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Thursday, March 29, 2007

A QUICK VEGAN SNACK; AND I'M OFF TO GRAND RAPIDS

Best Blog Tips A curious deer checking me out through my office window!

Well, I'm off to Grand Rapids, MI for the Vegetarian Awakening chef's conference on Saturday at the crack of dawn! (You can see photos from last year's conference here, and read my impressions of the conference here.)

I've been busy getting ready, and I'm still not packed, so this is going to be short! I wanted to quickly recommend (this is totally unsolicited!) a vegan product that I hadn't tried before, but we have recently found makes an inexpensive, delicious, and healthful snack. For less than the price of a vegan organic chocolate bar, you can munch on some delicious flavored tofu.

It's called "Pete's Tofu2Go", but in Canada (the company is Sunrise Soya Foods, a Vancouver company) there are a couple of other varieties called "Pete's Soyganics" (both varieties are made with certified organic soybeans). The tofu (6 oz. size) comes ready to eat in a sauce or marinade, and the calorie content of half the package is only 130-170 calories, depending on the variety, and you get about 12 g protein.



You can eat the tofu cold as a snack, or heat it in a wrap for lunch. I don't buy packaged foods very much, but I got some of the Teriyaki (sorry, in Canada only!) when I was in town and starving and didn't want to eat junk. It was a perfect pick-me-up, and, as I said, cheaper than a good chocolate bar!

We have only tried the teriyaki, Sesame Ginger, and Szechuan (pictured above) so far, but I intend to try the others (Thai Tango, Mambo Italiano and Lemon Pepper). DH wants me to keep a couple in the fridge for him to take for lunch if there's no leftovers around.

I'll post when I get back next week!

All the best!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

100% WHOLE WHEAT BREAD AND MY NEW GRAIN MILL

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100% wholewheat bread made with freshly-milled hard red wheat


I just got a new grain mill. I've had a Magic Mill Plus III for many years, but it needs a bit of work and it is not being made anymore. We used it alot because both my DH and I make bread--DH makes it for private customers several times a week, in fact. So we have a new mill now, the Wondermill.

 
My new Wondermill (UPDATE: See this post for info about the new 2014 Wondermill.)

It is a totally different design than the Magic Mill Plus III, but the grinding mechanism is the same principle-- the "impact" or micronizer, which uses steel "teeth" or blades to mill grains or legumes into flour. (The Wondermill can grind legumes into flour, which was not recommended with the Magic Mill, so that's a plus!) The Wondermill makes a lovely fine flour. (BTW, you can't make cracked grain or very coarse flour with micronizer-type mills.) You can see the bran, which you can just mix in evenly. If you want to have a healthier type of pastry flour, but a little finer than all wholewheat, grind soft wheat kernels (soft wheat contains less gluten-- good for pie crusts, pastries, cakes and quick breads, and also for low-fat baking) and then sift out the coarse bran. Some of the finer bran and the wheat germ will stay behind with the flour. The bran can be used in cereals, muffins, etc.

The Wondermill is also quieter than the Magic Mill when it is actually milling grain (be advised, though, that no electric mill is quiet!), and it is ALOT easier to clean! I also found that there was no need to drape everything on my kitchen counter in towels (like I used to have to do!) to prevent a film of flour on everything (to be fair, my old Magic Mill needs a new gasket!).








The Wondermill in action and with freshly-milled flour


Notice the container connected to the mill by a grey tube. The flour goes straight into the container and can be stored in it (some people get two containers, to have one for fresh-milling, and one for storage).

For more info about the Wondermill, dealers, reviews, go to this page .

One of the best reasons for having a grain mill (besides cost-- it's cheaper to grind organic grain than to purchase good organic flours, especially flours other than wheat-- particularly of benefit to those with food allergies and celiac disease), is freshness. As soon as grains are ground, they start to lose nutrients (just like vegetables after they are picked). So, the fresher your flour is, the better the nutrient content.

