Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Ginger Shortbread

Pass around a plate of these delicious cookies on New Years Eve!

The recipe called for cake flour, but it can be hard to find. Luckily, all-purpose flour will do in a pinch, if you slightly decrease the amount. So if using cake flour, spoon out 3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons into measuring cups, leveling with a knife. If you use all-purpose, just decrease that amount slightly, to 3/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon.

Combine your flour in a bowl with 1/4 cup raw sugar, 1 teaspoon ground ginger and a dash of salt.

In a separate bowl, let 5 tablespoons of vegan butter (such as Earth Balance) soften slightly, then beat with a mixer until smooth. Gradually beat in the flour mixture until just combined. Add one tablespoon of ice water, and stir just until combined.

Turn the mixture out onto a sheet of plastic wrap and pat into a 4-inch circle (my dough was very soft, so don't worry if yours is, too). Cover with an additional layer of plastic wrap and let chill for 20 minutes in the fridge.

Remove the plastic, and lay the dough down on a clean sheet of plastic wrap. Cover with two additional layers of plastic wrap, and roll into an 8-inch circle. Remove the top layers of plastic and arrange the dough on the center of a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Remove the final sheet of plastic.

Sprinkle the dough evenly with a tablespoon of raw sugar - the original recipe actually called for turbinado here, but any coarse sugar will do. Lightly score the dough with a knife to yield 16 wedges, without actually cutting through.

Thinly slice 1/4-ounce of crystallized ginger into 16 pieces. (Note: this is a really tiny amount of ginger, so slice very thinly with your knife). Place one ginger slice on each of your 16 wedges, gently pressing to adhere.

Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and let stand 5 minutes, then cut along your pre-made marks to separate into wedges. Let the shortbread cool completely on a wire rack. Each cookie is 80 calories.

Cost:
ground ginger $4.99

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Spaghettini with Oil and Garlic

Make this quick entree on a busy night.

Bring 3 quarts (12 cups) of water and 1/2 tsp. salt to a boil in a large pot. Add 8 ounces uncooked spaghettini. (This pasta shape is a slightly thinner version of spaghetti, which will do in a pinch if you can't find the former; I used DeBole's organic artichoke flour spaghetti: www.deboles.com). Stir frequently until the pot returns to a boil, then partially cover and cook for 6 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 a cup of the cooking liquid. Set aside.

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add 5, thinly sliced garlic cloves (yes it's a lot! Don't make this dish on a first date). Saute 2 minutes, until just golden.

Remove from heat and add another 1/4 tsp. salt, the 1/2 cup of reserved liquid, 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley, and 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper. Add the pasta and toss gently to coat.

Return to the burner over medium heat for 1 minute until thoroughly heated.

Ladle 1 cup of the pasta into each of 4 bowls. The original recipe said to top each with 2 tablespoons grated fresh Parmesan, but instead try grating the Mozzarella block from Galaxy Foods.

This dish is best served immediately. Each of the four servings is 310 calories.

Cost:
spaghetti(ni) $2.19
flat-leaf parlsey $1.99
vegan cheese $3.39

Monday, December 29, 2008

'White Chocolate'-Cashew Coffee Biscotti

CAny recipe containing white chocolate has previously been a no-no on my list as a vegan; it is actually not chocolate at all - just milk solids, cocoa butter and sugar, which means that a vegan version didn't exist.

But recently, I stumbled across a version of white chocolate decorator chips while perusing veganessentials.com. I instantly searched out a recipe in which I could use them! The result is these delicious biscotti. Dip them into coffee either in the morning, for a snack, or for dessert.

First, though, in a large bowl combine: 1/4 cup raw sugar, 1/4 cup organic brown sugar, 1 tablespoon softened vegan butter (such as Earth Balance), 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract, and the equivalent of 2 eggs using egg replacer (such as Ener-G). Beat well with a mixer until combined.

(I should probably note that Earth Balance 'butter' takes no time at all to soften - about 5 minutes. As a kid, I can remember my mom taking out real butter in the morning to soften it for cookie-baking in the afternoon, but there's no need to do that with vegan butter).

Spoon one and 1/4 cups of all-purpose flour into measuring cups and level with a knife. Combine in a separate bowl with 2 tablespoons instant coffee granules, a tablespoon and a half of unsweetened cocoa, 1/2 tsp. baking soda, 1/4 tsp. cinnamon, 1/8 tsp. salt, and a dash of nutmeg. Gradually add into the sugar mixture, beating until blended. Stir in 6 tablespoons of coarsely chopped cashews (I used raw cashews, even though the recipe called for dry-roasted).

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead 7 times. Shape into a 12-inch long roll. Place on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray and pat down to about 3/4-inches thick. Sprinkle the top with a teaspoon and a half of raw sugar (I forgot this step! But oh well, of all of them, it is probably the least important).

Bake at 350 degrees for 22 minutes. Let the roll cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack, then slice diagonally into 21 slices (about 1/2-inch thick each).

Place the slices upright (meaning standing on the crust side, not flat like a cookie) on the baking sheet. Bake at 325 degrees this time, for 20 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack.

Once cooled, melt an ounce and a half of the vegan white chocolate chips, either in the microwave or in a small skillet over the stove. Spoon into a zip-top plastic bag and snip a tiny hole in one corner. Drizzle the icing over the biscotti (hopefully more artfully than I was able to do, as evinced by my photo!).

Each biscotto is 90 calories.

Cost:
unsweetened cocoa $7.99
cashews $6.19
'white chocolate' $3.99

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Vegetable Party Latke

Here's a delicious alternative to regular potato latkes. This makes one giant latke to slice into wedges.

In a large bowl, combine 1 pound peeled and shredded baking potato (about one large), 4 oz. peeled and shredded sweet potato (about one small), 4 oz shredded zucchini (one small), 1 carrot, peeled and shredded, and one small onion, peeled and shredded. Add 1/2 a cup all-purpose flour, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp. black pepper and the equivalent of two eggs using egg replacer (such as Ener-G).

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Press the vegetable mixture into the bottom of the pan evenly, and cook for 10 minutes.

Invert the latke onto a large plate, and add an additional tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet. Return the latke to the pan, un-cooked side down. Place in the oven at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, until golden brown. Make sure to use an ovenproof skillet, and wrap the handle in aluminum foil! A non-stick skillet is also best, or the latke will crust to the bottom.

Slice into 8 wedges of 150 calories each.


The whole latke!

Cost:
baking potato $0.82
sweet potato $0.49
zucchini $0.70

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Mocha Mudslides

These "milkshakes" might be the yummiest thing ever.

Let one cup of non-dairy chocolate ice cream soften slightly (my favorite is the fruit-sweetened Awesome Chocolate from Turtle Mountain). You can speed up the process by microwaving for about 10 seconds if you have one, which alas, I do not.

Combine the 'ice cream' in a bowl with 1/4 cup chocolate soy milk (such as Silk), 2 tablespoons of kahlua (yes, it is vegan, according to the company), a teaspoon and a half of grated chocolate, 1/4 tsp. instant coffee granules, and 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract. Stir well with a whisk until frothy and serve immediately.

For the grated chocolate, grate any chocolate bar that you're sure doesn't have any milk in it - I really like the Endangered Species chocolate company. Not only do your proceeds do good for animals, but the Smooth Dark Chocolate is certified vegan: http://www.chocolatebar.com/

1/2 a cup of this deliciousness is 190 calories but c'mon, who is going to limit themselves to that? Double your portion and enjoy.

Cost:
chocolate soy ice cream $3.69
chocolate soy milk $1.69
kahlua $14.99
dark chocolate $3.99

Friday, December 26, 2008

Sugar Snap Peas with Lemon and Toasted Almonds

This side dish is a variation on 'green beans almondine' - green beans with almonds.

Trim the ends off 2 and 1/2 cups sugar snap peas (about 8 ounces worth). Bring a cup of water to a boil; add the peas and cook for two minutes. Drain, conserving a teaspoon of cooking liquid.

Combine the beans, the reserved cooking liquid, 1/2 tsp. grated lemon rind and a teaspoon and a half melted vegan butter (such as Earth Balance), tossing to coat. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons sliced almonds (toast for a couple of minutes first in a skillet over medium-high heat), 1/4 tsp. salt and 1/8 tsp. black pepper.

1/2 a cup is 80 calories.

Cost:
sugar snap peas $2.25

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Barley with Shiitakes and Spinach

This dish comes together quickly. Double a portion for a vegan entree, and let any meat-eaters at the holiday table have it as a side.

Heat a teaspoon of olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1/2 cup chopped onion, 1/4 tsp. dried rosemary (crush it between your fingers first for smaller pieces), and 2 small minced garlic cloves. Saute 3 minutes. Add 4 cups sliced shiitake mushroom caps, and saute 6 minutes.

