12/30/2014

miso and maple roasted root vegetables

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Roasting vegetables is pretty much how I make it through the winter. It's one of the only bright points of blustery days, chapped lips and padding around in bulky sweaters and socks. Not only does a 400 degree oven bring a literal warmth to the house, but it's pretty hard to go wrong with a toss of olive oil, salt and pepper to just about any winter vegetable.


Still, routines are routines and I'm always excited for a simple way to change up the flavor profile of a go-to dinner. This is no more complicated than the standard, which is what I love about it, but just a touch more delicious for some more mild root vegetables such as turnips and parsnips: miso paste and pure maple syrup.


For this recipe, you will need:

1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced
2-3 large carrots, peeled and diced
3-4 medium turnips, peeled and diced
2 tablespoons white miso paste
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup (either grades A or B is fine)
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons grapeseed or olive oil
Freshly ground pepper

Begin by preheating your oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, toss your diced vegetables together until evenly dispersed. In a small bowl, whisk together your miso paste, maple syrup, vinegar, soy sauce, oil and pepper. Pour over the vegetables and toss together (using your hands is best/easiest) until evenly coated.

Spread out over a parchment lined baking sheet in a single layer and roast for about 45 minutes or until the vegetables are tender and slightly caramelized around the edges.


This dish is perfect over rice or couscous but the flavors also stand alone as it's own dish. Leftovers also work great served cold over salads -- to braving the winter weather with good food!

Recipe inspired by Nicholas Day's post on Food52.

Looking for some other roasting ideas?


12/17/2014

vegan pumpkin pancakes

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So I figured since so far this fall/soon-to-be winter, we have already had vegan pumpkin waffles (hm, guess I should consider sharing that genius recipe so, coming soon!) and have gone through several rounds of this vegan pumpkin pie. Several, with not an ounce of shame in sight. There have also been these which are gluten-free but no one will know the difference.


And I'm into waffles. Like, dangerously into waffles. Could eat waffles every day kind of danger, if you catch my drift. French toast and I are friends, too. But pancakes: oh, pancakes. There's something so deliciously better about them, and why? Because I can never, ever make them. Diners rule the pancake-making world. My dad has flipped a handful of pretty perfect pancakes. But I have no luck. My pan is always too hot or my batter is always too thick. Something always gets in the way of me producing a perfectly golden, fluffy pancake. (This time wasn't much of an exception. They were good, but I burnt a lot of them, because that is my cross to bear. I can accept it. If you can do better at keeping your pan an even temperature, these will make you, and all the vegans who know you, very happy.)


For this recipe, you'll need:

2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon baking soda
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/8 teaspoon cloves
2 cups almond milk
1 teaspoon apple cider
1 cup pumpkin purée
3 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a medium bowl, vigorously whisk your apple cider vinegar into your almond milk until it gets visibly frothy. Allow to rest for a moment. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together your flour, baking soda, sugar, salt and spices. Add your pumpkin purée, coconut oil and vanilla to your resting wet ingredients and whisk to combine.


Quickly add your wet ingredients to the larger bowl of dry ingredients and fold together without over-mixing. Apparently this can be one of the pitfalls that keeps you from perfect pancakes: now we know.

Once the batter is combined, don't allow it to rest or it will get too thick. Heat a large skillet over medium heat, greasing well with more coconut oil or your preferred anti-stick method. I like coconut oil for pancakes even if I'm not making a vegan variation because it let's the pancakes get nice and crisp around the edges.


Drop 1/4-1/2 cupfuls of batter into the hot pan and allow to cook until bubbles begin to form in the center of each pancake. Once the bubbles begin to pop (on their own, not with the assistance of your spatula, I see you), flip and allow to cook for one more minute on the opposite side.


These go great served with a sprinkling of nuts and, of course, maple syrup and pumpkin are fast friends. Perfect for cold weekend mornings or a brunch party -- everyone else is into those, right?


12/15/2014

roasted cauliflower soup with crispy chickpeas

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For those of you who don't know, I have been lusting after a Vitamix blender for quite some time now. I am of the opinion that if you truly give a damn about being in the kitchen (or, if you're like me and you just love it), one of these powerhouse blenders can be a crucial tool. I just recently wondered out loud what was more essential, the Vitamix or a Kitchenaid stand mixer. We are still mulling it over, but cute Colin asserted that unless you were a big baker (present), a Kitchenaid as is doesn't really offer you much. I think I will have to square off and say that they both have changed my life in beautiful and different ways.

