December 29, 2012

chocolate truffles


When cold weather hits, I think about this candy in Japan that is available only in the winter. Called "Melty Kiss," it is a box of individually wrapped chocolate truffles that literally melt in your mouth. I think this sugar-free vegan version comes pretty close to recreating the texture without any cream.



Before we get to the recipe, I just wanted to say a few words as this blog post will be the last one this year. I thank you all for reading this blog. If you found my recipes and posts useful in any way, I could not be happier. The year 2012 has been a phenomenal year for me: my nephew was born, I published my first cookbook, I got married and I got a fabulous job—all the while being able to pursue my dream of cooking in peace. To express my big THANK YOU for all your support, I am offering a giveaway of my cookbook THE PEACEFUL DESSERT BOOK. See the details at the bottom of this post.

So here's to you my friends, my version of Melty Kiss. Have a happy new year! See you in 2013!

Ingredients
makes about 2 dozen truffles

white solids of chilled coconut milk (about 1/3 cup) (The can must be chilled in the fridge at least for a day. Use the rest in a soup or curry.)
pinch of sea salt
2/3 cup raw cashews, soaked for at least 3 hours and drained
3 oz unsweetened baking chocolate, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup cocoa powder
3 Medjool dates, pitted and soaked in 1/3 cup of water for 3 hours or until soft (reserve the soaking water)
2 TBS coconut oil
2 pinches of vanilla bean powder (or 2 tsp of vanilla extract)

cocoa powder and/or shredded coconut for rolling the truffles

Directions
  1. Place the coconut milk solids and a pinch of salt in a small pot and heat on medium flame until it comes to a gentle boil. Turn off the flame and add the chopped unsweetened chocolate. Stir well to melt the chocolate.
  2. Put the rest of the ingredients along with the melted chocolate in a high-speed blender. Blend until smooth. Pour the mixture into a Pyrex dish and refrigerate for at least 5 hours.
  3. Take a tablespoon or a 1/2 oz ice cream scoop and portion out the truffles. Reshape each in your hand and roll it in cocoa powder, shredded coconut or chopped nuts. Chill until ready to serve.


To enter the giveaway for THE PEACEFUL DESSERT BOOK, you need to do two things:



I will ship the book anywhere in the world, so friends living outside of the US can join. Feel free to share this with your friends and family.

Get your entries in by 9 PM Eastern time on Saturday, January 5th. The winner will be picked randomly and announced in the following week. Good luck!



December 20, 2012

cranberry orange pecan chews


With these Cranberry Orange Pecan Chews, I made it to the 10 finalists for VegNews Holiday Cookie Contest 2012! Unfortunately, I did not win (sad face) but I wanted to share the recipe here on my blog. (I'll try again next year!)

Every bite of these cookies is like eating a cranberry pecan pie. The tart cranberry jam goes perfect together with the orange-flavored cookies. The maple candied pecans give them a nice crunch. Go ahead and indulge. After all, eating a cookie takes less of a commitment than having a slice of pie, right? Happy Holidays!

Ingredients
makes about 20 cookies

cranberry filling 
1 cup fresh cranberries
1/4 cup brown rice syrup
2 tsp maple syrup
1/8 tsp agar powder
pinch of sea salt

maple candied pecans
(Although one batch makes more than what you need for the cookies, I strongly encourage you to double or even triple the recipe! They are great for snacking, makes a good addition in salads, etc.)
1 cup pecans, toasted
1 TBS maple syrup
2 tsp maple sugar 

orange cookie dough 
1 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 cup oat flour (OR unbleached white flour)
1/2 cup maple sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 cup safflower oil
2 TBS brown rice syrup (OR maple syrup)
2 TBS freshly squeezed orange juice
1 tsp orange extract (optional)
1/8 tsp sea salt 
zest of 2 oranges

Directions

Prepare the cranberry filling:
Put brown rice syrup, maple syrup, agar powder and salt in a small pot. Place on medium high flame and let it come to a boil. Add cranberries. Cook for about 15 minutes or until the cranberries become soft and the mixture becomes thick. Set aside to cool. 

Prepare the maple candied pecans:
Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and spread on a baking pan lined with parchment paper (or a silicone baking mat). Bake in a 350ºF oven (preheated) for a total of 15 to 20 minutes, mixing occasionally to ensure even baking. Let cool and coarsely chop the pecans.




Prepare the orange cookie dough:
Mix the flour, maple sugar and baking powder in one big bowl. Mix the wet ingredients, salt and orange zest in another bowl. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until everything is well incorporated. You want dough that is slightly sticky and pliable but definitely not wet. If the dough seems to be too moist, add a little bit of flour.


