Sweet potato and lentil empanadas with a sofrito-avocado sauce

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This week, Sophie from Vergingonvegan and I teamed up for a mystery ingredient challenge. We each asked our audience to recommend 4-5 ingredients that they’d like us to use, and we’ll come up with two separate vegan recipes. And I’ll tell you right now, it was actually a lot more challenging than I thought it would be.

The ingredients that were chosen, were: chickpea flour, almond meal, nutritional yeast, and lentils.

Sounds simple enough, but trying to think a little bit out of the box, and fighting off that urge that you have to just go for the recipes that are tried and tested is harder than you would think.

Finally, I settled on a recipe that I hope would do my Puerto Rican family proud. Empanadillas also known as empanadas. Which literally translates to wrapped stuffing in bread or dough. It’s a dish that almost every Latin-American country has a variation of, and Puerto Rico is no different.

It’s a dish I grew up helping my mother and grandmother cook, and a dish I loved to eat. Traditionally, it’s made either with a meat and onion filling, or stuffed with a potato mixture and deep fried in oil. I decided to find a way to utilize the ingredients given to me, but also make it a little cleaner.

And because in my house, empanadas are usually always eaten with Tobasco sauce, I decided to make a spicy version of my mother’s sofrito. Sofrito is basically the base flavor that’s used in all Puerto Rico dishes. I have distinct memories of my mother in the kitchen, whipping up a quick batch of her sofrito–a medley of green peppers, cilantro, lemon, onions, and garlic blitzed up to make a paste. Then, when you’re cooking (literally anything), you add some oil to the pan, cook off some sofrito till the house smells like heaven, and then add whatever it is you’re cooking.


So here’s how I made it:

The dough:

  • 1 cup of chickpea flour
  • 1 cup of all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup of melted coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup of nut milk/water
  • A pinch of sea salt

 

The filling:

  • 2 medium-sized sweet potatoes
  • 1 cup of red lentils
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • Cilantro sprigs
  • 1 spring onion
  • 3 tablespoons of smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon of sweet paprika
  • 1/4 cup of nutritional yeast (this is totally optional)
  • 1/4 cup of almond meal
  • Sea salt to taste
  • Chopped yellow bell pepper (half a bell pepper)

The sauce:

  • 1 spring onion
  • Cilantro sprigs
  • Half a green bell pepper
  • The juice of 1 lime/lemon
  • 2 teaspoons of tahini sauce
  • Half an avocado
  • 1/2 clove of garlic
  • 2 teaspoons of water

 

Here’s how to make it:

  • Start by making the dough. Mix all the dough ingredients together and knead until it becomes well incorporated and a tacky to the tough (not too dry or too wet). If you feel the mixture is still too dry, add more milk or water (A LITTE BIT AT A TIME). Then, cover with beeswax paper/cling film and set aside at room temperature and start with the filling.
  • For the filling, I started off by peeling the sweet potatoes, dicing them relatively small, and boiling them in water until they were soft enough to mash with a fork.
  • In a separate pot, I boiled the red lentils until they too were tender enough to mash up.
  • In a large bowl, I added the sweet potatoes, lentils, almond meal, sea salt, nutritional yeast, and paprika and mashed the mixture with the back of my fork until they became a nice, smooth mixture.
  • Then, in a pan, I fried the garlic, cilantro, and onion and added them to the filling mixture.
  • Set the filling aside and let it cool off a bit, while you work on the dough again.
  • Set your oven to 200C and allow it to preheat while you make the dough.
  • On a clean surface, roll out the dough as thin and uniform as possible — always making sure to flour the surface and your rolling pin so that it doesn’t stick.
  • Then, with a small plate, place the plate on your dough and cut a circle around it, saving all the scraps.
  • Grab all the scraps left, knead them a bit again and roll them out to make another empanada.
  • Put about 3 large spoons of the filling inside the circle of dough, fold to one side and shut using the back of a fork.
  • Place the empanada on a baking sheet, brush with coconut oil and bake for 20-25 minutes, until they get nice and golden brown.
  • While the empanadas are baking, it’s time to make the sauce.
  • In a container, add all the sauce ingredients and using a hand blender, blitz them all together till nice and creamy.
  • Allow the empanadas to cool a bit before you eat them, and dust some paprika on top.

The recipe sure does sound more complicated than it actually is. And it sure did take me a lot of trial and error to get the dough right. But it’s worth it to be able to see a plant-based, cleaner version of one of your childhood favorite flavors.

I hope I’ve made my abuela proud with this one!

