Cobblers & “Picniks”

The philanthropist & all-around-cutie Katie (or Special K) aka the Chocolate Covered Vegan posted her Little Vegan Crumble recently and it spurred daydreaming about summertime picknicks and BBQs with friends, light breezes and kite flying…you get the picture. The Guppy has been a bit slammed with a late-season cold, and was feeling a wee bit down about being stuck in the house with the sun beaming outside, so, I thought the moment for Katie’s Crumble had arrived, only, unbeliveably, I found myself oatless in the kitchen! I’d already promised a baking project to the eager Guppy who was already sitting on her knees on one of the kitchen chairs, playing the drums with a spoon and some mixing bowls, so my mental-roll-a-dex was spinning- what to make?

We’d already set the apples on the table, and I thought, hey, cobbler is yummy, too! And voila! Afternoon project and yummy snack rolled into one!

This recipe is adapted from The New Farm Vegetarian Cookbook, which as I’ve said before, is such a great Vegan resource. It’s not as sexy or hip as some of the newer books on the market (first edition published in 1975), but that’s what I love – you don’t need any fancy ingredients to make any of the recipes (and the pictures are so darn hippy-retro-cool!).

Fruit Cobbler

for the fruit filling :

  • 6 large apples (cored & sliced or chopped)
  • 3 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • a little water

Sauté your apples in a skillet over low heat for 5 minutes, adding a few soup spoons of water from time to time to keep from sticking (the original recipe calls for 3 Tbsp margarine, which you could use rather than H2O). Add the sugar and cinnamon, and cook apples until they are pretty tender, about 5-10 minutes more.

for the batter :

  • 3/4 cups whole wheat flour (I don’t even use WW pastry flour & it turns out fine)
  • 3/4 AP flour (the original recipe calls for 1.5 cups AP flour if you don’t want to use WW, but it’s good!)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 cup oil (I don’t use that much, I don’t fill it all the way…)
  • 1 cup “milk”
  • 2 tsp vanilla

Sift together the dry ingredients, then slowly add the wet until just mixed. Put in enough batter to cover the bottom of your pan (recipe suggests 8×8 square, I used a round, I’m a rebel), then add the apples. You’ll have very little batter left, it’s normal, just scoop it onto the apple layer in little splotches – it will seem like there isn’t enough, so don’t stress. Bake for about 25 minutes at 350F. You could top it with anything, obviously, but we like to add a little cashew-vanilla crème sauce on top:

And now for the “Picnik” – you may have noticed my playing around with the pics in this entry. Being one of the only bloggers on the planet to not have any photo editing software, I try to do what I can with light, etc., when taking my pictures, but could never crop or correct anything…until now!

Going through some bookmarked blogs I revisited Full Circle, which is a great blog (there are so many fabulous ones out there!) that has a huge amount of universal appeal though it is a self-described homeschooling blog. Seriously, go check it out! I may be one of the last to hear the news, but thanks to Full Circle I’m in the loop because she introduced me to Picnik, an amazing – and free – photo editing tool! I haven’t had too much time to play around with it, but it is just fabulous!

Tofu Cheesecake Madness! It’s Daring Bakers Time Again!

Unleash your sweet-tooth for this month’s Daring Bakers Challenge Cheesecake Pops from Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey: Desserts For The Serious Sweet Tooth by Jill O’Connor. I’m warning you now, this is not in any way a healthy-avid-yoga-runner-wholefoods-type recipe…but it was indeed very tasty, sticky, messy & gooey to make (which always hightens the fun-factor if you ask me).

This month’s lovely challenge hosts Elle from Feeding My Enthusasims and Deborah from Taste and Tell found we Daring Bakers a very decadent treat indeed (thank you for your time & effort, ladies!) Cheesecake is in itself quite an indulgence, but for this recipe it’s only the beginning! After you’ve baked your cheesecake you then freeze & form it into various shapes and give them lollipop sticks, then coat in chocolate and decorate! Wow! Holy calories, Batgirl! That being said, because they are individually sized, you can easily control your portions, so that’s a good thing. I guess. If you’re into that sort of thing…controlling cheesecake consumption I mean…

My favorite parts of this challenge were 1) completing the challenge with my super-cute mum who though battling a nasty nasty bout of illness played along and was available for planning consultations, official tasting & artistic direction (decorating) duty; and 2) the actual making of the tofu cheesecakes. I thought it was a blast! I totally admit to a heavy dose of finger-licking as well…see, these were indeed intended to be “pops”, but despite my best intentions (I visited two gourmet cooking shoppes & two super markets) I could not find anything that would work- I found popcicle sticks (too fat), super-thin straws (too flimsy), long, wooden sticks for cotton candy (too thick & long)… so I decided to turn this temporary set-back into a fun chance to use some new silicon molds that my mum brought me from the states! As a Daring Baker I was to follow certain guidelines, but using molds was ok’d by our hosts, so yeah for the molds! There were heart-shapes, disc-shapes, and flower-shapes, too!

