Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Awesome Vegan Gingerbread

Stock Your Pantry, Episode Four: The Joys of Silken Tofu, continued!

The aseptic, silken tofu in a box is just about the perfect pantry item.  You can use it for so many things and it lasts forever in your pantry (like 8 months!).  And it is CHEAP, like $1.79 at Wegmans for a box of Firm Silken Mori-Nu. It is a very versatile egg replacer, as you have seen once already!  Now we will use it to replace eggs in a traditional holiday treat, gingerbread!  I love Nigella's version, which I made last year just before going vegan.  I wanted it this year, and decided to veganize it.  It worked out perfectly and I wanted to share it with you. 

Nigella’s Sticky Gingerbread, Dawn’s Vegan Version:

Makes 20 squares.

1 stick plus 3 tablespoons non-dairy butter (Earth Balance is the best for baking)
¾ cup dark corn syrup (Karo)----I used 2/4 cup Karo and ¼ cup Light Agave
¾ cup Molasses
2/3 cup packed organic, soft dark brown sugar (I used Trader Joe’s Organic)
2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger----I used organic chopped ginger in the jar
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon plus about 1/3 tsp baking soda, dissolved in 2 tablespoons warm water
1 cup organic, unflavored soy milk (vanilla would be ok, too)
2 tofu “eggs,” beaten to mix.  Use 4 oz (1/2 cup) firm silken tofu, blended.
2 cups King Arthur’s White Whole Wheat flour (much better nutrition and taste than all-purpose flour).

Nigella calls for using a 12x8x2 pan (who has this??) and if you happen to have it, go ahead and use 350 as your oven temp.  Anyway, I was using a 9x9 cake pan, so I used 360 degree oven due to changing the size of the pan.  Line your baking pan with parchment paper.  If you don’t have parchment, you can use Aluminum foil, but be sure to grease it well with butter.  This is very sticky gingerbread!

Process tofu in a food processor or blender until smooth.  You could do this by hand with a fork or a tiny wisk o’doom, too.  Put your dry baking soda in a little mixing bowl and put the water in a microwavable coffee cup or whatever (do not combine yet).

In a saucepan, combine butter through cloves.  Prep your flour, the only truly dry ingredient in this recipe!  Measure the flour and sift it into a large bowl. Now, melt the ingredients (butter through cloves) over a low to medium heat. Heat the water slightly and make your baking soda mixture.

Take butter mixture off the heat, and add the soy milk, tofu and dissolved baking soda in its water.

Pour in the liquid ingredients into the bowl with the flour, beating until well mixed.  Make sure all the flour gets wet and incorporated.  It will be a very liquid batter, so don’t worry.  This is part of what makes it sticky later.

Pour it into the prepared pan and bake for about 60 minutes (45-60 if you use the larger pan) until risen and firm on top.  Try not to overcook, as it is nicer a little stickier, and anyway will carry on cooking as it cools.

Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let the gingerbread cool in the pan before cutting into 20 squares or however you wish to slice it.  Dust w/ confectioner’s sugar or leave plain (I love how Christmassy it looks with the confectioner’s sugar):

Make ahead tip: Make the gingerbread up to 2 weeks ahead, wrap loosely in parchment paper and store in an airtight container.  Cut into squares as required.

Freeze ahead tip: Make the gingerbread, wrap in parchment paper and a layer of aluminum foil then freeze for up to 3 months.  Thaw at room temperature for 3-4 hours and cut into squares.

Happy Holidays!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Matzo Balls from the Mix!

Stock Your Pantry, Episode Three (yeah, I was kidding in the last post):

We are lazier than our parents.  Thusly, if we find a really great, amazing mix for Matzo Ball Soup (and the Matzo Balls) then we are very happy and just use that.  Or at least I do, since I don't have a Jewish momma to catch me not making it from scratch :-)  Not that I wouldn't make it from scratch.  Sometimes, I'm just looking for a time-saving recipe, and this fits the bill nicely.

