Monday, October 10, 2011

October 10, 2011

Breakfast: Cinnamon Crunch (from Whole Foods), Two White Chocolate Chip Macadamia Nut Cookies

Lunch: Vegetarian Burrito from Chipotle with extra rice. Peach Soy Yogurt (from Trader Joe's). One (maybe two?) white chocolate macadamia nut cookie.
(Apparently Chipotle has made two important changes since I last ate there: they now have cilantro-lime brown rice as an option and they list the calories per meal on the overhead board where everyone can see it. That definitely persuaded me not to order the chips and guacamole).

Dinner: Wet Bean Burritos with homemade guacamole and Chipotle chips.
(The burritos/enchiladas were a new recipe. The filling was good, but I wasn't thrilled with the enchilada sauce. It was too tomato-y and vinegary). 

      2 ripe avocados
       2 T of fresh lime juice (eyeball it; better to add a little at first and more if you need it)
       1/2 of a tomato, diced finely
       1/4 of a sweet yellow onion, diced finely
       1/2 of a jalopeno, diced finely (optional)
       few dashes of salt

       Mash the avocado with fork until at the consistency you desire. Add the rest of the             
       ingredients and mix together. Done!
Dessert: Another white chocolate macadamia nut cookie. They're hard to resist!

Not my finest photography...But enchiladas are hard to photograph!


Sunday, October 9, 2011

October 9, 2011

Breakfast: Cinnamon Crunch Cereal (from Whole Foods)

Lunch: Leftover Tadka Dal with two Samosa

Dinner: Chana Masala with Cumin Rice, Samosas, and Mint and Tamarind Chutneys

Dessert: White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies

White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies

Makes approximately 2-3 dozen cookies. Recipe adapted from Betty Crocker.
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1/2 cup shortening
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 teaspoons of Ener-G Egg Replace mixed with 2 T of hot water
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1+ cups of vegan white chocolate chips
1/2 cup macadamia nuts, coarsely chopped

Heat oven to 350°F.

Beat sugars, butter, shortening, vanilla and egg in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Beat in flour, baking soda and salt (dough will be stiff). Stir in chocolate and nuts.

Store dough in the refrigerator for five minutes before putting in cookies into the oven. Continue to store dough in the fridge between cookie batches. This step will prevent your cookies from flattening out into thin crispy cookies. If you like that kind of cookie, then skip this step. :)

Shape dough into golfball sized balls. Flatten into thick discs. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 11 to 12 minutes or until light brown. Cookies will look puffy when you take them out of the oven; they will de-puff and become their normal glorious buttery selves as they cool for 1 to 2 minutes.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Fleur De Sel Blondies

Use the vegan chocolate chip cookie recipe, but follow the oven and baking times for chewy chocolate chip blondies.

Friday, January 30, 2009


If I had to eat only one food for the rest of my life, it would be samosas. Of course, my life would probably be very short, seeing as samosas are deep fried. But, hey, I would be in heavenly bliss every day.

Winter Term ended three days ago and spring classes start this Monday. That means I cannot fulfill my hopes of deconstructing seitan and other mock meats. Maybe I will get around to this in the future, but for now, I have to start focusing on my last semester in college.

Feeling bad about cutting my project short, I decided instead to show you how to make samosas. The filling and dough are easy enough to make. (I prefer Manjula's recipe, though I used Vegan with a Vengeance's recipe for a long time. Manula's samosa recipe is so much easier, though.) What I'm going to demonstrate is how I roll out the samosa dough and make samosas that look like the restaurant kind. That tends to be the trickier aspect of making samosas.

Step 1: Pinch and roll the dough into large balls (slightly larger than a golf ball).
Step 2: Flatten one of the balls on a floured surface. Roll out with a rolling pin. Pick it up with your hands and stretch it. Roll it out into a circle and until the dough is thin enough to almost see through, but not paper thin.
Step 3: Cut the circle in half with a knife, so you have two half moon shapes. On one half circle, wet half the edge facing you and then wet the other edge touching the floured surface. (Try not to get your surface wet).
Step 4: Take a half circle and form a cone, touching the two wet edges to each other. (See! The wet edges line up and don't get your hand wet). With wet fingers, smooth the creases on the inside and outside of the cone and pinch the bottom shut. You don't want any oil sneaking into the inside, or you'll have greasy potato filling. Hold the cone in your non-dominant hand with the top peaking out.

Step 5: Spoon filling into the cone, pushing it down and packing it in so the samosa rounds out. I use about five spoonfulls of filling, but just watch your samosa to make sure you're not overstretching.
Step 6: Stop when it's just about full.
Step 7: Fold in half of the remaining dough.
Step 8: Wet the inside of the other half of the dough still sticking up. Stretch it over the other part and press down.
Step 9: Wet along the crease and smooth with your finger. Pinch the two points shut. It will look white and pasty.
Step 10: Fry 'em! I recommend a deep fryer because it's safer, but we used a makeshift deep fryer (tiny pot filled halfway with oil) for a long time.
Step 11: Eat plain or with mint chutney, coriander chutney, or tamarind sauce.

