Monday, January 31, 2011

Raspberry Filled Chocolate Cupcakes

Last week, I wrote about these luscious jam filled muffins, and ever since then I have been thinking of other ways to apply this technique. My friend Jessica hosted a grown-up version of the middle school slumber party, complete with pajamas, deliciously bad 80’s movies, and elevated junk food. This seemed like a perfect occasion to experiment with baking.

The vegan chocolate cupcakes I wrote about a few months ago are among the most perfect of my vegan recipes. The texture, the flavor, the frosting are everything I could want from a chocolate cupcake. But, one of my favorite treats is a filled cupcake. Whether filled with fruit, ganache, or cream, there’s something delightful about that sudden variation in flavor, right in the middle of your cupcake. By simply applying the same technique I used in my lemon raspberry muffins, I was able to create lovely, decadent, raspberry filled chocolate cupcakes.

Raspberry Filled Chocolate Cupcakes

Follow the recipe for chocolate cupcakes. Fill each cupcake tin half full with batter. Spoon 1 teaspoon raspberry jam into the center of the batter. Cover with batter until the cup is 2/3 full. Bake according to the recipe.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Pasta with Breadcrumbs and Herbs

Like most people, I have a certain stable of dishes that I go back to over and over again. Obviously, I am always trying to push myself creatively and culinarily, but sometimes you just want to cook something you already know how to make, something you already know is delicious. This is one such recipe that I have been making for years, and was so easily veganized that it was almost a premonition of my future food life. It’s also totally seasonal and adaptable to your personal tastes, not to mention quite easily thrown together from the cupboard/freezer/garden.

The other amazing thing about this dish is how much better it was once I made it vegan.  I notice this more and more, but removing the dairy from my diet has been like turning up my taste buds. Everything tastes brighter, fresher, and simply more alive. It’s as though the simple act of sprinkling parmesan cheese over the top of my pasta, dulls everything it touches. This is something I could never give up.

2 slices whole wheat bread
1/3 cup raw almonds
1/3 cup basil
1/3 cup parsley
1 tablespoon thyme
1 tablespoon rosemary
1 tablespoon oregano
1 clove garlic, peeled
1/4 cup olive oil
1 pound perciatelli

In a food processor, blend the bread and almonds into fine crumbs. Lay in a shallow layer in a rimmed baking sheet. Broil on high until golden brown and dry, about 5 minutes.

Wipe the breadcrumbs from the inside of the food processor. Remove all the herbs from their stems, and combine in the food processor. Add the garlic clove. Pulse until finely minced, but not mushy.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook the perciatelli according to the instructions. Drain, reserving 1 cup of pasta liquid.

In a large pot, heat the olive oil. Add the breadcrumbs and herbs, and sauté briefly, about 1 minute. Add the pasta and toss to coat. Add pasta liquid if it seems too dry. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Garlic and Lemon Sautéed Broccoli

The other night, I was out to dinner in San Francisco. I was with several other people, some of whom are aware that I am vegan, some not. Part of my mission as a vegan is to present the very best example of what being vegan is. That means being positive rather than negative, talking about the joys rather than the restrictions of my lifestyle, and just generally being low-maintenance. By “low-maintenance” I don’t mean compromising, but rather going with the flow. I want to create an image of veganism, such that when people think of me, they don’t remember pressure, guilt, or shame, but my own exuberance and vitality.

So, back to dinner. It wasn’t the most vegan friendly restaurant, so my options were limited. When one of my companions leaned over, and asked me what I was getting, I told her there weren’t a ton of choices, but I was excited to try a couple of the side dishes. She was instantly apologetic and asked if I wanted to go elsewhere. I said, “Of course not!” I really try to find something to eat at every restaurant, because it makes my life easier; it sends a positive message to my friends, that being vegan doesn’t mean restricting yourself; and it makes a statement to restaurants that vegan options are in demand. In the end, I had the most incredible sautéed broccoli, shoestring fries, and a Meyer lemon drop cocktail, and I was in heaven. The broccoli was so delicious that I recreated it at home last night, and it’s definitely going into my greens rotation.

Garlic and Lemon Sautéed Broccoli

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 head broccoli, chopped into florets
Zest of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon salt
Juice of 1/2 lemon

Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan. Turn the heat down to medium, and add the garlic and red pepper. Sauté the garlic for 5 minutes, until fragrant, taking care not to burn it.

Meanwhile, place the broccoli in a microwave safe dish with a few tablespoons of water. Cover with plastic wrap, and microwave for 3 minutes, until almost tender.

