Thursday, December 18, 2008

Twinkle, Twinkle

Confession: I'm not much of a sugar cookie fan. They're just a bit boring generally. I do love this recipe that I found on Annie's blog last year - the almond extract really adds that necessary little je ne c'est quoi :)
These are another great option for people who are bored with basic sugar cookies. The cardamom adds a lovely almost flowery taste. It's also quickly becoming one of my new favourite kitchen scents. I kept wafting the bottle under my nose as I was making the dough for these.
I found these to be rather reminiscent of lavender shortbread. Yum!

Cardamom Sugar Stars

Yield: About 3 dozen cookies

Cookies ~
1 7/8 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (yes, I halved the original recipe and ended up with a wonky amount. Could have been worse...)
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened (room temp)
1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
1 egg
1/2 tbsp. vanilla extract (no, that's not a typo! It should be 1/2 tablespoon)

Spice Mixture ~
1/8 cup sugar or sparkling sugar (see note below)
1/8 tsp. ground cardamom

*Note: You will need to refrigerate the dough overnight so keep that in mind before starting these.

1. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium-sized mixing bowl.

2. Cream the butter, 1 cup sugar, and 1/2 tsp. cardamom in a large bowl. Beat in the egg and vanilla then mix in the flour mixture until it is just blended. Knead the dough by hand just until it is smooth. Divide the dough into two pieces; shape into flat rounds. Cover the rounds and refrigerate until firm enough to roll (overnight or up to two days).

3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Remove the dough from the refrigerator (one round at a time) and let it stand at room temperature until it is soft enough to roll but still firm. Roll the dough between two pieces of parchment paper to about 1/8-inch thickness. If the dough gets too soft at any time, you can return it to the fridge until it's firm.

4. Use a star-shaped cookie cutter to cut out the dough (it's helpful to dip the cutter in flour to help prevent sticking). Reroll leftover scraps. Repeat with remaining dough.

5. Combine all the spice mixture ingredients in a small bowl and sprinkle over the cookies. Bake 8-10 minutes or until pale golden brown at the edges. Let cool on wire racks.

These cookies can be made ahead. According to the original recipe, you can make them a month ahead and store them in airtight containers. I like to freeze my baked cookies.

Sparkling sugar:
I actually found sparkling sugar at Michaels (Wilton brand).
You can also order it from the following places:
King Arthur Flour
Fancy Flours
Great News
If you can't find it, you could sub regular granulated sugar or turbinado.

Cardamom Sugar Stars by Alice Medrich. I found this recipe in the December 2007/January 2008 issue of Cooking Pleasures Magazine.
I didn't change anything this time around but I'm interested in trying different extracts (orange or almond? I think either of those would work with the sweet cardamom) or maybe subbing in cinnamon for the cardamom.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

OK, I feel like a dork!

LOL... I just read a thumbprint cookie recipe and found out why my Hershey Kisses burned (see the story in my previous post).
Apparently, you aren't supposed to add the Kisses until after you take the cookies out of the oven! Oops..! They are called thumbprint cookies because you make a little indentation with your thumb then bake the cookies and THEN insert the chocolate. Heh... oh well, least I know for next time!

Double-Chocolate Peppermint Cookies (Vegan!)

These are so festive :) Even though I'll take chocolate-mint anything anytime of year!

These were my first attempt at making vegan cookies. I've made quite a few other vegan sweets but those have all used egg substitutes I was familiar with. These called for a commercial egg replacer so I wasn't sure how they would turn out. It works! They were easy to make and I highly recommend these for any chocoholic, vegan or not. :)
Since they are dairy-free, they are also a good option for lactose-intolerant friends.

I made these as a special treat for my vegan sister and brother-in-law and decided to keep a couple for myself. Well, sinc
e I had some of those candy cane Hershey Kisses (bit of an impulse buy at Target last night), I figured I'd try out some thumbprint cookies with them. I have never tried making thumbprint cookies so this was a huge experiment! What do you know? I managed to screw them up a bit! Apparently the vegan baking gods did not appreciate my de-veganizing my cookies - the tops of the Kisses all burned! lol :) They still taste fine and they are just for hubby and myself so it's no big deal. They look really funny, though! Guess I gave myself a bit of bad cookie karma ;)

PS - the dough is also fantastic! And you can eat it since there are no raw eggs or other yuckies

This made 32 cookies
(I used my small cookie scoop - original recipe said it would yield 1 1/2 dozen but I always end up with more vegan goodies than the recipe states..! Nice problem to have, I suppose)

1 1/2 tsp. Ener-G Egg Replacer (see photo below)

2 tbsp. water

3/4 cup non-hydrogenated, non-dairy butter (I use Earth Balance)

1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar (I like the Wholesome Sweeteners sugars since they are organic and fair trade)

1/2 cup granulated sugar
(I use evaporated cane juice)
1 tsp. vanilla extract

1/2 tsp. peppermint extract

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

1 cup non-dairy chocolate chips (semi-sweet chips are usually OK)

Ener-G Egg Replacer:
1. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper and pre-heat the oven to 35
0 degrees.

