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I received a review copy of Vegan Ice Cream, by Jeff Rogers, from Blogging for Books, which is run by Penguin-Random House. At first I was really excited because I am always looking for new ways to make ice cream on my own–and save the $5-7 it costs to buy a pint at the store.

However, when the book arrived, that excitement turned to dismay–the book had previously been published as Vice Cream, and I had owned a copy–and been disappointed with it. The disappointment stemmed from the fact that the recipes primarily used soaked and ground raw cashews for the ice cream base. While this is fine in principle, I am just not a person who will go through that amount of labor to make ice cream. When I want ice cream, I don’t want to have to wait several hours for it to happen. And the price of raw cashews doesn’t make the process cost effective. So, I was a bit frustrated.

I decided to give the book a read, and I noticed a difference in this new edition. In the Basics chapter, Rogers states “You may substitute coconut milk, in part or in full, for the cashews and water in my recipes” (9). This was better! Of course, he goes on to explain how to make coconut milk from a whole coconut, but I didn’t see why canned coconut milk couldn’t be used instead. Yes, there is less control over the ingredient, and making coconut milk from scratch is probably better, but I did mention that when I wanted ice cream, I didn’t want to wait hours for it–or have tons of equipment to clean afterward.

The first recipe I tried was the Chocolate Pecan, and instead of the 1 1/2 cups of cashew-water blend, I used a can of full fat coconut milk, using soymilk to make up any shortage. It was delicious! Rich, creamy, and chocolatey. I think we devoured it all in a weekend. Most of the recipes make a quart, so it is a bigger amount than one would typically by in the store–most pre-packaged vegan ice creams come in pint containers.

I also made the Raspberry, again with coconut milk, and that was also delicious. Having eaten dairy ice cream as a kid, the lack of flavors available in vegan ice cream at the store is disappointing. Having a book like this, which has all the basic flavors as well as some more unusual ones like Jalapeño Heaven and Carrot Cake, should satisfy any ice cream craving.

To round out my testing of the recipes, I did make some Vanilla with the cashews as directed. It was good, but there was a strong cashew flavor, obviously. For me, coconut milk is pretty much a neutral flavor–I don’t taste it in baked goods or ice cream–or maybe I just expect the coconut flavor, so I don’t notice. I didn’t dislike the cashew flavor, but it also distracted from the vanilla. Maybe it would be less noticeable in a stronger-flavored ice cream. Also, the nuts weren’t ground up as finely as maybe they should have been, so there were bits of cashews in the ice cream. I will chalk that up to my impatience for ice creamy goodness.

All in all, I am happy to have a copy of this book again. Going forward, I will probably stick with the coconut milk substitution, but when I have a craving for ice cream, there are plenty of flavors here to deal with that.

As a side note, I always keep the bowl of my ice cream maker in the freezer, so when I do want to make ice cream, it is ready to go!

For more info on the book, click here.

Author info can be found here.

Even in the twenty-first century, it can be difficult to be a vegan. Most restaurants are still way behind the times when it comes to menu options. People still look at you funny and wonder how you can possibly survive without all the wonderful and artery-clogging options out there. It is at times like those that I am so happy to have a book like The Complete Guide to Vegan Food Substitutions, by Celine Steen and Joni Marie Newman. When I first saw the book, I didn’t think I needed it. After all–I have been a vegan since 2003, and I was vegetarian for a long time before that. I knew all about substitutions–or at least I thought I did. No how much you think you know, if you are a vegan, cook for vegans, or simply want to include some healthier options in your diet, this is a great cookbook to have in your arsenal.

The book is helpfully divided into color-coded sections: Dairy (including cheese), Eggs, Meat, Animal By-Products (honey and gelatin), Gluten, Soy, Refined Sugar, and Fat. At the end is a comprehensive chart covering everything. There are the substitutions, but there are also recipes using those substitutions. The authors also indicate what ready-made substitutions can be found at the store–and when it is easier to buy rather than make.

The first recipe I made was the Basic Soymilk Mayo, which is in the Egg section. There are actually two mayo recipes, that one and another using tofu. The soymilk mayo has two variations, one that involves cooking, and one that doesn’t. I haven’t made the tofu recipe or the cooked soymilk one, but the no-cook version is worth the cost of the book. I really don’t think I will ever need to buy pre-made vegan mayo ever again. It is really easy and really good–it actually has an “eggy” taste. I use Light Silk Soymilk (or the store brand equivalent), and it still comes out thick and rich. I use it for cole slaw, pasta salads, vegan tuna/chicken salads, and as a condiment on sandwiches.

