Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Raw Chocolately Awesomeness

Man, oh man, do I have some good news for all of you chocoholics and dessert lovers out there.  There is an amazing chocolate cake that is not only vegan, it's actually - wait for it - good for you.  For reals.  Yeah, yeah, I know what you're thinking.  Either I'm delusional from eating too much holiday Field Roast or this so-called cake is going to be crappy tasting or hard to make or something.  NO!  Rejoice, dessert lovers.  This cake is full of awesome with a little bit of awesome spread on top to boot.  I know, right!

One of my new year's resolutions last year was to try to incorporate more raw food into my diet.  I really didn't end up eating raw nearly as much as I was originally hoping, but I have learned a bit more about it and made it much less scary to try.  I realized that raw desserts are a really, really good place to start.  I have a few raw food recipe books.  (It's hard to call them cookbooks when you don't really "cook" raw stuff.  hehe.)  The most recent one that I purchased is Ani Phyo's Raw Food Desserts book.

You know how most raw food books are kind of irritating because they all assume we all own a high-speed blender like a Vita-Mix (I wish!) and we all have a dehydrator (I do have one of these, but most people don't.) and we all have a juicer (again with I wish!).  Yeah.  It's annoying because the average person who is new to raw food will think it's all super hard to make and you have to buy all of these mega-expensive appliances to make it.  That's why this book is so great.  I have one of Ani Phyo's other books and almost every recipe needs a Vita-Mix and my food processor doesn't really get things to the same consistency.  This book, however, only uses one of those in one or two recipes.  Most recipes you do need a food processor or blender to get things going and lots  you only need your hands and a knife.  Cool, huh?!  I've made a few things out of here and all are super tasty.  The Almond Frangipane Kream is a favorite (though I really dislike that she spells cream and milk the way she does.)


This is the first time I've made the Raspberry Ganache Fudge Cake and it certainly will not be the last.  The photo just makes it look so yummy that I've been wanting to make it ever since I got this book.  I thought this was a fitting dessert for a big holiday dinner, especially since most of us have been eating lots of cookies and cupcakes and chocolates and stuff for the last few weeks.

Don't be fooled by this being a raw cake.  This bad boy is rich and sinful tasting and sooooo good.  I've always been a bit skeptical about using avocado in desserts.  I've heard so many people say they do it with good results, but to me that just sounds weird.  I'm a convert, now.  Don't be scared by the avocado in the frosting.  Trust me on this, you won't taste it and it'll come out amazing.  One note when making this:  you really need to use raw walnuts.  Roasted ones will not give the correct texture.  They're not that hard to find, though, so don't worry.  Okay, I've rambled on enough.  Here's the recipe.  Go make it.  You can thank me later.

Raspberry Ganache Fudge Cake from Ani's Raw Food Desserts by Ani Phyo

3 cups raw walnuts, dry (It's best to soak the nuts if you have time.  Overnight is best, but a few hours is okay, too.  Just dry them off before you start making this.)
2/3 cup unsweetened cacao powder or carob powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup pitted Medjool dates

1/3 cup semi-soft pitted Medjool dates (just soak them in cold water for a little bit to soften if yours are hard)
1/4 cup agave syrup
1/2 cup ripe avocado flesh (from about 1 medium avocado)
1/3 cup cacao powder or carob powder

1/2 cup raspberries

To make the cake, combine the walnuts, cacao powder and salt in the food processor and pulse until coarsely mixed.  Avoid over-processing.  Add the dates and pulse until mixed well.  Shape into 2 stackable cakes of desired shape and set aside.  (I found it easiest to use my smallest springform pan to shape these.  You might also want to use a cut circle of parchment paper in the bottom of whatever pan you're using so they're easier to get out.)

To make the frosting, combine the dates and agave syrup in the food processor and process until smooth.  Add the avocado and process until smooth again.  Add the cacao powder and process until smooth yet again.

To serve, frost the top of one of the cakes with half the frosting and top with the raspberries.  Stack the second cake on top and frost the top and side.  Serve immediately, or place in the refrigerator for a couple of hours to firm up.

The cake on its own will keep in the fridge for many weeks.  The frosting will keep separately in the fridge for 1 week.  The assembled cake with raspberries will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Everyone's Favorite Edamame Dip

Okay, for reals.  This is everyone's favorite edamame dip.  I'll bet you didn't even know that you had a favorite dip.  Or maybe you didn't realize that your favorite is this one.  I think the only way you didn't know is if you haven't tried it.  I swear this stuff is like magic or something.  Every single time I make it, I get umpteen people asking for the recipe.  And umpteen is a lot of people!

