Saturday, December 31, 2011

Vanilla Bean Cheesecake with a Chocolate Cookie Crust

Whenever I am out for lunch or dinner at a veg restaurant, I pretty much always have to order two things:  seitan and cheesecake.  I am always curious about whether or not the restaurant makes either the seitan or the cheesecake in house.  Most vegan places in the city order from Vegan Treats, which is ok, but not very interesting for me because it makes me think the place isn't super creative, and I feel like once you've tried one of Vegan Treats' items, you have tried them all.  They are also super refined and way too sweet for my tastes!  Anyway, I tried a vegan cheesecake at Blossom about a year ago on Hubby and my Anniversary dinner and wasn't super excited about it.  The cheesecake part of it was super dense and didn't have a lot of flavor.  And instead of a traditional crust on the bottom, it had a dry cake base.  Ugh.  The seitan I also ate there was not homemade, I could tell.  Not to say that it wasn't tasty, because it was, but I was a little disappointed to know that they get it out of a giant 5 gallon bucket, just like firm tofu comes in within a restaurant.  Believe me, it is the strangest thing in the world to stick your entire arm into a gigantic bucket of icy cold water, searching for a chunk of tofu.  Creepy and gross feeling! 

Anyway, I have a base recipe for a cheesecake that I like.  It's nice and creamy, not too dense, and doesn't have that sometimes very artificial tofutti cream cheese flavor.  I would still like to make some changes to it, but I also like it as it is, after I have already made several changes to it.  I also just bought the book from Isa and Terry "Vegan Pie in the Sky", and saw a recipe for a vegan cheesecake that does not call for tofutti cream cheese, which is great!  I'll have to try it!  However, I initially made this recipe when I was interviewing for the position at Vegan Divas as Executive Pastry Chef.  I tested several items, including a carrot cake, chocolate icing (tofu based) and this cheesecake.  I brought them in to the owner of Vegan Divas' husband, Francois Payard to sample.  Now, being a classically trained French Chef, I felt it was a little strange for him to be tasting vegan baked goods, especially a "cheesecake", because I know that it does not taste anything like a "real" dairy cheesecake.  He is also so used to the flavor of dairy, eggs and tons of butter and heavy cream.  He did not particularly like the creaminess of the cheesecake, but afterwards, I brought several pieces to several of my veg friends (what was I to do with the remnants of a gigantic cheesecake with just the Hubby and I at home??), and they absolutely loved it.  Just goes to show what I fully expected to happen.  Anyway, we ultimately placed this recipe into the rotation at Vegan Divas and it sold quite well if I do say so myself!  The crust is a little complicated, so you can just make a cookie crumb based crust if you like, but this is what we did at Vegan Divas.

Vegan Vanilla Bean Cheesecake:

I accidentally used baking powder, not soda, but it was tasty!

Yields 12 Slices

Cookie Crust:
1 1/2 cups white spelt flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder, sifted
1/16 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon egg replacer
1/4 cup filtered water
1/4 cup canola oil
3/4 cup turbinado sugar
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Cheesecake Filling:
3/4  lb. tofutti cream cheese
1 1/2 pkg. aseptic silken tofu
1/2 pkg. tofutti sour supreme
1 cup turbinado sugar
½ cup + 2 tablespoons soymilk
4 tablespoons arrowroot powder
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon agar agar powder
1/2 vanilla bean, seeded

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2.  Generously oil a 9" springform pan and set aside until ready to use.
3. In a medium mixing bowl add the spelt flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and sea salt. Whisk together until well combined.
4. In a separate medium mixing bowl, add the egg replacer and filtered water. Whisk until white, frothy and bubbly. Add the remaining ingredients: the canola oil, turbinado sugar, vanilla and almond extracts. Whisk together until sugar dissolves and a thick mixture has formed.
5. Carefully pour the dry ingredients over the wet ingredients and using a spatula, mix until a soft, shiny dough forms. The dough may have to be finished mixing by hand.  Place into the prepared baking pan and press the crust up the sides.
6.  Now prepare the cheesecake filling.  Place the filling ingredients in food processor  and process until completely smooth and silky - this will take several minutes.  Periodically scrape down the sides of the processor to ensure even processing.
8. Pour the cheesecake filling into the pan and twirl to ensure even baking.
9. Bake for about 45-60 minutes, rotating pans halfway through baking time.
10. Allow to chill for several hours at room temperature, then refrigerate overnight before slicing.

So Creamy and Delicious!



Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Gluten Free Wednesday: Korean BBQ Baked Tofu, Beet Salad & Moro

Happy Gluten Free Wednesday!

This was a pretty simple meal - one where I had three pots/pans going at once, and everything was finished at the same time.  I love that.  This just came together based upon the ingredients I had in my fridge and pantry.  It is once again time for a trip to the grocery store, but until then, I was able to make a nice, simple tasty meal.  And Hubby definitely enjoyed it.   He always loves a good beet salad and naturally loves moro.  And the most surprisingly, he actually really enjoys tofu.  Strange I know for a meat-eating, meat-loving Dominican guy that never tasted tofu in his life before he met me, but I love it!

The first time I really ever cooked cooked for him (fancy-style if you get what I mean :), I was doing a practice run for a dinner I was making for 100 people as the guest Chef at one of the Natural Gourmet Institute's Friday Night Dinners.  I invited like 12 people over (I had quite a giant apartment at the time), spent two full days in the kitchen (even tinier than the one I have now, which seems impossible!), cooked and baked my heart out, and served a gourmet three-course vegan meal.  Everyone had a great time and loved everything.  Hubby (just the boyfriend then) loved the tofu the most.  As well as he should have, because that is the most attention I had ever and will ever focus on tofu in my life.  It was pressed, marinated for two days, baked, marinated, grilled then marinated some more.  It was the most delicious thing ever!  It was supposed to be like a salmon-style entree, complete with the pink color and grill marks, and damn if it wasn't absolutely delicious!  And the most beautiful part?  Then entire menu was gluten free and vegan!

This was the menu, but for 100 people:

First Course:
Creamy Green Pea Soup with Spicy Red Pepper Coulis, Frizzled Leeks

Second Course:
Marinated Grilled Tofu with Caper Aioli, Portabella Mushroom Risotto and Herico Verts with Pickled Baby Carrots Garnished with Marinated Radicchio Chiffonnade

Third Course:
Mini Lemon Tart with Brandied Almond Crème and Glazed Strawberries with Vegan Rhubarb Ice Cream

It was seriously ridiculously delicious!

Korean BBQ Baked Tofu, Beet Salad & Moro:

Serves 2-3

Korean BBQ Baked Tofu:
1 lb tofu, gently squeezed to remove excess water
Spray olive oil
Prepared Korean BBQ Sauce
Sriracha or Hot sauce, to taste

1.  Follow the instructions on the links to prepare the beet salad and the moro.
2.  To make the tofu, preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Lightly spray a baking tray with the olive oil spray and set aside while the oven heats up.  (I don't like to use parchment paper here because I feel like it makes the tofu mushy.  Baking it directly on the pan makes it crisp up nicely.)
3.  Place the tofu on a cutting board and cut into 4-6 small slabs.  Place on the prepared baking tray.  Spray with additional olive spray oil and place in the oven.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the tofu is firm and crispy on the bottom.
4.  Allow the tofu to cool until it can be comfortably handled.  Cut the tofu into small triangles.
5.  Place the tofu in a saute pan and coat with the prepared bbq sauce and hot sauce or sriracha.  Turn the heat on medium, and toss the tofu to coat.  Cook just until the sauce and tofu are heated through.  Season to taste. 
6.  Place a portion of each the beet salad, moro and bbq tofu on a plate and serve!



