Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween

Just a quick post to wish you all a Happy Halloween, and to remind to you sent your clocks back an hour. Instead of getting all fancy with the pumpkins this year, the boys designed their own jack-o-lanterns and I carved them up. Here they are from Sons 1 - 3.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Creamy Red Pepper Polenta with Roasted Mushrooms

The weather around here, in a word, has been crappy. And you can only eat so much soup before you get a hankering for something different but still warm and comforting. Creamy polenta fills the belly and has a hearty texture that satisfies. The dish is really easy to make, and it's amazing the depth of flavour you can get by chucking a few extra things into a blender.

INGREDIENTS
- 4 oz cremini mushrooms, sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, unpeeled
- 1 tbsp oil
- 1/4 tsp salt
- freshly ground pepper
- 3 cups water
- 1 large red pepper, cored, seeded and chopped
- 1 leek, white and light green section, sliced
- 1/2 cup plain soy milk, or creamer (more, if needed)
- 1 cup polenta
- 1 tsp oregano
- 1/2 tsp sage
- salt and pepper to taste
- parsley, fresh or dried

INGREDIENTS
Preheat oven to 400 degrees
1. Toss sliced mushrooms and garlic in olive oil. Spread out on a baking sheet and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 20 mins, turning a few times to keep from burning. Remove from oven, let cool, then peel and mince garlic.
2. While mushrooms roast, place water, red pepper, and leeks in food processor or blender and blend until relatively smooth. Bring to bubbling in a sauce pan, then whisk in polenta. Lower heat and stir in soy milk/creamer. Loosely cover and cook for about 15-20 mins, until thick and creamy and soft. Stir regularly to keep from cooking to the bottom, and add more soy milk if it gets too thick. Stir in spices and minced garlic, then season to taste with salt and pepper.
3. Pour polenta into a large serving dish, then place mushrooms in the centre. Garnish with parsley and serve.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Thai Chickpea Cakes with Cucumber Relish

I am rediscovering my love of Thai food, now that I have more or less forgotten what fish sauce tastes like. I usually just end up chucking in a bunch of different sauces that I have in the fridge to get a more complex flavour: hoisin, vegetarian oyster, stir fry, soy, etc. This is a take on a fish cake--not so much a recreation of the texture and flavour, but more the spirit of the dish (whatever that means!). You can either fry or bake these. The baked version is a little dry, to be honest, by the relish moistens it right up.

INGREDIENTS
Cucumber Relish
- 1/4 cup rice vinegar
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 tbsp minced ginger
- 2 large shallots, thinly sliced
- 2 cups diced cucumber

Chickpea Cakes
- 1 nori sheet
- 1 19oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- 1 tbsp red curry paste, or to taste
- 1 tsp brown sugar
- 1 tbsp vegetarian oyster sauce
- 1 tbsp light soy sauce
- 1 tbsp oil
- juice of 1/2 lime
- 2 tbsp cornstarch
- 1/2 cup frozen french cut beans, thawed

METHOD
Relish
1. Heat vinegar, sugar and water over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and add garlic, ginger, and shallots. When cool, add cucumber and mix well. Let marinate for as long as possible.

Chickpea Cakes (makes 12)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees
1. Rip up the nori sheet and place in a food processor with the blade attachment. Process on high speed until chopped into small pieces. Add chickpeas curry paste and pulse until chopped up but not like a paste (you're not making hummus here).
2. Dump chickpeas in a bowl, add sauces, oil, lime juice and mix well. Add cornstarch and mix well. Add beans and mix well.
3. Using wet hands, press mixture into a moistened 1/4 cup measure (don't fill it right up--more like 1/3 full. Place onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Repeat with remaining mixture.
4. Spray cakes lightly with oil and bake for 15 mins, or until golden--don't over bake or they will be dry. Serve with relish.
5. You can also fry them for about 3 mins per side in 350 degree vegetable oil.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Thai Stuffed Omelets

I hardly ever buy veggie ground round, but for some reason it called my name on this week's shopping trip. I also finally got around to making the omelets from Vegan Brunch, so it seemed to me that these two things could combine together to make a tasty dish. The result: Thai stuffed omelets. I revised Isa's recipe a bit to make the omelet a little more durable, but they are still delicate. The soft texture of the omelet contrasts nicely with the more chewy filling, and the combination of sweet and savoury makes for a delicious dish that can either be an entree or an appetizer.

