December 31, 2007
Swirled with vanilla extract and agave nectar.
I love DIY living; it’s so very liberating. When I saw a post by SusanV on Fat-Free Vegan Kitchen about homemade yogurt, I was so down! (In a good way, of course.) It became my latest mission (a.k.a. obsession), and in a couple of days I had procured all the necessary ingredients.
Cooking different kinds of foods puts you in different frames of mind, ya know? Like, baking fresh bread might remind you of being in an Italian village, or making an apple pie might make you feel all domestic. Well, making your own soy yogurt makes you feel like a hippie on a commune and a 4th grader doing a science project at the same time! It’s amazing, the way the yogurt is transformed after 6 hours of incubation, with the bacteria cultures all multiplying and making the yogurt tangy and such. It’s way cool.
I’m really pleased with the way the flavor of the yogurt came out: tangy like plain dairy yogurt. Commercial soy yogurt never has that. (Granted, I’ve only tried two brands. While Silk soy yogurt is creamy and tasty without the tang, WholeSoy yogurt is just plain bland, with very little flavor whatsoever.) The homemade yogurt tastes really great with some agave nectar and just a bit of vanilla. My mom also recently bought a huge bag of organic frozen mixed berries, so I suspect those will be added in as well.
The texture was kind of mystifying at first, though. SusanV uses 1 teaspoon of agar powder to thicken her yogurt, and she says it’s a bit runny. Agar flakes were all I could find at Whole Foods; however, I read on the original soy yogurt tutorial, by Bryanna Clark Grogan, that you can sub 2 tablespoons of agar flakes for 1 teaspoon of agar powder, so substitute I did. When it came out of the fridge after chilling for a few hours, it was way thick, and when I broke it up with a fork, it disintegrated into little chunks, kind of like tofu. But then I whizzed it up in a food processor, and the texture was perfect, just like silk.
But regardless of all this, I think everybody should be more connected to the food they eat. If you think so too, then you should really try this.
*Note: I’m just recording here the method I used to make my soy yogurt. You can find multiple variations and alterations both at the original tutorial and at SusanV’s site. The original tutorial is especially helpful when trying to figure out a method for incubating the yogurt. Good luck!
Bring 1/2 c. plain soy yogurt to room temperature.
Put a pot of water on to boil. Meanwhile, gather the materials that you’ll need:
*two large spoons
*whisk (or hand blender)
*food thermometer (got me a candy thermometer at the grocery for $2.50!)
*1 measuring teaspoon
*agar-agar flakes OR powder
*1 quart plain soymilk (SoyDream is a popular choice here)
*large metal thermos
When the pot of water comes to a boil, scald the entire dinner plate with the boiling water (either dunk it in the pot or put in in a large bowl and cover it in water). Then scald the spoons, whisk, saucepan, food thermometer, and tablespoon. A pair of tongs is handy for this job. Place all of these items (excluding the saucepan) on the scalded plate. Also, fill your fancy metal thermos with boiling water, cap it, and let it warm for 10 minutes. The science of yogurt is intentionally growing probiotic bacteria, but you need to sterilize all your equipment so that you don’t have any unwanted mystery bacteria gettin’ busy in your food.
Turn on the light in your oven (but nothing else!). The gentle warmth provided by this light, as well as the temperature stability and consistency of the oven, is perfect for incubating yogurt.
Pour half of the soymilk into the saucepan and sprinkle it with 2 tablespoons agar flakes (OR 1 teaspoon agar powder). Let it soften for a few minutes. Then cook the mixture over medium heat, stirring constantly but not vigorously, until the mixture is thickened and glossy.
Stir in the remaining soymilk. Stick the thermometer in the mixture and wait for the temperature to come down to 115F, stirring ocassionally to keep the agar from gelling.
When the temp comes down to 115F, add the 1/2 c. soy yogurt. Whisk it into the mix very well.
Pour out the water from your metal thermos and pour in the soymilk mixture. Screw the cap on tightly and wrap in a towel. Place it in your oven-with-the-light-on.
Check the yogurt after 5 or 6 hours for the desired level of tartness that you want. Be forewarned: when you first open that thermos, the smell is gonna be straight buttermilk, so you need to taste before judging it. Also remember that it’s going to be tangy, not like eating Silk vanilla straight from a plastic little cup. Incubation could take up to 12 hours, so wrap it back up and put it in the oven if it’s not done.
