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Cornbread Two Ways

It’s good to be back after an inadvertent eighteen-month hiatus from blogging!  I have no terrible or fantastical reason for being away so long.  Life just got very busy, and as I continually rearranged things on my plate to devote enough time to the day-to-day priorities of my life or to make room for new activities or experiences, I found that I simply did not have a big enough plate for all of the things I wanted to fit on it. I found, however, that I missed the experience of blogging and of being an active participant in a very awesome and active online foodie community. When I read about Vegan MoFo 2010 and realized that for the first time I was not too late to jump on board, I decided to take advantage of a perfect opportunity to jump back into this site and to once again have fun sharing my experiences in the kitchen.  I’ve signed up for Vegan MoFo and look forward to gaining momentum throughout the month. While I recognize my limitations (!) and will not attempt to post every day, I will post frequently, so please be sure to check back often!  Now, onto the food …

As we move into the holiday season we suddenly have reasons and happy excuses to make all of the side dishes that we may lazily ignore the rest of the year.  Bread climbs right to the top of that list for me at this time of year. Who doesn’t love home made bread?  (But who always has the time to bake a loaf while tending to the rest of dinner?) Cornbread is a quick way to add delicious homemade bread to a meal, and it readily pairs with thick autumnal soups and stews.  I also love it because it is so easily customizable – just add your favorite herbs or additions and you have endless (easy!) possibilities.  Below I have shared recipes for Caramelized Onion and Rosemary Corn Bread and a more classic Jalapeño Cheddar Corn Bread.

The first recipe came about because I love caramelized onions.  They are so simple to make: all that is required is patience.  They add a beautiful depth of rich flavor to any number of meals.  I like to make a large batch and keep some on hand in the refrigerator to add to soups, sandwiches, or vegetable dishes.  They elevate simple corn bread to a sophisticated side dish, and they pair nicely with the rosemary, but feel free to experiment with your favorite fresh herbs.

For the more traditional version of cornbread, I used Daiya Cheddar Style Shreds.  I have never made liberal use of vegan cheeses, mostly because the flavor and texture turn off my taste buds.  I have found with Daiya, however, that I like its creaminess and flavor in traditional comfort foods liked “grilled cheese” and “pizza” on the infrequent occasions that I order those items (mostly at Whole Foods hot bars when traveling).   It works really well in this recipe because it melts into the batter well and is complimented by the spiciness of the jalapeño.  (If anyone has any opinions about or successes with Daiya cheese, I’d love to hear about in the comments!).

Enjoy!

 

 

Caramelized Onion and Rosemary Corn Bread

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 ¼ cup corn meal
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
¾ tsp salt
1 cup almond milk
¼ cup canola oil
3 tbsp melted Earth Balance butter
3 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped

1.    Heat the olive oil in a pan over medium heat.  Add the onions and stir often until they begin to become soft and translucent, about 10-15 minutes.  Turn the heat down a bit and continue to cook the onion for 30-45 more minutes, stirring often, until the onions have turned a deep, golden brown.  Remove from heat.
2.    Pre-heat the oven to 400F.  Lightly grease an 8×8” baking pan.  Whisk together the dry ingredients in a medium sized mixing bowl.  Add the almond milk, oil, and melted butter and stir until well blended.  Fold in the onions and rosemary.
3.    Spread the batter into the pan and bake for approximately 20 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.  Allow to cool slightly in the pan on a rack before serving.

 

 

Jalapeño and Cheddar Corn Bread

1 ¼ cup corn meal
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
¾ tsp salt
1 cup almond milk
¼ cup canola oil
3 tbsp melted Earth Balance butter
1/3 cup Daiya cheddar
1 green jalapeño, diced

1.    Pre-heat the oven to 400F.  Lightly grease an 8×8” baking pan.  Whisk together the dry ingredients in a medium sized mixing bowl.  Add the almond milk, oil, and melted butter and stir until well blended.  Fold in the Daiya cheddar and jalapeño.
2.    Spread the batter into the pan and bake for approximately 20 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.  Allow to cool slightly in the pan on a rack before serving.

Blowing off the dust …

…. and knocking the rust off this ol’ thing.

