soy milk

Steven’s co-worker owns a rental property in the Central Valley. The small apartment building sits on a big chunk of land which her husband planted with fruit trees. A few months ago she gave us bags and bags of citrus. Now that we’re nearly in summer, we’ve entered the stone fruit season. Thus far, she’s given us some cherries, plums, apricots. I don’t even know if cherries qualify as stone fruit. Are they berries? Anyway over the past week we got two bags of sour plums from her garden. The first batch I devoured in no time after dinner. Yum! The second one Steven wanted me to bake into something. So, ta-da: sour plum upside-down cake.

sour plum upside-down cake

sour plum upside-down cake

Sour plums tend to be a little sweet in the middle but sour near the skin and close to the pit. I love taking a bite of a plum and tasting all these flavors. Well with this cake, despite the sugar caramel coating the bottom of the pan, the sour flavor came out in FULL! We loved it: perfect with some tea or a cuppa coffee. We ate this entire cake in a couple of days for breakfast.

sour plum upside-down cake

~2 lbs sour plums, skin on, pitted
2 cups sugar
2 cups flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp sea salt
2 eggs
1 cup soy or almond milk
½ cup canola oil
2 tbsp butter
Cast iron pan (12 inches diameter, 2 inches deep)

Pre-heat oven to 350F.

Add one cup of sugar along with one tablespoon of water to cast iron pan over medium heat on your stovetop. Cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until sugar melts and acquires a nice caramel color. If some sugar sticks to the wooden spoon scrape it off and let it melt until all lumps are gone. Spread the caramel all over the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat to cool down if caramel starts to burn. You just want a caramel color, not a smoking ruin. Cooking to long will make the flavor bitter. Remove pan from heat and set aside.

In a bowl, put remainder of the sugar, then eggs, salt and vanilla. Whisk it to combine. Add oil, soy milk, flour and whisk it again to combine. Lastly incorporate baking powder into the batter.

At this point, although still warm your caramel may be hardened and stuck to the bottom of the cast iron pan. Worry not! Spread the butter until all melted over caramel and sides of the pan. Add sour plum, along with juices if any and spread the fruit evenly over the bottom of the pan. Gently top with the batter. Bake about 35 minutes. Check for doneness via inserting a tooth pick in the center. If it comes out clean then baking is done, if not then you know what you have to do.

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I know I should have bought a smaller container of Greek yogurt in the first place…

We don’t normally eat yogurt by itself. In fact, we usually only have it at home when a recipe calls for it. Like Ottolenghi’s Greek yogurt baba ghanoush. But that scrumptious dish only required two tablespoons. What to do with the rest??

Blueberry Greek yogurt pancakes, of course!

blueberry Greek yogurt pancakes

blueberry Greek yogurt pancakes

The day before I made these pancakes NPR’s Morning Edition aired a special report on Smitten Kitchen during our morning breakfast ritual. Not about pancakes, the story spoke about how that now famous blogger turns out beautiful dishes in her tiny Manhattan kitchen (That sounds so familiar! Do you think that she got the idea from Julie Powell? Just a thought…)

Obviously, Deb Perelman was also promoting her new cookbook over the radio. Congratulations, Deb! She prepared latkes for Lynn Neary during the story—so not pancakes exactly but bear with me here. The following day I googled blueberry yogurt pancakes and one of Deb’s entries came up first.

So influenced by the morning news and Google’s high ranking, I decided to give the recipe a try. I didn’t have all the ingredients that she calls for. Here’s my adapted version of Smitten Kitchen’s dish.

blueberry Greek yogurt pancakes

1 large egg plus one egg white
1 cup plain, full-fat yogurt
2 to 4 tablespoons soy milk
3 tablespoons canola oil
½ teaspoon lemon zest
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1½ cup (62 grams) whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 cup frozen blueberries, thawed
Some butter to grease the skillet

Sift together sugar, salt, flour, baking powder and set aside. In a separate bowl add egg, egg white, soy milk, lemon zest, vanilla extract. Whisk to combine then whisk in yogurt. Combine wet and dry ingredients. Add a bit more soy milk if batter seems too thick.

Place two non-stick skillets on stovetop over medium. Melt a bit of butter in each pan. Add one small ladle full of batter to each pan and cook for about 3-4 minutes on one side, sprinkle some blueberries on top, flip and cook for about 3 minutes more on other side. Continue in that way until batter used up.

