Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Who Cares About the Beef...Where's the Bun???

OK, so I'm giving this whole gluten free thing a little go. Kyson has had three reactions to wheat products and despite not finding anything on the web about ME having to go wheatless since he's still nursing, I'm applying the same logic about nursing moms cutting out dairy in their own diet if their baby is reacting to it. I'm hoping this will help clear up his eczema and help him sleep better at night!

I have to say, I now have empathy for those who find themselves delving into a vegan diet and missing cheese, etc. I am one of those who never liked the taste of cheese in or on anything, creamy mayonnaise and cream cheese dips. So it was a cinch for me to go vegan and couldn't understand why others would 'miss' former foods they once consumed. I'm really finding the whole gluten free thing to be hard, as I'm such a carb-o-holic and while there are a wide number of GF substitutes out there, I still find a certain taste (tapioca starch maybe?) that seems to be prevalent in so many GF baked goods. I tried making a homemade loaf of GF bread and just one bite had me gagging. I also bought some GF crackers and am convinced I chewed up part of my tooth in eating them. So I miss my bread and my crackers.

OK, I'll stop whining.

Anyways, I have made some really tasty GF things. I need my snacks, and these have all been pretty helpful in helping me from pigging out on gluten filled goodness.

From the Allergen-Free Baker's Handbook, Buckwheat Apple Muffins. Fortunately no tapioca starch in this one, as it doesn't use the author's GF flour blend - just buckwheat. Ash devours these.

From the same book, Blueberry Millet Muffins. They look so professional! I actually really like these, despite the mild tapioca taste. They are incredibly fluffy for something gluten free!

Finally, again, from the same book, Banana Flax Muffins. I used Enjoy Life chocolate chips instead of the raisins. My fave!

And now for actual meals...

Caesar Salad from Appetite for Reduction. It actually calls for Eggplant Bacon, which I found a bit of a pain to make. Instead, I added baked tofu (suggested in the recipe) but in my marinade, I added a few dashes of liquid smoke. Thinly sliced, it was a nice smoky addition. I love how this dish has no garlic! It gives my breath a nice break. Pictured with GF pasta with Super Quick Tomato Basil Cream Sauce from Vegan Yum Yum.

Brown rice + lentils + cooked veggies (onion, garlic, carrot, spinach) + Hurry Up Alfredo sauce from VYY = tasty little meal.

Give me a scarlet GF letter on my chest - at this weekend's cupcake party, I'm sooo cheating and will be scarfing down non-GF cuppies :( I already feel guilty as I know I'm not giving myself the full 3 weeks to see if this diet change impacts Kyson. *Sigh*

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Gluten and Soy Free (!)

Not sure if our little Kyson has some allergies or what, but for one mere day I tried to be gluten and soy free in an effort to see if my milk is causing him issues. I failed miserably. The soy free part isn't too bad, and I think I can try that for a few weeks, but I love my carbs too much to give up the gluten.

However, having said that, I have made some fine stuff that meets both criteria!

First, a peanut butter cookie recipe from my friend - I'm guessing from 125 Best Gluten Free Recipes or something, since the font of my photocopy looks familiar to other 'Best' books. Made with amaranth flour, it really doesn't taste like a gluten free cookie! I love them!

Next, Coconut Curry Stew from Vegetarian Family Cookbook by Nava Atlas. Fab!

A suggested side to the stew, Fruity Couscous (I'm my case, quinoa) from the same cookbook. I think both of these meal items had a total of like 10 fruits and veggies - we nailed our 5-10 per day quota with this meal!

Finally, Strawberry Shortcake! I made Spongecake from the Allergen-Free Bakers Handbook. It was so fluffy and delicious - I thought it was quite surprising for something with no gluten. With vegan whipped cream and yummy strawberries, it felt like summer was here.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Happy St. Patty's! Low Fat and...Healthy?

Theme day! Before bed last night I cut up veggies for dinner tonight, and made the slow cooker seitan pot roast from Vegan on the Cheap. Instead of using my big crockpot and using all the veggies, I just made the seitan dough and put it in my little crockpot that I normally reserve for steel cut oats. I couldn't believe how much it puffed up today - it looked like a souffle! But I really should have added some more water to account for the water the poor roast didn't get from all of the veggies that would have otherwise surrounded it. I just had to cut off some dry bits but other than that it was perfect! Cooking it overnight worked out really well and cut down on the prep required at a busy time in the afternoon.

