Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Oh how sweet it is!

Nothing says weekend breakfast like a yummy, gooey, sticky sweet cinnamon roll. I have fond memories of waking up to my dad pulling this gems out of the oven and slathering them with cream cheese frosting. Ah, but the days of butter and cream cheese for this vegan are long gone. So I thought, why not.  It can't be that difficult. Honestly, it's not.

This is truly a labor of love, and can be spread out over a two day period. The key here is patience. Letting the yeast bloom, the scalded milk cool and incorporating the flour slowly.

When baking people often neglect a few key points. The measuring must be exact and the ingredients room temperature.  Not only does this insure a great end product, but also guarantees ease in putting the ingredients together.

For my sweet roll creation I've gotten great results with a German recipe for Kuchen.  It's a very forgiving dough with an excellent crumb. It's also versatile. I've made donuts, danish, event coffee cake with this very same dough.  So, once you've mastered it, you're goin to LOVE IT.

The recipe, as originally written suggests kneading this dough by hand. Well, if you want a good work out have at it.  Personally, I'll take a kitchen aid any day of the week.







Monday, November 19, 2012

Move over bacon...now there's something tastier!


When it comes to breakfast in a carnivores world, its just not breakfast without bacon, sausage or ham for that matter.  In my world, bacon is a no no.  Unfortunately in my former life, I was [gulp] a meat eater and I loved the crunch of bacon.  Now a days, there are quite a few meat analogs to choose from which offer, well, the taste of bacon, sausage, and ham.  But why buy when you can make your own!

The famous Millennium Restaurant in San Francisco California is known for its vegan fair.  Most importantly, vegan brunch.  Although I've never had a chance to visit the restaurant personally I have purchased the Millennium Cook Book.  Chef Eric Tucker brings flavor profiles which boggle the mind.  I've fallen in love with his simply toothsome tempeh sausage.  In my house even my meat eating husband enjoys the flavor.  The ingredients are easy to come by, quick to put together, and best of all, if you make double the recipe, they freeze wonderfully!

Millennium Tempeh Sausage
[I've added a few twist, turns and short cuts]
Serves 8

8 oz tempeh sausage [*poached and marinated cooled and grated]
1 russet potato, peeled, finely dices into 1/4 inch cubes, boiled until fork tender and drained
2 to 3 scallions, finely chopped
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp salt
1 tsp dried sage
1 tsp dried fennel
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/8 tsp red pepper flake [optional]
2 tbsp canola oil

In a medium sized bowl combine all the above ingredients. Use your hands to ensure the mixture is well combined.  Let this mixture chill 30 minutes to 24 hours.  When ready, form the mixture into 1/2 inch thick patties. On a lightly oiled cookie sheet, place each patty and lightly brush with oil.  In a 375 degree oven bake for 8-10 minutes until lightly brown, turning once.  Sausages should be slightly firm to the touch.  To reheat, crisp slightly and heat through in a lightly oiled skillet.  2-3 minutes per side and enjoy!

[*to poach, place tempeh brick in a marinade of 1/2 cup soy, 1 tsp paprika, 2 cloves crushed garlic, 1 tsp dried sage, 2 tsp thyme, 2 tsp maple syrup or brown sugar and 2 cups of water.  Whisk ingredients together and pour into a sauce pan bring to a low simmer and place tempeh in liquid.  Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.  Let tempeh cool in liquid]

Now...We've got the sausage, but mother needs a little crunch.  Bring on EGGPLANT BACON!
When making this delicious breakfast treat is quick simple, and a crunchy treat you will be eating way beyond breakfast.

