27 April 2011

Vegan HushPuppies (Hush Puppies?)

HushPuppies or Hush Puppies? Who cares because these are fabbo!!! Certainly one of my all-time top 10 foods that I have loved since I was but a wee chickpea. So, since I don't eat dairy or eggs, I thought they were forever going to be banned from my tummy (traditional pups are made with buttermilk and eggs- barf, dude). I was wrong. Dead wrong, actually. Okay, not dead wrong, just a lot wrong. I've been craving these buggers for months now, and over the last 24 hours I will admit that I have been obsessed with creating them. Well, my friends (and possibly my enemies), I present to you a delight to behold: The Vegan HushPuppy.

I consider myself to be a bit of a hushpuppy connoisseur, having eaten them for the better part of my life, so I can say with confidence that these are some of the best I've ever had. They're crispy outside with a light, fluffy inside. Quite literally, they're the perfect hushpuppy...at least to me. And, we all know that my tastes are quite exceptional. Hahaha. I crack me up.

New to the hush puppy? Here's the Wikipedia page. They're traditionally served with fried fish, and are sort of a southern thing. They're delicious by themselves, but they're also fabulous in dips (vegan, of course), like ranch, tartar sauce, and even ketchup. They require deep frying, which has been rather frightening to me in the past, but I have over-come my fear for the good of my blog readers. Just don't get used to the deep-frying as it wastes oil and is horrible for one's health*

* That was my health disclaimer. Fry whatever you want. An old boot would probably taste good deep-fried. So there.

This recipe makes about 20 hushpuppies that are 1 1/2-2 inches in diameter.

  • Canola oil for frying. You'll need kind of a lot (needs to be 2 inches deep in the pot)
  • 3/4 cup almond milk
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • Ener-G egg replacer for 2 eggs (1 TB powder, 4 TB water)
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour (unbleached, as always)
  • 1-2 tsp large-grain salt, such as sea salt or kosher
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
  • 2-3 TB sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 cup onion, diced or minced
  • 1 1/2 TB olive oil
  1. Put canola oil into large, deep pot to a depth of 2 inches. I used a small enameled cast iron dutch oven. Don't start heating it yet, though.
  2. In measuring cup or small bowl, combine the almond milk and vinegar and let curdle about 4 minutes. While that is resting, make your eggs and let them set aside and get thick.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, mix the cornmeal, flour, salt, sugar, baking powder, pepper, garlic powder, and onion.
  4. Now add the olive oil, milk mixture and egg replacer to the dry bowl and mix until just combined and no dry spots remain. I put mine in the freezer to firm up for about 20 minutes. In the last 5 minutes, turn the oil on to High. Heat to 370 degrees F, then turn down to Medium to maintain the temperature.
  5. When the oil is hot enough, use a spoon to VERY CAREFULLY drop balls of batter into the oil. Only do 2-3 at first so you get the hang of it. I like mine a nice medium-brown color, so I think each pan-full cooked about 4 minutes. Don't put too many in at once or they will stick together AND the oil temp will go down a lot. When the temp goes down a lot, you end up with more oil being absorbed into the pups. Then they taste like shit. And grease. A hint: once you drop a ball of batter into the oil, gently use a long slotted spoon to make sure it doesn't stick to the bottom of the pot.
  6. Repeat with the rest of the batter until you have cooked it all, duh. Then, come back and tell me how much you love them because I know you will.

Chickpea Fries!!

Okay, okay. The photo is not lovely, but I was soooo hungry last night that I didn't feel like prettying up a plate when all I could think about was shoving food into my face. Forgive me.

I've seen quite a few posts about chickpea fries over the last year, and I was completely skeptical about how on earth they would work, let alone taste. Well my friends, my curiosity got the best of me. I decided it was time to give them a shot. And, guess what?! They rock my world. When fried, they're crispy outside with a softer, creamy inside. They're perfect and I'm already thinking of variations, maybe a really spicy cayenne fry or a curry fry. The possibilities are endless, really.

The fries use chickpea (garbanzo) flour, which I found at my grocery store in the "Healthy Living" aisle. It's Bob's Red Mill, and it was $3.00 for a bag. I'm sure you could find it at WholeFoods or other health food stores. Now, even though these are vegan, they are not that good for you, at least if you fry them like I did. I'll try baking them sometime, but I was craving fries yesterday, so that's how I made them. If you happen to make them by baking, let me know what you think.

You should know, this takes a few hours to make because once you mix all the ingredients, you will need to refrigerate it for at least 1-2 hours before frying. I think mine rested for about 2 1/2 hours before I started frying.

Makes enough for 3-4 people as a side. Though, I ate almost half all by myself. Oink, oink!

