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Monday, October 31, 2011

CRANBERRY DAY 3: "DECADENT" CARAMEL-CRANBERRY-PECAN CAKE TO WRAP UP VEGAN MOFO

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THE LAST DAY... WHEW!


I'm ready for a rest (and have a long list of things I've neglected all month), but it's been a great challenge and so much fun following the other bloggers!  Thanks so much, Vegan MoFo Organizers!



Today's Cranberry Fact: "Cranberries are rich in polyphenolic antioxidants which protect against cancer and cardiovascular disease. The proanthocyanidins and other compounds inhibit the oxidation of LDL cholesterol while cranberry powder has been observed to decrease the LDL cholesterol levels of animals with elevated blood cholesterol levels. The proanthocyanidins in cranberry and lowbush blueberry are known to inhibit tumor growth." http://www.vegetarian-nutrition.info/herbs/cranberry.php

Well, we've had our cranberry-laced breakfast, cranberry-studded dinner, and now dessert!  This is one of my favorite cakes.  Not only is it delicious and easy to make, but it gives you the feeling of being decadent when, really, it's pretty low-fat and it's made from whole wheat pastry flour.  How good can it get?

I had a bite or two of a similar cake at a local restaurant a few years ago and the memory lingered.  It took me a while to get around to making a vegan version that came "up to scratch" with what I remembered, but I'm happy with this recipe. That particular restaurant still has the cake on its menu, but they've omitted what I would consider the essential caramel sauce and instead drown it in a pile of whipped cream! You can "gild the lily" with a small dollop of vegan whipped topping or non-dairy ice cream if you like, but don't leave out the caramel sauce!



Printable Recipe

BRYANNA'S “DECADENT” CARAMEL-CRANBERRY-PECAN CAKE
Serves 8

This cake actually isn't that decadent, but it really seems so! This is a great choice when you want something rich, not too sweet, and special, but not chocolate.  It can be made either with fresh cranberries or dried cranberries.

THE CAKE:
Dry Mix:

1 2/3 cups whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup chopped lightly-toasted pecans
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries, chopped (or 2/3 cup dried cranberries, soaked in hot water and drained well)
Wet Mix:
1 cup water
3 Tbs oil
3 Tbs smooth unsweetened applesauce (TIP: Freeze canned or homemade applesauce for baking in ice cube trays and pop the cubes into zipper-lock bags-- each one is 2 tablespoons!)
1 Tbs cider vinegar
1/2 Tbs pure vanilla extract
CARAMEL SAUCE:
1/3 cup brown rice syrup
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbs. brown sugar
2 Tbs vegan butter (such as my homemade palm oil-free vegan Buttah)
1/8 tsp salt
1/3 cup organic vegan creamer (these are made for use in hot coffee, so less likely to curdle in hot liquid)
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Oil an 8" square pan and line the bottom with cooking parchment cut to fit.

Whisk all of the Dry Mix ingredients, except for the pecans and cranberries, together in a medium bowl. Add the pecans and cranberries and mix briefly.

Whisk together the Wet Mix ingredients in another bowl. Pour into the Dry Mix ingredients and stir briefly, just until mixed. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 35 minutes.
Cool the cake on a rack.

To make the sauce:
Bring the syrup, brown sugar, Earth Balance and salt to a boil in a heavy saucepan and boil over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the consistency of heavy syrup.

Remove from heat and cool a bit. Heat the creamer just until warm. Whisk into the syrup along with vanilla.

The cake can be served warm or at room temperature, but the sauce should be hot. Cut the cake into 8 triangular servings and drizzle each serving generously with some of the hot sauce. You can also serve this with a scoop of your favorite vanilla non-dairy ice cream, or a little of your favorite non-dairy whipped topping.

Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per serving):
485.6 calories; 33% calories from fat; 18.8g total fat; 0.0mg cholesterol; 163.5mg sodium; 368.6mg potassium; 80.5g carbohydrates; 4.9g fiber; 54.1g sugar; 5.4g protein; 10.5 points.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

CRANBERRY DAY 2: RICH VEGAN STEW WITH CRANBERRIES AND MUSHROOMS

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The contest is over "Vintageelena", you are the winner of a free copy of"Vegan Diner", but I haven't heard from you and have no way to contact you-- congratulations, but please contact me via this page or my FB page.  If I don't hear from you soon, we'll have to pick another winner!

  Tonight's stew in the pot!


Today's Cranberry Fact: "Helicobacter pylori is the major cause of gastric and duodenal ulcers. This bacterium penetrates the mucus lining of the gastrointestinal system and adheres to the underlying epithelial layer. Recently, it was found that a cranberry fraction disabled some strains of H. pylori so that they could not stick to the epithelial surface. Through this mechanism cranberries could help prevent ulcers. A cranberry fraction also reduces the stickiness of oral bacteria and may be useful for delaying the development of dental plaque and gum disease." http://www.vegetarian-nutrition.info/herbs/cranberry.php

Yesterday we started my 3-day cranberry-fest, suitably, with dried cranberries in our breakfast pancakes.  Today, it's dinner (and we actually  did have it for dinner tonight, with our friend Brenda, who is not a vegetarian, but loves my vegan stews).  I like using fruit in savory dishes, especially tart fruits.  I'm not sure exactly when I invented this stew-- it was at least three years ago-- but it was on a cold day, I know that for sure.  I remember wanting to come up with a stew with complex flavors, rich with wine, mushrooms, onions, and subtle herbs and spices.  I think the dried cranberries were an inspired addition, if I may say so myself.  They add a little edge of tartness (along with a bit of balsamic vinegar) to complement all the rich, deep flavors.  It's become one of our favorite winter stews, and definitely a favorite for winter dinner parties.

