Friday, December 23, 2011

Vegan Rustic White Beans and Mushrooms Recipe


2 cups dried white beans, soaked for at least 8 hours
1 small onion, peeled and sliced in half
1 stalk celery, cut into two pieces
1 small carrot, sliced in half lengthwise
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 teaspoons dried tarragon, or 2 tablespoons fresh
1/4 cup olive oil
2 large cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 large leek, sliced thinly
1/2 pound (about 2 generous cups) mushrooms, either cremini, shiitake, or oyster, or a combination, rinsed and sliced thinly
1 1/2 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
Freshly ground pepper

Drain and rinse the beans and transfer them to a stockpot.  Add 4 cups of cold water, cover, and bring to a boil.  Boil for about 3 minutes. Skim off any white foam from the top.  Cover the pot and lower the heat to medium; add he onion, celery, carrot, thyme, and tarragon.

Simmer for about 45 minutes, until the beans are very tender.  Remove the onion, carrot, and celery (either discard or use in a stock).  Lower the heat to low and continue to simmer while preparing the remaining vegetables.  The beans should resemble a very thick stew, not a soup.  If there's too much liquid, leave the pot uncovered and stir occasionally.

About 10 minutes before the beans are done, place the garlic and 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a cold skillet.  Heat the skillet over medium heat, allowing garlic to sizzle for about 30 seconds.  Add the chopped leek and saute until soft, 1 to 2 minutes.  Scrape the leeks into beans.  Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil to the pan, allow it to warm for about 30 seconds, and add the mushrooms.  Sprinkle the mushrooms lightly with 1/2 teaspoon salt and saute until most of the mushroom liquid has evaporated, anywhere from 8 to 12 minutes depending on the kind of mushroom.  When most of the excess liquid is gone, add the mushrooms to beans.  Turn off the heat and season the beans with the remaining salt (or more, if desired) and freshly ground black pepper.  Allow the beans to stand for about 10 minutes before serving.

B made these for me to bring to Christmas dinner on Sunday, so I'd have a protein option.  We tried a little bit of it for lunch today and it was AMAZING.  I'm curious to see what the family thinks, as I know some don't like mushrooms and others have expressed their dislike of dried beans (preferring mushier canned beans instead.  Oh well, more for me & B then!

"These are simple, homey, French-inspired, stick-to-your-ribs beans fro early autumn days.  The tarragon and leeks really shine through the mild white beans, and the mushrooms add a chewy bite.  This recipe is made with dried beans; canned beans cannot be substituted, so plan accordingly and soak the beans overnight or in the morning before you leave to work." - from Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero's "Veganomicon: the ultimate vegan cookbook"

Coming to terms with holiday baking

You may have noticed that I've been doing a lot of baking lately.  None of which has really been vegan.  Technically speaking, most refined sugar is not vegan because it is refined with animal bones, and of course, anything containing butter, eggs or honey is an animal product.  So what is this new vegan to during her first holiday season with this plant-based lifestyle???

Find balance...

For my favorite Everything Bread Recipe, I struggled for a while over the use of honey.  For the time being, I've decided to use organic, local honey, and to just be ok with that for now.  If I feel differently later as I continue to grow into my new humane plant-based lifestyle, then that's fine too.

For my to-die-for Whole Wheat Morning Glory Muffins, something that I eat for breakfast every day now, I didn't know what to do.  The recipe contains two eggs.  Watching videos of factory chicken farms makes me feel so guilty about this morning pleasure.  So for now, I've decided to buy only organic, cage-free, vegetarian fed eggs.  If I can talk to the farmer and buy them locally, even better.  If I later find an egg substitute to replace this ingredient then great!  Better yet, I'd love to get my own backyard chicken coop.   But for now, I'm choosing to be ok with using my buying power to support only animal products that I want to support.

Butter.  Hmmmm.  It has always been one of my favorite flavors!  For baking, I've been buying organic butter.  For spreading and cooking, I use Earth Balance.  I hope to eventually look for other vegan alternatives for baking too, but its just so scary to start messing with all your tried and true recipes!

