Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Savory Dinner Crepes

These were delightful.  I was feeling like pancakes tonight, but the thought of the heaviness stopped me (even though breakfast at dinner is one of my favorite things).  So, despite being sorely tempted to use the blueberries I got on sale last week to make fluffy syrup-laden flapjacks, I opted for a lighter option.  One I could fill with something healthy.  I had some roasted vegetables leftover from last night.  I had eggs.  I had Daiya cheese.  It was a done deal.

This recipe was adapted from one I found in Living Without.  I adjusted the amounts for being a single girl living alone who does not need to eat 15 crepes for dinner.  I also made it entirely whole grain - no starches in these!

And they turned out to be fabulous.  Soft and fluffy.  Bendable.  And the ingredients are so simple and minimalist, with no sugar or salt added.  They hold together so well that I suspect (although I have not yet tried it) that these could function as wraps to be eaten on the go.  You could get creative and add herbs or spices to them.  These were my first try and I loved them plain, but hey, you should go nuts.  They're going to be your dinner, not mine - so add whatever you think will taste good.  These are a delicious way to dress up your favorite ingredients for a healthy dinner or lunch!

Savory Dinner Crepes
Makes 4 medium crepes

2 tsp. Earth Balance Buttery Spread, melted and cooled
1 egg
1/6 cup sorghum flour
1/6 cup brown rice flour
1/8 tsp. xanthan gum
1/2 cup non-dairy milk (I used Sunsational Sunflower Milk - have you tried it?  It's pretty tasty!)

Beat together the melted Earth Balance and the egg.  In a separate small bowl, mix the sorghum flour, rice flour, and xanthan gum and add to the egg mixture and beat to combine.  Add the non-dairy milk little by little, mixing to incorporate each bit before adding more.  It will be thicker than regular crepe batter, but thinner than pancake batter. 

Spray a nonstick pan with cooking spray and heat over medium-high heat.  When the pan is hot, add about 1/4 cup of batter and spread evenly around the pan, either by tilting the pan or by using a spatula.  Cook for 2 - 4 minutes or until the first side is browned, and then flip it over and cook until the other side is browned (for about another 1 - 3 minutes).  Remove to a plate to keep warm.

Fill with anything you like!  I filled one with roasted yellow squash, red peppers, onions, and mushrooms.  Then for the other, I beat one egg with 1 tsp. water and cooked it over medium-high heat spread thinly over the pan like a crepe.  I sprinkled some Daiya Vegan Cheese over it and added some salt and pepper.  Then when it was done, I folded it up into the real crepe.  They were both fantastic.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Heavenly Healthy Vanilla Blondies

Some blondies weigh you down, you know?  The fat.  The cup after cup of sugar.  But not these.  These blondies are better than that.

I could tell you what I think about them.  I could tell you how addictive they are, and how guilt-free you should feel eating them (at least relatively speaking).  I could get into my many thoughts on that subject.

But maybe it would be more compelling for you to hear a sampling of adjectives from the many people in my life who had a chance to try these:  Amazing.  Awesome.  Delicious.  Addictive.  Wonderful.  Something you definitely should make again.

I could go on, but I think you get the idea. 

These use a can of chickpeas as their base, but don't worry about it tasting beany.  It really doesn't.  I will warn you that an ever-so-slightly bitter aftertaste may linger on your tongue, but I barely noticed it, and others didn't notice it at all.  The vanilla really knocks the bean taste out of the picture in these.  I ate several warm from the oven and had to force myself to walk away.  I brought them all to work the next day just to avoid eating the rest of them all by myself.

So don't be afraid of the beans - embrace the beans.  The short story is, these are divine.  And blissful.  And light.

