entertaining

Completely Board Post #12: Dairy Free Pumpkin Ice Cream

Veg-am's Completely Board - Vegan Month of Food 2014

My family got together yesterday to celebrate my mom’s birthday.  Her birthday is actually on August 17, but that’s another story.

It’s easy when we celebrate her birthday *on* her birthday because I know the sweet should be something summery.  But what do you do for a birthday party just a couple days before the official start of fall and it’s over 80 degrees outside?  I found the perfect answer on my Pinterest board: Pumpkin Spice Ice Cream.

I used this recipe from MindBodyGreen that boasts only 5 ingredients.  I have a bit of a pet peeve of recipes boasting few ingredients and then one of them being something like “yellow cake mix”?  Hello…there are probably 12 ingredients in that.  But, since the “offense” here was pumpkin pie spice (actually a mix of 4-5 spices that I always have in my kitchen), I won’t ding them on that one too badly. 😉

I set out to try the non-ice cream maker version just to let y’all know how it worked.  I was making a double batch and after 2 hours of the mixture being in the freezer I could hardly see any progress.  I’m sorry I can’t report on this for people that don’t have an ice cream maker, but I only had 2 hours left until the party. I switched over to the ice cream maker version.  I followed the instructions on my ice cream maker (use cold ingredients, freeze the canister for at least 30 minutes, churn for about 30 minutes).

So do you want to see it?

Dairy Free Pumpkin Spice Ice Cream

It was as delicious as it looks.  Seriously, it was pretty much everything I hoped it would be.  Creamy, sweet but not too sweet, pumpkiny and spicy.  The only thing I did differently was add about two pinches of salt to enhance the flavor/offset the sweet and churned for about two more minutes to mix it in.  It didn’t taste salty, but I really do think it brought the pumpkin and spice flavors out a little more

This will be made at our house again.  and again.  I’ve also gotten the confidence and inspiration to try some new flavors.

It does freeze hard after a few hours after returning it to the freezer, so eat it soon after churning and then when you go back for more (because you will go back for more), you’ll need to let it sit out and soften a bit so you can scoop it out.  After you’ve done this and refrozen it, it’s becomes a tiny bit icy, but not so much that it’s a deterrent.  I’ve had a few scoops since the party.

I sent some home with my nephew and he said he was going to mix it with his espresso and make a frappe.  I now officially think he’s a genius.

Speaking of my nephew, he’s getting married in a few weeks.  After the party we were going through old family photos to find ones of him growing up for the wedding slide show.  I came across this one of me in my red checked zip-up polyester jumpsuit.  Based on the hairstyle, I figure I was in second grade so we’re talking 1978.  My sister told me she remembers it definitely had bell bottoms.  Second grade me would have liked the ice cream too.

Second Grade Dawn

A Post Full of Firsts: Dragon Roll and Tempura Vegetables

No series on “Stuff, Wrap, and Roll” would be complete without vegetable sushi.  I always like to try new things during Vegan MoFo and this post is full of firsts.  This was my first attempt at making a dragon roll. In fact, it was my first attempt at making sushi with the rice on the outside.  My first attempt at tempura. It was even my first time eating tempura.  And it was my first time using Sriracha.

Dragon Roll and Tempura Vegetables | Veg-am

I used this tutorial as a guide. (warning: not vegan).  The tutorial was for a tempura shrimp dragon roll.  I chose to go with a tempura zucchini roll and changed up the other fillings too.  Since this was my first time making dragon rolls, instead of giving a recipe, I’m going to walk through what did and didn’t work.

When given the option, I usually like the  bad news first, so I’ll go through what didn’t work so well first.  As you can see by the fact that I actually did make dragon rolls and tempura vegetables, none was a total failure.

What didn’t work quite right:

The rice.  When I was first learning about rolling my own sushi, I searched all over the internet for how to make sushi using brown basmati.  What I found was a lot of people who said it was impossible because basmati wasn’t sticky enough.  I concluded that these people had just never been as inept at cooking rice as I used to be.  I know how to make sticky basmati (don’t turn the heat down enough and just keep adding enough water to keep it from sticking).  This works just fine for sushi where you have the nori on the outside.  It wasn’t ideal for dragon rolls (a little too sticky), so next time I might actually use real sushi rice.

