Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Breakfast: Hot Cereal With Bulgur & Figs

Eating a wholesome breakfast can be tough, and around this time of year I tend to find myself suddenly tired of oatmeal. (Not that I don't love you, oatmeal!) I'm not posting a photo with this recipe because I think we all know what a bowl of hot cereal looks like.
This morning I wanted some kind on non-oatmeal hot cereal, and I currently have quite a bit of bulgur wheat in the pantry, so I thought I'd try using that, and it was definitely a winner. It's got a nice chewy texture, similar to oat bran cereal, but less gummy, and it has a really good flavor. I think it would work to make a big batch of this during the weekend, portion out, and re-heat on weekday mornings.

To make 2 servings:
1 1/4 cups water
pinch of salt
1/2 cup bulgur wheat
generous pinch of cinnamon
tiny pinch of nutmeg
1/2 cup non-dairy milk of your choice
1/2 cup raisins
2 dried figs, chopped
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
brown sugar or maple syrup to taste

Add the water and salt to a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir in the bulgur, cinnamon, nutmeg, figs, and raisins. Cover and simmer over medium-low heat until all the water is absorbed, about 10 minutes. When the water is absorbed, add the non-dairy milk and continue to stir until most of the non-dairy milk is absorbed. Add the walnuts and sweeten to taste. This will warm you up and keep you satisfied and energized all morning!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

M-Y-Ogurt

You may recall that a few years ago I tried to make coconut yogurt, pretty much failed at it, inexplicably shared it on this website anyway, and then gave up. I was kind of discouraged, but during the notorious WholeSoy Crisis of 2013 (you know what I'm talking about!) I began seriously thinking again about making my own yogurt, but didn't really have the confidence to give it another try. The thought of making a batch of yogurt that I might end up just throwing out made me a little anxious. Fortunately, my curiosity ended up getting the best of me, and I ended up with a batch of real live plain yogurt! Of soy! That I made all by myself!

A word on texture: One really great thing about making my own yogurt is that it doesn't have all the thickeners and stabilizers that contribute to the sometimes-very-weird texture of commercial vegan yogurt. Homemade yogurt is often a little runny, and there are a number of things you can do to make it thicker. I tried straining the first batch I made (like how you'd make Greek yogurt) which was cool but I found the very extreme thickness disconcerting, so I actually mixed a little bit of the strained whey right back in because  I guess Greek yogurt just isn't my thing. (Isn't it crazy that I've been vegan so long that I completely missed the Greek yogurt craze, by the way? That makes me feel old.)
The other option is to add soymilk powder to the milk, and/or to evaporate off some of the water by extending the heating step by a few minutes before cooling your milk & adding the starter yogurt. I've included instructions for these thickening steps in the recipe below.
I also like having more control over the sweetness of the yogurt-- it's easy, just don't add a whole bunch of sugar. Achieving a really satisfying level of tartness has been a little trickier. While I haven't been able to make a batch of soy yogurt with the same tartness as dairy yogurt, I think my homemade yogurt does usually have a little bit more tang than the commercial yogurt. However, this is something that I'm continuing to work on.

Now for a quick lecture on fermentation. The difference between (soy) milk and (soy) yogurt is bacteria! Our cast of friendly bacterial characters, if we're using the Trader Joe's yogurt as our starter, are Lactobacillus acidophilus, L. bifidum, L. bulgaricus, and Streptococcus thermophiluis. Your yogurt will have the same bacteria as the starter you use-- although since the conditions in your kitchen aren't exactly the same as the conditions at the TJ's yogurt factory, they might be present in different proportions. It's even possible that after a generation or two, you might have fewer species that your starter. I don't know if this has any particular health implications, but there's lots of reading material about probiotics if you'd like to learn more. (Just be warned, there's lots of speculation about what bacteria are "good" and what bacteria are "not good," and a lot of it seems to be written by people who don't actually know a whole lot about science, and throw around the C word a whole lot in a way that to me seems a little reckless. And by C word, I mean cancer, but they might also talk about other words that start with a c such as colitis and Celiac's. Read at your own risk.)
To me, the main thing to take into account is that in order for your yogurt to turn out right, you really have to pay attention to the thermal needs of those bacteria that are working so hard to ferment the sugars in your soymilk and produce lactic acid, which is what you want. If you don't make sure these guys are nice and warm, they won't eat that sugar rapidly enough, and you won't get yogurt. If you add them while the milk is too hot, they'll get burned up and die and then you really won't get yogurt. Be nice to your little bacterial friends, or no yogurt.

