Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Time to Make the (Vegan Maple-Glazed) Donuts!

Who doesn't love donuts? I might not sell my soul for a donut, but for a dozen? Maybe. I definitely have a weak spot for a good vegan donut. You might remember that a few months ago I won the Dunkin' Cruelty contest with my Chai-Spiced Vegan Donut creation, but I just came up with the flavor, I didn't have to actually make them. The amazing Vegan Treats bakery actually brought my Chai-Spiced donuts to life. And then of course Babycakes makes some vegan donuts that are just to-die-for, which is where I usually go in the city if I'm needing a vegan donut fix. But one thing that Babycakes doesn't offer is... a vegan maple-glazed bacon donut.

The maple bacon donut craze apparently started with the Bacon Maple Bar from the famous Voodoo Doughnuts in Portland, of which even Anthony Bourdain is a big fan. The idea to make a vegan version was actually suggested to me by my friend Jenn from Cookin' Vegan, who was dreaming up new uses for my Coconut Bacon recipe. That lady is a genius, I tell you.

I'd never made donuts before, but I found this quick instructional video very helpful. Also incredibly helpful was the fact that the lovely Melisser from The Urban Housewife (and author of The Vegan Girl's Guide to Life) posted this recipe for Lolo's Baked Vegan Donuts on her site. It was absolutely perfect as is, I didn't tweak a thing. It was the perfect base for my maple glaze or for any type of topping you'd like.

So here's where I'm honest and tell you that the coconut bacon on the donuts was a bit overwhelming. The smoky flavor of the bacon was just a little too overpowering, it didn't blend harmoniously with the other flavors. The taste I was going for was when you have a bite of tempeh bacon or soy sausage together with your waffles/pancakes, but instead it was a little more like eating a maple donut by a campfire. The good news is that these maple-glazed donuts were incredibly awesome on their own, and with more traditional toppings, like sprinkles. So feel free to add the coconut bacon if you want, or don't, I won't get mad.

Vegan Maple-Glazed Donuts
makes 8 donuts

For donuts: (recipe from The Urban Housewife)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1 shake of cinnamon
1/2 cup soymilk
1/2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
Egg replacer equivalent for 1 egg
4 Tbsp. Earth Balance or other vegan margarine

1. Preheat oven to 350º F. In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients with a whisk to mix thoroughly.

2. In a small saucepan, combine wet ingredients over medium low heat & mix until margarine is melted. You should be able to stick your finger in the mixture without burning yourself. Don't make this too hot for the dough!

3. Add wet to dry & mix until just combined, forming a soft spongy dough. Using a tablespoon measure, scoop out dough into an ungreased nonstick donut pan & smooth out the tops of them. If using a regular sized donut pan (like I did), fill them until just below the rim. Make sure not to overfill them or they'll have uneven muffin tops. If you under fill them, they'll be skimpy, but still edible.

4. Bake them for 12-14 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Invert the hot pan over a cooling rack to release the donuts & allow them to cool completely before decorating.

I might have filled these just a wee bit too much. The underside shouldn't have "muffin tops."

 But the topside looks pretty darn perfect.

For topping:
3 Tbsp. maple sugar
2 Tbsp. non-dairy creamer
1/2 cup + 1 Tbsp. powdered sugar
Coconut bacon (optional)
Sprinkles (optional)

1. Add maple sugar and creamer to small saucepan over very low heat. Whisk until sugar dissolves (this will happen very quickly).

2. When maple crystals have dissolved, add powdered sugar and continue to whisk over low heat, breaking up any lumps, until mixture is completely smooth. Remove from heat and use to glaze donuts immediately.

3. Dip top half of donut into maple glaze, then transfer to a wire rack with a baking sheet underneath, so excess glaze & toppings can drip through. If using coconut bacon, sprinkles, or other toppings, you can either dip the still-wet donut glaze-side down into the toppings, then transfer to the wire rack, or you can dip the donuts into the glaze, transfer to the rack, and throw the toppings on top. That's what I did. You will probably have to press the toppings down a little into the glaze to help them stick. Either way, make sure you quickly add the toppings before the glaze hardens. Pour yourself a cup of coffee/tea/chai and enjoy!

Topped with Coconut Bacon.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Project Food Blog Challenge #2 Voting Now Open!

