Monday, January 31, 2011

Chickpea Picatta and Caulipots


 Okay, so I'm sure after reading the title and comparing it to the picture you're wondering "What is that exactly?"  And to answer you, delicious!  Unlike most vegetarian/vegan recipes that portray themselves as the animal-friendly version of a traditional meat dish, if you looked at a picture of Chickpea Picatta and Chicken Picatta you will see they really look nothing alike.  And sometimes that's a good thing for people who think some meat and meal alternatives are too close for comfort to the real thing.  I had never had Chicken Picatta when I used to eat meat, but whenever my best friend and I would go to the Cheesecake Factory, that was her 'go-to' choice.  It always looked really good, so when I saw this recipe I decided to give it a go.  The only way I could be disappointed was if I just didn't like the flavors because I didn't have anything to compare it to...and sometimes that's a good thing so your expectations aren't too high.  This is the big problem I think people have when trying meat alternatives for the first time...I hate to break it to you, but a veggie burger isn't going to taste like a real burger.  Just be open minded...it has opened up a ton of new opportunities in my food-loving world!  And I definitely wasn't disappointed with this!

The base is arugula and is topped with a delicious and more "figure-friendly" version of the mashed potato.  These "caulipots" are half potato, half cauliflower and are perfect when you're looking for something comforting to eat during these long winter months without feeling heavy after.  It acts as the replacement starch to the pasta you would normally see in this dish.  And on the tippity top are the chickpeas, capers, shallots, and white wine mix (the flavors of the traditional picatta) that really pulls all the parts together.  The name makes it sound nice and fancy, but it doesn't require a ton of time or preparation..and it's extremely healthy!  So, if you're looking for a way to impress your friends, try this out!

Chickpea Picatta:

Ingredients:
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 scant cup thinly sliced shallots
  • 6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons breadcrumbs
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • A few dashes fresh black pepper
  • Generous pinch of dried thyme
  • 1 16 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup capers with a little brine
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 4 cups arugula
  • Cooking spray
Directions:
  • Preheat a large heavy bottomed pan over medium. Saute the shallots and garlic for about 5 minutes, until golden. Add the breadcrumbs and toast them by stirring constantly for about 2 minutes. They should turn a few shades darker.
  • Add the vegetable broth and wine, salt, black pepper and thyme. Turn up heat and bring to a rolling boil and let the sauce reduce by 1/2, it should take about 7 minutes.
  • Add the chickpeas and capers to heat through, about 3 minutes. Add the lemon and turn off the heat.
  • If serving with mashed potatoes, place the arugula in a wide bowl. Place mashed potatoes on top, and ladle picatta over the potatoes. The arugula will wilt and it will be lovely. If you are serving solo, just pour right over the arugula.
Caulipots: 

Ingredients:
  • 2 medium Russet Potato
  • 1/2 Cauliflower Head
  • 1 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 2 tbsp Vegetable Broth
Directions: 
  • Place the potatoes in a 4-quart pot in enough cold water to submerge them, making sure there are about 4 inches of extra water on top for when you add the cauliflower. Bring the potatoes to a boil. Once boiling, add the cauliflower and lower the heat to a simmer. Let simmer for about 15 minutes, until the potatoes and cauliflower are tender.
  • Drain them in a colander, return them to the pot and use a potato masher to mash them a bit. Add the olive oil, 2 TB of broth and add salt and pepper to taste. Mash a bit more. Use a fork to make sure all the seasoning are mixed well. If needed, add more vegetable broth.
Note:  For the Caulipots, I added 2 tbsp Earth Balance instead of olive oil and a tbsp of Tofutti's Vegan cream cheese (the new one that is sans trans fat!)

Source: Appetite for Reduction


Sunday, January 30, 2011

Vegan Peanut Butter Blondies


Out of no where, I had a serious craving for peanut butter.  My first thought was to go grab a couple spoonfuls of peanut butter from the jar (yes, I am one of those), but then instead I thought I would work on narrowing down my list of "to-make" recipes.  I love sweets, but normally I don't find myself eating dessert all too often.  Not the case this week!  In the summer when it's too hot, I have a hard time staying in the kitchen for too long, but the winter does the opposite to me.  I am always in the kitchen.  Baking, cooking, eating, photographing...all in the kitchen.  So after I finished making dinner I felt like spending more quality time in my favorite room with my favorite flavors; chocolate and peanut butter.  The chocolate was more of an afterthought once they were done cooling, but it adds a very nice touch to the abundant peanut butter flavor these bad boys deliver.  These my friends, are like the Cadillac of peanut butter cookies...all the delicious flavor of the cookie with the rich and fudgy consistency of a brownie.  Yes, please!  Definitely have a glass of (almond/soy) milk on hand when devouring them!  Or, you can do as I did and pair it up with some (coconut milk) ice cream.  Be sure to savor the flavor of every delicious bite!  And I also couldn't resist using my new heart shaped cookie cutters for them...cutie pies!  Well, not pie, but cutie blondey?  That doesn't sound right...but you get the idea.


Ingredients:
  • 3/4 cup creamy peanut butter (a natural no stir variety)
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 non-dairy milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1  cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/3  cup peanuts
Directions:
  • Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly grease a metal 8x8  baking dish.
  • In a mixing bowl, use a fork to vigorously mix  together peanut butter, oil and sugar. 
  • Stir in milk and vanilla. 
  • Stir in  flour, salt and baking powder. Once you get the flour somewhat mixed  in, it's easier to just use your hands to knead the dough until soft. It  will be very very thick and won't spread on its own. 
  • Transfer to baking  pan and press it into place. Sprinkle on the peanuts and lightly press  them into the top.
  • Bake for 22 to 25 minutes, the edges should  be just barely coloring. The top will appear soft, that's okay. Remove  from oven and cool completely before slicing.
After they cooled, I cute them out with a heart cookie cutter (yielded 6, plus yummy scrap pieces) and I melted some chocolate chips (vegan) and piped it on top!

Source: Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar

Friday, January 28, 2011

Butterbeer!



