Sunday, January 30, 2011

Ginger Shrimp with Carrot Couscous

Use the vegan shrimp from Vegetarian Plus for this quick entree.  People do a double-take whenever I tell them that these adorable little shrimp-shaped soy critters are vegan. Use either a little less or a little more jalapeno if you prefer.

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil, divided
  • 1 and 1/2 cups carrot juice, divided
  • 3/4 cup uncooked couscous
  • 1/4 cup fresh-squeezed lime juice
  • 2 and 1/2 teaspoons seeded and minced jalapeno pepper
  • 2 teaspoons peeled and grated fresh ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup sliced green onions
  • 4 cups gourmet salad greens
  • 24 ounces cooked Vegetarian Plus shrimp*
1. Combine 1 teaspoon canola oil and 1 cup carrot juice in a saucepan; bring to a boil, then gradually stir in the couscous.  Remove from heat, cover, and let stand for 5 minutes.

2. While the couscous stands, bring the remaining 1/2 cup of carrot juice to a boil in a small saucepan, then continue to cook for 2 and 1/2 minutes, or until reduced to 1/4 cup.  Remove from heat and stir in the remaining 2 teaspoons canola oil, the lime juice, the jalapeno, the ginger, and the salt.

3. Fluff the couscous with a fork.  Add 1/4 cup of the reduced carrot juice mixture to the couscous, along with the green onions.  Place the remaining reduced carrot juice mixture in a large bowl, and toss with the salad greens and the shrimp.

*To cook the shrimp ahead of time, bring water to a boil in a saucepan.  Add the shrimp (still frozen) and cook for 2-3 minutes, then drain and set aside. 

Nutrition Info:
4 servings (1/2 cup couscous, 1 and 1/2 cups shrimp mixture), Calories 403 

Tasting Notes:
I found this dish to be wonderfully different.  It was, in a sense, like eating the essence of carrot and ginger, the tastes of which infused every bite, but which weren't actually visible (unless you count the gorgeous orange color imparted to the couscous by the carrot juice).  The taste of the jalapeno got a little lost, so I would use 3 teaspoons next time.


Friday, January 28, 2011

Cinnamon Stewed Apples

My fiance teases me all the time for saying that my favorite flavor combination is cinnamon and apples.  What can I say - I'm a born-and-raised New England girl!  Rather obviously from the title, this dish caters precisely to my palate.

  • 6 cups peeled and chopped Granny Smith apple
  • 1/2 cup packed vegan brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup apple juice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
1. Combine all of the ingredients in a large, heavy saucepan; cover and cook over medium-low heat for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally - the apple should be tender by the end.

2. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving - the sauce will be a little thin just after cooking, but will thicken in those 5 minutes.  The apples are delicious alongside vegan ham slices or pork cutlets from Match meats.  Just add a green veggie like Brussels sprouts to round out the meal.

Nutrition Info: 
8 servings (1/4 cup), Calories 121 

Tasting Notes:
Exactly what you would expect - cinnamon and apples! - so yum yum good.  What I appreciated about this recipe was that it was intended as a side dish for a savory meal, since the cliched use for cinnamon apples would have been a dessert.  The taste comparison in contrast to the vegan meats kept it new and interesting on my taste buds.  Technically this dish could keep as long as a week in the fridge, but in my kitchen, I'd gobble it up way faster than that.


Thursday, January 27, 2011

Strawberry Cheesecake

There's no reason not to have cheesecake, just because you're vegan.  Aside from a little advance prep work to make vegan cottage cheese, this dessert comes together in a flash.

  • 3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs*
  • Cooking spray
  • 2 cups prepared vegan cottage cheese**
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups Tofutti cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup vegan sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 Ener-G eggs
  • 1/2 cup strawberries
  • 1 teaspoon water
1. Press the graham cracker crumbs into the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan coated with cooking spray, to form the crust; set aside.

2. Place the prepared cottage cheese in a blender and process until smooth.  Lightly spoon the flour into a dry measuring cup and level with a knife.  Combine the flour, cream cheese, and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat until smooth.  Add the blended cottage cheese and the vanilla extract; beat until blended.  Add the Ener-G eggs and beat until blended.  Pour the mixture over the graham cracker crumbs in the prepared pan.

3. Combine the strawberries and water in a food processor or blender; process until smooth.  Pour the strawberry mixture on top of the cheesecake batter, and swirl into the batter using the tip of a knife.

4. Bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 250 degrees (do not remove the cake from the oven) and continue to bake for an additional 45 minutes.

5. Remove the cheesecake from the oven and run a knife around the outside edge of the pan.  Let cool to room temperature, then cover and chill for at least 8 hours before slicing into wedges.

*It can be hard to find vegan graham crackers, since almost all brands contain honey.  One sure bet is the amaranth graham crackers from Health Valley.  If you can't find them at a store near you, they are available for order online at  The easiest method to crush graham crackers is to place them in a zip-top plastic bag and roll over them with a rolling pin.

** To make the 2 cups vegan cottage cheese needed for this recipe, combine the following in a bowl: 1 (14-ounce) package lite firm tofu, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, a pinch of salt, a few drops of vanilla extract, and a pinch of stevia.  Mash together with a fork until the mixture looks like cottage cheese, then cover and chill for at least 4 to 5 hours before making the rest of the recipe, so the flavors have time to meld. 

Nutrition Info:
10 servings (1 wedge), Calories 201 

Tasting Notes:
I was thrilled with the texture, creaminess, and taste of my cheesecake interior.  It set wonderfully during cooking, and was eye-roll good on the tongue.  I would, however, have preferred more strawberry flavor, especially since 'strawberry' is in the title of the recipe, so I recommend either doubling the amount of strawberry that gets swirled on top, or simply adding it into the batter itself for a pink version.  The graham cracker crumbs also were a bit dried out, in the crust, and I might pulse the crumbs with Earth Balance butter next time before patting into the pan.  I adapted this from a "light" recipe, so the flavor was perhaps a bit on the bland side; increase the amount of sugar if you'd like a sweeter final product.  Again, however, my vegan pride in how well the interior of this cheesecake set is not reflected in the overall taste rating below.  


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Winter Vegetable Soup

If you find as much comfort and enjoyment in chopping and preparing vegetables as I do, then this soup is for you.

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 2 ounces chopped Yves Veggie Canadian bacon*
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 3 minced garlic cloves
  • 2 cups peeled and cubed acorn squash
  • 2 cups peeled and diced red potato
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup chopped carrot
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 (28-ounce) drained and chopped can whole tomatoes
  • 28 ounces vegan chicken broth (prepared from Not Chick'n bouillon)
  • 4 cups chopped kale
  • 1 (15.5-ounce) drained and rinsed can navy beans
1. Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add the Canadian bacon; saute for 3 minutes.  Add the onion and garlic; saute for 3 minutes.  Add the acorn squash, red potato, celery, carrot, basil, cinnamon, and thyme; cook for 4 minutes.  Add the tomatoes and cook for 2 minutes.

2. Add the broth; bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 8 minutes.  Add the kale; simmer for 5 minutes.  Add the navy beans; simmer for a final 4 minutes.  This hearty soup is a meal in itself, but good accompaniments include crusty sourdough bread, wilted spinach or spinach salad, and salty kalamata olives.

*The original recipe actually called for pancetta.  Since no vegan pancetta exists, I was torn between choosing Yves' Canadian bacon or Lightlife's regular bacon. A call to my mom resulted in my decision to go with the former, since she said Canadian bacon was closer to the slight smokiness of pancetta (I haven't eaten all these various meats in so long I couldn't remember).  So thanks Mom!

Nutrition Info:
4 servings (about 2 cups), Calories 349 

Tasting Notes:
The Canadian bacon did indeed lend a wonderful smokiness to the soup; the acorn squash was sweet and tender, and the rest of the flavors married together well.  Basically you could sum this soup up as comfort in a bowl - a perfect recipe to add into your winter repertoire.  The touch of cinnamon gave the soup a wonderful scent as it simmered on the stove, so I was a little disappointed that the taste didn't come through more come serving time - I recommend increasing the amount to a 1/2 teaspoon.


Monday, January 24, 2011

Tomato Goat Cheese Strata

Use your largest cast-iron skillet for this recipe - my 12-inch Le Creuset was brimming to capacity, so it's a good thing I didn't try to make the strata in the smaller 9-inch version.  This strata would be a great hearty one-dish dinner, and also makes a great component to a leisurely brunch - good accompaniments include strips of Lightlife bacon, fruit, or your favorite flavor of non-dairy yogurt.

