11/30/2015

a very vegan thanksgiving

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When it comes to preparing a full-blown Thanksgiving dinner, I am a rookie. A newbie. A first-timer. But we've had some pretty epic meals before and I've spent a fair amount of time in the kitchen, so I wasn't too worried. We've got this, I thought. I can pull off a completely vegan Thanksgiving with fun, fresh spins on all the favorites. I can do some prep work the day before. I'll bake the pie in the morning. It's all. good.


Well? Thanksgiving is tough. It turns out it's a lot more work than you think it's going to be, even if you make the ice cream (duh) two days ahead, chop your stuffing vegetables, blanch/roast the pain-in-ass hazelnuts, make the orange-cranberry sauce and whip up the pie crust. There will still be tons to do.

Of course, we are the ones who had to have twelve dishes (that's right, twelve total) for two people. Zero regrets, though, folks. With the help of cute Colin and Seymour, who sat anxiously in the laundry room when we set of the smoke alarm for the fifth time, we made it happen. We are truly a vegan Thanksgiving force to be reckoned with, and I'm really proud of how everything turned out. Classic-ish with a nod to some of our favorite flavors (Moroccan, Egyptian) and our favorite places (shoutout to the vegan restaurant scenes in NJ/PA!), it was truly one of the best meals, Thanksgiving or otherwise, that we've ever had.


And we had:

Crispy sweet potatoes with lime
Smashed potatoes with rosemary
Herby gravy
Sourdough stuffing
Cranberry sauce with orange zest
Roasted carrots with mint chermoula
Green beans with shallots and hazelnuts - recipe coming soon!
Pretzel rolls (made by the cutest!)
Roasted Brussels sprouts
Salad with oranges, fennel, radishes and date dressing
Apple-cranberry pie
Triple vanilla ice cream



Overall, it was the day done right (once the took the battery out of the smoke detector, that is). We had a lot of good food, the best company a girl could find (aw, I know) and there's something so much more satisfying in sitting down to a (very full) table of food when you know how hard to worked to make it happen.

Hope your day was just as happy! And I've got some of these recipes coming up very, very soon.



11/23/2015

vegan maple spice cookies

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It's Thanksgiving week! Which when you're responsible for the cooking of Thanksgiving dinner (all vegan, dessert included, thank you very much) is a week of shopping and prepping and pre-making. Luckily, for my first go I'm only responsible for one other (cute) person other than myself, and Seymour will appropriately be eating turkey out of can.


It will be only the second Thanksgiving in my 28, almost 29, years of existence that I don't spend in New Jersey, which is weird and sad and lots of other things that are hard to explain. So instead of going down that road, here's photo-evidence of the only other Thanksgiving I spent away in blindingly sunny Los Angeles surrounded by a group of friends also too strapped to fly home. Is it just me or are Thanksgiving and Christmas supposed to have a general gray overcast? That may just be my northeast experience chiming in.

And yes, that is a larger than life tub of margarine. Sorry, body. You were only 20, but damn you should have known better.


While I do plan on posting some Thanksgiving recipes (post-holiday, with a time lapse video in the works), right now I'm going to share with you a recipe that I've entered in Earth Balance's 2015 Holiday Bake-Off (vote for me here!) and one that you can make and share with your guests or family this coming Thursday. And yes, they are vegan, but your non-vegan partakers will be none the wiser.

For this recipe, you'll need:

For the cookies:

1/2 cup vegan butter, softened (in keeping with the contest: Earth Balance!)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup (either dark or amber is fine)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 flax egg (1 tablespoon ground flaxseed meal + 2 1/2 tablespoons of water)
2 cups of all purpose flour, plus more for rolling out cookies
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt

For the maple glaze:

1 cup of powdered sugar
1/4 cup of maple syrup (again, either color)
1 tablespoon vegan butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of salt
Toasted pecans (one for each cookie: whole looks prettiest, but we don't discriminate)


To start, in the bowl of an electric mixer using the whisk attachment, beat together your butter, sugar, maple syrup and vanilla on medium speed. Once combined, add your flax egg and beat for 30 seconds more.

In a separate large bowl, add your flour, spices, baking powder and salt. Whisk together until evenly combined. Turn your mixer down to a low speed, switch to the paddle attachment and gradually add your flour mixture to your wet ingredients in 1/2 cup increments. Mix until the dough appears uniform. Divide your dough into two discs. Wrap well in plastic and store in the fridge for one hour or up to overnight.

When you're ready to shape your cookies, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. On a clean work surface, dust the counter with flour and roll out your dough (one disc at a time) until it is about 1/4-inch thick. Cut using your desired cookie cutter shapes. Transfer them to parchment lined baking sheets, about one inch apart from each other, and bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown at the edges.


Transfer to cooling racks while you make the glaze. Pretty much just whisk everything up in a small bowl. What you're looking for in consistency is thick and smooth (sifting the powdered sugar may help with this) but still spreadable.

