Sunday, November 25, 2012


Best Blog Tips

I had a really difficult time choosing which recipe from Celine Steen and Tamasin Noyes' new book, "Vegan Sandwiches Save the Day!"  This book has energy!  And its contents will fuel you through your day, morning, noon or night-- 101 new, original recipes that are not only plant-based, but seriously yummy.

Was it to be Berry-Stuffed French Toast Pockets for a luxurious breakfast? Or perhaps an elegant lunch of French Tofu Salad with Grapes on baguettes with arugula or Tofu Pomegranate Pockets?  Or a supper sandwich such as the German stuffed buns, Bierocks; or Portobello Po' Boys; or mile-high Dagwood's Special Sandwiches?  Honestly, you are spoiled for choice with this book.

In the end, I opted for a delicious-looking wrap that would fit well into our pre-Christmas low-fat, high-fiber eating regime-- Protein-Happy Quinoa Wraps.  I had most of the ingredients, and would only have to deviate slightly by using chopped green olives in place of a couple of tablespoons capers, dark raisins instead of golden, and 8-inch whole grain flour tortillas instead of white 10-inch ones. (I live on an island-- can't run to the store whenever I like!) I'm sure you could use a gluten-free wrap instead.

I made cooked the quinoa and made the sun-dried tomato and olive tapenade in the morning so that, as the recipe mentions, it would have time to develop flavor.  When the quinoa was cool, I quickly made the quinoa and bean filling, sliced the raw veggies and set everything aside, covered, until lunchtime.  Since I had smaller tortilla wraps than were called for, I made 3 wraps instead of 2 to share with my husband for lunch.  (He is quite happy to take the rest for a work lunch tomorrow.)  

The sun-dried tomato and olive tapenade really added a depth of flavor to the mild, nutty quinoa salad, and there was plenty of crunch and a little bit of chile heat there, too.  Very filling, satisfying, healthful and delicious.

Congratulations to Celine and Tamasin for this creative take on this worldwide favorite, the sandwich!

Yield: 4 wraps, generous 3/4 cup (100 g) tapenade
(From Vegan Sandwiches Save the Day! Fair Winds Press, 2012)

For tapenade: (Note from BCG-- Make at least 2 hours ahead of serving)
1/2 cup (28 g) minced sun-dried tomatoes (moist vacuum-packed, not oil-packed)
1/4 cup (25 g) minced (pitted) kalamata olives
2 tablespoons (15 g) chopped capers
2 tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
For filling: (Note from BCG-- good idea to make this an hour or two ahead, as well)
1 ½ cups (355 ml) vegetable broth
1/2 cup (84 g) dry quinoa
1/4 cup (30 g) packed golden raisins (optional)
1 tablespoon (15 ml) apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon (15 ml) fresh lemon juice
1½ tablespoons (25 ml) olive oil
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, to taste
1 ½ tablespoons (15 g) minced red onion
1 clove garlic, minced
Fine sea salt, to taste (I used 1/2 tsp.--BCG)
Cracked black pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons (15 g) roasted salted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
3/4 cup (197 g) cooked cannellini beans
2 tablespoons (8 g) chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon (2 g) minced fresh basil
For wraps:
Four 10-inch (25-cm) flour tortillas (BCG-- I used whole grain)
1 red bell pepper, cored and cut into strips
1 small cucumber, cut into strips

To make the tapenade:
Combine all the ingredients in a food processor. Pulse a few times, but leave it chunky. Chill for at least 2 hours to let the flavors develop.

To make the quinoa:
Bring the broth to a boil in a medium size pot. Add the quinoa and cook for 8 minutes. Add the raisins and cook for 2 to 4 minutes longer, or until the quinoa is cooked and the telltale tail appears. Drain in a fine-mesh sieve. Set aside to cool completely.

In the meantime, prepare the dressing by combining the vinegar, lemon juice, oil, red pepper flakes, onion, garlic, salt, pepper, pepitas, and beans in a large bowl. Add the quinoa mixture, parsley, and basil to the dressing and stir until well coated. (Note from BCG-- If making ahead, cover and refrigerate until serving time.)

To assemble the wraps:
 In the middle of each wrap, spread 3 tablespoons (25 g) tapenade. Top with a generous 1/2 cup (120 g) quinoa filling. Divide the red bell pepper and cucumber among the wraps. Fold the ends in and roll closed.


