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Monday, July 6, 2015

Make Your Own Vegan Yogurt!

Hubby and I were pretty bummed when we found out Whole Soy & Co. was going out of business. No, we were REALLY bummed. This was the only vegan yogurt on the market that we both really like. Thus began our quest to make homemade vegan yogurt. I started with the cashew yogurt recipe in Artisan Vegan Cheese by Miyoko Schinner. It tasted pretty good but the cashews made the texture slightly gritty, and the yogurt was always separated. However, it was great for thickening to make a spreadable cheese.

After scouring the internet for information on making vegan yogurt, I started to experiment with using thickeners and eventually landed on my own formula that has been working wonderfully! So far it's been a few months, and I've been able to keep the same culture going. It still amazes me that all I need for a new batch of yogurt is soy milk, corn starch and a couple tablespoons of the last batch of yogurt to act as the starter!

Making your own yogurt may sound complicated, but I promise that it's not difficult at all. You don't even need a yogurt maker, although I personally prefer to use one for the convenience. In addition to the ingredients, you will need:
  1. A saucepan for heating the soy milk (preferably one that's easy to pour from)
  2. A whisk
  3. A candy thermometer
  4. A way to incubate the yogurt

The yogurt culture prefers a warm climate (about 110° F). A yogurt maker simply acts as an incubator and keeps the yogurt mixture the correct temperature. You can also use an oven set to 110° F if it goes that low, or do as I did before I bought a yogurt maker and set the oven to the lowest temp and turn it on for a minute or two to warm it up. Then turn it off, set the jar(s) of yogurt inside (without a lid) and drape a dish towel over the top. You may need to briefly turn on the oven every couple hours to keep the yogurt warm. Some people have also found success with using a crockpot to make yogurt.

Once the yogurt is done, you'll need to refrigerate it a few hours before you can eat it. I always eat mine with preserves to mimic store-bought flavored yogurt. Pictured above is my yogurt with Crofter's Organic Strawberry Premium Spread swirled in.

Kristin's Plain Simple Soy Yogurt
Makes about 42 oz., or seven 6 oz. cups

5 cups organic plain soy milk (just about any kind will do. I use a store brand to save money.)
2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch (non-gmo, I use Bob's Red Mill)
2 tablespoons cold water
2 tablespoons yogurt to use as starter culture (once you're in the habit of making yogurt, set aside some starter for your next batch)

Heat the soy milk in a saucepan over medium-low heat, whisking occasionally. While the soy milk is heating, whisk together the cornstarch with the cold water to make a slurry.

When the soy milk reaches 140° F, whisk in the cornstarch slurry. Continue to heat the mixture, whisking occasionally, until it reaches 180° F and mixture has thickened slightly. Remove from heat and allow to cool to 110° F. This should take about an hour. If any skin or film has formed on the surface, gently remove it with a spatula and discard it.

Whisk yogurt starter culture into the soy milk mixture. Pour mixture into jars and culture for 4-8 hours in the yogurt marker (or other incubation method), until yogurt is set, and depending on how tart/tangy you like your yogurt. The longer you culture it, the tangier it will taste. (I like mine cultured for 6 hours.)

If you are using store-bought yogurt as a starter culture, it may take much longer. It took 11 hours for my first batch. I thought it was a failure after 10 hours, but hubby convinced me to wait a bit longer, and the yogurt finally set! It wasn't until later that I learned that the cultures in store-bought yogurt aren't as active as fresh homemade yogurt, so it can take much longer to use as a starter culture.

When yogurt is ready, put the lid(s) back on the jar(s) and store in the refrigerator. Allow to cool for at least a few hours before consuming the yogurt.

  • There are two strains of bacteria that you need to have in your starter culture if you want to be able to keep perpetuating and using homemade yogurt as the starter for the next batch: Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus, (sometimes shortened to L. bulgaricus and S. thermophilus). The Whole Soy & Co. yogurt that I used as my starter contained 4 different bacterial strains, but the two important ones were there, so I have been able to perpetuate and keep making yogurt for a few months now.
  • To keep your cultures active and happy, you need to "re-culture" regularly. In other words, you need to make a new batch of yogurt at least every 7-8 or days or so. If you don't make yogurt this often, you might consider setting aside a couple tablespoons of yogurt from a new batch and freezing it. Although I haven't tried it myself, I've read that freezing starter from freshly made yogurt will allow you to wait about 2 weeks before you need to make another batch.
  • Yogurt cultures need sugar! If you make your own soy milk or buy unsweetned soymilk, you should probably add a little sugar to the milk before heating it. Otherwise, the bacteria won't have much to eat and your yogurt may not culture.
  • You can also use another thickener if you don't want to use cornstarch. Tapioca and arrowroot powder would both work well. You may need to adjust amounts to get the desired thickness.
Feel free to leave me any questions you have in the comments, and I'll get back to you as soon as I can!


Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Get Your Smoke On!

One of my go-to ingredients for veganizing recipes or adding more complexity to dishes is smoke. Grilling with natural charcoal (yep, it's vegan, since it's made from wood) is my favorite way to infuse food with smoky goodness. I highly recommend grilling portobello mushrooms or asparagus. I sincerely believe there is no better way to eat asparagus than lightly oiled, grilled and served with a pinch of salt.

Even if you don't own a grill or smoker, there are plenty of ways to add delicious smoky flavor to your favorite recipes.

Liquid Smoke
The idea of liquid smoke might sound a bit strange, but it's nothing to be scared of. Smoke from burning wood chips is cooled and condensed into a liquid. One of the most popular brands is Colgin— pictured above are apple, hickory and mesquite flavors. A little goes a long way. Start with 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon, depending on the size of your dish.

Smoky Hot Sauce
Believe it or not, there is a bacon flavored hot sauce. The funny thing is that it's actually vegan! Garnish your favorite dishes with bacon flavored hot sauce or hot sauce made with chipotle chiles for a touch of smoke and heat. (Pictured above: Bacon Hot Sauce and Chipotle Tabasco Sauce) A great place to use hot sauce is my Smoky Black-Eyed Peas and Greens.

Chipotle Chiles
Chipotle chiles are actually smoked jalapenos. You can buy them dried (whole or powder), or canned as "chipotle en adobo." I like to add chipotle chiles to salsas, enchilada sauces and the like. Here's my recipe for Potato Enchiladas with Smoky Chipotle Sauce.

Smoked Paprika
The flavor of smoked paprika is a bit milder than some of the other options listed, but it has a beautiful red color. You can swap out sweet paprika for smoked paprika measure for measure. Try adding smoked paprika to creamy sauces and gravies, mac 'n' cheese, tofu scrambles or pan-fried potatoes. Sometimes I like to add a little smoked paprika to my Creamy Thyme-Pepper Gravy.

Smoked Vegan Cheese
Recently Daiya introduced a Smoked Gouda Style Block. This vegan cheese is super melty and goes great on burgers, makes a great grilled cheese sandwich and works well in mac 'n' cheese for a mildly smoky white cheese sauce. I would imagine you can use the Aged English Smoked Farmhouse from Miyoko's Kitchen (pictured above) in cooking as well, but honestly this stuff is so good that I always eat it plain on crackers.

Smoked Salt
This item might be a little harder to find than the others. I stumbled upon apple wood smoked salt at Whole Foods by accident while trying to track down some kala namak (black salt). A little smoked salt goes a long way, so sprinkle a little on at a time and omit any other salt from the recipe you're using. I often add smoked salt to chili or sprinkle it on baked potatoes. For a real treat, put some smoked salt on a baked potato with chili and top with chopped avocado. Delicious!


Friday, February 13, 2015

Incredible (and Edible!) Body Butter

This body butter is super creamy and moisturizing. If you use food grade cocoa butter, it's even edible, so feel free to use it as a lip balm! I like to use it on heels, elbows, knees, lips and anywhere you need mega moisture. Best of all, you only need 2 ingredients.

Since it's made from coconut oil and cocoa butter, this body butter is very melty. You'll want to store it at a cool temperature, so if your house is hot in the summer, the fridge might be the best place.

Just about any small container with a lid will be fine if the container is stored upright and won't tip over. I would suggest using one with a tight-fitting lid to be on the safe side.

Coco-Cocoa Body Butter
1 part virgin coconut oil
1 part food-grade cocoa butter
a few drops of oil-based flavoring (you can find these with candy-making supplies at craft stores), optional

Determine how much body butter you want to make to fit the container(s) you have. If you're not sure, start with a tablespoon of each. Add all ingredients to a double boiler and stir until melted. If you don't have a double boiler, you need a way to gently melt/mix the ingredients. Pour the melted body butter into your container(s) and allow to cool.


Sunday, September 28, 2014

Vegan Bread Machine: Cinnamon Raisin Bread

Time sure flies when you're raising up the next generation of vegans. My daughter is now 9 months old, and I haven't found a lot of time to experiment in the kitchen. We've been eating lots of pasta, stir-fries and other simple dishes since the baby was born. I'm all for the super quick and easy type recipes right now :)

Which brings me to the bread machine — we cashed in our credit card reward points on a T Fal Balanced Living bread machine. When we first got it, I was worried I might have to work a lot of veganizing magic to use any recipes that came with the machine. Much to my surprise (and delight), almost all of the recipes were already vegan, including a sweet bread recipe. I promptly used it as a jumping off point to making cinnamon raisin bread in the bread machine. This bread is wonderfully moist, fluffy, delicious and cinnamon-y — perfect for autumn!

