Monday, November 30, 2009

Vegan Chewy Ginger Molasses Rye Cookies (Holiday Cookie Baking Begins!)

I've been baking a lot lately. This week it was homemade crackers (recipe to come later--still working out some details), the ever-popular dog biscuits, bread, pie and some cookies. Cookies are at the top of the list now. They will make several appearances this month in my blog. Unfortunately with my baking, I have now conditioned my dogs to surround me whenever the cookie trays and rolling pin appear--they think this is a preview of things to come: dog treats (see my previous "dog treat post)! Yesterday, I accidentally left the plastic container of treats (with the lid on!) on my counter for a, well, what I would call a split second, walked down to the basement, only to hear a thump, and crash and scrambling of paws--what did I find? A very big Great Pyrenees head shoved into said container trying desperately to help herself to as many treats as she could eat--her cohorts looking on with envy. This particular girl loves baked goods of any kind. It's left me to assume she may have been a stray living near a bakery and when the stale products were tossed out--she may have been given the scraps--or helped herself to them.

Before I go on a bit about holiday baking--here is a quick check list for you for your pantry for the season--trust me, you'll need these things:

-an oven thermometer (this is really an essential item, they cost about $15 and will test the accuracy of your oven temperature. I found my oven is off by ten degrees--that makes a huge difference in vegan baking)!
-ground cinnamon
-fresh ground nutmeg (this does not have a long shelf life so get a new jar of it)
-ground ginger
-ground allspice
-ground cloves
-jar of molasses
-bag of vegan chocolate chips
-crytallized ginger (buy in bulk at international stores if you can, otherwise you will be sticker shocked!)
-unbleached all-purpose flour
-powdered sugar (to make yummy frosting for sugar cookies!)
-colored sprinkles (to decorate the yummy frosted sugar cookies!)
-Christmas cookie cut outs
-parchment paper--a must for baking cookies!
-cookie cooling racks--another must for baking cookies!
-spelt flour
-whole wheat flour
-rye flour
-oat flour
-canned pumpkin
-Florida Crystals or bag of vegan sugar (at Whole Foods)
-Ener-G Egg Replacer
-baking soda
-baking powder
-plenty of Earth Balance Buttery sticks--lots of this in the fridge for cookie making!

I used to bake trays and trays of cookies for the holidays. I'd begin this journey about now--early December. I would spend many-a-work time hours scouring the internet for the perfect holiday cookies to surprise my friends with. (I was a very productive corporate person at one time--so productive that I actually was able to carve time out to follow such pursuits.) It got to be quite the distraction. I would bake, eat, store, bake, eat and share. I love cookies!

My cookie obsession began not with the chocolate chip kind (which usually came from a tube and usually was eaten from the tube!) but with a Christmas cookie my grandmother would bake. It was a delicious little treat that had a yellow sort of cookie dough (most likely from egg yolk), rolled in pecans and topped with a marachino cherry. The marachino cherry and I have a long history. My grandmother kept these on hand not only to top her cookies, but to add to her evening martinis. (They also ended up in some of her fruit breads--ick--not my cup of tea.) I could not be kept from them--juice and all--I loved snacking on these morsels. My other favorite cookie came from my mother, but probably started with my grandmother:
the Mexican Wedding Cake Cookie--that powdered sugar, flour, butter and pecan obsession. This cookie so often made an appearance in our home, that when they were finally "gone" we would move on to the powdered donuts (supplanting the powdered sugar cookie--those mini holes that come in huge bags--sort of like potato chips), these were a staple in our home. It's a wonder I am not a diabetic. I ate sweets constantly growing up.

So, the cookie baking begins. I usually start with something my husband loves, and not something I am inclined to eat all by myself, i.e., the Mexican Wedding Cake Cookie. He loves molasses and ginger cookies. I have an old Amish recipe for this cookie--it bakes up like a charm all moist and chewy with just a hint of sugar sprinkled on top. But in all honesty, I am trying to take the "healthier" approach in some of the baking options this year. But there will be cookies-a-plenty.

Enter my vegan chewy ginger molasses rye cookie inspired by a recipe I came across in the King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking cookbook I checked out of my library for the fourth time (or something like that). It is a huge book. I barely have room in my kitchen for my own cookbooks. But I am intrigued with this book because of the very user-friendly coverage of baking using whole grains: oat flour, barley flour, whole wheat, spelt. The list could go on and on. I love experimenting with different types of flours. You'll often find that in many of my baking recipes I post, I will substitute flour portions with flours other than "unbleached all-purpose"--usually with a very good outcome.

