Monday, September 28, 2009

Mexican Hot Chocolate Snickerdoodles

Mmmm…hot chocolate. It’s getting to that time of year where you want to curl up on your couch and sip hot chocolate. This cookie totally reminded me of that.

I first tried Mexican hot chocolate early this year during a birthday party at work. You would add chili powder to the hot chocolate, as much as you wanted, and it was just enough to give you a little kick at the end. I wasn’t too sure about it at first since I don’t really like spicy stuff. The liquid Mexican hot chocolate doesn’t really do it for me, but this cookie definitely does!

I love how it leaves a little burn in your throat, but not too much to make you go insane. When I first saw the recipe, I was thinking up alternatives for maple syrup because I didn’t have it. It is a little pricey as well. Then I saw a great deal at Amazon for some maple syrup at 50% off! Of course I had to get it and make this recipe. If you act before the end of the month, you can still get this awesome deal.

Gary tried the cookies as well, and after he ate 3, he said “It might be better without the cayenne”. Well, you already had 3, I guess it was good enough already. I brought these to work and one of my coworkers thought these look like cookies she would buy at a bakery. Score!

mexican hot chocolate snickerdoodles

Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies
adapted from: as seen on The Post Punk Kitchen, from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar
printable recipe

ingredients:
For the topping:
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

For the cookies:
1 2/3 cups flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 cup canola oil
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
3 tablespoons almond milk (Or your preferred non-dairy milk) I used soy
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon chocolate extract (or more vanilla extract if you have no chocolate) I used more vanilla

directions:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment or silicone mats.

Combine ingredients for topping in a flat storage container (or any sealable container). Shake to combine. Pour into a flat plate if container is not flat. (I had leftover cinnamon sugar, so I kept my leftovers it in my flat lock 'n' lock container.)

In a small bowl, sift together dry ingredients (flour through cayenne). This is crucial because you want to spread out the cayenne. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together wet ingredients (oil through extracts). Slowly beat in dry ingredients until combined.

Using a medium cookie scoop (tablespoon size) form balls and press into the cinnamon sugar mixture. Flip over and place the cookies 2 inches apart sugar side up on cookie sheet. The dough will stick to your fingers when you press it into the cinnamon sugar, making it easy to flip it over onto the sheet.

Bake in oven for 10-12 minutes, or until tops crackle.

Let cool on sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to cookie sheets to cool.

Makes about 2 dozen cookies. (I got 26 cookies)

mexican hot chocolate snickerdoodles

Friday, September 25, 2009

Restaurant Review: Pho Hoa (Quincy, MA)

Another restaurant we visited while in Quincy was Pho Hoa. It’s a popular Vietnamese restaurant my friends also love going to. We visited the restaurant for lunch. It wasn’t too busy, and we were able to push a few tables together for our party of 14.

The menu had basically the classics; pho, rice vermicelli, grilled meat with rice.

I ordered the one of the many options of noodle soup bowls (aka pho) $6.95. If you don’t indicate what size you want, you automatically get the medium sized bowl (sizes are child, M, L, XL). Sounds like I’m talking about clothes, huh?

beef pho

Gary ordered his usual grilled chicken over rice $6.95. He said the rice was short grain, which he wasn’t used to.

grilled chicken rice

I also ordered the Vietnamese iced coffee. If you ever want super strong coffee, you should get this. It’s a French pressed coffee sweetened with some sweetened condensed milk. I thought it was pretty strong for my tastes so I ended up removing some ice and adding some cold water to my cup to dilute it. One of my other friends asked for more sweetened condensed milk, so I guess you can do it either way if it’s too strong for you.

I also noticed the that it was Zagat rated for several years. I found out from their site that it is actually a small chain restaurant that has locations in many other areas.

If you’re ever in the Quincy area, check out this site more restaurants to try.

