"When I first went vegan, it was a bit of a mystery to me. I was totally amazed that you didn't need eggs and dairy for baking, and the resulting treat tasted just as good. Or, with a little imagination and a few swaps, you could make decadent treats like doughnuts, cupcakes and macaroni and cheese, rivaling my mom's - enjoyable recipes that were not pathetic vegan stand-ins for the ‘real' versions."

So writes Lauren Ulm, the Boston-based blogger who turned her passion for vegan cooking and baking into a blog and now a book, "Vegan Yum Yum."

From appetizers that will please even the most meat-inclined to decadent dairy-free desserts, from lazy weekend breakfasts to speedy weeknight dinners, Ulm shows home cooks everywhere how to create tasty, healthful meals with easy-to-find ingredients and step-by-step instructions.

And you need not be vegan to enjoy these recipes. Ulm's recipes are lively, but that's not their only appeal. Her vegan recipes offer health benefits because they are low in saturated fats, have no cholesterol and are high in vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. "Vegan Yum Yum" does indeed put the "yum" into nutritious meals.

"One of my main goals with the book was to provide vegans with an array of fantastic recipes that they can serve to their nonvegan friends and family," Ulm said. "Most people usually think of vegan dishes as unappetizing steamed vegetables, a pile of beans with a sprig of parsley on top or a block of wobbly tofu."

Chapters in "Vegan Yum Yum" range from breakfast and brunch to appetizers, main dishes, side dishes and light meals, pasta and desserts. Ulm has even provided chapters dedicated to drinks and sauces, dips and spreads.

"If you have just made the decision to become vegan and find yourself in need of kitchen skills fast, I wanted to create a cookbook full of easy-to-follow recipes and instructions that will make the novice vegan feel like a pro in no time. But you don't have to be a vegan to put together a vegan meal. You don't have to be a vegan to like vegan food."

Lauren Ulm, 26, writes a blog that won the 2008 VegNews magazine Veggie Award, and the 2008 Veg Blog Award. "Lolo" became a vegan in 2002 and the kitchen became her favorite room in the house.

She has appeared on The Martha Stewart Show, and created four new doughnut flavors exclusively for Vegetarian Times magazine. She has been featured in VegNews magazine and Internet sites BoingBoing.net and Etsy.com. She and her husband live in Boston with their two cats. Her Web site is www.VeganYumYum.com.

Article courtesy the Lisa Ekus Group.

Recipes from "Vegan Yum Yum"

DELICATA SQUASH STUFFED WITH CHERRY APPLE ALMOND COUSCOUS

This is a really flexible dish. It takes just about 30 minutes to make, which is awesome, because it seems like it would take longer. This is great as a fancy side dish (one squash half per person) or a main dish (two per person) if you serve something like sautéed greens or a salad on the side. Crispy kale goes great with this!

This also is a wonderful dish to make for the holidays. It makes enough side dishes for eight people and it goes well with other holiday foods. It's also low-fat, so it's one less dish on the holiday table that will end up on your butt.

Delicata squash is one of my favorites because it's sweet, beautiful and quick cooking. And they're not a pain to cut in half, so they get major bonus points for that. If you need to substitute, look for butternut, acorn or carnival squash or any sweet squash.

(*Note: The couscous is nice on its own, so feel free to make less squash if you don't mind having some couscous left over for another meal.)

4 Delicata squashes, 5-6 inches long (or other similar-size sweet squash)

Olive oil to oil cookie sheet

Salt

1¾ cups water

1 cup dried cherries

¾ teaspoon salt

1 Granny Smith apple

1/3 cup sliced almonds

1 teaspoon Earth Balance margarine, optional

1 cup couscous

3 tablespoons agave nectar

3 tablespoons mustard (stone-ground or Dijon style)

¼ teaspoon plus 1 pinch salt

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Halve the squashes lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds with a spoon and discard. Sprinkle lightly with salt, then place cut side down on a lightly oiled cookie sheet (I use a Silpat baking mat, but parchment paper or foil will work to minimize mess). Bake squash for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the water, cherries and salt in a pot that has a tight-fitting lid. Bring the cherries to a boil, then turn off the heat.

