Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Cobb Salad with Creamy Dill Buttermilk Dressing

Is there such a thing as a healthy Cobb Salad? bet!  No saturated fat, cholesterol and tons of texture and flavor.  I could drink the Creamy Dill Buttermilk Dressing and be satisfied and my hubby could eat the entire bag of Phoney Baloney's Coconut Bacon...had to hide it from him...seriously! A perfect salad for a hot day...reaching 90+ here today! 

Salad Ingredients:

Organic Romaine Lettuce, chopped and rinsed
Seeded, Diced Roma Tomatoes
Shredded Daiya Cheddar Style Cheese
Phoney Baloney's Coconut Bacon
Organic, Sprouted Extra-Firm Tofu, crumbled and mixed with turmeric and black salt (can be purchased at an Indian or Asian market).
Diced Avocado
Creamy Dill Buttermilk Dressing (see recipe below)
Kosher Salt and Pepper to Taste

Creamy Dill Buttermilk Dressing 

1/2 cup Organic Vegenaise
1/4 cup cashew milk mixed with 1 tsp apple cider vinegar and let sit for 10 minutes
1/2-1 tsp finely minced shallot
1/2 tsp finely minced garlic
2 TBSP fresh dill, minced
1 tsp red wine vinegar
Kosher salt and fresh black pepper to taste

Note:  Whisk all ingredients together in a bowl and chill until ready to use.  For the cashew milk, I always keep some ready to go in my fridge.  It will keep chilled 5-7 days.  I soak 1/2 cup cashews over night, drain and then add them to my Vitamix with 1 cup of filtered water.  If you don't have a high-speed blender then you should strain the milk before using. 

Monday, April 28, 2014

Strawberry Shortcake...or a Parfait Please!

YAY...strawberries are here!  There is nothing better than biting into a fresh, juicy, organic strawberry...except for maybe strawberry shortcake!  Strawberries are just perfect on their own this time of year, but strawberry shortcake screams the start of summer and it's supposed to be 90 here this week!  The strawberries are definitely the main attraction, but the supporting cast is just as important.  I adapted a recipe from Cook's Illustrated by using flaxmeal for the binder, cashew milk, and added fresh lemon zest (totally makes a big difference) and vanilla extract.  If I would of had a fresh vanilla bean, I would of scrapped some of the seeds into the batter...that would of just taken the recipe over the top!

Even though the shortcakes did not rise as high as I wanted, they were still delicious with a crunchy exterior and a moist and fluffy interior--and oh the lemon zest was divine!  I had thought about using Energ Egg Replacer, but feel that this is best used when making cookies or crispier baked goods.  The flaxmeal provided the perfect moisture to the cakes and I loved the little flecks of flax throughout...not to mention the added bonus of Omega 3s!  And of course if they don't rise as high as you like...then just make a parfait and your family or guests will think they've gone to strawberry heaven!

While making the dough, I experimented with using a food processor or using the hand method and both biscuits came out the same.  So if you have a food processor then by all means use it but just make sure that you pulse the ingredients instead of letting the machine run.  I also baked some of the biscuits off right after forming and also let several rest in the fridge for 30 minutes until they were chilled and both turned out the same as well.  My next experiment will be making these gluten-free using Bob's Red Mill A/P flour and adjusting the recipe accordingly.  Also in order to get more height on the biscuit I might try dropping the dough from a spoon onto a sheet pan instead of cutting them out with a cookie cutter.  If I do this then I will need to add more liquid to the dough and turn it into a thick batter.  This however, might change the texture and the texture was perfect.  Stay tuned...

This recipe makes about six-eight biscuits using a 2-3/4 cookie cutter.  For the strawberries I just purchased two pounds (organic) and reserved several strawberries aside for the top, and then divided up the rest by slicing some and dicing and mashing the others in separate bowls.  I then added some sugar to each bowl, about 2 TBSP each and then let the fruit macerate for about 30 minutes to release the juices and to soften.   Depending on how sweet your strawberries are you may need to add less or more sugar...taste them first!  For the whipped cream I used SOYATOO! Whipped Rice Topping.