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup chickpea flour
  • 1 1/2 TB olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt, plus more to sprinkle on top after frying
  • 2 dashes cayenne
  • 2 dashes chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
  • canola oil for frying
  1. You will need to line an 8x8 baking dish with some plastic wrap or parchment paper. Then set it aside.
  2. Bring water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Once boiling, turn to low and carefully whisk in all of the ingredients except the canola oil. Add just a bit at a time so that it doesn't get lumpy. This only takes a couple of minutes. Now turn off the stove. This will be really thick, like polenta.
  3. Using a spoon or spatula, carefully pour the chickpea mixture into the baking dish and smooth it down as much as possible. Now let it set out for about 15 minutes. Then loosely cover and put in the fridge for at least an hour. You'll know it's ready when you touch it and it is completely firm and doesn't give when you press your finger on it. 
  4. Heat some oil in a deep pot or high-sided skillet. I poured about 1/2 inch of oil into a thick-bottomed, high-sided skillet. Heat over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Then turn to medium.
  5. While the oil is heating, put the chickpeas onto a cutting board. Cut in half, then slice into 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick slices. You want them kind of cube-like so they are easier to cook in shallow oil. Though, you could deep fry them and not worry about the size/shape so much. I just don't have a deep fryer. Line 2 plates with paper towel and have them nearby.
  6. Use tongs to carefully place about 6-7 fries into the oil at a time. If you put too many in, the oil temp goes down and your fries absorb more oil. Cook, turning often until lightly golden brown on all sides. Then remove from oil and put on the paper towels to drain. Immediately sprinkle with kosher salt. Repeat until your fries are all done. Then serve up nice and hot with some ketchup or garlic mayo. Both are excellent, in my not-so-humble opinion!

    22 April 2011

    Vegan Cheddar Garlic Biscuits

    Cheddar Garlic Biscuits made VEGAN? Hell yes. I may have mentioned this already, but I ordered the giant 5lb bag of Daiya cheddar from Vegan Essentials recently because I loathe driving 80 miles roundtrip to WholeFoods just to buy it. So, as I was digging through my fridge this morning trying to decide what to make for breakfast, I saw a baggie of cheddar calling my name (lightbub over my head). I had been really wanting to try to make a vegan cheddar garlic biscuit, so I did. And I can say this with absolute confidence: I rocked this recipe. The only way you won't like it is if you're a complete hater of Daiya. In which case, we can no longer be friends. Sorry. End of the road.

    When it comes to cooking pet peeves, I hate rolling out doughs of any kind, so I made these biscuits "drop biscuits." Sort of amoeba-like, they're free-form, kick-ass yumminess. I suppose you could use some fresh garlic, though I don't really know how that would turn out. Don't blame me if it's shitty...I tried to warn you. Though I highly recommend melting the butter and some garlic salt (not powder) and brushing it over the cooked biscuits. So good. And kind of like the old-school cheddar bay biscuits from Red Lobster, which was the only thing I ever ate there when I was younger. Now you know the story, get to work. Make these biscuits.

    Makes 4 large biscuits....and I'm not ashamed to admit that I ate 2.

    • 3/4 cup plus 1 TB all-purpose flour (unbleached, of course)
    • 1/3 cup almond milk
    • 3/4 tsp apple cider vinegar
    • 1 tsp baking powder
    • 1 1/2 TB butter flavored shortening
    • scant 1/4 tsp salt
    • 1/3 cup Daiya cheddar
    • 1 tsp garlic powder
    • Optional ingredients for glazing the tops:
      • 1 TB vegan butter
      • 1/2 tsp garlic SALT

    1. Preheat oven to 430 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with silicone mat or parchment paper
    2. Pour the milk and vinegar into a measuring cup and let sit about 4-5 minutes. Meanwhile, start step 3.
    3. In a mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, garlic powder and shortening. Use a fork or pastry cutter to mix until the shortening pieces are no larger than pea-size.
    4. Pour the milk into the dry ingredients and stir until just combined and no dry spots remain. Then, gently fold the cheese into the dough. The dough should be kind of sticky, yet firm. It will want to stay in one big piece.
    5. Use a fork and scoop out the batter into 4 equal-sized chunks on the baking sheet. 
    6. Bake on middle rack for 14-18 minutes. The biscuits will be lightly browned around the edges and bottom. 
    7. Then, melt the butter and garlic salt in a tiny bowl in your microwave. Mix well and brush it on the tops of the biscuits, if you feel like it. I highly recommend it.
    Well, what are you waiting for? Make them already! Don't make me tell you again *fist shake*

    17 April 2011

    Spectacular Vegan Spaghetti with TVP

    I have finally, and fully, accepted that I love TVP. I have seen the light. It can really take on some great flavors. And, it works excellently as a replacement for ground meats, especially ground beef or turkey. The texture is similar, and easily fools unsuspecting folks...not that I'd know... ahem.

