Sunday, January 30, 2011

Asparagus Risotto 5/5 Spoons

So, I make Asparagus Risotto about once a week now. I cannot get enough of it. It takes awhile and yeah, you do have to stand by the stove and stare and stir but it is so worth it and it's super easy. I was scared to make risotto for the first time. All I've heard are horror stories on cooking shows and from chefs and other fellow at home cooks. Either I totally rule or have lots of luck or just have the patience it takes to stir and stir and stir for about 30 minutes. I'll take all three.

(Photo courtesy of No Meat Athlete)

I have a few tweaks, but nothing major:

-- I don't follow their asparagus method. I'd much rather have roasted veggies in my risotto than steamed or flash boiled. So I roast a bunch of asparagus at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes with salt, pepper and olive oil and then add it towards the end.
-- I probably end up using more than 2 T. of onions because I like them. And I add garlic too, about 2 cloves.
-- In addition to the 7 c. of vegetable broth, I like to add 1/2 c. of white wine somewhere in the cooking and stirring process. It really does add a great flavor and I think it is essential for an authentic risotto experience.
-- And I totally add more than 1/4 c. of parmesan because I love it. Obviously if you are vegan, you can easily omit it and use vegan butter and it will still have a deep, salty, buttery flavor.

I don't add any extra salt... the broth, cheese and roasted asparagus lend quite enough salty flavor. I do add a butt load (yes, that is a real measurement) of cracked black pepper though because I love it on everything. There are so many flavors going on in this meal. It is creamy, buttery, salty and earthy. This easily feeds 4 people with healthy appetites (we always have leftovers with 3 large eaters) and I serve it with a green salad and vinaigrette. So treat yourself and make this soon, you will not be disappointed!

I give this recipe:

5/5 Spoons!

I might work on another entree tonight or tomorrow. Expect more from me if I don't fall asleep soon!

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting 5/5 Spoons

So, I feel like I should have an intense love affair with Carrot Cake. In some ways I do. I love carrots, love cream cheese frosting and love cinnamon based cakes all over the place. BUT this is never my go to dessert. And why not? I don't know you guys. This dessert was so sweet, soft, moist and creamy that I wonder why I don't choose carrot cake over chocolate when I'm out looking for a dessert. Chocolate cake is my dark mistress but I like to think of carrot cake as my booty call. We don't see each other a lot, but when we do, fireworks happen.

Enough of my sexual love towards desserts..... My roommate Steph loves carrot cake. It is her favorite dessert (or at least favorite kind of cake). One night we had just had dinner and I was desperately looking for something to make for dessert. I have this rule for myself. I don't buy myself sweets at the store, if I want dessert I have to make it myself. And trust me, I do. If we don't have a dessert ready to eat, I feel like I must make something. Hence, the carrot cake. When I said that I would be more than willing to make something but didn't have all the ingredients for a carrot cake.... Steph ran to the grocery store and got me some powdered sugar, carrots and cream cheese. I was off!

(This picture courtesy of me! I finally figured out how to get my shitty pictures off my phone onto the laptop. Expect more from me again.)

Once again, I don't think I did anything major in changing this recipe. It didn't need it. Definitely toast the pecans (or whatever nuts you choose). It gave the cake a nice toasty flavor you just won't get with plain old raw nuts. I cheated and used already shredded carrots. If that is a big deal to you, then maybe this is isn't the blog for you. (I'm kidding! I just really wanted to eat it as fast as possible!) And as for the frosting, I skipped the lemon zest. Not sure why, I just didn't feel like it needed it. Oh and those marzipan carrots? Please honey, I did not make those. I'm all about presentation but come on now. The way it tastes is much more important to me.

(Photo courtesy of Joy of Baking)

This was a very tender cake. Not too moist though which is important. The carrots and pecans were crunchy and worked well with the cinnamon spiciness of the cake. And seriously, who doesn't love cream cheese frosting? I don't care what anyone says but if you put butter + cream cheese together you get magic. So I think the frosting here is necessary for the tangy creaminess that it imparts floating on top of the cake.