Thing is, because there were no sticks to hold, I was hand-dipping them, which was a blast! Felt like a kid in the kitching doing something I could be scolded for! Another fun aspect of this month’s challenge was that a handful of the Daring Bakers Alternative Bakers got together to “chat” to exchange ideas & recipes & ideas, and that was a great chance to “meet” some new bakers & hear some ideas.

Here’s the recipe that I used (based on the tofu cheesecake recipe from The New Farm Cookbook (the original non-vegan Challenge recipe is at the bottom of this post if you want a peek!)

  • 3 1/2 cups firm tofu (rinse it, but don’t drain)
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice (I’ve used orange for orange cheese cake & it’s also good)
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1-2 table spoons vanilla or almond extract (or one of both if you’re really feeling crazy)

and for the chocolate coating:

  • 300g dark chocolate
  • 2 tablespoons non-hydrogenated vegan butter

I wiz everything in the blender or food processor till smooth (adding a little more juice if it’s a bit too stiff, normally it’s very smooth). If you were making a normal cheesecake, you just pour it into the crust & put it in the oven for about 50 minutes at 170c/335F. Because I opted for silicon molds this changed my normal baking time dramatically because the molds were of different shape & depth & made by different companies so the individual baking times varied from mold to mold (the shortest being 25mins, the longest 45). What I did then was to leave them in the moulds while they cooled (which I totally admit made my life easier than trying to scoop them out of a pan and shape them).

For the chocolate coating, I melted half the chocolate and 1 tbsp of vegan butter in the microwave and stirred well (so much work there). Then, carefully not burning my fingers on the chocolate I swirled the shapes in the chocolate. I found that even after being very cool from the fridge they were still really difficult to coat so I put them in the freezer & found that the colder they were, the easier they were to coat (less cold = thicker, goopier chocolate coating, whereas colder = pretty, thin layer). I also found that I had to sprinkle the decorations on right away after coating them or the chocolate hardened and they wouldn’t stick.

I’ll be honest- while the cheese cake was delicious, having it coated in chocolate just seemed too much for my family who seemed to just peel it off. It was, however, a very fun challenge, and I can’t wait to see what’s next!

Here’s the original recipe from Ms. O’Connor’s book:

Cheesecake Pops

Makes 30 – 40 Pops

5 8-oz. packages cream cheese at room temperature

2 cups sugar

¼ cup all-purpose flour

¼ teaspoon salt

5 large eggs

2 egg yolks

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

¼ cup heavy cream

Boiling water as needed

Thirty to forty 8-inch lollipop sticks

1 pound chocolate, finely chopped – you can use all one kind or half and half of dark, milk, or white (Alternately, you can use 1 pound of flavored coatings, also known as summer coating, confectionary coating or wafer chocolate – candy supply stores carry colors, as well as the three kinds of chocolate.)

2 tablespoons vegetable shortening

(Note: White chocolate is harder to use this way, but not impossible)

Assorted decorations such as chopped nuts, colored jimmies, crushed peppermints, mini chocolate chips, sanding sugars, dragees) – Optional

Position oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees F. Set some water to boil.

In a large bowl, beat together the cream cheese, sugar, flour, and salt until smooth. If using a mixer, mix on low speed. Add the whole eggs and the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well (but still at low speed) after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and cream.

Grease a 10-inch cake pan (not a springform pan), and pour the batter into the cake pan. Place the pan in a larger roasting pan. Fill the roasting pan with the boiling water until it reaches halfway up the sides of the cake pan. Bake until the cheesecake is firm and slightly golden on top, 35 to 45 minutes.

Remove the cheesecake from the water bath and cool to room temperature. Cover the cheesecake with plastic wrap and refrigerate until very cold, at least 3 hours or up to overnight.

When the cheesecake is cold and very firm, scoop the cheesecake into 2-ounce balls and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Carefully insert a lollipop stick into each cheesecake ball. Freeze the cheesecake pops, uncovered, until very hard, at least 1 – 2 hours.

When the cheesecake pops are frozen and ready for dipping, prepare the chocolate. In the top of a double boiler, set over simmering water, or in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water, heat half the chocolate and half the shortening, stirring often, until chocolate is melted and chocolate and shortening are combined. Stir until completely smooth. Do not heat the chocolate too much or your chocolate will lose it’s shine after it has dried. Save the rest of the chocolate and shortening for later dipping, or use another type of chocolate for variety.

Alternately, you can microwave the same amount of chocolate coating pieces on high at 30 second intervals, stirring until smooth.

