December 23, 2011

Chocolate Bottom Macaroon Cookies

Makes 24 Cookies

Macaroons

Someone asked me to share this recipe because their Vegan Cookies book went missing (so they say!) I figured why not just put it here for the world?

A crispy coconutty outside and moist sweet inside. That sounds good, right? Well, what if we told you it’s also dipped in chocolate? These are irresistibly adorable, nugget sized morsels that look like they could double as the currency of magical forest creatures. A touch of almond extract really brings out the coconut. For variety, try the cocoa variation and have a double chocolate extravaganza.

3 oz extra firm silken tofu, like mori-nu (1/4 of the package)
1/3 cup canola oil
2 tablespoons non-dairy milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut

1/2 cup chocolate chips, melted in the microwave or on a double boiler

Variations:
Cocoa Macaroon Cookies: Replace 1/4 cup of flour with 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa.
Chipper Macaroon Cookies: Add 1 cup mini chocolate chips to the batter
Touch of Orange Macaroon Cookies: Add 2 teaspoons orange zest to wet ingredients, leave out almond extract
Or try any combination above!

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment

Puree tofu, oil and milk in a blender or food processor until smooth, scraping down the sides with a spatula to make sure you get everything. Transfer to a mixing bowl. Mix in the sugar and extracts. Mix in flour, baking powder and salt until well incorporated. Mix in coconut until a stiff dough forms.

Drop cookies by the tablespoon onto cookie sheet 2 inches apart from each other, they don’t spread much at all. Don’t smooth the tops out, it’s cool if they have some pieces of coconut sticking out to get a little browned. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, the bottoms should be lightly browned and the tops just barely flecked with color in a few spots.

Let cool on sheets for 2 minutes or so, then transfer to cooling racks to cool completely. In the mean time, melt the chocolate. Line a cutting board with parchment paper (it’s fine to reuse the stuff you lined the sheets with). When cookies have cooled completely, dip the bottoms in chocolate and set chocolate side down on the parchment paper. Place in fridge to set for at least 15 minutes.

Keep stored in a tightly sealed container at room temperature. If it’s hot out, keep in the fridge so the chocolate doesn’t melt.

December 21, 2011

Hottie Black Eyed Peas With Ginger Mashed Sweet Potatoes & Apples

Serves 4 to 6
Time: 45 minutes

Hottie Black Eyed Peas

December has gotten pretty crazy for me (and the rest of the world), so I’m sharing some of my favorite comfort foods from Appetite For Reduction! Tell me your favorite comfort food meals in the comments and maybe it will inspire a new recipe.

It’s hard for me to imagine having black eyed peas without greens. They’re forever linked in my tastebuds thanks to my idea of what southerners eat every day, even though they probably eat portobellas and arugula, just like the rest of us. Anyway, sometimes I just don’t feel like using two pans. This dish works on so many levels because you don’t need to saute the greens in a ton of oil and you don’t need another sauce for them, everything comes together in one pot. The Bye and Bye, my favorite vegan bar in Portland, puts what I suspect is a lot of hot sauce in their black eyes peas, so that’s what inspired this flavor profile. I love to use Cholula hot sauce in these, but use your favorite medium heat hot sauce (like, don’t use Sriracha, but Tabasco would be fine.) Serve with Mashed Ginger Sweet Potatoes and Apples, for the perfect balance of spicy, savory and sweet!

Recipe notes:
~This recipe calls for shredded greens, but all i really mean is very thinly sliced. A fast and easy way to get this done, is to pile the leaves on top of each other and then roll them up. You’ll see that it’s very easy to slice them that way.

~Peas and greens are a wonderful combination for taste and nutrition. With one serving you will eat as much fiber as the average American gets in a whole day! Plus a day’s worth of vitamin A and a quarter of the iron. Combine with one serving of the Ginger Mashed Sweet Potatoes and Apples you’ll have 16 grams of protein and nearly one fifth of your calcium for the day. All with only 2 grams of fat and under 400 calories.

~Depending on how sweet your apples are, you may need even less agave than listed in the sweet potatoes, or perhaps even no agave at all! Taste before adding.

