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from Vegan with a Vengeance by Isa Chandra Moskowitz

Homemade Gnocchi
2 lbs russet potatoes, washed and scrubbed
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil
1 bunch of well-rinsed spinach
1 1/2 to 3/4 c all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 400F.

Poke four or five holes all over the potatoes. Bake them (you don’t need a tray or foil, right on the oven rack is fine) for 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the size. Do a test after 45 minutes; they should be very tender (mine took closer to an hour). Use tongs to remove them; place on a cooling rack and let them cool completely. This could take half an hour.

Meanwhile, chop the spinach finely, and cook over medium heat in about 1/4 cup of water until it is completely wilted. Place in a strainer and press all the water out.

Remove the skins from the cooled potatoes and place them in a large mixing bowl. Add the olive oil and salt and mash very well. You don’t want to puree them, that will make the gnocchi sticky, just mash them until they have very few lumps. Fold the spinach in. Add the flour in handfuls and incorporate it into the potatoes. Once you’ve added half the flour you can turn the dough onto a floured countertop to work it there. Keep adding flour and lightly kneading the dough until a smooth, unsticky but not dry dough is formed.

Divide the dough into thirds and roll each portion into a rope that is about 1/2 inch thick. Use a pizza wheel or a knife to cut the ropes into 3/4-inch-long pieces. Now comes the fun part- flour your hands and use your thumb to roll each piece of gnocchi gently down the tines of a fork. Each piece should be able to do about half a roll before reaching the end of the fork so the final result should be that one side of the gnocchi has an indent from your thumb and one side has ridges from the fork.

At this point you can sprinkle with flour and freeze any gnocchi you aren’t using. To cook them immediately bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt the water liberally and cook the gnocchi in three batches. Within 2 minutes they should rise to the surface; let them cook just under a minute longer and remove them with a slotted spoon. Transfer them to a large plate so that hey aren’t putting any weight on each other, and sauce them as soon as you can. I like them with either a simple tomato sauce or sauteed briefly with pesto and veggies.
Serves 6-8

Sun-dried Tomato Pesto
1/2 c tightly packed sun-dried tomatoes
1 c water
1/4 c almonds
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
a few dashes fresh black pepper
1/4 c chopped fresh basil

Place the sun-dried tomatoes in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a low boil, then turn the heat off and let soak for about 15 minutes, until soft.

Grid the almonds in a blender or food processor. Add the sun-dried tomatoes (with the water), garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper, and puree.

Transfer to a bowl and stir in the basil. Let sit for a few minutes to allow the flavors to blend. Makes about 1 1/2 cups

This was a really rewarding dinner for a day that I felt like challenging myself in the kitchen. Normally I don’t like something that’s so fussy, and I totally got frustrated with the tine-rolling segment (SO NOT THE FUN PART, ISA), but it was very much worth the while, especially when I was able to pull some out of the freezer a few weeks later for leftovers! I was a little uncertain about the texture of the dough and wondering when I should stop adding the flour, but I did pretty well with 1 3/4 cups of it. Kneading it was fun, and I felt like the spinach made my gnocchi a bit more festive, as well as healthy.
Let’s talk texture. Gnocchi isn’t for those who don’t like doughy things. These are SO DOUGHY, so toothy. So satisfying. I want to make all of the variations, but I try to save potatoes for special occasions- they just go down too easy. The texture of the pesto was a nice partner to the gnocchi- with a faint crunch of almondy goodness. Total perfection, this meal.
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Hi there. Oh! You two haven’t met? This here is my favorite cookie in the entire world:

Candy Cane Cookies

adapted from Betty Crocker’s Cookbook, First Edition

1/2 c Earth Balance vegan margarine, at room temperature
1/2 c shortening
1 c confectioner’s sugar
1 tbsp Bob’s Red Mill egg substitute, mixed with 3 tbsp warm water
1 1/2 tsp almond extract
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
6-8 drops red food color, optional (I didn’t use a natural food dye here, but by all means, go for it if you’d rather!)
1/2 c crushed peppermint candy

Heat oven to 375F. Place parchment paper on your cookie sheet. Mix thoroughly margarine, shortening, confectioner’s sugar, egg substitute, and flavorings. Blend in flour and salt. Blend in food color, then crushed peppermint candy.

