Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Golden Vanilla Syrup

Make this lovely golden sauce in place of standard maple syrup.  Try it over pancakes, of course, or drizzle over your favorite vegan ice cream or a slice of cake.  The syrup would make a beautiful hostess gift; package with a bag of your favorite (vegan) pancake mix, or with a hand written note for a pancake recipe.  If you need an idea, check out the Whole Wheat Buttermilk Pancakes on this blog.

  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 2 cups vegan sugar
  • 1 and 1/2 cups water
  • 1/3 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice*
  • 1 tablespoon vegan brown sugar
1. Combine all ingredients except the vanilla bean in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves as the mixture heats up.  Once boiling, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.

2. Cut the vanilla bean in half lengthwise, and scrape out the seeds with a knife.  Add the seeds and the vanilla bean to the sugar mixture, stirring gently.  Cool to room temperature.

3. Transfer the syrup (and the vanilla bean) to a glass container.  Cover and chill.  The syrup will last up to 1 month in the fridge.

Here are just a couple of ways to try it: drizzled over vegan vanilla ice cream, which made the ice cream taste more like lemon gelato:

And over pancakes, where it was a lighter, subtler alternative to maple syrup, but perhaps not quite as indulgent:

*Strain the lemon juice through a fine-mesh sieve after you squeeze out your lemons, to get rid of any pulp and keep the syrup perfectly smooth.

Nutrition Info:
18 servings (2 tablespoons), Calories 89 

Tasting Notes:
I found the lemon flavor to be a bit overwhelming, and would decrease the amount of lemon juice next time.  And although it might sound sacrilegious in a recipe that relies on a beautiful whole vanilla bean, I would sneak in a little vanilla extract to enhance the vanilla flavor.  The syrup was not, therefore, quite what I was expecting, although still yummy.

Update: this syrup gets better with time.  After about a week, the lemon juice mellowed, and the vanilla flavor soared, at which point I enjoyed it more over pancakes and also slices of Amy's orange cake (available in the freezer section of the grocery store).  Another enjoyable use for the syrup - because of the bright lemon taste - is as a sweetener in iced tea. 


Sunday, January 29, 2012

Cheesy Brunch Casserole

This hearty dish is perfect for a weekend brunch (consider serving with my Wasabi Bloody Marys).  I pondered the best way to make up the 8 eggs called for in the original recipe, and decided to puree silken tofu with cornstarch (for thickening) and turmeric (for color) - a super-basic version of a vegan omelet, in other words.  Play around with combinations of tofu or other egg replacers, if you prefer - and I'd love to hear the results - but my method tonight worked great. 

  • 4 (4-ounce) Tofurky Italian sausages
  • 5 cups herb-seasoned stuffing mix (such as Arrowhead Mills)
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/2 cup vegan chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons melted vegan butter
  • 1 and 1/2 cups shredded Daiya cheddar
  • 1 pound lite silken tofu
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric (for color)
  • 2 cups plain non-dairy milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1.  Crumble the sausage into small pieces and cook in a large skillet over medium-high heat, until browned - about 5 minutes.  Transfer the sausage to a bowl and add the stuffing mix.

2. Transfer the sausage mixture to a 13x9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.  Drizzle with the broth and melted butter, and sprinkle with the cheddar.

3.Combine the silken tofu in a blender with the cornstarch and turmeric; process until smooth.  Combine the tofu mixture in a large bowl with the milk, onion powder, and black pepper; pour the tofu mixture over the sausage mixture.

4. Bake at 325 degrees for 40 minutes - the mixture should be set.  Let stand for 5 minutes before cutting into 9 squares.

Nutrition Info:
9 servings (1 portion), Calories 298 

Tasting Notes:
This casserole is just awesome: savory sausage, cheese-y Daiya, herb-y stuffing, and an egg-y tofu mixture.  A perfect and hearty blend of ingredients, for which I would not change a thing.  The top of the casserole had a nice crisp crunch, and the inside was tender and moist without being soggy.  


