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SusanV I'm SusanV, and I love good food. Join me as I create delicious dishes made with whole foods and without a lot of processed fat and sugar. Want to know more? Check out my FAQs, look through my recipe index, or get inside info on Facebook. Like what you see? Then subscribe to receive email updates. But above all, enjoy!

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Friday, January 11, 2008

Potato "Gatto"

Thank you so much for all the wonderful responses to my my anniversary post. I'm happy and a little amazed to hear how many people love green smoothies, and because of one reader's comments, I'm going to try adding collard greens to mine. All I stand to lose is my lunch. (Well, that came out wrong; I meant by pouring it down the drain if I don't like it!)

One of my blogging resolutions was to post more bad recipes, and though this doesn't qualify as bad, it's one that could stand to be improved. It's a veganization of a recipe in The Italian Country Table for "Gatto" Di Patate, a layered potato casserole:

"Gatto" Di Patate

The original recipe (conveniently posted here) includes a quarter pound of salami, a cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, and a half pound of mozzarella. When I decided to veganize the recipe, I noticed the animal products, of course, but I failed to take into account how much of them there were. Also, I concentrated my efforts on making up for the strong flavor of the salami without considering the creaminess of the cheese. I used porcini mushrooms and roasted red pepper to make up for the loss of the salami and nutritional yeast in the potatoes to add a little of the cheesiness of the Parmesan. Those were fine substitutions (though I think that sundried tomatoes might pack more punch than roasted peppers), but I probably should have gone a little further and substituted something for the mozzarella that originally topped the layer of onions. The casserole was a little on the dry side and would have benefited from some cheesiness.

So, what I recommend, particularly if you are cooking this for guests (or picky family members), is this: Top the layer of onions with a cheese sauce such as this one. If you are not following a fat-free eating style, consider using one of the packaged vegan mozzarella cheeses. Also, if fat doesn't bother you, a little Earth Balance Margarine would help moisten the potatoes. And adding a little diced veggeroni or soy pepperoni to the potatoes would really make the veganized version more like the original.

Like I said, though, this wasn't a bad recipe; my husband D and I ate it all, over several days. E and her friend, however, weren't thrilled with it. E did not like the bread crumbs (she never does), and her omnivore friend just didn't care for the whole thing. The crumbs are heavily garlic flavored--I used 2 cloves--so if you don't like garlic, definitely use only 1 clove. If you're following Eat to Live or Weight Watchers' Core plan, you can even leave the breadcrumbs off (though they are what D liked best).

Vegan Potato "Gatto"

Vegan Potato "Gatto"
(printer-friendly version)

"Gattô" comes from the French "gâteau," meaning cake; think of it as a layered cake of potatoes.

3 pounds Yukon gold or red potatoes
1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
1 onion, diced
olive oil spray
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups panko (or gluten-free bread crumbs)
3/4 cup plain soymilk or other non-dairy milk (fatfree preferred)
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1/4 cup roasted red pepper, diced
1 1/3 cups frozen green peas, thawed

Put the potatoes in a large pot, cover with water, and simmer 25 minutes or until tender all the way through (pierce with a fork to check). When they're done, dip out 1/2 cup of the cooking water and drain.

While the potatoes are cooking, rehydrate the porcini mushrooms according to package directions. (I cover them with hot water and soak for about 25 minutes.) When they are completely rehydrated, drain them, reserving the liquid, and chop coarsely. Strain the soaking liquid through a coffee filter or fine mesh strainer and set aside.

Spray a non-stick skillet with the olive oil, and heat it. Add the onions and sauté until they are browned. Sprinkle them with salt and pepper to taste, then remove them from the pan. Give the pan another quick spray and add the minced garlic and panko. Cook, stirring constantly, for about 3 minutes or until the panko has browned slightly. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 400F.

Mash the potatoes in their skins until slightly lumpy; then stir in the soymilk, nutritional yeast, roasted red pepper, diced porcini mushrooms, and half of the peas. If the potatoes seem dry, add some of the mushroom liquid and/or potato water. You want them to be fairly moist. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Spray an 8-inch casserole dish lightly with olive oil. Spread half of the potato mixture into the dish, followed by the remaining peas and the onions. Top with the rest of the potatoes, smoothing the top.

