VeganMoFo and Paula Deen

Hello, veggie loving friends!

Tomorrow kicks off Vegan Month of Food–a project that involves hundreds of bloggers writing about vegan food every day throughout the month of October. Typically, VeganMoFo bloggers choose a theme, like a certain ingredient or type of dish, to guide their posts. Since this is my first year MoFo’ing, I’ve decided to have both NO THEME and ALL THE THEMES, simultaneously. 

You can expect. . . 

  • At least one original recipe each week
  • A vegan dining guide for my remarkably vegan unfriendly local area
  • An NYC vegan dining guide or round-up from my trip later in October
  • A restaurant review or two
  • A cookbook review or two
  • Generalized advice for new vegans/vegetarians
  • Haikus about sprouts, if I run out of further inspiration

and the project I’m most looking forward to. . . 

“Veganizing” at least one Paula Deen recipe each week. For my Paula Deen Goes Vegan project, I’ll choose one recipe from the queen of butter’s website or television show and attempt to replicate it using only plant based ingredients. To make things more challenging, I’ve decided the recipe must include at least two varieties of animal products. I’m hoping this project will 1) help folks realize that vegan food and comfort food are not mutually exclusive and 2) help me further my ambition of growing up to be a (a less diabetic), vegan Paula Deen. 

I’ll also be posting recipes for a lot of lighter, healthier fare this month, if you’re on a low-Paula diet, as most human beings should be. 

There are some great bloggers participating in this year’s Vegan Month of Food. Make sure to check out the blog roll! I’m looking forward to the next thirty days of sharing the veggie love! 

 

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Mexican Pumpkin Cookies

Between the months of September and January, I have an unhealthy obsession with pumpkin. I like to bake outside the pumpkin pie box and add the pureed squash to almost anything: pumpkin bread, pumpkin cake, pumpkin scones, and my favorite—pumpkin cookies.

In this recipe, I pay homage to the pumpkin’s culinary heritage and add a little bit of Mexican flair. The inclusion of cayenne pepper, chile, and super dark chocolate make them “Mexicana” but, as always, you can adjust or omit the spices to suit your tastes. Graham and I are both recovering from nasty colds, so the more cayenne the better, I say! These are (very loosely) adapted from the “Autumn Clouds” recipe in The Vegan Cookie Connoisseur, which I helped test before its publication. Make these for your next dia de los muertos party and be the talk of the cemetery.  

Pumpkin Cookies Mexicana

Ingredients

1 cup pureed pumpkin (fresh or from a can)
1 tablespoon maple syrup
2/3 cup canola oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract (use real Mexican vanilla, if you can find it)
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 cups + 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1/8 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 cup dark chocolate chunks

Spice Blend:

1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp. chile powder (make sure it’s just chiles–no garlic, sugar, or onion powder added)
1/4 tsp ginger

Method

Preheat your oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Whisk together the pumpkin, brown sugar, oil, maple syrup and vanilla in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, sift the flour, salt, baking powder and spice blend. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet and mix until combined, then fold in the chocolate chunks.

Drop the dough by large spoonfuls onto the cookie sheet and use your hand to gently flatten the tops. Bake for about 12 minutes, until the bottoms are slightly golden. Allow to cool 2-3 minutes on the cookie sheet, then transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

These are particularly good the next day!

Vegan Brownie Round-Up

Brownies are the perfect, all-purpose dessert. Portable, chocolatey and and almost universally loved. Seriously, if you don’t like brownies, ask for a refund on your tastebuds.

For the first few years I was vegan, I searched for a recipe that would replicate the taste and texture of my favorite, fudgy treat, but it remained elusive. Too many vegan brownies are cakey, crumbly or (oh, the horror) dry. Too many well meaning vegans try to make brownies something they were never meant to be–healthy. So, several years ago, I made it my personal quest to scour every cookbook, blog and vegan recipe site in all the land in search of the perfect, fudgy vegan brownie. Baking and eating all of those chocolatey treats was a tough job, but I nobly bore the burden for vegan-kind.

The following three brownies came out on top. Beside the obvious, they all have one very important quality in common: lots of fat! The secret to a great brownie is not to skimp on the oil and refined sugar. By all means, eat your beans and your whole grains and your applesauce, but keep them far away from my desserts.

1. Super Fudgy Brownies via Northern Veg

     This recipe requires just slightly more effort than dumping a mix into a bowl, and delivers fabulous results. With a slightly crispy top crust and  chewy bite , these brownies are reminiscent of the kind found at school bake sales and church potlucks everywhere.  These are at their fudgiest after a couple hours in the fridge. 

