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Saturday, April 28, 2012

A COUPLE OF EXPERIMENTS, THOUGHTS ON FOOD WASTE, AND SOMETHING FROM NOTHING

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Tofu and Vegg Fritatta 

I must apologize for not posting much these days-- I'm trying very hard to finish up some experiments,  to find the time to review and cook from some new books I've received and want to do justice to, but I have some writing to finish, as well as my job and all else that life entails, so it's slow going!  In the meantime, here are pics of a couple of experiments I've been working on, plus a dinner I made the other night from what we had around-- a sort of lasagne casserole.

I've been wanting to really play around with The Vegg, an innovative new vegan egg yolk sub that comes in powder form.  It makes fantastic French toast, but I have alot of other ideas for it.  I tried their recipe for frittata (Italian omelet), but I found it too slimy for my taste.  (I never liked undercooked eggs in my egg-eating days.)  I decided to try using it half and half with tofu in the frittata recipe from my Italian vegan cookbook, Nonna's Italian Kitchen.  (A few other minor adjustments needed to be made as well.) 

It turned out quite well, but the frittatas were thinner and less substantial than my tofu version.  They were tasty, though, and not slimy-- good hot or cold.  The Vegg does add more of an egg-y flavor. However, I want to try it again with maybe 2/3 tofu and 1/3 Vegg and see if I like that better-- will report back, with more details, when I'm satisfied.

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As for that "something from nothing", I always feel good when I can use up food that might get thrown out if I don't think of some way to use it.  No Impact Man writes that "...food leftovers are the single largest component of the waste stream by weight in the United States. Americans throw away more than 25 percent of the food we prepare. We throw away 96 billion pounds of food a year." And, besides being wasteful in this economically-stressful time, that adds to greenhouse gas emissions."

He goes on: “The decomposition of food and other waste under anaerobic (without oxygen) conditions in landfills produces methane, a greenhouse gas (GHG) 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Landfills are the largest human-related source of methane in the United States, accounting for 34 percent of all methane emissions. Recovery (i.e. food donations) and recycling (i.e., composting) diverts organic materials from landfills and incinerators, thereby reducing GHG emissions from landfills and waste combustion.”

Meanwhile, food leftovers are the single largest component of the waste stream by weight in the United States. Americans throw away more than 25 percent of the food we prepare. We throw away 96 billion pounds of food a year.

The most important method of reducing food-scrap associated greenhouse gases, therefore, is to waste less food (see the diagram above for the EPA’s food waste recovery hierarchy). Here in No Impact land, we waste less food by cooking less, saving leftovers for later, and eating food before it goes bad (not particularly complicated or high tech). Scraps and rinds go to the worms." 

James McWilliams explains why we should care more about food waste in this article.


Anyway, the "lasagne casserole" I made from leftovers was pretty good-- I think I'd add more mushrooms and more pesto next time, but it was quick and easy and used up various things that I had around...like a bit of DH's delicious spaghetti sauce.


To which I added a little red wine from an open bottle in the fridge, some leftover juice from canned tomatoes, and 1/2 a package of Yves veggie Ground Round (hamburger substitute). I ended up with about 2 cups of sauce.

I had some medium firm tofu that I had opened and used a bit of, so the remainder was in a container with water in the fridge.  I also had some extra-firm silken tofu which I had opened and discovered that it had frozen when stored outside in the cold weather!  So I decided to make a version of the Tofu Cottage Cheese recipe from my book Soyfoods Cooking for a Positive Menopause:


I put about 2/3 cup of the medium-firm tofu aside.  I squeezed the frozen silken tofu until it was fairly dry and crumbly, and placed that in a bowl.  I mashed in the remaining medium-firm tofu and added a bit of salt.  I used an immersion blender to whip the 2/3 cup tofu with a couple of teaspoons lemon juice and a pinch of sugar.  Then I folded that into the other tofu mixture in the bowl.  It tasted quite nice and had a very "cottage cheese-y" texture.


Next, I sauteed some sliced cremini mushrooms that needed using-up, and then added some vegan pesto (only 1 tablespoon-- should have used more).

