Monday, December 23, 2013

Holiday Nog

OK, I think I have all of my holiday beverages sorted out now.  For the past few years I have made Isa's Matrioshka EggNog, but the problem has always been getting the perfect avocado (as this image suggests).  Considering how far avocados have to travel to get all the way up here, it's no surprise.  If you have a party to host and all the avocados at the store are as hard as rocks then it's no nog for you.  So this year I swapped out the avocado with cashews, blended like crazy, and presto: holiday nog!  For better or worse it is very much like the 99 cent cartons of eggnog we used to quaff down when I was a kid (i.e. sweet milk with nutmeg).  Works for me.

.  For the past few years I have used Isa's

- 1 cup whole, raw cashews soaked in cold water overnight
- 3 cups plain almond milk, divided
- 1/2 to 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 can coconut milk
- 1/2 tsp turmeric (optional)
- 1 tsp nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- rum to taste

1. Place the soaked cashews and 2 cups of the almond milk in a blender.  Blend until very smooth.  If you are like me and have a pretty crappy blender, you can pass the mixture through some fine cheesecloth at this point to remove any graininess.  Or leave it as is if you don't mind a little texture.
2. Add remaining ingredients and blend until smooth.  Chill and reblend right before serving.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Vegan Irish Cream

Another quick post because I have not posted enough calories on this blog for the holiday season.  Har har.  When Vegansaurus posted this recipe for vegan Irish Cream it caught my eye because Bailey's was one of my all-time faves back in the day.  I'm not sure why I have not explored Irish cream before because there are a bunch of recipes for it out there on the interwebs that are easily veganized.  I made the recipe linked to above, but I remember Bailey's being much sweeter.  Granted, it's been a good 8 years since I have had the original version, but the combination below satisfies my food memory. The above pic is a 50/50 mix of the Irish Cream and almond milk with ice--delicious!  Here is what I did, just in case you like specific measurements.   

- 1/2 cup extra strong coffee
- 1 tbsp cocoa powder
- 1/4 cup each maple syrup, white sugar, brown sugar
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups Irish whiskey
- 1 can coconut milk
- 1/2 cup plain almond milk (optional, see note)

1. Brew coffee and place into a pitcher.  Blend in cocoa powder, then sugars and maple syrup until dissolved.
2. Add extract, whiskey, and coconut milk and blend with an immersion blender until smooth.  Thin with almond milk if desired.
3. Refrigerate in a glass jar with a lid and serve cold.  Shake jar to re-blend before serving.

Note: I made this with full-fat coconut milk.  It's a bit thick and rich, so I thinned it with almond milk.  I think this would work just as well with low fat coconut milk, but you might not want to thin it.  Do what works for you.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Cranberry Christmas Cookies

This will probably be my last post until the new year, so here is a wonderfully crisp sugar cookie with a tart cranberry filling that are pretty easy to make.  There are many recipes of this kind of cookie floating around out there, so call them whatever you want (I went alliterative).  Usually these kinds of doughs are chilled and then rolled, but I don't find any difference with rolling first and chilling later.  In fact, I find it much easier to roll this dough first because when chilled it is pretty finicky.  The cranberry filling is also a snap.  If it does not set up enough to your liking, just boil it again for another minute and retry.

- 1/2 cup refined coconut oil, room temperature (or margarine)
- 1/2 cup margarine, room temperature
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp almond extract
- 3/4 cup (90g) icing sugar
- 2 cups (315g) all purpose flour (spoon and level flour if you are not weighing it)

Cranberry Filling
- 1 1/2 cups cranberries (fresh or frozen)
- 3 tbsp orange juice
- 3/4 cup sugar

Makes 12-18, depending on size
1. Cream together coconut oil and margarine with a hand mixer, or stand mixer with the whisk attachment, until smooth and fluffy.  Blend in extracts.  Blend in icing sugar.
2. Using a wooden spoon, mix in flour and bring into a soft dough.  Use your hands finish it off if needed.
3. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
4. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to about 1/8 inch thick.  Using a metal cookie cutter, cut out as many shapes as you can.  Using a smaller cutter, punch out the centres of half of them (these will be your tops).  Re-roll dough scraps and repeat until dough is all used up.  Place on prepared sheets, (using a pastry scraper to transfer), cover, and chill for about 30 mins, until firm.
5. While cookies are chilling, preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Bake cookies one sheet at a time for 15-17 mins, until lightly golden on the edges.
6. Let cookies cool on the sheet for 5 mins, then remove to a wire rack to fully cool.