So which eggplant works best.  This is a question which I asked myself and researched through other vegan websites. Here are a few options



Chinese Eggplant 



                                                           White Eggplant 





Sicilian Eggplant 





Each eggplant imparts a different flavor on the end product.  Sicilian eggplant tends to be a bit bitter, Chinese eggplant is a bit milder but still has a slight bite.  My personal favorite is white eggplant.  Not only does it taste good, creates a wonderful looking piece of "bacon"!  Marinating is the key to this dish, so try to let it set as long as possible.  If you are in a rush you can let it sit for as little as 30 minutes and you are ready to eat.
[this video shows how to use a mandolin correctly]

Eggplant Bacon 

1-2 medium sized white eggplants or small purple eggplants sliced 1/4 inch thick
      [using a mandolin is the easiest way to do this if you don't have one using a sharp knife will do as well]
2 tbsp brown sugar 
2 tsp soy sauce 
1 tsp liquid smoke 
1 tsp granulated garlic 
1 tsp paprika [you can also used smoked for a deeper flavor] 
2 tbsp vegetable or canola oil [neutral flavored oil is the best] 
1/4 cup water 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using a mandolin slice the eggplant [unpeeled] into 1/4 inch slices [as thin as 1/8 inch if you like.  The thinner the eggplant the quicker it will cool].  Set eggplant in layers in a glass or plastic container which will allow it to lay flat.  Whisk together remaining ingredients.  Pour marinade over the eggplant. Be sure that all the pieces are well covered.  Place plastic wrap directly on to the surface of the eggplant to ensure that the marinade is in constant contact with it.  Refrigerate 30 min-24 hours.  When ready, place a sheet of aluminum foil over a cookie sheet.  Place eggplant in single layers making sure not to overlap any of the eggplant.  Bake 20-35 minutes checking frequently turning at least once.  Bacon should be crisp and brown.  Cool at room temperature and store in an airtight container at room temperature.  Now lets eat some breakfast! 




Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Breakfast Challenge #3 Founding Farmers "Fried Chicken and Waffles"

Photo from the book Hog and Hominy 
Chicken and Waffles. A mainstay in the black community for years and years.  It's origin is said to have been traced back to the Los Angeles eatery Roscoe's.  Founded in 1975 by Harlem native Herb Hudson. Roscoe's is said to be the first to serve this delicious combination.  Fast forward to 2012, and you have Founding Farmers  version recently featured on the Food Network.

When I think of chicken and waffles, there are two glaring replacements which need to be tackled.  What do you replace the chicken with, and how can you make a great waffles without the use of, how I was taught in culinary school, fluffy egg whites?  A question I long pondered.  I could have gone the simple route, but I realized, do I want to make a mirror version of this, or do I want to simply be inspired.  Inspiration!

In this homage to chicken and waffles, I used visual trickery to give the illusion of the dish, but amp up the flavor.  Both savory and sweet, you can munch on this dish for breakfast lunch and dinner. We start by using, what my daughter currently refers to them as, cauliflower wings.  Gleaming white florets of garden goodness. No need to steam, blanch or fry.  Simply dredge in well seasoned flour and a beautiful "buttermilk" batter and fry.  It's that simple.

The crispy outer coating has hints of cayenne, black pepper, and celery seed, which elevate the cauliflower superbly.  Moving onto the waffle.  Here I decided to take a slight turn from the norm, and make a cornmeal based waffle, studded with fresh summer corn.  The crunch of the cornmeal and the sweetness of the fresh corn, add a dimension of flavor you wouldn't expect.  My husband says it reminds him or cornbread or even a light hush puppy.

Normally, and at Founding Farm as well, this dish is accompanied by chicken gravy.  A heavy starchy concoction reminiscent or biscuits and gravy.  In good conscience I just couldn't add any more fat.  I'm already looking at fried food.  So to lighten the dish up, I used the harvest of fresh tomatoes from our garden to make a tomato, roasted corn relish or salsa if you will.  The tomatoes are sweet and juicy, with the addition of green tomatoes as well as ripe, an acidity is added to cut through the fat of the friend cauliflower.

Have I recreated the iconic dish in its entirety? Not quite.  But it's delicious and vegan all the same.  Here's a great meal, especially for a family dinner, when you want to feed your stomach as well as your soul.  Add a side of southern style collard greens and don't forget the hot sauce.  With that being said, this dish is a deeper shade of soul.


