Thursday, April 26, 2012

Brown Sugar Cupcakes with Spiced Rum Frosting

On Monday, Simon and I were lucky enough to attend a 2.5 hour vegan baking class.  The class was led by Doron Petersan, founding owner of Sticky Fingers Sweets & Eats (Washington D.C.'s best vegan bakery...for now).  She has a new baking book out, which is definitely worth checking out.

We made s'mores brownies and her Cupcake Wars-winning cupcakes during the class.  I wasn't overwhelmed by the actual class, but all that matters is that everything we made tasted incredible.  Here's the recipe for the cupcakes.

Brown Sugar Cupcakes with Spiced Rum Frosting

Brown Sugar Cupcakes
  • 9 ounces brown sugar
  • 4 ounces vegan butter
  • 1.5 tablespoons Ener-G Egg-Replacer Powder
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1.5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup soy milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vinegar (apple cider vinegar is best)

First, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and prepare a muffin tin with 12 cupcake liners.

Using an electric mixer, cream together the brown sugar and the butter for about 5 minutes, progressing from low to high speed and scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl throughout.  In a small bowl, whisk together the egg-replacer powder, water, and vanilla until the powder dissolves.  Add the egg-replacer mixer to the sugar mixture and mix until combined.  In a separate small bowl, combine the soymilk and vinegar, stir, and set aside. 

Next, slowly add the dry ingredients and the soymilk to the sugar mixture in small batches, alternating between the two and ending by mixing in the soymilk.  Be sure to scrape down the side of the bowl as you mix.

Using a 2-ounce ice cream scoop (or, I use a small measuring cup), fill the cupcake liners 3/4-full with batter and bake for 19 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cupcakes comes out clean.  Cool completely before frosting.  

Spiced Rum Frosting

(NOTE: Doron explained that her frosting recipes mistakenly make way more frosting than needed, so you might want to halve this recipe to match the number of cupcakes made with the recipe above).  
  • 8 ounces vegan shortening
  • 8 ounces vegan butter
  • 1 pound 8 ounces powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 cup dark rum

Whip together the shortening and butter using an electric mixer until completely combined, scraping down the bottom of the bowl periodically to ensure that the ingredients are mixed thoroughly.  Then, on low speed, slowly add the sugar and spices in a few increments, scraping down the bowl throughout.  Add the rum on low speed and mix to combine.  Bring the speed up to medium-high and mix until all ingredients are well combined and the frosting is fluffy (about 2 minutes).

Frost the cupcakes and enjoy!

These were wonderful.  The frosting was light and fluffy and had a perfect amount of cinnamon-spice.  You know it's good when you find yourself scraping cupcake remnants off of the cupcake liner...
A few of these ingredients are difficult to find, unless you're shopping at Whole Foods.  Ener-G Egg-Replacer Powder comes in a pretty large box, though, so you can use it for months in the future.  Doron recommends Earth Balance shortening and "buttery sticks," which I've only found at Trader Joe's or Whole Foods.  That said, I really like Earth Balance products: they come in sticks (rather than tubs), which makes measuring much easier.  
 Ease of Preparation:    
There's nothing fancy about this recipe.  Making frosting is an exercise in patience, though because obtaining a fluffy frosting requires a fair amount of mixing; but, luckily electric mixers do most of the work. 
Non-Vegan friendliness:     
I brought some of these cupcakes into work on Tuesday and everyone loved them!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Southwest-Style Black Bean Burgers

I have an exciting success story to share with you all!  We made Southwest-Style Black Bean Burgers for dinner last night and they were delicious.  Even though I very likely overuse the word "delicious" on this blog, trust me when I say these were great burgers.  Especially given the fact that--let's face it--most veggie burgers aren't that great, I was very pleased with how these came out.  (More on that in the comments section below.)

I've been hesitant to make homemade veggie burgers in the past for a couple reasons.  First, my general experience with fake-meat balls hasn't been great (they are often crumbly and fall apart).  Second, as I said above, veggie burgers just don't strike my fancy very often.  Sure, I'll have a veggie burger at a barbecue when everyone else is enjoying grilled hamburgers, but they've never been something I'd seek out...until now, that is!

