Mattoni's Cooking Blog

A veg*n cooking blog with photos, recipes, hints, secrets, and street cred. Get with it, sucka.

April 30, 2006

"French" Toast with the Most

It's amazing I haven't posted something in this category yet -- one of the most important things in American gastronomy. It's the first question I ask myself every day, before I ask myself if I really want to get out of bed in the first place. What's for breakfast?

Saturday, breakfast was French toast.
"But French toast has eggs!" you spout.
"Well, this kind doesn't," I retort, sly as a fox.
It's not your momma's French toast (guitar riff wails in background).

Using a batter of mainly soy milk and rice flour, you can create seemingly lifelike "French" toast in the comfort of your own home. The batter is thick enough to make a good crust, and allow for some other ingredients to be stuck on, like coconut (which I used but totally forgot to include in the ingredients photograph). That said, let's get to work.

A few slices of your favorite (sturdy) bread
1 cup soy milk
1 1/2 cups shredded coconut
1/3 cup rice flour
2 tablespoons flaxseed meal
1 tablespoon brown sugar
3 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
Some vegan margarine (to grease a skillet)
Some good fruits for garnish (I'm using kiwi and strawberry, which go well with the coconut)

Mix the soy milk, rice flour, flaxseed meal, cinnamon, and nutmeg together and let it sit for at least 10 minutes. You might even want to zap it for 20-25 seconds in the microwave so it will mix easier.

Get your bread ready.

Spread the shredded coconut out on a plate, wide enough to dredge the bread in.

Once your batter has settled, give it a few stirs and put a piece of bread in. I'm using sunflower spelt bread I made the other day.

Flip the bread over with a fork and let the other side have a chance to soak up some batter.

Take the coated slice of bread out of the bater and dredge it in the coconut. You can sprinkle some extra coconut onto the bare areas if there are any. It's up to you how much coconut you want on it.

Heat up a skillet and grease it with a little vegan margarine.

Put the battered and coconutted bread on the skillet and start it cooking.

You want the coconut to develop a good brown color on both sides and give the batter a chance to cook. If it's turning black, it's been on too long.

Now cut your fruits up.

This "French" toast is good with agave nectar or maple syrup drizzled on. Some marmalade on the side wouldn't be a bad idea, either.

Soy flour or two eggs worth of egg replacer will work in substitution for the rice flour. Cinnamon raisin or date nut bread would work well, as long as the bread is a day or two old and won't get all mushy in the batter. Instead of coconut, you could use finely chopped nuts, although this is agreeably a more substantial way to make them.

April 21, 2006

Cardamom Pear Cookies

When I made these, I had a potluck at work to go to the next day, to which most people brought leftovers from their church potluck. Mind you, the next day was Friday. Who knows how old that food was. Anyway, it was chock full of cheese and mayo, so I kept to my cookies.

Pear goes good with cardamom. If you're bringing some to your elderly grandmother, you might want to try adding a bit of lavender, too.

1 3/4 cups flour
3/4 cups brown sugar
2 pears (ripe)
3 tablespoons flaxseed meal
1 banana (ripe)
3 tablespoons vegan margarine
2 teaspoons cardamom
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Mix flour, sugar, cardamom, and salt in a medium size bowl.

Now get your flaxseed meal ready by mixing it in a little bowl or mug with 5 tablespoons of water. Let it set, soaking for 10 minutes or so.

Mush the banana and the margarine into the flour with a pastry cutter (or a potato masher, like I'm using).

Mix everything together until crumbly.

Peel, core, and dice the pears.

By now, the flaxseed meal shoudl be done. Add the pears, flaxseed meal, and vanilla.

Mix it all very well. Don't be afraid to use your hands (wash them first).

Drop spoonfuls of the dough onto greased cookie trays, placing them 1 to 2 inches apart. They won't spread out that much during baking, but you don't want to risk getting one large mass of cookie, instead of the small ones you intended on baking, portable as well as delicious.

Bake the cookies for 25-30 minutes at 350. When they come out, take them off the trays and set them out to cool.

The first time I made cookies like these, they came out all doughy and chewing them was a real task. I'm not about to fiddle with cookie recipes anymore, just so that doesn't happen. You could sustitute 2 cups cranberries, raisins, or apples for the pears, but not just any fruit works with cardamom. Make sure you do a little research first before you wind up with 24 cute little dough bombs.

