23 February 2014

Cookbook Review: I'm Loving Mayim's Muffins

Recently, I received a review copy of Mayim Bialik's brand new cookbook, Mayim's Vegan Table. Because I absolutely love her character Amy Farrah Fowler on "Big Bang Theory," I had to give it a read. The first 59 pages provide a good foundation on the vegan diet and its health benefits and philosophies. Even without the recipes, I'd recommend it for someone who is new to the practice or for parents of newly minted vegans.

Most of the recipes are straightforward and easy to produce. They don't require uncommon ingredients or a long time to make. Most (except the dessert section) also are easy to make gluten free. Now that I'm living in the GF sphere, that's a pretty important feature for me in a cookbook.

For my test recipe, I decided to take on a recipe that was already gluten free, but that I could tinker with a bit for this blog. That recipe was Fruity Oatmeal Muffins.

They turned out to be pretty tasty muffins. They are indeed oaty, which a cakey crumb -- an unexpected pleasure in a gluten-free muffin made without gums. The muffins also are much lighter than you would expect for such a healthy baked good. I can easily see these becoming my go-to muffins.

My alterations were relatively minor. First, I used my unsweetened, home-dried cranberries (thanks to the behemoth of a dehydrator I recently purchased via a mandate by my wonderful mother-in-law who gave us a check and said we couldn't save it, but had to spend the thing). Next, I added walnuts because what's a muffin without nuts? I also used pumpkin pie spice as the spice, flax meal and water as my egg substitute, olive oil for the fat, and agave nectar (and consequently, half the applesauce) as the sweetener. Finally, I dropped the oven temperature to 375 degrees F (to account for the agave), but baked it for the same amount of time.

Here's the recipe as I made it.

Fruity Oatmeal Muffins

Yield: 12 muffins

Ingredients:

1 teaspoon flax meal
3 teaspoons filtered water
1 1/4 cup rolled oats
3/4 cup rolled oats run through the coffee grinder to make oat flour
2 tablespoons potato starch
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsweetened dried cranberries (if you have to use sweetened, use fruit-sweetened ones)
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup agave nectar
1/2 cup applesauce

Directions
1. In a very small bowl, mix together the flax meal and water until combined and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, combine the oats, oat flour, potato starch, baking powder, spice, and salt.
3. Mix in the cranberries and walnuts.
4. In a separate bowl or large measuring cup, whisk together the olive oil and the flax mixture. Whisk in the agave and the applesauce.
5. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir for about 2 minutes.
6. Heat your oven to 375 degrees F.
7. Line your muffin tray with paper liners.
8. Scoop the batter into the liners so that they are filled about 3/4 of the way.
9. When your oven reaches temperature, bake the muffins for 20 minutes. They should have very small crumbs clinging to a wooden tester when done.
10. Let cool in the try for 5 minutes before taking the muffins out to cool completely on a wire rack.

They are best slightly warm, but wonderful when cooled as well. Enjoy!

05 October 2013

Making a Vegan, GF Muffin Oh-So-Cobblerific

This luscious bit of muffin-y goodness is somewhat based on the BabyCakes Ginger-Peach Corn Muffins recipe, except that I made a few key changes. Importantly, I turned it into a cobbler-muffin (or what John and I decided would be either a cobblin or a muffler -- you decide). That is, I loaded this baby up with a cobbler-like filling (hence the wee air hole toward the bottom of the photo).

Suffice to say, it's hardly your ordinary muffin. And, that's a nectarine, rather than a peach because the organic peaches in the stores here were unnaturally large and didn't smell like peaches. The organic nectarines, on the other hand, smelled like summer.

I also used a non-beany-based gf flour mix because I really don't enjoy the beany flavor in sweet baked goods. Because there were so many changes, I'm going to share my version here. Please let me know how yours turn out!

