Monday, October 31, 2011

Chocolate Cut-Out Cookies


E wanted to make a happy pumpkin, while I went for a crazy vampire pumpkin.

I wanted to make some Halloween cookies for E to bring to work and I have my Halloween cookie cutters that must be used! I was looking for a vegan sugar cookie recipe but then came across these chocolate cut-out cookies which seemed like more fun.

The dough was super easy to roll out, which made me so happy as rolling out dough can be stressful. The cookies tasted good, though I didn't love them. They could have been more chocolate-y. The texture was like a chewy sugar cookie. I was going to use royal icing to frost them but saw this confectioner's icing (which is vegan) and the recipe said it dries hard. Perfect! Sadly, it does not dry hard. Or maybe I put on too thick of a layer - but I did follow the recipe. The icing does dry to some degree, just not hard like royal icing. Which means if you stack the cookies for a length of time, the icing will come off on the cookie on top of it. Anyway, I had fun making them and go to use up some of my black sprinkles too. :)

If this sounds good, you might also like:
Sugar Cookie Bars
Ginger Spice Cookies
Dark and Dangerous Triple Chocolate Cookies
Peanut Butter Chocoalte Pillows

Chocolate Cut-Out Cookies
Adapted from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar

Makes 2-3 dozen 2-3 inch cookies (depends on your cookie cutter, I got about 28)

2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup safflower oil
1/4 cup nondairy milk (I used unsweetened plain soy)
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup Dutch cocoa powder
1 tbsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

1. In a mixing bowl, vigorously mix the sugar, oil and nondairy milk. Mix in the vanilla extract.

2. Sift in the flour, cocoa powder, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt. Mix until well combined. The dough should be stiff but pliable. Divide in half, and form into discs; flatten and refrigerate for about an hour.

3. Preheat oven to 350F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpats. Roll dough out about 1/8 inch thick onto a lightly floured surface. Use a cookie cutter to cut out shapes and a thin spatula to transfer the cookies to the baking sheets. Roll the dough scraps out to get a few more cookies.

4. Bake for 7 minutes. Let cookies cool on the baking sheets for 2 minutes before moving them to wire racks to cool completely. Store in a tightly sealed container.

Confectioner's Icing
Adapted from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar

2 cups sifted powdered sugar
2 tbsp nondairy milk

1. In a large bowl, whisk together all the ingredients using a wire whisk until smooth. Combine to form a glaze that can be easily spread with an icing spatula or piped from a pastry bag with a small round tip.

2. If the icing is too thick, whisk in 1 tsp at a time of either nondairy milk or water. If too thin, whisk in more powdered sugar by the tablespoon until a desired consistency is reached.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Baked Goods from Sweet Freedom

Ricki's baking book, Sweet Freedom, is one of my favourite cookbooks. Though I don't post about it often, I actually bake from it quite frequently and always love the results. Here's what I've made recently from it.

Raisin spice tea bread. I tried to make an earl grey tea bread many years ago and remember it being a disaster and not cooking in the middle. This bread was a completely different experience. It's so soft, and I love the spices. I wrote on the recipe "make it all the time". E doesn't love this one, but that's because he's not a big spice fan.

Fluffy fruited pancakes. I've made these SO many times, though I've only ever made them once with berries. They are seriously the perfect healthy fluffy soft pancakes. I freeze the leftovers and reheat them in the toaster where they become crispy mmm. The recipe is also on Ricki's blog.

Banana oat bars. E loved these. They're nice and soft, and have raisins, coconut and of course lots of oats. I'm not a big baked banana fan so while I do think these are good, I would rather have the raisin spice tea bread! The recipe is also on Ricki's blog. (I should've frosted mine like her!! Yum.)

Carrot snack cake. I made this to bring to a friend's house for dinner. It was so so good, really moist and very flavourful. It had raisins, cinnamon, ginger, lemon and coconut. Everyone loved it and I can't wait to make it again. It's like a healthier and more flavourful version of regular carrot cake.

Oatbran banana muffins. I know I said I don't like banana baked goods yet I keep making them! I love that these muffins are oat bran based (using 1 1/2 cups of it!). I think I baked mine a bit long though as they were a little dry. The flavour was good though.

Orange oat muffins. These are my new favourite muffins. I would call them orange and date muffins though. I love how strong the orange flavour is, and they're so moist. I get really sick of sweet muffins sometimes, but I don't think I'll ever get tired of these ones.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Pasta with French Lentils and Kale

I love all the stuff in this pasta dish, but especially the lentils and kale. I didn't expect much of this recipe, but I was looking for a recipe to use up kale so thought I'd try it. And it's actually quite good for such a simple and healthy recipe.