The many iterations of molasses and ginger cookies that appear during the holidays make it difficult to decide what to try and what to skip. I don't really like "ginger snaps"--which to me taste like a cracker doused with powdered ginger. When I came across this recipe in the King Arthur cookbook, it mentioned the pairing of rye and molasses and how the combination of these two ingredients are like a match made in heaven. I would have to agree. I love rye bread, so I thought, why not? I made a few tweeks to this cookie, I added more molasses because I wanted a chewier cookie and then I played with some of the spices. Well, and then there is the vegan part--removing the egg and butter. This cookies gets high marks because it also keeps well! Still snack-worthy three days later--it's a keeper!

Vegan Chewy Ginger Molasses Rye Cookies

1/2 cup vegan butter (1 stick Earth Balance)
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons Ener-G Egg Replacer mixed with 2 tablespoons warm water
1/8 cup of molasses
1 cup spelt flour
2/3 cup white rye flour or plain rye flour
1/4 cup diced crytallized ginger

Prep your Ener-G egg replacer and set aside. Line two cookie trays with parchment paper. Cream the vegan butter with sugar, molasses and spices--it's not going to be "creamy" as in smooth and that is okay--just be sure to blend everything really well. In another bowl, mix the dry ingredients. Add about a cup of the dry ingredients to a food processor and then, add the diced crystallized ginger and pulse several times to get that ginger into smaller pieces. Now, add the dry ingredients to the wet and with a hand beater mix until the dough is somewhat smooth. Put the mixture in the fridge for about an hour. Preheat oven to 350. Remove the dough from fridge and drop by teaspoon full to cookie sheets about an inch apart. Bake for about 13-14 minutes. Do not overbake these! They are still going to bake once removed from oven while they cool. If you have a hot running oven--then go for the lower time, if your oven is cool running, go for a bit longer or get an oven thermometer and test to see where your temperature should actually be set. These are more tasty if they are "soft." Store in a closed container and they will keep for several days.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Vegan Pumpkin Pie with Cookie Crust

A vegan Thanksgiving would not be complete without a vegan pumpkin pie. I grew my own pumpkins this year, but I am not that motivated to get all covered in pumpkin mush and gooey seeds--so they provided a nice backdrop in my yard instead. I'll stick with the canned pumpkin. And guess what, I did not need to use  evaporated milk and eggs for this! I have to give thanks for the idea to Martha Stewart. She had a delicious looking pumpkin pie in her November issue made with a cookie crust. I loved the idea of a shortbread cookie crust because I have found in the past that sometimes "dough" crusts will not hold their crisp and flakiness. I like a crisp pie crust. This pie passes all of my pie-passing tests. It was full of fall flavor--from the cinnamon group. It was easy. It held up when sliced. It was just delicious--and it holds its own without any whipped cream or other dairy derivative slathered across the top. This is truly a delicious vegan pie!

Vegan Pumpkin Pie with Cookie Crust

For the vegan cookie crust:

4 tablespoons Earth Balance Butter Stick
3 to 4 tablespoons sugar (I used Florida Crystals--you might like brown sugar, too)
1 1/2 teaspoon Ener-G Egg Replacer with 1 tablespoon warm water
3/4  cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup spelt flour
1 teaspoon fine sea salt

Preheat oven to 375. Lightly oil a 9" pie pan. Mix your egg replacer stuff and set aside. Place all of the ingredients into a food processor. Pulse several times to get a crumbly texture. Pour the crumbs into the pie plate and begin to press down and around and up the sides of the pan. Bake for 25 minutes--until the edges of the crust begin to brown.

For the filling:

3 teaspoons Ener-G Egg Replacer mixed with 4 tablespoons warm water
1 cup Silk Soy Creamer
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup Florida Crystals sugar
1 can pumpkin
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (for good measure)

First, prep your egg replacer. Place all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. With a spoon, mix well. Pour into prepared pie crust. Bake for 60 minutes or a bit longer. The sides should set, the middle can be a bit shaky--but almost set. Remove from oven. Allow to cool. Next, place in fridge and allow to cool and set for about six hours. Slice and enjoy!