  Reconstituted TVP chunks tossed with Seasoned Flour and ready to brown.

I need to add that I prefer textured soy protein chunks in stews-- I like their tender chewiness and their ability to absorb flavors. In the recipe, I have given you some possibilities for substitutes if you don't want to or can't use them, or have none available, but here's a little info.  Textured soy protein is sometimes called TSP, but is also known as the brand TVP®.  It's a low-fat, inexpensive dry product that’s useful as a meat substitute. It is not the same thing as “ hydrolyzed plant protein” or “soy isolate,” BTW. It is made from de-fatted soy flour, cooked under pressure, then extruded to make different sizes and shapes, then dried.  Organic varieties are available: Frontier Co-op has unflavored textured soy protein in 2 different sizes, both organic-- 1/4-inch pieces (similar to granules) and 1/2-inch pieces (small chunk). The Mail-Order Catalog also carries a granulated version and a chunk version, both organic.

One of the alternative suggestions in the recipe is commercial "meaty" vegan strips, "tips" or "tenders".  These products are generally made from a combination of soy and wheat proteins. Common brands are Gardein, Yves, Lightlife, Morningstar Farms, White Wave, and PC Blue Menu (Canada). They are available in natural food stores and large supermarkets, either refrigerated or frozen. Some online vegan vendors will ship them with cold packs.

Now, on to the recipe...

  Ready to eat on a nice mound of mashed potatoes.

BRYANNA'S RICH VEGAN STEW WITH CRANBERRIES
Serves 6-8

Quick to put together; elegant enough for company.  All you need is mashed potatoes, maybe some crusty bread, and a salad.

3 cups textured soy protein (TVP) chunks, reconstituted (about 4 1/2 cups; see info in text above)
(Other options for the protein: seitan cubes; "meaty"commercial  vegan strips, "tips" or "tenders" [see notes above for brands]; or Butler Soy Curls reconstituted in a "beefy" vegetarian broth.)
Seasoned Flour (below)
2 T. olive oil
1/2 T. dark sesame oil
1 large red onion, thinly sliced (a regular yellow onion will work if you have no reds)
2 large cloves garlic, minced
2 cups vegetarian broth
1/2 cup hot water + 1/2 T. Marmite (yeast extract)
4 medium to large carrots, peeled and sliced into thin “fingers”
8 oz. fresh shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and cut into chunks or slices  (If you don't have shiitakes, you can use portobellos, criminis, or white mushrooms)
1 cups dried cranberries
1/2 cup dry or medium sherry
1/2 cup dry red wine
2 T. balsamic vinegar
1 T. soy sauce
1 large bay leaf
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 large pinch allspice

Heat the oils together in a large cast iron or non-stick skillet. Coat the TVP chunks with the Seasoned Flour, shake off excess, and brown them in the hot oil. Remove the browned chunks to a bowl and then add the onion and garlic; sauté, adding a little water if necessary, until the onions are softened. Mix the onions and TVP chunks in a large, heavy pot along with the remaining ingredients and simmer for 1 hour.  Add freshly-ground black pepper to taste.  Serve hot with mashed potatoes.

BRYANNA’S SEASONED FLOUR
Keep some of this in a tightly-covered container in the refrigerator-- you'll find many uses for it.

Mix together 2 cups whole wheat, or other wholegrain, flour, 1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes, 1 tsp. salt, and, optional, 1 tsp. onion powder and freshly-ground black pepper to taste.

Nutrition Facts for 6 servings:
Nutrition (per serving):
567.4 calories; 11% calories from fat; 7.6g total fat; 0.0mg cholesterol; 327.4mg sodium; 928.9mg potassium; 104.0g carbohydrates; 8.5g fiber; 2.9g sugar; 95.5g net carbs; 16.9g protein; 11.2 points.

Nutrition Facts for 8 servings:
Nutrition (per serving):
425.6 calories; 11% calories from fat; 5.7g total fat; 0.0mg cholesterol; 245.5mg sodium; 696.7mg potassium; 78.0g carbohydrates; 6.4g fiber; 2.2g sugar; 71.6g net carbs; 12.6g protein; 8.2 points.

Enjoy!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

CRANBERRY DAY 1: VEGAN ORANGE-CRANBERRY-PECAN MULTIGRAIN "BUTTERMILK" PANCAKES

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Cranberries are one of my favorite foods and the holiday season gives me plenty of opportunities to use this tart, healthful fruit in many dishes, both sweet and savory.  I'm going to devote the next three days' posts, the remaining days of MoFo, to the cranberry and its uses, along with three of my favorite recipes using this ruby-red berry (in the case of the aforementioned recipes, it will be in the dried form).

I developed this recipe about 3 years ago when I was determined to make a light, fluffy vegan pancake that was all whole grains but didn't SCREAM whole grain.  For a holiday recipe, I added one of my favorite flavor  trios: orange, cranberry and pecans.

Some of you may know that I'm in favor of using our healthful, antioxidant-rich North American berries, such as cranberries, blueberries, blackberries and currants, instead of jumping on every passing bandwagon of exotic, supposed "super-fruit" (such as goji or acai, for instance).  I wrote a bit of a rant about this, as a matter of fact, about 4 years ago, so I'll let you read it if you like, rather than repeating myself.