Update: I forgot to mention that I prefer to weigh flour for the best results when baking bread and have updated the flour amount to also include a weight measure. Also, when working with yeast breads, you should be extra careful in measuring flour and liquid ingredients. You need the right flour to water ratio to get a great loaf. This might require seasonal adjustments too due to changing humidity levels (i.e. use less flour in winter, more in summer.) For more information and tips on bread machine baking, check out the tips at King Arthur Flour.

Cinnamon Raisin Bread
Makes one 1.5 lb. loaf

1 cup + 2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons canola or other neutral-tasting oil
1 teaspoon non-iodized salt
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 teaspoons cinnamon
3 cups (13.5 oz) bread flour
1 teaspoon instant yeast (you can probably substitute quick-rise yeast)
3/4 cup raisins

Add the water, oil, salt, sugar, vanilla extract, cinnamon and bread flour to the bread machine pan, in that order. Sprinkle the yeast over the top or add to the yeast dispenser if your machine has one. (Note: Depending on the brand of your bread machine, you may need to add the ingredients in a different order, such as the dry ingredients first, etc.)

Choose the sweet bread cycle, 1.5 lb. loaf setting and medium crust browning. If your machine doesn't have a sweet bread setting, try using something as similar as possible, such as a "white bread" setting. Press start.

Add the raisins during the second kneading cycle. Many bread machines will beep to let you know when to add extra ingredients, such as dried fruit and nuts. If your machine does not, you may need to look up the table of cycles for your machine or watch it carefully to see when to add the raisins.

Once the bread is done cooking, remove it from the loaf pan and cool on a wire rack. Let the bread cool completely (if you can stand it!) before slicing. I tend to cheat a bit and slice it while it's still warm, because let's face it, nothing beats a slice of fresh warm bread!


Friday, February 14, 2014

Vegan Pregnancy: Second Trimester and Beyond

It's been a long time since I've posted...blame the hormones! The good news is that I survived pregnancy and have a healthy, (mostly) happy baby girl. Since the last post on vegan pregnancy, I ended up switching brands on all my supplements, ventured into the world of maternity clothes and dealt with the lack of vegan food options during a hospital stay (didn't get to have the natural birth I wanted due to baby's positioning).

I switched to Rainbow Light Prenatal One Multivitamin after realizing I was having a reaction to the chamomile in the Deva brand prenatal. I really like the Rainbow Light multivitamin and am still taking now, since I'm breastfeeding. It's coated, so it's easier to swallow than other similarly large pills. I also like that it's a food-based vitamin. Doesn't have a weird taste either.

For the DHA, I currently take Ovega-3, which is actually is an EPA and DHA combination supplement. Reason for the switch? It's more economical to take one Ovega-3 rather than two of the DHA pills I was taking before.

Also, I have been taking alfalfa tablets since the third trimester. It was highly recommend by the group of midwives I was seeing to reduce postpartum bleeding. I also read somewhere (sorry, no link) that it fortifies breastmilk, so I'm continuing to take it. Only the tablets are vegan. I was unable to find alfalfa in vegetable-based capsules. You should be cautious when taking alfalfa tablets as a vegan though! It's basically like taking fiber pills.....you get the idea.

As for maternity clothes, it's not hard to find vegan items. The only non-vegan item I encountered was wool coats, and there are probably some wool maternity sweaters out there too. I never bought a maternity coat because one coat I already owned miraculously fit all the way through pregnancy, and I even wore it to the hospital on baby's birth day. If you don't mind the "puffy" down-alternative style coats, they can work well in pregnancy if they are short enough and have elastic to adjust the size. All my long coats didn't fit around my bump, but I occasionally wore them unbuttoned (weather permitting).

Surprisingly, some of my favorite clothes weren't maternity clothes. Jersey knit shirts easily stretch over a growing baby bump and snap back into shape in the wash. As for actual maternity shirts, those with ruching on the sides will fit throughout pregnancy depending on the brand and shirt material. Yoga pants are probably your best friend in pregnancy, but if you need to look presentable, I recommend wearing full panel jeans or pants late in pregnancy or skirts with a wide, soft, stretchy waistband. In the first half of pregnancy, the hair tie trick does wonders.