2. Whisk together the egg replacer and water until it is thick and creamy. Set aside. Mine looked like whisked egg whites when it was ready (frothy). It will thicken up as it sits so don't worry if it seems too runny.

3. Cream the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar. Beat in the egg replacer as well as the vanilla and peppermint extracts.

4. In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Add this mixture to the butter mixture. Stir well to combine and then add the chocolate chips. Mix the chips in but do not over-stir.

5. Drop rounded tablespoons of the cookie dough onto a cookie sheet. Do not try to press the blobs of dough down with a fork - it's too sticky and they come out not looking very nice (yes, I tried on one batch!)
Bake for 10-12 minutes.

Remove the cookies from the baking sheet immediately after removing from the oven and place them on a wire rack to cool.

These make great dunkers!

*If you would like to make a non-vegan version of these, simply sub 1 egg for the egg replacer. The butter amount would remain the same so you can sub in salted or unsalted butter as desired. I do recommend you make the vegan ones at least once. You'd never know they're vegan!
I know, I say that every time I post a
vegan baking recipe. It's true, though!

Reference: Chocolate Chip Mint Cookies from The Joy of Vegan Baking.

Oops... ;)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Health Conscious Chefs Event

I've decided to participate in a blogging event! :) It's from Joelen's blog - she is always setting up such wonderful food-related events! I wish I had half that energy :)
This event is based on recipes from health-conscious chefs so I've decided to submit a couple:

Pineapple-Cashew Quinoa Stir-Fry from Veganomicon

Black Bean Chili from Moosewood Low-Fat Favorites

Here's the link to the event. I can't wait to see all the fantastic things that are posted!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Menu - December 15-19

Nothing new this week - I need to focus on getting Christmas shopping done! lol
I do have a couple baking recipes that I'd like to try when I can find time during the week.

Monday - Lentil curry for me; Lemon-mustard chicken for M with Pioneer Woman's Whiskey-Glazed Carrots (we have a bottle of Jack Daniels and neither of us likes that - all I do with it is make BBQ sauce! lol. Hopefully these will be another yummy way to use it up!) Yes, I am going to have the carrots alongside my curry... I know, doesn't go at all but oh well! :)

Tuesday - We have plans with a friend to go shopping so we'll probably just eat out.

Wednesday - Wednesdays are always a bit of a rush so we'll just have soup from the freezer (heated up, of course!) Beef stew for M and either black bean chili or split pea for me.

Thursday - Either Chickpea tagine or black bean and quinoa pilaf for me; either fish sticks or marinated pork chops for M (it will probably be the chops since I already have those and, knowing me, I will completely forget to stop and get fish on Thursday! lol)

Friday - Crispy chicken strips for M and black beans and rice for me.

Baking recipes I'm looking forward to trying this week:
*Cardamom sugar stars
*Tiramisu walnut cookies (how flipping amazing do those sound?! I hope they live up to the name!)
*Vegan double-chocolate mint cookies (trial run for some I'd like to bake for my sister and brother-in-law. I've never made vegan cookies so wish me luck!)

Black Bean Chili

My new favourite chili recipe! This is very similar to black bean soup, just a little chunkier.
It's pretty quick to put together so it makes a good option for a weeknight meal. Great with some cornbread.
The Moosewood book I got this from recommends using leftover chili to make chilaquiles (one of my favourite breakfast items!) so I will definitely have to try that soon :)

Serves 2-3

1 cup chopped onion
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup water
1/2 tbsp. ground cumin
1/2 tbsp. ground coriander
1/2 cup prepared fresh salsa
1 red or green bell pepper (or 1/2 of each pepper), chopped
1 (15-ounce) can of black beans or 1 1/2 cups cooked black beans (if using dried)
1 (14.5 ounce) can tomatoes, diced with juice
1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
Salt to taste
Hot pepper sauce
1/8 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Grated cheese, chopped raw onion, sour cream to garnish (of course, dairy cheese and sour cream would de-veganize this recipe but you can get nondairy versions of both if required)

1. Place the water, onions, and garlic in a soup pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Cook and stir for about 5 minutes. Add the cumin and coriander and stir on medium-high for another minute. Stir in the salsa and bell peppers, lower the heat, cover, and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2. Add the black beans and tomatoes, simmer for 10 minutes. Add the corn and continue to cook for 10 minutes or until everything is heated through. Add salt and hot sauce to taste. Remove from the heat and stir in the cilantro. Garnish as desired.