Seitan Tikka Masala

It’s been a very hectic month or so here, and while I have been managing to feed us and keep us eating well, I was challenged to find the time to share those recipes with all of you.  Finally I’ve managed to come up for air, and what I have for you today is my favorite dish to come out of my kitchen recently … and the lovely thing is that it actually came off of our grill and, if I am not mistaken, this comes at a good time for all you who live in more temperate climates.  I am hoping that these early days of spring are bringing you all warmer weather, and a recipe for the grill is a perfect excuse to get outside and dine alfresco.
This recipe combines some of my favorite things: Indian food, kabobs, seitan, grilling, and eating outdoors.  Whip yourself up a batch and, while you’re standing over grill, smile at the fact that you are participating in a act of converting the tried and true conveyor of barbecue and seared meat products into  atrue blue vegan grillin’ machine.  Then, as you sit outside with a cool breeze at your back and you enjoy these kabobs with friends and family, hopefully you’ll be basking in the thought that “life is good.”  While you’re at it, grill up a batch of naan to serve along side your tikka masala.
This recipe was adapted from the cookbook The Food of India.
Enjoy!
Seitan Tikka

½ tbsp paprika
1 tsp chili powder
2 tbsp garam masala
1 ½ tbsp lemon juice
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp ginger, grated
½ cup cilantro leaves
1 6 oz container plain soy yogurt

1 batch seitan dough (I used the simple seitan recipe in Veganomicon)

1.    Blend all marinade ingredients in a food processor or a high speed blender until smooth.  Season with salt to taste.

2.    Cut the seitan dough into bite sized chunks.  Place these into a bowl with the marinade and mix thoroughly.  Cover and marinade for 6-8 hours.

3.    Set your grill to medium heat/flame or heat your oven to 400F.  Grill, covered, for 10 minutes per side or roast on an oven rack above a baking tray for 15-20 minutes.

Seitan Tikka Masala

1 tbsp canola oil
1 onion, finely chopped
¼ tsp cardamom
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 14oz can crushed tomatoes
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp garam masala
½ tsp chili powder
1 tsp brown sugar
1 14oz can coconut milk
1 tbsp ground almonds

1 recipe seitan tikka

1 tbsp chopped cilantro leaves for garnish

1.    Heat the oil in  dutch oven or heavy sauce pan over medium heat.  Add the onion and sauté until lightly browned.  Add the cardamom and garlic and cook for 1 minute, then add the tomtoes and cook until the sauce thickens (about 5 minutes).

2.    Add the cinnamon, garam masala, chili powder, and sugar to the sauce and cook for 1 minute.  Stir in the coconut milk and almonds, then add the cooked seitan tikka.  Gently simmer for 30 minutes.  Garnish with the chopped cilantro.

I must admit – flourless cake is not a favorite dessert of mine. It doesn’t even crack the top 25. I have never once ordered it in a restaurant, never picked it out of a bakery’s glass case, and never requested it as a special treat. What can I say? I am a carb lover, through and through. If I am going to have cake, you can bet there’s going to be flour in there. Ice cream, on the other hand, I could happily eat every day. I love my ice cream maker, but it has been sitting up on the shelf for so long that I was afraid it was starting to grow roots up there. I was glad to have an excuse to blow the dust off of it and put it to use.

As is usually the case, this month’s DB challenge was one that relied heavily on dairy. Veganizing the challenge was the easy part compared to what else I had to do with it:

Not use any refined sugars.

You read that right. No refined sugars. Several months ago I discussed my desire to cut back on refined sugars, but then the holidays came and I reverted back to viewing sugar as a food group all of its own. When Ash Wednesday rolled around this year, I decided to give up refined sugar for Lent. Of course, I left this DB challenge to the very last day (today) which means that it now falls under the “no refined sugar” rule. I was happy that it was cake paired with ice cream rather than one that relied on frosting or something else entirely sugar dependent.

I’m happy to report that the recipes came out quite well, though I would definitely tweak them if I were to make them again. The cake turned out chewy and very, very chocolately. Incredibly chocolately – a little too chocolately for my liking, but it would be a true chocoholic’s dream come true. The ice cream had great consistency and a yummy coconut flavor, but it would have benefited from a wee bit more sweetness. I would recommend adding some agave to the ice cream to make it just that much better of a companion for the rich chocolate cake.

Of course, that could be my jonesin’ sweet tooth talking.

Strawberries and Coconut Cream Ice Cream

1 carton Mori Nu silken tofu
1 14 oz can coconut milk
1/3 cup brown rice syrup
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup sliced strawberries

1.    Puree tofu, coconut milk, brown rice syrup, and vanilla in a food processor or blender until smooth.

2.    Pour into ice cream maker and mix per manufacturer’s instructions (for my Cuisinart ice cream make I mix it for 30 minutes).

3.    Pour ice cream into freezer safe bowl, stir in strawberries, and freeze for at least 4 hours before servings.

Chocolate Flourless Cake

9 oz dark chocolate (I used three bars of Endangered Species Extreme Dark Chocolate)
½ cup soy butter or margarine
1 6 oz container plain soy yogurt
½ cup soy milk (or other dairyless milk) + 2 tbsp arrowroot powder
3 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla

1.    Preheat oven to 350F and grease a springform pan.

2.    Melt chocolate and soy butter in a double boiler over low heat until smooth.

3.    While the chocolate is melting, stir the arrowroot into the soy milk and whisk with a fork until completely dissolves.  Pour the soy milk mixture into a mix bowl, add the yogurt and vanilla and mix until well combined.  Add the cocoa powder and mix until smooth.   Pour in the chocolate mixture and mix on medium high for 2 minutes.

