Saturday, January 31, 2009

Cajun Hummus

There's not much to making hummus. It's just basically chickpea dip.

Blend some chickpeas with some flavoring and there you are. Pick the right flavorings, though, and you can turn it into something unique.

My recipe is pretty standard except for the added twist of a little Louisiana Hot Sauce to give it a subtle punch.

Blend or food process the following:

2 15.5-ounce cans of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 T olive oil
Juice of 1/2 - 1 lime (or lemon), depending on size (I don't like it too citrus-y)
2 cloves of garlic
4 T tahini
2 T Bragg's Liquid Amino Acids or 1 T reduced-sodium soy sauce (adds flavor and saltiness)
1/2 t paprika
1/2 t cumin
3 - 6 shakes of Tobasco or other Louisiana Hot Sauce (maybe 1/8 - 1/4t?)
6 to 10 oz. water depending on how thick you want it (it will thicken upon refrigeration)

ALTERNATIVE - Eliminate the Bragg's, paprika, and Tobasco, and instead add 1 - 1.5 t Creole Seaoning (e.g. Tony Chachere's). This adds more spiciness, but not quite the same subtle heat the Tobasco version has. Of course, you can always add a little of each.

Start with about 4 ounces of water and add as desired. You may have to stop the blender or food processor intermittently to scrape down the sides, but that also allows you to taste and adjust the spices how you like it.

We go through a lot of hummus at our house and this is our favorite.


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Taco Soup

Through the magic of holiday gift cards, I recently added a few cookbooks to my collection including the just-released 4th edition of Nava Atlas' Soup Book, retitled Vegan Soups and Hearty Stews for All Seasons.

I didn't have any other Nava Atlas cookbooks to compare it to, but this one got me by the title alone.

Soups and stews are usually meals unto themselves. Add a salad and some bread and you're there.

The book order arrived shortly after I had cooked up a pound of pinto beans intending to turn them into a week's worth of taco salads, but I never got past the first one of those when I looked through the book and found Taco Soup on page 70 (and, as you can see by the link, is also featured in the January 2009 VegNews Magazine).

What luck! After seeing the soup called for 4 cups of pinto beans I knew I would have this one made in a shade.

My only changes were to use regular crushed tomatoes in lieu of salt-free (but not adding any salt to taste), and to dispense with the optional garnishes.

The spiciness thermostat in my mouth is usually set at mild, but I probably went medium on this one to give it a decent amount of heat. Even in New Orleans it can be cool in January.

I'd have to say this one is a keeper. The bulgar gives it a good whole wheat density, but rice or corn could easily be substituted to make it gluten free.

I hope the rest of the recipes in the book are as good.


Sunday, January 18, 2009

Vegan Mocha Ice Cream

Mocha is the wonderful marriage of chocolate and coffee, and this, my all-time favorite dessert, is the honeymoon I created for it.

I've seen several cream bases for vegan ice cream - cashews, soy, coconut, vegetable oil, and alcohol (it works by lowering the freezing point). Coconut cream is my favorite. It has a good flavor, a good texture, and keeps everything smooth.

Coconut cream is also the basis for the ice cream in Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero's Veganomicon, my favorite cookbook. Their ice cream recipes are out of this world.

The measures of ingredients are those I use for a Cuisinart 1.5 quart ice cream maker I was lucky enough to find on closeout for under $15 awhile back. It requires freezing the bowl at least 24 hours ahead of time, so I just keep it in the freezer 24/7. If you have a 2-quart ice cream maker, you can probably just make up the difference with more soymilk. You'll also need a blender. Any cheap one will do.

1 c coconut cream *
12-ounce Silken tofu (e.g. Mori-Nu firm)
12 oz. chocolate soy milk
2 T cocoa powder
1 1/3 c sugar
1 T vanilla extract
1 -2 double shots (2 to 3 oz. each) of espresso, regular (preferably) or decaf **

* If you don't see unsweetened coconut cream for sale, then just refrigerate a can of coconut milk overnight. The next day the cream will have risen to the top and slightly hardened so you can scoop it out with a spoon if you are VERY GENTLE when you remove it from the refrigerator and take off the top.

