Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Strawberry Tartlets

I'm not one to step away from a challenge, & these tartlets are an example of that.

My zucchini bread was omitted from the SOS challenge because of the non-vegan ingredients & my first baking attempt with the newly purchased stevia turned out to be a bit of a disaster. So, rather than be dismayed, I decided that I would have a go at making vegan-friendly tartlets. I'd been thinking of making a pie base, as I want to make a lemon meringue pie soon. But that recipe calls for a lot of eggs & butter, not exactly vegan friendly. So, I thought I'd try my hand at making a pie crust that would be admissible for the competition, & try my hand at something that contained no animals ingredients.

I'm happy with the outcome; not too sweet, relying more on the natural sweetness of the fruit, & the pastry coming up a little bit crumbly, but oh so yummy. I used a muffin tin to create the tartlet shapes. These are a good snack-size portion, loaded with healthy fats & protein. I didn't add any stevia or sweetener of any kind to the strawberries. I find that stewing them brings out the natural sweetness in the fruit.

These would be great with some soy cream or nut creams that I've seen a few food blogs indulge in. I hope you enjoy!

I've submitted this to this month's SOS challenge & Slightly Indulgent Tuesday

Strawberry Tartlets (vegan-friendly, sugar-free, gluten-free, wheat-free)
100g (2dl) coconut flour
1/4 cup shredded coconut
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
2 tablespoons ground hazelnuts
1g powdered white stevia
2 teaspoons psyllium husk
60mls water
30mls soy milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
pinch salt
pinch nutmeg

2 cups strawberries, chopped

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees
2. Melt the coconut oil in a saucepan. In a bowl, sift flour, shredded coconut, ground hazelnuts, psyllium husk, salt, stevia & nutmeg, & stir together with a spoon.
3. Using a beater, mix in the melted coconut oil, soy milk, water & vanilla until mixed well.
4. Grease muffin tin with some coconut oil, & pat the dough into the shapes. Bake for 20 mins.
5. While this is baking, place the chopped strawberries into a saucepan with a splash of water, & simmer on medium heat until most of the liquid has evaporated. Remove from heat & cool.
6. When the tartlet bases are ready, remove from the oven & allow to cool before adding the filling. Place in fridge to set.

Yields 8-10 tartlets

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Sexy Sauces

This week I got saucey.

Tomato saucey (or ketchup, as those Swedes are prone to call it). & bearnaise saucey. & lemon curdy. Ok, so it's not a 'sauce', but you get the point.

On Friday night I decided that I wanted to graze. No set meal, size or whatever. I wanted to pick & snack & just vary it a bit from the usual meal. Sit in front of the TV & lounge out. It is the beginning of the weekend, afterall. The best time to start to relax.

Ketchup & bearnaise lookin' all sexy in leopard

So while our smorgasbord was just a simple arrangement of some vegetables & sauteed chicken, I wanted to get creative with the dipping options. I'd made the ketchup & bearnaise before, following instructions for both. This time though, I thought I'd be a little more intuitive with them, & bang, I nailed it.

I also had excess egg yolks on hand from all the home-made marshmallow I'd been making recently (a very very simple recipe & method that I'll share in another post). I wanted to put these to some good use, so I decided to embrace sauces of both savory & sweet.

The bearnaise can be a little bit of work, but the end result is simply worth it. Smooth & creamy with a nice tang, the boy even prefers it over the pre-made options available in the supermarket. I feel like I've really nailed the slightly sweet flavour of ketchup, but much prefer this to anything that comes in a bottle.

Lemon curd was something that I had been intending to make for a while but hadn't gotten around to it. It always reminds me of my grandmother (or mormor, in Swedish). She always had some on hand in her fridge, & it got me thinking of her while I was making it. I love the hit of lemon swirled in with the sweetness of sugar (or in this case, artificial sweetener). & after I made it, I realised just how Candida friendly & beneficial it is. Lemons, butter & eggs all in one!