Summer Fruit Cobblins
Makes 12 standard muffin-sized cobbler-muffins

Ingredients
2/3 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
6 medium-sized (smaller than a baseball) fresh nectarines scrubbed well, pitted and cut into 1-inch-ish pieces
The juice of one juicy organic lime
1/3 cup of the liquid sweetener of your choice (I used agave nectar. If you use maple or brown rice syrup, just remember that your muffins will have a maple or caramel flavor, which is fine. I'm sure it will taste great.)
3/4 cup of a non-beany, finely ground gf flour mix (I used King Arthur Flour's All-purpose GF mix, but you also could use Pamela's Artisan mix and it would be successful.)
1/4 cup blanched almond flour
1 cup corn flour (not corn meal; it's a very different experience, much less grainy)
1.5 teaspoons baking powder
1.5 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum (although you don't have to use it; you could use chia or flaxmeal, although it might end up a bit crumbly -- try it and let me know)
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ginger (dry ground)
1/2 cup very good, fruity olive oil (or if you don't like the flavor, use grapeseed oil)
3/4 cup liquid sweetener of your choice (I used agave nectar, but you could use maple or brown rice syrup)
1/4 cup apple sauce
1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions:

1. Whisk together the almond milk and vinegar. Put the mixture aside so it can become vegan "buttermilk."

2. Combine the nectarines, agave nectar, and lime juice, and stir until the fruit is well coated. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and pour the fruit and sauce into an 8-in. glass baking dish. Roast the fruit until it softens but doesn't burn or dissolve. It should take about 15 minutes. Let the fruit cool in the baking dish on a rack while you make the rest of the recipe. Set aside the "prettiest" 12 pieces you can find -- these will be the cobblin toppers.

3. Whisk the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.

4. In another bowl, mix together the liquid ingredients, then add them to the dry ingredients and mix the batter until smooth.

5. Turn down the oven to 325 degrees F and line your muffin pan with paper liners. Fill the liners half way with batter, then spoon a tablespoon or so of the fruit on top of the batter of each cobblin. Then add equal amounts of the remaining batter to each cobblin. Top each with one of the pretty fruit pieces you set aside earlier.

6. Bake the cobblins for 20-25 minutes until they are a lovely golden brown around the edges. Let them cool in the pan for 20 minutes, then out of the pan on a wire rack until cool enough to enjoy.

Here's a photo of what you should see inside: Cobbler Muffin, interior

14 July 2013

Re-altering Plates or My New Gluten-Free Life

Yep, I know it's been two years since I've updated this blog. Sorry about that. I've been updating Here and There regularly and been very active on Facebook, but it's not the same. And, I've gone gluten free.

Since November 2012, I haven't had any gluten in my food, and it's made a huge difference as far as my Hashimoto's Thyroiditis goes. I'd been having a lot of digestive distress and pain last fall, and before I found out that it was reproductive, I decided to give up gluten just in case I'd become sensitive. I had no idea that folks with autoimmune diseases like mine tend to benefit from giving up gluten.

Prior to the change, it seemed like each doctor's appointment (3x per year), my prescription needed to be increased to get my thyroid numbers right, and I was symptomatic. Since the change, all of my blood levels have been great!

All that to say, my plates have altered once again, and I'm beginning to re-make my recipes gluten free. The first is my Vegan Blueberry Apricot Cobbler.

Vegan Blueberry Apricot Cobbler (Originally posted here.)

Yields 12 servings (or 10 large servings)

Ingredients

Filling
5 cups fresh apricots, pre-pitted and sliced
4 cups fresh blueberries
2/3 cup agave nectar
Pinch of salt
3 tablespoons Gluten-Free all-purpose flour (not the beany kind)

Topping
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2/3 cup non-dairy milk (I used vanilla unsweetened almond milk for mine)
1/2 cup almond meal
1 1/2 cup Gluten-Free all-purpose flour (not the beany kind)
 2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg (makes all the difference)
1/2 teaspoon Pensey's baking spice (or cinnamon, if you don't have it, but you might want to consider ordering some because it's really great stuff, and they don't pay me to say that)
5 tablespoons agave nectar or maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons good, fruity olive oil (or experiment with another good oil you enjoy)

Directions

1. Lightly oil a glass 9x13x2 in. baking dish.
2. For the filling, gently mix together the fruit, agave nectar, flour, and salt in a large bowl and let rest.
3. For the topping, in a separate bowl, combine the apple cider vinegar and non-dairy milk.
4. In a large bowl, mix the almond meal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and the spices.
5. Add to the vinegar/milk mixture the remaining agave nectar, vanilla, and olive oil. Give it at least a minute of whisking.
6. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry mixture and combine until just mixed.
7. Give the fruit filling one more stir before pouring it into the prepared baking dish.
8. Scoop the topping on top of the filling.
9. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F while the topping rises. It won't rise a lot, but it will poof up a bit.
10. Bake the cobbler for 40 minutes, then check to see if it isn't getting too brown on top. You're looking for a nice golden brown. The filling should be good and bubbly.
11. Cool on a wire rack for about 20 minutes before serving. It's best warm, but just as good from the fridge 4 days later.