** IMPORTANT - By "espresso", I mean REAL espresso, not simply strong coffee produced by a small pot on your stove that is sometimes incorrectly called espresso. Also, it is not the strong coffee produced by a steam machine selling for about $50. It has to be an actual, minimum 9-bar pressure, pump driven espresso. If you don't have an espresso machine, go to a coffee shop and get a double-shot of espresso to go. It doesn't have to stay hot because, well, we're making ice cream for crying out loud! I use one double shot for a mild, underlying coffee flavor, but you can use two to make it stronger.

Blend all ingredients. The lowest speed is fine, but let it mix awhile because it's thick. Pour it into your ice cream maker as per the instructions for your machine.

After a day or so in the freezer, it may get very hard. Just microwave the whole batch for 30 seconds or so and it will soften up for scooping, although, like any ice cream, it will form ice crystals the more you do that.

Like any homemade ice cream, the best time to eat it is a few hours after the batch has gone into the freezer. By that time, it hasn't solidified completely, but it's also not the loose consistency it has right out of the machine.


Saturday, January 17, 2009

Better soymilk, part 2

A short addendum to my "Much, much better soy milk" previously posted here. To get your soy milk even more like the commercial processors you would have to get all of the hulls off the soybeans while they are hot - a difficult task to say the least. The commercial processors use giant blow dryers to get them off, but we can't really get to that perfect level. I think it's good enough anyway, and a marked improvement over the usual soaked soybean home process.

To get a thicker consistency, the commercial processors add carrageenan (Silk, Soy Dream) or xantham gum (Rice Dream, 8th Continent, and most others), at approximately 1/8 t per quart. You can do this with your completed (strained) soy milk, but it will require a blender. Spoon stirring won't do it. Blending, on the other hand, creates more foam so you may have to spoon some of that off after letting it settle.

Eden uses barley malt, and that can be spoon stirred, but it also adds a flavoring you may not want. I don't mind a little malted milk flavor, though.

I use a couple of tablespoons of oats and/or rice as per Julie Hasson at to give a little heavier mouthfeel to the soy milk. To my completed batch of soy milk I add 2 T sugar or other sweetener, 1 T barley malt powder, and a heaping 1/4 t salt.

Alternatively, you can ditch the oats/rice before making the soy milk, and blend 1/8 t carrageenan or xantham gum instead of the barley malt after straining to make it a little more like the commercial stuff.

I have found it is best to use your soy milk machine's "dry bean" cycle if it has one because my blanching method doesn't soften the beans as much as the soaking method does. On the SoyQuick Premier 930P soy milk maker, that would be the "Mung Bean" button.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Not Your Mama's Pot Roast

I wanted to give this slow cooker recipe a shot because I had purchased some Seitan Quick Mix awhile back to try. The recipe I chose to use it in is called, "Not Your Mama's Pot Roast" from Robin Robertson's Fresh From The Vegetarian Slow Cooker, but I got the recipe here.

I don't have the book to try out other recipes, but Robin Robertson can always be counted on for some well-thought out vegan dishes. This veganized Pot Roast recipe has a nice, rich, traditional flavor and aroma.

The texture of the seitan is spongier than most due to its sitting in liquid and steam for eight hours. That made it somewhat softer than I'm used to, but extremely easy to slice. Still, it stayed firm enough to hold together fine when moved to a plate.

I like seitan firmer and more sausage like so I'd probably like a baked Vegan Pot Roast recipe more than a slow cooked one. It's hard, though, to beat the convenience of throwing some dry ingredients in a bowl to mix for a few minutes, tossing it in a slow cooker with some quartered onions and potatoes, a bag of baby carrots, and some broth, then finding a complete meal eight hours later.


Saturday, January 3, 2009

Much, Much Better Homemade Soy Milk!!!

