I Suck at Apologizing (& Maybe you do Too).


I was upset recently.

I’m talking really, really upset. The type of upset where you want to slam doors, throw yourself on your bed, and sob wild, wonderfully pitiful tears. Except for the fact that I don’t normally do those things—other than maybe the door thing, that I might do.

But my point here is that being that upset and angry was a wakeup call. I realized that when I do the hurting, I really suck at apologizing.

Here’s what my door-slamming, wakeup moment caused me to realize: the apology is not about the person doing the apologizing. At least, it shouldn’t be.

Continue reading the rest of this article on Elephant Journal.  See you there!

Spicy Red Pepper Pasta Sauce

Spicy Red Pepper Pasta Sauce

This deliciously spicy red pepper and roasted tomato sauce honestly happened by accident, as do most of my kitchen successes. You can all thank my brother for making sure that the method was recorded this time instead of me telling the family, yet again, that they’ll never taste whatever it is that I’ve made ever again because I have no idea how I made it! I can’t tell you how often I say that… and how many death stares, glares and daggers I’ve had to witness after they take a bite and I warn them to enjoy it, because, well, it won’t be a repeat event.

My brother had stopped by and we were chatting and talking as I diced, sauteed and blended, all the while I was barely aware of what I was doing. It was pure instinct. After I served this impromptu meal that night he told me to stop what I was doing and write down the recipe before I forgot! Since that night I’ve made this a handful of times each time following the measurements I wrote down on a scrap of paper after trying my best to remember the right quantities. Luckily, I guessed close enough because each time it comes out just as satisfying as that first night!

As delicious as this sauce is, it has also caused me its own fair share of anxiety as well. I don’t even remember how many times this recipe was deemed “lost”. (Note to self: Stop writing recipes on small scraps of paper! Okay? Great. Thanks.) So when I came across it again a few weeks ago I knew I needed to blog it ASAP – if only for my own peace of mind!

So, without further ado … let me present to you this deliciously spicy pasta sauce. Fill your pantry with these items, and the next weeknight you need a meal fast and your brain can’t compute, pull them out and you’ll soon be thanking yourself you didn’t cave and go out for Italian when you can make something this good in your own kitchen. Trust me.

<3, molly

Spicy Red Pepper Pasta Sauce
Print Recipe
This deliciously spicy red pepper and roasted tomato sauce comes together quickly with a handful of pantry items, leaving you free to kick back and relax while it cooks and you wait for your pasta water to come to a boil! It doesn't get much easier.
Servings Prep Time
6-8 people 20 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
45 minutes 30 minutes
Servings Prep Time
6-8 people 20 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
45 minutes 30 minutes
Spicy Red Pepper Pasta Sauce
Print Recipe
This deliciously spicy red pepper and roasted tomato sauce comes together quickly with a handful of pantry items, leaving you free to kick back and relax while it cooks and you wait for your pasta water to come to a boil! It doesn't get much easier.
Servings Prep Time
6-8 people 20 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
45 minutes 30 minutes
Servings Prep Time
6-8 people 20 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
45 minutes 30 minutes
Ingredients
Servings: people
Instructions
  1. First, prepare your mis en place by dicing your onion, mincing the garlic and measuring all of the spices you will need to prepare the recipe. This saves stress and time later on in the cooking process!
  2. Next heat a skillet over medium-high heat and add your diced onion once the pan has warmed a bit. Add a pinch of sea salt to bring out the natural juices in the onion as you saute. Once the onion begins to want to stick to the bottom of the skillet and has started to tinge with color - about 5 minutes - add the garlic, 1/2 teaspoon of the chili pepper flakes and sautee until you can smell the garlic - about 30 seconds. Be careful not to burn or scorge your garlic. Trust me, that does NOT taste good and it can't be hidden in a recipe as easily as we'd all hope...
  3. At this point, deglaze the skillet with either a few glugs of red wine or a few tablespoons of water. Continue to saute a minute longer, making sure you pick up all that yumminess crusted on the bottom of the skillet!
  4. Dump the cooked onion and garlic into your blender and add the tomato paste, fire roasted tomatoes, roasted red peppers, and 1/2 cup of water. Blend on high until smooth. Depending on how thick you want your finished sauce, you can add another 1/4 cup of water to thin it out a bit more.
  5. Pour the entire contents of the blender into a saucepan and add the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of chili pepper flakes, basil, oregano and the sweetener. Bring to a low simmer and continue to cook for at least another 20-30 minutes, tasting and adjusting the seasoning and salt halfway through the cooking time.
  6. Now, sit back and put your feet up while that sauce does its own thang -- or you know, you could make that salad you know you should make with those salad fixings you bought and have since left sitting in the crisper drawer... But fear not. I won't judge.
Recipe Notes

