Monday, July 23, 2012


Best Blog Tips
This is the first guest post I've ever hosted on my blog, written by one of my original Vegan Feast newsletter subscribers, who has become a friend.  Brenda wrote the step-by-step, illustrated tofu-making article for my website (which is now located on her blog), so she is well-qualified to review this new product!  Bryanna

UPDATE July 31, 2012:
The draw is over and the lucky winner is Courtney!

Tofu Press
Earth First Innovations

A review by Brenda Wiley

NOTE:  See the end of this post to learn how you can enter a drawing for a free give away of one of these tofu presses.

I have finally found a tofu press that I LOVE!! 

I have been making my own tofu since sometime around the late 1990’s or early 2000 (pure guess actually ... trying to find a date on some of my photos without success).

When I first got ready to make homemade tofu, I bought a tofu kit from Sanlink, and have been using that pressing box ever since.

This press certainly serves the purpose, but I've found it had two shortcomings:

First ... for the first 10 minutes or so of pressing, I have to be "hands on", holding the two ten pound weights sitting atop the can of tomatoes all of which is providing the weight to press the tofu. During the initial few minutes of pressing, as the tofu is being pressed, it is so soft and wobbly that this stack of weights and canned goods literally weaves all over the place.

Even once the tofu gets firm enough to end the "wobbling", I still keep a close eye on things to prevent 20 pounds of weights from crashing onto my wood floor.

The second short coming is the size ... the box is only large enough to make a 1 to 1 1/4 pound (450 grams to 560 grams) block of tofu at a time. For as much tofu as I make, I'd like the option of making 2 pounds or more while I'm at it. (A check of the Sanlink page shows their box is now larger --- 7.5" by 5.5" by 4" deep. The one I'm using is 5.25" by 4" by 3" deep).

Due to the small size of the box (5.25" by 4" opening), I've got to spoon 6 QUARTS of hot soymilk into this little container. I've done this via 2 cup scoop.

I was pleasantly surprised to be contacted by Kevin Kuhns who, after learning to make tofu, realized these were problems needing a solution. He has developed a mechanical tofu press for small-scale tofu production for commercial and home use.

He kindly sent me 2 units to use and evaluate in exchange for a review on this website. Kevin provided only the 2 products .. the review that follows is totally my own and is based purely on my experience with the product.

His units are made from select, eastern white pine. He chose this because it is native to the US Northeast, readily available in high quality lumber, and is about as rot-resistant as the over-touted Japanese cypress. He ruled out using any of the tropical hardwoods (teak or ebony) as a matter of conscience. One of the tenets of his company is "Earth First", and his first priority was to use a sustainable wood.

He makes an unfinished unit, and one finished with a food safe finish, and he sent me one of each. The only difference is that with the unfinished one, before using, you would want apply a thin coating of food grade mineral oil to the wood before using.

I simply cannot say enough about how useful and practical this product is. It perfectly solves the two issues mentioned above ... I found his method of pressing to be so simple and so intuitive, it makes me wonder why no one else has thought of this as yet.

The pressing is done via a handle pressing down on a top plate that is in contact with the top of the muslin wrapped tofu. This handle is held in place with two "press bands" --- basically two wide, super-strong, heavy duty rubber bands. These bands can apply as much as 20 pounds of weight to the tofu, or as little as 5 pounds, based on whether you use one or two bands, and how much you stretch them (the amount of stretch is controlled by where you put the lower pin to which the rubber band(s) attach. This pin can be moved up or down).

The beauty of this is that you pour the curds and whey into the muslin lined box, fold the muslin over the curds, apply the top plate, attach the bands and walk away. No teetering tower of 20 pounds of your husband's weights on top of a can of tomatoes to guard against toppling and falling!

Kevin's box is also plenty large ... he says it will make up to nearly 4 pounds of tofu at one time. I have used it to make up to 2 pounds at one time, something I was never able to do before. Another advantage of the size of his box is that you don't have to ladle 6 quarts of curds and whey into a tiny container (as mentioned above). I just pour all the curds and whey right into this muslin lined box without a bit of problem.