Yesterday, to try out the mill, I wanted to make a batch of bread with flour made seconds before I mixed it with the liquid ingredients, so I mixed my warm water and yeast in the Bosch mixer before I ground the grain. When the yeast was frothy, I dumped in the fresh flour warm from the grinder! Below is the recipe I prefer, and some photos of the process and the result, which was two light, moist, naturally-sweet-tasting 100% wholewheat loaves!

PS: I'LL POST A BREAD-MACHINE VERSION SOON!

TWO-LOAF BATCH OF WHOLEWHEAT BREAD (see the recipe below):

 
Kneading in the Bosch

 
Risen dough-- who says you can't have light wholewheat bread?

 
Dough in the pans before the second rising. We use the 8x4.4x3" Norpro dimpled non-stick steel bread pans, available in many kitchen shops. They only need to be greased once in a while and they make a nicely-shaped bread for toast and sandwiches.

 
Loaves risen the second time, before and after slashing with a razor blade and ready for the oven.

 
After five minutes in a very hot oven, just before turning the heat down

Fresh out of the oven!

 
Close-ups of the cooled bread sliced, showing the nice moist crumb. It's not dry at all, and slices beautifully!

MY BREAKFAST THIS MORNING:

My husband says I eat weird things for breakfast sometimes! Maybe so, but this was delicious!

 
Wholewheat toast with Creamy Sheese Original and pea shoots (pea sprouts)!

UPDATE: My recipes for 100% wholewheat bread machine bread and no-knead 100% moist and tender wholewheat sandwich bread.


THE RECIPE:
Printable Recipe

BRYANNA'S BASIC TENDER 100% WHOLEWHEAT BREAD
Servings: 36/ 3/8"-thick slices
Yield: 2 loaves

You can double this recipe to make 4 loaves, but DO NOT double the yeast!

IMPORTANT NOTE! Before making this recipe, get an inexpensive oven thermometer and test the heat of your oven. Many ovens are as much as 100° off, even new ones! If it is seriously off, have it calibrated by someone from a company that sells and fixes stoves and ovens. Otherwise, you may have to adjust the temperature up or down when you bake.

I have been making this recipe for many, many years, but it has been perfected using my husband's unique baking technique, which makes a moist bread with a nice crust. This bread has at least one nice, long rise, which is the secret to making bread that has good flavor without using lots of sweeteners and fats. DO NOT cut corners on the time and try to use more yeast instead! Your bread will suffer.

2 3/4 cups very warm potato cooking water
OR warm water water plus 1/4 c. instant potato flakes (you can get the organic variety)
1 Tbs sweetener of choice (I use organic sugar)
1 1/2 tsp. (1/2 Tbs.) dry active baking yeast (please DO NOT increase this amount!) OR 1 tsp. instant yeast
1/4 cup ground golden flax (optional)
1 Tbs sea salt (please DO NOT reduce this amount or leave out-- salt is important to regulate rising, as well as for taste)
2 Tbs oil
6-7 cups fresh wholewheat flour (4 1/2 c. hard wheat kernels [red or white varieties] will mill into just about this amount of flour)
OPTIONAL: raw sesame seeds to sprinkle on the bottom of the pan

NOTE: Why use potato water? Well, for one thing, it's a good use of water from cooking potatoes. But, seriously, the potato seems to help make 100% wholewheat bread nice and light-- I'm not sure why.

TO MAKE THE BREAD:
Dissolve the yeast in the potato water, along with the sweetener (I do this right in the bowl of my Bosch mixer). When bubbly, mix with the remaining ingredients, using a large bowl (or bowl of a heavy-duty mixer), including about 4 c. of the flour.

When that is well mixed, mix or knead in 2 more cups of the remaining flour. If the dough is too sticky, add the remaining 1 cup, a little at a time, but aim for a moist dough. I usually use the whole 7 cups, but the amount sometimes depends on the weather or the flour itself.