  • 1 (1-pound) package silken tofu
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric (for color)
  • 1 cup plain non-dairy milk
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 cups thinly sliced onion
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
  • 2 sliced garlic cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 (28-ounce) undrained can diced tomatoes with basil, garlic, and oregano
  • 8 cups (1-inch) cubed sourdough bread
  • 3 ounces prepared vegan goat cheese*
1. Combine the tofu, cornstarch, and turmeric in a blender; process until smooth.  Transfer to a bowl and whisk together with the milk and parsley; set aside.

2. Heat the olive oil in a large cast-iron skillet over high heat.  Add the onion and saute for 2 minutes.  Add the sage and garlic; saute for 1 minute.  Add the crushed red pepper and the tomatoes; bring to a boil, then continue to cook for 1 minute.  Stir in the bread cubes, and crumble the goat cheese evenly over the top.

3. Pour the tofu mixture evenly into the pan - your pan should be very full at this point.  Carefully transfer to an oven and bake at 450 degrees for 30 minutes.  Let stand for 5 minutes before cutting into wedges.

*To make vegan goat cheese, crumble 3 ounces Sunergia feta into a bowl.  Add 2 tablespoons Tofutti cream cheese, 1 tablespoon Tofutti sour cream, and a splash of lemon juice; mix together with a fork until well blended.  This was my first time following this recipe for goat cheese, and I loved it.

Nutrition Info:
4 servings (1 wedge), Calories 415 

Tasting Notes:
Absolutely fabulous.  This was a perfect example of a strata (layered casserole), since the tofu mixture perched so wonderfully atop the bread-and-tomato mixture underneath.  Every component - from the moist bread cubes, to the spice of the red pepper, to the savory onions and sage, to the tofu mixture on top was delicious.  The best part were the little pockets of goat cheese - a burst of creaminess and flavor each time.  Overall the strata was a little too tomato-y, or it would have been a solid 5.


Sunday, January 23, 2011

Tofu Fruit Smoothies

Just a quick post tonight, since I've just flown back from Park City, Utah (many thanks to the wonderful chef at High West restaurant there, who came up with a three-course vegan tasting menu for me).  This easy smoothie is a great energy reviver post-travel, and would also make a great breakfast or post-workout snack.

  • 1 cup frozen mixed berries
  • 1/2 cup white grape juice
  • 1 tablespoon agave nectar
  • 1 peeled and sliced banana*
  • 1 (12.3-ounce) package lite silken tofu
1. Place all of the ingredients in a blender, and process until smooth.  Pour into glasses and serve.

 *You want the banana to be ripe, but still firm i.e. yellow but not green or black.

Nutrition Info:
3 servings (about 3/4 cup), Calories 145 

Tasting Notes:
Yummy, although I can't say this particular combination of ingredients made the smoothie out of the ordinary either.  The banana and the tofu make it quite thick, so use a little more white grape juice if you like a thinner consistency.  Still, a nice refreshing recipe to have in my repertoire when I need a quick energy boost!  I recommend Mori-Nu silken tofu for the best taste; I tried with other brands, which made the smoothie taste somewhat chalky, but Mori-Nu let the flavor of the berries take center stage.


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Peppered Peanut Brittle

It's crummy weather outside, and seemed like the perfect day to concoct something sweet in my kitchen.  This brittle gets an unexpected dash of heat from three kinds of pepper, although you can omit the peppers if you prefer - enjoy!

  • Cooking spray
  • 1 and 1/2 cups vegan sugar
  • 1/3 cup light-colored corn syrup
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 and 1/2 cups roasted peanuts
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon vegan butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
1. Coat a jelly roll pan or baking sheet with cooking spray; set aside.

2. In a saucepan, combine the sugar, corn syrup, water, vanilla extract, lemon juice, and salt.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until a candy thermometer reads 325 degrees - it will take a little over 10 minutes.  Make sure to use at least a large enough saucepan, otherwise the mixture might bubble over.

3. Remove from heat and immediately stir in the peanuts, baking soda, butter, crushed red pepper, black pepper, and ground red pepper; quickly transfer to the prepared baking sheet, spreading the mixture to the edges.  Let stand for 1 hour, then break into pieces.

Note: the brittle will keep for up to 2 weeks in an airtight container.  You can also package this in pretty cellophane or wax paper bags tied with ribbon - a batch makes a great hostess gift.

Nutrition Info:
20 servings (about 1 ounce), Calories 105 

Tasting Notes:
The texture of this came out 100% perfect, which was a great triumph for me since I've never made brittle before.  There was a wonderfully pleasing contrast between the sharp heat of the pepper at the beginning of each bite, and the sweeter, mellower finish from the sugar and corn syrup.  For my personal taste, the brittle was a touch too peppery, so decrease the amounts stated above if you're sensitive to heat.  Either way, a wonderfully different little snack.


