Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Mac n Cheesiness

1 16oz package macaroni or other small pasta 
(I used mini penne)
1 vacuum packed box of of silken tofu
½ cup nutritional yeast 
(or you can use more, if you love the pungent cheesey flavor)
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup soy milk
2 cloves garlic
Pinch of salt
¼ cup breadcrumbs
Pinch of cayenne
Ground black pepper

Set a big pot of water on the stove to boil. While it's heating, put the tofu, nutritional yeast, olive oil, soy milk, garlic and salt into a blender or food processor. Blend until all the lumps have disappeared. When the water has reached boiling point, add your pasta and cook for ten minutes. When it is done, drain the pasta and stir the sauce into it, making sure that all the pasta is nicely coated. Then put the whole thing into a baking dish (I used an 8 x 8 inch Pyrex dish). Top with the breadcrumbs, a generous amount of fresh ground black pepper and a small pinch of cayenne. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.

I love serving this dish with BBQ seitan and garlicky collard greens. I've also been known to serve it with chili beans, or on its own as a light meal. Comfort food at its best!

Italian Cornmeal Cake with Strawberries

Northern California's strawberry season truly exploded this week. The farmers' markets and stores are overflowing with sweet, ripe fruit, ready to be eaten. But what to do with all of those strawberries? Well, this recipe combines cornmeal cake (one of my favorites), with fresh fruit. Adapt it according to the season and use whatever fruit you have available. As a light, refreshing dessert, it's a great staple to get you through summer. Use it to impress your guests at summer BBQs and garden parties.

1 1/4 cups soy milk (or whatever non-dairy milk you like)
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup flour
1/2 cup fine yellow cornmeal 
(if you only have coarse cornmeal, try grinding it in a coffee grinder)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

16 oz strawberries
1 tbsp granulated sugar
2 tbsp confectioners' sugar, optional

Fist, hull and chop the strawberries, sprinkle a tablespoon of granulated sugar on them, and set them aside. Next, grease your pan (either a 9 inch round cake pan or a traditional loaf pan). In a bowl, mix together all of your other ingredients. The order doesn't matter. The resulting batter will have a fairly runny consistency – that's OK. Then, pour your batter into a pan and bake at 350 degrees for 55 minutes.

After removing from the oven, pour your strawberry mixture on top. Some juice will have begun to seep out of the berries, that's good, you want to pour that on top of the cake too. When cool, remove from pan. You can dust the whole thing with confectioners' sugar before serving, if you want to.

Update, May 26th 2013: I just made this recipe in a loaf pan and drizzled three tablespoons of orange syrup over it. It was really moist and made a great dessert, although it could also stand alone as a cake to serve with coffee. If you don't have orange syrup, you can just dissolve some marmalade in hot water.


Monday, April 22, 2013

Yam and Chick Pea Stew

Yams were on sale at Andronico's this week, 49 cents per pound! I can't resist a bargain like that, and it gave me a reason to think up this simple Monday night stew.

6 yams (equal to about 1 ½ lbs)
1 onion
2 cans chick peas
1 can coconut milk
1 tbsp curry powder
1 tsp salt

Cut up the yams and onion, put them into an oven-proof dish with a lid. Add the canned chick peas, the coconut milk and the seasoning. Add the seasoning incrementally, tasting as you go (some curry powders are spicier than others). Then add water to achieve your desired consistency; 1 ½ cups is probably about right. Cook at 350 degrees for 90 minutes. After 60 minutes, remove from the oven to stir, then return to the oven leaving the lid off. Makes 6 generous servings, each with 350 calories. Serve with crusty bread or brown rice if you fancy something heartier. 

Some people might judge me for using canned chick peas. Those people can get over themselves. I know it's great to soak your own chick peas and all, but this is a Monday night after all. At the end of a long day at school, and then the clinic, I need something that doesn't require any effort or forethought. OK, I have said enough on that subject.

