1/31/11

Head to Head: Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe Smackdown!

How does your cookie stack up?

























I miss the Nestlé toll booth cookies of my childhood. Since giving up eggs over a decade ago, I have been trying to find the perfect, classic, bakery style chocolate cookie recipe. It was not such a hard thing to do using butter, but making them vegan was a whole other issue. My fellow baker friend, Åsa, and I picked some vegan chocolate chip cookie recipes to see which one was the best.

Scissors and Spice Head to Head: Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe Smackdown!

The recipes used:
1) Vegan Cookie Connoisseur
2) Novel Eats
3) Silk Soy Milk 
4) La Dolce Vegan: Recipe for "Classic Chocolate Cookie"
5) Fat Ass Vegan

The results:
One thing I learned is that tastes vary. There was no one cookie that the tasters outright agreed was the best. The one cookie that almost everyone said was the worst was someone's favorite! One cookie I thought was not so great, was my husband's favorite. With that said, the two that received the best overall reviews were:

Tie for 1st Place:
Novel Eats
Silk Soy Milk 

Coming in 3rd Place:
Vegan Cookie Connoisseur


Comments from testers:

Classic flavor, dry, some liked the texture, while others thought it flat, needed more sweetness, left a baking soda aftertaste
Great shape, chewy texture, crispy edges, nice classic flavor and look, a bit too chewy
Nice texture, classic childhood cookie flavor, good looking cookie, crunchy and chewy, a little too salty
4) La Dolce Vegan: Recipe for "Classic Chocolate Cookie"
Nice flavor, too oily, too dry, granular, crunchy on outside, soft inside, not chewy
*Note: This was baked at 375 as was #1 and we found these two to be the driest. Maybe it would help if they were baked at 350 like the others.
Dry, salty, not much flavor, yummiest

So there you have it. I had a hard time deciding. I think ultimately, I liked 3 the best, but I liked how 2 was a bit like a chewy store bought cookie. We didn't use the same type of chips and that may have been an issue, but if the snow hadn't been such a PIA, we could have made it to Trader Joe's for their semi-sweet morsels. Great minds think alike! Thanks for baking with me, Åsa! Thanks to all our testers, I know we really had to twist your arms to eat 5 cookies! ;)
____________________________________________________________
NOTE: Earth Balance was used in the recipes where margarine or butter was called for. If you have to use EB for a recipe that also calls for salt, halve the salt. EB tends to be salty. If anyone knows of a better vegan buttery flavor margarine that bakes well, please let me know. EB leaves a weird after taste, IMO.

Score: Vintage 1960s Japanese Pop Coin Banks


Over the past year or so, my daughter has somehow amassed a substantial collection of piggy banks. We stopped by the Goodwill on Saturday, and to her delight, there were an odd assortment of vintage Japanese coin banks from the 1960s. She begged me to get them all; at $1 a piece, I indulged her.

1/30/11

Spice in the Kitchen: Baked Whole Wheat Pockets w/ Acorn Squash

Photographing food at night is so, so difficult. I refuse to use the flash!

Friday night is junk food night party night. But, this Friday, I was craving something healthy. Flavors collected in my mind... squash, walnuts, chard. We had whole wheat pizza dough from Trader Joe's in the fridge. Aha! Hot pockets! Junk food that's somewhat good for you! I served these with a walnut creme sauce (because everyone loves to dip!) and chard with a brown butter/ Fre white wine sauce.

Baked Whole Wheat Pockets with Spicy Acorn Squash, Fauxsage, Ricotta and Parmesan (vegetarian; though I suppose you could make vegan if you had vegan ricotta and cheeze)
serves 8

Ingredients

  • 1 acorn squash, baked
  • 32 ounces of homemade or prepared, uncooked pizza dough
  • faux sausage of your choice
  • olive oil for frying
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper
  • 1/2 - 1 tsp crushed rosemary (depends on your taste)
  • 15-16 ounces ricotta
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan
  • 1/2 cup grated mozzarella
  • salt and pepper to taste


Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. Cut washed acorn squash in half. Remove seeds. Place cut side down onto a baking dish and fill about 1/2 inch up with water. Bake for 30 minutes. Drain water and place acorn squash back in dish cut side up. Bake for 30 more minutes at 375. (Shut your oven off after you remove it from oven. You'll have to fire it up again, but why waste energy while you are waiting?)
  3. In the last 30 minutes of the squash baking, prepare your sausage. Cut or roll it into small bite-sized pieces and fry in a bit of olive oil until crispy. Set aside.
  4. Mix ricotta with salt, pepper, mozzarella, and parmesan. Set aside.
  5. Scoop out squash and mash in a bowl. Add spices and salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Either: Cut your dough into 8 equal parts. Roll each section into a round disk. -OR- Roll your dough out into 2 circles and cut into 8 total equal squares/rectangles. 
  7. Preheat oven to 425. Divide your fillings into 8 equal portions (just eyeball it--you don't have to be so precise). Spread ricotta first, then squash mixture and the sprinkle with sausage--leave at least 3/4" from the edges so you don't have spillage when you are sealing the pockets. If you want, you can add extra parmesan on top of sausage. Seal your pockets. I did square dough, put my fillings in, and then gathered opposite ends on top. This created a round shape. I then flipped over the seamed side, and placed that on the bottom which created a nicely sealed round orb with no seams on top. If you roll each piece out into a circle like a calzone, you can fold it over and pleat or seal with a fork. Pierce the tops so the heat/steam can escape and does not explode your pocket.
  8. Place each pocket on a cookie pan lined with parchment paper and sprayed with oil. Spray the tops with oil.
  9. Pans go into a 425 degree oven for about 15-20 minutes or until nicely browned. Let cool for about 10 minutes before serving. Yum! Serve with walnut creme sauce.

Spice in the Kitchen: Savory Walnut Creme Sauce

This makes a great base for an unusual pasta sauce, salad dressing or dip. For a salad dressing, add flavorings (spices, herbs, etc.) and chill. Use your imagination! Get creative.

Savory Walnut Creme Sauce (vegan)

Ingredients 

  • 1/2 cup toasted walnuts
  • 2-6 TB water
  • salt to taste

Directions

  1. Toast walnuts at 350 until they become fragrant. About 10 minutes.
  2. In a small food processor, grind down the nuts into a paste. When they will not grind anymore, add water, 1 TB at a time, until the mix will whirl without hinderance. Let them go until it becomes a nice thick paste. Add salt (about 1/4 tsp). Whirl again to combine and you're done.  So simple, yet so good.
Another yummy idea: Add maple syrup and cinnamon and use it on waffles!

1/28/11

Just Now Coming Down the Pike
























Things have been a bit hectic here between two kids out of school for two days due to the snowstorm (i.e. no peace for Mommy Scissors) and getting ready for my daughter's 5th birthday party, but don't worry, I have many lovely posts scheduled for over the next few days including:

1) A recipe for whole wheat calzones with acorn squash, fauxsage and ricotta with a walnut cream dipping sauce,
2) Valentine heart cake tutorial and recipe,
3) Super-mini tote/birthday treat bag tutorial,
4) Customized birthday number shirt tutorial and
5) What vegan chocolate cookie recipe is the best head-to-head ultimate smack-down!

So, subscribe to my RSS feed and stay tuned! x's and oms!

1/27/11

Heart Cake for Valentine's Day from I am Mommy! Blog





























What a cute idea and tutorial from the I am Mommy! blog. Get baking for your sweetie!

Score: Vintage Outdoor Patio Furniture

Our patio furniture has been upholstered by Old Man Winter!

























We've picked up these pieces at various estate sales and church bizarres. The matching settee was a total score; bought separately from the chairs. The hairpin leg coffee table has a lucite top and just happens to match the style of the other pieces perfectly. Now, if we could find a way to control the mosquitos in our backyard when we are actually able to use the set, we'd be looking good!

1/26/11

Photo Essay: Random Late Summer
































My fellow Northeasterners, don't despair, soon we will be sweltering under August heat and humidity.

1/25/11

Blog Lust: sfgirlbybay



























I used to love sfgirlbybay, a blog by Victoria Smith, but I lost all my RSS feeds when my old hard drive crashed and had to start from scratch when I got a new laptop. I just rediscovered her and I am so happy I did! Her pictures are always so colorful, creative and cheery. Focus: interior design, vintage finds, shopping and product reviews.

Design Inspiration: Vintage Circus Peanuts Banner

From One Kings Lane

Spice in the Kitchen: Baked Spinach-Potato Pakora Style Patties

My son was quite disappointed that, despite its appearance, this was not a cookie.

























I love pakoras, a Indian-style battered, deep-fried vegetable normally served as an appetizer or a snack and served with a chutney, like tamarind or tomato. But two words: deep fried. This is problematic because 1) I hate deep frying anything in my house (makes the whole house smell like oil, makes the kitchen greasy, etc.) and 2) Its so fattening! So, I thought, what about a baked pakora?

