Monday, February 29, 2016

Trio Of Dark Chocolate Mousses

I LOVE chocolate mousse. It's definitely one of my all-time favorite desserts. I could (and have) eaten eight servings in one day. It's delicious. So I decided to take my basic chocolate mousse recipe and upscale it - create a trio of chocolate mousses; three different flavors, three different textures, three different temperatures, and three different garnishes. What a success! This is the perfect dessert for sharing if you are feeling generous, or if you're like me, you'll devour it all yourself. 
For the frozen mocha chocolate mousse with mocha drizzle:
2 Tablespoons coffee (any variety)
1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons icing sugar
chopped toasted nuts
For the caramel chocolate mousse with caramel filigree:
½ cup granulated (white) sugar
¼ cup water
For the hot chili chocolate mousse soufflé with spiced cream quenelle:
½ teaspoon chili powder
Tablespoons whipped cream
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

For the frozen mocha chocolate mousse: Whisk one teaspoon coffee into about 1/3 cup of the chocolate mousse. Line a small dish or mold with plastic wrap and spread the mousse into it. Freeze immediately for at least an hour.
For the mocha chocolate glaze, whisk together the remaining coffee, cocoa, and sugar until smooth.
For the caramel chocolate mousse: Heat the sugar and water over low heat, stirring often, until mixture reaches 310°F. Using a fork or spoon, randomly drizzle some caramel onto a steel work surface and once it hardens, immediately gather it up into a nest or ball. Drizzle some caramel on the inside of a wine or martini glass and allow to set.
For the hot chili chocolate mousse soufflé: Whisk the chili powder into about ¼ cup of the chocolate mousse. Spoon or pipe mixture into a small ramekin. Bake at 400°F for six minutes until risen and outside is firm.

To serve: Decorate the plate with dots of leftover caramel and mocha drizzle. Drag a skewer through to create hearts. 
Pipe the chocolate mousse into the martini glass, place the caramel filigree on top, and place in the center of a rectangular plate.
Unmold the frozen chocolate mousse, place to the right of the mousse, drizzle with glaze, and sprinkle with nuts.
Place a quenelle of whipped cream on top of the baked mousse soufflé, then sprinkle with ground cinnamon. Place to the left on the plate.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Base Chocolate Mousse Recipe

Base Chocolate Mousse
85 grams dark chocolate chips
1 Tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
37 grams unsalted butter
3 large eggs, separated
37 grams granulated (white) sugar

Melt the chocolate, cocoa, and butter in a bowl over a pan of just simmering water. Meanwhile, whisk the egg white until soft peaks form, then whisk in the sugar until stiff peaks form. Gently whisk in the egg yolks. Whisk the chocolate mixture into the eggs, then chill until set. If you want it to set more quickly, chill it in a shallow metal bowl in the freezer.

This is a yummy dark chocolate mousse recipe that always turns out - even if ingredient amounts are slightly off, your egg whites have a trace of yolk, or whatever. I am sure milk or semi-sweet chocolate could be used instead if preferred. This is the base of a lot of great dessert potential. Or just eat it my favorite way - as is (I don't even both to chill it first). It is rich and creamy. 

This recipe can easily be doubled (six eggs), quadrupled (twelve eggs), or multiplied by eight (24 eggs). I always look at how many eggs when dividing the recipe. I suppose you could third it as well (one egg), but why would you want to? This basically only makes one portion as it is (ok, it's probably more like 2-4 if you aren't crazy for chocolate mousse like me, but still). 

Tune in tomorrow for a trio using my base recipe.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Vanilla Cashew Butter

What could be better than peanut butter, almond butter, and even Nutella? (Ok, maybe not Nutella, it is hard to compete with the combination of chocolate AND hazelnuts on a spoon) How about vanilla cashew butter?