Bake for about 25 minutes, or until hot throughout. Top with the bread crumbs, pressing them into the potatoes slightly. Bake another 10 minutes and serve.

Makes 8 generous servings. Per serving: 219 Calories (kcal); 1g Total Fat; (3% calories from fat); 7g Protein; 47g Carbohydrate; 0mg Cholesterol; 78mg Sodium; 5g Fiber. 4 WW Points. (Core +3 points for the breadcrumbs)


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Friday, November 16, 2007

Persimmon Bread

PersimmonsIt's persimmon time again, or at least it was, very briefly, in my parents' yard in Louisiana. I got an email a couple of weeks ago from my dad saying that if I wanted persimmons, I'd better come get them because they were rapidly going from ripe to overripe to compost. He'd pick what was left on the trees and hold them for me, but they wouldn't last long.

So last weekend I made a quick trip down to pick up my persimmons, along with boxes full of the citrus fruits--Meyer lemons, naval oranges, satsumas, and calamondins--that were just beginning too ripen. My kitchen now looks like a fruit stand! Fortunately, the citrus will keep, but many of the persimmons were at the use 'em or lose 'em stage. I've been eating them every chance I get, but since I'm the only one in my house who likes them, I knew I had to start cooking with them. My parents mentioned that they had been substituting them for banana in banana bread, so I decided to give that a try and adapted my Cherry-Walnut Banana Bread recipe.

Persimmon Bread

Before I get to the recipe, let me say a word about persimmons. As I've written before, most of the persimmons we get in the U.S. are of two types: the acorn-shaped Hachiya, which needs to be so ripe that it's practically squishy when you eat it or else it will be so astringent that your mouth will pucker, and the more squatty-shaped Fuyu, which is sweet and delicious even when the fruit is still firm. Conventional wisdom says that Hachiyas are the ones you cook with, but I'm going to tell you a secret: If you let Fuyus get ripe enough, they will get soft just like Hachiyas and you can cook with them, too. The persimmons I got from my parents are Fuyus, and they're delciously sweet whether they're firm and crisp or soft and mushy.

Persimmon Bread

I used the soft and mushy ones for this bread, about 6 of them. They had seeds, so what I did was cut them in half and scoop out the seeds and flesh with a grapefruit spoon. I tossed the seeds into a separate bowl and didn't even try to get off the flesh that clung to them--that's just too much work. It's a pretty messy job, so don't take your cutting board and bowls into the family room and watch TV while you're doing it, or you'll get persimmon pulp all over the coffee table and your daughter's homework. Not that anyone would do that, of course!

Persimmon Bread

The finished bread was amazingly moist and cake-like, even though I used all whole wheat flour (the white King Arthur kind) and no refined sugar. The persimmons gave it a lovely orange color, very fall-like, and the taste was mild and lightly sweet. The whole family loved it, devouring it in one day without any margarine or spread. The next time I make it, I may add a little cinnamon and cloves to spice it up, but then, I'm the spicy type.

Persimmon Bread 3

Persimmon Bread
(printer-friendly version)

I baked this bread in a small, silicone bundt pan, but you can use a regular bread pan, preferably a smaller sized one.

1 1/4 cups persimmon, mashed pulp
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons canola oil or unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup agave nectar (or substitute 1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp. sugar and 2 tbsp. water)
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg (freshly grated)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup raisins (may use up to 1/2 cup)
1/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional--may use up to 1/2 cup)

Preheat oven to 350. Oil or spray a loaf pan or bundt pan.

In a small bowl, mix the persimmon, lemon juice, oil or apple sauce, and agave nectar. In a large bowl, combine the remaining ingredients, except for raisins and walnuts. Pour the wet into the dry and mix just until all flour is moistened (do not over-mix). Fold in the raisins and walnuts, if desired.

Pour into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 40-50 minutes. (My bundt pan took closer to 40 minutes.) Allow to cool for 10 minutes and then remove from the pan. Cool completely before serving.

Note: Low-fat quickbreads like this really benefit from being allowed to cool completely, which is why they often taste better the next day. The crust, which is chewier than breads with oil, will gather moisture and softness over time.

Makes about 12 servings.

Made with all optional ingredients, including canola oil and 1/4 cup walnuts, each serving contains: 180 Calories (kcal); 4g Total Fat; (19% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 35g Carbohydrate; 0mg Cholesterol; 184mg Sodium; 3g Fiber. Weight Watchers: 3 Points.

