Friday, December 28, 2012

Double Chocolate Chipotle Cookies

Chocolate and chipotle aren't just for putting into chili and adobo sauce! They make fabulous cookies too! I've made a few batches of These double chocolate cookies lately since most of my outgoing holiday gifts this year were those jar mixes...I just couldn't help but mix up a few complete batches as well. And today I had the idea of adding chipotle! And what a great idea it was! I don't think I'll ever make them without chipotle again. (And if you still have some belated gifts to give, those mixes are a great idea. I unfortunately forgot to take a picture of my kitchen table full of all my jars. It was epic!)

gotta love Costco's ginormous bag of choc chips!

So here I present this easy recipe, which is basically the PPK recipe with spices added.

Double Chocolate Chipotle Cookies
1 cup flour (I used half AP, half white whole wheat without the texture suffering any)
1/3 cup natural cocoa
2 tsp flaxseed meal
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon (Penzey's Vietnamese, as always!)
3/4 tsp chipotle powder
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup roughly chopped pecans or walnuts (I used walnuts this time)
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup non-dairy milk or water (tried it both ways, I cannot tell the difference)
1/3 cup veg oil
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350f. Grease cookie sheets or line with parchment paper. Mix it all together. Form into balls and flatten slightly into discs. (Isa gets 20 cookies rolling 1 inch balls and I get 16-17 rolling slightly larger balls.) Bake for 10 minutes. Cool for a few minutes on cookie sheet and transfer to cooling rack.

rich, hot and smokey!

Vermillion Flycatcher, a bird native to Mexico from The Internet Bird Collection

Monday, December 24, 2012

Easy Gluten Free Baked Goods

I got a taste the other day of what it must feel like to be a beginning vegan baker...because the other day I started my journey as a beginning gluten-free baker. It was a bit confusing and I had some questions, but everything ended up turning out mostly ok.

I have been curious about the gluten-free fad for a while, but have always been intimidated by expensive flours of which you need 2 or 3 or 4 of for each recipe, the superexpensive and seemingly necessary xanthan gum, and that a lot of gluten-free recipes make up for the sticky proteiny-ness of gluten with loads of eggs.

I'm no celiac, but if I eat a lot of seitan, I feel like there's a brick sitting in my stomach. My cousin, however, is a celiac and gets insufferably sick when he gets "gutened", as he says. So my cousin's baked good-less holiday and my curiosity for different and challenging things brought me to the next three recipes.

I had a few gf flours in the pantry, mainly cheap things like white rice, potato and tapioca that I get at the Asian market. And I had no intention of buying an $8-$12 bag of anything, including xanthan gum, so I searched and searched to find recipes that didn't use those and were beginner friendly. I decided on "brownies"flourless peanut butter cookies, and the vanilla gluten freedom cupcakes from Vegan Cupcakes Take over the World.

The brownies were the most baffling. I chose them because they only required rice flour and seemed pretty straightforward. I'm not entirely sure the recipe is correct, because it was modified from another...and I think there is too much liquid, but I didn't want to deviate from it with this being my first attempt at a new kind of baking. The original recipe calls for sweet rice flour, so perhaps that makes a difference. Other than upping the sugar, as mentioned, I changed nothing. My rice/water mixture wasn't paste-like, so perhaps I didn't cook it long enough. When the oven timer went off, I checked to find a pan of bubbly boiling chocolate syrup.. There was a little brownie skin in the middle of the pan, but the edges were boiling liquid...So I ended up keeping them in the oven for about and hour and a half until I finally gave up. When I pulled them out, they were still bubbly liquid, but as they cooled, they congealed and turned into something like fudge. And they were actually really good! I just wouldn't call them brownies, and I would use a foil lined or disposable pan next time. And be sure to cut them before they cool completely, or they will be near impossible to remove from the pan. (There was so much baked on stuff, I'm not sure I will ever get the pan clean.) But I would definitely make these fudgethingies again! Maybe I would reduce the water to see if they turn out more brownie-like.

pan of dishwasher doom
squares of gooey fudgey deliciousness
Now the peanut butter cookies are a bit of a cheat because they don't use any gluten-free flours...They don't use any flour at all! Flourless, eggless cookies...hmm...sounds too good to be true, but I had seen several variations of this recipe, which is basically peanut butter, sugar and egg replacer. This recipe uses powdered egg replacer and applesauce. I made the recipe as directed, but using DIY egg replacer instead of Ener-G. You could probably use ground flax with the same (or better?) results. I halved the recipe and got 12 substantial cookies. They are a bit crumbly and super peanut buttery (duh), but amazingly simple. I used the harder solids and some oil from the bottom of a jar of natural peanut butter..I bet the texture would be different (more chewy?) with stir-able peanut butter. Here are some other variations on the recipe.

with cashew butter and tofu
these use applesauce and a few tablespoons of flour

I wasn't planning on the cupcakes because they call for quinoa flour which is $8 for a 1 lb box, but when I found cheap millet flour at the Asian market, I figured millet flour would be very similar and would work. The VCTOTW recipe does use four flours (tapioca, corn or almond, white rice and quinoa), which has always intimidated me a bit, but quinoa was the only one I was missing.

not $9!

