STRAWBERRY CHIA JAM

  This quick-and-easy Strawberry Chia Jam intensifies the strawberry flavor while being healthier than most of the jams on the market.  It’s one of those gorgeously-simple foods.  The texture (as written) is a cross between a jam and a sauce, making it super versatile, but it’s easily made firmer by the addition of another Tablespoon of chia seeds.  I chose to make this jam with strawberries because strawberries already have tiny seeds, but you can choose any fruit you like.  The way I made it, it can be spread on toast, spooned over vegan yogurt or cheesecake, drizzled on oatmeal, stirred into lemonade, dolloped on strawberry shortcake, etc.  I froze some  so I could preserve the flavor of Spring.

STRAWBERRY CHIA JAM

Makes enough to fill two 8-ounce jars and then some

INGREDIENTS
3 Cups chopped fruit
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice  (yes, fresh tastes better)
1/3 Cup organic sugar
1 Tablespoon chia seeds  (or 2 if you want it thicker)

DIRECTIONS
Wash and prepare fruit, cutting away any bad parts, leaves and stems.  Leave berries otherwise whole and add them to a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat about 10 minutes, until fruit breaks down and gives off syrupy liquid.  Mash the fruit with a potato masher, or if you don’t have one, the bottom of a canning jar or heavy glass tumbler.  Leave lumps, so it’s rustic and beautiful.  Stir in lemon juice and sugar.  Taste it to make sure it’s to your liking.  Stir in chia seeds.  Let it sit and cool, and try to not to eat it out of the pot.  Use within a week, or freeze.

NOTES:  This recipe is flexible, but these measurements above really hit the spot for us.  If using larger fruit, pit and chop it.  Next time, I’ll add the zest of the lemon.  The health benefits of chia are many–fully digestible and energy-boosting, they were an important food for the Incas centuries ago.  Chia adds antioxidants, fiber, protein, omega-3s and calcium to foods, while not interfering with the flavor of the main ingredient.  While this jam is not sugar-free, the chia seeds make you feel more satiated.  For another chia recipe, try my Chia Fresca.  And if you’re a real health nut, there’s also Chia Breakfast Porridge.  There is also a great Quick Freezer Jam on this site, that uses agar agar as a thickening agent.  Other related recipes include Strawberry Rhubarb Compote.

Vegan Sweet and Sour Sauce

     This Vegan Sweet and Sour Sauce is quick, easy and delicious.   Sweetened with pineapple juice and colored with ketchup, it’s a bit healthier than the store-bought stuff.  I made this to go with the Whole Foods 365 Chickenless Nuggets, but it’s also good on vegan egg rolls, battered and fried tofu, etc.  More photos below.

VEGAN SWEET AND SOUR SAUCE

INGREDIENTS
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 Cup sugar
6 ounces pineapple juice
2 Tablespoons ketchup  (for color)
1/4 Cup white vinegar
1/4 Cup water
2 teaspoons Tamari or soy sauce

DIRECTIONS
Put cornstarch and sugar in small saucepan and dry whisk together.  Add rest of ingredients, and on medium heat, stir often and bring to a simmer.  Stirring constantly now, continue to simmer gently for 5 to 10 minutes, until it thickens and becomes glossy.  Remove from heat and let cool.  Store in fridge, where it will thicken a bit more.  Serve cold or at room temperature.

Notes:  If you must, you can add 2 drops red food coloring to make it look like Chinese-restaurant sauce.  Whisking the dry ingredients first prevents the cornstarch from clumping.  You can buy the pineapple juice in packs of six-ounce cans.
  I buy the pineapple juice in a pack of 6 oz. cans.
  So good!

Three Bean Salad

   This classic American Three Bean Salad is lighter than many of the recipes out there, but it’s the best one I’ve had.  Filling and tangy, with plenty of protein, this salad travels well.  The fresh, raw crunch of the celery and shallot are a great contrast with the silky beans.  Three Bean Salads have supposedly been around since the 1800’s, and possibly became so popular because they needed little refrigeration, and hence were often brought to picnics and outings.  Serve with a slotted spoon so as to drain off most of the marinade.