My confidence level:  The tutorial said that it’s ideal to use just half sheets of nori for a dragon roll.  It further said that if you were a beginner start with 3/4 sheet or a whole sheet.  Surely, I could work with a half sheet.  As you can see in the photo of the single piece of roll above, I didn’t have a perfect seal.  So, I probably should have started with a bit more.

My cutting skills or my knives:  I had a little bit of a hard time cutting through the plastic wrap and the crispy tempura shell of the zucchini.  I could cut them, but I was squishing the roll out of shape doing it.  This may not have been as much of an issue if the two things above had been perfect.

What did work:

The fillings:  I used finely chopped red cabbage & carrots and strips of tempura zucchini.  I really liked this combination.  The finely chopped vegetables, as you can see, were a little hard to keep contained so a little got on the outside of the roll, so I may try shredded pieces next time, but I really liked the texture of this while eating.  Maybe I should just be more careful 😉  More on the tempura later.

Dragon Roll Fillings | Veg-am

The rolling: As I mentioned above, I probably should have used the larger pieces of nori.  But, the bamboo mat lined with cling wrap worked wonderfully for rolling and shaping. It peeled right off of even my too-sticky rice. The advice to have a bowl of water to dip your fingers in was brilliant.  I didn’t bother adding vinegar to the water bowl.  Just water worked fine.

The avocado:
I thought rolling the avocado on the outside of the dragon roll was going to be the hardest part. With a perfectly ripe avocado and the instructions provided, it was actually one of the easiest.  It does need to be a pretty perfect avocado: soft enough to be flexible, but not the least bit mushy.  If you’re looking to impress, this is a pretty fancy looking result for such an easy process.

The dipping sauces: I used two sauces.  First was an Asian sweet chili sauce straight from the bottle.  I really like the sweet with a touch of hot for the roll.  Second sauce was a Sriracha mayo. There was a recipe on the tutorial site, but all I did was take some soy-free Vegenaise and add Sriracha until it was the perfect level of heat for me. This spicy, creamy dip was perfect for the tempura veggies on the side.  I made a much less hot version of the Sriracha mayo for my mom.

The Tempura:  Oh yes, the tempura.  I was a little hesitant about this part as I decided to go with other information I found in several places that you could make tempura out of just rice flour and sparkling water.  Yes, just two ingredients. Both vegan.  Both gluten and soy free.  How often does that happen?

The recipe on the tutorial had baking powder and eggs, but I decided to try the simpler route.  Everything I saw on using rice flour was talking specifically about sweet rice flour.  I had brown rice flour (no shock for a gluten free person, eh?).  And I’m not a huge fan of brown rice flour all alone as it tends toward being gritty.  Thankfully, this post on making tempura veggies had good pictures demonstrating the perfect thickness for batter.  I ended up needing more water to rice than with the sweet rice flour (no surprise there).

Brown Rice Flour Tempura Vegetables

1-1/4 cup brown rice flour
1-1/3 cup cold sparkling water
Whatever vegetables you want – I used onions cut in half-moon “strips” and zucchini sticks
Cornstarch for coating vegetables
Oil for frying (I used canola)

Preheat your oil for frying (most sites say around 375, but since I did it in a pan and didn’t check the temperature – I’ll just say medium high heat.).  Tempura is traditionally a deep frying method, but I didn’t want to use the deep fryer.  I used a large cast iron skillet with about 1″ to 1.5″ of oil in it.  I ended up turning the vegetables over, but it worked great.  My skillet is actually bigger in diameter than my deep fryer, so I think it was faster and it was easier to watch.

Mix up the flour and sparkling water in a small bowl with a whisk.  You can add seasonings if you wish because it’s bland.  (For the zucchini to go in the roll, I used it as is.  For the onions, I added a little salt and cayenne pepper.)

In a large bowl, put a small amount of cornstarch – add in your vegetables and toss to coat.  This just helps the batter to stick.