I give this recipe:

5/5 Spoons!

Okay okay okay, I'll post an entree next. I wouldn't want anyone to think this is JUST a baking blog after all.

Deep Vegan Chocolate Cake 5/5 Spoons

OK, I AM SORRY GUYS. I've been in a serious mental and emotional slump the past two weeks and has seriously affected my cooking and baking attitude. I won't get into specifics but I finally feel like I'm getting over one of my humps that was keeping me from being a normal person again. WHEW! It also helped that I watched Julie & Julia today and it made me laugh, cry and smile for 2 hours straight. I felt connected once again and it felt wonderful. So here I am, catching up!

So I made this cake about 2 weeks ago now and I can still vividly remember how it tastes. That my friends, is the sign of a great dessert. My lovely friend Courtney, who is a phenomenal cook, had some people over to her place when I was home for the weekend and made this meal for us to eat (and it was delicious!) Anyway, I decided I would bring dessert and wanted to make this cake for quite awhile. I rarely make chocolate cake anymore because my roommates aren't demented for chocolate like I am but that just encourages me to stretch my baking muscle, right? Right.

(photo courtesy of Vegetarian Times)

I didn't really make any substitutions for this recipe because frankly.... it didn't need it. I had all the ingredients and it was so simple to make. I chose to use chilled coffee instead of the water and I would encourage you to do the same. There is just something weird to me about putting water in a cake batter, but to each their own. Yes, I realize coffee is just water too but it at least has flavor! Or ya know, if you aren't a coffee drinker, use soy milk, no big whoop. Oh and I used soy milk in the frosting too instead of water (just noticed that).

This is definitely the best vegan chocolate cake I've made. It was tender without being too crumbly and had a very wonderful dark flavor to it without being overwhelming. And the frosting..... oh my. This is a great frosting alternative if you don't have any Earth Balance/butter/margarine in the house. It is so simple and has a wonderful fudgey taste and texture with a salty peanut butter kick. Just like Duncan Hines frosting, I swear!

I give this recipe:

5/5 Spoons!

Not sure what I will pick next to write about BUT hopefully I'll do a few today. Thanks for reading! And I will be back to normal again soon. : )

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Catch up!

Hi kids!

Sorry I've been missing in action. I have lots of recipes to review and lots of notes to look over. Thanks to Courtney for asking if I'm still here. She is a darling and an amazing chef if I might add.

Coming up (hopefully this weekend)..... Deep Vegan Chocolate Cake, Sweet Potato and Brie Mac & Cheese (mainly orchestrated by Courtney, but I helped!), Carrot Cake, Asparagus Risotto, Black Bean Burgers, Creamy Dijon-Dill Potato Salad, Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies, Deadly Almond Chocolate Toffee, "Meatball" Stroganoff and Taco Pizza with a Cornmeal Dough.

Coming up soon and things I want to make eventually..... Curried Red Lentil Soup with Lemon, Vegetarian French Onion soup, Pine Nut "Chicken" with Lobsterless Lobster Mushroom Buerre Blanc sauce (quite a mouthful, huh?) and Cranberry Apple Crisp with Oatmeal Streusel.

And here is a picture of a cute puppy since I bombarded you with lots of links:

What have you all been cooking or baking or both? I'd love to hear!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Whole Foods Vegetarian Chili 5/5 Spoons

Chili was never my thing until very recently.

I have been a vegetarian for (give or take slip ups) 9 years now and up until this year, I didn't really even think about making it. But why not? Like pizza, it is easy customizable and can be made into something healthy and hearty. You can easily clean out your fridge and cabinet making chili.

So this Whole Foods recipe is my favorite by far. Here are my tweaks:

-- I used 2 T. of chipotles in adobo sauce and this makes the meal. I think this is the main reason I love this chili so much. It gives it such a spicy, smokey flavor that I haven't found in other veggie chili.
-- When I make this, I switch up the bean ratio everytime. This time I did one can of kidney beans and one can of black beans. Yes cans, I won't be bothered to soak my own beans, sorry world.
-- I always add a bag of Morningstar Veggie Crumbles. I like the chewiness and it gives it some thickness as well.
-- When I cook it towards the end, I don't let it simmer as long as it says in the recipe. I let it simmer for about 15 minutes, add the beans/crumbles and then let it go another 10 minutes, that's really all you need. It could be impatience but I'm okay with that. Once you smell this, you will want to eat it as fast as possible as well.