A Perfect Vegan Thanksgiving Feast

First things first--running. Yesterday began very early for us. I participated in a 5k Turkey Trot Race here in town. What a great way to prepare for the day--drag your tired self out of bed at the crack of dawn to run in the cold! We woke at six--notice I said "we". My husband joined me--I am so glad he did! With him in tow with two of our dogs waiting for me at the finish line in 30 degree weather--clouds, drizzle and wind whipping across the field like we lived off a lake--I totally appreciated both the love and support! Of course, it was one of the coldest days of the season so far here, go figure. And I was cold, I'll admit it. But the prior days and weeks leading up to this, I was training for an improved run time. Last year I finished in 29 something. (And if you read this blog--you'll note I ran Sweat-4-Pets in 28:10). This year I finished my Turkey Trot run in 27:19--not bad! Did I win a medal--no. I was sad about that. I ran an average 8:50 mile. There are some amazing, fast women in my age group--there were 42 of us, and I placed 9th. I am going to improve--I know I can run an eight minute mile. So, this just inspired me to work harder for my upcoming races--oh, and there will be more, trust me! Thinking about a half marathon in spring.

So, when I set out to get my vegan menu for Thanksgiving together, I swore there would not be one single stuffed squash at my table. If I see another stuffed squash photo for "Your perfect vegan Thanksgiving table" I will scream! Come on, name one person who honestly, and I mean honestly "could really go for a stuffed acorn squash on Thanksgiving!" No one in this house. And so, I was much more relaxed this year than I was last year in planning our vegan dinner--very small, just my husband and I (let me insert here--I am not a fan of "family gatherings". Okay, let me explain, over three people and I stress out!--I've touched on this before in my blog) . I fondly refer to last year as "The Brown Thanksgiving"--owing to this horrific looking lentil rice loaf--I have sworn off those--they should be banned from ever being printed in vegan or vegetarian cookbooks. This year I would like to humbly proclaim that our vegan Thanksgiving dinner yesterday was full of amazing, tasty and wonderful eats! First, let me thank my friends at Match Meats! You helped me in overcoming my "centerpiece" anxiety. With the Match Holiday Roast--I was set and left with time to devote myself to cooking all day without the hassle of wondering whether or not my hideous lentil loaf would finally come out of the oven and "set" thus allowing it to be sliced rather than "spooned" onto our plates.

I like tradition. I stuck with tradition. Well, except for green bean casserole! Ick. I hate green bean casserole. I made my favorite stuffing--and added some of that yummy cornbread from two nights ago. My mom used to begin her stuffing early in the day. She'd cook her celery and onion in gobs of butter then add her bag of Pepperidge Farm stuffing mix, then add stock, then add butter, sage and so on. I, meanwhile, would sneak in to taste this like every time I walked into the kitchen. So it seemed the longer this sat on the burner, the better it got. I make mine based on the same principle, but sans the real butter. Earth Balance Sticks for me and veggie stock. Fresh sage from the garden and wait, slow cooking, tasting all along the way. It is the best stuffing in the world if I don't say so myself. Then, we had the cranberry salad which for me is so simple: 1 bag frozen cranberries, 1 cup Florida Crystals Sugar, 1 whole orange (rind and all) with nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon, allspice. Drop all of this in the food processor and pulse until it is all choppy looking. Yum! This gets better with time. Then, we had mashed potatoes, only this year, I added some White Truffle Oil to these and they were just over-the-top delicious! To add greatness to these, I made Shitake Mushroom gravy. Then, I popped a can of green beans into a small sauce pan and viola--pulled the meal together, plated it and look how yummy our plates looked--did we "miss" anything? Not one single bit--it was one of our best Thanksgiving Dinners yet!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Vegan Cornbread and Giving Thanks

Vegan Corn Bread--so simple, so delicious!

Today was a beautiful day for a run! A seven miler. . . only it was an accident that it ended up so long. I felt like Calamity Jane in Nikes, in the wild--I tried to find a path through a park I live near by--which I have been told on numerous occasions connects through one of my running neighborhoods--taking me about a mile from home and keeping me off busy streets. I got lost! Lucky for me I had my Nike+Ipod to keep me posted on how far off my goal of five miles I was! Lucky for me, too, that the bears, wolves and wild dogs weren't out! I was proud to have navigated myself from the direction of the sun, the topography of the path I had once seen and finally found a home I recognized at the end of this journey.

Last night we had chili and vegan cornbread. Cornbread is a big deal in this household. I almost had to enroll my husband in a twelve-step program to wean him off the blue box kind--he loved it! Until I read the ingredients to him and noted that it includes animal products, thus, a no-no in this house. I have attempted vegan cornbread from scratch many times. Each time, I find something new about the recipes available. One may be really bland, flat, too moist, too fudgy or too dry. It has been difficult. But then I turned to my favorite new cookbook, The Bread Bible by Beth Hensperger and was completely smitten with our outcome last night--creating my own take on one of her cornbread recipes.

