Thursday, December 18, 2014

Vegan Spice Cookies with Chocolate and Zesty Citrus Glaze (How the "Problem" of Christmas Gets Solved)

The miracle of Christmas for me isn't what you might imagine it would be. The real miracle is that I make it through the C-R-A-Z-Y. This is my second round of cookie baking. The first round of cookie-palooza went out in boxes and packages. I love doing this and it sort of makes me happy--for a bit. Then there is the second needed push I have for that little extra that I set aside for just us--and when I find it, I know it. I found it in this cookie. For what it's worth, I am thrilled I took a little extra time to "find" just the perfect, newest cookie recipe to try. Thrilled because this cookie--filled with warm cinnamon, ginger, allspice, nutmeg and then chocolate!, and citrus--met all my criteria for a superb trifecta of delicious and solved the problem of blah-Christmas-cookie-baking doldrums. (And kept me from going nuts chasing a five month old Pyrenees puppy out from under the Christmas tree for the one hundredth time. . .Gahhhh!)      

The unbearable stress I inevitably manage to navigate through (and I know I'm not alone here, and really, is all this whining going to solve anything--for heaven's sakes, it's the dark days compounded on TOP of it all. . . I'm sure. . . isn't it?) that leaves me completely unable to do much more than sit, knit, sip and nap. Honestly. It gets that bad. The other night, I had a meeting to attend. I know full well I am in no condition to be socializing in this state--much less sitting and maybe "lean in" here and there to utter a viewpoint. It's torture. Then there is DH and his "work" obligations. Nearly as traumatic as "family". (But I have so little family--my sister, that I have no complaints. . . however, DH and HIS family, well, that novel is yet to be written.) And we managed a visit to a dear, long time friend of mine and her beau and well, it always grounds me to visit a friend. Because like family, I have few, but the ones I do have I hold very close and dear. It renews my faith in humanity to connect with the past that way. 

Oh and then there was a "surprise-just-thought-we'd-drop-in visit". This was a complete and utter unexpected sort of drop-in. He is the father of my high school best friend and we go so far back, there is a book to be written about her and I as well and how our whole "introduction" came about because we suspect he had an affair with my mother. So long story short, in the midst of a very busy day, I get a call and he's all, "Hey, I'm ten minutes away. . . mind if I drop by?" What else can you say but yes, sure, "would love to see you!" And then, he calls from the car as he nears the house, "We're almost there!" What? What is this "we" business? Well turns out my best friend's father--in his mid seventies mind you, has found the NEW love of his life and he can't wait to show me. Because I am what he calls "his other daughter"--and it's been this way since I was fourteen. (This sort of gets complicated for reasons I am not liberty to go into much further here, but just know--the "surprise" has all just been shared with my best friend one day prior--so she is "in the know" but sort of a mess over it as one would expect because the man is. . . still married. See what I mean. It's complicated. But makes for great TV. Books. Movies.) Well visit we did. The conversations and texts that followed between my best friend and me, well, those were priceless and one can only say, Wish You Were Here!   

Along with cookies, I am in the middle of reading some novels (right now: The Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill), knitting (a lot), listening to the "Serial" podcast, and simply trying to stay focused and "settle" (like I try to tell Frankie to do when we practice good and calm commands--"settle" is a great command for both humans and canines. Knitting is a great way to "settle").    
Woke up to a very Midwest Winter Day. Snowy. Overcast. I think in the last two weeks we've had one day of for-real sunshine. I am beginning to understand the pull some of the elderly feel (not that we're elderly. . . I mean, you are only as old as you feel--and I feel, well, today a feel eighty--but most of the time, I feel a solid forty) as it relates to going "some place sunny". But I swore many years ago I'd never be "one of those" people. So meh. We just deal and cram our faces with more chocolate and seek the comforts of the little things: like great cookies.  

I would recommend making this cookie as soon as you have the time. And then save them for yourself. They are that good. Dr. Thyme prefers ginger this time of year to a cookie on this order. I told him, "There's a brick and a half of Ghiradelli in these, what's not to love?" So I did also make him a ginger biscotti and if I get the energy to post about it, should try to do so before Xmas. 
The chocolate.
The currants soaking in orange juice. *If you don't have currants, just sub raisins. I'd chop them up a bit first.
Drizzle part.
OMG. Frankie is five months old this week--nearly sixty pounds. Time flies. 