    So, I've really been wanting some spaghetti lately, and with my recent fascination with TVP, it seemed only natural to add it to my sauce and veggies and see how it worked out. Oh, baby. It was so so so terrific. My tastebuds were in love from the second it touched my tongue. Add a little garlic bread and you are in business. Holy hell, I can't wait for leftovers tomorrow.

    Makes enough for 4 servings as main course...or if you are a glutton, maybe just 2 servings. I dunno. 

    • 1/2 lb spaghetti or other noodles
    • 1 cup TVP/TSP
    • 3/4 cup plus 3 TB vegetable broth
    • 1 TB Braggs liquid aminos or soy sauce
    • 1/4 tsp liquid smoke
    • 1/2 tsp onion powder
    • 1/3 tsp garlic powder
    • 1/4 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
    • 1 jar of your favorite sauce (or homemade. I used Bertolli Tomato Basil sauce today to save time)
    • 1-2 TB olive oil
    • 1 small zucchini, cubed
    • 1 small yellow squash, cubed
    • 1/3 cup red onion, diced
    • 1/2 cup bell pepper, diced (I had orange as it was on sale)
    • 5 cremini mushrooms, sliced
    • 3 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1 pinch sugar (optional)
    • salt and pepper as needed
    1.  Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook spaghetti to the package's directions. While the pasta is cooking, get started on step 2 and 3.
    2. Combine vegetable broth, Braggs, liquid smoke, onion powder, garlic powder, and cracked black pepper in a small pot with a lid. Bring to a boil. Once boiling, remove from heat and stir in the TVP until no dry spots remain. Set pot aside while the TVP re-hydrates.
    3. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Once hot, add the onion, bell pepper, zucchini, squash. Saute about 5 minutes, then add the mushroom, garlic, and rehydrated TVP. Cook about 5 minutes.
    4. Add in the sauce. Let it all simmer together over a medium-low heat for about 8 minutes, so the flavors meld. Adjust your seasonings and add the sugar (if you're so inclined). 
    5. Serve the sauce over your noodles, duh. I always make some garlic bread with pasta, and you should, too. Really. If you don't, you're wasting a perfectly good combo of sauce and bread.

    15 April 2011

    TVP Tacos - Vegan & Fabulous

    TVP (textured vegetable protein, though there is also TSP, which is soy protein) is something I've been sort of wary of. Call me crazy, but it looked like pebbles. Why would I want to eat pebbles? Alright, so I used it twice before: Shepherd's Pie and Winter Stew, both of which were excellent. I had actually forgotten that the TVP was in my cupboard, hidden behind some dried beans and pasta. I am a forgetful chickpea sometimes. Now where was I? Oh, yes, I have hardly used TVP before. I'm seriously skeptical of meat replacements, in general because I never really liked meat too much. But, I am coming around a bit.

    If you've been here before you may notice that I have a fascination (also read: addiction) with tacos. They're one of the best foods ever created, hands-down. Name a better food? You can't, can you? Ha. I win! So, anyway, when I was deciding what I wanted for dinner, I found the TVP along with some crunchy taco shells and half a jar of salsa. Thus, my TVP taco recipe was born.

    And for those of you following the VegNews meat photo debacle, these photos are mine and they are 100% vegan!!

    Anywhooo, here's my recipe. It makes kind of a lot...more than I anticipated, actually. I'd say it makes about 10-12 tacos depending on the size of them.

    • 1 cup TVP/TSP
    • 3/4 cup plus 3 TB veg broth
    • 1 TB Braggs aminos
    • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
    • 1/4 tsp onion powder
    • 1 cup chunky salsa of your choice (I maybe used a bit more)
    • 1/2 cup red onion, diced
    • 1/2 cup bell pepper, diced (I used an orange one since it was on sale)
    • 1 1/2 TB Meg's Taco Seasoning or your favorite spice blend
    • 1 TB olive oil
    • salt and pepper
    1. In a small pot, bring the broth, Braggs, garlic powder and onion powder to a boil with the lid on. Once boiling, remove from the heat and stir in the TVP until you don't see any dry spots. Let set aside for about 8 minutes while the TVP re-hydrates. 
    2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add the onion and bell pepper. When the onion is translucent (5-6 minutes), add the taco seasoning, salsa, and re-hydrated TVP. Mix well.
    3. Heat through, about 7-8 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed. It should look like this:

    No matter how you assemble your taco, you have me to thank! Hahahaha. I'm kidding. Sort of. Mwaahaaahaaaaaa!