THREE BEAN SALAD

Makes about 8 to 10 servings?

INGREDIENTS
15 oz. can kidney beans, drained and rinsed,  reserve 3 Tablespoons of bean liquid
15 oz. can green beans, drained and rinsed
15 oz. can yellow wax beans, drained and rinsed
1 medium-to-large stalk celery, diced fine
1 large shallot  chopped fine,  or 1/3 of a medium white onion
1/3 Cup white vinegar
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 Cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
pinch cayenne  (a pinch = 1/16th teaspoon)

DIRECTIONS
Take three Tablespoons of bean liquid from the can of kidney beans, and set aside.  In a large non-metal bowl and with a wooden spoon, gently mix the green beans, wax beans, celery and onion.  In a separate small bowl or glass, whisk together the bean liquid, vinegar, oil, sugar, and seasonings.  Add the rinsed-and-drained kidney beans and the vinegar dressing to the green-bean mixture.  Fold this salad gently with a wooden spoon to coat.  Cover and refrigerate for an hour or two before serving.  Stir gently with wooden spoon before serving (we are trying not to mash the kidney beans).  Serve with a slotted spoon so as to drain most of the marinade off and back into the serving bowl.

Notes:  This would also be good in a salad-in-a-jar situation.  For more salad ideas, check out the Salad category on this site.

Vegan Pots de Creme

img_3215     This recipe for Vegan Pots de Crème is excellent the way it is, but there are some simple variations you could do (see below).   This is really easy, delicious, and elegant enough for a dinner party or New Years, or Valentines Day.  I topped mine with easy, homemade coconut whipped cream, but So Delicious also makes non-dairy whipped cream in a tub.

VEGAN POTS DE CREME

Makes about 6 generous servings

INGREDIENTS
3/4 Cup full-fat coconut milk
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
12 oz. Mori-Nu Silken Firm tofu, drained  (organic if it’s available)
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 Cup vegan chocolate chips  (dark or semi-sweet)
1 Teaspoon vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS
In a small saucepan on medium-low heat, heat the coconut milk until very hot, but do not simmer or boil.  In a blender, put silken tofu, sugar, salt and chocolate chips.  Measure out only 3/4 Cup of the hot coconut milk, add it to the blender along with the vanilla extract, and blend until smooth and silky.  Spoon the mousse into small ramekins, espresso cups, demitasse cups, etc.  It’s rich, so keep the servings small.  Chill in fridge for at least 4 hours, but you can make this a couple of days ahead even.  Serve chilled or, I like it halfway to room temperature.  When ready to serve, top with vegan whipped cream, such as coconut whipped cream, So Delicious, etc.  See other variations below.

EASY VARIATIONS
For Black Forest flavor, make with dark chocolate chips, and top with a few pie-filling cherries and a dollop of whipped cream.  For Mocha flavor, make with vegan semi-sweet chocolate chips and add a couple teaspoons of espresso powder or instant coffee to the saucepan of hot coconut milk.  Or before serving, drizzle on some vegan caramel sauce.  You could layer the bottom of the ramekin with a few caramelized banana slices, or go for an almond-joy flavor with sweetened coconut and toasted almonds, etc., etc.
IMG_2875  I prefer the organic if I can find it.

Easy Cold Brew Coffee in A Mason Jar

img_3207     With all the Cold Brew coffee on grocery store shelves and in coffee shops, I can never find any decaf cold brew.  I also wanted something without syrups in it.  So after combining tips from several youtube videos, here’s an easy way to get smooth, delicious cold brew at home without any fancy equipment.  This quick method makes a smooth concentrate that you can dilute with water, ice or any plant milk.  I like coconut creamer in mine, and about 1/2 teaspoon of agave syrup.  This will last about a month in the fridge.  More photos below.