Sunday, January 16, 2011

Pasta with White Beans and Kale

You probably have nearly every ingredient called for in this easy pasta dish on hand - simply swap out a different leafy green, canned bean, or pasta shape, depending on what's in your pantry.  The dish is yummy and loaded with folic acid to boot.

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 minced garlic cloves
  • 10 cups chopped kale
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 and 1/2 cups uncooked whole wheat penne pasta
  • 1 tablespoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 cups rinsed and drained canned cannellini beans
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 cup crumbled vegan feta (such as Sunergia)
1. Cook the penne according to package directions; drain and set aside. You'll wind up with about 3 cups cooked pasta.

2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the garlic and saute for 1 minute.  Add the kale, the vegetable broth, the salt, and the black pepper; cover, reduce heat to medium, and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally - the kale should be wilted by the end.

2. Add the cooked pasta, the lemon juice, and the cannellini beans; cook for a final minute until the mixture is thoroughly heated.

3. Divide the pasta mixture evenly among 4 plates; sprinkle each serving with 1 tablespoon parsley and 1 tablespoon feta.

Nutrition Info:
4 servings (about 1 and 1/2 cups pasta mixture, 1 tablespoon parsley, 1 tablespoon feta), Calories 325

Tasting Notes:
Even better than I expected, with the creaminess of the white beans and the warm wilted kale.  The simple ingredients of this dish added up to a really wonderful whole.  Nothing decadent, but nothing to complain about either.  Definitely seek out the Sunergia vegan feta, since it added a wonderful saltiness.


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Curried Chicken and Chickpeas

This easy, Indian-flavored weeknight meal comes together in a hurry.  The original recipe called for chicken breast tenders, and I find that the closest vegan match is either the barbecue chicken wings or buffalo wings from Gardein, both sold in the freezer section (without the accompanying sauce).  Thaw 1 pound of the Gardein chicken in a microwave, and cut into 1-inch pieces, then follow the recipe instructions below.  Don't use commonly-available Sriracha for the hot chile sauce - it contains fish extract.  Instead, try to find the hot chile sauce from Thai Kitchen, which is certified vegan.

  • Cooking spray
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon bottled minced garlic
  • 1 pound Gardein chicken, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1 cup chopped plum tomato
  • 1 cup vegan chicken broth (prepared from Not Chick'n bouillon)
  • 1 teaspoon hot chile sauce (such as Thai Kitchen)
  • 1 (15.5-ounce) drained can chickpeas
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 3/4 cup uncooked couscous
  • 1 (9-ounce) package microwavable fresh spinach
  • 4 lemon wedges (optional for garnish)
1. Heat a large skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat.  Toss the thawed, chopped chicken with 1/2 teaspoon salt and the garlic.  Add the chicken mixture to the pan and saute for 3 minutes.  Stir in the curry powder and cook for 1 minute.  Add the plum tomato, the broth, the hot chile sauce, and the chickpeas; bring to a simmer, then cover and cook for 8 minutes.

2. While the chicken mixture cooks, place the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1 cup water, and the olive oil in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil; gradually stir in the couscous, then remove from heat, cover, and let stand for 5 minutes.  Fluff with a fork.

3. Meanwhile, pierce a few holes in the spinach bag.  Microwave for 2-3 minutes, until wilted.

4. Place 1 cup of the chicken mixture, 1/2 cup couscous, and 1/2 cup spinach on each of 4 plates.  Garnish each serving with a lemon wedge for a pretty presentation, if you like.

Nutrition Info:
4 servings (1 cup chicken mixture, 1/2 cup couscous, 1/2 cup spinach), Calories 436 

Tasting Notes:
So good!  Although this dish was way saltier than I normally cook, it gave it an authentic Indian-restaurant taste that was to die for.  If you are watching your sodium levels, decrease the salt, or omit it all together.  Either way, once the three components of this dish were mixed together on my plate, the result was delicious - the curry powder gave it the exact right amount of spice.


Sunday, January 9, 2011

Chicken and Wild Rice with Sausage

This one-pot entree makes a great meal on a busy night, since it requires little clean-up and comes together quickly.  I would have preferred to use faux smoked sausage, but the only version on the market that I know, from Lightlife, is vegetarian but not vegan.  Instead, I used their vegan breakfast sausage links.

