Categories
Baking Chocolate Food General Recipes vegan

Amazing, Almost Ambrosial Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies

I woke up grumpy, feeling rickety, tired, and ancient. By late afternoon, however, I was quite cheery, even contemplating having a 10 minute solo dance party in my living room. This transformation was in large part thanks to a quick twenty minute yoga session and then, this plate of perfect cookies, alongside a cup of chamomile tea.

What does the perfect cookie taste like, you might ask? What does it feel like when you bite into it? How does it smell? Well, that of course may vary from person to person. To me, a perfect cookie is a chocolate cookie. It is filled with dark chocolate chips and possibly dotted with lightly toasted nuts. It is crisp on the top, bottom, and on its sides, but has a gooey centre. It has the distinct aroma and taste of rich cocoa, a hint of vanilla, and finally, the caramel-like taste of brown sugar. It looks like this:

If this sounds and looks like something you might like, then I suggest giving this recipe a shot! Oh and these cookies are completely vegan!

I will say, some people may find these cookies a bit sweet. The trouble is that the recipe requires at least this amount of sugar in order for the cookies to have a crispy exterior and a gooey centre. Moreover, these cookies, while undoubtedly sweet, were not unpleasantly so, to me (just to calibrate my palate/preferences, most North American milk chocolate tastes saccharine to me). Especially, when paired with some unsweetened coffee or tea to offset their sweetness and also, to compliment their crisp and gooey texture.

I sipped on some chamomile tea, made by brewing dried chamomile flowers from our garden, while I ate them.

I think a cup of coffee with these cookies would be great too!

If you want to give making the cookies a shot, here’s what you will need:

Ingredients:

100 g (about 1/2 cup) white sugar

100g (about 1/2 cup) dark brown sugar (if you want to use light brown sugar, use 125g of it and then, reduce the white sugar by 25 g)

112g (about 1/2 cup) vegan butter (I use Earth Balance)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I use real vanilla extract, but imitation vanilla extract should work fine in foods treated to relatively high temperatures)

125 g (about 1 cup) all purpose flour

60 g cocoa (about 2/3 cup) (use the best cocoa you have as the better it tastes, the better your cookie will taste)

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 pinches of salt

1-2 tablespoons of almond milk

2 handfuls of vegan semi-sweet chocolate chips (or chop up a bar of your favourite vegan dark chocolate) (you can add less or more, per your preference)

2 handfuls of walnuts, chopped and lightly toasted (toast them in a frying pan until slightly browned and fragrant)

Equipment:

Stand mixer, handheld mixer, or a whisk and strong arms

2 large bowls

1 sieve

A weighing scale or measuring cup

A teaspoon

A baking tray

Some parchment paper

An oven

Method:

  1. Cream the butter and sugar (i.e. beat them together in a stand mixer or in a large bowl with a handheld mixer/eggbeater or whisk) until they form a creamy, thick, pale yellow mixture.
  2. Add in the vanilla extract and continue beating the mixture until the extract is incorporated into it.
  3. Sieve the dry ingredients into a second bowl (flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt).
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix them altogether with your hands. It will seem like a thick dough. Add in a tablespoon of almond milk and mix it in. If the dough still seems very dry, add in another spoon of the milk.
  5. Toss in the chocolate chips and walnuts and mix them in.
  6. Roll the dough into individual little balls. (I got about 14).
  7. You can bake them all on a baking tray lined with parchment paper (ideally unbleached and compostable) at 350 F for about 12 minutes or so. The cookies are ready when they are slightly firmed up on their sides. They will still seem soft in the centre, but will firm up in about 10 minutes if you just let them cool on the tray.
  8. Alternatively, flash freeze the dough balls in the freezer (i.e. freeze them on a tray or plate) for about 2-3 hours, and once they have frozen, throw them into a freezer ziplock bag and then the freezer. This way, you can pop your head into the freezer and grab some dough whenever you want a fresh cookie! If you choose this route, bake the frozen dough balls directly, without defrosting them, at 350F, but for about 3 minutes longer.
  9. The only problem with the freezing method is that it isn’t very energy-efficient because it involves heating up the oven multiple times. What we’ve been trying to do in our home is to bake various different things in the oven at the same time. For instance, one can also toast bread at 350F. Alternatively, we heat up the oven to 350F, bake the cookies, and then increase the oven temperature to a higher temperature to bake other things, like bread, for example.
  10. Whatever method you choose, I recommend enjoying your warm cookies with a glass of milk, coffee, or tea!
Categories
Cooking Food General Indian Cooking Low FODMAPS Recipes vegan

