Tuesday, 25 September 2007

brown rice pudding

It was one of those days. Yes, those days. Where everything in your universe is off just a bit. The morning coffee tastes bitter, clothes do not fit right, simple decisions are hard to make, suddenly you remember there are 10,000 things to do and you find yourself tired and running late. Oh, it's Monday. On this particular Monday I found myself in quite a mess (for really no reason!!) and a tummy ache to top it off. After what felt like moving through mud trying to gain focus on my day I simply threw my hands up and quit before I even started. Quite lame, yes, but I accepted that fast and got right to dumping my crap coffee down the drain, putting on my pj's (which I knew fit) and made the one decision I could not go wrong with: rice pudding. There is nothing wrong with taking the time to stop and realize the small pleasures of life. It's essential. More people should throw their hands up in the moring and take a day to themselves to apprechiate what life has to offer and just slow down. You know those people that need this desperatly. Maybe I am just trying to justify my lazy behavior? Maybe. But can I tell you how great it was to take a day to myself? I still felt pretty crap physically but emotionally I was considerably more stable and relaxed. Or course, it's impossible to put life on hold, but it is possible to take the time to gain perspective- to step back and realize that everything you were stressing about maybe is not so grandiose that your world might fall apart. Maybe things really are falling apart and you need to take the time to take care of yourself- so you can be calm and clear in times of distress. Whatever it may be, maybe even nothing at all, making a pot of creamy rice pudding will, at the very least, send you into temorary nirvana. And it's times like these that our bodies and minds are a little out of balance and can lead to stress eating- which is normally not so healthy. Eating this particular rice pudding will not classify under unhealthy desserts. Brown rice lends a wholesome base while lemon and ginger help detox the body and aid in digestion. The small amount of sugar will not send your blood sugar soaring and crashing. It might test your patience just a little becuase it takes a while to bake, but there is nothing really to mess up with this recipe. This rice pudding can turn one of those days into a good day. Making something healthy and tasty is quite an accomplishment. And if that's the only accomplishment that is done for the day, that's perfectly OK.

This recipe demands quite a bit of time from you but don't fret. It's a lot of time, but not a lot of energy. This is one of those dishes that can cook while you are making dinner, reading the morning paper, or enjoying an afternoon cocktail (or three- you have the time, right?). Also, feel free to suit it to your tastes. The basic measurments are below, but feel free to use soy milk instead of coconut milk. Maybe throw 1 Cup golden raisins or pistachio's....or both! If you can cook rice, you can make the most delicious brown rice pudding ever. Oh, a note about rice. Try to use the best rice possible. Don't skimp if you can help it. But....I'll just say off the record that any type of rice will do. I like the flavor basmati adds, and brown rice has more nutrition, but feel free to experiment with short grain brown, jasmine, and of course in a pinch plain old white rice will do and most certainly nourish your soul.

you will need these:
pot for making rice (or a rice cooker)
favorite casserole type dish to go in the oven make sure it has a lid- or in a pinch use some foil to cover
wooden spoon

1 C brown basmati rice cooked according to directions on package which should equal approximatley 2 C cooked rice
1 T coconut butter (optional)
14oz can regular coconut milk
1/2 C agave nectar
1/4 C organic unrefined sugar
zest and juice of 1/2 organic lemon
3 inch piece of ginger, grated --a cheese grater works fine. or, just mince it
1/2 tsp cardamom powder
pinch of salt

1/2 C grated, unsweetened coconut flakes (optional)

pre-heat oven to 375 degrees

to make the rice, add the coconut butter (if using) and a pinch of salt. canola oil can be subsituted for the butter

once rice is done take off heat, keep it covered, and let it sit for 15 minutes

fluff the rice with a fork then add the coconut milk, agave nectar, zest and juice of lemon, grated ginger, cardamom powder and salt

mix well with a wooden spoon, press down flat with a wooden spoon, put a lid on it and stick it in the oven for 1 1/2 hours.

i know it's against the rules to open the oven while baking, but go ahead and break the rules this time and open it to stir the rice about three times during the cooking process, but not before the first 30 minutes. all kinds of rice and ovens and baking dishes vary so it may take a little more or less time. it's impossible to overcook it. if for some reason it does look dry, try adding some more coconut milk, vegan milk of any kind or if all else fails, water will do. the point is to get the rice as soft as possible.

remove from the oven when done, give it one more stir and let it rest, lid on, for at least 20 minutes.

after that it is fair game. eat it or garnish it. be carefull not to burn your mouth though!

to garnish and add a little crunch, sprinkle the shredded coconut on top and broil (i crack the oven while doing this- what a shame it would be to burn the coconut) for 2-4 minutes.

keep it in the refridgerator for a couple of days- if it lasts that long

it will serve about 6 people depending....oh, and it makes for a breakfast of champions.

and a note about the picture: this vintage le creuset pot was a donatation made my friends Julie and Giles. They called it their "river pot" becuase it is very stained. please know that making this pudding will not do something like this to your pot.....just thought you might like to know. i thought the picture looked "rustic" when i took it- now i'm not so sure. i don't really care thought 'cause the proof is in the pudding.

