September 19, 2017

Bold Flavored Vegan Cooking: cookbook review



Once you start cooking from Bold Flavored Vegan Cooking: Healthy Plant-Based Recipes With a Kick, you will never complain about bland vegan food again. Whether you're looking to spice up your own diet, or prepare fabulous foods to impress omnivore family and friends who may think vegan food is boring, Celine's newest recipe collection will provide the recipes you need to create beautiful and seriously flavorful vegan food.

Do you need your food to be gluten-free, soy-free or oil-free? Or are you in a hurry and need a fabulous dish you can make in 30 minutes? Celine has you covered with clearly marked instructions that make it easy to find the kinds of recipes you're looking for. In addition to instructions for creating the sumptuous dishes, there's a generous section called Staples, with directions for making homemade versions of, in Celine's words, "striking spice mixes, umami-packed broth, bright and tangy finishing sauces, and more." I admit to being someone who typically eats a pretty simple diet, and maybe you are, too, but when you are craving a flavor-intense meal, this is the book you need.

We tried several of the recipes, and were not disappointed. The first one we sampled was Tamarind Miso Soup, and it was an eye-opener. The tamarind paste completely changed the flavor of the vegetable-packed soup from what we were used to. I wish my photo had turned out as well as the soup, but, unfortunately it did not, so words will have to suffice.


Next, we sampled Smoky Kale and Chickpeas With Miso Peanut Drizzle. I think we've had this at least three times since receiving the book. Need I say more? Seduced by the great flavor and ease of preparation, we had to force ourselves to move on and try other recipes. I think this will become a standard in our dining repertoire. (You can find the recipe reprinted on The Vegan 8 blog.)



The next selection was Five-Spice Teriyaki Bowl, served over gluten-free buckwheat noodles, and cooked by my husband. He must have neglected to read Celine's recipe introduction warning about the "warm, yet pungent licorice-like flavor of five-spice powder." She cautioned about star anise and fennel haters, of which I AM ONE, but he added the full two teaspoons of five-spice to the pot anyway. This was his first (and maybe last) time cooking with five-spice powder. It didn't end well. The dish was beautiful and 'fragrant', and even though I only had one mouthful before exhibiting intense irrational behavior, I could tell that others might find it excellent. My husband sure liked it. I've been trying for years to teach myself to like anise and fennel, but I'm not there yet. I could have enjoyed a quarter or possibly even a half teaspoon, but not two. Not two. Remember, you can always adjust the seasonings you're adding to a dish to accommodate your personal preferences.



Last night I made Red Curry Veggies, and we loved it. One of the reasons I chose the recipe was because it featured green beans, and we had a bagful of fresh green beans from our son and daughter-in-law's garden. I also had a zucchini from my neighbor's garden which I used instead of the eggplant in the recipe, and a few pieces of leftover air-fried tofu from the night before which I threw in just because. The curry was excellent, and will probably show up at our next meal for company.

I'm looking forward to trying more of the recipes from Bold Flavored Vegan Cooking. 

Author Celine Steen, is the talented writer, recipe creator and photographer behind the popular vegan blog, Have Cake Will Travel, as well as the author or co-author, and photographer of 12 vegan cookbooks including The Complete Guide to Vegan Food Substitutions, Whole Grain Baking, and Vegan Sandwiches Save the Day.

Disclaimer: I received the book from the publisher free of charge. I was not paid to write the review. All opinions are my own.

June 13, 2017

Date Lady coconut caramel sauce

I've mentioned previously that I don't have much of a sweet tooth. My idea of sweet is usually another person's idea of 'not too sweet'. I didn't eat much candy growing up — because I didn't like it. I remember once finding a box of Valentine's Day chocolates I'd been given by a boyfriend, stuffed away into a drawer, a year later. A few of the chocolates were missing, however, because before stashing the box away, I'd searched for, and eaten, the caramel-filled chocolates. Caramel was the one candy I liked. Maybe that's why I like dates so much — they are reminiscent of caramel, and work well for making a vegan, vanilla-spiked caramel sauce, and giving baked goods a hint of caramel flavor. When I was offered a sample jar of Date Lady coconut caramel  sauce, what could I say but yes?

