Monthly Archives: January 2013

Vegg French Toast

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Welcome to the modern world, where molecular gastronomy has its hold. For those of you who don’t know, molecular gastronomy focuses on the science behind food. The transformations food takes when it is subjected to various cooking techniques. This practice was coined in France by Herve This and was practiced and perfected by elBulli a restaurant in the south of Spain. Today as modern cooks, we aren’t using the tools Julia Child grew up with! We have such an array of kitchen electrics that it is hard to keep up with the pulse of the food movement.

It is why today I am able to say we have an excellent vegan egg yolk created by the company Vegg. Really! A vegan yolk, and what a saving grace to breakfast foods. The best part of this egg yolk, is that unlike other substitutes for dairy/egg products, it is only made of four ingredients. It’s so simple that it seems crazy no one had thought of it before! Not only through molecular gastronomy can this product have the look of an egg yolk, it made the best French toast I have ever had. My boyfriend is an occasional meat eater and he agreed that this was spot on to the original. And if there is a vegan equivalent that tastes the same, why should everyone not have it? No cholesterol, no egg hangover, and because the egg yolk has nutritional yeast in it, you will get B12- its the only plant based food that has this vitamin! So buckle up, buy a pack (it goes a long way) and make yourself some Vegan French Toast Damnit!

Here is a link to the picture and video on wired magazines website! Check it out, it is interesting to watch them make the membrane around the “yolk”. Don’t be discouraged if you are someone who didn’t do well in science class, you don’t need all the fancy equipment for this recipe. Thankfully for this recipe all you need is a bag of the vegan egg yolks. It makes about a liter of yolks per bag (30-40), and it kind of reminds me of being at space camp when I was ten eating the freeze dried food stuffs.

I originally followed the recipe on the label which makes amazing French Toast, but I found myself not knowing what to do with the excess vegg mixture which found a graveyard in the back of my fridge. Thus, I changed the recipe by halving it so I would not have any leftover wasted mixture. Make sure to use a cast iron skillet or something non stick, as I have had my share of tragedies making breakfast due to stainless steel…not to mention the clean up. Another trick I learned with breakfast foods is to make sure that the skillet has been heated up, you want the food to come in contact with a very hot pan. It is the same logic as cauterizing meat, if it is not hot enough the food will stick, leak everywhere, and create a big mess. Good luck and enjoy having your breakfast favorite back again!

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Vegan French Toast using the Vegg:

Makes 2 servings

2 tsp Vegg powder

3/4 cup water

3/4 cup soy milk (or almond, I would avoid rice milk. This recipe is great with unsweetened soy)

2-3 tsp cinnamon and more to garnish

1 banana cut into slices

Vegan Margarine (Earth Balance) for frying

1. Blend the Vegg, water, and soy milk for 15 seconds in a blender. Do not mix by hand, the Vegg will not incorporate, again don’t mix by hand! Pour the mixture out into a baking dish for dipping the bread. Sprinkle the cinnamon into the mixture and whisk for 10 seconds, then dip one slice letting it soak for about 10 seconds on each side. Don’t dip them all at once, dip the bread once you have space in your skillet to do so.

2. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat with a Tbsp or so of Earth Balance. Fry in vegan margarine to give it a salty flavor that is most delicious as oil could give it an off flavor. Check your heat to make sure you aren’t burning your French Toast, but don’t continually check the underside as French Toast does better left alone. Flip once the bottom is golden brown adjusting your heat if the skillet is too hot/ too cold. Continue to dip and add French toast being careful not to over crowd the pan. I generally cook 1 or 2 pieces at a time. The first one of two may come out a little weird, but don’t get discouraged you will become a pro in no time.

3. Once all are cooked slice in half and drizzle maple syrup, sprinkle with cinnamon, and garnish with sliced bananas. ENJOY!

Tomato Bisque Soup and French Bread (step-by-step) w/ pictures

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As promised I will be sharing recipes for French bread and tomato soup! The soup is easy and delicious, the bread is a bit harder to make but can be accomplished even by novices!  I have been looking at French bread recipes forever, and here is what I find to be the simplest method! A food processor works wonders for this recipe, but a kitchen aide or good old arms work well too!

