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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Plantbased Hummus Sandwich Bowl

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So I’ve been dabbling with the idea of trying to make my own healthier version of falafels for a while. I’ve been craving a legit falafel sandwich (like they make back home) and I low-key perpetually crave hot crunchy falafels. But what’s a girl to do when your nearest hummus and falafel fix is a good 15-minute drive away? Although I initially started making this dish with the intention of making it sort of a falafel sandwich in a bowl kind of dish, I quickly realized, falafel needed more time to make than I was willing to invest yesterday evening.

And so the hummus sandwich bowl was born. Spiced couscous, pickled onions and red cabbage, crunchy spicy chickpeas with a tahini and parsley dressing — I mean….commmmeeee onnnnn.

This dish is completely plant-based, needs no more than 20 minutes to put together, tastes amazeballs the next day for lunch and tastes really really good…like really good.

I’m going to divide all the different ingredients needed for each part of this dish so that you can add on, or remove whatever you’re not necessarily fond of. Once you learn how to make the dressing, couscous and chickpea parts you can add them to any dish that you like. I make one of them at least once every few days. The dressing is good on any salad, the chickpeas are a perfect plant protein addition to any dish and the couscous is the perfect base for anything.


Ingredients:

For Dressing:

  • 3 tablespoons of tahini
  • The juice of half a lemon
  • A splash of water
  • Parsley
  • Sea salt to taste

 

For Crispy Chickpeas:

  • 1 can of chickpeas, drained well
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 chili
  • Coriander
  • Olive oil
  • Any Middle-eastern spices you like (I like to use: cumin, cinnamon, paprika, zaatar, dukkah)
  • The juice of half a lemon

 

For Couscous:

  • 1 cup of wholewheat couscous
  • Any Middle-eastern spices you like (I like to use: cumin, cinnamon, paprika, zaatar, dukkah)
  • 1 teaspoon of pomegranate molasses
  • Olive oil

 

For Toppings:

  • Finely sliced red onion (1 small one, or half a medium-sized one)
  • Organic apple cider vinegar
  • Finely sliced red cabbage
  • Sliced tomatoes

 

How to make it happen:

  • First things first. Let’s start by pickling the red cabbage and red onion. The reason I liked to pickle raw onions when adding them to salads and sandwiches, is that I feel like the vinegar kind of kills the potent oniony smell. It’s totally your call though.
  • In a bowl, add the onion and add about 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar and a pinch of sea salt. Toss the onion around to make sure it’s coated and let it sit for about 10 minutes (or as long as it takes you to put together everything else)
  • In another bowl, do the same thing to the sliced red cabbage. *
  • Then, on to the couscous. In a container with a lid, add the couscous, olive oil, spices and pomegranate molasses and mix well. Then, add just enough boiling water to cover the surface of the couscous, mix again and close the container with a lid. Let it sit for about 10 minutes, then fluff with a fork and close again till ready to serve.
  • And now for the chickpeas. In a nonstick skillet (I love my cast iron), heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil (or enough to coat your pan) and add the drained (and dried) chickpeas. Be careful because they will pop around like popcorn while you’re waiting for them to get nice and crispy. In a pestle and mortar, crush the garlic cloves and chili until it forms a paste. Once the chickpeas have started to get some color on them, lower the heat and squeeze some lemon on them, add some sea salt, and whatever spices you like. Then add the garlic/chili mash and cook for about 2 minutes till the garlic gets nice and golden. (I am salivating just typing this)
  • For the dressing, in your pestle and mortar, bash some parsley until it turns sort of like a paste, add about 3 tablespoons of tahini sauce, add some water to dilute it a bit, some lemon juice and some sea salt. Keep mixing till the dressing gets nice and creamy.
  • Now it’s time to assemble. You can either mix everything all together, or place the couscous in a bowl, and the rest of the ingredients around it — your call.

*The pickled red cabbage and onions could last in the fridge in an airtight container for a good 3-4 days. They’re delicious in salads and sandwiches and really good for your gut.

 

It may seem like quite a few steps, but I promise it’s a lot easier than it sounds. It’s tangy, creamy, crunchy, spicy and absolutely friggin delicious. Completely plant based, and takes less than 20 minutes to put all together. You neeeeed to try this recipe (paleez?)

While you’re here, have you followed @StraightupBananas on Instagram yet?

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.

 

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!

15-minute vegan chili and garlic pasta

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Yes. You read that right, a 15-minute lunch recipe that’ll have you slurping delicious pasta in as long as it takes you to disgustingly crack all the knuckles of your body (cracking my fingers as we speak, and that’s the only analogy I could come up with).

So this sauce is so simple, that by the time the water for the pasta comes to a boil, and cooks your pasta the sauce is done! Now pay attention, or you just might miss how to make this supersonic sauce.

Ingredients:

  • Wholewheat spaghetti
  • 2 mid-sized tomatoes, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • 1 dried chili (depending on how hot you like it)
  • 1/3 cup of good quality olive oil
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 1 tablespoon of capers
  • 2 big handfuls of baby spinach
  • Toasted pine nuts
  • Boiling hot water
  • Sea salt
  • Black pepper

 

How to make it:

  • First, put about 1 liter of water to boil with a pinch of sea salt
  • Then, in a separate frying pan, and on medium-low heat, put the pine nuts to toast until golden brown, and remove from pan.
  • In the same pan and olive oil, toast your sliced garlic until nice and golden brown as well.
  • Add the dried chili (again, depending on the heat you like) and fry all together.
  • After, add the capers and let them crisp up a bit.
  • By this time, your pasta water should be boiling, add the pasta and cook until done.
  • In the frying pan, add the tomatoes and cook on medium-high heat until the tomatoes start to cook off (galayit bandora style)
  • Then add the pine nuts, add 1/2 cup of the starchy pasta water to the sauce and let cook until it becomes a sauce.
  • Once the pasta is cooked through, transfer it to the sauce and mix well together.
  • Turn off the heat, and add the spinach, sea salt and black pepper. The spinach doesn’t need to be cooked, it’ll wilt from the heat of the pasta and the sauce.

 

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There you go, easy peasy. The beauty of this recipe is that you could add or omit whatever you want. I mean white beans or butter beans go spectacularly well with this dish. I’m sure grilled chicken would go well with it. Once you’ve got a recipe down, the variations you could come up with are endless, seriously!

So that’s that. A 15-minute pasta dish, that only requires 4 dishes (if done right). Since you’re here, why not follow me on the Gram of Insta? Instagram

 

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!