Oh, that's right, because I am now the proud OWNER of one of these magical tools thanks to the kind generosity of my brother-in-law, Judd (check out his design work here). He won one of these babies through a work raffle (I know, right?) and handed it over, no questions or payments crossed. I am truly grateful, brother: thank you!


Among other avenues that this magical machine has opened for me, among them is the road to velvety-smooth soups. It's always one of my favorite things to order at some of our go-to vegan restaurants, mainly because it has always been a texture I've never been able to replicate at home. (My immersion blender, while trusty, could never quite do the trick.)

Oh, but how times have changed. Now I can pull together my desired ingredients and with the single flick of a button, all things are transformed: into a creamy (though completely creamless) roasted cauliflower soup with crispy chickpeas and ricotta toast. Okay, the ricotta part is the real cheese deal, because sometimes you have to.


For this recipe, you will need:

1/2 medium cauliflower head, cut into florets
2 celery ribs, finely chopped
1 large carrot, finely chopped
1/2 medium red onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, smashed
4 cups of vegetable stock
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon lemon juice, divided
1 15-ounce can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Begin by preheating your oven to 400 degrees. Arrange your cauliflower in single layer on a baking sheet, drizzling with olive oil and sprinkling with salt, pepper, cumin and paprika. Toss together to evenly coat and transfer to the oven for 30-40 minutes or until easily pierced with a fork. Remove from the oven and set aside. Once the cauliflower is out, on a new tray arrange your chickpeas in a single layer, tossing together with 1/2 tablespoon of lemon juice, salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 20-30 minutes or until crisp.


Meanwhile, you can get the rest of your ingredients going on the stovetop. In a large stockpot over medium heat, add about 2-4 tablespoons of olive oil. Add your celery, carrot, onion and smashed garlic to the heat and stir together until fragrant and softened, about 2-3 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Continue cooking for another minute or two or until the vegetables start to stick a bit without burning.


Add your vegetable stock and cauliflower and bring to a boil. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and allow to simmer while your chickpeas finish roasting. Remove from heat and allow to stand for about five minutes. Transfer in batches to the beautiful blender in your life. While the machine is perfectly equipped to handle warm or hot liquids, an added safety measure is tossing a dishtowel over the secured lid to catch any unexpected splatter.

Serve in wide soup bowls, topping with a few crispy chickpeas, a drizzle of your remaining 1/2 tablespoon of lemon juice (it adds just a hint of brightness to this naturally rich soup) and alongside a crusty piece of bread smeared with ricotta and drizzled with honey: talk to me.

Looking for some other great ways to use cauliflower?

12/14/2014

a whole roasted cauliflower

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Last fall, Food52 posted a recipe for a whole roasted cauliflower. Roasted cauliflower, or really, roasted vegetables on the whole, is just about my favorite way to enjoy any of the colder weather veggies. I am not new to this method. Still, when I saw the proposal to roast the entire cauliflower whole, I was a little skeptical. Would it take a million years to cook? Would it taste like the roasted cauliflower I know?


Better. Introducing first the poaching of an entire cauliflower, and then roasting. Suddenly it all made sense. The poaching process allows the cauliflower to soak up extra flavor and retain its moisture, which is normally one of the biggest problems with roasting any vegetable. Once you get all the flavor, you run the risk of the finished veggies being too dry or too drenched in oil.

Thank you, Alon Shaya, for addressing this issue with such flair. Besides, this is a truly beautiful table presentation, if you're feeling so inclined. I bet you your guests have never seen cauliflower served this way before. (The original recipe also suggested goat cheese, which I'm sure would be delightful, though I chose not to include it in this vegan rendition.)



For this recipe, you'll need:

1 large cauliflower, trimmed with leaves and stems removed
8 cups of water
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup salt
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons Earth Balance or preferred vegan margarine
1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon sugar
1 bay leaf

Preheat your oven to 475 degrees. In a large pot, bring your 8 cups of water, oil, salt, lemon juice, Earth Balance, red pepper flakes, sugar and bay leaf to a rolling boil. Very carefully, lower the cauliflower into the mixture, reduce the heat to simmer and cook for about 15-20 minutes. Every few minutes, flip the cauliflower around in the pot to make sure that it cooks evenly.


