Saturday, January 29, 2011

Apple-Chamomile Tea Cookies


Ah, the art of the tea cookie: a delicate, dignified mouthful. Or just a great excuse to make cookies for breakfast. Here's a recipe I stumbled onto whilst doing an online search for who know's what, and then decided to veganize. The original post had typographical errors and even left out some measurements so, I did my best with what I thought was supposed to happen. I've never had a tea cookie, or any tea dessert and I've definitely never thought to bake with tea or chamomile! If you like chamomile or any herbal tea for that matter, think of this as a great way to enjoy the soothing comfort of tea without having to actually drink tea. Or, you can double fist it with a cup of tea in one hand and a not-so-dignified handful of cookies in the other. Either way, you'll feel relaxed and perhaps, even ready for bed. Unless, like me, you become frantic and can't stop eating these cookies in one sitting. Perhaps that was attributed to the fact that these cookies aren't crunchy, they're chewy. Making them all the easier to eat.

Leave the chocolate for the chocolate enthusiasts. All those decadent, too sweet flavors have their place. Just not here. This cookie isn't your typical cookie. It doesn't even pretend to be. The flavors are probably something you would never taste anywhere else and that being said, you're probably not used to them. Am I saying, "proceed with caution"? Well, yes, if you expect an over-the-top sweet cookie coma to follow after eating these. But no caution need be taken if you like to try new things and are open to interesting flavors.

Chamomile can be a little tricky to find. Try your local health, natural foods store or, any store that has loose leaf tea. I used organic German chamomile in my cookies, but regular chamomile will do. If all else fails, buy some chamomile tea and break open about 10 bags.

Bon appetit! Oh, and don't forget to put your pinky up! You might as well look fancy.

Ingredients:
(about 2 dozen cookies)

1 medium sized organic Granny Smith apple (about 1 1/2 cups), cored, peeled, and finely chopped
1 Tbsp organic sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup Earth Balance Buttery Sticks
1 1/3 cup organic brown sugar
1 Tbsp agave nectar
1/2 cup So-Delicious Unsweetened Coconut Milk Beverage (any non-dairy milk will do)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 flax egg (1 Tbsp finely ground flax seeds with 2-3 Tbsp water)
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup dried chamomile flowers (or the contents of 10 opened chamomile tea bags), finely chopped

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a small bowl, combine the apple, sugar, and cinnamon. Mix well and set aside. In a separate bowl combine the flour and salt and set aside.

In large bowl combine the Earth Balance Butter, brown sugar, and agave. Mix until well combined, pale, and fluffy. Mix in the milk, vanilla extract, and flax egg. Add the flour to the butter mixture in small batches and mix until evenly combined. Fold in the apple mixture and chamomile until well combined.

Drop by teaspoonfuls onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 13 to 15 minutes, until lightly golden.  Remove from oven and cool for 5 minutes before transferring to wire rack to cool completely. Serve with tea, coffee, or your favorite non-dairy milk.

Breakfast Polenta with Field Roast Mexican Chipotle Sausage and Daiya Cheddar


For all you hungry Mexican food aficionados who enjoy a hearty, (a bit spicy) and savory breakfast or brunch, but have grown tired of the omnipotent tofu scramble, I give you this: The power of polenta - for breakfast!

Call me a fat kid, I don't care, but when I couldn't decide between oatmeal and muffins, I made oatmeal cakes, and when I couldn't decide to only eat oatmeal cakes for breakfast - I made this too. And thank the vegan kitchen gods I did! I couldn't stop eating it. In fact, I made enough for two (so I could save some for later), but I ate the whole thing! Oh boy.

This was inspired by my recent trip to NYC where I had brunch at a little restaurant in the lower east side called, Caravan of Dreams. I got the french toast. My best friend got the polenta. When our food came out, it was obvious I would be secretly seething with jealousy no matter how good my french toast was.

Need I say more? Oh yes, on thing more: enjoy!

Ingredients:
(makes 4 servings)

1 cup Daiya Cheddar Style Shredded Cheese
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
3/4 cup water
1 cup polenta (or regular cornmeal - I used Bob's Red Mill)
1 - 15oz can organic corn, drained and rinsed
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 Field Roast Mexican Chipotle sausages, crumbled
1 pint organic cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 small red onion, chopped
1/2 can organic black beans, drained and rinsed
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Tofutti Sour Cream, to serve, optional

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Put the Daiya Cheddar and the cilantro in a small bowl and mix to combine. Set aside

In another bowl, mix together the water, polenta, and corn. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour into a 13 x 9, 2 quart glass baking dish and bake for 25 minutes, until water is absorbed and polenta is tender, but not too dry.


