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Brunch, decadent treat food, recipes

Danishes! Vegan Sunday Brunch, Episode 46

At last the day has arrived for us to reveal our super-secret brunch creation! (Well, technically last Sunday would have been that day, but hey, things come up). For those of you who may not have seen our last brunch blog, we made reference to a secret desired recipe that was thwarted by the lack of a single ingredient… And today we have that ingredient!
The ingredient which I speak of is puff pastry.  Not that uncommon to be sure, but as it turns out vegan versions can be difficult to locate in fancy grocery stores where people are obsessed with real butter and whole milk.  Sure, puff pastry can be made from scratch, but there are times when you don’t want to/can’t be bothered to spend and hour plus mixing, folding, and rolling dough.  Plus, this way we can save that experience for a future post!

The recipe of the day today is for vegan Danish pastries.  Now a quick google search will tell you that a number of pastries fall into this category, but we will recreate that standard Danish as North American audiences know it.  Our Danishes involve a mostly-traditional nut-based filling,  as well as a sweet and sour lemon curd.  It seemed like a daunting task before we began, but the process turned out to be easier than anticipated, and everyone loves when that happens!


Vegan Danishes
Makes 9 small danishes

For the lemon curd:

Makes 1 generous cup – more than enough for 9 danishes

1 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (about 3 juicy lemons)
1/2 cup non-dairy cream or milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
Pinch turmeric
2 tablespoons cornstarch or arrowroot, dissolved in 2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon margarine

(Semi) traditional nut filling:
Enough for about 6 danishes

1 tablespoon non-dairy margarine
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts or pecans (or both)
1 tablespoon maple syrup (or other liquid sweetener)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

For assembly:

1 sheet of puff pastry (if frozen, thaw in the fridge overnight)
2 tablespoons non-dairy milk

Directions:

1. For the lemon curd: Combine the lemon zest, lemon juice, cream, sugar, salt and turmeric in a small saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally.  Once the sugar has dissolved, slowly stir in the cornstarch mixture and stir constantly until mixture has thickened (about eight minutes for cornstarch, and five for arrowroot).  Stir in the margarine until combined, then remove from heat.  To help it set faster, place it in a bowl in the fridge.

2. For the nut filling: Over medium heat, melt the margarine in a small saucepan.  Stir in the nuts, maple syrup, chia and vanilla and cook for a couple minutes, stirring frequently.

3. With your fillings made, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Remove dough from the fridge and roll out into a 12″ by 12″ square on a well floured countertop.  Cut the dough into 9 equal-sized squares.
4. Place a blob of filling (nut filling, lemon filling, or something else!) into the centre of a pastry square (one heaping tablespoon seems to be the correct amount).  Grab the corners of the dough and stretch them slightly, careful not to rip the pastry. Fold the corners in diagonally so that most of the filling is covered (don’t worry about leaving a little exposed at the corners).
5. Continue filling and folding the other squares. When each pastry is ready, gently but firmly push down the centre of each Danish, stretching the dough outwards as you do.  Place the Danishes on an oiled cookie sheet, brush with a little milk, and place into the oven.  Allow them to bake for 20-25 minutes, checking the bottoms frequently to make sure they don’t burn.  A note: about halfway through the baking time I looked at my pastries and they looked like tiny little pyramids with big poofy centres. I took a spoon and pushed down the middles before returning them to the oven.

Once the Danishes are finished, remove them from the oven and let them cool.  Once they are cooled, top them as you see fit.  We used a combination of the lemon curd and a simple icing made from a few tablespoons of icing sugar mixed with a small splash of milk.

Roll out the dough nice and thin on a floured surface, and cut the sheet into 9 squares.  Proceed to scatter the squares haphazardly across the counter.

Start with a generous dollop of nut filling, or chilled lemon filling.

Stretch out the edges of the dough.

Fold in the corners toward the center (they don’t need to overlap as much as pictured here, some open areas of the danish end up looking nice).

Place on an oiled baking pan and indent the centers, and bake for about 20 minutes, until golden.

Let it cool and try to resist the temptation to eat it immediately.

Top with icing sugar and enjoy!  Add a dollop of lemon curd to the centers of some if you’d like, for extra lemony goodness. 

Obviously we cannot take credit for it, but the puff pastry turned out brilliantly.  It was flaky and soft, with a slightly crisp exterior.  Even with storebought pastry dough these were some of the best Danishes I have ever had.  I think my favourite part was the nutty filling. It was not too sweet but the walnuts and pecans were deliciously soft.  I would be interested to see the effects of adding some kind of spice to the filling, maybe nutmeg or cinnamon.  Oh well, that is why there must be a ‘next time’!
decadent treat food, dessert, recipes

(The Best) Vegan Lava Cake (Ever)

The wait is finally over, blog-friends!  For our final Valentine’s Day Dinner post, we present you with… The Best Vegan Lava Cake Ever!  It may sound a little arrogant, or maybe you think this might fall under the classification of “too-good-to-be-true”, but I assure you that cake has everything you want in a lava cake, vegan or not!  I mean, I spent days trying to find or create the perfect recipe, and by the end of it I still wanted more of this cake!

