Holiday Cookies and Appetizers

My husband and I, along with our fabulous downstairs neighbors, had a holiday gathering last night, with cookies being the major theme. We both provided a few savory snacks in addition to the sweets, and it was a chance for me to try a few new dishes. And with me being the procrastinator that I am, I was down to the wire trying to get everything onto the table, so I didn’t get a chance to take any pictures. But, this morning, I was at least able to snap a shot of some of the leftover cookies that we made for the get-together.

Cookies

For cookie ideas, we turned to Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar. I decided to make the Linzertorte Thumbprint Cookies, and my husband decided to make the Espresso Chip Oatmeal Cookies – his first ever attempt to make cookies from scratch, I might add. Both cookies turned out perfectly. We took the recipes directly from the book without any variation, so I’m not going to post the recipes here, but like all of Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s and Terry Hope Romero’s books, I highly recommend that you purchase them for your cookbook collection.

The thumbprint cookies looked very fancy, but they were surprisingly easy to make. They consisted of a lightly-sweetened shortbread dough, rolled in crushed hazelnuts, and then topped with a tiny dollop of raspberry jam.

The oatmeal cookies, according to my husband, were also easy to make. The instant espresso powder and chocolate chips really took the oatmeal cookies to a whole new level. They were chewy and sweet, without being too sweet.

Appetizers

For the savory portion of our spread, I decided to try three new recipes: Chestnut Lentil Pâté, Asparagus and White Bean Pesto Tart, and vegan cream cheese topped with red pepper jelly and walnuts. They were all incredibly easy to make and turned out way better than I had expected.

The pâté recipe was pulled directly from Veganomicon. I discovered a few days ago, after buying two pounds of chestnuts and roasting a few of them, that I really don’t like chestnuts. At least by themselves. But their strange, meaty texture works perfectly for a pâté. Now, I’ve never had real pâté before, but to me, this looked just like the real thing. It had a touch of sweetness from the chestnuts, and paired well with melba toast.

My favorite appetizer of the entire evening was the Asparagus and White Bean Pesto Tart, which you can find here on Vegan Yum Yum. It was super-easy, and looked beautiful on the tray. It was also a big hit with our guests (I should have made more!). The white bean spread was very reminiscent of a hummus, but the Dijon mustard, cashews, and pesto set it apart from its chickpea cousin.

Last weekend, my friend, Erin, and I venture up north just outside of Cincinnati to check out Jungle Jim’s, which is what can best be described and the “Las Vegas of grocery stores.” The place is overwhelmingly huge, and has an incredible international food section. We stocked up on fun party foods while we were there, and using her suggestion, I picked up a bottle of red pepper jelly. For the party, I spread it over vegan cream cheese and topped it with walnuts. The spicy and sweet jelly paired perfectly with the tangy cream cheese, and the walnuts added a nice crunch when spread over a cracker.

Our spread also included some other goodies, but I was most proud of our cookies and other new recipe additions.

I hope you’re having a wonderful holiday season!

Chickpea Noodle Soup

My husband has been sick all weekend, so instead of making the Chickpea Picatta from Appetite for Reduction like I had originally planned, I decided to make a big pot of brothy soup to help him feel better. (I took the recipe straight from Veganomicon with no adaptation, so I’m not going to post it here. And, unfortunately, Isa mentions the Chickpea Noodle Soup, but doesn’t list the recipe on her website.) I made it a long time ago and loved it, so I’m not sure why I haven’t made it since. But with my husband not feeling well, and the temperatures here hovering in the 30’s (is it spring, yet?), I figured that this was the perfect comfort food for the weekend.

I highly recommend buying Veganomicon if you’re into vegan cooking. It, along with The Joy of Vegan Baking, were my first vegan cookbooks and I still use them every week for inspiration.

Dal Makhni

I love lentils. They’re cheap to buy and easy to prepare. They’re also super healthy. Combine them with some fragrant spices, tomatoes, and a cashew cream sauce, and you’ve got yourself a delicious, Indian-inspired dish that is sure to please.

I adapted this recipe from the Vegan Yum Yum cookbook, which is one of my favorites. I highly recommend it if you’re thinking of becoming vegan or just looking for simple vegan recipes. Lauren Ulm’s food is very simple in its ingredients and preparation, making it a good starting point before moving on to more involved cookbooks, like, say, Veganomicon.

Dal Makhni

Serves 2 + leftovers

Ingredients:

2 cups long-grain brown rice
1 tbsp Earth Balance margarine
2 cups green lentils
8 cups water
1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil
1 cup chopped yellow onion
4 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
2 bay leaves
4 green cardamom pods
1 2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 28 oz. can of diced tomatoes
1 tsp salt
1 cup raw cashews
3/4 cup water

Directions:

In two separate pots, cook both the lentils and rice in 4 cups of water, each. Add the Earth Balance to the rice. Both should take about 40 minutes to cook.

After the rice and lentils have cooked for about 20 minutes, go ahead and heat the oil in a large, deep skillet (I used a soup pot). Add the onion, and cook for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until the onions start to brown and caramelize. Stir constantly and keep an eye on them to prevent the onions from burning. After they’ve browned, add the cloves, cinnamon stick, bay leaves, and cardamom pods and fry for 2 minutes. Next, add the ginger and garlic and cook for 2 more minutes.

Add the tomatoes and salt and simmer for about 5 minutes, then add the cooked lentils to the pot. Add a 1/2 cup of water if the mixture is too thick.

Blend the cashews in a blender or food processor, and slowly add the water until it forms a creamy sauce. Add the cream to the lentil mixture and reserve some on the side for an extra dollop on top.

Serve over rice.

Enjoy!