Thursday, May 23, 2013

A Pantload of Belgian Waffles

 My family loves waffles. When I ask my 4.5-year-old daughter what she wants for breakfast, 99% of the time she will say, "chocolate waffles," and it has been that way since she could talk (only three years ago, it was "shaw-kwit faffles"). She means waffles with Nutella on them. Yep. I do that. Every morning. And I'm not sorry. Very lately, she has changed her preference to vegan butter (okay, she doesn't know I put that on them), and maple syrup. Next I hope to interest her in a little fruit to go with them. Baby steps.

My two-year-old chooses waffles about 80% of the time, sometimes branching out to yogurt, and always pinching about three out of five of the berries that I'm eating on MY waffle. Oh yeah - and I eat them three or four days a week, with vegan butter, strawberries, blueberries and blackberries, maple syrup, and veggie sausage. Breakfast is my biggest meal, and I love it. Three or four days, every week. (I eat my fruit on cereal on my work days, because I'm always in a hurry.)

Because these waffles make up about 50% of my daughters' diet for the day, I have always tried to make sure that they have the maximum amount of nutrition jammed into them. Previously, this meant buying the "fancy" waffles with protein and fiber. Then I did the math on that. For the family, this means I have been spending between $450 to $625 a year on boxed waffles. Wow. And you know, I'm not the tops when it comes to ecological worries, but how many boxes is that? I'm spending a lot of money, downing a lot of trees, and I thought the waffles could taste better, too.

I announced to my husband, "I am making all our waffles from now on." He shrugged. He's a lovely man who follows my lead on things like this. I think he was just happy to hear that there would be no more, "No, these are MY waffles, and these are the KIDS' waffles!" Now there would just be waffles.

I looked through the reviews on Amazon (from whence all things come), and I chose the Waring Pro WWM1200SA Double Belgian-Waffle Maker based on the good reviews. It's a double, so I figured I could go factory-style, and crank those mothers out. And while I swear I have not been paid a dime (though I'm happy to change that status, if anyone is paying attention), I am so happy with my choice. I have monkeyed so much with the manufacturer's waffle recipe, and I had to stray pretty far from it not to still get a perfect waffle, every time. It fills the house with cinnamon and vanilla scent, and I still enjoy making them.

The included recipe involves eggs, melted butter, and flour dough that has been risen with yeast. I swapped out some things so that the recipe is vegan, and I'm very happy with the result. I've added chickpea flour for protein, though I once used a bit too much, and it made a thinner batter that stuck to the waffle maker. Adding more all-purpose flour fixed this. Phew. (The chemistry of chickpea flour is a bit different, so it doesn't work quite the same way).

I also included whole wheat flour, applesauce, and wheat bran for fiber. (The whole wheat flour also contains more protein). My recipe includes Splenda, which also contains fiber. I know it isn't the most natural product out there - but I only use a half cup for all these waffles, and it adds a lot of sweetness without a lot of sugar. I also have brown sugar in the recipe, because both the yeast and I find it to be yummy.

My plan all along was to make a giant batch of these, and freeze them, so that we could use them throughout the week. Yes, I know that fresh waffles taste the best - so if you have time to make fresh Belgian waffles every morning, then I'm happy for you. I don't. And these still taste better out of the freezer than the boxed kind do - about eight times better. That's science talking.

I have to mention that I use the Oster TSSTTRWF4S 4-Slice Toaster, because it just might be important to the successful re-heating. This toaster has a "frozen" setting, which is so handy. I toast the waffles once on this setting, then again lightly without it. This way, the outside gets toasted and the inside doesn't stay frozen. If you don't have one of those, you could try nuking them for a few seconds in the microwave, then toasting them. Trust me, it is worth it.

So here's the recipe for the giant batch. It makes about 20-22 thick Belgian waffles that are doughy inside, and crispy outside. If you want to make fewer, just do the math and subdivide. You should keep those fraction skills sharp, anyway.

