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! :)

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Happy Holidays (and Anise Cookies!)

Happy Holidays to everyone who is celebrating today! Even if you're not celebrating anything, I hope you have a happy regular Wednesday! :)

(Andrea, avert your eyes now! Anise alert!)


Mr. Wing-It's favorite Christmas cookie is anything with anise, but I had never been able to make a cookie that had enough anise flavor - until yesterday. I found the best recipe for Pine Nut and Anise Cookies at C'est La Vegan, and now the search for the perfect anise cookie is over! The flavor is strong enough but not overwhelming, and the crumb is soft and delicate. The recipe calls for aniseed AND anise extract, and that's how you make a good anise cookie with lots of flavor! I skipped the pine nuts because Mr. Wing-It is not a fan. I came *this close* to throwing some chopped pistachios in there, but they were not shelled and I didn't feel like being a nutcracker.  

And now a holiday message from your neighborhood duckies! Happy feasting!

Quacky Holidays!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Low-Fat Potato Casserole

Last year I was obsessed with beet burgers and coconut milk cheddar. This year I can't get enough of this Cheesy Cauliflower Sauce from Fat Free Vegan Kitchen. I've blogged about it before here and here. Yesterday I used the sauce to make individual potato casseroles.

So creamy and dreamy! They have a cheesy flavor thanks to that awesome thing that is nutritional yeast, and they are creamy and soft and everything that comfort food should be - without all the fat! To call this a recipe would be a stretch, but I will tell you how I made it in case you're in the mood for a super low-fat creamy potato casserole. You will need a whole batch of the Cheesy Cauliflower Sauce and the cornstarch needs to be doubled for this recipe. So you will need to thicken the sauce with two tablespoons of cornstarch instead of one.

Super Low-Fat Potato Casserole

Super Low-Fat Mini Potato Casseroles with Chipotle Peppers
Makes 4 individual casseroles

1 batch of Fat Free Vegan Kitchen's Cheesy Cauliflower Sauce  (double the cornstarch)
2 medium sized russet potatoes
1 or 2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
salt and black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and spray four individual 5 inch ramekins with cooking spray. I used crème brûlée ramekins.

2. Prepare your Cheesy Cauliflower Sauce if you haven't done so yet.

3. Wash and peel the potatoes and slice them very thinly with a mandolin slicer. You could slice them by hand, but it would take a long time and your potatoes would start to turn that icky shade of pink that makes them look so unappetizing. If you have no choice but to slice them by hand, you can keep the sliced potatoes in a bowl filled with cold water to keep them from turning pink as you slice the rest.

4. Chop or slice the chipotle peppers. I seeded mine because I am a heat wimp, but you can leave the seeds if you want it to be super hot. I used only one chipotle pepper for all my individual casseroles and that was enough for my wimpy taste buds.

4. Pour a little bit of the Cheesy Cauliflower Sauce into each ramekin. Just enough to cover the bottom. Top with a layer of sliced potatoes (keep half of the potatoes for another layer) scatter some of the chipotle on top of the potatoes, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

5. Pour about half of the remaining sauce to cover the potatoes and peppers and repeat with the other half of your sliced potatoes and chipotles. Sprinkle a bit more salt and pepper and top with the rest of the sauce.

6. Place the ramekins on a baking sheet (In case there is spillage in the oven. You're welcome.) Bake for 45 minutes or until the potatoes feel soft when you insert a knife or a fork in the casserole. My oven doesn't like to brown things so I broiled these on high for two minutes after they were done.


I know that chipotle peppers in adobo sauce are not available everywhere in the world, but you can substitute them with some other spicy pepper or even roasted red bell pepper. Or whatever you think would be good in a potato casserole!

If you top the casseroles with Daiya or your favorite cheese, you can tell people that you made Scalloped Potatoes. 

Super Low-Fat Potato Casserole

That's it! It's a non-brainer of a recipe but it's delicious and satisfying, and it doesn't hurt that it's super low in fat! That means I can have another Chocolate Croissant, right? Right.

