Sweet Potato Peanut Butter Soup

Sweet Potato Peanut Butter SoupLast week, on a particularly freezing evening, I came home from working in the city to find that my mother-in-law had brought us dinner from one of our favorite local restaurants. Yay! She totally saved us, as I had literally nothing in the fridge except a carton of eggs and a head of broccoli. We wouldn’t have starved, but it wasn’t going to be a meal to write home about.

One of the things she brought over was crab bisque. It was incredibly delicious, but I could only manage a small cup. The bisque was so thick and rich that I felt like I was drinking heavy cream (which, let’s face it, I probably was). Still, it got me thinking about ways to make a thick, velvety, almost sinfully rich soup without any cream at all.

A good trick, I discovered, is to use a little bit of peanut butter. This soup is loosely based on a recipe from The New Book of Soups. I saw it in a local magazine at my hair salon, and it sounded so good that I actually took a picture of the page with my iPhone.

I planned to replace the heavy cream called for with full-fat coconut milk, but in the end I didn’t think it needed it. This soup tastes incredibly luscious–it’s hard to believe there are only four tablespoons of peanut butter in the whole pot. A big pinch of cinnamon stirred in at the end and a sprinkle of chopped peanuts are the perfect finishing touch.

I think this would be equally good with almond butter instead of peanut butter. For a little kick, add a pinch of red pepper flakes with the onion and leek. This recipe yields two quarts of soup, so you can enjoy one now and freeze one for later.

Sweet Potato Peanut Butter Soup
Makes about 2 quarts (8 cups)
Loosely adapted from The New Book of Soups

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 leeks, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced (white and light green parts only)
1 clove garlic, minced
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Chopped roasted salted peanuts, for serving

Heat the olive oil over in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onion and leeks and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute more. Add the sweet potatoes and season liberally with salt and pepper. Stir in the vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, partially cover the pot, and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 25 minutes.

Remove the pot from the heat and add the peanut butter and cinnamon. Puree the soup with an immersion blender. (Alternatively, puree the soup in batches in a regular blender.) Serve garnished with the chopped peanuts.

Beet, Banana, and Oat Smoothie

Beet, Banana, and Oat SmoothieI’ve come clean with you before about my love for vacuum-packed cooked beets. I know, I know, they are more delicious and less expensive when you roast and peel them yourself, but let’s face it: beet cookery is a dangerous business. Every time I do it, I ruin either a manicure or a sweater. It’s like a beet juice bloodbath in my kitchen. Am I willing to pay a few dollars to avoid the whole situation? Absolutely.

One of my holiday gifts from Alex this year was Homemade Decadence by Joy Wilson. He knows me so well! (OK, I may have emailed him the Amazon link subtly hinted that I wanted it.) She has a whole chapter on brunch, including several drink recipes. Her beet, strawberry, and banana smoothie sounded amazing. It’s so funny–everyone is always talking about green juice and green smoothies, so why not red?

I strayed pretty far from Joy’s original recipe here. In fact, the only thing I borrowed was the idea of the beet. I incorporated oats, almond milk, and warm cinnamon and vanilla to make this a really filling-yet-light breakfast. I’m totally obsessed with the results. I’ve had it three times in the past week, and I just added more beets to my grocery list.

This recipe is enough for two if you are serving it alongside something else, like toast or muffins. On its own, it makes a super healthy breakfast for one.

Beet, Banana, and Oat Smoothie
Makes 2 small or 1 large serving
Inspired by Homemade Decadence

1 small or 1/2 large banana, peeled and frozen
1 small cooked beet, diced (about 1/3 cup)
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1-2 tablespoons old fashioned rolled oats
1 tablespoon chia seeds (optional)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
5 ice cubes

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until completely smooth.

Mushroom and Spinach Turnovers with Porcini Cream

Mushroom and Spinach TurnoversPepperidge Farm puff pastry is one of those accidentally vegan food products, like Oreos, unfrosted Pop-Tarts, and Hershey’s chocolate syrup. No, it’s not exactly healthy, but I think it’s totally fine in moderation–and especially when it’s used to give a big, warm, flaky-pastry hug to veggie filling.