I'm going to let you in on a little secret....I LOVE Harry Potter.  Love, love, love, love, LOVE.  And this last summer I went to Florida with Dave, my brother, my aunt, and uncle and my dream came true...we went to the Wizarding World!  I'm such a nerd, but I felt like a little kid about to explode with excitement the day we went to Islands of Adventure and got a taste of the story brought into real life.  I HAD to see it all.  I probably could have spent our whole vacation there, but somehow I think my aunt and I would have been left high and dry by the boys.  Ironically, I was teased by them all day because it's all I kept talking about, but at the end of the trip, it was everyone's favorite!  Look who's laughing now!


We went in July so it was hot..really. freakin'. hot. So when we were standing near Hogsmeade, we saw tons of people walking about guzzling down glasses and glasses of the infamous Butterbeer. I then made it my mission to hunt someone down and get some.  I couldn't wait to get my hands it!  Now, I'm not huge on butterscotch, but I was willing to put that aside for this thing.  You could definitely taste it, but to my surprise it wasn't overbearing and didn't leave you feeling like, "Oh I'm going to be sick."  The "beer" tasted like cream soda with a hint of butterscotch and was topped with a delicious vanilla/butterscotch whipped cream. Yum!  They even had a frozen version...but I had opted for the other and just tried the slush-like butterbeer my brother got.  I ended up really liking the frozen one but they were both equally sugar-coma-inducing good...I could have easily kept going back for more!  And, you know it's got to be just how she envisioned it, because J.K. Rowling herself taste tested and approved the recipe for the park!  It was so good I needed to try making it on my own.


 We walked around and around and ended up going on the Dragon Challenge roller coaster like five times (it was awesome) and then the line for Honey Dukes had finally died down and I couldn't wait to go in!  This place was covered with candy everywhere you looked.  Again, another sugar coma.  I didn't know how I would ever choose what to get, but I settled on Chocolate Toads and Pumpkin Juice and then it was time to go on into Hogwarts.  This part of the park was really awesome..especially when we went back that night.  The castle is all lit up it and inside there is an awesome 360 tour/ride they bring you on through the school.  This was our last stop that night and just as we were about to get on, we ended up being stuck waiting 2 more hours in line because it broke down (nothing could get me to leave at this point)!   But, hey...go see for yourself!  If you're obsessed like me you will NOT be disappointed (except that I wished it was even bigger...and that they were accepting applications to Hogwarts..okay, now I've gone too far).  But, if you can't make it there anytime soon, don't you worry.  For now, you can make some Butterbeer for you and your friends and pop in some of the movies..now that's what I call a good night!  (I have seriously out-nerded myself, again).


Ingredients:
  • 1 cup light or dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 6 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon rum extract
  • Four 12-ounce bottles cream soda

Directions:
  1. In a small saucepan over medium, combine the brown sugar and water. Bring to a gentle boil and cook, stirring often, until the mixture reads 240 F on a candy thermometer.
  2. Stir in the butter, salt, vinegar and 1/4 heavy cream. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
  3. Once the mixture has cooled, stir in the rum extract.
  4. In a medium bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of the brown sugar mixture and the remaining 1/2 cup of heavy cream. Use an electric mixer to beat until just thickened, but not completely whipped, about 2 to 3 minutes.
  5. To serve, divide the brown sugar mixture between 4 tall glasses (about 1/4 cup for each glass). Add 1/4 cup of cream soda to each glass, then stir to combine. Fill each glass nearly to the top with additional cream soda, then spoon the whipped topping over each.
Serves 4.

OR, if you'd like something a little easier instead of making your own butterscotch...just substitute 1/4 cup butterscotch syrup for the butterbeer and 2 tbsp syrup for the whipped cream!

Source: The Huffington Post
For a vegan version, click here!


Thursday, January 27, 2011

Eggplant and Pine Nut Rolled Lasagna


I did some major reorganizing in the shelves and I still find there is just not enough space for everything.  No matter how much I try to condense, stack, categorize, etc. I still find myself bring the perfect example of an "organized mess."  So my solution would be to just knock out a few walls, add some cabinets, a pantry, new appliances and make the kitchen like the Taj Mahal since it's my favorite room in the house, but somehow unfortunately I don't think our landlord would be too happy if she found out about that.... Well, I guess there is plan B.  Obviously praying to the kitchen Gods for my kitchen to grow overnight isn't going to happen (no matter HOW hard I try), so I just tried to make things as neat as possible until there is another avalanche of cereal boxes, tea bags, and pasta onto my head.  (I think they are trying to knock some sense into me; not working).  It's amazing the things you will find that you just can't throw away but that take up a good hunk of valuable space.  Enter, the lasagna noodles.

A few months ago I made Dave a buffalo chicken lasagna...a dish I worked really hard on and could not partake in.  (Bummer) I used every noodle but about 5 of them and certainly was not going to throw them out.  At this point, Dave had lasagna coming out of his ears he ate so much of it, so I knew using the noodles up on him probably wasn't going to be the best solution.  As for me, I LOVE lasagna, but those really weren't enough noodles to do much with and I had been trying to find a decent vegan cheese to sub in my cooking.  But, thanks to VeganYumYum, I found the perfect solution!  It even helped me use up that eggplant and leftover cashew ricotta I had been meaning to put to good use.  Now, I was one happy girl!

I had cut up my eggplant prior to finding the recipe which meant it was done width wise and was not peeled.  I don't think it hindered the recipe at all though, so if that happens to be the situation you're in, let me assure you it still comes out great!  (Just layer the rounds down the noodle instead, I used about 5/noodle) And if you're like me, it's a good way to use up some of those "extras" you may have in the house  (a half of a tomato, a handful of spinach, a couple of mushrooms, you get the idea).  ...Unless of course you are on the Atkins diet, where this recipe, and about 99% of my blog will be of no help to you.  (My apologies, I already don't eat meat, or most dairy items, I can't completely deprive myself!)