But a few facts: Native Americans used cranberries for food and medicine, both raw or or cooked and sweetened with maple sugar. In addition, they used them in poultices for treating wounds, and the leaves for diarrhea and urinary disorders. Cranberries were also used to prevent scurvy.

Cranberry juice may prevent the formation of certain types of kidney stones. A glass or two of cranberry juice every day for 1 to 2 weeks will increase the acidity of the urine, and decrease the risk of a kidney stone formation. As an added bonus,cranberry juice does not contain high levels of oxalate, a substance which can promote the formation of kidney stones.

That's enough science for today-- more facts to follow in the next 2 days!  Give the pancakes a try.  They contain four different kinds of whole grain flour, a combo that makes a very light pancake.  I like to keep all of these flours together in the freezer to have at a moment's notice when we feel like having pancakes, without scrambling around to find everything.



Printable Recipe
BRYANNA'S VEGAN ORANGE-CRANBERRY-PECAN MULTIGRAIN "BUTTERMILK" PANCAKES (Can be GF and SF)
Serves 8
Yield: about 32/ 3 1/2" pancakes
Light, fluffy ALL-whole-grain vegan pancakes with the added fiber and antioxidants of flax, cranberries, and pecans. You can use this recipe as a template for plain multi-grain pancakes or pancakes with other flavors, fruits and nuts or seeds.

VEGAN "BUTTERMILK":
Juice of 2 medium organic oranges + soy, hemp or nut milk added to make 2 1/2 cups
Grated zest of 2 organic medium oranges
VEGAN "EGGS":
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons golden flaxseeds, ground in a dry electric coffee/spice mill (one that is NOT used for coffee)
2 teaspoons Ener-G or Orgran No-Egg egg replacer powder
DRY INGREDIENTS:
1 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour OR a whole grain-based GF flour mix (such as this one)
1/2 cup oat flour (or grind rolled oats to powder in a DRY blender or coffee/spice mill and then measure)
6 tablespoons corn flour (NOT cornstarch—corn flour is finely-ground cornmeal; you can grind cornmeal as for the oats above if you can’t find corn flour in a HFS)
2 tablespoons brown rice flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
ADDITIONS:
2/3 cup dried cranberries, chopped
1/3 cup chopped pecans
WET MIX:
Vegan "Buttermilk" (above)
Vegan "Eggs" (above)
2 tablespoons oil
VARIATION: For plain pancakes or other flavors: omit the orange juice and use 2 tablespoons lemon juice plus non-dairy milk to make 2 1/2 cups). Omit the cranberries and nuts for plain pancakes, or use other dried fruits and nuts or seeds.

Step 1) Mix the juice and nondairy milk of choice and set aside. (This is the vegan "buttermilk".)

Step 2) Heat up your pancake griddle- - you can use good, heavy, large nonstick or seasoned cast iron skillet or griddle on top of the stove instead, or an electric griddle-- and spray with oil from a pump-sprayer or wipe with non-hydrogenated shortening before each batch. You may want to wait until your batter is almost finished before heating the pan/griddle on medium-high heat. Drops of water should sizzle when sprinkled on the surface if it's ready. (On the flat plate[s] of an indoor grill, use the high or "sear" setting.)


Step 3) Mix together the Dry Mix ingredients together in a medium bowl-- I use a whisk. Stir in the cranberries and pecans. Set aside.

Step 4) Mix the water, ground golden flaxseed and the egg replacer powder with a hand/immersion (stick) blender or electric hand mixer until like a thick, frothy egg white. (If you don't grind the flaxseeds first, you will have to use a regular blender or VitaMix to blend the wet mixture.)

Step 5) For the Wet Mix, combine the Vegan "Buttermilk" and the Vegan "Eggs" together briefly, and stir in the oil. Pour it into the Dry Mix. Whisk briefly just until no dry flour is visible-- it will be lumpy and quite thick.

Step 6) Spoon 2-3 tablespoons of the batter onto the hot, oiled griddle and spread it out gently to a 3 1/2" circle with the back of the spoon. (I use a small gravy ladle that holds about 3 tablespoons of batter and that's perfect.) Cook until it has puffed a bit, bubbles appear in the surface and the bottoms are golden.

Carefully loosen with a spatula/pancake turner (if using a plastic one, make sure that it has a nice thin edge on it) and turn over gently. The center will rise a bit and be set, and the other side golden when done. Don't overcook the pancakes, or they fall and lose their lightness.

Serve on warm plates with Earth Balance and warm syrup (we like real maple syrup) or amber agave nectar. Yum!

Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per 4 pancakes): 415.0 calories; 20% calories from fat; 10.0g total fat; 0.0mg cholesterol; 310.8mg sodium; 373.9mg potassium; 77.5g carbohydrates; 10.4g fiber; 3.5g sugar; 67.1g net carbs; 7.2g protein; 8.3 points.

WITHOUT THE NUTS AND DRIED FRUIT the nutrition facts are as follows: 
Nutrition (per 4 pancakes): 214.2 calories; 24% calories from fat; 5.9g total fat; 0.0mg cholesterol; 309.0mg sodium; 332.3mg potassium; 36.3g carbohydrates; 6.8g fiber; 3.3g sugar; 29.5g net carbs; 6.8g protein; 4.0 points.

