Thursday, November 18, 2010

Dreena Burton's Homestyle Chocolate Chip Cookies with a Twist

Who doesn’t love chocolate chip cookies?  Apparently the whopping 39 members of the Everybody Who Hates Chocolate Chip Cookies facebook page.  Sorry chip haters, you’re outnumbered.  In any case, this is my go-to chocolate chip cookie recipe that will satisfy any cookie seeker’s craving.  It’s brought to you by Dreena Burton’s Vive le Vegan! and posted on her blog here.  This recipe is easy to make and uses common ingredients most people have on hand.  Make sure you use real, pure maple syrup.  If you don’t have blackstrap molasses, regular ol’ molasses will work just fine.

Ready, here comes the twist.  One of the first few times I made this recipe, I was a little shy of the maple syrup so I just used blackstrap molasses to make up the difference.  Behold, my now famous Maple Molasses Chocolate Chip Cookies were born, and I’ve been making them that way ever since.  I know you’re thinking, that’s the twist?!  But, really, molasses (especially blackstrap molasses) has such a strong flavor that just a little extra really does make the cookie base taste a bit more like a super light gingerbread. 

I almost always use the spelt flour variation (see recipe note below) for its nuttier, sweeter flavor.  Spelt also has a much broader spectrum of nutrients than flours in the wheat family (it’s a great source of vitamin B2, manganese, fiber, niacin, thiamin, and copper).  And, not only does spelt contain more protein than wheat, the protein is also easier to digest.  On occasion, when the mood strikes, I’ve added 1/4 cup of chopped walnuts with the chips.  They add great crunch and really compliment the nutty, sweet flavor of the spelt flour.  Oh, and you must try Dreena’s idea for ice cream sandwiches.  Kiddos love them….and, of course, so do adults!

Dreena Burton's Homestyle Chocolate Chip Cookies with a Twist
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (see note below for wheat-free version)
1 tsp baking powder
1⁄2 tsp baking soda
1⁄4 cup unrefined sugar
1⁄4 tsp sea salt
1⁄3 cup pure maple syrup
**For the twist, use 3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon
1⁄4 tsp blackstrap molasses
**For the twist, use 2 tablespoons plus1/4 teaspoon
1 - 1 1⁄2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1⁄4 cup organic canola oil (a little generous 1/4 cup)
1⁄3 cup non-dairy chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°F (176°C). In a bowl, sift in the flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Add the sugar and salt, and stir until well combined. In a separate bowl, combine the maple syrup with the molasses and vanilla, then stir in the oil until well combined. Add the wet mixture to the dry, along with the chocolate chips, and stir through until just well combined (do not overmix). Place large spoonfuls of the batter on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and flatten a little. Bake for 11 minutes, until just golden (if you bake for much longer, they will dry out). Let cool on the sheet for no more than 1 minute (again, to prevent drying), then transfer to a cooling rack. Makes 8-10 large cookies.

Note: Unbleached all-purpose flour produces a cookie with a very classic taste and texture, but you can use whole-wheat pastry flour and still have delicious cookies! For a wheat-free version, use barley or spelt flour. With spelt flour, you may need to add an extra 2-4 TB of flour, if it is a refined spelt flour. Also, if using all-purpose flour, if the batter is heavy and dense when mixing in the wet ingredients, add another 1-2 tsp each of maple syrup and canol oil and work through.

Idea: Make a really special dessert treat... ice cream cookie sandwiches! Using two cookies that have been completely cooled in the refrigerator, spread some softened soy ice cream on the underside of one cookie, then place the other cookie on top. Wrap in plastic wrap and freeze until firm!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Carnival Squashes Stuffed with a Lemon-Herb Rice Medley

I’m really excited about this recipe.  It looks so pretty plated, and the sweet flesh of the carnival squash (think sweet potatoes or butternut squash) paired with the nutty flavor of the rice medley and the fresh lemony-herby bursts is purely sublime.  You should easily be able to fill 5 squashes, halved.  Maybe more.  My assembly went something like… fill a squash half with stuffing, eat a few spoonfuls, repeat.  So I can’t say for sure.  Plan to serve one full squash per person if this is your main dish. 

