Monday, February 29, 2016

Why I Ditched my Bread Machine

Homemade Artisan Bread - without a Machine!
I used to love my bread machine. It could make a beautiful loaf of homemade bread start-to-finish in under an hour! And it only required the measuring of a few ingredients, plugging in, and pushing a button! What's not to like?

Well, one day, my bread didn't turn out. I tried again, and it failed again. I didn't know why. Perhaps my yeast was expired? Maybe the thermostat wasn't working right? Maybe I had used the wrong temperature of water? I wasn't sure what had gone wrong. I put the machine on the shelf in our storage area, planning to troubleshoot on a day when I had more time.

Well, while I was procrastinating, I went to the library, and saw Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day sitting on a display shelf in the "New Release" area (yes, this was a few years ago). I checked it out. I read it - cover to cover! I started baking, and I turned out beautiful loaves with lovely shapes, a wonderful crust texture, and a perfect taste. What was truly amazing was that I could mix the ingredients for FOUR loaves in the time it took me to measure one loaf into my bread machine. No kneading, and no work! And shaping and baking them was not only a breeze, it was FUN! And, I could keep the dough in the fridge to use whenever I wanted to! And I could make ANY shape - including pizza! : )

I thought of my bread machine, languishing in our storage room. I thought of its oddly shaped cubical loaves with the little blade -hole in the middle. The Wonder-Bread-Worthy crusts. The HUGE amount of kitchen-counter real estate required to store it.

I thought, "Why on earth would I troubleshoot my bread machine? I wouldn't EVER want to use it again! This bread is SO MUCH better - and easier, too!"

So, I gave my machine away.

Now, I bake 4 loaves of bread at a time, in about the same hands-on time it used to take me to make one loaf of bread in the bread machine. Never once have I wished to go back to my machine.

So - if you love bread - really good bread- check out  Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

And, check out my bread posts that are inspired by their wonderful method:

From Homemade Yeast Bread (their recipe)
       Vegan Holiday Appetizers
       Whole Wheat Naan
       Turnovers, Calzones, or Empanadas
       Spinach & Mushroom Calzones

From Stuffedveggies Vegan No Knead Brioche Dough (my own recipe, inspired by theirs)
       Challah, Easy, No Knead, Vegan
       Crescent Rolls, Easy, No Knead, Vegan  
       Dinner Rolls, Vegan, Soft & Fluffy, No Knead, Refrigerator 
       Vasilopita, Easy, No Knead, Vegan 

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Monday, February 22, 2016

One Mix - Four Different Waffles! Vegan, Oil Free, Whole Wheat

Waffles from Your Own Mix!
Having Waffles on a Saturday morning can be a snap when you have your own mix on hand. Not only that, they can be healthy, varied, and delicious from week to week. AND they can be prepared in advance and kept in the freezer for easy weekday breakfasts - I just toast mine in the toaster oven. 

Simply make your mix - it takes about 5 minutes to make - then store it in the pantry, fridge or freezer according to your needs & space considerations. Since its a whole wheat mix, it can go rancid in a warm pantry if you don't use it quickly enough, but if you use it quickly, and/or your pantry is very cool, the pantry can be a great option. 

These all start with my Just-Add-Water Vegan Pancake Mix - so you have lots of versatility. I copied it here, because I imagine that you hate to click as much as I do

Mix in a labeled container. This recipe may be doubled if you have a larger family, or like to have pancakes often.

3 cups whole wheat pastry flour (also known as Graham flour) OR White Whole Wheat Flour*
1-3 tablespoons sugar (white, or raw/turbinado sugar)
1 Tablespoon arrowroot powder, tapioca starch, or cornstarch (acts as vegan egg-substitute for dry mixes)
1 Tablespoon + 2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt

*Note Edited in December 2014: For a long time, I only made this with Whole Wheat Pastry Flour, but then recently I couldn't get to my favorite specialty shop, and was forced to try subbing the White Whole Wheat Flour. To my delight, it worked as well or better than the Whole Wheat Pastry Flour. This is great because White Whole Wheat - while still 100% whole grain, is easier to find and cheaper! : )

Now that you have your mix, you can try all four varieties!