Date Lady's new syrup is not only easy to use and delicious, it's made from natural, organic, GMO-free, gluten-free ingredients. The sauce starts with a base of 67% organic dates and then includes organic coconut cream, organic vanilla extract and baobab powder.



"'From the beginning, we have always wanted to produce a caramel sauce that was made with traditional ingredients and methods,' said Colleen Sundlie, President, Date Lady. 'Our initial Date Lady Caramel Sauce was a top-seller, but we had trouble wrapping our head around the fact that we couldn’t get a detailed ingredient list for the organic flavoring. So, we decided to move forward and take on the challenge of creating new recipes using only food to create rich and creamy flavors.'"


I tried my syrup on a scoop of mint chocolate chip coconut ice cream. The syrup's flavor straight from the jar is rich, dark and delicious, with a velvety taste of coconut cream, but I'm afraid the flavor was a bit overpowered by the sweetness and mintiness of the ice cream. I was wishing I had vanilla ice cream to try instead, but, it's possible ice cream may be too sweet for the syrup to be its best.



I was thinking I needed something more cake-like to really showcase the flavor ... or maybe a waffle. And yes, it was perfect on the waffle, eliciting an enthusiastic "mmmmm" from both my husband and myself. I think it would be excellent drizzled over a bundt cake or on top of a muffin. Any slice of plain cake would be transformed with a bit of Date Lady coconut caramel sauce.

Normally $7.99, the coconut caramel sauce will be featured in a one-day flash sale on June 15 for $5. This would be the perfect time to grab a jar, and enjoy a bit of the luxurious topping. 

DATE LADY COCONUT CARAMEL SAUCE ($8.99, 11OZ. JAR)
100% Organic, Vegan, Gluten Free, Non-GMO
Ingredients: Date syrup, Coconut Cream (coconut, water), Coconut Oil, Vanilla Extract, Baobab Powder, Pectin, Sea Salt

I was given a free jar of coconut caramel sauce for review purposes. I was not paid for my review. All opinions are my own.

June 09, 2017

Everyday Vegetarian, cookbook review and recipe

Reprinted with permission from Time Inc. Books, a division of Time Inc. New York, NY. 
All rights reserved.

I usually only accept vegan cookbooks for review, but I made an exception for Everyday Vegetarian for several reasons. The book, by the editors of Cooking Light, contains more than 150 vegetable-centric dishes using easy-to-find ingredients. Although only 20 percent of the recipes are vegan, most experienced vegans could easily turn a majority of the other recipes vegan by a simple substitution or two — rice syrup instead of honey; plant milk, vegan butter or vegan cheese instead of dairy, etc. The recipes are straightforward, easy to follow, and each recipe is accompanied by an appetizing full-color photo.

So why am I reviewing a vegetarian cookbook? (No, I'm NOT a newly minted ex-vegan. No, no, no — never!) Vegetarianism and veganism seem to be on an upswing right now. More and more restaurants are offering vegan options, and more people than ever are expressing curiosity about plant-based and vegetarian diets. However, even when the interest is present, changing one's diet can seem like an insurmountable task without some sort of gentle introduction. Not everyone wants to be hit over the head with a 'be-vegan-or-else' mandate. Some folks prefer to ease into change more slowly. Lots of vegans, myself included, were vegetarians for a few years before becoming vegan. People give up animal products for different reasons. For some it's for health, others care deeply about reducing animal suffering, some might become plant-based for the environment. Some embrace multiple reasons for dietary change.  I try to accept people at whatever dietary stage they are, and help them move forward, which is why I'm reviewing Everyday Vegetarian; I think it's a great stepping stone to helping people move towards a vegetarian, and hopefully, vegan diet. Or just to add more plant-based meals to the menu.

