Friday, April 9, 2010

Cookbook Review & A Bastardized Recipe

When I was making up my amazon wishlist for Christmas, I came across this book:

Sweet Utopia: Simply Stunning Vegan Desserts by Sharon Valencik. Somehow in all my veg forum reading, I had never come across it. My vegan dessert book collection is pretty hit or miss. Joy of Vegan Baking? Hit. My Sweet Vegan? Miss. (And by miss I mean I got it as a gift probably 2 years ago and haven't made a single thing out of it, though I've read through it on multiple occasions) But it looked interesting, and I thought I'd give it a go. This book does NOT disappoint! There are pictures of every recipe and there isn't a single one in the book that I'm not interested in making! I'd like to work my way through cover to cover, gaining pound upon vegan pound in the process. What sets this apart from the Joy of Vegan Baking (which is a fantastic book as well, but I think everyone knows about it already) is that it is ALL DESSERTS!! Here's what I've made thus far...

Peanut Butter Mini Cheesecakes
These were the boy's pick for his Birthday, Round 1. It was like eating a gigantic Reese's cup. Totally rich and decadent, it's a good thing they're mini because it would be easy to eat way too much of this and make yourself sick if it wasn't already portion controlled. These were very popular with our dinner party guests, and we didn't suffer at all having to finish the leftover ones!

Ultimate Peanut Butter Cup Cake

I don't actually need to tell you who this was for, do I? Birthday, Round 2. This time with his parents. I only made a half recipe of this cake because there were only 4 of us eating it, and I didn't think we'd need a layer cake. It was fantastic. The frosting was so rich and creamy and the cake itself was incredibly moist with a really good crumb. I think we all ended up having two pieces, even though we were all already stuffed full of Chinese food.

Orange Burst Cookies N Cream

They're the ones on the right. That is the cookie tray I brought to Easter this year. On the left are Raspberry Oat bars from JOVB. I was skeptical about these cookies, but gave them a go and I'm really glad I did. The cookies are orangey but not too sweet, which is compensated by the filling which is super sweet, being cream filling and all. I cut them into egg shapes to make them festive for Easter. The cookies look like they'd be crunchy, but they actually stayed tender, which was great because the filling wasn't super hard, but it didn't squish out the sides. The only complaint (ish?) I had about this recipe was the cream filling recipe made at least twice as much cream filling as I actually needed for the cookies. Turned out Ok though. I made a chocolate cake later in the week and frosted it with the leftover cream. (Haven't uploaded the pic of that yet...)

Banana-Cranberry-Cashew Cookies

Ok, that picture is not actually of the banana cranberry cashew cookies. I somehow failed to take a picture of those. That is a picture of my Banana Split Cookies, which is today's featured bastardized recipe, which I altered the original Banana cranberry cookie recipe to become. I was really excited to see another use for black bananas, because I usually have tons of them since as soon as bananas get spotty I don't like them anymore. The original cookie was really good, very cakelike and moist. I decided to play with the ingredients a bit though, and that's where the Banana Split Cookies were born.... they go something like this...

Banana Split Cookies
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup pureed ripe banana
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup canola oil
1/3 cup white sugar
1/4 cup peanut butter
1 tbsp almond milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
heaping 1/2 cup shelled peanuts
heaping 1/2 cup dried cherries
heaping 1/2 cup chocolate chips

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Cream together the oil, peanut butter, and sugars.

3. Add the almond milk, bananas, and vanilla extract and stir until well combined. (Doing all this with an electric mixer really speeds things along)

4. Sift in the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Fold in the chips, nuts, and cherries.

5. Drop 1 tbsp of dough per cookie onto a greased baking sheet and bake for 13-15 minutes or until the edges begin to brown. These cookies do not spread, so if you don't want them in ball form (which is a legitimately delicious option), flatten them out a bit with your palm before baking.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Crispy Nori Tofu

I made up this meal weeks ago and have desperately wanted to try it, but things like "time" and "head colds that won't die" got in the way of me realizing my dream. Last week I got so far as buying, and marinating the tofu, then ended up on the couch in a sea of tissues after work, leaving the boy to just bake it in the oven. The marinade was apparently good -- he ate the entire pound himself. This week, a pinched nerve caused near failure again. I marinated the tofu, but then couldn't deal with cooking. I left it in the fridge an extra day, however, and last night, it happened.. CRISPY NORI TOFU!!

