Idiot’s Guide to Roasting Garlic

I’ve known of roasted garlic for a long, long time. I’ve loved it for nearly my entire life, as I’ve been told that as a toddler I would spread 2 or 3 cloves on a little cracker and beg for more.

Despite this, I never attempted at roasting garlic until a couple of weeks ago at the ripe ol’ age of 26. Little did I know how insanely hands-off it is! You have no excuse to make this yourself. Grab a dollar, buy a few bulbs of garlic, and get to it!

How to Roast Garlic

What you’ll need:

  • 1 bulb of garlic
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • dash of sea salt
  • aluminum foil

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Cut off the tips of the bulb of garlic to expose every clove, like so:

Peel all of the dry skin from the bulb. Place on a square of aluminum foil that will be large enough to completely encase it.

Drizzle the top with the olive oil and sprinkle the salt evenly on top. Completely close the foil around the bulb and place in the oven. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until the garlic is completely soft and the little cloves are golden.

Remove the cloves and do with them what you please! Mash to make a garlic spread for bread, crackers, and toast. Whisk into room-temperature butter and re-cool to make garlic butter. Add to any recipe you think could use the melt-in-your-mouth flavor of roasted garlic, such as pasta, mashed potatoes, hummus, atop your favorite grilled meats… anything is better with a little (or a lot of) garlic!

Vegan “Cheez” Sauce

I have a go-to vegan “cheez” sauce recipe that I can make in about 2 minutes that is loosely based off of a recipe from Alecia Silverstone’s The Kind Diet. It’s basically a couple of tablespoons of non-dairy milk, about double that amount of nutritional yeast, a dash of tamari soy sauce, and a dash of dry mustard. Whisk it up and put it on anything; I usually use it in wraps, on sandwiches, in salads, and just to dunk chips in.

When I was making real-deal (non-vegan) mac & cheese a few weeks ago, it started with making a roux of flour and butter, adding milk and cheese, then putting it on macaroni before baking it. I thought to myself, “Why can’t I use all vegan ingredients for this?”

So I did last week, and it worked out great! You can definitely tell it doesn’t taste the same as regular home-made cheese sauce, but my boyfriend couldn’t tell that it was vegan, so it must not have been too far off!

Vegan “Cheez” Sauce
Makes about 1 cup of sauce.

  • 1 cup non-dairy milk of choice (I used unsweetened almond)
  • 2 tbsp vegan butter (I used Earth Balance Soy-Free)
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 tsp dry mustard
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • dash of sea salt

Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Slowly whisk in flour and half of the milk. Bring to a boil and continue to whisk until the roux gets solid enough that it starts to pull away from the sides of the pot. It will look something like this:

Lower the heat to medium-low and whisk in remaining ingredients. Let simmer until it reaches your desired consistency.

Use with macaroni, as a dip, on tacos, or anywhere else you’d normally use cheese sauce!

I mixed about half of this sauce with four servings of mostly-cooked macaroni, put each in individual ramekins, drizzled some more of the sauce on top of each, and baked at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes. It made a fantastic dinner and went great with a spinach salad!

I’ll post another delicious recipe soon that uses this sauce in another way…!

Vegan Raspberry Oat Bars

The kid in all of us reminisces about Chewy Granola Bars, Pop Tarts, and other hand-held sweet treats that were passed off for healthy snacks and/or breakfasts, right? I mean… who are we kidding? Are two S’mores Pop Tarts really part of a healthy breakfast, as advertised?

I love sweet. I love baked goods. I love the accessibility of having things like Chewy Granola Bars on hand when I need a snack or an on-the-go breakfast that will go nicely with tea or coffee. I don’t love preservatives. I don’t love factory-cooked foods.

At least, not anymore.

I found a fantastic recipe online for granola bars and although I didn’t have any nuts or dried fruits to add to the mix, adding lots of grainy, high-fiber goodness did just fine in the end. I’ll definitely be making these again, but with more mix-ins next time!

Regardless, I made these really POP! with flavor by making my own raspberry syrup in place of the maple syrup or agave the original recipe calls for. Any fruit or berry will do!

I always have a soft spot for recipes that are just basic — not mandatory ingredients… just the framework for a dish that can be adjusted for and catered to everyone’s individual likings. As a friend of mine just told me today, it’s always best to teach skills, not a recipe!

