October 8, 2011

Apple Pie Pancakes

Serves 4 (makes 12 four-inch pancakes)
Time: 30 minutes

Maybe Vegan Pie In The Sky has me dreaming of pie for breakfast, lunch and dinner, but woman can not live on pie alone! Or can she?

These pie-inspires pancakes are actually a recipe that I created for Appetite For Reduction (but forgot to put in the manuscript), so they’re deliciously healthful with no added oil. Applesauce and a few tablespoons of flax seeds make them moist and fluffy. Laced with fragrant spices and topped with sweet, luscious cinnamon apples, they’ll satisfy any sweet craving and time of day.

Choose whatever average sized red apples look best to you; honeycrisp, gala and fuji are all good choices. I would stay away from super tart green ones for this. Prepare the apples first then start the pancakes while the apples cook, and you should be able to get everything done in 30 minutes or so.

And just a pro-tip about prepping here: Apples are kind of my culinary nemesis. I love eating them and cooking with them, but for some reason prepping them drives me crazy. The peeling, the coring…if ever I’m owed a favor, you know that person is gonna’ be peeling my apples. If you feel similarly, rest assured that you don’t need to be too meticulous with your peeling. Just get most of the skin off, a few surviving strips here and there is fine and actually looks pretty. I also don’t bother with apple corers because those devices are made in Satan’s workshop. Just slice around the core and you are good to go.

For Apple Topping:
4 apples, peeled, diced into 1/2 inch pieces (about 1 1/4 pounds)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup apple juice
1 tablespoon organic cornstarch or arrowroot
1 1/2 tablespoons pure maple syrup

For Pancakes:
1 cup plain almond milk (or preferred non-dairy milk)
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons ground flax seeds (sold as flax meal)
1 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour (or all-purpose flour, but not regular whole wheat flour)
2 tsp baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
pinch ground allspice
pinch ground cloves
1/2 tsp salt
2 tablespoons apple sauce
2/3 cup apple juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup

Prepare the topping:
Toss all topping ingredients in a medium (4 quart) pot, sprinkle on the cinnamon. Mix it up so that the corn starch dissolves. Use an angled wooden spoon to do the mixing since it reaches the bottom corners of the pot.

Cover pot and bring to a boil, keeping a close eye. Once boiling, lower heat to a simmer and cook for 20 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Once apples are nice and tender, smash a few of them to thicken sauce. Remove from heat and keep covered until ready to serve.

Prepare the pancakes:
Pour almond milk into a measuring cup. Mix in apple cider vinegar and ground flax seeds with a fork. Set aside; mixture will thicken.

Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, sift together flours, baking powder, spices and salt. Create a well in the center and add the milk mixture and the apple sauce, apple juice, vanilla and maple syrup. Use a fork to mix until relatively smooth, a few lumps are okay. Let the batter rest, and preheat a large, non-stick or cast iron pan over medium heat.

When pan is hot, spray with a thin layer of cooking spray and use an ice cream scooper or scant 1/4 cup measure to pour batter and form pancakes. If you can fit three at a time that’d be great. The pancake should start to form little air bubbles, but not as much as pancakes with oil do, so don’t worry if they don’t bubble too much. Cook until the edges are dry and the tops of the pancakes are only slightly wet, about 2 1/2 to 3 minutes, then flip and cook for 2 minutes more. Keep warm on a plate covered with tin foil until all pancakes are ready to serve.

Serve hot with apple topping.

September 27, 2011

Old Fashioned Chocolate Pudding Pie

Makes one 9 inch pie

Pudding Pie

You know how vegan recipes are always like “This ain’t your grandma’s puddin’ pie!” Well, this is your grandma’s puddin’ pie, only it’s vegan! Smooth, cool and creamy pudding in a classic graham cracker shell.

Because of its classic simplicity, this is a great recipe for the pie making n00b. To make life even easier, you have our permission to use storebought crust here. For added grandma love, serve with vegan whipped cream and shaved chocolate. You can make your own whip, but there are also two brands that I can recommend. There’s Healthy Top, which is nut-based and shelf stable, so it’s perfect if you need to have it shipped. And there’s also soy-based Soyatoo, which you can find in the dairy case at most Whole Foods stores. I recommend the boxed kind, though, not the bottle. The nozzle sometimes doesn’t work and there’s nothing more disappointing than a bottle of whipped topping that doesn’t work.

