March 31, 2008

Super Red Slaw

Though I loved buttered hot beets as a kid, I've had an aversion to cooked beets ever since my trip to France in 1995. I was a vegetarian at the time and stayed with a family in a house in the country. They had no idea what to feed a vegetarian. My main meal ended up being a salad of cooked beets, eggs, and potato. The first few times this tangy, vinaigrette-covered salad was unexpectedly good but after 2 weeks I couldn't even look at cooked beets.
Well today I was scrounging through the fridge looking for something for lunch and found that there was a single beet leftover from our Easter egg dyeing. Among the few other ingredients in my nearly bare larder were some red cabbage and a lone red onion. I decided to try my taste buds out on raw beets and see how they fared. The resulting slaw was tremendously good and satisfyingly fresh and crunchy.

Super Red Slaw
Serves 2-4

1/2 small head of red cabbage
1 large red beet
1/2 medium red onion
2 teaspoons grape seed oil (or other neutral oil)
2 tablespoons brown rice vinegar
1 tablespoon ume plum vinegar
salt to taste
pinch of cayenne pepper
-Grate the beets, cabbage and onion on a course grater, a food processor is best for this.
-Toss the grated vegetables with the oil, vinegars, salt and cayenne pepper.
Super Red Slaw on Group Recipes

March 30, 2008

Top Chef Chicago Block Party

Once again Alex has brought home some nasty cold from school and I caught it. I haven't been able to taste anything all week and it's making me miserable. I made a huge pot of chicken soup today and loaded it with garlic. I hope the fact that I could smell the garlic slightly on my hands this evening is a good sign.

I only just got around to watching this week's episode of Top Chef. While there wasn't a lot of interesting dishes it was a decent episode. I was surprised at how many of the contestants didn't bother listening to the quickfire directions. Erik once again had a plate that looked like a disaster. His souffle plate, from the season opener, was a mess but this "fine dining" taco was even worse! He couldn't possibly have thought that plate looked professional. The Kraft product placement was tedious and annoying during their ingredient hunt. Don't forget the spicy ranch dressing and KC Masterpiece! By all means they would be lost without those valuable ingredients. I was truly glad that Stephanie won this week for her fruit crumble. Keeping the cinnamon dusted fried won tons separate was good planning and the whole dish sounds wonderful. I do think it was fair to let Erik go for not thinking ahead and changing his plan to make corn dogs. There had to have been something else they could have done with those hot dogs that would have held up against their transport time. They could have just dressed the plain dogs with some awesome toppings and wowed the judges that way. It was a bad call on his part. Next week looks interesting. There's a film theme and I hope it will be matching dishes to movies. In the meantime here's Stephanie's winning dish:

March 22, 2008

Sugar High Fridays #41 -Vegan Caramels

This month's Sugar High Friday is all about sweet gifts. See all the entries at Habeas Brulee on Friday, March 28th.
These caramels are so good I'm seriously thinking about marketing them. There are a lot of dairy-free substitutes for ice cream, cream cheese, butter, and even whipped cream but I looked high and low and couldn't even find a good recipe for caramel candy. My husband was adamant that I find some way for Alex to taste caramel and have caramel apples. All of the recipes I could find used real cream, half and half or condensed milk and trying to substitute soy creamer just didn't cut it. Then I found a recipe that looked promising because it used a combination of dairy-free margarine and soymilk. After tweaking the directions a little I finally had my son's very first taste of caramel candy. He LOVED it! These caramels have quickly become his favorite treat. I think they can compare to any homemade caramel I've eaten.

Enjoy the recipe and make sure to share it with those in your life who either can't have dairy or choose not to. They are a truly great gift.

