For Cranberry Lovers Only.

When I began writing this post, I was still in bed. I’m congested as hell. My lips are chapped. Couldn’t get a good night’s sleep. Ugh. I am NyQuil commercial and a mouth breather. Sigh. Being sick, if only just a cold is the pits. The pits I say. But before I came down with a case of the black death, I made all kinds of treats!

There was a cranberry spread in a recent issue of Vegetarian Times. Being a cranberry lover, I was all kinds of excited to see fresh cranberries popping up and figure out what kinds of delicious could be made with them besides cranberry sauce or relish for Thanksgiving. There were a couple of recipes in Vegetarian Times that piqued my interest; Spiced Cranberry Cider, Cranberry Sauce w/ Hard Cider & Mustard and Cranberry Bars. The cider and sauce recipes are both vegan and the cider is really delicious and sweet.

Spiced Cranberry Pear Cider

The cranberry bars on the other hand, are a different story. The two main ingredients in the bars were condensed milk and eggs. They just looked and sounded so good that I knew I wanted to try and veganize them. I mean, veganizing is one of my favorite things to do. The first batch were not to my liking. The filling set, but not completely and they were so, soooo tart. On my first attempt I had subbed out silken tofu for the eggs, but figured I didn’t use enough. I also tried to make a vegan condensed milk by adding some sugar to soymilk and reducing it. I ended up throwing them in the trash. I really hate when that happens, as I’m sure all cooks and chefs do. We all have failures and it sucks. Since I’m crazy, I wanted to immediately try again. It was late so I knew I would have to wait until the following day. As I was falling asleep, I decided on the changes I would make. I would add the full box of tofu, use canned coconut milk to make a condensed milk substitute and lastly, I wanted to add a bit of agar-agar powder. Agar is this gelatinous stuff taken from the cell walls of a red algae. It’s what they use to line the bottom of petri dishes. It also acts as a vegetarian substitute for gelatin, thickener, clarifier in brewing and tons of other uses. It’s about 80% fiber, so can be used to aid in digestion as well. Anyhow, I love this stuff. It can be really expensive, but luckily I found an amazing Thai market close by where I scored a bunch of packets of the powder for really cheap.

The second set of bars were great. They came out just the way I wanted them and I think they make a great substitute for the non-vegan version found in Vegetarian Times.

Cranberry Bars

Adapted & Veganized from Vegetarian Times

Cranberry Bar

Ingredients:

Crust:

3/4 c unbleached all purpose flour

1/3 c graham flour–Bob’s Redmill makes this, found at Whole Foods

1/4 c unbleached cane sugar

1/2 salt

6 tbsp Earth Balance, melted

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Filling:

1 can full-fat coconut milk

1 c unbleached cane sugar

2 tsp agar-agar powder

1 lb fresh cranberries

1/2 c water

1/4 c honey, agave or brown rice syrup

1 box firm silken tofo (Mori-Nu Brand)

2 tbsp lemon juice

2 tsp cinnamon

2 tbsp arrowroot powder

2 tbsp powdered sugar

Method:

First, make the crust. Preheat oven to 350°F. Very lightly grease an 8×8 pan–a light coating of cooking spray should be fine. Mix all of the dry ingredients together and make sure they are thoroughly combined. Then add the vanilla extract and melted Earthy B. Dump this mixture into the 8×8 and begin pressing it down with your fingers. I had enough so I could press mine partially up the sides of the pan, but if you don’t want side crust, just keep pushing the mixture down onto the bottom. Make sure to press it firmly. Bake the crust in its own for 25 minutes. Use this time to make the filling.

For the filling, shake up your can of coconut milk and add it to a medium saucepan over medium high heat. Add the 1 c of cane sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer the coconut milk until the sugar dissolves completely and the coconut milk reduces a bit. Stir in your agar powder and whisk it in there good to make sure it is fully dissolved. Cook this mixture a couple of more minutes and then turn the heat down as low as it can go. Now you just want to keep this mixture warm so the agar doesn’t begin to set just yet.

Take another medium saucepan (sorry to have you dirty two pans!) and add the 1/2 c water, the cranberries and the 1/4 c sweetener of choice. Bring cranberries to a simmer and cook around 10 minutes until most of the cranberries have burst. Take the cranberries to your Vitamix, blender or food processor and dump them in. Remove coconut milk mixture from heat and measure a scant cup. You’re looking for about 7 oz. Add the scant cup coconut milk to the cranberries. Now add the box of tofu, lemon juice, cinnamon, arrowroot and powdered sugar. CAUTION: If your mixture (cranberries or coconut milk) are still hot, remove the small plastic portion of your Vitamix or blender. Not the lid, but the small plastic plug fitted inside the the lid and blend with a dish towel or some paper towels covering the hole. If you blend something when it’s too hot, you’re risking a really messy explosion, so be careful. Blend until the mixture is smooth. Scrape down the sides of your Vitamix if needed. Your crust should be done by this point, or just about done. Remove your crust from the oven and pour the cranberry mixture into the hot crust. Reduce oven temp to 300°F and bake 23 to 28 minutes. Remove the bars from the oven and allow them to cool a bit. Then, put them in the fridge and let them set up for a few hours or until cold.