Another recipe from this section that I made was the Chick-o-late Brownie Cake, where chickpeas are the substitute for the egg. I made the gluten-free version, and it was really good. You would never know there is a can of chickpeas in there.

From the Dairy section, I have tried the White/Milk Chocolate Bar and the Chocolate Pudding. As a vegan, white chocolate is difficult to find, so I thought this recipe would be the solution. Raw cacao butter is on the expensive side, but I did get a big enough package to make each recipe once–and I have enough to make the milk chocolate again. I wasn’t able to find vanilla powder, so I used vanilla extract, and I didn’t purchase the optional soy lecithin. Still, the end result was pretty good. I used some candy molds I had, but an ever better use for them would probably be in baked goods.

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Kitty-themed White Chocolate

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White Chocolate Flowers

 

The Chocolate Pudding was also quite good. I used Silk’s Light Chocolate Soymilk, and I am often concerned that the light won’t thicken well, but no issues! Some of the pudding was used to make the Walnut Chocolate Brownies in the Egg section, and they got raves from my daughter!

From the Meat section, I made the Taco Meat, and that runs a close second to the mayo for a recipe that, on its own, is worth buying the book for. The recipe has a gluten-free version that uses TVP, which is the one I made, and a soy-free version using wheat gluten. It was so good–and so easy! You don’t even need taco seasoning, because all the spices are right there in the recipe.

Further in the chapter is a recipe for Pizza Pepperoni Topping with the same gluten-free and soy-free options. It was OK, but I blame the fact that my liquid smoke is really old, and not the recipe, for it not being perfect. I used to love pepperoni, but the vegan options at the store have too much gluten for me, so this was nice to have on my pizza! I also tried the Bacon Bit recipe, but it came out a little watery. Next time, I will try less water or a longer baking time. Might also add a bit more salt.

The Gluten chapter opens with an All-Purpose Baking Mix, and it is used in some of the recipes. I also tried it in some other recipes, and the resulting products had really nice crumb and texture, better than I’ve gotten with other a-p flour substitutions. I made the Chocolate Chip Muffins, which called for the baking mix, the Provençal Socca, the Superfudgy Coconut Cookie Bars, and the Coconut Cinnamon Raisin Bread. All were really good. Socca is a flatbread that is cooked in a skillet like a crepe. We had them plain–the recipe includes ideas for toppings–and they were really tasty.

Provensal Socca

Provençal Socca

There are a few sections I haven’t tried yet, but I have seen a lot of testy-sounding recipes that I am excited to make. And I recently read on Facebook that they are working on a second volume. When that one comes out, I won’t be hesitating!

 

 

I don’t make pies. They tend to stress me out with all the rolling and what not, so I avoid them. So when I got a copy of Pies and Tarts with Heart, by Dynise Balcavage, to review, I saw it as a chance to be converted to the wonders of making pies–and, to some degree, it worked.

One of my favorite things about this book was that it isn’t 100% what I think of when I think of pie cookbooks. Yes, the usual suspects are there, but there is a big section on savory pies, as well as “Imposter” pies–think whoopie and shepherd’s. All the recipes are vegan–I love being able to skim a cookbook knowing I can make just about anything. And just about every recipe has a gluten-free option, which is also great. I think there are only a handful of recipes that are dependent on gluten ingredients like phyllo or puff pastry, and as the market expands, that may change.

The first recipe I made, Macaroni Pie, came from the “Imposter” chapter. It was really easy, and all the ingredients are probably in everyone’s kitchen. Since my husband is not a mac and cheese fan, I made it for my daughter and I when he was out of town. Sadly for me, I only got one or two servings because my daughter liked it so much, she wanted the leftovers for lunch that week. Good parent that I am, I sacrificed my chance to have the leftovers for my own lunch. When she asks to take leftovers for lunch, I know I have a hit.

Macaroni Pie

Macaroni Pie

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Macaroni Pie leftovers for lunch!

 

From the Savory Pies and Tarts chapter, I tried out the Cheeseburger Pie and the Hash Brown-Crusted Breakfast Pie. They were also both very good–and I think the Cheeseburger Pie went to lunch as well. For the Hash Brown Crust I used frozen hash browns because I didn’t feel like grating potatoes, and they seemed to work OK. I also used tempeh in place of the ready made breakfast sausage, because I couldn’t find a gluten-free option. The Cheeseburger Pie was the only one that called for a rolled crust, and the g-f recipe was pretty easy.

