Thursday, December 30, 2010

Caramel Popcorn

This is a fun recipe and makes a great New Years' gift for friends and neighbors - just package it in holiday tins or pretty jars.  Since I probably won't post again until 2011, Happy New Year to all!

  • Cooking spray
  • 1 cup packed vegan brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup light-colored corn syrup
  • 1/3 cup vegan butter
  • 1 tablespoon molasses
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 12 cups popped popcorn (without salt or fat)*
1. To start, coat a jelly roll pan or baking sheet with cooking spray; set aside.

2. Combine the brown sugar, corn syrup, butter, and molasses in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, then continue to cook for 5 minutes, stirring only once - don't worry if it bubbles quite wildly during this step.

3. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract, baking soda, and salt.  Place the popped popcorn in a large bowl, and pour the sugar mixture into the bowl in a steady stream, stirring to coat the popcorn evenly.

4. Spread the popcorn mixture onto the prepared jelly roll pan and bake at 250 degrees for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes.

5. Break apart any large clumps once out of the oven, then let cool for at least 15 minutes.  At this point, you can either serve the popcorn warm, or let it cool to room temperature.  If you do plan to give some of the popcorn as gifts, let it cool completely before you package it.  The popcorn will keep for about a week in an airtight container.

*One good option for vegan popcorn is Newman's Own Organics (pictured below) - the company's unsalted microwave popcorn bags do not contain any butter, and are vegan. 

Nutrition Info:
18 servings (2/3 cup), Calories 126 

Tasting Notes:
My fiance declared that this yummy snack was like cracker jacks only better, with a fresh taste that packaged caramel corn can't hope to compete with, and requested that I always keep a batch on hand for him to take to the movies.  I guess that makes it a winner, and on my end, I found myself happily crunching away on this sweet-salty snack.  My only complaint was that the caramel mixture had a tendency to stick to my teeth, but if it weren't for that, I would have rated it a 5 in a heartbeat.


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Chicken-Apple Crunch Salad

Use cooked Gardein chicken breast (without the included sauce) to make this quick entree salad - with their blend of quinoa, millet, amaranth, and kamut, Gardein products pack a great veggie protein punch.

  • 2 cups cooked and cubed Gardein Tuscan chicken breast (without sauce)
  • 1 cup chopped Granny Smith apple
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 2 tablespoons chopped green onions
  • 1/3 cup vegan mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon vegan sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1. Combine the chicken, apple, celery, raisins, and green onions in a large bowl.

2. Whisk together the mayonnaise, sour cream, salt, black pepper, and cinnamon.  Pour over the chicken-apple mixture, tossing well to combine, and serve! 

Nutrition Info:
4 servings (1 cup), Calories 207

Tasting Notes:
One bite of this and I was transported back in time to my childhood - to a salad my mom made that must have been nearly identical to this one, except with 'real' versions of everything - chicken, mayo, sour cream - instead of vegan versions.  Which is to say: scrumptious.  The ingredients blended really well, and the cinnamon was a nice touch.  I liked playing around with different bites on my fork - chicken with just celery and raisins, or a piece of apple plus a piece of chicken - to savor the varying tastes to the maximum.


Monday, December 27, 2010

Coffee Cupcakes

The batter for these yummy cupcakes smells just like coffee ice cream.  These are great for anyone celebrating a winter birthday, or just for a snack on a snowy winter day.

For the cupcakes:
  • 2 tablespoons boiling water
  • 4 teaspoons instant espresso granules*
  • 1/3 cup vegan buttermilk**
  • 1 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup vegan sugar
  • 5 tablespoons vegan butter
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 Ener-G eggs
For the espresso syrup:
  • 1/4 cup vegan sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons instant espresso granules*
  • 2 tablespoons light-colored corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons vegan powdered sugar
1. To make the cupcakes, combine 2 tablespoons boiling water and 4 teaspoons espresso granules in a bowl and stir until the espresso dissolves.  Add the buttermilk and set aside.

2. Lightly spoon the flour into dry measuring cups and level with a knife.  Combine the flour in a large bowl with the baking soda and salt; set aside.

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine 3/4 cup sugar, the butter, and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract; beat at medium speed for several minutes, until well blended.  Add the Ener-G eggs, and beat until combined.

