Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Roasted Chestnut Cookies

And here were are again, chestnuts.  I found you to be unspectacular from the outset, but I thought, perhaps putting you into a cookie would redeem you.  I made this recipe from Smitten Kitchen, but something was missing.  Now, I have recently learned that chestnuts are the least fatty of all nuts, but maybe my particular batch was even less rich than most.  In any case, this cookie needed way more butter.  As they were, these cookies were more like scones-- fit to be dunked in coffee, but not really cookies in their own right.

Actually, come to think of it, these were really bomb scones.  But yeah, kind of lame cookies.
Roasted Chestnut Cookies
(adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

1/2 c vegan butter, room temperature (or more--see headnote)
1 c powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon + additional for coating
pinch nutmeg
1/8 tsp salt
1 c all purpose flour

1. Once the peeled chestnuts are fully cool, chop them coarsely on a cutting board. Measure 1/2 cup of chopped chestnuts, and dump them in the bowl of a food processor. Grind them until they are very well chopped, then add the softened butter, and pulse again until combined. Add 1/4 cup of your powdered sugar, vanilla extract, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and flour and pulse until an even dough is formed.
2. Wrap dough in plastic, chilling for one hour or until firm. Once chilled, preheat the oven to 350°F. Whisk remaining 1/2 c powdered sugar and a few pinches of cinnamon in a small bowl. Set aside. Working with one half of the chilled dough at at time, roll it into 2 teaspoon-sized balls in the palm of your hand. Arrange on parchment-lined baking sheet but no need to leave more than 1/2 inch between the cookies; they won’t spread.
3. Bake cookies until golden brown on bottom and just pale golden on top, about 14 to 17 minutes.  Cool cookies 5 minutes on baking sheet. Gently toss warm cookies in cinnamon sugar to coat completely. Transfer coated cookies to rack and cool completely. Repeat procedure with remaining half of dough. To touch them up before serving, you can sift some of the leftover cinnamon-sugar mixture over them.  Makes about 2 dozen 1-inch cookies.


In other news, the sun finally came out for a while when I was making these cookies, though both preceded and followed by thunder and lightning.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Tempeh Crab Cakes

I have no idea what a crab cake tastes like, but this was pretty delicious.  Moist on the inside and crispy on the outside, the dominant flavors are the mushroominess of tempeh, the acidity and pungency of mustard and vinegar, and the slight fishiness of nori.  Easy to prepare ahead of time except for the final frying, these would make a good party food or appetizer.

I didn't have bread crumbs, so I substituted 3/4 c flour for the 1 1/2 c bread crumbs in the cakes, and coated them in cornmel instead of more bread crumbs.

Vegenaise freaks me out, and I would not have used it if someone hadn't given me a jar when she left town, but feel free to leave it out.  It's weird, just like dairy-egg mayo.

I also wasn't sure what "hot sauce" in the original recipe meant, so I used rooster paste, but use cautiously as it's very spicy.

Update, 1/3/11: These actually froze really well; because they were so small they were easy to defrost and reheat by baking at 450 for 5-10 minutes.  They stayed crispy and moist and everything.  Also, I thought plain Vegenaise (if you can handle how weirdly exactly like mayo it is) actually made a much better accompaniment than the vinegary remoulade.

Chesapeake Tempeh Cakes
(from the PPK blog)

for the cakes:
8 oz tempeh 
1 c water
1 TB soy sauce
1 TB olive oil
1 bay leaf
3 TB Vegenaise
1 TB whole grain mustard (stone ground Dijon works, too)
1 TB hot sauce (I used rooster paste)
1 TB red wine vinegar
1/4 c very finely chopped red bell pepper (I used roasted peppers from a jar)
3/4 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp salt
fresh black pepper
1 finely chopped nori sheet 
3/4 c all-purpose flour
1/3 c cornmeal
oil for pan frying
for the remoulade:
2 TB Vegenaise
1 TB whole grain mustard  (stone ground dijon works, too)
1 TB hot sauce (again, rooster paste)
2 tsp capers (try not to get too much brine)
lemon wedges for serving

1. Crumble the tempeh into a small saucepan. 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.
2. 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 nori and flour, and use your hands to incorporate.
3. 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 cornmeal 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; mine were a bit smaller and I ended up with 15. Press them into the cornmeal to lightly coat. They don’t need to be thoroughly covered, just a little bit for some texture.
4. Fry a batch 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.
5. Serve with remoulade (or just a dollop of vegenaise?) and lemon wedges.  Makes about 10-15 cakes, depending on size.