Since you’re here, why not follow me on Instagram Straight-up Bananas

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20-minute Vegan Chickpea and Eggplant Lentil Curry

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Sometimes, you’ve just got to come to terms with the fact that some dishes won’t look good no matter how much you try to play with the dish. But I just had two bowls, and I am here to tell you that looks are irrelevant, any day of the week.

I recently had this AH-MAZING vegan dhal that my good friend @Verging_on_Vegan made and I haven’t been able to get the taste out of my head. I’m yet to try her dhal recipe at home, but I’ve come up with my own little rendition using everything in my pantry and fridge (grocery day is coming up and it’s time to clean out the fridge).

This dish is a one-pot dish (yay no dishes), it’s vegan, it’s jam-packed with flavor and it takes 20 minutes to have ready and in and around your mouth.

The coconut milk and eggplant make it nice and creamy. The lentils add depth and the chickpeas add that ‘meaty’ flavor that just makes the entire dish.

Lazy Thursday dinners – here I come.


Ingredients:

  • 1 large eggplant (or 2 medium sized), chopped into large chunks
  • 1 can of organic coconut milk (I like to use Organic Planet – it costs 7.50dhs at the Farmer’s Market)
  • 2 handfuls of dry red lentils
  • 1 can of organic chickpeas
  • 1 can of tinned tomatoes
  • 3 spring onions, chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 thumb of grated ginger
  • The juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons of curry powder
  • Sea salt
  • Coconut oil
  • 2 teaspoons of paprika
  • 1/3 teaspoon of cumin powder

 

How to make it:

  • First, put your pot to heat (I’ve used a cast-iron pot I got from IKEA for 130dhs (best purchase ever)).
  • Add the eggplant and enough coconut oil to coat the pot and let them get some nice color on them. While the eggplant is cooking, chop your onions and garlic, and grate the ginger then add to the half-cooked eggplant chunks. Cook together for about 3 minutes.
  • Add all the spices except for the sea salt and cook the spices with the veggies for another minute.
  • Drain the can of chickpeas and add them to the mixture. Mix well.
  • Then, add the can of tomatoes and the dry lentils and cover the pot letting them simmer together for about 10 minutes on medium-low heat.*
  • Lastly, add the coconut milk (you be the judge of how much is needed depending on how dry the lentils and eggplants have made the dish).
  • Add the juice of the lemon, mix well and see if salt is needed. If you’d like an extra kick, add some chilis, chili flakes, or chili sauce.

*Keep an eye on your pot, making sure nothing burns to the bottom of the pot. I find that eggplants and lentils dry up the water in the dish and could potentially get burnt if not watched properly. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

 

That is it. As simple as can be and unbelievably delicious, hearty and versatile. You could add any veg you think would go well with it…spinach, roasted peppers…etc. This 20-minute vegan eggplant and lentil coconut chickpea curry is perfect for a lazy Thursday in, or even after a long-ass day at work.

Give it a try and tell me what you think. Also, arrrrrreeeee you following StraightupBananas on Instagram yet? Me thinks you should be.

 

15-minute Greek Eggplant and Feta Pasta for Lunch

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Throughout all this craziness of falling in and out of love with Straight-upBananas for the past 4 months, one thing has remained constant. I still love to cook, and I still looooove to eat — it’s just somewhere in the middle, the whole sharing bit that has me feeling a bit confused.

Yesterday’s easy, quick lunch was one of my favorite go-tos when I don’t know what to have, or my fridge is starting to run on low…pasta!

This pasta dish is garlicky, creamy and oh-so slurping good!

Whether you’re vegetarian, vegan or a full-on omnivore, this recipe could be tweaked for any kind of quick lunch, dinner or even breakfast (who are you kidding, we all know at some point we’ve had something not very breakfast-y for breakfast — don’t lie).

Ingredients

  • Any type of whole-wheat pasta (I like OrganicLarder)
  • 4 cloves of garlic, diced
  • 1 medium-sized eggplant, sliced
  • 2 chopped tomatoes
  • A splash of apple cider vinegar (or a squeeze of lemon)
  • Sea salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil
  • Chopped dill, basil, or thyme (whichever you like best, or have in your fridge)
  • A sprinkle of good-quality crumbled feta cheese (if not vegan)

 

