Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Chocolate chip cookies

This is as straightforward as it gets, people. Here’s what you do – turn over a package of Nèstlé Tollhouse chocolate chips, sub out the butter and eggs in that recipe, and voilà! Vegan chocolate chip cookies. I made these on Christmas Eve after getting off work early at 3:30. I used white-and-milk-chocolate swirl chips, which aren’t vegan, but certainly feel free to seek out specifically vegan chocolate chips. I use shortening in chocolate chip cookies, just cuz it’s what my mom uses, but feel free to substitute Earth Balance. Also like my mom, I throw in a handful of quick-cooking oats. It helps create extra body, which is an especially good idea when making nut-free cookies (which I did, to appease the friends I’d be sharing them with).

I can hardly believe it’s taken so long, but this entry is the debut on this blog of my amazing KitchenAid mixer. Love that thing.

1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup shortening or softened Earth Balance
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1T Ener-G mixed with 1/4 cup water
Handful of quick-cooking oats (optional)
1-2 cups chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt in small bowl. Beat the shortening, sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla until creamy.

Add the Ener-G mixture in two batches, beating well after each addition.
I’m rather proud of my camera; the shot above and the next two below were taken while the paddle was in motion, and they turned out perfectly clear.

Gradually beat in the flour mixture. When the dough comes together and clings to the beaters, it's good to go.

Stir in the oats and chocolate chips (and/or nuts, if desired). I actually don’t like many chips in mine; the cookie itself is my favorite part.

Drop by rounded tablespoons onto baking sheets. You can use a silicone mat or parchment paper underneath if you like.

Bake for 9 to 11 minutes (depending on cookie size and oven temperament) or until golden. Cool on the baking sheets for 2 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

And they taste just like you remember them – melty and gooey fresh out of the oven, chewy and tender the next day. That said, I must admit that there’s something I like even better than homemade cookies, and that is...the dough. To be honest, I suspect that the real reason I ever make cookies is just to snack on the cookie dough. So don’t forget to sneak bites as you bake! The cookies last for days, but the dough is only there for a few minutes.

Yield: 3 dozen cookies. Per cookie (w/shortening and 1 cup chocolate chips): 147 calories, 7.5g fat (2.5g sat), 19g carbs, .7g fiber, 1g protein.

If you like this, you might also like...
Pumkpin oatmeal cookies

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Monday, December 22, 2008

Spaghetti with tomato and peas

I love Giada de Laurentiis. She’s so endearing; shy and sweet but still passionate and smart. And she’s super cute, of course. I love Everyday Italian (and I mourn the fact that I never get to be at home to watch it during the day), and as soon as she started writing cookbooks, I started buying them. I have the first three of four – Everyday Italian, Giada’s Family Dinners, and Everyday Pasta – and it’s been very difficult for me not to buy her newest one (I’ll cave soon enough). Though the VAST majority of her food contains meat or dairy, much of it veganizes beautifully. For this recipe from Everyday Pasta, all it took was to leave off the cheese. I also used onion in place of shallot (it’s what I had) and added extra carrot, garlic, and spice. If you don’t have the book, you can view the original recipe here.

1 lb. whole-grain spaghetti
2-3T olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper (optional)
5T tomato paste
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried parsley
1 1/2 cups frozen peas, thawed

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the spaghetti and cook according to package directions. Drain, reserving 2 cups of the pasta water.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, salt, and pepper and cook and stir until tender, about 8 minutes, adding the garlic during the last 1-2 minutes.

Add the tomato paste and 1/2 cup of the hot pasta water. Stir to melt the tomato paste and create a thick sauce. Add the oregano, thyme, and parsley. Gently fold in the peas, adding more reserved pasta water as necessary (I ended up adding an additional 1/2 cup).

Fold in the spaghetti, and again add more pasta water if the sauce needs loosening.

I enjoyed this topped with a sprinkle of nutritional yeast. Stuck at home at dinnertime on a cold Saturday evening, it warmed me up magnificently. The use of tomato paste created a very deep, earthy flavor, and the pepper made it nice and spicy, perfectly in contrast with the sweet peas. It was attractive and delightfully elegant – not unlike Giada herself.

Yield: 6 servings. Per serving: 357 calories, 5.6g fat (trace sat), 67.8g carbs, 9.5g fiber, 13.8g protein.

If you like this, you might also like...
Tempeh bolognese
Vegan pesto pasta

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Indian & Moroccan at home

A couple months ago, my friend Henry and I took a vegetarian Indian cooking class, and vowed to soon recreate the dishes we saw made that night. It took us a few weeks, but on Saturday, we did just that. On the menu was kofta curry and dal mahkani with basmati rice and naan, and we concurred that our dishes were better than the ones made in class.

Kofta curry = fried balls of shredded vegetables swimming in an aromatic tomato sauce...

Dal makhani = lentils and kidney beans curried to perfection...

Add them together, and you get a nutritionally complete, richly spiced, and insanely delicious Indian meal.

