May 31, 2009

Mom's Meals to Go, and a Sale

As I mentioned previously, I've been making and delivering dinners for Mom, ever since she became too sick to cook. I was using a variety of different-sized tupperware containers to hold the food, which was a bit hard to pack without it sloshing around, and sometimes having the lids leak.

So, I was thrilled to finally receive my new eco-friendly To-Go Ware! You can find them, and other cool reusable containers at a company called Taraluna, which focuses on organic, fair trade, and green products and gifts.
It's a woman owned/ family business, and their motto is "Changing the world, one purchase at a time." You can learn more about them here.

These stable stainless steel containers stack together and close tightly, without worry of it opening, and hold a good amount of food! They reminded my parents of the old-school tins they used to have, and they gave their immediate seal of approval.

It came with this nifty carrying case, two pretty cloth napkins, and this handy little case for a bamboo fork, spoon, knife, and chopsticks- SO CUTE! They would be great for work, school, and picnics too.

The folks at Taraluna were also nice enough to offer a Promo Code to get 10% Off their products (good until June 6th). They carry not only great To-Go Ware and other Reusable Lunch Systems, but you can also shop from their baby, toys, home and garden, chocolate, jewelry, accessories departments, etc.

Here is the code: VEGSPINZ10
Just enter it in at checkout by June 6th to get 10% off.

perfectly stored meals to go

May 30, 2009

Superfruit Jelly Donuts

Vegan food is supposed to be healthy, but deep fried jelly-filled donuts? (Oh no she di-n't!) Uh, yeah... I did (sigh). I only took that one bite (for picture's sake), and the rest of the crew devoured the rest- really! Well, at least that one bite had something wholesome in it:

My new favorite fruit spreads!

Crofters makes these incredible new Superfruit spreads that are not only packed with deliciousness, their sweetened with fair trade sugar, organic, and have 1/3 less sugar than the average jam! Plus they have varieties like Maqui and Passionfruit blended with Morello Cherries and Red Grapes (which I used in the donuts)... antioxidant heaven!!
My other favorites right now are wild blueberry fruit spread and pomegranate jelly- all the ones I've tried are fantastic! And, they're reasonably priced at around 5 bucks.

I've been playing around with donut recipes, and found that I liked this one by Lisa's Thoughts blog (which I adjusted slightly), because it had a great slightly sweet flavor, tender texture, and turned out nice and crispy on the outside. It didn't puff up as much as I would've liked, but they were extremely delicious regardless!

Here's the recipe:

Makes 12-15 donuts

2 1/4 C. unbleached ap flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 C. sugar
3/4 C. soy milk
3 T. Earth Balance margarine
1 package dry active yeast (2 1/4 tsp.)
N-ergy Egg Replacer (for one egg)
oil for frying
powdered sugar for dusting
Crofter's fruit spread of choice for filling

In a small pan, heat sugar, soy milk, and margarine until margarine is just melted. Stir mixture and set aside to cool to luke warm temperature. Add yeast to it, and set aside to let blume.

Whisk together the egg replacer and water in a separate bowl.

In a large mixing bowl, mix together flour and salt, then add both the wet ingredients and knead for a few minutes, adding another 1/4 cup or so of flour to make a soft, pliable dough.

Let sit in an oiled, covered bowl, in a warm place for an hour. Then, tear off golf-ball sized balls of dough and flatten to about 1/2 inch. Place them onto a prepared cookie sheet about an inch apart. Cover, and let sit for another hour.

Heat oil, fry on both sides for a couple minutes each, or until golden and puffy. Let cool, then fill each one by opening a hole on the side of the donut with a chopstick. To ensure even filling, you can use the chopstick to open up the inside more, being careful not to poke any holes.

Dust with powdered sugar, and enjoy!

These spreads are so good, I find myself putting them on everything!

May 28, 2009

DB Vegan Apple Strudel

I must say, making flaky paper-thin strudel dough was SO MUCH FUN! I just wish I had read the directions more carefully, because I made a major mistake in rolling it. Instead of making a nice 6" pile of filling and rolling multiple layers around it, I rolled it like a jelly roll (oops!), and ended up with a very thin outer shell with apples falling out of it. I scratched my head for a bit, because there was no "undoing" it or time to start over, but oh well- I thought I'd just make the best of it and see if it would still be edible. That's what I get for procrastinating anyway!!

So with some leftover dough, I was praying for a miracle. I rolled it out, stretched it super thin, and cut strips to do some patchwork on the outside. Then, I baked as directed and kept my fingers crossed.

I was expecting the filling to start oozing out, but... it didn't happen! It came out beautifully. I was also expecting the dough on the inside to be gummy and gross... but alas! It was GOOD, dare I say VERY GOOD!

But just when I was happily ready to post my lovely pictures, I found that my USB cord to my digital camera was missing (ugh!) I found two other cords that looked identical (we have a lot of cords around, being a DJ and all)- but NONE of them fit (double ugh!)