Saturday, November 17, 2012


Best Blog Tips

I had a potluck to go to Thursday night and had to make something the night before, as I was going to be on the go all day on Thursday.  A hearty full-meal salad is always my go-to dish for this type of situation, but I wanted to make up something colorful and interesting for a rather bleak November day.  After assessing the possibilities in my cupboard and refrigerator, I came up with an idea for a non-Asian-style red rice salad that turned out to be really delicious-- enough so that I will make it again this coming Wednesday for another potluck. And, I think it would be an excellent holiday salad, as well.

Whole grain, low-fat, fiber-rich, easy to make, and mighty tasty-- what more could you ask for?  Versatility, perhaps?  Feel free to experiment with different nut and dried fruit combinations (hazelnuts & dried apricots; pecans & dried sour cherries; dried figs & roasted pumpkin seeds immediately come to mind), and to substitute other crunchy vegetables for the ones I used.

Printable Recipe

Serves 12
See the blog text for ideas for variations. This makes enough for a party or potluck, and, if you are lucky, you'll have some left over for a school or work lunch.

2 cups Thai (long grain) red rice
4 cups water
1/2 tsp. salt
2/ 19 oz. cans white kidney beans or cannellini beans, drained and rinsed (or use 3-4 cups home-cooked)
1 orange or red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 yellow or green bell pepper, seeded and diced
2 cups diced celery (with leaves)
6 green onions, trimmed and thinly sliced (both green and white parts)
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1 tsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. dark sesame oil
Creamy Balsamic Dressing: 
Blend together in a blender or with a stick/immersion blender,
1 cup Low-Fat Balsamic Dressing (see recipe below)
1/2 cup Low-Fat Vegan Mayonnaise (or use Tofu Mayonnaise, Reduced Fat Vegenaise, or Spectrum Naturals Eggless Vegan Light Canola Mayonnaise)

You can cook the rice in a pot on the stove,or in a rice cooker.  if you use the rice cooker, follow the directions for your machine, using the rice, water and salt called for above.  Otherwise, place these ingredients in a medium pot with a tight lid, bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer, cover and cook for about 45 minutes, or until the rice is tender and no liquid is left.  Fluff it with a fork.

Spread the cooked rice out on a baking sheet and allow it to cool a bit.  It should be warm, but not hot and not chilled.  In a large bowl, mix the rice with the rinsed, drained beans, peppers, celery, green onions and dried cranberries..  Mix together your dressing and toss with the salad ingredients in the bowl.

In a small, heavy skillet (cast iron is good), heat the olive oil and sesame oil and add the slivered almonds.  Stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the almond slivers become golden.  Remove from heat immediately and add to the salad.  Toss once again, cover and refrigerate until serving time.  Bring the salad to room temperature before serving.  Garnish with fresh herb or parsley sprigs, or leafy celery stalks, or more toasted almonds.

Low-Fat Balsamic Dressing:
1 cup aquafaba or Fat-Free Oil Substitute for Salad Dressings
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup good quality balsamic vinegar (Costco's Kirkland brand is a good commercial version)
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon smooth Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon salt

 Whisk, shake, or blend the ingredients together well, bottle and store in the refrigerator.


Thursday, November 8, 2012


Best Blog Tips

Last week a friend mentioned that she was developing a vegan version of Corn Pudding for Thanksgiving because her mother always served it.  This is an old American dish which mixes a Native American food with European ingredients. Corn pudding is a descendant of common British vegetable puddings using eggs and milk and any vegetable (or fruit) available.  It makes a great side dish, or a light main dish. (For "fancier" individual serving, you can bake them in ceramic ramekins instead of a pie pan.)  Early corn puddings often had quite a bit of sugar added because the corn available in the early days was not as sweet as what we have available now.  No need for sugar these days, in my opinion, but some Southern cooks still add it.

My friend's experimenting reminded me that I had a recipe in one of my older books, "Soyfoods Cooking for a Positive Menopause", and that I hadn't made it for a long time, even though I really enjoy this classic American dish.  So, I found my old recipe and decided to see if I could tweak it a bit more.  The result is below, and I hope you'll enjoy it.  

VARIATIONS: This is a dish that's open to many interpretations-- in different areas of the US, the flavoring varies according to regional tastes. My recipe is most like a classic Eastern Shore corn pudding.  In the South, sugar is sometimes added, or the pudding is made richer with sour cream and cheese.  Southwestern corn pudding often has hot sauce, fresh chiles, chipotles and/or chorizo added.  Vegan versions of those ingredients can be added, if you like, but be careful of adding too much moisture to the mix. Other additions might be vegan bacon bits or chopped vegan ham, or sauteed chopped green onions or chives.