Vegan Spice Cookie
*Adapted from Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi
makes about 24 cookies

3/4 cup currants (or chopped up raisins)
juice of half an orange
1 3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/8 cup spelt flour
2 tablespoons cocoa (I used Hershey's)
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt
6 oz. bittersweet baking chocolate chopped (I used Ghiradelli) 
1/2 cup vegan butter (one stick of Earth Balance)
2/3 cup sugar
1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil mixed with 2 tablespoons of water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
zest of half a lemon
zest of half an orange
some candied orange peel cut into small pieces

For the glaze:
juice of half a lemon
1 1/3 cup powdered sugar

Soak the currants/raisins in the orange juice for thirty minutes. In a medium bowl, add all dry ingredients and spices and chocolate and whisk well to combine. Cut the vegan butter into pieces and place in a mixing bowl and add sugar and vanilla, oil and water and mix well with a blender just until it's combined--no need to go all crazy here--you still want it to be chunky a bit. Then add the currants and dry ingredients to the wet along with the zests and the mix just begins to come together. Form the dough into balls about the size of walnuts (I used a small cookie scoop). Place the cookies on a cookie sheet and put in fridge for about a half hour. While the cookie dough rests, Preheat oven to 375. Remove the cookies from fridge and bake for about 20 minutes. While cookies bake, prep the glaze and chop up the orange peel. Remove cookies from oven and allow to cool for five minutes. Then, remove from cookie sheets and place on a cooling rack placed over another cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Drizzle the glaze over each cookie using a teaspoon. Then place the cut up orange over the cookies--and drizzle again. Allow the cookies to completely cool. Store in an airtight container. These will keep for about a week. Enjoy! 

Friday, December 5, 2014

Vegan Chicken Noodle Soup with Extra Noodles: Hold the Chicken (Windy City for Windy Sisters and. . . Calling Major Tom)

I was fortunate to have not gotten ill on my short trip back home to visit my sister. At least I have that to be thankful for. Who knew you could get the flu AND have the flu shot, too? Why go through the trouble fear and doubt of getting the damn shot if a month and a half later, you're so sick you can barely muster enough strength to roll yourself over in bed. Why?! I'll take my chances! 

So Sunday afternoon, after calling my doc in the morning and demanding asking for some antibiotics, something--anything!, I took every bit of my zapped energy and got the ingredients on the counter, and into the soup pot, simmering. (Because who else is going to cook for us: Frankie?! as DH and I were both feeling the effects of this 'flu-creep" beginning to take its toll.)

My veganized Chicken Noodle Soup sort of came together based upon what I could reach without falling over. So there's a little bit of everything in here. But without it all: the seasonings, garlic, onions, cabbage, mushrooms and barley, I don't think you'd have much of a soup. And when you think about it, the "old school" chicken noodle soup I remember didn't really have too much in it other than LOTS of noodles and a wee-bit of chicken. So. Here's where the beans came in. Then the barley. Then the turmeric added a beautiful, earthy and almost curry-ish-ness to the soup without it turning into curry. The turmeric color added to the soup made it even more delicious in appearance. It's a keeper in terms of soups. We both loved it and better yet, this recipe makes enough for the next night, too. Because seriously, I wasn't cooking much in this condition.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Vegan Jelly Donut Muffins with Multi-Grain Goodness (baking through "Ovenly" while puppy-dancing. . . finally ran a 5k race and I didn't fall: Yay!)

