Ginger Cookies and Hot Chocolate

Brrr it is cold out there! January weather came early to Ottawa, and the winter coat and boots have been deployed. I find the best way to cope with the early winter is by being as warm and cozy as possible. That is why I made ginger cookies and hot chocolate today. About a month ago I started to experiment with making my own nut milk. Along with getting some fresh-made milk, I use the leftover pulp to make flour, then use the flour in my baking. Kinda neat. I add vanilla protein powder to the milk when having it with cereal to add some protein, too. I have made almond milk/flour, but for this recipe I made used pecans.

Last week I had lunch with my childhood piano teacher, whom I had not seen in about four years. It was lovely; we caught up over a delicious lunch that she made herself. For dessert she had a ginger-snap vanilla gelato from Stella Luna, a fantastic cafe in Old Ottawa South. Unfortunately, I could not eat it because they also make gelato with peanuts. Silly peanut allergy. Ever since that day I have been craving ginger cookies. So, I am kicking off the weekend with a cozy treat.

Here is the recipe for the ginger cookies, inspired by a recipe on food.com

Dry Ingredients
2 cups flour (I used 1 1/2 cups whole wheat, 1/2 cup white)
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly grated ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves

Wet Ingredients
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
1/4 cup non-dairy milk (I used soy milk, but the pecan milk would have been delightful)
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla

In a medium bowl I mixed together the dry ingredients with a wooden spoon, and in a small bowl I mixed together the wet ingredients with a whisk. I used the spoon to stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, and mixed until combined. I then divided the dough into 12 balls, about 1 tbsp each, rolling them in my hands and placing them on a cookie sheet that was lined with parchment paper. I flattened the balls with my hand, then marked each cookie with a fork, in a criss-cross pattern. The cookies were baked at 350*F for 10 minutes. My cookies were soft, but for crispier ones, I could have flattened them even more, and used less dough for each cookie.

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Here is the recipe for the hot chocolate, inspired by a recipe for hot chocolate in The Essential Vegetarian Cookbook.

Ingredients for the pecan milk
2 cups pecans
4 cups water

Ingredients for the hot chocolate
2  heaping tbsp cocoa powder
2 heaping tbsp white sugar (plus more to taste)
1/4 cup water
2 cups pecan milk
pinch salt

I combined the pecans and water in a bowl and let them soak for ten hours. This is to make the pecans really soft. I blended the mixture in a blender on high speed for about two minutes. Then, I drained the liquid with a cheese cloth, squeezing the contents until as much liquid as possible came out. I reserved the pecan pulp in a container for later*

To make the hot chocolate, I whisked the cocoa powder, salt, sugar, and water in a small sauce pan. I heated the mixture until it simmered, whisking constantly. I added the pecan milk and continued to whisk until the hot chocolate came to a boil. I served it immediately.

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The hot chocolate was quite chocolatey, and had a distinct flavour of pecan. I enjoyed a cup of it with the ginger cookies, and shared it all with my dad. I definitely would put a bit of maple syrup next time to make it just a hint sweeter.

*To make nut flour, all I do is lay the pulp left over from the nut milk on a baking tray, making sure the pulp is in a thin layer, and bake it until it is dry and powdery. I think I baked it at 200*F for about 45 minutes to an hour. I kept it in an air-tight container in the cupboard and have used it to make granola bars, muffins, and almond cream. Just be careful, as it does not substitute perfectly for flour. I would use only some of it to substitute all-purpose flour in a recipe.

Thai Rice

Now and then it’s fun to have a side dish with some zing that goes beyond plain potatoes, quinoa, or rice. Also, recently I have been loving recipes with fresh lime and lemon flavours. I find cooking with citrus super fun, and I always like to have a lime and lemon on hand.

As I have mentioned before, the cookbook called Vegetarian Cooking by Linda Fraser has some delicious recipes in it, including a mouth-watering side dish section.  This cookbook is small in size, but huge in success; every recipe I have made from it has been exquisite. One day I made the dahl recipe from a previous post, and accompanied it with this rice recipe. This recipe for Thai Rice can be served with any kind of curry, and is also good on its own.

Ingredients
1 stalk lemongrass, finely chopped
2 limes, zested
1 cup brown basmati rice
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1 1/2 tsp coriander seeds (I used coriander powder)
1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
3 cups vegetable stock
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
lime wedges, to serve

I began by rinsing the rice in cold water  until the water ran clear, and drained it through a sieve. In a large pot I heated the oil and cooked the onion, ginger, spices, lemongrass, and lime zest for about 3 minutes. I then added the rice and let it cook for a minute, then added the vegetable stock. I let the stock reach a boil and then reduced the heat and covered the pot. The pot was left to cook for at least 30 minutes, and was left cooking until there was no longer any liquid in the pot. Next, the pot was removed from the heat. Lastly, I stirred in the cilantro, fluffed the rice, and let stand for another 10 minutes.

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Vanilla Chai Cupcakes

Valentines day this year marked the beginning of my reading week, and a visit from Tom for the last weekend of Winterlude. Upon beginning a week of relaxing, eating, and reading, I decided to make cupcakes for my two valentines: my dad and my boyfriend. Not wanting to stick to classic vanilla or chocolate, I thought I would try something new.

Vegan Vanilla Chai Cupcakes

Ingredients for the batter
2 cups flour
1 cup icing sugar
2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cups almond milk
2 chai tea bags
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup melted coconut oil
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 tbsp flaxmeal, with 3 tbsp water

Ingredients for the frosting
3 cups icing sugar
1 cup vegan margarine
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp cinnamon

First I brought the almond milk to a low boil in a small pot, turned off the element, and steeped the tea bags for 10 minutes. While the tea bags were steeping I mixed together all the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Once the tea was done steeping I removed the tea bags and stirred in the apple cider vinegar, letting it sit for about 5 minutes. This makes an equivalent for buttermilk. I let the flaxmeal soak in 3 tbsp water for a few minutes, and meanwhile added the coconut oil and vanilla to the tea mixture. I added the flaxmeal to the wet ingredients then incorporated the wet into the dry mixture.

I evenly distributed the batter into 12 lined and greased muffin cups. Because it was Valentine’s Day I used my heart-shaped muffin cups, given to me by my best friend, Charlotte. The batter baked for 20 minutes at 350 degree Fahrenheit.

For the frosting, I whipped together all the ingredients until smooth and piped them in different designs on the completely cooled cupcakes.

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They tasted more like cinnamon bun cupcakes to me, and were delicious with coffee for breakfast one morning. Also, margarine keeps a soft texture and does not harden the way buttercream frosting does. Overall I was happy with the way they turned out, and I will definitely be making more vegan cupcakes in the future.