1 teaspoon olive oil
1 small onion, diced small
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch kale or collards, rough stems removed, shredded (about 1/2 pound)
1/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 15 oz cans black eyed peas, rinsed and drained
1 cup tomato sauce
1/2 cup veg broth
1 tablespoon hot sauce
1/4 teaspoon liquid smoke (optional, a smidge of smoked paprika would be great too)

Preheat a 4 quart pot over medium heat. Saute the onion in the oil until translucent, about 5 minutes. Use a little cooking spray if needed. Add the garlic and saute a minute more. Add the greens, 1/4 cup of water and salt. Cover the pot and cook the greens down for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add black eyed peas, tomato sauce and broth and thoroughly mix. Cover pot and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add hot sauce and liquid smoke, then use a potato masher to mash some of the beans, about 1/4 of them, to thicken the sauce. Cook for about 5 more minutes uncovered. Taste for salt and seasoning. You may want to add more hot sauce, I often do, but I err on the side of caution with recipes for spicy things. Serve hot.

For the Sweet Potatoes

1 pound apples, peeled, cut into 1/2 inch chunks (2 average sized)
2 pounds sweet potatoes or yams, peeled, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
1/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon agave (optional, see note)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon fresh grated ginger, see note

Cooking spray

Preheat a 4 quart pot over low heat. Spray with cooking spray, then add apples, sweet potatoes, water and salt. Cover pot and sweat the apples and sweet potatoes for about 20 minutes, stirring often. What this means, is just to cook them slowly and let them steam. You want to coax the misture out of them, but if you make the flame too high they’ll burn and cook unevenly.

After 20 minutes, you can turn the heat up just a bit. Add a little more water if needed. Cover and cook 20 more minutes, paying close attention so that they don’t burn, and stirring often. When they’re very tender, they’re done. Mash with a potato masher. Add the agave, cinnamon and ginger, and mash some more. Taste for salt and seasoning. Serve warm.

December 19, 2011

Wild Rice Salad With Oranges & Roasted Beets

Serves 4
Time: 10 minutes once all ingredients are prepared, but more like 3 hours if not
Active time: 15 minutes

Wild Rice Salad With Oranges & Roasted Beets

It’s been awhile since I shared a salad recipe. For some reason, cheesecake seems to get more “likes” than salad. But I wish it didn’t! This one is from Appetite For Reduction, and it’s the perfect time for it. Beets are still abundant and citrus, although imported, is in season. This recipe is a cooking lesson unto itself — you’ll learn a quick and yummy way to prepare roasted beets with no oil, how to create beautiful gems of orange segments and how to toast sesame seeds. Making it once will give you a few skills that will last a lifetime and you will never have to read the recipe again. But educational merits aside, it’s also incredibly delicious. A wonderful combo of earthy, sweet, and tangy with a little Asian flair.

And hey, if you’re just in the market for a really simple and tasty salad dressing, the vinaigrette is pretty amazing on everything!

Recipe Notes:

~For time management purposes, prepare the beets and the wild rice the night before or a few hours before so that they have ample time to cool. But if you want to make everything on the same night, it actually tastes pretty good warm, too. Though the key word is “warm,” not “hot.”

~Wild rice has an alluring earthy flavor, but the price can be not so alluring. If your budget isn’t feeling wild about it, go for a wild rice blend instead. That’s got some long grain brown rice thrown in to the mix, but you still get that wild rice taste, texture and color.

2 cups cooked wild rice, cooled
1/4 cup currants
2 cups red leaf lettuce, torn into bite sized pieces
1 navel orange
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1 lb roasted tin foil beets, cooled

One recipe Orange Sesame Vinaigrette (recipe follows)

First prepare the orange segments. Slice a thin layer off the top and bottom of the orange, then place the orange right side up on the cutting board and simply slice the peel downward, using a chef’s knife and following the natural curve of the orange. A little of the white part (called the “pith”) is okay, just try to get as much orange as you can. Then slice the orange widthwise and cut each piece into 3/4 inch segments.

Then toast the sesame seeds. Preheat a small, heavy bottomed pan over low/medium heat. Add the sesame seeds and stir often for about 2 minutes. They should be toasting up by then (if not, then raise the heat). Use a spatula to toss continuously for another minute or so, until they are varying shades of toasty brown. Remove from pan ASAP to prevent burning.