Here's what you'll need
The milk: 4-5 cups plain soy milk (I haven't tried this with other non-dairy milks, besides coconut, which was a fail. I know lots of people want to avoid both dairy and soy, but I really have no experience (yet) with making a good non-soy vegan yogurt, so I'm probably not the person to ask.
The starter: 1/4 cup starter yogurt-- I've used plain Whole Soy and Trader Joe's Vanilla, which both work well but if you use a flavored starter, some of that flavor will be present in the final product. After the first batch, you can use your homemade yogurt for the starter.
A container: A glass or plastic container to make the yogurt in. I use a pyrex 1.5 quart bowl with a tight-fitting lid, which is perfect. I've also used a quart-sized plastic tupperware. You could also use a wide-mouth jar.
A warm place: I use my oven with the light turned on, and I put the bowl pretty close to the bulb. I also tried the oven with just the pilot light, but it was too cold. If you have an oven that you can set to the very low temperature of 118 degrees F, or a dehydrator or proofing box that can be set to this temperature, you're very lucky and you should do just that. Alternately, you can use a slow cooker or an insulated cooler with a heating pad, but you'll have to google the directions for doing it that way, sorry!
And a thermometer is kind of a must for this, too-- either an instant-read or candy thermometer will work great.
Optional: 2 Tbsp. soy milk powder-- this gives you a thicker yogurt, but it's just fine without it.

Directions
1. Put your soymilk in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally with a spoon (not a whisk-- that makes the milk too foamy on top.) Heat it like this until it reaches 180 degrees F. I like to keep it over low heat at 180 for about 10 minutes before cooling it down, because this helps give you a thicker end product. Then, remove it from the heat, and check the temperature every few minutes. Once it reaches 120 degrees, you can pour it into your yogurt-making bowl or jar and stir in your yogurt starter. If it's a little cooler that 120 that's ok, but hotter than that and you might kill your starter bacteria, and then your end product will be a bowl of lukewarm milk and you'll be upset. The ideal temperature for yogurtization is between 115 and 120 degrees.

2. Now for the boring part: place your bowl in whatever warm location you've chosen and wait. You'll want to checck the temperature periodically to make sure it's still warm. I just touch the side of the bowl to do this-- what you want is for the bowl to feel just a little warmer than body temperature. After four hours, start giving the bowl a little jiggle to check the texture. You can also taste-test it with a clean spoon. (Seriously, make sure the spoon is clean, and no double dipping!) If it's still runny, continue to keep it warm. This can take a long time, and that's ok! I find that it typically takes 12-16 hours to get to the consistency I'm looking for. Just be patient! Once it's thickened, put it in the fridge to chill.


3. Optional: Straining, to make Greek-style yogurt
If you want to strain your yogurt to make it thicker, you'll need a mesh strainer and some cheesecloth or large basket-style paper coffee filters. Line the strainer with the coffee filter or cheesecloth, place it over a bowl, and pour in the yogurt. Cover it with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge to drain for 2-4 hours. Keep checking it until it's the thickness you like. The translucent, pale yellow whey that drains into the bowl can be used for cooking or smoothies, if you want.

4. Now you get to eat yogurt! Put some granola and fruit on there and enjoy! It also makes an awesome yogurt sauce for savory dishes (think raita, tzatziki, that kind of thing) but that's a post for another day.

A note about yogurt failures: Sometimes a batch just doesn't turn out. If your yogurt never thickens, if you want you can reheat, cool it down again, and re-inoculate with some more of the starter yogurt, and try again. This sometimes works, but not always. And don't be too bummed if it doesn't turn out! Cultured foods can be tricky, but you'll get the hang of it as you make more batches.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Vegan challah 2014: I think this is the one!

I've posted a few times about baking vegan challah-- a traditional Jewish bread (similar to brioche) that's eaten as part of the Shabbos celebration on Friday evenings, and on holidays. In my family growing up, we didn't observe the weekly Shabbos, and we didn't have challah every week (although I definitely wanted us to!) but we still ate our fair share of challah, and it was an indispensable part of the holiday table, especially at Rosh Hashanah, or Jewish New Year. Rosh Hashanah is usually right in the beginning of fall. (It was last week! Sorry this post is a week late!) It's one of my favorite holidays, and every year since I went vegan (8 years ago now) I pretty much spend the month of September wondering if this will be the year that I crack the code of the vegan challah.

I'm pretty sure this was the year! I cracked the code! And it's really pretty simple-- no complicated egg substitutes, no weird artificial yellow food coloring, just nice yummy bread. It's lighter than some other challah recipes, and doesn't have that crazy dandelion yellow color, but it's quite good. And if you really want it to be more yellow, you can always add some turmeric or saffron for color-- I've done it both ways with nice results. Just use a tiny pinch though! And keep in mind that it will affect the flavor a little bit.

Vegan Challah, version 3:

3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/3 cups warm water
1 Tbsp. ground flax seeds
1/2 cup sugar
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1/4 c olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt
1 Tbsp. soy or almond milk + 1 tsp oil, for brushing
optional: 1/2 cup currants (or raisins)

1. Whisk the flax seeds with the warm water for 2 minutes, or until the mixture is quite frothy. I like to put the flax-water mixture through a strainer to remove the little bits of flax seed, but that's absolutely optional-- the only difference it makes is in the appearance of the finished bread.

