The Blooming Platter of Vegan Recipes

Recipes for 'Vegan Cookbooks'

On Straw Mat--Bird's Eye PerspectiveAbout a year ago, I purchased Artisan Vegan Cheese by Miyoko Schinner.  Last week, I invited one of my vegetarian foodie friends, Trish Pfeifer, over to try out a couple of recipes…with disappointing results…except for our own Homemade Vegan Ricotta (pictured at right)!

I love the cheeses that  I have created both for my blog (search “cheese”) and The Blooming Platter Cookbook, but I was intrigued by the promise of Schinner’s meltable and sliceable cheeses, as I am not a big fan of market varieities, even Daiya.  Her photos make the cheese look like the real deal.

My Search for Rejuvelac

Many of the cheeses I was interested in called for “rejuvelac,” a liquid made from sprouted grains.  I am busy, like everyone I know, so I knew that the number of times the grains must be rinsed, the water changed, etc., not to mention the days necessary for the grain to sprout, were deal-killers for me.  So I thought I would purchase it but, alas, not so much.  No one in our area carries it, but I found it online from Herbspro.com.  It arrived sometime the week of July 7 while I was away–after ordering it on June 26–and it arrived wrapped in bubble wrap in a brown paper box though it was clearly marked “Perishable–Keep Refrigerated.”  Oh, and the shipping for 2 bottles, which together cost $9 and change, was $20!  I had decided to splurge for the sake of research.

I emailed the company to ask if  the product only needed to be refrigerated after opening.  They responded promptly that they “weren’t trained on the products” and provided the manufacturer’s contact information, also in CA.  I called and was told that absolutely the product must be refrigerated every moment of its life and that I should throw it out and contact Herbspro for a refund.  Easier said than done.  I called and had to give my phone number to the person who answered who sent an email to shipping who would be in touch, though they weren’t there at that time (and it was mid-morning even in CA).  I told him, after our brief conversation, that I had absolutely no confidence that anyone would call me back, though he assured me.  And, guess what? No one did.

So I called back about 4 p.m. PST and got the same man to whom I explained why I was calling.  He transferred me to “shipping,” where the phone rang interminably until I hung up.  I called back for a third time and this time the phone was answered by a woman who knew exactly what was going on with the product–she knew it should have been shipped in a cold pack–and issued a refund.  However, as I explained, they need to ship it with a signature required because I was out of town for a week and, even if it had been shipped cold, it wouldn’t have been when I returned home to open it.

Plan B

Without any Rejuvelac, I was forced to choose cheeses that didn’t call for it, which limited our options significantly.  One also can’t purchase unsweetened plain vegan yogurt here and choosing recipes that didn’t call for it would have, again, limited our options down to almost nothing.  The amounts of yogurt called for were small, though, so I bought some plain sweetened yogurt and hoped for the best with Schinner’s Cashew Cream Cheese.  I also selected Farmer’s Cheese (really, a ricotta), which only called for soymilk, vinegar and salt.  THe latter also involved actual dairy cheese-making methods, which I wanted to try.

Schinners Farmer’s Cheese/Ricotta–A Dud!  (my SUCCESSFUL recipe follows at the bottom)

Our first attempt at Schinner’s”Farmer’s Cheese” was a complete flop.  We added the vinegar to 200 degree soymilk exactly as instructed and watched as beautiful curds formed and then watched as they just as quickly melted, leaving us with nothing but a pot of warm milk.  The problem with this recipe is incomplete instructions.  She never says to remove the pot from the heat after the vinegar is added.  She just says to add the vinegar and that curds will continue to form over the next 10 minutes.  Ten minutes, we assumed, of cooking, since NOWHERE did she say to remove the pot from the burner, nor to turn it off.

I decided to look up homemade dairy ricotta recipes online and both that I consulted said to remove the pot from the heat as soon as the vinegar is added.  That worked beautifull and we were thrilled with our results.  But, Schinner’s yield says 2 cups and ours was 1.  Because both online dairy recipes called for dairy milk and cream, we thought we should perhaps compensate for the lack of cream in some way.  So the third time we made it, we reduced the milk by 25% to 6 cups, but kept the amount of vinegar the same at 1/4 cup.  We saved milk and got the same beautiful results–a yield of 1 cup–with no vinegary taste.  The only other change was not to let the curds form over the course of 10 minutes before pouring the mixture through a cheesecloth-lined strainer, but 1, as one of the online dairy recipes instructed.

