Friday, December 27, 2013

Baked Almond Feta Spanakopita

Before my vegan days I loved feta and ate it often.  Eventually, I figured out how to make a vegan Baked Almond Feta, and it is delicious. I also love phyllo dough and spinach and used to really enjoy Spanakopita.  Growing up around lots of authentic Middle Eastern food I am no stranger to foods made with phyllo and feta and enjoyed my fair share of Spanakopita over the years.

I have tried to make vegan Spanikopita using tofu as a cheese substitute. I don't know what it is, but I just cannot get into tofu posing as cheese.  I have also tried Spanakopita with a spinach filling without any sort of cheese substitute, and it just feels like it is missing something.

I don't know why it took me so long to connect the dots. Baked almond feta, the absolute closest thing to real feta and something that does not even feel like a substitute is a no brainer to use in Spanakopita!  My only regret with this dish is it took me this long to make it.

I served this as an appetizer at Christmas, and it was extremely well received by some pretty tough critics-my extended omnivore family. I enjoyed the dish immensely, and I enjoyed all the rave reviews just as much!

This dish is pretty easy to pul together though it does take some planning as the feta is a multi-day process.  And, if you have not worked with phyllo before do not be intimidated! Though delicate it is extremely forgiving and always almost looks beautiful when cooked.

If you try this I would love to know your reaction. I cannot imagine you will not love it!

Baked Almond Feta Spanakopita

1 wheel Baked Almond Feta
2 packages frozen spinach, thawed and water squeezed out
2 small onions, chopped fine
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped fine
1 package phyllo dough, thawed according to package directions
Pepper to taste
1/2 stick vegan butter, melted

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a skillet over medium heat add the oil. When heated add the onion and season with pepper. Cook until the onions begin to turn translucent and then add the spinach and dill.  Continue to cook over medium heat until heated through.

Transfer the spinach mixture to a bowl and crumble the wheel of almond feta into the mixture. Stir to incorporate and set aside.

Unroll the phyllo onto a work surface (be sure to cover the phyllo with a damp towel during the process as to ensure it does not dry out).

Brush the bottom of a baking dish (I used an 8x8) with the melted butter.  Place a sheet of phyllo on the bottom of the dish so that the ends hang over the side (note: depending on the size of your dough you may need to overlap sheets. Keep in mind you will be folding the extra over the top and it will need to be covered).   Brush the phyllo with melted butter. Repeat the process in the other direction so that you have extra hanging over all sides.  Continue to layer the phyllo and melted butter until you have about six layers in total (note: you can do more or less to taste).  Be sure to cover the phyllo with the damp towel each time you remove a sheet in order to keep it moist.

Add the spinach mixture into the dish and then fold the ends up over the top of the spinach mixture. If your ends do not overlap enough to cover the top entirely you can top with a few extra sheets of phyllo and brush it with more melted butter.

Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes until the top is golden brown. Allow to cool slightly before serving.

If not serving immediately this can be stored covered in the refrigerator for a few days. Just reheat to serve.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Clementine Curd Filled Cupcakes and a Giveaway

The folks at Cuties were kind enough to send me five pounds of Cuties Clementines. They were also kind enough to send me a couple of coupons to be redeemed for five pounds of clementines which I would like to share with you!  Before we get to that though, let me tell you about these cupcakes.

Instead of just peeling and eating the Cuties (which are delicious) I thought I would try to use them in a more creative way.  The result was these cupcakes.  They are not the prettiest thing I have ever made, but by the time it came to icing and decorating them I was thoroughly exhausted.

I had to do the batter three times before getting it right (it was a snow day, and there was a steady stream of kids in and out of the house all day which kept distracting me).  The result was worth it though. The cupcakes were good. I don't always taste the stuff I bake as I really don't have much of a sweet tooth, but given the length of time it took to make them I made myself have one.  I know, I know, the hardship!

Now, on to the giveaway. Simply leave me a comment letting me know that you would like five pounds of Cuties. Please provide an email address so I can reach you if you win. I will randomly pick two winners on January 5th. Good luck!

Clementine Curd Filled Cupcakes

For the cupcakes:
1 batch of this cupcake recipe (do not make the frosting)

For the Clementine Curd:
1 1/4 cup freshly squeezed clementine juice
1/2 cup cold water
1 3/4 cup + 3 tbsp organic cane sugar
4 tbsp corn starch
Zest of four clementines, divided
2 tbsp vegan butter
6 tbsp non dairy milk (I used So Delicious Unsweetened Coconut Milk)
1 tbsp lemon juice

For the glaze:
2 1/4 cup confectioners sugar
pinch of salt
3-4 tbsp freshly squeezed clementine juice

Combine the clementine juice, water, sugar corn starch and 1 tbsp of the clementine zest in a blender.  Transfer the mixture to a sauce pan and heat over medium until boiling. Allow to boil for one minute. Add the non dairy milk, vegan butter and the rest of the zest and stir well.  Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon juice. Transfer to a jar and put in the refrigerator until completely cooled.  Note: this will make more curd than needed for the cupcakes.

