Monday, December 15, 2014

Hot Chocolate

In the wintertime, there is nothing better than a warm cup of hot cocoa.  Unfortunately, most of the store bought brands contain milk ingredients.  Not to be discouraged though, because it is so easy (and inexpensive) to make your own!  Simply use a 1 to 2 ratio of powdered sugar to cocoa cocoa.

You can make one cup at a time by mixing 1 Tablespoon of cocoa powder with 2 Tablespoons of powdered sugar into your favorite vegan milk.  I find it is best to mix up a bunch, and store a container - then it is super convenient anytime we're craving a warm cup of hot chocolate.

My favorite vegan milk to use with this is coconut milk - but others work well too.  I like to add different things in too depending on my mood and cravings, such as a sprinkle of cinnamon, a pinch of salt and/or cayenne pepper, a peppermint candy, or a splash of flavored syrup.

1/2 cup of cocoa powder
1 cup confectioner's sugar (powdered sugar)

1.  Combine ingredients.
2.  Thoroughly stir in ~3 Tablespoons (or to taste) of the powdered mix to 1 cup of hot vegan milk (such as soy, coconut, rice, almond, etc).
3.  Add any additional flavored syrups or ingredients (peppermint, cinnamon, etc) if desired.  Enjoy immediately.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Celery Pear Bisque

This is a recipe that combines ingredients that you normally wouldn't think of together - pears and celery.  The combination of flavors and textures is wonderful.  My whole family loves this!

I usually use Bartlett pears, but today (as you can see from my pictures) I had a lot of Asian pears on hand, so I used those.  I have also made this recipe using canned pears.  If using canned pears, be sure to get the light syrup, and rinse off the pears before using.  Otherwise, you may have too much sweetness in your bisque.

4 1/2 Tablespoons of vegan margarine
6 cups thinly sliced celery (~12 stalks, or 1 good sized bunch) - reserve the leaves for garnish
3 cups pears, cored, peeled, and diced (2 cans rinsed, if you don't have fresh - get light syrup)
1 cup diced onion (about 1 small onion)
3 small bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon dry thyme (or 1 1/2 teaspoon of chopped fresh thyme if you have it)
1 1/2 Tablespoon of flour
5 cups of vegetable broth
1/2 teaspoon of salt (or to taste)
a spinkle of pepper (or to taste)
3/4 cups of raw cashews, soaked in water for 3+ hours

1.  Soak the cashews in enough water to cover them for 3 hours up to overnight, or as long as possible if you didn't plan ahead.
2.  Melt the margarine in a large stockpot over medium-high heat.
3.  Add the celery, pears, onion, bay leaves, and thyme.  Cook until celery softens (about 8 minutes).
4.  Add the flour and the vegetable broth and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer for about 20 minutes.
5.  While the soup simmers, drain the water from cashews.  Place the cashews into a blender, and cover with just enough fresh water to cover the cashews.  Blend on high for about a minute, until completely smooth.  If you feel some of this 'cashew cream' between two fingers, the texture should not be gritty - if it is, keep blending until smooth.
6.  Remove the bay leaves from the soup.  Puree the soup with a hand blender right in the pot (or in a regular blender in small batches if you don't have a hand blender).
7.  Add the salt and pepper.
8.  Stir the cashew cream into the soup.  Reheat briefly before serving.  Garnish with finely chopped celery leaves.

This recipe was adapted from a recipe given out at a free vegan cooking class hosted by Jennifer Russell-Fenus, the author of Recipes From The Kitchen Of A Self-Proclaimed Veganista.  She adapted her recipe from a recipe posted elsewhere, but I no longer have the information on where she originally obtained it.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Mushroom Gravy

This year, at our house, we hosted a 100% vegan Thanksgiving!

We had many appetizers, like pickles, veggies, olives, chips, salsa, guacamole, hummus, nuts, etc.  For the main meal, I cooked a Tofurky roast, with veggies, stuffing, rolls, with home-made cherry vanilla jam, and lingonberry sauce (sweeter and better than cranberry sauce IMO).  I also made this delicious mushroom gravy to accompany the roast, veggies, and stuffing.  For dessert, I served pumpkin cheesecake, snickerdoodles, and pumpkin cookies.

After our meal, we watched the movie Free Birds.  It seemed to be a fitting movie to watch after a turkey-less Thanksgiving meal!

2 Tablespoons olive oil (separate Tablespoons)
8oz mushrooms (I used baby bella), chopped into small pieces
2 green onions, minced
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon dry thyme
3 cups strong vegetable broth (my favorite is Better Than Bouillon)
salt and pepper to taste (I used about 1/4 teaspoon of salt and a sprinkle of pepper)

1.  Heat 1 Tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet.  Add the mushrooms and onions.  Cook for ~2 minutes over high heat.
2.  Add the other 1 Tablespoon of olive oil, and sprinkle the flour and thyme evenly over the mushrooms and oil.  Stir together.
3.  Add the vegetable broth and stir together.  Simmer over medium-low heat for ~10-15 minutes until the gravy thickens.

This original recipe found to make this gravy was created by Chef Roberto Martin, Ellen DeGeneres' personal chef.  That recipe can be seen here.