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Thanksgiving, Part 2

Having a holiday completely devoted to food means that I can’t celebrate just once. So after our small Thursday meal, Dan and I joined friends at Megan and Jay’s for way too much food on Saturday. First up from me were mini empanadas, adapted from the Veganomicon recipe, with red kuri squash and black bean and seitan sausages. (I used this recipe, subbed black beans for the pintos, omitted the fennel seed—yuck—and paprika, and added a tsp of cumin. The leftovers were great on buns with avocado, pickled jalepenos, salsa, and a mustard/Veganaise sauce.) They were served with cranberry gaucamole, which sounded like a great idea at first, then I had a minor freakout thinking it was going to be really gross and completely inedible. But luckily I was wrong and everyone liked it. It was a nice balance for the super spicy empanadas.

Cranberry guacamole with pastry chips.

Some sort of stuffed mushroom. Not sure what it was or who made it. I was pretty jittery and starving by the time this made it to my mouth.

Again, not sure who made this or what exactly it was. Both were delicious though.

Mary’s pumpkin rolls. These were so much better than I expected. So full of pumpkin flavor and wonderfully soft. Truly amazing.

Jay’s fall classic. Very tasty. In involved squash and pasta and I have no idea what else. Maybe I should have been paying more attention.

Cas’s mac & cheese.

Jerk tofu with sweet potatoes and pineapple—Megan. A really good sweet/savory balance.

Everybody loved Keith’s wild mushroom gravy, obviously. I, however, hate wild mushrooms, so I passed.

Kandiss’s salad.

Megan’s seitan roulade. It held together beautifully.

I think this was ginger cranberry sauce—Steven.

The thing that made the car ride to Megan and Jay’s smell like farts, a.k.a Brussels sprouts poached in cider with apples and onions—me. Stinky but tasty.

Cas’s cornbread stuffing.

Steven’s green bean casserole. Possibly the first time in all my years such a concoction has ever been consumed by me. Cream of mushroom soup generally means run away. This was good though.

And the reason we eat large amounts of delicious food, so we can then eat large amounts of delicious dessert. I made little chocolate pumpkins following these instructions. I had a few problems, as the mixture warmed very quickly, making it stick to everything, but after a few minutes in the refrigerator it was wonderful. Maybe it was because I cheaped out and used chocolate chips instead of straight chocolate. But they came out cute and tasted like tootsie rolls, so I was happy.

And of course there was pie. I tried to veganize Cook’s Illustrated’s recent pumpkin pie recipe (transcribed here), and the result was delicious but didn’t set up too well. So I’ll just call it pumpkin/sweet potato pudding pie and no one will care. It’s pudding pie! It’s supposed to be wiggly! I’m genius, obviously. The flavors were perfectly balanced; none of that over-spiciness from too much cloves. Luckily the only crust issue this time was that the pretty, perfectly fluted edge shrunk and got all wonky when I pre-baked it. Next time I’ll just have to take a picture before I bake it and pretend it’s perfect.

Pumpkin Sweet Potato Pudding Pie

1 package firm silken Mori-Nu tofu
1/3 cup soy creamer
1 tsp vanilla
1 can pumpkin puree
1 cup sweet potato puree
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp freshly grated ginger

Since I obviously haven’t mastered pie dough, I’ll just say to use whatever works for you. Prepare dough and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes, then line with foil, fill with pie weights or dried beans, and bake for 15 minutes at 400 degrees. Remove foil and weights and bake for 5 to 10 minutes (my crust puffed up at this point, but it deflated as it cooled a bit and was fine). Set aside and assemble filling. Mix tofu, soy creamer, and vanilla in a blender until very smooth. Combine pumplin, sweet potato, brown sugar, salt, and spices in saucepan and cook over medium heat 10 to 15 minutes. I may have cooked it less than this, but it needs to reduce and darken a bit and be warmed through. Remove from heat and add tofu mixture. Mix thoroughly then strain mixture through a fine-meshed seive (this will take some coaxing and patience, but it will help the texture). Pour strained mixture into prepared pie crust and bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes. At this point the top of the pie should look set and crack a bit, but the inside will still be jiggly.

