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December 27, 2007

christmas food

Filed under: Uncategorized — by Rachel @ 2:57 am
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I’ve been really busy cooking lately. Attending family gatherings means providing food for myself to eat there, and then at holidays all the food is really rich and even the vegetable side dishes are dairy-laden, so I end up only eating the entree that I brought with me, plus the obligatory green salad that someone else has made. And since it is the holidays and everyone in my fam is stuffing their faces with the plethora of non-vegan food around them, I compensate by eating copious amounts of my entree + salad. That gets a little boring, no?

When we all went to visit my dad’s side of the family, I made some enchilada casserole, which I already made a few months ago. Also, a few days before Christmas, I made two types of food gifts for members of my family: peppermint brownies;

and cheezy crackers, and they both turned out tasty-liscious. The brownies are based on a recipe from the PPK. They’re not very sweet, but that went nicely with the minty aspect, I think. The only change I made to the original recipe was to sub 1/2 teaspoon of the vanilla extract with peppermint extract and sprinkle crushed candy canes on top. These brownies are soft, fluffy, and moist, so you should eat them.

When we went to my mom’s family’s house, I made a couple of different things. The first was sweet potato gnocchi:

Crappy shot, I know. I got the recipe from one of my favorite blogs. I made these last year for Thanksgiving, and while they are pretty tasty, I’m starting to feel like they’re not worth the effort. You have to resign your kitchen to having a coating of orange dough all over it, and the gnocchi turn out frail and break when you try to toss them with a sauce. Maybe more flour next time… Also, the sauce in the original recipe is a little overwhelming to the delicate sweet potato flavor, so I just tossed them with a spiced Earth Balance glaze.

For a low-fat cake, this chocolate orange creation turned out fantastic. I left out the cinnamon and added almond extract to make it like my favorite chocolate orange cookies, and the results were perfect. The recipe:

1 1/2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 c. whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/2 c. sugar
2 t. baking soda
1 t. salt
1/2 c. cocoa powder

3/4 c. soy yogurt
1 t. vanilla extract
1 1/2 t. almond extract
2 T. balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 c. water
1/2 c. orange juice (fresh-squeezed is best)
2 T. orange zest

Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease a Bundt pan.
Sift together the dry ingredients (flour to cocoa) into a mixing bowl. Stir to combine, and set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients. Pour this into the dry ingredients and beat with a mixer on low or by hand until just combined, 1-2 minutes.
Pour the batter into your Bundt pan and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until a knife stuck in the cake comes out clean (in the end, my knife still had a little batter stuck on the tip). Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn it out to cool completely.

chocolate glaze:
1/2 c. powdered sugar, sifted
1 T. cocoa powder
2 t. orange juice
1/4 t. vanilla
extra oj, as needed

Stir these together with a fork, adding just a bit of extra orange juice until the frosting is drizzle-able. Spoon it over the completely cooled cake. After it has set, do the same with the orange glaze:

1/2 c. powdered sugar, sifted
1 t. orange juice
1/2 t. vanilla extract
extra oj, as needed
———————————-

Guess what my parents gave me for Christmas?

Finally! They also got me a shiny aluminum 12-cup muffin pan to take back to college with me, and my sister got me a micro-plane grater, all of which I used to make a Christmas gift for Kate:

Coconut lime cupcakes. Sublime is the only way to describe them. When Kate’s mom tried one, she said, “These are four-star cupcakes!” (I’m going to assume she was rating them on a four-star scale, of course.) She really was mystified as to how to make cupcakes without eggs or milk or butter, especially the frosting, but then again, Earth Balance is a very mysterious concoction. You’d think that, in the year 2007, people would realize that just about anything is possible, food-wise or otherwise, but the phrase, “These are vegan?!” never gets old to me. I’m pretty sure I’m gonna freakin’ love this book.

And my dad got a new camera for Christmas, which means I have inherited his old one, which has a macro setting on it, so now I can take awesome food pics, such as the cupper-cake shot above. Even in the dying afternoon light, you can see the beautiful texture of the coconut flakes and the lime wedge. I love it!

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December 7, 2007

deflated whoopie pies

Filed under: Uncategorized — by Rachel @ 1:51 am
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I have been wanting to try this recipe for chocolate whoopie pies with peanut butter filling, from PakuPaku, for many a day, so I finally got around to baking them up to take to my boyfriend, Jesse, and his friends at school. I was disappointed at how much they spread; if they had stayed nice and thick, then the filling would have been piled on thick too, and that would have pleased me more. One problem with me is that, if I think a recipe I made doesn’t measure up, I issue an instant disclaimer to everyone about to eat it and point out its flaws, making them uber noticeable.

However, I decided that this time I would just shut up about these little pies’ misgivings and let everybody just deal with their flatness. And of course, no one cared. They were all too busy with their eyes rolling back in their heads from the awesome flavor and cakey goodness and finger-tinglingly sweet filling. Jesse’s band mate, Sean, said to Jesse, “Best f***ing girlfriend EVER.” And Jesse was like, “I know!” Because he rocks.