2. Combine the flour, sugar, and yeast in a large bowl (or your stand mixer, if you have one,) and stir just to distribute the ingredients. Add the salt and stir again briefly (you want to do it this way to minimize direct contact between the yeast and salt.)

3. Add the water and oil, and stir with a big sturdy spoon, or with the electric mixer's paddle attachment until everything comes together in a soft dough, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. If necessary, add more water or flour, 1 Tbsp at a time. If using a mixer: Switch to the dough hook and mix on medium-low for 8 minutes. Otherwise, just use your (clean) hands!

4. Turn onto a floured countertop or board, and knead by had, just to finish. The dough should be elastic and smooth. Put in a large, lightly oiled bowl and cover. Allow to rise in a warm place for 90 minutes, until it has doubled in size.

5. Turn onto your floured board again, and use a rolling pin to gently roll it out into a big rectangle. If you're adding raisins or currants, sprinkle them evenly across the surface of the rectangle of dough. Roll the dough up (like a jelly roll) and knead a few more times, so that the raisins are distributed evenly. Put back in the bowl and cover. At this point, you can refrigerate it for a day or two until you're ready to bake. Or if you want to bake it now, just let it rest for about 30 minutes before shaping.

6. When it comes to shaping your loaves, you have a few options. You can do braided loaf, which is the normal/traditional shape for challah. This can be a regular 3-stranded braid, or a more elaborate braid with 4 or 6 strands.
For Rosh Hashanah, it's traditional to bake round loaves of challah, to symbolize the circle of life. There are a few ways to shape a round loaf-- you can do a woven round loaf like I did, you can make a regular braid and spiral it into a round shape, or you can even do a plain spiral. Or do one of each, if you really can't decide. This recipe makes two medium-sized loaves, or three petite loaves.
While you're working on your shapes, preheat the oven to 350 F.

7. Once you've gotten the loaves into whatever shapes you like, put them on a parchment-covered baking sheet and brush with the soymilk-oil mixture. Allow to rise for 30 minutes in a nice warm place. They should look nice and puffed up before you put them in the oven.






Friday, March 28, 2014

Back to Basics

I haven't posted in a while a year and a half.
What can I say? I was really really busy? I was thinking about other things? Those are both true, but still, it's been way (way, way) too long. I'm hoping to get back into the habit of posting recipes, and please forgive my long absence. And what better way to start than by going back to what this blog is all about: muffins!
These bran muffins are so good. Also, you can eat them for breakfast and not feel weird about it, because they're pretty wholesome, which is to say, not just cake in disguise.

Apple Bran Muffins
Adapted from America's Test Kitchen, via food.com because I actually don't have an ATK membership.

2 1/4 cups All Bran twigs cereal (I might start buying it in bulk)
1 cup rasins + 1 Tbsp water
1 small-medium apple, peeled + chopped
1 3/4 cups AP flour (I ran out of whole wheat, but the recipe actually calls for 1 1/4 c AP + 1/2 c WW)
2 tsp baking soda (not powder!!)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
2/3 cup apple sauce (unsweetened)
3 Tbsp molasses
1 swipe orange zest (does that make sense? Anyway, just a little.)
1/4 cup canola oil
2 Tbsp coconut oil (or another 2 Tbsp canola oil)
1 Tbsp flax seed meal
2 Tbsp what germ
1 3/4 cups soy milk mixed with 1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar (or white vinegar)
2/3 cup turbinado sugar (or brown sugar, or dehydrated can juice, or whatever dry sweetener you're into. I'm sure you could use agave, but don't ask me how much.)

1) Preheat your oven to 400 F, and grease one standard muffin pan with a little bit of spray oil.
2)In a microwave-safe bowl, combine the raisins and water, and microwave on high for about 40 seconds. You want the raisins to absorb some of the water and plump up. Don't skip this step! If you don't have a microwave, just pour a little bit of boiling water over the raisins, cover them, and let them sit for about 5 minutes.
3) Grind half of the bran cereal in the food processor until it reaches a sandy texture. You can then add it back in with the rest of the cereal.
4)In a large bowl, combine the sugar, molasses, and oils, and whisk until combined. Add in the apple sauce, extracts, zest, wheat germ, and flax meal, and beat for a minute or two. Add in the soy milk- vinegar mixture. Now stir in all of the cereal until moistened, and allow to sit for 15 minutes. You want to allow the bran cereal to absorb as much moisture as it can from the other ingredients.
5) Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine the flour(s), baking soda, and salt. Whisk everything to combine really well, so that you won't end up with any really salty bites.
6) Once the 15 minutes are up, you can add your dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, and stir until everything is moistened. Now fold in your raisins and apples.
7) Drop about 1/3 cup batter into each muffin cup. You can really pile the muffins high and overfill the cups, as they don't spread very much in the oven.
8) Bake for about 16 minutes, until a toothpick comes out with just a few crumbs (but no wet batter.)
9) Allow the muffins to cool before removing from the pan, because they're a little delicate when warm. I think you should allow them to cool before you eat them, but my husband says that's BS. Just don't blame me if you burn your mouth!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Harissa lentil burgers

