20 December 2008

Smoky Cheddar, Vegan Style

This one is just a quick note, really. While making Richards Fake Cheese, I decided I wanted something a little different. So, I made the cheese as normal, and poured all of it off into a container to harden except the last cup of it.

To this cup of fake cheese, I added 1/2 tsp of Smoked Sweet Paprika, and a single drop of bottled liquid smoke. Liquid smoke is overwhelmingly strong, so one drop is all you need. Pour it into a spoon to make sure you don't accidentally get too much into the cheese mixture.

Pulse the food processor a few times to mix it all up, and our the smoky cheese off into a separate container to firm up.

We recommend the smoked paprika from the Spice House . It is amazingly smoky and fragrant and a joy to use.

Obviously, the sky is the limit here. Maybe, you could have added some finely diced jalapeno for 'pepper jack' cheese, chipotle powder for a chipotle nacho sauce, or your favorite herbs, etc. It's easy to experiment, and failures are small enough to toss out with no huge regrets!

19 December 2008

African Stew (Vegan)

Today's recipe is a product of our cooking for 'the freezer club'. In the freezer club, a number of people each cook one dish for 4-5 different families and freeze it. Then, on a given day, they all get together and swap their packets of frozen meals for 5 other packs of frozen meals. So, every one gets to try different things and basically cooks one day a month to receive 5 days of dinners.

I like to cook and like having people test recipes, so I also make 5 meals, but give my share of the proceeds to my oldest daughter. So, she gets to cook one day and gets 10 meals in return. A sweet deal for her and I get guinea pigs.

Well, this month, Tae is home, so she and I cooked up a vegan dish. We found a recipe for African Peanut-Potato Stew that seemed interesting.

We started cooking it, and both of us started having second thoughts. The smells just didn't seem to be coming together which is a worry when you are making 20-25 servings of something.

We did a little tweaking with quantities and spices, carried on and eventually it all worked out wonderfully. It was so good, in fact, that we ended up confiscating some for our own dinner before ladling out the portions.

The original recipe is oil-free except for the peanut butter, and has a fair bit of heat to it. Since Tae cannot handle any heat, we revised the recipe, adding grains of paradise and then carrots for more texture, and leaving out the hot parts.

The lack of oil in the original recipe when cooking the onions let the onion flavor disappear, so we felt the oil was worth using.

We added some yukon gold potato. The sweet potatoes will disintegrate completely, especially upon reheating, and we wanted some chunks remaining. The sturdier white potatoes and carrots, along with the chickpeas, give it all a bit more tooth.

We strongly recommend good fire roasted organic diced tomatoes for this recipe. The tomato is a big contributor to the dish, and the best is called for. Also, the char from the roasting adds to the visual appeal of the dish. The tomato juice, water and peanut butter ends up giving you a gorgeous sauce which almost looks like a cream sauce.

African Stew

1 Tbs olive oil
1 large onion, cut into medium dice
2 tsp sea salt
1 Tbs minced fresh ginger
1 Tbs minced fresh garlic
1 1/2 Tbs ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp ground grains of paradise (optional)
1/2 tsp ground cayenne pepper (optional)
1 1/2 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks
1 lb yukon gold (or red) potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 in cubes
6 -8 baby carrots, or 2 large carrots, cut into coins
2 15 oz cans Muir Glen Fire Roasted diced tomatoes, undrained
2 15 oz cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 lb green beans, cut in 1 inch pieces
3 cups vegetable broth
1/3 cup chunky peanut butter

In a 6 qt pot over low-medium heat, heat olive oil, and then add onions. Sprinkle salt over onions and cook until the onions are starting to turn translucent.

Add garlic, ginger and spices and cook 2 minutes until fragrant.

Add the remaining ingredients. Cook, stirring gently every few minutes until the potatoes are cooked, around 20 minutes. Add water if the stew starts looking too thick to the point it might stick to the bottom and burn.