Vegan Lava Cake with Ice Cream and Grand Marnier Glaze!

Before I even began I knew it would be a tricky process, so I made a checklist containing all the important qualities I wanted this cake to have.  That way, I would know when I had found success!  My checklist went as follows:

  • 100% Vegan (duh)
  • No crazy science ingredients (nothing that could be found in a science lab is allowed in this cake)
  • Holds form when removed from ramekin (looks matter)
  • Oozes out when cut into (otherwise it’s just not “lava cake”)
  • No cheating (some people take the easy way out by slipping a square of chocolate into the middle of the batter, or adding some kind of gooey filling at the end; no dice)

We could probably subtitle this post “The Birth of a Recipe”, because I plan on taking you through a little tour of how the recipe came about, and the trials and tribulations of each iterative step (but don’t worry, there are pictures!).  Before that, though, I’ll give you the final, good-copy recipe.  I think the best way to enjoy this blog post would be to read the recipe, find the ingredients, make a few portions, and then enjoy the rest of the journey with lava cake in hand (and mouth!).

The liquidy center spills out of the cake when you cut into it.  Beautiful!

Vegan Lava Cake

Ingredients:
for one 8 oz ramekin cake (two servings)

1 1/2 tablespoons vegan margarine (DO NOT use Earth Balance, use a “regular” vegan margarine like Becel)
80 grams (3 oz) dark chocolate

1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/8 cup + 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 tablespoon cornstarch

1/4 cup non-dairy milk
2 tablespoons blended firm Silken tofu
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Grand Marnier Glaze:


1 tablespoon Grand Marnier
1 small square dark chocolate (about 10 grams)
1 teaspoon confectioner’s sugar

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Melt margarine in a small pot over medium heat.  Without letting the margarine get too hot, add the dark chocolate and stir until melted.

3. Combine the sugar, flour and cornstarch in a mixing bowl and set aside.

4. Stir the milk, blended tofu, and vanilla in with the melted chocolate.  Pour the melted chocolate mixture into the bowl of dry ingredients and stir until well combined.  You could use an electric mixer here if desired.  Make sure to mix very well – vigorously whisking it with a fork works well.

5. Pour cake batter into the greased ramekin and place in the oven.  Bake for 14 minutes. The cake should be soft and slightly “jello-y” (the goal here is to have a cake that is raw and pudding-like in the center), but it should definitely look like a chocolate cake.  Remove from oven and allow to sit in the ramekin for two minutes to set.

6. While cake is baking, prepare the glaze.  Heat the Grand Marnier in a small pot for a minute before adding the square of dark chocolate. Melt the chocolate, remove from heat and stir in the confectioner’s sugar.

7. Carefully run a butter knife around the edge of the ramekin to loosen the cake.  Cover ramekin with a small plate and invert quickly.  Remove the ramekin and top with Grand Marnier glaze and ice cream!

Note: The cake batter can be made and refrigerated for up to a day in advance.  Simply make as much batter as desired, pour into greased ramekins, and cover/refrigerate.  Remove them from the refrigerator just before baking, and add one minute to the cooking time.

And there you have it!  At long last, the perfect recipe for vegan lava cakes.  These are the kind of lava cakes I always loved.  I know some people consider regular cake batter with boiling water poured over top “lava cakes”, but they are most certainly not this awesome.  Nothing beats a delicious, moist cake with an ooey gooey molten center.

Nothing wrong with a little messy melty-ness!

Now that you have seen the final, successful recipe, allow me to take you on a journey down memory lane while we examine how this delectable desert came to be.  I had been wanting to make a vegan lava cake for a little while, and I decided Valentine’s day would be the perfect time to do it.  Keeping my checklist firmly in my mind, I began the experiments.

Trial 1: With my checklist in tow  I figured the best place to start would be to take a recipe from the internet and make it, seeing how much of my checklist I could achieve with someone else’ recipe.  I ruled out a few recipes right away for either being to complex (one recipe involved minute amounts of three different kinds of flour, three different egg replacers, a few seeds, and some fruit), using the so-called “science ingredients” (agar, xanthan gum, sodium-whatever-ate), or cheating.  Eventually I found one that stood out above the others.

A sea of scalding oil over top a bed of of rock candy

It did not turn out well.  This was a recipe taken directly from someone’s website, followed exactly, and it created the horrendous monstrosity you see above.  It certainly had a molten center, but the edges were equally lava-like.  The thing failed at even the most basics of being a cake.  To top it all off, it took a full two days of alternating soak/scrub cycles to get that ramekin clean.  Whatever wasn’t molten and scalding was crystallized and rock-like.  Moving on.

Trial 2: For my next trial, I decided to go off-book a little bit.  I increased the amount of flour and cornstarch by small amount, and decreased the amount of margarine.  At this point I was still using Earth Balance.  I also kicked up the amount of chocolate a little bit.  The results from this further experiment were… disappointing, but infinitely better than the pure trash that came from the first trial.  I was able to plate the cake, but it definitely did not hold up to the checklist. 

Oozes out all over the darn plate? Check.  Holds together when removed?  Not so much.

