Something’s (Tofu) Fishy With The July Daring Cooks Challenge!

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This month’s challenge was chosen by Sketchy of Sketchy’s Kitchen. Sketchy has a real passion for molecular cuisine (MC), and July’s recipe was chosen to share this interest in MC with all of us! I think this was a wonderful initiative and a lovely introduction to MC – thank you, Sketchy!

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Unfortunately, I think to successfully complete this month’s challenge owning a dehydrator was de rigeur. The challenge, “Skate, traditional flavours powdered” by Grant Achatz, found in the Alinea cookbook, uses “flavour powders” made from dehydrated ingredients such as banana chips, parsley or red onion to accent and add dimension to poached fish, or fish substitute. While Sketchy did suggest alternate methods for drying – such as using the microwave or traditional oven – I found they just didn’t work for me. I did give these alternate methods a shot, but my attempts were met with frustration and failure.

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This, however, doesn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy this challenge, on the contrary! Thanks to some chatting on the forums, I was reminded of one of my favourite faux-fish recipes, the Tofu Fish Sticks from one of my favourite cookbooks, Vegan Lunchbox. If you haven’t a copy of Vegan Lunchbox, don’t fret! The recipe is available here at Schmooed Food, the author’s blog where she features recipes from her fabulous book. One of my favourites from her site is the recipe for Vegan Twinkies. I’ve only made it once, but oh-my, talk about a heavenly childhood flashback!

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So after a few failed attempts at dehydrating onion and parsley in my microwave (oh scaldy-stinkies), I just opted to honor the spirit of the challenge and go with what worked for me! I tried to make a powder out of some nori sheets, but I didn’t get a nice, fine, powder – it was more like hunks of ugly confetti. I did just add the nori to the Tofu-fish fingers breading, so there was no waste. I also used a mixture of sea vegetables rather than just the kelp flakes called for in the original recipe. I feel it adds even more variety. In the end, I just used some dried parsley flakes to decorate our plates, and that was just fine!

Breading Mix for Tofu Fish Fingers

We don’t eat alot of tofu – maybe 2 or 3 times a month – not because I’m afraid of the “fu” for any reason (because there is no reason to fear the fu, unless you have an allergy), but it’s a processed food, and as with all processed foods we tend to go lightly on them. Because I so rarely purchase tofu, I forget about some of our favourites, such as these tofu fingers. It’s been nearly a year since I last made these, which is too long if you ask me! If you’re ever in a pinch and need to make something quick, easy and healthy for kids (and adults, ahem), this is a great option.

I’d like to once again thank Sketchy of Sketchy’s Kitchen for hosting our challenge, and I enthusiastically recommend Vegan Lunchbox, weather or not you eat a boxed lunch! Lunchbox has many innovative, mostly healthy options that are adult and kid friendly, and it’s a sound addition to any cookbook library. Do you like to play with your food? Visit The Daring Kitchen for wonderful food articles, sexy food p*rn and lovely portraits of the Daring Cooks and Bakers.

Vegan Frangipan is as easy as pie. Or tart. Or positively scrumptious. Daring Baker’s Time, kids!

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Looking for the Sweet Freedom cookbook giveaway? You have until midnight Paris time today! Just leave a comment.

The June Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Jasmine of Confessions of a Cardamom Addict and Annemarie of Ambrosia and Nectar. They chose a Traditional (UK) Bakewell Tart… er… pudding that was inspired by a rich baking history dating back to the 1800′s in England.

Bakewell Tart (Vegan)

I have 2 confessions to make :

Confession number one = I wasn’t very excited about this challenge.

There. I said it.

When I saw this month’s challenge recipe I found it rather uninspiring and even considered skipping out because I had a multitude of other baking obligations this month…Nearly 200 cookies for Guppy’s school (not at once), 36 savory scones for my school…I’ll stop here. I didn’t think this pudding tart thingy sounded very exciting, and just kept dragging my feet about the whole thing.