INGREDIENTS
Makes 6-8
Omelets:
- 1/4 cup instant tapioca
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 pound silken tofu (not Mori-Nu)
- 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 2 tbsp oil
- 1/2 tsp tumeric
- 1 tsp fine black salt
- 1/3 cup chickpea flour
- generous tbsp corn flour
- 1 tbsp cornstarch

Filling:
- 2 tbsp oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 pkg veggie ground round (I used Yves)
- 1 tbsp vegan oyster sauce
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tbsp sweet chili sauce
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 1 tomato, chopped
- 2 tbsp chopped cilantro

METHOD
Omelets:
1. Place tapioca in a food processor and sprinkle water over top. Let sit for a few mins. Add tofu, nooch, oil, tumeric, and salt. Blend until very smooth. Add chickpea and corn flour, and cornstarch and blend until smooth.
2. Heat a non-stick pan over medium heat (you may have to play around with the heat a bit to find the right temp where the omelets can cook without burning). Lightly grease and pour a generous 1/2 cup of batter into the pan. Spread out into an 8" circle with a spatula, then cook until mostly dry on top (a few mins). Flip and cook for another few mins. Remove and let cool for a min or two. I find the omelets are a bit more durable when they sit for a bit.
3. Place about 1/4 cup of filling in the middle of the omelet, then fold the opposite ends of omelet in to create a square. Place on a cookie sheet, cover with foil, and keep warm in the oven while you cook the other omelets.

Filling:
1. Heat oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Saute onion and garlic for 5-7 mins, until soft. Add ground round, sauces, sugar, and tomato. Bring to bubbling and cook for 8-10 mins, until tomato cooks down into a thick sauce. Add cilantro and stir. Keep warm while you cook the omelets.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Apple Jelly

Apple jelly is a small bite of heaven. Subtle in flavour, delicate in texture, and deliciously sweet. Perfect on a piece of toast for breakfast. Like most jellies, apple jelly is more work than your standard fruit jam because the juice needs to first be extracted from the apple. This is an old style jelly that does not rely on commercial pectin to set, but the extra work is well worth the end result.

INGREDIENTS
Makes four 500ml jars of jelly
Apple Juice
- 10 lbs cooking apples
- water

Jelly
- 8 cups apple juice (from above)
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 6 cups sugar

METHOD
1. Remove stem and blossom end from the apples, then quarter (no need to core). Place in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to bubbling, then loosely cover. Reduce heat and cook for about 20-30 mins, mashing the apples as they soften. Don't cook too long, just until the apples are soft and easily mash-able.
2. Line a large colander with a wet tea towel and place over a large pot or bowl. Dump cooked apples into the colander and let drain for at least 2 hours. The juice will be thick, clear, and slightly pink.
3. Measure out the juice to make sure you have 8 cups. Place in a large pot, add lemon juice and sugar. Bring to boiling over med-hi heat. Boil hard for about 25 mins, stirring regularly. The jelly should sheet off a cold metal spoon when it is ready. Quite frankly, I have never figured out exactly what this means. You will find that the jelly will begin to coat the spoon you are using to stir the jelly.
4. Skim off foam, pour jelly into sterilized and warm jars, screw on lids finger tight, then process in boiling water (making sure jars are fully submerged) for 10 mins. Remove from heat, remove lid, and let cool for 5 mins. Remove from water and let fully cool. Jelly will fully set as it cools.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Pumpkin Rolls (and Bread)

Tonight's post is kind of two ideas in one. First, adding pumpkin to just about any kind of bread is a good idea. I peel and seed the pumpkin, chop it, and boil it in water for about 30 mins until it is soft. I then drain it and blend it in a food processor until very smooth. I have found that this puree can be subbed in for water in bread recipes, almost cup for cup. Start by simply replacing the water with the puree, then add in more as needed. It gives the bread a wonderful light orange/yellow colour and makes it tender and moist.


