Archive for October, 2011

Hungarian Goulash (or GHOULash, for Halloween:)

Ok, so when I looked Hungarian Goulash up before writing this post, I realized that my version is actually not that much like authentic Hungarian Goulash.  However, this is my take on the Hungarian Goulash my mom used to make when I was growing up which was, in fact, inspired by my father’s Hungarian roots.  The version on which I grew up was basically ground beef and onions, seasoned with paprika and probably some other spices and then mixed into pasta.  I’m sure there were canned foods involved too.  It was one of the few meat dishes I really remember enjoying.

I made a few changes, of course.  I pressed some extra-firm tofu and seasoned it with paprika, oregano, and sage, then mixed it in with sauteed cabbage, spinach, and tomatoes, then served the whole thing over quinoa.  You can certainly use pasta instead of quinoa, but I’ve been doing a lot of homemade candy taste-testing, so need to keep things a little lower on the glycemic index.

  • 1 medium onion, very thinly sliced
  • 1 pound extra firm tofu, preferably frozen and thawed
  • olive oil for sauteeing
  • 1/2 medium head of cabbage, shredded
  • 1 bunch of spinach, roughly chopped
  • 4 medium tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, or more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried sage
  • 1 big clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup jarred strained tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon tamari
  • Cooked quinoa or pasta

Heat a large saute pan over medium heat, add the onion, sprinkle with salt, drizzle with olive oil, and turn the heat down just a bit.  While the onions are cooking, press as much water as you can out of the tofu and crumble it up.  When the onions are soft and starting to caramelize, stir in the tofu and spread it, more or less, into a single layer on the pan.  Cook until the tofu is browned, then give it a stir and continue to brown on the other side.  Move the tofu and onions to the side of the pan and add the cabbage, and spinach, then sprinkle with salt, cover and cook for a few minutes.  Add the chopped tomatoes and paprika, then crumble the oregano and sage between your fingers as you add them to the pan.  Cover and cook for a few more minutes.  Stir everything in the pan together and clear a space in the middle of the pan, add a little oil, and cook the garlic directly on the pan for a minute or so.  When the garlic is fragrant, pour the tomato sauce and tamari over it, then stir it all together, cover and cook for 5 minutes.  Taste and adjust seasoning.  Serve over quinoa or pasta.  Enjoy!

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(Mostly) Raw Candy Bars

Last year on Halloween, my eldest son reflected that, while he didn’t want the downside of the candy he got from Trick-or-Treating, he was pretty sure that it must taste really good.  I steeled myself and told him that if he was really curious about how they taste and really wanted to try them, he should.  He chose not to, at least in front of me, at least in that moment, but not without lamenting that he’d REALLY like to know what they taste like.  Hence, the raw candy bar post for today.

The thing about food is that it’s all about giving our body the fuel it needs, by nature.  However, by habit and ritual, in our society, it’s often about so many different things, none of which is giving our body the fuel it needs.  It can be comforting, nostalgic, etc, etc, etc.  I could go into that aspect of eating for hours, but I guess my point here is that there are ways to satisfy those psychological desires with food that nourishes our body.  I would argue that the decadence of a candy bars is often just as much, or even more, about texture and contrast (think nuts and chewy caramel, or rich, smooth chocolate with crispy rice) as it is about the actual taste of the food (or not-food, depending on how you look at it).

So, I got inspired to re-create some of those texture and taste contrasts using whole food ingredients.  My kids woke up the next morning to mock candy bars from the candy fairy and they could not have been more excited.  Especially since they got to try their treats before breakfast because, frankly, they are healthier than the average breakfast in this country.  I know this might seem a little over-the-top, but it’s really pretty easy and once you make the main components, you can experiment with all kinds of candy concoctions.  Making up candy bars is a super fun cooking lesson for kids.  And, while I’m giving recipes for making these completely from scratch, you can certainly take shortcuts like melting carob or chocolate chips instead of making your own carob/chocolate coating, or mixing brown rice syrup and coconut sugar for your caramel filling.  You can also modify them – use chocolate, make them sweeter or less sweet; make them perfect for your taste.  Then, just have fun with it!