Carefully transfer the cauliflower head (Shaya recommends two slotted spoons) to a parchment lined baking sheet and allow to dry for a few minutes. Transfer to the oven to roast for 30-40 minutes, being sure to rotate the pan halfway through.

I think this might be the only time I would describe a cauliflower as, well, juicy. But it was. It soaked up all that goodness and flavor from the poaching process (oh yeah, and also the fat from the olive oil, which I'm guessing didn't hurt) and it was just good. Like GOOD, good. Like never going back to the old roasting method good. Okay, maybe not that, but close enough.


The original recipe can be found here.

12/07/2014

spiced butternut squash scones with cinnamon glaze

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There are tons of beautiful squashes out this time of year. Butternuts, futsus, acorns, just to name a few. But, is it just me, or do these lovelies totally get dissed in the name of the humble pumpkin? Don't get me wrong, I'm not a pumpkin hater. Clearly. But you won't find me waiting around the corner for a pumpkin flavored beverage (gross) in the summertime. I like my seasonal stuff to be, well, in season. And while I'll crush a pumpkin pie with the best of them, I thought, say, why don't we give one of the other guys a chance?


Now I'm not getting too crazy, here. I'm not trying to make a spaghetti squash to fit in where it doesn't belong. I went with one of the other so-called staples of this time of year, the butternut. The butternut isn't getting picked last, by any means. In fact, it's made it into a lot of sweet varieties already, like tarts and even puddings. It responds really well to the traditional pumpkin add-ons: cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg. But in my opinion, it's already packed with a lot more flavor than pumpkins tend to carry. When roasted, it gets nutty and sweet and glorious. In short, it makes the perfect scone.

For this recipe, you'll need:

For the scones:

1 cup of whole wheat flour
1 cup of all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
6 tablespoons organic butter, cold and cubed
1/2 cup butternut squash purée
1/3 cup organic heavy cream
1 large organic egg

For the cinnamon glaze:

1 cup of confectioner's sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons organic lowfat milk

A note on butternut squash purée: the best way (and possibly the only way, since I've never seen this option in the canned aisle) is to make your own. I halved my squash, scooped out the seeds, and roasted face down in a 400 degree oven for one hour. Next, scoop out the flesh and use a blender (hand-held or not) to get rid of any stringiness or lumps, though you don't ordinarily have that issue with this variety of squash. After that, you can refrigerate this purée for up to one week (though to use it sooner is best) or freeze for up to one year. If you freeze, get out at least a day or two before you need to use it and thaw in the refrigerator. 


Begin by preheating your oven to 425 degrees. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the S-blade, pulse together your flours, sugar, baking powder, salt and all spices. Add your butter and pulse together for 10 seconds or with 10 individual pulses, to help break down the butter just enough but not too much. The beauty of scones are the layers created by the small butter chunks that remain.


Transfer your mixture to a large bowl and form a well in the center of your dry ingredients. In a liquid measuring cup or small bowl, whisk together your squash purée, cream and egg. Pour into the center of your well and fold together until just combined but not overmixed.



Turn out your dough on a well-floured surface and quickly pat into a circle that is about 1 to 1 1/2 inches thick. Using a pasty cutter, cut into eight even triangles and transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet. Brush for a little additional cream if you'd like them to have a pretty sheen. Transfer to the oven for about 20 minutes, rotating your pan halfway through.


As the scones bake, you can whisk together your glaze. Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and whisk until smooth. When the scones come out of the oven, let them cool for about 10 minutes before you use the glaze so that it doesn't melt right off.


Scones are best served the same day (Isn't everything? Well, maybe not), but if you do everything but bake these guys, they freeze well and can be baked on demand. Feeling scone-y for breakfast? On a weekday, even? You can add about five minutes to your baking time and bake right from the freezer.

Looking for some other scone recipes?



chocolate chip ricotta scones

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Recently I got a lot more experienced in the scone-making department. I've only tackled this breakfast pastry a time or two but have had plenty of experience eating scones, even especially legit ones in the heart of rainy, freezing London. Scones are pretty simple, but the process can be easily messed up because of that. You don't want to overmix your dough or you risk it going tough like bad pie crust or pastry dough. For that reason, I've usually stuck to muffins or coffee cakes, things I know that work and still always manage to please a crowd.


