Saturday, December 31, 2011

Hearty Chili

Even though it's a balmy 52 degrees outside, it's always nice to get cozy with a big bowl of warm chili.  I've made this Hearty Chili recipe a few times before and it never disappoints.  It's chock full of veggies, beans, and the secret ingredient: "soy crumbles."

Hearty Chili topped with crushed tortilla chips

Hearty Chili
  •  2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 tablespoons oregano
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 green bell peppers, chopped
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 - 4 ounce cans chopped green chile peppers, drained
  • 2 - 12 ounce packages vegan burger crumbles (I use Lightlife Smart Ground veggie protein crumbles)
  • 3 - 28 ounce cans crushed tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 - 15 ounce can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 - 15 ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 - 15 ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 15 ounces frozen corn
First, heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat.  Add the onion, bay leaves, cumin, oregano, and salt.  Stir and cook the mixture until the onion becomes tender.  Next, mix in the celery, green bell peppers, jalapeno peppers, garlic, and green chiles.  Once the vegetables are heated through--after about 5 minutes--mix in the soy burger crumbles.  Reduce heat to low, cover the pot, and simmer for 5 minutes.  Then mix in the crushed tomatoes, chili powder, pepper, kidney beans, chickpeas, and black beans.  Bring the chili to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 50 minutes (at least), stirring in the corn when five minutes remain.  Serve hot.  I used crushed tortilla chips as a garnish.  

Yields 8 servings.


I could eat this chili every week.  Even though it's not very spicy, it's still packed with flavor.  The mixture of veggies, beans, and crumbles is also really filling.  Simon thinks the chili is "delightful," while Rachel likes that it's "really hearty."
Most of the ingredients in this recipe are both easy to find and affordable.  While my standard grocery store had the soy crumbles in stock, however, some grocery stores may not carry them.  Luckily, the chili would still be great without the crumbles. 
Ease of Preparation: 
The recipe is very easy to make.  Mixing ingredients into a pot isn't too taxing.  The recipe does take a while to make, though, between the chopping and simmering.  It's worth it, though! 
Non-vegan friendliness: 
Simon and Rachel loved the chili, and I'm confident that anyone else would feel the same way.  A dish like chili is extra vegan-friendly, though, because it's so customizable.  Your non-vegan friends and family members can add traditional chili toppings like cheese or sour cream if they so desire, while I topped mine with crushed up tortilla chips to add a little crunch.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

New Rating System

I'm introducing a new rating system in an effort to make my recipes easier to navigate.  Beginning today, I'm going to rate each new recipe in four categories:
  • Taste: How is the taste, texture, and overall eating experience?
  • Accessibility: How expensive is the dish?  Are the ingredients found everywhere or just in specialty grocery stores?
  • Ease of preparation: How long does the dish take to prepare?  How difficult is preparation? 
  • Non-vegan friendliness: Does this dish appeal to non-vegans?
My rating scale will range from one to four carrots, with one carrot being the worst and four carrots being the best:

So, for instance, a dish that tastes great, has inexpensive and easy-to-find ingredients, is easy to make, and attracts vegans and non-vegans, alike, would receive four carrots in each category--the highest rating. 

I hope this helps you choose which recipes you'd like to try out!  Please let me know if there's anything else I can do to improve my blog or make my recipes clearer. 

Almond Joy Cupcakes

Whenever someone finds out that I'm vegan, the conversation frequently includes an exchange that goes something like this:
"Yup, I'm vegan."
"Wow!  I could never be vegan.  I could be vegetarian, but I just couldn't give up [names favorite food item].  Don't you miss it?"
Actually, there are very few non-vegan foods that I miss.  I was never a big steak-eater; I'm completely satisfied with coconut milk-based ice cream instead of cow's milk-based ice cream; I have always enjoyed non-vegan foods such as beans, nuts and vegetables; and so on.  However, even though I don't crave non-vegan foods, I still enjoy many of the flavor combinations that are featured in non-vegan foods.  Hey, just because I don't eat most candy bars doesn't mean I have to give up the combination of coconut, chocolate, and almond!  So, today I made Almond Joy Cupcakes.