Add the broccoli and lemon zest to the garlic and olive oil. Sprinkle with salt, cover, and cook for 3 to five minutes, or until the broccoli is tender. Drizzle with lemon juice, and sauté briefly. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Lemon Muffins with Raspberry Jam Filling

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the difference between a cook and a chef. To me, a cook is someone who makes delicious food, but isn’t necessarily innovating. A chef, on the other hand, is someone who is inventive, boundary-pushing, and creative. I have always considered myself one of the former. My first instinct when cooking is to find a recipe. But, I find the more I cook, the easier innovation and creativity becomes.

Take this recipe, for example. I wanted to make muffins, but I felt bored by all the recipes I was seeing; banana nut, blueberry crumb, chocolate chip, the same old thing. The Meyer lemon tree in my backyard is in full fruit, so I started thinking citrus. I wanted to pair the citrus with another fruit, but didn’t want to just add frozen blueberries. A few more cookbooks led me to Colleen Patrick Goudreau’s jam filled oat bran muffins. Finally, after amalgamating a few different recipes I landed on these raspberry jam filled lemon muffins. So, while I may not be throwing recipes together with only my brain and my taste buds yet, I’m getting there.

Lemon Muffins with Raspberry Jam Filling

2 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons ground flaxseed
6 tablespoons water
1 cup unsweetened non dairy milk
1 tablespoon white distilled vinegar
2/3 cup sugar
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
Raspberry jam

Heat the oven to 400º F. Prepare your muffin tins with paper cups, or by lightly greasing.

In a small bowl, combine the milk and vinegar. Allow to sit for 5 to 10 minutes. You just made vegan buttermilk!

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Blend together the water and flaxseed until it is thick and frothy. Add to the buttermilk mixture, along with the sugar, oil, vanilla, and lemon zest. Whisk thoroughly.

Add the wet mixture to the dry ingredients and stir to combine. Scoop the batter into the muffin cups, filling each cup about half full. Add 1 teaspoon of jam to the very center of each muffin. Top with batter until each cup is 2/3 full. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Enjoy immediately, or over the next few days.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Getting Enough Fiber: Eat Your Vegetables!

Lately I have been seeing articles on vegan and vegetarian diets everywhere. While this immeasurably cheers me, the recipes and articles go hand in hand with misinformation. Almost every mention of the word vegan I see is quickly followed by a discussion of how to get enough protein and calcium. Having already addressed both of these topics before, I will simply suggest that you check out my previous posts, The Protein Myth and The Calcium Query. And if you still have questions, feel free to email me; I would love to hear from you!

While protein and calcium are an important part of anyone’s diet, there are plenty of other vital nutrients that deserve our attention, like fiber. Fiber is an important contributor to weight loss, heart health, and healthy cholesterol and glucose levels. Getting enough fiber can help lower your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. The American Dietetic Association recommends that you get 25 to 30 g of fiber per day, but asserts that most Americans get only half that. Fiber is abundantly found in legumes, grains, greens, fruits, and other vegetables. There is no fiber, however, in animal products, like meat, milk, and eggs. Most importantly, artificially incorporated forms of fiber, like fiber-rich yogurts and candy bars, don’t provide any of the benefits of natural fiber sources. A vegan diet is rich in fiber, relying primarily on vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. This dish is the perfect example of how delicious fiber can be. Moral of the story: eat your vegetables!

Tuscan White Bean Stew

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small can diced tomatoes
2 small cans Cannellini beans
2 cups vegetable stock
1 bunch dinosaur kale, deribbed and chopped
Salt and pepper
1 loaf of good bread

Heat the olive oil in a large pot. Add the onion and carrots and sauté until tender, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the Cannellini beans, tomatoes, and stock. Brink to a boil, and simmer until reduced and thickened, about 20 minutes. Add the kale, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, slice the bread, and brush with olive oil. Broil until golden brown, flipping the bread halfway through.

Serve the soup immediately with a side of bread.

Friday, January 21, 2011

All Star Tamales with Beans and Greens

One of the things I like to do on this blog is put in my two cents about various vegan products. In that way, you can zero in on the delicious products, without having to try the terrible things (like all vegan bacon). And sometimes I find a vegan food so wonderful, that I can’t wait to share it with my readers.