The other day, DH and I were discussing our earliest food memories. Mine centered around my grandmother's homemade grape jelly. DH said one of his were these huge cinnamon twist doughnuts from a local bakery where he grew up. Then I added, Oh yeah, well, we had doughnuts, too--my favorite always had jelly inside and pink icing. Then there was the debate of whether or not having a food memory not tied to a homemade item constituted a food memory. Then we both sat there fighting off the urge to once again abandon all rational thought and have doughnuts for dinner. 
*I seem to have a running theme here lately with the doughnut obsession. I know not where it comes from, I just know that it is. 
After our conversation about doughnuts had run its course, I finally decided to bake something along the lines of said food stuffs, and turned to adapting a recipe for Jelly Doughnut Muffins from Ovenly. (Oh how I wish all cookbooks were this crave-worthy--more in a second on this.) I had some adjustments to make to go vegan with these, plus I wanted to up the health factor a bit--so I subbed in some spelt flour (my all-time favorite multi-grain baking flour hands down--except it usually does better for me when combined with AP flour), and omitted the eggs. . . obviously. Muffins are one of the most forgiving baking items you could manage. As I soon discovered once again during one of my "some-timers" moments.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Spicy Fried Buffalo Cauliflower N' Kale Wraps (The Blurry Puppy. . .PLUS: Cooking from Yotam Ottolenghi's "Plenty More" and etc.)

I can tell you honestly that if you crave drinking buffalo hot sauce straight from the bottle like I do, you will LOVE this wrap (though I don't recommend doing so, nor have I ever personally--but the thought has crossed my mind). In the midst of a mini-cold snap here, we had a hankering for some cold weather food favorites. Dr. Thyme and I went on our first date centered around food and the food of choice (way back before the vegan in us had emerged) was hot and spicy chicken wings. I had claimed I could tolerate any heat--the hotter the better. Spicy/Fried food lover, meet Mr. Fried Cauliflower. No one would be the wiser. And let me tell you, it even crunches like the other. (Only nothing was hurt during the creation of this meal.) I can't take credit for this fried cauliflower anomaly. The first I'd read about "frying" cauliflower was in Alice Water's cookbook, Chez Panisse Vegetables. (Or maybe one of her other cookbooks, but I do know it was Ms. Waters who has enlightened me on the matter of so many other vegetable cooking matters as well.) This recipe and making of this will require a bit of prep, and it is a little messy, but comes together in a jiff, so don't be all, I can't do this recipe with all those bowls and pans and stuff! Uh, yes you can.
Super simple and incredibly filling and tasty. Serve with a side of homemade fries. 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Vegan Pumpkin Doughnut Muffins: Ta-Da! (Skip the trip to DD and just make some of these. . . and "The Puppy Kindergarten Nail-Biter")

I couldn't help myself. I craved the damn doughnuts from "that place". It got so bad we literally almost abandoned all rational thinking and drove there in our PJs last night. That's just crazy. We're old. We could get killed doing something like that at all hours of the night! I woke up this morning and thought about those doughnuts again then threw the gauntlet down on myself at five a.m. (up at the gawdawful hour for what else?--the obvious reason: Puppy Frankenstein demanded it). To hell with it, I'm baking, I thought. So. Happy. I. Did. The Pumpkin Doughnut madness is now tamed and all is right with the world.
 (Yes, I realize this is the second "pumpkin recipe" in a row. I. Love. Pumpkin.)

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Vegan Spicy Pumpkin Bread with Ground Pepper Topping (Super Moist, Super Easy . . . and Puppy "Frankenstein" Update)

I baked pumpkin bread with one hand tied behind my back and a teething, nipping, "crazy-town" puppy rolling around at my feet. I wouldn't recommend this, but it was how my bread came together. Simple is what I'm about in the kitchen these days. Pumpkin is like my favorite veggie of all time. The ginormous display of pumpkins I nearly ran smack into at the grocery store the other day (as I navigated the aisles in a sleepy haze of hunger and loyal duty to keep the home stocked with food stuffs not related to canines) gave me the inspiration to run home and FOR ONCE bake. This bread turned out to be one of my best yet. (Of course I say that every year I bake pumpkin bread.) Lo the pumpkin bread gods were shining down on me. I love a spicy pumpkin bread--nothing too wimpy or too cake-y. I want to taste fall: cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger and new this year: fresh ground pepper on top. We shared a slice this morning over coffee as I was screaming at "Frankenstein" to stop it making breakfast. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Like A Bridge over Water with Trouble

Week two. Today Frankie and I and her sister went to the park. And Frankie saw her very first bridge, and her very first creek. Will the wonders never cease? She was absorbed by this bubbling brook and this wooden structure prohibiting her from cascading head first into that funny looking clear stuff. It was precious. However, last night, anything but "precious" came to mind. 


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