Monday, December 30, 2013

Success! Vegan blondies!

I've had to re-jig several of my old standard recipes in the past year to allow for the fact that eggs are now a no-no for me. After having experimented with other baked goods, I thought I'd try my hand at adapted my (seriously addictive) go-to blondie recipe to be egg-free. This version used 1 Tbsp of ground flax seed in 3 Tbsp of water as the egg substitute.

I'm happy to report that the resultant blondies were flavoured exactly right, if the texture was a little bit more like a caramel than the slightly-fudgey blondies I make when I use egg. I'm sure I can experiment with a bit more flour and/or leavening to make these spot-on.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Christmas comes but once a year

I'm still trying to keep my refined sugar intake to a minimum, but if one can't indulge one's cravings during Christmas-time, when can one?

Behold! The beginnings of a batch of dairy-free fudge. This version includes a pinch of salt an about one tablespoon of vanilla. It's setting now, in preparation for dinner with the in-laws on Sunday. The samples I had from what was left in the pot after the rest of the mixture had been scraped out are fantastic.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Stews aren't photogenic

Although it seems like I haven't cooked anything of note since late October, I've been just as busy in the kitchen as ever. Unfortunately, beef stew looks horrible when photographed, as do many of the other household staples I've been whipping up. It doesn't help that the natural light situation at this time of year is dismal.

Of note: I've been tweaking Betty Crocker's Egg Bread recipe to make it egg-free by replacing the egg with hydrated, ground flax seed. I've also reduced the sugar content. Once I'm suitably thrilled with the results, I'll post my version.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Presenting: Butterfly Girl!

Well, her costume any way. The "gauntlets" are too small when she's wearing a shirt, so I'll have to make new ones. Still, how cool is this?!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Turns out...

You can make a reasonably good vegan Chinese-style fried rice by using scrambled tofu (seasoned with salt, pepper, soy sauce and sesame oil) in place of the eggs.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Vegan doughnuts!

Yeast doughnuts are one of my "unicorn" treats. Commercially made with dairy and egg, time-consuming to make and also kind of dangerous (hot oil!), it's rare that I get to savour one. I've only recently begun attempting to make them myself. Unfortunately, the recipe I consulted used egg. Now that egg is a no-no for me, I was on the search for vegan yeast doughnuts. Spice Island Vegan saved the day.

The "fingers" pictured above are from the batch I fried up because I got impatient; these are first-rise only doughnuts, dusted in icing sugar. For the second-rise doughnuts I'll be making later today, I'll probably use Alton Brown's chocolate glaze recipe again. While I have no qualms with experimenting with various recipes until I get something right, there's just no sense in messing with something which you know works well.

Post-gorging update: Oh. Em. Gee. These are good. I think I like them more than conventional doughnuts. The coconut flavour that comes from using coconut oil as the fat component make these horribly addictive.

Update 2: SRSLY:

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Dairy- and sugar-free chocolate pumpkin seed butter!

Having been inspired by Tofu vaVohu's post on Pumpkinseed Nutella, I thought I'd take a stab at making a dairy-free version, without refined sugar. It's not only possible, it's fantastic! My version follows:
  • 1 cup pumpkin seeds (I left mine untoasted)
  • scant ¼ cup cocoa powder
  • 8 dates, presoaked in soy milk overnight
  • pinch of salt
  • ½ tsp. vanilla
  • soy milk to desired consistency (I used at least ¼ cup)

Blend the pumpkinseeds in a food processor until they turn into a seed butter. Scrape down sides of bowl. Add remaining ingredients and blend, adding soy milk and scraping down bowl as needed.

I've already had very generous smears on two pieces of toast. This recipe's a keeper!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Spinach and tofu puff pastries for brunch!

I used the puff pastry recipe blogged about previously and the spinach and tofu filling I've used for my version of spanakopita to whip up today's brunch. I used vegan margarine instead of shortening for the puff pastry and prefer the latter; the use of salted fat for the pastry led me to suspect that the resultant pastry would be on the salty side, so I used a light hand with the salt content for the spinach filling. I did, however, add roasted garlic, lemon zest and nutmeg to it and was very happy with those additions.

