Tag "recipes"


Ohhhhh yeahhhh. Last weekend I hosted a big family gathering at my house, and even though I wasn’t in charge of dessert, I selfishly decided to make a little vegan cake so Evan and I would have something to enjoy with our coffee. I’m really not much of a baker, but this turned out so beautifully! It was delicious, too.

OK, so…let’s get my confession out of the way first: I used a mix for the cake part. Yes. I know that baking an actual yellow cake from scratch is not difficult, but we had a box of nice, all-natural cake mix in the pantry already and this was a last-minute plan, so there you go. No shame.


The mix called for adding water and melted margarine. I subtracted a teaspoon of water and added a teaspoon of fresh lemon juice, and substituted melted coconut oil for the margarine. I love baking with coconut oil! I divided the batter in half, then baked two layers using an 8×2″ Wilton heart pan.

I knew if I waited until the morning to bake them I wouldn’t have enough time to let both layers cool completely before frosting, so I played it safe. I left the cakes on the counter until bedtime, then wrapped them in parchment and foil and refrigerated them overnight. First thing the next morning, I took them out again so they’d come to room temperature.


FROSTING. Holy hell, this frosting. It’s so good. I wasn’t sure if it was going to come out right so I didn’t think to take pictures until I’d already started putting it on the cake, but it made exactly the right amount to frost two small layers or one standard.

Coconut cream cheese frosting (vegan)
Adapted from this recipe / Enough for two small layers or one standard (or 12 cupcakes)

1 cup powdered sugar (confectioners’ sugar/icing sugar)
1/2 cup coconut oil (must be solid/cool)
2 tbsp almond milk
3/4 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp salt

Put everything in a food processor for 1-2 minutes, or until everything is well-blended and smooth. Transfer the mixture to a small bowl, cover tightly, and refrigerate.

After about 30 minutes, mix up the frosting with a fork. It’s going to feel like it’s too runny to work as cake frosting, but don’t worry—once the coconut oil cools and re-solidifies, it’ll be perfect. You just have to periodically mix it as it cools so you wind up with a fluffy end result. I mixed it up every 15 minutes or so for about two hours because I was in the kitchen doing other stuff anyway, but I think it would be fine if you wait a little longer than that. Just make sure it stays in the fridge long enough to be cold and fluff it up every now and then. I left it overnight, then took it out first thing in the morning. After it had warmed on the counter for about half an hour and I gave it another fork-mixing, it was PERFECT.

Note: Taste the frosting, but do not eat all of the frosting with a spoon (even though you’ll want to).


I prefer the dome-topped look when it comes to homemade cakes, so I only de-domed the bottom layer (then I ate the discarded dome for breakfast, naturally). It’s really easy to do that with a regular serrated bread knife—just get down at eye level and go slowly. Small pieces of parchment paper under the perimeter of the cake will make it easier to transfer the layers to your serving plate after frosting.

(That gorgeous cutting board was made by Ariele Alasko, by the way! It was my and Evan’s Hanukkah gift to each other, and it’s right at home in our kitchen.)



I am by no means knowledgeable about cake decorating, but the most important thing I’ve learned is to do what’s called a “crumb coat” before frosting the cake completely. It does take more time, but it’s worth it. Spread a very thin layer of frosting across the top and sides using a light hand. It doesn’t have to be beautiful, it just has to lightly coat everything. Put the cake in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes after doing your crumb coat. This will seal the cake surface and prevent crumbs from finding their way into the frosting while you’re doing the real decorating! It works so well and makes a huge difference.

You’ll want to put the frosting back in the fridge, too, if it’s starting to feel a little loose. Don’t let it get so hard that you can’t spread it, of course, just keep an eye on things. If you’re working in a hot kitchen or during the summertime, you’ll definitely need to let the frosting cool down while your crumb coat sets.


Ah! All decorated! I am not very good at this part of cake-making, but I don’t really care. As much as I admire the artistry of beautifully-decorated cakes, I like to keep things simple. I don’t have any special tools, I just used the back of a wide soup spoon. The sides of the cake were looking a little uneven, so I pressed on some shredded coconut. Carefully transfer to a plate, slide out the parchment, and you’re done.


