Monday, January 25, 2010

Sweet Potato Hummus

I was inspired to make a sweet potato hummus after seeing it listed on Oprah's website under the category: superfoods! I couldn't bring myself to make the recipe listed there however because I could not handle the thought of 1/2 cup of oil added to 2-1/2 cups of finished product. I personally think that kinda of defeats the purpose...I think even my 2 tablespoons is a bit on the high side as I know you can make it without any oil whatsoever and it still tastes fine. So feel free to eliminate the oil from this recipe. I also really love the taste of the traditional use of tahini in hummus recipes and therefore I do use it and I couldn't believe it wasn't included in the superfood recipe that Oprah listed. After all tahini is a great fat full of beneficial calcium. We really should send her an improved recipe. This is a great recipe for kids as they generally love the taste of sweet potatoes. I remember my nephew Aaron, as a toddler,  was a picky little eater but he would always always eat sweet potatoes! My 2 year-old grandson Nico confirms this to be so, as well, as he was eating this by the spoonful right after I made it. For an excellent reference with respect to "everything you ever wanted to know about sweet potatoes" check out this website! Did you know you could bake several at once and they stay good in the fridge for 7-10 days?  How handy is that?  Did you know that you can make an attractive houseplant from a sweet potato?  All that information and much more is on the above listed website. Do give it a quick read through.

1 can (regular size) of chickpeas, drained & rinsed
1 sweet potato (roasted)
1 tsp. garlic/parsley powder (or head of garlic roasted along with sweet potato)
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tablespoon paul bragg
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tbsp. tahini
2 tbsp. olive oil
2-4 tbsp. original flavor soy milk

To roast your sweet potato -- scrub it, rub it with margarine, prick it with a fork and place on a wire rack inside a ovenproof dish (I put it on a wire rack so that it doesn't get burn marks as that sometimes happens if you place it directly onto your dish).  You can probably pick up cheap, small wire racks suitable for this purpose at your local dollar store. I bent mine to fit the dish I use when roasting vegetables and save it just for that purpose.  Bake at 425F oven for about 45-55 minutes depending on size.  Cool, peel and you now have lots of sweet potato for your hummus recipe.  Eat a little if you like -- it's delicious right out of  the oven exactly as it is. And considering how long it stays good in the fridge (and freezes) bake up a couple of extra while you're at it. I would also suggest roasting a head or two of garlic along with your sweet potato to use in the above recipe in place of the garlic powder if you have extra garlic bulbs on hand.  When you're not able to use fresh garlic I suggest that you use a very good brand of garlic powder like the organic Morton & Bassett as their quality is outstanding.  The difference is definitely noticeable!

Now just put your roasted  hummus and all the rest of your ingredients into a food processor or Vita-Mix and process  using as much of the 2-4 tbsp. soy milk as required until it's the consistency you like. I use soy milk as I always have it readily on hand but you could subsitute vegetable broth if you like. Throw in some extra pepper or cayenne if you like things spicy.  Enjoy with whatever you deem fit (I'm thinking of making some homemade fries to dip in it)!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

3-Veggie Buddha Soup

This soup is for my Buddist friends who do not use garlic or onions in their cooking. I don't think I've ever made a soup without onions but surprisingly this didn't effect how tasty it turned out! It's also a real timesaver not to have to do the chop/saute onion/garlic routine so if you're super hungry this is a real bonus. A special hello to my favorite Buddist friends known collectively as "The Padmanadi Family".

3 large carrots, diced
3 potatoes, diced
1-1/2 cup broccoli florets
1 tablespoon veggie broth powder
2 cups water

Let the carrots and potatoes simmer together until almost done. Then put your broccoli florets on top and let steam until tender. Put through a food mill (I prefer the food mill for this soup's texture). Make a thin white sauce (1 tablespoon margarine, 2 tablespoons flour, 2 cups plain soy milk, salt & pepper and if you like add about 1/2 cup of your favorite vegan cheese, shredded to the warm white sauce ). I have lots of Italian Blend Daiya on hand so I did choose to do so. Stir the white sauce through your pureed veggies and you have a hearty soup that will make you and Buddha happy :)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

GF "Kraft" Peanut Butter Cookies

This is the recipe found on the back of the Kraft peanut butter.  The recipe is very simple and that's why I was so eager to try a veganized version.  It didn't take much to do so however you need more detailed instructions than what's on the back of the jar.  I don't know how they would roll balls out of their ingredients as regardless of whether you use flaxseed or egg the mixture is non-rollable!  The only way I was able to roll my ingredients into balls was by placing the bowl of batter into freezer for 1/2 hour or so. They also stated it would make 3 dozen cookies -- I guess you could but they would be miniscule. I opted for 1 dozen normal sized cookies. Be forewarned: for serious peanut butter lovers these could be dangerously addictive!  Tasty, crispy, crunchy, peanut buttery goodness -- yep I'm one of the addicts :)

