Panzanella Bread Salad

It’s so hard to find good tomatoes these days. I’m not sure why that is. I remember summer tomatoes when I was a kid that were amazing. They were full of flavor and we would eat them on their own with a little sprinkle of salt. Of course, my parents grew tomatoes in their back yard so that’s probably why they were so good…they were perfectly fresh and ripened on the vine. The tomatoes that you find at the store or even at farm markets often don’t taste like much and don’t really compare to the ones I remember.

However, a little while back I did find some at Whole Foods that were grown at a local farm, and they were the best I’ve had in a long time. If you have some end of summer tomatoes and are looking for a good recipe, this is a classic dish that really showcases the tomatoes. It was also a good way to use up some of my basil. I grew it from seed and it’s finally growing well after staying kind of scrawny all summer. It’s in a sunnier spot now which it seems to enjoy. With bread, fresh basil, and tomatoes, it’s hard for this recipe to go wrong!

Panzanella

Ingredients:

1 small baguette (or about 2 rolls or half a loaf) of good crusty day old bread
olive oil
salt
pepper
garlic powder
2 tomatoes
1 cucumber
1/4 red onion
handful of fresh basil
3 cloves of garlic
balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper

Directions:

  • Cut the bread into large cubes. If the bread it still soft (mine was even after a couple days), preheat the oven to 400°. Place the bread cubes on a baking pan. Drizzle a little olive oil over top and sprinkle on salt, black pepper, and garlic powder to taste. Bake the bread cubes for 5-10 minutes until they dry out a little bit. If your bread is still soft and you skip this step, the bread will be really soggy once it soaks up juices in the salad.
  • Chop the tomatoes, peel and chop the cucumber, and thinly slice the red onion and basil. Place all the veggies in a large mixing bowl.
  • Once the bread is finished toasting, add it to the bowl and mix it up.
  • Drizzle on a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar and sprinkle on some salt and pepper to taste. Stir so everything gets evenly coated and serve right away. This salad is best eaten the same day it’s made because the bread will get soggy in the fridge overnight.
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Corn and Cilantro Pancakes

Want to eat pancakes for dinner? Why not make them savory pancakes? I adapted this recipe from one I found on Eating Well for Corn and Basil Pancakes. The original recipe contained milk and eggs so I veganized it and swapped out cilantro for most of the basil. I’m pretty sure these would be amazing with just basil, but I had a lot of cilantro on hand.

Corn and Cilantro Pancakes

I also doubled the amount of batter per corn and cilantro because it didn’t look like there would be enough batter to hold everything together otherwise. They turned out really yummy! I served these with the cucumber dill salad from my last post and vegan crab cakes from Sophie’s Kitchen. These savory pancakes are perfect to make on a summer night with fresh corn!

Corn and Cilantro Pancakes

Ingredients:

1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
2 Tbsp Ener-G Egg Replacer powder mixed with 8 Tbsp warm water
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup soy milk
2 cups corn
1/2 cup fresh cilantro (+basil), chopped

Directions:

  • Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and ground black pepper together in a mixing bowl.
  • In a separate small bowl, whisk together the warm water and Ener-G Egg Replacer powder. Add this to the dry ingredients along with the olive oil and soy milk. Whisk it all together until combined, but don’t overmix.
  • Stir in the corn, cilantro, and basil.

Corn and Cilantro Pancake Batter

  • Heat a skillet over medium heat, and drizzle in a little olive oil. Using a measuring cup, scoop about 1/4 – 1/3 cup of batter for each pancake. Cook the pancakes until they start to bubble and the edge start to dry, then flip and allow the pancake to get golden brown.

CookingPancakes

  • Sprinkle some chopped cilantro on top, serve right away and enjoy!

 

Crispy Polenta with Toasted Walnuts and Fresh Peaches

Sometimes I get into a rut making the same foods, especially when it comes to breakfast. I was perusing the grocery store shelves, pondering new breakfast ideas when I remembered a yummy breakfast my brother-in-law made one time while I was visiting. I decided to try making something similar. It’s really simple to make and is a tasty alternative to the usual breakfast foods.

This dish features polenta, a tasty porridge made of cornmeal. I bought pre-made Polenta at Trader Joes for this, but you can make it yourself at home pretty easily. I was aiming for a quick breakfast this morning, so that’s why I used premade. Making polenta yourself isn’t hard, but it does take a little time and a decent amount of stirring. The blog theKitchn has pretty good instructions and info about how to make your own polenta. She uses butter in hers, but you can easily veganize it by using vegan butter instead. If you make it yourself, try to make it on the firmer side or let it sit overnight to firm up in the fridge.