Black Bean Burger on a bun, topped with tomato, caramelized onions, and spinach

Without further ado...

Southwest-Style Black Bean Burgers
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup ground cornmeal
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 2 cups canned black beans (drain and rinse the beans before measuring)
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn
  • 1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs (or other vegan bread crumbs)
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

First, mix together the flour and cornmeal on plate and set aside.

Next, heat the oil and garlic over medium-high heat in a medium saucepan.  Once the garlic begins to sizzle, add the onion, peppers, and oregano and sauté for about 5 minutes or until the onion begins to brown.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, mash the black beans with a potato masher or large fork.  Stir in the onion/pepper mixture, corn, bread crumbs, chili powder, cumin, salt, and parsley and mix well.

Then shape the bean mixture into six evenly-sized patties.  Coat each patty on both sides with the flour/cornmeal mixture.

To cook the patties over the stove, heat a large, lightly-oiled skillet over medium/medium-high heat and cook the burgers for about 7 minutes on each side, or until browned and heated through.  (Even if you're using a non-stick pan, it's still important that you add a little oil to the pan to help the burgers brown.)

Serve hot on a bun with your favorite burger toppings.  Yields 6 burgers.

These are probably some of the best veggie burgers I've tasted during my 4.5 years as a vegan.  The flour/cornmeal coating allows the burgers to get a nice brown crisp on the outside and add a little texture.  I really like that the burgers are bean-based (rather than soy-, potato-, or lentil-based, for instance) because the beans provide "meaty" substance and protein as well as some binding power, working together with the bread crumbs to hold everything together.  I also like the Southwest flavor twist (and I think they'd be incredible topped with sliced avocado and/or salsa), though I do wish they were a bit spicier.  You could incorporate the jalapeno seeds into the mixture for hotter burger.  
This recipe calls for some pretty standard ingredients.  This dish can also accommodate different seasonal specialties and personal preferences pretty well.  If you have fresh corn, by all means, use fresh rather than frozen corn.  If the grocery store's fresh parsley looks iffy, use dried parsley.  If you want to increase or decrease the heat, use more or less jalapeno.  If you prefer to use a green pepper rather than a red pepper to save money, go for it!  And of course, use whatever toppings you like. 
 Ease of Preparation:    
I was surprised at how easy these burgers were to make, and they don't require any special equipment.  They do take a bit longer to prepare than a frozen veggie burger, but it's worth it.  
Non-Vegan friendliness:     
Rachel and Simon both liked the burgers as well.  Rachel exclaimed several times throughout dinner about how good they were, in fact.  Simon did melt cheese onto his burger, but that just goes to show that these burgers can please everyone.  These burgers would be very appropriate for any upcoming spring or summer barbecues, and I might make them again for Memorial Day.  (Be cautious if you do decide to grill these: it's possible that they might fall apart when cooked over widely-spaced grill rungs.  On the other hand, they held together well in the pan, so it's worth a try.)

Sunday, April 22, 2012

One-Crust Veggie Pot Pie

Yes, pot pie usually has one crust on the bottom and one on the top--but we decided to try making pot pie with just one crust on top.  While the pot pie filling isn't as contained as it could be without crust on the bottom, the dish came out quite well.  It's a delicious, hearty comfort food that I'd eat any night.  

Delicious pot pie, with just one crust
One-Crust Veggie Pot Pie

Single Pie Crust
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2.5 tablespoons sugar 
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup vegan butter, cold, cut into small pieces
  • 1.5 tablespoons cold water

Pot Pie Filling
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 large potatoes, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 cups cauliflower florets (we used frozen cauliflower)
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 3 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup water

First, prepare the pie crust.  Pulse together the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor until combined.  Add the pieces of butter and pulse together another 5-7 times, until the mixture is crumbly.  Add the cold water and pulse together 5-7 more times until the mixture comes together, forming dough.  Transfer the dough to a floured work surface and briefly knead the dough until all of the dry ingredients are incorporated.  DO NOT knead the dough more than necessary or it will become tough.  Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed.

At this point, preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit and have ready a 11"x7" baking dish or a large casserole dish.  

