Esther’s Chocolate Pumpkin Brownies

Esthers Brownies 3

Here’s a recipe from Esther’s Kitchen (Esther being none other than media phenomena and fashionista Esther the Wonder Pig) that is so easy, versatile and forgiving, I have to share it.

Esther’s chef, Linda, tried these brownies 11 different ways – each way being equally delicious I’m sure.

Then I tried the recipe two more ways. Again, all fabulously delicious!

The best part – you just bung everything into a food processor or mixing bowl and hand mix, then pour the batter into a parchment-lined pan and bake. You end up with dense, moist, chocolatey and spicy brownies that satisfy.

Here’s Esther’s Kitchen’s original recipe post:

This recipe has been tested using the following choices: almond butter, peanut butter, sunflower butter, agave nectar, brown rice syrup, maple syrup, dairy-free butter, coconut oil, almond flour, all purpose flour and gluten-free baking flour blend. Each one tasted great and had unique flavors. All of the ingredients resulted in a moist brownie that held together well. The brown rice syrup had the least amount of sweetness. This batch was baked with almond butter, almond flour, coconut oil and agave.

Esther’s Pumpkin Brownies

Cuisine: Esther Approved Dessert, Baked Good, Gluten-free and Nut-free options

Prep Time: 10 minutes Bake Time: 25 minutes Cool Time: 15 minutes Yields: 12 (3”x3”) brownies

By: Chef Linda | Esther’s Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 1 cup pureed pumpkin from a 15 oz can or homemade and excess water drained
  • 1/2 cup creamy almond, peanut or seed butter (almond was used)
  • 2 Tablespoons softened coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup agave nectar, maple syrup or brown rice syrup (agave was used)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cacao/cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup flour of choice: almond, gluten free baking blend or all purpose (almond was used)
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar Instructions

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

2. Line an 8“ x 8“ baking dish with parchment paper. Press the paper alond the bottom edge and all 4 corners; set aside.

3. Combine all of the ingredients in a mixing bowl or food processor. Use an electric hand mixer or process in the food process until the batter is smooth.

4. Pour all of the batter in the center of the parchment lined baking dish. Scrape out remaining batter from the bowl or food processor. Spread the batter into the corners until you have a level surface.

5. Bake the brownies for 25 minutes. Cool the brownies on a metal rack for 15 minutes.

6. Pull up two sides of paper and lift the brownie out of the pan. Place the paper and brownie on a cutting board. Slice the brownie into 9 pieces or as desired.

Here’s what Chef Linda’s brownies look like.

Esther brownies

I hope you give this amazingly versatile recipe a try and make it your own! The key is to know where you can make swaps:

  • the type of flour
  • the type of oil
  • the type of nut/seed butter
  • the types of sweetener, and
  • the spices.

You can also try add ins such as chocolate chips, walnuts or pecans, even diced candied fruit.

Just do not mess with the proportions of ingredients because that’s where the chemistry is.

Here’s one of my versions:

I used, pumpkin, regular flour, a mix of maple syrup and agave, coconut oil, tahini paste instead of a nut butter, and added a cup of chocolate chips and a big pinch of cayenne pepper. This batch was made in the food processor.

Esthers Browniew mine

For my next batch, I diverged and used: mashed banana and no pumpkin, regular flour, the full amount of coconut oil, almond butter, maple syrup only 1 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spices, ½ teaspoon cinnamon and ½ teaspoon cardamon. I also added a cup of chocolate chips because it’s chocolate and more is more.

Esthers Brownies 3

Why are you still reading? Go make some brownies!!

 

 

 

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Chinese-style BBQ porc – it’s the year of the vegan pig

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Hey, most people don’t go vegan because they don’t like eating meat. They go vegan (usually) because they love animals more.

But vegans are a clever bunch and truly, anything can be made into a vegan dish. Take this Chinese-style BBQ pork. This dish ticks all the meaty boxes for look, feel and taste. It’s delicious and easy though you do have to be patient since there’s a lot of “let it rest” and “marinade” business going on. Your hands on time, however is probably 15 minutes!

I have taken this recipe almost exactly from the excellent blog Runaway Rice (she also has a Youtube video of this recipe). My one notable exception is that I wrapped my seitan in foil, rather than her recommended corn husks.

Let’s get started.