Make sure you read the instructions thoroughly, get out all equipment/ingredients, wash your produce, and peel the carrot before you start.  If everything is ready to go, the recipe should take about an hour to make, give or take.  I served this squash dish with the orange-glazed beets (I added a garnish of toasted walnuts) from Vegan with a Vengeance and grape focaccia bread.  Yummy in my tummy!

Pretty Carnival Squash, pre-recipe

Carnival Squashes Stuffed with a Lemon-Herb Rice Medley 
5 carnival squashes, halved
2 cups rice medley, uncooked
*mine had wild rice, brown rice, red rice, and wheat berries
1 low sodium vegetable bouillon cube
6 cups water
4 cups loosely packed chiffonaded kale (cut into thin strips)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 large softball-sized onion, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
zest and juice of 1 large lemon
1/2 teaspoon salt
several turns freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Then, start cooking the rice medley.  While bringing the water to a boil in a large stock pot, rinse the rice well using a small-holed strainer.  Once the water is boiling, add the rice and vegetable bouillon cube.  Cover and reduce heat to medium.  Simmer for 25 minutes.

While the rice is cooking, prepare the squashis.  Cut each squash in half top to bottom and scoop out the seeds.  Place cut side down on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 20 minutes. 

While the rice and squashes cook, chiffonade the kale and set aside.  Zest and juice the lemon into a small bowl.  Add the salt and pepper and whisk with a fork to combine.  Set aside.  Chop the fresh herbs and set aside.  After the rice has finished cooking, add the kale to the brothy rice and give the mixture a quick stir.  Immediately strain and transfer to a large bowl.  Don’t forget to take the squashes out of the oven after 20 minutes.

Rice medley and kale mixture

Preheat a few tablespoons of water in a skillet on medium heat.  While the water is preheating, mince garlic and chop onion, celery, and carrot.  Add the onion and garlic to the skillet and sautee for 2-3 minutes, adding additional water by the tablespoon as needed to prevent sticking.  Add carrot and celery and sautee for 5 minutes or so until crisp tender, again adding water as needed.  Add to the rice/kale mixture.  Add both the lemon juice dressing and fresh herbs as well.  Stir to combine.  Scoop some of the flesh out of each squash half, taking care to leave enough flesh to hold the shape.  Add the excess squash to the rice mixture and stir gently to combine.

Sprinkle each squash half with a little salt and pepper; then with a spoon fill each half with the rice stuffing, creating a mound of the stuffing on top.  Bake the stuffed squashes for 10 minutes.  Season with an additional dash of salt and pepper.  Serve warm.

Ready for eating

Monday, November 15, 2010

Grape Focaccia

Grape Focaccia

Mmmm.  See the sugar crystals?

I was super stoked when I scored a gallon-sized bag of red grapes from a friend.  Yummy.  But after a few days of eating grapes by the handful, I was ready to try something a little more interesting.  By chance, I came across the idea for grape focaccia on Bryanna Clark Grogan’s blog  I thought the combo seemed delightfully unusual. 

I love grapes and I love focaccia.  How could it not be delicious?  The fruity notes of the olive oil compliment the warm, sweet punch of the grapes, and don’t forget about the warm, freshly baked flat bread.  It was amazing right out of oven (do your best to give it a few minutes to cool, those grapes are HOT).  I couldn’t stop “sampling” little pieces while I finished dinner.  I served it with Carnival Squash Stuffed with a Lemon-herbed Rice Medley (recipe tomorrow), and the Orange-Glazed beets from Vegan with a Vengeance sprinkled with toasted walnuts.

Bryanna offers a link for a focaccia bread recipe, but I decided to use the tried and true fococcia recipe from The Joy of Vegan Baking.  I mixed one teaspoon of sugar in the warm water used to dissolve the yeast and subbed half of the unbleached all-purpose flour for whole wheat pastry flour.  I halved the large grapes and left the small ones whole.  After the last dough rise right before baking, I brushed the focaccia with two tablespoons of olive oil, topped with the grapes, then sprinkled one teaspoon of sugar over the top.  So so good!  Thank you Bryanna for the great idea!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Zuppa Toscana

I love love love soup this time of year.  My favorite part about this take on a Tuscan classic is that it uses blended potatoes to lend a super creamy texture to the soup’s base without adding fat.  The Zuppa Toscana I had back in my omni days always had some sort of sausage in the recipe.  To recreate the smoky sausage flavor without harming any of our animal friends, I added liquid smoke, red pepper flake, and some dry rubbed sage.  To add additional depth of flavor I use one Edward & Sons Not Chick'n bouillon cube (two is a little too much sodium for my taste) and one low sodium vegetable bouillon.  Another great alternative would be to use your own homemade vegetable stock.  The sliced potatoes and cannellini beans add substance.  The green of the kale really pops against the white background and, it’s just so darn yummy and healthful.  Hoorah for kale!

