Double Mocha Chip Cookies

I <3 Caffeine

I ❤ Caffeine

I love coffee.

I love chocolate.

I love coffee and chocolate together.

I remember the first time I had chocolate covered espresso beans.  I bought a big box of them from Trader Joe’s because I thought they’d be a good study snack.  I sat down at my desk and tossed a couple into my mouth.  Chewing, my eyes grew wide with excitement.  “They tastes like mochas!” I said, smiling a big, goofy, open-mouthed grin.  I continued snacking on them while studying.  Sometime later, around midnight, I realized I’d eaten half the box . . . it was then I remembered that they were caffeinated . . .

Yeah.

In preparation for the fast-approaching school year, I’m working on my caffeinated study snacks.  In general, it’s difficult to find truly vegan chocolate covered espresso beans.  So my latest attempt is a cookie based on the flavors of those delicious nuggets of joy.

There’s an ingredient in there that may be a surprise:  ground coffee.  Yes, you can eat coffee beans.  No, the texture isn’t off putting.  Yes, there is a lot of caffeine in them . . . that’s why they’re in there.  You want to use a really high quality coffee in this recipe.  You’re going to be tasting the beans themselves, not just a drink brewed from them, so they better taste pretty damn good.  I used Peace Coffee French Roast beans.  They’re my favorite, and I’m a fan of ethical coffee.

This recipe is based on one I found on VegWeb a while ago and have been using pretty much exclusively for my chocolate chip cookie recipe.  Happy Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies are pretty much the standard when it comes to vegan cookies.  So they made a good base for this recipe.

Double Mocha Chip Cookies

Ingredients:

The Dry . . .

  • 2 cups unbleached flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 3/4 – 1 cup vegan semisweet chocolate chips
  • scant 1/4 cup good quality coffee beans

The Wet . . .

  • 4 tablespoons instant espresso
  • 1/4 cup boiling water
  • 1/2 cup granulated unrefined sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar or sucanat
  • 1/2 cup light flavored oil (vegetable or canola)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/4 cup cold water

Method:

The Dry . . .

Your beans should look about like this.  Click to enlarge.

Your beans should look about like this. Click to enlarge.

(Before you start mixing your dry ingredients, it’s a good time to put the kettle on the stove for the boiling water you’ll need in the next step.)

Preheat your oven to 35o degrees Fahrenheit.

In a large bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder together until thoroughly combined.  Stir in chocolate chips.

In a good ol’ fashioned blade style coffee grinder, give the coffee beans about 5 1-second pulses.  I shake the coffee grinder a bit between each pulse, just to make sure things are more or less evenly ground. You want a really coarse grind on the beans, but you don’t want chunks so big that when you bite into the cookie you feel like you’re crunching into beetles or something . . . eeew.

Stir your ground coffee into the rest of the dry ingredients and dig yourself a nice little well in the center.  That’s where you’ll be pouring your wet ingredients later.  Set the bowl aside.

The Wet . . .

It's like 10 shots of espresso concentrated into a 1/2 cup of liquid.In a small bowl, mix the instant espresso powder with the boiling water and stir.  Set this aside so it can cool.

In a medium size bowl, mix the granulated sugar and the brown sugar.  Add the oil and stir very, very well.  Stir in vanilla.  Add the water to your espresso mixture to cool it down, and pour this into the bowl, mix well.  I use a whisk at this point to get everything emulsified.

What you should have now is a very dark looking syrupy mixture.  It’s delicious . . . taste some, I dare you.  It’s like pure espresso/sugar madness!  Anyway . . .

The Rest . . .

Pour your wet mixture into the dry mixture.  Mix well.  You may need to use your hands because this makes a very stiff, very sticky dough.

cookie ballsLine your baking sheets with parchment paper.  Using your hands, take about three tablespoons of dough and make a rough ball.  It should be a bit larger than a golf ball.  It doesn’t have to be perfect, you’ll be squishing these in a moment anyway.

As a side note, the chocolate chips don’t like to stick to the dough very well, so be sure to bury enough of them into each ball so that there is a goodly amount of chocolate in each cookie.

Squishing cookiesBecause these cookies don’t spread very much, and come out of the oven about the same shape as they went in, you’re going to need to squish them.  Using something flat, in my case, the bottom of a stainless steel measuring cup, squish the balls of dough down to about 1/2 an inch of thickness.  Again, they don’t spread very much, so you don’t need to worry about having much space between them 1/2 – 1 inch is fine.

