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Friday, March 30, 2012

INTRODUCING HOMEMADE PALM OIL-FREE VEGAN BUTTERY SPREAD—BUTTAH!

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Photo by Christina Hoheisel  (PS: Christina not only did a fantastic job photographing the Buttah, but went out and found the ingredients, ordered the molds and tackled the recipe, mastering it on the first try!  Thank you so much, Christina!)
You may wonder why a food writer like me, who advocates very moderate use of fat in the diet, would take the time to develop a full-fat homemade vegan buttery spread.
           
About 2 1/2 years ago (was it really that long ago?) a woman whom I have admired from afar for years wrote to me. Her name is Kay Bushnell and I have read her vegan cooking column, Cooking Green, in the Loma Prietan Sierra Club Newsletter for years. Kay asked me if there was an alternative to vegan margarines utilizing palm oil and outlined the reasons why she was asking.
           
I’m ashamed to admit that it took me so long to act on what Kay was telling me. However, I never forgot about what Kay told me, or her request. When 2012 arrived, with my new book finally launched, I decided that this would be my first project for the New Year, and I wrote to Kay to let her know that I was committing to developing an alternative product. She signed on as a tester, and I later recruited a few more.
           
I have been working on this recipe since the beginning of January 2012. I wanted it to look and taste and behave much like dairy butter. I wanted to be able to use it in baking. I wanted it to be easy and quick to make, with minimal equipment required. I wanted it to cost no more than the most popular vegan margarine.  I wanted options to make it with organic and even fair trade ingredients. And I wanted—no, required-- it to have a healthy balance of saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, with the monounsaturated fat playing the starring role—and that meant that my recipe would NOT be coconut oil-based.

I’m happy to say that I have succeeded on all counts! Organic fair trade cocoa butter mixed with oil high in monounsaturated fat proved to be the answer, along with a few other simple ingredients. (You can read about the qualities of cocoa butter in the material below.) I tested it in vegan icing, pie crust, cake, scones and biscuits, with no problems at all.

Buttah is really delicious and, besides proving itself in the baking department, it has passed the taste-test with two picky 12-year-old granddaughters (not vegan), a table-full of omni dinner guests who nearly finished off a whole batch, and a mixed bag of tasters at a cocktail party. So, I’m proud to put my name on a homemade product which, as Erik Marcus of vegan.com says, is “… a butter recipe capable of destroying your cravings for dairy products.”  

YOU WON’T FIND THE ACTUAL RECIPE HERE ON THIS BLOG, THOUGH….
Erik Marcus of vegan.com has provided me with a platform larger than my own to introduce my recipe to the vegan community-- here is the recipe link. But, before you jump over to the recipe, please bear with me for a few minutes. Though the recipe itself is simple and quick to make, you’ll have greater success with it if you read the information I have compiled on a dedicated Buttah page on this blog concerning  ingredients, molds and equipment, where to purchase them, nutrition, and fat breakdown. In addition,  there is  material on the palm oil question and the threat to orangutans at the end of that page.

IMPORTANT NOTE: I just wanted to give you a heads-up that I will be adding some information to my Buttah recipe that I have just discovered. Forget measuring the melted cocoa butter! I, along with a few readers, have discovered that 109g/3.85 oz. does not always equal 1 cup when melted, for reasons that I have not yet discovered. This is confusing, but, in testing, I have found that it is the weight of the cocoa butter that matters, not the cup measure! I thought I would be giving people without a scale an option, but it's not that simple, obviously! (I recommend a digital kitchen scale for lots of kitchen uses anyway. Here's one for just over $15; here's one for under $10.) I will be revising the online recipe to reflect this.(THE PRINTABLE RECIPE IS ALREADY REVISED.)
All the best, Bryanna

So, good readers, before you jump over to vegan.com for the recipe and get started, please read the important information on my dedicated Buttah page... and then have fun making your own vegan Buttah!

Thank you for your patience in waiting for the recipe and in reading through all of my information.  I sincerely hope that you enjoy making and using Buttah, and pass on the palm oil info to others, including food companies. In fact, let's write to our favorite food companies  and let them know that we love their vegan product(s), but could they please find an alternative to palm oil, because....