Now let's see what the ducks are up to.

Blustery Duck
Aw, cold duckie! Don't you wanna give him a warm cuddle?

Monday, December 16, 2013

Festive Almond Kisses (Gluten-Free!)

Do you ever have bad kitchen days? You know, like a bad hair day but with cooking? Yesterday I had a bad kitchen day, but at least I was able to save the cookies.

These were actually supposed to be Almond Horns, but they ended up being little kisses instead. The recipe called for butter, and I was intent on veganizing them with coconut oil instead of Earth Balance, but for some reason the coconut oil was not nearly enough to keep the dough moist, so my dough had a whole 1/2 cup less flour than what was called for in the recipe. I have screwed up my baking and cooking so many times that I knew better than to go on with the recipe with so much flour missing, so I only baked one little horn-shaped cookie to test it out before I baked the whole batch. Aha! My test horn melted into a puddle of cookie and turned into a flat circle in the oven! That's when I knew that I definitely had to work more flour into the rest of my dough before I attempted to bake the rest of the cookies. In the end I had to add three tablespoons of water to the dough to make it workable. But the cookies were a success, don't you think?

I used this Almond Horns recipe from the Bob's Red Mill website which calls for their own Gluten-Free Flour Mix and almond meal. I doubled the vanilla extract and I added a teaspoon of almond extract. My coconut oil dough wasn't pliable enough to make horns and it kept breaking, so I started to make flat little buttons instead. They looked too boring, so I decided to roll them into balls and then pinch the tops to make little kisses.

Almond Kisses
So festive!

The cookies are so lovely! They are crunchy on the outside and buttery and crumbly on the inside. Not too sweet, but sweet enough. A little sprinkling of powdered sugar over the baked cookies gives them a beautiful festive look. You can of course drizzle melted chocolate all over your cookies instead, or even dip them whole in melted chocolate! Now I wish I had done that.

Almond Kisses
Does that look like a chocolate spider or am I seing that through my Halloweegan eyes?

Next time I will substitute the butter with Earth Balance instead of coconut oil, just to see if the dough needs any extra liquid. Or maybe that's just an excuse to make them again because I'm a glutton and these are so delicious! :)

OK. Cuteness time. Are my fellow Northern hemisphereans buried in snow yet? We're not quite buried here, but we are definitely walking in a winter wonderland. As are our little wild birds who are very happy to have access to seeds and nuts and water.

Snowy birds

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Chocolate Croissants (Pain au Chocolat)

Oh. I can't even. There are no words. Just look. Look!

Pain au Chocolat

Why can't Chocolate croissants have the health benefits of Brussels sprouts? Why can't I eat Pain au Chocolat every day, twice a day? It's a cruel world, this world. My condolences to my gluten-free friends who can't have these at all.

Just look.

This is Vegan Dad's recipe for Easy Vegan Croissants, but cut into rectangles instead of triangles and filled with semi-sweet chocolate chips to make Pain au Chocolat. The flakiness of the croissants is so BEAUTIFUL. Yes, all caps BEAUTIFUL! They are light and flaky and buttery and *sigh*. I made mine with half all purpose flour and half bread flour, as suggested by Vegan Dad, and my fat of choice was Earth Balance buttery spread. They really were very easy to put together and the actual time that it took to make the dough and shape the croissants wasn't much at all. It's just a whole lot of waiting for things to rise, as it usually is with yeast-based breads.

I intended to cut my finished, rolled out rectangular dough into eight little rectangles, but the corners of my rectangle were a bit too rounded and somewhat triangular, so I used the four corners to make more traditionally shaped croissants, as shown on Vegan Dad's post.


Then I was left with five rectangles. I used three rectangles to make my Pain au Chocolat. For each one, I placed about two tablespoons of semi-sweet chocolate chips on the bottom half of the rectangle and then rolled it up like a cinnamon roll log. The other two rectangles? I *plopped* some quince spread on the bottom half and rolled it up the same way. Now I realize I should have evenly spread the quince all over the dough instead, but I was in a hurry to finish them and eat'em and there was no stopping to think things through. As soon as all my croissants came out of the oven they were brushed with a little bit of warm agave to give them a nice glossy finish.

