Category: Food & Recipes, Human

Blueberry Coconut Pancakes (And a GF pancake FAIL!)

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015

I recently received a whopping five pounds of coconut flour for review, so I finally broke out that copy of The Paleo Bread Bible I scored through Goodreads. Nearly every recipe calls for coconut flour, yo! I’ve been meaning to try it for ages, but haven’t done a whole lot of baking lately.

I decided to start with something simple – you know, a real can’t-eff-this-up recipe – and, spoiler alert, it was an epic fail.

I give you: Blueberry Pancakes.

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Since he’s the designated pancake-flipper in the house, Shane was stuck making these, and I tweeted halfway through the ordeal my prediction that these GF Paleo Pancakes would have him in tears before the night was done. He didn’t cry, but it was close. There was a lot of cursing and several areas of burned skin. (Never cook while you’re angry, folks.)

The problem? The pancakes just didn’t hold together very well. Even after he added some wheat flour to the almond/coconut-flour batter, it spread out like whoah after he ladled it onto the griddle. And while they got nice and crunchy on the outside, the insides remained a gooey mess, as you can see in the bottom pic. We even tried oven-baking some of the batter into a giant pancake, like so, to no avail.

Now, all of these recipes use eggs – so it could be that the egg replacer we chose just wasn’t up to the task. It was ye trusty old Ener-G, though, so I don’t think that’s it.

I was planning on trying the banana bread, but I’m legit afraid at this point. This is why I rarely give cookbooks a negative review: I don’t feel comfortable rating a cookbook unless I’ve tried multiple recipes, but I refuse to throw good money after bad if the first two or three are a disaster. It’s a conundrum.

Anyway.

A few nights later, he tried swapping out some flour in a regular carby recipe for coconut flour, with much better results;

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you can find the recipe under the jump. He was feeling lazy, so he just went with Bisquick – but you can try this trick with your own favorite recipe, too. We also added some coconut extract for double the coconutty flavor, and it tasted amazing with blueberries.

All in all, not a total loss.

(More below the fold…)

Cookbook Review: Simple Recipes for Joy, Sharon Gannon (2014)

Friday, March 27th, 2015

Really Enjoyed the Selection of Soups & Pasta Dishes

four out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.)

Sharon Gannon’s Simple Recipes for Joy: More Than 200 Delicious Vegan Recipes is nothing if not quirky – and I mean that in the best way possible. The cover features a Mad Hatter-style vegan tea party, and the interior of the cookbook has a fun, funky ’70s vibe. The glossy pages include tons of mouth-watering food photos, as well as shots of the author, both at work (Garon co-founded the Jivamuktea Café in NYC) and play (her costumes will leave all the hippie chicks in awe).

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The 200 vegan recipes are divided up into fifteen sections: soups; pasta and sauces; salads; dressings; dips and spreads; grains; beans, tempeh, tofu, and seitan; vegetables; potatoes; toasts; sandwiches; quick bread and crackers; desserts; smoothies; and tea and other hot drinks. Also included are a FAQ; cooking tips; notes on a well-stocked kitchen; 30 sample menus; and 21-day cleansing diets.

Since I first got to know Simple Recipes for Joy during the cold winter months, I veered heavily towards the soups and pasta dishes. At 50 pages, the chapter on soups is easily the largest – and one of my favorites. Save for the Cream of Broccoli Soup – which was tasty enough, but made me all kinds of bloated – every recipe proved a winner.

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The Red Lentil and Tomato Soup was awesome, and helped me to polish off a whopping two pounds of my homegrown tomatoes. It’s a little on the thin side, though; for a heartier soup, I added an extra cup of red lentils toward the end of the cooking cycle. That gave them just enough time to cook, but not dissolve entirely, like the first batch.

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Lentil Bolognese

Thursday, March 26th, 2015

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This little gem of a recipe is from Vegan’s Daily Companion by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau. While not a cookbook proper – it features 365 days of vegan inspiration, including but not limited to cooking tips and recipes – each weekend is all about recipes, so. Many of them are reprints from the author’s previous cookbooks, but this one’s an original sent in by Barbara Lyons. Barb, you rock, and so does your Lentil Bolognese. Packed with veggies and a whopping cup o’ red lentils, it makes me feel a little better about eating a carb-loaded meal. I almost didn’t have to nap after polishing off a plate!