And... I made this the other night when I realized I had to make and eat dinner and be out the door in twenty minutes.  I thawed a Chick Patty from this summer, sliced it up, and ate it on top of some Italian pasta
 tossed with the special olive oil that Julia also brought me from Italy.  And I defrosted some frozen peas.  It was a fast dinner.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


Okay, so we all know you're supposed to be roasting chestnuts over an open fire at this time of year, but how many people have even had a roasted chestnut?  I've been taking an informal survey of my friends here in LA, and the answer seems to be... not too many.

Part of the reason for this may be the devastation of the American chestnut tree population in the early twentieth century.  Basically, all our edible chestnuts are imported from Europe these days.

But maybe also... chestnuts just aren't that awesome?  I don't know, I feel like one trial is too soon to pass judgment, but this was a lot of work for a not-too-amazing taste sensation.

You must score Xs in them, then roast them, then cool them, then peel the skins off.

And in the end, what do you have?  An object that tastes like a cross between a sweet but very dry piece of pumpkin and a walnut, and looks like something from a freaky Salvador Dali film.

Also, they can be furry; see the top image for details.

But... I'm going to give chestnuts the benefit of the doubt.  Apparently, you can do crazy things with chestnuts, like put them in Vegan Dad's scalloped potatoes.  And put them in cookies.


Random extra brunchy stuff:
fried collards with onion, garlic, tamari, lemon, and sesame seeds;  
Trader Joe's sprouted rye bread toasted with Earth Balance

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

When dill is ok: Chickpea Rice Soup

"...Southern California was pounded by a sixth straight day of heavy rains -- with another storm on the way."
       -LA Times

I've been making lots of soup and cookies, drinking lots of tea, burning lots of incense, trying to maximize the novelty of coziness... but enough is enough.  It has not stopped raining for almost a week, and I'm ready for sun again.  Even in the bitter cold winters of Minnesota and Wisconsin there is a lot of deathly brilliant sun, because it's too cold to be cloudy.

On a brighter note, though (ha), I had forgotten how some music sounds so much better when it's dark and rainy outside.  Historical performances of Celtic music (not the cheesy kind) -- anything by Ralph Vaughan Williams -- CocoRosie -- Portishead -- Kate Bush -- Tori Amos's Boys for Pele.

Anyway, the other day I came across this recipe on the Post Punk Kitchen blog, and it seemed like serendipity: it called for all the things that were lurking in my fridge as rain and the fact of leaving town in a few days kept me from grocery shopping.  Even things I never buy: baby carrots, bequeathed to me by a friend who has gone home for the holidays, and fresh dill, which I had bought for borscht before I went all fusion on my beet soup.  Oh, and this recipe is stupidly easy: you only have to chop an onion and some dill!  Open a bag of carrots and a can of beans... yes!

I don't usually like dill, but it really went perfectly in this soup, humorously described by recipe author Isa: "There’s something seductively subtle about Eastern European flavors. No one is going to knock you over your head with cumin or turn the garlic up to 11."

This soup reminds me of soups we used to eat when I was growing up (they probably had chicken in them, though).  I think it's the inclusion of rice, and maybe actually of dill, that makes it seem familiar.  It's very comforting and balanced, perfect for yet. another. dark. rainy. day... 

I sortof halved the recipe, omitted the cabbage, and used already-cooked brown rice (I had that on hand, too--weird).  I didn't really measure the seasonings, but it turned out great, except that it was too salty.  Next time if I'm going to use all broth again (and not a mixture of broth and water), I will not add any salt during the sauteeing at the beginning.

Chickpea Rice Soup
(adapted from the PPK blog)

1-2 TB olive oil
1/2 medium yellow onion,chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dry thyme
ground black pepper
a few cups of baby carrots
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (about 1 1/2 c?)
3 c veg broth
1/2 cup brown rice, cooked
3 tablespoons fresh chopped dill, plus extra for garnish

1. Heat olive oil in a largeish stock pot over medium heat.  Cook onions 5 minutes, then add garlic, thyme, and pepper, and cook another minute or two.
2. Add carrots, chickpeas, and broth; bring to a boil, then cover, reduce heat to very low, and simmer 30 minutes, or however long you feel like it.
3. Before serving, stir in rice and dill; maybe cook a few minutes more.  Adjust salt and pepper as necessary.  Serve garnished with a little more dill.  Serves about 3.