April 20, 2006

Spicy Hot Chocolate

This is one of my favorite hot chocolate recipes. I usually make some before doing some late night work. Then, I usually end up not doing any work because I want to make more. I guess hot chocolate that makes you not want to get anything done is not the greatest selling point, but hot chocolate that takes precedent over getting stuff done might be.

1 1/2 tablespoons cocoa (or carob) powder
1/2 cup soy or rice milk
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon agave nectar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
The tiniest pinch of red pepper flakes

Boil some water and mix all the ingredients in your favorite mug. Once the water boils, fill the mug up to the top and mix it all with a spoon. You know how to make hot shocolate, why am I even explaining this?

Have you ever seen the different kinds of chocolate they have these days? Lavender, orange, raspberry, and so on. You can substitute any flavor you like for the red pepper flakes. Even some "sweeter" spices like cardamom, nutmeg, and ginger would taste good. Don't overdo it though, you want a drink, not a mug o' sludge

April 11, 2006

Roasted Root Fries

I like potato chips and french fries just as much as the next joe. Actually, no, that's a lie. I don't really like potato chips, and I especially dislike french fries, because they're all greasy and covered in salt. And Joe is probably an overweight geek with halitosis who clips his toenails in the living room, which leads me to spurn his diet even more.

However, spuds aren't hard to come by nor are their cousins -- other assorted roots like rutabega, jicama, parsnip, yams, etc. It would be a shame if the only way you could eat these things was boiled or mashed. Luckily, a little imagination goes a long way. With some clever spicing, you can make root veggies into fries, chips, "hashbrowns"...go crazy.

A variety of root vegetables
Olive oil (1 tablespoon for every pound of roots)
Paprika (1 tablespoon for every pound of roots)
A good knife (for fries) and a grater (if you want to make chips)

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Wash and peel all the roots. When using potatoes, leave some of the skin on for texture. I basically just trim off the questionable bumps and leave the rest in tact. Jicama (large, tan, rutabega-y looking) can be tricky. The skin is tougher than most other roots. You will have to use a knife to get a bit off -- then use your hands so you don't cut yourself. Parsnips just need their ends trimmed.

Cut the roots up into fries and discs and use the grater to make chips.

Note: chips take longer to make because you have to grate everything. They are also more liable to fall apart before baking if you slice them too thin.

Put all the cut roots in a big bowl, drizzle on the olive oil, and add the paprika.

Shake everything together until all the roots develop a light orange color from the paprika.

Spread everything onto a stone or a baking dish, making sure to even the roots out. If you have large piles, the roots will cook unevenly and risk getting soft or burning.

Bake the fries and chips for a good 40 minutes. You may have to cook them longer, depending on how crispy you like your roots. These are great served with salsa or chutney.

There are many roots out there, give them all a chance. Potatoes are the standard but parsnips (used in this recipe) develop a sweet flavor when roasted. Jicama (also used) is a little crunchier than other roots. Rutabega and turnips can develop interesting flavors, too.
For a spicier recipe, mix in some chili powder with the paprika. For a tangier recipe, shake some malt vinegar on after roasting.

Mango Chutney

Chutney, originally, was made to be eaten fresh and not kept lying around a refrigerator or jam cellar. It's traditionally a combination of sweet and spicy ingredients. Many of the chutneys sold at the supermarket contain preservatives and ingredients most people wouldn't find in their own home, not to mention they are expensive. That rubs me the wrong way. It really chokes my goat.

I never really thought about making chutney until I had some last week at an English pub in Grand Rapids. They had a mango chutney there with little red things in it. I assumed these were sweet red pepper, and so that's what I'm using in this recipe. The chutney at G.C. was served with three or four large fried corn tortillas. Regular tortilla chips will work in a pinch -- or even better -- toasted seed bread.

1 mango (semi-ripe)
1 medium size sweet red pepper
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 to 2 inches of ginger

Mince the ginger and dice the mango and red pepper and add them to a sauce pot. Try to dice the red pepper a little smaller than the mango. Depending on how spicy you want the chutney, you might want to add the veins and seeds of the pepper.

Add the vinegar and brown sugar. Bring the pot to a boil, stirring occasionally.

Once the chutney has boiled for about 10 minutes, turn the heat down to low and let it simmer for 25-30 minutes.