Quickly dip a frozen cheesecake pop in the melted chocolate, swirling quickly to coat it completely. Shake off any excess into the melted chocolate. If you like, you can now roll the pops quickly in optional decorations. You can also drizzle them with a contrasting color of melted chocolate (dark chocolate drizzled over milk chocolate or white chocolate over dark chocolate, etc.) Place the pop on a clean parchment paper-lined baking sheet to set. Repeat with remaining pops, melting more chocolate and shortening (or confectionary chocolate pieces) as needed.

Refrigerate the pops for up to 24 hours, until ready to serve.

Attack of the Killer-Tasting Veggie Burgers & Dangerously-Delicious Buns!

Have you ever noticed the sometimes bizarre feeling of ‘oneness’ out there in our little universe? For example, you look for a VW Bug as you cruise through town, and then you notice them all over.

There suddenly seems to be many more Bugs than you had imagined.

Huh… (imagine Twilight Zone theme music here) if they were to organize, I mean, communicate amongst themselves and, I don’t know, find a strong leader they could car-rally behind, well, yikes! they could take over the roads, the planet even! Dum-dah-dum-dum…

I began having this eerie feeling about a week ago. I felt a hankerin’ for a veggie/soy burger, with mustard and pickles and onions and homemade ketchup- the works! We have grain/soy/veg-type patties that can be purchased here in my little French village, but they sure aren’t cheap, and let’s face it, pre-packaged vegan foods (like all prepared foods) are often health food’s version of junk food with lots of things rather difficult to pronounce on the ingredient list. Homemade is better, but I sheepishly admit to you that while I have tempted many a recipe, I had never made Meatless-Macs myself.

Until now…

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Since I was in the mood for some veggie burger goodness, I was probably more aware of all the veggie burgerness out there, but still, it seems to be everywhere lately. I went to visit One Frugal Foodie for the first time, and she not only has a fab blog, but also has a mouth-watering picture and recipe to propose. While zipping around Susan V’s excellent choice of veggie burger recipes at Fat Free Vegan I oogled her Veggie-Oat Burger (among other choices!), even this week’s Meatout Mondays recipe is entited “Nuts about Burgers”! (If your’re not familiar with the Meatout campaign, a branch of FARM- the Farm Animal Reform Movement, you should check out all the good stuff they do, and sign up for their weekly newsletter Meatout Monday’s). Giving in to the obvious galactic command, I realized that “Resistance is Futile” and began flipping through my cook books to see what I could chose from. Difficult to decide, but in the end the winners were the “Soyburgers” from the perennial classic The New Farm Vegetarian Cookbook which is just so killer-great (both the book and the burgers).

contemplatingthebeans1.jpg Sorting & admiring the beans. sortingsoybeans1.jpg

The New Farm recipe won out because it seemed the fastest and easiest among my cook book recipe contenders. Soybeans, oat-flakes, spices, onion, optional pepper (we chose red), etc. Nothing too crazy, but oh-so good. I amped up the spices adding cumin and lots of garlic powder, and also added a little wheat germ to the mix and rolled the pre-patties in germ to make them easier to handle. The soy mixture was delicious even before being fried up- tasted like a bean dip- and the Guppy & I enjoyed dipping apple slices in the little bit that was left in the mixing bowl.

freshbuns-burgers-wheat-germ.jpg

We couldn’t put such delicious burgers on just anything, we needed the most delicious buns ever, and boy did we find the recipe for the job! Once again, The New Farm in hand, the Guppy and I whipped up some “Soft Sandwhich Buns” that were, honestly, the best roll-biscuit-bun thing I’ve ever baked up. A bit of minimal waiting (a total of 40 minutes from beginning to end before putting them in the oven for a mere 20 minutes) these buns were delightful.

 

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The Guppy, kneader extraordinaire!

Much to my dismay the Guppy poured in some extra sugar as we were mixing the ingredients- a couple of teaspoons maybe- but it turned out to be just enough so that when former fast-food junkie Mr. Fish tasted one he gave me what was possibly the kindest of comments he could have conjured up, “This is better than Macdo!”. Merci, mon amour.

 

“Whatever happened to Sunday Dinners?” featuring tempeh, veggies and dessert!

In our continuing series “Whatever happened to Sunday Dinners?” I would like to propose:

  • Barbequed Tempeh from The New Farm Vegetarian Cookbook
  • Chickpea Broccoli Casserole from Vegan With A Vengeance
  • Gâteau au “fromage” à l’orange & aux amandes (orange & almond tofu “fromage” cheese cake) a Shellyfish original.

