Tuesday 2 July 2024

Canada Day Food

 The tiny, little community where my daughter and grandson live with my ex-husband (in the house we shared, when we were still together) has a Canada Day parade. A small parade because it's a small community, so small that they go around the hamlet twice in one direction and then back again in the other direction... This year it was the smallest that I have ever seen it: about 5 vehicles (some of which I wondered why they were in the parade). one John Deere tractor and a horse drawn cart. No Mounties, no riders on horseback, no emergency vehicles. Maybe it's because the original organizers have died or moved away...
So, I generally spend the day with my family and take in the parade. This year, I decided to supply all of the food, as well as the disposable plates, cups and cutlery (yes, I still have a bunch of that stuff that I'm using up, but will move to compostables in the future for the rare occasions when I do use disposables). Here's what was on offer:
For lunch, I decided on salads: a bean salad, a potato salad and a tossed salad. I chose Texas Caviar from Forks Over Knives - The Cookbook for the bean salad.

Sorry, I couldn't find the recipe on the website, but there are plenty of recipes online, which are very similar, if you wish to try it. It's also known as Cowboy Caviar. First challenge was cooking the black-eyed peas. I soaked them and then decided to cook them on the stovetop. I googled to see how long it would take and found 45 minutes to 1 hour. I like my legumes soft - they're more digestible that way - so I went with the 1 hour. They were still a little on the firm side, but I figured they would work. I set aside the amount required in the recipe and a day or two later ate some of the leftovers with my dinner. Did they harden up in the meantime? So, before making up the recipe, I cooked them for a further 1/2 hour and they were better. Unfortunately, the recipe called for cilantro. I have been known to substitute parsley in the past, but I'm not even that big a fan of parsley (though it's infinitely preferable to cilantro). So I opted for dill this time. But the flavour just wasn't quite right, although I don't think it was the dill. Maybe it was too much cumin. Or the combination with balsamic vinegar. Somethinig just wasn't working. Plus I think I oversalted the recipe. It was one of those recipes that has that annoying phrase "salt to taste" in the ingredients. I don't generally keep tasting a recipe to make sure I get the salt right. Why don't these recipe authors just put "1 tsp. salt (or whatever would be an appropriate amount), or to taste"? That would at least give me a starting point. <sigh> I also didn't add in the jalepeno. I wasn't sure how much "heat" my grandson would like and I don't like too much of it myself. So, I put the chopped jalapeno in a separate container, so people could "jalapeno to taste". As it turned out, my daughter and grandson added jalapeno while my ex and I did not. But I don't think I'll be repeating this recipe. When my cousin made Cowboy Caviar for a family reunion, I quite liked it, but this recipe? There's something just not quite right about it.
Also from Forks Over Knives - The Cookbook is this amazing potato salad. Actually, it's White Bean, Potato and Asparagus Salad. And it's delicious. It also called for "salt to taste" but I guess I got it right with this one. While you can't find the recipe on the Forks Over Knives website, you can find it here. This one gave me the opportunity to use the chives from my yard while they are actually in season. Honestly, one of the best potato salads I have ever eaten.
For the tossed salad, I didn't use a recipe: Romaine lettuce, a bunch of those mixed variety small tomatoes, English cucumber, red pepper, yellow pepper, black olives and packaged salad toppings (seeds, dried fruit and some funky dried noodle thing), topped with Ranch dressing, for which you can find the recipe in the 7 Secrets Cookbook. That's the best vegan ranch dressing I've tried so far, better than any store bought version. 
For dessert, what could be more fitting for Canada's birthday than ice cream and cake? The recipe for the strawberry ice cream is in the little cookbook that accompanied my Ninja Creami. It said to make it dairy free, substitute coconut cream for the heavy cream. And I happened to have some coconut cream in my cupboard, so that's what I did. Big mistake! The flavour of the coconut is so overpowering that there is barely any strawberry taste. I don't plan on doing that again unless I actually want coconut flavoured ice cream. I will make my own vegan "heavy cream" with cashews, which are much more neutral in flavour. 
This is Dreena Burton's Vegan Vanilla Sweet Potato Cake. To get started, I first had to bake this monster white sweet potato, 
