Monday, January 31, 2011

Birthday Goodies

My oldest daughter turned 12 yesterday. I can't believe it!!!! For breakfast she requested chocolate chip pancakes so I made her a vegan version that came out very well. The girls gobbled them off as soon as they came off the griddle . . . I was lucky to get one for myself! We decided that recipe is a keeper.

Then for her birthday dessert, she wanted homemade ice cream. Since a friend gave me a bunch of meyer lemons (and since she LOVES lemon anything), I made the Lemon Ice Cream and Vanilla Sandwich Cookie Crust from Lick It! Creamy Dream Vegan Ice Creams Your Mouth Will Love and make her a pie.

Here's the recipe in case you have a lemon loving family members:

Grate and save the zest from the lemons to decorate the top of the pie.

NonDairy Lemon Ice Cream
Makes 1 quart
This is slightly milder and creamier than Lemon Sherbet.

1 (14-ounce) can full-fat coconut milk
1 cup soymilk or other nondairy milk
3/4 cup granulated sugar or agave syrup
5 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Place the coconut milk, soymilk, and sugar in a medium bowl and whisk until well combined. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours. Then whisk in the lemon juice and freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions.

Vanilla Sandwich Cookie Crust
Makes 1 (9-inch) pie or torte crust
If you’re using a food processor to make the crust, you can crush the cookies in the processor before adding the oil.

18 vanilla crème-filled sandwich cookies, finely crushed (1 1/2 cups)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil or nonhydrogenated margarine, melted

Combine the cookies and oil in a small bowl or food processor and mix until well blended. Press evenly into an unoiled 9-inch pie pan or springform pan. Freeze for 15 minutes before filling.

To assemble the pie, spread the freshly made ice cream into the frozen crust. Sprinkle grated lemon peel on the top. Freeze for 2 hours or until firm. If the pie is frozen solid, you will need to leave at room temperature about 15 minutes or in refrigerator 30-45 minutes, to soften for slicing.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Week Two--Slow Cooker Thursday

Week two of the great crock pot experiment was Split Pea Soup. Now, Split Pea Soup is probably the easiest soup on the planet to make—just chop onions, garlic, celery, carrots, and throw them in a pot with water and split peas and some herbs—which is what I did. The house smelled great when I got home. But when I lifted the cover to check the soup --- the peas were still hard as a rock. What’s with that???? Everything else looked perfect. So, okay. I let it cook. Another hour, still hard. And another . . . we were starving.

So, we ended up having sandwiches for dinner, except my husband who snagged my last frozen Tempeh Stuffed Pepper!

I let the soup continue to cook. When I went to bed, the peas were still hard. I let the dang soup cook all night long. In the morning, the peas were softer but still not mushy. We’ll eat it for dinner tonight but it definitely isn’t my best soup. It has a slight overcooked taste and the peas are still slightly crunchy

So, what went wrong? This has actually happened to me a couple of times before when I’ve made split pea soup on the stovetop. Usually, I can cook a split pea soup in an hour—1 and 1/2 hours tops. But every once in a while they just don’t soften, in which case I usually puree the soup in the blender.

I did some goggling and it looks like I’m not the only one who has had this problem. The biggest consensus seems to be that the peas are old—but when you buy split peas, how do you know how old they are? I usually buy them in bulk and even if they have a date of when they were put in the bulk bin, who knows how long they sat in storage before the store go them.

I also found one interesting comment here. One commenter said, “Sounds like you've got peas that are known in the industry as ‘HTC.’ Yes, they really have an acronym for hard-to-cook. It's a defect that occurs in all kinds of legumes, and is typically caused by improper storage and/or excessive age.

Split peas are NOT normally soaked but people have tried it to help this problem and it doesn’t seem to make a difference.

Now I absolutely love split pea soup and so does my family, but how can you tell if the split peas are HTC or not? Anyone have a test?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

GE Alfalfa

Things are not looking good for the battle against the approval of genetically engineered alfalfa, which has been going on for the last 12 years. There is a good possibility it will be approved--thanks to our very pro-biotech USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack.