Ta-da! The cake sliced cleanly and with minimal crumbling, and it’s a miracle I managed to take these photos at all. My family was all crowded into the kitchen while I barked, “DON’T TOUCH THE CAKE, I HAVE TO TAKE PICTURES FOR MY BLOG!” My brother made rabbit ears behind it.


SO YUMMY. It might actually be the best cake I’ve ever eaten. It’s definitely the best cake I’ve ever made, and even though I used a mix, I’m still pretty proud. The addition of coconut oil produced a dense but moist cake, almost like a pound cake. That frosting, though—it’s amazing stuff. I want to make another batch for carrot cake! I love that it really tasted like cream cheese frosting without relying on packaged vegan cream cheese. Heavenly.

Most importantly, everyone at my house from young children to grandparents thought the cake was delicious! There really is nothing that makes me happier than feeding people I love.

tofu lentil salad

Once upon a time in the recent past, I cooked at least 6 dinners a week. On the weekends, I even cooked extra food to freeze for lunches at the office. And then something happened: We got an apartment in Brooklyn. Oh Brooklyn, home of M.O.B., Wild Ginger, Vegetarian Ginger, Britain Indian, Darna Falafel, Siggy’s, Zaytoons and, of course, my beloved Hanco’s, home of the best vegan pork banh mi sandwich imaginable. Brooklyn is a food paradise, and having so many awesome vegan options available — whether by walking a few blocks or ordering delivery — is kind of irresistible.

There are, however, some downsides to all of that delicious convenience:

1. PRICE. Yes, that’s obvious. I know. Buying dinner out for two people night after night is stupidly expensive, and while I know that’s kind of the New York way of life that everyone makes jokes about (“My oven? Oh, you mean where I store my off-season clothes!”), it’s shocking how much it all adds up to week after week. I need to keep that in mind the next time I shake my head at an $8 bottle of olive oil — I mean, the oyster mushrooms I had as an appetizer last night cost $9. C’mon.

2. WEIGHT. As in, I have a lot of it to spare. That whole thing about vegans being skinny? That’s a damn lie. Healthful eating and fitness are about a whole lot more than whether or not you eat animal products. If you eat giant portions of processed takeout food every night, guess what? You’re going to feel (and see!) the effects on your body. It isn’t even so much about size specifically as it just feeling slow and tired and knowing that the weight gain is the result of eating too much of the wrong stuff all the time.

3. STRESS. I don’t know why it’s so hard to remember this when it’s 8:00 at night and I’m starving, but cooking and preparing food makes me feel really good. I’m a big fan of task completion even when it’s on a really small scale, probably because I work in an industry where nothing ever really feels done. Having a sense of definable accomplishment is a huge motivator, and getting a healthy, yummy meal together is a huge stress reliever. The same goes for doing the dishes…but now I’m going off on a tangent. (OK, so this whole post is a tangent.)

To help curb my addiction to takeout, I’m assembling a small arsenal of simple recipes that I can fall back on night after night. Aside from being vegan, the only rules are that I have to be able to prepare the meal in less than 30 minutes, it has to be reasonably healthy, there can’t be any ingredients that would require me to buy huge amounts of something perishable when I only need a tiny bit and, most importantly, Evan and I both have to LOVE the way the meal TASTES. It’s going to take a little trial and error, but I’ll post the successful recipes here along the way. (Please feel free to share your own favorite fast, cheap, vegan recipes in the comments, too!)

Tofu lentil salad (vegan)
Serves 2

8 oz super or extra-firm tofu
1 tbsp peanut oil
1 tbsp mirin
1 tbsp brown rice vinegar
1 tbsp Sriracha (or to taste)
5 oz salad greens, any type
1/2 cup cooked lentils (Either make a bunch in advance and store them in the fridge, or cheat and buy a vacuum-sealed pack from Trader Joe’s — they go a LONG way)
Spicy peanut dressing (I’m lazy, so I buy Spicy Peanut Vinaigrette from Trader Joe’s, but you can certainly make your own)
Whatever other stuff you have in the fridge: Avocados, cherry tomatoes, sprouts…

Slice the tofu into quarters, press to remove excess moisture and cut into chunks. Heat a cast iron pan over medium-high heat, then add peanut oil. When the oil is hot, add the tofu in a single layer and sprinkle with salt. I follow all of Isa Chandra’s advice when cooking tofu — if you’ve had trouble getting it to come out nice and brown, definitely take a look at her suggestions.