Confession number two = Sometimes I am SO wrong about things it’s funny.

My husband, Monsieur Fish, doesn’t read my blog, thankfully, so I can share with you and the monde entier that sometimes I just don’t have any idea what I am talking about (often times to myself, but I digress…).

Wednesday evening, in true last minute style, I thought I should maybe make this month’s challenge. I knew I had yet another work luncheon on Thursday, and my students had requested I bring something sweet. I shrugged my shoulders as I began setting up the kitchen and figured at least I could bring it to my students who just love to see how I transform desserts into Vegan yummies.

Yummy is rather an understatement here.

Blackwell Tart (Vegan)

I don’t know why, but as I printed out the original frangipan recipe from the forums, it dawned on me that I was about to veganize frangipan!! For many, this may seem like small potatoes, but here in France, frangipan shows up in many beloved patisseries that I’d never attempted before. Why, if I could successfully veganize frangipan, I could make a galette des rois this year. Ha!

Reading the Alternative Baking Forums I’d seen that many of my Baking possé had great success veganizing the frangipan using various strategies and ingredients. I decided to throw caution to the wind and follow the recipe as written and just swap in Ener-G egg replacer for the three eggs and to use non-dairy butter.

Oh yeah, can you get a whiff of the sweet smell of success here?

I also changed up the crust and used the Vegan Shortbread Crust from The Joy of Vegan Baking. This is a wonderful and versatile crust that I thought would work well. Rather than pre-baking the crust as per the recipe in JOVB, I put it in the freezer while preparing the frangipan, and then just followed the challenge recipe instructions.

I brought the tart to my French class and it disappeared before my very eyes. The class is made up of students from all over Europe and the world, none of them vegan. They all loved it and just couldn’t believe there were no eggs in the frangipan. Yippie! It was indeed delicious, and I’m really grateful to our hosts for proposing such a wonderful staple recipe to add to my repertoire. I for one know I’ll be making this one again.

Bakewell tartSorry about the wonky pic, we were eating outside and I had to hurry and snap a shot before the tart was all gone!

And because my work is so intertwined with my private life, I used homemade cherry and raspberry jam I’d received earlier in the week from students in my English classes. I love homemade gifts!

Homemade Raspberry Jam, I love you.

Vegan Frangipan

125g non-hydrogenated, non-dairy margerine, softened
125g powdered sugar
The equivalent of 3 Eggs (Ener-G worked perfectly here)
2.5ml almond extract
125g ground almonds
30g AP flour

Whip together the Ener-G and water with beaters, set aside. Cream margarine and sugar together for about a minute or until the mixture is very fluffy. Scrape down the side of the bowl and add the Ener-G eggs. Beat well. The batter may appear to curdle or separate – it’s all good. Add the almond extract, almonds and flour and mix until well blended. Yum.

Do you like to play with your food? Visit The Daring Kitchen for wonderful food articles, sexy food p*rn and lovely portraits of the Daring Cooks and Bakers. Also, don’t forget to check out the other Daring Bakers and their tarts!

Who loves potstickers & Dumplings? Me! The Daring Cooks June Challenge

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After our delicious début with Ricotta Gnocchi in May, we’re back and cooking up a veritable storm with Chinese dumplings and potstickers! To clarify the definitions tout de suite, dumplings are steamed or boiled whereas the potstickers are (gasp!) fried. This month’s challenge hostess is Jen from Use Real Butter, and she graciously shared her family recipe for Chinese dumplings/potstickers. This month’s challenge was once again a slam dunk to veganize as the dough is naturally vegan, but that’s not why I love it. I thought it was fantastic because it was so darn tasty!

I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again right now : this challenge was a hoot! I’ve found myself wondering why I hadn’t ever made potstickers before, and I’d see them featured from time to time on a blog and lick my lips in admiration, but I’d never actually taken it to the next level and made them. Thank you Daring Cooks for nudging me into new culinary territory!

