April 28, 2014

Eastern European cooking class — pierogi, stuffed cabbage rolls, beet tart

Last night we hosted a cooking class at our house taught by Renee and Nick of Fire and Earth Kitchen. All we had to do was clean the house and clear the kitchen counter of a few appliances, then sit back and enjoy the teaching and the food. While we were out and about earlier in the afternoon before the class started, we picked up some flowers so the table would be more welcoming and not look quite so bare. Flowers make any occasion a little more special, though I'm not sure how having two people come to your house and prepare pierogi, a beet tart and stuffed cabbage rolls — and then clean everything up — could be any more special.

The class was very informative as Renee shared so many tips and tricks for cooking more efficiently — not just concerning food, but about tools and equipment, as well. For example, she demonstrated how to keep a knife in good working order, and talked about what to look for when purchasing a food processor. She also interjected nutritional information for the ingredients she used.

Of the three dishes prepared in the class, the easiest and quickest was the beet tart. Renee made a gluten-free crust flavored with rosemary that went together perfectly, and looked just like a traditional wheat-flour pie dough. She pressed it into the pie plate, layered it with thinly sliced beets, and beet greens, and baked it in the oven. While it baked, filling the house with fragrant, hunger-inducing smells, she prepared a sunflower seed cream to serve on top. None of my photos of the gorgeous, uncut tart turned out — too dark — but I think you can get an idea from the slice, how pretty it was. I'm not a big beet fan, but I loved the tart and would definitely make it again. The crust was light and flakey, and the filling sweet and earthy.

The pierogi filling, mashed and cooling.

There were multiple steps to creating the peirogi, and they were all going on simultaniously! Potatoes were set to boiling, and as they boiled, onions were caramelized in a pan. Once the filling ingredients were mashed together, they were set aside to cool while more onions were sliced and placed in the pan to caramelize.

Pierogi, shaped and waiting to be boiled.

A dough was made, and I really enjoyed seeing how Renee rolled, cut out circles, then rolled the circles again to create the dumpling wrappers. She made it look so easy, though I suspect it takes a lot of practice to become so skillful that you can whip up vegan, gluten-free pierogi without a lot of cursing. Once the wrappers were filled and closed, they were boiled in a large pot of water, a few at a time, until they rose to the surface, and were removed to drain. Can you imagine how hard it was to concentrate on the class when the whole house smelled like caramelized onions?

After the pierogi were boiled and drained, they were pan fried to get them a little crisp, then served with a generous heap of caramelized onions, and we ate them all up. I want more.

The final dish of the night was lentil-and rice-stuffed cabbage rolls. The rice and lentils had been cooking all through the class so they were ready to get stuffed into cabbage leaves as we were finishing up our pierogi. Renee demonstrated how to prepare a cabbage for making cabbage rolls, then cooked the cabbage, made tomato sauce, and assembled a bunch of rolls. But in reality, it would have taken too long to cook them in the class, so she had prepared some in her slow cooker and brought them with her. The cabbage rolls were delicious, though different from the ones I learned to make from my mother. I've always made sweet and sour stuffed cabbage rolls, which is what my great grandmother from Russia, made. Either way, although the dish is time consuming, it's one that can be assembled ahead of time, and cooked in a slow cooker, or baked for three hours in the oven.

Renee and Nick are putting together a cookbook, and the recipes from the class are some that will be included, so I can't share them. But, on the Fire and Earth Kitchen blog (link here) there are lots of mouthwatering recipes available. Also, you can sign up to receive a new recipe each week. Most of the recipes are fast and easy to prepare, and I think you'll like what you find. You can read about my experience with some of the recipes, here.

If you live in the Seattle area and are interested in hosting a class, contact Renee (through her blog) about the possibilities.

April 23, 2014

Buckwheat waffles (gluten-free)

I was scanning facebook very early in the morning the other day when the word "BUCKWHEAT" screamed across my field of vision. I didn't read the message, nor did I know what kind of buckwheat item was being referred to, I just became immediately obsessed with the thought of eating buckwheat waffles. Waffles had been on my mind for a couple of days, and suddenly I was rushing to the kitchen to retrieve my little $4 estate sale Belgium waffle maker from the shelf, mixing ingredients in my head as I hurried to the counter.