Form the dough into a ball. Roll it out between two sheets of parchment paper until it is about 1/8 inch thick. Cut into round shapes using a 2 1/2 inch biscuit cutter. Place cookies on a baking pan lined with parchment paper. Use a 1 inch round cookie cutter (or use the other side of a pastry tip - see below) to cut a hole out of half of the cookies. (Use the little round cookies to make smilely face cookies like in the photo above.)




Assemble:
Take about 2 tsp of the cranberry filling and place it in the center of each cookie. Top it with the cookie with a hole and seal the edges by pressing down. 


Sprinkle chopped candied pecans on top. Bake the cookies at 350ºF for 11 minutes. Rotate the pan and bake for 5 minutes or until the cranberry filling becomes bubbly. Remove from oven, cool and serve.

*The strength of agar powder may vary depending on the brand. If your cranberry jam comes out a bit on the loose side, fork the edges when putting the two cookies together so it doesn't bleed.



Looking for gift ideas and like what you see here? How about giving a vegan dessert book that features sweet treats without any refined sugar?

December 10, 2012

green rolls with pumpkin seed dressing


Rich and creamy and so simple to make, pumpkin seed dressing is one of my favorite dressings. This is probably true for many people since I've never met anyone that does not like it. It is super versatile too. In the summer time, I like adding some fresh basil and tossing it with cooked pasta and blanched carrots, broccoli, summer squash to make a salad.  

In this version I added dulse flakes to give the dressing a bit of a twist. The mild flavor of the sea vegetable makes it taste kind of like Caesar dressing. If you want to go all out, add some lemon juice, garlic, nutritional yeast and black pepper. Go wild.
 
Ingredients

Pumpkin seed dressing
 makes 1 1/4 cups
3/4 cups raw pumpkin seeds
3/4 cups water
1/2 TBS ume paste
2 tsp dulse flakes (OR 1/3 sheet of toasted nori, torn into small pieces)

  1. Wash the pumpkin seeds and drain. Heat up a frying pan on medium high flame and add the pumpkin seeds. Stir while toasting. If the seeds start to pop, lower the flame. Continue to toast them until they start to puff up and the green color turns slightly golden. The whole process should take about 7 to 10 minutes. Let the seeds cool. 
  2. Place the roasted pumpkin seeds, water and ume paste in a high-speed blender. (Add torn nori too if using nori instead of dulse flakes.) Blend until smooth.
  3. Pour the contents into a bowl and stir in the dulse flakes.


I love this dressing with steamed greens or some green rolls. Not much of a recipe but here's how to make the rolls...

A few leaves of collard greens, destemmed
A few leaves of napa cabbage
Carrot, cut in matchsticks
Avocado, peel, pitted and sliced
1/8 head of red cabbage, sliced thin
A little bit of pickled shiso leaves, rinsed

Blanch all the vegetables except for the avocado and shiso. Lay the collard greens on a sushi mat and place the napa cabbage leaves on top. Place carrot, avocado, red cabbage and pickled shiso leaves. Roll like you would roll a sushi roll. Cut and serve with pumpkin seed dressing.

December 2, 2012

tofu patties with kuzu glaze



As it is here in the US, tofu is considered a health food in Japan. Called "tofu Hamburg" in Japanese, patties made with tofu are quite popular and often seen on the menu at restaurants. However, surprisingly they are not always vegan. Most contain ground chicken and eggs. The tofu is often just added to make the patties lighter and lower in fat/calories.

Rest assured, these patties are vegan. The texture is light but the dish is nice and filling. Pan fry the patties, pour the hot glaze over and enjoy them while they're warm. Ah, it's my kind of comfort food.

Ingredients
serves 3-4 people
Patties
1 block extra firm tofu, drained and pressed between two plates for a few hours
2 cups fresh shiitake mushrooms, de-stemmed and minced (about 1 1/4 cups)
1 medium size carrot, minced (about 3/4 cup)
2 TBS arame, soaked for 5 minutes, drained and chopped small
green part of scallions, sliced thin (about 1/4 cup)
1 1/2 to 2 TBS  unbleached white flour (Arrowroot will also work.)