Eggplant and Pine Nut Rolled Lasagna
Serves 4 (easily adapted)
  • 8 Lasagna Noodles
  • 1 Eggplant
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt
  • Black Pepper
  • 2+ Cups Marinara Sauce (your favorite)
  • 2 Slices Bread, toasted (or prepared breadcrumbs)
Pine Nut Spread
  • 1 Cup Pine Nuts
  • 1 Tbs Water
  • 1/2 tsp White Wine Vinegar, or lemon juice
  • 1 tsp Dried Italian Herbs
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp Salt
Variations:
  • Add 1/3 Cup of Sun Dried tomatoes to pine nut spread
  • Add 1 Cup of sauteed spinach when filling
  • Add fresh baby spinach leaves when filling
  • Add 1 Cup of sauteed mushrooms when filling
  • Add strips of sauteed summer squash when filling
Directions:
Boil noodles in salted water until al dente. Drain and lay out the noodles on a cookie sheet, lightly spraying with oil so that they do not stick. Set aside.

Peel eggplant. I find the easiest way to do this is to cut off both ends and use the edge provided to get your vegetable peeler started. I’ve found it difficult to get the peeler to cut the skin otherwise.

Place the eggplant upright on the cutting board. Slice the eggplant in long, thin vertical slices. Then slice each of these in half again, also vertically. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

In a large non-stick or cast-iron skillet, begin browning the eggplant strips in olive oil, 2-3 Tbs a batch (or more). When strips are very tender and nicely browned on both sides, set aside.

In the hot skillet you cooked the eggplant in, add the pine nuts. Toast the pine nuts over medium-low heat until golden brown, being careful not to burn. Add the pine nuts to the work bowl of a food processor. Grind the nuts as well as you can, then add the remaining ingredients for the pine nut spread. Process until well combined.
Toast the bread and process into breadcrumbs.
Preheat oven to 400º F.

Assembly:
Spread a little pine nut spread onto each noodle. You don’t need a lot, it’s very rich! Add eggplant strips, as well as any other filling.

Roll up each noodle and place in your baking dish(es) seam-side down. Cover generously with sauce.

Top with breadcrumbs and bake for 20-25 minutes. Since everything is already cooked, they just need to heat up and slightly brown. If you’re baking them in individual gratin dishes as shown here, place all the dishes on a baking sheet for easier removal from the oven. Serve immediately!

Source: VeganYumYum
(She has great step-by-step pictures to reference for this recipe if you need!)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Brownie Pops


 So, a few summers ago when Dave first got his job working active duty in the National Guard, we were invited to a family day they hold annually.  At this point, Dave had just gotten home from training for the job and only had met everyone the few times he had worked prior to this event.  Know what that means?  Good guess!  Yes, this was my first time meeting everyone and I volunteered to bake something to bring with us.  Talk about pressure for a good first impression!  Not only did I not want to bring something that no one would like, but I didn't want my shortcomings to reflect onto him!  Honestly, who wants to be known as "the girlfriend who brought the dry cupcakes" or the person who brings the fifth plate of brownies that no one touches?  Not me, that's for damn sure!  So, my quest began to find an out-of-this-world dessert that no one else would have brought and that would be sure to give the first impression I want!


And then, I discovered the "cake ball."  Okay, I don't mean I "discovered" it for the world, but I discovered it in MY world..and it has never been the same since.  Somehow I found myself on this website for someone who called themselves "Bakerella" (yeah, I know..she's AWESOME!) and I found myself hooked to her blog.  A ball of cake?  Hell yeah!  That sounded phenomenal and I couldn't wait to try them out to bring to the cookout.  This really solidified the beginning of my baking career and made me realize my love for creating things with my own two hands and seeing the delight it brings to other people.  They seemed easy enough and I had seen my mom baking enough in the kitchen to know how to decorate and present them nicely..even in 90 degree weather.  This recipe made about 45 cake balls and we lugged every single one of them with us and I'm not kidding you when I say that half of them were gone before we had even been there for an hour.  I was the reason everyone's children were off the walls with a sugar high, but it was okay, because the parents were too.  I couldn't believe how much everyone loved them, and now Dave says I'm not allowed to any of their events without them.  So I'd say I did a good job that day and made a great choice!  Since then, I have tried a variety of different flavor combinations for all different occasions which led me to think, "if you can do it with cake, why not with brownies?"  So, I did it with brownies!

 This was my first time making them as pops...usually I stick to just rolling them into balls.  But, I think the pops are totally cute and you can wrap them up nicely and they make the cutest little favors.  It just so happens that Michael's had awesome little heart candy decorations for Valentine's Day, so I thought they would be perfect for the brownie pops.  Talk about being wicked freakin' cute. Parting is such sweet sorrow..I could have looked at them for days. 

I really have Bakerella to thank for having her blog and inspiring me to bake something new to me that day.  It got me in the kitchen and I've spent most of my time there ever since.  Between cake balls and festive little cupcakes, those are the two best "go-to's" whenever I need to bring an impressive dessert somewhere.  The summer I made the cake balls and showed my best friend the website, I swear we spent the last month of summer just baking up all different combinations of flavors we could think of.  And now, a few years later, we still spend our days off baking and buying things for baking.  I know, I know, we're 20 not 70..but we have so much fun and yes, we even bought all these little Valentine's Day decorations together too.



Brownie Pops:
(You can use a brownie mix or make them home-made..this is a great homemade recipe)

Note: If you wait until toothpick inserted comes out clean, they’re overcooked. You want fudgy crumbs.
Ingredients
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • veg cooking spray
  • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
  • 4 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
  • 10 tablespoons (1 stick plus 2 tablespoons) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs

Directions:

  • Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  • Whisk flour, salt and baking powder in a small bowl; set aside. Spray an 8-inch baking pan with cooking spray. Fit a sheet of foil in pan and up two sides, so you can use it as a handle to pull cooked brownies from pan (I used parchment paper). Spray sheet with cooking spray.
  • Melt chocolates and butter in a medium bowl over a pan of simmering water. Remove from heat; whisk in sugar and vanilla. Whisk in eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating each one before adding the next. Continue to whisk until mixture is completely smooth and glossy. Add dry ingredients, whisk until just incorporated. Stir in nuts, if using.
  • Pour batter into prepared pan; bake until a toothpick or cake tester inserted in center comes out with wet crumbs, 35-45 minutes.
  • Cool brownies in pan on a wire rack for five minutes. Use handles to pull brownies from pan. Completely cool brownies on rack, at least three hours. 