I cooked up about 6 ounces of farfalle (bowtie pasta) from an opened bag, drained and mixed that with the sauce.  I layered half of that in a casserole, topped it with the "cottage cheese" and then the mushrooms...


I layered the rest of the pasta over that, and topped it with the little but of my Okara Parmesan that I had left. (I could have made a  white sauce or a "cheese-y" vegan sauce, but I didn't want to get complicated, and, after all, my intention was to use up various items.)



Baked in the oven for 30 minutes, it was nothing to be ashamed of, and provided a tasty, thrifty, nutritious lunch entree for each of us on our next workdays!

                                                
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About that second experiment, I'll be announcing the recipe (which will go up on vegan.com) as soon as I get do a few adjustments and get some photos done, but I've been working on a second version of my vegan palm oil-free buttery spread, Buttah, a softer "tub" version.

                                                       So stay tuned!

           Have a great weekend!


Friday, April 20, 2012

CHEESY LOW-FAT BLACK BEAN DIP OR SPREAD

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I'm in the habit of making low-fat spreads to eat with raw veggies or rye crisp for snacks.  DH is a snacker-- he feels the need to munch every couple of hours or so.  He likes fruit, and soy yogurt, so those are snack staples, of course, but sometimes a savory, protein-rich snack is more satisfying. So that's what I concentrate on keeping in the refrigerator at all times (though leftover homemade soups and grainy/beany salads are good, too).  My Cheddary Spread is a favorite.  But, yesterday I was out of silken tofu (calamity!), so I looked around for what I had-- can of black beans, jar of salsa, could quickly make some Melty Chedda, since it doesn't require tofu. Here's the result, and it passed DH's taste-test with flying colors.

Printable Recipe (both spread and Melty Cheeze)

BRYANNA'S CHEESY LOW-FAT BLACK BEAN SPREAD OR DIP
Yield: about 3 cups
This could be used as a filling for tacos or quesadillas, too.

2 cups (19 oz. can)    black beans, rinsed and drained  
2 cloves    garlic, crushed  
1 small    onion, minced  
1 tsp    dark sesame oil  
3/4 cup    chunky tomato salsa  
1 tablespoon    chili powder  
1/2 tsp    ground cumin  
1/2 cup    Melty Chedda Cheeze (recipe below)—refrigerate the rest for other uses  
2 tsp    lemon juice (or 1 tablespoon lime juice)  
Optional:  
1/4 cup    chopped fresh cilantro or Italian parsley  
  
In a medium shallow bowl, mash the black beans and garlic with the back of a fork.  



In a heavy skillet (nonstick, cast iron or anodized aluminum) heat the sesame oil over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and sauté until it softens.  Add the black beans, salsa, chili powder, and cumin; combine well.  Turn off the heat and add the Cheeze and lemon juice.  



Stir well and scoop into a bowl.  Serve warm or cold with crackers, baked tortilla chips, or crunch raw vegetables (zucchini slices, celery, and bell peppers would be good).
 
 Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per1/4 cup): 60.3 calories; 14% calories from fat; 1.0g total fat; 0.0mg cholesterol; 111.2mg sodium; 140.5mg potassium; 10.0g carbohydrates; 3.1g fiber; 0.8g sugar; 6.9g net carbs; 3.4g protein; 0.7 points.


 

BRYANNA’S MELTY CHEDDA CHEEZE
Yield: 1 1/4 cups
This makes great grilled cheeze sandwiches and quesadillas , and can be used to make cheeze sauce (just add non-dairy milk to taste). The nutritional yeast adds protein and lots of B-complex vitamins, as well as flavor. This is adapted from a recipe in my book "20 Minutes to Dinner"-- but this time I used nutritious  oat flour instead of a combination of flour and cornstarch.

1 cup water
3 3/4 tablespoons oat flour (you can grind rolled oats in a clean dry blender or electric coffee/spice grinder)
1 tablespoon light soy or chickpea miso
1 tablespoon tahini
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic granules
2 tablespoons water

Place the water, yeast, oat flour, tahini, miso, lemon juice, salt, and garlic granules in blender and blend until smooth. Pour the mixture into a small saucepan or medium microwave-proof bowl or beaker. 



