Original Elisen Gingerbread

GingerDSC_8483Northern Europe, knows a large variety of gingerbreads, they originate from the honey breads and pepper cakes, also called Lebkuchen in German. You can choose from the Nordic pepper cake style such as the Swedish ‘Peparkaka’ or the Hamburger Braune Kuchen. A simpler dough is used for Gingerbread houses (Pfefferkuchenhaus). Then there are Pfeffernüsse, the chewy round sugar glazed balls. Around Aachen you can find Printen, bare or chocolate glazed ‘logs’ of rock sugar studded very hard gingerbread. A very old variety is the diamond shaped spicy Magenbrot. Simple Supermarket ‘Lebkuchen’ are chewy floury dough stars and pretzels, also jam filled hearts, and ‘Domino cubes’ covered with dark chocolate. And then there are Elisen Lebkuchen. Continue reading

Middle Eastern feel

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Summer is almost here. As I signed up for long evening classes this year, I need to come up with practical food ideas for recess so that I don’t resort to buying next door junk. Here is a good idea for a cold salad with Middle Eastern feel. Garbanzo beans, carrots, tahini and cilantro fit well together and make a great curry salad. Soak and cook some more garbanzos to make hummus afterwards. Salad recipe here…

Tuscan soups

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Warming cold winter nights. Although the expected super snowstorm passed us by and went to Massachusetts, we got a lot of snow in the following days. So much that we don’t know where to put it anymore. The cold temperatures don’t let any of the accumulated snow melt. Warming up with a hot soup when the snow falls is the best way to prepare for shoveling duty. I found this soup recipe on Epicurious.com and veganized it. A wonderful whole soup in the cold weather. Here’s my recipe.

Light blender fare

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I am now a proud participant of the ‘Soup challenge’, challenging my soup repertoire. Pan-raw fare while preparing for a blizzard on the East Coast? I don’t know. In this weather when I am reluctant eating salad and prefer comfy food such as split pea soup. After bean and split pea soup, I’m opting for the recommended Borscht. Other suggestions have ingredients that are hard to get here in winter. Still this one also asks for fresh dill… got frozen one instead. I cooked all the beets added some potato for substance, then sautéed onions, carrot and parsnip and add to the blender with broth, almond milk and spices. It works although the sorbet-like result looks more like a light summer refreshment, I preferred it re-heated. It is also harder than I thought to sell ‘pink sorbet for dinner’ to a ‘real man equipped with real teeth’… see recipe

Happy New Year

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You will never go hungry  if you know how to make Gnocchi on the 29th in Argentina, (the day before pay-day,) or if you can make Eastern European Pirogi.
Flour, oil, salt, potatoes – both pasta dishes are easy to make and tasty soul food for a limited budget. With memories of foods in Poland, I made Pirogi, as it felt time consuming. Until I came across a copy of Terry H. Romero’s ‘Vegan eats world’. Very recommendable book indeed. The two recipes I tried were both working well and are both keepers. Following my version of pirogi and especially the awkward shaping process from an Indian Roti recipe if you have strong arms and countertop space a rolling pin may be more time saving… Get recipe here

What’s up with Spoonsense

As you may have noticed, Spoonsense has been lying low. Our kitchen renovation has been taking longer than anticipated. Only two hot plates in the living room for cooking and water only from the bathroom, there is plenty of reason to avoid cooking. With the slim veg’n choices of local Westchester restaurants, I cannot wait to get back to cooking.

Meanwhile I am reading another book on low inflammatory food. ‘Stop Pain’ by Vijay Vad, MD. Recommendations for inflammation lowering foods and supplements are listed here: List on recommended foods…

Taboulistic

TabouDSC_6320RAW cuisine is so immensely creative. Replacing cooked grains or pasta for similar tasting ingredients solves the common sogginess of traditional Tabbouleh (Tabouli) Salad. No matter what I used to do, my grain tabbouleh was sweating. This new recipe has an unusual twist, can be made as RAW recipe and tastes great. Instead of cracked wheat or couscous pasta, it uses chopped cauliflower… See recipe. 

Sugar making means Spring!