My partner's mother recently got a fancy new food processor as a gift and has been coming up with all sorts of neat goodies. This machine really cuts down on prep work and time and allows hummus and and pesto and pasta making in a fraction of the time Of course the machine is also great for nut butters. I love nut butters. I have made a few at home myself, but my food processor is not quite as good and it is easier (and pricier) just to buy a jar of nut butter. I had never had cashew butter before, but it is comparable to peanut butter, only milder. The addition of vanilla really makes it a treat! This butter is tasty for sandwiches, oatmeal, even a dip for fruits and vegetables, or my favorite way; on a spoon. It is such a yummy treat and a jar of it certainly doesn't last long in my apartment.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Best Easiest Shortbread

Best Easiest Shortbread
one part granulated (white) sugar
two parts unsalted butter
three parts all-purpose (plain) flour
that's it!

Simply cream the butter and sugar, incorporate the flour, roll into a log, chill if needed, slice, bake at 350F for five minutes or so until lightly colored. Alternately roll and cut into shaped. Couldn't be easier or tastier!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Truffle And Saffron Scented Risotto

Truffle And Saffron Scented Risotto
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 small onion, small dice
1/4 cup Arborio rice
1/2 cup white wine
1 ½ - 2 cups vegetable broth
¼ cup thinly sliced chanterelle mushrooms
1 Tablespoon shaved black truffles
Truffle oil
salt and cracked black pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon saffron
cooked quail eggs (poached or boiled), sliced thinly
minced parsley, for garnish
Heat one tablespoon olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for a few minutes without browning until translucent.
Stir in the rice and cook for two minutes to toast kernels.
Stir in 1/4 cup wine and allow rice to fully absorb it.
Add the broth, 1/4 cup at a time, allowing the rice to almost fully absorb it before adding more. Stir often. Stir in remaining 1/4 cup wine. Cook to desired consistency, risotto usually tends to remain al dente. If you prefer a thinner risotto, use more broth.
Meanwhile, heat one tablespoon olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the chanterelles and sauté for a few minutes until softened. Stir in the truffles. Spoon into risotto, reserving the liquid.
Marinate the quail eggs in the reserved liquid to flavor them.

Season the risotto, transfer to a serving dish, garnish with truffle oil. For an attractive presentation, use a ring mold. Place the quail eggs around the risotto. 

This is an upscaled version if the plain risotto dish I often make for my family at home. Luxury ingredients such as white wine, truffles, saffron, and quail eggs instantly increase the value of this dish. Use the best quality ingredients you can afford. You will taste the difference. This makes a nice appetizer or side dish portion, to bulk it up for a main course, you could easily add in some protein.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Sesame Soy Sauce

Sesame Soy Sauce
tamarind soy sauce

Whisk together until smooth and season to taste - adding more of either or a pinch of salt or sugar. This hardly seems like a recipe at all it is so simple, but to be honest, it is a cheating version of a sesame sauce. Add sesame seeds for some crunch, if desired.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Thanksgiving Dinner Canapés

Thanksgiving Dinner Canapés
caramelized red onion biscuits
butternut squash purée (or alternately sweet potato purée)
cranberry chutney/sauce (chunky, whole berry, not jelly and preferably homemade)

I baked my own vegan biscuits, adding in caramelized red onions to the dough for more flavor. I put my purée in a piping bag fitted with a star tip and piped a swirl onto each biscuit. Then I topped with a dollop of cranberry chutney, and cut my pickles into little half-moon shapes for a garnish.

I think this canapé is quite colorful and something different - more rustic ingredients presented in an elegant way. They were very much appreciated. The flavors balanced very well together - the purée and onions were sweet, the biscuit and pickle salty, the chutney tart, and the pickle acidic. Someone told me the pickle absolutely makes the canapé. I got inspiration for this hors d'oeuvre from Thanksgiving dinner ingredients.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Basil Mozza Bites

