Thursday, January 29, 2009

Daring Bakers Challenge - Tuiles

This month’s challenge was not so much about the baking, but about the technique. We were to bake tuile cookies, shape them into pretty shapes, and pair them with something light. I made Lemon Tuilles from Millennium.

I fashioned a stencil from cardboard by tracing a flower cookie cutter and removing the shapes with an exacto knife.

I thought I shouldn’t use an overly elaborate design for fear of very burnt edges on the cookies.

My design was a little too plain. When the cookies spread and baked, it was hard to tell they were flower shaped. They also wanted to break when I tried to curl them.

I baked three cookies at the time since the cookies have to be shaped immediately when they come out of the oven. Here’s the first batch. Good cookies, bad shape.

I tried another batch and got the same results. So I gave up and decided to be satisfied with just baking my mom some flat but yummy lemon cookies – her favorite.

Mom and I enjoyed my cookies with her fabulous fruit salad.

So I didn’t impress you, but at least you now know about a great lemon cookie recipe the next time you need one. Hopefully my next post will feature better food. Oh, and do look at some other Daring Bakers posts for successful challenges!

This month’s challenge is brought to us by Karen of Bake My Day and Zorra of 1x umruehren bitte aka Kochtopf. They have chosen Tuiles from The Chocolate Book by Angelique Schmeink and Nougatine and Chocolate Tuiles from Michel Roux.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Soup, Tostados, and Pierre

Tomorrow Nava Atlas’ latest edition of her famous soup cookbook will be released. It is newly title Vegan Soups and Hearty Stews for All Seasons. I have made so many wonderful recipes from this book and I recommend it highly for all you soup lovers. And even for non-soup lovers. I must admit I was not a fan of soups (due to my rule about not drinking my calories) until I started making recipes from this book. This weekend I made another delicious creation from the book, Three Bean Soup with Brown Rice.

It has red, white, and green beans, along with tomatoes and brown rice. It is quick and easy to prepare and Nava has allowed me to reprint the recipe for you here. It is very warming and hearty. Please do give it a try, and then get yourself a copy of the book!

Three-Bean Soup with Brown Rice
Red, white, and green beans in a tomato broth

8 servings

A warming, hearty, high-fiber soup, this is great served with Green Chili Cornbread and a simple salad or coleslaw.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large celery stalk, diced
6 cups water
1/2 cup raw brown rice, rinsed
One 16-ounce can salt-free crushed tomatoes
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon chili powder
One 10-ounce package frozen green beans
One 16-ounce can great northern or cannelloni beans, drained and rinsed
One 16-ounce can kidney or red beans, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon lime juice, or more to taste
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro or parsley
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Thin limes wedges for garnish, optional

Heat the oil in a soup pot. Add the onion and sauté over medium-low heat until translucent. Add the garlic and celery and continue to sauté until all are golden.

Add the water, rice, tomatoes, oregano, and chili powder. Bring to a rapid simmer, then lower the heat. Cover and simmer gently for 30 minutes.

Add the three types of beans and simmer over very low heat for another 15 to 20 minutes, or until the rice and green beans are quite tender.

Stir in the lime juice and cilantro, then season with salt and pepper. If time allows, let the soup stand off the heat for an hour or longer, then heat through before serving. Garnish each serving with two or three lime wedges, if desired.

I didn’t make the cornbread this time to go with the soup, but the book does include a section with lots of bread recipes to use as accompaniments. My absolute favorite is the Oat-Walnut Muffins.

I took the whole pot of soup to my mom’s house for dinner. I actually struggled to come up with something to have with the soup. I wanted something kinda Mexican and kinda crunchy, but I didn’t want tacos with more beans and rice. Then I came across a wonderful recipe in Dreena Burton’s The Everyday Vegan - Mexican Tortilla Triangles. It’s a fabulous butternut squash puree spread on tortillas and baked. The squash puree was absolutely addictive!

I found some great baked tostado shells at my market. They are lightyears better than those gross, yellow, mass-produced products and far crispier than anything I could make myself. And they come in the coolest container! All you Texans near an HEB should definitely seek these out.

So we topped our tostados with lettuce, tomato, and onion and along with our soup had ourselves a super supper.