* If you start your pasta water when you put the blended soup back on the stove to finishing cooking your timing will match up perfectly 🙂

* I make this recipe in a Vitamix. If you do not have a high-powered blender you may need to blend this sauce in two or more batches and for a longer period of time, but it should still work.

* And don't worry if this makes more than you can eat -- it'll freeze wonderfully for a quick grab & thaw meal!

 

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Reinventing Myself, and Brownies

2015-02-13 12.47.02
Photo captured by Gracia Obeid Photography

 

In my short lifetime I’ve learned and relearned how to bake three times. If you ask me, baking is more than an art; it is a mysterious blend of accurate measurements and intuitive understanding. In my kitchen, most often I measure and I weigh my ingredients faithfully – but then there are those days that my ingredients speak to me and suddenly my measuring spoons get tossed aside and I begin throwing things in a bowl like some kind of modern-era mad scientist. And to be honest, it usually works. I don’t advise you to don my mad scientist apron and give it a go yourself, but if you do, be prepared for wonderful accidents and tear-worthy fails. Serious fails.

For as long as I can remember I have felt a pull towards baking. To me there is something ridiculously comforting about measuring, pouring, sifting, and stirring. As I add ingredient after ingredient into the bowl, the outside world melts away and all that’s in my mind is myself, in the present moment, taking these extraneous parts and creating a wholly new substance. Hopefully, and edible one! I find peace in stirring the dry ingredients with the wet. I feel that the world is right when these sums of a whole act in the way that science teaches us that they will. There is an element of mystery because the batter or the dough will never, ever taste like the finished process. And I know that there is magic in the air when I place the pan into the oven; at that point I’ve done all that I could do and it is in the hands of the universe to deliver the outcome of my efforts.

I first learned to bake by watching and helping my parents from a stool in our kitchen. Chocolate chip cookies, bread from the bread machine, Bisquick biscuits, brown sugar-studded coffee cake, brownies from a box, and birthday cakes four times a year… these were the things I learned to measure and mix. Soon I was baking on my own time. I would sit down with my parent’s cookbooks, pour over the desserts sections and pick out things I wanted to bake. I began collecting vintage cookbooks from thrift stores and spending my allowances or birthday money on cake decorating supplies. I began baking the birthday cakes, and the cookies, and the brownies. I taught myself how to bake things from quick bread muffins to crispy, eggy and delicious popovers. And if I was ever stuck or confused my parents would step in and offer me a quick lesson, and then disappear back into the woodwork to let me flex my skills on my own. If anything, I gained an incredible amount of confidence in the kitchen learning to bake. I enjoyed every moment of it.

And then my mom was diagnosed with a severe gluten-intolerance. One thing that all of that baking had never taught me was what gluten was, or how it impacted baked goods. Seriously, what the hell was this stuff? I wanted to find out. For a while, I continued to bake as I had and watched my mom refrain from joining the rest of the family in eating it. Seeing that made me ache inside. So I slowly and quietly began my research and my foray into the new world of gluten-free baking. I tried a few recipes from the bloggers out there at the time and I found a handful of cookbooks that had made it to the shelves of our local bookstore – this was, after all, before gluten-free awareness hit the mainstream!

