Thursday, October 27, 2011

Low Fat Fudgy Brownies 5/5 Spoons

I was thinking the other day, "When did I really start cooking and baking?" And I couldn't even really answer myself. When I started cutting meat out of my life at about 21 even then I rarely made meals or baked. I was in school and working full-time at a bagel shop so I ate a lot of well.... bagels. I ate a lot of pancakes, Kraft Mac n Cheese and frozen pizza. I don't remember there being all that many veggies going on in my diet. The thought of that now totally grosses me out but somehow I maintained my existence on alcohol, carbs and no sleep. Moving to Chicago has pretty much changed my cooking existence. I baked and cooked long before being here but now it is my outlet, it is my daily affirmation. Somehow this is all leading to me talking about the most perfect Low-Fat Brownies I've ever had. I just thought it was important to give a little back story of my food world, even if it is just a small snippet.

Can I say that I've spent a really long time trying to find the PERFECT low-fat brownie recipe? As much as I love butter and sugar and chocolate, with how often I crave desserts I can't eat a stick of butter every day. America's Test Kitchen ran an episode about lightening up chocolate desserts and although I don't think Chris and the other cooks were all that excited about the episode (they missed their butter!), it was pretty good overall.

(Photo courtesy of America's Test Kitchen Feed)

I didn't get any of my own photos of these brownies because well.... my roommate and I ate them within like a 24 hour period. I couldn't even believe after all the time I've attempted lower fat brownies that I finally had found a winner. Needless to say I had to "celebrate" my victory by eating 1/2 a pan. It only seemed logical. These were fluffy but fudge like at the same time. They had a really nice chocolate flavor without being too sweet. Here are my notes:

-- Pretty sure I put about 1/2 t. kosher salt in the mix. I like my chocolate treats on the salty side.
-- I don't have chocolate syrup on hand, like ever, so I just used an extra tablespoon of butter. Yup, more butter, but it's much less than you would find in any other brownie recipe!
-- 1 cup of sugar? No thanks. I used a 1/2 cup.
-- We always have fat free sour cream, so that's what I used, it worked well of course.

(Photo courtesy of Rose's Recipes)

So easy and so good. These are great to bring for a treat to work or a family gathering or like just bring them on the train and eat them with a fork. Or plop them on the seat next to you in your car and grab it with your hands and shove it in your mouth. You are smart people, you know what is best for you.

Up next, more America's Test Kitchen goodness (and much, much more butter) with Monkey Bread!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Black Pepper "Chicken" 5/5 Spoons

Chicago is a food town. Now I think most big cities call themselves "food towns" but seriously, Chicago? We rule. Now a lot of it is very meaty but that is the Midwest and I barely even notice it because of the sheer amount of vegetarian and vegan options there are here. One thing I was missing moving here was some damn good Chinese food. Honestly..... how is there no good Chinese food here?!?! I've found much better stuff in my hometown in Wisconsin. I'm pretty basic.... I just want General Tso's tofu or maybe some vegetable lo mein. Every time I've ordered either one they have been either really inedible, disappointing or just plain gross.

It is true that necessity is the mother of invention and I'm not saying that I invented Chinese food (wow, I really hope you wouldn't think I would say that, haha). After having thrown away so much nasty take out Chinese food, I realized I can make this stuff myself. Duh Jackie, right? Remember when I made Sesame Tofu with Broccoli? So good. Now we have Black Pepper Seitan "Chicken"! So I've never had this dish before but my roommate suggested I make it so she can have a meat free version of it. And I'm willing to accommodate meat eaters with some non-meat options to show how easy and awesome it can be to be meat-free. This is my own recipe with some inspiration from here.

(Looks pretty good, huh?)

Okay, so I wrote the directions out and they are lengthy but I promise that this is not a hard thing to do. There are just a lot of steps. I want to "school" you on vital wheat gluten (or seitan or "wheat meat") for a moment just in case you have no idea what it is or where it comes from. I buy mine online and love Arrowhead Mills but I know that Bob's Red Mill and King Arthur Flour makes one as well. You can get them at most Whole Foods, health food stores and often times in the natural/organic section of your standard supermarket. It can be pricey but it lasts awhile. It is worth it to make your own seitan.