4.  Add the flour mixture and the buttermilk mixture alternately to the sugar mixture, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.  Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners (I liked the unbleached liners from Beyond Gourmet), and divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups - an ice cream scoop works well to ensure that you fill the cups evenly.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes - a wooden pick inserted in the center should come out clean.  Cool for 10 minutes in the pan on a wire rack, then remove the cupcakes from the pan.

5. Meanwhile, make the espresso syrup: combine 1/4 cup sugar, 1/4 cup water, 2 tablespoons espresso granules, the corn syrup, and 1/4 teaspoon vanilla in a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 3 minutes.  Pierce the tops of each cupcake a few times with a wooden skewer (a kebab stick works well), and brush the espresso syrup evenly over the cupcakes - the glaze will sink in to the holes you created and infuse the whole cupcake.  Let cool completely on a wire
rack before dusting the tops of the cupcakes evenly with the powdered sugar. 

*If you don't have espresso granules at home, you can substitute 8 teaspoons instant coffee in the cupcake batter, and 1/4 cup instant coffee in the glaze.  I highly recommend seeking out instant espresso though, for its really rich deep taste.  Likewise, if you prefer a cake to cupcakes, you can bake this batter in a 9-inch cake pan for 25 minutes instead.

**To make a buttermilk substitute, pour 1 teaspoon lemon juice into a measuring cup.  Fill with plain non-dairy milk to equal 1/3 cup, then let the mixture stand for 5 minutes to sour it (known as clabbering).  It will then mimic buttermilk in a recipe!

Nutrition Info:
12 servings (1 cupcake), Calories 192 

Tasting Notes:
The coffee taste of these was exquisite, and the cupcakes themselves nice and moist.  The glaze made the top of the cupcakes reminiscent of liqueur-soaked ladyfingers in tiramisu, for a wonderful contrast in flavor and texture in each bite.  Overall - delicious.


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Pork with Port Wine and Raisin Sauce

I was delighted to discover the certified vegan port from Casal dos Jordeos, which enabled me to enjoy this spirit for the first time in years.  Tonight, I put it to good use for this yummy sauce over Match pork chops.  Save the rest of the bottle to make mulled port on chilly winter nights to come.

  • 1/2 cup vegan port
  • 1/3 cup raisins
  • 2 teaspoons agave nectar
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 pound Match pork, thawed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth
1. Combine the port, raisins, and agave nectar in a bowl; set aside.

2. Shape the pork into 4 equal patties, and pat into about 3/4-inch thickness.  Sprinkle with 1/4 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. black pepper.  Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the pork and cook for 4 minutes on each side.  Remove the pork from the pan, and set aside.

3. Add the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and the broth to the pan, scraping to remove the browned bits that have accumulated during cooking.  Add the port mixture, and increase the heat to high; cook until reduced to 1/2 cup (about 6 minutes).

Serve the sauce over the pork, and add some steamed white rice tossed with chopped green onions to round out the meal.

Nutrition Info:
4 servings (1 pork piece and 2 tablespoons sauce), Calories 256 

Tasting Notes:
Yum!  I loved the sweet plumpness of the raisins in contrast to the savory Match meat, and the port made a lovely sauce.  As my fiance noted with appreciation, the white rice and green onions were a pleasing contrast.  All in all, a delicious meal.


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Baked Feta with Marinara

This yummy spread makes a great holiday party appetizer.  Try it at a cocktail party with other noshes, such as crudites and dip, vegan shrimp cocktail (from Vegetarian Plus), or the Mini Black Bean Cakes with Green Onion Cream and Avocado Salsa from this blog.  If you like, try serving the feta spread on focaccia or sourdough instead of French baguette, or making it with canned fire-roasted tomatoes.

  • 1 teaspoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) drained can diced tomatoes with basil, garlic, and oregano
  • 4 ounces vegan feta (such as Sunergia)
  • Cooking spray
  • 32 (1/2-inch) slices diagonally cut and toasted French bread baguette
1. Combine the lemon juice, red pepper, garlic, and canned tomatoes in a bowl.  Crumble the feta cheese into a 6-inch gratin dish coated with cooking spray; top with the tomato mixture.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.  Serve with the baguette slices.

Note: to quickly toast baguette slices, arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for about 8 minutes.