No matter what their dietary motives are, I'd guess most people want their food to taste great, and that is where Everyday Vegetarian steps in.  Written by the editors of Cooking Light, it brings creative, colorful, delicious vegetarian and vegan cooking expertise into an already popular, mainstream cooking forum. I think it would be an extremely appealing cookbook not just for established vegetarians and vegans, but esprcially for those just starting to incorporate more plant-based choices into their diet. The people who are looking to make plant-centric changes to their diet, no matter how small those changes start out, are the perfect target audience for Everyday Vegetarian. (Note that the cookbook doesn't address food sensitivities so you will have to make your own adjustments to the recipes if you must, or choose to, avoid certain ingredients. I'm used to adjusting recipes for my own dietary needs so this isn't an issue for me, but I wanted to mention it for those who might be interested.) While easy cooking methods and familiar ingredients are emphasized, the authors also encourage readers to be open to trying new ingredients and flavors. For those just venturing into the whole foods, plant-based cooking experience, a description of ingredients and where to find them is helpfully included.

Asian stir-fry quinoa bowl - photo by Andrea

I have to say, I was delighted with the recipes I tried. They were easy, beautiful and delicious. The vegan recipe for Asian stir-fry quinoa bowl was so good, belying its everyday ingredients and simple preparation. It looked and tasted great — I loved it.  The main thing we did differently was cook the tofu in the air fryer — just because we love our air fryer so much, but that's certainly not a requirement for the excellent recipe!

Roasted cauliflower and chickpea whole wheat spaghetti bowl - photo by Andrea

We also tried roasted cauliflower and chickpea whole wheat spaghetti bowl — another seemingly simple vegan recipe with outstanding flavor. As I mentioned earlier, the recipes don't take food sensitivities into account, but if you are used to making adjustments for your own health and taste preferences, it shouldn't be a problem. For example, instead of whole wheat spaghetti, I subbed quinoa spaghetti to accommodate my gluten intolerance. And a sweet pepper was used instead of a chile pepper, because that's what we had. Next time, it will be a chile pepper.

There are so many more recipes I want to try, such as one pot green curry stew with potatoes and cauliflower, black bean cakes with ginger and cilantro cream, whole roasted carrots with black lentils and green harissa, tempeh with charred peppers and kale, etc., etc.

If you are looking to add more plant-based recipes to your diet, Everyday Vegetarian is a cookbook I recommend. If you're already vegetarian or vegan, you'll find lots of wonderful recipes to inspire you.

I have permission from the publisher to share the recipe for roasted cauliflower and chickpea whole wheat spaghetti bowl with you. Hope you try it and enjoy it as much as we did.

Reprinted with permission from Time Inc. Books, a division of Time Inc. New York, NY. 
All rights reserved.

Roasted cauliflower and chickpea whole wheat 
spaghetti bowl Hands-on: 35 minutes Total: 35 minutes Serves 4

This one-bowl meal is an ideal option for healthy meals on the go; It comes together quickly and can be made ahead. It gets wonderful texture from the chickpeas and cauliflower, nuttiness from the whole-wheat pasta, and rich umami flavor from the miso and tahini. You’ll find the miso paste in the refrigerated produce section and tahini in the international aisle.

  • 1 small head cauliflower, broken into 1-inch florets (about 31/2 cups)
  • 1 (15-ounce) can unsalted chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons white miso paste
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 6 ounces uncooked whole-wheat spaghetti
  • ½ cup firmly packed parsley leaves
  • 1 red chile pepper, thinly sliced

1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Combine the cauliflower, chickpeas, oil, black pepper, and salt in a large bowl. Spread the mixture in a single layer on a baking sheet; bake at 425°F for 20 minutes or until the cauliflower is tender and lightly browned.
2. Place ¼ cup water, miso, tahini, lemon juice, and garlic in a mini food processor; process until smooth.
3. Prepare the pasta according to the package directions, omitting the fat and salt. Drain. Divide the noodles evenly among 4 bowls. Top evenly with the cauliflower mixture. Drizzle evenly with the miso dressing; top evenly with the parsley and sliced chile. 


Excerpted from Everyday Vegetarian by the editors of Cooking Light. Copyright © 2017 Oxmoor House. Reprinted with permission from Time Inc. Books, a division of Time Inc. New York, NY. All rights reserved. 
..............................................................................................................

EVERYDAY VEGETARIAN: A Delicious Guide for Creating More Than 150 Meatless Dishes by the editors of Cooking Light (Oxmoor House, May 16, 2017, $21.95) was sent to me at no cost. I was not paid for my review. All opinions about the book are my own.

