Sunday, January 29, 2012

Depression Era Chocolate Cake

A friend recently sent me a recipe for a depression era chocolate cake,  a dessert created during a time when many people watched their wealth disappear and had to learn to make do on a very meager budget.

Interestingly, she sent this recipe at the same time our family decided we needed to define and stick to a budget. Bear with me here, I feel I need to rant a little bit but I will eventually get to the the chocolate cake recipe, I swear!

I have never really had a set budget before, especially when it comes to grocery shopping. I typically go to the store without a list, put whatever looks good in the cart and come home with not only the basics but also all sorts of other wholesome goodies. I always buy organic and look for natural, non-GMO, certified fair trade and vegan foods.

Shopping on a budget has been a real eye opener.  Now that I am looking more closely at price tags I realize that the system that supplies our food is egregiously flawed.  The fact that it is cheaper to buy processed, calorie dense, nutritionally deficient food the likes of fat and sodium-laden frozen meals, chips, and cookies manufactured using all sorts of nasty, unpronounceable chemicals instead fresh, organic wholesome food, including fruits and vegetables is, well...backward.  No wonder our nation is nutritionally challenged and obese.

Our system desperately needs to be revised to reward farmers for producing nourishing food instead of crops intended primarily for livestock feed and the manufacture of ingredients that produce empty calorie food additives (i.e. high fructose corn syrup).

Thankfully I am in a position to be able to adjust a budget to include fresh, organic and wholesome food. However, much of the U.S population is not and the fact that their ability to regularly eat healthfully is hindered is just plain wrong.  I mean, of course, people  who are struggling to make ends meet will choose less expensive things they can afford.  I can remember as a kid my Mother would stock up on fresh produce because she did shop on a  budget, was concerned about healthy eating,  and that is what was cheap.  My, how times have changed.

So, that brings me around to the depression era cake recipe which was, no doubt, created out of a need to eat frugally. While not necessarily healthy it does fit into the budget and is certainly better than the prepackaged, high fructose corn syrup, fat and cholesterol laden desserts that are found in your grocer's freezer. And it is out of this world delicious. Probably the best vegan chocolate cake I have had!

The chocolate ganache icing was not part of the original recipe, that is my own. I decided it would be a nice addition but you can finish your cake any way you desire.

Depression Era Chocolate Cake

For the cake:
3 cups flour (I used all-purpose but whole wheat will work, too)
2 cups organic pure cane sugar (you could also use brown sugar)
1 tsp sea salt
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 cup oil (I used canola)
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups water

For the ganache:
3/4 cup vegan chocolate chips (I used Ghiradelli Semi Sweet)
1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp non-dairy milk (I used So Delicious Unsweetened Coconut)
2 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp strong brewed coffee (I used French Vanilla flavor)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl mix the dry ingredients until combined.  Add the rest of the ingredients and stir with a whisk until there are no lumps.

Pour batter into a lightly greased 9x13 pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan.

While the cake is cooling, heat the ganache ingredients in a double boiler until very smooth. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for about 15 minutes.

Ice the cake (while still in the pan) with the ganache by pouring onto the cake and spreading with a cake spatula.

Serve once cake and ganache have cooled completely.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Mushroom Wellington

Let me start by telling you that I know this is not really a Wellington.  I have had Wellington on the brain for a little while now.  A Twitter pal recently made a Wellington and I guess that is what got me thinking about it.  His was quite fancy and appeared to be a lot of work: home made puff pastry wrapped around home made seitan with  "duxelle" and "prosciutto".

Mine is not nearly as fancy and came together easily, which worked out well since I had spent the day working and needed to get something together rather quickly. Plus, truth be told, I don't really like seitan. Perhaps I am the only vegan on earth that does not swoon over the stuff but it just isn't my thing. Don't get me wrong- I will eat it but I won't go out of my way for it.

I decided to keep my Wellington simple. It was wonderfully flavorful and a big hit with Mr. Meat and Potatoes! I think I will have the leftover for lunch tomorrow which is really saying something because I am not necessarily known for eating leftovers.

