Thursday, December 29, 2011

Best Mock Meatballs and Maple Coconut Kale with Champagne Vinegar

As I've noted before, spaghetti is a family favorite--especially for Abiline and Daddy (who share many food preferences--who knew taste was so much a function of genetics?). I have tried out many a homemade meatless meatball recipe to accompany our beloved noodles with red sauce, but I have found that the tofu and beans used as the base make most of them too mushy.  I wanted my spaghetti to have a  slightly crispy, chewy counterpart to complement it, so I experimented around and found that the combination of quinoa, chia seeds, and wheat gluten in addition to some beans made for a more toothsome texture.  Anthony said that these meatballs were "awesome," Sawyer ate them without complaining, and Abiline scavenged for little morsels amidst her finely chopped noodles. We will definitely be making these again.

The meal was rounded out nicely by this magical kale, which I have been eating nonstop since I picked up some Orange Muscat Champagne Vinegar at Trader Joe's and ventured to splash it on my greens. Combined with maple syrup and coconut oil, this kale has Abiline and I battling for the last bite.

This recipe is also posted on Whole Foods Wednesdays :o)

Mock Meatballs

1 cup cooked quinoa
1 cup cooked kidney beans
1/4 cup vital wheat gluten
2 Tbsp. chia seeds
1 Tbsp. nutritional yeast (optional)
1/4-1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1 1/2 tsp. dried parsley flakes
1/4 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. dried thyme
1 1/2 tsp. dried basil
dash of pepper
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2-3 Tbsp. water

Preheat the oven to 375 and oil a baking sheet or line it with parchment paper.  In a food processor combine all of the ingredients except for the water, starting with just 1/4 tsp. salt. Process until smooth, and then taste and add additional salt if desired. If necessary, add the water 1 Tbsp. at a time to get everything well-incorporated; you want the mixture somewhat firm like cookie dough, but not runny like batter.

Form the dough into about a dozen small balls and bake for 8 minutes in the preheated oven, then flip and bake for 8 minutes more, until lightly browned on both sides.

Maple Coconut Kale with Champagne Vinegar

1 bunch kale, washed, stemmed, and leaves torn into bite-sized pieces
1 Tbsp. coconut oil
1 Tbsp. maple syrup
1 Tbsp orange muscat champagne vinegar (If you don't live close to a Trader Joe's you could probably sub some OJ and regular champagne vinegar.)

Preparation Method 1: Melt the coconut oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the kale, and saute for a minute. Add the maple syrup and vinegar, stir to coat, then cover the pan and cook for 7-10 minutes, until the leaves have cooked down and are starting to caramalize.

Preparation Method 2: Preheat the oven to 375 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Melt the coconut oil in the microwave, then toss the kale leaves in a large bowl with the oil, maple syrup, and vinegar. Spread the kale out on the prepared pan so that no leaves are overlapping and bake until crispy, 5-10 minutes. Check the kale after five minutes and then keep a close eye on it if not yet crisp, as it can burn quickly.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Blueberry Poppyseed Streusel bars

As a general rule, Abiline appreciates food more than Sawyer does. He's just not a big eater, although he has gotten better over the past few months, as he has been recognizing more when he is hungry and even saying that he "loves" certain foods. This is big progress. Yesterday when I fed these blueberry bars to the kids for breakfast, he actually asked for seconds. I tried to stay cool, but inside, I was having a party.  This was monumental--the only other time I can remember him asking for more of anything was for plain pasta or bunny pretzels.  Ironically, I had made these bars with Abiline in mind, since she loves Kashi cereal bars, and they are a similar formulation of crust with fruit filling. Not a hit with her, though. You just never can tell what they will like, which is why I'm always trying new foods with them.

This recipe was the result of a recipe gone awry, actually, as my initial intention was to try to make vegan blueberry jell-o, aka kanten, according to a recipe I found in the Clean Food cookbook.  Abiline doesn't really appreciate fruit, so I thought I may be able to sneak some in her jell-o.  However, I think the recipe called for too much agar, as the blob set even firmer than jell-o wigglers. After it was set, the recipe called for taking the whole pan of kanten and blending it, which just made a grainy mush.  I try to never let a cooking failure stay that way, so I turned the kanten into a creamy filling for these breakfast bars by adding some no-soy tofu. 