Enjoy!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

PUMPKIN TUNNEL CAKE W/ LEMON-GINGER CREME CHEEZE FILLING, CARAMEL SAUCE, & TOASTED PECANS, FOR THE HOLIDAYS

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                                               Photo by Debbie Knight

I've been saving this recipe to post for a special occasion, and there are three special occasions coming up that could benefit from the addition of this dessert to the menu (UPDATE: Four in 2013 because Chanukah falls at American Thanksgiving this year)-- Halloween, American Thanksgiving, and Christmas.  I developed this cake a few years ago for my now defunct newsletter, The Vegan Feast, and this is the first time I've shared it with the public-- I hope some of you will try it and enjoy it as much as we do.  The ginger-y vegan cream cheese filling is a perfect foil for the soft moist, lightly-spiced pumpkin cake, and it's complemented very nicely with a drizzle of sumptuous vegan caramel sauce and a sprinkling of toasty pecans.

Tunnel cakes now come in all flavors, but the original was the "Tunnel of Fudge Cake". Tunnel of Fudge Cake was created by Ella Helfrich of Houston, Texas. She was a Pillsbury Bake-Off 2nd place winner (she won $5,000) in 1966. Her Tunnel of Fudge cake is a walnut-studded chocolate pound cake that comes out with a fudgy-wet center and a crusty, dryish brownie-type surrounding. The cake became an immediate national sensation. In fact, it introduced the Bundt pan to mainstream America. Until then, it was mainly ethnic bakers who used the pan, but once the recipe was printed in newspapers and magazines, Pillsbury alone received 200,000 requests for this newly designed type tube pan.

Pillsbury came up with a "from scratch" version of the original recipe (which used an icing mix no longer in production), which contained 6 eggs and resulted in the fudge center. However, other versions eventually came about with a solid filling sandwiched between the two layers of batter. Since a vegan cake can't use 6 eggs, and it's very difficult to "veganize" a recipe with that many eggs in it, that's the version I opted to start with when I developed this recipe.  It's not difficult to make and, as you can see from my friend Debbie's photos, if you follow the directions, it will come out perfectly!

                                            Photo by Debbie Knight

Printable Recipe

BRYANNA'S PUMPKIN TUNNEL CAKE WITH LEMON-GINGER CREME CHEEZE FILLING, CARAMEL SAUCE, AND TOASTED PECANS
Serves 16

UPDATE: For a soy-free version:  In the Filling, use the Soy-Free Cream Cheese-Mascarpone on p. 202 of my book World Vegan Feast. Make 1 1/2 times the recipe and then add the vanilla, sugar, lemon zest and ginger in the filling recipe for the cake.  In the cake, use non-soy nondairy milk or creamer and use a soy-free vegan butter such as my homemade palm oil-free vegan Buttah.

LEMON-GINGER TOFU-CASHEW CREME CHEEZE FILLING:
1 (12.3 oz.) box extra-firm silken tofu, squeezed dry as instructed below in recipe text
1/3 cup (1.66 oz.) raw cashew pieces, ground fine in a mini-chopper or coffee/spice mill, or almost to a paste in the food processor
1/4 cup organic unbleached granulated sugar
2 Tbs fresh or bottled organic lemon juice
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
grated zest of 1 small organic lemon
2 Tbs minced organic candied ginger
CAKE:
Dry Mix:
1 1/2 cups sifted white pastry flour (stir well before measuring)
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour(stir well before measuring) (preferably white whole wheat pastry flour)
1 Tbs baking powder
1 tsp powdered ginger
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves or allspice
Pumpkin Mix:
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup nondairy milk
Sugar Mix:
1 cup organic unbleached granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup vegan butter (such as my homemade palm oil-free vegan Buttah), softened a bit
1/2 cup nondairy milk
1 Tbs Ener-G egg replacer powder
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
VEGAN CARAMEL SAUCE
1/3 cup brown rice syrup(no substitutes!)
1/2 cup + 2 Tbs brown sugar
2 Tbs vegan butter (such as my homemade palm oil-free vegan Buttah)
1/8 tsp salt
1/3 cup rich soymilk or nutmilk, or nondairy creamer
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
GARNISH:
1 cup chopped toasted pecans (or you can use pecan halves)

To make the Filling:
Crumble the tofu into a clean tea towel or a nut bag and gather up the ends. Twist and squeeze repeatedly until the tofu is as dry as possible.

Beat all of the frosting ingredients EXCEPT the candied ginger in a food processor until very smooth. Stir in the candied ginger. Refrigerate until ready to fill the cake roll.

To make the cake:
Preheat the oven to 350° F. Grease a 10" nonstick bundt pan and dust with flour, or use my homemade palm-oil-free, non-hydrogenated cake release (recipe below).

Sift together the Dry Mix ingredients into a medium bowl and stir them together well.

In a large measuring pitcher, mix together the pumpkin and 1/2 c. nondairy milk; set aside.

In a large bowl, beat together the Sugar Mix ingredients with an electric mixer at high speed for about 5 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl with a silicone scraper now and then.

At low speed, beat in the Dry Mix, alternately with the pumpkin mixture, 1/3rd at a time. Then beat for 1 minute.

Spread half of the batter in the prepared bundt pan. Drop small spoonful of the Creme Cheeze Filling in a ring in the center of the batter, all the way around, as evenly as possible. Carefully top with the remaining batter and smooth the top over the Filling.

Bake the cake for 50 minutes, then test with a cake tester. Bake a little longer if necessary (in 5 minute increments). Cool in the pan on a rack for 15 minutes, then loosen carefully around the edges and invert on a serving plate.

