The Bestest Vegan Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies

In truth, I was tempted to not write “vegan” in the title of these chocolate chip cookies because they are amazing, vegan or otherwise. This is another recipe that comes from my boss (and friend) and just knocks it out of the park. Matt and I have been on this fitness kick and haven’t been eating much of this sort of thing, but if i’m going to feel guilty about something, these are worth it. The only drawback about these is that you do need to plan slightly ahead, because the dough needs to refrigerate for 12-24 hours. On the plus, prep time is minimal, so you just have to know how to ignore the pile of cookie dough in the fridge all day… ahem…

INGREDIENTS:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 dark chocolate chips (double check the ingredients to make sure they’re vegan if thats important to you)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup olive/canola/grapeseed oil
1/4 cup water
1 tsp vanilla
Coarse grain sea salt (garnish)

DIRECTIONS:

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the chocolate chips to the flour mixture and toss to coat. In a separate bowl, whisk the sugars briskly with the oil and water until smooth and incorporated. Add vanilla. Stir. Add the wet and dry ingredients until combined, do not over mix. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 12-24 hours. (NO CHEATING!) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two pans with foil (spray with a little olive oil) or parchment paper. Remove dough from the refrigerator and use an ice cream scoop (or spoon) to portion into 2 inch balls. Freeze the balls for 10 minutes; this will help them retain their shape better when baking. Sprinkle the balls of dough with coarse sea-salt and bake 12-13 minutes until golden. Careful not to overbake.

 

Spicy Ginger & Coconut Stew (v)

Something about overcast days that just scream stew. Seeing as though I don’t eat meat, and I try to avoid large amounts of potato, I had to come up with something that still satisfied the cravings; I’m pretty proud of this one. I have made it unapologetically twice over the last two weeks, and warmed it as leftovers for myself a handful of times after that. You can easily spice it up or keep it mild, and this easily makes plenty to eat tomorrow. On with it…

Makes 6-8 servings

INGREDIENTS:
1 tbsp coconut or olive oil
1 med. red onion (chopped)
1.5 lbs brussel sprouts (halved or quartered if large)
2 tbsp ginger (minced)
4-5 cloves garlic (minced)
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 large sweet potato (peeled and diced 1/2 inch)
1 zucchini (green beans are good too)
4 cups vegetable broth
1/2 can coconut milk
1 can chickpeas (rinsed/drained)
Juice of 1 small lime
Zest of 1/2 lime
Salt/pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:
In a large pot, saute onions in oil until lightly brown. Add brussel sprouts and cook on med-high until most have some brown on them (4-5 minutes). Add ginger, garlic, and red pepper and cook for another minute. Add the vegetable broth, zucchini (quartered and sliced), and sweet potato and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add chickpeas and lime zest and reduce heat to simmer. After about 5 minutes, add lime juice and coconut milk. If you’re like me, add a shit ton of salt and pepper. Simmer a few more minutes to allow all the flavors combine. Thats it.

Poison Apples

I’ve been wanting to try to make candy poison apples ever since I saw this post on pinterest. I haven’t made candy or caramel since high school, and I thought I might blow up the house, but the whole process was actually much simpler than I anticipated.

INGREDIENTS:
6 large unwaxed apples or 12 smaller ones (or a mix of the two)
Bamboo sticks / Popsicle sticks /tongue depressors / real sticks / pokey-things / whatever
2 cups white sugar
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup light corn syrup
Black gel food coloring
Arsenic (optional) (I KID I KID!)

DIRECTIONS:

1. Wrap a few pieces of saran wrap around a baking sheet and stab innocent apples mercilessly.

2. In a medium pot, combine sugar, water, and corn syrup and stir over medium heat until all of the sugar has dissolved. The easiest way to check this is to dip your finder in the pot every few minutes and rub your finger and thumb together. Once you no longer feel the grit of the sugar, add a few drops of the black food coloring and turn the stove on high.

3. Allow the mixture to boil until it reaches the hard crack stage (150°c/310°F). You’ll need to check the temperature frequently with a thermometer. The minute the temp reaches 310°F, move the pot to another burner (that is off) and let it sit for 1-2 minutes, just long enough for the bubbles to disappear.

4. Carefully twirl the apples into the tar pit. You will need to move somewhat fast here because the mixture will harden as it cools. Place them back on the saran wrapped cookie sheet and point and laugh at your kids for having to wait 30 minutes for them to cool.