Everyday, I feel grateful that I live in such a progressive and health-conscious area where I don’t have to explain what the word vegan means, where it might even be on the menu. I also love that California weather is so nurturing, and the Farmer’s Market is always bursting with fresh fruits and vegetables. Farmer’s Markets have lately become known as much for their gourmet prepared food as for the produce. Every Sunday, I get as excited for fresh Walnut Scallion Sourdough as I do for fresh garbanzo beans. My latest Farmer’s Market obsession is All Star Tamales. They sell warm, tender vegetable tamales smothered in tomatillo salsa, as well as packaged tamales to take home. They are so delicious, I like to stockpile them in my freezer, then thaw them in the microwave for a spectacular lunch.

To supplement this lunch, I like to prepare a simple Latin flavored beans and greens.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 bunch kale, deribbed and chopped
1 tablespoon cumin
1/2 cup water
Salt and pepper
Juice of 1/2 lemon

Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan. Add the black beans, kale, and cumin, and sauté for 1 minute. Add the water, cover, and cook until the kale is tender, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and squeeze lemon juice over the dish. Sauté for 1 minute, then serve immediately.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Curried Cauliflower Soup

You’re probably getting sick of all my cauliflower recipes, but cauliflower is delicious, versatile, and so good for you, so embrace it! I’ve been wanting to make a cauliflower soup for months now, but all the recipes I’ve seen have been rather disappointing. So finally, I just made up my own recipe, and it turned out beautifully. Cauliflower is an excellent part of the vegan repertoire because it gets super creamy when puréed, and tender but firm when roasted. The mildness of cauliflower also stands up well to a wide variety of flavors and cuisines, making it one of my vegan staples.

This soup is influenced by Indian flavors, but I think it would be delicious with Middle Eastern spices, simple garlic and onion, or roasted red pepper. Cauliflower also cooks very quickly, so this is a great weeknight recipe.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
1 yellow onion, diced
2 tablespoons garam masala
3 cups vegetable stock
1 cup coconut milk
Salt and pepper
Parsley or cilantro for garnish

Heat the olive oil in a large pot. Add the onion, and sauté until tender. Add the cauliflower and garam masala, and cook for 1 minute. Add the vegetable stock, cover, and cook until the cauliflower is tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. Purée the soup with an immersion blender (alternately, you could do this in a blender or food processor) until it is smooth. Add the coconut milk, and salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with cilantro or parsley. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Vegan Pound Cake

As if Chocolate Fondue isn’t enough of a treat, I like to pair it with homemade pound cake. At its best, pound cake is light, crumbly, and buttery which makes it perfect for the bitter richness of dark chocolate. You’ll find that everyone gathered around your fondue pot has a different favorite combination. For me, it’s a square of pound cake topped with a slice of strawberry. For others it’s just one clean raspberry. Or orange and pineapple. Whatever it is, the real joy of fondue is the “do-it-yourself” aspect, where everybody gets exactly what they want. And pound cake is the perfect addition to the table.

Pound cake is also great because it is so versatile. Add some blueberries and you have a simple breakfast bread; top it with an orange glaze and you have a light summer dessert; spread a slice with your favorite jam for a perfect tea snack; the possibilities are endless!

Vegan Pound Cake

Adapted from “A Vegan for Dinner”

1/2 cup non dairy butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
6 ounces of silken tofu, blended until smooth
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons baking powder

Heat the oven to 350º F. Grease a 5” x 9” pan. In the bowl of a mixer, beat the butter until smooth and creamy. Add the sugar, and beat until fluffy, about 1 minute. Add the silken tofu, and mix until combined. Add 1 cup flour, and mix until just incorporated. Add the water and vanilla, and mix. Add the remaining cup of flour and the baking powder, and mix on medium for 2 minutes. Pour the mixture into the pan, and bake for 55 to 65 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Allow to cool before removing from the pan. Cut up into 1” cubes for fondue.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Chocolate Fondue

One of the secrets no one ever tells you about food blogs is that sometimes there is a serious time delay between the food and the post. Take today’s dish for example. I first mentioned Chocolate Fondue almost a month ago, and my family and I enjoyed it after our gorgeous Christmas dinner. And yet, I am only just now getting around to writing about it. I wondered whether I should even post it, because I know January is a time for abstinence and restraint, but once again, being vegan allows for indulgence without remorse. Light and nutritious almond milk gives dark, antioxidant-rich dark chocolate the perfect texture.

Chocolate Fondue is a holiday tradition in my household, but it needn’t be restricted to the decadent holiday season, especially with Valentine’s Day coming up! Traditional fondue recipes consist of chocolate and cream, melted into a thick, smooth consistency. But, for some reason, a lot of vegan fondue recipes called for strange things like non dairy cream cheese, or marshmallow fluff. My philosophy of vegan cooking is to keep things as simple and natural as possible. Just because we’re removing the animal products from our food doesn’t mean we have to reinvent the wheel. I serve my fondue with several kinds of fruit, and a homemade pound cake. So, make a trip to the farmer’s market this weekend, pick up an array of your favorite fruits, and make this extraordinary dessert for the people you love!