Cheeseburger Pie

Cheeseburger Pie

Hash Brown Crusted Breakfast Pie

Hash Brown-Crusted Breakfast Pie

The chapter on Nutty Pies included Choco-Coco Macadamia Pie, and the picture in the book was enough to put it at the top of my Must Make List. A macadamia nut crust filled with chocolate, cream cheese, and coconut–I could have eaten the whole thing myself–in one sitting. But I was good and did share. It was creamy, crunchy, and chocolatey. Yum, yum, and yum.

Choco-Coco Macadamia Pie

Choco-Coco Macadamia Pie–the last slice!

My husband chose the Lemon Fluff Pie, from the Citrus Pies and Tarts chapter, for Father’s Day, but I ran out of time for the crust, so we had the filling as a pudding with the Enjoy Life! chocolate cookies I bought to make the crust from on the side. It was really good.

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Lemon Fluff Pie Filling with a Chocolate Cookie and Chocolate Chips

Decadent and Creamy Pies–the title of the chapter kind of says it all. The S’more Pie jumped out at me, and I made it recently for company. I used shortbread cookies for the crust instead of graham crackers–we also use those cookies to make s’mores, so I knew it would work. When I brought it out of the fridge, my daughter said it looked just like the picture in the book–praise doesn’t get much higher than that!

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S’more Pie

While I haven’t become a total convert to pies, this cookbook did make me realize that pies don’t have to completely stress me out., and I do look forward to exploring some of the other recipes.

 

 

The wonderful folks at Fair Winds Press sent me some new cookbooks to review, and I have been hard at work sampling recipes! That is part of the reason I haven’t posted too much–I have been saving it all for the review.

So, the first book I have to talk about is Fusion Food in the Vegan Kitchen, by Joni Marie Newman. I wanted to sample at least one recipe from each chapter before I reviewed the book. I haven’t yet made anything from the dessert chapter, so I will update when I have!

The recipes are divided into seven sections: Sauces and Condiments, Starters, Soups and Salads, Main Dishes, Sides. Beverages, and Desserts. The Introduction is shorter than I have seen in most vegan cookbooks, so some knowledge of vegan food and cooking is assumed. What the intro does focus on is explaining fusion food and going over some ingredients one might want to have on hand for this style of cooking. There were only one or two things I had never heard of before, so it isn’t an obscure list. There is also a key explaining the the recipe/allergy notations that will be found at the start of each recipe.

From the Small Bites and Starters chapter, I made the Orange Tempeh Kebabs, which also required a batch of the Garlic Orange Sauce from the first chapter. I am the big tempeh fan in the family–the others blow hot and cold depending on the recipe. This one was a hit all around. I opted to not serve it as kebabs, or even as a starter, but, instead, as part of the main course. We had baby bok choy and some adorable, gluten-free, duck-shaped pasta I found a Whole Foods to go with it. I used the rest of the Orange Sauce on the bok choy and pasta–it was so good!

Orange Tempeh with GF Duck Pasta and Baby Bok Choy

Orange Tempeh with GF Duck Pasta and Baby Bok Choy

I love chowder, but haven’t had it too often now that I don’t use dairy, so I was excited to see a recipe for Coconut Curry Pea and Potato Chowder in the Soup and Salad section. I love Indian food, but my husband is often not a fan, so I did halve the amount of curry powder the recipe called for. I also had fewer frozen peas in the freezer than I thought I did, so I added some corn. It was creamy, thick, and totally yummy. I claimed most of the leftovers for myself, but it was a hit with everyone when I initially served it.

Coconut Curry Pea (and Corn) and Potato Chowder

Coconut Curry Pea (and Corn) and Potato Chowder

From the same chapter, I also made the Chinese Style Macaroni Salad, which also required a batch of the Sweet Chile Sauce. The recipe invites creativity, so I played with the veggies I included. I didn’t have any green beans or scallions on hand, so I added bell pepper instead. I opted to not include the sesame seeds, and I also reduced the amount of red pepper flakes by half. Even doing that, it was quite spicy–I will probably tame the sauce a bit the next time I make it. However, it was still good–my daughter even asked for it as her lunch that week, which is a definite sign of success!

