Last time I made brownies, I used the Brownies Cockaigne recipe from the old Joy of Cooking, and they didn't come out--in a big way. The ingredients separated out while they were baking, yielding a tray of...something...with a yellowish bottom and a dark chocolate colored top. I think the sugar was all in one of the layers as well. I'm not sure why that happened, but it could have been a few things--I substituted cocoa powder + oil for unsweetened chocolate squares (which I'd done with success before, but who knows). I used butter that was a bit old. I may have let the butter-chocolate mixture cool for too long. (In fact, I think that itself separated a bit before I mixed it with everything else.) I may have overbeaten the eggs.

That was my first brownie failure, but I figured I'd chronicle my brownie-making for a bit to avoid future failures. I make brownies because I want to be happy and have brownies to eat, not because I want to experiment. Failure doesn't mesh well with this.

Anyhoo, this time I followed a combination of the Joy of Cooking recipe and the classic one-bowl recipe from Baker's chocolate, which I've made with success before. Basically, I used the Joy of Cooking ingredient proportions and the Baker's instructions. Joy of Cooking wants you to beat the eggs with an electric mixer until they're fluffy. Baker's doesn't. I figured I'd try the easier, simpler directions first. If these don't come out the way I'd like, I'll move on.

What I did this time:

Preheated the oven to 350 °
Cracked 4 extra-large eggs into a bowl and let them warm up to probably less than room temperature
Melted 4 oz Ghirardelli 100% Cacao unsweetened baking bar + 1/2 cup of unsalted butter (which was kind of old and had been in the freezer) over the stove on very low heat (no double boiler) until just melted. I used a 3 qt pot.
Stirred in 2 cups of sugar and 1 tsp (real) vanilla and 1/4 tsp salt. I just put them directly into the pot I'd melted the chocolate and butter in.
Added the 4 eggs and stirred really really well with a fork. Used a spatula to make sure nothing was sticking to the bottom or sides of the pot, natch.
Stirred in 1 cup of unbleached white flour. Mixed a bit.
Poured the whole shebang into a 9x13 greased Pyrex and threw it into the oven. Which is where it is now. We'll see how it turns out.

And after ~32 minutes in the oven:

Respectable brownies, though nothing to write home about. Next time I'd like to get more of that flaky stuff that happens on top sometimes. Mmm.

"Black and White Salad"

Taken/modified from a post in the LJ community VegRecipes.
I'm not giving any proportions because I think it's the sort of thing you can eyeball or do to taste. To me, the main new/exciting thing about this dish is the amazingly delicious and complex flavor these four ingredients create.

  • Kale (I used curly kale but would use un-curly kale in a heartbeat if it weren't so %$#@ hard to find around here.)
  • Cooked white cannellini or navy beans (I used a can of cannellini, drained and rinsed)
  • cloves of garlic
  • fresh tomatoes
Wash the kale. Chop into small pieces. Cook in oil in heavy-bottomed pot or big frying pan until slightly limp or however you'd like to eat it. Dump in beans. Crush garlic in garlic press and dump into pot. Stir. Mush the beans a little, add a little water if desired, heat through. Chop tomato into bite-sized pieces. Add to kale/bean mixture. Stir. Eat.

Chocolate Dump Cake/Wacky Cake

Some people mix this in the (ungreased) baking pan. I think it's a pretty fast, easy recipe even if you use a separate bowl, and I think the tiny additional effort is worthwhile.

3 cups flour
2 cups sugar
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup cocoa

3/4 cup oil
1 tsp vanilla
2 TBS vinegar
2 cups water

Combine dry ingredients. Add in wet ingredients, mix well, dump into greased 9x13 pan and bake for 40-50 minutes (or until done) at 350°F.

Black-eyed beans with mushrooms

From Madhur Jaffrey's terrific book Indian Cooking, with very very slight changes

8 oz dried black-eyed beans, washed and drained
2 pints water
8 oz fresh mushrooms, chopped through the stems (1/8" thick)
6 TBS veg oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 inch cinnamon stick
1 med-to-large onion peeled and chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced
14 oz tomatoes peeled and chopped (I didn't peel them because I'm a lazy bastard)
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp salt try using less --1.5 was slightly too much
ground black pepper
3 TBS chopped fresh parsley

Place beans and water in pot. Bring to boil, cover, turn down heat and simmer for 2 minutes. Turn off heat, let sit for 1 hour. (I did this last night so I could prepare everything else while the beans were actually cooking the next day)

Bring beans to a boil again, cover and turn down heat, simmer for 20-30 minutes or til tender.