Saturday, January 28, 2012

Wasabi Bloody Marys

Bloody marys are pretty much the perfect brunch cocktail, between the savory tomato juice and the kick from spice and vodka.  This version takes it a notch further by using wasabi paste instead of standard horseradish.  Alas, I often refrain from ordering this yummy drink when out for brunch because most bloody mary mixes include Worcestershire sauce (which contains anchovies).  Fret not: it's easy to whip up a vegan batch at home with one of the vegan Worcestershire sauces on the market.  Since the mixture needs to chill, consider making it the night before so it's ready to serve when you wake up for a leisurely weekend morning.

  • 1/2 cup fresh-squeezed lime juice
  • 4 and 1/2 teaspoons prepared wasabi paste*
  • 6 cups low-sodium vegetable juice (such as R.W. Knudsen)
  • 3 tablespoons Annie's Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 and 1/4 teaspoons hot pepper sauce**
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 and 1/2 cups vodka
1. Whisk together the lime juice and wasabi paste in a bowl, until the wasabi dissolves.

2. Combine the wasabi mixture in a large bowl or pitcher with the vegetable juice, Worcestershire sauce, hot pepper sauce, and salt.  Chill thoroughly.

3. Stir in the vodka just before serving, and serve over ice.

Instead of standard celery, consider garnishing with pickled asparagus, pickled green beans, or even pickled okra.  I particularly love the "smokra" from Rick's Picks

*My favorite brand of wasabi paste is Roland, which is colored without any artificial dyes.  Use leftovers with vegan sushi, or in the Sushi-Rice Salad from this blog.

**I recommend a fiery hot pepper sauce for this recipe, such as Busha Browne's.

Nutrition Info:
8 servings (about 1 cup), Calories 166

Tasting Notes:
A kick indeed.  The wasabi gave just the right zip without being too overpowering, and I thought the rest of the bloody mary was the best version I've tried, whether at home or at a restaurant.  The perfect tingle on the tongue from tomato juice, vodka, and the heat of the pepper sauce.


Friday, January 27, 2012

Chicken, Sausage, and Rice Soup

I am finally home after two weeks away on business; apologies for my longest lull yet in posting.  Boy was I ready for home-made food, after many nights eating out of the microwave in a hotel.  But I also wanted something quick, since it's been a long day of travel.

Whether you want a quick meal for the same reason, or just any night after a long day, try this quick soup, easily made vegan with Tofurky sausage and Gardein chicken.  Use Gardein's chick'n filets, sold refrigerated, which are thinner than the company's chicken breasts.

  • 1 (4-ounce) Tofurky Italian sausage 
  • 2 Gardein chick'n filets
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 and 1/2 cups frozen chopped onion
  • 2 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 1/3 cup chopped celery
  • 1/3 cup chopped carrot
  • 28 ounces vegan chicken broth (prepared from Not Chick'n bouillon)
  • 1 (3.5-ounce) bag boil-in-bag brown rice
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley 
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1. Break the sausage apart into crumbles and cut the chicken into 1/2-inch pieces.  Cook in a large saucepan coated with cooking spray over high heat for 2 minutes.  Add the onion and thyme; cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

2. Add the celery, carrots, and broth; bring to a boil.  Remove the rice from the bag, and add to the broth mixture.  Cover, reduce heat to medium, and cook for 7 minutes.  Discard the thyme sprigs; stir in the parsley, salt, and black pepper.

Add warm bread or hearty crackers on the side to round out the meal, and you're good to go.

4 servings (1 and 1/2 cups), Calories 245 

Tasting Notes:
A flavorful soup, especially from the thyme which infused into the broth.  I loved the spicy hints from the sausage.  For something that came together so quickly, this tasted like a long-simmered soup that had been on the stove for hours.  Definitely my new go-to "un-chicken" soup, as they say.  I highly recommend a hearty loaf of bread on the side, both for dunking in the soup as you eat and for sopping up the last bits of broth from the bowl.


Saturday, January 14, 2012

Shrimp and Tomatoes with Cheese Grits

The options for vegan seafood keep expanding, and one of my favorites is faux shrimp.  Try the shrimp from Vegetarian Plus to make this traditional southern dish vegan with ease.