One other note: The canned coconut milk that I used for this was especially thick, which made the whole thing much richer and more coconutty. If your coconut milk is thinner, you might want to try using two cans instead. 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Jackie's Thai Peanut Noodles with Seasonal Veggies 

OK, based on discussions in my kitchen this lunchtime, a new concept has been born. Guest bloggers. (Wait, that's not a new concept? What!?).

Well, from now on, guest contributors are invited to submit ideas and I'll feature their favorite new recipe/ingredient/technique here on Charlie's Kitchen Blog. The only requirement is that everything needs to be vegan and within a grad student budget. To make things easy, I will begin by featuring a recipe by my housemate, Jackie Ballard, since she was already in the kitchen cooking something fabulous when I had this brilliant idea. Talk about convenient! Jackie claims that she is not a vegan, but almost every time I run into her she is cooking something deliciously plant-based. Today, she is excited to be working with Thai peanut sauce (a good choice, in my opinion).

Oil for sautéing
2 cloves garlic
1/2 yellow onion
2 cups chard, including stems
1 cup sugar snap peas
1 package yaki soba noodles
Peanut sauce

Mince your garlic, tear up your chard into bit-sized pieces, cut up your onion and slice your sugar snap peas into 1 cm pieces. Then heat oil in a pan. When hot, add the onion, garlic and sugar snap peas. Allow them to sauté for up to 5 minutes, depending on how al dente you like them. Next, add the chard and stir it around. It might look like a lot, but it will soon wilt. Open and drain your package of noodles, add them, and stir the whole thing together. Leave on the stove until everything is piping hot, stirring regularly, then add peanut sauce to taste - I think 2tbsp is probably about right. This recipe makes one generous serving.

Jackie used San-J peanut sauce. Both that and the yaki soba noodles are available at Safeway. The peanut sauce is with the Asian specialty foods - usually somewhere near the soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, etc. The soba noodles are in the produce section. They come in a thick plastic bag and can be found in the refrigerator near the tofu and fake deli meats. Thanks, Jackie!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Tea Time Raisin Scones with Strawberry Jam

Scones in the UK are different from scones in the United States. They're smaller, less sweet, and typically served with butter and jam. A perfect snack at tea time!*

1 ¾ cups self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
6 tbsp Earth Balance, or other vegan margarine
2 tbsp caster sugar
½ cup soy milk, plus a little extra for glazing
½ cup raisins (optional, you could substitute nuts or other fruit)
Jam and vegan butter to serve

Grease your baking sheet. Sift the dry ingredients into a bowl. Add the Earth Balance. Using your hands, rub the fat into the dry ingredients, making a sandy mixture of small clumps. Slowly add the milk, stirring with a wooden spoon. Once the mixture is an even consistency, mix in the raisins. 

Dust your work surface with all-purpose flour and roll out the dough to a thickness of 1 inch. Cut out your scones using a circular cookie cutter and glaze them with milk using a pastry brush (if you don't have one, you can just dip your fingers in milk and glaze them by hand). Bake at 425 degrees for about 15 minutes. Let cool and serve with jam (strawberry is most traditional) and/or vegan butter. 

When I made this recipe, I rolled the dough a little too thin, and I got 11 ½ scones. You should roll yours thicker, about 1 inch, and it will yield 8 scones.

* “But what time is tea time?”, I hear you cry. Experts vary in their opinions on this matter. “High tea” involving scones, cake, biscuits, cucumber sandwiches and a fancy tea pot is usually served at 4pm. However, in the North, “tea” might also be used to refer to the evening meal, which is eaten quite early, around 5pm. 

Never Buy Seitan Again (or, how to make your own meat feast)

I don't like to brag, but I will admit that my seitan gets excellent reviews. Last Thanksgiving, I made seitan roasted in orange juice, rosemary and olive oil. A panel of hungry omnivores and vegans taste tested it against a store-bought variety cooked in the same marinade, and my version won unanimously. I mean it when I say that you will never want to buy seitan again after trying this recipe. Perhaps even more importantly, the homemade version is considerably cheaper than store-bought. The only downside is that it's a bit of a pain in the ass to make, but that's why I made big batches. This recipe makes 6 generous servings.