Trial 3: My next attempt contained the first of two major breakthroughs.  I was running out of Earth Balance, so I switched to using a “standard” vegan margarine (the vegan versions of standard supermarket brands like Becel and Smart Balance).  To help stop the crystallizing problem I was having I also cut down the amount of confectioner’s sugar and lowered the baking temperature a bit, increasing the time to ensure at least a little bit of done-ness.

At least this one looks like a cake.

Certainly the most successful looking attempt so far!  It held together, just like magic, but without any major changes.  Then it hit me: it must be the margarine.  Allysia has since told me that brands like Earth Balance tend to lack emulsifiers, which can sometimes lead to oily separation during baking.  I just call it magic and witchcraft.  Unfortunately my journey does not end here: the product is too much cake and not enough lava.

Trial 4:  A second breakthrough.  Up until this point I had been using semi-sweet chocolate chips, as that was what was called for in most of the recipes I looked at, but how would dark chocolate affect the cake?  I guessed that the lower sugar content would be a big help in fixing that stubborn crystallization issue.  After baking a and plating I had the best desert yet.  The outside was moist and delicious, rather than slightly crunchy with hardened sugar.  Now I just had to fix the inside.

Looking better and better…

Trials 5 and 6: It’s now down to fine touches and small adjustments.  First change: increase the cooking temperature back to the original and drop the cooking time.  Cook the outside before the inside can heat up too much.  Results?  Definitely not cooked in the middle, but not quite oozing out on it’s own.  The second try leads to similar results.  It is clear that cooking time alone is not going to solve this problem.

Smooth in the middle, and slightly jello-y!

Trial 7: I experience a zen moment.  My mind flashes back to my days of making non-vegan lava cakes.  I remember the batter being less viscous.  I know what I need to do.  Chop the amount of cornstarch in half, add some milk to thin the desert out and… voila!

Finally, a cake that exceeds expectations!

A vegan cake that fulfills every criteria on my checklist.  Fairly simple ingredient list, a nice shape, and the filling even oozes out on its own.  It has been a long, arduous journey, but eating this trial was worth every minute of baking and waiting and thinking and scrubbing.

If you’ve stuck with me through all that text then I know what you should do:  Find these ingredients, and make yourself a lava cake.  You’ve earned it!

appetizers, decadent treat food, recipes

Vegan Surprise Dip

Hello from the Great White North!  Even though Allysia is away down in Austin, we figure I can still add a little bit of Canadian food wonder to the blog.  Even though a significant portion of the cooking talent has left the house I think I can still hold my own in the kitchen.  Today’s post comes as a little bit of a blast-from-the-past.

One of the Christmas traditions I honor every year involves my dad’s side of the family (all eighty of us!) getting together on boxing day for a gift exchange, a potluck feast, and a lot of booze.  This was Allysia’s first year experiencing this debacle and my first year as a vegetarian, so when we were tasked with bringing an appetizer I wanted to make something to show off how vegan food doesn’t have to be super different or weird.  Enter: Vegan Shrimp Surprise Dip!

The non-vegan version of this dip is something that my mom has been making for special occasions since I was a kid.  It is a delicious combination of tangy cocktail sauce, fresh veggies, cream cheese with shrimp sandwiched in the middle of it all.  If we were going to make this familiar dish for my practically-carnivorous family, we would need a reasonably facsimile for shrimp.  Luckily, I remembered spotting these in one of the local stores.

The story behind these beauties is an interesting one.  The company’s founders have a daughter named Sophie (hence the name Sophie’s Kitchen) who loved seafood, but also happened to be allergic to it.  With this in mind the parents developed a vegan alternative that looks and tastes like seafood without any of the animal products.  Judging by the rate at which my family demolished the dish I’d say they succeeded on all counts.

With that said, let’s get on with the recipe!

Vegan Shrimp Surprise Dip

Ingredients:

1 tub vegan cream cheese (we used Tofutti brand)
1 package vegan shrimp or other seafood
1 jar spicy seafood cocktail sauce (or replace with homemade)
1 1/2 cups Daiya shredded vegan mozzarella
1/2 large green pepper, diced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
Black pepper
Assortment of crackers (for serving)

Directions:

1.  Using a large spoon, scoop the vegan cream cheese into a 9-inch pie plate.  Use the spoon to smooth the cream cheese out so it covers the bottom of the plate evenly.  Sprinkle pepper over the cream cheese.

2. Take the vegan shrimp and dice them.  The shrimp from Sophie’s Kitchen are quite large, so I split them down the center and then cut them into pieces.

3.  Spread the diced shrimp across cream cheese in a layer and then pour on the seafood cocktail sauce.  Homemade cocktail sauce can be made using lemon juice, freshly grated horseradish, and vegan worcestershire sauce (lots of recipes can be found easily online), but I like the stronger “tang” of the store-bought stuff.

4. Cover the cocktail sauce with a layer of Daiya.  Use more or less than stated if needed.

5.  Cover the Daiya with the diced green pepper and tomato pieces.  We garnished ours with a few leftover shrimp, just because.

The funny thing about garnishing the dish with two giant vegan prawns is that all of the omnivorous humans instantly rushed to grab and devour them, not even realizing their non-meaty nature.  And there you have it!  This semi-traditional dip was devoured by vegans and non-vegans alike, though the carnivorous family cat wasn’t too impressed.