To make the glaze place the confectioners sugar, salt and freshly squeezed clementine juice into a bowl and whisk until well incorporated.

Once the cupcakes and curd have cooled fully put some of the curd into a piping bag with a tip with a medium size opening.  Press the tip into the cupcake and squeeze some of the curd inside. Be careful not to put too much curd or your cupcake will become too wet.

Top each cupcake with the glaze and garnish with a clementine slice if desired.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Two Ingredient Mini Pumpkin Spice Muffins

I may be the last person to find out that you can use a boxed cake mix and a can of pumpkin puree to make absolutely delicious muffins, but just in case you had not heard it yet you really can!

I saw something posted on Pinterest about this, Googled it and found lots of positive commentaries on this technique for making muffins and figured what the heck, I will give it a try.

While this certainly does not constitute baking it sure does produce a moist, tender flavorful muffin.  And, yes, the Duncan Hines Super Moist Spice Cake Mix is vegan out of the box!

Mini Pumpkin Spice Muffins

1 box Duncan Hines Super Moist Spice Cake Mix
1 15 oz can pumpkin puree

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Do not follow the spice cake mix directions. Instead put the mix and the pumpkin puree into a bowl and stir until smooth.

Line a mini muffin tin with cupcake liners and place a scoop of batter in each (I find a medium size cookie scoop is the perfect amount of batter).

Bake for about fifteen minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the muffin comes out clean.

Note: this recipe yielded 46 mini muffins.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Black Bean, Mushroom and Arugula Soup

Sometimes you just want soup. And sometimes you really need it!  The weather has been very cold, we had the first snowfall of the season, and this really lends itself to needing soup. Since it was snowing like crazy, and I really did not have much of an appetite to drive in the snow I had to make do with what was already in the house.

This soup is quite a hodgepodge of ingredients, but it worked.  Not only did it taste good it warmed me up, too!

Black Bean, Mushroom and Arugula Soup

2 cups black beans, soaked overnight (or you can use the quick soak method)
6 cups vegetable stock
2 bay leaves
10 shitake mushroom caps, sliced or rough chopped
2 carrots, peeled and cut into rounds
3 celery stalks, sliced
1/2 small onion chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp fresh thyme. chopped
3 or 4 large handfuls of arugula
Salt and pepper to taste
Crackers (optional)

Place the soaked beans in a stock pot and add the vegetable stock and the bay leaves.  Bring to a boil over high heat an then turn the heat to a simmer, cover and let cook for two hours.

Once beans are cooked add the olive oil to a skillet over medium heat.  Add the carrot and celery and allow to cook until starting to soften.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add the onion, cook for another few minutes and then add the mushrooms, garlic and thyme. Allow to cook until the mushrooms release their liquid and become tender. Add to the stock pot.

Cover and allow to simmer over low heat for at least an hour.  In the last fifteen minutes or so add the arugula and allow to wilt. Re-season with salt and pepper if needed.

Serve warm with crackers crumbled over the top (if desired).

Note: remove the bay leaves before serving.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Chick'n Croquettes

Its funny how diversity in background becomes pronounced through little things you would not think of.  Like things that were staples at your dinner table as a kid.  For me, it was Middle Eastern- hummus and falafels or Italian- pastas with a variety of sauces. We rarely got "treated" to frozen dinners.  When we did it was always exciting and usually because my Mom and Dad were going out for an evening and my Mom needed something quick and easy. We loved it!

Recently my husband mentioned he was going to buy some frozen Weaver Chicken Croquettes as he was craving them.  In the eighteen years we have been married we have never had croquettes for dinner.  As it turns out, they were a staple on his childhood dinner table. Instead of buying the frozen ones, I offered to make them for him.

I love finding out things like this about him- the fact that croquettes are a comfort food for him is a nice piece of information to have! I also treasure the differences and experiences that make each of us who we are as it allows us to keep learning from one another. I think that is one of the coolest parts of marriage.

Anyway, completely ignorant of what comprises a chicken croquette I took to the Internet and clicked on the first recipe that popped up on Google and went with that. The process to make them was pretty simple, they looked great when I was finished, and he enjoyed them quite a bit.  I have to say that I thought they looked pretty darn good, too. Good enough to veganize.