These turnovers have been on my “to make” list for months now, and last week I finally got around to it. I’m so glad I did! Alex came home from work as they were cooling on the stove and the first words out of his mouth were, “Wow! Are those for dinner?!” They look so impressive, no one will guess you made them from start to finish in less than an hour. (This photo doesn’t do them justice. Arg! I’m trying to get better.)

The original recipe is from Martha Stewart. I switched it up by adding some spinach and red pepper flakes to the filling. Martha pairs her turnovers with sour cream, but I decided to go with a quick porcini cream sauce from the cookbook Vedge that I’m totally obsessed with. You could also easily use good store-bought marinara, or just serve them plain–the sauce was nice be we actually didn’t think they needed it.

If you do want to make the porcini cream, you will need a spice grinder to grind up the dried porcini mushrooms. If you don’t have a spice grinder, here is a trick: blend some raw rice in your coffee grinder until the grinder is clean and coffee residue-free. Then use it to grind the mushrooms.

Over the weekend I listened to an interview with Ina Garten (confession: I totally nerd out to the America’s Test Kitchen podcast at the gym). I really recommend it! This week Ina gave some terrific advice: for every recipe you master, learn two variations. That way, you will have three new recipes under your belt. Her example was chicken pot pie. Learn to make a fabulous one, then adapt it to make veggie and lobster pot pies. These turnovers are another great “launching pad” recipe. You could really fill them with anything–broccoli rabe and roasted peppers, sauteed tomatoes and eggplant, roasted apples and butternut squash, or Swiss chard and raisins would all be delicious.

You can assemble the turnovers a few hours ahead and store them in the fridge until you are ready to bake them. Once baked, you can reheat them gently in a low oven (200°F-250°F) for 20 minutes or so until hot. Leftovers get soggy fast though, so it’s best to eat them they day they are made.

A word about vegan mayonnaise: in most cases, I steer clear of fake vegan products. But there are some really fantastic, all-natural vegan mayonnaises out there. The best is Hampton Creek, which beat out regular mayo in a Serious Eats taste test.

Mushroom and Spinach Turnovers with Porcini Cream
Makes 4 servings
Adapted from Martha Stewart

For the turnovers:
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 pound (one 16-ounce package) crimini mushrooms, thinly sliced
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups baby spinach, roughly chopped
1 sheet vegan puff pastry (from a 17.3-ounce box), thawed

For the porcini cream:
3 or 4 pieces dried porcini mushrooms (from a .7-ounce package)
2 tablespoons water
1/2 cup vegan mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Preheat the oven to 425°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

To make the turnovers, heat the olive oil in a non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and beginning to brown, about 6 minutes. Add the mushrooms and red pepper flakes and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are tender, about 5 minutes. Add the spinach and cook until wilted, about 1 minute. Set aside to cool.

Leave the puff pastry folded into thirds. On a lightly floured work surface, roll it out into a 20-by-10-inch rectangle. Cut into four smaller rectangles. With a slotted spoon, mound the mushroom mixture onto one half of each rectangle, leaving a 1/2-inch boarder on three sides. Lightly brush the edges with water, fold the other half of the pastry over the filling, and crimp with a fork to seal the edges.

Using a spatula, transfer the turnovers to the prepared baking sheet. With a small knife, cut 3 or 4 small slits in the top of each turnover. Bake until golden and puffed, 25 to 30 minutes.

While the turnovers are baking, make the porcini cream. In a spice grinder, grind the dried porcini mushrooms. Measure 1 tablespoon (discard any extra). Combine the mushroom poweder, water, mayonnaise, and mustard in a small bowl and whisk to blend.

Serve the turnovers, passing the porcini cream on the side.

Pasta with Hummus and Tomatoes

Pasta with Hummus and TomatoesHave you noticed that I’ve been putting smoked paprika in everything lately? I’m kind of obsessed with it. I just stocked up at Despana, this amazing Spanish market near my work. My entire office is moving next week from our beautiful Soho loft to…right near Penn Station. Before we go, we’re all stuffing ourselves with the best neighborhood eats. Balthazar Bakery for lunch, anyone?

I love this recipe because it is about 50% pasta and 50% delicious roasted tomato-chickpea-olive mixture. It feels a lot lighter than eating a big bowl of noodles. It comes together super fast, making it a great weeknight option. You could also make the tomato mixture a few hours ahead and then just reheat it, cook the pasta, and add the hummus before dinner.