5. Wrap em’ with some saran wrap and some flair and call it a day.

There are a few things I might do differently next time:

  • Realize I am making candy apples and not caramel apples. When I saw the recipe initially, my brain told me that toffee and caramel were the same thing. Wrong-zilla. I should have caught this when I saw I was bringing the temperature to a hard-crack stage, but my soul still said caramel. In my opinion, caramel apples are for eating, and candy apples are for looking pretty, but that is just me. I can’t chew ice either, if that tells you anything.
  • Definitely wait for the bubbling to come to a minimum. I have a few that have some bubbles on them. No biggie, just trying to get pro-status.
  • Make Kennedy eat hers at the dinner table, and chop most of the candy off. Seriously, how much dog hair on a candy apple will it take to make you gag? What is the likeliness that you’ll have to cut this out of your toddlers hair if you fail to make a ponytail? What the hell was I thinking?

Spicy Red Pepper Jelly

Dear Red Pepper Jelly,

We love you.

Sincerely,
Me

This recipe (and plenty others) have come from my most favorite boss (and friend) at work. In our house, this stuff is like liquid crack. After I have fought the darkness for 30 minutes and Kennedy has fallen to sleep, this is often the reason I find to remove myself from the warmth of the bed.This, with some Point Reyes Original Blue, has been a staple on Game of Thrones nights. Red Pepper Jelly is really easy to make, and doesn’t require a lot of ingredients or effort. Before I found this recipe, a lot of the red bells from the garden were going to waste because they all tend to ripen at the same time… and it was a great excuse to use some hot peppers too. Anyhow, I hope you try it and enjoy it as much as I do.

INGREDIENTS:
3 Red bell peppers
A few red hot peppers
1 cup white vinegar
3 cups sugar
1 tsp. salt
(Pectin is quicker, but optional)

DIRECTIONS (makes 3-4 jars):

  1. Remove the seeds and veins from the bell peppers and pulse them in the food processor until the bell pepper is finely chopped (not paste).
  2. Combine peppers, vinegar, salt, and sugar and bring to a low boil. Continue to cook until the mixture has thickened to your preference (about 30 minutes) and put in canning jars. You can test the thickness by putting a little on a dish in the freezer for a few minutes, to see how it looks. The Jelly will thicken as it cools. If you prefer to use Pectin, skip this step and do number 3 (below) instead.
  3. Combine peppers, vinegar, salt, and sugar and bring to a rapid boil for 5 minutes. Gradually add 3 tablespoons of Sure- Jell (I prefer the pink no-sugar) box, and return to boil for 2 minutes. Put in canning jars.
  4. Seal and process jars for 15 minutes in a water bath.

FYI: I would error on the side of adding more hot peppers than you think you will need; it has never turned out as hot as I expected.

Homemade Grape Jelly

Who doesn’t love grape jelly? Me! Uh… Well… Ok. I can’t say I LOOOOVE grape jelly, but I like it, and when you have a bathtub full of grapes that will go bad before you can eat them, then you learn to LOOOOVE grape jelly. This recipe is fairly standard, tastes great, uses less sugar than other recipes, and is pretty freaking simple. I did write this under the assumption that you have a large pot for canning, the basic tools, and have read at least a basic guide to canning that can be followed. Basically, what I’m saying is, I’ll tell you what to put in the jar, and you have to know how to make the jar seal. mmmmkay.

INGREDIENTS:
5 cups grape juice (approx 5lbs grapes)
1 1/2 cups water
1 box Sure-Jell no sugar needed pectin (Pink box)
3 1/2 cups sugar

DIRECTIONS:
1. Be a Martha F’n Stewart and grow yourself about 5 pounds of grapes.
2. Beg others to remove grapes from stems; I recommend children and in-laws, but anyone with hands will do. Please note, those are not my hands (Thanks Bronda!).

3. Rinse off all signs of squirrels, birds, rats, and other grape thieving beings. No joking. If I recently gave you grape jelly, I watched rats feasting on them last week. Do you trust me?
4. Blend in food processor and add to pot with 1 1/2 cups water. Boil 10 minutes.

5. Strain and squeeze out the grape vomit until you have 5 cups juice.
6. Return juice to pot and add 1 box pectin. Mix.
7. Bring back to a boil, add sugar, boil for one minute, and remove from heat.
8. Add to 8 oz jars, seal, process in a water bath for 5 minutes.

BAM!

Cucumber Watermelon Fruit Salad

There is a such thing as bad fruit salad, even when all of the fruit is in-season and ripe. This is our go-to for fruit salad, and without fail, if I bring this to a potluck someone will always ask for the recipe; it’s that good.

