Jun 25, 2011

Vegan Spelt Hawaiian Bread

Soft, pillowy, and slightly sweet, this Hawaiian bread has a hint of pineapple and ginger. It's definitely something I miss eating since going vegan, and has been on my husband's wish list since he found out about his mild wheat intolerance. White spelt flour is available at my local natural foods store, and although it can be interchangeable with all purpose flour in some recipes (like this one), it does act "funny" in others.

The "pinch" test...

You know it's Hawaiian bread when it's moist enough to stick to itself!

Although the bubbles look bigger in this bread than the Hawaiian bread from the supermarket, I suspect it's because it has less fat. Despite this, it's still yummy and moist enough to quell the average Hawaiian bread craving.

Makes two of the above loaves.


1 C. pineapple juice
1 T. dry active yeast
1/2 C. coconut milk + extra for brushing tops (optional)
1/2 C. mashed potatoes (I used cooked yukon gold)
1/4 C. canola oil
3/4 C. unrefined sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. dry ground ginger
4 1/2 C. white spelt flour (or all purpose wheat)


Put pineapple juice into a small bowl and warm in the microwave to slightly warmer than room temp. Proof the yeast by sprinkling it on top of the juice, and wait for it to get bubbly. Meanwhile, mix together the remaining ingredients: coconut milk, mashed potatoes, canola oil, sugar, salt, and ground ginger until smooth. You may need to use a mixer to get out all the lumps in the mashed potatoes. Once frothy, mix in the yeast- pineapple juice mixture. Sift in the spelt flour and mix until a soft shaggy dough forms. Cover and let rise for 30 minutes or until doubled in size. Punch down and separate into rolls, placing them about 1/2 inch apart in a casserole dish or similar. Cover and let rise again for 30 minutes. Bake at 350 degrees F on center rack for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown on top. Eat warm.

Jun 22, 2011

Vegan BLT Salad

When it comes to salad, everyone has their favorite combos, and it seems like the perfect dish to express one's own unique flair.  If you're getting bored, why not change up the presentation a little?  This is a fun play on the great American classic- the B.L.T. sandwich.

Made with the quickest tempeh bacon I ever made, sliced tomatoes, onions, and drizzled with a spicy creamy mustard dressing.

Quick Tempeh Bacon:

Slice tempeh very thin.  Fry in a thin layer of oil on a non-stick skillet until deep golden and crisp on both sides.  As you are frying, sprinkle with salt.  Transfer to a single layer on a plate.  Brush on a thin layer of your favorite BBQ sauce while still hot.  Let cool a bit before adding to salad.

Mustard Dressing:

1 part mustard to 2 parts vegan mayo.  Add a little agave to sweeten to taste.  Thin with a little cold water if needed.  Maybe a little apple cider vinegar to increase tartness.

If you don't want to serve this with a knife and fork, pile everything onto a single leaf, fold up, and eat with your hands!

Jun 14, 2011

Japanese Potato Salad, Potato Totoros, and Vegan Kewpie Mayo

A long time ago, when my host daughter Emiko made Japanese potato salad for us, I was dubious. Unlike the American version, it was extremely simple: potatoes, cooked carrots, peas, mayo, and salt. Then I tasted it, and thought it was genius.

Kewpie mayo is the Japanese standard that everyone uses over there, and the ONLY mayo considered acceptable in potato salad. It's what a lot of our sushi restaurants use on their fancy sushi rolls as well. It's not as tangy and a little sweeter than American mayo, and creamier in texture. It also has a happy yellow tint to it. They use rice vinegar instead of distilled vinegar, which people say is the key to it's popular flavor. It also contains MSG, and I'm thinking that has to do with its addictiveness more than anything.
Kewpie Japanese Mayonnaise, sold in most Asian markets

Homemade Kewpie Mayonnaise, veganized
To "veganize" this, I had quite the challenge. But after a few taste tests from myself and some Kewpie experts, I think I'm on to something. I made use of the natural sweetness of cashews and carrots, so there's no added sugar or sweeteners, and much less added oil. You can reduce the oil by half if you like, but it won't be as shiny and melt-in-your-mouth. There's also no MSG.

This makes much more than the recipe requires, so feel free to jar leftovers and use it for other purposes.

Vegan Kewpie Mayonnaise
(makes about 26 oz.)

