getting ready for the MoFo!

hey everyone! I hope you are as excited as I am about the VeganMoFo. Join Vibrant Wellness Journal and hundreds of others starting October 1 2012. We are going to be celebrating a whole month of vegan food love!

these little guys are SO good!

I might have eaten this whole plate.

Today I am excited about these gluten-free, grain-free, dairy-free cookies from Nicole at A Dash of Compassion. An adapted version of these little treats can be found here on Vibrant Wellness Journal.

quick meals: three-grain polenta

If you have not tried the teeny-tiny super-grain Teff yet, now might be the time. Teff is the smallest grain in the world, but a serious little powerhouse of nutrition. This brown grain has a grassy flavor similar to millet and amaranth, and it’s full of iron, fiber, protein, and calcium. It also falls  into the category of ancient grains, which generally means that the grains available now are essentially the same food that folks ate thousands of years ago- in contrast to over-hybridized corn and wheat strains. Teff grains, which range in color from ivory to brown, can also be ground into a flour and used for muffins and breads. It is most commonly used in Ethopian foods, specifically injera bread, which I have yet to sample. Teff is also gluten-free, and so is this recipe.

served with roasted Kabocha pumpkin!

This is a great recipe to begin cooking with Teff, which has a seedy, grassy flavor that might require some time to appreciate. I find that mixing new grains into more-common foods (in this case, brown rice and corn) makes it more palatable. And whether or not you graduate onto eating Teff plain is besides the point: teff adds nutrition and flavor to this dish or others, even in small amounts. Try cooking up this Three-Grain Polenta, which is an extra whole-grainy version of my Brown Rice Polenta; you could even go crazy and add quinoa for a four-grain version! The vegan version of this recipe is also delicious, but do add some Earth Balance or olive oil to replace the creaminess of the cheese. Serve alongside greens, roasted veggies, or smothered with a hearty black bean stew for a seriously quick, warm, and filling winter meal.

whole grain goodness

Three-Grain Polenta

1/4 cup teff
1/2 cup polenta (course-ground cornmeal)
1/2 cup cooked brown rice
1/2 cup cubed sharp cheddar or Paremesan cheese
1/2 cup soymilk (more to taste)
salt & pepper to taste

  1. Bring 1 1/2 cups water to a boil in a saucepan. Lower heat to lowest setting, and add teff and polenta. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes, or until all liquid is absorbed.
  2. Remove cover, add brown rice, soymilk, salt and pepper. Stir to combine, and add extra liquid (water or soymilk) if necessary- the polenta should be very creamy and a bit runny. Taste to ensure that polenta is soft and not at all crunchy. Add cheese (or olive oil) and stir until melted. Serve warm; but know that this also makes great leftovers!

For more Teff inspiration, check out 101 cookbooks; Heidi’s recipe for Polenta-style Teff Squares was the inspiration for my Teff purchases. She has many recipes for Teff in her books, and one online for a corn quiche with teff crust (with eggs) that looks gorgeous. Also, the Gluten-Free Girl wrote a great post about Teff, and included a recipe for chocolate banana bread with Teff flour (with eggs). Check out Bob’s Red Mill if you cannot find teff locally.

Enjoy the whole grain goodness!

fun new ingredients

I’ve written posts like this before, sharing the joy of my favorite new foods, everything from coconut butter and fig yogurt to french vanilla soy ice cream and sweet seaweed snacks.  These lists are not exhaustive- I have new food crushes all the time, especially working at a health food store.  Some of those foods listed are extra special ‘treating yourself’ kind of foods, while are others are everyday foods added into our little kitchen.  I just like to share all these new foods with my blog peeps. In all cases, no one has paid me for this, but it sure would be nice.

Coconut Aminos by Coconut Secret: The coconut aminos are a great replacement for soy-based sauces (Braggs and soy sauces), but with a lower salt content, a sweeter flavor, and an overall better nutritional profile. They say, “Coconut Aminos are made from coconut tree sap, which comes right out of the tree so vital, active, and alive with nutrients that it is only blended with sun dried mineral rich sea salt and aged, without the need for a fermentation boost or added water.”  I made some homemade seitan with it and was totally impressed with the sweetness and balance it brought to the ‘meat’; I also made a wicked good ginger mustard sauce with the aminos, for dipping or marinating.  The company, Coconut Secret, also makes coconut nectar (like honey), flour, and coconut vinegar.

photo from their site

shitake mushrooms from Fungus Among Us: We eat a lot of mushrooms around here (well, actually sometimes I spit out the big mushroom chunks, like a five-year old; I love the taste but sometimes the texture does not do it for me).  There is always a big jar in the fridge of soaking shitake mushrooms, getting ready for their time in the saucepan.  But these mushrooms, from Fungus Among Us, are the best I’ve ever tried.  I got to use them for a cooking class and I loved them.  These mushys- and their whole product line- is all organically grown.  Their packages are on the pricier side, but so worth it for a very gourmet flavor.  They also have an extensive product line full of fancy salts, oils, and other mushy goodies for the foodies in your life.