Hi everyone. Just another thanks to all who voted for me to make it into the 2nd round of the Project Food Blog competition. Voting is now open for the 2nd challenge, so please take a moment to help get me into the next round by going here to vote for my Vegan B'stilla! Thank you! xoxo

Friday, September 24, 2010

A Moroccan Masterpiece: Vegan B'Stilla

I want to start this post by thanking everyone who voted for my first entry in the Project Food Blog Challenge! I've advanced to the next round! The second challenge they've given us was to tackle a classic dish from a foreign country - the French & Italian classics eschewed in favor of more "challenging" cuisines. (For the record, I think French and Italian are plenty challenging).

I picked this B'stilla dish to make for many reasons. First, it is considered one of the national dishes of Morocco, and I have pretty much zero experience making Moroccan cuisine, unless you count couscous, which requires nothing more complicated than boiling water. Second, I was completely intrigued by the sweet and savory combination of ingredients in this dish. As you may know, I'm a big fan of sweet & savory combos: peanut butter & jelly, fig jam & tempeh bacon, mock duck & lychees...  so of course I wanted to try this savory pie that is traditionally topped with powdered sugar and cinnamon. And third, this dish is most often made with poultry (chicken or squab) and eggs. In other words, just the kind of dish to veganize. And lastly, I needed to make this dish to conquer my fear of phyllo dough. I've had a package of it in my freezer for months, just mocking me, waiting for me to make something with it. And so I finally did.

This is definitely one of the more challenging recipes I've made, in no small part because of that phyllo dough. The filling requires a few steps, and then you have the challenge of buttering all those sheets of dough, trying desperately to be gentle so that you don't tear them apart. I may or may not have taken a nap in the middle of making this recipe. But the results were well worth the effort. This was truly an exotic dish, I can honestly say that it didn't taste like anything that I had had before. The spices, the flaky dough, it all comes together beautifully and has you dreaming of days in Casablanca and Marrakech. The only ingredient that may be hard to find is the ras el hanout, a spice mixture used across North Africa. In NY, I found mine at Sahadi's, but if you have a hard time finding any you can make your own or order it here.

Vegan B'stilla (adapted from this recipe for Squab B'stilla)
makes 6 servings

1/4 tsp. saffron threads, crumbled
1 1/4 cups vegetable broth (I like the No Chicken Broth for this)
16 oz. vegan chicken, cut into strips
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3-4 fresh seeded jalapenos, finely chopped
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
3/4 tsp. + 1 tsp. ground cinnamon (divided)
1 Tbsp. ras el hanout
1/4 cup dry Sherry
1 cup water
8 oz. soft tofu, drained
2 Tbsp. fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. fresh cilantro, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1/2 cup sliced almonds
6 Tbsp. vegan butter, melted
6 (17 x 12-inch) phyllo sheets, thawed & unrolled
1 1/2 tsp. confectioner's sugar

Make filling:
1. Bring vegetable broth to a boil. Remove from heat and steep saffron threads in broth for at least 10 minutes.

2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add "chicken" pieces and saute until browned, 6-8 minutes. Add onion, garlic, jalapeno, cumin, ginger, ras el hanout, and 3/4 tsp. cinnamon, then saute for 2 minutes.

3. Add Sherry to chicken mixture and boil for 30 seconds. Add saffron broth and water, bring back to a boil, then reduce heat to medium, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes.

4. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the chick'n pieces to a plate. You will inevitably scoop up some of the onions & peppers with the chick'n, but try to leave as much of them as you can in the skillet. Set chick'n pieces aside.

5. Bring remaining cooking liquid to a boil, then add the tofu. Cook over medium-high heat 13-15 minutes, trying to keep the tofu in fairly large chunks while the liquid reduces. You are replicating a soft scrambled egg mixture, so cook this until almost all the liquid has boiled off and the mixture has the consistency of oatmeal. Transfer the tofu mixture to a large bowl and stir in parsley, cilantro, lemon juice, and raisins. Cool to room temperature.

1. Preheat oven to 375. Heat vegetable oil in a skillet over medium heat, then fry almonds, stirring frequently, until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Drain almonds and cool on a paper towel-lined plate.