I adapted this dish from Bon Appetit. I didn’t change much, but I did swap parsley for cilantro, since Alex is as a hater. If you like cilantro (I personally love it!) feel free to use it instead.

Pasta with Hummus and Tomatoes
Makes 4 servings
Adapted from Bon Appetit

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 pints grape or cherry tomatoes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
8 ounces penne pasta
1/2 cup hummus
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

Heat the oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add the tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Cook, shaking the pan occasionally, until the tomatoes have softened and are starting to burst, 10 to 15 minutes. (Alternatively, you can roast the tomatoes in a 425°F oven for 20 minutes.) Mash some of the tomatoes to release their juice. Stir in the garlic, chickpeas, and smoked paprika.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the penne and cook until al dente. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of pasta water. Stir hummus into pasta water.

Add the pasta to the skillet with the tomato mixture. Add the hummus mixture and toss to coat. Stir in the olives and parsley.

Hummus and Red Pepper Soup

Hummus and Red Pepper SoupI just googled it, and evidently January is National Soup Month. (It’s also National Hot Tea Month, National Oatmeal Month, and National Slow Cooking Month). Who knows if the website I was looking at is legit, but let’s go with it. It’s literally 20 degrees out right now in New York, so four weeks of soup sounds pretty good to me.

The only problem is that most soups require a bit of advance planning. They are the kind of thing you make on Sunday afternoon to have for dinner that week. But what if you didn’t get around to it last weekend, and now it’s a snowy, freezing Wednesday, and you want nothing more than to finish work, change into your sweatpants, and collapse in front of The Great British Bake Off at the table with a steaming, comforting bowl?

Meet my new favorite soup. I made it on Monday night in about 5 minutes, in between giving Owen his bath (he insisted on bringing his dessert into the tub and then cried when his cookies got wet) and putting him to bed. I love this soup because it’s the perfect balance of creamy and chunky. There are so many things in it–rice, chickpeas, spinach–that it’s really a one-pot meal. All you need is a hunk of good bread for dunking.

I used homemade hummus in my soup but I think store-bought would work just as well. If you don’t have leftover rice, I wont tell if you use a 90-second or boil-in-bag variety–I do it all the time. The smoked paprika and cumin add a extra layers of flavor, but if you don’t have them on hand it’s fine to leave them out. If you do want to make this ahead, leave out the spinach until you reheat the soup just before serving, that way it stays fresh and green.

Hummus and Red Pepper Soup
Makes 4-6 hearty servings
Adapted from Food & Wine

1 1/2 cups drained, chopped roasted red bell peppers
1 1/2 cups hummus
4 cups low-sodium vegetable stock
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 cup cooked rice (white or brown)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika (optional)
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin (optional)
1 heaping cup chopped baby spinach
Olive oil, for serving
Hot sauce, for serving

Combine the peppers, hummus, and 2 cups of stock in a blender and blend until completely smooth. Transfer to a large pot and stir in the remaining 2 cup of stock, chickpeas, and rice. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the smoked paprika and cumin if using. Heat over medium-high heat until simmering, about 5 minutes. Stir in the spinach, cover, remove from the heat, and let stand until wilted, about 1 minute. Serve drizzled with olive oil and hot sauce.

Hummus 10 Ways

10 New Hummus VariationsMy first job as an editorial assistant in Midtown Manhattan was very close to a stop on the E train that had a Subway sandwich shop inside it: a Subway in the subway. I never made a habit of going, but on days that I was feeling particularly grumpy or unmotivated I would slink underground and buy a turkey sandwich. It always had That Smell (I really think they should make a candle. It would be the best gag gift ever!), the turkey was rubbery, and the vegetables were limp and watery. I always regretted my lunchtime decision instantly.

I’m not going to lie: there are many things that are difficult to forgo when following a (mostly) vegan diet. Deli meat was never something that I especially liked or looked forward to eating, but it was definitely a convenience. On the days that I worked at my office in the city, I usually brought a turkey or ham sandwich from home to avoid spending $15 on a salad in Soho. When I was working from home, I forgot about lunch until I was ravenous at 2pm, and then I usually ended up rummaging through the fridge and eating Owen’s Land O’ Lakes yellow American cheese slices over rice cakes.

