Friday, February 29, 2008

Random Friday Favorites: A Kristin Hersh Special

* Kristin with an Eye: A picture blog wherein the inimitable and great Kristin Hersh posts a daily picture direct from her phone. This one and this one are my favorites so far. This one looks just like my dog, Luckie. It just dawned on me that the title of this blog is a play on saying, "Kristin with an 'I.'" Sometimes I'm slow.

* Actually, all of my favorites this past week have been about Kristin Hersh. I've been listening to her and Throwing Muses non-stop since I found out that I can send her a list of 10 songs and she will record them for me. And not just for me. For you too, if you're lucky enough to get your order in on time. In fact, I'm not even sure I should post the link because I want my damn CD and don't want you taking my spot. Alright, I'll share.

* My favorite KH/TM songs right now: Speed and Sleep, Listerine, Vitamins V, and Furious have been getting a lot of play and love.

* Some food favorites: today's uncharacteristically decadent weekday breakfast of an everything bagel with butter and coffee with lots of milk and sugar. I don't drink coffee as much as I drink coffee-lite. I will, however, get hardcore with tea and drink that bad boy straight-up, no sugar. Also, ruby red grapefruits rule my world right now. As does the spinach jalapeno tofu by Sunergia Soyfoods that I eat with red swiss chard steamed for 10 minutes before being turned in a hot pan of sizzling canola oil kissed with tamari and that Vietnamese garlic and red chili sauce. Finally, Orville Redenbacher's natural salt and pepper popcorn is a buttery kick in the mouth.

* Coming soon: some guest bloggers talk about being vegetarian in mixed company.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Almond Joy Pancakes

Straight from Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s The Joy of Vegan Baking (TJOVB), with just a little bit of tweaking by me, I present coconut almond pancakes, otherwise known as Almond Joy Pancakes. I spent part of Saturday with one of my oldest friends and we visited Brownstone Diner and Pancake Factory in her new haunts of Jersey City, NJ. There was an endless array of pancakes that were all delicious-sounding but I always have a tendency to want something more after eating pancakes so I skipped them in favor of a veggie burger with gorgonzola and some onion rings.

The craving for pancakes, however, did not subside. I woke up next to Brian on Sunday morning wanting to eat coconut pancakes but feeling too lazy to make them. So we had Chinese takeout at Mei Mei’s (link to MM post) instead. After dropping off Brian for his train back to Philly, I headed off to Wegmans with the sole purpose of buying tempeh bacon and shredded coconut because I wanted to have some breakfast for dinner and that was going to be some pancakes. I’m not one to resist a craving that lasts 15 seconds let alone one that’s gone on for longer than 24 hours. It was time for pancakes.

Not to toot my own horn—but I’m gonna—but the pancakes I make are always way better than diner ones anyway. I suspect that is not because I have been given the rare ability to turn out remarkable pancakes. Rather, I think pancakes are just one of those things that taste better with the least amount of fussing, which means, make them with flour, baking powder, and the binders they call for rather than the myriad chemicals found in many commercial mixes (what the diners use). Pancakes also were my induction into home cooking. Along with scrambled eggs, they were the first things I learned to make. I remember the first day I mastered them, waiting for those bubbles to magically appear, signaling they were ready to be turned. I was hooked. I made stack after stack for my father, with him eating them for all three major meals that day.

I referred to a few cookbooks for proper measurements before settling on TJOVB rendition. Perfect. All the ingredients were ones I had on hand and it was a simple palette to which I could add a few other flavorings to. Besides, I could freeze most of the cooked batch so Brian could have some next week too.

All I did was follow TJOVB recipe, but used golden syrup as my liquid sweetener rather than maple syrup. I had both but I use maple syrup almost everyday in my morning bowl of oatmeal so decided to use up the golden syrup I hadn’t touched since Thanksgiving. Also, it’s milder than maple syrup and really allowed the coconut and almond flavors to shine. Lastly, I added unsweetened dried coconut shreds and a generous splash of pure almond extract. They were just what I wanted for dinner on Sunday night and I can’t wait to thaw out and dig into the leftovers next weekend. If you truly want to make these Almond Joy Pancakes like their namesake candy, please do yourself a favor and add a few handfuls of chocolate chips to the mix. Oh. Yeah.