2. Brush a 9-inch cake pan with some of the melted butter. Cover stack of phyllo dough with plastic wrap and a damp kitchen towel. Keeping remaining phyllo covered, place 1 sheet on your work surface and brush with butter. Fold in half crosswise and butter again. Repeat with another sheet, buttering, folding, and buttering, then place over first sheet crosswise. Repeat with 2 more sheets, placing each sheet on top of the previous one in a star pattern to form a round. (Sheets should not align.) Lift stacked phyllo (4 sheets total) and gently fit into bottom of cake pan and halfway up side.

3. Sprinkle almonds over phyllo, then stir chick'n mixture into tofu mixture and spread evenly over almond layer. (Note: you will probably have some filling mixture left over. Use this to make another pie, or eat over couscous, or freeze for another time.)

4. Put 1 of remaining sheets of phyllo on work surface and brush with butter. Fold in half crosswise, butter, then fold in half again (to quarter) and butter. Repeat with remaining sheet and lay over first sheet crosswise. Place over center of filling. Bring edges of phyllo from side of pan over the filling top sheets and seal up so that it makes a closed package.

5. Bake b'stilla until golden brown, about 30 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack for 5 minutes, then invert onto a platter and let stand 5 minutes. Sift confectioner's sugar and remaining cinnamon over top and serve, cut into wedges.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Gone Pie Goodies All Gone...In My Belly

I'm a pretty lucky gal. Probably much luckier than you, because a few days ago I got a special delivery from Gone Pie Vegan Bakery, full of treats to sample and share. A few weeks ago I had a chocolate chip cookie from Gone Pie at the Veggie Conquest event, and I have to say I've still been dreaming about that cookie. That cookie was the most perfect chocolate chip cookie I've ever eaten - soft and chewy on the inside, just crisp enough on the outside, heavenly. So needless to say, I was pretty freaking excited to try these new items.

I was also excited to share some of these goodies with my coworkers, whom I recently observed attacking one of these monstrosities known as the "Pizza Burger" from Burger King. They descended on these vegan goodies like a pack of wild wolves. Now you might say that maybe they just like free food, which is entirely true, but they were raving about how awesome everything tasted. Vegan outreach at its finest! Furthermore, Gone Pie specializes in gluten-free items, which made a gluten-intolerant coworker of mine literally jump for joy.

So what did we get? Check out the loot:

The goods. That is a glass of Vanilla Rice Dream in the corner. 
I was seriously prepared for my sampling duties.

I really could not have been more thrilled to try out these pumpkin brownies. I cannot overemphasize how much I love pumpkin (with the holidays just around the corner, you will be subjected to my pumpkin mania), and chocolate...pumpkin & chocolate head is spinning! These were so wonderfully spiced, rich, moist and gooey. Everything a brownie should be, but with pumpkin! And lucky for all of us, these pumpkin brownies are this month's special, so order some now! And get a glass of your favorite non-dairy milk ready, because you'll need it with these.

Chocolate Chip Cookies
These cookies were just as good as I remembered them, but I don't think the one I had before had white chocolate chips in it. Pretty much a perfect chocolate chip cookie. Full of chocolaty chunks & good for your soul.

Ginger Cookies (gluten-free)
These cookies were kind of a surprise hit. I mean, I like ginger cookies, but for some reason I only associate them with Christmas cookies. These were incredible!  I think most ginger cookies tend to be kind of hard and dry, and rely on ground ginger powder for the flavor, but these cookies were in a completely different universe. Soft & chewy, and with the most amazing fresh ginger flavor. Or it might have been candied ginger, I'm not sure. I am sure that these are my new favorite cookies (sorry chocolate chip).

Sesame Peanut Butter Cookies (gluten-free)
Or are these my new favorite cookies? I don't know. Sesame and peanut butter go so well together. Soft and chewy and peanut buttery on the inside, but with a nice crunch on the outside thanks to the sesame seeds. They kind of look like they're going to taste "healthy," but they taste just as indulgent as the other treats.

Zucchini Loaf
This was a nice foil to all the rich and decadent treats. Not too sweet, it was a nice, moist, dense cake (or bread?) that was very nicely spiced but also really let the fresh zucchini flavor shine through. I could eat this all the time and not feel guilty, because it has, like, vegetables in it, right?

 Peanut Butter Cups
But back to the rich & gooey. Who doesn't love a peanut butter cup? These are what those Reese's things dream of becoming when they grow up. Only problem with these is that they melt pretty quickly if you're holding them, so that means you have to get them into your mouth quickly. Terrible problem, I know.