Mushroom Wellington

1 sheet puff pastry (I used Pepperidge Farm)
3 tbsp olive oil, divided
1 russet potato, sliced thin
8 oz cremini mushrooms, chopped
5 oz shitake mushrooms, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
3 kale leaves, chopped
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
2 tbsp thyme, chopped
1 tbsp sesame seeds
1 tsp onion powder
1 tbsp non dairy milk (I used So Delicious Unsweetened Coconut)
Salt and Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

On a baking sheet lined with foil lay the potato slices in a single layer and drizzle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, salt and pepper.  Roast for 20 minutes until soft.

While the potatoes are roasting, in a saute pan over medium heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil, the mushrooms, garlic and kale.  Season with salt and pepper.  Saute until the mushrooms are tender and then add parsley and thyme.  Cook a few minutes longer and remove from the heat.

Remove the potatoes form the oven.  Place a puff pastry sheet on a lightly greased baking pan.  Place a single layer of potatoes on the puff pastry sheet. Leave room around the edges so that the potatoes cover about 2/3 of the puff pastry sheet.  Add the mushroom mixture over the potatoes and top with another layer of  potatoes.

Fold the puff pastry over the mushrooms and potatoes and press to seal across the top. Be sure to also seal  the outer edges of the short side of the puff pastry.  You will end up with something that looks like a loaf of bread.  Gently flip or roll the loaf over so that the seam is on the bottom.

In a shallow dish mix the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and non dairy milk with a whisk.  Lightly brush the top of the loaf with this mixture and then sprinkle the onion powder and sesame seeds on the top.

Bake at 375  degrees for 35 minutes until puff pastry is golden brown.

Allow to cool for about ten minutes before slicing and serving.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Curried Carrot Coconut Soup and a Great Cafeteria

I am not sure I ever told you about the cafeteria of the Center City Philadelphia building I work in. I can assure you it is like no other corporate cafeteria you have seen or eaten in. Situated on the 43rd floor of the tallest building in Philadelphia the views form the floor to ceiling windows are stunning. And the food is very good, too. Not your typical cafeteria food with lots of vegan options every day.

The Thai Carrot soup I had recently was good enough to motivate me to try to replicate it at home. Now, that is saying something! It had a lovely carrot flavor, a hint of spicy heat and a creaminess derived from the coconut that was really nice.

I set out to create a version of this soup at home. Mine actually turned out quite differently than the one I had in the cafeteria but it was no less delicious. It is quite spicy, so if you are not a big fan of spice you may want to adjust the recipe.

I feel very lucky to work at a place where I never have to worry about what is being served on days I do not bring a lunch or  don't have time to leave the building- I am always covered!  What about you? Do you have a work lunch spot that never fails you?

Photo courtesy of City Profile

Curried Carrot Coconut Soup

8 carrots peeled and cut into large chunks
1 can coconut milk
4 cups vegetable stock
2 tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 small yellow onion, chopped
4 1/2" thick ginger slices, peeled and chopped
1 tsp tandoori paste
4 dried red chili peppers (to reduce the amount of heat use less)
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1 tbsp tamari sauce
1/2 cup non dairy milk (I used So Delicious Unsweetened Coconut)
Salt and pepper to taste
Cilantro for garnish (optional)

Place the 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot over medium heat and add onions, garlic and ginger. Season with salt and pepper. Allow to cook a few minutes until the onions become translucent. Add the tandoori paste, stir and then add the carrots. Continue cooking about five minutes more and then add the can of coconut milk, vegetable stock, tamari sauce, dried chili peppers, curry powder, coriander and dry mustard. Bring to a boil over medium and the reduce the heat to low and simmer for at least an hour. The carrots should be very soft. This could take an hour or more.

Once the carrots are softened  remove the dried chilis from the soup and place the mixture into a blender. Blend until very smooth. If you do not have a large enough blender to do all of the soup at once you may do it in batches. Once blended put the soup back into the pan over low heat. Add the non dairy milk and continue to cook for another fifteen minutes or so.

Garnish with cilantro (if desired) and serve.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Crunchy Chick'n

Do you have a favorite non-vegan childhood meal? You know, the kind that when your Mom said you were haivng it for dinner you did an internal happy dance? For me, it was something called "Crunchy Chicken" which was a family favorite.  It was super simple, consisting of only checken breast, butter and potato flakes.  When cooked it was transformed  into a main dish that was wonderfully tender on the inside and crunchy and buttery on the outside.