Vegan Caramels
Awesome homemade dairy-free caramel recipe! Good with nuts, topped with chocolate, or for dipping apples in. Cook it to a lower temperature for caramel ice cream topping. Thanks to "The Glad Cow Cookbook' for the original ingredient proportions.
Makes ~100 pieces of caramel
1 cup margarine*
2 cups sugar
2 cups soy milk
1 cup light corn syrup
1 t vanilla
*Optional: Add 1 tsp salt if using unsalted margarine
Grease and line with parchment a 8 inch x 8 inch baking pan.
Place all ingredients (except vanilla) in a large saucepan (4qt minimum capacity.)
Bring ingredients to a boil stirring often.
Cook over medium heat while stirring until candy reaches 245 degrees F.
Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Pour into lined baking pan.
Allow to cool completely. Snip into pieces using clean kitchen shears (or slice with a knife). Wrap individually with waxed or parchment paper. Makes ~100 pieces
Variation: Cook to 230 degrees F and add vanilla. Pour into a glass jar. Warm jar in a pan of hot water before pouring over ice cream or cake.
Vegan Caramels at Group Recipes

Happy Easter

Alex and I dyed Easter eggs today. We used red cabbage, blackberries, turmeric, paprika, carrots, spinach and beets. The best colors came from the spices, cabbage and blackberries. The carrots were the most disappointing. They were supposed to color the eggs yellow but it was far too pale to notice. Alex loved mixing all the colors together after we were done. He loves playing "mad scientist". Big thanks to my mom for the cute bunny bowl. Have a Happy Easter!

March 20, 2008

Sunshine Chicken Thighs

Top Chef was fairly uninteresting last night. I was really disappointed that the gorilla team the vegetarian animal as their theme didn't even bother to make all vegetarian fare. Why not rise to the occasion? At least it seemed as though the worst dish was voted out: Black Olive Blinis with Mascarpone and Rutabaga?? That just sounds awful and apparently they were cold as well. The only dish that piqued my interest this week was Mark's: MARINATED ANCHOVY ON A QUINOA CROQUETTE The recipe seems incomplete but has a nice picture of the plate. I'll admit to having a fear of small fish. I like them and would like to eat more of them but I have no idea what to do with them at home.
What I have been cooking at home lately is this turmeric-lemon chicken. I always thought of turmeric as just a spice for coloring but it has a pungent-bitter flavor of it's own that I think is wonderful with lemon. The tumeric gives the chicken a vivid yellow color as well. Here's the recipe:

Sunshine Chicken Thighs
This recipe also works with other cut-up chicken on the bone but is best with thighs.
Serves 4-6
1 - 1 1/2 pound of chicken thighs, with skin and bone
1 lemon,
4 cloves of garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons turmeric
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon olive oil
-Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
-Peel the garlic cloves place in a roasting pan with the chicken thighs (chicken should be in one layer). Slice the lemon into 4 slices. Squeeze the lemons on top of the chicken and then place the squeezed lemons into the roasting pan. Sprinkle on the spices and salt and drizzle on the oil. Rub the spices into the chicken.
-Place the roasting pan into the oven and roast for 20 minutes.
-Remove the roasting pan and baste the chicken with the drippings.
-Place the pan back in the oven and increase the heat to 425 degrees. Roast for another 25-30 minutes until tender and golden brown.
-Optional: Smash the roasted garlic cloves into the pan drippings and drizzle over the finished chicken.

March 19, 2008

Raspberry-Glazed Baked Donuts

I saw this recipe yesterday for Heavenly Baked Crullers with Cherry Glaze and they sounded so good I had to make them today. The recipe uses half whole wheat flour but they are still wonderfully light. The whole wheat flour gives them a delicious nutty flavor that compliments the eggs wonderfully. I halved the recipe so I wouldn't make too many. Then, after I realised my piping tip was too small and didn't give real cruller-like ridges I used the remaining batter to make cream puffs. I'm still deciding what to use to fill them. For my donuts, I replaced the maraschino cherry juice with defrosted red raspberries which I strained to get their juice. Alex LOVED the raspberry frosting, of course. I'll definitely keep this recipe around and use it again.