Stir over medium heat until it starts to thicken, then let bubble 30 seconds and whisk vigorously, OR MICROWAVE on full power 2 minutes, whisk, then microwave at 50% power for 1 1/2 minutes, and whisk again. Whisk in the water until smooth.

Drizzle immediately on food and broil or bake until a skin forms on top; or refrigerate in a small rigid  covered container (round, square, rectangular, or wedge-shaped in a storage container meant for a piece of pie) for up to a week. It will get quite firm upon chilling, but will still be spreadable. You can spread the firm cheeze on bread or quesadillas for grilling, or heat it to spread more thinly on casseroles, etc. 


Enjoy!


Thursday, April 12, 2012

BUTTAH UPDATE; EASTER DINNER PICS

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People are paying attention to Buttah! I am so thrilled that Aaron Adams, chef at Portobello Vegan Trattoria in Portland, OR, wrote to me: "Bryanna! We're working on perfecting production of your buttah for our restaurant...once we're up and running on it, we're done with EB and the other palm oil stuffola. Thanks for your hard work and dedication. It makes a huge difference." OMG!

AND, again in PortlandGrant Butler, writer for The Oregonian, included my palm oil-free vegan butter in his list of "hot topics" this week! 

The interest has exceeded my expectations, and we've had just about 5000 page hits on the recipe page at vegan.com! All of this makes me feel that the project was very worthwhile and I hope that it will not only give vegans and others an option to make a useful and delicious palm oil-free alternative to butter, low in saturated fat, in their own homes, but that vegan margarine producers will endeavor to change their formulas to exclude palm oil.


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

I used Buttah in the cake I made for our Easter dessert-- in the cake itself and in the fluffy white frosting:
Butterfinger Cake (recipe here)

I have also made vegan "buttercream" frosting with Buttah, very successfully. It held up well even at room temperature:

Here is Buttah adorning the Colcannon (mashed potatoes with kale) served with our vegan Irish stew on St. Patrick's Day:

We've used it on vegan waffles:
and to brown vegan grilled cheese sandwiches and French toast (made with The Vegg, which I'll be experimenting with in various recipes soon!):
I've used buttah successfully also in scones, biscuits and pie dough, and I'm very happy with the taste and performance.

2012 EASTER DINNER

(For dessert, we had the Butterfinger Cake pictured above.)

Potato, Bulgur and Onion Kibbeh, Sweet Potato and Cranberry Mostarda (I didn't have squash, so I used sweet potatoes-- everyone loved it!)

My Seitan ham with the Mostarda

Rye crisp, raw veggies and dark Dutch pumpernickel bread with my hummous and a new smoked tofu spread that I developed for Alive magazine.

Delicious Brussels Sprout Slaw with mustard dressing and  candied pecans, recipe here.

Have a great week!



Friday, April 6, 2012

VEGAN "BUTTERFINGER" CAKE

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I have to admit that I did not come up with the idea for this recipe all on my own-- I got the idea from the March 05 of Bon Appétit  magazine in an article by Emily Luchetti, pastry chef at the Farallon restaurant in San Francisco (my old stomping grounds). Since chocolate and peanut butter are two of my favorite things (especially together), I just had to veganize it for my now-defunct newsletter... which meant pretty much starting from scratch.

It turned out to be everything I imagined, but it's very rich-- much richer than the cakes I normally make, so cut small slices and save for very special occasions, like Easter. (Or eat it on a day when you only have low-fat soup and salad.) I think it's worth every luscious calorie! BTW, I can't find vegan peanut butter chips anywhere, but it's easy to make your own for this recipe-- recipe below.

Printable Recipe
BRYANNA'S VEGAN "BUTTERFINGER" CAKE (Peanut Butter and Chocolate)               Servings: 16
For some reason, the cake benefits from being made a day ahead of time. The first day the cake layers seem a bit dry, but they moisten up after a night in the refrigerator!

