October 24, 2011

Pumpkin Cookies with Maple Glaze

One of my pumpkins from the overzealous pumpkin-buying spree.

I recently bought four sugar pumpkins.  Whole Foods was having this 2/$3 sale that I couldn't resist.  They're so round, so orange and embody everything that makes autumn delicious.  But yeah, I really don't need four.  I don't even have room to cook down and freeze them.  I should have known this.  I see a lot of pumpkin-carving on the menu this week.  Or like three weeks worth of pumpkin-based meals.  No kidding.

Now in spite of having pumpkins at my disposal, that whole roasting and blending process is a daunting prospect after a busy work week.  So I'll admit, I cheated.  Okay, it wasn't really cheating.  Not only do I apparently hoard over-buy sugar pumpkins, I also have a cabinet full of canned pumpkin (and coconut milk, coincidentally).  That means that I was actually doing my cabinet a favor when I cracked open a can when I felt compelled to make cookies last night.

I really just wanted some nice chocolate-chip cookies, but I had no chocolate.  I was also exhausted and coming off having a rough afternoon, so the idea of moving any greater distance (such as to the grocery store) than 5 feet from one side of my kitchen counter to the other was basically a pipe dream.  Thus I looked over what was in my cabinets and what was on the internet for veganized cookie recipes and landed on Pumpkin Cookies!

I love pumpkin cookies.  I actually have an amazing Martha Stewart recipe that I whip up every Christmas that uses a brown-butter glaze.  They're insane.  But if the "brown butter" didn't clue you in, they're so not vegan.  I have, however, started to get used to the tricks of the trade - how to get around basic baking ingredients like eggs (flaxseed + warm water), butter (oil or vegan butter), and milk (soymilk really is okay to use most of the time).  In fact, the most exciting trick of all is making whipped cream from the thick custardy top on canned coconut milk.  Mmm. But I digress.

The super soft, total-wouldn't-know-they-were-vegan pumpkin cookies:

Vegan Pumpkin Cookies with Maple Glaze

Pumpkin Cookies with Maple Glaze
adapted from food.com


2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup Earth Balance
1 can pumpkin
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons flaxseed in 4 tablespoons of warm water, whisked

1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons of real maple syrup
1 tablespoon soymilk
1 tablespoon Earth Balance
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Grease your baking sheets.  I use coconut oil to grease mine!

Now I'm notoriously bad about my mixing methods when it comes to cookies.  It's a little different if the baked good has more temperature sensitivity, but cookies?  Not so much.  I just toss everything into the bowl at once and then let KitchenAid do the magic.  If I were mixing by hand?  Well, then I might do a dry-only bowl and a wet-only bowl, mixing at the end.  But I don't because I am convinced that my KitchenAid can fix anything from lumpy custard to lung cancer.  So my instructions are like this:  Put all of those cookie ingredients into the bowl and mix until whipped smooth.

For soft fluffy cookies, especially where I don't use traditional levening ingredients, I like to chill my dough.  So once you've mixed up the dough, pop it into the fridge for a half hour to stiffen up.  Then use a small melon baller to pop out bite-sized cookies on your sheet.

The cookies take anywhere from 12-15 minutes to bake.  They'll be tender and soft, so do a bottom check to see when they're a soft golden.  Even if they're a bit soft on the inside, they'll continue to cook on a rack while they cook down.  This recipe made me about 45-50 bite-sized cookies.

Once your cookies have reached room temperature, it's time to make the glaze.  Since I don't own a microwave, I melted my butter in my stove-top butter warmer.  After it melted down, but wasn't bubbling just yet, I removed it from the heat and added the wet ingredients.  Using a whisk, I blended the soymilk, maple syrup, vanilla and butter until smooth, then began sifting in the powdered sugar.  The amount of sugar you use is both a matter of taste and consisency.  I found that 1/2-1 cup was plenty and that I only ended up drizzling 1/4 of it onto the cookies.  Less is more with this glaze, so feel free to halve this recipe.

The glazing process: butter warmer + maple syrup = delicious.

I was bringing these puppies to work within a half hour of drizzling, so I tossed them into the fridge for a quick glaze-hardening chill. And that, ladies and gentleman, is your bit of autumn baking spirit!

October 12, 2011

Fresh Avocado Vinaigrette Dressing

I discovered something incredible yesterday. So incredible that I had the salad bar from Whole Foods not just for lunch, but for dinner too. It wasn't the fresh greens, creative flavorful side salads or heavily sauced seiten. It was a new salad dressing.