Second, I give you mini buns. Not really a ground-breaking idea, I know, but hear me out. This year the boys' school changed to something called the equal day. Instead of two recesses and a lunch break, the kids get two 40 min "nutritional breaks," one in the morning and one in the afternoon. This makes packing food a little more interesting, but I have had great luck with these mini buns. The recipe is Peter Reinhart's Italian bread recipe from The Bread Baker's Apprentice: the starter is made as per the book, but the final dough is made with whole wheat flour, and the water is replaced with pumpkin puree. Each bun weighs 50 grams, is brushed with soy milk after rising, and is baked at 400 degrees for 14 mins. The great thing about these is that there is no crust to leave behind, so the kids gobble them all up, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. I make 40 of them at a time (double batch of dough), freeze them, and pull them out as I need them throughout the week.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Apple Juice

We have apples coming out of the wazoo! I guess it is too cold to grow apples up here (there are no local orchards that I know of), so my in-laws bring us a whole whack of apples from down south every fall. So, after making apple pie, apple crisp, and huge batch of apple sauce, we still had tons left. The obvious thing to do next was to try my hand at apple juice. OK, first just let me say that apple juice is A LOT of work. I don't know how they can sell huge cans of it for 99 cents. I started with a recipe in my canning cookbook that called for 24 lbs of apples to be chopped, cooked in 8 cups of water, then hung in a cheesecloth and left to drip for 2 hrs. That sounded like too much work, plus I doubted any cheesecloth could hold 24 lbs of cooked apples. Enter my Jack LaLanne power juicer! I figured the juicer would eliminate the initial cooking step and perhaps filter the juice a bit. Well, it didn't work exactly as planned since the juice still needed considerable straining to filter out all the sediment. Here is what I did to get a delicious juice with an amber colour and cidery taste. Son #1 set up the photo for tonight's post.

EQUIPMENT/INGREDIENTS
Makes about 6L of juice
- 24 lbs apples
- 1 juicer
- 2 clean tea towels, damp (they will get stained)
- two large pots/bowls
- kitchen thermometer
- 6 1L canning jars and lids

METHOD
Sterilize your jars. Get a large pot of water boiling to process the jars of juice.
1. Use large rubber bands to affix the tea towels over the top of the pots/bowls. Don't make the towel tight over the bowl; rather, make sure it dips into the bowl so it can hold the juice.
2. Working in batches, chop the apples and process them through the juicer. Pour into the towel over one of the bowls and let drip through. You will find that the towel quickly gets gummed up with a pectiny residue, so I made this a pretty rough filtering. Once most of the juice passed through, I detached the towel and squeezed the remaining juice through. Then, I poured it through the other towel while I cleaned the first towel. I then passed it through the first towel once again.
3. Once all the juice has been filtered, heat to 190 degrees F and keep at that temperature for 5 mins. Pour into jars, top with lids, then screw the ring on finger tight. Place in pot of boiling water (making sure water covers lids), return to boiling, then boil for 10 mins with lid on. Remove from heat, remove lid, and let sit for 5 mins. Remove jars from water and let cool.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Thanksgiving Roundup