Heavenly Healthy Vanilla Blondies
Makes one 9x13  pan

1 can chickpeas
2 1/2 tbsp. peanut butter or Sunbutter (or you can substitute another nut butter)
2 tbsp. Marshmallow Fluff
1/4 cup applesauce
1 1/4 cup brown sugar
3 tsp. vanilla
1 egg
1/3 cup sorghum flour
1/3 cup tapioca starch
1/3 cup potato starch
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Combine the flours together with the baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  In a food processor, combine the rest of the ingredients and blend until very smooth.  Add the flour mixture and continue to pulse until smooth.  Stir in the chocolate chips by hand.  Spread evenly into the pan and bake at 350 F for 30 - 40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

These are fabulous right from the oven but become even more moist and lovely after sitting overnight.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Fudgy (but secretly healthy) Brownie Batter Dip

I've become ever-so-slightly obsessed with finding healthy ways to pig out on foods we all love to indulge in.  Like cookie dough, for instance.  Mmmm, cookie dough - why is it that it tastes so much better than the cookies themselves?  I've pondered the same question for brownies.  Maybe more than is normal.  There's something illicit about eating brownie batter, and at the same time, nostalgic. And, you know....sometimes unsafe.

But fear no more, because there is nothing unsafe about these.  No raw eggs.  Just raw awesomeness.  It takes mere minutes (minutes!) to throw together, and the only problem is that it might take an equally short amount of time before it's gone.

I know that this is pictured on a cracker here.  But I'll be honest with you - even though I'm calling this a dip, I know you won't judge me if I tell you that I ate most of it straight out of the bowl with a spoon.  After all, that's how brownie batter was meant to be enjoyed: unmitigated in its delicious fudginess.

Fudgy (but secretly healthy) Brownie Batter Dip

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed well
3 - 4 tbsp. cocoa powder (to your own taste)
2 tbsp. Marshmallow Fluff or Ricemellow Vegan Marshmallow Cream
2 tbsp. agave nectar
1/4 cup brown sugar (more or less to your own taste)
2 tbsp. nut butter (I used a combination of peanut butter and sunbutter)
2 tbsp. smooth applesauce
3/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. vanilla
2 tbsp. flaxseed meal (optional)
1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Combine everything but the chocolate chips in a food processor and blend until very smooth.  Adjust everything to your own taste.  Remove to a bowl and stir in the chocolate chips.  Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.  For best results, eat with a spoon, or serve as a dip with gluten-free graham crackers.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Tangy Vegan Chili

And just when I thought I couldn't be surprised by chili!  This is a recipe I have actually been meaning to post since a few months ago, when I first had it at a party hosted by my friends Matt and Mimi (click on their names to check out their fabulous blogs). It was an April Fool's party, and there was talk of chili, so I came with a batch of my banana cornbread muffins in tow, still warm from the oven.  Before I'd even climbed all of the stairs, I could smell the chili wafting down to me.  And if it smelled good, it tasted even better.

Matt made the chili, but says the recipe comes from his mom, Fonda Lowe.  It's a forgiving recipe, and most of the spices can be added to your own taste.  What you see below is an adaptation of what Matt did, which was based largely on the availability of ingredients in my kitchen when I made it.  It is quick and easy to throw together.  You can use any beans you want - black, white, pinto, chili.  Go to town!  The taste offers a slight departure, but one you'll be glad you took - trust me.  It's a chili that might not taste exactly like the chili you're used to.  That's because of a few less traditional - but brilliant - additional ingredients.  This chili is smoky and sweet, with a little kick and tang.

The other wonderful thing about this chili for me was that it introduced me to an ingredient I had never tried before: textured vegetable protein (Bob's Red Mill makes a gluten-free one!  I haven't checked any other brands.).  And therein lies the secret to the "meatiness" of this vegan chili.  TVP is super easy to use and expands into hearty little chunks that add an air of dense protein to the chili. 

It's seriously, seriously good.  Just try making it and not practically licking the pot clean.

Tangy Vegan Chili

1 tbsp. olive oil

1 onion, chopped finely
1 tbsp. minced garlic
1 large or 2 small green peppers, diced
2 tbsp. tomato paste + 1 1/2 cups water OR 1 can diced tomatoes (with the juice) + water to cover all ingredients
1 cup Bob's Red Mill Textured Vegetable Protein
1 tsp. cumin powder
1 - 2 tsp. chili powder (to taste)
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 bottle Trader Joe's Barbecue Sauce
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed well
2 - 4 tsp. liquid smoke (optional, but highly recommended) (Colgin is gluten-free!)

