Strawberry Paradise 

Summer is finally here and I am fully in jelly-making-mode.  I want to preserve all the delicious flavors of summer in a hundred different ways.


Recently, I’ve been busy with rhubarb and elder flowers, and now strawberry is where it’s at.  This Spring I preemptively prepared a strong tee made from freshly picked sweet woodruff on one of my hikes bc it pairs wonderfully with strawberry.


Yesterday we drove out to the small town of Wolkersdorf where there is a strawberry plantation, and we picked 9 pounds of tiny super intensely flavored strawberries.


It’s hard work picking strawberries, and I have really soar thighs today from crouching through strawberry patches for 2 hours.  It was well worth it however!  Ironically, there were so many people who passed by us and we continuously heard “there are no more strawberries left to pick”.  I guess they don’t know that you really have to get down on your hands and knees to find them hiding in the shade of their own leaves.


As you can see from our bounty, we picked quite a few white-tipped strawberries.  We did this on purpose since partially ripe berries have a stronger more intense flavor, and when made into jams and jellies the flavor come out better.

I spent an hour plucking off the green tops, but it was well worth it – the smaller the berry the more flavor that is jam-packed inside.  And, of the nine pounds of berries I made strawberry jam, strawberry-sweet woodruff jam, strawberry-tarragon jam, strawberry-kiwi jam, and strawberry-chocolte-mint jam.  A little goes a long way and there are so many combinations.  Another favorite of mine is strawberry-pineapple jam.

No matter what combination of fruit I use, I always use a 3:1 ratio of fruit to sugar, and top off each boiling pot with the juice of a freshly squeezed lemon.  Get out and get jamming to preserve the flavors of summer!

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Elder Flower Syrup

People, it is elder flower season and that means that it’s time for make elder flower syrup!

If you’re unfamiliar with the elderberry tress it can seem like every other green tree, but when the first warm days of late Spring and early summer roll around, you just can’t miss them.  Elderberry trees grow like weeds here in Germany.  Everywhere I have been in the last few weeks I have seen at least one. They grow on the sides of roads, at thw edge of rivers, in the midst of forest, along sidewalks, in the middle of farm fields…the list goes on.  They can be spotted by their large white flower clusters, and when you get close by their intensely sweet floral scent.


Making a syrup with the flowers is pretty easy and not very labor intensive.  And, afterwards you are rewarded withe a unique syrup for making your own sodas and cocktails year round.  My favorite combination is elder flower syrup topped off with spritzy water with a squirt of fresh lemon juice and Granada-Mint leaves muddled it – and served super cold of course!


For the syrup you will need:

20 Elder Flower clusters, debugged

400g Sugar

500ml Water

1 organic Lemon, cut into rounds

To prepare:

Place all your cleaned elder flower clusters in a large wide-mouthed jar or a bowl (if you use a bowl you may need more lemon rounds).

In a saucepan, heat water and sugar over high heat, stiring frequently, until all sugar is dissolved and the mixture has reached 80C.  Pour the simple syrup over the flowers while it is still hot.

Using the lemon rounds, layer them above the flowers the keep the flowers submerged beneath the syrup.  Let the syrup sit in a cool dark place – unrefridgerated – for 24 hours.

Strain syrup through a fine sieve and discard the flowers and lemons.  Place thw syrup in a sauce pan and heat it to 80C before pouring it into prepared jars for canning.  Pour into the jars and close with a lid and allow to sit on your counter, undisturbed for 24 hours.  Alternatively, you can leave you syrup uncanned and can use it immediately.  Once opened, keep refrigerated.

Makes about 1 Liter.

Savory Tofu Breakfast Scramble

I have to admit that I loved scrambled eggs.  After making the leap, a few years ago, into the vegan life, I sporadically – especially on Sunday mornings – would reminisce of this soft, savory, fluffy dish.  But, I chalked it off as a dish of my past life, since I am not a big fan of eating industrial vegan copies of non-vegan foods.

A few months ago, I kept coming across quite a few tofu scramble posts, but tofu is a delicate ingredients that I rarely use in my kitchen.  If it isn’t prepared properly, it can be pretty yucky, but as nagging ideas go, my curiosity won, and I have to say that I’m pretty glad that it did!

As with most recipes I get my hands on, I can’t keep from tweaking them, and this recipe from hot for food is no exception.  I have made a few of their recipes in the past, and knew that this would be a good recipes to use as a starting point.  The original recipe calls for turmeric, which I replaced with a smaller amount of Ingo Holland’s (my favorite spice expert!) fruity Mango Curry mixture (limited edition).  And, I  replaced the paprika with his smoked Pimenton dela Vera (smoked Spanish paprika), as well as leaving out the plant based milk and using firm silken tofu instead – which has an almost identical consistency to fluffy scrambled eggs.