Still, there's something about scones. They're rich yet crumbly. It's almost like a texture nirvana. They're super buttery and yet somehow always served with more butter and no one ever points out the irony in that. Because it's just that good.

So I dove head first into the scone-baking world for a special breakfast brunch for my mom, a tradition we started about three years ago now (right?). We've recently had a series of amazing scones from the folks over at Our Shared Ground, a New Jersey nonprofit that focuses on whole, local ingredients as well as food education, which is the heart of this baking initiative. So I knew that scones were a good way to go (and yes, I keep pluralizing because I made these plus a spiced butternut squash variety, which you can check out here).


Chocolate chip ricotta scones are kind of like the cannoli of the breakfast world. And have you ever met anyone that didn't like a cannoli? Think about it, and if the answer is yes, that person is not your friend. You're welcome. The ricotta adds a layer of moisture and richness and helps to balance out the sweetness of the chocolate and the added sugar. It makes them feel a little more decadent, which is really what birthdays are all about, right?

For this recipe, you'll need:

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 cup of granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons organic butter, cold and cubed
1/2 miniature chocolate chips
3/4 cup organic part-skim ricotta
1/3 cup organic heavy cream

Two things. Part-skim ricotta? All you purists, don't worry. You can definitely use regular ricotta in this recipe. But to be honest, with butter and cream, the part-skim part will go unnoticed, I guarantee. Second thing is I've started to note all my dairy recommendations as organic, since that's what we aim to use in our house. That's been true for a few years now, but I recently decided to get more specific in the ingredient listing.


Start by preheating your oven to 425 degrees. In the bowl of a food processor using the S-blade, pulse together your flours, baking powder, sugar and salt. Add your cubes of cold butter and plus for ten seconds, or ten individual pulses. Trust me, that's all you'll need.


Transfer the food processor contents to a large bowl. Fold in your chocolate chips (I thought miniature would work best here but any size will do) and then form a well in the center of the mixture. Add your heavy cream and ricotta and fold together until just combined or until no dry and wet ingredients are obviously separate.



Turn your dough out onto a well-floured countertop. Form into a circle, working quickly, that is about 1 to 1 1/2 inches thick. Using a pastry cutter or a floured chef's knife, evenly(ish) cut into eight triangles. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 15-17 minutes, rotating halfway through, or until the tops are puffed up and lightly golden at the edges.


If you really want to get into the spirit of it, serve these with a little more ricotta (sweetened with some honey is nice) and jam. The best would be cherry or raspberry, since these flavors are great with chocolate, but anything you have on hand will do. Even orange marmalade would do it.

Looking for some other scone recipes?



vegan banana nut scones with maple glaze

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Do you ever eat something really good and think, "I wonder how this would come out vegan"? No? Just me? (Come on.) Well, seeing as our household is on a collective mission to, on one side, eat less dairy and, on another, avoid it altogether, this is a question I ask myself often. There are plenty of things that are vegan or gluten-free or both, namely baked-good type things, that don't really resemble the real deal in any way other than appearances. I'm looking at you gluten-free and vegan bagels. You imposters.



But me, I can always shrug it off and go satisfy my craving with the real thing. Not so for quite a few others. I'm guessing if you're alive in the world today, you know at least one person who's got a few food issues (and I'm talking about the ones they didn't choose), right? Right.

With scones, though, I have had a decent array of vegan options, mostly all from Whole Foods. So I knew it could be done. I also knew that if I wanted some inspiration for a scone in the vegan department, I should look no further than Cookie + Kate, from which this recipe was adapted.


For these scones, you will need:

1 cup of raw walnuts, toasted
2 cups of all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons cold vegan margarine
3/4 cup mashed banana (about 2 medium bananas)
1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the maple glaze, you will need:

1 cup confectioner's sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vegan margarine, melted
1 tablespoon unsweetened almond milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup maple syrup

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Lay your walnuts out in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast in the over for about 3-5 minutes. Remove from the oven, chop, then set aside. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the S-blade, pulse together your flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger and salt. Add your margarine and pulse together for 10 seconds or with 10 individual pulses, to help break down the butter just enough but not too much.


Transfer your mixture to a large bowl. Fold 3/4 of your walnuts, now chopped, into the dry ingredients, then form a well in the center of your bowl. In a liquid measuring cup or small bowl, whisk together your mashed banana (the riper the better, for more flavor), almond milk, maple syrup and vanilla extract. Pour into the center of your well and fold together until just combined but not overmixed.

