March 30, 2008

Mini-doughnuts (in Seattle)


I don't know when I had time to surf the Web in Seattle, but somehow I ended up on the fabulous Vegan Yum Yum blog and became obsessed with the idea of making gnocchi and mini doughnuts—or at least with the idea of owning a gnocchi board and some mini-doughnut pans. Not long after the obsession set in, I found myself in an upscale cookware store with T and Babycakes and would you believe — they had both items. I bought one of each. The gnocchi board was cheap and I mean to use it in the near future. I only bought one mini-doughnut pan, reasoning that I could get another in Madison if it really appeared I would make mini-doughnuts. Well, I did make the minis in Seattle! I used the recipe from Vegan Yum Yum with a slight twist. I decided that instead of making a chocolate glaze I would make chocolate chip doughnuts. I didn't realize the batter would be warm enough to instantly melt the chips, creating chocolate mini-doughnuts! And being the vegan health-nut that I am, I used whole wheat pastry flour. I wish I had photographed them (very cute) instead of just the pan now that I'm home, but go look at the amazing photos on Vegan Yum Yum and you'll understand why I was so captivated. The minis were delicious by the way, and I intend to make them again — this time with a glaze. I have to say that it was a challenge getting the batter into the pan without covering up the center posts. When the doughnuts came out of the pan, the tops were a little weird and nearly closed, but the bottoms looked like baby doughnuts. I've never made these before so maybe it's bottoms up where baked doughnuts are concerned.
By the way, lest you think all we ate in Seattle were Chinese food, doughnuts and ginger bars, Ken also made farro soup, Tuscan stew and enchiladas. And our son made some great, savory black-eyed peas that I will try to make this weekend from his very sketchy recipe.


UPDATE:
Here's my latest attempt at the mini-doughnut thing. I did a much better job getting the batter into the pan (by using a teaspoon), so the tops looked like doughnuts this time, and I didn't have to turn them upside down. And I put the melted chocolate chips on top instead of inside. Still, I'll never be the sort of baker whose products win oohs and ahs for appearance - except maybe for my breads. These tasted really good, but next time I think I'll make them a little less sweet. And I tried thinning the batter a little before baking the second batch (still only have one pan) and the appearance of the baked doughnuts was much smoother. The texture was better, too. Perhaps the whole wheat pastry flour needs a thinner batter. In any case, the little doughnuts didn't last long!

March 28, 2008

Eating out in Seattle

There are more vegan and vegetarian restaurants in Seattle than I can believe. The choices go from quirky to gourmet and we've dined in the whole range of options from the weirdest to the toniest. You can find many vegan Chinese and Thai establishments as well as vegan sandwich shops, pizza places and bakeries. We've had an elegant dinner at Carmelita and a wedding brunch at Café Flora. We've enjoyed Chinese food at Bamboo Garden and sandwiches from Hillside Quickies. One of the oddest places (said fondly) we ever ate was a throwback to the sixties called Good Morning Healing Earth and was owned by a Vietnam veteran named George. George did the cooking and joined in the conversations in his one-room converted first floor of a house. He had sound equipment in one corner for open-mike music nights. I'd describe the food as hearty American-style vegan with ethnic overtones. George had a Vitamix that he used to make amazing all-fruit ice cream that he served over waffles. He once told us that his dream was to save some money, sell the restaurant and move to Hawaii. Sadly, that never happened. George died some years ago and the restaurant has changed hands and names several times. We've never been back since George died, so I don't know what it's like now.

We ate out three times in two different places on this visit. Sunday night in Seattle we passed on our usual vegan favorites to eat at a neighborhood Chinese restaurant that serves mostly Asian diners who order in Chinese from a Chinese menu. (We had an infant with us and wanted to be conveniently close to home.) N, who has been to China, said the food is pretty authenic
. In addition to the regular menu and the Chinese menu, they have a vegetarian menu. (Yay Seattle) The first night we went there we had ma po tofu, home-made noodles with veggies, szechwan eggplant, dry-cooked string beans, and yuba wrapped mushrooms. Unfortunately, I forgot to take photos before we gobbled everything up, so we had to return a second night. Oh darn. The photo above is my plate on the second visit. It has Chinese broccoli with enoki and black mushrooms, tofu with broccoli and the mushroom stuffed yuba, which, in addition to the noodles, we had to get again.

