Saturday, December 15, 2012

Vegan Links

It has been just about 3 months since I last posted, and for good reason. After several years of un and underemployment I got a full time teaching job! I am so excited about it, it's a great progressive preschool with a fantastic small staff and lots of possibility. But given that big life change, I haven't had the energy to blog or do much else besides work and rest. So with that in mind, I have a quick post today with links to some amazing Holiday appropriate recipes that we made over Thanksgiving.

I had Thanksgiving with my in-laws and at our table we had omnivores, vegans, folks eating gluten-free and some wanting to avoid sugar. We all compromised a bit and came up with a fantastic menu that was almost vegan, often gluten-free, low in sugar and all delicious! A friend came last minute with severe Celiac disease (we're talking weeks of pain with a single bite of anything glutinous) and he was able to eat a full plate of food. It made my heart feel so good to be able to meet his dietary needs without even trying. And heck, if we had known we could have de-glutenized the whole meal!

Here are some highlights:

Sweet potato & pecan cinnamon rolls, pre-rise

Sweet Potato and Pecan Cinnamon Rolls- For breakfast! I actually used canned pumpkin because we forgot to cook the sweet potatoes in time, but either way they were delicious :)

Tofu Pot Pie filling 
Vegan Tofu Pot Pie- Delicious, hearty and filling, I find this recipe equally appropriate for the holidays or a weekend meal. We added some mushrooms cooked in red wine to add richness and depth, as well.

Amazing crudite spread~ veggies, homemade hummus, gluten-free chips
Sweet Potato Casserole- A vegan version of a staple in our house for the last 13 years. I have to say, I didn't miss the eggs and cream one bit!

The whole meal, Norman Rockwell style
Cranberry Relish with dried cherries, jam, vinegar and Grand Marnier- A few more ingredients than the homemade cranberry sauce I've done in the past, but WAY more flavor. This sauce is so so good and got a lot of compliments. It is also versatile and easy to modify. We used rum for our alcohol and mixed berry jam with apple cider vinegar instead of raspberry vinegar. Also, I completely got ahead of myself and added all the ingredients at once instead of in the cooking order the recipe called for. Still worked just fine.

Tequila, thanksgiving style, cause this is how we roll in the kitchen :)
Chocolate Agave Cream Pie- Oh my. This is possibly the best chocolate pie I've ever had. Very rich and dense. I made it with only 1 box of silken tofu because we ran out which gave a denser feel to it, next time I may try following the recipe exactly for a lighter texture, but honestly this was incredible and I made it again a week later (with just 1 box of tofu) for my husband's birthday.

Gluten free Pumpkin Pie with Praline and Coconut-Pecan Crust, Pumpkin Cheesecake Pie and  Chocolate Agave Cream Pie (from bottom left)
Gluten-free Pumpkin Pie with Praline and Coconut-Pecan Crust- This was the best pumpkin pie I've ever had. And we didn't even make the praline topping! Next time I'd reduce the cinnamon in the crust, but only because I'm a little sensitive to cinnamon.

Pumpkin Cheesecake Pie- Another winner! The only thing I'd change is omitting the banana and using extra pumpkin and extra sweetener to compensate (I'm not a fan of cooked banana). The texture was brilliant and it was an absolute beauty.

Pumpkin Cheesecake Pie
There you have it! Go, cook, enjoy and hug your loved ones :)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Apple Cherry Crisp: sugar-free, gluten-free, vegan

I whipped this out quickly on Sunday for a little get together with some in from out of town friends. Bonus: one of them is a new vegan, too, so we had lots to chat about! I love the challenge of making recipes with less or no sugar, if only to see if they'll turn out. This definitely did work out, it definitely tastes "wholesome" and you actually taste the fruit rather than all the sugar. That's fine with me. Another Bonus: that means I can eat it for breakfast. Huzzah.

evidence of crisp as breakfast food
I had a brainstorm while making this about my grandma's peach cobbler and if I could veganize it and take out all or some of the sugar. So that is definitely in the works!

Apple Cherry Crisp: easily vegan, gluten-free and sugar-free
heavily adapted from Post Punk Kitchen

3 large apples, peeled and sliced*
1 pint cherry preserves (choose any jam flavor you like, can be sugar-free)
juice of 1 lemon (~2 T.)
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ginger
1 T. cornstarch (or arrowroot)

*I originally chopped the apples on the chunky side and left the peel on, in the future I will peel and slice as I think it will have a better overall tooth-feel. Although certainly do what feels good to your taste!