So what did I use the roast for? Appetite for Reduction's Irish Stew. Made with vegan beer, I can't get over how authentic this tastes! Now when I say authentic, I mean Puritan Irish Stew from a can. Tracy and I seemed to have that often when Dad was in charge of dinner. Can't say I've ever had it from a real pub. Anyways, I'm sure this tastes like what would be served in one! I included some of my oatmeal bread (see this post) as it contains Irish oats, or steel cut oats. Yummy combo!

But the real showstoppers were Chloe Coscarelli's Chocolate Beer Cupcakes with Irish Whiskey Buttercream...yummy! I do admit that I love Isa's cupcakes as they turn out so reliably (I had these ones in the oven for 10 minutes longer than specified since they wouldn't cook!), but this flavour combo was pretty cool. Anyways, for the buttercream, I wanted green, and since I'm not a fan of artificial colours, I added a scoop of my Vega Smoothie Infusion powder. Spinach anyone? It gave a pale green hue and didn't impart any weird flavouring. Healthy cupcakes? Kinda. Sweet? Omigod...I swear I developed a cavity eating these! I also made the caramel drizzle...I don't know, but cooking sugar stresses me out. Seems like there's this fine line between soft ball and hard ball (?) and I always seems to mess it up. I found her instructions a little unclear for the slight moron I can be, so to salvage a crunchy hard sugar mess, I added about 1/4 cup of soymilk and cooked over medium heat. Seemed to work! It resulted in a sticky taffy-like confection. Anyways, it looked good.


With all her buddies:

I'm so happy for daylight savings time and the fact that spring is here! I can use natural light for pics! Hooray!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Vegan Yum Yum...Continued


Oh how I love quick dinners! A variation on the Hurry Up Alfredo, the Super Quick Tomato Basil Cream Pasta is divine! Again, using my batch of already ground cashews, I blend up the ingredients (and two whole tomatoes just to watch them puree in all it's goodness!). I also don't bother to heat the sauce, shaving off another 5 minutes from the already quick recipe. I just dump it into the hot noodles. Although it doesn't give the sauce a chance to burn off the couple of tbsp of wine, I always hope that it will cause the kids to sleep through the night! Of course it doesn't work.

This time I put it on some Eden Artichoke Pasta Ribbons I picked up from Rainbow Foods. They reminded me of thick egg noodles, so it's been awhile since I've enjoyed a texture like this! I'll be sure to pick up some more since I'm getting a little bored with the whole spaghetti/linguine/macaroni we seem to serve up too frequently.
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Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Vegan Yum Yum...So Good...

I briefly wrote about VYY before, but man, I love this cookbook. I like how clear the instructions are - I need that, my attention span is horrific lately and I find myself re-reading parts of a recipe numerous times since I can't retain anything. The pics are also so nice too.

Anyways, the recipes are what its all about! Here are two faves that I make on a regular basis:

Hurry Up Alfredo - I'm sure every vegan blogger has written about this one. Easy, and awesome! I grind up lots of cashews and keep a bag in the freezer. I then scoop out a necessary amount and use my immersion blender to make the sauce to dump on hot noodles and often include some broccoli or peas (thrown into the last few minutes with the pasta in the pot). I had found in the past that I need to grind the nuts on their own to begin with - trying to grind them with soy milk only resulted in a gritty sauce. I must have a crappy blender or something.

Using a similar sauce, Broccoli Bake (exact title escapes me) - I love how this uses the stalks! The broccoli florets and stalks are ground up with mushrooms - all things Ash will never eat on their own - and mixed with a variation of the alfredo sauce and orzo! So tasty! If only I could find whole wheat orzo. Then again, I haven't spent all that much time looking for it :)

So my few minutes of free time these days are being occupied with thoughts of how I could possibly win the VegFest cupcake contest held during the event on May 1 at the Glebe Community Centre. I'm consumed! I know I have a slim chance, but I've thought of three original cupcakes that could stand a chance (that is, as long as no real professional chefs enter!). I secretly hope that not too many people enter as there may be a preliminary round taking place during a time that is just evil for my little family. I'd have to show up with two over-tired children to this round during 'dinner' (also known as 'chaos time before bed' in our house) and I don't think that would bode well for my chances! I'll be sure to post about a cupcake party I'm hosting for friends and family to help me narrow down the selection. Of course, I won't be able to reveal all too much since I worry that my fierce competition could be reading! ;)

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Good Eats - Leftover Oatmeal Bread

What to do with leftover oatmeal? Make bread! At least that's what Alton Brown does.