May 25, 2017

Baking experiments etc.



I sat down to write a post about my pizza and bread baking experiments with a few air fryer photos thrown in, but when I went through my last few posts to make sure I wasn't repeating myself, the fry photos attacked me, and I had no choice but to give in and make a batch. At least I know my blog is inspiring somebody, even if it's only me. The fries have a half teaspoon of oil, a sprinkle of coarse salt and too many crushed red peppers. They were delicious, yes, but a little too spicy for me, and now my nose is running. I guess it's a small price to pay for fries-on-demand. I usually make them sans oil but wanted to see if they would be a lot different if I used some. Maybe a little different, but I like them so much plain that I think I'll stick to that method when air frying for myself.



About a month ago I started experimenting again with making gluten-free pizza crust. You can see the results above, topped with mozzarella made from the recipe in Miyoko Schinner's book, The Homeade Vegan Pantry. It was a crust raised with baking powder but not yeast. After I made it I watched a video about applying science to gluten free baking, specifically pizza, and was surprised that I'd added most of the recommended ingredients on my own. I felt so scientific, and intended to take it to the next level, but it never happened. (The ingredients included: Bob's Red Mill GF flour mix, millet flour, coconut flour, psyllium husks, sugar, baking powder, salt, almond flour, flax eggs, water.) Before making the dough, I'd thought about what ingredients I should add, and why I was adding them. The crust was good, but not great. After watching the video, I decided to increase certain ingredients and add additional ones, and now I'm trying to  inspire myself to try it again tonight, so perhaps there will be an update soon. Sadly, I don't have homemade mozzarella, but I'll just make a cheese sauce. The aforementioned video said to make the dough very wet, spread it on a pizza pan, bake it in a slow oven for 45 minutes to dry it out, then let it cool while preheating the oven to 425˚F. Add the toppings and bake about 15 minutes. I'll have to watch the video again, but the long, double baking time might exceed my attention span. Perhaps I will selectively incorporate ideas from the video.



I discovered an interesting thing about the pizza while heating up the leftovers. I used my air fryer to heat the leftover slices, and they improved dramatically — becoming crisp on the bottom and chewy inside, just as they should be. Maybe there is something to that scientific double baking time.

As for the cheese, it takes two days to make the mozzarella, but once the ingredients are mixed and cooked, it practically makes itself. Most of the time is just waiting for the cheese to ripen. The recipe is called oil-free melty "mozzarella," and I made the sauerkraut juice version. I recommend it, but would probably make the Rejuvelac version next time.



In addition to making pizza with the homemade mozzarella, I also made a vegan version of poutine. I've never actually had poutine made with cheese curds and gravy, so I can't speak to how my version compares, but I can tell you, with mushroom gravy and mozzarella, it was damn fine (as Agent Cooper would say). I swear, if my air fryer ever breaks, I will immediately replace it.


Along with my pizza trials, I revisited the buckwheat-millet nut-and-seed bread that has appeared on the blog periodically — here, here, and here. I've slowly been making changes to the recipe, and when I'm satisfied, I'll post a revised version. The original, unyeasted, naturally leavened loaf is still delicious, but I've been working on a yeasted version in an attempt to make the texture lighter. My husband recently had some dental work done that requires him not to eat nuts or seeds for a month, so the bread is on hold for a couple more weeks. I can't eat the whole loaf by myself.



Here are a few more random dishes made with the aid of the air fryer. (Baking in the oven or frying in a pan are alternatives to the air fryer.) When I air fry tofu, I find it most efficient to cut the tofu into strips, then cube it after it's done. So here's what it looks like before I turn it into a recipe. (It takes a lot of will power to not just eat it as is.)



Fancier-than-usual miso soup, or any miso soup, is always welcome at our house. I love to add air fried tofu to miso soup.



Vegetables and (air fried) tofu with peanut sauce is a fast option when we're too tired or lazy to think of something new for dinner. My husband found a recipe called almost instant peanut sauce on the Forks Over Knives Web site that was surprisingly delicious, and turned a simple dish into a wonderfully satisfying meal.

My dog is patiently waiting for me to take her for a walk, so I'm going to conclude my post here. I'm working on a cookbook review, and a new product review which I hope to finish soon. 

