Vegan Mexican Hot Chocolate Snickerdoodles

_MG_1513

It’s thawing time. Are you ready to thaw? I’m totally ready to thaw.

Everyone’s emerging from their wintry cocoons. Runners are wearing neon. People are yelling hellos across the street. Smiles just happen. Ducks and swans are chilling on the pond that’s lost its icy sheet.

You know winter is over when windows open. When we start to let the cross breezes clear layers of dust. Turning down the thermostat and wearing ankle-high pants never felt so good.

What’s up, March. I’m springing forward. I’m doing a long jump into this month. I’m mid-air and far from ready to land.

There are a couple of things I want to hold on to, though. Like the flavors of January and February. And, fine, I’ll admit that my love of apple cider should be contained to November. Eggnog should probably be drunk only once.

But hot chocolate? That’s good throughout the year. You won’t want it when it’s 90 degrees out, but when it’s a cookie?

Oh man.

_MG_1502

And when there’s cayenne pepper? Holy zing. Just punch me in the face.

_MG_1509

You guys are so adorable.

_MG_1510

Seriously, quit your cuteness. Those crackly imperfections are too much.

_MG_1518

Oh. These are so vegan. Vegan to the max. And that’s almond milk.

And I might not be doing the vegan thing anymore (Listen. I work at a donut shop. When someone asks me how the hibiscus cherry donut tastes, I’d better have a real answer.), but I’m still cutting out as much dairy and eggs as possible. Plus, when a vegan cookie tastes this unreal, I’ll gladly cut out the butter.

_MG_1521

Peas in a pod.

Vegan Mexican Hot Chocolate Snickerdoodles.

1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup canola oil
1/4 cup pure maple syrup (I used grade B)
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 tablespoons almond or soy milk

For the sugar dusting:
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a large bowl, sift flour, cocoa, cayenne, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. In a separate medium bowl, whisk canola oil, maple syrup, vanilla, milk, and sugar until fully incorporated.

Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wets, mixing continuously. The batter will be stiff.

Using the palm of your hands, roll about 3 tablespoons worth of batter into a small ball. Shape into pancake-like disks and cover one side with the sugar-cinnamon dusting.

On a sheet of parchment paper, place each disk about 1 inch apart, sugar side up.

Bake for about 12 minutes.

Makes 15-20 cookies, depending how big you want them.

Make them smaller if you want to share with your coworkers in the morning.

Spicy Vegetarian Chili with Goat Cheese Biscuits

It’s one of those cut-myself-shaving because I haven’t-touched-a-razor-in-months kind of days. You know, the good-lord-am-I-really-that-white morning. Wow-I-need-to-work-out afternoon.

And an ice cream evening.

Blissful denial gets me through the toughest times.

Especially butter denial. After years of no meat, some evil warlock in the back of my head tells me during just about every meal that I deserve butter. That butter has a lot of calcium. Butter is good for you.

It’s really not.

But don’t tell the biscuits I told you.

What’s the harm in butter when complimented with a platter of vegetables, right? says the evil, high-cholesterol dude in my brain.

Black beans, chickpeas and kidney beans. A lethal combination. They really are a magical fruit.

I get apartment-smell envy. It happens when I come home from work around 6:30pm and my vegan neighbors are cooking something divine that I know is good for them. So I demolish a bag of Triscuits seconds after entering the kitchen.

But then I spend a few hours chopping, sautéing, stewing and simmering and feel loads better. Because then the entire neighborhood smells like chili and buttered biscuits and no one but my friends can have ’em.

I’m not sure if that’s the dude talking or just me.

Oh. Hot. Damn.

The cast iron skillet gets preheated in the oven and slathered in a load of butter. Then more butter gets drizzled onto the raw biscuits.

I know. Cardiac arrest. It might be worth it?

True Life: I over-mix sometimes and things come out flat. But still amazingly stupendously onolicious.

You + me = us.

Spicy Vegetarian Chili with Goat Cheese Biscuits

For the chili:

1 yellow onion, diced
4-5 large cloves of garlic, minced
1 habañero pepper, de-seeded and minced
1 zucchini, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
15oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
15oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
15oz can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
28oz can diced tomatoes
1 cup vegetable stock (or cheap beer)
2 heaping tablespoons chili powder
1 heaping teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon cumin
1/3 cup barbeque sauce
2 more cups vegetable stock

Heat about 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot. Add the onions and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the peppers and zucchini and saute for another few minutes until they are slightly soft. Add the garlic, habañero and all of the spices and cook for a few minutes before adding 1 cup of stock or beer for a rapid searing. Make sure you scrape off all the spices from the bottom of the pan.

