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 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.

Vegan Hollandaise using The Vegg

IMG_0420    This quick and easy vegan Hollandaise Sauce kind of blew my mind–it was so authentically good.  I put it on asparagus, and made vegan Eggs Benedict with it, but I can see where it would be good on a variety of vegetables, or just to dip toast points in.  You whip this up in the blender–so much easier than traditional Hollandaise, and cruelty free!    p.s. This is cholesterol-free too.

VEGAN HOLLANDAISE SAUCE USING THE VEGG

Makes approximately 2 Cups

INGREDIENTS
2 Tablespoons of The Vegg powder
1/4 Cup Earth Balance Buttery Sticks, melted
1/4 Cup Reduced Fat Vegenaise
3 Tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons lemon juice
1.5 Cups to 2 Cups hot water (not boiling)
1/8 teaspoon Dijon mustard
pinch cayenne, or 1/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper (optional)

DIRECTIONS
Into a blender, put 1.5 Cups of the hot water and The Vegg powder and blend until smooth.  Add in all other ingredients except the vegan butter, and blend again.  Melt butter in microwave at 10-second intervals–do not overheat the butter or it might separate.  Slowly add melted butter to blender, and blend again until glossy.  Serve.

If the Hollandaise starts to set up or get too thick, add some of the remaining water, a Tablespoon at a time.  Store in fridge.  To reheat, add a little water, heat and re-blend, or whisk in saucepan.

Notes:  To make vegan Eggs Benedict, extra-firm Silken tofu is good to fry up, as it has the consistency of over-easy eggs.  The Vegg really tastes and looks like egg yolks and even has that slightly-sulfury smell.  Home cooks and chefs all over the world are doing amazing things with The Vegg.  If you don’t have The Vegg, I suppose you could substitute in nutritional yeast and a bit of kala namak (black salt), but I have not tried this yet.  This recipe is adapted from this post and this post.  As I make this in future, I’ll try cutting some fat out of it, and start by reducing 1 Tablespoon of butter and 1 Tablespoon of mayo.  Should be fine.

IMG_0414  I already put this on my Instagram, but will add it here.  I prefer thicker asparagus, but make sure to peel the bottoms of the stalks with a potato peeler to remove stringy texture.  Meaty but tender.

Strawberry Vanilla Date Shake

IMG_2227    My wonderful neighbor Gail stopped by on Memorial Day weekend with pounds and pounds of freshly-picked strawberries out of their impressive garden.  We ate some, but there were so many I decided to create a shake smoothie worthy of them.  Sweetened with dates, and enhanced with natural vanilla, it’s the bomb.

STRAWBERRY VANILLA DATE SHAKE

Servings:  2 to 4

INGREDIENTS
2 Cups frozen strawberries
4 dried dates, with pits removed   (chop each date into about 4 pieces)
1.5 Cups plant milk
seeds from 1/2 vanilla bean,  or  1/2 teaspoon real vanilla extract

Add all to blender and blend.  If your blender gets stuck, a good trick is to slide a long teaspoon down the sides of the blender container or give a quick stir to allow contents to settle once again.  Add a little more liquid if you need to.

Notes:   Using store-bought frozen strawberries is just fine.  To freeze fresh strawberries, rinse them with cold water just before you need them, and lay them on an old dish towel to dry.  Use an old towel in case they stain your towelHull the strawberries using a paring knife, and discard the green tops.  Freeze strawberries on dinner plates until they are frozen.  Then place frozen strawberries into a freezer container.  This method will prevent the strawberries from freezing together in a solid mass.  If you can, organic strawberries (whether fresh or frozen) are worth buying, because strawberries are in the Dirty Dozen (among the most pesticide-laden produce).  If you do not have a high-powered blender, you might want to soak the dates in almost-hot water for 15 minutes before pitting and blending.  Here are good tips for splitting and seeding a vanilla bean.   Make sure to look in the bulk section of your local health food store for vanilla beans, for cheaper prices.  If you really want to gild the lily, add a few Tablespoons of granola to this shake after it’s out of the blender.  This is great with almond milk too.  My favorite soy milk is WestSoy Organic Unsweetened.