When we tried to order Chinese broccoli the first night, the waiter talked us out of it, saying Americans don't like it because it's too bitter. We knew he was wrong about us but we went along with his suggestions. Our waitress on the second visit didn't question our choices, and this time we got it. Yum. We also had pea vine, but the photo is kind of scary, unlike the actual dish, so I'm posting only the Chinese broccoli. 


The thick and chewy homemade noodles are definitely on my list of things to try at home. I used to make noodles often and it's really not hard. I was also very fond of the tofu (below) but deep frying at home is not really my thing.
 
The last dish I want to try to make is the yuba wrapped mushrooms. Yuba is also called bean curd sheets or bean curd sticks and is made by skimming off the film that forms on the surface of heated soymilk, and drying it. You can find it in Asian markets as sheets, or rolled into long tube shapes — bean curd sticks. I've used the sticks before but not the sheets - something new to learn.
The restaurant is in North Seattle and is called Chiang's Gourmet. Try it if you're in Seattle, and you're not afraid of a little extra oil.
 


We visited the vegan lunch buffet the following Saturday at Araya Vegan Thai Restaurant. I kept forgetting to photograph my beautiful plate of food, and when I went back to the buffet to take pictures, it was so crowded I couldn't see the selections. So, I have photographed my dessert, which I didn't like and didn't eat. It was some sort of mooshy banana thing with coconut cream that looked good. I put some slightly sweetened crispy noodles on top and those were actually very good in an interesting way. You did notice that I said vegan Thai buffet? No joke.
.

March 25, 2008

Ten days in Seattle (part 1)


We were just in Seattle visiting family (oldest son N, daughter-in-law T, middle son A, girlfriend E. The occasion was to meet N&T's new baby, our first grandchild. Babycakes is fabulously adorable at five weeks old, and we had a terrific time helping out around the house and taking care of her. The delicious-looking veggies above were knitted for Babycakes by the very talented E. One rattles, one crackles—all are pleasingly soft and cuddly.

I could talk all day and night about the scrumtious baby but, this is a vegan food blog, and Seattle is a vegan's paradise so the rest of the posts concerning Seattle will be about food. The nature of the trip was more home-cooking than restaurant-going, but we did manage a few ventures out with Babycakes in tow. We cooked from this blog and others and even watched a cooking show that should result in a carrot cake at some future date. There were restaurant foods that I want to reproduce at home, too, but that will have to wait.

First, a little back story. With all the snow we've had, we encountered problems with a leaking porch roof. Then, two days before departure, a downstairs front room began dripping from the ceiling. We called our roofer who said water had leaked in from the porch roof. We called a house remodeling and roofing company who said it was from an ice dam. Both said it would have to drip out and then we could do repairs but not to worry. Ha. I wanted to stay home until it was resolved but Ken convinced me to go and he would follow as soon as possible. The night before departure we were in bed and I said, "did you hear that?" Ken said, "I didn't hear anything." I said, "I heard a ker-plunk." He ran downstairs and called me immediately to see that a large part of the ceiling had fallen and water was dripping many places other than in the buckets I had arranged in the room. We cleaned up the mess as best we could. All the furniture was already in the living room and hall, the rug was a disaster. Ken called the insurance company. In the morning, after taking me to the airport, he called our plumber for advice and a disaster recovery company was suggested. They discovered a slowly leaking pipe in the wall coming from the upstairs bathroom. The plumber came and fixed the pipe, the leak stopped and the disaster people set up air and infrared machines, or whatever, to dry out the ceiling and kill the mold. Ken left on Tuesday and the machines were removed on Thursday. Whew. What a mess. Guess we won't be having company for a while. 
Friday, my first day in Seattle, I made a batch of ginger bars. For dinner we had some delicious leftover vegan paella that T's mom had made when she visited, and froze. She doesn't use recipes so I can't provide one but it tasted great. The next day I baked "Outrageously Easy BIG Bread" from vegweb. I found a link to the recipe on my friend Claire's blog. I pretty much followed the recipe except I used half whole wheat instead of all-purpose flour. It was as easy as described and had a nice texture and taste, but it was a little too salty for me. It was so easy that I began to wonder why I use a bread machine at home. (Just kidding-I know why...)
 
