spicy black bean and sweet potato sandwich

During cold and flu season, I try to do all I can to boost my body's immunity to avoid the sniffles. Of course, we all know that consuming high levels of vitamin C helps to fight winter weather bugs, but did you know that beta carotene also helps to enhance your immune system to protect against colds, the flu, and infections? Carrots are a great source of the compound, but when you're tired of crunching away at carrot sticks with your lunch every day, rest assured that there are lots of other yummy foods that provide the same kind of immunity boosting power. Both sweet potatoes and collard greens have a high amount of beta carotene, and they happen to make for a delicious sandwich when paired with antioxidant rich black beans.

Spicy Black Bean and Sweet Potato Sandwich

Black Bean Filling

1 can Black Beans, drained
handful Kalamata Olives
2 cloves Garlic, minced
2 Tbsp freshly squeezed Lemon Juice
1 1/2 Tbsp Tahini
1 tsp Cumin
1 tsp Cayenne
1/2 tsp Salt

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

Sweet Potatoes

1 Sweet Potato, peeled
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
Slice potatoes into thin circles.
Arrange potato slices in a single layer on the baking sheet.
Lightly brush each slice with olive oil on both sides.
Sprinkle generously with cayenne.
Lightly sprinkle with salt.
Bake for 10 minutes and remove from oven.
Carefully turn over each potato slice and sprinkle with more cayenne.
Return to oven.
Bake for an additional 5 minutes, watching carefully so that potatoes don't burn.

Collard Greens

Organic Collard Greens*, chopped, rough stems removed
Organic Soy Sauce**
Liquid Smoke
Organic Vegetable Broth
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Heat about a tsp of oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
Add collards. (Remember that the collards will cook down to about 1/2 this size.)
Saute for about 5 minutes, stirring regularly to avoid burning.
Add vegetable broth (just enough to coat the bottom of the skillet), a few dashes of soy sauce, and a generous amount of liquid smoke.
Stir to evenly coat the greens.
Continue to cook over medium heat for 8-10 minutes until liquid is absorbed.
If the greens soak up the liquid really quickly, just add more vegetable broth to prevent the greens from burning.

Putting it All Together

Serve sandwich style on sliced ciabatta, layering sweet potatoes over collards over a generous amount of black bean spread. The more black bean spread you use, the messier - and the more delicious! Your immune system and your taste buds will thank you :)

Yields 4 sandwiches.

*Because collard greens grow close to the ground, they tend to have high pesticide residue levels. Organic is better. Local organic is best.
**Several very toxic pesticides are used to grow conventional soybeans, so be sure to use organic soy sauce.


citrus-chili glazed tofu & broccoli

The idea of frozen tofu has been floating around in my head for a while, since I've read so much about the magical flavor absorbing qualities (see Vegan Dad's Ultimate BBQ Tofu and Sweet and Hot Tofu, Fat Free Vegan's Tofu, Tempeh, and Butternut Squash in Slow-Cooked Peanut Mole, or The Voracious Vegan's post on Tofu Bacon), but I hadn't actually tried this little trick until tonight. Now I can't figure out why I had never tried this before! It is magical. Now that I'm armed with perfect sponge-like tofu, my spicy citrus-chili sauce finally has something to soak into.
Citrus-Chili Glazed Tofu & Broccoli

1/4 block of Organic Extra Firm Tofu, cubed, frozen, thawed, and pressed*
1 crown Broccoli, cut into florets
1/2 Shallot, roughly chopped
2 cloves Garlic, minced
Sesame Oil

Citrus-Chili Sauce

1 1/2 Tbsp Chili Paste
2 Tbsp freshly squeezed Lime Juice
4 Tbsp freshly squeezed Orange Juice**
1 tsp Orange Pulp**
1 tsp Organic Orange Zest**
2 tsp Arrowroot Powder
2 tsp Agave Nectar
1 tsp Rice Wine Vinegar

Combine all ingredients for Citrus-Chili Sauce in a small bowl.
Heat a bit of sesame oil in a wok over medium heat.
Add garlic and shallots and cook for about 1 minute.
Add tofu and stir fry until tofu begins to brown.
Add broccoli florets and stir fry until they turn bright green.
Add Citrus-Chili Sauce and stir to coat.
Continue to cook until sauce is heated through.
Serve over rice, or just eat it out of the wok with a spoon :)

Serves 2 if served over rice.