I took my Razzcherry Cupcakes for dessert. My mom said they were the best cupcakes ever so I will have to remind you to vote for me later this week!

Now before I get to Pierre, I want to take just a minute to talk about all the vegan cookbooks and recipes we have access to these days. You all know I have a 22 year old son and should surmise that I have been in the kitchen for 20+ years. Please benefit from my experience when I give you this bit of advice. We are so incredibly fortunate to have at this time an abundance of wonderful vegan cookbooks, as well as spectacular cooks and bakers in the blog world. I know of 7 more new cookbooks on the way! When you buy a cookbook, please read the whole cookbook. Read the introduction provided by the author. Read the book from cover to cover. You’ll get tips, explanations, background information, and recommendations about the recipes. Read the recipe headers. Read the variations provided. And read the recipe in its entirety before you begin to prepare it. And when you want to try a recipe from a blog, read the whole post and the blogger’s comments about the recipe. Some recipes are written with children in mind. Some are meant for more adventurous tastes. I do prepare recipes as given many times, but usually I change at least a little something to make it my own. Taste as you cook. This took me a long time to learn. Please don’t write off a recipe because it didn’t have enough salt. Add more salt! If you don’t like barley, don’t make Vegetable Barley Soup and expect to like it. But do make it with brown rice instead (if you like brown rice) and perhaps you will like it. Do you get what I’m saying? For example, I laugh to myself when I see a recipe for a big ol’ pot of chili that only has one teaspoon of chili powder in it. I always add at least a tablespoon because that fits my spicy palette. And I don’t like to season with tarragon or fennel seed. If I come across a recipe that intrigues me then see either of those spices included, I can still make it. I just omit that spice or use only half the amount called for if it would alter too much the integrity of the dish. I used to pass over recipes that called for curry powder because I hated the little green tin in my spice cabinet. But now I have a curry powder I love and use it liberally. It’s as simple as altering a recipe that makes 6-8 servings. If I don’t want that much, I don’t give up on that recipe. I make a half recipe. And finally, one trick I use for savory dishes that you might try is this: when a finished recipe seems like it’s lacking something but you just don’t know what it is, many times a teaspoon of cider or red wine vinegar will brighten up all the flavors. A splash of wine would work here too. Granted, sometimes a recipe just doesn’t work or just isn’t something I like. But honestly, if I prepare something and it doesn’t turn out right, it’s no one’s fault but my own. Use all these new books and recipes as your guide to continue to create your own fabulous vegan recipes!

Okay, lecture over. Meet Pierre!

I wish he were my baby, but I was just dogsitting on Saturday. He belongs to Chase. This precious puppy was tethered in someone’s front yard and subsequently rescued. Chase will give Pierre a good home and he will have another dog and two bearded dragons to keep him company. Oh, this is the tiniest dog I’ve ever seen! He’s a little bigger than a beanie baby…

… and a little smaller than my shoes.

Altogether now – awwwwwww!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Iron Cupcake – Wine Challenge!

Wine and strawberries, champagne and chocolate, so many possibilities for this month's Iron Cupcake Challenge!

For my cupcake, I decided to use my new favorite fruit, Razzcherries, and pair it with a sweet Moscato. I boozed it up a little more by topping my cuppies with a brandy infused fluffy buttercream. And finally, they are sprinkled with walnut dust and topped with a whole razzcherry.

If you remember, razzcherries are tart cherries infused with raspberry concentrate and then dehydrated. And they taste phenomenal! I have been dying to use them in a baked treat. I know they would be especially delicious with chocolate cake, but I wanted you to be able to see them so I made white cake. I think chopping them released their flavor even more. I added them to the Golden Vanilla Cupcake recipe from VCTOTW. The wine adds a rich moistness to the cakes, and the brandy was a nice extra zip in the frosting. They turned out fantastic!