Thursday, December 22, 2011

Raspberry Crumb Bar

This is seriously the most amazing bar ever!  I have never really been a bar kind of person before.  I'm not huge on brownies because I'm not a fan of chocolate -I know I'm a terrible person for not digging chocolate!  Nothing as a  bar has ever interested me until I made this bar.  This bar was initially created when I worked for Vegan Divas as the Executive Pastry Chef.  At the time we had an office intern that was working for us for the summer, before he went back to school in Chicago.  He was amazing, super help-ful and did such a great job for us.  What a great kid - seriously.  However, one day, the owner told me that instead of me calling up our purveyors and placing the orders myself, I would verbalize everything I needed and the intern, J, would call in and make the orders.  Problem with that is that I know all of the specifications of the products and he didn't, but I followed the owner's wishes.  When I ordered what I intended to be 5 pounds of frozen raspberries, 25 pounds came in.  Yikes!  We barely had the space to put the berries, let alone something to really make with them.  So there they sat.  And sat and sat in the freezer.  The only recipe we were using them for was a Raspberry Lemon Muffin which used 3 cups to make 52 muffins.  You do the math.  How long would it take to use up the 25 pounds???

So I set off to find a recipe that would use the raspberries but that would also look nice.  And that would fit the packaging we already had, etc. etc. etc.  So I came up with this recipe.  Everyone that tried it loved it.  We unfortunately, however, never brought the recipe into rotation and never sold it.  And now the muffins are no longer being made, so those 25 pounds of frozen raspberries are still sitting there and sitting there and sitting there.  So sad.  I wish I could bring them home and make all kinds of amazing things with them.  Imagine what you would do with 25 pounds of frozen berries.  Sigh.

Raspberry Crumb Bars:

Yields 12-16 Squares/Bars

Crumb and Crust:

2 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1 cup ground almonds
1 cup organic sugar
1 cup earth balance

2 1/2 cups raspberries (fresh or frozen)
1/2 cup raspberry fruit spread
1/4 cup organic sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Oil a 9x13” pan and set aside until ready to use.
2. Grind the almonds in a food processor until fine textured.
3. Mix together the flour, sugar and ground almonds. Add the earth balance and mix together with hands until crumbly.
4. Set aside 1 1/2 cups of the mixture – this will be to top the bars.
5. Press the remaining into the prepared pan. Press firmly.
6. In a small bowl, mix together the berries, fruit spread and sugar. Spread over top of the crust and sprinkle with the remaining topping.
7. Bake for 25-35 minutes, or until the crumbs on top are golden brown.
8. Let cool for an hour or so before cutting.



Saturday, December 17, 2011

Rice Beet Salad with Sauteed Veggies, Mashed Potatoes & Gravy

Hubby and I were both very hungry tonight and wanted dinner as fast as possible.  I love those dinners where you have some leftovers that you can incorporate into making a tasty, quick dinner.  For this dinner, I had already had the cooked mashed potatoes, gravy and cooked beets.  I had also already chopped, washed and dried the lettuce the night before, so there wasn't a lot to do for this dinner, and I would say it was on the dinner within half an hour.  30 Minute Meals for vegans!  The main thing I had to do for this was cook some rice, which took like 15-20 minutes, so in the meantime, I just started reheating everything and sauteing some veggies.

When Hubby saw the rice beet salad, he was very suspicious.  He is a rice-aholic you must know.  Loves eating it everyday and would if he could .  But, he is also a purist when it comes to rice - he likes the Spanish Yellow rice (colored with annatto), Moro Rice (like a Spanish Rice Pilaf) and Rice con Gandules ( Rice with Pigeon Peas).  Beyond that, especially in salad form, it freaks him out.  I told him I got the idea from my previous coworker M, who made it for us for family meal one day when everyone was so busy and didn't have time to make anything.  She just threw together some rice, beets, garlic and spices.  I wanted to simplify it a little bit, so just added the rice, beets, garlic, oil & vinegar, then salt & pepper.  It was a delicious success and once the Hubby actually tried it, he really liked it and had two servings. 

Rice Beet Salad:

Salad, Beet & Rice Salad, Sauteed Veggies,
Mashed Potatoes & Gravy

Beet & Rice Salad:
1 cup cooked chopped beets
1 1/2 cups cooked white rice, warm
2 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 teaspoons sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
Splash agave

Veggie Saute:
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 green bell pepper, sliced, about 3/4 cup
1 medium orange belle pepper, sliced, about 1 cup
1 small onion, sliced, about 1 cup
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
1 carrot, sliced on the diagonal, about 1 cup
1/2 zucchini, 1/4'd and sliced on the diagonal
3/4 cup snap peas, tough ends removed
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon cajun seasoning
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Couple pinches sea salt

1.  Prepare the Rice Beet salad first.  In a medium bowl, combine all the ingredients and stir well to combine.  You want the rice to turn a gorgeous pink color, so keep stirring until the rice turns that nice color.  Taste - it should have a nice spicy flavor from the raw garlic, but should not be overpowering.  If it is too tart from the vinegar, give another splash of agave.  Set aside to allow the flavors to marinate while preparing the veggies. 
2.  Prepare the sauteed veggies: in a large wok over high heat, add the olive oil and allow it to become hot.  Once it is hot, add all the veggies except the garlic.  Cook the veggies until crisp tender, stirring all the while.  If the veggies begin to stick, deglaze the pan with a few tablespoons of water.  Add the garlic and saute till fragrant.  Add the cajun seasoning, black pepper and sea salt, seasoning to taste.



Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Gluten Free Wednesday: Gluten Free Sugar Cookies with "Cream Cheese" Frosting

Happy Gluten Free Wednesday!

Since I've been working in a bakery, I've noticed that I really do not have much of a sweet tooth anymore.  I prefer fruit or fruit based cobblers or crisps for desserts, nothing overly sweet.  I am convinced that because I am inhaling all that sugar all day long it is actually making its way into my system anyway and my body is saying "no more!"  Regardless of how crazy that may sound, I really believe it!  Anyway, Hubby is definitely not in the same situation as me and wants dessert almost every day.  Seriously.  Sometimes he is pretty insistent about it, so I actually have to bake a little bit at home, which I don't generally like to do anymore, unless it involves testing for my upcoming Gluten Free Classes I teach at the Natural Gourmet Institute - which I am teaching tonight actually.  Here is the link to the class.  I don't mind savory baking, just not so much sweet baking at home. 

Anyway, I decided something easy to make that he would like and could grab out of the fridge as he liked was sugar cookies.  A little strange timing considering the month and time of year, but hey, it just means that I'll have to make some more in a couple weeks for Santa. :)  I do have to admit that I snagged a couple too, although I was more in it for the frosting than the cookie - it's something we make in our bakery, and is highly addicting!