The Manischewitz Matzo Ball & Soup Mix is one of the most amazing dry goods you can keep in your pantry.  If you like it, get a few boxes of the "Matzo Ball & Soup Mix" and check the box to make sure it isn't just the soup mix, or you won't get the awesome matzo meal pack, so make sure to check.

As far as I can tell from the ingredients, it is vegan and Kosher and Pareve, so, excellent.  However, the instructions tell you to use two eggs to make the matzo balls, we are going to sub the eggs with the same aseptic tofu that we used in the Triple Orange Bread Pudding.  Get a  few boxes of that aseptic tofu, especially the "firm" kind.  It is one of the most amazing, very long lasting, pantry ingredients to have on hand at all times. 

I decided to make this today because my little guy has a nasty, runny cold and he LOVES this soup.  Here are the ingredients:

Easy, Vegan Matzo Ball Soup

One box of Manischewitz Matzo Ball & Soup Mix (Did I mention this already? Surprise, surprise, they carry it at Wegmans and every other store I have ever shopped at, so many of you should be able to find it).
10 cups water
1, 12oz box of Firm Silken Tofu (I buy the Mori-Nu brand, they have it at Wegmans!!)
2-3 tablespoons of good olive oil (I am using Trader Joe's President's Reserve right now, $6 for a liter!)
3 carrots (or two if you aren't obsessed with carrots like my family is)
1/2 cup frozen peas

Other possible additions:
1/2 cup frozen corn (not my thing, but my hubby + kid like this)
1/2 cup rice or pasta (precooked and added at the end so it doesn't suck up all your delish soup)

Alrighty, we are going to modify the package directions a bit, but not much. 

The Soup:
Put the 10 cups of water plus packet #2 (the soup mix) into a medium or large stock pot just to get that out of the way.  Don't turn it on just yet.

Make the matzo ball mix: 
Unleash your aseptic tofu and regard its beauty.

Crumble roughly 3/4 of the tofu into your food processor with the olive oil and pulse until creamy, like this:

Save the other quarter (or even a bit less) of the tofu and just cube it to put into the soup at the end when you add the peas, kinda like miso soup style.  Now, put the processed tofu into a bowl and combine it with package #1 (the matzo ball mix), and mix it with a fork, to get about this consistency: 

Cover and put in your fridge for about 30 minutes. You could probably leave it in there up to overnight and it would probably be fine.

In the meantime, peel and chop your carrots, add them to the cold soup.  Now, check your email, your facebook page, and change the opera music to Dido and Aeneas.  Or kill about 15 minutes some other way.  Now, turn on the soup.  Bring it to a boil and add the peas and the cubed tofu wait again another minute or two to come back to a boil (the peas are frozen, so they cool off the water).  By the time the soup is boiling, your matzo ball mix should be cold.

Add the matzo balls to the soup (the fun part!!).  Get your handy medium oxo scoop (1 1/2 tablespoons) and scoop the mix flat against the scoop, then into your hand.  Round the blob of mix into a nice ball and THEN drop it into the soup.  If you just plop it into the soup, the ball will start to disintegrate and break up (I did this with the first two, so that's why my broth has bits of broken up balls in it, all the other balls stayed together nicely).   It makes about 10 or so balls.  It is getting just a little funny to me to keep writing about balls, but ok...Plop them all in then cover tightly and turn heat down to a simmer for 20 minutes. 

And here is a nice bowl with three balls:

Ok, ok, I'll stop.  Anyhoo, Wha-la!  Easy Vegan Matzo Ball Soup.  Happy Holidays!

Get Your Chips At Wegmans

Stock Your Pantry, Episode Two:

Get Your Chips At Wegmans!

I just discovered, with the help of a friend of a friend on Facebook, that store brand chocolate chips are often vegan.  I promptly rushed out to Wegmans, hoping that this would be true for their store brand chips (since their store brand products are great).  And, friends, it is!  Also, I checked another brand, an "artisan" chocolate called Scharffen Berger, which some of you may be familiar with.  Also vegan, meaning made with non-gmo soy lecithin instead of unnecessary milk based stabilizers.  The 6 oz semisweet and baking bars at Wegmans are $5 each, though this website lists a 3oz semisweet bar for $5, so rock on Wegmans with your five star self  I have taken the liberty to round up. 