Salt and pepper to taste

Combine the olive oil and onion in a pot and cook over medium heat for about 4 - 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and continue to cook until the onion is translucent.  Add the green pepper, tomato paste, water, textured vegetable protein, spices, barbecue sauce, black beans, and liquid smoke and stir well.  Bring to a low boil and then reduce the heat and simmer for 15 - 30 minutes, or longer.  Basically, you should simmer it until you are happy with the way it tastes.  Add more water as needed if you're going to simmer it for a longer period of time.  It's delicious on its own or served with corn bread.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Reposted in Australia!

First, let me apologize for not posting all that much over the last few weeks - my computer broke and is (allegedly) being repaired.  But I've got a ton of awesome recipes just waiting to go up, including Healthy Brownie Batter Dip, Healthy Cookie Dough Dip, Jam Pocket Cookies, Cinnamon-Sugar Rugulach, and Soft Chickpea Wrap Pizza.  So get ready for more deliciousness in the weeks to come!

In other news, one of my recipes was featured on the blog of the Australasian Baker, the National Baking Industry Association of Australia!!  Click here to see the post.  It will also be appearing in their print magazine!  It's hard to conceive of people on the other side of the world looking at my blog and trying my recipes, but it's a huge honor to have been featured!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Cheesy Eggy Toasted Quinoa

Toasted quinoa. Where have you been all my life?

This is one of those meals that is so simple, and so quick, that you couldn't imagine it would be quite as delicious as it is. But I did not want this one to end. This was an absolutely heavenly new way to experience one of my favorite grains (I got the idea from this blog).  The slightly nutty flavor of quinoa becoming crunchy and toasted on the stovetop, with melted Daiya cheese and dried thyme, and then topped off with a runny fried egg - perfection. Simple flavors that combine into a lovely meal that is at once both light and hearty.  I would eat this for any meal, to be honest with you, but have had it mostly for dinner so far. One of my friends did make it for breakfast and loved it in the morning. So there you go - solid proof that it's delicious any time of the day.

Cheesy Eggy Toasted Quinoa
Serves one

Cooking spray
1/2 - 3/4 cup cooked quinoa
1/4 cup Daiya Vegan Cheese
1/4 - 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1 egg
Salt and pepper to taste

Coat a nonstick skillet with cooking spray and spread the quinoa out in a single layer (or as close as possible).  Sprinkle the thyme in and toast it over medium heat, stirring only occasionally, until it starts to brown. 

Make a good-sized well in the middle of the quinoa and crack the egg into it.  Make sure it has enough room to spread out and cook evenly or the quinoa will burn before it's done!  Sprinkle the Daiya cheese over the whole thing and continue to to toast, reducing the heat slightly.  When the egg is as done as you'd like it to be and the "cheese" is melted, transfer the whole thing to a plate.  Add salt and pepper to taste, and enjoy!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Top Hat Cookie Dough Balls

I'm borderline obsessed with these cookie dough balls (as you may have noticed given how many times I've posted about them).  So a few weeks ago, a friend was over at my house, and I decided to make them with a slight twist.  I decided to give them hats.  Chocolate hats.

Now, these cookie dough balls do not need the chocolate hats in order to be delicious.  (And by the way, they're inspired by the "Fudge Baby" recipes on Chocolate-Covered Katie's blog.) They are addictive and wonderful (and relatively healthy!) totally on their own.  But....they were pretty fabulous with the chocolate ganache as a topping.  Dangerously so, in fact.  Mine weren't very nicely shaped (as you can see), but if your experience is anything like mine, they won't be around long enough for anyone to notice.

Top Hat Cookie Dough Balls

7 dates, pitted
1/3 cup cashews, lightly salted
1/3 cup oats
1/3 cup coconut flakes
2 tsp. (or more!) vanilla
Dash of salt
1 tbsp. flaxseed meal (if desired)
1 - 2 tbsp. marshmallow cream or Ricemellow vegan cream
1 - 3 tbsp. So Delicious Coconut Milk Creamer (Original flavor)
1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

For ganache topping:
1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
3 - 4 tbsp. So Delicious Coconut Milk Creamer

Combine the first 9 ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth.  You want to be able to shape these with your hands into little balls, so if it's too runny, add some more oats, coconut, or cashews to make it thicker.