Photo by Christina Hoheisel  (PS: Christina not only did a fantastic job photographing the Buttah, but went out and found the ingredients, ordered the molds and tackled the recipe, mastering it on the first try!  Thank you so much, Christina!)


PS: A BIG “THANK YOU”, BTW, to Mattie at veganbaking.net for his ground-breaking recipe for "Vegan Butter", which provided a launching pad for developing my own recipe. Mattie provides so many details about how butter works and how the ingredients in his recipe work. I was aiming for a product with much less saturated fat, but his work is invaluable.)
PPS: If you have any questions about the recipe, ingredients, etc., please don’t bother Erik-- contact me. You're welcome to link to Erik's page or this page--we encourage sharing-- but I prefer that you do not reproduce the recipe. The development of this recipe took me much time and effort, and 2+ months of testing, and I'm quite proud of it. I'm sharing it for no remuneration, so I hope that everyone will respect this simple request and send people to back this page if they like the recipe. Thank you very much!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

VEGAN EASTER SEASON RECIPES AND DINNER PICS ON THIS BLOG

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Just in case you're out of ideas or want to make something out of the ordinary this year!

              Mid-East-Influenced Easter Dinner with Crusty No-Knead Bread

                                          Yeasted Easter Sweet Breads

See also the post "Baking Lesson", where I make Greek Easter Bread with my granddaughters.

                                Cinnamon Roll "Lamb"-- a family favorite

           If you're in a hurry--  Bread Machine Cinnamon-Nut Monkey Bread


Pics from another fantastic Vegan Easter Dinner Party with our Vegan Dinner Group

2009 Family Easter Dinner + Vegan Dinner Party Group Feast+ My Favorite Spinach Salad

                               Herb-and-Nut Encrusted Vegan Cheese Log

MORE RECIPES FOR THE EASTER SEASON:

APPETIZERS
                   Lower-Fat Purple Skordalia (Greek Potato and Garlic Dip)


                                            Iced Chocolate Chai!

BREADS, MUFFINS, PIZZA
Chocolate/Cocoa Nib Scones

                                       Vegan Orange-Cranberry-Pecan Multigrain Pancakes 
                                               Coffee Coffee Cake

CAKES, CUPCAKES AND MUFFINS
                                         Vegan Coconut-Lime Cake
                               Vegan Chai Brownies with Ginger Gelato 
                        One of my all-time favorites-- Potato Kibbeh (bulgur)

MAIN DISHES 
PASTA AND NOODLES
                       Pasta with Lemon, Asparagus, Peas, and Vegan “Ham”
Two Creamy Pasta Dishes (Creamy Mushroom Fusilli and Alfredo Mushroom-"Chicken" Farfalle [bow-tie pasta] Casserole)

PIES AND PASTRIES

SALADS AND DRESSINGS; PRESERVES
                     Grilled Peach Salad with Almost-Blue-Cheese Dressing
VEGETABLE DISHES

Happy Cooking and Happy Easter!



Monday, March 19, 2012

CRISPY TOFU "SCALLOPS" WITH CUCUMBER TARTAR SAUCE

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There aren't many vegan fish substitutes readily available in markets, but sometimes I crave something "seafoody".  This is one of the recipes I've come up with over the years to satisfy that.  Kids really enjoy these crunchy nuggets, and big kids, too! The bran flakes make a nutritious, crispy, and nicely-browned coating for the "scallops" and you don't need alot of oil, so, along with the cucumber sauce, it's a healthful and fairly low-fat meal, high-fiber and high in protein, too.

Printable Recipe

BRYANNA'S CRISPY TOFU "SCALLOPS" WITH CUCUMBER TARTAR SAUCE
Serves 4 
This is a fun recipe for a casual dinner.  A salad and perhaps some oven-fries would complete this meal.  The leftovers are good cold, too!