The leftovers, of course, will find their way into my stuffing (if we don't eat it tonight). And let me say, that having lived in the south for quite some time, I don't think I've ever tasted better cornbread stuffing than when I once had it served to me in the south. I had my share of Yankee bread stuffing (my mother's) and until I broke free of tradition and felt that there was no rule guiding me--that the stuffing police were not going to show up at my door, I really never knew how fun making stuffing could be. So, with this great cooking day upon us, I am ready to conquer all of the traditional dishes we know and love--including the stuffing.

While we enjoy our bounty of vegan eats, I will be thankful for the food we have, for our health, for my husband, our dogs, my friends, my sense of humor--because it has saved me several times, trust me. And, finally, I am thankful for my ability to run and find my way home.

Vegan Corn Bread

1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup Florida Crystals Sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons Ener-G Egg Replacer mixed with 4 tablespoons water
1 cup soy milk mixed with 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
4 tablespoons melted Earth Balance Buttery Sticks
1 tablespoon ground flaxseed (optional)

Preheat oven to 400. Lightly oil a round 9" cake pan or pie plate--either would work. Mix the Egg Replacer with water and set aside. Melt the butter amount in microwave for about 30 seconds--it melts fast, so watch it! Mix the soy milk with apple cider vinegar, set aside. In a medium sized bowl, add the dry ingredients and sift well. Then, mix the soy milk mixture with the egg replacer and melted butter. With a fork, add the wet ingredients to the dry, mix just until it is all moist and combined--having dry pieces in it is okay. This is not something you want to over mix! Place in oven and bake for about 22-25 minutes. Remove and allow to cool for about 10 minutes, then slice away!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Great Vegan Homemade Pasta Mushroom Ravioli Experience

Vegan Thyme: The Great Vegan Homemade Pasta Mushroom Ravioli Experience
My first plate of homemade vegan pasta--it was delicious!

My new homemade pasta maker--I love it!

My "second attempt" rolled-out pasta shown with my mushroom filling-how adorable and yummy is that?

Well, I did it. I bought a pasta maker. It is a manual pasta maker, and I love it! So, expect to see some very yummy pasta dishes coming to this blog soon! Now, how did it come to this. I have dreamed of making my own pasta for years--years! About thirteen years ago, my mother had an Italian friend who once made a homemade pasta for us that I thought had come directly from heaven or Italy or both. I was so taken with her pasta that I believed this woman was somehow a saint and that she would be a cook in the big sky someday and that she would be dubbed a saint or whatever that is in the world of saints. Her name was Jan: St. Jan of Pasta. So from that moment on, I said, Someday, I will make homemade pasta--how hard can this be? Plus, I have Italian in me, too!

Enter yesterday afternoon and a brief detour on my way home to a wonderful little kitchen supply store in St. Louis called: The Kitchen Conservatory. I have been to this place only a few other times--once last Christmas to pick up some much-needed stocking stuffers for my cooking girlfriends, and another time--a desperate mission to have donut making pans--that day, not the next day, but that day. I loved the place but knew that coming in with an agenda for what I needed would be helpful as the "lingering" shopping might cause me to go crazy with kitchen-wish items.

So, I walk in yesterday and immediately am approached by a friendly face who asks, Was there something I was looking for? I just stood there with a look of probably, I'll take one of everything you have, but had to hold back. I said, yes, a pasta maker, and would there be an electronic one, on top of it. When she said, yes, to the "pasta maker", but no to the "electronic" answer--I was guided to the area of the store where these are housed. And then, lo and behold, I look up between my aisle and a cooking demonstration area to find an actual Pasta Making class taking place--who knew, what are the chances?! I mean, honestly now? So, I just stared and listened--trying not to be obvious because this class was of a mother and her two children (those lucky kids!)--they paid for the class, I felt like an eavesdropper. Then, this wonderful instructor invited me back to see, and ask a few questions about the "making of pasta" with--it just so happens--the exact pasta maker I was looking at. I was a bit timid, but asked anyhow, about how the children felt about making pasta: was it hard, did they enjoy it, and was it good? At that point the ravioli they had rolled out and just boiled was being served--I then smiled and left them to enjoy their creation to read further about this possible purchase. When the class was over, the woman teaching the class came by and now that class was over answered a few more of my questions. I was hooked! No question. The only problem now was what about the main ingredient--the flour. Lucky for me, they sell the "00" wheat flour for making the pasta--imported from Italy. And I really wanted to roll out my own ravioli--what did she use? She explained that rolling it out with a formed cutter is not her preferred method, but that she likes the ravioli to have its own unique shape--looking more homemade so she uses a pizza-like roller with a wavy edge. I bought one of those and, topped it off with a silicone mat to place on my counters to prevent me from having to "over flour" my pasta making surface. I was set. Turns out the woman helping me was actually a prominent figure in the store and runs the blog on their home page called: What's Stirring. Lucky for me! I was guided to her posts for any further questions I might have about making pasta. I told her I was a vegan and that the egg option was out--she said, No problem, you'll just need water! I was thrilled! I had my pasta maker and headed home, ready for sainthood!

