4/27/2015

vegan cookie dough ice cream

Yum

We're just just starting to hit the beginning of warm weather. I just came back from a week-long stint in Phoenix. The desert gives you unrealistic expectations of where the rest of the world should be, let me tell you. And even though it hasn't quite reached summer-mode here (or, you know, summer), we're starting to hit our shorts-and-a-light-jacket-at-night stride which of course often includes another warm weather staple: ice cream.


Now, I've eaten ice cream in mid-January. Outside, no less. Teeth chattering won't keep me from the good stuff. But warm weather marks a time when it's not only safe to have a frozen treat but a time to make your own. That and I just got my replacement attachment for my stand mixer. Thanks, KitchenAid!

So not only were we marking the start of another season, but we were christening the brand new mixer attachment (yes) and the flavor choice was crucial. So many directions to go: but which one? I ended up on an undeniable classic: cookie dough. Classic as it may be, it also presented a bit of a vegan-workaround challenge. The vegan ice cream base has pretty much become one of those things I can make half-asleep and blindfolded. But the cookie dough chunks were something else. Not that your basic chocolate chip cookie batter is all that complicated, but it just added a little something extra (special) to the process.


For this recipe, you'll need:

For the ice cream base:


2 15-ounce cans of coconut milk (1 full fat, 1 light)
1/2 cup of sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons arrowroot

For the cookie dough chunks:

1/2 cup coconut oil, softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup almond milk
1 tablespoon flaxseed meal
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

You want to start by preparing the cookie dough. In a large mixing bowl, beat together the coconut oil and both sugars. And in your milk, flaxseed meal and vanilla and beat together until well incorporated, about one minute.


In a separate bowl, whisk together your flour, salt and baking soda. Add in your dry ingredients to your wet, in two to three increments if you're not looking to make your life harder. Fold in your chocolate chips. 

Separate your dough into tiny bite-size chunks. Place on a baking sheet (lined with parchment paper, again, to make your life easier) and place in the freezer for 1-2 hours. BONUS: If you don't plan on using all of your cookie dough in your ice cream (because you won't really need all of it), you can bake some into actual cookies for about 12-13 minutes in a 350 degree oven. Or, you can freeze cookie-sized chunks and bake on demand, adding about 2 minutes to your cook time. 



In the meantime, prepare your ice cream base. Add your coconut milk, sugar, and vanilla extract to a medium stockpot over medium heat. Whisk together until the sugar has melted (or no longer feels gritty).

Spoon out a few tablespoons of your warm base into a separate small bowl. Stir in your arrowroot until smooth. Bring your mixture to a gentle, barely-there simmer, whisk in your arrowroot mixture and then remove your stockpot from the heat. Allow to sit and cool for one hour. Transfer to a bowl, cover well and store in the back of the refrigerator for at least four hours or up to overnight.


Once your base has properly chilled, it's time to churn. I started this early in the morning so we could have ice cream later that evening, but it also works to get it done the day before for an impressive homemade dessert the next day. Using your ice cream maker of choice, churn the cooled mixture until about doubled in size and the texture of soft ice cream.



Transfer to a freezer-safe container. Between layers, sprinkle a generous handful of frozen cookie dough chunks (and additional chocolate chips, just for fun). Transfer to the back of the freezer until solid and scoop-able, at least two hours.

4/20/2015

vegan apple baked beans with crispy polenta

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When the weather starts to turn, I just want to have every meal outside. Picnic table, park bench, some imaginary porch that I don't have yet. Longer days and tons of sunshine just make food taste better, I think.

It also reopens an entire genre of food that pretty much gets shelved from September to March: barbecue. Now of course the barbecue world for vegetarians is a little less than typical, but no less satisfying in my opinion. And one thing no outdoor gathering is complete without is baked b eans. They were always one of my favorite side dishes as a kid.


But if we're not going to pair these next to other classics like mayo-laden potato salad and short ribs, then what? Well, what could go better alongside some sweet and spicy white beans than a helping of crispy polenta? A perfect combination that is easy enough for dinner tonight (given that you've soaked your beans already, which you did, right?).

