Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Short Book Review... Good and Bad News

Well, I wish I loved this book more, because it's one of my birthday books...

I started going through The Spunky Coconut Cookbook and have had a mixed response to it.

On the one hand, it does have some yummy recipes.  I made the chocolate silk pie (the base is avocado!) and my darling husband is totally in love.  We hadn't even finished it before he was asking when I was making it again.  The recipe turned out creamy and delicious and I will definitely be making it again.  There are some other great recipes that I am sure I will like as well for savory dishes like "Funa" fake tuna salad made with tempeh and a raw carrot cookie recipe that uses the leftover pulp from when you make carrot juice (I love that because I hate wasting all that fiber when I make carrot juice).  In addition to these recipes, she has instructions on how to make your own nut milks and store them, which I think is really awesome.

However, I am a bit put off by the author's ideas about what constitutes "healthy" or "environmentalism."  I have read again and again lately how big an environmental impact factory farmed meat has, yet she advocates the use of "beef gelatin" in her ice cream recipes.  I know.  I can skip those or substitute a plant-based gelling agent.  So other than that one thing I guess I am okay with it.  Also, there are recipes that use eggs and other meats (primarily chicken) that I am ignoring for now but might look at to veganize at some point.  Mostly I think I was disappointed because it's not what I expected.  I thought it was going to be all coconut recipes with coconut oil, coconut flour, coconut milk and shredded coconut featuring predominantly.  This is not the case.  Coconut oil is the preferred oil in these recipes, but is not present in all of them.  I also thought it was a baking book, so I didn't realize that even though it didn't specify that it was meat free, I just figured it would be.  I know what happens when I ass-u-me.

All in all, there are some good recipes, and if you do eat meat and/or eggs, you might love all the recipes.  Lately I don't like a cookbook that I can't pick anything from and just make, but that's why I have Veganomicon, Vegan Brunch, The Complete Vegan Kitchen, The Uncheese Cookbook, Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, Vegan With a Vengeance, Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar, The Flying Apron's Gluten-Free and Vegan Baking Book, Skinny Bitch in the Kitch, Skinny Bitch Bun in the Oven and This Crazy Vegan Life.

Wow, writing and linking that all out make me realize I have to stop coveting other cookbooks and start getting to business on the ones I have.  I have thought about doing a Julie/Julia project type blogging miniseries where I pick one of my books like Veganomicon or even one of the desert books and cook through the whole thing within a time frame and blog about my experiences.  Might be fun.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Vegan Donut Cupcakes: Challenge Accepted

Okay Christina, here is my best attempt!

I used this recipe and cut it in half and veganized it with direct replacements.  Next time I think I want to make these with cardamom and put powdered sugar on top of them.  I don't know why, but the texture just makes me want them to be cardamom-y.

1/2 cup Earth Balance buttery spread
3/4 cup evaporated cane juice (sugar)
1 cup soy milk
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp flax meal
1/4 cup water
1 tsp vanilla
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3 cups flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray cupcake pan with coconut oil or whatever spray oil you like.
In the stand mixer, I creamed the butter and sugar together at medium speed.  While that was going, I mixed the flax and water in a small cup so that it could get gelatinous.  I also mixed the soy milk and vinegar so it could curdle (like buttermilk).  After the butter and sugar were well mixed, I added both mixes I had just made and then the vanilla.  I let that all mix on medium while I mixed together my dry ingredients.  I mixed that dry mixture in 2 batches and mixed only until it was combined (next time I think I would hand mix in the dry ingredients just to make sure it was combined but not overworked).  I used an icecream scoop to fill the cupcake pan and made them really big and ended up with 11 instead of 12.  Oops.  The dough was very sticky, so the texture made it hard to get level scoops.

Bake for 20 minutes.

Next I was left with topping decisions.  I ate one directly out of the oven just to get an idea of what I was dealing with.  Ohhh... I could eat them all like this.  Instead, I decided to dress up three of them.

Chocolate Icing:
1/4 cup chocolate chips (I use Tropical Source)
1 Tbsp maple syrup
1 Tbsp soy milk

Microwave these ingredients for 10-20 seconds then stir until smooth and dip cupcakes into glaze.

I personally like them better without the glaze.  If I had some strawberries I would macerate them with powdered sugar and cut the cupcake in half and cover it in sugared strawberries.

Sunday, April 18, 2010


I will admit, I get pretty excited to have "followers" of my blog, because it's pretty easy to feel like I'm spending my precious minutes typing for no one other than myself, which is entirely possible.  That said, having an outlet to in any way publish my writing is reward enough.