Finished pie, with cinnamon Soyatoo and chocolate leaves.

After being smushed in the car, then devoured.

I didn’t get a picture of Megan’s gingerbread trifle before the wolves pounced on it, but it was incredible.

Thanksgiving, Part 1

I never liked Thanksgiving food all that much. Sure, pie is always good, and my grandma could make the hell out of some pie, and I always loved the sweet potatoes (but only because they were simply roasted with butter, none of that marshmallow crap, which sounds truly disgusting to me and I will never try), but nothing else was of much interest. But once I was able to cook the food for myself and realized that this was a holiday (two whole days off of work) completely devoted to food and shopping, I was in. Dan and I usually make Thanksgiving an opportunity to make food that is a bit more complicated than our everyday meals. And I always have to include as many seasonal foods as possible. Squash and cranberries? Yes, please! This year I set out to conquer pie dough once and for all with two pies, one sweet, one savory. But first up was a soup that I made once before a few years ago, Nigella Lawson’s Lentil Chestnut Soup. I was initially amazed that Nigella had any recipes that were even remotely veganizable, so I had to make it. And every year since, I’ve thought of it over and over. But since peeling fresh chestnuts could send me straight to a mental hospital in less than half an hour, it had to wait for a sale on canned chestnuts. But this soup might have made chestnut-peeling insanity worth it. It’s so velvety and packed with flavor, despite its sad, muddy appearance.
The main course was a butternut squash and caramelized onion galette. The original recipe had some sort of stinky cheese in it, but it was perfect without. And the dough turned out so flaky. Truly worth all the effort. The Brussles sprouts and golden beets up there, though, not too memorable.
Seeing that beautiful galette crust, you’d never know that earlier in the day I’d had a huge fight with some dough, throwing it against the wall and ripping it to pieces before finally sacrificing it to the trash can. Which is pretty much the experience I’ve had with pie dough for the past eight years or so. And amazingly, it’s because I tried to listen to Martha Stewart. While she’s given me invaluable advice on other things, girl just doesn’t do shortening. When I first learned how to make pie crust, it was from a recipe my mother had given me that came from my pie-making grandma. Years later I discovered that this might have actually come from the side of the Crisco can, but it made some damn flaky and easy to work with crust. But then I saw Martha. Her dough was so beautiful and thick and it never cracked. But of course using margarine did not work at all. So over the years I’ve tried more and more crust recipes, most of them with disastrous results. This time I went for Martha’s “alternate fat” recipe using shortening. And it was HORRIBLE. It didn’t stay together, it was impossible to roll out, it ended up in the trash. So then I went back to my grandma’s recipe. And everything was perfect. No sticking, no cracking, no banging my head against the countertop. The conclusion? A food processor is no place to make pie crust. It has never ever worked for me. And pastry blenders are just fun to use, so why use anything else?
For the filling I went with a Martha recipe that I knew was great: Autumn Havest Pie. I made it a few years ago and it was incredible. This time, not so much. The Granny Smith apples were just too tart, and combined with the cranberries it was a bit much. But the natural remedy for this tartness was a scoop of Temptation vanilla ice cream, which helped achieve a perfect sweet/tart balance.
But the highlight of the day was breakfast. Pumpkin cinnamon rolls. Holy crap are these things amazing. I never make cinnamon rolls because the idea of waiting for dough to rise in the morning when I could just make scones and by nibbling on breakfast and doing a crossword puzzle in half an hour is crazy to me. But I planned ahead and make these the night before, putting them in the refrigerator for the second rise and baking them in the morning. They were perfectly moist and just incredible. Dan said the only thing that could them better would be cream cheese frosting, but I’m sure that would have me keeled over with the sugar shakes halfway to lunch.