Ingredients

For the seitan

3/4 cup warm water
1/2 Tbsp soy sauce
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
2/3 cup vital wheat gluten
1/2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1/4 cup water

For the marinade

1/2 Tbsp paprika
1 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp cayenne powder
1/2 tsp 5-spice powder
2 Tbsp tamari or soy sauce
1 Tbsp cooking sherry

1 Tbsp agave 1/2 Tbsp sesame oil

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Directions

In a large bowl combine the water, soy sauce, salt and baking powder. Sift in the vital wheat gluten and mix well. Work the dough in your hands making sure all the dry vital wheat gluten is completely incorporated. Take dough in your hands and squeeze and pat it (slap it) and shape it into a large ball. The squeezing and patting  helps to compact the dough and remove any air pockets.  Flatten the dough and return it to the bowl and allow it to rest for one hour at room temperature.

Bring a large pot of water to a rapid boil.

Cut the dough into 3 equal pieces.  Loosely wrap each piece of seitan in tin foil to create a tube shape. Secure the ends by twisting the foil and folding the twist back over the body of the tube of seitan.

Add the foil-wrapped tubes of seitan to the boiling water and reduce the heat so you have a simmering boil. Simmer the seitan for 15 minutes, turning the tubes every five minutes so it cooks evenly. Remove the seitan tubes from the water and place on a plate or in a colander and allow to cool for 5 minutes before unwrapping.

At this point the seitan tubes will look and feel a lot like tofu. That’s perfect.

While the seitan is simmering, prepare the marinade by mixing all the marinade ingredients. Pour the ingredients in a dish or bowl large enough to hold the seitan, and ideally immerse as much of it as possible. Marinate the seitan for a full two hours, rotating it halfway through.

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil and the seitan. Pan fry the seitan on each side for 1 minutes. Pour in the marinade and about 1/3 cup water. Continue to fry the seitan in marinade, turning it every few minutes. Cook for about 5 minutes total until the marinade has reduced down to a caramelized glaze.

Remove from heat and use a sharp knife to cut into medallions.

Makes 2-4 servings.

 

Festive Pecan-Chestnut-Mushroom Wellington!

Combo pic

I wanted to try something different for this Thanksgiving holiday and BOSH’s mushroom Wellington caught my eye. I liked their concept but found it needed a few tweaks to suit my tastes and North American realities (e.g. Portobello mushrooms where I am in Canada are about 4x larger than their UK cousins and our garlic in southwestern Ontario is at least twice as strong as what’s available more broadly).

I also simplified the assembly, gave some actual measurement to a few ingredients, such as the amount of pie dough needed, and added a few more directions to save unseasoned cooks from incinerating their creations.

My end result is a festive, pretty and not very mushroom-y creation. I found the dish was a little dry so I served it with gravy.

You will need a food processor for this recipe.

Ingredients:

Ingredients.jpg

For the mushrooms:

2 portobello mushrooms – cleaned and stems removed and very gilly pieces removed (I don’t like the gills!)

2 cloves garlic (minced)

1 tbsp fresh thyme chopped or 1 tsp dried thyme

2 Tbsp olive oil

A sprinkle of salt

Few grinds black pepper

For the filling

2 tbsp olive oil

1 onion finely chopped

1 Tbsp fresh thyme chopped or 1 tsp dried

½ tsp poultry season

1 ½ tsp salt

½ tsp ground pepper

1 cup white wine

1 tsp brown sugar

2 cups cooked chestnuts

2 cups pecans

2 slices seeded bread ( I used 3 slices of Ezekiel bread since it’s a smaller loaf)

1/2 cup vegetable stock (or water, or even soy or almond milk)

For the Wellington case:

750 grams of vegan pie crust

About ½ cup flour for rolling out the dough

I buy frozen pie shells because they’re so inexpensive (and I cannot find just vegan pie dough). I let the shells thaw for at least 20 minutes, then use my hands to wad them up into a ball and then roll them out on a floured surface.

If you’re inclined to make your own pie dough from scratch, here’s an excellent recipe.

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Directions 

The mushrooms
Heat your oven to 395F.

Place the mushrooms on a baking tray, stem side up. Sprinkle with the olive oil, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper.

Bake the mushrooms for 15 minutes then set aside and allow them to cool.

Leave your oven on.

While the mushrooms are roasting and cooling, make the filling and prepare the crust.

For the filling

Heat the olive oil in a medium sized frying pan. Add the diced onion and fry until it’s translucent.

Add the thyme, poultry seasoning, salt and pepper and stir to combine.

Add a cup of white wine and cook on low for about 10 minutes, letting the wine bubble and reduce in volume almost entirely. Add the brown sugar and let the mixture caramelize.

Transfer this mixture to a large bowl.

Place the pecans and bread in a food processor and whiz into crumbs. Add to the bowl of onions.