1 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup organic granulated sugar
1 tbsp. ground flax plus 3 tbsp. soy milk
1/4 cup quick oats

Stick dough in the freezer until you can roll into balls. Use approximately 1-1/2 tablespoons dough per ball. Put onto parchment lined or non-stick cookie sheet.  Press down slightly with fork (I dipped mine in sugar in between pressings hence the sparkly look on my cookies). As shown in the above recipe I put in 1/4 cup quick oats to enhance the ease of making balls and that did help plus it made them a little thicker which was a nice bonus. First batch that I tried without the  oats were flatter and slightly more difficult to form but still worked out okay for both taste and texture.

Bake at 325F for 15 minutes.  Cool on cookie sheet for 5 minutes before removing.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Carrot Coriander Soup

A harmonious blend of carrots, potatoes and onions, paired with fragrant and flavourful coriander. That's the description on the Knorr brand of carrot & corriander soup. It sounded very inviting but unfortunately a few of the listed items (modified cornstarch, the cream & the sulphites) were not. After seeing those undesirables I thought best leave the stuff in the tetrapak for someone else to eat and I'll just copy all the ingredients except for those. Since I had organic almonds in the cupboard I decided to use those for my cream. It's the first time I've ever whirled any nuts into "cream" and I was surprised how very thick and rich it was.  To counteract the excessive richness I diluted the almond cream with a cup of plain soymilk and that worked out perfectly.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, pressed
3 large carrots (about 1/2 lb), diced
4 large potatoes (about 2 lbs, diced
1-1/2 tablespoons veggie broth powder
1 tsp. each: coriander, chili powder, cumin & garlic
1/2 cup almonds whirled with 1-1/2 cup water
1 cup plain soy milk

Saute the onion, garlic and carrots in olive oil for about 10 minutes until softened. Add water as required to keep from sticking. Add the diced potatoes, veggie broth powder, spices and another 2-3 cups of water. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer until done. Keep an eye on the water level. Whirl your almonds (I used whole organic almonds with the skins on) with about 1-1/2 cups water until nice and creamy.

Add to your soup along with the cup of soy milk. Using immersion blender puree until smooth. Makes about 6 - 1 cup servings. The tetrapak of purchased knorr soup costs $3.99 for 2 - 1 cup servings so you can see how much more economical it is to make your own.

Friday, January 8, 2010

GF Orange-Pumpkin Muffins

I'm still on the mini bandwagon and was feeling in the mood for a "bit" of a muffin. I bought some organic canned pumpkin a few months ago and had yet to do a thing with it. Well, since I could live on starches (and smoothies) I thought  I'd try my hand at making a  healthy version of a mini donut . I still prefer gluten free wherever possible. With gluten-free tasting this good it's not as hard as I thought to use my rice flour mixture more often than not. It's got all the good things going for it -- beta-carotene from the pumkin, some vitamin C from the orange juice, lots of omega goodness as not only did I use the flaxseed for egg-subsitute I also added an extra 1/4 cup to my dry ingredients for good measure. All in all a very honorable candidate to receive high scores for low-fat & super nutrients in an itsy bitsy muffin.

Dry Ingredients
1/4 cup brown rice flour
1/4 cup tapioca starch
1/4 cup golden ground flaxseed
1/4 cup almond meal
1/2 cup oatbran
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt

Wet Ingredients
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons agave nectar (maple-flavor)
1-1/4 cup pumpkin puree (canned)
1 cup orange juice (made with 6 tbsp frozen concentrate + water)
2 tablespoons golden ground flaxseed
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons plain soy milk
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla

2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Put all dry ingredients through a sifter into large bowl.  There will be some oatbran left behind in the sifter -- just mix it back through. Combine all the wet ingredients and whisk until well blended together (or whirl in blender if you prefer).  Pour the wet into the dry ingredients and use just enough strokes to blend so there are no lumps of flour remaining.  I made 24 mini-muffins using 1 tablespoon batter each.  Sprinkle the tops liberally with your cinnamon-sugar mixture. Then bake at 375F for about 8 minutes.  With the remainder of the batter I made 4 mini-loaves and these were baked at the same temperature for about 26 minutes. I love the little mini-muffins -- they are very cute with the sparkly sugar topping and look and taste kinda of like a healthy yummy little donut hole. Please note:  I used cinnamon/sugar mixture through the batter as well as on top so if you see the same amounts twice here (as in the dry ingredients and in the topping)  it's not an error. If you prefer less sweet I'd leave out the sugar in the batter -- just go with the cinnamon alone.  I think the sugar on the topping has more of an impact so I wouldn't eliminate that portion .