It's so hard to decide what my favorite thing was. The conversation went something like this:
"Oh my god, those brownies are f***ing amazing."
"But those chocolate chip cookies are pretty good too. Those might be my favorite."
"Except those ginger cookies blew my mind. I think those are actually my favorite."
"I love peanut butter."
"Why did you eat the rest of that? I was only giving you a bite."
And so on. 

If you live in NY, you can find some Gone Pie goodies at Integral Yoga Natural Foods, otherwise check out the Gone Pie site for shipping information. Either way, go buy these. Buy them now.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Dinner Inspired By My Dad: Spaghetti with Mushroom Bolognese & Peach Crumble

My dad was in town this weekend for a visit. The good news was that he had lost a considerable amount of weight, thanks to my vegetarian nephew who spent the summer with my parents and apparently convinced them to eat veg a good portion of the time. The bad news was that my dad undid all that healthiness with the cigars he was smoking, and with the lunch that he ordered, which was a pasta with meat sauce AND Italian sausage AND meatballs. Oh yes. A veritable meat lover's special. Sigh.

After seeing that, I knew that I wanted to make a pasta dish that was both "meaty" and satisfying, but healthy too. There are plenty of veggie bolognese recipes out there, we probably all have one, but this is mine and we eat it fairly often. The mushrooms add so much savoriness and umami to the sauce, and the carrots and celery add body and texture. It's so rich and flavorful that I think even my dad would enjoy it, so I'll have to make it next time he comes up for a visit. And I've noticed that it's even better the next day, so look forward to having leftovers.

Spaghetti with Mushroom Bolognese
makes 4 -6 servings

16 oz. dried spaghetti
1/2 cup olive oil
2 med. carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
10 oz. mushrooms, chopped finely*
1 Tbsp. oregano
1 Tbsp. dried basil
1 tsp. garlic powder
pinch red pepper flakes
1 28-oz. can pureed tomatoes
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp. vegan Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. brown sugar
handful of fresh basil leaves, torn
sea salt & fresh ground pepper, to taste

*If you don't want to chop the mushrooms, carrots, celery, and onion by hand, put them into a food processor and pulse until you have a coarse mixture. I like the sauce a bit chunky, but my husband prefers a more blended sauce, so I pulsed the mixture a bit finer than I usually would. It is really good either way.

1. Heat large pot of water to boiling, cook spaghetti according to package instructions. (I didn't really have to tell you that, did I?)

2. Heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add carrots, celery, onion, and garlic and saute 5-7 minutes until vegetables are softened and begin to brown. Add mushrooms, oregano, dried basil, garlic powder, and red pepper flakes, and saute another 4-5 minutes. Salt & pepper to taste.

3. Add pureed tomatoes, tomato paste, balsamic vinegar, Worcester sauce, and brown sugar to mushroom mixture. Simmer 10 - 15 minutes, then add fresh basil leaves, and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and adjust any seasonings if necessary. Serve over cooked spaghetti.

But that's not the only dish that my dad inspired. He brought with him a large basket full of the sweetest, juiciest, ripest Georgia peaches I have ever tasted. I rarely buy peaches (except to make cobbler) because the ones we get here always seem to be hard and somewhat sour. These were so good, it was as if I'd never tasted peaches before. Only problem was that they were so ripe, and there were so many of them that I worried they would go bad before we had a chance to eat them all. Peach Crumble to the rescue!

I found an incredibly quick and easy recipe on a fun blog I like called I Eat Trees. You basically just slice up 4 of your ripe, juicy peaches, and lay them in a baking dish. A lot of crumble recipes have you toss the cut-up fruit in sugar, but I liked that this recipe didn't ask you to do that, because the peaches were so naturally sweet already they wouldn't have needed any additional sugar anyway. Then you just mix 3/4 cup quick oats, 1/4 cup melted vegan butter, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 3/4 tsp. pumpkin pie spice, 1/2 tsp. baking powder, and a generous pinch of sea salt. Distribute the topping mixture evenly over the peaches and bake at 375 for 35 minutes or until the topping is browned.

This turned out perfectly. It was pretty much the peach crumble of my dreams. I have to say that the addition of pumpkin pie spice was really brilliant in this recipe. The topping was so fragrant and perfectly buttery and crispy. It transformed perfect peaches into, well, even more perfect peaches. Served with a scoop of Coconut Milk Vanilla Bean ice cream... heaven.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Good for the earth. Good for your body. Good for the animals. Vegan Things are GOOD.