Chocolate Candy Cane Cookies

There was a moment today when I thought, the addition of candy canes probably improves every recipe.  Then I thought about pizza, and sauerkraut, and fried rice... and decided to retract this hypothesis.

Still, adding candy cane pieces to Fat Mints resulted in cookies both pretty and delicious.  I used flax instead of commercial egg replacer, I only used 1/4 c whole wheat flour (the overall amount stayed the same), I added 1/4 c crushed candy canes (3 canes), and accordingly, I reduced the mint extract by half.  This time I also made them a little bit bigger than I usually make the Fat Mints (but not so big that I needed to adjust the cooking time).

The candy canes liquefy and then resolidify in the baking/cooling process, resulting in very pretty chunks that feel even harder than when they started.  It's worth the nervousness about your teeth, though.  These cookies are sort of like brownies on the inside, very chocolatey.

Chocolate Candy Cane Cookies
(adapted from Fat Mints)

1 TB ground flax + 3 TB warm water
1/2 c vegan butter
1/2 c brown sugar
1/4 c white sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp peppermint extract
1 1/2 c white flour (or substitute 1/4 c whole wheat)
1/4 c cocoa (unsweetened)
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 c chopped candy canes

Preheat oven to 350*. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a pyrex, whip together flax and water; set aside.
In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugars. Add flax "egg" and extracts.
In another large bowl, combine flours, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Add this to the butter mixture and mix well. Then add chocolate chips and candy cane pieces. Using a fair amount of pressure, press dough into small blobs, then roll into spheres.
Place cookies on parchment paper-lined sheets. Flatten slightly with your hand or a glass.
Bake for 10 minutes. Cookies will still be soft, but they will begin to crack open, and a toothpick inserted will come out clean. Allow cookies to sit and cool on baking sheet before moving them (they are fragile at first!). Makes about 3 dozen small cookies or 2 dozen medium.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Tamarind Lentils (+ Squash Rerun)

 Has anyone else noticed that as the weather has gotten colder, the blogosphere is more and more marked by ugly food?  It seems like soupy, sloppy comfort food is on the whole way less photogenic than pretty salads and fresh summer veggies.  My dinner the other night can provide some instructive examples:

I made the Tamarind Lentils in Veganomicon because the authors suggested that their crazy Rutabaga Puree might be complemented by it.  I'm not sure I agree, but both were good dishes on their own.  This lentil dish can best be described as chana masala meets sloppy joe.  Although the spices are very clearly in the Northern Indian palette, the sweet-and-sour, tomatoey character of the sauce struck me as similar to sloppy joes or baked beans, especially given the slightly meaty flavor of brown lentils.  I've mentioned too many times already my surprise at finding tamarind and pomegranate molasses working in similar ways, but once again, this dish (with tamarind) reminded me a lot of the Syrian Chickpeas and the Pomegranate Baked Beans (both with pomolasses).  Neat!

In making this recipe, I used brown rice syrup instead of maple syrup (cheaper), and reduced the tomato paste (the 2 TB it called for is quite a lot).  I also added everything at the beginning of cooking instead of waiting til the end to add the tamarind etc., which may have mellowed out the flavors a bit (though I'm skeptical), but also allowed me to clean up while everything was simmering.

I also remade this squash recipe (pictured above) from memory--no computer, no recipes... scary! and liberating.  This time I used no garlic, cumin, turmeric or red pepper.  I added kalonji onion seeds, and I cooked it at a very low temperature (the spices had burned the other time I made it).  

Tamarind Lentils
(adapted from Veganomicon)

3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2-in piece ginger, minced
1 onion, diced
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 c lentils, rinsed
2 c vegetable broth
2 tsp tamarind paste
1 TB brown rice syrup
1 TB tomato paste
salt to taste (depending on your veg broth)

1. In a large pot or skillet with a lid, heat oil over medium heat; cook garlic, ginger, and onion several minutes.  Add spices and cook another minute or so. In a pyrex, combine broth, tamarind paste, syrup, and tomato paste.
2. Add lentils and broth mixture; bring to a boil, then partially cover, reduce heat, and simmer until lentils are cooked (30-40 min?).  Add salt if needed.  Serves 4-5.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Parsnips and More

I was surprised to learn that a parsnip was just an anemic carrot.  It made me think of Bunnicula, a children's book series about--well, what it sounds like it's about.