      Banana Bread Waffles

      Pumpkin Spice Waffles

      Toaster Waffles, Vegan, Whole Wheat, No Oil

      Zucchini Bread Waffles

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Monday, February 15, 2016

40 Day Lenten Menu for People Who Hate to Cook (Vegan)

The Ladder of Divine Ascent, A Depiction of the Spiritual Journey
Are you a Vegan who hates to cook? Perhaps you are trying to keep Lent, but your usual dinner is a burger from the local fast food drive thru? Or maybe because of time constraints or dormitory living or travel, you just CANNOT cook.

Obviously, I like to cook - I write a cooking blog! But, because I like to cook, I know what's quickest and easiest to get onto the table. And, because I'm Vegetarian, I know where to find good Vegan food when I'm not cooking!

If you can boil water and stir, you can eat vegan for a month. Many of these meals have 2 options - one simple homemade, and one even simpler restaurant version ; )

So, here's a month's menu that is a blend of meals out and meals that are super-easy at home, most taking 10 minutes or less hands-on time. And, a few suggestions for meals you can pick up from the supermarket & have ready at home with almost no preparation. Because a lack of interest in cooking should not force you to eat things you don't want to eat!

For the meals out, double check with your local restaurant about ingredients - these are ones that I find are Vegan where I am. Manufacturers can change ingredients at any time - so if you have an allergy or are a very careful vegan, be sure to scrutinize those labels, even if I list them here.

I'd encourage you to keep in your freezer some individual portions of cooked rice (either that you cooked or that you bought from the grocery's freezer section in an already cooked condition). Also, having some spaghetti in single serve portions is hugely handy. It is also easy to keep rice & spaghetti on hand this way if you save restaurant leftovers. When you make either rice or pasta, make a big quantity so that you can freeze them in individual portions and have them for future meals (if you buy a rice cooker, buy one that can make at least 6 cups so that you have planned leftovers).

Never make a single portion of anything. If you hate to cook, have planned leftovers so that you don't have to cook very often! For more on this, check out Cooking for the Single Vegan

If you REALLY hate to cook, you can buy many ingredients (such as chopped tomatoes) from the Salad Bar at the grocery store. This is much more expensive than chopping your own, but still usually cheaper than dining out.

Appliances I recommend for those who hate to cook:

A microwave oven. And

Microwave Rice Cooker,OR

Electric Rice Cooker (an electric rice cooker is as easy to operate as a toaster - just put in rice and water & push down the button - when it's done, the button pops up! : ). AND

Slow Cooker (the brand name of my favorite brand is Crock Pot). Slow Cooker recipes are often very easy, super quick -taking about 10 minutes of hands on time - and very hard to mess up - not only that, but when you come home at the end of the day, the dreaded cooking is already done!

An Immersion Blender is good for pureeing quick soups. If you don't have one, you can use a regular blender, but it's more of a hassle, as it can be hard not to splash yourself with hot soups.  Most any brand is good - I got mine at the thrift store : )

(A note on Lent: for us Greek Orthodox Christians, Lent starts very late this year. I am sharing this menu early so that our Catholic & Protestant friends can make use of it, and so that Orthodox Christians can do some advance planning : )

So, on to the 40 Day menu:

1. Veggie Pad Thai at the Local Thai Restaurant  (be sure to ask them to omit any Fish Sauce) or Homemade.

Vegan Pad Thai

2. Asian Peanut Wrap using rice from your freezer and my 3-minute Peanut Sauce.

Asian Peanut Wrap

3. Easy Chili or a Can of Vegan Chili from the Grocery

4. Bean Burrito Fresco Style at Taco Bell

5. Szechuan Green Beans over Rice - either homemade or at your favorite Chinese Place.

6. Trader Joe's  Vegetable Biryani 
   (Our Trader Joe's has a handout available that lists all their Vegan items to make shopping easier )

7. Hummus with Veggies & Bread for dipping- either grocery store bought or homemade. To make this even easier, buy pre-cut, Fresh "Stir Fry Veggies" from the produce section in the grocery store.

Hummus with Bread & Veggies -here as a sandwich

8. Wendy's Baked Potato with Broccoli - ask them to leave off the Cheese Sauce. Or Slow Cooker Baked Potatoes at home with some fill-your own options.

9. Vacation Soup

Vacation Soup

10. Veggie Sushi - store bought or homemade

Veggie Sushi

11. Boca Burgers from the grocery, microwaved. Add some bread & toppings from the Salad Bar. A baked frozen potato, such as Tatertots can be a nice addition. 

12. Subway Veggie Delight without Cheese ordered on one of their Vegan Breads. 

13.  Amy's Indian Vegetable Korma from the Grocery Freezer Section or dinner out at your favorite Indian place that serves Vegan entrees.