[meanwhile] Put oil in frying pan over med-high heat (I used a heavy-bottomed pot that can serve as one.) When hot, put in the cumin seeds and cinnamon stick. Let sizzle for 5-6 seconds, then add onions and garlic. Stir & fry until the onions turn brown at the edges. Add mushrooms, stir/fry til they wilt. Add tomatoes, coriander, turmeric, and cayenne pepper. Stir/cook for a minute, then cover and turn heat to low. Allow mixture to cook in its own juices for 10 minutes. Turn off frying pan.

Add mushroom mixture to bean mixture (or as I did, add the beans to the mushroom mixture - that's where the heavy-bottomed pot used in place of a frying pan comes in handy - so that you can sort of deglaze the pan and get any of the nice oils from the cooked onions/mushrooms/spices.) Add salt, black pepper, and parsley. Stir, bring to a simmer, and cook uncovered on med-low heat for 30 minutes. Remove cinnamon stick before serving.

I felt like it could use something sharp/sour (like lemon juice) as a counterpoint, but haven't tried it.

Update: I made this for the second time, many years later, with the following modifications: maybe 1/4 tsp of cinnamon instead of the stick, and a bunch of cumin powder instead of the cumin seed. (I just added these after sauteeing the onion & garlic for a bit.) I also used fresh tomatoes this time, very overripe, probably closer to 1.5 lbs. It was really delicious this time.

Black Bean Wraps

Recipe from Giant Food's website/weekly circular, with modifications

They say to microwave each wrap on high for 1 minute, but we ate them cold. It's a nice -cold- summer dish that doesn't involve heating up an oven or standing over a stovetop.

9 oz. fresh baby spinach
8 (8-inch) tortillas
1 (19 oz.) can black beans, rinsed and drained
2 plum tomatoes, chopped
2 avocados, pitted and sliced
1/2 cup salsa
Sour cream, grated cheddar cheese (optional)

Divide and layer spinach among tortillas. Combine black beans, tomatoes, avocados and salsa in a bowl. Divide the bean mixture among the tortillas. Fold in the ends and then roll to close. Serve with sour cream and cheddar cheese if desired.

They say to microwave each wrap on high for 1 minute, but we ate them cold.

Lentil Soup

My own variation of it. Nothing spectacular.

saute with salt:

3 carrots, sliced
4 stalks of celery, chopped
2 onions, chopped

1 cup frozen spinach
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 lb lentils (I use pardina/Spanish lentils when I can find them)
chopped parsley to taste

Cook gently for 40 minutes to an hour.

Red lentil, mushroom and spinach curry

From MSN's online edition of the Australian Women's Weekly (thanks, Google!) Modified slightly.

They say it's best made just before serving and not good for microwaving, but I disagree. It's better the second day.

1 cup dried red lentils
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 small onion, sliced thinly
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 small green chili pepper, sliced thinly
½ lb mushrooms, halved
1½ cups vegetable stock
½ cup water
½ teaspoon garam masala
1 10-oz or 1-lb package of frozen spinach, defrosted

1 cup yogurt
1 clove garlic, crushed
½ teaspoon salt

Heat oil in wok or large frying pan. Add seeds, stir-fry until fragrant. Add onion, garlic, ginger and chili; stir-fry until onion is soft. Add mushrooms; stir-fry until browned lightly.

Add drained lentils, stock and water; bring to the boil. Reduce heat, simmer, uncovered, for about 5 minutes or until lentils are tender.

YOGURT SAUCE: Meanwhile, combine all ingredients in a small bowl.

Add garam masala and spinach to curry, stir until spinach is wilted; transfer to a serving dish.

Vegetarian "Meatloaf"

I won't lie to you--it looks kind of like dung. It's cheap, though. (Shockingly, I "invented" this in college.)

Vaguely based a recipe for lentil-carrot burgers from a PETA cookbook, which I modified because they didn't stay together very well and I'm too lazy to form a bunch of burgers and fry them a few at a time.

1 pound lentils
1 onion
2-3 carrots
1 can tomato paste
1 egg (optional)
onion powder
garlic powder
dried parsley (optional)
bread crumbs (so far I've always used seasoned bread crumbs just 'cause someone gave me a can of that kind)

Cook the lentils until they're fairly soft. While they're cooking, chop the onion and grate the carrots. Sauté the onion and grated carrots in some oil until they begin to get slightly brown. [I'm not sure that grated carrots are usually easy to saute; they don't quite come out like carrot chunks would, but it does something to them, and since I use a teflon pan, they don't stick or burn].