VeganMoFo #7: Love for Isa

I had the best intentions of blogging the hell out of VeganMoFo. But as always, complications arose. First off, my oven broke, making a recent trip to the farmer’s market a new kind of hell where everywhere I looked I saw beautiful fall vegetables just begging to be roasted. But today, thanks to $180 and a man named Ivan, I’ve got an oven again. After nearly three ovenless weeks, what’s a girl to bake? Cookies! I decided that in between making Matilda’s Halloween costume (my first very amateurish adventure in this kind of frightening arena) and finally getting up another blog post, I’d throw together one of my favorite easy cookie recipes, pumpkin oatmeal cookies from Vegan with a Vengence. They have flax seed, walnuts, molasses, and oats in them, so they’re practically health food, right? Well, except maybe for the white flour, sugar, oil, and chocolate chips. But that’s at least a balance of good and bad, so I’m going with it. I can’t wait to eat some tomorrow, as they are way better the next day, nice and chewy.

And while I’m proving that roughly 82% of my culinary repetoire relies on Ms. Isa Moskowitz, I might as well write about last night’s dinner, seitan chops smothered in apples and ginger. I had to saute the apples, since the oven was not yet fixed, but they turned out great. And even though I think I misread the seitan instructions just a bit (I formed the dough into four chops before boiling, meaning I had very thick chops in the end) and had a bit of trouble getting the breading to stick (that never quite works for me), they turned out great. The inside was so tender, a little like a super dense bread. Maybe due to the altered boiling technique, maybe due to the chickpea flour, but this seitan was very different from any other I’ve made, and I loved it. Spongy yet toothsome. It was a nice balance, as were all the flavors in the dish. I took it easy on the ginger, as I’m just getting over a long-held hatred of the stuff, but it came out totally mellow and warm and wonderful. And really, what’s better than getting to eat apples and cranberries for dinner? It was sort of like eating a totally sophisticated version of my oh-so-high-class childhood favorite, pork chops and applesauce.

VeganMoFo #3: Scones!

There’s one good thing about having nagging who demand that I wake up no later than 7:00 ever, even on weekends: A quiet apartment definitely calls for making scones. When Dan and Matilda are asleep I can have the kitchen all to myself to throw together some dough and have it all cleaned up by the time I’m finished with my coffee. I think I love scones more than any other baked good because I can always find ingredients for new combinations within my pantry staples. Dried fruit, frozen fruit, nuts, citrus, they can all usually be found in my kitchen, even before the weekly grocery-store trip.
I’ve tried a lot of different scones over the years, and I think that these almond scones might be the best I’ve ever had. That whole loaded-with-Earth-Balance thing surely doesn’t hurt. The recipe is adapted from Baking by Dorie Greenspan. It’s the only recipe I’ve tried from the book so far, but it sure has pretty pictures. These are totally fantastic with lemon curd or any kind of sweet jam, since the scones themselves have very little sugar.

Almond Scones

3/4 cup almond milk
1 Tbsp ground flax seeds
1/2 cup blanched almonds
2 Tbsp sugar
1/8 tsp almond extract
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
8 Tbsp Earth Balance
1/2 cup chopped toasted almonds
coarse sugar and sliced almonds for top

Preheat oven to 400. Whisk together almond milk and flax seeds and set aside. In a food processor or blender, grind together 1/2 cup blanched almonds and sugar. In a larger bowl mix together flour, baking powder, and salt, then add almond-sugar mixture. Cut in margarine. Add almond extract to milk mixture, then add wet ingredients to dry ingredients until combined. Fold in chopped almonds, then turn dough out onto lightly floured surface and pat into a round about an inch high. Cut into eight triangles and transfer to baking sheet lined with parchment paper or Silpat. Sprinkle tops of scones with sugar and sliced almonds and bake for about 22 minutes.

I also made mini versions of these scones for an after-slumber-party breakfast and they were a huge hit. And both full size and mini turned out nicely crunchy on the outside and tender and flaky on the inside.

And now for something completely different. Well, you know, as different as one scone can be for another scone. Which probably isn’t that different, actually. These carrot-orange-walnut scones were more cakey than a typical scone, which was actually fine, as the texture made it sort of like eating carrot cake for breakfast, only slightly more socially acceptable.