I can vividly remember the nights I was assigned clean up duty after having had this for dinner; taking a spoon an eating all the remaining buttery crunchy potato flakes from the pan it was cooked in before washing it.

My family loves this dish and I make it on occasion for them, but for some reason I have never even given any thought to creating a vegan version of it. Upon a recent request for this meal I decided that since there are now two non-meat eaters in the house (my son is newly vegetarian!) it was time.

All I can say is that I loved eating this bit of nostalgia and my son ate it (and loved it) too!

Have you created a vegan version of a childhood favorite? I would love to hear about it!

Crunchy Chick'n

2 Gardein Chick'n Scallopini
1 cup unseasoned potato flakes (read the ingredients on the box- not all are vegan)
1/2 stick plus two pats vegan butter (I used Earth Balance)
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Melt the half stick of vegan butter and place in the bottom of an oven safe dish.  Add one half of the potato flakes and stir.  They will absorb the butter. Place the frozen Gardein Scallopini in the pan and spread some of the potato flake mixture on top of them, ensuring some remains on the bottom. Cover with the rest of the potato flakes, place one pat of butter (cut into pieces) on top of each scallopini.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper. You can spray the scallopini with olive oil cooking spray to help the browning process while cooking but this is not required.

Place in the oven and bake at 350 for about thirty minutes until the potato flakes are nicely browned. Those on the bottom of the pan will likely be a bit more brown than those on top; that is OK.

 To serve, scoop some of the crunchy goodness from the bottom of the pan onto the top of the cooked scallopini.


Sunday, January 22, 2012

A Night Out in Philly- Estia

If you read my recent post about business travel and eating vegan you know I am not shy about asking a non vegan restaurant to make me a vegan meal.  On Saturday night we headed into Philadelphia to dine at Estia, a Greek Mediterranean Restaurant which is decidedly non vegan.

Estia Chips- alone worth the trip to Estia.

We needed a restaurant close to the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts as my 13 year old son (a rather talented aspiring musician) and his girlfriend (also a musician) went to see the Philadelphia Orchestra perform Beethoven's 3rd. It worked out perfectly!

We sat down and were greeted at the table with some bread and hummus.

I let the waiter know that I would like a vegan meal and he went to speak to the Chef. He returned asking if eggplant would be ok. Um... yes! I love eggplant.

A little while later the waiter returned with some fresh veggies, just for fun!

The Estia Chips- crispy lightly fried zucchini and eggplant, perfectly seasoned and piled up high made a great first course. In fact, these alone are worth the trip to Estia!

Dinner came and I will tell you that hands down, beyond a shadow of a doubt, bar none this is the best eggplant I have EVER had. It was flavorful, tender and had a certain creaminess not typically found with eggplant.

As you can see, I at the whole thing!

We opted to skip dessert and head back to the Kimmel Center to wait for the kids. We were lucky enough to hear the end of the concert from the lobby. From what I coud hear of the music, and the thunderous applause at the end of the show, the kids saw a spectacular concert so it was truly a great night for everyone!

Have you had a great dining experiences in a non vegan restaurant lately? I would really like to know!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Frozen Banana Bites

For most people the term "banana bites" probably makes you think of, well, bananas.  For me, it conjures up memories of my kids when they were very little.

I don't know how or why it started but as toddlers I used to tell them I was going to give them banana bites and they would shriek hysterically in laughter as I tickled them. Quite honestly, I had sort of forgotten about that until I saw this Frozen Banana Bites pin on Pinterest.

I love that a certain phrase or words can conjure up such lovely memories! Every time I bite into one of these I will think about tickling my kids! And while these may not make you shriek with laughter they are quite tasty (and easy to make too!).

Frozen Banana Bites

1/2 cup vegan chocolate chips (I used Ghiradelli Semi Sweet Chips)
2 bananas cut into bite size chunks
Unsweetened shredded coconut (optional)
Chopped toasted hazelnuts (optional)

In a double boiler melt the chocolate chips until very smooth.  Remove from the heat, coat the banana chunks in the melted chocolate and transfer to a baking sheet lined with wax or parchment paper. Sprinkle with toppings (if desired). Place the freezer for at least an hour or until frozen through. Remove from trays and store in a plastic bag or container in the freezer.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Cannellini Bean Spread

I really should be at the grocery store shopping this evening. It is supposed to snow and the cupboard is bare but I just cannot bring my tired self to head to Wegman's which will undoubtedly be mobbed due to the impending weather. I actually think I will wait until the morning and brave the elements in order to
enjoy an empty store.

