July 18, 2016

Blackest bean chocolate [soy curl] chili: Protein Ninja redux

Recently, I wrote a review of Terry Hope Romero's newest cookbook, Protein Ninja, and although I made a fabulous salad I loved from one of the recipes, I also cooked a couple of items I was less fond of. I'd put the book aside for a bit, intending to give it another try, when I read a review here on Chow Vegan that made my mouth water. The two recipes that intrigued me were blackest bean chocolate seitan chili and tempeh sausage sage gravy, which she served over potatoes instead of biscuits. I probably skipped over the chili recipe when I first searched the book for something to cook because of the seitan, since I can't seem to eat glutenous foods without unpleasant gastric symptoms, and because it was served over a hunk of corn bread, which I didn't feel like baking. But it occurred to me I could substitute soy curls for the seitan, with the same chewy, savory effect, and polenta for the muffins. I immediately texted a dinner invitation to my son and daughter-in-law, because the recipe sounded like something my son, especially, would enjoy, and I wanted to try out the recipe on him. They texted back they could come, but Kate's parents would be in town so there would be two additional people, if we still wanted to do a dinner. Kate's parents, whom I adore, are committed omnivores — especially her dad, who might actually be more of a carnivore. How would the chili go over with them? And since I'd never made it before, I didn't know how it would taste. I briefly considered a different menu, but when I have my mind set on something, it's kind of hard to sidetrack me. Chili it would be. And salad.

The chili exceeded my high expectations, as well as my hopes that my guests would enjoy it; the rich, spicy flavors of ancho chili, cumin and cinnamon were perfect. They loved it, and told me as much over and over. In fact, Kate's mom suggested I blog about the meal! And she asked for the recipe. She said if her husband likes a vegan meal, it's got to be good. Seriously, this is the recipe you need when you cook for meat-eating friends and relatives. I'm sure it would have been equally excellent with seitan, but the soy curls were a perfect solution for making the chili gluten-free. I prepared the soy curls the night before by soaking, squeezing and cooking them in a small amount of savory broth plus tamari plus lots of minced fresh garlic. Then I left them overnight in the refrigerator. I made 1-1/2 recipes of chili, and had enough left over for at least a dinner for two plus lunches. Why cook for just one night, right? In keeping with my latest dietary obsession to not use added oil in home cooking, I used no added oil in preparing the chili, besides what might have been in the chocolate, of course—nobody's perfect. The onions and garlic were sautéed in broth until they tasted cooked and sweet. I searched all over the Internet to try to find the chili recipe for you, but although I found lots of similar sounding chilies, none contained the unique combination of ingredients that made the chili stand out as the best I've ever tasted. Terry's recipe was nowhere to be found. You'll just have to buy the book!

One more thing. I've recently become aware of something called an air fryer, that fries foods with little or no oil. I read about it here on JL's blog. After doing some additional research and reading, I've learned that a convection oven, because it cooks with hot, moving air, can possibly accomplish the same thing. It so happens that my oven has a button to turn it into a convection oven, and I tried it out for the first time on the polenta I made to accompany the chili. I placed the polenta squares on a parchment-paper-lined cookie sheet and baked them in my convection oven, turning them over once during the baking. They turned out crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. I intend to experiment more with using the convection oven to roast veggies, tofu, potatoes, burgers, etc. If I don't 'have to' buy another kitchen appliance for my already crowded little kitchen, all the better. We'll see. The air fryer sounds pretty great.

July 12, 2016

Into every oil-free life a little fat must fall

As I mentioned in a previous post, I agreed to taste test bacon bits made from beans, which I never received. Instead of the bacon bits, I was sent a collection of salts (which I really liked), several bags of potato chips which are still unopened, and two boxes of gluten-free ice cream cones. The cones sat on my desk for a few days before I rushed out to grab some ice cream so I could try them. (I was going to make oil-free ice cream but, oh well.)  The ice cream pictured is So Delicious dairy free cashew milk creamy chocolate, in case you were wondering. I'm usually a compulsive label reader but I admit I didn't read the ingredients beyond checking to make sure it was gluten free, and I'm sorry to say that unlike many of the other So Delicious products, the non-GMO symbol is not on the carton. I assume the canola oil in the ice cream is a GMO product, since it doesn't say otherwise.  The ice cream is, in fact, so delicious, but I won't re-buy it if it contains GMO ingredients. (And yes, I know So Delicious was just bought out by White Wave.)