See you next time, internet.

Brunch, decadent treat food, recipes

Fried Tofu Po Boy: Vegan Sunday Brunch, Episode 26

Happy Sunday!

Last night I had a going away party (5 days until Texas!), which meant really obnoxious private karaoke with a bunch of friends, far too much beer, and Mario: The Lost Levels until 4am.  Mike was passed out on the couch as his best friend and I conquered the game all the way up to level 8:3, which was a heroic feat – two stages from the end!  We’d never been that far before, not even sober.  But then there was this impossible jump, and I really wanted ramen but all our friend had was vegan chicken that I ate in the morning, and…I digress.

The point of my story is that I’ve been doing some major-league chilling today, and Mike took care of the entirety of brunch.  Which is another way of saying that I’m awesomely spoiled, especially because he made fried tofu po boy sandwiches.  Turns out they’re perfect post-hootenanny food – lots of carbs (bread!), tofu (deep-fried goodness!), and some vegetables in the form of coleslaw (still counts!).

Mike seasoned the tofu with things like kelp powder and soy sauce to evoke a “fishy” flavor, since po boys are usually a Louisiana seafood thing, and then the ‘fu was battered and deep-fried to crispy perfection.  These are best enjoyed immediately (the crispness of the batter wears off quickly), and though deep-fried is best, marinated and pan-fried tofu would probably be pretty good here too.

Fried Tofu Po Boy
Makes 4 sandwiches

For the tofu:

1 block extra-firm tofu, cut into 1/2-inch to 1-inch squares
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon kelp powder
1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning

4 tablespoons flour
2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning
2 teaspoons paprika
Pinch salt
1/2 cup club soda
A little non-dairy milk, for consistency (fairly thick and gloopy)

For the coleslaw:

2 cups coleslaw mix (or shredded green cabbage and carrot equal to 2 cups)
2 large dill pickles, chopped
4 tablespoons vegan mayo (Vegennaise is the best)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon non-dairy milk
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon pepper
Pinch salt

To assemble:

2 long baguettes, halved and sliced down the middle to make 4 sandwiches
Coleslaw (about 1/2 cup per sandwich)
Fried tofu (6 or 7 pieces per sandwich)
Mustard and hot sauce (like Sriracha), to taste

Directions:

1. For the tofu: combine the tofu, soy sauce, lemon juice, kelp and Old Bay in a bowl or container, and allow it to marinade for an hour, or overnight if you’re forward-thinking.

2. Heat 3 inches of neutral oil in a large pot to around 375 F.  While the oil is heating, make the tofu frying batter: In a medium bowl, mix the flour, Old Bay, paprika and salt.  Add the club soda and a little milk and stir until smooth.  Dredge the tofu in the batter and fry 6-8 tofu pieces at a time for 2-3 minutes, until golden. Set the fried tofu on a paper towel to drain.

3. Make the coleslaw: Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl.

4. To assemble: Spread a layer of coleslaw on the baguette, followed by the fried tofu, mustard and hot sauce.

Check out that fried tofu perfection.

Serve this up with pickles, and if you’re feeling really hungry it would be great with a plate of fries or hashbrowns.

Sadly, this marks the last Vegan Sunday Brunch that Mike and I get to enjoy in each other’s physical company for a long, long time.  Our brunches will continue to live on, though, even if they’re enjoyed via Skype.  Thanks for that, modern technology!

Hope you’ve had a great weekend, and I’ll see you guys tomorrow on the last day of the year!

decadent treat food, recipes

Vegan Mushroom and Herb Gravy

Gravy is not a condiment I’ve always loved.  In fact, I didn’t start appreciating it until I became vegetarian, which wasn’t until I was an adult.  I think all that animal fat always weirded me out a little.
But vegetarian gravy isn’t weird at all, with its innocuous veggies, herbs and broth, and nowadays I’m a total convert.  Where in the past I would have eaten plain mashed potatoes (with a little margarine), I now slather my potato mountains in gravy, and it’s awesome.
Mike and I have made a lot of gravies, and we usually just wing it with no recipes or measurements.  I like it best with mushrooms since it adds a savory depth, and with fresh herbs – dried herbs just don’t compete.  

Vegan Mushroom and Herb Gravy
6 large servings (about 2 cups)

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons vegan margarine
1/2 a medium onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
10 white mushrooms, diced (about 2 cups)
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups vegetable broth (cut with a little water if your broth is very salty)
1 tablespoon soy sauce (to add a deeper brown color)
1 sprig rosemary, stemmed
15 sage leaves, chopped
2 teaspoons Caesar Rim spice (optional but awesome; if omitting, just add a little more salt)
Lots of fresh-ground pepper

Directions:

1. In a medium saucepan, heat the margarine over medium-low heat.  Saute the onion and garlic until translucent and fragrant, about 7 minutes.  Add the mushrooms and saute another 7 minutes or so, until the mushrooms start to brown.  Add the flour, stirring frequently, and cook for about 10 minutes, until the flour browns.  Slowly add the vegetable broth while stirring (to avoid clumping) and turn up the heat to medium-high.  Bring to a gentle boil to thicken.  Stir in soy sauce, rosemary, sage, Caesar Rim spice and pepper.  Heat it for a couple minutes longer to allow the flavors to combine.  Adjust liquid to preferred texture if necessary.