Deciding to bag the store did leave me with a bit of a dinner dilemma, though. When I say the cupboard is bare, I mean BARE. All I could find was a can of cannellini beans and some veggies that were just slightly beyond their prime. Time to make do.

This is something I have done different variations of in the past and it always turns out well. You can use whatever bean you have on hand and any vegetables that roast well. It is a great alternative to vegan mayo for sandwiches and is great eaten as a spread on bagels or crackers.

Cannellini Bean Spread

1 15 oz can cannellini beans drained and rinsed
10 baby carrots
5 cloves garlic, peeled and quartered
1/2 yellow pepper cut into large pieces
1/2 red pepper cut into large pieces
3 leeks cut into chunks (white part only)
1/2 small onion cut into chunks
Several thyme sprigs
2 tbsp olive oil+ extra for blending
1 tbsp nutritional yeast
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat eat the oven to 400 degrees.

Place the vegetables on a baking sheet and drizzle with 2 tbsp olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper. Add the thyme sprigs and toss them to coat with the oil.

Roast the vegetables until tender- about 30 minutes. Discard the thyme stems while retaining the leaves.

In a food processor add the cannellini beans, nutritional yeast and roasted vegetables including the thyme leaves.  Blend until very smooth adding olive oil as necessary to smooth out the mixture. Season with salt and pepper if desired.

Serve as a spread with crackers or bread or use as a condiment for sandwiches. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

"Rustic" Kale Tater Tots

I always sort of scratch my head when food is called rustic.  It seems to me code word for "not very pretty but tastes good".  So, for that reason I call my Kale Tater Tots "rustic".

Baked tots.

I have been trying to incorporate more leafy greens into my diet, especially kale which, for as much as I like it, I do not use as often as I should. I recently saw a recipe for Coclannon Puffs and that is where the inspiration for the kale tots came from.

Pan fried then baked tots.

The recipe was a bit of an experiment since midway through I realized that things were not working out as I thought they would. I had to get somewhat creative to actually make these work. What I thought would be my tot batter ended up more like a thick soup and so I had to adjust.

I remember my Mother often using potato flakes as a thickener when cooking so I decided to incorporate them into my tots and viola, success! And, as Mr. Meat and Potatoes loves potato flakes I figured it was a good way to ensure he would like them. He did!

I did them two ways- pan fried and then baked as well as a healthier baked only version. Both worked well and I would not say one was "better" than the other.   If you do not want the added oil then definitely go for the baked ones. Both were flavorful, crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. Given that, I will go for the baked ones next time!

"Rustic" Kale Tater Tots

5 Russet potatoes, peeled
3 kale leaves, stems removed and rough chopped
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
5 tbsp all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 tbsp non dairy milk (I used So Delicious Unsweetened Coconut)
2 cups unseasoned potato flakes*
1 cup vegetable oil (optional- to be used if making the fried version)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large pot boil the potatoes in water until they are tender but not falling apart (you do not want them as soft as when you make mashed potatoes).  Once tender remove from the water with a slotted spoon and place in a large bowl. Set aside.

In the same water the potatoes were boiled in add the kale and allow to boil until tender- about six minutes.  Remove from the water with a slotted spoon and place into a food processor.  Cut the potatoes into chunks and add to the food processor along with all the other ingredients except the potato flakes.  Pulse until smooth (it should be the consistency of a very thick soup) and transfer back to the bowl the potatoes were in.  Add the two cups of potato flakes and stir until the consistency of a thick batter.

Form bater into tater tot shapes or roll into balls (or shape into patties).

For baked tots:
Place the tots onto a lightly greased baking sheet. Place in the oven at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes turn the potato tots and increase the heat to 400 degrees. Allow them to cook for another 15 minutes or until as browned as you would like. Allow to cool slightly before serving.