Spiced pine nut brittle + basil cashew butter + vegan cheese + balsamic caviar pearls = awesome vegan hors d'oeuvre. 
To make this hors d'oeuvre, I first caramelized some sugar, then added toasted pine nuts and some spices and hot sauce to cut the sweetness. I let this harden into brittle and broke it into small, irregular pieces. I topped it with a 'buttery' spread I made from pulsing cashews into cream and adding fresh basil and seasonings. I spread some vegan mozzarella cheese on top. This was my first time making vegan mozzarella cheese and I must say, I really like it. Some vegan cheeses are good, some not so good, some are good but aren't very 'cheesy'. This one was very close to fresh mozzarella; composed of coconut milk, flavored mozzarella with coconut vinegar, and thickened with tapioca and xanthan gum. I then topped with one of my favorite molecular gastronomy tricks - one I have used before and could eat like candy - balsamic 'caviar' pearls.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Individual Raisin Bran Cookie

Individual Raisin Bran Cookie
5 Tablespoons natural wheat bran
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
pinch salt
1 Tablespoon blackstrap molasses
2 teaspoons oil
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
milk, as needed
2 Tablespoons raisins (soaked and plumped, if desired)

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl until well combined, adding just enough milk to form a dough that sticks together. Form into one large cookie and place on a microwave-safe plate. Microwave on HIGH (100% power) for 1-2 minutes until just firm. Let stand for a minute or two before devouring. 

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Provençal Vegetable Gâteau

This is a vegetarian special I came up with. It's visually appealing and quite tasty. Vegan and very nutritious.

Provençal Vegetable Gâteau
thinly sliced red onion (use a mandolin)
thinly sliced zucchini (use a mandolin)
thinly sliced tomato (use a mandolin)
salt, pepper, and oil, to taste
arugula pesto
oven-roasted cherry tomatoes
candied nuts

To assemble these gâteaux, I laid my three vegetables out in containers in front of me and chose an appropriately-sized round ring mold. I lined a baking sheet with parchment paper, and assembled the gâteaux, one at a time, If you have several identical ring molds, you can be more efficient and assemble a few at a time. 

I did my layers like this: red onion, zucchini, tomato, red onion, zucchini tomato, red onion zucchini. I used around 5-6 sliced of vegetables for each layer, depending on size. You could do more or less layers, depending upon how high you would like your vegetable stacks to be. 

To serve: gently use a flat spatula to transfer to a parchment-lined dish. Season with salt, pepper, and oil. Bake at 400F until heated through and vegetables are softened and tender. 
I served with arugula pesto drizzled around, seasoned oven-roasted tomatoes, and candied nuts. 

Friday, February 19, 2016

Nutella At Home

I made homemade vegan nutella once. But it didn't turn out quite as I had wanted it to. It was tasty, but not as smooth and decadent as commercial nutella. I decided to try again

I first processed toasted (peeled) hazelnuts in  my food processor to form a smooth hazelnut butter. This did not take as long as I had anticipated because hazelnuts are a fairly oily nut. I did this as a separate step to make the finished butter more smooth and less gritty. I set that aside, then cooked some dates in water until they were very soft (if you have good, fresh dates, this step may optional). Then I puréed these separately to form a date paste. I then combined the two together in my food processor, adding some unsweetened cocoa powder, vanilla extract, coconut milk, and melted coconut butter so added smoothness, flavor and to thin. Process until smooth, and enjoy!

The hazelnut to date ration depends upon how sweet you would like your nutella. If you prefer a sweeter, more decadent nutella, use a liquid sweetener such as maple syrup, agave, or glucose. Melted chocolate also makes for a more decadent nutella, though keep in mind these options will make the nutella less of a nutritious, vitamin-rich nut butter and more of an occasional dessert. You can use any type of milk, and omit the coconut butter or use your favorite oil.
This is a much more nutritious version of the commercial nutella - which is very high in sugar and fat. This spread can be used just as much as any natural nut butter, and contains a pleasing hint of chocolate!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Whole Grain Seedy Brötchen