2 tsp toasted sesame oil
2 TBS water
1 TBS shoyu

Kuzu glaze
3/4 cup vegetable broth OR water (I used the mushroom stems to make a stock since they were a bit dry and woody.)
1 1/2 TBS shoyu
2 tsp mirin OR rice syrup (optional)
2 tsp kuzu, mixed with 2 tsp water

virgin sesame oil for pan frying

cooked frozen edamame OR sliced scallions for garnish
grated ginger

Directions
  1. Prepare the patties: Sauté the carrots in sesame oil for a couple of minutes. Add shiitake mushrooms and cook until they become coated with oil. Add chopped arame, water and shoyu and cook off the liquid. Set aside to cool.
  2. Mash tofu in a bowl. Add the cooked vegetables, scallion slices and flour. Mix by hand.
  3. Divide the tofu mixture into 6 (or smaller) equal parts. Shape them into patties and then toss each back and forth between the palms to release the trapped air. Set them aside.  
  4. Prepare the kuzu glaze: Place vegetable broth, shoyu and mirin in a small pot and let it come to a gentle boil. Thicken the mixture with kuzu and cook for a few minutes.
  5. Pan fry the patties: Warm up a cast-iron skillet* on medium high flame and generously coat it with sesame oil. Place the patties on the skillet. Cook one side for 5 minutes or until it turns golden brown. Flip and cook the other side.
  6. Place the patties on a plate and pour a generous portion of glaze on top. Garnish with grated ginger and edamame or scallions and serve.
*Cast-iron skillet works the best for pan frying as it has a non-stick surface without the yucky coating of a non-stick frying pan. (You don't want that in your food, do you?) If you don't have a cast-iron skillet, use a stainless steel frying pan and a shallow layer of oil. It is important to cook the patties long enough so they release from the pan. Be careful not to burn the patties or the oil. Yes, it's a bit tricky. That's why I highly recommend getting a cast-iron pan. They run around $15 and last for decades. Lodge is a good brand.


These patties are nice even when cold. Great for bento (packed lunch)!

November 27, 2012

mock tomato sauce



Now that the Thanksgiving feast is over and the leftovers are all gone, some of us might be feeling a bit out of sorts. Consuming overly rich and heavy foods, white flour and lots of sugar can turn your body acidic. Eating nightshades can exacerbate this condition.

Here is a great alternative to tomato sauce if you are avoiding nightshades (or just simply out of canned tomatoes). My husband is the master of mock tomato sauce. (Check out his blog for a great vegan pizza recipe!) He was actually the one that made the tomato-free ketchup and barbecue sauce that I had for the first time. With the sweetness from the carrots and onions and the tartness from ume vinegar, it tastes so much like the real thing. You won't miss the tomato. Here's my version with a small piece of beet.

Ingredients

2 tsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 red onion, sliced (about 1 1/4 cups)
2 tsp ume vinegar
2 small carrots, sliced (about 1 cup)
half of small beet, peeled and sliced
1/2 cup water
2 TBS shoyu

1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme 

Directions
  1. In a medium sized pot, place olive oil and crushed garlic and sauté on medium high flame until fragrant. Add onion slices and sprinkle ume vinegar on top. This helps to brighten up the onion's red color. Cook until the onions soften. 
  2. Add the sliced carrots and beet. Sauté for a couple of minutes. Add water and shoyu and cover. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes until the vegetables are soft.
  3. Transfer to a blender and blend until smooth. Return to pot, add the herbs and cook for a few minutes.




This sauce can be used for pizza and pasta. Also great spread on toast or pan-fried polenta!


November 12, 2012

mushroom/leek tofu quiche


As cold weather sets in here in the Berkshires, it becomes harder and harder to get up in the morning. I started off a lazy Sunday by mustering up the will power to get out of bed, imagining a warm kitchen with a hot oven. Tofu quiche, here I come....

Ingredients
makes one 9" pie plate
Rosemary-Scented Crust
3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 cup unbleached white flour (OR white pastry flour)
1 tsp dried rosemary, ground (double the amount if using fresh)
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/3 cup coconut oil*
1 TBS safflower oil
2-3 TBS cold water

*Coconut oil is what makes the crust nice and flaky. You can go with all coconut oil instead of the safflower/coconut oil combination, but I found the coconut flavor to be a bit too overwhelming. The chopped up rosemary makes a nice addition to the savory crust. 