For fried tots:
Heat vegetable oil over medium high heat and add tots. Brown the tots until golden on all sides, remove from the pan and place on paper towels to drain. Once all of the tots are browned and drained place on a baking sheet and put in the oven for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes increase the heat to 400 degrees and allow them to bake another 15 minutes.  Remove from the oven and serve once slightly cooled.

*Note: when selecting potato flakes be sure to read the ingredients as, surprisingly, many contain milk products. 

Monday, January 16, 2012

Chickpea Kale and Spinach Tart

The minute I saw this Veg News recipe for a Chickpea Holiday Tart I knew I would be making it. Some
might say I have a crazy obsession with chickpeas. I do! I absolutely love them!

I changed up the original recipe a bit as it called for frozen spinach which I did not have (I used fresh). I also did not have enough fresh spinach so I made up the difference in kale- how can you go wrong with that? Sine I love thyme, I added more than the recipe called for and made some other minor adjustments as well.

I did not have a nine inch pie crust so I decided to use two smaller pie crusts and that worked out great. I kept one for myself and gave one to my parents. Perfect.

This is a very flavorful and festive tart. The lemon really adds a nice brightness to it. Though the ingredient list appears long it is actually quite simple to make.

Chickpea Kale and Spinach Tart

2 6" whole wheat pie crusts
2 tbsp divided + 1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 cup onion, chopped
3/4 cup celery, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 14 oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained (1/4 cup reserved)
3/4 cup walnuts + extra for garnish (about 2 tbsp chopped)
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tsp +1/2 tsp organic tamari
1/2 cup fresh spinach,  roughly chopped
1 cup fresh kale, roughly chopped
4 tbsp dried cranberries
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
2 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a saute pan heat 1 tbsp olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onion, celery and garlic, salt and pepper and saute until caramelized. Set aside.

In a food processor put the chickpeas (minus the 1/4 cup), walnuts (minus the extra for garnish), lemon juice and 2 tsp of tamari and lightly pulse until roughly chopped.  Remove half of the chick pea mixture and place into a large bowl. Add to the food processor the caramelized onion, celery and garlic. Blend until smooth and add to the bowl with the rest of the chickpea mixture.  Add the remaining 1/4 cup chickpeas, cranberries, thyme, parsley, salt and pepper (if desired) to the chickpea mixture and stir to incorporate.

In same saute pan that was used for the onion, celery and garlic add 1 tbsp olive oil and heat over medium.  Add the spinach and kale and quickly saute until witled. Add to the chickpea mixture and give a quick stir.

Put 1/2 the mixture into each pie crust.  In a small bowl whisk together the remaining 1/2 tbsp olive oil and 1/2 tsp tamari. Brush on top of the pie and sprinkle with the 2 tbsp chopped walnuts.  Bake for approximately 35 minutes at 400 degrees or until nicely browned and heated through.

Allow to cool slightly before serving.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Pink Lady Smoothie

My friend LJ has tweeted several times about the Pink Lady Smoothies she has in the morning. Not too long ago she posted the recipe and I discovered what makes in pink is beets! I had erroneously assumed strawberry. When I saw beets I knew I had to try it! It was delicious! Thanks LJ!

I altered the recipe slightly to reflect what I had on hand. That is what I love about smoothies- it is almost impossible to mess it up!

The Pink Lady Smoothie

1 smallish beet, peeled
5 kale leaves
2 small/medium bananas
1/4 apple
1 tbsp flax seeds or flax meal
1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1-2 cups non dairy milk (I used So Delicious Unsweetened Coconut)
Agave syrup to taste ( her recipe calls for dates which I did not have)
A few ice cubes

Place ingredients into a high powered blender and blend, blend, blend. Depending on your blender you may want to cut the fruits and veggies into smaller pieces.

I did mine in the "Shake and Take" so I could not get it as smooth as I would have liked. The next one I will make in my newly purchased Vitamix (YAY-- I cannot wait for it to be delivered)!

Note: this makes two full servings.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Easy Chocolate Hazelnut Brownies

Ever since I learned to make chocolate hazelnut spread (Nutella style) I have been yammering on about creating vegan versions of recipes with Nutella.

A friend recently shared a super simple four ingredient Nutella brownie recipe and it looked great. Only one egg to worry about replacing? I can do that!