EASY COLD BREW COFFEE IN A MASON JAR

Makes about a quart

INGREDIENTS
3/4 Cup freshly-ground coffee beans
water

DIRECTIONS
For cold brew, we want a medium grind.  I have the simplest little old $20 Krups coffee grinder that I also use for spices.  Place the beans in the Krups and pulse 12 times for a basic medium grind, waiting about one second between each pulse.  This might look a little bit coarser than you’re used to, but don’t worry about it.

Place grinds in jar and add filtered water, filling it almost to the top, stopping when the water is about 1 inch below the jar threads.  Place lid firmly on jar and tilt/invert jar gently a couple of times to mix the grinds with water.  Place jar in fridge for at least 16 hours, up to 24 hours.

Now strain the brew a couple of times.  The first time, strain through a sieve to get out the large particles.  When straining, tip the jar gently and slowly so as to leave most of the saturated grinds sludge on the bottom of the jar.  The second straining can be done through a paper coffee filter, changing the filter once or twice when the dripping slows way down, but be warned this is a bit time consuming.  Cheesecloth might be faster but you also might wind up with some tiny fibers in the coffee, not sure.  What I do is filter it through a nylon nut-milk bag and it’s done in 15 seconds.  There are many nut milk bags to choose from on amazon.com.

Notes:  I prefer freshly-ground organic coffee for smoothest flavor.
img_3196  This Medium grind was achieved by PULSING a simple Krups coffee grinder 12 times.
img_3198  After chilling in fridge for 16 hours, there’s a thick “sludge” at the bottom.”  You will carefully strain the cold brew, while trying not to disturb this sludge.  This is about how full the jar should be.
img_3201  First strain.
img_3203  Second strain.  If you don’t have a nut milk bag, or cheesecloth, dampen a paper coffee filter and use that.  It will be slow, and you will have to change the filter once or twice.  Do other things while it’s dripping.  Unbleached coffee filters are best.

Butternut Squash Soup with Apple and Spices

img_3146     This Butternut Squash Soup with Apple and Spices is perfect for Fall, and good enough for Thanksgiving too.  I love it.  Sauté shallots and a little garlic in olive oil and white wine, add an apple and a bit of real maple syrup for sweetness.  Warming spices and coconut milk round it out.  Dress it up any which way, with homemade croutons, toasted pumpkin seeds, dried apple slices, etc.

INGREDIENTS
2.5 to 3 lb. butternut squash  (cooked, seeded, peeled and chopped)
1 apple, peeled and chopped
1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tablespoon Earth Balance vegan butter
1 Cup chopped shallots  (about 6 shallots, depending on size)
2 garlic cloves chopped
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 bay leaf,  one thyme sprig
1 Cup white wine
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon freshly-grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric  (for color–you won’t taste it)
2 Tablespoons real maple syrup
4 Cups vegetable stock
1/2 Cup coconut creamer or coconut milk
one single star anise

Any toppings you desire, such as homemade croutons, toasted pumpkin seeds, dried apple bits, etc.

DIRECTIONS
In a large pot over medium heat, heat olive oil and butter and then add shallots, garlic, salt, pepper, bay leaf and thyme.  Cook until shallots are soft, about 5 minutes.  Add the wine, cinnamon, nutmeg and turmeric, and cook 3-5 minutes more.  Add squash, chopped apple, maple syrup, vegetable stock, coconut milk, and the single anise star.  Cook on low simmer for about 10 minutes.  Remove bay leaf, thyme and star anise.  Let soup cool.

Puree soup in blender.  Re-heat and serve with any toppings you desire.

Notes:  I like Better Than Bouillon “No Chicken” base for this soup, but any vegetable stock will do.  Substitute onion for the shallots if necessary.   An easy way to cook the squash is to poke some slits down one side with a sharp knife, and then place it in a baking dish with about an inch of water.  Place in cold oven, set oven to 375 and bake for 90 minutes to 2 hours.  I add the anise star later in the cooking process so it doesn’t overpower the other flavors, but instead gives a delicate hint.