Giant Batch O' Waffles (makes 20-22 waffles)

1 teaspoon salt
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup garbanzo (chickpea) flour
1 3/4 cups wheat bran
1/2 cup Splenda
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
5 flax eggs (5 Tblesp. milled flax, mixed with just under a cup of water - combine separately)
4 1/2 cups warm tap water
3 packets of instant yeast
3 sticks vegan butter, melted and cooled
4 1/2 cups soy milk
1 cup apple sauce
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. almond extract
2 tsp. butter extract (skip if you don't have)
2 Tblesp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg

Whisk the flax powder (milled flax) with the water indicated, and stick in the fridge for 5 minutes. Remove, re-whisk, and put back in the fridge for another 10 minutes. This is your "eggs."

Meanwhile, measure HALF the warm water (2 1/4 cups), mix with all the yeast in a BIG bowl, and a pinch of your brown sugar. Whisk, and allow to sit until the yeast forms a thick foam on the top.

Add the sugar, Splenda, and your set flax "eggs" to the yeast mix and combine. Next, add all the liquid ingredients (melted butter through the extracts, and the rest of the water). Mix the dry ingredients in a separate bowl with a whisk, then add to the wet mix while whisking. Then allow the whole batch to stand for one hour. You need some space in the bowl, because it rises quite a bit. What I do is pour a lot of it back into the bowl I whisked the dry ingredients in, and allow both bowls to rise under a towel.

Follow the manufacturer's instructions on your waffle maker, and crank those babies out. I freeze mine with a square of parchment paper between them, in stacks of four inside a gallon freezer bag. This way, they pull apart easily as you need them.

These come out reminding me a bit of French Toast, which I like. I have also made a ginger pumpkin version, which came with my waffle maker also, and which recipe I adapted in the same way. They were great, but now I'm pretty much sticking with the standard that everyone likes.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Eggplant Bacon and Roasted Red Pepper Mayo

I saw a recipe for eggplant bacon that required liquid smoke. This seems to be an ingredient that crops up a lot in vegan cooking, to mimic the smoked flavor of various meats (read: bacon). I have yet to buy a bottle, because I'm too suspicious of it. It is the liquid run-off from smoke. Hm. If I really wanted to ingest that, I'd still be hacking up whatever it was I produced in the morning after an evening smoking mentholated cigarettes. "Genotoxic under an acceptable level?" Mmm, pass.

So, without consulting a recipe, I marinated eggplant strips (cut thinly into planks) in soy sauce, and a little molasses and smoked paprika, which appealed to me a bit more as a stand-in for the smoke flavor.

I broiled the strips on each side on foil in the oven, watching them closely, until they were crispy.

While standing around the kitchen, I put a peeled, roasted red pepper in my food processor with some Vegennaise. This also works well with sun-dried tomatoes: you just cover the tomatoes for a few minutes with boiling water, then drain, then add to the food processor. I seasoned it, too, to taste.

Wish I'd had some fresh tomatoes on hand, but this makes a great ELT sandwich with the sun-dried tomato mayo as the "T," and of course some avocado. The salty, smoky and crunchy eggplant was great in the balance with the other elements of the sandwich, and I had plenty left over.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Kale and Avocado Salad

I love kale. I've been eating it pretty much every night. My prediction is that I live forever. I think that's realistic.

I found a simple raw kale recipe on Pinterest, that called for cleaning the kale by holding the stem in your dominant hand, and pulling off the leaves with your non-dominant hand. It uses just enough force this way. (Why did I ever doubt? It was ON PINTEREST.) I was the kale (which is often sandy) in my salad spinner. And then I spin it! Spin it! Spin it!

The recipe I found called for sprinkling the kale with vinegar next, and that works well... But I found that I like to use the juice of a lime. Then squish a ripe avocado on it, and sprinkle it with salt and pepper. Then you rub it. Massage that kale. (I envisioned this step taking longer than it actually does, rubbing avocado into each individual leaf, and having to answer the kids, "What do you want? I'm massaging the kale!" But squishing it all together actually takes about a minute.) Keep squishing it all in your hands for a moment until all the kale is covered. The avocado becomes the fat in the dressing.

I like it on its own, or mixed in with romaine or other mixed greens. I've also put nuts and dried fruit in it, or put blackened tofu on top, as in the above picture. Great on its own, or because of the avocado and lime, it's also great on tacos.

