Saturday, December 29, 2007

Chestnuts Are Your Friends

I tried persimmons and fennel recently for the first time. I decided to keep the trend of trying new things and trying my best to eat seasonally at the same time. Enter the chestnut! Honestly, I had no idea what to expect. Chestnuts roasting on an open fire and all that jazz aside, I had no idea what you'd even do with one, much less what they looked like. Lucky for me, the market had some fresh chestnuts. There were also some canned ones, but they had some sugar added and I'm not so into that nonsense.


I made the Caramelized Onion-Butternut Squash Roast with Chestnuts from Veganomicon first. I had some chestnuts leftover after that so I put some into stuffing for Christmas dinner. One thing I found interesting about them is that they get a little hardish after you roast them. But - never fear! Put them in something (like stuffing or this casserole) and they get soft. Same goes for the ones I kept on the counter in a container. Weird, but useful.

This casserole from Veganomicon totally rocks. Anyone who has passed it by or just disregarded it needs to go right on back and make it. I ended up eating as a main course, but it would be awesome as a side-dish as well. The flavors blended together nicely creating a nice blend of awesome in your mouth.


Saturday, December 22, 2007

How to Make Awesome Cut-Out Cookies


Lots of people are making Christmas cookies this weekend. I suck at decorating cookies, but I'm really good at making them up to that point. So, ignore my crappy decorating and use Hannah's guide to that over at Bittersweet. Her cookies look amazing, but she's a little crazy, she didn't even use cookie cutters for those. I know, right. I only had a few cookie cutters, a snowman and some stars, so I used those. Some people are so intimidated by making cut-out cookies, so I decided to make a little guide via photos for all of you.

I used Isa and Terry's gingerbread cookie recipe for this, but you can use any recipe you want, gingerbread, sugar cookies, whatever.


Gingerbread Cookies (originally posted on the PPK Blog)

1/3 cup canola oil
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup plain soymilk
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour or all-purpose flour (or a mix of both)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger

In a large bowl beat together oil and sugar for about 3 minutes. Add molasses and soymilk. The molasses and soymilk won't really blend with the oil but that's ok.

In a sepearte bowl, sift together all the other ingredients.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet in batches. Mix together with a firm spoon or spatula until well combined. You should have a pretty stiff dough. Flatten the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for an hour or up to 3 days in advance. (If you chill longer than an hour you may want to let it sit for 10 minutes to loosen up a bit before proceeding).

Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly grease your cookie sheets.

On a floured surface roll you dough out to a little less than 1/4 inch thick. You can do this in 2 batches if you don't have the space. Cut out your shapes with your cookie cutters and gently place on cookie sheets (if you are using them to decorate with remember to cut a hole with a straw or something before baking). Bake for 8 minutes.

Remove from oven and let them cool for 2 minutes on the baking sheet then move to a cooling rack. Wait until they are completely cool before icing.

Okay, now that you have your dough made and chilled, here's where I come in. The biggest favor that you can do for yourself is to get some waxed paper and tape it down to the counter with masking tape. Trust me, once you do this, you'll never want to roll out cookies on just the counter again. Make sure that you already have your cookie cutters out and your rolling pin. You don't want to be digging through the cabinets and drawers looking for that perfect cookie cutter when your hands are all floured.

Sprinkle just a tiny bit of flour on your waxed paper before you roll out the dough. Like this:


Put a little bit of flour in a bowl or plate or hell, just put it on the counter. You want to use this to dip your cookie cutters into. The coolest thing is that once you cut out one cookie, the flour will stick to the cutter quite nicely. Why do you want to do this? Because it helps to keep the dough from sticking to the cutter. It'll help keep your cookie shapes intact and make it easier to get them away from the rest of the surrounding dough later.


One very important thing to remember - Keep the dough that you're not using in the fridge at all times! You don't want it to warm up and get sticky while you're rolling out other bits. Don't try and roll out all of the dough at one time. Divide it in half at least. Roll out one half and keep the other in the fridge while you're doing that.

So now you're starting to cut out your cookie shapes. Before you start, take a second and look at the dough you have rolled out. Try and maximize the space. Cut the shapes as close together as you can. If you have some smaller cookie cutters, use those for those little in between spots. Why is this important? Because the goal here is to re-roll the dough as few times as possible. The more times you roll out the dough, the tougher your cookies will be in the end. The last thing you want is a hard cookie.