ready for the cast-iron cookin'

rice bran oil now really, my cooking cabinet is totally stocked: coconut oil, olive, peanut, organic canola, sesame oil, and sometimes even some safflower oil for baking.  But rice bran oil is a welcome addition for one reason: super high heat! The smoke point on this light brown oil is 450 degrees, which is much higher even than peanut and canola.  This is especially important because I do a lot of cooking with my cast iron pan, which heats up quickly and gets quite hot with our gas stove.  The rice bran oil cooks foods evenly without setting off the smoke alarm, it is quite inexpensive (only about $10 here on Maui-land of expensive foods), and best of all there is no discernible taste after being cooked at such high temps. And according to the company’s website, rice bran oil is super healthy, less volatile, and the stability of the oil prevents breakdown of the fatty acids, and because it is lighter in viscosity, less oil is absorbed in cooking, which means less calories for the final dish.

from their site

Mochiko Flour:  Mochi is one of those baked goods that I previously considered only in passing: yep, it’s totally delicious, but I was never sure if I had what it takes to make it happen.  But guess what? I can make mochi! The first recipe is tried was complicated and engaging recipe from a friend, which I messed up (but with amazing mochi-cookie like results!).  But she revised it, I tweaked it, and the results will show up here on BakeryManis soon– once it’s really figured out and fit for the blog.  But this mochiko flour makes it all happen, made by the heirloom and organic friendly Koda Farms in California.  It’s gluten free too! I am so excited to work with this great new ingredient!

they also make coconut!

Okay, it’s not an ingredient… but I had a cookie craving at work a few days ago and happened upon these delicious little nibbles: Andean Dream Quinoa cookies (chocolate chippy for me of course).  I was delighted at how tasty they were, and I am stoked because they are made with minimal and BakeryManis-approved ingredients: only quinoa flour, tapioca flour, puffed quinoa, palm oil, sugars, chocolate chips and some baking soda.   And these cookies are gluten free too!

babycakes recipes

i finally got my hands on the babycakes nyc cookbook, and i was so very excited.  but today i finally got to bake some of the recipes and my excitement has turned to dismay.

BabyCakes by Erin McKenna: Book Cover

this beautiful cookbook features all vegan, (mostly) gluten free, (mostly) sugar free recipes. babycakes uses only spelt flour (which contains gluten) and baking mixes without gluten, including garbanzo bean flour, potato starch, xanthan gum, bob’s gf baking mix, and brown rice flour.   i spent the first day looking at the pretty pictures, and spent day two writing down an exhaustive list of new ingredients to buy, most of them very expensive and rare.

i chose three recipes (hoping that i would be giving away goodies unsuspecting friends… sorry friends, no goodies to share!):  raspberry scones, apple-cinnamon ‘toastie-‘ a quick bread, and gingerbread.  there are clear winners and losers on this list; i think some of the fault is mine and some is problematic recipes. i have only tried a few,  and i made heaps of mistakes and substitutions along the way, but overall i am bummed!

a winner! raspberry scones….

it is never raspberry season here in honolulu, so i used some long-frozen strawberries, rinsed, drained, and chopped up to seem like raspberries.  this recipe uses only a few ingredients, including whole spelt flour, coconut oil, agave nectar and the berries.  i followed the recipe exactly, although i made six scones rather than eight, so ended up adding about 5 minutes to the total cooking time.  they don’t look like the photo, but i was very happy with their light and fluffy texture and rich strawberry flavor.  tea and scones for breaky!  i can’t wait to try this recipe with bananas and mango and other locally-sourced fruits.

a loser- for now! apple-cinnamon toastie

ok ok ok… i made a major substitution for this one and i hope this is the reason it did not work.  the recipe calls for garbanzo-fava bean flour, but i could not find this specific mixture.  so i used only garbanzo flour; also the recipe calls for a 7 x 4 x 3 loaf pan, but i used two 6 x 2 x 3 pans and took just a few minutes off the total cooking time.  AND i did forget to add the xanthan gum in the beginning, instead adding it near the end.  this turned out to be a wonderfully flavored doughy mushy mess.  but i will definitely try it again, and will attempt to actually do it correctly!