So I added a big loaf of crusty bread, sour cream and cheese and I had the ultimate winter meal! You can't do much better than that.

I give this recipe:

5/5 Spoons!

Next up, my favorite hummus recipe and No-Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Jackie's Homemade Pizza 5/5 Spoons

I make this pizza once a week. Like many of my other friends, pizza is a huge part of my food life. It is just so perfect. Dough, sauce, herbs, veggies and cheese? Hell to the yeah. You can customize it to suit anyone's needs.

So obviously once again, I need a camera desperately. Yeah well I am poor as hell, so you will all have to wait. Here is a picture of someone's pizza that is not my own. It looks pretty good though, no?

(Photo courtesy of B&B Creative Marketing, Inc.)

This is the recipe I use for dough. It works for me and what I want (with some tweaks) and it has never failed me. It's one of the few recipes (besides my lemon vinaigrette) that I know by heart. Here are my tweaks:

-- I used 1 c. of whole wheat flour instead of a full 3 1/2 c. of unbleached all purpose flour.
-- This is my favorite yeast to use. I feel like of all the ones I have tried, it yields the softest and most forgiving dough.
-- To season the dough I add about 1/2 T. kosher salt (maybe a bit more), 1 T. crushed fennel seeds (I usually beat the shit out of it with a frying pan) and any mix of oregano or thyme (usually about 1/2 T. of each or both). I've added red pepper flakes, pepper and parmesan cheese before but I like the mix I have. I think fennel seeds are essential though. They give the dough a very authentic flavor.

OK, guys. Oh my god, this is the best pizza sauce ever. I can't find it except at certain grocery stores in Green Bay (and I'm sure other random stores in Wisconsin) but I always stock up when I go home. I have a loving relationship with Rocky Rococo's pizza because we ate it when we were kids. I loved the sausage pizza and always called the middle row of the pan pizza my brothers and I shared. So I highly recommend this sauce if you can get it.

Ok, toppings. Obviously it is your choice, your personal preference. I typically put pineapple, thinly sliced onions and green peppers on my pizza. Occasionally I'll add Yves Pepperoni or artichoke hearts. I need to stray more on that front as well. Spinach, garlic? Both sound wonderful. And cheese, I just use standard mozzarella. But I want to try goat cheese and spinach. Feta and kalamata olives with a white sauce. The combos could go on and on..... What do you like on your pizza?

(Photo courtesy of Bunrab)

I give this recipe:

5/5 Spoons!

Next, the best damn vegetarian chili I have ever had. Seriously.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Vegan (Almost) Chocolate Chip Cookies 5/5 Spoons

Let me preface this by saying, who doesn't love a really good chocolate chip cookie? I feel like you are some sort of evil Reagan-humping Tea Party lovin' Republican if you don't like buttery dough with chocolate mixed in.

So this recipe is totally vegan but I only had white chocolate chips to use, so that's why the (almost) is up there. Obviously, do as you want. I almost added coconut as well, but eh, I wanted something really basic.

(Photo courtesy of The Post Punk Kitchen)

My cookies did not end up looking anything like these BUT I made a lot of tweaks (based on what I had in my apartment) and they are still crazy delicious. Here are my notes:

-- So I had no brown sugar. I pondered what to do. Aha! Molasses + white granulated sugar = brown sugar. Duh. I found the right combo of the two on this website and made my own. There is another reason to keep molasses in the cabinet. So for this recipe it called for 1/2 c. brown sugar. I took 1/2 c. regular sugar and added 1 T. of molasses. Simple as that. Make sure to blend it together well. I just used a fork and mashed the hell out of it until everything was well incorporated.
-- I used plain soy milk instead of almond milk, no big whoop either way.
-- As for the tapioca flour, I just don't really ever have it around. Instead of that, I used 1/2 T. cornstarch. I found the substitution guide for thickeners here.
-- When I mixed everything together, the batter seemed a bit thin so I added about 1/8 c. more of all-purpose flour. Either way, the cookies that came out of the oven were very flat.