So you've got all of the cookies cut. Now comes the part where most people screw things up. Resist the urge to pick up the dough shapes with your hands. Smack yourself if you start wanting to remove the shapes immediately, too. What you want to do is remove the dough from around the shapes first.

Keep the dough scraps! You're going to mush them all together and roll them out again later. But - if you still have some dough that you haven't rolled yet, don't add the scraps to that! You're just begging for tough cookies if you do that. Roll scraps with scraps, never with fresh dough. Put the scraps in the fridge until you need them again. Also - when you roll out the scraps, you need even less flour on your work surface since the dough is already drier. You will need a tiny bit just to ensure there's no sticking, though.


Now that you've removed the dough from around the shapes with your hands, there's probably a few little scrap pieces still hanging out here and there. Use a little paring knife to cut those away.


Now you should have a bunch of cute cookie shapes hanging out on your wax paper.


Pick the cookies up with a spatula. Not your hands! Resist the urge to use your hands!!! I'm not kidding people. Consider this a cyber slap on the hand if you try it. You can dip your spatula in flour before you try and slide it under the dough shapes. Don't worry if there are little bits of flour hanging out on the sides of the cookie, it won't hurt anything.


If you have some smaller dough shapes like I did, use that same paring knife to lift those. The spatula will likely be too large and screw up your cookie shapes otherwise.


Now bake those suckers. Once they're completely cooled, decorate them and you're done! Roman and I decorated these. You can tell who decorated which ones. I always accidentally make the icing too runny. One of these days I'll get it right. Ah, they still tasted good.

It's also a good idea to lay down some parchment or wax paper under your cookies when you decorate them. It helps to keep the mess to a minimum.


Sunday, December 16, 2007

Holiday Party Food Madness

I have this problem where I usually make waaaaay too much food whenever I have people over. I had the urge to add one more thing and stopped myself. I think that's the key. Make a list of what I want to make and remove one thing from that list. Every single thing was gone at the end of the night except for a 1 cookies and cream cupcake that I had stashed for myself and a couple of margarita cupcakes.


Party food from my tacky holiday decoration party last weekend. There's margarita cupcakes (from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World), Roasted Red Pepper Hummus (from Katie's zine, Don't Eat off the Sidewalk) with baby carrots and sesame rice crackers for dipping, Candy Cane Joe-Joes, Candy Cane Cookies and Cream Cupcakes (from VCTOTW and made with Candy Cane Joe-Joes). The quiches (from Fat Free Vegan Kitchen were still in the oven at this point, so they get their own picture.


The quiches were the first to go. And let me be clear on this - my party was full of nothing but omnis. Yeah... I decided to just not mention that the quiche was vegan. Yes, everyone knows that I am, but for some reason they forget that my food will be. I know - I don't get it either. One guy did ask me if these were made with tofu cement. That was kind of amusing. The best was when one girl put one in her mouth and her eyes got all big promptly before exclaiming "Oh my god, these are amazing". Heh. Right on, little quiches of vegan goodness!


I had never made vegan quiche before this. I was a little nervous to be trying something out for the first time at a party, but to hell with it, I really wanted to make these. The best thing about them is they're crustless, so they're not only super easy, but super fast. I made them in my mini muffin pan so they'd be bite-sized. The recipe is Susan V's from her blog Fat Free Vegan. The original recipe uses green bell peppers and mushrooms for the filling, but I used spinach and red peppers.


I want to note that this is the third time I've made these Margarita Cupcakes. They're amazing and one of my favorites from VCTOTW. But - the recipe always makes a pan and a half of cupcakes. Remember that if you make them. I always forget and then I'm surprised when I still have batter left after filling the first pan.


Hummus rules. We all know this. I didn't really understand just how much roasted red pepper hummus ruled. Somehow I'd gone through life never tasting it until now. I got the recipe for this one from Katie's zine, Don't Eat off the Sidewalk. Thanks to my trusty immersion blender, this was fast, easy and made almost no mess. I didn't chop anything, I just dumped it all into a bowl and blended it.