Serve with butter, maple syrup and a good cup of freshly brewed black coffee.

{ 3 comments }

Who says pies have to be round?

squaring the circle  with vegan pumpkin pie

squaring the circle with vegan pumpkin pie

I was trying to make a pumpkin pie for a dinner party at Stevie’ and Hegui’s and discovered that I don’t actually own a round pie dish. So I used of a square pan instead! I knew it might look kind of odd but a pie is made in a pan so I reasoned it would be okay. And since this one is vegan, it seems perfectly natural to present it in a distinctive way. Suddenly necessity becomes meaningful and “just right,” which is so often the case with cooking, don’t you think?

Now you’re probably thinking, why in the world are you making pumpkin pie in May? Well, I bought some extra cans of pumpkin during the holiday season so I could enjoy pie out of “pie season.” Stores stop selling canned pumpkin this time of year, which can totally crimp your style.

The pie is unbelievably festive too with the addition of this vegan Cool Whip type stuff from Trader Joes. So, cheers to a non conventional themed square shaped pie not in pumpkin pie season!

My vegan crust is based on this recipe.

square pumpkin pie all around

1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons cold water
¼ cup vegetable oil
3 tbsp vegan butter
¼ tbsp salt
3 tbsp agave nectar or honey
1 can pure pumpkin
½ cup coconut or soy milk
1 tsp Trader Joes pumpkin pie seasoning or similar
More agave nectar for pumpkin mix

Pre heat oven to 450F.

Mix flour, cold water, vegan butter, salt and honey together until smooth and it forms a ball. Oil a square pan with veggie butter (oh, okay, round is fine too). Press out the dough to cover the bottom and sides of your pan. Bake crust for ten minutes until crispy on edges. Take it out and let it sit for a few minutes.

Mix pumpkin, coconut milk and the pumpkin pie seasoning together. Add agave nectar to sweeten to taste. Pour pumpkin mix onto pie crust and put back in oven for 35 minutes. Let cool for about a half hour or so.

When ready to serve whip out the Trader Joes vegan dessert whip and voila pumpkin pie right before summer!

{ 3 comments }

My friend, Stevie, a WC bigwig, just had a birthday. I couldn’t make it to see him physically that day, as I’m so glamorous that I was travelling abroad or something equally fabulous. But I missed him, so the next time we met for dinner, I brought over a pumpkin pie with a message, “Happy Belated Birthday,” in red cake icing.

cream cheese pumpkin pie

cream cheese pumpkin pie

The process of making the pie and doing all the mixing feels good during the gloomy weather we’ve been having in San Francisco. Creating the dessert feels cheerful and productive, and you get the reward of sharing deliciousness with friends. Every year when it gets cold outside I crave comfort food like pumpkin pie. I try to make my pies healthy, without too much fat or eggs. I’ve been experimenting so this time I tried it with cream cheese for a different flavor. Look here and here for some more variations.

cream cheese pumpkin pie

“Whole Foods” pre-made whole wheat pie crust (making it easy as pie as you don’t have to roll out the dough!)
one package of cream cheese
one can of pure pumpkin
½ cup of maple syrup
¾ cup of pure cane sugar
½ cup of soy milk
3 tablespoons of pumpkin pie spice from “Trader Joes”

Pre heat oven to 375F.

Soften the cream cheese and mix it together with the pumpkin, soy milk, sugar, maple syrup and spices until you get a smooth texture with no lumps. Fill your pre made pie crust. Then bake for 45 minutes for a yummy pie. Cool and decorate if you want.

The cream cheese adds a certain pleasant thickness and consistency that was different from other pies I’ve made. We all enjoyed this with a refreshing after-dinner drink.

{ 7 comments }

This recipe comes from Paul Prudhomme’s incredible cookbook, Louisiana Cooking. When I lived in Dallas in the nineties, I frequently used this book. I was especially partial to his panéed chicken and fettucini, spice-coated deep fried chicken thighs over a rich and spicy cream sauce with pasta. The dish blew my socks off.