Not too long afterwards I myself was diagnosed with the very same, celiac-suspected, extreme gluten-intolerance. Now I threw on my game face. It was time to pack away the gluten and begin relearning how to bake. Because, folks, that’s what it took. I had to throw everything I knew and had learned about baking right out the window and began all over again, from scratch, so to say. And let me assure you that it was not an easy process… I baked more cardboard-like foods than I’d care to remember. Everything either turned out as a pile of crumbs or a mess of gooey, gumminess. It seemed to me that there simply wasn’t any logic in it all.

But I am stubborn by nature and I refused to be beaten. I believed that there was absolutely no reason that I couldn’t continue to eat muffins and cakes just like everyone else on the damn planet, so I stuck with it. For every success there was two or three utter failures. It took me years but I eventually began to understand the subtleties of working with gluten-free flours and how to replace the lack of gluten in a recipe. I was able to put birthday cakes on the table that the entire family, gluten-free or not, would eat. I was able to make muffins and breads and I was able to successfully feel that I had, once again, learned how to bake. It wasn’t perfect, but it was more than a work-in-progress – it was once again, a joy to be baking.

And then I found myself relearning how to bake, once again, for a third time. Just as I felt I had gluten-free baking down my doctor threw a curveball at me by asking me to switch to a plant-based diet. That meant learning to bake without eggs, without dairy milk, or without butter. It meant no buttercream frosting and no more popovers. It meant getting rid of my stand mixer, because what did I need to cream anymore? It meant learning how to use new ingredients and how to adjust for the lack of rise without eggs. It also meant learning to bake without oil – because that’s what my doctor asked of me.

But in spite of all of those potential potholes and discouraging negatives, I was inspired by the freedom in vegan baking. Seriously. I could eat as much batter as I wanted, because with no eggs – why not? I almost never have to run to the store for an ingredient if I’m missing it because in vegan baking there is always, always a pantry-ready substitution. And it’s easier than ever to cut down on my refined sugar content in my recipes because of the use of fruit or fruit purees in place of the eggs or oil. Really, once I wrapped my head around the idea of vegan baking – I threw myself into it head first, no doubts, no trepidations, merely giddy excitement at being able to reinvent myself and my baking once again.

Plus, let’s be real … there is no downside to baking something so damn healthy that you can eat it for breakfast and feel no shame.

2015-02-13 13.10.01

I’m a little late to the Valentine’s Day party considering that it is tomorrow, but in honor of the official day of love on the standard calendar I have a recipe I’ve developed as a labor of love. My SIL asked me a few months ago for a chocolate dessert that she could make at the start of the week and portion out a small serving each night as a guilt-free dessert. She wanted it to be easy, and she wanted it to be satisfying … and have non-processed ingredients with as little sugar as possible, to aid in the guiltless game.

I found a recipe from Oatmeal With A Fork I’d saved on my phone ages ago, and went about trying to use it as guide. I ended up changing very little of it, but I have altered it somewhat and have since accepted these brownies as my family’s newest addiction. I’ve made pan after pan of these only to see them disappear almost as quickly as I can make them. I’ve never even had anyone question if they were vegan or gluten-free, simply because they just taste that good. The first bite is a wonder, but they grow on your from there until you find yourself shamelessly reaching for a third.

You should make these tomorrow. Share them or hoard them, I won’t judge you for it. But make them. You’ll thank me later.