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Spring is around the corner when sugar making starts. Maple syrup has gained importance as vegan sugar alternative. In early March, when snow is still on the ground, the sweet tree sap starts to flow, pushing the nourishing winter starch up before the tree chemistry changes, a perfect time for tapping and sugar making. Ups and downs around the freezing point determine the length of the sugaring season. NY State has a relatively short season to tap, Continue reading

Raw sweets

TrufDSC_6198.1RAW foodies have a sweet tooth. When looking at some recipe books recently, I noticed salads, appetizers, dips & sauces and snacks, and then… come the desserts. I flipped back, did I miss the entrees? Don’t expect to find a real heavy traditional main dish in RAW recipes, entrees will look like beautiful appetizers and they are likely very filling.
Here are some little truffles, RAW (or quick vegan). They are  less chocolatey, think of the answer to commercial marzipan potatoes and tadaa…the most indulgent way to eat a carrot…
If you care to make this recipe truly live, you will look for unpasteurized RAW almonds, as all domestic (U.S.) almonds require pasteurization and are likely blanched as well. You may find imports from Spain, which need lots of soaking and may have a higher content of bitter almonds in the batch, but they should even be able to sprout. See recipe

Treats from seeds

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Seed bars work for many occasions. Relatively quick to make, they can replace trail mix, pastries and cookies. After eating too much chocolate, it was time for me to  go a step healthier. Raw seedbars often contain chocolate powder or raw chocolate nibs, which have no sugar or dairy added and are not heat processed.
Depending what you have at home, you can make this recipe truly raw, or nut free, you can also replace some ingredients that are heat processed for a vegan treat. The bars will harden in the freezer, and can be stored in the refrigerator, you may also add some time in the food dryer to remove moisture.
Despite the large amount of ingredients, the amount of servings is relatively small, reminding me again how nutrient dense this food is. See recipe

Green shreds

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Winter time brings sturdy greens, when fresh salad is harder to get and baby greens are traded for a pretty penny. To get more variety, you can use kale or cabbage as a salad. Curly kale, chards or dinosaur kale is is quite hard to digest when raw, so it either needs to be cooked, or prepared in a way that helps digestion. 
Finely slicing raw kale (called chiffonade) helps with digestion and definitely are a great way to train skills with a large knife. The shreds then are massaged with vinaigrette, which makes them very tasty and soft and which reduces the volume of the shreds. I find this recipe more tasty and than steamed kale, likely even better when it is getting warmer. See recipe

You made truffles from what?

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Valentines’ is chocolate season, with sinful sweets and chocolate gifts for loved ones. All the reason to experiment with your own truffles, before the chocolate craze starts.
As in the earlier mayonnaise post, the emulsifier does not need to be from eggs or cream, the blend does not need to contain loads of dairy or fats.

The filling is instead made from a blend of pecans with sweet potato mash(!), they surprisingly taste very much like traditional hand made truffles which makes me wonder, what companies can blend into chocolates these days… DIY and you can influence ingredients; which sweetener or chocolate you use to make it vegan and/or healthier. See recipe

Reconstructed Mayonnaise, vegan and raw

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Mayonnaise is technically an emulsion, a blend of oil, an emulsifier, a sour element, sweeteners and spices. Traditional emulsifiers are eggs, agents, that enable and stabilize the blend of oil with watery substances. You can use other emulsifiers, likely something that has a certain oil content, are soy or nut milk, or as I have heard even cauliflower…
First we were looking for alternative store brands. There was Nayonnaise, then we found Vegenaise more convincing. Alternative brands are often made with soy or canola oil, and it is not clear if these ingredients are derived from GMO plants, I highly recommend checking labels. The Vegenaise Grape seed oil version is also Non GMO verified. Taste and consistency was right, although very salty and we bought it in large containers as a base for potato salads and remoulade dips. 
After I met the very nice Cherie Soria and Dan Ladermann at a recent health conference in New York, I started reading their book ‘Raw Food for Dummies’. They use a very simple raw mayonnaise base which I can recommend; it is close  to the creamy dressing recipe which I posted some time ago. The blend is softer at room temperature and will get the right consistency in the fridge. My recipe is a bit different, mostly because I never have the right ingredients in the house. It also tastes great as a sauce over shredded kale. See recipe

Nutty schmear

SchmearDSC_5858What will go on my bread? If you don’t do cheese, cold cuts or liverwurst, you may wonder what will go on your bread. While you can make your own cream cheese or paté, even ajvar in summer, I recommend to experiment  with a wide selection of nut and seed butters.
Europeans grew up with chocolate noisette creams, such as Nutella and Americans have their Peanut butter. Real peanut butter, technically not a nut butter, but a bean butter, is avoided by some because of high aflatoxin and allergy risk. Stores readily sell alternative butters from ‘real’ nuts and seeds, some are even made from peas.

With a food processor, you can make some fresh butters yourself with ingredients of choice, which may also qualify as RAW food.
Doing it yourself  also brings you awareness of how highly concentrated food a butter is. See 1/2 cup of tree nuts turn into concentrated spoonfuls of delightful butters that will be gone quickly. For example hemp butter, which also adds healthy Omega3’s. See recipe

Is my food safe from arsenic?