I wish I could take the credit for this awesome recipe.  I was watching Good Eats one day and it was the one about soy.  Alton Brown made a bunch of neat stuff and did a few crazy antics and spouted off some interesting facts, as per usual.  Then.  He made this dip.  I was intrigued and thought I might like to try it.  Holy frijoles.  This stuff is awesome.  Even better - pretty much all you do is dump a bunch of stuff into the food processor to make it.  Seriously.  It can't really get any easier than this.

Just get some crackers or some fresh bresh or heck, even just some carrots and celery and dig in.  It's delicious and nutritious.  You really can't beat that.

So do yourself a favor and go make your new favorite dip.  Then share it with some friends so they can try their new favorite dip.  Oh, and be sure to have the recipe on hand.  People are going to ask for it.  Umpteen people!


There are two variations to this recipe. You can either use lime juice and cilantro or lemon juice and flat leaf parsley. I'm sure you could use many other variations as well, but those are the basic two. I like them both, but prefer the lime/cilantro version, personally. I might also be a little heavy handed with the chile sauce. :)

Edamame Dip

12 ounces shelled, cooked, and cooled edamame, about 2 cups
1/4 cup diced onion (I usually use a small onion or half of a larger one)
1/2 cup tightly packed fresh cilantro or parsley leaves
1 large garlic clove, sliced (A little extra garlic never hurt anyone.  Add more if you're a garlic fan.)
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime or lemon juice
1 tablespoon miso, any type
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon red chili paste (I use Sambal Oelek)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
5 tablespoons olive oil

Put everything except the oil in your food processor. Process for about 15 seconds or until things are smoothish. Add in the olive oil and process again for up to 30 seconds. Enjoy!

Chocolate Sugar Cookies

The holidays are a great excuse to make cookies. I don't make cookies that often for some reason and whenever I do make them I wonder why it's so infrequent. They're perfect little snacks for when you want just a little something or if you need something portable. And there really is no shortage of types.

During the holidays, I typically make sugar cookies and gingerbread cookies every year. I have such fond memories of going to my grandmother's house at Christmas and having her cookies. They were amazing. She would make sugar cookies, chocolate chip cookies, ranger cookies (think oatmeal cookies with raisins and chocolate chips) and jello cookies.

Okay, I know. That last one sounds really weird. There were these cookies she'd made that had a package of lemon jello in the dough. It sounds strange, but they were always my favorite. I've been trying for a few years to make a vegan equivalent but so far, I haven't had any luck. These were the kind of cookies that you need a cookie press for and then you'd sprinkle colored sugar on them before putting them in the oven. My favorite were always the wreath-shaped ones. They tasted a bit like shortbread, but with a nice tang of sweet lemon flavor. One of these days I'll figure out the secret and make cruelty-free versions of jello cookies every December like my grandmother used to.


Until I can get that worked out, I'll settle with making some other yummies like these chocolate sugar cookies. I got the recipe from the VegNews newsletter. I found the dough to be really, really dry and I had to add a lot of extra liquid so that I could even roll out the dough. If you make these, do it by the recipe and then at the end if your dough is super dry and crumbly like mine was, go ahead and add a bit of extra liquid until things are sticking together a bit better. I'd also suggest adding some more sugar. These weren't sweet at all, so calling them sugar cookies is a bit of a stretch. You really need the chocolate on top. I made a chocolate ganache by melting some bittersweet chocolate with a little bit of rice milk and spooning on top of the cookies. I wouldn't make these without doing that. They seem to need a bit of an extra punch.

Chocolate Sugar Cookies (from the VegNews Magazine Newsletter)

1-1/2 cups non-hydrogenated margarine
1 cup unbleached cane sugar
10 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon vanilla
4-1/2 cups unbleached flour
3/4 cup tapioca flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cocoa powder

In a large bowl, beat together the margarine, sugar, water, and vanilla until light and creamy. Add the remaining ingredients and stir well to form a smooth dough. Cover and chill for 1 hour or until firm. Divide the dough in half, work with one half at a time, and keep the remaining dough covered.

On a floured work surface, roll the dough out to desired thickness (1/8-inch for crispy cookies or 1/4-inch for soft), cut into shapes with a knife or cookie cutters, and carefully transfer the cookies with a spatula to ungreased cookie sheets.  (I lined my cookie sheets with parchment paper so the cookies wouldn't stick.)

Bake at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned around the edges. Allow cookies to cool slightly before transferring to a rack to cool completely. Cover in melted chocolate or some kind of icing. 