Carrot-orange-walnut Scones

3/4 cup soy milk
3 Tbsp ground flax seed
2 finely grated carrots, about 1/2 cup
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp grated orange zest
2 1/4 cups whole-wheat pastry flour, minus 3 Tbsp
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
8 Tbsp Earth Balance
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 425. Whisk together soy milk and flax seed and set aside. In a large bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon, then cut in Earth Balance. Add carrots, sugar, and orange zest to milk mixture, then add to dry ingredients. Fold in walnuts. Turn dough onto lightly floured surface and pat into a round about an inch high. Cut into eight triangles and transfer to baking sheet lined with parchment paper or Silpat. Bake for about 22 minutes.

Orange glaze

1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 Tbsp orange juice

Mix together sugar and juice until smooth, then drizzle onto cooled scones.

VeganMoFo Day 2: Matilda’s Birthday Cake(s)


Last weekend was Matilda’s thirteenth birthday. Scary, I know. And not only do I now live with a teenager, I experienced my first slumber party since I was a teenager. Sure there was a lot of giggling, but hey, I got to make cake! And hummus. And pizza. And since we’re apparently now mini food fetishists, we had mini Bundt cakes. I used the French vanilla cupcake recipe from have cake, will travel but replaced the chocolate extract with almond extract. Holy crap are those things good. They were super moist but not wet and crisped up nicely on the outside. They were a hit with a room full of omnis, which is also a plus. But since plain vanilla cakes aren’t thirteenth-birthday-level festive, they were filled with lemon curd (yeah, I might be obsessed) and drizzled with a lemon glaze and garnished with fresh strawberries. The final pic with the glaze was a little, uh, gross, but the finished cakes were sure tasty.


And because every vegan loves hummus, here’s some roasted-garlic hummus, lots of parsley. Posting this pic might just be an excuse to show off the super cute Eva Zeisel dish, though.

Pineapple-Coconut Muffins


Since I had such success with the cherry-coconut muffins, I decided to use some of the pineapple sitting in the fridge to make a variation. But I have a problem. When I use fresh fruit in muffins, I think, “I love fruit. Fruit is good. So more fruit will make these even better.” And, yes, loading a muffin with fruit can be tasty, but it can also make it heavy. So these need a little tweaking—and a little restraint on my part—before they’re light and fluffy and perfect. But still, a nice Sunday-morning breakfast. The recipe is basically the same as the cherry-coconut muffins, with somewhere between 1/2 and 3/4 cup diced fresh pineapple swapped out for the dried cherries and the zest of one orange added.

Lemon-Pine-Nut Scones with Vegan Lemon Curd


The way I see it, vegan scones usually have one of two problems: 1) They’re so dry you fear losing a tooth every time you bite into them, or 2) they’re too moist and fluffy, resembling flat muffins more than scones. I always used to use a recipe from Everyday Food magazine, which was touted as lower fat and didn’t use any eggs. But these always fell on the too-fluffy side, although if I put enough cranberries or blueberries in them I didn’t so much care. But this time I wanted nice, semi-dry, flaky scones. This lemon-pine-nut version isn’t quite there, they were a little too floury and fluffy, but with some tweaking I think they’ll get there. And they don’t have two sticks of butter like so many of the recipes I consulted.

Lemon-Pine-Nut Scones

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling on top
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp baking powder
6 Tbsp margarine
3 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 cup soy milk, plus more for brushing tops of scones
1/4 cup pine nuts

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Whisk together flours, sugar, salt, and baking powder. Cut in margarine with a pastry cutter until it is in small sandy pieces. Mix in lemon juice and soy milk, turn out onto clean work surface, and pat into a round about 1-1 1/2 inches high. Use a bench scraper or other semi-sharp straight edge to cut dough into eight triangles. Brush each scone with soy milk and sprinkle with sugar (I use the vegan sugar carried at Whole Foods, which is nice and coarse and makes for a crunchy top, much like sanding sugar; finer-grained sugar will create more of a crust on top). Transfer to a baking sheet lined with Silpat or parchment and bake for 15 to 17 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool (the scones will be a bit tender when they’re warm but will get crunchier as they cool).