Cindy's Kitchen has come out with another mind-blowing dressing to top your salad: Fresh Avocado Vinaigrette Dressing

It's smooth, fresh, but with a zing of heat and spice that makes you want to drink the entire bottle rather than slather your lettuce in it. It's almost like a more fluid, smoky, spicy guacamole. The ingredients explain why: Filtered water, avocados, salsa verde (roasted tomatillos, water, fire roasted chile peppers, fire roasted onions, salt, garlic, spices), organic sunflower oil, white balsamic vinegar, can sugar, lime juice concentrate, garlic puree, sea salt, extra virgin olive oil, matcha green tea and green tea extract. 

If anyone can tell me why they add green tea, I'd love to know. To claim an antioxidant boost? As the last ingredient, I can't imagine that it packs even a subtle shift in the flavor. If you haven't tried this dressing yet, I insist that you run out immediately. I grabbed a full bottle from the produce section to take home, along with some other salad-making ingredients. There is no way that this isn't going to be hitting my plate on a nightly basis from here until all 16 oz are gone.

For a peek at the bottle as well as another ringing endorsement, check out another Boston blogger who also raves about the new fave: Mise en place

I will be updating with photos this evening (who likes a post without visual enhancement, right?)!

October 8, 2011

Weekly Tidbits: Mushroom and Cheese Vegan Breakfast Sandwich

Inspired by a suggestion for a quick and easy vegan breakfast sandwich at Healthy Happy Life, I ventured into the slippery, oily world of vegan cheese.  Let me start by saying that I didn't necessarily go into this with a lot of optimism.  I am a from-the-heart cheese lover, so faced with the oily wet vacuumed packed vegan "cheese" I was highly skeptical.  But the original recipe assured me that the vegan gourmet cheddar was as sharp as it gets - and I love sharp.

Now I didn't go by the book on this.  For one, I cut out the pumpkin butter.  Maybe this was an elemental part of the breakfast sandwich?  I'm not sure.  I just thought  breakfast patty + cheesy mushrooms = bliss.  Not quite.

My breakfast sandwich was made up of the following:

1 Ezekial 4:9 English Muffin
1 thin slice of Gimmie Lean Sausage
5 mushrooms, sliced
2 slices of Vegan Gourmet Cheddar
Earth Balance butter to soften english muffins

The biggest question I was left with was:  How do you make vegan cheese melt?  I don't think any amount of pumpkin butter could have helped me with that one.


Well, I didn't figure it out. I tried throw some into the hot frying pan and it sort of soften, but not really melted. Somehow the original sandwich recipes turned out fantastic (at least according to the photos) and I'm wondering if it has something to do with the slow heat of the panini press. I merely had my frying pan and spatula on hand to recreate the press-making conditions. This is going to require some more explanation. If anyone else has experience with melting vegan cheese, please let me know. Perhaps I needed a shredded version?

Or maybe I should just accept a cheeseless lifestyle...
In any case, my final product looked like this following:

I still really like the idea of this sandwich, but it needs some major improvements before I start whipping it up on a regular basis.  Hopefully I'll be back with some changes and alternative fixings soon!

October 6, 2011

Weekly Tidbits: Brown Bagging Lunch as a Vegan

Following yesterday's theme on my brown bagged breakfasts, I thought I'd also share my newest, most favorite vegan lunch go-to!  At this stage, I've eaten this for lunch almost every day for the past three weeks, so it really doesn't get old.  It may, however, get old when I run out of super sweet grape and cherry tomatoes from my garden.  Will store-bought ring in just as delicious?  I'm dubious.

Now my classic vegetarian lunch combo goes like this:

Faux meat burger or cutlet (Quorn, Morning Star Farms, Boca, Meredith Farms)
2 cups of roasted vegetables (zucchini, peppers, mushrooms, spinach)
1/2 cup of a grain/fiber (rice, yukon gold potato, couscous, barley)

My greatest discovery last year were Quorn products.  The juicy chick'n cutlets required nothing but a little warm up.  Texturally appealing, not remotely dry, perfect to dress up or have plain.  I would snack on them for kicks.  Excellent source of protein.  The drawback?  They aren't vegan.  They use egg whites as a binder.  Thus they have fled my diet just as quickly as they arrived.  I'm back to the classic veggie burger brands and homemade options like seitin and TVP.  In my sorrow I have rejected the classic lunch combo above for newer, greener pastures.