Once the tofu is nicely browned on all sides, reduce the pan heat slightly and add in the mirin, vinegar and Sriracha. Toss with a spatula to coat, and turn off the burner. Let the tofu sit in the hot pan while you prepare the greens.

In a large bowl, toss the greens, lentils and any other veggies with the salad dressing. Divide into two bowls, and top with tofu cubes. Done!

maple pepper popcorn

When people ask what my favorite food is (um, all of them?), I usually say one of three things: Toast, kale…or popcorn. I’m a greedy popcorn freak. To quote Evan, “The only way I get to eat popcorn is if Anna isn’t in the room.” Before I make popcorn, I always ask if Evan wants any, and, if so, exactly how much he plans to eat. If I think he’s going over the agreed upon amount, I’ll give him a side-eye and ask if he wants his own bowl.

Yeah, I’m kind of a jerk when it comes to popcorn.

I make it reeeeeeally good, though. Until last year I always either popped it in olive or peanut oil, but now I’m a total devotee of coconut oil. It does lend a very mild, barely-discernible coconut flavor to the popcorn, but not enough to make you feel like you’re eating suntan lotion. Sometimes I just sprinkle on a little salt, other times liquid aminos and nutritional yeast, or if I’m getting really fancy, crumbled up kale chips and cayenne pepper. Lately, though, this is my snack obsession—Maple Pepper popcorn. So yummy.

Maple Pepper Popcorn (vegan)
Serves 2 (but let’s be honest here, this is how much I make for just myself)

1 tbsp coconut oil
1/4 cup popcorn kernels
1 tsp Earth Balance
Maple Pepper

In a small pot with a tight-fitting lid, melt the coconut oil over medium-high heat. Pour in the popcorn kernels, stir to coat and put the lid on. Get excited when the corn starts to pop, but listen carefully—when you hear that there are more than 2 seconds between pops, turn the heat off. Pour the popcorn into a big bowl, then put the Earth Balance in the empty pot. No need to turn the heat back on, the pot will still be hot enough. Pour the melted Earth Balance over the popcorn, and sprinkle liberally (and I mean liberally) with Maple Pepper.

If you’re alone in the room when you finish, lick the bowl.

Oh, and about that Maple Pepper

maple pepper

What’s Maple Pepper, you say? Glad you asked. I hadn’t heard of Maple Pepper until I saw a photo of a jar on Jen’s Instagram. It was a gift to her from Tamera. When Jen discovered I share her intense love of all things maple, she sent me two jars (one for the house and one for the apartment, of course). Now I need to choose a friend to give some to. We’re all paying it forward with Maple Pepper.

I’m so in love with this stuff. It’s a blend of pure maple sugar, black pepper, sea salt and citric acid. The resulting flavor is, obviously, both maple-y and peppery, but the saltiness is definitely noticeable, as is the citric acid, which comes across like a very very subtle hint of lemon. It’s faaaaaabulous, and I put it on (and in) EVERYTHING: Popcorn, toast, coffee, tea, ice cream, Brussels sprouts, spiced almond milk, tofu scramble, kale chips, baked sweet potatoes…everything. Maple Pepper is just always the right thing. It comes in other flavors (Garlic! Habanero!), too. I’ve only tried the original so far, but I’ll be branching out soon. I bet they ALL taste good on popcorn.

That nifty tea towel is the work of the incredibly talented Shanna Murray. Both the towel and the popcorn bowl were purchased at West Elm…and both have since been discontinued, unfortunately.

Oh, Brussels sprouts. How I love thee! It’s a tough call, but I think Brussels sprouts are the best cold-weather vegetable (broccoli rabe is a close second). There are so many ways to prepare them, but the classic boiling method is probably my least favorite—and also probably the reason why a lot of kids think Brussels sprouts are gross. The best way to make them? Pan-roasted.

I’m not going to lie, this recipe has a whole bunch of sugar and fat in it and probably a gazillion calories. I don’t care, though—there’s a time and place for junk food Brussels sprouts, and holed up after a hurricane is definitely it. Jen and I are both maple freaks, so I made this for lunch one day when she was visiting. Oh man, SO GOOD. I can’t stop thinking about it. Jen has now started using the word “maple” as a verb, so this recipe is named accordingly. The Brussels sprouts have been mapled.