Here’s how to make it

  • First, make sure you put about 2 liters of water  with a nice amount of sea salt to boil for every two portions of pasta (the equation for the correct ratio per person still eludes me. That photo up there was enough for about 3 people, but I ate all of it…alone.)
  • Second, in a large pan, dry fry* (no oil) your eggplant till it gets nice and nearly charred.
  • Then, add your olive oil to the eggplant, and fry up the garlic till nice and golden. Then, add the tomatoes and vinegar or lemon and let the tomatoes stew up nicely and medium-high heat.
  • To the boiling water, add the pasta and cook as the instructions direct (usually about 7-9 minutes).
  • Add some of the starchy pasta water to the sauce in your saucepan and cook for a few more minutes with the sauce till it get’s nice and creamy and reduces. Add the dill to the sauce.
  • Drain the cooked pasta, and add it to the sauce and mix well.
  • Then, serve the pasta with its sauce, and taste it. Add salt and pepper (keeping in mind that your feta cheese will add a dimension of salt to the dish. So do not overdo the salt).
  • Serve in a plate and crumble some feta on top. If you’re feeling extra frisky and have the time, you could even add some chopped up Greek Kalamata olives to the sauce (again, watch the salt).

*The reason  I like to ‘dry’ fry my eggplants is that eggplants tend to act like a sponge when it comes to absorbing oil or water. When you sort of toast them in the pan, they cook through without absorbing the olive oil–making the sauce a lot lighter and less greasy.

I love this recipe. The flavor is so mousakka-ish, but minus the fried eggplants, and the time-consuming assembly. Plus there’s slurpy pasta there, so that’s a win if I ever did see one — no?

Give this recipe a shot, and give me a little shout out. Did you like it? Did you friggin hate it? Either way, I’d love to hear from you.

And since you’re here…why not follow me on Instagram, too?

 

Healthy plant-based spiced chocolate tart with figs

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Something really strange has been going on with my Instagram lately — it seems the algorithms have changed (again) and smaller pages such as mine are lagging behind (again) unless they pay to have their posts boosted — sucks for me and my numbers, but it doesn’t mean I’m going to stop posting my recipes and photos; even if it’s only little ol’ me looking at them.

Ladies and gents, I give to you this beautiful plant-based chocolate tart with fresh figs on top. With no added processed sugar, this decadent beauty is the perfect chocolate fix and the best thing is…you could even have it breakfast if you felt like it.

It takes about 30 minutes to put together and about 2 hours to set in the fridge/freezer.

Here’s how I made it:

Ingredients:

For crust:

  • 1 cup of date paste (alternatively, you could soak about 20 dates in warm water, pit them and make into a paste in your food processor)
  • 1 teaspoon of organic coconut oil
  • 1 cup of rolled oats
  • 1 cup of salted pecans (you use any kind of nut you like)
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon powder
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla pods
  • 1 teaspoon of ginger powder
  • 1 tablespoon of honey
  • 1 tablespoon of almond butter

For filling:

  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 1/3 cup of tahini paste
  • 1/4 cup of date syrup
  • 2 tablespoons of honey
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla paste
  • 1/3 cup of organic cacao powder
  • A pinch of sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon

For topping:

  • Any fresh fruit you’d like.
  • Cashew cream (optional)**

The method to my madness:

  • First things, first. In your food processor, process the oats, cinnamon, ginger, and pecans into a fine flour.
  • Then, add the dates, honey, almond butter and vanilla and process all together until it forms a dough-like ball.
  • Take out the crust dough and with your hands knead it until it becomes nice and sticks together.
  • In a serving plate lined with wax paper, form the ball into a circular crust (or whatever shape you’d like) using your fingers and pressing down firmly. I created a little pool-like dough so the chocolate doesn’t pour out.
  • Place the dough in the freezer to firm up as you make the filling.
  • In a food processor (sorry, you’re going to have to clean it:)), throw together all the filling ingredients and blitz until it’s nice and creamy — taste it and see if you need to add anything (more honey, more cinnamon…)
  • Pour the filling mixture into the dough and put back in freezer to set (for two hours), or overnight in the fridge.
  • To top, you could make a simple cashew cream by placing 1 cup of raw cashews into a bowl with boiling hot water on top and let sit for two hours. Then blitz all together with a hand blender. I like to add two tablespoons of honey, vanilla paste and a little squirt of lime.

 

That’s it. Super simple. Super healthy. Super beautiful. No nasty processed additives that’ll have you feeling terrible after, this plant-based chocolate tart is just what I needed this hectic Sunday!

Since you’re here, why not follow Straight-upBananas on Instagram, too!

Quick carrot and ginger soup

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After 15 hours of fasting, you’d think that the first thing I’d want to do is dig into a ginormous meal, right? Nah, soup and salad are what I crave all day. I know it sounds strange, but that’s just the way it is. After so many hours of not having anything in your system, your stomach kind of gets used to it — and come iftar time, you’ll find yourself physically incapable of stuffing your face no matter how much you try.