Pour the dressing into a large mixing bowl. Add wild rice, currants and lettuce. Using tongs, toss to coat. Add oranges and sesame seeds, and toss again. Lastly, fold in the beets. Serve.

Sesame Orange Vinaigrette

Serves 4

This dressing is heavenly; fruity, toasty, spicy and tangy. Toasted sesame oil is kind of a godsend for dressings because it has so much flavor and a little goes a long way.

Make sure your sesame oil is labeled “toasted sesame oil.” Toasting the seeds brings out a lot of bold flavor, where regular sesame oil might just fall flat. It’s usually found in the oil section of the supermarket, although sometimes it can be found in the Asian aisle.

3/4 cup fresh orange juice (from 2 to 3 naval oranges)
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon hot chili sauce, like Sriracha
1 teaspoon microplaned or finely minced ginger

Vigorously mix together all ingredients. Just mix them right into a measuring cup so as not to make too many dishes. If you’re using it for a grain salad, you can also mix it directly into the large mixing bowl that you will use to prepare your salad. Keep refrigerated in a tightly sealed container until ready to use.

December 14, 2011

Roasted Potato & Fennel Soup

Serves 6 to 8
Time: 45 minutes

Roasted Potato And Fennel Soup

Comfort is an entire experience. It’s not just about taste, but texture, aroma and even the cooking experience can be comforting. That’s where roasting comes in!

Roasting gets you so much flavor and complexity with embarrassingly little effort. The kitchen becomes all warm and toasty and rich aromas waft through the entire house. Of course the scent of roasting potatoes make you feel as snuggly as a kitten making muffins on a pillow, but the fennel adds an alluring licorice note in the air, making the experience just slightly more intriguing. It’s also got a great creamy texture, making this soup thick and velvetty.

Because everything is roasted, there’s not much else you need to do to make it fabulous. No sauteeing, no spices; the oven gives you all the flavor you need. Once cooked, all you’ll need to do is puree. Lifechanging!

2 lbs yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1 inch chunks
Olive oil for drizzling
2 fennel bulbs (reserve the fronds)(those are the frilly green leaves)
1 large onion, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch slices
1 teaspoon salt, divided
Fresh black pepper
2 cups warm vegetable broth
2 cups unsweetened warm soy or almond milk

Preheat oven to 425 F. Line 2 large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place sliced potatoes on one baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil (1 tablespoon should do, but 2 tablespoons is ideal for browning.) Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and add add several dashes fresh black pepper. Toss with your hands to coat completely. Roast potatoes for 15 minutes.

In the meantime, prepare the fennel and onions. Slice the fennel bulbs from top to base, in 1/2 inch slices. Place on the other baking sheet with the sliced onions and toss with olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper to coat, just like you did with the potatoes.

When the potatoes have roasted for 15 minutes, remove from the oven and use a spatula to flip them. Return to the oven on the upper rack, and place the fennel and onions on the middle rack.

Roast for 10 minutes, then remove the fennel and onions, flip, and roast an additional 5 to 10 minutes. At this point, the potatoes should be tender and the fennel and onions should be caramelized.

Roasted Fennel And Onions

Reserve a few pieces of fennel for garnish. If using a food processor, place potatoes and fennel in the workbowl along with warmed milk and broth. Pulse a few times, so that it’s creamy but still chunky. Don’t over-puree or potatoes will turn gummy. Thin further with water, if needed.

You can serve immediately, or transfer to a pot to warm a little more and let the flavors meld.

You can also use a submersion blender by transferring all ingredients to a 4 quart pot and blending so that it’s creamy but still chunky, thinning with water as needed.

Taste for salt and pepper, ladle into bowls, garnish with reserved roasted fennel slices and fennel fronds, and serve!

December 9, 2011

Olive Oil Bread

Makes one 16 inch loaf

There’s no greater comfort than the aroma of freshly baked bread. I believe that is a scientifically proven fact.

I’m no master artisan bread baker — not by a long shot! But I can pull off a few loaves, and this is one of my favorites. It’s not passed down through generations or anything fun like that. In fact, it’s just something I got off AllRecipes or some such useful website a handful of years ago and tweaked until I got my idea of the perfect bread for soup.

