Hot Cocoa

After taking a long break from things for the holiday I’m finding it difficult to get my momentum back. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s feeling this way right now. I cooked several large meals over the holidays and I’m feeling a bit burnt out from cooking and eating in excess. Luckily I still have plenty of leftovers from the weekend, and won’t have to make anything new. I still wanted to share a recipe with my readers this week just in case you happen to be feeling ambitious enough to make something. This one is a quick and easy one that will warm up your winter just a bit while feeling reminiscent of the holidays. Hot cocoa is incredibly easy to make at home. When I still ate dairy it was as simple as buying a pre-mixed packet. Unfortunately for us vegans most of the ready made cocoa mixes contain milk powder. On the bright side you only need four ingredients to replicate the store bought cocoa mixes, and it tastes way better.

Over the past few years I’ve become more conscious about buying fair trade products. I try not to get too “preachy” on the blog, because some perceive it as unwelcoming. I really don’t want to scare anyone away from veganism, but this is an issue that really bothers me. I feel that as a vegan who went vegan predominantly for animal rights issues I cannot knowingly purchase something that was produced in a way that is exploitative to other human beings. Human beings are animals just like cows, pigs, or chickens. Being vegan implies that you care about the rights of all animals. We all have value, and are deserving of equal rights. If you don’t already shop fair trade I ask you to consider making the switch. Nobody deserves to be enslaved just so you can have a few minutes of enjoyment, and save a few dollars. Yes, I understand that it’s a bit more expensive, but if you can’t afford something that wasn’t produced by slave labor maybe take a minute to reflect on whether or not you really need to purchase that item. I’m not saying that you need to strive for perfection, but in the spirit of “Veganuary” try your best to swap out some of your daily items like coffee and cocoa. I think you’ll find as you make these changes that the fair trade products almost always taste better, and are worth the marginally higher price.

Perhaps in the future I’ll do a post featuring some of my favorite fair trade products. For this recipe I like using SACO Conscious Kitchen Cocoa, or Equal Exchange Organic Baking Cocoa. If you get the Equal Exchange Cocoa make sure you buy the baking cocoa as the drinking cocoa contains milk. I use Wholesome organic vegan white sugar for this recipe. For vanilla extract we use Simply Organic. Top it with vegan whipped cream, and vegan marshmallows. We use Dandies Marshmallows, because they’re delicious and relatively easy to find. Oatly oatmilk is our go to non-dairy milk, but feel free to use whatever you prefer!


Hot Cocoa

  • Servings: 1
  • Difficulty: easy
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To make more than one serving just multiply the ingredients by how many servings you intend to make.

Ingredients

  • 1 cups non-dairy milk
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp vegan sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • vegan marshmallows (optional)
  • -vegan whipped cream (optional)

Directions

  1. In a small sauce pan start warming non-dairy milk on a low heat.
  2. Add in sugar, and sift in the cocoa. Be sure to whisk as you add the cocoa to help keep it from clumping.
  3. Add vanilla extract, and whisk. Continue whisking the mixture periodically to prevent it from burning.
  4. Bring mixture to a simmer, and let it go until it is hot.
  5. Pour into a mug, and top with non-dairy whipped cream and marshmallows or leave it plain. You can dust with additional cocoa for a garnish.

Vegan “Scallops” And Risotto

I’ve written before about how much I loved shellfish before I went vegan, and how that was one of the only food groups I found difficult to give up. Previously, I’ve shared a recipe for vegan “scallops” with white wine cream sauce. The recipe featured “scallops” made from king oyster mushrooms with a decadent pasta bathed in white wine cream sauce. I really enjoy using oyster mushrooms in this application. When marinated well they provided a close approximation to both the taste and the texture of scallops. I created this new recipe with fine dining in mind. Nothing says fine dining quite like scallops. To keep the upscale feel I prepared it with a creamy herb risotto, pomegranate gastrique, and a garnish of fresh micro-greens.

I feel like there’s a misconception that “fancy” food is difficult to make, but it’s really minimalist and quite simple. Consider this one for your next date night in, or dinner party. This recipe doesn’t take too long to put together, and will impress even your carnivorous friends. The most time consuming part of it is stirring the risotto while the broth cooks out. Don’t skip out on making a gastrique for this dish. If you’ve never made a gastrique it may seem tricky, but it only takes a few minutes to throw together. The gastrique adds a light touch of citrus and pomegranate that adds some freshness to the scallops.


