Saturday, January 24, 2015

Chipotle Sweet Potato Soup with Corn Cakes

This recipe came out of some experimentation from the last time I made a sweet potato soup. I'm a wuss when it comes to heat, but if it's smoky heat, I find it a lot more tolerable. I went a little too hot last time around and found myself thinking about it after the fact, wondering what I could have done to counter it a little. I think the answer is to add some sweetness.

I've already raved about Bee Free Honee here. If you haven't tried it, you really should. It's at a few local stores and available online as well. If you can't get your hands on some, feel free to use agave or maple syrup to add that sweetness.

For the soup:
2 tbsp Earth Balance
1 medium onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 medium-sized sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
4 cups veggie broth
1/2 cup Bee Free Honee, agave nectar or maple syrup
1 tbsp chipotle chili powder
Salt and pepper, to taste

For the corn cakes:
1 1/2 cups masa harina
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
3/4 to 1 cup of warm water
1 cup corn kernels, fresh or defrosted, if frozen (optional)
veggie oil (for frying)

Make the soup: In a large pot over medium heat, melt the Earth Balance and cook the onions for 5 minutes, or until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Turn the heat up to high, add the sweet potatoes and stock and bring it to a boil. Lower the heat to medium and simmer for about 30 minutes. You can use this time to make the corn cakes.

When the potatoes are soft, pour the potatoes and stock into a blender (you may have to work in batches) and blend until smooth.

Return the soup back to the pot and add the chipotle powder, honee and salt/pepper and mix them in. Keep it covered to hold in the heat until you're ready to serve. Ladle it into bowls and top with a little vegan creme fraiche or sour cream.

Make the corn cakes: In a medium bowl, mix together the masa harina, flour, baking powder, salt, nutritional yeast and corn (if using). Add the water, 1/4 cup at a time, stirring until you get a nice dough.

Cut the ball of dough into wedges and shape them into patties. I did five of these, but next time I'll do six. These were a little thicker than I intended.

In a skillet, heat a thin layer of oil over medium-high heat and start frying the corn cakes.  Flip them after about 3 minutes, when they're nicely browned.

Set them on a plate lined with a paper towel once they're done cooking. Serve with a pat of Earth Balance along with a bowl of the soup. Here it is all together, with a little homemade creme fraiche on the soup. Enjoy!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Salted Caramel Apple Pie

I go back and forth about which fruit pie is the best. For me, it comes down to apple, peach and strawberry rhubarb. If I could make a pie with all of them I would. it'd be a huge pie, but it would be a great one. 

This apple pie is pretty decadent. I love what pears bring to apple dishes, so they're here in equal measure. You only need two of each, so it's not like you'll be peeling and chopping all day.

 Salted caramel puts this over the top, for sure. Apples and caramel go together like...shoot. All I can think of is apples and caramel. You get the point. The important thing is to be careful when making caramel. I outline that down below, but I can't stress it enough. Don't touch it!

This recipe calls for vegan cream. Does such a thing exist? Yes, in a few variations. Sometimes I make my own with soy milk and coconut oil in the blender. For a recipe like this where you only need a little, I use vegan creamers that you can get a most grocery stores. They have soy, almond and coconut. I used soy for this:


For the crust:
1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup almond meal
1/4 cup evaporated cane sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt
6 tbsp Earth Balance, cut into cubes and kept cold
2-3 tbsp ice water

For the salted caramel:
1/2 cup evaporated cane sugar
2 tbsp Earth Balance
1 tsp kosher salt
3 tbsp vegan cream

For the filling:
2 apples (sweeter is better here. I used Golden Delicious), peeled, cored and sliced
2 Bartlett pears, peeled, cored and sliced
1 tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp ground cinammon
pinch of salt
1 tbsp Earth Balance, cut into small cubes

Make the crust: Combine the dry ingredients in the bowl of a food processor. Add the cold, cubed Earth Balance. If you don't have a food processor, use a large mixing bowl and a pastry cutter instead.

 Pulse or cut the cubed Earth Balance until it's the size of small peas. Run the food processor and stream the cold water through the chute. You'll probably need about 2.5-3 tablespoons of water in the end, but start with 2 and see where it gets you. There will be a little loose flour in the bottom that you can work into the dough after it comes out. You're looking for it to come together like this:

 Dump it out onto a floured countertop and work it over a bit until you have this:

Cut the dough in half. Wrap one half in plastic wrap and put it into the fridge. Roll the other half out flat and wide enough that you can put your tart or pie pan on top of it and still have plenty of overlap on all sides.

Roll the dough up onto your rolling pin, set it down over the tart or pie pan and unroll it. If you're using a regular pie pan, cut off all but about 1/2 inch of the excess dough and then roll and crimp it on all sides. With a tart pan, it's even easier. Just roll it over the top and push the down down into the corners of the pan. Then roll the pin over the top, cutting off the excess: 

Put the pan with the dough into the fridge until you're ready to assemble your pie.