14. Taco Bell 7-Layer Burrito without Cheese or Sour Cream

15. Claire's Southern Delight over Rice

Claire's Southern Delight over Rice

14. Confetti Spaghetti

Confetti Spaghetti

16. Split Pea Soup in the Slow Cooker

17. Stir Fry Veggies, with or without Tofu from your favorite Chinese Restaurant or Homemade

18. Amy's Roasted Vegetable No Cheese Pizza from the Grocery Freezer Section

19. Simple Pasta & Sauce

20. Veggie Fajitas from your Favorite Mexican Place  (double check that they don't use Lard, and ask them to leave out any Cheese or Sour Cream) or Homemade

21. Greek Style Black-Eyed Peas

Greek Style Black-Eyed Peas

22. Veggie Lo Mein from your Favorite Chinese Place.

23. Mexican Haystacks with all store-bought ingredients

24. Family Favorite Lentil Soup in the Slow Cooker (this is also great over Spaghetti the next day)

Family Favorite Lentil Soup in the Slow Cooker

25. Veggie & Olive Sandwich

Veggie & Olive Sandwich

26. Asian Peanut Noodles made with cooked spaghetti from your freezer and my 3-minute Peanut Sauce. 

27. Vegan Pizza - order delivery OR use Flatbread & Pizza Sauce from the Grocery, top with veggies (such as mushrooms, olives & peppers) from the Salad bar, and heat in Toaster Oven.

28. Build-Your-Own Rice Bowl

29. Black Bean Soup in the Slow Cooker

30. Good, Old Fashioned Peanut Butter & Jelly with Baby Carrots, Baked Potato Chips & Grapes

31. Homestyle Tofu from your Favorite Chinese Restaurant.

32. Broccoli Soup

Broccoli Soup

33. Homemade Freezer Bean Burritos with Refried Beans, Rice & Salsa, or freezer Bean Burritos from the Grocery.

34. Skyline Black Beans & Rice over Spaghetti, or Homemade

Homemade Skyline Copycat Black Beans & Rice

35. Potato & Onion Pierogies from the Supermarket Freezer Section (I buy Aunt Helena's Brand)

36. Amy's Vegetable Pot Pie from your Grocer's Freeze

37. Black Bean and Corn Salad (also good wrapped in a tortilla with a little lettuce)
Black Bean and Corn Salad

38. No Cook Tabouli (or Tabouli from the Deli at the grocery) with Stuffed Grape leaves in a Can from the Supermarket, and Olives with Pita Bread

39. Morningstar Farms Riblets,   Rice, Corn (microwaved from freezer or can)

40. Dinner out at Chipotle, Currito, or Qdobo

When you're ready to move up to the next level, or just want more variety, here recipes that are just as easy as those above, or require a tiny bit more hands-on time:

Make Sauce Tonight, Have Easy Meals for a Week!

A Week of Warming Soups from the Slow Cooker

A Week of Summer Entree Salads

Ten Family Meals a Kindergartner Can Make

9 Vegan and Gluten Free Dump Dinners 

If you're looking for a Lenten Menu for People who DO like to cook, try these:
Lenten Menu -A Meal for Every Day of Great Lent 
Menu for the First Week of Orthodox Christian Lent
A Month of Lenten Menus with Links 

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Monday, February 8, 2016

Vegan Cookies from a Regular Cake Mix

Strawberry Chocolate Chip Vegan Cookies from a Cake Mix
I remember the first time I tried cookies made from a cake mix. I was in elementary school, and one of our teachers brought them for a Parents' Night at the school. I was completely amazed that a person could buy a cake mix in an exotic flavor (say Pistachio or Cherry - depending what flavors are stylish in a certain year) and make cookies in cool flavors and colors.

I enjoy experimenting, and as I thought back to that experience, I thought, "It MUST be possible to do the same thing in a Vegan Cookie!"

Because you see, many if not most cake mixes are Vegan (just double check the ingredients). So, it's a simple matter of substituting Vegan things for the usual add-ins, and adjusting baking time slightly to make the entire recipe Vegan : )

Whether you're Vegan, abstaining from Dairy & Eggs for a Lenten Season, or have an allergy in the family, this recipe makes it possible to have your cookie & eat it, too! : )

Regular Strawberry Cake Mix

Vegan Cookies from a Regular Cake Mix
Stir together:
1 Box Regular Cake Mix (that happens to be Vegan). I used Strawberry for this one.
1/2 Cup Oil (Use one that is not strongly flavored - I use Sunflower for baked goods)
1/2 Cup Applesauce
A handful of any desired add-ins such as Vegan Chocolate Chips, Raisins, or Chopped Nuts.