Here is my version- kid and husband approved!

Easy Chocolate Hazelnut Brownies

1/2 cup chocolate hazelnut spread (recipe here)
1 1/2 tsp egg replacer (I used EnerG)
2 tbsp water
5 tbsp all purpose flour
1/4 cup raw, chopped hazelnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a small bowl combine egg replacer and water and whisk.

In a larger bowl add the chocolate hazelnut spread and the egg replacer. Whisk to incorporate. Add the flour and either whisk or stir to combine. This makes a very thick batter.

Prepare a mini muffin tin with liners.. Spoon batter into each liner until about 3/4 full. Sprinkle with chopped hazelnuts.

Place in the oven and bake for 12-13 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out with just a little bit of batter.

Allow to cool, serve and enjoy.

Note: If the batter seems too thick or if you want a slightly sweeter cupcake add a small amount of agave or chocolate syrup to the batter (about a tablespoon or so). This may also ensure a moister brownie.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Simple Lemon Curd Tarts

On New Years Eve my son requested we have the same dessert we had the year prior- Lemon Curd and Raspberry Phyllo Napoleons.  We were not able to get it together to make them for New Years Eve so we decided to make them New Years Day.

One small problem- we did not have any phyllo dough sheets in the house.  We went for what we did have, and the next best thing- some pre-made phyllo shells we had in the refrigerator.  Turns out this is a whole lot easier and just as delicious!

Simple Lemon Curd Tarts

1 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup cold water
1 3/4 cup + 3 tbsp organic cane sugar
4 tbsp cornstarch
Zest of 4 lemons, divided
2 tbsp Earth Balance
6 tbsp non dairy milk (I used So Delicious Unsweetened Coconut)
Phyllo shells, thawed
Berries of your choice
Powdered sugar (optional)

Combine the lemon juice, water, sugar, cornstarch and 1 tbsp of the lemon zest into a blender.  Blend until well incorporated

Pour the mixture into a sauce pan and turn heat to medium.  Stirring constantly heat the liquid until it comes to a boil.  Once boiling allow the mixture to boil without stirring for one minute. It will start to become thickened.  Add the non dairy milk, Earth Balance and the rest of the lemon zest and stir well. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature. Once cooled cover and place in the refrigerator.  The mixture will continue to thicken as it cools fully.

When ready to serve, fill the phyllo shells with some lemon curd and top with the berries of your choice. Garnish with powdered sugar if desired.

*Note: this recipe makes about two cups of lemon curd.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Family Dinner and a Puffed Vegetable Pot Pie Bowl

I have had plans to make little bowls out of puff pastry to fill with a pot pie filling for quite some time.  I don't know why it took me so long to finally do this but I swear I have been meaning to do this for about a year.  Seriously. A year.

Today, I got a few hours to myself while Mr. Meat and Potatoes was out and both kids were at the movies so I decided to do it.  I did not have any of the traditional mixed veggies (you know, the frozen kind) that go into a pot pie filling.  I really did not feel like going out to the store for just that and I am pretty much the only one in the house that likes them anyway.  So, I decided to use what I had on hand.

Of course, I made enough to feed a small army (why do I insist on doing that?).

When my daughter got home, unbeknownst to me she called my parents and asked them to dinner (you just have to love that!).  They accepted so for once, I actually had the right amount of food for the number of people eating.

Dinner was delicious and received high marks but even better  than that was an impromptu family dinner. I love that.

Puffed Vegetable Pot Pie Bowl

For the filling:
3 potatoes, peeled and cut into bite size pieces
4 oz shitake mushrooms, chopped
6 oz baby bella mushrooms, chopped
1/2 yellow pepper, chopped
1/2 red onion, chopped fine
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup frozen corn
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
2 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
3/4 cup vegetable stock, divided
3 tbsp all purpose flour
1/2 cup non dairy milk (I used So Delicious Unsweetened Coconut)
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp Vegan Butter (I used Earth Balance)
Salt and pepper to taste

For the puff pastry bowls:
3 packages puff pastry, thawed according to package directions (I used Pepperidge Farm)*

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In a pot of water boil the potatoes until fork tender and set aside.