The cobbler will keep at room temperature for 3 days. After that, if there is any left, and my guess is that there won't be, keep it refrigerated until it's gone.

10 April 2011

Tasty Eats for Vegans and Vegetarians in Salt Lake City

Recently, I was back in the Salt Lake City area to visit family and friends, as well as to tour some amazing special collections and archives (which will be posted soon on Here and There). When I'm in town, I always look for new places to enjoy fresh and tasty vegan and vegetarian eats. One of the best resources is City Weekly, the free weekly paper that specializes in an alternative look at the city and its surrounding areas. During my visit, the CW had released its "Best of Utah" issue (a misnomer, really -- it's more of a best of SLC with a handful of others tossed in for good measure), with all kinds of fun and useful spots to experience. I used it to find a few of the restaurants I tried for the first time this visit.

Here's a short list of the restaurants and stores I patronized while I was there (starting with the places that were new to me this visit) and what I thought of their products and services:

1. The Blue Plate Diner -- I went ovo-lacto here since I'd read nothing but great reviews about their omelets, however, there are a few vegan choices, such as tofu scrambles and burritos (more choices at lunch and dinner). I went for "The S.M.A," which was stuffed with spinach and mushrooms, and topped with sliced avocado. I also added some cheddar cheese for good measure. It was the fluffiest and largest omelet I've ever had. The side potatoes were crispy cubes of well-spiced tastiness. And the toast, well, pretty typical toast for Salt Lake, which is to say, Sourdough-based and not my speed. Otherwise, a big bang for the buck. Avoid the vegan sausage.

2. Vertical Diner -- While the Blue Plate is located in the funky and diverse neighborhood of Sugar House, Vertical Diner is a bit out of the way in back of a heavily industrial area, but it's more than worth the finding. Everything on the menu is vegetarian (a bit confusing because the menu mentions chicken, but it must be veggie chicken), and they serve a selection of gluten-free items as well, such as pancakes and their famous biscuits. This is definitely the place for cheap and tasty eats served by awesome punk folks in black playing college radio from the 1980s. At Vertical Diner, I had the best vegan pancakes I've ever eaten for $3.00. Fluffy and delicious, not to mention HOT. Next time, I'll try their biscuits and vegan gravy with fried "chicken."

3. Sunflower Farmers Market -- This chain of markets has been around since 2002, but they just opened a new store right up the street from a HUGE new Whole Foods store in Trolley Square. Frankly, I'm not sure how Whole Foods will complete, except on the convenience factor since Trolley Square is a bit of an upscale mall. And, they really are the place to go for good organic produce in the valley. However, I was very impressed by the variety of organic, vegan, and vegetarian packaged food options at much lower prices than Whole Foods at the new Sunflower Market. Next time I'm back in town, I'll have to check out the Murray store, which is much closer to where we stay.

4. Sage's Cafe -- For the past few years, each time I visit, I make sure to eat at Sage's. This upscale vegan restaurant located within a few blocks of both Trolley Square and the Main Branch of the Salt Lake City Public Library (a must-see! Check it out below.) is definitely the place to take a non-vegetarian to show them how incredibly tasty meatless meals can be. The Nut Burger is one of the best vegan burgers I've had (rivals even the bean and quinoa burger at the Bear Dance Cafe in Midway, UT).

From Salt Lake City July 2009

Back to Sage's, the food is always thoughtfully prepared and delicious. They have a gluten-free options menu, too. Definitely try the weekend brunch. I'm a fan of "The Mountain."

5. Good Earth Natural Foods -- This health food store has several locations around Utah, but the Sandy store is the closest to Salt Lake City (and the closest to where I stay). It has very high quality fresh produce, some fresh breads, a good bulk foods room, many frozen and refrigerated options, and local and nationally available brand packaged foods. The prices are comparable to Whole Foods, but in some cases, they are lower. Also, depending on the day, the produce might be fresher and less expensive. Go to their web site first since they do feature coupons.

6. Whole Foods -- Because I normally live in a part of NJ where the closest Whole Foods is 35 minutes south or 40 minutes north and west, I am glad that there are so many Whole Foods stores in the Salt Lake City area. When I'm up in Park City, there's one. There's a store within 10 minutes of my in-laws' house. And, there are a few downtown. So, while they can be expensive on some items (not called "Whole Paycheck" for nothing!), if I use coupons and shop wisely, I can do pretty well on my staples. But, I think I might be spending more time at Sunflower Markets now that I know they are much less expensive on many of those staples.