Brötchen are basically German bread rolls; which are much better than any other kind of bread rolls. They come in a wide variety of types, shapes, and sizes; and buying fresh brötchen from a local bakery for breakfast is the best way to start off your day. Great with nutella, cheeses, vegetables, and just plain butter; they are usually crusty, wholesome, and give French baguette a run for its money. Here I have made my own version, that come close to some I enjoyed in Germany. These are whole wheat and contain seeds for extra texture and nutrition.
Whole Grain Seedy Brötchen 
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 Tablespoon each: sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds
1 package (eight grams) instant yeast
1 teaspoon salt
300mL warm water 
2 Tablespoons oil
1 Tablespoon blackstrap molasses
seeds, for topping

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, seeds, yeast, and salt. Stir together the water, oil, and molasses, and add in. Stir until dough comes together, then knead until uniform. Divide into nine even pieces. Roll into balls. Place 3x3 in a parchment-lined 8x8 inch square pan. Sprinkle with seeds. Cover and allow to rise for 1 1/2 hours. Then bake at 375F for about 20 minutes until cooked. Serve warm - toasted for a crusty bread or wrapped in foil for soft bread. Great with cheeses, butter, hummus, vegetables, etc. 

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Chocolate-Filled Vegan Oat Muffins

Chocolate-Filled Vegan Oat Muffins
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup whole grain oat blend
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 large bananas, mashed
1/2 cup maple syrup or molasses or agave
1/4 cup aquafaba
2 Tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chocolate of choice
Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 12 hole muffin tin with paper or silicone liners.
In a large bowl, stir together the first six dry ingredients.
In a separate bowl, stir together the next five wet ingredients.
Add to dry and mix just to combine.
Fill each cup halfway using half of the total batter.
Melt the chocolate and place a generous tablespoon in each muffin cup. Top with remaining batter.
Bake for about 20-25 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Unmold from muffin tin. Delicious when served warm!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Layered Chocolate Coconut Cups

This is an easy, attractive and tasty vegan dessert I came up with - layering the delicious flavors of chocolate and coconut, with pleasing layered textures. They can be made in regular or mini-sized muffin cups. 
Layered Chocolate Coconut Cups
3 Tablespoons melted coconut butter 

1/4 cup tahini
2 Tablespoons melted coconut oil
2 Tablespoons agave or maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 Tablespoon melted coconut oil
1 Tablespoon melted coconut butter
2 Tablespoons agave or maple syrup
3 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
shredded coconut

Line a 12-hole muffin tin with silicone liners.
Place a scant teaspoon of melted coconut butter in the bottom of each liner, tilting it to cover the entire bottom. Place in the freezer.

Blend together the tahini, oil, agave, and vanilla until smooth. Place about a tablespoon in each muffin cup and smooth it out. Freeze. 

Blend together the oil, butter, agave, and cocoa until smooth. Place about a teaspoon in each muffin cup and smooth over the filling. Sprinkle with coconut. Freeze.

This easily store in the freezer, and only need to stand at room temperature for a couple of minutes before eating. They can also be served at room temperature, but will become quite soft. A different nut or seed butter can be substituted; sunflower seed butter would be good, others may add stronger flavors. 

Monday, February 15, 2016

Vegan Citrus Cheesecakes

Vegan Citrus Cheesecakes
1 1/4 cup raw cashews
1 lemon
1 lime
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup agave

Place the cashews in a small saucepan. Cover with water. Bring to a boil and simmer gently until almost all water has evaporated. Drain, then transfer to a food processor or ideally a Vitamix blender. 
Slice the hard ends off the lemon and lime, then cut into pieces. Add to the cashews.
Process mixture until very smooth, then add vanilla and agave (more or less, to taste. Chill until firm, or serve immediately as a cheesecake dip, but it will be slightly warm and the texture and 'cheesecakeyness' will be much better once cold.

I put my batter into six muffin cups, lined with melted chocolate. You will be amazed at how much the texture is like cheesecake. The taste is similar too, maybe not as 'cheesy' but close. This is a good basic vegan cheesecake recipe, and can be flavored in a variety of ways - chocolate, cinnamon, berries, etc. 