I know I've mentioned before that sometimes when I look back at the food I've photographed for the blog, I can't remember what some of it is. Drives me crazy. It only took me 4 years to figure out a better system! I'm now keeping a notepad file where I write all of my meals to blog about and the date, as I make them. I have no idea what this dish above is. And since it was both not very memorable and doesn't look that appetizing, I guess that's no real loss. My best guess is that it's Thai red curry, from The Moosewood Restaurant Cooking for Health.

If this sounds good, you might also like:
Lime Peanut Noodles with Seitan and Kale
Spaghetti and Beanballs with Onion & Roasted Garlic Tomato Sauce
Artichoke Rotini Pasta
Fresh Pear and Curry Pasta

Pasta with French Lentils and Kale
Adapted from The Moosewood Restaurant Cooking for Health

Serves 4

1 cup French green lentils (or other lentils)
3 cups water
8 oz chunky-shaped whole grain pasta
3 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onions
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp salt
1 cup diced carrots
1/2 tsp paprika or smoked paprika
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
4 cups chopped kale
2 tsp dried thyme
2 cups diced fresh tomatoes
Ground black pepper

1. In a covered saucepan, bring the lentils and water to a simmer. Cook covered until tender but firm, about 20 minutes. Drain, cover, and set aside.

2. Meanwhile, bring a large covered pot of water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Reserve about a cup of the pasta cooking liquid, and drain.

3. While the pasta cooks, in a skillet on medium heat, warm the oil. Add the onions and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring now and then, until softened. Add the garlic and salt, and cook until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in the carrots, paprika, and red pepper flakes and cook until the carrots are tender, about 5 minutes. Add the kale and about 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta cooking water and cook until the kale is tender, adding more water if needed. Stir in the thyme and tomatoes and remove from the heat.

4. In a serving bowl, toss together the cooked lentils, the pasta, and the vegetables. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Bakery-Style Berry Muffins

These are the kind of muffins that I rarely make. White flour and a decent amount of sugar and oil - though actually I've seen muffins with more sugar and oil/fat so I guess these aren't too terrible. Well taste wise, they are not terrible at all. They're the perfect muffin - soft insides with hard tops. If you want to retain the crisp muffin tops, freeze the muffins immediately after cooling - then when you want to eat them, thaw them on the counter and eat shortly after. While I did not make these with soy yogurt (I've actually never tried non dairy yogurt if you can believe it), that's what the original recipe calls for so I'll leave it that way. I can't wait to try other mix-ins using this muffin base.

If this sounds good, you might also like:
Double Chocolate Avocado Muffins
Coconut Banana Muffins
Healthy Carrot Cake Power Scuffins
Blackberry Orange Tea Scones

Bakery-Style Berry Muffins
Adapted from Vegan Brunch

Makes 12 muffins

2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup soy yogurt
1/2 cup nondairy milk (I used unsweetened plain soy)
1/2 cup olive oil (or canola or safflower)
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups frozen mixed berries (I used raspberries, blackberries and blueberries)

Preheat the oven to 375F. Prepare a muffin tin with oil or liners.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Make a well in the center and add the yogurt, milk, oil, and vanilla. Stir to combine. Fold in the berries.

Scoop the batter into the muffin tin; it should almost fill the entire tin. Bake for 26 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick or butter knife inserted through the center of the muffin comes out clean. Let cool for a few minutes in the tin, then transfer muffins to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Maple Cinnamon Almond Butter with Hemp, Flax, and Chia Seed

My favourite nut butter is peanut butter - boring yes, but it's so good! Sometimes I buy almond butter, but I don't really like it. I've bought the big jars from Costco because it's so much cheaper, then I'm looking for ways to use it up. But I've never tried making my own almond butter before (or any nut butter for that matter).

I've seen people making different types of nut butters on their blogs, so I finally gave it a try with this maple cinnamon almond butter. And it was really good! Much better than the store bought one. I like having plain nut butter, but it's nice to have something more interesting like this one too. My only complaint is that it's a bit sweet for me. I really hate having sweet things in the morning (unless it's fruit) and so next time I would maybe cut the maple syrup in half, but that's just me.

If this sounds good, you might also like:
Peanut Butter Waffles
Banana Peanut Butter Oatmeal Muffins
Energy Cookies
Peanut Butter Squares with Milk Chocolate and Oats

Maple Cinnamon Almond Butter with Hemp, Flax, and Chia Seed
Adapted from Oh She Glows who adapted from Edible Perspective

Yield 1 & 1/4 cup

2 cup raw almonds
2 tbsp whole flax seeds
2 tbsp hemp seeds
1 tbsp chia seeds
3 tbsp pure maple syrup
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp kosher salt, or to taste
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 300F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a Silpat mat. In a large bowl, mix together the almonds, flax seeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds, and maple syrup. Spread out almond mixture onto baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes, stirring once half way through.