Stir in 6 tablespoons of uncooked barley (buy the quick-cooking kind; if you buy regular pearl barley it will be too tough because of the short cooking time), along with 5 ounces of vegetable broth and 3 tablespoons water. Bring to a boil, then cover, reduce heat and simmer for ten minutes.

Grate a tablespoon and a half of vegan cheese to replace Parmesan - I like the vegan mozzarella block from Galaxy Foods, here. Stir in the 'cheese' along with 4 cups torn fresh spinach and 1/8 tsp. black pepper. Cook for about 3 minutes, until the spinach wilts, stirring frequently.

One cup of the mixture is 180 calories, but as I mentioned, double the portion for a main dish. You can also easily double this entire recipe to feed a large crowd.

Merry Christmas to all.

Cost:
onion $0.49
shiitake mushrooms $6.59
spinach $2.50
'Parmesan' $3.39

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Mini Cranberry Panettones

Panettone is an Italian sweet bread that hails from Milan and is traditionally eaten at Christmas. It is also a Christmas staple in other parts of the world such as Bolivia and Peru. These mini versions make great hostess gifts, and are delicious either for breakfast or dessert. Be prepared to make a mess in your kitchen though! And leave yourself plenty of time, as there are 3 separate hours in which the dough needs to rise.

Dissolve one package of yeast in 1/2 a cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water (use a thermometer to check that it is between 100 and 110 degrees). Let stand five minutes; meanwhile, spoon 1/2 a cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour into measuring cups and level with a knife. Stir into the yeast mixture with a whisk until combined. Cover and let rise one hour, or until doubled in size.

Combine 6 tablespoons sugar, 3 and 1/2 tablespoons vegan butter (such as Earth Balance), a teaspoon and a half finely chopped orange rind and 1/4 tsp. salt. Beat until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes). Add the equivalent of one egg using egg replacer (such as Ener-G) and beat to combine. Beat in the risen yeast mixture.

Spoon 2 additional cups of all-purpose flour into measuring cups, leveling with a knife. Add to the egg mixture. If you have a stand-mixer, you can probably beat with that. If you only have a hand-held mixer, I actually recommend reverting to a good old wooden spoon, because the dough was so thick it bogged down my little beaters.

However you can, mix until smooth. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead 3 minutes. (You can read more thoroughly in past bread-making posts of mine about kneading instructions, but just adhere to these 4 steps: punch down, fold over, quarter turn, repeat!) You can add an extra 1/4 cup or so of flour as needed, about a tablespoonful at a time, to keep the dough from sticking to your hands, but I found I didn't need to do so.

After 3 minutes, knead in 1 and 1/4 cups dried cranberries and 2 tablespoons finely chopped crystallized ginger. It will seem like a lot, but believe it or not, the dough does manage to incorporate it all.

Place the dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat the top, then cover and let rise another hour, or until doubled in size.

Coat 3 (one-cup) muffin cups with cooking spray. Cut 3 strips of parchment paper (about 5x12-inches each) and line the muffin cups, extending about 3 inches from the top of each. Divide the dough evenly into the muffin cups. Lightly spray each muffin with cooking spray and sprinkle the tops evenly with a tablespoon of slivered almonds. Let rise for an hour, or until doubled in size.

Once doubled, bake in the oven at 375 degrees for 25 minutes. Cut each panettone into quarters, and you'll have 12 servings of 220 calories each.

(If you don't have one-cup muffin pans and want to bake these as standard-sized muffins, you'll have a yield of 18. Decrease your cooking time to 20 minutes though.

Cost:
yeast $2.69
dried cranberries $6.49

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Potato Latkes

Whether you're celebrating Hanukkah or not, latkes are a delicious appetizer, and easy enough to make vegan.

Peel and shred 2 cups of baking potato (about 1 large) and grate 1/2 a cup of onion. For both, its quite easy to use the holes of a large grater. Or you could use the shredder attachment of your food processor if it has one. Combine in a sieve and squeeze out any access liquid by pressing the mixture in handfuls.

Combine the potato mixture in a large bowl along with 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, 1/2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme, 1/4 tsp. salt, 1/8 tsp. black pepper, and the equivalent of one egg using egg replacer (such as Ener-G).

Form the mixture into 6 equal-sized patties, squeezing any excess moisture as you work.

Heat a tablespoon and a half of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the latkes and cook 5 minutes on each side, until golden. You can drain on paper towels to get rid of any excess oil, if you wish.

Each latke is 90 calories. These are delicious with a dallop of vegan sour cream (try the one from Toffuti) or applesauce. Happy Hanukkah to those celebrating!

Cost:
baking potato $1.61
onion $1.25
thyme $2.99

Monday, December 22, 2008

Meringue and Streusel-Topped Sweet Potatoes

This recipe is a bit complicated, but by the time you're done, you'll have a vegan update on a traditional holiday dish.

Place 4 cups of cubed, peeled sweet potato (about a pound and a half) in a saucepan; cover with water and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Drain and place in a large bowl.

Combine the sweet potato with 1/2 cup coarsely chopped dried cranberries, 1/4 cup vegan cream (such as the plain creamer from Silk), 3 tablespoons maple syrup, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract, 1/4 tsp. cinnamon, 1/4 tsp. maple flavor, and the equivalent of one egg using egg replacer (such as Ener-G). The recipe said to beat with a mixer until smooth; however, I found it was easier to slightly mash with a potato masher first, then beat, since otherwise the chunks of sweet potato skittered away from the beater.

For the maple flavor, the most widely available is McCormick's, but I'm waiting back from the company to hear if it is vegan. "Natural flavors" and "sugar" in the ingredient list are both suspect. Instead, order the maple flavor from Nature's Flavors: http://www.naturesflavors.com/product_info.php/products_id/3768 You can be sure that their version is vegan!

Spoon the sweet potato mixture into an 8x8-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Set aside.

In a small bowl, combine 1/3 cup chopped pecans with 1/4 cup packed organic brown sugar, 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, 1 tablespoon melted vegan butter (such as Earth Balance), and 1/8 tsp. cinnamon. Sprinkle the streusel evenly over the potato mixture and bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Now for the meringue! My endless search to replicate egg whites continues, but tonight I returned to good old Ener-G when I found a tip online that if you beat it a full 12 minutes it resembles the stiff peaks of egg whites. So I did beat the equivalent of 2 egg whites (a tablespoon of powder whisked into 4 tablespoons warm water), for a full 12 minutes (much to the annoyance of my two foster kittens!), and it seemed to be working. But when I added the sugar which the recipe called for (just over a cup), it got soupy again.

I would recommend beating in 1/2 a cup raw sugar maximum, one tablespoon at a time, and you might have more success than I did. Another alternative would be to add agar agar into the Ener-G mix along with the sugar.

Once your meringue is whipped, pour into a pastry bag fitted with a star-shaped tip (or a ziplock bag will do in a pinch). Pipe onto the potato mixture in a lattice-work pattern - as you can see from the photo, my piping skills are noticeably lacking!

Bake for an additional 15 minutes at 350 degrees.

The yield is 8 servings, of 1/2 a cup and 270 calories each.


A yummy scoopful!

Cost:
sweet potato $3.68
dried cranberries $3.39
maple flavor $4.19
raw sugar $4.99

Update: I want to report that McCormick customer service promptly responded to my inquiry within 24 hours to say that the maple extract contains no animal products. Good to know for the future!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Orange Cardamom Cake

This is the other dessert I brought along to my family's Christmas celebration this year. It comes together quickly and travels well.

Coat a 10-cup Bundt or tube pan with cooking spray. Sprinkle with a tablespoon of all-purpose flour and set aside.

Spoon 3 cups of all-purpose flour into measuring cups and level with a knife. Combine in a large bowl along with 2 cups raw sugar, a tablespoon of baking powder, 1 and 3/4 tsps. cardamom, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, and 1/2 tsp. salt.

Make a "well" in the center of the dry ingredients and add 3/4 cup orange juice (the fresh-squeezed from Whole Foods' 365 is delicious! Or squeeze your own at home), 2/3 cup canola oil, one tablespoons grated orange rind, 2 teaspoons grated lemon rind, 1 tsp. vanilla extract and the equivalent of 3 eggs using egg replacer (such as Ener-G).

Beat with a mixer at low speed until well combined - be careful not to splatter!

Spoon evenly into the prepared cake pan. Bake at 350 degrees for about 55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (mine needed an extra ten minutes or so).

Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes, then remove from pan. While the cake is in the oven, you can make the glaze: combine 1 cup powdered sugar with 4 and 1/2 tsps. orange juice and 1/2 tsp. lemon juice, stirring with a whisk. Drizzle the glaze over the cake while it is still warm, then cool completely on a wire rack.