Mash the lentils with a fork or potato masher. If you need to use a fork, make sure to cook them really well as it will make the mashing eaier. Add in the cooked onions and carrots, the tomato paste, the egg (if using) and the spices (to taste - I use at least a tablespoon of paprika, usually a lot more). Then add the bread crumbs - add enough to make it bind the mixture together. It's really pretty flexible. If you're the only one who's gonna eat it, it's easier (and kinda fun) to mix the bread crumbs in with your hands.

Pat the whole mixture into a greased 2-quart glass pyrex dish and bake at 350 for awhile (usually at least 30 minutes). Sometimes I cover it if the top begins to look really dry.

It doesn't hold together that well immediately after it comes out of the oven, but if you let it cool, you can slice it and microwave individual servings.

The original recipe was as follows:

Lentil-Carrot Burgers

¼ c chopped onion

¼ c grated carrot

¼ c water

3 c cooked lentils, mashed

2 TBS chopped fresh parsley

3 TBS tomato paste

¾ c bread crumbs

salt to taste

Cook the onion & carrot in the water until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain off excess water, then combine onions and carrots with remaining ingredients. Add a little water if needed. Form into patties & fry in a lightly oiled frying pan until browned on both sides & heated through –about 10 minutes.

Makes about 10 patties

Takes about 25 minutes.

Rice-bean chili

Adapted from a booklet of recipes from the US Rice Board (or something like that)

Saute for 5 minutes in the bottom of a large pot:

1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tbs. oil

1 28-oz can of tomatoes (chopped or whole--chop them up yourself if they're whole)
1 15 oz can garbanzo beans
1 15 oz can kidney beans
1 can of corn, drained
2.5 cups water
1 cup brown rice (partly cooked)
Chili powder and cumin to taste

Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer ~30 minutes. Watch it carefully and make the flame really low, because sometimes it starts to burn/stick. I don't always pre-cook the rice, but sometimes when I don't the rice doesn't seem to cook all the way.

Sesame Chicken Salad

Yes, I eat chicken on the odd occasion. No, I couldn't tell you what defines those occasions, because I don't know.

Adapted from a very old edition of Sunset Publishing's Fresh Ways With Salads

Sesame Chicken Salad

2 TBS sesame seeds
1/4 cup canola oil
3 TBS lemon juice
1.5 TBS soy sauce
1.5 TBS rice vinegar
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
2 tsp finely minced fresh ginger
1/2 pound snow peas
1/2 pound bean sprouts
3 to 3.5 c. shredded cooked chicken

Toast sesame seeds in a small frying pan over medium heat, shaking pan often, until seeds are golden (about 5 minutes). In a large bowl, mix seeds, oil, lemon juice, soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, and ginger until blended. I usually double the amount of lemon juice, soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, and ginger--basically, everything in the sauce except the oil.

Fill a large pan halfway with water; bring to a boil. Add pea pods and bean sprouts; cook just until water boils. Drain, rinse with cold water, and drain again. Combine vegetables, chicken, and oil mixture and stir.

It's better after it's had a chance to sit for awhile.

Cauliflower Cheese Soup

From the Moosewood Cookbook, but found here.

Cauliflower Cheese Soup (Serves 8-10)

3 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
2 large cauliflowers, one chopped, one cut into neat and uniform little florets
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1 1/2 tsp. salt
6 cups water
3 cups grated cheddar cheese
2 cups milk
2 tsp dill
1 tsp caraway seeds next time I think I'll grind them first--they're kinda strange floating around in soup
black pepper to taste.

1.) Place the potatoes, garlic, onion, salt and water into a large pot. Add the chopped cauliflower chunks (reserve the tidy florets!). Bring to a boil and simmer until the vegetables are very soft (~30 minutes).
2.) While the veggies are cooking, steam the reserved cauliflower florets until tender.
3.) Puree the stewed veggies in batches in a blender. Or use an immersion blender, which would probably reduce your chances of spilling hot soup everywhere like I did. Return the puree to the original pot, stir in the steamed cauliflower florets and the remaining ingredients. Heat gently until the cheese is completely melted. Serve topped with extra cheese and fresh pepper.

Lentil-Rice Casserole, aka "Herbed Lentils and Rice"

Edit: I haven't made this in a while, but I was cleaning through some papers and found an index card which lists the amount of liquid as 3.5 cups. Not sure which is correct - I think I copied this directly from the book, but I can't remember for sure.
From Better Homes and Gardens' Meatless Main Dishes, which is © 1981 by Meredith Corporation. Better Homes and Gardens would like you to know that a serving of this dish provides 32% of the RDA of protein. Whoo hoo! I would like Better Homes and Gardens (and you, I guess) to know that most people don't consider chicken broth meatless.