Most seitan recipes involve making a dough, then boiling it. My recipe adds a third step; roasting. Without roasting, the resulting product can be flavorless and the texture can be pretty weird (strangely fluffy, not dense and meaty). So, omit this step at your peril. Although my recipe is a multi-stage process and takes at least an hour and a half, it is well worth it and does not need constant attention, so you can get on with other stuff in the meantime.

In this entry, I offer a recipe for orangey BBQ marinade, but you could substitute any kind of marinade that you fancy – teriyaki might be good, or possibly something with red wine and onions. 

For the seitan:
2 cups vital wheat gluten
6 tbsp nutritional yeast
½ cup soy sauce
2 tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp tomato paste

For the marinade:
3 tbsp olive oil
1 ½ tbsp BBQ sauce
2 tbsp marmalade
1 tbsp soy sauce
Cracked black pepper

Start by heating a lot of water in a big pan – there needs to be room for all of the seitan, plus a lot of extra space for it to expand and move around. Next, measure all of the seitan ingredients into a bowl – the order doesn't matter. Mix with a wooden spoon until a sticky dough has formed. Then sprinkle a handful of all-purpose flour onto your work surface and use this to kneed your dough. See picture:

The dough should remain a little sticky, but should not stick to your countertop. If it does, add more flour and keep kneading. After kneading for about 5 minutes, form the dough into a log shape. Then slice this log into sections about an inch thick. See picture:

When the water is hot, lower each slice of seitan into the pot. The goal is the have the water just on the brink of simmering – steaming but not really bubbling. If you're getting a lot of bubbles, turn the temperature down. Allow the seitan to sit in the steaming mixture for 30-40 minutes. Stir once or twice during this time; not vigorously, just enough to make sure that the seitan isn't sticking to the bottom of the pan. When the time is up, fish the seitan out of the pan and leave to cool on a chopping board for 10 minutes.

After the seitan has cooled a little, you can either leave it in big chunks to make “steak”, or you can cut it into strips. Either way, measure the ingredients for the marinade into a roasting pan and add the seitan. Mix the whole thing around with your hands, making sure all sides of the seitan get nicely oiled. Roast at 400 degrees for 45 minutes, flipping the seitan pieces half way through.

When it comes out of the oven, the final product is beef-like. It can be served with vegetables and gravy, or it can be used in stir fries, sandwiches, and burgers. 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Blueberry Crumb Cake

Recently, there's been a lot of talk about the nature of coffee cake in the Walnut Street house. I was confused because in England coffee cake is cake that contains, and tastes of, coffee. In the United States, it seems more often to refer to a cake that is served with coffee but that can be made with anything, although it is commonly cinnamon-y and covered with a streusel topping. This difference became more confusing when my Canadian housemate Stephen got in on conversation.* So, this cake isn't really what I think of as coffee cake, but it is a rendition of what I think other people think of as coffee cake. It's a two-layer arrangement; cake on the bottom, crumbly topping on top, with a layer of jam stirred into the middle. I used blueberry jam, but encourage you to try other flavors. David suggested gooseberry, which would be great, although I don't know how widely available that is in the United States. The Post Punk Kitchen has a very similar recipe, but they use raspberry jam, which I'm sure is devine.

The recipe is easy to make and I prepared it ahead of time because I had friends coming over for brunch this morning and was too lazy to get up early. I left it uncooked in the fridge overnight and just got it out and popped it in the oven this morning about an hour before they were due to come over. It still had a warmish just-baked feel when we cut into it. It was a great success and was consumed in its entirety.