Roll the dough into balls and arrange on a plate.

In a small pan, melt the chocolate chips and So Delicious Coconut Milk Creamer together just until it forms a thick melted chocolate paste.  Spread the chocolate ganache onto the top of each ball of dough.  You can eat them right away, or chill them in the refrigerator or freezer until you're ready to serve them.  They are delicious at any temperature!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Ratio Rally: Chocolate Eclairs

When I was a senior in high school, my AP Calculus teacher would call on me to answer a question in front of the class.  "Do you know the answer, E-Claire?"  He chuckled to himself every time as if it were the first time he'd said it.  The rest of us would roll our eyes and offer half smiles.  (He was a nice man and an excellent teacher, but never seemed to tire of that joke!)

I don't think this created an aversion to eclairs specifically, but it certainly didn't fuel any desire in me to seek them out, either.  To this day, every time I hear the word, my thoughts go back immediately to that classroom.  Before I know it, other long-forgotten calculus vocabulary words like "derivative" and "integral" begin to creep back into my consciousness.

You know, it's a bit unsettling for a baked good to have such a strong association with high school math.

This month's Ratio Rally assignment was a true departure for me.  So far, we've been exploring ratios behind baked goods that are at least familiar to me - muffins, scones, pancakes, etc.  But Pate a Choux?  I can't even pronounce that. I don't have a keyboard that will type it correctly with the accents in the right places.  It makes me start to sweat a little.  
But you know what?  But even though it sounds super fancy, Pate a Choux is probably something you have eaten before. (Funnel cake, anyone?) And it is not nearly as scary as it sounds (or looks).  It's an incredibly versatile batter, and I thought for a long time about what specifically I'd like to make.  Cream puffs?  Gnocchi?  Beignets?  Fried Doughnuts?  Funnel cake?  The more I researched, the more possibilities there seemed to be.  I started to sweat a little again at the overwhelming number of options.

But in the end, I saw this month's Ratio Rally as a chance to redefine what eclairs are to me.  To let them out of the confines of calculus memories.  To deshroud them.  To bring them back to life.

And I am so glad I did.  And I'm glad that the Ratio Rally has branched out into this lesser-attempted feat of baking.  I will say that this is probably the strangest batter I've ever worked with, so if you find the same thing, you are not alone.  The ratio for Pate a Choux is 2 parts water: 1 part fat : 1 part flour : 2 parts egg. You start by boiling the water, salt, and butter together, then you add the flour to make a strangely shiny paste.  After it cools for a minute or two, you add the eggs in, which causes it to separate into a rather unappealing mess of lumpy dough and runny eggs.  It looks horribly wrong for a few minutes.  Be patient.  Somehow, after you mix it for another few minutes, it starts to shrink and come together (albeit reluctantly).  And then, before your eyes, it turns into batter.

A few lessons I learned from the trial and error this month.  Whatever you do, do NOT open the oven door while these are baking or you'll be watching them sadly deflate before your eyes.  Make the custard the day before you make the eclairs so it has enough time to set.  Try to make larger eclairs so there will be enough room in them to hold the custard. 

And the final lesson?  Enjoy.  Definitely enjoy.

For a list of all of the other fantastic Pate a Choux creations, visit The Sensitive Epicure, our host for the Ratio Rally this month.

Chocolate Eclairs with Vanilla (or Maple) Custard
Makes 8 medium eclairs

For the eclairs:
2/3 oz. white rice flour
2/3 oz. tapioca starch
2/3 oz. corn starch
2 tbsp. white sugar
4 oz. water
2 oz. (4 tbsp.) Earth Balance Buttery Sticks
1/4 tsp. salt
2 eggs

For the custard filling:

I followed a recipe I found on the Brown Eyed Baker's blog, but halved it for the number of eclairs this recipe made.  The only changes I made were to substitute So Delicious Original Unsweetened Coconut Milk for the half and half and Earth Balance Butter Sticks for the regular butter.  I also made half of mine maple-flavored by adding another 1 1/2 tsp. maple extract. Prepare the custard a day ahead of time and chill in the refrigerator until ready to use.  Cover with a sheet of saran wrap if possible to avoid it forming a pudding skin on top.