Seriously, it was really easy. I think using hot water made the dough form much more quickly than cool water does. Kneading it was no problem - I wanted the dough to be kneadable, but still soft. I also wanted to use less yeast and have it rise longer. This fits into my schedule better as I was able to let it rise as long as I wanted until I was ready to form the loaves. It also improves the texture. As long as you use a big bowl, you can pretty much let it rise as long as you want. I think I left it at least four hours on one of the rises. I baked the bread two more times in Seattle and again today at home and changed it a little each time. The original recipe can be ready in two hours but I prefer my version. I use three cups whole wheat flour for the first addition and three cups unbleached (or one cup whole wheat and two cups unbleached) for the second. I use one scant tablespoon of yeast, two scant teaspoons of salt and 1/4 cup of olive oil. I use enough flour to make a soft but kneadable dough and knead it briefly right in the bowl. I cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a towel, let it rise, punch it down, let it rise again then form the loaves. I let the loaves rise about 1/2 hour or until double. I preheat the oven to 475˚ and bake the loaves on a stone. I bake for four minutes and then turn the oven down to 350˚ and bake for about 25 minutes. This is a very soft and delicious bread. Today I made it with caraway seeds but I want to try adding kalamata olives next time. The instructions from the link "Outrageously Easy BIG Bread" are very complete so there's no need to repeat them here.
That night for dinner I made braised greens with tofu, cashews, and raisins over polenta. I love this recipe. T doesn't like raisins so I used dried apricots instead. I made a double recipe which served five big eaters generously and provided lunch for three. I put my youngest son, J, to work making steamed carrots flavored with dill and a small amount of sugar and olive oil. No one could resist the bread so we had that too.

March 21, 2008

Vegetable soup with chipotle and lime

Time for dinner and I didn't feel like cooking. The dog had awakened me the night before at 2 a.m. acting like she wanted to go out. I held her off until 3:30, when I put her in the bathtub and told her to pee. She seemed entertained but unwilling, so I finally forced myself downstairs and out into the frozen blackness so she could relieve herself. Ugh. She went happily back to sleep, but I didn't. After a full day of work, here it was, time for dinner and I was really tired, but very hungry, since I'd had a skimpy lunch.

I peered into the refrigerator. My husband has a weird habit of not using things up. For example, he'll almost finish a bottle of shampoo and then start another one. In the kitchen, he'll leave five brussels sprouts or a small handful of green beans in a bag. I'll find two or more almost empty bottles of pickles or salsa, sometimes different brands. He never uses these things and eventually I'll find little bags of rotting veggies, or crusted jars, in the back of the fridge. Does this condition have a name?

I used to have great dreams of finding extra rooms that I didn't know about in our house. Now, in front of the refrigerator, I was having daydreams (not of finding extra shelves and bins), of finding a leftover I'd forgotten was there. As in, "Oh! There's a pan of shiitake, green onion and tofu ricotta lasagna left over from yesterday. I could eat that!" What I actually saw was half a large onion, a small piece of green pepper, the remains of a cauliflower, an orphaned baby bok choy, a container of leftover chipotle peppers in adobo - and some pressure-cooked white beans. Could be worse. Sigh. Might as well make soup again, I thought. I could add some wine and bread a la Tuscan stew.

