Hi! I'm taking a little break and it might take me a few days to reply to comments and emails. I'll be back soon! :)

Friday, August 29, 2008

Self-destruction menu: Brownies and Corn Dogs

**UPDATE: Never mind these! Check out my new Eureka Brownies!**

Apparently, I was in self-destruct mode yesterday and my M.O. was death by fried and sugary foods! In spite of an overdose of less-than-healthful treats, I'm still alive... I think. 

Vegan Brownies

1/4 cup of melted Earth Balance or vegetable oil
1/4 cup of mashed banana (to avoid lumps mash it like you mean it until it's impossibly smooth)
3/4 cup of soy milk
2/3 cup of brown sugar
1 cup of flour (whole wheat pastry or all purpose)
1/3 cup of cocoa powder, sifted
1/2 tsp of baking powder
1/4 tsp of salt

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray an 8 by 8 inch metal baking pan with cooking spray.

2. In a small mixing bowl, combine the Earth Balance, mashed banana, milk, and brown sugar. Stir well until it smooth and creamy.

3. In a medium sized bowl whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt.

4. Add the liquids to the dry mix and gently fold until just combined. You definitely don't want to overmix the batter at this point or your brownies will be tough and not pleasantly chewy. The batter shouldn't be too runny like cake batter, it should be moist but fairly thick.

5. Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish and bake for 15 to 18 minutes, depending on how fudgy want them.

Peanut Butter Frosting

1/2 cup of smooth peanut butter
3 tbsp of maple syrup (adjust this to your taste buds)
1/2 to 3/4 cup of coconut milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

So easy - combine everything in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer until smooth. Start with 1/2 cup of coconut milk and add more if you need it. The frosting should be soft enough to spread over the brownies.

For the savory part of my self-destruction menu I indulged in some yummy corn dogs. No skewers. Just grab them with your hands and eat them like a savage.

Vegan Corn Dogs

1/2 cup of cornmeal
1/2 cup of flour
1/4 tsp of salt
1/2 tsp of baking powder
3/4 to 1 cup of soy milk
1 tbsp vegetable oil
4 veggie dogs cut in half (I use Lightlife jumbo dogs)
oil for frying

1. In a medium sized bowl whisk togther the cornmeal, flour, salt, and baking powder.

2. Pour the milk and oil on top of the flour mix and stir until just combined. The batter should be fairly thick, so start with 3/4 cup of milk and add more if needed.

3. Throw the veggie dogs into the batter and coat them thoroughly.

4. Heat about 2 tablespoons of oil in a non-stick frying pan over medium heat. After a minute, test the temperature of the oil with a drop of batter, if it sizzles you're ready to fry your corn dogs. Cook the corn dogs on medium-low heat, flipping them over after two minutes or so, or when the bottoms look golden brown.

5. After a couple more minutes, flip them over again to cook the third side. They will look somewhat triangular!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Chocolate Chip Scones & Improper Cottage Pie

English Royalty Chocolate Chip Scones from allrecipes.com

These scones were very tasty! I changed the original recipe to make it vegan, and I also had to add more juice and margarine than what the recipe called for because I used whole wheat pastry flour instead of all purpose flour.

English Royalty Chocolate Chip Scones (adapted from Allrecipes.com)

1 3/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup of sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup Earth Balance or other vegan buttery spread
1/2 cup of chocolate chips
1/2 cup orange juice

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.

2. In a medium sized mixing bowl whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.

3. Using a large fork, cut in the Earth Balance until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in the chocolate chips.

4. Add the juice and blend everything with a spoon just until a dough forms. Depending on the brand of flour that you use, you might need to use less juice. The dough should be firm but not crumbly.

5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Pat the dough down to make a 1/2 inch thick circle and cut it across into 6 triangles.

6. Transfer the scones to the prepared baking sheet and sprinkle them with a little bit of sugar. Bake for 12-14 minutes or until golden brown.

To continue with the English and Allrecipes.com theme, I made a Proper English Cottage Pie, but by the time I got done with this it was a very improper cottage pie! My very improper version has three layers: a bottom layer made with croutons, the "mince" layer in the middle, and a top layer of (instant) mashed potatoes. Couldn't be bothered to make them fresh.

Improper English Cottage Pie (adapted from Allrecipes.com)

For the bottom crouton layer:

1 5 ounce bag of croutons (you can also use bagel chips)
1/2 to 3/4 cup vegetable broth
1 tbsp of Earth Balance buttery spread
fresh parsley to taste
1/4 tsp salt (unless your croutons and broth are salted, then you might want to skip the extra salt)

1. Combine the croutons and water in a saucepan or small pot.

2. Bring to a boil and simmer until the croutons are soft and all the broth is absorbed. If the croutons absorb all the liquid and they are still dry, add more broth or water and simmer until the croutons are soft.