Adapted from: My Baking Addiction
“The Perfect Recipe” by Pamela Anderson

Now, to make them into pops!

  • Once cooled, cut off the edges and start rolling into balls (you don't want them to get bigger than a golf ball)
  • Place on parchment paper on a cookie sheet and freeze after all are rolled (these will be really oily when rolling, but if they aren't staying together you can mix in some chocolate frosting to help)
  • These can be kept frozen if you make them in advance, which would need to be put into a plastic bag if being stored.
  • Once they are cool enough, pull them from freezer.  Let them thaw a little before dipping because if they are too cold they will make the chocolate coating crack.  You just want them cold enough so they won't break apart into the dipping chocolate.
  • If making into pops, take one end of your lollipop stick and dip into melted chocolate.  Insert that end into the ball and let set.  This will help it stay in the brownie (or cake) pop.
  • Coat completely with chocolate and tap off excess chocolate
  • Stick pops into a styrofoam block to harden...decorate however you please!

For a vegan version of the brownie, click here!


    Enjoy, thoroughly!!!

    Monday, January 24, 2011

    Cashew Ricotta Calzone

    So I frequently do this thing where I have a zillion and one recipes in mind that I plan to make and then take a big huge trip to the grocery store to get all the goodies I need.  Finally after crossing every last thing off my list, shlupping all the groceries into the house and putting it all away, I find that I rarely end up using the ingredients for the original reason I bought them.  Everything always get put to good use, but then my list of "things to make" keeps growing longer and longer!  I definitely suffer from short term memory loss when it comes to recipes because there are always so many bouncing around in my brain. 

    In my kitchen, I live by "waste not want not" because I really hate to throw anything out. I try my hardest to get everything used up before it goes bad, but sometimes you just can't plan for everything or predict any interferences.  Unfortunately, it always seems to be that poor eggplant that I had such great ideas for that just sits, and sits, and sits, and waits, and waits, and waits.  This time it was different though...it was that freakin' pizza dough.  It wasn't so much that anything got in the way of me making something with it, but more so that I completely forgot I had it.  Surprise, surprise!

    Once I saw the recipe for cashew ricotta in Veganomicon, I really, really wanted to try it out.  I wasn't quite sure what I wanted to do with it (because there are so many options), but once I found that dough I figured this would be a perfect opportunity to make it!  And to use up some of those vegetables I had stocked up on.  I'm so glad I found that dough because this was a deeeelish and filling dinner.  You can really put any vegetables in that you like; be your own Calzone Connoisseur!  I just sauteed up some stuff I had on hand for the filling; onions, garlic, mushrooms, zucchini, spinach, and broccoli and it really didn't take much time or effort at all.  But, the real all-star is definitely the cashew ricotta.  That's what this is really about!  If you've been wondering if you should make this let me be that one last push to get you to do it because it's definitely one, of the many, winning recipes from VCon.

    The inside. Yum!

    For the crust, I just used a whole wheat dough from Trader Joes and split it in half to make two calzones.  Preheat the oven to 350 and just spray some non-stick spray on a cookie sheet then flatten each half out.  You can spread the ricotta over the whole thing and put the veggies on one half or mix everything up then lay it on one half, whatever you prefer.  (I just happened to have already spread it out before it dawned on me to mix it together, but either way will work fine.)  Last but not least, fold the bare half over the top and pinch the sides shut.  ...Now, I know this probably isn't the most technical way to construct a calzone, but it gets the job done and I sure didn't have any complaints!  Once constructed, place it in the oven until it's golden brown (about 20 minutes) and let it cool for about 5-10 minutes before eating.  It even makes awesome left overs for work the next day.  I'd say we have a winner!


    Cashew Ricotta:
    • 1/2 cup raw cashew pieces (approximately 4 ounces)
    • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
    • 2 cloves fresh or roasted garlic
    • 1 pound firm tofu, drained and crumbled
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
    • 1 1/2  teaspoons salt
    Directions:
    • In a food processor, blend together the cashews, lemon juice, olive oil, and garlic until a thick creamy paste forms. 
    • Add the crumbled tofu to the food processor, working in two or more batches if necessary, until the mixture is thick and well blended. Blend in the basil and salt.
    Source: Veganomicon

    Sunday, January 23, 2011

    Buffalo Tempeh Wingz


    Buffalo chicken and french fries used to be a favorite of mine, especially during football season when my parents owned their restaurant.  Whenever I was dragged up there my first stop was straight to the kitchen to let the cook know I was there and that I was hungry.  But once I became a vegetarian, it became just me and the french fries, and I seriously missed those wings.  It wasn't even the chicken I missed, but I have always loved buffalo sauce and thought I had entered a world where I would miss its flavor forever.  Being a novice at this back then and not knowing how to make much else but PB&J or boiling a pot of water for pasta, I never imagined that I would find something to fill that void.  It's a favorite of Dave's also, but wherever we went it was always buffalo chicken pizza, buffalo chicken dip, buffalo chicken calzones...the two just go hand-in-hand and I was seriously sad that I was missing out!  But not any more!  These really are an great alternative for those who like the comfort of foods they used to enjoy but no longer can because of their lifestyle change.  You no longer need to feel like the odd man out stuck picking at the veggie platter during game time and can seriously impress your friends that yes, you're a vegetarian/vegan and yes, food is STILL awesome!  Double bonus, this recipe comes in time for the super bowl!  (That the Pats sadly will not be partaking in, but that's a whole other story...)  The outside crisps up nicely from the panko and you even have the satisfaction of them being finger licking good.  I didn't love the texture of the last buffalo tempeh I made, but this time with this recipe it was totally different and I'm glad I didn't give up on it!  If you're not sure about liking the texture of tempeh, I still recommend giving this a try, they are seriously good. 

    PS: I didn't have everything on hand to make a vegan blue cheese dressing, but I put a recipe to one I found online that sounded like it would make a good side for these "wingz." (The cookbook it comes from has a lot of great "uncheese" recipes) And if you're not convinced because tempeh just isn't your thing..don't fret!  I'll definitely be introducing buffalo tofu and buffalo seitan to my kitchen and will share with you soon!