2. Remove from oven and allow the almond mixture to cool for a few minutes before placing into a food processor with the cinnamon, salt and vanilla. Process for about 10 minutes, stopping to scrape the bowl every as needed (every minute or so). The mixture will be very smooth when ready.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Curry Laksa

I'm finished my exam!! I'm done schooling forever. Well I might change my mind one day but I have no plans to continue. It's been 9 years of post secondary education which is enough for me. Now I have to wait until December to see if I passed and become certified. Ahhh waiting isn't fun. But I'm really happy my exam is over, now I can get back to fun things like cooking healthy meals, blogging and my new found love yoga. :)

This is another recipe from Appetite for Reduction. I've never eaten or made laksa before so I can't vouch for it's authenticity but we enjoyed it. It was a bit sour (is it supposed to be?) and while the flavour was nice, I wish it was stronger. Not my favourite recipe from Appetite for Reduction, but it was still good. I think marinating the tofu beforehand and then cooking it separately would improve the dish because the sauce/soup isn't flavourful enough to infuse the tofu during cooking. Maybe marinating it in curry paste, lime juice, and soy sauce then pan frying it?

By the way, have you guys made this pasta with ruby chard and cranberries yet? I've been making some variation of it a lot recently, using up the plethora of greens from our CSA. Delicious!! I can't wait to eat it for lunch today.

If this sounds good, you might also like:
Lime Peanut Noodles with Seitan, Kale and Carrots
Kung Pao Noodles with Peanuts and Wok Fried Vegetables
Last Minute Sesame Noodles
Vegetarian Pho

Curry Laksa
Adapted from Appetite for Reduction

Serves 4

3-4 tbsp red curry paste
1 small red onion, thinly sliced into half-moons
1 red pepper, seeded and sliced thinly
1 tbsp minced fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 Shanghai bok choy
4 cups vegetable broth
2 tbsp reduced sodium soy sauce
1/2 tsp salt
1 block extra firm tofu (about 14 oz), cubed
8 oz pad Thai rice noodles
3/4 cup light coconut milk
3 tbsp lime juice (from 1 or 2 limes)
3 tbsp agave
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

Put a big pot of water on to boil for the noodles. In the meantime, prep all your veggies.

Preheat another 4 quart pot over medium high heat. Place 3 tablespoons of curry paste in the pot and mix in the onion and peppers. Saute for about 2 minutes. Use a little nonstick cooking spray if it seems to be sticking excessively. Add the garlic and ginger, and saute for another 2 minutes. Add the bok choy stems, broth, soy sauce, and salt, and bring to a slow rolling boil (no need to cover). Add the tofu and cook for 10 more minutes..

At this point, your water for the noodles is probably boiling, so cook the noodles. They should be done in 5 minutes; drain and set aside.

Add the coconut milk, lime juice, agave and bok choy leaves to the curry and mix, being gentle so as not to break the tofu. Taste for salt and spice. You may want to add more curry paste. Ladle into bowls and top with cilantro.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Thanksgiving! Featuring Sweet Potatoes with Pecans, Goat Cheese and Celery

I hope all the Canadians had a great Thanksgiving this past weekend! I was so ridiculously excited for Thanksgiving this year for some reason. My mom and I planned an epic feast with appetizers, punch, lots of of side dishes, and desserts. I'll be sharing the recipe for the sweet potato appetizer E made as it was my favourite new thing we tried. Looking at the photos on the camera now I see that some of them are actually quite blurry, but I wanted to eat and was taking them mostly for documentation purposes! :) Let's begin our journey through Thanksgiving 2011.

Appetizer - sweet potatoes with Thanksgiving on top. I ate way too many of these because they were so good, and then was worried I wouldn't be able to eat much at dinner. The topping was so flavourful and perfect for a holiday meal - shallots, celery, toasted pecans, dried cranberries, goat cheese, and herbs. Next time I'd try to fit more topping on each sweet potato, though it's kind of difficult and messy. Will definitely make these again! I've included the recipe at the end of this post.

Appetizer - cranberry cheese phyllo parcels, made by my mom. I just tried to find the recipe online but couldn't. She got it out of a Canadian Living holiday magazine I think. They were really yummy!

Punch! I don't actually like punch and almost always drink water, but I thought punch would be fun and I wanted to make neat ice cubes. I was going to make an ice ring with frozen fruit inside, but then decided to use my Halloween pumpkin silicon muffin mould instead. Don't think you can really see the pumpkin ice cubes in this photo though.

The table ready for dinner. Roasted garlic mashed potatoes (yummy but needed more roasted garlic - maybe 6 heads next time?), brussel sprouts, and homemade cranberry sauce.

Beets, salad, baked cheesy cauliflower, vegan gravy, and vegetarian stuffing. I really need to post about that baked cheesy cauliflower sometime as it's a family favourite. I made the vegan gravy from Eat, Drink & Be Vegan because Angela said it was really good. It was alright but I've had better vegan gravy, like this shiitake one that I need to make again and then post about. (There was also turkey, meat gravy, and sausage stuffing.)

