Super long post with recipes, reviews, a few pictures and alot of nonsense under the cut.
First was the amazing Cranberry-Pistachio Biscotti recipe found here
They turned out brilliantly if a bit chewier than I expected. This could have been a normal baking variable and didnt take away from the recipe at all, in fact I just renamed them "Chewy Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti Bites". I served them with my Christmas baking and included them in a few gift baskets. Please try these if you like cranberries, pistachio, biscotti or the simple act of eating excellent baking. :)
These I adapted from a Martha Stewart recipe I usually made every year, this year's recipe was only a tad different. The little stars are the cut-outs left from the tops that I sprinkled with either icing sugar or a combination of icing sugar and cocoa.
If the dough begins to soften while rolling or cutting, return it to the refrigerator or freezer until firm.
Makes about 14 cookies.
1 cup unblanched hazelnuts
1/2 pound vegan marg of your choice
1/2 cup of dry vegan sweetener of your choice
Egg replacer to equal 1 egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons flour (all purpose or unbleached work well)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Icing sugar for dusting
2/3 cup raspberry jam
1. Preheat oven to 375. Place hazelnuts on a baking sheet, and toast in the oven for 10 minutes. Remove from oven, and immediately transfer nuts to a clean towel. Vigorously rub the nuts in the towel to remove as much of the skins as possible. Set nuts aside until completely cool. Place nuts in a food processor, and process until finely ground. Set aside.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment, (or whatever you have) beat margarine and dry sweetener on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add egg replacer and beat until smooth, about 3 minutes. Beat in vanilla.
3. Whisk together reserved hazelnuts, flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Add to margarine mixture, beat on low until combined, about 2 minutes. Form dough into two flattened disks, wrap each with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour or overnight.
4. Preheat oven to 350. Have ready two baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Also have ready one 2 1/2-inch round fluted cookie cutter and one 1/2- inch star cookie cutter. Place a piece of parchment on a clean surface, and flour well. Roll out half the dough to a scant 1/4-inch thickness. Transfer parchment to the freezer, and chill dough until firm, about 20 minutes. Repeat rolling and freezing with the other hald of the dough.
5. Remove dough from freezer, and, using the flutted cutter, cut out cookies. With a wide spatula, transfer cookies to prepared baking sheets. Using the star cutter, cut the centers out of half of the cookies. Repeat with the other half of the dough and rerolled scraps. Return cookies to the freezer, and chill under firm, about 15 minutes. If dough is chilled in the refigerator, it will take a little longer to firm up.
6. Bake until the edges are golden, 14 to 16 minutes, rotating halfway through. Remove from oven; place on wire racks until completely cool.
7. Lightly sift icing sugar over the star-cut tops; set aside. Spread a scant tablespoon of jam on the bottoms of each cookie, and sandwich with the sugar dusted tops.
For the unexperienced baker some of these instructions will seem challenging or time consuming but let me assure you this recipe is worth it. Just read and reread the recipe before starting and take it one step at a time, you'll find your rhythm quickly. I was never a fan of the jam sandwiched cookie but the lovely combination of the hazelnut dough and the raspberry jam makes these cookies a unique treat. If the cookie cutter sizes confuse you just make sure the star cutter will fit inside the round one easily. If it's too big and close to the edges the cookie will break when you're cutting out the stars. Take it slow and you should be able to smooth over any dough rips easily. Try using a heart cookie cutter instead of the star for a cute valentines cookie!
Brown Maple Shortbread
This is another cookie adapted from a Martha Stewart recipe, her recipe was missing the maple I found these so desperately needed. ;)
Makes about 16 cookies.
1/2 pound vegan marg
2 cups flour plus 1 tablespoon and more for work surface (again all purpose or unbleached work well)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 packed dark-brown sugar
2 tablespoons of a good quality Maple Syrup
1. Sift together flour and salt into a small bowl; set aside. Place margarine in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat on medium until fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add sugar, and continue to beat until light in colour and fluffy, about 2 minutes more, occasionally scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula. Beat in Maple Syrup. Add flour mixture, and combine on a low speed, scraping with spatular if necessary, until flour is just incorporated and dough sticks together when squeezed with fingers.
2. Form dough into a flattened disk, wrap in plastic, and chill until firm, at least 1 hour or overnight.
3. Place a sheet of parchment on a clean surface and dust with flour. Roll dough into a rectangle about 1/2-inch thick and about 5 by 12 inches long. Score the dough crosswise into 3/4-inch wide strips; if desired, using a fork tine, make a decorative pattern on each strip. Bake until firm, about 30 minutes. Once strips have cooled, cut into fingers.
This are super yummy! I recommend a really dark and strong tasting sugar as this will flavour the cookie better but if all you have is a milder brown sugar by all means, use it. These are a really nice presentation when kept in the long fingers but you can also cut the length in half.
