“New Recipe a Week”: Vegan Buddha Bowl

By Tuesday, February 28, 2017 0 , , Permalink

Vibrant Vegan Double Broccoli Buddha Bowl, credit Kirsten Akens 2017

Not every new recipe a week I try works out, but every now and again, one gets elevated to permanent Pepperplate status.

Tonight’s is one of those.

I’ve been a big fan of the vegetarian 101 Cookbooks website for many years. I also have two of Heidi Swanson’s cookbooks: Super Natural Cooking, and Super Natural Every Day. (I’m been wanting her third, Near & Far: Recipes Inspired by Home and Travel, but haven’t grabbed it yet.) I think I’ve only made one or two recipes over a decade of following her that have completely bombed. (And when I say, completely bombed, I mean they weren’t winners for our taste buds. Not that the recipe was somehow bad.)

Just about a year ago, I did a Top 25 list of “new recipes a week” that were winners for our household. Lots of them were Heidi’s. (And I should mention, I still stand by that list, if you’re wanting a place to find some new cooking and baking inspiration.)

All this to say, tonight I made Heidi’s Vibrant Vegan Double Broccoli Buddha Bowl. And even though I *may* have added a little too much garlic (is that actually a thing?), it was quite tasty — and quite pretty, with all the greens popping to the forefront. I told my husband it was like a salad, but more interesting. For what it’s worth, I added all the toppings she recommends (minus the hot sauce for me — but my husband liked the hot-sauce addition). The only thing I would change for next time is I would toast the almonds longer. I think it would add a little extra both in flavor and crunch.

This Buddha Bowl was really easy and quick to put together — especially since I cooked up quinoa in my Instant Pot over the weekend — which was also super easy, thanks to my friend JL’s cookbook Vegan Pressure Cooking. Her book is helping me to focus more on pre-cooking grains and beans, and to freeze them so weeknight cooking goes a lot faster. Once I’ve got this trick solidly up my sleeve, I’m hoping to learn to make and freeze breakfast burritos — if you have any suggestions on this process, let me know in the comments below.

Do you have any vegetarian or vegan recipes you’ve been blown away by recently? I’d love to hear about them in the comments. I’m always on the hunt! And … happy cooking!

I made my own ginger beer. You can too.

By Monday, April 13, 2015 0 , , Permalink

Ginger Beer Cooking, credit Kirsten Akens 2015

I love all things ginger, but I’m a particular sucker for ginger beer. As a part of my “40 before 41” journey, I wanted to learn to make what seemed to be a fairly easy non-alcoholic drink.

A friend of mine who concocts the ginger beer (of which I’m quite fond) for a local bar agreed to show me the ropes (and pass along his basic recipe), and so last fall I spent a morning helping him with a fresh batch — which mostly meant chopping and squeezing a whole lotta citrus, and watching him stir a humongous vat of the stuff.

A few weeks ago I finally got around to making a gallon of my own. It was an easy process and so I’m here to share the details of what I did with those of you who might also be aspiring ginger-beer-makers.

Ginger Beer

Basic Ingredients

325 grams of ginger juice, or 1.5 lbs whole ginger

1 lb. raw or white cane sugar

1/4 lb. of honey

3 limes

Champagne yeast (I used Red Star Pasteur Champagne Active Dry Wine Yeast, purchased at a local homebrew shop for about $1.50)

Bottles: Reusable flip-top cap style — I used four 34 oz. ones from IKEA, but eight 16 oz. ones would work too


1. Juice your ginger, or peel and chop the whole pieces.

2. Boil ginger, sugar, honey and lime with a 1/2 gallon of water (for an hour if ginger pieces, 5 minutes if ginger juice).

3. Fine strain liquid, add water up to 1 gallon and shake to mix.

4. Fill each bottle, making sure to leave some room at the top. For each 16 oz. of liquid, add about 25 granules of champagne yeast.

5. Seal securely, shake well, and store in a warm, dark place for 48 hours.

6. After 48 hours have passed, refrigerate immediately to stop the carbonation process.

Drink, and smile. Or mix 4 ounces of ginger beer with 1.5 ounces of rum, pour over some ice, garnish with lime, and smile even more through your first housemade Dark ‘N’ Stormy.

A few additional notes:

• I used a juice extractor to juice my ginger. I’m not sure whether the bother of the machine was more or less work than peeling, chopping and then using cheesecloth to fine strain would have been, but I’d probably stick with the juicing process if I did it again.

• My bottles did not explode, but I hear that they can, so store your bottles carefully with this potential in mind.

• My ginger beer had quite the kick to it. At times, so much so, it made me cough. There are all sorts of possible reasons for that — from the ginger itself, to the type of honey, to things I’m sure I know nothing about. Next time, I’ll probably try lowering the amount of ginger just a wee bit, and maybe play with limes and lemons, but it is a bit of a crapshoot.

In the kitchen


Tried out two new recipes yesterday, and one former #newrecipeaweek that’s turned into a house staple.

Let’s touch on the latter first.

About a year ago, I tested out this Food52 recipe:

The Splendid Table’s Refried Beans with Cinnamon and Clove

These are seriously the best refried beans ever. And — bonus! — they make your house smell amazing. You can turn them vegan by eliminating the butter at the end (which I’ve done numerous times simply because I’ve forgotten to add it), and they taste just as good.

On top of being super yummy, this recipe makes a ton, and results in week-long leftovers. I can’t praise them enough. I will note, I like my beans smooth so I give them a whirl around with my immersion blender before serving.

Now back to the actual newbies.

My friend JL’s latest book, Vegan Pressure Cooking, came out earlier this month, and I’ve been slowly trying a recipe here and there in my InstantPot. Yesterday I cooked up a double batch of her Apple Pie Steel Cut Oats — and they’re quite delicious. If you’re a pressure cooker user, check out her book. Steel cut oats have become my winter breakfast go-to because they’re easy to batch cook and refrigerate.

And finally … gluten-free, vegan (if you replace the honey with agave or maple syrup) chocolate chip cookies.

What makes them GF and vegan? A chickpea and peanut butter base.

No, I’m not joking.

A friend sent me the recipe through Pinterest and I thought I’d give it a try. I’d played with black bean brownies in the past and had success with those, so, why not?

It’s got seven ingredients: chickpeas, vanilla extract, all-natural peanut butter, honey, baking powder, salt and chocolate chips.

And our verdict (mine and my husband’s)? Not bad.

They are not ooey-gooey, sink-your-teeth-in traditional chocolate chip cookies. But they’re also decent in the cookie-replacement realm for those who need options.

I would try them again and make them a little smaller (I got 10, when the recipe said I should get 14), and I think I would sprinkle a little flaked salt on top for a tiny bit extra flavor.

Anywho, that’s all for now. Whatcha been cooking in your kitchen?