When your cookies are nearly all the way cool, you can either dip them face down in the glaze or use a knife (or a combo of both, like I did). Top each cookie with a toasted pecan in the center. And ta-da! The prettiest vegan cookies you've ever seen that no one will know are vegan.

Might make a good take along to a Christmas party, too!


So you dig the maple?




11/17/2015

2015 Holiday Bake-Off by Earth Balance!

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Hey all, just a quick note to let you know that I've entered yet another recipe contest: the Earth Balance 2015 Holiday Bake-Off! I can't stop, mostly because baking is one of my favorite things to do, and when you pair that with the chance to win a trip to check out Chef Chloe's all-vegan, organic restaurant. Well, I'm in. That could be the only prize and I would be the same amount of stoked.

I entered Vegan Maple Spice Cookies (find the recipe here!) that look like this:


What they look like is important (but of course what's on the inside counts, too) because that's how you'll find me/vote for me.

How to vote:

  • For starters, go here
  • Scroll until you see the above picture (also highlighted here for further emphasis).
  • Scroll back up to see the enlarged version of my photo. 
  • At the top left, you'll see a light gray "VOTE" button. Click that! Example below shows you were the find said button. (It isn't shown here because I already voted today.) Which leads me to the fact that you can vote once a day, every day, until 11/30! 
Thanks in advance for your support!






11/16/2015

roasted butternut squash soup

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I'm a big fan of soup these days. I didn't use to be, actually. It used to be last on the list of things I wanted to eat, ever. I think it just didn't feel like a real enough amount of food, not filling enough, lacking heart. Well, not only have a fully reformed my soup-shunning ways, I've practically lived on this roasted tomato soup for the past three tomato seasons (which I mourn obsessively once they end). It is exactly what I feel like having for a weekday lunch, something I can just start in the morning, have ready by noon and eat for the whole week.

Well, now that tomato season is well behind us (not over it, not over it), I thought: why couldn't I try this with something that's in season now? With piles of squashes in every shop and farmer's market, and butternut being one of my favorites to eat and say (speaking of, did you know there's now a butterkin squash, basically a short, squat version of the same?), I had to give it a try.


1 medium red onion, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1/2 teaspoon paprika
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons flour (I use whole wheat, but any is fine)
Salt & pepper
4 cups low-sodium vegetable stock
2 pounds roasted butternut squash (or your favorite squash variety)
1/4-1/2 cup toasted squash seeds, optional


Start by preheating your oven to 400 degrees. Either cut your squash in half, scooping out the seeds to save for later, drizzle with olive oil and roast face down. Or, you can always cube up your squash to reduce roasting time and add a little more caramelization. Either way, place on a large baking sheet and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for one hour if halves are left skin-on and face down and thirty minutes if cut into cubes.


When your squash is nearly done, place a large stockpot over medium heat. Add the rest of your olive oil, onions, carrot, celery and garlic and sauté for about two to three minutes. Add your paprika, a little more salt and pepper and sauté for one minute more. Use some of your stock to deglaze the bottom of the pot (just a little) and then add your flour to thicken the base. At this point you could also add a tablespoon of butter or vegan margarine for a little extra oomph, but this isn't completely necessary. It is, however, delicious, so to each their own.


Stir everything up and then add the rest of your vegetable stock. Bring to a gentle simmer and then add your squash. If left whole, scoop out the flesh and cubes can just be dropped into the stockpot. Simmer for about twenty minutes more.

Allow to cool slightly before adding to your blender to purée until smooth. You can also use a handheld blender for this if you'd rather leave some of the texture.

Perfect with a few toasted squash seeds on top, some shredded cheese, crusty bread, cheesy-crusty bread, avocado toast or with vegan cornbread muffins, pictured below. It's the perfect weekday lunch.

Can't get enough of the butternut?

11/09/2015

vegan chocolate peanut butter cup ice cream

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Everyone knows that chocolate and peanut butter are meant to be. Try what you will, keeping them apart would be a mistake. So to avoid fighting the inevitable, sometimes it makes the most sense to go all out: chocolate peanut butter cup ice cream with homemade peanut butter cups to boot. And then some. And then some again.


For this recipe, you will need:

2 15-ounce cans organic coconut milk (Full fat is best!)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons arrowroot
1 cup vegan peanut butter cups (making your own = committed)

For your peanut butter cups, you can make these several days in advance, though I dare you to have any left by the time ice-cream making day rolls around. But should you possess the willpower, these can be made and stored in a sealed container in the fridge for about one week. (Just thinking about that makes me laugh.)


In a medium stockpot, add your coconut milk, sugar and cocoa powder. Thoroughly whisk together and bring this mixture to a light simmer over medium heat.

Put a few tablespoons (two to three) of your warm mixture into a small bowl. Add your arrowroot and whisk together until completely smooth. Add the arrowroot mixture back to your base. Whisk together for about one minute more and then remove from heat.