This post won't help my Canadian readers, but perhaps it will be of some use to all you Americans (and anyone else celebrating Thanksgiving some time soon). First, let me apologize for the lack of a picture (of food--this is from our fall hiking trip). I was all ready to snap a pic of the feast when I realized my battery was dead. Sigh. For the entree I made the Thanksgiving Mini Pot Pies than I blogged about a few days ago. I made a triple batch of the roasted mushroom gravy to pour over absolutely everything. Both the pot pies and the gravy went over very well with vegans and omnis alike. I was afraid that the pies would be a little redundant, but that really wasn't the case. The other problem was how to serve the pies since they were baked in a ramekin. I placed them off centre on the plate, then piled all the other dishes around the ramekin--it worked perfectly. The other dishes were pretty standard: mashed potatoes, baked yams, acorn squash, peas, carrots, and corn. I also made stuffing, though it I didn't stuff it anywhere. First, I made Peter Reinhart's Italian Bread recipe, subbing the water in the dough (not the starter) with pureed pumpkin. The result is a wonderfully soft and golden loaf. I cubed the bread and tossed it with onions and celery that had been sauteed in olive oil. I seasoned it all with sage, thyme, and salt and pepper, and added raisins and dried cranberries and baked at 350 in a greased pan for about 1 hr and 15 mins.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Happy 2nd Anniversary

I just realized I forgot to toot my own horn and celebrate the 2nd anniversary of the Vegan Dad blog on September 8. Go back and look at my first month of posting. Yikes.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Perfect Pumpkin Custard

When I posted a pumpkin custard recipe a week ago I said I didn't have time to refine it any further. Well, I lied. My in-laws have come to visit and so I took the recipe for another spin. Further research on the interwebs revealed a recipe by Bryanna that used corn flour to thicken the custard and give it colour. I gave this a try and I also revised the method to make the whole thing easier.

INGREDIENTS
Makes 4 custard cups
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp ground ginger

- 2 cups plain soy milk
- 1 tbsp agar agar flakes
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup coconut cream
- 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 1/2 tbsp arrowroot
- 1 tbsp corn flour

METHOD
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Get a kettle of water boiling.
1. Grease 4 ramekins (with 1 cup capacity).
2. Place sugar in a saucepan over med-lo heat. While sugar is heating, mix soy milk and sugar in a saucepan and sprinkle agar overtop. Without stirring, heat sugar until it caramelizes (turns brown and liquefies). Shake pan to melt all the sugar. Add spices, quickly stir in, then quickly pour 1/4 of mixture into each ramekin to coat the bottom. Set ramekins aside.
3. Heat soy milk and sugar over medium heat. Bring to bubbling, stirring constantly, until agar is fully dissolved. Set aside. Whisk together coconut cream, pumpkin puree, arrowroot, corn flour, and vanilla. Whisk pumpkin mixture into the soy milk mixture until smooth. Pour into the four ramekins.
4. Place ramekins in a 9 x 13 pan, and fill pan with boiling water, no more than 1/3 the way up the ramekins. Bake in the oven for 40-45 mins, until top has browned and center has set.
5. Cool in the fridge until custard has fully set.

This recipe yields a more delicate custard than the first recipe. I found it tasted best at room temperature, but that it needed to fully cool (and get cold) to be able to hold its shape when inverted out of the ramekin. You may just want to skip the inverting part and serve it straight out of the ramekin itself.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Thanksgiving Mini Pot Pies with Roasted Mushroom Gravy

Canadian Thanksgiving is just around the corner so I took our holiday meal for a test run. I am not in the mood for seitan this year--for some reason it just does not appeal. Obviously, this recipe isn't breaking the mold but it really is tasty. After all, Thanksgiving dinner is really like a big plate of pot pie anyway. I suppose that means this entree might be a bit redundant, except that the roasted mushroom gravy takes it to another level. In fact, you might want to make extra gravy to pour over all those other fall veggies you will be serving.

INGREDIENTS
Makes 8 individual pot pies
Roasted Mushroom Gravy
- 8 oz cremini mushrooms, sliced
- 4 shallots, unpeeled
- 4 cloves garlic, unpeeled
- 2 tbsp oil
- salt and pepper
- 2 tbsp margarine
- 2 tbsp flour
- 1 cup plain soy milk
- 1 cup water
- splash of mushroom soy sauce (optional)
- sage and thyme to taste
- salt and pepper to taste

- 1/2 recipe puff pastry (sub margarine for butter)
- 6 small potatoes, thinly sliced
- 3 large carrots, thinly sliced
- 19 oz can white kidney beans
- 1 cup (or more) fresh cranberries