    Tempeh Wingz
    • Bring 4 cups of water to boil over high heat. Meanwhile, remove tempeh from package. Slice into 8 strips. (If you are a first time tempheh eater and have texture issues, I recommend slicing into 10-12 strips) Once water is boiling, lower heat to medium high, add tempeh, and boil for 15 minutes. Drain and rinse with cool water.
    • Set out 3 bowls. In one, pour in soy milk. In the second, combine flour and seasonings. In third bowl, add panko crumbs. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
    • Place each strip in milk. Coat in flour mixture, then briefly re-dip into milk. Toss with panko crumbs, coating well. Set on slightly oiled baking sheet. Repeat with remaining tempeh strips. Once all are coated and on baking sheet, lightly spray all “wings” with cooking spray. Place into oven and bake for 10 minutes. Flip “wings” over and bake for an additional 10 minutes.
    • While they are baking, place wing sauce ingredients in a medium sized bowl. Cover with Saran wrap and heat in microwave on medium high setting for a minute and a half. Remove from heat and whisk ingredients together.
    • When wings are finished baking, toss with sauce. Serve immediately.

      Source: 28 Cooks


      Creamy Blue Cheez Dressing

      ½ cup sesame tahini
      ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
      1 ¼ teaspoons salt
      1 teaspoon crushed garlic or garlic powder
      1 teaspoon light miso
      ¼ teaspoon pepper (use white to prevent black flecks)
      ¼ cup lemon juice
      ¼ cup white vinegar
      1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes or 3 tablespoons fresh minced parsley

      In a medium bowl or food processor, beat together first 6 ingredients until creamy and smooth. Vigorously beat in lemon juice and vinegar until well combined. Stir in parsley or add a very small rinsed and drained bunch to the food processor and pulse a few times to mince and distribute. Keeps 10-14 days in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Stir well before serving.

      Source: The Blooming Platter, The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook


    Thursday, January 20, 2011

    Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cupcakes


     I know, I'm a little early, but I really, realllllly wanted to make these!  My family has always celebrated any and every mainstream holiday, which is now how I am.  Some people don't really consider Valentine's Day a "holiday," but I'll take any excuse to celebrate and let all my loved ones know how much they mean to me.  ...especially when it means I can make sweets and treats for the occasion!  I remember the excitement in picking out the perfect Valentine's cards and deciding on who was going to get which one.  And as an indecisive little girl, it took me forever to pick out the perfect cards (thank you  Mom for putting up with me all those times!).  I loved when we would make our own little heart envelopes for the Valentines to go in back in Elementary school.  Not to mention the excitement of getting a "secret admirer"...now that was a big deal back then.


     I saw the idea for these cupcakes while I was doing what I always do (browsing recipes online) and knew I had to make them (and obviously couldn't wait until Valentine's Day to do so).  I have had so many ideas fluttering in my head to bake up for the holiday, I didn't know how I would ever choose..so instead I just decided to get a head start and try to do as many of them as I can.  Honestly, what could be better than chocolate and strawberries?  Well, if you really want to know it's chocolate cake, topped with (pink) chocolate frosting, topped with chocolate covered strawberries...now THAT sounds good to me!  I think if you surprised your significant other with these, they would want to give you a big kiss, but would probably stuff their face with one of these first.  Which is fine, because that means you can finally dig into one too.  It takes some serious will power to finish making these and not devour them before giving them to your special recipient.  Or, if you're not really into the Valentine's thing, you could still use it as an excuse to bake some treats and be the favorite child/co-worker/friend ever.  The power of an adorable little cupcake really is amazing and unexplainable..it's only natural to love them!  (and if you don't...well, then you obviously haven't had one of these).  They're also ridiculously photogenic and I had a really hard time narrowing down which shots I wanted to use!  I even convinced myself to buy some conversation hearts even though I don't really like them taste wise, but I have to admit, they add a nice decorative touch.


    I just used Hershey's "Perfectly Chocolate" chocolate cake recipe for the cupcakes and they did come out perfectly chocolaty. 

    Ingredients

    • 2 cups sugar
    • 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
    • 3/4 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa
    • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
    • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 2 eggs
    • 1 cup milk
    • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
    • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    • 1 cup boiling water
    Directions:
    • Heat oven to 350°F. Line cups with cupcake liners.
    • Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin).
    • Fill cups 2/3 full with batter. Bake 22 to 25 minutes. Cool completely. Frost. About 30 cupcakes.
    Source: Hershey's Website

    For the frosting I followed a basic buttercream frosting recipe and just added 2 drops of red food coloring.  I would add a drop and mix step by step to get the color you prefer..a little goes a long way!

    Easy Vanilla Buttercream
     
    Ingredients:
    • 20 tbsp. (2 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
    • 2 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
    • 1/8 tsp. salt
    • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
    • 2 tbsp. heavy cream  
    Directions:
    In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat butter at medium-high speed until smooth, about 20 seconds.  Add confectioners’ sugar and salt; beat at medium-low speed until most of the sugar is moistened, about 45 seconds.  Scrape down the bowl and beat at medium speed until mixture is fully combined, about 15 seconds.  Scrape bowl, add vanilla and heavy cream, and beat at medium speed until incorporated, about 10 seconds.  Then increase the speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, scraping down bowl once or twice. 


    Source: Annie's Eats 
     

     ...I told you I couldn't pick which pictures to use!