As a hint, the dough likes to stick to anything it can, including what you’ll be using to flatten it with.  What I discovered (after I squished the first pan of cookies) is that using another piece of parchment paper on the bottom of your squishing device works wonders for getting them to release cleanly.

Bake at 35o for 10 minutes.  Turn the pan around about half way through the baking time if your oven tends to bake unevenly.  You want these to be soft when they come out of the oven.  I baked my first batch a little too long and now they’re a little firmer than I had hoped.  If you like firm cookies that are quite suitable for dunking, bake these 2-3 minutes longer.

See, not much bigger than when they went in.

See, not much bigger than when they went in.

When they come out of the oven, allow them to rest on the pan for 2 minutes.  Then, transfer them to a cooling rack. and allow them to cool completely (yeah, right) before indulging.

Yields 20-24 cookies.

These are VERY caffeinated.  The espresso concentrate is about 10 shots worth . . . and then there’s the coffee beans . . . and the chocolate.  I haven’t calculated how much caffeine is in each cookie, and I don’t really want to.  All I know is that when I sampled one, I was quite alert afterward.  Still am.  That’s why I’m blogging in stead of sleeping.

Bonus:  This is Mr. Lucky.  He’s trying to “help” me take good pictures for the blog . . .

Naughty little kitty . . .

I'm helping!

UPDATE!

Oh lordy these are good.  After they cooled, I stuck the cookies in a freezer bag and put them in the fridge because I like it when the chocolate resolidifies in my chocolate chip cookies.  When the flavors blended overnight in the fridge these got SO TASTY!

I thought they were kind of mediocre when I tasted them last night but my good christ these are delicious.  And the ground coffee in combination with the chocolate chips makes these taste like there’s bits of chocolate covered espresso beans in them.

OMG I wanna go eat the whole batch!

Just another quick note . . .

Using the internet, I did go and estimate the caffeine content of these cookies.  I couldn’t find statistics on the caffeine content of just coffee beans that weren’t brewed, so I’m guessing based on chocolate covered coffee beans.  My estimation is that these have somewhere between 60 and 80 milligrams of caffeine per cookie.  Two cookies contain more than a cup of coffee.

I ate two this morning in stead of drinking coffee . . . 🙂  And then I had one at work when I was on break.

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Snackies

I'm feeling snacky . . .

I'm feeling snacky . . .

Lately, I haven’t been interested in eating “real” meals.  I just want to eat snack food.  Not necessarily junk food, but snacks . . . Or what they’d serve you in a restaurant and call appetizers.  The awesome thing about snack foods is that they are really easy to make.  Also, when you make a meal out of small snacks, you can satisfy a lot of cravings at the same time.

Yesterday, I felt like eating edamame.  And also felt like having tortilla chips and hot sauce.  And also wanted a strawberry milkshake . . . at the same time.  Which led to the array of snack food you see in the photo above.

Edamame:

  • 1/2 of a 12 ounce bag of frozen edamame, in the shell
  • sea salt
  • tamari (or soy/shoyu)
  • sriracha hot sauce
  • sesame seeds

Steam the edamame for 3 minutes.  (You can boil them or microwave them according to the package directions, but steaming keeps the nutrition in the beans.)  I use a big bamboo steamer, because it looks impressive . . . and it’s the only steamer I have.  Transfer the edamame to a medium size mixing bowl.  Sprinkle with sea salt, shake on a teaspoon or two of tamari, squirt on about a teaspoon of sriracha and shake on a teaspoon or two of sesame seeds.  Toss to coat all the bean pods.  Transfer to a serving dish (I use the mixing bowl to throw my shells in later) and allow to cool a bit.  Serves 1-2

Edamame can be served hot, room temperature, or chilled.  Whatever you like.  For that particular mix of seasonings, I like it to be warm to room temp.

Edamame can be a little tricky to figure out, so if you’ve never eaten it before, here’s what you do.  First, suck all the seasoning off the outside of the pod (I don’t know if you’re supposed to do this, but it certainly tastes better this way).  Then, pop the beans out of the shell and eat them.  Lastly, throw the shells away.  If you have edamame at a restaurant, they’ll usually give you a separate bowl to throw them into.  Like I said, when I’m eating it at home, alone, I just use the bowl I used to season them in.  If you serve this at a party, or for someone you’re trying to impress . . . use a clean bowl, okay?

Tortilla Chips

I like to make my own tortilla chips.  They’re better for you and they come out all warm and toasty.  Also, you can control the amount of salt/other seasonings on them.  Here’s how to make one serving of tortilla chips for snack time . . .