Again, I was a little leary of making my first pasta and read a few blogs about pasta making before attempting anything. I also had several cookbooks on pasta making. I even had a new vegan cookbook that used silken soy and other soy stuffs to make the pasta dough. I stuck with the "just add water" idea and went to What's Stirring blog for insight. Aside from the added egg, there was also a bit of olive oil. I began my experiment. It was 4:00 o'clock. By 5:00 o'clock I was cursing the machine and my stupid ideas--I became emotional and begged my husband for help--something wasn't working. My pasta was too thin, goopy and not appearing to be of the ravioli sort. He, being a scientist took a look at a few things and said, This is not rocket science, quit looking at cookbooks and just follow your instincts--it's just dough. And after my hissy fit and my first ruined batch of pasta in the trash, I set out for a second attempt. This time--I did it, and just by feel and no measurements at all! It worked--my husband is so smart! I made my first ever homemade vegan ravioli pasta! This is a very big deal to me, so I hope this inspires others to attempt making homemade vegan pasta--it is like heaven in the mouth--truly! I loved it.

A few hints--it's okay to screw up the first batch. I am not perfect (and it is hard for me to admit this). So I share my story to inspire you. The second hint--without egg, the pasta will look very pale. I remembered reading once somewhere that to add a yellow hue to a vegan pasta, you could add a pinch of tumeric--brilliant idea, but I honestly cannot remember where I read this. Third--never, never get your pasta machine wet--wipe with a dry cloth! (It tells you that in the instruction booklet, but it bears repeating--we are such a clean freak society, honestly.) So, that said, here is my not-so-exact recipe for your own vegan pasta!

Homemade Vegan Pasta: Mushroom Ravioli

1 cup of semolina flour (if you can get the "00" kind, do it!--if not, I don't know what to tell you--maybe regular semolina)
1/4 cup water plus more (enough water to bring the dough together--use your hands!)
1/8 teaspoon tumeric
1 teaspoon olive oil, maybe a bit more--just feel it

First, prep your marinara. You know, like 6-7 cloves of garlic, some olive oil--4 tablespoons, some cans of fire roasted tomatoes (2) and red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar, basil, oregano--maple syrup to take away the tang taste--whatever else you'd like. Just let this simmer. Next, prep your mixture for filling the ravioli. I made this simple--just diced 1 package of portobello mushrooms, onion, garlic and cooked in olive oil on medium heat, then turned to low until the mushrooms release their juices. Next, set a large pan of salted water on the stove to begin heating. You will want this water boiling before you start to cook the pasta ravioli. Now, prepare the pasta dough. Place the flour in a bowl and with your hands begin to press and pull and blend with the other ingredients. When the dough forms into a ball and no longer sticks to your hands, get the pasta machine ready. Set the machine on the widest setting. You will knead the dough by running it through this setting about 10 times. Run it through, fold it in half, run it through, fold in half. The dough will magically begin to become more silky. Now, begin to run the dough through each consecutive number (making thinner and thinner pasta) until you reach your desired thin-ness. Now, for me, this is where I messed up the first time. It was stated to get the dough thin enough to read a newspaper through it--this is where I think I got hurt. I took that literally. The actual final setting I ended on was "five" for rolling out my dough and filling with my mushroom mixture for my ravioli. Lay this dough out in strips. Pile about a teaspoon of filling across making sure you make space for the top part of the other half of the pasta dough to fit over and also for room to run the ravioli cutter across. Press the edges together and sort of watch this--you might have air bubbles, but that is okay--these will work themselves out when you boil the pasta. This recipe was delicious and perfect for a first time out with my pasta-making! I cooked the ravioli in boiling water for about 3 minutes, removed it with a strainer and topped with marinara. Simple and sublime!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Vegan Orange Clementine Quick Bread

This bread made a wonderful breakfast snack!