I added more spices than the recommended amount (2 teaspoons oregano as opposed to 1, and 2 tablespoons basil, vs. the suggested garnish). I also swapped out the black olives for Kalamata, because hello? There’s just no comparison.

Creamy Mushroom Pasta

Monday, March 23rd, 2015

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Okay, so I lied!

The lovely spring weather has kept me so busy that my review of Simple Recipes for Joy is slow going. In the meantime, I decided to try another pasta dish: namely, the Creamy Mushroom Pasta, which is amazaballs.

Basically you saute the mushrooms along with some garlic and spices; mix in some mushroom stock (I used veggie), soy milk, water, and gluten-free flour for thickness, and then puree the whole shebang into a creamy mushroom sauce. So good! But I like my pasta with some chunk veggies too, so I upped the ten ounces of mushrooms to an even sixteen, and then held some back prior to adding the liquids. Once the sauce was creamed and the pasta cooking, I mixed the mushrooms back in with the sauce so they’d be nice and warm. Done and done!

From the looks of things, though, I probably could have went with even more ‘shrooms. Filing that lesson away for next time.

For the GF flour, I went with coconut, which made for an interesting texture. Once the sauce cooled, it got a little grainy, but…I kind of liked it! It’s reminiscent of the Fettuccine Alfredo from Mark Reinfeld’s The 30 Minute Vegan’s Taste of Europe, which uses cashews in addition to mozzarella Daiya. The coconut flour bits are so similar to the little cashew crumbs that one’s easily mistaken for the other. And since Reinfeld’s Fettuccine Alfredo happens to be my favorite Fettuccine Alfredo of all the times…well, good memories, positive associations, and all that jazz.

Spaghetti and “Meat” Balls

Thursday, March 19th, 2015

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You guys, can you believe this is my first and only post titled “Spaghetti and Meat Balls”? NEITHER CAN I.

Anyway. This is probably the last recipe I’ll try before reviewing Sharon Gannon’s Simple Recipes for Joy. I think the count’s up to eleven now, which is good enough for this girl.

So. Spaghetti and “Meat” Balls. Now you know I’m a rather rigorous judge when it comes to pasta dishes, since red sauce basically pumps through my veins. And I’ve had some frustrating run-ins with sketchy faux meatball recipes, so there’s that.

While these meatballs didn’t exactly come together as expected – the directions were a little confusing; the batter, super-mushy – I was able to salvage them with a few tweaks.

(More below the fold…)

My Current Favorite Fast Food

Saturday, March 14th, 2015

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I go through cycles where I absolutely cannot stuff enough of a particular food into my face, and right now that food is tofu scramble. Bonus points if it’s served with a side of semi-greasy baked potato pieces slathered in ketchup.

A friend on FB asked for tips on eating healthier, which got me thinking. One of my favorites is this: make up a giant batch of a well-loved (but healthy) food so that I can live on the leftovers, if not for a week, then at least a couple of nights. That way I won’t be tempted to eat a quick junkie meal (pizza, you know I love you but…) on those nights when I don’t have the time or desire to cook something from scratch. For those who live in places where vegan takeout is an option (I don’t; it’s both a blessing and a curse), having healthy leftovers in the fridge may discourage you from choosing this path of least (but most delicious) resistance.

I especially love tofu scrambles for this, because they’re so versatile and easy. Just reheat leftovers on the stovetop for five or ten minutes (it doesn’t require a ton of adult supervision, which is all the better!) and dinner is served. Don’t have enough leftovers for a proper meal? Bake a potato, steam some carrots, toss in a cup or two of extra frozen veggies. Anything goes in a scramble; it’s the perfect cleaning out your fridge/freezer meal.

Or use the scramble as a filling in a sammie, loose “meat” style. The bread makes an excellent filler, and the mode of delivery magically transforms it into brand new meal.

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Tofu scrambles be banging on sourdough bread slathered in Vegenaise and garnished with spinach and a few tomato slices.

Lately I’ve been making a double-batch of tofu scramble at a time. Sure, it takes about a half hour extra, but I have enough scramble left over for three or more additional meals. Plus I can press both bricks at the same time, and I end up with fewer dishes to wash overall. Win.