1 C. cashews (unroasted, unsalted)
1 C. water + 1/4 C. water to add later
1 package (12 oz.) Mori Nu Extra Firm Silken Tofu
1/4 C. thinly sliced carrots
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. yellow mustard
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 1/2 tsp. rice vinegar
1/4 C. extra virgin olive oil

Place cashews and 1 cup water into a sauce pan and heat until boiling. Turn off heat and set aside to let cool for about 15 minutes. In a food processor, pour in the cashew-carrot-water mixture and blend until finely chopped. Note: if you want a thicker mayo, drain off about a little of the liquid before blending (you can always add in more if needed). Add all other ingredients, except the 1/4 C. water, and puree until smooth. If it's too thick, add the water a little at a time until you get the right consistency. Blend for a good 5 minutes or more, scraping down the sides every so often- you want it silky smooth without any grittiness from the nuts. Chill in the fridge before using.

Since this is a healthier potato salad challenge, I though I'd include some interesting nutritional comparisons with both regular mayo and the vegan standard:
What's great about making your own, is that you can make adjustments.
If you're worried about sodium, for instance, you can substitute a low
sodium salt, or reduce the overall amount
.  Also, vegan mayo is naturally 
cholesterol-free, whereas the Kraft mayo has 5mg of cholesterol per serving.

Kahaku Namasu (literally: Red & White Pickled Salad)
Although the simplicity of this potato salad is genius as mentioned, I thought I'd add another dimension to it, because I just couldn't help myself! To add a little zing and crunch, I decided to make some Kahaku Namasu (carrot & daikon pickled salad). It's the same stuff they use in those incredible Banh Mi Vietnamese sandwiches, so you know what to do with any leftovers!

Make very thin matchstick slices

Kahaku Namasu

After cutting up about 1 cup each of both daikon and carrots (as shown above), place them into a bowl and sprinkle generously with salt (about 1 tsp). Massage the salt into the veggies, then set aside to allow them to release some of their moisture. Mix together the following into a tuperware container:

1 C. rice vinegar (or rice wine vinegar)
1 C. raw sugar
1/4 C. water

Heat for about 1 minute in the microwave to dissolve the sugar, then chill and set in the fridge to cool.

After about 30 minutes, you'll see that the carrots and daikon have released a lot of their water. Wrap them in a towel and squeeze out any excess. Put them into the dressing, and let them marinate for 10-15 minutes. Do not soak too long, because they will get soft and not crunchy. Drain off the dressing, then store them in the fridge until ready to use.

Now you're ready to boil the potatoes. I used about 2 pounds of red boiler potatoes, and put them into a large pot of cold salted water with an inch of cover. Boil them until a fork goes in easily. Drain, and mash while still warm. I decided to leave the skins in, but you can peel them first. Let cool to room temp.

To this I added:

1/2 C. frozen petite peas (thawed)
1/2 C. finely chopped green onions
1 C. of the Kahaku Namasu
Vegan Kewpie Mayo (to desired creaminess)

Mix everything together, and it's ready!

"Ta Daaaa!"

Potato "Totoros"
"Oishii (Delicious)!"

If you haven't seen Totoro before, here's the trailer for it. I fell in love with the Japanese version with subtitiles, and if you can find it, that is the one to watch!

Jami Sorrento was our June Daring Cooks hostess and she chose to challenge us to celebrate the humble spud by making a delicious and healthy potato salad. The Daring Cooks Potato Salad Challenge was sponsored by the nice people at the United States Potato Board, who awarded prizes to the top 3 most creative and healthy potato salads. A medium-size (5.3 ounce) potato has 110 calories, no fat, no cholesterol, no sodium and includes nearly half your daily value of vitamin C and has more potassium than a banana!

Jun 9, 2011

DJ Party! Electrolux "Are You Party Ready?" Event

Scenario:  I'm at home in my jammies, watching pre-recorded episodes of reality shows I'd rather not disclose, fast becoming one with the couch, and there's a knock at my door.  Jack, the Jack Russell Terrorist, flies off the couch and with as much macho as his little body can muster, yaps a series of annoyingly high-pitched warning barks at the unseen threat on the other side.  After I clumsily pull the little monster away from his inscrutable prey, I open the door to find my good friend and his family, who thought they'd drop by on their way to Lake Tahoe.  Jack does a 180 and greets them warmly.  I do the same, but in the back of my mind, I'm wondering...