This is a gift-sized vegan orange clementine loaf baked to perfection!

Orange was a favorite food "color" of mine when I was growing up. Or maybe it was my mother's. I just know that orange food stuffs seemed to make an appearance in my home quite often. I was sick a lot as a child--I had asthma so bad that I'd end up in the hospital, missing school and being put back together with cold orange drinks and cold orange food. My mother used to keep orange Kool Aid in the fridge on a regular basis. Orange sherbert, oranges, orange Tang (now I am showing my age), orange popsicles, orange Jell-o, even orange Flintstone vitamins. It was all out orange for curing just about any problem I ever had. Fortunately for me, my taste for orange never went away. I love the smell of citrus--both orange and lemon flavors. I guess I equate this with my childhood and remarkable healing properties it offered me as I was mending. To this day, for my Gatorade thirst quenching after a run--I look for the orange bottle.

The citrus season is upon us--I love it! Coincidentally, so are the holidays. Oh, and BTW, you can now purchase those cute bread tins for less than a buck right now--great gift holders! There is no better time in the world to look for citrus jewels to pop up in your grocery stores. Most prominently are the clementines. I love these things--and you have to buy them in super huge quantities to get the best brands--so why not make bread from them! So when I saw a recipe in Martha Stewart's November issue for a Clementine Quick Bread, well, I just had, HAD to try it--only creating my own version, and, making it vegan. Martha's recipe called for several things that I modified. For instance, she asked for two vanilla bean pods scraped--well, these are quite pricey, so I just used one, then added a bit of almond extract and more vanilla extract to compensate for the differnce. Also, she uses heavy cream, I use soy buttermilk. I played with a few more things--like not using ten clementines--I subbed with a bit of orange juice--I am cheap that way. But this did not affect the flavor of this wonderful, moist bread one bit!

Vegan Orange Clementine Quick Bread

6 clementine oranges
3/4 cup soy milk mixed with 3/4 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 cup orange juice
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick Earth Balance Butter
1 1/4 cups Florida Crystals or sugar
1 vanilla bean pod, cut open and scraped
3 teaspoons Ener-G Egg Replacer mixed with 4 tablespoons warm water

Preheat oven to 350 and lightly spray one 9 x 5 loaf pan or two of the smaller aluminum loaf pans for gifts. First, place 3/4 soy milk plus apple cider vinegar together in a small bowl and set aside to create your magical vegan buttermilk! Next, prep your Ener-G Egg Replacer together with water, whisking well, then setting aside. Place dry ingredients in a bowl: flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt and set aside. Place cut up pieces of Earth Balance pieces in a separate bowl with sugar and scraped vanilla bean mixture--mix with hand blender until nice and fluffy--about 2-3 minutes. Next, add to this bowl the zest of 4 clementines--blend again. Next, add the Ener-G Egg Replacer 1/4 cup at a time to this fluffy butter mixture. Mix well. Juice the zested clementines and place in a separate bowl--which will give you almost half a cup. To get to 3/4 cup of juice, add about a 1/4 cup of orange juice. Now, take a 1/4 cup of this juice mixture and place in a small bowl. Next, add to this juice your vegan buttermilk, vanilla extract and almond extract--mix well and set aside. Take remaining 2 clementines and peel and remove pith and cut up into segments and set segments aside in a bowl. Now, add to the butter mixture altenating amounts of flour mixture and buttermilk mixture--beginning and ending with flour mixture. Blend this on low speed. Next, fold in the clementine pieces. Pour the mixture into your loaf or double pans evenly--bake for approximately 40 minutes for two smaller loaf sizes, and for 50-55 minutes for 1 loaf pan. Look for the tops of the loaves to brown a bit. While these are baking, take remaining orange/clementine juice and add 1/2 cup sugar to it in a small pan. Bring to a boil, then let simmer about 5 minutes, remove from heat. This will be the glaze you will use over the bread once it comes out of the oven. When the bread is finished baking (test with a knife inserted in the middle for doneness)--set on a cooling rack. After about five minutes, brush with the orange/sugar mixture. Let bread cool completely, brush some more and place in fridge overnight. This bread gets better the longer it sits. If your giving as a gift--I would keep in the aluminum loaf pan and gift it that way. It is terrific for breakfast! Moist and very orangey!

Vegan Cheddah Dog Treats (Woof!)

These vegan dog treats were a hit--trust me!

One of our sweet girls, Annabelle, waiting for her treat--big smile for Mommy!