In a non-stick skillet, add the olive oil and the sausage and cook on medium-high heat, until browned, 7 to 8 minutes. Lower the heat and add the tomatoes; simmer until they exude their juices, stirring occasionally. Add the onion and cook for another 3 to 5 minutes. Don't let them become translucent, you want them to still be colorful and a little crunchy. While this is happening, place another non-stick skillet on medium high heat and warm the black beans. Remove from heat after about 4 or 5 minutes.

Cut the polenta into squares and serve on individual plates. Top with sausage mixture, then beans, then cilantro and Daiya. Add Tofutti Sour Cream, if using.

Banana Almond Butter Iced Pudding with Banana Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookie Dough

Remember those Banana Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies from my last post? Of course you do. Well, this is what happens when you only need to make a half batch, but you make too much and have extra cookie dough left over and don't want to just eat it all for breakfast (even though you secretly do). Make cookie dough ice cream! Or rather, ice cream without an ice cream maker - ice pudding. It sounds weird, I know, but I swear it's really good! It's not the most decadent of desserts, but if you like desserts that hit the spot without being overwhelmingly sweet, you'll like this.

Ingredients:
(2 servings)

2 ripe bananas, sliced and frozen overnight
2 Tbsp almond butter (you can use peanut butter)
1 cup almond milk (or other non-dairy milk)
1/2 to 1 cup banana chocolate chip oatmeal cookie dough, refrigerated
organic brown sugar, to garnish

Directions:

Put bananas, almond milk, and almond butter into a blender or food processor. Puree. Turn off the motor and stir the mixture a few times until smooth and creamy. Do not over blend!

Place cookie dough by the teaspoonful in the bottom of a serving bowl. Pour banana mixture over it and then place a few more drops of cookie dough in and stir to combine. Garnish with one teaspoonful of cookie dough on top and sprinkle with brown sugar. Serve immediately.

Banana Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

This is what happens when banana bread, chocolate chip cookies, and oatmeal get together for a drink at the bar and then go home together. Madness! I'm sure Martha Stewart wouldn't print that as the intro to this recipe in her magazine, but this is the vegan version of her cookie and as such, I'm allowed to be a bit saucy!

These cookies have everything I love about baking rolled into one sweet treat! Enjoy!

Ingredients:
(makes about 36 cookies)

1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 cup unbleached white whole wheat flour (regular whole wheat is fine)
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp baking soda (Use cruelty free baking soda!)
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) Earth Balance Buttery Sticks
1/2 cup organic sugar
1/2 cup organic light brown sugar
1 flax egg (1 Tbsp finely ground flax seed with 2-3 Tbsp water)
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup mashed ripe organic banana (about 1 large banana)
1 cup old fashioned rolled oats
8 ounces semisweet vegan chocolate chips (Look for this brand or the Whole Foods Brand)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts, optional

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a small bowl, combine the flours, salt, and baking soda. Set aside.  In a medium bowl, mix together the butter and sugars with an electric mixer (or a spoon) until evenly combined and fluffy. Add the flax egg, vanilla, and banana, and mix well. Add to flour mixture and mix until just combined. Fold in the oats, chocolate chips, and walnuts.

Drop the dough by the tablespoon full onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Space each cookie about 2 inches apart. You may need to wet your fingers a little to keep the dough from sticking to the spoon and your fingers as you scoop it out. You may also wish to shape the cookies with yours fingers, but you don't have to.

Bake cookies for 12 to 13 minutes, rotating the baking sheets about half way through. Let cool on sheets for 5 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Gluten-Free Oven Baked Oatmeal Fruit Cakes

Ever have one of those mornings when you can't decide whether you want something good for you (like oatmeal) and something not so good for you (a muffin)? I had one of those mornings today. Luckily for me, I didn't have to chose! These here oatmeal cakes have all the good-for-you benefits of oatmeal, with the illusion of cake. They are pretty simple to make and although they appear to be a "quick fix" breakfast, they aren't. Unless, you have 40 minutes to spare in the morning. Make these on a day when you know you won't be getting around to eating breakfast until about an hour after waking up. Or, make them the night before! If you're in the mood for crunchy and soft textures, and sweet and tart flavors, this is the recipe for you! If you like a muffin with an ooey, gooey middle, this recipe is for you! Substitute whatever fruit you'd like and add chopped nuts if you wish for added crunch. Or you can change it up completely - try using bananas and chocolate chips instead of fruit for a sweet treat! One thing is certain: they will be delicious no matter what you use and they will make your kitchen smell lovely!


