Mucho Margarita Cupcakes

Margarita Cupcakes

These cupcakes are to die for. I am permanently converted to cupcake fandom. I am even willing to concede there are desserts without chocolate that for which it is worth getting out of bed in the morning.  Thanks to son Amnon, who has toyed with being a pastry chef since the age of 10, for taking these on and delivering! Ours came out even more beautiful than the picture in the cookbook they came from – Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, by Moskowitz and Romero. (See Tofu Crossing Trading Post for cookbook link.)

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated lime zest
1 cup soy milk or rice milk
1/4 cup canola oil
2 tablespoons tequila
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
1/3 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Margarita Icing (recipe follows)
Large crystal decorating sugar for edges of cupcakes ( 1/2 cup) [we used turbinado]

1. Preheat oven to 350 degreesF. Line muffin pan with cupcake liners.
2. In large bowl, beat together lime juicce, zest, soymilk, canola oil, tequila, vanilla and sugar. Sift in flour baking soda, baking powder and salt. Mix until batter is smooth. Fill liners three quarter os the was full and bake 20 to 22 minutes until knife or toothpick inserted into center of one comes out clean. Transfer cupcakes to a cooling rack and let cool completely before frosting; allowing cupcakes to set for an hour or two helps flavor set.

Spread icing on cubcakes, spreading all the way to the edges, then roll just the outer edges of cupcake in sugar crystals, or sprinkle on edges by hand.

Margarita Icing:
1/4 cup margarine, softened
1 tablespoons soy milk or rice milk
3 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon tequila
tiniest drop of green food color or food color paste you can manage (optional)
2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
Generous pinch kosher or coarse salt, optional
Blend margarine with a fork till soft and fluffy then stir in soy milk, lime juice, tequila and food coloring (if using, to make icing very pale green). Sift in 2 cups confectioners sugar and blend (low speed in electric mixer) till creamy and smooth.  If it’s a little too liquidy, sift in the remaining confectiners sugar, one tablespoon at a time, till a thick but spreadable consistency is reached. Refrigerate until ready for use.

I never would have guessed that tequila is so good baked! And you don’t have to remember whether to suck the lime or lick the salt first.

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Asparagus Soup

Asparagus Soup

A rich yet delicate soup – immediately dresses up your dinner for entertaining, but so simple to make you can throw it out as an every-day soup. And really easy to make. The original version of this soup is from Molly Katzen’s Moosewood Cookbook, but here it is adapted for vegans by substituting almond milk for regular milk, and earth balance for butter.

2 lbs. fresh asparagus
1 1/2 tablespoons Earth Balance vegan buttery sticks
2 cups chopped onion
3 tablespoons whole wheat flour
2 cups water
2 cups hot almond milk, (soy or rice or any combination of)
2 teaspoons dill
1 teaspoon tarragon
white pepper and salt to taste (black pepper is OK – it is just more visible)

Cut off the tough bottoms of asparagus and put into compost or soup stock bag. Cut off pretty tops for steaming and decorating soup later. Chop remaining stalks into 1/2 inch slices and saute in soup pan together with the onions in the vegan butter. When onions are translucent, sprinkle in the flour and stir for about 10 minutes.
Puree together with the liquid. I use a soup blender and if you don’t have one, you need one. (See below.)
Season blended soup with dill, tarragon, salt and pepper to taste, and top with steamed asparagus heads.

Soup blender – you will never again hold enormously heavy pans of boiling soup and slosh it into a blender, bit by bit. This is a must-have for any serious soup maker. I cannot tell you enough how amazingly easy this makes soup making! Both the soup blender and the Moosewood Cookbook have been added to Tofu Crossing Trading Post if you want to see or buy them (with permission of WordPress).

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Cauliflower and Mushroom Potpie with Black Olive Crust

Cauliflower Mushroom Potpie

It is cold, rainy and windy outside and there is nothing like coming indoors for a hot potpie. When I was a child my mother used to buy frozen Birdseye chicken potpies and put them in the oven for us to eat when we came home for lunch. (We walked back and forth from Hilltop Elementary school for lunch.) This recipe strikes a chord with that memory and then soars above it to new potpie heights.

This is probably the hands down favorite dinner in my house this winter – slightly labor intensive when contemplated, so I make it only every so often – but once I get started it is always easier than I anticipated. The recipe is lifted almost verbatim from Veganomicon by Moscowitz and Romero. Brackets indicate my changes or notes. If you are an experienced cook just read the ingredients and skip to the bottom paragraph for the skinny on throwing this together.