(Note: my glaze was awfully thick, so I added an extra teaspoon of warm water. If the same happens to you, you could also probably up the amount of orange or lemon juice to taste).

The cake will yield 16 slices of 320 calories each.

Cost:
all-purpose flour $3.79
orange juice $1.99
canola oil $4.69
orange $0.94
lemon $0.50

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Christmas Sugar Wafers with Vanilla Icing

Well, when my boyfriend saw these cookies straight from the oven he told me they were "bakery quality." Couldn't ask for a higher compliment than that! Bring a batch of these to the relatives' house and I bet they won't believe they're vegan.

In a large bowl, combine 6 tablespoons raw sugar, 1/4 cup vegan butter (such as Earth Balance) and 2 tablespoons organic brown sugar (the recipe said dark, but I used light with fine results). Beat with a mixer until smooth and creamy (about 4-5 minutes). Add a teaspoon and a half vanilla extract and beat until combined. Beat in the equivalent of 2 eggs using egg replacer such as Ener-G, adding one at a time and beating after each addition.

In a separate bowl, combine a cup and a half of all-purpose flour with 3 tablespoons corn starch, 1/2 tsp. baking powder, 1/4 tsp. baking soda and 1/4 tsp. salt, stirring with a whisk. Add to the sugar mixture and beat until combined.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface (it will be soft). Form into a ball, then divide into 4 smaller balls. Working with one portion at a time, roll each into an 8-inch circle in between two sheets of plastic wrap, and place in the freezer for 20 minutes.

This part of the recipe gets a little complicated, but it's not hard, just involved. Remove one portion of dough from the freezer and leave the others inside. Remove the top sheet of plastic wrap. Using a 3-inch cookie cutter (any shape you like!), cut 3 cookies and place on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Gather the scraps from the dough, re-roll into a smaller circle (about a 4-inch diameter this time) and refreeze for about 15 minutes.

Repeat with the remaining dough! I found it was easiest to bake the first round of 12 cookies while the second rolling-of-the-dough froze in the freezer. Either way, bake in 2 batches of 12 for 8 minutes at 375 degrees until lightly browned. Cool on wire racks.

Once the cookies cool, combine the icing: mix 1 cup powdered sugar (try the organic powdered sugar from Whole Foods' 365 brand) with 2 and a half teaspoons warm water, 1 teaspoon light corn syrup, 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract and a dash of salt. Stir with a fork.

You can drizzle the icing haphazardly over the cookies, or put into a zip-top plastic bag, cut a hole in 1 corner and pipe onto the cookies in a pattern. Alas, you can see that my decorating skills are not quite up to par, otherwise I would have made pretty snowflakes.

You'll have 24 cookies. Each one is 100 calories.

Cost:
powdered sugar $3.69
light corn syrup $5.69

Friday, December 19, 2008

Peppery Baked Onions with Sage and 'Gruyere'

Here is another side dish that makes good use of vegetables still in season in the cold winter months. Serve alongside something hearty, such as stew or tempeh strips.

Peel and halve four, medium-sized yellow onions. Place in a 2-quart, shallow baking dish coated with cooking spray, cut sides up. Brush the tops with a teaspoon and a half of olive oil, and sprinkle evenly with 1/2 tsp. black pepper and 1/4 tsp. salt. Bake in the oven at 400 degrees for 40 minutes.

Add 2/3 cup vegetable broth and 2 teaspoons soy sauce, and return to the oven. The recipe said for another hour here, but my onions really only needed 45 minutes. Either way, baste every fifteen minutes or so. (If you don't have a baster - a fairly unnecessary tool in a vegan kitchen! - just use a spoon to ladle some liquid over each onion half).

Sprinkle the onions evenly with 1/4 tsp. dried sage and 1/4 cup shredded vegan cheese, and return to the oven for a final 5 minutes. Try grating the vegan mozzarella block from Galaxy Foods in place of Gruyere called for in the original recipe. When you're in the spice aisle buying the dried sage, don't buy ground sage. Buy the dried leaf form, and rub between your fingers to crumble.

2 onion halves make a side serving of 110 calories.

Cost:
yellow onions $1.77
vegetable broth $2.69
dried sage $3.99
vegan cheese $3.39

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Swiss Chard with Almonds and Shallots

Here's a good winter side dish that serves two and is about as easy as they come.

Heat a teaspoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons chopped shallot and saute 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add 3 cups sliced Swiss chard (a tough leafy green that wilts like spinach when cooked). Cover and cook 2 minutes, until wilted.

Remove from heat and stir in 1/8 tsp. salt and 1/8 tsp. black pepper. Sprinkle with a teaspoon of slivered or sliced almonds - toast the nuts first, if you like.

This recipe will make 2, 1/2 cup servings of 50 calories.

Cost:
Swiss chard $1.47

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread

It is truly unfortunate that most people probably only eat pumpkin once a year in a Thanksgiving pie, since it is both delicious and nutritious. Here's a recipe that you can make year round - a couple slices make a great breakfast on the go or a yummy dessert. And this time of year it's a perfect hostess gift. Give a loaf with a recipe card attached.

In a large bowl, combine 1 cup raw sugar, 1 cup canned pumpkin, 1/4 cup canola oil, 1/4 cup vanilla soy pudding, and the equivalent of 2 eggs using egg replacer (such as Ener-G). For the soy pudding, try the certified vegan snack pack from Zen Soy: www.zensoy.com They also make this treat in chocolate and banana flavors, which are a yummy vegan snack to have on hand.

Spoon out one and a half cups all-purpose flour into measuring cups and level with a knife. Combine in a separate bowl with 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. baking soda, stirring with a whisk. Add to the pumpkin mixture and stir until just combined.

Stir in 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips. Whole Foods' 365 brand now makes vegan chocolate chips which I like better than other carob chip varieties I have tried.

Spoon the batter into an 8x4-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray and bake in the oven at 350 degrees for an hour and 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. This recipe doubles super easily, in which case just put 2 loaf pans in the oven at once.

Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for ten minutes before carefully removing from the pan. Let cool on the wire rack completely. A loaf will yield 16 slices of 160 calories each.

Cost:
sugar $3.69
canned pumpkin $0.99
vanilla soy pudding $4.49
chocolate chips $2.99

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Celery-Celeriac Soup with 'Roquefort' Croutons

Celeriac is variation of the celery plant, used for its root rather than for its stem or leaves. This soup features both celery varieties for a double-dose of deliciousness. I recommend chopping all the vegetables before burners get lit and things get underway.

Melt a teaspoon and a half of vegan butter (such as Earth Balance) in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add 1/2 a cup thinly sliced leek and 1/4 cup chopped shallot; cook 5 minutes until tender, stirring frequently. (Remember when washing leeks to slice them first, then place in a sieve to rinse, since otherwise dirt can stick between all the layers).

Add 2 cups chopped, peeled celeriac (it might be labeled celery root in your grocery store), 3/4 cup cubed, peeled Yukon gold potato, 1/2 cup water, one (14-ounce) can of vegetable broth, one thyme sprig and one bay leaf. I had forgotten that I used up all my fresh thyme in a recipe a couple nights ago, so I just added about 1/8 tsp. dried thyme instead - whoops!

Bring to a boil, then cover, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Next stir in 1 cup thinly sliced celery, 1/2 cup plain soy milk (such as Silk), 1/4 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. black pepper. Simmer for ten minutes but be careful not to boil.

Remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes. Discard the bay leaf (and thyme, if you used a fresh sprig). Pour the mixture into a blender, and puree until smooth, then return to pan and stir in 2 tablespoons of vegan cream - I like the plain creamer from Silk best.

Next make the croutons: slice 4 (1/2-inch thick) slices of French bread baguette, and place on a baking sheet. Coat the tops with cooking spray. Broil for one minute. Turn over, and top each with one tablespoon crumbled 'cheese'. The original recipe called for Roquefort, which is a variety of blue cheese, so the nearest vegan option is the Soy Blue from Sunergia. Since the soy-based version doesn't melt quite as well though, I found it was easier to press it down into the bread slices, instead of just sprinkling it on top. Broil an additional minute. Let cool for one minute on the baking sheet, then cut each bread slice into 6 croutons.

Ladle one cup of soup into each of 4 bowls. Top each with 6 croutons. Each serving is 180 calories. This is best served immediately, so the croutons don't get soggy. Now stay warm! It's snowing out there...

Cost:
leek $0.65
shallots $0.24
celeriac $4.25
Yukon gold potato $0.64
vegetable broth $1.49
'cream' $1.99
French baguette $1.29

Monday, December 15, 2008

Chianti-Stained Risotto with Pears and 'Blue Cheese'

I love making risotto, and haven't done so in quite a while! This makes a beautiful side dish or main course meal, if doubled.

In a small saucepan, combine 1/2 cup pear nectar, 21 ounces of vegetable broth and 1/8 tsp. cinnamon. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat but be careful not to boil. Once it simmers, keep warm over low heat.