Last night, I made another 5-minute dinner, this one with just three ingredients: extra couscous from last week, a jar of accidentally-vegan Moroccan tagine sauce from World Market, and (of course) more chickpeas.

I heated the chickpeas up in the sauce and served them over the couscous. Though technically “homemade,” it’s so easy, it feels like cheating.

Also, I bought myself an early Christmas present last week that recently arrived – a six-jar sampler pack of peanut butters from PB Loco! Asian curry spice, Sumatra cinnamon raisin, jungle banana, dark chocolate duo, white chocolate raspberry, and chocolate chip cookie dough. Aaahh! It’s going to be a peanut buttery winter.

If you like this, you might also like...
A vegan taste of India
Indian curried lentils

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Friday, December 12, 2008

5-minute chickpea couscous

This is one of my very favorite weeknight meals – it’s simple, it contains some of my favorite flavors/ingredients, and it’s fast. Really, blink and you might miss it.

1 cup whole wheat couscous
1 1/4 cup water
1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1-3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup tahini
3-4T lemon juice
2T olive oil
2T hot water
1/2 tsp salt

In a small saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Throw in a dash each of salt and olive oil, then add the couscous.

Immediately take the pan off the heat and put a tight lid on it. Start a timer for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small bowl (or in my case, the tahini can, since I was using the last of it anyway), combine all remaining ingredients except chickpeas. Whisk (or shake in a closed container, like me) until smooth.

Even though it’s a little off-topic, check out my new mini-strainer! It’s the perfect size for one can of beans. Adorable.

By now, your timer has probably gone off, or is about to. When it does, take the lid off the pan and fluff up the couscous with a fork.

Fluff that couscous right into a large bowl, add the chickpeas, pour in the dressing, and toss to combine. And that’s it – I told you it was easy! For five minutes’ work, you have a savory, garlicky, sesame-y, lemony pasta studded with creamy chickpeas.

Psst...if you have a little extra time, this is also wonderful made with quinoa in place of the couscous.

Yield: 4 servings. Per serving: 395 calories, 12.7g fat (1.6g sat), 59g carbs, 10.8g fiber, 15.3g protein.

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Tuesday, December 9, 2008

White chip brownies

The brownies I made on Sunday afternoon turned out even better than I'd hoped. I didn't change anything in the recipe, but I did add something. Sadly, the addition of the white chocolate chips robs these brownies of the official designation of "vegan," but they're still damn close. To keep them vegan, just leave out the white chips, or use regular chocolate chips, or perhaps substitute some chopped walnuts...ideas abound.

3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/8 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 cup vegan chocolate chips
1/4 cup canola oil
1 small ripe banana, mashed
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup plain or vanilla soymilk
1T flaxseed meal
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup white chocolate chips (or addition of choice), optional

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch square baking dish with cooking spray. Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in large bowl.

Melt the chocolate chips with the canola oil in the microwave at 50% power, stirring until smooth. Whisk in the banana and sugar.

Combine the soymilk, flaxseed meal, and vanilla in a measuring cup, then fold into the chocolate mixture.

Stir the chocolate mixture into the flour mixture until just combined.

Gently fold in the white chocolate chips or other add-in, if using. And yes, taste the batter.

Spread in the prepared baking pan, and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted 2 inches from the side of the pan comes out dry, but the middle is still soft (mine took 20). Cool in the pan on a wire rack.

SO GOOD. They were far moister than I expected - these are not the dense and chewy type of brownies, but the soft, luscious, cakey kind. I was mildly concerned that the banana flavor would come through too strong, and was surprised to find out that even though the inclusion of banana is just barely detectable, it's actually a pleasant top note against the richness of the chocolate. You can't even complain about these nutritionally! Ah, at last...I may have finally discovered my perfect brownie.

Yield: 16 brownies. Per brownie (with white chocolate chips): 151 calories, 7g fat (2.2g sat), 20.5g carbs, 1.5g fiber, 2g protein.
Per brownie (without chips): 111 calories, 5g fat (1g sat), 15.4g carbs, 1.5g fiber, 1.5g protein.

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Friday, December 5, 2008

Vegan restaurant meals

Here’s a quick rundown of some yummy meals I’ve eaten recently.

First up is a garlicky stir fry from Stix, with tofu, carrot, broccoli, sugar snap peas, and brown rice.

I tried a new place called Bulldog, which I really enjoyed, and I ate a great hummus plate. They had a red pepper hummus (drizzled with hot sauce) and a cumin hummus, served with some really tender toasted pita, black olives, and roasted red pepper strips.

At Pei Wei, I deviated from my normal stir fry and tried the Blazing Noodles – rice noodles in a spicy Thai basil sauce with tofu, broccoli, carrots, and sugar snap peas. Very similar to my meal at Stix, just with noodles instead of rice.

Another new place I tried and really liked was One80 in Westport. I had a gift certificate that required a minimum purchase, so I went all out. For my appetizer, I had (what else?) their hummus plate. It was a white bean hummus with some black olive tapenade, served with pita. Pretty, huh?

