Jul 31, 2011

FoodBuzz 24 x 24: Incredible Edible Bowls

Put away those utensils and leave your bowls in the cupboard!  If you ever wished you could
lick your bowl clean, well... here's your chance to EAT it!  Martha Stewart wouldn't raise an
eyebrow on these babies.

Cucumber Sailboats 
Tip:  Make sure to cut the bottoms so they'll stand up.
Tip#2:  Nothing better than fresh fried tortilla chip sails!  Fry up scraps for tortilla soup or add 
to salads.  These were filled with guacamole and accented with red bell pepper.

Carrot Straws & Apple or Bell Pepper Cups 

These are the most fun, child-like things you'll ever see (which is why they make me happy)!  I 
think it's healthy for adults to regress a bit, but you can always say you're making them for 
your kids (I won't tell).  Of course, if you don't have any kids in your life, you'll need to have 
the maturity to handle people teasing you a bit.  My advice?  Start drinking through a carrot 
straw, and see just how much they want one too!

To Make A Carrot Straw:
You'll need a nice straight carrot that's at least 1/2 - 3/4" thick at the top, a standard vegetable 
peeler, a sharp knife, and a 1/8" flathead screwdriver that's at least 4" long (it's skinnier than a 
standard one, which reduces the chance of cracking).

Step 1:  Cut the top and narrow end off the carrot, leaving a 3-4" long section, unpeeled.
Step 2:  Make sure that both ends are level by standing them up on your cutting board- trim as 
Step 3:  Hold the wide end as the base, while you twist the screwdriver into the top end of the 
carrot, making sure to keep it straight and centered.
Step 4:  When you're about half way through, turn upside down and twist from the fat end.  It 
should easily poke through, and you can push out any carrot bits left.  Run water through to 
make sure.
Step 5:  Now peel your carrot and from the fat end, start to whittle away until you have a 
straight narrowed-down straw, using the hole as your guide.  Don't whittle too much!

Tip:  Make sure to thoroughly clean your screwdriver before using.

Bell Pepper Cups 
Ok, I'll try and be an adult now... Bloody Mary, anyone?

Potato Chip Flower Bowls

Be careful- these are as addictive as you'd think!

Start with a long wooden skewer, and use a small cube of potato as the base.  Cut a small 
potato (1 1/2 - 2" in diameter) into thin slices- a mandolin works best for this.  Cut a slit about 
halfway into your "petal."  Cross the two corners as shown to create a petal, then skewer.
Repeat a couple more times, until you get...
... this.  Then carefully deep fry them by holding the opposite end of the skewer and 
submerging the flower in the hot oil until golden and crisp.  
Add a little spoonful of Tofutti cream cheese, mixed with chives, garlic powder, and salt into 
the center of the flower, then skewer a small cherry tomato or whatever you like to finish.  
These are perfect little bites.  I also made yam flowers (right).

Potpie Pastry Spoons
You can go crazy with these- savory or sweet.

Use ceramic spoons, bake at 350 F for about 15 minutes or until golden.  Let cool a bit before 
trying to remove the spoon.  I filled mine with carrots, pees, leeks, and store-bought sausage, 
sauteed in gravy- everything finely diced.  Mark sampled... "Yummy!"

Candied Orange Bowls 

I used the technique found at Food2 to make candied orange halves, which I would later fill 
with a roasted almond date crust and a no-bake cheesecake.  Everything went well together- 
the sweet tanginess of the candied orange, the nutty sweetness of the inner crust, and the rich 
creaminess of the filling. 
Use organic oranges for this.  Cut in
half from stem to bottom, removing
any stems.  With a small paring knife,
cut around the fruit like you would a
grapefruit.  Using a spoon or fingers,
carefully dig out the fruit over a bowl
to catch the juice.  Scrape out any re-
maining fruit, leaving a thin layer of
pith and the skin.
You'll need a large pot, plus:
6 small oranges, less if they're big
4 1/2 C. granulated sugar
1 1/2 C. water

