Friday, September 24, 2010


Best Blog Tips
Orgran "No Egg" egg replacer meringues with melted vegan chocolate and pecans!

When I went to my local health food store, Edible Island, in Courtenay, BC last week, I spotted an item that was new to the store-- Orgran "No Egg", an Australian brand of egg replacer that I had heard of but never been able to try. I had read that it will whip up to an almost-stiff peak like beaten egg whites. Up until now, I had only been able to achieve that with Ener-G Egg Replacer, and I have been wanting to try Orgran because it is more readily available outside of North America. So I bought a box and I checked out their website.

One of their recipes caught my eye-- crunchy baked meringues. I decided to give it a try. Not that I ever indulged in them that much as a non-vegan, but many people love them. They are sort of a sweet, blank canvas for fruit, etc, as with the  Pavlova, beloved in New Zealand and Australia.


I wasn't quite sure about the "citrus pectin", but I went to our little local general store to see what they had. All the had was "light pectin" for canning, so I bought a little packet. (After further research, I see that you can buy "modified citrus pectin", but it is very expensive--it seems to be used for everything from the effects of radiation treatment to arthritis-- and the cheap the canning pectin seemed to work!)

It's a simple recipe and is baked pretty much the same way that egg white meringues are baked. The results in their photo looked great, but I wasn't sure what to expect. In any case, I followed their recipe, using my canning pectin. I also wasn't sure what they meant by "pure powdered sugar", but I just used organic powdered sugar.

Here were the results after beating for 10 minutes:

It fluffed up tremendously! It made ALOT of fluff!

After baking them as directed for 2 hours at 250 degrees F, and letting them try out in the turned-off oven with the door cracked open, I was rewarded with 2 trays of lovely, crunchy meringues!

They were airy and crunchy and slightly chewy in the middle, as they should be, but I didn't think they were quite sweet enough. I think I'll use more powdered sugar next time, although there might be a structural reason for using less sugar-- you never know until you try!

We ate them with strawberries on top:

And we ate them with chocolate and pecans:

They kept well and didn't get soft.  I'll experiment a bit more and post again. As I said before, it was not something I longed for, and it doesn't contribute anything in the way of nutrition (it is fat-free, though), but meringue is the basis of many beloved desserts, so, it's worth finding a vegan recipe that works even if you only use it on occasion! I want to see if this recipe will work with Ener-G Egg Replacer (UPDATE-- it does!), and I want to use it as the basis of some cookies with coconut, etc..

Al the best!

Sunday, September 19, 2010


Best Blog Tips
Homemade vegan pizza-- mmmmmm!

It's been a busy week! Too much writing and not enough cooking, but that's the way it goes sometimes! I just wanted to tell you about a some new products I've tried

You know that I don't write alot about new products, and only if I really like them! Companies send me products to review sometimes, but I don't give bad reviews-- I just don't review them if I don't like them! Recently, I received a big box of products from Lucini Italia.

I was intrigued by the Lucini Italia "Cinque e' Cinque" product, made from chickpea flour, and totally vegan. They sent me 3 different varieties: -- Traditional, Savory Rosemary, and Tuscan Fiery Chili.

"Cinque e' Cinque" is basically a farinata, or chickpea pancake. I had never heard it called by this name before, but evidently that is what they call it in Livorno, in Tuscany. In Liguria, where my paternal grandmother's family originated, they call it fai'na, which is a sort of slurring of farinata. I've always made it quite thin, but the package suggested that you could make a sort of vegan fritatta (which is a baked omelet) by making the farinata quite thick.

I decided to try the Traditional first. The "mix" is chickpea flour (from Canada, I might add-- they grow alot of chickpeas in the Prairie Provinces), to which you add water and salt. (You could add your own seasonings, too.)  I made the thicker version, just to see what it was like. The baking technique is quite unique, but it worked!

Here it is right out of the oven, and then cut into wedges:

I served the wedges of hot, creamy Cinque e' Cinque as a main dish, topped with an Italian-style "Salsa Cruda", or raw tomato relish with black olives and basil (with our own homegrown tomatoes and basil!):

 Italian Salsa Cruda

 Cinque e' Cinque with Italian Salsa Cruda and potatoes sautéed with mushrooms.

It was delicious, and very satisfying! I am going to experiment with adding roasted or grilled vegetables to the thick version-- it would seem more like a real fritatta, I think.

They also sent some lovely balsamic vinegar,  extra virgin olive oil and a Fig & Walnut Balsamic Vinaigrette:

I rarely ever buy salad dressing, but this was very tasty!

Some of our homegrown tomatoes with the Fig & Walnut Balsamic Vinaigrette

The next thing I decided to try was the Lucini artisanal Pizza Sauce.