Voting begins Thursday, January 29 at 8 p.m. at NO ONE PUTS CUPCAKE IN A CORNER and will be open through Wednesday, February 4 at 12 noon. The winner will be posted the night of February 4 before 11:59 p.m. You can join the challenge anytime at IronCupcake:Earth cuphub at
This month’s winner will receive prizes from the following sponsors: Dogbone Art, Cakespy, a pair of cupcake earrings from Lots of Sprinkles, Sweet Cuppin Cakes Bakery and Cupcakery Supply, Head Chefs by Fiesta Products, Hello Cupcake by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson, Jessie Steele Aprons, Cupcake Courier, Taste of Home books, and a Cupcake Tee from UPWITHCUPCAKES.COM. Iron Cupcake:Earth is sponsored in part by 1-800-Flowers.
This is always a such fun and delicious challenge!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Zukay Live Foods – a Review

I was recently gifted with a box of 6 jars of salsas and relishes from Zukay Live Foods. Zukay is a new company with a trendy, innovative concept. Their salsas and relishes are made from all natural, mostly raw, locally sourced foods and infused with vegan probiotics. This idea is especially intriguing to me since (a) I’m vegan; (b) I have digestive issues; and (c) I’m soy intolerant. Capsules were my only option for probiotics, until now.

Zukay has a wonderful website with LOTS of information about their company, products, ingredients, probiotics, and the fermentation process. They also have nice pictures of their products, but so you can see them now, here are some pictures of what I got in my box:

How do the products taste? Well, yes, you can tell there is something different about them. I would not say the products are really *fizzy,* but perhaps have a mouthfeel more like they added some baking soda to them.

I like the salsas okay. A Texan is probably not the best person to ask to review salsa. I could get about 25 really really delicious fresh local salsas from any grocer in town. I could not detect any heat in the Zukay mild salsa, and I could barely detect any heat in hot salsa. But like I said, that’s just me and they are definitely worth a try if you enjoy salsas.

The relishes, however, get a big huge thumbs up! I absolutely love both of them. They taste so fresh and both the garlic and horseradish flavors are clean and clear and in just the right amounts.

A serving of these products has a mere 5 calories and no fat, so I have been adding them to lots of my vegetable dishes. I don’t know that I’ve eaten enough to balance my intestinal flora, but I’ve certainly been enjoying them. Zukay Live Food products are not yet available nationwide in stores, but they are available to everyone from their online shop, so do check them out when you get a chance.

Thank you, Scott, for your wonderful, generous gift!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Sunday Dinner – Ouì Ouì!

I made Quiche du Jour and Pan Bagnat, two of Urban Vegan’s test recipes for her upcoming cookbook, to take to Chase’s apartment for dinner tonight with him and his girlfriend. It was a beautiful, warmish day so I was able to take photos before packing up the foods.

The Quiche has onions, peppers, corn, and tomatoes, and a panko topping.

The testers raved and each had a nice big slice like this.

But what they REALLY went crazy for is the Pan Bagnat!

This is a lovely nicoise salad in a small boule round, and the two of them ate this whole thing!
My own contribution to dinner was a Mediterranean style stew of homemade cannelini beans, roasted tomatoes, and zucchini. I took over a big pot and was surprised they had room to eat the stew too.

Dessert was another Urban Vegan tester, another winner as well - Coconut Lime Bars that Chase described as ooey, gooey, and chewy with great lime flavor.

Sorry for such a brief post, but I have to go in to the office tomorrow - no holiday for me. I’ll be back later in the week with a wonderful new product review.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Back from Alabammy!

Hey, everybody! I had a great visit with my sister and her family in Alabama. My nephews are 10- and 7-year-old very busy boys, and completely delightful. My sister and I shopped and cooked and spent a good deal of time going through and organizing her recipes, and gathering recipes for our family cookbook.

Some dinners we made that I didn’t take a picture of and are among my favorites were cabbage and mushrooms, everything stirfry, and Three Sisters Stew. My sister enjoyed them as much as I did. The Three Sisters Stew is from 150 Vegan Favorites and I have a picture I took two years ago to show you. It is made with pumpkin, corn, and beans and this particular recipe is really delicious.

We also tried to make my grandma’s yeasted dinner rolls. Grandma didn’t use a recipe, she just made them, and they were killer. Not vegan (they have egg), but killer. We didn’t get it quite right. They literally took all day to make and my sister says she will never attempt them again. I really want to try to make them without the egg and at a lower oven temp.