These are super delicious warm out of the oven.  They are a little dry the next day so I would recommend that after you polish off your quota for the first day you freeze them promptly.  They freeze well and thaw out quickly. A little zap in the microwave makes them taste almost as good as first day.  I think I prefer the batter from this particular recipe baked as the mini-muffins rather than the mini loaves.  They seem to cook more evenly that way. The loaves had a slightly dense bottom whereas the mini muffins did not.  But if that's all you have it's still very tasty but for perfection I'd go with the mini muffin pan. 

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Mini Tofu Loaves

Here's a very easy recipe to make with 350 gms of tofu.  If you have a  pan like this it's very cute to make these little mini-loaves.  If not, you can either do the loaf free-form style and place on a baking sheet, or bake in a small glass baking pan instead. If you prefer a gluten-free loaf substitute the 2/3 cups bread crumbs with another starch such as 2/3 cup cooked rice, quinoa flakes or quick oats.  This loaf does not taste the best or slice easily the minute it comes out of the oven. I recommend that you leave it overnight in the fridge before slicing and eating. One mini-loaf made all the slices shown above.  It's amazing how much more it looks cut-up than whole.

350 gms firm or extra firm tofu
2/3 cup fine bread crumbs
1/3 cup minced onion
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp. soy milk
2 tablespoons ketchup in loaf mixture  plus
another 1-1/2 teaspoons per loaf on top
1 tablespoon ground golden flaxseed
1 tablespoon paul bragg
2 teaspoons veggie broth powder
1 teaspoon each of the following spices:
chili powder, ginger, garlic powder & pepper

Mix flaxseed with milk in a small bowl and set aside. Put tofu in a medium size bowl and squish it around with your fingers until quite smooth. Add flaxseed/milk mixture and the rest of the ingredients to the tofu. Mix together well. Taste and adjust seasonings if required.  Divide into 4 equal portions if using mini-loaf pan as this recipe makes exactly 4 loaves. Spray  pans so that your loaves will come out easily.  Top each loaf with a teaspoon and a half or so of ketchup.

Bake at 350F for about 1 hour.  Cool in pan for 5 minutes or so then turn out onto cooling rack.  Refrigerate overnight or several hours (must be very well chilled in order for texture to become firm enough for slicing).  Once chilled you can eat it straight out of the fridge either with a salad or on a slice of bread with mustard. If you prefer it warmed you can pan fry lightly and serve it with some steamed veggies. Serves four.

Veggie Prairie Girl Rambles
Considering that the price of tofu is approx. $2.60 for 350 gm of organic and $1.99 for non-organic it is indeed a very economical source of food energy. As well, firm tofu, at 100 calories per 85 gm serving (which is the amount of tofu in one mini-loaf) is a waist-watchers dream!   As well, for those who prefer gluten-free, this baked tofu loaf made as such (with the rice, oats or quinoa) is an excellent alternative to seitan when cut into chunks for use in pot pies and stews.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Chefs Roberto Martin & Tal Ronnen

I was watching Oprah today and she had her favorite vegan chef, Tal Ronnen, preparing Gardein "Chicken" Scaloppini. Perhaps this was a repeat from earlier in the season but it's the first time I viewed it and I was rather happy to see the mainstream attention that veganism is getting. It's really something when America's top two female talk show hosts are both promoting the benefits of a plant-based diet. Ellen Degeneres is a step ahead of Oprah in this department as she has outright declared herself a full-fledged "vegan". However considering Oprah's run-in with the Texas cattlemen years ago it's hard to blame her for keeping any such declarations to herself. It certainly seems she is very much in favor of the vegan lifestyle considering the 21 day vegan fast she chose to do not so long ago. Regardless, it's quite obvious that her delight with finding a substitute for her much loved actual chicken flesh is very real as she exclaimed about the virtues of Gardein! This must be good stuff if Oprah loves it as I remember years ago she declared that she might be able to give up beef and every other kind of animal flesh but don't expect her to give up chicken! Check out Chef Tal Ronnen/The Conscious Cook's website which includes a video clip of him preparing the Gardein "Chicken" Scaloppini that he made on Oprah's show.