  • Cooking spray
  • 1 cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 24 ounces Vegetarian Plus shrimp, thawed
  • 1 and 1/2 cups chopped plum tomato
  • 1/2 cup sliced green onions
  • 1 and 1/2 cups plain non-dairy milk
  • 1 and 3/4 cups vegan chicken broth (prepared from Not Chick'n bouillon)
  • 1 cup uncooked quick-cooking grits
  • 1 cup shredded Daiya cheddar 
  • 1 tablespoon Annie's Worcestershire sauce
1. Heat a large skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat.  Add the bell pepper and shrimp; saute for 7 minutes.  Add the plum tomato and green onions; cook for an additional 3 minutes, stirring frequently.

2. Meanwhile, combine the milk and chicken broth in a saucepan, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Gradually add the grits.  Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally - the grits should be thick by the end.  Stir in the cheddar and Worcestershire sauce, stirring until the cheddar melts.

3. Spoon 2/3 cup grits onto each of 6 plates, and top each serving with 2/3 cup shrimp mixture.

Nutrition Info:
6 servings (2/3 cup shrimp mixture, 2/3 cup grits), Calories 329

Tasting Notes:
The grits were absolutely fabulous, and creamy from the Daiya cheddar.  From now on I will consider Annie's Worcestershire sauce my secret grits ingredient.  The shrimp topping was nice, but unfortunately didn't quite rise to the level of the grits.  I would swap out the green bell pepper for okra (as a personal preference) and definitely add spices.  I think stewed tomatoes would be better than chopped plum tomatoes.  But as you can see, the grits were so delicious they kept up my overall rating of the dish.


As a side note, this will be my last post for a couple of weeks - I'll be away from home (and my kitchen) on business, but please check back towards the end of the month.  I have many more vegan recipes to come.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Strawberry Yogurt Scones

About two months ago, I made seasonal scones with cranberries, and loved having them for breakfast in the week that followed.  Craving more scones, I decided to make this sweet strawberry version.  Okay, this time strawberries aren't quite in season, but the scones are a wonderful pick-me-up on a cold windy day.

  • 1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup vegan sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup diced strawberries
  • 2/3 cup strawberry non-dairy yogurt (such as Whole Soy)
  • 3 tablespoons melted vegan butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated orange rind
  • 1 Ener-G egg
  • Cooking spray
  • 2 teaspoons vegan sugar
1. Lightly spoon both flours into dry measuring cups and level with a knife.  Combine the flours in a bowl with 1/2 cup sugar, the baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

2. In a second bowl, combine the strawberries, strawberry yogurt, butter, orange rind, and Ener-G egg.  Add the strawberry mixture to the flour mixture, and stir just until moist.

Note: make sure to dice the strawberries quite small, or they will be hard to incorporate into the dough.

3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead lightly about 4 times; use floured hands, because scone dough is wet and sticky.  Transfer the dough to a baking sheet coated with cooking spray, and pat into an 8-inch circle.  Cut into 12 wedges with a knife, scoring into but not all the way through the dough.  Sprinkle with the remaining 2 teaspoons sugar.

4. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, until lightly browned.

These scones are best served fresh from the oven, with a mug of tea.

Nutrition Info:
12 servings (1 scone), Calories 152 

Tasting Notes:
Consider these scones the culinary equivalent of a strawberry patch.  A double-dose of strawberry from the fresh diced fruit and the yogurt in the batter.  The scones had a healthy flavor from the whole wheat flour, and although only lightly sweet on the inside, the crunch of sugar on top was perfect; I'd use a coarse grain sugar like turbinado next time for more crunch.  Perfect with a cup of chai tea.


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Persimmon and Fennel Salad

Following on the heels of my Arugula, Fennel, and Cheese Salad, here's another salad that stands up to winter weather.  Available in the winter months, persimmons come in two varieties - astringent (hachiya) and non-astringent (fuyu).  You'll definitely want the fuyu for this salad.  Choose fruit that is firm and ripe - a soft and mushy fuyu is one that has gone bad, and a persimmon that is not yet ripe will make you pucker after the first bite.

  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons vegan sugar
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 cups thinly sliced fennel bulb
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
  • 4 fuyu persimmons, each peeled and cut into 6 wedges*
  • 1 ounce prepared vegan goat cheese**
1. Combine the shallots, red wine vinegar, sugar, olive oil, salt, and black pepper in a large bowl, whisking to combine.  Add the fennel, chives, and persimmons, and toss gently to coat.

