed any of them?  Click through the links to get caught up and see what they are all about.

Salad - edited

burrito sliced - edited

Me nearing finish 4 - edited

Recipe: Vegetable Marinara Pasta Bake with Popped Amaranth Top Crust

I don’t know that I’ve ever really declared this here on my blog, but I’m pretty much a geek in a lot of ways.

Ready to go in the oven

I’m a running geek who eagerly awaits her issues of Runner’s World and Running Times each month – then immersing myself in training methods, splits, and gear.

I’m a pop culture geek who can spend days philosophizing about the socially important messages and critiques in a single episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and who counts the regeneration of The Doctor as a significant stressor in her life.

I’m a HUGE literary geek.  Tired of being around me?  Just shove me in a bookstore or library and I’ll be entirely happy on my own until I realize I haven’t eaten in days.

And, of course, I’m a kitchen geek.  I get excited about kitchen gadgets and culinary ephemera.  An orderly mise en place sets my world on fire and learning a new cooking technique is an exciting adventure.

Noodles and Veggies

So when I learned about how amaranth (a nutritious, tasty, and gluten free grain that I can safely eat!) can be popped like popcorn on the stovetop, I KNEW it was something I had to try.  I got excited about this.  Like REALLY excited.

My excitement only grew throughout the process of popping the amaranth and making this dish.  I ended up with amaranth all over my kitchen because I got a little over excited and didn’t cover it well at first, but it was worth it.  This was fun and totally delighted my inner-culinary geek who marveled at watching this mighty little grain go!

If you’re hesitant to try this technique or just don’t have access to amaranth, you can certainly make this dish with a traditional breadcrumb topping or no topping at all.  But, if you’re feeling adventurous – find some amaranth and get ready to have some fun in your kitchen – just keep a broom handy for the errant traveling seeds you’ll find later!

Plated

**Note: As is the case with so many meals, feel free to customize this dish with your favorite vegetables or what you have on hand.  I like this combination of mushrooms, onion, pepper, and spinach for the complimentary mix of tastes, colors, and nutritional benefits, but you could certainly swap other veggies to suit your needs.

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Vegetable Marinara Bake with Popped Amaranth Top Crust

A Move Eat Create Original Recipe  Olive oil

Serves 8

Ingredients:

  • 16 oz gluten free penne (or pasta of choice)
  • ¼ cup amaranth
  • 3 tblspns vegan Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tblspn chopped fresh basil
  • 1 ½ tblspn olive oil, divided
  • ½ yellow onion, diced
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 ½ cup chopped cremini mushrooms
  • ¼ tspn ground fennel
  • ½ tspn crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tblspn nutritional yeast
  • 2 cups baby spinach leaves, chopped
  • 25-26 oz jar of marinara sauce (or equivalent of homemade)
  • Salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare an 11 x 7 baking pan by coating with cooking spray.
  2. Cook pasta noodles to just al dente, according to package directions.  Drain and set aside.
  3. Prepare the ingredients that will be the topping for the pasta bake.  To pop the amaranth, warm a dry pan over medium-high heat on the stovetop.  When heated, add 1 tablespoon of amaranth at a time to the pan.  If you have one, cover with a splatter screen.  The amaranth will begin to pop like popcorn.  Agitate the amaranth in the pan until most has popped.  Transfer popped amaranth to a bowl and repeat until all amaranth has been popped.  Be especially careful, as the amaranth can burn if it is not kept almost constantly agitated by shaking the pan or stirring.  The amaranth will pop quickly.  Once all amaranth has been popped, add vegan Parmesan, chopped basil, and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil to it and mix well to combine and coat ingredients with the olive oil.  Set aside.
  4. Heat remaining ½ tablespoon oil in a sauté pan over medium heat.  Add onion, garlic, and pepper, along with a pinch of salt, and sauté for about 5 minutes, until vegetables are softened.
  5. Add chopped mushrooms and cook another 3-4 minutes.
  6. Add fennel, red pepper flakes, nutritional yeast, and chopped spinach to pan.  Mix well and cook just 1-2 minutes until spinach starts to wilt.  Turn off heat and add cooked pasta noodles to the pan, stirring well to combine all ingredients.
  7. Line bottom of prepared baking pan with a light layer of the marinara sauce.  Pour noodles and vegetables on top of sauce and spread evenly.  Pour remaining marinara sauce onto top of noodle/vegetable mixture evenly.  Finally, sprinkle prepared topping across the entire casserole.
  8. Cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes at 350 degree.  Uncover and continue to bake for 10 more minutes.  Serve with additional salt, pepper, and vegan Parmesan to taste.

Recipe: Spicy Potatoes and Cabbage in Herby Tomatoes

Have you ever eaten a meal that is so humble it takes you by surprise?

potatoes and cabbage plated - edited

There are no big super foods here.  No crazy punch of unusual or particularly bold seasoning.  No exotic ingredient, rare or peculiar.

What we have here are the basics – potatoes, tomatoes, cabbage.  Staples.  Hearty, strong ingredients that have fed people for centuries.  Nothing in this dish screams of specialness or excitement, but in my mind, that’s precisely what makes it so good.  My first bites of this meal were taken with a lack of enthusiasm.  I expected nourishment, but nothing to get worked up about.  As I continued to eat it, though, working my way through my plate, then seconds, and then leftovers the next two days, I fell in love with this humble meal.

potatoes and cabbage - close up in bowl edited

While I’ve called this dish simple, I don’t mean it as a slight.  It’s a compliment.  Hearty vegetables dressed up with aromatics and emboldened with a bit of peppery-heat make for a dish that feels like the best kind of old friend – familiar and warm, but still able to catch you by surprise.

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Spicy Potatoes and Cabbage in Herby Tomatoes

Adapted from Vegetarian Times

Serves 8

Ingredients:

  • 1 small-medium head of green cabbage, shredded
  • 2 lbs potatoes, cut into 1 inch chunks
  • 2 ½ tblspns tomato paste
  • 1 tspn agave
  • 1 tblspn olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 large bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 tspn dried oregano
  • ½ tspn ground cumin
  • 5 small tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, minced
  • 1 serrano pepper, minced (optional, depending on your heat preference/tolerance)
  • 3 tblspns lime juice
  • ¼ cup cilantro, chopped
  • Hearty sprinklings of salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Submerge chopped cabbage in water and blanch for 5-6 minutes.  Drain and set aside.
  2. Return pot of water to stove and return to a boil.  Add chopped potatoes and boil 5-7 minutes, until tender.  Drain potatoes, reserving ¾ cup of the cooking water, and set aside.
  3. Add tomato paste and agave into reserved cooking water, stir to combine, and set aside.
  4. Warm oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat.  When warm, add onion, garlic, and bell pepper.  Cook, stirring frequently, for 5-7 minutes until vegetables soften.
  5. Add tomatoes, chiles, tomato paste/water mixture, oregano, and cumin to the pot.  Continue to cook for 5-6 more minutes.
  6. Add cabbage and potatoes to the pot.  Add a hearty sprinkling of salt and pepper, too.  Stir to combine all ingredients and let cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes, just to get everything combined and warmed back up.
  7. Turn off heat, add lime juice and cilantro, and stir to combine.  Taste and add extra salt and pepper if needed.
  8. Serve over rice or quinoa, or with warm tortillas.