Monday, December 27, 2010

Lemon Cookies for Laura

As promised, I will post recipes for the cookies pictured in my last entry.  Of course, the holidays being what they are, it is hard to find the time.  And so, I will share with you the recipe for Lemon Cranberry cookies that Laura loved, and hopefully get around to posting the other recipes soon.

I adapted this recipe from one of my many pre-vegan cook books: Cookies: a Cookie Lover's Collection. The choice to become a vegan does not mean we must abandon our favourite cookbooks, they become a source for inspiration and a test of our culinary creativity as we learn to adapt old favourites into new vegan favourites.

Lemon Cranberry Cookies
Makes 3 dozen cookies

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup icing sugar
1/2 cup vegan margarine
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1 egg replacement (see the last post)
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp lemon extract

2 cups flour
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp lemon zest
1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup chopped dried cranberries

In a large bowl cream together sugars, margarine, shortening, egg replacement, vanilla and lemon extract.  Beat in flour, cream of tartar, zest and salt.  Cover bowl and chill for an hour or more.

Preheat oven to 350 and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.  Either roll out dough on a floured surface and cut with cookie cutters, or roll into balls and flatten with the bottom of a glass. Bake for 10-13 minutes or until edges are light golden brown.

Cool, snack, gift, enjoy.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

C is for Cookie, that's good enough for me

Clearly the best part of the holiday season is baking, specifically, baking cookies.  Cookies are tiny bundles of love and goodness.  I also love wrapping presents, and what could be better than wrapping up a box of delicious homemade cookies to give to friends and family.
Clockwise from top: Pistachio Sugar Cookies, Chocolate Toffee Bites, Chocolate Crinkle Cookies, Lemon Cranberry Cookies, Molasses Crinkles
Best of all, cookies are possibly the easiest of all the baked goods to make vegan.  Maybe you're a vegan, maybe you're not. Maybe you have vegan friends or family members and want to do something special for them.  Or maybe you just ran out of eggs and don't want to run to the store.  Whatever the reason, it is easy to make your favourite childhood recipes dairy and egg free.

Easy vegan baking substitutions

Butter: This one seems like a no brainer: pick up some margarine and you're set, right? Not necessarily.  Only a few margarines are actually vegan.  A quick peek at the ingredients reveals that many margarines have whey, lactose or other dairy products.  The vegan stand-by is Earth Balance, but there are some others that are accidentally vegan (and therefore cheaper!).  Fleishmann's Kosher margarine is dairy free, as is Celeb calorie-reduced margarine (find in Loblaws family of stores), and Irresistibles calorie-reduced, lactose-free margarine (find this one in Metro family of stores).
**UPDATE**  I've just discovered that Becel makes a VEGAN margarine!  Best of all, they haven't taking advantage of this niche market by charging extra, it's the same price as their other products.

Eggs: In baking, eggs do double duty: binding and leavening, aka they help ingredients stick together and add extra puff.  This is an easy fix if you pick up a box of Egg Replacer powder.  It's actually a very simple mixture of starches (binding) and baking powder (leavening).  Can't find egg replacer?  I've been known to make my own by combining 1/2 tsp cornstarch, 1/2 tsp baking powder, and 2 tbsp water.

A batch of cookie dough usually only contains one egg (a low egg-to-flour ratio) an easy substitution.  Other baking, such as some kinds of cakes, that call for a high egg-to-flour ratio, and requires more creative solutions since the eggs are actually adding a lot of body to the recipe and cannot be replaced by water and starch.

For more great ideas on baking substitutions, check out these baking substitution guides from VegNews and VegKitchen.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Are you suggesting coconuts migrate?

Not at all!  They could be carried... in this case, by a transport truck to the grocery store.

While not overly fatty, the vast majority of the fat in coconut "meat" (and therefore also coconut milk) is saturated fat, and so sadly you probably don't want to eat large amounts of coconut regularly.  Coconuts do contain many healthy properties though, so our coconut indulgences are not all for naught.  One cup of coconut meat has 11% of your recommended daily intake of iron, and coconut water (the liquid from the middle of the coconut) has the highest natural source of electrolytes, making it nature's perfect sports drink. Coconut water can also be used intravenously to rehydrate people in desperate (usually remote) situations!  Find out more about coconuts here.

Factoid: the Coconut is a "drupe" and not truly a nut.