1 can chopped tomatoes (400g)
1/4 large yellow onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
½ teaspoon oregano
salt & pepper, to your desired taste
10-20 drops liquid sweetener
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1. Add all ingredients to a saucepan on medium heat.
2. Cover & simmer till excess liquid has evaporated. Stir occasionally.
3. When cooked, put to the side & allow to cool slightly. Transfer to a blender, & process until smooth.
4. Transfer to a bowl & serve!

125g butter, melted
2 egg yolks
1/2 large yellow onion, chopped finely
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons tarragon
pinch of pepper

1. Melt butter in a saucepan. In another, using a double-boiler method, add the onion, lemon juice, 1 tablespoon of water & 2 tablespoons of vinegar. On low heat, cook till half the liquid has evaporated, then add the remaining water & vinegar. Cook for another 5 minutes.
2. Remove from heat & add the egg yolks, stirring. Add the butter slowly.
3. Place back on heat & add the tarragon. Cook for another 5 minutes.
4. Transfer to a bowl. Once cooled, serve!

Lemon Curd
2 egg yolks
30g butter
60mls lemon juice
6mls liquid sweetener (60g sugar)
pinch of lemon zest

1. Cream butter & sweetener
2. Add remaining ingredients & blend together. (It will probably look like it's curdling, but this is a good thing!)
3. Transfer to a saucepan & cook for 5 minutes on medium heat.
4. Transfer to a bowl, allow to cool & serve

I plan to make a lemon meringue pie, now that I can make the lemon curd & marshmallow. I've just got to play around with some pie crust ideas I have, incorporating coconut flour, shredded coconut & hazelnut meal. Oh, I'm looking forward to that!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Blunders in the Kitchen

'You can't bake without breaking some eggs' is what H said to console me in my failed baking attempt this evening. It was one of those nights when a balance of things occurs; where one experiment succeeds & another one fails.

Earlier I'd decided that I was going to have a break from cooking today. I live with my boyfriend who works full time, & since I'm currently unemployed, I taken on the household duties as a way to even our work load. I make him lunch each day & cook us dinner, & also tackle the other chores around the house. Very much the traditional gender roles. Not something I plan to do long term, but it's fun to play it out for a while. Today I thought I would give myself a break; there's plenty of food in the fridge that's easy to gather when the hunger hits, so not having anything to eat wasn't a problem. After I got home from drum practice though, I felt the desire hit. Not so much to eat, but to create. So I decided to have another go at zucchini bread that I could this time consume.

My first & last batch contained flax seeds, an ingredient I recently tried to reintroduce into my diet, but discovered I still can't consume it. My stomach just really can't take flax. It continues to induce a massive cramping response in my stomach, & last time I baked this bread, I was on the couch in pain for hours.

So I made a new loaf, sans flax. All was going well at this point. The batter tasted fine, I'd made notes of the ingredients as I went along. It was looking pretty after I sprinkled some pumpkin seeds on top. As I placed the loaf into the oven, I considered remaking the Scandinavian thumbprint cookies for this month's SOS challenge, hosted by Ricki & Kim (the challenge ingredient being coconut oil, which I use in all my cooking, so I'm eager to put a recipe forward for the event). Even though my zucchini loaf contains coconut oil, the original recipe isn't vegan friendly (however it can be easily made so, & I've added these alterations to the recipe below), so I decided that while that was baking I would go on to my cookies. & this is where it all fell downhill.

Zucchini loaf looking pretty & ready for the oven

I had finally purchased some stevia the other day. It's white stevia, & I've never used it before. In Australia I could only find green stevia; this white stevia is 200-300 stronger than sugar, whereas green is 40-50 times stronger. So I placed 3 grams of it into my 130 gram flour mix thinking it would be enough. No, it was too much. Way too much. The taste of the stevia overwhelmed. Not wanting to waste any of my mix, I added more flour, more oil, more coconut milk. Just making a larger batch. I threw out my idea of making thumbprint cookies & just added some strawberries to the mix to give the batter more moisture & to absorb more of the flavour. This worked. I rolled the mix out & cut it up using some cookie cutters, then placed it into the oven after taking the loaf out.

