Sunday, July 14, 2013

Tons of Strawberries

Tons may be an exaggeration, but we planted about 50 baby strawberry plants last summer.  My girlfriend diligently fought the evil weeds and the tiny berry plants began to take over the garden.  Now, with hardly any effort on our part, the weeds barely have any room to grow! 

Last year, there weren't many berries and the creatures in the yard got to them before any were ripe enough to eat. This year, we managed to pick more than 15 pounds...even with the inevitable berry carnage committed by critters. Birds loved to take one bite and leave the rest to rot. We had a fat, happy squirrel that would actually eat the green ones. 

What did we do with all those berries?  Well, a couple of pounds are frozen.  I shared some with a co-worker who will trade us blackberries soon.  During the week, we made lots of smoothies and...of course, I started baking.

There was a delicious strawberry rhubarb crisp.  I used the recipe on C'est La Vegan, but want to warn readers that the berries need to be mixed with cornstarch or some thickener before baking.  The flavor was wonderful, but too soupy!

One night, I decided we should have strawberry shortcake.  As a child, I remembered these round yellow sponge cakes my parents would buy.  No idea if they are vegan, but corn bread seemed like a tastier way to go.  I went with the recipe for Sunny Corn Muffins from the ppkblog.  Isa never steers me wrong.  

Half the batter went into a muffin pan and the rest into a donut pan.  Corn-donuts worked out like those sponge cakes and I could pile the berries in the middle and put whipped cream on top.  The muffins looked just as impressive sliced with berry and whipped cream filling.


Side note:  My girlfriend still asks when I am making the corn donuts again.  They were great just plain.  One evening she even mashed up a broken donut into the soupy rhubarb crisp.  I made a face and refused to try it at first.  After much cajoling, I relented and it was surprisingly good. 

The other recipe I tried was Strawberry Bread from The Misfit Baker blog. It has a beautiful color and nice flavor.  It is very mild though so I could see adding some chopped berries to the batter. 

Unfortunately, strawberry season is over.  However, blueberry season is starting up.  We went to the farm and picked almost 10 pounds today.  (Our blueberry bushes aren't producing fruit yet.)  Soon you'll see posts about the blues!

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Jackfruit “Pulled Pork” Sammiches with Pickled Red Onion

I saw the recipe for Jackfruit “Pulled Pork” Sammiches with Pickled Red Onion posted on KeepinItKind.  It is from The Veggie-Lover’s Sriracha Cookbook which was released this July!  I'm always hearing/reading about jackfruit and to be honest, I've been afraid to try it.  These sandwiches looked amazing so I decided to finally give it a go.

Locating jackfruit was my first hurdle.   After a couple of failed attempts, I finally located canned jackfruit at the Indian grocery.   Beware: there are two kinds.  For savory recipes, the young jackfruit in brine is the one that is needed.  The ripe jackfruit in syrup is too sweet.

Making the pickled red onion was pretty simple, however I managed to accidentally use brown sugar instead of regular.  In the end, I really dug the extra flavor from the molasses.

Though I was initially worried about working with the jackfruit, shredding it was simple.   The home made sriracha bbq sauce is spicy on its own, but quite nice balanced with avocado and the sweet pickles.  That means 1/4 cup of sriracha (the lower end of the scale from the recipe) was more than enough for us. 

All in all we loved these the first day.  The next day we made leftovers when a friend was visiting and she thought they were amazing as well.

I'm looking forward to getting the cookbook (and cooking more with jackfruit)!

Jackfruit “Pulled Pork” Sammiches with Pickled Red Onion

Monday, July 01, 2013

Oreo Cookie Pancakes

These crazy pancakes caught my eye when I was browsing vegan recipes on Pinterest.  When I clicked through, I ended up at a blog I hadn't previously encountered entitled Minimalist Baker.   There are a multitude of neat recipes there.  Before I got too distracted, I bookmarked the pancake page.

Now I like Oreos, but my girlfriend loves Oreos.  Obviously, I needed to make these pancakes for her as soon as possible.  Believe it or not, I even managed to keep it a surprise.  Sunday morning, I followed the recipe from Minimalist and made this mildly decadent breakfast. 

I say mildly decadent because it is a small batch, just enough for two people.  In addition, the batter doesn't have much sugar and the cream is coconut based so they aren't cloyingly sweet.  The flavors balance well.  We loved them.

The recipe was a little tricky for a couple of reasons.  First, the dry/wet ratio is off.  Normally pancakes are 1:1 flour/milk.  This recipe was the same, but the 1/4 cup of cocoa powder made the batter too dry.  I slowly added more milk until there was a proper consistency.  Second, be careful multitasking by making batter and the frosting at the same time as the recipe suggests.  When the frosting is close to done, it is easy to over process and the coconut oil starts to melt too much. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Watermelon Mint Agua Fresca

In Massachusetts, we're on day three of a heat wave.  After picking strawberries from the garden this morning, I could already tell it would be a scorcher.  The first thought after going inside was that I must find something to drink.  This weekend I made batch of watermelon mint agua fresca and a cool glass definitely hit the spot.

I first saw the recipe in an email that linked over to the NatureBox blog. I googled a couple more recipes, but went back to this one because there was no additional sugar.

The recipe is simple:

8 cups cubed seeded watermelon
Juice of 2 limes
Mint to taste (I used 4 sprigs)
2 cups water

Juice the fruit.  Blend the mint with 1 cup of juice and strain out the pulp.  Add water and serve over ice.