Golden Cornmeal Waffles 

3/4 c all purpose flour
1 1/2 c yellow cornmeal
2 tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp table salt
2 c unsweetened soy milk + 2 tbsp white vinegar [note: let this mixture sit at room for 30 min or so before using.  This creates a buttermilk for the waffles]
6 tbsp neutral flavored oil
5 tbsp golden flax seed finely ground meal + 6 tbsp warm water [note: you can also use the equivalent of 2 eggs with the replacement of your choice]
1 c fresh corn kernels
1/4 c grated white onion
1/4 c chopped green onion

  1.  In a medium sized bowl, sift together flour baking power, baking soda, salt and sugar together.  Whisk in golden cornmeal and set aside. 
  2. In an additional bowl, whisk soy "buttermilk", neutral oil and egg replaces together.  
  3. Combine, flour mixture and soy buttermilk, until combined.  Fold in corn kernels, grated onion and chopped green onion. 
  4. In a heated waffle iron [following manufacturers instructions] ladle batter onto the grid and close.  Cook for 4 minutes until golden brown.  Transfer to a baking sheet and keep warm in a low oven until ready to serve. 
Tomato & Corn Relish 

2 c fresh corn kernels  [about 3 ears of corn]
2 cloves garlic finely chopped 
2 c tomatoes diced [use a variety of summer heirlooms for the best flavor]
2 tbsp fresh chopped cilantro 
2 stalks green onion chopped 
salt and pepper to taste 

In a mixing bowl combine all the ingredients and let stand for 15-20 minutes in the refrigerator to let flavors meld together.  [for an  added tartness use a few green tomatoes as well.  The sweetness of the corn and the slightly sweet acidic nature of the summer tomatoes, no oil or even vinegar is needed.  This salad taste great on its own] 

Chicken Fried Cauliflower "Wings" 

Batter:
1/2 c all purpose flour
1/2 c rice flour
1/2 c ice cold seltzer water
1/4 tsp turmeric
salt and pepper to taste

[note: the batter should be whisked together until smooth, but only done so, when ready to fry.  As batter sits, its loses its lightness]

1 head cauliflower cut into florets
Neutral flavored oil to fry

In a large cast iron skillet or deep heavy bottom pot, pour oil to the depth of 1-2 inches [1/2 inch of using cast iron skillet].  Heat oil to 375 degrees [if you do not have an oil thermometer here is a good way to check the oils temperature. To check the temperature without a thermometer, drop a small piece of bread the size of a crouton into the oil. It should float to the surface immediately and brown lightly in about 45 seconds ~courtesy of NPR.)

Toss cauliflower into batter, and coat well.  Using a fork, fish out each floret and tap lightly to remove any excess batter.  Each floret should be lightly coated with batter.  Fry in small batches.  Florets are done when they are a golden brown.  Drain on a wire rack to drain any excess oil.  place in a 200 degree oven to keep warm while frying remaining pieces. 

Serve cauliflower "wings, with corn waffles piping hot,  tomato corn relish, southern style collard greens and  hot pepper sauce on the side. 









Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Breakfast Challenge #2: The Braeburn Restaurant "Corned Beef Mash"

Diners are my husbands first or should I say second love. On the occasional weekend when my entire family heads out for breakfast, my husband loves to order corned beef hash.  My daughter and I, who are vegan, sit across from him as he gobbles down his carnivore delight with a smile on his face and a hearty "yum" after each bite.  We, on the other hand, enjoy oatmeal with fruit, dry toast, or curse the evil day, potatoes, hopefully NOT cooked in butter.

The challenge of making corned beef hash vegan, is finding the right form of protein to substitute for corned beef.   Tempeh is often suggested; Mark Bittman has a wonderful recipe in his book How to Cook Everything Vegetarian .  On my first attempt at this recipe, I did try this and even asked my carnivore husband to partake.  Unfortunately it didn't go over so well with him.  So back to the drawing board.  Sigh....

The joy of the Internet and the vast array of wonderful vegan and vegetarian chefs, often give me the starting point and direction I so often need when working on a new recipe.  Vegnews mentioned a vegan/vegetarian chef by the name of Ken Bergeron, winner of the first Gold Medal in the Culinary Olympics for Vegetarian food.  Hazaah!! Chef Bergeron has created a wonderful recipe for Corned Seitan.  The process is far from simple and actually takes 2 days! But...the results are more than worth it.