Almond Joy Cupcakes: Chocolate-Almond cake with Coconut Icing

Almond Joy Cupcakes

Chocolate-Almond Cake:
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup cocoa powder
  • 1.5 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup almond milk or soymilk 
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 2 tablespoons white or apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 teaspoons espresso powder or 1 tablespoon instant coffee
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 1 cup chocolate chips

Coconut Icing:
  • 2 - 8 ounce packages of Tofutti Better than Cream Cheese (or another non-dairy cream cheese)
  • 1 cup vegan butter
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon coconut flavoring/extract
  • 2 cups sweetened coconut flakes

First, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Line cupcake pans with 24 baking cups and set aside.

Next, prepare the cake:  mix together the first six cake ingredients in a large bowl and set aside.  In a small bowl, whisk together the soy/almond milk, oil, vinegar, vanilla, and almond extract.  Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until just combined.  In a separated small bowl, dissolve the espresso powder into the boiling water and immediately fold into the batter.  (The batter will be thin.)  Distribute the batter evenly into the baking cups--I started out with about 1/4 cup batter in each cup.  Finally, sprinkle some chocolate chips into each baking cup.  Bake for about 18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean.  Cool completely on a wire rack before frosting.

Meanwhile, prepare the icing.  Beat the non-dairy cream cheese and vegan butter until smooth using an electric mixer.  Then gradually mix in the powdered sugar and beat for about 3 minutes until smooth and creamy.  Add the vanilla and coconut flavoring and beat another 30 seconds.  Mix in the coconut by hand.

Top the cooled cupcakes with icing, and feel free to garnish with chocolate chips or almonds.


These cupcakes are really good, though they aren't an exact replica of an Almond Joy candy bar.  The chocolate almond in the cake goes nicely with the icing, but the additional cream cheese flavor adds a little something extra.  If you don't want the cream cheese flavor and are looking for a more traditional taste, feel free to remove the cream cheese and add more of the butter and powdered sugar. 
The low accessibility rating comes from the fact that vegan cream cheese may be hard to find in some locations.
Ease of Preparation: 
This is a pretty standard, simple cupcake recipe. 
Non-vegan friendliness: 
My family liked the cupcakes, but they weren't blown away.  I still have some tweaking to do!

You can also use this recipe to make a cake rather than cupcakes: just increase the baking time and use two 8-inch baking pans.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Curried Carrot Dip

Tonight was carrot night.  Simon and I made a carrot-ginger soup and a carrot dip.  The dip was much better than the soup, in my opinion, so I'm just going to include the recipe for the Curried Carrot Dip here.

Curried Carrot Dip

  • 1 pound carrots, washed and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
  • 1/4 cup roasted walnuts
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

First, bring a small saucepan of water to a boil.  Boil the carrots for about 10 minutes, or until soft.  Drain.

Next, blend the walnuts in a food processor until crumbs form.  Add all other ingredients and process until smooth.  You may have to process in batches.

Refrigerate before eating to cool off the dip.  Serve chilled with toasted bread, pita, or crackers.

The ingredients come together into a pretty smooth, substantial, and satisfying dip.  The curry flavor isn't overpowering; instead, it adds just the right amount of spice.  And hey, there's even a little protein in there from the walnuts. 

I could see this dip being very good with a little honey added for sweetness, or a little cumin added for additional spice.  Next time, I might try one of these variations. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Chocolate Fudge and Caramel Corn

Another item on my to-do list this week: make candy to bring in to my office as a holiday treat.  Check!  Simon and I made two very easy recipes, Chocolate Fudge and Caramel Corn.  This was my first time making the fudge, but I made the caramel corn once over the summer for my extended family's week at the beach.  Everyone loved the caramel corn before and fudge is pretty hard to dislike, so I'm hopeful that each treat will both go over well at the office.