Transfer your ice cream base to a large bowl and refrigerate for about 3-4 hours or up to overnight. Once completely chilled, it's time to churn: add to your ice cream maker of choice and follow the given instructions for your appliance. (If you're using the KitchenAid Ice Cream Maker attachment, like me, the churning will take about 15-20 minutes on a medium speed.)

While your ice cream is churning, chop your peanut butter cups. You can go all willy-nilly with this or you can aim for four even quarters. Just keep in mind that the bigger chunks will freeze pretty solid and make for scooping casualties.


Transfer your ice cream to a freezer safe container, layering your peanut butter cups throughout. Move your container to the very back of your freezer to harden completely. This should take about 4-6 hours, depending on the coldness of your freezer.

If you're a fan of Reese's or fill-in-the-chocolate-pb-blank-here, this is your vegan ice cream destiny. It's just the right balance of flavors and a nice salty-sweet medium. Hope you like!

Want some other vegan ice cream flavors?

11/02/2015

vegan mac & cheese

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Hiya. It's me, your resident cheese-aholic. But I have something to tell you, something I thought I never would, but nonetheless, news. Cheese-less news, at that. Are you hooked yet?

I have, ahem, somehow found a way to make a really good mac and cheese. Minus the cheese.

Insert horrified look here.


What does that even mean? Well, I'm glad you asked, Will Smith. It means that I took a trip to Watercourse Foods, a vegan comfort food establishment in Denver, tried the "southern plate" and found myself appropriately hooked and confused all at once. Wait, this is ... mac and cheese, but. It's got coconut? And cashews? And mustard powder and turmeric, but not a drop of dairy? How can it be so ... good? 

The thing you have to start with is adjusting your expectations. Don't expect this to be the mac and cheese you grew up with, because no matter how good something gets, it's kind of hard to beat that. But don't except it to let you down, either. Because it totally kicks the craving right between the eyes, I promise. And after I had that cupful of mac at Watercourse, I came home on a mission to make my own. And I sure as hell did.


For this recipe, you'll need:

1/2 pound whole wheat elbow macaroni or mini shells***
3/4 cup cashews, soaked in water for at least two hours
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 small white onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 cups coconut milk
1 1/2 tablespoons organic corn starch
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon white miso paste
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

***The fact is, these are the best pasta shapes when it comes to mac and cheese. Ask anyone. And if they say otherwise, ask someone else until you find someone who knows what the hell is up.



I would also like to start this section by saying this recipe couldn't be easier, provided you've remembered to pre-soak your cashews. Now then: begin by preheating a medium saucepan over medium heat. Heat your olive oil and add your onions, sautéing for about 5-7 minutes or until they start to go translucent. Add your garlic and sauté for one minute more. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook your pasta according to the package instructions. Whole wheat elbies (that's elbows for you laymen) take about 5-6 minutes to be perfectly al dente.

In a blender (the more power, the better), add your onions and garlic along with your cashews, coconut milk, corn starch, nutritional yeast, miso, salt, pepper, mustard powder, turmeric and nutmeg. Wait, that's everything, isn't it? I could have just said, "Just put all that stuff in a blender and go to town." Well?


Blend on high until very smooth. If you've got a serious blender, that should be about 30 seconds to one minute, tops. Some of the others might take a little more doing, so scrape the sides as you go and try to get that sauce smooth. Tip: The longer you soak your cashews, the smoother the sauce will be. Just drop them in a bowl of water before you go to bed and you'll thank me later.


Transfer your sauce back into the saucepan you used for you onions. Get the heat up to medium and cook for about five minutes, whisking often, until thickened. I got this to be pretty thick and cheeze-y in about four minutes, but an extra minute never hurts. And since stovetops tend to vary, what you're looking for is a sauce that coats your whisk/spoon and doesn't easily drip.


Once it's done and your pasta is drained, pour the sauce over the pasta and fold together. I served this with some roasted cauliflower (in an appropriate orange shade) and broccoli, but I imagine it would also be great with some peas, scallions, roasted tomatoes or just by itself. I'm not a total convert yet, but I'd say this recipe gets met about 90% there. Veganville, here we come.


Still feel the need for cheese? Okay, okay:
Inspired by Isa Chandra's Roasted Red Pepper Mac & Cheese and the wonderful world of Watercourse Foods



11/01/2015

it's world vegan day!

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How is it that I always find out about these things so last minute? Anyhow: it's still World Vegan Day for a few more hours out here in Mountain Time, plus that extra hour we got this morning (thanks, Daylight Savings and sorry, Colin, for trying to force you out of bed at 6AM!).

So to celebrate, here are 9 favorite vegan recipes from the blog:
Hope your day is happy, vegans of the world! New (also vegan mac & cheese) recipe coming tomorrow.