Lasts two or three days in the fridge, dressed. Once a week on my produce run, I buy two heads of kale, and one ripe, and one under-ripe avocado. That way, I can make it twice a week with only one trip to the store (I told you I love kale!)

Monday, April 15, 2013

Vegan Pasta Alfredo

I know, you read the title and you're already, "YOU LOST ME. DO NOT PUT THOSE WORDS TOGETHER." And writing as a vegan AND former cream and butter-lover is so funny, because I get that. Those who are vegetarian have probably tried this already, and those who are not will probably never try this. I really don't know for sure who I'm writing to any more. But I carry on. Because I love this stuff.

This alfredo sauce came out so well that I think it would fool anyone. Really. You make cashew cream, which is very easy - you need raw cashews, not roasted or salted. You soak them overnight in water. You don't have to measure the water OR the cashews. If pressed for time, you can bring them to a boil, and let them steep for an hour instead. Then, you drain them, put them in a blender and cover them with enough water to rise an inch over the cashews. Blend it up, and you have cashew cream. That's your base.

I added garlic cloves, and kept tasting it. Raw garlic can get too powerful rather quickly, so keep tasting. I added salt and pepper to taste, and a dash of nutmeg. Put a nice big puddle of that sauce in the bottom of a bowl, and add pasta that you fish out of the cooking liquid right into it (don't rinse the pasta off!) and toss it. Add your parmezano sprinkles, and some roasted or steamed broccoli if you want the total package. Fantastico.

This made a really large batch, since I, well, made a really large batch. I froze family-sized sauce portions in baby food containers, and it thawed beautifully in the fridge. If you really want a rich experience, finish the sauce with a bit of vegan butter - but I really didn't find it necessary - the sauce is very luxurious on its own.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Buffalo Things

Get that? Instead of wings: "THINGS." I also almost called this post, "Buffalo Shoe Tongues," because I'm pretty sure you could cover chewy, smelly, shoe parts (borrowed from any hobo) with buffalo sauce, dip them in ranch dressing and serve them with celery and they would be irresistible. This is, however, a very good recipe, despite the fact that it seems anything under that sauce would taste good. (Or, I suppose I could have called them Buffalo'd cauliflower, which is what they are.)

I went to see the bro recently, and he took me to an eatery heretofore unknownst to me: the Veggie Grill. I hear it is growing quickly, springing up new franchises throughout California. Well, it ain't growing quickly enough, because I'm gonna dream about it until I'm in LA again.

The Veggie Grill doesn't use any animal products at all - no dairy, meat or eggs. And while I really enjoyed their "comfort" food or fast-food-style items, they are also maximizing nutrition in a lot of items (not just a straight, "hey, fries are vegan!" approach). The first time we went, two of us ordered the "All Hail Kale" salad, with "Blackened Chickin'." It was DELICIOUS. And the one in front, btw, is a lunch portion! I usually eat my kale cooked, but these dressed greens really inspired me to eat more raw kale.

Oh, and a side of mac and cheese, just because hey, I had a race the next day, so why not?

This first visit is also where I discovered their Buffalo Chickin' Wings. I discovered them on my brother's plate. I discovered most of them, and only left him a few. These really unglued all of us. I've been thinking about them since.

David also had the "All-American Stack," which he said he really liked.

We took home two pieces of the carrot cake, which I discovered was great with a glass of soy milk. I also discovered half of my brother's carrot cake as well. (Seriously, I love that guy.)

I loved this place so much that we went back the next day! This time, I had the "Baja Fiesta" salad. It was great... But I found myself wishing it were made with kale. Believe me, I've never said those words before, either.

This time, I got my own order of the "Buffalo Chickin' Wings." I think I may have shared. No, I'm pretty sure I didn't.

David went full-force, and made an entree out of two orders of the wings. You go, boy!

So, what's the damage? I looked at their newly-posted calorie counts, and sure, some of the dessert or "splurge" items can be up in the 400-500 calorie range (although most of the menu is lower). But seriously? I don't think they compare with the counts at most fast food places, and the nutrition is much denser. For contrast, I took a picture of the calorie counts at the snack bar of a local movie theater we went to:

Wow, movie theater, 1390 calories for nachos? As my husband loves to quote from the movie "Spinal Tap": "Yeah, too MUCH fak-king pehspective."

