Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanksgiving eats, green beans, collards, cranberry and pumpkin!

So I've been making Thanksgiving dishes this week, trying to figure out which ones I want to do for Thursday.

It always bothers me that a lot of Thanksgiving plates consist only of brown blobs..I try not to make all my food brown and mushy.
First I made PPK Butternut Alfredo!, substituting canned pumpkin for butternut squash. This was excellent and superduper easy to make. Beside the soaking time for the cashews, the dish came together in less than 30 minutes. I also upped the sage and used fresh, since we have some in the garden. Try it with soba noodles if you have them. They are my favorite and take less time to cook.

I had also been wanting to try the Herbed Cream Collards from Vegnews. I've been getting ginormous bunches of collards at the farmer's market for $2 and while they usually go to a big pot of hoppin john, I thought these should be tried in something new. 

This recipe is pure fatty mcfatt goodness. These are incredibly rich with a can of coconut milk and a cup of almond meal (You don't need to buy almond meal..Just grind almonds in the food processor.) and a little goes a long way. When I tried them fresh out of the pan, I could taste the coconut, but when I heated some up the next day, I could not. So depending when you eat them, they're appropriate for coconut lovers and haters alike. (I used a whole can of coconut milk, but used olive oil instead of coconut oil, as called for.) Also got to use more fresh sage and some rosemary from the garden for this one. I think I will be doing these on Thursday.

They don't get creamier than this!
I wanted to try a quick green bean recipe last night and found Green Bean Shiraae which intrigued me based on it's uniqueness. It's basically green beans with a crumbled tofu/miso/sesame mixture. It's interesting, but not something I would recommend for a traditional Thanksgiving table. I left out the sugar and added a bit more soy sauce (I used Nama Shoyu, which isn't as salty as regular soy sauce. And speaking Nama Shoyu, I laugh every time I think of the name. An old coworker of mine, and my favorite person in the whole world used to say "NAMA SHO-YU!" in a sassy ghetto voice like it was supposed to be "Nah, I'm gonna show YOU!"..OK maybe you just had to be there...)

But I did discover a new favorite tofu while making this recipe. I used my first package of Wildwood Sproutofu with this recipe and found this tofu has this really creamy texture different from the Nasoya or 365 brands I usually get. The texture was great for sticking to the green beans and I can see using the Sproutofu in a future cheezecake (even though I don't think they make silken) for an extra creamy texture. 

sooooo creamy!
The cranberry blob on my plate is a prototype for a veganized version of my mom's jelloicious cranberry salad. I tried it with just homemade cranberry sauce as the gelling agent (since cranberries have a high amount of pectin-the compound in fruit that gels jellies) but it did not hold together as I would have hoped. I'm still working on it and will probably incorporate some agar.

Hopefully I can get the recipe right tomorrow and post it.

And of course for the dessert, I used more of my fresh cranberries to make an adaptation of Cranberry Streusel Bars from Vegan Desserts.

Cranberry Streusel Bars
3 - 3 1/2 cups fresh cranberries
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups water
pinch of salt
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1 1/4 cups brown sugar
1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour (or you can use all white flour)
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup almond milk
1/2 cup canola oil
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup pecans, very finely diced or pulsed several times in food processor and toasted
(To toast diced pecans, lay them out on a sheet of aluminum foil and bake for 5 minutes at 375.)

Combine the cranberries, sugar and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook for 10-15 minutes, until the berries pop and the sauce thickens. Remove from heat and stir in salt and cinnamon. Set aside. (Congratulations. You have just made homemade cranberry sauce.)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease a 9x13 baking dish.

In a large bowl, combine brown sugar, flours, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Add the soymilk and oil  and mix well with a fork. Add oats and pecans and mix well.

Press half of the mixture into the bottom of the greased baking dish. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and immediately spread cranberry mixture over the bottom layer. Sprinkle the remaining streuel mixture over the cranberry layer. Bake for 24-26 more minutes, until lightly browned. Cool completely and slice into bars.

Happy Thanksliving!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Pumpkin Pie Challenge

Are you fretting over which vegan pumpkin pie to make for Thanksgiving??!?! Tofu based? Corn starch? Agar? Soymilk? Which one will impress the skeptical omnivorous killjoys in your extended family?? Surely there must be only one perfect pumpkin pie recipe!

I know everyone freaks out at Thanksgiving because they want everything to be perfect and this certainly includes vegans. We try to go above and beyond to challenge the unfair stereotype of gross food that so many people unfairly carry around. And our freaked-out-ness tends to manifest itself in pumpkin pie. There are so many recipes out there! Which to choose? Will people really not notice there is tofu in there? How does it compare to the old evaporated milk recipe most people are used to?

I've made several recipes over the years and I don't really remember which ones...but I do remember none of those recipes have ever been met with sad tastebuds or disappointment. I know I have made the  Vegetarian Times recipe because I have a printout in one of my cookbooks. I believe I have also made the Bryanna Clark Grogan recipe before. I know I've done a tofu-based one, and once I did a pumpkin/pecan hybrid.

But this year I decided to test 2 side by side..the two most popular (purely my conclusion of looking online) Bryanna's and the Tweaked Voluptuous Vegan recipe from Vegan Pie in the Sky.

