May 25, 2017

Baking experiments etc.



I sat down to write a post about my pizza and bread baking experiments with a few air fryer photos thrown in, but when I went through my last few posts to make sure I wasn't repeating myself, the fry photos attacked me, and I had no choice but to give in and make a batch. At least I know my blog is inspiring somebody, even if it's only me. The fries have a half teaspoon of oil, a sprinkle of coarse salt and too many crushed red peppers. They were delicious, yes, but a little too spicy for me, and now my nose is running. I guess it's a small price to pay for fries-on-demand. I usually make them sans oil but wanted to see if they would be a lot different if I used some. Maybe a little different, but I like them so much plain that I think I'll stick to that method when air frying for myself.



About a month ago I started experimenting again with making gluten-free pizza crust. You can see the results above, topped with mozzarella made from the recipe in Miyoko Schinner's book, The Homeade Vegan Pantry. It was a crust raised with baking powder but not yeast. After I made it I watched a video about applying science to gluten free baking, specifically pizza, and was surprised that I'd added most of the recommended ingredients on my own. I felt so scientific, and intended to take it to the next level, but it never happened. (The ingredients included: Bob's Red Mill GF flour mix, millet flour, coconut flour, psyllium husks, sugar, baking powder, salt, almond flour, flax eggs, water.) Before making the dough, I'd thought about what ingredients I should add, and why I was adding them. The crust was good, but not great. After watching the video, I decided to increase certain ingredients and add additional ones, and now I'm trying to  inspire myself to try it again tonight, so perhaps there will be an update soon. Sadly, I don't have homemade mozzarella, but I'll just make a cheese sauce. The aforementioned video said to make the dough very wet, spread it on a pizza pan, bake it in a slow oven for 45 minutes to dry it out, then let it cool while preheating the oven to 425˚F. Add the toppings and bake about 15 minutes. I'll have to watch the video again, but the long, double baking time might exceed my attention span. Perhaps I will selectively incorporate ideas from the video.



I discovered an interesting thing about the pizza while heating up the leftovers. I used my air fryer to heat the leftover slices, and they improved dramatically — becoming crisp on the bottom and chewy inside, just as they should be. Maybe there is something to that scientific double baking time.

As for the cheese, it takes two days to make the mozzarella, but once the ingredients are mixed and cooked, it practically makes itself. Most of the time is just waiting for the cheese to ripen. The recipe is called oil-free melty "mozzarella," and I made the sauerkraut juice version. I recommend it, but would probably make the Rejuvelac version next time.



In addition to making pizza with the homemade mozzarella, I also made a vegan version of poutine. I've never actually had poutine made with cheese curds and gravy, so I can't speak to how my version compares, but I can tell you, with mushroom gravy and mozzarella, it was damn fine (as Agent Cooper would say). I swear, if my air fryer ever breaks, I will immediately replace it.


Along with my pizza trials, I revisited the buckwheat-millet nut-and-seed bread that has appeared on the blog periodically — here, here, and here. I've slowly been making changes to the recipe, and when I'm satisfied, I'll post a revised version. The original, unyeasted, naturally leavened loaf is still delicious, but I've been working on a yeasted version in an attempt to make the texture lighter. My husband recently had some dental work done that requires him not to eat nuts or seeds for a month, so the bread is on hold for a couple more weeks. I can't eat the whole loaf by myself.



Here are a few more random dishes made with the aid of the air fryer. (Baking in the oven or frying in a pan are alternatives to the air fryer.) When I air fry tofu, I find it most efficient to cut the tofu into strips, then cube it after it's done. So here's what it looks like before I turn it into a recipe. (It takes a lot of will power to not just eat it as is.)



Fancier-than-usual miso soup, or any miso soup, is always welcome at our house. I love to add air fried tofu to miso soup.



Vegetables and (air fried) tofu with peanut sauce is a fast option when we're too tired or lazy to think of something new for dinner. My husband found a recipe called almost instant peanut sauce on the Forks Over Knives Web site that was surprisingly delicious, and turned a simple dish into a wonderfully satisfying meal.

My dog is patiently waiting for me to take her for a walk, so I'm going to conclude my post here. I'm working on a cookbook review, and a new product review which I hope to finish soon. 

April 29, 2017

Braised greens with tofu, cashews and raisins, with polenta



I tend to try a recipe, love it, and never make it again. If my husband, on the other hand, tries a recipe and likes it, he makes it again and again until neither of us can stand the sight of it. That's what happened to the recipe I'm sharing today, twice, but he made it recently and, unsuspecting, I tasted it and said, "this is delicious, what is it?"