I started this blog in December of last year not really knowing if anyone would find my writing, or cooking, to be of any interest. My hopes for this blog was to simply share some good things with you. Good things that just happen to be vegan. I proclaimed in my very first post, "Whether you are a long-time, die-hard, militant vegan, a struggling vegan, a once-a-week-vegetarian, a curious omnivore, or even a bacon-lovin' carnivore who somehow ended up on this site by chance or accident, all are welcome here." And that still holds true.

In addition to sharing good vegan things, I also hoped that this would be a site that just might inspire and help non-vegans, or new vegans, to see how joyful, delicious, and even decadent a vegan lifestyle can be. Because along with every vegan's most hated question, "How do you get enough protein?" frequently comes the second-most hated question, "So what DO you eat?"

This blog has never been about what a vegan does NOT eat. It is instead a celebration of all the good, fantastic, delicious things that a vegan DOES eat. Vegans DO eat things like:

fragrant Lime Peanut Noodles with Seitan, Bok Choy, & Carrots

smoky, crunchy Coconut Bacon BLT's

juicy, flavorful Seitan Souvlaki Skewers with Tzatziki

earthy & satisfying Beet & Brown Rice Burgers (with tater tots, of course)

colorful, saffron-kissed Stovetop Paella

spicy, exotic Indonesian Corn Fritters with Mango Chutney

rich & creamy Pumpkin Cheesecake

and truly decadent RAW ice cream sundaes!

It is with all this in mind that I officially enter the Project Food Blog competition, the first ever interactive competition with more than 1800 food bloggers competing in a series of challenges to be named the next "Food Blog Star." There's no reason to think that a vegan can't win this competition. I hope to prove that vegan food can be just as creative, sophisticated, and delicious - even more so! - as any other food out there. So in the coming weeks, I hope that you will continue to support (and vote!) for my entries, and maybe I'll manage to pick up some new fans along the way. If nothing else, I promise that I'll deliver plenty of vegan good things for you to enjoy.

Voting is open now! If you like this post, please vote here and help send me to the next round! xoxo

Monday, September 13, 2010

Laissez les bon temps rouler! A Meal Inspired by Bon Temps, LA

There's a saying in New Orleans, "Laissez les bon temps rouler," which translates to "Let the good times roll." But Bon Temps means something else too - it's home to Sookie Stackhouse and several vampires, werewolves, shifters, and who knows what else on my favorite show, True Blood, which had its season finale last night. Of course in honor of the finale, I needed to create a Cajun dish that even Sam Merlotte would be proud to serve in his restaurant. What could be better than an étouffée? Move over Lafayette, there's a new chef in town.

There are many kinds of étouffée, but typically it involves chicken or seafood, or a combination of the two, over rice. The base of the sauce is a roux, made by cooking flour in oil. I researched many different recipes and this version with Chicken & Andouille sausage seems to be very popular, so I thought it sounded like a good challenge to veganize, and that's how I came up with my version. This turned out so good that it just might make you want to bite someone (and that's a good thing).

Vegan Chicken & Spicy Sausage Étouffée
makes 4 servings

1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
2 celery ribs, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
salt & freshly ground pepper
2 links Field Roast Mexican Chipotle sausages, or other spicy vegan sausage, cut into 1/2 inch dice
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 Tbsp. paprika
pinch of cayenne
2 cups vegetable broth
8 oz. vegan chicken (I used Morningstar Farms Chik'n Strips)
steamed rice and hot sauce, for serving

1. In a large, deep skillet, heat the oil until shimmering. Whisk in the flour and cook over medium high heat, stirring constantly, until lightly browned, about 2 minutes.

2. Add onion, pepper, celery, and garlic to roux. Season vegetables with salt & pepper and cook over medium heat, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add sausage, tomato paste, paprika and cayenne, and cook for 2 minutes. Add broth and simmer until thickened, about 3 minutes. Stir in chicken and simmer until cooked through, about 5 minutes.

3. Season with salt & pepper and serve over rice, with hot sauce and a bottle of Tru Blood, if you're into that kind of thing.

And finally I just had to share with you the most amazing cupcakes I have ever seen. I didn't get them, but I would have if I had known about them ahead of time. They've got edible True Blood images on them, and they're VEGAN!!! Sweet Avenue Bake Shop, you are a genius.