She is not kidding when she says that you need to mix the sugar, oil and milk combo very well. You need to whip the hell out of it but it makes a delicious caramel-y concoction that works so well in this cookie. I am not sure I would even call this is a "standard chocolate chip cookie" but it still came out phenomenal. I'm not sure what I could have done differently to make them more poofy but I didn't care. These are chewy and have a deep caramel flavor without even a hint of butter! I was wary of a oil-based cookie but now I am sold. It is nice to know that if I need to make vegan cookies that everyone will enjoy that I have this recipe (and all the ingredients) handy!

I give this recipe:

5/5 Spoons!

I'll probably post my favorite homemade pizza recipe tomorrow.... we shall see. Have a good night all!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Baked Mac & Cheese 3/5 Spoons

As a quick aside, is anyone else having an awesome 2011 so far? I don't know if it is just my attitude or what, but I feel great. I blame it on there being no snow on the ground, which I find to be the best thing ever. Anyway, on to the food....

So I made this Baked Mac & Cheese the other night and it was like the most average meal ever. I've had worse and I've had a lot better. The thing is that I've made this before and I know I'll make it again because a. it is easy b. there is a load of spinach in it and c. it is a fine meal for a night when you don't really care what you eat. I know I'm not really "selling" this meal but it's a good way to pack in lots of whole wheat pasta and spinach along with a boatload of delicious cheese. Sounds like a good combo to me.

(Photo courtesy of Eating Well)

Here are my notes:

-- I used fresh spinach because I had it handy, but I've used frozen before and it works just as well.
-- For the cheeses, I used a combo of Parmesan, cheddar and some Mexican blend (without spices) and I thought it was a good mixture.
-- I used about an entire box (14.5 ounces) of whole wheat pasta instead of just 8 ounces. Really, i think you could do even more, the cheese sauce is pretty plentiful.
-- Normally I taste test all my food before I let anyone eat it, but this was an off night and I didn't really particularly care. This definitely needs some salt added, it tasted a little bland when made according to the recipe.

I give this recipe:

3/5 Spoons!

Not sure what I have next but no doubt I'll be back with something!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Vegetarian Midwest Taco Tater Tot Casserole 5/5 Spoons

This recipe title is a mouthful!

So this is pretty straightforward, I wanted to make something super super Midwestern and came up with this ridiculously easy recipe. This is not something I would make every night (or heck, even once a month) because I like to incorporate, ya know, vegetables into all my meals. But, it is something to make when you don't even feel like thinking while cooking and want something simple and delicious.

(Photo courtesy of Cooking for Kids Blog)

My recipe includes:

1 medium white/yellow onion, diced
2-3 garlic cloves, diced
2 packages of Morningstar Farms Veggie Crumbles
2 packages low-sodium taco seasoning
1 package Ore-Ida Tater Tots (or whatever you like)
Cheddar cheese, or whatever you like

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and grease a 11x7 casserole pan.

Dice and cook the garlic and onion over medium heat until just brown around the edges (or that's the way I like it, do as you please.) Add the crumbles with just a glug of water to get them going. Once they have absorbed the water and are fully incorporated, add the seasoning. Just mix and let cook over med-low heat until everything is well cooked and looks yummy. Pour the taco mixture into the pan and top with as many or as few tater tots as you like. I just do one solid layer because piling them on might mean that some tater tots overcook while others don't cook at all. Now just pile on as much cheese as you would like, this is all catered to your own taste if you haven't figured it out already. Bake for about 25 minutes or until the tater tots look nice and crisp on top. I served it with sour cream just because I like any excuse to put it on my food.

That's it! So flippin' easy it's almost silly to put on here.

I give this recipe:

5/5 Spoons!

Next up, Baked Mac & Cheese!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

What I'm putting in my mouth next......

