Saturday, February 26, 2011

Ghiradelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chips Are Not Vegan!

Crazy! What the hell, dude?

For some reason I just assumed they were and I know I should never assume when it comes to vegan anything. Well I'm glad I didn't actually ever use these chips to feed any vegan or now I would be feeling really bad.

Here are the ingredients (I saw them as I was eating some today):

Ingredients: Unsweetened chocolate, sugar, cocoa butter, milk fat, soy lecithin, vanilla.

Sorry everyone.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Thick and Chewy Oatmeal (Not Raisin) Cookies 5/5 Spoons

There are very few things I really have a serious distaste for when it comes to food. Here is my list:

-- Wasabi in any form
-- Radishes (but even those I don't mind shredded)
-- Sesame oil (as stated previously)

(Shriveled devils!, Photo courtesy of The Daily Green)

To me, raisins are just so damn gross and I just can't get over it. I thought they were something that I would enjoy as I got older but I feel like I hate them even more now. I love other dried fruit such as cranberries, blueberries, apricots, mango, etc. etc. There is just something about the flavor of raisins that makes me gag.

So my plan for these cookies was to make a plain batch sans raisins and then my own batch (for the chocolate lover in the apartment) with chocolate chips and pecans. AND I made them vegan! So I really kind of messed with this recipe but it was so worth it because they were like some of the best cookies I've had in awhile.

(Photo courtesy of Vegan Occasions)

Here are my notes (there a few, but trust me, it is worth it):

-- I used softened Earth Balance instead of butter.
-- To replace the egg I used 1 T. flax seed meal and 3 T. water whisked vigorously by hand until it was frothy and thick.
-- Because I'm running low on my unbleached flour, I used 1/4 c. whole wheat flour and 1/2 c. AP flour. I really think you could use all whole wheat and I will probably try that out next time.
-- I split the dough in half and add about 1/2 c. of my same old Ghiradelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chips and about 1/4 c. diced pecans. I thought about adding dried cranberries but I think two additions were plenty.
-- Oh, and definitely chill the dough like is instructed in the recipe. I did it for about two hours and I think it really did help it maintain the chewiness that made these cookies amazing.

So I adore this recipe because you can easily customize it and make it your own. It was super easy to make vegan and add whatever pleases me. They were so chewy, soft and crunchy all at the same time. You all know how much I adore chocolate and throwing oats and cinnamon (some of my other favorites) in the mix made me a happy lady.

I give this recipe:

5/5 Spoons!

I might not be back until next week because of moving... but there will be more to come soon.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Pumpkin Brownies 4/5 Spoons

I took about a bunch of Excedrin (ok, 3) and now I'm back with the fury of one thousand suns! I cooked and baked and chopped veggies this morning, went for a walk, talked to my temp contact through Northwestern, watched an episode of Big Love and woke up at a decent time today. I'm proud of me even though my body aches and I have cramps up the wazoo. Ok, enough about my lady drama.......

So I know for sure I'm not the only one who flips when there is talk of a canned pumpkin shortage. I even bought a fancy can of organic pumpkin this past summer because I crave pumpkin all year long. I was overzealous and went bonkers this past fall and bought like 10 cans of the stuff. Now that we are moving and want to try to eat all the food we have so there is less to take with, I've been looking for pumpkin recipes. This is the second time I've made these Pumpkin Brownies.

(Photos courtesy of Eating Is Art)

Here are my notes:

-- As usual, I used half of the sugar called for and I loved it even better this time around.
-- I don't use the entire bag of chocolate chips... that is just too much for me. Yes, I love chocolate but with the chips I use (Ghiradelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chips) I think it would become overwhelming.

This is a perfect combo of tender cake and dark chocolate gooey-ness that I crave on almost a daily basis. I think the warm spiciness of the ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg always go well with the dark, richness of bittersweet chocolate.

I give this recipe:

4/5 Spoons!

I'm on a roll, more from me later!

