Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Pillowy Pumpkin Cookies - vegan

Before we dive into today's treat, I just wanted to let you all know that I've been collecting fun ideas for December (both Christmas and Hannukah) on Pinterest. You don't need to be a member to poke around, but if you want to like, or comment, or repin things, then you'll need to join
If you have followed along lately, you are not surprised by a pumpkin recipe. This one is sweet and simple, and the results are comfort in a muffin-like cookie form. You can also add chocolate chips to up the ante, and I've been thinking about trying some dried cranberries next time. Because there will definitely be a next time. And I will definitely double the recipe.

Pillowy Pumpkin Cookies - vegan
adapted from Real Simple

3 Tbsp vegan butter at room temp
1/3 C brown sugar
1/4 C sugar
1/2 pumpkin puree (from a can or fresh)
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 tsp Ener G egg  replacer
2 Tbsp water
1 C flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice

Preheat oven to 375F. Line your baking sheets with parchment paper or silicon mat.

In a medium bowl, cream the butter and sugars together. Add the pumpkin, vanilla, and egg replacer and beat until combined. Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and pumpkin pie spice.

Drop heaping spoonfuls of dough onto prepared cookie sheet about 2 inches apart. Bake for about 10 minutes. Cookies will be slightly puffed and muffin-like in texture. Remove from oven, allow to cool a few minutes on the baking tray, and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Yield: about 16 cookies

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Red Bean Chili - vegan & gluten free

It's the season for hibernating around here. It's the season when we bundle up - I wear a minimum of 3 layers these days - and wear galoshes with knee socks. It's the season when it's dark when we wake up and dark by tea time. It's the season when couch blankets are always in use.

It's also the season when I want to cook and bake and store my concoctions for winter. You know, in case of Snowpocalypse 2012. I've got a freezer with shelves of homemade tomato sauce and gnocchi and pumpkin bread. So chili is a logical step to me. It's warm, comforting, freezable, and stick-to-your-ribs.

This recipe turned out really well. It sounds like a lot of chili powder, and it is, but it's not spicy, unless you choose hot chili powder. The chili+cocoa add depth and the vinegar takes away some of the sweetness of the tomatoes.

Red Bean Chili - vegan & gluten free
adapted from Smitten Kitchen and my mom

1 or 2 large onions, diced
6 or so cloves of garlic, minced
2 cans dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed (most recipes don't say to do this, but my mom does. so I do)
2 cans light red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 28oz can diced tomatoes
1 14.5oz can stewed tomatoes
1/3 C chili powder
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa
1-2 tsp salt, to taste
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 C frozen corn
1 C chopped frozen spinach

In a large dutch oven or other heavy pan, cook chopped onion in a small amount of olive oil over medium heat until the onion starts to become translucent (approx. 5 min). Stir periodically. Add minced garlic, and cook another minute or two. Stir a few times. Stir in beans, tomatoes, spices, cocoa, and vinegar. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to let it simmer.

At this point, add in the corn and spinach if using (I know spinach isn't very chili-y, but it's good for you and whatnot), and bring the whole thing to a boil, stirring occasionally. Lower the heat, cover, and allow to simmer for at least 30 minutes. Even better would be to simmer it for about 1 1/4 hours until it reaches a desired consistency, stirring occasionally. If it is too thin, take off the lid for a while to allow evaporation.

It always tastes better the next day, so if you cook it the day you eat it, let it sit for a few hours and reheat it; the chili will be better than right out of the pot.

Serve over rice, potatoes, squash, or right in a bowl. Top with shredded cheese, diced onion, sour cream, jalapeno, salsa, etc. to dress it up. A green salad is a good accompaniment, as is good bread or cornbread.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

How to Roast Pumpkin Seeds

This will be my last post this week, but I'm leaving you with a quick lesson on toasting your pumpkin seeds. Because you've already baked your pumpkin and you're going to make that pie, right? Right. Roasting the seeds is very simple, and hardly a recipe.

I hope you have a good Thanksgiving with friends and family. If you're still looking for inspiration, try here or here or maybe here. And, if I do say so myself, these cinnamon buns and chocolate cake would also be lovely.

How To Roast Pumpkin Seeds 

Once you've scooped out the seeds and goop from your pumpkin, separate the seeds from the strings.

Preheat your oven to 325F. In a small pot, bring a few cups of water to a boil. Add the seeds and boil for about 10 minutes. Remove from heat, drain off the water, and pat the seeds dry with a towel. Toss the seeds with a tablespoon or two of your favorite vegetable oil and spread them in a single layer on a cookie sheet.