(Cartoon courtesy of Bizarro)

Black Pepper Seitan “Chicken”

Serves 4

1 c. vital wheat gluten
Scant 1 c. water (I use just a bit less than a full cup because I like my gluten firmer; too much water makes it squishier)

Mix together and form a ball with your hands. Knead a few times just to make sure everything is cohesive. If your dough is more firm then you shouldn’t have to knead it quite as much. Set aside while you make the broth.

4 c. water
½ c. nutritional yeast
¼ c. soy sauce or tamari
1 t. kosher salt
2 t. onion powder
1 t. garlic powder

Turn your heat on high before throwing all the ingredients into a large pot and whisk until fully incorporated. You want to get this broth to a boil before throwing in your seitan chunks. Speaking of that, take a sharp knife and slice your seitan into whatever shape you want. I like random chunks that you can easily eat in one bite, but do whatever you like! Once your broth is boiling (and smells amazing, trust me) gently place your seitan around the pot. Don’t pile them all up together because you don’t want it to stick. Once all your seitan is in the pot, stir it around to make sure everyone is getting along nicely. Lid your pot most of the way (I always leave a crack on the side to let some steam out) and turn the stove down to low. You want it simmering but not boiling like crazy. Check every ten minutes and stir to make sure nothing is sticking to anything else. The seitan will puff up so don’t freak out, you didn’t do anything wrong. Let it simmer for about 50-60 minutes until most of the broth is absorbed into the seitan. Drain the liquid and scoop out the seitan onto a plate and let cool on the counter.

Get a large sauce pan and turn it to med-high and cover the bottom with oil. This is not an exact science but take about 3-4 T. of cornstarch and a dash of flour with a pinch of salt, pepper and paprika and shake it in a covered container or zip top bag. Take about 1/3 of your seitan and toss it in the starch mix to coat. Make sure to shake off the excess before frying in the hot pan. Fry until it is light brown on both sides and repeat the starch coating for the other 2/3 of the seitan. Place the chunks on a plate with paper towel and let cool.

Once this part is done, wipe down the pan and turn off the heat while you prep the veggies and sauce.

1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 yellow onion, sliced


¼ c. soy sauce or tamari
2 T. cornstarch
1 t. rice wine vinegar
1 t. freshly ground black pepper (I may have added about 1/3 t. more…. But I like things very peppery)
1 t. sugar
1 garlic clove, minced fine or pressed
¾ c. vegetable broth or water

Whisk everything but vegetable broth together and set aside.

Get your pan hot again on a high flame. Put about 2-3 T. of oil into your pan and toss your veggies in, they should sizzle like mad! You want to get some nice dark color on your veggies but not burn them of course. Toss the veggies about for a few minutes until they are tender. Empty your sauce into the pan along with the broth. Whisk the sauce in to make sure there are no starchy clumps in your food. It will get thick but just keep moving everything around for 1-2 minutes. Place your seitan in the pan and coat with the sauce. Now serve with some rice and enjoy!

Now if you got through reading all of this, congratulations! It looks like a big deal but it's really not. You just have to have the forethought to make seitan; which you can do up to a week in advance and just keep covered in your fridge. I encourage you to make your own take out-style foods because you control the ingredients and what is going in the end product. That is very important to me and I really hope it is to you!

Next up, America's Test Kitchen Ultimate (my own words) Low-Fat Brownies! These are my go to brownies now.... more on that later.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Adopt-A-Turkey Project

I adopted Antoinette! Isn't she sweet?:

I don't have a lot of money but I feel as if what I do have should be put forth in helping animals live safe and healthy lives. If you have a spare $30 to adopt a turkey, please do it. And let's have Tofurkey for Thanksgiving! Take care everyone. : )

Red Velvet Waffles w/ Cream Cheese Maple Sauce and Toasted Coconut 4/5 Spoons

OK, so it is not the weekend anymore, but here I am!

I have this insane idea to make pancakes/waffles out of all of my favorite desserts and luckily people around this beautiful world have the same idea as well. I've made Vegan Carrot Cake Pancakes and now Red Velvet Waffles (next will be Lemon Poppyseed Pancakes!) I served this with my standard tofu scramble (Thanks Kris Anne!) and some MorningStar Farms Veggie Bacon.