Under the jump is my from-memory recipe for this particular scramble – we’ll call it the Vegetable Spectacular – but I’ve made it so often that I’m pretty confident of the formula.

For the potatoes, preheat the oven to 425F. Cover a cookie sheet with parchment paper (one large cookie sheet per potato). Clean the potato and then dice it into bite-sized pieces; uniformity is more important than size here. Place the pieced in a large bowl and add two tablespoons (give or take; again, per potato) of olive oil and some salt and pepper; mix well. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet and bake for 30 to 40 minutes (or until crispy), rotating the sheet(s) and flipping the potatoes halfway through.

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Cream of Celery Soup

Friday, March 13th, 2015

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If you guys know me at all, you know that I loathe celery. I kind of say so every opportunity I get. Truth be told, it’s only the gross, stringy, floss-like texture of celery that I dislike – the actual taste is pretty bangin’. Seriously. Celery salt? Bring it on!

So color me intrigued when I spotted the Cream of Celery Soup in Simple Recipes for Joy. The celery is boiled into a mushy mess and then pulverized with an immersion blender, so I figured that ought to take care of all the flossy bits. And it totally did! This soup has all of the taste of celery with none the weird mouth feels.

(Updated to add: Well, at least the freshly made soup did; strangely enough, the celery strings seem a little more prevalent in the reheated leftovers. Maybe because the soup was thicker the second and third time around? It’s a brain teaser.)

Also present: potatoes and coconut milk, for a wonderfully thick yet creamy texture; carrots and mushrooms for extra yumminess; and parsley, garlic, tarragon, and thyme for added depth of flavor. As per usual, I added a tiny bit more spices than called for: an extra 1/4 teaspoon on top of the tablespoon each of tarragon and thyme.

This soup is both delicious and easy to make, and this particular recipe makes a pretty massive pot. Seriously, I had to break out the 16-quart monstrosity because I worried that our second-largest 6-quart pot just wouldn’t contain all the awesomeness.

I mean, just look at the creamy goodness!

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Cacao Banana Ice Cream (Now with Nibs!)

Thursday, March 12th, 2015

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Last week I received a packet of sample goodies from Kazu; nestled among the quinoa, matcha powder, and goldenberries were cacao powder and cacao nibs. As usual, when faced with food items for review, I went with my first instinct: make ice cream! I even happened to have a few quarts of sliced bananas in the freezer, just waiting on me; serendipity, anyone?

So what’s the diff between cocoa and cacao powder, you might be wondering? While both begin life in the pods of the Theobroma cacao plant, the difference lies in the processing: cocoa beans are roasted before being cracked, deshelled, and ground into a powder, while cacao beans are not. (The shells, by the by, are where we get nibs.) Cacao is raw; cocoa is not. It may also contain more antioxidants than its processed counterpart.

Neither cacao nor cocoa should be confused with carob, which comes from an altogether different plant (the carob tree) and is the only one of the three that’s suitable for canines. Both cacao and cocoa contain theobromine, which is toxic to dogs.

Since cacao and cocoa powder can be used almost interchangeably, the recipe was a no-brainer. I only used 3 tablespoons of cacao, but feel free to increase it to a full quarter cup if you’d like a stronger flavor. And as long as you omit the sugar and soy milk (hopefully you’ll need neither – ’tis the goal with banana ice cream, after all), this recipe is suitable for those on a raw food diet.

Bon appétit!

(More below the fold…)

Maharini Dal

Monday, March 9th, 2015

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Packed with red lentils for protein (and hearty, stick-to-yer-ribbedness), the Maharini Dal (“fit for a queen”) from Simple Recipes for Joy is almost as tasty as it is healthy. I say “almost” because it contains cilantro, which I omitted without hesitation. (Ew, soap!) Otherwise I’d say that the recipe’s spot-on, though I did add an extra teaspoon of cumin, coriander, and curry on account of the recommended one tablespoon of each proved a little understated for my palate.
For what it’s worth, this seems to be a recurring theme with SRJ.