If you’re hungry, scroll down, this is a little long…

Being a vegan isn’t always easy. Dealing with an oft-misinformed public, tricky labeling, well-meaning but misguided friends and family members choosing sometimes radically inappropriate moments* to re-vegan-hash the “So why don’t you eat meat again?” question, stern-faced teachers and daycare personnel, incredulous about the lack of animal protein in your child’s diet…and so many other examples. I became a vegetarian over 18 years ago, and I was very lucky to have a supportive omnivore family, and then I moved to the other end of the United States and was living in an extremely veg-friendly city with great veg-friendly businesses, bakeries, groceries and restaurants. While I very, very rarely did anything resembling “cooking” or “baking”, I always had veg-friendly things to eat at my apartment, but I admit to very often eating out or getting take-out, and was generally a very lazy veg who was lacto-ovo much of the time.

It’s not the same life anymore for the Shellyfish, and I find myself spending more and more time in the kitchen. I used to cringe when I would imagine the “TMF” (typical married female) living somewhere between her laundry room and her kitchen, waiting on her husband and kids… (this reductionist view may well explain my former fear of commitment syndrome). I’ve evolved, and while some chicas are sadly uber-oppressed, I’m happy (most of the time) being a part-time stay-at-home mom, and I have discovered a new passion these past few years: spending time in the kitchen!

With the plethora of vegan cookbooks on the market and the growing numbers of vegan recipes on-line, it’s rather easy to find cruelty-free delicious things to prepare. While I am still in a far from veg-friendly French town, we have three, count ‘em, three health-food stores where I can find (expensive) tofu and other “oddities”, and when I lived in the area summer of 2004, there was much less choice to be had. It’s exciting to see things changing! While newly pregnant during Fall of 2004 (and home-bound and hungry!), I ordered a copy of The New Farm Vegetarian Cookbook edited by Louise Hagler and Dorothy R. Bates at the suggestion of a friend brought up in a veg-household (and whose mom is a mid-wife). This cookbook is so amazing! I rarely see it cited on the veg-blogosphere, and it’s dommage because it is really one of the most complete, basic vegan bibles out there. It explains DIY tofu, tempeh, yuba, gluten/seitan, you name it. The other great thing about this book is that it doesn’t call for specific hard-to-find brand-names, most everything is findable for a country mouse or a city mouse. I admit NFVC isn’t as hip or sexy as the newer, glossy books available. This book is from the mid-70s (just like me!), and it’s retro without trying to be. Get this book. You will not regret it. Well, maybe you will, but I think you’ll really like it.

Enough babble, on with our Sunday Dinner menu!

Until yesterday I’d never made my own BBQ sauce. There is a snappy recipe in the NFVC that you let simmer for an hour, and it is tangy and sassy and all those great BBQ adjectives rolled into one. Get your sauce going, then start your gâteau au fromage. I adapted this recipe from the basic Tofu Cheesecake recipe in NFVC, and have never regretted it. I’ve got another variation with maple syrup & pecans, but that’s for another day…

gateau-au-faux-mage-a-lorange-aux-amandes.jpg

  • GATEAU AU “fromage” À L’ORANGE ET AUX AMANDES
  • 500g/about 1lb medium tofu (just pat dry, don’t press)
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup veg. oil of choice
  • 1 cup organic sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1/2 tablespoon orange essence/orange water (different brands call it different things)
  • 2 teaspoons almond extract
  • shaved almonds, orange slices, raspberry coulis for garnish

Break up the tofu, and add all ingredients together in a food processor or blender and whip until creamy and smooth. If things are a bit grainy, mix some more, adding a hair of orange juice if it’s too thick. Pour into your crust of choice and bake at 350f for about 45 minutes or until it hardly jiggles in the middle. Let cool completely before trying to cut it!

While your gâteau is cooking and your BBQ sauce is simmering, you can set to work on the “Chickpea Broccoli Casserole” from VWAV. I’d never made it before, and I learned the hard way that you can’t always do with a “stiff fork” what you can do with a potato masher. After getting nowhere with my fourchette, I decided to squish my chickpeas with my bare hands (I’m a brute).

Once you get your casserole in the oven, just deep-fry your tempeh, and pour a little of your now-finished sauce in the bottom of a baking dish, add your blotted tempeh, then bake for about 15 minutes at around 350f.

bbq-tempeh-chickpea-broccoli-casserole.jpg

Everything was so super delicious! Mr. Fish was a little afraid of the casserole because it looked so “healthy”, but once he tasted it (and covered it with BBQ sauce) everything was fine. The Guppy devoured her gâteau au fauxmage, but the BBQ sauce was a little too much for her.

*like at the dinner table when they are about to wolf-down a fork-full of dead animal…I usually say, “I don’t think this is an appropriate time to talk about this.” or something similar, they push, I begin discussing slaughter-house strategies, etc., and inevitably someone at the table is horribly offended and gets all ‘radical vegan’ on me…