When I began incorporating lots of vegan meals (and days and months!) into my diet last year, one of the first things I did was make a big weekly batch of hummus. I started with a classic version, but I quickly began to view it as a sort of empty canvas or blank slate. How crazy could I get with add-ins? What ingredients did I have lurking in the back of my fridge or cabinets? Basically everything went into the food processor. The results were invariably delicious, and I never got bored. These days my lunch consists of a low-carb wrap (I’m obsessed with Joseph’s whole wheat lavash) stuffed with romaine, hummus, and whatever leftover veggies are in the fridge.

Here is my basic recipe for hummus, plus nine variations that I love (the roasted apple one is my current fave). I want to try versions with cocoa, porcini mushrooms, and walnut-orange-cinnamon, but I haven’t had a chance to test them yet–maybe in a future post! Hummus will keep for about a week in the fridge.

I hope your holidays were wonderful! Let’s eat more plants in 2015!

Classic Hummus
Makes approximately 3 cups

1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained
1/4 cup tahini
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup warm water

Combine the chickpeas, tahini, garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt, and cumin in a food processor and pulse until well blended. With the motor running, drizzle in the olive oil. Drizzle in the water, at little at a time, until the hummus is smooth and creamy.

Roasted Apple-Thyme: Preheat the oven to 400F. Toss one peeled and chopped apple with a drizzle of olive oil and maple syrup. Spread on a parchment-lined baking sheet and roast until soft. Add apple to food processor. Substitute white beans for the chickpeas. Add 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme.

Miso-Carrot: Simmer 1 cup sliced carrots until very tender. Add to food processor. Add 2 teaspoons miso paste and 2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger. Substitute sesame oil for the olive oil.

Chipotle Black Bean: Substitute black beans for the chickpeas and lime zest and juice for the lemon. Add 1-2 teaspoons sauce from a can of chipotle chiles.

Smoky BBQ: Add 2 tablespoons tomato paste, 2 teaspoons liquid smoke (optional), 1/2 teaspoon chili powder, and 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika.

Basil Pea: Substitute 2 cups thawed frozen green peas (just run them under hot tap water) for the chickpeas. Add 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil. Garnish with toasted pine nuts.

Indian Butternut Squash: Add 1 cup cooked mashed butternut squash (or sweet potato or canned pumpkin) and 1 teaspoon garam masala.

Spicy Beet: Add one 8-ounce package of cooked beets (chopped) and 1-2 teaspoons sriracha. This is equally good with white beans.

Roasted Garlic Spinach: Add 2 cups baby spinach and 1/4 cup roasted garlic cloves (tip: I cheat and buy them from the supermarket olive bar!). This is equally good with white beans.

Artichoke-Green Olive: Substitute white beans for the chickpeas. Add one 15-ounce can artichoke hearts (drained), 1/2 cup pitted green olives, and 1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary (optional).

Winter Tomatoes

Winter TomatoesThis tomato recipe is my secret weapon for entertaining. I pretty much always make it when we are hosting brunch because it’s so easy, it makes your house smell amazing, and it’s a great compliment to egg dishes. There is no reason you couldn’t serve it for dinner, too, but let’s be honest–when was the last time we threw a dinner party? Most nights by 9pm we are drinking hot chocolate and watching House Hunters in our pajamas.

This recipe is all about the magic of slow roasting. Go out and buy the most horrifying supermarket tomatoes you can find–it’s December, this won’t be difficult. I like to use those dull red, rock hard plum tomatoes that are always on sale at Stop & Shop. Then slice them up, toss them with some olive oil, whatever fresh herbs you have on hand, salt and pepper, and a pinch of sugar to bring out the sweetness that I swear is buried somewhere deep inside. Then put them in the oven and forget about them. Seriously–I went for a 5-mile run while these were cooking. When they are done they will taste like something straight from a farmers’ market in July. I promise.

When you are working with an oven at such a low temperature, you don’t really have to stress about the time at all. You can take these tomatoes out after two hours or leave them in for three hours; they will be delicious either way. My friend Seth has a restaurant-grade oven in his apartment that is always heated to around 200°F, and he leaves tomatoes in overnight.