<3 molly

Fudgy Brownies
Print Recipe
These brownies are great prepared just as written, or you can spice them up a bit for a little something different! I like adding 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper into the dry ingredients and sprinkling the top with a finishing salt, like a french grey sea salt.
Servings Prep Time
9 squares 25 minutes
Cook Time
35-40 minutes
Servings Prep Time
9 squares 25 minutes
Cook Time
35-40 minutes
Fudgy Brownies
Print Recipe
These brownies are great prepared just as written, or you can spice them up a bit for a little something different! I like adding 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper into the dry ingredients and sprinkling the top with a finishing salt, like a french grey sea salt.
Servings Prep Time
9 squares 25 minutes
Cook Time
35-40 minutes
Servings Prep Time
9 squares 25 minutes
Cook Time
35-40 minutes
Ingredients
Servings: squares
Instructions
  1. In actuality, this step can be done later in the process but you must, must, must use a DRY blender for this step so I'm putting it first just to save any potential tears. You're welcome. Measure out 3/4 of a cup of whole rolled oats, gluten-free or regular, and pour them into a DRY blender. Run on high until you get a uniform textured oat "flour". Set aside the flour and rinse the blender before continuing with step two.
  2. You'll notice that the ingredients call for pureed prunes or prune baby food. I honestly find it much easier and less expensive to make my own puree, but if you'd rather purchase the prune baby food by all means go ahead and skip to step three! Look for prunes without any added sugars, and if possible, no added oils. You can soften them by soaking for 15-20 minutes in boiling water or overnight in room temperature water. I make a cup of prunes at a time and the leftover puree will keep in the fridge or the freezer, but less than a cup is hard to process in a blender. Once the prunes have softened, strain them from the soaking liquid, reserving a few tablespoons of the richly colored liquid and add both the prunes and the reserved liquid to a blender. Blend on high until they become a uniform puree, adding more liquid as needed. Done! I often do this step ahead of time, or keep it prepared in my fridge for emergency brownie moments. Don't judge - those are a legit thing.
  3. Now you're ready for business! Preheat your oven to 350F and line an 8x8 or 9x9 pan with parchment paper.
  4. Mix the wet ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. Add the flax or chia seed meal, mix until well combined, and let this rest for 8-10 minutes as the seeds thicken the batter.
  5. Meanwhile, mix the oat flour and all of the remaining dried ingredients together except for the chocolate chips. Save those nuggets of goodness for later, got it? Oh. And don't eat them all while you're waiting, either! Once the wet mixture has visually thickened, go ahead and mix the dry into the wet, making sure there are no lumps. Ok. Now you can stir in those chocolate chips. Go ahead. It's ok, I said you could now.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan lined in parchment paper and smooth over the top of the batter. However you leave it is how it will appear once it is baked. It's a very thick batter and creates a very dense, fudgy brownie eating experience. Place in the center of your oven and bake for 35-40 minutes. Let cool at least a few moments before cutting. Enjoy!
Recipe Notes

Like I said, I love these spiced for a treat to the taste buds. Try adding 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper to the dry ingredients and sprinkling the top of the pan with a finishing salt, like a French grey sea salt, before baking.

And if you're out of milk, I've even made these with water and nobody noticed a thing!

I have a close friend who is allergic to flax seeds, so I've tested these with both flax and chia seed meal and while the texture is altered by each ingredient, my testers and I thoroughly enjoyed both versions!

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Cashew Cream Mushroom Stroganoff

Stroganoff2

Photo by Gracia Obeid

 

 

 

A few days ago someone asked me what the one meal I would serve to a meat-eater would be. My internal dialogue went something like this…

Uh. 

Food. Ok.

Hold up. What do I eat?

What do other people eat? 

What did I have for dinner last night?

Wait. What did I even have for breakfast today?

Oh.my.god. 

Why is every single dish I’ve prepared in the last two years suddenly missing from my vocabulary? 

Does this question insinuate that I get just that one meal opportunity?

Is this like a one bite, make it or break it moment or do I have the entire meal to make an impression? 

I really don’t need this kind of pressure!

And you don’t want me staring at you as you chew each bite, analyzing your facial expressions and just how many times you move your food around your plate.  

I remember reeling mentally at the task of compelling someone to enjoy a meal that they otherwise wouldn’t have ordered off a restaurant menu.

Then I pulled myself together, realizing that the person asking me was actually a vegetarian herself and that I wasn’t under siege. Calm your tits, woman. I looked at her and uttered one of the most comforting phrases in the English language: macaroni and cheese. Meat eater or not, who doesn’t love a plate of comforting, cheesy deliciousness? I mean. Really.

So that was my plan. Next time I needed to convince a meat eater that plant-based food wasn’t a form of purgatory, I would serve them mac & cheese. Done and done.

