Monday, October 27, 2014

Banana Bread

This is my favorite banana bread recipe.  It is easy to make any time I have a few bananas that have gotten too ripe.  The bread turns out soft, moist and delicious.  (The batter is so good too!)

I used to make the recipe with 4 bananas, until one day I had only 3.  I added in 1/4 cup of applesauce as a substitute for one of the bananas and it turned out great.  My family said they liked it just as well or better.  So if you don't have any applesauce in your home, but you do have an extra banana - that will work for you.

Also, a tip about brown sugar.  If you don't have any, but you have molasses - you can use 1/2 Tablespoon of molasses combined with 1/2 cup of granulated sugar.  Mix well and use.  If you want dark brown sugar, use 1 Tablespoon combined with 1/2 cup of sugar.

When baking this recipe, I've found that the toothpick trick doesn't work very well.  I have taken it out of the oven too soon because the outside looks browned, just to find when it cools that the very middle is still a bit doughy.  Still good, because to eat the dough is wonderful - but not exactly "bread" in the middle.  I would suggest leaving it in for at least 40 minutes, and adjusting for your own oven the next time you make it if needed.

This is a recipe that gets the whole house smelling good, and my whole family is hungry before it comes out of the oven.

3 medium ripe to over-ripe bananas, mashed well with a fork
1/4 cup of applesauce (I use no-sugar added)
1/2 cup coconut oil, warmed up if needed so it is liquid
1/2 cup brown sugar (*see tip above)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup white flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
a pinch of salt (~1/16 teaspoon)

1.  Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and grease a bread loaf pan with a bit of coconut oil.
2.  In a large bowl, mash up the bananas well with a fork (or potato masher, or hand blender, or whatever works well).
3.  To the mashed bananas, add the applesauce, coconut oil, brown sugar, vanilla extract, and mix well.
4.  In a separate bowl, combine the wheat flour, white flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.
5.  Fold flour mixture into the banana mixture really well (I use a spatula to do this and then scrape down the sides).
6.  Pour the batter into the greased bread loaf pan and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 40-45 minutes.

This recipe was adapted from a recipe found on the website  The original recipe can be found here.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

These are my family's favorite cookie this time of year.  To be honest, they are probably my family's favorite cookie any time of the year, but it just seems right to eat them in the fall.  You can make really simple and tasty cookies by:
Mixing 1 vegan boxed white cake mix + spiced can of pumpkin + vegan chocolate chips,
Mixing 1 vegan boxed spice cake mix + regular can of pumpkin + vegan chocolate chips,
Mixing 1 vegan boxed white cake mix + regular can of pumpkin + cinnamon, ginger, cloves (as written below) + vegan chocolate chips.

I've made multiple batches of pumpkin cookies over the years, using various methods.  Out of the 3 methods listed above, my family liked the 3rd the best (where I add in the spices myself).  I've since substituted the boxed white cake mix for the first 4 ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder, salt) listed below.  I did this to have a consistent recipe, and to be able to make these cookies even if I don't have a cake mix (plus no label-checking boxes at the store).  The recipe I've come up with below is my family's absolute favorite.

Vegan chocolate chips can be found at just about any store.  Trader Joe's Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips are vegan, and there is also a cheap generic brand I've found at my local Smiths.

This recipe will make approximately 26 cookies.  I hope that you enjoy them as much as we do.

2 1/2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon cloves
15 oz can of pumpkin (plain - not spiced)
1/2 cup of vegan chocolate chips

1.  Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
2.  Combine all the dry ingredients together (flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves).
3.  Thoroughly mix the pumpkin into the dry ingredients, making sure there are no pockets of dry ingredients that can be seen in the dough.
4.  Mix in the chocolate chips.
5.  Spoon dough onto a non-stick cookie sheet.  Each portion of dough should be around the size of a golf ball.
6.  Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 12 minutes.
7.  Cool and enjoy.  I think they are even better the next day, but sometimes it is hard to wait!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Foil Dinners

Foil dinners are a traditional campfire meal that can be made in advance and then cooked in the hot coals of a fire.  My mom used to prepare my dad and I these little packets of goodness to take when we went camping, and I remember loving them.  They are easy, simple, cheap, and fun to make.  They are also very tasty.

Cooking foil dinners, and making vegan s'mores for dessert is one of my kids' favorite activities. This past week we did this, and I want to share my recipe with you, along with a few pictures.