We did make my Beer Bread, which was a huge hit! Thank you to Claudia who left me a comment that her family enjoyed this bread too. Here’s the picture from the last post.

We made 2 test recipes from Urban Vegan’s forthcoming cookbook. Chickpea Chili Burgers – excellent!

And Zucchini Bread, which was the best I’ve ever had. My sister said so too. (Don’t worry Dynise, I didn’t give her the recipes!) It doesn’t look real pretty due to a mistake on my part, but boy is it delicious.

We came across a recipe my mom had given my sister for Five Minute Chocolate Cake. She had never made it, so I said if we could make a vegan version, I was willing to try it. You mix up the batter in a big mug. I called it Cup o’ Cake.

You bake it in the microwave for 3 minutes.

Let it cool, then spoon it out.

We both said we hoped it wasn’t very good because chocolate cake ready in 5 minutes is dangerous. Thankfully, it tasted like microwave cake. Now it will cure a chocolate craving, especially if you put some good frosting on it. You know you want to try it too, so here’s the recipe:

Five Minute Chocolate Cake
Serves 2

4 T. flour
4 T. sugar
2 T. cocoa powder
1 flax egg
3 T. nondairy milk
3 T. oil
dash vanilla
dash chocolate extract (optional)
1 T. mini chocolate chips (optional, but recommended)

Add dry ingredients to a large mug and mix well. Stir in remaining ingredients. Place mug on plate and microwave 3 minutes or until cake stops rising. Let cool. Eat!

I was able to bring back a few ingredients I haven’t seen in Austin. Oh, our governor was on my plane from Dallas to Austin!

Yay! And these....

Gave them to Chase. And....

This is roasted minced garlic and I am completely addicted. I cook with them, and sprinkle them on top of my salads and steamed veggies - yum, yum, yum!

One other fun thing that happened while I was gone. Chase’s car kicked it before Christmas, so before I left for Alabama we ordered him a scooter! He got it while I was away and came by to show it to me last night. My camera was about out of batteries, but here’s a shot of him on it. He is so happy!

I’m trying to catch up on all of your posts as fast as I can!

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Dinner Italian Style

I have three recipes for you from our huge Sunday Italian style dinner. I cooked a lot, too much really, but I like for Chase to go home with plenty of leftovers. We had beer bread, tofu, spaghetti squash with creamy tomato sauce, risotto, and fudge cake. I baked everything but the sauce which made it a super easy and delicious meal. And it was a cold and dreary Sunday, so keeping the oven going all day was A-OK.

Many of the women in my family are going through our recipe collections to try to get a family cookbook together. These recipes are some I found in my collection. They are old, they were easily made vegan, and they turned out terrific.

First, a little music before dinner.

Beer Bread – This recipe is very similar to the one Happy Herbivore posted recently, but not as healthy. It baked up beautifully and Chase couldn’t get enough of it.

Beer Bread

Makes one 8 x 5 loaf

1-1/2 cups AP flour
1-1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
1 T. baking powder
½ t. salt
2 T. sugar
1 can beer, room temperature (but not flat)
2 T. melted margarine

Heat oven to 375 degrees.

Mix flours, baking powder, salt, and sugar together. Add in beer. Stir for 30 strokes. Pour batter into greased loaf pan. Pour melted margarine over top – this gives it a crispy crust. Bake for one hour. Remove from pan and cool on rack.

Italian Baked Tofu – This was the first time in a long long time I really missed being able to eat tofu. It smelled and looked so delicious, and Chase loved it.

I don’t have a marinade recipe, but I always start with store bought Italian dressing and white wine, then just see what else is in the fridge and spice cabinet I feel like adding.

Spaghetti Squash – When I flipped the halves over to bake the last 10 minutes, I saw that I had forgotten to scoop out the seeds! So I scooped them out and finished baking, with no harm done, whew…

Creamy Tomato Sauce – No recipe, just my favorite tomato sauce recipe to which I added white beans pureed with a little milk until smooth and creamy.

Baked Risotto – Well you know I’ve been baking my rice dishes, so I was thrilled to find this recipe. It was not as creamy as true risotto, but it sure was easy!