Finally, the sugar issue.  This is something I have not even started trying to conquer yet.  You can buy raw natural sugar that is vegan, but I'm not ready to start experimenting with my recipes to see how this effects them, yet.  Someday, in my fantasy world, I'll find the time to not only bake, but to experiment with baking too.  For now, if I can squeeze 30 minutes in here or an hour there, I'm going to stick with what I know and get the job done.  The point is, at least I'm making everything from scratch, which is definitely healthier and kinder to the planet in so many ways.

The biggest lifestyle change with trying to eat a mostly vegan diet, is all the homemade cooking and preparation in advance that needs to be done!  I have found I really need to use my weekends to plan for the week ahead, because there are very limited fast-food or pre-packaged options available to me.  Which really is a good think if you ask me anyway :)

Well, speaking of which, I better get back to my vegan Rustic White Bean & Mushroom dish that I'm bringing to pass at Christmas (to make sure I have a protein too).  See, always have to think ahead!

Andes Creme de Menthe Chunk Cookies


1/2 cup salted butter - softened
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup white granulated sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 eggs
2-2/3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 package of Andes® Crème de Menthe Baking Chips

  1.  Preheat oven to 350° F.
  2.  Blend butter, sugars, baking soda, baking powder, vanilla and eggs until mixed.
  3.  Stir in Andes Baking Chips and then flour.
  4.  Chill approximately one hour in the refrigerator.
  5.  Measure out approximately 1 oz. of dough. Form a ball and slightly flatten.
  6.  Raise oven rack one level above the middle and bake on non-stick baking pans.
  7.  Bake at 350° F for approximately 8 - 10 minutes.
  8.  Cool on pans for two minutes before removing.
4 dozen cookies.

I made these for the first time this Christmas, and they turned out to be the most "Christmasy" thing I actually baked this year!  They are surprisingly good, not overwhelmingly minty, and just the right amount of sweetness & chocolate.  I can't wait to see what my family thinks of them this year... I have a feeling a certain mint-loving cousin is going to be a fan!

Brickle Drop Cookies

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 package Heath Bits ‘O Brickle Toffee Bits

1.  Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease cookie sheet or use parchment paper.

2.  Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, vanilla and salt in large bowl until blended.  Add eggs, beat well.  Stir together, flour, baking soda, and cream of tartar, gradually add to butter mixture, beating until blended.  Stir in toffee bits.

3.  Drop by heaping teaspoons onto prepared cookie sheet.  Bake 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned.  Cool slightly, remove to wire rack.  Cool completely.

This recipe comes from the back of the Heath English Toffee Bits package. The toffee bits give it a crunchy, chewy texture and it’s not a cookie you can usually buy at a bakery or store.

White Chocolate Macademia Nut Cranberry Cookies


1 c butter, softened
1 c granulated sugar
3/4 c packed light brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
2 1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
2 1/2 c all purpose flour*
1 tsp baking soda
12 oz white chocolate chips
1 c macadamia nuts, chopped
1/2 c dried cranberries

*This recipe is for the original white cookies, to make chocolate cookies like those shown in the picture below, omit 1/2 c flour and add 1/2 c cocoa!
  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. In large bowl, beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt with electric mixer until creamy.
  3. Add eggs, beat well.
  4. Stir together flour and baking soda (and cocoa for chocolate cookies), gradually add to butter mixture beating until well blended.
  5. Stir in white chocolate chips, macadamia nuts and cranberries.
  6. Drop rounded teaspoons of batter onto ungresed cookie sheets.
  7. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until set (edges should be golden brown on white cookies, and the center should be set).
  8. Cool slightly, remove from cookie sheet to wire rack to cool completely. 
I first made these when I moved to Milwaukee for graduate school and didn't have much money to buy Christmas gifts for friends and family.  I made these to give away instead and they have become a favorite holiday treat for all!