A quick note about the “recipe”. This isn’t really a set in stone recipe so much as an idea you can customize. If you don’t like walnuts, leave them out or use almonds, pecans, etc. instead. The same goes for the brown sugar…you could use maple syrup, agave, etc. And of course the peaches are optional too. You could also use berries, jam, apple butter, or any other topping you like! This dish is sweet, but if you’re looking for a more savory polenta breakfast dish I posted the recipe for a Polenta Breakfast Casserole about a year and a half ago. It’s really, really good, so check it out if you missed it!

Crispy Polenta With Toasted Walnuts and Fresh Peaches

Ingredients: (Makes enough for 2-3 people)

18 ounce package of Polenta (or a batch of homemade polenta)
vegan butter
about a 1/2 cup of walnuts
2 – 3 Tbsp of brown sugar (about 1 Tbsp per serving)
1 fresh peach

Directions:

  • Slice the polenta into 1/2 inch thick slices. Pan fry the slices in a little bit of vegan butter. Let them get crispy around the edges. Gently flip the polenta slices. They’ll fall apart if you’re too rough with them, but if you’re gentle they should hold together.
  • Toast the walnuts in a pan over medium heat, stirring them often so they don’t burn.
  • Wash and slice your peach.
  • Place the crispy polenta on a plate. Sprinkle the toasted walnuts on top, and then sprinkle on some brown sugar. Place the sliced peach on top and enjoy your simple, yummy breakfast!

Vegan Brownie Recipe

I’ve tried various vegan brownie recipes that I haven’t been thrilled with… I know, how do you mess up brownies? But the texture would always be off, or they were crispy and I couldn’t get them out of the pan. I had a chocolate craving the other night though, and I finally found a recipe that actually came out pretty well.

Brownie

I might tweak it next time by using a bit less oil. I ended up adding a little extra cocoa powder because they seemed too wet from oil, but otherwise they turned out well. They were easy to get out of the pan, and they were fudgy and soft like a brownie should be. The recipe came from All Recipes. They were so yummy I didn’t wait to get a photo of the whole pan as you can see. We just dug right in! If you have a favorite vegan brownie recipe, share it in the comments!

Pan of Brownies

Ingredients:

2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
2 cups vegan white sugar
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup water
1 cup vegetable oil (I’d cut this to about 3/4 cup next time – maybe even 1/2 cup)
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup chocolate chips (optional)
1 cup nuts (optional)

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 350°.
  • In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. Then add the water, vegetable oil, and vanilla. Stir until the batter is completely combined.
  • Add the chocolate chips and nuts if desired. I just used chocolate chips in this batch, but I like walnuts in brownies too.
  • Pour the batter into a 9×13 inch baking pan and smooth it out.
  • Bake the brownies for 25-30 minutes until a knife poked in the center comes out clean. Let them cool down a little before cutting them up or they’ll fall apart. Enjoy!

Virtual Vegan Potluck – Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie with Fresh Berries

Welcome to the third Virtual Vegan Potluck! It’s been great to see this grow so much each time! In case you just happened upon my blog and don’t know what the Virtual Vegan Potluck is, it’s a blog circle of recipes by vegan and vegan friendly bloggers. You can start at the beginning by going to Vegan Bloggers Unite, or see the blogs before or after me in the potluck by following the Go Forward and Go Back links at the bottom of this post. I’m excited to be participating again, and I’ve brought one of my favorite dessert recipes to share!

This recipe originally came from Vegetarian Times many years ago, and I’ve made a few modifications to it over the years. This pie is pretty easy and quick to make, and it’s perfect for sharing! Who doesn’t love peanut butter, chocolate, and berries? I wish I could give each of you a slice in real life!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie

I make the crust from scratch because many store bought graham cracker crusts aren’t vegan. Most graham crackers contain honey, but Nabisco Originals don’t. Making a graham cracker crust from scratch isn’t too hard and doesn’t take much time. I think they’re tastier than the store bought versions too! You can also use ginger snaps, vanilla or chocolate wafer cookies, or any other type of cookie or cracker that is dry and crumbly to make a crust. That’s one of the things I like so much about this pie, it’s easily customizable. In addition to changing the flavor of the crust you could substitute almond butter or cashew butter for the peanut butter, and you could top the pie with anything you like – nuts, vegan whipped cream, bananas, etc. Make it your own!