And now for the follow up:

Raspberry-Glazed Cream Puffs with Lemon Mock Pastry Cream

Since I didn't want a lot of donuts I used most of my pate choux batter for cream puffs. I used the same raspberry glaze and created a mock pastry cream that is vegan. Of course this puff isn't vegan but they turned out so well I want to remember the filling recipe for vegan cupcakes.

Vegan Lemon Mock Pastry Cream Recipe
Makes ~1 cup of filling
3 tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup soymilk
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon lemon oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice (or to taste)
3 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened

-Add sugar, soymilk, and cornstarch to a small saucepan off of the heat. Stir until lumps of cornstarch disappear. Turn on heat to medium high and bring to boil, stirring constantly. Boil until thickened.
-Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
-Whisk in lemon oil, lemon juice and margarine until smooth and creamy. Spoon or pipe into desired baked good. Excellent in cream puffs, this should be great in cupcakes or as a cake filling.

March 18, 2008

Foodie Blogroll and other tidbits

I joined the Foodie Blogroll this week. It's a great collection of food blogs that are a ton of fun to browse through. The creator, Jenn, has a great blog of her own: The Left Over Queen. Also, I was reading Bitten (Mark Bittman's food blog at NY Times) earlier today and saw two interesting articles. One was a link to this chart that lists which of the more prevalent organic food labels is owned by a much larger food producer. Even though it's interesting information, it doesn't give you a true idea of how the individual lines are run and whether they were created solely by the big companies or just bought out and possibly still retain their originators. Just because some big conglomerate is involved does not mean that quality food isn't being made in a responsible fashion. Of course, I love going out of my way and trying to buy from the local small guy. The other item that caught my eye was that the documentary "King Corn" would be playing on PBS April 15th. I've heard great things about the film and can't wait to see it. Here is Bittman's blog, you can watch the trailer yourself below. It would seem PBS has my number lately since I've become addicted to their Complete Jane Austen series as well. I'm busy with plans to travel to Chicago and trying to decide what to bake/cook for Easter. I should have some recipes later this week.

March 15, 2008

Hooray for dairy-free chocolate lentils!

Alex has always looked wistfully at the bowls of M&Ms at parties. I've been looking for awhile and finally found ones he can eat! I bought mine from Chocolate Emporium. They are listed as "chocolate lentils". I also found Whizzer's brand dairy-free chocolate beans at Allergy Grocery. They also have Whizzer's candy coated chocolate eggs that should be coming this week for Alex's Easter basket. I'm not a huge fan of M&Ms, but Alex liked them straight up. I used some in cookies and they were really great in cookies. Here's the recipe I used:

Chocolate Candy Cookies
Makes 26 large cookies
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup dairy-free margarine or butter
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup chocolate lentils or M&M candies
-Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
-Beat sugars and margarine together until light and fluffy.
-Add egg and vanilla and incorporate.
-In a separate bowl mix together flours, baking soda and salt.
-Add flour mixture to margarine mixture in two batches, mix until just incorporated.
-Fold in chocolate lentils.
-Spoon or scoop onto lined cookie sheets, these cookies spread a good deal. (For 26 cookies use a 1oz disher)
-Bake for 9-10 minutes or until just slightly golden on the bottom.
-Allow to cool before removing from pans.

March 13, 2008

Top Chef Chicago Episode 1

I'll admit it: Top Chef is shameless "reality" TV, but I can't help watching the new episodes anyway. I won't waste time writing recaps, there are better sites already out there doing that. I particularly love Television without Pity's Keckler and the Bravo TV Blogs. Harold and Anothony Bourdain are always worth reading on Bravo. Occasionally, I'll read Blogging Top Chef or Amuse-Biatch, too.
My thoughts on the season 4 opener are: I love that they get lockers and can bring some of their own ingredients. It makes so much more sense when they are all competing with different cooking styles to make sure they have crucial elements of their personal style. The idea of having pairs to compare for the first elimination challenge instead of trying to compare that many dishes all against each other was decent. I liked that the winner triumphed despite her nerves. Did Andrew seriously say he didn't know how to make mayonnaise? I thought his competitor, Richard?, was trying to even the playing field by offering up his bottled mayo. Bottled mayo vs. freshly made? But Richard's dish was picked as better anyway. I'm most interested in seeing more of Stephanie and maybe Mark (tho the Marmite use may have been just a gimmick). Stephanie's spring rolls sound great but I can't see myself springing for demi-glace to cook the legs. Maybe substituting already confited legs would be good?
The winning recipe this week: DUCK BREAST & DUCK SPRING ROLLS

March 11, 2008

What Happened!?