I roasted the parsnips, and they were pretty good, but I didn't get a decent photo of the dish.  I was thinking about the carrots-with-brown-sugar combo, but with a more Asian bent to them.  You could do this with any root veggie, really; I bet daikon would work well, or carrots or beets or turnips, etc.

Roasted Parsnips with Miso and Ginger

parnips, washed and cut into small spears (other root veggies would also be good)
olive oil
ginger, grated
garlic, minced
seasoned rice vinegar
brown rice syrup
more olive oil 

Preheat the oven to a high temperature.  Lightly oil a small baking dish with olive oil.
Put parsnips in baking dish.  Combine remaining ingredients separately before pouring over vegetables and tossing to mix.
Roast in the oven until vegetables are soft and (hopefully) ever so slightly browned on the outside (30 min?).


I also made a stir fry that doesn't really warrant a recipe post, but it did remind me how before I had this (self-given) imperative to try new recipes and post about them, I basically ate variations on this dish every day.  And it's really hard to beat the combination of flavors and textures.  Here, the tamari carmelizes a little bit, and the lemon juice balances the tamari out (and makes the broccoli taste really good).

Stir fry short-hand recipe: 1) canola; 2) onion, bell pep; 3) garlic, tofu; 4) steamed broccoli; 5) tamari, lemon juice, toasted sesame oil, sesame seeds.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Creamy Coconut-Lime Turnip Soup


I bought turnips and parsnips last week because I realized I wasn't sure I'd ever had them.  Upon reflection, though, I think I did get a few turnips in CSA boxes my first year here in LA... And there was this co-op dinner one time that involved turnips that had been dyed blue (though I was not involved in the preparation of this Blokus cornbread)...

(also note the cafeteria pan, the mismatched dishes, the juice in random jars, and the "Presidents of the USA" placemat...)

Anyway, I was like, what am I supposed to do with this weird purple and white vegetable?  I went through the indexes of my cookbooks (oh yes, that's right... I had no google all week), and it was pretty slim pickings.  Seems like the turnip (and its interchangeable cousin, the rutabaga) isn't very popular these days.  I settled on a strange-sounding puree in Veganomicon, which zinged up the already zingy rutabaga with coconut milk and lime juice.  I mostly followed the recipe, but I think my iteration got a bit more liquid in it than was called for, so it turned out as a soup.  It's creamy, rich, and refreshing all at once, though I thought adding the scallions actually made it better--otherwise you're not sure if it's a savory thing or not.  Given the coconut and the lime, though, it seems like basil might make a pretty rad garnish, too... if it were at all in season.

Creamy Coconut-Lime Turnip Soup
(adapted from "Rutabaga Puree" in Veganomicon)

2 turnips or rutabagas, peeled and cubed
1/4 c coconut milk
juice of 1/2-1 lime
salt to taste
maple syrup to taste
water as needed
scallions, minced

1. Boil turnips in a pot of water until soft; then drain.
2. In a blender or food processor, puree turnips with everything else except the scallions.  Add a little water if you desire a soupier consistency.
3. Serve warm, garnished with scallions.  Serves about 3.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Sesame Mushroom... Borscht ?!

Aw, this picture does not do this soup justice.  But... that's sort of to be expected!  For this is a stealthy soup, my friends.  I was inspired by the fusion of the ginger-scallion latkes to make a similarly-spun borscht.  And while it looks like pure beetiness, the flavors are not exactly what you'd expect.  Now, Mark Bittman has a recipe for a borscht that includes mushrooms, but his is still firmly in the Eastern European idiom.  I pushed a bit further, eschewing dill for garlic, tamari, and toasted sesame oil.  It is awesome.  It's like the apotheosis of umami. much so, that I found myself wondering if it might be improved by a bit of rice vinegar or lemon juice to balance it out.

Update: Yes!  A sprinkle of seasoned rice vinegar made it taste better!

Sesame Mushroom Borscht

canola oil
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 c mushrooms, sliced or coarsely chopped
splash tamari
1 large potato, peeled, large dice
4 small beets (or 3 large), peeled and large-diced/quartered
?4 c water and/or stock
small drizzle toasted sesame oil

1. In a large saucepan or stock pot, heat oil over medium high heat.  Add onion and cook several minutes, then add mushrooms and continue cooking until everything is soft and fragrant.  Deglaze with a splash of tamari, then add potato, beets, and water/stock.  Bring to a boil, then cook about 30 minutes or until vegetables are quite soft.  Add salt if needed (keep in mind you've already used tamari and stock).
2. If desired, allow soup to cool, then puree and bring back to warm temp.
3. In any case, serve soup warm with a drizzle of toasted sesame oil.
Serves 4-6.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Ginger Scallion Latkes

A new year's resolution: eat more fried potatoes.  Yum.

