January 19, 2017

BetaOats: "A non-dairy yogurt-style experience"



I recently had the opportunity to sample a new, fermented, yogurt-like product being made in the Seattle area. BetaOats is 100% vegan, probiotic, gluten free non-GMO, high in beta-glucan, high in oat fiber, soy and coconut free, allergen free.

Here's what the BetaOats creators have to say about their product on their Web site: "Oats are a superfood. Not only are oats delicious, but they are healthful. They are 100% whole grain, packed with soluble fiber beta-glucan, and rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. People from around the world have been using oats as a staple in their diets in various forms. A traditional method of fermenting oats, found in many cultures, produces a yogurt-like product, enhanced in flavor and nutritional value. Such fermented cereal yogurt-type snacks are called vellies.

At BetaOats we revitalize this old tradition and deliver a delightful and healthy oat-based experience to our customers. We work hard to make a product that will blow your mind with its goodness. It's all natural. It's free of gluten and dairy. It's a delicious probiotic. There is nothing not to love about it. Hungry already? Grab BetaOats and enjoy this guilt free mouthwatering snack.

Each package of our oat vellie contains 6.5 oz of oat goodness, prepared with only the essential natural ingredients, no preservatives or gmo's. Naturally high in beta-glucan, BetaOats vellie combines the beneficial live bacterial cultures of fermented oats, the creaminess of your favorite yogurt, and the refreshing flavor of tree-ripened fruit sourced from the Hood River Valley in Northern Oregon."



I loved the taste and texture of the product. It didn't have the tang or consistency of yogurt, but was more pudding-like, with a thickened, velvety quality. Although the number of grams of sugar seems high, the taste wasn't overly sweet. It was a perfect balance of tart berries and sweetness.



It's true I enjoyed my sample cups of BetaOats, but I tend not to buy foods with added sugar, and I usually avoid additives like xanthan gum. BetaOats seemed more like a dessert to me, and as such would probably be a much healthier dessert choice than most sweet products people select — especially for kids. It was extremely appealing in both taste and texture, very low in fat, and is a good source of probiotics.

I realize that sweetened yogurts are extremely popular, and it's usually easier to find a sweet variety than an unsweetened one. Everyone has their own opinion about what should or shouldn't be in their food, which is why I provide ingredient and  nutritional information about products I review, as well as information about taste and appeal.



If you live in the PNW, and have access to Vegan Haven in Seattle, or Marlene's Market in Tacoma or Federal Way, you can try the delicious, new BetaOats. Or, if Beta Oats appeals to you, and you can't find it in a store, you could request that your local stores (PCC?, Whole Foods?) begin to carry it.

Have you tried BetaOats? Would you be interested in a product like this?

Disclosure:  I was provided with two free cups of BetaOats to try. All opinions are my own except as stated in the review. I wasn't paid for my time or opinion.

December 30, 2016

Texas Caviar (black-eyed pea salsa) for good luck in the New Year



Just popping in for a few minutes to wish you a Happy New Year and share a recipe I've been making for New Year's Day for longer than I can remember. Eating black-eyed peas is supposed to bring luck in the new year. I first posted the recipe here in 2007, and periodically, when I can remember, ever since. We love it, and I'll be making it again this year, because, who can turn down the possibility of a little extra good luck. Especially now. And because it tastes great! You can find the original post, here.

In other news, if you have some free time over the next few days, I can recommend a couple of good movies we just saw. Both Fences and Jackie were terrific films, Fences being particularly profound. If staying home and binge-watching (while scooping up Texas caviar) is more your style, I highly recommend The Crown and Rectify. Rectify, just so you know, is incredibly intense viewing with extraordinary acting. We're currently binge-watching Last Tango in Halifax, and while it started out wonderfully pleasant, it's gotten a bit heavy-duty, though we still like it a lot.