INGREDIENTS:
1 small-medium sized watermelon (small soccerball)
1-2 basket strawberries
1 cucumber (large hump toy)
12-15 leaves Thai Basil (shredded)
1 lemon (zest only)
1 Tbsp Olive Oil

DIRECTIONS: I almost feel ridiculous writing the directions for this, but I’ll go ahead and waste your time. Cube the watermelon. Quarter the strawberries. Hack up the cucumber (skin on). Shred the basil. Zest the lemon. Throw it all into a bowl. Add Olive oil. Wiggle. Shake. Stir. Wiggle. Wiggle. Wiggle. (Your butt looks great by the way).

Eat.

Vegan Italian Sausages

Speaking of poop, this sausage recipe looks like shit… but it is super! The first time I made it I screwed it up by adding 2 cans of beans instead of 1/2 cup. No bueno. The second time I had Kennedy helping me and I was sure I measured everything right, except the dough was really wet and I must have screwed up measuring the liquid (That’s what happens when you have to measure with smaller measuring cups because the 1- cup measuring cup was being used as a drum and is lost in the deep unknown of the toy box).  But the third time, without Kennedy’s fine cooking skills and her being distracted by The PowerPuff Girls, it turned out amazing. I really love this sausage recipe.

INGREDIENTS
1/2 cup cooked great northern white beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup vegetable broth
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 1/4 cups vital wheat gluten
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
2 cloves fresh garlic, finely grated
1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seed, crushed
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
Several dashes fresh black pepper

DIRECTIONS
Before starting, set aside five sheets of tin foil, each about 4-5 inches wide. Additionally, you’ll want to place the steamer in a large pot with water filled just up to the bottom of the apparatus, and bring the water to a boil. In one bowl, mash beans into a pile of mush. Add vegetable broth, tomato paste, soy sauce and garlic. Combine and set aside. In a second bowl, combine all dry ingredients. Merge the wet and dry ingredients and divide into 5 poo-logs. Wrap each individual turd with foil, place in steamer, and put the lid on. Steam for 40 minutes. Usually after 20 minutes I am paranoid that the water has burned off and boil some additional too add, just in case. For the record, I’ve always had plenty. After 40 minutes, I usually will just turn off the heat and walk away for awhile to let them cool, unless I plan on eating them at that moment. Before serving, throw a little oil in a pan and saute them. That’s it. When I don’t feel like cooking, I’ll throw this and a little BBQ sauce on a sad piece of bread, and its the best thing ever.

Sweet Potato Tacos (Vegan)

I cannot possibly tell you how much I love these tacos without it sounding like i’m either completely overstating the truth, or completely understating just how great these really are. But, let me tell you, I LOVE these. They are easy, and quick, and really really stinking good… Do it!

INGREDIENTS (serves 3):
2 medium sweet potatoes (about 1 lb peeled and shredded)
3 cloves garlic (minced)
2 Tbsp Hot sauce
1/3 tsp cumin
1/3 cup Texture Vegetable Protein (TVP)
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 yellow onion
1/2 red bell pepper
1/3 cup corn
Salt & Pepper
8 corn tortillas
2 limes
3 Tbsp Cilantro
Pico de gallo (optional)
Sour cream (optional)

Cheater warning: Instead of the fresh onion and bell peppers, I usually add 1/2 of the frozen fire roasted bell pepper/onion mix from Trader Joe’s (don’t judge).

DIRECTIONS:
Peel sweet potatoes and shred (either with box grater or in Cuisinart). Combine sweet potato, TVP, garlic, cumin, hot sauce, and salt and pepper (be generous). Stir and set aside.

In a large pan, add oil and saute onion, bell peppers, and corn until soft (about two minutes, or five if you are a cheater and use frozen like me). Add in the sweet potato mixture and cook for 6-8 minutes, or until cooked. Salt/Pepper. Squeeze 1/2 of a small lime over it all and stir.

In a separate pan, warm up each of the corn tortillas with a little oil. Fill the shells with the sweet potato mixture, and top with lime and cilantro. Add Pico de Gallo and Sour Cream, if desired.

Original Recipe here

Adventures in (Dill) Pickling

Dill Pickles. Truth be told, I’ve never pickled or jellied or anything of the sort and have no idea why, after turning 35, I’ve decided to become an old lady. And, if I continue my truth-ing, I don’t actually like pickles. My dad use to put bread & butter pickles in my tuna, so that does have some essence of nostalgia for me, but that’s about the totality of my pickle desires. I have, however, watched Snooki and Anna Nicole Smith make sweet sweet love to some pickles while watching some sad reality TV, and have some appreciation for their lusting, so I decided to add “Pickler” to my CV.

