Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Vegan Cookie Press Cookies

I have one of those cool Pampered Chef cookie presses that I got at a yard sale and makes all manner of adorably shaped cookies, but most of the recipes you see online aren't vegan.

I knew I had used it before and found a vegan recipe, but there were a few online and I hadn't bookmarked my winner and couldn't remember what I had done...  Bummer!

I reached out to the vegan groups I'm in asking for suggestions and nothing came back. No one had a tried and true vegan cookie press cookie recipe.  I guess that's not altogether surprising, but it was disappointing none the less.

Finally, this morning, I said, "Well, I'll just have to try out a bunch of different ones until I get it right!"

My 3 year old was eager for the prospect of, "We are going to cook and eat cookies all day if we have to."

Sadly for him, but wonderfully for me, the very first recipe I tried turned out perfect.  It's the Starry Fudge Shortbread recipe from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar .  I should have known that Isa and Terry would have the answer, as they do to all my vegan baking quandaries.  The recipe says to squeeze the dough out of a piping bag, but it worked perfectly for the cookie press.

They had this awesome tip to press directly onto your cookie sheet, not use parchment paper, because you want the cookie to stick to the pan as you are pressing so that it pulls away from the cookie press.  Genius, I tell ya!

I chose these pretty flowers.  Mostly I thought of how on my daughter's first birthday I rolled out sugar cookie dough and cut out little leaves with a fondant cutter and then formed them into five petaled flowers to make plumeria...  If only I had had this then.  I spent hours making just a batch of cookies.  These took me all of ten minutes not including cooking.  You live and learn.

The finished product is just slightly golden on the bottom and buttery hello on top.  I added these sprinkles because I have whimsy.  They are from India Tree, the company that makes natural food dyes.  No red dye #30 and you get pretty colorful sprinkles.  It's a pretty cool deal.

Here's the recipe, but I want you to buy the book Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar too, because it's awesome (make the Sell Your Soul Pumpkin Cookies and thank me later).  

1 cup non-hydrogenated margarine (I used half Earth Balance and half coconut oil and it worked fine, I might try just coconut oil next time).

2/3 cup sugar

a pinch of salt 

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

3/4 teaspoon almond extract (If you make this and use a different extract here for a fun flavor- like maybe peppermint- let me know in the comments!)

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 cup cornstarch

1/4 cup nondairy milk

Bake at 350 for about 12 minutes.  I made half the recipe and it covered a cookie sheet and a half, so keep that in mind with the press cookies.  Again, you gotta do the trick of going directly onto the pan, not parchment paper, for good stickiness.  

I tried with all coconut oil and it worked great!  I also used peppermint extract and it was yummy.

Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Home Romero basically taught me to bake with their cupcake book and I highly recommend that one for anyone starting out with vegan baking or looking to improve their game.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Persimmon, Caper, and Cherry Tomato Bruschetta

Once upon a time, I saw a cooking show about using very few ingredients and there was a recipe for couscous (the treat so nice they named it twice) that had kalamata olives and dates.  I fell in love with the savory/salty/briney/sweet combo.  Yesterday I was at Costco buying a massive bucket of dates and thought of that recipe, so it was in my mind.  I also have recently fallen in love with persimmons, inspired largely by Fully Raw Kristina on Instagram and Facebook.

Dinner was big last night because my mother-in-law was visiting from out of state after being on a business trip and I figured a great home cooked meal would be good.

I knew I was making spaghetti with dill and lemon pesto in an avocado base because I came up with that off the top of my head and had to make it into reality.
I love dill so much, and I found a big bunch of organic dill at the store the other day and had to use it before going bad.  I added an avocado, some garlic, and lemon zest and juice plus olive oil to the blender with the dill and made a nice sauce to toss with my spaghetti.

I used a little of the dill with a maple mustard dressing on kale salad too.  Maple mustard is like honey mustard.  I mix mustard, maple syrup, a little oil, salt and pepper and we all love it.  It's our favorite dressing.

I sliced the last half of banana squash from Thanksgiving and roasted it with salt and pepper.  It's sweet and creamy.  It's definitely my new favorite squash.

Even without marinara, I felt like we needed a tomato element, so I decided on bruschetta.  I was chopping up the cherry tomatoes and garlic when I thought of that couscous recipe again like I had earlier that day.  The persimmon I had would be perfect to sweeten the mix, and capers would give it the briney element I was looking for.