It seemed vaguely familiar, and turned out to be a recipe I had posted back in 2008, and again in 2012. With some minor changes to the ingredients, I'm re-posting it again since we enjoyed it so much. I want to occasionally share some of the older recipes that have become buried in the archives, and this one deserves another look.

Braised greens with tofu, cashews and raisins, served over polenta (serves 2 to 3 adults)
 
The polenta

The polenta is based on a recipe from Passionate Vegetarian, by Crescent Dragonwagon. The author says it's an old Tuscan peasant recipe.
  • 1 cup course grind cornmeal (our co-op sells a bulk coarse grind labeled "polenta")
  • 3 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon salt, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast flakes (not brewers yeast powder), optional but recommended
  1. Oil a 3 quart oven-proof skillet or dish. Put all ingredients in the dish and mix together casually.
  2. Put the dish, uncovered, in a pre-heated 350˚ oven. Bake for 40 minutes, undisturbed. After 40 minutes, stir and bake 10 more minutes, if needed. Remove from oven and let sit for five minutes. Creamy, dreamy, heartwarming polenta. Mmm.
I always make the polenta in a 3 1/2 quart enameled cast iron casserole pan from Le Creuset. It's one of three pieces of the cookware I own, and it gets used nearly every day. Because the pan isn't supposed to go directly from cold to hot, I put the polenta in the oven when I turn it on to pre-heat, and start the timer when the oven reaches the correct temperature. Lately, I've been making the polenta in my Instant Pot, but if you don't have an Instant Pot, the oven method is foolproof and easy.

the braised greens with tofu, cashews and raisins

Based on a recipe that I think was from the NY Times, but I'm not sure. The inspiration may have come from Parade Magazine.

  • 1 pound collard greens (I used a large bunch - no idea what it weighed) (or you can use kale, which was in the original version of the recipe)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil or low sodium veg broth
  • 1/2 pound extra firm tofu, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 teaspoon tamari
  • 1/4 cup cashews
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs (one slice of bread should be about right- use gluten-free bread if desired)
  • 1/4 cup raisins (I use dried cranberries when making this dish for a certain raisin-hater)
  • 1/2 cup sliced fresh mushrooms (shiitake are recommended)
  • one good sized carrot, peeled and finely grated
  • 1/2 teaspoon natural sugar
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (unseasoned)
  • salt to taste, as needed
  • freshly ground black pepper
  1. Wash greens, remove any thick stems, coarsely chop and set aside the leaves.
  2. Place the tofu cubes in a small bowl and drizzle with one teaspoon tamari. Toss to coat all the cubes. Let sit five minutes.
  3. Heat one tablespoon oil in wok or skillet. Add the tofu cubes and cook over high heat until browned.*
  4. Turn the heat down. Add the mushrooms, cashews and bread crumbs and sauté until they are lightly browned. Stir in the raisins. Remove mixture from pan and set aside.
  5. Add the other tablespoon of oil to pan, add the shredded carrot, increase heat to high and add the greens. Stir to mix, then cover and cook about three minutes until the greens have wilted but are still bright green. (Be careful not to burn them.)
  6. Reduce heat, stir in sugar and vinegar, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the tofu mixture. Spread over polenta and serve.
Sometimes I spread the polenta on a large serving platter and arrange the veggies 'decoratively' on top. You can garnish with parsley and olives if desired.

*I used my air fryer to fry the tofu without oil. I let the tofu cook while I prepared and cooked the rest of the dish, and added it at the end. The tofu takes about 20 to 30 minutes in the air fryer. Low sodium vegetable stock was used to sauté the veggies.

The whole vegetable part takes about 15-20 minutes including prep time, so plan accordingly so you can have the veggies and polenta finish cooking about the same time.

April 18, 2017

How to impress the kids with an air fryer



Two of my young grandchildren recently spent the day with us, and at one point during the visit I saw my nine-year-old granddaughter looking at my food blog on my husband's computer. I had no idea she even knew about the blog, and I asked her how she found it. "I just googled your name," she said. "Look. I'll show you how." Okay. That was weird. But it got even better.

"I love looking at pictures of food," she said. "Want to see my favorite thing?" she asked. "Ummm sure," I answered. She then went to my air fryer post and found a photo of French fries.


This is the photo she showed me. "Fries are my favorite food. I wish I could have these right now," she said, wistfully. "You can!" I answered, and less than 20 minutes later, she was sitting in front of a plate of puffy, crispy fries, which she devoured. I think the air fryer has become the most used appliance in the kitchen. And I now have super powers!