In a Dutch oven, heat one and a half teaspoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots, two small minced garlic cloves, and either 1/2 tsp. chopped fresh or 1/4 tsp. dried thyme. Cook 2 minutes. Add 3/4 cup Arborio (short-grain) rice and saute for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add 1/4 cup (unfiltered) Chianti or other dry red wine of your choice and cook until the liquid is absorbed - the recipe said 2 minutes, but mine absorbed pretty quickly.

Now add your broth mixture, about 1/2 a cup at a time, stirring constantly between each addition until all of the liquid is absorbed before adding the next portion. It is said that risotto is truly a labor of love, so expect this step to take 20-30 minutes.

Once all the liquid is absorbed, stir in 1/8 tsp. salt and 1/8 tsp. black pepper. Set aside.

Peel and core one firm Bosc pear, and slice into 1/4 inch thick wedges. Heat 3/4 tsp. olive oil and 1/2 tsp. vegan butter (such as Earth Balance) in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the pear wedges and saute 4 minutes.

Place 1/2 a cup of the risotto on each of 5 plates. Top each serving with 1/4 cup of the pears (about 4 wedges). On top of each serving, sprinkle a tablespoon of crumbled vegan blue cheese (try the Soy Blue from Sunergia), a teaspoon and a half of chopped walnuts (toast them first if you like), and 1/2 a teaspoon chopped fresh parsley.

Each serving is 250 calories. Double for an entree-sized portion.

Cost:
pear nectar $3.99
vegetable broth $1.49
shallots $0.24
Arborio rice $2.31
Chianti $18.99
Bosc pear $1.73
'blue cheese' $4.49
walnuts $4.69

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Herbed 'Parmesan' Souffle

Tonight, I am experimenting with Versawhip! This soy protein was developed by Chef Will Goldfarb, among other fun products - check out the website at willpowder.net Once added into water, it whips into a foam like egg whites. I wondered if perhaps it would be the key to making the ever-elusive vegan dish - a souffle. I have tried to make puddings and souffles in the past, which, while yummy, never puff up quite like an egg white.

The disclaimer then, is that almost nothing in the original recipe I followed tonight was vegan. The results are currently in the oven, success to be determined...

First, coat a one and a half quart souffle dish with cooking spray. Sprinkle with 1/3 cup breadcrumbs, turning to evenly coat the bottom and sides. Set aside.

In a saucepan, combine 2 tablespoons potato starch, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/8 tsp. ground red pepper, and 1/8 tsp. nutmeg. Slowly pour in one cup plain soy milk (such as Silk), stirring constantly with a whisk. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Once boiling, cook another minute, still stirring. The recipe said that the mixture would be "thick" but mine was very thick - as in, would-hardly-shake-off-the-whisk thick. I wondered if that was normal, or whether I overcooked and misjudged the boiling point...

But anyway, remove from heat and stir in 3/4 cup grated 'Parmesan' (shredding the vegan Mozzarella block from Galaxy Foods works well here), 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme (substitute 1 teaspoon dried if you like), and 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley.

Let sit for one minute, then stir in one "egg" using egg replacer of your choice (such as Ener-G).

Now the fun part! In a large bowl, use Versawhip to create the equivalent of 6 egg whites (see what I mean about the recipe not being vegan....?). The Versawhip package actually does not specify how much equals one egg white. The best estimate I could come up with through online sources was 2 teaspoons of the powder mixed into 1/4 cup water. So for 6 egg whites, that's 4 tablespoons powder and one and a half cups water. Add 1/8 tsp. cream of tartar.

Beat it with a mixer and you will be amazed - it really does foam up like nothing I've seen since... well, since an egg white.

Gently spoon half of the egg whites into the 'cheese' mixture, then gently fold in the remaining half. I didn't quite need to use all of the "egg white" produced by my Versawhip whipping, or the souffle dish would have overflowed.

Now comes the moment of truth... bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.

The suspense of course is ruined by the picture above... no it didn't puff up. However, it more closely approximated a souffle than my past attempts, pre-Versawhip. The result was too salty and a bit gloppy... but still yummy. Although I probably can't recommend this for a holiday table, as was my hope, have it at home if you want to experiment. Divide into 6 equal portions of about 120 calories each.

Cost:
potato starch $3.99
plain soy milk $1.69
'parmesan' $3.39
parsley $1.99
Versawhip $8.00

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Mulled Cranberry-Guava Toddies

If a cup of this doesn't warm you up on a cold night, nothing will. This version of the recipe serves four, but if you have lots of relatives coming for the holidays, double, triple, or even quadruple it!

In a saucepan, combine 3 cups cranberry juice cocktail, one tablespoon of thinly sliced, peeled ginger, 1/2 tsp. whole cloves, 4 (1/4-inch thick) slices of orange, and 3 ounces guava nectar (available with other juices in the grocery store. Try the one from Ceres: http://www.ceresjuices.com/). Bring to a boil, then cover, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

Remove the ginger and cloves. I don't have a slotted spoon, so I found it was easier to strain the mixture through a sieve over a bowl.

Pour about 3/4 cups of toddy into each of 4 mugs, and stir two tablespoons dark rum (such as Myer's) into each. Float an orange slice on top for a pretty presentation. Each drink is 190 calories.

Hot toddies, as an interesting historical note, are thought to have originated in the 18th century as a way to make scotch more palatable to women - the original alcopop!

Cost:
cranberry juice $3.99
ginger $0.68
orange $1.05
guava nectar $3.49
dark rum $8.99

Friday, December 12, 2008

Ginger-Hazelnut Pumpkin Tart

'Tis the season, so here's another delicious vegan pie to make sure you aren't left empty-handed at the dessert table. For the sake of time, skip the homemade crust for this one. The original recipe called for 1/2 of a 15-ounce package of refrigerated pie dough from Pillsbury. Since Pillsbury's pie dough isn't vegan though, try the pre-made pie shells from Wholly Wholesome (I prefer the whole wheat variety). They come two (7 ounce) crusts to a package, and are vegan - http://whollywholesome.com/ Use one crust for this recipe now and put the other back in the freezer for later in the holiday season!

Thaw the pie crust just long enough so that you can prick it with a fork along the bottom and edges (about 10-15 minutes). Prick all around, then bake the empty crust in the oven for 10 minutes at 375 degrees. Cool on a wire rack. (This pre-baking step ensures a crispier finished product).

In a blender or food processor, combine 2/3 cup raw sugar, 1/2 cup crumbled silken tofu (in place of ricotta cheese), 1/2 cup plain soy milk (such as Silk), 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice, 1/4 tsp. salt, one (15-ounce) can of pumpkin, and the equivalent of one egg use egg replacer (such as Ener-G). Process until well blended.

Spoon into the crust.

In a small bowl, combine 3 tablespoons chopped hazelnuts, 2 tablespoons chopped crystallized ginger and 2 tablespoons organic brown sugar. Sprinkle evenly over the pumpkin mixture.

Bake in the oven at 375 degrees for 45 minutes. Cool for at least 20 minutes on a wire rack before slicing into it.

Divide the pie into 10 slices. Serve each slice with 1/3 cup vanilla soy ice cream (my favorite is the fruit-sweetened Vanilla Soy Delicious from Turtle Mountain: www.turtlemountain.com) - Each serving is 300 calories.

Cost:
pre-made pie crust $3.00
silken tofu $2.19
soy milk $1.69
canned pumpkin $0.99
egg replacer $6.29
hazelnuts $6.99
crystallized ginger $5.99
vanilla soy ice cream $3.69

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Golden Rutabagas and Shallots

Poor rutabaga - I feel like this humble winter vegetable gets such a bad reputation. This cross between a cabbage and a turnip originated in Sweden (and is known as 'Swede' in the UK!), but actually only got a bad name during World War I when it was a "last resort" food for soldiers. Before that, it was a staple source of nutrition prior to the potato, and was the original Jack o' Lantern before people started carving pumpkins!

Anyway, here's a yummy way to eat it.

Place 5 cups (peeled and one-inch cubed) rutabaga in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 25 minutes until tender. (Note: It's much easier to peel rutabaga with a knife than with a vegetable peeler, because the skins are thick and tough).

While the rutabaga cooks, peel and halve 12 shallots. Melt a tablespoon of vegan butter (such as Earth Balance) in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and saute 2 minutes.

Add one cup vegetable broth, 1/2 cup Madeira (a fortified Portuguese wine), 2 tablespoons agave nectar (in place of honey) and 1/4 tsp. salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes until the liquid reduces to about 1/2 a cup.

Drain the rutabaga, and add to the skillet along with 1/2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme and a dash of black pepper. Toss gently to combine.

3/4 cup is a side-serving of 130 calories.