And the solution is not as easy as simply avoiding alfalfa sprouts. GE alfalfa could have major consequences for so many foods. Alfalfa is feed to dairy and meat animals . . . and when you buy dairy and meat, you can be sure it's not going to have a label saying that the animals had been fed genetically engineered products. In addition, even if you consume organic or grass-fed animal products, there is no way to guarantee that the alfalfa they ate wasn't contaminated with the GE variety. There is just no way to keep the genetic engineered alfalfa from contaminating the non-GE kinds.

GE alfalfa is engineered to be resistant to Monsanto's Roundup herbicide--so the chemical herbicide can be applied liberally through all stages of the plant growth, causing much more of this herbicide to be used. (Just like the roundup-ready soy that has been grown for some years now). Not only do the plants and soil become saturated with the chemicals, the overuse of Roundup is creating "superweeds" which have become resistant to the chemical--similar to the problem with the overuse of antibiotics.

So what can you do???? Call President Obama at (202) 456-1111 and urge him to instruct Secretary Vilsack to reject the approval of Monsanto's genetically modified alfalfa.

Here are some articles with more information:

Organic Consumers Assocation

Monday, January 24, 2011

Tempeh Stuffed Peppers -- Part 2

You may remember that a few weeks ago I came up with a recipe for Tempeh Stuffed Peppers that my family and I really liked. (And if you missed the post, which included the recipe, here it is!)

Anyway, we had a couple left over, which I froze in individual containers. Well, I grabbed one this morning and took it to work for lunch today and OMG it was amazing. Maybe even better than when we had them fresh. I just microwaved the frozen pepper for about 3 or 4 minutes and it was perfect. Now, I want to make another batch so I'll have more of them for lunches or even quick dinners. Next time I'll try heating the frozen peppers in the oven to see how they come out.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Crockpot Thursday

I decided I'm going to put a crockpot section in my new cookbook as I've noticed most crockpot recipes seem to be meat-based, and it's so handy for a busy family. And since Thursday is my busiest day and I usually don't get home until we're all already starving, I'm instituting Crockpot Thursday . . . actually I think the politically correct term is slow cooker. Okay, Slow Cooker Thursday.

So, I had some dried baby lima beans I've been wanting to use, plus assorted winter veggies from the Farmers' Market. This was an experiment because I wasn't sure if the beans would cook all the way through or if the veggies would get too mushy. The one slow cooker cookbook I have says you have to saute the onions, garlic, celery in oil before putting in the crockpot but to me that seemed to defeat the purpose if using a slow cooker: convenience and one pot to wash. So I just threw diced onions, celery, garlic, carrots, potatoes, cauliflower, and lima beans into the pot with veggie broth and herbs at 7:30 this morning before I left for work and hoped for the best.

Well, when I got home at 6:00 this evening, the whole house smelled wonderful--so welcoming! And I am happy to report the soup was PERFECT! My family gobbled it up, barely leaving enough for my one of my daughters to take for lunch tomorrow (believe it or not, they are arguing over who gets to take it). It was TOTALLY worth the 15 minutes of crazed chopping this morning for such a relaxing dinner.

Hooray for Slow Cooker Thursday!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Vegan Bake-arama!

Another marathon recipe creating day for my new cookbook . . . and on a crazy warm 80-degree winter day in California too! But I have to take advantage of those days off from work.

I bought some coconut flour that I wanted to experiment with, so my first try was a coconut-ginger shortbread. I used half coconut flour and half brown rice flour, plus coconut oil, sugar, ground ginger, and shredded coconut. Sounds like a good combo right? Well, it came out looking and smelling great and actually it had a really nice taste, but the texture was like eating powder. Not pleasant at all. Well, back to the drawing board on that one but luckily my next two experiments did a lot better.

I took a break from the coconut flour and tried a muffin combination that my daughter suggested . . . orange and chocolate . . . and created Chocolate Chip Orange Muffins. And they came out great--moist, with gooey chunks of chocolate and a hint of orange throughout. Two thumbs up from the whole family.

I wanted to give the coconut flour another try so for my last experiment I thought I'd go for some banana-coconut muffins. I used half coconut flour and half whole wheat flour, plus mashed bananas, coconut milk and shredded coconut but the batter came out very stiff--so . . . I turned them into Banana Coconut Scones. And they were yummy--moist inside with a nice crisp crust. Another hit with the family.