Without canola oil or walnuts: Per serving: 145 Calories (kcal); 1g Total Fat; (2% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 35g Carbohydrate; 0mg Cholesterol; 184mg Sodium; 3g Fiber. Weight Watchers: 2 Points.

In the mood for bread but don't have persimmons? Try one of my favorite quickbread recipes:


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Friday, September 14, 2007

Black-Eyed Pea Cakes

What can I say? Ever since I saw KathyF's Black Bean and Rice Cakes with Chipotle Remoulade and Roasted Corn Salsa I've been craving that remoulade sauce, lusting after the whole gorgeous dish, really. At the same time, I've had it in mind to create a version of these black-eyed pea cakes that I once had in Savannah or Charleston, I can't remember which (two beautiful cities I always get confused), so I thought why not attempt a vegan version of the cakes and serve them with Kathy's remoulade. That turned out to be an excellent idea. In fact, it was probably a meal-saving idea because, though the black-eyed pea cakes were good, they were a little on the drab side and definitely benefited from the spicy richness that is Chipotle Remoulade.

The cakes are sort of a combination of corn bread and black-eyed peas, crunchy on the outside, but moist and punctuated with whole black-eyed peas inside. If you like your food spicy, you're definitely going to want to serve them with either the remoulade sauce or a spicy cocktail sauce. But if you've got a tender tongue, try them with tartar sauce or my daughter's first choice, ketchup. (She inherited her taste buds from her grandparents!)

Blackeyed Pea Cakes

Black-Eyed Pea Cakes
(printer-friendly version)

I baked these two different ways, some on a baking sheet and some in a large, straight-sided silicone muffin pan, and the taste was the same, though the ones in the muffin pan had a more uniform shape. If you spray the silicone cups with a little oil, the cakes will just fall out when they're done.

1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 (15 ounce) cans blackeyed peas, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup Greek-style soy yogurt, silken tofu, or soy cream cheese
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon cornstarch (or arrowroot)
1-2 teaspoons hot sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon Liquid Smoke (optional)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup flour (I used white whole wheat; gluten-free flour mix may be used)

Spray a non-stick skillet lightly with olive oil and sauté the onion until it softens. Add the garlic, and cook for one minute more. Transfer the mixture to a food processor and add 1 can of black-eyed peas and all remaining ingredients EXCEPT cornmeal and flour. Process until smooth.

Pour the mixture into a medium-sized mixing bowl and stir in the other can of black-eyed peas. Add the cornmeal and flour, and stir until blended.

Cover the bowl and refrigerate while you preheat the oven to 400F. Allow the mixture to chill for about 15 minutes.

To make more rounded cakes (as shown), use a muffin pan. Spoon about 3 tablespoons of batter into each oiled cup of the pan and smooth the top. (They will not rise like muffins and will not fill the muffin cups.)

To make them as patties on a cooking sheet, spoon about 3 tablespoons of batter onto an oiled baking sheet or silicone mat. Use a spoon to shape into a patty about 2 1/2 inches across. Repeat with remaining batter.

Place cakes in oven and cook until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, about 20-30 minutes. (Cakes cooked on baking sheets may take less time than popovers.) Serve hot with chipotle remoulade, spicy cocktail sauce, tartar sauce, etc.

Makes 12-14 cakes. Each black-eyed pea cake contains approximately 106 Calories (kcal); 1g Total Fat; (5% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 20g Carbohydrate; trace Cholesterol; 344mg Sodium; 4g Fiber.

Blackeyed Pea Cakes

I'm labeling the black-eyed pea recipe TBR, my code for a recipe that is "to be revised" because it isn't quite up to my standards. But my husband and I agree that we're going to be using the chipotle remoulade a lot from now on, on everything from "Crab" Cakes to TLT Sandwiches. I foresee it becoming our go-to condiment. Be sure you check out the recipe and also take a look at Kathy's Quinoa Stuffed Peppers with Chipotle Remoulade, which is also sure to inspire cravings.