French Bread

Makes two loaves

4 hours mostly idle- great for laundry days

Kitchen Tools:

  • A kitchen aid stand mixer or my preference, a food processor both work wonders. I have links to kneading bread by hand below if you have neither!
  • A dutch oven, or tray that can be preheated so you can pour boiling water over it to create steam.
  • Cookie sheet- I used one from sur la table

Ingredients:

2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast (I use bobs red mill, but any will work- a packet is equal to 2 1/4)

5 cups bread flour (You can make up to two of these cups whole wheat if you want healthier bread) + more for dusting

2 cups warm water divided

1 1/2 Tbsp salt

Cornmeal (for dusting the tray you will put the bread on)

1. First measure out 2 1/4 tsp yeast and place in a large liquid measure such as pyrex. Add 1 cup warm water (too hot and your yeast will be killed before it even has a chance), and 1 cup of BREAD flour even if using whole wheat. Stir with a fork until all ingredients are well incorporated. Let sit for 15 minutes until bubbles form at the top and it starts to look foamy.

2. In the meantime put the remaining 4 cups of flour in the food processor with the bread dough attachment, kitchen aid bowl, or large mixing bowl. Add the salt and pulse or mix until combined.

3. Pour the yeast mixture into the food processor and fit lid. Turn on and add remaining 1 cup warm water and run the food processor until you have yourself a ball of dough (more of a lump, there is too much dough in this recipe to form a ball. The dough should be a bit sticky and pass the windowpane test.  If you are kneading by hand follow those techniques.

4. Oil a large bowl (I use organic canola oil spray) and add the dough rolling it into an imperfect ball. Cover with a damp towel and let rest for at least two hours.

5. The dough should be over double in size.         IMG_1218

Take it out of the bowl and place on a lightly floured surface.

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Cut the dough in half and roll each piece into a ball.

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Punch one of the balls down into a 6 inch round.

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Fold over and press to seal, continue to do this until cylindrical.

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Then pinch the seam to close off the base of the bread

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Turn the bread over and roll the dough out so that the middle is big and gradually declines to the end and then place on baking sheet prepared with grease and cornmeal.

IMG_1254IMG_1255IMG_1257Let rest for an hour under a floured cloth. At this time preheat your oven to 425 Fahrenheit (220 celsius) with the dutch oven, cast iron, or pan in preheating as well. After an hour score the bread, I use a steak knife but I have had practice, be careful not to deflate the bread! Spray with olive oil and add the bread to the oven. Working quickly pour  a cup of boiling water into the dutch oven (or other suitable cookware) and close the oven quickly as you want to keep the steam in the oven. NOTE: The steam can burn you badly so wear an oven mitt/ long sleeves!

Set the oven for 30 min and clean up! After 30 minutes take them out of the oven and let cool for a minute before transferring them to a wire cooling rack.

Using the Whole Wheat Flour:

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Using Bread Flour:

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One of the first books I received when I became a vegan was Tal Ronnen’s Conscious Cook. I devoured the recipes and savored the flavors he put on a plate. I had never heard of cashew cream or nutritional yeast before and was eager to try out all of his recipes. Some of his recipes are very time consuming, but this is one that can be whipped up in an instant for a dinner party, or just a nice way to end a cold winter day.

Tal Ronnen’s Tomato Soup with Cashew Cream:

Makes 6 servings.

1 hour mostly absent

Ingredients:

4 Tbsp Earth Balance (or oil)

1 stalk celery chopped

1 carrot chopped

1 onion diced

1 28 oz can of fire roasted chopped tomatoes

1 bay leaf

5 cups faux chicken or vegetable stock

1 Tbsp fresh minced parsley (more to garnish)

2 sprigs fresh thyme

1-1 1/2 cups cashew cream

4-5 cloves of garlic crushed (less if you dislike garlic)

2 Tbsp all-purpose flour

1. Place the Earth Balance in a stock pot over medium heat until melted. Add the onion, carrot, crushed garlic, and celery and saute for 10 min until the vegetables are tender and the onion is translucent.

2. When the vegetables are tender add the flour and stir constantly for 2 minutes. Then add the vegetable stock, tomatoes, thyme, bay leaf, and parsley and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 30 minutes.

3. Open the lid and season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the cashew cream and let simmer for an additional 10 min. DO NOT BOIL. If you do you will end up with clotted cashew tomato bisque…not particularly aesthetic…but definitely tasty none the less.