And then I promptly proceeded to forget the entire conversation until yesterday when I placed a plate of this stroganoff in front of my best friend, G, and she proceeded to look at me with an expression that clearly marked both her approval of the dish and made me feel as though she’d have preferred I left her alone with it.

So now I want to retroactively change my answer and say that if I was serving dinner to a meat lover, I’d confidently place this Cashew Cream Mushroom Stroganoff in front of them without any lip-biting anxiety or awkward stare down. It’s just that good.

Stroganoff1

Photo by Gracia Obeid

 

 

I will say that since I made the plant-based switch I’ve tried a lot of versions of stroganoff. I mean, A LOT. When I was a kid I had a weird obsession with the stroganoff box of hamburger helper, so to me stroganoff is a comfort food. It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. And I’m all about taking those old comfort foods we grew up with and making them a healthy indulgence instead of a guilty pleasure. Hence, the many, many versions I’ve created in the last two years! I’ve made them thin with cashew milk, thicker with blended white beans, I’ve made wine sauces and mustard sauces and I’ve made them with high nut fat content and low nut fat content. I’d thought I’d exhausted my resources until I had a craving last week.

I didn’t want to replicate that boxed meal anymore. No. Instead I wanted to replicate that true homemade version of the meal that calls for unreal amounts of sour cream. I wanted to drown my taste buds in the richness of the cream sauce. And I didn’t want to feel sick afterwards.

… enter “cashew cream”. Usually I try to limit the fat content of my recipes and so you will rarely see me using an entire cup of cashew cream in one recipe, but this time… make the plunge. This is worth the indulgence. You’ll thank me later.

So, first head on over to HERE to find the Whole Foods recipe for cashew cream. This is the version I make most frequently because it’s ridiculously easy and because I’ve seen no real reason to reinvent this particular “wheel”.

 

Cashew Cream Mushroom Stroganoff

Ingredients: 

  • 1 large onion, sliced vertically into crescents
  • 2 packages of mushrooms, thickly sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups lactinato kale, thinnly sliced (not quite an entire bunch)
  • 1 zucchini, halved and sliced
  • 1 cup of prepared cashew cream
  • 1/2 cup of vegetable broth
  • 1/4 teaspoon powdered coriander
  • 1 teaspoon dried savory
  • 1 teaspoon of salt, plus extra to taste
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
  • black pepper, to taste
  • red wine, to taste

 

Method:

  1. First, prepare all of your vegetables and measure out your herbs and spices before beginning to cook. This is called preparing your mise en place and it will make cooking a much, much less stressful activity for you.
  2. Next heat a large, deep skillet over medium high heat. It is preheated when you drop a splash of water on the pan and it dances around. Kitchen dancing comes in all forms, folks! So. Once your pan is heated throw your onions in there with a pinch of salt. Skip the oil…. you can! 
  3. Keep moving those onions around, sauteing them as you normally would, but you’ll notice some caramel coloring forming on the bottom of the pan and some pieces will begin to stick a bit. This is what you’re looking for!
  4. Quickly add the mushrooms and another pinch of salt. The salt helps to bring out the natural juices in the onions and mushrooms. Keep sauteing another 5 minutes or so.
  5. Next add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds before adding a “glug, glug” of wine to deglaze your pan, picking up all of that delicious caramelization off the bottom to help build layered flavors in your finished dish.
  6. At this point you can add the rest of the ingredients including the kale, zucchini, broth, cashew cream, spices, fresh parsley, and wine – if desired. Feel free to use the “glug, glug” wine measurement to your own liking.
  7. Lower the heat to bring the pan to a low simmer and cook, stirring occasionally for 15 to 20 minutes. The sauce is ready when the kale and zucchini have cooked to your preference and when the flavors have melded together. Serve over pasta and garnish with fresh parsley, if you’re feeling fancy.

This easily served 3 for dinner, and 4 for lunch the next day. I’d estimate it serving 4-6 with dinner portions.