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!

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

  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!

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


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.)

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.

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.

serves 3-4 people
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

  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)!