After making his wonderful seitan, I used my own personal recipe to bring the dish into focus.  Diners Drive Ins and Dives journeyed to Langley Washington for a visit to the Braeburn Restaurant. Nestled in the heart of Langley by the sea at the south end of Whidley Island in Washington state.  Food Networks food adventure led me to their famous Corned Beef Mash, and the challenge began.  The Braeburn describes their winning dish as follows:

OUR FOOD NETWORK WINNER!! House made mashed potatoes mixed with corned beef and a delightful blend of fresh herbs and spices, lightly grilled and topped with Dubliner cheese, 3 eggs your way and your choice of our buttermilk dill biscuit or toast on the side.


Whew...where do I begin.  Every vegan has a recipe in their back pocket for tofu scramble so I'm not going to even go there.  What I will share is the wonderful recipe for the hash portion of this breakfast. Credit given where credit is due, to chef Ken Bergeron and his cookbook Professional Vegetarian Cooking. 

Corned Seitan 

Yield 10 servings 

Dry Ingredients 

2 c wheat gluten
2/3 c all-purpose white flour
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp ground coriander
[note by grinding and toasting fresh coriander seeds you get a much richer flavor; see additional information for how to toast spices]

Wet Mixture  

1 c beet juice [fresh juiced, if you don't have a juicer, place a peeled beet into a blender and puree until smooth.  Force through a fine strainer or cheese cloth to extract juice]
1/2 c soy sauce/tamari
1/4 c tomato juice
1/4 cup red wine vinegar

Marinade and braising liquid 

 1/4 cup pickling spice 
1 c carrots, large dice (cut into 1/4 inch squares)
1 c white onion, large dice
4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2 tbsp fresh gingerroot finely chopped
1/4 c soy sauce
1/5 cup red wine vinegar
10 c water [more if needed]


In a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients and set aside.  Whisk together wet ingredients, quickly combine wet and dry ingredients to form a dough.  Knead in the bowl until firm, cover and set the dough aside while you begin the marinade.  Whisk together the ingredients for the marinade and place in a non metal container.  Place the seitan mixture in the marinade and refrigerate for 24 hours.

Next day, preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  Place the seitan, and marinade in an oven proof casserole dish  or pot.  Bring the marinade mixture to a boil and boil for 10 minutes.  Cover the casserole dish tightly with aluminum foil and place in the oven.  Bake for 30 minutes. Carefully remove foil and continue to bake for an additional 30 minutes or until tender.  Remove from dish, and place on a platter letting it cool. Strain marinade and reserve to use as a liquid to reheat your seitan.


Vegan Irish Cheddar 
1 1/2 c water
5 tsp agar powder or 5 tbsp agar-agar flakes
1/2 c raw cashew pieces
1/4 c nutritional yeast flakes
3 tbsp apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
1 tbsp dried onion flakes
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp minced fresh garlic
1/2 tsp mustard powder

In a non reactive bowl soak cashew pieces in water over night.  Next day, puree cashews in a blender until mixture is smooth.  Whisk together remaining ingredients and add to cashew mixture in blender.  Continue to blend for 2-3 minutes.  Using a medium heavy bottom sauce pan, pour cashew mixture into pan and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer and continue to whisk over simmering heat until mixture thickens.  If lumps develop place mixture into blender again. [note: placing a heated mixture in a blender may cause it to expand and possibly pop the top off the blender.  Placing a towel over the top of the blender and holding it firmly will prevent this from happening]

Once blended, pour the mixture into a lightly oiled mold of your choice.  Cover and chill over night.  To use, turn cheese out of the mold and slice.  Store left overs in the fridge for up to 1 week.  The cheese may  be frozen as well.


Corned Seitan Hash 

1/4 c green pepper diced
1/4 c white onion diced
2 cloves garlic finely chopped
1 c boiled idaho potatoes and diced
1 c corned seitan chopped
1 tbsp fresh chopped parsley
2-4 tbsp vegetable oil
Kosher salt and pepper to taste

In a heavy bottom saute pan, heat oil, and saute onion until they are translucent, add green peppers and continue to cook for 1-2 minutes add garlic and potatoes and seitan, season, and continue to cook until golden brown and potatoes begin to crisp.   Remember to turn your mixture over several times.  Once the potatoes begin to crisp, press them firmly into the pan and continue to cook until desired texture.  Top with vegan Irish Cheddar and serve with tofu scramble, and of course marble rye bread.