Zuppa Toscana
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 large softball-sized onion, chopped
4 of your favorite variety of potato
**I use medium-large sized Yukon Gold, gauge size accordingly
1 cup non-dairy milk, warmed
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
1/2 teaspoon dry-rubbed sage
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flake
A few turns freshly ground black pepper
2 cups cannellini beans cooked from scratch (or a 15 oz can drained and rinsed works fine)
1 Edward & Sons Not-Chick’n Broth bouillon cube
1 low sodium vegetable bouillon cube
5 cups water
1 smallish bunch kale torn into bit-sized pieces

Pierce two potatoes several times with a fork on each side and microwave until soft (about 5-7 minutes depending on the size of your potato).  In the mean time chop your veggies.  Cut the microwaved potatoes into fourths and toss into a blender or food processor.  Microwave the non-dairy milk for 45 seconds or until warm (warm milk is key to a smooth, creamy broth).  Add the liquid smoke, sage, red pepper flake, and ground pepper to the cooked potatoes and blend.  Slowly stream in the warm, non-dairy milk and blend until smooth, scraping down the sides as needed.  Set aside.  Preheat a few tablespoons of water in a large soup pot on medium heat.  Once the water is nice and hot, add the garlic and onion and sauté for 3 minutes.  Cut the other two potatoes into thin slices and add to the pot.  Pour the blended potato/non-dairy milk mixture into the soup pot.  Add half of the water, stir, and repeat.  Add the cannellini beans and bouillon cubes.  Stir to combine.  Cover and cook on a low simmer for 10 minutes.  Add the kale.  Cover and cook until potatoes are tender.  Garnish with freshly ground black pepper to taste.  Serve with crusty bread.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Peanut Sesame Hummus

Garnished with toasted sesame oil, roasted peanuts, and cilantro
So I am aware this is pretty stereotypical, but I am one hummus lovin' vegan.  Dreena Burton has eight hummus recipes in her cookbook, Eat, Drink, & Be Vegan.  I've tried six of them so far and they have all been a-mazing.  However the Peanut Sesame Hummus is my hands down favorite.  It's delicious as a sandwich spread with teriyaki-marinated tofu and fresh veggies as well as a dip for veggie sticks or pita chips (duh!).  Or just eat it with a spoon.  The recipe uses peanut butter, fresh lime juice, toasted sesame oil, and fresh ginger.  Yummy!  

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Peanut Butter Parsley Doggie Biscuits

It was our little Southie Bean’s birthday at the end of October.  DH and I of course got her the standard rope toy and a fuzzy squeak toy (her favs), but I also wanted to make her something special.  We have to be really careful with her weight, so it had to be a small portion and relatively healthy.  I happened to spot the cutest doggie cookie cutter at our local grocer that I just couldn’t pass up.  Both of our dogs love everything peanut butter, and parsley is supposed to help freshen doggie breath.  So I came up with this super easy and healthy biscuit recipe.  Both of our dogs loved them!  Please note that depending on the consistency of your peanut butter you may need a little more or less flour.  I used the kind that you grind directly from the peanuts in the bulk section which makes a pretty thick peanut butter.

Bonus pic of the birthday girl!