Anyway, I just saw that a friend linked his blog on facebook, so I decided to take a look and became a follower.  I had the option to "follow publicly" or follow anonymously.  It made me wonder, do I have anonymous followers?  Seven is a great number, and I'm thrilled with each of you, but I can't help but question who else in the intertubes is reading this.

If you feel so inclined, you can let me know anonymously if you are out there.  In fact, to encourage comments on this post, I will ask if there are any requests.  I have been wanting to write about my experiences with my daughter's infant swim class and infant swimming overall because it is fascinating to me and other people often are shocked that the class is for babies as young as 4 months old.  I also would love inspiration for a recipe.  If you have a meat recipe that you would be interested in a veganized version of or if you have a vegetable that you don't know how to tackle, see if I can help.  I like problem solving in the kitchen and pretty much pretend that every meal is an episode of Iron Chef or Chopped.

Okay, it's late at night and I have a silly book to read on the nightstand and I would hate to neglect it.

Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution

The night that the preview episode of Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution aired, the show was interrupted to announce that the health care bill had passed.  My thought, "Get back to the REAL change in health care that Jamie Oliver is trying to start!"

I am very focused on nutrition, I'll admit it, and even though universal healthcare (not the health care bill that was passed) is a dream of mine, I don't see that happening any time soon.  When I see an actual change, then I'll be interested.  Better nutrition will also happen the same way I suppose though, because it's not something that can be changed overnight or with one British chef and his adorable accent (I just want to pinch his cheeks and muss up his hair!).

Sadly, as the show has progressed, I'm seeing that even this "revolution" is really just tiny baby steps in the right (?) direction.  At first, Jamie condemned the fried chicken, pizza, and french fries being served up in the school of Huntington, WV and I was right behind him.  But when his solution was chicken drums made from scratch, spaghetti and meat sauce with cheese on top, and most recently sloppy Joes (made from scratch and therefore much healthier), I wondered what Jamie's understanding of "revolution" really was.  Am I just a crazy Yankee for wanting a revolution to mean huge changes, a complete overhaul, and raucous cheering?  Probably.

I understand what Jamie is doing.  I do.  I taught ESL (English as a Second Language) and I studied the educational theories of Stephen Krashen.  His teaching of Comprehensible Input is that the teacher must use the i+1 model of giving the learner the vocabulary they already know, plus only 1 (meaning a limited amount of new information) so that they learn it completely and add it to i, their existing knowledge.

So what Jamie is doing makes sense.  You take "chicken" as the children know it, and alter it just enough so that they now understand that "chicken" means the meat rather than a breaded and fried food item.  He's changing "sloppy Joes" from something completely sugar laden and filled with preservatives, ad showing the lunch ladies that "sloppy Joes" can be cooked meat and a homemade sauce (presumably still containing a large amount of sugar, but not the same types or levels as the processed sloppy Joes).  It's hard for me to watch this and imagine how this change is really going to change things long term.  Now, you have a bunch of kids who think sloppy Joes are a healthy food.  Add some mashed potatoes, a salad covered in homemade ranch (but still fatty ranch) and you have a "healthy" meal.  That kind of crap makes me crazy!

But then in the next scene, there Jamie is getting flavored milks out of the elementary school.  He is arguing with "the powers that be" who believe it's more important that kids drink the milk with more sugar than soda so they get their calcium, than they risk having kids not drink the milk because it's not sweet.  How about giving them something like fortified orange juice (I know, still full of sugar) or soy milk?  How about not only preventing diabetes, but heart disease too!?

I know everything takes baby steps, especially when you have the warped nutritional values of the USDA to contend with, but it's not fast enough for this mother.  I am so grateful to be able to provide nutritious food for my daughter, but not everyone had the resources or priorities to do that, and it's not fair for children to suffer the consequences.  As usual, the lower income children are punished for their parents' situations.

My point in all this is that I suppose we should all sign Jamie's Petition for healthier school lunches, but we should also support the Healthy School's Act that many members of PETA are also promoting.  There is a lot left to do, but let's do something.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Food Abomination Challenge: Vegan Pancake Wrapped Sausage

I was catching up on my Vegan Porn today and Jason made a good point:  If that disgusting junk food was vegan, would we still be so appalled?  In the video, he describes a sausage wrapped in a pancake.  Mmmm.

I'm always up for a challenge, and after walking the dogs and doing dishes I didn't have much to do while my darling napped this afternoon...  So the creation became a reality.

I started out with a sausage.  I thought about following a recipe, but figured I could just wing it.  Right.  Good idea, Erin.  I looked at a couple recipes from Vegan Brunch and got an idea of the basics, and made my own.