If you want to be more environmentally friendly in purchasing maternity clothes or want to save money, then buying secondhand is worth considering. I even found used maternity clothes online (at thredUP), but I didn't like everything I bought. Some clothes didn't fit right, and some items didn't look as good on me as I was hoping, so definitely use caution if going the online route. That being said, I did really like a few of the items I bought, including a black dress and a gray hoodie.

If you're lucky, you might have a secondhand store nearby that sells maternity or have a friend/family member that wears the same size who will let you borrow their maternity clothes. For anyone in the Lawrence, KS area, Doodlebugs  is a great option. It's a babies/kids store, but they also sell some maternity clothes.

Feel free to leave me your vegan pregnancy questions, and I'll try my best to answer them!


Saturday, June 22, 2013

Classic Macaroni Salad

I first tried deli macaroni salad when I was a toddler, and I've loved it ever since! It's a little sweet, a little tangy and full of crunchy diced veggies. Macaroni salad always makes me think of summer — it's a perfect side dish to go with sandwiches, veggie burgers or other cookout fare.

I first published a macaroni salad recipe back in 2009 (Gluten-Free Macaroni Salad), and now I'm bringing it back with a few flavor tweaks. This time I used elbow-macaroni that's made with Jerusalem artichoke, but you can make this dish gluten-free by substituting gluten-free pasta such as rice, quinoa or corn. I also changed up the veggies and the dressing a little...totally delicious!

Classic Macaroni Salad
Serves 6-8

8 oz. elbow macaroni (I used De Boles)
1/2 cup vegan mayonnaise
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon vegan sugar
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
a pinch of cayenne
salt and pepper, to taste
1/3 cup each of diced red bell pepper, diced red onion, diced celery and chopped pickles (I used bread 'n' butter pickles)

Cook pasta according to package directions. While pasta is cooking, make the dressing by whisking together the mayo, vinegar, sugar, celery seed, cayenne, salt and pepper in a small bowl. After pasta is done, drain thoroughly and transfer to an appropriately-sized serving bowl. Add the dressing and the veggies to the pasta and mix until evenly combined. Cover and refrigerate for at least a couple hours before serving.


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Vegan Pregnancy: First Trimester

If that title doesn't make it totally clear, yep, I'm having a vegan baby :-) And if anyone has been wondering where I've been for so long, I simply have been taking a break from the blog. Mostly because my stomach has been so fickle...I can't even imagine trying to develop new recipes right now. But what I can share is some of the vegan-friendly resources I've discovered during these first few months of pregnancy!

One of my first pregnancy-related purchases was DEVA Vegan Prenatal Multivitamin & Mineral. I like their regular multivitamin, so I figured the prenatals are probably good too. Nutritionally, they have you covered on pretty much everything except DHA. Unfortunately, they're not the most pleasant vitamins to take. They are not coated like the multivitamins, so they are not as easy to swallow. In fact, sometimes they'll get stuck in the back of my mouth because they've started to dissolve and get sticky. The taste is a little funky too. Like many prenatal vitamins, they can also make nausea/morning sickness worse. I don't blame DEVA though -- It's a common problem with taking prenatal vitamins. I've found that taking them with the largest meal of the day seems to help a lot with the nausea.

If anyone knows of a better vegan prenatal multivitamin (must be coated), please let me know in the comments. These were the only vegan prenatal vitamins I could find locally (I prefer not to order online unless I really need something), but I'm open to other brands if there's something better out there.

During my first prenatal appointment at the birth center, I was told to start taking DHA as well. I couldn't find a lot of vegan DHA options locally, but the NOW Foods brand was affordable and is vegetarian/vegan. So far so good! These "softgels" are fairly small and easy to swallow. No weird taste. I would definitely recommend them.

(My disclaimer: I am not a nutritionist or dietician. These are just the supplements I am taking in addition to my usual vitamin B12 supplement. Ask your doctor/midwife/dietician/nutritionist if you have any questions about which supplements to take.)

And finally, The Everything Vegan Pregnancy Book By Reed Mangels, PhD, RD, LD, FADA has been a handy resource for vegan-related pregnancy concerns. While it doesn't go into a lot of details about body changes or cover week by week development, I do think it's worth adding your personal library. No one pregnancy book is going to have everything (I have a stack of pregnancy books!), but I do find myself referring to this one often for the nutritional information.

Other good sources for vegan pregnancy nutrition info:

Becoming Vegan by Brenda Davis, RD, and Vesanto Melina, MS, RD
Vegan for Life by Jack Norris, RD, and Virginia Messina, MPH, RD

Websites / online articles:
Pregnancy and the Vegan Diet
Vegetarian Diets for Pregnancy

Please feel free to share any other resources in the comments!