Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Teese Vegan Cheese

Violet and I had the pleasure of sampling some of Chicago Soydairy's Creamy Cheddar Teese this week and I just have to say it:  ooey gooey.  When my teese arrived in a sausage tube (sorry, but that's the image I have with this particular packaging), I was a little concerned.  It felt liquid in the tube and I was sure it was going to be a watery and flavorless sauce.  I can now say, with a bit of a scoff at my preconceived notions, LOL.

In the interest of purity, I followed the instructions on the tube to make a special treat for my poor little health foodie baby who gets mac and cheese only in the form of Jerusalem artichoke pasta or homemade pesto.  I got out the quinoa elbow mac and cooked it up right with some cheesy sauce.

The first thing I noticed as the sauce warmed with the pasta is that it not only thickened like my homemade cornstarch-based sauces, but it was stretchy and gooey like dairy cheese.  Also, the flavor had a great tang that I think I recall cheddar tasting like (it's been a while, so forgive me if I'm off).  There's definitely a tang different from other vegan cheeses though, of that I am sure.  It was delicious, and I highly recommend it.

But you don't have to take my word for it (I home Reading Rainbow doesn't have that trademarked...).  Violet was a huge fan.  I haven't seen her eat anything so voraciously since I gave her her first cookie.
Carefully using the fork.  After she tasted how good it was, this quickly was replaced by fist fulls to the mouth.

Right after a fist full.  Note the lovely orange all over her face.

Quinoa mac for added protein with green beans and apples.  It was a good meal.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Vegan Potlucks

As a vegan parent, I try not to segregate myself and my daughter from those around us who eat animal products.  I smile as I chase my daughter around at every play group, as all the other parents pass out cheese, yogurt snacks, gummy candies with gelatin, and other treats that I don't want my toddler having.  It's just a necessary part of caring about what she eats.  I'm sure it's much harder for parents of kids with severe allergies, and I know that at the end of the day it might happen that Violet gets a taste of something I don't want her eating.  It's not the biggest deal in the world, it's not something I can really control, and it wears on me without me knowing.

For Thanksgiving Violet and I were on our own, so we went to a potluck hosted through our local vegetarian meetup group.  The group has vegetarians, vegans, and veg curious members, but our potlucks and events are all vegan.  So not only did we get our first vegan Thanksgiving, but we still got to be with other people and have fun.

There were so many people at the potluck that we ended up all eating in the living room, on the couch, the floor, on pillows.  It was wonderful and open and free.  Violet and her friend Rakim played while the adults chatted.  It wasn't until we started eating that I realized how much energy and stress occurs when we eat in mixed company.

Violet is a mooch.  That's just her way.  She loves food, loves feeding others (much to the dismay of the parents of tiny babies who Violet tries to share with), and she loves being fed (though not from a spoon like a civilized child).  Since everyone was low to the ground, Violet simply wandered around the room and people fed her.  She didn't want to sit with me and be fed, she wanted a taste from everyone.  I felt a familiar pang of anxiety when I saw her approach a plate, and saw someone feed her from their plate...
until I realized- Everything was vegan.


Everything was vegan and everyone was feeding Violet and she was having such a great time and I was able to sit back and watch her interact with her new friends, asking for a bite or snack.  I didn't have to pull her away from someone else as soon as food was around.  I didn't have to load her with her favorite foods so that she wouldn't want to eat what others had.  She was free to sample and interact in the way she felt most comfortable.

I highly recommend vegan potlucks for any vegan parent.  I would add to that, if you have a child with allergies, I would suggest a potluck without those allergens, and maybe with those with similar allergies. As your local bounce house if they would do a "peanut free" day, or host a playgroup in your home with no gluten allowed.

We don't want to teach our kids to just eat anything that someone gives them, but we also don't want to teach them not to try new things.  It is liberating to be able to interact with others through food, and I believe that one of the most isolating things about being vegan is that you lose part of the social aspect of eating.  Either it's hard to sit and watch your friend eat a side of ribs, or you can't have people over without worry that they won't like what you are making.  You can't just go to someone's house without a list of things that you don't eat and finding a neutral location to go out to eat can be just as challenging.  It's lonely and it perpetuates both the stereotypes and realities of vegans not wanting to interact with others.  My grandpa always said that food is love, and I believe that.  Losing the part of your life where you dine with your friends and family in the same way you always have is one of the hardest parts of veganism.  The easiest part is when you feel the love of eating great foods that don't support the cruelty or killing of other living beings.