One of my sisters-in-law once made this delicious carrot and ginger soup, so I tried to make my own vegan version minus the cream and the butter.

It’s super simple to make, mega good for you and tastes great. My husband and I finished 4 bowls in one day.

What you need:

  • 1 kilo of carrots
  • 2 tablespoons of grated ginger
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 3 spring onions
  • 1 handful of raw cashews
  • 1 organic stock cube
  • sea salt and pepper
  • 1 liter of boiling water
  • 1/2 can of coconut milk (optional, but makes it much creamier)
  • Olive oil

 

How to make it:

  • In a large pot, add some olive oil and add the chopped carrots, spring onions, ginger, and garlic and saute lightly.
  • Then, add the stock cube, cashews, and boiling water and bring to the boil.
  • Simmer on low for about 20 minutes or until you can pierce carrots with a fork.
  • Turn off the heat, add the coconut cream (optional) and with a hand blender, blend the soup together till nice and silky.
  • Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • I like to serve pureed soups with a dollop of yogurt and you can top with some fresh coriander or dill.

 

As always, easy peasy.

Let this be a testament that you can get that creamy, hearty soup you’re craving, minus all the nasties from the cream. Give this soup a try, I promise you won’t be missing anything.

Oh, and since you’re here, why not show me some love on Instagram?

Easy potato, leek and butter bean soup

 

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Have I ever mentioned that I originally wanted to blog ONLY about soups…? Dumb, I know. But I’m an avid fan of everything slurpy and thought it would be a good idea to dedicate a website to my slurping obsession. Then, that same day, I was watching an episode of New Girl and Jess tells Schmidt that she’s “Straight-up Bananas, yo” and I literally popped my laptop open and bought the domain on spot. Fast forward four years and here we are…with a thriving Instagram account (have you followed me yet?), and less than impressive website (help meeeee)

Long story, short: I love soups. Probably way more than I should. Now add Ramadan and my constant need to break my fast with any kind of soup and you’ve got some good old-fashioned improv happening in the kitchen.

And the leek, potato and butter bean soup was born.

Super simple to make and MEGA good — it tastes creamy and cheesy for some reason without an ounce of either.

It takes about 20 minutes to put together and then you just puree it with a handy, dandy hand blender and you are good to go, mi amigo.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 2 Leeks
  • 1/2 kilo of potatoes, skinned and diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 can of fullfat coconut cream
  • 2 organic stock cubes
  • 1 spring onion
  • 1 tablespoon of melted coconut oil
  • 1 can of white butter beans
  • 1 liter of boiling water
  • Dill, coriander or spring onion for serving (optional)

How to make it:

  • First, make sure you clean the leaks as they sometimes can be gritty
  • Put 1 liter of water to boil in a kettle
  • In a pan, melt the tablespoon of coconut oil
  • Slice the leeks, garlic, and spring onion and add to the pot to saute a bit
  • Then add the diced potatoes, stock cubes and boiling water and bring to a boil
  • Once up to the boil, lower the heat and let the soup simmer for 15 minutes (or until potatoes are completely tender…like mashed potato tender)
  • Add the can of butter beans and cook a bit more (1 minute or 2)
  • Turn off the heat and add a cup of coconut milk and the juice of the lemon
  • With a hand blender, blend the mixture until completely cream
  • Serve with freshly cracked black pepper, a drizzle of olive oil and some dill or any other herbs.

This soup is easy, delicious and perfect for Ramadan — you’re going to love it, I promise!

While you’re here, why not check out my Instagram account and follow me!

6-ingredient vegan pasta dish

Simple spaghetti sauce straightupbananas

My go-to meal when I’m in dire need of groceries and need something wholesome and easy for lunch.

Made of 5 ingredients and in two pots — it’s a win- win for me any day.

Ingredients:

  • Wholewheat pasta of your choice
  • 1 can of organic crushed tomato
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • olive oil
  • Green peas
  • Sea salt

 

How to make it:

  • In boiling water with some sea salt, add the pasta and cook as instructed on package.
  • While the pasta is cooking, in a frying pan, add the olive oil and fry the garlic till nice and golden.
  • Then, add the can of crushed tomato and cook together.
  • Add some pasta water to get a nice rich consistency for the sauce.
  • Once the pasta is cooked through, add the pasta to the sauce and cook together then add the frozen green peas making sure not to over cook it.

That’s it, you’re done!

Hey why not visit my Instagram page: @straightupbananas