Chinese-Style Macaroni Salad

Chinese-Style Macaroni Salad

Also from the Soups, I made the Sloppy Joe Pho. When I served this and said what it was, my husband almost refused to eat it–he is not a fan of anything “sloppy” when it comes to food. However, he did give it a try, and it was an all-around hit. It was warm and just spicy enough.

The Pho is one of only three recipes in the book that call for TVP, and the other two have wheat gluten as a main ingredient, so I almost didn’t try them. But they sounded so interesting, I wasn’t going to give up. The Kofta Kebabs recipe is in the Main Dishes section, and I decided to give it a go. At first, I was just going to cook the TVP with the spices and make a sort of scramble with them, but I did some poking around online for an alternative binder. I happened across the blog My Real Food Life, and a recipe for gluten-free meatballs. Taking inspiration from there, I used a blend of tapioca starch, flax meal, and rice flour until I got the consistency I wanted. I shaped the Kofta as burgers instead of kebabs, and the result was fabulous. The taste was unaffected by my gluten-free tweaking, and we all got to enjoy it! All the other recipes I made were gluten-free from the start or included g-f options in the recipe.

Kofta Burgers

Kofta Burgers

From the Sides and Snacks chapter I made the Nori Roasted Potatoes. I used a blend of white and sweet potatoes, and it was also quite good. I love roasted veggies in pretty much any form, so this was an easy choice.

When I was trying to figure out what to try from the drinks chapter, I mixed up a couple of the recipes in my head when I was buying ingredients, so I ended up making a combination of the Ice Blended Mexican Hot Chocolate and the Banana Bliss–it was fabulous. I made a half recipe since I am the only coffee drinker in the house, and it came out fine, and I had a little party of my own!

I have several cookbooks by Newman, and they all have been hits. This is another. The recipes are, for the most part, familiar bases with global twists–and the ethnic cuisines included cover just about every continent. Fusion cooking is a good way to dabble in international cooking without making anything too scary for picky eaters. While there are some ingredients that may be harder to find, there are plenty that are right there on any grocery store’s shelves. I look forward to remaking some of the ones listed above, trying some new ones, and getting to that desserts chapter!

 

This Week’s Yumminess

March 5, 2014

Sunday was my big cooking day, as usual. However, I didn’t make a big dinner. Instead I opted to make some Tempeh Tuna Salad I found the recipe for in The Best Veggie Burgers on the Planet. It was really good and disappeared quickly. Yesterday, I made some mayo so I could make some more–used up the jar mayo I had on hand Sunday. That recipe came from The Complete Guide to Vegan Food Substitutions–I make the no-cook soymilk variation, and it is super easy.

Tempeh "Tuna" Salad

Tempeh “Tuna” Salad

Also made the Blackberry Cornmeal Muffins from The Allergy-Free Cook Bakes Bread that I thought were tasty–daughter disagreed. So today I had to pick out the berries in order for her to eat it. Upside–I got to eat the berries!

GF Blackberry Cornmeal Muffins

GF Blackberry Cornmeal Muffins

For supper, we had Pumpkin Pancakes, which also didn’t stick around long–didn’t even get a picture!

Yesterday, I got some cookbooks in the mail to review, so I look forward to some new recipes to try out–which I will then report here!

Endless Winter

February 28, 2014

I know it isn’t really endless, but I am beginning to think we’ve all been transported to the North of Westeros. Forget Winter is Coming, it has come, kicked our butts, and is refusing to leave!

Anyway, the calendar says Spring is coming soon, though I do have my doubts at the moment–especially when the temperature reaching 32 is a cause for celebration. But I digress.

I wrote a few weeks ago that I was determined to get back to clean eating, and I am happy to say that I have been largely successful with that. My weight is just about back to where it should be and the cupboards are largely junk-free. All this bad weather hasn’t helped, since snow days bring out the desire for chips and warm bread–along with warm chocolaty things. Maybe I shouldn’t be writing this before lunch….

To honor the cold weather, I did make a wonderful Pumpkin Chili last week–the recipe came from Great Gluten-Free Vegan Eats. I cut back on the spices a bit for family consumption–though except for the day I made it, I have been the only one eating it! I had never made a pumpkin-based soup before, and I wasn’t sure I would like it, but it was quite good–pumpkin is definitely not just for sweets! It also has chickpeas, black beans, tomatoes, corn, and green pepper. Maybe I will have some for lunch!