Allow to cool thoroughly before serving.

To make the sauce:
Bring the syrup, brown sugar, vegan butter and salt to a boil in a heavy saucepan and boil over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the consistency of heavy syrup.

Remove from heat and cool a bit. Heat the nondairy milk or creamer just until warm. Whisk into the syrup along with vanilla. This sauce is served hot on some desserts, but I like it better chilled for this cake.

To serve: Drizzle the cake with chilled Caramel sauce and sprinkle with toasted pecans.

                                               Photo by Debbie Knight

Nutrition Facts: Nutrition (per serving/1/16th of cake): 291.1 calories; 23% calories from fat; 7.8g total fat; 0.0mg cholesterol; 217.0mg sodium; 309.7mg potassium; 51.6g carbohydrates; 2.4g fiber; 30.3g sugar; 49.2g net carbs; 5.5g protein; 6.0 points.

BRYANNA’S HOMEMADE PALM-OIL-FREE, NON-HYDROGENATED “CAKE RELEASE” (PAN COATING OR PROFESSIONAL BAKER'S GREASE)

Mix equal parts:
aroma-free coconut oil (such as Omega Nutrition brand)
vegetable oil
unbleached flour
(For a large amount, use 1 cup each.)

 Use a hand immersion blender or electric mixer (a stand mixer if you are making a large amount) and mix until fluffy. Use a pastry brush to apply the coating on the inside of your pan--no need to flour after applying. Store the mix in a covered container in the refrigerator.
Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

VEGAN DINER BOOK GIVEAWAY AND REVIEW!

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OUR 1ST WINNER DID NOT CONTACT ME AFTER 1 WEEK, SO WE HAVE ANOTHER WINNER, in2insightI will contact you. Congratulations!





It's past due for me to do a review AND a book giveaway (see info at the bottom of this post) of my friend Julie Hasson's wonderful book, Vegan Diner, on this blog. If you haven't seen this book, or purchased it yet, you are in for a treat! Not only do we all have some diner favorites that we would love to be able to eat again as vegans, but it looks wonderful, with delectable color photos of many of the recipes, and stylishly retro diner scenes. The content is a perfect combination of familiar and original. There are old favorites like All-American Beer-Battered Onions, Ooey-Gooey Brownies, and Biscuits with Creamy Sage Gravy, and then innovations such as Spelt Chai Pancakes, Vampire Fries, and Philly Seitan Sliders, to name but a very few of the tantalyizing recipes in this book.

Recently we had a couple of really delicious and quick meals from Julie's book that I'd like to tell you about.  I had a yen for "macaroni and cheese" the other day, and needed a quick meal at the same time. (Actually, I had just got home from work on the 6:30 ferry.  DH usually has dinner waiting for me on Friday nights, but he's been teaching a photography course at the college in Courtenay for a few weeks, so we've both been coming home on the same ferry.)  I had heard so much about Julie's Cheezy Mac that I decided to try it.  It looked quick and easy-- and it was!

  I was out of elbow macaroni, so I used medium shell pasta, and I think I'll use that from now on!  The shells make little "cups" to hold more of the sauce, so each bite is sumptuous!

While the pasta boils, you make the sauce, which tastes much richer than it actually is.  I cheated a bit and cooked the sauce in the microwave, which worked perfectly.

The recipe specifies just mixing the hot pasta and sauce together and serving immediately, which is perfectly fine, but I want a crunchy topping.   So, I  sprinkled the top with panko (Japanese breadcrumbs) and ran it under the broiler, watching carefully.  So it looked like a baked macaroni and cheese:



It was creamy and rich-tasting-- a very satisfying meal!



Another night I made two recipes from Vegan Diner: the Smoky Soy Curls and the Dill and Garlic Potato Salad.  They were both very easy to make and we could pretend that, despite the cold weather, we were having a scrumptious summer BBQ meal:

  We served the two dishes together on a bed of lettuce with pickled beets and marinated artichokes-- fantastic!  

I love Soy Curls anyway (you can read about them here), but this simple recipe takes them to a new level!  DH devoured them and we both can't wait to try them in a big, messy sandwich!  The potato salad was creamy and tangy,complementing the Smoky Soy Curls perfectly.  (By the way, DH tends to prefer my cooking, but he's a great fan of Julie's cooking and NEVER looks dubious when I say I'm trying out one of her recipes.  He certainly wasn't disappointed in these dishes.)

I haven't even gotten to the desserts yet-- there are so many recipes to choose from!  If you'd like to win a copy of Vegan Diner, comment below on why you'd like to lay your hands on this book and DH will choose a winner on Thursday night (the 27th).  I'm afraid that the publisher has stipulated that only Americans can join in the contest

All the best!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

BIG VEGAN POTLUCK DAY 2: ARMENIAN RED LENTIL-APRICOT STEW WITH SESAME RICE

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Don’t forget to comment on all the posts if you want to win a copy of Big Vegan. If you are a twitter user, you can also tweet why you go vegan with the hashtag #bigvegan by midnight November 4 to enter to win a copy.





It's the 2nd Big Vegan (by Robin Asbell) Potluck day and I chose to make the Armenian Red Lentil-Apricot Stew with Sesame Rice.  I love Armenian cooking and this sounded like a lovely blend of sweet and savory.  The ingredients for the stew are so colorful!



