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.

Christmas Feast 2013

Christmas at my house traditionally involves my stepfather pulling off a giant turkey dinner for the family; it wouldn’t be Christmas without bacon roasted on the turkey and sausage in the stuffing. This was the first Christmas since I became flexitarian (vegan with exceptions here and there), and I wanted to make a festive vegan dish to contribute to the plant-based options on the table. I decided to make a Festive Savoury Tart with Mushroom Gravy. I got the recipe for the tart from Dreena Burton, who I follow on Facebook. She included this recipe in her cookbook called Let Them Eat Vegan. I do not own this cookbook yet, but had access to it over the summer while living with another vegan. Here is my adaptation of her Festive Chickpea Tart recipe.

Festive Savoury Tart
Ingredients for the pie shell
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup coconut oil at room temperature
4-7 tbsp cold water

Ingredients for the filling
3-4 tbsp coconut oil
1 large onion, diced
3 ribs of celery, diced
4 cloves of garlic, diced
2 cups chickpeas, with 1/3 cup reserved
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp soy sauce (ideally tamari instead, but I don’t know where to find it)
1/2 tsp ground sage
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup pecans, toasted (ideally use walnuts)
10 oz spinach, chopped
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1 tbsp fresh thyme
Fresh parsley
Pepper

Ingredients for the topping
1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp soy sauce (again, ideally tamari)
2 tbsp pecans or walnuts

Mushroom Gravy
Ingredients
2 shallots, diced
1-2 cloves of garlic, diced
2 cups mushrooms, sliced
3-4 tbsp flour
4 cups vegetable stock
1/2 tsp thyme
3-4 tbsp coconut oil
salt and pepper

First off, I made the pie dough. It is important to note that this recipe needs some tweaking, as it was quite difficult to roll out, and I ended up pressing it in with my fingers. While the crust stayed together when the tart was being served, I am still not convinced that this recipe is the best approach to vegan pie crust.

To make the dough I tossed together the four, sugar, and salt, then cut in the coconut oil with a pastry cutter until the mixture resembled sand. I added the water little by little until the dough easily forms a ball. I think I required a little extra water to do so. I formed a ball with the dough, wrapped it in plastic wrap, flattened it into a disk, and refrigerated it for an hour.

Next came the filling for the tart. I began by toasting the pecans for 8-9 minutes in an oven of 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and let them cool. Next, I sauteed the onion, celery, garlic, and salt and pepper in a pan with the coconut oil. I let them cook for about 10 minutes, until the onion was soft and golden.

In a food processor, I pulsed the chickpeas (not including the reserved 1/3 cup) with the lemon juice, soy sauce, sage, and sauteed mixture, leaving the mixture slightly chunky; you do not want it to look like hummus. I added the toasted pecans and briefly pulsed it to break up the nuts. I transferred the mixture to a bowl and stirred in the spinach, cranberries, parsley, thyme, and reserved chickpeas. Then, I transferred the filling into a pie shell, with the pie dough pressed in evenly.

On the top of the tart I sprinkled the topping ingredients. The pecans will toast in the oven, so there is no need to toast them beforehand.

The tart was baked at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes.

Next came the mushroom gravy. I sauteed the shallots and garlic for a few minutes, then added the sliced mushrooms and browned them for 10 minutes. I added the flour, reduced the heat, and cooked for another five minutes. Little by little I whisked in the vegetable stock and added the thyme. The gravy simmered for 30 minutes, then I seasoned it with salt and pepper. If the gravy had been too thin for my liking, I would have added more flour by mixing it with water in a little bowl, then adding it to the mixture (this reduces the likelihood of lumps in the gravy).

The savoury tart was eaten by all at the Christmas meal, and I was able to enjoy the festive flavours without having any turkey. Even though this time of year has proven to be more difficult to eat vegan (with all the family get-togethers and all), it was nice to share this dish with my family.

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