Crisp Topping:
1 c. flour (I used barley flour, can easily use gluten-free)
1 c. oats
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/3 c. oil (healthy oil such as light olive oil, sunflower or coconut)
1 tsp.vanilla
2-4 T. maple syrup, honey or agave to taste

Preheat oven to 350.

Combine fruit filling ingredients in a large bowl, set aside. Preferably set this mixture aside for an hour to macerate and get the juices flowing, although not necessary.

In a separate bowl, mix flour, oats, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Add oil, vanilla and sweetener and stir until combined.

In an 8x8 pan add fruit mixture and cover with the topping mixture. Bake for ~45 minutes. Serve with vegan ice cream or coconut whipped cream.

before popping in the oven

Monday, September 17, 2012

You should try these!

Here are a few tried and true recipes that you should all try. They are all tested by a vegan and a non-vegan eater and are all deliciously approved.

this has nothing to do with trying new recipes. just a cat, at the farmer's market, taking a snooze.

Vegan Quinoa and Sweet Potato Chili ~ Earthy, nutty, filling and easy to make! Next time I will try doing a light roast or saute on the sweet p's to give them more depth of flavor. I also added a can of diced green chilis.

Vegan Parmesan Cheese ~ Okay, so this one isn't tested and approved by two people, just me. No need for a parm substitute if you are eating cheese! But I think this stuff is indispensible and I have made it with both sesame seeds as the recipe states and walnuts. I actually like the walnuts better (even though I am not a walnut fan usually), and am going to try it with hemp seeds next time.

Deep Dish Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie ~ Oh my. This was incredible. I made it as my birthday treat, but given that we also had 7 layer dip two ways, none of us were all that interested in dessert. It does have sugar, but look! A no-sugar version with dates to sweeten! I am going to try this one next on a non-birthday-treat day.

Vegan Mac and Cheese ~ I've tried a few versions now, and I really like this one the best. Definitely change up the seasonings until it tastes right. It sometimes feels too sweet for me, in which case I use less roasted red pepper and add lots of savory seasonings. Pepper, if you're feeling peppery, for example :)

Hot Cocoa Fudge Babies ~ Which are very very delicious and which I refuse to call by their given name. I refuse to call any food a baby of any kind. I have thus renamed them POWERBALLS. Sounds a lot stronger, huh? They will knock the socks off you and you will be better for it. I've made several of my own adaptations, coming soon.

And lastly, Braised Coconut Spinach with Chickpeas and Lemon atop Roast Sweet Potatoes ~ Long name, sounds all fancy, but really it's good old-fashioned comfort food. Think a baked potato topped with chili, only a sweet potato topped with a tangy, creamy, beany, spinach sauce. On the menu this week and I can't wait.

Now go! Cook! Make healthy things to ingest and you will feel great!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

What I'm eating lately

A few of the tasty things I've been making and enjoying lately, all vegan. Loving the way eating fresh and healthy makes me feel!

 Pancakes for breakfast with blueberry sauce, using this pancake recipe.

 Lentil Sloppy Joes with homemade gherkins (sweet for him, dill for me) were outstanding!

Dude, Tom. Get off the counter, that's where the clean dishes go!

Ratatouille, done just like in the movie! It was so, SO good. I let mine hang out in a warm oven accidentally for 2 hours after it was all cooked (didn't have time to eat it after taking it out of the oven, so I put it back in on "warm" to keep it warm for when I was ready) and Hello! It got all caramelized and amazingly reduced. I liked it even better that way than when I took a bit when first pulling it out of the oven.

Vegan 7 layer dip, birthday style! (Oh man, now I'm thinking about this. Watch it, you can thank me later!) I just whipped this up, so next time I will definitely write down the recipe and make a post. I thought at first that it wouldn't satisfy the way the traditional dip always did, but happily, I was wrong. This was totally birthday-worthy!

Technically, that is a cutting board. Also not a good place for a cat!

 Tomatoes, sauced, mainly from the garden. I used this method.