So, with a few tweaks to the recipe I used I now have a vegan croquette recipe to add to my collection!

If you try these I would love to know what you think about them. I would also love to know what the staples were on your childhood dinner table!

Chick'n Croquettes

For the croquette:
5 gardein Chick'n Scallopini thawed and ground in a food processor
1 cup non dairy milk (I used So Delicious Unsweetened Coconut Milk)
1 cup vegetable stock
1/4 tsp ground white pepper
2 tsp minced parsley leaves
Salt to taste
1 stick vegan butter
1 stalk celery, minced
1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1 celery stalk, minced
1 tbsp olive oil
Vegetable oil for frying

For the breading:
2 cups breadcrumbs seasoned with salt and pepper to taste
1 cup non dairy  milk
4 tsp The Vegg Vegan Egg Yolk*
1 cup water*
1 cup all purpose unbleached flour

For the gravy:
3 tbsp vegan butter
3 tbsp all purpose unbleached flour
2 cups vegetable stock
2 tsp minced parsley
Pinch white pepper
Salt, to taste

To make the croquette filling place the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the ground gardein scallopini and cook, while continually breaking up the mixture in the pan, for about seven minutes or until heated through.  When finished it should resemble cooked ground chicken. Set aside.

 In a saucepan heat the non dairy milk and vegetable stock over medium heat. Add the white pepper, salt and parsley. In a separate sauce pan over medium heat melt the butter and add the flour. Stir with a whisk and allow to cook for three minutes.  Add the hot milk and stock mixture and whisk until thickened and smooth.  Remove from the heat, add the cooked gardein mixture to it, stir and set aside to cool.

To bread the croquettes mix The Vegg and water in a blender until smooth.  Pour into a bowl and whisk in the water.  Place the flour in another bowl and in a third bowl the breadcrumbs. Once the croquette mixture is cooled take the croquette mixture and form meatball size rounds. Dip into the "egg wash" and then the flour and place on wax paper lined baking sheet to set.  When the mixture is gone take each of the egg washed/floured balls and dip into the egg wash again and then into the breadcrumb.

For the gravy place the butter in a sauce pan over medium heat to melt.  Add the flour and whisk.  Pour in the stock and continue to whisk until the mixture boils.  Turn the heat down to a simmer and allow to cook for 20 minutes until gravy thickens.  Add the parsley, pepper and salt.

To fry the croquettes place a few inches of vegetable oil (enough to submerge the croquettes) into a pot and heat to 350 degrees.  When the oil reaches temperature drop a few croquettes at a time in allowing them to become golden brown on all sides.  Remove from the oil and drain on a plate lined with a paper towel.

Serve croquettes with gravy.

*Note: If you do not have The Vegg a mixture of non dairy milk and any vegetable oil can be substituted as an "egg" wash.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Pumpkin Spice Doughnut Holes

You may recall a few posts back a recipe for doughnut holes.  I have made them many times since then, mostly at the request of one of my daughter's friends. She just loves them, and really, who can blame her?  Spices reminiscent of pumpkin pie but wrapped into a little dough ball?  What is not to like?

When I made them the first time I sort of kicked myself for not using the seasonal So Delicious Pumpkin Spice Coconut Milk. Yesterday I was commissioned by my daughter to make four dozen of these for an impromptu surprise party for the friend that always requests these doughnut holes.

I was up ridiculously early so I decided to give it a try with the Pumpkin Spice milk. That way if it did not work well I would have the time to redo them.

Well, I am happy to report that it worked great. Hard to believe, but these are even better than the originals. If you have not gotten the Pumpkin Spice Coconut Milk yet, hurry! It is limited seasonal/holiday item so it won't be around for too much longer!

Pumpkin Spice Doughnut Holes

1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup melted vegan butter
1/2 cup So Delicious Pumpkin Spice Coconut Milk
3/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1/4 cup melted vegan butter
1/2 cup cinnamon sugar

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Add the granulated sugar, nutmeg, pumpkin pie spice and 1/4 cup of the melted vegan butter. Stir in the Pumpkin Spice Coconut Milk. Add the flour and baking powder and stir until just combined.

Using a greased mini muffin pan, fill each muffin cup halfway full. I found using a medium cookie scoop worked perfectly to make 24 doughnut holes.

Bake 15-20 minutes until the tops are lightly golden brown.

Once cooled, remove from the muffin tin and dip each in the rest of the melted vegan butter and then roll in cinnamon sugar.

Serve immediately.