Louisiana style shrimp and crab stuffed eggplant

Louisiana style shrimp and crab stuffed eggplant

Everything in the book has butter, fat, lots of oil and usually something gets fried. Plus there’re tons of thrilling Cajun spices thrown in the mix. This is food for the young. You need to be in good health with a fast metabolism to survive it unscathed, at least if you’re dining this way on a regular basis. Otherwise, these succulent recipes fall into my once-in-a-blue-moon culinary category.

we felt like this after the Louisiana eggplant dish, all tired and sluggish, though it was amazing

we felt like this after the Louisiana eggplant dish, all tired and sluggish, though it was amazing

Actually, I haven’t cooked from this book in about ten years. When I‘d first met Hegui, I wanted to show off a bit by making an eggplant recipe found in these magical pages. It was sort of like today’s dish: deep fried eggplant stuffed with shrimp. We were in New York then, and it was late July during a heat wave. Only one room of my apartment had air conditioning. So I turned it on full blast, moved the dining table and chairs into the bedroom, and slaved away for a while in the really hot kitchen. I plated everything and it looked perfect! The only problem was the level of spice. Then Hegui didn’t appreciate spicy food at all. I loved (and still love) it. But I think that I made some sort of mistake somewhere along the line. This dish, like the weather, was impossible: way, way too hot. Neither of us could tolerate it. What a disaster!

to recover, what we should have done is this, gone dancing

to recover, what we should have done is this, gone dancing

So I’ve been thinking of that dinner from long ago, wondering about trying again. There are several recipes for stuffed eggplant in Louisiana Cooking. This one with crab and shrimp, called Eggplant Bayou Teche, I don’t think is the same as that one I made before. But like all Prudhomme recipes, it requires lots of oil, shellfish, butter, spices, and the eggplant, of course, gets deep fried. So this is really good and really filling.

I mis-read the directions so failed to peel the eggplant. I don’t think that was such a problem. I used only one pound of shrimp, instead of the recommended 1½ lbs. Also, I had two large eggplants. I think that turned into a lot of food in a single serving, since you really need to give each diner an entire “eggplant canoe” at the table for it to look right. Next time, I’m going to use smaller eggplant and more of them. You’re supposed to add one teaspoon of garlic powder to the spice mix, but I didn’t have any so left it out. I needed more breadcrumbs than recommended, ran out of the spice mix and made my own seafood stock with the shells from the shrimp, the juice from the container of lump crab meat, half an onion and two celery stalks.

We had ours with black beans and rice. There were lots of leftovers.

preparing the eggplant canoe

preparing the eggplant canoe

Louisiana style shrimp and crab stuffed eggplant

3 medium eggplant
½ onion, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
½ green bell pepper, finely chopped
¼ cup vegetable oil plus more to fry eggplant
1 cup flour
1½ cups seafood stock
1 cup fine breadcrumbs
¾ cup soy milk
1 large egg
6 tbsp unsalted butter
½ pound lump crab meat
1 pound shrimp
½ cup finely chopped green onions
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp Pastis or similar anise flavored alcohol

For the spice mix:

4½ tsp salt
1 tbsp sweet paprika
2 tsp white pepper
1½ tsp onion powder
1 tsp cayenne
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp dried thyme
½ tsp dried basil

Remove woody parts of eggplant, (peel if you wish), cut in halves the long way. Carefully remove the interior of the eggplant so that there is about a quarter inch shell. I used a paring knife and scooped it out with a spoon. Use removed eggplant for another dish. Wrap eggplant shells tightly and refrigerate.
Mix all spice ingredients together and set aside.

In another bowl, mix chopped onion, celery and green pepper together. Set aside.

To make the sauce:

Start by making a roux. In a medium saucepan, add ¼ cup oil on high heat. Cook until it begins to smoke. Then slowly mix in ¼ cup flour. Stir with a wire whisk for several minutes until the roux becomes medium brown in color. Remove from heat, and stir in the chopped veggies and 1½ tsp of the spice mix. Set aside.

In another saucepan, bring seafood stock to boil. Gradually stir in the roux. Cook on high heat for about five minutes, then simmer for another five minutes. Remove from heat and strain the sauce into a bowl. Set aside. Discard the veggies.