Am I Party Ready?

As is the important question posed to me and a bunch of other bloggers, who have been presented by FoodBuzz and Electrolux, the challenge of offering impromptu party tips.  

Here's what I came up with...

Tip #1:  Feed your guests in a fun, interactive, non-boring way.
The most fun food I've ever had at a party, was a make-your-own-pita-pocket bar.  When you're involved in making the food (or assembling it)... it just tastes better!

Appetizer Cocktails

This is a slightly more elegant D.I.Y. food bar, that can be done with any assortment of glassware that seems appropriate to you, and some cute little shrimp forks (forking cute) that I picked up at World Market. 

This can be done with a variety of different ingredients.  You can use potatoes, pasta, rice, bread, etc. as the base.  I used baby potatoes, and deep fried rice balls (I like to call them "rice cubes").  I had fun with the theme, and served them in my ice cube bucket.

"Rice Cubes" shaped, frozen, battered, and fried.  
Making these rice cubes is a great way to save and use your leftover rice.  My family eats a LOT of rice, and when there's leftovers, I roll them up into balls and stick them in my freezer.  Just use and reuse a small square of plastic wrap to shape the balls and place in a single layer into a zip lock freezer bag. 
I originally just put them into a deep fryer until crisp on the outside.  They were delicious, but turned hard after cooling down.  I remedied this by dunking them into a tempura batter (rice flour, cold seltzer water, pinch of salt) before frying.  They kept a good texture, and stayed white- good for the ice cube theme!  Do make sure to use sticky medium or short grain rice.

Next, serve with complimentary foods.  I made vegan sausage skewers, marinated sauteed tempeh, sauteed mushrooms, peas, and artichokes, caramelized onions, fresh cilantro, and homemade garlic aioli and terriyaki sauce.  All of these were easy, flavorful, and quick to make.

Tip #2:  (This is the hard one) Keep good stuff in your freezer for unexpected occasions.
Mini Cheesecakes... make 'em and freeze 'em... then eat 'em later.
Oh, who am I kidding?  Things fly out of my freezer like tweets about lying congressmen.  But even though I haven't been following this tip, I think I should start... I really really do.  It cuts down on time- the most precious thing you'll need when entertaining!

For this particular event, I played around with different things that would be good to keep in my freezer, and froze some things ahead of time to test my theories out.  Yeah, it's sort of cheating, but what the hell?
For my Appetizer Cocktails, I used frozen peas, frozen leftover rice (above), frozen artichoke hearts from Trader Joe's, and frozen veggie egg rolls from Costco (yeah, their vegan!).  I also made some mini cheesecakes from my previous recipe, and froze/ thawed them.  Excellent.

Tip #3:  For informal parties, always serve things that taste great at room temperature.
DJs helping themselves after playing a set on the decks
Mark shows them how it's done

For the Appetizer Bar, I served things that were quick to make, as well as tasty after they cooled down to room temp.  Mark showed me how to boil the potatoes, then shocked in ice water.  It turns out that frying or roasting them would result in dry potatoes after they cooled down.  This way, they stayed creamy and delicious!  I also served mushrooms sauteed in olive oil and a little Earth Balance non-hydrogenated margarine (a.k.a. vegan butter), browned sausage skewered with fresh tomatoes, sauteed tempeh that had been marinating in the fridge overnight, and carmelized onions.  Most things took only a few minutes in a hot skillet, and stayed tasty throughout the event.  Others could be made ahead of time, and stored in the fridge to be brought out later.

Tip #4:  Make use of what you got... as well as your brain.
... the right side of your brain, that is.  Be creative, and your guests will appreciate it!

Fruit served in my bundt pan and placed on top of our old turntable that we don't use anymore... but it still turns!
You got skills if you can pick up moving fruit!

Our buddy Butterscotch, putting "rice cubes" in her cocktail

DJ Scratch Rock, rockin' Cee's Baba Ganoush Sunflower Hummus (above)... YUM!
Video DJing... on the ceiling!!!
So... Are YOU party ready?  What clever tips do you have?

If you'd like to visit the Electrolux site, they are giving away some cool appliances right now and donating to charity for all those who participate.