Nutrition Info:
16 servings (2 baguette slices, 2 tablespoons spread), Calories 107 

Tasting Notes:
I love Sunergia's feta (the company also makes seasoned tofu and soy blue cheese, both of which are delicious) and this was a great showcase for it.  Like dairy feta, the vegan version doesn't melt in the oven, but it does become wonderfully warm and creamy, perfect for spreading on the baguette slices.  As a personal preference, I might have toasted the bread for a few minutes less, since I prefer slightly softer crostini to super-crunchy, but a couple slices of toast with the spread made a great, festive appetizer nonetheless.


Sunday, December 19, 2010

Mini Black Bean Cakes with Green Onion Cream and Avocado Salsa

These adorable black bean cakes make a great holiday party appetizer!

For the cakes:
  • 1/2 cup bottled salsa
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 4 cups rinsed and drained canned spicy black beans (such as Whole Foods)
  • 1 cup dry breadcrumbs, divided
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Cooking spray
For the toppings:
  • 1/2 cup vegan sour cream
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
  • 1/4 cup diced and peeled avocado
  • 1/4 cup chopped plum tomato
  • 1 teaspoon fresh-squeezed lime juice
1. To make the cakes, combine the salsa, cumin, and black beans in a food processor, and process until smooth.  Transfer to a bowl and stir in 1/2 cup of the breadcrumbs, 1/4 cup green onions, and the salt.

2. Divide the mixture into 24 portions, and shape into 1/2-inch-thick patties.  Place the remaining 1/2 cup breadcrumbs in a shallow dish and dredge the patties in the breadcrumbs.  (Note: the patties will be sticky before you dredge them in the breadcrumbs, and I found it easier to shape into proper patties after doing so).  Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray, and bake at 375 degrees for 14 minutes, turning over halfway through.

3. For the toppings, mix together the sour cream and 1/4 cup green onions in one small bowl.  Mix together the avocado, tomato, and lime juice in a second small bowl.  Top each black bean cake with 1 teaspoon green onion cream and 1 teaspoon avocado salsa. 

Nutrition Info:
12 servings (2 cakes), Calories 99 

Tasting Notes:
Perfectly dainty and tasty, and visually adorable, but I was surprised that the flavor was a little bland.  I imagined more spice would come through from the already 'spicy' black beans, but if you want extra kick, I recommend not rinsing the beans first, or adding fresh minced jalapeno pepper, extra cumin or ground red pepper. You might add a dash of spice to the sour cream mixture as well.


Thursday, December 16, 2010

Sausage, Pepper, and Onion Pizza

These pizzas make a quick, fun weeknight meal.

  • Cooking spray
  • 1 and 1/2 cups vertically sliced onion
  • 1 cup green bell pepper strips
  • 2 vegan Italian sausage links (such as Field Roast)
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) undrained can diced tomatoes
  • 1 (8-ounce) French bread baguette
  • 1 cup shredded Daiya mozzarella
1. Heat a large skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and bell pepper strips, and saute for 6 minutes.

2. Add the sausage, and cook for 5 minutes, breaking apart the sausages into crumbles as they cook.  Add the crushed red pepper and the canned tomatoes, and cook for 5 minutes - the mixture will be thickened by the end.

3. Cut the baguette in half horizontally, and place the halves on a baking sheet.  Spread the sausage mixture evenly over the cut sides of the bread, and sprinkle evenly with the mozzarella.  Bake at 450 degrees for 5 minutes.  Cut each pizza in half and serve.  These are great with pickle spears on the side.

Note: for a fun dessert, try this quick strawberry-anise sundae recipe: Combine 1/4 cup light-colored corn syrup, 2 tablespoons vegan sugar, 2 teaspoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice, and 1/8 teaspoon salt in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil, then continue to cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly, until the sugar dissolves.  Remove from heat and stir in 1 tablespoon anise-flavored liqueur.  Although any variety would work taste-wise, I have confirmation from the great vegan alcohol directory at that Pernod Ricard is vegan, as is Romana Sambuca.  Place about 1/2 cup vanilla non-dairy ice cream of your choice in a dessert bowl, along with 1/4 cup sliced strawberries; top with about 1 tablespoon of the anise syrup. 