Anyway, what is a girl to do about this buffalo craving she came home with? I found this recipe from "Food Fanatics" on facebook (partially reprinted), and I made some changes to just about every line, which are reflected in the following places as noted:

1 head cauliflower, cut into florets

For the batter:
Dash of Frank’s Buffalo Sauce (originally Original Hot Sauce)

1 c. white rice flour (originally 1/2 cup)
1 c. BEER (originally 1/2 cup water)
Pinch salt

For the Buffalo sauce:

1/2 c. - 1 cup Frank’s Buffalo sauce (this is double or triple the original)
1/4-1/2 c. vegan butter, melted (originally 1/4 cup canola oil)
Pinch salt

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Mix together the batter ingredients in a small bowl. Dip the cauliflower in the batter until coated evenly then place on greased baking sheet (I just tossed the cauliflower florets in the batter). Bake for about 15 minutes or until the batter hardens. (I flipped them once, and ended up with about 20 minutes.)

Mix together sauce ingredients in a small bowl. Once the cauliflower are done baking, brush them with the hot sauce mixture (I tossed them in the sauce in a bowl, restaurant-style) and they have you baking again. (I just tossed the baked cauliflower in sauce and got to eating.)

I served these with my very own Vegan Ranch, which I must say is pretty fantastic. The recipe works very well - the cauliflower doesn't stick to the sprayed foil, and it cooks through. Best oven-battered anything I've had, I think!

Vegan Ranch Dressing

Success! Ranch dressing that tastes just right. I'm pretty sure no one would be able to tell that there is no dairy in this punk.

The key to making this is finding a ranch seasoning packet that has no milk solids in it. Many of the ones I've looked at have dessicated dairy in them. But I found one that doesn't: this one is Roundy's generic brand (purchased at Mariano's). Check your generic version's ingredients label.

1 package soft or silken tofu (drained but not pressed)
About 1 cup of soy milk
About 3 Tblesp. Vegenaise or other vegan mayo
1 package ranch seasoning (I used Roundy's)
1 6 oz. container Almond Dream plain or other non-dairy yogurt
1 Tblesp. dijon mustard
1 capful of lemon juice concentrate
About 2 Tblesp. chia seed powder, or flax seed powder
salt to taste (AFTER the above ingredients are blended)

Put it all in the blender and whir it up. Though the seasoning packet has sodium, I found the large batch needed a bit more after tasting. You can freeze the large batch in smaller portions (makes about 4 small containers as shown). When thawed, you will see a bit of separation/grainy look to the dressing - but it doesn't affect the taste or the texture (remember, this isn't dairy - so separation doesn't mean curdling). I suppose you could whir it up again in the blender after thawing, but I can't be bothered with that when there is eating to be done.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Soft Pretzels

Saw a new recipe in the usual way... On Pinterest. If you know me, you know that nothing goes straight to fond memories for me like a soft pretzel. They evoke lots of memories of my father, and yes, Hot Sam at Lincoln Mall.

Here is the recipe link. Everything went very smoothly and fairly effortlessly. I used my own little hands, and no paddle attachment. The only changes I made were:

1) The amount of baking soda stated will not dissolve in the amount of liquid stated. Add a little water, and it will still all go well.

2) I used half whole wheat flour, and half APF. I like whole wheat pretzels, and I was hoping these would taste more like an Auntie Anne's pretzel. They do.

3) I rubbed vegan butter all over these bad boys when they came out, then covered them in cinnamon, salt, and Sugar in the Raw. If that sounds naughty, that's because it is. They might look like little piles of doggie doo in my photo, I dunno, but they taste unbelievably, sinfully good. Quite unlike doo.

Mine only took about six minutes to bake, on a sprayed cookie sheet. This will be happening again. I think next time I might make a chocolate spread for them just like they used to have at Hot Sam, though that's just for nostalgia, because they surely don't need it.

Thanks for pinning, Susan M.!