Vegan Scallops and Risotto

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: intermediate
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Scallop Ingredients

  • 5-6 large king trumpet or king oyster mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth, or water mixed with vegetable bouillon
  • 1 tbsp white miso paste
  • 1/4 cup vegan white wine
  • 1 tbsp olive or caper juice
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp mirin
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • additional white wine to deglaze the pan
  • 2 tbsp earth balance or other vegan butter

Risotto Ingredients

  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 1/4 cup blend of chopped fresh thyme, rosemary, and sage
  • 1/2 a yellow onion
  • 2 shallots
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 cube not chick’n bouillon
  • 4 cups hot water
  • 1/2 cup vegan white wine
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp follow your heart grated vegan parmesan
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast

Gastrique and Garnish Ingredients

  • 1 cup of fresh micro-greens
  • 2 tbsp vegan butter
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • seeds from one pomegranate
  • juice from 2 lemons
  • juice from 2 oranges
  • 2 tbsp white sugar
  • 1/4 cup vegan white wine
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Directions

  1. Cut down king oyster mushrooms into large scallop sized chunks excluding the caps. Score the “scallops” if you’d like (this helps add flavor), and set them aside.
  2. Dice the caps, and set them aside. You can cook these down and add them to the risotto for a nice textural element.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the marinade ingredients. Add the Oyster mushrooms to the marinade, and place into the fridge for at least an hour.
  4. Dice the onion, and mince the shallots and garlic for the risotto. In a large pan, or sauce pan, simmer the shallots, onion, and garlic in the olive oil. Add the diced mushroom cap, so that it can cook down.
  5. Add the arborio rice to the pan, and let it toast for about two minutes.
  6. Add the 1/2 cup of white wine, and let it cook down while stirring periodically.
  7. Add a cube of not chick’n bouillon to four cups of water. Microwave on high, and whisk to dissolve.
  8. Add the broth to the risotto one cup at a time. Allow it to cook down in between adding each cup.
  9. The risotto should be almost completely done cooking when you add the final cup of broth. When you add the final cup allow it to cook down half way, and then add in your fresh herbs, nutritional yeast, and vegan parmesan. If you can’t find vegan parmesan sub two additional tablespoons of nutritional yeast.
  10. While your risotto is cooking start the gastrique. Aim to start it about halfway through the cook time on the risotto to allow everything to finish around the same time.
  11. To make the gastrique cook minced shallot in butter in a small sauce pot until it becomes translucent.
  12. Add pomegranate seeds, orange juice, lemon juice, sugar, wine, and vinegar. Whisk periodically.
  13. Allow gastrique to cook down to about half the volume it originally was. Remove from heat, and strain. The sauce should thicken up as it cools, but if it still seems thin you can cheat a bit by putting it back on the stove, and adding a teaspoon of cornstarch mixed with a teaspoon of water to get it to thicken up.
  14. Once the gastrique and the risotto are fully cooked you’ll want to make the scallops. They only take about five minutes to cook, so just cover the other dishes to allow them to stay warm. In a separate pan heat some butter. I saved some herbs, shallot, and garlic to season the scallops with, and if you’d like to do this too add them in now.
  15. Once the pan is hot enough, you should hear it sizzle when you put the scallops down, add all of your scallops to the pan on one of the flat sides. You can add drip some of the marinade on top of them as they cook for added flavor.
  16. Keep a close eye on the scallops as they cook. Once they have a nice sear on the bottom immediately flip them. Once a nice sear is starting to develop on the final side deglaze the pan with a bit of white wine, and lemon juice. Top them with some sea salt and pepper, and then remove from heat.
  17. Plate your scallops, risotto, and gastrique up nicely with a side salad of undressed micro-greens. For our dishes we brushed on the gastrique, loaded the risotto into a small bowl to shape it, and placed it on the plate. We arranged the scallops neatly around the risotto, and garnished with citrus slices and micro-greens. Enjoy.

Butternut Squash Pizza

When Nick and I first started dating he lived in a suburb just outside of the city. There weren’t a lot of vegan options nearby, so we’d normally cook food at his apartment. When we did go out we would go to a local brewery called Mindful Brewing. They also didn’t have a lot of vegan options, but they used to have this one butternut squash pizza that was phenomenal. It had chickpeas, red onions, and a balsamic reduction. We’ve attempted to recreate this pizza several times over the past three years. It may not be exactly the same, but it’s really good.

