Friday, September 6, 2013

Vegan Diner - Cookbook review-ish

Today I'd like to cover a book that has been hanging out in my collection a while, but not too long, and I've been hording photos of for ages but missing quite a few photos too because I can't for the life of me lay my little mouse pointer on them . . . 

I've been seeing Julie pop up on the ppk forums since I first became vegan and have learned that she is a great vegan chef.  Recipes that she comes up with are to be trusted, tried and fed to your family.  I guess it probably helps that she's looking to feed her own family as well as running a vegan food business.  It is in her interest to produce delicious foods that anyone and everyone can enjoy.

Starting with breakfast I made the:
Blueberry Nutmeg Muffins (pg 19)
Mocha Muffins (pg 20) 
Banana Biscuits (pg 25)
Breakfast Potatoes with Peppers and Onions (pg 45)
Soups Salads & Sides:
Quick and Hearty Chili (pg 70)
A nice quick chili.  Great on it's own but super awesome over potatoes.  
Garlic Dill Potato Salad (pg 80)
This was awesome!  As with everything I make with raw garlic these days, I scaled down the amount asked for because I couldn't bare to hear it was too much.  I am totally in love with creamy potato salads anyway, always have been.  This doubled as a good help to use extra fresh dill I had hanging out in my fridge.
Vampire Fries (pg 85)
Yup, more garlic and I loved them.  But not too much garlic.  Garlic is good for you!
Sweetheart Fries (pg 86)
Main Courses:
Very Sloppy Joes (pg 93)
I've always had a love hate relationship with sloppy joes.  I like sandwhiches and I like the sloppy joe filling but half of it always squeezes out and you end up eating it with a fork anyway and for sandwhiches I feel like they are fork free foods.  I forget which blog I recently saw this on but I had to do the old forhead smack on this one.  Sloppy joes over potatoes.  I think baked potato would be best but I don't do baked spuds often so the cubed and roasted are just fine here.
Quinoa Burgers (pg 100)
Cheezy Mac (pg 104)
Just add something green for a super yummy rounded out meal.
Jambalaya (pg 105)
Soft and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies (pg 124)
Oatmeal Raisin Cookies (pg 125)
Ooey-Gooey Brownies (pg 126)
Ok these I almost had to report a problem with before I realized the problem was me and my oven.  It's a gas oven and I've always had trouble regulating temperature in gas ovens.  Sometimes the seal has been crap.  Sometimes there isn't even a suggestion of temperature control, just on or off.  First I didn't make them exactly as written I had substituted whole meal flour and then realized as they were baking that I forgot the sugar completely.  They still tasted ok, good thing I like dark chocolate!  Both the first and second times I made them there was a baking time issue.  I just could not get the centers to bake.  Then I thought about it, no matter what I baked in there if it were dessert/snack bars or dinner casseroles I had a ridiculous time getting the centers to heat up before the edges hardened and turned to cemented lumps of charcoal. The final time I improvised a tray on a cookie sheet and followed the recipe exactly and voila! Perfect delicious best brownies ever brownies.  Seriously make these.  
Apple Crumb Pie (pg 138) with All Purpose Pastry Dough (pg 136)
 Sauces & Incidentals:
I won't comment on these individually but just say as a group all the sauces I tried were awesome and I have made them more than once since the first try.
Creamy Sage and Pepper Gravy (pg 160)
Rich Brown Gravy (pg 176)
Rough Rider Barbecue Sauce (pg 178)
 Carolina-Style Barbecue Sauce (pg 179)

There are loads more I want to make.  When I made the bulk of these recipes I was keeping away from too much gluten for our family.  Lately I have been reintroducing it a bit and my little one seems to be doing much better with it.  While I won't be going crazy with it I am now able to try out some more of these recipes.  On that note I did find the book a bit gluten heavy.  For some things like sauces and gravies when a flour is called for it's not a hard sub to choose something wheat and/or gluten free but in recipes where vital wheat gluten flour is called for the substitution is much more difficult and the result will almost certainly not be the same as the recipe creator intended.  Aside from a gluten aversion this book does not disappoint and I look forward to trying out more recipes.  Just now writing this I know that tomorrow morning I will be making Cherry Almond Poppyseed Muffins (pg 18) but with the cranberry variation.  The recipes cover lots of diner style food and definitely hit the comfort food spot.