Peanut Butter Parsley Doggie Biscuits
Dry Ingredients:
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose unbleached flour
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon dried parsley
Wet Ingredients:
3/4 cup peanut butter (no salt or sugar added)
1 cup water
2 tablespoons canola oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl and set aside.  Measure peanut butter into a separate bowl and add about half the water.  Whisk with a fork to combine.  Add the rest of the water and canola oil.  Whisk again.  Add half of the dry ingredients and mix with a large spoon.  Add the last half of the dry ingredients and mix again.  At this point, you should be able to turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead into a firm ball.  If the dough is too sticky, add more flour.  Roll dough to 1/4 inch thickness and go to town with cookie cutters of your choice (try to use cookie cutters that are about the same size so they cook evenly).  Place treats on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 20 minutes.  Turn the oven off and crack the door open for a couple minutes to allow the oven to cool just a bit.  Close the oven and leave treats for 4 to 6 hours or until dried and crunchy.  Store at room temperature for 5 days or in the freezer for up to 12 months.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Party Food Part 6: Cakes!


The cake turned out to be the biggest hit of the party, and I must confess cakes are always my favorite item to make.  I’m definitely a decorating novice, but it’s so much fun I relish any opportunity to practice.  All recipes are either directly from or variations of recipes from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World (the BEST cookbook for all things cupcakes and cake).  I made a two layer 9 inch cake.  The bottom layer was a banana-flavored white cake.  I made 1 1/2 batches of the golden vanilla cupcake recipe but subbed banana extract for about half of the vanilla extract.  The top layer was 1 1/2 batches of the basic chocolate cupcake recipe.  The filling was chocolate-banana mousse.  I used the chocolate mousse topping recipe with the banana variation.  Then I covered the whole cake in the fluffy buttercream frosting.  I used marzipan to make the dots.

Inside shot

I also made a single batch of each cupcake recipe into some extra banana-chocolate marbled cupcakes and banana-chocolate smash cake for the birthday boy.  I used a large muffin tin to make the smash cake which needed to be trimmed a bit before frosting, but seemed to work pretty well. 

Banana-Chocolate marbled cupcakes
Birthday boy's personal mini cake
Digging in.  So darn cute.

A fist full of cake

Party Food Part 5: Sweet Potato Fries

Sweet Potato Fries
These are ridiculously easy to make and were the first thing to completely disappear.  I used the following method:  Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Cut 2-3 large sweet potatoes into medium fry-sized strips.  Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper and coat with non-stick canola oil cooking spray.  Arrange fries in a single layer on the cookie sheets (don’t over crowd) and season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Bake for about 40 minutes, then broil for a couple minutes until fries are browned (watch carefully, this happens fast).  Granted I had A LOT of fries going at once, so if you’re baking a smaller batch your cooking time will likely be faster.  I’d suggest checking on your fries every 5 minutes or so after the 30 minute mark.  And, again, let me warn you to keep a very close eye on the fries when you broil.  As in, stay glued to your oven or you risk all your long awaited sweet potato fry goodness being burned which would be a major bummer.

 I served the fries with a trio dipping sauces.

From left to right:
Spicy Ketchup - about 2/3 cup ketchup mixed with several dashes hot sauce
Maple BBQ - about 1/3 cup bbq sauce mixed with a few tablespoons pure maple syrup
Wildwood’s Garlic Aioli - So good.  This stuff only last a couple days whenever I buy it.

Party Food Part 4: Sweet Dipping Sauces

Fruit with a Variety of Dipping Sauces
We also had a variety of fresh fruit (apple slices, bananas, pineapple, grapes, strawberries) with dipping sauces.  I made the Raspberry Sauce from The Joy of Vegan Baking with a few tweaks.  Since there were a bunch of kiddos at the party, I decided to go ahead and strain the sauce to get rid of the seeds (I really disliked raspberry seeds as a kid, but maybe that was just me).  After straining, I poured the sauce back into the pot and reheated with a tablespoon of arrowroot powder until it just started to bubble to thicken it up a bit so it would coat the fruit nicely when dipped.  Yum!

I also made the Chocolate Sauce recipe again from The Joy of Vegan Baking, but added about a third a bag of chocolate chips right at the end for added rich chocolatey goodness.  Again, yum!

Chocolate and Raspberry Sauce:  side by side besties

Salted Caramel Sauce
Lastly, I made a salted caramel sauce for fruit dipping.  This is one of my fav’s.  The salt is totally optional so feel free to leave it out if you don't think salt belongs in caramel sauce (I respectfully disagree).  It freezes really well, and depending on your needs it can easily be double or even tripled.  It’s great for any of those times when you may be thinking, this [whatever you may be eating] would be so much better with caramel sauce!  You will need a candy thermometer, but don’t be intimidated.  It really is quite easy and so worth it.