I wish I had pictures to share of the two vegan potlucks I went to this week, but I don't, so I'll post the menus for both instead.  Feel free to drool.

2 Tofurkeys
Mashed pototoes
Homemade rolls
Sweet potato casserole with prailine pecans
Green bean and mushroom casserole with almonds
Hazelnut and cherry stuffing made with homemade cornbread
Homemade and canned cranberry sauce
Acorn squash soup
No Bake Pumpkin Cheesecake

Thanksgiving Part 2:
Pesto pasta with fresh tomatoes
Brussel sprouts with pine nuts, capers, and raisins
Salad with spicy chipotle dressing
Fresh peppers with a pea puree hummus dip
Leftover acorn squash soup
Southwest tabouli
Homemade vegan fudge
Molasses ginger cookies

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Last Minute Lazy Vegan No-Bake Pumpkin Pie

Okay, I know this is such a cop-out and a lame recipe for someone who loves to bake as much as I do, but I don't care- it's DELICIOUS!  And as much as I love to bake, I love to grub on some tasty pie.

I got the ingredients by cruising the "I Can't Believe It's Vegan" list that PETA put out.  I love this list for when I'm being lazy.

This recipe is what to make when you realize you have an hour before heading to a Thanksgiving potluck and you need that hour to include shopping time.

1 store-bought graham cracker crust (read the ingredients, but most are accidentally vegan)
1 small/regular box Jello vanilla pudding mix
1/2 cup soy creamer or soy milk
2 cups pureed pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix, it will be too sweet)
1 tsp pumpkin pie seasoning (could this be easier? no.)

In a stand mixer, or with a hand mixer, or with serious energy and a whisk, mix everything but the crust for a couple minutes until it's a little fluffy, a little creamy, and firms up a bit.  Transfer mixture to crust and refrigerate for an 1-3 hours (you can make it and throw it in the fridge while everyone's eating, then have it ready for desert).

It tastes a little like pudding, a lot like pumpkin pie should, and the consistency is amazing.  I am going to try this with some tofutti mixed in for a cheesecake-like pie, but I don't want to vouch for the results until I've tried it.

Miso Soup Gravy

I recently received some Miso-Cup vegetable soup.  I was thinking about those packets of gravy mix, and when I saw the instant miso soup mix, I thought that would make a great gravy base.  I already had a stuffing in the oven, and while a gravy made with the same Not Chick'n bouillon that I had used in the gravy would have been fine, the umami of miso gravy sounded even better.  This was so easy, but had a really great complex umami taste that paired perfectly with stuffing.

1 1/2 cups hot water
1 packet of Miso-Cup Delicious Golden Vegetable Soup

2 Tbsp Earth Balance Buttery Spread
2 Tbsp flour

pepper to taste (you do NOT need salt with this, just add the pepper)

In a sauce pan over medium heat, melt the butter and then mix in the flour to make a roux.  Combine the packet and water and add a bit at a time while stirring constantly.  Stir and let simmer for another 5 minutes or so and you have your gravy.  I like mine peppery, so I added freshly ground black pepper.  This isn't a thick gravy, but if you like yours thicker you can add a bit more flour.

Stuffing/Dressing with Chickpeas, Yams, and Just a Little Bread

I love stuffing.  I LOVE STUFFING.  I really love stuffing.  Thanksgiving is my most favorite holiday, because stuffing is so much a part of that day.  Much more than a dead bird, stuffing is what people look forward to.

I started my festivity early, and made this great "stuffing" last week.  I didn't stuff it in anything other than my mouth (and is there anywhere better to stuff stuffing?), but you could use this recipe to stuff a homemade tofu turkey like the Healthy Hip Chick's recipe. Or any other tofu turkey recipe you like.  I have no idea how it would turn out within a ball of tofu, but I personally like a beautiful browned top, so I make it in my pretty stuffing pan.  Yes, I have a special pan that is for stuffing (but I let other things cook in it throughout the year).  I got it many years ago when I began my stance that stuffing would always be my Thanksgiving day potluck item.

