Saturday, November 30, 2013

peanut-caramel corn (aka homemade cracker jacks)

I haven't fallen off my vegan wagon but I've been wanting to post about this childhood favorite since the World Series. Up until about 3 weeks ago, I would whip up a batch of this peanut-caramel corn (aka Cracker Jacks) almost every weekend. Sadly I am on a dairy hiatus and I did make a fresh batch yesterday, but none of it was for me.

I discovered this recipe for homemade Cracker Jacks on Brown Eyed Baker's blog. I followed the recipe straight forward the first couple of times I made it, and then sometimes I used dark brown sugar instead of light brown, and kosher salt in place of regular salt. You'll need a candy thermometer to make the caramel and some patience while you wait for the caramel corn to cool. This recipe makes up to 10 cups of peanut-caramel corn which makes a great homemade Christmas gift or two.

Peanut-Caramel Corn (aka Cracker Jacks)
thank you BROWN eyed BAKER
makes up to 10 cups

***Brown Eyed Baker has a foolproof recipe for popping popcorn. Although you can easily use microwave popcorn but honestly her method for popping corn is so easy. Trust me.***

10 cups of freshly popped popcorn - stovetop or microwave
1 cup light brown sugar ***dark brown sugar is OK too!***
1/4 cup light corn syrup
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons water
1/4 teaspoon salt 
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup lightly salted & roasted peanuts

a candy thermometer 

Preheat oven to 250ºF. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. ***I prefer using a Silpat mat here. But parchment works fine too.***

Pop the corn. Coat a large mixing bowl with nonstick cooking spray and transfer the popcorn to the bowl and set aside.

In a saucepan, mix together the brown sugar, corn syrup, butter, salt and water and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Continue to simmer, stirring often (I use the candy thermometer to stir), until the mixture reaches 250ºF on a candy thermometer, about 3 - 5 minutes. ***Time will always vary depending on how high your heat is and how accurate your thermometer is. Sometimes it took my caramel 7+ minutes to reach the desired temp.*** 

Turn off heat and mix in the vanilla and baking soda. ***Again I just mix with the candy thermometer.*** The caramel is HOT and it will bubble like crazy when you're mixing in the vanilla extract and baking soda. Don't be scared and BE CAREFUL!!!

Immediately pour the hot mixture over the popcorn. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the caramel into the popcorn until all of the popcorn is coated. Gently stir in the peanuts and divide the mixture to the prepared baking sheets, spreading it out evenly. ***You can also use 1 baking sheet here, but I found that dividing the mixture into 2 sheets resulted in a crispier caramel corn.***

Bake for 1 hour, stirring every 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes or until completely cool. Gently break up the popcorn. Serve immediately, or store in an airtight container for up to 5 - 7 days.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

spicy vegan mexican hot chocolate snickerdoodles

I'm on week 3 with my vegan diet and I'm kind of getting used to this no-dairy thing. Although I'm not gonna lie, I miss butter!!! And I miss cheese!!! I'm not going to totally convert to being a vegan, but after my 2 month stint is over, I will go back to eating butter and cheese in moderation. But for now, I will continue to search and test some vegan recipes to satisfy my sweet tooth and midnight munchie attacks.

I try and find vegan recipes that I don't have to rush out to buy other ingredients. I was stoked to come across these vegan Mexican hot chocolate snickerdoodles by Post Punk Kitchen and when shared with my non-vegan friends, they couldn't even taste the lack of butter or eggs in them. 

I didn't have any cayenne pepper so I substituted chili powder instead. I also made a few of my own adaptations to the original recipe.

Spicy Vegan Mexican Hot Chocolate Snickerdoodles
slightly adapted from Post Punk Kitchen
makes 2 dozen cookies

For the sugary coating:
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 cup canola oil ***or veg oil***
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons soy milk ***almond milk is OK here too!***
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour ***or all-purpose flour***
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon chili powder (or 1/2 teaspoon cayenne)

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper. Set aside. In a shallow bowl or plate, mix together the 2 tablespoons of sugar and cinnamon.

