Top 5 of 2015

As we ring in another new year, I thought to look back on the passing year with a post of my favorite recipes of 2015, that I know I’ll be coming back to.

Enjoy, and Happy New Year! See you all in 2016 😀

 

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Lemon Zucchini Bread – delicious and easy quick bread with lemony zing

 

 

 

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Pop Quiz – all you need to know about popcorn and making it from scratch

 

 

 

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Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies – a hit with your non-dairy, gluten-free, and omnivore friends alike

 

 

 

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White (Chocolate) Drizzled Lavender Shortbread – attractive and attainable party goals

 

 

 

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Dad’s Mango Bread – a new family recipe that’s always a good idea

 

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Veganing like Champs

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Are you vegan? Do you live in Brooklyn? Do you enjoy pancakes or seitan? If you answered yes to any of these, read on!

When summer was still in full swing, my friend Karly took us to this vegan diner in East Williamsburg called Champs. Part of me was mildly skeptical that I would find something that I liked, as my favorite food groups include meat and dairy. The other part of me was excited and somewhat confident that this well known spot in Brooklyn would deliver. It’s famous in the vegan community, and Karly heard all about it from friends around the country on an animal rights tour. Okay, why not? “Let’s do it.”

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The interior was quite retro-diner, with space for around 10 pairs to sit at a time, plus the bar. A modestly sized spot, with a 30 minute wait on a Sunday afternoon. Wall decor hailed the almighty “seitan”, a gluten-based meat substitute, which, when properly seasoned, can taste kinda meaty.

After looking over the menu for 15 minutes, deciding between pancakes and breakfast enchiladas, I went with pancakes and committing to a second trip. A cop out of having real vegan food? Maybe, but I would imagine it’s difficult to make pancakes really good without classic buttermilk.

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Final settlement: Karly got a chili burger with beans and a vegan seitan patty, and I got Strawberry Shortcake pancakes, without whipped cream because they ran out :/ That would have been interesting to try, and could have made or broke the whole dish. But without the whipped cream, the pancakes were great. I couldn’t tell they were vegan at all, and I didn’t miss the butter. Karly’s burger was also good – not dry, and full of flavor.

carmen-ladipo-champs-diner-rubber-scraper-movementA perfectly content Karly.

Vegan or not – I would actually recommend Champs for a fun breakfast, lunch, or dinner – unless you’re feeling like our neighbors were, and are really just jonesing for a classic pulled pork sandwich.

Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies


     Let’s get right to it: these things are gluten-free AND vegan! But these cookies aren’t GF and V to be accommodating; they’re really just good cookies disguised as healthy. Who said you need anything more than peanut butter and sugar in a good cookie, anyway?



      I was watching Unique Sweets (explanation of the show here) and they were showing the process for a bakery’s flourless peanut butter cookies, so naturally I tried to make some myself. They came out pretty great.



     There are only four things in these cookies, if you count water: peanut butter, powdered sugar, and a flax egg, made from flaxseed meal and water. Make sure you sift the sugar so you don’t have to deal with squashing tiny lumps later.



Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies
Makes 12 3-inch cookies

1 cup peanut butter
1 cup confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1 flax egg (1 tablespoon + 3 tablespoons water)
Optional: coarse sea salt for sprinkling

Combine the peanut butter and sugar in a bowl. Add the flax egg and mix until smooth. To make the dough easier to handle, you can chill it in the fridge for 30 minutes. Scoop out dough to form balls of desired size and flatten with hands. Use a large fork to make cool patterns, so people know they’re peanut butter cookies. Bake at 350° for 9 minutes, or until edges look crispy.

     Evidently, you don’t have a real peanut butter cookie in your hands unless it has those fork marks. And if there’s a cookie with fork marks in your hands, it must be a peanut butter cookie.
     Potential variations include covering the dough in granulated sugar before baking, and using brown sugar in the dough. Hooray for peanut butter!


#collegeproblemzzz: Chocolate Chip Cookies

Typical dorm life issue: You want to make cookies (make cookies), so you get out all your non-perishables from the closet, and forget you don’t have any butter or eggs.
Rats! Or, maybe that’s not generally a problem because why would you have flour, sugar and chocolate chips without butter and eggs?  If you’re anything like me, then you enjoy baking from scratch and won’t know when the urge will hit you. In these cases, it would be convenient to use eggs regularly enough that they don’t expire before you finish, and…well I guess you don’t have the same problem with butter. But I had no eggs, I had no butter, and I wasn’t about to drive to Wegmans in order to make cookies.
For whatever reason, however (specifically doughnuts…), I had some vegetable oil hanging around. There was hope yet! After Googling something like “no egg butter chocolate chip cookies” I eventually came across the Post Punk Kitchen, advertising their expertise on vegan cooking. I generally steer clear of vegan and gluten-free things, as a byproduct of their ingredients (or lack of) is more healthy, less dangerous and delectable. But I really didn’t have a choice since nothing I had to work with was/came from something that ever had legs. You know when they say don’t judge a recipe by its picture? That’s right – they don’t, because it’s surefire way to predict your success (totally).
I’ve attacked this recipe twice now, and let’s just say practice makes perfect. If you are missing butter from your fridge If you are a college student living in a dorm, then there’s a fair chance you won’t have tapioca flour hanging around like this recipe requests. If you are thus concerned for your cookies’ integrity, then you can replace the tapioca flour with something sticky like peanut butter or bananas. As long as you follow the instructions, and take care in catalyzing the “chemical reactions”, you should be good to go. Don’t be like me and assume efforts to mix the oil into the sugars are for naught. They’re not. Your cookies will taste better than the tube of dough your neighbors are buying from the campus convenience store.
Disclaimer: This, of course, depends on your substitute for the tapioca flour; not sure you even need one. If you use half a pinkie’s length of banana, you will have banana cookies with some chocolate chips. You’ve been warned.
Pools of oil: BAD
Homogenous velvety smooth “dough”: GOOD
Your cookies should look more like this
Less so like this: they may slip out of your fingers

Chocolate Chip Cookie (no eggs, no butter)

1/2 brown sugar
1/4 white sugar
2/3 cup canola oil
1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk (or your favorite non-dairy milk)
1 tablespoon tapioca flour
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cups chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly grease two large light metal baking sheets.
Mix together sugars, oil, milk and tapioca flour in a mixing bowl. Use a strong fork and mix really well, for about 2 minutes, until it resembles smooth caramel. There is a chemical reaction when sugar and oil collide, so it’s important that you don’t get lazy about that step. Mix in the vanilla.
Add 1 cup of the flour, the baking soda and salt. Mix until well incorporated. Mix in the rest of the flour. Fold in the chocolate chips. The dough will be a little stuff so use your hands to really work them in.
For 3 inch cookies, roll the dough into about ping pong ball size balls. Flatten them out in your hands to about 2 1/2 inches. They will spread just a bit. Place on a baking sheet and bake for about 8 minutes – no more than 9 – until they are just a little browned around the edges. I usually get 16 out of these so I do two rounds of eight cookies. Let cool on the baking sheet for about 5 minutes then transfer to a cooling rack.
For 2 dozen two inch cookies roll dough into walnut sized balls and flatten to about 1 1/2 inches and bake for only six minutes.
Brought to you by PPK