Bake for 25ish minutes, or until they look slightly toasted. Allow them to cool and store in an airtight container. Use them for garnishing salads or just for snacking.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Pumpkin Pie - dairy free

Since it's Thanksgiving this week, I thought, for once, I'd get up an appropriate recipe ahead of time. Not the day of or the week after, which is less than helpful.

Yesterday I showed you how I cooked my pumpkin, and today I'll tell you how I made it into delicious, delicious pie. If you try to eat vegan or dairy free, you may have noticed that pumpkin pie is tough. Almost all "regular" recipes I've seen use condensed milk or evaporated milk, and there's not an intuitive substitute that I can think of. However, in Devil's Food Cake Murder, I found a substitution recipe. The book itself is not good, but the recipes are mouthwatering. Anyway, thanks to this book, I was able to make a dairy free pumpkin pie without using tofu. and it was DELICIOUS. Seriously.

go forth and make pie.

Substitute for Sweetened Condensed Milk
2 eggs
1 C brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 Tbsp flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

Beat the eggs together until they are a uniform color. Add the brown sugar and mix in well. Add vanilla and beat in. Add the flour and beat for another minute and make sure it's well mixed. Add the baking powder and salt and mix in.

This makes enough to substitute or one 14-oz can of sweetened condensed milk.

Pumpkin Pie - dairy free
1 1/3 C smooth pumpkin
1 batch substitute for sweet condensed milk
1 egg
1 1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp cloves
1 C hot water

one 9 inch pie crust- vegan, gluten free, homemade, store bought, etc.

Preheat oven to 375F. Beat all ingredients together until just smooth. Pour into a prepared 9 inch crust and bake for 50-60 minutes. It's normal if the center is still somewhat jiggly, as it will set as it cools.

Monday, November 21, 2011

How to Cook a Pumpkin

Last week, I wanted to make a pumpkin pie as a rehearsal for Thanksgiving, and this year I wanted to make it from a real pumpkin, not a can. I had a sugar pie pumpkin to use (I've seen them both at Trader Joe's and farmers' markets, fyi), but I've never actually cooked a pumpkin before. So I did a little internet research and combined a few techniques I read about to bake my own little pumpkin.

Here's what I did, but there's definitely lots of other methods out there, including microwaving if you need to save some time.

How to Bake a Pumpkin

1. Preheat your oven to 350F.
2. Without trying to cut through the stem, cut the pumpkin in half. Use an ice cream scooper to scoop out the seeds. Save them for roasting!
3. Place the pumpkin halves face down in an oven-proof dish. Add enough water so that there's about half an inch covering the bottom of the pan. Cover pumpkin with foil.
4. Cook the pumpkin for about 90 minutes, or until tender.
5. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

To puree for use in baking, scoop out cooked flesh and blend in a food processor or blender. Alternatively, smash with a potato masher. If you're not using the pumpkin right away, refrigerate or freeze.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Cranberry Kitchen Cookies - vegan

As I mentioned, Mr Official Taster and I moved into some new digs a couple weeks ago. Once enough boxes were unpacked and homes found for cutting boards and cake pans, I was able to start cooking dinners. That was a good first step to making this little house feel like a home, but it really took baking to make the kitchen feel like mine. I'm not sure if it's the routine of measuring and creaming, or the dance of finding bowls and spoons and dropping dough onto sheets, or the warmth of the oven, or the smell of delicious, or even the practical side of figuring out my cabinets need to be reorganized, but, somehow, baking changes a kitchen from one that I'm borrowing to one that is my domain.

Honestly, I liked these cookies a whole lot more than I expected to. I was wary of adding fresh cranberries, but there's enough sugar to counteract the tart, and the orange juice adds some nice dimension. They could certainly handle some orange or lemon zest, too. I think these may go into the regular cookie rotation, and maybe even into the Christmas repertoire. 

Cranberry Kitchen Cookies - Vegan
adapted from All Recipes

1/2 C vegan butter*
1 C sugar
3/4 C brown sugar
1/4 C + 2 Tbsp orange juice
1 1/5 tsp Ener-G egg replacer (equivalent to 1 egg)
2 Tbsp water
3 C flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
2 C fresh cranberries, roughly chopped**

Preheat your oven to 375F. Grease or line cookie sheets.

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugars. Mix in the orange juice, egg replacer, and water. Stir in the flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Using a spoon and your fingers, form rough balls of dough and place them on your prepared cookie sheet.

Bake for 10-15 minutes (14 minutes was my sweet spot), or a little longer for crispier cookies. Let cookies cool on the sheet for a few minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

Makes approximately 3 dozen. maybe 4? we were eating them before I counted them.

*if you use regular butter, add 1/4 tsp salt at the same time you mix in the baking powder and baking soda

**I measured about 2 C of whole cranberries and then chopped them. If you want to mix it up and add nuts (I think hazelnuts sound good) or chocolate chips or something else yummy, I would use less cranberries.