Cooling Caramel Corn
Chunks of Fudge

Chocolate Fudge

  • 1 - 12 ounce bag Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate chips or a bar of dark chocolate
  •  6 tablespoons vegan butter
  • 3.5 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup soymilk

First, lightly grease an 8-inch square baking pan with vegan butter.  Set aside.

Place all of the ingredients in a double boiler.  Stir occasionally until the mixture melts together and becomes smooth.   Pour the mixture into the baking pan, cover, and chill for at least 3 hours before cutting into squares. 

Caramel Corn

  • 14 cups popped popcorn
  • 1 cup dry roasted peanuts (optional)
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup vegan butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

First, lightly grease a shallow baking pan, such as a roasting pan, a jellyroll pan, or a high-sided cookie sheet.  Place the popped popcorn in the pan, spread the peanuts evenly over top, and set aside.  

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit.  Combine the brown sugar, corn syrup, butter, and salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring enough to blend.  Once the mixture begins to boil, boil for five minutes, stirring constantly.  Remove from the heat and stir in the baking soda and vanilla.  The mixture should turn light and foamy.  Immediately pour the caramel sauce over the popcorn and stir to coat.  (Don't worry about coating every inch of the popcorn at this time.)

Bake the caramel corn for 1 hour, stirring the mixture every 15 minutes.  Then, cover the counter with wax paper and dump the popcorn onto it, separating chunks of caramel corn.  Allow the corn to cool completely and store in an airtight container. 

Both of these recipes are great.  I tagged them as both "quick and easy" and "advanced preparation required" because they're quick to prepare but both involve some extended down-time.

Fudge variations:  Add one or two tablespoons of peanut butter to make it peanut butter fudge!  Or, add 1 cup chopped nuts to make nutty chocolate fudge.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Fajitas and Chunky Guacamole

The countdown to "winter break" has begun!  I only have three more days of work and three more dinners with Simon and Rachel before I head home for a little over a week to spend time with my family.  As a result, this week is officially Use-Up-Things-In-The-Kitchen Week.  Despite this restriction, tonight's dinner set a tasty tone for the short week.

Rachel, Simon, and I made Chunky Guacamole and Fajitas tonight in order to use up the corn tortillas we bought for our Potato and Kale Enchiladas.  Observe: 

Chunky Guacamole
Fajita Filling

Chunky Guacamole

  • 2 avocados
  • 1/2 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced finely
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Slice the avocados vertically.  Remove the pit and scoop out the avocado into a bowl.  Mash up the avocado a bit, leaving some chunks.  Then add the remaining ingredients, stir, and enjoy with tortilla chips...or atop fajitas! 


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1.5 green bell peppers, seeded and sliced into strips
  • 1.5 onions, diced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  •  2 - 15.5 ounce cans black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1.5 cups frozen corn
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • corn or flour tortillas
  • toppings of your choice

First, heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat.  Add the onion, bell pepper, salt, and pepper and sauté until the onions begin to look golden and the peppers are tender.  Add the beans, corn, and spices and heat until warm.  Serve over tortillas and top with any fajita toppings you like, such as tomatoes, onions, salsa, or guacamole.

Both of these recipes are really quick and easy to make.  I've made this guacamole many times before and it's always a hit.  The fajitas are a great non-vegan-friendly dish because they're so customizable--Simon and Rachel both put shredded cheese on theirs. 

Teaser for Wednesday's dinner: The ingredient to be used up is carrots!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Potato and Kale Enchiladas

Tonight I made a delicious and nutritious (yet labor-intensive) recipe from Veganomicon: Potato and Kale Enchiladas with Roasted Chile Sauce.  I've made this recipe several times before with friends in college and with my family at home, but this was my first time making it on my own.  I don't know that I've ever had non-vegan enchiladas, but I do know that these vegan ones are pretty darn good.   