The box also is able to handle a "regular" batch of tofu .... 5 1/2 quarts of Soymilk to make one pound of extra firm tofu. Here is my one pound block of tofu made in Kevin's Tofu Press.

Other Uses

Kevin also designed the box to act as a press to press water out of commercial tofu. I tried this (yes, I do occasionally buy commercial tofu when I don't have time to make my own !! ) and his product works great! It is perfectly sized and shaped to allow two 14 to 16 ounce blocks of tofu (the size normally sold in the US) to lie side by side on the bottom plate within the box. Using his press, I was able to press out 11 ounces of water from 2 store bought blocks of tofu.

He also says it will work well as a general food press, when you need to, for example, press water from thawed, frozen spinach, spring vegetables, etc.

I found Kevin to be very responsive to input on his product. In fact, he changed a couple parts of the unit's design in response to my feedback.  (Note that part of the redesign involved the plunger, and the new units’ plungers look slightly different from what I have in my photos.  Overall design is unchanged however.)

Besides the tofu pressing box itself, Kevin also includes an amply sized piece of muslin, and 3 ounces of nigari flakes, enough to coagulate approximately 10 pounds of dry soybeans.

He sells the units with the food-safe finish for $46.99; the natural pine ones (no finish) are sold for $39.99. Shipping is additional, based on your location and preferred shipping method. He ships world-wide. All these units have been handmade by Kevin, and they are fine, well made products. In fact, the thickness of the wood sides and pressing plates is almost twice the thickness of my old Sanlink product.

I urge you to take a look at Kevin's product ... it's always great to find something made to meet a specific need ... form and function perfectly meshing. From my uses, I can whole heartedly recommend this!!

Kevin can be contacted via:

Email: kevin (at) kuhns (dot) biz
or Phone: 603-557-4788
More pictures here (link:

About that contest:  Kevin is generously offering to provide one lucky winner with a tofu press of their choice (either one with a food-safe finish or one of the plain, unfinished ones) free of charge.  If you are interested in winning an Earth First Tofu Press, please leave a comment below.   

Please be sure to provide a valid email address so we can contact you if you win.  Bryanna will draw the lucky winner via a random drawing on July 31, 2012 .

Brenda’s Bio:
Brenda is a 59 year old RN, who within the last year and a half, has gradually reduced her work hours from full time, to just a few hours per month to devote more time to her passions.

These passions include her husband of 32 years; two canine family members; maintaining her physical health; growing spiritually; cooking; and hiking.  She especially loves to connect with folks thinking about making the switch from a meat based diet to a plant based diet, to show them the all the advantages of that way of eating, and helping them avoid some of the stumbling blocks.

She has been vegetarian since 1976, following a 6 month post-college experiment to see what vegetarian eating was like.   That 6 month experiment is now almost 36 years and counting!!

She made the switch from vegetarian to vegan sometime in the early 80’s.  Brenda very much sees clear-cut connections between her life interests:  maintaining a healthy body, growing spiritually, and following a vegan lifestyle.  Each supports the others.

Some 10 or 12 years ago, she started making her own tofu.  Her webpage has pictorial step-by-step directions for this.  Bryanna graciously hosted those instructions on her own site until Brenda set up her website some years ago.

Kevin C. Kuhns Bio:
Kevin is a dedicated horticulturist, mycologist and out-spoken proponent of green industry and green initiatives. He has operated his own small nursery specializing in hellebores and Japanese maples and has developed a low-cost laminar flow hood and incubation device for micropropagation applications. Kevin is also a long-time devotee of soy food products, in particular tempeh and more recently tofu. In 2010 he established a start-up company, Earth First Innovations LLC, in New Hampshire that is dedicated to low-cost tofu and tempeh production devices.

In his early career, Kevin worked in the telecommunications industry where he specialized in satellite communications and television encryption for 30 years. He has three patents and numerous publications in these fields.