The recipe I'm sharing with you is very basic, and the bare minimum of ingredients for a good foil dinner (in my opinion).  I usually add other things into it, depending on what I have on hand, how creative I'm feeling, or what is in season.  For instance, this week, I used a purple onion my mother-in-law gave me from her garden, and added a medium tomato, 1 cup chopped mushrooms, and 1/4 cup of marinara sauce that I had on hand, into each packet.  I also used Kielbasa style sausage, which was great.  The tomato turned out great and added some moisture which will helped cook the other vegetables.  The marinara sauce made the packets very flavorful and saucy, but not so much that it was soupy.  My son and I also love mushrooms (but I left these out of my daughter's).

You can add peppers, zucchini, yellow squash, garlic, etc. along with a variety of different seasonings if you like.  It is fun to play around and see what turns out well for you.  Just be careful not to get too much in each packet, or you may have trouble sealing it up to cook.  Start out with this basic recipe and go from there.

Ingredients (for 1 packet):
2 large sheets of foil
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 cups potato, cut into small cubes or slices (~1 medium potato)
1/2 cup carrots, thinly sliced
1/4 cup onion, diced (~1/4 of an onion)
1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/16 teaspoon garlic salt (a pinch)
A small sprinkle of pepper
~3.5 oz vegan sausage, sliced up (I like Tofurky brand.  Use one sausage per packet)
(Whatever other seasonings or ingredients you feel like adding)

1.  Build a fire - you'll need some hot coals to cook these packets on.  I've heard you can also cook these in the oven or over a grill, but I imagine there is no better tasting packet than one cooked on a real fire.
2.  Take two large pieces of foil and stack them, one on top of the other.  You want 2 pieces so that there is less risk of the packet ripping and ruining your dinner in the fire.  If you have heavy-duty foil, you could maybe use one piece.
3.  Drizzle the olive oil onto the middle of the foil.  This helps prevent the food from sticking, and adds some moisture as well.
4.  Place the potatoes, carrots, onion, (and any other veggies) into the center of the foil.
5.  Spinkle the seasoned salt, garlic salt, (and any other seasonings) and pepper over the top of the veggies.
6.  Place the vegan sausage over the top of the veggies.  (Add any sauce such as marina over the top of this if you want)
7.  Seal up the packet.  I bring together two sides, and roll them tightly together, then roll up each of the remaining two sides to seal.  There is a great tutorial on this page about sealing up foil dinners.
8.  Place the foil dinner directly on the hot coals of your fire, and cook for ~30-45 minutes.  Minimum time will cook the potatoes and the food will be hot, and a longer time will brown the food and make some of it crispy/brown on the edges (which I like).
9.  Remove the foil packets from the hot coals by grabbing the top with an oven mit.  Let them sit for about 5 minutes.  This allows them to cool a bit so the steam won't burn you when opening.
10.  Open up the top, and eat right from the foil, or dump onto a plate or bowl if you prefer.

Monday, October 6, 2014

60-Minute Rolls

This recipe is one we love!  It was adapted from a recipe originally given to me by my good friend Jimi (she maintains her own blog here).  Jimi is always sharing great recipes with me!  These rolls take less time than the frozen dough you can buy at the store, even if you use their 'quick-method.'

I love the smell of fresh-baked rolls.  These won't last long because they are so delicious.  My family and I enjoy them with Earth Balance spread and a bit of jam.

1 cup soy milk, warmed up ~30 seconds in microwave
1/2 cup warm water
3 Tablespoons sugar
3 1/2 teaspoons quick-rise yeast
1 tsp salt
4 Tablespoons vegetable oil
3 1/2 cups flour
2 Tablespoons wheat gluten

1.  Combine all ingredients, in order, in a bread machine and start 'dough' program.  Let it run for 5 minutes, adding a bit more water or flour if dough looks too dry or wet.  If you don't have a bread machine or something to mix it for you: combine ingredients in order, except flour and gluten, in a large bowl.  Mix flour and gluten together and add to other ingredients 1 cup at a time until all combined.  Knead for 5 minutes, adding a bit more water or flour if dough looks too dry or wet.
2.  Place the dough in a metal mixing bowl greased with a bit of vegetable oil or vegan margarine.  Place the bowl to rest in hottest tap water for 15 minutes, being careful not to get dough wet.
3.  Punch down the dough, and shape.  I use a kitchen scale and make 2.75oz balls of dough by cutting off some dough with my kitchen shears, weighing, then stretching the dough 2-3 times on the sides and pinching off the bottom before placing on a greased non-stick cookie sheet.  If you don't have a scale, make each ball of dough a bit larger than a golf ball.  This will make approximately 13 rolls (a baker's dozen!).  Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, while shaped dough rises for 15 minutes (about the same time my oven takes to preheat).
4. Bake rolls at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 12 minutes.