This winter I've been working at a diner that also has a bakery attached to it.  This means that those who come to dine have at their disposal a plethora of pies, cakes, and other goodies to eat for dessert.  One of the most popular desserts is coconut cream pie.  After weeks and weeks of bringing coconut cream pies to people, I was really really craving some coconut.  I'm devising a plan for making a vegan coconut cream pie, but I've been in a cupcake mood lately.  I decided to adapt the Golden Vanilla Cupcakes recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World cookbook (if you don't have this book, go buy it!  It is indispensable!).  I wanted to top them with some of my Coconut Whip, but my impatience made for unsettled coconut cream, and I resorted to a batch of Fluffy Buttercream Icing instead.  I have coconut milk settling in the fridge and I hope to rectify this situation tomorrow. Until then, on to the cupcakes!

Vegan Coconut Delight Cupcakes
Makes 12 cupcakes

1 cup coconut milk
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
2 tbsp cornstarch
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup canola oil
3/4 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
     (or coconut extract if you can find it!)
1/2 and 1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 350.
Beat together coconut milk, oil, sugar and extracts.  In a separate bowl combine dry ingredients (except coconut).Combine wet and dry ingredients. Fold in 1/2 cup coconut.
Fill cupcake liners about 2/3-3/4 full and bake for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Transfer to a cooling rack.

Spread remaining 1/4 cup of shredded coconut out on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  Toast the coconut in the oven (still at 350).  Do not leave unattended!  Toasting only takes a minute or two.  Take them out when they turn a nice golden brown and transfer from cookie sheet to a bowl immediately (they can continue toasting on the sheet, coconut shreds are very sensitive it seems!).

When cupcakes have completely cooled, ice with coconut whip or fluffy buttercream icing and sprinkle the tops with toasted coconut.  Enjoy :)  If you do use coconut whip, I would ice on an as-needed basis, since coconut whip should be kept refrigerated and might make your cupcakes soggy :(

Seriously, seriously delicious cupcakes.


Today I successfully made a batch of coconut whip.  Patience is a virtue when it comes to baking, it would seem - you can't cut corners with this one, wait til the coconut milk has been in the fridge overnight!  And all I have to say is WOW!  Do yourself a favour and ice these with coconut whip - they are heavenly cupcake perfection!!


Friday, December 10, 2010

"Food is not about impressing people. It's about making them feel comfortable." - Ina Garten

I came across this risotto recipe a few years ago via the "20-minute supper club" from I obviously have omitted the cheese. Although it isn't a vegan site, they do occasionally post easily veganizable recipes.

Risotto is frequently thought of as a cream-based dish.  While many risotto recipes call for cheese, it is actually the rice itself that produces the characteristic creamy consistency.  A starchy rice is used, typically arborio rice, and broth is added slowly as it cooks, stirring constantly.  This releases the starches from the rice, and voila: dairy-free creaminess is the result.

If it were up to me, I wouldn't have called this recipe a risotto.  It is atypical in that it uses short grain brown rice instead of arborio or similar rice.  It also cheats a little by adding all the stock at once instead of gradually over the cooking process.  The end product is still creamy, but slightly healthier variation on the old standby.  It is certainly not traditional, but a highly recommended comfort food for cool days.

Veganized Brown Rice Pumpkin Risotto

1 bulb roasted garlic
1 cup finely chopped leeks*
2 cups short grain brown rice
2 cups peeled, diced pumpkin or squash
1/2 cup orange juice
4-5 cups vegetable broth
3 cups baby spinach (maybe try kale or other greens!)
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

*Tip: leeks tend to have a lot of dirt between the layers, so chop first then rinse really really well in a colander to get all the grit out.

Roasting Garlic:
Preheat oven to 400.  Trim top of garlic bulb so the tips of each clove are snipped slightly.  Drizzle olive oil over bulb (skin and all) and wrap in foil.  Bake in the oven until soft (about 40 min).  Don't worry, you won't need the garlic til the end of the risotto, so you can start roasting the garlic when you start preparing the risotto.  When the garlic is done (and cool enough to handle), squeeze the bulb so that the cloves come out, discard skin.

Saute leeks over medium heat in olive oil til soft. Add the rice and stir til it is coated in oil and slightly translucent.  Stir in pumpkin and juice, increase heat to high.  When juice is nearly evaporated, add stock, bring to a boil, reduce and simmer for about 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add spinach leaves, roasted garlic and nutmeg.  If you're using kale or other greens that are a bit tougher than baby spinach you may wish to add them a little earlier on in the cooking process (5 minutes sooner).  Top with chopped walnuts and enjoy :)