Shape tablespoonfuls of dough into balls, then flatten into discs. Place on the prepared cookie sheet, about 1 inch apart. They don’t spread much, if at all. Bake about 9 minutes, or until set and very light brown (check the underside of one). Once the cookies have cooled on the sheet for a few minutes, transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

One of my favorite food memories is associated with this cookie. My mom made them for Christmas when I was in Kindergarten, and she packed one in my lunch. I don’t think I’d had them before because I remember falling in love with a cookie for the first time during a sunny recess in that California schoolyard. I was lost in the almondy goodness, the density that is almost like shortbread, with that hint of salt taking the edge off the sweet. I was a changed person.
Originally this cookie is supposed to be shaped like a candy cane- with only half of the dough getting the red food dye- then you twist two 4-inch ropes together, and curve them to shape them like canes. However 1) I lack the patience for this, 2) My candy canes would continue to grow larger as I made them, 3) They would always be burned on the ends or raw in the middle- and in the case of the larger ones in the end of the batch- a dreadful combo of raw AND burned. I had to adjust. Plus, spending that much time working with dough meant more opportunity for me to consume said dough. As heavenly as the dough is… it’s not meant to be.
This is one of those cookies that people seem to either really love, or they’ll simply tolerate. I always make a double batch in case I find myself surrounded by a group of people that fall into the former category. Plus, they’re a nice cookie to have on a platter at a party- they offer some contrast if you have a lot of darker cookies and fruitcake bars, like I did this year. They refuse to go unnoticed!  I also tried a new (to me) recipe from this book:

Peppernuts

1/2 c shortening
3/4 c brown sugar (packed)
1 tbsp Bob’s Red Mill egg replacer, mixed with 3 tbsp warm water
1/2 c molasses
1/2 tsp anise extract
1 tbsp hot water
3 1/3 c all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp white pepper

Heat oven to 350F. Mix thoroughly shortening, sugar, egg replacer, molasses, anise extract, and water. Blend in remaining ingredients. Knead dough until of right consistency for molding.

Using a melon baller, scoop dough into 1-inch balls. Place 1 inch apart on ungreased baking sheet. Bake about 12 minutes, or until golden brown on bottom. Store in airtight container.

These were so-so. I had hoped for something spicier! They were also a little dense and dry, but the recipe suggested storing them with a slice of apple for softer cookies. That’s something I should have tried, but the only apple I had was one that I wouldn’t be slicing until I made my apple cake for Christmas dinner- and that wasn’t happening for a few more days! Still, these are a nice cookie when you’re looking for one that isn’t as sweet. I will make these again, mostly because I’m curious about what they would be like with more anise extract (the original recipe calls for 3 drops of anise oil, not available in my store- I don’t know how it would compare to the extract so I used a modest amount), and I’d use more white pepper. I’d also make the cookies a bit bigger- in hopes of finding a softer center! The cookies were good, they all disappeared, and baby girl loved them. I just want them to be divine.
Also on my cookie platter this year: Mexican Chocolate Snickerdoodles, and Fruitcake Bars, both from this, my favorite cookie book. I also made a whopping SIX batches of these Spicy Maple Glazed Walnuts from Shutterbean to give along with my cookies to neighbors and as stocking stuffers and hostess gifts. Spicy and sweet and very well received.

from I Am Grateful- Recipes and Lifestyle of Cafe Gratitude by Terces Engelhart with Orchid

1 tbsp chopped garlic
3/4 tsp salt
3 bunches basil (leaves only)
3/4 c olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 c raw almond butter
or
1 c hemp seeds

Place all ingredients except for the almond butter or hemp seeds in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the “S” blade. Pulse and scrape down sides of bowl until all the ingredients have reached a pretty smooth texture. While running, add the almond butter or hemp seeds. (Some people like their pesto chunky. Use your own judgment as to when to add the butter or seeds.)