I have to say, results from this recipe are different everytime I make it. It all depends on the moisture level of the leftover oatmeal. And even when the dough seems too moist and I add a little flour, it's still a little unpredictable. In all, it makes for an interesting loaf.

I really like how some of the ingredients are by weight - I hope to cook this way more since I find too many fluctuations in my recipes. For example, sometimes I think I'm measuring 1/4 cup of margarine only to dump it in the bowl and realize there was a giant air pocket that I wasn't aware of. At least weighing my ingredients would help prevent that. Seems like the Brits do this already.

Anyways - back to the recipe - I tend to dump hot oatmeal into a bowl nowadays and add the agave and olive oil. I omit the extra water since I don't often need it. Then I add all the dry ingredients (except I use w/w bread flour) and yeast on top then put it in the Kitchenaid. I find the warm oatmeal is the same as using warm water so it helps it rise. I watch it and add a little flour where necessary. I let it rise for a few hours, turning on the Kitchenaid to knead it a little every hour or so. Then I continue with the instructions for baking. I've even made balls of dough, poked a hole in the middle, stretched out the hole and made delicious baked bagels.

Today's loaf? Moist on the inside, with a tough crust. It's a gum cutter loaf!

ETA - I of course don't use the fact, I just leave the loaf as is before baking. I suppose some soymilk or a flax egg bath with some oats or sesame seeds would be good, but I find they fall off while cutting anyways.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Gourmet Pizza

I came across Chloe Coscarelli’s site after reading VegNews and thought a few of her recipes looked yummy. I found a flatbread recipe, and to me it seemed like a different style of pizza.

Her crust (foccacia) recipe is perfect. No matter how hard I try, I can’t screw it up! I vary the recipe to use ½ AP flour and ½ whole wheat flour for added nutrition and it still comes out terrific. I double it (thank goodness for my Kitchenaid!) to always make two varieties of pizza that night, so Kyle has plenty of leftovers for his lunches in the coming days.

Pizza #1 follows her recipe to a 'T' – I top with ½ the recipe of bean puree, then spinach, apples, cooked butternut squash and caramelized onions.

Pizza #2 has the other ½ of the bean puree with a few dollops of tomato paste swirled in, then veggie pepperoni, mushrooms, caramelized onions and Daiya for those who like the taste of cheese (not me!). I normally add red peppers but last night I was all out.

They taste fantastic! Everytime I make these pizzas, Kyle and I fantasize about how much one would charge in a pizzeria to serve some of this good stuff.

I also make the bean puree pretty much on a daily basis. I make big batches of navy beans in my pressure cooker, and freeze in 15oz portions. I pull them out to whip up the puree which is a nice change from hummus and dip in crackers, pita or veggies. Makes me feel a little less guilty about evening snacking!

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Mediocre Muffin

So I actually followed a recipe to a "T" for the first time! While I will praise the Vegan Yum Yum cookbook for thick cheezy sauce, Hurry Up Alfredo, Broccoli Bake and many more delicious recipes, I can't say that the Cranberry Lemon Muffins (or Lemon Cranberry Muffins - the book isn't in front of me to check the exact title) are the best ever. I do have to say that I've gotten very used to all of my muffins having at least 50% whole wheat flour, whereas this one is all all-purpose.

I also didn't find that pre-soaking the dried cranberries really did all that much. Despite draining them, I found they made the batter extra runny. It was to the point that I was seriously concerned that they would spill over in my oven and cause a kitchen nightmare (just last week I was forced to scrub my double oven since there were spills in both oven causing choking smoke, and I didn't want to do that again anytime soon!).

So while they 'turned out', I actually prefer the ones with oats and other filling ingredients instead.