For the ganache topping:

1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips or dark chocolate
2 - 4 tbsp.So Delicious Coconut Milk Creamer

Note:  Because many of you may be new to pate a choux batter, I highly recommend taking a look at The Brown Eyed Baker blog, which has a fantastic set of pictures that take you through each of these steps.

Directions for Eclairs:

Preheat the oven to 425 F.

Measure and mix the rice flour, tapioca starch, and cornstarch together in a small bowl.  In a saucepan (preferably a copper-bottom or one that distributes heat evenly), bring the water, Earth Balance, salt, and sugar to a low boil.  Turn off heat and add the flour; stir rapidly to mix together.  When it is all incorporated, return the pan to low heat and continue to stir, kind of smushing it around the pan, for another 2 - 4 minutes. It will look kind of glossy and shiny and may still have a few lumps in it. When the butter starts to separate out (it will start to coat the bottom of the pan in little beads), remove the pan from the heat.

Transfer to a mixing bowl and let cool for a few minutes.  Not too much, though, as you want it to be warm-hot, but not so hot that it scrambles the eggs. Using an electric mixer, beat the flour mixture on its own for about 1 minute, then add the eggs slowly to the mixture.

You will probably think something has gone horribly wrong at this stage. But it hasn't. The batter will look like it won't accept the eggs, and lumps of flour may remain. Keep mixing for another 3 - 5 minutes, and it should turn into a real batter.

If you want to be fancy, you can scoop all of the batter into a pastry bag or even a plain baggie and squeeze it into the shape of long eclairs. Or, you can just use a spoon to shape them.  Either way, spray a sheet of parchment paper with cooking spray and shape the dough into 8 - 10 eclairs.  Place them in the oven at 425 F and set the timer for 10 minutes.  After 10 minutes, reduce the oven temp to 350 F and continue to bake for another 20 minutes. Whatever you do, do NOT open the oven during this time!!

Remove from oven and pierce them with a knife.  Allow to cool completely.  When they are cool, fill another baggie or pastry bag with the custard you made ahead of time.  Cut a small hole in one end of the eclairs (they should have puffed enough to have created a little enclave on the inside for the custard).  Pump each one full of custard.  I filled half of these with vanilla custard, and half with maple, and they were both wonderful.  Go with your gut on that one.

To make ganache topping:

For the ganache, melt together the chocolate chips and So Delicious Coconut Milk Cream in a small saucepan or even in the microwave.  Spread evenly over the top of each cream puff.  If desired, dust with powered sugar.

These are best eaten within a day or so of being made, but will survive for up to 3 days in the fridge.

Want to see what the other creative folks in the Ratio Rally came up with? Check them out below or visit Erin at The Sensitive Epicure, who was our host for this month's wonderful Ratio Rally challenge!

Amie of The Healthy Apple | Pate Choux with Creamy Macadamia Icing
Britt of GF in the City | 
  Pâte à Choux
Caleigh of Gluten Free[k] | Savoury Paris-Brest
Caneel of Mama Me Gluten Free | Key Lime Cream Puffs
Erin of The Sensitive Epicure (our host for this month's Rally!) |  Gluten-free Gougeres filled with Herbed Goat Cheese Mousse  and Churros y chocolate sin gluten
Jenn of Jenn Cuisine | Gruyère & Herbed Gougères
Lisa of Gluten Free Canteen | Cracked Pepper & Cheese Gougères
Meredith of Gluten Free Betty | Gluten Free Churros
Meaghan of The Wicked Good Vegan | Cardamom and Rose Water Cream Puffs (with Rad Whip!)
Meg of Gluten-Free Boulangerie | Chouquettes    
Pete & Kelli of No Gluten, No Problem | Almond Choux Florentines
Rachel of The Crispy Cook | Cream Puffs Filled with Coffee Cream
Robyn of Chocswirl | Gruyere & Parmesan Gougeres with Sage & Thyme    
Silvana of Silvana's Kitchen | Gluten-Free Spinach Gnocchi Parm
T.R.of No One Likes Crumbley Cookies | Beignets