Sunday, November 09, 2014

Making Truffles With Fran Costigan

So, a few weeks ago,  Fran Costigan, the FABULOUS Queen of vegan chocolate-y, dessert-y things, announced that she would be in Seattle for the prestigious Northwest Chocolate Festival
She also mentioned on Facebook that she needed an assistant or two for her Chocolate presentation at the Festival, as well as someone to help her make her super-delicious "Chocolate-Cake-To-Live-For" and the decadent Chocolate-Orange-Sesame truffles she would be demo-ing and offering tastes of. 
Cake, cookbook, truffles!
Bake with Fran Costigan? Learn more about chocolate? Help at the Northwest Chocolate Festival? Chocolate truffles? Of course I subtly jumped at the opportunity!! ("Pick me! Pick me!" Yes, I'm subtle that way!)

So Fran contacted me. Yes. ME! Imagine! She said she would be preparing her chocolates in the commercial test kitchen at the Field Roast Factory (seems she and Field Roast CEO David Lee are friends from way back...) and would I be available to help her there? Spend the day making chocolates ANND hanging around the Field Roast Factory? THEEEE Field Roast Factory? This just gets better and better. Of course I was available!

(WARNING! Many excited pictures coming up, bear with me and the weird formatting...)
So, several days later, I found myself chauffeuring Fran through Seattle and pulling up to the Field Roast Factory and riding the elevator to the second floor like we knew what we were doing! No big deal...
(Well, Fran DOES know what she's doing. Me, not so much!)
The staff at Field Roast were EVER so helpful and welcoming and friendly and fun! They showed us around and helped us unload Fran's supplies and utensils into the kitchen, . 
(Can I just say? Field Roast has a BEAUTIFUL test kitchen full of lovely shiny appliances and woodblock counters and dreamy cupboards chock-full of wonderfully mysterious and exotic ingredients.)

The entire day was surreal!

We cooked.
We baked.
We mixed.
We washed lots of dishes...

We shaped, and ganache-ed and made all sorts of Unapologetically Luscious and Decadent chocolate stuffs. 
We hung around with the AMAZING staff from Field Roast (You know, like it was no big deal...).
We sampled top-secret-not-yet-marketed goodies (upcoming blog post on THOSE very soon, stay tuned!). We shared slices of the finished cakes and truffles with everyone.
We met David's wife, and took selfies, and toured the factory and watched their ping-pong tournament and Fran autographed a copy of her cookbook for the staff.
And we were sent home with tote bags FULL of Field Rost products and tee shirts and coupons AND some of their brand-new, not-sold-in-stores items...
Best Day EVER!

Except.... the next day was really great too! 

That was when we actually packed up all the chocolates and tools and utensils again and headed to the Seattle Waterfront convention center for the Chocolate Festival.
Fran did a lovely demo on chocolate desserts (of course!) to a standing-room-only crowd while several other helpers and I tried to look helpful and knowledgeable backstage (HA!).
Afterwards we toured the festival; I had dragged my favorite person, Shaun, along for the ride to Seattle, and he was very willing to help "assist"... (besides taste-testing he WAS a huge help!) we looked, listened, learned what's trending in the chocolate world, rubbed elbows with (apparently?) very-important-chocolate-people.

We got to watch demonstrations, learn about the countries of origin and the many eco-friendly methods being used for growing and harvest.
We held cacao pods, ran our hands through bins of cocoa beans, learned about the different roasts and best of all, we SAMPLED! There were so many, many chocolates available for sale and display (most vendors had dairy-free options).
Second Best day ever!

I realize Fran keeps up this pace all the time (do you follow her on Facebook? The woman is crazy-busy every moment of every day!) but... whew! What an adventure! I was wound up, worn out, star-struck, over-chocolated, super-excited and full of more chocolate facts than I thought were possible!
And a huge, HUGE thank you to Fran for letting me come along on such a grand adventure!

With permission, I'm sharing this recipe for the Chocolate-Orange Sesame Truffles that were demo-ed at the Festival. The recipe is from Fran's lovely book "Vegan Chocolate: Unapologetically Luscious and Decadent Dairy-Free Desserts". Everyone (seriously!) needs to own this book.