Sugar Cookies:

Dropped and pressed sugar cookies with Cream Cheese Icing

Makes 2 Dozen

2 1/2 cups super fine white rice flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 1/2 teaspoons xanthan gum
1 cup turbinado sugar
1 cup earth balance
2 tablespoons flax eggs (mix 1/3 cup ground flax seeds with 2/3 cup water in a jar and shake until combined and measure 2 tablespoons)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg (optional)

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2.  The easiest way to make this cookie dough is to do everything in the food processor.  Cream together the earth balance and the sugar until smooth - do not over mix.  Add the flax eggs and vanilla extract and quickly mix again.  Add the rest of the ingredients and mix together using the pulse button, pulse until all ingredients come together - do not overmix or the dough will become overly sticky.
4.  Remove the dough from the processor and place in a medium bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at leasthalf an hour.
5.  When dough has chilled, prepare a place to roll out on your counter top.  Sprinkle with flour, place 1/4-1/2 of the dough in the center of the floured surface, sprinkle with additional flour  and roll out to desired thickness (I like mine inbetween - not too thick and doughy, but not too thin and crispy).  Using desired cookie cutters, cut out pieces of the dough and place onto a parchment lined sheet tray.  Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until golden along the edges and slightly firm in the center.
6.  Once cookies have baked, remove entire sheet of parchment paper and place on a cookie cooling rack or onto the counter.  If you leave them on the sheet tray, they will continue to cook and possibly overbake, and no one wants an overbaked sugar cookie.

Cream Cheese Frosting:

1/3 cup earth balance
1/3 cup tofutti cream cheese
2-3 tablespoons soymilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 lb. florida crystals powdered sugar

1.  In a medium bowl, place the earth balance, vanilla extract and soymilk.  Using a hand mixer, mix until ingredients are completely emulsified and smooth - it may take a little while and will be a touch messy with the milk, but it will come together.
2.  Add the cream cheese and mix together until just incorporated.  If you overmix tofutti brand cream cheese, it will separate and the frosting will become grainy.  Add the powdered sugar in two batches, mixing until the frosting is smooth.  Add enough powdered sugar until the frosting is the desired texture.  Place in the refrigerator for up to half an hour to set up.  Ice as desired.



Saturday, December 10, 2011

Tostones with Sauteed Veggies

This is another one of my go-to meals to make when I don't have any time at all, because it literally takes like 15 minutes to make and reminds me of when my Hubby and I first got together.  It was one of the first meals he made for me when he was living in the Bronx, a place I was terrified of and convinced I would be killed there.  You know, what with all of the horrible things you are always hearing on the news about it.  My mum certainly didn't help any with my thoughts of the safety of the borough.  It's funny though, because Hubbs only lived half a block away from the train station and I was still afraid to walk to his apartment alone.  Really silly, huh? 

I thought it was a strange combination initially, but it definitely grew on me, and now I love it, because it combines several of the taste elements: crunchy, crispy, salty, tangy.  And of course the most important: tasty!  It's not healthy at all-I'm making no bones about that, but it is delicious and so long as you aren't eating it every day or even once a week, you'll be fine.  And who doesn't love tostones?

Tostones with Sauteed Veggies:

Crispy, Salty Tostones & Nicely Seasoned Veggies

Serves 2

2-3 green plantains, peeled & sliced on the diagonal
olive oil

Sauteed Veggies:
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 green pepper, julienned
1 orange pepper, julienned
1 small onion, julienned
1 jalapeno pepper, chopped fine
1 tomato, seeded & julienned, optional
black pepper to taste
vegetable boullion powder to taste

1.  Place a large saute pan over medium heat and add the olive oil called for in the tostones.  Once the oil heats up, add the slices of plantain, being careful when dropping them into the hot oil.
2.  Cook the plantains for about a minute on each side, removing them with a slotted spoon and placing them on a cutting cool a little while you start the next batch.
3.  While the plantains are cooking, begin sauteing the veggies.  Place the olive oil in a medium saute pan over medium-high heat and allow it to become hot.  Once it is hot, add the peppers and onion and saute, stirring frequently.  Don't forget to keep an eye on the cooking plantains.
4.  Once all of the plantains have cooked on both sides, use the bottom of a glass jar to flatten the partially cooked plaintains and return them to the hot pan.  Cook briefly this time, about 30 seconds on each side, or until crispy.  Remove them from the pan and place on a paper towel lined plate.  Immediately sprinkle with sea salt.  Keep an eye on the veggies.
5.  Once the veggies have softened to your liking, add the black pepper and boullion powder.  Season to taste.
6.  Serve the tostones with the sauteed veggies on the side.  Eat!



Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Gluten Free Wednesday: Gluten Free Bread - Baguette Style

Happy Gluten Free Wednesday!

I love bread.  In fact I sadly consider myself a bit of a bread-a-holic.  But I am sure you know that if you eat a lot of traditional bread, and by that I mean wheat-based, not gluten free bread, it does not always sit well in your digestive tract.  I am not gluten free, nor do I have issues/sensitivities at all with gluten.  I simply think it is a good idea to give your system a rest occasionally.  And since I had the opportunity of working with a girl that was gluten free when I was the Head Baker at Lifethyme Natural Market in the Village, I really learned to appreciate the fact that I can purchase relatively inexpensive healthier breads and not worry that they will taste strange or have a funny texture. 

So I began my gluten free bread quest basically out of curiosity and a desire to make an inexpensive, relatively easy, and tasty gf bread.  Believe me, in the beginning, the results were pretty terrible.  I had no idea what to look for or what recipe looked doable or tasty.  I just googled several gluten free bread recipes that weren't even vegan.  I just substituted the eggs and dairy as I went.  Those first several loaves were absolutely disgusting.  I even tried making a gf crusty bread which seemed like it would work and was very tasty.  The dough even looked similar to "normal" wheat bread, but it never baked completely through in the very center.  Yuck.  The longer I baked it, the harder the outside became, but it just never really baked through on the inside.  I should revisit the recipe later to see if there is anything else I can do to it to make it better.  Once I have some more time, I am going to finally order myself a vitamix (I know, I still can't believe I don't own one at this point!), make my own flours and make some more tasty gf bread!

Gluten Free Vegan Baguette:

The Bread Shaped After Mixing, Not Proofed

Fresh Baked GF Baguette! The warm yeasty aroma!

Yields 2 Loaves

¾ cup millet flour (Arrowhead Mills is the best brand.  Bob's Red Mill doesn't work well here)
½ cup sorghum flour
¼ cup brown rice flour
1 cup potato starch
½ cup tapioca starch
2 teaspoons xanthan gum
2 teaspoons sea salt
2 tablespoons raw sugar/turbinado sugar
1 tablespoon yeast
1 ½ cups + 2 tablespoons warm filtered water
Pinch raw sugar
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  
2.  Place the warm water, yeast and pinch of sugar in a glass, stirring with a fork to combine. Place in a warm place while preparing the flour mixture and assembling ingredients. It is ready when the mixture starts to grow and has a strong yeasty smell.  If it does not grow, chances are that your yeast may be dead.  Try again.
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (note that you can make this by hand, just be prepared to use a lot of elbow grease!), place the millet flour, sorghum flour, potato starch, tapioca starch, xanthan gum, sea salt and raw sugar. On low speed, mix until all ingredients are well combined.
4. Once the yeast mixture is ready, lower the bowl and pour into the flour mixture. Add the olive oil and raise bowl. On low speed, begin mixing the batter until all ingredients are combined, then continue mixing for an additional 1-2 minutes, or until batter is very thick and sticky. It will look nothing like a wheat dough, but don’t worry, it will be delicious.
5.  Once the dough is mixed, portion it out into two blobs on your parchment paper lined baking trays.  Have a bowl of warm water nearby to help you mold the loaves, as the dough will be sticky. 
6.  Dip your hands into the bowl of water, shaking off the excess and shaping the dough into long, thin loaves.  Try to make them as even looking as possible.  It's difficult to make them look perfect without the aid of a french loaf baking pan, which I do not have and am assuming you do not have as well.  (It's next on my list of cooking items to purchase!)
7.  Using a very sharp paring knife, make diagonal slices across the surface of the bread - this is purely cosmetic - you don't have to do this if you don't want to, but it looks great as it rises and bakes - the slices become larger and prettier.
8.  Lightly spray the loaves with some spray oil and lightly place a piece of plastic wrap over top of the free form bread loaves.  We're using the spray oil so that the plastic wrap doesn't stick to the bread and ruin the design we created.  And we're using the plastic wrap so that the bread will not develop a skin while it is proofing. 
9.  Place the bread in a warm spot and allow it to rise for about 30-45 minutes or until roughly doubled in size. 
10.  Once the bread has risen to your liking, carefully remove the plastic wrap and place in the oven.  Bake for about 15-20 minutes, or until doubled in size and golden on the top.
11.  Allow the bread to cool in its own pan - it will continue to cook a little bit anyway when you remove it because the pan is so hot.  Once the bread is manageable and not too hot, go ahead and slice it, slather it with Earth Balance and enjoy!  Seriously so delicious!  Amazing as garlic bread too!  I want some more now!