While the potatoes are boiling prepare the puff pastry bowls by placing a single layer of puff pastry on a flat surface. Using a 4" ring or biscuit cutter cut out the base of the bowl. Place the bases on a lightly greased baking sheet.  Discard extra pastry or reserve for another use.

Place another three layers of puff pastry stacked on top of one another onto a flat surface.  Again cut four rings with a 4" mold. Using a smaller ring (3" would be ideal) cut another circle in the center of the circles just cut. Remove the outer ring and place on top of the bases that are on the baking sheet.  If desired you may use a little bit of water where they layers of pastry touch one another to help the layers hold together (I just pressed them lightly against one another- don't push to hard as you want the pastry to rise enough to form a bowl).  Bake at 400 for about 15 minutes or until golden brown,  Don't worry if they are not perfectly shaped or are a little puffy on the bottom- they will be filled and look great.

While the puff pastry bowls are baking prepare the filling by heating the olive oil and Earth Balance in a saute pan over medium heat.  Add the garlic and onion and saute a few minutes until tender but not browned.  Add 1/4 cup vegetable stock, the cooked potatoes, yellow pepper, mushrooms and corn and allow to cook until the pepper gets tender, the mushrooms release their juices and the corn is warmed through. Add the parsley and thyme. Season with salt and pepper each time you add new ingredients to the pan.

While the vegetables are cooking, in a separate sauce pan over medium heat add the rest of the vegetable stock, the flour and the non dairy milk.  Whisk constantly until the mixture comes to a near boil and is thickened.  Add to the vegetable mixture and stir.

Spoon the vegetable mixture into the puff pastry bowls and serve.

*Note: had I known my parents were coming to dinner I would have made two extra puff pastry bowls.  Since I did not have enough puff pastry left to do that when I found out they were coming I simply baked the middle rounds that were cut out when making the bowls.  I served those to the kids with the filling spooned over top as if it were a biscuit.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Not Your Ordinary Jalapeño Popper and an Unlikely Pie

You may recall a friend had given me some sweet potatoes. One of them was absolutely gargantuan and I still had half of it left.  I also had about twelve jalapeño peppers that I am sure I had some sort of plan for. Unfortunately, for the life of me I could not remember what it was.

They both needed to be used so after some thought I decided to try a popper using a sweet potato filling. Sometimes I am brilliant! They were really good (and really spicy).

If you do not want them too spicy make sure you do a good job at cleaning out the seeds and veins before stuffing them as that is where most of the heat resides. I like some kick so I was not particularly diligent about removing all of the seeds and veins.

I debated weather or not to bread them . My son declared poppers require breading so bread them we did. Normally I would fry them but in the sprit of a healthy new year decided to go healthier and used a variation of a breading recipe my friend Meg of The Snarky Chick Pea created.  Almost the same recipe I used for these baked onion rings.

I ended up stuffing all of the peppers and still had a good amount of the filling left over so I took what was left and put it into two mini pie shells and baked it.  Dinner! Delicious! I mentined that this sweet potato was gargantuan, didn't I ?!?

Sweet Potato Poppers

For the peppers and filling:
1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into chunks
1/4 cup non dairy cheese (I used Daiya Mozzarella Shreds)
3/4 cup cilantro, chopped fine
Salt and pepper to taste
12 large jalapeño peppers

For the batter:*
3/4- 1 cup all purpose flour**
1 cup non dairy milk (I used So Delicious Unsweetened Coconut)
1 1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp onion salt
1 tsp garlic powder
1 cup bread crumb
1 tsp smoked chipotle powder (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In a large pot boil the sweet potatoes until fork tender.  Drain and place in a large bowl. Add the non dairy cheese, cilantro, salt and pepper. Mash well and set aside.

Prepare the jalapeño peppers by slicing them down the middle taking care not to slice them in half.  Remove the seeds and veins.  Stuff each pepper with some of the filling.

Prepare the batter by mixing the non dairy milk, apple cider vinegar and flour in a bowl. In a second bowl add the bread crumb, olive oil, onion salt, garlic powder and chipotle powder (if using) and mix well until the oil is well incorporated. Dip each jalapeño into the batter and then dredge in the bread crumb. Place on a lightly greased baking sheet.  Bake for about 45 minutes or until nicely browned.***  If not browned to your liking you may want to put the peppers under a broiler for about two minutes before taking them out.