Sunday, 16 September 2007

wheat-free chocolate chip bread

Britney and I have know each other since the third grade. We immediatley became best friends in Mrs. Berry's class. When our parents met my mom asked her mom in a hushed, concerned, voice, "Does Britney have immaginary friends?". "No", replied her mom, "She just reads a lot". Obviously my mom thought I was a little off for creating my friends instead of just making them in real life. (True story: my first imaginary friend's name was macaronni) But when Britney came along there was no longer a need to have imaginary friends or for her to immerse herself in books. We were inseperable. Living in a small town and being (at the time) only children, we clung to each other like twin sisters. Since the third grade we have grown our seperate ways and live much different lives now. But one thing remains the same, we are still very much like sisters who can't get enough of each other. This makes baking and taking photos of our baked goods a synonomous effort, like two energys moving as one in the kitchen, creating doublely good stuff.

We were on a mission to make vegan m&m cookies. I was disheartend to see "whole milk powder" in the ingredients list in the natural, m&m type product. "Well, should we go for a classic chocolate chip cookie" Britney asked. Of course, what else would we do??

Sifting through several cookie recipes, vegan and not vegan, we soon became anxious and went into the kitchen, beers in hand, to create the perfect vegan chocolate chip cookie. While Britney measured out flour, I measured oil and sugar. We worked in silence, focusing all our positive energy into the wonderful cookie dough. Ummm....cookie dough? Right. "Okay, just 1/2 C more flour." Staring in disbelief into the mixer while we watched our beloved batter refuse to thicken up. Right, lets just try them out, see how they do. More like pouring crepe batter onto the cookie sheet we kept our spirits high until the timer went off and we peeked into the oven. A mess of batter splayed out on the pan looking more like pancakes with an identity crisis. We stuck the rest of the batter in the fridge to chill and tried again 20 minutes later. Still, these babies did not like the free from of the cookie sheet. Determind not to let the rest of our batter go to waste we filled the last of the batter into two little springform pans. We sat in the kicthen, chatting away and sipping our beers, while a miracle happened in the oven. Surprisingly enough we still had a positive energy about whatever it was we were creating. While we talked we unconciously munched on the cookies that had refused to become cookies. They became solid on the cookie sheet and even though they were thin as crepes, we were both in agreement that the taste was right on. The cakes came out and we immediatley knew that our positive efforts had created a wonderful thing. I guess we were listening to our Buddhist talk earlier that morning when we heard a lecture on not letting ourselves, along with our perception of the world, conform to a certain identity. Things change every moment and nothing will ever stay the same. Cookie dough should not have to be cookie dough if it's time has passed and needs, instead, to be bread batter. It is up to the baker to roll with these changes and become fluid cooks knowing that soon, cookie dough, turned into bread batter, will one day make excellent crepes... and so on. Or maybe that's the beer talking combined with my whimsical recipe writing.

Try this recipe as muffins, mini-cakes or a whole sweet bread. It will make approximately 2 dozen muffins, one 8x8 (or thin 9x13) bread or several small cakes such as the small springform pans used here. Get creative and let the batter speak to you. Becoming one with what you are cooking and preparing to consume is key to creating perfect food.

you will need these:
2 mixing bowls
wooden spoon
rubber spatula
muffin tins or cake tins

flour mixture:
3 1/2 C spelt flour (you can make this with regular all-purpose flour, just add a couple of tablespoons extra flour)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 C organic unrefined sugar
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper (optional, added for bit of mystery)

liquid mixture:
2/3 C canola oil
1 C agave nectar
1 1/2 T ground flax seed blended with,
1 C almond milk
2 tsp alcohol free vanilla extract

1 C vegan chocolate chips

preheat oven to 350 degrees

blend the flax seeds and almond milk together and set aside

combine the flour, baking soda, salt and cayenne pepper (if using)

cream the oil, agave, and sugar until incorporated and add the flax/milk mixture. then add vanilla at the last second

putting in a cup at a time, slowly mix the flour mixture into the liquid until just combined. add chocolate chips and give a couple more stirs

pour into desired tins and bake for 30-40 minutes. a little less time for muffins, though

when it has come out of the oven, the top will give a nice shine which is what i like most about this little treat

p.b. (that's post-blog, fyi) as with the Ultimate Brownies I posted last month, there were no special additions to the batter. However, for that extra special crunch try adding 3/4 C nuts of your choice (perhaps walnuts?) or 3/4 C dried, unsweetend cherries. If you do get frisky and add a little something else, be sure to let me know what it is so I can try it too.

