Saturday, April 30, 2011

I'm the waffler!

If you’ve ever seen the film “Mystery Men,” you’ll get that reference. And if you haven’t seen it, you should! It received mixed reviews from critics and movie-goers alike, but I found it absolutely hilarious. Here we are, 12 years later, and I still think it’s a giant hoot. It’s quirky and funny and weird — yeah, just like me. I guess that explains it!

Anyway, back to the waffles. I’ve always been too afraid to make them. The waffle iron is scary to me. You put stuff in there, and then you can’t check on it or look at it or stir it or poke it — you just have to leave it alone and trust that the right things will happen. That is a NIGHTMARE for a type-A personality like me. So my husband has been the official waffle-maker in our house. But I finally bit the bullet and made some waffles, and dang if they weren’t crazy tasty!

If you’re familiar with Isa Chandra Moskowitz, you already know that she is a vegan goddess. All of her cookbooks are downright fabulous; the recipes are delicious and always turn out as they should, and I just enjoy her writing style. She’s fun to read! Her recipe for tofu scrambles have become the standard for scrambles in my house. I’d love to share it with you, but I think she’d frown at me for that, and that would make me sad. So go buy her book Vegan Brunch and you’ll have happy tofu scrambles every weekend, too.

Anyway, I digress (again). My point was, I was inspired by her to make these waffles. Her Vegan Brunch cookbook had a recipe for cornmeal waffles, and she described them as being improbably light on the inside and crispy on the outside, and who can resist that? I changed things up a little bit by adding a bunch of sliced strawberries and a little bit of this and that — and, oh, wow, the end result was really, really good!

And that scary waffle iron really did what it was supposed to, and I managed not to peek. Truimph!


Corny strawberry waffles

2 c. unsweetened almond milk
2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
1-1/2 c. cornmeal
1 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
1 T. baking powder
1/2 tsp. fine sea salt
1/4 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 c. canola oil
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1-1/2 c. sliced fresh strawberries

Preheat the waffle iron. Measure out the milk in a large measuring cup; add the vinegar to it, stir, and set aside so it can curdle. (This will approximate buttermilk; it’s a great trick!)

In a large mixing bowl, mix together the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, and cinnamon. Make a well in the center of the cornmeal mixture and add the almond milk, oil, and vanilla. Mix together until no large lumps remain and it’s relatively smooth. Spray the waffle iron lightly with your Misto or with cooking spray and add an appropriate amount of batter. (Waffle irons vary in size, so check your iron’s directions!)

Close the lid and cook until done (again, check your iron’s directions; with our waffle iron, it takes about 3 minutes to cook these).

Yield will vary depending on the size of your waffle iron; with ours, it makes 10.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The house of weird food

Late last year, my husband and I decided to embrace the "plant strong" lifestyle; as a result we're mostly vegan, with the exception of a very occasional bit of fish. (Truly, sushi calls to me!)

So, we recently relished a beautiful (and succulent, and astonishing) dinner at the wonderful Dragonfly Neo-V restaurant in Columbus. Sitting at the table next to us was Dr. Pam Popper, a well-known proponent of plant-based diets, and two men from Farm Sanctuary, a wonderful organization that rescues abused and abandoned farm animals.

My husband wanted to stop and say hi, but I talked him out of it. Hey, for me, nothing ruins a romantic evening faster than chatting up a bunch of strangers.

He settled for sending an e-mail to Dr. Popper a couple days later, and copied me on their conversation. After the introduction, he asked her if she had any favorite products or foods to serve when your kids’ friends are visiting so you don’t become known as the “weird food” house.


Yes, I took this as a personal affront. I’m sure he didn’t intend offense, but I work very hard to make good, healthy meals and snacks for our family (and friends) that are tasty and approachable — i.e., not “weird.”

But since he’s at work, and not home for most of our day-to-day entertaining, he probably really doesn’t know that it isn’t a big deal.

So, for anyone else who frets about what to serve omnivorous todddlers and school-age friends during a visit, here’s a go-to list of yummy, good-for-you, non-weird snacks.

If you have time in advance, you can make:
 - Healthy fruit/nut muffins (try the recipe for our favorite Blueberrry Muffins below) served with Earth Balance, a nut butter, or a fruit butter
 - Lightened peanut butter or oatmeal raisin cookies with chocolate or vanilla almond milk (my kids are wild about the dark chocolate almond milk from Silk Pure Almond)
 - Homemade guacamole and corn tortilla chips
 - Black bean dip with orange zest served with fresh sliced veggies
 - Individual pizzas (try Daiya vegan cheese)
 - Fruit salad with non-dairy yogurt
 - Roasted cauliflower (really, really good — even hard-core meat and potato eaters love it!)

If you need to serve something at the very last minute, try:
 - A bowl of assorted nuts and a bowl of fresh berries
 - Smoothies
 - Prepared hummus and fresh veggie sticks
 - Breakfast banana splits (see recipe below)
 - Edamame pods sprinkled with a little sea salt
 - Air-popped popcorn drizzled with a little melted Earth Balance and sprinkled with nutritional yeast (tastes just like cheese corn!)
 - Apple slices or celery sticks spread with peanut butter and topped with raisins, if desired

Remember, if one of your children’s friends turns his nose up at something you’ve fixed, that doesn’t mean it’s weird. Kids are notoriously picky eaters; I’ve entertained some who don’t like something as seemingly universal as watermelon, so just don’t take it personally!

Of course, it isn’t a bad idea to have a stash of all-fruit leather or chews and fruit/veggie juice boxes stashed in your pantry, just in case.


Our Favorite Blueberry Muffins

These are moist and delicious, but pack a lot less sugar and oil than most muffins -- and they’re half whole-wheat. Try them; I promise the whole family will love them!

1/4 c. coconut oil, melted (plus more for oiling muffin tins)
1 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
1 c. whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 c. sugar (plus more for sprinkling)
1 T. Ener-G egg replacer
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. fine sea salt
1-1/4 c. soy milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
1-1/2 c. blueberries

Preheat oven to 375. Grease 12 muffin tins.

In a large bowl, sift together the flours, baking powder, salt and egg replacer. Whisk in sugar.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the soy milk, coconut oil, vanilla, and lemon zest. Add the milk mixture to the flour mixture and stir until just moistened. Fold in the blueberries.

Spoon the batter evenly into the 12 muffin cups. Sprinkle the top of each lightly with a little sugar (about 1/8 tsp. each). Bake 16-18 minutes, or until tops are golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Makes 12.


This is so easy I hesitate to call it a recipe, but it's good, fun, and (so far!) universally loved.

Breakfast Banana Splits

2 bananas, peeled and cut in half lengthwise
4 T. peanut or other nut butter (Sun Butter is a great alternative if you’re dealing with nut allergies)
2 tsp. chocolate syrup
Crushed pineapple, optional
Chopped peanuts, optional

Place each banana in a shallow bowl or on a small plate. Spread a tablespoon peanut butter on the cut side of each sliced banana, then press the banana back together. Drizzle each banana split with a teaspoon of chocolate syrup. If desired, spoon a little crushed pineapple along the sides of the banana, and sprinkle with chopped nuts.

Note: If you want the bananas to stay upright, just slice a bit off the back, where the curve is, so you have a flat surface. Slice in half lengthwise and proceed with the rest of the recipe.

Makes 2.