We used our Breville juicer for the watermelon and limes because we figured there would be less straining needed than using a blender. The juicer doesn't do a very good job on leafy things, so I put about a cup of the watermelon lime juice in the VitaMix with 4 springs of mint).  Then poured the mixture through a strainer to catch the pulp.

The original recipe calls for 8 sprigs of mint.  In a juicer or regular blender, I suspect you wouldn't get a ton of flavor.  On the other hand the VitaMix pulverizes the leaves and extracts lots of flavor, so I halved the mint to prevent it from overpowering.  Was my plan successful? Our friend who was visiting loved the drink as did I.  My girlfriend didn't care for the mint and thought it was too strong.

To be honest this would be super refreshing without any mint, so use your own judgement.   Either way, you should make some agua fresca soon.  Get creative!  One morning, I added some fresh strawberries and blended it up.  It was also delicious.  I'm looking forward to trying some of the cucumber agua fresca recipes   I've also seen online.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Panzanella Salad

One of my favorite vegan restaurants is Eden in Bar Harbor, Maine.  The menu consists of amazing seasonal dishes.  I've got quite a backlog of photos from Eden to post for you on my vegan dining guide .  We were lucky enough to dine there twice over Memorial day weekend.  The food was spectacular, but my girlfriend always talks about a dish she got there last summer.  It was just a simple panzanella salad that left such an impression.

The first time I had a panzanella salad was many years ago when I was studying in Spain.  My professor decided to have a party. Each of the students was responsible for going to a shop and purchasing one ingredient.  Then we all met later and built the salad.  To be honest, I thought dipping bread in the tomato juice/salad dressing mix was weird.  However, I was surprised to find that it was quite delicious.  Though I occasionally order panzanella at a restaurant, I've never made it again until today!

A few weeks ago, I bookmarked a panzanella recipe from America's Test Kitchen because I thought we might enjoy it just as much.  (Unfortunately to see that recipe along with their whole collection, you may need to share your email address with them.  Test Kitchen is a great site!)

I picked up a nice loaf of French bread on the way home and cubed it.  Then tossed it with olive oil and salt.  Next I baked at a high temperature for 15 minutes or so, to develop some crunch.

The rest is mainly chopping.  Though the tomatoes need to rest after being tossed with salt.  This helps bring out the juice which is used in a simple vinaigrette dressing.   Once the vinaigrette is made, it is mixed in with the crunchy bread cubes and left to marinate for a few minutes before plating everything.

Overall we both really liked this salad.  Though to us, the shallot was a little sharp.  Instead, I recommend some red onion or perhaps a Vidalia.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Vegan Chocolate Bundt Cake

Over the holidays, my girlfriend gave me a beautiful blue bundt cake pan and I've been itching to use it. Then I happened to see that Isa posted this new recipe for a Chocolate Yogurt Bundt Cake. All I needed was an occasion for such a delicacy. Well, last weekend the in-laws came to visit and it seemed like a perfect time to try out the recipe. I'll warn you that my photo didn't do the cake justice.

As per usual, I tweaked the recipe a wee bit.  It calls for 1 cup of cocoa powder, but I used 3/4 cup and subbed in a 1/4 cup of black cocoa. Black cocoa has a deeper dark chocolate flavor which makes me happy and, of course, it adds a darker color as well.  Because I failed to read the recipe before shopping, it turned out I needed more than the lonely container of coconut yogurt I'd purchased. While you should learn a lesson here (or perhaps I should), the recipe turned out just fine because fortunately, we had some left over vegan sour cream which I used instead.

The cake itself turned out beautifully.  The pictures, however, taken with my phone on a dreary morning of a black cocoa cake on an espresso finished table didn't really seem worth posting.  You'll have to settle for a slightly less terrible picture showing just one slice of cake.

Isa sprinkled powder sugar on the top of the bundt, but my girlfriend suggested a peanut butter glaze.  After a bunch of Internet searches, I couldn't really find what we had in mind.  That meant some improvisation.

The glaze is basically powdered sugar, peanut butter, soymilk, and a dash of vanilla.  At first it wasn't quite thick enough but rather than adding more sugar, some powdered peanut butter worked quite well as far as consistency and flavor. There were a few pb powder chunks that didn't dissolve, but next time I would try mixing the powder with soymilk first or simply using more good ol' peanut butter.

Behold the best (or shall we say not worst) picture I could muster.  It is my goal to stop being lazy and actually charge my digital camera.

The cake was a hit with everyone and I'd definitely recommend the recipe!

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Lettuce Wraps

I've always been a fan of lettuce wraps. It is so much fun to fill the lettuce cups with different ingredients, roll them up, and enjoy the different flavors.  When I saw the recipe for Lettuce Wraps With Hoisin-Mustard Tofu from Appetite For Reduction, it was immediately added to our list of upcoming dinner ideas.

Although the recipe suggested serving with some spiced squash and fried rice, I was thinking more along the lines of the make-your-own wraps I'd had in the past.

Since we didn't have tofu on hand, I subbed tempeh which we boiled for 10 minutes before browning up.  I've found boiling first makes the tempeh less bitter.

Then it was just a matter of chopping veggies and sauteing up mushrooms to make all the fixings.  From the picture you can see we had carrots, cucumber, scallions, baby bellas, beans sprouts, and red cabbage.  

While the suggested iceberg lettuce is crunchier, I usually prefer boston lettuce for wraps. 

Overall, this recipe did not disappoint.  I do think tofu would have absorbed the flavorings a bit better, but we enjoyed the tempeh.  This is a fun change of pace and you get to eat with your hands!