Saturday, 8 September 2007

rosemary cornmeal cake

Qutoes from this mornings Research and Development team meeting:

Kyle: "I like this, it's sweet, but not too sweet. I can't decide if I should call it sweet or savory"

Carrie: "It's not heavy like cornbread and sitting like a rock in my stomach. You really got the perfect amount of oil in this."

Kyle: "What are you going to pair this with? My first thought is it would go great with chicken. I mean, well, that's not what you will do with it I'm sure, but, okay, maybe roast vegtables?"

Carrie: "Yeah, this would go great with fish.....I'm going to eat all of this right now."

Kyle: "Me too- hey this would also be great for breakfast. Do vegans eat orange marmalade? Like spicy marmalade? It would be great for breakfast with that on it. Hey, are you going to put that on your blog? The marmalade part?

Kyle and Carrie are some members of my Research and Development team, also know as my friends ready to eat my baked goods and tell me all about it. This conversation took place in our workroom this morning as we were dreading the fatefull three hours of work that were ahead of us. The cornmeal cake lifted our spirits and gave us something to talk about instead of the usual complaining about work. I stood there in amazement as they both carried on a good 5 minute converstation about how the cake tasted, what they would pair it with, and how it should be served. Ummm, where are their food blogs I want to know? I love that they both immediatley paired my semi-sweet vegan cake with meat. How hilarious! Maybe it's the rosemary?

I, too enjoyed this cake as much as my "team" which is why I wanted to share it with you. It's like cornbread but not, like a cake but not. It kind of makes it's own catergory hovering between sweet and savory, breakfast or dessert, plain or adorned (with spicy vegan marmalade??) This is a classy cake, one of those you can feel comfortable taking into any situation. A vegan cake paired with meat? Now that's compatibility.

I was set on putting rosemary in something I baked. Maybe it's because the seasons are starting to change and I feel a need to put spices and herbs in just about anything I cook. Bay leaves have started appearing in my cooking at least once a week and I just simply cannot get enough sage. Also, in a couple of months it will be the right weather for cornbread with hearty stews and chilies. However, I must live in the present. The weather is still warm. Although I am looking forward to pumpkins, hearty soups and dense breads, I must be mindfull of my current situation and remember that it is still hot outside and eating these things would promote (even more) laziness. I wanted something sweet, not cloying, that reminded me of bright weather- no matter the season. Incorporating herbs into your sweet baking is a wonderful thing. Herbs like sweet things too, just as much as you do.

you will need these:
2 mixing bowls
8 inch cake pan
wooden mixing spoon

flour mixture:
2 C cornmeal (organic if possible)
1 C spelt flour (found in the health food section or health food store- you could use all purpose, just take out 2 tablespoons seeing as spelt flour is a bit more dense)
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 C vegan, organic powdered sugar

liquide mixture:
1/3 canola oil
2 C club soda

1 T fresh rosemary or 3/4 T dried rosemary (chop it up into really small bits. i did not do this the first time and believe me it was not fun picking sticks of rosemary out of my teeth)

*try adding the zest of an organic lemon. i really regret i forgot this part and will be sure to do it next time. would also look great as a grarnish

pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. grease cake pan and set aside

blend together flour mixture making sure all the bits of flour have been crumbled up

in a seperate bowl whisk together oil and club soda

make a well in the flour mixture and pour the liquid into the dry flour. mixing as you go (adding the rosemary and zest at this point) and making sure not to overmix

----the batter at this point will be very, very wet and you will have a strong urge to add more flour and thinking i must be crazy with my recipe writing. this is not true. do not add more flour whatever you do. even i thought i was crazy when i poured it into the pan. but it works, please trust me.

pour into greased pan and bake for 30-40 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. also, you can always trust your nose. when it smells the most aromatic, it's probably ready to come out.

when it's cooled and you are ready to serve it, try dusting some powdered sugar and lemon zest on top for a beautiful presentation. or perhaps you were going to go for the spicy vegan marmalade?

serves 8-10

Monday, 3 September 2007

maple cake

When searching for a cake to make for my friend Chris's birthday I knew it had to be spectacular.

