Tuesday, September 20, 2011

vegan strawberry chocolate chip ice cream

Dessert in the Desert

Ever since the start of this year's summer fruit season, I'd been waiting impatiently for an opportunity to try a delicious-sounding recipe for vegan strawberry sherbet I'd seen on the blog Gluten-Free Goddess. However, I didn't actually get the time to experiment with it until much closer to the end of the summer. My expectations were high, but unfortunately the sherbet turned out to be disappointing. The vanilla flavor of the store-bought hemp milk I used was a bit off, I don't love the taste of agave syrup, and my ice cream maker was not cold enough to freeze the concoction in the Las Vegas summer heat. All of this resulted in a funny-tasting, strangely-textured dessert in which the strawberry slices and chocolate chips sunk to the bottom. I started to brainstorm ways to improve it and came up with this creamier version. If you're still able to find some fresh strawberries at the supermarket, this recipe is definitely worth a try.

1 pound organic strawberries
3 T. lime juice
3 T. raw honey
1 cup plain, unsweetened almond milk (Make your own! Here's how.)
1 can coconut milk
1 cup cane sugar (a little less is okay too)
1 t. vanilla extract
1/2 cup mini dark chocolate chunks

Wash and slice your strawberries, then combine them in a bowl with the lime juice and raw honey. Stirring occasionally, allow the berries to macerate over the span of a few hours in the refrigerator.
In a saucepan, combine your almond milk and sugar. Warm over medium heat while stirring to dissolve the sugar. Transfer the mixture to a bowl, add your coconut milk and vanilla extract, stir to combine, then store covered in the fridge for several hours until very cold.
Once your strawberries have had time to break down and gain a syrupy texture, transfer them to your blender and puree until smooth. Store the pureed strawberries in the fridge until you are ready to make the ice cream.
Combine the strawberry puree and the milk mixture. Pour the ingredients into your machine and allow it to work its magic. Add the chocolate chunks when the ice cream starts to solidify, just a few minutes before the churning is complete.

Helpful Hints:
1. You don't have to make your own almond milk. Homemade almond milk is vastly better tasting, but also more time consuming (yet not as difficult as you might think!). Check out our previous post for instructions.
2. Although it sounds like a nice idea, I find that leaving the strawberries in slices makes them get in the way of the ice cream maker's inner workings, and they also detract from your ice cream enjoyment because they freeze as little icy chunks. This is why I suggest the puree method.
3. Put your can of coconut milk in the fridge in advance so it will already be cold, to cut down on your waiting time.
4. WholeFoods sells miniature dark chocolate chunks that are perfect for this use. You can also chop up a chocolate bar instead, or just use regular semi-sweet chips.
5. If it's 110 degrees in the desert summer heat and 84 in your kitchen, your ice cream may have trouble freezing (just hypothetically speaking, of course...). My recommendation: Set your freezer to a few degrees colder than usual while you're freezing your ice cream maker canister (-2 Celsius / 28.5 Fahrenheit). Make sure your ingredients are ice cold and work quickly once they're out of the fridge.
6. Don't have an ice cream maker? It's not as extravagant as it might sound. Bed Bath & Beyond sells a simple Cuisinart model for $59, and if you use one of those ubiquitous 20% off coupons they're always sending in the mail (which NEVER expire, by the way, despite the date marked on the bottom), that's $47. Amazon sells them for $49 with free shipping.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

master tonic

More than usual this winter, I have had to put a lot of effort into resisting the cold and flu bugs that are going around. A couple of times I did get sick for a few days, but much more often I have been on the verge of getting sick, and knew that I needed to give my immune system some extra support.

This was my situation yesterday. Last week I had a cold for a few days, and then was feeling better, but on Friday I was around a coworker who was coughing a lot, and woke up Saturday feeling vulnerable again, with some irritation in my throat. So I headed to Whole Food's to stock up on some natural remedies, even though I had spent a significant amount of money just the week before. I was going through them quickly! Scanning the shelves, I was weary of the cash I have been spending on these fancy pills, syrups, and lozenges.

I picked up a product called Cyclone Cider Herbal Tonic, and realized that it is very similar to a simple tonic that my friend Jon has concocted for years at home, and occasionally shared with me. I decided that it was time I learn how to make my own, and I ditched Whole Food's and went to the regular grocery store to get my supplies.

