Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Homemade Chocolate Buckwheat Cereal

Abiline gets top billing for this blog post.  Thanks, Grandma, for this awesome pirate ship. On this particular occasion, our dear dudette was caught singing "Yo ho, Abbie!"  It's not often you see a pirate with such sparkling teeth.

Now on to the recipe...

Perhaps you haven't tried buckwheat; maybe you've eaten it a time or two in pancake-form.  If you are not already a fan of this under-appreciated grain, I think this recipe will make you one. Basically, you toast up the buckwheat groats and coat them like granola, giving you a crunchy cereal that is sweet without being sugary and that is truly whole grain. While it is certainly better to eat whole grain flours than white flour, I have found that I feel much better when I eat the actual whole grain itself. Whole grains keep my tummy fuller faster and longer, which I think was key in helping me shed the baby weight and get my energy back up. Abiline loves this cereal, but you have to soak it a while in the milk before feeding it to little ones so that it is not quite so crunchy and hard to chew all the way. This recipe is based on one in The Vegetarian Mother's Cookbook, which just needed some more flavor, and one in 500 Vegan Recipes, which called for coating Grape-Nuts in chocolate. Here is the compromise, which is neither too healthy nor too extravagant.

2 cups raw buckwheat groats
1/4 cup agave nectar or maple syrup
1/4 cup tahini or sunflower seed butter
1/4 cup chocolate chips
pinch of salt
dash of cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. maple extract (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread buckwheat in an even layer on a large baking sheet and toast for 15 minutes, then stir around and toast for about 10 minutes more, until fragrant and golden.
2. While the buckwheat is toasting, melt the chocolate chips with the tahini or sunflower seed butter in the microwave.
3. Once you remove the buckwheat from the oven, pour it into a large tupperware (the one you want to store it in) and pour the melted chocolate mixture, agave or maple syrup, salt, cinnamon, and extracts over the cereal. Stir to coat evenly. Let cool completely before eating/ covering to store.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Accidental Biscuits

So, not every recipe comes out like I plan, but kitchen missteps are better regarded as happy accidents.  I have been dreaming of making vegan buttermilk bars, those icing-drenched doughnut bricks that I inherited a love for from my dad.  However, I really don't like the greasy mouth-feel that doughnuts leave in my mouth, so my ambition was to see if I could take a buttermilk doughnut recipe and bake them instead. Didn't work. Instead, we had scrumptious biscuits for breakfast. This is good, though, as I inadvertently fulfilled another baking goal I have had of making a sweet biscuit recipe that is tasty without being as deadly as my mom's recipe. My mom makes the hands-down best biscuits ever, which my dad has eaten every morning for breakfast for the last 30 or so years. I don't know how he does it, though: the recipe calls for 3/4 cube of margarine and 3/4 cup of oil. I for one would not be staying very trim if they were regulars at our breakfast table.  With just two tablespoons of margarine, these accidental biscuits are more every-day fare; I would probably just cut the sugar when I make them next time, since they are no longer aspiring to be doughnuts.

1 cup non-dairy milk
1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 egg replacer (Ener-G brand, or could use two Tbsp. starch (tapioca, corn, arrowroot) mixed with 2 Tbsp. water)
2 Tbsp. melted Soy-free Earth Balance
2 1/4 cup white whole wheat flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup evaporated cane juice (As I mentioned above, I would cut this to probably 1/3 cup when I make the next batch, but feel free to keep the whole 1/2 cup. They are not too sweet as is, with just a little Earth Balance on top.)

1. Preheat the oven to 375 and grease a 9 inch square pan. (Alternatively, if you have a brownie pan that makes individual bars, that is what I used. You could even use muffin pans if you want.) In a small bowl, mix the non-dairy milk with the cider vinegar and let sit to curdle for about 5 mins.
2. Mix up the egg replacer in a small cup and melt the Earth Balance in the microwave. Combine with the "buttermilk" mixture.
3. In a large mixing bowl add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and evaporated cane juice and mix until well-combined. Make a well in the center and add the liquid ingredients. Mix just until evenly moistened. At this point you can either just drop the dough into your muffin or brownie pans (filling them generously), or you can lightly flour a work surface, knead the dough a few times, and then pat down and cut into about 9 biscuits and place them in the greased pan. Bake for about 20 minutes, just until slightly golden on top and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Yargh!  Abiline thought of this on her own. She had been looking at a picture in a book where the character had a monocle, and I think she wanted her own.

Just a couple of bike-riding dudes!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Cream of Tomato Soup

I remember as a little girl seeing for the first time my dad heating up a can of Campbell's tomato soup for his lunch.  As he swirled in some milk, I approached him and wondered out loud, "WHAT are you doing, Dad?" flabbergasted by the sight of my father "cooking."  As I recall, he got a bit defensive as he responded that he was making himself some lunch.  I remember marveling to myself, "I didn't know Dad could do that!"  I was totally impressed.  As I got older, my Dad's greatness did not diminish in my eyes, but the reputation of Campbell's soup sure took a blow as I discovered that canned soup, in all its varieties, is just completely nasty.  (I remember one of my Italian instructors in college describing her first taste of American canned soup as, "Mmm, mmmmm, Blech!")  Luckily, I learned that homemade soup is simple enough for even the busiest moms and dads.  I whipped up this creamy tomato soup the other night when we needed a side dish for our Swiss chard pie.  It was pretty popular: I caught Sawyer taking a few spoonfuls without any parental coaxing.

