Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Organic spinach breeds better caterpillars

I've never written a blog before. I did try starting a personal journal during first year Uni, and managed about a weeks worth of entries before all my good intentions vanished and my journal writing time became Tekken 3 time... So basically I am new to this, so please be kind :)

I've been reading and enjoying my friends blog at In the Mood for Noodles for some time now, and they have inspired me to have a go at starting my own vegetarian food blog.

For now, I thought I would start with getting a box of ingredients and turning it into a dish. Some of the ingredients I have started using are new to me, so there will be dishes that just don't work, and there may be better ways of using the ingredients that I am not aware of, and hopefully there will be 1 or 2 people who stumble across my posts that have some suggestions for me on how I can get better results.

The first dish I decided to make was a vegan version of a creamy pasta sauce. My fiance loves his creamy pasta dishes, but I am lactose intolerant so avoid dairy and eggs make me feel sick so I don't use them either. This leads to a sad cream, cheese and egg loving man.

I had a block of Sheese and a little carton of rice cream left from my last trip to the Radical Grocery store, so I figured I would have a go at cooking with these. A trip to Plump Organic Grocery down the road, and grabbed some vegetables and pasta and I was all set. 

The box of ingredients above contains:
Cherry tomatoes
Cheshire style Sheese
Creme di Riso
Savoury yeast flakes
Rainbow pepper corns
Also hiding somewhere in the box is an onion and some garlic but I think they were under the giant wad of spinach.

Since I had never used the rice cream before I, was not sure how thick it was or how it behaved when heated. I figured it was probably something that should be added after the vegetables had cooked, so I started by frying the chopped onion, garlic, mushrooms, and asparagus.

As a lesson on why all produce, even organic, should be washed thoroughly, while I was preparing the spinach I found a little family of caterpillars was still living on the leaves. One of these guys was absolutely huge, the biggest damn caterpillar I have ever seen! They nearly ended up as bonus protein in the sauce. If one hadn't moved during my rush job washing the spinach I probably would have missed them. At least you know your vegetables are fresh when the bugs are still alive. I really should have gotten a picture of them, one was nearly as thick as my little finger!

After I added the tomatoes and spinach (minus bugs) to the pot, I drained off the liquid that had formed from cooking the mushrooms. I grated in about half a block of the Sheese and poured in the rice cream, which was runnier than I expected. I tossed in some pepper, savoury yeast and parmazano to flavour and was done.

The end result was a little disappointing. The sauce was really runny. In hindsight I should have made a roux sauce base with the rice cream so that the sauce was a little thicker and able to coat the pasta. I also should not have drained off the mushroom juice from cooking the vegetables as this was probably needed for a better flavour, but I had been cautious of the sauce being too runny.

While I was at the grocery store, I also picked up a bag of pure cocoa butter. I have been curious to try cooking with this stuff for a while as I had heard it added a chocolate flavour boost to cooking. What better way to try this out than baking a batch of cupcakes?

To use the cocoa butter, I substituted the margarine portion of the basic cupcake recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World with a half and half bend of cocoa butter (which I had to melt) and vegetable oil. The end result was a batch of cupcakes with a subtle flavour that was more slightly coconut than chocolate. The cocoa butter did seem to affect the baking though, as the cupcakes really didn't rise much. They still had great texture, they just didn't rise much.

So next I decided to try substituting a blend of almond oil and cocoa butter for nuttalex when i made the icing. This worked well, though since the oil was warm after I had melted the cocoa butter, it did take a bit more icing sugar to thicken up than usual. The result was icing that tasted a lot like marzipan. Since it was really sweet and the cupcakes were so little and flat I didn't spread it on very thick.
Fail cupcakes. You may be flat, but you're still tasty.
Baking with cocoa butter I think has some merit, and I do want to do some more experiments with this to get it right. If only it were not so expensive though. I got the loving earth brand and it was around $17 for the bag. I still have some enough left to try a couple more batches of cupcakes to see if I can get a better result though.

Has anyone used rice cream before, or have any suggestions for making a dairy free creamy sauce?

1 comment:

  1. Congrats on the first post. I think starting a blog is the hardest part.

    Great idea with the cocoa butter, I've mostly seen it listed in raw desserts, so great to see another use for it.

    I haven't had much experience with rice cream I'm afraid.