Graham Cracker Crust Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (about 10-11 whole crackers)

1/4 cup sugar

dash of salt

1/2 tsp cinnamon

5 Tbsp melted vegan butter (Earth Balance or organic Smart Balance)

Graham Cracker Crust Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 375°.
  • Place the graham crackers in a ziploc bag and seal it shut. Use a rolling pin or a wooden spoon to crush the crackers into crumbs.
  • Pour the crumbs into a mixing bowl and add the sugar, salt, and cinnamon to the crumbs. Stir until combined.
  • Melt the vegan butter and drizzle it over the crumbs. Mix it with a fork until combined.
  • Pour the crumbs into a 9 inch pie plate. Press them into the bottom of the pie plate and up the edges. They should stick together. If any holes form, make sure you fill them in.
  • Bake the crust for about 10-15 minutes. If the sides of the crust slouch down after baking, gently use the back of a spoon to push the crust back up the sides of your pie plate. Let the crust cool fully before putting the filling in.

Ingredients for Pie Filling:

  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 12-oz. container silken tofu
  • ½ cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • berries for the top

Directions for Pie Filling:

1. In a food processor or blender, combine the silken tofu and maple syrup and blend until smooth. Add the peanut butter and blend it again until it’s smooth.

2. Melt the chocolate chips, either using a double boiler or heating it in 30 second intervals in the microwave until melted. Stir the chocolate frequently as it melts. Add the melted chocolate to the food processor or blender and blend until smooth. Pour the filling into your cooled graham cracker crust. Smooth the top out and refrigerate the pie at least 20 minutes to firm up.

4. Place the berries on top (or use your topping of choice). You can use fresh berries when in season or thawed frozen berries other times of the year. Keep the pie refrigerated. Enjoy!

Be sure to check out the rest of the potluck by following these links! The blog before me is Mama et de Bebe Hawk and the blog after me is Deerly Beloved Bakery. You can also start at the beginning by visiting Vegan Bloggers Unite!

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Vegan Pie Crust Recipe

Homemade pie crust is one of those things that can be intimidating to make the first time, but it’s actually not that hard. I got a new pie plate and a pie bird for Christmas, so I wanted to try them out. I veganized a pie crust recipe from The Joy of Cooking to make an apple pie a little while back and the crust came out perfectly. Everyone has their own way of making pie crust, but this one works really well for me.

Growing up, my mom always made her own pie crusts, and she’s really good at it. Maybe I’m just spoiled, but I think homemade pie crust is so much better than frozen store bought crust! It’s really worth the effort to make it yourself. Try out this recipe with your favorite filling. It makes enough for the top and bottom crust for a 9 inch pie plate. It could also work as the top of a pot pie if you added in some savory spices like thyme or rosemary.

Unbaked Pie

A few tips before you start… The recipe calls for using ice cold water. The reason that you want cold water is so the shortening and vegan butter don’t melt in the dough. On that note, the shortening and vegan butter should also be cold when you start working with them. Don’t leave the vegan butter out to soften up. Another important thing is not to overwork the dough or it will get tough. Just do enough to get everything combined. The amount of water you need to add can also vary greatly depending on a lot of different factors. Just pay attention to the dough and only add a little at a time until you have just enough. If you’re wondering what a pie bird is, it’s a little ceramic bird that is open on the bottom and the beak. It helps vent steam out of your pie while it bakes. They help prevent the filling from boiling up and breaking through the crust.

If you want some very detailed and more scientific info about making pie crust and the various factors that come into play, check out this post on Serious Eats called The Food Lab: The Science of Pie Dough.

Baked Pie

Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp vegan sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup Spectrum vegetable shortening
1 cup vegan butter (Earth Balance or Smart Balance) or another cup of vegetable shortening
1/3 + 1 tbsp (and maybe more) of ice cold water

Directions:

  • In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, and salt. Stir so they are well combined.
  • Break the vegan butter and shortening into chunks and add them to the dry ingredients. Using a pastry cutter or fork, cut the shortening into the dry ingredients. The mixture will start to form crumbs, with some of the shortening and vegan butter remaining in about pea size clumps. Don’t over mix it. It should be dry and crumby, not pasty like a dough or batter.
  • Slowly drizzle 1/3 cup plus 1 Tbsp of ice cold water over the mixture. Using a spatula, gently cut the water into the mixture so it’s evenly distributed. It will start to form into balls of dough that should stick together if you press them together. If the dough won’t come together, continue to add ice cold water 1 tbsp at a time until it does. The dough should be a little on the dry and flaky side however, so don’t add too much water. You can use your hands or the spatula to gently coax the dough together. It’s not going to look smooth like bread dough. It will be a rougher texture. It’s okay to still see little bits of the shortening and butter in the dough. Don’t overwork the dough. Just do enough to get everything combined.
  • Separate the dough into two even balls and wrap them tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate them for at least half an hour, but it’s best to leave it several hours.
  • When you’re ready to use the dough, preheat the oven to 425°. Roll the dough out on a floured surface using a floured rolling pin until it has formed a circle big enough for your pie plate. If any holes form, patch them with extra dough. Using the rolling pin to support the dough, pick it up and place it flat in the pie plate. Pinch off excess dough that hangs over the sides.
  • If you’re using a pie bird, place the pie bird in the middle of the crust and fill the pie with your favorite fruit filling around the pie bird. The bird’s head should be sticking out of the top of the fruit. Then roll out the dough for the top in the same way you rolled the bottom. Lift it up with the rolling pin and place it on top of the filling. Cut a little x in the center of the dough so the head of the pie bird can peak through the crust. Crimp down the edges of the dough to form a seal, removing excess dough as you go. If you aren’t using a pie bird, you’ll want to poke the top crust with a fork 6-8 times around the top so the steam can vent.
  • Before baking the pie, I brushed on a little soy milk and sprinkled on some cinnamon sugar, but this is optional. I like the texture and golden color it creates on top though.
  • Bake the pie at 425° for 30 minutes, then lower the temperature to 350° and bake 30 to 45 minutes more. The top of the pie should look golden brown and you should see thick juice bubbling around the edges when it’s done. Pull the pie out of the oven and let it cool. Enjoy!

Happy New Year! – Vegan Cheesy Bread

Happy New Year! I hope you all had a good 2012, and if not, I hope 2013 treats you better! Last year, my New Years Resolution was to learn how to make bread. I’m happy to say I feel like I’ve accomplished that goal. Sure, there will always be more to learn about breadmaking, but I’m feeling more confident about my ability to make a decent basic loaf of bread.

This year, I think my New Year resolution will be to try new ingredients that I’ve never used before. It’s easy to get stuck in a rut and use ingredients you are comfortable with, but I’m hoping to branch out and learn to cook new things. But before we move on to 2013, here’s a send off to 2012’s resolution. This isn’t an entirely new recipe, but one that I repurposed to recreate a yummy flatbread pizza.

American Flatbread has a new vegan pizza which I got at Whole Foods. I’ve been told it resembles Papa Johns Cheese Bread pretty closely, though I’ve never had it myself. I wanted to try creating a similar version at home that would be cheaper since their frozen pizzas are small and a little pricey. It turns out the vegan naan recipe I posted a while back makes really yummy vegan cheesy bread! It’s perfect for a New Year party, and you still have time to get the dough started! Happy New Year everyone!

Ingredients:

naan dough (see recipe for ingredients and directions)
Daiya vegan cheese
garlic powder
salt
dried basil
dried oregano

Directions:

  • Follow the recipe for making naan dough. It’s a very easy recipe, but it takes 1 1/2 hours to rise and you also have to roll it out, so factor in that time. When you get to the step where you are rolling the dough into balls, create a baseball to softball sized ball rather than a golf ball sized ball.
  • Once the dough is finished the second rise, roll it out fairly thin (about 1/4 inch thick or slightly thicker is good). Heat your skillet over medium high and drizzle in a little olive oil. Cook the naan on one side for 2-3 minutes until bubbles brown, then flip the naan to cook the other size.
  • As the other side cooks, sprinkle garlic powder, salt, dried basil, and dried oregano on top of the naan. Then sprinkle on Daiya cheese. Lower your heat slightly so the naan doesn’t burn. Cover the skillet with a lid so the Daiya melts. Once the daiya is melted, transfer it to a plate or cutting board and slice. This makes a perfect side to a nice bowl of homemade soup!

Also, here are a few of my bread making adventures from the past year, in case you missed them or want to look back.

Braided Italian Sesame Bread
Rye Bread
Rosemary Dill Bread
Soft Pretzel Rolls
Naan
Cinnamon Buns – (Okay these aren’t technically bread, but they are made from a yeast dough that rises…close enough! They are seriously yummy!)