Cauliflower and Mushroom Potpie with Black Olive Crust
3 tablespoons vegan margarine
4 tablespoons all pupose [whole wheat] flour
2 cups rice, almond or soy milk
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon marjoram
1 teaspoon salt

Vegetable filling:
1 pound cauliflower chopped into bite size pieces [one good sized head]
2 tablespoons grapeseed or olive oil
1 leek thinly sliced
1 small carrot diced
1/2 pound crimini mushrooms, chopped
1 teaspoon sherry or white wine vinegar

1+1/4 cups all purpose [whole wheat] flour or mixture of all purpose and pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
pinch of thyme
3 tablespoons vegan margarine
4-5 tablespoons cold water

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Use a heavy oven to table dutch oven. If you don’t have one, use a large heavy bottomed pot to prepare the filling and a large deep casserole dish to bake the finished potpie.

Preparing the sauce: In a heavy bottomed saucepan over medium heat, melt the margarine and sprinkle in the flour. Stir to form a thick paste. Cook the mixture until fragrant, bubbling and lightly browned, 4-5 minutes.
Temporarily turn off the heat. Slowly pour in the soy milk, using a whisk to stir. Whisk in the dried herbs and spices, add bay leaf. TUrn on the heat to medium and cook, stirring constantly with whisk, for 8 to 10 minutes. Turn off heat, remove bay leaf, adjust salt and pepper to taste.
Preparing the vegetable filling: Heat the oil in the Dutch oven over medium heat. Add leeks, carrots and saute for 6-8 minutes, until softened. Add mushrooms and vinegar, stir and cook another 6-8 minutes until most excess liquid from mushrooms has evaporated. Add the cauliflower, stir, cover and steam for about 8 minutes. When the cauliflower has just begun to soften, remove the lid turn off the heat and set aside.
Preparing crust: (Do while cauliflower is steaming). Sift together the dry ingredients. With a pastry cutter cut in the cold margarine until crumbly, then drizzle in 3 tablespoons of cold water and mix. Drizzle in more water until soft dough forms. Fold in the olives. Pat the dough out on a lightly floured surface and roll it with a rolling pin to form a circle. Cut into diamonds to place over top of the casserole. [I keep the dough in one large circle to overlap casserole – fold it into quarters and then re-open it over the casserole. More in keeping with my picture of that childhood potpie.]
Assemble: Re-whisk the sauce, mix in with the vegetable mix, pour into your casserole pan. Put dough over top and brush with soy milk. Bake for 35-40 minutes until biscuit topping is slightly brown.  Caution – filling will be hot straight out of oven!

Phew. It is harder to copy the recipe than it is to make it. Basically you are creating a roux, cooking up some vegetables, mixing them up and placing a quick biscuit dough over the top. Do not fear. Delight will ensue. Potpie.

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Vegan Birthday Picnic

Vegan Birthday Picnic

Birthday parties for children are always a challenge – from the first mob over-run parties at home, to the wised-up take the kids somewhere else, to our new model – individual choice parties: The kids get to invite a few close friends to a party of their own design.

At the end of February my daughter Yardena turned 10 yrs. old, a big birthday for children as they embrace the double digits which will accompany them for most of their lives! Yardena decided to have a picnic – never mind that it was February and bitter cold and snow everywhere – we would have it indoors!

view out the window

We transformed the garden room with some early bulbs in pots; hyacinths, paper whites and daffodils – the scent was exquisite and brought spring into the room. A checkered tablecloth on a low coffee table heightened the picnic atmosphere.

And the menu was vegan – so I have included the menu with the “child anonymous” picture above, to give you an idea of how one can entertain using vegan items, even for young children. If Yardena hadn’t told her friends, they would never have known it was vegan food.

Yardena’s Picnic Menu

Cowboy Cookies (p. 48 Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar, Moskowitz and Romero
Chocolaty Crinkle Cookies, (p. 43 ibid)
Peanut Butter Cupcakes (p. 59 Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, Moskowitz/Romero
Organic Strawberries
Organic Blueberries
Veggie sausage with tomato and cucumber slices on toast rounds
Vegan Chicken Salad (from Whole Foods) finger sandwiches
Pots of TAZO “Calm” rosewater tea

Credits for baking both cookies go to Yardena’s brother Aryeh, who spelled Yardena’s name in icing on the chocolate cookies, and the cupcakes were baked by brother, Amnon. (Yes, I had it easy.) A good time was had by all and the children ate heartily and left well fed.

I hope this description of a vegan kid friendly birthday party will reassure anyone starting out that one can entertain and accommodate the expectations and palates of friends, even young children!

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Vegans need not, perish the thought, give up mac-n-cheese. It’s just mac-n-not-cheese. I found this recipe on the blog of fellow sci-fi writer Amy Stirling Casil – Amy writes about many things, among them eliminating dairy from her diet and losing tons of weight. Many people have this experience when becoming vegan – I am not one of them. Perhaps it’s because of recipes like this…or maybe just that chocolate comes in vegan. Here is her recipe (with her permission) and afterward my adaptations.