Vegan Raspberry Oat Bars
Inspired by Healthy. Happy. Life.’s “Kitchen Sink Granola Bars”.
Makes 8 bars.

For the bars themselves…

  • 2 cups oats
  • 2 tbsp oil (I used virgin coconut oil)
  • 1/2 cup ground flax (or wheat germ)
  • 1/2 cup + 1/4 cup reserved unsweetened coconut (I used macaroon sized flakes, but you can use whichever you’d like, depending on your preferred consistency)
  • 1/4 cup sugar (I used organic granulated, but you can use turbinado, sucanat, or even a liquid like agave or maple)
  • 3/4 cup liquid sweetener (I made my own raspberry syrup – see the recipe below)
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened, salt-free nut butter (I used almond)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • Any mix-ins you’d like, such as nuts, seeds, chocolate chips, goji berries, cacao nibs, dried fruit, pretzel bits, etc. I just didn’t have any on hand!

For the raspberry syrup…

  • 1 cup raspberries, washed (I used fresh organic, but you can use frozen if you’d like)
  • 2 tbsp liquid sweetener (maple, agave, etc.)

Make the syrup by putting both ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat. When the raspberries begin to break down and the liquid bubbles, lower to medium-low and stir.

Break down the raspberries by using the back of a wooden spoon or spatula. Once all of the berries are broken down, remove from heat.

I ended up with exactly 3/4 cup, as the recipe calls for, but if you are short, just add a bit more liquid sweetener to it until it reaches 3/4 cup.

Set the sauce aside.

Line an 8×8 baking dish with parchment paper on all sides and preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Put the oil of your choice in a large pan over medium-high heat. When the oil gets warm, add the oats, flax (or wheat germ), and 1/2 cup of coconut to the pan. Stir every 30 seconds or so until the mixture becomes fragrant, set aside.

In a saucepan over medium-high heat, add the sugar, liquid sweetener (this would be the raspberry sauce, if you made it), vanilla, cinnamon, and nut butter. Stir until combined. Add the oat mixture and mix with a spatula until combined.

Put the mixture into the baking dish. Top with the remaining coconut flakes (and any other toppings you want, really!) and push in so they won’t fall off of the bars when they’re done.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the edges are golden. Using the parchment paper, lift the slab from the pan and onto a cooling rack. Let cool for at least 10 minutes before cutting into 8 portions with a very sharp non-serrated knife.

These can be stored at room temperature in a tupperware for a few days, or as long as 2 weeks in the refrigerator.

Delicious and very, very good for you! In just one bar you get tons of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and just enough sweetness to make it almost cookie-like!

The best way to eat these, you ask?

Slightly warm, with some almond milk!

New Food #2: Leeks

New Food #1 was tea… and I think it’s going to stick! I just drank tea with my breakfast! Goodbye, coffee, perhaps…??

On to day two!

At the local market, I bought a lot of veggies: some that I enjoy (carrots, spinach), some that I don’t (onions), and some that I’ve never had before (leeks).

I bought leeks because I’ve read some good leek recipes lately that I’d like to try. I’m not a huge onion fan (I only enjoy them when they’re cooked down to the point of not being crunchy anymore) and leeks have always reminded me of onions. The mind is sometimes irrational!

Firstly, I had no idea what a leek looked like, other than it kind of looks like green onion or a big bunch of chives. I asked a local produce vendor if they had leeks so that they could actually point them out to me… I wonder if they caught on that I was clueless! I learned online to look for a few things with your leeks:

  • roots still in tact
  • strong stalks
  • strong green tops that don’t droop

Also, leeks are dirty veggies, but unlike other dirty veggies like potatoes, yams, onions, etc. you can’t just scrub the outside. Leeks get dirt in between each of the leaves, so cleaning them is a bit more involved… but not hard!

First, I cut the roots off, removed the outer one or two leaves and rinsed them under cold water in a colander.

Next, I cut the leeks lengthwise starting about an inch and a half from the root (white part) all the way to the tips. Now it’s much easier to get in between each of the leaves to get it all clean!

Recipe time!