Saturday, December 3, 2011

Wrap: Leftover Rice & Beans with Crispy Veggies

I am the self proclaimed queen of leftovers!  We always had leftovers while growing up and it was not a problem for us.  At least, it wasn't a problem for me.  I thoroughly loved leftovers.  Hubby is not of the same opinion, and in fact, he pretty much despises them.  He did not grow up eating them and has a completely different idea of what they represent than I think they actually do.  To me, it is simply using up the food I made the day or so before.  Not wasting money, effort or food.  There is nothing wrong with that.  In fact, there are complete blogs out there dedicated specifically to using up miscellaneous ingredients and leftover foods. 

However, the Hubby, having grown up in the Dominican Republic, has certain ideas and behaviors that I have never really understood before, just kind of attributing them to a little quirk.  :)  Once I visited his home country last fall, everything just seemed to click into place.  I could see why he loved listening to music so loud it made me cringe and picture the downstairs neighbor banging her broom on the ceiling, as well as a lot of strange behaviors regarding food.  He has these ideas about certain foods equating low class or poverty.  The Dominican Republic, like any other country, definitely has its poor areas, as I experienced first hand when I visited his village, but it is an amazingly beautiful place with generous people that will gladly help out their neighbors or fellow members of the community even if they do not know them intimately.  It's the kind of place that if you're struggling, your friends, community and family will help you out.  Happily.

Strangely enough though, he still has these ideas, and they are especially strong regarding leftovers and black beans.  To him, the poorer people are known for eating their leftovers, because they do not have anything else and they cannot spare to have any food go to waste.  The same goes for black beans - he will 100% of the time choose pinto beans over black beans.  That is something I don't quite understand, but he would prefer if I didn't have them in the house at all.  Evidently, black beans are much more inexpensive than other beans, and therefore, they are a "poor person" food.  He refuses to eat seasoned black beans - he will only eat them if I add them in a small amount to something, such as stuffed peppers.  Since we have been married, I have been finding creating ways to use up our leftovers without making them seem like leftovers.  So I made this dish as leftovers for us one day, not saying it was leftovers, just that I had a great idea for a wrap to make with some beans and rice and he ate it gladly.  And so should you - it's very tasty!

Rice, Bean & Veggie Wraps:

Crunchy, Creamy, Spicy - It's Got It All!

Serves - as many as you would like
Leftover Beans & Rice
Red Cabbage, Shredded
Minced Red Onions
Vegan Sour Cream
Black Olives, Sliced

1.  Reheat the beans and rice in a medium pan over medium heat, until nice and hot.  (If you have a microwave, I guess you could use it, although I am pretty freaked out by them!)
2.  Have the rest of your ingredients ready.  Place a medium sized pan over low-medium heat and add your tortilla.  Allow it to heat for 30-45 seconds per side, or until warmed through and flexible.  Place the tortilla on your plate and the hot beans/rice mixture on top.
3.  Add as much of the shredded cabbage, minced onions and olives as you want.  Add the sour cream in a line over top of all of the ingredients.  Add the sriracha on top of the sour cream.  Close tortilla and eat.  Super tasty!



Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Gluten Free Wednesday: Pumpkin Bundt Cake

Happy Gluten Free Wednesday!

After working in bakeries for so long and really really getting into the holiday baking, I cannot seem to stomach pumpkin so much anymore.  I remember the days when I would think about Thanksgiving and Christmas fondly, imagining eating the pumpkin pies, pumpkin cakes, pumpkin cookies.  Now when I think about pumpkin, I think about baking hundreds of pies, mixing the pie filling in empty 5 gallon buckets with a gigantic immersion blender, but which really resembles a jack-hammer more closely.  Mixing buckets upon buckets of the filling and making so many pumpkin cookies and cakes that your head is spinning, and every sheet tray you have is covered with pumpkin of some kind.  And of course, not to forget the pumpkin cake batter splattered hideously all over my apron and shirt. 

But of course, that's just me.  Most people are extremely excited when it comes to pumpkin.  And, a while ago, while I was coming up with the recipe ideas I would prepare for the gluten free classes I teach at the Natural Gourmet Institute, I had to face the fact that it was fall and what is fall without pumpkin?  So, I sucked it up, tested the recipe for the pumpkin cake base, which I made into a bundt cake, and sampled it ....  And .... it was actually delicious!  I ate two pieces of it if truth be known.  And it was damn good.  Maybe I just can only eat it once or so a year and I will be happy.  So, until next year .......

Gluten Free Soy Free Pumpkin Bundt Cake:

So moist and delicious, especially with that yummy topping!

Yields 1 Large Bundt Cake ~12 Slices

1 ½ cups sorghum flour
1 ½ cups tapioca starch
1 ½ cups sucanat
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon sea salt
¾ teaspoon xanthan gum
2 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
¾ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ heaping teaspoon cloves
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1/3 cup + 3 tablespoons canola oil
1/3 cup flax eggs (2 tablespoons ground flax mixed with 5 tablespoons water)
1 ½ cups pumpkin puree
¾ cup almond milk
1 ½ tablespoons vanilla extract
1 ½ tablespoons maple extract

2 cups organic powdered sugar, sifted
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
2-6 tablespoons almond milk

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Oil a standard sized bundt pan and set aside until ready to use.
2.  Place the sorghum flour, tapioca starch, sucanat, baking soda, baking powder, sea salt, xanthan gum, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves in a medium baking bowl. Whisk well to combine all ingredients.
3.  Add the maple syrup, canola oil, flax eggs, pumpkin puree, almond milk and vanilla and maple extracts to the dry ingredients. Using a whisk, vigorously whisk mixture until batter is thick and all ingredients are thoroughly incorporated.
4.  Pour batter into prepared bundt pan, using an oiled rubber spatula to smooth out the top. Bake for approximately 30-40 minutes, or until baked all the way through and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
5. While bundt cake is baking, prepare the glaze: in a mixing bowl, place the powdered sugar, nutmeg and enough almond milk to create a medium-thick glaze. 
6. Once cake has finished baking, allow to cool in the pan on a cooling rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and place cake directly on cooling rack to continue cooling. Once completely cooled, pour the drizzle over top of the cake, allowing it to slide down the sides of the bundt on its own.  Eat.  Yum!

Another view of the delicious pumpkin bundt!



