Saturday, April 26, 2008

Perfect Soft Chocolate Chip Cookies

Recently the boy said to me, "You know you've never just made chocolate chip cookies." It sounded like a fair assessment. I like putting *stuff* in them, like oats, or cherries and almonds, or pecans, or candy pieces, or peanut butter... you get the point. There is something to be said for a homemade plain old chocolate chip cookie though, and he was spot on with his request. These are magically delicious, and almost a week after making them, are still soft and tender. These are adapted from the back of the Ghirardeli bag.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour (or 1/2 whole wheat pastry flour, 1/2 white)
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup margarine, softened
1 cup white sugar
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup pureed silken tofu
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

2. Cream together margarine and sugars until fluffy. Add the tofu and vanilla and mix until incorporated.

3. Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Gradually add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients, stirring well after each addition.

4. Add in the chocolate chips and stir to combine.

5. Using a cookie scoop (or a tablespoon), drop dough by scoop/spoonful onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 9-11 minutes or until golden.

Mmm... Hot out of the oven...

Tempeh, Kale and Sweet Potato Skillet

Another recipe from the Annals of Vegan Express. This one jumped out at me while I was flipping through the book because of two things:

1. Kale
2. Sweet potatoes

Those are two of my favorite foods. Of course the problem came with the "tempeh" part and the "curry powder" part of the recipe. I've never really been too crazy about tempeh. I'd tried it prepared at home and prepared out and it just never did much to me. It had a slightly weird taste. I'd eat it, it was okay, but I never went out of my way to prepare it. I actually tried making dishes with it for a while, thinking I'd get used to it or something. It's supposed to be really good for you. Still didn't like it. Tried boiling it first which is supposed to take away some of the bitterness. Still didn't like it. So what on earth possessed me to buy it again a few weeks ago? It was on sale. Only this time, it was Soyboy Tempeh, not the Lightlife Tempeh I'd been trying different varieties of. Well that made all the difference!! I actually *liked* it, and so did the boy, and he's been as indifferent-bordering-on-disliking tempeh as I have. I thought maybe it was a fluke and we were both hungry that day, so this seemed to be a good opportunity to try it again. It was even better this time sauteed in oil with soy sauce. I do still par-boil it, just in case, but mark my words: Soyboy tempeh is infinitely better than Lightlife tempeh.

So what about the curry powder? I'll admit that I've never eaten a curry. I can't get past the smell. I decided to give it a try this time because the boy loves curries, and so I fished out a portion of dinner before adding the curry, then added it, and tried some of that too. It wasn't too bad! The recipe also calls for optional curry paste, but I left that out. I need to start small. I also left out the scallions because of my onion... thing. Served alongside some short grain brown rice, this made a yummy and easy dinner. I did have to improv a bit on the recipe though (haha like that's a problem for me) because at no point does the recipe indicate to add back in the sweet potatoes or tempeh. I figured they weren't meant to be side dishes, so I added them where I saw fit and that will be reflected in the recipe.

Tempeh, Kale and Sweet Potato Skillet

2 Medium Sweet Potatoes, microwaved until tender/firm, then peeled, cut in half, and cut into thick slices
2 tbsp olive oil
2 1/2 tbsp tamari
1 8oz package tempeh cut into 1/4" slices
1 bunch of kale, tough stems removed, torn/chopped into bite sized pieces
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 15oz can diced tomatoes
2 tsp curry powder
1/2 cup cashew pieces

1. In a large skillet, heat 1 tbsp oil and tamari. Add the tempeh, toss to coat, and cook until golden and crisp, then remove from the pan.

2. Heat the second tablespoon of oil in the pan and sautee the garlic for a minute or two over low heat until soft.

3. Add the kale and 1/2 cup of water, the canned tomatoes, and the curry powder. Cook for about 10 minutes until the kale is bright green and wilted, but not soggy.

4. Fold in the sweet potatoes, tempeh and cashews and cook until everything is heated through again.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Sesame Crusted Tofu

This one is the Food Network's fault. I have no idea what I was watching but they were making Sesame Crusted fish and ewww fish but mmm tofu yadda yadda yadda Sesame Crusted Tofu.

Now that I've made and eaten this, I realize what the fatal flaw was. It's bland. Once you've got them drenched in peanut-ginger sauce, the tofu is quite yummy, but without it... It's sesame seeds and tofu. I still like them though. Not everything has to be jazzy.

It was a bad night for lighting
Sesame-Crusted Tofu 1 lbs tofu, drained, pressed, and cut into "fingers"
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup water
1 1/2 cups sesame seeds
1 tsp salt
Olive oil for misting

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a baking sheet. Silpat is great for this.