Chris arrived as I was icing the cake and seemed impressed with my beautiful golden, maple creation. It was adorned with pecans then tucked away for after dinner. Dinner? I'm going through this phase where I like to use just the ingredients I have on hand to make meals. It's getting kind of tricky now because the pantry is pretty sparce, but I'm using things I didn't even know I had and coming up with creative ways to use those foods that I'm not sure why I bought in the first place. Not allowing myself to go to the store for anything (except items for baking, of course) is a real challenge. I had the bright idea to make fried spring rolls filled with bean thread, spinach, egg, and spicy garlic sauce. A butternut squash soup and roasted potatoes. This sounds way more impressive than it really was. I showed Chris how to roll the spring rolls then I set off on cutting potatoes and putting garlic in the soup. Once the oil was hot enough to fry our delicate creations, he asked, "Have you ever done this before?" Well, I had never fried spring rolls but how hard could it be? The spring rolls were far from perfection but we looked pretty professional, both of us wearing aprons, armed with spatula's, and me, with goggles on. We were suddenly transported to a television set introducing ourselves and our little spring rolls using phrases such as, "Looking for that nice, golden brown", and "You want it to have a good crunch". We both did a great job consuming spring rolls, dripping with oil, and making more of a splat sound when biting down than "crisp!". After that I decided on no frills whatsoever. The soup had all of 4 ingredients and the potatoes were just that. Chris was a good sport and encouraging of my lamest meal ever. What on earth made me think that just because I can bake a cake I can fry little rice paper wraps to a golden perfection?? Maybe one can bake spring rolls?? Hmmmm....I think Chris deserves another birthday dinner, don't you?

Thank goodness I made that maple cake. After dinner my palate needed some love. Just on time for cake, my boyfriend arrived and we promptly lit candles and sang. I gave out generous pieces for the three of us and we stood right where we had recived our plates and ate in silence. "This is the best dessert you have ever made" said Tanner, who is also my food critic. "It's not vegan is it?" I did make it vegan, actually. This made me feel much, much better while standing in my grease covered kitchen and watching two grown men shove birthday cake into their mouths. My ego was saved.

Nigella Lawson gets the credit for this one. It's her autumal birthday cake from, "How to be a Domestic Goddess". I ate the "real" cake last year at a birthday party baked by my wonderful friend Miz Collins; I fell in love with it on the spot and have been craving it ever since. The vegan rendition is really similar; it lacks some of the fluff that the one with eggs provides, and the fosting is not as fluffy either. The moisture is there- amazingly- with only a bit of oil and no eggs. That being said, the taste is pefection; just straight up maple and pecans. Also it's comforting that something that tastes so luxurious is so simple in nature. Oh, and it looks stunning sitting on a cake stand. It's the perfect introduction to fall or an anytime of year birthday cake spectacular.

you will need these:
2 mixing bowls
wooden spoon
2 8x8 round cake pans

for the cake:
1/2 C oil
scant 1/4 C unrefined natural sugar
3/4 C milk subsitute (I chose almond milk but soy, rice, hemp...etc. would work too)
3 tsp apple cider vinegar
3 C unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 C maple syrup (preferably organic grade a or b. please don't use aunt jemima)

for the icing:
1/2 box (approx. 6 oz) silken firm tofu (like Mori Nu brand)
1/2 C maple syrup
1 T unrefined natural sugar
1 T arrowroot powder (this is to thicken the icing)
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 C chopped pecan pieces

preheat the oven to 350 degrees

grease cake pans with a little canola oil

mix the flour, baking soda and baking powder and set aside

Add the apple cider vinegar to the milk and whisk for a minute or two until bubbles from at the top. set aside

combine the oil and sugar until fully incorporated and add the milk and maple syrup

slowly add the flour mixutre until just combined. overmixing cake batters can result in a tough, too dense cake

pour into cake pans and bake for 30 minutes. the color of the cake is light and golden and might appear on first glance to not be throughly cooked- test with a toothpick to be sure

to make the icing:

put all ingredients into a blender and wiz until nice and creamy. let chill in the refrigerator until ready to use.

make sure the cakes have cooled to room temperature before icing them. the icing is a bit thin and the less the heat on it, the better it will stick to the cake.

lay one layer on a plate and poke holes in the top with a fork. pour icing generously over the top and throw on a good handful of pecans.

next, place the second layer on top, this time without poking holes in the top. pour the rest of the icing over cake. it is more like a drizzle really- let it drip down the side and try not to worry too much about covering the whole thing in icing. it looks really nice with little drips going down the side. top with pecans and you are ready to go. if this is a birthday cake, go ahead and splurge on gold candles....not too many though.

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