To prepare the eggplant boats:

Beat the egg in a large bowl. Add milk and 1 tbsp spice mix. In another bowl, add remaining flour and 1 tbsp spice mix. In a third add breadcrumbs and 1 tbsp spice mix. Heat enough oil in a deep skillet to submerge the eggplant at least half way. Unwrap each eggplant. Rub each with about ½ to ¾ tsp spice mix. Dredge in flour mixture, then milk mixture and finally the breadcrumb mixture. Fry until golden brown. Let drain on paper towels. Repeat with all eggplant halves.

To prepare seafood fillings:

Melt 2 tbsp butter in a medium pan. Add crab meat, half of the green onion, the garlic and ¼ tsp spice mix. Cook for a couple minutes then set aside.

Melt remaining butter in a medium pan. Add shrimp, remaining green onion, 1½ tsp spice mix and cook for a minute. Add reserved sauce and Pastis. Cook until shrimp turn pink.

To serve:

Place eggplant boats on a large heated tray or dish, or you can make individual plates. Fill them first with the crab meat, then with the shrimp and sauce. Enjoy!

{ 5 comments }

Labneh is sort of a Lebanese version of sour cream or perhaps a very creamy cream cheese. Joumana uses it to great effect on her food blog. Look here, here and here for some excellent ideas. Hegui was so inspired that he bought a large container of labneh, mostly to snack on, it seems. I used it with this quick bread as I thought the tanginess would complement the pumpkin and herbs. You can use it like sour cream in most recipes that call for it. I wonder how Polish sour soup would taste with labneh? Mmmm.

savory pumpkin bread with garden herbs and labneh

savory pumpkin bread with garden herbs and labneh

This recipe comes from cooks.com, though I’ve modified it a bit. Aside from adding dollops of labneh, I used a bit less sugar, soy milk instead of cow’s milk, and more randomly mixed in herbs from our community garden plot. In mine, I used chives, mint and sage. You can add basil and cilantro, too. I thought about Italian parsley but decided that it would overpower everything else. Next time, I intend to top the loaves with jalapeño slices for a bit of heat.

my container of labneh, here spelled labne

my container of labneh, here spelled labne

savory pumpkin bread with garden herbs and labneh

2 eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
½ cup soy milk
1 cup mashed pumpkin (here it was kabocha)
2 cups flour
1 tbsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
3 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp mixed fresh herbs
1 tsp per mini-loaf labneh

Preheat oven to 350F.

Beat eggs then mix in liquid ingredients, pumpkin and herbs. In another bowl, blend dry ingredients. Then mix into wet. I used disposable mini-loaf pans to reduce mess. If you use a regular baking dish, grease liberally. Add batter to mini-loafs just over half full. Dollop labneh in center of each mini-loaf. Bake about 50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

{ 11 comments }

This recipe suggestion comes from Faith at An Edible Mosaic. I’ve only recently stumbled across her blog but have become a huge fan already. She made savory muffins with caramelized onions, feta and rosemary the other day. These looked really good! She also suggested some variations, like savory muffins with sharp cheddar, dried cranberries and orange zest; or alternatively, provolone, sundried tomatoes and basil. That last one hit my tastebuds right off the screen, so I had to try to make them myself.

savory sundried tomato, basil, provolone and mozzarella mini-cakes

savory sundried tomato, basil, provolone and mozzarella mini-cakes

Here I changed canola oil for olive, used soy milk instead of cows (that’s what we had on hand) and added more cheese than in Faith’s recipe. The aroma wafting from the oven was like margarita pizza. Instead of butter, we drizzled a bit of olive oil on them and gobbled up several right away, they were that good.

Thanks for the excellent idea, Faith!

savory sundried tomato, basil, provolone and mozzarella mini-cakes

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
black pepper to taste
2 eggs
2 tbsp olive oil
1 ¼ cups soy milk
¾ cup shredded provolone and/or mozzarella
½ cup sundried tomatoes in oil, chopped
¼ cup fresh basil, chopped
black olives for garnish

Pre-heat oven to 350F.

Mix flours, baking powder, salt and black pepper together in a bowl.

In another bowl, beat eggs, olive oil and soy milk together. Fold in cheeses, sundried tomatoes, and basil. Gently fold flour mixture into wet ingredients.

Since I used disposable wax paper baking molds, I didn’t need to grease and flour the pans. If you aren’t then Faith recommends that you do that to prevent sticking.