3. Remove from heat and stir in Earth Balance, parsley and salt.

For the "mince" layer:

2 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 shredded carrot
1 bag of beefless crumbles (I use Boca)
1 tbsp flour
3 tablespoons of tomato paste
1 tbsp of chopped parsley
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup not-beef broth (or vegetable broth)

1. In a large skillet saute the onions in the olive oil until tender and transparent.

2. Add the shredded carrots and saute for a couple more minutes.

3. Add the veggie ground and cook until thawed.

4. Mix in the flour, then stir in the tomato paste, parsley, and salt.

5. Stir in the broth and simmer a few minutes, stirring occasionally until almost all the liquid has been absorbed.

Putting it all together:

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

2. Spray an 8 inch square baking dish with cooking spray (or pour some vegetable or olive oil on the bottom and spread it to cover all sides and bottom of the baking dish).

3. Spoon the crouton mix into the baking dish and spread it to make an even layer.
4. Bake for 10 minutes.

5. Remove the dish from the oven and spread an even layer of the mince mixture over the crouton layer.

6. Spread an even layer of mashed potatoes over the mince layer. Honestly, whenever I make this I use instant mashed potatoes, so I'm not including them in the recipe, but if you want to go with the real deal go for it. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until it's piping hot.

Optional: Top with shredded vegan cheese and bake until hot and bubbly.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Blueberry-Banana Ice Cream

Blueberry Ice Cream

1 cup of very ripe, frozen banana slices
1 cup of frozen blueberries
2 tbsp of Silk creamer (soy milk or other types of milk would work just fine)

1. Throw the bananas, blueberries, and creamer into the bowl of a food processor. Process until creamy. Done!

If it's not happening for you and your ice cream looks like a big lumpy ball, just add a bit more creamer and keep processing until it's soft and creamy. The natural sweetness of the bananas and the blueberries is plenty for me, but if you need it to be sweeter you can add agave nectar to taste. This is one of my favorite frozen treats. It's a very close second to the strawberry version.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Chocolate Chip Waffles

Well, I'm sure I'll get over this new waffle maker obsession eventually, but in the meantime I've been experimenting with different flavors. Please bear with me while I work through my waffle-mania!

I usually only make four, four-by-four inch waffles, but you can double the recipe if you need to make more. These waffles can be frozen and reheated in the toaster for a quick snack.

Basic Vegan Waffles

1/2 cup flour (whole wheat pastry flour works great)
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1/2 cup soy milk
1 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil or melted Earth Balance
1 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

1. Preheat your waffle iron and spray with cooking spray.

2. In a small mixing bowl (medium, if you're doubling the recipe) whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

3. In a small bowl of a cup, stir together the milk, oil, sugar, and vanilla extract. Pour the the liquids on top of the dry ingredients and gently fold until just combined.

4. Cook according to your waffle iron's manufacturer's directions until golden brown. This makes four 4x4 inch waffles in my Black & Decker waffle maker.

Wing it: Jazz'em up by adding a handful of chocolate chips to the batter. You can also add different extracts like almond, orange, coconut, or maybe a few blueberries, nuts...

Friday, August 8, 2008

Tofu scramble with hash browns and veggies

"Tofu scramble." Two words that will paint quite a repulsive picture for a tofuphobe. The tofu lovers, however, know that a tofu scramble can be a delicious meal! We have a tofu scramble about once a week, usually with a side of hash browns and steamed or roasted veggies.

I like winging it with whatever we have in the refrigerator. The tofu scramble in the picture above was made with sautéed onion, green and red bell pepper, carrots, celery, cherry tomatoes, Tofurky Italian style sausages, fresh parsley, salt and spices. I always add a little paprika and saffron (or turmeric) for color.

I don't really have a recipe for this because tofu scrambles are a chance for me to play freely in the kitchen. I use a whole block of extra firm tofu (not silken!) and pulse it in the food processor only a few times until it's crumbly and chunky. First I sauté the veggies in a cast iron skillet, and then I add the tofu and the spices and cook it until it's not soggy anymore for about 15-20 minutes. So simple and yet so tasty!

Cherry tomatoes, basil, and curious visitors

A few weeks ago, my mother in law gave us two cherry tomato plants and a beautiful basil plant. The basil has grown incredibly tall and leafy, and we've had quite a few cute little 'maters!

Of course us humans aren't the only ones enjoying the bountiful crops. There's a little bee that comes to feast on the basil flowers every single day, and the squirrels are mystified by the whole pot of aromatic stuff. They walk around it ever so sneakily, like this one in this awfully taken picture...