Festive Black Bean Chili from Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites.
It really is very festive-looking! I'll have to get a photo next time.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

I can't believe it's not butter... or egg!

Mmmmm! These little muffins are so fantastic!

One of my favourite things about vegan baking (other than licking the spoon) is that the end product is always so light and moist. I think there is this terrible misconception that the lack of egg or real butter would make it heavy as a brick and dry... not from my experience!
Another joy of vegan baking is that non-dairy milk (unopened) has a fairly long shelf life so you can always have a "box" of almond, rice, or whatever milk in the pantry. Same with many vegan egg substitutes (flaxseeds, for example, are good for up to 2 years!) So convenient :)

These are also quite healthy - no hydrogenated fats, low cholesterol (if any), all the great benefits of ginger (it's helpful in warding off colds so it's good this time of year), and flax seed which is a good source of fibre and Omega-3 fatty acids.

The muffins are wonderful just as-is but I highly recommend them heated through with a little non-dairy butter. Even better - add some marmalade or other jam, too.

PS - Do not try to substitute dried, ground ginger for fresh. It won't do these justice at all. And you will thank me for pointing that out when you experience the lovely smell that occurs when that ginger starts spinning around in your food processor :)

Makes 12 muffins

2 tbsp. ground flaxseed (equiv. of 2 eggs) *See note on flaxseed below*
6 tbsp. water
1/4 cup finely minced fresh ginger (I may have used more - I just had a chunk of gingerroot and used the whole thing)
1 cup granulated sugar (I always use evaporated cane juice sugar since I know it's not refined in a non-vegetarian manner)
2 tbsp. grated lemon zest
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 cup non-hydrogenated, non-dairy butter (I really like Earth Balance - the whipped stuff is not good for baking, though!)
1 cup non-dairy milk (I used almond but you could use hemp milk, soy milk, rice milk...)
Juice from 1 lemon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
1. Remove the skin from the ginger (a small metal spoon does a great job!) and then chop the ginger into smaller pieces. Throw the pieces into a food processor and pulse until well chopped. If you don't own a food processor, you could use a Microplane grater or fine box grater. Remove from the processor and set aside.

2. Add the ground flaxseeds and water to the food processor bowl and pulse until you have a thick and creamy mixture.

3. Combine the ginger and 1/2 cup of sugar in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar melts and is combined with the ginger. This only takes a couple of minutes. Set aside to cool and stir in the lemon zest.

4. Stir the salt, flour, and baking soda together in a medium bowl. Set aside.

5. In a large bowl, beat the non-dairy butter until smooth. Add the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and beat until well-blended. Add the flax mixture and stir well then add the non-dairy milk and lemon juice. Mix well to combine. Add the dry ingredients as well as the ginger-sugar mixture. Stir until just blended.

6. Spoon into prepared muffin tins (I love to use my ice cream scoop for this). Bake 15-20 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
*I always seem to end up with more batter than I need with vegan baking recipes.

*Note on flaxseeds:
Tiny little nutrition powerhouses!
Flaxseeds are an excellent (mercury-free!) source of Omega-3 fatty acids but you won't get that benefit unless you grind up the seeds. Buy whole flaxseeds (Bob's Red Mill has them) and then grind them up as you need them. A coffee grinder does a great job of this.
But now you're saying "well, what the heck else do I do with this bag of flax?!" I like to grind some up and add 2 tsp. to my daily mid-morning oatmeal. You can also sprinkle them on salads, soups, in smoothies, or on cold cereal.
PS - not sure it's necessary but once open, I store my bag of flaxseeds in the fridge.

Ginger Muffins from The Joy of Vegan Baking.

Tomato Couscous

A yummy (and quite pretty) side dish that goes together in a flash!

Serves 2

1 (14.5 oz) can of tomatoes, diced (you will need the juice)
3/4 cup uncooked couscous (plain)
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
Good pinch of cayenne pepper
1 tbsp. small capers, drained
Vegetable broth or water

1. Strain the juice from the diced tomatoes until you have about 1 cup of juice. You can squeeze the juice from the tomato pieces if needed. If you don't have enough juice, you can add water or vegetable broth to make it up to 1 cup. Set the tomatoes aside.

2. Combine the juice, olive oil, and oregano in a medium saucepan. Cover and heat to medium high to bring the mixture to a boil. Stir continuously as you add the couscous. Quickly stir in the salt, cayenne, and cloves. Stir to combine and then remove from the heat and cover. Allow the pan to sit for 5 minutes. Fold in the reserved tomatoes and capers. Allow the dish to sit for 2-3 minutes or until the tomatoes are warmed.

Tomato Couscous with Capers from Veganomicon.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Rustic White Beans with Mushrooms

Another Veganomicon success! I have yet to find something from this book that I haven't been crazy about...