Starch (in sauce, soups, cheezecakes, etc)

I promised to explain starch-based starches, and I will. Until I read Cookwise, starches seemed very simple to me. Buy some cornstarch, add a pinch to a thin sauce or soup, and pow! Instant thickness. Starches, obviously, are more complex than this.

What is Starch?

Starch is composed of long strands of sugar (glucose, specifically). Starch comes from plants which store sugar in the form of starch. Some plants store starch in roots or tubers; others, like banana trees, store starch in their fruit. That's why bananas make a great egg replacer! Starch appears in two forms – as amylose or amylopectin. Amylose is found in grains; amylopectin is found in cornstarch, potato starch, and tapioca. (I'm not sure which form is in starchy fruit). While amylose holds its thick form under different temperatures, amylopectin thins when cooled, reheated, stirred too vigourously, or cooked at very high heat. You're probably wondering why anyone would use weak amylopectin, then. Well, there's another important difference between the two starch forms. When they set, amylose is opaque whereas amylopectin is transparent and glossy. While this difference may seem unimportant if you're just adding starch to thicken soup, this difference is very important to bakers. Opaque apple pie filling just doesn't look right.

How Does Starch Thicken?

If you remember only one thing about starch, let it be this: starch needs heat! When starch is heated, its molecules separate from each other, soak up surrounding liquid, and begin to puff. The hotter the liquid, the puffier the starch. Once the liquid nears boiling point, the puffy starch pops, flooding your food with thickening power. (You won't see any puffing or popping). Basically, starch doesn't thicken your sauce or soup until it just starts to boil. (That means you can't dissolve starch in cold water).

This is a very important point. Many people, including myself, add starch to something, stir, and wonder why it doesn't feel thicker. So they add more starch. When the starch finally pops and thickens, they have a gluey, starchy mess. Before you add more starch, first bring your starch-based food to a boil and then determine whether it's thick enough to your likening. (With sauces, you'll know it's boiling when bubbles appear).

Some other quick tidbits about starch: (1) Starch doesn't work with acidic sauces. (2) Salt increases the temperature at which starch molecules puff and pop.

Methods for Adding Starch to Food

There are three methods: slurry, beurre manie, and roux. The point of each method is to prevent lumps from forming when you add the starch to the hot food.

A slurry is a mix of starch and cold water that is then added to the food. When I read this in Cookwise, I was instantly reminded of A Vegan Ice Cream Paradise's soy cream recipes. Her recipes call for mixing 2 tablespoons cornstarch into ¼ cup of soy milk. The rest of the soy milk is heated to a boil with the sugar. Then you turn off the heat, add in the slurry, and stir until slightly thicker. Her recipes are awesome, and now I understand why the cornstarch is set aside.

Beurre maine is butter and flour kneaded together, and then added to the food. As the butter melts, it releases the starch grain by grain. Pretty interesting, huh? Could it be done with Earth Balance? I find that learning about cooking usually brings up even more questions about cooking.

Roux is a cross between beurre maine and a reduction. It can only be used when you have leftover hot fat in a pan from something you just cooked. (For omnis, this is the nasty grease left behind from browned meat.) Roux is the result of vigorously stirring flour into the hot fat, which causes the starch to separate grain by grain. A roux should cook for several minutes. Gravies are rouxes. And, actually, the Chana Masala recipe from my last post has a roux twist to it. You stir in besan (also known as chickpea flour or gram flour) to the spiced oil before adding the puree. Who knew a sauce could be two types of sauces combined?! Cooking is deceptively complex sometimes.

How Much Starch to Use

If using flour:

Thin sauce: 1 T flour per 1 cup liquid

Medium sauce: 2 T flour per 1 cup

Thick sauce: 3 T flour per 1 cup

If using cornstarch:

Thin sauce: ½ T per 1 cup liquid

Medium: 1 T + 1 teaspoon per cup

Thick: 1 ½ T per cup


So there's this food called Cheezish. It's pretty popular at the Vegan Represent forum, and for good reason. This vegan mac and cheese looks like the Kraft stuff, and it tastes very good, too. Personally, I have been scarred by too many bad mock cheese sauces, so I made this for Jeff, who is always eager to try new vegan cheese sauces. I don't have a picture of this dish. My blender didn't puree the pimientos finely enough, so the cheezish didn't look so beautiful. It was a bright orange sauce flecked with red. However, someone else has posted mouth-watering pictures of Cheezish here.

Knowing how starch works in a recipe made a world of difference when I approached this recipe. Just looking at it, I could see where I would have failed.

