Friday, June 25, 2010

The way you squeeze my lemon

I love lemon pastries of all kinds. It surprised me to see no basic lemon cookie recipe online or in my favorite cookbooks. So I had to take matters into my own hands. I knew it had to be done, but I had to do it right. Lemon had to find its soul mate - - the blueberry. But it needed something more. Here was an excuse to use the vanilla sugar that makes me feel extra bad ass in a magical way. And there is something about the zest and zing of lemon followed by a mellow roundness in the vanilla. Throw in blueberries and you can call it a nutritional supplement, right? A fruit bar if you will. I'd like to think so.

Lemon Vanilla Cookies with Blueberries

  • 1 1/2 cups + 2/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar or vanilla sugar
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup liquid sweetener (agave or maple syrup is best)
  • 3 tablespoons nondairy milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or 1/2 vanilla bean pod, seeds scraped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon extract
  • 1 medium lemon, zested
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup blueberry preserves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a medium to large bowl combine all the flour, baking soda and salt. Whisk to get everything incorporated nicely.

In a separate large bowl whisk together oil and sugar until thoroughly mixed. Stir in liquid sweetener, vanilla and lemon extracts, nondairy milk, and lemon zest. Mix these ingredients together, then slowly sift/stir in the dry ingredients. Use your hands to get a dough to form. Avoid overworking the dough.

Next take small portions of the dough and roll into walnut sized balls. You can make them bigger but this size usually yields about 20 cookies. Gently press cookie between your palms and fingers to form little disks. Push a small dimple in the center and add 1/2 teaspoon or so of blueberry preserves.

Place on parchment paper lined cookie sheets and bake for 10 to 13 minutes, depending on your oven, or until the edges turn a faint golden brown. For a softer cookie with a chewy edge, bake for about 10-11 minutes. Allow a few minutes for cookies to cool before removing from sheet pan, then transfer to wire cooling rack and allow to completely cool.


Don't peek while the cookies are baking. Go find something else to do. Update your Twitter status or something.

If possible, invest in a nice micro-plane grater. They are super awesome and can be used for all kinds of stuff. They zest lemons like nothing else and are usually under $18.

If you can get a hold of real vanilla bean pods, try making your own vanilla sugar. Just split a vanilla bean down the middle and toss everything in a glass jar with some sugar then shake up the jar. The pod will eventually infuse the amazing aroma and flavor of vanilla throughout the sugar. The vanilla pod can stay in the jar for a long time and be recycled to infuse a few batches.
It's one of the quickest way to feeling fancy and gourmet when making desserts. I mean really, how many of your friends are making their own vanilla sugar? Exactly. Indulge them. They will love you for your mad baking skillz.

Thanks to Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World for the inspiration now in cookie form.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Así es como mi papá lo hace

Much to my delight a lot of the foods I grew up with can be veganized with ease. Chilaquiles are deeply embedded in my soul along with memories of carne asada, machaca and nopales. Those last three will have their time in the spotlight in future posts. For now it's all about my dad's super-easy recipe for some Mexicali comfort food.

Hector's Chilaquiles
  • 6 corn tortillas, sliced into chips or the equivalent in tortilla chips
  • 1 8oz can tomato sauce
  • up to 1/4 C water
  • 1/4 C onions, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/4 ts cumin
  • 1/4 ts paprika
  • 1/4 ts dried oregano or 1 ts fresh oregano, chopped
  • 2 TB oil
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • vegan cheese, as much as you like
  • fresh cilantro, optional

Over medium/high heat in a hot frying pan add oil, garlic and onions and saute for about 2 minutes. Add the cumin, paprika and oregano, then add the tortillas or chips and thoroughly mix in with the onions, garlic and spices. Cook for about 5-7 minutes or until the tortillas begin to lightly brown and crisp. Pour tomato sauce plus a small amount of water over tortillas and toss to coat chips evenly. Everything will be soggy at first, but continue cooking until most of the liquid has been absorbed. Add a little more water if chips seem too dry. Season with salt and pepper. Top with vegan cheese and fresh cilantro, and serve alongside tofu scramble with refried beans. If you want to get buck wild with this, you can use fancy stewed tomatoes with bell peppers, fresh diced tomatoes, chipotle peppers, etc. I like to keep it simple just like Dad.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Scramble on! Sing my song!