Schinner’s Cashew Cream Cheese–A Disgusting Dud!

“What could go wrong?,” we thought.  Afterall, I have made plenty of nut cheeses.  But what I haven’t done is make them with live yogurt cultures AND leave them to cure, ripen, or whatever at room temperature as instructed in the book.  The cheese was tasty–albeit not very similar to cream cheese–as soon as we took it out of the food processor.  But as it sat for the recommended amout of time, it started becoming a bit foamy–not the consistency of cream cheese at all–and tasting spoiled.  Schinner notes that the longer the cheese is left out, the “tangier” or “sharper” it becomes.  It was not tangy or even sharp to our palate–as a vegetarian, I loved stinky cheese and Trish still does–rather it began to taste fishy and spoiled.

Because we wanted a firmer product, we weighted ours in a cheesecloth-lined colander and, as instructed, left them out for even more hours, at our respective homes.  The results were completely inedible, as in gag-reflex inedible.  I even tried salvaging mine with sea salt, pepper and olive oil.  But, no good.  Plus, I’m not sure if they would have made us sick if we had been able to choke them down.  Honestly, they were disgusting and we both, independently, threw them out in our outdoor waste bins.

My Recommendation

It appears that we are not the only ones who met with some disappointing results when usuing this book.  Though the 4- and 5-star reviews far outweigh the 1-stars, I read some of the latter who share my concerns.   My advice would be to 1) make MY version of Vegan Ricotta, and 2) if you are still tempted to purchase the book, read a few reviews, and then do so fully informed.  *Evidently, a lot of people are achieving fine results with the recipes in the book.  However, this ain’t my first culinary rodeo, I can follow a recipe with the best of ‘em, and still didn’t achieve edible cheese.  I gave the book to Trish to give to her niece who lives near DC, can hopefully obtain rejuvelac there and, perhaps, have better luck with the rejuvelac-based recipes.  I am left believing that there must be something about working with live cultures and probiotics that is far more variable than the level for which this book takes into account.

*Another vegan cookbook author friend reports that the Meltable Mozza from the book is nice.  One of the reviews on Amazon, however, reports that it didn’t work.  Buyer beware.

 

The Blooming Platter’s Homemade Vegan Ricotta Cheese

6 cups unsweetened soymilk

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

Line a strainer or sieve with 2 thicknesses of culinary cheesecloth (not the hardware store variety), available at some grocery stores, at kitchen shops, and online.  Place strainer over a deep bowl (I used my Kitchenaide mixing bowl) so that the bottom of the strainer won’t be suspended in the milk as it drains, or you can just pour off the liquid as it collects.  In a large (4-quart) saucepan, heat milk and salt over medium-high heat to 200 degrees, stirring occasionally.  Stir in vinegar, remove from heat, and very gently stir as big fluffy curds form and separate from the liquid (which would be whey in dairy cheesemaking).  After about 1 minute, pour mixture into prepared strainer and allow to drain for one hour.  It will be soft at this stage and can be refrigerated and then enjoyed like this.  Or you can create a firmer cheese, as we did, by gathering up sides of the cloth, twisting, tying with cord, and hanging from your kitchen faucet or from a wooden spoon set across the top of your deep bowl as I like to do (to keep the dogs out of it!).  Let draindrain for about 8 to 12 hours, unrefrigerated.  Carefully remove cheese from the cheesecloth, cover, and refrigerate.  Note: use the drained off liquid to water your plants!

Simple Steps to Perfect Ricotta–A Visual

Warming milk for ricotta with equipment/ingredients at the ready

Warming milk for ricotta with equipment/ingredients at the ready

Curds form as vinegar is added

Curds form as vinegar is added

Curds draining in cheesecloth-lined colander

Curds draining in cheesecloth-lined colander

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Cookstr--Author of the DayIt is my distinct pleasure to be the “Author of the Day”  for the 3rd time on  Cookstr, “The World’s #1 Collection of Cookbook Recipes Online.”  Once again,  I am so grateful and humbled!

Please visit their home page where, as they told me, “…your name and photo will be the first thing our visitors see when they click onto the site.” On a continual loop  inside the box are features like “Top Picks,” “Recipe of the Day,” and “Author of the Day.”  If you don’t see it right away and have time to wait just a minute, me and my recipe for Sassy Springtime Rolls will come back around!

Cookstr was founded in New York City in 2008 by Will Schwalbe, together with Katie Workman, Art Chang and the Tipping Point Partners team. The Author of Send,Will left his job as SVP and Editor in Chief of Hyperion Books to found Cookstr.