*Several very toxic pesticides are used to grow conventional soybeans, so be sure to use organic tofu.
**Most pesticide residue is concentrated in the orange peel, so it is important to use only organic oranges when using orange zest. This is true for lemons and limes too.


not so lazy samoas

Here I am, over a month after the holidays, still on a cookie baking spree. Because "Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar" hasn't left my kitchen counter in weeks, I decided it was time to do something useful with all these cookies. I was inspired by a local vegan outreach group who prepares and serves a vegan meal to a different non-profit group each month. This month they chose the domestic violence shelter I work for, which was so exciting. All of the women who attended the support group where the food was served really enjoyed it, and I thought that the connection between healthy food, healthy bodies, and healthy minds created a really strong platform for empowering women to take control of their lives.

After following up with the vegan outreach group to participate next month, I figured that I could continue providing our support group participants with something yummy and cruelty free on a regular basis. This week I decided I would showcase some of my favorite vegan cookies - oatmeal raisin and chocolate chip (from "The Joy of Vegan Baking" ), and Samoas.

The flavor of the Lazy Samoas from "Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar" is perfect, but I find myself missing that buttery crunch of shortbread that's hidden beneath the all of the coconut-caramel-chocolate goodness in the original girl scout version. Getting it right took a lot of experimenting, but finally I have reached vegan girl scout cookie perfection: gooey toasted coconut covering a buttery layer of shortbread coated in rich chocolate drizzles. This one will be sure to please even the toughest cookie connoisseur.

Not So Lazy Samoas

Shortbread* (layer 1)

1 cup Whole Wheat Flour
3/4 cup Unbleached Pastry Flour
1 Tbsp Nutritional Yeast
1 tsp Salt
1/2 cup Coconut Oil
1/2 cup Powdered Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
2+ Tbsp Orange Juice

Using a hand mixer, cream the coconut oil until light and creamy.
Add the powdered sugar and continue to mix for about a minute.
Mix in vanilla and sugar until well combined.
In a separate bowl combine flours, nutritional yeast and salt.
Combine wet and dry ingredients until a soft dough forms.
If dough is crumbly, add more orange juice 1 tsp at a time until the consistency is dough like.
Roll out the dough as thin as possible without tearing.
Using a 1 1/2" diameter round cookie cutter, cut into circles.
Re-roll the dough and cut into circles one or two more times.
Arrange dough circles on un-greased cookie sheets.

Gooey Coconut
(layer 2)

Follow the recipe for the batter for Lazy Samoas from "Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar." Substitute 1/2 cup whole wheat flour and 1/2 cup all-purpose flour for the 1 cup of all purpose flour.

Putting It All Together

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Bake shortbread cookie dough for 4 minutes and remove from oven.
Top each shortbread with a spoonful of coconut mixture and flatten out to cover the shortbread.
Press a hole into the center of the coconut mixture using the handle of a spoon.
Bake for 8 more minutes.
Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire cooling rack.
Cover a cutting board (or other flat mobile surface) with wax paper.
Once the cookies have cooled completely, transfer them to the wax paper.

Chocolate Drizzle (layer 3)

12 oz Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips

Using the microwave on medium heat or a double boiler, melt the chocolate.
Dip each cookie into the chocolate to coat the bottom and return to the wax paper.
After all of the cookie bottoms are coated, transfer the remaining chocolate into a plastic bag.
Cut the very corner of the bag so that the chocolate will easily pour out in a small stream when the bag is squeezed.
Carefully drizzle the top of each cookie with several rows of chocolate.
Transfer the cutting board (with the cookies on top) to the refrigerator.
Chill the cookies for at least 30 minutes to firm up the chocolate.

Yields 3 dozen cookies.

*I adapted this recipe from the Buttery Shortbread Cookies in "Skinny Bitch In the Kitch."