  • Cooking spray
  • 3 Gardein Tuscan chicken breasts (without sauce)
  • 12 ounces Lightlife breakfast sausage
  • 4 cups (1/2-inch thick) sliced portobello mushroom caps
  • 2 cups chopped onion
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • 28 ounces vegan chicken broth (prepared from Not Chick'n bouillon)
  • 2 (6-ounce) packages fast-cooking long-grain and wild rice (such as Near East)
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions
  • 1 (14-ounce) drained can quartered artichoke hearts
  • 1 (2.25-ounce) can sliced black olives
1. Heat a Dutch oven coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat.  Cut the Gardein chicken into bite-sized pieces and add to the pan; saute for 4 minutes.  Remove from the pan and set aside.

2. Cut the sausage into 1/2-inch thick slices.  Recoat the pan with cooking spray, and add the sausage; saute for about 3-5 minutes, until browned.  Add the portobello mushrooms, the onion, and the garlic; saute for 3 minutes.  Add the broth and the rice (omitting the seasoning packets, which you can save for another use).  Bring to a boil, then cover, reduce heat, and simmer for about 20 minutes - all of the liquid should be absorbed by the end.

3. Return the chicken to the pan, along with the green onions, the artichokes, and the olives.  Cook for a final 3 minutes.

Nutrition Info:
8 servings (1 and 1/2 cups), Calories 340 

Tasting Notes:
I laughingly described this as rice pilaf on steroids - the creaminess and flavor I love of a regular rice pilaf, but with hearty pieces of chicken, sausage, artichoke or olive waiting in each bite.  The dish was incredibly filling, and leftovers made a quick and easy lunch. Serve with a simple tossed salad - I had romaine lettuce with cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, sprouts, and Organicville's Dijon vinaigrette - and you've got yourself a hearty weeknight meal.


Saturday, January 8, 2011

Apple "Fritters"

These charming little rolls are fun to put out as part of a buffet spread - I included warm artichoke and mushroom spread, along with crackers and a plateful of these "fritters."  Then just add cocktails, or, for a fun non-alcoholic beverage, root beer is a really nice compliment to the cinnamon/apple flavor of the fritters (try the ginger root beer from Zevia, which uses stevia instead of sugar, and is therefore vegan).  Unlike traditional fritters, these rolls are never actually fried, hence the quotation marks around the title.

For the filling:
  • 1 tablespoon vegan butter
  • 3 cups peeled and diced Granny Smith apple
  • 1/2 cup apple juice
  • 2 tablespoons vegan sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
For the dough:
  • 2 packages dry yeast (about 4 and 1/2 teaspoons)
  • 1 cup warm non-dairy milk (between 100 and 110 degrees)
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour, divided
  • 2/3 cup vegan sugar
  • 3 tablespoons melted vegan butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 Ener-G eggs
  • Cooking spray
For the glaze:
  • 1 cup vegan powdered sugar
  • 4 teaspoons melted vegan butter
  • 1 tablespoon apple juice
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1. To make the filling, melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the apple, and saute for 3 minutes.  Add 1/2 cup apple juice, 2 tablespoons sugar, and 1 teaspoon cinnamon; reduce the heat and cook until the liquid is almost all absorbed - anywhere from 3-8 minutes, depending how fast your liquid evaporates off.  Remove from the burner and cool.

2. To make the dough, dissolve the yeast in the warm milk; let stand for 5 minutes until very foamy.  Lightly spoon the flour into dry measuring cups and level with a knife.  Add 3 and 1/2 cups flour, 2/3 cup sugar, 3 tablespoons melted butter, the salt, and the Ener-G eggs to the yeast mixture, stirring until smooth.  Add an additional 1 cup flour and stir until a dough forms.

3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes, adding enough of the remaining flour 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent the dough from sticking to your hands.  For a quick kneading reminder, see this link:

4. Place the dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning so the top of the dough is coated as well.  Cover and let rise for 1 and 1/2 hours - it should be doubled in size by the end.  As always, my favorite place to let dough rise is an unheated, closed oven where it will be warm and free from drafts.

5. Punch the dough down and let it rest for 5 minutes, then divide into 24 equal portions.  Working with one portion at a time, roll into a 3-inch circle on a lightly floured surface.  Spoon a little less than a tablespoon of the apple filling into the center of the circle, and gather up the dough to form a ball over the filling, pinching the seam to seal.  Place, seam side down, in a muffin cup coated with cooking spray.  Repeat the procedure with the remaining dough and filling, making sure to keep the dough you're not currently working with covered, to prevent it from drying.  Cover and let the rolls rise for 40 minutes.