Info and verdict:

Pho Hoa Restaurant
409 Hancock Street
Quincy MA 02171
617-328-9601
www.phohoa.com

Price: $
Atmosphere: ☺☺☺
Overall Experience: ☺☺☺☺

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Pumpkin Pie Pecan Candy

I guess it’s inevitable that pumpkin season and fall foods eventually appear even though I’m not ready to give up summer foods yet. Don’t get me wrong, I love the fall! It’s my favorite time of year. I just feel like I was gypped of a summer this year because it felt so short!

One of my favorite fall foods is pumpkin. I’ve only really made pumpkin pie, but my mom makes this awesome pumpkin dish that is made with black bean garlic sauce and cane sugar. I don’t think I’ve ever attempted to recreate it yet, but if I did, it still wouldn’t taste like hers.

I’ve heard talk about a pumpkin shortage this year. I saw plenty of pumpkins at my supermarket, but I’ve never seen canned pumpkin there. I guess I’ve never looked. I did find canned pumpkin at Target last year (although after pumpkin season), so I had a can in the pantry available to use.

I saw this recipe for pumpkin pecan candies that looked pretty interesting. The recipe called for 2 cups sugar, it did seem like a lot to me, but I left it as is. As I suspected, it was pretty sweet. It also called for 3 cups chopped pecans, but pecans are expensive! I first started out with 1 1/2 cup chopped pecans and would add more as needed, but it was the perfect amount. I’ve also never seen unsweetened coconut in my supermarket. I bought mine at the Chinese supermarket. I originally bought it 2 weeks ago without a recipe in mind, so I’m glad I came across this recipe.

I also think this looks like a truffle and has the truffle consistency. However it can’t really be called a truffle because it doesn’t contain any chocolate. Now, if I coated it in chocolate, then that would be a different story.

pumpkin pecan candy

Pumpkin Pie Pecan Candy
adapted from: The Ultimate Candy Book
printable recipe

ingredients:
1 (15oz) can pure pumpkin
2 cups white sugar
2 cups unsweetened coconut
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans

directions:
In a medium saucepan, combine the pumpkin, sugar, coconut, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. On medium heat, cook and mix together and allow sugar to dissolve. Continue cooking and stirring until mixture forms into a ball, about 15-20 minutes. Have patience, it will eventually turn into a ball once the liquid evaporates.

Remove mixture from heat and add in vanilla. Transfer to a heat safe bowl and cover mixture with plastic wrap so a skin does not form. Chill in refrigerator until cool.

Using a cookie scoop that is about a TBSP size, scoop up balls and roll in the palm of your hands. Roll balls  in the chopped pecan, coating all sides. Put back in fridge to let set.

Store in airtight container up to a week.

Makes about 30 candies.

pumpkin pecan candy

Monday, September 21, 2009

Crustless Tomato Basil Spinach Quiche

When I started growing herbs in my Aerogarden, I seriously didn’t know what I was getting myself into. I really thought I would be able to use up fresh herbs whenever I want, but it seemed like the basil would grow super fast, and the rest didn’t. So far, I have only used the basil from the Aerogarden, and it’s been pretty good. I’m not so hopeful for the other plants though, they don’t seem to be growing so well.

When pressed for time and having nothing defrosted, I had to look up recipes for things I had on hand. I was thinking of making a vegetarian meal, but ended up adding meat to it. I wanted to work around the basil, so I had to think quick. I didn’t want to make pesto again, because I think I’ve had my fill already. I thought of the eggs I had in the fridge that I needed to use up, so I was thinking a quiche this time. Since the last quiche didn’t really fill me up, I wanted to bulk this one up so it would be more filling.

I couldn’t find a recipe I liked, so I decided to throw everything together and be hopeful. I didn’t have time to make a crust, so I opted for a crustless quiche again. I’m glad I tried this because it turned out great! It was filling and tasted great! The addition of the tomatoes and basil gave it a great flavor. I’m also glad I discovered the vegan cheese as well because it really helped with the flavor and texture. Gary thought this was a winner as well!