Overall, I don't think I'd adjust the seasoning for any of this, but if I were to make it again, I use shortening in the puff pastry and season the filling so that I could eat it as-is.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Finally! Triple-chocolate cookies! Sort of.

Since these didn't work out, I thought I'd give it another go. Yesterday, I made up a batch of triple chocolate "chip" (in actuality, Lindt dark chocolate, soy chocolate and vegan chocolate cut into chunks) cookie dough, and have been baking small batches in our toaster oven on the convection setting.

Notes: Not bringing the chilled dough to room temperature for a half-hour results in a cookie in which the sugar burns. The white chocolate ends up melting into the cookie, so this is not a good use of "premium" white chocolate (i.e., one made exclusively with cocoa butter as the fat). Finally, chilling these after baking yields the best results: the chocolate sets again, making for a nice "bite" in the finished cookie.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Vegan White Chocolate, Part IV

Fittingly, this is a quadruple batch. I'm going to have to make sure I have vanilla paste or a vanilla bean to scrape the seeds out of next time. This batch is a bit astringent with the liquid vanilla in it.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

I'm getting pretty good at this biscuit-making business

Oh, yeah.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Just the thing for a low iron-count kinda day

Charcoal fire-grilled rib eye steak, liberally seasoned with salt and fresh-cracked black pepper.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Peach pie

This version uses my go-to pie crust recipe, Ontario peaches which were thisclose to turning (and the most delicious peaches I've ever eaten!), apple cider vinegar, vanilla and oats to absorb any extra liquid. I haven't had any yet, but I'm certainly looking forward to it!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Vegan biscuits

My go-to biscuit recipe has been adapted from Canadian Living's Biscuit-Topped Chicken Pot Pie recipe. I like how simple the recipe is; in general, the fewer ingredients there are for me to substitute, the better the results are.

Kara has taken to watching Bake with Anna Olson with me. Today's viewing showed me a new technique which looks like it would yield fluffier biscuits than I've made previously, so I thought I'd give it a try.

As it turns out, "smashing" the butter between your hands once it's been somewhat incorporated into the flour does make for a fluffier biscuit. These have been my favourite iteration so far.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Oh. Em. Gee. Guilt-free cupcakes

With blurry photo-documentation, unfortunately.

I actually managed to make vegan, sugar-free cupcakes. And they taste good! They're not as sweet as sugar-sweetened cupcakes, of course, but they're lightly sweet and yummy.

  • ⅔ cup soy milk
  • ½ tsp apple cider vinegar
  • ⅔ cup unsweetened applesauce
  • ⅓ cup canola oil
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour (use all-purpose for less texture, if desired)
  • ⅓ cup cocoa powder
  • ¼ tsp salt*
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ¾ tsp baking powder
Preheat oven to 350° F. Line muffin tin with cupcake liners. Mix wet ingredients together in one bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and stir to incorporate, until no large lumps remain. Pour mixture into liners until ¾ full. Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centre of a large cupcake comes clean.

* this iteration uses salt, but I think I will omit it next time; the salt is a bit too overpowering in this version

For the icing, I winged it. The following measurements are approximate:

  • 6 unsulphured Medjool dates, pitted
  • one avocado, peeled and pitted
  • scant ¼ cup cocoa powder
  • splash of soy milk (or until the icing is suitably moist)
To the bowl of a food processor, add the dates and pulse to coarsely chop. Add the avocado and pulse further. Scrape down the sides of the bowl when necessary. Add the cocoa powder and pulse further, again, scraping the bowl down when required. Add soy milk as needed.

Pipe the resultant icing on your cupcakes and eat to your heart's content!

July 31 update: it's official, using all-purpose flour and omitting the salt makes a better cupcake. Yay for half-batches!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Hot enough to proof bread

When I woke this morning, we were down to two slices of bread from our weekly loaf, so I chose to make a new loaf, rather than buy one.

Rather than gently pre-heating the oven as a proofing area, I thought I'd try proofing outdoors, under a loose layer of plastic wrap. The two risings each took about half the expected time and the resultant bread has a fantastic crumb.

Monday, July 8, 2013

A dairy- and milk-free quiche!