NOTE: Stir the whole wheat pastry flour well before measuring and use the "scoop and level" method. You can sift the unbleached flour before measuring.
  
    CAKE  
1/2 cup    peanut butter, smooth natural  
1/2 cup    vegan butter (try my homemade palm oil-free vegan buttery spread)  
1 cup    brown sugar, packed  
1/2 cup    light organic unbleached granulated sugar 
1/2 cup    medium-firm tofu, mashed  
1 Tbs.    egg replacer powder (Ener-G or Orgran
1 tsp.    pure vanilla extract  
1 1/4 cups    unbleached all-purpose flour  
1 Tbs.    baking powder  
1/2 tsp.    salt  
1 cup    nondairy milk  
1 recipe    Vegan Chocolate Ganache (minus 1/4 cup for topping) (see recipe below)
1/4 cup    peanut butter, smooth natural  
3 Tbs.    brown sugar  
1 recipe    Bryanna's Fluffy White Vegan Frosting (use vanilla only) (see recipe below)  
1 recipe    Bryanna's Homemade Vegan Peanut Butter Chunks (see recipe below) 
1/2 cup    roasted peanuts  

1 Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour 3/ 8" round cake pans and line them with baking parchment cut to fit.

2 TO MAKE THE CAKE LAYERS: Cream together the 1/2 cup peanut butter and margarine, using an electric hand mixer, a stand mixer or a food processor. When smooth, add the 1 cup brown sugar and light organic unbleached sugar and beat well again. Add the tofu, egg replacer and vanilla and beat again until very smooth.

3 If using a food processor, scoop the mixture into a mixing bowl.

4 Mix the flours, baking powder and salt well with a whisk in a smaller mixing bowl.

5 Add the flour mixture to the creamed mixture alternately with the soy milk, starting and ending with the flour mixture, and beating just enough so that you don't see the flour or milk anymore between additions. 

6 Pour the batter evenly between the prepared pans and smooth the tops. Bake for 25 minutes. Cool on racks for 10 minutes, then remove from pans to racks, removing the cooking parchment. Cool thoroughly before icing. Wrap well in plastic wrap and ice the next day.  

7 THE MORNING OF THE DAY YOU ARE TO SERVE THE CAKE, make the Chocolate Ganache. Set aside 1/4 of a cup to drizzle on top of the cake. Beat the 1/4 c. of peanut butter and 3 T. brown sugar into the remaining ganache. Refrigerate until firm.

8 Make the basic Fluffy White Frosting and refrigerate for several hours before icing the cake.

9 WHEN READY TO ICE THE CAKE, spread half of the peanut butter-ganache over one layer (top side down). Top with another cake layer (top side down) and spread with the remaining peanut-butter ganache. Top with the last cake layer (top side up). Frost the cake with the Fluffy White Icing.

10 Crumble the Peanut Butter Chunks over the top of the cake and sprinkle with the peanuts. Heat up the 1/4 c. of ganache that you held back (I do it in the microwave at 50 percent power for about 30 seconds). Drizzle it from a spoon over the topping. Refrigerate the cake until ready to serve.

Nutrition Facts per serving (1/16th cake)

Calories 542.22; Calories From Fat 230.70; Total Fat 26.73g; Saturated Fat 8.43g; Cholesterol 0.00mg; Sodium 225.10mg; Potassium 401.72mg; Carbohydrates 69.35g; Dietary Fiber 4.01g; Sugar 40.69g;Sugar Alcohols 0.00g; Net Carbohydrates 65.34g; Protein 11.49g; MyPoints 13.9

  
BRYANNA'S VEGAN CHOCOLATE-SOY GANACHE
Yield: 1 1/2 cups  Recipe from my book Soyfoods Cooking for a Positive Menopause.

A ganache is a rich, fudgey chocolate icing that firms up when cooled. It is usually made with heavy cream, but rich, full-fat soymilk blended with silken tofu makes a wonderful substitute. A firm ganache is also the basis for making chocolate truffles-- if you would like to try this, reduce the amount of milk to 1/3 to 1/4 cup.