Vegan Haupia Cake

img_3068     I adapated this Vegan Haupia Cake from a recipe by Roy Yamaguchi, a famous chef from Hawaii.  Haupia (pronounced HOW-pee-ya) is something we would enjoy at luaus on Kauai, back in the day.  It’s traditionally a cool and refreshing coconut pudding, often cut into squares.  Here it’s a softer pudding that’s been infused into a sponge cake.  It’s a bit richer than the original this way, but so ono (delicious).  We’ve eliminated the animal cruelty and the cholesterol, but added a sprinkling of toasted coconut.  You could use a vegan white or yellow cake, but the original recipe uses a sponge cake, which provides great texture.   Here is the vegan sponge cake recipe I use.  I make both layers and leave one in the freezer for future use.

VEGAN HAUPIA CAKE

Makes one 9-inch cake

INGREDIENTS
a single 9-inch layer of vegan sponge cake, frozen and set to partially thaw
4 Cups unsweetened full-fat coconut milk  (two 15 oz. cans is fine)
1.5 Cups water, divided
1 Cup Sugar
1/4 Cup plus 1 Tablespoon cornstarch
2.5 teaspoons coconut extract
2 Tablespoons shredded sweetened coconut, for topping

INSTRUCTIONS
Remove the single layer of cake from the freezer to let it thaw by half.  You will slice it into two layers, and it’s easier to slice if it’s about half frozen at that time.  In a small dry skillet, stir and toast the shredded sweetened coconut over medium heat–do not walk away, it only takes a couple of minutes.

To prepare the haupia, place the coconut milk, 1 Cup of the water and the sugar in a medium saucepan and bring to a low boil, stirring a bit.  In a small bowl, whisk the cornstarch and the remaining 1/2 Cup water together to make a smooth slurry.  Add the slurry to the coconut mixture, and stir until the mixture returns to a low boil and thickens.  Remove from heat, let cool 5 minutes, and then stir in coconut extract.

Cut a thin slice off the top of the cake layer to level it flat.  Slice the cake in half horizontally to make two somewhat-even layers.  Place the bottom layer in a cake pan.  Pour the haupia over the bottom layer to a thickness of about 1/2 inch (this will save some for the top).  Place the top half of the cake layer over the haupia-soaked bottom layer, very gently pressing down.  Pour more of the haupia over the top of the cake, using a spatula or the back of a spoon to gently spread it evenly.  Refrigerate the cake for 3 to 4 hours to set the haupia.  When ready to serve, garnish with the toasted shredded coconut.
img_3064  Bottom layer back in the cake pan and soaking in haupia.

Vegan Victoria Sponge Cake

img_3091     I made this recipe for Vegan Victoria Sponge Cake three times before it came out right.  On this side of the pond, the winning flour turned out to be Gold Medal Self Rising Flour.   I could see serving this for birthdays, afternoon tea, and other special occasions.  It’s humble but rich and so very English, with its layer of fruit jam and judicious dusting of powdered sugar on top.  Because this is a British recipe, I got out my trusty food scale.  Then I made sure my baking soda was fresh, and stuck with soy milk for these trials.  I also successively reduced the Golden Syrup, with good results.  In future, I’d like to try making it with almond milk and coconut milk.  And there will be a next time because this cake is good, really good.  Take that, Great British Baking Show.

VEGAN VICTORIA SPONGE CAKE RECIPE

Makes one 9-inch cake of two layers

INGREDIENTS
400g self-rising flour, plus extra for dusting
1-1/4 teaspoon baking soda
250g vegan sugar
1 Tablespoon Earth Balance Buttery Sticks  (for greasing the pans)

115ml safflower oil  (2/3 Cup)
400ml soy milk, plain organic unsweetened  (supposedly 14 oz.)
1 Tablespoon Lyle’s Golden Syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

6 Tablespoons strawberry jam
5 oz. strawberries, halved or quartered, for decoration  (optional)

for the vegan buttercream
125g Earth Balance Organic Whipped Buttery Spread  (not the baking sticks)
250g powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Grease well two 9-inch regular cake pans.  Line the bottom of each pan with a circle of parchment paper traced and cut to fit.  Flour each pan and tap to shake out any excess.   In a large mixing bowl, dry whisk the flour, baking soda and sugar.  In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the oil, plant milk, Golden Syrup and vanilla, lifting the whisk to see that all the syrup is dissolved.  Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and using an electric hand mixer, mix for 2 minutes until thick and creamy.