Andhra-Inspired Mango Dal (Mango Lentils)

In my view, most fruit are pretty gross. This surprises people. The nicest honest description of my eating habits I have heard is from a friend of mine who called me “delightfully weird”. What really shocks people though, is the fact that I hate mangoes, despite the fact that every summer of my childhood, our house was almost literally inundated with hundreds of mangoes (this was because one of my uncles has a large mango orchard and also, because our house had one very prolific mango tree that I was very attached to)! Nearly, everyone in my family absolutely adores mangoes, and yet, I find these fruit almost inedible.

But now, I have found a way to enjoy them: by cooking them up in a dal! I used to eat mango pappu (the telugu word for dal) as a child and I’ve recently rediscovered how harmonious the combination of these two ingredients can be. It all happened almost by accident. My niece (who is vegan) was staying with us and I was running out of ideas in terms of what to cook for her. I’d already made three different types of dal that week! Then, I spied a mango in our fruit bowl. “Ah ha!”, I thought, “this could end up being a fun challenge in the kitchen: trying to make mangoes enjoyable!”

It turned out to be absolutely delicious and it is now my favourite dish! SO much so, that I’ve bought a tonne of mangoes, chopped them up, and flash frozen them, so that I can make myself some mango dal through the fall and winter, whenever I have a hankering for it 🙂

Indian cooking with Mango

If you think you’d like to try and sacrifice one or two of summer’s last few mangoes to an experiment, give it a go! I promise you it will turn out well, if you follow my instructions!

Ingredients:

(A quick note: You can adjust the level of spice easily. In the list of ingredients in the recipe below, I have provided a range of amounts for various spices; you can decide for yourself how much you’d like to use :))

1 cup lentils (I find that a mix of lentils is great for this recipe. I use Pesara Pappu (Moong Dal in Hindi); Toor Dal, and/or Masoor Dal)

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

3-4 cloves of garlic, skinned

1-2 medium mangoes (The number of mangoes you should use will depend on your preference as well as the flavour and size of the mangoes you’re cooking with: if you like a more intense mango-flavour, use two mangoes, otherwise, use less. Similarly, if the mangoes you have are small and/or not particularly tangy, you should use 2 mangoes. Also note that adding more mangoes changes the texture of the dal: it will become more pulpy with the addition of each mango)

2-3 tablespoons of oil (I use either avocado oil or sunflower oil)

1 medium-sized onions (red or yellow) chopped (I prefer red onions, they seem to have a nice balance of pungency and sweetness)

1 teaspoon grated ginger

3-6 fresh chilies, chopped or cut length-wise (You can reduce this amount if you don’t want the dal to be too hot/spicy)

1 – 3 teaspoons red chilli powder

Salt to taste

Ingredients for the popu/tadka/baghar:

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon mustard seeds

3-12 dried red chilies, torn in half (depending on how hot you’d like the dal to be)

2-4 peeled garlic cloves, halved

A handful of curry leaves

2 pinches of asafoetida (optional)

2-3 tablespoons of oil or ghee (You can get ghee at an Indian store. However, I would recommend making your own, if you have the time. Here is my recipe, if you’re interested. If you don’t have ghee, or want to make your dal vegan, you can use sunflower oil, vegetable oil, or really any oil with a high smoking point. DO NOT USE BUTTER, it will smoke and burn before the spices are properly fried).

Method:

1. The first thing to do is to prepare the dal (lentils). Even if you don’t live in India, you should be able to get most lentils at an Indian store. I normally soak lentils for about 30 minutes, drain the water out, and add fresh water in, before I cook the lentils (this helps them cook faster and apparently helps to reduce bloating and gas: I am still looking for studies to back this up, which I will cite here when I find them). If you don’t have the time to do this, you can skip this step.