When my husband asked where I got the idea, I said, "I didn't follow a recipe or anything," and he said, "I didn't think you did!  It's great, but I just can't imagine anyone who writes recipes writing out a recipe that calls for persimmons and capers.  

Well, here it is:

About 1 cup cherry tomatoes, chopped up (this is rustic, no need to perfectly dice)
1 persimmon chopped to about the same size as the pieces of tomato
3 or more cloves of garlic
2 or more Tbsp of capers
2 Tbsp of extra virgin olive oil, that EVOO for you Rachel Ray fans
salt and pepper to taste

Combine and let sit an hour to overnight.  

Great with sliced bread, but also yummy with a spoon.  It would probably be good with pasta or rice (or couscous!) or even on salad.  

Monday, November 17, 2014

Roasted Red Pepper and Lentil Soup

A few days ago I made roasted red pepper soup.  I like the general pureed roasted red pepper, but I wanted to bulk it up a bit, so I added red lentils and some cashews for creaminess.  I was in love with the results, my daughter (5 years old) refused to try it.  The next day, I was eating the little bowl that was left over for lunch and my daughter asked for a bite, and another bite, and...  Well, it went on until the bowl was empty and she asked me to make more that very second.  I told her we didn't have any peppers, so I couldn't.  Yesterday, at the store, she reminded me to get peppers so I could make that soup again.  Who can argue with that?!


3 bell peppers (red, orange, or yellow) cut in half
1 yellow onion chopped roughly
4-6 cloves of garlic
Oil of choice (I use Spectrum Naturals Organic Coconut Spray Oil *affiliate link)
Salt and pepper to taste

1 1/2 cups red lentils
1 tsp smoked paprika
veg bouillon/ salt to taste

1/2 cup raw cashews (or cashew pieces, must cheaper)

Begin by preheating the oven to 400 degrees while you chop the vegetables.  Put parchment paper on a baking sheet and then spray or spread oil on it.  Place the cut peppers, onion, and garlic on it and spray another layer on top (or drizzle if you use a different oil) and salt and pepper.  Place in oven.

Take Instagram picture of your peppers.

While that's cooking, place lentils and water and paprika in a pot with 4 cups water or vegetable broth.  I didn't have any broth/bouillon tonight, so I just added a bit of garlic salt.
With supervision, stirring is a great job for the little.

Bring to a bowl and then turn down to simmer until the lentils are soft.  You might think you don't have enough water, but it's okay.  When it's done, it should look like this.

The lentils take about 15 minutes, so that's a good time to turn your roasting veggies.
The veggies will take about a half hour, maybe a bit more for a good caramelization.  It's your call.  Add the cashews, lentils, and veggies to the blender.  Don't fill it this high, it's totally against all the rules and it specifically tells you not to in the manual.  Do a couple batches, maybe.  You could blend the peppers first then they take up less room and the lentils wouldn't fill it up.  Again, I'll leave this to your discretion.

The finished product is smooth and thick almost like a runny hummus.  It's hearty and delicious and so good for you.

Oh, you should add turmeric, that would give it extra healthiness.  I should have done that too!  Darn.  Next time.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Gardein Fishless Filet Obsession

I feel like a teenage hipster, because when I think about these fishless filets, I CAN'T EVEN...

It was a long time after reading about the fishless filets before I actually got a chance to try them, but I finally ended up ordering them through a vegan online store.  They were a bit defrosted when they got here, but they cooked up great and my life was changed.

I mean...  They are just SO GOOD.  I haven't taken any great pictures of the stuff you can make with them, but I've enjoyed them with fries for "fish and chips" and made "fish tacos" with a yummy cabbage slaw, and I've made a great fish sandwich with them.   We even made sushi rolls at home with them!

Since going vegan, fish is the animal product I miss the most, by a long shot.  I tried some vegan shrimp, some vegan fish loaf, and other vegan "fish" filets with nothing really impressing me until Gardein made these Fishless Filets.  They are seriously a whole new ballgame.  They are flakey, truly taste like a mild fish, and when baked up get the best golden crust ever.  It's just perfection.  The best part, in my opinion, is that they have the same great omegas that lead many vegetarians to become pescatarians and eat fish.  No need with these :)  Or with chia, walnuts, flax, hemp seeds, etc.