12 oz firm tofu, drained
whole wheat flour for dredging
1/2 cup soy milk or nut milk curdled with 1/2 Tbs. lemon juice
2 cups plain bran flakes cereal, ground in a dry blender or food processor to a crumb texture
(you can use an organic variety, such as this one)
1/4 cup oil for pan-frying
Marinade:
1 cup water
3 Tbs vegetarian mushroom-based "oyster sauce" (such as Lee Kum Kee Vegetarian Stir-Fry Sauce)
(There is information about this type of sauce and a homemade recipe at this post)
1 Tbs lemon juice
1 Tbs olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 Tbs sugar
1 tsp salt
freshly-ground black pepper to taste
Cucumber Tartar Sauce:
1 cup Eggless Low-fat Mayonnaise or Tofu Mayonnaise (or use Reduced-Fat Vegenaise or Spectrum Eggless, Vegan Light Canola Mayo)
6 Tbs minced green onion
6 Tbs minced cucumber (I like the kind with the edible peel, which we call English cucumber in Canada)
1/2 Tbs dried dillweed
cider, rice or white wine vinegar to taste
             
Early in the day, slice the drained tofu about 1/2" thick and cut it into rounds with a a very small round biscuit cutter (about 1" across-- I use the removable center of a doughnut cutter).  Then slice the rounds in half horizontally to make smaller "scallops" (see pictures).




  
Combine the Marinade ingredients in a container and add the "scallops".  Cover and refrigerate until serving time.


                                                 
Combine the Tartar Sauce ingredients in a small bowl and refrigerate until serving time.

Set up shallow bowls with the wholewheat flour, curdled soy or nut milk, and bran flake crumbs in a line on your counter.  Dredge the marinated "scallops" in the flour, then the curdled soy or nut milk, and then coat all over with the bran flake crumbs.  Place on a cookie sheet, not touching.

Heat the oil in a large heavy skillet, such as cast iron or Calphalon Commercial hard anodized.  When hot, add the coated scallops, turn the heat to medium-high, and fry until crispy on both sides.  Drain on  paper towels and serve hot with the Tartar Sauce.

Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per serving): 345.7 calories; 55% calories from fat; 21.9g total fat; 0.0mg cholesterol; 546.5mg sodium; 436.7mg potassium; 30.9g carbohydrates; 6.2g fiber; 5.9g sugar; 12.4g protein ; 7.9 points.


Enjoy!


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

BREAD MACHINE CINNAMON-NUT MONKEY BREAD

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A "monkey bread" is a sweet or savory loaf made by putting together small squares or balls of dough with melted "butter" and nuts plus cinnamon sugar OR herbs (and sometimes cheese with the herbs-- you could use vegan parmesan). The bread is pulled apart to eat-- kids love it! I don't use a bread machine very often, but I thought it would be fun to make a specialty bread IN the bread machine-- not just the dough, but the shaped bread as well. The result was great!  It would even make an easy and yummy Easter breakfast bread.

BRYANNA'S VEGAN BREAD MACHINE CINNAMON-NUT MONKEY BREAD
Servings: 8;  Yield: 1 small loaf   
  
DOUGH:  
1 cup    nondairy milk  
1 1/2 T. oil  
2 1/2 cups    unbleached white flour  
2 Tbs    wheat germ  
1 tsp    salt  
1 tsp   dry active baking yeast (or 3/4 tsp. instant or bread machine yeast)  
FILLING:  
3 Tbs    melted vegan buttery spread (stay tuned for my homemade version, which will be posted very soon, I promise!)  
1/3 cup    chopped nuts of choice  
1/3 cup    cinnamon sugar  (mix 2 tsp cinnamon with 1/3 cup organic unbleached granulated sugar)
Mix the dough ingredients in your bread machine pan as instructed in the directions for your machine. Set on the Basic cycle with a light crust. 

Check your manual to see when the last "punch-down" or "knock-down" is. Figure out how many minutes that is from when you start the machine and set your kitchen timer for that number of minutes. You want it to alert you when it is about 5 minutes BEFORE the "punch-down". Important:  have your rolling surface ready and your ingredients at hand before the next step.