      14 April 2011

      Green Day...the food, not the band + Dog Blankie

      I completely forgot to do my St. Patrick's Day post last month of all the green food I ate that day! I was emptying out the SD card for my camera this morning and stumbled upon my green food photos. So, Better late than never...or whatever. If you don't like it, well, too bad because here they are.

      Breakfast: Green Smoothie
      • 1 cup baby spinach
      • 1/2 banana
      • 1/4 cup fresh pineapple
      • 1 clementine orange
      • 1 small apple
      • 1 medium carrot
      • 1/4 cup cranberry juice
      • 2 TB flax meal
      • ice, if you want some
      Put everything in the blender (I so LOVE my Vita-Mix for smoothies) and blend until well combined.

      Lunch: Chickpea Salad SandwichIngredients:
      • 1/2 cup (slightly heaping) cooked chickpeas
      • 1 TB + 1 tsp Vegenaise mayo
      • 2 tsp mustard (yellow, spicy brown or dijon are all tasty here)
      • 2-3 TB raw onion
      • 1 heaping TB nooch
      • 1 TB dill relish
      • 1 TB unsalted sunflower seeds
      • 1/2 tsp Braggs Aminos
      • Green food coloring
      Put all ingredients in a food processor and whir a few times, until combined. I like mine chunky, but you can puree if you want. It's your sandwich, after all.

      Dinner: Green Mashed Potatoes, Steamed Broccoli and Chickpea Patties
      The chickpea patties are just the chickpea cutlet recipe from Veganomicon, made into thicker patties instead of cutlets. I always add more garlic and some steak sauce to this recipe. The Mashed potatoes are easy:  green food coloring, Earth Balance, almond milk and salt. And, well, if I have to describe how to steam veggies, you may be a hopeless case.

      So, there you go. My St. Patrick's Day green meals. Late, but oh well.

      As for my Eco-Craft I started a last week, I am almost done! Check it out :)

      13 April 2011

      Vegan Zucchini Bread!

      HOLY WHOA. This is some amazingly good zucchini bread. A couple weeks back, I asked around the twitterverse for recipes using cardamom, and this was one such recommendation. Here's the original recipe from So.ME.Vegans. I mostly made it according to the recipe, but changed it just a little. It's like this compulsion I have...I can't ever follow a recipe 100%.

      So, this recipe is a ridiculously addictive, delicious treat. And, it makes your house smell like you died and went to baking heaven. No joke. And, you may want to double the recipe and make 2 loaves otherwise you'll be kicking yourself in anger and frustration. Not that I'd know or anything. GRRRR.  So, anyway, the recipe below has my alterations. If you don't like that, too bad. Just kidding. Not really.

      • 1/2 + 1/3 cup whole wheat flour
      • 1/2 cup plus 2 TB unbleached all-purpose flour
      • 1 cup peeled, grated zucchini (equivalent of about 1 small zucchini)
      • 1 cup sugar
      • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
      • 1/2 cup canola oil
      • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
      • 3/4 tsp cinnamon
      • 1/2 heaping tsp cardamom
      • 1/2 slightly heaping tsp Kosher salt
      • 1/2 tsp baking soda
      • 1 tsp baking powder
      1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray your loaf pan with a little cooking spray (I used the butter flavored kind. 
      2. Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl until there are no dry spots.
      3. Pour the thick batter into the loaf pan.
      4. Bake for about 30-40 minutes. Test for doneness with a toothpick. I left it in the pan for about 5 minutes after removing it from the oven.

      07 April 2011

      Split Pea Burgers & My Eco Craft

      About a month ago, I bought some dried split peas and had no idea what to do with them, but I wanted to try them out. Well, I threw them in the cupboard and forgot about them until earlier today when I stumbled upon Alton Brown's recipe for split pea burgers, so I knew I had to make an attempt at them. As always, I have a serious inability to follow recipes. I always have to give them my own spin and make changes based on my tastes as I am a picky chickpea with particular tastes. And, I have to say, I rocked this recipe out. It was a serious hit at my house. As you can see in the photo, I made some baked tater tots. What you can't see is the amazing queso dip I made to dip the tater tots into. WHOA. Seriously yum.