One at a time, coat your vegetable pieces with batter and carefully place into the oil.  Don’t overcrowd the vegetables.  I have a 14″ skillet and did 7-9 pieces at a time.  Overcrowding will lower the temperature of the oil.  Hot oil is important as it allows your vegetables to float (and not stick) and they absorb less oil.  Cook until golden brown.  Remove onto a plate lined with paper towels.

One little tip that I gleaned from the dragon roll post (the shrimp tempura recipe) was if you want a better “restaurant style” coating for your tempura…use a metal spoon and drizzle a little more batter over each vegetable in the skillet after it’s been frying for a few seconds.  It works :)

With hot oil and the lightness the sparkling soda gave, the zucchini here (and the onions above) are not saturated with oil and have a light crispy coating.

Tempura Zucchini | Veg-am

All in all, I’d say sushi and tempura night was a success.  Some of it worked perfectly.  Some of it, I figured out better ways to do it next time.  All of it tasted delicious.

I shared with my mom again.  She said she’s starting to feel spoiled with all the good Vegan MoFo eats.  I told her not to get used to it. 😉

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Let’s Get This Party Started (with a little hummus)

For as long as I can remember I’ve loved to entertain.  I love to cook for people and enjoy them while they eat what I’ve prepared.  I love having friends in my home just to visit and have a good time.  It’s just part of who I am.

When I started this whole gluten-free/soy-free/vegan adventure  I was at a loss what to cook for myself much less what to serve to others.  Fast forward 5 years, a lot of trial and error, some miserable failures and some fun successes, and I’m back to doing what I love the most…entertaining.

I look forward to partying with you this month as I do a month of “entertaining thoughts.”

I’ll be honest – I don’t have a calendar drawn out ahead of time like I did last year, so I might meander a bit,  but parties aren’t meant to be uptight.   I’ll try to post an “entertaining thought” each day.  If I don’t have a thought about entertaining, I’ll at least try to post a thought that is entertaining.  So sit back, relax, grab a drink and enjoy.

Oh, and before we get on about the business of day one… part of entertaining is making what your guests enjoy, so if you have a favorite party food, dinner party food, pot-luck dish or family favorite that you’d like to see me make a go on veganizing/deglutenizing and/or desoyatizing, let me know.  If it’s not a really familiar recipe that I could find anywhere, please give me a link or send me a copy of the recipe and I’ll see what I can do.  You can send your requests to me via email at vegamblog {at} gmail {dot} com

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Entertaining Thought #1: Have some go-to recipes.

It makes entertaining so much easier when you have an arsenal of several good recipes.  It helps you not have to think so hard to plan what to make.  It’s especially helpful if you always keep the ingredients for a couple of the recipes on hand.  It also gives the people that you feed the most an opportunity to look forward to your “specialty”

I have a few things almost always ready to be made:
Ginger Sparkles
Homemade tortillas
Chickpea salad and tomato-rosemary scones
and of course, hummus.

It seems every vegan has a hummus recipe.  Here’s mine.  This past weekend, it was approved by 3 out of  4 hungry groomsmen.  The 4th, a self-proclaimed hummus hater, tasted it anyway and declared it “not too bad” as he dipped in a second chip.  Posting it here enables me to share it with you and to make it easier on me the next time someone asks me for the recipe.

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D’s Creamy Hummus
makes approx 2-1/4 cups

3 cups cooked garbanzo beans (equiv to 2 cans – see note below*)
juice of 1 large lemon
1 tsp salt
1-1/4 tsp crushed garlic (about 3 cloves)
1/8 cup tahini
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup water

Put it in the food processor and let it run to desired consistency. I like mine as smooth as possible so it runs for several minutes, stopping to scrape down the sides as needed

Note:  *Even if the garbanzos are already cooked or are out of the can, cook them longer. I usually bring them to a boil and simmer for an extra hour over what I would do if i were going to use them in another dish. It makes a creamier hummus – part of the reason is that some of the skins come off – if they come off just discard them. Some people would tell you to take the skins off of all of them, but it’s just not worth the work to me.

I don’t usually bother, but you can doll it up with a drizzle of olive oil and a few hot, toasted pine nuts. It makes it look more like you know what you’re doing.

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