2. Divide the fennel mixture evenly among 4 salad plates.  Crumble the prepared goat cheese evenly over each serving.

*The easiest way to peel the persimmon is to cut the fruit into wedges, then remove the fruit from each wedge with a paring knife.  I was happy to find that the fruit tears out easily - almost as if along an invisible line - without having to force it.

**My favorite recipe for a vegan version of spreadable goat cheese is as follows: in a small bowl, combine 1 ounce crumbled VegCuisine (formerly Sunergia) feta, 1 and 1/2 teaspoons Vegan Gourmet sour cream, 1 and 1/2 teaspoons Tofutti cream cheese, and a splash of lemon juice.  Combine with a fork until well blended.  Chill until ready to use.

Nutrition Info:
4 servings (1 portion), Calories 103 

Tasting Notes:
Exquisite! is the word that comes to mind.  This is quite simply my new favorite salad - and believe it or not, I'm not usually a fennel lover.  The persimmon was delectable - think of a cross between a non-fuzzy peach and honeydew melon, and that's a little what it tastes like.  What made the dressing so good?  I'm not even sure.  I've had dozens of vinaigrettes like this in my life, but somehow this just worked.  The fennel was sliced super thin and delicate, and the goat cheese was just a creamy burst to top it all off.  Pair with something savory and salty for a nice contrast, like Gardein chicken or Match pork.


Monday, January 9, 2012

Wheat Berry, Black Bean, and Vegetable Stew

Hearty, one-pot dishes are pretty much the perfect meal; packed with grains and veggies, and piping hot off the stove, I can think of no better meal to keep your immune system strong all winter.  This particular dish has superstars like wheat berries, black soy beans, and cremini mushrooms.  For other one-pot entree ideas, see my posts for Tempeh and Wild Mushroom Fricassee or Asian Root Vegetable Stew. 

  • 1 cup uncooked wheat berries
  • 2 cups hot water
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 4 cups sliced cremini mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup sliced celery
  • 1/2 cup sliced carrot
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 cups chopped Savoy cabbage*
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) undrained and chopped can whole tomatoes**
  • 1 (15-ounce) drained can black soy beans***
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1. Combine the wheat berries and 2 cups hot water in a bowl; let stand for 1 hour.  Drain through a sieve over a bowl, and reserve 1 and 1/2 cups of the soaking liquid; set aside.

2. Combine the wheat berries in a Dutch oven with 4 cups water and the sea salt. Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes; remove the wheat berry mixture from the pan and set aside.

Note: I found this step to be, quite simply, annoying.  It is very hard to remove the hot water and all those tiny grains of wheat berries to another bowl - as evinced by the rogue wheat berries still in the pan while I sauteed the onions in the next step - in particular because my Le Creuset Dutch oven is heavy and hard to upend over another bowl.  Although I know it defeats the purpose of a "one pot meal," next time I would simmer the wheat berries in a separate pan, and add to the stew as directed below.

Behold the rogue wheat berries:

3. After removing the wheat berry mixture, heat the olive oil in the pan over medium-high heat.  Add the onion; saute for 5 minutes.  Add the cremini mushrooms, celery, carrot, and rosemary; saute for 5 minutes.

4. Return the wheat berry mixture to the pan, along with the reserved soaking liquid.  Bring to a boil.  Stir in the cabbage and black pepper. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 20 minutes, lifting the lid to stir occasionally.

5. Add the canned tomatoes; simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the soy beans; return to a boil.  Cook for a final 10 minutes, until the mixture thickens.  Stir in the parsley at the end.

A quick side note, since I'm cooking with wheat berries tonight: I'm often asked if I'm gluten-free as well as vegan, an odd pairing in my mind because, quite simply - there are no animals in gluten.  So the very easy answer is a resounding no - I am gluten-friendly, you could say.  And a good thing too, because I love wheat berries (the hard grain of the wheat plant).  If you are gluten-free for true allergy reasons, however, you could probably try this stew with a gluten-free grain such as millet.  

*Don't forget that Savoy cabbage is the head with curly green leaves, in contrast to the smooth leaves of green cabbage; it has a slightly more mellow flavor and works well in this stew.