 Here are all 12 enchiladas in the pan.
And here's my individual serving with extra sauce on top!

Here's the recipe with a few of my own alterations. 

Potato and Kale Enchiladas

  • 5 tablespoons olive oil (2 tablespoons for the sauce and 3 tablespoons for the filling)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 large green chiles, roasted, seeded, and chopped coarsely (click here for information on roasting peppers)--or, use a 4 oz can of green roasted chilies
  • 2 teaspoons chile powder
  • 2 teaspoons cumin (1.5 teaspoons for the sauce and .5 teaspoons for the filling)
  • 1 teaspoon marjoram
  • 1 - 28 ounce can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon salt (1.5 teaspoons for the sauce and 1.5 teaspoons for the filling)
  • 1 pound potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 pound kale, washed and chopped finely
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup vegetable broth or water
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice
  • 12 small, soft corn tortillas

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  You'll need a large casserole dish or a 13x9-inch baking pan.

First, prepare the roasted chile sauce.  Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Add the onion and sauté until golden.  Stir in the roasted chiles, chile powder, 1.5 teaspoons cumin, marjoram, diced tomatoes, sugar, and 1.5 teaspoons salt; bring the mixture to a simmer and then remove it from the heat.  Finally, purée the sauce in a food processor or blender until smooth.  Set aside.

Next, prepare the filling.  Add the prepared potatoes to a saucepan and cover with water.  Bring to a boil and cook until the potatoes are tender (about 15-20 minutes).  Drain the potatoes and set aside.  Add 3 tablespoons olive oil and the garlic to another saucepan and heat over medium-low heat stirring frequently until the garlic is slightly brown.  Add the kale, sprinkle a pinch of salt over top, raise the heat to medium, and stir the mixture until the kale is coated with the oil and garlic.  Partially cover the pot to steam the kale until it is wilted.  Remove the lid and add the potatoes, vegetable broth, lime juice, and salt.  Cook another few minutes until the liquid is absorbed and set aside.  

Finally, assemble the enchiladas in an assembly line.  Have ready a shallow dish filled with about 3/4 cup chile sauce, a casserole dish or baking pan, the corn tortillas, and the potato and kale filling.  Spread about 1/3 cup enchilada sauce over the bottom of the casserole dish/baking pan.  Take a corn tortilla, dunk it into the shallow dish filled with sauce, and cover both sides of the tortilla with sauce.  Then, add the potato filling to the tortilla, roll up the tortilla, and place it in the baking dish.  Repeat these steps with the rest of the tortillas, making sure the tortillas are pretty tightly packed in the baking dish.  Once the dish is filled, pour about a cup of sauce over the top (there should be some sauce left over) and cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil.  Bake for 25 minutes.  Remove the foil and bake for another 10-15 minutes to get the tortillas a bit crispy.  Remove the pan from the oven and celebrate!  You can now enjoy the fruits of your labor.  Top each serving with extra sauce and enjoy. 

As I insinuated above, this recipe takes a very long time to make.  From boiling the potatoes and roasting the chiles to making the filling and sauce to baking the enchiladas, it's a lengthy process.  This is probably a better weekend meal for that reason.

Nonetheless, these enchiladas are superb.  The roasted tomatoes and chiles add a great smoky flavor to the dish, while baking the enchiladas results in a combination of crispy and smooth textures.  Simon thought the enchiladas were good, but he wished there were more sauce inside the them (rather than on top).  Rachel said that her first thought upon tasting the enchiladas was, "I wish I could have more."  How's that for an endorsement? 

Monday, December 12, 2011

Moroccan Israeli Couscous

Last night Simon and I tried out a new recipe for Moroccan Israeli Couscous to use up some of our couscous.  I was intrigued by this recipe because it includes several vegetables that I don't usually eat.  Plus, I'm warming myself up to Israeli couscous:  I usually prefer Moroccan couscous (the smaller variety) to Israeli couscous (the larger variety) since my primary experience with the latter is in mediocre dining hall dishes.  This recipe for Moroccan Israeli Couscous combines Moroccan flavors with Israeli-sized couscous.   