Last, but certainly not least, my friend Scott wanted me to take a picture of him eating a cupcake and put it on my blog. So there you go, Scott. Everyone can now see you getting ready to put the smack down on a candy cane cookies and cream cupcake.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Candy Cane Cookie Cupcakes


You know what's awesome? Well, besides me. Those cupcakes up there. Also awesome. My friends. :D Because of them, I have not one, not two, not three, but four - yes four boxes of Candy Cane Joe-Joes. Hell yes.

You see, that's especially exciting because you can't get those up here in Vancouver. I have been hearing people talk about these cookies on blogs and the PPK forums until I was sooo jealous it wasn't even funny. Then I realized that Seattle is close to here and most likely I could convince (meaning bribe with cupcakes) someone to get some for me. So thank you Seth and Roman for enabling me. :D


So what do cookies have to do with cupcakes? I put those cookies inside cupcakes, that's what. I know it, I'm out of control. But if cupcakes are wrong, I don't want to be right.

These are the basic chocolate cupcakes and fluffy vegan buttercream from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. All you have to do is crush up a bunch of cookies and add them to stuff. Add about 10 crushed up cookies to the cupcake batter right at the end, folding them in gently. For the frosting, crush about 5 cookies. Make sure to crush them really, really well if you're going to pipe them or you'll be cursing your frosting every 30 seconds like I was. If you have a food processor, it wouldn't hurt to pulse the cookies in there to get the crumbs fine enough. Once you've got the magical cookie crumbs, add them to the frosting right at the end.

I put a half cookie on top of each one, but if you do this, do it right before you're going to eat them or else the cookie gets soggy.


I really could have used about half the frosting recipe. I still had about a quarter of it leftover even after piping mounds and mounds of it on top of these cupcakes. It's delicious, but way too much. So unless you really want loads of sweetness, make half, it'll still be plenty to pipe.

I made these for a holiday party that I had last weekend. There will be more pictures and recipes coming soon. I just want to add - yay for Candy Cane Joe-Joes!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Veganomicon Strikes Again

It's interesting how certain recipes seem to be what all the kids are making these days. Veganomicon has a huge selection of things to make, but certain ones really stood out as a "must make" for whatever reason. The chickpea cutlets, smlove pie (I have yet to make this one, though I will soon) and leek and bean cassoulet are some of those.


At first I thought this was going to be like a different kind of stew with dumplings, sorta like my vegan "chicken" and dumplings. But no! The flavors blend fantastically, with a nice assortment of colors and textures in the dish. The biscuits add that little something extra to make this a great vegan stick-to-your-ribs kinda thing; perfect for those cold winter days.

Remember all that vegetable stock that I made and froze into little portioned thingies? I used that when making this. Let me tell you, using my own broth made a huge difference in the flavor. I could definitely taste it, so if you have your own broth hanging out somewhere, use that for sure. You won't be sorry. And really, veggie broth is the easiest thing in the world to make. You just chop up a bunch of veggies, put them in a pot with water and then go watch Dexter while it's simmering for 3 hours. Easy peasy.

Seriously, eating this will fill you up. I took some leftovers to work for lunches and I noticed that I didn't get hungry until dinner time after eating this. Usually I grab a pear or an apple and almond butter around 4:00 or so, but not after this. It stayed with me. Definitely something I'll make the next time it snows. My theory is that if I make this and then go out and play in the snow, I will be able to stay out longer. Yeah... that's what I want to think anyway.

I'm not going to share the recipe for everything that I make from cookbooks, but I am going to share this one because I'm hoping you will make it and then go buy Veganomicon. I will definitely be making this again. I don't have a cast iron pan (*cry*), so I just transferred everything from a big pot on the stove to a casserole dish, which worked out just fine.


Leek and Bean Cassoulet with Biscuits

2 Yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch dice
3 cups vegetable broth
3 Tablespoons cornstarch
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 leeks, washed well and sliced thinly (about 2 cups)
1 small onion, cut into medium-size dice
1 1/2 cups carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 heaping Tablespoon chopped fresh thyme, plus extra for garnish
Several pinches of freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt (more or less depending on how salty your broth is, so taste it first)
3/4 cup frozen peas
1 (15 oz) can navy beans, drained and rinsed (about 1/2 cups)

3/4 cup plain soymilk
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup nonhydrogenated vegan shortening (like Earth Balance or Spectrum)

Preheat the oven to 425F.