6 oz    dairy-free semi-sweet eating chocolate or chocolate chips (1 c.)  
NOTE: Remember that the quality of your ganache depends upon the quality of the chocolate you use.  
1/2 cup    nondairy milk  
1 tsp    vanilla

1 Break the chocolate up and process it finely in a dry food processor. Leave the chocolate in the processor.

2 Whip the milk and silken tofu together in the blender or with an immersion blender until VERY smooth.  This makes a soy “crème”  Heat it in the top of a double boiler over simmering water until almost to the boiling point, or microwave it in a microwave-safe bowl for about 1 minute at 50 percent power, or until very hot, but not boiling. (If the mixture seems to curdle at all, blend it again until smooth.)

3 With the motor running, pour the hot soy crème in through the food processor feed tube. Process until the mixture is smooth.   Refrigerate until firm.

BRYANNA'S FLUFFY VEGAN WHITE FROSTING
Enough for a 2 layer/ 8" cake or a 9x13" sheet cake.

I like this icing because it's not too sweet.

1 cup    nondairy milk  
6 Tbs    white unbleached all-purpose flour  
6 Tbs    vegan butter (try my homemade palm oil-free vegan buttery spread)  
1 tsp    pure vanilla extract
1/8 tsp    salt  

 1 Whisk the milk into flour in small saucepan until smooth. Heat and stir until it boils and thickens. Cool thoroughly (place in a small bowl inside of a larger bowl of cold water).

2 With an electric hand mixer or stand mixer beat the butter, sugar, vanilla and salt until light and fluffy-- several minutes. Beat in the cooled flour paste and beat until smooth and fluffy. Chill thoroughly before frosting. Frost the cooled cake. Keep the frosted cake refrigerated until serving time.
 
BRYANNA'S HOMEMADE VEGAN PEANUT BUTTER BAKING CHUNKS
 Yield: 12 oz.
Easy and quick to make, and firm enough to cut into tiny squares and use in baking. They hold their shape during baking. Taste yummy, too!

NOTE: If you use the creamed coconut option, the easiest way to melt it without burning is to microwave at 30% power for 30-60 seconds.
 
   A.)  
1 1/2 Tbs. water  
1 tsp pure vanilla  extract
   B.)  
1/3 cup melted solid cocoa butter OR solid block creamed coconut (see notes below)
(See this page on my blog for sources of cocoa butter if you health food store does not carry it.)
1/3 cup soymilk powder or rice milk powder OR soy protein powder
7 Tbs. natural smooth natural peanut butter  

Mix A ingredients with a whisk in the top of a double boiler over simmering water. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Off the heat, stir in the melted cocoa butter, then the milk or protein powder and, finally, the peanut butter. Mix until smooth. 

Pat out onto a 7 x11" baking pan lined with baking parchment cut to fit.. Refrigerate. When firm, remove from pan and cut into tiny squares. Keep refrigerated in a covered container (or freeze) until you use them.

**CREAMED COCONUT-- WHAT IS IT?

"CREAMED COCONUT" is NOT the same thing as "coconut cream/crème", which is like a heavy cream in a can or asceptic box (often sweetened). The "creamed coconut" I'm talking about comes in a small cardboard box (6 or 7 ounces) and the product is a block of white semi-dehydrated coconut milk wrapped in waxed paper  that you can break into chunks-- it's NOT a liquid. Let's Do Organic Creamed Coconut, in 7-ounce boxes, is sold in many health food stores and on amazon.com
You can buy other brands of this product in Asian, Thai, Caribbean (Grace brand), and Indian markets and in the Asian section of some large supermarkets. There are different brands, but they all look similar and are of similar size. Sometimes it is refrigerated, sometimes not; sometimes it is even frozen, though it does not need to be. It keeps just fine un-refrigerated. It can be stirred directly into sauces to thicken them or mixed with hot water to make coconut milk or cream. It will thicken up whipped toppings and icings, too.

It is high in fat, but a little goes a long way in terms of flavor and I think it has a fresher taste than canned coconut milk. 

Have a Happy Easter!