Filling
1 TBS olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
l medium leek, sliced, keeping the white and green parts separate (3 cups total)
12 oz crimini mushrooms, sliced (3 3/4 cups)
1 TBS shoyu

Base

1 block of extra firm tofu, drained & pressed
1 1/2 TBS sweet miso
1 TBS nutritional yeast (optional)
2 tsp ume paste
1/4 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp dried rosemary
1/4 tsp dried tarragon 
1/4 tsp dried thyme
dash of turmeric

Directions

  1. To prepare the crust: Place whole wheat pastry flour, white flour, rosemary and salt in a bowl. Add coconut oil and safflower oil and mix it with a fork in a cutting motion.
  2. Stir in the cold water one tablespoon at a time. Mix the dough with your hands to form it into a ball.
  3. Press the dough into an oiled pie plate. Prebake the crust in a preheated oven at 350°F for 12 to 15 minutes. Set aside to cool. 
  4. To prepare the filling: Place the oil and garlic in a pan and cook until fragrant. Add the white parts of the leek and sauté for a few minutes until coated with oil. Add the sliced mushrooms and cook until they become soft. Season with shoyu and add the green parts of the leek. Cook for a minute. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
  5. Place the rest of the ingredients in a food processor to make the base for the filling. Process until smooth.
  6. Add the tofu base to the bowl of cooked vegetables and mix. Pour into the cooled crust and bake at 350°F for 20 to 25 minutes. Allow the quiche to cool for about 10 minutes before serving.

<Variation>
asparagus/mushroom tofu quiche

Use 1 lb of asparagus instead of the leek. Trim the ends and reserve some of the tips for decoration. Cut the rest in thin slices. Sauté them in oil in place of the white parts of the leek in the directions above. Blanch the asparagus tips that were set aside for decoration. Prepare the filling and spread it over the crust as above. Arrange the asparagus tips on top of the filling and bake.
 


<Gluten-free option>

This quiche can also be baked without a crust for a tasty gluten-free option. Make sure all the seasonings contain no gluten: use chickpea miso instead of white miso, use Bragg's or Coconut Amino instead of shoyu and make sure the nutritional yeast is certified gluten-free (nutritional yeast itself contains no gluten but some brands may be cross-contaminated).


Prepare the filling and add 1 TBS of arrowroot or potato starch. Oil a muffin pan and spoon the filling into the cups. Bake in a preheated oven at 350°F for 15 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes and remove from the pan using a butter knife.

Looking for more vegan brunch ideas? Why not giving tempeh sausages a try?

 

November 5, 2012

thanksliving wellington


Wellington usually involves some kind of meat which is wrapped in puff pastry and baked. Here is a vegetarian version stuffed with homemade seitan, caramelized onions, yam and kale. Served with mushroom gravy, this makes a wonderful main dish for Thanksgiving. Seitan (often referred to as "wheat meat") can be purchased through a health food store. The homemade savory seitan roast is very simple to prepare and I recommend giving it a try as it can be used in a variety of dishes.

Ingredients (makes 2 rolls, serves 6-8 people)

1 box of vegan puff pastry (contains two sheets), thawed according to directions on package
seitan, sliced thin (for homemade seitan roast, see the recipe here)
2 medium yellow onions, sliced thin (about 4 cups)
1/2 bunch kale, de-stemmed & torn into bite size pieces (about 2 cups)
1 medium yam, peeled & sliced thin (about 2 cups)

1. Caramelize the onions by sauteing the slices in 1 TBS olive oil. Cook the kale in a steamer for a minute. Steam the sliced yam for 3-4 minutes. Set them aside.

2. Place a sheet of puff pastry on a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough out using a rolling pin to about 1/8" thickness.


3. To assemble, lay strips of seitan across the dough, leaving an inch on the sides. Layer the caramelized onions on top and place the steamed yam and kale on top.

 

4. To roll it up, pull the edge toward you to cover the stuffing and tuck it in. Try to achieve a tight roll. This process is kind of like making a giant sushi roll.
 

5. Then tuck the sides in and roll up the rest of the pastry tightly.


5. Close up the roll by wetting your fingers a little bit and pinching the dough.

 

6. Place on a baking pan lined with parchment paper and bake at 350°F (preheated) for 30 minutes. Rotate the pan and bake for another 20 minutes or until golden brown.

7. Place on a cooling rack and let it sit for a few minutes. Slice and serve with mushroom gravy (recipe below).

 

Mushroom gravy
Ingredients
1 TBS olive oil
1 large shallot, sliced thin
8 oz crimini mushrooms, sliced thin
8 oz oyster mushrooms, shredded by hand
2 cups soy milk
1 cup vegetable stock
2-3 TBS shoyu
1 tsp ume paste
1/4 cup kuzu, mixed with 1/2 cup cold water  

1. Saute the shallots in oil until they become translucent. Add the mushrooms and cook until they become soft.  

2. Add soy milk and vegetable stock. Let it come to a gentle boil and add shoyu and ume paste to season.  

3. Thicken the mixture with kuzu mixed with water. Cook for a couple of minutes.

Looking for menu ideas for the ThanksLiving dinner? How about making a balanced meal by adding rice pilaf, roasted vegetables with balsamic reduction, greens or fresh salad, cauliflower/leek chowder and a light dessert (May I suggest poached pears from THE PEACEFUL DESSERT BOOK?)




