November 27, 2011

Holiday Crafts at Grandma's House

We squeezed in a little holiday fun together too this weekend.

Winter Crafts ~ Warm Hats

One of the big reasons I haven't been to the PC to catch up on the blog is because I've picked up a crochet hook.  The garden work is over for the season and I usually pick up some crafts to work over the winter.  Sometimes it's yarn, sometimes glass, or sometimes the scrap books.  I was clearing off some piles in the house recently and ran across a page with four hat patterns I've saved to crochet sometime.  I grabbed some cotton yarn and started crocheting.  I like this pattern, got hooked right away.  (hooked, hee hee)  It took awhile to get it right on the top, but I knew I wasn't getting it right away.  Instead of ripping out my work, I just repeated the same stitches which created a pattern of their own. I fell in love with the little hats and been gifting them right away as it's getting cold here and a warm gift is always welcome. I bought a stash of cotton and hemp yarn hoping to turn it all into cute hats to help keep my friends warm this winter.

Kaylee Does Farm to Table

Kaylee came over to play yesterday.  I recently downloaded an electronic cookbook for kids, Monkey Mike's Raw Food Kitchen, an Un-Cookbook for kids.  I printed out one for her house and one to plat with at our house.  It's a cute little cookbook with activities and games. It's good for a nice reading practice book too. I found a couple cute and easy recipes we could try together: Dracula's Carrot Salad with Count Your Blessings Salad Dressing and Hunky-Dory Almond Hummus.  She told me on the way to my house she had asked for gluten free treats at the school Holiday party and the librarian told her she bring some hummus.  Kaylee said she was excited about that because she had never tried hummus.  So, we made some together.  She liked it.  Even though there aren't many spices in it, she did say it was a little too spicy by itself.  Mixed with some crunch celery, carrots, and cucumber, she liked it just fine.  I warmed some pumpkin polenta and 13 bean stew I made in the morning and served it with our salad and hummus.  I was pleased she ate a two servings of the salad and hummus.  She liked the stew and pumpkin polenta, but enjoyed the salad more.  Fine with me, the salad, raw veggies, and hummus make for a complete meal.

One of the best parts of the day was when I reviewed the ingredients and realized I had all except some fresh beets.  I do still have some beets growing out in the garden so we had a little "Farm to Table" exercise.  Out to the garden we went to gather some beets.  There were some more treats out there too.  We came home with some chard, a small red cabbage, and a nice big fennel too.

 She's still a bit too small to use a chef's knife, but not too small to use a food processor.  Kaylee read all the ingredients and instructions aloud to me.  I explained what I was doing and what tools I was using when paring and pealing the vegetables.  She ran the processor and helped toss the salad arrange it all for dinner. 

The Dracula salad is a version of a beet and carrot salad I already make regularly in the summer.  I like this recipe, the addition of almonds and raisins makes for a variety of textures.

Dracula's Carrot Salad

1 beet
3 carrots
2 green onions
12 almonds
2 tablespoons raisins
2 tablespoons cilantro leaves

Count Your Blessings Salad Dressing

Juice of 1 orange
2 tablespoons macadamia nut oil, (we used hazelnut oil)
2 teaspoons almond butter
Teensy pinch Celtic sea salt

Hunky-Dory Almond Hummus

1 ½ cups almonds soaked in 1 ½ cups filtered water for four hours or more
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 clove garlic minced
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup water
Big pinch Celtic sea salt

A Plant Based Thanksgiving

Grateful to have my son at home, my granddaughter close by, and no travel plans this Thanksgiving holiday, I settled in for a four day weekend at home.  I shopped last weekend for the cooking items I might need this weekend besides our fresh produce so that I could stay at home if I wanted or the weather demanded all weekend.

We haven't had a family Thanksgiving at home in a few years.  We used to travel all day to fetch our granddaughter for the weekend, but her family moved back to our area and I am loving it. Funny, I had to reassure my son that we only tried the Tofurky once about six years ago and won't repeat it again.  I enjoyed the flavor of the Tofurky and all the roasted vegetables, but the texture has much to be desired.  It is a good transition food for new plant based eaters on the holidays and many vegans who went to a friend's or relatives probably found it on the table, but it's really a processed food item and I do feel like I'm eating deli lunch meat.  It's the first thing people mention when I tell them we are having a plant based Thanksgiving dinner.

What did we have? Ooh, I tried a wonderful recipe by Mark Reinfeld, Link to recipe: Mediterranean Pistachio Crusted Tofu with Saffron Quinoa Pilaf  It recently won Vegan Recipe of the Year by  I had already practiced a version of this in Mark's two day vegan cooking workshop and knew it would be tasty and easy.  The whole meal only takes a little over an hour from start to finish. The quinoa was easy and colorful and the Mediterranean vegetable salad brightened the whole plate. I thought I'd give it a try for our Thanksgiving meal.  I added some fresh cranberry sauce with some frozen strawberries added for extra sweetness. I doubled the recipe for some planned leftovers.  It was great for lunch today.  I was especially pleased when I saw my son, who is still a bit leery about our plant based lifestyle, go to the refrigerator and heat up a plate for a meal today.