VV/VPITS in the front and Bryanna in the back

And guess what! They both tasted almost exactly the same. The only noticeable differences were the nuances in spices. Now I did deviate from the VV/VPITS recipe a bit, so maybe it invalidated my results, but I don't ever buy maple syrup because it's so expensive..so I used agave and some maple flavor instead of the syrup called for in the recipe.

Oh maple extract, you are about $17 cheaper that your authentic cousin.
I also used store-bought graham crusts for both of the pies..cause I'm lazy about some stuff.

Bama brand pie crust..from Oklahoma..

I also had three different brands of pumpkin and I thought the differences were interesting.

These two came from the dollar store. The one on the left is from China and was thicker and grainier than the other.

On the left is the dollar store brands mixed and on the right is Libby's.

Did you know that a lot of canned pumpkin is actually various squashes? I think that definitely accounts for the differences in texture between the brands. They still all made great pie though.

I'm going to recommend Bryanna's recipe because it's easy, cheap and pantry-friendly. You probably have everything you need in the pantry right now! As the recipe states, make it in advance! I found that when made in the morning, it was a good slicing consistency by night, but next day is ideal.

potato weight
These are both Bryanna pies from a few days later.  

Here's the list of recipes that I chose from. I'm not trying to confuse you or overwhelm you with options, but you can see that a lot of them are very similar. It can also be helpful to read about other's experiences. But seriously, don't freak out! It will be OK!

This one has avocado and cashews.
Dad's pumpkin pie, veganized
Dreena Burton's chocolate pumpkin pie
Pumpkin pie with Speculoos crust
Pumpkin pie served at Millennium's Thanksgiving dinner
Adapted Bryanna recipe using coconut milk
Sour cream swirl pumpkin pie
No-bake healthy pumpkin pie
6 ingredient (plus crust) pumpkin pie
Tofu-based pumpkin pie #3
Tofu-based #4
This one has vegan cream cheese in it and a cute cashew border.
No-bake chocolate-pumpkin pie
Tofu #5
Gluten-free pumpkin praline pie with LOTS of ingredients
This one is interesting. It has persimmons in it.
Tofu #6 very simple
Pumpkin cheesecake from Vegan Pie in the Sky
Layered pumpkin cheesecake that uses Tofutti...
...which is an adaptation of the fatfreevegan one (not actually fat free)
Another pumpkin cheesecake...This one is so pretty!
Pumpkin pecan pie
There's even an Instructables for Bryanna's recipe.

And maybe it's overkill, but vegan overkill is the best kind of overkill. Make some pumpkin ice cream to go with your desserts this year. This easy pumpkin ice cream has been well-received at my Thanksgiving table more than once.

best way to eat pumpkin! 

More Thanksgiving posts coming soon!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Apples! cake and scones

I made two apple baked goods this past week. Apple rosemary scones from Vegan Brunch and a veganized apple cake from an old spiral bound cookbook.

First the scones...

I hate scones..I do not understand the scone. It's like a biscuit that wants to be a cookie...and ends up combining the worst aspects of both. They're hard and only a little sweet, and they're tea party fare. But tea party fare is what I needed for...a tea party. So I broke out Vegan Brunch and decided to try the most interesting flavor variation listed...apple rosemary.  I'm also going to mention I don't particularly like rosemary.

But I was still intrigued by this combination. I had some gala apples and we have endless amounts of rosemary in the yard, so this seemed like the thing to do.

The batter was really tasty. And I loved the flavor of the apple and rosemary with cinnamon and nutmeg.

But my opinion was not changed on the finished scones. Still not for me. 

But what is for me is cake! 

...and for Mimi too. (She said this was her favorite of all my desserts she's had..This cake is certainly good, but somehow I think she forgot about the Kblog pumpkin cinnamon bun cake that I made last year.)

So some granny smith apples and a little veganizing later and we have a delicious fall dessert. The batter for apple cakes is interesting because you make it and think you've done something wrong because the batter will have the consistency of drop cookie dough. The large amount of chopped apple pieces added will release the moisture necessary to turn the batter into a cake and not a giant dense cookie.

Vegan Apple Cake

1 cup canola oil
2 cups sugar
1/3 cup flaxseed meal
1/2 cup water
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon (recommended: Penzey's Vietnamese)
1 teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 cups chopped peeled apples (your choice of apple..I used granny smith)
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts, toasted

Brown Sugar Glaze 
adapted from The Joy of Vegan Baking

1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup almond milk
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons Earth Balance margarine
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 2-piece angel food pan (or if you must, a springform pan. A removable bottomed pan is necessary.) Combine flax meal and water in a small bowl and set aside. In a large bowl, cream the oil and sugar until well incorporated. Beat in the flax mixture and vanilla. Sift the dry ingredients and beat into the wet mixture. The dough will be stiff and cookie dough-like. Fold in apples and nuts. Press batter into pan and bake one hour or until a knife comes out mostly clean. There will be a hard crust on top of the cake. Cool.

While the cake is cooling, make the glaze. 
In a small saucepan, combine brown sugar, almond milk and Earth Balance. Bring to a full boil and boil for three minutes. Reduce to a simmer and cook 10-15 minutes, stirring until thickened. Remove from heat and add vanilla. It should thicken up a little bit as it sits.

Remove the tube and cake from the outer pan and place on a cake platter. (This cake stays on the tube base so we can keep the crust on top.) Spoon glaze over the top.

The crust on the top is phenomenal. Once the glaze soaks into it, it is amazing in indescribable ways! 

Squirrel apple by FloArmengaud