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Posts Tagged ‘Vegan Yum Yum’

I can be a little naive at times. Or maybe I’m just overly ambitious. Or plain dumb. Whichever it is it typically results in me spending far more time in the kitchen than I had planned, a lot of sighing and a beer at some point to quell my anxiety. A word of caution: puff pastry making is not for the faint hearted.

A long time ago I saw this asparagus tart thing on Vegan Yum Yum. Lately I’ve been seeing all this pretty green asparagus at the store – something I don’t buy often as it’s always too expensive. But my girlfriends and I were getting together to make chocolate and drink wine and I thought this would be the perfect excuse to make the asparagus tart. So I go pick up some asparagus and head on over to the frozen section to grab a box of puff pastry. “Hmm, they only have Pepperidge Farm…” I’m not a big fan of high fructose corn syrup or evil corporations that put it in everything they make, so I decided to walk all the way back over to the natural foods section to see if they had puff pastries over there. Nope. Damn. “I’ll just make it myself.”

This is where you laugh. This is where I should have realized that there’s a reason that every tart recipe I’ve seen online uses the store-bought puff pastries. But I don’t come to this realization – due to one of the aforementioned characteristics.

Being that I’m in culinary school I have this great big text-book on baking. I flip to the puff pastry section and it all seems pretty simple and straightforward. There’s even a step-by-step diagram illustrating the folding techniques; you need at least 1,000 layers in a puff pastry, that’s what makes it puff.

I encountered my first disaster before I even got to the folding. The book says to mix the flour and salt, place it on your work surface, make a well in the middle and pour the melted butter and water in the well. Then you mix it with your hands to form a ball of dough. Piece of cake. Well, I live in this ancient house where nothing is level. If you put a ball on the floor it will pick up speed as it rolls. I have to battle gravity every time I use my rolling-pin as it starts rolling off my work table immediately after I set it down. I didn’t think about this. I start mixing my melted butter and flour and it immediately begins spilling out all over the place and races right for the edge of the table. I lost a bit of the liquid to the floor, grocery bags and my shoes. If you know me at all you can adequately imagine me scrambling, sighing and cursing while trying to salvage as much of the liquid and flour that I can.

But the fun doesn’t stop there. After the dough sits in the fridge for 30 minutes or so you roll it out into a rectangle.

You also take the butter (stick form), and place it between two sheets of plastic wrap and smash it with the rolling-pin then form it into a rectangle as well.

You place the butter rectangle on top of the dough rectangle and start folding the dough over to enclose the butter. Enclose is the key word here. I don’t think the butter’s supposed to immediately squish out of every side it possibly can. Did you know it’s basically impossible to use a rolling-pin on something that buttery? There’s a blurb somewhere in my baking book, that I evidently didn’t read, that says to place the dough in the fridge between folds; I’d suggest that if you ever try this at home.

My book was also very specific about how you fold the dough and how many times you do this. These specifics, as well as my photo tutorial, got canned the second my hands, rolling-pin and table where all slathered in my overly expensive Earth Balance butter. Eventually (like half an hour later) I got it folded about 6 times, threw it in the fridge, ignored the mountain and butter and flour covered dishes in the sink and went for a run.

I think the pastry dough is supposed to be a bit thinner when you go to actually make your tart or whatever it is that you’re making. Since mine had the resemblance of a brick rather than a sheet I had more rolling to do. This is where the pint of beer got poured. I did, however, finally get it thin(ish) and in a decent sized rectangle – though I didn’t think about it shrinking slightly in the oven so my perfectly trimmed asparagus got trimmed again.

You can see my beer in the upper left corner.

So what I had thought would be an hour or two long process basically took up my entire day and drove me to drinking. I guess there’s a reason most people buy the pre-made puff pastries. I’m thinking there might also be some differences in the melting properties of real butter versus vegan butter, which could be part of the reason I appeared to have way too much butter “enclosed” in my pastry. It tasted good though, but it’s kind of impossible for something with that much fat in it to not taste good. I didn’t bother taking a very good (artistic) picture of the finished product because I was frazzled, pressed for time and thought it looked like poop.

Vegan Yum Yum’s recipe calls for baking the tart with the white bean dip and asparagus already on it. I didn’t want to cook the beans so I baked the tart by itself, roasted the asparagus and then put it all together afterward. I used the Provence White Bean Puree recipe from Foodie Family instead of Yum Yum’s pesto. And the asparagus was just roasted for about 12 minutes with garlic, salt, pepper and herbes de Provence. Pretty simple combination but it all worked well together.

So, the moral of the story is: make sure your table is level and do scratch baking the day before you need it.

 

 

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Would still just be cheesy sauce I guess. This stuff probably doesn’t even taste like cheese but one of the good things about not having had cheese in a few years is that you don’t quite remember what it tastes like. I have a friend in North Portland that would scoff at that, and I think one in Tigard too – I’m not sure they think there’s really anything good about not eating cheese.