Chocolate Orange 
Sesame Truffles

Fresh orange juice and finely minced orange zest are cooked with thick tahini (sesame seed paste) and a small amount of agave syrup to make the liquid for this unusual chocolate truffle with a slightly chewy texture.
While this truffle ganache is not perfectly smooth, the truffles taste very creamy, and the coating of lightly toasted black and natural-colored sesame seeds provides color and crunch. Note that raw tahini is sweeter than the roasted kind, but either can be used. Serve this chocolate confection after a Middle Eastern or Moroccan meal.

Makes 20 to 24 1-Inch Truffles 

Photo credit: Kate Lewis
4 ounces dark chocolate (70 to 72%), finely chopped
(Fran used Theo Chocolate Dark Orange and it was deeeelicious!)
Finely minced zest of half a medium organic orange
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
1/4 cup agave syrup
1 tablespoon or roasted tahini, stirred
1 1/2 tablespoons natural sesame seeds, lightly toasted

1 1/2 tablespoons black or white sesame seeds, lightly toasted

Put the chocolate into a small heatproof bowl.
Mix the orange zest and juice and agave in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat just to a boil.
Reduce the heat to low and add the tahini, whisking vigorously. The mixture will thicken immediately. Do not be concerned if it looks broken or curdled. It will smooth out as you whisk. Simmer the mixture for 30 seconds until it is shiny and smooth. Remove from the heat.
Wait about 30 seconds until the mixture is no longer steaming and pour it over the chocolate. Cover the bowl with a plate. Wait 1 minute and then stir until the chocolate is completely melted. Remember: the ganache will not be perfectly smooth.
Cool to room temperature, stirring a few times with a silicone spatula.
Spoon into a small shallow container and refrigerate uncovered for about 2 hours until the ganache is firm. The ganache can be covered and refrigerated at this point for up to 1 week.
Make The Truffle Centers
Remove the ganache from the refrigerator. Use a spoon to scoop out 1-inch pieces of ganache and another to push the ganache off the spoon into the container. When half the ganache has been used, roll the pieces into logs about 1 inch long, washing and drying your hands as needed. (If at any time the ganache becomes too soft to shape, refrigerate until cold and proceed.)
(*OR cut into small cubes with a very sharp knife like we did to make samples).
Cover and refrigerate the truffle centers for 15 to 25 minutes to set for before shaping and finishing with the sesame seed coating.
Coat The Truffles
Mix the sesame seeds in a small bowl. Sprinkle about 2 tablespoons on the bottom of a shallow container. Put a few logs at a time into the bowl of sesame seeds and roll until lightly coated. Pinch the ends to form the oval quenelle shapes (like the picture, OR press each side of the little cubes in sesame seeds, squaring up the edges as you go). Place the finished truffles in the refrigerator to set for 35 to 45 minutes.

Recipe reprinted with permission from Vegan Chocolate: Unapologetically Luscious and Decadent Dairy-Free Desserts, © 2013 by Fran Costigan, Running Press. Photo credit: Kate Lewis

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Blue-Corn Waffles (Using "The Vegg Baking Mix") and Berry Sauce

Spending several vacations in New Mexico has given me real appreciation for the traditional flavors of the region. I'll spare you a complete recap, as I've previously drooled and blogged at length about my love affair with all foods dusty, earthy and spicy - tamales, green chiles, piñon, posole.

Blue-Corn Waffle with Berry Sauce
But one of my favorite New Mexico items was blue corn. Dried and ground into cornmeal, it really doesn't taste or cook up any differently than regular corn meal, but I do love the blue-lavender tinge it gives to baked goods. I found an unopened bag of blue-corn flour deep in my cupboard this weekend, and used it in my standard cornmeal-and-pecan waffle recipe. While these didn't cook up as brown as regular waffles, (in fact the blue flecks make them look a tad on the anaemic side), they were splendidly DELICIOUS!!

