Monday, July 10, 2017

Review of new vegan (non-dairy) Häagen-Dazs ice cream

OK, so this week Häagen-Dazs dropped four new vegan ice cream flavors, and I couldn't find any reviews online. So we decided to give then a try. Sadly the locator page on their web site is misleading, it found three stores that should have had them but didn't (none of the staff had even heard of the new flavors) and failed to show the Target down the street that did (I heard that Target is the only place selling them other than Häagen-Dazs stores. But eventually we picked up all four flavors: coconut caramel, peanut butter chocolate fudge, chocolate salted fudge truffle, and mocha chocolate cookie:
New vegan Häagen-Dazs Ice cream (1/2)
New vegan Häagen-Dazs Ice cream (2/2)

OK, so what was the verdict? The key thing is that this is really intense, rich, sweet ice cream. Compared to most other vegan brands it just has a much denser and heavy feel. But they are delicious! The mouthfeel is better to me than the new Ben & Jerry's (which feels a bit more crystalline), but it's also so dense it's almost a bit chewy (especially the coconut caramel). I think So Delicious and other brands incorporate more air or something for a smoother and less intense flavor. But if you are the kind of person that likes chocolate lava cake or triple chocolate mousse / cake /etc. this should be right up your alley.

My favorites were the chocolate truffle (very fudgy and intense) and the peanut-butter chocolate (also very intense, but the PB and chocolate made for more balance). I also liked the mocha cookie quite a bit but the texture of the chocolate pieces in the truffle was way better to me. Coconut caramel was OK but to me was too sweet (similar to So Delicious Dulce de Leche, while the chocolate truffle was like their old Purely Decadent flavor with chocolate swirl and chunks, but even richer).

Vegan Lady liked mocha and PB&chocolate best, then truffle, and coconut last. Our neighbor and her daughter came over and liked the coconut best followed by mocha, but also liked them all.

So I'd say that if you like ice cream, give these a try, but be sure to find some people to split them with, as if you eat the whole pint you will be in pain!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Nicoise salad with collard green seed pod "beans"

We let our collard greens flower and go to seed this year, and have been curious to try eating the "beans" which are good and tender if you get them when they're still small:
Collard "green bean" seed pod

We ended up putting them on top of a Nicoise salad, which was tasty:
Nicoise salad

Monday, May 8, 2017

Soil Horizons Cake for Earth Day

How better to celebrate Earth Day than with a soil cake? We didn’t just want a boring chocolate “dirt cake” with gummi worms in it; we wanted a proper soil profile with the different horizons represented (see the printout at the bottom of the photo below). In the end we discarded some of our more fanciful ideas and went with a relatively design involving 3 layers plus toppings. Here are the components prior to assembly:
Soil cake preparation

For the bottom layer (E horizon) we wanted “rocks” of different sizes so used the health food store equivalent of cocoa rice crispies and cocoa pebbles in a vegan marshmallow base (basically heterogeneous vegan rice crispie treats), shown at left in the photo above.

On top of that we wanted sort of a tan cake for the leached B horizon, so after considering mocha or spice cake we kept it simple and went with a vegan vanilla cake recipe and just added 1.5 Tbsp of cocoa powder. The cake recipe was terrible though, so this layer came out fairly dry, and next time I’d use a tried and true vanilla recipe before mixing in a bit of cocoa. We put basic powdered sugar icing (with a bit of cocoa to match the color) above and below this layer to help bind it to the other layers (top cake in photo above).

The top layer was a mocha cake (the bottom cake in photo above), lighter than a pure chocolate cake but still a nice rich brown for the A horizon. Then we put a mocha ganache on top of that to hold the oreo crumble on top (we used oreo thins with chocolate filling), and topped with a few sugar cookie “leaves.” We also planned to have pretzel stick “twigs” but the dog got into the bag of pretzels the night before so had to give up on that.

Here’s how it looked once assembled:
Soil cake preparation

Once it was assembled we cooled it in the fridge before cutting the edges flush for a neater look:
Soil horizon cake

Here's an oblique shot from above:
Soil horizon cake

Sadly the time in the fridge dried out the cake a bit, so we had to serve it with vegan Breyer’s cookies and cream, and poured some of the new vegan Bailey’s Irish cream on the cake as well.  But that's not an awful worst case. We had some of the leftovers in glasses as a trifle and it worked pretty well.

We also wanted to make roots / mycorrhizae out of white cotton candy which we could jam into the cake, but couldn’t find it. But a simpler idea would have been to bend up a hangar into a jagged shape, poke several sinuous holes in the cake from above, and fill each with thin white icing, so that when you cut into it you can see the roots. Next time!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Vegan goat cheese (chevré), round 2

It's been a while, so I decided to make the goat cheese recipe from VegNews (a modified version of the one in Miyoko Schinner's book) but without the herbs de provence. It turns out making it in summer is pretty different; it ages a lot faster but thickens more slowly! I decided I wanted a different flavor profile so changed up the herbs. Here's the last of the final product (it was too tasty to wait to eat):

Vegan goat cheese

You need to plan about a week in advance of when you want to eat the cheese.

First, make some rejuvelac:
To make 2 cups of rejuvelac (enough for many cheeses): soak 1/2 cup whole grains (i used quinoa, which makes for a less disgusting flavor than rye or barley or wheat) in 2 cups of water for 8-12 hours. Drain it and fill with more water, changing it 3 times per day, until the grains begin sprouting, then drain again. put the grains and 2 cups of fresh water in a jar and cover with a towel or cheesecloth. Let it sit for 2 days or so, until the liquid turns white, then strain out the grains to have your rejuvelac.

