Friday, July 23, 2010

My favourite vegan/lacto-vegetarian is leaving me

It seems that the organic bananas have been turning very quickly recently. I buy them when they're still green and within a couple of days they are half brown, skipping the yellow stage entirely. Audra and Eleanor both love bananas, but they can't eat them that quickly. Or rather, I won't let them. When Audra was starting on solids I learned the hard way what too many bananas do to a baby.

Three over-ripe bananas have been sitting on the kitchen counter for several days. I have thought several times about making banana bread, but the recipe I have always used is wheat-based and full of loathsome gluten. On several occasions I have looked online for a gluten-free banana bread recipe, but my little girls seem to have been exceptionally demanding.

One of our friends is moving to Michigan next week and there is a going away party after church on Saturday. I found out yesterday that everyone is supposed to bring snack food. With renewed purpose and a deadline I set out to find a recipe.

Currently my favourite gluten-free cooking blog is "Gluten Free Girl and the Chef." Shauna has wonderful recipes and stories. She also has a little girl about Audra's age. On her blog is a recipe for a chocolate banana bread. Her recipe calls for yogurt. Since I make my own yogurt it is difficult to resist the urge to cook with it.

I adapted this recipe to make an amazing egg-less banana bread with a nearly cake-like consistency. For vegan banana bread try using a non-dairy yogurt (soy, coconut, etc).

Nearly Vegan Chocolate Banana Bread (egg-less)
  4 oz teff flour (about 1 cup)
  6.5 oz brown rice flour (about 1 cup)
  5.5 oz sugar (about 3/4 cup)
  6 tablespoons cocoa powder (high quality)
  1 teaspoon baking soda
  1/2 teaspoon salt
  3 overly ripe bananas (about 1 cup)
  1/2 cup applesauce
  1/3 cup light olive oil
  1/4 cup plain yogurt
  1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and position rack in the lower third of the oven. Grease two small loaf pans.

Combine flours, sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Use a fork to break up clumps in the cocoa powder. Use a whisk to incorporate dry ingredients.

In a separate bowl mash bananas. Add applesauce, oil, yogurt, and vanilla. Mix well.

Fold wet ingredients into dry ingredients using a spatula. Batter will be lumpy. Do not over mix.

Portion batter into pans. Bake for about 45 minutes. When bread is done a toothpick inserted into the middle will come out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool about 10 minutes. Remove from pan and place on rack to finish cooling.

Serve warm or completely cooled. Enjoy!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Blueberry Cornmeal Pancakes

One of my favourite things to do in the morning is make pancakes with Audra.  I get out a all the ingredients, a big bowl, measuring cups, and two spoons.  While the pan is heating I help Audra to the table.  I measure out the ingredients.  Audra tells me what they are as she pours them into the bowl.  She's great at mixing.  Mommy adds the eggs and makes sure everything is well-combined.  Then Audra climbs into her high chair to continue narrating while I cook.

Everyone in our house enjoys pancakes.  Daddy likes to eat them with butter and syrup.  Audra likes hers with "abutter" which is sometimes peanut butter, sometimes cashew butter, and sometimes almond butter.  She doesn't really care what kind of butter it is, but it must be butter.  Eleanor and I usually have ours with fresh fruit or berry compote (which Audra also enjoys with her butter).

The leftovers go in the freezer.  Any time Audra wants a pancake (which is often), I just pop one in the toaster.  It works well for us...that is it did until I had to switch to a gluten-free diet.

It has been difficult finding gluten-free pancake recipes that the my whole family likes.  I've made several that I like and Randall doesn't.  Others Randall and I both like but Audra and Eleanor don't care for.

I spend a lot of time looking at recipes.  Thursday afternoon I was looking at cornbread and polenta recipes and was inspired.  So I got up early Friday morning to make blueberry corn meal pancakes.

For the best pancakes, make sure you get the finest ground corn meal/flour.  I chose to add the blueberries to each pancake individually.  This prevents the blueberries bleeding and turning your pancakes blue, and you can control how many blueberries are in each pancake.  I served ours with fresh honey butter.

Blueberry Cornmeal Pancakes
  2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted plus more for pan
  1 1/2 cups cornmeal, finely ground
  3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  1 teaspoon salt
  2 eggs, lightly beaten
  2 to 2 1/2 cups buttermilk
  1 pint blueberries

In a bowl combine cornmeal, baking soda and salt.  Add eggs, butter, and 2 cups of buttermilk.  The amount of buttermilk needed will depend on the the texture of the cornmeal.  Add more if needed until the mixture is the consistency of pancake batter.

Ladle 1/4 cup of batter onto hot pan or griddle.  While the batter begins to cook add a few blueberries to the pancake.  When bubbles rise to the top of the batter flip gently.  Cook on second side until golden brown and firm.

Makes about 20 small pancakes.  Enjoy!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Orange Peel Vegetables

One of the first outings I went on with my husband was to P.F. Chang's.  We had been at a coffee shop all afternoon.  He finally convinced me that I needed a study break, we got in his little red rally car, and headed across midtown in the snow.  He had Orange Peel Chicken, one of his favourites.

Several months later, when we were dating, I decided to try to copy their recipe and make Orange Peel Chicken at home.  It was good, and I modified the recipe several times.  I also gave myself several second-degree burns (let's just say there are two reasons I don't fry food).  I had taken what was a pretty good copy of P.F. Chang's recipe and turned it into something that suited both of our tastes a little bit better.  Then we became vegetarians.