Who knows, maybe my palate’s just woefully underdeveloped? I’ve been told that I’m heavy-handed with certain spices. *shrug*

Country Vegetable Soup

Friday, February 27th, 2015

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Another one from Simple Recipes for Joy ! This soup proved much kinder to my insides than last month’s Cream of “Broccoli Hates You” Soup. The broth is surprisingly understated, considering the amount of spices that go into it: two tablespoons of rosemary, and a tablespoon each of cumin and coriander. (Is it just me, or does that sound like a ton of rosemary?) Really tasty though, and excellent for dipping crackers and rolls. The veggies include potatoes, carrots, corn, and peas (which I omitted), for a hearty vegetable soup.

We’ve been experiencing a cold snap here in MO, and an oversized mug of piping hot soup sure hit the spot.

For the dogs, I finally dug the heated blanket out of storage. I think they’re officially in love.

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Cashew Cappuccino Nanaimo Bar Chunk Ice Cream

Wednesday, February 25th, 2015

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Like many of my recipes (especially ice cream recipes – though usually banana-based), this one was borne of a desire to clear out the fridge/freezer. (Spring cleaning, it’s about that time!) I had about a quarter of the messed-up Cashew Cappuccino Nanaimo Bar I made (or tried to make, rather) for Christmas sitting in the freezer, and I decided what better way to finish it off than mixed with ice cream? You can’t go wrong with ice cream. It’s just not possible.

So basically I just chopped the leftovers up and stirred stirred them into a batch of vanilla ice cream post-processing: easy peasy! You can do this with pretty much any baked good you’ve accidentally-on-purpose made a little too much of: cookie batter, cupcakes, granola bars, truffles, you name it.

While certain layers caught my attention more than others (namely the cashew cream and chocolate topping), the finished ice cream proved tasty enough that I’m thinking about turning these flavors into their own honest-to-goodness ice cream, no nanaimo bar required.

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Kelly’s (Formerly) Super-Secret, Slow-Simmered, Slightly Sweet and Very Savory Pasta Sauce

Friday, February 20th, 2015

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Back when I published my review of The Oh She Glows cookbook last March, I may or may not have bragged about my super-awesome, oh-so-secret, perfected after years of slow-simmering and taste-testing, epically awesome pasta sauce from scratch. The internet may or may not have begged me to publish said recipe. Okay, so several people requested it.

Since it’s something I usually whip up on the fly, I wanted to actually make a batch, writing down the steps as I went, rather than guessing at the amounts of ingredients and such. Fast-forward eleven months and I’m just now getting to it.

It’s been the perfect storm of events conspiring against me: for one, I just haven’t been eating pasta as much. And when I do make sauce from scratch, it’s the frozen tomatoes in the fridge that get the first priority, ingredients-wise; problem is, they’ve already been run through the food processor, cooked and seasoned, such that they’d totally throw off the recipe. Also, the recent preponderance of cookbook reviews means I haven’t had as much time for original experimentation.

And then there’s Peedee, aka cancer boy: diagnosed with lung cancer last March; chest cut open and tumor (seemingly successfully) removed in April; and now, after nine months of screening, with x-rays in three-month intervals, it seems the cancer’s back. He started chemo yesterday (which, at the time of this writing, is actually still several days away; ’tis the magic of the queue! Insert a quick wish for minimal side effects here.) So yeah, it’s been a pretty hectic year.

Okay! I didn’t mean to go so dark there! Let’s talk pasta sauce, shall we?

So the key to me dream pasta sauce is three-fold. First, simmer, simmer, simmer! This sauce takes at least two hours to make, preferably more. The longer you can keep it on the stove top, the richer and more nuanced the taste. This definitely isn’t a weeknight/work night meal dealio.

Secondly: don’t be stingy with the sundried tomatoes, roasted red peppers, Kalamata olives, garlic, basil, and/or oregano (those last two should always appear in a 3-to-1 ratio, by the way). These bad girls make the sauce.

Last but not least: conduct plenty of taste testing along the way. Re-season as necessary. Love your pasta sauce, and it will love you back.

Wait! I lied. There’s a fourth rule that I just realized should be a bona fide rule, on account of it’s uber-important: you simply MUST add the red peppers in two batches. The original ones cook so long that they break down a little and become one with the sauce, whereas the second batch stays nice and chunky and results in tiny explosions of sweet, tangy, and occasionally charred flavor. So, so good. My mouth is watering as I write this.

SO. In summary: no two of my sauces are exactly alike, but what follows is my best stab at a standard recipe. Enjoy!

