Vegan Chocolate Frosting

Hurrah, this works! And it tastes awesome – I asked my beloved if it tasted too “soy-y” and he said, “With all that chocolate and sugar, how could you possibly taste it?”

Please note that the piece of cake in this picture is for artistic purposes only, as it is of a totally unreasonable size.

This seems quite liquid when first prepared – do not be afraid. Just pop it in the fridge for a little bit.  If you apply it when it is still a little bit warm, you will get a shiny, soft finished texture. Wait a little longer and it will become stiffer and hold swirled peaks. If it is too hard to spread, warm it slightly and try again.

I used this to frost and fill a two-layer cake with both layers split horizontally, and still have some left over.

Adapted – very loosely – from the 1997 Joy of Cooking.  This recipe originally contained cream or evaporated milk and butter.

Break or cut into 2 pieces:

6 oz. unsweetened chocolate (I used Scharffenberger 99%)

Bring to boil in a small saucepan:

1 c. Silk brand plain soy creamer

Remove from the heat and add the chocolate pieces without stirring. Cover and set aside for exactly 10 minutes.  Scrape into a food processor and add:

1 1/2 c. sugar

2 T. cocoa

2 T. oil

1 t. vanilla

Process until the mixture is perfectly smooth, 1 minute or more. Set aside until slightly thickened.  Makes about 3 cups, plenty for a two-layer cake with some left over.

Pimiento Cheese

A request from a co-worker – sort of. We were talking about retro party food, and pimiento cheese, though always a classic in my estimation, fits well into a retro party menu.  I told her she needed this recipe.

This is a recipe I adapted from James Mc Nair’s Cheese Cookbook. This stuff makes the best little tea sandwiches you can imagine. Cut the crusts off thin slices of bread and toast.  Spread this in the middle.  Stand back lest you be trampled.  (My other favorite tea sandwich is Gruyere, grainy mustard and asparagus.)

3 medium-sized fresh red pimientos or other red sweet peppers

2 c. (about 6 oz.) grated high-quality Cheddar or other cheese (Grafton, Tillamook, or Cabot would all be good here.)

2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed

1/4 c. mayonnaise

Salt to taste

Cayenne pepper

Place the peppers over an open flame or under a broiler and turn frequently until charred on all sides. Place the pepper in a tightly sealed container until cool, about 15 minutes. Remove the peppers from the container and rub off the blackened skin. A paper towel is a good aid for this.  Dry the peppers carefully, then cut them in half, remove and discard seeds and veins, chop the flesh, and set aside.

Place the cheese, garlic, mayonnaise, salt and cayenne pepper to taste in a food processor and process until the mixture is fairly smooth. Add the chopped peppers and blend just to combine.  Makes about 3 cups. 

Mushroom Gravy (for Mashed Potatoes)

I made this for my office potluck, to which I was to bring mashed potatoes and gravy.
I was out the afternoon that the signup sheet was set out. I received an email about it when I checked my email at home later that day, and thought to myself I must go sign up for mashed potatoes in the morning. I’ve made them for the potluck the past two years.

The first year at this job, I had to politely talk to our international guy, and ask him if he really wanted to make them or if there was something else he was really good at. He yielded, and that was year one. Last year, nobody fought me for the slot.

When I arrived at work the next day and made my way back to the lunchroom, our receptionist, who just joined us in the last few months, had already put her name under the line that read Mashed Potatoes and Gravy. Crum, I thought, looking at the list. I could make something else, but I really wanted to make the mashed potatoes. It’s manageable and predictable, and I have a potato ricer, which gives them a great fluffy texture, and, well – I’m good at it, okay?

I went back to my office, and said to my co-worker, “’Receptionist’s Name’ has already signed up for the mashed potatoes.”

She whirled around in her chair to face me. “No!” she cried, a stricken look on her face. “We can’t have that. I want your mashed potatoes.”

“Well, I don’t know what to do. I’m not going to go up to her and tell her that I want to make them. It would sound like I’m telling her that I’m a better cook than she is. It would just be rude.”

My co-worker sat silent for a moment, looked away, then back at me. “I’ll say something to her.”

“What are you going to say? ‘Hey, we don’t want any of your lousy mashed potatoes’?”

“I’ll think of something.”

A couple hours later, she came to my desk.

“I talked to her.”

“What did you say?”

“We were talking about something else, and I asked her, ‘Hey, have you had a chance to buy the potatoes for the potluck yet?’, and she said ‘No, I haven’t bought them yet but I heard that Jocelyn likes to make the mashed potatoes.’”