I served the sprouts alongside a slice of Celebration Roast, a grain-based roast stuffed with butternut squash, mushrooms and apples. I really like the whole Field Roast line of products, by the way, especially the grain sausages. I don’t really think of them as a “meat substitute”—they’re kind of their own thing. Definitely recommended.

Mapled Brussels Sprouts (vegan)
Serves 2–4, depending on gluttony

2 lbs Brussels sprouts
3 tbsp grapeseed or canola oil (any oil that can handle high heat is fine)
Kosher salt and fresh pepper
2 tbsp Earth Balance or other vegan butter (coconut oil would also be OK, but it will affect the taste)
2 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar

Put the oil in a large, cast iron pan over medium-high heat. While it’s warming up, wash and trim the Brussels sprouts. I like to cut the end off, remove any weird-looking outer leaves, and then slice them lengthwise. It goes quickly with two people.

When the oil is good and hot, add the Brussels sprouts to the pan along with some salt and pepper. Toss quickly to coat, turn the heat up a bit, and then leave everything alone for a few minutes. The sprouts should get nice and brown and even charred a bit.

Add the Earth Balance and the brown sugar and slowly stir. Reduce the heat to medium, stir in the maple syrup, and let everything get roasty for 10-ish minutes (more or less depending on the size of the Brussels sprouts) until tender. You want the sugars to caramelize, but if the pan is looking too dry you can add a couple of table spoons of water and stir gently. Add the vinegar and cool a minute or so more.

Once the Brussels sprouts are looking fully mapled, serve!!

(Based on this recipe from Food & Wine)

OK, so this is totally cheap, RECYCLED content, but I can’t help myself. Whenever the temperatures drop and autumn shivers start to creep down my arms, I crave one food more than any other: CHILI. I’ve been making this recipe for about 6 years now, and I have yet to taste a better chili. Seriously. It’s ridiculously good.

ANNA’S VEGETARIAN CHILI (vegan, actually)
Makes 6–8 portions

1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 medium carrots, chopped
4 cloves garlic, diced
1 large yellow bell pepper, chopped
2 jalapeno peppers, seeds removed, diced
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 tbsp chili powder*
28 oz can crushed tomatoes with basil**
14 oz can black beans**
14 oz can kidney beans**
1 cup corn kernels
1 tsp ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 1/2 tsp dried basil
2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup bulgur wheat
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

Heat oil in a large pot. Add onions, carrots and garlic; sauté until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add yellow pepper, jalapenos, celery and chili powder; cook another 10 minutes. Add tomatoes, beans (with liquid), corn, salt and spices. Bring to a boil. Cover, lower heat, and simmer for 20 minutes. Stir in bulgur wheat. Cover and simmer at least 30 minutes (I usually let everything simmer for a couple of hours to let the flavors really develop, but it’s okay to take it off when the veggies and bulgur are soft), stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Just as you’re taking the chili off the heat, stir in the balsamic vinegar. I know it might seem weird to put it in, but trust me—it really does make the chili taste extra amazing.

*What we call “chili powder” in the US is actually a blend of several spices. Please don’t use 2tbsp of straight cayenne pepper! If blended chili powder is not available in your part of the world, you can add an extra tbsp of cumin, and then just add your cayenne a pinch at a time to taste.

**I take the easy route and use canned beans and tomatoes. You can soak dried beans and use fresh tomatoes if you prefer, of course, but you will want to add water to make up for the liquid in the cans.

As always, I’d love to hear what kinds of modifications and variations you’ve made to this recipe, since it is really flexible. I’ve subbed chickpeas and edamame in place of kidney beans plenty of times, and I often use farro instead of bulgur wheat depending on what I have in the house. I’m really partial to Muir Glen’s fire-roasted crushed tomatoes, and using ancho chili powder in place of regular changes the flavor of the whole thing completely. Sometimes I sprinkle a little Daiya on top if I have it, but it’s definitely not essential.

This chili freezes really nicely, by the way. One pot will yield six very generous portions, so after you’ve gobbled down dinner, you can divvy up the rest into containers to heat up for lunches during the week.

Daniel and Max came over for dinner last night, and I used the meal I prepared as an excuse to try this crazy spicy peanut butter I’ve been fantasizing about. I also wanted to try out one of the recipes in the Teany Book. (I’ve written before about my intense love for Teany and their vegan turkey club sandwich in particular, as well as my goofball appearance in the book!)