If you haven't been to Wegmans, you must go.  Overall, their prices are excellent (but I never purchased meat/fish/dairy there, so I don't know about the prices on that stuff), it will not break the bank like, for example, Whole Foods. Wegmans has everything I want to eat.  They are a grocery store, a bakery, a restaurant, a great natural foods store, a mini kitchen wares store, a florist, a pharmacy...They stock everything from Tofutti Better Than Creme Cheese (um, they did run out like two weeks before Thanksgiving, though, good thing I already had mine) to black sesame seeds, crystallized ginger, you name it.  They have a HUGE organic section and you could do almost all your shopping there.  They carry Braggs Liquid Aminos near the soy in the organic section, which is also nice.  Their store brand stuff is GREAT, often better than the name brand competitors. 

It is always crowded, though, so expect to take a few extra seconds to park and do expect to be there a while.  You might have to wait behind someone with a "big order" or some rowdy toddlers in the check-out line, so don't have a fit, it's worth it!  If you go at like 2pm, right before school gets out, it's usually ok for like 30 minutes :-)  If you can go late, right before it closes, you will probably do well, or at 6am when it opens, probably also good. Let me know if you find a great time to go.  It is way worth the drive over the bridge from Philly, so common' over Philly people, and stock up.

Ok, enough of this commercial for Weggies.  Get out there and Stock Your Pantry.  Seriously, they have everything.  You need that vital wheat gluten to make Grandma Margies' Meatballs?  Or some aseptic tofu to make that Triple Orange Bread Pudding?  It's called Wegmans, people. 

And this concludes the Stock Your Pantry Series.  Just go to Wegmans.  Grandma Margie says so!

Just don't leave your list in the car.  Trust me. 

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Become A Flax Chicken

Stock Your Pantry, Episode One:

You want to be able to bake for the holidays, but you are going vegan or you ran out of eggs!  Problem solved.  Become a Flax Chicken.  First, you need some flaxseeds:

The brand doesn't really matter.  Bob's Red Mill makes organic ones (pictured above), Hodgson Mill makes them packaged in a box, etc.  Just get some.  I like the ground/milled ones so that you don't need to grind them yourself, but you could do that, too.  Keep them in the fridge or freezer (if you have room in there!).  I didn't know that until recently, so my first box of flaxseeds just sat in my pantry for a year, and honestly, they still seem fine.  I'm still here, basically unharmed, and the box is empty.  Go figure.

Anyway, my very first ever and now beloved vegan chocoate chip cookie called for ground flax, and I got permission to post the recipe.  They are crisp-chewy and almost candy-like, thin and delicious.  We are going to make them together, and I took pics to help you out.

Wheat-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies
It is from a fantastic vegan cookbook called Veganomicon.  Check it out.

1 3/4 cup oat flour (I always just use Old Fashoined Quaker Oats and grind them in the food processor)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup canola oil
1 tablespoon ground flaxseeds (yeah, baby, the SYP item is right here! This is going to be your "egg")
1/4 cup soy milk (I love Vanilla Silk or Eden Soy Organic Original, they are very different, though, so see what you like)
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 375.  So far, so good.

Now, in the bowl of your food processor, add the oats, just measure them in your dry measuring cups and put them right into the bowl with the metal blade attachement.  Also put in the baking soda and the salt, I just like to wizz it all together and wha-la, your dry ingredients are done:

If you have the oat flour, then just sift the ingredients together into a large bowl.

