Sunday, February 28, 2010


I've decided that my health and my wallet have a specific relationship to the visits I make to Trader Joe's: that is, I no longer buy food at TJs; I buy coffee, beer, candy, and processed soythings (ok, tempeh is still a food).  At the farmers market and at my local grocery, I buy things like vegetables, dried beans, nuts, and rice.  That is to say, the things I spend the most money on are some of the least nutritious.

This recipe developed this afternoon because I wanted to make cookies, but had no Earth Balance (because I usually get it at Trader Joe's, and I haven't been in a while).  I was going to make a crazier version of these peanut butter cookies with chili and coconut, but then I realized that someone who's allergic to nuts might want to eat them this evening.  Thus, this recipe.

These cookies taste great: first you taste lime and whole chunks of ginger; then you get a pretty strong kick of cayenne.  The texture, however, isn't my favorite: like the Marbled Pumpkin-Chocolate Cookies, they're rather cakey, almost like an American biscuit (but tiny and interesting).  I think next time they need more oil!  Of course, if these are "tea" cookies, maybe a cakier consistency is okay.  Also, the oddest thing of all is that the outside crust feels exactly like animal crackers in your mouth.


3 c white flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cayenne pepper
zest of 2 limes
2 TB minced ginger
3/4 c brown rice syrup
1 TB sugar
scant 1/2 c olive oil
1/4 c water
1 tsp vanilla
2 "eggs" (ener-g egg replacer), optional (probably not necessary)
1/2 c unsweetened coconut

1. Preheat oven to 350*.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. In one large bowl, combine dry; in another, combine wet.
3. Add wet to dry and mix only until combined.  Stir in coconut.  Refrigerate if dough is too soft to handle.
4. Form dough into small balls and place on baking sheet, at least 2 in apart.  Smush them gently.  Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until golden brown.  Makes about 5 dozen.

Warm Savory Lentil Salad

I'm finally back to cooking,  I think.  What between trying out new burrito places with guests and then eating at the Whole Foods salad bar each night that I spent at a conference in Salt Lake City...  I don't have much in my fridge.

I am amazed that this is so good.  It's just lentils--but I think bay leaves actually are magic.  Anyway, I just read a review of this restaurant and thinking about the similarities between (Americanized) Mexican and Indian food.  At first, I was just going to season the lentils like refried beans, but in the end, I went for more spices.  The combination of bay leaf and lentils is a delicious savory taste, almost like mushrooms.  The only thing that was missing is avocado (which are now coming from California again!).

Warm Savory Lentil Salad over Mixed Greens with Whole Wheat Tortilla

olive oil
white parts of a bunch of scallions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 jalapeno, minced
cayenne to taste (and depending on your jalapeno)
2 c stock
1 c lentils, rinsed
1 bay leaf
salt (if needed, depending on stock)
green scallions, chopped
cilantro, chopped
lemon or lime juice

1. In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil.  Add scallions, garlic, jalapeno, and spices, and saute until fragrant.  
2. Add stock, lentils, and bay leaf.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 30-40 min, or until lentils are tender but not totally shapeless.  Add salt if needed (some stocks are saltier than others).
3. Serve over greens or grains.  Garnish with chopped scallions (the green part), cilantro, avocado, and lemon/lime. Serves about 3. 

Monday, February 22, 2010

Broiled Veggies

Oh man.  Why haven't I been doing this often and forever?

I am unbelievably busy these days (hence the few and far between, easy posts).  Between the visitors to LA, the school commitments, and my own travel, I've barely been cooking, much less blogging.  Today I decided to prepare for the week / procrastinate by broiling some veggies that I can just throw into salads or sandwiches.  And why haven't I done this before?

I did eggplant, a green bell pepper, and some zucchini.  The flesh of the eggplant and zucchini turned out melt-in-your-mouth, almost buttery, while the eggplant skin was nicely chewy.  The pepper--blistered and succulent--wasn't bad, either.