In comes a newly discovered passion for hummus.  Not just any old hummus, but Sabra and Eat Well Enjoy Well.  Both of these brands have super creamy, moist, flavorful hummus.  Sabra is fairly classic and tops off the hummus with a spoonful of chopped ingredients (peppers, chillis, garlic), while Eat Well Enjoy Well incorporate revolutionary hummus flavors and hummus bases (edamame, white bean, yellow lentil) that also retain that tasty moist, easily spreadable hummus topped with fresh chopped ingredients.  Honestly, I'm a little more in love with EWEW than Sabra, although it's a bit more difficult to get your hands on.

So if I want hummus for lunch, then what's the easiest way to bring it along in my purse?  In a wrap!  And not just any wrap, my favorite buttery soft, richly flavorful, high-protein, omega-ladden Joseph's Lavash bread.  I swear, no one is paying me for these posts.  I just honestly love these brands and will wax poetic when a food product worms its way into my heart.

Thus comes my favorite go-to lunch wrap:

Spicy Hummus Wrap

3-4 Tbsp Sabra Supremely Spicy Hummus or EWEW Spicy Yellow Lentil Hummus
1 Joseph's Lavash Square
1/2/-3/4 cup of garden fresh sweet grape or sunburst tomatoes, chopped into quarters
A fistful of fresh spinach leaves
2 slices of faux deli meat

Roll it up, wrap it in aluminum foil and toss it into your bag.

October 5, 2011

Weekly Tidbits: Quick Breakfasts Turned Vegan

Unfortunately I started this blog the week before I went on a two week business trip/vacation.  So while I indulged in unexpected foods (that I didn't have the forethought to thoroughly document), the blog itself took an immediate break before really getting off the ground.  I am, however, happy to say that I'm back, focused and with a dozen foodie topics to catch up on!

Now, as I mentioned in my last post, I shifted my lacto-ovo vegetarian diet to a full-fledged non-ethically driven vegan diet.  When I say non-ethically, I mean that I'm not bemoaning the manufacturing process of refined sugar (bone char) nor shedding tears of the plight of enslaved honeybees (although I do support and buy my honey from local beekeepers who practice sustainable, organic beekeeping).  And after a full month of eating (almost completely) vegan, I've realized that while I prefer this diet, I'm going to continue to call myself a regular vegetarian who simply predominantly eats vegan.

When you clean up your diet for health reasons, it's the overall healthier trend that has the long term impact.  When I eat out, it isn't always possible or enjoyable to parse down the ingredients of each item on the menu.  So as long as a minute dairy or egg consumption is atypical and relegated to special occasions, I think I'll still live for 200 years.  Just kidding.  105 years.

So what have I been up to day to day?  I almost always make my own meals and rarely eat out.  Over the past few years, I developed a rotation of lunches and breakfasts that were both easy and delicious.

Chobani Greek Yogurt Plain + fresh berries + agave nectar
Biochem Whey Vanilla Protein Shake + flaxseed + frozen berries
Lara Bar (on the go convenience!)
Nature's Path Optimum Slim cereal + almonds + flaxseed + fat free milk

Now when I decided to take this crash course in being vegan, I definitely could have stuck to my lunches, but my breakfasts would need a tune up.  And that tune up came in the form of oatmeal - both filling and nutritious with tasty add-ins.

My favorite oatmeals are the Better Oats single-serve packets.  They are made from organic whole grains with a delicious sprinkling of whole flaxseeds.  Now I don't own a microwave, which the packaging seems to demand, but I've found a way around it.  I pop the dry oatmeal into a round tupperware dish with a cover.  I add 3/4 cup of hot water directly into the bowl, and then slap on the cover to let it sit and absorb for 5-10 minutes.  During this time, I finish doing my hair or making my lunch for the day.

I found that of the Better Oats flavors, I prefer the less-sweet versions.  When I picked them up originally, I just wanted a plain instant oatmeal - no preservatives or sugary flavors.  So I typically stick to the Raw Pure and Simple Bare and the Raw Pure and Simple Chai Spice for when I want a little extra flavor (both salty and sweet).  The Oat Revolutions don't appear to be vegan for the most part, but the Abundance Apple and Cinnamon is also delicious without being overly sweet.

Naked oats with raspberries, chopped apples, almond slivers, cinnamon and local sustainable honey.

I add chopped banana, chopped apple, a little cinnamon, sliced almonds or some extra flax into the oatmeal and paired with a disposable spoon, I can chow down on my way to work!

On-the-go oatmeal.

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