I like to serve these with just a sprinkle of freshly chopped basil, but you can also add a splash of balsamic vinegar, chopped olives or capers, sliced avocado, or (obviously) fresh mozzarella for a non-vegan winter caprese. I love to eat any leftovers over good bread spread with cashew cream.

Winter Tomatoes
Serves 6 as a side dish

12 plum tomatoes
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons minced fresh herbs (I like a combination of rosemary and thyme)
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Fresh basil, for serving (optional)

Preheat the oven to 250°F. Slice the tomatoes in half lengthwise and transfer them to a baking sheet. Toss with the olive oil, garlic, herbs, sugar, salt, and pepper. Arrange them in a single layer, cut-side up. Bake for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, until they are very soft and juicy. Serve warm or at room temperature, garnished with fresh basil if you like.

Celery, Green Apple, and Walnut Salad

Celery, Green Apple, and Walnut SaladIt’s the week before Christmas and right smack dab in the middle of Hanukkah, which means that I should be writing about gingerbread or jelly doughnuts, or maybe frosted cookies or boozy eggnog. In fact, the very last thing I should be writing about is celery, which is at the top of every diet food list, right up there with plain rice cakes and fat-free cottage cheese. (When I was in high school, someone told me that it actually burns calories to eat celery. That’s probably not accurate, but I ate a lot of it at the time.) I really was planning to save this post until January, when we will all be forgoing dessert and hitting the gym in squeaky new sneakers, but I can’t help myself. It’s too delicious and I’m too excited about it not to share the recipe right this very instant.

True story: after eating a second helping of this salad, Alex put down his fork, looked at me quizzically from across the dining room table, and said, “Maybe I am a celery person.” Has anyone, in the history of eating, ever said they are “a celery person”?! I don’t think so. But I’m pretty confident that this recipe has the power to change all that. Tender, crisp celery and juicy slivers of green apple are tossed with a tart lemon dressing that packs an umami punch thanks to a secret ingredient. Drumroll, please… miso paste. Like anchovy paste, you won’t be able to taste it, but it imparts a deeply savory flavor. Just before serving, the salad is showered with crunchy toasted walnuts. Yum.

This is a perfect winter salad. Does celery technically have a season? I don’t know. But you can always count on in to be available and fresh, and unlike, say, strawberries, it tastes the same in January as it does in June. The salad is crisp and light and acidic, which makes it an ideal accompaniment to rich cold-weather fare like braises or roasts.

Make sure you buy a whole bunch of celery and not a package of pre-cut stalks. The leaves are really pretty and pack a ton of peppery flavor, and you will be sad if you don’t include them. This is a great make-ahead option because all the lemon juice keeps the apple from turning brown, and the celery actually gets crisper as it sits in the dressing. Just save about half of the dressing to freshen it up, and toss with the walnuts and parsley just before serving.

Celery, Green Apple, and Walnut Salad
Makes 4 side dish servings
Adapted from Ina Garten

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, divided
1 tablespoon minced shallot (or 1 small minced garlic clove, because I forgot the shallot)
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1/4 teaspoon celery salt
1/4 teaspoon miso paste
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
5 heaping cups thinly sliced celery stalks, leaves included, sliced on the diagonal
1 Granny Smith apple, cored and thinly sliced
1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley

At least 1 hour before serving, whisk the olive oil, lemon zest, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, shallot (or garlic), celery seed, celery salt, miso, and a big pinch of salt and pepper in a small bowl. In a large bowl, toss the celery and apple with the remaining tablespoon of lemon juice. (According to Ina, even though there is lemon juice in the dressing this step makes a difference, and I believe everything Ina says.) Add half of the dressing and toss. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Just before serving, toss the salad with the remaining dressing, the walnuts, and parsley.

Roasted Vanilla Bean Apple Pear Sauce

Roasted Vanilla Bean Apple Pear SauceI’m a very good cook, but my mother-in-law has me beat in several important categories, including all things poultry and potatoes. We are celebrating Hanukkah at her house this week, and of course she is making her amazing, perfectly crispy and golden brown latkes. They are one of Alex’s all-time favorite foods. I’m doing my own latkes on Christmas Eve, but I’ve already accepted defeat. There is no way mine will ever be as good.