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Valentine Chocolate Mousse Cups

Happy Valentine's Day! I made a few sweet chocolate treats for my Valentine. Decorated with hearts, X's, and O's of course. Today I will feature the chocolate mousse cups.
Surprisingly Healthy Vegan Chocolate Mousse
1 package (350-450 grams) silken tofu (I used the shelf-stable soft variety)
1/2 cup cooked or canned chickpeas, well rinsed
10 large dates, pitted
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
agave or maple syrup, to taste, if desired

Process all ingredients together in a food processor until smooth. You can serve the mousse as is or refrigerated, or partially frozen (either freeze briefly or freeze for longer storage and let thaw slightly before serving). I made chocolate bases in muffin cups to serve my mousse, but bowls or glasses work just as well.

A vegan Valentine's treat that is healthy, free of refined sugars, and high in protein! But you're Valentine will never be able to tell!

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Valentine Amuse Bouche

Tonight for service in the restaurant (we are not open Sundays) we went kind of Valentine's themed for our menus. I was on the garde-manger station, and part of my responsibilities was to create the amuse-bouche for the night. I definitely wanted to go with something heart-shaped, something red or pink, and something decadent. Here is what I devised:
- Heart Shaped Cranberry Cracker
- Foie Gras Ganache
- Honeyed Bakeapple
- Candied Pistachio

Friday, February 12, 2016

Roasted Tomato Cornbread

Roasted Tomato Cornbread
2 cups roasted tomato bisque
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup canola oil
2 cups cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose (plain) flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 9x13 inch rectangular pan with parchment paper.
Stir all ingredients together until smooth.
Spread batter in prepared pan.
Bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Allow to cool slightly, then cut.

This is another take on my basic vegan cornbread recipe. I had some leftover tomato bisque around so used that as the liquid. This made the bread a nice color and added flavor. Served here with a spicy aioli. 

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Roasted Asparagus and Butternut Squash Risotto

Roasted Asparagus and Butternut Squash Risotto
olive oil
diced onion
arborio rice
white wine
boiling water
smoked paprika
ground turmeric
table salt
cracked black pepper
roasted asparagus (seasoned with oil, salt, pepper)
roasted butternut squash (cut into large cubes)
truffle oil
*quantities depend on the total quantity you wish to make and your personal tastes

Heat oil in a wide saucepn over medium heat. Cook onion without browning until transulcent. Add rice and cook for a few minutes to toast. Pour in some wine and cook au sec. Then add the water, a little at a time, stirring until rice absorbs almost all the liquid. Then add more until rice is cooked to desired tenderness. Season to taste. Ensure the asparagus and squash are hot and stir them in, taste and adjust seasonings. Finish with truffle oil.

This is an upscaled risotto recipe I cooked for a crowd. I wanted to make it vegan, but didn't have any vegetable stock on hand. I discovered using water works as long as you season the dish well. The saffron, tumeric, and squash add a nice orange color. You could of course use whatever vegetables tickle your fancy, but I like the combo of these too. The saffron and truffle oil can be expensize so they can be omitted, but they really help to upscale this meatless dish.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Basil Shortbread

Basil Shortbread. This idea came about when I was trying to make shortbread cookies that were naturally a vibrant green color. Basil seemed like a great idea. I have seen basil used in desserts before as well. Fresh basil works in these cases, but once you cook the basil, it develops a distinctive savory flavor. It wasn't a total fail though, because I decided to use the shortbread for a canapé base. It has excellent flavor, the perfect texture, and is a beautiful color. To complete the canapé, I topped it with a crumbles feta cheese torte I had made, a piping of tahini tamari sauce, and a cherry tomato half. 

Basil Shortbread
2/3 cup granulated (white) sugar
1 large handful basil
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups all-purpose (plain) flour

Preheat oven to 325F. Line an 8x8-inch square pan with parchment paper.
In a food processor, process the sugar and basil until the sugar is green and no large pieces of basil remain. This creates basil sugar and is quite tasty - I think it would be nice to rim cocktail glasses. It doesn't have that 'cooked' basil flavor yet. Add the butter and cream until smooth. Then add the salt and flour and pulse until just combined.
Press dough evenly into prepared pan. Bake for about 20 minutes until edges are just beginning to turn brown. Cool, then cut into squares. 

