Sunday, July 31, 2011

Sneaky Chocolate Chip Cookies

Have you seen those chocolate disks they have at Trader Joe's? They look like little UFO's. The funny thing is, I don't really know how the package got home with me! I remember looking at it while shopping, but swore I put it back on the shelf! Perhaps it was meant to be. I knew right away I'd use them to make a stuffed cookie. They are "sneaky" because you can't see the chocolate until you bite into it! I had the audacity to ask my two year old daughter to stay steady for this picture. She did a great job I think! By the way, the chocolate disks are called Semi Sweet Chocolate Callets. I use the chocolate chip cookie recipe from Post Punk Kitchen and omit the chocolate chips. Of course, I also use whole wheat pastry flour instead of white flour and unrefined sugar instead of white sugar. Isa Chandra Moskowits is a well known cook book author and my go to lady for vegan baking. Here's the step by step process. Don't forget the caramelization part first!

1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup unrefined sugar
2/3 cup canola oil (I bet safflower or coconut oil would work well too)
1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk (or your favorite non-dairy milk)
1 tablespoon tapioca flour (I use arrowroot and it works great! I hear you can also use cornstarch.)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
32 Semi Sweet Chocolate Callets

Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly grease one large light metal baking sheet.

Mix together sugars, oil, milk and tapioca flour, arrowroot, or cornstarch in a mixing bowl. Use a strong fork and mix really well, for about 2 minutes, until it resembles smooth caramel. There is a chemical reaction when sugar and oil collide, so it’s important that you don’t get lazy about that step. Mix in the vanilla. (For me it only take about 1 minute for it to caramelize)

Add the flour, the baking soda and salt. Mix until well incorporated.

Use a tablespoon to scoop out 16 balls on a large baking sheet. Take two disks and put them together so that the top and bottom are concave. Press into each cookie, like you would do a Hershey's kiss. Make 16 more balls to top each one. Pinch the edges together to cover the chocolate, now they are totally sneaky! Bake for 18-20 minutes, until they are just a little browned around the edges.

Variations: You could put a teaspoon of peanut butter between each disk to make the cookies extra sinful! Or, you could stuff them with an Oreo type cookie instead (Newman's Own), which I got from Chronicles of a Dairyland Vegan. I haven't tried it, but I believe her when she says cookies will never be the same again! 

PS. Did you know baked goods make awesome gifts? My girlfriends and I stopped buying birthday gifts for each other a while ago, but they can't stop me from baking! Cut out the Happy Birthday part from an old card and tape it to a container with a clear lid. As you can see, I couldn't find a birthday card, but this works! 

A quick note about chocolate: I'm into more people friendly chocolate these days, meaning no slave labor in Africa was used to produce it. Ever seen the movie Blood Diamond? Well its the same concept. I'm not sure about Trader Joe's brand of chocolate, but you could use Dagoba brand chocolate bars and just divide them into squares in place of the disks. Read more about free trade chocolate here. If you are looking for chocolate chips, there is an inexpensive brand called Guittard that is sold right next to the Ghiradelli ones in the grocery store. They are not organic, but are free trade according to the chart.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Health Nut Burrito

I call this a Health Nut Burrito because the "meat" is made of almonds! I use La Tortilla Factory Smart & Delicious Soft Wraps. I know they're not organic, but the organic ones I buy are always old or fall apart! These stay together so well and have a very nutrient dense profile. The filling starts with a shmear of vegetarian canned refrired black beans and Tofutti sour cream (I have recently said goodbye to Tofutti, as I have discovered the joys of cashew sour cream, but I have to use up the tub in my fridge!). Then I add some diced tomatoes with a bit of salt, sliced avocadoes, and a sprinkle of the almond meat (recipe below). This is so good and easy. Enjoy!