Serves 4
Adapted from a recipe in my book “Soyfoods Cooking for a Positive Menopause”.

This is best with fresh seasonal corn, but still delicious using frozen corn, if you use "peaches and cream" or another sweet corn variety.

12 oz. medium-firm tofu or extra-firm silken tofu
2 T. + 1 tsp. corn flour (finely-ground yellow cornmeal)
(Note: If you have no corn flour, use 4 1/2 tsp. cornstarch instead, but the corn flour does add extra corn flavor)
1 T. nutritional yeast flakes 
3/4 tsp. salt (with a pinch of Indian black salt (Kala Namak) for eggy flavour, perhaps?)
1/4 tsp. turmeric
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1 to 3 tablespoons vegan butter, depending on how rich you want the dish
2 cups corn kernels (thawed, if frozen), coarsely chopped in a food processor
1 small onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
Optional, but nice:
a tablespoon or two of chopped fresh herb of your choice (tarragon, basil, parsley, oregano...)
1/2 a red pepper, chopped 
1/2 a green pepper, chopped 
A bit of grated vegan cheese for the topping

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

In a food processor, blend together the tofu, corn flour, yeast flakes, salt, turmeric and baking powder.  Blend until very smooth.  

To sauté the onion, either cook it with the vegan butter over medium heat in a small, heavy skillet, or microwave them in a covered dish with the vegan butter for about 2 minutes, until they are softening. At this point, add the garlic, peppers (if using) and processed corn. Sauté or microwave the mixture until the peppers are softened. Remove from heat.

Fold the cooked veggies into the tofu batter and in a medium bowl. Add any other ingredients for variations (below), if using. Spread the mixture in an oiled or “buttered” 9" pie dish (Pyrex or ceramic, if possible).  Bake for 35 minutes, or until set.  Serve warm.

PS: If you decided to top the dish with some vegan cheese, do it in the last 5 minutes of baking.

NOTE ABOUT CORN FLOUR: As a thickener, corn flour creates a pale yellow "buttery" or "eggy" color in the finished product that is much more appetizing than turmeric (which tends to have a greenish cast and, therefore, looks phony).

It also contributes a "buttery" flavor or even an "eggy" flavor. It blends to a creamy smooth texture after it's cooked in liquid and then blended with more liquid. Adding a tiny bit of vegan butter gives it an even more buttery taste with very few calories in the finished product, but, in most cases it is not even necessary!

Corn flour mixtures cook well in the microwave, BTW.

Corn flour is not the same as cornstarch (confusingly, what we call "cornstarch" in North America is referred to as "corn flour" in the UK)- it's very finely-ground yellow cornmeal. Nor is it the same as "masa harina", the corn flour used for making tortillas, which is treated with lime. I can find corn flour in the Asian or Indian section of my supermarkets (Overwaitea and SuperStore here in BC, Canada), but also look for it in Indian markets and health food stores, which have organic brands.) Bob's Red Mill carries it

If converting a recipe that calls for cornstarch, use half again as much corn flour as cornstarch.

NOTE: IF YOU CAN'T FIND CORN FLOUR, if you prefer to use organic products and can't find the organic kind, grind the finest yellow cornmeal you can find in a clean coffee/spice mill until it is powdery (this is important), or grind yellow cornmeal on the finest setting of your electric grain mill (I had to run it through mine twice).


Thursday, November 1, 2012


Best Blog Tips

I always make doughnuts for my granddaughters on Halloween-- it's a once-a-year ritual. I usually make quick drop doughnuts with a yeast batter, but this year I decided to make cut-out doughnuts.  I had some sweet potato that needed to be used, so I reworked an old recipe for non-vegan doughnuts made with a potato dough.  The dough didn't turn out as colorful as I'd hoped, but the doughnuts were delicious, and not even greasy. The girls lined up in their costumes (a zebra, a sock monkey, a devil, a skeleton, and a pig!) to fill their paper bags with the fresh, aromatic doughnuts, with a bag for Dad, too (much appreciated).

They trooped off for more trick-or-treating and fireworks at the Community Hall, and Nonna's duty-- a precious one-- was done for another year.  Yes, we ate a few, but DH took the remainder to his son's house the next day to take temptation out from under out noses!