  • One 8 inch tortilla, cut into 8 wedges
  • Canola oil in a spray can (I use Spectrum)
  • salt

Heat a toaster oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (I’d guess that you can use a regular oven for this, but I never do).  Line the toaster oven’s baking pan with heavy duty aluminum foil and then spray it very well with the canola oil spray.  Arrange your tortilla wedges on the pan so they are in one layer.  Spray both sides of the tortilla wedges with oil and then sprinkle salt on them.  They don’t need much, so don’t go overboard.  Bake until they are golden brown and crispy.  Usually, this takes about 10 minutes.

You can use any sort of tortillas you like for this.  I’ve been successful with flour, whole wheat, and corn tortillas.  The ones in the photo there are some tortillas I got from Target that I’m trying to use up because they’re not all that good . . . they didn’t make very good chips either.  But as long as you start with a tortilla that tastes pretty good, you’ll end up with good home-baked tortilla chips.  You can dip these in salsa or hummus . . . or do what I do and just put hot sauce all over them.

I swear I’m addicted to hot sauce.

A Strawberry Milk Shake

  • 3/4 cup soy milk (less if you like it thicker and have a REALLY good blender)
  • 1/2 cup vanilla soy yogurt
  • 6-8 Frozen strawberries
  • 1 Tablespoon Agave Nectar (or maple syrup . . . or sugar, whatever sweetener you like, really)
  • A handful or so of ice

Put everything into a blender and blend.  Really guys, it’s a milkshake.  It’s not that complicated.

So then, once I had all these snacks made, I decided it was movie time!  What goes better with snacks than a good movie.  So I put Shawshank Redemption in the DVD player and settled in.  About two minutes into watching Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman battle corruption at a New England prison . . . I wanted popcorn.  Not just any kind of popcorn . . . cheezy popcorn . . .cheezycorn

Cheezy Popcorn

  • 1/4 cup popcorn kernels, popped
  • 2 tablespoons margarine, melted
  • nutritional yeast
  • salt

Pop your popcorn however you see fit.  I like to do it on the stove, but you can use an air popper if you so desire.  Put your popped corn into a big mixing bowl and then drizzle it with the margarine while mixing.  Once you’ve got it mixed really well, start sprinkling on nutritional yeast and salt.  I used about 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast and half a teaspoon of salt in total.  Use your judgment.  Taste it and adjust your seasonings until it’s delicious!  This definitely makes enough for two people, possibly three or four.  I couldn’t get through half the bowl.  Of course . . . I did have other snacks occupying my tummy space.

Let’s fast forward to today when I started getting hungry for lunch.  Again, I didn’t want a meal sort of thing.  But you know what did sound good . . . barbecued fake chicken wings, like the ones they have at Chicago Diner.  The unfortunate thing is that I am nowhere near Chicago Diner.  Despite the fact that those barbecue wings are totally worth driving 8 hours for, I have neither a car nor the funds to do such a thing.  Sigh . . . So, I made my own.

Sticky . . . smoky . . . om nom nom!

Sticky . . . smoky . . . om nom nom!

This is one of the more complicated snack foods, because it involves making two sauces and then the actual faux chicken pieces.  So I made it a bit easier on myself by using the frozen fake chicken strips that Morningstar Farms makes.  As much as I hate to admit it, I usually have a bag of them in my freezer for quick meals and when I get a serious protein jones.

Vegan Ranch Dressing

I don’t know a former omni vegan out there who doesn’t seriously miss ranch dressing.  So I’ve been working on perfecting my vegan ranch for years now.  I think I’m getting closer with this one.  This version requires a food processor.  My food processor came with a mini work bowl, so I used that, because this recipe doesn’t make very much.  If you have one of those mini food processors, that will probably work, too.  You’d probably be able to get away with using a blender.  I haven’t tried it, though, so attempt at your own risk.