Pour batter into prepared cake pans and bake about 35 minutes until risen and cooked through.  Use a cake tester (such as a skewer) and make sure it comes out clean.  Leave pans to cool on racks for 15 minutes.  Run a butter knife around the inside sides of the pans,  remove cakes from pans and cool completely on racks (an hour or two).

While cakes are cooling, make the filling.  With the electric hand mixer, beat together the Earth Balance Organic Whipped Buttery Spread, powdered sugar and vanilla.  Store in fridge if not using right away.

Spread the jam evenly over the bottom layer, pushing the jam a bit over the edges (so it will be seen once the cake is assembled).  Spread the buttercream on the underside of the top layer.  Put the top layer onto the bottom layer, so that the jam and buttercream meet.  Holding a sieve up over the cake, dust the top of the cake with powdered sugar.  If the top layer is sliding at all, push 2 or 3 shortened skewers into the cake.

Notes:  You could lighten this up and just use one layer, sliced horizontally in two, and then reduce the frosting.  Many bakers use a food scale for measuring ingredients, as it’s more accurate.  It’s interesting to note that I’m baking at sea level and this recipe worked fine for me anyway.  I notice many of the Victoria Sponges online have only a dusting of powdered sugar on top (no frosting on top), so that’s what I’ve done here.  I like Dickinson’s Preserves, particularly the Pure Cascade Mountain Red Raspberry, and the Pure Pacific Mountain Strawberry.  I found the original recipe had barely enough jam and frosting, so have increased those a bit, and reduced the fat ratio in the buttercream.  For this recipe, you will need two 9″ cake pans, some parchment paper, and a sieve for the powdered-sugar dusting.  I use this method to get cakes out of pans, except I use a baking rack instead of a plate or cardboard, and I don’t use plastic wrap.  Let the cake sit on the rack for an hour at least, to cool completely, before wrapping for the freezer, or icing.  Do NOT try to use the baking sticks for the buttercream, because they are made only for baking.  The Buttery Spread has a nice butter flavor.
img_3097  Fresh strawberries can go in the middle, but it’s optional.  I just wanted the pure jammy preserves.
img_3081  My cake layers came out different sizes, so I just used the shorter layer on the bottom, no worries.

Tomato Tart with Almond Feta and Caramelized Onions

tomato-tart     This Tomato Tart with Almond Feta and Caramelized Onions is quite rich, so I serve it with a light salad.  It’s adapted from a recipe in Gourmet magazine (May 1995 issue).   I make this when I have leftover Sprouted Almond Feta, but store-bought vegan cheese could be used too (like Miyoko’s or Treeline, etc.).  I usually have a few Pate Brisee pie crusts in the freezer, so this is actually a quick dish to throw together.  Caramelizing onions takes about an hour, but you can do myriad other things while that’s happening.  This tart is also pretty when made with halved cherry tomatoes of various colors.