Dice the apple into approximately ¼-inch chunks. Add the apples and almonds to the cherries and let stand for 5 minutes, until cherries are plumped and apples are softened.

Strain out cherries, apples and almonds and place them in a large bowl, reserving the liquid. The liquid should be reddish and equal to 1¼ cup now. If not, adjust by pouring some off or adding water.

Add the liquid back to the pot and bring to a boil. Add margarine, if using. When the liquid boils, pour in the couscous, give the pot a little shake, cover and turn off the heat. Let stand for 10 minutes or until you're ready to stuff.

During the last 10 minutes, make the dressing by mixing together the agave nectar, mustard and salt. Clear a space to fill the squashes. (When I got to this step, there were 10 minutes left on the squash.)

Remove the squash from the oven and carefully use a spatula to take off the baking sheet. The squash should be very soft, so take care not to smoosh or rip them. It's prettier to fill them and then place them on your serving dish, because you will get couscous everywhere while filling.

Fluff the couscous with a fork, then place it in the bowl that has the apple/cherry/squash mixture and combine well.

Mix half of the dressing into the couscous and spoon the mixture into the squash cavities. Plate the squashes, then drizzle the remaining dressing over the top, if desired.

Garnish with extra dried cherries and almonds and serve immediately.

HONEYDEW COCONUT TAPIOCA

This dessert has a lot of bang for its buck. Visually stunning and super delicious, it requires minimal effort to put together. It's quickest to make if you look for the semi-hydrated tapioca pearls that are sold for boba tea drinks (aka bubble tea), but you can make it with traditional tapioca as well.

1 cup black semidried tapioca pearls

1 (14 ounce) can coconut milk

3 tablespoons sugar

½ ripe honeydew melon

Fresh mint for garnish, optional

Cook the tapioca according to package directions.

Heat the coconut milk over medium heat and stir in the sugar until dissolved.

Using a melon baller, make several melon balls from the honeydew.

Scoop the tapioca pearls into serving dishes. Top with sweetened coconut milk. Add melon balls to the top and a sprig of mint to garnish if desired. Serve.

HURRY UP ALFREDO

One day I came home from running errands and I was starving. I felt like making pasta with a creamy sauce, but I didn't have the patience to make a roux. I decided to make a blender Alfredo because I was so hungry that I didn't care how it turned out. Not only was it delicious, my husband and I now make it on a regular basis. It's fast and easy, and you probably already have all of the ingredients. It's a great compromise between "I don't feel like cooking" and "I don't want to eat toast for dinner."

While I like to use the wide fettucini-style rice noodles, whatever pasta shape you have will work wonderfully. You don't even need pasta to enjoy the sauce: You can pour it over a huge bowl of steamed organic broccoli and it will be divine.

2 or 3 servings

3 cups of any small pasta shape

Sauce

2 tablespoons Earth Balance spread

1 cup soymilk

2 teaspoons Dijon or stone-ground mustard

3 tablespoons low-sodium tamari or soy sauce

1 tablespoon tahini

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

¼ cup nutritional yeast

¼ rounded cup raw, unsalted cashews

2-4 garlic cloves, optional

½ teaspoon paprika

1 pinch nutmeg

1 pinch salt

Black pepper, to taste

Optional Add-Ins

2 tablespoons of favorite fresh herbs

2 cups steamed broccoli florets or other veggie

Bring a pot of salted water to boil and add the noodles. Cook until tender but not mushy, about 5-8 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine all of the sauce ingredients together in a blender and blend on high until very smooth. If nuts do not blend smoothly, strain the sauce. (Or you can keep as is and pretend it's a "textural feature".)

When noodles are finished cooking, drain well. Add the noodles back to the (now empty but still hot) pot and pour as much sauce as you want over them. Turn the heat on and gently stir until the noodles are piping hot, adding in optional ingredients. Serve immediately.

