My New Favorite Tea

I am not a coffee drinker. Once upon a time you could convince me to enjoy an iced mocha, but not anymore. Tea is my warm beverage of choice nowadays. My favorite brands include Mighty Leaf, Stash, Traditional Medicinals, Numi, and whatever my co-op carries in their bulk section. Recently I was rummaging through the shelves at the local Marshall’s and made a new tea discovery! I was excited not only for a bargain, but a tea that was both organic and fair trade. That’s a match made for Amy. Did I mention it was a chai variety? Clipper Indian Chai Tea:

indian chai 01December Photo Project 2012: Day #15

Oh my, this tea is special. Hints of cinnamon, lemon, cloves, and fennel will warm your lil’ soul. I love mine with a bit of vanilla almond milk and a touch of agave nectar.

What’s your favorite warming beverage?


A Few Things I Love

Work was busy today. Holiday orders, lots of customers, and folding a million hoodies kept me on my toes. The weather switched between rain and sunshine. I sampled a co-worker’s homemade cheddar from Artisan Vegan Cheese. Overall, it was a productive, fulfilling day. Here are some photographs of my favorite places inside Herbivore:

Herbivore 01December Photo Project 2012: Day #14

I love looking out the doors any time of day. I took this photograph when it was sunny and raining at the same time. You can’t see the rain, but it was the start of a crazy downpour. Just outside the doors is a huge street space dedicated to bike parking! The dude mannequin on the right side of the frame is my favorite. I get to undress him and fancy him up in new duds once a week. He doesn’t even get embarrassed!

Herbivore 02

A portion of the bookshelves that hold a massive quantity of vegan literature, cookbooks, journals, calendars, and more. This is my favorite spot in the whole store. I am forever tidying crooked books and restocking the shelves. New books bring me great joy.

That’s all for today. My heart goes out to all the folks affected by the incident in Connecticut.



Double Chocolate Balsamic Cookies: A Recipe

Do you want to know the sign of a bad sweet tooth? It’s when you already have a fresh batch of cupcakes in the kitchen and you decide to make cookies too. An even greater indication is when your pantry isn’t properly stocked and you desperately improvise to make baking the cookies possible. That happened to me today. I woke up feeling a bit under the weather and still found the energy to bake. I guess cookies are the true best medicine? Yes, I think that’s what researchers are saying nowadays…

Onto those cookies! My pantry really was lacking in the ingredient department. I had plenty of sugar (of course), but hardly any flour, cocoa powder, or vanilla. Originally I wanted to make ginger cookies, but without ginger, that doesn’t work very well. So, chocolate cookies seemed fitting for my needs. These particular cookies use an unusual ingredient: balsamic vinegar (which, incidentally, I spilled all over the floor). I was hoping it would provide richness and a bit of ooomph, but I can’t really notice it in the baked cookies. Maybe more sophisticated palettes will detect it?

Double Chocolate Balsamic Cookies 02December Photo Project 2012: Day #13

A quick note about these cookies: they are sweet. I consider these a great indulgence. You can reduce the granulated sugar by a 1/4 cup if you prefer, but I like how they turned out. They would be lovely with your favorite vanilla ice cream! Also, this recipe would most likely work with all-purpose flour, all whole wheat pastry flour, or a combination of both. I was using up the last of a few different varieties of flour.

Double Chocolate Balsamic Cookies

Makes about 1 dozen cookies

1/3 cup canola oil
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground flax seeds mixed with 2 tablespoons warm water
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup oat flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup chocolate chips (please use organic/Fair Trade, here’s why)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar for sprinkling on top, optional

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. In a bowl, vigorously whisk together oil and first two measures of sugar. Add in balsamic vinegar, vanilla, and flax mixture. Whisk until ingredients are well combined and smooth.

3. In a separate bowl, stir together flours, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Add to wet ingredients and mix well. Stir in chocolate chips.

4. Drop spoonfuls of dough (about 1 1/2 tablespoons per cookie) onto a baking sheet. You can use a cookie scoop if you prefer – I like them because they make uniform, round, pretty cookies. People will be amazed at their beauty!

5. Put the last measure of sugar onto a plate. Take a ball of dough, gently press the top into the sugar mixture, and place it back on the cookie sheet. Make sure the cookies are flattened slightly. They will spread while baking, but the extra little push at the beginning helps.

6. Bake for 9-11 minutes or until cookies have flattened and cracked across the tops. Allow to cool on the baking sheet for several minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.



Artisan Vegan Cheese: Smoky Air-Dried Gouda

I don’t know if you are familiar with the hugely popular book, Artisan Vegan Cheese by Miyoko Schinner, but you should be! The recipes are out of this world. I have only made two so far and they were happily devoured in record time. I know that there is a great variety of vegan cheeses on the market, but there is something so satisfying about making your own cheese at home.

The first recipe I tried was Philadelphia-Style Cream Cheese. I wrote a post about it in October. I am not a fan of Tofutti and Miyoko’s recipe was a dream come true. It is tangy, creamy, and smooth. Dozens of bagels were made in celebration.