1 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/3 cup Earth Balance

3/4 cup soy milk
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1tsp salt
2/3 cup jam

First, put the milk and vinegar in a measuring cup and set it aside to curdle while you work on the rest of the recipe. Then grease your pan, preferably an 8 inch springform pan, or an 8 x 8 square dish. Next, prepare the topping. To do this, measure all of the ingredients into a bowl, then gently rub them together with your hands until you get a crumby mixture with smallish clumps that stick together. If the mixture feels too dry and is a sandy consistency, rather than clumpy, add another tablespoon of Earth Balance. Set aside.

Make the cake batter separately in a large bowl. Slowly mix together the milk/vinegar mixture, sugar, oil and vanilla extract. Stir until the sugar has dissolved. Sift the flour and baking powder into the mix, stirring constantly. Now you should have two bowls; one with cake batter and one with topping. You should also have a jar of jam at the ready.

To assemble the cake, first pour all of the cake batter into the pan and smooth it out, making sure that it reaches the edges. Spoon the jam on top of this, then lightly swirl it around with a fork. Sprinkle the topping over the top, making sure that it reaches the edges, and gently pat it down. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. After this time, check it by sticking a knife in it. If the knife comes out clean, the cake is ready. If not, leave it to cook for another 5 minutes.

* Discussing coffee cake with Stephen prompted him to get out a recipe book of family favorites that his mother compiled for him. It is quite an impressive collection and definitely deserves a place in a museum of contemporary Canadian cultural history. It reminds me very much of a passage in Neal Stephenson's Reamde in which he talks about the beauty of mid-Western food; “...he was fascinated by the mid-western/middle American phenomenon of recombinant cuisine. Rice Krispie Treats being a prototypical example in that they were made by repurposing other foods that had already been prepared (to wit, breakfast cereal and marshmallows). And of course, any recipe that called for a can of cream of mushroom soup fell into the same category. The unifying principle behind all recombinant cuisine seemed to be indifference, if not outright hostility, to the use of anything that a coastal foodie would define as an ingredient.” I might try to veganize some of the recipes from Osadetz Family Favorites for future editions of the blog in a futile attempt to prove that I am not, in fact, a snobby Bay Area foody. "Classy Chicken" could easily become "Classy Chick'n" and "Nuts and Bolts", which seems to be a variation on Chex mix, could easily be made with Bragg's Liquid Aminos instead of Worcestershire sauce.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Lemon Glitter Cookies

My housemate, Stephen, bought a bag of small Meyer lemons from the Berkeley Bowl, then he couldn't find a use for all of them and generously donated them to the cause of Charlie's Kitchen Blog. Thanks, Stephen! I love lemon-y anything, so I was happy for the chance to work with these tangy little guys.

I can't claim authorship of this recipe. It's another classic from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar. I just made minor alterations based on personal preference, such as substituting soy for almond milk and playing with the quantities of flour and lemon.

[Weird aside; lemon cookies and cakes remind me of Sansa Stark from Game of Thrones. Imagine how stoked I was, therefore, when lemon cakes got featured during this week's episode. Who knew that being a fantasy fiction nerd could make baking more fun?!]

3 tbsp turbinado sugar, or other coarse granular sugar
1/2 cup Earth Balance
1/4 cup soy milk
3/4 cup sugar, I used white sugar
2 tbsp lemon zest (this was equivalent to the zest from four small Meyer lemons)
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tbsp cornmeal, finely ground
1 tbsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and grease your baking sheet. Use a grater or microplane to zest the lemons. Next, grind the cornmeal into a fine powder (I used a coffee grinder). In a large bowl, cream together the Earth Balance and sugar using a fork. Add the soy milk, lemon juice, vanilla and continue to stir with a wooden spoon. When an even liquidy mixture has formed, slowly sift the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, stirring continuously. The resulting mixture should smell nicely zesty and stick to your fingers when you touch it.

Use a measuring spoon to drop tablespoon-sized dollops of batter on to your baking sheet. Leave plenty of space around each dollop because it will spread out as it cooks. I put 12 cookies on each sheet, which works out perfectly because the recipe makes exactly 24 cookies. Bake for 10-12 minutes on the top shelf of the oven. Leave to cool for 10 minutes before serving. Each cookie contains 105 calories.