The stew is ready when the potatoes are cooked through. Taste for salt, and serve hot over brown rice.

Note: couscous is an excellent accompaniment in place of brown rice.

16 December 2008

Broccoli Zucchini Pan Pizza

Ok, I admit it. Although I am generally a very good speller, I can never remember how to spell broccolli brocolli broccoli or zuchini zuccini zucchini. So, this recipe is a challenge.

Picture this - two food loving vegetarian/vegans who have made a pact to eat everything in the pantry and fridge and freezer and only supplement it with fresh veggies and fruit. Picture them expecting a trip to the grocery before this starts so they can BUY fresh veggies and fruit. Picture snow pouring down, burying the house and the car, which must be out there somewhere but we can no longer see it. Picture two hungry people with not a lot to choose from...

Hmmm, one small piece of broccoli, feeling a little limp but probably edible. One small zucchini that I bought to add to miso soup then forgot to add. Shrivelled but probably edible. And whats that tub? Hmmm, Tofutti 'better than cream cheese' vegan cream cheese flavored with herbs and chives. Tae bought it by accident a while back. I open in and it has a sort of gray look to it and a plastic texture. But the use-by date hasn't passed, so it is classed as edible.

There is no vegan cheese in the house and no time to make any before lunch but I find a knob of maybe 2 oz of monterey jack cheese and the same of Mexican Chihuahua cheese. So, we're gonna be vegetarian and not vegan. Ok, ok, I probably did have time to make some vegan cheese, I just didn't feel like it.

This is very simple, but amazingly flavorful, and not too bad for you as pizzas go.

Broccoli Zucchini Pan Pizza


3/4 c water
1 c kamut flour
1 c all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
3 Tbs olive oil
2 tsp agave nectar
2 tsp dry yeast

Dump it all in the breadmaker and push the 'pizza dough' button.

If you don't have a breadmaker, mix it all, knead for 5 minutes, then let rise in a warm place, covered, for about 30-40 minutes. It will triple or quadruple in size.

1/2 c zucchini, julienned
3/4 c broccoli flowerlets
3 Tbs Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese Chive and Herb flavor
1/4 tsp salt
1 c grated melting cheese (4 oz by weight) (My current fave is Mexican Chihuahua cheese)

Preheat oven to 450F (about 230C).

Steam the veggies for about a minute to blanch and then set aside to cool.

When dough beeper sounds, dump out the dough, punch down slightly.

Stretch dough until it will fit into a 12 inch oven-safe skillet. Put the dough in the skillet, and bake for 5 minutes.

Remove dough and carefully spread the Tofutti around the base with a spoon.

Toss the zucchini and broccoli on top, distributing them evenly around the crust.

Very lightly scatter salt over the top, then add the grated cheeses.

Pop back into the oven for about 15 minutes or until the outer edges are golden brown and the middle is all melted and bubbly.

Wait about 3 minutes, if you can, slice and serve.

12 December 2008

The ULTIMATE Butternut Jicama Enchiladas

Today we have the vegan version of Butternut Jicama Enchiladas. This 'ultimate' recipe would require more work if you made it all from scratch, but, hey, vegans and vegetarians are pretty likely to have cooked grains, cooked beans and a cheese substitute lying around already.

I make this recipe when I have leftovers. When using leftovers, this is a very quick meal to make. The most time consuming part is letting the dough for the tortillas rest a while, but that gives you time to assemble everything else.

So, this version assumes you have made Richard's Fake Cheese or have some reasonable substitute that will melt when baked, and which can melt into a sauce. We assume you have two cups of cooked beans already prepared. You can use canned beans, drained and rinsed, in a pinch, but home cooked beans from dried is by far your best choice. We have found that canary beans (also called peruano beans) hold up well after cooking for use in a second recipe, and have a great flavor. Another current favorite are appaloosa beans. Both of these delicious varieties are available from Purcells Mountain Farms .

