Sunday, November 29, 2009

Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies

When making chocolate chip cookies, I'll usually mix a handful of nuts into the batter along with the chocolate chips. Rather than adding nuts at the end, this recipe starts by toasting unsweetened coconut until golden, then blending the coconut with softened butter. The resulting cookies look like standard chocolate chippers, but are permeated with coconut flavor. While baking cookies always smell good, these cookies filled my apartment with the smell of coconut, which was an added treat on a cold November day.

The recipe uses a decent amount of butter and sugar, but yields a lot of cookies (I got 5 dozen). I adjusted things a bit by substituting spelt for one third of the all-purpose flour, and adding a handful of oats to the batter (at the same time I mixed in the chocolate chips), for added texture.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Sweet Potato Salad

Via the Bitten Word: a salad with roasted red onions, sweet potatoes, walnuts, and green beans, topped with a tangy yogurt sauce.

It's a super simple recipe: toss chopped sweet potato and red onion with olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast them. When the sweet potatoes are tender, add green beans and walnuts to the baking sheet, and cook another 5 minutes. Serve the roast vegetable mixture on a bed of lettuce, topped with dressing made from plain yogurt, garlic, and white wine vinegar.

The one part of the recipe I wasn't sure about was the frozen green beans. They were alright, but I think I'll use fresh green beans the next time I make this.

The recipe says it serves four, but I would say its more like three servings.

If you're looking for other winter salad ideas, you might like gado gado.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

For Your Consideration: Last Minute Thanksgiving Dinner Ideas

This year, I'll be traveling down to Arizona for Thanksgiving, where I'll have a holiday dinner of side dish + pie. While it might not be the ideal Thanksgiving meal for a vegetarian, my sister-in-law bakes an awesome pie, and my niece does an adorable dance in honor of the holiday.

As you can see, she has a real interest in the culinary arts.

If I had access to my own kitchen this Thanksgiving, I might make one of these vegetarian main dishes:

Stuffed portobello mushrooms with balsamic glaze, from Love and Olive Oil: I made this a few weeks ago. Or, I made something like this, except instead of stuffing large portobello mushrooms, I chopped up some baby bellas and roasted them along with the stuffing ingredients (which include artichoke hearts, parmesan, sun-dried tomatoes, spinach, and goat cheese). The result was tasty -- especially with the balsamic reduction -- but not especially photogenic. I think a stuffed mushroom would make a better presentation.

Veg lasagna: Easy but good. The lasagna can be assembled in advance, so you can spend Thanksgiving day doing other things.

Roasted butternut squash, rosemary, and garlic lasagna: This lasagna recipe is a little more involved, but the results are delicious: roasted butternut squash is layered with a rosemary-infused cheese mixture and lasagna noodles, then topped with (unsweetened) whipped cream and parmesan cheese. While it sounds (and tastes) decadent, the recipe comes from the archives of Cooking Light magazine, so it might even be reasonably good for you. The butternut squash and white sauce can be prepared the night before.

Pearl couscous with fall vegetables and carmelized onions: This is what I made last Thanksgiving -- butternut squash, turnips, and other veggies are simmered in a saffron-spiced broth, then served over pearl couscous with carmelized onions. Again, somewhat time-intensive, but it made for a nice holiday meal.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Vegan Chiles Rellenos

Kind of a chile relleno, kind of a (cumin-spiked) twice-baked potato.

There are a few different steps involved but none of them are complicated. You can break up the cooking time by preparing the poblano peppers and/or the potato-bean filling in advance.

6 cups yukon gold potatoes, washed and chopped
6 poblano peppers, washed
1 tablespoon canola oil, plus additional oil for brushing
1 onion, washed and chopped
1 teaspoon cumin seed
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup water
1 15- ounce can (1 and 1/2 cups) black beans

Poblano peppers

Slice each poblano pepper in half length-wise, and gently remove the seeds and membranes, being careful not to cut through the pepper's outer wall.

Place the poblano pepper halves face down on a broiler-safe baking tray. Broil (monitoring carefully) until the peppers' skin bubbles and begins to turn black.

Remove the peppers from the broiler and use tongs or a spatula to place them in a large paper bag. Roll the bag shut and allow the peppers to sit for 15 minutes.

Take one pepper out of the bag, and carefully peel off the skin. (It's OK if not all of the skin will peel off, just be sure to get the bubbly/loose parts.) Repeat with the remaining peppers. Set the peeled peppers aside.

Potato-bean filling

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil, add the potatoes, and cook 15 minutes, or until tender. Drain and set aside.

In a large skillet, heat one tablespoon of oil over medium-low heat. Add the cumin seed and onion and cook for about 10 minutes (until the onion is soft), stirring occasionally.

While the onion is cooking, pour the cooked potatoes into a large bowl and mash.

Once the onions are soft, stir in 1 teaspoon salt, then mix in the mashed potatoes.

Remove the skillet from the heat. Stir in 1/2 cup water and the beans.

Assembling and baking the chiles rellenos

Preheat the oven to 375F.

Lightly brush a baking sheet (or two) with canola oil.

Pick up one of the poblano pepper halves. Use your other hand to scoop up about 3/4 cup of the potato-bean mixture, and gently pat it into the pepper. Place the stuffed pepper onto the baking sheet. Repeat until all of the pepper halves have been filled.