I peeled and chopped two big carrots, the pepper, the onion and the cauliflower. I sauteed them in a little olive oil until they softened a bit, and added a half cup of red wine and let it cook gently for eight minutes. Then I added three chipotle peppers (this makes a very spicy soup) and chopped them into the veggies with a spoon. I measured the bean liquid at one quart so I added it to the pot with two more cups of water, and the beans. I brought the soup to a boil, reduced the heat and added the chopped greens and a half cup of frozen corn. I also threw in a half teaspoon of salt and the rest of a stale sourdough baguette (about two cups cut into chunks - If you don't want to add bread, you could add cooked pasta or rice.). Last in was a splash of lime juice. (This would be about the juice of half a lime for those clever enough to have fresh limes in the refrigerator) Top with chopped scallions, if you have them. If you don't want the soup to be spicy, use some smoked Spanish paprika instead of the chipotle. Considering the small amount of time and effort expended, the result was very successful.

March 19, 2008

Cauliflower and potato curry

I usually cook fairly low-fat dishes and would probably use only half the fat called for in this recipe. However, I have on occasion used the full amount to fantastic effect. I love low-fat food and think it tastes great, and you can make this dish low fat. I'm going to list the full amount in the recipe and let you decide. The original recipe calls for ghee, but I substitute olive oil and vegan margarine, or just oil. The margarine gives it a richer taste. If this is going to be only one part of a meal, I use only veggies, but if I intend it as the main (or only) dish for a simple supper, I may add chick peas. It's based on a recipe from "Lord Krishna's Cuisine The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking" by Yamuna Devi. This is a seriously amazing book - not vegan but adaptable. This is a fairly simple dish to prepare and one of my favorites.

Cauliflower and potato curry
-2 hot green chilies, stemmed, seeded and cut lengthwise into long slivers
-1 inch of fresh ginger root, peeled and julienned
-1 teaspoon cumin seeds
-1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds
-2 tablespoons olive oil and 2 tablespoons margarine
-3 medium potatoes, peeled and cut in 1/2 inch cubes
-1 medium cauliflower cored and cut into small flowerets
-2 medium sized tomatoes (in season) or 1 can chopped tomatoes, drained (reserve liquid)
-1/2 teaspoon tumeric
-2 teaspoons ground coriander
-1/2 teaspoon garam masala
-1 teaspoon brown sugar
-1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh coriander or parsley
Heat the oil/margarine in a large heavy skillet, non-stick skillet or wok until hot but not smoking. Add the chilies, ginger, cumin seeds and mustard seeds and fry until the mustard sputters and pops. Add the potatoes and cauliflower and stir fry about 5 minutes until the veggies get some brown spots.

Add the tomatoes, turmeric,coriander,garam masala,sugar,salt and half the fresh coriander. Stir well, cover and cook over low heat for about 20 minutes or until the veggies are tender. Stir occasionally during cooking and make sure the veggies aren't sticking or burning. Add some reserved tomato juice or water if necessary. Garnish with reserved cilantro.
serves 5 or 6

March 15, 2008

Enchiladas


If you asked my three kids what their favorite food was when they lived at home, they would all say, "enchiladas." I know this because I asked, but I kind of knew it anyway. It was the food always requested for birthday dinners or other special events. The version I made was based on a recipe in an old copy of "The Farm Cookbook" I'd found at a garage sale. Making this dish was a big production for someone who mostly cooked on the fly and used cookbooks for inspiration, not recipes. It involved cooking beans, making cheese sauce and chili gravy, and then assembling the whole thing and baking it. One of the kids didn't like corn tortillas so I used whole wheat, and sometimes I made the tortillas, too. So many pots and pans and bowls and baking dishes. At some point I started using Fantastic instant refried beans for the filling, but the whole process was still labor intensive. I must say, though, that those enchiladas were really good!

Recently, after I'd revisited the cheese sauce from "Uncheese Cookbook," I got to thinking about those enchiladas and told my husband that I really wanted some. What do you know - he surprised me with a huge pan of them, and after stuffing myself at dinner and two lunches, I'm sated. No more enchiladas for a while for me. He didn't make the same ones I used to cook. He watched a video of someone cooking a simpler version of enchiladas and adapted the recipe. He used canned beans, fresh potatoes and zucchini, canned enchilada sauce, packaged corn tortillas and no cheese, and the end result was really good. It was a bit too salty for me (all those cans of things) so I've reduced the added salt in the recipe. I've also added some green chilies.