First, blanch them by putting them into the pot with enough water to cover.  Bring to a boil, then pour off the water.  Repeat this two more times (total of three times) to get rid of a lot of the bitterness from the pith.  
Now mix together the sugar and 1 1/2 cups of water in the big pot, and bring to a simmer.  Let simmer for 8-10 minutes, or until the temperature reaches 235 degrees F (soft ball stage).  Do not stir.  It should be thick and syrupy and slightly brown.
Carefully add the orange cups, and coat each one gently with tongs- too much agitation will cause sugar crystals and you don't want that!  
Let them simmer for about 45 minutes or until they look translucent.  Drain each one, and lay on parchment paper to dry- may take 5 hours or more.
Candied Orange Cheesecake Bites
Slice it up like an orange, and serve!  Tip:  Use a sharp knife, and clean it after every cut.

Less dishes in the sink- always a good thing!

Jul 26, 2011

Vegan Salami, Using Tapioca Pearls

I read somewhere that a chef used tapioca pearls in a dish to mimic fat.  Intrigued, I delved a little deeper into the subject, and found that vegans were already using them in seitan to improve texture.  I also found that you must use instant tapioca, so that it would actually cook through properly.  The tiny beads are barely recognizable in this, but I think it does add more softness and a little "bounce" to the texture.  Also, it does mimic the fat left on the tongue after eating salami.

This recipe tastes A LOT like salami, and slices thin (not paper thin, but pretty thin)!  

1 C. celery, chopped
1 C. yellow onion, chopped
pinch of salt to saute
3/4 C. water
2 cloves garlic
1/4 C. soy sauce or tamari
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. liquid smoke
3 T. tomato paste (can substitute with ketchup)
2/3 C. nutritional yeast flakes
1 tsp. fennel seeds
1 T. smoked paprika
2 T. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 C. minute tapioca pearls
2 tsp. whole black peppercorns (or cracked if you prefer)
2 C. vital wheat gluten

Without any oil, saute the celery and onion with the pinch of salt in a non-stick skillet until tender.  

Transfer to a food processor with water, garlic, soy sauce, salt, liquid smoke, tomato paste, nutritional yeast, fennel, paprika, and olive oil.  Blend until pretty smooth (no big chunks).  

In a mixing bowl, mix tapioca pearls, peppercorns, and wheat gluten.  Add the wet mixture and mix until it becomes a stiff dough.  Get your hands in there and knead it until everything is well incorporated.  Roll into a couple of tubes and wrap tightly in aluminum foil.  Steam or pressure cook until firm (about 45 minutes) with indirect water.  (Optional for dryer texture) Remove from foil, brush with olive oil, and bake for 30 minutes in the oven, turning mid-way through.  Let cool a bit before cutting.

Jul 21, 2011

Super Quick No Yeast Crispy Chewy Pizza Crust!

When I crave pizza, I usually think about how long it'll take to make the dough, then end up making something else.  This flavorful dough takes no time at all to make (no resting required), and contains no yeast.  When baked correctly, it's crispy on the outside, and chewy on the inside- just like what a good pizza crust should be.  If you don't have a pizza stone or special pan, no worries- this method will make you a pizza hero!

Here's the recipe.  Take special note to the method (or spinz), as it will mean the difference between a tough soggy dough, and the one shown above!

Makes two large crusts

2 3/4 C. white spelt flour 
2 C. all purpose flour (or you can use your own preferred mix of flours)
1 tsp. baking powder
1/3 C. nutritional yeast
2 T. ground flaxseed
1 tsp. salt
1 T. sugar
1 tsp. dried basil (or Italian seasonings)
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 C. water