Place the chestnuts and mushrooms in the food processor and whiz until they are like crumbs. Add to the bowl with the onions and pecan mixture and pour in the broth. Stir everything to combine and set aside.

Sprinkle flour on a clean smooth surface and also dust a rolling pin with flour. Take half of your pie dough and roll it out forming a rectangular sheet.*

Place this dough sheet on a large rectangular cookie sheet.

Spoon the mushroom-pecan-chestnut filling running length-wise down the middle of the sheet of dough. You will need to mound the filling and compress it into place with your hand.

Sprinkle your work surface and rolling pin with more flour and roll out the other half of the pie dough to form another rectangular sheet. Place this sheet on top of mushroom-filling mound to form the top crust of your Wellington.

Trim off the edges of the pastry with a sharp knife to form an oval. You can use any excess dough to cut shapes to decorate your Wellington with.

Seal the edges of the dough where the crusts meet with a fork.

If you’re decorating your Wellington with dough shapes (hearts, leaves, stars etc.), add them to the Wellington now. You can adhere them with a little bit of water dabbed onto the Wellington and the dough shape with the tip of your finger

Use a knife or fork to cut slits or holes into the Wellington to let steam escape.

Cover your Wellington in foil and bake for 20 minutes at 395C (See? I told you not to turn off your oven for a reason). After 20 minutes, remove the foil and continue baking the Wellington for 10-20 minutes more depending on your oven. You want a golden finish, with no burning.

Use a bread knife to cut your Wellington into slices.

*Super lazy, easy, just as yummy option if you use premade pie shells like I do– leave two of the pie shells in their pie pans. Fill each pie shell with half the mushroom-pecan-chestnut filling. Roll out the other two pie shells and cut them into tops for the pies. Use a fork to seal the top and bottom crusts. Cut slits in the top crust to allow steam to escape. Bake your mushroom Wellington as per the directions above.

Mom’s German red cabbage – veganized! (Sorry not sorry, mom)

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Holiday dinners are so evocative. They’re steeped in tradition and emotion (hopefully happy) and help us measure the rhythm of the seasons and years. For vegans, it can be a hard time sitting at the table and having to forego old family favourite recipes that use animal products.

For me, red cabbage is one of those dishes. My mom made it at every holiday dinner, and only at holiday dinners. I can’t even see a red cabbage in the grocery store without thinking it’s a holiday.

My mother’s recipe calls for 4-6 strips of bacon to be rendered and crushed. Then the apples and cabbage are braised in this fat/pig-belly mixture. Ewww.

With just a bit of tweaking, I’ve figured out how to simulate the savoury, salty, smokiness of the bacon using miso, margarine and liquid smoke. The results are my mom’s recipes taken to the next level of delicious compassion.

Ingredients

Ingredients.jpg

1 red cabbage – remove the outer leaves and then cut out the core. Chop the cabbage into roughly 1 to 2 cm pieces

3-4 apples (I used MacIntosh apples – use a variety that is not sweet). You want a 2:1 ratio of cabbage to apples so adjust how many apples you use based on the size of your cabbage. Peel, core and cut the apples into 1 cm pieces (see image).

diced-apple.jpg

1 tsp liquid smoke

1 Tbsp miso paste

1 ½ Tbsp brown sugar

3 Tbsp cider vinegar*

3 Tbsp vegan margarine

½ cup water

1 tsp salt

1-2 bay leaves (optional)

A few grinds of pepper (optional)

Directions

Melt the margarine in a very large pot over medium heat. Add the miso and liquid smoke and stir to combine. Add the cabbage and apples and water. Stir everything together to get the cabbage apples coated in the margarine mix. Add the vinegar, salt and brown sugar and stir again to combine all. Add the bay leaves if using. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally for about 30 minutes. When it’s cooked, the cabbage volume will have reduced by about a third and the cabbage will be soft but not mushy). The apple will be pretty much impossible to spot. Fish out the bay leaves if you used them and serve the cabbage.

This recipe is also great with vegan sausages, perogies or “white” dishes such as tetrazzini, béchamel or alfredo-sauced pasta or mushroom stroganoff.

*Fun fact – you MUST add vinegar or some sort of acid to red cabbage when you cook it or it will turn the most unappetizing blue-gray hue that’s roughly the colour of sadness.

Easy, creamy, mushroom stroganoff

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There’s something elegant yet comforting about stroganoff. This recipe has the bonus of being supremely fast and easy to make AND it’s good for you (unlike the butter, beef and sour cream laden traditional recipes, which are a cholesterol-fest in a pot).

I went very simple with this dish – mushrooms only. But, you could easily brown some Gardein “beef” tips or vegan meatballs and add them to the dish for a heartier meal.