2. Next, cube and skin the mango:

Cutting a mango

3. I tend to cook my dal in an instant pot. If you don’t have one, you can use a normal pressure cooker or boil the dal in water until it is cooked. Add a quarter teaspoon of turmeric, half a teaspoon of salt, 3-4 cloves of skinned garlic, and the mango cubes to the dal before you cook it.

IMG_9516

4. I like to purée the cooked dal-mango mixture in a food processor/blender/mixie in order to make it into a smooth paste. This makes the texture of the dal smoother and distributes flavour more evenly. This step is completely optional. You can skip it without much consequence to the taste of your dal if you do not have either the necessary equipment or the time.

Making dal at home

5. Next, heat 2-3 tablespoons of oil in a saucepan. When it’s hot add the chopped onions and sauté them until softened and lightly browned.

Cooking onions in Indian food
Cooking onions for Indian food Sautéing onions
Cooking onions for Indian food
Sautéing onions

6. Now add the ginger and fresh chillies to the onions and sauté everything again until the ginger is cooked (it should no longer smell raw). Then, add the red chilli powder, the remaining turmeric, and half a teaspoon of salt to the sautéed onions-ginger-chilli-mixture (hereinafter referred to as “stuff” :P) and continue to sauté all of this for about 5 minutes on low-medium heat.

Onion-masala for dal

7. Add the dal-mango puree to the pan along with a cup or two of water, and bring it all to a boil. Let everything cook for about 8 minutes on high heat, stirring the pot intermittently to prevent the contents at the bottom from burning. You will see a foamy layer rise to the top of the dal.

IMG_0210

8. I like to scoop this out into a bowl and throw it out.

Reducing FODMAPS in dal; how to decrease bloating from dal

I have heard from some people who regularly cook with lentils in India that this helps reduce bloating and gas.

A note on FODMAPS for the lay person: FODMAPS can cause gastric discomfort in some of us. One may be sensitive to some or all FODMAPS to varying degrees. Symptoms can range from gas, bloating, abdominal pain and cramping, to, in my case, at least, acid reflux. For more general reading on this topic, this article is a great starting point.

The main FODMAPs that dal contains are oligosaccharides. Take a peek at this post about FODMAPS and how cooking legumes may help to reduce the FODMAP content in the food we eat. Of course, more research is needed to confirm this theory, but also, to determine the most effective/efficient ways of extracting FODMAPS from dal through cooking. I am not sure that my method of skimming the foamy parts off the top of the dal is effective in removing/reducing dissolved oligosaccharides from it. Anecdotally, though, I have found it helps. Therefore, I do it every time I cook dal.

In addition, onions and garlic contain fructans, which are also a type of oligosaccharide (see this article for more on this). If you are particularly sensitive to onions and/or garlic, you could sauté them in oil (in step 5 of the recipe, above) and then, remove the onions and garlic pieces, leaving just the oil in the pan. Subsequently, continue with step 6. Frying the onions and/or garlic in oil results in some of their flavour infusing into the oil. Since fructans are water-soluble not fat-soluble, by removing the onions and/or garlic, you are able to reduce the amount of fructans that end up in the dal (see this article for more on this). Also, remember not to add any garlic to the lentils whilst cooking them in step 3, above. In step 9 (below), you can add garlic to the tadka, but remember to remove it before pouring the tadka into the dal.

9. The baghar/popu/tadka:

Heat a tablespoon or two of ghee in a little saucepan on high heat. Let the ghee get hot. To test if it’s hot enough, throw a single cumin seed into the pan. If it begins to sizzle, add the mustard seeds and the rest of the cumin seeds and stir them about until they start to pop. When they start to pop, add the asafoetida and red chilies, followed by the curry leaves and garlic cloves about 30 seconds later. Once the red chillies darken, add the baghar to the lentils. Immediately cover the pot.

IMG_9800

10. The dal is now ready! Taste it and add some salt to it if you like. Serve it with some hot rice and/or roti, Indian pickle, ghee, and any other accompanying curries or vegetable sauté. I like to eat it with brown rice (it’s more nutritious and has more fibre) and some dahi (Indian yogurt).