I’m not sure exactly what they put in the butternut squash puree to flavor it, but we kept ours pretty simple. We’ve tried cooking the sauce down before applying it to the pizza as well as applying it uncooked. I would definitely recommend taking a few minutes to cook it down with some maple syrup and spices. It adds a lot of flavor. The water content is a bit too high if you don’t cook it down, and it makes the crust a little too soft for my taste. It’s been a while since I’ve had the pizza at Mindful, but I’m pretty sure it had cilantro on top. We used parsley instead, because we simply don’t like cilantro. I can tolerate it as a garnish, but generally prefer to sub something else in. Feel free to use either ingredient if you are a cilantro lover.

This pizza calls for a hearty, thick crust. I don’t recommend buying a pre-baked pizza shell from the super market. If you don’t want to make your own pizza dough you can buy balls of pizza dough at some supermarkets. We recommend the dough from Trader Joe’s. You can also find dough at a number of regional supermarkets. If you do want to make your own we have a great recipe that we’ve been using for a few years.


Butternut Squash Pizza

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
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Squash Puree Ingredients

  • one butternut squash
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper

Balsamic Reduction

  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup

Topping Ingredients

  • 1/4 small red onion
  • 1 16oz can of chickpeas
  • 1/2 tsp olive oil
  • pinch of salt & pepper
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

Squash Puree Directions

  1. Peel and break down squash. Remove the seeds and strings, and chop into small, equal pieces. If you purchased prepared squash you can skip this step.
  2. Boil squash in a large stock pot full of water for thirty minutes, or until fork tender.
  3. Drain, rinse with cold water, and place into an ice bath to halt the cooking process. Drain again, and put the squash into a food processor.
  4. Blend squash until it is a smooth puree. One large squash will make enough puree for about four pizzas. Add about a cup and a half to a sauce pot, and store the rest in the fridge or freezer to use in other dishes.
  5. Add maple syrup, red pepper flakes, salt, and black pepper to the squash puree in the sauce pot. Cook down for about ten to fifteen minutes.
  6. Add sauce to the top of the pizza crust once the crust has been pre-baked.

Balsamic Reduction Directions

  1. In a small sauce pot combine balsamic vinegar with maple syrup.
  2. Cook on medium heat for about fifteen minutes, or the liquid has reduced to half of its original quantity. Whisk frequently to prevent burning.
  3. Remove from heat, and set aside to cool while you assemble the rest of the pizza.

Topping Directions

  1. Drain and rinse chickpeas, and place them in a bowl.
  2. Toss chickpeas with olive oil, salt, and pepper.
  3. Top pizza with desired amount of chickpeas.
  4. Slice onion into thin slices, and top the pizza with them.
  5. Chop parsley, but wait to add it to the pizza until the end.
  6. Bake pizza for about 25 minutes. When the pizza looks to be about done top it with the parsley, and drizzle some of the balsamic reduction on top. Bake for an additional 2 minutes.

Fall Harvest Pizza

Vegan, Gluten Free, and Paleo Friendly When Made With CorEats Pizza Dough

This week we’re featuring another local Pittsburgh company in our recipe! We made this beautiful fall harvest pizza with fresh organic produce, and CorEats Pizza Dough Mix. CorEats sells a line of wholesome, easy to make dry mixes that cater towards just about every dietary restriction. All of the products they sell have simple, whole ingredients, and no weird artificial junk that you need to read a scientific research paper just to figure out what it is. Not only does CorEats carry savory mixes, but they have a ton of dessert mixes as well. If you love fresh baked sweets, but don’t always have the time to bake they’re a great option.

Luckily I don’t have any form of gluten intolerance or allergy, and I rarely eat gluten free. To be completely honest, as a lover of bread, gluten free can often times be a little lack luster for me. I was pleasantly surprised by the taste and consistency of the CorEats Pizza Dough. It had a light, doughy texture for a gluten free crust. Normally I expect gluten free breads to be pretty dense and chewy. The dough mix also contained Himalayan Pink Sea Salt which added a nice balance to the over all flavor.

We really wanted to stay in line with the mission of CorEats, and create a recipe that showcased wholesome food that everyone can enjoy. Using fresh organic vegetables, and a lot of warm, fall spices, we created an incredibly flavorful fall harvest pizza. This pizza is vegan, gluten free, and paleo. At our local farmers market, and food co-op, we found some lovely beets, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts. We prepared each ingredient with care in its own special blend of spices, and served them on top of a roasted red pepper sauce, topped with delicious pesto. If you live in a different region, feel free to sub in your own local seasonal autumn veggies.