I told myself that I would eat less desserts in 2011 (fuck that) and I think is what I'm going to make next!

This Deep Chocolate Vegan Cake recipe looks INSANE.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Cara's Buttermilk Bread 5/5 Spoons

Did you know that toast is my favorite food? Yeah, that's right. I am an immense lover of food and to me nothing is better than two perfectly crispy, crunchy, toasty and buttery pieces of soft, dense bread. It can go wrong obviously like any meal. You could over toast your bread (although I like it pretty dark), use bad butter/butter substitute (I use Earth Balance, it is my favorite) or you could just flat out use the wrong bread. Obviously everyone's toast tastes are a very personal thing. My ideal toast is thick, chewy sourdough bread toasted until dark brown and slathered with Earth Balance.

I stayed up until 2 am last night baking/proofing/caressing Cara's Buttermilk Bread and it was worth every minute of sleep I lost. This is decidedly easy and a great way to use up extra buttermilk if you have it in the fridge. This was not hard, but you do need some time management skills. You need to make sure you have 3 hours (give or take) to make, check, form and bake your bread. It is worth it, trust me. I woke up this morning to an amazing loaf of healthy, homemade bread and TOAST. My god, the toast was splendid. I love knowing exactly what went into that loaf of bread. There are no hidden ingredients or weirdo chemicals I can't pronounce. I think I'm gonna start making a loaf of bread for myself every week instead of buying my regular challah at the grocery store.

(Pictures courtesy of One Hot Stove)

Here are my few tweaks and just general impatient bread maker notes:

-- I used half unbleached all-purpose flour and half whole wheat flour. That's pretty much what I do now for all my dough recipes.
-- I skipped a step and just kneaded it, formed it into a loaf like shape, oiled the pan and let that rise for about 2 1/2 hours. This is instead of step 5 and 6. It worked well and there was less kneading and fooling around with the dough then.
-- When I baked it, I only left it in for about 30 minutes. It says 45 and I think that would be good too, but I wanted my bread to be a bit doughy. And it was, deliciously so.
-- And this was my bad, but I didn't take the bread out of the loaf pan overnight. I set it in the microwave to cool but keep moist but when I took it out this morning, the bottom was a tad soggy. So before you let it cool, take it out of its loaf pan to let it dry out.

I give this recipe:

5/5 Spoons!

If I could give it more I would. I realize I skipped my Vegetarian Taco Tater Tot Casserole, I'll get around to it but this was far more important to me to write about. Hope this finds everyone well!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Tortellini with Italian "Sausage" and Fennel 4/5 Spoons

Whew, 3 out of 3. I knew I could do it all today.

I made this dish last week and I've been thinking about it all week. If you are unsure what to make this coming week (or anytime), I highly suggest it. So why only 4/5 stars? I'll tell you below.

(Photo courtesy of Bon Appetit)

Bon Appetit is one of my favorite magazines and has an awesome array of recipes. It is not super veg friendly but you can find some real great gems if you look and a lot of the recipes are easily customized with non-meat counterparts. So many of their desserts are insane and amazing looking like Apricot-Raspberry Pavlovas with Sliced Almonds and Maple Cake with Maple Syrup Frosting. WHAT.

Back to the recipe.... Here are my tweaks....

-- I did not use any mushrooms. Sad as it is, my roommate does not like them. I think she is crazy, but I like to be accommodating!
-- Instead of sausage, I used Lightlife Italian Style Sausages. I cut them up into small chunks and fried them before throwing them in the pasta.
-- And if you haven't figured it out already, I used 1 cup of veggie broth instead of chicken broth.

There is a nice mix of flavor with the licorice flavor of the fennel, the spiciness of the "sausage", the saltiness of the parmesan and the chewy smoothness of the cheese tortellini. The only thing I would change is either using less cream or just omitting it all together and adding maybe a spoonful or two of sour cream. I thought the cream made it a little too soupy but after it cooled down, it wasn't such a big deal. So that's why the 4 stars, I thought the addition was pretty unnecessary and I will know better next time. I will definitely be making this again though.