To do the important ice cream cone testing, I called upon Miss E, one of my three favorite testers, and she was happy to help out. I had both sugar cones, and what we used to call 'cake cups' and Miss E chose the cake cup. She is an experienced ice cream cone eater, and I was curious to see if she'd notice anything unusual about the cones — did they taste different in any way? She doesn't know what gluten-free is, and I didn't say anything about it to influence her opinion. She was totally pleased with her cone — loved it, in fact.

The dog didn't want to be left out of the photo shoot.

Because Miss E selected a cake cup, the testing of the sugar cone fell to me, and it's my cone that you see pictured at the top of the page. I have to say the cone tasted just like my memory of how a sugar cone should taste. It was crisp, sweet, slightly caramel-y and delicious. I also tested the cake cup, just to be sure Miss E was telling the truth about it being good, and she was right — it's exactly as it should be.

The cones are from Edward & Sons. The boxes have the symbols for non-Gmo, kosher, vegan and gluten-free, and contain 12 cones each. The cake cups' ingredients include potato starch, expeller pressed palm oil, demerara sugar, potato fiber, cocoa powder, xanthan gum, salt, natural vanilla extract. Each cone has 10 calories with zero calories from fat. In fact, all the nutritional numbers are zero except the total carbohydrate which is 2g.

The sugar cones contain potato starch, demerara sugar, tapioca starch,  expeller pressed palm oil,  potato fiber, cocoa powder, soy lecithin, salt and xanthan gum. Each cone contains 45 calories with zero calories from fat. All the nutrition numbers are zero except 25mg sodium, 5mg potassium, 10g total carbohydrate with 3g sugar. I prefer to avoid palm oil for environmental reasons that affect animals, so I was sorry to see it listed as an ingredient.

As you can see in the photo, the sample box also contained sprinkles, or Sprinklz. When I offered the sprinklz to Miss E, she declined, and I can't say I blamed her. The sprinklz are actually organic, vegan and gluten-free, and contain organic evaporated cane syrup, organic tapioca starch, colors from vegan sources, organic tapioca maltodextrin, baking soda and citric acid, but they are subdued in color. The first time I looked at them they seemed brownish, and odd, but today I looked again and I would describe them as 'pastel.' They actually look a bit better in the photo than in person, and on a cloudy day they look much better than on a sunny one. Today they look kind of pretty, though I have to admit that on the bright sunny day I first saw them, they looked a bit bleak. In truth, I prefer the look to the artificially bright colors one usually sees on items like this, but it's a personal preference.

To sum up, if you are gluten-free or are entertaining a gluten-free friend, and planning to enjoy ice cream cones, the Edward and son ice cream cones taste great, have an excellent texture and are everything an ice cream cone should be. I haven't tasted the sprinklz, but I'd assume they taste just like ... sprinkles!

July 05, 2016

Still cooking and eating / Dr. Michael Klaper video

We've been doing pretty well on our mission to cook without added oil since our class with Dr. Michael Klaper, but our new appreciation for oil-less food is sure making it harder to eat out. Tonight I had a piece of gluten-free pizza that just might have had oil as the main ingredient. Even if I were still cooking with oil, it would still have been too greasy for me. But, I ate it anyway. Oh well. No photo, sorry. Instead here's a photo of homemade chickpeas and veggies over rice.

It's amazing to me that although I can tell right away if a dish is loaded with oil, I can't notice anything lacking when it's not. Does that make sense? My usual stir-fried noodle lunch thing tasted just as delicious without oil. Not everything I cook or eat is oil-free—not yet, anyway—and I'll be surprised if I ever manage to totally give up oil. For example, over the years I've learned how to greatly reduce oil in baking, but I still add some. And there's, you know, eating out.