Oh, and about that lemon curd. It is forking incredible. I used a recipe from Bryanna Clark Grogan, which I’ve been eying forever. I should’ve made it the night before so it could have time to cool and thicken, but it was still delicious as a sort of sauce on the scones. But once it did cool, it was so thick and gelatinous. It’s the lemon curd I’ve dreamt about ever since the Chicago Diner so cruelly decided to make their wonderful lemon coconut cake special-order only. Maybe soon I’ll make a lemon-curd pie, which would satisfy my urge to eat the stuff with a spoon but wouldn’t feel so pathetic.

Coconut-Cherry Muffins

This is officially the first baked-good recipe that I have developed 100% on my own, with no inspiration or measurements or anything from another source. And I expected to have to make a few trials, tweak it a bit here and there, but the first time was pretty perfect. Beginner’s luck I guess. The muffins came out light and airy, moist but not soggy, and the flavors were wonderful together. The dried Rainier cherries came from Trader Joe’s, one of those things that look good on the shelf so you buy them, thinking . . . some day. But now that my tiny little pantry cupboard is so full that things fall out of it when I open the door, it’s time to use up those some day items. But I’m sure these would work fine with any dried fruit. Maybe that dried mango I bought for some day.

Coconut-Cherry Muffins

Makes about 7 muffins

1/2 cup dried Rainier cherries, soaked in hot water until plump, then drained and chopped
3/4 cup light coconut milk
1 Tbsp ground flax seed
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
3 Tbsp canola oil
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
Shaved coconut

Mix together coconut milk and flax seed and set aside until gooey, then add canola oil, sugar, and vanilla and mix well. Whisk together flours, salt, and baking powder, then add wet ingredients and cherries to flour mixture and stir just until combined. Fill lined muffin tin almost to the top and crumble shaved coconut on top of batter. Bake at 350 degrees for 18 to 20 minutes.


Chocolate-dipped Hazelnut Biscotti


Friday was my co-worker Chris’s last day, and since I was losing my vegan ally, I made biscotti. I used the recipe from Veganomicon quite a few times already, but this was a new combination (I still think the orange chocolate chip is my favorite, especially with a cup of Earl Grey tea). I used the basic recipe, subbed hazelnuts for almonds, and omitted the anise (I despise anything that tastes like licorice, and a lot of things taste like licorice. Yuck). I’ve tried the chocolate hazelnut biscotti recipe in the past, but they turned out too soft, so cocoa powder doesn’t seem to mix with biscotti too well. I never think the cookies are going to get crispy enough when they’re still warm; they always seem rather soft and gooey. But they work every time, turning out perfectly crisp. When these were baked and cooled, I melted chocolate chips with a bit of soy milk and one end of the biscotti in it. I had to put them in refrigerator for the chocolate to set, and the cold biscotti in a wamr cup of coffee was a great combination. And they were a hit at the office. Score one for veganism!

Before baking


After first baking


After second baking

Vegan Madeleines

I’ve been thinking about starting this blog–and taking a lot of pictures–for a long time, so it may seem a little odd that my first post is something that didn’t turn out as well as I would have liked it to. But failure is often a big part of vegan cooking. So this is a learning a post. I tried to veganize something I never even tried in a non-vegan state, which is odd, and although the results weren’t as pretty as those perfect little packages at the Starbucks counter, they were tasty. And who can resist those tiny little flecks of vanilla seeds?

Vegan Vanilla Bean Madeleines–first trial

2 Tbsp ground flax seed
6 Tbsp water
6 Tbsp margarine, melted
3/4 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 vanilla bean

Preheat oven to 400. Blend flax seed and water in blender until gelatinous. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt, then flax mixture, margarine, and vanilla and mix until combined. Grease madeleine pan and fill each mold 3/4 full. Bake for ten minutes.

I used a mini madeleine pan, because mini=cute, so maybe a larger pan would have resulted in a less crispy cookie. And if you fill the molds too much, the cookies get a strange rim around the edge. This batch came out a little oily and cupcake-like, with an odd, faint taste of popcorn, probably from the spray oil. Next time I’ll definitely take the time to melt some extra marge. But the edges did come out nicely crispy. And despite the popcorny-ness, they were tasty.


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