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Product Review: Amy’s Daiya Cheese Pizza

Wednesday, February 18th, 2015

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Shane and I decided to extend our Halloween junk food/horror movie marathon tradition to Valentine’s Day, since once a year is not enough. We got a later start than usual, and only managed to fit five movies in, instead of our usual six or seven: Citadel, The Returned, State of Emergency, The Awakening, and Fido. Thanks to a spring roll and lo mien-fueled carb overload, I started nodding off during Citadel, which actually wasn’t half bad (Aneurin Barnard, meow!); but of the five, The Returned proved my favorite by a long shot. But I digress.

In honor of the occasion, we finally broke out those Amy’s brand Daiya cheese pizzas that we scored from Natural Grocers waaaay back in November. You know what that means: frozen pizza review time!

When I first cracked it open, I have to admit that I was a little underwhelmed. More cheese, please!

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And then Shane gently and somewhat bemusedly reminded me that we tend to load up our pizzas with a ridic amount of cheese, and maybe this frozen pizza is being more reasonable than me? I begrudgingly agreed, and then proceeded to load it up with more cheese (mozzarella and cheddar), along with a heaping helping of veggies: onions, Kalamata olives, mushrooms, and red peppers.

I baked it as directed, and then five or ten minutes longer. I forget, because Bridesmaids was on and commanding my attention. Basically I let it go until the crust got nice and crispy and the cheese was bubbling like a Jacuzzi.

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Amy’s crust has always been my favorite – that is, up until I tried the Vegan Harvest pizza from American Flatbread. Now it’s first runner up, but with a very honorable mention. (I mean, flatbread. There’s just no beating that.)

So it’s tricky to accurately rate a pizza after altering it so drastically, but I’ll try. The crust, as we’ve already established, is aces. I would have liked to have seen more cheese, but it’s more or less (okay, slightly less) in line with other frozen pizzas. The pizza itself has a very strong basil taste – so much so that at first I thought they’d hidden a layer of pesto in there somewhere. But nope, it’s just basil. Potent like whoah. Not bad, but a little obtrusive maybe? Especially if you aren’t in the mood for it.

Size: 4/5. As per usual, the pizza is slightly smaller than the box. Still large enough that I was only able to finish 3/4 in one sitting.

Crust: 5/5. Like it, love it, gotta have it, wanna be it.

Sauce: 4/5. Enough to get the job done.

Cheese: 4/5. It’s a Daiya Cheese Pizza, y’all! Emphasis on Daiya. Load ‘er up!

Toppings: 3/5. Ease up on the basil, mkay?

Overall: 4/5. Daiya cheese + Amy’s crust = my OTP. Replace the basil with more cheese and you’ve got yourself a perfect 5-star rating.

And now, because we were talking movies earlier, this is usually how movie night goes down at the Garbato-Brady house:

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One bowl of popcorn for me, one bowl for the dogs. (They don’t really care for my salt and vinegar seasoning.) Shane? He’s on his own.

Matcha Cookies!

Saturday, February 7th, 2015

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I needed to think of something to make other than green tea ice cream to test this new brand of matcha I received for review, so I had pretty much the best idea ever: Matcha Cookies! Or St. Patty’s Day Snickerdoodles, if you prefer.

The recipe is modeled on the Snickerdoodle cookies in The Vegan Cookie Connoisseur. You can find the recipe after the jump, but basically I just swapped out the cinnamon flavoring for matcha powder (two tablespoons, to be exact).

I was a little stumped on the coating – Snickerdoodles are rolled in cinnamon sugar prior to baking – but I decided to use almond flour in place of cinnamon, because I love the pairing of almond with green tea. White on green lacks the visual punch of brown on white, but it’s pretty tasty nonetheless – and that’s what really counts, yeah?

If you don’t have any almond flour, just use plain sugar instead! Or reduce the vanilla to 1/2 teaspoon and add a teaspoon of almond extract to get your fix.