As mentioned previously, my dietary restrictions are making my food choices look more and more vegan, so it should come as no surprise that my weekend craving for quiche resulted in me researching vegan quiche recipes. Girl Makes Food's Vegan Quiche looked promising, but my own vegan reference cookbook, Vegan Recipes, suggests flavouring the custard-replacement with mustard, rather than garlic powder, and that seemed like a better fit for my Quiche Lorraine/Florentine hybrid. A quick taste of the not-a-custard also indicated that a splash of apple cider vinegar was called for, and I'm very happy with the results. This might not be the prettiest thing to come out of my kitchen, but it certainly is delicious.

My recipe follows:

Preheat oven to 400°F. Place the dough over top of a pie or tart pan, gently push it into the bottom and trim (if desired). Fill the crust with onions, then spinach, then prosciutto, distributing evenly. Pour the "custard" over top and smooth out. Bake for approximately 30 minutes. Allow to set slightly before cutting.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Chocolate Caramel Shortbread Bars

I have no idea where I found this recipe for chocolate caramel shortbread bars, but I knew I'd have to make a variation of it from the moment I saw it.

Mine were made in a 10 ½" springform pan, lightly greased for easy removal. I used the provided shortbread recipe, but with icing sugar (rather than granulated) because I have icing sugar to use up. I also substituted vegan margarine in place of the butter. Likewise, the chocolate topping recipe was followed almost exactly, with vegan margarine again and agave syrup rather than corn syrup. I had to break drastically from the linked recipe's caramel component because of the high amount of dairy in it. I was inspired by a recipe I found for vegan dulce de leche. My version follows:

  • 1 can full-fat coconut milk
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ tsp vanilla
  • ⅛ tsp baking soda (to prevent curdling)
  • salt, to taste

Combine the first four ingredients in a small saucepan, stir. Over medium heat, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and allow to gently bubble, stirring every 10 minutes or so, for about 2 hours. These steps make the vegan dulce de leche.

To make the caramel topping, heat the dulce de leche to "soft ball stage" (although I see I ought to have gone to firm ball stage) and pour over the cooled shortbread. When that has cooled fully, pour the chocolate topping over that, smooth it out, sprinkle with sea salt and place in the fridge to chill. Kara and I got to these before they were fully set, but they were too tantalizing to pass up.

As for the results, the caramel and chocolate were so good, but I confess that I would have liked a shortbread base which was less crumbly and more like a familiar candy bar with similar ingredients. Next time, I think I'll try adapting the shortbread recipe from this knock-off recipe.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Monday, June 24, 2013

Vegan Stroga*not*

Meal planning around here tends to involve choosing three different dishes which we intend to go for a couple of dinners worth of servings each. I've recently been able to convince Matt that having a meat-free dish every week makes good economic, health and environmental sense, so there's usually a meat-less dinner option in our weekly dinner menu.

I've got a small selection of vegan cookbooks and cracked one open last week for inspiration. I hit the mother lode when I discovered a meatless take on traditional Beef Stroganoff, so I thought I'd try my hand at making one for tonight's dinner.

My version follows:

  • olive oil, for the pan
  • 3 leeks, washed, green parts trimmed off, and thinly sliced
  • 2 large shallots, sliced lengthwise
  • medium yellow onion, halved and sliced lengthwise
  • 16 oz. mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
  • water
  • ½ head of roasted garlic
  • 12 oz. container of vegan sour cream
  • salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste
  • splash of apple cider vinegar
  • dash of dry mustard

Sautée the onions, shallots and leek in the olive oil with salt until they have softened and begun to caramellize (mine went a bit over, but you couldn't tell from the finished product), add the mushrooms and continue sautéeing until the mushrooms start to lose some of their water. Add water to the pan and cook until you're satisfied that the flavours have melded (keep adding water to the pan as necessary so that the mixture doesn't dry out). Squeeze in the roasted garlic and mash it into the mixture. Add the sour cream substitute and stir well to incorporate. Season with the salt and pepper, and sparingly with the cider vinegar and dry mustard. Serve over noodles and be amazed that something that tastes this good doesn't have any meat in it.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Dairy-free peanut butter pie!

It's probably been close to a decade since I had peanut butter pie, what with the fact that I've had a mild peanut sensitivity for as long as I can remember, and that the recipe for the pie usually contains whipped cream and cream cheese. Still, I've been toying with the idea of making a dairy-free version for years, and was finally inspired enough to give it a shot today.