Now, I NEVER buy pizza sauce! It always tastes, me, no matter how expensive, organic, or whatever. But I gave it a try and made some no-knead pizza dough (the Light Whole Wheat Bread dough from "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day" by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois ) in the morning before we went shopping all day, came home and threw together some of the best pizza I've ever made! I used their Pizza Sauce, my basil, sautéed mushrooms and red peppers, and Daiya mozzarella-style vegan cheese.  I drizzled some of their Basil Infused Extra Virgin Olive oil on top before baking.  Out of this world!  The sauce was so clean and fresh-tasting, I couldn't believe it!

Here are some more shots of the pizza:

Ready for the oven!

Ready to eat!

I can't resist showing you what I made with the rest of the dough during the week--

Italian Prune Plum Focaccia!

Red Grape Focaccia!

So, I still have quite a few of the Lucini Italia products to try and I'm looking forward to it! If the pasta sauces are as good as the pizza sauce, we'll have some yummy quick meals while I'm finishing this book!

You can buy the Lucini Italia products directly from their website, and amazon carries many of them, as you can see from my links. They have a store locator on their website, though it didn't seem to work in Canada. Choices markets in Vancouver carries them, and I'll wager that any good Italian grocery store will have some of their products (some are organic). You can read about them on their website-- they get consistently good reviews!

I'll report back about my experiments and the remaining products I have to try!


Monday, September 13, 2010


Best Blog Tips

Who says that good vegan meals take hours to make? I was about to freeze some homemade pesto (we're having a good basil year!) and I decided to use some for a quick pasta lunch. I planned to cook some egg-free tagliatelle "nests" (check the label!), but I wanted to add a vegetable to the dish.

Tagliatelle nest

I had a zucchini from one of our neighbors, so I decided to make zucchini strands with it, using my handy-dandy Messermeister julienne peeler-- a great low-tech gadget that doesn't take up much room in your utensil drawer! You use it just as you would  peeler and it makes long, or short, thin strands.

Here are the results from one medium zucchini-- very nice!

I added the zucchini strands to the pasta in the pot about 1 minute before the pasta was done and then drained them all together:

An old-fashioned Italian fat-saving tip: If you don't want to use olive oil (or not as much, anyway), mix the pesto with some of the water the pasta was cooked in to thin it out and toss with the pasta.

                  Homemade Vegan Pesto-- see recipe below

(BTW , if you can't make your own, try  Sunflower Kitchen dairy-free Basil Pesto.)

Serve this colorful dish with your favorite vegan parmesan sub. Another good topping (and a traditional one) would be dry breadcrumbs toasted with some olive oil, and/or finely-chopped toasted nuts.

Printable Recipe


Makes about 1 1/2 cups
Adapted from my book “Nonna’s Italian Kitchen”.

4 cups packed-down fresh basil leaves

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil (see Variation #2 below for low-fat version)
1/4 cup lightly-toasted chopped walnuts, filberts (hazelnuts), almonds, or Brazil nuts
(If you are allergic to nuts, you can omit them, or use shelled, lightly-toasted sunflower and/or pumpkin seeds instead)
2 tablespoons light-colored miso (can be chickpea miso for soy-free)
2 to 4 cloves garlic (NOTE: the garlic should not overwhelm the basil in authentic pesto.)
OPTIONAL: 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice to preserve the color

Place everything in a food processor and process until a paste forms. Place the paste in two or three small containers (the less air the pesto is exposed to, the better). Cover the pesto with a thin film of olive oil or a piece of plastic wrap (touching the pesto), to prevent discoloration, and cover tightly. Refrigerate. Use this up within two or three days (you can halve or even quarter the recipe). After that, you should freeze it in small containers or make frozen cubes of it, but don't leave it in the freezer for more than a month or so, or it loses flavor.


#1) FOR HEMP SEED BUTTER PESTO: Use only hemp seed oil, or 1/2 hemp seed oil and 1/2 olive oil. Omit the nuts or seeds and use 1/3 cup hemp seed butter instead. Everything else is the same.
#2.) FOR A LOWER-FAT VERSION that is still quite delicious, omit all or some of the oil and substitute instead an equal quantity medium-firm or silken tofu, OR mashed cooked or canned white kidney beans  (or cannellini beans) (or use 1/2 and 1/2).
#3.) WINTER PESTO: This is an authentic method of stretching expensive storebought fresh basil during the winter months. Use 2 cups of fresh basil and 2 cups fresh Italian parsley leaves, instead of 4 cups basil. It is traditional in Liguria to add 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh marjoram to this winter version.