Shortcake Dough Recipe:

2 cups organic unbleached all-purpose flour
5 TBSP organic unbleached cane sugar (3 for the dough, 2 for the topping)
1 TBSP aluminum free baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
8 TBSP Earth Balance Buttery Sticks (cut into 16 pieces and chilled)
1 Flax egg (1 TBSP ground flax meal and 3 TBSP warm filtered water, whisked)
1/2 cup cashew milk (1/4 cup soaked cashews, drained and blended with 1/2 cup filtered water), or you can use any dairy free milk product.
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp organic lemon zest


  • Preheat oven to 425 and position rack in the middle of the oven.
  • In a bowl whisk together flour, 3 TBSP cane sugar, baking powder and salt.
  • Using a pastry cutter add chilled butter and cut through the flour until the butter is the size of peas.
  • In a measuring cup whisk together milk, flax egg, vanilla extract and lemon zest.
  • Create a well in the flour mixture and add wet ingredients.  Using a large fork mix ingredients until just combined and then turn out onto a lightly floured work surface and pat ingredients into a 9x6 rectangle, 3/4" thick.  
  • Cut six biscuits out of the dough and reform scraps and cut an additional two biscuits.
  • Place biscuits on a sheet tray covered with parchment paper and brush the tops with cashew milk and sprinkle with remaining sugar.
  • Bake in the oven until the tops are golden brown about 12-14 minutes, turning half way through.
  • Remove from the oven and transfer biscuits to a cooling rack and let cool for about 10 minutes before cutting. 
My husband told me that I definitely have to stop baking sweets--he's trying to cut back on it looks like something gluten-free and most likely sweet is in my near future!  Hope you enjoy!   

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Gluten Free Cupcakes with Veggie Colored Frosting

Growing up as a kid my mom, sister and I would always dye eggs this time of year.  Our mom being the natural artist that she was would create the most beautiful designs. It was hard to compete, considering the only artistic ability I have is to draw stick people, but it was fun and I have great memories of sharing this tradition with my mom and sis. 

I have never liked eating eggs and never understood how you could dye them, and then several days later peel and eat them.  The food coloring would seep through the shell and the white of the egg would be purple, blue or grey.  Luckily for me I got to skip that part and now since I am vegan, creating beautiful cupcakes is my new tradition.

My hubby wanted gluten-free cupcakes and so I purchased a bag of Wholesome Chow Vanilla Cake Mix.  I've tried making gluten-free products from scratch, but it is really expensive.  By the time you purchase all the starches, g-f flours, xantham gum, etc., you're looking at a substantial cost.  Of course if I had a gluten intolerance then this would be fine, but they end up sitting in my pantry and then I just throw them out.  Wholesome Chow has the best packaged gluten-free products on the market, at least in my opinion.  Another brand that is suitable for Passover because it doesn't contain leavener is Manischewitz Gluten-Free Yellow Cake Mix. It comes with a chocolate frosting but you can omit this and use the buttercream recipe below.  This product is not vegan but you could substitute flax eggs in the recipe.

So what to do about the food coloring and frosting the cupcakes?  There's no way I would ever use commercial food dyes and the organic/natural plant-derived dyes are too expensive. I did an internship at a bakery once and I watched how much food coloring they used in everything and I would never eat their cookies, cakes or cupcakes...especially their red velvet.

