Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Peanut Butter Chocolate Bars

Since the last post was about bad gluten-free baked goods, I thought I would post about an absolutely delicious and easy to make gluten-free dessert. These peanut butter chocolate bars are from Colleen Patrick-Goudreau's The Joy of Vegan Baking. I made them for a camping trip in Joshua Tree National Park that we had this weekend. These were quite a hit among the campers. Omnivores loved them and said they tasted like a cross between Reeses peanut butter cups and Butterfinger bars. They are no bake bars that take about five minutes to make with no fancy ingredients required. After making one batch, the only change I made was the size of the pan. She uses a 9x13 pan but that made very flat bars. I used a 8x8 pan for chunkier bars.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Cookbook Review: Babycakes: Vegan, Gluten-Free, and (Mostly) Sugar-Free Recipes from New York's Most Talked-About Bakery

Cookbook with pumpkin spice muffins (they are just ok after much recipe tweaking)

Babycakes Vegan, Gluten-Free, and (Mostly) Sugar -free Recipes from New York's Most Talked-About Bakery by Erin McKenna is a really long title that definitely had room to include that it is mostly gluten free not completely gluten-free. Mostly gluten free is a bit more important to mention than mostly sugar free. I could overlook that but there are few other things wrong with this cookbook that you should know before you decide whether or not to get it.

Erin Mckenna, the author and owner of Babycakes Bakery in NYC, was on the Martha Stewart Show making cookies from her new cookbook. Martha went on and on how good they were. Well, my mom, my sister and I immediately ordered the book. Unfortunately there are many problems with the cookbook.

  1. It is not completely gluten-free as the title states. The whole chapter on biscuits and scones and some other recipes are not gluten-free (those recipes use spelt flour).

  2. I, my sister and many other people (see Babycakes blog and Amazon reviews) seem to be having similar problems. Muffins and breads collapsing, cooking times way off, cookies coming out as flat disks, etc.

  3. Ingredients and directions are not clear in the book. She lists coconut oil in the recipes but then on her blog she says you should use unscented and melted coconut oil (unscented is more difficult to find and that should be stated in the recipe as well as whether to melt it or not).

  4. She has a couple of posts on her blog to deal with all questions and problems people are having with her recipes. But her responses all seem to assume the homecook has made mistakes or not followed her recipe exactly. She also states "Remember, baker buddies, this isn't easy stuff! " Vegan and gluten free bakers are used to tweaking recipes and having cooking disasters. But when one uses a cookbook and follows the recipe exactly, it should come out well (maybe in the future you tweak spices and such but overall the recipe should work).

So I think that she did not have recipe testers for this which is a shame because the book is beautiful and it would have been great to have a go to cookbook for vegan and gluten-free baked goods. The shortcake bread came out well as well as one batch of the cookies. Buy this if you are ok with it providing guidelines for you for vegan and gluten free baking but not consistently good recipes. Be ready to spend a lot for ingredients ( a jar of coconut oil might be enough for two recipes) and to have a many inedible disasters before getting something good.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Santa Fe Pumpkin Chowder

I discovered a great blog this week, Karina's Kitchen, a gluten free blog, where I found this Santa Fe Pumpkin Chowder recipe. It is not a vegan blog but she has lots of vegan recipes. This was absolutely delicious. I added black beans to mine and used a hot salsa so it was very spicy, which is how I like it, but you can make it more mild.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Baked Lima Beans

This is another wonderful bean recipe from Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian cookbook. She says it is a Greek recipe from nuns in Macedonia. It is really simple to make with just a few ingredients. It is baked for about two hours but there is little prep time. She does call for cooking dry beans but you could use canned or frozen lima beans and add broth instead of the bean's cooking liquid. I usually cook dry beans a couple of times a week and use them in a variety of recipes.
I highly recommend this cookbook. It has about 200 recipes and most are vegan or easily veganized. She has an Indian cooking one as well but I haven't tried it yet.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Black-Eyed Peas in a Walnut Sauce

Being that I love beans and eat some sort of bean everyday, I thought I would post about beans all week!! Beans and nuts are my main source of protein and this recipe has both. It is a recipe from Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian cookbook. This is must have cookbook for everyone, especially vegetarians and vegans. There are so many wonderful recipes from all over the world and she uses all types of grains and beans without too many hard to find ingredients.

This black-eyed pea dish isn't the prettiest but it is so tasty and very good for you. It would be great over your favorite grain along with a salad. I served it with a warm spinach mushroom salad. I make a very simple salad. I saute sliced mushrooms (shitake, crimini, button, etc) and when tender I put them on top of some fresh spinach leaves. Then I season it with a good olive oil (this time I used a porcini olive oil-so good) and salt and pepper.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Roasted Tomatoes

Whole Foods, of all places, has tomatoes on sale for 2 lbs for a $1. These are not the most flavorful tomatoes but they are pretty good. Whenever I get a bunch of tomatoes that are not the best for eating raw, I roast them. Oven roasting tomatoes at a low temperature for a few hours causes them to caramelize and intensifies the flavor. I serve them as an antipasto with olives and fresh basil. They are also great on sandwiches and salads.

Oven roasted tomatoes require little prep time but do cook for about 3 hours. Pre-heat oven to 250 (300 degrees if your oven doesn't go down to 250 degrees). Cut tomatoes in half and place cut side up on a foil covered baking sheet. Drizzle olive oil over the tomatoes and sprinkle with salt, pepper and a tiny bit of sugar (sugar helps the caramelization but doesn't make them sweet). Bake for 2 1/2 - 3 hours until tomatoes are still soft but are starting to shrivel.

I left the seeds and juice in my tomatoes before baking but many people remove the seeds and juice first. If you plan to use the tomatoes on sandwiches or don't want them too juicy then remove the seeds and juice first by scooping it out of each tomato half. Use the juice and seeds in soup or a veggie smoothie.