Baked Risotto

Serves 4

2 T. margarine
1 small onion, diced
¾ cup Arborio rice
1 cup vegetable broth
¾ cup white wine
1 cup carrots
1 cup green bell pepper
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
2 T. Italian seasoning

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Lightly oil a 9 x 9 baking dish.

Melt margarine in skillet. Add onion and cook until soft. Add rice and cook for 2 minutes. Add broth and wine and bring to a boil. Stir in remaining ingredients. Cover and bake for 30 minutes. Serve immediately.

(I didn’t really like the pomegranate in this. And I would have preferred mushrooms in it, but no one likes them but me. Any veggies of your choosing would work, and nuts or raisins could sub for the pomegranate.)

Of course steamed broccoli was served as well. Here is my plate.

And here is Chase’s plate. I was afraid I didn’t have enough spaghetti squash so I made some *regular* noodles too, which you can see under the squash noodles.

I don’t know where the above two recipes originated, but dessert comes from my great aunt Sue. Aunt Sue died a long time ago, but I will always remember what a lovely lovely lady she was, full of Southern grace, and of course a fabulous cook. My recipe card merely has a list of ingredients and some sketchy instructions, so here is my vegan version of….

Aunt Sue’s Fudge Cake

Makes 9 servings

½ cup melted margarine or coconut oil
5 scant T. cocoa
1 cup sugar (I used ½ ZSweet and it was not grainy at all!)
¾ cup AP flour
½ t. baking powder
¼ t. salt
2 EnerG eggs
½ cup chopped nuts (I used unsalted peanuts)
½ tub ricemellow
chocolate frosting (I used melted vegan nutella)

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Light oil an 8 x 8 pan.

In a medium bowl stir together margarine, cocoa, sugar, flour, baking powder, and salt. Add in eggs and mix well. Stir in nuts. Spread into pan. Bake 22 minutes. Remove from oven and top with ricemellow. Bake 3 minutes more. Let cool. Top with favorite frosting.

I made mine in a to-go pan so Chase would take it away from me, because I remembered how much I loved this gooey treat.

It is soooo good.

Chocolate, peanuts, marshmallows, and more chocolate – who wouldn’t love it!!!

I’m off to Alabama to visit my sister and her family, so I’ll be away for a while. I don’t have a laptop, but I’ll visit your blogs when I get a chance. Please leave comments and please let me know if you try any of the recipes!

One more thing, remember the Razzcherries I blogged about? Everybody I’ve shared them with has gone CRAZY for them! I’m taking some to Alabama too. You must try them! Texas readers, I got mine from the bulk bin at Central Market.


Thursday, January 01, 2009

This Crazy Vegan Life

HAPPY NEW YEAR crazy vegans! And to all nonvegan readers as well. I hope you enjoyed saying goodbye to 2008 and are looking forward to a healthy and happy 2009. I am looking forward to continuing to provide you with healthy vegan recipes this year, and I hope that you, like me, have resolved to commit or recommit to be the healthiest and best vegan crusader you can be.

I was contacted awhile back by a publishing rep and asked to review Christina Pirello’s new book, This Crazy Vegan Life. So this first post of the new year will contain my thoughts about her book, as well as several recipe reviews. (My compensation for this review was a copy of the book.)

I very much enjoyed reading This Crazy Vegan Life and I highly recommend it to practicing vegans, new vegans, and nonvegans. If you are not familiar with Christina, perhaps you are familiar with her PBS show and website, Christina Cooks. Christina was diagnosed with leukemia and given 3 months to live – 25 years ago. She attributes her health and healing to a vegan macrobiotic diet and lifestyle.

The first half of the book deals with the principles of veganism, including health and nutrition, animal compassion, and environmental issues. We vegans know that meat, dairy, eggs, and processed foods are cruel to our bodies, animals, and the environment. But I learned a lot from the in depth descriptions of how and why this is so. For example, even though I consider myself fairly knowledgeable about vegan nutrition, I was fascinated to read about the process of digestion and the toll nonvegan foods take on our bodies. Christina’s goal is to arm you with all the information and personal testimony she has to get you to commit, with no more excuses, to living a healthy vegan lifestyle so you can feel great about your body and your lifestyle choices. As she stated in the introduction (and I feel her pain!), “As a teacher/advocate of healthy vegan cooking I agonize over the fact that many people listen to what I say and agree that it makes sense. But there is a huge disconnect between hearing, understanding – and doing.”