which gave me enough cooked sweet potato for the cake, and the frosting, with a little bit left over. I like a lot of Dreena's recipes, but as I've mentioned before, I find she sometimes uses expensive and hard to find ingredients. I don't believe that you should have to use these in order to follow a whole food, plant-based/vegan diet. As a matter of fact, having these in the list of ingredients could actually be a deterrent to people wanting to follow a healthier lifestyle. Yes, cake is not a necessity of life, but it is nice to have some healthy dessert options. Furthermore, I also find that Dreena's recipes use coconut products a little too freely in my opinion. Most of the fat in coconut is saturated fat. So, while I'm not necessarily opposed to consuming coconut, I believe we need to be judicious in the amount we consume. (For more info, see this video). The frosting recipe accompanying this cake calls for coconut butter, which not only is hard to find and expensive but, as mentioned, high in saturated fat. It does offer the option of using raw cashew butter instead, but that too is expensive and hard to find. For flavouring, the frosting recipe calls for pure vanilla bean powder, which again is expensive and hard to find. Yes, it is listed as optional, but then you are left with a frosting that either tastes like coconut (as mentioned, a very strong flavour) or raw cashew butter (which in my opinion has a rather funky flavour), with sweet potato overtones. Initially, I opted for the cashew butter option, and since it was so expensive, I attempted to make my own. After running my food processor over and over again for so long that I was becoming worried about burning it out, I finally added some oil, and still ended up with something just slightly beyond the consistency of pastry dough. I also had some homemade coconut butter left over from when I made Dreena's Nanaimo Bars, which I had kept in the fridge. It looked something like paraffin wax, but was harder and more crumbly. Weird stuff! So I used a combination of the two: leftover coconut butter and my newly made cashew butter. And I added vanilla extract. Not bad, but as I texted to one of my sisters, Angela Liddon's frosting (chocolate frosting made with avocados, found in the Oh She Glows cookbook) beats Dreena Burton's. I suppose it might be difficult to make a vanilla frosting using avocados - that might make for a rather weird coloured frosting... 
About the actual cake itself, I'm not sure why the recipe calls for two 9" cake pans, when it's barely enough for 8" pans. I found this when I doubled her chocolate cake recipe to make 2 layers. So, this time, I decided to just use 8" pans. I also found that it didn't rise very well. When I used the chocolate cake recipe, I found the same thing and thought that maybe my baking powder was outdated. But when I used the same baking powder in a different recipe, I had no issues. I'm not sure what's going on with that. I might try the whole wheat pastry flour next time instead. And the frosting will probably be made with almond butter: cheaper than cashew butter or coconut butter and more readily available. 
I may make a lot of things from scratch, but nut butters in a food processor is not one I will be in a hurry to repeat. 
For supper, it was burgers and fries - homemade oven fries, that is, made with mini potatoes. I doubled the recipe for Sourdough Hamburger Buns, using mostly white whole wheat flour, but didn't have enough and didn't want to take the time to get out the grain grinder and grind some more, so about these are about 1/3 white bread flour. I did use the yeast called for in the recipe and they rose beautifully, though I should have flattened them a little as the recipe said, because they did end up being a rather big bite once stuffed with burgers and toppings. They also are big enough to accomodate a large burger. 
The burger recipe I used was another one of Dreena's recipes: Bistro Burgers. While some of the ingredients may sound obscure (miso, tahini, nutritional yeast, sun-dried tomatoes), all of them can be found at the local grocery store in my small town. I opted to bake rather than fry the burgers and they smelled amazing while baking. And they taste great too. The website says that these are "a cinch to make". I wouldn't quite say that. I did have to assemble quite a list of ingredients and have a large and powerful enough food processor to handle processing them.
Topping options included sliced tomatoes, Romaine lettuce, red onion, dill pickles, vegan mayonnaise, ketchup and corn relish. 
Dessert was simply watermelon. 
A few new recipes tried, some that are definite keepers and some that may require a little tweaking. 

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