I decided to turn the tray around after about 10 minutes of baking, so everything would bake evenly. I drew out the tray, & one cookie fell through the lower gap of the door. I placed the tray on the open door & grabbed some tongs, trying to retrieve the lost cookie. In a moment of thoughtlessness, I grabbed the door to close it, hoping the cookie would fall through. Forgetting I'd placed the tray of cookies on it. All but 5 fell through the gap, & down into the dirty shelf below. Oh man.

I placed the remaining cookies back into the oven, scalding myself for such a silly move, & gathered the lost cookies. What a waste. I hate waste. Hate it. It's something my mother instilled in me as a child. If you won't eat it now, save it for later. We always had leftovers in the fridge. 'Waste not, want not'. So I was a little disappointed when I had to throw away most of my batch.

To top it off, I've been experiencing die-off effects from all the coconut oil that I used in the cookie mix. As I am want to do while baking, I sample the batter as I go along to make sure that it all tastes right. In an attempt to keep them vegan, I only used coconut oil, no butter. Instead of milk, I used coconut milk. So there was a lot of coconut fat in the batter, which basically means a lot of coconut oil. Too much coconut oil. Coconut oil is used in healing Candida, as it's antibacterial & high in saturated fat, which has been proven to kill Candida overgrowth. But too much of a good thing is a bad thing. My gut isn't happy right now. But at least a lot of bacteria is getting killed off :P

So there you have it. Where one fails, one also succeeds. My bread came out great. H was happy with it. He was even satisfied with one of my failed cookies, saying that the stevia taste wasn't overpowering & it reminded him of licorice root, & that it tastes better than the liquid sweetener I've been using. So that's something. My first attempt with white stevia may not have come out as planned, but it's definitely been a lesson learned. Here's to a more successful attempt later.

But, enough wallowing. Here's my success of the evening: my version of zucchini bread. The taste came out great, it really reminded me of bread. The taste is simple, & therefore open to have any kind of topping added to it. It's moist & thick, & high in protein with good fats (yes, saturated fat is a good fat, despite what we may have been told over the years. A lot of research being conducted is finding its health benefits are much greater than the vegetable oils we've taken to consume, & is debunking former opinions of the detriments of saturated fat). I wanted to create something different from other people's versions of zucchini bread. I can't have dried fruit, & most nuts are out for me, & sometimes it's nice to have a simple bread. I've added some vegan alterations to the recipe, so everyone can give it a go. & I've decided that this will be my submission to this month's SOS challenge!

I hope you enjoy it as much as we are!

Zucchini Bread
1dl + 1 tablespoon (115g) coconut flour, sifted
1 tablespoon (15g) psyllium husk
1 tablespoon (15g) ground hazelnuts
1/4 large zucchini, grated
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 mls liquid sweetener/ 20g sugar / ½ml white stevia
25g butter, melted
15g coconut oil, melted
2 eggs
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
45 mls water
1/4 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon bicarb soda
pinch of salt
pinch of nutmeg
pumpkin seeds

(For a vegan alternative, remove the eggs & double the amount of psyllium husk & liquids; replace milk with soy or coconut milk; replace butter with coconut oil)

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celcius.
2. Sift coconut flour. Add psyllium husk, ground hazelnuts, cinnamon, bicarb, salt & nutmeg to the same bowl & mix well together.
3. Whisk eggs in a seperate bowl. Add the liquid sweetener (if using stevia, add to the dry mix), vinegar, milk & water & stir together.
4. Add the melted butter & coconut oil to the flour mixture & stir through. Add the rest of the wet ingredients & the grated zucchini, & mix well together. The batter should be sticky but it should hold together well.
5. Line bread tin with baking paper & place the batter in the tin. Top batter with the pumpkin seeds.
6. Bake at 180 degrees for 40-45 minutes.