This tonic is made of very common ingredients, but it is very powerful. These are the roots and vegetables that have throughout human history been used to destroy harmful bacterial or viral infections, to increase circulation, and to alleviate congestion. It is no surprise that people have found ways over time to incorporate these medicinal plants into their everyday cooking, and that they are so ubiquitous today.

Equal parts garlic, ginger, horseradish, onions, and hot peppers (preferrably cayenne but it doesn't matter much), are grated, or chopped fine, or pulverized, and placed in a jar. Unfiltered apple cider vinegar is poured over this mixture to cover, and then the brew is left to steep for a while; a week or two, or a month, or longer. The important thing is to shake the container every day or two. The liquid is strained off into another container, and is ready to be used. The photo below shows my new bounty.

I filled four 32 oz Mason jars, and expect to end up with 64 oz of the tonic. I paid about $20 for the ingredients, which means I will end up paying 31¢ per ounce. The similar formula I saw at Whole Food's was $15 for 2 oz, and $25 for 4 oz! And the truth is that most natural supplements at health food stores are within a similar high price range. I am planning to see if this formula can do the job for me and save me a small fortune from now on.

If you would like more information, below is an excellent YouTube tutorial on how to make the Master Tonic. I wish you great health!

Monday, January 3, 2011

winter miso soup

With such frigid weather in the whole country right now (it snowed here in Las Vegas last night!), I am inclined to share a recipe that has warmed and soothed me many times in recent weeks. It is a hearty, rich miso soup that showcases sauteed onions and healthy vegetables of your choice. If you like French onion soup, but like me never indulge in it because it is way too rich (and not vegetarian/vegan), you should consider this option, because it offers a reminiscent fullness of flavor.

Most people have tried miso in soups at Japanese restaurants, but perhaps don't know much about it. It is a fermented flavoring paste that has been used in Asia for thousands of years. Typically made from soybeans, miso can also be made from other legumes or grains, or a combination. There is a true art and inventiveness to miso production, and each variety has its own distinct color, texture, and flavor. And miso is incredibly healthful. Since it is a fermented food, it has live enzymes which help digestion and assimilation. It is high in protein, contains vitamin B12, and in general it is considered a very healing, tonic food that promotes longevity.

In restaurants that serve miso soup, I find it is always the same. The same brown color paste is used, and it is always served with raw tofu and green onions. Of course, the traditional preparation should be respected, but miso is very adaptable and creativity is rewarded. Luckily, if you go to the health food store, you will likely find quite a few varieties to experiment with; like white, red, or yellow, and barley or rice varieties. Make sure that whichever miso you choose is unpasteurized. The photo below shows the ones I have right now.

A good rule of thumb is to take advantage of lighter miso in warmer weather and darker miso in cold weather. So for the soup I made today I went straight to some of Stefanie's black Hatcho Miso. As for vegetables, I like to use spinach, and I am really a big fan of mung bean sprouts in my miso soups lately. So I prepared a few days ago by sprouting some mung beans in my sprouting tray. You will see from the photo that these don't look much like the mung bean sprouts they sell at the grocery store. Those sprouts are grown to a much longer length, and the hulls are removed. From what I have read, sprouts actually have maximum nutrition when the tails are short. So I use them at that point. Hulls are removed because they can start to rot over time, but this isn't something that is going to happen in the couple of days needed to grow short ones. (By the way, if you are interested in sprouting, you should try it. It is very easy. You don't need a fancy tray either.)

So for the soup, I use these sprouts, onion, and spinach for my vegetables. I use the dark miso, and I add a dollop of sesame butter for creaminess. Stefanie taught me that miso should never be boiled because the beneficial enzymes are fragile and will be destroyed. So in the recipe you will see that the miso is mixed in to the soup pot at the end.

1 tsp. sesame or olive oil
1 onion, sliced thin
1 cup of spinach, chopped coarsely, and 1 cup of mung sprouts
an equal amount of thinly sliced vegetables of your choosing
2-3 cups of broth or water (use low or no salt broth, since miso is salty)
1 or 2 T. miso (with strong Hatcho Miso, I use 1 T.)
1 T. sesame or another kind of nut butter (optional but highly recommended)

In a medium saucepan, saute onions in oil until they begin to turn translucent. Add the other vegetables, and saute until tender. Add the broth or water and the nut butter, cover, and simmer for 3-4 minutes. Remove a few tablespoons of broth from the pot and mix well with the miso. Stefanie suggests using the magic bullet for this step if you have one. Turn off the heat under the pot and then add the miso mixture. Cover the pot and let the soup sit for a few minutes so the miso gets warm before serving. Serves 2.