Nutrition Info:
4 servings (1 pizza half), Calories 375

Tasting Notes:
I hate to give two 5's a row, lest my readers think I'm over-inflating how good my cooking is, but this pizza seriously tasted like it came from the corner pizzeria, not my own kitchen, and if I hadn't made it with my own two hands, there's no way I would believe it was vegan.  Just the right kick of spice from the crushed red pepper, savory sausage, deliciously crispy baguette for the crust, and super cheesy, melt-y Daiya on top.  Yum!


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Frozen White Chocolate and Hazelnut Mousse

I was dying to try out this recipe for several reasons, not least of which because it sounded delicious.  But it also gave me a chance to try out the vegan white chocolate bar made by Organica, making this the first time I've eaten white chocolate since 2003.  I was also eager to try the recipe in a sense simply to prove that I could; the recipe I was following called for 6 egg whites whipped up into stiff peaks, a trick which I know is possible using Ener-G eggs, and I wanted to see if I could make a fluffy, frozen vegan mousse.  Be forewarned, the following recipe is a bit complicated, but well worth your effort!

  • 2 Ener-G egg yolks
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon vegan butter
  • 2 ounces finely chopped vegan white chocolate (such as Organica)
  • 1/4 cup Frangelico
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • Dash of salt
  • 6 Ener-G eggs
  • 3/4 cup vegan sugar
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1 and 1/2 cups whipped Soyatoo whippable topping*
  • 3 tablespoons toasted and chopped hazelnuts**
1. To start, make two Ener-G egg yolks (i.e. 1 tablespoon powder whisked into 2 tablespoons warm water) in a large bowl; set aside.  In a saucepan, combine 3 tablespoons water, the butter, and the white chocolate; cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the white chocolate melts.  Gradually pour the white chocolate mixture into the Ener-G egg yolks, stirring constantly with a whisk, then transfer the mixture back into the pan.  Cook over medium heat for 3 minutes, stirring constantly - it will be thick by the end.  Remove from heat and stir in the Frangelico; let cool slightly while you prepare the rest of the recipe.

2. Place the cream of tartar, salt, and 6 Ener-G eggs in a large bowl; beat with a hand mixer for 6 minutes - the mixture will be thick, glossy and white - just like egg whites.

3. Combine 3/4 cup sugar with 2/3 cup water in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil, then continue to cook, without stirring, until a candy thermometer reads 238 degrees - it will take about ten minutes.  Slowly pour the hot sugar syrup into the beaten Ener-G mixture, and continue to beat with a mixer for another 6 minutes.  Although the hot syrup actually deflated the Ener-G mixture somewhat, it still maintained a fluffy, full texture.

4. Fold one-fourth of the beaten Ener-G mixture into the white chocolate mixture, then gently fold in the remaining Ener-G mixture.  Fold in the whippable topping and the hazelnuts (see notes below on both these ingredients).  Spoon the mousse into a freezer safe container and freeze for at least 8 hours, or up to overnight. 

Note: you'll have even better luck with this recipe if you place the empty container in the freezer ahead of time, so it's already chilled once you spoon in the mousse.

*Vegan whippable soy topping is available from a great company called Soyatoo, and is not to be confused with their soy whip or rice whip, which come in a spray can.  The whippable topping comes in a box, and you beat it with a mixer for about 3 minutes to achieve a thick, creamy product like CoolWhip.  Unlike vegan whipped toppings that you spray out of a can, this stuff will hold its consistency, and is great for topping pies or cakes. 

** Toast the hazelnuts ahead of time, so you don't need to worry about it while assembling the rest of this complicated recipe: Simply place on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.  Don't forget to rub off the skins, since you don't want flecks of brown floating in your pretty white chocolate mousse.

Nutrition Info:
8 servings (about 3/4 cup), Calories 207 

Tasting Notes:
Not only did this recipe work, but I do not exaggerate when I say it just might be the most heavenly dessert I've ever tasted.  The Frangelico/hazelnut notes really came through, the texture was as light and fluffy as sugary air, and, well, I licked up the remains from my bowl with a finger when I was done, which should say it all.  I had a hard time distinguishing the "white chocolate" flavor; whether that is a referendum on Organica's product or simply reflects the fact that too many other yummy things were going on in this dish, I can't say.  But either way - heavenly.


Friday, December 10, 2010

New England Sausage Stuffing with Chestnuts

I didn't make stuffing over Thanksgiving this year, but decided to make it the centerpiece of a winter-flavored meal tonight.  Try this with roasted vegetables to round out the meal, such as carrots, baby potatoes, or Brussels sprouts.