In working with this recipe from Bittersweet, I made a few changes.  I made a smaller batch, and (lacking a kitchen scale) I totally guessed on the amount of potatoes needed.  I think this may have meant that there was a greater amount of other things in ratio to potatoes than in the original recipe.  But I thought it was great the way it turned out.  I also used all-purpose flour instead of chickpea flour, because I have never in my life had chickpea flour on hand.  Someday...

Hannah's original recipe calls for these latkes to be baked, but I wasn't down with that.  However, frying these babies was DANGEROUS!  They splattered sooo much.  I have a lid for my frying pan, but even still this was messy, what with the flipping halfway and all.  Still, it's very delicious.  I love this East Asian spin on the potato pancake, which is such a versatile food anyway.  The slightly-raw ginger is very similar in texture to the potato, and both the ginger and the scallions go great with the potatoes.  And really?  Fried potatoes are going to be great no matter what, I think.

Ginger-Scallion Latkes
(adapted from Bittersweet)

3 potatoes
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 tsp salt
3 scallions, minced
2 TB fresh parsley, minced
1 1/2 TB ginger, minced
scant 1/4 c all-purpose flour
1 TB ground flax seeds
(canola or similar; do NOT, under any circumstances, use olive oil)

1. Peel and grate the potatoes, placing them in a colander in the sink or set over a large bowl. Sprinkle with the lemon juice and salt, to prevent browning and extract some of the water, and let sit for 5 – 10 minutes.
2. Squeeze the potato shreds with your hands to extract the excess water. Don’t be shy, really wring those spuds out, because too much water now will mean less crispy latkes later. Transfer the significantly drier potatoes into a [dry] large bowl.
3. Add the scallions, ginger, flour, ground flax, and toss to combine.
4. Scoop out about 1/4 cup of potato mixture for each latke, and use your hands to really press it all together.
5. Fry them!  Then drain on paper towels.
Makes about 6-8 pancakes.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Cashew Garlic Tetrazzini

Maybe it is just the time of year... or maybe it's the time of man... I suppose it's the weather that is making me want things like this.  Gone are the days (for now, anyway) when nothing sounds better than a salad and some hummus.  Brr.  The night I baked this dish, I also roasted some carrots and beets in the oven (at right).  My apartment was so cozy afterwards.

And wowww this is good comfort food.  The textures!  The tastes!  The stick-to-your-ribs-ness, like a blanket for your stomach! (and maybe also for your soul)  When I made it I was thinking of this dish called Turkey Tetrazzini that we used to make in my family when I was growing up (that photo on wikipedia is appalling!).  Really, what I loved about it was the spaghetti around the top and the edges that baked long enough to get chewy.  And here we have that as well!

I started with windy city vegan's recipe for Instant Mac n Cheese.  This is a pretty brilliant recipe in its own right, from it being a mix you can make in a large batch and then save for later, to it making a rich creamy sauce without the crutch--I mean, aid--of tofu or vegan cheese (ew).  Ok, so maybe arrowroot and nutritional yeast maybe aren't typical kitchen items, but they're one-ingredient ones, and you could easily make this recipe soy-free by skipping the soymilk.

I bought a 1.25 lb bag of arrowroot this weekend.  That is so much thickening power.

So, I made a 1/4 batch of the mac n cheese mix, except I added cayenne, tweaked some of the measurements, and omitted the onion powder and green onions.  I then sauteed some real onion in oil before adding the mix to it, along with some water and soymilk, until I had a sauce.  Given the arrowroot, I wasn't sure what was the best temperature at which to do this, so I kept the pot over very low heat.  The sauce still got pretty thick and hard to work with, but I added more liquid until it was okay.  Then into the oven!  A big, gelatinous wad of noodles might not sound (or look) too delicious, but it was the best thing I've had in weeks.  Perfect for a freezing cold rainy evening.

It all got eaten so quickly that there was barely any left to photograph!  