Enchiladas (based on recipe from chooseveg.com)
12 corn tortillas
1 cup onions, chopped
1 cup potatoes, 1/2 inch dice
1 cup pinto beans, drained
1 cup zucchini, diced
1 cup olives, sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 small can green chilies, chopped or (optional)
3 cups canned enchilada sauce (or chili gravy - recipe below)

Sauté the onions and potatoes in the oil in a heavy skillet or wok until the onions are transparent and the potatoes begin to soften. Season with salt and oregano near the end of cooking. In a large bowl, combine the cooked mixture, beans, zucchini, olives and chilies. Mix well and taste for seasoning.

Lightly oil a large (10 x 13 x 2) baking dish. Cover the bottom of the dish with 1 cup sauce. Spread a spoonful of sauce on a tortilla, fill with about 1/4 cup of the bean mixture and roll up. Place seam side down in the baking dish. Continue filling and rolling until all the tortillas are in the baking dish. (If the tortillas need softening before rolling, heat each one briefly on each side in a non-stick pan. Stack on a plate until all are heated. Then proceed with filling and rolling.)

Cover the rolled tortillas with the remaining sauce. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake in a preheated 350˚ oven for 45 to 50 minutes. Serve with green salad and avocados.

note: When I had this for lunch the second time, I added a little vegan mozzarella on top.

As an alternative to canned sauce, you could make chili gravy. It's the Tex Mex version.
1/4 cup oil (I'd probably cut this back to 2 tablespoons)
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped fine (or 1-1/2 teaspoons garlic powder -more authentic, apparently)
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
6 tablespoons good chili powder
6 tablespoons unbleached flour
1 quart water
Fry onions in oil until soft but not brown. Mix in everything but water. Slowly whisk in water to keep from lumping. Bring to boil and cook for 20 minutes at slow boil. Use instead of enchilada sauce. There will be leftover sauce for another recipe.

March 10, 2008

Hot and sour soup

It feels like I've broken a record for soup eating this winter. When it's cold and frozen outside, eating soup just seems right. Now that the end of winter/beginning of spring is theoretically approaching, many people seem to get change-of-season colds, and here's a soup that seems just right for pampering a cold. The recipe creates a mild-mannered broth, but you can make it as spicy as you desire. But, don't wait to be sick to try it. We had it for dinner and we're perfectly healthy!

Hot and sour soup (based on a recipe from about.com)
6 cups low sodium vegetable broth
2 cups fresh mushrooms, sliced (some should be shiitake)
1 small can water chestnuts, sliced
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 teaspoon hot sauce
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 carrot, sliced
8 ounces water-packed firm tofu, cut into cubes
1/2 cup scallions, sliced
3-4 cups chopped bok choy
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
rice thread noodles

Bring broth to simmer and add all ingredients except scallions and bok choy. Simmer 20 minutes. Add bok choy and scallions and simmer 5 more minutes. Add toasted sesame oil. (Add additional soy sauce, hot sauce or vinegar, if desired.)

Put the rice noodles in a pot of boiling water for about 30 seconds, to soften. (or follow directions on the package - they vary a bit in cooking times) Place some noodles in each bowl and ladle soup over.

March 09, 2008

Grilled cheez- again


Now, doesn't this look good? I'm really getting mileage out of the cheez I made for a recent post. There was still some leftover and I needed lunch so I spread it on stale sourdough bread, topped it with leftover chipotle in adobo sauce (my favorite) and put some small sliced tomato on top. This I put in the toaster oven and toasted until the cheez was hot and "melted," and it tasted great. Gotta love that cheez sauce!

March 07, 2008

Grilled "cheese"

I got inspired by Vegan Dad's grilled cheese post, and I knew I had to have some. It's been so long since I've had this, and I just wanted a gooey, greasy, melty sandwich. I admit that I restrained myself in the greasy department and opted to lightly spray a non-stick griddle with olive oil and grill my sandwich like a responsible person, but thank goodness I have a bunch of the cheez stuff leftover and can go back and do it right! I mean, shouldn't a grilled cheese sandwich leave you with fingers to lick? I've photographed the responsible version, but you do what you think is best. I like to spread the outside of the bread with Earth Balance margarine and grill it until it's brown and toasty. The recipe comes from "The Uncheese Cookbook" and there are lots of versions of "cheese" to choose from. Naturally, I chose an easy one.