Doughnuts are not really hard to make, so don't worry if you've never attempted them before.  Read the recipe through and organize yourself (as suggested in the recipe text) before you start so that the process will go smoothly. You can make the dough the day before and refrigerate it until you are ready to roll out and cut. This actually makes the soft dough easier to cut and handle. You can use an electric fryer if you have one, or an electric wok, which is shallower, and so will use less oil.  Because I hate wasting all that oil, I use a flat-bottomed wok on the burner, with a candy thermometer, and use only about 4 inches of oil.

(With Maple Glaze or Cinnamon Sugar) UPDATED Dec. 6, 2013
Makes 50 doughnuts (more or less)
TIP: You can make the dough the day before and refrigerate it until you are ready to roll out and cut. This actually makes the soft dough easier to cut and handle.

1 packet instant baking yeast OR 1 tablespoon dry active baking yeast
2 1/2 cups warm plain original soy, hemp or almond milk
1 cup mashed cooked sweet potato (orange flesh)
1/2 cup oil or softened vegan butter (try my homemade palm oil-free Buttah)
1/2 cup granulated light organic sugar
3 cups unbleached white flour
Egg Replacer— Options are a.)1 tsp. the VEGG beaten with 1/4 cup water;
            or b.) 1 tablespoon golden flax seed blended until “gloppy” with 1/4 cup water
 3/4 tablespoon salt
1/2 to 1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice or nutmeg
3 cups additional unbleached white flour
Cinnamon Sugar (I use this for the holes and the scraps, which are fried into “squigglies”):
1 cup granulated light organic sugar mixed with
2 to 4 tablespoons cinnamon
Maple Glaze:
Mix 2 cups organic powdered sugar with
about 6 tablespoons Grade B maple syrup
until no lumps are left.  Adjust thickness as needed. It should be a bit runny.

Sprinkle the yeast into the warm milk in a large bowl, or the bowl of your stand mixer. Let stand about 5 minutes.  Add the mashed sweet potato, oil, sugar and first 3 cups of flour.  Beat for a minute or so, cover and let stand 20 minutes.  Add the egg replacer, salt and spices and begin beating in the second 3 cups of flour. 

If you are using a stand mixer, knead for about 8 minutes according to your machine’s directions.  If kneading by hand, knead for 8 minutes on a lightly-floured baking mat or a large piece of baking parchment.  Use as little flour as possible. A little more flour may be needed, but dough should be soft. Oil your hands rather than flouring them. The kneaded dough should be satiny.

Place the dough in a bowl large enough for the dough to double and let rise in a warm place until doubled.  At this point, if you are making it ahead, you can punch down the dough, cover it well and refrigerate the dough for 8-12 hours. 

Roll out the dough between 2 sheets of baking parchment to about 1/2-inch thick. Cut out the doughnuts with a special doughnut cutter, or use a 3.5-inch cutter and then cut a center hole out with a 1-inch cutter. Place the doughnut rings and holes on baking parchment-lined trays (or simply on parchment-lined counters) and let rise until not quite doubled—30-45 minutes. Do not re-roll the scraps!  You can cut “holes” out of the larger scraps, or just use long pieces of dough scraps to fry into what I call “squigglies” (see photos).

You can use an electric fryer if you have one, or an electric wok, which is more shallow, and so will use less oil.  I use a flat-bottomed wok on the burner, with a candy thermometer, and use only about 4 inches of oil.

Prepare everything for frying, draining and glazing before you start frying!  Wear an apron, tie your hair back and roll up your sleeves. Have ready: 2 large trays lined with several layers of paper towels (or use old brown paper bags) for draining; a metal skimmer or a slotted spoon; the Maple Glaze and Cinnamon Sugar in shallow bowls for dipping; cake racks on trays for the glazed doughnuts.

Fry the risen doughnuts in batches in the hot oil (375ºF)—don’t crowd them.  Fry the doughnuts (fry rings, holes and scraps separately from each other), turning them occasionally with a metal skimmer or a metal slotted spoon, until puffed and golden brown, about 2 minutes per batch of rings; 1 minute per batch of holes or scraps. Transfer the fried dough shapes to paper towel-lined baking trays to drain. (Return the oil to 375°F between batches.) When the doughnuts are drained and still hot, dip one side in the Maple Glaze to coat, or roll the holes and “squigglies” in cinnamon sugar. Place them on cake racks over baking trays.

You can eat these warm or store in paper bags for a day or so after they are cool.

NOTE: You can even make these doughnuts without the 2nd rising (after cutting) if you are in a hurry.  They won’t be quite as tender, but they will puff up quite nicely!