Friday, December 16, 2011

Hazelnut Coffee Cookies

1 1/2 cups vegan margarine, softened (I use Earth Balance soy free)
1 1/3 cups powdered sugar
large-ish pinch of salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp vanilla
1 TBSP instant coffee (regular or decaf)
1 cup ground hazelnuts (finely ground but not enough to become a paste)
extra margarine or nonstick cooking spray

Beat margarine on medium high with a mixer until it looks whipped. Add powdered sugar and salt and beat again until well combined and fluffy-looking (like a very light frosting). Add flour and start the mixer on a low speed, gradually increasing the speed until it is thoroughly mixed. In a small bowl or measuring cup combine the vanilla and instant coffee and stir until dissolved. Add the hazelnuts and vanilla-coffee solution to the dough and mix. The dough should turn a light coffee color evenly throughout. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and grease cookie sheets lightly with margarine or nonstick spray. Roll balls of dough about 1" wide and place 2-3" apart on cookie sheet. Mash the balls down to about 1/4" thick. Bake for about 15 minutes and allow to cool on cookie sheet for a few minutes before transferring to brown paper* to finish cooling.

*The reason for cooling the cookies on brown paper is that the paper absorbs some of the excess oil and when laid completely flat puts less stress on delicate cookies than a wire rack does. Paper grocery bags cut into flat sections work perfectly for this!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Restaurant Review: Cassia Grill in Port Murray, NJ

*** EDIT ***
Unfortunately, this restaurant appears to have closed. I am leaving this post up for now but I don't want to confuse anyone into thinking it is there.

I do not go out to eat very often. However, when I find a restaurant I like I tend to get pretty excited about it. I've decided to add restaurant reviews here in the hopes that other vegans will find them useful and perhaps discover a new place to enjoy a meal. This is the first one!

In June I spent some time in the Eastern part of Pennsylvania because my sister and her husband were expecting their first baby. Of course, as babies are wont to do, my niece decided not to make her appearance until 5 days after her due date. In addition to prolonging my sister's almost-done-being-pregnant misery (any mom can tell you about how unpleasant those last few days, or weeks, can be) it gave me time to enjoy the area. During a little trip into NJ with my mom and my son I stopped at a Turkish restaurant called Cassia Grill for a late lunch.

I had found Cassia Grill's website online prior to heading out for the day and if not for that I would never have known it was there. It is located in the middle of nowhere and not very eye-catching on the outside so we drove right past, almost missing it, and had to turn around further down the road. The inside is pretty much the opposite of the outside: beautifully decorated and very inviting. The color scheme and decorations match well with the food and the music was very pleasant. The server was very polite and helpful and made it easy for me to order. While Cassia Grill not a vegan restaurant, there are things on the menu that are either vegan by chance or can be easily altered to be vegan. I cannot access the menu online at this time so I will only be able to relate what I can recall on my own. Collectively my family ordered 2 salads, a dish with roasted eggplant, and a hummus plate, my favorite being the hummus. The salads were both good and definitely different from salads I make at home. One was a "gypsy salad" and another had white beans and onion; both were vinegary, the gypsy salad more so. The eggplant dish was spicy but mostly from garlic and had a nice, smokey flavor. As I mentioned, the hummus was my favorite. It may very well be the best hummus I have ever tasted and was different from most hummus; it was less lemony and was smooth in texture with a surprisingly prominent parsley flavor. Normally the hummus comes with bread but upon my request they served it with cut veggies instead; I do not know if any of the breads or baked goods there are vegan because I never asked. Overall, I would say that Cassia Grill has good service, a nice atmosphere, and delicious food. If you are ever in the area this restaurant is definitely worth trying!


Address: 1280 State Route 57, Port Murray, NJ 07865

Phone: (908) 223-7555


NOTE: Cassia Grill's website currently seems to be down. When I am aware of it being accessible again I will add a link to it and also info about hours.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Peanut Butter Pasta Shells *

I love vegan mac & "cheese" but I try not to eat it too often because it doesn't have very much protein. Anyone who has looked through the rest of my recipes will know that I also like peanut butter with pasta. This recipe, unlike my previous recipes combining peanut and pasta, is more of a comfort food with the smooth, creamy texture of the peanut butter sauce, the slightly salty flavor, and the pleasant chewiness of shell pasta. For me it is the next best thing to eating a big bowl of vegan mac & "cheese" while being much more nutritious (see note below). This recipe is gluten and soy free.

8 ounce box gluten free corn/quinoa pasta shells, cooked and drained
3/4 cup smooth peanut butter
3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk (1 cup if you like a thinner sauce)
1/8 to 1/4 tsp salt (use the 1/4 if your peanut butter is not salted)
1/4 tsp garam masala

Combine all ingredients except the pasta in a pot as large enough to hold the pasta. Whisk together over medium-low heat until the sauce is smooth, creamy, and warm. Add the shells and stir together until they are coated evenly and there isn't too much extra sauce left at the bottom. Serve immediately. My family likes this paired with peas or beets.

