Thursday, June 26, 2008

In The News

I've previously mentioned the Try Vegan Week we had here in Portland a short time ago. Part of this week of education, support and community was providing vegan mentors to those who wanted help in becoming vegan. I was matched with Barb Randall, a reporter from Lake Oswego. I thought it was a perfect pairing since she was very interested in vegan cuisine, and I grew up in Lake Oswego. The town was very different when I was growing up there, both in the community feel as well as the looks of it. It is weird to go into town now and see new parks and remodeled storefronts. Even the house I lived in for 16 years has been moved and expanded.

Barb was super friendly and I could tell right away that she wasn't looking to be vegan permanently, but I wanted her experience to be the best possible. I love introducing people to vegan foods and new ideas. I sent multiple recipes for her to try. She wrote about her experience in the June 26 issue of The Lake Oswego Review. Check it out!

I was most impressed with her mention of finding variety in a vegan diet, rather than restriction. So true! To my benefit, she also mentioned my blog and shared my amazing vegan cashew spread with her readers. So I want to share the recipe with you!

Amazing Cashew Spread

2 roasted Red Bell Peppers, whole
1/2 cup Cashews
1/2 cup Nutritional Yeast
1 Tb Balsamic Vinegar
1 tsp Salt

Put all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. For a more liquid consistency, add water to the sauce. Great for sandwiches, multi-purpose spread, pizzas and much more.

I make a pizza sandwich with the spread. Best if used with kalamata olive bread but really any will work. Just spread the cashew spread on both sides of the bread and layer with marinated tofu, tomato slices and basil.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Smooth as Silken Tofu

As I have said, I love potlucks.  Potlucks give me the opportunity to share great tasting food with others and to experience other people's favorite dishes as well.  This week I had two potlucks to attend, but no time to prepare for them.  I tried to brainstorm something delicious and quick, and remembered my Chocolate Silk pie.  I decided to make two, one for each potluck.  This pie has a creamy texture that is sure to please.  It is perfect for the summer since it is a refrigerated pie rather than baked.  The pie uses ground almonds for the crust which is a wonderful complementary flavor to the chocolate.  I came up with this crust recipe when I was having trouble finding good tasting graham crackers with no honey.

The funny thing is, on the no bake pie, I did manage to burn my fingers making it!  I poured melted chocolate chips in the food processor and turned the machine on.  Nothing happened.  I took off the lid and decided to press on the plastic top of the blade to make sure it was fully in, not thinking that I was putting my hand right into hot melted chocolate.  Ouch!

Chocolate Silk Pie with Almond Crust

2 - 12.3 oz pkgs Mori-Nu Silk
en Tofu (Extra Firm)
1 1/2 cups vegan Chocolate Chips, melted
3 Tb Organic Cane Sugar

Almond Crust:
2 cups Almond Meal Flour
1 Tb Cornstarch
1/4 tsp Sea Salt
3 Tb Organic Cane Sugar
1/4 cup Soy Margarine 
1 Tb Soy milk

To make the pie filling:  You can melt the chocolate chips either in the microwave or the stove top.  Use low heat and stir to a smooth consistency.  Place all ingredients in a food processor.  Blend until smooth.

To make the pie crust: Mix together almond meal, cornstarch, sugar and salt.  Pour melted margarine and soy milk into mixture and use a fork to combine.  Pat almond mixture into 9-inch pie pan.  Pour blended pie filling on top of crust, cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours.

Many of my friends do not own a food processor. Although this recipe can also be repared with a blender, I do recommend that people get a food processor.  It is my favorite kitchen appliance and I use mine a lot.  I use if for cheese spreads, quiche mixture, blending silken tofu yo use as an egg replacer, grating vegetables and so much more!  I love this machine.  It also combines ingredients much better than a blender tends to since it has a wider base and more power behind the blade.

One of the potlucks was at Laurelhurst Park in SE Portland.  It was a nice and sunny day outside.  A walk around the park when everything was finished and people leaving was a necessity.  There is a pond on the the east side of the park where you can often see blue herons, turtles and ducks.  And it was still duckling season!  Luckily, I got to see it all.  The blue heron was surprisingly relaxed, fishing for lunch.  Maybe he has gotten used to people always being around.  luckily it allowed me to get some great pictures.  I am so happy summer is starting!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Vegan Baking 101 - Egg Substitutes

Yesterday I did a "Baking and Cooking without Eggs" workshop as part of Try Vegan Week in Portland. I was so happy to see 34 people at the event and they had lots of great questions too! Someone said they had heard that you should not use metal bowls when mixing batter, and asked me my opinion about this. I had never heard this statement before. Since then I have looked online. I found some sites that said that the metal bowl or spoon may react with acidic ingredients in the recipe. This can possibly produce baked goods that have a metallic taste.

Another person asked about vegan Angel Food Cake and I was surprised to realize that no one had come up with a recipe yet (that I’ve heard of). Since I ended the workshop saying that I believe anything can be made vegan, I now plan to rise to the challenge to make a vegan angel food cake. I never really ate Angel Food Cake so I didn't realize how reliant on eggs it was (12 egg whites in a recipe), but that won't stop me.

Here is a nice little spring photo for you from the Rhododendrum Gardens. I was surprised to see her nest so exposed and she was really annoyed that I was taking advantage of it. These eggs should be ducklings now. I need to visit the Rhododendron Gardens soon to see them.

Egg Replacers for Baking

Here are the four main egg replacers I use in my home baking. If a recipe calls for more than 3 eggs, that recipe may be too dependant on eggs to have successful results using a replacement.

Flax - Flaxseed meal works great and it’s a healthy and versatile option. All you have to do is combine 1 Tb Flaxseed Meal and 3 Tb Water per egg and let stand two minutes. This works well with cakes, cookies, pancakes and so much more.

Tofu - My favorite egg replacer for cakes! This makes a very moist and soft cake. You will want to use silken tofu, which is very different than the traditional tofu you would use for something like a stir-fry. Simply blend the silken tofu in a food processor or blender. Use ¼ cup blended tofu per egg.

Applesauce/Banana - These two egg replacers work the same. I recommend them for muffins and quick breads. Applesauce does not contribute much to taste and makes baked goods very moist. Bananas are great to use when you want to add banana flavor to what you are baking. Use ¼ cup of applesauce or mashed banana per egg.

Cornstarch - I often use this for cookie recipes that only call for 1 egg. In these instances the egg in the recipe is usually used as a binder. The cornstarch mixture works well as a binder and it is an easy and cheap alternative. Simply mix together 1 Tb Cornstarch + 3 Tb Water for 1 egg.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me. Happy Baking!