Below is a clip from you-tube that features Chef Roberto Martin making a veggie pot pie for Ellen. It's enough to make me run out and buy some Gardein chicken just for this recipe alone. I'm feeling a little under-inspired at the beginning of 2010 so I'm looking for some help. I've just been re-doing all my old standard favorites (and they are good) but it's time to try to bring in something new. And after seeing Dr. Oz tonight on the Joy Behar show it's obvious I need to try and focus on some more "waist-friendly" recipes. He gave a quick tip on how to tell if you need to lose weight. Take your height in inches and divide it in two. That is how many inches your waist should be max -- if not you're in trouble. I can tell you right now...I'm in trouble! So here's hoping 2010 will be the year of lots of healthy inspiration. It will be hard as anything with sugar and fat is super appealing to me but Dr. Oz made a good case for fighting the battle of the bulge so let's see how the year develops! For starters I found a great recipe for sweet potato hummus on Oprah's website under her list of 25 top superfoods -- I'm definitely interested in giving that a try and I'll report on that when I do so. All the best in 2010 and good luck to everyone else with their New Year's resolutions!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Daiya Cheese Review

There's a lot of hype swirling around on food blogs and facebook about the latest vegan cheese to hit the market. It's called Daiya which I don't know what it means but there it is. Logistically it made the most sense for me to order from the closest west coast online venue and that just happened to be Karmavore which is based in Vancouver. I had to order a minimum of 5 lbs and so I did. It took me several trys over the last two weeks in December to be able to actually place an order. Each time I went online to try and order Daiya it was sold out! My god but this item was going like wildfire and I couldn't wait to get some. Finally my order went through and on December 29th my order was shipped at 3 p.m. to me via Canada Post and miraculously it arrived on December 31st at 11:30 a.m. I was amazed that it arrived on time considering it was the xmas holiday week and the mailman had told me the day before that they were very short on staff and had had to hire 35 extra workers just to keep up with things. I had quizzed him as to when he would be making the rounds in our street on the 31st because I did not want to risk having him not deliver my package and then having it sit on the post office shelves from Thursday to Monday -- that wouldn't be good for a food item. Anyhow I sat at my kitchen window from 11 a.m. on just to make sure I didn't miss him. It worked out very well for me as he arrived at 11:38 a.m. I'm sure he was pleased to see my eagerness and even more pleased that he got to drop off the parcel asap and keep moving as it was pretty darn cold on new year's eve day. The parcel was packaged perfectly and even more surprising the cold packs surrounding the cheese still had a few ice chunks within. So that part was perfectly executed by the staff of Karmavore. I would not hesitate to order anything online from them.

Now as for the actual cheese flavor of Daiya I hate to say I was a little more than a little disappointed. I wanted so much to love it and I thought maybe something was wrong with me because I just wasn't feeling the same excitement expressed by others. Not that it's bad but with all the hype I was expecting something much closer to a "dairy-based" cheese flavor then what it delivers. I think that the ingredients that are used to make it are outstanding and that's a good thing. But for me the flavor, texture and even the smell of Daiya is almost identical to vegan rella. In fact I think you'd have a hard time distinguishing one from the other in a blind taste test. And I like using vegan rella -- it's been an acceptable alternative for me for years. I wouldn't eat it straight on a piece of bread but it's great melted slightly on pizza or in white sauces. The same way that Daiya will have to be used as well. Perhaps Daiya has an edge over Vegan Rella because they took great care to eliminate all the major allergens and I can't argue with the positive aspects of that. However if you live in an area where Daiya is not available and allergies are not a concern than Vegan Rella pretty well will do for you what Daiya is doing. I've included a photo of what Daiya actually looks like compared to the picture at Karmavore. It looks more "cheesy" on that pic. Of course just to be fair their photo is obviously a mixture of the cheddar and the italian shred but that mixture is not available for purchase. You either buy one or the other and I bought the italian shred because the cheddar was sold out! It looks just like vegan rella when I shred it on my fine shredder which is what I always do with it and then freeze it. I wouldn't go through all the trouble to order Daiya online when vegan rella is available locally. And I'm quite sure that soon you'll be able to buy Daiya locally as well so there will be no need to order online. Of course I won't be having to buy either for a very long time as the 5 lbs I purchased filled two very large tupperware containers that are now resting nicely in my freezer. The positive aspect involving Daiya is that somehow they've managed to crack the glass ceiling when it comes to encouraging pizzeria's to offer a vegan alternative to dairy based cheese and that's a major accomplishment that vegans and lactose intolerant people will be very grateful for. I'd be happy to have you add any comments here regarding your experience with Daiya.