There are a lot of advantages making your own soy milk:
  • You know what goes in it.
  • You can customize the flavor to your own tastes.
  • It costs something like 25 cents a quart to make.
  • It's a lot of fun.
Here's what's NOT so great about homemade soy milk:
  • The strong, sour, "beany" smell and taste.
What's with that? Commercial soy milk isn't like that at all.

Don't worry. That disadvantage ends today.

  • A soy milk machine.
  • 2 pots each filled with 3 cups of water and 1/4 t baking soda
  • dry soy beans
(Technically, you don't need a soy milk machine, but it's going to be dangerous putting boiling hot liquids in a blender, so do yourself a favor and get a soy milk machine. I wholeheartedly recommend the SoyQuick Premier 930P. I don't make any money from this recommendation. In my opinion, it's simply the most versatile and best designed soy milk maker available.)

The instructions for soy milk machines tell you to soak the soy beans overnight, then put them in the machine, add water, and then turn the machine on to do its thing.

The taste problem arises in the soaking. The sour, beany taste comes from an activated enzyme - a trypsin inhibitor called lipoxygenase - that is activated when the dry beans interact with moisture. However, if the pH level and temperature are above normal, the enzyme is not activated.

The disadvantage of this method is a nominal blanching step that must be added, but has the benefit that you don't have to soak the soybeans, nor do you have to de-hull them by rubbing them between your hands to get to the "insides" of the beans, called the "cotyledons" (though removing as many hulls as possible helps even more).

  1. Put two small pots on your stove with 3 cups of water and 1/4 t baking soda in each.
  2. Boil the first pot, then throw in your unsoaked soybeans.
  3. Reduce the first pot to a simmering boil, and turn the heat up on the second pot.
  4. After 5 minutes, strain out the water from the first pot, rinse the beans with hot tap water, strain the rinse water, and put the beans in the now boiling 2nd pot for another 5 minute simmer.
  5. When the 2nd 5-minute simmer is done, strain, rinse with hot tap water, strain the rinse water, and put the blanched soybeans in the 930P with hot water to your fill line to proceed as usual.
  6. You'll notice many of the hulls come off during the blanching, but the beans are too hot to rub the rest off. Trust me, it doesn't really matter that you can't get them all off.
I experimented with a lazier method - namely by just using one 10-minute blanching, but it was a little less de-flavorizing. As a comparison, on a beaniness scale from 1 to 10 with commercial soy milk at a 1 and the usual soy milk in the 930P at a 10, here's how I rate the beaniness level in the methods I have tried:
  • Soaking, no de-hulling: 10.
  • Soaking, completely de-hulling: 8.5. And that was spending an hour de-hulling every single bean! Generally this would be a 9, not really much improvement.
  • No soaking, with one lazy 10-minute blanch, no hull removal: 4.
  • No soaking, with one lazy 10-minute blanch, some hulls removed: 3.5.
  • No soaking, with two 5-minute blanches, no hull removal: 2.
  • No soaking, with two 5-minute blanches, some hulls removed: 1.5.
Honest, it's practically perfect and a giant leap forward in making your own soy milk.


All That Vegan Jazz

"So what is all that vegan jazz about anyway?"

In one form or another, I get this question a lot. Most vegans do, I suppose.

It's about a lot of things really...
  • Caring about animals.
  • Caring about the environment.
  • Caring about the planet.
All true, but really it just comes down to not needing to prove our species' evolutionary superiority over other animal life forms by being their caretakers instead of their conquerors.

Otherwise, how have we really evolved from our primitive ancestors?

And even beyond the inhumanity of our treatment of animals used for slaughter and consumption, this is particularly true in learning of the waste and the environmental disaster that occurs to our planet due to our industrial exploitation of animals.

It's time for human beings to evolve another step; or to put it another way, it's time for people to grow up.

As for the "jazz" part of this, cooking in a way that is out of the usual mainstream allows us to create, invent, and improvise. I know no other word that can better describe this than the creativity, invention, and improvisation of jazz.

Whether it's music or food, it is my goal to share my jazz with you.