Everbody's favorite: homemade, fermented, raw, gluten-free Sriracha! Fermenting as we speak for a few days and then ready for my family to inhale :) I'm working on a green jalapeno/serrano version which is also in the cupboard doing its thing, and if it goes well I'll post about that soon!

Seriously?! Always Tomming around, aren't ya?

Almond butter, homemade. I made mine un-raw by toasting the nuts in the oven a bit. And then I added salt. (Julia, remember that little girl on Letterman years ago? What did she say, 'Sometimes I like to put cucumbers on it'? =P)

That's my guy Tom. Too big to fit anywhere =)

I'll leave you with this, last night's sunset. Just as if angels had painted it.

DIY Shampoo: with castile soap and baking soda

It's been a while since I've posted and I thought I'd do a quick DIY for those of you who are interested in going a bit more natural with your products! I've joined the ranks of those who are going "No 'Poo" or "Sorta 'Poo" (for example, here and here and here), and haven't used commercial shampoo in almost a year. Do read those blogs for great info on why, how and what to expect when ditching shampoo!

I've tried a lot of variations, and this is the recipe I am currently using. It takes a little getting used to, and your hair may feel "crunchy" or dry when you get out of the shower. Depending on your hair's natural state, you can use a little coconut oil on the ends, a leave-in natural brand conditioner, or do a rinse in the shower of 1 T. apple cider vinegar to 1 c. water (best done in a spray bottle). Also, I rarely measure when I make it for myself, so definitely use these proportions as a jumping off point.

This recipe is quite thin or runny. Though I haven't tested it yet, I added 1 tsp. xantham gum (inspired by the recipe found here) to my next batch and will update after I next shampoo!

DIY Shampoo

1/3 c castile soap, such as Dr. Bronner's)
1/3-2/3 c water (depending on how soapy you want it, I tend toward the lower end)
2 t. baking soda
1tsp. coconut oil, melted
5-15 drops essential oil, if desired

In an old shampoo bottle combine baking soda and castile soap, shaking to combine.

 Then add the rest of the ingredients and shake.

Voila, you have homemade shampoo!

finished product in use!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Spicy Pickled Green Beans

I love spicy pickled green beans. They are so good on their own, but I really like them in a sandwich or as part of a Ploughman's Platter. Also known as a Ploughman's Lunch, this is one of my favorite ways to enjoy my pickles and an assortment of whatever else you have on hand by way of crusty bread, cured meats, roasted nuts, olives, hard-cooked eggs, cheeses, and a bit of fruit if you are lucky. These days as I'm not eating meat, gluten or dairy, my perfect Ploughman's Platter would consist of spicy pickled green beans, hot peppers, and garlic, roasted salted marcona olives, dried apricots and dates, some homemade hummus or this tomato almond spread (in my fridge now and just delightful), gluten-free pretzels or homemade nut and seed crackers and some cucumber slices. Ah, the serenity.

So let's get to it. Pickles are easy to can and everyone should try it. At first for some reason, it felt intimidating to me, but once I realized how I could simplify the process I changed my tune. Pickles, especially the interesting or spicy ones, are always among the favorite canned goods with friends and family. And the new Ball pint and a half jars (24 oz.) are especially perfect for the green beans as you almost never have to trim them down and waste all those precious end pieces. As well, the sizing of this recipe is highly variable and easy to scale down if you don't want to make a giant batch. Ultimately, if you run out of brine, just heat up a little more vinegar and water and you're good! Since you put the spices directly in the jar it doesn't matter much.

A word on the spice- I have tried as many ways of making a spicy pickle as I can think of (dried whole, crushed dried red, fresh chunks or strips, and cayenne pepper). You should definitely tailor these to your personal spicyness quotient. In my mind, dried peppers create the most mild "spicy" pickle, then cayenne, then fresh. If you are feeling mild when you make these, omit the fresh pepper and use a small pinch of crushed red peppers or a small dried red pepper.

Spicy Pickled Green Beans
adapted from hungry tigress' spicy pickled green beans

(for a large batch of 8-9 pint and a half jars)

5 lbs. green beans, washed and stem ends trimmed (it helps to hand pick them and choose straight ones- it's a bit time consuming, but you'll thank me in the end!)
8 c. white vinegar
8 c. water
3-4 jalapenos or other fresh peppers, chunked into 1 inch peices
fresh garlic cloves, enough for 1-2 per jar
Spices: canning salt, mustard seed, dill seed

Heat vinegar and water to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and keep warm while you prep your jars. Get your water bath canner ready and your lids softening in some simmering water.