  • 1 cup coarsely chopped bottled chestnuts
  • 16 ounces (1-inch) cubed French bread baguette
  • Cooking spray
  • 6 ounces LightLife breakfast sausage
  • 3 cups chopped onion
  • 2 cups chopped celery
  • 1 and 1/2 cups vegan chicken broth (prepared from Not Chick'n bouillon)
  • 1 tablespoon dried rubbed sage
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1. Arrange the chestnuts and bread cubes in a single layer on a jelly roll pan or baking sheet.  Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes, until lightly browned; set aside.

2. Heat a large skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat.  Add the sausages, and cook for 4 minutes, breaking apart with a fork or spoon as they cook.  Add the onion and celery, and saute for 6 minutes.  Pour in the broth, scraping the bottom of the pan to remove any browned bits that have accumulated during cooking.

3. Combine the bread cubes, chestnuts, sausage mixture, sage, thyme, salt, and black pepper in a large bowl, tossing to combine.  Spoon into a 13x9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.  Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes, then uncover and bake an additional 10 minutes - the top should be golden brown by the end.

Note: although traditionally a side dish, you can easily double portions of this stuffing to make it a veggie main dish.

Nutrition Info:
12 servings (about 2/3 cup), Calories 214

Tasting Notes:
Savory savory savory - which was a good thing!  Everything married really nicely, especially the sausage, celery, chestnuts, and sage.  I might make the bread cubes smaller next time (about 1/2-inch) so that everything is more uniform in size, but other than that, no complaints.  The stuffing pairs great with a zinfandel - the bottle shown at right from Fitzpatrick is certified vegan.


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Celery Salad

This sweet little salad makes just enough for two.  The suggested menu alongside it was roasted Cornish hens and roasted potatoes - read below for how I made that vegan!  But first, the Celery Salad.

  • 3/4 cup sliced celery
  • 1/3 cup dried sweet cherries
  • 1/3 cup frozen green peas, thawed
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons vegan mayonnaise
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons plain non-dairy yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon toasted and chopped pecans*
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1. Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl, then cover and chill until ready to serve.  The salad probably only needs about an hour to chill, but I made it during the afternoon to save time in the evening.

*Toast the pecans in a dry skillet over medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes, until toasted. Be sure to stir or shake the pan frequently to prevent the nuts from burning.

As to the Cornish hens... When I saw that was the recommended entree alongside this salad, I knew the time had come to try the vegan Half Chicken lurking in my freezer.  Made by the company Vegetarian Plus, I ordered the product from a few months back out of curiosity, wondering if I could in good conscience make a product that looked like this:

For novelty's sake, I decided I had to give it a go, even though it's hard for me to advocate something that so shamelessly mimics the body of a dead animal.  The verdict? Tasty, but not as good as other vegan chicken products I've tried on the market, such as Match or Gardein.  I probably won't, as a result, order this item again, but it was certainly novel to try it out, and paired nicely with the Celery Salad. Roasted potatoes and a chilled glass of (vegan) pinot gris rounded out the meal.

Nutrition Info:
2 servings (about 2/3 cup), Calories 160

Tasting Notes:
Celery isn't normally my favorite vegetable, especially raw, but this salad made it quite good indeed.  I loved the contrasts in texture from the crisp celery to the soft peas and chewy dried cherries.  The dressing gave just the right hint of creaminess without being overwhelming.  The only ingredient I felt got short shrift was the pecans.  Next time, I would increase the amount to 2 tablespoons.


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Ham and Garlic

This side dish makes enough to feed an army, so keep it in mind for holiday dinners in the weeks to come.  You can toast the breadcrumbs and trim and halve the Brussels sprouts ahead of time, so all you need do just before dinner is toss together the ingredients and bake.

  • 1 (1-ounce) slice white bread
  • 3 pounds trimmed and halved Brussels sprouts
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped vegan ham (such as LightLife)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 thinly sliced garlic cloves
  • Cooking spray
  • 2 tablespoons vegan Parmesan sprinkles (such as Galaxy Foods)
1. Place the bread in a food processor and pulse 2 to 4 times, until crumbly.  Sprinkle the crumbs on a baking sheet and bake at 425 degrees for 5 minutes.  You'll only need 3 tablespoons of the bread crumbs for this recipe, so set the rest aside for another use.