I don't know if I've ever made buckwheat waffles before — certainly I haven't attempted GF buckwheat waffles, so I kind of wondered what would happen — buckwheat flour can make baked goods heavy. I combined Bob's Red Mill GF flour mix with buckwheat flour, and the waffles were light and delicious with an excellent texture and taste — just like wheat waffles. I also added chia seeds because I've been adding it to stuff left and right ever since I got the chia book (reviewed here). Lately, I've been adding two tablespoons of flaxseed meal to baked goods instead of just one. At first I was afraid it would make the texture gummy or heavy, but it seems to have the opposite effect. I made a bunch of waffles to put in the freezer so I can enjoy buckwheat waffles for the next few days — or as long as they last.

Buckwheat waffles 
about 10 Belgian waffles
  • 2 tablespoons ground flax seeds in 1/3 cup cold water for at least 5 minutes, plus enough almond milk to make 1-1/2 cups
  • 1/2 cup Bob's Red Mill GF flour mix (or 1/2 cup wheat flour)
  • 1/2 cup buckwheat flour
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (optional)*
  • 1 tablespoon chia seed
  • 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon sweetener of choice (I used bee-free honey)
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  1. I use a 2-cup glass measuring cup to soak the flax meal and water. It makes clean-up easier since there is one less bowl to wash. In any case, mix the flax and water together and let it sit while you assemble the dry ingredients.
  2. In a medium bowl, place the Bob's Red Mill flour mix, buckwheat flour, baking powder, salt (if using), chia seeds. Whisk together to get the lumps out.
  3. Whip the flax-and-water-mixture with a fork for a minute or two until viscous. Add the almond milk, sweetener, and oil, and mix together.
  4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix. 
  5. Cook on a lightly oiled, hot waffle iron following the manufacturer's directions. Depending on the size of your waffle maker, 1/4 to 1/3 cup of batter should be about right.
  6. Serve with maple syrup or your favorite waffle topping. Blueberries would be nice.
* I thought the waffles tasted a bit salty, though I believe most people might think I was wrong about that. Next time I whip up a batch I'll be using just a pinch of salt — or none at all. Maybe the baking powder added enough salt to the batter.

April 20, 2014

A winner of a cookbook and a cookbook winner

Marinated balsamic, maple & garlic tempeh.

Here are a couple more things we've cooked from from The Oh She Glows Cookbook. Actually, my husband cooked them so I don't know if he followed the recipe or improvised. I found the marinated balsamic maple and garlic tempeh tasty, but a little too vinegary for me.

Empowered noodle bowl with Thai peanut sauce.

The empowered noodle bowl comes with a choice of two dressings — Thai peanut or orange-maple miso. I can only vouch for the Thai peanut — so far.

There are still so many interesting recipes to try, I'm sure you'll be seeing more as I make my way through the book.                                              

When I reviewed Angela Liddon's new cookbook, The Oh She Glows Cookbook, I offered a giveaway copy of the book to one lucky reader. I used the random number generator to pick a winner, and the the comment selected belonged to Rebecca F. The book is on its way to Becca, and I hope she enjoys it as much as I do. Doing a giveaway like this always makes me a little sad because I wish I could send a book to each person who left a comment. Thanks to everyone who read the post and entered. If you still haven't made the recipes provided or linked to in my review (available here), I recommend them as a great introduction to the cookbook.