Prep jars~ For each add 1 large (or 2 small) garlic clove, 1-2 jalapeno chunks, and seasonings: 2 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. mustard seed, 2 tsp. dill (for a pint jar reduce seasonings a bit per jar).

Fill jars with green beans. Pro tip! Line up the beans in your hand until you can't hold anymore. Tap them on the counter to line the cut ends up. Pop in your jar, which should be almost completely full this way. If you can fit a few more, slide them in along the side of the jar, which will help them fit in smoothly.

Fill each jar with vinegar brine, and then use a chopstick to bubble your jars (poke them to release air bubbles). In pickles this is more important to do than with jam because the beans all squished together make for lots of nooks and crannies for air to hide. Don't forget! =)

Fill back up with brine after releasing air bubbles, leaving ~1/4 inch headspace. Wipe your rims down, screw on the lids and process in your water bath canner for 10 min.

It's a good idea to leave your jars in the water bath for 5-10 min. after processing (turn the heat off) to let everything settle back down and not loose too much brine.

There you have it! The beans are fine to eat now, but will taste even better if you wait 2-4 weeks.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Week in Review

In the last week or so there was this,

skillet blackberry honey preserves
and some of this,
sleeping guys: mayor & tom peters
a bit of this,
vegan, gluten-free dinner: cauliflower coconut curry
a lot of this!
what's cooking?
homemade soymilk! delicious, nutritious, plant-based and thrifty.
More of this,
lacto-fermented pickled garlic and spicy carrots~ currently doing their thang in the cupboard for another week or so
a tidge of this,
the heirloom variety is doing well, though the fruit is more scarce than on the other plants
some of this,
portland cracks me up
lots of this,
got my gaming wrists on! (laptop gets pretty hot =P)

and lastly, this.
after 9 years, got the old tat retouched and jazzed up

My life in pictures. At least the parts I feel like sharing!

a happy ladybug on my 4 o'clocks~ plant mystery solved!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Frozen Lime Bars, raw & no sugar added!

Even if you don't restrict yourself dietarily, these lime bars are a treat! Especially on these hot days, (hello summer!) a frozen sweet-tart bar that melts in your mouth is the perfect dessert or breakfast. Because I eat dessert for breakfast, don't you?

So let's get to it! You do need a food processor for this, although I think a VitaMix would work as well. This recipe comes together in 15 minutes or less and then should be frozen for at least a half hour to firm up. Keep these in the freezer and pop them out whenever the mood strikes you! I made this the first time as written in a small oval baking dish, and the bars came out very thin. The second time I made a 3/4 batch of crust and kept the same filling amount, then shaped the bars into a loaf pan which made thicker bars. Either way, this recipe is very forgiving and easy to adapt. You can always just not use some of the crust and make powerballs with the extras (recipe coming soon!).

This is what cooking looks like in my kitchen

Raw Lime Bars
Adapted from Raw Model, via Pinterest

For the crust:
80g (~5) medjool dates
60g (~1/3 cup) cashews
1 tsp. vanilla
pinch of salt

For the filling:
1 large (~160 g) avocado 
(~35g) medjool dates (or 1/4 c. honey/agave if you prefer)
1/4 c. (50g) coconut oil
1-3 Tbl. fresh lime juice

In a food processor, combine all the crust ingredients and pulse until the nuts are ground to your liking. I prefer a smaller bit of nut when I'm eating so I pulse until it looks like this:

Press your crust ingredients into a small pan of your choice lined with saran wrap or foil.

Rinse out the food processor, no need to wash with soap, and combine all the filling ingredients. Process until very smooth. I start with 1 Tbl. lime juice and add more to taste after processing. I usually add up to 1/4 c. myself, as I really like the tart lime flavor. Also, the dates will never be completely incorporated, so you will have some very tiny pieces. 

When the filling is smooth, spread on top of the crust and pop into the freezer for at least 30 minutes before eating. Cut into bars and enjoy! Keep the leftovers frozen as these "melt" quickly. So so good.