Throughout his career Kevin has engaged in extensive international assignments. He has lived as a resident of Indonesia for 17 years, Singapore for 3 years, Viet Nam for 3 years, China for 2 years with frequent travel to Europe and Africa and throughout southeast Asia. As a result, Indonesia remains a second home to Kevin, and he has fully immersed himself in Indonesian culture, language and cuisine over the many years there. It is this immersion that has made Kevin a devoted promoter of fermented foods such as tempeh, tape and oncom.

When asked, Kevin describes himself as a deeply spiritual, yet non-conformist Christian with an abiding respect for the tenets of Buddhism. He is a devoted father, husband and supportive friend to those who may choose to know him.


Thank you, Brenda and Kevin!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


Best Blog Tips

I ask you-- does that pizza look good or what?  It WAS good, and that is high praise from me, because I am very picky about pizza.  (I like traditional Italian-style pizza-- no pineapple!-- with homemade sauce and crust.) So, let me confess that I was actually a bit surprised at how good it was.  It was from a new book that I have been wanting to review for a long time, but other projects kept getting in the way.  And, truth be told, we haven't been eating much pizza lately because we're trying to watch our calories.  But I really wanted to review it-- Mark is a great guy and he worked hard for 5 years to come up with an amazing 100+ plant-based AND fat-free pizzas to please vegans who don't use oils and fats, and their (probably skeptical) families. So I had to make the sacrifice and eat pizza last week!

The book is Heart Healthy Pizza; Over 100 Plant-Based Recipes for the Most Nutritious Pizza in the World, by Mark Sutton and is a great addition to any vegan's cookbook shelf.  First, Mark gives you the "foundation" techniques and recipes-- how to make the dough and some helpful tips and 11 whole grain dough recipes (including some gluten-free varieties); tips for topping an saucing the dough and 18 unique sauce recipes (divided into red, white and green); and then the  impressive 51 "No Nonsense Non-Cheeses" in Chapter 3! Chapter 4 is chock-full of clever suggestions for toppings, fillings, and combos, including  recipes for a Parmesan sub, tempeh "anchovies", tofu "feta", TVP sausage, and a method for pre-roasting vegetables without fat in the oven for a juicy topping.

Check out Mark's website to learn more about the book, try sample recipes, etc..

When finally I embarked on my pizza-making foray, I decided to stick with my traditional pizza values (this time, anyway) and make the Whole Wheat Dough on p. 15 and the Classic Tomato Sauce (p. 25), for a start.  I planned to use oven-roasted bell pepper and mushrooms with some fresh basil for a simple topping.  My dilemma was choosing one of the creamy "non-cheeses" from Chapter 3, which is the longest chapter in the book.  I scanned the recipes in this chapter a carefully, looking for a sauce that a.) sounded tasty and familiar and b.) contained ingredients that I had in the house.  The recipes in this chapter are divided into various grain-based sauces (barley, millet, oat, quinoa and rice), legume-based sauce, tofu-based sauces, and vegetable-based sauces.  I chose to make the Rice, Cannellini Beans, and Almonds Sauce on p. 67.  I admit that I was a little skeptical about the dry mustard in it, and decided to skip the optional hot sauce, but it sounded like it had definite possibilities.

The white, creamy sauce was easy to make (I used the Vita-Mix, but the book suggests a food processor) and I made it ahead of time and refrigerated it until  it was time to use it.  Next I made the dough, using the optional oil and salt.  Mark prefers to knead it in an automatic bread machine.  I've done this before and it works beautifully, but this time I was rushing out the door and had only a few minutes to make it.  So I took some liberties and used an almost-no-knead method (even though the dough is firmer than the usual no-knead type), kneading the dough by hand in the bowl for only a minute and leaving it in a covered bowl on the kitchen counter for about 5 hours.  This long, slow rise develops the gluten as if it had been kneaded in the old way, and also develops a flavorful dough.  (Sorry, Mark, for departing from the exact technique, but it worked really well both times I made it!)

When I got back home I made the Classic Tomato sauce (a double recipe, since I had a 28 oz. can of tomatoes).  It is a full-flavored sauce, what I would call a "winter" sauce.  Made with fresh tomatoes, it would have been lighter-- I'll try that when I have some decent fresh tomatoes.