Place the potatoes in a small pot and cover with water. Cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, let cook for about 10 minutes, until the potatoes are just tender enough to be pierced with a fork. Drain immediately so they do not overcook. While they are boiling, you can prep the rest of the veggies and start preparing the biscuits - the potatoes should definitely be done by the time you are.

Now, prepare everything for the biscuits. You're not going to make them yet, but it's good to have everything ready when it comes time to top the stew. Add the vinegar to the soy milk in a measuring cup and set aside to curdle. Mix the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium-sized bowl.

Now leave that alone and start the stew. Mix the cornstarch into the vegetable stock until dissolved.

Preheat an oven-safe skillet, preferably cast iron, over medium heat. Saute in the oil the leeks, onions, and carrots until very soft and just beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. Keep the heat moderate so that they don't burn.

Add the garlic, thyme, freshly ground black pepper and salt, and cook for 1 more minute. Add the cooked potatoes and frozen peas, then pour in the vegetable stock mixture. Raise the heat just a bit; it will take a few minutes but the liquid will start simmering. Once it does, lower the heat again. Let it simmer for about 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, but no longer than that. If you need more time for the biscuits, then turn off the heat under the stew.

Back to the biscuits: Add the shortening to the flour in small slivers and work it into the dough with a fork or with your fingers until large crumbs form. You don't want to cream it in; there should be clumps. Drizzle in the soy milk and mix with a fork until everything is moistened (some dry parts are okay).

Wash and dry your hands, then lightly flour them and get them dirty again. Gently knead the dough about ten times right in the bowl, just so that it is holding together and not very sticky. If it seems sticky, as in sticking to your fingers, then gently work in a little more flour. Set that aside and check on your stew.

The stew should be simmering and slightly thickened. Mix in the beans. Now, let's add the biscuits. Pull off chunks of dough that are about slightly larger than golf balls. Gently roll them into balls and flatten a bit; they do not have to be perfectly round. Add them tot he top of the stew, placed an inch or so apart.

Transfer the whole megillah to the preheated oven. If you are worried about spillover, place it on a rimmed baking sheet, but we've never had that problem. Bake for about 15 minutes. The biscuits should be just slightly browned and firm to the touch.

Remove from the oven and use a large serving spoon to place some of the stew and a biscuit in each shallow, individual bowl. Sprinkle with a little chopped, fresh thyme.

Serve at last! Especially yummy when you break up your biscuit and mix it in a bit with your stew.

Makes 6 servings.

Recipe from Veganomicon by Isa Chandra Moskowitz & Terry Hope Romero

Thursday, December 6, 2007

BBQ Pomegranate Tofu

I have been waiting two years for this moment. The first time I read Vegan with a Vegneance, I immediately wanted to make the BBQ Pomegranate Tofu. Alas, I couldn't find Pomegranate Molasses anywhere. Determined, I started to scour the stores for it. I have lived in two different states in the US and one province in Canada and still, no luck.

Then, one magical day that we'll call Tuesday I was putzing around the market near my apartment. What to my wandering eyes should appear but a bottle of pomegranate molasses. Hells yeah! The market has started to carry all sorts of new things, this being one of them. I think I actually let out a little squeal of joy when I saw this bottle hanging out on the bottom shelf with the honey and sugar and molasses.


I was planning on making something else for dinner that night, but screw that, I had waited long enough for this tofu. I swear I was hugging the bottle as I walked over to the veggies to get something to go with it.


I was not disappointed. This was so easy to make, and actually rather fast since you can be doing so many other things while the tofu is in the oven. I expected it to be a bit spicier and more savory than it was. I think I'll add a bit more hot sauce or maybe some chopped chiles next time I make this. I ended up with a ton of leftover sauce. I'm sure I'll find something interesting to make with it. I've never made my own barbeque sauce before, and I have to admit, that was kinda cool.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Snowy Gingerbread

I think I've mentioned before that I'm a bit obsessed with mini-cupcakes right now. I realize that I have a serious addiction. Whenever I think to make cupcakes, it doesn't even occur to me to make them regularly sized anymore.