Ok, now, get a medium mixing bowl and in it, put your flaxseeds. Get your Teeny Tiny Wisk O' Doom, too.  Unless you haven't lost your Sir Whiskalot, that is. It will look like this:

Now, just wisk the flaxseeds and the soymilk together.  No big thing, nothing magical will happen, excepting that now you have become the unimaginable, you have become a FLAX CHICKEN!  You have laid your first flax egg (or maybe your 300th if you are a vegan already!).  Sorry to say, that for your first one, it is pretty liquidy (unlike some other flax/liquid mixes that use less liquid, like 2 or maybe 3 tablespoons per tablespoon of ground flax.  Then, you will then get an egg-white like consistency, but not in this recipe).
Then it will look like this:

I have thought about adding another tablespoon of ground flax to get a more egg-whitey consistency.  I think I will try that next time.  Anyway, let us soldier on...

Now you are going to add the brown and granulated sugars and stir, add the vanilla and stir, and then, start adding the canola oil in a thin stream, wisking vigorously (really give the Tiny Wisk O' Doom or a bigger Sir Wiskalot a workout) until it is emulsified.  I find it takes a few minutes of adding the oil and wisking a lot (at least with the Tiny Wisk O' Doom, anyway).  Then it will look like this:

Now you are going to commit a baking faux pas, unless you want to dirty another bowl.  I always err on the side of NOT dirtying another bowl, so, my true bakers, please turn your heads...
Add the dry ingredients into the wet ones (NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! But, a tiny voice says, yes!! Do it!! It will be fine!).  Mix them around.  It will look like this:

Now, get out your cookie scoop (a medium Oxo scoop  if you want to know what I use) and plop those bad boys on your silpat or on a greased cookie sheet (Veganomicon says ungreased, but I don't like to take chances, these cookies are crisp-chewy and candy-like, and I have had them stick), like so:

And bake them in your 375 degree oven for about 10-12 minutes.  You will see the edges start to brown slightly, they are done when you see that.  Take them out and let them cool for about 5 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool the rest of the way:

If you try to take them off the sheet too early, they may tear, so wait the full 5 minutes!  I get 18 cookies using that medium oxo scoop.

Congratulations!  You have vegan cookies for the holidays and you have Stocked Your Pantry with some very useful ground flaxseeds.  A nice seasonal variation that I have tried is to sub 1/4 tsp of orange extract plus 3/4 tsp of vanilla extract (instead of the 1 tsp vanilla extract in the original recipe) and adding dried, organic cranberries (about 1/3 to 1/2 cup) and reducing the chocolate chips to 1/2 cup. 


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Stock Your Pantry Series...Coming Soon!

Take a little "sip" of  Vegan Fazool with the upcoming Stock Your Pantry (SYP) series!  Add to your vegan pantry with great recipes that will use a handy, vegan pantry item.  Hopefully, this will make your life, and your shopping trip, easy.  More posts to come...

Monday, December 6, 2010

A Welcome To All Eaters

Let me explain a bit about the way I look at cooking and eating.  To me, there is a continuous spectrum of eaters, from the I-eat-everything-and-anything omnivore to the vegan with multiple food allergies or sensitivities.   We all have reasons for eating the way we do (culture, tradition, taste, health issues, the list is a long one).  I would like to formally invite and welcome ALL eaters and not just vegans to visit, post on, and otherwise enjoy this blog without fear of negativity from others.  I will do my best to moderate the comments, and to try to provide the most accurate information I can when I give information.  Please respect this when posting to this blog, and we will all learn a lot about each other and about great food. 

In case you are wondering, I fall close, but not completely, into the plant based part of the food spectrum, eating about 90 to 95% plant based foods, and maybe 5-10% or less of animal products (mostly as ingredients cooked or baked into something vegetarian, like a frozen veggie product that may have egg powder in it, and we do order a regular cheese pizza sometimes).  I don’t buy any animal products (meats, fish, dairy, eggs, milk, yogurt etc.) and I don’t cook with them. There are also social situations that call for flexibility in my diet and I am willing to be flexible when needed.  There are social situations where I will eat completely vegetarian to work with my host or hostess when they are kindly and generously accommodating my dietary choices.  For Thanksgiving, my mother made an amazing vegetarian feast for my family, which did include animal products (but no meat of any kind) and we were extremely grateful and enjoyed it very much.  I will also eat a modified list of specific, most environmentally viable seafood (mostly mollusks, not actual fish) if that is what can be offered to me when at a guest’s home in lieu of other meats.  I let my son eat pizza.  But his packed lunch from me is vegan.  I educate others gently and at a pace that is comfortable for them if they are interested in learning more about plant based foods and recipes.  And I love this.