The organization’s stated mission is to:

“…organize the world‘s best cookbooks and recipes and make them universally accessible.

We are setting the standard for innovation in the delivery of 100% trusted, tested, recipes to home cooks around the world. Our online recipe library offers thousands of recipes by hundreds of the top chefs and cookbook authors, that are free for everyone on Cookstr.com. This year alone, Cookstr.com powered recipe searches in over 20,000 cities and 200 countries!”

Here are a few additional reasons to visit Cookstr besides sharing in my 15 minutes, or rather 24 hours, of fame:

  • Search and browse THOUSANDS of recipes from cookbooks, all with photos.
  • Visit the iBooks library.
  • Access the profiles, with photos, of hundreds of top authors, including celebrity chefs.
  • And, my favorite feature:  access nutritional information for EVERY recipe and search recipes by dietary considerations

By signing up with Cookstr, for free of course, you will receive a free, handpicked selection of recipes in your inbox weekly; be able to save, share and comment on your favorite recipes in My Cookstr; and get updates on new Cookstr features and tools.

Cookstr really is creating “meaningful experiences around food, and support(ing) healthy lifestyles.”  Let’s all be a part!

The warmest of thanks to Cookstr and to all of you for your support!

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TBPC_frontcover_for_web1This just in from the Shameless Commerce division…

I just received this email tonight from Cole Williams, a gifted former Advanced Art student, who now attends college at VCU and I couldn’t have scripted a better marketing message…

He writes:

“…Anyway, the reason I am emailing you is to express my appreciation and admiration for your wonderful cookbook- The Blooming Platter. My aunt who lives in California is a vegetarian and a WONDERFUL cook whom I share many recipes and ideas with, and I decided to get her a copy of your cookbook for Christmas. It arrived and while flipping through it I fell in love and decided I needed a copy for myself! I have been doing an increasing amount of cooking in the past few years (especially lately- it’s the cheapest way to eat in college) and eat a largely plant-based diet. The recipes on TheBloomingPlatter.com and in your cookbook give me a lot of inspiration as they are very healthy (an important aspect, to me) and don’t compromise on flavor one bit. I’m especially fond of the Thai/Asian style dishes as well as anything with fall vegetables- I absolutely love winter squash. I thought I would like to let you know that your ideas are impacting young minds!”

Amazon has some great deals right now!

I like to think of this self-portrait as Cole contemplating the plant-based life:

Cole Williams Self Portrait--2011-2012

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Vegan Desserts in Jars 2If you don’t have time to read this review, I’ll cut to the chase: I would certainly purchase for myself or as a gift this colorful little book of diminutive treats  baked and served in canning jars.  But, lucky me, I received a complimentary  review copy.  Available as a paperback or on Kindle, it will delight all the bakers on your holiday list.

Perhaps known best for her blog, www.nomnomnomblog.com, Peters is also the author of four cookbooks, including Have Your Cake and Vegan Too.  Her casual, peppy, and conversational writing style makes for a fun, quick read of  Vegan Desserts in Jars front material and both its chapter and individual recipe introductions.

Don’t be surprised by how thin this little paperback is.  At only 124 pages, it nonetheless serves up some 75 tempting recipes and lots of tantalizing color photos.  I, for one, appreciate a small focused cookbook.  Over my years of cooking, I have found that it is the rare cookbook from which I have made more than a handful of recipes.  And, other than my Joy of Cooking, which fit the bill as an introductory cookbook covering all the basics when I was a kid, I tend to shy away from encyclopedic tomes.

With nine chapters, from no-bake treats to cakes, pies, pastry and much more, it was difficult to decide what to bake first for this review.  Ultimately, I decided to go fairly basic with ingredients I had on hand and chose chocolate cakelettes.  Many of the adorable sweets in this book are made with fresh summer ingredients like berries and peaches.  Sure, they are available year-round in grocery stores, but as a seasonal cook, I will make myself wait until summer rolls around again.

I found the “Basic Chocolate Cake” recipe to be a  keeper.  *It makes 6 cakelettes in 4-ounce canning jars that rise up nice and high begging for a swirl of frosting on their perfect little domes.  I had recently purchased a set of 12 canning jars for a few dollars at my local Kroger so I was ready to go when the mood struck.  I plan on giving this first batch of festive little treats to the office staff at the high school where I teach.  BUT I plan on asking for the jars back so that I can reuse them in the future.