Mmmmm.  Caramel Sauce.

1/2 cup non-hydrogenated margarine (such as Earth Balance)
1 cup sugar
1 cup non-dairy creamer or full fat non-dairy milk (this probably isn’t the time to use rice milk)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon salt (optional)

Place margarine, sugar, and non-dairy milk in a saucepan and bring to a boil stirring often.  Cook over medium heat while stirring constantly until mixture reaches 230 degrees F.  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and salt.  Allow to cool slightly, then pour into a jar and allow to finish cooling uncovered.  The sauce will be quite thick when cooled, but will thin out a bit when reheated.

**Variation:  for chocolate caramel sauce, add a couple squared unsweetened chocolate to the margarine/sugar/non-dairy milk mixture before boiling.

Party Food Part 3: Monkey Bread

Monkey Bread

Since the decorations were monkey-themed and we were serving finger-foods, I thought pull-apart style monkey bread (also called African Coffee Cake) would be fun.  And, really, I just love any excuse to make bread.  For some reason I was really intimidated by yeasted bread for a long time.  When I finally broke down and decided I was determined to learn, I realized it really isn’t all that difficult.  The novelty of it still hasn’t worn off and every time I pull some fresh baked bread out of the oven, I feel a little giddy.

Not only is monkey bread fun to make (I LOVE rolling the dough into the little balls and dipping them in the buttery, cinnamony, sugary goodness), but it will make your house smell a-mazing.  Often times chopped pecans are added to the dipping mixture, but we had a guest who was allergic to nuts so I skipped it.  Although it certainly isn’t traditional, sometimes if I want it to be more dessert-like I’ll whip up a quick confectioner’s glaze and drizzle over the finished bread.  For me, it makes the monkey bread really reminiscent of cinnamon rolls.  And, really, who doesn’t like that.  I used my trusty stand-mixer for speed and ease, but you should be able to make this recipe without one pretty easily.

 To Make The Dough:
2 cups non-dairy milk (you want a nice thick non-dairy milk, so this isn’t the time to use low fat or rice milk)
1/3 cup plus a pinch sugar
1/2 cup non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening
1/4 cup warm water
1 package active dry yeast
5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, divided
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
For Dipping the Dough:
1/2 cup non-hydrogenated margarine (such as Earth Balance), melted
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup chopped pecans (optional)

Dissolve yeast in warm water with a pinch of sugar.  Set aside.  In a medium-sized saucepan heat the milk to 190 degrees F (or until bubbles form around the edges of the pan).  Watch the non-dairy milk closely as it can go from nearly boiling to boiling over pretty dang fast.  Remove from heat and stir in the shortening and sugar until dissolved.  Allow the mixture to cool to 85 degrees or until lukewarm.  While the liquds are cooling, add 3 cups flour to the bowl of a stand-mixer.  Add the yeast mixture and cooled liquids to the flour and mix with the paddle attachment until well combined.  Cover with a warm, damp cloth and let rise in a warm place for about 2 1/2 hours (I just leave the dough in the stand-mixer bowl and cover that so I don’t need to dirty an extra bowl). 

**Tip:  For a great home for your dough to rise, turn your oven on to the lowest possible setting for about 1 minute while the dough is mixing, then turn it off.  Don’t leave the oven on for much longer than a minute as the yeast will die with too much heat.  Simply place your covered dough in the slightly warmed oven.  The yeast loves the warmth and it frees up your counter space.** 

While the dough is rising, combine 2 cups flour with the baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  Set aside.  After the dough has risen, secure the bowl with the dough back into the stand mixer.  Using the dough hook attachment, add the remaining flour mixture and knead for 4 to 5 minutes.  The dough should be slightly sticky, but you should be able to handle it without it sticking to your hands and creating a huge mess.  Depending on the day, you may need to add more flour (sometimes up to 1/2 cup or more) to reach this consistency.  Let rise (covered, in a warm place) for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and coat a bundt pan with non-stick cooking spray.  Melt margarine in a microwave safe bowl and stir in sugar, cinnamon, and pecans if using.  Let cool slightly.  Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface.  Roll dough into 2 inch balls.  Using a fork, dip each ball into the margarine mixture letting most of the access drip off and arrange into the bundt pan.  Repeat.  Bake for 45 minutes, then let cool on a cooling rack for 5 minutes before unmolding.  Unmold onto a serving dish and brush any of the remaining margarine mixture onto the bread.  Serve warm.  You can cut into slices or serve it pull-apart style. 

