Friday, November 30, 2007

Conundrum completed, plus other stuff

Thanks, everybody, for weighing in on the great Christmas Cookie Conundrum of 2007! I thought I'd share the voting results, as well as what I've decided to do. :)

votes: 5 yes, 6 no
I've decided not to make these this year -- although the flavor combination seems heavenly, I think they might just be too much work. I may make them for Valentine's Day instead, using rasperry jam instead of apricot! (And cutting out heart shapes, of course.)

votes: 3 yes, 3 no
I will make these because they seem super-easy, and also, I love the flavor combination of cranberries and pecans. Yum.

votes: 5 yes, 1 no
Can one go wrong with slice-n-bakes? I think not. This is a definite "yes" for me this year.

votes: 4 yes, 5 no
I will make these, mostly because Dan actually likes merengues, and he doesn't like many sweets at all!

votes: 5 yes, 3 no
I think this one was in the "yes" column all along, because I love curry in sweet things (both chocolate and ice cream, so far,) and also because Dan likes brittles, too.

votes: 2 yes, 1 no
I'm going to hold off on this one this year -- if I make that and the chai shortbread, there might just end up being too many round, brown cookies on the plate!

votes: 5 yes, 2 no
I'm not going to make these this year -- I'm feeling lazy, and my mom makes them every year anyway (with vanilla frosting -- the peppermint is my spin on things.)

votes: 6 yes, 4 no
I haven't made biscotti in several years, and I can't wait to try again! Lemon and pine nuts together . . . double yum? Anyhow, this is a definite yes!

votes: 3 yes, 4 no
I'm going to skip these, since pretty much everyone and their grandma makes Russian Tea Cakes. Maybe next year.

votes: 6 yes, 1 no
These will make the cut this year, too! I can't wait to try the sweet-salty cookie!!!

So, of course, I'll post pictures once B-Day is complete, and the flour settles.

Segue . . .

Here's the picture of the banana muffins I made for the cake walk at work:
They were very yummy. I think all muffins might have to have sprinkles from now on!

I was shopping (without a list . . . disaster!) at the Wedge this afternoon, and I discovered this yogurt, made locally!
There are so many things I love about this yogurt!
1. organic
2. local
3. the name is just plain clever
4. low sugar
5. comes in my two favorite yogurt flavors (the other one is peach)
6. the cup is actually recyclable!
7. it tastes good! (more like plain yogurt with a hint of fruit flavor, as opposed to sugary goo)

Speaking of my shopping "disaster" this afternoon, does anyone else have trouble coming out of the grocery store under eighty bucks? Sheesh.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Christmas Cookie Conundrum

With a delicious Thanksgiving dinner under my belt, my thoughts, of late, have turned to Christmas. Christmas gift shopping, Christmas decorating (I was certain I wasn't going to put up the tree this year . . . but I bet I will!), and Christmas cookie baking.

Again, I thought I would maybe not bake this year -- what will I do with all of those cookies? In years past, I've made between two and four different recipes, always including gingerbread dudes and my Grandma's Christmas Cookie recipe (frosted with peppermint buttercream and covered with sprinkles,) and possibly one or two new favorites.

This year, I have a problem. I have, um, ten recipes I'd like to try? Now, obviously, I'm not going to make all ten recipes. I do plan on boxing up some cookies to take to my coworkers, and will probably take cookies to Dan's family over Christmas, and my parents and Grandparents the weekend following Christmas, so I'll use up all of the cookies this year.

Still, ten recipes is a LOT of baking. The real trouble is, I've selected ten very diverse cookies . . . and I need YOUR help making a couple of cuts! I'd like to get the list down to six recipes, but I think I'd be willing to go up to eight if I just can't cut one or two options. Please leave me a comment and let me know what you think about the following ideas -- ones that you think are must-keeps, ones that you think I should cut, even just rank them from best-sounding to ok-sounding!

These are basically an almond windowpane cookie and apricot jam sandwich that you dip in a chocolate glaze. I've never made these before. Pros: They look absolutely stunning (a cover recipe from Eating Well a few Christmases ago,) and I love the flavor combination of apricots and almonds. They also call for whole-wheat flour. Cons: They take several steps (including making the dough, rolling and cutting (including little windows,) baking, cooling, filling, and dipping in the glaze;) and the glaze calls for corn syrup, albeit only 1 1/2 teaspoons.

I made this recipe last weekend without eggs, with somewhat, erm, flat and sticky results. I'd like to give the recipe another go. Pros: The flavor of these bars was spot-on blondie fabulousness. Also, bar cookies are a snap to make -- they take almost no time. Cons: The cookies were a little bit sweet for my tastes (hopefully the addition of fresh cranberries will balance them a bit better.)

This is a slice-n-bake chai-spiced shortbread that I'm excited to try for the first time. Pros: The dough can be made ahead and frozen, which would make baking a snap on the day I plan to have my baking marathon, and I think the combination of spices sound delicious and interesting. Cons: They call for powdered sugar as the only sweetner, which is pretty processed, as well as white flour.

Aren't merengues fun? Pros: Flavor combination first and foremost, with the portability and storability being close seconds. Cons: Merengues can be a bit persnicketty to prepare, and can go soft if stored for too long.

I'd like to try my hand at a little candy-making this year, and this was the most interesting-looking of the brittle recipes I have on hand. Pros: Brittles are pretty foolproof as long as you don't burn the sugar, and well, sweet curry and sunflower seeds just sound addictive, don't they? (I could buy some hot curry powder for extra-fun good times!) Cons: Calls for corn syrup.

I thought this recipe might be a nice alternative to gingerbread dudes this year -- less rolling/cutting/icing work, with some of the same flavors. Pros: Uses whole-wheat pastry flour and a whole host of amazing spices, as well as some molasses and candied ginger! Also, it's a drop cookie, so I could freeze the dough ahead of time. Cons: Calls for several ingredients I don't typically keep on hand, so they may end up hanging out in my cupboards for an indefinite period of time.

Is this one a gimme? Maybe not. Pros: Biscuit-like dough is less sweet than a traditional sugar cookie, so they balance all that frosting and sprinkle action quite well. They also look very festive when all decked out! Also, the dough can be made ahead and frozen. Cons: Rolling, cutting, baking, frosting, and sprinkling takes a long time. Also, should I veer from making the "same ol' thing?"

I haven't tried this recipe yet, but have made biscotti in the past, and was surprised at how easy they were to make. Pros: Pine nuts with a hint of lemon . . . need I say more? Biscotti also keep well. Cons: Double-baking can be quite time-consuming. Also calls for white flour.

Ohmigod do I love Russian Tea Cakes, but everyone makes them, right? Pros: Calls for whole-wheat pastry flour and canola oil (instead of butter.) Cons: Lotsa powdered sugar; lots of people make these, right? Also, the double-dipping in powdered sugar can be a bit time-consuming.

These sound decadent and incredible, and play up that whole sweet-salty trend (using coarse sea salt in the batter,) that's been going on lately. Pros: Drop cookie, so I could make the batter ahead of time, drop out the dough and freeze it, so it would be all ready to go on baking marathon day. Plus, sweet-salty chocolately peanutty goodness . . . yum. Cons: White flour; also, is it too much like an ordinary chocolate-chip cookie?

Ok. Let me know what you think!

Monday, November 19, 2007

catchin' up (ketchup?)

I have actually been taking pictures of things I've cooked -- don't you love it when those pictures pile up?

Anyhow, here's what I've been eating lately.

Thai-Tofu Soup with Coconut and Lemongrass:
I realize I make this about once a month, but I'm willing to bet that's not nearly frequently enough for Dan.

Cranberry-Banana Smoothie:
Fresh cranberries have been plentiful at the co-op lately, and I've purchased several pints and stuck them in the freezer for moments such as these.

Mystery Soup:
After defrosting some leftover potato-garlic soup, I added half a leftover baked sweet potato, cubed, and an enormous handfull of fresh spinach. Topped this with shredded cheese and green onions, called it lunch. (Very tasty, and much better than I was expecting it to be!)