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Consumer Reports (CR) wants FDA to limit arsenic in food. Especially rice, apple products and beer have been tested for contamination in the last two years. Inorganic arsenic, the predominant form of arsenic in food, is ranked as Group 1 carcinogen. While there is no FDA standard for arsenic levels in our food, there are regulations on arsenic in water, max 10ppb per liter (NJ standard 5ppb). High levels of arsenic in public water are known to be linked to genetic damage, bladder, lung, and skin cancer in humans, among other suspected diseases, as seen in Chile and Argentina. Continue reading

Too easy to not DIY…

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Chia pudding is the new hype After blogs and cookbooks praised chia as the new superfood, the packaged food industry wanted a share. You may remember chia’s early fame in ‘hair growing’ chia pets and recently as Chia fresca, now the seed’s pudding is offered next to the alternative yogurts in supermarket fridge, and I believe I saw a whooping price of 3$ per portion for a small cup of the submerged seeds. While I understand, yogurt making takes some time and expertise, I wonder what makes Chia pudding so special…
The answer is ‘nothing’, it does not take more than 3 spoonfuls of chia seeds per any liquid cup of choice, even without a blender. Stir, cool and wait… really no reason to buy a plastic jar with stale ingredients, and worth only a couple of pennies… See my recipe for Horchata chia pudding

Mexican milk alternative

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Mexican restaurants and food trucks sell horchata; Asking about this variety of ‘agua fresca’, we learned about the variety of ‘rice milk.’
Horchata originated in Spanish speaking countries, and Latin America has several different traditions for horchata.
The refreshing milky drink is usually ice cooled, tastes of cinnamon and has a tan color unless you use white rice and white sugar. The satisfying milk alternative can easily replace a meal. If you do it yourself, you can influence details such as what sweetener is used, use brown rice and raw nuts. Use more almonds than rice, to achieve a richer, less chalky taste.
While the original recipe includes soaking the ingredients overnight, you can also make a quick horchata in an instant, blended and strained in modern kitchen equipment. Horchata recipe and horchata chia pudding

Malaga-torn-knee

MullagaDSC_5686.1The ‘Last Soup of the Year,’ Miss Sophie’s favorite Mulligatawny soup in ‘Dinner for One’, is known in Germany at least since the annual airing of the British play at New Year’s Night. The Anglicized Tamil-Indian soup’s name, that is spoken with a stiff lip, simply means ‘pepper water’.
There are many ways to make this soup, which always has a curry taste and a yellowy turmeric tint. Following is my vegan interpretation. Despite the Indian leaning, the soup is perfect for our Northern cold season. See recipe.

Cowboy cookoffs…

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If you don’t care how your food looks–Chili is for you!
I find it impossible to make chili look good in a picture, it has this ‘canned dog food’ appeal. But the  soul food is popular for games, tailgating, and is perfect for cold weather. Just the amount of spice should prevent several colds.
As one of our local fire departments is participating in a cook-off for the hot Tex-Mex American Cowboy dish, my own memory of tailgating with bean chillis was rather painful, so I kept avoiding them. Today, I am convinced that the beans were not soaked long enough, not cooked right, or maybe contained too much grease in combination with spices. The official Texas State dish, by the way, does not contain beans, even though chili beans are likely named after it… 

Yesterday, I found out that there are safer, fart-free chilis, very easy, pressure cooker fast that will not give you the blows for days to come, tastes are surprisingly real as a vegan version. Sorry Texas, no cows compromised for this one. Also environmentally friendly, it uses dry beans and fresh pumpkin mash, which saves at least 3-5 cans; You can make up that extra prep-time easily in using a pressure cooker. See recipe

Variation of a Theme

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Black beans are such a Soul Food. As mushrooms have Umami flavor, black beans, I am sure have something similar. While red bean Chili is an American favorite… ( just read our local fire department’s participates in a chili contest,) there are some like me, who are just not able to survive the day after Red Bean Chili (maybe the beans were not soaked?) however, I have never met anyone who can pass up a velvety Black Bean soup.
My earlier recipe contained butternut squash, this one here is even easier, it is based on tomatoes. I always recommend to go as fresh as possible with ingredients, use fresh tomatoes instead of canned, which in winter may be a challenge. This soup is more succulent less sweet and more spicy than the other recipe and it comes close to Dobbs Ferry’s Tomatillo restaurant soup. See here for recipe.