Friday, July 31, 2009

Chocolate Brickle Cookies

These are the real reason I made that toffee. ;)
They disappeared before I had a chance to take a photo... guess that's just an excuse to make more!

About 5 1/2 Dozen Cookies

1 1/2 cups rolled oats
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 cup butter
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
3 tbsp. shortening
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup milk chocolate chips
3/4 cup toffee bits

Preheat oven to 350 F.

1. Pulse the oats in the food processor until finely ground. Whisk the oats with the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.

2. Beat the butter, brown sugar, sugar, and shortening in the bowl of a stand mixer at medium speed for 2 minutes (or until blended). Beat in the eggs and vanilla. Reduce the mixer to low speed and beat in the flour mixture. Stir in the nuts, chocolate, and toffee bits.

3. Scoop tablespoons of the batter onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Flatten to ~1/2-inch thick. Bake 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.

Chocolate Brickle Cookies from Cooking Pleasures magazine (unfortunately I forgot to write down the date before ripping it out of the magazine so I'm not sure which issue this was from...)

English Toffee

Not really sure why this is called English toffee... It's nothing like what I call toffee! lol ;) Toffee to the English is soft and chewy, not crunchy. Oh well, this stuff is still fanbloodytastic. :)
It's like a Heath bar without the chocolate. Of course, if you wanted a home-made Heath bar, you could just pour melted chocolate over the top or throw a cut-up chocolate bar on it while the toffee is still warm.

You'll want a decent candy/deep-fry thermometer for this. They're not expensive and are worth having since they come in very handy during the holiday baking season! :)

Makes 1 1/4 pounds

1 cup unsalted butter (use the real stuff)
1 cup sugar

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chunks/chips
1/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

1. Combine the butter and sugar in a heavy 2-quart saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon. Cook until the candy thermometer reaches 300 F.

2. Quickly spread the mixture into a 15x10x1-inch pan.
If you're using chocolate, sprinkle it over the top now. Let it sit 5 minutes and then spread the chocolate over the toffee. Sprinkle with nuts if desired.

3. Cool the candy completely and then break it into pieces.

**To prevent your toffee from separating, fight the urge to stir! I know, it's tough! :)
In the beginning, stir occasionally until it reach 260-265 F. Then pretty much quit stirring (only a few times) while it continues cooking up to 300 F.
You will need to stir from time to time to prevent it from burning, but try to do it as little as possible.

English Toffee from Land O'Lakes Baking: Trusted Recipes.

Curried Udon Noodles

This meal included two firsts: My first attempt at making a meat substitute (seitan) and my first time trying out udon noodles.

This dish can be quite spicy. If you're not much into heat, use a mild curry powder and omit the hot pepper.

Overall, this was really yummy. I'm not really into fake meat, though... I quit eating meat; why would I want to eat fake meat? :) I do like to try new things, though, so I gave the seitan a shot. It definitely tasted OK (I never really was a red meat fan, though) but it had this odd chewy texture. I think I'll stick to beans in the future. :) I am pleased to say that hubby did try a piece and thought the flavour was almost spot-on.
So, to wrap all that up, if you're looking for a half-decent meat substitute, this might just be it!

Plan ahead:
There's quite a bit of prep that goes into this but once you have all the ingredients together, the final product goes together very quickly.
Prep and bake the seitan early in the day (or the night before). Let it cool and then store it in the refrigerator (in the liquid you baked it in) until you're ready to use it.

Makes 6 cutlets


6 cups vegetable broth
3 tbsp. soy sauce

1 1/4 cups vital wheat gluten
1/2 cup cold vegetable broth
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tbsp. olive oil

2 cloves garlic, pressed
1 tsp. grated lemon zest

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1. Prepare the broth by bringing the 6 cups of veggie broth and 3 tbsp. soy sauce to a boil in a saucepan. Turn off the heat and keep it covered until your ready to use it.