Making  veggie burgers at home is a piece of cake totally manageable, and they're tastier than the ones you buy at the store. And cheaper depending on what you put in them. As in, don't make them out of store-bought seitan and black truffle shavings. (Seriously, why is seitan so  expensive?)

The beets are totally optional; they were just sort of hanging out in the fridge, so I added some to the recipe. They added a smidge of creepy red-meaty color to the insides of the burgers, which I sort of enjoyed, but flavor-wise I don't think they did a whole lot of anything. Leave them out if you want to!

I'd like to redo these with even more mushroom for a less dry texture, but the burgers were delicious and easy so I'm posting the recipe anyway. I'll post the final draft, too!


Ingredients:
2 1/4 cups cooked brown lentils
1/4 cup low sodium tamari
1 small onion, diced
4 oz. (1/2 a package) cremini or button mushrooms, thinly sliced
1/2 cup breadcrumbs (panko are usually vegan)
1/2 cup vital wheat gluten
2 Tbsp. harissa paste (substitute tomato paste if you don't like/ can't find the harissa)
1/2 cup shredded raw beet
salt and pepper
oil for frying

1. Fry the onion and mushrooms over high heat until deep brown, stirring occasionally. Allow to cool to room temperature before proceeding to the next step.

2. Combine all the ingredients in a medium mixing bowl and stir/ knead with your hands until thoroughly combined.

3. Divide the burger mix into 6 equal pieces (or 8 if you like them a little more modest-sized.) Form each piece into a ball, and slowly press down into a round disc about 1 1/2 inches thick. (Or maybe you like square burgers. Whatever you want! It's up to you.)

4. To cook, fry in a little oil in a cast-iron skillet over high heat for five minutes per side. Don't move them around while they're cooking, so that they can brown on the outside. Bake them in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes to firm them up a little more.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Jamaican Rice and Peas

This is called rice and peas, but it's really more like rice and beans. This can be made with pigeon peas or cowpeas, if you want it to be more pea-y and less beany.
It makes a good dinner with just a vegetable on the side, but if you're feeling fancy, or trying to impress someone, it's pretty great served with some jerk tofu. And beer. I guess Red Stripe would be a classic pairing, but I'm drinking Peak Summer Session and it goes just fine, thank you! (I know wine pairings are classy, but what about beer pairings?)
The scotch bonnet peppers in this recipe are really hot, but don't worry because you don't eat the whole peppers in this dish. Rather, you cut a small slit in the skin of the pepper, which allows some flavor and heat to infuse the rice, but not in a way that makes fire come out your ears. Then when it's time to eat, just remove the scotch bonnet. Its really not very spicy at all, and the creamy coconut . milk mellows everything down considerably.
Look for scotch bonnets in a Caribbean market. They can be hard to find, depending on where you live, so you can substitute a habaƱero or even a couple of minced jalapeƱos.

Anyway, here's what you need:
1 heavy-bottomed saucepan
1 can coconut milk
1 can red or 1 cup cooked red kidney beans
2 cups basmati rice (that's how I like it but use any long-grain rice, just know that brown rice takes 40 minutes instead of 20)
1 scotch bonnet pepper
3 scallions
1 clove garlic
1/2 inch  piece of ginger
1 tsp. kosher salt, or 3/4 tsp. regular salt

Now, to cook it:
1.  Put the rice in a bowl and cover with cold water. Allow this to soak while you prep the other ingredients.
Wash the scallion and pepper. Trim the roots off the scallions (just the hairy part not the whole white part) and slice them. Cut a slit in the scotch bonnet. Throw those into the pot.
2. Pour the coconut milk into a measuring cup, add enough water to make 3 1/4 cups, and add those to the pot. Add the salt. Grate in the ginger and garlic (or mince if you prefer.) Drain, rinse, and add the beans. Bring everything to a gentle boil. Drain the rice and add that in. You can stir it once or twice but not too much cause it will break the rice, and then it'll be mushy.
3. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook for 20 minutes, or until the water is absorbed. Allow it to rest for 5-10 minutes (that's when I go to the bodega for beer, if that gives you an idea of the timing.) Fluff with a fork and serve.
4. Eat the leftovers for lunch the next day.
5. And the day after that, cause it makes a lot.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

I made a wedding cake

Two-tiered lemon
cake with blackberries and limoncello buttercream.