Heat oven to 400 degrees F.  Mix up everything except water in a large bowl.  Add water, and mix and knead into a smooth elastic dough.  If it's too sticky, add a little flour.  If it's too dry, add a little water.  Divide into two equal dough balls.  Flour your work surface generously with flour, and sprinkle some onto your dough.  Roll it out until thin, then fold up the dough 3-4 times (this adds layers, much like a puff pastry).  Dust with more flour as needed, then roll out again until very thin.  Transfer dough to a prepared baking pan (I sprayed mine with oil to keep from sticking and sprinkled some corn meal).  Poke the dough with a fork evenly throughout the dough and brush with a little olive oil.  Place pan on center rack, and turn the oven to broil.  This will only take a few minutes (depending on your oven), and you should watch it closely so it doesn't burn.  Ideally, it should look bubbly and slightly browned (maybe even more than shown below).  The dough should be cooked through and stiff, but not crisp.  

Take out of oven and flip the crust over. Add a thin layer of sauce and toppings.  Don't pile on too much or it will be too heavy for the crust.  The crust should have cooled down enough to handle by now, so lift it out of the pan with a large spatula and hands and quickly transfer directly to your oven rack.  Broil the pizza until cheese is bubbling, and the edges are golden.  Again, keep a close watch on it, as it should only take a few minutes.

If you have a pizza stone, or one of those perforated pizza pans, then by all means use it.  I would recommend sliding the dough onto one of these hot surfaces for best results, and you probably won't need to flip it.  

Also check the bottom of the pizza- it should sound crispy when you tap it.

Jul 14, 2011

Chocolate Mint Plant, Candied Mint Leaves

A few months ago, I stumbled upon one of these mint varieties at a supermarket, and had to have it!  It smells (and tastes) like chocolate mint- no kidding!  Unlike regular mint, it's less fibrous and the texture reminds me more of basil.  Luckily, after planting it in my herb garden, it grew beautifully.  

So I decided to make candied (or sugared) mint leaves, which is typically done with egg whites.  I found that using ground flaxseeds and water (flax eggs) worked well.  I also put my raw sugar into my Magic Bullet to make it into a fine powder.  You could also use a spice or coffee grinder for this.
Tips:  Dip the leaves in the sticky flax mixture, then squeeze off excess with your fingers so it won't be too clumpy.  Then sprinkle sugar evenly over leaf (front and back), and shake off excess.  Put leaves on a drying rack for a few hours, or until they're hardened.

Here are the finished leaves.  They taste like chocolate mint candy, and they're perfect for...

...Ice cream!

Jul 11, 2011

Collard Green Dolmas and Sushi

We had a bumper crop of collard greens this year, which we allowed to grow into what seemed like small trees.  And although I love me a big bowl o' greens, I thought I'd do something more creative with them.  I've been wanting to make dolmas for awhile now, and when cooked, collard greens make a good substitute for grape leaves.  These are easy and fun to make, and a great chilled summer dish, served with a dill yogurt sauce or tzatziki.

Dolmas are traditionally made with a rice base, mixed with a variety of spices, veggies, dried fruits, and sometimes meat, then they are wrapped in blanched grape leaves (or the kind you'll find in jars at the store).  Really, you can put whatever you like in these.  Mine had rice, seasoned tempeh, parsley, red onion, dried cranberries, and shredded beets.  Everyone gobbled them up.

The Filling: starts with 3 cups of cooked rice (I used a medium grain jasmine mix).  Then crumble a package of tempeh into a heated skillet with a thin layer of olive oil.  Let the tempeh brown, then add seasonings, salt, and a couple tablespoons of nutritional yeast.  Stir.  Pour in 1/2 cup of water and cover to let steam out.  Add this to the mix, then add 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion, 1/2 cup chopped parsley, 1/2 C. dried cranberries, and 2-3 tablespoons of vegannaise to help bind everything.  Salt and pepper to taste.

The Collards:  are blanched for 1-2 minutes in boiling water.  They should be pliable and vibrant green.  Take them out, and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process.  Pat dry with a towel, then cut out the center stem.  Bring the right and left sides of the leaf together, overlapping to make a nice whole piece.  Mix up some lemon oil by using one part lemon juice to one part extra virgin olive oil and a dash of salt. Brush the leaf with this mixture.  Then you're ready to wrap!