For me, this recipe made 2 loaf pans full of layered candy bars.  If you want to coat your candy bars in the carob/chocolate coating like regular candy bars, double the coating recipe.  Since coconut oil melts at 70 degrees, it’s best to keep these candy bars in the refrigerator or freezer.  I like to make them bite-sized so they don’t need to stay in the hands very long.

Carob Candy Coating:

  • 1/3 cup coconut oil
  • 1 Tablespoon coconut sugar, maple syrup, yacon syrup, or raw honey, or to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon raw vanilla powder, or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2-4 Tablespoons nut butter, seed butter, or coconut butter
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup carob powder, or cocoa powder

Notes: you can certainly use cocoa powder or raw cacao powder instead of carob powder.  Just keep in mind that chocolate is much more bitter than carob, so you will either end up with a bittersweet chocolate, or will need to add a bit more sweetener.  I used coconut sugar and, while it was grainy when it was in liquid form, it tasted smooth to me when it firmed up.  Also, if you’d like a fudge filling for any of your candy bars, or just for fun, use this recipes, but increase the nut butter to 1/4 cup, use 3 dates instead of the coconut sugar, and replace 1/2 the coconut oil with coconut butter.

Heat a small saucepan to medium low, then turn it off.  Put the coconut oil in the pan and allow it to melt completely.  Whisk in the sweetener, vanilla, nut butter, cinnamon and salt until it is thoroughly combined.  Whisk in the carob powder until the mixture is smooth.  Taste and adjust as necessary.  Set pan aside while you prepare your filling ingredients.

Raw Caramel: 

  • 1/2 cup pecans (can use other nuts, nut butter, or tahini)
  • 1 cup of pitted medjool dates, softened in warm water if needed
  • 1 Tablespoon coconut butter, or coconut oil if you don’t have coconut butter
  • pinch salt
  • water, as needed

Place all ingredients in a blender and puree until very smooth, adding water as necessary.  If you don’t have a blender, use a food processor; it won’t be as smooth and creamy, but it will still be delicious and will be totally great in your candy bars!  Taste and adjust as necessary, then set aside.

Raw Nougat:

  • 1 cup almonds (or other nut, nut butter, or seed butter of your choice)
  • 6 dates
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla powder or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • pinch salt
  • 1/4 cup chopped nuts, optional
  • 1/4 cup shredded coconut, optional

Place almonds, dates, coconut oil, vanilla, and salt in a blender or food processor and process until smooth.  Taste and adjust as necessary.  Fold in optional ingredients if desired.

Filling Options:

  • Snickers: layer carob candy coating, nougat, caramel. and chopped raw cashews
  • 100 Grand Bar: layer carob candy coating, caramel, and something crispy; my favorite option is dried sprouted buckwheat groats, but I also use crumble Adaba Bars; crispy rice cereal is an option too.
  • Twix: layer carob candy coating, graham crackers, and caramel; could also make/use a raw crispy cookie to keep it raw.
  • Kit Kat: layer carob candy coating and graham crackers/wafer cookies; could also make/use a raw wafer cookie to keep it raw.
  • Peppermint Patty: add just a little sweetener (honey will keep it white) and some peppermint oil or extract (or fresh mint) to coconut butter and stir vigorously until smooth; layer carob candy coating and peppermint filling
  • Mounds/Almond Joy: see peppermint patty filling, but add vanilla, skip the mint, and stir in some shredded coconut
  • Crunch Bar: mix something crispy into the chocolate (sprouted, dried buckwheat, Adaba Crumbles, or crispy rice cereal)
  • Need other ideas or options – just send me an email and I’ll help you come up with something!

Assembling the candy bars:

Have 1-3 loaf pans, or equivalent, available.  How many you need will depend on the type/thickness of your candy bars.  Don’t forget to reserve some of the carob candy coating if you want a final layer on top!