Ingredients:
(makes 12 cakes)

3 cups Gluten Free Rolled Oats (I used this brand)
1/2 cup organic light brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
3/4 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
3 flax eggs (3 Tbsp finely ground flax seeds with 1/4 cup water)
1 cup almond milk
1/3 cup organic maple syrup (or agave syrup)
1/4 cup melted Earth Balance Buttery Sticks (4 Tbsp) - can substitute with canola oil
1/2 cup frozen blueberries
1/2 cup frozen blackberries

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 325 F. Lightly grease a metal cupcake/muffin tin with canola oil spray and set aside.

In a medium to large bowl add the oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, salt, and baking powder. Mix to combine. Set aside.

In a small bowl, make the flax eggs by combining the ground flax seeds with the water. Whisk together with a fork until the consistency of a runny, but thick egg white. Set aside to thicken for 5 minutes.

In another small bowl, combine the almond milk, maple or agave syrup, and the melted Earth Balance Butter. Add this mixture to the oat mixture and stir to combine. Next, add the flax eggs and mix well. Fold in the blueberries and blackberries until well dispersed.

Spoon the mixture into the muffin tin, filling each cup to the top, spread your spoon across each cup to create a flat surface. Bake in the center of the oven for 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Serve warm. Drizzle and garnish with agave and raw turbinado sugar, if desired.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Mini Tofu Quiche Pies

So this recipe originates from two places. One, is having left over pastry dough from making apple pie and the other is from being very hungry and not having much around the house but a few vegetable odds and ends from previous dinners.

The pie dough from this recipe is from Vegan Yum Yum, created by Lauren Ulm. You can find step by step photos for it here.  I've simply doubled it to satisfy the amount of quiche filling. The filling is a inspired by Fat Free Vegan Kitchen's mini crustless tofu quiches.

This recipe is very simple to make (especially if you have the pie dough already made) and very delicious too! It makes for a tasty dinner side (or you could eat a few and have a full dinner) and it also serves as a quick savory breakfast!

Mini Vegan Quiche Pies
(makes 12 mini pies)

Tools:
Muffin tin (silicone or metal - I use metal)
Food Processor
Rolling Pin
Non-stick pan

Ingredients:
For the Pate Brisee (pie dough):
2 1/2 cup All Purpose Flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp organic sugar
1/2 cup non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening
1/2 cup Earth Balance margarine
4 to 8 tbsp ice water

For the filling:
1/2 cup summer squash, chopped into small pieces
1 tsp garlic (about 3 cloves), minced
1/2 cup red bell pepper, chopped small pieces
1 cup mushrooms, chopped
1 tbsp fresh chives, minced
1 tsp fresh cilantro, minced
1 12oz package of firm silken tofu, drained
1/4 cup almond milk
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
1 tbsp cornstarch (arrowroot will do)
1 tsp tahini
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp of turmeric
1/2 -3/4 tsp salt
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Olive oil, to serve
Dried oregano, to serve

Directions:
First, make the pie dough. Lightly spray a muffin tin with oil. Add the flour, salt, sugar, vegetable shortening, and Earth Balance together in a food processor. Pulse until the mixture looks like wet sand (a few small lumps are okay). While the processor is running, slowly drizzle in water until the dough forms a ball. If in doubt, add less water. Take out the dough and place it on the counter and press it to form a disk. Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1/2 hour.

When ready, place a small tablespoon of dough into the bottom of each greased muffin cup. Press the dough firmly to create a bottom crust. Taking small pieces of dough, build up the sides of the cup. Make sure the walls aren't too thick! Place the shells into the refrigerator for a few minutes to firm up.

To make the tops, place the rest of the pie dough on a sheet of plastic wrap. Cover with a second sheet. Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough to 1/4 to 1/8 inch thick. Using a glass that has a slightly larger diameter than the openings of the muffin cups, stamp out 12 pie crust tops. Place them in the refrigerator for 10 to 15 minutes to firm them up.

Preheat the oven to 375 F.