Vegan Potsticker Filling

I wanted to try to use cannelli beans in the filling in lieu of tofu, because just defaulting to tofu seemed too easy. I feel badly because I didn’t measure my ingredients, but I think it was probably about 2 cups or more cannelli beans, about one cup shredded carrot, four green onions (heads and stems), a little soy sauce, a few teaspoons diced ginger root and salt and pepper. I totally ignored Jen’s advice (sorry Jen) and tossed the onions and beans in the food processor until I had a paste, then added the carrots until well mixed. It was just perfect.

Potsticker/Dumpling Dough

The dough proved a bit of a challenge as I think I added about three or four times the amount of water called for in the recipe. That’s life. I just kept kneading and adding water and knew that the gluten would develop if I would just let it. Once it was ready, however, the dough was very easy to handle and making the dumplings was easy peasy pie. I did punk out and just used a fork to seal my potstickers, but Jen has some beautiful pictures on her blog showing her folding technique.

Vegan Potstickers (pre-fry)

The real disappointment for me with this challenge was the dumplings.
Vegan Chinese Dumplings

I tried to boil a few, but they floated right away, and never really cooked properly, they just turned into floppy wet dumplings. I should have opted for steaming, and I probably will give it a try another time. The potstickers however were a dream come true, and I’ve already been asked to make them again!

Chinese Pot Stickers (Vegan)

Would you like to play with your food? Everyone is welcome in The Daring Kitchen! I would especially like to extend this invitation to any vegans and vegetarians out there – this is an excellent opportunity to flex your creative culinary muscles and veganize omni fare. Learning to prepare delicious “omni-friendly” meals is a wonderful talent to develop, and it’s such a relief to have more recipes in your repertoire!

The Daring Cooks Have Arrived! Vegan Ricotta Gnocchi

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This is a very speical day, and not only because it’s Celine’s birthday or because Ricki’s fabulous Sweet Freedom is available tomorrow!

Today The Daring Cooks make their début! I’m genuinely excited to be part of this groovy group of culinary crusaiders, bravely going to new and uncharted foodie-lands. I know this group is going to help me flex my creative muscles in the kitchen, veganizing new foods and old favourites, and if this first challenge is any indication of the fun we’ll be having than I know this is going to be a blast!

I’m sincerely honored to have been named the Daring Alternative “Cookie”, meaning I’m trolling the Alternative forums to try to field questions and help find solutions for my fellow Alternative Daring Cooks. This is really exciting because I know I’m going to have many opportunities to learn so much, and even more importantly, to get to know my fellow Daring Cooks even better.

Vegan Ricotta Gnocchi

Tofu Ricotta Gnocchi…can you feel the Yum?

The Inaugural Challenge recipe is the Zuni Ricotta Gnocchi from The Zuni Café Cookbook by Judy Rodgers, and it could not be more fitting that our founding Mothers, the wonderful, the fabulous, the ridiculously underpaid Ivonne of Cream Puffs in Venice and Lis of La Mia Cucina host this first challenge. I loved them before, but after making this month’s challenge, I love them even more!

This month’s challenge, the Zuni Ricotta Gnocchi, is a blast! (For the recipe go visit Lis – she’s got it up on her blog). It it’s delicious, fun and easy to make, too. Oh, and really easy to veganize! I suggest using everyone’s favourite tofu ricotta recipe, found on the PPK and in Veganomicon. You’ll want to make a few subtle changes, but it’ll work famously. This tofu ricotta recipe will yield about 25 gnocchi, about half of the challenge recipe’s yield.

If you’ve never made this ricotta recipe, I have just a few suggestions 1) add way more garlic because it’s so tame you can’t taste it; 2)add whatever herbs you’d like – you can add more than is called for; 3) make this in advance. I’d suggest 24 hours, to really allow time for the flavours to take hold.