I think the thing that really makes this stuffing is that I roast the yams, apples and turnips.  You don't need to use turnips if that's not your bag, baby.  You could just sautee everything with the rest of the veg, but you'll be missing out a bit.

1 yam, cubed
4-5 baby turnips (or 1-2 medium/large turnips), cubed
1 apple, cubed

1 cup hot water (or garbanzo cooking liquid) + 1/2 cube Not Chick'n 

1 1/2 cups cooked garbanzos (or canned, but wash them off so there's no slime)
1/4 cup tapioca flour

2 stalks celery, sliced thinly
2 carrots, chopped into cubes or half circles
1/2 yellow onion chopped
1 tsp garlic granules
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
1/2 tsp dried parsley
(or use fresh herbs for better flavor, use twice as much)

3 slices Dave's Killer bread, Sprouted Good Seed

2 Tbsp Earth Balance buttery spread

First, preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Cube the yam, turnips, and apple.  Toss them with salt and pepper oil (your choice of oil), then spread them out on a baking sheet and roast for about 30 minutes.  You want them all delicious and roasty, so wait unti they are beautiful and brown to take them out.

Next, mix your broth up.  I used the Not Chick'n, which I really like, but you could use whatever veg broth you like.  Just make a cup of broth.  It shouldn't be too hot when you mix in the tapioca flour and I would make a small slurry and then mix it in so you don't get lumps.  *Slurry- your powder and a small amount of water make a watery paste to add to larger quantity of water to avoid lumps*  Set this aside.

Then, sautee your veg and herbs until they have that great smell.  When it smells like Thanksgiving you are ready.  Cook it on high heat to get some carmel to your onions and other veg.  Stir in the garbanzos once it's got the color.

Finally, spray or whipe oil on the inside of your most beautiful baking dish, and toss everything in there and mix it around.  It's going to be hot, but your hands really will be the best tool for this.  Once everything is in, make sure to press it all down so all the bread is soaked through.  Sprinkle with 2 Tbsp melted Earth Balance, or leave little bits of it around the top to make pretty brown and buttery flavor pockets.

Turn your oven down to 375 and bake for about 30-40 minutes.  It should be bubbling, and not dried out.  Serve with miso soup gravy.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Coconut Flour Blondies with Chocolate Chips

I got a bag of Let's Do... Organic Coconut Flour and could not wait a full day even to try it out. They have coconut cream too, which has the wheels in my head turning. I'll definitely post about that later. I have been experimenting with gluten-free recipes, and saw this recipe in Living Without a few months ago. I decided to adapt it and make it vegan. I also decided not to do gluten-free for this one, because I wanted all the other flavors to be familiar except the coconut flour. It tasted nutty and coconut-y just in the powder form, so I figured in a blondie it will be perfect.

Here's the recipe the way I did it.

1/2 cup SOFT dates (it took 6 for me)- if your dates are not soft, soak them in about 1/2 cup warm water, and use that water for your flax eggs
3 Tbsp flax mixed with 1/2 cup water (let it sit and gel)
1/4 cup agave nectar
1/2 cup extra virgin coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 wheat flour or whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup coconut flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line an 8X8in pan with parchment paper. Spray oil over the parchment and pan. Put all the wet ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Try not to drink the resulting liquid (this may be the hardest part of this recipe). Blend the dry ingredients in a large bowl (not including chips) with a whisk or fork to break up any coconut flour clumps. Pour wet ingredient liquid into THE BOWL, not your mouth, and combine completely. Add chocolate chips and give it another spin with your spoon. It will look like cookie dough and taste like awesome. Don't eat it all, but go ahead and taste that. It's got hints of macaroon flavor, but the texture and chips bring you back to memories of chocolate chip cookies. Now fight the impulse to form this into balls and press it down into your pan evenly and bake it for 25-30 minutes. It will leave your hands feeling luscious with coconut oil, which is a really good moisturizer. You may lick the bowl now. And the spoon. And the inside of the food processor (watch for blade). Let them cool a bit before pulling it all out in your handy dandy parchment paper and cooling competely before cutting. The original recipe says this makes 16, but realistically, I'm going to get 9 portions from this.

