Brownies

This recipe is from Sally’s Baking Addiction and it makes extremely delicious brownies.

One of my nutritional goals is to make as much as possible at home, and to buy as little in boxes as possible. Instead, I have adapted to keeping a pantry with basic ingredients that can combine to make anything. Instead of 8 boxes for different purposes, I have one bag of flour and 1 container of salt. Baking soda. Sugar. Vanilla. Elemental ingredients are much more versatile than pre-made mixes for specific things-they can be utilized for anything.

Baking is interesting because it feels much more like a chemistry experiment than regular cooking. An improvisational style isn’t welcome with baked goods unless you’ve already mastered ratios, and have a full & complete understanding of what exactly happens to each ingredient when combined. If you mix things in a different order, you will get a different result. The eggs need to be whipped a certain way, flour must not be over-mixed, and sugar is considered a liquid ingredient. It’s quite exciting to end up with a perfectly textured, delicious result, but things can go awry all too easily. The important thing to remember when baking is that, as a beginner, you are more of a chemist than an artist. The flair and flourishes come later.

These brownies are the first I tried to make on my own and they are everything a brownie should be. Easy to make and extremely easy to eat. I found the recipe looking for a new raspberry dessert recipe, and found Sally’s Raspberry Cheesecake Brownies. Those are probably the greatest things on the planet, but I’ve only worked with plain chocolate thus far…

brownies

Brownies
• 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
• 6 – 8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
• 1 and 1/4 cups sugar
• 3 eggs
• 1 tsp vanilla
• 3/4 cup flour
• 1/4 tsp salt
• Optional: 1 tsp fresh coffee grounds
• Optional: walnuts

1. Chop chocolate. It is okay to cut semi-sweet chocolate with unsweetened chocolate. This goes against the chemistry thoughts earlier, but a couple ounces of unsweetened chocolate with a 4 ounce package of semi-sweet chocolate comes out okay. I tossed in about an extra tablespoon of sugar for this.
2. Add to bain-marie with butter, mixing constantly over medium heat until liquified. Allow to cool to room temperature.
3. Stir sugar into butter & chocolate mixture until combined.
4. Add eggs one at a time, whisking after each addition
5. Fold in flour and salt. If you are adding coffee, walnuts, or whatever other tasty objects you have in mind, sprinkle into mix at this step.
6. Butter and flour a square baking dish. Pour batter in and bake for 35 – 45 minutes, depending on your oven. If they are still not finished but seem to be getting dry around the edges, cover with foil until finished.

Croissants and Pain au chocolat

Croissants, like any bread, take a while to make, but I was surprised to learn that the actual work croissants require is minimal. They (thankfully) require no kneading — just rolling with a rolling-pin multiple times.

Due to the structure of waiting time, its good to begin the process the night before a day when you will be around the house, or the morning before you work. The first waiting time is longest and doesn’t involve you, the baker, at all. After it is mixed, the dough needs to rest for 6 – 8 hours or overnight. The second stage is similarly lengthy but punctuated rolling every 2 – 3 hours, 3 – 4 (or more) times. So, you will need to be home to make croissants, but will be able to concentrate on doing something else for pretty much the entire day.

In the end, you will have about a dozen large croissants, or many small ones. I like to make one pan with half the dough, then form and freeze the rest to have infinite fancy breakfasts.

croissant

• 2 cups flour
• 1 packet dry yeast
• 2 T sugar
• 2/3 c (almond) milk
• 1 1/4 tsp salt
• 1 egg
• butter

1. Pour milk into a medium bowl and microwave until 90-100 degrees, or for 2 – 3 minutes.

2. Add sugar and yeast; mix to combine. Add 1/2 cup flour. Mix and allow to sit for 15 minutes, when it should start to bubble.

3. Mix in remaining flour and form into loose ball. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

[[Optional Step 3.5: At this stage you can prepare the butter by allowing it to reach room temperature then slowly mixing until pliable or by slicing, laying out in a thin layer on plastic wrap, and beating it with a rolling-pin. In either case, you will form it into a medium-sized square and refrigerate to chill again. I did not do these steps as I wasn’t sure how big my dough square would be.]]

4. Remove dough from refrigerator. Roll, trying to maintain a square or rectangular shape.

5. When it is rather thin but not translucent, add cold butter. Slice and line up in continuous square about 2 – 3 inches from each edge.

6. Fold edge flaps over butter to form square. The butter should be tucked and nestled in there so the whole thing looks like a butter galette. Then, fold one edge one-third of the way over. Fold the opposite edge over that edge, so it is a rectangle of dough hugging itself.