 Ingredients

1 Tbsp vegan margarine

1 medium onion, diced

1-2 cloves garlic minced

227g (about 1 pound) cremini mushrooms, chopped

2 Tbsp flour

1 cube of vegan bouillon (enough to make 1 cup of broth although you’re not making a cup of broth)

400ml (14-oz) can coconut milk

1 tsp ground mustard

2 Tbsp nutritional yeast

Pepper to taste (a few grinds)

1 Tbsp soy sauce

1 Tbsp miso (I used a dark, brown rice miso)

1 Tbsp cider vinegar

2 Tbsp vegan Worcestershire sauce

1/2 tsp paprika

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Directions

Melt the margarine in a pot or large pan and add the onion and the garlic. Stir on medium heat until the onion is soft and translucent.

Add the mushrooms and sauté until the mushrooms have released their liquid.

Sprinkle the flour over the sautéed vegetables and stir to heat the flour through. You want to get the raw flavour out of the flour. Your veggies and flour will likely bind up and make an ugly wad – don’t worry!

Add all the other ingredients and stir well. The veggie-flour wad will break up and you’ll have a gently golden sauce. Stir occasionally and allow to simmer (not boil) for 5-10 minutes.

Serve over pasta or potatoes.

Effortless, eggless salad – kind comfort food

Egg salad far (2)For me, sandwiches are the ultimate easy, comfort food. They remind me of school day lunches, picnics and road trips. Egg salad was one of my favourites and I missed it terribly as a vegan. But no more. This egg salad sandwich tastes just as good as one made using chicken eggs and is actually faster and easier to make since there’s no egg boiling-cooling-peeling activity required.

Ingredients

7 oz tofu, sliced in half and pressed dry in a lint-free towel

2 – 3 Tbsp vegan mayo (I’m a Vegenaise fan) depending on how creamy you like your salad

1 green onion chopped

1 stalk of celery chopped

1 tsp prepared yellow mustard

1 tsp green pickle relish (optional – I like it but leave it out if it’s not your thing)

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp turmeric

1/4 tsp ground black pepper

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Directions

Put everything EXCEPT the tofu in a bowl and mix well. Crumble in the dried tofu and combine. Eat and enjoy!

Some notes about storage:  You can eat the eggless salad right away, but it’s even more delicious if it has an hour or two to sit in the fridge so the flavours can blend. This egg salad will last covered for up to 3 days in your fridge. You may find that some water escapes from the tofu if it sits – you can either stir that liquid back into the salad or drain it off.

Makes 2 very generous servings.

Vegan pulled “pork” – for real!

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Before I became a vegan, I used to say “the swine is divine” referring to all the tasty dishes made with pork. Now I still say the swine is divine because I’ve met pigs, I’ve hung out with pigs and chatted with pigs. Pigs are amazing and delightful creatures.

But vegan or not, people love salty, smokey, barbecue-y, chewy flavours and textures. Jackfruit to the rescue! This stringy fruit mimics the textures of animal muscle – everything from pigs to crabs – and readily absorbs other flavours, making it ideal for “mock” dishes like my pulled pork.

Ingredients

2 20 oz cans young jackfruit (or jackfruit in brine, but that’s salty!)
1 tsp olive oil
1 small onion chopped
3 cloves garlic minced
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp paprika (I used smoky)
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
1 ½ tsp liquid smoke
1 cup vegetable broth
About ½ cup BBQ sauce. I used Clubhouse brand (check the ingredients)

Directions

Preheat your oven to 400F.

Drain and rinse the jackfruit. Cut out the hard cores and any hard edges on the pieces. Run your fingers up each piece to pop out the seeds –this is oddly, highly satisfying. Tear up the pieces so they look like pulled pork and put in a bowl. Be patient. It’s going to take you about 10 minutes to go through each piece and pull it and pop those seeds out. If you miss some seeds, that’s okay- they won’t kill you, they’re just not very pulled pork-ish.

If you’re not familiar w/ jackfruit (as I wasn’t), I recommend checking a Youtube tutorial on pulling jackfruit and what the seeds etc. are (as I did).

In a large pan, saute the onion and garlic in olive oil for about 5 minutes or until the onion is translucent. Add all the other ingredients and mix well. Simmer for about 10-15 minutes until the liquid is absorbed.

Spread the jackfruit onto a non-stick baking sheet. Put it in the oven for 20 minutes.
After 20 minutes, remove and generously drizzle with BBQ sauce and give it a stir. Put it back in the oven for 10 more minutes.

Eat and enjoy!!