You want your gravy to be just a little on the salty side, since it’s usually served with bland foods like potatoes, but you can alter it to your own taste.

Proceed to slather potato mountains, Tofurky, or life itself with gravy, and enjoy!  It’s really great with fries and melted vegan mozza, too, like we did here – poutine is another one of those foods that I didn’t get into until I started making vegan gravy, but it’s ridiculously awesome.  And apparently quite Canadian.

Tonight I’m having a going away party with some friends – nothing says “I’m leaving the country” like a private karaoke room.  Hope you guys have a great Saturday!

decadent treat food, recipes

Vegan Eggnog

Hey guys!

Sorry I ditched you for Sunday brunch – it was one of those days.  Michael was in Winnipeg and I had some good ol’ French toast with my parents.  Nothing fancy, but it was good and a break was nice.

As an apology for my Sunday delinquency, I’m very happy to share a vegan eggnog recipe with you!

Mike and I tested this recipe three times, tweaking it after every attempt.  The final result is what we found yielded the best texture and flavor.  I would advise against deviating from the recipe – when it says firm silken ‘fu, use firm silken ‘fu.  Soft or what have you just won’t do the trick.

Unsweetened Mimiccreme works really, really well in this recipe – it’s a vegan cream made from almonds and cashews and it’s nice and thick without being crazy high in calories.  If you don’t have anything like it available, you can make a homemade cream with cashews (keeping in mind the drink will be a lot higher in calories), or some other similar vegan cream product.  Definitely go the unsweetened route, though – I find sweetened creams tend to have a vaguely artificial taste.  Is that just me?

And now, a word on the tofu – to get your creamy egg replacement in this recipe, it basically comes down to tofu or avocado (or some other magical thing that I have yet to discover).  I went with tofu because a) it’s high in protein, like eggs, and b) the color is more authentic to traditional eggnog.  The ONLY downside I find with using tofu (and it’s not a downside in my eyes, but it could be for others) is that it has a bit of a “dry” taste.  I don’t think it’s all the tofu’s fault because nutmeg has a dry taste too, but there you have it.  I haven’t tried eggnog with avocado but I’m sure it would be smashing, as long as you don’t mind the green color.

And please, please, please drink this with booze.  ‘Tis the season!  This is a great, strong drink and it’s not nearly as impressive without that signature boozy kick.  Do it for me? 🙂

Vegan Eggnog
2 servings

It’s important to use a combination of both spiced rum and brandy in this recipe – they’re each too strong for this drink on their own (the spiced rum is too potent, and the brandy is too astringent), but mixing them together really balances their flavor profile. Please don’t use anything other than firm silken tofu – we’ve experimented with different kinds and really does help create the most realistic texture.

Ingredients:

1/2 carton firm silken tofu
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened vegan cream (such as Mimiccreme)
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg (freshly grated, if possible)
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 oz. spiced rum
2 oz. brandy
2 ice cubes
Cinnamon sticks for garnish if you have them

Directions:

1. Place the tofu, cream and coconut milk in the fridge so all the ingredients are thoroughly chilled. Ideally, stick ‘em in the freezer for 30 minutes before making this. Make sure you shake your coconut milk well before and after refrigerating – the cream will separate from the water.

2. In a blender, blend the silken tofu and slowly pour in the sugar while blending. Add a splash of liquid if needed to keep it blending. Add all other ingredients and blend again until smooth. Pour into four pretty glasses and garnish each with a cinnamon stick and a sprinkle of nutmeg.

Om nom!  I’ve never been a big eggnog person, since I always found the idea to be kind of gross.  Who wants to drink raw eggs?  Lots of people, apparently.  This vegan version is much more appetizing to my stomach, and after testing it several times I’ve definitely developed a taste for it.  Now when I come home from work at night and it’s minus a zillion degrees and I’ve barely made it alive from the ice-covered roads, this is something I crave.  It’s interesting that a cold drink can be so warming and homey.

I’ve also got to give props to Mike for helping me with this one – he’s made real eggnog many a time, loves the stuff, and has a strong opinion on what the texture and taste should be.  Because of this, I think our end result is a lot more authentic than it would’ve been if I just came up with something myself.  Yay teamwork!

And with that, I bid you all adieu!

Brunch, decadent treat food, recipes

Vegan Sunday Brunch, Episode 17: Sweet vs. Savory Crepe Showdown!

Hey folks!

Some of you might remember episode 8 of our brunch series when Mike and I had a crepe duel.  It was a good time – we laughed, we cried – and we always knew in our hearts that it would happen again.  Except this time, the circumstances are a bit different.

Chopped/Vegan!

For those of you who don’t know, the vegan cookbook author Isa Chandra Moskowitz occasionally hosts a cooking competition a la Chopped (the TV show), where the contestants are given a theme (dessert, entree, etc) and several ingredients they must use to create the dish.  Well the theme was brunch, which meant we absolutely had to participate – you know how we are about our brunches.  As for the ingredients?