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Jalapeno Garlic Grits

"What's a grit?" is a question I get asked quite often. Well, dang. If you don't know what grits are, you aren't going to understand anything about me! Okay, I'm just kidding, but boy do I love grits. I'm a Southern girl so it's pretty much to be expected. You can take a girl out of the South, but you can't take the grits away from the girl.

I can't even find grits here in Vancouver.  It's lame.  When I was in Atlanta about a year and a half ago, I bought 6 huge bags of grits to bring back with me.  I still have a little bit left, but I'm almost out even though I try not to eat them too often.  I even took a photo of all of the grits in the store because I was so excited to see so many different boxes when I can't find them anywhere here!


Okay, so for those of you that are still wondering what the heck is a grit, here's a quick lesson. Grits are made from a type of corn called hominy corn. In the South we also eat hominy, but I've never seen it anywhere else. Click here to see what hominy looks like. So, the hominy is ground coarsely and then boiled and becomes grits. I have no idea why it's called that.

Keep in mind that polenta IS NOT the same as grits, no matter what the package says.  Polenta is also made from corn, but not the same kind of corn.  Polenta is awesome, but it won't taste right and you'll wonder what you did wrong when you cook them.

Usually you put lots of margarine and salt and pepper on grits and eat them like that. It's a savory food.  The omnivores will put things in it that I don't want to think about, but I like to eat it plain (Earth Balance and salt and pepper) or add some of Frontier's Bac'uns to it as well.  Yum!  Now, though, my favorite way to eat grits is the Vegan Brunch way.  It's a little rough for me to accept that a yankee could improve on a Southern staple.  (I love you, Isa, but still!)  No matter, I do love garlic like a cat loves sleeping.  I think you could even use this recipe as a bit of a side dish for dinner if you're having a bit of soul food or something, but it's also great for breakfast.


I like to add a bit of chili-garlic Cholula to this as well.  It adds such a nice extra flavor.  If you've never tried Cholula, I highly recommend it.  It's not actually very hot, it's got a really nice depth of flavor with just a hint of spiciness.  It's great for adding a little extra punch of flavor even if you're not someone who likes hot sauce.  If you can get it, try the chili-garlic flavor first.  I can't get it that particular flavor here in Vancouver, but I have an awesome friend who sends me a stash of a few bottles at a time from California so I can still have it.  It's just that good.  Even James, who doesn't like hot sauce, likes it.

Now, on to the recipe!  I actually make it slightly different than Isa does, but using the same ingredients, so I'm mashing up her way and mine in this.  This recipe makes enough for 4 people, so if it's just you, cut the recipe by 1/4 so you're not swimming in grits.  Unless you like that sort of thing, and then in that case, go for it.

Jalapeno Garlic Grits

1 cup dry grits
Vegetable broth (use the amount of broth in replacement of the amount of water your box of grits says to use, probably about 3 Cups for this amount of grits.)
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 garlic cloves, minced
3 jalapenos, seeded and thinly sliced (or you can use 1/4 C of jalapenos from a jar, chopped up)
2 Tablespoons nutritional yeast (I usually add about 1-2 Tablespoons nooch per bowl of grits because I'm crazy like that)
1 teaspoon salt (if you're using broth with salt in it, you might want to skip this)
pepper, to taste

In a medium pot that has a lid, saute over medium heat the garlic in the olive oil for about 2 minutes.  Add the jalapenos and saute for another minute or so and then add the vegetable broth and grits.  Stir everything up, put the lid on the pot, and bring the grits to a soft boil.  As soon as it starts to boil, turn the heat down to a simmer.  Here is where the time varies - check your package of grits to be sure, but it's usually about 5 minutes that you want to simmer the grits with the lid on.  About halfway through that time, add the nutritional yeast, salt and pepper, stir everything up once and put the lid back on.  You just want to make sure that everything stays mixed together and stays nice and creamy.  Once your 5 minutes are up, remove the pot from the heat and stir again.

At this point, taste the grits to make sure there is enough nooch and salt for your liking.  Add a bit more of that stuff if you need to.  Remember, the grits will thicken a bit as they start cooling.  Everyone seems to like their grits to be a different texture.  Depending what kind of mood I'm in sometimes I like them thicker or thinner than other times.  You know what's awesome about grits?  You can always add more water to thin them out or cook them a bit longer to thicken them up.  So add more water if things are too thick for your liking or cook them a bit more if they're too runny.