Note: you'll have a little leftover apple filling, after rolling up all the dough.  The leftovers are delicious stirred into a bowl of hot oatmeal for breakfast.

6. Bake at 400 degrees until lightly browned.  Be sure to watch carefully while the fritters cook; the original recipe I was following said bake-time would be 20 minutes, but I burned my first batch, following those instructions.  Instead, my fritters were perfect at about the 9 minute mark.  Remove them from the pan and cool on a wire rack.

7. Once the fritters have cooled, prepare the glaze: combine the powdered sugar, 4 teaspoons melted butter, 1 tablespoon apple juice, and 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon in a bowl; drizzle over the rolls.  I actually found it easier to "frost" the rolls more like cupcakes, since the glaze was thick and hard to drizzle evenly.

This recipe probably concludes my bread-making ventures, at least for a little while, and I intend to return to proper dinner recipes in the week ahead - stay tuned!

Nutrition Info:
24 servings (1 roll), Calories 191

Tasting Notes:
It was a hard to wrap my taste buds around these little morsels - at first bite, I felt that it was too bread-y, and thought the apple filling might have been more at home inside a sweet muffin batter.  On second bite, the apple filling and the apple glaze combined in a burst, and I liked it just the way it was.  Overall, quite yummy, and my only disappointment stems from places where the original recipe seemed wrong (the amount of time it would take for the liquid to evaporate in the filling, the bake time required, the amount of powdered sugar needed in the glaze etc.).  Next time I might also use a sweeter apple like Braeburn or Pink Lady.  Luckily, using a little bit of improvisation, I got a darn tasty little product, midway between a bread roll and a dessert - and leftovers will surely be breakfast in the week to come.


Thursday, January 6, 2011

Pennsylvania Dutch Tea Rolls

These tasty rolls were a deliciously fun baking project - they will take a whole morning or afternoon, although most of that time is inactive rising time, when you can get other things done around the house.  To measure the flour accurately, spoon into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife. Try the rolls alongside Gardein's chick'n scallopini for a simple weeknight dinner, or serve them as the Pennsylvania Dutch historically did - at tea time with a smear of jam.

  • 5 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1 and 1/3 cups warm non-dairy milk (between 100 and 110 degrees)
  • 1 package yeast (about 2 and 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 1/2 cup vegan sugar
  • 1/4 cup melted and cooled vegan butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Ener-G egg
  • Cooking spray
  • 3 tablespoons plain non-dairy milk
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons poppy seeds
1. To start, combine 2 cups flour, the warm milk, and the yeast in a large bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap and let stand for 1 and 1/2 hours - doing so forms a 'sponge' that adds a depth of flavor to the final product.  Your mixture will be very bubbly and should almost have tripled in size by the end of the hour and a half.

2. Add 3 cups additional flour, the sugar, the butter, the salt, and the Ener-G egg to the yeast mixture, and stir for about 3 minutes with a wooden spoon, until the mixture is well combined.  Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 8 minutes.  You can add as much of the remaining 1/4 cup flour as you need, a tablespoon at a time, to prevent the dough from sticking to your hands, but I found that I needed only a pinch of extra flour.  For quick kneading instructions, see this link:

3. Place the dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, and turn so the top of the dough is coated as well.  Cover and let rise for 1 and 1/2 hours - an unheated oven is warm and free from drafts...ideal rising conditions.

4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface; lightly dust with additional flour, and pat into a 10x8-inch rectangle.  Make 3 lengthwise cuts and 4 crosswise cuts in the dough, so you have 20 equal pieces.  Shape each piece into a ball, and place them at even intervals in a 13x9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.  Lightly coat the tops of the dough with cooking spray, then cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 1 hour.

5. Brush 3 tablespoons milk evenly over the tops of the rolls; sprinkle evenly with the poppy seeds.  Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes - they should be browned on top by the end.  Cool the rolls in the pan for 5 minutes, at which point you can serve them warm or cool completely on a wire rack.  I found it helpful to use a knife to gently pry them apart from one another, since the edges of the rolls fuse as they puff up during baking. 