**I'm always perplexed when a recipe asks me to leave a can of whole tomatoes undrained, and yet chop them.  To achieve this paradox, I add the undrained can to the stew, and break the tomatoes apart into smaller pieces directly in the pot.  Because of the 1 teaspoon sea salt called for in this recipe, I recommend canned tomatoes that have no salt added, such as Bionaturae.

***As with the canned tomatoes, look for no-salt-added canned beans to keep down the sodium levels in this dish.  Eden Foods is one great option, and a brand I recommend in general since the lining in their cans is BPA-free.  If you can't find canned black soy beans, substitute canned regular black beans or even frozen shelled edamame in a pinch.

Nutrition Info:
4 servings (1 and 1/2 cups), Calories 333 

Tasting Notes:
Incredibly earthy.  I loved the slightly-chewy texture of the wheat berries, and the savory tomato flavor, which came through strongest of all the ingredients.  Although the other veggies were quite yummy, the soup was a touch bland.  I am definitely thinking cumin next time, and perhaps other spices as well.  


Sunday, January 8, 2012

Asian Root Vegetable Stew

After several posts for breads and desserts, it felt like time to make something super healthy.  This stew is loaded with tofu and veggies. 

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 2 cups chopped onion
  • 2 (1-pound) packages extra-firm tofu
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 cup (1-inch) peeled and cubed daikon radish
  • 1 cup (1-inch thick) sliced parsnip
  • 1 cup (1-inch) peeled and cubed rutabaga
  • 1 cup (1-inch thick) sliced carrot
  • 1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons mirin
  • 6 dried shiitake mushrooms (about 1/3 ounce)
  • 1 (3-inch) piece kombu seaweed*
  • 6 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons dark sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onions
1. Heat the canola oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add the onion; cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Drain the tofu and cut into 1-inch cubes.  Add to the pan and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

2. Add 6 cups water, the daikon radish, parsnip, rutabaga, carrot, soy sauce, mirin, shiitake mushrooms, and kombu.  Bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 35 minutes.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together 6 tablespoons water with the cornstarch.  Add the cornstarch mixture to the stew and return to a boil.  Cook for a final 2 minutes, stirring constantly.  Discard the kombu.

4. Stir in the sesame oil, and sprinkle with the green onions.  Ladle the soup into bowls, or serve directly over hot cooked rice.

*If you can't find kombu, substitute 1/4 teaspoon salt to impart sea-salty flavor into the broth.  But don't forget that seaweed is a wonderfully nutritious food to keep around in your pantry, whether for this stew or in general; it's loaded with Vitamins A, E, C, and iodine, to name a few. 

Nutrition Info:
5 servings (about 2 and 1/3 cups), Calories 276

Tasting Notes:
Every little bit of root veggie in this soup was delicious - especially the rutabaga, one of my personal favorites.  I was surprised to find the broth a touch bland, and might go ahead and add a pinch of salt alongside the kombu.  That said, this stew is a super bowl of winter comfort; one bite and I felt like it could cure just about any winter ills.  The tofu was a touch disappointing - very soft and spongy after all that time simmering.  I would saute it in a skillet so that it was crispy on all sides, and add to the stew just before serving.  I would also use half as much tofu and make up the difference with more shiitakes.  I enjoyed the stew both by itself and over rice - the former perfect for lunch, the latter making it a full dinner.


Saturday, January 7, 2012

Chocolate Pound Cake with Chocolate-Pistachio Glaze

As followers of this blog may remember, winter is when I crave chocolate, a perfect pick-me-up to get us through these days with very little sunshine.  This decadent cake features a double chocolate dose: in the cake batter itself, and in the glaze on top.  For more yummy chocolate ideas, see my posts from last winter for Chocolate Bundt Cake, Rich Chocolate Sauce, or Cocoa Fudge Cookies.

For the cake:
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 and 1/4 cups vegan sugar
  • 3/4 cup vegan butter
  • 3 Ener-G eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 and 1/4 cups plain non-dairy milk
  • Cooking spray
For the glaze:
  • 3/4 cup vegan powdered sugar*
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 tablespoons plain non-dairy milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons chopped pistachios
1. Lightly spoon the flour into dry measuring cups and level with a knife.  Combine the flour in a bowl with 1/2 cup cocoa, the baking powder, and salt.  Set aside.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the sugar and butter; beat at medium speed for several minutes until well blended.  Add the Ener-G eggs and beat until blended.  Beat in 2 teaspoons vanilla extract.  Add the flour mixture and 1 and 1/4 cups milk alternately to the sugar mixture, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.