If I were serving these individual cakes at home, I would make as is.  However, if making them again to give as gifts, I would probably fill the jars half-full–and make a dozen instead of six–so that I could fit the lids on.  They would still be ample  desserts, but would be more easily transportable, staying fresh to boot.

Also, my oven seems to bake pretty true to temperature, but I found that I needed to cook the cakes just a couple of minutes longer than the longest baking time specified.  The simple wooden pick test will make sure yours are perfect.  Perhaps, though, I needed to bake mine a bit longer because I can’t leave any recipe alone, including my own!  To this batter, I added 1/4 cup of the new PB2 (powdered, lower fat calorie peanut butter that you mix with water) to the batter and a glug of Creme de Cacao (maybe 1 to 2 tablespoons).  Though the recipe was just lovely as published–I tasted the batter, of course–my additions were a delicious twist.  So you might keep that in mind when you’re making this (or any) chocolate cake recipe!

Under “About the Author” in the back of the book, I read that Peters “practices lots of yoga.”  She’d have to in order to “balance” the calorie damage done from testing the tantalizing treats in this book!

*Note that I just used the book cover as a photo to accompany this review because the lighting for photography is catch as catch can this weekend and my cakes baked up just as shown on the back left, only mine puffed up even higher.

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Red Velvet Cupcake Made from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the WorldThis week, I created a cupcake challenge for my Advanced and AP Art Students.

Entitled, “Hey Cupcake!  What’s Up?,” it started on Thursday with them making beautiful sketches of 3 different kinds of vegan cupcakes: 2 from Whole Foods (an Oreo flavored and a peanut butter flavored), and 1 that I made: Red Velvet from the recipe for “Crimson Velvet” cupcakes in the fabulous cookbook: Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World by Isa (who needs no last name, like Cher or Madonna…or Prince).

My students pronounced my cupcakes absolutely divine as opposed to Whole Foods’ pricey ones that had flavorless, dry cake and grainy frosting. They looked pretty but mine were delicious AND pretty…don’t you think? 

So, I just want to put in a plug for the book.  I have made and adapted SO many from that book and they never fail!   Thanks Isa (Chandra Moskowitz)!

Hey Cupcake!  What’s Up--Teacher Sample DetailP.S.  I’ll post images of my students’  finished artwork soon!  But, in the meantime, here is a detail of my teacher sample entitled “She Wore Red Velvet.”  Mine is about body image/eating disorder/food obsession. (Topics with which I am only too familiar from my teens/20s…and the residual.) Part of the piece is painted with coffee! I was up working on it after my husband  and I went to dinner until 12:30 this morning. Did I earn an A? (Sorry about the image quality…it was taken this morning at 6:20 with my not-so-great ‘Droid camera phone on the kitchen counter!)

 

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Jerusalem Post--Corn ArticleWhat an honor and a thrill!

Last Thursday, Faye Levy, author of the award-winning International Vegetable Cookbook, along with Yakir, featured The Blooming Platter Cookbook in their Jerusalem Post article on salads made with summer’s gold: corn!

The Jerusalem Post is Israel’s best-selling English daily and most read English website.  Wow!  Thank you, Faye and Yakir.

An excerpt from their article:

“Small oval tomatoes and a chili-seasoned citrus-cumin dressing flavor the roasted corn and black bean salad made by Betsy DiJulio, author of The Blooming Platter Cookbook. She serves this main-course salad on a bed of baby spinach and tops it with spiced toasted pecans. In another summertime salad, she combines corn with diced tomatoes, blackberries, onion and fresh basil, and dresses the salad with lime juice mixed with pomegranate molasses.

To cook the corn for her salads, DiJulio rubs the husked ears with olive oil, sprinkles them with sea salt and roasts them in a 200°C (400°F) oven until just a few brown spots appear; it takes about 15 minutes.”

 

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Vegan Heritage Press, publisher of The Blooming Platter Cookbook:  A Harvest of Seasonal Vegan Recipes, among other fine vegan cookbooks, is ushering in spring with a giveaway of my book!

Just follow THIS LINK to the Vegan Heritage Press blog where spring has sprung!  You are sure to be seduced by the beautiful colors and fresh ideas for spring meals all from The Blooming Platter Cookbook!

Hurry!  The contest ends Friday, March 8, at midnight.  And, as of right now, there are already over 60 entrants…Good Luck!