Chili in the Crock Pot:
I'm not even sure I can remember what went into this! Ingredients that I can remember: onions, garlic, green pepper, corn, potatoes, kale, tomatoes, kidney beans, black beans, pinto beans, brown rice, vegetable broth, chili powder, and cumin.

Chili, hiding under many garnishes:
After topping a bowl full of chili with cheese, green onions, cilantro, avocado, and lime juice, I scooped it all up with some organic blue corn tortilla chips.

Can one enjoy sushi too often? I think not. :)

Shoot! I totally forgot to take pictures of the banana muffins I made for the cake walk at school tomorrow night. I have a few left . . . I'll post about them next time!

I'm headed out of town this weekend -- travel safe everybody, and Happy Tofurkey Day!

(P.S. We had a gift-giving idea-generating competition at the store during last night's staff meeting, and my teammate Stephen and I took third place, which meant we each won a $25 gift card! Wahoo!)

Thursday, November 15, 2007

27 questions

Bazu and Daiku answered the questions to this survey recently, and, like Bazu, I'm a sucker for these, too! Here I go . . .

1. Favorite non-dairy milk?
Soy for coffee, rice for cereal. Since I just bought a soymilk maker, however, that's been the milk of choice lately. I can't wait to try out almond and hazelnut milks, though!

2. What are the top 3 dishes/recipes you are planning to cook?
Chili and cornbread, sushi, and probably eggs and hashbrowns.

3. Topping of choice for popcorn?
Fine-grain sea salt, and nothing else!

4. Most disastrous recipe/meal failure?
I have had some pretty disastrous adventures in the land of homemade bread-baking.

5. Favorite pickled item?
Oooh . . . I do love pickles (i.e. cucumbers,) but I think my favorite pickled item is pickled ginger.

6. How do you organize your recipes?
I organize recipes I clip out of magazines and print off the internet in five big binders, sorted by category and then alphabetized. I also have a computer program called "notebook" that I use to organize the rest of my recipes -- no more recipe box, thank you very much!

7. Compost, trash, or garbage disposal?
I live in an apartment, so I'm stuck with trash only. Someday I will have a fabulous composting system at the back of my gigantic garden, however!

8. If you were stranded on an island and could only bring 3 foods...what would they be (don't worry about how you'll cook them)?
Bread, cheese, and peaches.

9. Fondest food memory from your childhood?
Cutting out and decorating Christmas cookies, probably.

10. Favorite vegan ice cream?
Soy Delicious cookie avalanche!

11. Most loved kitchen appliance?
Hmm. Tough one. It might be my Bamix!

12. Spice/herb you would die without?
Fresh basil. (Cilantro, too!)

13. Cookbook you have owned for the longest time?
The basic Betty Crocker big red cookbook.

14. Favorite flavor of jam/jelly?
A tie -- apricot and strawberry.

15. Favorite vegan recipe to serve to an omni friend?
Tempeh bacon, lettuce, tomato, avocado, and vegenaise on wholegrain toast, with sweet potato fries and watermelon!

16. Seitan, tofu, or tempeh?

17. Favorite meal to cook (or time of day to cook)?
I like to spend a whole day cooking and prepping on the weekend -- that day usually ends up being Sunday afternoon/evening.

18. What is sitting on top of your refrigerator?
My large cooling grate, unpopped popcorn, half a bag of blue corn tortilla chips, my lunchbag, and a package of cardboard to-go coffee cups (Dan has a habit of losing/forgetting to return my travel coffee mugs!)

19. Name 3 items in your freezer without looking.
Active dry yeast, tons of leftovers, and coffee ice cream.

20. What's on your grocery list?
Paper towels, dish soap, cat food, sugar, maple syrup, coffee, Earth Balance, fruit, flaxseeds, conditioner, frozen pizza, bag o' salad, cucumber, red pepper, frozen edamame, green pepper, frozen corn, jalapeno, big can of tomatoes, black beans, pinto beans, green onions, limes, cheese, avocado, and pickled ginger. (We're going to the grocery store today.)