Julie's latest book is Vegan Pizza: 50 Cheesy, Crispy, Healthy Recipes.  Can't wait to get my mitts on that one.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Make Your Own Tortillas - Save money and preservatives!

I bought flour tortillas and wraps for the longest time just assuming that there was some magic trick to making them and therefore it would just be too much work to make at home.  Turns out that is so far from the truth it's laughable.  When I finally got around to trying it, while living in Spain where tortillas are available but silly expensive, I goggled a recipe and just went for it.  I had no special equipment, not even a rolling pin, working in a tiny hostel kitchen with thin beat up pans.  So I think it's safe to say that pretty much anyone can do this and once you do it a couple times you'll get into a rhythm and it truly is super fast, like 10-20 minutes fast!  So I'll get right to it shall I?

Flour Tortillas
2 1/2 c all purpose flour*
2 1/2 c whole wheat flour*
1-2 tsp salt, to taste
1/2 c vegetable oil, like canola/rapeseed**
1 1/2 c boiling water**

Combine flours and salt in a large mixing bowl.  Add oil and boiling water and mix and knead into a soft, but not sticky, dough.  Be careful of using your hands with the hot water.  Allow the dough to rest about 5 minutes and preheat a griddle or pan(s).  Before I used a griddle I would use 2-3 pans at once.  Heavy bottomed pans (cast iron is great here) is best but thinner pans can be used.  They will not require much preheating.  Once the dough has rested a bit divide into desired number of tortillas.  I usually use these for tacos and would divide the dough into 32 balls.
Sprinkle your work surface with flour and have extra handy as needed.  Roll dough fairly thin but so you can still handle it.  We're not looking for paper thin here.  Place your rolled tortilla onto the hot griddle or pans, pans should be dry, no oil needed.

You may need to increase or decrease the heat on your pans as they come up to temperature.  What you are looking for are small/medium bubbles to start forming on your tortilla within a few seconds.  The first one or two for me always take a bit longer as I usually don't wait for things to preheat properly.  Once you have those bubbles all over your tortilla (or you check and the bottom is starting to lightly brown) then flip and cook the other side for a few more seconds.  Once everything is nicely hot, but not smoking, my tortillas usually take roughly 30 seconds per side.  To steamline the process I am cooking and rolling out dough at the same time.  Once your tortilla is cooked pile them up, they are ready to eat.  If you are storing them allow them to cool fully so as not to trap loads of moisture in with your tortillas.

*You can mix this amount of flour any way you desire.  I have used only all purpose flour and all whole wheat as well.  I prefer a mixture of the two for the best texture.  The resulting tortillas are soft and light but also flavorful and filling.  In general all purpose white flour gives softer fluffier more flexible results, whole wheat will be heavier and make for stiffer cooked tortillas.  You can also directly substitute spelt flour without trouble.
**You can also change the ratios of oil and water within this amount although I have never tried an oil free tortilla.  I have found that this amount of oil really helps in maintaining a soft flexible tortilla once they have cooled in in the following couple days without needing to reheat the breads.

I'm writing out this recipe fast and furious so if something is unclear or you have general questions please feel free to ask and I will try to clarify or modify the recipe :)

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Vegan Pantry - Welcome to Vegan Mofo 2013!!!

Vegan Mofo in September!  Exciting but that means it kind of snuck up on me.  I haven't participated in a couple years and I've really been wanting to get back to this blog regularly so I've signed up.  Fingers crossed I can make a good showing :)

While I won't have a particular theme for the month I will be mostly expanding on what I intended this blog to be about, how to feed a vegan.  This can cover everything from ingredient use, recipes for new foods as well as old favorites, and places to eat out or how to eat well in a nonvegetarian establishment.  Hopefully you find some helpful things to feed yourself or the friendly vegans in your life.