I would recommend sticking the cookie sheet(s) full of spooned-out cookie dough in the fridge for about half an hour before baking then; I think that would prevent spreadage.

2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
1 t. baking soda
1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
dash of salt
1 c. sugar
1/2 c. Earth Balance margarine or Spectrum vegetable shortening
1/4 c. applesauce mixed with 1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 c. rice milk (or other non-dairy milk)
1/2 c. warm water
1/2 t. vanilla

Preheat oven to 375F. Grease a couple of cookie sheets.
Sift flour, baking soda, cocoa, and salt.
In a large mixing bowl, combine sugar, Earth Balance (or Spectrum, if using), and the applesauce and baking powder mixture. Beat for about 2 minutes on medium, or until nice and creamy. Add to that the milk, water, and vanilla, and then begin adding in the flour mixture. Beat that all together on medium for 2-3 minutes, until it’s smooth and pretty.
Drop the batter by rounded tablespoonfuls onto your cookie sheets. You should use a lil’ ice cream scoop if ya got one; I just used a tablespoon measure. The point is to get them as round and smooth on top as possible. Stick the cookie sheets (plus the bowl of extra batter, if there is some) in the fridge for 30 minutes. If you don’t care about intense spreading, skip that and stick the dough in the oven for 10-12 minutes, or until a toothpick in the middle of one comes out clean.
After a few mintutes, remove the cookies from the baking sheet and cool completely before filling with ooey peanut stuff.

1 T. Earth Balance
1/4 c. smooth peanut butter
1 3/4 c. powdered sugar, sifted
2+ T. non-dairy milk (I know I needed 3 or 4 T.)

With a mixer, cream together the EB and pb. Add the powdered sugar in there and get it going on medium. Add the milk in slowly, stopping to scrape the peanut-butter-sugar cement off the bottom of the bowl every once in a while. Don’t add too much milk! You just want this goo to be spreadable. Really, the flatter your cookies, the more ground it’s gotta cover, so in that case it should be just a bit thinner. If your cookies turn out nice and plump, the frosting should be thicker so it doesn’t flow out the sides. Beat it until it’s lumpless and silky. Spread it over one cooled cookie, not going quite to the edges of the cookie, and top it with another. Alright.

Note: the filling recipe makes JUST ENOUGH, so you’ll want to ration it wisely, especially if your cookies are flat.

(Recipe from here.)

November 22, 2007

thanksgiving

Filed under: Uncategorized — by Rachel @ 10:15 pm
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I had so much energy last night, I couldn’t stop cooking! It started with sweet potato casserole:


Here it is, pre-topping and pre-baked. My mom made a non-vegan sweet potato casserole, and she set aside some plain boiled taters for me to make my own version, which I adapted from this recipe at Get Sconed. What a great recipe! I 1/6’d it to make a portion for my little ceramic pan, and I added a bit more sugar to the potatoes and replaced some of the Earth Balance with rice milk. The finished result, all smooth and creamy with a rich cinnamon-nutmeg topping, made for some serious comfort food.


I also made a vegetable casserole with a chili polenta topping (looks a lot like sweet potatoes, right?) Here it is pre-baked. The recipe was originally a “Three Sisters Casserole”, but I made so many substitutions that it’s hardly the same recipe at all. I found the polenta to be slightly bland, but even so, I realized that I LOVE polenta and want to start cooking with it more often. So cheap, so simple, very quick, and gluten-free, too.

One important note: I’ve made this particular recipe before, and it calls for you to prepare the polenta in a huge double boiler for 40+ minutes. When I made it for the first time, I tried that technique, with little success. This time around, I read up on polenta from a free recipe on the Herbivore website. I used the process described there, and the polenta thickened up like a dream, in far less that 40 minutes. Here’s a basic outline:

4.5 c. water
1.5 c. cornmeal
1 t. salt
your favorite herbs (I think some dried basil and other Italian herbs would be great)

Heat the water in a large saucepan till it’s hot but not yet boiling. Add other ingredients and bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Turn down the heat to simmer and keep on whisking for about 5 minutes. A good way to see if it’s done is to take a glob of it on the tip of a spoon and set it aside. When the glob cools, if it’s nice and thick and basically solid, you’re good to go. This makes a pretty big amount of polenta. If you’re gonna save some for later, you should probably add some liquid before reheating to keep it from drying out.


I also made a chocolate cake with cherry filling and a little cherry sauce (recipe converted from the back of a box of Hershey’s cocoa powder). The cake was very gooey and rich and pretty delish all around, but the cake sunk somewhat in the middle, so I’m not going to copy the recipe here. Let’s just say I enjoyed it several times over the course of the day.


Clockwise from top right: a standard salad, jellified cranberry sauce (mm, high fructose corn syrup), sweet potato casserole, and the polenta-veggie casserole. (Diet Pepsi pictured is NOT mine!!!)

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