Knead in a heavy-duty mixer with a dough-hook (such as a Bosch) or by hand 10 minutes. (If kneading by hand, use as little flour as possible. Use a little oil on your hands and the kneading surface, if necessary. This prevents the addition of too much flour during kneading, which will make a dry dough.)

A two-loaf batch such as this one can be risen right in the Bosch bowl, with the cover on. However, you can transfer it to a large oiled bowl, oil the top, cover with plastic wrap (or place the whole bowl inside of a new small white bin-liner-bag and twist-tie it, leaving room for rising), and let rise for about 1 and 1/2 to 2 hours on the counter at normal room temperature (I prefer 2 hours to activate the enzymes which make bread taste good, and improve texture).

Shape into 2 even loaves and place in (greased, if necessary) 8-8 1/2" x 4 1/2" loaf pans. (If you like, sprinkle the bottoms of the pan first with a few raw sesame seeds. My husband always does this and it lends a little extra something to the flavor!)

Cover the loaves loosely (I place the pans inside of a new small white bin-liner-bag and twist-tie it, leaving room for rising) and let rise about 30-45 minutes, or until well-rounded over the tops of the pans.

After about 15 minutes of rising, preheat oven to 480 degrees F with convection, 500 degrees F without.

Just before baking, slash the loaves with a razor blade (see photo above), and spray the loaves with water from a pump-sprayer (this helps you get a nice "oven-spring"). Place the loaves in the middle of the oven, and bake for 5 minutes. IMMEDIATELY LOWER HEAT TO 400 degrees F with convection, 410 degrees without (if you are baking 4 loaves at once, make the temperature 410 degrees F with convection, 425 degrees without), and bake for about 20-25 minutes (I baked them 20 minutes), or until golden brown and hollow-sounding when tapped on the bottom.

If your oven heat is uneven, switch the loaves around to different positions after the first 10 minutes at the lower temperature. Remove the loaves from pans immediately and cool on racks before slicing.

Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per slice):
93.7 calories; 14% calories from fat; 1.5g total fat; 0.0mg cholesterol; 190.3mg sodium; 108.3mg potassium; 18.0gcarbohydrates; 3.2g fiber; 0.5g sugar; 14.8g net carbs; 3.5g protein; 1.4 points.


Happy baking!

Monday, March 19, 2007

WHAT WE ATE FOR ST. PATRICK'S DAY DINNER

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Vegan Irish Stew and Colcannon

With a name like Grogan, you've probably guessed that my husband is Irish (well, half-Irish, and half-Scottish). His request this year was my vegan Irish stew with dark Irish ale or stout in it. (see below about vegan beers, stouts, and ales.) The recipe from my book "The Almost No-Fat Holiday Cookbook" (Update: you can get the recipe here). This time I had an organic turnip, so I used that in the stew (you can use parsnips instead, if you like), along with mushrooms and carrots, and I used textured soy protein (TVP) chunks for the "meat" (but you could use seitan chunks instead). I served it with Colcannon (recipe below), a traditional dish of mashed potatoes with cabbage or kale added (I only had savoy cabbage in the house, so that's what I used, along with some green onion). My version is almost fat-free and very delicious with the gravy from the stew.

For dessert
, we had an Irish Apple Bread Pudding (also from my Holiday book and also low-fat-- RECIPE HERE)...



with Brown Sugar/Whiskey Sauce and my vegan Poured Custard (see recipe below). (You can leave out the whiskey, but it's traditional. I only had about 1 1/2 Tbs. left in one of those mini-bottles, but that was enough to spark up the sauce!)

RECIPES:


Printable Recipe
BRYANNA'S VEGAN COLCANNON (MASHED POTATOES WITH KALE OR CABBAGE) (WW CORE PLAN COMPATIBLE)
Adapted from a recipe in my book, "The Almost No-Fat Holiday Cookbook".