My son Alex loved watching the video Food Fight on You Tube and had to make his own version. John has been trying to explain how each food represents different countries at war but I think Alex just likes how funny the food looks smashed.

Here's his video:
Note: All food involved was comsumed by Alex or our dogs Karmal and Roxy. Alex even liked eating the crab from the California roll!
Pictures of Alex enjoying the aftermath

March 8, 2008

Smoked Paprika Shrimp

I'm in love with smoked Spanish paprika (pimenton)! I love the smokiness and heat it gives to food. This is by far my favorite recipe I've found so far using it. You can get the sweet (pimenton dulce) or hot (pimenton picante) paprika. It took me awhile to find the dulce version and I really loved the heat in the hot stuff, but to suit more people you might want to go lighter on the paprika if you are using the hot pimenton. Amazon has a three pack of tradtional, dulce, and picante to try.

Pimenton Shrimp
Serves 4 as a main course 6-8 as an appetizer
1 lb raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
4-6 tablespoons good extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons Spanish smoked paprika
1/4 cup chopped parsley leaves
salt to taste
good crusty bread

1.Add oil, garlic, and paprika to a large, cold skillet. Heat over medium flame until garlic starts to soften and become fragrant. Be careful not to burn the garlic.
2.Add shrimp in a single layer and cook through (~1-2 minutes per side). Do not crowd the pan. Cook shrimp in more than one batch if there isn't enough room.
3.Turn off heat and add chopped parsley. Stir and taste for seasoning. Serve with crusty bread to sop up the oil. Extra oil can be added at the end.

March 1, 2008

Hostess Behemoth

While browsing other blogs this week I came across this delectable looking recipe: homemade devil dog, ding dong or hostess cake at smittenkitchen. This was my first time looking over Deb's site but I instantly fell in love. Since I was due to bake a birthday cake today anyway I decided to take a stab at her creation.

I have a fall back chocolate cake recipe that everyone says they love but I've been getting SO terribly bored of it. Also, because it's egg-free it doesn't hold up well in layer cakes. So I took Deb's recipe, used the 9-inch pan directions (2/3 of the recipe), used some dairy-free Sharfen Berger semi-sweet chocolate, and substituted 1 cup of soy milk mixed with 1 tablespoon of vinegar for the buttermilk. The batter was beautiful, dark and rich looking. I managed to not overbake it and pulled it out with perfect timing (not usual for me).
Then I made the marshmallow frosting but added 2 tablespoons of Earth Balance margarine at the end to make it richer and more like a Swiss buttercream. For the ganache I substituted 6 tablespoons of soymilk and 2 1/2 tablespoons of Earth Balance margarine for the 1/2 cup of cream. A substitution for heavy cream in recipes that aren't going to be whipped is ¾ cup milk + 1/3 cup butter (or sub) for each cup of heavy cream. I decided to leave out the 2 T of butter at the end but after taking a taste added a 1/4 cup of sifted powdered sugar to sweeten it slightly. After filling the middle of the two layers of cake with the 7 minute frosting and covering the outside with the ganache I couldn't resist the play on Hostess and mixed up some powdered sugar icing to decorate the top.
The cake was great! I think I let the ganache cool just a little too long, it was a little too thick on the outside. I loved the 7 minute frosting with a little fat added. I have to try it on a bumpy cake some time. Finally, I have to keep the cake batter recipe on hand. It was excellent and had great structure and so held up in the layer cake beautifully. Thanks for the recipe Deb!