24 October 2010

Book Review: Fresh and Fast Vegan

From October 2010

Raise your hand if you like rice pudding! (Raising both hands and a foot.) Well, you're really going to like this one from Fresh and Fast Vegan, the newest cookbook from Amanda Grant. I noodled with it a great deal to make it work for me, given my ingredients and budget, but you'll find it quite the tasty pudding.

I'm not sure I'd call it rice pudding, actually. It's more like almond pudding with a big handful of rice thrown in for texture. Speaking of handfuls, Ms. Grant provides a few measurements in terms of handfuls, which I found to be very amusing given the range of hand sizes in folks I know. For instance, 1/2 handful of dried apricots in my hand equals 3.5 apricots. I'm sure my friend Richard's hands would hold more of the dried fruit than that. Come to think of it, I probably would have done well using Richard's hands for these measurements since the end result might have been even more delicious.

This is the second recipe I tried from the book. The first was a butternut squash pie with a crust that turned out very oily for my and Teresa's tastes. However, the pie was gone by the end of the day when I brought it to the Plainfield Public Library for the librarians. I'm hoping they'll enjoy this sweet dessert as well.

The recipe says it serves 4, but I'm not sure that's correct. I ended up with a LOT of pudding, which I estimate at 12 servings. Since my version of the recipe is a bit different than the original, I'm going to post mine here for you to try, with notes on my changes. The next time I make this, I'm definitely using brown rice and more of it. I'd also use more dried fruit just for fun. Otherwise, I'd keep this as is.

Serving note -- the original recipe recommends serving it chilled. After setting, I'd recommend warming it slightly in the microwave. It's better warm.

As far as the recipes go, there's a lot of leeway in the measurements, and the instructions could use a bit more detail. I also found the cooking and prep times to be much quicker than my experience. Teresa said she wanted photos and doesn't like cookbooks without them. However, the recipes are creative and interesting, which is always a plus for a vegan cookbook.

Moroccan Spiced Rice Pudding (my reworking of the recipe originally published on page 182 of Fresh and Fast Vegan by Amanda Grant).


2 tablespoons dried currants (The original says 1/2 handful of raisins.)
2 tablespoons chopped dried apricots (see above for measurement)
3 drops Fiore di Sicilia (The original calls for soaking the dried fruit in orange-flower water, so I made "creamsickle" flower water by using this amazing flavoring.)
3 oz filtered, boiled water
4 cups unsweetened vanilla almond milk (The original uses soy milk.)
4 tablespoons jasmine rice (The original says 3.5 to 5 T, which seems a bit nebulous to me.)
2 tablespoons brown rice flour (The original doesn't specify.)
2 tablespoons filtered water
2/3 scant cup agave nectar (I used light for this, but you could use dark, too. The original calls for 1 cup of turbinado sugar.)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cups almond flour (The original calls for ground almonds, but I made flour in my coffee grinder because I had a feeling the consistency might be too grainy otherwise. I'm glad I did.)
1/2 teaspoon Baking Spice (The original calls for sprinkling a little cinnamon on top before serving. I don't like dry cinnamon on anything, so I mixed the spice into the cooked pudding right before turning off the heat, and it worked like a charm.)

(My directions are loosely based on the original, but I tried to provide more guidance while keeping them simple. All feedback is welcome.)

1. In a small bowl, add the dried fruit, the Fiore di Silicia, and the boiled water and stir. Set aside to let the fruit soak up the flavor.
2. In a medium saucepan, boil 3 of the 4 cups of almond milk. Save the remaining milk for later.
3. As soon as the milk boils, add the rice, cut the heat to a gentle simmer, stir, then cover for 10 minutes. Bring the heat down to low so that the pan won't boil over.
4. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, mix the rice flour with the 2 tablespoons of water until you have a paste. Whisk in the remaining milk.
5. When the rice is just tender, pour the rice/milk mixture into the saucepan and stir well. Raise the heat to bring the mixture to a low boil.
6. Gently whisk in the agave nectar, vanilla, almond flour, and the fruit. Lower the heat a little so the pan doesn't boil over. You may get some lumps from the almond flour, but whisking will break these up in about 2 minutes. If your pudding hasn't begun to thicken, just keep the heat on medium low and keep stirring until it does (shouldn't take longer than 5 minutes).
7. Stir in the Baking Spice and turn off the heat.
8. Put a trivet on your counter, and place a large glass bowl on top of it. Gently pour the pudding from the saucepan into the bowl and let cool for 20 minutes. Cover, then set in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
9. Serve warmed. (Although you could eat it cold, but it's far superior warm.)

18 October 2010

Vegan Banana Nut Muffins

From October 2010

Boy it's good to be back baking in my own kitchen again! Which is not to say that being in Utah for months wasn't fantastic, because it was. But 1. I haven't gotten the hang of high-altitude baking yet, and 2. I'm quite fond of my kitchen, especially the mixer, the food processor, and the oven.

Since I've been home, I haven't had much time to bake, but I did develop a vegan banana nut muffin recipe that has all kinds of tasty surprises, like carob chips and coconut. I brought a dozen of them to a birthday party where they had a giant cake from BJ's. While some folks tried the cake, the muffins were very popular. I didn't tell my pals that they were doing themselves a favor by eating one -- getting a nice dose of fiber and good fats from the flaxmeal, walnuts, whole grains, and olive oil. But seeing how much my friends enjoyed these moist, yet cakey muffins was enough to spur me to share this recipe with you.

From October 2010

Vegan Banana Muffins
Yields 12 standard muffins and 8 mini muffins


2 teaspoons flaxmeal
3 tablespoons water
1/4 cup olive oil (the fruitier the better)
1/2 cup agave nectar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 desperately ripe bananas
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup dried, unsweetened coconut
1/2 cup vegan carob chips
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon Baking Spice (from Pensey's)


1. Whisk together the flaxmeal and the water, then let stand while preparing the other ingredients.
2. In a large bowl, blend together the olive oil, agave nectar, vanilla, and bananas until well incorporated.
3. In a small bowl, chop the walnuts, and mix them with the coconut and carob chips.
4. In yet another bowl (sorry about that!), mix together the remaining ingredients.
5. Add the nut mixture to the dry ingredients and combine well.
6. Add the flax mixture to the wet ingredients and combine well.
7. Add the dry mix to the wet mix and combine well.
8. Preheat the oven to 345 degrees F and put muffin cups into your pans.
9. Scoop the batter into the cups. They will puff up, so fill the cups only 3/4 full.
10. Bake the muffins at 345 degrees F for 10 minutes, then drop the temperature to 335 degrees F another 10 minutes for minis and 20 for large muffins or until a tester comes out clean.
11. Let cool in pans for 10 minutes before taking the muffins out and letting them cool completely on a wire rack.
12. Enjoy!