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Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Berries and Spice Muffins

There's something about the idea of a recipe "getting away" from me that makes it irresistibly attractive. Twice in the past couple of weeks I've found myself sitting in a doctor's waiting room frantically scribbling down recipes from magazines I don't subscribe to. (Not that I subscribe to any food magazines; I'd never finish reading an issue of The Nation or The New Yorker if they had to compete for my time with Saveur.) A few weeks ago, while waiting for E. in the orthodontist's office, I actually asked the receptionist if I could borrow a copy of Gourmet that had too many interesting recipes for me to copy down, and when she said "Just take it--you don't have to bring it back," I felt like I'd won the lottery.

Then last week, before the dilating drops had time to blur my vision for the next 6 hours, I managed to copy down two recipes from my eye doctor's months-old copy of Southern Living. Now, I used to subscribe to SL, and during that entire, unfortunate year, I don't think I found two recipes worth photocopying, much less transcribing in my rusty longhand. But something about a recipe that might escape sent me digging in my bag for a pen and a crumpled program, upon which I proceeded to scribble semi-legibly over every inch of white space.

Berry-Spice Muffins

Berries and Spice Muffins is my adaptation of one of those two Southern Living recipes. It's from the section of the magazine devoted to healthy cooking, so I didn't have to change the fat content too much, though I did veganize it and change the berries from blueberries to a mixture of blackberries and blueberries (I didn't have enough of either one on its own). The result was very good; in fact, D. said they were "the best muffins ever." When I tried to pin him down about what was so good about them, he said it was the spice, not the berries, which were "kind of weird." I had the opposite experience: I thought the berries were nice but found the muffin itself on the dry side. When I make them again (and I will) I'll experiment with ways to moisten the crumb without adding more fat and I'll make them a little sweeter.

Berry-Spice Muffins

Berries and Spice Muffins
(click for printer-friendly version)

Lovers of sweet muffins may want to add a bit of agave nectar to their finished muffins.

1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon unbleached white flour
3 tablespoons chopped pecans
1/2 tablespoon melted margarine*
1/2 tablespoon water*

1 cup unbleached white flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour (regular ww flour will do)
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1 tablespoon ground flax seed
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cup soymilk
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 cup fresh or frozen berries (I used half blueberry, half blackberry)

Preheat the oven to 375F.

Mix the first five ingredients together and set aside to use as topping. *For a margarine-free version, eliminate the margarine and water and sprinkle the topping onto the muffins.

Mix the dry ingredients, flour through salt, together. Make a well in the middle. Mix the soymilk with the lemon juice and pour it into the dry ingredients. Stir just until moistened (overstirring will make muffins tough). Fold in the berries.

Spoon the batter into muffin cups that have been oiled or lined with silicon muffin cups. (I do not recommend using paper liners with oil-free muffins--they stick!) Top each muffin with an equal amount of the pecan mixture. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool in pans on a rack for 5 minutes. Remove from pans and cool slightly before serving warm.

Makes 12-14 muffins. Each of 12 muffins contains 139 Calories (kcal); 2g Total Fat; (13% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 28g Carbohydrate; 0mg Cholesterol; 159mg Sodium; 2g Fiber.

I'm going to be taking a little time off, but I'll be back in about a week with more recipes. See you then!


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Friday, June 22, 2007

Baked Spinach Kofta with Cucumber-Yogurt Sauce

I never buy cookbooks for the pictures, but I broke that rule a few months ago after previewing Tropical Asian Cooking. It's nowhere near a vegan book, though there are several vegetarian or near-vegetarian recipes, but the photos were just so lovely that I had to have a copy. So I bought it and it sat for months by my reading chair with pieces of paper sticking out to mark potentially good recipes. But most of its dishes require more time and energy that I generally have, so none of them got made, until last night.

Spinach Kofta caught my eye because it was easily veganizable by replacing the cheese with tofu and some seasoning, and the fat could be reduced by baking instead of frying. Unfortunately, I wasn't sold on the eggplant sauce that accompanied the recipe, so after some thought, I decided to use a raita-style cucumber sauce instead.

I will not lie to you: It was a lot of work for a week night. The list of ingredients looks simple, until you realize that the potatoes and the spinach need to be cooked before the rest of the recipe is put together. But all in all, it was worth it. The kofta, crispy on the outside and tender on the inside, were mildly seasoned, and even E., who didn't want to try them at first, wound up cleaning her plate. And though they are seasoned with curry, I served them with pita bread and hummus, so consider them a cross-cultural kind of dish.