Here's a lentil and quinoa stew made by my husband from a Fat Free Vegan recipe.

And a potato and kidney bean stew. Soups and stews are really easy to make without oil, and they still taste rich and delicious. If you ever wanted to reduce your use of oil just a couple of days a week, this would be a good way to do it.

A mushroom, kale and tomato sauce pasta dish was especially delicious.

We're trying to eat a big salad everyday either for lunch or dinner, and I've been preparing a salad dressing of the week to have on hand to make the salads more interesting. The salad above, in addition to five-spice roasted chickpeas (from Protein Ninja by Terry Hope Romero but minus the oil) has a whole grain dijon mustard dressing. If I could only remember what was in it, I'd tell you. No oil, though, but it was tangy and wonderful.

If you are interested in viewing the Dr. Klaper class we attended in Port Townsend, it's now available on youtube. We found it very inspirational. I warn you that it's about 3-1/2 hours long, so you might want to watch it in parts, but it's extremely informative, and Dr. Klaper is entertaining as well as illuminating. I've posted it for you, but here's the link in case you want to see it in a larger size.  


Dr. Klaper was in Port Townsend as the guest of the Port Townsend Vegan Meetup Group, and if you watch the video, you'll see it begins with a short introduction by one of the founders of the group,

Let me know if you watch it, and what you think about it.

June 27, 2016

Mesquite BBQ salt and more

Some time ago I was offered samples of 'bacon' bits made from beans, but I ignored the offer, as I often do when companies want me to review their products. Then I read a rave review of the beans on Vegan Eats and Treats, and I had a moment of doubt about my prior decision. So, I looked up the tossed aside email, and wrote back saying I'd be happy to review the bean bacon if it wasn't too late. The sender wrote back saying not only was he sending beans, he was also sending gluten-free ice cream cones, chips and salt. I planned to write back and say only the beans, please,  but didn't get around to it. (Not good timing for chips and ice cream cones when I'm trying to eliminate extracted oils and cut way back on sugar and salt.) I forgot all about it until boxes started arriving at my door. I didn't receive any bacon made from beans, but I did get three other boxes, including a box full of Pacific sea salt. The salt comes from New Zealand. "It is harvested from the pristine waters of the great southern oceans. Currents sweep up the Southern East Coast of New Zealand and into the solar salt field at the top of the South Island. The seawater is evaporated by the natural process Of sun and wind for 13 to 22 months. At the end of each summer, Pacific Sea salt is carefully gathered to retain the balance of minerals and trace elements naturally present in sea salt."

As you can see in the first photo, I received five samples — all of which I will use. So far I've only sampled the three small bottles, and all three seem excellent. In line with our oil-avoidance, we found at a resale shop, an Orville Redenbacher air popper for $3.00, which seems to be in perfect, like-new condition. The salt arrived just in time to sprinkle on our first batch, and both the barbecue and the mesquite flavors were delicious. It didn't take very much of the very fine salt to give the popped corn a delectable flavor. The smoky mesquite was my favorite, but the chipotle is excellent, too. They both will be terrific to use for cooking either on the grill, or on the stove.

The third bottle, flake salt, is a gourmet item. The description on the bottle says, "Marlborough Flaky Sea Salt has been specially evaporated to produce a unique flake shaped salt crystal prized for its enhanced natural flavor and soft texture. This makes it ideal for garnishing all your favorite dishes." It does seem to have a richer flavor than plain salt. I'm very pleased with the Pacific salts and am happy to recommend them. In fact, I think I'll have to re-buy the mesquite and the chipotle when they're gone. Have you tried any of these or other specialty salts?

I probably shouldn't be including the photo above since it detracts from the serious intention of my review, but I can't help myself. When I walked into the kitchen, this is what I saw. My husband had set the new popper on the counter next to the dog dish, which hadn't yet  been given to the dog. When I saw the two together, I couldn't help but take a photo. It's a pretty special popper, don't you think?


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