And, if like me you have a lot of filling left over you may want to put it into a mini pie shell and bake for about 35 minutes at 350 degrees.

*Note: you may roast the peppers without breading them at all and they will be delicious. 
**Note: start with 3/4 cup flour.  if you find the batter slightly runny you can always add an  additional 1/4 cup of flour.
***Note: you could also deep fry these in vegetable oil until golden brown instead of baking.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Crock Pot Vegetable Stock

As you might imagine I go through an awful lot of vegetables.  And, not surprisingly I cook with an awful lot of vegetable stock.  I have been buying organic culinary vegetable stock for some time now. I started to add up the cost of all that stock and the result really surprised me! It adds up to a lot!

So, I started thinking, why would I spend all that money on vegetable stock when I throw away so much vegetable through the course of regular food prep/chopping? You know, the ends of green beans, mushroom stems, potato peels, the tops of onions and carrots, stems from parsley and other herbs. It's not really very "green" to throw that stuff away and, while I have often thought about composting, to date have not done so.

I decided that it's crazy to continue to buy stock while all the while throwing out the very stuff stock is made of (including vegetables that get just a bit "over ripe").  So, I have started keeping all those bits and ends of vegetables each time I chop, along with vegetables that get just a bit "too ripe" adding them to a gallon size bag marked "for stock" that I keep in my freezer.  When the bag is full I know it is time to make stock!

I like to make it in the crockpot letting it cook on low overnight.  Super simple and I can control what goes into it, including the amount of sodium.  I hope you will consider doing the same- the result is every bit as good if not better as what you can get in the store!

Crock Pot Vegetable Stock

1 gallon size bag of veggie bits, herb stems and leaves
3 bay leaves (optional)
Salt and pepper
Other spices you may desire
Water (enough to just cover the vegetables)

Place veggies and spices in a crock pot and fill with water until just covered. Turn crock pot on low and allow to cook for up to 12 hours.  Strain liquid from the mixture and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator  for use over the next week or so, or in the freezer for future use.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Glazed Donuts

This year, my daughter got a Babycakes Mini Donut Maker for Christmas.  I am not much for kitchen gadgets such as this but I guess Santa realized how badly she wanted it!  Every time we were in Wegman's together she made it known she would really like one and well, I guess he heard her.

Yesterday morning we gave the donut maker a try. I have never been much of a donut fan and have certainly never made them before.  The recipes that came with the donut maker were less than exciting so I went online to do a quick search for easy donut recipes.

I ended up using a recipe for both a donut and a glaze I found at The Urban Housewife. I did not change it much except that I omitted the soy milk in favor of So Delicious Coconut milk in both the donuts and the glaze. I also did not use nutmeg, instead opting for just cinnamon.

I cannot tell you first hand if these were good or not but judging by the fact that only crumbs were left on the plate they were served on I am going to take a wild guess that they were good! They were literally devoured before I could even get to taste one!

Glazed Donuts

For the donuts:
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup organic sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup non dairy milk (I used So Delicious Unsweetened Coconut)
1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
Egg replacer equivalent to one egg (I used EnerG)
4 tbsp Earth Balance Vegan Butter

For the glaze:
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
1tbsp non dairy milk
1/2 tsp vanilla

Optional Topping:
3 or more tbsp sprinkles

In a large bowl combine the dry ingredients and whisk to incorporate.

In a small saucepan over low heat add the wet ingredients including the egg replacer prepared according tot he package directions. If using EnerG egg replacer use 1 1/2 tsp egg replacer and one tbsp of water. Add the Earth Balance and allow just to melt. The mixture should be warm to the touch but not hot.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix to form a spongy batter.

Place 2 tbsp of batter into each spot in the donut maker.  Cook according to the makers directions.  (I found the donuts were done after about 3-5 minutes. If not using a donut maker use a donut pan and place into a 350 degree oven for about 12 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Transfer to a cooling rack and allow to cool.

While cooling pepare the glaze.  In a bowl,  mix the confectioners sugar, non dairy milk and vanilla until smooth.  Dip cooled donuts into the glaze and place on a serving dish.  If desired cover with sprinkles.