If the chutney seems a little soupy, don't worry. After you let it cool, the sugars will thicken up and you will have a delicious side to whatever you are dipping.

There are countless ways to make chutney. You can use apples, pears, cranberries, raisins apricots...really, whatever you want. The trick is to match the sweet with spicy, so follow a recipe and try not to get too creative your first few times.

April 03, 2006

Chocolate and Zucchini Cake

On Saturday, I rode my bike a whole lot. I went to Harvest Health, I went to work (because Friday deadlines are now, apparently, optional), I got a flat tire so I went to the bike shop, and then I went to my landlady's place to drop off a rent check.

All that bike riding made me hungry and the zucchini in the fridge wasn't getting any fresher. I googled zucchini and didn't come up with anything too exciting. Then, inspiration struck in the form of a helpful grandmother.
"Why don't you bake a cake?" she asked.
And so it was, and I was off on my bike again to get some last minute ingredients.

And by the way, this recipe has nothing to do with a certain pretentious-as-all-get-out food blog. I am not and have never been a member of that bourgeois foodie clique, senator.

3 cups zucchini
2 ripe bananas
2 cups brown sugar
1 cup applesauce
1 1/2 cups semi sweet chocolate (or carob) chips
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ginger

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

To begin, grate the zucchini into a medium size bowl.

Now mush the bananas up in a smaller bowl. It's easier if the bananas are extra ripe but if you need some help, the back of a spoon works well as a mushing aide.

Mix the bananas, applesauce, and vanilla into the zucchini.

In a large bowl, mix together everything else except the chocolate chips.

Add the zucchini mixture to the large bowl and mix that all up.

It's finally time to add the chocolate chips. Maybe you can eat some if it's a new bag and you have too many.

Once that's all mixed together, grease a 9-by-13 pan and spread the mixture in evenly.

Bake for at least 45 minutes and then use the toothpick trick to see if it is done. The toothpick trick is when you stick a toothpick in the middle -- if there is any residual on it when it's pulled out, you bake it longer.

Once the cake is done, chocolate or vanilla frosting makes a great flourish. I'm really showing off here by making my own chocolate frosting, eh?

Let the cake cool a bit and then slice it up for some friends.

You do not have to use chocolate chips or frosting in this recipe. Plain zucchini cake is perfectly fine. It is also perfectly boring and not pushing any culinary boundaries whatsoever.

April 01, 2006

Chocopumpaisin Bars

Pumpkin pie is good. Chocolate is good. Raisins are kind of good. All together, they should make some sort of dessert item worthy of superlative praise, right? Um...sure.

All kidding aside, sometimes it's fun to make somebody something just out of the kindness of your heart. These pumpkin bars aren't too hard to make, and can be used for such an occasion. It's also a good idea to make something with pumpkin at least once every few weeks. It's just a rule I live by. Pumpkin never did any harm to me, so I'm returning the favor by including it in something I will give to someone else. It's a win-win-win.

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup whole wheat bread flour
1 can (14oz) pumpkin
1 cup chocolate (or carob) covered raisins
1 cup soy milk
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup applesauce
1/3 cup warm water
2 tablespoons flaxseed meal
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Ground cloves

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Mix the flaxseed meal and the warm water in a bowl and let it sit for about 10 minutes.

In another bowl, mix together the soy milk, and applesauce and let that sit for 10 minutes as well.

In a third bowl, mix both flours with the baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, ground clove, and nutmeg.

After the flaxseed meal has soaked with the water, add the brown sugar and use a whisk to beat it silly for a few minutes.

Go back to the soy milk and applesauce and mix in the pumpkin and vanilla.

You now have three separate bowls of ingredients.

Add the flaxseed meal/brown sugar mix to the flour bowl first, and mix it until crumbly.

Now add the chocolate covered raisins.

Finally, add the soy milk/applesauce/pumpkin mixture and mix it completely, until there are no lumps.

You can grease a 9-by-13 pan after that.

Spread the mix into the pan, making sure to reach the corners.

Bake for about 30 minutes, until the edges start to brown.

Once you're finished, add your favorite frosting or glaze. I'm using a cinnamon glaze in this picture.

You do not have to use chocolate covered raisins, regular raisins, or even cranberries would work fine.
If you do not want to use frosting or glaze, that's fine too, but note that you can't go wrong with vanilla, cinnamon, or ginger.