Sometimes creating recipes reminds me of writing a novel. You kind of let your characters loose and wait to see what they decide to do.

BTW -- if anyone is using coconut flour, please feel free to let me know what has worked and what has not worked. Next I want to try coconut sugar.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Winter Vegetable Chowder

Chowders are so satisfying and comforting, expecially on a cold winter day. I took one of my favorite recipes from Simply Natural Baby Food called White Bean and Corn Chowder (in the section of recipes for older kids) and substituted garbanzo beans for the white beans, and added broccoli, celery, and cabbage.


Sunday, January 09, 2011

Vegan Feast!

Made a big vegan feast tonight with four new invented recipes in celebration of my decision to write a new vegan cookbook. There's no turning back now!

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Roasted vegetables

I am a huge fan of roasting vegetables--it brings out so much incredible flavor and sweetness that it's pretty much the only way I cook veggies anymore. In the summer, I usually do them on the grill so as not to heat up the house--green beans, zucchini, bell peppers, and asparagus are my favorites. But in the winter, I love to have them in the oven, which warms up the house and fills the air with a wonderful aroma.

Almost any winter veggies work--root veggies are always great, but also broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts . . . whatever. Today, I did a combination of carrots, broccoli, and brussels sprouts. Cut everything up into bite-sized pieces. I cut the bigger brussels sprouts in half but left the smaller ones whole. Put the cut veggies into a bowl and toss with enough olive oil so that the veggies are well-coated. Then sprinkle with sea salt and any fresh or dried herbs that strike your fancy . . . thyme, rosemary, tarragon, etc. I often add a splash of good vinegar as well. Balsamic works well, but today I used blood orange vinegar. Place on a baking sheet in a 400 degree oven (the temperature is flexible so if you are cooking something else that needs the oven at 350 or 450, you can just adjust the cooking time). Roast for about 20 minutes, turning occasionally. If the chunks are big, you can cover the baking sheet with foil for the first 10 minutes or so to let the veggies steam, then remove the foil and let them brown. That's how I did the batch in this picture. My daughters gobbled these up like candy.

(Oh, yeah, if you're wondering about the mushrooms in the picture. I added them after I removed the foil for the last ten minutes of cooking.)

Tempeh Stuffed Peppers

Today is not only New Year's Day, but also my wedding anniversary. Thirteen wonderful years with my husband, Gary!

I wanted to make a special dinner and since Gary has been yearning for stuffed peppers lately, I created this vegetarian version using tempeh. Tempeh is a cultured soy product that is made from whole soy beans--even the anti-soy contingent deem tempeh as a healthful food. It's high in protein, calcium, and iron. It does have a strong taste, however, that my family is not crazy about -- this recipe, however, was a big hit as the flavors of the sauce really toned down the tempeh flavor and the texture came out perfect.

Tempeh Stuffed Peppers
This is a great way to introduce your family and friends to tempeh—also a good way to use up leftover brown rice. If you are only serving four, you can halve the recipe but I like to make the whole batch so I can take the leftovers for lunch or maybe even have enough for another dinner.

4 bell peppers, preferably of assorted colors (red, yellow, orange, green)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, minced (about 1 cup)
16 ounces tempeh
1 cup cooked brown rice
1 cup corn kernels, fresh or frozen
2 cups marinara sauce
red pepper flakes
1/2 to 1 cup shredded dairy or nondairy cheese (optional)
extra olive oil for drizzling

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cut peppers in half lengthwise. Remove stem and seeds. When water is at a full boil, add the peppers. Cook five minutes. Place peppers in a colander to drain.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Oil a 9 x 13-inch baking pan. Place a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add olive oil and onions. Cook give minutes. Dice the tempeh into very small pieces. Add the tempeh to the onions. Cover and cook ten minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden brown. Stir in the rice, corn, and marinara sauce. Add a tablespoon or two of water if they mixture is too dry. Stir in red pepper flakes to taste. Remove from heat.

Arrange the pepper halves cut side up in the oiled baking pan. Scoop stuffing mixture into the halves. Cover the pan and bake 20 minutes. Remove cover and top with a tablespoon or two of optional cheese. Whether using cheese or not, drizzle peppers with a little olive oil. Bake uncovered 20 – 25 minutes, until tops are browned.

Makes 8 servings