Sunday, November 25, 2012

Giving Thanks

Double-Layer Pumpkin Cheesecake from the FatFreeVegan Kitchen  A+

I am thankful for so very much – that’s probably why Thanksgiving is such a great holiday to me. I certainly like it better than Halloween or Memorial Day (although I am super patriotic!)  But something really put me in a twist this year: two people recently mentioned that, in their opinion, Thanksgiving is a secular holiday. That really put me in knots for a few days, because I have always thought of Thanksgiving as a Christian holiday. I mean, if you are not thanking God, then what’s the fuss? It’s kinda lame if we created a holiday for thanking each other, right? That seems just a bit too self-centered, even for 21st Century Americans.  

Weren't the Pilgrims giving thanks to God for the abundance of a harvest season?    And speaking of the Pilgrims, why are they getting such a bad rap lately?   It seems very fashionable to bash them as intolerant, backward, Native-hating folk, when I think just the opposite is true.   Oh sure, they fled England to get away from people who disliked them, but aren't we, as Americans, free to live and believe how we want?    Who cares if they seem ‘weird’ in our modern eyes.

Perhaps Thanksgiving has become more secular over the years, I will give you that much. There is nothing wrong with feasting and watching parades and football. I don’t even mind the shopping. But I believe with all my heart that giving thanks to God must be a part of this excellent holiday.

I don’t know about you, but my list could go on and on: My beautiful home, my health, my three awesome children, the cutest dog in the world, the best husband a woman could want, a job that blesses me beyond my wildest imagination, my great state – Michigan, a hot cup of coffee every morning, music, a closet full of clothes, a cupboard full of food, a heart full of love and a home full of laughter.

Now thank we all our God with hearts and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things has done, in whom his world rejoices;
Who, from our mothers’ arms, has blest us on our way
With countless gifts of love, and still is our today.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Maple Pecan Cinnamon Rolls

Maple Cinnamon Glaze! Come ON!

Well, as promised, I did it. I veganized those glorious Cinnamon Rolls I posted a few weeks ago. Using the same recipe, I swapped out butter, milk and eggs with Earth Balance margarine, coconut milk and Ener-G Egg Replacer and you know what? They were better than the original. Just have to trust me on that one, I guess. I also added chopped pecans to the filling and some maple syrup in the glaze. Glorious! The leftovers re-heated beautifully the next day.

Here’s what you need:
1 ¼ C coconut milk
½ C Earth Balance non-dairy butter
¼ C brown sugar
2 ¼ t yeast

1 C old-fashioned oats
½ C hot water

4 C flour
2  Ener-G Egg replacer “eggs”
1 ½ t salt

1 ½ sticks Earth Balance butter – softened
1 C brown sugar
1 C chopped pecans
2 T cinnamon
1 t salt

4 T Earth Balance butter – softened
2 C powdered sugar
2 T coconut milk
3 T pure maple syrup
¼ t salt

I was very paranoid that my yeast was not
bubbling correctly, but eventually it
worked great!

Here’s what you do:

Heat up 1 ¼ C milk, butter and brown sugar, until it’s all melted. Pour into the bowl of your mixer and wait until the temperature is down to 100-110 degrees. Then add the yeast and let it sit for 5 minutes.

Soak the oats in the hot water. Set aside.

You can see why I was paranoid
about my yeast. Time to go
yeast shopping, I guess.
Add 2 cups of flour and ‘eggs’ to the yeast mixture and mix it slowly, until it’s all incorporated. Then add the remaining flour, oats and salt. Mix for about 7 minutes or until the dough pulls away from the sides of the mixer. (Mine actually took much less time)

Transfer dough to a bowl which has been coated with nonstick spray. Cover and allow to double in bulk – about 2 hours.

To make the filling: mix the 1 ½ sticks ‘butter,’ the brown sugar, maple syrup, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.

This dough was very tender and delicate. I always use a tape measure.

After 2 hours, remove the dough to a floured board and cut it in half. Press out one half into a 16 x 10 inch rectangle. Gently spread ½ of the filling over the dough. Sprinkle ½ C chopped pecans over the filling. Roll up, jellyroll fashion, starting with the short end. Place on a greased baking sheet. Repeat with the other half of the dough. Freeze the two ‘logs’ of dough for about 10 minutes for easier handling. Cut each log into 6 equal pieces…. I used dental floss (NOT the “minty fresh kind”) Feel free to trim away any unsightly and uneven pieces that are sticking out on each end. There’s plenty of goodness to spare.

Place the rolls in a greased 9 x 13 baking dish, cover and allow rolls to rise and rest for about 1 hour.

Bake rolls in a 375 degree oven for about 30-35 minutes. While the rolls are cooling, make the frosting by mixing the ‘butter,’ powdered sugar, maple syrup, milk and salt. Slather the frosting and enjoy!
One Year Ago : Cranberry Marmalade Pinwheels (these were really tricky to make, but they tasted great!)

Two Years Ago : Eggplant Rollatini (this may be my favorite recipe on the entire blog. Take a minute to check it out.) 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Cheezy Beany Bean Dip

We ate this last week and are still talking about it. Do you ever have meals like that? Where you just can’t stop talking about it? Simple ingredients with a little bump in flavor. A little extra love. A tiny teaspoon of extra flavor..... or a whole can. 

These quantities made a lot, which worked great for us, because we live on bean burritos for lunches throughout the week. In fact, Tim came home from work the following day and exclaimed, “I had the best lunch today!” Yes, he said that about a humble bean burrito. Little did he know that I actually had the best lunch. It’s because of the extra attention we gave the beans. Made all the difference.

Here’s what you need:
A large can of refried beans (30 oz, I think ) 
A can of chipotle salsa 
A few words about this little can of magic. It’s hot! This stuff packs a mighty punch, so start slowly. We can take an entire can, but you might like to start with half a can. (you can always freeze the leftovers in little ice cube trays and then pop the frozen salsa into chili or other tomato based sauces. )

Another word about chipotle: be sure to purchase the salsa for this recipe and not the chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. See the difference in the photo? 

Leftover juice from roasting red peppers (super secret ingredient! Remember when I roasted all those red peppers?)

I used the other half in some bean soup last week. Such flavor!

For the Cheezy Sauce:
½ C raw cashews, soaked in hot water for at least 30 minutes, drained, rinsed
1 T tahini
1 red bell pepper, roasted, with the skin and seeds removed (mine came from my freezer. You can also buy them in big jars in the grocery.)
¼ C nutritional yeast
1 T soy sauce
2-3 T lemon juice
¼ t cayenne pepper

Here’s what you do:
Whirl the beans, chipotle salsa and pepper juice in a food processor until smooth and creamy. Taste and adjust seasonings.

To make the cheese: put all the ingredients in a high powered blender and see what happens! This stuff is awesome! (The cheeze recipe comes directly from "Forks Over Knives" by Del Sroufe.)

Put it all together in a pretty pattern with your favorite Mexican toppings: cilantro, tomato, avocado, lettuce, green pepper – whatever sounds good to you! Serve with tortillas and chips.

Sour cream anyone? 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Giving Thanks that the shopping is done!

Who is crazy enough to do the Thanksgiving grocery shopping on Saturday afternoon right before the biggest eating day of the entire year?  Don’t ask.

Here's what's on my menu-- 

Appetizers (served during the football game. Detroit Lions fans here!):
Garlicky toast with Trader Joe’s Tomato Bruschetta
Crimini Mushroom Bruschetta (garlic, shallot, balsamic)
Tortilla chips with salsa and homemade guacamole
 (I cannot wait to try these! Little roasted bites of cauliflower baked in sweet and spicy 
Buffalo sauce)
Spicy mixed nuts
Cheeses and crackers

Carrot and Ginger Soup (I bought fresh carrots at the farm market this morning)
Turkey breast (ordered a fresh one from the butcher. It’s going in the crock pot – don’t judge me!)
Mashed potatoes (bought fresh ones at the same farm market)
Stuffed Portabella Mushrooms (quinoa, mushroom, garlic, dried cranberries, pinenuts)
Fresh Green Beans (I’m thinking about making The Best Vegan Green Bean Casserole, but it would mean another trip to the store, which I hate.)
Maple Miso Glazed Brussels Sprouts with Toasted Hazelnuts (making a double batch of this)
Roasted Squash with brown sugar and butter
Cranberry Sauce

Pumpkin Pie
Apple cheesecake

What’s going on your holiday table? 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Green Flageolet Beans: Caviar of beans

I've gone a little bean crazy. I guess I am worried about where protein comes from in my vegan meals ….of course, I know that protein is found in all kinds of food – namely, nuts, peas, lentils, soy, oats, wheat, seeds, barley, green leafy foods and the super-protein-rich-power-food – quinoa. But, hey, I’m new at this and I don’t want to crumple up with some weird protein deficiency. So I am putting lots of bean on the plate right now....along with roasted onions, roasted beets and the ever delicious whipped cauliflower. Can't get enough of that!

These are beautiful Green Flageolet beans, supposedly ‘the caviar of beans.’ They are popular in French cooking. I had never even heard of them before my Taste of Michigan event, when I was fortunate enough to find them tucked down deep in my swag bag. How lucky for me!! I hope all you other Taste of Michigan bloggers have tried these little green beans because they’re great.

I gave them the quick soak treatment (boil for 2 minutes and then soak for an hour) then I simmered them until tender (about 1 hour or so). Sautéed them in some butter and added some dill. They tasted like green beans! Many thanks to Shady Side Farms in Holland, Michigan for including the beans in the Taste of Michigan swag bags. For those of you who are interested in purchasing some of these heirloom, organic beans, contact Shady Side Farm here

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Yellow Pantry Bean Soup

Aren’t the grocery bills going up? One great thing about cutting meat out of the menu, is that my bills at the checkout line have gone down, but still! Wow! One other way to save money is to eat the food that’s already in your cupboards, pantry and freezer.

