Friday, June 23, 2006

vanilla wafer cookies

here is another one from fran costigan’s more great good dairy-free desserts, these little cookies are similar to animal crackers or arrowroot biscuits but with a strong vanilla kick. the texture is firm and perfect for dipping into a cup of tea or coffee. although the recipe states that the dough may be a bit sticky, i found that mine was firm enough to roll out and cut without chilling…perhaps because i reduced the amount of oil. now all i have to do is find myself some little itty bitty animal shaped cookie cutters...

vanilla wafer cookies
3/4 cup unbleached white flour
1/4 cup arrowroot powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
3 Tablespoons canola oil (i reduced this to 2 T. and added 1 T. soymilk)
3 Tablespoons maple syrup
2 Tablespoons vanilla extract
sugar for sprinkling, if desired

sift the dry ingredients together and set aside. in another bowl, whisk the oil, maple syrup and vanilla until well blended. pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix with a wooden spoon or spatula until a shiny dough forms. the dough should be a little wet. add a few drops of soymilk or water if the consistency is crumbly or too dry. roll the dough out into two disks, wrap in plastic and refrigerate until firm (a few hours in the refrigerator or less time in the freezer). preheat oven to 350. between two pieces of parchment paper, roll out the dough to about 1/4" thick and, using a cookie cutter, cut into the shapes of your choice. if you are choosing to sprinkle your cookies with sugar, now is the time to do it. on a plate, sprinkle some sugar and press each cut cookie into the sugar before placing on a non-stick cookie sheet. if at any time the dough becomes too soft to work with place it in the freezer until it firms up again. bake for 8-10 minutes.

Monday, June 19, 2006

quinoa, corn and spinach chowder

in the middle of the night, in the middle of the week, smack in the middle of a bout of insomnia, i…. went shopping. clad only in paint-stained sweats, holy sweater and bunny slippers, i ......went online. i logged onto……amazon……and emptied my wish list……..straight into my shopping cart. and then, with matted hair, wild eyes, bad breath and ratty clothes, i shuffled my once pink now brown little one eyed bunnies down the cyber aisle, and…….checked out.

a few days later i was awoken from a fitful mid afternoon nap to the bing-bonging of my front doorbell. as i peered through the peephole i realized just what i had done……that my hazy recollection of a fantastical midnight shopping spree was not a sleep-deprived delusion and had materialized into a brown-clad, ups-emblazoned, brawny young man at my front gate. gleefully i ripped open the monstrous box, littered the tiny living room floor of my tiny little apartment and……rolled around on a mountain of new books. i snapped the spines, dog eared the pages, and warmly welcomed them home. buried in this cornucopia of fallen trees was deborah madison’s newish book, vegetable soups from deborah madison's kitchen.

since rediscovering vegetarian cooking for everyone I’ve become a big fan of the big DM. she has an interesting and light touch with flavor combinations which, for the most part, work beautifully. i also love soups. soup is my favorite food, hands down (well, maybe one hand down because the other hand will invariably find itself insided a bag of salty chips). i was a little skeptical about this recipe because of the quinoa. i know all the rap about this little grain who could, but somehow it just never floats my boat. regardless of how i cook it and how i season it, there is something, well, boring about it. but i had some quinoa on hand, some fresh white corn, a few butter gold potatoes, and a wrinkled jalapeno pepper that needed to be put out of its misery, and so i gave it a shot. and once again DM surprised me. i love this soup. the quinoa makes this soup hearty without being heavy and the fluffy little grains look so pretty floating around the bowl. the corn adds textural interest as it’s not overly cooked, providing a bit of snap, crunch and sugar sweetness into each mouthful. the only major modifications i made were to omit all dairy and egg products, add some diced carrots for color, and use a vegetable stock (actually knorr vegetarian vegetable bouillon cubes). because i omitted the cheese i added a few squeezes of lemon juice to brighten things up a bit. i've put the egg and dairy options in the recipe, but you don't need it, really!