And we assume that you have some cooked whole grains lying around. If not, you can cook some grains in double their volume of water for about 75 minutes on a simmer, or pop some off in about 20-30 minutes in a pressure cooker. Any grain you like, including rice, is fine. You could even use some couscous or bulgur if you are truly time-challenged since they mainly just soak in hot water.

The Ultimate Butternut Jicama Enchiladas

4 Tbs olive oil, divided use
1 c butternut squash in 1/2 inch cubes
1 c jicama in 1/2 inch cubes
1 15 oz can enchilada sauce, divided use (or make your own, recipe below)
2 c approximately, canary or appaloosa beans
1/2 - 1 c cooked kamut, barley, rye or spelt grains
1 Tbs cumin
1 tsp salt
2 c diced vegan 'cheese', divided use
1 1/2 c almond milk (plain), or plain soy milk
12 mesquite-kamut flour tortillas (or substitute a whole grain store brand)

Preheat oven to 400F.

Spray a 9x13 lasagna pan with non-stick spray. Take several tablespoons of the enchilada sauce and smear around the bottom of the pan.

Heat a 10-12 inch skillet on medium-low heat. When the pan is hot, add 2 Tbs olive oil and cover bottom of pan.

Add butternut and jicama. Brown on top and bottom, about 3 minutes per side. The cubes should be fork tender.

Add the butternut, jicama, beans and grains to a mixing bowl.

Toss with 1/4 cup enchilada sauce, salt and cumin until mixed well. Optional- add several teaspoons of your favorite hot sauce and toss to blend.

Add about 1/2 of the diced 'cheese' and toss again. Taste for seasonings and adjust as needed.

For each enchilada - take one tortilla, dip in the enchilada sauce, then hold it up to let it drain. Add 2-3 tbs of the filling mixture to the middle of the tortilla and roll up. Put in the lasagna pan, seam side down. Repeat until the pan is full.

Heat 1 1/2 c of almond milk in a small saucepan. When it is nearly boiling, remove from the heat, add the remainder of the diced 'cheese' and stir until the chunks are melted.

Drizzle the sauce over the top as evenly as possible, but trying to leave the ends of the tortillas uncovered. The uncovered ends will get nice and crispy-crunchy.

Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake for 25 minutes.

Remove the foil and bake for another 10-15 minutes until the cheese is melted and turning golden and the tortilla edges and brown and crisp.

Remove from the oven and let the enchiladas sit for a couple of minutes before serving.

Serve with your favorite salsa, or guacamole.

Quick Enchilada Sauce

1 Tbs oil
1 Tbs flour
2 Tbs ground chiles
2 c water

Heat oil in a small saucepan.

Add one tablespoon of flour. Blend with a whisk and cook for 30 seconds or so until it starts coloring.

Add 2 Tbs of ground chiles. Stir the chiles in until blended.

Slowly add 2 cups of water, whisking it in gradually so it all stays blended.

Bring to a boil and let it thicken slightly. Note: This s not meant to be a thick sauce, just not totally watery.

23 November 2008

Milk That Cashew and Let's Make Cheese

Ok, I was wrong. The next blog isn't butternut-jicama enchiladas. But that WILL be next after this one. They are worth the wait, I promise...

You can't have Mexican food, especially enchiladas, without cheese. If you aren't vegan, this is not a problem, of course, but vegan cheese is an interesting challenge.

Early in 2008, my mostly-vegetarian daughter, Tae, and I, did 'Vegan Month' where we went for 4 weeks totally vegan. This was, amazingly to both of us, incredibly easy to do. A copy of 'Veganomicon', 'Vegan with a Vengeance', and 'Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World', and you can eat very well as a vegan for a month.

The biggest problem with being a vegan for a month was the cheese. We tried a number of vegan cheeses available in our market and were less than impressed. Most had strange textures and often stuck to your teeth. And you really had to convince yourself that this was cheese. We did find some that were edible, but they were few and far between. And VERY expensive.