Tomorrow, Vegetarian Midwest Tater Tot Casserole a la Jackie!

Veggie Sushi Rolls 4/5 Spoons & Baked Vegetable Egg Rolls 3/5 Spoons

One thing I have learned from these two recipes is that I'm pretty damn good at rolling sushi and not so good at making egg rolls. It wasn't perfect looking but it stayed together and looked pretty enough to eat. I used this recipe and tweaked it to my own desires. The thing I love about sushi is you can make it your own and add whatever you want.

(Picture courtesy of Vegetarian Times)

Here are my tweaks for the sushi rolls:

-- I did not use the dipping sauce in the recipe. It sounds good, but I'm totally okay with just soy/tamari sauce as a dipping sauce.
-- I did not use sesame seeds because I didn't feel like toasting them. Lazy sushi says I.
-- I made 3 cups of rice and I still had a bunch of left over and made about 6 rolls. So you might want to make a little less.
-- Tofu was in the freezer and did not thaw it out in time, so once again, lazy sushi.
-- My veggies consisted of avocado, carrots, cucumber and asparagus.

Rolling sushi is not as hard as I thought it would be. I do not have a mat so I just used plastic wrap and I thought it worked really well. The only reasons I am giving this 4 instead of 5 for this specific recipe is because I believe the sushi rice was too salty and will adjust it next time I make it.

I give this recipe:

4/5 Spoons!

Now, the egg rolls. I liked these, but did not love them.

(Pictures courtesy of For the Love of Cooking)

I liked that these were baked and were pretty comparable to fried egg rolls from restaurants. The only difference really is that delivery egg rolls are chewier and whatever egg roll wrappers they use are just much better. These ones were thin and were kinda like phyllo dough to me.

My tweaks:

-- I did not use the water chestnuts, green onions or fresh ginger. I omitted the first two and used 1/2 t. ground ginger.
-- Instead of adding some salted peanuts (which I enjoy), I added crushed cashews and I think it gave it a nice salty bite.

So I probably won't make these again, but like sushi, you can add whatever you want. I will say the only reason I kept eating them is because I loved this hoisin sauce. Crazy delicious.

I give this recipe:

3/5 Spoons

Next... Tortellini with Italian "Sausage" and Fennel (yum).

Vegan Pumpkin Pie 5/5 Spoons

Ok, I am finally back. And you will probably get like 3 posts today, so deal with it!

I've been searching for an ultimate vegan pumpkin pie for awhile now (ok, let's say about a month) and this one from Vegetarian Times (which if you didn't know, has a crazy wealth of recipes) seemed to come the closest and be the easiest of all the ones I found.

(Photo courtesy of Vegetarian Times)

First off, I will admit that I used a store bought deep dish crust. Whatever. We all cheat sometimes. Some on their wives and me on making freshly made pie dough. The dough was not vegan but as a new years revolution, I'm trying really hard to make my life about 85% vegan. I don't think I can ever really do 100% but I know I can do 85%. So buy a pre-made crust or make one of your own. I have a hand written vegan pie crust recipe that I swear by, ask if you would like to get your grubby little hands on it.

So let's see, just focusing on the filling, I really barely made any changes here. The only thing I can see is that instead of allspice, I just used 1/2 t. of nutmeg instead of 1/4. Oh, and I just used granulated sugar, not that cane syrup stuff. It turned out perfectly well with just plain ol' sugar. This pie is sweet and has a spicy kick with the help of the ground ginger. I thought it was too sweet at first but after letting it cool overnight in the fridge, it mellowed out. I would suggest keeping it in the fridge because it keeps the filling nice and firm.

And if you are thinking of leaving out the molasses, I would advise against it. It gave it a really nice deep dark flavor that you can't get from any other sweetener out there. And molasses is always nice to have around if you are like me and have a hankering occasionally for cookies. So grab a hunk and top with a big dollop of whipped cream, especially Soyatoo, which totally rules (seeing as I wore a beard of it one lovely Fakesgiving after perhaps having too many spirits).

I give this recipe:

5/5 spoons!

Next up, Sushi and Egg Rolls!