September 26, 2015

Plant based "Spaghetti & Meatballs"

Hi All, so I had this idea that maybe I can create plant based versions of some of my favorite dishes. I've been experimenting a lot this past year with more vegetables and this seem like a fun challenge to undertake.  The first one that I'll share with you is my plant based spaghetti and meatballs.  This recipe neither has traditional pasta noodles nor does it have meat, but the look and taste is pretty close to the original. I used spaghetti squash to replace the noodles and I created eggplant meatless balls for the meatball substitute.  Before I share the recipe, I'll say this, cooking recipes are a guideline and you are welcome to exchange ingredients and substitute for other items you may like.

2 spaghetti squash

1 eggplant
6 basil leaves
5 garlic cloves
4 mushrooms
1 shallot
1 1/2 cup tomato sauce
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons flax seeds (ground)
5 tablespoons water

Spaghetti (serves 4):
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Cut spaghetti squash in half.
3. Lightly spray baking pan with PAM
4. Place halved squash with the open sides down on the pan, and bake for 40 minutes.  When cooked the inside should have a bright yellow color.
5. Let cool and when comfortable to touch use a fork to tease out the spaghetti.

Eggplant Meatless balls (16-18 balls):
1. Peel and cut the eggplant into quarters.  Soak in water for at least 30 minutes to prevent the eggplant from becoming bitter when cooked.
2. Mix the flax seeds and water in a small bowl.  Refrigerate for 15 minutes. This will serve as an egg substitute to bind the mixture, but will need time to set before it becomes the consistency of a beaten egg.
3. Finely chop the basil, garlic cloves, mushrooms, and shallot.
4. Drain eggplant, grate (preferably in a food processor) and using a cheesecloth drain the water from the eggplant.  If you don't have a cheesecloth you can just use your hands.  Grab a fistful at a time and squeeze out the water.  This is important.  The first time I did these I did not squeeze out the water and it was hard to make balls out of the eggplant.
5. Mix the eggplant, chopped vegetables, and flax-water mix together.
6. Add the flour and Parmesan cheese to the mixture and combine thoroughly.
7. In a frying pan add a little bit of PAM.  You will pan fry these on low-medium heat.
8. Using an ice cream scooper (a tablespoon works well too) scoop out the eggplant mixture and form into a ball.
9. Place each ball in the frying pan and cook on both sides (try to only turn these once).
10. After they have browned on both sides, add the tomato sauce and cook on low heat for about 30 minutes.

Serve eggplant meatless balls over spaghetti squash. I do about four meatless balls to half a spaghetti squash. Feel free to dust with extra Parmesan cheese if you like.

I mentioned before that a cooking recipe is a guideline and you should feel free to substitute for your preferences (taste & budget).  I want to point out some opportunities for substitutions:

-Mushroom: I used mushrooms as a mix in veggie, but you can also add peppers or other veggie that you like in your meatballs.  Mushrooms are great because they serve as a little sponge to soak any excess water from the eggplant.
-Shallot: I used a shallot in this recipe because I like the milder taste but feel free to use a red onion or a Spanish onion, whatever you prefer in terms of flavors.
-Flour: I didn't specify a type of flour on purpose. This time around I used a gluten free flour mix, but I've done these with almond flour, coconut flour, rice flour, and good old fashion wheat flour and they've all worked out okay.  Coconut flour soaks up the water the most so when using that one I held back a little bit (a little less than 1/2 cup) but feel free to experiment.
-Cheese: The cheese provides a nice punch in terms of flavor, but if you want to keep these strictly vegan you can leave out and maybe use nutritional yeast as a supplement.
-Flax seed egg: I prefer to minimize the amount of animal products in my cooking and whenever possible I look for substitutions. A flax seed egg is an easy substitution for cooking and baking, however if you do not have flax seeds and want to use a substitute you can do a similar egg substitute with chia seeds or you can also use a traditional beaten egg to help bind the mixture.

I hope you enjoy this dish! Until next time, Buen Provecho!

September 24, 2015

Blog in Transition

It's been a while since I posted anything, not because I've lost my enthusiasm and love of food, but because I've been eating more of a plant based diet. Over the past year I've enjoyed cooking with more vegetables, herbs, and fruits.  I have not transitioned to a strictly vegetarian diet, but I have definitely decreased my consumption of animal products. 

I find it somewhat challenging to get healthy and nutritious food (without the unnecessary salt, sugar, processed whatever) when eating out. Therefore I've been spending more time cooking and experimenting in the kitchen rather than visiting new restaurants. The thing about me is that I love good food, food that taste good, and looks good.  I can't imagine trading all the yummy food I was eating for strictly kale & lettuce  in the name of health, that's not going to work for me.  Over this past year I've been learning more about the impact of food on our bodies, our minds, and how we function.  I use this information to influence the way I shop for groceries, the food I prepare, and what I choose to put in my body. 

Starting this month I intend to share more of this journey, which will include recipes, trips to the food market, cooking tips, and other tidbits that I hope will help you in your journey.  I may still post on a new country (I still have plenty to get through), but the focus will shift.

I hope you still enjoy the blog!