**For a quick confectioners’ glaze, in a small bowl mix 1 cup confectioners’ sugar, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, and 1 tablespoon non-dairy milk with a fork.  When the glaze drizzles off the fork and back into the bowl it should “float” for a good 5 seconds or so.  Add non-dairy milk just a few drops at a time until this consistency is reached.  Drizzle onto the bread before serving.

Party Food Part 2: Hummus and Sandwiches

My friend told me she knew some of the kiddos liked hummus.  So naturally I had to do a couple batches.  I made a double batch of the White Bean Hummus with Fresh Thyme & Basil from Dreena Burton’s Eat, Drink, & Be Vegan as well as a traditional hummus using this recipe.  I reserved some of the hummus for dipping and used some to make little sandwiches.  I also did the standard PB&J sandwiches.

White Bean Hummus with Fresh Thyme & Basil

Traditional Hummus
Little PB&J and hummus veggie sandwiches

Party Food Part 1: Two kinds of popcorn

The Story:
So once again I’m behind in my MoFo posting, but I had a really fun, awesome weekend!  Let me explain….(I know…excuses, excuses, excuses).  Several weeks back a friend of mine, knowing how much I love to cook, asked me to do finger foods and cake for her son’s 1st birthday party (25 person guest list).  She said she would buy all the food and help with the prep. 

Oh, and everyone at the party (except the hubby and me) were not vegans (such a trusting friend, huh?).  So of course I said yes!  An opportunity to make a ton of snackies with someone else footing the grocery bill?  And a chance to show a bunch of omni’s that vegan food doesn’t taste like cardboard?  And that, yes, we do eat cake too?  Sign me up!  Granted it was a lot of work, but we had oh so much fun! 

Party-goers digging in

The food received a ton of compliments.  And, go figure, the cake seemed to be the hands-down favorite.  I also had the opportunity to answer a bunch of questions regarding vegan food and philosophy.  Did I mention so so much fun?!  As if it couldn’t get any better, my friend sent me home with arm loads of veggies and fruit as a thank you.  So, here’s a list of everything I made and the cookbooks/recipes I used.  Please enjoy.  Oh, and I don’t have any more ginormous projects like this in the near future so I promise to be a MoFo blogging fiend the rest of the month.  Promise. 

Two Kinds of Popcorn:
What better snacky finger food than popcorn?  I’ve wanted an air-popper for a long time.  I don’t do microwave popcorn so every time a popcorn craving hits me, I’m often discouraged at the prospect of standing in front of the stove for 20 minutes and jostling a pan non-stop.  Plus, I’m trying to cut oil out of my diet where I can.  Since I needed to pop about 30 cups of popcorn for the party, it was a perfect excuse to bite the bullet and buy and air popper.  Okay, so I found one on sale for only $19.99, but still.  I try to avoid buying additional kitchen stuff as much as possible, especially new.  It was so worth it.  It pops a huge bowl of popcorn oil-free and in about 3 minutes.  So exciting!

Chocolate Caramel Corn With Peanuts and Sea Salt

I made the caramel corn recipe from Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s The Joy of Vegan Baking, then added chocolate and sea salt.  It turned out so delicious, I will definitely make this again.  I think it would be great in cute little bags as a Christmas gift.  Unfortunately by the time I got to this recipe, it was so late the night before I could barely see straight.  And I forgot the baking soda.  Bummer.  Luckily the hubby was nice enough to run out in the middle of the night and pick up extra ingredients so I could try again.