To kick off the month I wanted to share my vegan pantry with you.  This is the master list of what I try to stock in my pantry.  Different households will favor different things but hopefully this is a good starter list for anyone wanting to refresh their own pantry or those just wondering what a typical vegan might be storing in their kitchen cupboards.

The Vegan Pantry
  • chickpeas (dried and/or canned)
  • blackbeans (dried and/or canned)
  • lentils (dried)
  • kidney beans (canned)
  • vegetarian baked beans (canned)
  • soy mince (tvp)
  • soy chunks 
  • tofu (fresh extra firm)
  • brown rice 
  • white rice
  • gluten free pasta
  • whole wheat pasta (preferably organic)
  • rolled oats (preferably organic)
  • whole wheat flour (preferably organic)
  • white flour (preferably organic, rarely use this anymore)
  • whole spelt flour (preferably organic)
  • brown rice flour
  • chickpea flour (besan)
  • corn meal (maize flour)
  • corn starch
  • white sugar (non bone char)
  • dark brown sugar
  • confectioners sugar 
  • treacle/molasses
  • golden syrup (in the US I had corn syrup)
  • maple syrup
  • vegan non hydrogenated margarine
  • canola/rapeseed oil
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • sunflower seed oil
  • raw coconut oil
  • toasted sesame seed oil
Other Baking
  • cocoa powder (fair trade)
  • vegan semisweet chocolate pieces/chips/bar
  • baking powder
  • baking soda/bicarbonate of soda
  • cream of tartar
  • xanthan gum 
  • vanilla extract
  • almond extract
  • peppermint extract
  • active dry yeast
Other Canned Goods
  • tomatoes
  • tomato paste
  • coconut milk
  • pineapple
  • balsamic vinegar
  • apple cider vinegar
  • brown rice vinegar
  • soy sauce/tamari
  • thai curry paste (red or green)
  • liquid smoke
  • ketchup
  • mustard (whole grain, dijon, english, etc)
  • hot sauces
  • brown sauce
  • marmite/yeast extract
  • miso paste
  • vegan vegetable stock cubes/granuals
  • nutritional yeast
Dried Fruit/Nuts/Seeds/Nut Butters
  • raisins 
  • prunes
  • figs
  • cranberries (unsweetened)
  • dates
  • shredded coconut (unsweetened)
  • flake/chip coconut (unsweetened)
  • almonds
  • cashews
  • walnuts
  • sesame seeds
  • hemp seeds
  • flax seeds
  • sunflower seeds
  • peanut butter
  • almond butter
  • tahini
  • soy milk (unsweetened and/or sweetened)
  • coffee (fair trade organic)
  • teas (green, black, herbal)
Spice Rack (items with * I consider basic spice rack needs)
  • anise seeds
  • allspice (ground)
  • basil*
  • bay leaves
  • cardamom
  • cayenne
  • celery seed
  • chili powder*
  • cinnamon* (ground)
  • cloves (ground)
  • coriander
  • cumin seed (and/or ground)*
  • dill
  • fennel seed
  • fenugreek seeds
  • garlic powder*
  • ginger*
  • mustard powder
  • mustard seed
  • nutmeg* (ground)
  • onion powder*
  • oregano*
  • paprika*
  • paprika, smoked
  • peppercorns*
  • red pepper flakes*
  • rosemary*
  • sage*
  • salt
  • thyme*
  • tumeric
Basic Produce
  • potatoes (preferably organic)
  • onions
  • carrots
  • garlic
  • bananas
  • apples
  • oranges
  • lemons
  • peppers
While this looks like a huge huge list remember that this is pretty much every bit of food in the kitchen and lots of things, like the spice/herbs list are small bottles.  Like I said before, different households will favor different things or more or less choices.  I like knowing that I don't really have to shop most days if most of these things around.

Here's to a month of vegan food greatness!