30 July 2011

Recipe Testing: Sweet Things

As regular readers of this blog know, I have been fortunate enough to spend the last few months testing gluten-free, vegan recipes for Allyson Kramer's forthcoming cookbook. The variety of dishes is impressive and delicious, sure to suit anyone's tastes.

Care for a little something sweet?
Apple Cinnamon Blintzes
Butterscotch Amaretti
Lemon Biscotti
Almond Butter Cups
Coconut Rice with Peaches and Rum Raisins
Read previous blog posts about my delectable adventures in gluten-free recipe testing (here and here) for additional teaser photos of both sweet and savory dishes from Allyson's book. Please also visit Manifest Vegan for many more of Allyson's delicious edible creations.

27 July 2011

Naan: A Love Story

Fresh, homemade bread has a special place in my heart (and stomach). I recently made a few adaptations to this recipe to make a batch of vegan naan. It was oh-so-good.
With dough risen and board dusted, we were ready to roll.
The flattened discs puffed up gorgeously on my cast iron grill
The aroma of fresh bread made the house smell amazing.
Dinner that evening was pizza marguerite--a combination of
fresh basil from my herb garden and mozzarella-style Teese.
The next morning, I delighted in an Asian-inspired concoction
of tomato sauce, mozzarella-style Teese, garden-fresh shiso,
green onion, and ginger-candied walnuts.
And my taste buds lived happily ever after. The end.

23 July 2011

Banana Overload

It's a familiar scenario: Green bananas sit atop the kitchen counter, waiting to soften to a perfect yellow-but-slightly-green ripeness. But during the warm summer, the transition sometimes happens faster than one expects, or takes notice; before long, the green-tinge has disappeared to a vibrant yellow, quickly yielding dark speckles that escalate even more quickly into brown patches. In a matter of mere days, those unattended bananas have transformed into a state of mushy, chestnut-colored overripeness--too soft and sweet for eating as-is. One is then left to ponder the final, practical destination of the neglected fruit, vowing to monitor the next bunch of bananas more closely.

That particular situation repeats itself over and over around here, likely due to a longstanding habit of keeping the kitchen stocked with bananas. (It became relevant again this week, as one certainly will have already guessed.) When I've run out of freezer space to accommodate frozen peeled bananas to reserve for smoothies or "soft serve," banana bread, muffins, pancakes, and the like become standard fare. Those are all fine for occasional enjoyment, but I prefer to stray from the usual quick-bread route whenever possible. I've already tried my hand at yeasted banana bread--a delectable change of pace, but allowing the dough to proof and bake is not exactly a quick affair. At some point during the food brainstorming process, I thought of granola, wondering whether it was possible to incorporate banana into a snack that was both low-fat and crunchy. Doubting the possibility of such a result--like applesauce, banana as an oil substitute tends to make baked goods soft, or at best, chewy--I adopted crunchy, fruity, low-fat granola as my next edible project.

With no idea how this experiment could turn out, I used the double baking technique that makes my Almond Granola Clusters nice and crisp, hoping for a positive result. Much to my delight, it worked. Want to know the details of what I did? Well, dear readers, don't fret; I wrote it down to share with you, if you happened to be so inclined to try your hand at making banana granola.

I kept the ingredients quite simple, allowing the banana flavor to come through. Cinnamon and cardamom add warmth to the granola, while vanilla and almond extracts jazz up the flavor a bit. This recipe relies primarily on the overripe bananas' natural sugars and a dab of maple syrup for sweetness, resulting in a barely-sweet granola; as always, feel free to adjust ingredients to your liking.
Spiced Banana Granola Clusters (printer-friendly version)
Yields approximately 4 cups
Gluten-free option; soy-free

3 c rolled oats (Use gluten-free, if necessary.)
1 c coarsely-ground raw almonds
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground cardamom
1 c well-mashed, overripe banana (approximately 2 medium-sized bananas)
1 T milled flax seed + 2 T warm water, whisked and allowed to thicken
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp almond extract
2T to ¼ c light amber maple syrup, or dark amber for more distinct maple flavor (Adjust sweetness to taste.)

Preheat the oven to 350°F/180C. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the rolled oats, ground almonds, cinnamon, and cardamom. In a separate bowl, combine the mashed banana, flax seed mixture, vanilla and almond extracts, and maple syrup. Add the banana mixture to the oat mixture and stir until everything is well-distributed. Place the dough onto the lined baking sheet and press the dough down as a single mass, uniformly ⅛- to ¼-inch thick. If using a half-sheet pan, the dough shouldn’t reach the rim. Bake for 20 minutes, only until the edges of the granola begins to brown slightly. Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F/170C and remove the granola to cool for approximately five minutes.

Carefully break the granola into bite-sized clusters and spread them over the same lined baking sheet. Bake at the reduced temperature for 30 to 35 minutes, until the pieces are golden-brown; stir the clusters and rotate the pan midway through bake time. Remove from the oven and allow the granola to cool completely on the baking sheet; the clusters will become more crisp as they cool. Store in an airtight container. Enjoy!