 

Texas Caviar
  • 2 cans black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained
  • 4 scallions, finely sliced
  • 3 jalapenos, minced. Use fewer if you don't enjoy  spicy food. If you hate heat, use a mild pepper instead of jalapeño. I use 3 and the spice is mild, in my opinion.
  • 1/4 cup dried (or fresh) tomato, chopped, or 1/4 cup sweet red pepper, chopped.
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, minced. If you dislike cilantro, use parsley. Tastes great with parsley!
  • 1/4 cup olive oil,
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Fresh ground peppercorns
  1. Rinse and drain the beans.
  2. Place the beans in a shallow glass (or other non-reactive) dish with the scallions, cilantro, dried tomatoes and peppers.  
  3. Put the oil, vinegar, lime juice and salt in a one cup glass measuring cup, and mix together. Add the liquid to the bean mixture and combine. Cover and place in the refrigerator for a few hours or a few days. Stir occasionally to distribute the marinade evenly. 
  4. Grind some peppercorns over the top just before serving.
  5. Serve with substantial chips for scooping.
notes:
I used jalapenos from last summer's garden. I always freeze bags of whole, hot peppers from the garden or farmers market to use in cooking during the rest of the year. This was the first time I tried to use them uncooked. Couldn't tell they weren't fresh.

Fresh squeezed lime juice makes a superior salad but I would understand if you kept a bottle of lime juice (like Santa Cruz organic) in your refrigerator for "emergencies." The beans will still taste great.

I like to rinse and drain canned beans in a wire wok skimmer that I got in an Asian market years ago because I liked the way it looked. It's easier to clean than my fine mesh strainers and holds about one can of beans at a time.

This is an old recipe and I'll probably revise it to use less, or no oil. I'll update  if and when I do. Also, since I now have an Instant Pot, and cooking beans from scratch has become more fun, I'll probably use dried beans.

This year's beans, marinating.

..............................................................................................................

December 15, 2016

But My Family Would Never Eat Vegan: review and recipe for Maple-Miso Tempeh Cutlets

Printed by permission of the publisher, The Experiment.

So, vegans, have you ever had a friend tell you they would love to invite you for dinner but they have no idea what they could make? What they don't realize, is a lot of us feel the same way about them. We agonize over what vegan dishes we can make to appeal to our non-vegan family and friends. I feel pretty lucky that my non-vegan dinner guests have been extremely accepting (or at least they are good liars!) of my vegan cooking, but I still spend a lot of time thinking about what foods would be most appealing. If you're always trying to come up with tasty vegan foods for omnivorous guests, Kristy Turner has a solution for you. Her new cookbook, But My Family Would Never Eat Vegan, 125 Recipes to Win Everyone Over is filled with recipes meant to delight the non-vegan eater. Of course, we vegans benefit from her creativity, too! Not only are the recipes satisfying, the book itself is a beauty. It's easy to read, and filled with gorgeous photos by Kristy's husband, Chris. Follow my link to amazon.com and 'look inside the book' for a generous preview of Kristy's compendium of general cooking-related information, as well as many of her recipes. Then order a copy for your bookshelf!

Photo credit: Andrea Zeichner

I sampled four recipes when I received my copy. The first one I tried was Kung Pao Cauliflower. I was craving Chinese food, and Kristy's version of Kung Pao "chicken" was mighty appealing. After enjoying the dish myself, I can easily see serving it to family; I can't imagine anyone not liking it. It's supposed to have green onion strands beautifying the dish as a garnish, but unfortunately, I took the photo before remembering to add the onions, so just picture it delicately graced with green onions. Delish!

Photo credit: Andrea Zeichner

The next recipe to catch my attention was Mushroom-Kale Skillet Hash. The end result was toothsome, but I had a bit of a problem following the directions for this one. The potatoes kept sticking to the pan, and refused to crisp up, even though I turned the heat down and added a splash of broth, as directed. They also took forever to soften — maybe I had mutant potatoes. I eventually decided to cook the kale in a separate pan and add it to the potatoes after they were finally cooked, because it didn't look like there was any way the kale would soften in that potato-filled pan. It all worked out in the end, and although I ran into a bit of trouble during the preparation, we definitely loved the final result.

Photo credit: Andrea Zeichner

My next delicious recipe adventure was Chinese Chickpea Salad. I may have taken a few liberties with some of the salad ingredients, but nothing major. It looks like I added some arugula, and used peanuts instead of almonds — and the original recipe was topped with crumbled rice crackers, which I didn't have. However, the basic idea of crunchy salad with cabbage, toasted chickpeas and miso-ginger dressing is what matters, and it was perfect.