You can use a pastry bag fit with a wide tip to pipe perfect little swirls around the perimeter of the pie, or simply top each slice with a dollop. Strawberries or raspberries make the perfect sweet garnish.

If you’re making your own crust, use 1 3/4 cups cookie crumbs (chocolate, vanilla or graham), add 4 tablespoons oil or melted margarine, 3 tablespoons sugar and 1 tablespoon non-dairy milk of your choice. Press into a shallow 9-inch metal pie tin and proceed with the recipe.

This recipe is in Vegan Pie In The Sky. Amazon just put up a preview, so click to look inside!

1 prepared 9 inch cookie crust, storebought or homemade

3 cups almond milk, divided
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
Pinch salt
3 tablespoons semisweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 F. Bake the crust for 10 minutes, remove from oven and let cool.

In a small (2 quart) sauce pan, combine 1 cup of almond milk and the cornstarch. Use a fork to whisk until the cornstarch is good and dissolved. Whisk in the remaining milk, the sugar, cocoa powder and salt. It’s okay if the cocoa is a bit clumpy at first, it will dissolve eventually.

Bring mixture to a boil, whisking occasionally. Keep a close eye because once boiling, you want to lower the heat and bring to a slow rolling boil. Whisk consistently until mixture is thickened, which should be about 7 minutes.

Add chocolate chips and mix to melt. Stir in vanilla. Pour the pudding into the prepared pie shell and let cool for about 15 minutes on the counter, just until it stops steaming like mad. To keep a skin from forming, place a circle of parchment paper over the filling. Refrigerate and let set for at least 3 hours.

September 14, 2011

Blackened Scrambled Tofu & Garlicky Grits

Serves 4
Active time: 30 minutes || Total time: 30 minutes

Maybe it’s because I’m watching too much Food Network and True Blood lately, but I’ve been craving Southern food like mad. Or it could be that I just feel like I’m in the country, what with my garden and bird feeder, so it makes me want to sit on the porch with some sweet tea, just like in the movies! That’s all people in the south do, right?

But I think it’s also just that as the weather changes I begin to crave heavily seasoned foods and the feel of my cast iron skillet. So Southern cooking fits the bill!

I’ve always loved the look of shrimp and grits, with all those dark spices against a shimmery canvas of grits. So I thought I’d try it the hippie (or is it yuppie?) way…but does tofu and polenta have the same ring? Probably not.

In any case, these were easy and fun to make. Tofu is scrambled in big chunks with lots of onion and garlic, and then coated in dried herbs and spices, including two different kinds of paprika. I threw some cherry tomatoes in to bring a little moisture back to the scene. And like I said, the grits are actually polenta, with lots of sauteed garlic tossed in at the end. But feel free to use grits, too, I just didn’t have any at the time. This made a great brunch, but I think it would be good for dinner, too. And as you can see, I served it with a side of sauteed kale. Any greens will do!

Oh and a note: the polenta definitely makes more than you need, so poor the excess into a square tupperware while still hot. When ready to eat, slice into squares and panfry.

For the tofu

Spice blend:
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon coriander powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne (optional, if you want it spicy)
1 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed with your fingers

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, quartered and sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 block (12 to 14 oz) extra firm tofu
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
Fresh black pepper
1/2 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced in half (I used sungolds)
Scallions for garnish

For the grits:
1 cup polenta corn grits (such as Bob’s Red Mill brand)
4 cups vegetable broth
1/4 teaspoon salt (to taste, depending how salty your broth is)
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced

To make the tofu:
Combine the spice blend in a small cup or bowl.

Preheat a large, heavy bottomed pan over medium high heat. Saute the onion in olive oil for about a 5 minutes, then add the garlic and stir for 30 seconds.