You see, the best thing about mini-cupcakes is that they're small. Yes, thank you, Captain Obvious, clearly they're small or they wouldn't be called "mini" anything, now would they? I think not. But the smallness means that I can just eat one whenever I want a snack and it's not too much. Even if I eat two of them, that's still less than a big girl cupcake. If I'm making them for other people, it means that more people get the chance to have one... or if it's my coworkers, it means that they will just eat 4 of them, having one every hour or so until there are none left.

Plus, mini things are cute. Kittens are basically mini cats and they're adorable! Unless you're some sort of monster who hates kittens and in that case I don't want to make cupcakes for you anyway, you big meanie.

So because kittens and mini cupcakes are both awesome things, I made mini Gingerbread cupcakes this past weekend! Vegan cupcakes really are taking over the world, people. I was told that these are best cupcakes I've made so far, but the guy that told me that says it pretty much every time I bring him cupcakes. I take that to mean that my cupcakes are always awesome. Clearly.

It snowed this weekend in Vancouver for the first time, too. It was amazingly beautiful. While the world was being covered in a soft white blanket outside, inside smelled spicy and warm. I mean, just look at how perfectly the tops did that cute little gingerbread cracky thing. Yeah... awesome.


I made the VCTOTW Lemony Cream Cheese Frosting to go on top and added some chopped up crystalized ginger as a garnish. I love me some ginger, so that is always a welcome addition to cupcakes.


And because I loved it so much, here are some snow pictures that I took in my neighborhood on Saturday night and Sunday morning.



This is my cat Phoebe. When I got home on Saturday, I found her like this on the couch. It wasn't cold inside, she just likes to burrow. She moved this blanket from the back of the couch to where the cushions are and moved the folds around until it was just perfect. I immediately took her picture, it was cracking me up so much. What a great way to spend a snowy Saturday!


Sunday, December 2, 2007

Pumpkin Biscuits for Your Belly

I'm such a copycat lately. I keep seeing these awesome things on other people's blogs and then making them. Well, what's a girl to do? You can't taste things through the internets! I saw these pumpkin biscuits on Lindy Loo's blog. I didn't have anyone to make Canada shaped margarine for me, but my Earth Balance was shaped in spirit.


These biscuits are so awesome. They're also super easy and fast to make, which only adds to their awesomeness. I ate these with my dinner last night and I also had some for breakfast this morning. They're rather all-purpose, so make them whatever time of day you feel like you want to spice up your meal. I think they'd be perfect with some maple butter (sorta like a spreadable solidy maple syrup) but the market was out when I went to get some this morning, so I'll have to imagine how good that would be for right now.

I used to make biscuits at least once a week, sometimes more, so I "fixed" the original recipe a bit. I think the person that wrote it had a great idea and a great combination of ingredients, but maybe not so much experience with actually making biscuit dough. If you just want to be able to scoop the batter and plop it onto the baking sheet, then follow the original recipe from Green Living. If you want to roll them out like I did, then follow this one.

Pumpkin Biscuits

2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
3/4 cup pureed pumpkin (canned or fresh)
1/2 cup soy milk
3 1/2 Tablespoons margarine, cut into cubes
1 Tablespoon pure maple syrup

Preheat oven to 450F. Either oil a baking sheet or cover it with parchment paper.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, and allspice in a large bowl. Add the margarine pieces and cut into the flour mixture with either a pastry blender or a fork. You want to make sure that all of the margarine has been mixed in, the mixture should have large pea-sized lumps.

In a separate smaller bowl, combine the pumpkin, milk, butter, and maple syrup. Whisk together just until smooth. Add the pumpkin mixture to the flour/margarine bowl. Stir together until it's just combined. Be very careful not to over mix so that your biscuits aren't tough. You'll probably need to use your hands after you've mixed it about halfway.


Lightly sprinkle some flour onto the counter and roll the dough out to about 1/2-inch thick. Use a biscuit cutter or the edge of a glass to cut the biscuits. Or if you don't feel like doing that, you can take little balls of dough and flatten them into discs with your palms.

Put the biscuits onto your baking sheet and cook for 12-14 minutes or until they just start to turn golden brown.


This made about 12 biscuits for me, it'll depend on how wide your make them how many you'll get. Eat them warm and rejoice in the pumpkiny goodness that has entered your belly.