Apr 30, 2009

Vegan Gummy Bears?

...and Gummy Worms! I was under the impression that these were mythological creatures that would never exist, due to that all important non-vegan ingredient, gelatin. Well, I was definitely proven wrong! Thanks to Surf Sweets organic and fruit-sweetened candy, I can once again indulge.

I was thinking about putting these to use on top of frosted cupcakes, but they were all gobbled up before you could say "sugar high."

Our votes: "Sour Worms" won 1st place. "Fruity Bears" took 2nd place, followed by the "Gummy Swirls."

All in all, they were sweet, delicious, and hit the gummy-craving spot, and would definitely please most any kid (or adult) with a sweet tooth. I did think that the texture was more like gum drops than the typical gummy bear, but you just can't beat those shapes!

They also have a few others: Gummy Bears (appears to not be dusted with sugar), Jelly Beans, and Gummy Worms (not sour). I've just been told that they also will be coming out with Sour Berry Bears too.

Thanks to Bert from Surf Sweets for sending me into a pleasant sugar coma!

Apr 27, 2009

DB Upside Down Peach Cashew Cheesecake with Mango Compote

"Cheesecake gone crazy" was echoing in my head after learning of the challenge that had really no restrictions beyond being a cheesecake. I've made vegan ones before with Tofutti cream cheese, and have been impressing (or tricking) non-vegans for quite some time now. So I wanted to challenge myself and come up with a recipe using cashews instead of the conventional vegan Tofutti alternative. I also wanted to stay within my grocery budget and use what was in my pantry, fridge, freezer, etc. So... a carton of soy yogurt got subbed for my original plan to use silken tofu (someone used it!), and instead of fresh fruit, I defrosted a bag of frozen mangoes. Feel free to do your own substitutions and use what's in your kitchen!

I pressed my graham cracker-date crust into the bottoms of a mini bundt cake pan to make 6 cute little individual cheesecakes, as shown below.

Here they are turned out onto a cookie sheet. They didn't stick- yay!!

In the end, I got very good reviews- success!


1 C. ground graham crackers
1/2 C. dried pitted dates
2 T. water
1 T. Earth Balance buttery sticks

1 C. raw cashews, soaked overnight
6 oz. container of peach soy yogurt (or try coconut milk yogurt)
2 T. agave nectar
2 tsp. cornstarch
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
2 tsp. lemon juice

Mango Compote:
2 1/2 C. frozen mango
1/4 C. water
1/4 C. sugar
small pinch of salt

Process the crust ingredients until you get a fine crumble that sticks together when pressed. Spray cooking spray into mini bundt pans and fill evenly with the crust. Press into the bottoms. Bake for 5 minutes at 350.
Blend all ingredients for the filling until silky smooth. Pour evenly into bundt pans on top of the crusts. Bake for 10-12 minutes at 350.
In a sauce pan, heat the mango compote ingredients until a nice syrup develops. Taste, and alter acidity with lemon juice or sweetness with more or less sugar if needed. My frozen mangoes were really sour and not very sweet, so these amounts may vary.
To assemble, let the cheesecakes cool to room temp. Turn them out onto a sheet pan and transfer onto a plate with the mango compote already on it. If desired, add a dollop of vegan whipped cream.

The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge.

Apr 22, 2009

Home Made Dog Biscuits

Once in a while (okay, every day) I like to give my doggies a little treat for being good (okay, cute). I received some veggie dog treats in the mail today, courtesy of Chowitaliano.com -they are based here in CA, and here's what they say on their site:

"...[We] respect strict rules of quality and eco-sustainability, and are exclusively free of dyes and artificial preservatives. No animals have been harmed in the making of these products."

...Not bad! But, will they pass the Doggie Approval Test? Well, here's your answer:

Dog #1 (Ahwahnee)

An appropriate "sit," followed by extreme fixation. She finished her's before I finished giving bones to the other two, but she's ravenous like that. Her motto is "seek and destroy."

Dog #2 (Jack)

"Oooh, what's that?"

He is by far the most entertaining in the way that he covets his treats, not allowing anyone near him until he finds a good place to hide it for later.

...Maybe he'll give a good gnaw or two when no one's around!

Just don't try and take it away, 'cause this dog's an expert at tug-o-war!

Dog #3 (Teo)

The oldest, and most nonchalant (and finicky) of the bunch- gave it an incredulous look, sniff, and an ultimate lick.

Then, finally embraced the treat by munching in a very mature, casual fashion.

"Mmm... not bad- may I have another, please?"

Yummy Peanut Butter Doggie Biscuits
Inspired, I decided to whip up a batch of treats myself. They'll all be my best friend when they get a whiff!

Makes about one dozen dog biscuits

1 C. whole wheat flour
1 C. whole oats
1/2 C. natural peanut butter
3 T. molasses
3/4 C. water

Mix everything to form a stiff dough. Roll into balls and flatten to about 1/2" thick and arrange in a prepared baking pan. Bake at 300 degrees for 30 minutes, turn off heat and let sit in the oven until nice and hard.