2. Place the vital wheat gluten in a mixing bowl. Mix the 1/2 cup cold veggie broth, 1/4 cup soy sauce, oil, garlic, and lemon zest together in a large measuring jug. Pour the wet mixture into the flour and combine using a wooden spoon.

3. Use your hands to knead the mixture for about 3 minutes or until the dough is elastic. Divide the dough into six equal pieces (you can do this by rolling it into a log and then slicing it into circles).

4. Take each of the six pieces of dough and stretch them into oblong cutlet shapes (about 1/2-inch thick). You'll need to put some elbow grease into it. :)

5. Pour the heated veggie broth-soy sauce mixture into a 9 x 13-inch baking dish/casserole. Place the cutlets into the broth and bake them for 30 minutes, uncovered. Turn them over and bake an additional 20 minutes.

These are now ready to be used in any recipe calling for seitan.

Curried Udon Noodle Stir-Fry
4 servings

*I used dry udon noodles for this since all the fresh ones I could find were junk. Seriously... the ingredients were really scary! Not to mention non-vegetarian. :(
I live in a part of San Diego where you can find TONS of great Asian ingredients so I never thought I'd have so much trouble finding decent fresh noodles... sigh. Maybe I need to try one of the Asian markets next time.

I found the dry ones in the Asian section of the grocery store, near the rice and panko (they were hiding on the bottom shelf - if you can't find them, look down!)

1/2 pound fresh or dried udon noodles

Curry Roux Sauce
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
2 tbsp. unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. curry powder
1/2 tsp. garam masala
1/2 cup vegetable broth
2 tsp. sugar

Udon Stir-Fry
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 large yellow onion, sliced into thin strips
1 tsp. grated fresh ginger
1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced into thin strips
1/2-1 cup carrots, thinly sliced
1 hot pepper (I used a jalapeno), seeded and sliced very thin
2 seitan cutlets (see above), sliced into thin strips
1/2 pound broccoli florets, cut into bite-sized chunks
1 cup frozen peas
1/4 cup vegetable broth
2-3 tbsp. soy sauce

1. Cook the udon according to the package directions. Drain and rinse well with cold water.

2. While the udon cooks, make the curry roux. Combine the flour and 2 tbsp. oil in a small saucepan. Cook the mixture over medium-low heat (stir it constantly) until it's a nice caramel colour and it smells toasty. This can take up to 10 minutes. Stir in the curry powder and garam masala then cook another minute while continuing to stir constantly.

3. Use a wire whisk to stir the vegetable broth into the curry-flour mixture. Add the sugar and cook the roux, whisking constantly, until a thick sauce forms. Remove from the heat and set aside.

4. Heat 2 tbsp. of oil in a large skillet or wok. Cook the onion in the hot oil for 5-6 minutes until softened and translucent. Add the ginger, bell pepper, carrot slices, hot pepper, and seitan. Stir-fry for 5 minutes. Add the broccoli and peas and stir-fry 4-5 more minutes until the broccoli turns bright green.

5. Add the udon noodles to the veggies and sprinkle the mixture with soy sauce. Stir-fry an additional 2-3 minutes (2 chopsticks or spatulas will make your life much easier).

6. Whisk 1/4 cup of the veggie broth into the curry roux. Pour the sauce over the udon-vegetable mixture and stir so everything is coated. Stir and cook 2-3 minutes until the sauce is simmering and the noodles are warm.

Serve immediately.

Seitan Cutlets from Veganomicon. No changes.
Curried Udon Noodle Stir-Fry from Veganomicon.

Changes I made to the stir-fry:
*Jalapeno in place of hot red chile.
*Added peas.
*Added sliced carrots.

Buttermilk Biscuits

Or scones as I like to call them. And, yes, that is pronounced "skon" (rhymes with on), not "skown" (rhymes with own). ;)

Super easy.