I followed Mark's directions for baking, but I used a large cast iron skillet (preheated with the oven) instead of a baking sheet or pizza pan. I used my own method of stretching the dough to make two thin-crust "personal" pizzas.  The result?  As you can see from the pictures below, great-looking pizza, and you will have to take my word for it that it was just as delicious!  Bravo, Mark!

I used a squeeze-bottle to apply the cheesey sauce over the tomato sauce, avoiding  "blobs" or having the two sauces run into eachother.
I added some thin slices of fresh basil from a pot on my deck, and then topped it off with the juicy oven-roasted bell peppers and mushrooms (you can roast the veggies while the oven is preheating):

 Baking the pizza in a large cast iron skillet, transferring the pizza using baking parchment:

The result!


Tuesday, July 10, 2012


Best Blog Tips

Tomorrow we're going shopping off-island, which we do every two weeks.  By then, even with our own greens, we're running low on veggies.  I wanted to make a salad to go with a spaghetti dinner the other night, so I assessed my produce options.  In the fridge was a bag of small beets and a small bag of carrots.  On the deck, in one of our dresser drawer planters, were some nice tender baby spinach leaves.  I love roasted root veggies, so the following recipe is what I came up with, and it was good enough  to write down and plan to make again.  Quite colorful and pretty, too, I think.

Serves 4 to 6
1 lb. beets (mine were smallish), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch thick wedges
1 lb. carrots, scrubbed and cut diagonally into 1/4-inch- thick slices

2 small onions, peeled, cut into 8 wedges each and layers separated
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
salt and freshly-ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
couple of pinches sugar

1/4 cup of aquafaba or my Oil Substitute for Salad Dressings
2 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon agave nectar
1 large clove garlic, crushed
salt to taste (about 1/2 teaspoon)
Freshly-ground black pepper
To Serve:

about 4 cups of fresh salad greens (can be one or a mix-- baby spinach, arugula, mesclun, tender lettuce, baby kale, etc.)
Several squares  of Potted Tofu (
recipe on my blog here) OR any sort of Tofu Feta  you like (there's a recipe in my book World Vegan Feast), crumbled (it's up to you how much)

            "Potted Tofu"
Tofu Feta from World Vegan Feast

Heat the oven to 500 degrees F. 
In large bowl, toss the beets, carrots and onion wedges with the first 1 tablespoon of olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt , a few quick grindings of pepper, the thyme and sugar.  
Transfer the vegetables to a large rimmed baking sheet and spread in an even layer. (Don't bother to wash the bowl.) Roast the vegetables until they are tender, 20 to 25 minutes (don't stir during roasting).
While the vegetables roast, whisk together (in the bowl that the vegetables were in) the Oil Substitute,  vinegar, remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, agave nectar, crushed garlic, salt and a few grindings of pepper. 
Toss the hot vegetables in the bowl with the vinaigrette.  Allow to cool at room temperature for about 30 minutes. (It's best at room temperature.)  Mound on top of a bed of the greens on a platter, and scatter the crumbled Potted Tofu or Tofu Feta over the top.


Wednesday, July 4, 2012


Best Blog Tips

This was a cake I developed for a wedding 6 years ago.  I did a post on it at the time, but I removed it because, not only were the information links broken, and the recipe contained palm oil products, but I had written it in haste and it needed to be re-done.  So, here its is again, re-written and sans palm oil!

I must confess that, even though I've always loved to cook, I have never thought of myself as a sweet baker, really (yeast baking, yes, however). I never imagined myself making a wedding cake!  But, I have made a few since becoming a vegan, for family and for paying customers, and I'll wager that, though they might not look as slick and gorgeous as even the average supermarket bakery cake, they taste a heck of a lot better! 

In any case, I hope I have provided enough information to help the novice-- if not, I'm  sure you'll let me know! And I hope that the fact that I can manage this in my little kitchen, with my rather low self-confidence in this area of baking, will be reassuring.

It makes a great birthday cake, BTW.  My DIL made it once for the principal of the Denman Island Elementary School where she teaches. Said principal is a vegan and one of of our Vegan Dinner Group friends, and she remembers that birthday cake fondly to this day.  DIL, being the very creative person that she is, added rose water to the cake and decorated it with rose petals!