Let’s be honest.  Folks eat meat and animal products because they taste good, they know how to cook them well, and they are comfortable with them.  Animal products are a huge part of our culinary, cultural and social traditions.  I respect that.  I was an omnivore for decades, and I totally and completely get it.  What I have learned through much research, is that the direction that factory farming has taken has undermined not only the quality of modern animal products and meats (I have met many people, my father included, who agree that chicken, turkey, beef, etc. don’t taste nearly as good as they used to years ago) but our personal and public health as well.  Since last year when I started eating plants exclusively, I lost 17 pounds and my husband lost 30.  No exercise people!  My digestion has improved and I now realize I have pretty noticeable sensitivities to dairy and processed white flours, which I never fully realized before (because I was eating them all the time).  I have perfect blood pressure, my cholesterol is good, and I have no guilt related to supporting farming practices that I don’t agree with (both for the animals at the farm and the workers trying to make a living by working at those farms).  I had to relearn (some of) how to cook and completely restocked my pantry, but this was a process I enjoyed and continue to enjoy.  So, a plant based diet is working for me right now.

Also, I do support small family farms doing things the right way.  I know of a few.  If you folks know some as well, please post them so that they get the support they need to continue doing things right. 

Welcome to my blog, please feel free to comment, ask questions, and share anything that is on your mind about food, cooking, or anything else.

I look forward to it.


Sunday, December 5, 2010

Triple Orange Bread Pudding

I really felt like bread pudding the other day, but couldn't find a vegan recipe for one quickly enough.  My version is based loosely on a recipe from The Joy of Cooking, my very first cookbook.

Triple Orange Bread Pudding

3 to 5 cups diced fresh bread or 3 ½ cups stale bread or stale cake
3 cups of soy milk (I used half unflavored and half vanilla flavored, you could use all of one or the other)
¼ tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder  
½ tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp orange extract
1/8 to ¼ tsp ground ginger
¼ to ½ tsp cinnamon (freshly grated is best)
1/8 to ¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg

12 oz. of Firm Silken Tofu (The "aseptic" kind.  Mori-Nu is a good brand, comes in a box, isn’t refrigerated in the store)
1/3 to ½ cup granulated sugar
½ tsp more of vanilla extract
Grated zest of one small orange
Juice from that same orange

½ cup organic raisins
½ cup of chocolate chips
1 tbsp organic Turbinado sugar (could use regular sugar, too)
1 tbsp vegan margarine (like Earth Balance or Smart Balance)
More freshly grated nutmeg & cinnamon.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter a 9x9 or 8x8 inch baking dish.  Cut bread into 1 inch cubes and put in a large, wide-mouthed bowl.   

Put your liquid ingredients and some of the dry ingredients (soy milk through nutmeg) into a large, 4 cup measuring cup (cup then doubles as a small bowl) or a bowl if you don’t have the big measuring cup, and wisk them together to incorporate. 

Pour the soy milk mixture over the bread and let it sit for at least 15 minutes.

In the meantime, put the tofu through orange juice into your food processor and blend until smooth.  Then, pour it over the bread mixture and gently stir it all together.  Stir in raisins and/or chocolate chips if you like. 

Sprinkle the top with the Turbinado or regular sugar and dollop with bits of margarine (I use Earth Balance).  Sprinkle some more freshly grated nutmeg & cinnamon on top:

Bake at 350 for 50-60 minutes until the pudding is set and a toothpick comes out clean (it will still be moist).  Serve with any of the following: fresh fruit, cashew crème, maple syrup, vegan sausages & bacon, or whatever else you feel like eating.  Enjoy!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Grandma Margie's "Meatballs"

I made these as a solution to not really loving any of the other recipes I have tried for "meatballs," and really wanting a version of my mom's traditional meatballs.  The trick is toasting and then processing the pine nuts.  These taste so much like my mom's!!