These had a great chewy moist texture, a perfect flavor that just hinted at coconut, and a pretty slightly browned top.  I think next time I'll use a little more agave and fewer chocolate chips, but overall it was a success!  My husband who isn't a coconut fan ate them up and said they didn't have the coconut flavor he doesn't like.  I, on the other hand, got my hints of maccaroon flavor without it being overpowering.  I think these would also be great with shredded coconut and macadamia nuts instead of chocolate chips, because they already have a slight island flavor.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Yam Au Gratin

I love potatoes au gratin, but I had some yams that needed eating.  Usually with potatoes I make a gravy-like sauce with herbs and veg broth and flour, but I wanted a creamy au gratin this time.  I looked up some recipes and of course they called for heavy cream, like I make heavy cream with my dismal mammaries.  Luckily, I had a little box of Mimiccream that I've been looking for a use for.  It says it can be used in the place of heavy cream.  The nice thing about this is that it doesn't have any sweetener or flavoring like soymilk, and it's made from cashews and almonds.  I love making sauces with almonds, so I figured it should work fine.
This is all that survived to be photographed

2 medium sized yams sliced thinly
1 1/2 cups unsweetened Mimiccream
1 Tbsp tapioca powder (I hadn't used this before, but it says to use in place of cornstarch, so I gave it a try)
1 tsp Lawry's seasoned salt (or less if you aren't a salt fiend)
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (or less- it turned out good and spicy)

cooking spray and salt and pepper
Nutritional yeast for topping

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Spray an 8X8 inch pan with cooking spray and line the bottom with yam slices season your layer of yams with salt and pepper.  Combine mimiccream, tapioca powder, and seasonings in a bowl and pour half the mixture over your yams.  Add another layer of yams, salt and pepper and the remaining sauce. Cover with a thin layer of nutritional yeast and spray with cooking spray to get a browned top. Bake for 30-40 minutes (until yams are soft).

This turned out so delicious and creamy.  My husband said it was the texture of a cheese sauce.  I loved it and will use Mimiccream for this again.  I used Let's Do... Organic Tapioca Powder from Edward and Sons and it didn't leave an odd aftertaste like cornstarch sometimes does.

Sour Cream is Back in my Life

I got a coupon for Wayfare products, so I headed off to the store ready to get some cheddar spread. Wayfare makes these awesome cheese-like spreads in Cheddar, Hickory Cheddar and Cheddar Sauce. I have had the Hickory and Cheddar and both were awesome. It's not hard like a block cheese, but it has a great flavor without any weird aftertastes. That's because it's soy-free, gluten-free, and still manages to be vegan! I love soy, but in analogue foods I taste it and it's a little off.

Right when I was about to grab that cheddar and run, I saw "We Can't Say It's Sour Cream." Hmmm... I have had Sour Supreme by Tofutti, and the aftertaste just kind of ruins it for me. I looked at the ingredients. Lima Beans, Rice, Oats, Vegetable Oil Blend (Safflower and Coconut Oil), Sea Salt, Citric Acid, Onion Powder. Those things all sounded good to me, but not like sour cream. I figured I might as well take a chance and try it out.

I came home and whipped up some quinoa pilaf with zucchini and bell peppers, black beans with homemade mole, and spicy baked plantain chips. This kind of meal requires a cooling element. Usually I would make a lemony guacamole, but my avocados were all underripe, and I had something sour and creamy to try out. I tasted a bit right out of the container and I wasn't sure I would like it. Then I thought about a bite of sour cream on it's own. Ew. I put a dollop in the middle of the plate, and my bites contained a little of each thing. It was the perfect cool, tangy, delicious addition with my plantain chips, and tasted just as great with my beans.