Here is my cooking zone being guarded by my sleeping girl, Moonpie, just as the treats went into the oven!
These are very simple to prepare, cut out and pop in the oven.

Have you walked into Dog Treat stores and looked around wondering, hmmm--looks like something I could do? I have. I don't take my dogs to the boutique stores and allow them to sniff this or that, being petted by strangers and all--they get plenty of that here at home and in the backyard and when friends come over. My husband and I will take a few here and there on our walks and will mix the group up (because there is absolutely no way we could ever take them all at once--my vet visits are broken up into four trips!). The canine kids we have are, shall I say--a tad spoiled by their mom and dad--I adore and cherish my kids! So, a few weeks ago as we were registering folks for our fundraiser all day one Saturday, I found myself in one of those Dog Treat stores--for four hours. I smelled the goods, watched the dogs come in and out with their companions and those very companions inevitably walking out with a bag or bags of goodies for their four-legged loved ones. It was sheer joy to see! I missed my own kids so much that by the end of the day, I, too, found myself walking out the door with bags of goodies in tow. One gentleman affiliated with our fundraiser asked me to try one of the dog treats. He said, My wife and I buy these and will eat them ourselves! I smiled politely and declined. But he persisted--They have the most incedible taste--you should try these. Well, first of all, they looked like mini peanut butter cups, so I thought that would be silly because everyone knows dogs get very ill from chocolate. Then I shared that I was vegan and I doubted that these were vegan. He would not let it go until I tasted a morsel. So my friend and I split a mini--it was just okay--nothing I'd write home about. But I worried about the ingredients and asked the clerk whether they were vegan, Uh, no--they are made from melted yogurt chips. Well, thanks to my friend's cajoling, I had just consumed a non-vegan dog trreat!

When I got home, my dogs shared in their new bags of goodies for several days. I watched closely (like a mother over a child) testing each response to the treats. Was the ginger more favored than the peanut butter. Did the dipped treat seem too "over-the-top"--my dogs are not food snobs--but they have been known to shun certain foods for whatever canine reason they felt at the time. It made me curious about my own abilities at crafting a vegan dog treat. Well, thanks to Google and the thousands of results I found when I entered "dog biscuit recipes", I began my first baking expedition exclusively dedicated to my four-legged kids. I researched all of the ingredients I wanted to use, making sure nothing I added could harm my dogs. I modified a Martha Stewart recipe (I really like Martha). She used cheddar cheese and barley flour in her treats. I changed the flour option and also used vegan rice cheddar for my cheese. Other than that--these treats were just a joy to make and even more fun to watch my kids (who for some strange reason would not leave my side all the while I was rolling and cutting out these cookies!)--they are very smart dogs! These would make a great vegan dog lover Christmas gift--they were easy as pie to make and smell so good while they are baking (and yes, I even taste-tested them myself. . .just to be sure).

Vegan Cheddah Dog Treats

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup vegan rice cheddar cheese
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons (or more for bringing the dough together)

Preheat oven to 350. Line two cookie trays with parchment paper. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. I used my spoon at first, then just used my hands to get a good dough to form. Then place on a lightly floured surface and roll out to about 1/4 " thickness. Use whatever cookie cutter shape you'd like. Place cutouts on cookie sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes. Remove from oven and place AWAY from the kids so they can cool completely. Place in a container and these will keep for up to two weeks.Woof!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Vegan Tutto Mare (A Restaurant Fish Tale)

This pasta sauce works well with a thick noodle. . . helping to hold the sauce!

Years ago I was introduced to this wonderful pasta dish in St. Louis--Tutto Mare. St. Louis has a rich legacy of Italian restaurants--the place to go is called The Hill--as in this geographic location is the cat's meow as far as Italian culinary delights and selections go. As its name implies, this dish is a "fish pasta" (I was unaware what this meant at the time). First, let me tell you what lead me to create this as a vegan dish--sans the fish. Yesterday, when the sun broke out for the first time in five days, I just had to get outside and run. I got in 5 miles--hills and speed. I kept my pace at about 10:40--not bad, but just right. I'm running a 5k Turkey Trot next Thursday so I need to keep my pace and endurance up. Would it be nice to medal again--YES! With the past week's gloomy weather heavily impacting my sweet tooth, I had been hitting the gym vs. running outdoors. This is not my favorite venue for running, and if you talk to most runners, they might agree that treadmill running is like rowing a boat through mud. I would rather not. When I finished my run, I was famished and craved a good pasta. Pasta is to running like chocolate is to soy milk!