April 16, 2014

Cooking up new traditions

Monday night was the first night of passover, and I cooked all day for our family seder, but didn't make a single thing that usually appears at every holiday meal at our house. There was no potato kugel, no cranberry sauce, no big tofu centerpiece-thing — nothing I've always connected to a holiday feast — except maybe for the green salad. There were no complaints, and no one refused the containers of leftovers that were sent home when it was clear that, as usual, I had made way too much food. Passover is a holiday with many dietary restrictions which vary according to which tradition you subscribe to. No one eats wheat, spelt, barley, rye or oats, or their derivatives, but the Ashkenazic tradition also excludes any food that swells when exposed to liquid, like rice, beans, etc. If we did that, there would be almost nothing for us to eat, so we subscribe to the Sephardic Jewish customs, as they relate to Passover, and which allow grains, seeds and beans except the five mentioned above. Quinoa, for various reasons I won't go into, is okay. It's also forbidden to eat food which has been leavened with yeast, baking powder or soda, or by fermentation. This used to seem like a big deal, but since I started avoiding gluten, except for the leavening bit, it's pretty much business as usual. We're actually not very religious, but we like tradition.

After the Seder service, the meal traditionally begins with matzoh ball soup. I used to dearly love matzoh balls, back in the old days, when gluten was no object, but this year I made something entirely different and untraditional, and it really made me happy. I started with a version of the eat your greens detox soup from The Oh She Glows Cookbook (recipe here). I used half reconstituted shiitake mushrooms and their broth for half of the mushrooms in the recipe. The soup is so good, and so stuffed full of veggies, it's practically a meal in itself. Instead of matzoh balls, I made a recipe of the 'egg' topper from Miyoki Schinner's chicken and egg dish in her book, Japanese Cooking: Contemporary and Traditional, It's a simple blended mix of silken tofu and arrowroot that is cooked on top of the soup. It has the same comforting effect as matzoh balls have, and makes the perfect replacement. (recipe here.)

I found a recipe for Passover quinoa pilaf on Nava Atlas' blog, Veg Kitchen that seemed perfect for a holiday meal. Filled with cauliflower, dried cranberries, onions, garlic and parsley, and topped with toasted pine nuts, it was both simple and delicious. It's a dish you won't want to save just for holidays. (recipe here.)

To go with the quinoa, I made maple-orange baked sweet potatoes with a touch of cinnamon. I don't really like sweet potatoes, but these tasted good to me. I really appreciated the touch of orange — both the flavor and the color! I don't have a recipe for this — just made it up on the spot.

I also served a big platter of chia corn cakes from a recipe in the book, Chia (reviewed here), except they didn't contain chia seeds or baking powder, as in the original. I used two flax eggs (two tablespoons of ground flaxseed mixed with six tablespoons of water, and whipped with a fork to a thick, slimy, goo) instead of baking powder, and it worked perfectly. They were loaded with green onions, which the ones in the photo are missing. I cooked them on a cast iron griddle in the afternoon, and warmed them, covered, on a baking sheet before dinner. I think the corn cakes were the highlight of the meal. There was also a salad, but you all know what salad looks like.

For dessert, I whipped up yet another batch of gluten-free chocolate almond brownies from The Oh She Glows Cookbook (recipe here). Seriously, you might as well just go buy the book. The brownies were just a little flatter than usual because I left out the baking soda and subbed extra flax eggs, but they were no less delicious. (I also used less fat and sugar.) The brownies become even better the second day, so I recommend making them the day before you need them. These are way too good to have around the house.

Maybe for the next holiday dinner I'll revert back to my old patterns, or repeat this dinner, or forge ahead and try something completely different. Do you tend to make the same holiday meal over and over, following family traditions, make something new every time, or combine new and old? What are your traditional choices for Passover or Easter?

p.s. I didn't take a single photo at our actual meal, so all the photos are of leftovers the next day, except for the corn cakes. The corn cakes photo is from a previous post, because there weren't any leftovers!

April 10, 2014

Lessons learned at Seattle Vegfest - preserved lemons

There's always a moment when Vegfest looms, when I wonder why I go. I don't buy very many packaged, convenience foods, and most of the stuff I taste at events like this is quickly forgotten. Why spend a whole day tasting a ton of food I'll probably never eat again? Why, indeed. Probably because it's fun, and who can resist free samples by the zillion? Since Vegfest was March 29-30, and I really have forgotten about most of the sampled food, instead of giving you a blow-by-blow of what I ate, I'll tell you about a couple of things that stood out, and about what I took away from the cooking demos — including how to make preserved lemons!