Break the tofu apart into bite sized pieces and saute for about 10 minutes, using a spatula to stir often. Get under the tofu when you are stirring, scrape the bottom and don’t let it stick to the pan, that is where the good, crispy stuff is. Use a thin metal spatula to get the job done, a wooden or plastic one won’t really cut it. The tofu should get browned on at least one side, but you don’t need to be too precise about it. The water should cook out of it and not collect too much at the bottom of the pan. If that is happening, turn the heat up and let the water evaporate.

Add the lemon juice, salt and pepper and saute a minute more. Add the spice blend and mix to incorporate. Add the tomatoes and cook until they are warmed through and slightly broken down, about 5 minutes. Taste for salt and seasoning and keep warm until ready to serve.

To make the polenta:
Bring vegetable broth and salt to a boil in a 2 quart pot. Lower heat to simmer. Add the polenta in a slow steady stream, stirring constantly with a whisk. Whisk for about 5 minutes, until polenta is thickened. Keeping heat low, cover and let cook for 20 more minutes or so, stirring occasionally.

When polenta is almost done, preheat a small pan over medium-low heat. Saute the garlic in oil just until it begins to sizzle, being careful not to burn. Stir for 30 seconds, then transfer to the cooked polenta and mix well.

To serve:
Spoon some polenta onto a plate and scoop on some tofu, overlapping a bit. Complete the plate with greens, then garnish with scallion.

September 8, 2011

Pear Frangipane Tart

Makes one 10 inch tart

Our newest baking book Vegan Pie In The Sky will be out next month, just in time for pie season! You can preorder on Amazon now. We’re so very excited to give you a few previews and get you ready to tie on that apron, turn up your oven and sink your teeth into some luscious pie. Here’s a pic of the entire bookflap: front, back and inside. And here’s the cover. Yes, we put a bird on it!

OK, now on to the recipe! It’s the perfect addition to your autumn table.

Delicate and ever so fancy, there’s so much to love about this classic tart stuffed with a fragrant baked almond custard filling and tender pears. The top is brushed with a bit of melted apricot jam for even more flavor and shimmer.

A few tips:
To melt the jam, gently heat in a small pot for about 5 minutes, stirring often. Or melt in a microwave for a minute or two (depending on the strength of your machine), stirring every 30 seconds. It should be liquid enough to brush on top of the pie.

Pears will brown very rapidly once peeled. Rubbing peeled pears with a little lemon juice will halt the process and allow you to slice and layer them at your own pace.

One Shortbread Shell or Almond Crust pressed into a 10 inch tart pan and parbaked for 15 minutes at 350 F

6 tablespoons cold non-hydrogenated vegan margarine, cut into pieces
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 cup blanched sliced almonds, pulsed in a food processor into a fine meal
2 tablespoons cornstarch
pinch salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2/3 cup plain almond milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
4 pears (Bartlet or Bosc), peeled, cored and sliced into thin rounds
1/4 cup apricot jam, melted

Preheat oven to 350 F. In a food processor pulse together margarine, sugar, ground almonds, cornstarch, ground cinnamon, and salt until crumbly. Continue to pulse and stream in almond milk, vanilla extract, and almond extract to form a thick batter. Spread frangipane mixture into tart shell.

Peel the pears, remove the core and slice in half. Slice each half into 1/4 inch thin slices and lay overlapping slices on top of the frangipane, gently pressing the pears half way into the batter. Bake the tart for 35 to 40 minutes until the top is golden brown, then move the tart onto a cooling rack and cool for 20 minutes, then brush top of pears with melted jam. Cool tart for at least another hour before slicing with a thin, sharp knife dipped in cold water.

September 6, 2011

Okra Gumbo With Chickpeas & Kidney Beans

Serves 6
Time: 1 hour || Active time: 25 minutes

At the farmer’s market this weekend there was some beautiful organic okra and these sweet-hot red creole peppers, and I knew what I had to do. Gumbo!

A thick and tangy stew filled to the brim with veggies straight from the garden and two kinds of beans. This is a great weeknight meal that is perfectly suited to my taste, because as I learned, that’s what gumbo is all about. A toasty roux, fresh tomatoes, plenty of onion and garlic, fresh thyme, and of course, okra. If you’re an okra newbie, or maybe just afraid to cook with it, this is a great recipe to start with. I use lots of veggie broth to thin the roux and cook the okra, and then reduce it with a long simmer, making for a thick velvety sauce that is not at all slimy.