Corned Seitan Hash, with Marbled Rye Toast 


Sunday, August 19, 2012

Breakfast Challenge #1: Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen "Fried Chicken Biscuit" Chapel Hill North Carolina

Nothing is more southern than a biscuit.  While visiting relatives in Nashville, my husband noticed most meals offer biscuits as a form of bread with everything; be it breakfast, lunch or dinner.  As the child of southern born and raised parents, this was a culinary choice I was simply oblivious to.  Breakfast wasn't breakfast with out a biscuit to push the accompanying goodies around on the plate.

According to Food Network Magazine, the chicken biscuit from "Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen" is one which should not be missed. The biscuits are described as being light as air, flaky as well as buttery.
The folks at SBK take it one step further which the addition of a crispy, breaded chicken breast.  Described my Jane and Michael Stern of Road Food.com as a "luxurious pillow of expertly fried white meat chicken with a golden crust and inside moist enough to flavor the biscuit once that crust is severed."  Hmmm....well the challenged has been made and I've come up with a lovely, simple and delicious version of this carnivore delight.


VEGAN CHICKEN SEITAN
1 cup Vital Wheat Gluten Flour
3 tbsp urad flour [urad flour can be found at Indian grocery stores. It is made of black lentils which have been ground to a find powder]
1 tsp rice flour
1 1/3 c cold water [more if needed]
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp ground thyme
1/2 tsp granulated garlic
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp white pepper
1/2 tsp celery salt
1/2 tsp ground oregano
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp cayenne [optional]

Sift all the dry ingredients together into a bowl, slowly pour in water and begin to stir the mixture together, until it begins to form a ball.  Be sure the mixture is moist and holds together well.  Knead until firm and smooth.  Let the mixture rest for 5-10 minutes.  Once rested roll into a 6 inch log. Cut into 1 inch to 1 1/2 inch round and flatten to 1/4-1/2 inch thickness and set aside.  To get smooth and uniform pieces use kitchen scissors [shears] to cut seitan.  Poach the cutlets in highly salted water in a large stock pot.  The water should be brought to a boil and reduced to a very low simmer. [Remember, if the seitan is cooked in boiling water, the result is will be spongy and tough.] You want to poach the cutlets, in a covered pot,  with seasoned broth for 30-40 minutes.  Once they have finished poaching, turn off the head and let them cool in the poaching liquid until they have reached room temperature.  Drain, pat dry and set aside.

Makes 6-8 cutlets

Golden Fried Chicken 
6-8 Vegan Chicken Cutlets
1/2 cup unbleached all purpose white flour
1 cup rice flour
1 cup corn starch
1/2 cup unsweetened unflavored soy milk or coconut milk
1/4 cup seltzer water
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp celery salt
1 qt neutral flavored oil for frying


  1. Place oil in a larger heavy bottom pan [cast iron works best] and heat to 375 degrees. The oil should be at least 1/2 inch deep.   If you do not have a thermometer, here is a good trick. When the oil begins to heat up, to check for the correct temperature, place the handle of a wooden spoon or chop stick in the center of the pan.  If bubbles begin to form around it the oil is at the correct temperature. 
  2. In a large plastic bag place white flour and chicken cutlets.  Shake to coat the cutlets completely and set aside. 
  3. In a non reactive mixing bowl, whisk together rice flour, corn starch and dry spices.  Add the milk and seltzer until blended.  
  4. Dip the flour coated cutlets in the batter and let excess batter drip back in the bowl.  slowly lower the cutlets into the oil making sure to place them in the pan away from you, one by one.  Fry in small batches to ensure a nice crisp coating. Cutlets should be turned once during frying.  Remove from the pan when  golden brown and drain on a wire rack.  Keep cutlets warm in a low oven [120 degrees] until all the cutlets have been cooked. 
CORNMEAL BISCUITS

Note: This recipe requires a digital scale to ensure accurate measurements.  If a scale is not available use the attached recipe for cornmeal biscuits courtesy of food network 