1 lb. macaroni (cooked and drained)
8 oz Daiya cheddar shreds
4 oz Daiya mozzarella or Italian shreds
1 1/2 T Vegan margarine
1 1/2 T flour
2 cups Rice milk (unsweetened) – or unsweetened Soy, etc.
1 T red pepper flakes (it needs that, or more!)
1 tsp hot mustard
salt and pepper to taste

for the topping:  dry sourdough or other crusty bread for crumbs – whirl in food processor with 1 T olive oil.  I used rosemary sourdough which came out great.

Cook the macaroni and drain, set aside.  Make sure your saucepan is large enough to accommodate the macaroni later because you are going to mix the macaroni and the sauce Kraft Macaroni-and-Cheese style.

Make a roux with the vegan margarine and flour.  Lightly cook the roux and add the rice milk a small amount at a time with a whisk.  Cook over medium heat until thickened (this will not be a thick “bechamel” sauce).  Add the pepper, hot mustard, salt and pepper.  Stir in the 8 oz Daiya vegan cheddar shreds.  You will see how the sauce will become “Kraft Macaroni & Cheese-like” as it cooks up, moreso than regular cheddar cheese and a milk-based white sauce.  Stir the cooked macaroni back into the sauce and toss to coat.  Pour into a 4-quart baking dish.  Top with the Italian/mozzarella shreds, then put the bread crumb/olive oil mixture over the top.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

My notes: I did not use macaroni – I used farfalle. I’ve also made it with ziti and strozzapreti by Montabello organic pasta. I like interesting pasta shapes. I’ve learned from experience to stay away from whole wheat pasta – it just doesn’t taste good. However, brown rice pasta offers a bearable whole grain alternative.

I also folded in sauteed mushrooms  and recommend throwing in a box of pre-washed spinach for more adult interest. And I used Japanese panko instead of bread crumbs, which makes a really crunchy delicious topping.

This gives you all the goo and glut of good ol’ mac-n-whatever! Serve with salad to keep your virtue intact. But if you follow with chocolate mousse your immortal soul is your own responsibility.

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Miso Soup #2 (Asian style)

Miso Soup #2 (Asian Style)

This is a more classic Miso soup, using oils and spices more associated with Asian cooking.

2 large shallots
1 Tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 pound of white mushrooms (button, baby portabello, crimini or for more exotic look,         shitake, oyster, enoki)
3 cloves garlic
2 Tablespoons fresh finely chopped ginger
1/2 cup julienned carrots
1/2 cup julienned radish
1/2 cup miso (any kind)
6-8 cups water or vegetable stock (depending on how strong you like the miso flavor)
1/2 pound of firm tofu, cut to match julienne look)
half package of Annie Chun’s Maifun rice noodles (or Annie Chun Maifun brown rice noodles-if you can find them)
bean sprouts (several handfuls)

I begin with sauteeing the shallots in toasted sesame oil – shallot have a milder flavor than onions. Then add mushrooms. As the mushrooms “loosen up” I dump in a ton of garlic and fresh ginger, some julienned daikon radish and carrots. After 5-8 minutes I add half a cup of miso whisked into 6 cups of water. Let the whole potion simmer together for about 15 minutes to bind the flavors, then add the tofu.

I prepare the rice noodles in hot water separate from the soup, then drain them and leave them in a bowl. I find that cooking them in the soup makes them mushy. Also, it is impossible to store the leftovers over night if the rice noodles are in it – store them separately as well. As you serve the soup, put in a handful of rice noodles and top each bowl with a handful of bean sprouts and cilantro.

This soup is absolutely delicious. It is a very flexible soup and any of the ingredients can be left out or substituted out, short of the miso and you still have a great soup, so don’t obsess about finding daikon radishes – even the shallots can be replaced with onions.

I promised myself that I would never let this blog be an excuse for recounting precious anecdotes about my children, but I would be remiss if I didn’t report that whenever I make this soup, my children say, “Miso happy!”

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Gingerbread Biscotti

I originally tacked this photo on to the post about chocolate mousse, but decided they deserve their own post. So here there are: Gingerbread Biscotti.

Gingerbread Biscotti

If you are doing the two course dessert – dessert and then coffee with biscuits – or simply want something scrumptious with a cup of coffee – the cookies pictured above, Gingerbread Biscotti, from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar by Isa Chandra Moscowitz, whose depths we continue to plumb, will satisfy the most discerning palates and chime an entirely different chord in the dessert palate.  The plate above was once again baked by my 17 year old teen-age baker, Amnon, and glazed and decorated by his 12 year old brother, Aryeh.