Now, with all the added flavor this does not taste directly like eggs – it tastes like a deliciously savory scramble, and the consistency reminds you of eating eggs.  It definitely makes a great festive vegan breakfast for a special occasion!


Savory Tofu Breakfast Scramble

Makes 1 large portion / Prep time 5 min / Total time 15 minutes

Ingredients:
2t Coconut Oil
1 Green Onion, minced – whites and greens separated
1 block (400g) firm Silken Tofu
2T Nutritional Yeast
1/8t Ingo Holland’s Mango Curry (or Turmeric)
1/2t smoked Pimenton de la Vera (or Paprika)
1/4t Salt

Directions:
In a small bowl, mix together the nutritional yeast, mango curry, smoked
paprika, and salt. Set aside.

Heat a large skillet over high heat, and add coconut oil and white parts
of green onions. Stir shortly, and, using your hand, squish in chunks
of silken tofu. Give the mixture a good stir so that the tofu is coated
in oil. Mix in the spice mixture and stir until well combined.

At this point, allow tofu to slightly brown in pan to round out the
flavors of the spices – about 5 minutes – stirring occasionally.
Remove from heat and serve – top with remaining green onion halves.

Serve with your favorite breakfast accompaniments.

Dreamy Pecan Brioche Braid

Let’s just say that the last few weeks have been a bit crazy.  A few days ago, I was finally able to pull the plug and just relax – no more 10 people talking to me at once, no homework, no events to run around to, just pure 100% unadulterated relaxation.  And, finally the time I often crave to concentrate on what I love doing – creating with food.

A few weeks ago I got my hands on a vegan raspberry yeast bread recipe that got my gears turning.  It was missing something – it was too airy and missing some sweetness.  And, as the story often goes, once I have have nagging feeling of how I could tweak a recipe to make it better, it doesn’t leave me alone until I am satisfied.

So, my husband and I rolled up our sleeves and whipped together this caramely, yeasty, soft, chewy, fluffy, delicious vegan pecan brioche.  When it came out of the oven we were both grinning.  We managed to let it cool for 5 minutes before slowly cutting it open and taking the first bites.  However, after sitting on the counter overnight, it developed a wonderful crumb like that found in a German Hefezopf, and every day it sat, the more the flavors developed.

Today we gobbled up the last bits, and my thoughts have turned to a chocolate version of this recipe….the gears are turning.

This is a great recipe for any time of the year, just tweak the flavor of the filling.  Add up to 3 teaspoons of cinnamon and it will taste cinnamon bun-y, add ground ginger and cloves to the cinnamon and it will take a turn for Christmas, add a guava paste filling and take a turn into the tropics.  The possibilities are endless!

Pecan Brioche Braid, vegan

Makes 1 Loaf with 24 slices / Prep Time 35 min / Total Time 2 hours

Ingredients:

Dough:
300mL Water
1 cube (42g) fresh Yeast or 14g dry Yeast
50g Alsan (Coconut Margarine), melted
600g Spelt Flour
150g Sugar
2t Salt

Filling:
150g Brown Sugar
30g Flour
1 pinch Vanilla Salt (or regular Salt)
1t Cinnamon
100g Alsan, room temperature
2C finely chopped Pecans

Brushing:
1/4C Almond Milk
1T Agave Syrup

Directions:
For the dough, pour warm water, yeast,
and a pinch of sugar into an electric mixing bowl. Stir shortly,
and allow to sit and foam for 10 minutes. Stir in melted Alsan.

In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, and salt.
Combine all ingredients in your electric mixer fitted with a
dough hook until well combined.

Remove from mixer, cover bowl with a damp cloth, and allow to rise
for 45 minutes in a warm spot until doubled in size.

In the mean time, prepare the filling by combining all ingredients by
hand and massaging them together. Set aside.

Mix together brushing ingredients, and set aside.

Preheat oven to 180°C, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Once dough is ready, dust a large surface with flour and scrape out
dough – also dust with flour. Roll out into a large rectangle with
a rolling pin.

Using an angled cake spatula, spread filling from end to end of the
dough, leaving a 1″ lip at the top. Brush this lip with the brushing
mixture. Roll dough together tightly and seal. Roll dough onto
a baking sheet.