As soon as the liquid stops simmering, add the canned tomatoes, barbeque sauce and additional vegetable stock and let simmer for about 15 minutes. Top with cheddar or Monterey jack cheese.

Serves six.

For the biscuits:

2 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut into small cubes
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, for the pan
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted for a glaze
4 tablespoons goat cheese, crumbled
1 cup buttermilk (or regular milk)

Preheat the oven and cast iron skillet to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Cut in 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter and goat cheese, making sure not to over-mix. It should resemble coarse meal.

Make a well in the mixture and pour in the buttermilk. Using a fork, lightly fluff until no pockets of flour remain.

Take the cast iron out of the oven and melt one tablespoon of unsalted butter until the pan is completely coated. Spoon about 1/4 cup worth of batter dollops into the pan, leaving about half an inch of space between every piece. They will bake into each other. It’s okay.

Bake for about 17 minutes or until the top turns golden brown.

Makes about 9 biscuits.

Massaman Fashioned

After my fingers and toes go numb, my sweatpants shrink to calf-high in the wash, my tan lines are no longer lines, and I can’t remember the last time I wore shorts, I start to make lists.

Those “Ideal Life” sorts of lists.  With the outdoor bathtub and beer-brewing goals.  Learning crochet and getting more tattoos goals.  Seeing the Northern Lights sorts of things.

And after making that list, wholly convinced that life could truly be more than perfect with or without the funds to feed my fantasies, I grab that flannel blanket that’s already covering another pair of familiar legs, stir this delicious cocktail, and press play to start that documentary about turtles in the Caribbean.

Pizza ovens and farms can wait.

Massaman Fashioned.

For the simple syrup:
1 teaspoon mace powder
6 cardamom pods
15 whole cloves
2 chunks of nutmeg
2 tablespoons coriander
3 cinnamon sticks
2 cups brown sugar
2 cups water

For the alcohol:
2oz Bourbon
1oz ginger beer
dash of Angostura Bitters

orange zest to garnish

In a small pot, toast all of the spices on low heat for a couple of minutes.  Add the sugar and water and bring to a boil.  Once boiling, take off the heat and let steep for at least 2 hours.  Strain out the spices once steeped.

For the drink, stir the Bourbon and 2 tablespoons of the Massaman syrup over ice until thoroughly chilled.  Add a dash of Angostura bitters and top with ginger beer.  Garnish with orange zest.

Apple Habañero Chutney

Don’t hurt me.  But I don’t like Halloween.

I wore the same witch costume for a good seven years.  There was a kid in high school that made a Megazord costume out of cardboard with speakers built in.  Willy Wonka had dozens of Oompa Loompas running around campus.  Thing 1 and Thing 2.  I think the most elaborate costume I ever made was Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz.  So much red glitter.  Glitter in my ears for months.

In college, Halloween was stupid (stupid!) because the sorority hussies slutified Strawberry Shortcake, Alice, nurses, traffic cones, piles of poop.  And there was no point in trick-or-treating because I had turned 18 and that’s usually when the fun stops,  right?

Maybe it’s because I never had a candied apple back in Hawai’i.  I’ve never even bobbed for an apple.  But with the influx of Granny Smiths, Macouns, Pink Ladies, and Whateveritis because of that apple picking triple date a few weeks ago, I made me some chutney.

Some spicy, chunky, spreadable, awesome chutney.

Chutney is better than jam.  Yeah, I said it.

My roommate once yelled at me for trying to pull off Marilyn Monroe.  She said that I have to pick costumes that match my ethnicity.  So I was Pocahontas the next year.

 Oh.  About the apples.  I used any and all kinds.  People say to stick with the sour ones for cooking, but for a chutney I vote that anything goes.

Habañero chutney.  Yeah.  Watch out.

This is fantastic.  All I had to do was throw everything into a pot.  Witch’s brew.

Apple Habañero Chutney.

1lb apples (about 6 medium-sized), peeled, cored, and chopped
1 diced onion
1 diced habañero (or jalapeño)
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground mustard
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Throw all ingredients into a large pot and bring to a boil, reducing the heat to simmer for an hour to an hour and a half, until the apples are fully reduced and the liquid is thick.

Makes about 5 cups of chutney.