10 March 2011

Vegan Nuts and Berries Bars

From Food

If you love almonds, these bars are definitely for you. Not only is there almond meal in this recipe, but I also used roughly chopped almonds for a nice crunch. I paired the almonds with juice-sweetened cranberries to contrast the richness of the nuts with that unmistakable zing of the dried berries.

I was inspired by Su Good Sweets' recipe for Fruity Almond Blondies, but I made a lot of substitutions to make it Altered Plates-ready and vegan, so I'm publishing the recipe as I made it below. In the future, I plan to add half of an avocado, whipped, to add more of a buttery flavor, but as is, the cookies are tasty. They are not overly sweet, and are packed with fiber.

Here's the recipe as I made it:

Vegan Nuts and Berries Bars

Ingredients:

1 teaspoon flax meal
3 tablespoons filtered water

3/4 cup + 1/2 cup toasted almonds (rough chop the 1/2 cup)
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 tablespoon coconut flour
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon agave nectar
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup juice-sweetened dried cranberries (although using frozen ones might be an interesting choice as well)

Directions:

1. In a small bowl, whisk together the water and flaxmeal, and put aside.
2. In a food processor, grind 3/4 cup of almonds for 1 minute, then add the flours, salt, and baking powder. Grind again for approximately 2 minutes.
3. In another bowl or a mixer's bowl, beat the liquid ingredients until well blended. Add in the flax and water mixture and mix until blended.
4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ones, folding until just blended.
5. Add in the berries and remaining nuts, stirring until just mixed.
6. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line your 8-in. pan with two pieces of parchment paper, crosswise.
7. Using wet fingers, press the batter into the pan. It's going to be thick and sticky.
8. Bake for 18 minutes or until a bamboo tester comes out clean.
9. Let cool in pan, then using the paper, lift the soon-to-be-bars out of the pan and cut into squares/rectangles.
10. Enjoy!

01 March 2011

Book Review: Veganize This! or It Ain't Pretty, But It's My Seitan

From Food

It's true, it's pretty spongy, brainy looking stuff, but it tastes fantastic, and the texture far exceeds anything you can buy in a store. Most of that seems a bit rubbery to me, but the seitan above is just chewy enough to make it seem "meaty." My friends at the library said it reminded them of bread, and another friend who enjoyed it the day after I made it said it reminded her of Injera, the Ethiopian sourdough bread, but only in texture. Since making the Beef-Style Seitan recipe in Veganize This!, I resolve never to buy seitan again. It's just too easy to make with this recipe not to do it myself.

That's what I've been doing a lot of in the past year -- making it myself. No more store-bought nut butters for me (although John prefers Arrowhead Mills' organic peanut butter), and no more whole grain sandwich bread which has not risen from my homemade (read: labored over) starter. And now, homemade seitan. I wish I had tried to do this sooner.

From Food

Be prepared for it to look and feel pretty much like brain (well, what I imagine brain looks and feels like). One very small drawback with Veganize This is that it doesn't have in-process photos, but that's a rarity and a lot to ask when publishing on a budget, so I'll forgive Jenn Shagrin. However, she does explain that this dough is a bit wetter than most seitan doughs, so I was prepared for a wet dough.

One thing to note -- be sure to plan other recipes using MimicCreme or the wide array of substitutes she suggests in the front of the book, because you only use a tablespoon of the stuff. I'm going to use my remaining MimicCreme to make a frozen dessert of some sort. I figure I can leave the ice cream maker attachment outside overnight since it's still pretty cold and I no longer have room in my freezer thanks to all the bread experiments.

From Food

The key to tasty seitan is the broth in which it simmers for an hour. Because the Better Than Bouillon No Beef Base (well, all the bases) contains sweeteners I don't use (why sweeteners in bouillon, I will never understand), I used Rapunzel's vegetable bouillon. I recommend using the unsalted variety or one cube salted and one not.

The quality of the mushrooms is paramount to the success of the recipe. She recommended using dried shiitake mushrooms, but I used fresh organic ones from Whole Foods in Madison (I picked them up on my way home from my tour of Drew University's Special Collections and Archives).

From Food

One thing to note about the seitan -- when you drop it into the boiling broth, it will expand to about twice the size. Which is probably why Shagrin instructs her readers to flatten the dough to 1/4 in. thick. I didn't get mine to quite that size, but I was able to cut it very easily into bite-sized pieces afterward to enjoy with some broth and mushrooms. Today, I enjoyed the same over some mixed wild rices for lunch.