Quince "Croissant"
Quince filled roll.

Quince "Croissant"
Quince filling.

I drizzled some melted chocolate chips over the baked Pain au Chocolat and then topped them with slivered almonds.

Pain au Chocolat

If you're a novice baker and you think that this will be too difficult - I say give it a go! As long as you carefully follow the recipe and keep your work surface properly floured to keep your dough from sticking, it will work! Thanks, Vegan Dad, for such a perfect recipe!

Now as if I hadn't hogged all your bandwidth with all my photos, let's share one more and let's see how many different types of birds you can spot!

Snowy dinner
(Left to right, top to bottom: junco, goldfinch, Mrs. Cardinal,
snowy-beaked house finch and two of his finchy friends.)

Monday, December 9, 2013

Quince Spread

I am in love with a fruit! Every year I wait for fall to come and bring along my precious quinces. Have you met them?

The Magical Quince

Oh, that is so formal and stuffy. Let's try that again.

Meet the Quinces
Hi, Mr. Grumpy Pants! I almost forgot to make one grumpy but Mr. Wing-It reminded me!

Better! Those of you who have never tried this magical fruit might be wondering what they taste like. They are hard and dry and not tasty at all when raw, but cook them down and throw some sugar at them and they will become the most delicious spread (or paste) ever. It's a unique flavor that I really don't think I can describe accurately. If you really push me to describe it, I would say that it could be a cross between an apple and a pear, with its own distinctive flavor mixed in. I never bother making a traditional firm quince paste because I actually prefer it in a more spreadable form. This is the recipe that I use, but I stop at step six and call it a day. My ideal consistency happens at around 45 minutes into the cooking, which yields a firm yet easily spreadable... spread. Mr. Wing-It likes a firm, more sliceable paste which takes an extra 15 minutes or so.

It's ridiculously delicious sandwiched in a warm biscuit with a little Earth Balance.

Quince Spread

If you can't be bothered to make traditionally round biscuits, quince spread tastes just as good on lazy rectangular ones! :)

Quince Spread

Our grocery store used to bring in quinces in November, but a few years ago they stopped carrying them because I think I was the only one buying them. Then I looked all over town trying to find *my precious* but no other grocery stores or markets had them. I was sad and quinceless for a few autumns, until one day I decided to look in an unlikely place: Walmart! They had them! At Walmart! WTF?! (What the fruit?!) Now I buy them there every year, even though the cashiers rarely know what they are. The cashiers have entered them as Asian pears, apples, green grapes (really!) and "unique fruit". The latter was the most accurate, because they are unique indeed!

If you have never had quince spread or paste, you are missing out on one of the most amazing foods in the entire universe and I urge you to make it your life's mission to degust this awesomeness - now you can't say I've never done anything for you. Recipe!

But enough of my fruity obsession. Today's cute is kind of sad. Remember the splashing, somersaulting geese from last week's post? Well, the lake is frozen and fun time is over. Poor little fellers.

No more water somersaults
Hazy and blurry. Sorry!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

PMS Cookies (Packed Maple S'mores Cookies)

How many times have I blogged about Dreena Burton's Homestyle Chocolate Chip Cookies? I've lost count! They are the perfect chocolate chip cookie, and the recipe can be modified to make endless variations with different chunky goodies. Like these.

PMS Cookies = Packed Maple S'mores Cookies

PMS Cookies! PMS = Packed Maple S'mores Cookies. Although if you are a lady and you need a cookie to deal with the other meaning of the abbreviation, these will do the trick ;)

These cookies are indeed PACKED with chunky chocolate and gooey marshmallows. They are crispy on the outside with soft, slightly chewy centers. The marshmallows are gooey when the cookies are warm, and chewy at room temperature. I followed Dreena's recipe almost exactly. These were my modifications:

* I replaced the 1/4 teaspoon of molasses with 1/2 teaspoon of maple extract which added plenty of maple flavor for my taste.

