Monday, June 30, 2008

Strawberries And More

This is my season! I absolutely love fresh picked berries. With buckets in hand, I wait patiently to hear which farms are ready for U-Pick. Blueberries, strawberries, tay berries, raspberries, blackberries... I love them all!

Last week I got an invitation to get in on some strawberry picking. In the three years that I've been in the Pacific Northwest, I've yet to actually pick my own strawberries. I know. It's just that the strawberries here have a very, very short season. On top of that, they are so petite, juicy and fragile, that they don't export well. In other words, you either pick them quickly or buy them at the farmer's market for the couple of weeks that they're available, otherwise you're out of luck. Needless to say I was definitely up for strawberry picking!

So I dragged the entire family to pick and kick off the summer berry season. We managed to get about 23 pounds, some for jam and the rest to be bagged and frozen (for winter smoothies).

Before I go on though about the jam, I've got to tell you about another new ingredient that I've been playing around with. It's Instant Clear Jel. ICJ is basically an instant cornstarch. It dissolves instantly, so there's no need to cook your sauce. Case in point my new strawberry jam.

Jam making usually involves a lot of stove top cooking as well as tons of sugar. No cooking necessary for this jam. Commercial pectin needs lots of sugar to jell the pureed fruit, so you wind up using a ton of sugar, most often needing more sugar than actual fruit. Now with the instant starch, you can add as much or as little sugar as you like.

Apparently the Instant Clear Jel doesn't work well for traditional canning or processing, but is awesome for freezer jam. I have to say that this was some of the best strawberry jam I've had, although maybe the fresh-picked strawberries had something to do with it. I will share the recipe, but need to type it up first. Sometimes scribbling on a napkin isn't the best way to keep recipe notes.

I would definitely recommend looking into the Instant Clear Jel. You will see me calling for it in lots of upcoming recipes, and there's really no substitute for it. I do have a little to spare and can try and hook you up with some, although I don't have a large enough quantity to list it on our website (you can email me at Otherwise, you can check out King Arthur Flour or some other places on the internet. Apparently it's been available to the baking industry for something like 60 years, and was even voted the best pie thickener by Cook's Illustrated. It's certainly an uber-cool ingredient for vegan desserts.

Strawberry jam, straight from the freezer

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler!

This is a scrumptious dessert! Melisser (aka The Urban Housewife) was up in Portland recently, and shared her delicious recipe for strawberry rhubarb cobbler. So if you have some fresh strawberries and rhubarb in your fridge (or yard), and you're wondering what to make, this is it. Definitely give it a try while strawberries and rhubarb are still in season.

You can check out the video of Melisser making her fantabulous dessert on everydaydish. Thanks so much Melisser for sharing your awesome cobbler recipe!

Monday, June 23, 2008

My Sweet Vegan

If you happen to be in Portland, Oregon this weekend, you should know about a very cool event happening at Herbivore.

What: Meet Hannah Kaminsky, author of My Sweet Vegan, and enjoy a dessert sampling
When: Sunday, June 29th at noon
Where: Herbivore Clothing Store in the Vegan Mini Mall, 1211 SE Stark Street, Portland, OR 97214

Hannah is the 19-year-old author and photographer of the decadent dessert book My Sweet Vegan. Each recipe includes a full-color photo to tease bakers-to-be into the kitchen.

Written and photographed during her senior year of high school, Kaminsky's book debut is an impressive and sophisticated addition to any cook's book collection, regardless of their inclination to veganism or not. Those with dairy allergies, a chocolate addiction or a desire to eat less cholesterol will be thrilled to check it out.

Recipes include: Triple Threat Chocolate Cheese Cake, Orange Dreamsicle Snack Cake, Brilliant Berry Parfaits, Pumpkin Toffee Trifle and Award-Winning Mocha Devastation Cake.

Hannah is currently working on her second vegan dessert cookbook. If you don't know about Hannah's super-cool blog, check it out at

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Whipped Topping Update

Well here's the update. I have been working feverishly to develop an incredible whipped topping recipe to share. I had the highest of hopes that I would at least have something by today, but the recipe's just not excellent yet. I have a very high standard for my recipes and I wouldn't want to share one that wasn't absolutely delicious.