I based it on Canadian Living's Chocolate Peanut Butter pie recipe, which I have in a Canadian Living Holiday Best magazine that I've had since shortly after moving out of my parents' place. I used vegan margarine and pre-packaged Oreo crumbs for the base. Vegan cream cheese, WOBButter and more vegan margarine were included in the filling. Additionally, I made up a batch of Mocked Whip Cream from the Friendly Food cookbook to substitute for the whipped cream called for in the recipe.

The filling was surprisingly easy to make. For future reference, I should note that I've had better success using Earth Balance margarine in the mocked whip cream — it just ends up fluffier. All I had to do to really enhance the flavours was add a bit of salt. Then I shaved some chocolate over top and placed the pie in the fridge to set. We should have a fantastic dessert after dinner tonight!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Impending yumminess

Yesterday, I got to try an offering from the much-lauded Banh Mi Boys: their five-spice pork belly bánh mì. Bruce graciously allowed me to sample the duck confit bánh mì and the braised beef cheek bao that he got. All items were predictably delicious and left me with an appetite for more of their menu choices. In lieu of regularly scheduling trips downtown for the sole purpose of eating from this establishment, I decided now would be a good time to expand on my own personal repertoire of bánh mì selections.

Previously, I have made both do chua and chả lụa successfully. Those who are interested in following in my footsteps should note that the chả lụa recipe I consult has moved.

I have enjoyed Fontaine Sante's Traditional Végé-Pâté in place of the traditional (dairy-laden) bánh mì spread, but found that I missed something that animal liver added to the sandwich. Under normal circumstances, I abhor eating liver because I find the taste overpowering, but on a bánh mì, it complements the flavours nicely. Don't ask me how that happens, it's sandwich wizardry, or something.

I set out to find a good, dairy-free liver paté and found a recipe which uses chicken livers and coconut milk. The determining factor in why I chose this recipe was that my absolute favourite beef marinade uses a similar flavour profile, with balsamic vinegar, rosemary and garlic.

I made up a batch today, using duck fat for the seal, cracked black peppercorns instead of green ones, and whole garlic cloves rather than chopped cloves (since everything was going to be puréed any way). I've already had some of the spread on an impromptu bánh mì-inspired toast and am happy to say that it's the only liver spread I've actually enjoyed.

I also managed to make do chua and prepare a chả lụa mixture for steaming tomorrow (hooray for long weekends!). I might even be crazy enough to attempt to make homemade baguettes for this.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Well, I'm looking forward to this...

I decided I'd treat myself on Mother's Day to a batch of my favourite chocolate chip cookies. I also realized that I haven't had triple chocolate cookies since I was a teenager, due to the fact that dairy started being an issue for me around that time. Fortunately for me, I also realized that there are now passable (if not better than their dairy counterparts) dairy-free/vegan substitutes for milk and white chocolate.

So, today, I made up a batch of vegan white chocolate for use in what I'm hoping will be a fantastically delicious batch of triple-chocolate cookies on Sunday.

On a technical note, adding room-temperature ingredients to relatively hot cocoa butter causes the mixture to seize. To remedy the problem — as with seizing Hollandaise sauce — add a bit of cold water to the mix and whisk until it becomes smooth again.

Next day update: sadly, the white chocolate didn't set due to the addition of water. Mental note: wait for the cocoa butter to cool down before adding the remaining ingredients. Looks like these will be double chocolate cookies.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Eat your heart out, $10 sandwich establishments

Today's lunch was preservative-free salami, sautéed onions, sautéed mushrooms, roasted green bell pepper, black olives and sliced tomato on a fresh-baked whole wheat bun with pizza sauce and mayonnaise.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Vegan Cookies 'n' Cream Cupcakes

Using the recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, I made up a batch of these for Kara's first not-exclusively-family birthday party. They were some of the best cupcakes I've ever had, so I think it's safe to say I'll probably make them again.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Six years!

That's got to at least be worth a batch of flourless peanut butter cookies, with chocolate chips added, of course. My two in-house critics tell me these are good.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Ce ne sont pas macarons

...and while they're not bad, they're probably not good enough to make again.