April 29, 2017

Braised greens with tofu, cashews and raisins, with polenta



I tend to try a recipe, love it, and never make it again. If my husband, on the other hand, tries a recipe and likes it, he makes it again and again until neither of us can stand the sight of it. That's what happened to the recipe I'm sharing today, twice, but he made it recently and, unsuspecting, I tasted it and said, "this is delicious, what is it?"

It seemed vaguely familiar, and turned out to be a recipe I had posted back in 2008, and again in 2012. With some minor changes to the ingredients, I'm re-posting it again since we enjoyed it so much. I want to occasionally share some of the older recipes that have become buried in the archives, and this one deserves another look.

Braised greens with tofu, cashews and raisins, served over polenta (serves 2 to 3 adults)
 
The polenta

The polenta is based on a recipe from Passionate Vegetarian, by Crescent Dragonwagon. The author says it's an old Tuscan peasant recipe.
  • 1 cup course grind cornmeal (our co-op sells a bulk coarse grind labeled "polenta")
  • 3 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon salt, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast flakes (not brewers yeast powder), optional but recommended
  1. Oil a 3 quart oven-proof skillet or dish. Put all ingredients in the dish and mix together casually.
  2. Put the dish, uncovered, in a pre-heated 350˚ oven. Bake for 40 minutes, undisturbed. After 40 minutes, stir and bake 10 more minutes, if needed. Remove from oven and let sit for five minutes. Creamy, dreamy, heartwarming polenta. Mmm.
I always make the polenta in a 3 1/2 quart enameled cast iron casserole pan from Le Creuset. It's one of three pieces of the cookware I own, and it gets used nearly every day. Because the pan isn't supposed to go directly from cold to hot, I put the polenta in the oven when I turn it on to pre-heat, and start the timer when the oven reaches the correct temperature. Lately, I've been making the polenta in my Instant Pot, but if you don't have an Instant Pot, the oven method is foolproof and easy.

the braised greens with tofu, cashews and raisins

Based on a recipe that I think was from the NY Times, but I'm not sure. The inspiration may have come from Parade Magazine.

  • 1 pound collard greens (I used a large bunch - no idea what it weighed) (or you can use kale, which was in the original version of the recipe)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil or low sodium veg broth
  • 1/2 pound extra firm tofu, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 teaspoon tamari
  • 1/4 cup cashews
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs (one slice of bread should be about right- use gluten-free bread if desired)
  • 1/4 cup raisins (I use dried cranberries when making this dish for a certain raisin-hater)
  • 1/2 cup sliced fresh mushrooms (shiitake are recommended)
  • one good sized carrot, peeled and finely grated
  • 1/2 teaspoon natural sugar
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (unseasoned)
  • salt to taste, as needed
  • freshly ground black pepper
  1. Wash greens, remove any thick stems, coarsely chop and set aside the leaves.
  2. Place the tofu cubes in a small bowl and drizzle with one teaspoon tamari. Toss to coat all the cubes. Let sit five minutes.
  3. Heat one tablespoon oil in wok or skillet. Add the tofu cubes and cook over high heat until browned.*
  4. Turn the heat down. Add the mushrooms, cashews and bread crumbs and sauté until they are lightly browned. Stir in the raisins. Remove mixture from pan and set aside.
  5. Add the other tablespoon of oil to pan, add the shredded carrot, increase heat to high and add the greens. Stir to mix, then cover and cook about three minutes until the greens have wilted but are still bright green. (Be careful not to burn them.)
  6. Reduce heat, stir in sugar and vinegar, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the tofu mixture. Spread over polenta and serve.
Sometimes I spread the polenta on a large serving platter and arrange the veggies 'decoratively' on top. You can garnish with parsley and olives if desired.

*I used my air fryer to fry the tofu without oil. I let the tofu cook while I prepared and cooked the rest of the dish, and added it at the end. The tofu takes about 20 to 30 minutes in the air fryer. Low sodium vegetable stock was used to sauté the veggies.

The whole vegetable part takes about 15-20 minutes including prep time, so plan accordingly so you can have the veggies and polenta finish cooking about the same time.

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