Turn out your dough on a well-floured surface and quickly pat into a circle that is about 1 to 1 1/2 inches thick. Using a pasty cutter, cut into eight even triangles and transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet. Transfer to the oven for about 16 minutes, rotating your pan halfway through.


As the scones bake, you can whisk together your glaze. Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and whisk until smooth. When the scones come out of the oven, let them cool for about 10 minutes before you use the glaze so that it doesn't melt right off. Top with the remaining walnuts and let cool for 5 minutes more or until the glaze is set up.


I don't know what to tell you except that first things first, you would never know these are vegan. They've got that richness that you expect from traditional scones, plus just enough sweetness from the combination of ripe banana and maple glaze. An overall win-win for a quiet Sunday morning.

Looking for some other scone recipes? 



12/02/2014

a miniature carrot cake

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Recently I had a seriously strong hankering for some carrot cake. You know, as I often do. And carrot cake happens to be one of those cravings that can't be ignored or substituted for something lesser. If you try, you will only be disappointed and find that your craving has only intensified. And sure, there are places around to get a quick fix (including the new bakery within walking distance from our place, danger, danger), but I always tend to enjoy the making process a little more when I know what's coming next. The quelling of the craving is more satisfying when there's a little labor involved, especially when said labor rotates around a cake-typical occasion: birthdays.


My mom's birthday is at the end of November and my own is in the beginning of December (okay, today, it is today), so usually when we all gather together for Thanksgiving, we tend to throw in a little birthday celebration, too.

So, maybe I sort of made my own (joint) birthday cake, but as cute Colin said, that is a true sign of adulthood and I think I'll take it.


For this cutie 6-inch layer cake recipe, originally adapted from Deb Perelman's and perfect cake stand courtesy of Food52, you will need:

For the cake:

1 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup canola oil
2 large organic eggs
1 1/2 freshly grated carrots
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts, optional
1/2 cup raisins, optional


For the cream cheese frosting:

1 8-ounce package organic cream cheese (full disclosure, I used low-fat neufchatel because that's what I had, and it was totally delicious), softened
4 tablespoons organic unsalted butter, softened
1 cup confectioner's sugar

Begin by preheating your oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 6-inch cake pans (or if you prefer cupcakes, this recipe makes about one dozen) and line the bottoms with parchment paper. Butter and flour again and set aside.


In a medium bowl, whisk together your flour, baking soda, salt, and spices. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar and canola oil until evenly combined. Whisk your eggs into the sugar mixture one at a time. Add in your dry ingredients in increments and fold together. Finally, fold in your shredded carrots and walnuts until just mixed.

Transfer your batter to your prepared pans and bake for 30-40 minutes. The best way to know when a layer cake is done? Sure, you can do the toothpick coming out clean method, but also try this: tap the center of the cake. Does it bounce back? Check the sides of the pan. Has the cake started to pull away from the edges? If the answer to both of these questions is yes, the cake is done.


Move your cakes, still in the pans, to a cooling rack for about fifteen minutes. Carefully flip out of the pans, remove the parchment paper and allow to cool completely.

While you wait (and while the kitchen smells like carroty-spicy heaven), you can whip up your frosting. In the bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment, beat your butter and cream cheese together until fluffy. Slowly add your confectioner's sugar (in 1/4 cup increments) and whip together until no lumps remain. You can also sift your powdered sugar first, but to each their own.


Refrigerate the cream cheese frosting for about 15-20 minutes before using, as this will help it set up and make it easier to spread. When your cake is fully cooled (you may need to slice a little bit off the top to flatten the layers, which you can then eat and no one is mad about that), spread a bit of frosting on top of one layer, then stack your cake. Cover the cake in more frosting until completely covered and/or until no frosting remains in the bowl. Unless you want there to be some left so you can scoop it out with a spoon. No one is judging.


Oh, carrot cake craving. I can't think of a better way to ring in a personal new year. You could top the cake with a few decorative whole walnuts or, if you haven't eaten the leftover frosting, you can use a piping bag to get a little decorative.

It's been a good year. A full year, some wild turns, and a lot of successful (and a few failed) recipes. Want to know what else I learned while I was 27? I made a list of life learnings here