A note on the Madeira: the same rules of filtration apply as with all wines - the product itself is vegan, but animal matter may be used in the filtration process. Look for organic Madeira or ask a knowledgeable salesperson about a particular brand's filtration methods.

Cost:
rutabaga $2.07
shallots $3.07
vegetable broth $2.69
Madeira wine $12.99
agave nectar $3.99

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Fruited Basmati Pilaf with Pistachios

Double a side serving of this yummy pilaf for an vegan entree portion. It's great with the Carrot Coins with Maple-Balsamic Browned 'Butter' from a few nights back. Leftovers travel well to work for lunch.

Melt a tablespoon of vegan butter (such as Earth Balance) in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1/2 a cup thinly sliced shallot and saute 8 minutes until golden. I actually found that I needed to turn the heat down to medium-low, since my shallots were browning quite quickly. Once golden, remove from heat and set aside.

Combine 1 and 1/4 cups water and 3/4 cups uncooked basmati rice in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then add 6 tablespoons frozen green peas, 6 tablespoons golden raisins, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/8 tsp. black pepper, a heaping 1/4 teaspoonful of fennel seeds (lightly crush them first using a mortar and pestle), just a pinch each of ground cardamom and crushed saffron threads, one small (1/2-inch) cinnamon stick and one small bay leaf. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 10 to 20 minutes, until the liquid is absorbed.

Remove from heat. Discard the cinnamon stick and bay leaf. Stir in the shallots and 1/4 cup chopped pistachios (you can toast the nuts first, too, if you like).

3/4 cups is a side dish of 200 calories, or double that for a dinner portion.

Cost:
frozen green peas
pistachios $1.49

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Carrot-Parsnip Soup with Parsnip Chips

This soup has several servings of fresh veggies per bowlful! Thanks to the parsnip, it's also high in potassium and dietary fiber.

Heat 1/2 a teaspoon olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add one and a quarter cups coarsely chopped yellow onion and cook for ten minutes until tender, stirring occasionally.

Add one and a half cups coarsely chopped parsnip, one and a half cups water, one and a quarter cups coarsely chopped carrot, and one (14-ounce) can of vegetable broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 50 minutes.

While the soup simmers, make the parsnip chips. Heat an additional 2 and 1/2 tsps. olive oil in a small saucepan or skillet over medium-high heat. Add an additional 1/4 cup of parsnip (cut into 1/8-inch thick slices). Cook for 5 minutes, turning occasionally. Drain on paper towels.

When the soup is done simmering, let stand for 5 minutes. Transfer to a blender and puree until smooth. Return to the pan and stir in 1/8 tsp. salt and 1/8 tsp. black pepper.

Ladle 1 and 1/3 cups soup into each of three bowls. Top each serving with about 2 teaspoons worth of the parsnip chips and with 1/2 a teaspoon of chopped fresh chives. Each bowl is 160 calories.

Cost:
onion $0.61
parsnip $1.25
carrot $0.91
vegetable broth $1.49
chives $2.49

Monday, December 8, 2008

Toasted Pecan Divinity

I did some hard-core vegan experimenting today. I can't promise you this recipe was a success, but neither was it unsuccessful. Maybe I've laid the foundation from which more experienced vegan chefs can come up with a fully working version of this yummy candy!

Mainly, I wanted to experiment because I just received two exciting products being used in vegan baking - one a packet of agar-agar powder (used to thicken like egg whites), and the other a packet of Versawhip, a soy protein that whips into an amazing foam - I tried out a test batch and it probably quadruples in volume. We'll leave the possibilities of Versawhip and vegan foam for another day, because today I wanted to try the agar-agar. Alas, nowhere on the package could I get a direct indication for how much of the powder was the equivalent of an egg white. I searched online, and found conflicting opinions. Finally, I followed this ratio:

Dissolve 4 teaspoons agar-agar powder in 1/2 a cup water. Let stand ten minutes. Heat in a saucepan over medium heat for about 5 minutes, until a milky white liquid is achieved. Unfortunately, my mixture seemed too thick - hardly liquid at all - so I added an entire 1/2 a cup of water more. Which may have messed up the consistency of the candy...

But anyway, that stood in for "2 egg whites" in my recipe. The rest of the recipe is as follows:

Toss 48 pecan halves with a tablespoon of melted vegan butter (such as Earth Balance). Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake in the oven at 350 degrees for twelve minutes, until toasted. Transfer to a bowl and sprinkle with 1/4 tsp. salt; set aside.

In a saucepan, combine two and a half cups raw sugar (yes it's a lot...) with 2/3 a cup water and 1/2 a cup light-colored corn syrup. I also (oops) realized that I was low on corn syrup, and could barely eke out 1/2 a cup from my bottle. I topped off the remaining last couple tablespoons-worth with water, which may also have affected my candy... (Can you tell it was not my day for baking?)

Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat. Cover and cook for 3 minutes. Uncover and cook - without stirring! - until a candy thermometer reaches 250 degrees. The recipe said this should take about 8 minutes, but it took my mixture about double that. I wonder if it is the result of using raw sugar instead of refined? Or just my stove? Anyway, the thermometer did eventually tick up to 250, at which point, remove from heat.

Beat your "egg whites" (see above) until stiff. Add a teaspoon of vanilla extract, beating to combine. With the beater running at high speed, slowly pour in the hot sugar mixture in a thin stream. Beat until the mixture is stiff.

(Note: while this step would take about 3 minutes with real egg whites, indications that I found online made it seem it would take closer to 10 with agar-agar. So I beat for a full 10 minutes, at which point things did start to thicken).

Working quickly, drop the mixture by the heaping-teaspoonful onto waxed paper, to measure 4 dozen little candy drops. Press a pecan half on the top of each one.

Now, here's where my recipe failed, even though I did come up with photograph-able little candies. They solidified, but not enough to store, certainly not in a container atop one another, as they were too sticky. They also aren't "puffed up" like the original version, nor as white (which I think I can attribute to the lack of white in egg whites?) Oh well! Perhaps I will tinker with things and try this again another afternoon. The resulting sugary-clumps that I did make were quite tasty. Each 'divinity' is 70 calories.

p.s. here's a photo of how it would look made with egg whites ::sigh::
http://www.markballard.com/divinity.jpg

Cost:
agar agar powder $15.00

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Peppernut Tea Bread

Have a slice of this deliciously spiced bread with a cup of tea in the afternoon, or a couple slices for breakfast in the morning.

Spoon out 1 and a half cups of all-purpose flour into measuring cups, and level with a knife. Place in a large bowl and combine with 1 teaspoon baking soda, 3/4 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg (grind it fresh if you can find whole nutmeg in your supermarket's spice section!), 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon, 1/4 tsp. ground star anise, and 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper.

The star anise you'll almost certainly have to grind at home, since I've only ever seen it sold whole. Use a coffee or spice grinder or do it the fun old-fashioned way - with a mortar and pestle.

Add one cup apple butter (sold near jams and jellies - don't worry it doesn't contain any butter; it's just apples and apple cider) to the flour mixture, along with 1/4 cup raw sugar, 1/4 cup agave nectar (in place of honey), and the equivalent of 2 eggs using egg replacer (such as Ener-G). Stir well to combine.

Fold in 1/2 a cup golden raisins and 1 tablespoon sliced almonds.

Spoon the batter into a 9x5-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle the top with an additional tablespoon of sliced almonds. Bake at 325 degrees for 35 minutes (a toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean).

Carefully loosen the sides of the bread away from the pan with a spatula, and turn out onto a wire rack. Cool completely.

One-sixteenth of the loaf is a slice of 130 calories.

Cost:
apple butter $3.19
(yes I already had all the rest!)

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Blood Orange Sangria

This sangria is great for holiday parties. Blood oranges have a beautiful red-colored flesh but if you can't find them substitute navel oranges - the red wine will stain them red anyone, so who can tell the difference?

Peel 2 oranges. Set half of one of the oranges aside for a snack. Section the rest, cutting each segment in half (so you'll have about 24 oranges segments total). Place in a large bowl along with 1 cup sliced strawberries, 1 cup apple juice, 1/3 cup triple sec, 1/4 cup raw sugar, 2 whole cloves, one cinnamon stick, one 750 milliliter bottle of fruity red wine, 1/2 a lemon (cut into 4 wedges) and 1/2 a lime (cut into 4 wedges).

Stir until the sugar dissolves. Cover and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight. Before serving, remove the cloves and the cinnamon stick, then ladle 1 cup into each of 8 glasses, including the fruit. Each serving is 160 calories.

Beaujolais wine is great for this sangria - as always, look for one that is unfiltered. Alas I already brought my recycling down and can't remember the name of the label that I bought!