I chose corn instead of almond to help use up my bag of corn flour that I rarely find uses for, and it definitely left a distinct taste on the cupcakes. Unfrosted, the cupcakes tasted a little like sweet corn muffins. Almond would definitely replicate the gluten free cupcakes from my favorite NYC sandwich shop. In fact, now that I've made the gluten freedom cupcakes, I'm nearly certain that's the recipe they use with almond flour instead of corn.

I decided to half the recipe and make minis, because I didn't want so much to go to waste if I messed it up (although I should know by now, Isa and Terry rarely lead astray with their recipes.) If you didn't know, a cupcake success secret is that minis are a lot more fool-proof than regular sized cupcakes. I figured this out when I had a mini cupcake machine in an oven-less boat I lived in, and was able to sloppily throw together batter with unmeasured ingredients and have the cupcakes still turn out great.

I got 18 minis from the half recipe. I frosted the cupcakes with a buttercream with a tiny bit of cocoa powder for a light chocolatey frosting and rolled them in red sugar. I would definitely make these again for myself..They have a nice texture that isn't pure fluff like white flour cupcakes. I'll try the almond version next, but I am satisfied with the corn one.

look at that beautiful crumb!

So my first gluten-free baking experiences did not make me want to pull my hair out. And I didn't have to buy xanthan gum or multiple $8 bags of flour. And everything didn't fall flat or turn to bricks. It makes my cousin insanely happy to be able to eat homebaked goods, and I enjoy trying new things, so there will likely be more gluten free recipes to come.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Holiday Cookies: Gingerbread and Bourbon Spice

I've been making cookies like mad lately...It's one of the few things I like about the holidays this time of year...I get to make tons of cookies and pawn them off on people. Yesterday I sent a friend some Cinnamon Roll Cookies and today I sent my grandma some gingerbread and bourbon spice cookies. And I still have many more batches to make! I took both varieties to work today and was (unfortunately jokingly) told that I was the new favorite and I will get paid double. And then before I could respond, someone said, "Why doesn't jac make chocolate chip cookies?" and another person said "Cause she's vegan" and yet another person jumped in with "Chocolate isn't meat, stupid." And I actually ended up saying nothing and just laughing to myself. (So next time I will obviously be bringing chocolate chip cookies.)

The gingerbread cookies are Chloe Coscarelli's Chewy Ginger Molasses Cookies which actually look nothing like her picture, but are still delicious and chewy nonetheless. My dough seems to have turned out more moist than hers and therefore my cookies are flat and not dome shaped as hers appear to be. Also, my sugar coating was pretty much invisible. But this recipe was supereasy and quick to make. I would suggest only baking six at a time though, as 12 spread into each other in my first batch.

The bourbon spice cookies have a few more steps, but are worth it. You could probably call these eggnog cookies, as they have eggnog spices and bourbon, but "Bourbon Spice" is a little more pompous and alluring to me. And people seem to get excited about anything containing alcohol..

Bourbon Spice Cookies

3/4 cup Earth Balance Buttery Spread
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon molasses
2 teaspoons powdered egg replacer + 3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon vanilla extract.
2 tablespoons bourbon or American whisky

Place Earth Balance in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil. Whisk often for 5 minutes or until margarine reduces and begins to darken. Remove from heat and let cool. (I did this step while making the gingerbread cookies so the margarine would have time to cool.)

Preheat the oven to 350 and grease and prepare a baking sheet. (I usually use parchment paper, but if you notice in the pictures, today I used foil and had no qualms about it.)

Mix flour, baking soda and spices together in a bowl and set aside. In another bowl, beat together the margarine and sugars. Beat in molasses, egg replacer+water, vanilla and bourbon. Add the dry ingredients and beat until just incorporated. 

Let dough rest for 15 minutes. It should firm up some. Scoop heaping tablespoon sized balls of dough and place several inches apart on prepared baking sheet. (I got 6 to a sheet) Bake for 10-12 minutes until cookies barely look done on the edges. They will be puffy, crackled and gooey looking when you take them out of the oven. Let cool 5 minutes on pan and gently slide parchment or foil to cooling rack or counter to continue cooling.