Cashew Garlic Tetrazzini
(adapted from Windy City Vegan)

3 servings whole wheat spaghetti or other pasta
dry mix:
3/4 c raw cashews, ground as finely as possible (I used a clean coffee grinder)
1/2 c nutritional yeast 
2 TB arrowroot powder
1 TB garlic powder 
1/2-1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp ground mustard
1/4 tsp paprika
1/8 tsp turmeric
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
1/8 tsp ground cumin
cayenne to taste
canola oil
1/2 onion, chopped
handful parsley, chopped
soymilk and water as needed

1. Preheat oven to 375*F. Generously oil a loaf-shaped baking dish.  Cook 3 servings whole wheat spaghetti according to directions; drain, rinse, and set aside.  Also combine dry mix ingredients and set aside.
2. In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium-high heat and add onions.  Saute 5-10 minutes, until somewhat translucent.  Turn off heat and stir in parsley.
3. Add dry mix to onion mixture and stir.  Turn heat on low, and add soymilk and/or water as needed until you have a slightly watery sauce.
4. Mix sauce well into spaghetti, then turn the whole mess into the baking dish.  Bake uncovered at 375*F for 30 minutes, or until the dish is bubbling and the noodles on top have gotten crispy-chewy.  Serve hot.  Serves about 3.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Candy Cane Cupcakes!

Cupcake recipes pose some interesting structural problems.  What counts as a "cupcake recipe"?  Is it the cake?  The combination of icing and cake?  If it's the same cake but a very different icing, is it a new cupcake recipe or just a new icing recipe, seeing as icing rarely, if ever, stands on its own?

The cake recipe is the same old perfect chocolate cupcake recipe I've been using all along, in chocolate mint and chocolate espresso cupcakes, in S'mores cupcakes, and in German chocolate cupcakes.

This time, for the icing, I went off the buttercream recipe from Vegan Thyme, but I omitted the cinnamon and added 1/4 tsp peppermint extract.  At this point, I had a better mint buttercream than the one I made so long ago for my very first post.  Using some shortening instead of all butter/earthbalance makes it stiffer, fluffier, and less weirdly buttery.  Then I ground up 1 or 2 candy canes (for a single, 12-cupcake recipe) and mixed them into the frosting.  After frosting the cupcakes, I ground up another one more coarsely and used the chunks and dust to decorate the tops.

OH.  And I took my leftover frosting and put it in little blobs on waxed paper into the freezer.  I think I may have accidentally figured out how to make the butter mints I used to adore.

But ugh... Between a double batch of these, a batch of the chocolate chip cardamom cookies, and a batch of the amazing new almond cookies, I used over 8 cups of sugar in one day.  That's not counting the chocolate chips and the candy canes, either.  When we actually got to the party, I didn't want any more cookies, having sampled quite a few in the production stages.

Candy Cane Cupcakes

Chocolate Cupcakes

1 c soy milk
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 to 5/8 c sugar
1/3 c canola oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 c all purpose flour
1/3 c cocoa powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt 

1. Preheat oven to 350*F.  Line cupcake pan with papers.
2. In a pyrex, combine soymilk and vinegar and set aside for 10 minutes.
3. In one large mixing bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
4. In another mixing bowl, combine sugar, oil, vanilla, and almond extract.  Then add curdled soymilk-vinegar mixture.  Then add flour mixture to the wet mixture.  Don't overmix.
5. Fill tins to approximately 2/3 full.
6. Bake cupcakes for 20 minutes.  Then, let them cool for 10 minutes before removing from tin.  Makes 12 cupcakes, but only if you're stingy on your portion size.


Candy Cane Buttercream Frosting
(adapted from Vegan Thyme)
1/4 c vegan butter
1/4 c vegan shortening (I used earth balance's shortening sticks)
2 c powdered sugar, plus more as needed (I ended up using more like 2.5 c)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp peppermint extract
2-3 candy canes

Cream butter, shortening, and sugar.  Then, add extracts.  Beat until fluffy, adding milk or sugar as needed to achieve desired consistency.  Then grind up 1 or 2 candy canes and mix them into the frosting.  After frosting the cupcakes, grind another one more coarsely and use the chunks and dust to decorate the tops. 
Frosts about 12 cupcakes.

Amazing Almond Cookies

Tonight was the annual department holiday party.  My party planning colleagues did a fantastic job delegating tasks, organizing entertainment, and having Lebanese food catered from Sunnin.

I was one of several people who baked what was cumulatively a lot of dessert.   Along with the cardamom chocolate chip cookies and some cupcakes (forthcoming), I tried out a new recipe for an almond cookie from Veganomicon.  They were fantastic!  Out of my three desserts, they were the slowest to go, but they were actually my favorite.  The almond flavor was so intense, they weren't too sweet, and the texture was absolutely perfect--and weirdly, they contained neither butter/earth balance nor an egg replacer!  This is all the more amazing given the fact that the recipe includes brown rice syrup, which (if you ask me) typically effs everything up in baking.