quinoa, corn and spinach chowder
3/4 cup quinoa, rinsed under running water
7 cups water/stock
2 ears of corn, shucked
1 carrot, diced
2 Tablespoons olive oil (optional)
1+ cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno chile, diced and seeded (leave some seeds if you want it hotter)
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
salt and pepper
2 waxy potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4" cubes
1 bunch of spinach
3 scallions, minced
1/3 cup chopped cilantro leaves
lemon juice to taste
1/4 lb. feta cheese, cubed (optional)
1 hard boiled egg, chopped (optional)

simmer the quinoa in 7 cups of water or stock for about 10 minutes. if using water you will probably want to add some cubed stock or bouillon later to give the dish some body. drain and reserve the cooking liquid. while the quinoa is cooking, cut the kernals off two cobs of corn. then using the flat edge of the knife scrape those last little juicy bits off the ear into the bowl with the kernals. if you are using the oil, heat the oil in a 3 quart saucepan and cook the garlic and chile for about 30 seconds, then add the cumin salt and potatoes. add 6 cups of reserved quinoa cooking water, quinoa and simmer for 15 minutes. add corn. turn off heat and stir in spinach, cheese (if using) and scallions. just before serving mix in egg (optional) and cilantro. if you are not using the oil or the dairy ingredients, just place all of the reserved cooking water in a pot (again, if you used water to cook your quinoa you will want to add some bouillon now) with the potatoes and quinoa and simmer 15 minutes. then add corn, spinach and scallions. adjust seasonings with salt, freshly ground black pepper and a few squeezes of lemon juice to taste.

or the non vegan version as it appears in her book, add 1/4 lb. cubed feta cheese and 1 peeled and diced hardboiled egg.

Monday, June 12, 2006

the dreaded loaf

uh oh, it's the dreaded loaf. that dense and tasteless symbol of seventies ascetic vegetarianism. that barely cohesive mound of mushy lentils and carrots masquerading as meatloaf. scarred by early encounters with these hippie loaves i've pretty much avoided the grain/nut/seed bread-shaped monstrosity, primarily due to an underlying fear that i might spontaneously sprout excessive facial hair, pervasive, plastic-melting b.o. and grow birkenstocks out of the soles of my dead-head tappin' bare feet. however, after some consideration and a thorough waxing, i realized that there is great potential in a loaf. why, one of my all-time favorite dishes, the almighty stuffing, and more recently, the very tasty vegan haggis are nothing more than un-shaped loaf fillings. that is how it dawned on me that loaves don't have to be bland. or mushy. or full of seeds, brambles and bragg's liquid aminos. they can be bursting with flavors and textures. they can be spicy. with nary a gum-stabbing twig in sight.

and so i stumbled up the magical loaf studio over at vegan lunchbox. based on the seventh-day adventists formula for creating loaves, you simply plug in you selections from a variety of items, hit "calculate" and voila, out pops your own personal loaf. no potty humour intended.

that is my little loaf pictured above. isn't it cute? and yes, that is a lentil you see poking its baby-pooh colored head out. despite my earlier slagging of the great and mighty lentil, i did choose to have him star in my loaf, along with damp-doggy smelling buckwheat. i omitted seeds and nuts and threw in some spicy cajun seasoning instead. the result? well, it was a loaf. it held together. it was kinda spicy. it was very earthy (a bit too earthy, actually). slathered with ketchup glaze on the top, it paired very nicely with mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli.