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Wedding - Part I

I know I promised some stories of my busy October, but in order to do that, I have to first start in July. On July 22, 2011 Mr. Official Taster and I got married (yay!) on the beach in Southern California. It was an intimate affair- only immediate family attended (if you don't count the strangers on the beach!) -and it certainly fit the definition of "short and sweet."

The ceremony was really, really short. But I loved it. We wrote the whole thing ourselves, and a good friend officiated. What I remember is that he basically said "welcome" and "you may now kiss the bride." He said some other stuff, too, but I couldn't tell you what. Although I can tell you that I vetoed the whole "does anyone object?" part, not because I thought someone would, but because I just don't like it.

We promised, of course, to love each other, but also to fill our shelves with books, buy flowers, hold hands and be nice to each other. We also promised to have and to hold each other much the same way people have been doing for hundreds of years all over the globe. Having that feeling of continuity within our unique ceremony was really important to me. We laughed, he cried, but I didn't, much to my surprise.

Following our ceremony, and some pictures, we had dinner at one of our favorite restaurants with about 25 friends and family followed by delicious local pie and adorably delectable cupcakes from a a local bakery.

It was wonderful to catch up with friends we hadn't seen since we moved, and, frankly, to celebrate us. Dinner was a relaxed, couple-hour-long affair. We tried to talk with all of our guests, but, inevitably, felt like we didn't have enough time with any one individual. I'm pretty certain that's normal.

Finally, after the ceremony, photos, dinner, and drinks at a couple of bars, a friend drove us back to our B&B. After a wonderful, joyful, important day, we were able to relax and just be alone with each other. We talked about who we chatted with and how things went, and generally reveled in the beautiful day. I felt so lucky to have family (immediate and extended) who put up with our non-traditional wedding day and friends who came to dinner to celebrate with us.

You may be wondering why I titled this post "the" instead of "our." In the past year or so, I've become a devoted reader of A Practical Wedding (and I think you should be too, even if you're not planning a wedding), and one of its (many good) messages is that your wedding is not just about you. Not only do I think that's true, I think it's not talked about enough on most traditional wedding blogs. 

Anyway, all weddings, and, I think, especially weddings that don't follow a "traditional" or the "Wedding Industrial Complex's"idea of normal, require a little extra give from those we love. I know that we hurt some people with our choices, but we tried our best to balance what we wanted, what we needed, and what others wanted or expected. So while it was technically OT+my wedding, it was also our parents' and siblings' and friends' etc. etc. etc. "Our" just seems like too little of a word to encompass the community that it refers to here. 

Several of my (unmarried) friends have asked me if it felt any different to be married. At first, I didn't think so. But their queries made me think about it, and my answer changed to "yes." It seems like a little thing: I like having a respectable title for this other person in my life. I've never liked the term "boyfriend,"and "fiance" never really grew on me. I'm not comfortable yet with "husband," but it's a handy term. It sounds right to plead out of a social event because you need to spend time with your husband, or leave early from work to pick up your husband from the airport/doctor/county fair. Saying those same things about your boyfriend just doesn't sound as legitimate. In the general public eye, a "boyfriend" is just not as important or worth scheduling around as a husband. 

That may seem like a silly benefit at first. But consider all the other people who don't get to have that official spousal term to use. I've always been pro-marriage equality or gay marriage or however you phrase it. But getting married actually made me feel more strongly about it because I got to get married. I'm glad to see the tide seems to be turning, but there's still miles to go before we sleep.

What did this day in July have to do with a busy October?  Here's a hint: lots of flights were involved. and more friends, family, love, and mimosas.

For those of you who care about these things:
I put the flowers together at the local farmers' market a few days before the wedding. That's where the henna came from too.
My dress came from Ann Taylor.
We got our rings from the wonderful people at Minter & Richter.
Our fabulous photographer, Riz, is a former colleague of Mr Official Taster and I can not say enough good things about him (and his wife! she helped too). See more of his work here.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Sunday Flowers

I have been away. awhile. whoops

I mentioned a couple weeks ago a month ago (where did the time go?!) that there were some big events in October that were making my brain track lots of details. Well, they were great, and I promise some more details and lots of photos soon. However, this past week Mr. Official Taster and I moved apartments, so it's been continuously a little crazy for a month now, and we still don't have internet in our new place, which makes talking to all you lovely people slightly more challenging. We get it on Wednesday (fingers crossed!), so at that point, I will be out of excuses, and hopefully in possession of some of the photos I want to share.

So you'll just have to be patient a little longer. thank you :)

Hope you're having a wonderful weekend!
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