Not-So-British Beans on Toast

I bought a 20oz bag of mixed dried beans from the grocery store. The plan was to make them into soup, so I put them in the crockpot with seasonings and a can of diced tomatoes. When I came back in the morning, more liquid had evaporated than I expected. The resulting mixture had the consistency of refried beans, but without the massive quantities of fat. It was not what I intended, but it was a pleasantly tasty surprise. They reminded me of baked beans, but with a decidedly more "grown up" flavor (like, not just sugar). This, in turn, reminded me of being back in the UK and eating beans on toast regularly for breakfast or as a light meal. I think it's time that Americans adopt this custom. It's quick, cheap, vegetarian and pretty wholesome. A perfect snack for when you sit down to watch Dr. Who (yeah, I know what you Anglophiles get up to).

I put the beans on my favorite toast (Alvarado St. California Complete Protein), and added the vegan trifecta; hot sauce, avocado and nutritional yeast.

20oz bag of mixed beans (I think mine contained kidney beans, cannellini beans, black eye peas, lentils)
1 tsp salt
1tsp sugar
1 tsp spice mix (including paprika, chili flakes, cinnamon, cumin)
2 slices bread, toasted
1/2 avocado
1 tsp nutritional yeast
Hot, hot sauce
(You could also try adding some chopped cilantro, salsa fresca, or cashew nacho cheese)

Put the beans, seasonings and a can of tomatoes in the crockpot. Add water to reach the "full" line. Cook overnight. Then, toast the bread and put the beans on top. One cup seems to be about the right amount for an individual serving. Add toppings and serve. (Seriously, vegans, you have to add nutritional yeast. If you're anything like me, you probably forget to take your B12 consistently, which is yet another good reason to add this delicious, pungent ingredient to your food. As for hot sauce; well, everyone has their favorite hot sauce, it's a very personal matter, don't ask me why. David recently bought this Rancho Gordo Felicidad Chipotle Salsa and passed it along to me because it wasn't to his taste. I, on the other hand, think it's excellent, but am trying to offload some Cholula Chili Lime sauce. The lime seems slightly artificial-y to me and it overwhelms the other flavors.)

Total calories per serving, 530.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Asparagus in Season

Steamed asparagus works well with a simple dipping sauce of tamari and sesame oil. Add pickled vegetables, edamame and wakame salad to make a fresh green lunch. I also made miso-glazed tofu skewers and white rice to go with this meal, but I accidentally ate them before I had time to take any photos. Oops! 

Wakame salad:
Loose handful of dried wakame
1/3 large cucumber
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt

Soak the wakame in cold water until fully rehydrated (about 15 minutes). While you're waiting, dissolve the salt and sugar in vinegar to make a dressing. Then thinly slice the cucumbers and allow them to marinate in the dressing. When the wakame is ready, mix the whole thing together with your hands, top with sesame seeds.  

Saturday, April 6, 2013

I Love My Lunch Box

I have been enjoying lunches a lot more since I invested in a Laptop Lunch Box. 

Red beans with salsa, garlicky sautéed kale, brown rice, grapefruit slice, kiwi, peach soy yogurt. 

Orange Wacky Cake with Blood Orange Syrup 

I swear I didn't made up this ridiculous name. Wacky cake is a real thing. If in doubt, please consult wikipedia. 

The story goes that wacky cake was invented during World Ward II when eggs and dairy were rationed. Instead of letting Hitler spoil their culinary creativity, inventive housewives worked out a way to make cakes without using up these precious resources. The cake is basically made of flour and sugar and the raising agent is baking soda mixed with vinegar. Don't worry, the quantity of vinegar is very small and the flavor is indistinguishable. 