Remnants of some of our haul. (I really like the Raw Revolution and the coconut water.)

This was the first year since moving to Seattle that we attended Seattle Vegfest without volunteering for a four-hour shift. The first surprising thing we noticed about being ordinary attendees, was the ridiculously long line to get in when the doors opened at 10 a.m. on Sunday — volunteers just walk right in, no waiting necessary. At first I was miffed by the hoards, but then I realized that it's a good thing when a vegetarian festival draws big crowds.

Because we had the whole day free, we were able to attend all the cooking demos we wanted to see, as well as leisurely check out the samples — all 500 of them. We ate a LOT of samples, and I actually remember at least two of them. The Harbor Creek Farms cranberry horseradish was a surprise hit, and next time I'm at Vegan Haven, our all-vegan store, I'm going to buy a jar. I also tried Neat, and much to my surprise, I liked it a lot. I don't know if I'll buy it, but I recommend it as a plant-based meat that has decent ingredients and tastes really good. It's true I ate way too many So Delicious ice cream products, but you all know how irresistible they are.

While we were roaming around stuffing ourselves, we ran into Jill, the delightful co-owner of Someday Farm Vegan B&B on Whidbey Island. My husband and I spent an idyllic weekend at Jill's establishment (You can read about it here and  here) back in August, 2013. She was a very unobtrusive host, and we barely saw her except when she was delivering unbelievable breakfasts to our door, so I was surprised that she recognized us instantly. I was also taken aback when I realized she was wearing one of my what do vegan's eat t-shirt designs! I really hope to visit the B&B again, soon.

We attended three cooking demos, the first of which was Indian cooking by Sunita Shastri, author of Indian Vegetarian Delights, and founder of Meghana Foods. Sunita specializes in South Indian cuisine, so I was especially interested in what she was going to cook. She made an spicy bean dish, Dal Makhani, and Quinoa Upma, both of which looked really good until she added a wad of butter to one, and a glob of ghee to the other. Everyone who sampled the dishes seemed to enjoy them. I have a copy of the recipes to try at home, so at some point I'll get to taste them.

My version of Miyoko's dish, with Beyond Meat and bok choy.

Next we attended a presentation by Miyoko Schinner, author of Artisan Vegan Cheese, with whom you are probably all familiar. Miyoko's cheese demo was on Saturday, so we missed it, but I really wanted to see her Japanese cooking demo on Sunday. Miyoko has two other, earlier cookbooks, The Now and Zen Epicure: Gourmet Recipes for the Enlightened Palate, and Japanese Cooking: Contemporary and Traditional, and I am a big fan, especially of the latter book. (I've reviewed it here.) Miyoko entered the stage dressed in a kimono, speaking in animated Japanese, complete with singing. She spoke in Japanese for several minutes, as we all watched, rapt, before flinging off the kimono with a laugh, and continuing in English. She told a story about her favorite childhood comfort food, which she had veganized for Japanese Cooking, and said she was going to show us how to make it. It's called Oyako Donburi, or Rice Bowl With Chicken and Egg. The literal translation is pretty unpleasant, so we'll stick with the chicken and egg. For the chicken, Miyoko used seitan, which made the dish too gluteny for me, but I was psyched to make a GF version when I got home. I finally got up the courage to try Beyond Meat chicken strips (had a coupon for a free box), and added some bok choy for a little green. I have to say, it really was comfort food — I've made it again since then, and will probably continue to make it. I found a link to the recipe for you.