Grandma Margie’s “Meatballs:"

¼ cup + about a tablespoon pine nuts (a 1.75 oz, whole, small glass container) toasted and processed into crumbs in a food processor
½  a yellow onion, minced
½ cup golden or regular raisins, coarsely chopped if they are large (I used Trader Joe’s Jumbo Raisin Medley, these are some giant raisins!)
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
1 15 oz can of white beans, or two cups cooked
1 cup cooked or canned pinto beans
Juice from about ½ a lemon
About ¼ cup fine bread crumbs (plain)
About ¼ cup vital wheat gluten
½ tsp Kosher salt
1/8 tsp freshly ground pepper (I just grind a bunch into the mixture)
¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil (for the bean balls)
And, olive oil for frying

Makes about 25 to 30 small “meat” balls.

In a dry, stainless steel frying pan on medium heat, toast the pine nuts until they are light brown (about 5 minutes or less) stirring constantly.  Once the fat from the pine nuts starts to render, they can easily burn.  Remove from heat and let cool.  Pulse pine nuts in a food processor into fine crumbs.  Set aside in a medium bowl.

Add some oil (about a teaspoon) to the same frying pan.  Sautee copped onion and raisins together with a bit of salt and a few grinds of red pepper flakes (or about 1/8 tsp. if you don’t have the grinder) about 3-4 minutes until onion is soft (but not brown) and raisins are plump.  Put into that same medium bowl with the pine nuts. 

Put the beans and the lemon juice in a separate, large, shallow bowl and mash them with a fork or a potato masher until no whole beans are left (or very few!).  Add the rest of the ingredients, stirring well with a fork to incorporate.  It will look, no doubt, exactly like traditional meatball mix.

Using a medium Oxo scoop (1 ½ tbsp) scoop out and roll mixture into your hand, then rolling them into proper balls, placing them on a dish to get them ready to fry up:

Heat a generous amount (about 2-3 tablespoons) of olive oil in a large, non-stick skillet on medium heat.  Add the beanballs when the oil is hot but not smoking.  They should sizzle but not spit hot oil when you put them in.  Cook about 8-9 minutes, carefully turning them so they brown evenly on all sides.  They are delicate, but will definitely hold up.  Drain them on a plate with paper towels when they are done.  I do mine in two batches.   Serve with Marinara sauce and pasta or in a hoagie, sub, wedge, etc.

This pic would have looked a  lot better with some chopped parsley and a lemon wedge, but oh well! 
Looking very forward to any feedback or suggestions!  Enjoy!

Friday, December 3, 2010

A Celebration

To celebrate finally starting this blog that has existed in my head and heart for months, I am having a whiskey and pumpkin flavored soy milk drink, with freshly ground cinnamon and nutmeg on top:

Some background since this is my first post:
This blog is inspired by my mother and grandmother, both inventive, excellent cooks.  As a third generation Italian-American, my mother still bases many of her recipes on Italian tradition.  My grandparents were children of poor immigrants and labored hard and long to make a life in this country.  My mother and her siblings were raised without heat or hot water, but my grandfather had a huge and bountiful vegetable garden, fruit trees, and grape vines from which they would make many of their meals.  My grandmother baked bread, donuts, cookies, cakes and pies from whatever she could scratch together, she made tomato sauce from the garden tomatoes, the milkman delivered the milk to the door, and meat was a luxury.  Sometimes they ate squirrel.

Now, modern factory farming makes meat and animal products plentiful and cheap.  However, the cost of using and consuming these products is taking its toll, on our personal health, our public health, our economy and the environment.  I choose plant based foods for my family and I also choose to honor the traditions of my foremothers.  Hence, Vegan Fazool.  I hope you enjoy it.