Approx Nutrition info for the whole batch:  Calories 489.  Fat 7 gr.  Saturated Fat 1 gr.  Polyunsaturated Fat 4 gr.  Monounsaturated Fat 2 gr.  Trans Fat 0.  Cholesterol 0.  Sodium 45.  Potassium 1538.  Carbs 106.  Fiber 20.  Sugars 78.  Protein 16.  Vitamin A 4%.  Vitamin C 180%.  Calcium 14%.  Iron 27%.

Cream of Mushroom Soup with Rosemary

Here is a silky, cream-of-mushroom soup with a luscious  flavor and texture that would please any Polish Grandmother.  Rosemary is a common ingredient in homemade cream of mushroom soup, but here it’s steeped into a subtlety that adds complexity without being overwhelming.  I’ve bumped up the flavor with white wine (using Madeira because it’s traditional), and made a cashew sour cream for extra protein and richness.  Now that I’ve made this, it inspires me to go ahead and try again on the white spargle soup that I failed on last year.  This vegan bisque is soy free, gluten free, and tastes even better the next day.  This is so sophisticated, and tastes so Alsatian, that I would serve it to anyone, even a European chef.
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Vegan Cream of Mushroom Soup with Rosemary

Serves:  approximately 6  (I didn’t keep track too well)

INGREDIENTS
For the Cashew Cream
3/4 Cup raw cashews
1/2 Cup filtered water
juice of half a lemon

For the Soup
2 Tablespoons Earth Balance organic vegan butter
4 shallots, minced very fine
16 oz. fresh, organic, pristine white button mushrooms, rinsed well and chopped  (I only use the caps)
2 Cups vegetable broth  (I used Better Than Bouillon)
1/2 Cup white wine of some kind  (I used Madeira)
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/3 Cup coconut creamer, So Delicious brand
3 small sprigs fresh rosemary,  2-3 inches long each,  rinsed
plus one tiny sprig for garnish.  Rosemary is a key ingredient of this recipe, don’t omit it!

DIRECTIONS
The day before, make the cashew sour cream:
Combine cashews, water and lemon juice in food processor and puree until very smooth.  Store in sealed container in fridge overnight.

The next day:
In a smaller stock pot, heat vegan butter on medium heat.
Add minced shallots and saute until soft, about 5 minutes.
Add chopped mushrooms and cook until they begin to give off their liquid, about 10 minutes, adding a little stock if it begins to dry out.
Add all remaining vegetable stock.
Add the salt and white wine, and stir until blended.
Add the cashew sour cream and stir until blended.
Add the coconut creamer and stir until blended.
Remove from heat, add the sprigs of rosemary and cover to steep for 20 minutes.
After 20 minutes, stir soup and discard rosemary sprigs.
In a blender, puree 3/4 of the soup until very smooth.
Add pureed soup back into the pot with the un-blended soup.
Re-heat and serve, or refrigerate until the next day.
Heat before serving, but do not boil.
Garnish with a tiny sprig of rosemary.

Note:  I would not use soy creamer here, because it has a distinct flavor that would take away from the purity of these simple ingredients.

Vegan Jam – Quick Freezer Jam

This is my first attempt at jam, so I decided to make a quick, freezer jam.  Like my rhubarb strawberry compote, this is the kind anyone can make and enjoy (or freeze) without the fear of botulism.  This recipe takes three pints of berries, but it makes a lot.   I got five 8-ounce jars out of this simple recipe, with a little left over.  It takes about an hour to make, including washing and slicing the berries, and you do need to be near the stove for about half an hour of that time.  A small price to pay for the sublime experience of this homemade jam.  It looks like rubies and has the saturated taste of sweet strawberries right from the garden.  Make sure to use organic strawberries, because the non-organic strawberries are seriously toxic, high on the Dirty-Dozen list, no joke.  I developed this recipe myself and this is only my second or third time using the agar agar.  Veganomicon has a good cranberry sauce that uses agar agar and making that gave me the inspiration to use it here.  Agar agar comes in various forms and is odorless, colorless and tasteless, and doesn’t harm anyone the way gelatin does.  One tip is that you can often find it WAY cheaper in Asian grocery stores (I have bought packets for around a dollar).  I’ve been told it has an indefinite shelf life, so it’s great to have on hand.