Cost:
navel oranges $2.92
strawberries $4.99
Beaujolais $12.99
lemon $0.79
lime $0.40

Friday, December 5, 2008

'Pappardelle' with Roasted Winter Squash, Arugula, and Pine Nuts

Pappardelle is a wide ribbon pasta. If a vegan version exists, alas, I could not find it. Bionaturae - one of my go-to organic pasta brands - does make a pappardelle, but it contains eggs, which is traditional. Fettuccine is your next closest bet, so use that instead.

First, though, combine 2 cups cubed butternut squash in a bowl with a tablespoon balsamic vinegar, a teaspoon olive oil and 1/8 tsp. salt, tossing to coat. Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray and bake at 475 degrees for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, melt a teaspoon and a half vegan butter (such as Earth Balance) in a small skillet over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon pine nuts, a teaspoon and a half chopped sage, and one minced garlic clove. Saute 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.

At the same time, cook 4 ounces of the pasta according to package directions. Drain the pasta, reserving a teaspoon and a half of the cooking liquid.

Combine the pasta, the reserved liquid, the squash mixture and the pine nut mixture in a large bowl. Add 1 cup trimmed arugula, another 1/8 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp. black pepper, and 1/4 cup grated vegan cheese (such as the mozzarella block from Galaxy Foods) in place of Asiago. Toss to combine and serve immediately.

The yield is 3 servings of about 2 cups, each of which is 270 calories.

Cost:
butternut squash $2.99
fettuccine $1.99
sage $2.99
arugula $2.50

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Onion Soup Gratinee

'Gratinee' refers to any dish with breadcrumbs or grated cheese on top - in this recipe it's baguette slices and vegan mozzarella from Galaxy Foods in place of Gruyere.

Heat a saucepan over medium-high heat and coat with cooking spray. Add one cup coarsely chopped celery, 1/4 cup chopped carrot and 4 ounces sliced mushrooms. Saute 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add 1/2 a cup dry red wine of your choice, scraping the pan to remove any browned bits.

Add 2 cups vegetable broth, 2 cups water, 2 parsley sprigs and 1 thyme sprig. Return to the burner and bring to a simmer over medium heat (which takes a bit of patience), then simmer for 30 minutes. (I think I accidentally set my timer to 20 minutes, but I couldn't remember, so to be safe I reset it with an extra ten minutes - whoops! A bit frazzled tonight.)

Strain the broth through a sieve over a bowl. Discard the solids.

Return the pan to the burner over medium heat and coat with cooking spray. Add 3 and 1/2 cups sliced onion and 1/4 tsp. salt. Cook for 20 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the strained broth; bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Stir in another tablespoon and a half of the wine and a dash of black pepper.

Ladle 3/4 cups of soup into each of 4 oven-proof bowls. Arrange on a baking sheet. Place one (1/2-ounce) slice of bread on top of each bowl. Top each bread slice with a tablespoon and a half of the grated 'cheese'. Broil in the oven for one minute. Serve immediately.

Each bowl of soup is 150 calories. Garnish with thyme sprigs if you like. And serve with a glass of the leftover wine!

Note: For the red wine in this recipe I chose the red blend from Domaine Faillenc Sainte Marie, from southern France. It is absolutely delicious and unfiltered.

Cost:
celery $2.50
carrot $0.22
mushrooms $0.60
red wine $18.41
vegetable broth $2.69
thyme $2.99
onions $0.98
French baguette $1.29
vegan cheese $3.39

Also, for any cat lovers out there who live in NYC, I began volunteering tonight at the Kitty Kind shelter, which is located in the Petco in Union Square. They need volunteers to clean the cages, feed the cats, and of course, play with them and give them some love! Most of the animals were rescued from the streets or abusive homes :( For anyone who loves our feline friends, I highly recommend signing up as a volunteer.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Cranberry-Pear Crumb Pie

I decided to get ambitious this afternoon and bake a pie, what with it being the holiday season and all. Aside from switching real butter to vegan butter, the rest of this recipe was already vegan!

To make the crust, spoon one cup all-purpose flour into a measuring cup and level with a knife. Transfer to a bowl, and combine with 1/8 tsp. salt. Cut in 3 tablespoons chilled vegan butter (such as Earth Balance) and 3 tablespoons vegetable shortening - try the non-hydrogenated, vegan-approved shortening from Jungle - you can find it in the baking aisle at Whole Foods.

Cut the butter and shortening in either using a pastry blender, two knives, or the back of a fork, until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add ice water a tablespoon at a time, up to 3 and a half tablespoons (I used three), tossing with a fork each time until the dough is moist. Turn the dough out onto a sheet of plastic wrap and press into a 4-inch circle. Cover with an additional sheet of plastic wrap and transfer to the fridge to chill for 30 minutes.

(Note: in case it's not obvious, ice water is just ice and cold water in a bowl together so that the water gets extra cold).

While the dough chills, make the filling and the topping.

For the filling: peel and thinly slice enough pears to equal 5 cups (about 5 pears or 2 pounds worth). Combine in a bowl with a cup and a half fresh cranberries. Add 2/3 cup organic brown sugar, 3 tablespoons uncooked tapioca, a tablespoon lemon juice, a teaspoon grated lemon rind, a teaspoon vanilla extract and 1/4 tsp. nutmeg. Stir well to combine. Set aside.

For the topping: spoon 1/4 cup all-purpose flour into a measuring cup and level with a knife. Combine in a bowl with 1/4 cup more brown sugar, 1/4 cup regular oats and 1/4 tsp. cinnamon. Cut in 2 more tablespoons butter, using the same method as in the dough above, until the mixture is like coarse crumbs. Set aside.

When the dough is done chilling, place on a flat surface and roll, still covered in the plastic, into a 12-inch circle. Remove one sheet of plastic, and fit into a 9-inch pie pan coated with cooking spray (oops! I forgot this step... Crossing my fingers that the dough doesn't stick to the pan...). Remove the top layer of plastic wrap.

Fold the wedges of the dough under and flute. I admit I did a sort of half-assed job on fluting since it was my first attempt. For better instructions than I can give you, follow this link: http://www.ehow.com/how_2191949_crimp-flute-pie-crust.html

Now spoon the pear filling into the crust. Sprinkle evenly with the topping. Cover loosely with foil and bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 30 minutes. Let stand at least 20 minutes before serving.

Cut the pie into 10 wedges and each serving is 310 calories.

And here's a piece of pie:



Cost:
vegan butter $3.39
pear $5.15
lemon $0.79

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Carrot Coins with Maple-Balsamic Browned 'Butter'

This is a delicious and easy side dish for winter weather.

Peel about one pound carrot and chop into 1/4-inch thick slices to equal 3 and 1/4 cups. Steam, covered, for 15 minutes until tender. I don't own a steamer basket or anything fancy so I do it the way my mom taught me as a kid; place the carrots in a saucepan with a little bit of water, bring to a quick boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer.

Melt a tablespoon of vegan butter (such as Earth Balance) in a medium skillet over medium heat, and cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add a tablespoon maple sugar, a teaspoon balsamic vinegar, 1/8 tsp. salt, and 1/8 tsp. black pepper, stirring until combined. Add the carrots and cook one minute.

Remove from heat and stir in 1 teaspoon of chopped parsley. You'll have 4 servings of 2/3 a cup, each of which is 90 calories.

Cost:
carrots $1.38
parsley $1.99

Monday, December 1, 2008

'Cheddar' with Sauteed Apples and Brown Bread

This is a fun variation on an open-faced sandwich. Serve alongside a hot bowl of soup either at lunch or dinner.

Core one apple and cut into 16 wedges (Gala, Braeburn, and Fuji apples all work great with the flavor combination in this recipe). Place the wedges in a bowl and toss with 3 tablespoons raw sugar and 1/8 tsp. cinnamon until coated. Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat, and coat with cooking spray. Add the apples and cook for 4 minutes, stirring frequently. Set aside and let cool slightly.

Meanwhile, cut 2 (1-ounce slices) of pumpernickel bread into 4 strips each. Place the strips in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 5 minutes. Turn over and bake an additional 3 minutes on the other side. Let cool completely.

(Note: I bought the pumpernickel bread from Mestemacher, which makes amazing all-natural breads. If you use it though, realize that one slice is 2 ounces, unlike most pre-packaged bread which is one ounce per slice).

Finally, cut 2 ounces of vegan cheddar into 8 slices (try the Cheddar block from Galaxy Foods).

On each of 4 plates, arrange 2 strips of bread with 4 apple wedges and 2 slices of 'cheddar' on top, for 150 calories per serving.

Cost:
Gala apple $0.84
pumpernickel $4.19
vegan cheddar $2.50

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Red Pepper-Walnut Dip

Here's another easy, make-ahead dip. Serve with pita wedges!