Sunday, November 27, 2011

Pot Pie with Homemade Buttery Crust, Artichoke & Roasted Pepper Salad, Sauteed Kale

This was definitely a labor of love.  I usually make pot pit into a Shepherd's pie because it is easier and you just slap some mashed potatoes on top.   It looks pretty and tastes amazing.  And I usually use a ready-made spelt pie crust, but when I decided to make this tonight (to use up the tons of leftover gravy I somehow had), I didn't have any crust.  So I decided to make the crust.  Now don't get me wrong, I have made pie crust tons of times and it really is not difficult to make at all, it's just a little time consuming and can be a little frustrating if you do not flour your work surface enough, causing the dough to stick and tear.  I usually just cop out and buy the ready-made spelt crust (which comes in its own pie pan) or the stuff that comes in a tube in the refrigerated section.  Just because it's easier. 

But, I actually had an abundance of earth balance today, which never happens - I am always running out!  And I also had a little bit of extra time, so I made the crust from scratch.  And it came out amazingly!  Seriously delicious - I think the best I have ever made.  Could have been the gravy helping out on that one though!  When I served it to the Hubby, he was very excited, saying that it looked so beautiful!  Then he took a bite and actually moaned.  Moaned!  I have never heard him do that before.  And when I asked him how it was, he said "amazing!"  He usually doesn't get that excited about things, so it made me really happy.  He had three giant pieces.  I was only able to eat one, because it is pretty filling, plus we had the artichoke salad and the sauteed kale.  But he definitely had 3!  And he had several more the following day - the thing was literally gone in 2 days!  The entire pie!  It was that good!

Pot Pie with Artichoke & Roasted Pepper Salad, Sauteed Kale:

Buttery Crusted Pot Pie, Artichoke Pepper Pasta, Sauteed Kale

 Yields: 8 Slices

3 cups unbleached flour
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
1 cup chilled Earth Balance
6 tablespoons ice water

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium green pepper, small diced, about 1 cup
1/2 medium orange pepper, small diced, about 1/3 cup
1 medium onion, small diced, about 1 cup
2/3 cup frozen mixed vegetables
1 large potato, peeled and small diced, about 1 cup
1 cup frozen chopped spinach
1 homemade sausage, fried on all sides, chopped, or other meat replacer
3 cups prepared gravy (I used a leftover nutritional yeast gravy)
Sea salt, black pepper, cayenne to taste

1.  Make the crust first.  Place the flour and sea salt in a medium mixing bowl.  Whisk together.  Place the earth balance in the middle of the flour.  Using your hands or a pastry cutter, cut the flour in until it is evenly distributed throughout the flour.  Add just enough cold water until a dough forms - you do not want it to be wet at all.  Roll into a ball, cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 20 minutes. 
2.  Begin making the filling: place a wok over medium heat, add the oil and allow it to become hot.  Once the oil it hot, add the green and orange peppers and the onion.  Cook until vegetables are just tender.
3.  In the meantime, bring a medium sized pot of water to a boil.  Add the chopped potato and the frozen mixed vegetables.  Cook until potato is just tender and veggies are cooked.  Drain. 
5.  You can take the dough from the refrigerator now.  Allow it to warm up just a bit.
4.  To the sauteing vegetables, add the frozen spinach and cook just until it becomes hot.  Add in the drained cooked potato and mixed vegetables, the cooked and chopped sausage and the gravy.  Stir to coat.  Allow mixture to simmer and season with sea salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper, if desired. 
5.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Divide the dough in two pieces.  Roll out the first ball of dough and place into an oiled pie plate.  Prick all over with a fork.  Place on a sheet tray in the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes, or until cooked through. 
6.  Roll out the second piece of dough.  Now you can pour the filling ingredients into the cooked bottom pie crust.  Top with the second pie crust, crimping the edges to seal everything in there.  If there are any tears, just add an additional section of dough.  (See below.)
7.  Place the filled pie back onto the baking tray and place in the oven.  Bake for about 25-30 minutes, or until the top layer is baked through and the filling is bubbling.
8.  Allow it to cool for at least 10 minutes before cutting and serving.

The Whole Pot Pie.  It was gone in 2 days.  Seriously!

Close-Up of the Delicious Pie!


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Pasta with a White Sauce, Balsamic Marinated Tomatoes

White Sauce is seriously one of the most delicious things in the world.  And the simplest.  It is something my Mum  taught me to make so many years ago, I can't even remember not being able to make it.  I remember my Mum telling me stories about how she would eat that as a child, because her family was poor growing up (she is one of 8 kids if you can imagine it!), and it was something they could make large quantities of inexpensively.  She was telling me how they would make meals stretch out and the interesting kinds of foods they would make.  She made them for us growing up, and I have really come to appreciate and like them.  I even make them at home myself sometimes.  It makes me think fondly on my Grandmother, and of all the hard work she has done, and is still doing to support her family throughout the years!  What a lady, seriously! 

The great thing about where my Grandmother lives, and where my Mother grew up, is that it is such a small town, where people own loads of land, and can therefore have gigantic gardens.  My aunts and uncles all ate everything that came from the garden, and didn't have a chance to be fussy or picky!  Eat it or don't eat at all!  But, white sauce really figured highly into meals my grandmother would make.  She would make potatoes and peas swimming in a white sauce.  My Mum used to make that all the time, and I still make it at home every couple of months, except nowadays I drown it in Sriracha!  Yum!  My grandma used to also make homemade bread, toasted, and serve it with gravy, which was made from the drippings of whatever kind of meat she was preparing.  My grandma was and definitely still is damn resourceful!  Even now, at 81, she still grinds her own grains to make her own flour, still tends her own garden, and pickles and cans her own foods.  What a goddess!  So here's to you grandma!

Pasta with a White Sauce with Balsamic Marinated Tomatoes:

Was too excited to eat - couldn't wait to take a good pic!

Serves 4

8 oz. desired pasta, cooked until al dente

White Sauce:
4 tablespoons Earth Balance
3 tablespoons unbleached flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
3 cups unsweetened nondairy milk of choice
4 tablespoons vegan Parmesan

Balsamic Marinated Tomatoes:
1 roma tomato, small diced, about 2/3 cup
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
2 pinches black pepper
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

1.  Prepare the white sauce: in a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the earth balance.  Once it is nice and bubbly, add the flour.  Whisk immediately, allowing it to cook, and whisking every couple of minutes until it is a nice tan flour.  Add 1 cup of the milk and whisk right away.  It will thicken considerably and bubble strongly.  Add the remaining milk, sea salt, black pepper and vegan parm.  Whisk to combine.  Continue whisking periodically, being sure to get into the very bottom and corners.  It will thicken gradually.
2.  Make the tomatoes.  Dice the tomatoes and place them in a small mixing bowl.  Add the sea salt, pepper, balsamic vinegar and olive oil.  Stir well to coat.  You can taste it right away, but I recommend letting it sit for at least 5-10 minutes before tasting it - it will have much more flavor!
3.  Once the white sauce has thickened, season to taste and serve.  Place a serving of pasta in a bowl.  Pour a ladleful of white sauce over the pasta and top with the marinated tomatoes.  You can top with additional vegan parm if you would like.  Eat!  And be appreciative of your Grandma!