Vegan Ricotta, to make Vegan Ricotta Gnocchi

The big change that I made to the ricotta recipe was to add gluten flour to the ricotta once it was all mashed to paste. I used between 1/4 and 1/3 cup gluten, and I let it set a good few hours before forming the gnocchi. It worked like a charm. I had doubts, but it was a slam dunk.

There is one thing to keep in mind – do not follow the main challenge instructions which tell you to be delicate with your ricotta. You need to man-handle the stuff, I mean really, really knead it, and force it into little gnocchi, squeezing tight with your hand. That’s the ticket. I tried to be sweet and gentle with the first few and they came apart in the boiling water. A tight squeeze makes for a solid little gnocchi.

The other cooking directions for the challenge are valid and work with the ricotta. After boiling mine up and flouring them I let them set a good hour, even more, in the fridge before pan-frying them as per the challenge and that seemed to work well. You could let them set longer, too.
Vegan Ricotta Gnocchi

I really can’t stress enough how fun and easy this challenge was! I had fun making it, and my family had fun devouring it. Give it a try – it’s  worth it!

Would you like to play with your food? Everyone is welcome in The Daring Kitchen! I would especially like to extend this invitation to any vegans and vegetarians out there – this is an excellent opportunity to flex your creative culinary muscles and veganize omni fare. Learning to prepare delicious “omni-friendly” meals is a wonderful talent to develop, and it’s such a relief to have more recipes in your repetoire!

And…be sure to come back tomorrow for a very special interview! Woo…how mysterious and exciting is that!

Homemade Vegan Pasta? Easy-Peasy! The Daring Bakers March Challenge : Vegan Lasagna

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When I gave up baking for Lent, I pretty much knew I’d have to forgo the March Daring Bakers Challenge. I don’t like missing challenges (I’ve only missed one), but figured I’d just make it at a later date. Imagine my joy and surprise when March’s challenge was announced and I saw we’d be making a savory dish, and for me, it fell under the category of “cooking” – so no missed challenge!

The March 2009 challenge is hosted by Mary of Beans and Caviar, Melinda of Melbourne Larder and Enza of Io Da Grande. They have chosen Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna from The Splendid Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper as the challenge.

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I absolutely loved this challenge! It was fun, easy and I didn’t find it time consuming at all (though some of my fellow Dbers did). I usually have homemade tomato sauce in my freezer, and it just so happened to be time to replenish my stock, so the week before I made the lasagna I made about a 4 liters of homemade sauce. I think splitting the challenge into two parts – sauce and pasta – really cut down on my over-all time in the kitchen (or at least my perception of it!).

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This challenge pushed me to do something I’ve always thought about doing – make my own pasta from scratch! I make everything from scratch, but I’d never made pasta – until now. It was so easy and fun, I know I’m going to do it again and again.  I used the Bryanna Clark Grogan recipe for my spinach and it was a gem! Clear, easy to follow and a beautifully cooperative dough to work with. I think from start to finish from beginning the pasta to baking the lasagna the time was about 1h45mins.

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I believe that my ignorance allows for such fun and discovery in the kitchen. As I’d never made homemade pasta, I wasn’t afraid of it and didn’t really know what I was supposed to be doing or how, so I didn’t think I couldn’t do it “the right way” as I didn’t know what the right way was. I had fun, and so did Guppy who was so excited to learn that dough makes not only bread and cookies, but also pasta. It’s wonderful to help her see the way things are connected.

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And I just have to say, I was feeling like such a rock star with drying spinach pasta hanging about my kitchen. I know I was feeling the same emotions of pride and accomplishment that Guppy feels when she does something for the first time: “Look what I made, mumma!” (speaking of which, I need to send my mum this link so she can be proud of me, too!).

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I don’t make lasagna very often, but I know the next time I do I’ll be making this pasta! It was delicious, and everyone loved it!

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If you haven’t already stopped by The Daring Kitchen – home of The Daring Bakers and The Daring Cooks – you should! There are lots of great feature articles, cookbook reviews and feature members. Lot’s of good, clean fun for everyone!