Apr 21, 2009

2 Product Reviews: Antioxidant Smoothies & Fruit Leathers

So I recently found out that being a food blogger gives you free license to either ask for free stuff, and occasionally get offered free stuff. What a wonderful blogger world this is!

POM Wonderful recently sent me some cute little 8 oz. bottles of their 100% pomegranate juice. Tart and delicious, I don't usually buy them because they can be rather expensive, but they are loaded with good-for-you antioxidants. My only concern is the packaging. Although very cute and identifiable, it seems like a a bit wasteful to buy small containers of this stuff, if you can afford to buy one large one. Just my eco-thoughts.

Anway, since it is now a searing 96 degrees here in Davis, what better way to utilize this beautiful elixir in a nice frosty smoothy! ...Just add some more antioxidant-rich fruits to kick some free-radical ass!

Blend together:
8 oz. POM 100% pomegranate juice
1/2 C. fresh blackberries
1/2 C. fresh blueberries
1/4 C. strawberries
1/4 C. red seedless grapes
1 red apple (cored, and skin on)
1 large banana
1/2 C. vanilla soy milk
1 1/2 - 2 C. crushed ice

makes one pitcher


Now, what could bring you back to childhood faster than fruit roll-ups? The "healthy" snack that our moms got for us, when we begged for candy bars and pixie sticks. Back then, it was like injecting straight sugar into our veins- oh, what a rush! To avoid our bug-eyed hyperness, mom would opt for the fruit, and we would sigh heavily for a moment of unappreciative borderline tantrum, but then jump in happily with our new food toy. We unrolled it, played with it, tore it up into strips, poked holes in it, re-rolled it, sucked on it, and finally ate it with glee.

Mom just didn't realize that those fruit roll-ups probably had just as much sugar as, well.. sugar.

Well, now there's a truly healthier alternative from Chef Robert's All Natural Snacks, home of Matt's Munchies Fruit Leathers. An "adult" version, but still fun. And not all that added sugar and artificial flavoring!

Chef Roberts sent me a sample pack of the following flavors:
Apple Pie, Choco Nana, Ginger Zest, Banana, Mango, and Island Mango.

Here's the review: Favorites in my household (from most liked to least liked) are Island Mango, Mango, Banana, Apple Pie, Choco Nana, and Ginger Zest.

Surprisingly, we didn't like the Choco Nana as much as we expected, but I thought they were all pretty good, and not surprisingly- the 12 packs were gone in a few days, with maybe a couple partials left.

I thought the ingredients were spectacular with the organic fruits, and would definitely recommend these snacks over their sugary and artificial counterparts!

My only wish is that they were a bit easier to peel, and maybe in larger sheets to play with ;)

Apr 16, 2009

Morel Mushroom Stuffed Teriyaki Burgers and Morel Tater Tots, with Roasted Garlic Aioli & Asian Slaw

It's the Morel Mushroom Challenge! -I feel so "Iron Chefy!"

After recently being introduced to the Morel Mushroom, courtesy of Marx Foods, I found that I knew very little about this odd looking wild fungi.
Fresh Morels from Marx Foods

So I did a little research and found that these wonderful mushrooms have been around since the last ice age, and can be found wild in most parts of the world. Known for it's "brainy" conical structure, it also comes in several varieties, ranging in color from white creams to grays and blacks. Experienced morel hunters look for certain types of trees to find morels growing nearby, and it has become a big Spring pastime to gather them. As for the taste, I would describe them as having a distinctive fragrant earthy flavor with a more delicate texture than most common mushrooms found in markets.

Large dried morel
Now for the recipes:

The Burger...
After tasting the morels, I decided not to incorporate them directly into the burger, but to both "stuff them" with chopped morels and top them with sauted morels to bring out its maximum flavor. This way, the texture and flavor would not get lost -plus there's nothing like picking up a stray mushroom and popping it in your mouth!

Makes one good burger

4 oz. dried morels, rehydrated in water (reserve 1 cup of the water)
5 oz. Gimme Lean Ground Beef Style Veggie Protein
1 T. brown sugar
1 tsp. soy sauce
1/2 tsp. mirin cooking wine
cracked black pepper (as desired)
1/4 C. thinly sliced yellow onion, lightly coated with unbleached all purpose flour and a pinch of salt
extra virgin olive oil (for cooking)
canola or vegetable oil for deep frying
whole wheat bun, toasted
After rehydrating the morels for an hour or more, remove 1 cup of the morel water and pour into a sauce pan. Add brown sugar, soy sauce, and mirin, and simmer until reduced to a syrup. In a large mixing bowl, break up the Gimme Lean and add cracked pepper. Add the syrup and mix well to incorporate evenly. Form into two thin patties (about 1/4 inch thick each). Chop half of the mushrooms and spread evenly between the patties. Squeeze the patties together to form one big patty. In a flat skillet, add the olive oil and cook each side of the patty for a few minutes, covering with a smaller metal lid before and after flipping. For the other half of the morels, cut them into large pieces. Saute them in olive oil and garlic until softened and edges are golden brown. Season with salt and pepper. For the onion straws, shake off excess flour and deep fry onions until golden and crisp. Drain on a paper towel or bag. Transfer the patty onto the toasted whole wheat bun. Top with a layer of fried onions, followed by a pile of sauted morels. Spread some of the garlic aioli onto the top bun, if desired.