Crustless Tomato Basil Spinach Quiche

Crustless Tomato Basil Spinach Quiche
printable recipe

ingredients:
1 TBSP oil
1 onion, diced
1 10-oz pack frozen leaf spinach, defrosted and drained
2 frozen turkey breakfast sausages, chopped
5 eggs, beaten
1 tomato, chopped
a handful of fresh basil, roughly chopped
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (I used vegan cheese)
salt and pepper to taste

directions:
Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray cooking spray on a 9” pie pan or quiche pan. Set aside.

On medium-high heat, add oil to a saucepan. Sauté onions for a few minutes until clear. Add spinach and chopped sausage. Cook until spinach is wilted and sausage is cooked through. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl combine eggs, basil, tomatoes, cheese, more salt and pepper to taste (about 1/4 tsp each here). Remove spinach from heat, add to bowl and combine well. Transfer to prepared pan.

Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until fully cooked through. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

quiche slice

Friday, September 18, 2009

Restaurant Review: Fuji (Quincy, MA)

While visiting friends in Quincy, they introduced us to this restaurant that they go to all the time. This is pretty much one of their favorite restaurants that they go to.

fuji

When you first walk in, it looks like a bar and a small lounge area in front. However, walk past the bar and you have the full restaurant with a big screen projector playing whatever game is on, or if you’re there later, karaoke! We didn’t karaoke, because we had to head back home right after dinner. We arrived pretty early, probably around 6:30, and our party of 12 was seated pretty quickly.

One of their best dishes is their avocado salad ($5). It isn’t like any other avocado salad you would order. Instead of sliced avocado on a bed of lettuce, their avocado salad is a mixture of avocado, crabmeat, cucumber, flying fish roe, and Japanese mayo. I’ve never been able to get that anywhere else. It’s all the great stuff in a california roll but without the rice and seaweed. Oh, there’s a little lettuce on the bottom if you really want lettuce.

avocado salad

I ordered the sushi regular ($12). I like to stick with the classics.

sushi regular

Gary ordered the chicken teriyaki ($12). He likes to stick with the classics too. Although this came with rice and noodles!

chicken teriyaki

My sister ordered the sake don ($14). It was salmon sashimi over a bed of rice. Looked pretty good. She barely finished it. Several people ordered this, so it must have been good.

DSC04389

If you’re looking for fresh food in the Quincy area, this is a must try. They didn’t have fried ice cream that day, but that was something I had the last time I went. I was tempted to try the fried cheesecake, but I was pretty full at the end of the meal.

Info and verdict:

Fuji 1546 Restaurant & Bar
1546 Hancock St.
Quincy MA 02169
Phone: 617-770-1546
Hours of operation: 11am-1am daily
http://www.fuji1546.com/index.html

Price: $$
Atmosphere: ☺☺☺☺
Overall Experience: ☺☺☺☺

Monday, September 14, 2009

Cheesecake Ice Cream

Have you ever ordered something from a restaurant and thought to yourself, hmm…I would like to make this at home. I know I have. Especially if I liked it, but don’t want to pay the hefty price, as well as saving a few calories.

I recently saw an offer for a new copycat cookbook and I jumped at the chance to get it. Ron Douglas has tons of recipes in this book and on his website for many copycat recipes from many chain restaurants.

America's Most Wanted Recipes

As I glanced through the book, I realized that most of the recipes in the book were things I wouldn’t normally order from those restaurants. Nor were the restaurants anywhere near me.

You see, where I live, there are plenty of restaurants, but not most of the chain restaurants that were mentioned in the book.

I did see a recipe for a cheesecake ice cream originally from Baskin Robbins. Just my luck! There are 2 close by! There used to be one right around the corner from me, but not anymore…the whole thing became a Dunkin Donuts.

I started making the batter, and realized I didn’t have enough heavy cream as the recipe originally stated. It called for 2.5 cups cream, but I only had 2 cups. I found that as an odd amount to add into the recipe, because that would either leave you with lots of cream left, or not have enough if you bought a smaller container. Since I didn’t want any leftovers, I just used the 2 cups of cream. I also used medium eggs since I reduced the amount of cream, but it might not make a difference using large eggs.

