Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Easter Rundown

Better late than never right?

The past week-and-a-half has caught up with me quickly between work and late meetings, running, exercising, playing with Dodger, trying to sleep and everything in between. But, tonight I made it a point to set some time aside to work on catching up on my blog posts.

Easter may be over, but these recipes can be made at any time of the year! The first recipe particularly is packed with spring colors and flavors that even drift you toward thoughts of warmer weather.

Here’s a rundown of what I prepared for a series of Easter get-togethers. Some photos are also what I ate at those gatherings.

My friends hosted an Easter potluck the Saturday before Easter, which provided the perfect opportunity to try some black rice that I recently purchased. I made this Forbidden Black Rice Salad with Mango, Citrus and Peanuts. 

The flavor combination is a fresh mix of Thai and Asian cuisine, but throws in a small dose of Mexican flavor with lime juice and cilantro. The beautiful deep, dark purple color of the forbidden rice mingles with the bright greens of the lime and cilantro, yellow of the mango and orange from slices of tangelo and chopped orange bell pepper. The original recipe calls for vegetable oil, but I chose to use extra virgin coconut oil, which added to the tropical, fruity flavors of the dish. I threw in tiny slivers of mild banana peppers and the unsalted dry roasted peanuts provide a nice crunch. This, like other big salads using rice or pasta, really gets better after it sits in the refrigerator for a few hours, or overnight, allowing the flavors to shine through. (It just so happens that two of my favorite colors are orange and green too.)

Forbidden Black Rice Salad with Mango, Citrus and Peanuts
adapted from this recipe
(serves 6 to 8 people) (vegan, dairy-free, egg-free and can be gluten-free if you use  gluten-free soy sauce or tamari)

• 2 tangelos
• 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
• 2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce mixed with 1 teaspoon of raw cane sugar
• 1 1/2 cups uncooked black rice ( The bon appetit recipe recommends using Lotus Food Heirloom Forbidden Rice. That just happened to be the brand I purchased before finding the recipe, and I’d also recommend using it.)
• sea salt and pepper, to taste
• 1 ripe mango, peeled and diced into small chunks
• 1 orange bell pepper, seeded and diced into small chunks
• 1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
• 1/2 cup finely chopped onion (I used a regular old white onion and it worked just fine.)
• 1/2 cup unsalted dry roasted peanuts, crushed up into small pieces (An easy way to crush up peanuts is to place the peanut chunks in between a folded paper towel on the kitchen counter and rolling a can back and forth over the paper towel to crush the peanuts.)
• about 6 mild banana pepper rings sliced into small pieces
• a pinch of garlic salt

- Peel both tangelos and divide them into segments. Squeeze the juice from one of the tangelos into a small bowl. Slice the other tangelo segments into smaller chunks and set aside with the diced mango.
- Cook the rice according to the package directions and remove it from the pan and place it in a large bowl to cool off in the fridge for about 15 minutes. Once it cools off season it with sea salt and pepper to taste.
- Mix together the freshly-squeezed lime juice, tangelo juice and the soy sauce and sugar mixture and throw in a pinch of garlic salt. Next melt the coconut oil and mix it in with the rest of the dressing ingredients. Do this quickly so that your coconut oil doesn’t clump up again as it is brought back to room temperature.
- Mix the cilantro, orange bell pepper, onion, diced tangelo and mango and crushed peanuts in with the cooled rice. Gently mix everything together very well. Now, mix in the dressing and again gently mix everything together.
- Garnish with more cilantro and lime juice when you serve the rice salad.
forbidden black rice

A bright and colorful spring dish!
My friends at the potluck all said they enjoyed this dish. The original recipe calls for two cups of uncooked rice. I reduced that down to a 1 1/2 cups and still had plenty of leftovers. I’ve been stuffing the black rice salad into wraps with other fresh veggies all week for dinner.
Other tasty items at the potluck included fixings for tacos, beans and sweet & sour cabbage!
Those same friends invited me to go to Easter dinner with them on Sunday, which in turn provided another perfect opportunity to try out my recipe for Vegan Oatmeal Raisin Cookies. 

There's something special that I love about the classic combination of oatmeal, raisins and spices. I've been working on finding the right ingredients and amounts of those ingredients to come up with a chewy, but not overly crunchy or doughy cookie. This is it!

These cookies contain more sugar than I typically like to make them with and a half-cup of Earth Balance Original Buttery Spread, but they end up crispy around the edges, packed with raisins, softer in the center and an overall deliciously chewy cookie!

This recipe can get sticky when you’re rolling out the cookies, but it’s worth it. Sticking the cookie dough in the freezer for about 10 minutes helps firm it up and become less sticky.

Chewy Vegan Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
(makes 22 cookies) (vegan, dairy-free, egg-free)

• 1/2 cup Earth Balance Original Buttery Spread, melted
• 1 cup brown sugar
• 1/2 cup raw cane sugar (or 1/2 cup regular cane sugar if you don’t have raw cane sugar on hand.)
• 1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
• 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
• 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
• 1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
• a dash or two of nutmeg
• 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
• 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
• 2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
• 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
• 3/4 to 1 cup raisins

- Melt the Earth Balance buttery spread, add to a large bowl and mix in the brown sugar and the raw cane sugar.
- Mix in the applesauce, vanilla extract and maple syrup. Next mix in the spices, flour, rolled oats and baking soda.
- Add the raisins last and mix until they’re evenly distributed throughout the dough mixture.
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
- Try not to eat all of the cookie dough and stick it in the freezer for about 10 minutes to firm up. Line two metal baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Take the cookie dough out of the freezer and using small chunks, shape the dough into small balls about the size of a golf ball, flatten the ball between your hands into a circle and gently place it on the baking sheet. These cookies spread out more as they bake, so only put six cookies on a baking sheet.
• Bake the cookies for 8 to 9 minutes. They will be very soft and still look light on top and golden on the bottom, but the cookies firm up as they cool off.
• Have the other baking sheet lined with parchment paper ready to switch the cookies over to cool. Gently transfer one cookie at a time with a spatula, being careful not to break the cookies.
• Bake cookies in batches of six until you run out of dough.
Try not to eat all of the cookie dough before you bake the cookies!

These cookies will be chewy and crisp around the edges and slightly softer in the middle. Because the recipe uses a good amount of sugar, save these for a special treat! These oatmeal raisin cookies also work great for cookie sandwiches with frosting or ice cream filling in the middle. The ice cream sammies below are filled with raw banana coconut almond ice cream frosting!

Other Easter deliciousness included:

A plate full of green beans, salad and a dinner roll

This amazing cherry huckleberry pie was made by my friend Brad's mom Helen. I took a few pieces home with me because it was so good! The crust was made with a simple mixture of flour, vegetable shortening and water. 

Check out these lovely juniper berries!

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