...So, I borrowed another camera and took a couple photos of the finished product (shrug). A little late, but in the end, it all turned out ok.

Ah, my Procrastination Angel- she was looking over me tonight!

Here's the recipe:

Strudel Dough:

I was thrilled to find out that typical strudel dough is already vegan! I've only eaten it a few times in my life, and have never made it before, so I decided to follow the recipe pretty closely, with the exception of subbing melted Earth Balance marg for the filling.

1 1/3 C. flour
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 C. water (more if needed)
2 T. canola oil
1/2 tsp cider vinegar

Mix the flour and the salt, set aside. Mix the wet ingredients and add to the dry. Knead until you get a soft dough. Oil the dough ball lightly, and wrap with plastic. Let it sit for 30-90 minutes (longer, the better).


3 T. raisins
2 T. rum
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/3 C. sugar
1/4 C. + 3 T. Earth Balance margarine
1 1/2 C. fresh whole grain bread crumbs
1/2 C. chopped walnuts
2 lbs. tart apples

Fry the bread crumbs in the 3 T. of margarine, until toasty- set aside to cool. Soak the raisins in the rum, and mix the cinnamon with the sugar-set aside. Peel and core the apples, then slice thinly (I used a food processor with a slicing attachment). Toss the apples with the cinnamon sugar mixture, as well as the raisins and rum.

Here's the fun part- stretching the dough! Line your table with a clean tablecloth- I didn't have one, so I spread plastic wrap- not as easy, but works. Roll out the dough until fairly thin. Lift the dough and use your forearms and gravity to stretch it paper thin, so that you can almost see right through it! This dough is very stretchy and doesn't dry out too quick. When you're done stretching, trim the edges with scissors and spread melted Earth Balance over the top with your hands.

Now you're ready to fill and roll, using the tablecloth to help. Here is a strudel-making video that I wished I had watched!

Bake at 400 degrees on a mid-high rack for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool for a bit before cutting and serving.

The May Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Linda of make life sweeter! and Courtney of Coco Cooks. They chose Apple Strudel from the recipe book Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague by Rick Rodgers.

May 21, 2009

Taiwanese Brunch- A Mother's Legacy

It's been difficult observing Mom deteriorate due to her advanced cancer, but despite the somber undertones, we managed to make this year's Mother's Day a true celebration. Unlike previous years, filled with fancy bouquets and humorous cards, this time it was a celebration of Mom's life and history as a first generation Taiwanese-American woman, a celebration through food.
She immigrated here when she was 31 in 1970, bringing with her all the traditions and recipes from her homeland. My older brother, Patrick (his American name), was 3 when she brought them both over to the "Promise Land" to meet Dad, who had already been here alone for a year, due to the immigration laws of that time. They settled here in Davis, and never left the area.

Growing up, Mom made some incredible food- dishes from Taiwan, which of course, I didn't fully appreciate at the time. A lot of the dishes were adapted and simplified, due to the scarcity of certain herbs and spices, but they always reflected the simplicity and depth of flavor of Taiwan cuisine.

The flavors of Taiwan are mainly influenced by Chinese cuisine, and some Japanese and Cantonese as well. Some typical ingredients include, sesame oil, ginger, fermented bean paste, and five spice. There are also a lot of seafood dishes, as well as vegetarian foods (influence of the Taiwanese Buddhists). A lot of dishes are soups and stews, and there are many varieties of pickles eaten.

Although neither of my parents are vegan (like me), they have really taken to my vegan cooking this past year, since I've been making them dinners to help out. Also, they feel an urgency to do all they can to extend Mom's life, and the food I make definitely fits in with the doctor's recommendations for a low sodium, high fiber diet. They've also been reading up on nutrition and healing for cancer, and have reduced their meat intake considerably- although Mom has terrible cravings for In & Out Burgers from time to time! Yes, she's been Americanized!

For Mom's Day, my brother and I made some of her favorite dishes (he made the ones with meat).

"Ma Yu Gey" Drunken Chicken- simmered in a ginger, sesame oil, and Chinese wine broth. Is known for being medicinal and often eaten when people are sick.

Here's my version that I made later with similar seasonings... "Drunken Veggies" LOL!

"Lo Neng" Stewed Eggs- Hard boiled eggs are peeled and simmered in a seasoned soy sauce broth until their whites have been darkened and flavored by the broth. I think this could easily be done with tofu, but the broth should not be too salty!

"Yin Tsai" Chinese Spinach- Simply stir fried with garlic and brown beech mushrooms. This vegetable is also called Edible Amaranth, and has hollow stems.

"Goh Tieh" Potstickers- wouldn't be a celebration for Mom without these! Typically made with ground pork, she actually likes my version with tofu and chives from her garden. You can find my recipe from last year here.