The reason that I made an orange cake is because several weeks back my friend Nicole and I attempted to make blood orange marmalade. We managed to mess it up somehow (probably not keeping it at the correct temperature for long enough), and what we ended up with was not marmalade but delicious orange syrup. Since then, I have been looking for uses for the vast quantities of orange syrup that I have. So far, the biggest successes have been adding a tablespoon of syrup to unsweetened coconut yogurt for breakfast, and adding a spoonful to dry sparkling wine as a kind of champagne cocktail (not for breakfast!). Nicole and I used to love eating the Orange Tofu at Long Life Vegi House on University Ave in Berkeley, which is unbelievably sweet and is basically just deep-fried tofu in marmalade sauce. I plan to try making a slightly healthier version of this delicacy at home. Watch out for a recipe in the next few weeks!

1 ½ cups all purpose flour 
1 cup sugar
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 cup orange juice
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 tbsp vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract
5 tsp orange syrup, or 2 1/2tsp marmalade dissolved in water

Grease the pan with oil. You can use a 9 inch cake pan, or you can make ten individual-sized servings in a muffin tin (as I did). 

Sift the dry ingredients into a bowl. Measure the wet ingredients into a large measuring cup. Slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry while stirring constantly. When the mixture is an even consistency, put it into the pan. Really. That. Simple. 

Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes if you're making individual servings. For a whole cake, it will probably require 30-32 minutes. 

When fully baked, remove from the oven and spoon slightly less than half a teaspoon of orange syrup to each little cake. It will soak in and make the cake deliciously moist. If you don't have orange syrup, you can dissolve some marmalade with water in a pan over the stove - it will serve the same purpose. Or, if you prefer, you can wait until the cake is fully cooled, then add your favorite frosting. For this I would recommend confectioners' sugar dissolved with orange juice, drizzled over the top. Given how moist this cake is, though, it would also be perfectly yummy to eat it as it is, with no topping at all. 

Each individual-sized cake contains 220 calories, including the blood orange syrup topping. 

Lunch Inspired by Eiji and CSA Seasonal Vegetables

When I got this beautiful brown beech mushroom in my CSA box, I decided to build a whole lunch around it. I've been eating at Eiji (Sanchez Street, San Francisco) a lot recently, which inspired the Japanese theme. I like having several small plates, rather than one big dish. And it gives me an opportunity to show off my cute crockery.

The meal consists of pickled radishes, seaweed salad, baked miso mushroom, green tea noodles with vegetarian furikake.

The radishes were sliced and left to marinate in apple cider vinegar and salt for four hours. The seaweed salad was a combination of dried hijiki, wakame and arame, which I rehydrated (approximately ten minutes). Then I dressed it with a combination of soy sauce, mirin and rice wine vinegar, and topped it with sesame seeds. For the mushroom, I just smeared some olive oil and sweet white miso on top and baked it for twenty minutes at 350 degrees. The green tea noodles were purchased from Japantown, boiled for five minutes, drained and topped with furikake. 

This meal took about half an hour to make, and the only item that had to be prepped ahead of time was the pickled radish. When lunchtime arrived, I soaked the seaweed in cold water first. Then I popped the mushroom in the oven and worked on everything else while it was cooking. Presto!

Grad Student Lunch in a Tortilla

This is for the days when you're really in a hurry, but need something hearty to keep you going. It helps if you ate Mexican food the previous evening, because then you can use up the leftovers.

Take a tortilla.

Add half a cup of refried black beans (homemade or from a can).

A chopped tomato.

Half an avocado.

Two tablespoons of salsa verde. (Make your own if you want to. Mine is from the store because I'm a busy lady).

Four tablespoons of enchilada sauce. (Again, mine is from a can, from the store).

Fold and microwave for three minutes.

Prep time: 5 minutes.
Cooking time: 3 minutes.
Calories: 500. 
Vegan street cred: priceless.

Classic Chocolate Brownies

Ever since I became vegan about 8 years ago, I've been searching for the best vegan brownie recipe. I'm still not ready to declare a winner, but this recipe is pretty darn good. I especially that it manages to develop a harder crispier top, while remaining fudgy inside. 