For the Tots...
These are more like "disks," but remind me of tots. Using the muffin tin helps cook them evenly and gives them shape. And they'll be crisp on the outside and nice and tender on the inside.

Makes about 15 tots

4 oz. morel mushrooms, rehydrated and finely chopped
1 large russett potato, peeled and grated
1 tsp. corn starch
1 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. water
salt & pepper
oil spray

Wrap the grated potato in a tea towel or clean cloth, and wring out as much water as possible. In a bowl, mix together with morels. Next, make a slurry of corn starch, olive oil, water and seasoning. Mix together well, then press the mixture into the muffin cups to about 1 inch thick. Make sure you press them tightly! Bake in a 450 degree oven for 8-10 minutes or until golden. To give extra color to the tops, broil them on low for a few minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes before popping out. You may need to loosen some with a small knife.

The Roasted Garlic Aioli was simple- Add chopped roasted garlic to some Vegenaise (vegan mayo of choice). A tip to make this less fatty and just as flavorful- do one part silken Mori-Nu tofu blended with one part Vegenaise.

The Asian Slaw was also simple- Toss finely shredded cabbage, carrots, green onion, whole bean sprouts, and cubed avocado with an Asian vinegrette. I mixed together soy sauce, rice vinegar, agave nectar, and a dash of sesame oil to make mine. Sprinkle with roasted sesame seeds.

Now, get ready to VOTE (if you like) on the Marx Foods blog. The winner gets 2 lbs. of fresh morels (oooh!) The recipes should be up soon, if not already. Unfortunately, mine was turned in a little too late to qualify, due to my unrealistic belief in multi-tasking! But please do head over there and gawk at all the lovely morels!

Special thanks to Justin Marx- you rock!
Also, special thanks to Mark (house mate extraordinaire) for helping me develop and execute these recipes.

Apr 3, 2009

Food for Healing- More Than Just Nutrition?

For the past month and a half, I've been cooking dinners for Mom. Sometimes, she's chipper and optimistic. But lately, she's been more and more depressed and sad. Today, she returned from a pretty stressful visit to the hospital and looked particularly haggard, but mustered up enough energy to cry and express her sense of hopelessness to me.

I held her and told her there is only hopelessness if you allow it to be, and to remember that death is only in the future. The important thing is to live for now and not stress about what you have so little control over. She cried some more, slowly acknowledging what I said.

I then pulled dinner out of my green shopping bag, as I've been doing for so many evenings. Packed in various sized tupperware, I usually have a combination of whole grains (brown rice, quinoa, millet, etc), a soup with various veggies and legumes (half pureed), sometimes accompanied by steamed yams, sauteed mushrooms, or pickled veggies, and sometimes accompanied by a raw fruit and nut smoothie to save for later.

Today, I new she was going to be particularly down, so I made a special treat for her- some krispy steamed wontons to go with the soup, this time filled with seasoned tofu and scallions. It wasn't entirely on the "macro" anti-cancer menu, but it was something I knew would cheer her up.

And that it did! As soon as she started eating, she felt much better and was in a much better mood. She even asked for more- which she rarely does, because of her lack of appetite. Ah, the power of food. Wontons are definitely a childhood comfort food for me, and ditto for Mom. Luckily, she wasn't raised on donuts and hamburgers LOL!

This got me to thinking about the healing power of food. I have read about the wonders of a healthy whole food diet, and how you will live a much longer and more disease-free life if you stay on it.

But I have also witnessed the power that stress and negativity has on the body, and how much energy we often put into hurting ourselves- most often unconciously through worrying, doubting, hating, etc. Mom was so weak physically, yet she had enough strength to hurt herself even more... as we all do. Imagine how much we could help ourselves, by doing the exact opposite, and doing that conciously!

It would seem such an easy fix- just stop stressing! But everyone knows that is much easier said than done. We are emotional animals- programmed for eons to be cynical, negative creatures- if not outwardly, then inwardly. We are also programmed to ignore ourselves and not to live conciously.

As vegans, we have all taken a step forward by looking more closely at our diets... and being honest with ourselves. But we can also very easily turn our diets (as in anything) into something negative and stressful. Yes, I choose not to eat animals. But do I need to angrily hate on everyone around me who doesn't choose the same, or would it be more effective and healthier to lead through example and inform without judgement?

And what about nutrition? Is it better to rigidly stick to a whole foods diet, constantly worrying about processed foods, added sugar, fat, preservatives, coloring, etc., or allow oneself a little slack, and enjoy a cupcake once in a while? What is the trade-off, if any here? Which one will shorten my life more- the fat and sugar, or the stress of not having any? And, if they are equally damaging, wouldn't you pick the occasional cupcake? Just a thought. I guess the ultimate answer is to not have the fat and sugar AND not to stress on it- haha!! So simple, yet so hard.

Well, the trade-off for Mom was a good one, I think. The little bit of processed flour in the wontons counteracted the psychological pain and bodily stress, which would surely kill her first.
Could she have done this without the wontons? Of course- but I think it would've taken a lot longer.