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Miso Mushroom Chickpea Soup

Miso Mushroom Chickpea Soup

Miso soups have become a staple of our winter diet. The miso blends well with vegetables to create a rich broth of heart-warming properties. There is nothing as satisfying as coming home on a winter day into a house filled with the rich fragrance of a miso soup a-boil on the stove. My kids love these soups and I usually try and double the recipes so that we get a repeat soup the next day. I sometimes mix a couple of tablespoons of miso into 2 cups of hot water to stretch the soup the next day, because they seem to condense overnight.

I have several ways I prepare Miso – this is one of the most complex and rich versions. It can serve as a complete meal with the addition of noodles. It is based on the Chickpea Noodle Soup recipe from p. 139 of Veganomicon, but, like many recipes that begin in a cookbook, is my own adaptation though very close to the original.

2 Tablespoons olive oil
one leek (substitute an onion if you don’t have leeks)
2 -3 cloves of garlic
two thinly sliced carrots
2 cups of cremini mushrooms
1/2 teaspoon each of thyme, celery seed, black pepper and rosemary (adjust to taste)
2 Tablespoons mirin (rice wine) – I’ve substituted red wine on occasion
1/2 cup of miso to start with – add more according to your taste (I do)
6 cups of water or vegetable stock
2 cups cooked dried chickpeas, or one 15 oz. can
parsley for garnish

Saute the leeks and garlic and carrots until soft, then add the mushrooms and spices. When the mushrooms start to transform, add the miso, wine, stock and let simmer together for about 15 minutes. Then add the chickpeas. Garnish each portion with parsley.

The Veganomicon recipe includes the addition of soba noodles making this a very filling soup and good for a one bowl meal. I left them out because I had a large meal planned to follow the soup. Also – once the soba noodles are in the soup, the soup will not store well as the noodles will disintegrate overnight and you’ll be left with a mushy bowl of soup parts. When I do use japanese noodles I keep them separate from the soup and add them to each portion as I serve. Then I store the leftover soup and the noodles separately as well.

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Must Have Mousse

Chocolate Mousse

In the American ideal of a fancy dinner the grand finale is often that ineluctable chocolate mousse – first premiered in America in 1892 at the Madison Square Garden Food exposition and consuming American housewives and chefs alike with dreams of french decadence on a plate ever since. Being vegan does not mean losing out on chocolate mousse. It is equally simple to make, perhaps even simpler, and equally delicious, perhaps even…but wait. You’ll have to try for yourself.

one package of silken tofu
8 oz of vegan chocolate chips
2 oz. of unsweetened Guittard chocolate discs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons soy or almond milk
1 tablespoon maple syrup (optional)

Melt the chocolate in a microwave or double boiler, or cheat like I do and put them directly on the flame in a covered saucepan and turn off the flame as soon as they start melting, letting them sit in heated pan until ready to stir into melty mass. Put the chocolate, tofu, vanilla and soy milk in food processor. Blend. Mousse.

Variations: Depending on how deep you like your chocolate adjust the proportions of chocolate chips to unsweetened chocolate discs. The discs add deeper chocolate tones.
For adults only: a pinch of cayenne and a pinch of cinnamon.


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So Slaw!

Slaw with Asian Citrus Dressing

I recently acquired a mandoline – not the musical instrument, (we have many musical instruments already) but a sharp bladed chopping machine. See the kitchen appliance category of the Tofu Crossing Trading Post if you want one, or just to see what it looks like:
I make a lot of chopped salads of different shapes and sizes, with coleslaw a table regular for healthy, raw veggies in easily digestible form full of bite and crunch. Red cabbage is especially beautiful and makes a wonderful slaw. My children eat a good slaw by the bucket full and I find it hits the spot when I feel like munching something crunchy.

The slaw in the picture is created by shredding mostly purple cabbage, with highlight- amounts to taste of jicama, daikon radish, carrots and apples. If you are not ready for the mandoline-leap a food processor will also do the trick. You can make it with cabbage alone and add only whichever of the additional ingredients appeal, but do include a little bit of carrot for the wonderful color contrast. The dressing is taken from p. 83 of Veganomicon by Isa Chandra Moscowitz and here is the recipe:

1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup fresh squeezed orange juice (one navel orange)
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons peanut oil
2 tablespoons hot chili pepper
2 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons organic sugar
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

Once I make a batch of the dressing, I store it in a small empty dijon mustard jar, empties of which I collect expressly for keeping homemade dressings. I also put a label on it immediately because days later I will not remember what it is, no matter how sure I am that I could never forget what an amazing concoction is in that particular little jar.

Alternately, I make a very simple dressing for American-style coleslaw by taking 1/4 cup of Veganaise (vegan mayo found at Whole Foods) and 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, whisked together into a creamy blend with a fork. Again, the basic recipe is cabbage of any color, but any of the other vegetables can be added for more color and variety.

Consider yourself slawed!

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