* Instead of 1/3 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips I used only 1/4 cup, and I added an extra 1/4 cup of big chunks of chopped dark baking chocolate for good measure.

* Then I threw in a heaping 1/3 cup of chopped marshmallows (you could use mini marshmallows if you have them) and that was it. We now know, thanks to Cindy, that we dust our knife with powdered sugar before we start cutting marshmallows to avoid a sticky mess. Right? Right!

These are my last marshmallowy treats for a while since I used up all my precious Dandies. Sadface.

Today's cute picture is actually a video! Have you ever seen a goose doing a water-somersault? No? Don't worry, I got you covered. These silly geese were having lots of fun in the water the other day flapping their wings, splashing around, and doing some impressive somersaulting. If I attempted to do a somersault (even on a solid surface) I would end up breaking a patella or a table lamp or something! Watch them flip over on their backs and kick their legs in the air with their heads under water!

If you don't feel like watching the whole one-minute video, or in case you're overwhelmed by all the random flapping and splashing, here's the specific time and location of all the somersaults:

0:06 (right)
0:15 (center)
0:19 (center)
0:21 (right)
0:24 (right)
0:38 (left)
0:48 (center)
0:54 (left)

Monday, December 2, 2013

Chili Con Queso

In queso emergency open a can of chili! Get it? Get it? In queso = in case of? Haha *snort* haha *snort. Sorry. That wasn't even my own joke. I googled "queso jokes" and that little zinger popped up. Sorry.


Chili con Queso 
Remember when I told you about the Vida Vegan Con Cookbooklette that I won on Jenn's giveaway a few weeks ago? This Creamy Cauliflower Queso is another recipe from the cookbooklette, and it is the creation of the one and only Ms Cadry McAwesomePants of Cadry's Kitchen. It's a super smooth and creamy queso that is gluten free and soy-free if you use salt instead of miso. Sautéed onions and garlic give this dip a lovely flavor, and jalapeños and hot sauce give it a nice kick. I used only half of my queso for this chili to keep the chili-to-queso ratio even, but if you want you can pour the whole thing over your chili!

The "recipe" for the Chili con Queso is not a recipe at all. If you can open a can of your favorite chili and pour Cadry's queso over it - you've pretty much made dinner! I used a can of Amy's Kitchen chili which was pretty spicy but not too fiery for my wimpy taste buds. You could make your own chili from scratch, of course, but sometimes a girl just can't be bothered to chop an onion. Amirite or amirite?

So here's what you need to make this Chili con Queso:

1 can of your favorite chili
1/2 batch of Cadry's Creamy Cauliflower Queso
minced green onions, cilantro, parsley or whatever floats your boat

And here's how to put this complicated dish together:

1. Turn the broiler on medium low. (450 degrees F)
2. Pour the chili into a saucepan or small pot and heat it on medium heat.
3. Pour the hot chili into a deep, broiler safe baking dish. Mine is a 7 x 5 ceramic baking dish that is about two inches deep. If you're going with a full batch of queso you'll need a deeper dish!
4. Pour Cadry's queso evenly on top. Place the baking dish on a cookie sheet (to catch any drippings that would otherwise fall on the bottom of your oven and then you would probably cast a curse upon my house) and broil for about 10 minutes or until the top of the queso looks a bit crusty.
5. Garnish with minced green onions or whatever toppings you choose and eat up!

Chili con Queso

This is a belly-warming meal that has lazy almost-winter evenings written all over it. The spiciness of the chili blends beautifully with the creaminess of the queso, and it's a very filling meal. It makes enough for two. I wish I had baked some cornbread to make this comfort food even more comforting! Thanks for sharing the Creamy Cauliflower Queso recipe, Cadry! :)

Autumn Geese
Late-autumn geese under a leafless weeping willow.