Note: they're delicious over prepared macaroni and cheese, as shown below with Amy's rice macaroni and cheeze, or over homemade casseroles.

2. Combine the Brussels sprouts, ham, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and garlic in a 3-quart baking dish coated with cooking spray, tossing to coat. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes, stirring at the 10 and 20 minutes marks.  The sprouts should be tender and lightly browned at the edges by the end.

3. Combine the 3 tablespoons breadcrumbs with the Parmesan sprinkles, and sprinkle over the sprouts.  This dish is at its best when served immediately.

Nutrition Info:
12 servings (3/4 cup), Calories 58

Tasting Notes:
Quite nice.  I found that all of the flavors came through without any one ingredient overwhelming any of the others.  I would just like the Brussels sprouts a bit more tender, and would add another 5 to 10 minutes onto the cook time.


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Chocolate-Hazelnut Bread Pudding

Dinner tonight was quick leftovers, because I wanted to concentrate on making a decadent, warm dessert to counter the 20 degree weather outside.  I started this blog with a recipe for a bread pudding (see post for Indian Bread Pudding with Cardamom Sauce), and tonight I tried a version flavored with hazelnut and chocolate - perfect for the holiday season. 

  • 1 and 1/3 cups plain non-dairy milk
  • 1/2 cup vegan sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 ounce chopped unsweetened chocolate
  • 3 Ener-G eggs
  • 1/4 cup Frangelico
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 4 and 1/2 cups (1/2-inch) cubed French bread baguette
  • Cooking spray
  • 2 tablespoons chopped hazelnuts*
  • 2 cups vanilla non-dairy ice cream
1. Combine the milk, sugar, cocoa, and chocolate in a medium saucepan and cook over medium-low heat until the chocolate melts, stirring constantly (about 3 to 5 minutes); do not let the mixture come to a boil.

2. Whisk the Ener-G eggs in a large bowl until slightly frothy, then add the hot milk mixture, stirring constantly with a whisk.  Stir in the Frangelico, vanilla extract, and salt.  Add the bread cubes and toss gently to coat.

3. Spoon the mixture into an 8-inch square baking dish coated with cooking spray.  Cover and chill for at least 30 minutes and up to 4 hours - I chilled mine for 3 hours.

4.  Sprinkle the top evenly with the hazelnuts, then place the baking dish in a 13x9-inch baking dish.  Fill the larger dish with hot water to a depth of 1 inch.  Bake, covered, at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, then uncover and bake a final 5 minutes - a knife tip inserted in the center should come out clean.

5. Divide the pudding into 8 squares, and serve warm with 1/4 cup vanilla non-dairy ice cream of your choice over each serving.  The ice cream will melt over the pudding to form a decadent sauce.

*To remove the skins from hazelnuts, toast them first on a baking sheet at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes.  Place on a clean dish towel and rub off the skins, then chop.

Nutrition Info:
8 servings (1 pudding square, 1/4 cup ice cream), Calories 277

Tasting Notes:
It's the first time I'm awarding a "5" on this blog - which means that one bite of this dessert and you simply have to close your eyes and savor it for a good 15 seconds before thought returns.  Deliciously chocolate-y, the perfect texture, and wonderful hints of vanilla and hazelnut.  I only could have done with a tiny bit more Frangelico flavor coming through!


Sunday, December 5, 2010

Sausage and Chicken Gumbo

Apologies for nearly a week with no post.  I've been eating leftovers and vacationing in Portland, Maine (where I was happy to discover the very vegan-friendly Pepperclub restaurant) but tonight I am home and working over the stove again.  This quick gumbo was the perfect thing to whip up after a weekend away, especially because it almost entirely relies on chopped frozen veggies instead of a lot of prep work.

  • 1 (3 and 1/2-ounce) bag boil-in-bag brown rice
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 cup frozen chopped onion
  • 1 cup frozen chopped green bell pepper
  • 1 cup frozen cut okra
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 teaspoon bottled minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 2 cups chopped and cooked Gardein Tuscan chicken breast (without sauce)
  • 2 (4-ounce) Tofurky kielbasa
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes with peppers and onions (such as Del Monte)
  • 1 and 3/4 cups vegan chicken broth (prepared from Not Chick'n bouillon)
1. Cook the rice according to package directions, then drain and set aside.