Saturday, November 19, 2011

Vegetable Fried Rice, Grilled Veggies, Seitan & Steamed Broccoli

I feel like lately, a lot of my meals are about using up the ingredients I have in my refrigerator.  But then again, isn't that kind of the purpose of having food in the fridge - to use it?  Anyway, hubby and I were very hungry tonight  (when are we not???) and wanted dinner very quickly.  I had some leftover cooked rice, some seitan I prepared from Viva Vegan (we were not fans!  Too garbanzo-y!) and a mushroom sauce I had prepared a couple days ago.  Fried Rice came to mind very quickly, as well as the mushroom sauce over the seitan, and I really wanted something grilled - so I slapped a few veggies on my panini machine, which gives amazing grill marks, great flavor, and a very nice texture.  I also put the seitan on the machine for a few minutes for good measure, to heat it back up and try to make it look a little nicer - it was pretty ugly.  Surprisingly, dinner came together very quickly, in about 30 minutes and hubby and my bellies were both very satisfied (although we still didn't like the seitan, even smothered in the mushroom sauce!).  Any thoughts on what to do with the seitan, which was steamed, not boiled?

Vegetable Fried Rice:

(I must have been starving when I was taking these pictures -
they are all so blurry!  This was the best one!)
Grilled Seitan with Sauteed Mushrooms, Vegetable Fried Rice,
Grilled Veggies & Steamed Broccoli

Serve 2-3

3 tablespoons olive oil, separated
3 cups cooked, cooled rice (leftover rice works beautifully here)
1 cup snap peas, tough ends removed
1 medium onion, small diced, about 1 cup
1 medium orange pepper, small diced, about 3/4 cup
1/2 cup shredded purple cabbage
1/2 stalk broccoli, chopped finely
2 tablespoons tamari
1 tablespoon mirin (rice cooking wine)
3/4 teaspoon vegetable boullion powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Red Pepper flakes and additional tamari, for serving

1.  Place a wok over medium -high heat.  Add the oil and allow it to heat up.  Once it is hot, add the peas, onion, pepper, cabbage and broccoli.  Saute, stirring frequently, until tender-crisp. 
2.  Break apart the cold rice with your hands into the hot wok and continue stirring.  You may have to add an additional 1-2 tablespoons of oil to keep everything from sticking.  Continue to fry for a few minutes, until the rice is hot and has colored slightly. 
3.  Add the tamari and mirin at the same time, being sure to drizzle it around the contents in the wok.  (If it is deposited at the same spot, it will cause the rice to absorb too much of the salty flavor and the seasonings will not evenly distribute throughout the rice.)  Quickly stir the rice mixture to coat.  Add the boullion powder and black  pepper and stir again.  Continue to cook for a few more minutes to allow the rice to dry out again.  Season to taste
4.  To serve, sprinkle the rice with additional tamari and as many red pepper flakes as you would like.  So quick and so delicious!



Sunday, November 13, 2011

Moro y Habichuelas Pintas (Rice & Pinto Beans)

I have been so busy lately that I have barely seen the Hubby.  By the time I come home, he is already in bed.  The couple days I got off early he had already made plans a couple weeks ago, so I had the time to myself.  But instead of spending it alone, I invited my good friend Kumiko over for a Dominican dinner.  I have been telling her forever that she needs to come over for dinner, but it hasn't happened until now.  She lives in Jersey so it's a little difficult to get together.  We had such a great time cooking together.  It was so funny too: imagine a Japanese and American girl cooking Dominican food!  We had a great time and I actually think this is the best I have ever cooked this kind of food.  Poor Hubby for missing out on it! 

Kumiko nicely brought me a bottle of ice wine and a bottle of vanilla rum.  She is somewhat a connoisseur of wine and alcohol and is always bringing me new and exciting alcoholic beverages, which I admittedly do not drink very often, but enjoy nonetheless.  So I now have 2/3 of a bottle of ice wine sitting in my fridge staring at me every time  I open it.  I'll have to have a half a glass every night until it's gone, which isn't such a terrible thing!  Here is the awesome meal we had:

Moro y Habichuelas Pintas:

Moro on the top, Seasoned Pinto Beans, Okra and a Salad

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup long grain white rice
1/2 cup green pepper, small diced
1/2 cup red or orange bell pepper., small diced
1 cup onion, small diced
1 jalapeno, minced
1 carrot, small diced, about 1/2 cup
3 mini vegetable boillion cubes (Maggi is a good brand)
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon chipotle pepper powder
3/4 cup full fat coconut milk
3/4 cup filtered water

Habichuelas Pintas:
1 1/2 cups dried pinto beans, soaked, then cooked till soft, bean cooking water reserved
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup onion, small diced
1/2 cup green pepper, small diced
8 cloves garlic, minced
6 tablespoons sofrito
2 tablespoons tomato paste
4 mini vegetable boullion cubes
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1.  Start the moro first.  Put a medium sized saucepan over medium heat and add the oil.  Once hot, add all the vegetables and cook till softened.  Rinse the rice under water.  Add the wet rice to the pot and cook, stirring, until the rice is no longer wet.  Once the rice has dried, add the coconut milk and the water.  Add all the spices and stir well to combine.  It should taste too salty and too spicy - it will mellow once it cooks.
2.  Lower the heat to low and cover with lid.  Stir the contents every few minutes until the rice is completely cooked through - this will take at least half an hour.  Once the rice is just cooked, allow it to continue cooking in the pan for about 10 minutes without stirring it.  This will give it the customary crunchy bottom layer that Spanish people love so much. 
3.  While the rice is cooking, prepare the beans.  In a medium saucepan, place all the ingredients except the beans and bean cooking water and stir to combine.  Turn the heat on medium-high and cook until very fragrant, the mixture turns a dark color and the veggies are partially cooked. 
4.  Pour this cooked mixture into the pot with the beans and water.  Stir to combine.  Turn the pot on medium heat and allow to come to a simmer.  Lower heat slightly and continue cooking for about 15 minutes, or until the beans are fragrant and the sauce has thickened. 
5.  I served the beans in a ramekin because they were really juicy and I didn't want the rice and beans flavors to mix.  If you just make plain white or brown rice, you can certainly just spoon the beans over top so the flavors meld.  I served it with a salad, homemade lime vinaigrette and a simple steamed okra with extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkling of sea salt.



Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Deer Run Bed & Breakfast, Part 1

Hello Everyone!  SO sorry for not posting in a long time, but I have been unbelievably busy lately!  After next week that will change drastically because I am leaving Vegan Divas!  I put in my notice and next Friday will be my last day as Executive Pastry Chef.  I will then be working as a private chef in the mornings, which will leave me a lot more time to focus on classes and my blog!  And cooking and baking and being excited about it!  This is such a positive change and I cannot wait for it to take effect! 

So let me explain about this post.  I went to the Florida Keys in the end of September to teach a woman named Jen about vegan baking.  She owns a vegan bed and breakfast in Big Pine Key called Deer Run Bed and Breakfast.  It is truly an amazing, beautiful place and Jen and her partner are such amazing people!!  I feel so blessed to have ever met them and what an experience to go to a place and eat amazing organic vegan food all the time without worry in such an environmentally conscious place.  Sigh.  Wish I could go back!  So, below is basically a diary of the first few days and all the fun things we did and of course ate!!

(9/23) Day 1:
Travel travel travel!  Woke up at 6 am in Brooklyn, off to the airport by 6:15 am, and at Newark airport in Jersey by 7 am.  Ft. Lauderdale by noon and Big Pine Key (finally!) B&B by about 4 pm.  This place is crazy beautiful and tropical feeling.  Coconut trees everywhere and it is hot hot hot!!!  And humid, although Jen (one of the owners) says it is significantly less humid than it has been.   The neatest thing of all about this place are the Key Deer.  They're absolutely tiny!  And they come right up to you, which I have to admit is a bit freaky, but it's neat that they are not afraid of you like regular deer are. 