In a medium bowl, sift together flour/s, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and chili powder/cayenne. In a large bowl, whisk together oil, sugar/s, soy milk and vanilla extract. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, stirring constantly until it forms into cookie dough.

With a 1-1/2 inch diameter cookie scoop, divide the dough into 24 pieces. Roll into walnut-sized balls and gently press into the sugar & cinnamon mixture, flattening roughly into 2-inch disks.

Sugarcoated side up, lay cookies onto your parchment lined sheets approximately 2 inches apart. Bake for 10 - 14 minutes. Cookies will have spread and will have crackly tops. Remove from the oven and cool 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack. Store cookies in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

vegan blueberry muffins

My doctor has presented me with a health challenge and I'm testing out a vegan diet for a couple of months. I'm already a vegetarian so giving up meat is not an issue. But no butter? No milk/cream? No cheese? Probably one of the worst times of the year to quit eating dairy with Thanksgiving & Christmas on the horizon. Anyway, I'm on week two and I'm not gonna lie, it's challenging. Tofutti products, soy/almond/oat milks and non-dairy based butters fill my frig now. Thank goodness that "some" dark chocolate is vegan. I've got to have something! 

These vegan blueberry muffins look and kind of taste like regular blueberry muffins. They are missing the taste of buttery-goodness, but if you're allergic to dairy or like me testing out a vegan diet, give these a try. I especially liked them warm out of the oven and slathered with fake butter spread. Yum!

Vegan Blueberry Muffins
slightly adapted from Madhuram's Eggless Cooking
makes 9 muffins

2 cup all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
zest of a lemon
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup soy milk ***Soy milk worked best for me. Almond milk resulted in dense, and not as fluffy muffins.***
1/3 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1-1/2 cups blueberries - fresh or frozen

Preheat your oven to 375ºF. Spray a muffin tin with cooking spray or line with paper liners. Set aside. 

In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, salt and lemon zest. In another bowl, whisk together sugar, soy milk, oil, vanilla extract and vinegar. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and with a spatula gently fold/mix together. Try not to over mix. Add the blueberries and gently fold them into the batter.

With a large scoop, divide batter into the prepared muffin tin. ***I was able to get 9 muffins.*** Bake for 18 - 22 minutes. 

The muffins will be golden brown on top. You can also insert a tooth pick into a muffin and when it comes out clean, they're done. Cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes before removing them from the muffin tin.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

5 ingredient apple tart

Fall is one of my most favorite times of the year. Especially now when the leaves are changing color and the weather drops into baking weather. It's also apple season and while I love eating apples as they are, I also love turning them into pie, compote for ice cream, mixing them into spice muffins and when I'm looking for a quick dessert, this simple apple tart. 

2 Granny Smith apples - peeled, cored & sliced into 1/4" slices
1 sheet of puff pastry - thawed
1 tablespoon unsalted butter - cut into 1/4" tiny cubes
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons apricot jam

Preheat your oven to 400ºF. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Peel and core your apples.

To keep your apples from turning brown, drape a damp paper towel over them as you slice apples.

With a sharp knife, slice apples into 1/4" slices.

Remove your thawed puff pastry from the frig and carefully unfold onto your prepared baking sheet.

I like to create an edge on my tarts. With the tip of a paring knife, draw a 1/4" frame inside your puff pastry.

Start laying down your apples slices within the framed edge; slightly overlapping each other.

Continue with the rest of your apple slices until the puff pastry is covered. Dot the top of the apples with the cubed butter and sprinkle generously with sugar.

Bake the tart for 40 - 45 minutes. The edges of the tart will be quite brown. Remove from oven and cool on wire rack. Once the tart is cooled, warm the apricot jam with 2 teaspoons of water to make a glaze. ***I just place it in a ramekin and nuke for 20-30 seconds.*** With a pastry brush, gently brush/dab the warmed apricot glaze over the apples and edges of the tart. ***Careful not to brush too hard or else you'll disturb your apples.***

The apricot glaze gives a little sweetness to the tart and makes it look all shiny and delicious.

Not just for dessert.....make this apple tart for breakfast!!!