When it seems tangy enough, remove the thermos from the oven and pour the contents into an airtight container. Make sure that you don’t forget any clumps of culture on the sides of the thermos: that there is valuable probiotics, and you don’t wanna be missin’ out on them. Give everything one final vigorous whisk, seal up the container, and stick it in the fridge for several hours, until it’s completely chilled.
If, when it’s all chilled, it’s not as smooth as you like, or it’s too thick, try blending it up in a food processor or blender for a bit. If you used agar flakes, you probably will; if you used agar powder, you probably won’t.
Don’t forget to save 1/2 c. of yogurt to use as your next starter!
Doctor your yogurt up with sugar, jam, fruit, agave nectar, vanilla/other extracts, or anything you’d like.
December 30, 2007
December 27, 2007
I’ve been really busy cooking lately. Attending family gatherings means providing food for myself to eat there, and then at holidays all the food is really rich and even the vegetable side dishes are dairy-laden, so I end up only eating the entree that I brought with me, plus the obligatory green salad that someone else has made. And since it is the holidays and everyone in my fam is stuffing their faces with the plethora of non-vegan food around them, I compensate by eating copious amounts of my entree + salad. That gets a little boring, no?
When we all went to visit my dad’s side of the family, I made some enchilada casserole, which I already made a few months ago. Also, a few days before Christmas, I made two types of food gifts for members of my family: peppermint brownies;
and cheezy crackers, and they both turned out tasty-liscious. The brownies are based on a recipe from the PPK. They’re not very sweet, but that went nicely with the minty aspect, I think. The only change I made to the original recipe was to sub 1/2 teaspoon of the vanilla extract with peppermint extract and sprinkle crushed candy canes on top. These brownies are soft, fluffy, and moist, so you should eat them.
When we went to my mom’s family’s house, I made a couple of different things. The first was sweet potato gnocchi:
Crappy shot, I know. I got the recipe from one of my favorite blogs. I made these last year for Thanksgiving, and while they are pretty tasty, I’m starting to feel like they’re not worth the effort. You have to resign your kitchen to having a coating of orange dough all over it, and the gnocchi turn out frail and break when you try to toss them with a sauce. Maybe more flour next time… Also, the sauce in the original recipe is a little overwhelming to the delicate sweet potato flavor, so I just tossed them with a spiced Earth Balance glaze.
For a low-fat cake, this chocolate orange creation turned out fantastic. I left out the cinnamon and added almond extract to make it like my favorite chocolate orange cookies, and the results were perfect. The recipe:
1 1/2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 c. whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/2 c. sugar
2 t. baking soda
1 t. salt
1/2 c. cocoa powder
3/4 c. soy yogurt
1 t. vanilla extract
1 1/2 t. almond extract
2 T. balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 c. water
1/2 c. orange juice (fresh-squeezed is best)
2 T. orange zest
Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease a Bundt pan.
Sift together the dry ingredients (flour to cocoa) into a mixing bowl. Stir to combine, and set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients. Pour this into the dry ingredients and beat with a mixer on low or by hand until just combined, 1-2 minutes.
Pour the batter into your Bundt pan and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until a knife stuck in the cake comes out clean (in the end, my knife still had a little batter stuck on the tip). Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn it out to cool completely.
1/2 c. powdered sugar, sifted
1 T. cocoa powder
2 t. orange juice
1/4 t. vanilla
extra oj, as needed
Stir these together with a fork, adding just a bit of extra orange juice until the frosting is drizzle-able. Spoon it over the completely cooled cake. After it has set, do the same with the orange glaze:
1/2 c. powdered sugar, sifted
1 t. orange juice
1/2 t. vanilla extract
extra oj, as needed
Guess what my parents gave me for Christmas?
Finally! They also got me a shiny aluminum 12-cup muffin pan to take back to college with me, and my sister got me a micro-plane grater, all of which I used to make a Christmas gift for Kate:
Coconut lime cupcakes. Sublime is the only way to describe them. When Kate’s mom tried one, she said, “These are four-star cupcakes!” (I’m going to assume she was rating them on a four-star scale, of course.) She really was mystified as to how to make cupcakes without eggs or milk or butter, especially the frosting, but then again, Earth Balance is a very mysterious concoction. You’d think that, in the year 2007, people would realize that just about anything is possible, food-wise or otherwise, but the phrase, “These are vegan?!” never gets old to me. I’m pretty sure I’m gonna freakin’ love this book.
And my dad got a new camera for Christmas, which means I have inherited his old one, which has a macro setting on it, so now I can take awesome food pics, such as the cupper-cake shot above. Even in the dying afternoon light, you can see the beautiful texture of the coconut flakes and the lime wedge. I love it!