IMG_9523
Categories
Cooking Food General Indian Cooking Low FODMAPS Recipes vegan

Garden Fresh Palak Dal (Spinach Lentils)

We’ve had a very cool August this year, which has been disappointing. This has meant less paddle-boarding and fewer beach days. Moreover, our bougainvillea plants haven’t flowered quite as prolifically as they usually do.

Tropical flowers in Canada: bougainvillea

On the upside, however, this has meant that the second box of spinach we planted late this summer has been doing really well!

Growing your own food: spinach

I haven’t been cooking at all this week because on Tuesday, I had a fun adventure: I flew through an open door, towards a glass wall (I tripped on a sign right outside the door); my knee is what prevented me from crashing through the wall; as a result, it has been swollen and bruised. I am better today, though, so I thought that I’d cook up something delicious, using the “harvest” from our little urban deck “farm” and my partner as a sous chef.

Here is today’s produce:

Cooking with food from your garden

Given my life-long love affair with chillies, new found appreciation for home-grown cherry tomatoes, and inexplicable tolerance for spinach (despite my general dislike for vegetables), this was a truly exciting collection of delights! “Palak dal!!!”, I thought to myself, excitedly. And so, I cooked us up a big pot of the stuff:

Homemade Palak dal

If you’d like to give it a go, here’s what you will need:

Ingredients:

(A quick note:  You can adjust the level of spice easily. In the list of ingredients in the recipe below, I have provided a range of amounts for various spices; you can decide for yourself how much you’d like to use 🙂)

1 cup lentils (I find that a mix of lentils is great for this recipe. I use Pesara Pappu (Moong Dal in Hindi); Toor Dal, and/or Masoor Dal)

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

3-4 cloves of garlic, skinned

2-3 tablespoons of oil (I use either avocado oil or sunflower oil)

1 medium-sized onions (red or yellow) chopped (I prefer red onions, they seem to be more pungent)

1 teaspoon grated ginger

3-6 fresh chilies, chopped or cut length-wise (You can reduce this amount if you don’t want the dal to be too hot/spicy)

1.5 – 2 cups of cherry tomatoes, halved (you can also use two medium sized tomatoes)

1/2 – 1 teaspoon cumin powder

1/2 – 1 teaspoon coriander (cilantro) seed powder

1 – 3 teaspoons red chilli powder

1/2-1 teaspoon of garam masala (optional)

2 cups of baby spinach (250 g)

Salt to taste

Ingredients for the popu/tadka/baghar:

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

3-12 dried red chilies, torn in half (depending on how hot you’d like the dal to be)

2-4 peeled garlic cloves, halved

2 pinches of asafoetida (optional)

2-3 tablespoons of oil or ghee (You can get ghee at an Indian store. However, I would recommend making your own, if you have the time. Here is my recipe, if you’re interested. If you don’t have ghee, or want to make your dal vegan, you can use sunflower oil, vegetable oil, or really any oil with a high smoking point. DO NOT USE BUTTER, it will smoke and burn before the spices are properly fried).

Method:

1. The first thing to do is to prepare the dal (lentils). Even if you don’t live in India, you should be able to get most lentils at an Indian store. I normally soak lentils for about 30 minutes, drain the water out, and add fresh water in, before I cook the lentils (this helps them cook faster and apparently helps to reduce bloating and gas: I am still looking for studies to back this up, which I will cite here when I find them). If you don’t have the time to do this, you can skip this step.

2. I tend to cook my dal in an instant pot. If you don’t have one, you can boil the dal in water until it is cooked. Add half a teaspoon each of turmeric and salt, as well as 3-4 cloves of skinned garlic to the dal before you cook it. Once it’s cooked it should look like this:

Cooked moong dal

3. I like to purée the cooked dal in a food processor/blender/mixie in order to make it into a smooth paste. This makes the texture of the dal smoother and distributes flavour more evenly. This step is completely optional. You can skip it without much consequence to the taste of your dal if you do not have either the necessary equipment or the time.

Making dal at home

4. Next, heat 2-3 tablespoons of oil in a saucepan. When it’s hot add the chopped onions and sauté them until softened and lightly browned.