From Food

OK, I have tantalized you with my bready-looking, but delicious seitan long enough. Here's the recipe with my substitutions and her directions. The book review follows at the end.

Beef-Style Seitan
From the book Veganize This! by Jenn Shagrin. Excerpted by arrangement with Da Capo Lifelong, a member of the Perseus Books Group, Copyright (c) 2010.

Yield: 6 servings (although mine made about double that)

Ingredients:

Beef Broth:

8 cups prepared Better Than Bouillon No Beef Base (I used 2 cubes of Rapunzel's vegetarian bouillon in 8 cups of boiled water.)
6 dried shiitake mushrooms (I used 6 fresh ones, sliced 1/4 in. thick.)
2 tablespoons tamari (I used low-sodium tamari sauce.)
1 portobello mushroom cap, chopped (I sliced these, too.)
1 tablespoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 bay leaves

Beef-Style Seitan Dough:

1 cup vital wheat gluten
1 cup prepared Better Than Bouillon No Beef Base (I used 1/3 cube of Rapunzel's vegetarian bouillon in 1 cup of boiled water.)
1 tablespoon MimicCreme

Directions:

1. Prepare the broth: First place all the beef broth ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil.
2. Prepare the seitan: While the broth's starting to heat up, make your seitan dough by combining and kneading the vital wheat gluten, No Beef broth, and MimicCreme until completely mixed.
3. Squeeze out the excess liquid and form the mixture into a ball.
4. On a cutting board, flatten out the ball and use a sharp knife, or kitchen shears, to cut, pie style, into six beef-shaped wedges.
5. Before putting it into the boiling broth, flatten each wedge by pressing it firmly between your hands to 1/3 to 1/4 in. thick, then drop them into the pot of boiling broth.
6. Cover the pot, lower the heat to a simmer, and let the seitan cook for about an hour, stirring every 10 to 15 minutes.
7. Don't throw out the broth! Use a slotted spoon to remove each piece of seitan and place in a colander to drain.
8. Let the seitan and broth cool. Allow the seitan to marinate in the broth until ready to use, if time allows. Drain again before using.

Book Review

Veganize This! Reminds me of Vegan With a Vengeance in a few ways, but in many ways it is very much its own book. For example, Shagrin provides a stable of different kinds of homemade seitans (from the beef-style above to pork chops) and a wide variety of tofu-based not-meats, not-cheeses, not-seafoods, and more.

She gives very clear instructions (although I'm not quite sure what a beef-shaped wedge looks like) and most of her ingredients are easily found. I'm looking forward to experimenting further with the seitan I made, trying her recipe for Galbi (Korean Short Ribs). Importantly, Shagrin includes many gluten-free recipes, so those with gluten-free family members can dispense with the seitan and make some Vegan Chicken-Fried Tofu Steaks.

Overall, it's a fun read with many inspiring recipes that are not overly complicated to make. I'd recommend it for the vegan looking to try some new dishes and veganized foods.

02 February 2011

Lidia's Onion-Tomato Focaccia

From February 2011

While I don't have permission to reprint the recipe here yet, I can certainly talk about the wonderful Onion-Tomato Focaccia shown in the photo above. Since I've been baking some pretty complex breads lately thanks to The Bread Bakers Apprentice and Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads, I decided to give myself (and John) a break by giving the focaccia from Lidia's Italy a try.

From February 2011

It's an incredibly easy and quick recipe for something so tasty. Although, I did away with some of the olive oil since the bread was fairly swimming in it. I'd also try making it again using a mix of half bread and half all-purpose flour (the recipe is all AP) to be able to roll it out for pizza.

Because it takes twice the typical amount of yeast for regular breads, it rises like mad. The dough is lovely. Soft and stretchy with lots of nice, small holes. It's downright tender, yet nice and crunchy at the crust.

Here's the upskirt:
From February 2011

The onions and tomatoes are marinated in olive oil and a little salt while the dough rises. I can't wait to try this with sliced mushrooms and diced eggplant. The herb on top is dried oregano, but I suppose you could use rosemary or thyme and get wonderful results. Overall, you need to be a fan of olive oil - good, fruity, high-quality olive oil - because as an ingredient, it's front and center on this focaccia.

It definitely takes favorite status in my bread ratings. I'll never buy focaccia again.