Vegans eat animals for
breakfast too! (Regular
waffles, not blue-corn.)
The people who make the vegan "egg" product called The Vegg, recently sent me a sample of their new Vegg Baking Mix product to try and I used it here as well, rather than my typical flax-egg goo. I was impressed with the lightness it seemed to give the waffles and how easy it was to use in my recipe. While I hadn't really found much practical use for the original "The Vegg" product, I do think this Baking Vegg will be a nice addition to the list of "egg-substitutes" for those who make baked goods, pancakes, waffles and that sort of thing.

If blue-corn isn't your thing, I have dozens of recipes for waffles, just do a search here on my blog. They've always been a weekend standard, and in our house, and they are ALWAYS topped with fruit sauce. (Well, ha! ...almost always!)
When my kids were very little they would call my fruit sauce "gravy" (because it seems everything I make involves gravy in some form or another, they always assumed fruit sauce was "gravy" too!)

New Mexico Inspired Blue Corn Waffles

  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour (pastry flour preferred)
  • 1 Tbsp. cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup finely ground cornmeal
  • 2 tbsp. finely chopped or ground pecans, piñons or any nuts of your choice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 tsp Vegg Baking Mix with 1/4 cup of water (OR flax-egg-mixture to equal one egg)
  • 3/4 cup soy milk (may need more)
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil

Preheat waffle iron. We have one of those Belgian Waffle makers that produces extra thick waffles, (we also have one that makes farm-animal shaped waffles) but any kind works...

Mix dry ingredients into a bowl (or batter bowl with pouring spout). Add Vegg mixture, soy milk and oil and stir gently until well mixed. If batter is not a good ladling/pouring consistency, add a little water or soy milk. Pour into waffle maker, and bake until golden and crisp. Serve immediately with maple syrup or fruit sauce.
Fresh Raspberry (or ANY Berry) Sauce
  • 3 cups fresh raspberries (or other berry of choice), or 3 (10-ounce) packages frozen raspberries, thawed, make SURE to keep whatever juices are in the thawed berries.
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 4 tsp. cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup water, orange juice, pomegranite juice, red wine, whatever. (I use water or OJ for my kids)
1. Purée berries, and any berry juice in blender or food processor fitted with metal blade. Blend until berries are well crushed, but don't over blend or you'll blend the seeds into fine grit. Continue to step two if not straining out the seeds:
--- If you want seedless sauce, press purée into small bowl through mesh sieve with back of spoon to remove seeds. Yes, this is time consuming and feels a bit wasteful. But when the kids all had braces... hey...  Add water to make 2 1/2 cups. (I pour the water through the strainer to get any last bits of pulp).
2. If not straining the fruit, continue here:
Stir in sugar and lemon juice to taste. Stir until sugar dissolves. Dilute with reserved juice, if desired.
3. Mix cornstarch with 1/4 cup water, red wine or orange juice.
Heat berry puree to a boil, watching carefully and stirring as needed, once it boils, it will boil over VERY fast. As soon as it boils, add cornstarch mixture and lower heat to med-high. Whisk until it comes back to a boil, thickens, and is not cloudy - should take just a minute.
4. Remove from heat, cool a bit (if you can stand it) serve over waffles, cake, ice cream, pancakes, biscuits, shortcake, anything.
See? It's a lot like GRAVY, isn't it?

Monday, September 29, 2014

MORE "Things to do with gravy..."

Crispy Fried Tofu and Pan Gravy

This is the simplest supper I can imagine; super-quick, I always have the ingredients on hand, my family loves it, and it involves GRAVY...

Here's how you do it:
  • Thinly slice well-drained, extra firm tofu.
  • Gently toss with *seasoned cornstarch so you have it coated in a light layer.
    (*That's just cornstarch mixed with a good dose of whatever you like - we used lemon pepper, cayenne, sage and a little salt).
  • Pan fry (yes... FRY!) in a non-stick pan over medium heat (use a thin puddle of peanut or coconut oil), until crispy and lightly browned, turning as needed.
  • Keep tofu cubes/slices/triangles warm in a low oven.
  • Wipe out skillet to remove most of the excess oil and crumbs.