I will keep plugging away, so that I can share something delicious soon. Until then, if anyone is chomping at the bit to try testing out some recipes themselves, I will steer you in the right direction. The product that Bryanna and I have been playing with is called Versawhip 600K. It's made out of soy and is supposed to be a vegan product (although there are other Versawhips that are not even vegetarian). It's pretty pricey, but we found that L'Epecerie in New York has the best price on it. I just want to give you a heads-up that the product is very tricky to use and not so cut and dry. Although it will whip liquid into a topping, many of my test batches have been less than desirable, and certainly not what I would want to serve to guests. I can't even tell you how many test batches I have thrown away.

Now, for the rest of us who want a luscious whipped topping and don't mind waiting a bit, I will hopefully have a recipe in the near future to share. We all need a fluffy whipped topping for our summer berries, so I will keep plugging away.

Thanks for all of your marshmallow love!


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Food For Thought

In the process of trying to perfect the whipped creme topping, I seemed to have stumbled upon the elusive marshmallow. It still needs a bit of work, but oh man, it's close!

The picture above is a moon pie with homemade graham crackers and a dark chocolate cloak. The picture below is a mound of marshmallow on top of a homemade graham cracker, lightly toasted with a mini kitchen torch.

I'd better get back to the kitchen. No sleep for the weary, here. And don't worry, these recipes will definitely be part of the e-book.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Pizza On The Barbie

If you're looking for something to make for dinner that's delicious and doesn't require the oven, check out the new BBQ'd pizza segment on Everyday Dish. This is a no-fail pizza dough, very simple to make (in a mixer or food processor or even by hand). You can also make the dough several days ahead, just make sure to let it rise for 1 hour, before placing in a large covered bucket/bowl or gallon zip-top bag and refrigerating. I wish I had a picture for you, but I didn't think of it until after we had gobbled up the entire pizza. Yeah, grilled pizza is that good!

I know that I can't end this post without mentioning the vegan whipped cream too. So here goes. The recipe still needs some additional work before I can share it. It's really important to me that my recipes are bullet proof and easy to make, which can take some doing. This is a tricky recipe. I also started thinking that since we're spending so much time on it, why not come up with other yummy sweet recipes too. Bryanna and I thought that it would be fun to put together a small e-book of summer desserts. Well actually two books. We're both going to do one so that everyone has LOTS of delicious desserts for summer. My goal is to do this as soon as possible, because the season is just about here, along with lots of glorious summer fruit. I will keep everyone posted. Promise!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Vegan Whipped Cream

If you had asked me last year if homemade vegan whipped topping was possible, I would have said no. If you had asked me several months ago, I would have the same answer. If you ask me today, I would say absolutely! Yes, homemade vegan whipped topping is absolutely possible.

I'll begin by saying that there is no tofu involved here. None. As much as I love my tofu, whipped cream it's not. This is a fluffy, ethereal topping, the perfect accompaniment to crepes, waffles or chocolate cake (yes, I've topped them all).

Another thing that's so fantastic about this vegan topping, is that you can also whip it into a marshmallow cream (thanks Bryanna, for the tip) and possibly meringue as well. Yes, Bryanna's in on the secret too. I also plan to test out chocolate and citrus versions too. I mean, really, can you ever have too many toppings?

Last week, feeling like kids in a candy shop, my husband and I quickly grabbed our mini kitchen torch, toasting the top like a campfire marshmallow or meringue-topped pie. Unbelievable! We looked at each other with sheer excitement, as we started grabbing ingredients and kitchen tools. What followed next was s'more waffles, a true breakfast of champions. Our kitchen has become a whipped topping wonderland.

Notice the little flecks of vanilla paste in the cream.

Now that I've piqued your interest, you'll have to come back for the rest of the story. I have some more experimenting to do before I can share the details. Just know that I will share, so even though you may not live close enough to come over for s'more waffles, lemon meringue tarts or chocolate fluff cake, I will send you in the right direction. I mean, come on, whipped topping and marshmallow fluff, this is the stuff of vegan dreams!