Lightly spray a non-stick skillet with olive oil and saute the garlic, bell peppers, summer squash, and mushrooms over medium heat until the mushrooms begin to exude their juices. Stir in the chives, cilantro and freshly ground black pepper and remove from heat.

Place the remaining ingredients (tofu through salt) in a food processor and process until completely smooth and silky. Add this mixture to the vegetables and stir to combine. Spoon equally into the 12 muffin cups, filling them and leaving about 1/4 to 1/2 an inch of space on the top.


Place your dough tops on top of each muffin and pinch the edges down to seal the tops onto the base. The better the seal, the more likely it is to stay closed under heat. With a sharp knife, cut an "X" on top of the dough, if desired.


Put the muffin pan into a middle rack in the oven and immediately reduce heat to 350 F. Bake until the tops are golden and toothpick inserted into the middle of the quiche comes out clean, about 25 to 35 minutes. If you're using a metal tin (and not a silicone one) this will probably be closer to 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let them cool for 10 minutes. Some of the tops may have come undone a little if they were not sealed tightly enough, but that is okay! I think they actually look better as "peek-a-boo" quiches!

Serve with olive oil and dried oregano.

Peek-a-boo! I see deliciousness!
Bon app├ętit!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Winter Squash, Sweet Potato and Ginger Soup with Collards and Thyme-Sage Croutons

Oh, Frankensquash, there will never be another like you!
Back in September I was given a nameless, misshapen organic squash that I've since named my "Frankensquash." I'd never cooked with squash, but I've always liked it. I was reluctant to use the squash until recently because I had no idea what to do with it and I thought that whatever I came up with  would be time consuming and difficult. But my stomach soon took over as I'm a big fan of squash. And an even bigger fan of squash soups. And an even bigger fan of collard greens. And you guessed it, an even bigger fan of ginger. I was lucky enough to have nothing much on hand but all three of these on a very cold night and came up with this easy, spicy, soothing, and filling soup! I also had some ciabatta bread lying around that was a few days old and perfect for croutons.

This soup pleases everybody. There's nothing "fake" about it (unless you count the Daiya cheddar "cheese" I put on the croutons - which is completely optional). Make this for your sick loved ones, make it for a hungry winter guest, make it for yourself!

Do they have crouton eaters anonymous meetings somewhere?
Just make sure you taste it as you go, making sure the ginger flavor is to your liking. A lot of ginger is never a bad thing, but it can make your soup too spicy and nearly inedible if you add too much, and too little ginger is no fun at all!

Also, beware the croutons! They are delicious for snacking and highly addictive! Don't eat them all before you put them in the soup!

I would certainly serve this to my hungry prairie guests!
Ingredients:

For the soup:
2 tbsp olive oil, plush more for brushing
1 winter squash (butternut or acorn will do), halved
1 small sweet potato, peeled and cut for roasting
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into 1 inch circular pieces
1/2 of a small yellow onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 stem of a small piece of ginger root, peeled and very finely grated or chopped *(see note above)
3 and 1/2 cup of vegetable broth, more as needed
2 collard green leaves, de-stemed and chopped into small squares
salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste


For the croutons:
24 - 1/4 inch thick ciabatta bread slices (any baguette will do, a few days old is preferred)
1 tbsp Earth Balance Buttery Spread
1 tsp ground sage
1 tsp dried thyme leaf, crushed
1 tbsp Daiya Cheddar Style Shreds (optional)
salt, to taste

Directions: 
Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Cut open the squash and clean out the seeds and flesh (don't throw them out, save them for roasting and snacking on later!). Brush the inside and the edges of the cut squash with olive oil and lay cut side down on the baking sheet. Brush the sweet potato and carrot with olive oil and place them on the baking sheet as well. Bake for 45 minutes. While this is baking, prepare the other components of the soup.

In a food processor or blender, process the ginger root until very finely chopped. You don't want any big chunks. Set aside.

Heat a non-stick pan on medium-high and saute the onion and garlic until tender and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add this to the ginger in the food processor and pulse until very finely chopped.

Once your roasted veggies are done, remove them from the oven and set them aside to cool for at least 10 minutes. When ready, scoop out the squash with a spoon and add it, the carrot, and sweet potato to the food processor and blend until you've got a very uniform and orange puree.