Using a sharp knife, cut the dough from end to end along the length of
the dough, leaving 2″ on one end attached. Separate the dough halves
and braid over each other, making the filling visible. Tuck ends in
to prevent them from burning, and push the braid together by hand to
make it “fatter”. Brush entire loaf with brushing mixture.

Bake for 30 minutes, then remove from oven and allow to cool slightly
before cutting.

Store at room temperature, uncovered, for up to 5 days (should it last
that long!).

Homemade Vegan Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin Pie is a very special part of our Thanksgiving traditions.  If we could only pick one dish to prepare that represents this sacred family event for us, Pumpkin Pie would win.

It’s so very special to us that we start making it in late summer by harvesting Red Kuri Squash (Hokkaidokürbis) at the end of September and processing them into pumpkin purée that we make our filling with.


Pumpkin Purée

Makes 450g / Prep Time 20 min / Total Time 45 min

600g Red Kuri Squash, peeled, seeded, and chopped
Water to cover
1 teaspoon Sunflower Oil

Directions:
Place squash in a large pot and cover with water.  Add oil.
Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to a simmer.  Simmer on medium-low
heat for 15-20 minutes, or until pumpkin is soft.
Drain off liquid, purée, and let cool.  It can either be used right away,
or frozen in portions for future use.

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Vegan Pumpkin Pie:

Serves 8 – 12 / Prep Time 15 min / Total Time 1 hour 40 minutes

1 Pie Dough Round
1T Flax Seed Flour
110mL Water
150g Sugar
1/2t Salt
1t Cinnamon
1/2t ground Ginger
1/4t ground Cloves
450g Pumpkin Purée
340g Almond Milk

Directions:
Preheat oven to 218°C.
Prepare your pie dough in a pie dish and place in the refrigerator.

In a tall measuring cup, purée flax seed flour and water with a wand mixer
until smooth. Set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves.

In a large bowl, whisk together pumpkin purée and flax seed mixture.
Whisk in sugar mixture and then almond milk until smooth.

Pour into prepared pie shell, cover dough edges with a pie crust shield,
and bake for 15 minutes.
Reduce temperature to 177°C, and continue to bake for 70 minutes,
or until a knife inserted in center comes out clean.

Remove from oven, and allow to cool for 12 hours before serving.

Simple Tomato Pastries

I rarely watch tv…I mean really rarely.  Every once in a while I enjoy watching a documentary, and recently discovered Chef’s Table.  I love watching the well thought out moves of the kitchen staff, and find the presentation of the different style fascinating: the delicate moves, the precision of every wielded knife, the vibrant colors of fresh ingredients…I love it.  I have worked in a few kitchens in my life…but none as nice and the ones in the show.
So, when I watched Alain Passard from L’Arpège (in Paris) roll out a homemade sheet of puff pastry, lightly brush it in butter, and cover it in a colorful mixture of thick-sliced heirloom tomatoes – my mouth began to water.  He has such an amazing garden that produces fresh fruits and vegetables for his kitchen – a dream.  One day I will get around to making my own puff pastry…it’s been on my bucket list for years, but will have to stay there a little longer.  Luckily, my local grocery store sells vegan puff pastry, so I picked up some San Marzano tomatoes from my local farmer’s market and got right to it.
This is a really simple recipe, and my kids love eating these delicious crunchy pillows.  The lightly caramelized tomato gives this savory snack a silky sweetness.
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Simple Tomato Pastries

Serves 4 (Snack) – 12 (Amuse bouche) / Prep Time 5 min / Total Time 25 min
Ingredients:
1 sheet vegan Puff Pastry, cut into 12 rectangles
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1/8 teaspoon Garlic Powder
1/8 teaspoon Onion Powder
1/4 teaspoon Fleur de Sel
6 San Marzano Tomatoes (can substitute with Roma), halved
1 pinch of Sugar
1 pinch of table Salt
1 hand full fresh Basil, chopped
Directions:
Preheat oven to 200°C.
Remove the wire rack from your oven and line it with parchment paper.  Place the rectangles of puff pastry on the parchment paper, making sure that they are not touching each other.
In a small bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of olive oil, garlic powder, onion powder, and fleur de sel.  Brush each piece of pastry with the mixture, and place a tomato half on each piece of pastry – cut-side up.  Larger tomato halves can be cut again in half to help them bake more evenly.
Brush the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil on the
tomatoes, and sprinkle each tomato with a small amount of sugar and salt.
Place the wire rack on the very bottom of your oven and bake for 10 minutes.  The, set the wire rack in the center of the oven and continue to bake for another 10 minutes.  Baking the pastries at the bottom of the oven allows the bottom of the pastry to become really crunchy.  If we had a pizza oven, we could skip this step.  Take care not to leave the pastries in for too long as the puff pastry goes from golden-baked to charcoal-black rather quickly.
Once done, remove immediately from oven and allow to cool slightly before sprinkling with fresh basil.
The pastries can be stored for 2 days at (cool) room temperature and still taste great.  These guys always taste great…breakfast..lunch…dinner…or in between meals.