This makes a very thick cheez. If you want to use it right away to drizzle on pizza, use only half the arrowroot. You may also have to thin it down a bit by whisking it a little extra water.

Mostarella Cheeze
2 cups water
1/2 cup nutritional yeast flakes (not brewers yeast powder)
1/3 cup quick-cooking rolled oats (not instant)
1/4 cup tahini
4 tablespoons arrowroot (arrowroot melts when re-heated)
4 tablespoons FRESH lemon juice
1 tablespoon onion granules
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon liquid smoke (if you like the taste of smoky provolone)

Process all ingredients in blender several minutes until very smooth.
Pour into a saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until very thick and smooth.
Pack into a lightly oiled, 3-cup rectangular container.
Cool, cover and refrigerate overnight.

You can use this cheez right away for grilled cheese sandwiches and save the rest for another day. After it chills, you can sort of slice it. (Remember, I said "sort of.") I made sandwiches again with the leftovers and this time coated the outside of the bread with Earth Balance margarine before toasting it in my wok—more calories but more "authentic" look and taste.

Does this really taste like cheese? You know, it's made from yeast flakes and oats. That said, it makes a very tasty grilled sandwich and my kids always loved it on homemade pizza. It was also a component of my kids' favorite dish, enchiladas. I once gave a taste of something all hot and bubbly with cheez sauce to a friend who is not vegetarian, and asked her if it tasted like cheese. She said, "No. It doesn't taste like cheese, but it tastes great! What is it?" I've also taken the previously mentioned enchiladas to a potluck, where they were quickly devoured by an appreciative crowd. I haven't had cheese in more than 25 years - it tastes really good to me!

note: I just got a new copy of the updated Uncheese Cookbook now called "The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook" (my old copy is too decrepit to use any more) and there are two grilled cheese recipes - All American Grilled Cheez and Gooey Grilled Cheez. Get the book from the library and have fun. There are lots of interesting concoctions for when the dairybug comes whispering in your ear.

March 04, 2008

Chocolate banana cake

Here's a recipe I found in Vegetarian Times that was easy to veganize. It has a great texture and is not too sweet. You can bake it in a 9 x 5 loaf pan or as 12 muffins. I don't think I mashed the banana enough but it was still really good.

Chocolate banana cake
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour or white whole wheat flour, (stirred well before measuring)
  • 1/2 cup evaporated cane juice (like Sucanot)
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • almost 1 cup soy milk
  • 3/4 cups mashed ripe banana
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar or cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup vegan chocolate chips for glaze (optional)
  • extra chocolate chips (see note)
1. Preheat oven to 350˚F. Coat pan with oil.
2. Sift together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt in bowl.
3. Put vinegar in measuring cup and add soy milk to make one cup. Let stand for a minute to curdle. Whisk together soy milk, banana, oil and vanilla. Fold liquid mixture into flour mixture.
4. Put batter into prepared pan and bake 50 minutes for a loaf and 20 minutes for muffins., or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
5. Cool 5 minutes in pan. Remove from pan and cool on a wire rack.
6. If desired, melt 1/4 cup vegan chocolate chips in a small pot. Use a low flame and stir constantly (seriously, pay attention -it only takes a minute) until melted. Spread over the top of the cooled cake. This is a thin coating, more like a glaze.
note: This chocolate cake is relatively healthy with the whole wheat pastry flour and only 1/2 cup of sugar, 1/3 cup of oil and all that banana. And I'm not saying you should change that, but you could stir 1/2 cup or more of vegan chocolate chips into the flour mixture before you fold in the wet ingredients. This is entirely optional, but maybe for a special occasion...

Lazy cooks read this: My friend Claire put chocolate chips on top of the hot cake where they softened, and she spread them into an icing. Now, THAT'S easy. Yikes.

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