There are many variations of traditional Irish Colcannon. Besides the cabbage or kale suggested here, mashed parsnips, onions or green onions are used in some parts of Ireland. It's delicious, especially when served with the gravy from vegetarian stew, instead of the usual melted butter. (The nutritional analysis was done without the optional Earth Balance)

3 lbs russet or Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled
2 lbs kale, or green cabbage or Savoy cabbage
2 cups vegetarian "chicken-style" broth
1 Tbs Earth Balance or olive oil (optional)
2 cups minced leeks or green onions
3/4 cup non-dairy milk
salt and pepper to taste

Cut the potatoes into chunks and boil in water to cover until tender, but not mushy.

Meanwhile, wash and trim the kale or cabbage, discarding any tough stems. Chop it and braise it in the broth for 15 minutes, or until tender. Drain it and gently squeeze out the liquid by pressing with the back of a large spoon. At the same time, in a nonstick skillet sprayed with oil from a pump-sprayer, steam-fry the leeks until softened, adding drops of water as needed to keep from sticking, OR saute in the Earth Balance.

Drain the potatoes well and mash with a potato masher. Beat in the soymilk; then the cooked kale or cabbage, and leeks or green onions. Taste for salt and pepper. Serve hot with vegan stew or gravy.

Servings: 8

Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per serving):
188.1 calories; 2% calories from fat; 0.5g total fat; 0.0mg cholesterol; 44.2mg sodium; 934.0mg potassium; 42.9g carbohydrates; 6.4g fiber; 6.7g sugar; 36.5g net carbs; 5.6g protein; 3.0 points.

Printable Recipe

BRYANNA'S VEGAN POURED CUSTARD OR CUSTARD SAUCE
Servings: 6
Yield: 3 cups

This is a rich-tasting custard. You can serve it chilled in pudding dishes for dessert, topped with fruit, or use it as a hot sauce poured over bread pudding or cake.

6.15 ounces (1/2 a 12.3 ounce box) extra-firm SILKEN tofu (reduced-fat, if you like)
2 cups water
4 3/4 tablespoons plain custard powder, plain (see below recipe for where to purchase),
OR cornstarch plus a pinch of Spanish saffron
1/2 cup organic sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Mix all the ingredients except the vanilla in a blender until smooth.

Pour into a medium nonstick saucepan and stir over high heat until thickened. Whisk in the vanilla.
OR microwave:
at full power in a microwavable bowl for 3 minutes. Whisk the mixture. Microwave 2 minutes more. Whisk well. Whisk in the vanilla.

If serving cold, pour into 6 custard dishes, cover and chill. Or, pour the mixture hot over cakes or bread puddings.

NOTE: You can also purchase custard powder in gourmet food stores that sell international foods.

Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per 1/2 cup serving):
110.7 calories; 3% calories from fat; 0.4g total fat; 0.0mg cholesterol; 137.4mg sodium; 33.7mg potassium; 23.0g carbohydrates; 0.1g fiber; 16.9g sugar; 23.0g net carbs; 4.1g protein; 2.2 points.


ABOUT INGREDIENTS AND VEGAN ALCOHOL:

IS BIRD'S CUSTARD POWDER REALLY VEGAN? YES! Read on....


Two people have written to me saying that they saw nutrition information about Bird's custard powder that indicated that it contained milk.

The powder does not contain milk or milk proteins. The CUSTARD someone makes from it might contain milk products, if it's stirred into dairy milk to make the custard, but you can use soymilk or nut milk (and trust me, rice milk does not work!). I think the nutrition info they saw was for the cooked custard made with milk.

The following is from http://www.ocado.com/webshop/product/Birds-Custard-
Powder/10764011


"Allergen Information

Does Not Contain:
Nut, Gluten, Wheat, Egg, Fish, Lactose, Sesame, Peanut, Celery, Mustard, Soya, Shellfish, Milk, Sulphites, Phenylalanine, Oats

Ingredients
Cornflour, Salt, Colour (Annatto), Flavouring."