Cranberry Filling
1. Heat cranberries and orange juice to bubbling in a saucepan over medium heat.  Cook for about 5 mins, mashing cranberries as they cook.
2. When cranberries are well-mashed, add sugar and turn heat to high.  Cook for about 2 mins at a rapid boil, stirring constantly.  Filling is ready when it drips thickly off your spoon (let it drip off the spoon when you first add the sugar and you will see what I mean).
3. Use a spoon to pass the filling through a fine mesh sieve.  Place in the fridge to cool down.

Make the cookies:
1. When jam has cooled but is not cold, spread on the bases of the cookies.  If the cookies puffed up too much during baking, simply flip the bottom cookie over so that the baking sheet-sides of the cookies are in the middle.  Don't spread right to the edges, and mound it up a bit in the centre.  Gently press a top on so that the jam spreads into the cut out middle.
2. You can store/freeze the cookies like this.  When ready to serve, dust gently with icing sugar.

Comment: some people are finding the dough crumbly.  The dough is a bit tricky to work with, but it also makes for a very delicate cookie.  A few tips: 
1. Roll first, refrigerate later.  If you chill first, allow the dough to warm up before rolling.  
2. Make sure you spoon and level the flour and icing sugar if you are not weighing it. 
3. Add some melted margarine if everything is still crumbly.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Tofu Banh Mi

Here is part two of my 2-part series on making Banh Mi for a holiday (or some other kind of) party.  Now that you have your baguettes fresh from the oven, it's time to top them and eat!  This recipe makes a lot, so if it is just for you, cut the tofu and marinade in half.  You can get away with marinading the tofu, and picking the carrot/daikon, for a few hours, but it all tastes better if you make it the day before.  You will have some tofu left over, so just save it for tomorrow. 

- 2 pkgs of firm tofu, cut into 16 slices each

- 1/2 cup light soy sauce
- 1/4 cup sesame oil
- 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
- 2 tbsp rice vinegar
- 2 tsp Sriracha
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tbsp mined fresh ginger

Carrot-Daikon Pickle
Double the recipe if you like lots of pickle
- 1 cup white vinegar
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 3/4 tsp minced fresh ginger
- 11oz grated carrot (about 1 1/3 cup)
- 11oz grated daikon (about 1 1/3 cup)
- 1 whole star anise

- sliced cucumber (I use a vegetable peeler to get long, thin slices)
- Vegenaise
- chopped cilantro (optional)

Prep the Tofu
1. Whisk together the marinade ingredients.  You can mash the garlic and ginger together with a mortar and pestle if you desire.  Place sliced tofu in a large baking dish and pour marinade over.  It is OK to stack pieces of tofu on top of one another--just make sure there is marinade between the slices.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Make the Pickle
1. Bring vinegar, water, and sugar to boil in a saucepan.  Add ginger, carrot, and daikon, and bring back to boiling.  Remove from heat and add the star anise.  Pour into a large glass jar, and bring to room temperature.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Bake the Tofu
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Adjust oven racks so you can bake two baking sheets at a time.
2. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.  Place 16 pieces of tofu on each sheet.  Brush generously with the marinade.
3. Bake for 10 mins, then flip tofu and brush generously with marinade.  Switch the rack that the sheets are on, and bake for another 10-15 mins.  Tofu should be dry and slightly crisp on the edges.

Assemble the Sandwiches and Serve
1. Cut baguettes horizontally.  Spread Vegenaise liberally on the inside (not traditional, I know, but I like it).  Top with tofu (I like to overlap the tofu 1/2 on the piece underneath instead of side by side).  Top with sliced cucumber, and then with drained pickle.  Top with chopped cilantro, if desired.
2. Slice each baguette into 8-10 pieces each and serve.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Banh Mi Baguettes

This is part one of a two-post series on making Banh Mi for a holiday party.  Yes, I know that Vietnamese sandwiches don't usually immediately jump to mind when planning a North American holiday party, but I have received very positive feedback on these.  I first made them for the vegans at our faculty association's holiday fling so that we could get some protein and not get relegated to the dip-less veggie tray.  They were a grand success and were enjoyed by veg and non-veg alike.