4. For this step it really helps to have an immersion blender so you don’t have to transfer hot soup to the blender. Remove the bay leaf and blend until smooth. You can either run it through a fine mesh sieve or allow the thickness of the soup to absorb you, and who wants to do extra work for less nutrition? I certainly don’t! For those of you who don’t have an immersion blender, work in small batches and move the soup to a blender. Don’t overfill, I have the burns to prove this is not a wise decision even though you may be in a hurry or your guests will be arriving soon! Hold the top of the blender as the heat will try to pop it off and you don’t want a mess on the counter. Your soup will be a party hit, and veganism will have scored a point if you dare feed this to any omnivores.

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Back to Basics- Cashew Cream

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Now that you are vegan, you are beginning to miss the creaminess of your favorite soups, raviolis, etc. There is nothing quite like the bite of dairy…but there are great alternatives! Cashews are an amazing nut, in fact they are the basis for most vegan dairy-a-likes. Raw cashews are used for this recipe, very important, because they have no flavor themselves. When combined with other flavors they absorb them almost instantly (unlike tofu) and are pure fat! Delicious.

This recipe will be needed for many future recipes on my blog like my tomato soup, and is great to have on hand in the freezer/ your vegan recipe belt!

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Cashew Cream:

Ingredients:

2 cups whole raw cashews

Filtered water (or tap if you aren’t afraid of it, we have beautiful tap water in the bay area)

First soak the cashews in exactly the same way as the almond milk covering with enough water so that when they expand they wont come out of the water. Cover the soaking container and put them in the fridge overnight. In the morning drain and rinse the cashews, place them in a blender and add enough water that they are covered by about an inch. Blend until smooth as cream, if you want a thicker cream you can always add less water. When finished, the cashew cream can be stored for a week or two in the fridge or 6 months in the freezer!

Digging in the Dirt with Chez Panisse

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Today was my first day as an intern at Chez Panisse. There is nothing that can describe the beauty of the kitchen or the way that it functions. When I arrived the head pastry chef was not there yet, but others in pastry knew I was coming and began to show me around. The restaurant itself is within a craftsman house, the interior is hardwood, and the kitchen spans what seems to be longer than the dining room.

The kitchen was stunning, warm and inviting. Wood and marble were woven together as art, a place where artisans created the desserts for the day. I was excited to get started, it was still hard to imagine that I had somehow found myself in the epicenter of the culinary world. My first task was to separate egg yolks from egg whites for tart bases. Not too difficult of a task, but 9 cups stretches the project for over an hour. I was then assigned to take the darks skins off of the pistachios with a pairing knife and when it occasionally flaked off at the gentlest knife scrape I felt a sense of joy…its always the little things that get me.

After I was done with the pistachios it was time to have lunch, and what a decadent staff meal it was. Strewn across the counter were various dishes from meats to vegetables all looking and tasting amazing. The lettuce was fresh, divine, and perfectly dressed. The pastry people sat outside on the steps and I was able to get to know the people I was working with a bit more. I had made it to lunch, and I was ready to finish my day strong. I returned to the kitchen to begin peeling, quartering, and coring Pink Lady apples for a beautiful tart. I had a stack too big to fit into a deep hotel pan, and I found myself overwhelmed with apples. But I noticed that with each task, after a few times, I would get a rhythm and the kitchen meditation I love would send my mind internally. Baking is a pleasure, and even the simple and sometimes monotonous tasks are therapeutic. Who wouldn’t rather knead dough or pick huckleberries than sit in a cubicle?

The head pastry chef sent me home with some pistachio cake which I knew my boyfriend would eat in the car on the way home. Next time I go in I will be shadowing one of the more experienced interns to learn a day in the life and continue to get my bearings. Overall the day was a success and I am thankful to have begun working in the uniquely wonderful environment.

The staff members at Chez Panisse work differently from any restaurant I have worked in, they don’t yell, or tell you what to do in a do-what-I-say-or-else sort of way. It felt more like a school, where the professors were understanding, informative, and patient. The head pastry chef told me that they try hard to be a teaching kitchen, maybe other restaurants should take note…their protege have gone out and made some of the greatest restaurants. Every time I look in any cooking magazine Chez Panisse pops up several times, it is no wonder, their methods are flawless, and their staff is passionate about food. I am excited to soak up all the information I can get from this internship, excited for the experiences that await me, and excited to begin this new chapter in my life.