7 . Roll gently into rectangle that is slightly smaller than your first rectangle. Fold one end one-third of the way, then fold the opposite end over it to create another hug. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 – 2 hours.

8. Repeat step 7, rolling dough, folding it over itself, then refrigerating for another hour. Repeat again once or twice, depending on how much time you’ve allotted for this process. It should be folded at least a few times, as more folds will mean more butter layers and therefore more flakiness.

9. Heat oven to 200 degrees (or the lowest possible setting) and roll dough into another rectangle. Make a single line lengthwise. Fold one half in thirds, cover with plastic wrap, and put back in refrigerator.

10. Coat a baking sheet with butter, then flour. Cut dough strip into triangles.

For croissants, roll, starting with the longest side, over itself, leaving the final tip on the bottom. Place on baking sheet straight or curve the ends together to create a crescent shape.

For pain au chocolat, position the triangle with the longest side near you. Put a vertical stripe of chocolate near each side closest to you, essentially making two mini triangles. Fold both sides over into themselves and place on pan seam side down.

11. Turn off oven. Brush croissants with water and put in oven for 1 – 1 1/2 hours. Alternatively, use a proofing box, set or otherwise regulated to maintain 70 – 80 degrees.

12. Remove from oven after about an hour. Croissants should be nearly double in size. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Brush croissants with beaten egg. If you are making pain au chocolat, sprinkle with sugar. Set aside for 15 minutes.

13. Bake for 20 minutes, or more if you prefer them darker.  Freeze remaining dough.

Enchiladas

enchiladas

Enchilada Sauce
4 dried chili peppers, crushed or 2 fresh chili peppers, sliced
3 T – 1 mini can tomato paste or a few crushed/diced tomatoes
1 T minced or diced onion
2 T olive oil
1 T vegetable stock
1 – 4 cups water
1 T Adobo seasoning
1 T garlic powder or 1 medium garlic clove, minced with plane grater
1 tsp each cayenne pepper, cumin, cilantro
1/2 tsp each oregano, salt

1. Over medium low heat in small saucepan, heat chili peppers in olive oil. Stir occasionally, and if using fresh chili peppers, mash a bit as they soften. Add onion and allow to heat for 5 – 10  minutes.

2. Add vegetable stock, tomatoes or tomato paste, 1 cup water, and seasonings. Continue to heat and stir for 10 – 15 minutes. If pressed for time, heat vegetables for enchilada filling in separate sauté pan.

3. Add more water until desired thickness is reached. Use for enchiladas and store extra in refrigerator for enhancing rice, tacos, or salsa.

Filling
1 can or cup White Beans, lightly mashed
1 1/2 cup Grated Cheddar Cheese
1 Green Pepper
1 small yellow Onion
1 – 2 cups Enchilada Sauce
Rice (optional)

Preparation:

1. Lightly coat square casserole dish with sauce. Add filling to tortilla (technically, it is good to use corn tortillas but I find flour tortillas easier to manipulate) in stripe down the center, and fold over both sides. Put fold-side-down in pan. Line up as many enchiladas in a row (5 or 6) until pan is full.

2. Pour sauce over enchiladas and sprinkle extra cheese on top.

3. Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour, or 400 degrees for 1/2 hour. You can also soften peppers and onion in a sauté pan beforehand and reduce cooktime significantly-that way you will only have to wait for cheese to melt.

4. Garnish with Parsley

Rice
1 c Brown Rice
1 packet Sazon Goya
1/2 c Lentils
1/2 c Onion

1. Cook rice and lentils in rice cooker.

2. After 10 minutes, add diced onion and Sazon Goya. Mix.

3. Serve with enchiladas. If using rice for enchilada filling, start rice cooker before making the enchilada sauce.

Fresh Tortilla Chips
5 – 10 corn tortillas
2 – 3 T vegetable oil
sea salt

1. Heat oil in pan with small surface area over medium heat. You will need enough to submerge a tortilla, about 1 cm.

2. Cut tortillas in half. Stack both halves on top of one another and cut into triangles.

3. When oil is hot, submerge tortillas and allow to harden. If using very shallow oil, flip at least once. Remove with tongs and allow to dry on paper towel or cooling rack.

4. Sprinkle with sea salt and/or other spices and serve.

Vegetarian Meatballs

meataball

These are incredibly satisfying, and, despite the lengthy list of steps, are pretty easy to prepare. The process is comparable to regular meatballs, just with more veggie cutting and less gross meat smell.

The recipe is adapted from the NYT, which specifies half hour waiting periods between stages, allowing the ingredients to cool. I adhered to this the first time, but was more casual about it the second, waiting for everything to cool rather than waiting for a full half hour. Cooking the veggies and lentils at the same time saves a lot of time, as they can cool next to one another, which is better than staggering cool times.  The final cooling step, where you put the entire mix into the fridge, might not be necessary either, but is useful as it allows time to review the recipe and clean up a but before they’re rolled.