The trick is getting the right bread.  First time around I made a standard french baguette.  Fail.  The bread was far too chewy which meant people gnawing away while toppings came shooting out everywhere (all while trying to balance a drink and talk).  I have never actually had an authentic Banh Mi so I had to turn to the internets.  Lots of talk of light and crispy bread, and everyone was sure there was rice flour in the dough somewhere.  But few recipes.  I tried using some rice flour, but the end result was always dense and chewy.  So, I ended up going with a kind of baguette/hoagie roll hybrid--an enriched dough that can be made fairly quickly, has great flavour, has a soft crumb and crispy crust.

I weighed the flour, so the cup equivalents are pretty close--start with a little less and add more flour if needed.  Use a scale if you have one.

This makes 3 large baguettes.  If you are not having a party, half the recipe and make two smaller baguettes or a number of smaller buns.  I won't lay any claim to authenticity, only tastiness.

Makes 3 large baguettes
- 12 oz/340g/2 1/3 cup all purpose flour
- 12 oz/340g/2 1/3 bread flour
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 8 oz/1cup lukewarm water
- 7 oz/scant 3/4 cup lukewarm soy milk
- 1 tbsp instant (not rapid-rise) yeast (or active dry)
- 3 tbsp vegetable oil

1. Whisk together flours, salt, and sugar.  Whisk water and soy milk together, then whisk in yeast until dissolved.  Add liquid ingredients to dry, add oil, and bring together into a soft dough.
2. Knead for 5-8 mins, until smooth.  Shape into a ball, place in a large oiled bowl (turning dough to coat), cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled (about 1 hr).
3.  Punch down dough, reshape into a ball, then place back into the bowl.  Cover and let rise until doubled again.
4. Divide the dough into 3 equal pieces, trying not to degas the dough too much.  Shape as you would a french baguette (about 16 inches long--whatever will fit on your baking stone), then place in a couche, mist with oil, cover (I use plastic wrap to keep the crust soft), to rise for about 45 mins, or until almost doubled.
5. While dough is rising, place a baking stone in the middle of the oven and a steam pan on the bottom rack.  Preheat to 450 degrees.
6. Right before baking, slash each baguette right down the middle along the length of the baguette.  Slash about 1/3 of the way into the baguette (don't slash too shallow).
7. Transfer the baguettes from the couche to the baking stone and pour 1/2 cup of hot water into the steam pan.  Reduce heat to 400 degrees and bake for 10 mins.  Rotate loaves and bake for another 10 mins.
8. Remove bread to a cooling rack.

Up next!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Savoury Lentil Vol-au-Vent with Ginger Applesauce

These are officially my new favourite appetizer for the holiday season.  Or, make the vol-au-vent bigger and you have your entrée.  The lentil filling is amazing, so don't worry if you have leftovers.  I use it as a sandwich filling.

- 1 lb (i.e. one recipe) puff pastry

Savoury Lentil Filling
- 3 cups water
- 1/2 cup red lentils
- 2 tbsp oil
- 2 shallots, finely diced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup finely diced celery
- 1/4 cup finely grated carrot
- 1/2 cup finely diced mushrooms
- 1/2 cup finely diced cooking apple
- 3/4 tsp ground fennel seeds
- 1 tsp ground sage
- large pinch of cinnamon
- pinch of nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp light soy sauce
- 3/4 cup vegetable stock, divided
- salt and pepper to taste

Ginger Applesauce
- 1 tbsp margarine
- 1/2 tsp minced fresh ginger
- 1/2 tsp lemon juice
- 1.5 cups small diced cooking apple
- 1 tbsp sugar

Makes 8-12, depending on size.
These aren't hard to make, but they take a little skill.  The key here is to roll out the pastry evenly, and to keep the size of your cutter in mind so you don't waste and pastry (i.e. if your pastry is 3.5 times the width of your cutter, you will waste pastry).  You can't re-roll the scraps like you can with with pie pastry.

Don't cut out too much of the middle or the sides will sag, 
as you see here.  Still tasty, though!

Preheat oven to 425 degrees
1. Roll the chilled dough out 1/4" thick on a lightly floured surface.  Cut out as many shapes as you can (you want an even number).  Cut out the centres from half of them.  These will be the tops.
These are the cutters I used

2. Place the bottoms on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Lightly brush with soy milk. making sure you get all the way to the edges. Prick the bottoms several times with a fork.
3. Place the tops on the bottoms and gently press them down so that the two layers adhere.  Gently brush the tops with soy milk.