Acknowledgements: Thanks to Mr. Grackle's Garden Services for the organic fertilizer. We couldn't have done it without your top of the line product!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Grilled Ham and Cheese Sandwiches

The grilled-stuff bonanza continues with some delicious and ridiculously easy to make grilled "ham and cheese" style sandwiches.

This is so simple it can't even be called a recipe. Spread some Earth Balance or other buttery spread over two slices of whole grain bread. Layer vegan ham and cheese on top of a buttered slice of bread (we like Lightlife Smart Deli Baked ham style and a combination of Galaxy Foods Rice Vegan Slices and Vegan Gourmet mozzarella). Top with the other slice of bread, buttered-side down, and spread a little Earth Balance on top of the sandwich. Flip and do the same with the bottom.

I like grilling these on my Black & Decker grill/waffle maker on medium heat for about five minutes and then crank up the heat a little for five more minutes. The medium heat gives the cheese time to melt and get deliciously gooey. If you're going to grill your sandwich on a skillet instead, you can cover the sandwich with a lid during the first five minutes; this will give the cheese a chance to melt and stick to the bread. Then flip and cook uncovered until the bottom gets nice and toasty. Quick and easy!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Grilled Pizza Sandwiches

We have been experimenting with our new Black & Decker waffle maker and grill. It seems like everything we have eaten in the past couple of days has either been a waffle or a grilled sandwich. It soon shall pass.

Grilled Pizza Sandwiches

Grilled Pizza Sandwiches

Pitas or another kind of flatbread
Olive oil
Pizza sauce (thick, pasty sauces stay in place better)
Pizza toppings (bell peppers, mushrooms, olives, vegan cheese...)

1. Cut the pitas in half. Put half of your pitas aside and brush the other half with a little olive oil.

2. Flip the pitas upside down, oil-side down. Spread a little pizza sauce on the pitas, layer on the toppings, place the vegan cheese on top, and place the reserved pita halves on top of the cheese. Brush the top of the pitas with a bit of olive oil.

3. Cook according to your grill's manufacturers directions. Ours took about 5 minutes on each side (we flipped them half way through so they cooked more evenly)

Our toppings: Lightlife pepperoni slices, red and green bell peppers, mushrooms, black olives, onion and Vegan Gourmet cheese.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Are you comfy there, buddy?

This summer heat is brutal, so what's a bird to do? This little guy couldn't resist the comfy chair under our cabana/pergola/thingy. He slept and stretched and relaxed in the shade for a good while before he decided to fly off to the bird bath for a nice splash. Oh, the life of a garden bird.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Mini Lemon Pudding Pies

These little lemon pudding pies on shortbread crusts with vanilla buttercream are dangerously addictive. Sorry about that.

Mini Lemon Pies With Vanilla Buttercream

Shortbread crust:

1/4 cup of sugar
1/2 cup of Earth Balance or other vegan butter
2 tbsp of water (you might need more)
1/2 tsp of vanilla
1 cup of flour

Cream the Earth Balance and the sugar with an electric mixer, add the vanilla and the water. Using a large spoon mix in the flour and more water if needed. You don't want it to be crumbly but not too soggy either. Spray a muffin/cupcake pan with non-stick oil and line the bottoms and sides with the shortbread dough. Bake at 400 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.

While your mini pie crusts cool on a cookie rack prepare the lemon pudding:

2 tbsp of sugar
5 tbsp of white flour
2 cups of soy milk or your favorite milk
1/4 cup of lemon juice
1/2 tsp of vanilla

Mix the sugar and the flour in a microwavable bowl. Gradually add the milk, bit by bit and stirring constantly to avoid lumps. Microwave on high for 2 minutes. Stir. Microwave on high for 1 minute. Stir. Microwave on high for 1 minute. If it thickened, then you're done with the microwave, if not microwave on high for another minute. Add the vanilla and the lemon juice and pour the hot pudding into your mini pie crusts. Refrigerate the pies for an hour or until they don't feel warm to the touch.

Vanilla Buttercream

3/4 cup of Earth Balance or other vegan butter
1/2 cup of vegetable shortening (Spectrum brand non-hydrogenated)
1/2 cup of powder sugar
1/4 cup of soy milk or your favorite milk
1 tsp of vanilla

Cream the Earth Balance and shortening with an electric mixer for about one minute. On the lowest setting of your mixer add the powder sugar, mix for another minute, add the milk and vanilla and mix for another minute.

Top the pies with your buttercream and refrigerate for another hour - if you can wait! But really, they are better when they have had enough time to chill.

Wing it: The lemon juice can be replaced with orange juice or lime juice. Or pickle juice. Hmm. Maybe not pickle juice.