Broiled Eggplant

eggplant, zucchini, bell peppers, portobellos, etc. (about the equivalent of 2 medium eggplants), cut in 1/2-in slices
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
4-6 TB olive oil

1) If using eggplant, salt it and let it sit until water comes out of it.
2) Place garlic and olive oil in a largish bowl.  Dip vegetable slices in garlic-oil so that they are covered on both sides.
3) Place vegetable slices on a metal rack that is in a baking sheet (or, place on a grill).  Broil for 8-10 min, total, turning after about 4 minutes.  Watch carefully so that the vegetables don't burn.  Serve warm or at room temperature, over rice, or in a salad, or on a sandwich.  Serves at least 4.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Curious muffins with curiouser variations

 Marbled Coconut Muffins

I do eat other things besides sweets, I promise.  

I couldn't really decide what kind of muffin to make this morning, so this happened.  I was going to experiment with nuts and chocolate chips, but I finished off my stores of both last night.  And then my phone-timer was on silent, so I missed the critical almond moment.  Fresh cranberries were a little weird.  The test muffins without cranberries, however, are tasty!  If you just put the chocolate batter on top, rather than mixing it, you get an interesting chocolate "shell" on top (see below), but I like the mixed look (above) better.

Marbled Coconut Muffins (with fresh cranberries)

1 1/2 cups white flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 3/4 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 c coconut
1/4 c cocoa
1/3 cup oil
1 cup applesauce
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
enough soy milk and/or water to get a good muffin consistency
fresh cranberries?
chocolate chips?
slivered almonds

1. Preheat oven to 375*. Oil muffin tins.
2. In a large bowl, mix dry ingredients except cocoa. Then, move half of the dry mix to a new bowl. Mix cocoa into only one of the bowls.
3. Add the remaining wet ingredients, dividing them equally between the two bowls. Add enough liquid to each so that you have two bowls of different-colored muffin batter. Add fresh cranberries, nuts, chocolate chips, etc., to one or both bowls.
4. Playfully ladle batter into muffin tins--you could do one color on top of the other, or two globs side-by-side. Use a fork to agitate the batter to create swirls, or leave the batter as is. Muffin tins should be almost full to the top.
5. Bake for 25 minutes, adding (if desired) slivered almonds on top when 5 minutes are remaining.  Makes 12 muffins.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Chocolate-Chip-Cardamom Cookies

Inspired by Arhia's Cardamom Chocolate-Chip Muffins, I decided to make a cookie that was similar.  After all, for what else can you use ground cardamom, if not slightly weird baking?  (For Indian food I always start with whole pods and toast them.)  Like lemon zest or orange, cardamom gives baked goods a brighter or lighter note (but I always feel silly when describing food like this) that balances the heaviness of butter, chocolate, etc.

I started off a recipe for chocolate chip cookies from The Joy of Vegan Baking.  You'd think I would have learned by now that (apparently) every single recipe in this cookbook uses significantly too much butter and sugar.  Now, I wholly believe that cookies should taste like cookies--cookies are never a healthy snack!--but when the cookie is so greasy that you have to wash your hands after touching it?  Not my style.  I cut back on the sugar, but not the butter; accordingly, I've suggested in the recipe what the butter will be next time I make this recipe.

Besides the cardamom, this is a very classic chocolate chip cookie.  I substituted a bit of whole wheat flour simply because I like more texture, but it's still as close to candy as it is to bread--slightly crispy on the outside, but chewy and caramely on the inside.  The cardamom, though, makes it really fantastic: how can such a rich cookie taste so...refreshing?  It's actually rather dangerous...

