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 grabbed the cake from the oven, and whipped in the flax with a fork, as best I could. 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.

November 17, 2016

Scattered thoughts and random food



I've been sadly disturbed during the recent election process. My angst started in the weeks before the vote, and increased dramatically after the election. I'm just starting to function again, but barely. I wanted to do a post Monday, but just couldn't get myself in gear. It's probably just as well I missed the deadline to sign up for mofo. I'm still feeding and walking the dog, so I'm not completely lost, but the election has taken a toll, so I'm reaching into my 'random' folder and posting photos of things we've eaten lately — or not so lately, starting with a nice, soothing lentil soup with shredded cabbage (above). I made it in the Instant Pot, which I wrote about here.



Speaking of the Instant Pot, I have to say, I still LOVE my Instant Pot. I recently bought a clear glass lid on sale at Amazon, and used the Pot as a slow cooker for the first time. First I cooked pinto beans at high pressure, using the Pot as a pressure cooker, then added the rest of the ingredients to make chipotlé polenta bake from Robin Robertson's Fresh From the Vegan Slow Cooker (reviewed here). (I want to mention that, in an attempt to save money, I first bought a glass lid at Goodwill, but neglected to notice it didn't have a steam vent, and the results were an unfortunate overflow down the sides of the pot and onto the counter. It was also too large. If you want to try a lid from the pile at Goodwill, you need a nine-inch lid with a steam vent.)



Here's another seed bread result — I think after consuming way too much of the bread, then taking a break from it, I'm about ready to make another loaf. I miss it. I started experimenting with yeasted versions but am not yet ready to share the results.



I'm still enjoying making salad dressings sans oil, and one of these days I swear I'll post some of my favorite recipes. I've started writing down ingredients, but then I always add a little extra of this or that, and forget what exactly it was. I'm not meant to be a recipe developer, I'm afraid.



This was a 'cheesy spaghetti squash' recipe from a cookbook, but I won't tell you which one. It was unpleasant. I blame my husband.



Sometimes you just have to order pizza. This is a slice of gluten-free vegan pizza from Razzis Pizzaria. I have to say I never get sick from Razzi's food, which is more than I can say about much of the restaurant food I try. And it tastes good! They have four separate menus for traditional, gluten-free, vegan and gluten-free vegan food.

Speaking of food, I'm pretty hungry so I'm off to the kitchen to dish up some of the leftover chipotlé polenta bake. Maybe I'll make it into burgers.

November 07, 2016

Little pumkinish pie tarts



Well look at this — here I am taking my own advice and making the little pumpkin tarts that appeared in my last post. Only those were, in reality, little sweet potato tarts, and the ones I just made are little butternut squash tarts. I like pumpkin pie, I really do, but over the years I've come to prefer pumpkin pie when it's made with something other than pumpkin. In a pinch, if I really need a pie fast, I might use canned pumpkin, but foods like sweet potatoes and winter squash (dry winter squash like kabocha or butternut) are sweeter and more flavorful than pumpkin. Pie pumpkins also work, but I like butternut!



I have a set of eight, four-inch tart pans that I found several years ago at an estate sale, and they make the cutest little tart shells. They are non-stick, and it's thrilling to me that they actually work. Don't you just love it when the tart shells pop out of the pans like they're supposed to?

I made six tarts, and although I served them whole, I think half is probably enough for a serving. The problem was the chocolate topping I made was hard, and difficult to cut through. If I were planning to cut them in half, I would probably opt for a soft chocolate topping, or perhaps a dollop of coconut whipped cream, as in the original recipe. The chocolate sure was good, though. WAIT. Did I just say half a tart is enough? Scratch that. I just ate a whole one and it was just right. You can make the tarts the day before you need them; they taste even better the next day.

Well, here it is the day before election day. (Not to mention it's been the most stressful, horrible election I can remember. I can't sleep, and I've been nursing a headache for two days.) Think about who would be the best candidates for President, Senate, and Congress, and GO VOTE! Then make yourself little tarts as a reward.


Butternut squash tarts with hard chocolate tops
makes six four-inch tarts with gluten-free crust

pastry shells
  • 1 cup almond flour
  • 1/2 cup sorghum flour
  • 1/2 cup oat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1/4 cup mild oil (I used avocado oil)
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup or agave syrup
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons cold water, if needed
  1. Whisk together the flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices. 
  2. Mix in the oil and maple syrup, to form a cohesive pastry. Add water one tablespoon at a time if needed to form a press-able dough. Use your hands!
  3. Divide the dough into six equal balls and press each one into a tart pan, making sure to fill the top edges of the pans.
  4. Bake in a pre-heated 350˚F oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden. Cool about 15 minutes, then pop the shells out, and refrigerate until ready to fill.
filling
  • heaping 1/2 cup of raw, unsalted cashews soaked at least four hours, and drained. Soaking over night will make the filling easier to blend.
  • tightly packed, rounded 1/3 cup of soft, pitted medjool dates. If your dates are dry and hard, soak them while you are soaking the cashews.
  • 2 tablespoon ground chia seeds (I ground mine in a high speed blender, but you can use a spice grinder)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup baked butternut squash (I used leftovers from dinner, pressed into the measuring cup) or sweet potato
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg (fresh ground is best)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger 
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup almond milk, as needed 
  1. Grind the cashews in a food processor until they are pulverized.
  2. Add the chia and dates and continue to process.
  3. Add the vanilla and the squash, and process
  4. Add the cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and salt.
  5. Add up to 1/4 cup almond (or other plant-based) milk to make processing easier. 
  6. Process until the mixture is smooth and creamy. This may take a while. Taste to see if the filling is sweet enough for you. If not, add a tablespoon of maple syrup.
  7. Divide the filling among the six tarts. There will be a small amount left over to eat the next day as pudding.
topping
  1. Place 1/3 cup of vegan semi-sweet chocolate chips in a small glass dish, and microwave for 30 seconds. Check to see if they are melted. If not, microwave for 30 seconds more.
  2. Stir until smooth and top each tart with melted chocolate.
  3. Refrigerate several hours before serving. The longer the tarts are refrigerated, the firmer and more pumpkin pie-like the filling will be.
The recipe was adapted from one for mini pumpkin pie tarts from Danielle Walker's Against All Grain blog. The original recipe was a guest post by Beth from Tasty Yummies.

October 31, 2016

Happy Halloween!


ymargaritavilley

A Spoonful Of Sugar Helps The Medicine Go Down

Little pumpkin tarts

You can read about little pumpkin tarts, here, and get a link to the recipe. They are gluten-free and vegan.

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