I had read of a cleansing (yet plain) leek soup in the book French Women Don’t Get Fat, but all it is is leeks boiled in water without any seasoning. You drink the broth throughout the day for two days, eating the leeks with lemon juice as snacks. Uh, no thank you!

They had another soup recipe in the book that inspired me to create this really satisfying soup that has flavor, texture, nutrients, and is very versatile. The sweetness of the broth with the tangy-tasting caramelized leeks throughout make this an interesting soup!

Vegetable Soup with Caramelized Leeks
Yield 4-5 servings.

  • 4 large carrots, cleaned, peeled, and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 large sweet (yellow) onion, peeled and chopped in 4 chunks
  • 3 large leeks, cleaned and roughly chopped (white and light green parts only!)
  • water
  • salt, pepper, dried herbs to taste
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1 tbsp butter or margerine

Clean and chop all of the vegetables and put them in a pot. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Lower heat and let simmer uncovered for 40 minutes.

Remove about 1/3 cup of the cooked leeks and let them drain on a paper towel. Set aside.

Using an immersion blender, blend the rest of the vegetables and the water until completely smooth. (You can use a blender if you want, but make sure the vegetables have cooled a lot so you don’t burn out your blender’s motor, or burn yourself!) Season with salt, pepper, and herbs to taste.

Put the reserved leeks in a pan on medium heat, stirring constantly.

Add butter and wine. Let cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until golden brown. Add salt and pepper if desired.

Serve with a small spoonful of the caramelized leeks in each bowl atop the soup. It looks pretty! You can also just mix in all of the caramelized leeks throughout the soup if you’d like.

I feel that this soup could be made into a meal itself if you add some whole wheat pasta (fusilli, gemelli, ditalini, or other small extruded shape) and/or adding sliced sausage! It’s very versatile!

5 Reasons Why I Haven’t Blogged in 5 Days

…inspired by this post.

  1. I took Friday off from work. No real reason, other than the obvious fact that vacation days and three-day weekends are awesome. Also, I didn’t use enough vacation days this year and they will all disappear at the end of December… so, like everyone else at work, I’m rushing to use them all up!

    I slept in, went for a bike ride downtown, ate here, shopped here, and listened to Christian evangelists yell at us while I enjoyed my grilled cheese sandwich here.

    I took a glorious nap when I got home!

  2. I was busy busy busy giving tours in the morning on Saturday. Needless to say, after 5 hours on my feet I took another glorious nap! But, before I did, I ate here… yes, for both breakfast and lunch!
  3. I packed. A lot.

    More about this in a future post!

  4. Sunday = football… preceded by a little bit of shopping. I’ve tried drafting blog posts while watching my beloved Giants, but I can’t focus and/or come close to spilling adult beverages on my laptop. Not safe at all!
  5. We have no food. Well, obviously that’s not entirely true, but we don’t have much going on in the kitchen lately. The boy and I are planning on going grocery shopping today so maybe – just maybe – we’ll be able to eat something that didn’t come from a box or from the freezer.

    Then again, not everything boxed and bagged is all that bad…

Wannabe Vegan Pho
Makes one serving.

  • 3 oz firm tofu (I used Trader Joe’s Sprouted Tofu), drained and patted dry
  • Black pepper
  • Garlic powder
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Salt
  • Non-stick, 100% natural cooking spray
  • 1 oz soba noodles (rice noodles can be substituted)
  • 1 cup Pacific Natural Foods Vegetarian Pho Base
  • 1 cup water
  • Toppings of your choice: traditionally cilantro, fish sauce, sriracha, bean sprouts, etc.

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. Cut tofu into 2″x1″x1/4″ rectangles and place the pieces on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Spray the top of the tofu pieces with non-stick spray and sprinkle salt, pepper, garlic, and cayenne pepper on top. Rub into each piece, place the sheet into the oven, and bake for 20 minutes, flipping halfway through. Turn off the oven and let the tofu sit for another 5 minutes inside the oven.

In a small pot, heat water and pho base until it boils. Add noodles and lower heat to medium-low. Let cook for 3 minutes or until the noodles are done. Add the tofu pieces and let simmer for 2 minutes.

Serve in a bowl topped with whatever you’d like! All I had on hand at the time was sriracha and dried cilantro… but it was still delicious!