Chocolate-Chip-Cardamom Cookies

3 “eggs” (ener-G egg replacer)
¾ c earth balance (I used 1 c and it was too much), softened
½ c sugar
¾ c brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1 ¼ - 1 ½ c white flour
½ c wheat flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp cardamom
1 c chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 375*.  Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.  Prepare egg replacer.  Cream butter and sugars.  Add "eggs" and vanilla.
2. In a separate bowl, combine dry ingredients (flours, salt, baking soda, cardamom).  Add dry to wet and mix.  Stir in chocolate chips.
3. Form cookies into golf-ball-sized balls and place on parchment-lined sheets at least 2 in apart.  Bake for about 11-14 minutes, or until golden brown on the bottom.  Remove from oven and allow to stand until cool before moving cookies.  Makes 2-3 dozen cookies.

Orange Pan-Glazed Tofu

I remade the Orange Pan-Glazed Tempeh as Orange Pan-Glazed Tofu, tweaking the recipe a bit as well.  This is also tasty, but lacks the texture of the tempeh.  Were I to make this with tofu again, I might use tofu that had been frozen and thawed, a process which makes the tofu a lot chewier and more absorbent.  On the other hand, the final product ended up being perfect for slicing and dicing--using slices in sandwiches, or little cubes in salad--like the delicious baked tofu that costs far too much at the grocery store, even at Trader Joe's.

1 cup orange juice (I used concentrate this time)
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
2 teaspoons tamari
1/2 tsp rice vinegar
2 teaspoons maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
2 large garlic cloves, crushed
10-15 oz extra-firm tofu
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 lime
a handful of cilantro (coriander) leaves 

1. Put the orange juice in a small bowl. Squeeze the grated ginger over the bowl to extract the juices, then discard the pulp. Add the tamari, vinegar, maple syrup, ground coriander, and garlic. Mix together and set aside.
2. Squeeze excess water out of the tofu and cut it into thin-ish, bite-sized pieces.
3. Put the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. When the oil is hot but not smoking, add the tofu and fry for 5 minutes, or until golden underneath. Turn and cook the other side for another 5 minutes, or until golden. Pour the orange juice mixture into the pan and simmer for 10 minutes, or until the sauce has reduced to a lovely thick glaze. Turn the tofu once more during this time and spoon the sauce over the tofu from time to time.
4. Serve the tofu drizzled with any remaining sauce and a squeeze of lime, with the coriander scattered on top. Makes 3-4 servings.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Apple-Almond Coffee Cake

I do like coffee cake.  It's really just a large, sweet, rectangular muffin--and its shape allows you to choose the size piece you want much more easily than in the case of a muffin.  Then again, it also lets you take just a tiny piece more, and then some more...

This was the first time I'd tried this recipe, and it's quite tasty.  The bulk of the cake is just apples, cooked to perfection: soft and juicy but with still a bit of crunch.  The brown sugar on top sinks into the batter as the cake bakes, forming a slightly crispy, slightly caramely topping.

The intensely sweet topping, however, tips the cake a bit too far to the sugary side (apparently a recurrent coffee cake problem--does everyone want coffee cake to make them feel as if their teeth will fall out?).  In future efforts, I am going to reduce the amount of sugar both in the topping and in the cake itself.  I would also increase the slivered almonds.

Apple-Almond Coffee Cake
makes 1 9x13" cake

1 1/2 cup wholewheat flour
1/2 c white flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
2 cups chopped apples
1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
3 TB corn oil
3/4 c brown sugar (I used 1 c, and it was too sweet)
7/8 cup nondairy milk
1/3 cup brown sugar (1/2 c was too much)
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup sliced almonds (I used 1/4 c, and it was not quite enough)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Oil a 9x13" cake pan.
2. Whisk together the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Stir in the apples. In a separate bowl, mix wet ingredients.  Then, add wet to dry, stirring as briefly as possible. Spread into prepared pan.
3. Mix the topping ingredients together in a small bowl. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the cake. Bake 35 minutes. Test for doneness. Cool on a rack and serve right out of the pan, cut into squares.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Granola Epiphany!


We have chunks!!