Baked Spinach Kofta

Baked Spinach Kofta
(click for printer-friendly version)

2 medium red potatoes, about 12 ounces
6 ounces fresh spinach
2 ounces firm tofu
2 teaspoons nutritional yeast flakes
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt (reduce for low-sodium diets)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
3 tablespoons chickpea flour (besan)

Peel the potatoes, dice them into 1/2-inch pieces, place them in a saucepan, and cover them with water. Boil until the potatoes are tender and then drain them well and mash. Set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the spinach and blanch for one minute, or just until wilted. Drain well in a colander. Put the spinach along with the tofu, nutritional yeast, lemon juice and salt into a food processor and process until crumbly. Set aside.

Spray a large skillet with canola oil and bring it to medium-high heat. Add the cumin seeds and toast for one minute. Add the onions, garlic, and ginger and sauté until the onions are soft, about 3 minutes. Add the garam masala, stir, and immediately add the potatoes and the spinach mixture. Cook, stirring, for 3 more minutes. Remove from the heat and spoon into a large bowl.

Add the chickpea flour and stir well. Allow to cool until easy to handle. Shape into about 20 balls, approximately 1-inch in diameter. (Don't worry about getting them perfect; they will naturally flatten out some during baking.) Place on an oiled cookie sheet or a silicone baking mat:

Spinach Kofta before Baking

Preheat oven to 450F. Bake for 10 minutes and then turn the kofta. Bake for 10 more minutes and turn again. Bake for 10 more minutes or until all sides are lightly browned.

Serve with Cucumber-Soy Yogurt sauce (below), garnished with tomatoes, red onion, and hot chile peppers. This makes a delicious stuffing for whole wheat pita bread or chapatis.

Makes 4 servings. Per serving: 116 Calories (kcal); 1g Total Fat; (9% calories from fat); 6g Protein; 22g Carbohydrate; 0mg Cholesterol; 568mg Sodium; 3g Fiber.

Baked Spinach Kofta

Cucumber-Soy Yogurt Sauce

1 small or 1/2 large cucumber
1 cup plain soy yogurt
1/4 cup diced red onion
1-2 tablespoons minced mint leaves
1-3 tablespoons lime juice (use more if you are using store-bought soy yogurt because it tends to be sweetened)
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Peel and finely dice the cucumber. Place the pieces in a colander and allow the liquid to drain while you mix the other ingredients in a bowl.

Before adding the cucumber, blot it lightly with a paper towel to remove excess moisture. Add it to the yogurt mixture and stir to combine. Refrigerate for at least 1/2 hour to allow the flavors to blend.

The HEart of the MatterIt's been a long time since I've participated in any food blog events, and I really regret that. The truth is, I just haven't made the time to keep up with what's going on in the blogging world, but recently I came across an event that I can really get behind: The Heart of the Matter--Eating for Life, a monthly round-up of heart-friendly recipes from all over the world. Since this blog is all about eating the healthiest diet possible (except for, ahem, those doughnut muffins), I thought it was time to join in, and these Baked Spinach Kofta are just perfect--very low in calories and fat and full of spinachy nutrition. This month's theme is vegetables, so be sure to check out all the fantastic and healthy recipes once the round-up is posted.


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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Mini Doughnut Muffins

Dieters, avert your gaze.

Mini Doughnut Muffins

I shouldn't have done it. I need these muffins like I need another 10 pounds on my thighs. But in a moment of motherly guilt, I made a rash promise to E. to make "donut holes," and she was with me when I bought the mini muffin pan, so I couldn't back out. Yesterday, when she had a friend sleeping over, seemed like the perfect time to live up to my promise. After all, the girls would eat most of them. And I could control myself around the rest. Right?

Mini Doughnut Muffins with Sprinkles

Wrong! Of course I had to test them to see how the recipe tasted...and then again, to make sure. And just one more to consider what I might change. Though they're tiny, the three I ate were still too many for my conscience and my waistline. But they were delicious...tender, moist, lightly sweet, glistening with sugary glaze. I'd better stop thinking about them before I grab one of the ones reserved for E. and her friend's breakfast!

Glazed Doughnut Muffin

I made three varieties: glazed, glazed with sprinkles, and maple-glazed. I wish I'd made cinnamon sugar ones, but then I would have eaten more than three! E. liked the maple-glazed ones best, and I had to agree with her.