In a medium sauce pan, combine the vegetable broth and the puree until a soup-like, but still thick consistency appears. Bring the soup to a boil and then simmer it on low for a few minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the collards and stir while the soup is simmering. Cover it for about 3 minutes (giving the collards enough time to become soft), ladle into bowls and serve hot with croutons on top!

For the croutons:
Preheat the broiler. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread a small amount of the Earth Balance Buttery Spread on one side of each of the pieces of bread. Spread the bread pieces, buttered side up on the baking sheet in one layer. Broil for 1 minute (just 1 minute!). Remove them after 1 minute and turn them over. Sprinkle the vegan cheese (if using) then the sage, thyme, and salt over them. Return them to the broiler and broil until the cheese melts, about 1 more minute. Serve on top of soup!

"Meat" and Spinach Lasagna with Daiya Vegan Cheese

When I was younger, I used to tell myself (and everyone who asked) that if I was on death's door and could have one last meal, it would be, without question, my mom's meat lasagna. Growing up, there was nothing she produced out of her kitchen that I loved more, and trust me, there were many things to chose from. When I first had a traditional Italian lasagna, I was baffled. What's this ricotta cheese? My mom doesn't use that. Where's the meat?! And more importantly, why isn't this being served with a side of white rice?
That's how my mom's was different. It had meat, no ricotta, and a lot of Dominican flavor (heavy on the oregano, know what I'm sayin'?). And...we ate everything with rice.
When I went vegan, about a year ago, I thought it was all over. I thought for sure I'd be having oatmeal before dying. And not too soon after, I forgot all about mom's lasagna. While I was in Portland, OR this summer, I made the mistake of having lasagna at a restaurant. It was good. But it wasn't what I was used to, and flavor-wise, it just didn't bring me back home, or anywhere for that matter. That's when I knew that I had to tackle mom's lasagna when I got home and make it vegan.
So this is it, my basic lasagna recipe - mom's lasagna, veganized. I decided I like the traditional "ricotta" cheese idea a lot, and my mom's version had a lot of mozzarella cheese so, this is my way of making up for that in a much kinder, healthier way. The ricotta recipe is from the Fat Free Vegan Kitchen blog. All credit goes to the lovely Susan V. for creating it! My version has less spinach since there is a layer of fresh spinach in the lasagna already. Don't tell anyone the ricotta is made of tofu and they won't even know.
This recipe is very easy to make and very filling. But if you're feeling ambitious, serve it with a side of white rice.
Tools: 
Food Processor or blender
Non Stick Pan
9 x 12 casserole dish
Ingredients:
9 lasagna noodles, uncooked (or if dried, boiled until al dente)
3 oz fresh baby spinach
2 28oz jars of crushed fire roasted tomatoes (or your favorite spaghetti sauce or a combination of both)
1 package of Daiya Mozzarella Vegan Shredded Cheese
"Meat" Filling:
2 tbsp olive oil, more as needed
1/2 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 to 2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 small onion, chopped
1 package of Smart Ground Original Veggie Protein Crumbles
Basil, dried, to taste
Oregano, dried, to taste
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
"Ricotta" Filling:
3 to 4oz chopped baby spinach
1 package (14oz) firm tofu
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp rosemary, crushed
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350F.
If using dried lasagna noodles, bring water to a boil in a large pot, add a pinch of salt and cook the noodles until al dente (follow instructions on the package).
Meanwhile, in a non stick pan, add the oil, mushrooms, garlic, and onion and saute until tender. Add the Smart Ground, basil, oregano, salt and pepper. Cook on low to medium heat and stir until well combined and fragrant. Remove from heat and cover. Mix in about 15oz of spaghetti sauce if desired (but I usually leave it out and add it to the dish later).
Add all of the ricotta filling ingredients to the food processor and blend until well combined and smooth.
Now spread some tomato sauce in the bottom of the casserole dish. Place a layer of noodles over it, using 3 noodles (or more if you're using smaller, "no-boil" noodles. Spread half of the tofu mixture on top of the noodles, then spread some of the meat mixture on top of that. Spread a layer of fresh spinach next. Then lay another 3 noodles on top, more sauce, and then a layer of the Daiya cheese evenly on that. Continue layering in this order until you've reached the top of the dish. You should end with noodles, sauce, and then cheese on the very top. Cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. Then remove the foil and bake for another 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with vegan parmesan cheese, black olives, or dried rosemary, if desired. Cool for 10 to 15 minutes before serving (it makes cutting through it easier).