Make gravy:
  • Melt 2 Tbsp. margarine in the same skillet.
  • Sprinkle 2 Tbsp. flour over margarine, cook and stir over medium heat until tan-brown.
  • Turn heat OFF and gradually stir in 1 cup soymilk.
  • Season with 2 tsp Marmite or Vegemite (or you can use a brown veggie bouillon powder) 1/2 tsp. sage and 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper.
  • Stir (a wire whisk is best) until all browned flour is well incorporated.
  • Whisk in 1/2 cup water.
  • Turn heat to medium-high, and cook, stirring constantly, until the gravy thickens, about 7 minutes.
  • If it boils too hard, turn heat down a little.
  • Taste, and season with salt and pepper.

Drizzle (or better yet, POUR) gravy over tofu. Enjoy.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Magic Vegan Bacon Gravy!

As some of you may know, if you're still following along, this month is known to vegan bloggers everywhere as "Vegan MoFo" or Vegan Month of Food Blogging. Hundreds of bloggers from all over the world are posting their recipes, ideas and reviews. There are "Iron Chef" contests, Instagram photos, recaps and fun giveaways. While I'm mainly signed up to give myself the needed inspiration to blog more regularly, I DO like reading what other bloggers are cooking up. And sometimes I even enter the contests..

What, WHAT?
I was surprised and a little amused last week when I was notified that I'd actually WON one of the Vegan MoFo contests. For a product I'd only recently heard about, and wasn't terribly interested in, called... (don't laugh) "Magic Vegan Bacon Grease". Yes. Seriously.

Let me explain.
I grew up in a vegetarian home.
I've always cooked vegan or vegetarian. I don't think I've ever even SEEN someone cook bacon in real life!
The very words "Bacon" and "Grease" horrified me a little (I'm not exactly sure why, when I am perfectly happy embracing every other faux-meat product on the market). I guess I really wasn't sure what one DID with ....bacon grease? I thought the idea was to drain all that meat-fat-stuff OUT of the pan? But what do I know?

Well, according to my blogger-friend Bianca, whom I trust for all things Vegan and Southern, "Down South, people save their bacon grease. And they cook with it over and over and over." Seriously? Alrighty then...
So, what to do with this mysterious jar of VEGAN bacon grease? It occurred to me: Google what people did with the REAL stuff....
Oh. ...duh. Gravy. 
(And after reading reviews, apparently way more than gravy - the stuff IS magic! Drooling vegans everywhere are making vegan bacon popcorn, vegan bacon dressing, southern greens, home fried bacon-potatoes, etc.)
Well OF COURSE! That makes perfect sense now, and with my love of all things American-Southern, I have NO idea why this was such a foreign idea to me.

So I immediately went to work making gravy. Maybe I should have tried a more traditional cream-style bacon-y breakfast gravy to go with grits or biscuits, but it was dinner time and my family was craving mashed potatoes and "nut loaf", so that's where the bacon gravy ended up. And it was amazing!!I might never make gravy any other way again!
Made from coconut oil, soy protein, spices, hickory and maple flavors, you don't need a lot, but it adds a great flavor to gravy or whatever you decide to use it on.
As you can almost see in the picture, I also sauteed some onions and Hungarian sweet peppers in the bacony magic. Also epic, and worth repeating over and over. I admit I was a skeptic, but now I'm SUPER excited by this new addition to my vegan arsenal.

If you'd like to try this deliciousness, and if, like me, you live in a vegan wasteland where new products never manage to make it within 75 miles, let me assure you, you can order this online. That's what I'll be doing. Soon!

This is a nice, basic, brown gravy. I didn't want the bacon flavor to overpower the other parts of the meal, and it didn't, a perfect balance of with a bit of bacon-sweet-salty-smokiness, it will go GREAT with your dinner-time loaves, burgers, roasts, etc.