As capitalism would have it, sometime during this period where we came up with this grand plan, the Dish Network decided to temporarily give me some free channels as a promotion. One of those channels was Veria TV (Veria.com) and one of the shows on there was called 'Naturally Delicious' with Ann Gentry, a vegan chef.

Well, the first episode I watched was on grains. And, Ms Gentry annoyed me right off the bat by referring to either couscous or quinoa as a grain - I forget which because people do it all the time. But a famous vegan chef clearly knows that quinoa is a seed and couscous is a pasta. They might be treated as a grain and cooked like a grain, but neither IS a grain. So there.

But, Ms Gentry also made some cheese and cheese sauce out of raw cashews. This caught my eye, so I downloaded the recipe and made it, after a difficult local search for agar agar. This recipe made a 'cheese' that let you use it as a solid (sort of) and as a liquid cheese sauce. Interesting...

However, Tae wouldn't eat it. She thought is tasted bad and I found it not cheesy enough (how often do you get to say THAT?) So, I made my own version. My version uses less oil, more miso, less onion powder, less lemon juice, and almond milk instead of soy milk. To me, this is a much tastier recipe, still easy to make, doesn't stick to your teeth like the commercial ones did, and keeps for a while.

So, here we go with my version of what Ms Gentry called 'Cashew Cheddar'. Calling this cheese or 'cheddar' is a stretch, but this is a very useful recipe and I keep it around all the time. We will use this in the enchiladas, even in the non-vegan version.

Richard's Fake Cheese

Makes about 4 cups, keeps at least a week - 10 days

1 1/4 c raw cashews
1/2 c nutritional yeast
1 tsp onion powder
2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp garlic powder
3 1/2 c plain almond milk
3 Tbs agar agar powder
1/3 c canola oil
1/3 c yellow miso paste
1 Tbs bottled lemon juice

Finely grind the cashews in a food processor. This can take a while and you need to scrape the fine powder from around the edges back into the mix now and then. Add the next 4 ingredients and process to blend it together.

Put the almond milk, agar and oil in a 2 or 3 qt saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium high heat. NOTE- This WILL boil over if you don't stop at simmer instead of boiling, or if you turn your attention away for even a second. The pot KNOWS you aren't looking, and there will be bubbles all over your stove! Watch this!

Lower heat to low. Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring every minute or two to help the agar dissolve. When it is all incorporated, run the food processor and slowly pour the almond-agar mixture into the cashew mixture. Let it run for a minute or two to make sure everything is creamy smooth. Then add the lemon juice and miso, process it again for 30 seconds or so.

Take your liquid 'cheese' and dump it into a container with a tightly fitting lid. I use Glad containers, 8 cup rectangular ones so I end up with a block of 'cheese'. If you wanted a sauce, obviously, you would just use the cheese in its current liquid state.

The cheese will set up in the fridge into a solid but slightly soft block. You can use this as slices, grate it on a box grater (large holes), or you can melt it again by using a saucepan with a little almond milk and reheating a minute.

If you need firmer cheese, you can add more agar, but increase it a little each time. Too much can become noticeable.

Let me know what you think of it.

18 November 2008

Eating Your Trees

If you've ever driven through the American southwest and seen mesquite trees, you certainly wouldn't plan on eating them. The wood makes a fine smoking chip, but the pods are also edible. The pods are ground into a very fine powder, called mesquite meal or mesquite flour.

Regardless of what you call it, this is one potent ingredient! It has a taste somewhere around cinnamon and chocolate and is fairly intense, so you want to use it sparingly.

Mesquite flour supposedly has health benefits as well as a unique and interesting taste. The large amount of fiber in the product, and the fact that the sugars are fructose, means it is easier for the body to handle and has a low glycemic index. If you have a health issue, you may want to look into that further. But today, we are using this for flavor.