The book also gives plenty of emphasis to the “criminal” ways of our food industry. Advertisers, lobbyists, and researchers dupe the public into eating their junk foods in huge portions. Corporate manufacturers contaminate and genetically modify our foods while marketers tell us it’s helpful for our health and the world’s food supply.

In the second part of the book, Christina shares her philosophy about food and eating and provides a list of kitchen staples and over 100 vegan recipes. She tells you not only what to eat, but why, when, and how to eat. Two points she reiterates are (1) you truly are what you eat; and (2) it’s the calories that count; you must expend more calories than you consume in order to lose weight – period. She asks you to commit to her eating plan for 21 days to break your dependence on unhealthy foods and reintroduce your numbed tastebuds to the wonderful, delicate flavors of natural foods. She also says 21 days on her plan can turn around a lifetime of unhealthy habits. She includes a nice chapter of 12 exercises with photos to get you moving. One of my favorite passages from the book is “Take a good, hard look at what you ask of your body each and every day and then think about what you do for it in return.”

I will admit that I have tried some recipes from the Christina Cooks website and was disappointed with the lack of flavor, so I was skeptical about the recipes in this book. I made a main dish, side dish, and soup, and to my surprise I was absolutely thrilled with the outcome.

First up – Cauliflower in Spiced Tomato Sauce

I loved that I got to prepare a whole cauliflower again, and the tomato sauce was fabulous! To serve it, I cut it like pie.

Next, Roasted Winter Squash with Basil. I used an acorn squash and left the skin on. I normally don’t like my squash sweet, but this had just a teaspoon of sweetener and I loved it. It was really delicious.

The soup I made is what Christina calls a home remedy broth designed to dissolve hardened fat deposits that lie deep in your organs and jumpstart weight loss. I didn’t expect it to be noteworthy, so I didn’t take a picture. But this 5-ingredient remedy took mere minutes to prepare and honestly is one of the tastiest things I’ve ever had.

The last thing I made was a treat. Christina says her sweetener of choice is erythritol, and even though it sounds like a chemical, it is completely natural made from plant sugars. I was completely unfamiliar with this substance, and I’m not really sure how I feel about it. I bought a bag of Z Sweet. 300 grams, which I believe is 1-1/2 cups, for $8.00. There are 60 calories in the whole bag. Current research deems it completely safe as it is absorbed into the bloodstream and quickly excreted. It does not cause cavities. It does not raise blood sugar and is therefore safe for diabetics. It looks like this:

Apparently erythritol will make your baked goods grainy, so to overcome this, Christina’s recipes have you boil it with other ingredients to dissolve it before mixing it with your dry ingredients. Two problems I had with that – first, it’s an extra step and an extra pot to dirty, and second, you have to wait for the boiled mixture to cool before mixing it with your dry ingredients or else it melts your chocolate chips, as I discovered when adding them to the Mini Pumpkin Cupcakes recipe. (The recipe didn't call for the chips; I just wanted chocolate.)

I baked them in a disposable tin, so you are only seeing their tops. They really baked up beautifully and they were not overly sweet, just like I like them. The texture was fine and the flavor was nice. I have enough Z Sweet to try out a few more recipes. In the meantime, I would love to hear from any of you who have used this sweetener.

To sum up, I highly recommend This Crazy Vegan Life for great insight into the vegan lifestyle provided by an experienced, passionate, and healthy vegan author. I also recommend it for great recipes. I have many bookmarked that I can’t wait to try.

If you want to see Amazon’s review, read it here.
Now, since it is New Year’s Day and I adhere to the tradition of eating blackeyed peas for good luck, I made Chipotle Blackeyed Peas from Get It Ripe! to have for dinner tonight.

I’ve got a nice bunch of kale to serve with them, and I’m going to eat as many as I can for extra good luck in 2009! I'm such a crazy vegan....