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Cream of “Broccoli Hates You” Soup

Tuesday, January 13th, 2015

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Now that the holidays have passed, I’m concentrating all my foodie efforts on finishing up that review of Sharon Gannon’s Simple Recipes for Joy. To wit: yesterday I made a batch of Cream of Broccoli Soup, with a few notable changes:

a) Instead of adding the onions and garlic near the end of the cook cycle, I sauteed them in a bit of oil first and then kept them in the pot, along with the split peas/lentils. Tasty!

b) I swapped out the split peas (I’m allergic!) for green lentils. I think they worked okay; the soup has a fairly greenish hue, don’t you think? Plus they don’t have to cook nearly as long as the peas, so bonus.

The result was okay; certainly not the tastiest soup I’ve ever had (even just from this particular cookbook), but not the worst either (that distinction would go to French Onion, which I thought I’d love but totally loathed). It’s a little on the bland side and could use a few extra spices to mix things up. Also, I bet some green beans would be a nice addition, and green the soup up a bit.

I do loved creamed soups, on account of you can get them started hours in advance and just let everything simmer until you’re ready to blend and eat. No need to worry about overcooking, you know?

Unfortunately, the broccoli wreaked havoc on my intestines (hence the title of this post). Well, it was either that or the chickpea salad I had earlier in the day. Probably both.

Note to self: only splurge on one gas-making meal in one day.

The Great CriFSMas Food Roundup, 2014 edition!

Wednesday, January 7th, 2015

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You guys, I baked so many cookies this year, I’m having trouble keeping track of them all! In addition to sending a basketful to our omni neighbors, I also mailed a giant box to my parents. They’re in the midst of a remodel, and the entire first floor of their house is pretty much unusable. Luckily my mom’s sis is conveniently located next door, so they’re been crashing at her house a lot.

(Fun story: I sent all their gifts to my aunt’s house – since they’d have to lug everything over there anyway – and Every. Single. Package. was delivered to my parents’ house instead. I.E. THE WRONG HOUSE. I expected that of USPS, but UPS? COME ON GUYS.)

Still, I thought cookies would be a nice gesture, seeing as they don’t have a kitchen of their own at the moment.

Plus we got to eat the extras our own bad selves, so bonus.

As per usual, most of the cookies were from The Vegan Cookie Connoisseur, which I pinky swear I’ll review this year. I had a few pretty epic fails, but overall I’m happy with my progress – I get better and better at cookies every year!

 

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Bacon Maple Biscuits for the dogs from Emma’s K9 Kitchen. With accidentally vegan bacon bits & lots of love! These smelled amazing when baking, but also lost their festive reddish hue. Not that the dogs much care. (The giant ones are for my mom’s big guy, Copper.)

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Mini-Review: The Pizza Bible, Tony Gemignani (2014)

Monday, December 22nd, 2014

A Vegan Perspective

(Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review through Blogging for Books.)

I went vegetarian in 1996, vegan in the mid-aughts, and have been allergic to milk my entire life. And I love pizza! (Yes, vegan pizza exists. And it is glorious!) Whether it’s a quick pita or French bread pizza, or a complicated, labor-intensive original gourmet dealio (mac & cheese pizza, anyone?), my husband and I enjoy pizza at least once a week. I have a tumblr dedicated to vegan pizza (along with my other favorite, vegan ice cream), and Vegan Pizza Day is a legit holiday in my house. Some of my coziest childhood memories involve making pizza from scratch with my mom, a routine we revisit every time I return home.

I picked up a copy of Tony Gemignani’s The Pizza Bible in hopes of upping my pizza game. While I didn’t have any illusions that the recipes would be vegan-friendly (although, in a book dubbed the Bible, I don’t think it’s altogether unreasonable to expect the author to at least mention alternative pizzas, whether they be vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, or raw; “Bible” implies exhaustivity, no?), I thought that perhaps some of the dough recipes might be accidentally vegan. I’m happy to report that I was not disappointed on this front!

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Cookbook Review: Vegan Holiday Cooking from Candle Cafe, Joy Pierson, Angel Ramos, and Jorge Pineda (2014)

Thursday, December 11th, 2014

A Celebration of Vegan Food

four out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review through the Blogging for Books program.)