Marinating Tofu Cutlets
Pistachio Crusted Tofu Cutlets on Fresh Baby Spinach

Mediterranean Vegetable Salad

Saffron Quinoa Pilaf

Apricot Almond Pie & Four Ingredient Pumpkin Pie

November 19, 2011

Four Ingredient Vegan Pumpkin Pie

Way behind on posting, I've been neglecting my blog.  I have been busy in the kitchen, as usual, but a lot of the meals I've been making have been repeats.  Although there are a few I want to share, many of the meals I've been making have become staples like the vegan mac & cheese or flax crackers.  It's been pretty handy having the recipes I like or create posted somewhere so I can look them up again.  So many meals in the past I've not been able to repeat very well because I didn't write down what I did.

I've had a great four day holiday weekend complete with some cookie baking with my son, cooking and crafts with my granddaughter, and some great meals at the dining room table.  Thanksgiving has been a week long celebration here beginning with a Vegan Compassionate Thanksgiving last weekend with the NW Veg folks in Portland, OR.  Three hundred and forty people gathered for a holiday vegan meal.  We met some new friends and shared some hugs with familiar friends.  There were so many wonderful dishes.  We walked around the tables looking at them and taking some photos as guests arrived.  I could tell there was no way I was going to taste everything I'd like to.  I am also really glad we got some photos of the ingredient cards as well as the food.  I can recreate some of the ones I like and some of the ones I didn't get to try.
I brought the pumpkin pies I've been making this fall and winter. I found a pretty easy pumpkin pie recipe. It contains only four ingredients that bakes up like the traditional pumpkin pie people are used to.  It's firm, but creamy when you slide it in your mouth with the cashew coconut creme.  They disappeared pretty quickly.  I took home two clean pie plates. I made it with a gluten free oat flour crust for Thanksgiving and my granddaughter loved it.

Four Ingredient Pumpkin Pie

vegan, makes one pie

1 1/4 cups raw soaked cashews
1 cup maple syrup
1 can organic pumpkin puree (16 ounces) (or use fresh puree)
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice

optional: 1/2 tsp salt to taste (depends how much salt you soaked your cashews in)

ingredients notes: using high quality spice is helpful. Also, I prefer grade B maple syrup for its rich amber tones and caramelized flavor - but grade A works too.

One standard vegan pie crust - or make your own using my instructions in this post. Also reference my crust-making how-to video here.

To Make:

1. Soak about one cup of raw cashews in about 2 1/2 cups of water in a large bowl. Add about 1/2 - 1 tsp of salt to the bowl - mix to dissolve. The salt allows the water to absorb more efficiently into the cashews and also adds some salt for your recipe. Note: you may want to soak more cashews than needed and make two pies - or use in other recipes.

2. Soak this cashew bowl for two hours. You want well-soaked cashews so that your pie mix blends up perfectly creamy.

3. The day of your actual pie making allow at least 3 hours from the time you start to the time you wish to serve the pie. I like a cool time of at least 2 hours.

4. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

5. Drain the water from your cashews. They should be very soft to bite and a slight purplish dark hue. This is normal. Add 1 1/4 cups of cashews to your food processor - or even better, or high speed blender like a Vitamix or Blendtec.

6. Add pumpkin to blender. Next, add in the maple syrup and pumpkin pie spice. Blend on low -> high for about 3-5 minutes until the mixture is completely creamy. If your mixture is a bit thick for some reason - you can add in a few teaspoons of either water, maple syrup or even non-dairy milk. After blending, do a taste test and add a 1/2 teaspoon of salt if needed. I added in about 1/3 tsp extra salt. But taste before adding.

7. Pour your mix into a par-baked vegan pie shell (I toast my raw pie shell in the 400 degree oven for about 8 minutes). You can buy a frozen crust or make your own per instructions linked in recipe above.

8. Bake pie at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. Then reduce to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 30-40 minutes - or until the edges look fluffy and a darker caramel orange tone. Use a toothpick in center if unsure. The tooth-picked filling should come out slightly wet - but very thick and dark. It is important to remember that your pie will firm up significantly upon cooling and chilling in the fridge.

9. Remove pie from oven. Cool on counter for at least 30 minutes. Then place in fridge until ready to serve. At least 2 hours cooling and/or chilling time is my preference. A warm pie will be tasty, but still a bit "wet" to slice.

10. I serve chilled with a swirl of my vegan coconut whip on top!!