Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas 2016

It's Christmas morning for the next 32 minutes or so and I'm looking up my recipes for Christmas dinner.  I'm making an Vegan Eggnog Cheesecake from Susan Voisin's website, FatFree Vegan Kitchen.  I'm also making vegan filet mignon, a recipe I posted in March 2015.  I have since bought the cookbook the creator published, Meatless Meals for Meat Lovers by Tracy Williams. It's a mere $5 and has the recipe for both the Best Damn Seitan I've Ever Had PERIOD and for the Seitan Turkey and Stuffing I have made for Thanksgiving.
This year, I made homemade gifts for some coworkers.  I made bottles of vanilla extract. I used 1 vanilla bean for every 2 ounces of vodka.  I began seeping the beans on September 9, 2016.  The longer the beans seep, the richer the extract. By the time I gave them to my coworkers on December 22, 2016, the extract was a nice brown color and very fragrant. 
I also made them Vanilla Cinnamon Nuts. I got up at 4:00 a.m. on December 22, 2016 and by 5:20 a.m., I had made 8 cups of nuts.  The recipe was extremely easy and vegan.

Vanilla Cinnamon Nuts

4 cups of any type of nuts (raw)
1½ cups sugar
2/3 cup water
4 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon or so of freshly grated nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350º F; roast nuts on jelly roll pan for 15 minutes, shaking the pan every 5 minutes to prevent burning.  

Combine sugar, water, vanilla, cinnamon & nutmeg in a dutch oven (large enough to hold all of the nuts) and bring to a boil.  Over medium heat, add all nuts and stir constantly.  The mixture will bubble up.  Keep cooking and stirring until the sugar crystallizes.  This will happen in 6-10 minutes.  All of the liquid evaporates and the sugar on the nuts dries out.  Once it starts drying out, it will happen quickly.  You need to continue to stir (it will be harder since the liquid is gone) until the coating on all nuts has crystallized. Turn off the burner to prevent burning.

Line the same jelly roll pan you used to roast the nuts with a piece of parchment paper. (I did this immediately after I put the nuts in the sugar so it was ready when the nuts were done.)  Dump the nuts on the jelly roll pan and spread out to cool.  If the nuts stick together, once they are cooler, break the bigger chunks apart. Store in a sealed container. (I used Ball jars.)
I decorated my vanilla bottles and Ball jars with jute and red yarn and made labels for them. I believe in giving homemade, because it's from the heart, but I don't believe in sloppy homemade.  The packaging is a reflection on me and it takes so little to make things nice.  I bought the labels at Hobby Lobby and they came with a website address where I found templates and could personalize them. The labels even had a hole punch out to hang on my projects.  They are Avery labels #80503.  Great little labels.

Hope you all are having a Merry Christmas!  It's time for me to go cook. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

What Took Me So Long? Vegan Yogurt & Granola

Who buys a yogurt maker on September 21, 2013 and waits until August 29, 2016 to make her first batch of yogurt?  I mean really, after 3 years, wouldn't you think that the yogurt maker should go in the Goodwill box?  I hadn't even opened the box to look at it.

When I bought the yogurt maker, I had looked at many recipes and thought I could make yogurt.  I wanted to make vegan yogurt.  I had tried commercially prepared vegan yogurt and I liked it fine.  But it's expensive and hard to find different flavors.  I even had a hard time finding plain vegan yogurt.  So I bought the yogurt maker and ordered vegan yogurt starter (2 boxes - I was ambitious) and threw the starter in the freezer like I was supposed to.  And then everything stopped and sat waiting.

In August, I decided I would dig out the yogurt maker and make vegan yogurt. It seemed like I read 100 recipes and tips articles, but I'm sure it wasn't that many.  I finally decided on one recipe that heated the soy milk (Edensoy or WestSoy - the kind with only soy beans and filtered water in it - no other additives). It was very easy.  This recipe used cornstarch as a thickener and I'll admit, the yogurt was very thick.  I thought I cooked it too long (10 or 11 hours) as it was a little sour for my taste, but it turns out, that's just because I wasn't used to the flavor. 

My vegan yogurt starter expired in February 2014.  YIKES!  Turns out, it stays good indefinitely in the freezer.  I have used it for every batch of yogurt I've made except one where I added 1/2 cup of my yogurt instead as the starter.  Good thing the starter is still good - I have those two boxes to use up!

I tried another recipe using Arrowroot Starch for the thickener.  It turned out OK, too, but wasn't as thick as cornstarch.  Then I read another recipe and the author said she uses no thickeners and doesn't heat the milk before culturing.  She just adds 1 capsule of vegan probiotic (the refrigerated kind) to the milk and then cultures it.  That sounded great to me ... BUT ... I still have these 2 boxes of vegan yogurt starter.  So, I dumped a box of soy milk in my Pyrex bowl, added an envelope of vegan yogurt starter, and threw it in the yogurt maker for about 11 hours.  VOILA!  It's not as thick as when I use a thickener, but it's not soupy either.  Honestly, it's thick enough for me.  It's a softer set, but still delicious and perfect for granola or protein shakes. I've made it this way several times now and it's the only method I'll use.

My first yogurt attempt.
Now, instead of making yogurt in the little jars, I make it in a 7-cup Pyrex bowl so I can just dish out as much as I want into a ball jar to add a bit of fruit and granola.  Those little jars are great to only eat yogurt as they are big enough to add fruit to, but they are not big enough to add anything else. To flavor the yogurt, I have been adding a teaspoon or so of fruit butters that I made (blueberry butter and peach butter).  I also add fresh fruit.  I've been on a kick of adding 1/2 cup of granola to the yogurt and having it for lunch.  It's good and filling. 

I've been buying granola in bulk from Whole Foods or the Health Food Store, but I don't know what's in the granola and I like the idea of making my own.  It's taken me a couple of months to actually attempt to make granola ... enter today.  I have been collecting granola recipes in Pinterest waiting for the day I was ready to make granola.  I ate the last of my health food store granola for lunch, making a perfect opportunity to move forward.

I used a simple granola recipe and made it my way.  It has smelled heavenly cooking. 

Fruit & Nut Granola
Makes about 6 cups

Preheat oven to 300º F. Prepare jelly roll pan by placing parchment paper in it.

Dry ingredients; mix together.
4 cups rolled oats
½ cup raw unsalted Pepitas
½ cup raw unsalted Sunflower seeds
½ cup raw Pecans, chopped
¼ cup golden raisins
¼ cup Bing cherries, dried/chopped
¼ cup mixed dried fruit 
¼ cup Coconut sugar or brown sugar
1 teaspoon Cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon (or so) freshly ground nutmeg

Wet ingredients; mix together.
1/3 cup vegetable oil (I used canola because I didn't have coconut on hand)
1/3 cup agave syrup (or could use pure maple syrup)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (homemade of course)

Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients making sure the dry ingredients are coated.  Pour into the jelly roll pan and spread around. Stir every 10 minutes for a total cook time of 30 minutes.  Granola will not get crispy-crunchy until it cools.  Cool, break up the granola and store.  Enjoy!

Now, I only need to start using the yogurt cheese maker to make vegan yogurt cheese and vegan Greek yogurt.  BUT, I only purchased it on August 31, 2016, so I have time yet.  ;)