Try this flour tortilla recipe with a little butter, and see what the clan has to say about it. This recipe was adapted from a recipe by some Tuscon based localvores .

We will use these tortillas in our next recipe as well. And, we'll tell you where we get the ingredients after the recipe.

Mesquite & Kamut Tortillas

1 3/4 c kamut(r) flour
1/4 c mesquite flour
1 t salt (optional)
2 T canola oil
3/4 c warm water

First, mix the dry ingredients in a bowl. Add the oil and mix loosely with a wooden spoon. You may not need all of the water. Add it slowly, stirring with the spoon, until you get a nice ball that is pulling away from the sides. The dough should clean the sides. Add a little more kamut if it is too wet. Knead for a minute or two, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside for 15-30 minutes.

Heat up a flat griddle or a comal on medium low heat. We prefer a cast iron comal, which you can buy online at many Mexican grocery suppliers. A 10-12 inch cast iron skillet can also serve for this.

Divide the dough into 6 roughly equal pieces. Take a quart sized ziptop type bag and cut the side edges open and remove the zip part, leaving only the bottom fold and a folded piece of heavy plastic. Put the plastic open in your tortilla press, put one of the balls of dough in, cover with the other piece of plastic, and press out the tortilla. Take the tortilla to the hot comal and cook about 30 seconds per side. You want it to have a few brown spots but not to burn.

Serve hot with butter or wrap around some fresh roasted chiles and cheese.
Makes 6

If you don't have a tortilla press, you can certainly use a rolling pin to roll out the tortillas, but that seems too much like work. Tortilla presses are readily available online and their is no substitute for fresh tortillas. Most tortilla presses will press out a 6-7 inch tortilla. Many of us are used to much larger tortillas from the store, so expect these differences before deciding if your first efforts have succeeded or not.

Most people new to tortillas don't realize that home made tortillas are generally thicker than the ones you get at the store. So, if you need thin ones, you might roll the tortillas out a little more even after pressing. Experiment and see what your family prefers.

We got our mesquite flour from Barry Farms . You'll see this name pop up a lot in our ingredient lists, along with Purcell Mountain Farms and The Spice House. We have found them to have an interesting selection of ingredients to explore, decent prices, and are pleasant to deal with.

Kamut is a registered trademark name for a special strain of wheat. It is always whole grain and always grown organically. It has a wonderful buttery flavor. We get our Kamut flour from Purcell Mountain Farms but will discuss this terrific ingredient in more detail later with more buying options.

Our next recipe up will be butternut jicama enchiladas with heirloom beans and mesquite tortillas. They will make you see Mexican style food in a whole new way!

Drop us a line if you have any questions or comments.

16 November 2008

Welcome To Thunder Bay Cafe!

Welcome to Thunder Bay Cafe!

Not only will we give you healthy and fun ideas, we will tell you what we are eating, how to fix it, where to get the ingredients, what equipment we use and even what we are drinking with it. We'll show you how to make things you never thought you could make.

Many recipes will be vegetarian and even vegan. BUT, before you click away, try us out. My current interest is making meat free food that even a carnivore can love. You know that vegetarian cooking is healthy for you, and we make it delicious AND no one will be complaining that there is no meat in it. Yes, these recipes can be THAT good!

Our recipes are meant to be fun and help you achieve success even as you explore new ingredients, cuisines and techniques. And if you have a problem, leave a comment-question and we'll see if we can help.

We live in the Midwest US in a small town. We do not have access to well stocked mega-marts and giant whole food or organic supermarkets. But access to the internet can make most any ingredient available to you as well as to us, and we try to make full use of that. Plus, we'll even tell you where we get it. During the summer, we have local produce auctions in the Amish communities as well as a weekly farmer's market. You don't have to have a mega-mart to eat well and learn new foods and techniques.

Thanks for stopping by and we hope to see you soon for our first blogs.