The next day, I was thinking that large container was just too big for my needs... I mean, I don't eat spicy Mexican food every day! Then, I remembered the other thing that goes well with sour cream- horseradish.  I roasted some beets and served them over my leftover quinoa with toasted hazelnuts on top.  To make it perfect, I mixed horseradish and my We Can't Say It's Sour Cream and added a hefty dollop.  PERFECTION!  No one needs to be eating prime rib and creamy horseradish when you have this.

Then I though I had really exhausted the possibilities. I mean, I had Mexican food and a classic American diner taste, how much more "sour cream" flavor did I need? Well, I had some precooked falafal from Costco and needed a quick lunch. They have okay flavor, but are unbearably dry. I mixed up the last of my We Can't Say It's Sour Cream with some vegenaise and dill for a perfect cool dip to balance the heavy cumin and spice of a falafal.

I will definitely be getting this spread again, even without a coupon!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Iditerod Baby: Putting the Pups to Work

When we first got out puppy, Clover, people told me time and again that her breed (she's a mystery mix as far as I know...) needed to pull.  They said she's a work dog who would take pleasure from pulling a sled or person on skis (aka skijorning).  So when the baby came along and the snow came out, I figured it was as good a time as any to give it the old college try.

Last year, Clover pulled my tiny Violet all through the dog park for a month or less.  We didn't buy our sled until March, so it was just the last of the snow we got to enjoy.  This year, we had the sled from day one, and Clover has been making the most of it.

We use an infant sled that we got at the Great Outdoor Clothing Store next to REI in Anchorage.  It has a pull rope, so we attach a retractable leash to the pull rope.  Then, the split leash is also attached to the pull rope using the clip from the retractable leash.  The dogs wear regular harnesses and are attached to the split lead, and the baby goes in the sled (in case this is hard to follow).  The adult, or safety brake, holds onto the retractable leash.

Most days, Violet loves her sled and Clover loves her pulling.  Some days one or the other does not.  I'm not trying to make anyone unhappy, so we just take those days off.  It's great fun though, and for my little dog-loving baby, there's not much cooler than being pulled along by your dogs.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Follow Your Heart Vegan Mozzerella

I haven't eaten cow's milk cheese in about 4 years (maybe longer...), so go ahead and take this post with that particular grain of salt.

When you can't eat cheese, you find great alternative pizza toppings, because giving up pizza just isn't an option in our home.  We have made some amazing pizzas with cheese-free pesto, hummus, spicy peanut sauce, bbq sauce, and all other manner of medium to cover the top of the pizza and bring it all together.  These are all great replacements.

But...  An ooey, gooey, cheesey pizza is another story.  A story I like to hear every once in a while.  When I discovered Daiya I was thrilled and made many pizzas with it.  However, there is a slight aftertaste with Daiya, and the cheddar is cheddar-y, but I don't get the white Daiya's flavor as much as cheddar-less.

Then I tried Follow Your Heart Mozzerella.  Again, it's been years, but it actually has that luscious mozzerella flavor.  A tiny tang, a mellow and rich flavor that just makes you want some fresh basil and ripe tomatoes.

Night before last, we went out to dinner and got a "vegan greek" pizza with pesto, kalamata olives, sun dried tomatoes, and spinach... then it had little cubes of tofu for the "feta."  Well, looking like cheese and tasting like cheese are not the same.  So last night we had to remake the pizza ourselves and use follow your heart shredded on top instead of cubes of tofu.  Yes, we ate pizza two nights in a row.

I tried out a new "pizza crust yeast" that worked pretty well.  I know it's great because I didn't have to wait for it to rise, and it did get a great chewy/fluffy texture with a great crisp to it too- it just doesn't seem right to me that it could do all that.  It literally took longer to preheat the oven than to have the dough completely ready for the oven!  You should definitely try out this yeast though, if you get the chance.  This is the stuff.  I wouldn't buy it on Amazon, but if you buy it from my link I get a few cents, so why not post it that way?

I've heard some people say they don't like Follow Your Heart because it doesn't melt, but as you can see from my picture, it not only melts, but after a couple minutes on broil it browned.  I've never had melting issues with it on pizza or in grilled cheese (garlic sautteed greens and this mozzerella make an AMAZING grilled cheese to go with tomato soup).