Roasted Garlic & Onion Dressing

In Bavaria there is a very traditional way to prepare Lamb’s Leaf Lettuce (Feldsalat): bacon grease, bacon, onions, white wine vinegar, sugar, and salt – every family has their own special recipe.  Winter is right around the corner, and this is (almost) every German’s favorite Fall/Winter/Christmas salad.  It’s basic and full of salty acidic flavor.
However, this is a salad that no one ever serves vegan-friendly, even though it’s so simple and just as jam packed with flavor.  The crunch from the bacon will be absent, but the flavor is so amazing and full of depth (and even better than the original!) that you won’t even miss it!

Roasted Garlic & Onion Dressing

Serves 4 / Prep Time 5 min / Total Time 15 min
Ingredients:
1 teaspoon Sunflower Oil
2 cloves Garlic, minced
2 small Onions, minced
1/2 teaspoon Sugar
Salt, to taste (about 2 pinches)
3 Tablespoons White Wine Vinegar
1 Tablespoon Sunflower Oil
Directions:
Heat 1 teaspoon of oil in a medium-sized sauce pan.  Add onion and garlic and sauté on medium-low heat until dark-roasted – but not burnt!  Set aside.
In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar, salt, vinegar, and 1 tablespoon of oil. Add the sautéed garlic and onions and mix well.  Taste to adjust acidity and/or salt.
When ready to serve, pour over a large bowl of freshly washed lamb’s leaf lettuce and toss.
Enjoy

 

Buddha Bowl

This is one of my favorite dishes.  It’s crunchy and creamy and full of flavour.  So, what is so peacefull about this buddah bowl?  Well, other than the meditative mode that you will enter will enjoying the combination of flavours and textures, is that it is really a bowl of vegan leftovers.  Yes, it is the whole last week of little bits and scraps leftover after every meal ever so gently layed into a bowl, drizzled with a delicious tangy homemade sesame dressing that pulls the whole thing together.  Inner peace – another day not having to slave in the kitchen.
However, if you are all leftovers-out, or you find inner-peace in cooking (as I do), you can still put this delicious dish together in an uncomplicated amount of time.
So, make it for lunch or dinner, take it to work, or spread out all the ingredients buffet-style and let your family or guests put their bowl together as they wish.  It’s flexible and kid-friendly.
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Buddha Bowl

Serves 4 / Prep Time 20 min / Total Time 1 hour

Ingredients:
2 Cups Cooked Rice (recipe bellow)
1 Portion Crispy Chickpeas (recipe bellow)
2 Cups Micro Greens
1 large Carrot, julienned
1 Avocado, quartered, and sliced
16 Cherry Tomatoes, halved
1/2 Cup Mung bean Sprouts
4 leaves Chicory
1 Green Onion, whites only, sliced
1 Portion Sesame Dressing (recipe bellow)
1 Tablespoon Black Caraway Seeds
Directions:
Divide up your ingredients among 4 wide bowls.
Start by layering the rice down the middle.  Then, work your way clock-wise starting with the micro greens and ending with the sliced avocado – gently nestling in each small portion.
Nudge in a whole chicory leaf on top of the rice, and scoop in a few spoon fulls of crispy chickpeas.
Drizzle each bowl with a good amount of dressing, and garnish with some chopped green onions and black caraway seeds.
Leave out what you like.  Add what you like. Enjoy.

Simple White Rice

Serves 4 / Prep Time 3 min / Total Time 15 min
Ingredients:
1 Cup Long Grain Rice
1/4 teaspoon Salt
2 Cups Water
Directions:
Place the dry, uncooked rice in a small pot and through in the salt.  Give it a whirl with your hand to disperse the salt.
Pour in the water – do not mix – do not stir – just pour it in.
Cook over high heat.  The rice will come to a boil and the water will start to reduce.  Once the water is even with the level of rice and it gives the appearance of foamy soap bubbles emerging from large holes between the rice, reduce the heat to low.
Cover and continue cooking for 10 minutes.
To check for doneness, after the 10 minutes are done, pierce the surface of the rice with a spoon until it reaches the bottom of the pot.  Pull it.  If it is shiny and slightly wet, then cover it back up and cook for another 3 minutes.  If it’s mat and dry and only slightly pasty, then it’s done.
Fluff the rice while hot with a spoon or fork to loosen the grains.