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Eating Out Vegan- Great Wraps

 I hope to make this a series to show it's not so difficult to be vegan in a world of seemingly unvegan restaurant establishments.

Maybe Great Wraps is somewhat obscure to begin with, but Great Wraps is a restaurant pretty much only found in malls, and malls are mass consumerism hubs that don't normally scream "vegan options!" as far as food goes. (Cheap synthetic shoes, on the other hand...vegan options aplenty!) And since many of you might be spending more time than you'd like in malls this time of year, I decided to begin with Great Wraps. Here's where you can find them.

And here's the malleria where the Alabama one is located. (On a weeknight in November, so not as insane as it probably is right this second.)

There are three vegan wraps, veggie, hummus, and falafel. I love this place because they have some really amazing falafel for a mall chain place, and the falafel wrap is always what I get. 

They deep fry it when you order so it always takes a few extra minutes. You get to choose from several types of tortillas, spinach, tomato, wheat or white and the toppings are unique too.

There are your average subway-ey toppings, but look there on the bottom left! Roasted red peppers! (Whatwhat!) and a little to the right...sprouts! and cilantro too! And then they press the folded wrap in one of those hot press thingies that holds it together and makes a crunchy impression on the outside.

Seriously, falafel, hummus, and roasted red pepper. That's a pretty freakin awesome meal to have while sitting in front of Forever 21 and listening to screaming children and teenage gabbers. 

And if that wasn't enough, they have curly fries!

There is nutritional info on their site and the falafel wrap info is pretty impressive. It has more fiber (14g!) and more iron (70% DV) than any other wrap! It's one of the lower calorie warps (580), the lowest in fat and packs 26 grams of protein. And like everything vegan, zero cholesterol. I'm not one to worry about these things, since I know a varied vegan diet provides plenty of nutrients, but if you're stuck at the mall with someone who might question your food choices, there's some more info for you to share. Source.

mall zombies! (I have resisted the urge to put a Dawn of the Dead clip here. You're welcome?)

Picture from Luminous Vegans from

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Supathin Supachewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

So everybody has their preference on chocolate chip cookies..and everyone seems to have a recipe to swear by. Crispy, chewy, soft, crunchy, thick or thin are some of the words people might use to describe their favorites. Well I don't claim to understand people who like crunchy cookies, and to me a crunchy chocolate chip cookie would be a failure, but to each his own. My favorites are thin and chewy and if those are the two adjectives you'd use to describe your ideal CCC, then this recipe might become your favorite too.

Supathin Supachewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
makes 24 large thin cookies

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (bleached actually works better, but I know you probably only buy unbleached. It's ok..the ones in the picture were made with unbleached. Bleached results in a less oily cookie though.)
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons Earth Balance margarine, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar (or more granulated sugar with a teeeeny bit of molasses)
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 tablespoons almond milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup chocolate chips (Mini ones work really well if you'd rather have chips that are proportional to the height of the cookies. I used regular for the ones in the picture. I can't decide which I like better.)

Preheat oven to 375F.   
In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
In a separate bowl, cream the Earth Balance and sugars together until light and fluffy.  
Beat in corn syrup, almond milk and vanilla.
On low speed, gradually add the reserved dry ingredients and mix on low until combined.  Add chocolate chips and mix on low for 5 seconds.  

Line cookie sheet with parchment paper. (Greasing makes them excessively oily. They already have a very high fat content.) Drop slightly heaping tablespoons of batter about 2 inches apart onto cookie sheet (I can get 8 per sheet without them running together).  Bake for 7-8 minutes or until edges just begin to turn golden. They will look a little undercooked in the middle, but not totally raw. Remove cookie sheet from oven and wait 3 minutes before gently sliding the whole parchment sheet to a rack or counter to cool completely. You can reuse the parchment sheet for the next group, but wipe it off first. These cookies sweat out a lot of oil.

I love how big the chips are in relation to the cookie.
These cookies are very upfront about the number of chips they contain.

So thin you can see through!

And bend with your mind.

I also have some pie pictures to share..some Thanksgiving and after Thanksgiving pies. I also believe I have a new favorite.

In the front is the 
Pumpkin Cheesecake from Vegan Pie in the Sky and in the back, also from Vegan Pie in the Sky is my new favorite pie...banoffee! (Seriously, banoffee! requires an exclamation point following it.) Both were made with a gluten free crust to accommodate my celiac cousin. The crusts were a mix of pecans, sugar, brown rice flour and Earth Balance. I liked the crusts, but damn that many nuts is expensive.