Bake the chili rellenos for 25-30 minutes, or until the potato-bean filling begins to brown on top.

Serve immediately.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Blueberry Chia Muffins

A vegan-friendly muffin recipe (no eggs or butter) with blueberries, chia seed, and a hint of citrus.

Chia seeds contain more omega-three fatty acids than flax seed. You can read more about chia seeds here and here, and find them in many health food stores. This was my first attempt at baking with chia seeds -- usually, I stir them into my yogurt.

Loosely adapted from this recipe at Eat Me, Delicious.

1 and 2/3 cups all-purpose flour (plus 1 additional tablespoon flour if using frozen blueberries)
3/4 cup spelt flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup soy milk
3/4 cup (6 ounces) plain or vanilla yogurt (use soy yogurt for vegan muffins)
2 teaspoons vanilla
juice of 1/2 orange and 1/2 lemon (1/3 cup juice total)
1 teaspoon grated orange or lemon peel
1 and 1/2 cups blueberries
1/4 cup chia seeds

Preheat oven to 400F.

Place muffin cups in a muffin tin (or lightly brush the muffin tin with oil).

If using frozen blueberries, gently toss them with 1 tablespoon flour and set aside.

In a large bowl, stir together the all-purpose and spelt flours, baking powder, salt, and chia; set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, soy milk, yogurt, vanilla, grated rind, and juice.

Pour the liquid mixture into the flour mixture, and stir until just blended.

Gently stir in the blueberries.

Spoon the batter into the muffin tin, dividing it evenly between the 12 muffin cups.

Bake 20 to 25 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Remove from oven and cool before serving.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Veg Lasagna

I suppose everyone has their preferences when it comes to lasagna. I like mine packed with veggies, but I don't want the vegetables to distract from the cheese. Which is how I wound up with a veg-cheese filling that blends puréed spinach, grated carrot, and chopped onion with mozzarella, parmesan, and ricotta.

I originally made this lasagna with hand-chopped fresh spinach, but when I got a food processor, I found that it was faster (and cheaper) to use frozen spinach -- there's no change in flavor, and a slight improvement in texture. I also use store-bought tomato sauce in this lasagna, although you can make your own if you want. It's a pretty simple, no-fuss recipe, but the result is respectable enough to serve guests.

9 lasagna noodles, cooked per package instructions
10 ounces frozen spinach, thawed
1 carrot, washed and grated
1 onion, washed and finely chopped (or grated)
dash nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
black pepper to taste
1 egg
15 ounces (approx. 1 and 3/4 cup) part-skim ricotta
8 ounces grated mozzarella cheese, divided
About 3 ounces grated parmesan cheese, divided
26 ounces store-bought tomato sauce (about 3 cups)

Preheat the oven to 375F.

Purée the spinach in a food processor.

Transfer the spinach into a large bowl, and slowly blend in the carrot, onion, egg, salt, pepper, nutmeg, and ricotta, along with 2/3 of the mozzarella and 1/2 of the parmesan. Set the veg-cheese mixture aside.

Pour about 1/3 of the tomato sauce into a 9 x 13 baking dish, so that the bottom of the dish is covered.

Top the tomato sauce with three of the lasagna noodles.

Cover the lasagna noodles with 1/2 of the veg-cheese mixture (spreading the mixture so that the noodles are evenly covered).

Top the veg-cheese mixture with three more of the lasagna noodles.

Pour another third of the tomato sauce over the lasagna noodles.

Use the rest of the veg-cheese mixture to cover the tomato sauce.

Top the veg-cheese mixture with the last three lasagna noodles.

Pour the last of the tomato sauce over the lasagna noodles.

Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil and bake for 35 minutes.

Remove the foil and add the remaining mozzarella and parmesan cheese.

Bake (uncovered) for another 10 minutes, or until the cheese has melted.

Remove the lasagna from the oven and let sit for 10 minutes.


(I get 9 generous servings -- any leftovers freeze nicely.)

Monday, November 2, 2009

Sweet Potato Truffles With Pecans, Coconut, And Chocolate

I know that, from my recent posts, it must look like I eat nothing but sweets and soup. That's not exactly true, but I do have another sweets recipe to share -- this time, homemade truffles, made with mashed sweet potato, pecans, coconut, and two types of chocolate.

They're tiny, so you might need to eat a few of them.

1/4 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup mashed sweet potato
1/4 cup shredded coconut (unsweetened)
3/4 cup pecans
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Dash salt
1/4 cup cocoa powder

Place the chocolate chips, sweet potato, pecans, coconut, vanilla, and salt in a food processor and process until the mixture becomes relatively smooth and forms a ball.

Scrape the truffle mixture out of the food processor and into a bowl; cover and refrigerate for one hour.

After about an hour...

Set out a piece of wax paper or parchment paper (to place the finished truffles on).

Remove the truffle mixture from the refrigerator.

Place the cocoa powder on a dinner plate.

Roll 1 teaspoon of the truffle mixture between your hands to create a ball.

Roll the truffle ball in the cocoa powder until coated, and place on the parchment or wax paper.

Repeat until all of the truffle mixture has been used.

Refrigerate until serving (or enjoy immediately).