16 oz [1 lb] of unbleached all purpose flour 
4 oz golden yellow cornmeal 
1 tbsp kosher salt 
1 oz sugar 
1.25 oz of baking powder 
7 oz of vegan margarine 
13 oz of soy milk + 1 tbsp of white vinegar 

  1. In a larger bowl sift together all dry ingredients.  
  2. Using your fingers, mix the margarine into the flour until well incorporated. the mixture should look like this:


    
3. Whisk together the soy milk and vinegar until thick.  Slowly add the mixture to the flour in a steady            stream until a dough starts to form.  Knead the mixture until smooth.  Let the dough rest for 5 minutes. 
4.  Roll the dough out to a thickness of 1/4-1/2 inch.  The thicker the dough is rolled out the higher the biscuit. Using a 1/2 inch biscuit or cookie cutter. Cut biscuits into rounds.  
5.  Place on a unlined cookie sheet.  Biscuits may be touching or spread out on the sheet.  
6.  Bake in a 425 degree over [400 degree convection oven] for 16 minutes or until biscuits are golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool in pan. [for a lovely flavor and texture, brush biscuits with melted margarine once they are removed from the oven and then let them cool] 



To make the sandwiches: 

Split the biscuit in half; place the bottom on a plate.  Top {optional top with vegan cheddar cheese slices, or other desired toppings} with fried chicken cutlet. For and added bonus drizzle agave nectar over the top of the chicken. Place biscuit top over cutlet and serve.  




Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The quest for vegan...


I love breakfast.  I love going out with friends for breakfast.  What I don't love is the fact that everyone else enjoys plates piled high with, mind you animal products, their hearts desire, while I have to explain to the waitress what I can and cannot eat.  It's maddening!  So began my search.  I've found recipe after recipe, and I've created a few myself, for tofu scramble, breakfast muffins, etc, etc.  What I haven't found is really GOOD versions of the traditional "Greek Diner" breakfast fair.

What does the term "Greek Diner" mean?  Glad you asked.  If you have ever had the pleasure of going to an all day breakfast restaurant, nine times out of ten its Greek owned.  This is not a bad thing, to say the least. The typical menu is no less than ten pages long, a good three or four dedicated just to breakfast!  You can scan the pages for days on end, and the only thing a vegan will discover is that oatmeal, potatoes, vegetables, coffee, and juice is what the waitress rattles off as offerings.  Enough already!

Living in Chicago, we have two maybe three vegan restaurants which offer breakfast.  The Chicago Diner on  Chicago's north side, Munch in Oak Park, and Soul Vegetarian East on Chicago's south side.  Even these restaurants lean more toward brunch than breakfast.  What I mean is, they offer savory dishes during the mid morning hours to bump up the lack of breakfast offerings.

Trolling the blog and chat boards, I've found this question numerous times.  "Are there any good vegan breakfast cookbooks out there?"  The rote answer is Isa Moskowitz's Vegan Brunch Cookbook.  I too have made the pilgrimage to the Mecca known as the Post Punk Kitchen website to be showered with the knowledge bestowed upon the followers of Ms. Moskowitz.  I'm sometimes dazzled and amazed, both for the good and the bad.  The ideas are good, but sometimes the execution shows their lack of classical culinary training.  Sometimes it helps to know the science behind the food to get the reaction and final product you're looking to achieve.  I'm not an expert by any  means, but my culinary background and classical training as well as my need to research both from a natural and scientific perspective, can somehow benefit my recipes.

So what are some of the most popular breakfast items?  Thanks to Foodnetwork, I now have  50 breakfast from all 50 states.  The plan is to veganize each and every one!  Exciting, yet challenging to say the very least.  So, fire up the stove and oven, get your mixing bowls and measuring spoons out, and lets rock this kitchen!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Vegan Brunch


When it comes to cooking, every chef should know their strengths and weaknesses.  Making bread is something I've learned to do, both in culinary school as well as on my own, but Z Best Bakery in Evanston Illinois has some of the best vegan bread I've ever tasted. 


Every time I head over to Wholefoods, I find a new product from Z Best, that amazes me.  This week I had the please of picking up a product new to me, raisin challah bread. 