To wrap:  simply spoon some of the rice mixture as shown above onto your leaf, and roll up like a burrito.  Brush on more lemon oil on the outside when done.

Note:  I added shredded beets separately to some for variety and color.  They also added a nice flavor that I liked a lot.

Dill "Yogurt" Sauce:  One part silken tofu, one part vegannaise, dried dill, salt, garlic powder, and lemon juice.  Puree until smooth.

You can eat these right away, but they're even better if you let them chill in the fridge overnight.

I also made California sushi rolls with the greens.  I used sushi rice (vinegar, sugar, and sesame oil), pickled carrots, avocado, cucumber, and tofu salad.  These were tasty, but I personally prefer nori (call me a purist).

The collards were also treated with lemon juice before wrapping to balance the bitterness.

One of the "Collard Trees" growing in my garden!

Jul 7, 2011

Vegan Zucchini Bread

I made this moist, partially date-sweetened cake, when I woke up to find three extremely large zucchinis on my kitchen counter- freshly picked from the garden.  I think zucchinis are like magic beanstalks that grow into gigantic forms, overnight by the light of the moon.  

My cousin from Taiwan and her family have come to visit me and my dad, and they brought me a cute little, teeny tiny tea pot (in picture).  To thank them, and to make something for their road trip to visit my brother, I made a batch of zucchini muffins.

Although zucchinis are mild in flavor, they are a good source of potassium, vitamin A, B vitamins, and other nutrients.  And did you know that they are over 95% water?  This is why there is very little added liquids in this recipe.

Makes two loaves, or 2 dozen muffins

Wet Mix
2 C. dried pitted dates + 1/4 C. water
1 C. unbleached sugar
1 C. canola oil
2 1/2 C. grated zucchini
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
2 T. ground flax seeds
Dry Mix
3 1/2 C. white spelt flour (or all purpose wheat)*
1 T. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 T. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 C. raisins
1 C. nuts (I used pecans)

Split the dried dates to remove any stray pits and pack them into your measuring cup and dump them into a microwave safe bowl.  Add 1/4 cup of water, place a plate on top to act as a lid,  and microwave for 1-2 minutes on high.  Wait a minute or two before sliding the plate off with a kitchen towel or oven mit, as hot steam may come out!  Check to see that the dates are tender, then place into a food processor with 1 cup of oil.  Blend until it's a smooth paste.  Transfer to a large mixing bowl, and mix in the remaining wet ingredients.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients until they are completely blended.  Add dry to wet, and mix until just combined.  The batter will be very thick and sticky.  Mix in raisins and nuts if desired.

*You could probably substitute half whole grain flour and half white flour, or even all whole grain... let me know how it turns out!

Transfer to a oiled loaf pan or cupcake liners (do not overfill, as they will puff up).  If making a loaf, bake at 350 F for 40-50 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.  If making muffins, bake for 15-20 minutes.

Jul 4, 2011

A Vegan Fourth- Foods Invented in California, USA!

Are you tired of seeing red, white, and blue foods yet? (lol) Well, this patriotic post is about foods invented in the United States... more specifically, in California.

Pisco Punch:  San Francisco, CA 

This fruity punch, named after the Peruvian city where Pisco brandy was first purchased, was invented in the late 19th century.  Be careful- this punch packs quite a punch!

Servings: 12
Source: Epicurious.com

1 large pineapple, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 750ml bottle of Pisco brandy
2 cups simple syrup
1 1/2 tsp. grated lime zest
1 1/2 tsp. grated grapefruit zest
2/3 C. lemon juice
Ice cubes
Soak pineapple in the Pisco in a fridge for 3 days, shaking occasionally.  Divide simple syrup into two bowls, putting lime zest in one and grapefruit zest and soak in a fridge overnight.  Strain Pisco into a pitcher, discarding pineapple.  Strain both syrups into the pitcher, add lemon juice, and stir to blend.  Pour over ice cubes and garnish with fresh pineapple chunks (optional).

