Thursday, February 26, 2015


Best Blog Tips

In 2010, I wrote a blog post about a new (to me) discovery-- drinking chocolate.
"Technically speaking, hot cocoa and hot chocolate are two very different beverages. Hot cocoa comes from a powder, while hot chocolate is (once again, technically speaking) what many call "drinking chocolate" or "sipping chocolate" - it's made from chopped bits of chocolate or small chocolate pellets that are melted (slowly and painstakingly) and then blended with milk, cream and/or  water. True hot chocolate tends to be much denser and richer than its powdery relative. 

Interestingly enough, some Americans are repulsed by this more European beverage because it is so rich. However, I think this has more to do with American ideas of beverage sizes. Europeans tend to drink hot chocolate in small mugs or demitasse cups, while Americans are accustomed to over-sized mugs for their hot drinks. I, too, would be disgusted by the idea of drinking a huge mug of (basically) melted chocolate, but I find that drinking chocolate is a wonderfully satisfying winter drink when served in smaller quantities."  From:

There are several delicious brands commercially available, but I have a hard time obtaining them in my area, so I decided to make my own mix, combining cocoa powder and some dark chocolate.  It's easy, absolutely divine, and would make a lovely gift, too.  If you have never tasted "hot chocolate" made this way, you are in for a wonderful surprise.

Printable Recipe

Servings: @15
Drinking chocolate provides a rich, velvety, not-too-sweet chocolate hit-- an espresso cupful (using 1/4 cup non-dairy milk), which is small, but very satisfying.

1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably fair trade, organic, Dutch-processed)
5 tablespoons good-quality semisweet chocolate chips (preferably fair trade, organic)
OR USE 2.3 oz./66g chopped good quality semisweet chocolate (preferably fair trade, organic)
1/2 cup + 3 tablespoons brown sugar, coconut sugar or Sucanat (dehydrated sugar cane juice)
4 teaspoons cornstarch (organic is available)
1 pinch salt
OPTIONAL: (Note: Add flavorings just before serving, for better flavor.)
pure vanilla extract, chili powder, cinnamon, grated orange rind or other flavoring of your choice, to taste
2 tablespoons Homemade Drinking Chocolate Mix
1/4 cup non-dairy milk of choice, or water, if you prefer (I use Silk Original Soy)

To make the the Drinking Chocolate Mix:
1. In a very dry blender container, grind the cocoa, chocolate, sugar and cornstarch at high speed until there are no lumps in it. Store in a clean, dry jar, tightly covered.

Those lumps you see, BTW, are not chunks of chocolate-- they are clumps of the powder
To prepare the hot Drinking Chocolate: 
1. For each serving, mix 2 tablespoons of the Drinking Chocolate Mix into 1/4 cup non-dairy milk (or use water, if you prefer)
2. If you are making only 1 or 2 servings, you can combine the Drinking Chocolate Mix with the milk in the espresso cup(s) with a very small wire whisk.
3. For 3 or 4 servings, you can blend with a hand-held immersion blender in a 1 qt. Pyrex pitcher until well mixed and quite frothy and heat it in the microwave in the same pitcher. 
4.) You can use a blender if you are making a larger batch, and transfer it to a 2 qt. Pyrex pitcher for microwaving.  Make sure that there is plenty of room for a larger batch to froth up.

I heat the mixture in the microwave-- at High power for 30 seconds for one serving, or about 50 seconds for 2 servings, adding  seconds as appropriate if your microwave is lower power.  2 minutes for 3 or 4 servings should be fine. The mixture should stay frothy and thicken a bit.

If you prefer the stovetop method
, heat the mixture in an appropriately-sized saucepan over medium heat. Once the chocolate starts to melt, gently whisk the mixture to combine. Bring the mixture just to the boil-- keep an eye on it! If you are adding a flavoring, this is the time, but don't overdo it!

Serve in small espresso cups and enjoy immediately!

Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 1/4 cup non-dairy milk (not coconut) + 2 Tablespoons Drinking Chocolate mix
Amount Per Serving
77 calories, 13 calories from fat, 2g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 7.6mg sodium, 135.4mg potassium, 16.9g carbohydrates, 2.3g fiber, 10.5g sugar, 1.5g protein, 2.6 points.


Tuesday, February 17, 2015


Best Blog Tips
It's Pancake Tuesday (Shrove Tuesday)-- I almost forgot! 

What is Shrove Tuesday and what does it have to do with pancakes?  Here's a short history.  It's known as "Mardi Gras" in French-speaking regions (including New Orleans, as I'm sure you are aware). "Mardi Gras" means "Fat Tuesday", the day before Ash Wednesday, when Christian Lent begins.  It's referred to as "Fat Tuesday" because fat and eggs, etc. had to be used up before the Lenten fast. Cakes, rich breads and pastries, and pancakes were made in order to consume these foods and not let them go to waste, and also to let loose and celebrate before the fast. Pancakes seem to be a nearly universal way to celebrate.

I actually had pancakes for breakfast this morning, even though I had forgotten it was Shrove Tuesday. Yesterday I had made some batter for grain and bean-based Indian crepes called Adai.  These were made with soaked, split. skinned mung beans (mung dal), oatmeal and chickpea flour.  They were so easy to make and quick to cook, AND nutritious and delicious. I'll post the recipe soon. (There are two other Indian crepe recipes listed below.)

So, pancakes and crepes can be made out of all sorts of ingredients and they can be sweet or savory.  I've compiled a list (with links to the appropriate blog post) of all the pancake and crepe recipes currently on my blog.  They are all delightful for any meal of the day.  A few can only loosely be described as pancakes, being flat or flattish, but no matter, they are all delicious.

Of course, being vegan and often low-fat, these recipes are not necessarily the best way to use up fat (and certainly not eggs and milk), but you can always slather them with vegan butter to keep the spirit of the day. And, vegans don't have to "give up" meat, eggs, dairy products and animal fat, but any excuse to eat pancakes!

NORTH AMERICAN-STYLE PANCAKES (or pancakes that are normally eaten with sweet toppings or fillings):


"I wanted a healthful vegan mix that produced a light, fluffy, white pancake (it's full of whole grains, but it looks white!). I also wanted it to have very few additions, so that it was really quick and easy. You only have to add water and a little lemon juice to this mix, and it produces pancakes you can be proud to serve to children, picky eaters, omnis, anybody!"

MULTI-GRAIN, HEMP PROTEIN PANCAKE MIX (There are some options if you don't want to use hemp.)

"Why a hemp pancake mix?
This is a multi-grain vegan pancake mix that I originally devised for a proposed hemp book. That deal fell through, but it's a good mix, and a fun way to add some hemp to your diet. You can read about the ecological benefits of hemp here. Hemp can play a role in an anti-inflammatory diet, since it is rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Hemp is a good source of fiber and protein, and it is a very sustainable, versatile crop that can grow in North America without pesticides! It is grown in many countries, including Canada, and is considered a good crop to replace tobacco."

"Here is my vegan version [of sourdough pancakes, using whole grain flours. It turned out beautifully! BTW, sourdough pancakes have a slightly different texture from regular pancakes-- fluffy, but a little more "bready". And, of course, with that sourdough tang that I love."

                    "BUTTERMILK" PANCAKES (Can be GF and SF)

"Light, fluffy ALL-whole-grain vegan pancakes with the added fiber and antioxidants of flax, cranberries, and pecans. You can use this recipe as a template for plain multi-grain pancakes or pancakes with other flavors, fruits and nuts or seeds...They contain four different kinds of whole grain flour, a combo that makes a very light pancake.  I like to keep all of these flours together in the freezer to have at a moment's notice when we feel like having pancakes, without scrambling around to find everything."

                              BLUEBERRY-OAT PANCAKES (No-Fat)

"This is a great basic high-fiber, but very light and tender pancake recipe, due to the oat flour and wholewheat pastry flour."