6 ounces good quality dark chocolate, chopped into small chunks
1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk

Heat the almond milk in a small saucepan over medium heat. Slowly add the chocolate stirring constantly, allowing the heat of the milk to melt the chocolate, take care not to let the chocolate burn. When the chocolate is smooth and melted, transfer to a fondue pot, or a small bowl. Serve immediately.

Check back tomorrow for light and buttery pound cake!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

FARM USA and Meatout Mondays

Dear Readers, I want to bring your attention to a worthwhile and inspiring organization called Farm Animal Rights Movement, or FARM USA. They are "a national nonprofit organization promoting a vegan lifestyle through public education and grassroots activism to end the use of animals for food." For the last 35 years, they have been bringing awareness to the public through events like The Great American Meatout, and Gentle Thanksgiving. But, the main reason to check out the FARM USA website is that they will be publishing some of my recipes in their weekly Monday Meatout Newsletter. So, please take a moment to check out this incredible organization!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Penne with Caramelized Cauliflower

The other night, I was on my way home after a long day of running errands, and just generally being out. It wasn’t raining, but there was a tangible mist leaving its impression, and making me wish for nothing more than to make a good dinner, and curl up at home. But, I was having one of those days where I couldn’t quite identify just what I was hungry for. I made a quick detour to a nearby bookstore, and after a brief glance through the Vegan/Vegetarian section, I settled upon Vegetarian Times’s new publication, Everything Vegan. As soon as I saw the “Pasta & Noodles” heading, I knew what I wanted for dinner. For the last few weeks, I have been madly craving broccoli and cauliflower, roasted, caramelized, sautéed, tempuraed, whatever. Unlike cravings for carrot cake and potato chips, I pay a bit more attention when I have a yen for things that are good for me. So pasta + cauliflower = just what I wanted.

1 head cauliflower cut into florets
1 yellow onion sliced
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup parsley
zest of 1 lemon
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
salt and pepper to taste
1 pound whole wheat penne

Heat oven to 475º. Line an oven proof dish with foil. Place the cauliflower and onion in the dish, drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake until the cauliflower is tender, 15 to 20 minutes.

Combine the parsley, lemon zest, lemon juice, and remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a food processor. Blend until it forms a coarse paste.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook the penne according to the package directions. Drain pasta, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water. Combine the pasta, cauliflower and onion, the parsley mixture, the crushed red pepper, and 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Toss to combine, adding more water if necessary. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Baking Without Eggs

When I became a vegan, I knew it could never be a lifestyle if I couldn’t master non dairy baking. I love sweets; I love sugar; I love chocolate. My lifetime of memories is punctuated by dessert: the chocolate cherry cake my mom invented for me, and has baked for my birthday since I was a little girl; cutting out and frosting Christmas cookies with my baby sister every holiday season; baking pans of brownies for all my girlfriends on their birthdays. Giving up meat would be easy, but giving up my memories was not feasible.

At the beginning of my vegan experiment, I happily discovered that Earth Balance can do everything that butter does. It makes perfect sense; housewives have been cooking with margarine for years. My buttercream frosting turned out so well, I can’t believe it’s not butter! Eggs, however, are the real challenge to vegan baking. This is primarily because eggs are doing multiple things in any given recipe. We have to start by isolating the purpose of eggs in traditional baking. Eggs are primarily useful for leavening, thickening, moisture, and binding. For example, eggs are what give rise to a soufflé; eggs provide that rich texture in a key lime pie; eggs give a brownie its moist cakiness; and eggs hold everything together in a chocolate chip cookie. Because of the variability of the egg, it is necessary for vegan bakers to have a flexible assortment of egg replacers. First, let’s consider some common ingredients that can be utilized in egg-free baking.

Applesauce: Applesauce is the most familiar of the possible egg replacers. It is good for both moisture and as a binding agent. In fact, many brownie recipes call for applesauce as a way to cut down on the oil, so this is not especially unusual. However, this brings us to the negatives of using applesauce. Using applesauce to replace eggs, and oil to a certain extent can steal some of the richness and pleasure out of your baked goods. Applesauce, therefore, is best used for reduced fat treats, which may also mean reduced flavor.