Our last chef presentation was by Alan Roettinger, who cooked a dish from one of his cookbooks, Extraordinary Vegan. He made Quick Spicy Slaw, and Avocado Relish With Preserved Lemon, both of which were indeed, extraordinary. The second dish contained preserved lemon, which he taught us how to make. It's so easy, that even I am willing to do it. In fact, I made a jar for myself, and just made a second jar as a housewarming gift for a friend. The preserved lemons may sound  exotic, but easy to do, and not too expensive. For the gift I bought a 26-ounce Weck canning jar, a cool kitchen towel to use as a wrapping, and a bag of organic lemons. The jar and towel are from Crate and Barrel and cost $3.95, and $4.95, and the organic lemons were $3.99/bag at Whole Foods. (I used organic lemons because the peel is used in cooking.) The most expensive thing was probably the coarse gray Celtic sea salt I used because I had a bag in the cupboard, but any kosher-style coarse salt will do. My cleverness and time are priceless, of course. There was a larger, slightly cooler jar I was considering, but I chose the Weck because of the wide mouth, and the fact that unlike the other jar, I could grab it with one hand. The Weck canning jars are pretty great- looking, and make nice containers for a food-based gifts.


Now, as your reward for reading this far (or for skipping to the bottom, as the case may be), here's a video of Alan Roettinger teaching how to make preserved lemons. He neglects to mention that you should totally clean the jar, lid, utensils, cutting board, etc., before beginning. I washed the jar for my lemons in hot, soapy water, but I boiled everything for the gift jar. (Not the lemons, of course.) There are lots of Internet instructions to be found on the topic, and I read quite a few. Basically you wash the lemons, trim the ends and any ugly spots, slice them lengthwise into quarters stopping within an inch of the bottom, stuff each one with a tablespoon of coarse salt, and add them to a jar, pressing them down as you go. Some say to leave the jar in a cool spot, some say to refrigerate it, and one actually said to keep the jar in a warm spot. Although I left my jars on the counter for the first two days, they are spending the month required to complete the project in the fridge. I can't wait to try my exotic lemons. When you make yours, be sure to push the lemons down — even the first one in the bottom of the jar. They need to be squashed a bit so they fit closely together, and so they release their juices.

Have you made preserved lemons? Where did you keep the jar while the lemons fermented?

April 06, 2014

Oh She Glows Cookbook: review, recipe, and giveaway

As I read reviews of Angela Lidden's new cookbook, I was mentally trying to figure out how I could possibly fit another cookbook into my collection, because it was obvious I would have to buy it. Described as a book lush with gorgeous photos of fabulous recipes, it sounded like just the sort of cookbook I would spend hours perusing. I love a good cookbook with lots of beautiful images. I had resigned myself to buying a copy when the publisher unexpectedly offered me a review copy. That was an offer I couldn't refuse. And, yes, it's filled with glorious photos, and yes, the recipes look and sound deliciously tempting.

The Oh She Glows Cookbook provides a great deal of basic ingredient, how-to and kitchen equipment knowledge, as well as insight into the author's personal health journey. The chapters include: my natural foods pantry; my favorite kitchen tools & equipment; breakfast, smoothies, juice & tea; appetizers; salads; soup; entrées; sides; power snacks; desserts; homemade staples; and basic cooking chart. There are more than 100 recipes included in the collection, and each one is introduced with an engaging paragraph by the author, Angela Liddon.

Terrible night/no light photo of wonderful brownies. Bah humbug.

I was delighted to find a familiar recipe in the collection. Although I am acquainted with Angela's beautiful blog, Oh She Glows, (really, who isn't — it's one of the most popular vegan blogs on the Internet), I had only made one of her recipes before — gluten-free chocolate almond brownies. They were terrific, and may be the only brownies I'll ever make again. I served them at a dinner party, and they were a huge hit — no one would ever guess they were gluten-free. The recipe in the cookbook, is essentially identical to the version on Angela's blog, so you can give it a try if you'd like to sample one of her sweet treats.

In 2009, Angela created an energy bar so popular, her enthusiastic fans practically demanded that she sell them, so she started a one-woman bakery where she cranked out 500 glo bars a week. By herself. Since I had all the ingredients on hand, it seemed like a good idea to whip up a dozen of the celebrated bars — they looked and sounded so good. They were easy to make, and I have to say I like them better than just about any other bar I've tasted. They are filled with wholesome  ingredients, and not too sweet. I'm going to share some with Miss E and her family, tonight, and keep some in my freezer for me. Angela has included two of her many glo bar recipes in her cookbook, and the one I made is the classic glo bar. And guess what? I searched and found the recipe online for you. You can see it here. (I made mine with puffed rice and sunflower seed butter.)