Mini Doughnut Muffin

I'm sorry to say that they weren't fat-free, weren't made with whole wheat (or gluten-free) flour, and weren't low in sugar. And I'm even sorrier to say that I won't be giving you the recipe today. I still have some tweaking to do, and then—it pains me to say this—I'm going to save the recipe for the cookbook. I know, I know—I feel like slapping myself as I write that! But I do promise that once I perfect the recipe, it will be as close to the taste of doughnuts as you can get in a muffin. And, of course, I'll provide a fat-free version.

If all this talk has left you with doughnut muffin cravings, there are some options open to you. This article and recipe, found via a post at Orangette, were the basis for my veganized, lower-fat goodies. But if you're looking for already veganized decadence, go immediately to Vegan YumYum's Mini Baked Donuts (some with chocolate coating!) But again, dieters avert your eyes. I swear you can gain weight just from looking at the photos!


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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Strawberry Shortcake

When my parents visited this past weekend, they came bearing a box full of the last Louisiana strawberries of the season. (My parents never visit anyone without bringing a sample of whatever fruit is in season. This makes them very welcome in my house.) I'm a little prejudiced about strawberries, but I think that late season Louisiana berries are the best in the world. My home town was actually known as the "Strawberry Capital of the World" until a neighboring town got the idea to host a yearly strawberry festival in the early 1970's and appropriated the title for itself. But anyone who knows strawberries knows that Hammond, La., is really the strawberry capital, not that other town which I will not deign to mention.

See? Just a little prejudiced! But our local strawberries truly are deep, dark, juicy, and sweet, and the berries my parents brought with them were no exception.

My parents, being the dessert fanatics that they are, figured that my mother could slice the strawberries up, I could make a vegan cake, and we could all enjoy some delicious strawberry shortcake. I don't believe in biscuit-like shortcake; I grew up eating regular vanilla cake with strawberries, so that's what I made--or at least I tried. My cake came out much tougher and chewier than I'd like, and it really wouldn't have been a success at all except that the juice of the strawberries tenderized it. I probably just tried to healthify this dessert a little too much. (I used half white whole wheat flour and made it fat-free on top of being vegan.) I'm not going to post the cake recipe until I've done some heavy revising to make it meet my standards, but you can make this using your favorite vanilla cake recipe. In fact, feel free to leave links and recipes in the comments.

Vegan Strawberry Shortcake

Strawberry Shortcake

2-3 pints strawberries
1/4-1/2 cup sugar
1 vanilla cake
1-2 pints vanilla soy or rice "ice cream"

At least an hour before serving, hull and slice the strawberries and mix them with sugar (use more or less sugar depending on the sweetness of the strawberries). Let them sit at room temperature for about an hour or in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours, until strawberries are softened and juicy (macerated).

Once the strawberries are ready and the cake is made, place a slice of cake on a serving plate, spoon some strawberries and juice over it, and top with a scoop of ice cream. Or, for big appetites, build a "tower o'shortcake" using two slices of cake and extra strawberries and ice cream. Be careful not to let it topple over on you!


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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Palak Tofu (Tofu in Curried Spinach Sauce)

Let me take a moment to wish a belated happy Mothers' Day to all you moms and kids. I was very lucky this year to be able to spend the day with my own mother, which happens very rarely even though we live only a few hours apart. The older I get, the more grateful I am to have been raised by this generous, good-hearted woman who never met a person--or a vegetable--she didn't like.

Which is a not-so-smooth way to segue into a recipe that contains one of my favorite vegetables. Years ago, I discovered Palak Paneer at the Indian restaurant in Columbia, S.C., and it quickly became one of my favorite dishes. Well, it was a very short-lived favorite because I became vegan just after I'd discovered it and almost wished I had never even tasted it. Over the years, I've tried to make a tofu version that's just as good as what I remember, but all my attempts seem to fall flat. Without the ghee (clarified butter) and other dairy products (including the homemade paneer cheese), my spinach dish just never quite lives up to the palak paneer of my memories.

I'd love to say that this is the version that finally succeeds in surpassing the dairy version, but I'd be lying. Though it's very good in its own right, delicious and richly spiced, this rendition still lacks the creaminess that probably can be accomplished only through the generous use of margarine. So I'll keep working on the formula, but I think that this healthier recipe is a tasty replacement in the meantime.