Herby Cream Cheese 02

Earlier this week, I made the Air-Dried Gouda recipe. The only change I made was adding about a 1/2 teaspoon of liquid smoke. The outcome was unbelievable! It is the most delicious tasting cheese!! I must admit that I lost patience with the air-drying method (partially due to living in the Pacific Northwest = damp apartments = not ideal for air-drying homemade cheeses) and put it in the fridge after three days. It still slices, shreds, and spreads even though it isn’t super firm. Tim and I made mac-n-cheese, pizza, and a vegetable casserole with some of the gouda. We also enjoyed a good portion of it spread on crusty bread:

Smoky Gouda 02December Photo Project 2012: Day #12

Sadly, it is now gone (= time to make more!). I highly recommend this book. If you don’t have a copy, get one and start experimenting!! The two cheese recipes I made could fool an omnivore. They are that good. I will post more about this book as I make more of the recipes!


Vanilla-Spiked Apple Butter: A Recipe

I completely missed the official peak of apple season. But, living in the lovely Pacific Northwest means local apples are plentiful even into December. There are a million varieties and it’s hard to keep up with them!!

Apple Butter 03

Rain and cold temperatures meant an opportunity to cook up a big batch of Vanilla-Spiked Apple Butter. Most of the jars will disappear into the hands of others as gifts, but a few will make residence in my pantry. If you are looking for a lightly sweetened, spiced, and vanilla-spiked apple butter, you are in luck! This recipe calls for a water-bath canner, but you can always refrigerate/freeze your jars if you don’t have a canner. Be prepared to spend some time with this recipe, but know that your commitment is worth every second. Promise.

Vanilla-Spiked Apple Butter

Makes about 9 half-pint jars

12 -14 apples (I used a combination of Granny Smith and Fuji apples, use your favorites)
2 cups apple cider or apple juice
Juice from 1 lemon
1 1/2 – 2 cups dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract

1. Start by putting a large pot on your stovetop. You will be filling it with apples shortly. If you are using a water-bath canner, wash your jars in hot soapy water and rinse well. Put the jars on a baking sheet and place it in your oven at 150 degrees F (this keeps them warm and sterilized). Wash jar lids and bands as well. Place them in a small saucepan and cover with water. Bring the water just to a simmer then turn off the heat, cover, and set aside until ready to use.

2. Next, wash all of your apples very well. You can peel them if you want to (I peeled half of mine). Core the apples and slice them into wedges. Transfer all of the apples to your big pot.

Apple Butter 01

3. Add the apple cider and lemon juice to the pot. Cover the pot. Turn the heat on medium-high and bring the liquid to a boil. Once boiling, lower the heat slightly, keep covered, and stir every so often until apples are soft.

4. Transfer the contents of the pot (liquid included) to a blender. You will need to do this in batches. BE CAREFUL – THE MIXTURE WILL BE HOT!! Puree until very, very smooth. A high speed blender works best, but if you have a regular blender, just be patient. Transfer the pureed mixture back to the pot and add all remaining ingredients, except the vanilla extract. Stir to distribute. When adding the sugar, start with at least 1 1/2 cups, and then taste to see if you want the apple butter to be sweeter.

Apple Butter 02

5. Bring the mixture to a low boil and cook, uncovered, for about 45 minutes. The mixture will thicken and darken. Make sure to stir frequently and lower the heat if it splatters too much.

6. While the apple mixture is cooking, get your water-bath canner ready. Fill it with water and set it to a boil. This can take a long time if you have a crappy electric stove like me. Try to time this so the water will be boiling when your apple mixture has finished cooking. Once the apple mixture has finished cooking, stir in the vanilla.

7. Prepare your workspace. You will need: a magnetic wand for the jar bands and lids, jar tongs, a jar funnel, a ladle, a few potholders, a clean towel, and a cooling rack. You can actually purchase nifty little canning sets like this one, so you have everything you need (aside from the canner itself)!

8. Now it’s time to fill your jars!!! Remove your jars from the oven and place the baking sheet on a thick towel. Place the pot with the apple butter on a potholder next to where you will fill the jars. Now, put the jar funnel over a jar and ladle in some apple butter! Leave a 1/2″ headspace in the jar. Wipe the rim with a clean, damp dishtowel to remove any apple butter residue. Using your snazzy magnetic wand, put a lid and a band on each jar after you fill it. Screw until snug, but not too tight! Repeat with remaining jars and apple butter.

9. Once you have filled all of your jars, place them on the rack inside your canner using the jar tongs (please take care when doing this step!). This might require two batches. My canner holds seven jars at a time. Put the lid on your canner and bring the water back to a boil. Once at a rapid boil, set your timer for 10 minutes. When 10 minutes have passed, use your jar tongs to remove the jars from your canner. Set them on a cooling rack and repeat with any remaining unprocessed jars.

10. Now… you wait for the PING! The ping is the sound that occurs when the vacuum seal on the jar seals. It is the best sound in the world to a canner!! Pop! When this happens, you know your jar sealed properly. It can take time, so be patient. Wait 24 hours and then tap the top of each jar lightly. You will know it sealed if the center doesn’t bounce back. Put any unsealed jars in the fridge or freezer. Properly sealed jars will keep in your pantry for about a year. They might last longer, but my batches disappear too quickly!

Apple Butter 04December Photo Project 2012: Day #11


***Please note that manufacturer instructions for different brands of jars, canners, and equipment can vary. Please read through all your own instructions to ensure proper canning. The method I use is pretty standard, but just to be sure! If you are new to water-bath canning, do some research first. This website is helpful.***

***Also, if you don’t have a canner, you can cook the mixture and transfer it to jars as instructed. When you have filled all the jars, let them cool, and then store them in the fridge or freezer.***