But let’s start from the beginning, because Southern cooking doesn’t come naturally to me. It’s not something I grew up with, besides maybe fried chicken, and I was probably in my twenties before I even ever had a po boy. There is a gumbo recipe in Veganomicon, and it’s delish, but that was all Terry.

When I set out to make a recipe I’m not familiar with, I bury my face in my hundreds of cookbooks and just research, research, research. Sure, I’m not inventing a cure for any deadly diseases or creating a blueprint for world peace, but I do like to know a little bit about whatever I’m cooking. I bet there’s someone in New Orleans right now doing the same thing with matzoh ball soup!

I started out thinking it kind of funny that a Brooklyn girl in Nebraska was making vegan gumbo, but I came to realize that it wasn’t really that weird. Gumbo is many things to many people, a mish mash of so many cultures, from African to French to Native American. In fact, with the exception of salt I couldn’t even find one ingredient that was absolutely integral to the dozens of gumbo recipes I pored over. I figured there would be something, like, say, celery, but not every recipe even had that. Same for thyme, or meat, or okra. All were common, but not common enough to say that gumbo has to contain them.

So if I were an alien dropped from the sky onto earth for just one day and with just one mission — bring back gumbo intelligence — I would come away from it with a few understandings. Gumbo is a thickened stew with creole herbs and spices and lots of chunky stuff in it. It can be thickened with a roux, or with okra, or with file powder, and sometimes it’s a mix of all three. Most often, it’s served with rice. And of course I would have to report that it’s the official dish of the state of Louisiana!

I used the creole peppers I picked up at the market, which are a nice sweet hot, similar to Italian red peppers. But use whatever not-spicy red pepper you can get. I also think that vegan sausages would be a great addition! Add them towards the end if you like.

3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup flour
1 medium sized onion, diced large
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 heaping cup sweet red peppers, diced large (or one red bell pepper)
2 cups cherry tomatoes (or chopped tomatoes)
1 teaspoon salt
Fresh black pepper
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
8 springs fresh thyme (plus extra for garnish)
2 1/2 to 3 cups vegetable broth at room temperature
2 cups okra (about 10 oz) sliced 1/4 inch thick or so
1 1/2 cups cooked kidney beans (a 15 oz can, rinsed and drained)
1 1/2 cup cooked garbanzo beans (a 15 oz can, rinsed and drained)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Rice for serving (I used a pretty pink rice)

First we’re going to make a roux, but it has a little less fat than a traditional roux, which means it doesn’t get as goopy. If you’d like a more traditional roux, just add 3 more tablespoons of vegetable oil. Okay, so, let’s proceed.

Preheat a large, heavy bottom pot over medium-low heat. The wider the pot the better, so that you have lots of surface area to make your roux.

Add the oil and sprinkle in the flour. Use a wooden spatula to toss the flour in the oil, and stir pretty consistently for 3 to 4 minutes, until the flour is clumpy and toasty.

Add the onion and salt, and toss to coat the onions completely in the flour mixture. As the onions release moisture, they will coat more and more. Cook this way for 5 minutes, stirring often. Add garlic and stir for 30 seconds or so.

Add the peppers and tomatoes and cook down for about 10 more minutes. If using cherry tomatoes, place a cover on the pot to get them to cook faster and release moisture. As the tomatoes break down, the mixture should become thick and pasty.

Season with fresh black pepper, add bay leaves, smoked paprika and thyme and mix well.

Stream in the 2 1/2 cups vegetable broth, stirring constantly to prevent clumping. Add the okra and beans, then turn the heat up and cover to bring to a boil. Stir occasionally.

Once boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer and let cook uncovered for 30 to 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the stew is nicely thickened and the okra is tender. If it’s too thick, thin with up to 1/2 cup vegetable broth. If it’s not as thick as you like, just cook it a bit longer.

Add the lemon juice, and adjust salt and pepper to your liking. Let it sit for 10 minutes. Remove bay leaves and thyme stems (if you can see them) then serve in a big, wide bowl, topped with a scoop of rice and garnished with fresh thyme.