Sesame Tofu 5/5 Spoons

Sorry to be missing in action again, my loves. I am moving to a new apartment next week with an even better kitchen! I'm so damn sick of this apartment and it's oddly placed kitchen and small counter space that I have not been cooking much lately. Add on PMS and I'd rather burn the kitchen down than cook in it. But that doesn't mean I don't have a back up of recipes that I've made to review.... So here we go!

I'm glad to have foodie friends who are like, "Jackie, what the hell? Where are the recipe reviews?" so here I am talking about probably my new favorite vegan recipe this year. I mean it's so ridiculously easy and silly that I feel bad that it took me this long to actually perfect it. Sesame tofu guys! And I'm talking "Whoa this tastes like it is from Chinese take out" style sesame tofu. It may not be the healthiest thing in the world but there are far worse foods to spend your dinner hour with.

(photo courtesy of LA2DAY.COM)

So the way I make this is kind of a pieced together bastardized version of several recipes. The only "real" recipe I use is here for the Chinese Style Sesame Sauce (and even that I totally tweak the amounts). I looked at this one as well to get a feel for what I should do with the tofu. But I didn't like that she used egg in the tofu prep because I wanted to make this totally vegan. So all I do (and this is my favorite way to fry tofu) is take two blocks of tofu, slice them in bite size chunks, get a Ziploc bag and fill it with about 1/4 c. cornstarch and shake the hell out of it. You obviously don't want your tofu chunks too small or they will just be obliterated in the tossing process but I think you get the point. And I also freeze my tofu and let it thaw before using in this application. I've heard it gives tofu a chewier texture and by Xena, I think the experts are right.

(My own terrible picture!)

Ok, so here we go with the actual cooking. I take a fry pan and fill it with about 1 inch of vegetable oil. I hate using that much oil too but you won't get the great crunchy outside unless you really fry these babies up. Make sure to not crowd the pan otherwise you will just have soggy oily tofu instead of crisp deliciousness. So yeah, this part takes awhile. So be patient. While you are frying, take a small pan and add about 1/4 c. of sesame seeds to toast. Make sure you toss them about as to not burn them (like I did). Once they are done you can set them aside to add later on. When you are about half done with the tofu, you can start making the sauce. I don't know if I need to tell you this but make sure to drain your tofu on paper towel as well.

Here are my tweaks to the recipe above:

-- I only used 1/2 c. sugar and honestly, you could probably cut it down to 1/3 c. and there wouldn't be much of a difference. I find that so many recipes overdo the sugar amounts and I'm glad I didn't put a whole cup in here, it would have been too crazy sweet then.
-- Obviously I used vegetable broth instead of chicken broth.
-- I don't really ever have white vinegar around so I used apple cider and it worked just dandy.
-- Instead of soy sauce, I used tamari because it was what I had.
-- And okay, so I hate kind of hate sesame oil. It has a weird acrid taste that I can't stand whenever I make Indian or Thai food. Because of that I only added about two dashes of the stuff. I liked that there was a hint but not too overwhelming of a flavor.
-- I used hot sauce instead of chili paste since I didn't have any. I added pepper flakes as well because I wanted it spicy!
-- And I didn't use garlic.... I actually just forgot but I honestly don't think it would have added all that much anyhow.

(Photo courtesy of Green Shakes and Giggles)

So whew! A lot of instruction and a lot of changes! So let's piece this bad boy all together. Once the tofu is done, I like to empty out almost all of the oil except for maybe like 3 tablespoons worth. I threw some broccoli in there but you can add whatever you please.... carrots, onions, pineapple, etc. Once those were softened a tad I threw the tofu back in and tossed it with the sauce and sesame seeds and I had a wicked delicious meal. Serve with rice, I like jasmine but any rice will do.

Let me just add that this seriously tastes like take out sesame tofu. It takes a little more time and effort but it is so worth it to know what is going into your food and make it your own.

I give this recipe:

5/5 Spoons!