As you can see, the end product looks pretty good! 

Moroccan Israeli Couscous

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 2 carrots, julienned
  • 2 turnips, peeled and julienned
  • 1 sweet potato, julienned
  • 1/2 pound frozen peas
  • 1 red bell pepper, julienned
  • 1 - 15 ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 - 15 ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 pinch saffron
  • 1 pinch curry powder
  • 2 cups Israeli couscous, prepared according to package directions

First, heat the oil in a large saucepan or stockpot over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and sauté until golden.  Pour in the vegetable broth and bring to a boil.  Then stir in the carrots, turnips, and sweet potato, reduce the heat to medium, and simmer (uncovered) for 15 minutes.  Next, reduce the heat to low, add the peas and bell pepper, and simmer (covered) for 20 minutes.  Finally, stir in the chickpeas, tomato sauce, and spices and simmer until the mixture is heated through.  

Serve over Israeli couscous prepared according to the package directions.   

While I did enjoy the texture and mouthfeel of the couscous,  I didn't love this recipe.  To me, it was a bit bland.  The flavors were nice but they weren't very strong.  I decided to doctor the final product by adding a bit of salt and crushed red pepper flakes, though, and these two small additions made a big difference.

Simon generally agreed with me and wasn't thrilled with the original recipe.  On the other hand, Rachel liked both the texture and the taste of the couscous.  She also thought the dish was visually appealing, due to the differently prepared vegetables and the varied colors.  As Rachel said, "I'd eat that again."  (And she did--well, we all did--for dinner tonight!)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Gingerbread Cookies

Last night I had a hankering for something sweet.  I decided to try out a new gingerbread cookie recipe despite Simon's objections (he doesn't particularly like gingerbread).  It was a good move.  These seasonal cookies hit the spot.

Just keep in mind before you begin making these cookies that they require some extra time for chilling the dough!  

Gingerbread Cookies

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 cup vegan butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar (+ about 1/4 cup extra sugar to coat the cookies at the end)
  • 1.5 teaspoons Ener-G Egg Replacer powder (or another equivalent of 1 egg)
  • 2/3 cup molasses

First, whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, and spices in a small/medium bowl.  Set aside.  In a separate bowl, use an electric mixer to cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (this could take about 3 or 4 minutes).  Add the egg replacer powder and molasses to the mixture and beat until combined.  Then add the flour mixture in a couple batches, beating until smooth.  Only if needed, add 1 or 2 tablespoons of water to get the right cookie-dough consistency.
Once your dough is prepared, divide the dough in half, wrap each chunk in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight.
When you're ready to begin baking the cookies, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper.  Next, add the extra 1/4 cup sugar to a separate small bowl.  Roll the dough into 1-inch balls and roll each ball in the sugar until coated. Place the cookies on the cookie sheets and bake for about 12 minutes. 

These cookies are not ginger snaps; they're chewy gingerbread cookies.  I like that, and apparently Simon did too since he had seconds and thirds.  As my dad always says, cookies are meant to be eaten three at a time!

These gingerbread cookies can be sugar-coated, as I included in the recipe above, or they could be iced with vegan royal icing (icing that dries to a smooth, hard, matte finish) or rolled out and cut into gingerbread shapes.  The possibilities are endless!  Have fun with these cookies.

I'm going to make my vegan brownies for a holiday party this evening--I've already blogged about those, so here's the recipe: Fudgy Brownies.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Sweet and Savory Pineapple Cashew Stir-Fry

Tonight Rachel and I made a delicious meal of Sweet and Savory Pineapple Cashew Stir-Fry.  This one-pot meal is one of the tastiest recipes I've posted so far, in my opinion.