The cornstarch-based sauce begins as a slurry and is heated in a pan until thick. I stirred the sauce constantly to prevent lumps. (I did not stir vigorously because of the finicky amylopectin.) I waited for bubbles to appear. This point in time is when stupid Gabe would have added starch. The sauce wasn't thickening after a few minutes over medium heat. But I waited patiently, and then, a bubble rose lazily to the surface and popped. Suddenly, there were many bubbles and the sauce began to feel thicker! I let it bubble for a minute as I stirred the thickening sauce.

A success! My first starch-based sauce that wasn't lumpy, gluey, or starchy.

Samosa Teaser

Expect two posts today! (Not including this one)

Friday, January 23, 2009

Purees and Reductions

I have always considered sauces to be my weak point in cooking. This weakness has frustrated me to no end because I love a good chili garlic sauce or a sweet teriyaki. Yet whenever I try my hand at a new recipe, I create lumpy, thin glazes that don't stick to the vegetables and rice in the pan.

After studying sauces in Cookwise and cooking up some familiar dishes, I realized that I do not, in fact, suck at making sauces. I'm actually quite good! We make these dishes regularly, all of which depend upon a good sauce: Chana Masala (tomato gravy puree), Garlicky Pasta (herb and garlic butter reduction), and Peanut Butter Broccoli (spicy peanut sauce). The truth is that I suck at making starch-based sauces, specifically for Asian dishes.

There are three basic sauce types – purees, reductions, and starch-based. Each works in a different way and complements certain dishes. Let's start at the top.


A puree is any food, cooked or raw, that has been blended to a thick consistency. Purees rely upon vegetables, fruit, cooked grains or beans, seeds, and bread crumbs for thickening. Purees should have a minimal amount of liquid since it can interfere with the blending and the final texture. In this Peanut Butter Broccoli dish, very hot water breaks down the peanut butter into a thick consistency. I only use a quarter cup of water and I keep whisking the peanut butter with a fork even when it seems the water is mostly absorbed.

Right now, you may be conceptualizing purees as those colorful sauce puddles next to gourmet meals. (See picture of bad puree at right). At least, that was my initial idea of a puree. Sure, it's tasty, but isn't it more of a decoration? No, actually. Marinara and mole are famous purees that aren't secondary to the dish they flavor. And that's really the point here.

Purees infuse a dish with flavor. They should be used in dishes where the sauce is a critical component of the dish itself. You can use soy sauce instead of chili garlic in a stir-fry, for example, but you cannot separate Chana Masala from its signature tomato gravy, a puree. The Chana Masala recipe I use requires pureed tomato, chili, and ginger that is cooked with Indian spices and water. Purees must ramp up the flavor of their bland vegetable or grain base. You can add in spicy chilies, ginger, roasted nuts, Earth Balance, nutritional yeast, or something else with an intense flavor. In the Peanut Butter Broccoli dish, cayenne, soy sauce, and Worcestershire enhance the peanut butter base.

Puree Recap:

  • Veggies, fruit, rice, beans, seeds, and bread crumbs can all make the thick base.

  • Use a minimal amount of liquid.

  • Seek an intense flavor with chilies, ginger, or distinctive seasonings.


OK, I want to give you a quick taste of reductions. A reduction sounds fancy, but the concept is simple enough. (Even if making a reduction may induce cursing).

A reduction is a sauce created from leftover flavors in your pan. Say you sauteed some vegetables in sage and oregano. Instead of throwing the vegetables over pasta when you're done, you could add some Earth Balance, scrape the seasonings off the pan, and add in new things to make a small amount of sauce for your dish. This is what I do when I make Garlicky Pasta. (No picture, sorry!)

To make a reduction, you must have already cooked something in the pan. (That something can stay in the pan if it's small or can be set aside if it's larger like a seitan cutlet). Deglaze the pan over medium heat. Deglazing is adding a liquid to the pan (wine, water, melted Earth Balance) and using it to scrape off seasonings that are stuck to the pan. Add in other flavors if you wish. Stir the sauce constantly, forcing it to touch all parts of the pan. Stirring infuses your reduction with more flavor as it grabs more and more flavor from the pan. Eventually you'll have a small amount of sauce to drizzle over seitan cutlets or stir-fry with cooked pasta.

If you're curious as to why reductions work: Chemical changes occur as the pan heats up; ingredients break down into new flavors. In my Garlicky Pasta dish, the sage and oregano intensify in flavor and the onions caramelize. The flip side of reductions is that the liquid removes bitterness. As water reaches its boiling point, part of it evaporates and carries away acids and other bitter molecules that have lower boiling points. Pretty cool, huh?

Redux Recap:

  • Use a pan you just cooked something in
  • Deglaze the pan with a liquid like water, wine, or margarine
  • Stir constantly, touching all parts of the pan
  • Add in other ingredients, if desired

Starch-Based Sauces

I'll save this for next week. I'm going home for the weekend and won't be in the kitchen for awhile. Don't worry, I am looking forward to a cooking break and lots of Indian takeout from Madison.