I forget the name for pickles, because my parents call them "pickles." Here are three different kinds. Most common are vegetables pickled in soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, and various seasonings. I added caraway seeds to mine.

"Dan Ta" Egg Custard Tarts- I made these vegan with a tofu-coconut filling. The crust is typically made with a puff pastry dough, and originated in Hong Kong. There are now a Portuguese version that's more like a creme brulee, a Chinese version that's more eggy, and these look more like the Taiwanese version with a thinner, less flakey crust. These were really good, and I will post this recipe soon!

I almost forgot the most important thing... RICE (here is my half-eaten bowl). When people in Taiwan say "How are you?" -its literal translation means, "Have you eaten your rice today?"

Mom doesn't cook much anymore, but gives good directions!

"Don't burn the chicken, Pat!" (Just kidding)

Dad's elementary school picture in Taiwan

During the meal, as we have done during many prior meals, we started talking about how things were in the "old country." Both my parents came from large, poor families, living in rural Taiwan during the tail end of World War II. Mom, being the oldest of 7 sisters and 1 brother, often took care of her younger siblings, making sure they had enough to eat and hand-made clothes to wear. Dad remembered going to school without shoes, and trekking across large hills to buy rice and carry it home- stories one would think were exaggerated to keep us kids humble, but were actually true!

Mom was a Dance and P.E. major in college

It's amazing to look at my parents' old photos.

As time seems to grow shorter and shorter, I am feeling more and more indebted to Mom for passing her rich memories and culinary knowledge to me. Little did she know that I would be so involved with food as an adult- a lot to do with her, and her passion for good food. She was never one to discourage little hands helping in the kitchen, and even unrelentingly imparted cooking tips, which of course, my brother and I resisted in our rebellious, ungrateful teenage years. And, as I reflect on the fact that we didn't always get along, I feel the desire to lift that weight and bring all the good times to the foreground... It makes me smile and long for Mom in the kitchen, making some good Taiwanese food.

May 14, 2009

DC Vegan Ricotta Gnocchi

For those who have never tried Ricotta Gnocchi, it's been described as delicate, rich tasting "pillows," unlike the chewier potato version that many of us are used to. When I heard the first Daring Cook's Challenge, I was a bit perplexed. The original recipe calls for cheese, eggs, butter, and a bit of flour. Nothing turned up when I googled for help, so it was off to the test kitchen to do a little experimentation... call me "Dr. Frankenstein" (evil laugh).

Well, I think I came up with a freakishly good vegan fascimile, and it's as simple (if not more simple) than the original!

The chosen inspiring recipe for Zuni Ricotta Gnocchi is from Judy Rodger's The Zuni Café Cookbook.

First, soak 1/2 C. raw cashews in hot water for about an hour (or until they look nice and plump). Drain, and put them into a food processor until they're a fine crumble.

Next, crumble in fully pressed extra firm tofu (14 oz. package). This is much easier to do if you freeze the tofu first, thaw, then squeeze it out like a sponge. Add 2 tsp. lemon juice, 2 cloves of garlic, 1/2 tsp. white pepper, and salt to your preference. I used white pepper, because I wanted to keep it white looking and not spotted, but feel free to use black pepper. Process everything until it comes together into a doughy ball.

Form little balls (or desired shape) and roll lightly in all purpose flour. Boil them until they float, and violla! They're ready to serve with your favorite sauce.

I used a basic tomato-red wine sauce and garnished with roasted eggplant and chives to make a pretty plate.

Delicious little "pillows!"

May 6, 2009

Spaghetti Squash & Veggie Lasagna

Spaghetti squash filled with layers of veggies, sauce, and tofu are are roasted in the oven and topped with seasoned bread crumbs to make this delicious and beautiful side dish!

First, cut the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise, and scoop out seeds with a large spoon. Season the insides with salt, pepper, nutritional yeast, and dry Italian seasonings. Then, add a layer of thinly-sliced tomatoes (as shown), and season those too.

Layer crushed garlic and thinly-sliced tofu squares on top of the tomatoes, then season well with the same seasonings.

Layer zucchini strips and season again.

Pour a 15 oz. can of diced tomatoes on top (I like to mix in a tablespoon of agave nectar to bring out the sweetness).

We used up the leftover zucchini cut into little strips. Drizzle with about 1 T. olive oil. Then cover each half with a double layer of aluminum foil and don't be afraid to press tightly! Bake on a baking pan at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes or until squash is tender.

Unwrap the squash and top with seasoned bread crumbs (mixture of fresh whole wheat bread, toasted with a little olive oil, crumbled and mixed with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and Italian seasonings). Put back into the oven and broil the tops for a few minutes until crisp and golden.

Serve with your favorite marinara sauce or do what we did, and eat it with a creamy artichoke sauce made with a heated puree of silken tofu, pickled artichoke hearts, garlic, and a little veg broth. Sorry, no pics of this, as it was eaten before I remembered to photograph! That happens a lot around here!!