Pumpkin Chili

Pumpkin Chili

Well, all this talk of food is making me hungry, so I think I should run with that lunch idea. More yumminess to come, I promise. And some new book reviews soon!

As always, the end of the school year brings with it an over-packed schedule! That is part of the reason it has been so long between posts–just too much going on! Of course, the over-packed schedule means lots of events and lots of cooking for me. And now that camp has begun, that is not going to end anytime soon!

So, to recap–

My daughter participated in an after school club called One Hen, which is a micro-finance site for kids sort of like Kiva. She really enjoyed it, and they raised quite a bit of money through various events. One was a bake sale, and I was persuaded to make cookies. Phoebe loves the Cowboy/girl Cookie recipe from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar, so that is what I made. I experimented with the recipe and made it gluten-free–they were still great. I had to freeze them so there were still cookies for the bake sale! And once they were sent it, none made it home!

Cowgirl Cookies

Cowgirl Cookies

Since my daughter’s birthday is over the summer, she brings in a birthday snack around the right date in June, so she can celebrate with her whole class. This year, she asked for cookies–Chocolate Snickerdoodles and Lazy Samoas, both from Vegan Cookies Invade. The latter is a vegan version of the Girls Scouts cookie, and I made it gluten-free as well. They were delicious! Again, they almost didn’t make it to school! Unfortunately, the chocolate cookies were shy and didn’t want to be photographed.

Lazy Samoas

Lazy Samoas

Her class had an end-of-year party, and the parents were tapped to provide the buffet. How is it that the kids get to celebrate and the parents have to do all the work! Anyway, I was also making something for the school picnic after the moving up ceremony, so I turned to an easy stand-by–the Jam Bars recipe from The Vegetarian Family Cookbook. I used cherry preserves and called them Cherry Pie Bars. Sadly, my daughter failed to pass that info onto the rest of the class and most of them came home–but she has been able to take them for snack! For the all-school picnic, I made the Maple Pound Cake recipe from Have Your Cake and Vegan Too. However, with all the rain we had been getting, we opted not to go to the picnic in the end, thinking the park would be a mess. So we have that for snacks as well!

Cherry Pie Bars

Cherry Pie Bars

The last end-of-school baking requirement was for the class field trip, which I had offered to help chaperone. We went on a river cruise, which was nice, and I wanted to make something that was gluten-free so I could eat it to and not dependent on refrigeration. I decided on some Crispy Rice Treats from The Gluten-Free Vegan. I worried about the puffed rice that the recipe called for, but they were fabulous. I used dried cranberries instead of the raisins/currants. It was a challenge to eat just one!

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Crispy Rice Treats

Now that camp has started, we have gone back to Vegan Lunchbox to find more fun menus. The first week she picked one featuring Mini Wellingtons, which had a yummy filling wrapped in puff pastry. I sampled some of the filling before I made the Wellingtons! Since it was Harry Potter camp, I tried making lightning bolts in the pastry, but they didn’t all show up after they were baked. My daughter still thought it was cool though!

Mini Wellingtons

Mini Wellingtons

This week we decided on Chickpea Salad Sandwiches from Vegan Lunchbox. The salad is made using the Cheesy Roasted Chickpeas recipe, which came out quite tasty and would make a wonderful snack on their own. I also made some Strawberry Muffins for snack, using one of the variations for the Basic Muffins, Seven Ways recipe in Vegetarian Family.

Yesterday, my cooking moods continued, helped by the fact that I had gotten snacks out of the way Saturday. We received cabbage in our CSA box, so I made the Cool Slaw recipe from Appetite for Reduction. When making the dressing, I soaked the cashews like the recipe said, but I didn’t blend for the full five minutes–I am too impatient. As the recipe predicted, it was a little grainy, but it was barely noticeable, and it tasted great.

I also switched back to the Masala Baked Tofu recipe in Appetite for Reduction this week, getting a little bored with the Basic one. I wanted to make Buffalo Tofu, but I also wanted to make tempeh, so I compromised and made the Hot Sauce-Glazed Tempeh recipe from Veganomicon. As seems to always be the case, the marinade was more than enough for double the tempeh.

Cool Slaw

Cool Slaw

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Cool Slaw with Hot Sauce-Glazed Tempeh

After all of this cooking, I think tonight will be low key–mashed potatoes from the box and Gardein Chick’n patties (a burger for me!). Just need to add some CSA veggies to go along with it.

Kim Harrison

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