12/21/2015

vegan apple-cranberry pie

Yum

When it comes to the perfect holiday experience via food, dessert is always kind of a big deal. Sure, the actual dinner/brunch/midday meal itself is usually pretty spectacular, but I usually save my need for seconds for when someone says, "Dessert's on the table!" What was that blur that just went by into the kitchen? That was me, waking up from a food nap just in time to fill my plate with pie.


This year, for our first Thanksgiving among the Rocky Mountains, we kept dessert pretty simple. We figured with just the two of us to feed (and a few extra pieces of pie crust for Seymour), more than one pie would be pretty excessive, even on a day like Thanksgiving. So we knew it had to be something pretty spectacular.

And while there's nothing at all wrong with traditional apple pie, I thought adding a handful of fresh cranberries would make it that much more seasonal and that much more flavorful.


For this recipe, you will need:

For the crust:*

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup coconut butter, cut into cubes
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1/3 to 1/2 cup ice water

*This is for one 9-inch pie crust. To have enough for a top and bottom, simply double the recipe. 

For the filling: 

6-8 sour apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups of fresh cranberries
3/4 cup of granulated sugar
2 tablespoons of flour
2 teaspoons of cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of ginger
1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon of allspice
1/8 teaspoon of cloves


Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. In the bowl of a food processor, pulse your flour, salt and sugar until evenly combined. Add your coconut butter and continue to pulse until crumbly. Slowly add your water while still pulsing until your dough begins to come together. Stop when the dough starts sticking and remove from the bowl. Transfer to a floured service and roll immediately (the dough can also be refrigerated or frozen if you aren't ready to use it right away) - repeat these steps for the second 9-inch crust.*

*If you are impatient like me, you will attempt to do both crusts in the food processor at once: unless you have a giant, industrial-sized food processor, don't. It was a huge mess, which doesn't really end up saving any time. Lesson learned!


In a large bowl, combine your apple slices and cranberries, tossing together to evenly disperse. Add your sugar, flour and spices. Toss together (with your hands is more fun, just saying) until the fruit looks glossy and smooth and the sugar grit is mostly gone.


Transfer your filling to your prepared pie crust. How you decide to do the top layer is totally up to you, but as long as there are some vents (or a pretty lattice top!) so steam can escape, you'll be good. Get creative with it!


Pop your pie in the oven (for the love of you-know-who, put your pie pan on a baking sheet to avoid the dreaded overspill) for about 50 minutes to an hour or until the crust is gorgeously golden and the fruit is bubbly and the filling oozy.

Allow to cool (slightly) before serving with the perfect vanilla ice cream. Classics are classics for a reason, folks.


All about apples?
P.S. Want to know about that perfect vanilla ice cream that you'd never know is vegan? Thought you'd never ask


12/14/2015

parsnip & roasted fennel soup

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Since we left New Jersey when tomato season was still in full swing, I was a few frozen batches short on my favorite roasted tomato soup this year. In fact, I didn't even make one jar of sauce, which is not an easy thing to admit. Here's hoping that Colorado's tomato season doesn't let me down come next August. In the meantime, I wasn't really ready to let go of finding a new soup recipe to tide me over. After all, winter has only just begun. And since there's nary a tomato in sight these days, I went for something a little more readily available during the colder months: parsnips and fennel.


Parsnips are one of those root vegetables I don't pick up that often. It's nothing personal, parsnips, I just don't know what to do with you and often forget you exist. These yellowish-white carrot-like veggies get pretty sweet when cooked but retain a little bite when raw, sort of like radishes. Their sweetness is a pretty neutral one, however, and I thought it would pair great with the flavor of fennel, which I really wanted to shine through.

And if you want to see Jamie Oliver singing about fennel (you do), go here.