For the Filling:
1 1/2 cups apple juice
1 1/2 tsp agar powder
pinch of salt
1/2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 cup frozen blueberries
1/3 c. no soy tofu (or, if no soy allergy, silken tofu)
2 Tbsp. poppy seeds 
2-3 Tbsp. coconut sugar (optional, to taste)

For the crust/streusel:
1 3/4 c. white whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 c. coconut sugar
1/4 c. poppy seeds
1/4 c. canola oil
1/4 c. non-dairy milk
1/4 c. brown rice syrup
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1. To make the kanten, in a medium pot, boil the apple juice, then reduce the heat and stir in the agar powder, salt, and lemon juice, just until the powder is dissolved. Remove from heat, add the blueberries, and refrigerate until set (about 45 mins.).
2. Preheat oven to 350 and grease a nine inch square pan. Prepare crust by combining the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, sugar, and poppy seeds in a medium bowl. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, and add the oil, non-dairy milk, brown rice syrup, and vanilla. Stir together with a fork until evenly moistened and crumbly.
3. Prepare the filling by breaking up the kanten and placing the pieces in a food processor or blender along with the tofu, and poppy seeds. Blend until smooth. Taste and add sugar, if desired.
4. Press about half of the dough into the prepared pan, cover with a layer of creamy blueberry filling, and then crumble the remaining streusel on top of the filling. Bake for 22-25 mins. just until slightly browning on top.  The bars taste best after cooling completely in the fridge.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

No Soy Tofu

***Please see my update to this recipe. ***

So many vegan recipes call for tofu, and Anthony and I do love the wonderful soybean curd, but all those recipes became pretty useless to me once I suspected the severity of Abbie's allergies: tofu for cream pies and sauces, tofu for mayonnaise, tofu as an egg replacer, even tofu used for ice cream and vegan cheeses.  What was I going to do without tofu?  I was seriously set back when I realized that I had to banish it from my cooking.  Part of me was hoping to wait it out, wishing that Abiline would soon outgrow her soy allergy, since Sawyer seems to have, but the other night she touched an edamame pod and got a rash, so that is not looking too hopeful. But that's ok because now we have soy-free tofu in our arsenal.

I did an online search a while back for tofu without soy, and found a few recipes for Burmese tofu, which apparently is made with chickpea flour.  Basically, it is prepared in a manner similar to polenta, where you boil the liquid and gradually stir in the flour, whisk constantly for about 20 minutes until it firms up, and then refrigerate it until fully set.  The texture of chickpea tofu softer, not chewy like soy tofu--not surprising considering the difference in preparation--but it can be eaten as a protein source in its own right. I have had success dicing it and roasting in the oven with some olive oil, salt and pepper, and then using it in soup like croutons.

However, when I tried putting it in sauces,  the chickpea flavor wasn't melding quite right. And then there is the problem of the yellow color that just doesn't work in some desserts, sauces, etc. in which one would normally use soy tofu. So I ventured to make no-soy tofu using white bean flour, which I found handily available on The result has been quite useful in the past week, as I have used it in creamy sauces, desserts, and veggie burgers calling for both silken and firm, water-packed tofu, since the texture is in between the two traditional tofu varieties. The flavor of the white bean tofu is not as pronounced as chickpea tofu, and it is white, so it doesn't discolor the dishes to which it is added. So far, this is a success. I am looking forward to trying it in the many tofu-based recipes I have been sighing over for the past year! 

**Update: It is great in my soy-free vegan cheesecake!

1 1/2 cups white bean flour
5 1/2 cups water

Oil a bread loaf pan. Bring 3 cups of the water to a boil in a large heavy-bottomed pan.  While you are waiting for the water to boil, whisk the bean flour with the remaining 2 1/2 cups water to make a thick, goopy paste. Once the water is boiling, start whisking in the bean flour paste, a little bit at a time (about 1/4 cup) so as to avoid lumps. An easy way to do this is to mix the flour and water in a  blender and just use the blender pitcher to gradually add the mixture to the boiling water. Once all of the bean mixture is whisked into the water, keep stirring continuously until the mixture reaches a really thick, glutinous consistency--to the point that you can barely stir it any more. This should take 15-20 minutes (yes, it is a workout).  Pour the mixture into the oiled loaf pan and smooth out the top. Cover with foil and refrigerate for 24 hours before slicing.  

In other great news, everyone loves Daddy.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Curry Chickpea Soup

We had soup three times in the past week, since it is cold--at least at night--as far as Southern California standards go. Plus it is a good way to get a balanced meal into the kids in one shot: you can get your veggies, beans, and grains, all in one blended bowl.  I made this particular soup to accompany a samosa recipe from the new Big Vegan cookbook (which is overall outstanding, but the crust on the samosas was too dry), and they paired well together. Usually I shy away from recipes that call for curry powder because the spices you buy under that label taste nothing like the Indian food you eat in the restaurant, so I am almost always disappointed with what I make.  However, Abiline loves foods with lots of spices, and has shown a preference for curry-flavored foods, so I thought I would experiment. This soup was a pretty big hit; the apple chutney that I adapted from Big Vegan really finished it off well, so I will include that recipe here, too.