      Makes 4 average-sized burgers

      • 1/3 cup diced onion
      • 1/4 cup orange bell pepper, diced
      • 1 TB olive oil
      • 3 cloves garlic, minced
      • 2-3 ounces sliced mushrooms
      • kosher salt to your tastes
      • 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
      • 1/2 cup dried split peas
      • 1/4 cup raw brown rice
      • 3/4 tsp coriander
      • 3/4 tsp cumin
      • black pepper
      • 1/2 tsp onion powder
      • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
      • 1/2 cup bread crumbs plus 2-3 TB for coating the burger before cooking
      • 2 TB vital wheat gluten
      1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. When hot, add the onion, bell pepper and some salt. Let them cook about 4 minutes. Then add in the mushrooms and garlic and cook another 4 minutes. 
      2. Then add the peas, rice, broth, and spices and stir well. Turn heat to medium-high until the mix starts to boil. Then turn to medium-low and simmer about 40-50 minutes, or until the rice and peas are softened. Be sure to stir ever 5-10 minutes to make sure nothing sticks to the pan. There should be no liquid left when it is done.
      3. Remove from the heat and carefully pour the mixture into a food processor. Whir a few times, until the mix is chopped, but NOT pureed. I think I whirred it about 7-8 times total. 
      4. Pour the mix into a large bowl. Use a large wooden spoon to stir the 1/2 cup breadcrumbs and the gluten into the bowl. It should start solidifying almost instantly. Just mix until you can't see any dry breadcrumbs. Then put the bowl in the fridge for about 10 minutes.
      5. Pour the rest of the bread crumbs onto a small plate. Then remove the peas from the fridge and cut into 4 equal-sized pieces. Shape the pieces into round patties. Then, carefully set the first patty on the bread crumbs. Flip to coat the other side, too. Once they are all coated, you'll want to heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Spray the skillet with a little cooking spray.
      6. Cook the patties for about 4 minutes on each side, or until the breadcrumbs are browned and the patties are cooked through.
      I liked mine with some Vegenaise, raw onion and mustard, but you should dress the split pea burgers however you like. Though, my way is far superior. Hahaha.

      And now, for my Eco-Craft:
      A couple years ago, I made someone a scarf with this outrageously pink yarn, and had half a skein left over. I threw it in the closet and totally forgot about it until last night when I went looking for something else. I thought, "Hey, I should make something with this." So, I decided that instead of tossing out the obnoxious-colored yarn, I will make a dog/cat blanket. And, I am thinking that I'll donate it to the local animal shelter. They are always in desperate need of blankets and towels to line the cages and give the animals a little comfort. I don't know if the yarn I have will run out before I'm done, so it may end up being several different colors. But, who cares if it helps the animals!?!
      What I am getting at though, is that instead of tossing out your old yarn, or other leftover crafting supplies, put it all together and make something else with it! Reduce your waste. So, here is what the blanket is looking like so far:

      Have a kickass day!

        06 April 2011

        Vegan Queso Dip & Your Footprint

        Alright, not the best photo ever. You try photographing queso dip. It just isn't pretty. Anyway, I had an even harder time because I desperately wanted to devour the whole bowl immediately. But, I held my gluttony at bay for your blog-reading pleasure.

        All day I had been craving nachos, but it's been ages (read years) since I made queso dip. I used to mix Velveeta and salsa in the olden days, so I basically tried to re-create that here. Sadly, I had no Daiya, otherwise I would've used that to make this dip. But, I did have a stash of nooch in my cupboard, so I took that route. And, to my great surprise, it worked incredibly well. I made a lunch out of this queso with some baked tortilla chips. Okay, so I probably ate a bit more than I needed, but I was hungry and craving nachos something fierce. You can't fault me for having a craving, can you? You can!? Well, forget you. My feelings are so hurt right now that I may never recover. Not really. So, here's the recipe.

        Makes about 2 cups, or enough for 2 adults to chow down.
        • 1 cup medium or hot chunky salsa
        • 1 cup almond milk
        • 1/3 cup plus 1-2 TB nooch (nutritional yeast)
        • 3/4 tsp cumin
        • 2 1/2 TB flour
        • 1 tsp garlic powder
        • 1 tsp onion powder/granulated onion
        • 2/3 tsp chili powder
        • 1/4 tsp cayenne
        • 1/2 tsp garlic salt
        1. Whisk together all the ingredients in a small saucepan. Heat sauce over medium burner. 
        2. Bring to a gentle boil, stirring very frequently. Make sure that you scrape the bottom of the pan as you stir so nothing burns to the bottom. Remove from heat when thickened to your preference. I think mine took about 8 minutes or so. It should not be runny at all. I like it thick enough that if I dip a chip, the chip can stand up in the cheese without me touching it.

        Earth-Friendly Footprint:
        I was wondering today how large or small my ecological footprint is, so I took the interactive quiz on the following link: Footprint Calculator. After you get your result, go to the FAQ's to read more about what the results mean and how to work on changing them.

        My result was somewhat surprising to me. I thought I was doing much better than I actually am. Granted, the calculator isn't perfect, but it does highlight ways in which I could try harder, such as in transportation and purchasing locally. Well, in the summer months, nearly every bit of fruit and veg I buy is grown locally, but being in Michigan makes it nearly impossible to have local produce in the winter months. And, this summer, I plan to start biking much more often, but I don't really live in an area that makes it easy to. Nor is there public transport near me. But, there are some other things I will be working harder on, like further reducing the items I purchase that require packaging and making more effort to reuse and upcycle before throwing things in the recycle bin.