For this recipe, you'll need:

1 fennel bulb and stems, thinly sliced
1 medium parsnip, thinly sliced
1 stalk celery, chopped
1/2 red onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon vegan butter
2 tablespoons whole wheat all-purpose flour (you could also use a GF all-purpose variety)
4 cups vegetable stock or broth
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
Salt & pepper

Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees. Take your sliced fennel bulb and half of the sliced stems (save the rest!) and toss on a baking sheet with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast for twenty minutes or until they start to soften and caramelize. Roasting enhances the flavor of pretty much any vegetable but it makes fennel a new kind of amazing.


In the meantime, heat several tablespoons of olive oil in a large stockpot. Add your remaining fennel stems, onion and garlic. Sauté for several minutes until the onions start to go translucent. Add your parsnip, celery and a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Continue to stir to avoid too much sticking. Once everything starts to meld together, add your (heaping) tablespoon of vegan butter (I used Earth Balance for this one) and flour. As the butter melts, quickly fold the vegetables into it. Immediately add some stock, which will help the butter/flour combo start to thicken. Gradually add the rest of your stock and continue to stir.


Add your roasted fennel to your soup and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 20-25 minutes. Just before removing from heat, add your lemon juice. You can blend the soup in batches in a high-power blender, use a handheld immersion blender, or leave it as is. Me, my preference is for blended soups, so that's the direction I went. Top your soup with some chopped fennel fronds for a little extra pretty and lot of extra flavor.


For just a few ingredients, this simple soup packs a ton of flavor. Great to make over the weekend and reheat for lunch throughout the week!

More soup, please?

12/07/2015

vegan triple vanilla ice cream

Yum

You know what I never understood? When people call something "so vanilla" to indicate that it's blah or tasteless or unoriginal. First things first, vanilla is actually a pretty exotic ingredient, which I think is something we can easily forget since it's become a pretty common flavor profile over the years. I don't know when you last visited Madagascar, but it's still on my maybe-someday list. And I feel like we've let vanilla get a bad reputation for being boring. Vanilla isn't boring, at least not when it's done right. Vanilla isn't just a vaguely sweet sugarbomb. It's got a hint of cardamom, of warmth, a very mild but spot on hint of honey. To me, vanilla can be downright fancy. And, bonus: it goes with just about everything.


Still, while I've been making ice cream like it's my job (ahem), something important was brought to my attention: I still had not yet mastered the perfect vegan vanilla. Chocolate, yes. Been there, done that, and it is G-O-O-D. But these two classic flavors are the foundation for a plethora of other possibilities. So I thought, if I'm going to do vanilla, I'm going to do it justice. I'm going to make that vanilla really shine through. How? Take on the flavor times three.

And what better time to try this ice cream out then during Thanksgiving, when there's all pie to pair it with? (Still, it's just as perfect on its own.)

For this recipe you'll need:

2 15-ounce cans organic coconut milk (Full fat is best!)
1/2 cup vanilla sugar*
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean pod, seeds scraped like this
1 1/2 teaspoons arrowroot

*A quick note on vanilla sugar: you can probably find this in specialty grocery stores. Just check the baking aisle or the bulk section. If not, no problem: making your own is easy! All you have to do is get an extra vanilla bean (or two), scrape the seeds, add both the seeds and the pod to your sugar, mix well, cover tightly and allow to sit overnight. If you can wait longer, even better, as the longer you allow the sugar to infuse the more vanilla-y it will taste.


In a medium stockpot, add your coconut milk, vanilla sugar and vanilla extract. Scrape the seeds out your vanilla bean pod and add them in - whisk well. (You can add the pod to steep here as well, for any seeds you may have missed and to soak up any additional vanilla flavor.) Bring this mixture to a light simmer over medium heat, whisking vigorously to make sure the sugar is dissolved and everything is evenly incorporated.

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, bring back to a simmer 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.)

Transfer your ice cream to a freezer safe container and 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.


This addition to my ice cream repertoire opens up so many possibilities. I've already come up with at least ten new flavor ideas just sitting here, and that's just the seasonal stuff. (I'm thinking: peppermint stick!) Tasting this one was such a nice reenforcement that vanilla is anything but basic: to √° la mode! 

Know what the perfect vanilla ice cream goes great with (besides everything)?: