Monday, August 26, 2013

Recipe Testing

I'm recipe testing again! WOOT! WOOT! I've done this numerous times and I really enjoy it. Not only does it help me decide "what's for dinner" some nights, it gives me a chance to help out the author with a crucial part of the cookbook writing process. That being - can the masses make this successfully? We can all follow a recipe, but not everyone cooks exactly the same. Hell, my own cooking sometimes varies from one time to the next. During the testing process, I find it fun to compare notes with the other testers. Sometimes, a recipe will get tested that I don't have the slightest interest in, but another tester will give it such rave reviews that makes me wonder what I'm missing. So, I'll give it a try and discover a new favourite.

These recipes are for Dreena Burton's new cookbook that is due to be released in late 2014 or early 2015. It sounds like quite a long time away, but I know there is so much work that goes into writing, organizing, editing, and all of the other tasks involved in getting a book published that the time is certainly needed. I can't share any of the recipes with you, obviously, but I will occasionally post some photos of what I've tested just to get you geared up and excited for this new book! This is what I've made so far:

Blueberry Lassy Muffins

Apple Lentil Dahl

Gingerbread Granola

Oven-Baked Chickpea Ratatouille

Looks awesome, eh? And this is just the start. Check back for more. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Mama Mia!

Once we were off the cleanse and had slowly re-introduced "forbidden foods" it was time to indulge a bit. We hadn't had any pasta for quite some time and we hadn't had spaghetti and "meatballs" for ages and ages so I got myself to work.

I've tried many different recipes for home made "meatballs" over the years with varying success. Some had great flavour, but the texture was too mushy. Some were firm, but didn't taste that great. Then one day, I made a terrific batch and they've been my "go to" ever since. They're from Bryanna Clark Grogan's book, "Nonna's Italian Kitchen."

At first I thought it would be a lot of work because these meatballs are a combination of Byanna's burger-mix recipe and her Italian sausage recipe. But everything basically got measured and dumped together. The balls are shaped and steamed first. I did up to this point earlier in the day and refrigerated the balls for frying later.

After a few rolls around in the frying pan to get some colour on them, these puppies were ready. These are so flavourful and have a nice firm, "meaty" texture. They'd be good for making a "meat"ball sub and of course, they're great with pasta which I served with my standard marinara-type sauce that I zinged up a little. Delizioso!

Try as I might, I couldn't find the meatball recipe on-line and don't want to post without the author's permission. I can share my recipe for the sauce though!

Carrie's Pasta Sauce

1 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup dry red wine
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. dried oregano
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. brown rice syrup (optional)
½ cup fresh basil or to taste

Heat olive oil in a medium-sized saucepan. Add onion and sauté until translucent. Add garlic and sauté for another minute or two until garlic is really fragrant. Pour in red wine and let the alcohol boil off as you stir up all browned bits from the bottom (called deglazing). When the wine had reduced, add tomatoes, bay leaf, oregano, salt and pepper,  and optional brown rice syrup. (This little bit of sweet helps to cut the acid of the tomatoes and really brings out the flavour. It’s not necessary by any means, but if you find your sauce tastes a bit acidy then try it! I’ll sometimes add it, sometimes not). Simmer for 30-45 minutes until sauce has thickened. Turn off heat, stir in fresh basil. Let sit for 5 minutes, taste and adjust seasonings.

For a bit more kick to your sauce, making it more or an arribiata type – add  ¼ - ½ tsp. red pepper flakes to the onions just after they start to turn translucent.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Coming Off The Cleanse

We survived the cleanse and after 12 days, we both felt a lot better. I had more energy and was sleeping better. Jim also had increased energy and noticed an easing of his arthritis pain. Now it's time to slowly re-introduce the things that were stricken from out diet during the cleanse. At first we gleefully thought sugar! It just makes things taste a bit better. OK, it makes things taste alot better. But when actually thinking about it, sugar doesn't really add any nutritional value so we decided to hold off on that for now. After careful consideration the thing we decided that would make the biggest impact on us right now was yeast. Surprised? Let me explain.

If we introduce yeast first, we are now able to eat oranges, grapefruits, peanuts, grapes, those wonderful things that have naturally occurring yeast on their skins. Plus we can have all of those things in the 'feremented' category that we weren't allowed. Yeast must be present for fermentation to take place which is why we weren't eating anything fermented. Now we can have vinegars, soy sauce, pickles, olives, black tea, DIJON MUSTARD. Can you hear the angels singing?

While I was looking through cookbooks to decide what to make for dinner, the page that fell open when I opened Let Them Eat Vegan! was "Chickpea and Artichoke Bliss in a Dish". When I was doing recipe testing for Dreena this was one of my favourites. It's consistently good. 

There's balsamic vinegar in there and olives....the full recipe contains raisins, but I had to leave those out this time around. Dreena was kind enough to post the recipe on her website. You can find it here. If you make it, I highly recommend adding the raisins. Those angels are really singing now. 

While we were "cleansing" I tried making a couple of different salad dressings, and they were just OK. Something seemed to be missing. Oh yes - that vinegar "punch". Now I could make a proper dressing. One that I really enjoy is from Dynise Balcavage, that I also did testing for.  

Here is 'Dijon Vinaigrette' from The Urban Vegan: 250 Simple, Sumptuous Recipes from Street Cart Favorites to Haute Cuisine.  It's got dijon mustard in there and vinegar. Simple, classic, a winner! 

It really livened up our salad. A plate of greens never tasted so good. Now the entire choir has joined in. 

Friday, August 9, 2013

Lemony Herb Tofu

To accompany the rice in the previous post, I made up some tofu to get cooked on the barbecue. We barbecue year round - yes, even in the snow - but outdoor cooking and summer are made for each other. Not only does it keep the heat of cooking out of the house, it's just another reason to spend more time out in the sunshine. Outdoor cooking is much more enjoyable in the summer than in the winter. Just ask Jim - HA!

Since vinegars or sweeteners are not allowed while on the cleanse, I improvised with what I could use. The results were better than expected. 

Lemony Herb Tofu

1 (14-16 oz) block extra firm tofu
½ cup lemon juice
1-1½ tbsp. olive oil
3 tbsp. Italian seasoning
5 cloves garlic, pressed
¼ tsp. salt
freshly ground pepper

Press the tofu to squeeze out any extra water. Cut into 6-8 slices, depending on how thick you like them. Place tofu slices in a single layer in a small shallow non-metallic dish. 

In a small bowl, wisk together all of the remaining ingredients. Take out a couple of tablespoons to reserve for brushing while cooking. Pour the rest over tofu slices, turning to coat all sides with marinade. Wrap dish with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for 30-60 minutes. 

Lightly oil grill and preheat to medium. Cook tofu slices, brushing lightly with reserved marinade, about 4-5 minutes per side or until nice grill marks appear on surface. 

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Brown Rice Pilaf

Brown rice is one of the food items listed as "most recommended" during this cleanse. Plain ol' rice on it's own isn't very exciting, but when you do this to it, it turns into amazing.

I've been making versions of this pilaf for years. It's really quite versatile and you can use whatever you have hanging around in your fridge or whatever you're in the mood for. This is the basic recipe, which is very tasty in it's own right. 

Brown Rice Pilaf

2¾ cups water
2 tbsp. Earth Balance
1 yeast-free vegetable boullion cube* (Alternately, you can use 2¾ cups yeast-free, sugar-free vegetable broth)
freshly ground black pepper
1 clove garlic, pressed
1¼ cups brown rice, rinsed
½ cup finely chopped carrots
½ slivered almonds, toasted
¼ chopped fresh parsley
2-3 green onions, sliced

In a large saucepan, bring water, Earth Balance, bouillion cube, salt, pepper and garlic to a full boil. Add rice, return to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 20-30 minutes. 

Stir in carrots and let continue to simmer for another 10-15 minutes until rice is tender and broth has been absorbed. Stir in remaining ingredients. Put lid back on the pot, remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes. 

Serves 6-8

*If you use a low sodium vegetable broth, you may need to add a bit of salt. Taste and adjust seasonings to your liking. 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Chickpea & Squash Patties

In trying to keep this cleanse as exciting as possible for myself and especially for Jim, who is doing it for the first time, has proved to be a bit of a challenge. We don't have normal work schedules and trying to get some sort of eating routine in place during this time has been a bit of a challenge as well. But I think we have succeeded on both counts. We may have been eating our breakfast at 11am and our dinner at 9pm, but at least we've been consistent. 

When I did this cleanse the first time, I sourced out a few good recipes on-line and had them printed off and ready to go. Lucky for me, I'm a cookbook junkie and have a lot of veg*n cookbooks that I was able to find some more suitable recipes in. Then while shopping at Goodness Me! I found the cookbook that accompanies the cleanse. So I added that to my collection. One of the things I tried this time around was 'Chickpea & Squash Patties'. Now, squash is not something that either Jim or I much care for, but the recipe only called for 1 cup and gave a tip to look for already cut-up squash in small packages. Even the cut squash was more than we would ever eat, then I had a brilliant idea. Use a sweet potato instead! It worked out wonderfully I'm glad to say. 

Just like the Slow Cooker Mexican Tofu, this surprised me at just how delicious it was. And to my delight, Jim REALLY liked these. He even ate more for breakfast and suggested I make them when we're off the cleanse. The cookbook suggested Lemon Tahini Dressing be served on the side.

It didn't seem to really compliment the cakes. When I started to whiz the dressing together, I decided not to put in all the milk required to thin it out because it would have become too runny. By doing that, it may have made the tahini flavour overwhelm the sauce which in turn didn't seem like a good fit for the cakes. It wasn't bad by any means, just not a good compliment in our opinion. 

The original recipe is available on their Facebook page but this is what I did. 

Chickpea and Sweet Potato Patties

1½ cups cooked chickpeas (or 1 19-oz. can drained & rinsed), mashed
1 cup grated sweet potato
1 cup grated potato (squeeze out excess water)
1 egg, beaten
3 green onions, chopped
2 tbsp. parsley, chopped
1¼ tsp. lemon pepper
¾ tsp. cumin
½ salt
½ cup oatmeal* (see note)
2 tbsp. chia seeds* (see note)
olive oil for frying 

Mash the chickpeas in a food processor using pulse action. Do not puree. Or use a potato masher and mash in a large bowl.  Add sweet potato, potato, egg, onion, parsley, lemon pepper, cumin, salt and mix throughly. 

Heat olive oil in a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Form mixture into patties about 4-5 inches in diameter. Fry in skillet until browned, about 4 minutes on each side. 

*Note: I made the mix up the night before and refrigerated it. The next morning more liquid had come out of the potatoes and the mix was kind of sloppy. I added 2 tbsp. of chia seeds and ½ cup of oatmeal and let the mixture sit for about 30 minutes. The chia seeds and the oatmeal soaked up some of the excess liquid and made it easier to handle and to make the patties. They turned out crispy on the outside and nicely soft on the inside. 

Lemon Tahini Dressing (as it appears in the cookbook) 

2/3 cup plain soy milk
5 tbsp. lemon juice
1 clove garlic
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup tahini
1/8 tsp. sesame oil

Place all ingredients in blender and puree for 1 minute at high speed. 

That would really make a lot! These are the measurements I used: 

2 tbsp. soy milk (use more if you like it thinner)
2½ tbsp. lemon juice
1 small garlic clove
¼ scant tsp. salt
4 tbsp. tahini
dribble of sesame oil
freshly ground pepper 

I have an immersion blender that comes with a very handy cup attachment with a small, but super-sharp blade. It's like a mini blender/chopper and I find it very handy for smaller measurements. It's also great for grinding up seeds and nuts. If you are in the market for an immersion blender, I highly recommend getting one with this attachment.