Five spice cookies

These are my mother's ice box butter cookies meets the snickerdoodle, veganized, and with an extra punch. The punch comes from Chinese 5 spice powder, a combination of cinnamon, anise, fennel, ginger, and cloves. They're wonderfully crisp, buttery, and a tiny bit chewy in the center.

Five spice cookies
1/2 c. margarine
2/3 c. unrefined cane sugar
2 tbs. brown rice syrup
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
3 tbs. cornstarch
1/2 tsp. 5 spice powder

Cream together the margarine and sugar with an electric or stand mixer. Add the brown rice syrup and vanilla, and mix for another minute or two.

Sift together the dry ingredients, then slowly mix them into the wet. Once the dough begins to stick together, use your hands to form the dough into a log, about 1 1/2" in diameter, and wrap in plastic. Place on a flat surface in the freezer for at least an hour.

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Combine 2 tbs. unrefined cane sugar and 2 tsp. 5 spice powder in a small bowl.

Remove the log from the freezer and unwrap. Slice the log into thin pieces, a little less than 1/4" thick. Dip one side of each cookies into the sugar mixture and place naked-side down on a cookie sheet.

Bake for 9-10 minutes until they just begin to get golden around the edges. Let rest on the cookie sheet for a couple minutes, then remove to a cooling rack to cool completely.
If you prefer a crisper cookie, you can bake for an additional minute or so. If you would like a chewier cookie, underbake by a smidge.

Vietnamese-style chopped salad

I was inspired to create this salad after driving home last weekend from the grocery store with a bag full of cilantro and mint to fix some summer rolls. It's an intoxicating mix that reminds me of many of my favorite dishes. My mom used to make us carrot flowers for our nuoc cham, so I threw those in for nostalgic effect.

Salad serves 2, generously
10 oz. extra firm tofu
canola oil

10-12 leaves of lettuce (I used red leaf.)
1 carrot
about 2" of cucumber
about 2" of daikon radish
25 fresh mint leaves
20 stems of cilantro
12 Thai basil leaves
2 green onions
1 small mango (just ripe, not too soft)
1/4 c. dry-roasted peanuts, crushed

Slice the tofu into bite-sized pieces and fry over med-high heat until crispy. Drain on a paper towel.

Chop the lettuce into a large bowl. Slice or shred the carrot, depending on your preference. If you want to make flowers: peel and rinse your carrot. Slice 5 thin V-shaped grooves along the length of the carrot, then slice the carrot thinly. Julliene the cucumber and radish, coarsely chop the herbs, and throw everything into the bowl. Chop the mango and set aside.

You can add or substitute other vegetables you have on hand, but the herbs are key.

juice of 1 lime (about 2 tbs.)
2 tbs. coconut milk
1 tbs. agave nectar
2 tsp. hoisin sauce
2 tsp. peanut butter
1 tsp. soy sauce
sriracha to taste

Mix all ingredients well. Pour over vegetables and toss until all the leaves are covered. Add the mango and tofu, and briefly toss again gently. Serve with peanuts sprinkled on top.

Bonus summer rolls:

Banana bread

I had a bunch of overripe bananas lying around, so Shaudi gave me her banana bread recipe. I made a couple little changes in an attempt to convince myself I'm not just eating big slices of cake.

Banana bread
1/4 c. soymilk, plus 1/4 tsp. apple cider vinegar
3/4 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. Earth Balance
1/4 c. unsweetened apple sauce
3 very ripe bananas, mashed (about 1 c.)
1 tsp. vanilla
2 c. whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 c. roasted, chopped walnuts or pecans
1/3 c. chocolate chips (optional; throw in a few more nuts instead)

2 tbs. whole wheat pastry flour
2 tsp. brown sugar
2 tsp. canola oil

Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 9" loaf pan.

Use a fork to blend together the topping ingredients in a small bowl. It should form a crumbly mix. Set aside. Stir the vinegar into the soymilk and set aside.

Cream together the margarine, sugar, and applesauce until thoroughly mixed. Add the bananas, vanilla, and soymilk and mix well again.

Sift together the flour, cinnamon, soda, and salt. Gently stir into the wet mixture until everything is moistened. Fold in the walnuts and chocolate chips, and then scrape the batter into your prepared loaf pan. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the batter.

Bake for 55-60 minutes. Around the 35-40 minute mark, you might need to cover your bread with foil to slow down the browning of your topping. Test for doneness by inserting a knife or skewer into the middle of the loaf. It should come out clean.

Remove your pan from the oven and let cool for about 5 minutes. Use a flexible spatula to lift the loaf from the pan and set it on a cooling rack to cool completely.

I’m now realizing that the topping to my peanut butter coffee cake would be amazing on this bread. Or even swirls of peanut butter directly in the batter. If you decide to give it a try, let me know how it tastes!


If I had to eat one thing for the rest of my life, it would be pho. My mom throws stuff into a pot and it comes out amazing. My sister makes meticulous spice sachets and my mom thinks it tastes better than the best San Jose spots. Beef is lame; so this is my version.

Pho broth about 4 servings
2 - 3" sticks of cinnamon
10 cloves
8 black peppercorns
5 star anise stars
2 tbs. canola oil
1 large, sweet, yellow onion, quartered
10 sprigs of cilantro
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and lightly crushed, but whole
about a 3/4" chunk of ginger, sliced
1 bay leaf
1 tbs. unrefined cane sugar
1 tbs. dark soy sauce
1 tsp. salt
8 c. vegetable broth*

In a large stock pot, toast the cinnamon, cloves, pepper, and anise over high heat until your kitchen smells amazing (about 2 minutes). Add the oil, onion, garlic, cilantro, ginger, and bay leaf and saute until the onions and garlic begin to brown lightly. Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and let simmer for 45 minutes. Be patient. Ninety minutes is even better, if you have it. You can make a "quick" version using a ground up mix of the spices (or even Chinese 5 spice powder), but it won't be as good. Once it's cooked for at least 45 minutes, salt to taste. Don't try salting it too early; the flavors need time to develop and you'll end up over-salting.

You can strain the broth, if you like, but I prefer to just fish around the spice bits to get the broth. The soft, sweet, soggy onion is one of the best parts of this soup. I can't believe people actually strain that part out. Craziness!

Don't even think about cooking your rice noodles before the broth is nearly finished. It's like pasta: the broth should wait for the noodles, never vice versa. You can heat up and flavor whatever protein you're using in the broth for a few minutes before serving. Or just eat noodles. They're the best part anyways.

Serve the broth piping hot over rice noodles and garnish with cilantro and green onion. Also have a plate of lime wedges and Thai basil handy so your guests can add additional flavor to the soup. Jalapenos and bean sprouts make nice additions, too.

Some people like to ruin the broth with hoisin and sriracha. You just spent forever slaving over this perfect, clear elixir; it's doesn't need any of that stuff. Trust me, don't do it. The broth also freezes very well, so if for some reason you can't finish 4 servings, just save it for another time.

Something neutral tasting...not the tomato-ey kind like a lot of vegetarian broths tend to be. You may also substitute water and boullion. The Better than Beef brand boillion is a little strong, so if you choose to use this, add only a little in combination with another vegetable broth.