Palak Tofu

Palak Tofu (Tofu in Curried Spinach Sauce)

1 package firm tofu (about 1 pound)
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon ginger paste (or 1 tsp. chopped ginger)
3 medium tomatoes, diced
1 1/2 teaspoon curry powder (or garam masala)
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
5 ounces fresh baby spinach (1 pre-washed bag)
3 tablespoons soy yogurt
generous pinch ground fenugreek (optional)
salt to taste

Cut the tofu into cubes about 1/2-1 inch in size. Spray or brush a non-stick skillet lightly with oil and heat it on medium-high. Add the tofu in a single layer, and cook it, turning often, until it is lightly golden on all sides. Remove it from the skillet and set aside.

Add the onions to the skillet and cook until golden. Add the garlic and ginger paste and cook for another minute. Add the tomato, curry powder, coriander, cumin, and turmeric and cook until tomatoes begin to break down.

Add the spinach, stir well, and cover. Cook until the spinach is completely wilted, about 3-5 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a food processor and blend until almost smooth. Pour it back into the skillet, add the yogurt and fenugreek and salt to taste. Add the tofu to the skillet, and cook on low for about 15 minutes. Serve over rice or with Indian flatbread.

Since D. and I ate the whole recipe, I'm saying that this makes 2 servings, though if you are not piggy like we are and include side dishes, this may serve 4. Based on 2 servings, this provides: 274 Calories (kcal); 12g Total Fat; (36% calories from fat); 23g Protein; 25g Carbohydrate; 0mg Cholesterol; 81mg Sodium; 8g Fiber.


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Thursday, March 29, 2007

Strawberry Whip

Strawberries by Fatfree Vegan KitchenRecently, after I posted about the lovely strawberries that I brought back from my weekend trip to Louisiana, several people left comments saying that they couldn't wait to see what I was going to make with them. I was a little embarrassed to admit that my plans were pretty boring: freeze most of them for later and just eat the rest of them out of hand. Taking something so naturally sweet and healthy and making something else just isn't how I cook on a daily basis.

But then I woke up craving one of my favorite breakfasts, soy yogurt with fruit, and I could just imagine how great it would taste with ripe, fresh strawberries. Unfortunately, when I got to the fridge I found that D.--the fiend!--had eaten all the yogurt. (He has this need to take yogurt, blend it with fruit like a smoothie, and pour it over breakfast cereal; it looks disgusting!)

Without yogurt in the house, I was left fumbling for alternatives, so I turned to the miracle food of the vegan diet: silken tofu. (Think about it: what else can be turned into salad dressing, quiche, chocolate mousse, "cheese" sauce, cheesecake, and more?) On its own, silken tofu tastes chalky and weird, but blended or simmered with flavorful ingredients, it can take on a myriad of flavors. I opted for simplicity and simply blended the tofu with some agave nectar to sweeten it and a little lemon juice and vanilla. It was very tasty layered with more sweetened strawberries and topped with Soyatoo whipped "cream":

Strawberry Whip

Strawberry Whip

1/2 cup silken tofu, firm or extra-firm
2 tablespoons agave nectar
1 tablespoon fresh Meyer lemon juice (use less if using regular lemons)
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup chopped strawberries

Using a blender, food processor, or hand blender, blend all ingredients until smooth. Refrigerate until chilled and serve topped or layered with more strawberries and with soy whipped cream, if desired. Makes 2 servings.

A caveat about the Soyatoo: This was the first time I'd tried it, and I'm sorry to say that my first impression was not good. It wasn't as bad as Hip Whip, which I bought and had to throw out, but it wasn't the realistic concoction I was hoping for. (Amazingly, after being vegan for 13 years, I still remember how whipped cream is supposed to taste.) On second taste, it seemed better, so, if you're cynical, you can chalk that up to my taste buds becoming inured to mediocrity, but if you buy it and don't like it at first, you might try giving it another shot. Though at $5.99 for one can, I won't be buying it again. (To be fair, not everyone feels this way.)

Oh, another thing about the Soyatoo: It starts to dissolve immediately and will be deflated to half its original height in about 1 minute. So, if you're trying to serve it to guests (or photograph it) don't squirt it on until it's on the table.


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