Nutrition Info:
20 servings (1 roll), Calories 173 

Tasting Notes:
This may sound odd, but the rolls tasted like they were right out of a grocery store package - in the best way.  That is to say, perfect hints of sugar and butter in each bite, a decadently soft and chewy interior, and a delicious taste that I wouldn't have believed I was able to produce at home if I hadn't, well, just made them myself.  The texture was maybe only the slightest bit too tough, because I think I overworked the dough while separating it into 20 equal portions, but it didn't detract from how great the rolls were overall.  It's not often that a bread recipe earns a rating so high in my kitchen!


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Warm Spinach Salad with Mushroom Vinaigrette

Because it's warm, this salad makes a great light supper in cold months, alongside a bowl of soup and some meaty olives or dinner rolls.  Tonight I had my salad with the chunky vegetable soup from Amy's.  I had a great time experimenting with trompe l'oeil hard-boiled eggs, and I'll have more details on how to go about that below

  • 6 cups fresh spinach
  • 1 and 1/2 cups torn radicchio
  • 2 tablespoons (1/2-inch) sliced green onions
  • 8 ounces shiitake mushrooms
  • 1/2 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • 3 and 1/2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 trompe l'oeil hard-boiled eggs*
1. Combine the spinach, radicchio, and green onion slices in a large bowl; set aside.

2. Remove the stems from the shiitake mushroom; discard the stems and reserve the caps.  Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the shiitake caps and saute for 5 minutes.  Reduce the heat to medium, then add the sage, thyme, and garlic; saute for 3 minutes.

Note: if you prefer, you can use 1 teaspoon dried rubbed sage and 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme here, in place of the fresh herbs.

3. Stir in the sherry vinegar, salt, and pepper, and bring the mixture to a boil.  Once boiling, remove from heat.

4. Pour the hot mushroom mixture over the spinach mixture, and toss well to coat.  Drizzle with the balsamic vinegar.  Place about 1 cup of salad on each of 4 plates, and top each serving with 2 pieces of trompe l'oeil egg.  Serve this salad while it's still warm, as per the title of the recipe! 

*To make hard-boiled eggs, lite firm tofu works well for the egg white.  I simply cut it into slices about as big as a hard-boiled egg quarter, and round the edges slightly (a very small spoon like an espresso spoon works well for this purpose).  Cut out a similar indent in the center of the tofu, where the yolk would go.  For the yolk, bring 1/4 cup water to a boil in a saucepan.  Add 1 tablespoon yellow cornmeal, and cook for about 1 minute, stirring constantly with a whisk.  Let the mixture cool (it will continue to thicken as it cools).  Stir with a fork, and add 1/8 teaspoon ground turmeric for a little more vivid color, then carefully dab some of this 'yolk' into the indented space in each of your tofu pieces.  You'll probably have some leftover cornmeal mixture, since this recipe only called for 8 hard-boiled egg quarters, and you don't want to add too much to each tofu piece.  Voila! Hard-boiled eggs.

Nutrition Info:
4 servings (1 cup salad and 2 tofu egg pieces), Calories 105 

Tasting Notes:
A touch too vinegary for my taste.  The radicchio held its own against the vinegar better than the spinach, so I might recommend increasing the amount of the former and decreasing the amount of the latter, to even out the taste.  The mushroom topping was delicious, however, and my little hard-boiled eggs purely fun.


Sunday, January 2, 2011

Tempeh and Wild Mushroom Fricassee

Literally meaning "to mince and cook in sauce," a fricassee is any hearty stew in which the ingredient cooks in its own juice.  This vegan version relies on mushrooms and tempeh instead of meat.  It's a deliciously warming meal for a winter night.

  • Cooking spray
  • 12 ounces tempeh
  • 1/4 cup vegan dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 4 cups thinly sliced leek*
  • 2 cups sliced button mushrooms
  • 2 cups sliced cremini mushrooms
  • 2 cups chopped shiitake mushroom caps
  • 2 (4-inch) chopped portobello mushroom caps, gills removed**
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup celery leaves***
  • 2 thyme sprigs
  • 1 parsley sprig
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced garlic
  • 1 and 3/4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon rind (optional for garnish)
1. Heat a Dutch oven coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat.  Cut the tempeh into 1/2-inch cubes.  Add to the pan and saute for 8 minutes - it should be golden brown on all sides by the end.  Add the white wine and the soy sauce and cook for 15 seconds, until the liquid is nearly evaporated.  Remove the tempeh from the pan.