Then prepare the filling.  Heat the oil and garlic in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the onions and cook for about 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Stir in the carrots, potatoes, celery, cauliflower, peas, and vegetable broth and bring to a boil.  Turn down the heat and allow the mixture to simmer for about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, whisk together the cornstarch, soy sauce, and water until the cornstarch is completely dissolved.  When the vegetable mixture has been simmering for 5 minutes, stir the cornstarch mixture into the skillet and allow the mixture to simmer for another 3 minutes or so, until the sauce thickens. 

Roll out the dough on a floured surface to fit the top of your baking dish.  Pour the filling into the dish and place the dough over the filling.  Seal the dough around the edges of the dish and bake for 30 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.  Once you remove the pot pie from the oven, allow it to set for about 10 minutes before serving hot. 

Yields 6 servings.

This dish has a definite pot pie flavor and the filling is great, but it's different than traditional pot pie in a few ways.  The combination of half as much crust and a filling that isn't as thick as it could be means that this dish is lighter than classic pot pie.  I enjoyed this twist, though of course you could double the crust for a more comforting comfort food.     
It was pretty darn easy to find all of the ingredients in this All-American dish.  Big-box grocery stores like Giant really pull through when ingredients like seitan and lentils aren't required... 
 Ease of Preparation:   
If you don't have the time or the desire to make your own pie crust, have no fear: vegan, premade pie crusts do exist.  Look for them in the refrigerated section of the grocery store.  If you are making your own pie crust, note that a food processor isn't required.  While using a food processor does make it easier to mix the dough without overmixing, you can do the same by hand. 
Non-vegan friendliness:     
We all really enjoyed this dish and went back for more.  That said, it's not a classic pot pie.  As Simon put it, this dish is "a solid stew with some crust on top."  In other words, it's a tasty variation on a classic comfort food.  

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Gumbo Z'Herbes

Cajun Week Part 2: Gumbo Z'Herbes!  As I mentioned before, this version of gumbo is surprisingly meat-free.  The dish below looks a lot like the gumbo I had last week in New Orleans, though due to a salt-related mishap, it was much saltier. 

Gumbo Z'Herbes, soon to be topped with rice.
I'll post the recipe below with a more palatable amount of salt.  Give it a try!

Gumbo Z'Herbes
  • 2 quarts water
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 1/2 cup diced green bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 1/2 cup minced shallots
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 3/4 teaspoon thyme
  • 1.5 teaspoons black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1/2 pound mushrooms, chopped
  • 10 ounces frozen collard greens (or a bunch of fresh greens)
  • 1 small head of cabbage, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 5 ounces frozen turnip greens (or a small bunch of fresh greens)
  • 6 scallions, diced
  • 1/8 cup chopped parsley 
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 - 15 ounce cans red kidney beans
  • Brown rice, prepared according to package instructions.

First, bring the water to a boil in a large soup pot.  (While waiting for the water to boil, continue with the recipe in the next paragraph.  Once the water boils, continue with the third paragraph.)     

Meanwhile, prepare the roux.  Heat the olive oil in a separate large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat.  Then add the flour and stir constantly until a peanut butter colored roux is attained.  Immediately add the onion, bell pepper, and celery and sauté until the vegetables become tender.  Add the shallots, garlic, herbs, spices, and salt and continue to cook for five minutes, stirring occasionally.  Next, add the mushrooms to the roux mixture and cook for two more minutes.

Once the water in the soup pot is boiling, add the collards and cabbage and boil until tender.  Then stir in the turnip greens and scallions and bring the soup mixture back to a boil.   

Stir the roux mixture into the soup mixture.  Once combined, add the parsley, soy sauce and kidney beans and simmer for at least 10 minutes.  Top with brown rice and serve hot. 

Yields 8 servings.