Enjoy!

Apple Cranberry Pie.

This MoFoing urvry-day is crayzay. I have to say, I’m sorta enjoying it though. Before I started this blog, I used to just post pictures on Facebook of what I was cookin’ up. I admit I kinda miss doing that, but I think a food blog is a much more appropriate forum. Plus, these WordPress posts link to my Facebook, so if there were people out there who enjoyed the slideshow, well, now they can enjoy it here? I’m Ron Burgundy?

So, for today’s MoFo post I bring to you another glorious pie. So many pies to make a so little time I say. I was originally doing this radical spiced pumpkin pie with black cumin and things, but I didn’t like the way it turned out. It was inspired by a cookbook recipe, but meh…. The taste of the filling was delish, but it left something to be desired….which….unfortunately, I think most vegan pumpkin pies do. I’ve made several different versions throughout the years and I haven’t been in love with any of them. They generally come out tasting good. But just good. And for pie, just “good” is not acceptable to me. I have, on the other hand, made ridiculous vegan pumpkin cheesecake. I think what I’m going to do is just make pumpkin cheesecake from now on and call it pie. Unless anyone out there wants to point me in the direction of a delicious vegan pumpkin pie recipe? Maybe there will be a crazy delicious one in Isa’s new book.

Pumpkin Cheesecake Pie

So, hopefully before MoFo ends, I will bring you a delicious recipe for a black cumin spiced pumpkin cheesecake pie. Like the one above, but better! But better.

For now, I bring you this delicious Apple-Cranberry Pie with a hint of Orange.

Pie!

Apple Cranberry Pie

Ingredients

Crust:

2/3 c unbleached all-purpose flour

1/3 c whole wheat flour

1 tsp unbleached pure cane sugar

1/2 tsp salt

6 tbsp Earth Balance

2 tsp apple cider vinegar

2 tbsp ice water–reserve at least 4-5 tbsp in the fridge in case you need more

Filling:

Juice of 1 orange

zest of 1 orange

5 medium apples, peeled and sliced–you want about 5 c

1/2 c unbleached pure cane sugar

1/2 c fresh cranberries—you can use frozen too, but don’t thaw them if you use frozen

1/2 c dried cranberries

1/4 c all purpose flour

1 tsp cinnamon

Topping:

1/4 c unbleached all purpose flour

1/4 c golden brown mascobado sugar

2 tbsp oats

1/2 tsp cinnamon

2 tbsp Earth Balance, melted

Method:

First, make the crust. Combine both flours, sugar & salt. Add your Earthy B in tablespoons or chunks. Use a pastry whisk to cut in the Earthy B and mix until you have that wet sand consistency. Add the cider vinegar and water. Mix until your dough comes together. Roll your dough out and shape into a flat disk or place in your pie plate and stick it in the fridge.

To make the filling, core-peel and slice the apples if you haven’t done so already. Then combine all of the other ingredients (including the apples) in a large bowl.

For the topping, melt your Earthy B in the microwave for a few seconds. Combine the Earthy B with the remaining ingredients in small bowl.

Preheat oven to 400°F. Roll out your dough and fit it into a pie plate if you haven’t done so already. Pour your filling into the prepared crust. Scatter the topping all over your filling. Bake the pie at 400°F for about 30 to 40 minutes, then lower the heat to 350°F and continue to bake an additional 20 minutes or so. If you have a pie crust ring, use it. If you don’t have one, check on your pie after 25-30 min–if the crust or topping is browning too quickly, place some foil over the pie loosely. You want the juice in the center of the pie to be bubbling. If you’re worried about burning, just keep your eye on the pie and it will turn out great. 🙂

Apple-Cranberry Pie

Brandied Cranberry & “Beef” Stew.

Second day of Vegan Mofo is a go! Just as a note, I really like how Jamie Oliver refers to all of his recipes as “lovely”. I use the word yummy a lot I guess. But I think today I’m bringing you a lovely recipe for Brandied Cranberry & “Beef” Stew.

Cranberries are native to North America and extremely seasonal. They grow in acidic bogs throughout the North, most notably (for us Americans) in the great state of Wisconsin. When cranberries are ready for harvest, beds are flooded, they are removed from the vines and then corralled into a corner and removed. Then they go off to be cleaned, sorted and packaged. 95% of cranberries are made into juice drinks, sauces, jams, sweetened dried berries etc. Only 5% of cranberry harvests are sold fresh in stores. Only 5%!

Dudes harvesting cranberries!