« 400 ° // 30 – 45m per pan »

•  1 1/2  c  lentils
•  1/4 c olive oil
•  1 large onion
•  2 carrots
•  2 celery stalks
•  1 garlic clove
•  1 T thyme leaves
•  2 tsp salt
•  3 T tomato paste
•  8 oz mushrooms
•  3 eggs
•  1/2 c Parmesan cheese
•  1/2 c bread crumbs
•  1/3 c parsley
•  1/4 c mixture of basil & oregano

1.  Cook lentils: Combine with a little under 2qt water in stockpot and boil. Reduce to low and simmer 25m. When lentils are soft, drain and allow to cool.

2.  Dice onion, carrots, celery, and chop mushrooms. They will reduce in size slightly while cooking, but they will not be mashed up, and so will retain their basic size & shape of your cut. Mushrooms are most impacted by heat and so can be a bit bigger. Mince garlic.

3.  Cook vegetables: Add 1/4 c olive oil to pan and sauté onions, carrots, celery, garlic, thyme, and salt. Stir frequently until veggies begin to brown.

4. Add tomato paste and continue to sauté for 3 minutes, stirring constantly.

5. Add mushrooms and stir frequently for 10 minutes.

6. Transfer to large bowl and allow to cool to room temperature.

7. When cool, add lentils to vegetable mix. Then add eggs, Parmesan, bread crumbs, and spices. Mix until everything seems uniformly combined. I used a wooden spoon, but feel free to use your hand and smoosh as you go.

8. Refrigerate mixture for a half hour. Preheat oven 400 degrees.

9. Coat heavy pan with thin layer of olive or vegetable oil.

10. Roll mixture into meatballs or make patties for veggie burgers. The mixture is pretty soft and delicate, and can’t really be mushed tightly like a regular meatball. If you feel they are too loose, it is possible to add more bread crumbs without impacting flavor. Either way, they will stay solid after they are fully cooked, and become even more stable when cooled.

11. Roast for 30 – 45 minutes, flipping at least once. You’ll want to use a spatula or tongs for the first flip, then just jostle them until they’re nice and golden brown.

12. Serve whole with pasta, break up for lasagna, meat sauce, or ravioli, or freeze for later use.

Leek & Bean Cassoulet

cassoulet

Cassoulet is a meat-intensive French bean dish, a stew of remainders. This adaptation from Veganomicon by Moskowitz & Romero has the spirit and comfort of chicken pot pie. (They also include a seitan pot pie recipe that looks very good)

Most of the time invested in this recipe is dedicated to prep, so it may help to dice and cube and mince everything beforehand. Its probably possible to prepare the vegetable mixture in advance, because the finished casserole keeps fantastically for days.

• 2 potatoes
• 2 leeks
• 1 1/2c carrots
• 3/4c frozen peas
• 1 small onion
• 1 [15oz] navy or white beans, drained & rinsed
• 1 T fresh thyme, plus more for garnish
• black pepper, 1/2tsp salt
• 2 cloves minced garlic
• 2T olive oil
• 3c vegetable stock
• 3T cornstarch

Biscuits:
• 3/4c plain soy milk
• 1tsp apple cider vinegar
• 1 1/2c flour
• 2tsp baking powder
• 1/4tsp salt
• 1/4c (vegan) shortening

1. Boil potatoes for 10 minutes or until they can be easily pierced with a fork. Remove from water and allow to cool.
2. Slice the leeks into thin disks and dice the onions and carrots. Over medium heat, sauté together until soft and just beginning to brown (about 10 minutes).
3. At this point, start mixing the biscuits. First, add vinegar to the soy milk and set aside to curdle. In a mixing bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt.
4. Add garlic, thyme, s&p to the cooking vegetables. Cut potatoes into cubes and add along with frozen peas. Add cornstarch to vegetable stock and pour over all vegetables. Raise heat slightly and allow to simmer for about 7 minutes, stirring occasionally.
5. Add shortening to the biscuit flour mixture. Combine with fork so there are large clumps. Add soy milk and mix until it is moistened. ‘Knead’ with fork until dough holds together nicely and isn’t extremely sticky. (More flour can be added if necessary)
6. The vegetable mixture should be slightly thickened. Add to casserole dish(es), leaving an inch or so to accomodate for biscuits. Gently roll and flatten into biscuits or fun shapes and place over mixture.
7. Bake in 425 degree oven for 15 minutes in order to slightly brown biscuits. Sprinkle with thyme and serve.