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Basic Crêpes and Salmon Roll

Happy Pancake Tuesday! Today I am going to share my basic crêpe (thin pancake) recipe and a good use for it!
Basic Crêpe Batter
2 cups milk
2 large eggs
1 cup all-purpose (plain) flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon granulated (white) sugar, for sweet crêpes, optional
Add dry spices or finely chopped fresh herbs, as desired 

Whisk together the milk and eggs, then whisk in the dry ingredients. Batter may seem lumpy, even if you sift the flour before hand. I nthis case, you can use a handheld immersion blender to smooth it out, or pass it through a sieve. You can also use it as is, if you don't mind a few lumps. It may seem thin, but crêpe batter should be thinner than pancake batter. If you think it is too thin, add a little more flour.

To cook, use a well-greased skillet, being sure to wipe out any excess oil. You should not need to grease it between each crêpe, just at the beginning. Pour one tablespoon to 1/4 cup batter in the skillet (depending on the size skillet and how big of a crêpe you would like). Cook until set, flip, and cook briefly again. Like all crêpe recipes, the first crêpe usually doesn't turn out great - use it to test the flavor!

For the appetizer pictured here, I combined some poached salmon with mayo, whole grain mustard, chopped dill, and a little lemon juice. I spread it on the crêpes, rolled them up, and sliced thinly, sort of like a jelly roll. I served it with some cucumber spaghetti, sweet mayo, and a sprig of dill.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Apricot Almond Coconut Balls

Apricot Almond Coconut Balls
2 cups dried apricots
1 cup blanched almonds
2 cups toasted coconut
2 Tablespoons julienned fresh basil
pinch cayenne pepper
splash hot sauce
crushed pistachios (peeled)
sea salt
garnish, such as a beet chip, optional

In a small saucepan, cover the apricots with water and bring to a boil. Simmer gently until apricots are softened, drain well, and cool. Add apricots to a food processor with almonds, coconut, basil, cayenne, and hot sauce. Pulse until well combined and no large chunks remain. Roll into small balls (chill first if mixture is too stick). Sprinkle or roll balls with pistachios mixed with the salt, and place garnish on top. Refrigerate until serving. Keeps very well refrigerated or frozen, and does not become too sticky at room temperature.

This is a quick, easy to make, easy to serve hors d'oeuvre recipe I came up with. It makes approximately  dozen small balls. If you want them as a dessert, omit the basil, cayenne, and hot sauce, and add a little cinnamon and a drizzle of maple syrup. These are very healthy, little vegan energy bites - a great, bright, kind alternative to bacon-wrapped scallops or deviled eggs. If you prefer, the mixture can be pressed into a pan, briefly frozen, and cut into energy bars!

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Rustic Sweet Potato Pistachio Bread

Rustic Sweet Potato Pistachio Bread
approximately two medium sweet potatoes
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 Tablespoons tahini or nut butter
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 Tablespoon sweetener of choice (blackstrap molasses, maple syrup, sugar, etc.)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 - 1/2 cup chopped pistachios (peeled if desired)
nondairy milk or water, as needed
First cook the sweet potatoes. Peeled sweet potatoes are best for this recipe, though when I can I do like to eat the peel as well - it is full of fiber!
I think roasted sweet potatoes are best for this recipe as they caramelize in the oven, but boiled, steamed, or microwaved will work just as well. They just need to be cooked until they are soft enough to mash. A few chunks are ok, it doesn't have to be completely smooth. This step can be done in advance or make use of leftover sweet potato.

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix until no dry flour remains. Mixture should have the consistency of wet drop biscuits, if it is too dry, add liquid a little at a time. Pat mixture onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. If you want a less rustic look, pat it into an 8-inch round pan, or try an 8x8 inch square pan. Or drop in individual biscuits if you wish (baking time will be shorter). Bake at 400F for abut 30 minutes or until bread is cooked through. Great warm or cold!

