Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Quick Fire

These days, anyone who cooks frequently for friends and family is used to receiving special dietary requests.  No red meat, no meat, no animal products, no wheat, no sugar, no dairy, no bread - the possibilities are endless!  I've lived most of my adult life as a vegetarian or pescatarian, and still eat very little meat, so I am sympathetic to these requests.  I understand what's its like to go to a dinner party or restaurant and only be able to eat the salad.  Especially as someone who loves food, its disappointing when there are no interesting options available to you.  But you also feel bad about causing extra work for your host, or making them feel guilty because they didn't create a special dish for you.  Having lived through this for years, it is very important to me that all of my guests have options when I cook for them.  I actually find it to be a fun challenge!  My good friend De is a vegan, and its a dietary choice I strongly support.  Not only is a plant-based diet much healthier for you, its also better for the planet.  And I look at every meal I cook when De is invited like an episode of Top Chef!  It plays out like this...Padma strolls into my tiny kitchen looking ridiculously hot and making me feel like an umpa-lumpa...
Then she asks me to draw 2 knives from a block.  The first knife says "CARNIVORES."  Ok, that's most of my friends coming to dinner.  The next knife: "VEGAN."  Ah-ha, that's the Top Chef twist.  Cook a meal for your carnivorous friends, and then make a vegan version!  And maybe even sneak some vegan food by the carnivores.   You have 2 hours to prep, 1 hour to cook, and a budget of $4.59.  Now get to work!

Over the years I've made vegan versions of risotto, bouillabaisse, Hawaiian plate lunch, peach pie, blueberry pancakes, pizza, ice cream sandwiches, quesadillas and sushi.  And they've all been delicious! Even the butter-lovers like me gobbled up the peach pie.

I love the challenge of making delicious dishes without using animal products, and it makes me so happy to see how much De enjoys them.  I know its not often that people cook special meals just for her, and one of my favorite parts of cooking is making people happy with my food.

So in honor of the tonight's Top Chef premier, I decided to have my own little quick fire challenge and create a vegan dish using some of our CSA bounty.  I flipped through Eat, Drink & Be Vegan for some inspiration and found a recipe for Berry Goodness Muffins that called for the fresh strawberries that just happened to be in my fridge.
When I cook vegan food, I really try not use any fake animal products.  Fake butter, fake milk, fake cheese, fake meat - its all highly processed and I feel like its cheating when there are some many delicious real foods out there.  The only exception I make is coconut milk ice cream...mmmm.  So when this recipe called for non-dairy milk, instead of buying a carton of soy milk I remembered the batches of almond milk I like to prepare for my Green Monsters. 

No funky chemicals or preservatives, no extraneous processing and packaging, just raw almonds well blended with water, vanilla, and a couple dates for sweetness.  Strain out the pulp and you've got almond milk!
The other great little trick in these muffins is organic applesauce, which replaces the vegan butter found in some other vegan baked goods.  Its lower in fat and helps keep the muffins deliciously moist.  But the strawberries are really the star of the show here.

Because the point of a veganism really is to eat what grows out of the ground!

Vegan Strawberry Muffins
Adapted from Eat, Drink & Be Vegan
2 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup chickpea flour
1/2 cup sucanat
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup almond milk 
1/4 unsweetened organic applesauce
1/4 pure maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
zest of 1 lemon
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 - 1 1/2 cup fresh strawberries, cut into small pieces
  • Preheat the oven to 375º
  • In a large bowl, whisk together flours, sugar, salt, nutmeg, baking powder and baking soda
  • In a medium bowl, stir together almond milk, applesacue, maple syrup, vanilla, lemon zest and oil
  • Add wet ingredients to dry, folding until just combined
  • Gently fold in strawberries
  • Fit a muffin pan with muffin liners or coat lightly with oil
  • Spoon batter into muffin cups, just under filling the cups
  • Bake for about 23 - 25 minutes until knife inserted in center comes out clean
  • Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn onto wire rack and cool completely


  1. these look amazing and the pictures are so great! Love the story about Top Chef- can't wait to see the new season!

  2. I posted about Top Chef too! You are so good at supporting the vegans and the carnivores. I'm always very impressed.

  3. i can't believe the old man only gives you a budget of $4.59

  4. In his day you could buy a feast for $4.59! That was before the Great Depression, of course.