This beautiful soup was made from stuff from my pantry and fridge. I served it with cheese quesadillas using beautiful sprouted grain tortillas from deep in the freezer. I forget they were even in there!  A simple and satisfying Sunday evening meal.

Here’s what I used:
½ bag of navy beans from the pantry
2 carrots from the bottom drawer of the fridge
1 onion from the pantry
Vegetable bouillon from the pantry
¼ jar of Trader Joe’s Bruschetta from the fridge
Some seasonings from the cupboard: salt, dried parsley, turmeric
AWESOME leftover juice from roasted red peppers

See those little bowls of juice? I drained that from the pan that I used to roast some red peppers.  It was too good to throw away, so I found a use for it! 

Here’s what I did:
Quick soak the beans by boiling them for 2 minutes and allowing them to sit around in that same water for 1-4 hours. Then drain. Then simmer until tender with vegetable bouillon. Add chopped carrots, onions and tomatoes. At the end of the cooking time add the secret ingredient: oily red pepper juice (leftover from when I roasted a dozen red peppers earlier this week. …. I never throw any food away. )

Cost: minimal
Taste: great

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Three Short Vegetable Stories

(Drizzle a bit of olive oil, bake in 400 degree oven, turn once in a while.) 

Story #1 : Red Peppers (on drastic sale at the grocery store)

Cashier, “What in the world are you going to do with all those peppers?”
Bag Boy (he was actually a retired gentleman), “Yes, what do you do with those?”
Tracy, “I roast them and freeze them and put them in my food.”
Cashier, “Like what?”
Tracy, “Burritos, pizza, sauces, salsas, salads. I might come back and get more!”

(Remove skin and seeds, capture all the lovely juices for later, freeze on baking sheet. Place frozen baking sheet on a warm , wet dish cloth to melt the bottom. Use a metal spatula to chunk the peppers off. Freeze in bags. )

(Wrap them in foil and place in 400 degree oven till knife tender. Remove skins, slice, sprinkle with vinegar. Free advice: wear rubber gloves)

Story #2 : Beets from the farmers market

Farmer, “Want a bag of homegrown beets?”
Tracy, “Yes! We love them! I’ll roast them, sprinkle them with cider vinegar and serve them to my family.”

Story #3 : Weird Squash (which makes a great centerpiece)

Same farmer as in the beet story, “Would you like this squash for free?”
Tracy, “Absolutely! It’s Mother Nature’s Art!” 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Cinnamon Rolls: Cuisine at Home Magazine

 I made these months ago and in my pledge to go vegan, must have forgotten about them! Just stumbled upon the photos and instantly remembered how proud I was of these yummy curls of cinnamon love! These are the real-deal, folks. They are on my Thanksgiving weekend menu- veganized!

I usually make these Cinnamon Rolls (click here) , which by comparison seem pretty amateurish. (is that a word? )    (Be sure to scroll down to the bottom of that page to see the hilarious picture.) 

Here’s what you need:
1 ¼ C whole milk
½ C vegetable shortening
¼ C packed brown sugar
1 pkg. active dry yeast (that’s 2 ¼ t)

1 C old-fashioned rolled oats
½ C hot water

4 C flour
2 eggs
1 ½ t salt

1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 C brown sugar
2 T cinnamon
1 t salt

4 T unsalted butter
8 oz. powdered sugar
2 T whole milk
1 ½ t vanilla
¼ t salt

Here’s what you do:
Warm 1 ¼ C milk, shortening and brown sugar until melted. Transfer to bowl of mixer and cool to 100-110 degrees. Whisk in yeast and allow to sit for about 5 minutes.

Soak oats in ½ C hot water until all water is absorbed.

Add eggs and 2 C flour to yeast mixture and mix on low until combined. Switch to the dough hook and add the remaining 2 C of flour, oats and salt. Mix on low till all is incorporated. Turn up to medium speed and mix for about 7 minutes or until dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.

Transfer dough to greased bowl, cover and allow to rise in a warm place until double in size – about 2 hours.

Make filling by combining 1 ½ sticks softened butter, 1 C brown sugar, cinnamon and salt. Set aside.

Coat a 9 x 13 inch pan with butter. Set aside.

Transfer risen dough to a floured surface and gently press to remove any air bubbles. Divide dough into two pieces and roll one piece into a 10 x 16 rectangle.

Spread half the filling over the dough, leaving a ½ inch border. Roll up, starting with short end. 
Repeat with the other piece of dough. Place both logs on a baking sheet and freeze for 10 minutes to firm up a bit.

Slice each log into 6 rolls using dental floss and arrange in the prepared pan, widest side up.  Cover and allow to rise until puffy – about 1 hour.

 Bake in a 375 degree oven for 30-35 minutes. Cool in pan for 10 minutes before frosting.

For the frosting: Mix 4 T softened butter, powdered sugar, 2 T milk, vanilla and salt.