Since becoming vegan the tofu scramble has been a staple in my diet. Not only is it delicious, it's really good for you. Where else can you get a healthy source of protein, a good dose of fresh veggies and loads antioxidants? Not to mention it's practically guilt free. And after nearly two years of veganism, I look forward to making one of these bad boys every morning, sometimes even for dinner. I never tire of the endless possibilities the scramble has bestowed upon my table. I've made these so many times I could probably make one it in my sleep. I suggest serving this for brunch with friends. It's the easiest way to wow your non-veg friends. Remind them it's cholesterol free and good for them. If they're still convinced that tofu is the devil, sing in your best Robert Plant voice "I can't stop this feelin' in my heart!"

The Basic Tofu Scramble:

  • 1 package of drained firm, extra firm or medium firm tofu (It's all up to you)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced (Don't wuss out! Garlic loves you and wants you to be healthy)
  • 1/4 cup onion, finely chopped
  • 1-2 tablespoons of olive or canola oil
  • 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (or your favorite mustard)
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon black salt
  • a few grinds of fresh black pepper
  • salt to taste
  • Fresh veggies of your choice: mushrooms, bell peppers, kale, spinach, leeks, green onion zucchini, broccoli, etc.
  • Toppings rule. Try fresh diced tomatoes, olives, vegan cheese, slices of avocado, salsa or hot sauce. Also fresh herbs like cilantro, dill and flat leaf parsley are super great. The possibilities are endless here. My advice is to pick up whatever is fresh and in season from your local farmer's market.
  • Method

    Turn stove on to medium/high heat, add oil to hot pan. Crumble tofu slightly and add to pan. Stirring occasionally, cook for 3-5 minutes and allow tofu liquid to evaporate. You want it moist, but not too watery. Adding veggies will add water to your scramble too. Keep that in mind. I suggest handling those in a separate pan, with the exception of fast cooking greens like spinach, which you would only want to lightly wilt.
    With a spatula, break down the tofu into smaller chunks, like scrambled eggs. Add garlic and onions and cook for about 3-5 minutes. Once most of the water evaporates add in the spices except salt and black salt: turmeric, onion powder, nutritional yeast, dijon mustard, sea salt, and fresh pepper. Stir to coat all tofu pieces evenly. Lower the temperature down to medium-low and move on to the veggie add ins.
    In separate hot pan, add a touch of oil and drop in the veggies. Cook veggies according to how long they take. Leeks or mushrooms you may want to cook first to allow evaporation. Veggies like bell peppers and zucchinis cook up rather fast and can be thrown in during the last couple minutes of cooking. Avoid overcooking the vegetables as you want to preserve as much nutrition as possible. When they're all cooked to perfection, tender but still crisp, remove from heat and mix thoroughly into your tofu mixture. Depending on what veggies you choose, you can skip the second pan all together. If you're adding in veggies that don't release a lot of liquid (like kale, spinach & various leafy greens) you can just saute them up in the pan with your scramble. Experimentation is recommended! Once your veggies are cooked up, add the black salt to your tofu and coat well. Taste and add sea salt if you like.

    Serve piping hot with toast, home fries, hash browns or vegan sausage. I especially like mine in a hot tortilla for a rad breakfast burrito.


    If you've let too much water evaporate from the tofu. You can simply add a few drops of water or unsweetened plain soymilk to moisten things up again. There needs to be enough moisture to help coat the tofu evenly with all the spices.

    Below: A lovely scramble with sauteed mushrooms, zucchini and fresh tomato slices.

     Breakfast nacho bowl with scrambled tofu, refried beans, daiya pepper jack cheese, sauteed mushrooms, seared kale and heirloom tomatoes. Proper.