EQUIPMENT:

6 1-Quart Canning Jars with Lids
1 Large Water bath Canner
1 Medium Saucepan (for Brine)
6-pc Canning set
1 Plate for Lids
Measuring Cups / Spoons

INGREDIENTS:

BRINE:
6 cups White vinegar
6 cups Water
8 tbsp. Pickling salt

DILL PICKLES
12 lbs. Pickling cucumbers (approximately 5 cucumbers per jar)
12 Garlic cloves, peeled
24-30 Fresh dill strands (4-5 strands per jar)
3 tsp. Whole black peppercorns
12 Dried red pepper pods (I used Chile Japones)
6 Fresh grape leaves

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Fill a Large Water-Bath Canner (with rack) half with water and put it on the stove.
  2. Remove lids, fill all jars with water, add them to the (still cold) water bath, and turn stove on high to bring to a boil.
  3. Prep all Cucumbers; wash, cut ends, slice if desired.
  4. In a medium saucepan, bring vinegar, water, and salt to a boil. Maintain heat.
  5. Place lids on a deep plate and cover with a little of the boiling water. This will warm and prepare the lids to ensure a good seal.
  6. Lift the rack on the Water-Bath Canner. You are going to prepare one jar at a time, in effort to keep each jar hot. Remove a jar from the boiling water and empty it into a spare pot; this water can be used to ensure there is enough water to cover the jars in the water bath.
  7. In each jar, add 1 small grape leaf, 2 cloves garlic, 4-5 dill strands, 1/2 tsp whole black peppercorns, and 2 dried red pepper pods.
  8. Pack cucumbers tightly in each jar.
  9. Pour hot brine over cucumbers, leaving 1/4 inch room on the top.
  10. Wipe sweat from your brow, tell yourself not to panic, and pray for no Botulism. Seriously though, canning for the first time is stressful. I don’t know how the cute little silver-tips do it.
  11. Wipe the top of jar with a clean damp cloth, and add hot lid and band.
  12. Place in hot water bath and process for 10 minutes at a rolling boil. Remove jars and place on a towel overnight. In the morning, check to ensure that the jars are sealed by pressing down on the center of the lid; if you hear a “pop” sound, swear profusely, and consider a new hobby.

Disclaimer: Since these need to sit approximately 2 weeks before eating, if after 2 weeks you never hear from me again, do NOT make these pickles. You have been warned. ENJOY!

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Gingersnap Cookie Crust

Fall has arrived and i’m officially jumping head first onto the pumpkin everything train, starting with this awesome pumpkin cheesecake recipe. It’s a good thing that I only really like coffee-flavored coffee or I would certainly become super-duper morbidly obese drinking foofoo pumpkin spice lattes everyday. This recipe combines my favorite cheesecake recipe with all of the fall pumpkin flavors I could muster. Enjoy.

INGREDIENTS:

CRUST:
1 cup crispy gingersnap cookie crumbs
3 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp melted butter

FILLING:
3 (8 oz) packages of Cream Cheese
1 (15oz) can pure pumpkin puree
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup sugar
1 cup sour cream
1/3 cup Irish cream liqueur (Bailey’s etc…)
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2  tsp ground allspice
1/4  tsp ground cloves
3 eggs
Pumpkin Pie Spice for topping

DIRECTIONS:
Either you can place the cookies in a bag and beat the fuck out of them until they are super dead and a crummy pile of angst, or you can put them in a blender of sorts; the choice is yours. Might I suggest that one is a lot more fun. Anyhow… Combine Crumbs, 3 tablespoons sugar, and melted butter. Press this crumb mixture into the bottom of a 9-inch spring form pan with 2 3/4 inch sides. Bake at 350 degrees for about 8 minutes. Transfer to a rack and cool. Maintain oven temperature.

Beat cream cheese, 1 cup sugar, vanilla in large bowl until blended.

Add 1 cup sour cream, liqueur, pumpkin puree, and all spices. Beat. Add eggs one at a time, beating just until combined.

Pour the filling over the pre-cooked crust and provide samples.

Bake at 350 degrees until edges are puffed and center no longer moves when shaken (usually 1-1.25 hours). Transfer cheesecake to rack and cool for 15 minutes.

The cheesecake will settle and condense quite a bit when it cools. Dust some pumpkin pie spice over the top in a sad attempt at hiding all flaws (it’s okay little buddy). Refrigerate at least 6 hours before serving.

Done!

Random behind the scenes photo: