Thursday, August 25, 2011

Avocado + Mango + Peach

Summer is not over, friends.

I know what you're thinking, because it's all I've been hearing lately: It's time for football season. You're tired of the humidity. You've already picked out your dog's Halloween costume. Summer is yesterday's news.

Except, it's totally not.

Summer is right here, friends. It's enticing you with bright green avocados and sweet, ripe mangoes.

And peaches! Oh, the juicy, scrumptious peaches.

So grab those tasty fruits, mix 'em together, season to taste, and slather that Green Summer Spread all over your bean burger (the bean burger you cooked on the grill...because it's still summer).

I'll admit, I was skeptical of this unlikely combination at first: Avocado + mango + peaches? I thought peaches paired with brown sugar and cinnamon. Avocados match with margaritas. And mangos just belong in tropical fruit drinks.

But miraculously, these three wonder fruits are a match made in heaven. Whether you're using it as topping for your bean burger, or serving it as a dip with tortilla chips, this fabulous Green Summer Spread will not last long.

So let's show Autumn who's boss. There's only room for one season in this town, and Summer still takes the least for the next few weeks.

Green Summer Spread (Avocado-Mango-Peach Spread)

This recipe is crazy-simple. You can throw it together in under 10 minutes for a quick appetizer, sandwich spread, or simply to enjoy with a spoon (hey, we all do it!). As the picture shows, I served my spread on top of a bean burger with a little salsa and cilantro for garnish

  • 2 avocados, peeled ripened to perfection
  • 1 mango, also peeled and ripened to perfection (what can I say? I'm a perfectionist)
  • 1 large peach
  • 2 TBSP finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • a dash of lime juice
  • Garlic powder to taste
  • a sprinkling of salt
1) Use a fork to mash the peeled avocado in a bowl. Set aside. Dice the mango and peach. Stir into the mashed avocado. Season with garlic powder and a dash of salt. Serve with bean burgers, tortilla chips, or whatever your heart desires!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Cookie Dough...Cookies

Surprises are the best, aren't they?

Fresh flowers on the coffee table. Dinner ready when you get home from work. An impromptu ice cream date on a random Tuesday night.

A new book waiting for you on the kitchen counter...The Oxford Book of Modern Science Writing.

Wait a minute. Seriously? That's a surprise someone would want?

Friends, in my husband's world, there is no better surprise than a lengthy, detailed book on the topic of genetics, developmental biology, and the like. His brain contemplates mutations on the M8 gene of fruit fly at the same intensity that my brain ponders how to perfect my next pie crust.

Don't ask me to explain it, but it works.

With this in mind, I set out last week to surprise Adam with the Oxford's latest edition of Modern Science Writing. But I couldn't let the surprise stop there. I had to add some sweet lovin' into the mix.

Enter Cookie Dough Cookies.

That's right: They're cookies that taste like unbaked cookie dough. Again, don't ask me to explain. They're simply amazing.

Did I mention that they're vegan? They are. And that almost makes them healthy, right?

I set a little plate of these suckers right next to his new science-y book, and when he got home from work I watched the joy wash over over his face.

I'm not sure which he enjoyed more, but it was definitely a close race.

Cookie Dough Cookies
Makes 32 cookies

This recipe is based on the widely-acclaimed "Dough Ball" recipe that swept the blog world last year. The variations are endless. I've made them with sprinkles for a Funfetti version, and peanut butter for a PB version. You could white chocolate chips, chopped pecans, coconut, or mini M & Ms for your mix-ins.

  • 2 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar (these cookies aren't too sweet; if you prefer a sweeter cookie, consider experimenting and increasing the sugar amount)
  • 1/3 cup non-hydrogenated vegan margarine, melted
  • 1/3 cup crunchy almond butter
  • 1/2 cup almond milk (or other milk of your choosing)
  • 2 - 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • For your mix-ins: For a chocolate-chipper version, use 1 cup mini chocolate chips (or full-size chocolate chips, coarsely chopped); Or, use rainbow sprinkles for a Funfetti version.
1) Preheat oven to 350 and coat cookie sheets with cooking spray.

2) Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. Beat in margarine, milk, and vanilla until well-combined. Stir in mix-ins.

3) Scoop dough by even tablespoon-fuls onto the cookie sheet. Do not flatten! Leave them in their cute little rounded shapes. Bake for 7 - 8 minutes--I like mine to stay slightly gooey in the middle (they are cookie dough cookies!).

Monday, August 15, 2011

Vege-Head Pot Pies

I've got one. You've got one. We've all got one.

You know who I'm talking about: The Meat and Potatoes Person in your life.

You've tried convincing them with a fresh kale and apple salad. You've attempted to woo them with your favorite quinoa dish. You've even gone so far as to make tofu-laced mac n' cheese.

But your efforts prove fruitless. The Meat always wins.

Until now.

My Meat and Potatoes Person is my sweet father-in-law. He has a heart of gold, a brilliant mind, and a stomach that loves steak. And bacon. And brats.

This week, Tom is visiting us for a few days. We're looking forward to relaxing chats on the porch and some classic Dad-Son bonding time for Adam.

But when it comes to cooking, I've been on the edge of a full-fledged panic. I spent the better part of Saturday surrounded by cookbooks, calling out recipe titles to Adam, only to have him reluctantly shake his head "no."

"What about the Spicy Moroccan Bread Salad? He'd love that!"

"Oh! Curried Quinoa with Mango will be perfect, don't you think?"

"Dude. Seriously. Who wouldn't love our Barbeque Tempeh Sandwiches?"

No, no, and...definitely no.

I had to switch gears. When it comes to cooking for one's favorite meat-loving carnivore, a girl must truly put herself in a Meat and Potatoes Mindset. Read: hearty, filling, traditional.

Solution? Pot Pies, of course! Veganomicon's recipe for classic vegetarian pot pies sounded like the perfect cuisine to satisfy Tom and please my vegetarian lifestyle. Be still, my heart :)

If August seems too early to be cooking a casserole this hearty, make sure you bookmark this one for that first chilly Fall evening. With a recipe this tasty, you just might find your Meat and Potatoes Person coming to your side of the food divide. Just ask Tom: he went back for a seconds.

Vegan Pot Pie
(adapted from Veganomicon by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero)

An added bonus for this recipe is its make-ahead quality. You can spend a relaxing Sunday afternoon creating the pie, then pop it in the refrigerator before baking. Voila! It's ready to go in the oven when you get home from work on Monday.

Crust Ingredients:
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 1 TBSP. sugar
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 cup non-hydrogenated vegan shortening
  • 1/2 cup non-hydrogenated vegan "butter" (I use Earth Balance)
  • 1 to 1 - 1/2 cups ice water
  • 4 tsp. apple cider vinegar
Filling Ingredients:
  • a little olive oil
  • 1 - 2 cups cubed seitan
  • 1 TBSP low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 large carrots, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1/2 pound red potatoes, diced
  • 1 cup frozen green peas
  • 2/3 + 1-1/2 cups veggie broth, divided
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1 tsp. mustard powder
  • 3/4 tsp. ground sage
  • 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
  • salt to taste
1) To prepare the crust: Combine crust dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Cut in butter and shortening; mix using a fork until crumbly.

2) In a separate bowl, measure out 1 cup of ice water; stir in the vinegar. Slowly add the vinegar-water to the dough, gently mixing until the dough holds together. If needed, you can add a little more ice water (only a spoonful at a time!) until the dough holds together.

3) Divide the dough into 2 balls--one dough ball should be slightly larger than the other.

4) Sprinkle a clean work surface with flour and roll the larger dough ball out until is approximately 3 inches larger than the casserole dish you will be using. Place on parchment or wax paper, and cover with another sheet of parchment or wax paper. Refrigerate while you make the filling.

5) Roll the smaller dough ball on a floured work surface until it reaches the size of the casserole dish you will be using (this will be the top of your pot pie!). Place on wax or parchment paper, and cover with another sheet of wax or parchment paper. Refrigerate while you make the filling.

6) To prepare the filling: Heat oven to 375 degrees. Drizzle a little olive oil in a large skillet and heat over medium heat on the stovetop. Add seitan and soy sauce, and saute for about 8 minutes. Set aside.

7) In a soup pot, heat about 3 TBSP of olive oil and stir in the flour. Stir frequently and continue heating for about 10 minutes. Stir in the chopped onion, carrot, potato, and celery; cook for about 8 minutes, stirring constantly.

8) Add 2/3 cup veggie broth to the pot and continue cooking for about 2 - 3 minutes. Add frozen peas, remaining veggie broth, thyme, mustard powder, sage, black pepper, and salt. Bring the mixture a simmer and cook for about 8 - 12 minutes, until the broth has reduced and a thin gravy has started to form.

9) Remove larger disc of dough from the refrigerator and press into your casserole dish. Pour filling over crust and top with remaining disc of dough. Flute edges of the crust together using a fork. Pierce a few holes in the top of the crust as well.

10) Bake for about 40 - 45 minutes, until the filling is boiling and the crust is lightly browned. Also, place a large, rimmed baking sheet on the oven rack beneath your casserole while baking--this dish can sometimes bubble over!

11) Definitely allow to cool 10 - 15 minutes before slicing--it's piping hot straight out of the oven!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Single Serving Vegan Pancakes

Who doesn't look forward to a long-awaited day off from work?

And, more importantly, let's talk about what you'll do on your coveted day off.

For me, the only way to start an off-from-work day is with a not-so-ordinary breakfast. A bowl of cereal with a banana simply does not make the cut, folks. That's definitely a Work Day Breakfast.

Instead, I turn to my single serving Vegan Pancake recipe. I discovered this recipe for Blueberry Pie Pancakes on Katie's blog a few months ago, and it's rare that I've gone a week without making it since.

This special breakfast is super-fast to pull together, ridiculously delicious (blueberry pie for breakfast anyone?) and oh-so-healthy. Plus, the single serving size ensures that you don't go overboard on the first meal of the day (when faced with unlimited quantities of delicious food, I have no shame).

This morning, I started my day off with a scrumptious plate of pancakes, the latest edition of Vegetarian Times, and a little Today Show action on TV.

Life is good :)

Do you have a day from work coming up? These are some of my favorite "Day Off" breakfasts:

These can also serve as a quick work-day breakfast. Just measure and mix the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl the night before. In the morning, add the wet ingredients and blueberries, and you're ready to go!

  • 1/3 cup flour (I use whole wheat)
  • 3/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 TBSP rolled oats
  • 1 tsp. brown sugar (if you like sweeter pancakes, you may want to add more sugar)
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup vanilla almond milk, unsweetened
  • 1/2 cup blueberries, coarsely mashed (I mash after I stir them into the batter)
  • 2 TBSP toasted chopped walnuts
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir until well-combined. Heat a skillet over medium heat and spray liberally with cooking spray. Use a 1/3 cup measuring cup to scoop 2 pancakes onto the skillet. Cook for about 2 - 4 minutes, or until lightly browned on the bottom. Flip and repeat on the opposite side. Serve with blueberry sauce.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Summer Reflections...and Blueberry Pie

My summer has been completely typical of the average 27 year old female. Nothing unusual at all.

Among the highlights and lessons learned....

  • I judged a teenage pie-eating contest (Lesson Learned: One's love for food and cooking does not necessarily translate into a passion for competitive eating.)

  • I almost got kicked out of a Planetarium show by an angry Physicist (Lesson Learned: When you warn your students about the importance of following rules--like not texting during a Planetarium show--make sure you follow your own rules.)

  • I observed a sunset funeral for a bat...who was killed by one of the students...inside the office (Lesson Learned: A sunset service is the only way to go.)

  • I was serenaded daily to the tune of "The Bad Touch" by the Bloodhound Gang, and "Baby Got Back" by Sir-Mix-a-Lot (Lesson Learned: When driving a 15 passenger van of teenagers is part of the job, listening to their iPod playlists also becomes part of the job.)

Needless to say, living, eating, and working with with 22 teenagers for 6 weeks makes for an eventful and joyful summer.

The summer camp portion of my job has concluded for this year though. And while I'm sad to see the kids go, I'm looking forward to enjoying the non-work pleasures of summer: evening walks, Dairy Queen treats, yard work with Adam, Team Trivia with friends, and eating dinner on the porch.

Did I mention blueberry pie?

Because a juicy Blueberry Pie with a cinnamon-y crumb topping is definitely on my list of summer pleasures.

I baked this blue beauty on Saturday afternoon, basking in the glow of all the summer that still lays ahead.

Blueberry Crumb Pie
(recipe from

Filling Ingredients:
  • 1 unbaked pie shell (I used my favorite recipe for Perfect Pie Dough)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. grated lemon zest
  • 1 TBSP lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 5 - 6 cups fresh blueberries
Crumb Topping Ingredients:
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 6 TBSP butter

1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Press pie shell into a 9 inch pie pan; set aside in the refrigerator.

2) In a large bowl, combine the filling ingredients. Stir until blueberries are fully-coated. Pour into the pie shell.

3) In the same bowl, combine the brown sugar, oats, flour, and cinnamon for the crumb topping. Cut in the butter and mix with a fork until the mixture is crumbly. Pour evenly over the blueberries.

4) Bake pie for 40 minutes, or until edges of crust and top are lightly browned. Allow to cool completely before cutting. Serve with vanilla ice cream :)

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

I'll Take S'More Cupcakes, Please

S'mores make my heart dance, my tastebuds smile, and my hideously off-key voice sing. They're truly the edible essence of summer.

I'll be honest: marshmallows on their own don't do much for me. I don't like them jumbo or miniature, bunny-shaped or Halloween-themed, or even melted with my Rice Krispies.

But when those pillowy clouds of sugar are sandwiched between two sweet honey grahams and some milk chocolatey Hershey's goodness...Whew! Hellooooo, Marshmallow...

For Memorial Day weekend, I was eager to bring a summer-theme dessert to share at the family picnic. Although last year's blue ribbon winning S'More Bar Cookies were hard to beat, I was looking for something new to celebrate the arrival of summer.

Enter S'More Cupcakes.

I'll take s'more of those scrumptious cupcakes, please.

They're messy, they're gooey, and the tops are drizzled with more chocolate. Did I mention the rich chocolate buttercream?

Enough said. Let's get baking.

S'More Cupcakes

Nothing says summer like roasted marshmallows. When a bonfire isn't handy though, and you forgot to sharpen your marshmallow-roasting sticks, make these cupcakes for the potluck picnic instead.

Cupcake Ingredients:
  • Your favorite chocolate cupcake recipe, for 12 cupcakes (I used this fabulous recipe)
  • 1/2 cup milk chocolate mini chocolate chips
  • 1 cup graham cracker crumbs, divided
  • Mini marshmallows (about 6 per cupcake)
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2 tsp. milk
Chocolate Frosting Ingredients:
  • 10 TBSP butter, softened
  • 2 TBSP shortening
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 3 - 3/4 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 - 5 TBSP milk
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
1) Prepare chocolate cupcake batter (for 12 cupcakes). Stir in 1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs and 1/2 cup mini milk chocolate chips. Bake cupcakes as directed and cool completely.

2) To prepare frosting: Cream butter and shortening together until light and fluffy. Beat in cocoa powder until well-blended. Beat in powdered sugar in 1/2 cup increments, adding a little milk after each sugar addition. Add vanilla extract and mix frosting until thoroughly combined (add more sugar or milk to reach desired consistency).

3) To prepare chocolate drizzle: Melt semi-sweet chocolate chips and 2 tsp. milk together in the microwave (or over a double-boiler).

4) To assemble: Spoon frosting into a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip. Pipe frosting high onto cupcakes. Place about 5 - 6 mini marshmallows around the cupcake. Drizzle with semi-sweet chocolate drizzle and sprinkle with crushed graham cracker crumbs.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Homemade Oreos in the House

These little sandwich cookies will blow your Oreo-loving mind.


The cream filling is indistinguishable from the stuff you'll find in their prepackaged counterparts. The chocolatey cookies will remind you of a softer version of their crispy, store-bought twins.

And don't even get me started on their cute, bite-size nature. Bite size = more cookies per serving.

Friends, let's just say these Oreo taste-alike treats are pretty darn delicious. Adam even went so far as to say they're the best cookies that have come out of the Hungry Spoon kitchen.

Really? The man's mother is practically a professional baker. How can I compete with that?

Apparently I just did :)

In addition to their fabulous tasty-factor, these cookies have so much potential for creativity. The cream filling can be dyed to color-coordinate with a party theme. Try adding mint extract and sneaking an Andes mint into the cream filling of each cookie sandwich. Or, add more filling, and roll the edges of each cookie in sprinkles.

Infinite possibilities!

One caveat to keep in mind: The dough is sticky and can be hard to manage! Keep the dough you're not working with in the refrigerator. The next time I make them (tonight?), I may actually experiment with freezing the dough.

Ultimately, just remember the moral of today's story: Once you go homemade Oreo, you may never go back.

Homemade Oreos

These classic little cookies will take you straight back to your childhood--be sure to enjoy with a tall glass of milk. And remember: the dough is very sticky. You may want to freeze it prior to using.

Cookie Ingredients:
  • 3/4 cup shortening
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 - 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 - 2/3 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp. cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
Cream Filling Ingredients:
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup shortening
  • 2 - 1/2 to 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 - 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1) Cream the shortening and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and milk and beat until well-combined. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Refrigerate dough for at least 4 hours (or, try freezing it? I'm going to experiment with this step).

2) Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Cut another piece of parchment paper about the size of the cookie sheet you will be using. Divide the dough into 4 large chunks. Place 3 chunks back in the refrigerator, and place the remaining dough piece on the parchment paper. Cover dough with another piece of parchment paper, and use a rolling pin (on top of the parchment) to roll the dough into a disc about 1/8 - 1/4 inch thick.

3) Use a 1 - 1/2 inch cookie cutter (or, I used the rim of a shot glass!) to cut the cookies. Use a thin spatula (or careful hands) to place cookies on another piece of parchment paper. Be careful! Again, the dough is sticky and can be tricky to work with :)

4) Bake for 10 - 12 minutes. Allow to cool briefly on the cookie sheet, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat procedure with remaining dough.

5) To prepare the filling, cream the shortening and butter until light and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla, and mix the powdered sugar in slowly. Filling should be thick and pliable.

6) To prepare your sandwich cookies, spread the filling on the bottom of one cookie, and top with another cookie. Repeat with remaining cookies.