And that is exactly what it says on the can of it I have in my cupboard. You have to add milk-- dairy or non-dairy-- and sweetener. It's not like a cocoa powder mix where you just add water.

If you don't believe me, here's an article on it from a British newspaper:
http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/food-and-drink/features/retro-delights-birds-custard-789786.html

"...So what happened to Bird's? The answer is nothing. It's still there on the supermarket shelf, boasting the 'original homemade taste". This is nothing special – the complete list of ingredients is "Cornflour, Salt, Colour (annatto), Flavouring'. Sampled for the first time in maybe 40 years, it was unobjectionable, two-dimensional, unchanged."


VEGAN BEER, STOUTS AND ALES:

In the book mentioned above, I call for Guinness Stout in the stew. I later learned that Guiness is not vegan. Below you can read why this can be the case, and what alternatives you can use.

Why isn’t alcohol necessarily vegan?

Wine is clarified, or cleared, after fermentation. Some of the ingredients used include:
- edible gelatins (made from bones)
- isinglass (made from the swim bladders of fish)
- casein and potassium caseinate (milk proteins)
- animal albumin (egg albumin and dried blood powder)
In the UK beer (bitter) is also commonly fined using isinglass. Many bottled bitters and most lagers are vegan. Guinness is not suitable for vegans. Most spirits are vegan except for Campari (contains cochineal) and some Vodkas (passed through bone charcoal).

Resources
The best resource for finding vegan wines, beers and other alcoholic beverages is http://barnivore.com/

From the UK Vegan Society: links to how different alcoholic beverages are made and vegan brands

Australian site with a very comprehensive list of alcoholic beverages, marking those suitable for vegans



Cheers!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

WINE AND SHEESE PARTY (WITH DESSERT!)

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Sheese, please?

Last Saturday night we invited five vegan friends over for dinner for a "Wine and Sheese" party, to taste and review the Scottish vegan cheese that we've heard so much about. Sheese comes in two versions, hard and "Creamy Sheese", and in many varieties. If you have been missing a vegan cheese with a punchy taste, it's here!

The company is on the Isle of Bute in Scotland, which boasts a population of under 8,000. Their website says about "The Team": "Sheese is made, for the most part, by four guys who were brought up not eating animals...They care passionately about animals and fervently about making healthy foods for people who are lactose-intolerant or want to stop eating dairy." They are young (at least to me!) and they have made a wonderful product which is now available worldwide.

5 varieties of hard "Sheese" are available in the USA at Food Fight, and 6 varieties at veganessentials.com (+ 2 creamy varieties), and some health food stores carry Sheese. Sometimes amazon.com carries it, so check that outUnfortunately, the "Creamy Cheese" doesn't seem to be available from many stores. So, badger your HFS to carry all the Sheeses! The US distributor is Black Duck Imports. The Canadian distributor is Skyranch Foods in Pemberton, BC.. Here is the Sheese international supplier page.

The varieties are mind-boggling! The hard Sheeses are (they come in a nice little round block): Blue, Cheddar with Chives, Cheshire, Edam, Gouda, medium Cheddar, Mozzarella, Smoked Cheddar, and Strong Cheddar. (Unfortunately, the Edam and Cheshire [one of our favorites] don't seem to be available in North America.)



The Creamy Sheeses are: Original, Cheddar Spread, Chives, Garlic & Herbs, and Mexican Style.


Ooops-- forgot to put the Cheddar Spread in this photo!

If you click on each variety on their website, you will see the ingredients (very simple, actually), and the nutritional info.

*****************
The Tasting Party:



Suzanne, Gordon, and Sarah are serious about tasting!

We tried each variety one by one, with crackers and homemade bread. We had some raw organic zucchini slices and celery sticks for the spreads, and some peppery olive oil on the side, too. We had a nice Australian Shiraz, a South African Merlot, and an Australian Chardonnay, with mineral water for the non-drinkers.