2. Put the flour mixed with salt in one bowl, the water in another, and the sesame seeds in a third. Dip the tofu in the water, the flour, the water again, then the Sesame seeds, turning the tofu so it gets a good coating of them. Lay the tofu finger on a baking sheet. Repeat with the rest of the tofu.

3. Mist the tofu lightly with olive oil and bake for about 30 minutes or until golden, turning the tofu regularly.

To serve with this, I made a simple Peanut-ginger dipping sauce. I didn't really measure, it went something like this:

1/2 cup natural peanut butter, softened
1/4 cup vegetable broth
2 tsp rice wine vinegar
2 tsp tamari
1 tsp agave nectar
1 tbsp fresh ginger, grated

1. Stir all the ingredients together. Adjust seasonings to taste. (You might want to start out with less ginger. Some ginger roots are stronger than others!!)

I served all this with some assorted veggies (broccoli, bok choy, baby corn, chinese eggplant, shiitake mushrooms, carrots), stir fried, with some hoisin sauce, tamari, garlic, and ginger. There's really no recipe at all on this one.

Pear-Cardamom-Cashew Spelt Muffins (phew)

I'll admit, I have a weird thing with pears. I used to have a strong dislike for them. Something about the texture more than anything. I'm not big on grainy. When I moved upstate, the co-op had local pears in the fall and the Red Bartletts were just so beautiful I had to buy one. It was hard as a rock though so I put it into a paper bag and forgot about it for about a week when I went "OH CRAP! What happened to that pear?!" Turned out it was fine, really ripe, so I stuck it in the fridge and ate it later that day. It was so incredibly delicious. I wanted six more pears right that minute and I was kicking myself for only buying one. Damn my practicality!! I spent the rest of the fall patiently waiting for my pears to ripen so I could devour them. I still enjoy them, but I'm still weird about them. They have to be perfectly ripe, and ice cold, and peeled and sliced. I got a little exuberant with pears recently and ended up with a few ripe at the same time that I knew I wouldn't get to so I made Pear-Cardamom-Cashew Spelt Muffins. Naturally I couldn't find a recipe for such a thing, so I completely changed another one (Spiced Apple-Walnut Muffins from Vegan Planet) to suit my needs.

If course this could now lead into a diatribe about my affinity for spelt flour, and the arguments as to whether or not you need to reduce this or increase that when using spelt flour, but I think it's best to just accept that it's a yummy whole grain, more nutritious than wheat, and I like it in muffins.

Pardon the Easter papers. I had those, Lightenin' McQueen or Snowmen.

Pear Cardamom Cashew Spelt Muffins

1 heaping cup pear, peeled and diced
3/4 cup rice milk
1 tbsp ground flax seeds stirred into 3 tbsp water
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3 tbsp canola oil
2 cups spelt flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
heaping 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon *
heaping 1/2 tsp ground cardamom *
1/2 cup cashew pieces (not salted)

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and put cupcake papers into muffin tin.

2. Stir together the rice milk, flax goo, brown sugar, and canola oil. Fold in the pears.

3. Sift together the dry ingredients, then mix them into the wet ingredients until just mixed.

4. Fold in the cashews.

5. Divide the batter evenly into 12 muffins. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown and toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

*You could probably go heavier on these.

Mexican-Style Bean Salad

In order to get the boy to eat more veggies, I've been making serving sized veggie bags/cups/things for him to bring in his lunch every day. First week I just made assorted raw veggies and included cups of horseradish hummus. Last week I made an Asian coleslaw. This week I made a Mexican-style Bean Salad, inspired after another invention of mine (a black bean, avocado, tomato, corn salad thing. I'm sure it'll turn up on here this summer). It was really quick and easy but is pretty and colorful with a variety of tastes and textures. This is a rare onion sighting in my cooking. The boy does love his onions, and this was for him, so there they are. I made this mild, but you certainly could kick up the heat easily enough!

Mexican-Style Bean Salad
1 small red onion, diced
1 small red bell pepper, diced
1 cup diced radishes*
2 ears of corn, kernels cut off the cob, raw
1 15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
1-2 tbsp cilantro, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp tomato paste
Juice and Zest of 1 lime
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground chili powder
salt and pepper to taste

1. Toss the veggies together in a large bowl. Whisk everything else but the salt and pepper together in a small bowl and toss with the veggies. Add salt and pepper to taste.