 

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What I thought was surely a once-in-a-lifetime honor has happened for a second time: Cookstr–”The World’s #1 Collection of Cookbook Recipes Online”– bestowed upon me the honor of “Author of the Day” today!  What a beautiful way to start the new year.  I am so grateful and humbled!

Please visit their home page where, as they told me, “…your name and photo will be the first thing our visitors see when they click onto the site.” On a continual loop  inside the box are features like “Top Picks,” “Recipe of the Day,” and “Author of the Day.”  If you don’t see it right away and have time to wait just a minute, me and my recipe for Angel Hair Pasta with Chard and Bell Peppers will come back around!

Cookstr was founded in New York City in 2008 by Will Schwalbe, together with Katie Workman, Art Chang and the Tipping Point Partners team. The Author of Send,Will left his job as SVP and Editor in Chief of Hyperion Books to found Cookstr.

The organization’s stated mission is to:

“…organize the world‘s best cookbooks and recipes and make them universally accessible.

We are setting the standard for innovation in the delivery of 100% trusted, tested, recipes to home cooks around the world. Our online recipe library offers thousands of recipes by hundreds of the top chefs and cookbook authors, that are free for everyone on Cookstr.com. This year alone, Cookstr.com powered recipe searches in over 20,000 cities and 200 countries!”

Here are a few additional reasons to visit Cookstr besides sharing in my 15 minutes, or rather 24 hours, of fame:

  • Search and browse THOUSANDS of recipes from cookbooks, all with photos.
  • Visit the iBooks library.
  • Access the profiles, with photos, of hundreds of top authors, including celebrity chefs.
  • And, my favorite feature:  access nutritional information for EVERY recipe and search recipes by dietary considerations

By signing up with Cookstr, for free of course, you will receive a free, handpicked selection of recipes in your inbox weekly; be able to save, share and comment on your favorite recipes in My Cookstr; and get updates on new Cookstr features and tools.

Cookstr really is creating “meaningful experiences around food, and support(ing) healthy lifestyles.”  Let’s all be a part!

The warmest of thanks to Cookstr and to all of you for your support!

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Many thanks to the generous organizers and patrons of the Old Beach Farmers Market “Christmas Market” on December 15 at Croc’s Eco-Bistro in VA Beach.  What a convivial and festive community event!  I was honored to be invited to be a part, and gratified to have sold out of my Blooming Platter Cookbooks by 10:30 a.m (the market closed at noon)!

I even had to procure more books to fill my last orders, as I’d oversold–a nice problem to have.

And what fun to be given a tent to share with the inimitable Ann Callis, co-author of the beautiful Vintage North End, Virginia Beach: An Illustrated History.  Everyone with ties to Hampton Roads needs a copy of this book and an opportunity to meet the engaging author.

Again, thanks to all for your generosity and hospitality!

Happy Holidays!

~betsy d.

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12/12/12 marked the eve of the 12 anniversary of my annual “Christmas, Chanukah, Curry & Cakes” party.  That’s a lot of twelves!

Each year, about 20 or more (not 12) of my “peeps” gather at Joe’s and my home on the second Wednesday of December for some holiday cheer.  For ten years, the format was a veg curry dinner–with lots of fun toppings–and gifts for all.  Nobody was complaining…quite the opposite: it was a much-anticipated get-together.

But, last year, I decided to shake things up a bit by hosting the annual fete as a “swap” of new or gently used items no longer needed or wanted.  It was such a hit–we all got so much holiday swapping done!–that I did it again this year and probably for the next ten!  You can read all about last year’s party,  including simple directions for hosting your own swap and the vegan menu with some dishes from The Blooming Platter Cookbook, HERE.

For this year, I changed all but one dish–the Indian Saag Dip–to create the following menu:

*Indian Saag Dip with Rice Crackers

Roasted Pumpkin with Pepita-Sage Pesto

(served with toothpicks)

The Blooming Platter Tofu Egg Salad with Melba Toast Rounds

*Brie with Red Grape Chutney atop “Everything” Crackers

**Red Velvet Shortbread Cookies with Dark Chocolate Drizzle & Sugar Pearls

Organic Cava

*From The Blooming Platter Cookbook (Note: I didn’t wrap the brie in pastry and bake it.  Rather, I spread the chilled “cheese” on a serving platter and topped it with a different chutney than that in my cookbook.  For a similar result, you could substitute red grapes in the recipe in the cookbook recipe.)

**This delicious and simple recipe is not yet posted–sorry!

 

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