So after being sent several granola recipes, reading more on the internet, and trying several, I think I made the discovery I’d been seeking: the key to chunky granola is not simply to add more sugar (although at a certain point, that might also work). Rather, what you need to do to make your granola stick together is unlock the naturally glutinous properties of rolled oats. After all, oatmeal sticks together great, doesn’t it? I noticed that several recipes called for heating water or honey before mixing it with the oats. Initially, I thought this was only to make the honey thinner and easier to mix, but when it’s water there’s obviously another motive.

And indeed: mixing warm wet ingredients with oats makes the oats clump together even before you start baking the granola. Case closed. Now…to perfect the rest of it. I used apple cider and molasses because that’s what I had, but I want to try brown rice syrup next time. And coconut! I put coconut in the last (tasty but not clumpy) batch, and it tastes great as it’s toasted.

Granola, Version 2.6.2010

4 c rolled oats
1/4 cup flax seeds
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup molasses
1/3 c hot apple cider OR (1/3 cup boiling water + 1/8 cup brown sugar)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).
2. In a large bowl, stir together dry. In a separate bowl, mix together wet. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients, and stir until evenly coated. Spread in a thin layer on a large baking sheet.
3. Bake for 60 to 90 minutes in the preheated oven. Stir every 30 minutes, until lightly toasted and fragrant. Granola will crisp up more when cooled.

Also worth sharing: the hilariously cute little dishes my dad and stepmom gave me for Christmas.

Fried collards with tomato sauce

Ah, the lovely collard green.  Delicious, nutritious, versatile, always in season, and cheap as heck.  Even though sometimes you get a little tough, I love you a lot. 

I typically just stir-fry collards with oil, garlic, and tamari, and then finish them off with sesame oil and sesame seeds.  But I recently tried a more soul-food-ish method of boiling them and then adding them to a stewed tomato sauce.  In addition to the additional flavors, this method makes the greens a bit more tender.  This recipe sort of splits the difference.  I suppose it's almost braising.  I fried the collards and then added more liquid to make them more tender.  The results are delicious!

Fried Collards with Tomato Sauce
1-3 TB canola oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large bunch collard greens, washed, stems removed, coarsely chopped
1-2 TB tamari
1 TB tomato paste
1/4 c water

1. In a small pyrex, dissolve tomato paste in water. Heat oil in a large cast iron frying pan. Add garlic and saute until fragrant.
2. Add greens and mix well until all greens are coated with oil. Cook several minutes until greens are dark and shiny.
3. Add a generous splash of tamari. Add tomato water and simmer a few minutes. Serves about 4.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Fried Rice

Life is busy these days.  As I work from home on Tuesdays, I decided to make big batches of a few complete-meal grain dishes that I can take to school with me and/or eat immediately upon returning home.  In addition to this fried rice, I made a lot of Italian Tabouleh.  I added chickpeas to the tabouleh and tempeh to the fried rice to make each dish a complete meal, especially when paired with salad or steamed vegetables:

This fried rice doesn't look too exciting, but it tastes great, due not only to the umami flavors of the mushrooms, the tempeh, and the tamari, but also to the generous amount of oil and the brown sugar which sort of carmelizes with the oil and rice.

Fried Rice

3 TB canola or peanut oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, shredded or diced
1 c mushrooms (pref. shiitake), diced
1 c froz peas, thawed
4 oz tempeh, chopped
4 c white rice, cooked and cooled
1-2 tsp brown sugar
1 TB tamari
salt and pepper to taste
1 scallion (w/greens), minced
cilantro, chopped, for garnish

In a very large frying pan or wok, heat the oil.  Saute garlic and onions for a few minutes, then add carrots, mushrooms, peas, and tempeh.  Cook another 4-5 minutes.  Add rice, sugar, tamari, salt and pepper, and cook while stirring until rice is warmed through and dish is mixed.  Turn off heat, stir in scallions.  Garnish with cilantro.  Serves 4-5.