The California Roll:  Los Angeles, CA

Invented in the late 70's, this sushi roll has become the most popular sushi in America.  Although Japanese people may find it strange to put mayonnaise, imitation crab, and avocado in their sushi, we Americans can't get enough of it!  I never liked the imitation crab, so I usually substitute pickled veggies or tofu salad.

Green Goddess Dressing:  San Francisco, CA
(pic and recipe from Fat Free Vegan Blog)

Invented in 1923 by Chef Philip Roemer of the Palace Hotel, this dressing was a tribute to the hit play, The Green Goddess.  Traditionally made with mayo, sour cream, and anchovies, I love this vegan version.
Btw:  like OMG, you can totally dip that Cali roll into your green goddess dressing... hella bitchin, Dude!

Peanut Butter:  Alameda, CA

First invented by Dr. John Kellogg (of corn flakes fame) in 1890, it was perfected commercially for the first time in 1922 under the brand name Skippy.  

What could be more American than a 
Chocolate Covered Graham Cracker Peanut Butter Banana Ice Cream Sandwich... on a stick?

I think the name says it all, but if you want to make these, here's how it's made:

-Pack in softened ice cream into a loaf pan that is lined with plastic wrap.  Put into freezer to harden.
-Prepare a casserole dish (or similar) with parchment or wax paper lining the bottom. This will be going into the freezer, so make room!
-Prepare a dish of crushed peanuts (optional)
-Break graham cracker in half, and spread peanut butter on each piece.  
-Place four slices of banana on one of the pieces.  Repeat until you have the desired number.
-Once ice cream has hardened, slice quickly into 1/2" slices to fit onto the cracker with bananas.
-Put the other cracker on top, and smoosh a little.
-Put in a popscicle stick, place into prepared dish, and pop the whole thing into the freezer to get really cold.
-Melt chocolate chips (I used one and a half 12 oz. packages) in a double boiler, with about 2 tablespoons of coconut oil.
-Once smooth, take off heat and pull out your frozen bars.
-Spoon chocolate mixture over each bar, making sure to cover completely.
-Sprinkle with nuts and place upside down onto parchment or wax paper.
-Work quickly, and put them in the freezer again to harden up.

Happy Fourth Everyone!

Jul 2, 2011

Quick Vegan Meatballs

These little babies hold together well, and are deliciously easy to make.  And on the plus side for me, it feeds up to 10 people!

Saturdays are often "Semi-Homemade Saturdays," because I usually need to throw something together quick for the guys, before they go off to the club.  These were made with a package of Tofurkey Italian sausages and a can of organic chickpeas as the main ingredients.  I also added a little seasoned TVP for extra texture, but that's optional.

They're nice and crispy on the outside, and tender pillows of flavor on the inside.

Makes about 42 one-inch meatballs

1 package of Tofurkey Italian style sausages (four links)
1 15oz. can chickpeas (drained)
1/4 C. all purpose flour
1 tsp. dried oregano
pinch of salt & pepper

(Optional for added texture)
1/3 C. TVP granules
1 tsp. nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp. dried basil
pinch of salt
1/4 C. hot water

In a food processor, throw in sausages that have been cut into rough chunks, drained chickpeas, and seasonings.  Pulse until mixture starts to clump together and push against the walls (it should be finely chopped but not pureed).  Scrape down the sides and add flour.  Pulse until combined- if it's too stiff to spin, dump out into a bowl and knead with your hands.  
Optional TVP:  In a small bowl, mix together all ingredients except water.  Pour in hot water and stir until TVP is hydrated and fluffy.  Add this to the previous mixture and knead in with your hands.
Form into 1-inch meatballs.
To cook, add vegetable oil to coat the bottom of a skillet.  Put meatballs into the pan when hot, leaving room  to roll around and brown on all sides.