Avocada Pesto with Whole Wheat Linguini

{ Tuesday, June 22, 2010 }

If you need dinner really fast, there's nothing better than pesto. All you have to do is throw all your ingredients in a food processor, blend, and toss over hot pasta. It's three-step deliciousness.

I had to try this recipe from VegNews.com because it has avocados in it, and I never thought of that before. But avocados are amazing, so it makes sense. Adding avocados makes this otherwise ordinary pesto sauce mild and rich, and I also feel like I am eating more vegetables this way, even though it's a fruit. This dish tastes great the next day, but because of the avocados it will turn a little brown, which is all the more reason to invite some friends over and eat it all right away as soon as you throw it together.

I also made my own pasta because I didn't have linguini and I didn't feel like going to the store, but dried pasta would be okay/faster/easier.

Avocado Pesto with Whole Wheat Linguini (serves 6)
Adapted from VegNews.com

For The Pasta:

4-5 cups whole-wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/3-1/2 cup olive oil
1-2 cups warm water

For The Pesto:

1 bunch basil leaves (about 3 ounces)
1/2 cup pine nuts
2 ripe avocados, pitted and peeled
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (about 1/2 of a lemon)
3 cloves garlic
1/2 cup olive oil
Salt to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup chopped sun dried tomatoes (optional)

In a large bowl, combine the flour and salt. Pour oil over the flour and stir with a fork until evenly distributed. Gradually stir in the water with a fork until it begins to hold together and form a soft dough.

Turn onto a floured surface and knead until the dough is firm and smooth, adding more water or flour as necessary to get the consistency right (it should be pliable but not too delicate). Cover with plastic and let rest at room temperature for an hour or so. The dough can be made in advance and left overnight if you wish.

Roll out the dough using a pasta machine like this one and spread noodles out on a large floured surface so they can dry out a bit.

Boil a large pot of salted water. Meanwhile, combine all pesto ingredients in a food processor and blend until well combined.

Cook pasta for 2-3 minutes, until the noodles rise to the top and boil for a minute or so. Drain pasta and toss with the pesto sauce. Top with chopped sun-dried tomatoes if desired.

Sweet Potato Hummus

{ Monday, June 7, 2010 }
Ever since I started to make my own hummus, it seemed silly to buy it. It always tastes better when you make it yourself and it's so easy and cheap. While versatile and delicious, even hummus gets boring after a while. I got the idea to make sweet potato hummus after ordering a "duo of hummus" at a pub in London. I think they actually used squash, but same difference. They also pronounce it "home-is" and spell it "houmus." Those crazy Brits! This dip is great in sandwiches, with veggies, on toast, eaten with a spoon...or maybe I'm the only person that does that. Oh well.

Sweet Potato Hummus (makes 2-3 cups)

1 medium sweet potato, peeled and chopped into squares
1 14-ounce can chickpeas
2 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1/4-1/2 cup olive oil

Place sweet potato in a medium saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil then simmer over medium-high heat for approximately 10 minutes or until easily pierced with a fork.

While the sweet potato is cooking, place remaining ingredients (except for the oil) into a food processor and pulse until combined. With the motor running, add 1/4 cup olive oil in a steady stream and process until very smooth.

When the sweet potato is cooked, drain and add to the chickpea mixture. Blend until very smooth, adding more oil to taste. Done!

Red Velvet Cupcakes

{ Tuesday, June 1, 2010 }
Those who know me well, know that I'm obsessed with the South and I want to go to there. I think it's because of the amazing stories that have come out of that region, both fact and fiction. I realize I have probably romanticized it in my head, but I like the idea of traveling somewhere that's different from where I live and still totally relatable. I want to go on a southern road trip, which would include Texas. (Although, the people I have met from the South say Texas is not southern, and I'm sure Texans consider their state to be in its own category, but what do I know, I'm Canadian.) To go on such a trip I would need money and time...and the ability to drive. And also a car. As you can see, there are many obstacles to my dream vacation. That is why I buy soul food cookbooks and watch TV shows about high school football. It's also why my favourite cake is red velvet. This recipe isn't exactly authentic, being egg-and-dairy free, but you get the idea. These cupcakes are virtually idiot proof and a guaranteed crowd pleaser.

Red Velvet Cupcakes (makes 12)
Adapted from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World

For the cake:

1 cup almond milk
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 1/4 cup flour
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa
1/2 teaspoon each baking powder, baking soda, and salt
1/3 cup canola oil
2 tablespoons red food colouring
2 teaspoons vanilla

For the frosting:

1/4 cup margarine
1/4 cup Better Than Cream Cheese
2 cups icing sugar
a smidgen of vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a cupcake tin with a dozen paper liners.

In a medium bowl, mix almond milk and vinegar and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk oil, food colouring, and vanilla into the almond milk, then whisk the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until there are no more lumps.

Pour evenly into the prepared cupcake tin and bake for 18-20 minutes.

In a large bowl with an electric mixer, cream together margarine and "cream cheese." Gradually beat in icing sugar, then add vanilla and beat until light and fluffy. Don't do as I did and add too much vanilla, because then the icing will not be nice and white.

After the cupcakes cool, scoop frosting into a pastry bag or freezer bag with one end cut off and pipe frosting onto cakes to be all fancy and stuff.