When the ice cream maker finished churning, I ended up licking up the excess and I was in love! It tasted so good! I couldn’t wait to try the final results after it froze some more in the freezer. Yes, I know it isn’t exactly as the recipe stated, but why not make it better than the real thing instead of just like it?

Meanwhile, I tried the scoop I bought from Baskin Robbins. I wasn’t too impressed. I thought the ratio was a little off. It tasted more like milk than cream cheese. I was starting to think that my little adaptation was even better than the original. It looked like it was the same color and consistency as my little homemade batch, but the tasted was different.

baskin robbins cheesecake icecream

Once my own batch was ready, I couldn’t wait to try it! It was awesome! Not exactly the same recipe as instructed, but tasted even better than store bought. It was a little tarter because different ratio ingredients, and a whole lot better.

I brought some over for my sister to try, and she thought the store bought ones had little bits of cheesecake in it. I thought it was just bigger chunks of graham cracker. She liked the consistency of the store bought one better, but the tastes of the homemade version. Next time I will make courser crumbles of the graham crackers, and add more as well.

cheesecake ice cream 

Cheesecake Ice Cream
adapted from: America’s Most Wanted Recipes
printable recipe

ingredients:
2 cups heavy cream, divided
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 eggs, beaten (I used medium eggs, but using large shouldn’t affect this)
12 oz cream cheese (1 1/2 packages), softened
1/2 tsp finely grated lemon zest
1 scant TBSP lemon juice (about half a lemon)
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 graham crackers, crumbled into chunky bits (I would add more next time)

directions:
In a large bowl, beat softened cream cheese until smooth.

In a saucepan, combine 1 1/2 cups of cream, sugar and eggs. Cook and stir on medium heat until it comes to a boil.

Slowly beat in the hot cream mixture into the cream cheese until combined. Use a whisk to fully mix everything together if needed.

Cover the bowl and refrigerate until mixture is cool. I left it in the fridge for about 24 hours.

After chilling, add in remaining cream, lemon juice, zest, and vanilla extract. Freeze in ice cream maker per the manufacturer’s instructions.

Fold in graham cracker crumbs. Pour into a freezer safe container and let set for 4 hours before serving.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Chicken Pesto Pasta

A few weeks ago, I had this pesto at Souen, and I loved it. I was craving pesto even more so afterwards. The restaurant doesn’t use any dairy, but I didn’t give it a second though at that time. It wasn’t until afterwards that I would need to find a pesto recipe that didn’t have cheese in it. I did see a few sites that used different types of nuts as well as a 1:1 ratio of nutritional yeast instead of cheese, but most recipes used pine nuts…something I usually didn’t have on hand, and something I didn’t want to buy just for pesto.

I saw Branny’s recipe for vegan pesto, and knew it was the one I had to try. It tasted a lot like the one I had at the restaurant, except a little saltier. I think it was because I didn’t use quite as much basil as the recipe called for…more like 2.5 cups, but the consistency, taste, and texture was all there!

Then I first showed Gary the picture from the restaurant, he thought pesto looked kind of gross, but once he tried it, he thought it was great too!
chicken pesto pasta
Chicken Pesto Pasta
printable recipe

ingredients:
2 in bone leg quarters (or any cooked chicken part will work)
salt
olive oil
8 oz pasta (I used linguini)

for the pesto: recipe adapted from Branny Boils Over, originally form Vegan with a Vengeance
1/4 cup toasted nuts (pecans, walnuts, or pine nuts) I used walnuts3 cups packed basil leaves
3 cloves garlic
1 tsp coarse salt
1/4-1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 cup nutritional yeast (or substitute grated parmesan or Romano cheese)
2 tsp lemon juice (about half a lemon)

directions:

Trim fat and remove skin from chicken. Separate leg and thigh parts. You should have 4 pieces now. Pat dry with paper towels. Rub salt liberally onto chicken pieces. Steam for 20-30 minutes or until fully cooked through. (You can also bake or grill or whatever.)

Meanwhile, combine all the ingredients for the pesto in a food processor and pulse until desired consistency.

During last 10 minutes of cooking the chicken, boil the pasta.