For this recipe I used Guittard's Cocoa Rouge, which comes in 8oz canisters from the bakery aisle of the supermarket. It has a particularly rich aroma and the most beautiful color of any chocolate I have ever seen. In general, I advise buying high quality cocoa. The cheaper versions tend to be lighter in color and have a less powerful taste, which will make a significant difference in the final product, so it's worth splashing out on something a bit more expensive.

I can't claim authorship of this recipe. It's from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar by Isa Chandra Moskovitz, which is an excellent book that I refer to often and recommend without hesitation. I'm presenting this recipe in its simplest form. It's up to you whether you want to add nuts, chocolate chips, fruit, etc. I think it would be pretty good with banana in the mix, but if you pursue the banana path you might want to reduce or eliminate the tofu. 

3 ounces silken tofu (this usually amounts to 1/4 of a package)

1/4 cup non-dairy milk (I prefer unsweetened soy milk, such as Westsoy of Trader Joe's)
1/2 cup canola oil
1 cup sugar
2tsp vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa
1 tbsp corn starch
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Find a suitable baking pan. For this recipe, I use an 8 x 8 inch Pyrex dish. Lightly grease it with oil.

Sift all of the dry ingredients except the sugar into a large bowl. Separately, mix the tofu, milk and canola oil in a blender. When they are fully blended and there are no more tofu lumps, add the sugar and continue to blend until it is fully dissolved and the mixture has an even consistency. Then, gently add the wet mixture to the dry mixture, stirring until the ingredients are fully combined. If you are using additional ingredients, such as nuts, now is the time to add them. Spread the resulting batter into the pan, making sure that it reaches the edges. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 30 minutes. You know the brownies are ready when you can insert a knife into them and remove it without any of the batter sticking to it.

Leave the brownies to cool for 15 minutes before cutting into 12 pieces. Each serving contains approximately 198 calories. For extra fun, serve with ice cream. Or, if you're feeling fancy, eat them with a shot of espresso or liqueur poured over the top, Cointreau or Frangelico work especially well for this.

Pomegranate Mint Lemonade

This drink is incredibly refreshing and perfect for a hot day. It was inspired by the fact that I had a really ancient pomegranate lurking in the bottom of my fridge. I was only aware of its existence because I would occasionally come across it while searching for something else. I was too lazy to use it, but felt kind of guilty about throwing it out, and so it lingered. Months went by and then, one Thursday, my Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) box arrived containing a bunch of mint and a lemon. And thus Pomegranate Mint Lemonade was born. 

I imagined making a batch of this lemonade, then stashing it in the fridge and sipping on it during the warm days that were to come. But no such thing happened. It proved to be more delicious than expected, so along with my housemates, I finished it off before it was even cool. We filled big glasses with ice cubes and poured the still-warm lemonade over the top, which gave it a beautiful color. 

I own a four-pint pitcher, so all of my measurements were based around that. Feel free to make whatever quantity works for you. 

4 pints water
1 lemon
1 bunch mint
1 pomegranate
2 tbsp white sugar

Bring the water to a gentle simmer in a big pan. Tear up the mint and throw it all in, even the stems. Chop the lemon in half, squeeze the juice into the pan, then throw the rinds in too. Likewise, chop the pomegranate in half, give it a good squeeze so that plenty of the juice ends up in the pan, then throw the remainder of the pomegranate in too. Next, add two tablespoons of sugar, or substitute another sweetener if you prefer. Simmer for ten minutes. Then, turn of the heat and strain the liquid through a sieve (cheesecloth would work well too). 

The result should be very refreshing, a little bit fruity, and not too sweet. Allow to cool and serve with ice. Or, if you feel like it, try it in cocktails. 

This recipe makes 8 servings of 8 fl oz. Each serving contains approximately 20 calories. 

Thank you to housemates Stephen and Jackie for assistance with the photo shoot. 

Welcome to Charlie's Kitchen!

Grab a drink, make yourself at home, and smell the waft of baked goods in the air. Dinner will be served shortly.