                         FAT-FREE WHOLE GRAIN VEGAN CREPES

"When I was at the McDougall Celebrity Weekend in Santa Rosa in June [2008] , we were not supposed to use any added fat or oil, even pan-spray on the pans. I was planning to make no-fat crepes made with whole wheat pastry flour, chickpea flour and oat flour. In the nonstick pans Mary [McDougall] provided, I made about 50 crepes for audience tasting, and then, in the workshop, I made several in front of the audience, with no mishaps. They were very impressed, and Chef Kevin Dunn told me he never would have tried that! This is the crepe recipe I made at that McDougall event."

"Uttapam (or ooththappam or Uthappa) is a South Indian or Tamil pancake-like dish made with a batter of grain (such as rice, semolina or millet), or grain and legumes, similar to dosa batter. Dosa is thinner and crepe-like--sometimes crisp and sometimes softer. Uttapam is a thick pancake, with toppings of vegetables added to the "pancake" when it is just ready to be flipped over. Uttapam is sometimes called an "Indian pizza".  It's a common breakfast and snack food in Southern India."   PS: There is also a fruit variation!

"These crepes are a type of dosa that is made only from dal and is unfermented. These are actually a bit sturdier than the crepes we're used to, but they fold and roll nicely. You can just eat them with chutney or an Indian-style vegetable stir-fry, or with a more elaborate vegetable curry, if you like. They can be eaten for breakfast, as a snack, or for a lunch or supper dish. (They would be great for a gluten-free diet, too.)... this simple, delicious, nourishing, and filling meal was so inexpensive to make!"

"I've worked on this recipe on-and-off for a little while. Besides making them vegan, I wanted to use ingredients that most North Americans would be able to obtain easily. These vegan savory omelets or pancakes, however you choose to think of them, are so simple, cheap and quick to make, but absolutely addictive!  They originated as frugal street food and were eaten often in the days of reconstruction after WWII."

"So what is this mysterious “pancake”? It’s a delicious and nourishing snack food, a flatbread, really. In Nice, their version, Socca, is a street food, cooked huge copper pans over wood burners (rather than baked), pieces eaten out of hand like French fries in a cone of paper with lots of pepper. In Italy, it is eaten at home, with a knife and fork, or at a bar. In Genoa, there are farinata bakeries everywhere. In Argentina, they eat it on pizza! Both Italians and Niçois will tell you that it should not be made at home and it won’t taste the same if it’s not made over a wood-fired stove or in a wood-fired oven, but, trust me, a very reasonable approximation can be made and enjoyed at home!...This from my book Nonna's Italian Kitchen.

This is a thin version, which I prefer. You can sprinkle the top with chopped garlic and rosemary, thyme or sage before baking, if you like. Ligurians, who eat it with a knife and fork, sometimes also top it with thinly sliced onions or green onions, or even slices of baby artichoke. I like the leftovers cold, too. (UPDATE: Here's another great way to serve farinata.)"

For some reason, I've always been fascinated with recipes using plain beans and whole grains that are soaked and ground and used to make delicious, simple and healthful breakfast treats, breads and snacks. We need more recipes like this under our belts, so to speak, to get through hard financial times in good health and spirits... I used to make this type of dosa years ago for my children for breakfast.  They loved it and I still do!"  (These crepes are gluten-free and soy-free, BTW.)

