Friday, October 13, 2006

Been awhile

Thanks for all your well-wishes. My tests SO FAR have gone very well, actually... I still have one beastly exam, next Thursday night, so I may become scarce next week--I'm not sure. Anyway, besides tests, I really had to take a break from "extra stuff" this week and spend some personal time. All this is to say, I'm back now and ready to blog again.

So I haven't been up to much in the kitchen, but here are a few things. I made this stuffed acorn squash last week. My intent was to try to come up with some idea for a Thanksgiving dish that we can take and share with our family. I think that with some experimenting, this could really be a winner. I served this with some black-eyed peas and some turnip greens--both just out of the freezer. I was in a hurry, I think. As for the squash, I first cut it open and cleaned the seeds out. Then I mixed together 2 diced apples, 2 diced celery ribs, 2 teaspoons of minced yellow onion, about 1/3 cup apple cider, some ground sage, and a little salt. To add a little protein, at the last minute I threw in half a pack of tempeh (about 4 ounces). Then I wanted to add some breadcrumbs, but I didn't have any so I just crumbled up about six crackers and used that. After I mixed it all together I stuffed both halves of the squash; the extra I just put in the pan around the squash. I baked it at 400 for about 35-40 minutes.

This was really tasty. The apples were pretty sweet (I used Galas, I think) so next time I would probably use a more tart variety. Also, I think it would be much better with breadcrumbs, and I would probably add a little more. And I would add a splash less cider. And maybe some wild rice would make a good addition? It would also be nice to marinate the tempeh ahead of time to give it some flavor. In any case, this was delicious. I love acorn squash--sometimes I just stuff it with applesauce and walnuts and raisins.

Speaking of applesauce, I used all those Granny Smith apples I bought up in the mountains to make some homemade applesauce. I love this stuff!

Homemade Applesauce

10-12 apples, peeled, cored, and diced
1/4-1/3 cup demerara sugar
Plenty of cinnamon
Several dashes allspice and ground cloves
1 tablespoon margarine

Just let it all cook down in a large pot for about an hour on medium-low, with the lid on for most of the time.

This applesauce is so good hot, but I really like it cold too. The amount of spices I added was really subtle but comes through just enough, I think. This made about 6-7 cups of applesauce--not bad, but it really is amazing the way those apples cook down like that.

These are my favorite gingerbread cookies ever. I made them all the time last year, and this year I veganized them. I just found this recipe online somewhere. Here it is, with my modifications. Please note, though, that this is only half the original recipe. The original recipe makes tons and tons of cookies; even half the recipe is almost too much.

Gingerbread Cut-outs

1 stick Earth Balance, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar (darker is better)
1 1/2 teaspoon Ener-G + 1 tablespoon water (for 1 egg)
1/2 cup molasses
3 cups flour (this time I used half all purpose flour and half whole wheat pastry flour)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon FINELY ground black pepper
3/4 teaspoon salt
(I have been known to double the ginger and cinnamon, especially if the spices are not as fresh)

Beat Earth Balance and sugar until well-incorporated and not granular-looking. Mix Ener-G and water, and add to sugar mixture. Add molasses and mix well. In another bowl, sift all the dry ingredients together. Stir flour mixture into wet mixture. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill for an hour in the refrigerator.

Roll dough 1/8 inch thick and cut into shapes. Place on ungreased cookie sheets and bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes until crisp but not dark. Cool on pan for 1 minute, then cool on wire racks.

I usually make gingerbread men around Christmas time, but since it was earlier in the year I treated myself to these cute autumn leaf cookie cutters! These cookies are incredible dipped in coffee or hot tea. What you see in the picture is not the full batch--it's about 2/3 of the batch. So this really is a LOT of cookies! My parents came up briefly last weekend, and I sent about half the batch home with them.

I had some leftover red sauce and some green bell peppers, so I made stuffed peppers one night. I've never done this before, so I didn't really know what to put in it. I didn't really feel like waiting for brown rice to cook, so I used some tri-color orzo pasta that I had. I made about 1/2 cup of pasta, I think, and when it was cooked I mixed it with the sauce and stuffed these bell peppers. I baked them for 35-40 minutes at 350. We had leftover black-eyed peas and a salad with this and it was pretty good. I'd like to try some more fillings and see what we like the best.