The stir fry is made up of so many components.  While it may look like a jumbled mess in the picture, all of the ingredients come together into a delightful medley. 

Sweet and Savory Pineapple Cashew Stir-Fry

  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 1 cup pineapple juice
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons peanut oil (or another vegetable oil if you don't have peanut oil)
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
  • 1/2-inch piece ginger, peeled and minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh mint leaves, chopped
  • 2 cups fresh pineapple, cut into bite-sized chunks
  • 4 ounces raw cashews, toasted in a dry skillet over medium heat until golden (or use pre-roasted cashews)
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable stock

First, prepare the quinoa.  Combine the first four ingredients in a medium-sized pot, cover, and bring to a boil over high heat.  Once boiling, stir, lower the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook for about 14 minutes (or until the liquid has been absorbed and the quinoa has become plump).  Remove from heat, uncover, fluff the quinoa with a fork, and place in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Next, prepare the stir-fry.  You'll need a large skillet or wok for this since there's a lot to stir-fry!  Add the peanut oil, scallion, and garlic to the skillet and heat over medium heat.  Once you hear sizzling, add the jalapeno and ginger and continue cooking for about 2 minutes.  Then add the bell pepper and peas.  Stir-fry for another 4 or so minutes.  Once the peas look bright green, stir in the basil and mint, cook for another minute, and add the pineapple chunks, prepared quinoa, and cashews.  Combine the mixture--it will be pretty thick at this point.  Then, drizzle the remaining soy sauce and vegetable stock over the mixture and stir well.  Stir-fry for another 8-10 minutes and serve hot. 

This stir-fry is excellent.  As Simon said, the combination of the sweet and savory is delicious.  He also commented that the pineapple adds a distinctive texture that you can't find in many other dishes.  While Simon and I both enjoyed the crunchy cashews, they were Rachel's least favorite part of the dish.  Nonetheless, she really liked the combinations of flavors and the overall dish.

This recipe looks a little overwhelming due to the long ingredient list, but it's very manageable to make if you prepare all of the ingredients before you start cooking.  To save time you can also make the quinoa in advance and store it in an air-tight container in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it.     

I highly recommend that you try this recipe!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Sweet Potato Peanut Soup

Tonight Rachel and I made African-inspired Sweet Potato Peanut Soup:

So much carotene!!  This spiced soup is chock full of vegetables and is really a meal in itself.  It was pretty easy to make, although we had a couple mishaps--I'll help you avoid those with a couple tips in the recipe: 

Sweet Potato Peanut Soup

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1.5 pounds sweet potatoes, chopped
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 5 cups water
  • 3 teaspoons pepper
  • 3 tablespoons natural peanut butter
  • peanuts, chopped, for garnish
  • cilantro, chopped, for garnish

First, chop all of the vegetables so they're ready to go.  (It's generally a good practice when cooking to have everything ready to go before starting.)  Once everything is ready, heat oil and garlic in a soup pot over medium-high heat and add the onions once it's hot.  Cook for about 5 minutes until the onions become translucent and tender.  Add the curry powder and cayenne and cook for another minute or two.  Next, add the sweet potatoes, celery, carrots, tomatoes, and water to the pot.  The water should more than cover the vegetables.  Bring to a boil and boil for about 20 minutes.  You know the soup is ready when the vegetables are tender and easily poked with a fork. 

Once the soup is cooked, blend the soup, pepper, and peanut butter together in a food processor.  Here's where I struggled!  Make sure you don't over-fill the food processor.  You'll probably need to blend the soup in batches, so make sure you divide the pepper and peanut butter between the batches.  The soup leaked/exploded out of the food processor when I blended it, causing the clean-up process to take much longer than necessary.  Once the soup is thoroughly blended together, garnish with chopped cilantro and crushed peanuts and enjoy! 