        If you're unfamiliar with the concept of upcycling, it's bascially taking something old and making it into some new, functional item. For example, you can make some really awesome pillows out of your old concert tees that you haven't worn in ages. Or take your wine corks and hot glue them together into a unique corkboard. I'm going to try making some upcyclables this month, so check back and see what I'm up to.

        Have a lovely day. Or not. Whatever.

        05 April 2011

        Orange Cardamom Cookies

        I scored some of the most fresh, delicious, organic ground cardamom today at my local farmer's market and, I'll be honest, I had no idea what to do with it. I just knew that is smelled amazing and I had to have it. I'm really lucky to have such a great resource for fresh spices so close to home. I am well and truly spoiled and I can't bring myself to buy spices from the grocery store anymore. Anyway, back to the cardamom. So, I get it home and send distress calls to friends and family asking what the hell to use it for. Almost everyone said to either make chai or some spice cookies. I've  never had a spice cookie, so I thought maybe I'd give it a shot.

        Because the cardamom has a citrusy scent, I decided to add some orange to complement it. And, my dears, it was magnificent. So, I have decided to share the magic with you. You may thank me anytime. These cookies are not only vegan, they are amazing! I had to force myself to stop eating them. I suppose you may hate them, and then I am left to assume that you are possibly deranged. Or maybe you can't follow a simple recipe. Whatever.

        Because I despise rolling out cookies, I decided to roll these into balls by hand and smoosh them down into sugar, making them circular-ish. Easy and no rolling pin necessary. These won't spread much at all, so you can put them about an inch apart on your baking sheet without too much fear. The finished product is sort of like a sort of puffy, chewy sugar cookie with personality. As for the flour, I used about half whole wheat pastry flour and half unbleached all-purpose and it worked perfectly. You could use just plain ole flour if you want, but I'm thinking next time I'll be using all ww pastry. Enough talk. On to the recipe!

        Makes about 20 1-inch cookie balls

        • 1/2 cup plus 2 TB all purpose flour
        • 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
        • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
        • 4 TB Earth Balance, room temperature (or use other vegan butter)
        • 1/2 tsp cardamom
        • 1/2 tsp baking soda
        • 1/4 tsp salt
        • 1/2 cup brown sugar
        • 1/2 egg replacer (I use Ener-G, which is 1 TB water mixed with 3/4 tsp powder)
        • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
        • zest of 1 orange
        • 2 TB sugar to smoosh the tops of the cookies into
        1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare a cookie sheet (I use silicone baking mat).
        2. In a small mixing bowl, sift together the flours, cream of tartar and baking soda.
        3. In a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter, cardamom, salt, and brown sugar. Once combined, beat in the egg replacement, vanilla and orange zest.
        4. Add the flour to the wet bowl and combine until no dry spots can be seen. With my mixer, it turned into a bunch of pebble sized dough bits. 
        5. Put the regular sugar onto a small saucer. Then, roll the dough into 1-inch balls. One by one, you want to gently smoosh the cookie ball down into the sugar. This will coat the top of the cookie in sugar and make them into 1/4 to 1/3-inch high discs. Place the cookies on the sheet at least 1 inch apart.
        6. Bake 10-11 minutes. Then remove and let set on cookie sheet for 4-5 minutes. Once they have set, you can then put them on a cooling rack. I dare you to not eat 5 before they cool off.

        04 April 2011

        Tempeh Tacos & A Tip

        Tempeh Tacos! Quite possibly my new most favorite taco. Yes. Definitely my most favorite taco. And as a taco junky, I do know what I'm talking about. I am becoming a quite connoisseur, if you will. Ah, whatever. You don't care. You're just thinking, "Damn, Chickpea, get to the recipe already." And I will. I will. But, I feel like a little chitchat first! Deal with it.

        I really wasn't sure how I should even approach a tempeh taco. I've never eaten them, and I didn't feel much like copying someone else's recipe, so I made this up. And, now, I'm basking in my genius. I don't know about all the brands of tempeh out there, so I can't vouch for how the rest would turn out, but I do know that I LOVE the Organic 3-Grain Tempeh from Trader Joe's.
        It has excellent taste (I actually munched some raw) and is cheaper than the LightLife original. So, whenever I trek down to TJ's, I always buy 4-5 packages. For this recipe, I first cubed the tempeh then roughly chopped it down with my santoku knife. There were some small chunks and some single grains. Here's the photo of what it looked like before I started cooking:

        So, I think I'll get to the recipe now.