Fall Harvest Pizza

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 1 package CoreEats pizza dough mix
  • 2 red bell peppers
  • 1 orange bell pepper
  • 1 large tomato
  • 1/2 yellow onion
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 beets
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • pinch of sea salt
  • pinch of pepper
  • 1/4 cup cauliflower florets
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 cup shredded Brussels sprouts
  • 1 tbsp spicy mustard
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic

Directions

  1. Wash and dry all of the produce.
  2. Cut peppers, tomato, and onion into large chunks. Add them into a large stock pot with four cloves of pealed garlic, two tablespoons olive oil, dried basil, dried rosemary, dried oregano, dried thyme, and red pepper flakes. Cook down for about a half hour.
  3. While the red pepper sauce is simmering prepare the toppings and crust.
  4. Peel the beets, and mandolin them into thin slices. Place them in a bowl and coat them with about a teaspoon of olive oil with a pinch of salt and pepper to taste. I like to think of these as little beet pepperoni that satisfy the craving for something crispy, and salty.
  5. Break down cauliflower into florets. Place them in a bowl and coat them with curry powder, turmeric, and paprika. This warm blend of spice adds to the fall feeling of the dish.
  6. Cut down Brussels sprouts into thin slices. Add them to a mixing bowl, and then add both types of mustard and apple cider vinegar. Make sure they are well coated.
  7. In a food processor or high powered blender prepare a pesto sauce to top the pizza with. Combine fresh basil, two tablespoons olive oil, and two cloves of garlic. Blend on high until it reaches a pesto consistency. Set aside in a bowl, or a squeeze bottle.
  8. Prepare the CorEats pizza crust as directed on the packaging. Pre-bake crust for about 15 minutes at 375.
  9. Once the sauce has had about a half hour to simmer remove the pot from heat. Give it a few minutes to cool, and then transfer to the food processor. Process until sauce is smooth. In lieu of a food processor you can use an immersion blender directly in the stock pot.
  10. Prepare the pizza by applying the sauce to the pre-baked crust. Top with beet slices, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower.
  11. Bake pizza for 15 minutes. Remove from oven, and top with pesto sauce. Return pizza to the oven for a minute or two to warm pesto if desired. Enjoy.

Vegan Brownies

I know we recently made a brownie post for our refined sugar free Black Bean Brownies, but I like to have options when it comes to dessert. You really can’t taste the black beans in black bean brownies, but I can see why it might be an intimidating hurdle for a picky eater. This recipe is bean free, but just as tasty. These brownies get a nice crispy exterior that makes them perfect for decorating, or serving plain. I decorated mine using my recipe for The Best Vegan Buttercream. You can flavor your buttercream by adding in things like caramel, or chocolate. If it starts to get to thin compensate by adding a bit more powdered sugar.

It took me two tries to get this recipe perfect. The first time I tried to cut corners by using a mixer. I incorporated too much air, and that caused the butter to separate when baking. Mixing them with a spoon is an absolute must. I ended up throwing the first batch I made in the trash, because they were completely inedible. They were a thin, crunchy sheet coated in oil that ended up tasting like burnt popcorn. It really stresses me out to throw food away. If I think there’s any chance I can save something and make it palatable, even if it’s not quite what I wanted, I absolutely will. That should tell you how bad this first brownie experiment went. I learned from my mistakes, and did some in depth brownie research. I adjusted my ingredient ratios, mixing technique, and cooking temperature. The second batch turned out wonderful.

This recipe was based on a recipe my mom would make for our family. It wasn’t an old family recipe, just a recipe she found on a product label, but in my mind they were the be all end all of brownies. I used the recipe as a guide for the vegan version I created, and I think I got the recipe pretty close if not maybe a little bit better. A lot of my time spent engineering the perfect recipe is spent researching, and shopping for the highest quality ingredients I can find at a reasonable price. I try to use only fair trade ingredients which can often increase the cost, but I’ve found that usually means increased quality and flavor as well.

A good flavored non-dairy butter is a must for this recipe. I used Earth Balance. Oil is not a good butter substitution, because it lacks in the flavor and texture required. The most important ingredient in a good brownie is the cocoa, of course. Starting with a rich flavorful cocoa that’s fair trade is a good way to go. Brownies taste sweeter when you know that you’re not paying to keep others enslaved to make them. I used SACO Conscious Kitchen Certified Organic Cocoa in this recipe. It’s a bit pricey, but it’s worth it for the rich taste and fair trade label. As always, Wholesome brand Organic Cane Sugar is my go to certified vegan white sugar, and tastes great in this recipe.