Mistaken saltiness aside, this dish had a great, deep flavor.  That's probably partly due to the addition of mushrooms (something I don't cook with very much, to Rachel's chagrin) and the roux base.  I also love that the gumbo is packed with a variety of dark leafy greens, cabbage, and other vegetables.   
There are a lot of ingredients in this version of Gumbo Z'Herbes, but they're all easy to find at the grocery store.  If you can't find some of the dark leafy greens (turnip greens, collard greens), I'm sure you could swap in some other dark leafy greens (mustard greens, etc.) in their place.      
 Ease of Preparation:    
Apparently Cajun cooking isn't the easiest.  Like the Seitan Jumbalaya I made earlier in the week, this dish has a number of steps and takes a while to make. Plus, it requires a pretty high level of attention during some more complex steps, such as roux-making.  But, don't be discouraged: I'm pretty sure this was my first time making a real roux and it was straightforward enough. 
Non-vegan friendliness:    
While we did have this as the main dish at dinner, I could see some non-vegans being unsatisfied with such a light main course.  This dish is less filling than some of the soups I've made previously, so it might work better as an appetizer. 

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Seitan Jambalaya

I'm back from a great trip to New Orleans and I'm ready to cook up some flavorful Cajun favorites.  First up: Seitan Jambalaya.  Jambalaya is usually made with meat and/or seafood, as far as I can tell, but this vegan version is a great alternative.

Jambalaya garnished with parsley

Seitan Jambalaya
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil (divided into 2 tablespoons and 4 tablespoons)
  • 16 ounces seitan strips, pulled apart or cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 heaping tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 cups long-grain brown rice
  • 1 - 28 ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1 - 15 ounce can cannellini beans
  • 1 - 15 ounce can light red kidney beans
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 1 teaspoon marjoram
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • fresh parsley, chopped, for garnish

First, preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and have ready a large, deep casserole dish or 13 x 9 inch baking pan.

Next, brown the seitan.  In a large saucepan or soup pot, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add the seitan and sauté for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned.  (It's okay if the seitan sticks to the bottom of the pot--the pan will be deglazed later. on in the recipe.)  Remove the seitan from the pot and set aside.  

Add the remaining oil to the pot and stir in the vegetables.  Sauté for about 12 minutes until the vegetables become very soft.  Stir in the tomato paste and cook, stirring frequently, for another 4 minutes.  Then, add the water, cook for 30 seconds stirring frequently, and add the rice.  Stir the rice for about 4 minutes.  Next, add the browned seitan and all of the remaining ingredients except the vegetable broth and parsley.  Bring to a simmer, pour in the vegetable broth, and return to a simmer.  

Finally, pour the mixture into your baking dish, cover tightly with aluminum foil or the dish's lid, and bake for 40-45 minutes.  Once you remove the dish from the oven, stir the jambalaya and recover the dish, allowing it to sit for about 10 minutes.  Garnish with parsley and serve hot. 

Yields 6 or 7 servings.

I've made this aromatic dish a few times before and it always tastes great.  The herbs have plenty of time to build a complex flavor as the jambalaya bakes.  We mistakenly added a bit too much rice this time, meaning we had a difficult time getting the rice to cook all the way, but the dish ultimately comes out as a thick, protein-rich, and delicious one-pot meal.   
Unfortunately, this recipe doesn't yield the most accessible dish in this blog.  Seitan is hard to find at many grocery stores (we had to go to Whole Foods to get it).  Luckily, seitan freezes well, meaning you could stock up on it; or, you can always make your own.  Also, though this recipe does call for many spices, it's not the end of the world if you don't have all of them.     
 Ease of Preparation:   
This dish isn't particularly difficult to make.  However, it does take a long time to prepare, given the fact that you cook it first and then bake it.
Non-vegan friendliness:    
If you're cooking for someone who doesn't like seitan or is generally suspicious of meat alternatives, this could be a great dish to serve.  The seitan is mixed in with all of the other, more recognizable ingredients and adds more protein than anything else.  

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Thoughts from New Orleans

Hello from the French Quarter Festival in New Orleans! Simon and I are here for a quick trip (this is what it's like to have vacation days?!) and it's been great so far.

To my surprise, there is a fair amount of delicious vegan food in the land of po' boys and alligator! Last night I had gumbo z'herbes--a traditionally meat-free gumbo, originally served during lent (see below). I plan to recreate this dish when I return to the North, so stay tuned!

I also went to the Southern Food and Beverage museum today, where I found a great quote from 1901: "The Creoles hold that boys and girls who are raised on beans and rice... will be among the strongest and sturdiest of people." (Again, see below.) Excellent!