We were really pleasantly surprised by the firmness of the hard Sheese, and the depth of flavor, which is usually missing from vegan cheeses. (BTW, there are no hydrogenated fats in Sheese.)

Our favorite hard Sheeses were: Cheshire, Smoked Cheddar, and Gouda.

We liked all of the Creamy Sheeses, but especially the Garlic & Herb, and the Mexican, which was nice and spicy!

But how does it perform in cooking?

Good question! I have only cooked with it three times so far, but have been very pleased with its performance. Last week I topped a casserole with some of the Strong Cheddar:


Very nice!

I made a grilled Sheese sandwich with the Cheshire:


Very yummy and melty-soft!

And last night I used the Mozzarella on homemade pizza:



We hadn't expected much of the Mozza (vegan Mozza is usually pretty dull), and it is mild. But on the pizza, it was creamy and rich-tasting-- we loved it! I put it under the veggies, BTW, just in case it got dry in the very hot oven.

More experimenting to do-- darn it! I have frozen some of the hard Sheese, and it seems to be fine after thawing, if wrapped really airtight.

*************************
One of our party was never a fan of dairy cheese, so I made one of our favorite bean dishes, thinking that everyone might have a little. I doubled this recipe and only had about 3 servings left!



Printable Recipe

BRYANNA'S GIANT LIMA BEANS, PEASANT STYLE (WW CORE PLAN COMPATIBLE)

From my books "Nonna's Italian Kitchen" (with regional variations) and "The Fiber for Life Cookbook" (with Greek and Macedonian variations). Giant lima beans (sometimes called "gigantes") are delicious even to those of us who claim not to like ordinary limas. They really blend well with tomatoes, herbs and a little hot pepper. This recipe is such favorite in our family that I often take it to potlucks. This is the version I used for the party.

NOTE: You can also make this with white kidney or Great Northern beans.

1 lb dried giant lima beans ("gigantes") OR butter beans, "Christmas limas" or "chestnut limas"
3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
3 medium onions, coarsely chopped or sliced
3 large green bell peppers, seeded and cut into strips (you can use red or yellow ones instead, or a mixture)
28 oz canned diced tomatoes and juice
2 cup water
4 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
2 tsp dried basil
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4- 1/2 tsp red chile pepper flakes
freshly-ground black pepper to taste
TOPPING:
1 cup fresh whole grain breadcrumbs
1/2 cup vegan soy Parmesan, such as Galaxy Vegan
OR minced hazelnuts (filberts) or walnuts
1/4 cup ground golden flax seed (optional)
2 Tbs minced fresh Italian parsley

Soak the beans overnight or for about 8 hours in plenty of cold water. When ready to cook, drain the water off and rinse the beans.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large heavy skillet heat the oil over medium-high heat. Saute the onions in the oil until they are translucent. Mix the beans and the sauteed onions in a medium Dutch oven, or small oval roasting pan with a lid. Pour the water into the skillet and scrape up any brown bits, then pour the water into the beanpot and add the peppers, tomatoes, garlic, basil, salt, pepper, and hot pepper flakes. Cover and bake for about 2 hours, or until the beans are soft inside. Add a little more water if they get too dry. Taste for salt and pepper.

During the last 15 minutes or so of baking, mix the breadcrumbs, nuts or soy Parmesan, flaxseeds, and parsley and sprinkle over the top. bake uncovered for 15 minutes.

Serve hot with crusty bread.

Servings: 8
Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per serving):
370.3 calories; 17% calories from fat; 7.5g total fat; 0.0mg cholesterol; 623.3mg sodium; 1459.9mg potassium; 57.8g carbohydrates; 15.4g fiber; 12.3g sugar; 42.4g net carbs; 17.5g protein; 7.2 points.

For dessert, I tested two recipes:


Triple Chocolate Threat Peanut-Butter-Filled Cupakes (ganache icing)


Ginger Treacle Tart (a spicy version if the English classic-- UPDATE: the recipe is in my book World Vegan Feast)


Enjoy!