Apple Sausage
1/4 tsp fennel seeds
1/4 tsp caraway seeds
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
pinch ground cloves
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp onion powder
1 Tbsp nutritional yeast
1/4 tsp molasses
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup apples that have been chopped and boiled until soft then smooshed
3 Tbsp TVP
*combine these ingredients and set aside while you set up a steamer, get the water boiling, and get 2-4 sheets of foil out (depending on how big you want your sausages)

1 Tbsp oil
3/4 cup vital wheat gluten

Mix in the final two ingredients and then form into sausages in the foil and wrap them up like candy.  Steam them for about 40 minutes and then you are ready to make your pancake mix.

For the pancakes, I used this recipe that is my regular pancake recipe but I used maple syrup instead of sugar and I added a tsp of vanilla.

I then browned the edges of a sausage.
Next, I spread out a layer of pancake mix in the bottom of my pan and let it sit for no more than 5 seconds before placing the sausage in the middle of the pancake and wrapping the pancake around the sausage through a series of flips.

It turned out kind of pretty.

 I had mine with some maple syrup, after cutting off a nice big piece for the baby to enjoy.  She was unsure if she liked it or not- although it was a little saltier than she's used to and I didn't give her maple syrup.

As you can see, she's not sure she loves it.  She kept eating it though (along with her carrots and strawberries).

I wouldn't eat this every day, but I think it turned out pretty good.  The fennel in my sausage had a strong flavor and I could have used more apple, but it was a successful first attempt at sausage.  It's "junk food" but made entirely from scratch with minimal fats.  The real problem is that there's no veggies in it.  I'm having a big bowl of broccoli and seaweed for dinner, that's for sure!

If you too make this abomination, please enjoy it!  You could make apple pancakes to make this extra apple-y or add blueberries just to get more fruit.  You could also make nice small sausages and have them along with some smaller pancakes and it wouldn't be bad.

Tofu Scramble

On Easter morning I made my first tofu scramble.  It was dedicated to all the eggs being hunted, colored, and eaten that day and the chickens who laid them.  After one bite I couldn't believe I had waited this long for a tofu scramble!  It's so good and easy.  I didn't really follow a recipe, and haven't for the subsequent scrambles I've made since.  They all turn out great.  I tear my firm tofu (I've been using nigori tofu this week and enjoying it) into little chunks and toss it in a bowl with some nutritional yeast, salt, pepper, and onion powder (and paprika if I'm feeling a little smokey goodness is in order).  Then I cut up and start sauteing whatever veggies I'm using (we like scrambles with all kinds of veggies) and once the veggies start to brown I toss in the tofu and let it brown slightly and warm through.
Some veggie combos we like:
*green onion and mushroom
*yellow onion, roasted red pepper, and smoked paprika
*zucchini, mushroom, yellow onion, and tomatoes (added after it's cooked)
*any veggies you have on hand :)

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Quinoa Tabouli- For Mom

My mom just came for a visit and while she was here she asked, "How did you get into all this health food?  Where did you learn it from?"  I told her that she was the one who used to make tabouli all the time. In honor of that, I made her quinoa tabouli with some extra veggies and she loved it.  She asked me to post the recipe so that she could make it at home.

Quinoa Tabouli
Pictured with crispy braising green and lightly fried tofu

2 cups cooked quinoa according to package instructions (some is prewashed, unwashed, etc)
1 zucchini chopped finely
1 red bell pepper chopped finely
2 Tbsp fresh flat leaf parsley chopped finely
2 Tbsp fresh mint chopped finely
2 green onions thinly sliced
2 Tbsp sun dried tomatoes chopped finely
Juice from 1 large lemon
2-3 Tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

avocado cut into cubes
toasted pine nuts

Combine the ingredients in a bowl (preferably with a lid) and refrigerate for 2 hours- a day.  Top with avocado and pine nuts when you serve it.

This is just a simple recipe, and you can add other veggies or leave out some.  Fresh tomato, kalamata olives, cucumber and scallions can all be good in this.

Daiya Pizza

Oh, Daiya.  Ooooh, Daiya (to the tune of that beautiful oldie "Oh Donna").  Natural Pantry now has TWO flavors of daiya cheese:  yellow and white- I mean, cheddar and Italian.  We got a container of each and mixed them into a beautiful pizza cheese.  Daiya cheese rocks my socks off with it's yum yum delight melty goodness and flavor to boot!  My poor husband wants to eat it every night, I can tell.

We made a classic combo pizza.