  • 2-3 cloves garlic, peels removed
  • 1/2 cup vegenaise
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground mustard
  • 2-4 tablespoons unsweetened soy milk
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley

Place garlic in the small bowl of a food processor and pulse a couple times to chop it up a bit.  The garlic doesn’t have to be minced to perfection just yet, so don’t worry about it too much.  Add the vegenaise, onion powder, salt, pepper, and ground mustard.  Process for about 30 seconds, scrape down the sides, and process for about 30 seconds more.  Scrape down the sides again and start the food processor, with the machine running, slowly add about a tablespoon of soy milk (you can add more later if you’d like your dressing thinner).  Scrape down the sides yet again and yet again, start up the food processor.  SLOWLY stream in the olive oil (if your machine doesn’t have a feed tube, just add a little bit at a time and scrape down the sides each time you stop the processor).  The oil needs to be emulsified into the dressing.  Granted, this shouldn’t be too difficult because there’s already mustard and vegenaise in the dressing, but I just like to be sure, so I add it very slowly.  Add in the sugar (raw garlic has a pretty sharp bite, this cuts it down just a little).  If you’d like your dressing thinner, now’s the time to add more soy milk, just don’t go too crazy.  No one likes watery ranch dressing.  Once all this looks like dressing, scrape down the sides one more time and taste.  Adjust the seasoning if you see fit and add the dried parsley.  Pulse a couple times to get it mixed in (it’s mostly for color) don’t leave the processor running too long, though.  You don’t want green dressing.

Scrape all this into a bowl and let it hang out in the refrigerator so the flavors can blend while you make the rest of the dish.

Kate’s Famous BBQ Sauce

I like my barbecue sauce sticky, sweet, and smoky.  This is a good sauce to use when you’re coating some sort of meat replacement that’s going to be cooked a bit longer.  What I’m saying is that this sauce should be cooked further once it’s cooked.  I’ve been making versions of this sauce for years, and it’s really really good when it gets to caramelize a bit.

  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon prepared mustard
  • big ol’ pinch of salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke
  • 1 tablespoon molasses

In a small, microwave safe bowl, mix the ketchup and brown sugar first.  Then, add the rest of the ingredients and mix well.  Microwave on high for one minute, stirring about half way through.  Set aside.

Barbecued Faux Chicken sticks with Ranch Dressing

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • salt
  • 1/2 of an 8 ounce package of Morning Star Farms’ Chik’n Strips Meal starters
  • One recipe Kate’s Famous BBQ Sauce (No, you can’t substitute bottled barbecue sauce, it doesn’t work.)
  • Vegan Ranch Dressing for dipping

Heat an 8 inch skillet over medium heat, add the oil and sprinkle it with a little salt (this keeps the chik’n strips from sticking to a stainless steel pan.  I don’t know why it works, I just know that it does).  Once heated, add the chik’n strips.  Cook these, turning occasionally, until they start to turn a deep brown color (I even let some of them get a little blackened, they’re good that way).  Once cooked, turn the heat down a bit and add the BBQ sauce.  This will sputter and spit at you, so be careful.  Cook, stirring frequently, until the sauce has thickened considerably.  You should be able to pile everything in the middle of the pan and the sauce won’t run out to the edges.  Pile this on a serving plate and let it cool a bit before you eat it.  Serve with some of the Vegan Ranch Dressing for dipping.  Serves 1-2.

Granted these aren’t the same as the ones at Chicago Diner, but they definitely satisfy that craving and they’re friggin’ tasty.  You can eat them with your hands if you’re brave or with fork if you’re blogging while eating them (oh god, they were good).  Also, feel free to drench them with a good Louisiana style hot sauce (like me) if you like a spicy barbecue flavor, or if you’re just addicted to hot sauce (like me).

Let’s Talk about Pie

Pyrex closeup

Pie and I have a history.  I’m bad at pie.  I can bake just about anything on the planet, but for some reason pie gives me trouble.

First, it was the crust.  No matter what I did my crust would never turn out like the pie crusts I grew up with, flaky yet sturdy enough to keep their shape.  My dad has always been the pie baker in the house.  He has a signature crust recipe that he always used and it always turns out exactly like you expect pie crust to be: tender and flaky.  Me, being as stubborn as I am, would always try different recipes than the one my dad used.  I tried the one on the bag of flour . . . it didn’t work.  I tried an oil pastry crust recipe . . . it was gross.  Even when I tried Alton Brown’s recipe for pie crust it fell apart on me.

I was at my wit’s end.  When finally, I gave up and called my dad.  I asked him to read his recipe to me.  Listening to it, I was thinking “That’s it?”  It’s so simple and so easy that I refused to believe that it would work.  I tried it that day . . . lo and behold, it worked.  And it was perfect.  It’s now the only pastry crust that I make.  As much as I love Alton Brown, my dad makes a much better pie crust . . .

Pie Crust

For a single crust:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup shortening
  • 4 tablespoons ice cold water

For a double crust:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup shortening
  • 7 tablespoons ice cold water
This is what it should look like before you add the water.

This is what it should look like before you add the water.