Wow, this was fun to do! I'll be working on more this week. Enjoy!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Hot Spinach and Artichoke Dip 2/5 Spoons

So... did you guys know that the Green Bay Packers won the Superbowl? You didn't? Well where have you been? I grew up with my family watching football and me totally hating it. As I've aged, I've felt much more pride and excitement for my hometown football team. This encouraged me to actually watch several football games (all the way through!) and then the Superbowl. And to quell my excitement for the day I made this dip and Packer cupcakes (which I'll review later).

(Photo courtesy of Food Network.... this a terrible picture but I love Alton Brown)

So I really didn't like this dip that much. I hated the stringy spinach and wish I would have used fresh spinach instead. And as much as I love dairy products, this was too much even for me. I added the pepper flakes and some bites would be SUPER hot and others were totally bland, so I didn't really get the addition. I would probably use hot sauce instead so it would incorporate better.

I really don't plan on making this again. I'm sad that I made a crummy Alton Brown recipe but I will never lose faith in him! If anyone has better spinach artichoke dip recipes they would like to share with me, I'd love to see them!

(Photo courtesy of Link Music)

I give this recipe:

2/5 Spoons!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies 5/5 Spoons

Hi lovers!

Like my new layout??? It's super hot. I needed an upgrade here and now I feel quite refreshed. I'm doing this post on a different computer so it might be shorter than normal and less rambling (thank jeebus, right?)

(Photo courtesy of Fake Ginger)

So this recipe is bananas! It has a wonderful combination of chocolate and salty peanut butter to make me eat about half the pan overall.


-- I think the only thing I changed was using Earth Balance for the peanut butter swirl part instead of butter. I liked that it was saltier than my normal unsalted butter I use while baking.
-- As for chocolate, I always use Ghiradelli's 60% Cacao Bittersweet chips. They are my favorite and it's the only kind I buy now.

I mean really, do I need to explain the incredibly sexy marriage between chocolate and peanut butter? It's mouth watering, sensual and off the chain. So enjoy this recipe with my best wishes.

I give this recipe:

5/5 Spoons!

I promise I'll be doing more this weekend..... so see you again soon!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Creamy Dijon Dill Potato Salad 5/5 Spoons

Let's see if I can pound out a few recipe reviews here! I've been having knee trouble lately from shoveling like 2 hours this past weekend so I sit here waiting for my delivery food because I can't stand for a really long time to cook. But I've done quite a bit of cooking before this stupid injury.

So, I made this a few weeks ago but it's really the only potato salad I make anymore. I crave this which is unlike any other potato salad I've ever had. It is so smooth, creamy and full of flavor. The version I make has less fat than a normal potato salad and this is what makes me think I can eat like half of this bowl. This goes fast, so if you are making it for more than 3 people, you should double or triple it!

(Photo courtesy of Food Network)

Here are my notes and tweaks:

-- I have no idea how many potatoes I use. I use about 3 pounds (give or take) of Yukon Gold potatoes. I think Yukon Golds have a creaminess to them that other potatoes don't and that's why I like them. Oh and I don't peel them. I like the peel and that's where all the vitamins are!
-- I do indeed use the full cup of mayo BUT I use 1/2 c. Vegenaise (and I would use it all if I made this totally vegan) and 1/2 c. canola mayonnaise. It's what I always have on hand and the canola mayo gives it a creamier texture without all the cholesterol.
-- When using vinegar, I bounce between red wine and apple cider. It doesn't seem to matter much.

And can I just say how much I love dill? I will put it in just about anything. Lemons too. They go well in anything (well ya know, within reason.)

I made this as a side with Black Bean Burgers and it went so perfectly well. Let's be honest here. I want it to be summer and this reminded me of sitting outside in the grass, grilling and getting drunk at 5 pm on warm summer nights. A few more months and I can do just that!

I give this recipe:

5/5 Spoons!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

two recipes in a pile of thousands.....

So yeah, I've been missing again. Sorry my dears.