CANNELLINI BEAN SOUP WITH PAN FRIED CROUTONS

I created this soup after I had a similar one in a restaurant in my neighborhood. I couldn't stop thinking about it, so I recreated it in my kitchen. It's simple and fresh, but bursting with flavor. Crispy fried croutons pair perfectly with soft beans and tender kale, while little grape tomatoes give bursts of sweetness. This definitely is one of my all-time favorite soups, and you can prepare the croutons for any recipe you like.

2 servings

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2-3 shallots, peeled and sliced

4 cups vegetable broth

2-3 kale leaves, torn

½-1 teaspoon salt

1 (15 ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

16 grape tomatoes, halved

Fresh lemon juice, for seasoning

Pan-Fried Croutons:

2 tablespoons Earth Balance

3 slices whole wheat bread, sliced into ½-inch cubes

Melt the Earth Balance in a skillet and add the bread cubes. Let the bread cook, absorbing the margarine, until golden brown. Toss and brown all sides of the bread and then remove it from the pan when it's rich brown and crispy. Set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a soup pot. Add the shallots and sauté until tender and lightly colored. Pour in the vegetable stock and heat until simmering. Add the kale and salt and cook, covered, until the kale is tender but still dark green. When ready to serve, turn off the heat and add the tomatoes. Let them sit in the hot soup 1-3 minutes to cook slightly before serving. Check the seasoning and adjust, if desired. Add the pan-fried croutons at the last moment, with a small squeeze of lemon juice, if desired.

MINI BAKED DONUTS

I set out to create a vegan doughnut recipe that didn't involve frying. All you need is a "petite doughnut pan," which should be available at kitchen stores or online. Look for something nonstick. My standard party dessert has been cupcakes up till now, but now that I know how easy doughnuts are to make, I've been converted.

Makes 20 donuts

Dry Ingredients

1 cup all-purpose flour

½ cup sugar

1½ teaspoons baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon (scant) nutmeg

1 tiny pinch or shake cinnamon

Wet Ingredients

½ cup soymilk

½ teaspoon apple cider vinegar

½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Egg replacer for 1 egg

4 tablespoons vegan margarine

Glazing

½ cup powdered sugar (lump free)

1 tablespoon soymilk

Bowl full of sprinkles (¼-½ cup)

Chocolate

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients with a whisk to mix thoroughly. Combine wet ingredients in a small sauce pan over medium low heat and mix until the margarine is melted. This mixture should not get too hot; you should be able to stick your finger in the mixture and feel slightly warm. If you burn yourself, 1) it's not my fault! and 2) it's too hot for the dough!

Add the wet ingredients to dry ones and mix until just combined. It should form a very soft dough or thick batter.

Using a tablespoon measure, scoop out the dough into an ungreased nonstick mini-doughnut pan. Smooth out the top of the dough with your fingers, clearing off the post in the middle of each one. This will make for more even, prettier donuts, but isn't crucial.

If you over fill, your donuts will come out looking like they have muffin tops. While not the end of the world, it's not very donut-like.

Bake 12 minutes until the donuts are almost browned on top, and a tester comes out clean. Invert a hot pan over a cutting board or cooling rack to release the donuts. Allow them to cool completely before decorating, with the exception of the powdered sugar donuts. If you let them cool loosely covered with plastic wrap, the donuts will stay soft and fluffy.

To Glaze with Sprinkles

Whisk the soymilk and powdered sugar together. Dip the "bottom" half of the donut (the side with the nicer shape) into the glaze, let some drip off, then dip glaze-side down into sprinkles. Transfer to a wire rack that has been set on top of some parchment paper. The excess glaze will drip through the rack onto the paper for easy cleaning later.

To Chocolate Dip

This is the easy part. Melt one bar of your favorite dark chocolate in the microwave. Remove from the microwave and stir every 15 seconds until chocolate is smooth and barely warm to the touch. I should mention that you should be very careful not to get any water in the chocolate or it could seize, and no one likes that!

Dip your donuts one-by-one into the chocolate. Place the donut on your wire rack and decorate with sprinkles, if desired.

For Striped Donuts

Dip the donuts into the powdered sugar glaze first, then drizzle with melted chocolate.

For Powdered Sugar Donuts

Roll warm donuts in a bowl of powdered sugar. Yum!

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