For the soup:
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 cups cooked chickpeas
1 1/2 tsp. curry powder (I used Trader Joe's brand)
1 tsp salt, or more to taste
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1 small sweet potato, diced
1 medium apple, chopped
3 cups fresh spinach
1/3 cup raisins
heaping 1/2 cup cooked quinoa (could use 1/4 cup dry and then up the water by 1/2 cup)
1/2 cup full-fat coconut milk
About 3 cups water (enough to cover the veggies when simmering), plus more to thin out
3 Tbsp. minced cilantro

For the chutney:
1 medium apple, finely chopped
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1 1/2 Tbsp. agave nectar or sugar
1 Tbsp. lemon juice

1.  Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the chickpeas, sweet potato, curry powder, salt, and ginger, stir to coat the chickpeas and sweet potato with the spices and saute for 5 mins. Add the apple, spinach, raisins, coconut milk, and water (also add the dry quinoa, if using). Bring to a boil and then turn down the heat and simmer for about 15 mins, until the sweet potato is tender (and the quinoa is cooked).
2.  While the soup cooks, prepare the apple chutney and refrigerate.
3. Let the soup cool for a few minutes before transferring to a blender. Add the cooked quinoa (if you didn't cook it in the soup) and the cilantro and puree. Taste for spices and salt and add more if desired. Thin with additional water as needed. Serve with about 2 Tbsp. chutney on top of each portion.  

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Homemade Vegan Yogurt: Rice, Hemp, Coconut, or Oat Milk

I took to making my own yogurt when I realized how much I was spending every week on soy yogurt for Sawyer and coconut milk yogurt for Abiline. So Delicious coconut milk yogurt is true to its name, but $4 for two cups worth of it is pretty steep.  It is really simple to make your own, plus then you can use other non-dairy, non-soy milks and can better control the amount and kind of sugar added.  The one trick was that I had to buy a yogurt maker (about $30) to keep my yogurt at the correct incubation temperature (between 120 and 110 degrees).  However, if you have a decent crock pot that does not overheat on the "warm" setting like mine does, or--better yet--that has a temperature control, you can use that to incubate the yogurt.  I have had success with making yogurt from coconut milk, hemp milk (the combination of the two is perhaps the best), homemade oat milk, and rice milk. Non-dairy yogurt is really thin because non-dairy milks are in large part water; I have seen agar powder and tapioca starch as recommended thickeners, but I have not had success with either one(UPDATE: I recently did find a good formula for tapioca and agar-thickened yogurt!), and instead have been using guar gum or xantham gum. (Xantham gum is usually corn-based so if you have a severe corn allergy, stay away from this.) Here is the basic formula, plus some of my kids' favorite flavors.

Equipment: Medium-large sized pot, candy thermometer, large glass jar with lid and crockpot or a yogurt maker
5 cups non-dairy milk of choice
2 Tbsp. already prepared plain yogurt, either store-bought or from your last batch of homemade

1. Pour milk into the pot and place the candy thermometer in so that it is touching the milk, not the bottom of the pan. Heat over high heat until the thermometer reaches 185 degrees. This kills all of the bacteria that you don't want to culture.  Be sure to watch it so that it doesn't boil over.
2. Take the already prepared yogurt that you will use as a starter culture out of the fridge. If you are using your crock pot, warm it up to 115. Take the pan off the heat and let the mixture cool until it reaches 115 degrees. Once it does, stir in the yogurt and either place the mixture in a glass jar with the lid just placed on top, not screwed, and place it in the crockpot with the crockpot lid on and a towel wrapped around the jar, or pour the mixture into your yogurt maker. Allow to incubate for 8-10 hours. The longer it sits, the tarter it gets!
3. Once the yogurt is done, place in the fridge for a few hours to cool down. Then follow one of the recipes below by placing all of the ingredients in a blender and blending until thickened.

Basic Vanilla Yogurt:
One batch plain homemade yogurt
1 1/2 tsp. xantham or guar gum
1/4 c. honey, agave, or coconut sugar
1/8-1/4 tsp. stevia powder
1/2 tbsp. vanilla extract

Chocolate Yogurt:
Follow recipe for vanilla, but add 1/4 cup cocoa powder. It is also delicious if you add 1/4 cup sunflower seed butter as well.

Mango Coconut Yogurt:
One batch plain homemade yogurt
1 1/2 tsp. xantham or guar gum
2 Tbsp. coconut butter/manna
1/4 c. coconut sugar, or desired sweetener
1/4 tsp. stevia powder
1 1/2 c. mango chunks, fresh or thawed frozen
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. coconut extract

Basic Preserve-Sweetened Fruit Yogurt:
One batch plain homemade yogurt
1 1/2 tsp. xantham or guar gum
1/4 c. all-fruit preserves
1/2 cup fruit
1/4 tsp. stevia powder
1 tsp. vanilla extract

In more exciting news, there was a terrible wind storm here last week, and a tree down the street got pulled up by its roots, which the kids thought was pretty awesome.  It was hard to get a good picture because Abbie and Sawyer were jumping around so much on the poor tree. It became a favorite play spot for a few days, until this morning when someone finally came and cleaned it up, to Sawyer's great disappointment.