8 biscuits

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tsp. aluminium-free baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup cold butter
3/4 cup buttermilk (or 3/4 tbsp. vinegar/lemon juice plus enough milk to make 3/4 cup. Let stand 10 minutes)
1 tbsp. butter, melted

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a large mixing bowl. Cut in 1/2 cup butter with a knife or fork. Rub with your fingers until it resemble coarse crumbs. Stir in the buttermilk until the flour mixture is just moistened.

2. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead about 10 times or until smooth. Roll out the dough to 3/4-inch thickness. Use a biscuit cutter or a glass to cut into biscuit shapes.

3. Place the biscuits 1 inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Brush with the melted butter. Bake 10-14 minutes or until lightly browned. Serve warm.

Perfect Buttermilk Biscuits from Land O'Lakes Baking: Trusted Recipes.

Minty Chickpea Salad

I had this with the veggie skewers. It made a really refreshing summer salad.

Serves 2

1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/8 cup olive oil
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas (1/2 cup dried)
1 medium tomato, seeded and chopped
1/2 cucumber, peeled and diced
1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
2 green onions, finely chopped
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1/8 cup mint, chopped

1. Whisk together the lemon juice, oil, and salt. Add the chickpeas, vegetables, and herbs and stir well to combine.

Minty Chickpea-Vegetable Salad from the July/August 2009 issue of VegNews.

My changes:
*Green onions in place of scallions.
*Cilantro in place of flat-leaf parsley.

Vegetable Skewers

I have about 6 zillion things to blog from the last month so bear with me... :) Maybe I can figure out how to only publish a couple each day.

I love food cooked on skewers! When I taught pre-kindergarten I used to make fruit kabobs with my class all the time. Yum! Amazing how sticking fruit on a stick can get kids to eat it! lol :)
Note to self: Remember to get some great rosemary stems so I can use those to make skewers.

**Plan ahead. The vegetables will need to sit in the vinaigrette for at least one hour (or overnight) prior to grilling.**

Serves 2-3

Ingredients: Rosemary-Dijon Vinaigrette
2 tbsp. white wine vinegar
2 tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 green onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 tbsp. grated lemon zest
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary

Veggie Skewers
12 button or cremini mushrooms (stems removed)
1/2 red or green bell pepper (or a mix of both), seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 red onion, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 yellow squash, cut into 6 rounds
1/2 zucchini, cut into 6 rounds

1. Prepare the rosemary-vinaigrette. Whisk the vinegar, mustard, green onion, lemon juice, and zest in a small bowl. Slowly whisk in the olive oil and mix until the mixture emulsifies. Stir in the rosemary and then add black pepper and salt if desired.

2. Toss the veggies in the vinaigrette. Cover and refrigerate 1 hour or overnight.

3. Rub grill or veggie basket with vegetable oil. Preheat grill to medium-high heat. Thread the veggies onto 6 pre-soaked skewers. Grill the skewers 3-4 minutes per side until veggies are softened.

Based on Farm Stand Vegetable Skewers with Rosemary-Dijon Vinaigrette from the July/August issue of Vegetarian Times.

My changes:
I omitted the red potatoes and sugar snap peas that were called for in the original recipe (last-minute decision to make this!) I'll have to try those next time.
I used white wine vinegar in place of the sherry vinegar.
I used a green onion in place of a small shallot in the vinaigrette.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Gah... Duped Again!

So I'm adding agave nectar to my list of no-nos...
Just when I thought I'd found this great, after-taste-free, vegan-approved sweetener I find out it was probably all lies.
Here's a link to the article that was sent to me by a friend who shares my love of all things natural and un-processed.

Agave: A Triumph of Marketing over Truth

They plug stevia at the end a bit so I feel a need to add that I read stevia has its own set of issues. It really should only be used in moderation (at least they do mention that in the article) and (of course) I'm all for avoiding those fake stevia things that seem to be popping up now.

What a shame... At least there are still things like honey and maple syrup. I'll be sticking to those along with organic evaporate cane juice!