                         PERSIAN-STYLE VEGAN POTATO PATTIES 
                                                 (Kuku Sib-Zamini) GF

In Arabic and Persian cuisines there is a type of thick baked omelet or fritatta that can utilize almost any vegetable (but always contains some green herbs).  It can be eaten hot or cold and is often used as a picnic food.  In Arabic it is called "eggah" ( عجة ʻaggah or ʻajjah) and in Perisan it is called "kuku" (کوکو).  According to food historian Alan Davidson, these are most probably the origin of Italian fritattas and Spanish tortillas (not the Mexican corn variety)... Sometimes the mixture is made into "pancakes" or "patties" and is shallow-fried in oil or clarified butter instead of baked.  This is the type of thing I wanted to try, but, of course, egg-free and made with only a little oil.  I also wanted to make the potato variety because it sounded nicely substantial and I thought the potato would help hold things together. (It can be made with eggplant, parsley and green onions, leeks, broad beans, spinach and other greens, cauliflower, squash...)  I decided to try a mixture of mashed tofu and chickpea flour instead of the egg....It was super simple to make and very tasty—open to alot of variation, too, so I will be playing with it further. I think the potato did help, but you could probably use less if it was baked—something for further experimentation."


Sunday, February 15, 2015


Best Blog Tips

This is what I made for my husband for Valentine's Day yesterday, and we brought some for dessert to some friends who invited us for dinner.  They were a big hit!

This recipe is a variation on my nut-butter-based truffle recipe at an older blog post here. I wanted to make a salted chocolate truffle this time--  if you've never tried this, you're in for a treat!  The tiny portion of  salt flakes crunch and then melt and create the perfect contrast and balance to the dark chocolate coating and sweet truffle inside.

BTW, I have never coated truffles with melted chocolate before-- I usually roll my truffles in nuts, cocoa, cocoa nibs, drinking chocolate, etc. I was also in a hurry this time because we were taking them to our friends' house for dessert, but I got caught up with another project and left it a bit late. So, lacking time, I didn't temper the chocolate for the coating, which makes the coating shiny and more smooth.

So, my coated truffles don't look perfect like the ones you buy in chocolate boutiques. (Actually, I don't think truffles are 
supposed to look perfect-- originally they were supposed to resemble the dirty brown fungus-type of truffles.) If you want yours to look perfect and round, here's some good advice online:

Otherwise, you can just follow my directions for a more simple version.  

Makes about 14 large truffles or 28 small ones -- you can easily double the recipe

Truffle Mixture:
1 cup (6 ounces) dairy-free dark chocolate (semi-sweet or bittersweet), chopped, or chocolate chips (preferably organic, fair trade)
1/4 cup peanut butter OR any other nut butter 
1/4 cup good-quality orange marmalade
2 tablespoons single-malt Scotch whiskey
2 tablespoons nondairy milk or creamer
For Finishing:
1 cup (6 ounces) dairy-free dark chocolate (semi-sweet or bittersweet), chopped, or chocolate chips (preferably organic, fair trade)
flake sea salt (my preference is Maldon Sea Salt Flakes)

Place the chocolate in the top of a double boiler over barely simmering water, or you can melt it in a microwave-proof bowl or measuring pitcher in 30-second intervals at 50% or lower power until soft (it will actually finish melting completely when you stir it). Or you can melt it in a heat-proof bowl in a 200ºF oven (a toaster oven, perhaps?) for 5-10 minutes. Cook until just until the chocolate melts, stirring often.  Do not overheat.

With an electric hand mixer or immersion blender, beat in the nut butter. Gradually beat in the marmalade, Scotch and non-dairy milk, beating constantly to keep the mixture creamy and smooth.(There will be some tiny bits of orange rind from the marmalade.) Cover and refrigerate 1-2 hours, until firm.

With your hands, roll the mixture into balls of whatever size you prefer. (I used a heaping teaspoon per truffle.) Place the balls on a plate and refrigerate while you prepare the chocolate coating.

Have ready a baking sheet or platter covered with a sheet of baking parchment or a silicone mat.

(See text above recipe.)
Melt the 2nd cup of chocolate chips or chopped chocolate in the same way as directed in the 1st paragraph of the Directions. Drop the truffles into the melted chocolate one at a time and roll them around to coat. Use a fork to remove them from the chocolate and place them (not touching) on the parchment or silicone mat. Sprinkle each truffle with a pinch of the sea salt flakes while the chocolate is still soft. When the coating has hardened, you can place the truffles in little foil candy cups, if you like-- gold foil ones are nice. Keep covered and refrigerated.