So instead of spending a lot of money, I decided to use what was in my fridge and the buttercream turned out beautiful and delicious.  Yes it takes a little bit more work because you have to juice the vegetables first, but you can still obtain beautiful pastel colors or even vibrant hues using vegetables.  Plus everything was organic!  Here's what I did:

Purple:  Red Cabbage
Green:  Spinach with a pinch of spirulina (could of used more spirulina to get a darker green--be careful though so that it doesn't taste like the ocean)
Red:  Beet
Orange:  Carrot (I also reduced the carrot juice down to a puree to obtain a darker hue)
Blue:  Red Cabbage and a 1/4-1/2 tsp of baking soda
Yellow:  Turmeric (I used about 1/4 tsp with 1-2 tsp water to make a paste)

Now you would think that by using vegetables and spices that it would impart these flavors into the frosting, but it is ever so faint and when you combine it with the cupcake you can't even tell.  Kids would love eating these even if they helped you make them and knew that they were made with vegetable juice!

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 - 3 Tbsp almond milk (or more to obtain desired consistency)
3 cups sifted organic powdered sugar

In a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat butter and shortening on medium speed until combined and creamy.  Add vanilla extract, almond milk and then with speed on low, add powdered sugar until combined.  Once combined, increase speed to medium and then whip until creamy and fluffy about four minutes.  Portion buttercream evenly into six bowls and then start out adding 1/2 tsp vegetable juice to each bowl and whip with a spatula until creamy.

Note:  Because of the acidity of the vegetable juice, it will look as if the buttercream will start to curdle.  This is why it is good to start with a small amount and add slowly and beat with a spatula until creamy.  For all of the above colors, I used no more than 1 tsp veggie juice to each to get the desired effect.  Also, you can use all Earth Balance and not the Spectrum Shortening, however the shortening holds the buttercream at room temperature longer and so you do not need to worry about refrigeration.

I hope you'll give this recipe a try and start a new holiday tradition with your family!

Wishing you and yours a wonderful Passover and Easter!     

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Whole Grain Chocolate Chip Cookies

I've been bad...I'm still drinking fresh juices daily but it was rainy and chilly on Saturday and I just wanted to turn on the oven and bake something yummy.  The good thing about making chocolate chip cookies is that they can satisfy your sweet tooth within 30 minutes.  The bad thing is that it's hard to eat just one!  So I've had my fill over the past three days.  There's nothing like drinking healthy juice and eating cookies at the same time--my body is really confused!  The daffodils are just because they brighten up a gloomy day and are my second favorite flower to tulips!
So here's the recipe...not that you need another chocolate chip cookie recipe but I found these to be perfect.  Crunchy out the outside while moist on the inside and they were better the next day, and the next day...unfortunately. 

(Makes 2 dozen)

1 1/2 cups organic whole grain spelt flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp kosher salt
1 stick Earth Balance Buttery Sticks (I used 6 Tbsp Earth Balance Buttery Sticks and 2 Tbsp Spectrum Organic All Vegetable Butter Flavor Shortening Non-Hydrogenated).  I like the crunch and airiness it gives the cookies--but using all Earth Balance is fine too.)
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup organic unbleached cane sugar
1 flax egg (1 Tbsp ground flaxmeal with 3 Tbsp room temperature filtered water, whisked)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegan semisweet chocolate chips
  • Preheat oven to 350 and position racks on upper and lower portion of oven.
  • In the bowl of an electric mixer place room temperature butter and sugar and mix on medium for about 3 minutes until creamy.  Add flax egg mixture and vanilla and mix until combined.
  • In another bowl, sift and whisk together dry ingredients (not including chocolate chips) and then add to butter-sugar mixture and mix until ingredients are just incorporated.  You don't want to over mix the flour and develop the gluten or your cookies will be tough.  Then with the motor running add the chocolate chips until combined.
  • Using a small ice cream scoop (about 1-1/2 Tbsp) place 12 evenly spaced scoops on two cookie trays and flatten slightly with your fingers.  Bake in the oven for 12-14 minutes (turning and switching the trays after 7 minutes) until golden brown around the edges, but tender in the center.  Remove from the oven and let cool for about 5 minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack.

Hope you enjoy and stay tuned for more juicing recipes once the gloomy rain goes away!