2. Add the leeks and all of the mushroom varieties; saute for 5 minutes.  Stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute, stirring frequently.  Tie together the celery leaves, the thyme sprigs, and the parsley sprig with string, and add to the pot, along with the garlic and the vegetable broth.  Bring to a boil, then return the tempeh to the pan.  Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 15 minutes.

3. Uncover and cook a final 3 minutes until the stew is thickened.  Discard the herbs, and stir in the lemon juice, salt, and black pepper.  Sprinkle the stew with the chopped parsley.  Ladle 1 cup of stew into each of 6 bowls, and garnish each bowl with about 1/2 teaspoon lemon rind, if desired.

*Leeks are a tough veggie to clean thoroughly, since dirt gets in between all the layers.  The easiest method is to slice the leeks first, then place the slices in a colander and rinse with water, as shown. 

**Simply use a spoon to scrape the gills from the underside of the portobello mushrooms with ease.

*** You only need the celery leaves for this recipe, not any celery itself, but you'll most likely have to purchase a full stalk of celery anyway to get the leaves.  Save the celery hearts for appetizers stuffed with Tofutti cream cheese or peanut butter, or to chop up for salads. 

Nutrition Info:
6 servings (1 cup), Calories 317

Tasting Notes:
Wonderfully earthy and hearty, both from the tempeh and the mushrooms.  I highly recommend the lemon rind garnish, since the pop of lemon flavor was delicious.  I had worried, in reading the ingredient list, that the garlic taste would be overwhelming, but it was surprisingly mellow and subtle.  All in all, quite delicious.


Saturday, January 1, 2011

Tomato and Eggplant Focaccia

Happy 2011 to everyone!  I always love to have a quiet, relaxing first day to the new year, doing warm, cozy things after a night of celebration.  One of my favorites?  Bread baking, and this focaccia felt like the perfect way to kick off the year.  Because of the topping, it actually felt more like a cross between a focaccia and a pizza.  Serve a few wedges with a big entree salad and a glass of (vegan) Italian red wine for a delicious meal.

For the dough:
  • 1 package dry yeast (2 and 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 1 and 1/3 cups warm water (between 100 and 110 degrees)
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Cooking spray
For the tapenade:
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 minced garlic clove
  • 1 cup finely chopped and peeled eggplant
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 2 teaspoons capers
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 16 pitted and chopped kalamata olives
  • 5 thinly sliced plum tomatoes (about 1 pound total)
1. To make the dough, dissolve the yeast in the warm water in a large bowl.  Lightly spoon the flour into dry measuring cups and level with a knife.  Add 3 and 1/2 cups of the flour, 3 tablespoons basil, 1 tablespoon olive oil, and 1 teaspoon salt to the yeast mixture, stirring to form a dough.

2. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes - it should be smooth and elastic by the end.  For quick tips on how to knead your dough, see this link:

You can add enough of the remaining flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking to your hands, and it may also be useful to coat your hands with cooking spray as you work.  I found this dough to be wonderfully workable, however, and needed very little extra flour.

3. Place the dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning so the top is coated in cooking spray, as well.  Cover and let rise for 1 hour - a great spot for rising is an unheated oven, which will be warm and free from drafts.  The dough should be doubled in size by the end.  Punch down and let the dough rest for 5 minutes, then divide in half.  Working with 1 portion at a time, roll each into a 10-inch circle on a baking sheet.  Cover and let rise for 30 minutes.

4. To make the tapenade, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium-low heat.  Add the minced garlic and saute for 30 seconds.  Add the eggplant; cook for 8 minutes, until tender.  Place the eggplant mixture in a food processor, along with 1 tablespoon olive oil, 2 tablespoons basil, the capers, 1/8 teaspoon salt, the black pepper, and the kalamata olives.  Pulse for 1 minute, scraping down the sides of the food processor with a spatula about half way through.

5. Spread 1/4 cup of the tapenade over each focaccia.  Divide the tomato slices evenly over the tapenade on each focaccia, then top evenly with any remaining tapenade.  Bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes - the crust should be nicely golden brown by the end.

Nutrition Info:
2 focaccia, 8 servings per focaccia (1 wedge), Calories 149

Tasting Notes:
Yummy, but I would make a few changes to this recipe; first, the tomato slices made the top of the focaccia a tad soggy, so I would recommend draining the slices on several layers of paper towels before arranging on the dough.  I also felt that there was a little too much tomato and not quite enough tapenade, and would play around with the ratios to bring forward the flavor of the eggplant a bit more.  That said, the focaccia bread came out great - a crisp bottom crust, and a soft interior.