I honestly could have just eaten the dough when I made these; it was like marzipan, especially since I (for once) used no whole wheat flour and since the recipe includes ground up almonds.  Ok, so I did eat a lot of the dough.  But it won't give you salmonella or anything...

The changes I made to the original recipe were minimal: I omitted the toasted sesame oil because I was baking for a crowd and didn't want to push my luck given the cardamom in the other cookies.  Also: I blanched raw almonds and then ground them finely in a spice grinder (it seems to work better than my crappy mini-food-processor), I'd use a bit more salt than in the original recipe, and I needed far more sliced almonds for the final step than the 1/3 c the original recipe called for.  Other than that... this recipe was pure gold.

Amazing Almond Cookies
(adapted from "Terry's Favorite Almond Cookie" in Veganomicon)

2 1/4 c all-purpose flour
1/2 c ground blanched almonds (or almond meal)
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 c canola oil
1/4 c brown rice syrup
1/4 c non dairy milk
1 c sugar
1 1/2 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 to 1 c sliced almonds

1. Preheat oven to 350*F.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Combine dry and wet ingredients in two separate bowls.  Then, add dry to wet and mix until you have dough.
3. Pour out the sliced almonds onto a plate.  Roll the dough into small balls, then smoosh them down into the almonds on one side.  Place them almond side up on the baking sheet, and smoosh them further with the bottom of a glass or a measuring cup.  Bake for 12-14 minutes, until the edges/bottoms begin to brown.  Allow to stand a while before transferring to a cooking rack.  Makes at least 3 dozen smallish cookies.

Ginger-Sesame "Dal"

This dish happened because I was trying to make lentils that would go with the Lemon-Honey-Ginger Kale.  It was like a puzzle I posed to myself that I was probably not going to solve.  It actually turned out quite good, but a little odd.  I tried to think of what ingredients in your average dal could be changed into ingredients more commonly found in Japanese-ish/macro food.  So I used tamari instead of salt, and instead of finishing the lentils with citrus, I gave them a tiny splash of seasoned rice vinegar.  I kept ginger, of course, and if I'd had cilantro I would have used that, too.  To bring out the warmth of the carrots and the split peas, I also used small amounts of cinnamon, bay leaf, cayenne, and toasted sesame oil.  A bit unusual, but then, that was the point.  I'm glad I used split peas instead of lentils; they have a more appealing (and in this case, forgiving), creamier texture.  If you used a bit more water than I did, the dish would be more like a soup, which I think might be preferable. 

I ate this dish with rice noodles and the aforementioned kale.  I'm guessing this combination transgresses like four culinary traditions, but it was a satisfying mixture of textures and tastes.

Ginger Sesame "Dal"

3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1-in piece ginger, peeled and chopped
1 bay leaf
1/2 c yellow split peas, rinsed
1-2 carrots, large dice
seasoned rice vinegar
toasted sesame oil


In a medium saucepan, heat canola over medium-high heat.  Saute garlic, ginger, cinnamon, cayenne, and bay leaf for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly.  Add split peas and carrots, cook for a moment, then deglaze with a splash of tamari.  Add enough water to cook the split peas (1 1/2 c? you can always add more as needed), and a bit of turmeric.  Stir, then reduce heat to low and simmer until split peas are very soft (30 min?).  Add water and tamari as desired--this can be a soup or a drier dish.  Just before serving, finish with a splash of seasoned rice vinegar, a tiny drizzle of toasted sesame oil, and perhaps some fresh cilantro.  Serves about 3.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Lemon-Honey-Ginger Kale

 Here is a kale recipe.  It's adapted from 3 Bowls.  You can always have more kale recipes...  The flavors could be as intense or as subtle as you want them to be; I didn't measure anything.  I don't usually add any kind of sugar to my vegetables (though brown sugar on carrots was a staple when I was growing up--yum--I should do that), so the honey in this recipe was a nice little change.