I just really really recommend these, which is why I have no shame that I ended up ordering an entire case of them on Amazon!  You get a big box of the filets frozen and ready to go.  I did have a slight delay with my order, but when it got here it was all still frozen solid and I was so happy.  Even though one of my local stores supposedly carries them, they have been out of stock every time I checked for two months, so I am glad to have an easy and reliable source.  I keep them in the garage freezer, but for these things I'd be willing to re-prioritize our regular freezer.  They are worth it.

This is my affiliate link to order your own case, which you really should consider :)

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Vegan Popcorn Tin for Christmas

Remember those amazing tins of popcorn with all the different flavors that came out for Christmas so that you could just sit and snack and watch Elf nonstop for days?

I want a vegan version of that.

Earth Balance has already created great versions of classic and delicious flavors we love with even better tastes, they just need to put them in a tin.

I guess I could put them in a tin.

Have you tried these?  What did you think?

I saw a post on a vegan blogger site recently about a chocolate-y cinnamon popcorn they are putting out soon too...

Okay, I just need to find a giant tin.

Smoothies on the Go: Making Your Own Squeeze Packs

A few years ago when I was on the run all the time with a very busy playgroup, I was always looking for ways to take snacks with me that were healthy.  At that time I was also the mom of only one and very dedicated to making everything from scratch.  One of my exceptions was these great squeeze packs that made giving my daughter fruit, veggies, and healthy foods on the go so easy.  These were the ones I really liked.

We favored baby led weaning, but these made it easy to have healthy snacks on the go, and I basically saw it like a smoothie, which we ate too.

While these snack packs aren't overly expensive for an organic smoothie, it still ads up.  One day in Toys R Us I saw this product by Infantino that allows you to make your own purees and put them in squeeze packs yourself!  I used it tons to make my own packs, but then when we moved it never got unpacked and I kind of forgot about it.

This week, I pulled it out of the garage and was reminded what a great product this is.  It says to only use the packs once, but I wash them out and reuse them (I'm not making any recommendations, just sharing my experience), so It's pennies per pack depending on what you fill it with.

Since Whole Soy soy yogurt is back in stores in the big tub, I got a big one of vanilla and the kids always make such a mess with a cup of yogurt, so I made them squeeze packs of yogurt with this and ate all their yogurt with zero mess!

After that worked so well, I made a smoothie yesterday morning.  For some reason, my kids love smoothies but if I give it to them in a cup they end up spilling or losing interest in them, plus I can never find my straws.

Yesterday's smoothie was almond milk, banana, roasted sweet potato, spinach, hemp seeds, and goji berries.  This morning they had almond milk, banana, goji berries, chia seeds, and kale.  Great healthy breakfast with no mess!  I put the extra in another pouch, so when my daughter inevitably comes home from school starving, there will be a super healthy smoothie waiting for her in the refrigerator!

I really do love this product, and I'd love to hear how you use it too!  I am thinking about making up a savory pack, like lentil soup, to see how they like that.  Great for on the go, picnics, and car rides.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Zucchini-Pecan Vegan Pancakes

A few years ago we went to a vegan potluck and my friend's Taylor and Dael brought this vegan quiche that just blew our minds.  We we a part of the same veg meet up group, and the next time we had a potluck we requested the quiche.  After a few more times of this, they said, "You know we are just following a simple recipe, right.  You should get the book!"  
You better believe we went out and got You Won't Believe It's Vegan!: 200 Recipes for Simple and Delicious Animal-Free Cuisine right away.  You can follow the affiliate link and get it too.  

Obviously, we made the quiche right away, but then one morning my husband woke up before me (miracle) and while taking care of the kids, he also made these zucchini-pecan pancakes.  Since then, we have them about once a month, and they are so amazing every time.

When my mother-in-law, who is not vegan, came to visit, my husband wowed her with these beauties.  She loved them and actually sent us this special pancake pan just for cooking them to support our pancake habit.

This morning, I decided to help out and I made a tofu scramble to go with the pancakes then got out my homemade beet and red cabbage sauerkraut and some bread and butter pickled jalapeƱos.  Beautiful complete meal.

If you want to add these pancakes to your Sunday morning traditions, get the book and try the quiche too!