Your pesto is now ready to use. This stores well in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Makes 1 1/2-2 cups.

A few years ago, I went to Cafe Gratitude in San Francisco with Shutterbean. I was a little taken aback by the question the waitress asked us: “What makes you courageous?” Oh boy. Good for Bean, she was pregnant, so she had a big deal of an answer: that she was bringing new life into the world. True! But lil ol’ me? I wasn’t about to tell this complete stranger about what I’d ever done to warrant such a title, so all I could come up with was my snap answer of “I wear red eyeshadow,” because Bean had mentioned earlier that I had guts to do such a thing. Laaaaaaaaame. The only thing that made it better was the menu devoted to delicious raw food. I couldn’t believe how rich and filling the carrot cake we shared for dessert was.
Well, fast forward to a few months ago, when I was browsing our local used bookstore, where I found this cookbook! All of the recipes start of with “I Am…,” which is really hard for me to get past. Some of the recipes will call for two, or even three of the other recipes, so it’s a little… tedious. But I found this pesto recipe, as I wanted something quick, easy and delicious, and it was just that. Especially the delicious part. I was really surprised at how much the pesto didn’t taste like almond butter! Of course I used extra garlic, and basil has its strong flavor… and the next flavor was lemon. Mostly the almond butter brought in texture, and let me tell you, it was divine. It coated our quinoa spiral pasta ever so lovingly. In the photo in the cookbook, it showed a ball of pesto, and I wondered if it was so solid as a result of using hemp seeds instead of the almond butter? Let me know if you try it!
I will never go back to pine nut pesto. But you already knew that.

from Veganomicon by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero

1 c vanilla soy milk
1 tbsp ground flaxseeds
1/4 c canola oil
1/4 c agave nectar or pure maple syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 c all-purpose or whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 c almond meal or almond flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1 1/4 c cooked quinoa
1/2 c finely chopped dried apricots or currants

Preheat the oven to 350F and lightly grease a non-stick 12-cup muffin tin.

In a medium-size bowl, whisk together the soy milk and ground flaxseed. Allow to sit for 1  minute, then whisk in oil, agave nectar and vanilla.

In a separate large bowl, sift together flour, almond meal, baking soda (What?!? It’s not listed in the ingredients; I didn’t add it. Maybe that’s why the muffins are dainty? Next time I might add a 1/2 tsp.), baking powder, salt, and spices. Add the wet ingredients to the dry, mixing until just incorporated. Gently fold in the quinoa and the apricots and mix until only the large lumps are gone.

Pour into the prepared muffin tin and bake for 20 to 22 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Makes 12 muffins.

Yummmmmmm. For a self-proclaimed health muffin, these are really tasty. Have you met quinoa (pronounced keen-wah)? It’s this great grain that’s high in protein, with a somewhat nutty flavor and great texture. It brought to these muffins what a poppyseed dreams of… texture, fiber AND speckles! I cook quinoa in my rice cooker, after rinsing it thoroughly; it does cook a little faster than rice, especially if you find the wee tiny quinoa. There are different varieties, and they are all wonderful. I used a red kind here.
These were pretty easy to make… have you met a difficult muffin? I was excited to use almond meal, which was new to me. Almonds are my favorite food, making this new ingredient much less scary. I think next time I might add some almond extract though, because the almond flour just wasn’t enough! Paired with apricots… so tasty. These muffins were pretty dense (perhaps due to the lack of baking soda?) and a little chewy (in a good way, thanks apricot and quinoa!). Mike ate three of them for dessert last night. I think I need to see if I can find a mega muffin tin. Shutterbean, thanks for your muffin request. Ask and you shall receive. xoxo