I admit, in the beginning days of owning the air fryer, I was so obsessed with fries (and tofu) that every time I went to make something in the air fryer, I ended up making one of those two things. I've expanded my repertoire a bit, though if I'm being honest, they are still my favorites.

April 05, 2017

Seattle Vegfest 2017



Before heading to the latest incarnation of Seattle Vegfest, I checked my last vegfest blog post for inspiration, to get myself excited to head down to the Seattle Center, and spend several hours battling the crowds for samples and insight into the newest vegan and vegetarian products. (Vegfest includes vegetarian as well as vegan items, so we have to ask before sampling any unfamiliar foods to make sure they're vegan.) If I'm being honest, I think the 2015 post was a much better post than this one is going to be — better photos, better samples — maybe you should go read that one instead of this. (Just kidding.)

Some of my favorite products and people weren't there this year, including So Delicious. I was really looking forward to sampling So Delicious cashew ice cream. And Jill from Someday Farm B&B wasn't there either. At least Miyoko Schinner was there to give a cooking demo. I'm sure you know her from Miyoko's Kitchen vegan cheese, or from one of her cookbooks, Artisan Vegan Cheese, The Homemade Vegan Pantry, Japanese Cooking, or Now and Zen Epicure. I have all of her cookbooks and have been to many cooking demos and a book talk. At Vegfest this year, she made almond feta, which she then used to make stuffed shells. It really doesn't matter what Miyoko makes, her demos are always entertaining and informative. She did a very amusing demonstration of how to peel almonds by bringing a bunch of kids from the audience on stage and having them shoot almonds at the crowd. One of the samples I tried and admired at Vegfest this year, was Miyoko's Kitchen smoked mozzarella — excellent!



We also attended a cooking demo by Chef Ramses Bravo, executive chef at TrueNorth Health Center. He made a couple of vegetable dishes that looked delicious. Chef Ramses has a cookbook, too, (which I reviewed here), so I was interested in seeing him in person. When I reviewed his book, I was cooking with, and eating, a lot more oil than I do now, so it was fun to watch an oil-free cooking demo.



In between the cooking demos, we systematically wandered all the isles of the room to seek out as many samples to try as we could. It was so crowded I had trouble getting good photos, but beyond the crowds, we weren't as intrigued by the food as we have been in the past. That said, we did try a number of foods we really liked. Above, you see my husband happily holding a dish of delicious polenta about to be topped with a condiment that was so good, he ended up buying a jar on the spot.

Hero The Mighty Condiment Giardiniera.

I had just tasted the condiment, Hero The Mighty Condiment Giardiniera, on a cracker, and agreed we should take a jar home. It contains sweet red peppers, celery, carrots, Spanish olives, Serrano peppers, jalapeno peppers, pickled pearl onions, canola oil, white vinegar and salt. It's vegan, gluten free and GMO free, but not organic. It's made in Seattle so I don't don't how widely available it is.

We tasted a  a bunch of stuff I didn't get photos of like Frooser, a frozen soft-serve type snack made entirely from whole fruits and veggies, and Wildwood GF baked tofu. Hodo Soy, which I wrote about here, was sampling their wares so of course, we tried some. We also tried numerous versions of kombucha (our favorite is still GTs), and I got to try a sample of Go Umami baked tofu bar from House Foods, which I'm told will be available soon in Seattle, but which tasted extremely salty to me. I have to say, though, I have strong reservations about how many single serve products wrapped in plastic we consume. What do you think about that?

Samples from our bag.

Before we left the hall, we renewed our membership in Vegetarians of Washington, and received a large bag of samples and coupons for free products and restaurant meals. The bag included the usual suspects as well as bottles of kombucha, Odwalla fruit smoothie. and more. There was even a full box of So Delicious ice cream sandwiches, which my husband is enjoying. In the photo above you can see a bit of what we brought home in our bag. I already buy the hemp hearts in a big bag, and add them to smoothies and baked goods. Haven't tried the Teechino, yet, and loved the Thin Stackers from Lundberg, which we will probably start buying.



My favorite item may have been the NadaMoo mint chocolate chip organic coconut ice cream. Whoa — delicious! I'm not even going to look at the ingredients until it's gone — why spoil a good thing. I've never had NadaMoo but it's definitely a most impressive dairy-free ice cream. Have you tried it?



Last but not least, is a jar of Make Me Smile, from Pascha Chocolate. It's made in Belgium for Pascha Chocolate in Toronto. Make Me Smile is a fruit and chocolate spread. When I tasted it, I was surprised at how incredibly sweet it was, and looked again to see the ingredients, because the label said it was made from fruit and chocolate. It is made from fruit, but it's made from fruit concentrates (pear, apple and date), sugar, fair-trade cocoa and citric acid. I think if you have a sweet tooth, you might love it, but for me the sweetness was too intense and overpowering. I couldn't eat more than a bite or two of my cracker, and had to run to the kitchen for a jalapeno-stuffed green olive chaser — shows you where my taste buds lie.

I'm sure I'm leaving some tasty things out, but I've described what I remember most from Seattle Vegfest 2017. I'll probably attend again next year, and hopefully pay more attention to photographing the goods!

March 30, 2017

Sauerkraut sushi? Maybe not.



When the rain stops and the sun comes out in Seattle, you don't grab a quick shower, throw a load of clothes in the washer, or write a blog post. You go outside and plant the parsley! The parsley that's been sitting on the deck waiting for this moment is now in the ground. And it's raining again. Oh well. I was kind of hoping the sun would stay out for a while longer, but this season has been especially rainy and sunless. Normally, Seattle has a lot less rain than many other large cities, like New York, D.C., Baltimore, etc. It's often overcast and gloomy, though, except in later spring and summer, when it tends to be gloriously sunny and dry. Today, though, I'll probably be taking the dog for a walk in drizzle, and thinking about the parsley spreading its roots and preparing to grow bigger as the weather turns to spring. But first, a random post about some of the food we've been eating.



About the sushi in the post title ... I had a terrible craving for sushi. With a quantity of sushi rice in the pantry, and my Instant Pot standing at the ready, I got busy cooking rice and thinking about what to fill the rolls with. The fridge was bare of interesting things, and I wasn't in the mood to go shopping — it was probably raining. Not a cucumber. green onion or avocado in sight, and no creative thoughts in my brain. Nothing but a jar of sauerkraut stood out as a possibility. Let's just say I won't be making sauerkraut sushi again, and you shouldn't either. Not as the only add-in. Perhaps it would be an interesting flavor along with other, more colorful items like roasted red peppers or fried tofu.



I've been having loads of fun with my new air fryer; I use it constantly for everything imaginable. Here is a bowl of rice and veggies with air fried tofu and a sweet/sour sauce.



Leftover dinner salad filled with arugula — my favorite green of the moment — made a pleasant lunch. Although we eat a lot of salads in the summer, sometimes I forget to eat them in the chilly, gloomy months. And when I do consume raw greens in the winter, they have to be special. This is a Chinese salad with mandarins and toasted peanuts from Kristy Turner's cookbook, But My Family Would Never Eat Vegan, 125 Recipes to Win Everyone Over, which we can't help but make again and again.




The leftover salad nicely complemented leftover Thai food the following day. Most of our lunches are made from leftovers. I love leftovers.



My husband made tacos last week, and I wanted a cheesy topping, but I only had 10 minutes before the start of the Rachel Maddow show, to which I'm currently addicted (it's Pacific time here so she comes on at 6 p.m.). I made cheese sauce in under 10 minutes so I could get to the TV in time to watch. I didn't use a recipe, which made it faster, and didn't write it down, which I'm sorry about since it tasted so good. I made it in the Vitamix with approximately 1/2 -3/4 cup of cashews, 1 cup of hot water, one clove of garlic, 1/2 teaspoon of chipotle chili powder, 1/4 cup of nutritional yeast flakes, two roasted red peppers from a jar, 1 scant tablespoon of tapioca starch, dash of rice vinegar (no time to squeeze lemon) and salt. After it was blended to a creamy sauce, I cooked it in a small pot to thicken it a bit more. It tasted great on the tacos, and now the leftovers are being spread on crackers and toast. I've been making vegan cheese sauces since the 80s, when I first acquired a copy of The Farm Cookbook, then later, from The Uncheese Cookbook and Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook. Since then, vegan cheese has skyrocketed in popularity, and every vegan cookbook and vegan blog has multiple recipes available. If you don't feel like making one up based on past experience, just look for a recipe online. You won't have a problem finding something appealing. I have a few favorites that I turn to again and again — when speed isn't an issue! When I need something fast, and don't have time to undertake a recipe, I wing it.

The toast is made from the buckwheat millet bread I wrote about here. I've been experimenting with the bread again, and when I finish, I'll post an updated recipe.

I ran into a little problem after I made the bread because the air fryer bumped the toaster from its accessible location on the counter. The bread absolutely needs toasting to be at its best, so now the air fryer is also a toaster! And, it makes better toast than the toaster ever did. Love my air fryer!

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