NOTES: If you do not need to be gluten free you can substitute wheat pasta shells. The 1/4 tsp of garam masala makes a mild sauce so you may wish to add more; I am serving this to a 5 year old to whom anything beyond very mild seasoning is "too spicy" and so I keep it to a minimum. If you want to be adventurous, try adding some soaked raisins, currents, or sweetened dried cranberries. This dish is best right after it is made so if you will not being able to use it all at one meal you may want to consider cutting the recipe in half.

Nutritional Note: I calculated the nutrition in this dish with an online recipe calculator and, assuming 4 servings, there is about 14 grams of protein per serving. Obviously, if you use different ingredients the protein content may be different and it was just an online calculator not a lab analysis or anything.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Split Pea Soup *

This split pea soup is gluten free and soy free (so long as the ingredients you choose do not contain either).

1 lb bag dry green split peas
½ gallon water plus more as needed
3 vegan “chicken” or vegetable bouillon cubes (I use Edward & Sons)
2/3 cup potato flakes (I used Edward & Sons homestyle mashed potatoes)
½ tsp ground black pepper, more or less to taste
¼ tsp liquid smoke flavoring
½ cup carrots, chopped to ¼” pieces
3 large or 4 medium stalks celery, chopped to ¼” pieces

Combine ingredients in a large pot. Bring to a boil and then cover. Cook over medium-low until the peas are soft and fall apart, stirring occasionally. When finished cooking the soup should be thick and smooth, except for the carrot and celery bits which should be quite soft. Serve hot alongside toasted crusty bread or warm cornbread. Leftover soup may need to have a little water added to it when reheated because it thickens in the refrigerator.

NOTE: If you are concerned about sodium intake be sure to use low-sodium bouillon cubes because the regular ones can be quite salty; this will alter the flavor, though, so if sodium is not an issue for you I do not recommend doing it.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Chocolate Peanut Butter Shake *

This recipe is gluten-free and optionally soy-free.

1/2 cup chocolate vegan ice cream *
3 TBSP smooth peanut butter (or more if you want a creamier shake)
2 tsp cocoa powder
2 tsp vanilla agave **
1 cup unsweetened almond milk

Place the ingredients in your blender - the cocoa should not go in first or last - and blend until smooth according to the directions for your blender. If you do not have directions try pulsing a few times, blending on low for 15 seconds, and then medium until it looks smooth and creamy.

* I use So Delicious coconut milk chocolate ice cream to make mine soy-free. You could use any kind you like but if it is very sweet you may want to omit some or all of the agave.

** The vanilla agave I used is Wholesome Sweeteners brand. If you cannot find vanilla agave regular agave, or another sweetener of your choice, will be fine but you may wish to add a few drops of (gluten-free) vanilla extract.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Chocolate Peanut Butter Frosting *

I wanted to make a cake that my Grandfather, a big fan of peanut butter cups, would enjoy so I whipped up some chocolate peanut butter frosting. This recipe only makes just enough to spread on the top of an 8x8" cake so if you want to frost the sides or are making a larger cake you will want to at least double it. Because of the peanut butter this won't be as light in texture or get as stiff on the outside as most frosting.

3 TBSP smooth style peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup powdered sugar *
3 TBSP vanilla or plain almond milk
1 TBSP cocoa powder

Combine the ingredients in a mixing bowl and cream together with a fork or spoon. It may help to add 1/2 the sugar and stir it in before adding the second half. You can use a hand mixer or stand mixed instead if you like.

* If you are concerned about finding powdered sugar that was definitely not processed with bone char you can order it on Amazon or try a natural foods shop or Whole Foods.

NOTE: I use gluten free/alcohol free vanilla and smooth "natural" peanut butter with a tiny bit of palm oil in it. I don't know if using alcohol-based vanilla or true natural peanut butter (ie peanuts & salt) will alter the texture or flavor of the frosting.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Peach Sorbet *

It was so nice out today that the sun and the warmth made me want peaches. Unfortunately, it is quite a while until peach season is here and any "fresh" peaches the rest of the year are always unripe and unpleasant. Luckily I have this recipe for peach sorbet and it uses frozen peaches, not fresh!

16 oz bag frozen peaches
2 TBSP agave
1/2 cup + 2 TBSP So Delicious Vanilla Coconut Milk Beverage

Combine the peaches, agave, and about half of the coconut milk in a food processor (use the metal blade for this). Puree the mixture until smooth, periodically stopping to add more of the coconut milk and stir with a spoon. It is best to serve the sorbet right away but it does alright when saved in the freezer for a few hours. If it happens to be too soft putting it in the freezer for a bit will fix that but try not to let it freeze solid or you'll have a large peach pop instead of sorbet.