As Robin mentions in the book, all you need to make this a whole meal is a salad. A bonus is that it's a very easy meal to prepare-- a little chopping, rinsing the lentils, measuring out the spices and that's it, really!

After you get the stew simmering, you can start on the rice:

  Chopping the shallots.

Sauteing the shallots, sesame seeds, and rice kernels before adding the liquid.

My husband and a friend shared this together and were all impressed by the combination of the rice bathed in mild humus flavors (tahini and lemon juice, in addition to the toasted sesame seeds) with the hearty, flavorful stew.  We particularly liked the addition of the dried apricots, which added a real zing to the dish, already redolent of sweet and hot spices and the fragrance of mint. It is actually a perfect autumn meal!




ARMENIAN RED LENTIL-APRICOT STEW WITH SESAME RICE
Serves 6
Red lentils simmer into a creamy stew, piqued with bits of tangy apricot and tender eggplant. The warming spices make it even more delicious, perfect over the sesame-fortified brown rice.

1 cup/250 g red lentils, rinsed
1 medium onion, chopped
14 oz/400 g canned/tinned diced tomatoes
1 small Japanese eggplant/aubergine, peeled and diced
½ cup/85 g dried apricot, chopped
2 tsp paprika
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground allspice
1/8 tsp cayenne
1 cup/30 g chopped fresh parsley
½ cup/15 g fresh mint, chopped
Rice:
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
3 large shallots, chopped
¼ cup/35 g sesame seeds
1 ½ cups/320 g long-grain brown rice
½ tsp salt
3 tbsp tahini paste
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

1. In a 4-qt/3.8-L pot, combine 1 qt/960 ml water, the lentils, and onion. Bring them to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

2. Add the eggplant/aubergine, tomatoes, and apricots and simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes, stirring every 5 to 10 minutes.

3. When the lentils are falling-apart tender and the vegetables are also tender, add the paprika, salt, cinnamon, allspice, and cayenne and simmer for another 5 minutes to marry the flavors to bring the flavors together. Add the parsley and mint just before serving. Keep the stew warm while cooking the rice.

1. To make the rice: In a 2-qt/2-L pot over medium heat, sauté the shallots in the oil . When the shallots are clear and soft, add the sesame seeds and sauté for 5 minutes.

2. Add 3 cups/720 ml water, the rice, and salt. Bring them to a boil, then reduce the heat to a low simmer and cover. Check after 35 minutes. When all the water has been absorbed, remove the pot from the heat and let it sit, covered, to finish steaming the rice, 5 to 10 minutes.

3. In a small cup, stir together the tahini and lemon juice, then fold them into the rice. Serve the rice hot with a ladleful of stew on top.

Robin Asbell http://robincooksveg.wordpress.com/
Author of Big Vegan (Chronicle Books, Fall 2011)

Click here to follow Big Vegan's virtual potluck and get more of Robin's recipes.
To learn more about Big Vegan, check out Robin Asbell's YouTube video.


UPDATE:  Here are all of the Potluck Posts:

DAY ONE:
Baguette French Toast Stuffed with “Cream Cheese” and Topped with Apples
Leinana Two Moons
Matcha Scones with Golden Raisins
Caron Golden
Maple Barley Granola with Pecans
Robin Asbell

DAY TWO:

Mango-Jícama Salad with Lime Dressing and Pepitas    
Susan Russo

Armenian Red Lentil Stew with Sesame Brown Rice
Bryanna Clark Grogan

Korean Miso-Tofu Soup
Nancie McDermott

Squash Quesadillas with Cranberry-Jícama Salsa
Jill Nussinow


DAY 3:

Green and Red Spaghetti
Sandra Gutierrez

Bengali Curry of Cauliflower and Kidney Beans
Robin Robertson

Spanish Chickpea Fritters
Julie Hasson

New Potato Rendang with Green Beans
Pat Tanumihardja

Sundried Tomato-Kale Calzones AND
Pumpkin Cherry Bundt Cake
Leinana Two Moons

Peanut Butter Tart with “Ganache”
Tara Desmond

Please read, comment, and take a moment to scroll through these wonderful blogs. Every one of these writers has great articles, recipes, and books that might just make you a regular reader.

Don’t forget to comment on all the posts if you want to win a copy of Big Vegan. If you are a twitter user, you can also tweet why you go vegan with the hashtag #bigvegan by midnight November 4 to enter to win a copy.



Enjoy!


Sunday, October 23, 2011

CHOCOLATE-ORANGE-PECAN MUFFINS

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This will be a short post-- it's been a long week of writing and cooking!  This is a muffin (almost a cupcake, really) that I developed for my old newsletter, The Vegan Feast, about four years ago and it has remained a favorite ever since-- maybe because they contain three of my favorite dessert ingredients (make that four-- I forgot the cocoa nibs). They're not as caloric, fat-laden or decadent as they seem, and they are whole grain, but they satisfy a sweet craving most delightfully!  What can be better than biting into that moist sweet crumb, releasing the fragrant oils of the orange zest, with chunks of dark melty chocolate, toasty pecans and the unexpected crunchy bitterness of roasted cocoa nibs?