2.The Best Vegan Brownies Ever by Bread and Honey

    I think these are a little richer and more high maintenance than your average brownie. The brown sugar gives it a deeper flavor and a very moist texture that blows away the competition when it comes to taste. This recipe uses a flour-water roux as the binder, which helps keep the finished product from falling apart. Pro-tip: make sure to sift the flour first to avoid biting in to an unpleasant white clump later.

3. Brooklyn Brownie (Cupcakes) adapted from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World by Isa Moskowitz

   Technically, this is a cupcake recipe, but it’s more like a brownie masquerading as a cupcake at a fancy dress party. It is slightly cakier than I  prefer my brownies, but I love the complexity that the cherry preserves add to the chocolate flavor. Try these guys dusted with a little powdered sugar or a thin layer of frosting. To make them as brownies, double the recipe and spread in a 9 x 13 glass baking pan, and add about 10 minutes on to the baking time. Let cool completely before serving. 

Do you have a favorite vegan brownie recipe?  I’d love to try it!

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

Early September is a strange, sweet time in my kitchen. We’re still working on eating or freezing those last kernels of summer corn and zucchini, as richer winter squashes and crisp apples start sneaking their way into the produce basket.

We’re still a little ways off from peak butternut squash season, so I squealed in delight when I saw a few local squash on sale earlier this week. My mind started dancing with the delicious roasting and soup making in my future.

Typically, I make my butternut squash soups by roasting the squash in the oven with a good coasting of olive oil and salt, before simmering it on the stove with sauteed onions, garlic, broth and other spices. Since I teach dance through most afternoons and evenings, I decided to see if I could achieve a similar result using my slow cooker.

The results? Magic. The slow cooking process really gave the flavors a chance to mingle in a way you don’t usually get from soup fresh off the stove. I was worried the soup might turn out too sweet due to the squash sugars becoming more caramelized, so I added just a touch of curry to balance the flavors. If you’re not a fan of spice, you can easily leave it out and still get delicious results. This soup is perfect served on a chilly autumn evening with a loaf of crusty bread or biscuits for dunking.

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

Excuse the poor lighting–we didn’t get to eat until long after sunset!

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

Serves 4 – 6


1 lb. butternut squash, peeled and chopped into 1 inch chunks
2 tbs. olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 clove garlic
1 tablespoon curry paste or powder
1 tsp. salt (more to taste)
1 tsp. coarse ground black pepper
5 cups vegetable broth or water
3/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk (I used the shelf-stable carton variety, which is lower in fat and has a milder coconut flavor than canned.)

 

Stove top directions:

Heat the olive oil in a medium sized stock pot over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until soft (about 2 minutes). Add the garlic and saute 2-3 more minutes until the onions are translucent. Add the squash, curry paste, salt and pepper. Toss to coat the squash with oil and spices.

Add the broth or water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover, and let simmer 30 – 45 minutes until the squash is cooked through. Add the coconut milk and puree with an immersion blender (or transfer to a standing blender in batches), then simmer for an additional 10 minutes before serving. Add more salt to taste.

Slow cooker directions:

Add oil, onions, garlic, curry, salt, pepper and squash to the crock of your slow cooker. Toss to coat the squash with spices. Add broth/water and coconut milk. Cook on low for 5 hours or high for 3 hours. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup, or transfer it to a standing blender to puree in batches. Serve immediately.

Cooking and Creating

Does the world need another vegan food blog?

Probably not.

But my life does.  Cooking, baking and writing used to be creative outlets for me. In high school, I combated the stress of the SATs and college admissions essays by spending weekends in the kitchen whipping up new cookie recipes. In college, I battled social anxiety armed with a tray of vegan brownies and an expanding cookbook collection.  While pursuing a college degree and a dance career in New York, I found clichéd sanctuary in the city’s many overpriced coffee shops, where I always did my best writing (and drank the best soy lattes).

After getting married two months before my 20th birthday, I found those moments harder to come by. Writing became a way to pay the bills and, unless you are among the blessed few, the kind of writing that buys you groceries, is not often the kind of writing one does as creative release. I continued cooking and baking, but sticking to a grocery budget tighter than a hipster’s pants left little room for recreational kitchen experiments.

Now, after moving to a new town far from my beloved, expensive Manhattan streets, starting a business and having a baby, it’s time to make time. I need an outlet for no-pressure writing, cooking, creating, eating, and sharing;  a place where I can wax poetic about root vegetables, sing the wonders of scones, and defend tofu to the ends of the earth. If you’re like my husband and prefer your bacon wrapped bacon covered in bacon, stick around! I promise not to preach. No one likes a preachy vegan. Plus, there will be cookies. And everyone likes cookies.

Check back for new posts each week. Come October, expect daily recipes, product reviews, and musings on broccoli* as part of Vegan Month of Food (VeganMoFo). In the mean time, catch me on Twitter and Pinterest.

*Kidding–kind of. Broccoli is a beautiful thing.