        UPDATE 7.1.11:
        I made a very tasty discovery. I've been cubing my tempeh and steaming it before adding it to my sauteeing veggies. It calms the bitterness of the other brands of tempeh. I'm totally hooked on the LightLife original tempeh lately since I started steaming it. We love it so much this way. Anyway, after steaming, break up the chunks somewhat before adding it to the veggies. Then mix everything else together.

        This makes enough for 6-8 tacos.

        • 1 8oz package of tempeh of your choice, chopped or crumbled
        • 1/2 cup onion, diced
        • 1/4 cup orange bell pepper, diced
        • 1 to 1 1/4 cups chunky salsa, medium heat
        • 3 large cloves garlic, minced
        • 1 1/4 TB Meg's taco seasoning or your preferred brand
        • scant 1/4 cup water
        • salt and pepper to your tastes
        • cooking spray
        1. Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Spray with cooking spray. Once the pan is nice and hot, add the tempeh and cook about 3 minutes. 
        2. Then add in the pepper, onion, garlic, and spice mix. You may need to spray a little more oil to very lightly coat everything. Stir around and cook7-8 minutes, until the onions are transparent-ish.
        3. Now add the water and salsa and mix well. Let the whole mix cook another 4-5 minutes. 
        4. Taste and adjust spices...then dig in. 
        I have been really digging the cheeseless taco lately. I decided to sub homemade guacamole in place of the cheese, and it works especially well with these tempeh tacos. Soooooo good. Don't get me wrong, I emphatically love Daiya cheddar, but it is more of a splurge item for me.Well, I hope you dig my most magnificent taco creation.

        My REUSE Suggestions for Plastic Bags:
        If you don't happen to have a bunch of reusable tote bags, you have probably accumulated a massive number of plastic bags from grocery stores and retailers. Sure, you could put them in the recycling bin, but why not find other ways to use them? 
        • Donate them to your local public library. A lot of people forget to bring bags with them when they pick up some books. This will save the library money because they won't have to order more, and it helps your fellow community members who maybe forgot their bags.
        • Reuse them on your next shopping trip.
        • Use them in boxes you're packing to mail. This saves you from buying bubble wrap and it really does work to protect your package.
        • Pop one in your pocket when you're heading out to walk the dog. You never know when you may need it. Trust me on this one!
        • Carry one on nature walks and pick up any garbage you see along the way. There will, inevitably, be some...sadly.
        • Fill them with your spring cleaning donations to Goodwill/Salvation Army. They can even re-use those bags for their customers' purchases.

          03 April 2011

          My Own Taco Seasoning Blend & The 3 R's

          It's no lie when I say that I am obsessed with tacos. They are my vice (hey, everyone needs one...or three). Okay, so tacos are one of my addictions, second only to chickpeas. But, you get the point. They're high up on my list of things I must consume often. What I am getting at is that I use a lot of taco seasonings, so I figured I would hook you up with a simple recipe to make some to have on-hand and ready to use whenever the taco craving strikes. Which, for me, happens to be several times a month.

          I decided a couple years ago to give up the packaged taco seasoning blends because they had only a few spices along with a ton of other ingredients I didn't need or want, like MSG (monosodium glutamate), silicon dioxide, and ethoxyquin (a preservative and pesticide). So, for a while now, I have just randomly been throwing spices into my tacos as they cook, not necessarily measuring anything, and tasting as I went along with the cooking. Today, however, I decided to make a large-ish batch of a spice blend to see how it works. And, it is rockin. Obviously, not everyone has the same tastes, so you may hate my mix. Whatever. I decided to post my spice mix so you could make your own decision about it. I will warn you that it is kind of spicy. Depending on how much you are cooking at a time, you will only need about 1 TB of the mix for a small to medium batch

          Meg's Taco Seasoning Blend: Makes about 4-5 ounces
          • 4 TB chili powder
          • 5 tsp cumin
          • 2 tsp smoked paprika
          • 2 tsp garlic powder
          • 2 tsp onion powder
          • 2 tsp kosher or other large-grain salt
          • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
          • 1 tsp turmeric
          • 1 tsp oregano
          • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
          • 1/2 tsp chipotle powder (optional for extra heat)

          And, now, I would like to get on my tree-hugger hippie soapbox for a moment. I like to re-use packaging, especially jars, whenever I can. Sure, I could've recycled that small glass relish jar, but I knew that one day, I'd find a use for it. It is the perfect size to still fit into your spice cubby without becoming too burdensome. Though, to be fair, mine will never make it to the cubby, it'll be on the counter with all of my most-used spices. I like the glass jars because they usually have a nice, tight-fitting lid to keep air out and spices in. A loose-fitting lid just won't do as your spices will lose their potency and fragrance.