One of my favorite kinds of pakoras is made from battered, shredded cabbage, however the two appropriate pakora veggies I had on hand were spinach and potato. I figured I would not get that nice crispy pakora nugget by baking it, so I aimed more for a pancake. It turned out great! So yummy and virtually fat free! Whoo-hoo!

I toyed with naming this an "Indian latka," because that is what it's kind of like, but figured baked pakora patty might be more accurate. :)

Baked Potato and Spinach Pakora Patties (vegan)
makes about 16

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups of besan (chickpea flour)
  • 1/4 cup of rice flour
  • 1 tsp hing (or kalinji seeds)
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp of curry powder
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp of freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4-1 cup of water
  • 3-4 cups of finely chopped spinach
  • 2 medium yukon gold potatoes (peeled and then shredded with a cheese grater)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking pan with parchment paper and spray lightly with oil.
  2. Mix dry ingredients.
  3. Add 3/4 cup of water and mix. If the batter is clumping, then add another 1/8 cup of water. You want it to be like a very thick pancake batter. Add the next 1/8 cup of water if needed. (This is thicker than a traditional pakora batter.)
  4. Press some of the water out of the potatoes in between two paper towels. Add that and the spinach to the batter. Mix well.
  5. Take 1/8 cup of the batter and put onto prepared baking pan. Shape into a circle, but do not spread. Repeat. Leave about 2 inches on either side of patty. Spray the tops with oil. Bake for 10 minutes, flip and then bake for another 5-8 minutes or until edges are crispy and they are golden. Serve with tomato chutney and Greek, plain yogurt (if not making vegan).

Idea: For dinner, I served this to my husband as a sandwich! Take two patties, spread yogurt and tomato chutney on the inside, sprinkle with fresh cilantro and place a fried piece of curd in the middle. Yum and yum.

Score: Vintage Creative Playthings Wood Tugboat (Finland)

1/24/11

Spice in the Kitchen: French Lentil and Quinoa Khichari


























Khichari, kichari, kitchari, khichri, kichri, khichadi, khichdi... no matter how you spell it, khichari, an Indian style stew of pulses and grains, is the most perfect vegetarian food there ever was. Protein, grains and veggies; it's a complete, warming and comforting meal made in a single pot. Here's my non-traditional take on the dish that normally uses mung dal and rice.

French Lentil and Quinoa Khichari with Swiss Chard and Sweet Potatoes (vegan)
serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of green French lentils (washed and sorted through)
  • 1 cup of quinoa
  • 3 TB of olive oil
  • 1 tsp of cumin seeds
  • 1/4 tsp of red pepper flakes
  • 3 tsp grated ginger
  • 2 tsp of cumin powder
  • 1 tsp of coriander powder
  • 1 tsp of hing (or 1/2 of one onion, diced)
  • 3 tsp of curry powder
  • 3 tsp of salt (You will probably need to add more, but wait until the stew is done to taste. You can't redo over-salting!)
  • 6-8 Swiss chard leaves (washed and chopped into bite-sized pieces, including the stems)
  • 1 very large or 3 small sweet potatoes, chopped into bite-sized cubes (If you use organic, they are generally on the small side.)
  • 6-8 cups of water (I prefer my khichari on the dry side, if you want it more soupy, then add the 8 cups of water.)
  • fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • chopped cilantro leaves for garnish
  • lemon for garnish

Directions

  1. Heat oil in a soup pan and chaunce the spices. Add whole spices first, sauté for a few minutes, add ginger, then add powdered spices. Sauté for a minute, then add potatoes, fry for a few minutes, then add chard, salt and lentils. Sauté for a few minutes then add water. Bring to a boil and simmer on medium for about 15 minutes. Add quinoa and stir. Lower heat and let simmer for 30-40 minutes, partially covered.
  2. The dish is done when the lentils are very tender, and if you are making a dry khichari, the water is mostly absorbed. (If it gets too dry and start to stick to the bottom of the pan before the lentils are soft, add more water.) Test the saltiness. Add salt, if need be, and pepper.
  3. You can serve in a variety of ways. It's perfect served alongside a nice hot chapati or eggless naan (Trader Joe's sells a really nice one). I like mine with a scoop of plain yogurt in the middle and topped with chopped cilantro and a squeeze of lemon juice. You can also serve it with some crunchy bhujia on top. If you are not vegan, a plop of butter in the middle of the bowl is also delicious.