Finally, I had some friends over last night to watch a movie (Labyrinth--who remembers this classic David Bowie movie?). I didn't have much time to put dinner together, but I threw together this lasagna. I just used a can of diced tomatoes and a can of crushed tomatoes, and I added some garlic and some Italian herbs. For the tofu ricotta, I used Basil-Tofu Ricotta from VWaV. I baked it at 350 for about 45 minutes, then let it stand for 10-15 minutes. It was good, but definitely not the best I've ever made. I guess I was just in a hurry--well that, and I didn't have any spinach or anything to put in it. Still, it was tasty and my friends seemed to enjoy it too.

Today, I am going to attempt a birthday cake. I haven't made a vegan cake yet--well, not like a layer cake anyway. But my sister's birthday was Wednesday, and she and her boyfriend are coming to visit this weekend. Eckk! We had a hard time agreeing on food--they eat the most typical American diet you can imagine! I think we're going to Moe's Southwest Grill tonight for dinner--there's something for everyone there. But I will let you know how my cake turns out.

I hope you all have a lovely weekend!


Candi said...

Hi Laura!!
I'm happy you are back, and wow these photos are awesome!

I love the acorn squash. It's so pretty and looks really yummy with those apples!

Homemade applesauce is the best. Yours looks great!

I saved taht gingerbread cookie recipe!! I will be making those as soon as I get a hold of some cool cookie cutters!!

Your stuffed pepper looks good! I don't make them often since Britty doesn't like the pepper part.

I have never made vegan lasagna! I really want to try it though. Yours looks really good. Yes, I bet spinach would be great in that!

Good luck with the vegan cake! I was happily surprised by the taste of the first one we ever made! I can't wait to see yours. I hope the birthday "party" goes well and that you all find something you like at Moe's!! :)

Vicki said...

you veganized gingerbread cookie leaves are awesome! i saved that recipe -- thanks for sharing it. and i can't wait to see what kind of birthday cake you make! best of luck with school...

bazu said...

Hi Laura, it's good to have you back! This post more than made up for you being away.
I too will be stealing your gingerbread cookie recipe- I've been looking for a few good christmas cookie recipes, and these look awesome.
It's so funny you made stuffed peppers, because I just made some, too! Great minds...
Good luck with the birthday cake! I have tons of family members who are really suspicious of what I eat, but I'm sure anything you make will blow them away. Now that everyone has cupcake fever, I bet a big stack of cupcakes would make a cool b-day presentation, too!
And apples! Hurray! I'm going to restock on apples tomorrow, and after seeing your and everyones' applesauce recipes, I have to try it too.
Have a great weekend!

Melissa West said...

Wow! You sure made up for being away with this post! Love all the food. I love the idea of making gingerbread cookies shaped like leaves for the fall. I love gingerbread cookies. That lasagna looks fantastic, I'm drooling. I also love the Thanksgiving recipe with the acorn squash, it looks really yummy.

Carrie™ said...

For someone who's been busy, you've certainly got lots to blog about. Lucky us!
Ginger cookies. Yes! My husband doesn't like them, but I love them. Applesauce, stuffed peppers, lasagna! This is the second lasagna picture I've seen on blogs today and my dinner plans are about to change I think. Lasagna is looking like the dish of choice.

Anonymous said...

all looks good but i absolutely love your cookies and apple sauce!
wishing you the best in the test!

Gaia said...

Yay !!! You're back !! :))

I so love Gingerbread cookies ! I want to try your recipe ! How much is a stick of Earth Balance ? About 1/2 cup ?

I remember Labyrinth ! We have the DVD. :))

raising_kahne said...

Im actually kind of scared to make a cake. I dont use sugar, instead I replace them with brown rice syrup, agave, and/or maple syrup. Im not sure how well a cake with rather large amounts of sugar would end up with the replacements. I guess I will have to become brave soon! : ) I cant wait to see your cake!

laura jesser said...

Gaia, yes, a stick of Earth Balance is just like a stick of butter--8 tablespoons or 1/2 a cup. I was nervous about substituting for butter, but it really worked out just fine.

Raising_kahne, I don't blame you about not wanting to use sugar! Someone I know made these chocolate vegan cupcakes recently that had no sugar at all, but a whole cup of molasses. I thought it came out pretty well, but if I made it myself I think I would use brown rice syrup instead, and maybe cut it down to 3/4 cup. Let me know if you want me to send you the recipe!

abritlass said...

Your xmas/autumn cookies look great, but I'm in Italy and would like to make plainer (no spices) firm cookies for my young students to decorate . What basic ingredient can I use to substitute the 'Earth Balance' stick and can I skip using the unavailable Ener-G?
It's going to be hard enough to find baking soda here; fortunately I brought baking powder from the UK as the Italian stuff hasn't worked for me! Thanks and ciao!