I adapted this macaron recipe, substituting icing sugar in place of all the various sugars listed (which the recipe's author states is allowable), and whole grain soy flour in place of the almond meal. The resultant macaron "batter" was very thick and hard to pipe, and the cookies themselves taste too strongly of soy flour.

I'm definitely going to have to try another almond flour substitute. I've heard that finely ground pumpkin seeds work well...

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Vegan White Chocolate, Part II

As suspected during my last attempt at making vegan white chocolate, the graininess I experienced seems to have been mostly the result of using vanilla bean for flavouring.

For my second attempt, I didn't have vanilla bean on-hand, so I used vanilla extract in its place, adding that to the measuring cup for the cocoa butter, before topping it up with liquefied cocoa butter in the amount specified. I chilled in the fridge to set and am extremely pleased with my results! There's a thin coating of bloom on the white chocolate, but the rest of it is beautiful, lacking in graininess, and has a fantastic "snap". I love this stuff.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

A first! Homemade, dairy-free truffles!

I had enough soy creamer and chocolate left over after making a ganache tart for dad's birthday that I realized I could also make a small batch of chocolate truffles!

Here are the quantities of ingredients used:

I poured the soy creamer into a small saucepan to heat (not boil), added the chocolate and whisked until the mixture was smooth. After taking the ganache mix off the heat, I added the icing sugar and raspberry flavour, then set the mixture aside to cool. Once the ganache had stiffened up, I began rolling balls of it in the cocoa powder.

The truffles turned out really nicely. The raspberry flavour is — unfortunately — more subtle than I was expecting, but the ganache is nice and smooth. If I make future batches, I might omit the flavouring altogether and might try chocolate-coating the little balls of chocolate Heaven.

Friday, March 29, 2013

And, for dad's birthday...

...a reiteration of the chocolate ganache tart I made for Father's Day last year. This version has been liberally sprinkled with cocoa nibs and sea salt.
Beignet and the Jets

While technically not beignets, I was musically-inspired while making these medium-sized doughnuts and had to name this post after the song that popped into my head.

This is my second attempt at using this doughnut recipe, and while I can't seem to reliably get the second rise of dough to come cleanly off the waxed paper I've been proofing them on, I'm much too happy with the resultant doughnuts to want to look for another recipe. I had slightly better success at maintaining the doughnuts' shape with the ones which were lightly floured before the second rise. The only substitution I've made is to swap the milk out with soy milk. I also halved the recipe because 2 dozen doughnuts is a bit much.

I used this chocolate glaze recipe the last time I made these doughnuts and was disappointed with how runny it ended up being. I also forgot to sift the cocoa, so there were cocoa clumps in the glaze. I decided to try a different recipe this time, consulting Alton Brown's recipe for chocolate glaze, halving this recipe as well. I'm much happier with this glaze. There were a couple of substitutions: soy milk in place of the whole milk, and agave nectar in place of the corn syrup. They might not be very pretty, but the flavour and texture make up for it.

I only get to eat doughnuts when I make them myself, and finding time to do so with a pre-schooler in the house is difficult and potentially hazardous. I decided to take this opportunity — with Matt and Kara visiting his side of the family — to treat myself.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Yeast-bread tips and tricks

I spent years on largely unsuccessful attempts at making yeast breads until I committed to keeping a sourdough starter for a few months in 2007. It wasn't until I did so that I finally began to understand how finicky yeast doughs are, and it took me a few more years until I finally developed a knack for making them. 2010 was my breakthrough year for making successful yeast breads. This included what has become my go-to pizza dough recipe.

My variations on Wolfgang Puck's Pizza Dough Recipe have included using agave nectar or sugar in place of the honey, and working with different blends of white flour and whole wheat flour, from all-purpose to bread flour. I've found that nothing affects the outcome of the final product as much as keeping the yeast "sponge" and dough warm enough during proofing. To achieve this, I've been setting my oven to the lowest setting (170° C) until it preheats, then turning it off. Although this seems like too warm a space to leave things to proof, it ends up being surprisingly ideal. Yeast — as it turns out — can tolerate much higher heat than I'd thought it would.

The recipe I consult calls for all-purpose flour, but bread flour has consistently produced the best results in this household. The choice of sweetener doesn't much seem to matter, as long as it provides "food" for the yeast culture.

Overall, this recipe has yielded fantastic results around here. I don't foresee any need to switch.