I modified the recipe a little bit more today to make it gluten-free and sugar-free.  Now I can't imagine why it needed either to begin with.

Orange Peel Vegetable Stir-Fry
    1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
    3 cloves garlic, minced
    1/2 onion, sliced
    2 green onions, sliced
    1 cup tomato sauce
    1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon water
    juice of one orange (about 1/4 cup)
    1/2 teaspoon dried chili flakes
    1 tablespoon gluten-free soy sauce
    1 tablespoon corn starch

    Stir Fry:
    1 bell pepper, chopped
    1 carrot, julienned
    1 head broccoli, cut
    1/2 cup edamame
    1/2 cup mushroom, sliced
    peel from 1/4 orange, julienned

Prepare sauce by heating 1 tablespoon of oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Add garlic and onions.  Quickly add the tomato sauce and 1/2 cup water (before garlic browns).  Add orange juice, chili flakes, and soy sauce.  Combine corn starch with 1 tablespoon of water.  Slowly stir in to sauce.  Bring sauce to a boil and simmer until the sauce thickens.  Turn off heat.

In a wok heat 1 tablespoon oil.  Add mushrooms.  Cook until lightly browned on one side.  Add bell peppers and cook lightly.  Add carrots, broccoli, and edamame.  When everything is cooked through, add orange peel.  Cook for 20-30 seconds.  Add sauce to the pan and stir until heated and combined.

Serve over brown rice.

*I only put mushrooms on my husbands serving.  This dish would also be good with tofu, but my family does not like it.  Feel free to use whatever vegetables your family likes.  This is what I had on hand today.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

More Cooking Adventures

Nearly two years ago our little family became vegetarian.  In the beginning it was rather challenging.  I could cook without meat, that wasn't a problem.  It just seemed that we had the same four or five meals all the time.  Slowly I became more comfortable and confident cooking a wider variety of foods.  We added new grains to our diet, like quinoa and barley.  I learned to cook new vegetables.  It has been a great adventure.

Since my first pregnancy I have had some recurring health problems.  I've tried to control it with medication, but that has only helped a little.  After much research, I decided that I need to switch to a gluten-free, sugar-free diet.  I also have to avoid mushrooms and yeasts.

I don't think the switch to gluten-free will be that difficult.  A part of me is actually looking forward to figuring out how to bake with 20 different flours at once.  Not having any sugar (including honey or agave) is going to be hard.  It looks like my only option as far as sweeteners go is stevia.  I haven't tried any yet.  I think my real challenge is going to be giving up yummy, yeasty breads.

Right now, the rest of the family isn't planning on joining me with all of this dietary change.  Hopefully this will all be worth it and I'll consistently feel better.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Peanut, Peanut Butter and Honey

My older daughter just turned two-years-old. Two of her favourite things are expressing herself artisticly and peanut butter.

We have tried homemade salt playdough on several occasions. Most times she plays for a few moments and then starts eating it. I don't know how she can stand it. It doesn't taste good. Today we made all-natural peanut butter playdough.

Using natural peanut butter (with nothing but peanuts) requires the addition of more honey than usual. This type of peanut butter also requires refrigeration, and thus it works best to chill the dough for a little while before letting your little one play with the dough.

Peanut Butter Playdough
   1 cup all-natural peanut butter
   4 tablespoons honey
   1/2 cup evaporated non-fat milk
   (more or less depending on peanut butter used)
Combine peanut butter and honey. Mix until consistency is smooth and creamy. Add dry milk slowly and mix with your hands until dough reaches desired consistency. Chill 5 minutes. Store extra playdough in the refrigerator.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Moroccan Lentil Soup

As vegetarians, sometimes we have a hard time finding good places to eat when we're out.  One of our favourite places to eat out is at Cosi.  My husband likes to go on Tuesdays when they have their Moroccan Lentil Soup.  He loves it.  For this reason I have spent several months trying to find a recipe for lentil soup that was similar to theirs.

I had little luck.  After hours of searching and four different recipes we found a soup that we liked in theory.  I made several small changes and came up with our version of Moroccan Lentil Soup.  It is different from what they have at Cosi, but we really like it.  So does our friend, Eddie.

Moroccan Lentil Soup
2 T extra virgin olive oil
1 T turmeric
2 T cumin
1 t red pepper flakes
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
1 medium bell pepper, diced
2 potatoes, diced
2 carrots, cut into shoestrings
2 potatoes
1 T tomato paste
1 c red lentils
1 c lentils
1/2 inch fresh ginger or 1 t ground ginger
4 c vegetable broth
4 c water
salt to taste

In a large sauce pan, heat oil over medium heat.  Add garlic, onions, and bell peppers.  Cook until onions are soft, being careful not to burn the garlic.  Add the cumin and turmeric.  Stir occasionally and allow spices to "bloom."   Add 2 c broth and 2 c water.  Stir in red pepper flakes and ginger.  Bring liquid to a boil.  Add potatoes, carrots, and red lentils.  Boil for 20-30 minutes, or until lentils are soft.  Stir occasionally.  Add tomato paste and remaining broth and bring to a boil.  Add lentils.  Boil for at least 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add salt to taste.

Serve with a dollop of plain yogurt or sour cream if desired.

Two notes:
  Allowing the spices to bloom is the key to the flavour of this wonderful soup.
  Add salt at the last minute.  Adding salt while the lentils are cooking can lead to tough lentils.