(My picture of my 2nd waffle.... I was too hungry to take a picture of the 1st one! That is the cream cheese maple sauce and toasted coconut on top.)

Here are my notes:

-- I was astounded that someone would use 1 1/4 cups of sugar in these waffles. These made 6 big waffles for me, so that's like a little less of 1/4 c. of sugar in EACH WAFFLE. Sick. I used 1/2 c. and I think it was plenty. I wanted the cocoa flavor to shine through and I was putting sweet syrup on top, so I recommend you don't go above 1/2 c. unless you love really sweet things.
-- Make sure to have your buttermilk at room temperature. Even though my butter was melted and cooled, my buttermilk was cold so it kind of turned the fat in the butter into a weird flaky mess. I could whisk most of it out but you don't want to over-whisk waffles so just a note for y'all.
-- For my cream cheese maple sauce, I didn't use their recipe. I left 4 ounces of cream cheese out at room temp most of the day. I warmed up the cheese in the microwave for about 40 seconds and added about 2 T. confectioner's sugar, 3-4 T. pure maple syrup and a dash of milk to combine. Just mix with a fork until it is smooth and you are able to drizzle it on your waffles.
-- As for the coconut, it was kind of an after thought. I put about 1/2 c. of coconut in a pan and toasted it on low-medium heat and stirred it frequently. It takes about 10 minutes, just keep an eye on it, because it can burn quickly.

(Photo courtesy of The Spellbound Cafe)

These were really delicious. I wouldn't say they were perfect because I think they could use some tweaks. Not sure what but I'll mull it over and let you all know. They had a great cake like texture but didn't necessarily crisp up the way I wanted them to in the waffle iron. It might have something to do with my really old iron and not with the recipe though. Even though they were a bit floppy they had a really nice cocoa flavor and worked SO WELL with the cream cheese maple topping and toasted coconut. I will make this again with some minor adjustments. If you have fantastic waffle and pancake recipes you think I should try, please let me know!

Next up.... Spinach and Artichoke Spaghetti Bake! (My own recipe.... ooh la la.)

Thursday, October 13, 2011


So, I know I was going to review Red Velvet Waffles with Coconut Cream Cheese Topping first but I just wanted to come here and throw out some of the recipes I can't wait to make. I always have a long list of things I'm dying to make, but these are my top 5 as of right now. My stomach is just not as big as my desire to make all this food! Here we go (and these aren't any order, I'm just listing them off):

#1: Sweet Corn Arepa Pancakes

(Photo courtesy of roboppy's Flickr page)

I've never had an arepa.... until this morning. Well let me say that I had an arepa style pancakes at Tweet (my favorite brunch spot in Chicago) and they were dynamite. They were covered with creme fraiche, soy chorizo, over easy eggs, avocado, some sort of amazing hot sauce and black beans. Every bite was a dream. I want to re-create some of those same flavors at home with this recipe. It calls for some orange juice which I think is a great compliment to the strong corn flavor. This is an easy meal with a ton of flavor and my favorite thing of all: a vehicle for a million condiments piled on top.

#2: Cookies and Cream Fudge Brownie

(Photo courtesy of BBC)

Not gonna lie, I have a huge crush on Lorraine Pascale.

(Photo courtesy of Tory Burch)


Anyway, she has a show on Cooking Channel called Simply Baking. She made these on her last show and they looked so fudge-y and decadent, they are totally going to be made for like Thanksgiving or Christmas dessert. They are not everyday brownies but I bet they are just what I'm looking for.

#3: Vegan Nanaimo Bars

(Photo courtesy of One Green Planet, which is an awesome website BTW)

I had no idea what Nanaimo Bars were until like last week. I had heard of them but literally my mind always went blank when people talked about them. For some reason the name alone evoked feelings of numbness. Don't ask me why, I don't question my motives anymore.

I don't know what I was so scared of.... these are veganized bars filled with chocolate, graham cracker crumbs, nuts and a creamy pudding filling. WHAT HAVE I BEEN MISSING ALL THESE YEARS???? I can't wait to make these and review the hell out of them here. Then we can all share in the joy.