Lemon-Honey-Ginger Kale
(adapted from 3 Bowls)

canola oil
juice of 1/2 lemon
kale, washed, de-stemmed, and chopped
salt and pepper

In a skillet, fry the ginger in the oil.  Turn off the heat, add in the honey and lemon juice, and mix well.  Set aside.
Steam the kale separately, then toss with the ginger mixture.  Season with salt and pepper.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Tempeh Mushroom Stroganoff

This isn't exactly a new recipe.  All I did was add fried tempeh to mushroom gravy while it was cooking.  But this was enough to turn a sauce into an entree, albeit a, um, saucy one.  I was thinking of stroganoff when I did it, but seeing as meat and sour cream appear to be the defining features of a stroganoff, I'm not sure this counts.  It's really delicious, though, and easy: you just get your three pots going (at right: sauce, tempeh, and pasta), and each one takes about 10 minutes.

Ok, so I know a lot of meat-eating people read my blog (which delights me!), and I'm guessing that many of you are going to immediately dismiss the thought of making this recipe because it calls for some weird vegan food.  But tempeh isn't like the chunks of fake chicken that you buy in the fridge case at Trader Joe's.  It's a minimally processed food that has been a staple in Indonesian cuisine for centuries.  The texture is sort of a cross between chicken and peas, and the taste is slightly like mushrooms.  It used to be really hard to find, but Whole Foods and Trader Joe's both carry it these days. 

I do wish it looked a little prettier.

Edit, 12/14/11: I've since made a similar stroganoff that I like even better!

Tempeh Mushroom Stroganoff
(adapted from recipe for Mushroom Gravy)
3/4 c (or more) white mushrooms, chopped
1 small yellow onion, minced
1/4 c Earth Balance
2 1/2 c vegetable broth
1 TB soy sauce
1/4 c flour
1/2 tsp sage
1/2 tsp thyme
salt and pepper to taste
canola oil
1 block of tempeh, cut into bite-sized pieces

1. In a large skillet, melt the Earth Balance and add onion and mushrooms. Saute for just a minute or two over high heat.
2. Reduce heat to medium and add vegetable broth and soy sauce. Slowly add flour, stirring well to combine and prevent lumps from forming. Bring to a simmer or a low boil, then reduce heat.
3. Add seasonings, salt and pepper, stirring consistently. Allow to cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring regularly, until gravy thickens. 
4. Meanwhile, heat canola oil in a skillet.  Fry tempeh over medium high heat, turning occasionally, until it's browned.  Add to saucepan, simmer a few more minutes, then serve warm over noodles.  Serves about 4.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Syrian (?) Chickpeas with Chard

Oh hey, the vegan mofo is finally over. 

This recipe is something of a variation on a variation, so I'm not sure whether people would actually eat this in Syria.  But it was a great way to make chickpeas different from how I usually do.

And that difference is all due to pomegranate molasses.  As in the pomegranate molasses baked beans I made a while back, here, the molasses adds a tangy sweet flavor to a savory bean dish.  I feel like it also might help tenderize the legumes, it's that sour.

As I've mused recently, it seems like pomegranate molasses works in many of the same ways as tamarind does in some Asian cuisines.  Interestingly, I just learned that there's a Syrian spice mix called baharat that also bears quite a bit of resemblance to masala.  Connections, connections...

Oh.  Another thing about this recipe?  It's really easy and fast.  More interesting than making spaghetti when you're feeling lazy.

I made this recipe because I had too many cooked chickpeas.  The recipe I was following called for split peas, but since in my case the legumes were already cooked, I needed to find a way to get the flavors to mature without simmering for 30+ minutes.  So, I added the bay leaf with the onion-garlic saute, as well as some cumin seed and cayenne.  Then, I only briefly cooked the chard before adding everything else, simmering about 5 minutes, and serving.  I didn't have enough cilantro, so I subbed in some parsley.  Finally, 1/4 c pomolasses seemed like an awful lot, so I skimped here, and it was just right--plenty sweet and tangy.

 Syrian-Style Chickpeas with Chard
(adapted from lazy smurf)

1 TB olive oil
1 onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 bay leaf
1 tsp cumin seed
pinch cayenne
1 large bunch chard, shredded
4-5 c cooked chick peas
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 c cilantro, chopped
1/4 c parsley, chopped
2-3 TB pomegranate molasses
water as needed

Heat oil over medium high heat in a large skillet.  Add onion, garlic, bay leaf, cumin, and cayenne.  Cook 7-10 minutes, until onions are translucent and fragrant.  Add chard and cook, stirring, until chard is slightly softened (add water if necessary here).  Then add chickpeas, salt, and black pepper.  Cover, reduce heat, and simmer a few minutes.  Turn off heat and stir in remaining ingredients.  Serve hot.  Serves 4-6.