Banana: A ripe banana is an excellent replacement for eggs, in very specific instances. It works best as a binding agent, and provides some moisture. However, the moist richness of this fruit goes hand in hand with an unavoidable banana flavor. This is fine, if you’re making banana bread, or even chocolate bread pudding, but banana oatmeal cookies would not be advisable.

Vinegar and Baking Soda: Vinegar and baking soda is a well known leavening agent, known to amateur scientists everywhere. Using this combination as a replacement for eggs is somewhat limited though. It works incredibly well in giving your baked goods rise and levity. However, it isn’t especially effective as a binding agent, nor does it provide much moisture. These shortcomings would need to be compensated for in the form of oil and water. As housewives discovered during the Great Depression, oil, water, baking soda, and vinegar can make an excellent chocolate cake when eggs and butter are being rationed. This decades-old recipe has become a staple for the vegan community.

Silken Tofu: This egg replacer is the one that gets the strangest looks from people. However, it is highly capable as a thickener in anything requiring a smooth, custardy texture. Tofu is wonderful because it takes on the flavors around it, rather than asserting its presence like the banana. I have had great success with Key Lime Pie, and Pecan Pie, using silken tofu as a base. Silken tofu is not a universal egg replacer though, as it is very dense, and thus, can weigh down lighter foods like brownies, or cakes.

Ground Flaxseed: Until I began experimenting with vegan baking, I had never worked much with flaxseed. I only knew it as some kind of health food that I probably should be eating, but didn’t look too appetizing. I had no idea that, when ground and mixed with water it could be widely useful as an egg replacer. Flaxseed, like an egg, is multi-functional, providing fat, moisture, and acting as a binding agent. I use ground flaxseed in place of eggs, in almost all of my food, for pancakes, waffles, brownies, chocolate chip cookies, scones, muffins, and more. Ground flaxseed is the most able to fulfill the role of an actual egg.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili

I have been dying to write about this dish for days now, because it was so unbelievably delicious. Tart, savory, spicy, and oh so warm and wintery, it was the perfect pick-me-up during these cold, dark January nights. I adore Mexican food, and chili has always been a favorite of mine. The combination of lime, cilantro, and cumin just makes sense to me. However, it is rare for a recipe to catch my attention by bringing something new to the table, so to speak. This recipe, adapted from the most recent issue of Eating Well magazine, had just the twist I was looking for, namely sweet potato. Words can never convey how fulfilling and delicious this chili is, so I can only urge you to make it as soon as possible, so you’ll know just what I’m talking about.

2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 carrot diced
1 onion diced
1 sweet potato peeled and diced in 1” cubes
2 cloves garlic minced
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 small can of diced tomatoes
2 small cans of black beans drained and rinsed
1 can vegetable stock
the juice of 1/2 lime
2 tablespoons cilantro chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a large pot. Add the onion, carrots, and sweet potato and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and spices, and sauté for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, black beans, and vegetable stock. Bring the pot to a boil, then simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. The chili is ready when the sweet potato is tender, and the soup is thickened. Add the lime and cilantro, and taste for salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Green Juice

Trust me when I say I am not a health nut. I know I present a lot of healthy foods on this blog, and I am...ahem, a vegan. But, still, I would rather eat cookies, cupcakes, and deep fried delights than raw fruits and vegetables any day. All of which is why I’m a little surprised by my new food obsession: green juice. We’ve recently acquired a juicer  in my house, and it has proven revolutionary. Let me clarify something; there is a huge difference between a citrus juicer and a juice extractor. A citrus juicer is a mechanized version of a reamer, efficiently squeezing the juice from your citrus fruits while straining out the pulp and seeds. A juice extractor is a machine into which you place barely chopped fruits and vegetables, and it centrifuges liquid from solid, depositing a smooth, thin, juice of the aforementioned fruits and veggies. It is like harvesting the essence of a cucumber, a pear, a bunch of parsley, which is just as delicious and energizing as it sounds. I know it seems scary, but I promise it’s not. I have never felt as nurtured and refreshed as the mornings I start with green juice. This particular blend is watermelon, cucumber, and kale, but there are no rules or recipes for this. Just juice what you have and what sounds good to you, although the more emphasis you can put on vegetables, the better. ÀVotre Santé!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Cherry Barley Scones

A few months ago, my friend Bronwen told me about a cookbook she had recently acquired, Good to the Grain  by Kim Boyce. It’s all about experimenting with different flours, like teff, amaranth, quinoa, and barley. I immediately knew that it was something my mother would love. First of all, she’s the type of person who really reads cookbooks, and as a scientist, she always appreciates a deliberate and precise approach to baking. As such, I bought it for her for Christmas, and as I predicted, she loved it. We finally made a trip to Whole Foods last week for some of these more unusual flours, in the hope of putting some of these recipes to the test. The vegan brunch I attended this past Sunday was the perfect excuse to try out one of Boyce’s recipes: the Strawberry Barley Scones.