Make the salted caramel sauce: Put the sugar, Earth Balance and salt in a small saucepan with 2 tablespoons of water. Heat them over medium-high heat until the butter melts and the sugar dissolves. Caramel takes time and needs to be watched closely, so clear your schedule for this. You can do other stuff (I peeled the apples and pears), but don't wander too far away. It'll start bubbling, which is when you want to turn the heat down to medium-low.

This is important: DO NOT STIR this caramel. Instead, gently tilt your pan this way and that and let it all swirl around. You don't have to do this constantly, but do it every couple of minutes. It should be bubbling slightly. Also, be REALLY careful not to get it on your skin. Boiling sugar can cause serious burns, so be very deliberate in your movements with it at this stage.

It'll take about 20 minutes to get it where you want it. You'll know it's ready when it's got a golden caramel color. The bubbles may make it hard to see initially, but just swirl it around until you can see the color.

Remove the pot from the burner, stand back a bit and pour in the vegan cream. The caramel will sputter and may spit a bit, so be careful.

At this point, you're going to think you ruined it. The cream will be much colder than the sugar and will cause some of the sugar to crystallize and separate. Don't worry! Put it back on the burner over low heat and things will smooth out again. Now you can stir it, so get in there with a spoon and get everything all combined and smoothed out. You'll end up with a smooth, creamy and buttery caramel sauce. Resist the temptation to stick your finger in and taste it, though. It's still super hot.

Assemble the pie: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and put a foil-lined sheet pan in there. In a large bowl, combine the apples, pears, flour, salt, cardamom and cinnamon. Pull your tart shell out of the fridge and fill it with the apples and pears. Pour the caramel sauce all over it.

Now take out that other half of the dough. Roll it out flat, like you did with the first half, and cut the dough into thin strips. Lay the strips across the top of the apple/pear mixture.

If you want to do the fancy over/under lattice on this pie, you can see how to do that here. This time I just laid the second layer of strips down at a 45-degree angle. It looks just as fancy, but it's a lot less work. Dot the holes in the lattice with the cubed butter.

You can finish the pie any number of ways. I brushed a little more of that vegan cream onto the lattice and sprinkled a little more sugar onto it. I think you're supposed to use fancy sugar, but it turned out fine this way.

Carefully place the pie onto the heated sheet pan and cook for 40-45 minutes. Once it's done, let it cool for 30-45 minutes before digging in.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Grilled Romaine Caesar Salad

How are your New Year's resolutions coming along? I resolved to do two things: read more and eat more salad. I've just never been a salad person, for some reason. Caesar Salad is about the only kind I really enjoyed growing up. It's the simplicity of it, I guess. Not a lot of bells and whistles. Caesar dressing is somehow more decadent than the others, so it had that going for it. The abundance of croutons didn't hurt, either.

This is a little more in line with the traditional Caesar than my other salad, which has a lot more going on. It's also much simpler to make. You can prepare the dressing and the croutons well in advance for a really quick dinner, but even if you do it all on the same night, it doesn't take long at all. The result is pretty and delicious. You can serve it as a meal unto itself (as it's pictured above) or do one half as a first course.

For the salad:
2 hearts of romaine lettuce
1 package vegan chicken 
1/2 cup chopped green olives
1 round loaf sourdough bread
2 tbsp Earth Balance, melted
1/2 tsp garlic powder
3 green onions, chopped
Olive oil for brushing

For the salad dressing:
1 1/2 cup vegan mayo (Vegenaise or Just Mayo are great for this)
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup chopped green olives
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp white miso
1 tbsp nutritional yeast
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp tamari
salt and pepper to taste, but only after blending

Make the dressing: Put all the ingredients into a blender and process until smooth. Add pepper to taste and salt if it needs it (the olives will have added a salty flavor already). Pour it into a bowl or container and refrigerate until needed.

Make the croutons: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Pull the bread apart into small chunks. If you're more organized than me, you can chop the into perfect little cubes. I'm more into rustic croutons, though. Put them into a large bowl and pour the melted Earth Balance and garlic powder over them. Toss well to combine.

Pour the bread out onto a sheet pan lined with foil. Spread them out into a single layer and bake them in the oven, stirring occasionally, until they're nicely browned (about 15 minutes).

Make the salad: Heat up a grill or grill pan over medium heat. Starting from the stem, slice each romaine heart down the middle lengthwise. Brush the cut side with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Grill them cut-side down until they're nicely charred, about 5-7 minutes. Work in batches, if you need to.


If you're using the vegan chicken, chop it into strips and throw it into the hot grill pan or saute it in a skillet until browned.

To assemble, put the romaine halves on a plate grilled-side up and top with the chicken, croutons, olives and dressing. Crack a little more pepper on top and serve.