What's your favorite way to use leftover bananas?

By the way, I updated the Recipes tab to reflect which items are gluten-, nut-, or soy-free (or if applicable adaptations are noted). It's not the prettiest format, but I hope the labels make browsing recipes easier for people who are concerned with various food sensitivities or allergies.

17 July 2011

Ice Cream Holiday

Word on the street--or in this case, the endless information stream that is Twitter--is that today (the third Sunday of July) is National Ice Cream Day. It turns out that July is National Ice Cream Month. I have always loved ice cream and will eat it (vegan versions, of course) at any time of day, anywhere, regardless of weather; the dead-of-winter chill doesn't deter me from indulging in sweet, frozen treats. Of course, this being mid-summer, much of the US is actually blanketed with sweltering temperatures, so access to anything remotely cold is most welcome.

In the spirit of sweet celebration and summertime nostalgia, I thought it fitting to revisit the vegan ice cream love formerly featured on this blog. The original posts are linked below each photo.
Sweet Potato Ice Cream adapted from The Vegan Scoop.
Gelato di cioccolato e nocciole (chocolate hazelnut gelato).
Gluten-free pistachio gelato.
Tofutti Cuties: mint chocolate chip and chocolate flavors, respectively.
Avocado gelato.
As much as I adore homemade ice cream and would enjoy whipping up a new batch, I don't currently have room in the freezer for storing the ice cream maker bowl. It's a shame, too, because there are so many recipes I'd love to try. I'm currently intrigued by the "7 Flavours of Summer" ice cream series featured on Vegan in the Sun; this recipe for lemon pepper ice cream is particularly enticing. Alas, for now I'll stick to perfectly delicious store-bought pints (hello, Coconut Bliss)--not that I'm complaining.

Have a happy and delicious National Ice Cream Day! How are you celebrating?

13 July 2011

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday: In the Garden

I wanted to grow heirloom tomatoes this summer, but the lack of success over two consecutive years discouraged what would likely become a fruitless effort. Peppers and herbs, however, are the few edibles that consistently thrive in my humble backyard plot. Accordingly, the shishito plants are producing an admirable crop so far. I plucked a dozen of the wrinkly, green peppers, which will make for a lovely stir-fry.
The serrano plants aren't far behind. Those wee buds and white flowers will become spicy peppers in no time.
While a large herb pot showcases impressive tufts of varied, fragrant greenery, I'm particularly fond of the solitary shiso plant; this is my first year growing shiso, whose broad leaves are piquant, lovely, and seemingly impeccable.
What's growing in your backyard?

07 July 2011

Recipe Testing: Green

It has been a few months since I began testing recipes for Allyson Kramer's forthcoming vegan, gluten-free cookbook. Miss Manifest Vegan herself displays such prowess when it comes to creating homemade edibles, it's not surprising that I delight in being able to try out some of her original cookbook recipes. (These days in particular, cooking is one of the few activities that still manages to interest me and engage my strengths, so I certainly welcome the task.) I noticed a color trend in the last few recipes I tested, so I just thought I'd share a few more test recipe photos with you, brought to you by the color green.
Minted Green Pea Bisque.
Avocado Gelato.
Spicy Edamame Coleslaw.
What are some of your favorite green foods?

You can find additional test recipe photos on my flickr photostream. Also check out Allyson's blog, Manifest Vegan, where you'll find a slew of vegan, gluten-free recipes to try while eagerly awaiting the cookbook release.

July Love Drop: Felicity

[It's time for another Love Drop update, courtesy of founders J$ and Nate. Read on, and if possible, share some love! -Tiffany]

The Love Drop team is at it again! Last month they gave over $5,000 worth of cash and goods to their recipient, the Aubin family, who was struggling financially after the passing of their dad, and this month they're ready to do it again and help out another person :) They've given out over $45,000 in the past 6 months, and show no signs of stopping. If you know of anyone yourself that could use their help, make sure to let them know.

This month they're heading down to Atlanta to help Felicity, a little 4-year-old girl who was just diagnosed with brain cancer. Felicity had immediate surgery and is currently undergoing aggressive radiation treatments for the remaining portion of her tumor. We want to raise $5,000 for her family to help cover mounting medical costs, as well as the future expenses a new baby on its way will bring. With your support and generosity, we can really do something special for them!

Here are three ways you can help:
  1. Give $25 towards medical billsClick this link to contribute $25 towards Felicity's radiation treatments. It'll help them out a ton!
  2. Give a gift or service. Gift cards are always helpful. Places like Target, Wal-Mart, restaurants, etc. would definitely help them out. Services too--especially those you can offer yourselves, or from your company.
  3. Join our blogger network. Blog about our Love Drops each month [like I am--this post is an example]! It's easy, it's rewarding, and it REALLY helps spread the word (which in turn helps our families). Love Drop will give you all the content you need.
Thanks so much guys! Here's to a great month of paying it forward! ~