Last but not least I gave The Gingerbread cookie recipe from The Post Punk Kitchen a try and they were amazing. I'm quite picky about gingerbread and these are some of the best I've had so I whole heartedly recommend them. And to keep with theme I searched high and low for a big head gingerbread man cookie cutter but had to make due with a big christmas tree instead. :) The icing they suggest didnt go over very well with my palate so they received a slight dusting of icing sugar instead. I'll have to experiment with some icing recipes for next year.
Now onto the other food!
For Christmas dinner we were invited to our neighbours which included 22 omnivores and me. I figured if I didnt take action I'd be lucky if I could eat the vegetables and since I hate making a fuss and quite frankly love to cook I called and asked if I could bring a few dishes to help with the work load. *snickers* They understand my delightfully unique food choices and enjoy my cooking so they met that idea with a wonderful exuberance, (plus I have a feeling the taste of my cookies from the night before was still lurking about their taste buds) So that night I loaded my Father's arms with Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Mushroom Dressing (stuffing), Mushroom Gravy, Seitan Loaf (review to follow), Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage with Cranberries (recipe to follow), and a Sundried Tomato Pesto with Pita Chips (recipe to follow). There's nothing as glee worthy as seeing your dishes empty before the meat/dairy/eggy ones! :)
The Seitan Loaf I made was Bryanna Clark-Grogan's Soy & Seitan Loaf posted by the lovely vgnwtch and it was my first attempt at making Seitan. If you havent tried this recipe I recommend it, granted I dont have a large base to compare it to but the recipe makes two good sized loaves and at not even 3 days later in a household of two people (one being omni) there is not a trace of them left. My Dad kept snacking on cold slices of it muttering, "It's like meat, but not like meat" while I devoured it not really seeing the meat comparison but loving it just the same.
I only made a few changes to the actual recipe as I didnt have everything on hand. For instance I didnt have onion powder or garlic granules so I compromised and added fresh garlic to the blender mixture as well as instead of water I added vegetable broth to the tofu. In the basting liquid I didnt have the broth powder so I just added the vegetable broth instead of the water plus I minused the garlic since I already had fresh in the loaf and didnt want to garlic anyone out if I got caught under the mistletoe. (Always plan ahead when mistletoe is involved) Oh and I dont have a dough hook and have a fierce grudge against my bread machine right now so I just went about it the old fashioned way and hand kneaded like the dickens. So again, I recommend this recipe for everyone, especially those who have yet to try their hand at seitan.
Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage and Cranberries
1 small red cabbage
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/4 teaspoon ground mace
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 ounces brown sugar
3 tablespoons red wine
2 bay leaves
1/3 cup dried cranberries
salt and pepper to taste
Discard the outer leaves of the cabbage, quarter it, remove the hard core and finely slice the leaves. Heat the oil in a saucepan and sweat the cabbage with the salt, pepper and mace until it gives off a nutty aroma and is glossy and relaxed. Add the balsamic vinegar and sugar, cook to evaporate it. Add the red rine and bay leaves, cover pan and turn the heat down low to braise for 17 or so minutes, stirring halfway through. Add the cranberries, cover the pan and cook for another 10 minutes, stirring halfway through.
Okay, I didnt have a small cabbage I had a large cabbage so I just sliced until I had a big enough pile to feed the hungry animals next door. As for the mace, didnt have it. But! I did have nutmeg and isnt mace the husk of nutmeg? I figured my guess was as good as anything so I substituted and hoped for the best. Also my Dad makes wine as a hobby so I asked what he had that would go with the dish and he unearthed a bottle of cranberry, what a find! All in all this dish was received great and is going in as a new regular recipe.
Sundried Tomato Pesto
This recipe is in a mini festive food cookbook given to me by a group called Women in Focus based at my local church, I wasnt a member but I somehow always managed to end up at their events and will always be thankful to my good hearted neighbour lady for this recipe. :)
2 teaspoons capers
1/2 cup sundried tomatoes in oil (drain excess oil back into jar or dispose of)
2 teaspoons catalina dressing
1/2 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1/4 cup chopped green onions
1/4 teaspoon seasoning salt
1/8 teaspoon Mrs. Dash seasoning
3 - 4 cloves fresh garlic
1/4 cup toasted and cooled pine nuts (optional)
Put all ingredients into food processor and mix until it forms a soft paste. Store in a closed glass jar in refrigerator until ready to server. Keeps for weeks! Serve at room temperature.
The recipe recommends serving over cream cheese with crackers and when I was an omni this is what I would do but now I enjoy and serve it plain. I've contemplated serving with Better Than Cream Cheese but havent yet as I think the combination of the sharp cheese was what made the duo a match. It's amazing just on it's own. This recipe is super duper easy and a brilliant crowd pleaser, I've actually seen people park themselves by the dish until a good sized dent in the pesto has been made. Admittedly I might have done the same thing but I'm going to pretend otherwise and keep my illusion of self control. Serve with a mild or one flavoured cracker (ie not a strong vegetable flavoured cracker, plain salted pita chips work fine, I've also served with vegetable chips and wheat thins*) and a parsley garnish looks great against the deep red of the dish.
I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday and that these recipes and/or reviews might be helpful to some of you.
*not sure if these are vegan as I havent eaten them in a few years so please check before taking my suggestion :)