The great thing about these scones is their adaptability. The jam filling is entirely exchangeable, so they might be apricot barley scones, or blueberry barley scones, pomegranate, raspberry, citrus, you name it. I opted for cherry, which is my favorite jam, and they turned out perfectly; super light and a little savory. They’re also so quick and easy, I can’t imagine another Sunday morning without freshly baked scones.

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons barley flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill)
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick non dairy butter cold and in small pieces
1/2 cup non dairy milk
1/2 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
1 tablespoon ground flaxseed
3 tablespoons water
1/2 cup jam of your choice
1 tablespoon non dairy butter melted
1 tablespoon sanding sugar

Heat the oven to 350º. Place a rack in the middle of the oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine the milk and vinegar in a small bowl and let stand for 5 to 10 minutes (this is the vegan version of buttermilk).

Sift the flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into the bowl of a food processor. Add the pieces of butter, and pulse until the dough forms into small pieces.

Combine the flaxseed and water in a blender, and mix until thick and frothy. Add to the buttermilk, and whisk until thoroughly combined. Add the wet mixture to the dry ingredients, and pulse until just incorporated. Turn the dough out onto a well floured surface. It may be sticky, in which case, sprinkle with flour and fold a couple of times. Cut the dough into 2 even pieces, then pat each piece into a disk, 7” in diameter, 3/4” thick, flouring as necessary to prevent sticking. Cover one disk with jam, and place the second disk on top, pressing gently. Brush the melted butter onto the top of the dough, and sprinkle with the sanding sugar. Cut the dough into wedges, and place on the baking sheet. Bake for 22 to 26 minutes, rotating halfway through, and remove from the oven when the tops are golden. Transfer the scones to a cooling rack immediately. If the scones begin to stick, return them to the oven, and allow them to heat briefly. Best enjoyed immediately with a pot of tea!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Calcium Solution

In the spirit of embracing greens instead of dairy, I’m giving you a very simple recipe. I make greens every single day, sometimes twice a day, and this is one of my favorite preparations. Greens can be a little bitter, but the balsamic vinegar, and sweet apricots are the perfect balance.

1 large bunch collard greens, de-ribbed and chopped into small pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup dried apricots diced

Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium high heat. Add the collards and sauté briefly. Add the water, cover and steam until the collards are tender, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the apricots and balsamic, stir and sauté for 1 minute more. Serve immediately.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Calcium Query

I have already tackled the question of protein on this blog, the answer being that vegans have no trouble attaining the appropriate amount of protein with a plant based diet. The second greatest concern omnivores have for vegans is how they get calcium.

The Dairy Council has done a stellar job cornering the calcium market with their sexy celebrities sporting milk mustaches, and cheerful, sassy cows frolicking in fragrant meadows. Somehow, Taylor Swift wearing a kale mustache just isn’t quite as cute. However, milk is only one way of getting calcium, and for a variety of reasons, may not be the best choice.

The US Department of Agriculture recommends that adults consume 1,000 mg of calcium per day. The standard recommendation in Western Europe is 700 mg, and the World Health Organization recommends a mere 500 mg a day for good bone health. But, what does this mean in terms of food? 1 cup of skim milk has 306 mg, so you would have to drink more than three glasses of milk to achieve the US standard, 2 glasses for the European standard, and just over 1 glass of milk to reach the WHO’s recommended 500 mg. What if you don’t drink milk? 1 cup of calcium fortified soy milk has 368 mg of calcium; 1/2 cup of tofu has 253 mg of calcium; 1 cup of collard greens has 358 mg; 1 cup of calcium enriched orange juice has 350 mg of calcium plus two servings of fruit. So, milk isn’t the only item on the calcium menu. Feel fee to branch outside of the dairy square of the food pyramid to meet your calcium needs.