(about 50 servings)
A light and delectable wedding cake made with my basic moist vegan lemon cake, lemon curd filling and a lemon-scented “buttercream” frosting--all vegan. Since I am not a skilled cake decorator, I use fresh flowers.

For a 3-tiered cake to feed about 50 people, I made 3 x the recipe below. I made square cake layers, 4”, 6” and 8”, 2 layers of each. (Each tier was made of two cake layers, with lemon curd [recipe below] sandwiched between them. Since I only had one set of square pans, I made 1 1/2 times the recipe at a time and made the three graduating sizes cake layers, then I repeated that procedure once again. Ingredient lists for x 1 1/2 and x 3 are below the recipe.)


Baking times for layers, plus other baking data you might need to make different sizes and pan shapes: (I used 1 1/2 cups batter per layer for the 4” tier and baked.)  Baking times for various sized pans: (No time is given for the 4” pans, so start checking after 15 minutes or so.)

Some useful info about assembling and decorating wedding cakes:

THE COMPONENTS (recipes below):
Moist Vegan Lemon Cake
Vegan Lemon Buttercream Frosting
Vegan Lemon Curd (or, if you prefer, use the vegetable-based vegan lemon curd recipe here , but double the recipe just to be sure you have enough)

Two extra cakes I made for the wedding party:

Printable Recipe

Makes two 9" round or 8” square layers (5 c. batter)
(For the wedding cake, make 3 times this recipe for the cake I made, which made 15 cups, enough for 2 layers each of 4”, 6”, and 8” tiers. See below recipe for ingredient list x 3)

Make all the components (recipes below) well ahead of assembling time and cool them thoroughly.
NOTE: To measure the flour, stir the flour in the bag or container, then spoon it out into the cup measure and level off with a knife. Do not sift or pack down.

2 1/2 c. plus 2 T. white pastry or cake flour
1 1/2 c. granulated organic light sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
1/4 c. + 2 T. vegan butter, such as my Palm-Oil-Free Vegan “Buttah”
2 T. lemon juice
1 c. water
grated zest of 1 large organic lemon
3/4 c. non-dairy milk
1  1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. pure lemon extract

NOTE: Use shiny pans so that the layers don't brown excessively..

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Prepare the pans by greasing with “Cake release”/Pan Coating (see below for recipe), and lining with baking parchment cut to fit the bottoms of the pans.

Mix the dry ingredients together with a whisk in a large mixing bowl. Add the vegan butter, water, and the juice and beat with an electric mixer for a minute. Add the remaining ingredients and beat one more minute. (NOTE: the batter is runnier than the average cake batter-- don't worry!)  Divide the batter equally between the cake pans.

NOTE: To bake even layers, wrap the outside of the cake pans with Magic-Cake Strips . These insulate the cake pans and allow the cake batter to bake evenly.  Strips of wet kitchen towelling pinned together also work.

Bake 25 minutes, or until cakes test done. (See resources for baking times for wedding cake layers above, but use a cake tester until it comes out clean for best results.)

Cool on racks for 10 minutes, then loosen cakes and remove from pans to finish cooling, otherwise it might crack and fall apart from being too warm. To remove from pans, first, run a thin knife to loosen the edge of the cake layer from the pan. Then, place a wire mesh rack over the top of it and with a hand on each side of the baking pan and rack, quickly invert. Gently shake or tap the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon handle to help remove the cake layer. Carefully peel off the parchment liner and turn cake layer right-side-up to cool on a wire cake rack.


Have your layers cooled and trimmed. Have cardboard cake separators ready, bought or homemade.  For this relatively small tiered cake, I use plastic drinking straws cut to fit each double-layer tier (instead of dowels), to support the layers so that they don’t sink under the weight of the layers above (see photo just below). Sandwich each of two matching layers together with a generous layer of the Lemon Curd. (Make sure to carefully wipe off any lemon curd that oozes out between the layers.) Assemble the cake as instructed below.