As with many renowned vegan eateries, NYC’s Candle Café is a restaurant I’ve coveted from afar, salivating over the many mouth-watering dishes photographed, enjoyed, and shared by vegan friends and acquaintances on Instagram, tumblr, and other social media outlets. (I have five dogs who I love to pieces – but they kind of put a damper on my travel plans.) Luckily, the burgeoning vegan cookbook market – and the increasing number of cookbooks released by popular vegan restaurants, such as Candle Café, The Chicago Vegan Diner, and Jivamuktea Café – has made it possible to enjoy even the most upscale menus from the comfort of your own kitchen. Hasta la vista, age of vicarious living!

Candle Café ups the ante with Vegan Holiday Cooking, a special cookbook chock full of holiday-themed menus. While this isn’t the first vegan holiday cookbook on the market (there’s also Vegan Holiday Kitchen by Nava Atlas and Susan Voisin, as well as Zel Allen’s Vegan for the Holidays), Vegan Holiday Cooking is unique in its focus: rather than concentrating solely on the “big” holiday season – Thanksgiving through New Year’s – Pierson, Ramos, and Pineda extend their celebration across the calendar.

The book includes ten menus for a variety of occasions, including the Super Bowl; the Lunar New Year; Valentine’s Day; Passover; Easter; Cinco de Mayo; the Fourth of July; Thanksgiving; Christmas; and New Year’s Eve. Each menu receives roughly the same amount of attention – the 4th of July and Christmas both merit 18 pages of coverage! – resulting in a holiday cookbook with great depth and variety.

(More below the fold…)

Candle Cafe’s Snowball Cookies

Tuesday, December 9th, 2014

2014-11-26 - VHC Snowball Cookies - 0003 [flickr]

Baked goods are always a little risky for me – cookies especially, which is tragic because I love them SO MUCH – which is why I usually stick to tried and true cookbooks. (See, e.g., Kelly Peloza’s The Vegan Cookie Connoisseur, which I really should review one of these years.) But the Snowball Cookies in Vegan Holiday Cooking looked so tempting that I just couldn’t help myself. Caution, meet wind.

The results are a little mixed. While the cookies themselves are pretty easy to make and taste amazing, the chocolate icing (? ganache? glaze?) proved a bit of a mess. It was thin and runny and didn’t set on the cookies AT ALL, even after fifteen minutes in the fridge. Plus the recipe made at least three times more chocolate than was necessary, and now I’m stuck with an entire pint of extra chocolate sauce. Not the worst problem, but still.

In the end I added about 1/4 cup of cornstarch to thick the sauce up; while it still transformed the cookies into a sticky mess, it was much more manageable (and tastier) than the previous wet mess that was the test cookie. Next time I’ll probably just skip the recommended sauce altogether and use a magic chocolate shell or some kind of chocolate (or not! the eggnog flavor from The Vegan Cookie Connoisseur would go great on snowballs!) icing instead.

Kahlua Ice Cream

Saturday, December 6th, 2014

2014-11-23 - Kahlua Ice Cream - 0001 [flickr]

I eat so much ice cream, y’all, that’s it’s difficult to come up with new flavors to try! This one was inspired by the Irish Cream recipe in The Vegan Scoop, which turned my attention toward the liquor cabinet, and the many wonderful boozy flavors I’ve yet to experiment with. I know that ice cream’s kind of out this season, but methinks this would make an excellent dessert for a vegan Christmas/New Year’s bash. And yes, Kahlua is vegan!

Kahlua Ice Cream

(Makes a little under a quart of ice cream.)

Ingredients

2 cups soy creamer, plain or vanilla
1 cup soy milk, plain or vanilla, divided
3 tablespoons arrowroot powder
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup Kahlua + extra to taste (I used 1/4 cup + 1 teaspoon)

Directions

1. In a small mug, combine 1/4 cup of the soy milk with the arrowroot powder. Whisk well and set aside.

2. In a medium saucepan, combine the soy creamer, remaining soy milk, sugar, and 1/4 cup Kahlua. Heat on medium-high, whisking constantly, until the mixture begins to boil. Remove from heat and add the arrowroot slurry immediately, whisking well. This should cause the milk to thicken noticeably. Taste the batter and add extra Kahlua to taste.

3. Cover and transfer to a fridge to chill for six to eight hours or, better yet, overnight.

4. To make the ice cream, process the batter according to your ice cream machine’s directions. Enjoy immediately as soft serve or transfer to the freezer for a firmer dessert.

2014-11-23 - Kahlua Ice Cream - 0006 [flickr]