This soup had an excellent flavor.  That said, Rachel and I both agree that the texture of the soup wasn't perfect this first time around.  The blending fiasco led me to under-blend the soup, meaning it was a little too chunky rather than more puréed.  I also think there was too much broth in the soup (I adjusted the recipe above to make up for that).  All in all, I liked the soup: it was a substantial and nutritious meal with a great spiced, nutty flavor.  Hopefully I'll learn from my mistakes this time around and it will be even better next time.    

Now it's time to eat some of those Christmas cookies...

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Peanut Butter Blossoms

This is truly the most wonderful time of the year.  Last weekend was Thanksgiving and this weekend was my extended family's annual Christmas cookie bake.  Nine of us gathered together to bake and exchange lots of cookies.  We made around 13 different varieties of cookies and other treats between the nine of us (plus 2 dogs and 3 young kids)--all in one kitchen.  What could be better?

I'm the only vegan in my extended family, as I've mentioned before, so my cookies were definitely meant to please non-vegan palates.  Happily, my mom, my sister, and one of my aunts also made some vegan treats.  All in all, the vegan options included chocolate-mint brownie bars, peanut butter crispies, oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, and my peanut butter blossoms.  Looks like I have some serious eating to do over the next couple days.   

I'm going to share with you the recipe for my peanut butter blossoms:

First I'll include the recipe for the vegan chocolate kisses and then I'll list how to make the cookies.

Chocolate Kisses

  • 5 or 6 oz. of vegan chocolate chips (I used half of a 12oz. package of Ghirardelli semi-sweet chips)
  • Parchment Paper and a plastic bag for piping. 

First, melt 3/4 of the chocolate chips on the stove using a double boiler:  Fill a medium saucepan with about 2 or 3 inches of water and heat.  Melt the chocolate chips in a smaller saucepan nested in the larger saucepan, stirring frequently to prevent burning.  Once the chocolate is melted, remove from heat, add in the remaining chocolate, and stir until all of the chocolate is melted and combined.  Then, add the chocolate to a piping bag (fill a plastic bag with the chocolate and cut a small hole in the bottom of the bag) and pipe the chocolate onto parchment paper into the shape of a chocolate kiss.  Pipe in a circular motion, slowly lifting up as you go to create the shape.  Let the kisses harden.  Yields approximately 24-30 kisses. 

Peanut Butter Blossoms

  • 24 vegan chocolate chocolate kisses (recipe above)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar (+ 3 tablespoons extra sugar to coat the cookies at the end)
  • 1/2 cup vegan margarine
  • 2 egg equivalents (I used Ener-G Egg replacer powder, but you could also use 1/3 cup applesauce)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup natural peanut butter
  • 1 3/4 cups flour

Once the chocolate kisses are cooling on the parchment paper, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Cream the sugars and margarine in a mixing bowl until well combined.  Add in the egg equivalent, vanilla, baking soda, and peanut butter and mix well.  Finally, add in the flour and combine until a soft dough forms.

Next, add the extra 3 tablespoons sugar to a separate small bowl.  Roll the dough into 1-inch balls and roll each ball in the sugar until coated. Place the balls on a lightly greased cookie sheet and bake for 9-12 minutes.  Immediately after removing the cookies from the oven, top the cookies with your chocolate kisses.  Press the kisses into the cookie and allow the cookies to cool.  The kisses will attach themselves to the cookie during the cooling process. 

Despite the fact that it was my first time making  my own chocolate kisses, the kisses came out well and looked great in the center of the peanut butter cookies.  They weren't quite as pointy as Hershey kisses, but the homemade look is nice too.

The only issue I had with this recipe was that my cookie dough was a bit sticky when I was attempting to roll it into balls.  I adjusted the flour in the recipe above to make up for that; but, if your dough is still sticky, try refrigerating the dough for about an hour to reduce the stickiness. 

All in all, these cookies tasted just like I remember peanut butter blossoms tasting.  Enjoy this classic, now vegan, cookie!