7/28/2014

spiced sweet potato biscuits with rhubarb ginger butter

Yum

Since I've been trying my hand at vegan desserts and baking these days, I figured it was high time to return to one of the classics: a soft, barely-sweet biscuit. Of course, with a bit of a twist: sweet potato and honey. And since they aren't overwhelmingly sugary on their own, I figured these would pair wonderfully with the spicy ginger and snappy flavor of one of my (new) favorite vegetables: rhubarb.



It is weird, right, that rhubarb is technically a vegetable, and yet it keeps showing up in all of our desserts? I mean, I guess if carrots can get into our cakes and potatoes into our biscuits (ahem), there's space in the sweet spectrum for another vegetable.


For the biscuits, you'll need:

3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons rapid rise yeast
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter (cold)
3 tablespoons coconut oil
1 small sweet potato, baked (about 1/3 cup)
1 large egg
2/3 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

For the rhubarb ginger butter, you'll need:

1 pound rhubarb
1/2 cup sugar
1 one-inch medallion of fresh ginger
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

In the bowl of a food processor, combine your flours, baking powder, yeast and salt. Pulse together so that everything is evenly combined. Cut your butter (quickly, so it stays cold) into cubes and add to the food processor. Also add your coconut oil and pulse until your mixture is crumbly and transfer to a large mixing bowl.


Take your 1/3 cup of sweet potato (baked and cooled) and push through a fine strainer to remove any lumps or stringiness. In a smaller bowl, whisk your smooth sweet potato together with your cardamom and cinnamon. Then whisk in your egg, buttermilk and honey.



Form a small well in your dry ingredients and quickly add your wet ingredients. Fold together until you've achieved a smooth (but still very sticky) batter. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and set aside for 1 1/2 hours to rise, or until it's about doubled in size.


Meanwhile, now is a great time to whip up your rhubarb butter. Really, anytime is a good time to do it, but seeing as it goes just great with the subtle spice in these sweet potato biscuits, now is an especially good time. Also, a quick thought on picking out rhubarb: redder is better. Many times you'll see green or greenish stalks mixed in with the red, but they don't have as much flavor.


So give your (red) rhubarb a good scrub and trim off any rough-looking ends. Slice into half-inch pieces. Add to a small-medium size saucepan with your sugar, fresh ginger and lemon juice. Heat on a medium heat until your rhubarb begins to bubble and the stalks begin to soften, about 10-15 minutes, stirring often. Once the rhubarb is completely broken down, remove from the heat and set aside to cool slightly. Once cool enough (which, it's all relative, isn't it?), using a blender (handheld or not), blend together until smooth. Now, you can remove the ginger medallion (carefully!) before blending or not, depending on how strong you want the ginger flavor to be. I've tried it with and without and both ways are wonderful.



After the first rise for your dough, transfer to a large, well oiled bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 hours or up to overnight. (I know, I know. Overnight is a long time, but think about the beautiful breakfast this could be!)

When the dough is ready, flour your workspace and transfer your dough. Knead 10-20 times to make it a bit smoother, adding flour as you need it. Roll your dough out into a (lopsided) rectangle. Using a dough cutter, cut your dough first into four squares, then each square into four triangles. You can then cut these triangles in half, or leave them on the larger side if you prefer. Transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet, giving them about 1-inch of space in between. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise for one hour (last one, I promise!).


When the final hour is almost up, preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Bake for 10 minutes before increasing the temperature to 400. Bake for another 5 minutes or until beautifully browned on top.


These biscuits are light in texture with a subtle hint of spice, making them perfect as a dinner side (with butter?!) or the front and center at the breakfast table. With warm rhubarb butter, of course.


7/20/2014

vegan coffee ice cream with peanut butter swirl

Yum

What the heck is the point of summer without ice cream, am I right? I just had a blueberry mascarpone and mint nib combo the other night that nearly knocked my socks off, you know, the only issue being that I wasn't wearing socks.

Oh. Wait. What's that? You can't have dairy? So that means ... no ice cream? No ... fro-yo? 

This would be about the time that I collapse to the ground with a wail, or something equally dramatic. I FEEL. FOR YOU.


But even the people who can't eat dairy shouldn't go through an ice-cream-less life. Not when there's creamy, coconut-based options to be had, and so easily made! Although, I should be upfront about the fact that due to freezing times that this particular recipe might take a day or two to complete.


For this delightfully summer-ish treat, you will need:

2 15-ounce cans of coconut milk
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup double-strong brewed coffee
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup natural peanut butter
2 tablespoons brown sugar

A quick note on coconut milk: All the experts will advise you to go full-fat - I didn't. I used one light and one regular, as I found it hard to justify the other way around. The recipe works when you do it this way, but I'm the first to admit that it would be better with both full fat. I mean, you don't need to be a genius to figure that fat makes things better, right? So taste, sure, but the fat will also do a better job of giving you that creamy, smooth ice-cream-like texture. But if you can't justify it either: using 1 can of light will also work.



Combine your coconut milk, coffee and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Whisk together and heat until the sugar is melted, about five minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in your vanilla. Transfer to a large bowl and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or up to overnight.