4. Bake for 20 mins, then reduce heat to 350, rotate pan, and bake for 8-10 mins, until golden all over.
5. Remove pastry to a cooling rack.  While pastry is still warm, scrape the pastry out of the middle with a fork.  Let fully cool before filling.

(So, what do you do with the pastry scraps?  I bake them for 20 mins at 425, then toss in cinnamon and sugar while still warm.)

Savoury Lentil Filling
1. Bring the 3 cups of water to a boil.  Add lentils, reduce heat to med-hi, and boil for 5-6 mins, until lentils soften and begin to expand.  They will be whitish around the edges but still have red centres.   Drain and set aside.
2. While lentils are cooking, heat oil in a frying pan over medium heat.  Gently sauté shallots, garlic, and celery for 5-7 mins, until golden and translucent.
3. Add carrot, mushrooms, and apple.  Cook for about 5 mins, until mushrooms begin to release their water and the apples begin to soften.
4. Add fennel, sage, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Cook for 1 min, until fragrant.
5. Add soy sauce and 1/4 of the vegetable stock.  Cook until liquid reduces down.
6. Add drained lentils, and the remaining 1/2 cup of stock.  Mix well, then cook, uncovered, for about 10 mins, until liquid has almost all reduced, apples are cooked, and lentil are soft but not cooked into a paste.  Stir regularly. Season to taste.  Add more veg stock if you need more cooking time.  Don't dry out the mixture too much.
7. Fill vol-au-vent while mixture is still warm.  Top with ginger applesauce and serve.

Ginger Applesauce
1. Melt margarine over medium heat and sauté ginger for 1 min.
2. Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to bubbling.  Reduce heat to med-lo, cover, and cook for about 10 mins, stirring regularly, until apples are soft but still hold their shape.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Easy Puff Pastry

Ah, quick laminated pastry dough.  How I love thee.  This is the recipe that inspired my experimentation with making easy croissants.  It is really easy and produces a remarkably flaky pastry for the amount of time it takes to make.  Again, the lamination process is super fast and the end result, while not as light and flaky as the classic method, will totally impress all of your friends.  Puff pastry recipes to follow in later posts!

Makes 1 lb of dough
- 1.5 cups (7.5oz/235g) all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup (2oz/60g) cake and pastry flour (or more all purpose)
- scant 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 lb (250g) cold margarine or vegetable shortening (I like a 50:50 mix)
- 1/2 cup (4oz/125ml) ice cold water

1. Whisk together flour(s) and salt.
2. Use a pastry cutter to cut the fat into the flour.  There should be largish chunks of fat visible--don't cut it down too much.
3. Sprinkle water over the flour/fat mixture and gently mix together with a wooden spoon (you don't want to mash the fat chunks too much).  When you can't incorporate any more flour in, use your hands to gather together a dough ball.  Press/squeeze the flour mixture together to form a dough, rather than kneading.  The final dough will be sticky.
4. Turn dough out onto a well floured surface.  Flour the top of the dough.
Roll into a rectangle, about 7x16 inches.  Make sure everything stays well-floured--keep checking under the dough to make sure it is not sticking.  Square everything up by pressing the dough into the side of a pastry scraper.
5. Fold the top down to the middle, and the bottom to the middle.  Fold in half.  Use the pasty scraper to square everything up.

6. Rotate dough 90 degrees (see pic at the top of this post) and repeat step 5.
7. Wrap dough in plastic wrap or waxed paper and refrigerate for at least 4 hours before using.

As you can see, I am back blogging.  Life is still busy here, but I really missed creating and posting new recipes.  I have all the wonderful people I met at the Atlanta VegFest to thank for getting me back in the Vegan Dad groove.  I was amazed that so many people knew who Vegan Dad was, still loved the blog, still followed the Facebook page, and who still (despite the explosion of vegan blogs and cookbooks in the past few years) wanted me to post new recipes.  I also had the great fortune to eat lunch and dinner with Isa in Athens (thanks, Janet!).  She has been a supporter of the blog since the very beginning and is a source of vegan inspiration.  So, I'm back.  I'll probably only get a few posts off a month until the book manuscript is in (not a cookbook, I am sorry to say).  Thanks for sticking with me, and let's eat some good food!
Here I am contemplating my future whilst Isa signs my copy of her cookbook.