Butternut squash.  Rosemary.  Apricot jam.  Popcorn.

It’s on!

The Savory Crepe – Curried Lentil and Squash Crepes with Apricot-Rosemary Chutney


Last time we had a crepetition, I created the sweet version and Mike did the savory.  To keep things interesting, we switched roles for this battle.  For my savory crepe I went in a curry direction because, well, I like curry.  Let thy stomach be thy guide.  Here’s the what’s what:

The crepe batter used was the Vegan Brunch recipe, replacing about 1/2 cup of the flour with finely ground popcorn.  This turned out quite well – the batter was still a dream to work with and had a bit more flavor.

For the filling, I peeled, seeded and cubed a butternut squash, tossed it with some olive oil and curry powder and baked it for about 45 minutes at 400 F.  To sauce things up I made a red lentil dahl – just saute some onions, garlic and ginger, cook 1 cup of red lentils in 3 cups liquid until a stewy texture manifests, and flavor it with garam masala, turmeric, ground coriander, cumin and hot sauce.  I quickly steamed a bunch of spinach for freshness and color to complete the filling.

For the chutney, I mixed 3 tablespoons of apricot preserves with 1 teaspoon fresh minced rosemary.  Served alongside the crepes, the rosemary flavor was surprisingly pronounced and gave the whole meal a fresh taste.  Win!

The Sweet Crepes – Candied Rosemary Squash and Grand Marnier Poached Peaches with Apricot Cream


Long time, no see!  For my crepe competition entry I decided to try a new take on the classic “peaches and cream”.  I really wanted to highlight the required mystery ingredients while adding just enough others to keep it interesting.  I used the same popcorn crepe batter that Allysia did, so lets start talk about the filling!

I started by prepping the butternut squash (peel, slice into small cubes), mixing it with 3 or 4 large sprigs of chopped rosemary, and roasting it for about 20 minutes at 400 degrees.  After the initial roast I tossed the squash with a tablespoon of brown sugar and two tablespoons of apricot jelly.  I returned the squash to the oven and let it roast for another 20 minutes at 450 degrees.  When it was finished it was sticky and sweet, with just enough bite to it.  The rosemary taste was heavenly.

The peaches were halved and sprinkled with sugar before being placed in a hot, oiled pan for 10 minutes.  The pan was then tossed in the oven.  After ten minutes I flipped the peaches over and returned them to the oven for five more minutes.  To finish them off I poured an ounce of Grand Marnier into the hot pan and let it evaporate.  The booze added a nice little edge to the peaches.

Finally, we come to the cream topping.  A quick cashew cream mixed with a few tablespoons of apricot jelly supplied a nice counterbalance to the sweetness of the crepe filling.

Of course, a crepetition wouldn’t be complete without a boozy brunch beverage…

Sparkling Rosemary Limeade

This right here might be my favorite of the boozy brunch concoctions.  The spicy rosemary and sharp citrus flavors came together to make a beautifully bright drink that would be perfect for a warm summer morning.  The weather-gods must have seen this and thought so as well, today was the warmest day we’ve had around here for a while!

The bulk of this drink’s flavor comes from a sweet/sour syrup involving lime juice, lemon juice, rosemary, and white sugar.  I used 3/4 cup of lime juice (about four limes), 1/2 cup lemon juice (about two lemons), 1 scant tablespoon sugar, and two 6-inch sprigs of rosemary (just the leaves, not the woody stalks).  Toss all those ingredients together in a small pot and heat until the sugar is dissolved.  Continue to simmer for 5-10 minutes or, if you have far more forethought than I do, chill in the fridge overnight.  Strain the syrup just before putting the drinks together.

As for the last step, add 5 or 6 ice cubes to a glass and pour in 2 ounces of vodka and 2 ounces of your syrup.  Top with soda water and garnish with something pretty.

Well, I think that’s all for now, hopefully you enjoyed the finale of the crepe battle, and make sure to check out some of the other awesome entries in the Vegan Chopped brunch competition!

decadent treat food, mains, recipes

Tofuffalo Wings and Sweet Potato Fries

Happy Friday, all!

A couple weeks ago, Mike decided to be a genius and make Tofuffalo wings.  He took super-firm, pressed tofu, sliced ’em into chunks, breaded and fried them, and served them up with a ranch and buffalo sauce mix.  If heaven had a taste and texture, this would be it.

But then, we didn’t blog about it.  The reasons are vague – at best I can say it was because it was dark out and the photos didn’t fully convey their awesomeness.  Otherwise, I would have set aside everything and shared the recipe with you sooner than today.

This is the kind of meal you share with friends and family, the not-super-healthy-but-damn-tasty kind of food that isn’t too weird, even though there’s tofu involved.  For real!

And I have to make a comment on the ranch dressing.  I’ve made a zillion different vegan ranches in my day, some using cashews as the base, others mayo, and others soft ‘fu.  This time, we opted for the most authentic ranch experience possible – the seasoning powder stuff you add to mayo and milk.  I love me some home-spun vegan ranch dressings, but this is the way to go if you want something that tastes exactly like ranch.