In a large bowl, mix the flour and salt together with a fork or a wire whisk.  Using a fork or a pastry blender, cut the shortening into the flour until very well combined.  Add ice water and –as my dad says– “stir like hell!”  Mix well and knead for 2 or 3 strokes until you can form a nice solid ball in the bowl.  Cover this with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge for about 10 minutes while you clean up your work area.  Proceed with your pie crust as you normally would.

Now, you have several options with your pie crust.  You can either roll it out, put it into your pie plate, fill it up, and bake it like that.  Or, if you want to fill your crust with something that has to be refrigerated, you can blind bake it . . . which is what I did.

Blind Baking:

dough diskTo make a blind baked crust, use the measurements given to make a single crust.  Preheat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Before you roll out your dough, with your hands form it into a disk that is about 1 inch thick.  Then, using a rolling pin, starting from the middle, roll out your dough, always rolling from the middle outwards, until the diameter is about 2 inches larger than that of the pie plate, meaning if you were to place your pie plate on top of your rolled dough upside down, then there would be about one inch of extra pie dough all the way around it.  Then, using your rolling pin, roll the crust up on to it and transfer it to the pie plate.  Gently press the pie dough down into the pie plate, pushing it to the sides.  With a sharp knife, trim off all the extra dough.

crust pinchNow, you want to make it pretty.  Using your thumb and forefinger of your left hand and the thumb of your right hand, pinch the edge of the crust as shown.  It takes a bit to get the hang of it, but really you just pinch with your left hand while using your right thumb to smush it all together.

Once you have done this all the way around the crust, you’re just about ready to bake.  Prick the bottom of your pie crust all over several times with a fork.  This lets the extra steam escape and prevents the crust from puffing up in the oven.  (If it puffs up, there won’t be enough room for filling! Gasp!)

full of beansNext, take a sheet of parchment paper a couple inches larger than the pie crust and place it on top.  Now, fill your pie with beans!  Yep, beans.  Any sort of dry beans will work (I don’t think you’ll be able to eat them afterward, so just pick up whatever is cheapest at the store.)  Here, I’ve used pinto beans.  The beans weigh the pastry down and also keep it from getting all puffy.  Make sure to push the beans all the way to the edges of the crust and evenly distribute them in your pie dish.

Now, it’s time to go in the oven.  Bake this at 425 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes.  Mine took the full 20.

it's donePeek under the parchment to check if it’s done.  You want the edges to be a nice, light golden brown and the bottom may look a bit wet, still, but it will look drier and more done as it cools.

Remove the beans by gently lifting the parchment paper out of the pie plate.  Set them aside to cool somewhere, as you can use them for pie weights again.  Place the crust on a cooling rack and let it cool completely before you fill it.

Now . . . as for the pie I actually made with this crust.  I said I’m bad at pie.  That hasn’t changed.  It’s not that the pie I made was gross or inedible or something, I’m just not happy with the recipe.

My idea was to make a pastry cream filling, bury some fresh strawberries in it and cover it with a delicious strawberry glaze.  The pastry cream I made tasted good, but the texture was all wrong.  I used some tapioca starch and it ended up gelatinous . . . not creamy.  And the glaze I put on top of the pie looked great when it was fresh.  But after a night in the refrigerator, it has started to separate and look . . . less than appetizing.  So while my pie tastes great, (actually, it tastes like strawberry ice cream!) the texture is off and it looks ugly.

Oh well . . . my pie adventures have not come to an end.  There will be another day for pie and me!

A Pie Teaser

Allow me to tease you with a photo of pie!

Allow me to tease you with a photo of pie!

Today, I made pie.  It’s chilling in the refrigerator right now.  I have not taste tested it, nor have I taken photos of a well-presented slice of this creation.  However, I wanted to give you a little taste of what you can expect from me in the next few hours.

Now . . . time for me to come up with a name for it.

My Favorite Drunk Food

Spicy Peanut Noodles

Spicy Peanut Noodles

I have seen this dish done many times and in many ways.  Over the years, I’ve tried to make many variations of it, trying to perfect my recipe, using everything from a sesame oil based sauce to veggie broth.  And seemingly, I just couldn’t get it right.  The peanut flavor was always overshadowed by the other base that I used, either that or the texture was greasy and slimy and wouldn’t stick to the noodles like I wanted it to.

One drunken night, everything changed.  I found the secret . . . water.  Just water.  No veggie broth, no ridiculous amounts of oil to melt the peanut butter into.  All it took to emulsify the sauce was water.  Of course I didn’t realize what I’d accomplished before I went to bed that night.  In the morning, though, I returned to the kitchen, hungry and hungover and remembered that I had leftover peanut noodles in the fridge.  I tasted them . . . and they were delicious.

