batch cooking for H. & J.

playing tetris with frozen portions of batch cooking in the freezer

My friends H. and J. are having a baby this month, and I offered to make a few meals to ease a bit of the strain of the first few days of brand-new parenting.  Neither of them are vegans but they're both adventurous eaters and I've made dinner for them a few times before. I cooked up a few things and then - thanks to the folks over at the PPK forums - learned a few things about the things I should be cooking, too!

frozen dal makhani

I wanted to make them things that would freeze, keep and reheat easily and be warm and nourishing. They both really like dals and curries, so I made up a batch of dal makhani - I use coconut milk instead of ghee, yoghurt and cream - and aloo saag with beet greens, spinach and kale.

frozen NOLA red beans in a thick gravy

I also cooked up a batch of NOLA red beans in a thick gravy. I froze everything in 1 cup portions in storage containers and unmolded them by placing the containers in a bowl of cold water until the contents just released from the sides. Once all the different dishes were unmolded, I put the 1 cup portions in individual bags labelled with all the ingredients (in case of looking out for baby allergies) and with reheating instructions (for easy reference).   

molasses cornbread, cooling

I made some molasses cornbread as well, a house favorite, let it cool and then cut into single servings to freeze.

What hadn't occurred to me was this: things that can be eaten with one hand are a serious boon for new parents. So thank you, PPKers, I'll be baking off some empanadas later this week as well. Hopefully this will at least be a small help for H. and J. and their new little person - I can't wait to see what they look like as a bigger family!

moveable feast: sweet dessert empanadas

saffron pear apple filling in sweet dessert empanadas

Previously, I posted about making empanada fillings and dough in advance. Now comes the easy part of the empanada making process: filling and baking! You've got your fillings and your dough, so it's smooth sailing from here on out. Preheat your oven to 400 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a small bowl or cup, mix together the sugar and cinnamon.


filling and baking empanadas

1/4 cup non-dairy milk or creamer
fillings
dough rounds or squares
1 TBSP sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Take your dough shapes, gently stretch the edges, then brush with the milk or creamer. Scoop 1/3 cup filling into the center and spread lightly over half; leave about 1/2 inch of space along the edges. Fold the unfilled side over the filling, press down with your fingers to seal, then crimp with the tines of a fork.

Carefully place on prepared baking sheet, brush with more milk or creamer and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar mixture. Repeat until out of filling, then bake for 24-26 minutes, or  until the tops have golden spots. Wait five minutes before digging in!

round saffron pear apple round empanadas cooling


notes

If you've cut rectangles, you can fold the dough to form rectangle or squares.

For circles you can fold in half to form half-moons, or put one circle on top of another for a round pie. Be warned: the round pies make really big servings!

rectangles of dough for rectangle pies: maple lime pumpkin inside!

You may need more or less milk or creamer depending on how sticky your dough is. You can also brush the outsides with oils - canola is nice and neutral and olive oil complements many fruits - but something like hazelnut or pumpkin might be unexpected and fun as well!

These transport well and reheat easily at 350 for 10 minutes.

Really do wait a few minutes before eating, as the filling can get incredibly hot.

Experiment with fillings. I was most nervous about the maple lime pumpkin - the most savory and least conventional of the fillings - but it was the surprise favorite of the evening!

moveable feast: empanada dough

empanada dough resting; flour and measuring cups everywhere

Yesterday I made three different empanada fillings; the second step in any great empanada caper is making the dough. I'm a big fan of Terry Hope Romero's empanada recipes, so all credit where credit is due. You can find a more complete and  helpful list of instructions on her site. If you've ever had an interest in vegan Latin cooking, I highly recommend Viva Vegan!


richer wheat dough
makes 12

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1⁄2 tsp baking powder 

  • 6 TBSP chilled nonhydrogenated vegan margarine 
  • 4 TBSP chilled nonhydrogenated vegan shortening
  • 3⁄4 cup cold water, or more as needed

Whisk together the flour, salt and baking  powder in a large mixing bowl. With a pastry cutter or two forks cut in the shortening and margarine. Add in the water slowly and mix with your hand until a dough forms. Knead for a few minutes until all the dough is incorporated. Divide into two disks, place in a plastic bag and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Small kitchen method: after the dough has fully chilled, divide each disk into 6 equal portions and quickly roll into balls. Press between waxed paper in a tortilla press to form a circle. The circles should be slightly less than 1/2 inch thick. Roll thinner if need be. Stack in between sheets of waxed paper and chill until ready to form the empanadas.


notes

You may be tempted to skip either chilling step. Don't! You'll wind up with a sticky icky mess.

My small kitchen method for making the individual empanada circles is not in the slightest bit traditional, but I have found it easier than rolling out and cutting with limited counter space.

When rolling out and cutting the circles , I use a small bowl as a guide - and please use a butter knife, not a sharp knife! My kitchen and I learned this the hard way. 