The braided challah, which is made with eggs, is the Jewish Sabbath‑and‑holiday bread. It is surrounded by folklore and tradition and loaded with symbolism. On festive occasions a blessing is said over two loaves, symbolizing the two portions of the manna that was distributed on Fridays to the children of Israel during their Exodus from Egypt. The breads are covered on the table by a decorative challah cover or a white napkin, which represents the dew that collected on the manna in the morning. Poppy and sesame seeds sprinkled on the bread also symbolize the manna that fell from heaven.
[courtesy of My Jewish Learning.com] 


So, with my loaf of raisin bread in hand, I headed home to be inspired.  Last week I had a chance to have brunch at Munch in Oak Park Illinois. In Chicago, and out lying areas, its hard for a vegan to find a GOOD form of vegan breakfast.  I was not only disappointed, but disillusioned.  So, whats a chef to do, don't criticized, make it better!. 


This week, I've been mulling over a burger recipe, which I have finally perfected! [yes I know it hypocritical, due to the fact, I'm not a HUGE fan of meat analogs, but lets move on shall we?  A girl can change] 
I thought, why not use the recipe to make sausages as well. I did a little spice shopping, and found  a wonderful spice mix from Penzys in Naperville Illinois.  The spice mix is made for pork sausage, but imparts a wonderful flavor.  [check out the burger recipe and replace the spices with 2 1/4 tsp of the spice mix, adjust more or less to your liking] 


Now, here is the amazing part, my carnivore husband make this breakfast, I simply gave him the recipe and tada! I had breakfast made for me.  Proof the recipe works.  The sweetness of the raisins with a apple, cinnamon, and ginger batter is absolutely wonderful.  [recipe below] There is something about having great quality ingredients.  It makes everything you do so much better.  


A seasonal tip.  Now that strawberries and rhubarb are in season, why not use Z Best Bakeries original challah, and top with a compote of strawberries rhubarb and vegan whipped cream  [see recipe below].  Vegans deserve a great breakfast that includes something more than scrambled tofu, and potatoes.  So grab a loaf, fresh fruit and a little imagination and create your own special Sunday brunch.  


[pst....peaches are just around the corner, peach cobbler french toast anyone?] 


Vegan French Toast 



This wonderful recipe was inspired by a brunch item served at San Francisco’s famed Millennium Restaurant.  This vegan oasis is a delight for the soul. 

1 tbsp ground flax meal
½ cup unsweetened apple sauce
2 cup soy milk [vanilla works best]
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 piece of candied ginger
¼ tsp sea salt
8 pieces of bread, stale bread works best
¼ cup vegetable oil

For the batter combine the first 6 ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth.  Dip slices of bread in the batter and coat evenly.  Be sure to let the read soak up the batter just a bit.  Heat a large sauté pan or skillet and lightly coat with oil.  Place the batter dipped bread in the pan and cook until brown on both sides.  Repeat with the remaining pieces of bread and serve with warm apple compote

Yield 4 servings

Cashew Whipped Cream 

This recipe comes together quickly but requires a strong blender.  If you don’t have a heavy duty blender, simply do it in batches, but be sure to scrape down the sides, in between. 

1 cup raw cashews soaked overnight and drained
1 cup water
1 cup neutral flavored oil [vegetable oil, grapeseed, canola oil]
4 tbsp liquid sweetener of your choice [agave nectar, maple syrup etc]
½ tsp good quality vanilla extract or 1 vanilla bean seeds scraped out
Pinch of salt


In a blender, place drained cashews and water.  Puree until smooth.  With the machine still running slowly drizzle in the oil until mixture begins to thicken.  Scrape down the sides to insure that all the cashew cream is incorporated.  Scrape the mixture into a medium sized mixing bowl, and whisk in liquid sweetener [you may add more or less depending on your taste preference].  Add vanilla and a pinch of salt.  Refrigerate for 30-60 minutes before using. 

If making whipped cream from scratch is too much for you...here is another option.  Use Canned full fat coconut cream [not cream of coconut] place the entire can in the refrigerator overnight.  In the morning, remove the cream from the top leaving the coconut water in the can.  Add a 2 tsp of agar powder [not flakes] sweeten with agave nectar or powdered sugar to taste, whip until peaks form.  Refrigerate for 20-30 minutes or until firm.