Fill baking molds about two thirds full. Garnish with olive slices. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Mine took 35 minutes. Remove to a cooling rack. Enjoy!

If your mini-cake is too dry, then just add more olive oil, like these dudes:

bustour#4 – gladyatörs from markus dassel on Vimeo.

Oil-wrestling in the near of Antalya. the field is crowded with simultaneous matches in eleven divisions, ranging from school kids to forty-year-old masters. There are few forbidden holds, and grabbing of trunks is not off limits.
shot with canon 7D, canon 50mm/f1,4, tokina 11-16mm/f2,8, vario ND

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I do not know what has come over me, but I have this overwhelming urge to eat and fully enjoy pumpkin pie. It might be because it is the season for pumpkins and pumpkins are just everywhere. Also the food advertisements that come in bright colors in the mail every other day make holiday meals look even more enticing by depicting pumpkin pies along with the rest of the festive table. My friends think that I’ve gone mad because I keep talking about pumpkins and pies. I admit it: I love pumpkin pie, world! Did you hear that? I LOVE PUMPKIN PIE!!!

healthier-than-it-should-be pumpkin pie

healthier-than-it-should-be pumpkin pie

The other day I brought a Sweet Earth Vegan Pumpkin Pie over to share with my WC friends and a guest of theirs from New York. Gordon was a little leery when I explained there was tofu in the pie as well as other healthy ingredients. Foolishly, he almost turned down a slice. He wasn’t so sure about the whole Northern California “tofu pie” and all that. We giggled a little about some of the radical organic food theatrics that tend to creep up on us in this part of the State. But mostly I enjoyed my pie. The truth is you can’t even taste the tofu. I could have told Gordon that we were just having a really good pie but the WC’s like to discuss food in detail, so we wanted to fully disclose the information. He was reasonably open-minded and then pretty shocked by how much he actually liked it.

The Sweet Earth Vegan Pumpkin Pie is a bit surprising with the tofu instead of eggs in the filling. These are amazing pies and taste like a treat. But they are also so wholesome and good for you, that you don’t feel any guilt, even though it’s still a pie. You might be tempted to eat the whole darn thing! Believe me I have done that. My advice to you: do not try this at home! Mireille Guiliano would not be amused.

There is a certain build up to the big holiday meal, and my favorite part, if you haven’t yet guessed, is the “PP,” or pumpkin pie. Inspired by Sweet Earth, I made what I think is a little more healthy pumpkin pie than the traditional version. I bought a can of organic pumpkin at TJ’s and whole wheat organic pie crusts from Whole Foods and went to work in my own little kitchen. I used soy milk instead of condensed milk and egg whites instead of tofu because I am not brave enough (yet) to make a pie myself using the tofu. I wonder how they prepare the tofu for their pie? I know, you’re probably thinking, “Just Google it,” and I will eventually.

TJ's cooked canned pumpkin

TJ's cooked canned pumpkin

healthier-than-it-should-be pumpkin pie

1 can cooked pumpkin
½ cup soy milk
1 tbsp Pumpkin Pie Spice pre mixed from Trader Joes (or make your own blend from clove, cinnamon and nutmeg)
whole wheat pie crust from Whole Foods
3 egg whites
1/8 cup maple syrup or honey

Mix pumpkin, soy milk, spices and egg whites until smooth. Pour into piecrust. Cook at 425F for 15 minutes then reduce heat to 350F for 35-40 minutes more. Let pie cool thoroughly and then voila, healthy pumpkin pie!

Enjoy a few slices ‘cause after all it’s low fat and organic! Low fat and organic means you can eat as much as you want until you get full and you are good to go! LOL!

{ 6 comments }

apple pear cinnamon cake

November 23, 2010

The other day our neighbor Ann gave us two big bags full of delicious pears and apples she grows in her country home south of San Francisco along the California Central Coast. Everything that she produces is organic. In the past she’s given us zucchini, Japanese eggplant, basil, bok choy greens, lemons and more. Thank […]

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Brazilian creamy sweet yellow corn cake

October 11, 2010

Steven is in doubt whether this dish really is a corn cake rather than a corn soufflé or a corn flan. To me, if you’re even debating this absurd point, then the cake is already a huge success. Once again, I tried to reproduce another of my mother’s recipes. As I remember, her cake was […]

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