So that’s the sauce – 1/4 cup plain non-dairy milk, 1/2 cup Vegenaise, and a couple teaspoons of a ranch flavor packet (not all of them are vegan, so read labels).  For the sake of convenience, we mix that with about 1/2 cup buffalo sauce.  It’ll be fairly salty and tangy, which is good because the tofuffalo wings don’t have a lot of flavor themselves.

For the sweet potato fries, you want to bring a bit pot of water to a boil.  Chop up a decent-sized sweet potato into fry shapes (we made ours fairly thick) and cook them in the boiling water for about 10 minutes.  Heat the oven to 350 F, spray a baking pan with cooking oil, and bake the boiled sweet potato fries for about 20 minutes.  Meanwhile, heat 3 inches of vegetable oil in a large pot to about 375 F.  When the sweet potatoes are done in the oven, fry them in a couple of batches (about 1 person’s portion per batch) for 3-4 minutes, until beautiful.

Keep in mind, too, that the smaller the batches are, the better the fries tend to turn out.  When they’re done frying, let them drain on paper towels.  Insert om nom here!

The tofu breading is a typical concoction – about a cup of flour, a tablespoon of cornstarch, a teaspoon of baking soda, and 1/3 to 1/2 cup of non-dairy milk.  It should be a thick breading, so start with less milk and add more as needed.  To give the breading a bit of flavor, we used a teaspoon of garlic salt, a teaspoon of paprika and a generous portion of black pepper.

Slice some extra-firm, pressed tofu into thick sticks – 1 very small block of tofu gave us 6 sticks.  Generously coat the tofu in the breading mixture and fry in the same hot oil used for the fries.  You can fry 6 tofu sticks at a time for about 4 minutes, until the breading is golden.

Beautiful, crispy heaven.  Toss the tofuffalo sticks with the ranch-buffalo sauce, serve with fries and greenery, and enjoy!’

See you folks on the weekend. 🙂

Brunch, decadent treat food, recipes

Vegan Sunday Brunch, Episode 11: Vegan Donuts

You knew it was coming.

The only thing I’m wondering is why it took me so long to introduce donuts to the growing collection of Sunday brunches.

The morning came too early.  It was 9am, but I was still haggard from playing a show with my band the night before.  Alas, as donuts are yeasted beasts, I was required to haul my ass out of bed to start the dough rising action.

This greatly assisted the cause:

Oh green juice.  Is anything more perfect than you?

For the donuts, I referenced The Pioneer Woman and Vegan Dad, which are good resources if you’re interested in donut-making.  Vegan Dad used flax eggs (ground flaxseed + water) in his donuts, and I used plain vegan yogurt, which worked just fine.  All the other substitutions are easy-breezy.

Vegan Donuts
Makes about 12 large donuts and some donut holes

Ingredients:

1 and 1/8th cup non-dairy milk
1/4 cup sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons vegan margarine
6 tablespoons plain vegan yogurt (or 2 flax eggs)
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 cups all purpose flour

Directions:

1. Heat the milk on a stove or in the microwave until it’s very warm, but doesn’t burn your finger if you leave it in there a few seconds.  Add the sugar, stir, and then sprinkle the yeast on the milk and let it sit for 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, melt the butter on the stove but don’t let it get super hot.  Stir the yogurt and salt into the margarine.  Pour the margarine mixture into a large mixing bowl, and stir in the yeast mixture.  Add the flour about 1 cup at a time, stirring until it gets too thick, at which point you’ll need to knead.  Knead for about 5 minutes, until the dough is nice and elastic, adding more flour if necessary.  Oil a large bowl, swirl the ball of dough around it, cover with a cloth and let it rise in a warm place for an hour.

2.  Lightly flour a baking pan.  Roll out the dough to 1/4-inch thick.  Use a 2 – 3 inch cookie cutter (or glass rim) to cut out donut shapes, and use a smaller cookie cutter or glass to cut out donut holes.  Since the donut holes are super cute and tasty, you should just reserve them and fry ’em as is.  Place the donuts on the baking sheet.  Repeat the process until you’re out of dough, and keep re-rolling the dough as needed.  Cover the donuts and let them rise until they’re nice and floofy, about 45 minutes.

3.  In a large pot, heat 3 inches of oil to around 375 F.  Fry each donut, one at a time, for about 1 minute on each side, until nice and golden.  Let them drain on paper towels, then let them cool completely on a wire rack.  Repeat until you’ve conquered all of the donuts.

Donut toppings:

For the little donut holes, we kept it simple and rolled them in a mixture of sugar and cinnamon.  For the full-size donuts, we made a chocolate glaze as per this recipe, except cutting the recipe in half.  Both toppings were completely awesome.

Aren’t they beautiful?  The last time I had a vegan donut was almost exactly a year ago in Portland.  It’s been too long.

I recommend rolling out the donut dough fairly flat, because then they’ll be nice and full of fluffy air pockets when they rise to full donut size.

Well I hope you all had a great weekend, and I’ve got some exciting news to share for next time.  So until then, peace and such!