But, getting enough calcium is only part of the story. The real challenge is for omnivores: keeping that calcium in your bones. Our whole lives we are told that we need to drink milk, in order to get calcium, so we’ll have strong bones. But what if drinking milk doesn’t give you strong bones? What if it is, in fact, making you more prone to fractures, breaks, and osteoporosis? According to the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine, “in a 12-year Harvard study of 78,000 women, those who drank milk three times a day actually broke more bones than women who rarely drank milk. Similarly, a 1994 study of elderly men and women in Sydney, Australia, showed that higher dairy product consumption was associated with increased fracture risk. Those with the highest dairy product consumption had approximately double the risk of hip fracture compared to those with the lowest consumption.” The reality is that while milk is a good source of calcium, that calcium goes hand in hand with animal protein which actually leaches the calcium from your bones and removes it as waste. Omnivores need to consume a much higher amount of calcium to compensate for this effect. Plant based forms of calcium have no such effect, making them a much smarter, and efficient choice for meeting your calcium needs.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Vegan Products I Love: Trader Joe's Vegetable Gyoza

I have mentioned Trader Joe’s Thai Vegetable Gyoza many times before on this blog, but I realized that I had never written specifically about them. Trader Joe’s is a miracle for vegans, as they have a wide selection of vegan prepared foods, helpfully labeled with a big V, such as Vegetable Panang Curry, Lentil Curl Chips, and Roasted Red Pepper Hummus. I worship Trader Joe’s. Truly, they should pay me for how much I talk them up to my friends, family, and various strangers on the street (and now my blog). But, honestly, these pot stickers are delicious, quick, and healthy. Served with a side of steamed spinach and arugula and a spicy dipping sauce, I eat them for lunch almost every week. Pick up a bag, and stick them in your freezer. Some Sunday afternoon, when you don’t feel like cooking or going out, these dumplings will be just what you were looking for.

It's important to keep the dumplings close together so they cook quickly and evenly.
For 6 dumplings, heat 1 tablespoon canola oil over medium high heat in a large not nonstick sauté pan. Place dumplings in a tight circular pattern starting at the center of the pan. Cook uncovered for 4 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons water, cover, and cook for another 6 minutes. Remove the cover, and scoop the dumplings out with a spatula. If the dumplings are stuck to the pan, they are not done cooking. Leave them be and check them in a couple minutes.

For the dipping sauce, combine 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 tablespoon rice vinegar, and 1 splash of sesame chili oil in a small bowl. Stir to combine.

For the greens, place 2 cups spinach, and 2 cups arugula in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave for 1 minute, or until wilted, but not soggy. Spoon a little of your dipping sauce over the greens and mix.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Salted Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies

If you’re like me, you are probably drooling over the mere title of this post. But, maybe you’re nothing like me and you need a little convincing. Well, here it is. These cookies are amazing! They are soft and chewy with an edge that fights back just a little. They start off with bitter chocolate, then mellow into sweetness, and linger with a salty finish. If you’re not panting with desire for these buttery delights, then I think we should see other people. But, if you are, could you whip up a batch and bring them on over?

1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup Dutch process cocoa
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
a heaping 1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons non dairy butter softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar packed
1 tablespoon ground flaxseed
3 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Heat the oven to 350º

In a large bowl, combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In the bowl of a mixer, whip the butter until it is smooth and creamy. Add the sugar and brown sugar, and mix until smooth and combined. In a blender, combine the flaxseed and water and blend until thick and frothy.  Add the flaxseed mixture, and the vanilla to the butter and sugar and mix until combined. Add the flour mixture to the butter and mix until just incorporated. Add the walnuts and chocolate chips to the batter and mix.

Scoop large tablespoons of dough onto a cookie sheet. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, rotating the cookie sheets and exchanging the top and bottom halfway through. Cookies will puff up as they bake, and then deflate as they get closer to being done. After baking, transfer the cookies to a cooling rack. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Brown Spanish Rice

This is the perfect side dish for tacos, enchiladas, quesadillas and burritos. It’s reminiscent of Spanish Rice-A-Roni, without the sodium bomb and processed ingredients. Because it’s brown rice, it takes almost an hour, so put this on first thing.

1/2 onion diced
1/2 red bell pepper diced
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 can diced tomatoes
1 cup brown rice
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a small sauce pan. Add the onion and pepper and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Open the can of tomatoes and drain, reserving all the liquid. Add water to the tomato liquid until it reaches 2 cups combined. Add to the saucepan with the cumin and the chili powder, and bring to a boil. Add the rice and the tomatoes, and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, covered, until the rice is tender, 45 to 50 minutes. When the rice is done, taste for salt and pepper. Continue to simmer until all the liquid is absorbed, if necessary. Serve immediately!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Winter Tacos

I love tacos. However, when I am trying to decide what to make for dinner, I always forget about tacos. Then, the next time I make them, I remember how much I LOVE tacos. Really, I should just make them more often.