*I used Daikon because that's what I had. Jicama would be a good alternate, but I wanted the rest of it to snack on in class :P

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Vegetable Paella

I'm a fan of (now) vegan cook and cookbook author Nava Atlas from way back. I got (the now out of print) Vegetarian Express a bunch of years ago, and loved it, and got The Vegetarian Family Cookbook when it came out, loved it, and earlier this year her newest cookbook Vegan Express, came out. I wanted it, but damn the student budget!! I have plenty of cookbooks, I don't NEED a new one.... I couldn't justify ordering it... but then I needed something else from Amazon and free shipping just makes it so easy to add on another book and... now I have it. :D

I like her recipes because it's the kind of food I like to cook and eat. It's fairly simple, not too heavily spiced, and easily altered, since we all know I like to butcher recipes, so to speak. They give me great new ideas and guidelines for dishes.

Now that I've got this great new cookbook, I'll probably be showcasing some variations on the recipes for a while. The first one is Vegetable Paella. I actually made this before the cookbook came out because the recipe is on the web already. I did alter it a bit though -- eliminating onions as I always do as my belly can't handle them, and adding in some browned Tofurkey Sausages, because I felt that it needed some protein -- and doesn't paella often have chorizo? Makes sense to me. This recipe is quick and easy and yummy, and still yummy for leftovers. It's even got me liking artichokes again. You can find the original recipe here.

Vegetable Paella

1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
1 green bell pepper, cut into strips
1 15oz can diced tomatoes
2 cups vegetable broth
1 cup water
2 cups quick cooking brown rice -- uncooked
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp dry thyme
1 14oz can artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
1 1/2 cup frozen peas
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 package of tofurkey sausage (4 sausages), cut into "coins" and browned in a little oil
salt & pepper to taste

1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the peppers and garlic and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring often.

2. Add the tomatoes, broth, rice, turmeric, thyme, and water and bring to a boil.

3. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 10 minutes.

4. Stir in artichoke hearts, peas, most of the parsley, salt and pepper it to taste, and add a little water if it seems dry. Cook until everything is warmed through -- about 5 minutes

5. Fold in the Tofurkey sausages (and/or decoratively place around pan) and garnish with parsley just before serving.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008


My mom has always been a fan of jam-and-piecrust tarts. My grandma used to make them out of piecrust scraps and whatever jam was in the house. Rugelach is similar to jam-and-piecrust tarts, and equally popular with my mother. It's a traditional Jewish cookie-type thing, with a rich, but not sweet, cream cheese dough rolled with a filling. I've seen chocolate and brown sugar cinnamon, as well as fruit and nut. These are a fruit and nut and cinnamon sugar rugelach, the recipe for which I stole and altered from one on There are seemingly a bunch of steps, but it really isn't that hard to make, and the end product is definitely worth it!!

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup softened Earth Balance (margarine)
8 oz tofutti cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup sugar mixed with 1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup each apricot preserves and seedless raspberry jam (or whatever fruits you like, do try to use good jam though, not the HFCS crap)
1 1/4 cups walnuts finely chopped
Plain soy/rice milk for brushing cookies
4 tsp sugar, for sprinkling

1. Beat together margarine and tofutti cream cheese with an electric mixer (or in the trusty Kitchenaid!)

2. Add the flour and salt and stir until a soft dough ball forms

3. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm -- at least 8 hrs.


Preheat the oven to 35o degrees

4. Take the dough out of the fridge and divide it into four portions. If you don't work fast with dough, put the other 3 back in the fridge wrapped up.

5. On a well floured clean counter (or whatever you normally would roll your pie crusts on), roll the dough out into a 12X18 inch rectangle. It's very important that it does not stick to your counter or your rolling pin. You don't want to have to reroll because the dough will get tough.

The rectangle need not be perfect

6. Spread 1/4 cup of jam/preserves evenly over the rectangle

This one is Apricot. Note the chunks of Apricot. They won't hurt anything.

7. Sprinkle a heaping 1/4 cup of walnuts over the jam.

8. Sprinkle 2 tbsp cinnamon sugar over the nuts and jam

9. Starting with whatever LONG side looks easier to you, begin rolling the dough up, jelly roll style. Again, you want to roll the long side, not the short side. It should be 18 inches long in the end.

10. Place your Rugelach-Log on a lightly greased baking sheet (you'll thank me when the jam melts), and repeat with other 3 balls of dough. When you've got all 4 logs done, refrigerate them for about 20 minutes to firm up the dough again.

11. Once out of the fridge, brush the tops with milk and sprinkle with reserved tsp of sugar. Then cut the logs at approximately 1 inch intervals, but do not cut all the way through the dough! I alternate doing them on the diagonal so I get triangle cookies. You could do them straight too to get rectangle cookies. I've also found a pizza cutter in a stabbing motion works better than a knife.

12. Bake for 45-50 minutes until golden brown. Wait as as long as you can for them to cool, then cut them the rest of the way though.

Mmm.. I wish I was eating one right now.