Vegan Brownies

  • Servings: 8-10
  • Difficulty: easy
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If you can’t find Bob’s Red Mill Egg Replacer you can substitute it with the same quantity of flax egg.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups vegan white sugar
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup fair trade baking cocoa
  • 4 tbsp Bob’s Red Mill Egg Replacer
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup melted vegan butter
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp ground sea salt

Directions

  1. Melt butter in a microwave safe bowl, or measuring cup. Keep a close eye on it as it melts to make sure it doesn’t burn.
  2. Add melted butter and sugar into a large mixing bowl. Stir to combine.
  3. Add in vanilla extract and salt. Stir to combine.
  4. In a separate bowl combine Bob’s Red Mill Egg Replacer, and water. Set aside for one minute to firm up.
  5. Slowly mix in the egg replacer. Mix until everything is blended, and there are no clumps.
  6. Sift in the cocoa powder a little at a time while continually mixing.
  7. Sift in the flour and baking powder a little at a time. Stir until the batter flows well and there are no clumps, but be careful not to over mix. Over mixing will make for tough brownies.
  8. Grease a 9″ x 13″ baking pan that’s at least 2″ deep. I lined my baking sheet with parchment, so I could easily remove the brownies in a full sheet to cut them evenly and decorate. If you’d like to decorate your brownies I recommend doing this. Make sure the parchment has enough overhang on the sides to easily lift the brownies out of the pan, and always remember to lightly grease your parchment for a recipe like this, so you can conveniently peal it off the brownies without tearing them.
  9. Preheat your oven to 300 degrees. Cook the brownies for 30-35 minutes. Check to see if they’re done with a toothpick. If it comes out clean your brownies are ready.
  10. Let your brownies cool, and cut them to serve. If you’d like to decorate the brownies let them cool, and then remove them from the pan. Measure, and cut them to desired size. Whip up some butter cream, and decorate them as you desire.

Baked Cauliflower Wings

When I was a kid cauliflower was on my list of vegetables that I absolutely hated. I always thought of it as a bad, less flavorful version of broccoli. It wasn’t until I had my first fried “cauliflower wing” that I was introduced to the transformative qualities of cauliflower. Sure, it might not be super flavorful on its own, but it soaks up other flavors like a sponge. Much like tofu, this quality makes it easy to make it taste like whatever you want. While I might not be a big advocate for things like cauliflower rice, or cauliflower pizza crust, I’ve grown to love cauliflower on its own. My favorite ways to prepare cauliflower are roasting it with a variety of spices, or breading it and serving it up with some of my favorite sauces for cauliflower wings.

Today I’ll share with you my quick and easy recipe for breading cauliflower wings. It’s super simple, and allows you the versatility to bake them, or fry them if you’d prefer. You only need a few ingredients and your favorite wing sauce/s. In this recipe we used vegan buffalo sauce, and BBQ sauce to coat ours. Feel free to experiment with some other great flavors like Thai Chili sauce, or a garlic non-dairy butter. Just make sure you check the ingredient label. Some buffalo sauces contain dairy, and some BBQ sauces contain anchovies.


Baked Cauliflower Wings

  • Servings: 2-4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • one head of cauliflower
  • 1 cup non-dairy milk
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup bread crumbs, we used panko
  • 1/4 cup of BBQ sauce
  • 1/4 cup of Buffalo Sauce
  • 2 tbsp vegan butter
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • canola oil spray (optional)
  • parchment paper

Directions


1. Wash and dry the head of cauliflower. Break it down into bite sized florets.
2. Set up three bowls. In the first bowl add all of the milk. In the second bowl add all of the flour, salt, and pepper and mix. In the third bowl add the panko.
3. Dredge each cauliflower floret, and then set aside on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. To dredge them first place a floret in the non-dairy milk. Remove it allowing excess milk to drip back into the bowl, and then place it in the flour mixture. Make sure it is coated well with flour, tap of excess, and place it back in the milk. Remove it from the milk, and finally coat it thoroughly in the panko. Repeat for every floret.
4. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
5. Spray the florets with just a little bit of canola oil. This will help them brown in the oven.
6. Bake the wings for 30-35 minutes, or until crisp and golden brown.
7. While the wings bake place whatever wing sauce you’ll be using in a large mixing bowl, so it can warm to room temperature and won’t make your wings cold.
8. Melt butter in a separate bowl in the microwave, and add to the wing sauce/s. Mix thoroughly. This will help the sauce coat the wings nicely, and adds an extra fatty richness. If you’d like to you can skip this step.
9. Once the wings have baked toss them in the desired wing sauce/s until they’re thoroughly coated. If you choose to only use one sauce double it from a 1/4 cup to a 1/2 cup.
10. I recommend serving with a dipping sauce, and a side salad.