3. Spoon the batter into a 12-cup Bundt pan coated with cooking spray, and bake at 325 degrees for 40 to 60 minutes; a wooden pick inserted in the cake should come out clean.  Cool the cake in the pan for 10 minutes on a wire rack; remove from the pan and cool completely on a wire rack.

4. To prepare the glaze, combine the powdered sugar and 3 tablespoons cocoa in a bowl.  Add 2 tablespoons milk and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, whisking until smooth.  Drizzle over the cooled cake.  Sprinkle with the pistachios.

Serve this cake for dessert, or make it part of a winter tea time, alongside mini tea sandwiches - I loved a simple filling of chopped marinated artichoke hearts stirred into Tofutti cream cheese. 

*For the smoothest glaze, sift the powdered sugar before whisking together with the remaining ingredients.

Nutrition Info:
18 servings (1 slice), Calories 290 

Tasting Notes:
A great double chocolate dose, with subtle chocolate flavor in the batter, and a glaze that tasted more like chocolate cake frosting - yum. The cake was yummy but dense - I might play around with ingredients next time to aim for a lighter, fluffier interior (although perhaps then it wouldn't be pound cake).  I also think the pistachios were underutilized with a mere sprinkle on top.  Consider grinding in a food processor and making part of the glaze itself, or chopping very finely and stirring into the batter.  These are minor quibbles, because the taste of this cake was fantastic.


Friday, January 6, 2012

Broccolini with Pepper Dressing

Broccolini is a fun vegetable to include in your repertoire - sort of like broccoli, sort of like asparagus, broccolini is more mild and tender than both, with a long, edible stalk.  In fact, every bit of broccolini is edible, including any small yellow flower buds you might see. 

  • 1/3 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
  • 1 tablespoon vegan sugar
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh-squeezed lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons minced and peeled fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon canola oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 pound broccolini
1. Combine all the ingredients except the broccolini in a bowl.

2. Meanwhile, trim about an inch or so off the ends of the broccolini.  Steam, covered, for 5 minutes.  Drain.

3. Spoon the bell pepper dressing over the broccolini.  This side dish could accompany any number of vegan dinners, particularly pasta dishes or whole grain entrees.

Note: You might also find the vegetable labeled "baby broccoli," but that's a misnomer, as they are two different plants.  It's actually a cross between broccoli and Chinese kale.

Nutrition Info:
4 servings (1 cup broccolini, 2 tablespoons dressing), Calories 60 

Tasting Notes:
Pleasant flavors to the red pepper sauce - wonderful fresh ginger, and a nice combination of tangy, sweet, and spicy flavors.  The dish felt very bright - almost summery - which was a nice perk here in the beginning of January.  I would steam the broccolini longer - or boil next time - because I wasn't a huge fan of the crisp-tender texture.


Monday, January 2, 2012

Pumpkin Muffins

Sugar pumpkins have come and gone from the supermarket, but you can still make these sweet, spiced muffins with the help of canned pumpkin.  The muffins are equally as good for breakfast as they are packed for dessert in a brown bag lunch.

  • 2 and 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup vegan sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 3/4 cup vegan sour cream*
  • 1/3 cup plain non-dairy milk
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 Ener-G eggs
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 tablespoon vegan sugar
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons vegan brown sugar
1. Lightly spoon the flour into dry measuring cups and level with a knife.  Combine the flour in a large bowl with 1 cup sugar, the baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.  Make a well in the center of the mixture and set aside.

2. In a second bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, sour cream, milk, canola oil, vanilla, and Ener-G eggs.  Add the pumpkin mixture to the flour mixture, stirring just until moist.

3. Divide the batter evenly among 18 muffin cups coated with cooking spray (I like to use an ice cream scoop for this purpose, so you know you are dividing the batter evenly).  In a small bowl, combine the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar and the brown sugar; sprinkle evenly over the muffins.

