Monday, December 24, 2012

Happy Holidays & Happy New Year from VGT

Warmest holiday wishes from me to all of you. What you see above represents the extent of my holiday "baking" this year. Seeing as I melted the chocolate in the microwave and didn't touch the oven, I guess I didn't really do any baking at all. Actually, I made a loaf of pumpkin bread to take to a friend's house, but for that I used a mix from Trader Joe's and just threw some cranberries and pecans into it, so that doesn't really count either. I'm still having a lot of trouble getting anything done in the kitchen with a busy one year old who wants to be picked up and held and/or gets into everything constantly. The Peppermint Bark that I made is literally easy enough to make with one hand tied behind your back, because that's pretty much how I made it, with one hand while holding little B on my hip with the other arm. I had big dreams of all the baking I was going to do this year... maybe another Bûche de Noël cake, some cranberry hand pies, and cookies galore. But none of that got done. What did get done is the aforementioned Peppermint Bark, and lots of baby snuggles, which is good enough for me.

There's still time to make this treat, and you might even have all the ingredients on hand already. It was supposed to turn out looking like this, which is really pretty with nice even brown and white layers, but... yeah, I'm not even going to make any excuses anymore. Pretty much everything I've attempted to make lately has failed on some level, but who cares. It's chocolatey and minty and crunchy and it tastes good and it still looks pretty even with the layers all marbled and mixed up. 'Tis the season to appreciate all that we have and share with others, so here I share the "recipe" that I adapted from this Food Network recipe with you.

Vegan Peppermint Bark
12 oz good-quality semisweet vegan chocolate, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
1 1/2 tsp. peppermint extract
1 lb good-quality vegan white chocolate, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces (I used Oppenheimer brand)
3 candy canes or 12 round hard peppermint candies, crushed
Assorted holiday sprinkles or candies (optional)

1. Line a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with aluminum foil, shiny-side up; smooth out any wrinkles. Heat 1 inch of water in a saucepan over low heat until steaming.

2. Put all but 3/4 cup of the semisweet chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Set the bowl over the saucepan of steaming water (do not let the bowl touch the water) and stir until one-third of the chocolate is melted. Remove the bowl from the saucepan; keep the steaming water over low heat. Gradually stir the reserved 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate into the bowl, a few pieces at a time, until all of the chocolate is melted. Return the bowl to the saucepan, 5 to 10 seconds at a time, to help melt the chocolate, if needed. Do not rush this step: It may take up to 10 minutes to melt the chocolate. (*Alternatively, place chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at 30 second intervals, stirring in between, until melted. This will take a couple of minutes.)

3. Wipe off any moisture from the bottom of the bowl. Stir 3/4 teaspoon peppermint extract into the chocolate, then quickly pour into the prepared baking dish and spread in an even layer. Firmly tap the dish against the counter to remove any air bubbles. Set aside at room temperature until almost set, about 10 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, put all but 1 cup of the white chocolate in a large heatproof bowl and repeat the melting process over the steaming water; dry off the bottom of the bowl. (*Or follow microwave instructions above.) Stir in the remaining 3/4 teaspoon peppermint extract; pour over the semisweet chocolate and spread in an even layer. Sprinkle immediately with the crushed candy canes and sprinkles if using, gently pressing them into the white chocolate. Set aside at room temperature until firm, about 1 hour. Lift the bark out of the pan using the foil and break it into pieces. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Some Recent Eats

Hello friends. I hope you all had a lovely, turkey-free Thanksgiving. My oven decided to break the night before the holiday, when I was making the Maple Pecan Pie from Vegan Pie in the Sky, so I was forced to do all my cooking in my toaster oven. So, that was fun. Actually, it wasn't that bad, only because I discovered that I can fit an entire pie pan in my toaster oven, and also because I was only cooking a few dishes to eat with some friends of ours, instead of cooking an entire feast for 12 people or something like that. The Maple Pecan Pie was delicious, but sadly I forgot to take a picture of it. I did take a picture of our Turkey-less Roast that we got from Trader Joe's this year, which had stuffing on the inside and came with its own savory vegan gravy:

I roasted some baby potatoes, carrots, Brussels sprouts, onions, and celery mixed with some rosemary, thyme, and sage, and served them around the roast. It was devoured by all with almost no leftovers. My absolute favorite is still the Field Roast Stuffed Hazelnut Cranberry Roast En Croute, but this one was good too. We didn't even do a stuffing this year, which is a crime, but we were keeping it kind of low key. It's hard to do a bunch of cooking when you are only a few people eating and you have an active one year old in the kitchen with you.

We did have time for cocktails though. This lovely concoction made by a friend of mine had grapefruit juice, gin, and (I think) elderflower liqueur. I generally don't even like grapefruit juice but these drinks were divine.

 We didn't have much in the way of leftovers this year, which is another Thanksgiving crime I committed, but we did have some extra Brussels sprouts, potatoes, and gravy. I was still craving home-style comfort food so I made the Tempeh Loaf recipe from the Spork-Fed cookbook. The main ingredients are tempeh and beets, which give the "meatloaf" a bright red hue (like these beet burgers) that looks somewhat disturbingly like raw red meat. The flavors in this loaf were absolutely delicious, but it was a bit mushy for my liking. I will experiment with this recipe to see if I can make it with a firmer texture. Also, the recipe in the book instructs you to "frost" the loaf with the mashed potatoes, but I just served them on the side to maximize their gravy holding capacity.

Like I said, I neglected to photograph my Maple Pecan Pie, but I had some extra pecans and a lingering craving for pumpkin baked goods, so I made this Pumpkin Cheesecake with Pecan Crunch topping, which is also from the Vegan Pie in the Sky book. It is outrageously, unbelievably good. Like, one of the best cheesecakes I've ever had kind of good. I love this recipe and lucky for you and everyone else, it is available here on the PPK site. Try not to eat the whole thing in one sitting.

The end of November is really busy in the Two Moons household. Not only is there Thanksgiving, but our baby celebrated his very first birthday (hooray!), and I had a birthday as well. We ordered a lemon cake with cream cheese frosting this year from one of my favorite places, Blossom, and it was wonderful. 

One last thing I have to share with you is another recipe I recently tried, the Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese from Oh She Glows. Except that I made it with pumpkin instead of butternut squash. It was rich and creamy, hearty, and lick-smackingly good. The sauce (especially if you use canned squash or pumpkin instead of roasting it) is nearly instant. It's so good and so easy to make. It's gotten rave reviews all over the internet and now I can add my stamp of approval too.

I still haven't gotten my fill of pumpkin yet and I have pumpkin baked goods as well as holiday cookies on the brain. Stay on the lookout for some holiday baking posts in the near future!