The inspiration for these comes from my continued favorite food-makers at Thug Kitchen. It's just not getting old.


For this recipe, you'll need:

For the beans:

1 1/2 cup dried white beans
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 yellow or white onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 15-ounce can tomato sauce (low or no salt is best)
1 tablespoon molasses
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1 medium apple, any variety, chopped (I used a Fuji)
Salt and pepper

For the polenta:

1/2 cup polenta, dry
1 1/2 cups water
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon Earth Balance or vegan margarine of choice


Start by sifting through your beans to weed out any weird or non-bean pieces (a pretty common occurrence, actually). Place in a large bowl or pot and completely cover with water, about five cups, and soak overnight.

Forgot to soak? Truthfully, you're better off soaking them now and waiting until tomorrow. I know, the queen-of-not-waiting, but it's really the best way to guarantee properly soaked/cooked beans. A cheat method is to bring them to a rapid boil for 1 hour, but I've never had a ton of success with this route. Things may, however, turn out differently for you!


Anyway, if you did soak ahead of time, congrats and moving on: drain your beans. In the same large pot, heat your oil over medium heat. Add your onion and sauté until it starts to brown. Add your garlic, smoked paprika and salt and pepper to taste and continue cooking for another minute. Add your beans, tomato sauce, molasses, apple cider vinegar, brown sugar and soy sauce. Stir everything together and bring to a light simmer. Once it starts bubbling, add your broth.


Keep simmering until your beans are close to tender (think a little bite, but not chewiness). Depending on how long you've soaked, this should take about an hour. When you've reached a sort-of al dente bean consistency, add your apple chunks and simmer for 30 more minutes.

Once you've reached the point where you can add the apple, in a small saucepan bring your 1 1/2 cups of water to a boil. Add your polenta, salt and pepper and reduce to a simmer. Stir together and cook for 3-5 minutes or until thickened. Immediately stir in your margarine and transfer to a bowl, pressing down. This will help mold the polenta so it can be cut into slabs. Once almost cooled, flip the bowl and cut your mold into serving size pieces.


In a lightly greased small cast iron or on a stovetop grill, add each slice of polenta side-down until crisp. Flip and repeat until all pieces have been crisped. Serve alongside heaping helpings of the apple baked beans, add a little extra barbecue sauce to the polenta. Also works great with some bitter greens, like Swiss chard with some onion and a little squeeze of lemon. Summer, we're ready for you!



4/13/2015

toasted coconut + chocolate chip granola bars

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Recently I had a pretty strong hankering for a chewy granola bar. Chewy with chocolate chips. It wasn't really any more specific than that, and I kept imagining the kinds that are (were?) in the foil wrappers that would appear in my lunchbox every now and then. You know the kind I'm talking about, right?


So I scoured the aisles of the grocery store for a box of chocolate chip granola bars. Not that I really had to look that hard: there are. so. many. options. I think at one point I had a stack of four or five different types, comparing ingredients and additives and watching out for the sneaky chicory root fiber. There were plenty of seemingly good choices by brands I know and like, but I suddenly felt a little silly, spending three bucks (I know) on something that I knew was easier than easy to make myself.

I know. I've become one of those people. The ones that you can't take anywhere because they always say, "Oh, well I could make that." But trust me, I'm still take-able because I only do it with food, and I'm usually right and not generally handy in any other way. I can't build you a bookshelf. Well, I don't know, maybe. But what I do know for sure is I can make granola bars. And so I did.

For this recipe, you'll need:

2 cups of old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup of sliced almonds
1 cup of unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup mini chocolate chips


Simple, right? Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x9" pan and line with parchment paper.

On a large baking tray, spread out your oats, almonds and coconut into a single layer. Toast for about 10-12 minutes, rotating halfway through, or until the edges are slightly browned. Remove from the oven and place the oats, almond and coconut into a large bowl. Reduce your oven temperature to 300 degrees.

In a small bowl, whisk together your honey, vanilla and salt and immediately pour over the dry ingredients. Fold together using a rubber spatula, being sure to coat all of the dry ingredients. Allow to cool for about 15-20 minutes (or, in the refrigerator for 10 minutes) before adding the chocolate chips to avoid melting.