4. Bake at 375 degrees until the muffins spring back when touched lightly in the center.  I pulled mine from the oven at 16 minutes, though the original recipe I was following said 25 minutes, so monitor things accordingly if you want to avoid hard, burnt muffins.  Immediately remove from the pans and cool on a wire rack. 

I enjoyed serving the muffins as part of a "bento box" lunch with everything packed in separate compartments - chickpea patties, cubed cantaloupe, spaghetti squash, and a little muffin for dessert.

*I recommend We Can't Say It's Sour Cream from Wayfare Foods for this recipe.  Although not my favorite vegan sour cream for topping tacos or baked potatoes (that honor goes to Vegan Gourmet), the Wayfare Foods' version is my go-to sour cream for low-fat baking.

Nutrition Info:
18 servings (1 muffin), Calories 164 

Tasting Notes:
There was great pumpkin flavor to these cute little muffins, and I loved the tender texture of the muffin in contrast to the crunch of the sugary topping.  I'd increase the spices next time, and perhaps use a mix like pumpkin pie spice instead of just cinnamon. Wonderful warm for breakfast.


Sunday, January 1, 2012


Happy 2012 to everyone!  Exactly one year ago, I spent a homey afternoon baking bread, one of my favorite ways to kick off a new year.  Today, I'm doing the exact same thing.  The question was what bread to bestow the honor upon this time around.

I've never made egg breads before, assuming that many eggs were called for, and it would be difficult to achieve the right texture or consistency with a vegan version.  I was quite surprised to discover this recipe for challah, then, calling for only 1 egg in the dough, and thought surely that deserved a try.  This is a "light" recipe for challah, so won't be as rich as other versions you may have baked or eaten, but it makes a fun project nonetheless.  The bread requires almost no hands on time (about 15 minutes on the front end), but do be prepared for several rounds of rising, and about a 4 hour project from start to finish.

  • 1/2 teaspoon vegan sugar
  • 1 package dry yeast (about 2 and 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 3/4 cup warm water (between 100 and 110 degrees)
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 2 Ener-G eggs, divided
  • 3 and 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 and 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • Cooking spray
1. Dissolve the sugar and yeast in the warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer; let stand for 5 minutes. Add the canola oil and 1 Ener-G egg, whisking until blended.

2. Lightly spoon the flour into dry measuring cups and level with a knife.  Add the flour and salt to the yeast mixture, and beat at medium speed until blended.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 minutes, until smooth and elastic.

Note: I was surprised that no extra flour was called for during the kneading process, since dough is usually wet and tacky and will stick to your hands.  However, sure enough, this dough was not sticky, and needed no extra flour during kneading.  What it does require is vigorous kneading effort, to achieve the elasticity you want in bread dough - by the end of kneading, it should feel like the soft flesh on the inside of your arm.  For a quick refresher on kneading, see this link.

3. Place the dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning so the top is coated as well.  Cover and let rise for 1 hour, some place warm and free from drafts (such as a closed, unheated oven).

4. Punch the dough down and reshape into a ball.  Return to the bowl; cover and let rise for 1 hour.

5. Punch the dough down and turn out onto a lightly floured surface.  Cover and let stand for 15 minutes.  Divide the dough into 3 equal portions.  Working with 1 portion at a time (and keeping the remaining dough covered to prevent it from drying), shape into a 15-inch rope with a gentle pulling/rolling motion.  Repeat with the remaining 2 pieces of dough.

6. Place the ropes on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray, and pinch together at one end.  Braid the ropes, and pinch together at the other end to seal.  Cover and let rise for 1 hour.

7. Brush the dough evenly with the remaining Ener-G egg; bake at 375 degrees for 35 minutes - the loaf should be browned and sound hollow when tapped.  Remove from the baking sheet and cool on a wire rack.

Tonight I made the bread part of a cozy winter dinner with portobello mushroom soup and mashed potatoes.

Nutrition Info:
16 servings (1 slice), Calories 124 

Tasting Notes:
Well, this was hardly distinguishable from homemade white bread, only in a novel braided form.  I'm not sure if that's because this was a "light" recipe for challah, or because I didn't use real eggs, but a disappointment either way. Tasty, but not what I was hoping for, and better warm than at room temperature.  The interior had good flavor, and the bottom crust became quite crisp, with an almost goldfish-cracker taste to it.