Printable Recipe

BRYANNA’S VEGAN CHOCOLATE-ORANGE-PECAN MUFFINS
    Makes 12

Wet Mix:  
1/2 cup    packed brown sugar   
2 Tbs    oil  
3/4 cup    nondairy milk   
1/4 cup    unsweetened smooth applesauce  (TIP: Freeze canned or homemade applesauce in ice cube trays and pop the cubes into zipper-lock bags-- each one is 2 tablespoons.)
2 tsp    lemon juice  
1 1/2 tsp    vanilla   
1 tsp    Ener-G Egg Replacer powder  
   grated zest of 2 medium organic oranges  
Dry Mix:  
1 2/3 cup    whole wheat PASTRY flour (do NOT use regular whole wheat flour or your muffins will be tough!)  
3/4 tsp    baking powder  
1/2 tsp    baking soda  
1/2 tsp    salt  
Additional:  
1 cup    (100g or 3.5 oz.) organic bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chunks or chips  
1/2 cup    coarsely-chopped pecans  

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Prepare 12 muffin cups by greasing or spraying with oil (if you use paper liners, also spray them with oil), or lined with silicone muffin cup liners.

Combine the Wet Mix ingredients in the blender or food processor.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the Dry Mix ingredients. Stir in the chocolate, pecans and cocoa nibs just to coat. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir briefly just to mix.

Spoon evenly into 12 prepared muffin cups. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Cool the pans on racks for 5 minutes, then carefully loosen the muffins with a table knife and turn them on their sides to cool a bit more before serving (low-fat vegan muffins are quite tender when they are very hot-they firm up with cooling).
 
 Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per muffin): 244.0 calories; 41% calories from fat; 11.8g total fat; 0.0mg cholesterol; 145.1mg sodium; 176.8mg potassium; 33.9g carbohydrates; 3.6g fiber; 9.5g sugar; 30.3g net carbs; 4.0g protein; 5.2 points.

Enjoy!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

THE URBAN VEGAN'S NEW BOOK, "CELEBRATE VEGAN"

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The promise of a new book by Dynise Balcavage, the Urban Vegan, has caused eager anticipation among fans of her blog and her first book The Urban Vegan.  The complete title of her new book is Celebrate Vegan: 200 Life-Affirming Recipes for Occasions Big and Small, and it delivers!  Dynise covers 48 holidays, divided into the following categories: New Year's Celebrations (from four cultures); American Celebrations (the usual ones, plus Martin Luther King day and Festivus, the festival for nonconformists, of Seinfeld fame); nine International Celebrations; Religion-Based Celebrations (from Candlemas to Eid al-Fitr); Milestone Celebrations (from birth to burial); and seven fun Everyday Celebrations.  Dynise likes to surprise, so be prepared.

Consider her Lunar New Year Supper, for instance, featuring Lemon-Champagne-Braised Baby Bok Choy, Tofu with Broccoli and Black Bean Sauce and, for dessert, Mandarin Orange Upside-Down Cake (“a fun twist on a classic American dessert recipe”-- indeed!). Or, from the American Holidays section, the Martin Luther King Day "Soul Food Fit for a King" supper, sometimes traditional and sometimes darn right  innovative: Sweet Mint Tea, Thai-Centric Creamy Mac (“not your grandma’s mac and cheese”), Dirty Rice and Lemon-Cornmeal Diamonds.


In this book, the "Heartfelt Linzer Cookies" are for Valentine's Day, not Christmas!

Guy Fawkes Day, a British Holiday with a long and rather violent past, inspired "Kinder, Gentler Bonfire Fare", featuring London Particular (a split pea soup), Indian Shepherds Pie, and Pimm’s Cup (a British cocktail). I made the Indian Shepherds Pie for dinner a few nights ago. This recipe is a brilliant idea, given the long relationship of the British Empire with the Indian sub-continent, continuing to this day with the large Indian population in the UK.  Dynise described the dish as a sort of  "deconstructed samosa", which is very apt.  I used the cauliflower option in the filling because cauliflower, pea and potato is a popular samosa filling.

The spicy filling features tempeh, which my husband claims to dislike, but I had some in the freezer, I had everything else in the house to make this dish, and I decided to take a chance.  The dish was calling to me, and, besides, I like tempeh, and I don't have it very often. This has a happy ending, though. I didn't tell him that the dish contained tempeh until he had tucked in and started going on and on about how great it was!

  The spicy tempeh and vegetable filling.




                      Indian Shepherds Pie




The festive and unusual Christmas Eve "Feast of the Seven Grains" is the vegan equivalent of the traditional Pan-European "Feast of the Seven Fishes"-- genius! In the Everyday Celebrations section, the "Tailgate Party" features Spicy Seitan Wings, pretty traditional, but wait-- there's a surprising Cumin-Harissa Dipping Sauce and Chocolate Popcorn to finish.  And then comes the "Raw Celebration": Zucchini “Linguine” with Lemony Spinach Pesto, Truffle-Stuffed Dates and Ruby Red Cocktail.

 Zucchini “Linguine” with Lemony Spinach Pesto

That's just a small sampling of the original menus and recipes that go with them.  Traditional sometimes, but always with a (sometimes quirky) twist.  You'll have fun with the food in this book, and so will your guests.  As an added bonus, Dynise has included a list of online resources, a recipe index by category, and some reassuring information on "veganizing" traditional recipes, baking without eggs, and much, much more.  You're going to love this book!

Enjoy!

Friday, October 21, 2011

UPDATED AND IMPROVED VERSAWHIPPED CREME

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I fnally posted my in-progress recipe for a low-fat, fluffy, light vegan "whipped creme" made with the product Versawhip 600K™ almost a week ago.  Please go to that blog post to read more about the product and the story behind this recipe and its development (as well as where to buy Versawhip 600K™).