This is a really easy and nutritious quickbread or biscuit recipe. I love the combination of sweet potato and pistachio, making the bread both moist and crunchy! It's also vegan.

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Vegan Opera Cake

Vegan Opera Cake
1/2 cup all-purpose (plain) flour
2 Tablespoons granulated (white) sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
pinch salt
water, as needed
10 Medjool dates, pitted
3 Tablespoons mocha flavoring
1/2 cup icing sugar
2 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1-2 Tablespoons maple syrup
icing sugar

SPONGE CAKE BASE: Mix together the dry ingredients, then add enough water to form a batter slightly thicker than pancake batter. Spread into an even rectangle on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake at 350F for 10-15 minutes until firm and just golden. Cool.
MOCHA FILLING: Soak the dates in hot water until softened (or very briefly boil them). Drain well, then purée all ingredients together in a food processor until smooth.
CHOCOLATE GANACHE: Whisk cocoa and syrup together until smooth.
GLAZE: Mix together just enough to make a thick, but pourable glaze.

To assemble: Cut the cake into rectangles, you should get 6-8 equal pieces with some scraps. Spread 4 of the pieces with mocha filling. Stack together (fillings not facing each other). Then put a plain cake rectangle on top and top with chocolate ganache. Drizzle with glaze.

The other day at a function, we needed a vegan dessert in a pinch. Chef suggested fruit - but I think vegans deserve something just as good, and similar, to what everyone else is having. So I checked out the desserts, concluded it was something like Opera Cake, then whipped up a similar version in about 30 minutes with no recipe. Its just enough for two servings, and looks and tastes quite similar to the real thing. Just some guidelines: the cake should be spongy and a bit tricky to cut, the filling very thick, the ganache shiny and smooth. Of course, you can certainly serve it with fruit (and sans the whipped cream).

Friday, February 05, 2016

Ferrero Rocher Bars

Happy World Nutella Day 2016! In past years, I have gone all out making multiple nutella-based treats. Sometimes I just go on nutella sprees and make nutella goodies throughout the year. If you type 'nutella' into the search bar of my blog, you will find many, many recipes and creations!

Nutella, the delicious chocolate hazelnut spread that goes well with nearly any sweet thing, deserves to have its very own day to celebrate it. In case you are wondering, no, commercial nutella is not vegan, but it is very easy to make homemade vegan versions. I even made one here: You can also buy vegan versions. For world nutella day this year, I made these chocolate hazelnut bars. They are not made with actual nutella, but rather are made with the ingredients of nutella; chocolate and hazelnuts. This saves a step of making your own nutella, and also makes these bars vegan, gluten-free, and delicious!

Ferrero Rocher Bars
2 cups ground hazelnuts
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup maple syrup reduction
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegan caramel sauce
1 cup chopped hazelnuts
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 9x13 inch rectangular pan with parchment paper. Mix together the first five ingredients together well. Pour into the pan. Drizzle the caramel sauce over top. Sprinkle with the nuts and salt. Bake for about 30 minutes. The middle will still seem almost runny, but the edges will begin to look set. Do not try to cut these until they cool completely. I stuck my pan in the freezer before cutting to firm them up.

These squares turned out quite ooey gooey and sticky, but I LOVED the taste. My taste testers told me the taste just like those delicious Ferrero Rocher (chocolate hazelnut) chocolates, and I agree! A disclaimer: I came up with these bars on a whim, and really didn't measure ingredients. Therefore, I cannot guarantee the success of this recipe - it's really just estimates. Sometimes random experiments turn out the best, if you can get them to work out!!!