Cranberries also have some pretty amazing health properties as well as being beautiful and delicious. Cranberries contain certain phytochemicals and flavonoids that are currently being researched for “possible benefits to the cardiovascular system and immune system, and as anti-cancer agents…” Cranberries also have anti-clotting properties and the ability to treat and prevent recurring urinary tract infections, especially in women. Cranberries contain this amazing anti-adhesion property that prevents nasty bacteria from sticking to the walls of your bladder or urethra–oddly enough, they are also known to aid in the prevention of plaque formation on teeth. And here, for you lucky readers, is some TMI: I know firsthand that cranberries are what you want if you even have the tiniest suspicion that you have a UTI. I always have cranberry supplements on hand that I take for preventative measures and have used them to treat UTI’s in the past, without antibiotics*. They always work wonders for me and I love them. I buy freeze dried cranberries in vegetarian gel-tabs, so I know I’m getting straight up cranberry and not a bunch of other junk.

Cranberries also have notable levels of vitamin C, fiber, and manganese as well as lots of other essential nutrients.

But on to what is really important, how delicious cranberries can be!

Cranberries have a very tart taste and flavor, so eating them raw can be a challenge. Here, they are used in this delicious fall stew and while cooked, they are not cooked down nearly as much as they are for something like homemade cranberry sauce or relish–so you will still get a hint of that tartness when you bite into them, but they go perfectly with the richness and warmth of this stew.

Brandied Cranberry & “Beef” Stew

Veganized from Sunset Magazine

Ingredients:

4 packages Gardein Beefless Tips ( I know that is a lot of Gardein, but this recipe makes a ton of stew!–Alternatively, you can make a big batch of beef style seitan to use instead)

3 tbsp safflower oil, divided

3lbs kabocha squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into chunks. To peel and seed a kabocha, I typically cut the squash in half, scoop out the seeds (which you can save, roast and eat if you want) and then I slice the kabocha into wedges. I then use a very sharp knife (be careful!!!) to peel away the skin from each wedge. This is my preferred method, but there are less complicated ways of doing this. You can also heat your kabocha for a few minutes in the microwave to soften it, which makes the skin easier to peel

2 medium yellow onions, finely chopped

1/3 c unbleached all-purpose flour

4 cloves of garlic, minced

3 tbsp dutch processed cocoa

5 c No Beef Broth– I use 2 heaping tsp of Better Than Bouillon’s No Beef Base dissolved in 5 c of hot water. The package indicates to use 1 tsp for every 8 oz of water, but I find that much too salty. I typically always cut the amount I’m using by at least half.

1/2 c brandy

1/2 dried cranberries–use ones that have been sweetened with fruit juice if you can find them

2 tbsp crystallized ginger, minced

1 tbsp orange zest

1 1/2 c fresh cranberries– You can use frozen berries if you can’t find fresh yet. DO NOT use the stuff that comes in a can. For frozen berries, I like Stahlbush Island Farms Sustainable Cranberries

salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

Method

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and saute your beefless tips until they start to brown. Remove from heat and set aside.

Preheat oven to 500°F. Line a baking sheet with a silpat. Toss or brush your kabocha with a tbsp of safflower oil and place on the lined baking sheet. Roast for about 10-12 min and then turn off the oven.

Heat 2 tbsp safflower oil in a heavy bottomed pot (Le Creuset  or cast iron dutch oven would be perfect) over med-high heat. Add onions and about a tsp of salt and cook for about 3 minutes until onions have softened. Add the flour and cook a minute or two more, until the flour starts to turn golden. Stir in the garlic and cocoa and cook for just a minute. Now stir in the broth, brandy, dried cranberries, ginger, orange zest and fresh cranberries. Bring to a boil and cook about 20 minutes. Now stir in your kabocha chunks and beefless tips. Let the stew simmer for an additional 10-15 minutes–you just want your kabocha and beefless tips to absorb some of that warm, delicious fall stew flavor because they were both cooked separately. You also want to make sure that your fresh cranberries have cooked down just a bit, to counteract some of the tartness and bring out a little sweetness. Taste your stew and add freshly cracked salt and pepper to taste. It’s going to be really hot for a bit, so let it cool for a few minutes before serving.

Snuggle up with your doggies, kitties or loved ones and enjoy this stew on cold day. In front of a fire would be nice too. 🙂

Brandied Cranberry & "Beef" Stew

Sorry for the crummy picture. It’s a travesty because this stew is awesome. If the picture looks unappetizing, please just trust me that this stew is magnificent!

*I don’t mean for anyone to take my advice over a medical doctor, but sometimes docs forget about things like…well, healthy foods likes fruits, vegetables and whole grains and how those things can be very healing to your body when its sick. While I have been able to cure UTI’s in the past with nothing but cranberries, that doesn’t mean everyone’s body will react the same way as mine. So, if you feel like you may have a UTI that persists longer than a day or two after taking the correct dosage of cranberries, go to your doctor because you may very well need the antibiotics. 🙂