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!

October 24, 2012

tempeh "sausages"

What could be better than a brunch on a Sunday morning? A vegan brunch! Usually involving standard breakfast fares like eggs, sausages, bacon, ham and quiche, brunch meals can make you feel sluggish, like you need to go right back to bed. How about making it all vegan so it won't weigh you down? Eggs can be easily replaced with scrambled tofu, cole slaw can be made with vegan mayo and tempeh sausages can be served instead of sausage links! Add some home fries and you're good to go.

Meat substitutes such as vegan sausages are now widely available at grocery stores. I don't buy them as they are highly processed and I prefer to know what I'm putting in my mouth.

Here's a recipe for made-from-scratch vegan sausages using tempeh. The texture is not quite like the real deal to be honest, but the added herbs make the flavor pretty close. Don't let the long list of ingredients overwhelm you. Small amounts of herbs and spices can be purchased from the bulk section of natural foods stores.


1 8-oz package tempeh

Herb/spice mixture
2 TBS vegan Worcestershire sauce (I make my own but you can use the one from Wizard's or replace it with shoyu.)
1 tsp marjoram
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp sage
1 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 tsp smoky paprika
pinches of cayenne pepper

1/4 cup water or vegetable stock

1/3 cup panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
2 TBS vital wheat gluten
1 TBS shoyu
1 TBS ground flax seeds 
2 tsp tomato paste
1 tsp brown rice syrup (or maple syrup)

safflower oil for frying

  1. Cut the tempeh into chunks. Steam for 20 minutes.
  2. Mix all the ingredients for the herb/spice mixture.
  3. Place the steamed tempeh in a pan and pour half of the spice mixture along with water or vegetable stock. Cover and let it come to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes.
  4. Transfer to a bowl and mash the tempeh with a fork.
  5. Add the test of the ingredients and the remaining spice mixture. Mix well.
  6. Form the mixture into sausages and pan fry them in shallow oil for about 3 minutes each side or until golden brown.
The sausages can also be shaped into patties and pan fried on a cast iron skillet like shown below.

Cut up into small pieces, the sausage makes a great pizza topping, too!

Enjoy and have fun!

October 17, 2012

seitan "chicken" nuggets

Seitan, a delicious protein-packed "meat," is traditionally prepared by making a dough with wheat flour and water, washing out the starch and cooking the mass of gluten that is left behind.

Making seitan at home becomes so much easier if you use "vital wheat gluten," which is basically wheat protein in a powdered form (not to be mistaken with "gluten flour" that contains more gluten than regular flour, but not enough to make seitan). In addition to speeding up the production process and removing the hassle of rinsing away the starch from the dough (which means you don't have to worry about clogging up the sink), the advantage of using vital wheat gluten is that you can actually add seasoning and herbs to the seitan itself to give it some flavor (usually seitan is rather bland and flavor is added by simmering it in a seasoned broth).

(So, for this Thanksgiving, how about making a savory seitan roast seasoned with the herbs that you would normally use for cooking a turkey?)

Here the seitan is seasoned to give it a chicken-y flavor, simmered in shoyu-kombu broth and then deep-fried to create the "crispy on the outside chewy on the inside" texture. The simmered seitan can be eaten just as is, but the extra step of frying does make a big difference in bringing the texture closer to that of chicken.
makes about 6 cups
2 cups vital wheat gluten
1/4 cup nutritional yeast (optional but does give more depth to the flavor)
2 TBS unbleached white flour

1 1/4 cup vegetable broth (room temperature)
3 TBS shoyu
1 TBS tomato paste
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp smoky paprika
1/2 tsp oregano
dashes of ground black pepper

7 cups vegetable broth or water (room temperature)
1/4 cup shoyu 
1 inch piece of kombu

Dipping sauce (Mix all the ingredients in a bowl.)
2 TBS tomato paste (OR agave-sweetened ketchup if you have any on hand)
2 TBS shoyu
2 tsp ume vinegar
2 tsp water 
1/4 tsp smoky paprika

  1. Place vital wheat gluten, nutritional yeast and white flour in a big bowl. Place rest of the ingredients in another bowl and mix. Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl of dry ingredients and mix with a wooden spoon.
  2. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes until it becomes spongy.
  3. Combine the vegetable broth, shoyu and kombu in a large pot. Bring it to a boil on medium flame while dropping pieces of dough formed in bite-size balls (or bigger if you want to make cutlets like shown down below).
  4. After the broth comes to a boil, turn the flame down and simmer for an hour. (Turn the pieces once in a while and check to make sure they are submerged in broth.)
  5. Let the seitan cool. Covered with broth in a container, the seitan can be stored in the fridge for 5-6 days.
  6. If continuing onto the step of deep-frying, blot the seitan pieces with paper towel while getting the oil hot.
  7. Deep fry the seitan until it turns brown and crispy on the outside. Remove the pieces from oil and allow to drain. Serve with dipping sauce.

Seitan is so versatile that it can be sliced, battered and pan-fried to make cutlets (shown above). Here a large piece of seitan is sliced thin and coated with corn flour. Pan fry with a little oil in a cast-iron skillet until crispy. Enjoy!