Here’s what I put together combining the two…

Soba noodles and veggies with spicy peanut sauce (vegan & gluten-free*)
Serves 4

Spicy peanut sauce
2 tbsp The Heat Is On peanut butter from Peanut Butter & Co.**
2 tbsp grated ginger
2 tbsp sesame oil
4 tsp liquid amino acids***
2 tsp brown rice vinegar
2 cloves minced garlic

4 large carrots, cut into thin strips (I used a peeler to make ribbons)
1 cup sugar snap peas, julienned
2 cups red cabbage, shredded
1 tbsp green onions, chopped

9 oz dried buckwheat soba noodles*
2 tbsp sesame oil

4 tbsp crushed peanuts
lime wedges

Prepare the peanut sauce first in a big bowl. You can just whisk all of the ingredients together by hand, no need for a food processor or anything like that. When all of the veggies are prepped, put them in the bowl with the peanut sauce and stir everything up.

Follow the directions on the soba noodle package, taking care to not overcook them. With buckwheat soba, it’s important to rinse them very well in cold water as soon as they’ve finished cooking, otherwise you’ll wind up with something mushy and gross and unappealing. It’s OK that the noodles will be cold after rinsing! This dish actually tastes best cool/room temperature rather than hot. Toss the noodles with sesame oil.

Divide the noodles into bowls, put the veggies/sauce combination on top, and sprinkle with crushed peanuts. Serve with lime wedges, and enjoy with good friends and a nice view! We ate up on the roof of my apartment building, a spot I will never cease being grateful to have access to.

*Soba noodles are gluten-free IF they are 100% buckwheat, so check the package to make sure if this kind of thing matters to you. I use Eden brand. People with true gluten allergies should make sure the brand they buy is certified gluten-free, since contaminants can always be an issue.
**If you can’t find this fancy peanut butter, just use regular peanut butter with some chili sauce mixed in to taste.
***You can use gluten-free tamari instead of aminos, or soy sauce if you don’t need it to be gluten-free.

You know, it’s funny—a year ago today, we spent New Year’s Eve at home, eating nachos, drinking wine and painting the living room black. And also watching Lifetime movies, even though I didn’t mention that in my post. This year we’re at home, we’re eating cookies, drinking coffee (me) and vegan white Russians (Evan), and painting the dining room black. And watching Saturday Night Fever. Progress!

Our stove has been busted for a while (the top burners were usable, but not the oven) so roasting and baking stuff has been impossible lately. This morning the repair guy came ($130 for what literally took about 5 seconds and involved tapping a knob with the back of a screwdriver…ugh), so tonight I made the most of the restored service and made a really good dinner to send off 2011.

For the main dish, I made Hottie Black Eyed Peas and Collard Greens (SO GOOD…but then every recipe Isa writes is awesome) and a side of roasted carrots. I’m usually not big on cooked carrots, but seriously, these were AMAZING. The key is cutting them thinly enough and roasting them long enough that they get tender (not mushy!) and caramelized and crispy at the edges.

Make however much you want!

You need: Carrots, olive oil, garlic, coarse salt.

Step 1: Preheat the oven to 375°F and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
Step 2: Peel some carrots. Cut them into strips that are roughly 1/2″ thick and 2–3″ long.
Step 3. Put the carrots in a mixing bowl.
Step 4. Add a few glugs of olive oil (how much depends on the amount of carrots you’re making) and some coarse salt. Toss to coat!
Step 5: Slice a few cloves of garlic in half lengthwise. Toss into the mix.
Step 6: Spread everything out on the cookie sheet and roast for 40—50 minutes. Just keep an eye on them. You want nicely shriveled and maybe even a little charred here and there, but not burnt to a crisp.
Step 7: YUM.

For dessert, I made Mexican Hot Chocolate Snickerdoodles. OMG. Like I said, everything Isa comes up with is magic, and these are no exception. They’re nice and soft and chewy, chocolatey, and just the right amount of spicy. Mine didn’t get all crackly on top like hers did (maybe because I used coconut oil instead of canola oil), but ooooooohhhhh. So good.

Alright, it’s time for me to get back to my paintbrush. Happy New Year, everybody! Best wishes for a happy and healthy and productive 2012.