The last 5 minutes before "punch-down" PLUS the first 5 minutes of the final rise, combined, is your 10 minute "window" to remove the dough, roll it, cut it and layer it in the pan with the filling. It's plenty of time-- don't worry! (Or, if you have a "pause" feature, set the timer for when the last "punch-down" is due.)

When the timer "dings", remove the pan from the machine (and start the "pause" feature" if you have one), and then take out the dough (AND the paddle) and roll it out on a floured counter to a 12x9-inch rectangle. (DO NOT PRESS "STOP" ON THE MACHINE OR UNPLUG IT! You do not want to interrupt the cycle!)

Cut the dough as evenly as possible into 24 squares. 



Layer 8 squares in the bottom of the pan around where the paddle usually sits. Brush with 1 Tablespoon of melted buttery spread and sprinkle with 1/3 of the nuts and 1/3 of the cinnamon sugar. Repeat with 8 more squares and 1/2 the remaining filling ingredients. Repeat with the remaining squares and filling ingredients.

Click the pan back into place in the machine. (Be sure that the last "punch-down" has occurred already before you do this.) Cover and let the machine proceed with the rising and baking (stop the "pause" function if you have activated it.)

When the bread is ready, loosen the sides and slide it out. Enjoy it warm or at room temperature!
  
 Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per serving): 297.1 calories; 32% calories from fat; 10.9g total fat; 0.0mg cholesterol; 326.3mg sodium; 126.8mg potassium; 44.0g carbohydrates; 1.8g fiber; 12.4g sugar; 42.1g net carbs; 6.1g protein; 6.5 points.

NOTE: This was tested in an OsterExpressbake on the Basic Cycle. Use the light crust option, as this browns very easily with the sugar and Earth Balance.

Enjoy!





Tuesday, March 6, 2012

LOWER-FAT, FIBER-RICH VEGGIE "GUACAMOLE"

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This recipe is from my book World Vegan Feast. Born and raised in California, I love avocados, but their high fat and calorie content makes them only an occasional treat for me. But sometimes you just have to indulge in guacamole! I have tried many low-fat versions, but most I found disappointing and unsatisfying.  Over the years, I have experimented with this recipe using baby peas and also with edamamé (green soybeans), but I didn't like it with either one-- too sweet. This combination is the best, in my opinion. Adding one ripe avocado and some silken tofu gives the mixture the requisite unctuous smoothness which belies the high fiber content. And, as a bonus-- this mixture does not turn brown on the surface!


In World Vegan Feast, the guacamole is a component in this recipe: Masa Crepes with Green Filling, Topped with Black Bean and Corn Salsa and Lower-Fat Guacamole 

NOTE: You need a food processor for this recipe.




BRYANNA’S LOWER-FAT, FIBER-RICH VEGGIE "GUACAMOLE"
Servings: 8
Yield: 2 cups 

5 oz whole small green beans (frozen are fine)
5 oz frozen baby lima beans (do not use cooked, dried lima beans!)
1/2 cup (4 ounces) extra-firm SILKEN tofu
2 to 3 tablespoons fresh (or bottled organic) lemon or lime juice
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 small ripe avocado
1/4 cup chunky, spicy tomato salsa (no sugar!)

Cook the beans (both kinds) in water just to cover for about 5 minutes, or just until completely tender but not mushy.

Drain the beans and place in the food processor, along with the tofu, lemon juice, garlic, salt and cumin. Cut the avocado open, discard the seed and scoop all of the avocado flesh out with a spoon and into the food processor bowl.




Process until smooth, stopping the machine a couple of times, to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl.


Add the salsa and pulse the mixture until it is all mixed in. Taste for seasoning (add more citrus juice, or salsa, or even hot sauce, to your taste, if you like). Place in a covered bowl and refrigerate.

Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per 1/4 cup serving):
 71.8 calories; 37% calories from fat; 3.2g total fat; 0.0mg cholesterol; 288.6mg sodium; 236.1mg potassium; 8.7g carbohydrates; 2.9g fiber; 0.6g sugar; 5.8g net carbs; 3.3g protein; 1.1 points.



Enjoy!