Ok so what is crispy nori tofu? It's marinated tofu dredged in rice flour, ground nori, and ground sesame seeds. It is then pan fried to a crispy shell and enjoyed (with or without wasabi). I served it with sauteed snap peas and left over grilled red pepper strips, and some sesame ginger rice. This time, I probably could have eaten the entire pound myself... but I shared.

Crispy Nori Tofu
You need..
1 lbs tofu, cut into slices, thickness as desired
Canola oil (or whatever you like to fry in)

1/4 cup tamari
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tsp mirin
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp ginger powder
1 tsp sesame oil

1/3 cup rice flour
2 sheets nori
3 tbsp sesame seeds

1. Combine all the ingredients for the marinade and marinate the sliced tofu for at least 8 hours.

2. In a food processor or blender, combine the crust ingredients and pulverize so it all resembles a fine flour with some sesame seeds here and there.

3. Take the tofu out of the marinade and press it, wet, into the flour mixture to coat.

4. In a cast iron skillet over high heat, heat 1/4 inch of oil. Add the tofu slices and fry 3-4 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels or brown paper bag for a few minutes to remove extra oil before serving.

Friday, April 2, 2010

3 Accidentally and 1 Intentionally Vegan Finds

I have been sick since I posted last. I wish I were kidding. Working with people, and especially people of the children variety, is actually really gross. But this should be about food, not about gross, so I thought I'd share some of my RANDOM VEGAN FINDS from today!

Today is my first day off since, well I took a sick day Monday, but before that, President's Day. I had a cat rescue mission this morning, then lunch with the boy (veggie wrap at Mr. Subb. Actually not so bad. Lots of mustard and pickles and olives), then to the Subaru dealer to have them change the oil and listen to the ticking noise, but actually their computers were down, I waited 30 minutes and they hadn't even taken my keys, and I said screw it, I'm not sitting here all day and told them I'd reschedule... so while I was out that way anyway, I stopped at the Price Chopper that has the Kosher grocery department. The Kosher Grocery is great for all sorts of random accidentally vegan things. It being Passover right now means even MORE random stuff. Awesome. Here were my finds today:

Clockwise from top left...
This one is intentionally vegan. In fact, it says right on it "Vegan Moroccan Chicken." I have never seen these before! They also had vegan sesame chicken, and vegan beefless stir fry. I have yet to try it, but it will make me a happy megatarian on some lazy night where I'm hungry but don't feel like cooking.

Chocolate covered marzipan.
My favorite chocolate bar is Ritter Sport Marzipan. I thought I'd see how these compare. In a head to head taste test, Ritter Sport would win hands down. These lack the balance of the not so sweet chocolate with the super sweet Marzipan. In fact, the chocolate is so sweet you can't detect the almond flavor... or at least I can't right now but admittedly my sense of smell and taste is still severely diminished due to this cold. It's definitely a nice, sweet, creamy bite, but for true marzipan flavor, I'd stick with Ritter.

Dame Blanche
The white lady. Holy crow this are good. It is two tea biscuit type cookies with a vanilla cream filling covered in sweet chocolate. It really encompasses a lot of my favorite things into one treat. I love a nice plain faintly sweet vanilla cookie, I love cream filling, I love chocolate, what could be bad? Fortunately these are all individually wrapped or I'd probably find myself sneaking back into the box for another one. I'm still debating whether or not I should share with the boy.

Alprose Deluxe Dark Chocolate with Hazelnut Praline.
Nothing in that description is bad. Another really super sweet chocolate. Maybe I'm just so used to a slightly bitter dark chocolate that these seem extraordinarily sweet. The hazelnut flavor definitely comes through though, and the chocolate is nice and silky smooth. I am not disappointed.

Believe it or not, I came home, tried my treats, then ate a bowl of fruit... which I guess is sort of just more sweets when you get right down to it. The moral of this story is always explore the Kosher and International sections of your supermarket. You never know what random things you might encounter.