4.    Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake for 35 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes before unmolding.  Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.

Required text for this month’s challenge:

The February 2009 challenge is hosted by Wendy of WMPE’s blog and Dharm of Dad ~ Baker & Chef.
We have chosen a Chocolate Valentino cake by Chef Wan; a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Dharm and a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Wendy as the challenge.

Work in Progress Wednesday

I usually have a number of things that I am juggling at any given time, so finding some things “in progress” to discuss is just about the easiest conversation starter one could give me!

When one of my favorite bloggers, Shellyfish, started a “Work in Progress Wednesday”  project to encourage fellow bloggers to share their artistic endeavors and crafty works in progress with one another, I immediately wanted to participate but hung back because – as many of you have noticed – midweek blogging can be a challenge for me.  However, after weeks of watching the participants’ works in progress transform, one by one, into works completed, I decided to find the time mid-week and participate because I, too, need to get some of these works in progress moving along to the finish line!

First I’ll share the food related work, and then, at the bottom, it’ll be the crafty stuff for those of you who are interested.

My garden (an edible work in progress):

In the Garden

In the Garden

Currently in my “winter” garden I am growing: basil, rosemary, 2 kinds of oregano, 3 kinds of mint, sage, eggplant, ancho peppers, zucchini, butternut squash, scallions, big mama limas, spinach, 3 kinds of tomatoes, cucumbers, green bell peppers, flavorburst bell peppers, anaheim peppers, false alarm habeneros, bush beans, a mystery squash that is growing out of my compost pile (I suspect pumpkin), and a wide variety of flowers.

My quilt (a inedible work in progress):

Quilt in Progress

Quilt in Progress

This is a simple quilt made of 4×4″ squares of Amy Butler Midwest Modern fabric.

And there’s this guy who hung around as I took pictures of the quilt but, as you can see, was not altogether interested in my project (I’ll try not to take it personally):

Cash

Cash

Isn’t he handsome?

If you like what you see with the works in progress, take some time to check out other Wednesday Works in Progress.  Also, while you’re cruising around the internet take the time to stop by and check out another awesome & creative blogger to see what Jes did with my humble little banana bread recipe. She’s provided you with your Sunday morning breakfast!

Naan

I love Indian food.  I first experienced Indian food in a small restaurant in Elyria, Ohio.   My friends Gitta and Heidi introduced it to me during the second semester of our freshman year at Oberlin.  That semester, I managed to bring my car to campus, despite restrictions on first years having their cars at school, we began to go on “big adventures” (as they seemed in those days) into the small towns that dotted the rural Ohio landscape southwest of Cleveland.  Once or twice a semester we would make it up to the big city, mostly to go to Coventry to shop, watch a movie at the cool little theater that would refrigerate your leftovers and feed your meter during the movie, and to eat some good Indian food.

I lived in Boston twice for two short periods of time (about six months in total) and continued the love affair with Indian food that I had started in college.  Boston is home to some incredible Indian restaurants.  I very distinctly remember taking my first spoonful of a bowl of soup in an Indian restaurant in Brookline and, for the first time, fully understanding the meaning of “layering of flavors” as a multitude of flavors exploded on my tongue, one after another.  There was also an Indian restaurant in Coolidge Corner that was quite good, and another two in Harvard Square that I enjoyed, as well.

The second time that I lived in Boston, the summer just after graduation, I roomed with my friend, Liz, who had spent a life-changing semester abroad in India during college.  There were several Saturdays that summer spent in the kitchen making our own Indian dishes.  This was when the idea of home cooked Indian food because more accessible to me, and I began to develop a sense of how I could recreate some of these dishes on my own.

Fast forward to now.  I live on an island that until recently did not have an Indian restaurant of its own.  I would try to get my fill on trips to the Mainland, but Indian restaurants can sometimes be tricky for the vegan to navigate because many dishes are made with cream or yoghurt.  The ones that are amenable to vegan diets are willing to mark the dairy-free items on the menu or happily point them out to you.  While this makes eating in such places much less difficult, it still limits one to a few items on the otherwise expansive menu.  So, over the years, I’ve amassed several Indian cookbooks and have begun to rely on what I can improvise in my own kitchen.