I used to love creamed pasta dishes, that is, pasta slathered in heavy cream and lots of butter and garlic. But alas, this sort of eating will add pounds and kick the old cholesterol off the chart. But I could not resist ordering it on the few occasions when we would dine out. So Tutto Mare came to mind yesterday. So did stuffed canneloni, but I opted for the fish sort instead. This dish traditionally will have various types of fish tossed about in a creamy sauce--sometimes the sauce has a tomato bend, sometimes just cream. Shrimp and clams and scallops usually make an appearance with lots of onion, basil and garlic. It usually arrived in a large bowl, enough to feed the entire table--and usually I'd end up taking it home for noshing on the next day.

So I set out on this adventure to replicate my own version of Tutto Mare. I bought some really fun pasta noodles a few weeks back--thick and hallow in the middle--like straws. I used this pasta for this dish because I thought it would make for a lovely contrast and that the hearty noodle would really emphasize the sauce--it worked well! Here is what I came up with. I think I hit the nearest mark possible. If you decide to try this, be sure to check your pantry for Nori Seaweed sheets and for either a package of Match Meats Crab (which is what I used) or a package of Extra Firm Tofu (as you can make mini-crab-like cakes from tofu as well--by adding crumbled Nori seaweed into the mixture).

Vegan Tutto Mare (A Restaurant Fish Tale)

Making the 'vegan fish' part

10 oz. of your favorite wide noodle pasta cooked al dente (reserve a cup of water from cooked pasta)
Olive oil--if you have lemon flavor--that will work beautifully
*1 package Match Meats Crab or 1 pkg. Extra Firm Tofu (drained)
*bread crumbs (optional in the tofu mixture)
2 scallions sliced
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon spike seasoning
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
1 sheet Nori Seaweed, crumbled
3 tablespoons flour (for dredging the medallions in before cooking)

Preheat oven to warm--for holding the cooked medallions while you work on the sauce. Place either the Match Crab or drained tofu in a bowl and add remaining ingredients. Stir with a wooden spoon to combine. If you find that your tofu is not coming together for you--just mix in some dried bread crumbs with this--and gently shape into about half dollar size medallions and set on a plate. Heat 2 tablespoons or more olive oil on medium high heat in a medium sized saute pan. Dredge the medallions in flour and carefully place in pan. Cook on medium heat for about 5 minutes each side. Carefully turn over! When medallions are finished, place on cookied sheet and keep in the oven until ready to serve.

Cook the pasta

Cook your pasta according to package directions--again, a thick noodle would work well for this. Reserve about 1 cup of the pasta water for use in the sauce. Drain the pasta and place in a bowl tossing with a flavored olive oil if you have it.

Making the sauce part

Some good olive oil on hand
2 onions chopped
5 cloves of garlic chopped
1 can fire-roasted tomatoes
1 cup white cooking wine
2 cups veggie stock
1 teaspoon fennel seed
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 sheet Nori Seaweed crumbled
6 tablespoons Earth Balance--divided
Spike Seasoning or S & P to taste
3 tablespoons flour
1/3 cup Silk soy creamer
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons soy parmesean (more for sprinkling on finished pasta dish)
1 cup of cooked pasta water

Drizzle about 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large saute pan on medium heat. Add the chopped onion and garlic and seasonings and cook for about 5 minutes, until the onions begin to soften. Next, add the white cooking wine. Allow this to reduce by about half--it should take another five minutes. Next, add the veggie stock and fire roasted tomatoes and crumbled Nori Seaweed. In a separate small sauce pan, melt 3 tablespoons of the Earth Balance butter and whisk in the flour. Add this mixture to the broth mixture whisking while adding it. This should thicken the sauce quite a bit. Next, add the Silk soy creamer and the balsamic vinegar and keep stirring. Next, take the last 3 tablespoons of the Earth Balance and whisk 1 tablespoon at a time into the sauce. Why do this? Because I found that the sauce needed a bit more heft as I was tasting it. I felt the "fat" content needed a bit more help. Then, I added maybe a half cup of the cooked pasta water. You should eye ball this and taste as you go--your own spin here is what counts--getting the right texture and flavor. Add the 2 tablespoons of soy parmesean and mix well. If needing it, add more soy creamer--your call--taste as you go! Mix again and allow to simmer for a few more minutes. I added a pinch of fine sea salt. This sauce will thicken as it cooks. Remove from heat and allow to sit a bit and it will thicken more. Place cooked noodles in center of plate. Top with some sauce and a few of your "vegan fish" medallions and enjoy!



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