Cooking onions in Indian foodCooking onions for Indian food Sautéing onionsCooking onions for Indian food

Sautéing onions

5. Now add the ginger and fresh chillies to the onions and sauté everything again until the ginger is cooked (it should no longer smell raw). Then, add the cumin powder, coriander powder, red chilli powder, garam masala (if you are using it), and half a teaspoon of salt to the sautéed onions-ginger-chilli-mixture (hereinafter referred to as “stuff” :P) and continue to sauté all of this for about 5 minutes on low-medium heat.

Onion-masala for dal

Onion-masala for dal

6. Then, add in the tomatoes, cover the pan, and let it all cook for another 5-10 minutes, until the oil starts to separate out from the rest of the stuff.

Onion-tomato masala for Indian cooking

7. Meanwhile, rinse the spinach. I like to use kitchen shears or a normal pair of scissors and cut up the spinach in the bowl into slightly smaller bits. If you don’t like this method, you can, of course, chop the spinach on a cutting board with a knife.

8. Add the spinach to the sauce pan, then add the lentils.

How to make dal

9. Pour in a cup or two of water, and let everything cook for about 8 minutes on high heat, stirring the pot intermittently to prevent the contents at the bottom from burning. You will see a foamy layer rise to the top of the dal. I like to scoop this out into a bowl and throw it out.

Reducing FODMAPS in dal; how to decrease bloating from dal

I have heard from some people who regularly cook with lentils in India that this helps reduce bloating and gas.

A note on FODMAPS for the lay person: FODMAPS can cause gastric discomfort in some of us. One may be sensitive to some or all FODMAPS to varying degrees. Symptoms can range from gas, bloating, abdominal pain and cramping, to, in my case, at least, acid reflux. For more general reading on this topic, this article is a great starting point.

The main FODMAPs that dal contains are oligosaccharides. Take a peek at this post about FODMAPS and how cooking legumes may help to reduce the FODMAP content in the food we eat. Of course, more research is needed to confirm this theory, but also, to determine the most effective/efficient ways of extracting FODMAPS from dal through cooking. I am not sure my method of skimming the foamy parts off the top of the dal is effective in removing/reducing dissolved oligosaccharides from it. Anecdotally, though, I have found it helps. Therefore, I do it every time I cook dal.

In addition, onions and garlic contain fructans, which are also a type of oligosaccharide (see this article for more on this). If you are particularly sensitive to onions and/or garlic, you could sauté them in oil (in step 4 of the recipe, above) and then, remove the onions and garlic pieces, leaving just the oil in the pan. Subsequently, continue with step 5. Frying the onions and/or garlic in oil results in some of their flavour infusing into the oil. Since fructans are water-soluble not fat-soluble, by removing the onions and/or garlic, you are able to reduce the amount of fructans that end up in the dal (see this article for more on this). Also, remember not to add any garlic to the lentils whilst cooking them in step 2, above. Similarly, forego adding garlic to the tadka in the step below (step 10).

10. The baghar/popu/tadka:

Heat a tablespoon or two of ghee in a little saucepan on high heat. Let the ghee get hot. To test if it’s hot enough, throw a single cumin seed into the pan. If it begins to sizzle, add the rest of the cumin seeds in and stir them about until they start to pop. When they start to pop, add the asafoetida, garlic cloves, and red chilies.

Once the red chillies darken, add the baghar to the lentils.

Popu in pulusu

Immediately cover the pot.

11. The dal is now ready! Taste it and add some salt to it if you like. Serve it with some hot rice and/or roti, dahi (yogurt), Indian pickle, ghee, and any other accompanying curries or vegetable sauté. I like to eat it with brown rice (it’s more nutritious and has more fibre).

Healthy, vegan spinach lentils

Low fat Indian recipes: spinach lentils

The ratio of dal to rice is up to you. My family jokes that my plate often looks like a swimming pool of dal with a few desperate grains of rice drowning to death in it 😛 Yes, some of my near and dear have a dark sense of humour 😉

Vegan spinach lentils

In the photograph below, it is served with white rice, roti, dahi (yogurt), some pickle (Gongura pacchadi, to be precise, which you can get in most Indian stores if you live in North America) and sautéed dondakaya (Indian Ivy Gourd).

Healthy Indian lunch with lentil soup