#4: Spicy Pumpkin Soup with Coconut Milk (Vegan and Gluten Free!)

(Photo courtesy of Gluten-Free Goddess)

I love pumpkin anything. Pumpkin soups are amazing. The last time I made pumpkin soup I had told my roommates that I was making it and to not eat dinner after work because there would be delicious food waiting for them. I felt like a jilted wife when they both came home at 10 pm having had dinner and ready to go to bed. Don't I sound sad here? I don't want to equate fall soup with depressing dinners! Anyhow, I divided up the soup into portions and ate it for a week and it was just as good on the 7th day as the 1st. This one is vegan and gluten-free and sounds amazing.

#5: Fettucine NoFredo with Roasted Butternut Squash (Vegan)

(Photo courtesy of Kreeli)

This is my friend Christa's dish (she used to run VeganMania in Vancouver, she is pretty amazing and you can find awesome recipes there). Vegan alfredo sauce? You are joking. But that picture is no damn joke. I plan on making this on a really cold day which will be coming sooner rather than later.

Thank you for indulging in my food fantasies. There will be a waffle recipe review this weekend. Until then, take care of yourself and eat some great food!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Mexican Hot Chocolate Snickerdoodles 5/5 Spoons

It is so rare when my end product actually looks almost exactly like the product in the recipe picture. I am so proud of myself here.

Isa's cookies:

My cookies (with a camera phone under the harsh light of my stove, so use your imagination...)

These Mexican Hot Chocolate Snickerdoodles are exactly what I wanted to eat tonight. I wanted something chocolate-y and I had everything I needed for these simple and easy cookies. The heat hits you about 30 seconds in to eating these cookies and linger but not in a bad way. It's a warming taste and really damn good.

Here are my notes:

-- I used vegetable oil because it is what I had.
-- Instead of a full cup of sugar, I only used 2/3 of a cup.
-- I have been using So Delicious unsweetened coconut milk lately instead of soy/almond milk and I love it, especially in baking.
Edit: I forgot to add this, about halfway through the baking, I took the cookies out and pushed them down with the bottom of a drinking glass. It flattens the cookies out so they aren't puffy but more flat and chewy in the middle.

For some reason, I'm always wary of using maple syrup in baking. I can't really taste it at all in the cookies so I'm assuming it gives it a depth of flavor along with the chocolate. No matter what, these were amazing. These will definitely be made again.

Up next, Red Velvet Waffles with a Coconut Cream Cheese topping!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Vegetable Barley Soup 5/5 Spoons

Who freakin' doesn't love soup? I mean, seriously? You can literally make anything into a soup. I had a recipe for Veggie Barley soup but just decided to wing it on my own because I've made enough soups in my life now to know what to do. The results were FANTASTIC. It was jam packed with wholesomeness and a lot of love.

(Soup is ugly but it tastes so good. Check out my photos, not bad huh? I got a new phone.)

Here is my recipe:

2-3 T. olive oil (I don't really measure this stuff)
1 onion, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, diced
2 carrots, diced small
4-5 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, about 2-3 cups worth
1 c. shredded kale
5 c. water
1 14 ounce can diced tomatoes (I run mine through the food processor to have a little chunk and a little sauce)
2 vegetable bouillon cubes
1 t. paprika
1 c. pearled barley (do not use quick barley, it will cook too fast for all the other veggies to catch up)
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook all veggies over medium high heat with olive oil for about 10-15 minutes. You don't want to brown the veggies but get the onions translucent and tender. Add everything else and crank it up until it boils. Once it is boiling, turn down to medium and let cook for about 30-40 minutes or until barley is cooked yet firm and a knife inserted into the potato comes out easily. Serve with French bread and enjoy!

The kale was the best ingredient in the whole dish. Although the potatoes were creamy and the carrots were sweet, the kale really stood out in this dish. I like any healthy vitamin packed green that can stand up to hot soup. And a big chunk of bread with Earth Balance is a dream come true. I'll definitely make this again and hope this inspires you to really soup it up this fall!

I have been missing in action once again but I promise to be back again soon with a dessert recipe. Take care and stay tuned!