Photo credit: Andrea Zeichner

The last dish I'll show you is Maple-Miso Tempeh Cutlets — I've even got the recipe to share. Tempeh is one of those foods that some people, even vegans, don't like, but, if there's one tempeh recipe that might tempt the recalcitrant, this may be it. It was wonderful the day I made it, and great the next day as cold leftovers. I'm thinking of bringing it to a family dinner this weekend. Either this or the Chinese Chickpea Salad — or both! Do you have a favorite dish to make when cooking for non-vegan family and friends?

Kristy and her publisher have allowed me to share a recipe with you, and I've chosen the fabulous Miso-Maple Tempeh Cutlets. I hope you'll try it. As I mentioned earlier in the post, you can see more of Kristy's recipes by looking at her book on Amazon.

Photo credit: Chris Miller. Printed by permission of the publisher, The Experiment.
Maple-Miso Tempeh Cutlets
Serves 4// Prep Time: 5 Minutes // Active Time: 20 Minutes // Inactive Time: 20 Minutes
Though it would be nice if the whole family were cool with you replacing the turkey or ham or whatever poor animal has to be the centerpiece of the holiday meal with something vegan, that’s not likely to happen. Not right away, at least. What we always do is bring along a vegan main dish that’s just for us (and the other vegans/vegetarians at the gathering). The rest of the family can still have their traditional main dish and you don’t have to sacrifice your lifestyle choice. Although I could bring a store-bought faux meat dish, I like to bring something homemade (I’m going to get far fewer jokes about some tempeh than if I’m heating up a “tofurkey”). These tasty tempeh cutlets, glazed in a savory maple-miso sauce, are best enjoyed the day they’re prepared. If you need to prepare them somewhat in advance, steam the tempeh and prepare the sauce so that all you need to do on the day of is cook the cutlets in the sauce.
  • Two 8-ounce (225 g) packages tempeh ¼ cup (60 ml) low-sodium vegetable broth
  • ¼ cup (60 ml) liquid aminos (or gluten-free tamari)
  • ¼ cup (60 ml) maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons white soy miso (or chickpea miso)
  • 1 teaspoon dried sage
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  1. Chop each tempeh block in half horizontally, then chop each half diagonally so you
    have eight triangles. 
  2. Fill a large shallow saucepan with a couple of inches of water and fit with a stea
    mer basket. Place the tempeh triangles in the steamer basket and cover with a lid. Bring to a
    boil, then reduce to a simmer. Steam the tempeh for 15 to 20 minutes, flipping the triangles once halfway through. Remove the steamer basket from the pan (keep the tempeh in the basket) and set aside. 
  3. Dump the water from the saucepan. Combine the vegetable broth, liquid aminos, maple syrup, miso, sage, and thyme in the pan and stir to mix. Add the tempeh triangles
  4. and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to a low simmer. Let the tempeh simmer in the sauce for 10 to 12 minutes, flipping them once halfway through, until the sauce is absorbed and starts to caramelize. Remove from the heat and add salt and pepper. Serve immediately. Leftovers will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for 4 to 5 days.
Tip
For a killer Thanksgiving Leftovers Sandwich, slice one of the triangles width-wise so
that you have two thinner triangles. Use those in the sandwich.

Credit: Recipe from But My Family Would Never Eat Vegan!: 125 Recipes to Win Everyone Over 
© Kristy Turner, 2016. Reprinted by permission of the publisher, The Experiment. Available wherever books are sold. theexperimentpublishing.com

Disclosure: I received a free copy of the book for review. All opinions are my own. The blog post contains Amazon links.

December 05, 2016

Tofu short ribs and other inspirational blog finds



Back (way back) in the old days — probably before you were born — before I was a vegan or even a vegetarian, back when I lived in upstate New York, I had a good friend who introduced me to barbecued short ribs. I'm not going to lie about eating and enjoying the ribs, though the thought grosses me out now, but we shared many a barbecued dinner in those short-lived, short-ribbed days. When I became a vegetarian, the short ribs did cross my mind, as I traded them in for a kinder lifestyle. Just recently, the very same friend made a comment about the ribs from our barbecue days, on facebook, in regard to my current dietary preferences. I'll never go back to my pre-vegan diet, but you know, when I saw a recipe for tofu short ribs on Isa Chandra Moskowitz's new blog, well, I had to make them.

The ribs before cooking.

They are preferably made from super firm tofu, but regular tofu can be pressed, and used instead. I had so much regular tofu in the fridge I couldn't justify buying more, so I got out my press and went to work. I don't have a tofu press, but I have a Japanese salad press. It works great but it's so old I worry about what might be in the plastic. I use it so infrequently these days though, that I hope whatever toxic chemicals are in there won't have too much of an impact. The ribs turned out great but I think the extra chewiness that comes with extra firm tofu would be even better.