I do want to contribute something to our holiday celebration, though. And one thing I know I can make is an applesauce that will blow any jar of Mott’s out of the water. Normally I just simmer some chopped apples, water, sugar, and spices on the stovetop and then mash it all together with a fork. But for special occasions, I like to get a little bit fancy.

Roasting the apples and pears concentrates their flavor and heightens their natural sweetness. Instead of the usual cinnamon, I flavored this version with maple syrup and vanilla bean. The coconut oil gives the sauce body–it tastes really rich and luxurious. I would say you could substitute dark rum, good brandy, or Riesling for the water, but according to my mother, the psychologist, who uses my blog posts to shrink me, I “talk about wine too much.”

We’re using this sauce for latkes, but it would also be lovely with French toast, pancakes, or waffles, with oatmeal, or even over vanilla ice cream. It will keep for about a week in the fridge, and it also freezes well.

Roasted Vanilla Bean Apple Pear Sauce
Makes 4 cups
Loosely adapted from Martha Stewart

1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 vanilla bean
1 1/2 pounds tart apples (such as Granny Smith) peeled, cored, and quartered
1 1/2 pounds firm-ripe pears, peeled, cored, and quartered
2 tablespoons coconut oil (solid, not melted)

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Whisk the maple syrup, water, sugar, lemon juice, and salt in a 9-x 13-inch glass or ceramic baking dish. With a small, sharp knife, split the vanilla bean lengthwise. Using the back of the knife, scrape out the seeds. Whisk the seeds into the pan and toss the spent bean in, too.

Arrange the apples and pears in an even layer in the pan over the maple syrup mixture. Dot with the coconut oil. Roast until the fruit is very tender, about 35 minutes. Discard the vanilla bean. Transfer the fruit and juices to a large bowl and puree with an immersion blender. (Alternatively, puree in batches in a food processor or regular blender.)

Double Chocolate Granola

Double Chocolate GranolaIf we are friends, at some point in our relationship I have probably given you something to eat. Maybe it was a jar of jam or a batch of cookies, but most likely it was granola. Obviously, I love homemade food gifts, and granola holds a special place in my heart. It’s simple to make, it lasts for weeks, and it feels both healthy and a little bit indulgent. Every year around the holidays, I make a huge batch and divide it up among my family, friends, and coworkers.

This year’s version definitely leans towards the indulgent side. I recently learned that Jacques Torres sells tiny, 4-ounce bags of chocolate-covered Cheerios for $6. You guys! I don’t mean to sound like a curmudgeon, but that’s ridiculous. There are literally only two ingredients: chocolate and Cheerios. When it comes to dessert for breakfast, we can do so, so much better. Like by adding coconut. And crunchy toasted almonds. And espresso powder.

I realize that I just posted a different chocolate recipe like five minutes ago, but whatever, this is my blog and I can do what I want. Also, maybe you are like me and have done approximately 0% of you holiday shopping yet. If that’s the case, grab a huge container of rolled oats and head into the kitchen. Mission accomplished. You can thank me later. I also like wine gifts.

You can substitute honey for the maple syrup (though honey isn’t strictly vegan), or hazelnuts for the almonds. Add up to 1 cup of dried fruit with the chocolate chips, if you prefer. Cranberries or cherries would be especially nice.

Double Chocolate Granola
Makes approximately 6 cups

3 cups rolled oats
1 1/2 cups slivered almonds
1 cup shredded or flaked unsweetened coconut
1/2 cup canola oil
1/3 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon instant espresso or instant coffee powder
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup mini chocolate chips (I like the Enjoy Life vegan brand)

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine the oats, almonds, and coconut.

In a small bowl, whisk the oil, brown sugar, cocoa, maple syrup, espresso powder, vanilla, and salt. Pour over the oat mixture and stir to combine. Spread in a even layer on the baking sheet and bake, stirring often, until the granola is fragrant and toasted, 20 to 25 minutes. Watch very carefully in the last 5 minutes to make sure it doesn’t burn. Remove from the oven and let cool completely, about 1 hour. Stir in the chocolate chips.