November 1, 2012

squash soup with croutons



It's getting chilly these days and the weather is strongly calling for soups. I had these lovely organic butternut squash and orange kabocha squash (aka red kuri squash, "kuri" meaning "chestnuts" in Japanese) from a local farm, some stale sourdough bread on the kitchen counter and it was cold outside. There was no way to pass up on the opportunity.


The beauty of using soft-skinned butternut and/or orange kabocha is that you don't have to peel them (unless you're using non-organic or the skin is unusually tough). Regular kabocha can affect the color of the soup because of its green skin (which could be perfect for St. Patrick's day). Just clean it up a little bit by removing the blemishes and the hard bits on the outside.


Here I kept the soup very simple by seasoning it with just salt to bring out the natural sweetness of the squash and to balance it with the herb-baked croutons. Have fun and change the recipe around. Roast the squash until caramelized to intensify the sweet flavor. The soup can be seasoned with white miso to give it a mellow taste. Add crushed garlic or nutritional yeast when making the croutons to give them a little more pizazz. Hmm... I'm craving for more. 

 
Squash soup 

5 cups winter squash, cubed
2-3 cups vegetable stock (make your own with vegetable scraps)
salt to taste

Homemade croutons
3 cups sourdough bread, cubed

1 TBS olive oil
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp dried basil

salt and pepper to taste


parsley and pepper to garnish

  1. Place the cubed squash in a pot and add 1 1/2 cup of the stock. Sprinkle some salt, cover and let it come to a boil. Lower the flame and cook until the squash becomes soft, about 15-20 minutes.  
  2. Prepare the croutons while the squash is cooking. Mix all the ingredients and place it on a baking pan. Bake at 375°F (preheated) for 15 minutes, giving the mixture a stir half way through. 
  3. Blend the cooked squash along with the rest of the stock. Use 1/2 cup if you want it thick and add more if you want to make it lighter. Season the soup with salt and return to the pot to warm up. 
  4. Ladle the soup into bowls and top with croutons. Garnish with freshly ground pepper and parsley.


If you love kabocha squash as much as I
do, you might also want to try kabocha custard and kabocha salad with sesame dressing.

October 28, 2012

halloween cookies


Halloween is just around the corner again. It was about the same time a year ago that I posted a recipe for ghost cookies. Due to my nuptials this summer,
I acquired some kitchen stuff from my husband's collection. Now I have three Halloween-themed cookie cutters: bat, ghost and spider. How fun!

I used a variety of flours in the cocoa cookies to achieve a biscuit-like texture, but it's not important that you follow it to the T. You can change the recipe around as long as the total amount of flour is the same. The idea is to achieve a pliable dough that can be easily rolled out.

These cookies are mild in their sweetness. If you like sweeter cookies, simply replace the rice syrup with maple syrup.

Cocoa cookies
1/2 cup brown rice flour
1/4 cup oat flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup white pastry flour (OR unbleached white flour)
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2 TBS potato starch
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda

1/4 cup safflower oil
1/4 cup brown rice syrup (OR maple syrup)
2 TBS maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp sea salt

  1. Sift the dry ingredients into a bowl. Mix the wet ingredients and salt in another bowl. 
  2. Add the mixed wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix. Form into a ball with your hands. If the dough seems a little too wet, add some white flour. 
  3. Thinly roll out the dough between two sheets of parchment paper using a rolling pin. Cut out the dough with cookie cutters of your choice. If the rolled out dough seems to be too soft, chill in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes.
  4. Lay the cookies on a baking pan lined with parchment paper and bake them in a 350°F oven (preheated) for 10 minutes. Rotate the pan and bake for another 2 to 3 minutes. Let cool on a rack.




The base of the ghost cookies shown above is made with vanilla cookies. Not much of a recipe but here it is.

Vanilla cookies
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup white pastry flour (OR unbleached white flour)
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda

1/4 cup safflower oil
1/3 cup brown rice syrup (OR maple syrup if you like the cookies sweeter)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp sea salt

Prepare the dough following the steps for the cocoa cookies. Use the cocoa cookie dough to form eyes, etc. for the vanilla cookies.



A fun marbled effect like in the spider above can be obtained by folding the vanilla dough into the cocoa dough. Have fun!