Once your mixture has cooled enough, add your chocolate chips. Fold them into everything else and then press down into your prepared pan. The easiest way to do this is to slightly dampen your fingertips and work quickly, starting from the center and pressing out towards the edges. Transfer to the oven for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown on top. You do not want to wait for the bars to be fully hardened in the oven. Once they cool, you'll have granola rocks to snack on, which aren't so tooth-friendly.


Remove from the oven and allow to cool, in the pan on a wire rack, for 2-3 hours. YIKES. I know, it's seriously long, but they don't set up or cut neatly into bars without the waiting.

If you can manage to wait, you have created the perfect snack. In between meals, on the go, post-run, etc. They have just enough sweet and just enough of what's good for you that it feels right. Craving satisfied. Granola bar mission accomplished.


Want to keep your shelves stocked with homemade granola? Try these other options:



4/06/2015

real-deal baked skillet mac & cheese

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Okay, so there have been a few takes on mac and cheese on green girl eats in the past. And they've been respectable, healthy options with a few swaps to amp up the good-for-you factor. One of them was even entirely cheeseless. And while this is a craving I try not to bend to too often, it was officially time for the real-deal. Long overdue, even: let there be cheese.

This is a harken back to the macaroni and cheese that my mom used to make, with the addition of a 375-degree oven and lots of herby bread crumbs.



For this recipe, you will need:

3 tablespoons organic unsalted butter, plus more for the pan
1/2-3/4 cup toasted herb bread crumbs (I made these prior by toasting some ciabatta crumbs in olive oil with garlic, oregano and lemon zest, but your favorite combination of herbs and spices will do)
2 1/2 cups organic milk (I used 1%)
3 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper
Freshly ground nutmeg (optional, but g-o-o-d)
2 1/4 cups freshly grated organic cheese of choice (I went with a super sharp cheddar)
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese (bonus points if freshly grated, shrug of forgiveness if otherwise)
1/2 pound elbow macaroni (tiny shells are also a good choice)


So, one quick note: This is a pared down recipe because in this household, it's mac and cheese for one. So I made enough to cook a generous portion in one 6-inch cast iron skillet. You could easily eat this in one sitting. I'm not recommending it, I'm only saying. But should you be willing to show any sense of self-restraint, this would make about 3-4 generous servings. It also freezes great in individual portions for a last-minute lunch or dinner during a busy week.


Begin by preheating your oven to 375 degrees. Generously butter a 6-inch cast iron skillet or a small casserole dish and set aside. In a small-medium sauce pan over medium heat, add your 3 tablespoons of butter to melt down. Add your flour one tablespoon at a time, whisking to combine with each addition. (You'll have to work quickly to avoid burning.) Once all the flour is added, pour in your milk a little bit at a time (about 1/4 cup each time) and whisk thoroughly to smooth out any lumps. Continue this process, whisking constantly, until your beschamel base begins to bubble and thicken. This will take between 8-10 minutes. In the meantime, get your pasta water boiling (use 1/2 teaspoon of your salt).


Once bubbling away and spreadably thick, remove from the heat. Whisk in your pepper, nutmeg (if using), the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt and your cheeses, reserving the 2 tablespoons of Parmesan. Whisk together until all your cheese has melted and set aside. Cook and drain your pasta, adding directly to the cheese sauce pot and folding together until each piece is coated in cheesy magical goodness. My advice to you would be to take a bite or two at this point, if you're the type that's into the saucy, gooey version of mac and cheese. It will change up a little bit in the oven, and it's totally worth these few first tastes.


Transfer to your prepared pan. Top with the remaining 2 tablespoons of Parmesan and your bread crumbs. Place in the oven for about 15-20 minutes or until the top has browned slightly and the cheese is bubbling.


I don't know where to begin praising this dish. As much as I love healthy eating and feeling good, there is something so differently good about eating foods like this (sometimes, of course, only sometimes). There's no replacing real cheese. There just isn't. I had this with some roasted tomatoes, but it would also pair great with steamed broccoli or a nice sturdy green, like collards. Next time!

Still want to try those other mac and cheese options?