My thought is that when you make food while drunk and it’s still delicious the next day, you’re doing something right.

A lot of the quantities in this recipe aren’t exact.  That’s because it’s variable based on personal preference.  I like this sauce really spicy and really soy saucy.  But if you want the peanut flavor to be more pronounced, you wouldn’t put nearly as much tamari and sriracha in as I do.  Also, this recipe is awesome because it’s done in one pot and ready in less than half an hour from start to finish.

Spicy Peanut Noodles

Ingredients:

  • Pasta, any kind, enough for two people

    This ought to be enough for two servings.

    This ought to be enough for two servings.

  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 1 Tablespoon vegetable or peanut oil
  • 3-5 cloves crushed garlic
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Tamari, Shoyu, or Soy Sauce
  • Sriracha or other Asian chili sauce
  • about 1 Tablespoon maple syrup
  • Juice of 1/4 of a lime

Pasta and Peas

Boil water for pasta in a medium to large saucepan.  Add pasta to boiling water and cook according to directions.  1-2 minutes before the pasta is done, add frozen peas to the water and allow them to cook with the pasta.  When pasta is done, drain in a colander and leave the pasta and peas in the colander in the sink while you make the sauce.

Yeah . . . that looks like 1/4 cup.

Dry out the pan and put it back on the stove over medium heat.  Add oil to the pan, once it is hot, add the crushed garlic.  Saute garlic briefly, about 30 seconds, being careful not to let it burn.  Then add peanut butter to the pan  allow it to melt down into the oil.  Watch the garlic carefully at this point, and if it starts to burn, turn the heat down.  Once peanut butter is mostly melted, add the water and allow the sauce to come to a boil, stirring constantly and somewhat briskly to emulisify the peanut butter and water together.

All kinds of stuff goes in there . . .

All kinds of stuff goes in there . . .

This is the point where you get to go a little crazy, deciding what you want your sauce to taste like.  Add the tamari, sriracha, and maple syrup.  I usually add about a tablespoon of tamari and a tablespoon of sriracha to start with, and then taste and adjust the seasonings.  You may want to start with a tablespoon of tamari and a teaspoon of sriracha.  I like these noodles really spicy, and a tablespoon may be too much sriracha for you, so season your sauce carefully.  Once you’ve decided how salty/spicy you want your sauce, add the 1/4 of a lime’s worth of juice and mix well.  The sauce is complete!

Add Pasta

The pasta and peas go right into the sauce.

Add the pasta and peas back to the pan.  Stir it all up and you’re ready to eat!

This is my favorite recipe to make for drunk friends.  It’s easy, doesn’t require much knife work, so it’s pretty safe for drunken cooking, and it tastes soooooo gooooood when you’ve had just a bit too much to drink.  My friend Darren always begs me to make him peanut noodles for him whenever he comes home from the bar two or three sheets to the wind.

Benny and Flo do Brunch

Benny and Flo on a plate

. . . how this vegan does brunch.

Eggs Benedict and Eggs Florentine are two simple, classic brunch dishes.  They are very similar:  English muffins topped with ham for Benedict and sauteed spinach for Florentine, with poached eggs and then smothered in Hollandaise sauce.  These are egg/dairy/meat filled cholesterol bombs . . . that I miss very much.

rain rain go awayIt’s a rainy day here in Northern Minnesota, so I figured that it was the perfect day to make a hybrid, vegan version of Benedict and Florence.  This took some planning.  While the English muffin, spinach, and even ham portions were easy to sub out for, the egg and the Hollandaise were going to be issues.

Tofu usually makes a decent egg sub, like in tofu scramble.  That wouldn’t pose too much of a problem.  Though, poached tofu sounds disgusting, so I decided to bake it and give it a much more toothsome texture and brown, crispy corners.

As for the Hollandaise . . . hoo boy.  Classic Hollandaise sauce recipes consist of two main things: butter and eggs.  Gross.  Even vegan substitutions for those couldn’t make the creamy, rich texture of Hollandaise sauce.  I needed a new plan.  I looked up other recipes for vegan Hollandaise sauce, but none of them really tickled my fancy.  They all involved either vegan sour cream or silken tofu, neither of which I had in my fridge, nor did I really feel like walking (in the rain) down to the co op to get.