RETHINKING THE RECIPE:
I was thinking about that recipe all week because the main failing of the recipe is that it won't hold it's fluffy texture for very long. The air seem to go out of it. Mind you, you can beat the air into it again and it's good as new.  But this bothers me anyway and I was looking for an improvement, if not a solution.

Look at what happened when I left the batch from that last post in the refrigerator for about 5 days, which I did on purpose just to see if it would whip up again after so long. It went from this:


To this in 5 days of refrigeration:




I whipped it up again with a hand-held beater and it got right back in shape!



AN IDEA:
But I got to thinking about something I had read when I was researching xanthan gum in relation to gluten-free baking.  I read in one article: "Xanthan gum can be used to thicken or stabilize liquids, suspensions or emulsions...Xanthan gum is a hydrocolloid (link) which means it works by controlling the structure of water within foods and liquids. Its long, chain-like, molecules increase the thickness and viscosity of liquids."

Pondering this gem of information, I wondered if a tiny bit of xanthan gum, in addition to the slightly larger amount of agar I had used in the last batch, might be able to provide enough structure to hold in the air that is beaten into the mixture. I also thought a tiny bit more sugar might help because Versawhip 600K™ seems to react well with sugar. It was worth a try, and the recipe below is the result, which is still not perfect, but IS improved.  (The little bit of extra powdered sugar did not make it overly sweet, by the way-- it actually improved the flavor.)



BRYANNA'S VERSAWHIPPED CREME, TAKE 3 (OCT.21, 2011)
Yield: 3 cups
IMPORTANT NOTES— Fresh or canned coconut milk [even the "lite" type], or homemade full-fat nut milks do not work with this mixture. Versawhip 600K™ does not seem to do well with fat (it deflates the mixture), and coconut or nut milk is too high in fat. However, commercial soy milks or nut milks (such as Silk Almond or Almond Breeze) and So Delicious® Coconut Milk Beverage work because they are quite low in fat. Tofu also makes it refuse to whip up—even as little as 3 tablespoons!


Please follow the steps, timing and combinations as outlined in the recipe.

Mixture A:
1/4 cup soymilk (homemade or commercial) or other nondairy milk (Please read Notes above.)
1/2 teaspoon agar powder
Mixture B:
1/4 cup original or unsweetened soymilk or other nondairy milk (Please read Notes above.)
1/2 tablespoon pure vanilla extract or vanilla paste
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 cup organic powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon organic grated lemon zest
Mixture C: (have this measured out ahead of time)
2 teaspoons Versawhip 600K
1/8 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 pinch table salt

Mixture A:
Mix the 1/4 cup soymilk and the agar powder together in a deep 2 cup heat-proof bowl (the size is important because the mixture boils up). Mix with a small whisk or fork. Let stand while you proceed.

Mixture B:
Place Mixture B ingredients in the bowl of your stand mixer with a whip attachment that touches the bottom of the bowl, or in a bowl that you can use with an electric hand-held mixer (do NOT use an immersion/stick blender).

Combining A, B and C:
Whisk Mixture A again and then microwave at 50% power for 30 seconds. Whisk and repeat once. (IF YOU HAVE NO MICROWAVE, place the bowl in a small to medium saucepan which will accommodate it [use a canning jar ring or something similar to rest the bowl on] and which contains enough simmering water to come about halfway up the sides of the bowl. Stir the mixture constantly with a small whisk until the agar is dissolved and thickened and feel silky when rubbed between your fingertips, not grainy.)

WORKING QUICKLY, scoop the cooked agar mixture into Mixture B in the mixer bowl, using a small spatula to get all of it out of the bowl or pan. Dump in Mixture C and immediately (this is important!) start beating at medium speed for a few seconds. Stop and quickly scrape the sides of the bowl downward so that all of the powder gets incorporated into the liquids. Quickly turn the machine on again and beat on high speed for 4 minutes.

The creme will increase in volume by about 5 times, and should be white and fluffy and hold a peak. You can use it immediately or scoop it into a bowl or container, cover and refrigerate. If you serve it immediately it will not be cold, but it will be the consistency of whipped crème. If you refrigerate it first, it will lose some of the air that was beaten into it, so you will need to beat it in a stand mixer or with a hand-held electric mixer (NOT an immersion/stick blender) back to its original fluffy condition. But it will be cold—it’s up to you.

It will look more airy after a time in the fridge.

BEFORE SERVING AFTER REFRIGERATION (IMPORTANT):
Whip again until the volume increases again and it is creamy and smooth. Use immediately.

This was analyzed using soy milk; it will be lower in fat and calories using some other non-dairy milks.
Nutrition (per 1/2 cup serving): 55.8 calories; 3% calories from fat; 0.2g total fat; 0.0mg cholesterol; 80.6mg sodium; 37.4mg potassium; 10.4g carbohydrates; 0.1g fiber; 9.9g sugar; 10.3g net carbs; 1.3g protein; 1.1 points.



To finish off this particular experiment, topped a couple of pumpkin cupcakes with some of the Versawhipped Creme and left one in the refrigerator overnight.

This is a freshly iced one:


This is after spending a night in the refrigerator:


It actually spent all day in the fridge as well (we just split it) and looked pretty much the same as when I took this photo.  And the stored  second batch of Versawhipped Creme?  This is what it looked like after a day and a half  in the refrigerator:


Compare it to the first batch:


There is quite an improvement, even if it isn't perfect (yet!).  It's tricky stuff, that Versawhip.

Enjoy!