Almond Joy Pancakes (vegan)
Small amount of butter, spread, oil, or cooking spray to lightly grease pan or griddle
1 cup unbleached, organic, all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon aluminum-free baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup nondairy milk (such as vanilla soy milk or almond milk)
2 tablespoons canola oil
3 tablespoons liquid sweetener (I used Lyle's Golden Syrup; you also can try maple syrup, apple juice concentrate, or orange juice as per TJOVB)
1/4 cup shredded, unsweetened dried coconut
1 teaspoon pure almond extract

1. Lightly grease a nonstick pan or griddle and place over low to low-medium heat. Watch carefully that it doesn’t burn or smoke.
2. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in large bowl. In a large measuring cup or small bowl, combine milk, oil, and sweetener. Add wet ingredients to dry ones and mix until just combined (there will be some lumps and that's ok). Add coconut and almond extract and stir until ingredients are just combined.
3. Spoon 1/4 cup batter onto preheated pan for each pancake. Cook each pancake for 3 to 5 minutes, adding about four at time, depending on the size of your pan. Be sure not to overcrowd or you’ll end up with one big pancake rather than several of them). You will know it's time to turn the pancake over when bubbles appear on its surface and the edges look cooked. Cook on other side for just 2 to 3 minutes, or until lightly browned. Will yield 10 pancakes.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Banana Spelt Bread

Delicious, simple, and with an aroma that fills your kitchen with comforting goodness, banana bread is one of my all-time favorites. This variation is adapted from Veganomicon. Its many virtues include being vegan, lower in fat, full of fiber, and subtly sweet. The use of spelt flour ups the fiber content and gives this banana bread a darker-than-usual hue (as does the molasses). It’s nutty, perfect with tea, and you can’t go wrong lightly slathering it with butter or Earth Balance and some jam.

This weekend, I brought the banana bread over to Jamesina and Ryan’s house, both of whom are longtime friends of Brian. I worried that it might be too healthy but everyone gobbled it up, particularly Brian, who I had to save pre-visit slices from, lest there be none left for anyone else. Ryan said the bread was reminiscent of Friendship Bread, which I’d never heard of. So Jamesina got me rolling with a starter for it and the end result will be posted very soon (it takes 10 days to make!)

3 small, very ripe bananas
1 ½ teaspoon Ener-g Egg Replacer mixed well in 2 tablespoons warm water (or ¼ cup sweetened or unsweetened applesauce)
¼ cup canola or walnut oil
½ cup sugar
2 tablespoons dark molasses
1 cup all-purpose flour (preferably organic and unbleached)
1 cup + 1 tablespoon whole-grain spelt flour
¾ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon table salt
2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350ยบ F. Lightly grease a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan.
2. In a large mixing bowl, thoroughly mash bananas with potato masher, spoon, or fork. Add egg replacer, oil, sugar, and molasses and hand-whisk briskly or mix with beater on low.
3. Add flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt to banana mixture. Use large spoon to mix until just combined, being careful to not over mix.
4. Add batter to loaf pan and place in oven. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until top is brown and cracked and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Do not over bake or bread will dry out. Remember, it will continue to cook after taken out of the oven.5. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before taking bread out of pan and placing on cooling rack to cool completely.

Federal Agencies Seek Alternatives to Traditional Animal Testing

Here's a little non-food related news but some very good news for animals and advanced science:

A new plan to further reduce, refine and replace the use of animals in research and regulatory testing commonly referred to as the 3Rs was unveiled today at a symposium marking the 10-year anniversary of the Interagency Coordinating Committee on the Validation of Alternative Methods (ICCVAM). The plan identifies priority areas for research, development, translation, and validation activities necessary to achieve regulatory acceptance of alternative test methods. A cornerstone of the federal government's five-year plan is the formation of partnerships with industry and other national and international stakeholders to achieve measurable progress...

Traditionally, chemicals, consumer products, medical devices and new drugs are tested on animals to predict toxicity on humans, but scientists, like those involved in ICCVAM, are working to promote the development and validation of alternative test methods. Alternative test methods are those that accomplish one or more of the 3Rs of reducing the number of animals used in testing, or refining procedures so animals experience less pain and distress, or replacing animals with non-animal systems.

William Stokes, D.V.M., director of NICEATM, the NTP office at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) that administers ICCVAM, highlighted some of the progress made since ICCVAM was formed, including the fact that ICCVAM has evaluated more than 185 test methods since its inception in 1997. Many of these methods need further development and validation before they are ready for regulatory consideration. However, several are now in widespread use around the world for routine safety testing, resulting in notable reduction and refinement of animal use. "We've made great progress in the past decade, and with the help of our partners we can do even more to increase the pace of developing and introducing alternative methods."

You can read the entire National Institutes of Health press release here.