VEGAN FREEZER JAM – Quick Strawberry Jam

INGREDIENTS
3 pints organic strawberries, hulled and sliced
1 Cup organic sugar
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 Tablespoon agar agar flakes or kanten

DIRECTIONS
Place a small plate and some metal teaspoons in the freezer (you will use these to test your jam).    In a small cup, combine agar agar flakes with lemon juice.
In a large pot, combine all ingredients over low heat, stirring occasionally.
Bring heat up to a low boil and cook, stirring often, until jam has thickened, about another 20-30 minutes.    Stir in a figure-eight pattern about every minute.
The berries will get glossier looking and feel a bit thicker, you will see the change if you pay attention.    Once you feel it’s ready, put a little on one of your frozen spoons and place that spoon back in the freezer for two minutes.  Go back and tilt the frozen spoon of jam and if the jam on the spoon is thickened and not running thinly, your jam is done.  It will continue to thicken as it cools.    Cover and refrigerate.    Put your jam into individual canning jars (I like 8 ounce jars).    Refrigerate up to three weeks, or freeze up to one year.  There is also a great Strawberry Chia Jam on this site, that is even quicker to make.

Strawberry Limeade

This is my take from a recipe in the cookbook Blissful Bites by Christy Morgan, The Blissful Chef.  When I was a little kid, I would always chose the Lime Mr. Misty at DQ, instead of ice cream, and so this brings back that taste of sweet and tart and cold.  Certainly this is a lot better than soda, and it’s a great way to take advantage of the strawberries of Spring.  You can find many versions of this drink online.  The author uses fresh mint in her drink, and so that’s an option, but not one that appealed to me.  I want the sublime flavors of fresh lime and strawberry uncluttered.  I stuck a sprig of mint in there anyway, since I always have a pot of it going in warm weather, and it makes a beautiful presentation.  If you don’t have mint, you could always put a strawberry on the rim of the glass, or a thin slice of lime.  There’s also a great recipe for Old Fashioned Lemonade on this site.  We had too much Strawberry Limeade for the two of us, so I ended up making popsicles with it too, in our Tovolo popsicle molds.

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Strawberry Limeade

Makes about six servings (?)

INGREDIENTS
2 Cups fresh strawberries, tops removed
Juice from 3 limes
Zest of the limes
1/4 Cup agave syrup
1/4 Cup maple syrup
1 Cup water
2 Cups ice

DIRECTIONS
Zest the limes.
Take juice from limes, and throw away spent limes.
Blend all ingredients in a blender until smooth.
Serve cold.

Note:  I zested the limes and then juiced them in my little Breville Compact Juice Fountain extractor, because I was juicing anyway.  Later, I used the Vitamix to make the actual drink.

Rhubarb Strawberry Compote

This is my own recipe that I developed about ten years ago when i was looking for the easiest way to make compote.  The answer is to simply combine some of the ingredients into a casserole dish and bake it in the oven, of course.  I saw a lot of recipes that called for whopping amounts of sugar (like two cups), but I’ve really  cut it down here and still have plenty of sweetness to offset the extremely stringent rhubarb.  Married here with its seasonal partner, the strawberry, this is so good that it has converted rhubarb haters.  Also, the finished hot rhubarb ends up cooking the raw strawberries and it comes out just right (said the baby bear).  p.s.  Keep in mind that strawberries are in the Dirty Dozen, so it’s important to buy organic when it comes to this fruit.  If you want to skip the rhubarb, there’s also a quick Strawberry Chia Jam,  and a Quick Freezer Jam on this swite.