1/2 medium sweet onion, diced
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. soy-free Earth Balance (or another Tbsp. olive oil)
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes 
1/4-1/2 tsp. salt, to taste
1 1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1-2 tsp. agave nectar, to taste
1 1/2 cups plain hemp milk*
1 cup water
1 scant Tbsp. chickpea miso
1 generous Tbsp. tahini

Heat the olive oil and Earth Balance in a large pot or skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until browned. Add the tomatoes, salt (starting with 1/4 tsp.), basil, thyme, and agave (starting with 1 tsp.) and simmer for 10-15 minutes.  Add the hemp milk and water and simmer to heat through. Transfer the soup to a blender, add the miso and tahini, and puree until smooth. Taste and add additional salt or agave to taste.   

*I have started making my own hemp milk since I got a huge 5lb tub of hemp seeds for super-cheap off Amazon.com. All you do is take 1 cup of hemp seeds and blend them for about a minute with 4 cups of water until the seeds are totally ground up. Then add a pinch of salt and 1 Tbsp. of sweetener.  You don't even have to strain the milk, so you get all the nutrition of the hemp seeds.  (If you have concerns about hemp seeds somehow getting you high, please read http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hemp_milk. The drug that is in marijuana is not in hemp seeds.) This milk is great for recipes, but a bit strong for my taste for drinking.

Sawyer is being a much more adventurous eater nowadays.  His tastes are changing as he's growing up...but his love of cars is still unwavering. 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Soy-Free, Dairy-Free Cheesecake

I had a friend who hated cheesecake. I think he was the only person I have ever met with such an alien aversion.  As evidenced by the numerous vegan cheesecake recipes, there are many enjoying a dairy-free diet who still bemoan the loss of this sumptuous dessert.  Every vegan cheesecake recipe I have ever found, though, calls for vegan cream cheese (all soy-based) and/or tofu. What was our soy-free family to do? Once I started making the no-soy tofu, the wheels started turning--I knew this was the key ingredient to making a non soy-based vegan cheesecake.  I finally put my plan into action yesterday during nap time, to great results.  I took one bite after dinner and incredulously exclaimed, "It worked!"  When Sawyer tried some last night, he was like, "What IS this?"  I guess he couldn't believe that there was a whole category of dessert to which he had never before been introduced.

This cheesecake is certainly not as rich as the original, but it is deliciously creamy with an awesome similarity in taste. As an added bonus, it is not terrible for you like dairy-based cheesecake is. The one improvement that certainly needs to be made is that the filling should be a bit firmer. Some agar powder would probably fix this, and I will post an update once I give that a try.  The top of the cheesecake cracked, but this has happened to me with every cheesecake I have ever made.  My solution for that is to just put fruit on top and pretend all is well.


For crust:
One sleeve graham crackers (about 1 1/2 cups when ground into crumbs)
2 Tbsp. agave or other liquid sweetener
1/4 cup canola oil

For filling:
2 cups no-soy tofu
1/4 cup canola oil
2 Tbsp. agave
1 tsp. vanilla
1/3 cup lemon juice
1/2 tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. tapioca starch (could sub arrowroot, or cornstarch if no corn allergy)
1/2 cup evaporated cane juice

1. Preheat the oven to 375.  Prepare crust by pulsing graham crackers in a food processor until finely ground. Add the oil and agave and pulse until evenly moistened. Oil a 9 inch round pie pan and press the crumbs onto the bottom and up the sides of the pan.
2. Rinse out the food processor and then add all of the filling ingredients to the bowl. Puree until completely smooth. Pour the filling into the prepared crust and bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes. The pie will be pretty much set, with a bit of a jiggle still in it. Cool on a wire rack for about an hour, and then transfer to the fridge to completely cool (at least a few hours) before serving. 

The other big development around here is that Abiline is learning to count to ten. Behold, the cuteness:

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Raw Toddler Truffles

I made these truffles by modifying a few raw candy recipes that I found when trying to decide on a Christmas treat for a friend of mine who eats a raw diet.  I love them because they are super-easy to prepare, and are rich enough for dessert while being primarily composed of good-for-you ingredients. The seeds especially are a great source of yummy protein for the kids. If you do not have hemp seeds, as they are a bit pricey, you could sub sesame seeds. There actually isn't that much cocoa powder in this recipe, but the truffles turn out a chocolatey brown due to the dates.  It should be no surprise to anyone who knows Abiline and her love of chocolate that these raw truffles were a hit with her.  She almost adored them as much as her baby...

1 cup pitted dates, soaked overnight to soften (or if you are not concerned about the raw factor, you could just soak them in hot water for an hour)
1/3 cup raw shelled hemp seeds
1/3 cup raw shelled pumpkin seeds
1/3 cup raw shelled sunflower seeds
1/4 cup coconut butter (You could sub a nut or seed butter here if you just cannot find coconut butter)
2 Tbsp. agave nectar
3 Tbsp. raw cocoa powder or carob powder, or a combination of both
about 1/2 cup dried coconut (optional, for rolling)

Combine all of the ingredients in a food processor until the dates and coconut butter are fully incorporated.  The seeds will be broken up but should still provide texture.  Roll the dough into truffle-sized balls. If you are using the coconut, pour it on a plate and roll the balls in the flakes to coat. Store in the refrigerator in a single layer before serving. This made about 1 1/2 dozen for me.