December 20, 2007
Getting ready for Christmas has totally gotten in the way of posting, but I’m back. I still haven’t got all my presents made, but whatev’s.
So, to continue with the stuffing theme from the previous post, I made stuffed cornbread. I got the idea from this recipe at Fat-Free Vegan Kitchen, so consequently, the cornbread recipe is fat-free. It is a little bit dense, but the flavor was good, and I’d say it’s a recipe worth keeping. If the vinegar that you put in the milk seems a little much at first, the flavor goes away when you bake them. To stuff these, I used the spinach-pea mixture that I used to stuff the tofu earlier. Chili (like the canned Amy’s brand) would be especially tasty here.
1-1/2 c. non-dairy milk
1-1/2 T. cider vinegar
2 T. agave nectar
1 c. cornmeal
1 c. unbleached all-purpose or whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 t. salt
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
2 T. ground flax seeds
filling of choice
Preheat the oven to 375F. Oil your preferred pan (a muffin tin would work well, I used a mini loaf pan).
Mix the milk, vinegar, and agave together and set aside to curdle.
In a large-ish bowl, combine the remaining ingredients. Add the curdled milk mixture to this and mix just until combined.
In your greased muffin or mini loaf pan, spoon a thin, even layer of batter. Then put some filling on top of that (a glob if using a muffin pan, a strip if using a loaf pan). Don’t be too skimpy on the filling; that’s what makes the dish. Cover the filling with another layer of batter, being sure not to over-fill the tin. Bake 13-15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the bread doesn’t have batter sticking on it (it may have filling on it, though). Let them cool in the pan for about 5 or 10 minutes, then carefully turn out of the pan and serve.
I also made some blueberry scones:
that turned out really well. I adapted the recipe from a ginger chocolate chunk scone recipe from Isa’s blog, just switching the flavors around and everything. The flavor was great, really fresh and bright, although the jam in the recipe made them a little sticky.
3 c. unbleached flour
2 T. baking powder
1/2 c. turbinado sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
1/2 t. salt
1/3 c. vegetable oil
1 1/4 c. non-dairy milk
1 t. vanilla extract
2 t. lemon zest
1 c. blueberry preserves or jam
Preheat your oven to 400F. Line a couple of baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, sift the flour and baking powder together. Add the sugar and salt, and stir to combine. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the oil, milk, vanilla, and zest. Pour this into the dry mixture, and stir them together until they’re just combined.
If your jam is stiff, mush it up a little with a fork to be sure it’s not clumpy. Add it to your dough, and mix it into the dough only partially, so that you have pretty marbled effect where some of the dough is plain white and some has blueberry swirls in it. This looks pretty when they’re done baking. It does not look pretty if you try mixing in the jam uniformly:
It looks more like a big grey wad.
Now that you have your dough all pretty and swirled, take a 1/4 c. measuring cup and use it to scoop chunks of dough onto your baking sheets. Sprinkle with extra turbinado sugar, and bake for 15 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out of the middle clean. Let cool on the parchment paper. These are better if they sit covered overnight.
December 16, 2007
Mmmmm, I’ve been wanting to make this for so long. I put it on my “Recipes To Make” list, but I didn’t get around to it for a couple of months, so I just had to eye the pictures longingly. But the day finally came a couple of days ago when I had most of the ingredients at hand to whip this stuff up. Me and my best friend Kate assembled them up together, and it was way fun. The procedures and ingredients list are kind of long, so I’ll leave it up to you to go to the site if you’re interested. You should check it out!
There are two filling options for stuffing the tofu, and I chose the spinach-pea one. But instead of using cumin I used curry powder (I’m kind of tired of cumin right now), and I subbed parsley for cilantro, since Kate doesn’t like cilantro. The flavor was totally amazing! There was a lot of fillinf left over, which I ate with a spoon. When pureed, it comes out pretty thick, not watery at all, and I think it would make a good side dish all by itself. After I write this, I’m going to go and use it as a filling for some cornbread. Here’s the recipe I used:
1 1/2 c. frozen chopped spinach
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1/2 t. salt
1 1/2 t. curry powder
1 t. salt-free seasoning, such as Mrs. Dash
1 1/2 c. frozen peas
1/4 c. parsley, chopped
cayenne, to taste
In a non-stick skillet, steam the spinach with a little water until it’s cooked through. Set aside.
Clean out the skillet and heat it over medium. Add non-stick cooking spray and saute the onions and garlic until just browned. Add the salt, curry, seasoning, and peas, and cook until the peas are defrosted and most of the liquid has evaporated. (This mixture should be given some time to simmer so that the flavors can meld, so if need be, add a little water.)