    Source for idea: Erica'sSweetTooth 

    For a vegan version, this recipe comes from a great book "Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World."  For the frosting, just replace the cream with soy milk and the butter with a replacement like Earth Balance

    Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes 

    Tuesday, January 18, 2011

    Spinach Linguine with Edamame Pesto



    When I first decided to do the "unthinkable" and became a vegetarian at 13, I thought I was going to be stuck eating salad all day, everyday.  (Boy was I naive!)  Coming from a family that has always been big on eating a variety of meat, I was suddenly removing myself from that and had zero idea how I was going to sustain my growing "teenager" self.  Then there was my poor family who knew less about a meatless diet than I did and had no idea what to do with me or feed me. (But, 7 years later I am still healthy and going strong!)  Aside from having tried every type of veggie burger I could get my little hands on, pasta also became a huge staple for me back then.  It was easy enough for me to make for myself, and it didn't require a lot of  thought...and at that age that was perfect for me because my mind was occupied with many far more important things (boys, school, boys, friends, boys...you get the idea).  Until I began living on my own and experimenting in the kitchen, I had no idea how much you could really branch off from your basic "sketti" and sauce/butter.  I have learned through becoming a vegetarian that there really are so many other foods I had left out because it never occurred to me how many possibilities I really had.  And this was how I wound up making this delicious dish!  Years ago I would have never imagined a pesto made from edamame and a pasta made from spinach and it just goes to show you that the possibilities in a sans-meat diet really are infinite!  This whole lifestyle change has definitely opened up my eyes to the flavors of so many great fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, nuts, etc. and the uber delicious things you can make with them. (On the other hand, if we were talking about a life without dessert then I would be singing a completely different tune!)  For vegetarians and vegans this dish would also be great with balsamic glazed tofu or with a nice big grilled portabello on top, and for omnis this would be great with some grilled chicken..so you see, you can please both sides with this great recipe!  It's the perfect way to switch up that pasta dish and try something new!

    The edamame pesto is a great addition to anything you would normally use pesto with.  It's not super oily like traditional pestos because this came from a low-fat vegan cookbook...but if you're not concerned with counting calories, add in some extra EVOO (if you're not a Rachael Ray fan, that stands for extra virgin olive oil) to give make its texture a little more like regularly made pestos.  This little soybean can do just about anything!

    Edamame Pesto: 

    • 2 cloves garlic, chopped 

    • 1 cup packed basil leaves

    • Handful (1/4 cup or so) fresh cilantro

    • 14 oz package shelled edamame, thawed

    • 1/2 cup vegetable broth

    • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

    • 1 teaspoon olive oil

    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • optional: 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
      
    For the Pasta: 

    • Cooking spray 
    • 10 oz spinach linguine or other pasta

    • 1 teaspoon olive oil

    • Small red onion, in thinly sliced half moons

    • 1/2 lb cremini mushrooms, sliced

    • 2 cloves garlic, minced

    • 1 teaspoon dried thyme

    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • Extra basil for garnish 

    Put on a pot of salted water to boil. Then prepare the pesto:

    Place garlic and basil in food processor and pulse a few times to get it chopped up. Add the remaining ingredients and blend until relatively smooth, scraping down the sides with a spatula to make sure you get everything. Add a little more vegetable broth if it seems too stiff. Set aside until ready to use.

    Preheat a large pan over medium heat. At this point your pasta water should be ready, so add the linguine
    .
    Saute onion in oil for about 5 minutes. Use a little cooking spray as needed, or a splash of water if you prefer.

    Mix in mushrooms, garlic, thyme and salt. Cover pot and cook 5 more minutes, stirring occasionally.
    The pasta should be ready now, so drain it.

    When the mushrooms have cooked down, add pasta to the pan, along with the pesto. Use a pasta spoon to stir and coat the linguine. Get everything good and mixed and the pesto heated through, about 3 minutes. The pesto should be relatively thick, but if it’s too thick (not spreading out and coating the pasta) add a few tablespoons of water. Taste for salt.

    Serve immediately, garnished with a little fresh chopped basil.

    Adapted from Appetite for Reduction and www.theppk.com

    PS: That sure is ONE big basil leaf taking over the picture, huh!

    Sunday, January 16, 2011

    Vegan Blueberry Ginger Muffins


     Throughout the week I find myself standing in front of the fridge thinking "Okay, what can I make/eat in less than 5 minutes that's NOT cereal?"  (as I'm attempting to leave for work on time...attempting)   And my options usually end up being...cereal.  I typically don't find myself very hungry in the morning, but I make myself eat a small bowl with a piece of fruit and that's usually that.  Can't skimp, I do need my fuel for the day!  (And so do you!)  My "go to's" are Kashi Heart to Heart Blueberry Clusters or Go Lean Toasted Berry Crumble with some fresh sliced strawberries and blueberries mixed in.  So, since I had some blueberries on hand I decided to switch it up a bit.

    Skipping breakfast throws me off completely, so I always eat something even if it means I am forcing myself.  Without some sustenance I'm completely off kilter for the rest of the day and I feel like I'm poor Alexander who had that no good, very bad day (one of my old favorite stories!).  And then, it only gets worse.  Somewhere throughout the day, I turn into a ravenous, impatient beast looking for the quickest thing I can cook once I get home from work.   And really, that's no good because I love to cook!  So, I try to not let myself slip into that pattern because it's not a very nice, or pretty, one. (I gave you a fair warning!)  Who honestly would have thought breakfast could have such a significant impact?  Well, I got to thinking and realized I hadn't made muffins in a while, and what could be better, easier, and more delish than a nice blueberry muffin for breakfast?  (...Okay, maybe a slice of cake would be more delicious, but I'm trying to be healthy here people!)  I got this recipe from my new cookbook (Vegan Brunch) and it's great!  My kitchen filled up with the delicious smell of blueberries, cinnamon, and ginger baking away in my oven...so you can imagine my delight once these were done.  

    There is a great balance of spice and blueberry flavor...a perfect and healthy way to start your day!  I improvised and threw 2 handfuls of chopped pecans into the batter and topped them with some extras, which was a really great addition to the flavor and gave some crunch to them.  I also didn't have spelt flour on hand, so I just used whole wheat flour and still had a great result.  If you're looking to cut down on the amount of oil used, just sub in some applesauce.  That will keep your muffins moist and cut down on some of the fat you may be looking to omit. Next time I'll be sure to add some oats and ground flax seed for some extra nutty flavor (which is also a great source for fiber and essential fatty acids (Omega-3's)).  And if you wanted a little variety you could easily add any assortment of berries, too (fresh or frozen).  The nice thing is that you can be pretty flexible to make these your ultimate on-the-go, yummy in your tummy, great start to your day muffins.  And remember, eat your breakfast!  No one likes turning into (or dealing with) a mid-morning zombie because their brains aren't fueled and their bellies are quaking.  So eat and be happy...simple enough, right?