I came across Vegan Yum Yum’s cheese sauce recipe quite awhile ago. But being that there are about 13 ingredients in it I often find myself lacking one or two of them, or I just can’t bring myself to put 1/3 cup of butter and 1/3 cup of cashews in it. Thankfully, this conglomerate is quite forgiving and flexible. I don’t think I’ve made it the same way twice.

Last Saturday the old man and I (he called me old lady already so it’s payback time) went to Higgin’s for dinner before going to The Decemberists show at the Schnitzer (phenomenal show by the way). Higgin’s technically has nothing to do with my cheesy pasta, but since we went to a nice place for dinner we did the whole before, during and after dinner drinks thing. Then we had wine at the show (well I did, the old man stepped on his – but I was nice enough to share). That said, I was just a teeny tiny bit hung-over on Sunday. My favorite hangover food? Aside from pizza? Mac and cheese!!!

So whether or not it tastes like cheese I don’t really give a damn. It’s good. It’s versatile. It’s healthy. And it hits the spot. Nothing like carbs the day after!

This time I found myself without carrots, and I didn’t feel like using butter or tahini. So I threw a few slices of orange bell pepper and sesame oil in the mix and gave it a whirl. I used gluten-free pasta and added some arugula, broccoli, olives and mushrooms (I just don’t feel right eating pasta with just pasta).

So, here it is.

Cheesy Pasta (vegan and gluten-free)

  • 2 medium red potatoes
  • Half an orange bell pepper, chopped
  • ¼ cup whole cashews (roasted, unsalted)
  • ½ cup nutritional yeast
  • Couple dabs of mustard
  • 1 T lemon juice
  • 1 T red miso
  • A few splashes of GF tamari
  • 1 t sesame oil
  • ½ t vinegar (light tasting)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Several dashes of paprika, thyme, basil, sage, cayenne

Roughly chop the potatoes, throw them in a pan and cover with water. You can peel them if you want but I don’t think it’s necessary. Boil until soft and drain the water.

Grind the cashews in a small food processor, blender, or coffee grinder.

Add the cashews and everything else to the pan with the potatoes. Use an immersion blender and blend until smooth and creamy. You can use a normal blender if you don’t have an immersion blender.

Poor over cooked pasta and veggies. Mix. Eat.

This makes a decent amount of cheesy sauce. I cooked about 9 ounces of pasta and still had 3/4 – 1 cup left over. I like to munch on the remains with chips or veggies. You can throw some jalapenos, tomatoes and Mexican spices in and call it nachos. Enjoy.

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The thing most of my friends say they could never do without food-wise is cheese.  People don’t comprehend how I can go without it.  Truth be told I love cheese, or loved it rather.  My sister and I used to sit in this ugly green chair when we were little and just eat slices of cheese.  My favorite place to eat growing up was Bananza (I lived in the south, what do you expect) because there was always this great big mound of cheese on the buffet line waiting for me to take a big chunk out of it.

In my early 20’s I finally started looking at what’s in all this food I was eating.  I never paid attention to labels or fat content or any sort of calorie information period.  Once I started noticing these things I began to cut back on higher fat foods, cheese being one of them.

Today I don’t pay nearly as much attention to fat content and calories as I used to, but everything I eat is so damn healthy I don’t really need to.  A vegan diet isn’t necessarily healthy by default, but mine is (lots of veggies, fruits, whole grains, good fats, and no high fructose corn syrup).

But every once in awhile I still miss cheese.  One of my all time favorites is a plain ole grilled cheese sandwich.  I can’t honestly remember the last time I had a “real” one, but the other day I made a strikingly similar replica of one and it was flippin awesome!  Of course, if I had recently had cheese it probably wouldn’t have tasted anything like it, but the good thing about not having eaten cheese in years is that I don’t remember exactly what it tastes like.

The best part about my “cheese,” it’s not some over-processed, pre-packaged, non-melting, stupidly expensive variety of vegan cheese you find in the stores.  I’ve actually never bought that stuff because it just seems like a waste of $5.  And I can make my own.  The “cheese” recipe I used is actually from Vegan Yum Yum’s Mac & Cheeze recipe.  This is the best cheese sauce recipe I’ve come across (even though my omnivore friends think it tastes like pureed veggies).  It’s extremely versatile too.  My favorite way to make it so far is with a yam instead of a white potato.  And, you don’t need half of the stuff it calls for either, in case you find yourself halfway through making dinner and realize you don’t have miso, tahini or carrots (oops!).  It works great as cheese dip too by adding some salsa, jalapenos, etc.  The version that made its way in between two slices of grilled bread was made with a red potato, no carrots, sesame seeds, only a spoon full of margarine, 1/4 cup cashews and soy sauce.  Cheesy, melty, toasty and healthy!  It was so good I even sent a text message to my sister telling her about it. =)

So, here’s to being vegan (or mostly vegan) and having your cheese too!  All I need now is some tomato soup and cold weather.

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