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Sesame Biscuits - For Vegan

The other night I was working at a buffet for 25 people. Our menu was set for Beet Soup or Green Salad as an appetizer, Beef, Mashed Potatoes, and Vegetable Medley as a main course, and Opera Cake with Crème Anglasie as dessert. What we didn't know in advance was there was one vegan in the crowd. We made the beet soup vegan, and kept the cheese out of some of the salad, but the rest was non-vegan. I was put in charge of the vegan meal. I arranged for some vegetables and potatoes to be made without butter. I made a protein and a copy-cat dessert, and even ensured my hors d'oeuvres were vegan. But a lot of people forget about the bread that starts off the meal. It is a small thing, and not everyone goes for the breads, but it is still nice for everyone to have an option. Especially when it is fresh, homemade bread, it is nice to offer something not just thawed from the freezer. We were unsure if the rolls contained milk and/or eggs and/or butter, but presumed they likely did. So I whipped up some vegan biscuits, and even some spreads as a butter alternative. Here is my recipe.
Sesame Tahini Biscuits
1 cup all-purpose (plain) flour
1/2 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon granulated (white) sugar
1 Tablespoon black sesame seeds
additional spiced or dried herbs, as desired
3 Tablespoons tahini (hopefully you have some thing, oily tahini and not thick chalky tahini
1/3 cup water

Blend together the flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, seeds, and any spices you desire. Stir in the tahini and water to form a soft dough, adding slightly more water or flour if needed. It should be a very easy dough to work with. Pat out to about 12 inch thick and cut into eight rounds.
Bake at 400F for about ten minutes until golden and tops are crisp. 
Pictured here served with hummus, onion marmalade, and pesto.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Easiest Pancakes

Easiest Pancakes
  1. 1/3 cup fruit purée
  2. 1/2 cup grain
  3. 1/4 cup liquid
  4.  sweetener of choice, to taste
  5. flavoring, to taste
  6. optional add-ins
  7. salt, just a pinch, if desired
  1. Mashed banana, applesauce, mashed avocado
  2. whole wheat flour, rolled oats, multigrain hot cereal blend
  3. non-dairy milk, water
  4. sugar, brown sugar, maple syrup, molasses, agave
  5. vanilla extract, almond extract, coffee extract
  6. chocolate chips, blueberries, chopped nuts, raisins
Combine all ingredients together well. You can do this by hand for a pancake with more texture, or use a blender or hand blender for a much smoother batter. Cook as regular pancakes (in a frying pan or on a skillet, use oil or spray, make them mini or big).
My Recipe:
  1. Mashed banana
  2. hot cereal blend
  3. almond milk
I mixed by hand to retain the texture of the cereal, made them miniature, and topped with peanut butter and molasses.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Chocolate Coconut Milk Fudge

Chocolate Coconut Milk Fudge
1 can full-fat coconut milk, refrigerated upside-down overnight
2 Tablespoons coconut oil, liquid
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup icing sugar
coconut, shredded or flaked, if desired
Scoop out all of the solid cream from the coconut milk. If you don't have much, take some of the thicker liquid as well. Then whip it with an electric mixer to thicken it up. Stir in remaining ingredients. Judge the consistency, you may want to add more cocoa for a darker, less sweet fudge, more icing sugar for a thicker and sweeter fudge, or more coconut milk if your fudge is too thick. You can stir in coconut, or sprinkle on top. Freeze until firmer. This is a freezer fudge, meaning you store it in the freezer and eat it straight from the freezer. The coconut milk retains it from freezing hard as a rock, and it gets too soft just refrigerated. 

Monday, February 01, 2016

Spiced Nut Cracker App

 The Full Name: Spiced Nut Cracker with Coconut Herb Crema, Pickled Apricots, Beetroot Chip, Toasted Coconut, Crisp Parsley, and Cayenne Dust.

Yeah, that is a lot going on in one little hors d'oeuvre. This is an idea I came up, combining several different flavors, colors, and textures. They compliment and contrast each other for a pleasing bite on the palate. Here is a closer look at the components: 

Spiced Nut Cracker: From yesterday's post, cut out in flower shapes
Coconut Herb Crema: Coconut cream blended with minced herbs
Pickled Apricots: Dried apricots cooking in pickling liquor and halved
Beetroot Chips: Thinly sliced, dried out beets
Toasted Coconut: Oven-toasted coconut
Crisp Parsely: Deep-fried parsley sprigs
Cayenne Dust: Sieved cayenne pepper