RHUBARB STRAWBERRY COMPOTE

INGREDIENTS
1 pound rhubarb (3-4 large stalks)
16 oz. organic strawberries
½ vanilla bean (optional)
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/3 Cup organic sugar
¼ Cup Brown Rice Syrup

a teaspoon of Earth Balance to butter the casserole

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
(Do NOT add any water, because rhubarb releases a lot of water)
Butter the casserole dish with the Earth Balance, and set aside.
Cut rhubarb into 1-inch pieces, and place into buttered casserole.
Optional; scrape seeds from half of a vanilla bean, and add to casserole dish.
Add salt.
Pour pour sugar over all.
Cover with lid and place in preheated oven for 30 minutes.
In the meantime, slice strawberries into halves and quarters.
Gently mix strawberries with brown rice syrup, and set aside.
When timer goes off, remove casserole from oven.
immediately put strawberries in with hot rhubarb, and mix gently.
Replace lid and let strawberries “cook” with rhubarb as it cools.
Freezes beautifully!  This versatile compote is great on vegan cheesecake, soy yogurt parfaits, etc.  It also makes a big splash on the center of broiled grapefruit halves for a special brunch or breakfast, spooned over vegan ice cream, you name it.

Asparagus in Vinaigrette

My husband used to complain that asparagus was stringy, but this recipe converted him into a liker of asparagus.  This vegan asparagus dish travels well and is great for the buffet table or picnics or barbecues, because it can sit out for several hours, and just tastes better as it sits.  I adapted this from the “French Dressing or Sauce Vinaigrette” from my 1975 Joy of Cooking.  While many prefer thin spears, I’ll often choose thicker spears if given a choice.  I peel the spears with a potato peeler, something also recommended in my old Joy of Cooking, for thicker or older spears.  I peel the spears regardless of thickness, however, because it improves the texture so much.  My old Joy of Cooking recommends using this dressing on canned white asparagus tips (it was the ’70s, after all), but I’ve never tried doing that.

ASPARAGUS IN FRENCH VINAIGRETTE

INGREDIENTS
a bunch of asparagus
one lemon (go for organic because you’re also using the peel)
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper (or ground black pepper)
One teaspoon Dijon or grainy mustard from a jar (or ½ tsp dry mustard)
¼ Cup extra-virgin olive oil (I’m a fanatic for first cold press too)

DIRECTIONS
Set water to boil with a bit of salt.   Trim ends off asparagus and discard the ends.
Rinse the stalks.   Peel asparagus stalks with a potato peeler, but do not peel the tops.  I usually stop peeling an inch or so short of (below) the tops.
If stalks are too long, trim them so they’ll easily fit in pot, but also cook the trimmings.

Peel or grate the zest off the lemon, into a small bowl.   Squeeze all the lemon juice into the same bowl (hopefully, you’ll wind up with close to ¼ cup of juice).   Add the salt, pepper, mustard and olive oil to the lemon juice, and whisk until emulsified.

Boil asparagus until spears are easily penetrated with a knife; for about 5 minutes for normal/thin stalks, or up to 10 minutes for thickest stalks.   Immediately rinse stalks under cold water, and drain well.   When asparagus is well drained, place it into a non-metal dish with sides.   Whisk vinaigrette again and pour over the asparagus.   Chill in refrigerator until ready to serve. Bring out at least 30 minutes before serving to give the oil a chance to liquefy fully.  If you can, tip the container back and forth a little to mix and redistribute the vinaigrette.

Notes:  You can make this the day before, if necessary, and it’s good at room temperature for a couple of hours.

A close-up view of the peeled and  trimmed spears.  I could not find thick organic asparagus this time.

Vegan Remoulade Sauce Dressing for Vegetables

This remoulade sauce dressing is so luscious that you’ll want to eat it with a spoon.  It can be used also as a dipping sauce, and is superb on steamed artichokes, steamed asparagus, slices of ripe garden tomatoes, and is amazing on Mock Crab Cakes as a vegan tartar sauce.  I use only Vegenaise mayo for this, the most delicious mayonnaise I have ever found.  I adapted this recipe from a cookbook called The Vegan Table by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau.  Vegenaise can be found at any health food store.  As an added bonus, here’s a great little video on cooking artichokes.

Vegan Remoulade Sauce,  Dressing for Vegetables, Vegan Crab Cakes, etc.

INGREDIENTS
1.5 C Vegenaise mayonnaise
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
3 T minced capers
2 T Lemon juice (no more or it will be too watery)
1/4 t salt
1/4 cayenne pepper

Mix all and chill.  Garnish with some lemon zest or a whole caper if desired.  Note:  If only for two people, this is easily halved.