The second time was a success!  I added in the optional peanuts per the recipe, and used about a cup of extra popcorn since I knew I’d also be covering it in chocolate so I didn’t mind if every piece wasn’t completely coated.  As soon as the caramel corn had cooled, I melted half a bag of chocolate chips in the microwave using this method:  microwave for 30 seconds, stir well, repeat.  It’s done when you pull it out of the microwave and there are still some unmelted chips that melt in when you stir.  You want to take care not to over heat as the chocolate can burn really easily. 
Then I added about 1/2 a tablespoon Earth Balance non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening for added pourability.  I dumped 1/3 of the cooled caramel corn in a large bowl then poured in 1/3 of the melted chocolate/shortening mixture and stirred gently to combine.  Then repeated with the second, then last portion. 

To finish it off I spread the chocolate-coated caramel corn into a thin layer on wax paper.  I sprinkled with sea salt and let cool (to expedite things I put on cookie sheets, then into the refrigerator).  Break apart any large chunks before transferring to an air-tight container for storage.

Savory Pizza-Seasoned Popcorn   

I love experimenting with various seasonings on popcorn and thought this one turned out pretty well.  The seasoning doesn’t taste like pizza itself, but does have yummy herby notes from the pizza seasoning.  The nutritional yeast adds a bit of cheezey flavor and the lemon juice brightens it all up.  

I ground pizza seasoning (oregano, basil, onion flakes, garlic powder, thyme, fennel, paprika, fresh ground black pepper, dried lemon peel) in a coffee grinder with nutritional yeast and a little additional garlic powder.  I also melted some Earth Balance margarine with a little squeeze of fresh lemon juice (repeat, a LITTLE squeeze) and proceeded to dress the popcorn with a sprinkle of the seasoning and a drizzle of the lemony margarine.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Savory Pumpkin Bread and Bonus Pumpkin Cupcakes

'Tis the season for all things pumpkin, which is a-okay by me.  I love pumpkin.  So much so that I really do use it all year round, but autumn gives me the excuse to use it with reckless abandon.  Watch out!  And what’s not to love?  It’s mildly sweet flavor works wonderfully in both sweet and savory applications, and it makes baked goods super moist.  Just one cup of pumpkin contains 145% of the RDA of vitamin A, and pumpkin has been found to have anti-cancer type effects.  So eat your pumpkin!  This recipe is a twist on the classic sweet-style pumpkin bread we’re all used to.  It has a mild, herby undertone and isn’t too sweet.  It uses whole wheat flour as well as less sugar and oil than most sweet recipes so you don’t have to feel bad if you eat half the loaf in one sitting.  Not that I’ve ever done that.  A nice, thick slice tastes great dipped in a warm bowl of chili, or try a piece toasted with a drizzle of some good quality balsamic vinegar, or just slather a piece with some Earth Balance non-dairy buttery spread and go to town.

Fresh out of the oven

Toasted and slathered with Earth Balance

Savory Pumpkin Herb Bread
Dry Ingredients:
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (unbleached all-purpose flour works too)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon each basil, parsley, chives
1/2 teaspoon each sage, mild chili powder, onion powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
A few turns freshly ground black pepper
Wet Ingredients:
2 tablespoons ground flax seeds
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons water
1/2 cup non-dairy milk
1 1/2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 1/4 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly coat a loaf pan with non-stick spray.  In a small bowl, whisk together the ground flax seeds and water.  Set aside.  In a large bowl, mix together non-dairy milk and apple cider vinegar.  Set aside.  In a medium-sized bowl, combine dry ingredients.  Set aside.  Add flax/water mixture, canola oil, and pumpkin puree to the milk mixture.  Using a fork, whisk together the wet ingredients.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet.  Using a large spoon, stir until just combined.  Bake for 60 to 70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let cool in the pan on a rack for 5 minutes or so before unmolding to cool completely on the rack.

**Bonus Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cupcakes With Cinnamon Icing and Chocolate Mousse**
And to up the ante, here are a few bonus pictures of the pumpkin chocolate chip cupcakes I made for a Halloween party.  There were mini’s for cautious nibblers and standard-sized cupcakes for those needing their sugar fix.  This was probably the tenth time I’ve made these cupcakes; they are that good.  The cupcake recipe along with both frosting recipes are from the cookbook Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World by Isa Chandra Moskowitz & Terry Hope Romero which is one of my favorites.  There isn’t one recipe I’ve tried that hasn’t been the best cupcake I’ve ever tasted.  Just sayin’.