 

Crispy Chickpeas

Serves 4 / Prep Time 5 min / Total Time 50 min

Ingredients:
400 grams canned Chickpeas, drained, rinsed
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Garlic Powder
1 teaspoon Onion Powder
1 teaspoon Cumin
1/2 teaspoon Pimenton de la Vera (Spanish Smoked Paprika)
Directions:
Preheat oven to 250°C (480°F).
Layer a baking pan with parchment paper.
In a large mixing bowl combine all ingredients by hand.  Make sure with get the spices all over each chickpea!
Spread the chickpeas out in a single layer on the baking pan.  Bake on the top rack of the oven for 45 minutes, or until the chickpeas are nice and crispy, but not black.
Remove from oven and let cool to room temperature before enjoying.

Tangy Sesame Dressing

Serves 4 / Prep Time 5 min / Total Time 10 min
Ingredients:
1/3 Cup Tahini
2 Tablespoons Soy Sauce
2 teaspoons sugar (or agave syrup)
2 teaspoons Rice Vinegar
Zest from 1/2 a Lime
Juice from 1 Lime
1 Knob of Ginger (the size of your thumb!), peeled, and grated
1 teaspoon Siracha (or Frank’s Red Hot)
1 pinch of Pepper
1 pinch of crushed Red Pepper flakes
Directions:
Whisk all ingredients together in a bowl.  Let sit to allow flavors to develop.
Find peace in this explosion of flavors!

Quick Peanut Noodles

This peanut noodle recipe practically saved my life.  I know it sounds ridiculous, but this recipe has seen me through thick and thin…12 hour work days, kids’ soccer tournaments, pick-nicks, late nights, long and strenuous hikes, and short lunch breaks.  What makes it so amazing…other than tasting awesome?

It is a wholesome meal that can be made in 15 minutes…or even the day before.  It’s flexible, spicy, full of energy, filling but light, and loaded with vegan nutrients – a perfect pre-excersise meal.  And, if you want to change up the flavors or quadruple it, go ahead and be creative!  On many occasions,

I have left out the sambal oelek and added BBQ sauce, or replaced the fresh squeezed lemon juice with lime juice, or added tomatoes…

After countless requests from friends, work colleagues, and family members…here we go!  Comment and let me know how you make it your own.

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Quick Peanut Noodles

Serves 2 / Prep Time 15 min / Total Time 15 min

Ingredients:
~6 Cups Boiling Water
100grams Cellophane Noodles
1/4 Cup All-Natural Peanut Butter
juice of 1/2 a Lemon
1 teaspoon of Sambal Oelek
1/2 teaspoon Garlic Powder
1/2 teaspoon Ginger Powder
1 Cup chopped Cucumber
2 Cups thinly shredded Iceberg Lettuce
1 Tablespoon chopped salted Peanuts
1 Tablespoons sliced Green Onions

Directions:

Bring your water to a boil.  If you have an electric water boiler, this will be your quickest bet.

Place the cellophane noodles in a large mixing bowl, and pour the boiling water over the noodles, until covered.  Loosen the noodles slightly with a fork.  Set aside, and set a timer for 12 minutes.

In a small mixing bowl, stir together peanut butter, lemon juice, sambal oelek, garlic powder, and ginger powder.  The sauce will thicken the more you mix.

Prepare your cucumbers, lettuce, peanuts, and green onions.  Go ahead and get creative if you feel the itch – add tomatoes, mushrooms, roasted eggplant, broccoli, radishes, carrots, black beans, bbq sauce, sesame oil…the sky is the limits.

Once your timer has buzzed, drain off the water from the noodles.  Cellophane noodles are usually very long, so, at this point, take the time to just cut through them a few times to make things manageable.

Scrape the peanut sauce into the warm noodles, and mix it in.  It will be very thick, so use a fork and spoon to “comb” it it.  This will take a minute or two.

Through in your fresh veggies, give it a quick toss, and garnish it with green onions and chopped peanuts.

Done.

Quick. Simple. Delicious. Vegan.

If you want to make this a day in advanced, go ahead.  Just keep the noodles, sauce, and veggies separate from each other until you’re ready to serve to keep it from getting soggy. Heat the sauce up for 30 seconds to soften it up before mixing into your noodles.