21. Favorite grocery store?
The Wedge!

22. Name a recipe you'd love to veganize, but haven't yet.
Mac and cheese (that doesn't taste oppressively of nutritional yeast. Blech!)

23. Food blog you read the most.
Oh, I read them all . . . ! I'm not the best commenter, however.

24. Favorite vegan candy/chocolate?
A tie: Dots and Sweedish Fish (the multicolored kind!)

25. Most extravagant food item purchased lately?
Hm. Four boxes of Yogi tea, because it was on sale?

26. Veganaise or Nayonaise?
Veganaise, all the way.

27. What is one recipe or ingredient or cooking technique that you've become familiar with in the last year that you can't imagine you ever lived without?
Sushi! How had I lived before without nori rolls filled with avocado, cucumber, and red pepper???!?!?!?

Let me know if you answer these 27 questions, so I can read your answers!

Monday, November 12, 2007

soymilk maker!

After the September staff meeting at the store, I had the opportunity to purchase a Soyabella soymilk maker (at cost) -- and I did! Wahoo! Why buy a soymilk maker? For starters, I'll save a ton of money over time. The maker is expensive, (over one hundred dollars retail,) but when you consider a half gallon of soymilk is at least four dollars, the maker will pay for itself in not too much time because bulk soybeans are so dang cheap. Also, other reasons include: soybeans weigh a lot less than a carton of soymilk when transporting groceries home from the store, I have an easy time finding locally grown soybeans, and homemade soymilk calls for zero packaging, minimal processing, fewer ingredients, and has a very fresh taste.

I finally unpacked my soymilk maker this weekend:
That's a lot of parts! (And that's not even including the cord, instruction book, or cleaning utensils!) However, when I learned that most of these extra parts are for different applications (like rice paste and coffee grinding,) I packed most of them away and kept out only what I needed.

How to make soymilk? Easy.

1. Use the scoop to measure 1 scoop of soybeans. Rinse the beans and soak them for 4 to 6 hours.
2. Place the soybeans in the metal cup, attach it to the top of the machine, fill the machine with water to the line, and press the "milk" button.
3. Wait 15 minutes.
4. The soymilk is done! (Pardon the blurry picture.) Add sugar, salt, and vanilla, per the recipe included, or to taste.
5. Clean all of the parts thoroughly. (This was honestly the hardest part of soymilk making -- the pieces need to be cleaned right away so they don't get gunky.)

I really like their recipe for vanilla soymilk, although I may cut back on the sugar a little bit. Dan said the soymilk tasted like a thin vanilla milkshake -- which I'll take as a positive review. :)

ALSO, I can use my soymilk maker to make nutmilks -- almond milk and hazelnut milk, here I come!

Anybody else have a soymilk maker? What have your experiences been?

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

by request . . .

Here's the recipe for the pumpkin pie I posted about earlier this week.

Tofu Pumpkin Pie (modified from a recipe on

Preheat oven to 425.

Puree together:
15 to 16 ounces canned pumpkin puree
3/4 cup maple syrup (or sugar, if you're broke)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 package (10 to 12 ounces) silken tofu (i.e., Mori-Nu) (this time I used firm lite)

Pour the pumpkin mixture into a pie shell (I used a vegan, whole grain frozen shell I found at the co-op,) and bake for 15 minutes. Lower the heat to 350 and bake for 40 more minutes. (Watch the edges of the crust -- you may need to cover them with foil to prevent over-browning.) Cool and chill the pie before serving.

P.S. (Courtney,) If you don't like pie crust, you can bake the custard in a greased pie plate with excellent results, too. :)

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

pumpkin, pumpkin, pumpkin!

First, Dan and I finally got around to carving our pumpkins this past Sunday night:
I'll let you guess as to which one is mine, which is Dan's.

Next, we saved every last pumpkin seed from our carving to make . . .
Tamari-Roasted Pumpkin Seeds! (They are all gone already. Bummer.)

Last, I used a can of pumpkin to make . . .
Tofu Pumpkin Pie! Even though the crust crumbled off of this piece a little bit, it still tasted stellar. I love this recipe so much, I will probably never make a regular pumpkin pie ever again!

Happy belated Halloween!