My Favorite Cookbooks: Heaven's Banquet


Heaven's Banquet was given to me as wedding present almost 11 years ago! I love this cookbook; all the recipes I've made have been so supremely excellent. There is a healthy balance between all styles of cuisine and lessons on Ayurvedic cooking techniques. It is an indispensable cookbook for lacto-vegetarians, specially for those who eschew onions and garlic from their diets. Finally available in soft cover (though I prefer the original cover design).

1/23/11

Vintage Craft Books: Crafts for Today's Schools (1972)




























This is a great book for pattern design and ideas for clay. Published in 1972 by Davis Publications. Written by George F. Horn.

Spice in the Kitchen: Báhn Mì Crouton Salad

Báhn Mì salad, tastes better than it photographs.


Ok, I know, you are tired of me making these Vietnamese inspired posts, but I have to do something with all that pickled daikon and cilantro! Plus, the rest of the baguette I used for the Báhn Mì sandwich was quickly entering the crouton samadhi state. Croutons? Hmmm... Aha! An idea! A Báhn Mì salad! Make this for your next PTA potluck instead of that snoozer iceburg, tomato and cucumber salad and wow your fellow members with all your exotic foodiness.


Báhn Mì Crouton Salad (vegan)
serves 1 or 2

Ingredients
Dressing:
  • 1 TB rice wine vinegar
  • 1 TB soy sauce
  • 1/2 TB hoisin sauce
  • 2 TB Veganaise
  • 1/4 tsp Sriracha
  • 1 tsp lime juice
Salad:
  • 1 head of romaine, chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 1/2 cup of cilantro chopped
  • 1/8 cup basil chopped
  • 1 cup of toasted cubes of French baguette
  • 1/2 cucumber, peeled and julienned 
  • 1/4 cup of pickled daikon
  • 1/4 cup of pickled carrots
  • 2 TB of chopped pickled jalapeno
  • 1/4 block of tofu (marinated and baked) or other other fake meat, chopped into cubes
  • cilantro leaves for garnish


Directions
  1. Mix dressing well, set aside.
  2. Mix romaine, cilantro, basil and 1/4 of dressing in a bowl. (If making ahead of time, do not mix with dressing until ready to serve.)
  3. Place salad mixture on plate, top with remaining ingredients and drizzle with another 1/4 of the dressing.

1/22/11

Etsy Find: Handmade Valentine's Day Card Picks

Not the usual color scheme, but I dig the folky German angle. Letterpressed by Concrete Lace.
Set of 24 mini cards for kids by West Mama. Beats that store bought Disney crap, hands down.
Mini cards. Perfect for a little boy's school friends by Sweet Harvey.
Narwhale Valentines card embroidered by Killed the Cat.
Another non-traditonal color combo and more whales. Forget cupid, whales are the new mood maker. By Smock Paper.
I like that Etsy is a place for anyone to sell their wares, but I wish there was a juried section where only the best could be displayed. It took me a long time to wade through the handmade Valentine's cards (most of which just looked like bad scrapbooking experiments) to find some worthy specimens. Here are some of the cuter ones. Whales!

Vintage Craft Books: Birthday Parties for Children

Cover, thoughtfully wire bound.

That poor mother. ;) 
Before there were scanners and Photoshop.

Cute idea for a themed train party.

Oh, those illustrations!

I love the watermelon.

Cute little kids!

Perfect matryoshka face. The pink heart cheeks--how cute!

Come on, they just don't do illustrations like these anymore!

The lady bugs!

Puppy dog cake: reminds me of the Easter bunny cakes we made with the coconut frosting for fur and gum drop eyes.
I LOVE this book published by Betty Crocker in 1964 and thought it would be appropriate to display since I am getting ready for my daughter's party with her school friends. I love at the end of the book--it gives a time a timeline for planning parties--it states, "Two weeks prior to the party, decide on a date and time." Good one. These days you need to plan 2 months in advance! Or maybe that is just me...

Spice in the Kitchen: Roasted Jerusalem Artichokes (Sunchokes)



























I like to experiment in the kitchen. I have seen sunchokes, also known as Jerusalem artichokes, lots of times at Whole Foods, but shied away from buying them because they looked too complicated to peel. Well, I gave in the other day and bought one. After cleaning out my refrigerator today, I realized that I better find out what to do with that bumpy thing before it went bad. Poking around on the internets, I found some really easy recipes and decided to just simply roast it. It was delicious! A slightly nutty, earthy, artichokey flavor. A good side dish for a meal of tempeh and greens. We had it with a cranberry/apple chutney (should have just made it all apple) and sautéed Swiss chard. What a nice, light lunch! They are very high in iron, a perfect food for vegetarians.