The pumpkin cheesecake is one of those recipes that everyone talks so highly of, so I had to make it. I think I am the only one in the world that doesn't really care for it though. My family thought it was great. On the other hand, I am in love with banoffee!, where as it did not receive the rave reviews of the pumpkin. Maybe bananas were just not tradition-friendly for this occasion. It's ok, banoffee!, I will make and eat enough of you to make up for everyone who doesn't think bananas belong at a Thanksgiving table.

After Thanksgiving when the price of a 3 lb bag of cranberries went from $5.50 to $3 (Ah, the magic of supply and demand), I made the cranberry custard pie from
Vegan Desserts.
I liked this one because I like pretty much everything with loads of cranberries. I find the whipped topping unnecessary, but interesting and I do recommend halving the topping recipe if you make it. I was lazy and just slapped it on top instead of piping it, so it wasn't pretty enough to be in the photo. I also used a premade graham crust. (Lay-zaaaay piemaker that I am.) I could totally eat the batter for this one with a spoon.. I almost posted a picture of the batter but it rather resembled a particular uniquely colored indigestion medicine. (As beautiful as that color may be..)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanksgiving eats, green beans, collards, cranberry and pumpkin!

So I've been making Thanksgiving dishes this week, trying to figure out which ones I want to do for Thursday.

It always bothers me that a lot of Thanksgiving plates consist only of brown blobs..I try not to make all my food brown and mushy.
First I made PPK Butternut Alfredo!, substituting canned pumpkin for butternut squash. This was excellent and superduper easy to make. Beside the soaking time for the cashews, the dish came together in less than 30 minutes. I also upped the sage and used fresh, since we have some in the garden. Try it with soba noodles if you have them. They are my favorite and take less time to cook.

I had also been wanting to try the Herbed Cream Collards from Vegnews. I've been getting ginormous bunches of collards at the farmer's market for $2 and while they usually go to a big pot of hoppin john, I thought these should be tried in something new. 

This recipe is pure fatty mcfatt goodness. These are incredibly rich with a can of coconut milk and a cup of almond meal (You don't need to buy almond meal..Just grind almonds in the food processor.) and a little goes a long way. When I tried them fresh out of the pan, I could taste the coconut, but when I heated some up the next day, I could not. So depending when you eat them, they're appropriate for coconut lovers and haters alike. (I used a whole can of coconut milk, but used olive oil instead of coconut oil, as called for.) Also got to use more fresh sage and some rosemary from the garden for this one. I think I will be doing these on Thursday.

They don't get creamier than this!
I wanted to try a quick green bean recipe last night and found Green Bean Shiraae which intrigued me based on it's uniqueness. It's basically green beans with a crumbled tofu/miso/sesame mixture. It's interesting, but not something I would recommend for a traditional Thanksgiving table. I left out the sugar and added a bit more soy sauce (I used Nama Shoyu, which isn't as salty as regular soy sauce. And speaking Nama Shoyu, I laugh every time I think of the name. An old coworker of mine, and my favorite person in the whole world used to say "NAMA SHO-YU!" in a sassy ghetto voice like it was supposed to be "Nah, I'm gonna show YOU!"..OK maybe you just had to be there...)

But I did discover a new favorite tofu while making this recipe. I used my first package of Wildwood Sproutofu with this recipe and found this tofu has this really creamy texture different from the Nasoya or 365 brands I usually get. The texture was great for sticking to the green beans and I can see using the Sproutofu in a future cheezecake (even though I don't think they make silken) for an extra creamy texture. 

sooooo creamy!
The cranberry blob on my plate is a prototype for a veganized version of my mom's jelloicious cranberry salad. I tried it with just homemade cranberry sauce as the gelling agent (since cranberries have a high amount of pectin-the compound in fruit that gels jellies) but it did not hold together as I would have hoped. I'm still working on it and will probably incorporate some agar.

Hopefully I can get the recipe right tomorrow and post it.

And of course for the dessert, I used more of my fresh cranberries to make an adaptation of Cranberry Streusel Bars from Vegan Desserts.

Cranberry Streusel Bars
3 - 3 1/2 cups fresh cranberries
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups water
pinch of salt
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1 1/4 cups brown sugar
1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour (or you can use all white flour)
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup almond milk
1/2 cup canola oil
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup pecans, very finely diced or pulsed several times in food processor and toasted
(To toast diced pecans, lay them out on a sheet of aluminum foil and bake for 5 minutes at 375.)