I didn't follow the sauce recipe exactly, but it was extremely delicious anyway. I made half the sauce recipe but, as you can see, there was still plenty of sauce. I also left out the hoisin sauce because I didn't have any. What I did instead was look up recipes for hoisin sauce, and incorporate the main flavors into the recipe. The sauce was fabulous, in spite of all my changes, though I'm sure the original was even better. The other great part of the recipe was the gingery mashed root veggies. I used parsnips, turnips, carrots, yukon gold potatoes, and a chunk of leftover butternut squash, which is not a root, I know, but I hate to waste food, and it was in the fridge. I left out the coconut oil but it was still fantastic. I didn't realize how delicious root vegetables could be, and they were easy to cook in my Instant Pot. As a bonus, I steamed the turnip greens and served them on the side for a little touch of green. I highly recommend you try Isa's recipe! Now.



Another recipe I was inspired to try was one for baked, oil-free-gluten-free hushpuppies. Coincidentally, the same friend who had introduced me to short ribs, also introduced me to old-fashioned, deep-fried hushpuppies. I never deep fry anything, so was delighted to find a recipe for baked hushpuppies. I followed the recipe pretty exactly but my hushpuppies didn't turn out quite as beautifully as the ones on the vegan 8 blog. Nor did my photo come anywhere close to Brandi's wonderful images. My husband and I really enjoyed eating the hushpuppies, even if they weren't as pretty as the originals, but next time I may not roll them in quite as much coating, since the extra coating was a little gritty. I do want to make them again, though.



I needed a quick, easy dessert recently, and my inspiration came from right here on this blog. My granddaughter, who is very picky, has always been a fan of the walnut date confections I posted about back in 2010. The original recipe came from Chow Vegan. When I made them this time, I didn't look back at the recipe so I didn't remember it was supposed to have coconut, and be made with almonds. Ironically, I didn't have walnuts OR almonds, so I used 1/2 cup almond flour to 1/2 cup packed medjool dates, and one teaspoon vanilla. I also added a teaspoon of water to give the food processor a hand. I rolled half the balls in cocoa powder and half in coconut, then refrigerated the caramel-tasting treats for a couple of hours to firm them up.  I especially liked the bitter taste of the cocoa powder next to the sweetness of the dates. For a little extra burst of flavor, mix a bit of flaked sea salt with the coconut before rolling the balls in it.

I had another food item to post but I'm tired of writing so it will have to wait for another day. Enjoy your week!

November 28, 2016

Thanksgiving 2016 — cranberry compote in the slow cooker



Our Thanksgiving dinner wasn't held at my house this year, so I could spend the whole day before Thanksgiving happily making cranberry sauce and desserts, and not worrying about the rest of the meal. In theory, anyway. In reality, the cranberry sauce making went on without a hitch, while everything else involved one mistake after another.

Instead of a traditional cranberry sauce, I based my cranberries on a recipe called Autumn Fruit Crock from Robin Robertson's cookbook, Fresh From the Vegan Slow Cooker. I had tested the recipe when Robin was writing her cookbook, and loved it. It reminded me exactly of the fall fruit compotes my grandmother and mother made when I was a child. Their compotes contained mainly fresh apples and pears, plus dried prunes and apricots. I think there also may have been pineapple. I used to make it, too, but had forgotten about until I saw Robin's recipe. For Thanksgiving this year, I adapted the recipe to make it more cranberry-centric, and cooked it in my Instant Pot using the slow cooker setting. Right up there with the deliciousness was the fact that once I put the ingredients into the cooker and turned it on, it required no input from me until it was done. Although I used an Instant Pot,  any old slow cooker would be perfect. (Recipe guideline at end of post.) I think everyone liked the cranberry compote better than the cranberries-plus-fruit I usually make for holidays.