So I did what any good vegan cook would do.  I made up my own.  It’s more like a modified bechamel sauce than traditional Hollandaise (which is basically hot mayonnaise . . . ew) and it more than does the job.

The recipe that follows is quite involved and took about an hour and a half to make.  There’s a lot of downtime in there, though.  Mostly when pressing and marinating the tofu.  Also, all the quantities given, except for the sauce are for one serving.  Feel free to double/triple/quadruple this recipe to suit your needs.  The sauce recipe will make about 4 servings.  So, one recipe of the sauce, a whole block of tofu, a 5 oz bag of spinach, and 4 English muffins should be just about perfect to feed yourself and three friends who trust your cooking.

Shall we then . . .

Benny and Flo do Brunch:

Ingredients:

The Tofu Portion:

I'm not actually left handed.

  • 1/4 pound of tofu (approximately), sliced horizontally off the block
  • 3-4 Tablespoons tamari (or soy sauce, shoyu, braggs, whathaveyou)
  • 1-2 Tablespoons rice vinegar
  • pepper
  • olive oil

Vegan Hollandaise Sauce:

  • 3 Tablespoons Earth Balance margarine
  • 2 Tablespoons all purpose flour
  • pinch of turmeric
  • 1 cup unsweetened soy milk
  • big pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 1 Tablespoon vegenaise
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Everything Else:

spinach and muffins

  • One whole wheat English muffin (do make sure it’s vegan), split, toasted, and slathered with some Earth Balance
  • A big handful of spinach
  • 2 Slices smokey vegan meaty substitute (I used smoked tofurky.  Feel free to use fake bacon or veggie ham if you prefer)
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • parsley and fruit for garnish (optional, but pretty)

The Method

The Tofu Portion:

pressing tofuFirst of all, press your tofu.  Wrap it in either a good thick wad of paper towels (I used about 5 layers on each side of the tofu, folded of course), or a clean, cotton, folded kitchen towel.  Set the wrapped tofu on your cutting board and put a heavy plate on top and add more weights on top of that.  I use my stack of cast iron frying pans, but you can use a pot of water or canned goods if you can stack them high enough.  Allow the tofu to press like this for 10 to 15 minutes.

Next is the marinade.  Slice your tofu down the middle (the short way) so you have two rectangles.  Place the slices on a plate (I used the same one with which I pressed the tofu.)  MarinadePour your tamari and rice vinegar on top of your tofu and swish it all around with your hands to mix it up and get all sides of the tofu slices covered.  The strength of the marinade is up to you.  If you like it a little saltier, use the full amount of tamari and less vinegar.  If you like it a little more sour, use less tamari and more vinegar.  I use the full amount of both, but you can be the judge.  Also, you want there to be enough marinade on the plate so the tofu sucks it up really well.

Cover and let the tofu marinate for 15 to 20 minutes.  Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Line a small baking sheet with aluminum foil.  Pour a couple teaspoons of olive oil on the foil and spread it around with your fingers (or a pastry brush if you must).  sprinkle ground pepper on both sides of the tofu and put on the baking sheet.  Drizzle with a little more oil.  Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.

While the tofu cooks, you can move on to the sauce . . .

Vegan Hollandaise Sauce:

Heat a small saucepan over medium low heat.  Add the Earth Balance and heat until it is sizzling and boiling quite a bit.  Whisk in the flour all at once to make a paste and continue to whisk it constantly for about a minute.  Add in a SMALL pinch of turmeric for color and mix well (you want your sauce yellow, but you don’t want it too yellow).  Slowly whisk in soy milk.  Bring sauce to a boil, whisking frequently.  Boil for 2 to 3 minutes and remove from heat.  Whisk in the cayenne and nutritional yeast.  Add the lemon juice and mix well.  Taste for seasoning.  I probably ended up adding in about a teaspoon of salt, but I didn’t measure and I really like salt.  I just kept adding it until I thought my sauce was sufficiently salty.  Season to your taste with salt and a bit of black pepper.  Lastly, add the vegenaise for a little bit more creaminess.

The finished Hollandaise

The finished Hollandaise

Keep the sauce warm by covering it with a lid or you can put it over low heat if you watch it carefully and whisk periodically, as to keep it from burning.

Putting it all together . . .

finished tofuBy the time your sauce is done, your tofu ought to be coming out of the oven.  You want it nicely browned with just the edges starting to get crispy.  Mine took about 20 minutes.  You want your tofu to look roughly like mine in the picture there.  Let this cool a bit, but keep it warm while you finish your prep for the last of your ingredients.