Inserting straws
The straws in place and cut level with cake
Spread a thin layer of the Vegan Lemon Buttercream Frosting evenly over the top and side surfaces of all of the doubled cake layers. Allow them to dry (uncovered) in the refrigerator for about 45 minutes. That is the “crumb coat”.

"Crumb Coat" almost done, with lemon curd filling showing between layers

Place the second tier layers where you want them on top of the bottom layer.  Do the same with the third tier,  inserting 2 long drinking straws in through the top, smallest tier all the way down through the 2nd and1st tiers, to hold it all together and keep it from possibly slipping.  Cut the any bit of the straws peeking out level with the cake, using scissors .

Frost the assembled cake again with the final, thicker layer of frosting and decorate as desired.

Ingredient amounts for 3 x recipe:

7 3/4 c. plus 2 T. white pastry or cake flour< 4 1/2 c. granulated light organic sugar
2 T. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 1/4 tsp. salt
1 c. + 2 T. vegan butter, such as my  Palm-Oil-Free Vegan “Buttah”
6 T. lemon juice
3 c. water
grated zest of 3 large organic lemons
2 1/4 c. non-dairy milk
1 1/2 T. vanilla
1 T. pure lemon extract

Ingredient amounts for 1 1/2 x recipe 
(in case you have only 1 each of the graduated sized pans and need to bake the layers in two batches):

3 3/4 c. plus 3 T. white pastry or cake flour
2 1/4 c. granulated organic light sugar
1 T. baking powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1 1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 c. + 1 T. vegan butter, such as Palm-Oil-Free Vegan “Buttah”
3 T. lemon juice
1 1/2 c. water
grated zest of 2-3 medium organic lemons
1 3/4  c. non-dairy milk
2 1/4 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 tsp. pure lemon extract


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.

This is a creamy vegan “buttercream” with a lower percentage of fat than most “buttercreams”. This recipe makes a large amount for a big cake—you can cut in half or even by 4 for smaller cakes. It is plenty for the small 3-tiered cake pictured above. Chill until it’s time to ice the cake.

2 c. vegan butter, such as my Palm-Oil-Free Vegan “Buttah” (this works very well in frosting, BTW)
3 lbs. organic powdered sugar (such as Hains, Wholesome Foods or Florida Crystals), sifted (have a bit more on hand in case the icing needs thickening-up)
1/4 c. fresh lemon juice
1/4 c. PLUS 3 T. water
2 T. grated organic lemon zest
2 tsp. vanilla
2 tsp. pure lemon extract

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, cream the vegan butter until smooth. Add 4 c. of the sugar, the water and lemon juice, the zest, lemon extract and vanilla. Beat until creamy. It may look curdled—don’t worry! Add the remaining sugar, a little at a time, as you beat it, until it holds it shape well and you can see “trails” in it from the beaters. Refrigerate, covered, until it’s time to ice the cake.

(Or, if you prefer, use the vegetable-based vegan lemon curd recipe here, but double the recipe just to be sure you have enough.)

This is the vegetable-based lemon curd mentioned above

Makes 2 c. (enough to fill between the layers for the cake above)
This makes a lovely cake filling—not too sweet, so it contrasts with the icing. It’s important to use freshly-squeezed juice in this recipe. (Use leftovers on scones or as a tart filling.)

1 c. lemon juice
1/2 c. water
1  1/2 c. granulated light organic sugar
4 T. cornstarch (you can get organic cornstarch)
1/8 tsp. salt
grated zest of 2 organic lemons
6 T. full fat soymilk, nut milk, or organic non-dairy creamer
2 T. vegan butter, such as my Palm-Oil-Free Vegan “Buttah”

In a blender, whiz together the juice, water, sugar, cornstarch and salt. Pour into a heavy saucepan with the zest. Whisk over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it comes to a full boil. Boil 1 minute, not stirring. (OR microwave in a heat-proof bowl 2 minutes, whisk, then 2 minutes more.) It should be thickened and turning clear. Remove from heat. Add soymilk or alternate and vegan butter. Blend well with the whisk. Cool the curd, then refrigerate in a covered container. It thickens as it cools.