I love a lot of things about it: for one, the ease. I started having pain in my left hand a few years ago and so I don’t want anything that I have to knead by hand. This works just perfectly in a standing mixer using a dough hook. Also, the ingredients are super simple; things that anyone who wants freshly baked bread should have around at all times. The olive oil provides a subtle sweet aroma that just makes it smell and taste even more warm and inviting.

But what I really love is the texture! It’s got an almost biscuit-like quality. I love to rip into a chewy crust as much as the next guy, but sometimes with soup I prefer a crisper bite. When lightly toasted, it makes a fabulous crouton. I love to drizzle with just a tiny bit of olive oil and place atop my bowl o’ soup.

And even though I’m a self-admitted non-master artisan bread baker, I do have a few tips for the home baker!

For one, temperature is important to activate the yeast. Things should be on the warm side – that includes the equipment. If it’s very cold in my kitchen I make sure to warm my mixer bowl up either by a brief stint in the oven, or running under hot water. Same goes for the bowl that the bread rises in. I use a glass bowl, so I can even microwave it for 30 seconds to get it warm. Note: Not hot, just warm!

I also set the bread to rise where ever is warmest. If I’m doing a lot of cooking and baking and my oven is still warm, then often just leaving it on top of the stove will do. But sometimes I place it in my bedroom to rise, because it gets the most sun. An added bonus…your room will smell like bread!

And I have a few tips for forming the loaf. After the first rise, I don’t punch the dough down and knead again. Instead, I gently lift the dough out onto a clean surface and I form a long oval loaf shape. Then I roll the bread out like a rolling pin, shaping as I go to keep the ends round, until it reaches the desired shape.

I think this is a great recipe to start off with if you’re new to bread baking! If you do it often enough, you can just be making the bread in the background, letting it knead away while you multitask on something else. It just becomes second nature after awhile. The most important thing is to get started, don’t be intimidated and try it once. Perhaps before you know it you’ll just become the kind of person that bakes their own bread.

Oh and one last thing: I’ve had great success replacing a cup of the AP flour with spelt, so try that if you’re looking for a heartier loaf.

3/4 cup warm water
1 tablespoon sugar
1 packet active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons )
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (plus extra for the bowl and drizzling)
2 1/4 to 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt

Add water and sugar to the workbowl of a standing mixer fit with a dough hook. Sprinkle in the yeast and let sit for 5 minutes.

Mix in the olive oil.

Add 1 cup of the flour along with the salt. Mix on low until well incorporated, and then turn the speed up to medium and mix for 3 minutes.

Add another 1/2 cup of flour and mix well, starting on low and then switching to medium speed. Then add another 1/2 cup of flour, again starting on low and switching to medium. Knead on medium for about 5 minutes. You may occasionally have to get in there with your hands if the dough starts climbing up the hook. It should become smooth and elastic and slightly sticky. At this point, incorporate flour by the table spoon, until it is no longer sticky. When it starts to seem dry, stop adding flour. This could be anywhere between 1/4 and 1/2 cup. Knead again on medium until it is smooth.

Meanwhile, drizzle about a tablespoon of olive oil into a large bowl. The dough will double in size, so make sure you have enough room. Form the dough into a ball and place in the bowl, tossing it around to coat with oil. Cover the top in plastic wrap and put in a warm place. Let dough rise for about an hour, or until doubled in size.

Now gently remove the dough from the bowl and place on a clean, dry surface. I don’t ever have to flour the surface, but if it seems sticky or the surface is very warm, you may need to. Gently form the dough into a long oval. Now roll out and form a loaf that is roughly 14 inches long and 4 inches wide.

Place on a lightly greased baking sheet. Score it across the top in three diagonal slices, drizzle with a little olive oil and let rise for about 15 minutes. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 375 F.

Place in the oven and bake for 25 minutes. Lower the heat to 350 F and bake an additional 10 to 15 minutes. Use tongs to check the bottom, if it seems to be browning too much, then transfer the bread directly to the oven rack for the remaining baking time.

It’s sometimes tough to know if the bread is baked perfectly, but the outside should be golden brown. Remove from the oven and let sit for 10 minutes before slicing in. If the inside is a little undercooked, no worries, just note that for next time. Sometimes there is trial and error involved when baking a new bread.

Slice and serve! Wrap up any remaining bread (as if!) with plastic wrap to keep fresh.