Vegan green bean casserole. I've been dying to try making this for so long. Unfortunately I didn't think it was that good. Maybe because the mushroom sauce wasn't that flavourful or there wasn't enough sauce? I used this recipe from Fat Free Vegan. I used 3 tbsp flour instead of 2, unsweetened plain soy milk instead of soy creamer, and omitted the sherry.

My plate! Yum yum yum. Going clockwise from the bottom left corner - vegan green bean casserole, vegetarian stuffing (YUM stuffing is my favourite), roasted garlic mashed potatoes with vegan gravy, beets, baked cheesy cauliflower, carrots, brussel sprouts, salad, and homemade cranberry sauce.

Dessert! My brother and sister-in-law made sex in a pan, which I've never had before so was really excited to try. And I made pumpkin cheesecake.

I was really happy with how the pumpkin cheesecake turned out. I won't pretend that I can always make cheesecake this well though. A lot of times it cracks and the edges are a bit rubbery. Not this time. It was perfection. So creamy. What I did differently is used mini cheesecake pans (so I baked them for a shorter amount of time) and used a water bath. I posted a bit more of the details on my original pumpkin cheesecake post.

And thus concludes Thanksgiving 2011. We brought home tons of leftovers and I'm so looking forward to eating them all week.

Sweet Potatoes with Pecans, Goat Cheese and Celery [a.k.a. Roasted Marshmallow-y Sweet Potatoes with Thanksgiving on Top]
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

1 1/2 pounds sweet potato, scrubbed, unpeeled, in 3/4- to 1-inch coins
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/4 cup toasted and cooled pecan halves
2 tiny or 1 small shallot
2 stalks celery
2 tsp herbes de provence (original recipe used 2 tbsp fresh parsley)
1 tablespoon dried cranberries
2 ounces firmish goat cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon smooth Dijon mustard

Preheat oven to 450F. Coat a large baking sheet generously with olive oil, about 1 to 2 tablespoons. Lay sweet potatoes in one layer on the oiled sheet. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Roast, without disturbing, for 15 to 20 minutes. Carefully flip each piece: the undersides should be blistery, dark and a bit puffy and should release from the pan with no effort. If they’re not, let it cook longer. Sprinkle them with additional salt and freshly ground black pepper and return the pan to the oven for another 10-30 minutes or so, until the undersides match the tops. (Ashley note: E was the one that made these, and he said that he had to bake the sweet potatoes a lot longer than the recipe suggested so that's why I changed it to 10-30 minutes.)

Meanwhile, prepare your salad. Chop your pecans well, mince your shallot, chop your celery, mince cranberries. Crumble your goat cheese and stir it into the mixture. In a small dish, whisk together 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar and 1/2 teaspoon Dijon. Pour over salad.

When the sweet potatoes are done, lay them on a serving platter. Scoop a spoonful of the salsa over each round. Eat immediately. (Ashley note: We baked the sweet potato earlier in the day and kept the salad separate, then reheated the sweet potato just before serving and topped with salad.)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Know Your Roots Salad

This vegetable and wheat berry filled salad is my new favourite. Roasted beets and sweet potato, with cinnamon (I thought the cinnamon would be weird but it's amazing). Mix that with sauteed beet greens or kale and lots of garlic, some sunflower seeds or walnuts and a simple dressing. It's total magic. And it's the perfect warm fall salad, though I definitely ate it a few times this past summer. I'm so happy it's finally October, I've waited all year for it! Halloween is my favourite and I love how cozy October is.

If this sounds good, you might also like:
Back on Track Wheat Berry and Chickpea Salad
Autumn Panzanella
Spiced Squash, Lentil and Goat Cheese Salad
Warm Roasted Pumpkin & Shallot Salad

Know Your Roots Salad
Adapted from Kath Eats

Serves 4

3 beets, peeled and chopped
1 large sweet potato, peeled and chopped (about 3 cups)
1 tbsp olive oil plus 1 tsp
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 cup dry wheat berries
Beet greens from the 3 beets, chopped (or if you don't have the greens then use kale)
7 cloves garlic, split into 5 and 2
2 tbsp sunflower seeds or chopped walnuts
1 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 425F. Cut greens off beets and set aside. Chop beets and sweet potato. Rub beets and sweet potato with 1 tablespoon oil, cinnamon and cayenne pepper. Bake for 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine wheat berries with 2 cups water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 45 minutes, until tender but still chewy.

Chop beet greens or kale. Sautee the greens in 1 teaspoon oil and 5 cloves garlic. Set aside. Prepare the dressing: combine maple syrup, vinegar, mustard, 2 cloves garlic, salt and pepper in a jar. Stir to combine. Pour over salad.