With the cranberry sauce happily cooking itself, I turned to the pumpkin pie. It seems that every year since I lost my tried-and-true, perfect, easy pumpkin pie recipe, I try a new one, and this year was no different. I chose voluptuous pumpkin pie, which I saw on Isa Chandra — Isa Chandra Moskowitz's new blog. The recipe is from the Voluptuous Vegan. I used butternut squash, and followed the recipe closely. Though I don't know why it required four teaspoons of oil, I grudgingly added three teaspoons, but I've made great pies in the past and have never added oil to the filling. I wanted to follow the recipe as written, but when I make it again, I'm going to try it without the oil. Do you add oil to pumpkin pie? I like to sprinkle a ring of chocolate chips around the edge just after the pie comes from the oven, but whipped coconut cream, as shown in Isa's photo, would be great. Last year I accessorized my pie with vegan marshmallows.

The filling was pretty straight forward to make — it was the crust (my own recipe) that tried to trick me. I was carefully buzzing the crust ingredients in the food processor to get a workable pastry dough, and instead of adding a teaspoon a water at a time, I accidentally added about 1/3 cup! The dough immediately turned to mush, and I should have tossed it and started over, but I tried to save it by adding a lot of almond flour. I was eventually able to roll out a crust, more or less, and hoped for the best. The pie had to bake for 60 to 65 minutes and there was a warning to cover the crust if it started to brown too fast, but I managed to burn the crust in spite of the warning. It's a Thanksgiving miracle the pie was delicious!

The cake was not blurry in person.

One family member doesn't like pumpkin or cinnamon, so I made a banana cake, too. I used a recipe (more or less) from my blog. I say 'more or less' because I'm as likely to change my own recipes as anyone else's. The cake had been in the oven nearly 10 minutes when I glanced at the counter and saw the flax egg still in the measuring cup. I don't usually curse on the blog, but that's not necessarily the case in real life — especially when a crucial ingredient gets left out of a recipe. I grabbed the cake from the oven, and whipped in the flax with a fork, as best I could. Fortunately, it turned out great, in spite of my absent mindedness.

I forgot to bring my camera to the dinner so made due with my phone camera. There were a lot of dishes, and I didn't get photos of all — the photo of the lovely risotto was blurry, as was the photo of the second salad. And I missed the fabulous appetizer platter entirely — it got dismantled and consumed before I even blinked. But here are some of the other dishes:



There was a whole roasted cauliflower with harissa sauce.



And an arugula salad with roasted cauliflower! Roasted cauliflower was on everyone's mind this year.



Of course, no holiday meal would be complete without potato stuffing — or potato kugel. This year my son made the stuffing with extra buckwheat, and it tasted great! The original recipe, which came from Russia with my maternal great grandparents, was made with bread, but we now make it with buckwheat, a variation I picked up years ago when I was dabbling in a macrobiotic diet. It tastes great either way.



Here's my (first) plate. I hope that all of you who celebrate Thanksgiving, had a pleasant holiday. We did.



Cranberry compote in the slow cooker (guidelines)
Adapted from Autumn Fruit Crock in Fresh From the Vegan Slow Cooker by Robin Robertson.
The reason I refer to this as 'guidelines' rather than 'recipe' is because I didn't write down exactly what I did, and am relying on memory. However, you can do pretty much what you want, and adjust to your preferences. I like my cranberries tangy, but feel free to make them as sweet as you wish, and to change up the fruit. I recommend keeping the mango as it adds a lot of natural sweetness, requiring less sugar to be added. This is a great dish to serve anytime, any holiday — all fall and winter.
  • one-14oz box of fresh cranberries
  • two medium apples
  • one ripe pear
  • handful of dried apricots
  • handful of prunes or raisins
  • one cup of frozen mango
  • 1/4 cup (or more) dark sugar (I used coconut sugar)
  • 1/2 cup frozen orange juice concentrate
  • two tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup water
  • one teaspoon vanilla
  1. Dice all the fruit (except cranberries and raisins, if using) to approximate size of cranberries. I didn't peel my fruit.
  2. Add all ingredients, except vanilla, to a slow cooker.
  3. Cook on low 5-1/2 to 6 hours, until fruit is soft. (Depending on what variety of apples you choose, the apples may retain some firmness.)
  4. Add the vanilla and taste for sweetness.
  5. Chill before serving. Can be made the day before needed. Thickens more as it cools.
You can add a cinnamon stick to the pot before cooking. I have a cinnamon disliker in the family so I left it out. My compote turned out nice and thick, but if yours doesn't, cook a short while without the lid.

postscript: My thoughts and donations, especially at Thanksgiving, go out to the water protectors at the Dakota Access Pipeline.

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