1 cup warm water
1 Tbsp sugar
1 package yeast
3 cups unbleached white flour
1/4 cup oil
1 tsp salt
2 Tbsp corn meal (optional)

In stand mixer, dissolve the sugar into the water using a spoon or whisk (don't bother turning on the mixer for this part).  Once the sugar is dissolved, add the package of yeast and stir until combined.  Leave the yeast to sit and eat some sugar for a few minutes.  You could use this time to begin your pizza sauce.  The yeasty water should get foamy.  If it hasn't become foamy at all after 3-5 minutes, your yeast is bad and you'll have to restart.  I've never had this happen, but anything is possible.  Once you have the foam, put on your dough hook attachment of your mixer and add your flour, salt, and half the oil.  Mix on low until the flour is mostly mixed it, then move up to medium speed (if you go straight to medium, you'll end up covered in flour).  Continue to mix until the dough becomes a ball that pulls away from the sides of the bowl and has an elastic texture.  Remove the dough hook and add the rest of your oil to your ball and roll it around.   Cover with a damp cloth and leave in a warm place for about 45 minutes to an hour.  It should double in size.  Replace the dough hook and mix for about a minute.  Now you are ready to stretch your dough and spread it out on a cookie sheet sprinkled with corn meal.  Once you top your pizza, you'll cook it in a 400 degree oven for 15-20 minutes.

Pizza Sauce:
1 14.5/15oz can tomatoes (stewed, diced, whatever)
2 cloves garlic chopped
1-2 Tbsp Italian seasoning
1 tsp olive oil

In a pot over medium heat, saute garlic and olive oil until it just barely starts to brown.  Add the canned tomatoes and seasoning.  I like to over season my pizza sauce, and even if I were to use a jarred pasta sauce I would add extra herbs.  Bring this mixture to a boil and continue to stir.  Once it's boiling, reduce to a simmer and you should be ready to go back to your dough.  Let simmer for 10-20 minutes and then use an immersion blender if you have on to puree it.  If you don't have an immersion blender, then let the mixture cool a bit before putting it in your blender or food processor (if it's too hot, you're asking for an explosion).

Toppings (any):
3 medium mushrooms thinly sliced
1/4 of a yellow onion thinly sliced and then separated into strands
1/4 cup black olives cut in half lengthways
1/2 of a small red bell pepper
1 clove garlic minced finely
1 Field Roast Italian Sausage
1/2 lb shredded daiya cheese

Stretch the dough out onto the cookie sheet and then set the oven to preheat and chop all your toppings.  This will give the dough a chance to rise just a bit more.  Spread the sauce up to about 1/2 inch from your edges or even a little closer.  Sprinkle cheese over the entire pizza then place toppings all around.  Try not to overlap your veggies or they will end up with a steamed texture instead of roasted.  I like to sprinkle more Italian Seasoning over the top and drizzle with a bit of olive oil, but it's not necessary.  Cook for about 15 minutes, then check.  It should get nice and golden around the edges.   This dough makes a soft and chewy crust with a crispy exterior.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Birthday Loot!

From my Amazon Wishlist, I got:
The Complete Vegan Kitchen 
The Spunky Coconut Cookbook (not vegan, but casein, gluten and sugar free, so I just need to sub eggs in recipes that include them)
Naturally Nutritious (not vegan, it turns out, but some vegan recipes and others I'll have fun modifying)

Also from my Wishlist my mother-in-law got me:
Bake Deliciously
The Flying Apron's Gluten Free and Vegan Baking Book

Getting into these books I was really excited to try out the recipes and adjust the ones with eggs and meat to make them better.  It's funny how, quite frankly, I'm not really one to follow a recipe.  I love cookbooks though because they give me ideas about flavor combinations and ingredients I might not otherwise try.  I saw a recipe for quinoa tabouli and made my own that night without reading the original recipe.  My mom is a complete tabouli fanatic and says it was the best she's ever had.

For my own presents, I took some used books into Tidal Wave, a local used book store, and got Vegetarian Nights (a Hawaiian vegetarian- not vegan- cookbook.  I can't wait to get some hijiki and try out some of her salad recipes!)
This Crazy Vegan Life (So far this one feels a lot like a diet book, which kind of turns me off.  The recipes look interesting though.)
I also got three board books for my baby girl.  It's great to be reusing to benefit her!  Plus, the books are great for when she's on the potty ;)

ALSO, because my husband enjoys spoiling me, I was given two necklaces and a bracelet from the local Grassroots Fair Trade Store.  If you have a fair trade store in your area, they are a great way to support those around the world.  One of my necklaces was made from rolled magazine beads by women in Uganda.  My bracelet is made from Tagua nuts, which are like ivory (though mine is painted bright green) and one tauga tree makes as much of the false ivory as one adult female elephant.  We love elephants, so this made my bracelet doubly special!

Finally, when I went into the garage there was a new kayak!  I kayaked until 5 days before I gave birth using rented kayaks from REI, so I am very much looking forward to paddling soon.  The REI rentals are very nice and inexpensive, so I highly recommend them for someone interested in occasional paddling.

I will post some recipe reviews once I'm deeper into my new cookbooks.