Monday, February 2, 2015


Best Blog Tips

I haven't been blogging alot-- this virus we are getting over is still making me cough at night, so I'm not sleeping as well as I should.  (Otherwise, I'm pretty well and back at work.)  Consequently, meals are simple.

But, the other night I had some Brussels sprouts to use up, so I used those as a starting point for a quick and yummy stir-fry.  I felt like using adding some tofu and I also had some of my Tofu "Bacon" marinating in the refrigerator and thought that might be a good addition to a simple stir-fry, to add more flavor.

 My Tofu "Bacon"-- recipe here

But I wanted something a little different, so I rummaged around in the condiment section of my fridge and spotted my supply of gochujang (spicy Korean bean paste/Korean red pepper paste-- a type of miso).  Just the thing!

  Gochujang (spicy Korean bean paste/Korean red pepper paste) 

According to Serious Eats: "...if you're looking for a sweeter, funkier flavor from your chiles, gochujang (pronounced go-choo-jong) is the thing for you. Gochujang is what gives Korean kimchi and tofu stews their sweet heat, bibimbap rice bowls their piquancy and rice cakes their sauce. You have to love a culture that uses chile as one of its mother sauces.

Gochujang is made from red chiles, glutinous rice* [sticky rice, gluten-free] and soy beans. It's a little hot, a little fermented funky, and more than a little sweet. What it lacks in chile fire it makes up in rounded meaty flavors and the ripe twang of a good stinky cheese. Unlike other chile pastes, gochujang adds as much meaty edge as spice, which makes it a go-to main ingredient, not just a condiment."

We loved this and it was quick and easy to make (even with slicing the sprouts!).  The vegan "bacon" definitely added to the dish with it's sweet/salty/smokey notes. This dish will definitely be a keeper. (AND I will be looking for more ways to use up my supply of gochujang.)

Printable Recipe

Servings: 3
UPDATE:  You can substitute 1 lb. cored, thinly-sliced Savoy cabbage for the Brussels Sprouts.

14 oz. extra-firm tofu
1 1/3 cups thin strips of browned vegan "bacon" of your choice (I use my Tofu "Bacon": )
1/2 to 1 tablespoon oil
1 lb. Brussels sprouts, trimmed and sliced into 3 or 4 slices each (about 1/4" thick)
1 large clove garlic, minced
Cooking Sauce:
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 tablespoons gochujang (spicy Korean bean paste/Korean red pepper paste)
3/4 tablespoon soy sauce
1 large clove garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons dark sesame oil
a few sprinkles kosher or flake salt
freshly-ground black pepper
crushed or ground toasted sesame seeds

Pat the tofu to get rid of excess water and cut it into 1/2" cubes. Heat the oil in a stir-fry pan or heavy 10 to 12" skillet over high heat. Season with a bit of salt. Stir-fry until it is browned on at least two sides. Scoop out and set aside.

Mix the Cooking Sauce ingredients together and set aside. Over high heat, add the sprout slices and garlic and stir-fry, add in squirts of water from a squeeze bottle as needed to keep the sprouts from sticking or drying out. Add about 2 tablespoon water and cover and cook for about 2 minutes, or until the sprouts are crisp-tender.

Add the Cooking Sauce, browned tofu cubes and vegan "bacon" strips and stir-fry for about 4 minutes. If it looks too dry while you are cooking it, add a few squirts of water. Be careful not to overcook the sprouts. Season with a bit of salt and some freshly-ground black pepper and serve immediately over steamed brown or converted rice.

Sprinkle each serving with ground or crushed roasted sesame seeds, if you like.

Nutrition Facts:
Nutrition (per serving): 315.4 calories; 46% calories from fat; 17.4g total fat; 0.0mg cholesterol; 921.8mg sodium; 893.5mg potassium; 24.0g carbohydrates; 7.4g fiber; 7.7g sugar; 16.6g net carbs; 23.6g protein.