2. While the rice cooks, combine the flour and canola oil in a Dutch oven; saute over medium-high heat for 3 minutes.  Add the onion, green bell pepper, okra, celery, garlic, thyme, and ground red pepper; cook for 3 minutes, still stirring frequently.

3. Cut the kielbasa into 1-inch pieces, and add to the pan, along with the cooked chicken, tomatoes, and broth; cook for 6 minutes.

4. Place 1/2 cup of rice in each of 4 bowls or deep plates, and ladle 1 and 1/2 cups gumbo over each serving of rice.

Nutrition Info:
4 servings (1 and 1/2 cups gumbo, 1/2 cup rice), Calories 369 

Tasting Notes:
Quite tasty, although a little on the fiery side for me.  Since the heat took center stage, it directed my taste buds away from the myriad other items I love in this dish - the okra and kielbasa in particular.  Still, gumbo is meant to be spicy, and it was wonderfully hearty.  I served with some extra plain okra on the side, and a big piece of French baguette to soak up any leftover juices!


Sunday, November 28, 2010

Roasted Squash Stuffed with Corn Bread Dressing

There are two components to this wonderful vegan entree - first making the corn bread, then assembling the stuffed squash.  It's worth the time and effort however; the corn bread can be made and toasted ahead of time, and you can roast and refrigerate the squash up to 2 days in advance, so you're not actually doing too much when it comes time to prepare dinner.  Make sure to buy acorn squash that are about 1 pound each; some of the ones I see in the supermarket these days are nearly twice that size!

A quick note on the term "dressing," since it refers in this recipe not to a liquid dressing as for a salad, but rather as a term interchangeable with "stuffing."  There is really no difference between a stuffing and a dressing, and I assume it is only used in this recipe title to avoid using the word "stuffing" redundantly.

For the Maple Corn Bread:
  • 1 teaspoon canola oil
  • 1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup masa harina
  • 3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 and 1/2 cups water
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 5 tablespoons melted vegan butter
  • 1 finely chopped jalapeno pepper
1. Coat a 9-inch cast-iron skillet with the canola oil and place in an oven preheated to 350 degrees for 10 minutes.

2. While the skillet preheats, lightly spoon the flour and masa harina into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife.  Combine the flour, masa harina, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.

3. Combine the water, maple syrup, melted butter, and jalapeno, stirring with a whisk.  Add to the flour mixture and stir until moist.  Spoon the batter into the preheated pan - work quickly because the batter will start to set almost instantly against the hot cast-iron.

4. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes - a wooden pick inserted in the center should come out clean.  Remove the corn bread from the skillet and cool completely on a wire rack.

Note: you won't have to use all of the corn bread for the stuffing that follows, so enjoy leftover slices alongside a bowl of soup or chili.  If you prefer, you could also just make the corn bread and stop reading this post right now.

Nutrition Info:
12 servings (1 wedge), Calories 184

If you're interested in the stuffed squash, read on...

  • 7 and 1/2 cups (1/2-inch) cubed Maple Corn Bread
  • Cooking spray
  • 5 acorn squash (about 1 pound each)
  • 4 cups boiling water, divided
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup dried currants
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1 cup finely chopped carrot
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
  • 3 minced garlic cloves
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup toasted and chopped pecans*
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1. Arrange the corn bread cubes in a single layer on a jelly roll pan or baking sheet coated with cooking spray.  Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes, stirring twice (at about the 10 and 20 minute marks); set aside.

2. Cut the squash in half lengthwise and discard the seeds and membranes.  Arrange the squash, cut sides down, in a 13x9-inch baking dish.  Coat with cooking spray, and pour 2 cups boiling water over the squash.  Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.  Remove the squash from the pan with a slotted spoon once out of the oven, and place on a baking sheet - but leave the hot water in the pan!

3. While the squash bakes, combine the dried cranberries, currants, and remaining 2 cups boiling water in a bowl; cover and let stand for 30 minutes, then drain and set aside.

4. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the onion; saute for 5 minutes.  Add the celery, carrot, sage, and garlic; saute for 3 minutes.

5. Now it's time to put it all together: Combine the toasted corn bread cubes, the cranberry/currant mixture, the onion mixture, vegetable broth, pecans, parsley, salt, and black pepper, and toss to coat.  Spoon about 1 cup of the dressing into each squash half, pressing down so it is firmly in place.  Place the squash, stuffed sides up, in the baking dish.

6. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. 

Note: I actually baked in two batches (5 stuffed squash halves each time) to avoid overcrowding the dish.  I have a hard time imagining how the author of this original recipe fit all 10 squash halves in at one time.

*Don't forget to toast the pecans first - about 4 to 5 minuets in a dry skillet over medium heat will do the trick. Shake or stir the pan frequently to avoid burning the nuts.

Nutrition Info:
10 servings (1 stuffed squash half), Calories 398

Tasting Notes:
A wonderful blend of savory, spicy (the jalapeno) and sweet (the dried fruit).  The stuffing itself was so good that the acorn squash underneath almost felt unnecessary (although was yummy, too).  I would, however, have liked the squash to be a bit more tender, so might recommend an extra 10 or 15 minutes of baking time when the squash are initially in the oven sans stuffing.  As for the Maple Corn Bread - equally delicious.  A nice bite from the jalapeno, but also the subtle sweetness of the maple syrup. 


Saturday, November 27, 2010

Maple-Glazed Rutabaga

Leftover root veggies from the holiday?  Try this simple side dish. Although I made it with rutabaga tonight, you could try it with turnips, parsnips, or carrots as well.  The sweetness of the maple syrup is a lovely contrast to the natural bitterness of rutabaga.

  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons melted vegan butter
  • 7 cups (1/2-inch) peeled and cubed rutabaga
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • Cooking spray
1. Combine the maple syrup and butter in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk.  Add the rutabaga, salt, and pepper, and toss to coat.  Spread the mixture on a jelly roll pan or baking sheet coated with cooking spray.

2. Bake at 425 degrees for 35 minutes, stirring occasionally.  I served these tonight with the vegan pork from Match meats, shaped into "pork chops" and cooked for about 3 minutes on each side in a skillet.  If you haven't already tried Match meats, check out their truly amazing products:

Nutrition Info:
4 servings (1 cup), Calories 153

Tasting Notes:
Perfectly tender, with just the right touch of sweetness from the maple syrup.  This side dish would be equally at home on a busy, casual weeknight as it would be at a more elegant dinner for company.  No complaints on this one.


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Cranberry Quick Bread with Raisins and Hazelnuts

Ok, I promise this is the last time I'm going to extol the cranberry, at least for a little while, but let me give you one more fun tidbit about these little berries before I launch into the recipe itself.  How do you know if a cranberry is good?  Bounce it on your kitchen counter - fresh cranberries bounce!  And are adorable doing so.  Anyway, make this breakfast bread for your family to enjoy over the Thanksgiving holiday.  Or, serve it with some homemade vegan cottage cheese and fruit salad as I did tonight; it makes the perfect light supper or lunch before tomorrow's big feast.  Either way, I won't be posting tomorrow, so enjoy a wonderful cruelty-free Thanksgiving!

  • 1 and 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup vegan sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup apple juice
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange rind
  • 1 Ener-G egg
  • 1 and 1/3 cups chopped fresh cranberries
  • 1/3 cup golden raisins
  • 1/4 cup chopped hazelnuts
  • Cooking spray
1. Lightly spoon both flours into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife.  Combine the flours in a large bowl with the sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; make a well in the center of the mixture and set aside.

2. In a separate bowl, combine the apple juice, canola oil, orange rind, and Ener-G egg.  Add to the flour mixture and stir just until moist, then fold in the cranberries, raisins, and hazelnuts.  Don't worry if your batter gets stained a bit pink from the cranberries; it won't be noticeable once the batter darkens while baking.

3. Spoon the batter into a 9x5-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray, and bake at 350 degrees for about 48 to 50 minutes, until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool for 10 minutes in the pan on a wire rack before removing from the pan and cooling completely on a wire rack.

Nutrition Info:
16 servings (1 slice), Calories 162 

Tasting Notes:
I absolutely loved the fresh cranberries in here, as opposed to dried cranberries.  If you can imagine cranberry juice cocktail turned into a bread, that's kind of what this bread tasted like - yum! The hazelnut was another, nicely unexpected flavor, since most breads like this I've baked in the past use walnuts. That said, if you have walnuts on hand - or just prefer them - feel free to swap out for the hazelnuts.