Roasted Sunchokes (vegan, gluten free)
serves 2


Ingredients

  • 2 baseball sized sunchokes, scrubbed really well with a brush
  • 1-2 TB olive oil
  • Salt, to taste (I used pink Himalayan sea salt.)


Directions

  1. Thinly slice the sunchoke (The skin has the best flavor, so don't peel it!)
  2. Toss with olive oil and salt.
  3. Place a single layer of the sunchokes on a baking dish. Bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes or until they start to brown. That's it! Easy!

1/21/11

Scissors Craft: Felt Hair Barrettes Inspired by The Purl Bee


























I made this clip to match a dress my daughter wore for her birthday walk at school. Unfortunately, school was cancelled due to snow, so her walk is rescheduled for next week. I used fabric glue instead of sewing it. When I make her another one, I promise, I will not be lazy and actually sew. The fabric glue stiffens the felt way too much. Check out Purl's blog for directions.

Spice in the Kitchen: Vegan Bánh Mì Chay: The King of Hoagies!

Mr. Scissors said this was, by far, the best one he has ever had.
























If there was one perfect food, it would have to be Bánh Mì, a Vietnamese sandwich on a crunchy baguette. I had my first one at Lan Café in New York and it was love at first bite. There's a mixture of sweet, spicy, savory, mush, crunch, freshness and pickledness. It's the universe in a roll. Since we're not always able to make it up to New York, I started on a quest of how to recreate the perfect Báhn Mì.

There are some key ingredients to create a perfect Báhn Mì: 1) The bread: you need a real French baguette from a bakery. Crunchy on the outside, airy/chewy on the inside. 2) Pickled daikon radish and carrots. It's very easy to make your own. 3) Veganaise mixed with Sriracha. 4) Lots and lots of cilantro.

Bánh Mì Chay (vegatarian/vegan)
serves 1

  • 1 small french baguette
  • 1 tsp of soy sauce
  • 2 TB of Veganaise
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp of Sriracha (To taste; If you like it spicy, use more)
  • 2 tsp of hoisin sauce
  • 1/4 cup of pickled daikon radish (Follow this recipe, omit tumeric, add 1/4 tsp sesame oil)
  • 1/4 cup of pickled carrot (Add carrots to daikon pickle.)
  • approx. 1 cup of cilantro
  • approx. 1/4 cup julienned cucumber 
  • pickled jalapeno (If you like it super hot, then use fresh.)
  • 1 or two vegetarian meats (You can use faux deli slices [salami is particularly good], baked tofu, Asian flavored seitan, etc. Lots of non-veg Bánh Mì will use a combo of meats.)
Directions
  1. Split the roll open and place it in the oven at 300 for a few minutes.
  2. Drizzle the soy sauce on the inside of the roll. Mix the Veganaise and Sriracha together and spread on both sides. Spread the hoisin sauce on one side.
  3. Fill the baguette with the cucumbers and pickled daikon/carrot first, then with the remainder of the fillings. Pair it with a virgin mojito (recipe to come) and savor!
Shop the Props!
Plate: Target
Tea Towel: Huset 

1/20/11

Score: Vintage Hoot Mon Plaid Picnic Basket

My new knitting basket! 
Hoot mon! Made somewhere in New Jersey in the 1960s.

I found this little metal picnic basket at the local Goodwill. I wasn't going to buy it (trying to stay away from kitsch and clutter), but it's in pristine condition and would make the most excellent knitting basket. My children seem to think my supplies are the coolest toys in the world. The hard to remove lid will at least keep my two-year-old from running around with my needles!

Really Must Try This Recipe: Brussels Sprout Salad

Recipe from WHYY's Fit recipe page. They also made the suggestion to add dried cranberries and pumpkin seeds!
Brussels Sprouts Salad (vegan, gluten free)
serves 2


Ingredients
  • 2 cups (one-half pound) fresh Brussels sprouts 
  • Sprinkle of Kosher salt 

Dressing
  • Juice of 1 lemon 
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar 
  • 2 tablespoons good quality extra virgin olive oil 
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme 
  • pinch sugar 
  • pepper to taste 

Directions
  1. Rinse and dry the sprouts.
  2. Cut each in half lengthwise so you have a flat stable base. Cut crossways to make the thinnest strips possible.
  3. Sprinkle with kosher salt and set aside.
  4. Whisk together the ingredients for the dressing. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. Toss with shredded sprouts and serve.