Heat 1-2 teaspoons of olive oil in a small skillet (about 8 inches) over medium heat.  Add a big handful of spinach, more or less filling the pan as it cooks down a lot.  pan o spinachCook until the spinach is wilted.

Meanwhile, toast your English muffin.  When toasted, butter it!  To heat up my smoky vegan meaty subsititute, I placed slices of smoked tofurky on my English muffins and put them back in the toaster oven.  If you don’t have a toaster oven (I suggest you get one, first off), you can use your full size oven to get your muffin/meaty combo all toasty.

Now that you’ve got your tofu baked, your sauce thickened, your spinach wilted, and your muffin toasted . . . it’s time to plate . . .

Step one

Step one

Place your muffins on a plate . . .

. . . step two . . .

. . . step two . . .

Divide up your spinach and spread it on top of the faux-meat.

. . . step three . . .

. . . step three . . .

Place a baked tofu slice on top of each muffin half.

. . . step four . . .

. . . step four . . .

Smother the tofu slices in the vegan Hollandaise sauce.

Then garnish with some chopped parsley, cut fruit and a lemon twist and you’ve got yourself a delicious hybrid of eggs Benedict and eggs Florentine made vegan.

. . . and then garnish!

. . . and then garnish!

Admittedly, this is not a low-calorie recipe.  To be honest, I rarely try to make things as such.  Also, it is quite involved.  It’s not the lazy Sunday sort of meal one would hope a brunch dish to be.  Well, unless you’re like me, that is.  I love involved cooking on Sunday mornings.

However, this is definitely an impressive brunch dish.  Especially if you’re making a meal for other vegans.

A little bit of cabernet sauvignon makes everything delicious.

It’s a weeknight and I’m heading home from work.  I’m on the bus when Jacob calls me and wants to go out . . . but I want to eat first, so I tell him to come to show up at my house when he’s ready and I’ll find something quick to eat.

Quick . . . quick . . . what’s delicious, nutritious, and quick?

Whole wheat pasta?  Always.  But what should I put on top of it?  I don’t have any jars of sauce, so I’ll have to get creative.  Lucky for me, I’m good at that.

I walked into my kitchen with my cat circling my ankles.  He wanted attention, I wanted to eat more than he wanted attention, I think.

I opened the cupboard and took stock of what was up there.  A can of diced tomatoes, a can of chickpeas, some tomato paste, onions, garlic; there was wine on the bar, half a red pepper in the fridge that needed to be used up and all the requisite spices in the spice cabinet.  Suddenly, dinner seemed like a plan.

Quick Chickpea Pasta Sauce

Quick Chickpea and Tomato Pasta

•2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
•1 Onion, ChoppedVeggie Chopping Board
•3 Cloves Garlic, Finely chopped
•1/2 Red Bell Pepper, Chopped
•1 15 Ounce Can Diced Tomatoes with Liquid
•1/3 cup Cabernet Sauvignon or other Dry Red Wine (I’m partial to a good Cab.)
•1 Teaspoon Dried Oregano
•1 Teaspoon Dried Basil
•1-2 Tablespoons Tomato Paste (you can get away without it)
•A Pinch of Sugar
•1 15 Ounce Can Chickpeas, drained and rinsed
•Whole wheat pasta cooked and still hot, whatever shape you like
•Salt and Pepper to taste
Get your water boiling for your pasta, first of all.  When that’s boiling, throw it in and it ought to be done by the time you’re finished cooking the sauce.
Now then . . . In a large skillet (I used a 1o inch), saute the onions and garlic over medium heat.  Add some salt and pepper to season and help the onions expel some water.  Once the onions and garlic are fully sauteed and starting to brown just a little, add in your red pepper.  Peppers in the panCook until the red pepper is softened.  Add tomatoes, wine, oregano, and basil.  OreganoStir it all up and bring it to a boil.   Add in the tomato paste, add more if you want your sauce a little thicker, less if you want it thinner (obviously).  You can skip the paste if you want your sauce thin or if you don’t mind simmering the sauce a bit longer.  Add in the pinch of sugar to balance out the acidity of the tomatoes and let the sauce simmer for about five minutes.  Add in the chickpeas and simmer for another five to ten minutes.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.Pan o sauce
Jacob showed up at that point and mentioned that my house smelled garlicky . . . then he asked to taste my concoction.   He always likes my food.   The wine is really what makes this sauce.  If you don’t have any or don’t keep it around the house, you can use water or veggie broth, but it won’t have the fullness of flavor that red wine provides.