Let chicken cool for a few minutes. Cut into pieces, save the bones for stock or soup.

Drain pasta, drizzle a little olive oil to coat the pasta. Add in chicken and pesto, toss to coat evenly.

Serve and enjoy!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Blueberry Buckle

Over labor day weekend, Gary, my sister, and I all visited some friends in Quincy, MA. They invited us to a lobster bake/bbq. I asked around about what desserts to bring to a lobster bake, and most people said that they always have blueberry cake or blueberry pie after eating lobster. Well, why break tradition if that’s the case.

I found this recipe using ingredients that I could adapt to dairy free cooking. I thought it was a great dessert. The cake itself was not too sweet and it was moist as well. I thought the crumb top was a bit too sweet for my tastes, but Gary loved it.

The changes I made was doubling the recipe, using soy milk, using margarine instead of butter and subbing half the sugar in topping for brown sugar. I thought it was suitable as a coffee cake as well. It doesn’t have to be just for dessert.

blueberry buckle cake

Blueberry Buckle
adapted from: allrecipes.com (this recipe below has already been doubled for a 9x13 pan)

ingredients:
cake:
1-1/2 cups white sugar
1/2 cup shortening
2 eggs
1 cup milk (I used soy)
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups fresh blueberries

topping:
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup butter, softened (I used margarine)

directions:
Preheat oven to 375° F (190° C). Grease one 9x13 inch pan.

For the cake:
In a separate bowl mix together flour, baking powder, and salt.

In your stand mixer, cream together sugar, shortening, and egg.

Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients, alternating with milk. Stir in blueberries. Pour into prepared pan.

To make topping:

In a small bowl, combine sugar, flour, cinnamon, and butter or margarine. Beat together until it resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle evenly over cake batter.

Bake at 375° F (190° C) for 50-60 minutes or when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Avocado Ice Cream

I don’t know if you’re weirded out by my choices of ice cream flavors yet, but there are more odd ones to come!

I was lucky enough to get a copy of The Vegan Scoop once it was available at my library. There were plenty of good flavors to try out, but one that I’ve noticed before was the avocado flavor. When I saw it in the William-Sonoma book, I was interested. Then I saw it on Good Eats, when Alton Brown made all sorts of stuff with avocados (including buttercream frosting).

I was talking to my bro and sis about  my latest ice cream post, and  how I can make make weird flavors like that, and others that include basil, wasabi, and avocado. They told they can get wasabi and black sesame ice cream easily. Sure, you’re in NY, in the middle of Chinatown, within walking distance of the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory…of course you would be able get all that. Not everybody can though. Especially if I want to make it dairy free! And to be honest, I wouldn’t want to pay a couple of dollars for a scoop, when I can get a whole pint for that price.

So, here’s my latest venture in ice cream. I’ll soon get to the “normal” flavors, but for now, I’m having fun with the fun summer fruits. I’m not sure how I feel about this ice cream yet. It tastes like…well…it tastes like avocado! I usually don’t eat it plain. It’s always either in guacamole, sushi, or a salad. So eating it plain on a spoon is still new to me. Gary’s dad would love it though. He eats avocados plain as is.

I didn’t have soy creamer as the recipe states, so I pureed some silken tofu for this. Hey, soy milk and tofu come from the same source, so of course it would work!

avocado ice cream

Avocado Ice Cream
adapted from: The Vegan Scoop
printable recipe

ingredients:
1 package Mori-nu silken soft tofu, blended
3 ripe hass avocados
1/2 cup sugar
1 TBSP fresh lime juice
1 1/2 cup soy milk

directions:
In a blender, blend the tofu until smooth. Add in avocado meat, sugar, and lime juice. Blend until smooth and combined. Mixture will be thick.

Transfer avocado mixture to a large bowl. Add a bit of soy milk into the blender and mix again to get the remaining puree out if needed. Add soy milk to the bowl. Whisk the mixture until fully combined.

Transfer the mixture to your ice cream maker and freeze per your ice cream maker’s instructions.