    Ingredients:
    • 2 1/2 cups spelt flour
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • 1 tablespoon baking powder
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 2 tsp ground ginger
    • 1/4 tsp ground allspice
    • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon (I upped it to 1 tbsp..I love cinnamon)
    • 1/2 cup vanilla soy yogurt (a 6 oz container)
    • 1 cup almond milk (or your favorite non-dairy milk)
    • 1/3 cup canola oil (or you can use apple sauce here)
    • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
    • 1/2 cup finely chopped crystalized ginger
    • 1 1/4 cups blueberries
    Directions: 

    Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Lightly grease a muffin tin.  

    In la large mixing bowl, stire together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and spices.  Make a well in the center and add the yogurt, milk, canola oil, and vanilla.  Stir to combine.  Fold in the ginger and the blueberries.


    Scoop the batter into the muffin tin; it should almost fill the entire tin.  Bake for 28 to 32 minutes (mine were done after 25), or until a toothpick or butter knife inserted through the center of the muffin comes out clean.  Let cool for a few minutes in the tin before transferring the muffins to a cooling rack to cool completely.

    Adapted from Vegan Brunch

    Thursday, January 13, 2011

    Vegan Pecan Crusted French Toast


     Go make this.  Like, right now.  You will thank me later.  Not a breakfast for dinner kind of person?  Then just be sure to make it sometime soon because this was all kinds of delicious.  Whenever I try a new recipe, I try not to get my hopes up too high in case it doesn't come out how I expected, but these exceeded my expectation by a long shot.  I love french toast but have never mastered getting the outside to be crisp enough while the inside stays fluffy and flavorful.  Usually the bread toasts unevenly, something is a little too soggy, or the middle gets burnt..not the case with these at all!  All morning I told myself I was going to get to the gym, but instead I decided to clean up a bit, worked up an appetite and wound up with these..delicious!  I'm not much of a breakfast person, but for some reason today after I glanced at this recipe again, I decided I wanted to try it out.  The way the pecans browned up on the outside added a great crunch and I highly recommend using syrup with these.  But use real syrup, not that chemically modified fake stuff (eww!).  I get mine from Trader Joe's and it's not overly expensive like you may find in some grocery stores...plus it's totally worth it!  I even mowed down almost all three pieces.  I know...that's a lot of french toast, but don't say I didn't warn you that it's really, really good!  I made three only because I figured it would be more visually appealing for the picture..but then I had a case of "just one more bite" and had to force myself to give the last half to Tucker (my dog) or else I may have exploded and wouldn't have been able to share this recipe with you!   So you see, I do have some willpower...but just not much. :)

    Ingredients
    • 1 1/2 cups soy or rice milk
    • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
    • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
    • 6 tablespoons chickpea flour or brown rice flour
    • 1 cup finely chopped pecans
    • 2 tablespoons refined coconut oil, or more as needed for cooking
    • 6 to 8 slices vegan whole-wheat or whole-wheat raisin bread
    • Maple syrup, for serving
    Preparation
    In a medium bowl, whisk together the soy or rice milk, cornstarch, and cinnamon. Whisk in the chickpea or brown rice flour. Transfer the mixture to a shallow bowl. Place the pecans in another shallow bowl.

    In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the coconut oil. One slice at a time, dip the bread in the milk mixture, turning to soak both sides. Dip one side in the pecans, pressing to coat. (Yeah, it’s a little challenging to make ‘em stick in there. Quit whining. You’re about to have french toast!) Arrange the bread in the skillet (you might have to do more than one batch), pecan side down. Cook 2 to 3 minutes, until the pecans are well browned. Carefully turn the bread and continue cooking until the second side is browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Serve immediately with maple syrup.


    Notes
    I used almond milk for mine and I didn't have chickpea or rice flour, so I just subbed in whole wheat flour so don't panic if you don't have the right flour they call for on hand!

    Adapted from: Skinny Bitch in the Kitch 

    Tucker also worked up an appetite when we played out in all the snow we got yesterday!


    I couldn't leave Cash out, although he didn't have any french toast with Tucker and me.


    Wednesday, January 12, 2011

    Vegan Chocolate Peanut Butter Pillow Cookies


    I mentioned before that the winter makes me crave minty goodies, but what I didn't mention is that no matter what time of the year it is, I will gladly accept anything consisting of chocolate and peanut butter.  It has to be my all time favorite combination of flavors and I couldn't stop myself from going back for another, and another, and another one of these cookies.  (Okay and maybe another, and another, and another...) It goes to show you that just because something is vegan doesn't mean it has to taste like cardboard! (But maybe for cardboard's sake if it tasted as good as these cookies do, it would have a whole new reputation.)  Dave even loved them...and I have to say I love telling him things are vegan after he admits to enjoying them. I'm cruel, I know. :)

    Right when I saw the recipe for these I knew I had to make them.  Not tomorrow, not the next day, but right that instant.  So I did, and I am so glad that I did.  My jeans may not be so happy with me, but my tummy and my sweet tooth were really happy.  2 out of the 3 ain't so bad!  They do take a little time to put together but believe me when I tell you that they are so unbelievably worth it.  A tall glass of vanilla almond milk greatly compliments these like no other...so I'll be sure to have both on hand at all times.  Well, maybe not all times because then I would indefinitely turn into one of these cookies, but they will be revisiting my kitchen very, very soon.  And if you like your friends a whole lot, you can share their deliciousness with them (because the recipe does make two dozen)...but I was selfish this time and had a hard time even letting Dave get to them.  Make sure you don't tell them they are vegan until after they are at your feet begging for the recipe and praising you for your skills in the kitchen.  

    When I made these I split the amount of peanut butter in half and subbed almond butter for the rest and the outcome was nothing less than extraordinary.  After diving right in to make these I realized I used the last of my confectioner's sugar on the mint brownies, so I just threw some cane sugar into the food processor with 2 tablespoons of corn starch and voila, problem solved!  A helpful hint just in case you ever run into the same problem and don't feel like heading out to the grocery store (which was the problem that plagued me).  I am also infamous for having extra of one component of a recipe and not enough of the other, but I am happy to say that in this case there was only one lonely peanut butter ball that did not get wrapped up in chocolately cookie goodness, but it found a happy home in my belly.  So, don't fret if the same happens to you...just eat the extras up and I hope you enjoy them as much as I did!