Most of the time, when I make Mexican food, I make my own tortillas. It’s super easy, I swear! But, sometimes I just want a crispy taco shell that comes in a box from the grocery store. It’s all about what you put in your taco anyway. As the title implies, these are my winter tacos. My summer tacos are all about vine-ripened tomatoes, sweet corn, and homemade salsa with a dozen tomatillos. But, winter is not the best time for any of these ingredients. Instead, I turn to root vegetables, and the brightness of lime and cilantro. Accompanied by a Brown Spanish rice, this is the most colorful, and most delicious winter meal.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 red bell pepper de-ribbed, seeded, and sliced into 1/4” strips
1 onion halved and sliced finely
1 carrot sliced diagonally into 1/4” slices
1 sweet potatoes halved and sliced into 1/4” slices
1 zucchini sliced into 1/4” slices
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 can refried black beans
1 cup shredded purple cabbage
1 cup shredded carrots
1/4 cup cilantro chopped
Juice of 1/2 lime
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oven to 375º. Place all the vegetables in an oven proof dish in a single layer. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with chili powder, cumin, salt, and pepper. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until all the vegetables are tender.

Combine the cabbage, shredded carrots and cilantro in a small bowl. Add the lime juice and a sprinkling of salt, and toss to combine.

Scoop the beans into a small sauce pan. Heat until smooth and warm.

Place the taco shells on a baking sheet and heat in the oven until hot to the touch, 2 to 3 minutes.

Spoon 2 to 3 tablespoons of black beans into a taco shell. Add 1/3 cup of the roasted vegetables. Top with the cabbage slaw for a crisp finish. I also added a fresh salsa from my local grocer. Try not to moan as you bite into these amazing tacos!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Soupe à l'Oignon

For years I have loved French Onion Soup. When I was young, there was a French restaurant (I’m using this term loosely) in our local mall. This is where I first encountered Soupe à l’Oignon. I would eat all the cheese off the top, then the soaked crouton, and then spoon up all the broth, leaving a neat pile of caramelized onions in the bottom of my bowl. I can’t explain my fear of the onions, except that to my 10 year old self they seemed icky. I gradually came to discover that they were, in fact, the very best part of French Onion Soup. This, of course, means that removing the customary cheese doesn’t have to equal the demise of all flavor. In fact, what resulted was an exquisitely delicious soup that I can’t stop thinking about.

1/4 cup olive oil
5 medium onions halved and sliced finely
2 shallots halved and sliced finely
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup white wine
5 cups vegetable stock
1 tablespoon white miso
1 tablespoon soy sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
1 loaf crusty bread

Heat the olive oil in a large pot. Add the onions and sprinkle with a good dose of salt. Stir until the onions are coated with olive oil. Cover and cook over medium low heat, stirring occasionally, for 20 to 30 minutes, or until very tender. Remove the cover and raise the heat to medium high. Allow the onions to caramelize, but not burn, for 15 minutes.

Add the wine to the onions, and simmer until it is almost completely absorbed. Add the stock, bay leaves, and a good grind of black pepper. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, cut the bread into 1” thick slices. Brush both sides with olive oil, and sprinkle with a touch of coarse salt. Place on a baking sheet. Broil until both sides are golden and crispy, flipping the slices as they toast.

Remove the cover from the soup, and add the miso and soy sauce. (Don’t be frightened by these Asian flavors in your French soup. They add the perfect umami flavor, or yumminess, that you would find in a meat based soup).  Taste for salt and pepper. Ladle into deep bowls, and top with a piece of toasted bread. Enjoy immediately!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Christmas Cannelloni, Part 4: Putting It All Together

Putting your cannelloni together is fairly simple once you’ve completed the crêpes, filling, and tomato sauce. Follow these steps and you will have a delicious and elegant holiday dinner!

Heat the oven to 375º. Spoon a small amount of sauce into the bottom of an oven proof dish. Place one crêpe on a clean plate.

Spoon 1/3 cup of filling onto half of the crêpe.

Fold the other half of the crêpe across the filling.

Place the stuffed crêpes in your prepared dish, slightly overlapping.

Once the dish is full, place in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes, or until the inside of the crêpes reaches 160º on an instant read thermometer. Broil the dish on high for about 5 minutes, or until the top of the crêpes starts to brown. Place two crêpes on a plate and spoon some of the tomato sauce over the top. Garnish with fresh basil, and serve immediately. Merry Christmas!