Magic Vegan Bacon Gravy

  • 2 Tbsp. Magic Vegan Bacon Grease
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 4 Tbsp. flour
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp strong coffee (made from instant or the dregs left in the pot are fine)
  • 1 tsp white or red wine vinegar
  • 1 cup unsweetened plant milk
  • salt, pepper, sage to taste
Melt Magic Vegan Bacon Grease in cast-iron skillet over low-medium heat. Add minced onion, increase heat to medium or medium-high.
Watch carefully and stir with whisk to keep from sticking, cook until onion starts to brown and is translucent.
Serve over everything! 
Lower heat to medium, add flour and stir for several minutes until flour-onion-oil mixture starts to turn light tan.
Add water gradually, stirring to keep things smooth. Turn heat back to medium-high and add soy sauce, coffee and vinegar. Let gravy come to a boil and turn down to barely a simmer.
Add plant milk and slowly simmer for 5 minutes until thick. Add water if needed. Season to taste with salt, pepper and a pinch of sage if desired.
Serve over anything!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Cashew Gravy

Boring picture. Yummy gravy.
Another classically cliche, vegan recipe that everyone should add to their repertoire is CASHEW GRAVY!

We vegans love our cashews and the creaminess they impart to sauces and such (unless you're like my friend Molly - she's a fabulous vegan cook, but has never made cashew-based gravy or sauce because every time she buys cashews she ends up eating them all raw before she ever gets around to cooking with them! Not that I blame her, I LOVE cashews! It's fine. When Molly wants gravy, she knows where to come for dinner.)

Molly, you really need to try this recipe though; in fact, everyone does.
It's super simple, full of creamy, vegan, earthy, cashew goodness and (IF you manage to stay out of the cashews) you probably have all the ingredients in your cupboard right now!

TIP 1.)    Don't skip this recipe if you've forgotten to soak your cashews!
Here’s a trick I learned from Isa Moskowitz: planning ahead to soak the nuts is a great idea, but how many of us are really organised enough to do that? You CAN make cashew recipes happen at the last minute. If you’re okay with the radiation (I am), put the nuts in a glass dish, covered with water and microwave for three minutes, then drain -  and you've saved yourself hours of prep time!
Gravy in pan. Boring.

TIP 2.)   The best thing about this gravy? I LOVE using it to replace those gloppy, not-vegan, canned "Cream-of-Whatever" soups in all your favorite 1960's-era casserole recipes. The texture is perfect!

Creamy Cashew Gravy

  • 1 1/2 cups very hot water  (super-hot tap water, but not boiling, it'll help cashews blend smoother)
  • 1 1/2 cups UNsweetened plant milk (I like rice milk here, the gravy is plenty creamy with the cashews)
  • 1/3 cup raw cashews (soaked 1/2 hour OR overnight if you remembered, or see tip above)
  • 1/4 cup rolled oats (quick or slow cooking but NOT the "steel-cut" ones)
  • 3 Tbsp tamari or soy sauce or 1 Tbsp. Marmite/Vegemite
  • 1 Tbsp nutritional yeast 
  • 1 1/2 tsp. onion powder 
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 pinch powdered sage 
  • 1/8 tsp. salt or to taste
NOT boring!
My fabulous friend,
 Molly, who WILL
eventually stop eating
 all the cashews ahead
 of time, and attempt
cashew gravy! HAHA!
1. Put all the ingredients EXCEPT plant milk, in your blender or food processor. Blend until smooth (add a few more Tablespoons water if it's too thick to blend) - this could take several minutes depending on your blender. I have a cheap food processor, (NOT some fancy Vita-Bullet-Super-Power-Blend-It-All). It takes me about four minutes of blending, but the end results are still smooth and creamy. Pour mixture into a pan or medium cast-iron skillet.

2. Put the plant milk in the blender/processor. Blend again to make sure you got all the cashew mixture. Add this to the pan.

3. Warm over medium-low heat, simmering gently and whisking often (but not constantly as you do with other gravies).
Cook for about 5 - 7 minutes until it gets thick.
If it gets too thick, add a little water or plant milk. (I usually have to add another 1/2 cup water or so.)
Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Vegan Meatballs and Mushroom Gravy

We all need ANOTHER recipe for vegan meatballs, right?
So cliche, I know.
And yet, they're the PERFECT vehicle for gravy, any type of gravy or sauce really, so I had to include them in this months' list of posts.