My jaw dropped. “You mean…”

My co-worker smiled. “Somebody else beat me to it.”

At the potluck, our receptionist, who made a pilaf dish that was also well-received, said, “I
see why everybody wanted you to make the mashed potatoes.”

I may have used more butter and cream than usual, just to drive the point home.

To appease the meat-eaters, because I try to avoid forcing my dietary practices on those who are not joining me for a meal in my home, I brought meat gravy from Whole Foods and this experimental mushroom gravy, which was a first try for me. The meat gravy from Whole Foods got eaten more than the jarred gravy someone else brought last year. This, however, did get some takers and from them, positive reviews.

12 oz. cremini mushrooms (two boxes worth)
2 large shallots, chopped (about 1 c.)
2 T. olive oil
6 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 t. dried thyme
1 t. paprika
1 T. olive oil
1/4 c. tamari
1/4 c. sherry
Water to process
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Remove the stems from the mushrooms and clean them thoroughly using a damp paper towel or small brush. Place the cleaned mushrooms in a glass roasting pan along with the shallots, olive oil, garlic cloves and thyme. Season with salt and pepper, remembering that the mushrooms will lose much of their volume through roasting, and toss thoroughly to combine. Place the mushrooms in the oven and roast, stirring occasionally, until their liquid has been released and largely evaporated and the mushrooms are wrinkled in appearance. Remove from the oven and place in blender container. Add the olive oil, paprika, tamari and sherry, plus a small amount of water for processing if needed, and blend on high speed until totally smooth. Taste and correct seasoning if needed. It needs a lot of pepper, perhaps more than one would think.
Reheat carefully if needed. Serve over mashed potatoes, use as a basis for soup, or as an ingredient in other dishes.

Mexican-Inspired Squash

When you like something that’s healthy more than the person you’re in a relationship does, there have to be accommodations made.  That’s what this recipe is about.

I love squash.  I loved it when I was a baby.  My mother made my baby food from scratch, since those were the days when baby food still had sugar and salt in it, and some of the yellow vegetables – sweet potatoes and squash especially – were both easy to prepare using a food mill and easy to get me to eat.  My mom would cook batches of vegetables, freeze the prepared food in ice cube trays, and at mealtimes, take out a divided baby dish and put a couple cubes of applesauce in one cavity, a couple cubes of squash or sweet potatoes in another, cereal in the third, then heat it in the oven.

One time when she took me to the pediatrician, he remarked on my skin color.  My mother hadn’t noticed, but the doctor said that I had a bit of a yellow tinge.  They eventually deduced that it was my phenomenally healthy diet that was the culprit.  My mom says she doesn’t remember the doctor telling her to cut back on the yellow-orange stuff, but that not long after that I got to the stage where I could eat more solid foods, and with the introduction of more green vegetables, my yellow color disappeared.

My beloved has never been in any danger of turning himself yellow, but he’ll tolerate some squash as long as there are other things on the menu.  He loves spicy food, so that’s the accommodation.  We had this with black beans seasoned with plenty of lime juice, garlic and cilantro over tortilla chips with a little cheese.  This is scandalously easy if you bake the squash in advance, and baking the squash in advance is also scandalously easy.

1 medium butternut squash

1 t. canola oil for the squash

1 T. canola oil for the pan

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 chipotle chili en adobo, minced

3/4 c. cilantro, minced

1 T. hot sauce (Whole Foods private label)

Juice of half a lime

2 T. orange juice

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Wash the exterior of the squash and then split it lengthwise.  If you wish to remove the seeds in order to bake them to use as a snack or plant them, remove them.  If not, they can be left in, as they become quite easy to remove once the squash is baked.  Rub a little oil on both faces of the squash, and lay it flat side down on a baking sheet.  Place the sheet in the oven and bake until the squash is browned and tender when pierced with a fork, about one hour depending on size.

When the squash is cooked, remove the seeds if you have not previously done so.  Turn the squash on its flat side and remove the skin.  Cut it lengthwise into strips, then crosswise into rough cubes.  It will disintegrate on cooking, so don’t worry too much about the uniformity of your cubes.

Heat the canola oil in a deep, wide pot over medium-high until it is hot but not smoking.  Toss in the garlic, chipotle chili, and cilantro, and sizzle until the garlic is fragrant but not browned.  This should take less than a minute.  Add the cubes of squash and stir, turning, until the squash and seasonings are well-mixed.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook until heated through if the squash was previously baked and refrigerated.  When it is hot through, add the hot sauce, lime juice, and orange juice.  Stir to combine.  Serve hot.  Makes about 8 servings – depending on who you’re eating with and how much they like squash.