But enough about me droning on about how amazing everything is.  Let's talk about food.  When I first arrived, Jen and her fiance welcomed me with a personalized sign, which I absolutely loved.  Then, they greeted me with hummus and a fresh baked vegan muffin in case I was starving, which of course I was.  Airport food is horrible!  We came across the restaurant they wanted to take mt to about an hour and a half into the drive.  It was a beautiful Spanish place owned by one of their friends.  There weren't many vegetarian options on the menu, and nothing vegan, so I was a little surprised, since they are both vegan, but being that their friend owned the  restaurant, we were able to modify some vegetable melt sandwiches to be made dairy free.  Honestly, when they first arrived I was a little disappointed because it just looked like vegetables inside of a white baguette and mesclen greens.  But once I bit into it, I realized there was greatness in its simplicity and the salad was tossed in a homemade balsamic vinaigrette and topped with, get this, ripe tomatoes!  I'm not sure I have ever had a salad with juicy, delicious, ripe tomatoes!  There was a delicious sauce on the sandwich and the bread was super freshly baked.  It was very tasty, but unfortunately, I was so hungry I forgot all about taking a picture of it until I was more than halfway through it.  SO disappointed.  But it was delicious, the owner was very nice, genuine and hung out with us for a while talking expensive wines, pickles and other fun, random food topics.

Welcome to Deer Run Bed & Breakfast!

Now on to dinner.  Jen told me there were not many options in the hood, and the best for the time constraints we were under was this place called, seriously "No Name Pub".  It had terrible service, as indicated on the paper the server left in front of us.  She gave us Styrofoam plates, plastic utensils, a roll of paper towels for a napkin, and beverages were served in disposable plastic cups.  Very classy.  And get this - the place was completely covered in $1  bills - an estimated $75,000 worth, all scribbled on and written all over.  Crazy.  Believe me, see below.

Thousands of $1 bills!

And even more!  Thank god the place was smoke free!

This is the bill I decorated!  For the Hubbs & I & our home!

Then came the menu.  A couple vegetarian options (iceberg lettuce salad anyone?) and nothing vegan.  We both chose an individual pizza, cheese-less. It took about half an hour.  Jen told me that sometimes during the season, the place can have a 3+ hour waiting limit, and people actually wait.  It was a giant piece, with nothing to recommend it.  Came back later, hung out and Jen gave me an amazing cookie which I promptly forgot the name of (bad me!).  It was crazy delicious!  Not too sweet, nice and crunchy, but not too crunchy, simply delicious!  I was trying to analyze everything it had in it - so tasty!  It had pecans, coconut, chocolate chips, shredded carrots, etc.  Yum - I definitely want another one.

The cookie wrapped so cutely.  I believe the ribbon is
compostable and am not sure if the bag is as well,
but a keeper!

The super tasty cookie.

(9/24) Day 2:
Is this work or vacation, seriously??? 

Can you imagine waking up to this everyday!?

Seriously gorgeous!

 This place is completely amazing and the owners are the nicest people ever - I feel like either they or I am from outer space, because where I live, no one is ever that nice - EVER!  We started our baking sessions today and had a great time, blabbing and blabbing about everything.  The time went by crazy fast!  Jen told me she would let me sleep till I woke up.  I set the alarm for 9 am and promptly woke up at 7:30 am.  Got ready, went upstairs and was greeted with fresh coffee and a pre-breakfast of a vegan banana walnut muffin and fresh fruit. 

Yummy Organic Fruit & a Muffin made with Bananas from the garden!

I offered to help, but was told to sit down and relax.  I read the local paper and talked to Jen's partner until she brought out breakfast, which was a veggie tofu scramble and deliciously seasoned roasted potatoes and the most beautiful piece of pineapple ever.  

Can you imagine going to a B&B & being served this?  Yum!!

Once we digested, we went into the kitchen and started baking.  We first made something I call tofu water, which sounds disgusting, but is just pureed silken tofu mixed with filtered water, that acts as an egg replacer and makes the most amazing cakes.  Then we made chocolate frosting, cream cheese frosting, double chocolate brownies, vanilla bean cheesecake, coconut almond macaroons, peanut butter and jelly scones and savory herbed sundried tomato scones.  Everything turned out beautifully and I cannot wait till tomorrow to make the cakes and practice the cake decorating.  It's going to be a blast!  Jen also made us lunch, which was an amazingly delicious,  thick, hearty black bean corn chili, which she served with a dollop of sour cream, crushed black bean tortilla chips, crusty bread and fresh fruit.  So delicious and I've never had chili so thick before!  I asked her how she got it so thick, and was thinking of countless amounts of time spent over the burner, stirring constantly, allowing it to thicken itself.  Her secret: oat flour!  Seriously it was the best thing ever and I have to try it! 

So good & nicely spicy!

 Once we finished, she gave me some privacy and loaned me several vegan baking books to look over and some time to chill out. 

Starfruit growing in Jen's Organic Garden!

Bananas growing in the Organic Garden

Cuban Oregano - I have some in NY with me that is
growing and growing.  So fragrant!

We're going to reconvene later with a sunset boat cruise with homemade hummus where we will hopefully see dolphins jumping in the water.

View from the boat.  Gorgeous.

What an amazing place, seriously! 

Salad for diner: artichoke hearts, sunflower sprouts, mixed
greens, carrots & balsamic vinaigrette.

Dinner:  Pasta with Chickpea Cutlets from Veganomicon,
Sauce, Daiya.  Crazy good but too much food!

And so cannot wait to taste all of those baked goods! Yum!

Samples of all the baked goods we made today!  Only
missing the cheesecake - it had to set up overnight.

(9/25) Day 3:
Today was another great day filled with lots of baking, lots of amazing delicious organic food.  The day started the same way with me waking up naturally around 7:30 am, getting ready and going upstairs, having a cup of coffee and a prequel to breakfast.  Today it was a blueberry muffin sprinkled with homemade organic powdered sugar and garnished with a slice of star fruit from her back yard organic garden and a piece of strawberry. 

So yummy.  Love how the sugar on top is nice & crispy!

Breakfast was gorgeous (I can't imagine how much time she spent in the beginning messing around with how to plate everything - but it has definitely paid off!) - Banana pancakes from baby bananas again from their backyard garden, garnished with tons of strawberries and organic maple syrup, with half of a grapefruit on the side.  It was so deliciously filling! 

Coated in Berries!

Then digesting for a little bit, and on to the baking.  Today we concentrated on the cakes.  We made so many that it was ridiculous!  We made a cake of each flavor, then the remaining batter was portioned into cupcakes.  SO we made coconut cake and cupcakes, vanilla bean cake and cupcakes, chocolate cake and cupcakes and carrot cake and cupcakes.  It was a little out of control, especially once everything was baked - there was no room anywhere!  So, while everything was cooling, several hours later, we had lunch.  It was very good again.  We started with a salad that consisted of spinach, sliced carrots, garbanzo beans, sunflower seed sprouts and a balsamic vinaigrette from their friend that owns the restaurant we visited on the way over.  It was delicious!  Then the main was an African Peanut Soup topped with sriracha and served with blue corn tortilla chips on the side.  It was delicious and surprisingly filling.  Jen gave me the recipe, so I'll have to make it sometime (when I have time!).  It wasn't exactly what I was expecting, because it was too thick for a soup, but didn't have the texture or consistency of a stew, so I don't know how to label it, but it was damn good - the more sriracha the better! 