For my entrée, I ordered the veggie burger. That’s not something I usually go for at restaurants, but theirs sounded very interesting to me – it was a white and black bean burger, served with generous slices of avocado and some excellent, salty fries.

Last but not least, I had to have dessert. I couldn’t resist the apple tarte tatin (something I’m highly unlikely to ever attempt at home). It was rich, sweet, moist, packed with apples, and not at all vegan. There had to be butter galore in that thing, not to mention the ice cream scoop on top. Sorry guys, but I ate the whole thing.

Past leftovers...

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Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Three-bean vegan chili

I wasn’t kidding when I said I was determined to recreate the vegetarian chili I tried on the cruise. Not only did I do so, I believe that mine was even better. I based it loosely on a Vegetarian Times recipe, but tried to match the ingredients and heartiness of the cruise chili. It was a smashing success.

2T olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 small green bell pepper, diced
4+ cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, minced (optional)
1 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 can pinto (or kidney) beans, rinsed and drained
1 can chickpeas/garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1 can navy (white) beans, rinsed and drained
2T chili powder
2T ground cumin
1T brown sugar
2 tsp dried oregano
1-2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
1 cup frozen corn

My favorite thing about this chili is the odd choice of beans. It sets it apart from other chilis, and really gives it a personality of its own.
Gawd I love beans.

Heat the oil in large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté for 3 minutes. Add the carrot, bell pepper, and jalapeno and cook 2 minutes more. Add the garlic, and cook and stir for 1 minute or until fragrant.

Add 2 cups water and all remaining ingredients except corn, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the corn and a scant 1/2 cup water and simmer for 10 more minutes.

There is no better word to describe this chili than “hearty.” It’s so healthy, filling, and flavorful that it is as pleasing to an omnivore as to a vegan. Each bite is packed full of savory veggies, creamy beans, sweet corn, and a rich amalgamation of warm spices. I’m not the comfort food junkie that a lot of people are, but I can envision this chili warding off many a chill this winter.

Yield: 6-8 servings. Per serving (6): 320 calories, 5.7g fat (.7g sat), 54.2g carbs, 13.8g fiber, 15g protein.
Per serving (8): 240 calories, 4.3g fat (.5g sat), 40.6g carbs, 10.4g fiber, 11.3g protein.

If you like this, you might also like...
White bean garlic soup

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Peanut butter bliss cake

Stop the presses. Hold the phones. Drop everything you are doing, RUN to your kitchen, and make this now.

It’s my take on a Nava Atlas recipe, and ladies and gentlemen, this is one of the three best cakes I have ever made. I can’t even be sure where it ranks within the top three – it may very well be number one. Imagine a moist, gooey, peanut-butter laced cake, studded with melty chocolate chips and crunchy crushed peanuts, that melts in your mouth like some sort of giant Reese’s PB cup. I am a peanut butter FREAK, and I’m telling you, if you even mildly like peanut butter, YOU HAVE TO MAKE THIS.

Did I mention that it’s low-sugar, whole wheat, and vegan?
Does life get any better?

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup soymilk (vanilla or plain)
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
2 tsp nut oil (optional)
3/4 cup chocolate chips
1/3 cup chopped peanuts

A couple notes and tips...
- You can use all-purpose flour in place of whole wheat pastry if you want.
- You can use any type of milk (rice, almond, even ::cringe:: dairy).
- The nut oil is optional; I just added it for extra sumptuousness. You can use walnut, almond, hazelnut, macadamia nut (like me!), or even just canola.
- The easiest way to measure a half cup of PB is to fill a 2-cup measuring cup up to the 1 1/2-cup mark. Spoon in PB until the water reaches the 2-cup mark. Just drain off the water, and voilà.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Combine the applesauce, soymilk, peanut butter, and oil in another bowl and whisk together until smooth.

Pour the wet ingredients in with the dry and stir together until fairly well blended, then whisk until the mixture is smooth.

Stir in the chocolate chips and all but a tablespoon of the peanuts. Pour into a greased 9-inch round (or square) cake pan.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden, and a knife inserted in the center comes out with chocolate, but no batter.

At this point, it is divine as-is, but I decided it needed some extra flair, and some concealer for those little cracks in the top. So I whipped up an impromptu chocolate glaze. I just eyeballed it – I’d say I used about 1/2 cup powdered sugar, 3T cocoa powder, and just enough soymilk to make it smooth (add it a tsp at a time).

Spread the glaze over the warm cake, sprinkle with the remaining peanuts, and set aside to cool. It’ll be difficult to wait very long.

Now prepare for the most luscious peanut butter experience of your life.

There are no words. It rendered me speechless. (And not just because of that delightful peanut-butter-on-roof-of-mouth effect that leaves your tongue lolling about in sticky glee.) There’s really no describing it – you’ll just have to make it yourself.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Yield: 12 slices. Per slice (with nut oil, without glaze): 240 calories, 13.3g fat (4g sat), 27.8g carbs, 2.5g fiber, 5.1g protein.

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