Bon Appétit!

In other news, Brendon and I have been working the garden soil to death! It seems rocks were deterring any growth and we had to excavate a foot deep. Today we drove up to Marin County, just north of Oakland, to get some free aged horse manure. And after today the garden is finally coming together!

These are the two rows we finished today and pictures of the ranch where we went to get the compst:photo-16 photo-17

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And coming up soon, tomato soup and french bread. Delicious!photo-20photo-18

Chocolate Chip Cookies

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I love cookies, my boyfriend will attest to the fact that early on in my vegan baking, I made dozens of kinds of cookies.  I had a cookie obsession for several months, and thank all of those that tested out the various cookies I baked, I know you all put your fitness at jeopardy! After a few months we wondered why we were gaining weight on a vegan diet…duh! I used to love when my mother would make fresh cookies out of the oven, I mean who doesn’t like a homemade chocolate chip cookie?! The good news is that you don’t have to give up any of the delicious flavor from your omnivore life to make a cookie, I would even argue these are better!

IMG_0251Ingredients:

1 cup whole wheat pastry or spelt flour

1/4 tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/3 cup scant coconut oil

1/3 cup maple syrup

1 tsp vanilla extract

2/3 cup vegan chocolate chips (look for dark chocolate, and cocoa butter is vegan!)

1/3 cup chopped nuts (I’ve used pecans, walnuts, and pistachios)

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 celsius) This is important because the baking powder and soda will leaven the dough right away, if the oven is not preheated the cookies will come out completely different. You want the leavening process to happen IN the oven…so get that oven preheated people!

2. Add you coconut oil, maple syrup, vanilla extract, and granulated sugar to a small bowl. Mix with a hand mixer or my preference, a good old fork until the sugar becomes integrated. (The sugar is fat soluble, so the coconut oil will break down the granulated sugar!)

3. Sift the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda together in a large bowl until well combined. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix until combined. Fold in the nuts and chocolate chips.

Before we continue it is really important to get each cookie to have the same amount of cookie dough, so I use my ice cream scoop to insure they all take the same amount of time to cook!

4. Measure out the dough and add place them on a parchment lined cookie sheet (or invest in a silpat for a perfect bake every time!) Place the cookie sheet in the oven and bake for 9-12 min. After they are done let sit for a minute before transferring them to a metal cooling rack! Don’t forget to enjoy because these cookies go fast!

Vegan Banana Rum Cheesecake with Maple Rum Sauce

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Every holiday I take it upon myself to create a meal for everyone who shows up for dinner.  After going vegan a year ago I decided it was too much to ask my family to come up with amazing vegan recipes when I was the only vegan present! So I had a disastrous first Thanksgiving, and used processed ingredients like tofurkey.  This Christmas I set out to wow my family, plus we had a couple of guests in town. Working in someone else’s kitchen is tough, but thankfully my parents is much larger. Of everything we ate that day, the consensus was that the beet tempura was the favorite…but unfortunately for you that is not the post I am making today. Today I am feeling in a soul food mood, so here is a gourmet vegan cheesecake.  It is adapted from a recipe by Tal Ronnen, a very competent chef in his own right he has changed vegan food forever. If you get past his gardein obsession he has some downright delicious recipes!

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Ingredients:

Pie Filling:

  • 4 very ripe bananas
  • 16 ounces nondairy cream cheese
  • ¾ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ cup dark rum
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Maple Rum Sauce*
  • Almond Pie Crust*
  • Toasted pecans for garnish

Pecan Pie Crust Ingredients:

  • 1 cup almond nut flour- can buy at store or make your own
  • ½ cup any spelt flour
  • 1 tablespoon firmly packed brown sugar
  • 4 Tbsp vegan margarine (I use Earth Balance), partially melted
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • Pinch of sea salt

Maple Rum Sauce:

  • 1 cup grade B organic maple syrup
  • 4 tablespoons Earth Balance
  • Sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon dark rum

Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit or about 218 degrees Celsius.

Place 4 large very ripe and very brown bananas in the oven in their skins. Roast for 15-20 min until the skins are dark brown and they begin to ooze out of their peels.  Take them out and let them cool to room temperature.

Turn the oven down to 400 degrees (204 celsius).