Cookie Dough Dropped onto Prepared Baking Tray
Drop onto prepared cookie sheet, about 2" apart, to allow for spreading when they bake.
Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for approximately 15 minutes, till very lightly golden on the bottom.
Allow to cool for just a few minutes to firm up before removing from pan, as these can be slightly delicate when still very hot.


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Monday, February 1, 2016

Easy Cherry Almond Fudge (Vegan, GF, with Dairy Option)

Cherry Almond Fudge
In the Valentine's Day spirit (or for any occasion when you might want a tasty, pink fudge : ), this week I'm featuring Cherry Almond Fudge. It's easy to make, and delicious! The contrast of sweet Almond Fudge with Tart Cherries and Crunchy Almonds is perfect.

This is made by the same method as my Christmas Easy Fudge series - super quick and easy! Just make the mix, and prepare.

Look for all the posts in this Stuffedveggies Easy Fudge series:
Easy Vanilla Fudge
Easy Chocolate Fudge
Easy Peanut Butter Fudge
Easy Chocolate Mint Fudge
Easy Maple Walnut Fudge
Easy Microwave Fudge for One

Stuffedveggies Fudge & Frosting Mix
Place in a very large bowl, and combine with electric mixer
2 pounds Powdered Sugar (also known as Confectioner's Sugar or XXXX Sugar)
1/2 Cup Earth Balance or other Vegan Buttery Spread of your choice*
Dash Salt (about 1/8 teaspoon)
(You will need a very large bowl to keep the mix from ending up all over the kitchen when you blend it.  If you prefer, you can use a mixing bowl cover/splatter guard, if you have such a thing.)

To make fudge mix, place Powdered Sugar, Buttery Spread & Salt in a large bowl.

Mix with an electric mixer until it looks like plain Confectioner's Sugar

That's your basic mix! It's that easy. I usually use it right away, but it can be stored in the refrigerator (if, for instance, you want to make several batches of mix one day, and several varieties of fudge the next). It's best to use it at room temperature, so if you do store it in the fridge, let it warm up on the counter a bit before you start mixing.

Now you can use it to make a huge variety of fudge.

Oil or grease the inside of an 8" square pan & set aside. (if you prefer, you can line the pan with foil & grease the foil - that can make it easier to remove & cut)

Cherry Almond Fudge
Measure and set aside
1/2 cup Dried Cherries (or one 3 oz package) Break any clumps apart with your fingers.
1/2 cup Slivered Almonds

Combine well
1 Batch Stuffedveggies Fudge & Frosting Mix (above)
2 teaspoons Almond Extract
6 Tablespoons Non-Dairy Milk
4 Drops Red Food Coloring

This mixture will seem fairly dry, but do not yield to the temptation to add more liquid. It will soften when cooked. 

When you first start mixing in the liquids, it will seem like it's not enough.

At the end of mixing, the fudge mixture will be VERY thick - it will soften & become satiny when cooked.
(the picture here is Vanilla - Maple will be a little darker in color)

Microwave for 30 seconds, Stir, repeat twice till fudge develops a satiny sheen and is easier to stir. Cooking times may vary depending on your microwave, but in mine this recipe takes 1 1/2 minutes total, stirring at 30-second intervals. If it is still very difficult to stir after 1 1/2 minutes total cooking time, 1 more Tablespoon of Non Dairy Milk may be added. After microwaving & stirring, Stir in reserved, prepared Cherries and Almonds, above, and quickly press into prepared pan. Allow to cool & set a couple of hours to set.

Cut and serve. 

Store airtight in refrigerator.

(This will have a noticeable powdered sugar taste & texture when still warm, when cooled & set it will taste like "regular" fudge : )

*Note: I have not tried it, but I am quite certain that any fat that is solid at room temperature (such as Coconut Oil or Dairy Butter) can be substituted for the Earth Balance if so desired. I do not recommend substituting whipped or reduced-fat spreads (although I would be quite delighted to hear that it works if someone tries it : ) Similarly, I am sure Dairy Milk can substitute for the Non-Dairy if that is your preference, fits your budget, or is what you have on hand.

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