          Plus, by re-using your own jar, you save energy that would go into creating a new jar or energy that would would go into recycling the existing jar. Don't we all remember the song about The 3 R's? Reduce-Reuse-Recycle...come on, I know you know what I'm talking about. The goal is to basically keep things out of the landfills. It's quite a simple concept. And, as the month of April is host to Earth Day, I've decided to add some earth-friendly posts and tips to my blog. If you have any ideas to share, let me know by emailing me: TheSnarkyChickpea at Gmail dot com.

          The 3 R's in order of action, for those who are a little rusty:
          • Reduce consumption (of packaged items, especially anything plastic)
          • Reuse existing items and then,
          • Recycle items we can't re-use

          02 April 2011

          Carrot Raisin Muffins

          Sometimes you just need a muffin. Today was that day. I skimmed through my cookbooks and ended up with the Happy Herbivore Cookbook by Lindsay Nixon. I just happened to have everything on-hand, so I decided to go for it. And, with a special thanks to my friend, Elena, I had the whole wheat pastry flour which the recipe called for. If you want the original recipe, you can find it on page 43 of the HH Cookbook.

          I did make some changes to the recipe, to make it work to my own tastes, so the recipe below is my version of the original. Also, I made only 6 muffins because there is no way in hell that I need or want a dozen of these babies sitting around my house. Even though they're super low in fat and calories, excess of any food is bad, except chickpeas because they are absolutely infallible in my eyes. Hey, they is my blog and I can say anything I want about chickpeas!

          According to the cookbook, each muffin has 103 calories and 0.3 grams of fat. I think my version adds a calorie more. Whatever. One calorie is nothin! I will warn you that the tops of the muffins look dried out, but the insides are anything but. They are lovely and tasty. And, the omni family chowed the rest of them.

          On to the recipe! Makes 6-7 muffins.
          • 3/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour (though you can use regular all-purpose)
          • 1 tsp baking powder
          • 1/2 tsp baking soda
          • 1/4 tsp salt
          • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
          • 1/8 tsp ground ginger
          • 1 dash nutmeg
          • 1 dash allspice
          • 1/4 cup sugar
          • 3/4 cup plus 1 heaping TB of unsweetened apple sauce
          • 1/2 tsp plus a few drops vanilla extract
          • 1 medium carrot, shredded
          • 1/4 cup golden raisins
          1. Preheat oven to 360 degrees F. Prepare a muffin tin with liners or spray the metal pan instead.
          2. In a mixing bowl, combine the spices, sugar, flour, baking powder/soda, and salt.
          3. Add the vanilla, applesauce, and carrot and use a whisk to gently mix until just combined. Fold in the raisins. The batter will seem sort of puffy/airy, but it is supposed to be that way, so don't fret.
          4. Use a large spoon or 1/4 cup scoop to fill the cups 3/4 of the way full.
          5. Bake in your oven for about 20 minutes. Mine took a minute or two longer. Check doneness with a toothpick. Then let cool on an cooling rack. 
          I ate mine by itself, but it is also good with a tiny bit of Earth Balance spread. I am thinking that next time I make these, I might add some chopped walnuts for a little more protein and texture. But, overall, I really, really like these!

          Today's earth-friendly tip:
          I like to use these unbleached muffin papers that are easily found at health food stores. Mine sells a box for $1.50. The box isn't lying when it says that you don't need to grease the liners. I have no problems with sticking, ever. Anyway, the point of this is that we should be taking steps toward reducing the number of items we are sending to the landfills. And, if we have the space, possibly starting our own compost piles (to which we can add these muffin papers). Home composting is easy, check out this great website for tips articles on getting started. There are million different bins you can buy, and the dirt/tea produced is magic for your flower beds and gardens!

          Well, enough chat for now, here are photos of the box so you can read for yourself how great these babies are.

          01 April 2011

          Earth Month with The Chickpea

          I made a pledge to myself that April will be Earth Month, instead of just being the month that I celebrate Earth Day (April 22, for those of you slackers out there). I'm going to do my best to share tips and ideas with you that help to get us all into the habit of the practicing The 3 R's regularly. You don't know what the 3 R's are? Pshaw! Outrageous! Blashpemy!
          There. Now do you remember? Good!
          I'm pretty good at doing them consistently, but I think I could definitely get better. So, this month, not only will I share tips and tricks, I may even share *GASP* crafts/reuse projects. Crazy, I know. I'll still be posting recipes because this is still primarily a food blog, but those recipes may have hints and tips mixed in. So, there you go.
          To get you started, here's a simple web page put together by Purdue University of common household items and how you can reuse and re-purpose them. Have fun!