In a food processor or blender, simply combine 3/4 cup walnuts (toast them first in a skillet for a couple of minutes over medium heat), 1/2 cup raisins, 1/2 cup plain soy yogurt (such as Whole Soy), 1/4 tsp. salt, 1/8 tsp. ground red pepper and a 12-ounce can of bottled roasted red bell peppers (drained).

Process until smooth, and transfer to a bowl. 2 and a half tablespoons is 80 calories.

Cost:
plain yogurt $0.99
bottled red bell peppers $5.99

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Holiday Brunch Tonic

Serve this with Saturday brunch for the end of a holiday weekend. Make the sugar syrup the night before so it's ready to go first thing when you wake up.

In a saucepan, combine 1/2 a cup raw sugar with 1/2 a cup water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 4 minutes. Add 2 sprigs of rosemary and simmer another 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, cover and refrigerate over night.

In the morning, discard the rosemary. Combine the sugar syrup with 2 cups cranberry juice, one cup fresh-squeezed orange juice and a cup and a half club soda in a large pitcher. Pour 3/4 cup into each of 6 glasses. Each serving is 140 calories.

Double if you have a larger crowd!

Cost:
cranberry juice $1.69
oranges $1.43
club soda $1.59

Friday, November 28, 2008

Green Tea Granita

This is a nice light dessert for the night after a Thanksgiving feast. Make it in the morning ahead of time because it has to freeze for 8 hours.

Bring 3 cups water to a boil and pour over 4 green tea bags and one (two-inch) piece of ginger, peeled and cut into 4 slices. Let steep 5 minutes. Stir in 1/2 a cup agave nectar and 3 tablespoons lemon juice.

Pour through a sieve over a bowl, and discard the solids. Let the liquid cool completely.

Transfer to an 8x8 inch baking dish; cover and freeze 8 hours or until firm. Once frozen, scrape the surface with a fork to "fluff" it. 1/2 a cup is 90 calories. You'll have about 6 servings. Serve with lemon wedges if you like!

Cost:
green tea $4.69
agave nectar $3.99

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Spiced Date-Walnut Snacks

Okay, I lied and I'm using dates again. But bring these along to Thanksgiving if you don't want to go to the whole hassle of making a vegan pie (I didn't have time this year!) They're quick and easy and delicious out on a dessert buffet.

In a small bowl, combine 2 tablespoons orange juice with 1/2 tsp. cinnamon and 1/2 tsp. ginger, stirring with a whisk. Add 3/4 cup walnuts and toss to combine. Arrange the walnuts in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 8 minutes.

In another bowl, combine 2 cups chopped, pitted dates with a teaspoon of grated orange rind.

Line a 9x5 loaf pan with plastic wrap, letting about 2 inches of wrap extend over the edge of the pan. Press one-third of the date mixture into the bottom of the pan (the dates will smoosh together to form a complete, thin layer). Top with 1/2 of the walnuts. Repeat with another third of the dates, the rest of the walnuts, and then the final third of the dates, pressing each layer into each other. Cover with the rest of the plastic wrap, and place a weight on top (such as a can of soup or can of beans). Let stand overnight.

On Thanksgiving morning, invert the loaf onto a serving plate. Cut into 20 little pieces. Each piece is 90 calories.

Cost:
dates $5.39
orange $1.43

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Spiced Cranberry and Zinfandel Sauce

Homemade cranberry sauce is so much better than the jellied kind bought in a can, which also is laden with corn syrup - yuck. Make this version at home instead to bring along to a Thanksgiving feast.

I leave it to other websites to give you recipes for vegan meat loafs or tofurkey's - however, this cranberry sauce is delicious over store-bought vegan Thanksgiving options. Check out the holiday line from Tofurky: http://www.tofurky.com/products/tofurkyfeasts.htm
Another delicious alternative is the Celebration Roast from Field Roast Grain Meat company: http://www.fieldroast.com/
Either way, serve with this cranberry sauce on the side, and bring it along to Thanksgiving to share with everyone.

In a saucepan, combine one cup zinfandel (or other fruity red wine of your choice), 6 tablespoons raw sugar, 5 (1-inch) strips of orange rind, 1/4 cup fresh-squeezed orange juice, 3 cloves, 2 slices of peeled ginger, and one cinnamon stick. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium and simmer for fifteen minutes.

(Note: for the zinfandel, try the Lioco from Mendocino County - it is unfiltered, ergo, vegan and it's delicious! As to the ginger, the recipe didn't specify how big the slices should be. I made mine about as big as the slices of orange rind, in length and width).

Pour the mixture through a sieve over a bowl. Discard the solids, and return the liquid to the pan. Add one and a half cups fresh cranberries. Cook for ten minutes over high heat until you hear the cranberries "pop". Reduce the heat to low and simmer until thick - the recipe said 30 minutes, but for some reason mine was quite thick after only 10, so keep an eye on it!

1/4 cup is 120 calories. Double this recipe easily if you have a big holiday crowd.

Cost:
zinfandel $21.66
orange $1.43
ginger $1.28

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Black Bean Spread with Lime and Cilantro

This make-ahead appetizer is great for the holidays, including setting out as a nosh before the Thanksgiving meal. Over the next couple days I'll give you a few more vegan Thanksgiving ideas as well...

Place three peeled garlic cloves in a food processor or blender and process until chopped. Add 1/2 a cup chopped cilantro, 2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lime juice, a tablespoon and a half olive oil, 1/4 tsp. salt, one drained 15-ounce can of black beans and one undrained 15-ounce can of black beans (this helps thin out the spread). Process until smooth.

Serve this either with store-bought organic tortilla chips or make your own at home by baking corn tortillas in the oven. If you have any leftover spread, serve it on quesadillas or burritos.

1/4 cup is 70 calories, and this recipe makes about two and a half cups total. Cilantro sprigs make a pretty garnish.

Cost:
cilantro $1.99
limes $2.36
canned black beans $3.58

Monday, November 24, 2008

Pasta with Beet Greens and Raisins

If you made my Pennette with Asparagus and Pine Nuts recipe from the other night, you probably have leftover pasta up in the cupboard - here's an equally easy recipe that also serves two. As with the last, try to find pennette (which is just mini penne), but if you can't, regular sized penne works fine.

Cook 4-ounces of the pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

While the pasta cooks, place 2 tablespoons raisins in a bowl. Cover with hot water and let stand for ten minutes. Drain and set aside.

Heat 2 and 1/4 tsps. olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-heat. Add one cup coarsley chopped beet greens and 1 teaspoon bottled minced garlic. Cook for three minutes. Stir in the pasta, the raisins, 3 tablespoons slivered almonds, 1/4 tsp. salt and a dash of black pepper.

One cup is 350 calories.

Note: when buying beet greens, you'll probably have to purchase them attached to the beets themselves! Trim off the greens, rinse well, and chop for this recipe. Use the beets separately anyway you like - try roasting them and serving with a salad alongside this pasta.

Cost:
beet greens (and beets!) $2.49
slivered almonds $4.99

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Orange Crisp with Coconut Topping

Before anything else tonight, a shout-out to my friend Jon, who reads my blog even though he's not vegan! John, you're the best and go easy on the sriracha shots :)

Anyway, this warm dessert is perfect for a cold night. Peel and section 3 large navel oranges, squeezing the juice from each section over a large bowl. Reserve 2 tablespoons of the juice and discard the rest. Combine the orange juice with 2 and 1/4 teaspoons uncooked tapioca and one and a half teaspoons Grand Marnier liqueur. Add the orange sections, stirring gently, and let stand for 20 minutes (stir occasionally).

Meanwhile, make the topping: spoon 1/3 cup all-purpose flour into a measuring cup and level with a knife. Transfer to a bowl and add 1/3 cup raw sugar and 1/4 tsp. salt. Cut in 2 tablespoons of vegan butter (such as Earth Balance) until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs - the recipe suggests using a pastry blender, but if you don't have one, I find that the back of a fork works quite well. Add 1/3 cup coconut and stir to combine.

Transfer the orange mixture to either an 8x8 inch baking dish or a one-quart baking dish coated with cooking spray (I used the former). Sprinkle with the topping. Bake at 375 degrees for 35 minutes until the crisp is golden and bubbly. Divide into 4 servings of 240 calories and yum!

Cost:
navel oranges $4.06
tapioca $2.69
all-purpose flour $4.69

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Pistachio Granola

This granola is delicious for breakfast in the morning with either soy milk or vanilla soy yogurt - or just eat it by the handful as a snack!

In a medium skillet, combine 1/3 cup organic brown sugar and 2 tablespoons apple cider over medium-high heat. Cook for about 2 minutes until the sugar dissolves, stirring frequently.

Add one cup regular oats, 1/3 cup chopped pistachios, 1/3 cup dried cherries, 1/3 cup cereal nuggets (the kind you're probably most familiar with are Grape Nuts, but I prefer the organic version by Kashi called 7 Whole Grain Nuggets), 1/4 cup sunflower seeds, 1/4 tsp. cinnamon and 1/8 tsp. salt.

Cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Let cool completely. You can store this in the fridge for up to a week in an airtight container. 1/2 a cup is 240 calories.

Cost: (note: the cost is so high because I bought a lot of the items in bulk - almost every ingredient makes for a great snack to have on hand).
apple cider $4.99
pistachios $7.99
cereal nuggets $6.78
dried cherries $6.99
sunflower seeds $1.50

Friday, November 21, 2008

Individual 'Goat Cheese' and Date Tortas

This is the last time I'll use dates this month, I promise! These open-faced mini sandwiches make a pretty appetizer, or part of a light lunch alongside an entree salad. Although they're best served right after you make them, you can make each separate part ahead of time until you're ready to compile them.

Cut 6 ounces French bread into 12 (1/4-inch thick) slices. Broil in the oven for two minutes on each side, until toasted. Set aside.

The original recipe called for 3-ounces of crumbled goat cheese here. Crumbling the vegan feta from Sunergia works great and tastes great! In a small bowl, combine this 'goat cheese' with 1/4 cup chopped, pitted dates. Set aside.

In another small bowl, combine a teaspoon and a half balsamic vinegar, 1 teaspoon olive oil, 1/4 tsp. Dijon mustard, 1/8 tsp. salt, 1/8 tsp. raw sugar, 1/8 tsp. paprika, and one small minced garlic clove. Add 1/2 a cup arugula (or baby spinach if you prefer) and toss to combine. Set aside.

When it's time to serve, divide the arugula mixture evenly over each of the 12 bread slices. Top each with a rounded tablespoon of the date mixture. Cut 6 pecan halves in half again, and place one on each bread slice. Finally, sprinkle one and a half tablespoons diced red bell pepper evenly over all the tortas.

(Note: when the recipe called for 'pecan halves' this threw me off a bit, since I always assumed that what was sold in supermarkets was a whole pecan. But a 'pecan half' is just what you probably commonly refer to as a pecan. See image here if that description confused you further! http://shop.deliciousorganics.com/images/products/pecans100.jpg

2 tortas are 170 calories.

Cost:
vegan feta $3.69
arugula $4.99
French bread baguette $1.29
pecans $5.99

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Pennette with Asparagus and Pine Nuts

This pasta dish is a quick weeknight dinner for two. Pennette is simply miniature penne - if you can't find it, (as I couldn't), just substitute regular penne. I used the whole wheat variety from Gia Russa.

Cook 4 ounces of pasta according to package directions. Drain and place in a large bowl.

While the pasta cooks, heat a teaspoon of olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add a teaspoon of bottled minced garlic and a dash of crushed red pepper; cook for two minutes, stirring constantly.

Add one and a half cups asparagus (cut into one-inch slices - about 1/2 a pound), 1/4 cup vegetable broth, and 2 tablespoons lemon juice. Cook for five minutes until the asparagus is tender.

Stir in 1/4 cup chopped sun-dried tomato halves (buy the kind packed in oil), and 1/4 tsp. salt; cook for another minute.

Add the asparagus mixture to the pasta. Stir in 1/4 cup shredded vegan cheese (try the vegan mozzarella block from Galaxy Foods instead of the Asiago in the original recipe), and 1 tablespoon pine nuts.

One and a half cups is 370 calories. You'll have two servings.

Cost:
penne pasta $3.49
asparagus $3.87
vegetable broth $2.69
sun-dried tomatoes $3.99
vegan mozzarella $2.50

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Onion, Date, and 'Brie' Crostini

Now I'm getting creative with leftover dates - these crostini (which simply means "little toasts", in Italian) are delicious, using vegan cream cheese in place of the Brie to mimic the cheese's smooth, creamy texture.

Place 12 (1/2-inch thick) slices of French bread baguette on a baking sheet and broil for two minutes on each side until toasted (that's about 6-ounces of bread total). Set aside.

Melt a 1/2 tsp. vegan butter (such as Earth Balance) in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add one and a half cups thinly sliced onion, 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary, 1/4 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp. pepper and one small minced garlic clove; cook for ten minutes. Increase the heat to medium-high and saute for 4 minutes until the onion is starting to brown. Add 1 teaspoon raw sugar and saute 2 minutes. Stir in 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar and 1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce (Annie's Naturals makes a vegan version without the anchovies!).

Remove from heat and stir in 2 tablespoons chopped dates and 2 ounces (about 1/4 cup) vegan cream cheese (such as Tofutti), stirring until combined.

Place about2 teaspoons of the onion mixture on top of each bread slice. Return to the oven at 300 degrees fof 4 minutes. Each crostini is 70 calories.

Cost:
French bread $1.29
onion $1.04
rosemary $2.99
vegan cream cheese $2.99

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Date-Orange Breakfast Spread

First, a word on dates, since I have a bunch at home to use in the next few days, and they also already featured in my recipe for Spiced Orzo Pilaf the other night. They've been a staple food for 5,000 years and grow on trees as tall as 100 feet, which can produce up to 100 pounds of fruit each year - wow!

Now with that bit of history, this spread is delicious in the mornings served on toasted English muffins, waffles, toast, or even with apple wedges.

Simply combine 1/2 cup chopped pitted dates, a teaspoon and a half of grated orange rind, one tablespoon orange juice, 1/4 tsp. cinnamon, a dash of salt, and 2 ounces (about 1/4 cup) softened vegan cream cheese (such as Tofutti). Stir together, and chill at least 30 minutes before serving. It will store in the fridge covered for up to 2 weeks.

One tablespoon is 30 calories.

Cost:
orange $1.27

On an unrelated note, I have a moral question for vegans out there - what is an animal-loving, animal-rights activist vegan to do about a mouse infestation in an apartment? Discuss.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Creamy Mushroom Spread

Serve this easy spread on crackers or baguette slices, warm or chilled - it's delicious either way.

Place an 8-ounce package of pre-sliced mushrooms in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped.

Heat a teaspoon and a half of olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms, 2 tablespoons chopped shallot, 3/4 tsp. chopped fresh thyme, and one minced garlic clove. Cook for about ten minutes until the liquid evaporates (it took me 8 minutes).

Remove from heat and stir in 1/4 tsp. salt and a dash of black pepper. Transfer to a bowl and stir in 1/4 cup vegan sour cream (such as Tofutti). This version of the recipe makes 5 servings of 2 tablespoons (50 calories), but you can easily double it.

Cost:
mushrooms $2.49
shallot $0.64

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Spiced Orzo Pilaf

This dish makes a filling dinner for two, and features flavors of the Middle East in the spices and the dates.

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a saucepan over low heat. Add 1/4 tsp. ground cumin, 1/4 tsp. ground paprika, and 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon. Cook for one minute until fragrant. Increase the heat to medium-high and add one and half cups vegetable broth, one cup uncooked orzo, 1/2 cup orange juice (make your own fresh-squeezed or use an all-natural oj like Simply Orange), and 2 minced garlic cloves. Bring to a boil, then cover, reduce heat and simmer for ten minutes (the liquid will be nearly absorbed).

Add 1/2 cup chopped pitted dates, 1/4 cup chopped green onion, 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind, 1/4 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper. Cook for two minutes, uncovered, then remove from heat. Cover and let stand five minutes until the liquid is completely absorbed. Fluff with a fork.

Stir in 1/4 cup chopped carrot, 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro and 1 tablespoon lemon juice.

One and a half cups is 560 calories. Voila! dinner for two.

Cost:
orange juice $1.99
dates $5.39
green onion $0.99
lemon $0.63
carrot $0.20

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Tapenade

The secret to my tapenade is using a sun-dried tomato packed in oil instead of two anchovy filets packed in oil. Serve this as a spread with baguette slices. Leftovers are great as a sandwich spread or stirred into pasta.

Place two peeled garlic cloves in a food processor, and process until finely chopped. Add 2 cups pitted kalamata olives, 1/4 cup capers, and one sun-dried tomato, and pulse until finely chopped. (Buy sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil to mimic anchovies packed that way, but pat some of the excess off with a paper towel).

Add 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley and pulse until combined.

It's as simple as that! 2 tablespoons is 60 calories. You'll have about 1 1/4 cups.

Cost:
kalamata olives $4.99
sun-dried tomatoes $3.99

The Vegan Pantry

  • Vegan yogurt - Whole Soy http://www.wholesoyco.com/
  • Vegan milk - Silk http://www.silksoymilk.com/
  • Vegan Feta - Sunergia http://www.sunergiasoyfoods.com/
  • Vegan Cheese - Galaxy Foods http://www.galaxyfoods.com/
  • Vegan Eggs - Ener-G http://www.ener-g.com/
  • Vegan Butter - Earth Balance http://www.earthbalance.net/product.html