This is my go-to meatless meatball recipe because it doesn't have a long list of ingredients - plus you get a MUSHROOM GRAVY recipe as bonus!

If you have another meatball recipe you prefer, then use that one, but by all means, try meatballs smothered in GRAVY! (Or BBQ sauce, or sweet-and-sour sauce, or glaze, or alfredo sauce or gravy, or gravy or...).

Non-Meatballs with Mushroom Gravy

1 cup firm tofu, mashed very fine (not the silken variety found in vacuum-packed cartons)
½ cup wheat germ
¼ cup parsley, chopped
2 Tbsp. plant milk
2 Tbsp. nutritional yeast
½ Tbsp. onion powder
½ tbsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. salt
¼ tsp. black pepper
¼ tsp. each - oregano, garlic powder and sage
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
gluten flour (optional only if needed)

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Mix all ingredients together in a medium bowl.
Let mixture set for about 15 minutes for flavors to blend. Adjust texture if needed. (If ingredients are too wet or dry and don't stick together, add some gluten flour or more plant milk as needed.)
Roll into walnut-size balls or slightly smaller.
Place on a greased cookie sheet. Spray oil over the top of the balls for a more crispy texture. Bake for 30 minutes until browned. Serve warm.


2 Tbsp margarine
1/3 cup sliced mushrooms
3 cloves garlic, crushed
¼ cup onions, chopped
2/3 cup flour
½ tsp. ground sage
2 Tbsp. nutritional yeast
4 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 ½ cups water
¼ cup dry red wine
salt and pepper to taste

Melt margarine in a medium saucepan and sauté mushrooms, onions and garlic. When onions are tender and translucent, and mushrooms have released liquid.
Stir in the flour, nutritional yeast and sage to form a paste. Slowly add water, soy sauce and wine, stirring constantly. Let simmer for 5 minutes, stirring so it doesn't stick - if too thick add water.
Pour over "meatballs" and heat in a casserole dish and serve.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Miso-Mushroom Gravy

So, it's time for another actual GRAVY recipe.
Today's recipe, a beautiful, brown Miso-Mushroom Gravy, happens to be one of my favorite gravy recipes (because it has miso and mushrooms in it, duh) and one of my favorite gravies to go over brown rice. (ALL gravy is my favorite for something, in case you haven't figured that out by now...).

Not sure when I decided that this particular gravy and rice combo was the way it "should" be, but ... well... it just is.
I've made this as a fast, easy supper for years ("easy" with the help of a rice-cooker) and even if ONE of my un-named children might pick the mushrooms out, it's still a family favorite - comfort food with a slightly "Asian" twist.
Sometimes I get all crazy and add fried tofu cubes and/or stir-fried veggies and turn it into an Asian-stir-fry-gravy mess. That's amazingly delicious too!!

Note: They say that boiling miso destroys the beneficial properties, so I always add it at the end. If you've never used miso before, this is a great way to get acquainted with it's salty, nutty, umami flavor.

Mushroom and Miso Gravy

  • 1 tsp. any regular oil
  • 1 tsp. dark sesame oil
  • 2 cups thinly sliced small mushrooms (I like shiitake or morels here if I can get them, but regular button mushrooms work well too)
  • 1 cup vegetable broth, (I actually use a "beef" style vegan broth here, I like the stronger taste and rich brown color in this gravy, you can just use regular vegetable broth or dilute half with water if you prefer it milder and less salty)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, finely grated
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 Tablespoons white miso (or any variety) mixed with 1/4 cup warm water
  • fresh ground pepper

Saute mushrooms in oil in cast iron skillet until juices come out and mushrooms start to brown.
Add broth, water and ginger. Bring to rapid simmer, then cover and simmer gently for 5 to 7 minutes.
In a small container, combine cornstarch with just enough water to dissolve. Whisk it into the pan, bring to a boil, and cook just until the gravy thickens.
Remove from heat.
Combine miso with 1/4 cup warm water in a small bowl and whisk until smooth. Stir miso into the gravy.
Season with pepper to taste.