a loser- for real! gingerbread

i love me some fluffly gingerbread, and i bake it every xmas.  i have a joy of cooking recipe that i refuse to vegan-ize, simply because it is so so good as is.  but i wanted to try babycakes version, made with bob’s gf baking mix (pre-mixed! i don’t think i can mess it up!).   the only change i made was to substitute safflower oil for the coconut oil, because i had already used nearly a whole, expensive jar with the other recipes.  this recipe also calls for a 7 x 4 x 3 loaf pan, but i had to use a 9 x 5 pan filled less-than-halfway, and used the extra batter in smaller loaf pans.  the recipe says to fill the pan halfway and then use the excess batter as muffins, but there are not any directions or baking times given, so we readers/bakers have to just wing it- i find this lack of information discomforting.  the gingerbread smelled so yummy in the oven, but after the allotted time it was still gooey inside: my toothpicks were not coming out clean and it did not bounce back after touching it- for both pan sizes.  i added about 15 minutes to the cooking time for both pan sizes… however! i ended up with an un-cooked gooey waste of very expensive ingredients! goodgod i am so mad! i now have pounds of icky doughy gingerbread that i need to re-purpose or just throw away! i hate throwing food away! both the small and larger loaf pans were cooked well around the edges but almost totally doughy on the insides. i don’t think that the pan size was a factor in the gooey-ness; if this was my mistake, then it seems that the small breads would have been overdone and the larger underdone.  but both were grossly undercooked.

***************************************************************************************************************************** now i am rethinking the quality of the apple-cinnamon toastie, because the results were similar: doughy, undercooked, gummy flavor.  i will not hate on the book until i try to cupcakes and cakes, but i am now very hesitant to waste my ingredients on gooey messes.  though i am a self-taught baker just like the author of the cookbook, i find two major problems with the recipes i tried:  the low temperatures (325 degrees) and the use of hot water in the quickbreads is troubling; as both had hot water and low temperatures resulting in doughy breads, if no water was added and/or the temperature was increased, would the results be better?   none of the quickbread recipes i use call for water- and they come out cooked well, usually at 350 or 400 degrees!  granted, this is the first time i have undertaken gluten-free baking, but it doesn’t help that the book does not offer sufficient explanations as to why certain ingredients work/don’t work.  for example, i am not yet sure if the hot water somehow affects the xanthan gum or the garbanzo flour, or if gf flours require less heat…   i would like to try the recipes without the water and/or at higher temperatures.  and yes, my oven was at the correct temperature, i was watching the thermometer constantly.

i will venture into this cookbook again…. i am just not sure when that might happen. :(

hot hawaii and cold desserts

Though Hawaii is a nearly tropical climate, there are still distinct seasons, and summer is most definitely here. Though it took longer than necessary to arrive, not warming appreciably until early may, it is here in full swing and now the water is warmer, the days are sunny clear and hot; or the vog blows in from the big island and makes the days hazy and still.  Either way, it is HOT, and I have been craving cold desserts. I am also kind of overloaded on flour-based goodies, since I am always experimenting with cupcakes and breads, as well as working at a French bakery with rustic breads and decadent pastries.

I am also trying to do more wheat-free, soy-free desserts. Both recipes call for soymilk, but I substituted hazelnut milk and coconut in the nutty vanilla pudding, and used half soy, half hazelnut for the second, from vegan with a vengeance (VwaV).  Though I generally love anything Isa writes or creates, the chocolate pudding was not exactly what I wanted, though my boyfriend and friend courtney really liked it. It reminded me of handi-snacks, the little pudding cups from school lunch boxes; there is definitely some nostalgic love for this pudding, but I really prefer the nutty vanilla pudding. Both could be adapted for chocolate or other flavors with some simple additions/substitutions.

My next project is the mocha hazelnut mousse from vegan cupcakes take over the world.

nutty vanilla pudding

1 cup hazelnut milk (or use almond, soy, oatmeal)
1 cup coconut milk
5 tablespoons organic cornstarch
½ cup sucanat (or sugar)
1 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla-bean paste*

combine all ingredients in a saucepan and whisk smooth. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until it thickens, about 10 minutes. Chill for at least an hour. This pudding will keep for about four days in the fridge.

*Vanilla bean paste is cool because it gives pudding or frostings a pretty little speckling of vanilla beans seeds; it also has no alcohol and is very thick, so I think it is best for things that need to be thickened, like pudding or frosting. It is a bit more expensive than extract, but it is totally worth it.  It can be used 1:1 in recipes calling for vanilla extract.

chocolate pudding (from VwaV)

2 cups soymilk
3 tablespoons arrowroot
½ cup sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp almond extract (or more vanilla)

whisk soymilk and arrowroot in a saucepan until smooth and dissolved. Add sugar and cocoa powder and place over medium heat and whisk constantly until the mixture thickens, about seven minutes. Once it starts to bubble and is quite thick, turn the heat off. Mix in the extract(s) and then ladle into small bowls. Put the bowls in the fridge for at least an hour; if keeping overnight be sure to cover the pudding so a skin doesn’t form on the top.