1 cup roasted, salted almonds (raw is always better, but I had these in the house)
1Tbs Liquid Braggs Aminos (This is like soy sauce with a much lower sodium content. If your almonds are raw and unsalted, I would use soy sauce to make it saltier)
1 ts each garlic powder, paprika, and cumin


Pulse in food processor until coarse and crumbly, but don't take it too far, or you will end up with butter!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Loaded Nachos

These nachos are better than Jose's, or any other Mexican restaurant! That may seem like a lauded claim, but as I was eating these, I couldn't help but think of how lucky I am! Jason had been asking me to make him nachos for quite some time and these were so easy and fast to whip up. The key here is crispy tempeh. Tempeh is the most under used gem in the vegan world. Its not a fake meat. Its a fermented soybean cake (sounds appetizing right?) It gets crumbled up and fried to a crisp. I love crispy tempeh kernels! I followed my mother in law's advice and didn't drain the black beans from the can. This gives them that restaurant-like consistency! And of course I had to top it off with the nacho "cheese" sauce from my first post! I hope after making this, tempeh will be your new best friend.

For the tempeh:
Crumble up 1 8oz package of tempeh into a bowl and mix in 1/2 ts each salt, garlic powder, dried minced onion, paprika, and cumin. Heat up 1-2 Tbs coconut oil in a saute pan and wait until it is smoking hot. Drop the crumbled tempeh into the hot oil and leave it undisturbed until the edges are golden brown. Flip the tempeh around a bit and leave it undisturbed for another few minutes. These instructions are essential for those crispy kernels! Don't play with it too much!

For the black beans:
Empty the contents of the can into a pot. Do not drain. Add 1/2 ts each salt, garlic powder, dried minced onion, paprika, and cumin. Mash with a potato masher while bringing to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer for 10 minutes.

For the salsa:
I kept this simple since everything else is so bold and full of flavor! 2 cups chopped grape tomatoes, 1 small diced red onion. 1 finely diced jalepeno pepper, seeds removed. No lime. No salt.

Top it off with the nacho "cheese" and get ready to be blown away!

*A note about coconut oil. I use coconut oil because its the safest oil to heat! I know what your thinking, coconut oil is expensive! Well can you believe my mom found me a jar of this stuff at Marshalls?! I didn't realize they sell a lot of specialty foods their for half the price that you would get at a grocery store! If you can't find coconut oil, just use canola or peanut oil.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Blueberry Bread

Do you know how difficult it is to pick blueberries? I have a whole new respect for the  people who do this for a living. We went to a blueberry farm to meet some friends and give our daughters a play date. We picked a little over a pound of these gems and of course I had to make blueberry bread with the results of my labor! This recipe is based off of the Banana Bread on Post Punk Kitchen. I simply used applesauce instead of banana, white sugar instead of brown, canola oil instead of Earth Balance, and omitted the cinnamon and allspice. The result was moist and delicious. Here it is!

1 cup white sugar (I use evaporated cane juice)
1/2 cup canola, safflower, or coconut oil
1 cup applesauce
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup vanilla soy milk, mixed with 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar (I forgot the vinegar part, but it still turned out great!)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups blueberries
Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray a 8×4 bread pan with non stick cooking spray, or lightly coat with margarine.
Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt.
Mix together the oil and sugar. Add applesauce, soy milk and vanilla.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry. Mix well. Fold in blueberries. Pour batter into pan. Bake for an hour to an hour 10 minutes.

Friday, July 22, 2011

My First Glimpse of The Cruelty I Never Used To See

Imagine you are living in Nazi Germany. You and your husband are on the way to meet some friends at a swing dancing party. Then you hear your husband say, what are they doing with those Jews in the truck? You look to your right, and there they are. Crammed in a space so small they cannot sit down or move. You look into their eyes, and see everything they are feeling and thinking all at once. Sadness, mourning, confusion, hopelessness. The truck quickly passes by, so you only get to look at them for about 30 seconds, but that 30 seconds seem to last forever. In that 30 seconds, you've seen everything you need to know.