Then soak the cashews (2 cups, raw) for at least 3-4 hours, or overnight.

Then blend until very smooth (I use a vitamix, and even with that it requires a lot of patience and pushing them down, you could also try a food processor):
2 cups raw cashews, soaked
1/4-3/8 cup rejuvelac (I use 3/8 to make blending easier, but if you want it thicker use 1/4)
1/2 tsp salt
1 small clove garlic

When smooth, either add these whole and blend for a bit, or chop them up and mix it in. If you blend them all together you will have green cheese which will skeeve people out, otherwise you have nice green flecks as shown above:
~1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
1 Tbsp fresh rosemary leaves
whatever other herbs / spices sound good

Put it in a bowl, and let it sit out for ~ 24 hours; if it's cool weather you might need 2 days. You want it to start tasting a bit sharp and funky, but not too much. If it looks like this, your bacteria are going nuts (producing those little gas pockets) and you need to move on to the next step:
Vegan goat cheese culturing

Now, mix it together with:
1 Tbsp nutritional yeast
1 tsp lemon juice
more herbs if it's not tasty enough, but it should be already

Now you're supposed to shape this into a log using some parchment paper, but if it's hot and humid, you will find that it got funky fast, but didn't thicken up much. In that event, just spoon it into a rough log shape on parchment paper, smooth it out, and sprinkle on about 1/4 tsp of salt (ideally powdered in a spice grinder first). Alternatively, put it in the fridge for a day to get thick before proceeding. Finally, let it sit out for about 2-3 days until it has thickened a bit and is super tasty. The end!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015


Thanksgiving 2015 For thanksgiving, between my sister and law and we made (left to right, bottom row first):  stuffing (or dressing), fried tom tofu, "forager's roast" from field roast, two kinds of fresh cranberry sauce (one sweet with bourbon and shallots, one tart with orange and ginger), garlicky collard greens, mashed potatoes, gravy, salad, squash soup, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce from a can, brussel sprouts, roasted squash, salad, roasted asparagus, sugar cookies, sweet potato pie, spicy cinnamon pecans.

 Recipes for the stuffing, cranberry sauce(s), tom tofu, sugar cookies, and spicy cinnamon pecans are at

Happy belated holidays!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Vegan brie-off

OK, should you spring for the extra $ involved in buying a commercial brie kit from Druid's Grove (still requiring preparation at home, but it's pretty easy), or spend the extra time required to make it from scratch? It depends! Here are the two contenders:

Commercial brie (we made this twice, once with coconut oil and once with deodorized cocoa butter: Vegan brie from druids grove Homemade brie:Homemade vegan brie
Homemade brie in proper context (on homemade foccacia with broccoli and veggie sausage sautéed in red wine. Damn.): Broccoli and veggie sausage on homemade vegan brie and bread

So, the commercial brie has a clearly superior texture and look. It is super smooth and melts in your mouth. Flavor is very mild, no one who knew what brie tasted like thought this cheese tasted like brie, or even like much of a cheese at all. But it was really good on crackers nonetheless.

The homemade brie (I went with the variant that maximized flavor and let it age extra time to really compare with the milder commercial one) was also good, and had more flavor (closer to real brie, but still distant), but not as smooth a texture. I will say that as it continued to age in the fridge it got a really nice sharp taste, and was good in several dishes. Oh, but the cashews do give it a bit of a sweet taste which is uncool.

Ultimately given the ease and texture, we would go with the commercial brie. But at $20?! We will instead focus on homemade cheeses that came out better at home like the gruyere and gouda (also from Miyoko Schinner's book). One downside of both bries is that they are extra-fatty since they have coconut oil in them for texture, and having it in your fridge is definitely encouraging.

Hopefully sometime soon we will have commercially available premade vegan cheese that actually passes both texture and flavor tests. There are a few aged vegan cheeses on the market, but none of them are great, and they're all pretty expensive. Stay tuned!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Homeade alcohol-free stout beer

We continue to enjoy drinking homemade alcohol-free beer whenever one of us can't drink (most recently while my broken pelvis heals). My friend Emily was intrigued (we were discussing it when she was pregnant) but prefers stouts, and we hadn't done anything beyond the one kind we've made (which is sort of like a session IPA).

But always up for a challenge, here are the tweaks to make stout. First, rather than making the hops extract one batch at a time I've switched to making a big container of it, and then using about 1/2 cup of that plus sweetener and club soda. So for stout, I took the 1/2 cup of cold hops tea / extract, heated it up in the microwave until it was almost boiling, and then put in a fake coffee teabag (Teecino Vanilla Nut flavor). I put it back in the fridge again right away and let it steep and cool for about 4 hours. For sweetener I used Yacon syrup which is a new thing we just bought; it's a tangy and lightly sweet dark brown syrup made from some Peruvian root. I thought of molasses but didn't want that heavy iron flavor molasses has.

Here is the final result being enjoyed, it came out pretty good! It definitely has the roasty malty stout flavor, without any alcohol and with very few calories.
Emily, Steve, and baby Lev with alcohol-free stout
My next step is to figure out two things:
1. If I can soak some additional hops in the extract to add back in the aroma and more complex flavor lost when I boil down the extract.
2. I want to try proofing maybe 1/16 tsp of yeast when the beer is being put together to drink to add in a bit of yeasty flavor, without giving the yeast time to make any actual alcohol.