    Peanut Butter Chocolate Pillows
    makes 2 dozen cookies

    Chocolate Dough:
    • 1/2 cup canola oil
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
    • 3 tablespoons non-dairy milk
    • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1/3 cup unsweetened dutch processed cocoa powder
    • 2 tablespoons black unsweetened cocoa or more dutch processed unsweetened cocoa powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt 

    Filling:
    • 3/4 cup natural salted peanut butter, crunchy or creamy style
    • 2/3 cup confectioner’s sugar
    • 2 to 3 tablespoons soy creamer or non-dairy milk
    • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
    In a large mixing bowl combine oil, sugar, maple syrup, non-dairy milk and vanilla extract and mix until smooth. Sift in flour, cocoa powder, black cocoa if using, baking soda and salt. Mix to form a moist dough.

    Make the filling. In another mixing bowl beat together peanut butter, confectioner’s sugar, 2 tablespoons of soy creamer and vanilla extract to form a moist but firm dough. If peanut butter dough is too dry (as different natural peanut butters have different moisture content), stir in remaining tablespoon of non-dairy milk. If dough is too wet knead in a little extra powdered sugar.

    Preheat oven to 350°F. Line bakings sheet with parchment paper.

    Shape the cookies. Create the centers of the cookies by rolling the peanut butter dough into 24 balls. Scoop a generous tablespoon of chocolate dough, flatten into a disc and place a peanut butter ball in the center. Fold the sides of the chocolate dough up and around the peanut butter center and roll the chocolate ball into an smooth ball between your palms. Place on a sheet of waxed paper and repeat with remaining doughs. If desired gently flatten cookies a little, but this is not necessary.

    Place dough balls on lined baking sheets about 2 inches apart and bake for 10 minutes. Remove sheet from oven and let cookies for 5 minutes before moving to a wire rack to complete cooling. Store cookies in tightly covered container. If desired warm cookies in a microwave for 10 to 12 seconds before serving.

    Adapted from "Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar"



    Monday, January 10, 2011

    Mint Chocolate Brownies


    I don't know what it is about the winter, but it makes me instantly crave mint-chocolate flavored and/or scented goodies.  West Soy's chocolate peppermint stick soy milk is always is my cabinets after Thanksgiving and stays there until I drink the whole supply dry (which usually doesn't take long).  Whether it's mint tea, soy peppermint mocha lattes, minty soap, mint chapstick, mint lotion...I have it and I love it, especially during this time of the year.  I decided to make these brownies for Dave and his co-workers because those army men have big appetites!  I took a little tip from my mom when making these and doubled the brownie recipe.  It's something she has always done, even with boxed recipes, and her brownies were always the best of the best.  The biggest, the richest, the fudgiest, chewiest, and most delicious brownies of the bunch hands down.  So, I followed her footsteps and did the same and I swear each brownie weighed about a pound each.  These definitely need a glass of (soy) milk on stand by!  I doubled the recipe for the mint glaze since I baked my brownies in a 9x13 pan (like I said, those guys have big appetites!), but next time I think I'll have to do it quadruple it so there is a thicker layer.  This recipe calls for a 9x9 pan, but I doubled it to make some big ole' brownies in my 9x13, so you can make enough for you and a friend or two, or to feed an army...take your pick!  Just be sure to enjoy!


    Mint Chocolate Brownies
    Adapted from My Baking Addiction, adapted from The Joy of Baking
    Brownie Layer:
    • 1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
    • 4 ounces (114 grams) unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
    • 1 1/4 cups (250 grams) granulated white sugar
    • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    • 2 large eggs
    • 1/2 cup (70 grams) all purpose flour
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    Mint Layer:
    • 2 tablespoons(28 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
    • 1 cup (115 grams) confectioners (powdered or icing) sugar, sifted
    • 1 – 1 1/2 tablespoons heavy cream
    • 1/2 teaspoon pure peppermint extract or 1-2 tablespoons crème de menthe
    • green food coloring (optional)

    Chocolate Glaze:
    • 3 ounces (90 grams) semisweet chocolate, chopped
    • 1 tablespoon (14 grams) unsalted butter

    Garnish:
    • chopped Andes Mints (optional)
    Directions:
    Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (160 degrees C) and place the rack in the center of the oven. Have ready a 9 x 9 inch (23 x 23 cm) square baking pan that has been lined with aluminum foil across the bottom and up two opposite sides of the pan. Set aside.

    Brownies:
    In a stainless steel (heatproof) bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water, melt the butter and chocolate. Remove from heat and stir in the sugar and vanilla extract. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well (with a wooden spoon) after each addition. Stir in the flour and salt and beat, with a wooden spoon, until the batter is smooth and glossy and comes away from the sides of the pan (about one minute). Pour the brownie batter evenly into the prepared pan.

    Bake in the preheated oven for about 25 minutes or until the brownies start to pull away from the sides of the pan and the edges of the brownies are just beginning to brown. A toothpick inserted in the center of the brownies will come out almost clean. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to completely cool.

    Mint Layer:
    In the bowl of your electric mixer or with a hand mixer, beat all the ingredients until smooth. Add a few drops of green food coloring if you want the frosting green. If the frosting is too thick, add a little extra cream. (The frosting should be just thin enough to spread.) Spread the frosting evenly over the cooled brownie layer. Place in the refrigerator for about 5-10 minutes or until firm.

    Chocolate Glaze:
    In a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, melt the chocolate and butter. Spread over the mint filling and refrigerate for about 30 minutes or until the chocolate glaze starts to dull.

    To Serve:
    Remove the brownies from the pan by lifting with the ends of the foil and transfer to a cutting board. With a sharp knife, cut into 30 squares. It is a good idea to wipe your knife between cuts with a damp cloth. These brownies can be stored in the refrigerator for several days or else frozen.

    Makes about 30 1-inch (2.5 cm) squares.