Combine the cranberries, sugar and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook for 10-15 minutes, until the berries pop and the sauce thickens. Remove from heat and stir in salt and cinnamon. Set aside. (Congratulations. You have just made homemade cranberry sauce.)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease a 9x13 baking dish.

In a large bowl, combine brown sugar, flours, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Add the soymilk and oil  and mix well with a fork. Add oats and pecans and mix well.

Press half of the mixture into the bottom of the greased baking dish. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and immediately spread cranberry mixture over the bottom layer. Sprinkle the remaining streuel mixture over the cranberry layer. Bake for 24-26 more minutes, until lightly browned. Cool completely and slice into bars.

Happy Thanksliving!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Pumpkin Pie Challenge

Are you fretting over which vegan pumpkin pie to make for Thanksgiving??!?! Tofu based? Corn starch? Agar? Soymilk? Which one will impress the skeptical omnivorous killjoys in your extended family?? Surely there must be only one perfect pumpkin pie recipe!

I know everyone freaks out at Thanksgiving because they want everything to be perfect and this certainly includes vegans. We try to go above and beyond to challenge the unfair stereotype of gross food that so many people unfairly carry around. And our freaked-out-ness tends to manifest itself in pumpkin pie. There are so many recipes out there! Which to choose? Will people really not notice there is tofu in there? How does it compare to the old evaporated milk recipe most people are used to?

I've made several recipes over the years and I don't really remember which ones...but I do remember none of those recipes have ever been met with sad tastebuds or disappointment. I know I have made the  Vegetarian Times recipe because I have a printout in one of my cookbooks. I believe I have also made the Bryanna Clark Grogan recipe before. I know I've done a tofu-based one, and once I did a pumpkin/pecan hybrid.

But this year I decided to test 2 side by side..the two most popular (purely my conclusion of looking online) Bryanna's and the Tweaked Voluptuous Vegan recipe from Vegan Pie in the Sky.

VV/VPITS in the front and Bryanna in the back

And guess what! They both tasted almost exactly the same. The only noticeable differences were the nuances in spices. Now I did deviate from the VV/VPITS recipe a bit, so maybe it invalidated my results, but I don't ever buy maple syrup because it's so I used agave and some maple flavor instead of the syrup called for in the recipe.

Oh maple extract, you are about $17 cheaper that your authentic cousin.
I also used store-bought graham crusts for both of the pies..cause I'm lazy about some stuff.

Bama brand pie crust..from Oklahoma..

I also had three different brands of pumpkin and I thought the differences were interesting.

These two came from the dollar store. The one on the left is from China and was thicker and grainier than the other.

On the left is the dollar store brands mixed and on the right is Libby's.

Did you know that a lot of canned pumpkin is actually various squashes? I think that definitely accounts for the differences in texture between the brands. They still all made great pie though.

I'm going to recommend Bryanna's recipe because it's easy, cheap and pantry-friendly. You probably have everything you need in the pantry right now! As the recipe states, make it in advance! I found that when made in the morning, it was a good slicing consistency by night, but next day is ideal.

potato weight
These are both Bryanna pies from a few days later.  

Here's the list of recipes that I chose from. I'm not trying to confuse you or overwhelm you with options, but you can see that a lot of them are very similar. It can also be helpful to read about other's experiences. But seriously, don't freak out! It will be OK!

This one has avocado and cashews.
Dad's pumpkin pie, veganized
Dreena Burton's chocolate pumpkin pie
Pumpkin pie with Speculoos crust
Pumpkin pie served at Millennium's Thanksgiving dinner
Adapted Bryanna recipe using coconut milk
Sour cream swirl pumpkin pie
No-bake healthy pumpkin pie
6 ingredient (plus crust) pumpkin pie
Tofu-based pumpkin pie #3
Tofu-based #4
This one has vegan cream cheese in it and a cute cashew border.
No-bake chocolate-pumpkin pie
Tofu #5
Gluten-free pumpkin praline pie with LOTS of ingredients
This one is interesting. It has persimmons in it.
Tofu #6 very simple
Pumpkin cheesecake from Vegan Pie in the Sky
Layered pumpkin cheesecake that uses Tofutti...
...which is an adaptation of the fatfreevegan one (not actually fat free)
Another pumpkin cheesecake...This one is so pretty!
Pumpkin pecan pie
There's even an Instructables for Bryanna's recipe.

And maybe it's overkill, but vegan overkill is the best kind of overkill. Make some pumpkin ice cream to go with your desserts this year. This easy pumpkin ice cream has been well-received at my Thanksgiving table more than once.

best way to eat pumpkin! 

More Thanksgiving posts coming soon!