Transfer all this too a food processor, and process until mostly smooth. Stir in te parsley by hand, and add a little cayenne pepper.
December 14, 2007
Whoa! The drudgery of finals is now over. Of course, a lot of people had it worse than me, cramming and studying and staying up into the wee hours of the morning with their Starbucks. Personally, I am not the biggest study-er ever. I’ll do whatever it takes to get a paper in on time, but when it comes to exams, I constantly put off studying for it until the test arrives. But procrastination is its own private hell anyway.
For the few days that I left home to go back up to school and take my exams, I didn’t bring any of my baking accoutrement with me, so there were long hours of putting off studying, instead of putting off studying by baking. But before I went back to school, I made these cheezy crackers from Celine’s blog, and I love them! I might try cutting them a bit thinner next time to make them a little lighter, but they taste so good. I’m going to include them in my baking rotation for gifts that I make this Christmas.
1 c. unbleached flour (I’m gonna use whole wheat pastry next time)
1/3 c. nutritional yeast
1/2 t. black pepper (fresh-ground tastes amazing)
1 t. sea salt
generous 1/4 c. vegan margarine, very cold
water (no more than 1/4 c.)
Preheat your oven to 350F. Line a couple of baking sheet with parchment paper.
Stir together the flour, nooch, pepper, and salt in a mixing bowl. Add in the margarine and beat with a mixer until the texture of it all resembles coarse flour. As it’s mixing, add water in, little by little, until the mixture holds together.
Turn it out onto a clean surface, and roll out the dough with a rolling pin. (I put the dough on top of a piece of plastic wrap, then put another piece on top as I rolled it out, and there was no sticking that way.) Roll it out pretty thick, about 1/3 inch, for maximum cheezy flavor, or roll it out thinner to make them lighter and crunchier around the edges.
Using your smallest cookie cutter (to get one-inch shapes), cut out pieces of dough and place them on the baking sheets. Bake them 15-17 minutes if you cut them chunky. Subtract a few minutes if you cut them thin. Either way, watch them to be sure they don’t burn. They should be done when they’re set and golden. Place them on racks to cool.
These keep well in the freezer or just in plastic baggies. Also, they’re delicious.
December 9, 2007
Past couple of baking endeavors have not turned out so very well.
Last night, I tried making strawberry cupcakes from an omni recipe that I adapted. Noooope. They were total mush, plus too much of a vinegar taste from trying to make them rise. Ughh, such failures. I don’t yet understand the chemistry and balance of cakes, so every non-veg cake recipe that I try to veganize ends in disaster and wasted ingredients. I mean, these things tasted so terrible that I couldn’t trifle-ize them or nothin’.
Since I had a batch of vanilla frosting that I had already made, I wanted to find something to go with it that I already had the ingredients for, so I settled on the jelly donut cupcake recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. Now, I’m not much of a cupcake liner girl myself; enough can be accomplished with the right amount of non-stick spray. However, they’re pretty essential to this recipe, as you can see from the pic above. Also, I don’t know if this has to do with the fact that I melted down Earth Balance instead of using canola oil like the recipe called for, but these cupcakes were again mushy. Me no likey.
What’s a girl to do? I needed something to present to my friend Kellye for her 18th birthday. That’s what both of these screw-ups were intended for. So I dabbed some more strawberry jam in the craters of these mini cupcakes and piped icing on them with a snipped Ziploc bag. And all was well.
December 7, 2007
December 6, 2007
This was my first experience with making vegan cheeze, as well as my first nutritional yeast (nooch) experience. I wish I dould say it had gone better. This recipe (for Melty White Cheeze) is from Vegan Vittles. All in all, it came out a bit bland. It smelled of nooch when it was cooking, but the flavor of it was completely lost. Part of that is my fault: I added 1/4 t. of turmeric to the sauce to make it an orange color, but the spice ended up overpowering all the other flavors. And turmeric is not a potent spice. I’m actually getting kind of wary of that whole cookbook. I’ve made some good marinated grilled tofu and some good Hungarian mushroom soup out of Vegan Vittles, but the desserts I’ve made from it (chocolate cake, banana bread, oatmeal cookies) have been a little off, either being dry or not sweet enough. While I greatly appreciate that it is a purposefully health-concious cookbook, I want the food to taste great, too!
I guess I’ll be looking elsewhere to satisfy my mac and cheeze cravings… Don’t know where, though.