Dish those bad boys into bowls and dig in!  If you're feeling like adding a bit of extra awesomeness, add some of that chili-garlic Cholula I was talking about earlier.  Mmmmmm.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Guide to Cut-Out Cookies

It's holiday cookie time!  I'm doing my holiday baking this weekend and next week, but I bet some of you are doing it now. 


I made a post a few years ago on how to have success at cut-out cookies.  Those little buggers can cause epic baking fail!  Check it out and see what you think:

Let the baking begin!  :)

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Chesapeake Tempeh Cakes

One of my favorite recipes from Vegan Brunch is actually something I usually eat as a late lunch.  The Chesapeake Tempeh Cakes are so good, there are never any leftovers.  Maybe I also like them because I grew up in a little town called Chesapeake in Virginia.  I don't know, but I do know these babies are so delicious, it'll knock your socks off.


For some reason I was a little bit intimidated when I first saw this in Vegan Brunch.  It's silly to think about that now because they're so easy to make.  I don't know, sometimes when I see a recipe that's recreating a vegan version of something I had never even considered attempting, my brain gets all wonky and can't compute all of a sudden.  These don't taste exactly like crab cakes, but they are a good vegan substitute.

These cakes are moist and full of flavor.  Even if you've never had or never liked the real thing, you should try these.  They're addictive.  Squirt a bit of lemon on them before you eat them and you'll get a nice pop of fresh flavor.  I usually find that I want a bit more of the sauce than the recipe makes so I make about a batch and a half of that.  I'm a bit of a sauce whore, so maybe that's just me.  If you're not, you'll probably be okay with just the regular amount.

I add a bit of dulse flakes to mine because I happen to have a huge never-ending bag of it.  I like the taste of seaweed, but if you don't, then skip that part.  I'm also a bit curious to add some Old Bay Seasoning to these next time I make them.  I remember everyone putting that on seafood of all kinds back in Virginia. I think there were even some Old Bay flavored potato chips.  Those were good.  You definitely can't get that flavor here in Canada.  I have seen some of the seasoning in a couple of places, though.  Mmmm... now I want to make these again.


Isa has the recipe up on the PPK blog, but since my copying and pasting skills are alive and kicking, you could also just read it here.

Chesapeake Tempeh Cakes (Makes 10)

Make ahead: Make the entire mixture and the remoulade the night before. In the morning, form into cakes and pan fry.

For the cakes:
8 ounces tempeh (use the nori tempeh if you can find it, but plain soy tempeh is fine, too)
1 cup water
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 bay leaf

3 tablespoons Vegenaisse
1 tablespoon whole grain mustard (stone ground Dijon works, too)
1 tablespoon hot sauce
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/4 cup very finely chopped red bell pepper
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspooon salt
fresh black pepper
1 1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs, plus extra for dredging
Optional: 1 finely chopped nori sheet or 1 tablespoon kelp granules (I use dulse)

Oil for pan frying

For the remoulade:
2 tablespoons Vegenaise
1 tablespoon whole grain mustard (stone ground dijon works, too)
1 tablespoon hot sauce
2 teaspoons capers (try not to get too much brine)

Lemon wedges for serving

First we’re going to steam the tempeh to get the bitterness out and also to infuse some flavor with the soy sauce. Crumble the tempeh into a saucier or small pan in little bits. Add the water, soy sauce, oil and bay leaf. The tempeh won’t be fully submerged, but that’s fine. Cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, let boil for 12 to 15 minutes, until most of the water has evaporated. Stir once during boiling.

Transfer contents to a mixing bowl, remove bay leaf, and mash with a fork. Let cool for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to hasten the cooling process. Make sure the tempeh is barely warm before you proceed, or the cakes may fall apart when you cook them. Add the mayo, mustard, hot sauce, vinegar, chopped bell pepper, spices salt and pepper, and mix well. Add the bread crumbs and nori and use your hands to incorporate.

Once you are ready to form the cakes, preheat a thin layer of oil in a heavy bottomed non-stick skillet (cast iron is great) over medium heat. Pour a few tablespoons of panko into a bowl. Scoop a little less than 1/4 cup batter into your hands and form into a ball. Flatten between your palms and then roll the sides gently with your hands cupped to smooth them. You should have ten 2 1/2 to 3- inch patties. I do them in batches of five. Press them into the panko to lightly coat. They don’t need to be thoroughly covered, just a little bit for some texture.

Fry a batch of five cakes for 4 minutes on one side and flip when dark golden brown. Fry for 2 minutes on the other side and transfer to a paper towel or paper bag to drain. Do your second batch and in the meantime make your remoulade by mixing all the ingredients together in a bowl.

Serve with lemon wedges.