While the bananas are cooling down make the crust. Combine all the ingredients minus the butter in a bowl and mix well. Then add the butter and mix until well combined. Press into a 9 inch spring form or pie pan. Then place in the freezer for 5 minutes.  After 5 minutes place the crust in the oven for 8-10 min until browning on the edges. Then place where the bananas were to cool completely before using.

Peel the roasted bananas and remove any obvious strings. Puree bananas in a food processor (for this recipe you must have a food processor, sorry blender people) until very smooth. Add nondairy cream cheese (I used Tofutti), brown sugar, cinnamon, rum, cornstarch and salt then pulse until smooth, Remember to occasionally scrape down the bowl so everything gets incorporated. Do not overzealous and overprocess or cream cheese will separate and curdle you and it into a dark place!

Now Pour the filling into the cooled pie crust and place in the oven. Bake for 10 minutes and then reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake for another 35-45 minutes until completely set and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean as a whistle. Take out the cheesecake and let it cool on a rack, then place it in the fridge for a minimum of 3 hours- preferably overnight!

While the cheesecake is baking you can make the maple rum sauce. Add Maple, Earth Balance, and Rum to a small sauce pan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer until slightly thickened- 10 min. Remove from heat, let cool, and then transfer to a jar or squeeze bottle to put over the cheesecake.

Don’t forget to savor this cheesecake! It is delicious and not nutritious.

Stay tuned for my vegan baked mac and cheese recipe I am working on, let me tell you it is going to be a amazing!

Cinnamon Crumble Cake

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There is nothing like cinnamon, in pies, cakes, rolls, it has the IT factor.  I recently went to Oaktown Spice Shop in, you guessed it, Oakland! I live just up the road and walk in sometimes just to see what he has mixed recently. I love people watching in this slice of France, and enjoy listening as he asks the guests what they are making for dinner.  One trick I learned by going to the spice shop is that you should always ask what has been freshly ground that week. If it has been ground recently it is immeasurably better than the other herbs and spices, and beyond compare with supermarket, even local! So go out and find that local spice shop, there has to to one near you, and if not, start one!  Cinnamon had just been ground so I splurged for the extra fancy saigon cinnamon, which means it was the first grind, extra dark, and sweet smelling/tasting.  I have been making many things with this cinnamon but most recently I made a cinnamon crumble cake that will please any omnivore. So buckle up and enjoy the ride to fluffy vegan cake land, its time you arrived!

This rendition of crumble cake is a correct application of commercial egg replacer, as it creates a great texture that holds together, and doesn’t end with an unpleasant finish (thank you cinnamon).  This recipe is adapted from Sweet Vegan.

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Ingredients:

Crumble Topping

130g unbleached all-purpose flour

100g light brown sugar

1 tsp ground cinnamon

70g Earth Balance

Cake

225g earth balance at room temperature

255g sugar (I used evaporated cane juice as its vegan)

2 tsp vanilla extract

390g unbleached all-purpose flour

4 tsp baking powder (yes 4, we need this girl to rise)

2 Tbsp ground cinnamon

6 tsp egg replacer whisked in 8 Tbsp warm water

240g milk alternative (I used almond, soy is good too)

1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar

powdered sugar for sprinkling

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius or 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and  flour a 9×13 in pan (23x33cm).

2. To make the crumble topping to this delicious fluffy cake first combine the flour, brown sugar, and cinnamon in a stand or hand held mixer on medium speed. While mixing add the butter substitute a bit at a time mixing until the crumble looks like that last time you go home from a beach day. Set aside for later sprinkling

3. Next beat the butter substitute, sugar, and vanilla extract until combined. Scrape down the bowl and beat the mixture for two minutes until it fluffs up.

4. In a smaller bowl mix together the flour (don’t forget to sift), baking powder, and cinnamon. In a separate bowl combine the wet ingredients, the egg replacer, milk alternative, and vinegar. Alternate adding the wet and dry ingredients to the mixer bowl and after each addition beat for 10 seconds or so. Don’t forget to continually scrape down the sides of the bowl so everything gets mixed well. After all ingredients are added beat for 30 more seconds.

5. Spread the cake mixture into the prepared baking tin and sprinkle on the crumble topping evenly. Bake the cake for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick stuck in the center comes out clean. Sprinkle with the icing sugar and invite over guests, you shouldn’t eat this whole tray alone!