Chocolate fluff cake

As a side note, I've actually come across several new ingredients recently (or at least new to me), which take vegan desserts to a whole new level. I can't wait to share! So check back, because they're coming soon (and hopefully to a kitchen near you!).


Monday, June 9, 2008

One Amazing Dish

Let me start off by saying, this is not your 70's-style tofu. This is tofu prepared in an elegant and upscale way. This is fine dining tofu.

Imagine Marsala-marinated tofu, coated with herbed panko crumbs and pan-seared until it's got a gorgeous crispy golden crust. Close your eyes and imagine this ethereal tofu perched on a mound of rosemary garlic mashed potatoes, and topped with an earthy mushroom Marsala sauce. Now this is tofu.

I first tasted this tofu dish at The Farm Cafe in Portland Oregon. I was having dinner with my good buddy Joanna, and she highly recommended the tofu. After careful scanning of the menu, chock-full of local, fresh, organic produce, this was definitely the dish that caught my eye. Herbed Crusted Tofu With A Mushroom Marsala Sauce. OMG! It had my name written all over it! The dish was divine. So much so that I started holding it up as my standard of what a good tofu dish should be. No problem preparing this at home, right? Wrong, actually. This was a tougher nut to crack than I imagined.

So, fast forward to last month, when the owner of The Farm Cafe accepted my offer to come prepare her amazing herbed-crusted tofu on Everyday Dish. Now everyone can learn their secret to a fabulously prepared tofu dish. And, we all have a delicious new tofu recipe to serve at our next dinner party, or try out on our tofu-phobic husbands/children/friends.

The recipe and video are up now on Everyday Dish. Thank you Fearn and Russel and The Farm Cafe, for sharing your delicious recipe with us. Now, what are you waiting for? You've got to try this dish!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

White Wheat

As most of you know, I love my kitchen toys, and the grain mill is no exception. I've blogged about the mill before, but I thought it was a good time to revisit it again. First of all, there is nothing liked home milled flour. Absolutely nothing. Especially if you are a baking nut like myself, and a beautiful silky flour gets you going. When you grind your own wheat, the resulting flour is beautiful, soft, sweet and flavorful. It really is something to behold.

Now don't get me wrong. I do still buy some flour, such as white pastry or unbleached all-purpose (or vital wheat gluten), but I'm finding that white whole wheat flour works beautifully in so many recipes. White wheat often goes undetected in many of my baked goods, which is a great thing with a houseful of teenagers. My kids certainly wouldn't choose "healthy" tasting cookies, not in a million years, but I want them to get all of the wonderful benefits of whole grains. This is where white wheat has been my savior. No one detects a "healthy" taste, whether it be pancakes, chocolate cakes, cookies or breads. This is a very good thing.

So when I received an email last week, asking if I might be interested in purchasing some white wheat from Montana, my interest was piqued. It seems that a former student of mine became alarmed with the rising cost of wheat, and the lack of white wheat available. If you haven't heard yet, the cost of wheat has nearly doubled, and apparently white wheat is now hard to find. So she contacted a farm and was able to lock in a fantastic price, so long as she purchased an entire semi-truck load. We're talking thousands of pounds of wheat. The unbelievable thing is that she found homes for all of the wheat right away. Amazing. She's thinking about doing it again, and asked if I would help put the word out to see if there's enough interest for her to place another order. If you're interested, email me at the blog and I can put you in touch with her ( You would need to be able to get to the Portland area to pick it up, and they are 50 pound bags. She isn't making a penny on this. She justs wants to help people out.

So, needless to say, not only is grinding your own flour fun, but it's an adventure too. Now, I just need to find a good use for my red lentil flour. Any ideas?

Oh, and before I sign off, we have a new recipe and video up on everyday dish. Peanut sesame noodles, which are perfect warm weather fare. I promise you will love them, and if you have any peanut allergies in your household, just substitute another nut, seed or soy butter for the peanut.

Happy cooking!