1.  Spread the carob candy coating evenly over the bottom of the each loaf pan; should be 1/4 inch thick or more.

For Single-Layer Candy Bars (e.g. Kit Kat, Crunch Bars, Nut Bars): Put your optional additions, such as graham crackers/wafers, crunchies, or chopped nuts directly onto the carob layer.  They will sink in a bit automatically.  Freeze until solid and enjoy!

For Double/Triple-Layer Candy Bars (e.g. snickers, 100 Grand Bars, Peppermint Patties, etc): Freeze the carob layer for a few minutes to firm up.  Continue on to next steps…

2.  Once the carob layer is firm to the touch, spread your next layer on.  If you are planning multiple layers, use your thickest layer (such as nougat) now.  If you want optional additions incorporated into this layer, sprinkle them on now.  This layer may be firm enough to allow you to spread your next layer on, or may need to be frozen for a few minutes to firm up.

3.  Continue to add layers/optional additions as desired.  Freeze to firm as needed.

4.  To finish the candy bars, you have a couple options.  The simplest is to spread another layer of the carob coating over the top, freeze the pan, then cut into bars.  If you want it so look more like a traditional candy bar, you can cut the frozen bars, then individually spread them with the carob coating.  Freeze on a sheet pan, then store in fridge or freezer once firm.  Enjoy!

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Hot Spiced Cashew-Coconut Milk

I was recently asked by a friend to make biscotti for a memorial service for her father.  Of course, I was more than happy to do that for her.  The only problem was that I had never had biscotti, let alone made it, let alone made it vegan and gluten free and with a reasonable amount of sweetener.  I have certainly seen biscotti here and there on periodic visits to coffee shops, but my impression was that it was a dry, maybe slightly bland cookie that one dips in coffee, which I do not drink.  Well, how wrong I was!  While I still have not tasted a traditional biscotti, I do have a new appreciation for something I am sure is delicious, because I found the alternative sprouted grain, lightly sweet version to be quite yummy.  Of course, once I had a few biscotti and the Fall weather started to set in, I wanted to join the crowd and have something to dip it in.  Not coffee.  No.  Yuck.  I know you all probably love it, but my parents both drank multiple cups of black coffee per day when I was growing up (still do, as a matter of fact).  Much like my first drag on a cigarette at age 8ish (disgusting to let an 8 year old try a cigarette, but it sure did do the trick), my first taste of black coffee completely dispelled any thoughts I ever had of becoming a coffee drinker.  For my personal biscotti-dipping pleasure, I visualized a creamy, hot, spicy and totally satisfying drink.  Coconut came to mind.  And cashews, ginger, cardamom…here is the recipe.  Give it a try and see what you think!  This recipe makes enough for two, because you should really invite a friend over to enjoy it with you.

  • 2 cups coconut milk (I use reconstituted creamed coconut – from Let’s Do Organic)
  • 1/2 cup cashews
  • 1/2-1 teaspoon chia seeds, optional*
  • 1 slice of fresh ginger, according to taste (or 1/2 teaspoon dried ginger)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, optional
  • 2 dashes of nutmeg
  • one dash of cloves
  • one dash cayenne pepper, optional
  • coconut sugar, yacon sugar, maple syrup, or honey to taste, or you could blend a date with the drink – all optional

*chia seeds will thicken up your drink so it’s more creamy.  My intuition told me this drink would benefit from them, but I was skeptical, but then pleasantly surprised.  They created a nice texture, not a weird one as I was sort of expecting.  If you add them then let the drink sit, you may need to add a bit of hot water to thin it down.

Put it all in a blender and blend on high until smooth and creamy.  I use a Vitamix and don’t find there is any need to strain, but it’s possible you’ll need to strain it if your blender can’t quite get it perfectly smooth.  If you have to strain it, throw the pulp in the freezer and put it in cookies or gingerbread or whatever you bake next.  If you aren’t a baker, you could add it to hot cereal too.  Gently warm your drink in a pot on the stove.  Taste; you might not need any sweetener, as the coconut and cashew milk, plus the spices are sweet on their own.  If you’d like, add just a bit of something sweet.   Enjoy on its own or with a special dipping treat!

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