Simple delicious salad.  Loved the idea of putting garbanzos
in a salad - why have I never tried that before??

See the sriracha on top?  I ended up putting like 6x that amount on!

Once we digested lunch, it was back to the kitchen.  Time to decorate our confections!  We decorated some of the chocolate cupcakes, iced 2 whole cakes, and I went through the basics on cake decorating.  I wish I had taken a picture of all of the designs I did for Jen, but it went into the compost before I even thought it through!  Next time!  We decorated so much, but there was still so much left to decorate!  Jen and I boxed everything up, intending to take it to her local health food store for samples.  The rest of the stuff she insisted she would decorate (it was a lot!). 

Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting, garnished
with little stars made from Vegan Cream Cheese Frosting.

Vegan Carrot Cake with the practice carrots.  We used beet juice
& spirulina  powder for the color - keeping it natural!

 Then we went our separate ways, I chilled and we returned for dinner.  Jen made what she calls an Earth Burger.  I am always very into trying veggie burgers - it's just one of those things.  Whenever I go to a restaurant, I will always get the seitan, veggie burger or cheesecake.  I'm always very curious.  The burger was very good.  Very hearty and extremely filling.  I couldn't eat all of it.  The only thing I missed was raw onion.  Not sure if people in Florida (or just the Keys) are against raw onions, or if I am just too obsessed with them, but I asked Jen if she would mind slicing some for me.  A veggie burger is not a veggie burger without raw onions.  To me anyway!  It was very tasty and I also have the recipe for that one!  Have to try that too!  It was pretty rainy, so we just enjoyed a leisurely dinner, blabbing and blabbing.

This is sadly the best picture I have of the Earth Burger. 
Sorry Jen!  It was damn tasty though!

Look for Part 2 of my Deer Run B&B Trip coming soon!



Sunday, October 30, 2011

V eggies & Seitan in a Brown Sauce with Szechuan Style Fried Eggplant with Spicy Dipping Sauce

Sometimes I really surprise myself and get really ahead of myself.  This meal is exactly what I mean by that.  I made this on the weekend, on a Saturday when the Hubby and I were spending the day off together.  We both woke up way too early (should have definitely slept in!) and were tired midday.  Hubby, unlike me, has no issues with going back to bed and taking a nap for a couple hours.  I try as hard as possible not to do that because I know how quickly the day goes by then, and working so much really makes you want to take advantage of the time you do have off.  So, off Hubbs went to sleep, and here I was, bored and tired, but not wanting to waste the day (why do I have to be so stubborn!?), so I went through my new Vegetarian Times Magazine and since I was hungry, I decided I would ultimately make every recipe in there (well, most anyway!).  So, I realistically looked through the magazine a second time and looked through the fridge, and decided I couldn't really make anything at that moment.  So. what was I to do?  Go through my bajillions of cookbooks and find something else.  SO, I looked through all the books and settled on something I haven't really made any recipes from before - something I bought when I was a teen still living in Michigan.  The book was Linda McCartney's On Tour - Vegetarian Recipes from Around the World.  I found several recipes I could make then and there, but they were pretty damn labor intensive.  What did I have but time though, afterall?  SO, I started and several hours later (this was supposed to be time off - away from the kitchen, right???), I went and woke up the sleepy Hubby and showed him the great spread.  He was definitely surprised and impressed.  And loved every bite.  It was pretty damn tasty.  So we sat down, ate dinner and enjoyed a nice movie together.  A nice ending to a good (and tasty!) day!

Veggies & Seitan in a Brown Sauce with Szechuan Fried Eggplant with Spicy Sauce:

Serves 4

Veggies & Seitan
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 green pepper, julienned, about 1 cup
1/2 orange pepper, julienned, about 1/2 cup
1/2 yellow pepper, julienned, about 1/2 cup
1 medium red onion, cut in half and sliced thinly, about 1 1/2 cups
2 broccoli spears, cut into florets and stems peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups seitan, sliced thinly

Brown Sauce (will include recipe later)
Cooked White or Brown Rice

Fried Eggplant:
1 medium/large eggplant, peeled, sliced into 1/2" slices and cut in half
1/2" no-taste oil, such as canola

1 cup unbleached flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
pinch cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons flax eggs
2/3 cup water

Spicy Dipping Sauce:
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 Serrano pepper, seeded and minced
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons red chili paste
1/2 teaspoon agave
1 large tomato, finely chopped, about 1 1/2 cups
2/3 cup water
1/8-1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1.  Prep the vegetables first.  Set aside.  They will come together very quickly once everything else is going.
2.  Now prepare the dredging mixture for the eggplant - it has to sit for 15-20 minutes before it can be used.  In a small mixing bowl, add the flour, baking powder, sea salt and black pepper.  Whisk together (I used a fork).  Add the flax eggs and water and whisk again.  A thick batter should have formed.  Allow it to sit for the indicated amount of time, stirring occasionally.
3.  Make the spicy dipping sauce.  In a large pan over medium heat, add the oil and allow it to become hot.  Once it is hot, add the garlic and the Serrano pepper.  Saute for about 2 minutes, or until fragrant, but not browned.  Add the vinegar to deglaze the pan.  Add tomato paste, red chili paste and agave and stir until the pepper and garlic are coated.  Cook for one minute.
4.  Add the chopped tomato and the water and bring to a simmer.  Lower the heat slightly and allow the sauce to continue cooking.  You want the sauce to be pretty thick - about the consistency of a thick marinara.  This will take about 10 minutes.  When the sauce has thickened, turn the heat off, cover with a lid and keep on the stove - you want the sauce to stay warm. 
5.  Begin to cook the eggplant.  Place the oil in a medium sized pot over medium-high heat.  Allow the oil to become hot.  In the meantime, Line two plates with paper towels and set aside.  Dip the eggplant slices into the mixture.  It should stick and coat the pieces very well. 
6.  The oil is ready when a drop of the batter begins sizzling and immediately comes to the surface.
7.  Make sure the eggplant slices are thoroughly coated in the mixture, allowing excess batter to drip back into the bowl.  Place carefully into the hot oil.  You can cook up to 5 at a time in the oil, depending on the size of your pan.  These need to cook for about 2-3 minutes per side.  If yours are cooking faster than that, your oil is too hot. 
8.  Once the eggplant slices are cooked thoroughly on both sides, place on paper towels to drain and immediately sprinkle with sea salt.  Continue cooking the rest of the eggplant.
9.  Begin cooking the seitan and veggies.  Place a large wok over high heat and add the oil.  Once the oil is hot, add all of the peppers, the onions and the broccoli.  Cook for several minutes, stirring frequently.  If the veggies appear to be sticking to the pan, add a small amount of water - this will also help to steam the veggies and let them cook faster.  Once the veggies are tender-crisp, add the minced garlic and cook for an additional minute.  Add the seitan and cook just until hot.
10.  Add the brown sauce by the ladleful, stirring to coat, until your desired sauciness is achieved.  I used about 2/3 of a cup of the sauce.  Stir to coat. 
11.  To serve: place a serving of the prepared rice in the center of your plate, top with the sauteed veggies and seitan mixture, followed by any additional sauce.  Place 2-3 slices of the fried eggplant (you can always get more - the plate just looks better when it's not so heaped with food!) on your plate and serve a ramekin or small bowl of the dipping sauce on the side.  That's it!  And if you're cooking for two, you'll have leftovers for the next day.  Can't wait to eat this tomorrow too!