2 2/3 cups chicken broth bouillon powder + water
3/4 cup dry lentils
3/4 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup uncooked brown rice
1/4 cup dry white wine
*I usually double or triple the amount of each herb (not salt & pepper)*
1/2 teaspoon crushed dried basil
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
4 oz Swiss cheese, divided in half

Combine broth, lentils, onion, rice, wine, and seasonings in an ungreased 1.5-quart casserole. Shred half the cheese; stir into lentil mixture. Bake, covered at 350 degrees for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or til lentils and rice are done, stirring twice. Uncover casserole; top with cheese strips. Bake an additional 2 to 3 minutes or until cheese melts.

Serves 4

General Tso's Tofu

Found lots of places including, which mysteriously dubs it "General Tao's Tofu."

1 pound firm tofu
1 egg
3/4 cup cornstarch
vegetable oil for frying
3 chopped scallions
1 Tablespoon minced ginger
1 Tablespoon minced garlic
2/3 cup vegetable stock I used water + bouillon powder
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
4 Tablespoons sugar
red pepper to taste I used dried red pepper flakes. they definitely don't mean red bell peppers, which some people seem to use in this recipe.
1 Tablespoon sherry (optional) it was better when I omitted it
1 Tablespoon white vinegar
steamed broccoli just let some frozen broccoli defrost. it gets soft enough when you coat it with the sauce and heat everything through.

I double the amount of all the sauce ingredients so as to make double as much sauce.

Drain, dry and cut tofu into 1 inch chunks. You can freeze tofu the night before to get a more chicken-like consistency, but it isn't necessary. Beat the egg and add 3 tablespoons water. I found that it's hard to beat the egg if you add the water first, for some reason. Dip tofu in egg mixture and coat completely. Sprinkle 3/4 cup cornstarch over tofu and coat completely. Watch out that the cornstarch doesn't clump up at the bottom of the bowl. If the cornstarch is clumpy, sift it or push it through a strainer. After three tries, the least frustrating way I've found to execute this is to coat a large surface with cornstarch, dip each piece of tofu into egg (making sure not too much egg is on the tofu) and then set it down onto the cornstarch-covered surface. Sprinkle cornstarch over the tofu through a strainer, and then kind of roll each piece around on the surface (which should still have a good layer of cornstarch on it) before putting it into the oil. Or, y'know, just don't use the cornstarch at all. I tried that once, and it wasn't awful. I need to experiment with non-cornstarch coatings, which I suspect will be much easier.

Heat oil in pan and fry tofu pieces until golden. Drain oil.

Heat 3 Tablespoons vegetable oil in pan on medium heat. Add green onions, ginger and garlic, cook for about 2 minutes. Be careful not to burn garlic. Add vegetable stock, soy sauce, sugar, red pepper and vinegar. Mix 2 Tablespoons water with 1 Tablespoon cornstarch and pour into mixture stirring well. Add fried tofu and coat evenly.

Serve immediately with broccoli over your choice of brown rice.

Serves: 4

Preparation time: 30 Minutes (wishful thinking; it takes much longer)

Vegan Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies

Found here. Originally from Post-Punk Kitchen.

Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies

2 cups flour
1 1/3 cups rolled oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1 2/3 cups sugar
2/3 cup canola oil
2 tablespoons molasses
1 cup canned pumpkin, or cooked pureed pumpkin
1 teaspoon vanilla
optional: 1 tablespoon ground flax seeds

1 cup walnuts, finely chopped
1/2 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 350. Have ready 2 greased baking sheets.

Mix together flour, oats, baking soda, salt and spices.

In a separate bowl, mix together sugar, oil, molasses, pumpkin and vanilla (and flax seeds if using) until very well combined. Add dry ingredients to wet in 3 batches, folding to combine. Fold in walnuts and raisins.

Drop by tablespoons onto greased cookie sheets. They don't spread very much so they can be placed only an inch apart. Flatten the tops of the cookies with a fork or with your fingers, to press into cookie shape. Bake for 16 minutes at 350. If you are using two sheets of cookies on 2 levels of your oven, rotate the sheets halfway through for even baking. You'll have enough batter for 4 trays.

Remove from oven and get cookies onto a wire rack to cool. These taste best when they've had some time to cool and set.

I omitted the raisins and did use the ground flax seeds. I baked most of them on parchment paper, which was fine, but all of them needed slightly more than 16 minutes to bake.
They were a bit too sweet; if I make them again, I'll use closer to 1 cup of sugar and have them be more like muffins than dessert-y cookies.