METHOD
Preheat oven to 400 degrees
1. Toss sliced mushrooms, shallots, and garlic in olive oil. Spread out on a baking sheet and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 20 mins, turning a few times to keep from burning. Remove from oven, let cool, the peel and chop shallots and garlic.
2. Heat margarine in a saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and stir. Let flour darken slightly, then add chopped shallots and garlic. Slowly add soy milk, water, and mushrooms and bring to bubbling. Add soy sauce, if using. Season to taste with spices and salt and pepper (I like a really sagey gravy). Remove from heat and set aside.
3. Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Blanch potatoes for 1 min, then remove with a slotted spoon and drain. Repeat with carrots.
4. Lightly grease 8 ramekins (1 cup capacity). Spoon a layer of gravy on the bottom. Top with a layer of sliced potatoes, then carrots. Top that with another layer of gravy, then top with beans and cranberries. Top with more gravy, then a final layer of potatoes. Note: don't go too crazy on the gravy or your pies will bubble over and make a huge mess. It's OK to have some gravy left over.
5. Roll out puff pastry to about 1/2" thick and cut into circles to fit the top of the ramekin (use the leftovers to make turnovers). Top each pot pie with the pastry, then bake for 20-25 mins, or until pastry is golden and gravy is bubbling.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Pumpkin Custard

The experimentation with year's batch of pumpkins has begun! Since Canadian Thanksgiving is next Monday, I am in the kitchen trying to plan out this year's meal. I wanted to make a baked custard with a caramel bottom, but the trick is trying to mimic the texture of an egg custard. I tried this recipe a few different ways, and this version is the best. It's not really like a "real" custard, but it is still really good. I'm also not sure if I am complicating the method a bit, but I have run out of time to refine the recipe further. In any event, the end result is still really good and is a great alternative for those who aren't crazy about pumpkin pie.

NOTE: I have revised this recipe here.


INGREDIENTS
Makes 4 custard cups
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp ground ginger

- 2 cups plain soy milk
- 1 tbsp agar agar flakes
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup coconut cream
- 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 3 tbsp arrowroot

METHOD
1. Grease 4 ramekins (with 1 cup capacity).
2. Place sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Without stirring, heat sugar until it caramelizes (turns brown and liquefies). Shake pan to melt all the sugar. Add spices, quickly stir in, then quickly pour 1/4 of mixture into each ramekin to coat the bottom. Set ramekins aside.
3. Whisk agar flakes into soy milk and sugar and heat in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to bubbling, stirring constantly, until agar is fully dissolved. Place in the fridge to cool and set (about 1 hr).
4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Get a kettle of water boiling.
5. When soy milk mixture has set, place in a food processor with coconut cream, pumpkin, vanilla, and arrowroot. Process until very smooth. Pour into the four ramekins.
6. Place ramekins in a 9 x 13 pan, and fill pan with boiling water, no more than 1/3 the way up the ramekins. Bake in the oven for 45-50 mins, until top has browned and center has set.
7. Cool in the fridge until custard has fully set.

To serve, place ramekin back in hot water, or microwave for 10-15 seconds to reheat caramel. Either eat the custard in the ramekin, or run a sharp knife around the edge and invert into a shallow bowl. If some caramel is left behind, heat ramekin again and pour caramel over the custard.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Oyster Mushroom Sushi

Back when I posted my recipe for Grilled King Oyster Mushrooms, Shohga suggested grilling the mushrooms brushed with ponzu and then using them in sushi. I thought that sounded like a great idea, so I filed it away in my brain to try later. The other day I went on the hunt for some ponzu, but couldn't find any without bonito (a type of fish). So, I decided to use some mirin instead. Since my grill was out of propane, I tossed the shrooms into a pan over medium heat and kept splashing them with mirin until cooked. I put them in the sushi roll with some chopped bok choy that I briefly pan fried in a little light soy sauce. The shrooms were slightly sweet and the bok choy added a light crunch. Dipped in some soy and wasabi, it was some mighty good sushi.