Now comes time for the fun part! Give your chilled mixture a stir to negate any settling that may have happened. Transfer to your ice cream maker of choice, following their given instructions on churn times. While churning, in a small bowl stir together your peanut butter and brown sugar. Drop into the churning mixture in pieces to allow to distribute evenly (you may need to add more, depending on your personal preference). Transfer your churned ice cream to a freezer-safe container and let it harden for several hours or, again, up to overnight.

Homemade peanut butter!

What I liked about this flavor combo was the salty-sweetness that always seems to be the winning ticket, but without being expected. The coconut base gives a great texture and creaminess, almost reminiscent of actual ice cream. Almost. But still pretty darn good.


7/14/2014

vegan baked falafel

Yum

I think as far as ethnic foods go, falafel is at the top of my list. So tasty and satisfying, the only bummer being that it's typically and traditionally fried, as most street foods are. While that's not going to stop me from indulging every now and then, there has to be a way to make falafel a more accessible in the everyday. The only problem with taking foods that are traditionally fried and then not frying them means you tend to sacrifice the reason why said food is good in the first place. Oh, and that crispy texture we all know and love so well.


Well, enter this falafel recipe inspired by a favorite food blog, Cookie + Kate. Absolutely NO flavor or texture is sacrificed here, and I might even say that this falafel is among the best I've ever had. Including legit, Middle Eastern restaurants. Hear me out, though: these crispy chickpea patties are intensely flavorful, super easy and freeze beautifully for another night (that is, if any remain).

For this recipe, you'll need:

Olive oil
1 cup dry chickpeas, rinsed and soaked for at least 2 hours
1/3 red onion, chopped
1 cup fresh spinach or kale
1 clove of garlic, chopped
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
Salt & pepper

So a decent amount of time before you want to get your falafel going, put your chickpeas into a pot or bowl and cover with water. It's best to give them about 2 hours to soak (even longer works, too), but 1 hour will work if you're pressed for time. Don't substitute canned chickpeas here, as this will result in a soggy, non-falafel mess.


Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Once your chickpeas have been soaked, drain and rinse again. Transfer to a food processor along with your onion, spinach or kale and clove of garlic. Pulse until well blended and broken down. And 2 tablespoons of olive oil, your spices and sesame seeds and continue to pulse for another thirty seconds.


Take a large cast iron skillet and generously coat with another 2 tablespoons of olive oil. (Kate suggests you can use even more if you're going for more a fried-effect, though I've found that 2 works just fine.) Using a tablespoon or small ice cream scoop, scoop out about 2 tablespoons work of your mixture and form into tight balls. This part is a little messy (but fun!) and a little tricky (but fun!) to keep together, but last time I checked, nobody was into crumbly falafel. Repeat until you've used all of the mixture, should make about 12-14 falafels.

Don't mind me, said the turnip, I'll just wedge myself in here with you guys.

Transfer to the oven and bake for 15 minutes or until brown and crispy on the pan-side. Flip (caaarefully) and bake for another 15 minutes or until brown and crispy again.

These are GREAT to serve over salads with tahini dressing, with fresh sides like a carrot-mint combo or perfect tucked into a pita with fresh tomatoes and cucumbers. Or just dipped into hummus. You won't even miss the fact that they aren't fried. (Thanks, Kate! And Cookie!)



7/08/2014

almond date granola bars

Yum

While I've made Smitten Kitchen's granola before (and loved it), I decided to try my hand at a take on granola bars. I don't know about you, but chewy granola bars are probably one of my favorite snacks, as both a kid and an adult. Though I've since graduated from Quaker Chewy bars to something closer to Kind Snacks, something still feels super right about a hearty, oat-y square of dried fruit and nut deliciousness. Enter these almond date granola bars.



Perfect for breakfast on-the-go (which is something I try to avoid, but hey, life) or an anytime snack, these bars are sweet and filling without giving me a toothache or feeling over the top. And healthy, too.

For this recipe, you'll need:

1 cup dried dates, pitted and chopped
1 1/4 cup rolled oats
3 tablespoons whole wheat flour
1/2 cup thinly sliced almonds
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup almond butter
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup honey
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
1/4 teaspoon almond extract (optional)

I call the extract optional (even though I used it) because it really does pack an intense almond flavor. While I'm a huge fan of almond in general, I found it to be a little overpowering in terms of a first-meal-of-the-day food. But to each their own.


Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9 x 9 inch pan with parchment paper and set aside. In a large bowl, stir together your dates, oats, flour, almonds, salt and cinnamon. In a separate smaller bowl, whisk your almond butter, olive oil, honey, orange zest and almond extract. Slowly pour your wet mixture over the dry ingredients and fold together with a rubber spatula until evenly mixed. Spread your granola batter into the prepared pan and press into all sides and corners until evenly distributed.


Transfer to the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes or until they're slightly brown around the edges. Don't wait for them to get fully browned on top, as this will result in a crunchier, Nature-Valley-esque bar (which there's a time and place for, but this isn't it). Truthfully, when you take them out of the oven even at 25 minutes, they will still seem slightly underdone (and will still seem soft), but they'll firm up once they are completely cool.


Cool the bars completely in the pan and then cut into squares. These will work great individually wrapped for easy access and even freeze well for a future snack or a breakfast that defrosts in transit. Happy trails!