A dough scraper comes in handier than I ever thought for lifting the dough circles if they are sticking.

richer wheat empanada dough: cut, not pressed

moveable feast: empanada fillings

Hachiya persimmons at the Grand Lake farmers market

Thanksgiving was never a very big deal in my house growing up, except for the Twilight Zone marathon on KTLA! Seriously, that was the best. These days I pop on whatever episode I want with Netflix, and then settle in for a Millennium marathon with my sweetheart. And even though we do Thanksgiving feasting on the following Saturday, I'm  always excited to go to my omnivorous sweetheart's sister's where, thankfully, there is always something for me to eat.

I'm in charge of breads and desserts each year, and they happily eat both with nary a complaint and only the highest praise for vegan cooking - in fact, they requested a repeat performance by the sweet empanadas I made last year! They get super excited about multiple fillings, so, to ease the process, I take a page from every entertaining handbook ever and make them in stages. Three days before, I make the fillings. Two days before, the dough. And the day before, I assemble and bake the whole shebang.

This year's roster stars saffron pear apple, cinnamon nutmeg persimmon and - the dark horse - maple lime pumpkin. The instructions are all pretty much the same for each filling, just keep an eye out for burning or boiling over.


saffron pear apple

saffron pear apple empanada filling

makes enough for 6

  • 1 pear, quartered and sliced
  • 1 apple, quartered and sliced
  • 6 TBSP sugar
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 TBSP lemon juice
  • pinch saffron
  • pinch salt

Combine all ingredients in a nonreactive pan, bring to a boil and boil gently for 15 minutes, stirring intermittently. Allow the thickened mixture to cool, then store in a covered container in the refrigerator until you are ready to assemble the empanadas.


cinnamon nutmeg persimmon

makes enough for 6

cinnamon nutmeg persimmon empanada filling

  • 1 ripe Hachiya persimmon, scooped
  • 2 Fuyu persimmons, quartered and sliced
  • 6 TBSP sugar
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 TBSP lemon juice
  • ¼tsp cinnamon
  • ¼nutmeg
  • pinch salt

Combine all ingredients in a nonreactive pan, bring to a boil and boil gently for 15 minutes, stirring intermittently. Allow the thickened mixture to cool, then store in a covered container in the refrigerator until you are ready to assemble the empanadas.


maple lime pumpkin 

makes enough for 6 with leftovers

  • 2 cups pumpkin (not pumpkin pie)
  • 6 TBSP sugar
  • 2 TBSP grade B maple syrup
  • 1 TBSP lime juice (about ½ lime)
  • pinch salt

Combine all ingredients in a nonreactive pan, bring to a boil and boil gently for 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Allow the thickened mixture to cool, then store in a covered container in the refrigerator until you are ready to assemble the empanadas.


notes


The saffron pear apple mixture should be a gorgeous dandelion yellow, the cinnamon nutmeg persimmon should be vibrant dark orange, and the maple lime pumpkin should be deep reddish brown. The persimmon filling may develop dark spots as you cook it down, do not panic. And make sure to check for seeds!

They will all thicken even more as they sit. If they separate during storage, pour off the thin liquid or stir it back in; I prefer to pour it off to reduce the chance of empanadas leaking. Use any leftovers stirred into oatmeal, spread on toast or over other roasted fruits! 

Stay tuned for two days before!

a what-the-hell attitude

This  post took two long years to write. Not two continuous years or even two years on the back burner with editing and re-editing, but two unreasonable years of wanting to start a blog and not exactly knowing where to start, or how to perfectly encompass my cooking "style" in a single luminous recipe - accompanied, of course, by a hauntingly lit photograph with striking use of bokeh. It took me about twenty years to start really cooking, so I figured I'd nip this procrastination in the bud before the bud went to seed.

  Fuyu persimmon and rosemary

Fuyu persimmon and rosemary

So I find myself writing these two tiny paragraphs right this minute, and this is what I baked this morning: vegan gluten-free persimmon rosemary scones based on Dreena Burton's Squirrely "Scones" recipe. They're only very slightly sweet and nicely herby from the rosemary.


xgfx persimmon rosemary scones

makes 9

1 Fuyu persimmon

dry ingredients

  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup barley flour
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 ½ TBSP flax meal
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
  • ½ tsp cinnamon

wet ingredients

  • ¾ cup plain unsweetened non-dairy milk
  • 4 TBSP canola oil
  • 3 TBSP maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350. In a blender or food processor, chop the rolled oats until they resemble a coarse flour. Rinse, dry, and chop the rosemary. In a large bowl combine all the dry ingredients except the flax meal. In another bowl, combine the flax meal with the milk and stir to mix. Add all the wet ingredients to the dry, stir to combine, chop the persimmon into raisin sized pieces (remove seeds if there are any), mix the persimmon in and then let sit for a minute. Drop heaping tablespoons onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet and bake for 20-24 minutes. Let cool on the sheet for a minute, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.


  xgfx persimmon and rosemary scone

xgfx persimmon and rosemary scone

notes

I like to use oat milk for baking if I have it, but almond, coconut or soy work just as well. I use unsweetened, but you can use whatever you like. If you don't have fresh rosemary, you can use dried, about 2 tsp. The world won't end, I promise.

Do make sure to use Fuyu persimmons here, which will give you a texture you can slice - Hachiya persimmons are the acorn shaped ones that must be ripe like jelly, almost to the point of falling apart before you can eat them. If these scones sound good to you, don't wait two years to bake them!