TOMATO TART WITH ALMOND FETA AND CARAMELIZED ONIONS

Makes 6 to 8 slices

INGREDIENTS
2 large white onions, sliced thinly  (don’t use red onions–they don’t caramelize as well)
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
Almond Feta Cheese (less than 1/2  a recipe’s worth)   (or store-bought creamy cheeze)
2 large tomatoes, or a bunch of cherry tomatoes
3-4 Kalamata or Nicoise olives,  pitted and sliced
one single pie crust  (I use this vegan Pate Brisee)

DIRECTIONS
Put rolling pin in freezer.  Add oil and salt to large non-stick skillet, and cook onions, covered, over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 20 minutes.  Remove lid and cook onions another 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, and any liquid evaporates.  Remove skillet from heat so onions can cool.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.   Put a little bench flour on counter and roll out chilled pie crust.  Line glass or ceramic pie dish or tart pan with crust.  Spread caramelized onions over the dough, and top loosely with cheese.  Arrange sliced tomatoes and olives over the cheese and season with salt and pepper.  Use a pie shield or protect pie crust edges with crumpled tin foil.  Bake tart in center of oven for one hour or until pastry is golden, and cool on rack.  Serve tart hot or warm.

Notes:  I pull my pie crust from the freezer the night before, so the dough can rest a bit.  I prefer to use glass or ceramic with tomatoes, as acidic tomatoes do react to some metals.  Onions can be caramelized the day before, which saves a lot of time the day of.  Don’t put too much cheese–you should still see some of the onions underneath after you scatter the cheese.
img_3054 Cheese on top of caramelized onions.  This might even be a little bit too much cheese.
img_3053 Caramelized onions.
img_3057  The olives can be hidden underneath too.

Vegan Spaghetti and Meatballs Casserole

IMG_3000     I adapted this Vegan Spaghetti and Meatballs Casserole from a recipe on VegWeb.    Under the spaghetti sauce, there’s a layer of cream cheese with green onions and chives, and I added a layer of meatballs in the middle.  This is easy and pretty quick to throw together, and surprisingly delicious.  It makes plenty, so there will be leftovers, or you could serve it for a dinner party, with salad, garlic bread, and maybe a sorbet for dessert.

VEGAN SPAGHETTI AND MEATBALLS CASSEROLE

Serves 6

INGREDIENTS
8 oz. thin spaghetti or capellini pasta
1/2 Cup vegan cream cheese
1/4 Cup vegan sour cream
1/3 Cup chopped scallions (green onions), white and green parts
2 Tablespoons chopped chives
2 Tablespoons nutritional yeast
2 Tablespoons vegan butter (such as Earth Balance)
12 oz. vegan meatballs  (about 16-20 is good)
24 oz. pasta sauce  (from a jar is fine)
1 Tablespoon vegan parmesan, such as Go Veggie brand

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Add 2 teaspoons of salt to a pot of water, break spaghetti in half and start cooking pasta per package directions.

With a fork, mix vegan cream cheese, sour cream, scallions and chives in a bowl.
When pasta is cooked to al dente, scoop out 1/3 Cup of pasta water and set it aside.  Remove from heat and strain pasta.  Into the empty, still-warm pot, put the butter, nutritional yeast and the 1/3 Cup reserved pasta water.  Add strained pasta back to the pot and with a wooden spoon, mix until pasta is thoroughly coated.

Add half the pasta to the casserole dish and level it somewhat.  Place the vegan meatballs on top of this bottom layer of pasta.  Add the rest of the pasta on top of the meatballs.   Add dollops of the cream-cheese mixture to the top and spread gently with the back of a spoon.  Pour the pasta sauce over all.  Sprinkle with a Tablespoon of vegan parmesan cheese.  Bake 20-25 minutes–you should see the edges bubbling.  I bake the first 15 minutes with the lid on, but am not sure if this is necessary.

Notes:  I use an old Corning Ware 3-Liter casserole dish that is about 8″ square by 4″ tall.  This tastes even better the next day, so it’s a good one to make ahead.  I set out the sour cream and cream cheese for 10 minutes so they soften up a bit.  The variations are endless:  you could lean into a more whole-foods, gluten-free version with spaghetti squash instead of pasta.  Or instead of meatballs, mix chopped walnuts into the tomato sauce, to mimic ground beef and add protein and omegas.  During that summer glut of garden tomatoes, fold some in.  Or mix some chopped spinach into the cream-cheese and scallion mixture, etc.  Buon appetito!