Brunch, decadent treat food, recipes

Vegan Sunday Brunch, Episode 9: Clubhouse Sandwiches with Homemade Chips

Happy Sunday!

You might think that breakfast ramen and coffee is a theme of mine, and you wouldn’t be wrong.  There’s something about ramen first thing in the morning after a night of hootenanny.  Besides, I needed time to chill, and I needed something in my belly before brunch.  I regret nothing.

And what a brunch it was – check it.

Though definitely more on the side of “standard lunch fare”, I really wanted to make a vegan clubhouse sandwich and since it’s my brunch series, it’s my rules.  Plus, look at it.  I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t want to eat the crap out of that, even omnivores.  I just wouldn’t tell them it’s vegan. 🙂

On the side of the sammie you see homemade potato chips (method explained below) and some fried pickles for good measure.  Already had the hot oil going so why not, right?

Oh yeah!  A very important component of the sandwich was (mostly) homemade vegan bacon that Mike described as “tasting more like bacon than turkey bacon”.  Take that how you want, it was damn delicious.

Doesn’t it look delicious too?

Here’s what we did – we bought some smoked tofu and sliced it across a mandoline.  The smoked tofu is really firm so it slices quite well.  Then we marinated the slices in a few tablespoons soy sauce with a good swig of maple syrup and a squeeze of lemon juice.  The marinade wasn’t so gratuitous as to cover all the tofu, but it was enough to saturate all of the slices.  We let that sit in the fridge overnight, and then fried them up in some hot oil, enough oil to generously cover the bottom of a frying pan.  The frying process depends on how crispy (or tender) you like your bacon.  We also tried frying the bacon dry (no oil) and they still crisped up and tasted great, just a little less bacon-y (real bacon definitely has a grease factor).

You could use extra-firm tofu too, but it might not slice well across the mandoline and you want nice, thin slices for a good fried result.  You’d also want to add a splash of liquid smoke to the marinade.

Bacon thief, caught red-handed.

And since the bacon was really the only homemade component of the clubhouse sandwich, let’s dive right into the method of assembly!

Let me start by saying the bottom filling is essentially an inversion of the top filling, with the only difference being the lettuce and tomato.  Easy-peasy.

Vegan Clubhouse Sandwich
For 1 sandwich

Ingredients:

3 slices bread, toasted if desired
Spicy mustard-mayo spread (see below)
Vegan margarine
2 Tofutti cheddar cheese slices (the individually packaged American-style stuff)
4 slices Tofurky peppered deli slices
6 pieces homemade bacon (see above)
1/2 tomato, sliced
1 large lettuce leaf, torn

Directions:

Spread the mustard-mayo concoction on the two outer slices of bread, and spread a thin layer of margarine on the middle bread slice (on both sides).  On each of the outer bread slices, put on a slice of Tofutti cheese, followed by 2 slices of Tofurkey and 3 slices of bacon.  On one bread slice, arrange the tomato rounds, and on the other slice, place the torn lettuce.  Put the middle piece of bread on top of the tomatoes, and then place the half with lettuce on top of that.  Slice the sandwich in half on the diagonal and hold it all together with a toothpick stabbed through each half.  Enjoy the process of taking gigantic bites to fit all the goodness in your face.

Mustard-mayo spread

Combine:
1 big spoonful Vegenaise (vegan mayo)
1 small spoonful grainy mustard
A couple seeded and diced pepperoncini (optional but adds a nice kick and pickle-y flavor)

This was the best sandwich I’ve had in a long, long time.  It was fast to throw together, too – aside from the overnight marinating, it only took about 10 minutes to cook up a substantial batch of bacon.  Since the other ingredients were pre-made (and since it really doesn’t take long to slice a tomato), assembly was speedy.

The chips, however, took a little extra time.  But I’ll let Mike explain that one to you guys.

Homemade potato “chips” are something that I’ve been wanting to make for a long, long time, so today we figured that we would just go ahead and do it!  There really aren’t a lot of steps, so I’ll try to just go through this in paragraphs as opposed to step-by-step point form.  As usual with deep-frying, the first thing you want to do is prepare your oil.  Pour a couple inches of oil into a big pot and heat it to about 400 degrees.  The next step is to prepare your potatoes.

This step should be easy, but there are some… problems that can arise due to… clumsiness.  Wash a few potatoes (we used Yukon Gold) and get out your mandolin.  Slice up one of the potatoes quickly and carelessly, catching a good piece of thumb in the process.  Proceed to bleed on the potatoes and curse.  Bandage yourself up with paper towel and duct tape.  Continue slicing potatoes.

 After the potatoes are ready and the oil is hot you can start frying.  You want to drop the chips in one at a time, almost like dealing out a deck of cards.  Be careful not to fry too many at one time.  I did five separate batches for three potatoes.  Let the potato chips fry for 5-7 minutes, or until they are stiff and golden.  They will crisp up more as they sit.  Place the chips in a bowl lined with paper towel.  shake them to remove excess oil.  Once all the chips are finished, toss them with some seasoning salt!

As with any good Sunday morning, this one started with not only great food, but great music.  It felt like a classic-rock kind-of day, so we played a little Supertramp, some Queen, and finally a bit of Sweet to tie it off.  Success!