Instead of reviewing a recipe today I just want to give links and show love for the recipes I want to make (someday):

(Photo courtesy of Blog From Italy)

I just watched Lidia's Italy (love that damn woman) and so much of her food looks so wonderful even through the TV and can be easily made vegetarian/vegan if it isn't already! She made a Sardinian Malloreddus which is a semolina based gnocchi and I'm just dying to make it. I couldn't find Lidia's specific recipe but this one looks awesome and close to what she made on the show. I can't wait for my new kitchen (oh yeah and apartment) so I can have room to make my own pasta.

(Photo courtesy of Real Simple)

Tomorrow I will be making this lovely Asparagus and Goat Cheese Pasta for Kristin and I. I bought a 10 ounce hunk of goat cheese just because I can't help but stare at the cheese case at the grocery store. I'll use half of it for this and hopefully make some sort of honey goat cheese phyllo pockets of some kind.

Yup, I'm tired. But you will hear from me again soon. Love!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Deadly Chocolate Almond Toffee 5/5 Spoons

So, I'm not much of a candy maker. I have made truffles before but those are super easy to do. And much to my surprise, so is toffee! I don't even have a candy thermometer and I have successfully made toffee and caramel. I know I should have one eventually but I think if you have a keen cooking eye and sense of smell, you will be totally alright. This is why I plan on making this recipe again very soon.

(My own picture on my brand new and wonderful Silpat! They are pricey but so worth it to make candy, cookies, pavlovas, etc.)

So my true intention for this toffee was to be a present for my lovely and beautiful friend, Samantha. She lives in Connecticut so I had to think of something I could send that a. wouldn't spoil and b. wouldn't break into a million pieces (and if it did, who cares! It's toffee!) And yeah, this made quite a bit more than what I was planning on sending her. Oops! I seriously ate this all in one day with only minimal help from my roommates. So this is pretty dangerous stuff.

(Photo courtesy of La Fuji Mama)

The only thing I changed is that I used finely chopped almonds on top instead of walnuts. I dare say this might be my favorite thing I've made this year (yeah, it is only February, but this is still saying a lot!) The texture of the toffee was out of this world. It was crisp but almost flaked into your mouth while chewing it. It was buttery with a dark caramel-y flavor. And I think I would rather not have the chocolate chips and almonds on top for next time. I would almost rather just have toffee and almonds as to not take away from the phenomenal burnt sugar flavor. I plan on making this again and good thing I'm obsessive about my oral hygiene because otherwise I might lose all my teeth. : P

I give this recipe:

5/5 Spoons!

OK, I will post an entree/side dish next. To appease the masses!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Homemade Black Bean Burgers 4/5 Spoons

I've had about one million (give or take) veggie and black bean burgers in the last 10 years or so. When you can't find any other exciting veggie option, you can always find a veggie or bean burger. They are a consummate go-to meal but really they are pretty damn boring. And I'm not saying these are perfect but I actually crave these black bean burgers unlike any others I've purchased, ate at a restaurant or have made myself before.

(Photo courtesy of MATTSBELLY at

So when I make these, I double the recipe. These are awesome to keep on hand in the fridge or even freeze to have on hand for a quick lunch. I always serve these with whole wheat rolls, ketchup and deli mustard. I should be a little more exciting and throw some lettuce, onions and tomatoes in the mix but I always try to do as little chopping as possible with these. Actually when I want to smash the beans and chop the garlic, onion and pepper.... I always do it in my food processor! It totally rules and saves me from having to use our shitty potato masher.

Actually the only thing I would change in these burgers is maybe putting less chili powder in the mix. This last time that I ate them, it was a tad overwhelming. I almost always cook mine on the stove top in an oiled pan but this last time I tried baking them in the oven. Eh, not as good. You don't get a crispy outside when you bake these. So you can allow yourself a little bit of oil to eat these otherwise totally healthy burgers. Be careful when you flip them though because sometimes they like to fall apart. These have a nice dense texture and a wonderful smoky flavor.

(Photo courtesy of Megan on

I give this recipe:

4/5 Spoons!

Ok, I will probably do a dessert next, they are my favorite to write about!