would i make this particular combination again? um, no. i felt that the buckwheat overpowered the other ingredients. i will, however, return to the loaf studio and try out some other combinations. loaves are fun. loaves can taste good. even if they may grow hair on your chest.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

carrot cake

i have never been much of a fan of carrot cake. the café versions i’ve sampled have been dense, greasy and slathered with enough cream cheese frosting to pop you up a pants size just by fingering it through its scratched and dull plexiglass case. having said this, i love both carrots and spice cakes. from fran costigans more great good dairy-free desserts, this cake fulfills almost all my criteria for a good cake, vegan or otherwise. it is moist without being gummy, rich-tasting without being greasy, sweet without making my teeth tingle, and light in texture. i reduced the oil in the original recipe by half with excellent results. aside from being less oily to the touch, the texture and flavor were identical to a batch made with the full amount. more great good dairy free desserts and it predecessor, great good desserts naturally, focus on the use of less refined ingredients. this carrot cake, for example uses no refined white sugar but is sweetened with real maple syrup, orange juice and raisins. sounds kinda hippy-birkenstock-crunchy but it doesn’t taste that way. so far I’ve tried only one other recipe from this book, vanilla wafer cookies, which uses a combination of arrowroot powder and unbleached white flour and again is sweetened with only a touch of maple syrup. they are reminiscent of a cross between animal crackers and nilla wafers. cut into tiny little shapes (about 1” x 1”) they are perfect for dipping into a cup of tea. and then there is this nocturnal-emission-inducing coconut cloud layer cake that i’m eyeing with a lust of biblical proportions. as for the frosting, i just slapped together a very basic buttercream to fix the two layers together. consisting of non-hydrogenated margarine (earth balance), soymilk, powdered sugar and a few drops of vanilla it’s not very good for you, and to be frank, not all that spectacular tasting so i’m not going to post it. i’m still looking for that fluffy, not too sweet, delicious frosting of my dreams so it anyone out there has one, please share!

24 karrot cake
1/2 cup raisins
1/3 cup orange juice
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup unbleached white flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/4 cup canola oil (i reduced this amount to 2 Tablespoons)
1 cup +2 Tablespoons maple syrup
1/2 cup soy or rice milk
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon orange extract
2 cups peeled & grated carrots

preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare two 8 inch round cake pans or line cup cake tins with paper liner. if using cake pans, line the bottoms with parchment paper and grease and flour the sides (or use a baking spray). for cupcakes, a quick shot of pan spray inside the liners will help avoid sticking. soak the raisins in the orange juice for about 10 minutes. drain the raisins and reserve the orange juice. if you are in a hurry you can put them in the microwave for 3 minutes or so to encourage rehydration. sift the dry ingredients in a bowl and set aside. in another larger mixing bowl measure out the oil, maple syrup, soymilk, vinegar, vanilla and orange extracts, plus the orange juice from soaking the raisins. pour dry ingredients into wet and whisk until blended. fold in the carrots and raisins. pour into cake or cupcake tins and bake for 30-35 minutes (cakes) or 20 minutes (cupcakes). cool for 10 minutes and remove from tins.

Monday, June 05, 2006

ceasar salad

here is a super simple recipe for a vegan ceasar salad dressing. the dressing is bright from the lemon juice, pungent from the garlic, fruity from the olive oil and delivers a good kick complements of the freshly ground black pepper. just a tablespoon of vegannaise gives it just a touch of creaminess without making it cloying or overly heavy. if you're looking for a silken tofu type dressing you've come to the wrong place. although i love tofu in all its various guises, i just cannot get over that chalky taste of asceptically packaged silken tofu. it just seems to power on through even the most agressive of seasonings. except of course chocolate. but then you could probably cover chicken droppings with a nice, thick coating of bittersweet chocolate and i'd find it perfectly acceptable...

ceasar salad dressing
2 cloves garlic
1/2 - 1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon dijon mustard
1 Tablespoon vegannaise
1/3 cup olive oil
dash of vegetarian worcestershire sauce (optional)
a few sprinkles of kelp powder (optional)

put garlic through a press and mash with mustard, salt, pepper, and worcestershire sauce. add vegannaise and olive oil. adjust seasonings to taste and pour over romaine lettuce. top with croutons.
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