I made this earlier in the week with tomato couscous (also from Veganomicon) - I'll post the couscous recipe after this one.

Note: you will need dry beans for this recipe. Canned beans will not work so don't try to take the easy way out! It's worth the extra time (and it's not like soaking beans is anything labour-intensive!) :)

Serves 2

2/3 cup dried white beans (Navy or Great Northern will work well)
1/3 small onion, peeled and sliced into a few pieces (big chunks are OK - don't worry, you will not be eating this)
1 stalk celery, cut into two pieces
1 small carrot, sliced in half lengthwise
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. dried tarragon
Olive oil
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
1/8 cup onion, finely chopped (original recipe called for a leek)
1/4 lb. mushrooms (any you like really - baby bellas, cremini [I used these], shiitake, white mushrooms [hey, they have the same nutritional value as any of their fancier cousins], or a combination), rinsed and thinly sliced
1/2 tsp. salt
Freshly ground black pepper

*Before you begin, soak the beans for at least 8 hours. Put them in a bowl with 3-4 inches of water covering them in the morning and they'll be ready to cook when you get home from work.

1. Drain and rinse the beans and transfer them into a large pot. Add 1 cup of cold water, cover, and bring the water to a boil. Boil the water and beans for 3 minutes. Lower the heat to medium; add the onion, celery, carrot, thyme, and tarragon. Cover the pot and simmer for about 45 minutes or until the beans are tender (mine always seem to take longer - I think I let mine simmer for an additional half-hour).

2. Remove the carrot, celery, and onion (you can re-use them if you're planning on making a stock). Lower the heat to low and continue to simmer while you prepare the remaining veggies.

3. About 10 minutes before the beans are done, place the garlic and a little olive oil in a cold skillet. Heat over medium until the garlic sizzles. Add the chopped onion or leek and saute 1-2 minutes. Drain the beans and then transfer this mixture to the beans. Add a little more oil to the skillet and allow it to warm through. Add the mushrooms to the oil. Sprinkle the mushrooms with some salt and saute until most of the liquid has evaporated. Add to the beans.

4. Turn off the heat and season the beans with a little more salt and ground pepper. Allow the beans to stand for a few minutes before serving.

Great with Tomato Couscous.

Rustic White Beans and Mushrooms from Veganomicon.

Lattice crust = success!

So it took two tries but my lattice crust turned out quite lovely for a first, um ok second, attempt! :)

Story first and then the procedure..
Thinking everything was ready, I rolled out top crust #1 for my pie. I got the lattice pieces cut and on the pie and ran through to show the hubby. Well, I get back to the kitchen, turn around to stick the thing in the oven and see a mixing bowl with, guess what? A little flour, some cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar, and all-spice. Yes, blondie here had forgotten to mix the apples with the seasoning. Wow... I get distracted far too easily!

So, had to rip off my almost-perfect lattice topping and make a whole new batch of pie dough and then re-cut the whole thing. Ugh... it's really funny now but I was so pissed when I first discovered this! lol
Oh well - trial run, right? :) I actually think the second one turned out just a teeny bit better so I really can't complain.

I used my normal apple pie recipe. Here are the directions for making the fancy schmancy crust.
Arm yourself with the following:
*Plenty of flour
*A clean clear acrylic ruler
*A pastry cutter/ravioli cutter
*A clean countertop or cutting board (well-floured)
*A rolling pin (well-floured!)

1. After the pastry has chilled in the fridge for 20 or so minutes, give the cutting board and rolling pin a good dust with some flour. Roll out the pie dough as you would for a regular pie crust.

2. Place the ruler on top of the crust (I started in the center and worked out to the sides) and then run the pastry cutter along the ruler in one motion.

3. Move the ruler over about half an inch and repeat the pastry cutter motion. You will end up with a thin strip of pastry with fancy crinkle-cut edges.

4. Repeat until you have 10-12 pastry strips.

5. Carefully pick up the pastry strips and place them one at a time on top of the pie filling. Again, start in the center by making a cross shape with two strips. Work out towards the sides of the pie alternating under and over with the strips (now I'm wishing I'd taken step-by-step photos... if I make an apple pie at Christmas I'll do that for you!)
i.e.: You'll have the cross at first. Let's say the vertical piece is lying on top of the horizontal piece that made the cross. For the next piece (a vertical piece), you will want to make it go under the horizontal piece of crust (so, don't press down any pieces until you are completely happy with the results/everything is in place). The piece after that will need to go over the horizontal piece. And so on and so on... I hope this makes sense it's rather hard to explain!
Once all the pieces are in place, press the edges into the bottom pie crust which should reach the top of the pie plate. Brush with a little milk and bake.

Oh, and don't forget to mix the apples with the seasonings before tossing them in the bottom crust ;)