The publisher sent me a list of recipes I could publish, and my decision on which one to choose was based on two factors — the ingredients I had on hand, and the one my son wanted. There were two recipes on the list I could make without going shopping, and they both sounded good, but my son had been hit by a potent bug that laid him low, and put him into the hospital overnight, and I wanted to bring him food, so he got to choose. When I offered the two options, he and his girlfriend chose eat your greens detox soup. The soup uses ordinary pantry ingredients, with extraordinary results. I made the recipe pretty much as written except I didn't have enough fresh mushrooms, so I subbed half the mushrooms with reconstituted dried shiitakes, and added the mushroom soaking water to the broth. I also used half kale and half chard since I couldn't quite harvest enough of either from my little container garden. I didn't use nori, and I did add freshly squeezed lemon juice (and some fresh chives). I thought the soup was wonderfully rich and intense, and I highly recommend it. (Look below the recipe to see how I used the leftovers.)

Eat your greens detox soup
Serves 3
  • 1 1/2 tsp coconut oil or olive oil
  • 1 sweet onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 cups sliced cremini or white button mushrooms (about 8 ounces)
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 2 cups chopped broccoli florets
  • fine grain sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 1/2 to 3 tsp grated peeled fresh ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 5 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 large nori seaweed sheets, cut into 1 inch strips (optional)
  • 2 cups torn kale leaves
  • fresh lemon juice, for serving (optional)
  1. In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute for about 5 minutes, until the onion is soft and translucent.
  2. Add the mushrooms, carrots, and broccoli, and stir to combine. Season generously with salt and pepper and saute for 5 minutes more.
  3. Stir in the ginger, turmeric, cumin, and cinnamon, and saute for 1 to 2 minutes, until fragrant.
  4. Add the broth and stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the vegetables are tender, 10-20 minutes.
  5. Just before serving, stir in the nori (if using) and kale, and cook until wilted. Season with salt and pepper, and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, if desired.
Reprinted by arrangement with AVERY, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © GLO BAKERY CORPORATION, 2014.

The soup was so flavorful that I used some the next day to top a noodle bowl. I added some leftover lima beans to the soup, for protein, and separately cooked bean thread noodles. The leftover soup made a perfect noodle bowl, as the intense flavor held its own when combined with the noodles. (To cook the dried noodles, I placed them, nearly covered with water, in a small glass container, and microwaved them for one minute. I turned the noodles over and microwaved one additional minute. They were perfectly cooked and ready to use. You could also pre-soak them in warm water until softened, then add them to the soup pot to cook for a few minutes, or cook them separately in a small pot if you don't want them to soak up all the soup stock.)

FYI, most of the recipes in the Oh She Glows Cookbook are gluten-free, or can easily be made gluten-free, if that is a concern of yours. If it's not a concern, don't worry about it — it probably won't even enter your mind as you make the recipes. Though the techniques are easy, and the ingredients accessible, the results are wonderfully complex and satisfying. There are so many tempting dishes in The Oh She Glows Cookbook that I can hardly wait to get back into the kitchen; enlightened miso power bowl and creamy vegetable curry beckon. This is a book you might want to own!

The giveaway is now ended and the winner has been notified.

Avery, the publisher of The Oh She Glows Cookbook, has generously agreed to send a copy of Angela's book to one lucky reader of my blog in the U.S. or Canada in celebration of U.S. Veg Week, April 21 to 27. There are no hoops to jump through on this blog — just leave a comment (with a link to your blog or email address), by midnight, April 15, and you'll be entered to win. I'll randomly select a winner using the random number generator. ( It's important that I can reach you to tell you if you are the winner, so be sure your entry links to a contact email.)

Full disclosure: The book was sent to me free of charge with the expectation of a review. All opinions are my own.