Last week I was feeling the urge for a full Indian spread for dinner, and for me that included naan.  Naan is a leavened bread popular in North India.  This bread is traditionally baked in a tandoor (clay oven).  Tandoors get very hot, and it can be difficult to recreate the heat and cooking environment of a tandoor in a home kitchen.  As I considered this dilemma, I remembered a book I had glanced through about vegan grilling, which contained a chapter on breads.  Grills get very hot …. perhaps they could better mimic a tandoor than my oven could?

My mind was made up – I decided to bake my naan on our outdoor grill.  I adapted the naan recipe in The Food of India to make a vegan version and, after letting it rise for several hours, I divided the dough into five balls and stretched them all out into small disks.  I then brushed each side of the disks with canola oil, fired up the grill, and baked bread.  It took, in total, less than four minutes to bake up, and it tasted fantastic.  The texture was not identical to what you get in an Indian restaurant, but oh my goodness it was good.  And, I must admit, it felt pretty awesome to bake bread on a grill, like I had tapped into my inner (vegan) Bobby Flay.  I feel inspired to apply this newfound knowledge of grill-baking to other projects in the future!

Naan

2 ¼ cups flour
2/3 cup soy milk
1 tsp active dry yeast
¼ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
¼ cup canola oil
1 6oz container plain soy yogurt

1.    Place the flour, yeast, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl.

2.    Heat the soy milk in a saucepan until warm.  Ina separate bowl,  whisk the yogurt and oil until well combined.

3.    Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add the milk. Stir, and then add the yogurt mixture.   Mix well.

4.    Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for 5 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic.  Add more flour if the dough is too sticky.  Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover, and let rise for 2-3 hours.

5.    Punch down the dough, divide into five balls, and stretch out into thin disks.  Brush each side with canola oil, and stack the prepared disks on a plate.  Bake the disks on a grill over medium flame/heat until the tops are puffy and the bottoms have begun to brown (about 2 minutes), flip and bake for an additional 1 ½ – 2 minutes.

Naan getting puffy

Naan getting puffy

Naan browned

Naan browned

Naan ready for dinner

Naan ready for dinner

 

Hawaii has many, many bananas.  Anyone who has ever lived here can attest to the bounty of banana trees that permeate the yards and gardens of the islands.  Banana trees are incredibly low maintenance to grow, but they are high maintenance to maintain.  They grow prolifically in the mineral rich Hawaiian soil, full tropical sun, and Pacific rains, which is  exactly the challenge of attempting to tame them – they get big, bushy, and can take over if you’re not careful.  Most households with banana trees also have their banana tree machete to keep the trees at bay, to chop down the bunches of bananas when they are ready, and to hack away the trees that are past their prime.  We used to have banana trees of our own when we first moved to Maui, but now we are just the happy beneficiaries of the fruits of our neighbor’s banana tree labors.

This abundance of bananas explains Hawaii’s abundance of banana bread recipes.  As you drive along any rural road in the islands you will encounter numerous road side stands and shops selling auntie’s or uncle’s homemade banana bread – guaranteed to be the best in the islands.  Everyone has their favorite.  Over the years, I have amassed a large number of banana bread recipes in my recipe binder and I happily have plenty of opportunities to try them all out.

 

 

I made this bread last week when we were gifted with a large bunch of bananas from our friend who lives next door.  It has a particularly tropical flair due to the addition of coconut, lime, and macadamia nuts.  It was adapted from an old Cooking Light recipe.  If you want to take it a  step further and dress it up for dessert, you can quickly whisk together some confectioners sugar and lime juice to create a glaze to spoon over top of warm slices;  garnish with coconut and sliced mac nuts and – voila! – fancy dessert.   Personally, I like mine plain and simple, but I will warm up a slice in the microwave and smear a bit of warm soy butter over it to enjoy for breakfast before skipping out the door to work.   The beauty of banana bread, in my opinion, is in its versatility.

 

 

Coconut, Lime, and Macadamia Nut Banana Bread
Makes 1 loaf

2 cups flour
¾ tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
¾ cup sugar
¼ cup soy butter or margarine
1/8 cup canola oil
3-4 mashed bananas
¼ cup vanilla soy yogurt
3 tbsp spiced rum
3 tbsp lime juice
½ tsp vanilla
½ cup unsweetened flaked coconut
½ cup chopped macadamia nuts

Extra flaked coconut to sprinkle on the top of the loaf

1.    Preheat oven to 350F.

2.    Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl and set aside.

3.    Cream together the soy butter/margarine and sugar with a mixer, then add the oil and mix until well combined.  Add in the banana, soy yogurt, rum, lime juice, and vanilla and mix until blended.  Add the flour mixture and mix at a low speed until just combined.  Stir in the coconut and macadamia nuts.

4.    Pour the batter into a 9×5 inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray and sprinkle the top of the loaf with the extra flaked coconut.  Bake for 50-60 minutes, until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

5.    Cool for 10 minutes in the pan on a wire rack before removing from pan.