That's exactly how I felt today when Jason was driving us (Ava and I) to a blueberry farm. We were meeting my girlfriend, her husband, and their little girl. All was well during the drive until my husband said, "why would chickens need to be moved?" I looked to my right and there they were. I gasped in horror as I looked at these chickens crammed in tiny cages. But what really got to me was looking in their eyes. I had never looked animals in the eyes like that. There was nothing there. No hope. No light. Just sadness. I never realized I could see so much in an animals eyes, especially since we were only next to this truck for about 30 seconds. I remember that 30 seconds feeling like an eternity. Its weird how these transport trucks have always been on our highways, but I never noticed them. Now that I have an emotional connection to farm animals, I see what I never used to see. Its one thing to witness the cruelty on the Internet, but another to see it first hand, less than 10 feet away. I will never forget those eyes. That sadness. I know it takes an awakening to see things in a whole new light. I went to a cock fight with my family on Guam years ago and didn't think much of it. Compassion exists within all of us, even people like me who weren't animal lovers before going vegan.

The chickens in this transport truck were probably egg laying hens who were done producing eggs, and were on their way to slaughter. The picture shown is not the one I saw, but one I found on the web. The moment came and went so fast that I was unable to take a picture. The egg industry relies on the female reproductive system. You know how us ladies drop an egg from our ovary every month? Well hens do this once a year in the spring, except in the factory, they are manipulated into having two cycles. How? First they are tricked into thinking its winter through light and food deprivation. Then the farmers blast on the lights and give them a high protein feed, tricking them into thinking its spring, time to lay eggs. In nature, they would lay about 25 eggs during their cycle, but on a factory, they lay about 250. The male offspring of these hens are of no use in the egg laying industry. We don't eat that breed, so they are discarded. What does that mean?

This is a dumpster full of live chicks. This is behind those twelve dozen eggs so innocently placed in all our shopping carts. This is what it takes to dye an egg for Easter. This is what it takes to make a chocolate chip cookie that can easily be made with other wonderful ingredients. This is one of the many reasons I am vegan. I wasn't sure where this post would go, but I am happy with it. The more images like this people see, and the more yummy vegan food people try, the more easy compassion will be. I'd like to thank my readers for taking the time to read this, and I look forward to sharing my plant happy life with you. xoxo.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Stuffed Anaheim Chili Peppers covered in Nacho "Cheese" Sauce

 I know there are a lot of vegan nacho cheese recipes floating around out there, but I'm quite proud of this one I concocted on my own! There's nothing fake in here. All the decadence comes from blended pine nuts. I know the traditional route is cashews, but I find that pine nuts blend much better, and they don't even need to be soaked! I've been toying around with making stuffed peppers and treating them like enchiladas. So without further ado, here's the recipe for my creation!

For the filling:
1 cup brown rice
1 cup diced red onion
1 cup corn kernels
1 can black beans
1 ts salt
1 ts cumin
freshly ground black pepper
1 handful of chopped chives or green onion for color

Cook 1 cup brown rice with 2 cups water (its always 2:1). I know people struggle with cooking rice, but just buy a rice cooker and make sure it has a brown rice setting. Really its like Ron Popeil used to say, "just set it and forget it!" Once its cooked add the remaining ingredients and mix it all up.

For the "cheese" sauce:
1 1/2 cup pine nuts
3/4 cups water
3 Tbs lemon juice
1 ts miso paste
2 ts salt
3 Tbs Nutritional Yeast
1 ts garlic powder
1 ts dried minced onion
1 ts paprika (Don't use smoked paprika. Use the stuff that comes in the clear plastic packets in the Mexican section of the grocery store.)

Simply blend until creamy! I have a cheap blender so I have to blend then stir it, then blend again. Repeating as necessary.

For the peppers:
I used 9 Anaheim Peppers and had about half the filling left, so you could probably do about 18! Simply cut the stems off and use your hands to get a fair amount of the seeds and white stuff out. Lightly oil the outsides of the peppers, along with a large sheet pan so they don't stick. Now its time to get stuffing! Its easy to do and went pretty quick for me. Just grab a bunch of the filling with your hands and carefully push it down into the cavity. For energy reasons, I don't often preheat my oven unless I'm baking cookies or some other dessert. So for me, this is when I would turn on my oven to 350 degrees and pop these babies in at the same time. Bake them until their skin seems soft and just a bit shriveled. Once they are ready, arrange a few on a plate and top with the "cheese" sauce.  Here is Ava enjoying the filling with a bit of the sauce. I think she liked it! I hope you do too. Happy eating!