07 September 2006

Caution: Danger Ahead!

What I've been stirring up: Yep, I finally used agar. In the kitchen, not in microbiology lab, that is. I have had plenty of experience with that during my college curriculum, and it was very unappetizing. On a lighter and non-bacterial note, few days ago I saw a wonderful use for my first agar experience in the kitchen on Susan's blog... fruit gels! She calls them Fruit Gel Babies, and she's right, you can gobble these babies right up. I enjoyed my time making these, substituting agar flakes for agar powder (I had to google a conversion), and I used mango nectar instead of apple juice. It took hardly any "working/prep" time at all, just lots of stirring and firmed up in less than an hour. I used all the same measurements and used fresh ripe mango and red plums for the fruit chunks. I had no other fruit cups to compare these to, but I haven't had a gel-like product in over 7 years, so this reminded me of what I think a non-crappy jello would be. Awesome!
This is just four of them. I forgot how many I made, I actually had to limit myself based on my availability of small containers. These are nice jiggly breakfasts or snacks, with no horse-hooves or bone char, may I add.

I really wanted to show you all a better photo of sopapillas from when I made them before. I made these one night to complete a Mexican-flare-type-meal. We had black bean chipotle stew with fresh cilantro and corn fritters with salsa and something I can't remember, and I thought sopapillas were a good end of the night, hefty treat. I love cinnamon and sugar. I made these the same as I did last time. They look better now, although I ended up being sick of eating the tortilla after a few bites and just stirred it up and ate everything else out of it instead. If you haven't made these yet, do it soon and thank me later!
A closer look at the amazing-ness. I had to hold it down this time with a pick. I loaded it up too much to make it burrito-like.
On to a completely different subject now: I was mozying around at the co-op when I stumbled upon these purple bell peppers (our co-op only has organic produce). I was super excited and happy to see something so unique to me and pretty deep purple. Especially organic, so I knew it wasn't some weird genetically altered or cross-bred in a weird type way, pepper. I was informed it was more like a green pepper and I couldn't wait to use it up, although I do prefer red bells. I finally decided to go for a stir-fry so I could still have it's crunchiness yet I really wanted the purple effect in the mixture, just to make it contrast a bit. I opened it up and was slightly dissapointed, maybe by my own expectations. I seriously thought this was going to be purple inside and out and it was more like a green bell than anything. I still really enjoy the deep purple hue but the inside was almost white. And very juicy. Weird. (even though my head-shadow is in the way of the photo, the flash makes the white part of the pepper brighter. Having my head in the way really shows what it truly looks like inside)
Then I threw the pepper in the stir-fry and to make my slight dissapointment a bit larger, the purple color quickly faded (after all, a good stir-fry is done in a matter of minutes), and these looked more like red onions. Good thing I didn't use red onion in the dish because I would have been picking at my meal trying to make sure I was getting a pepper, not an onion the whole time. Overall, these were still nice. Most of my excitement wasn't by the end result of eating it, yet the whole, pure and un-cut form when I first got it and watched it hang out in the fridge for a day or two before I ate it.
Excuse the steam in the below photo. In the stir-fry was tofu marinated in a bunch of stuff like tamari, rice vinegar, agave nectar, chili sauce, spoonful of peanut butter, etc... Cooked in a mix of toasted sesame oil and olive oil. Along with that was the purple bell pepper, a green bell, broccoli, onion, cashews, ginger, garlic, carrots, gamashio (which I am never using again because after years I just realized it says "may contain peices of crustacean in the dulse". Yuck!!!) I don't know what else is in here, it was almost a week ago by now.
Then I made these bad-boys spur of the moment. I had some of these pre-baked phylo pastries (15 kcal each) in the freezer and pulled out about 5 for a snack for three of us (not Killian, Ray's cousin was here). I had some chocolate pudding (I can post the recipe later. I have it posted somewhere back in Feb. I think) and I decided instead of straight-up, I'd make cups again. Get this... it's the best part! I had some of Dreena's Maple Butter Cream leftover from crepes for her upcoming cookbook and I love that stuff. I decided to stir it up, see if it was still good, and it was so I put a bit of the maple cream inside the cup, fill it with pudding, and top it with hemp seeds. Yum indeed (and no baking).
Ultimate Vegan Nog. It's from The Artful Vegan, a fancy-shmancy cookbook that takes about 10 hours to make everything, but some of it is well worth while, or at least worth the while to read and dream about. This drink is pretty much the ultimate, like it says. Nothing like the pre-bought Silk Nog (which I love and not eggy eggnog), but this is homemade goodness and somewhat nog-like, somewhat banana-smoothie like. Very good, but a bit on the tofu-y side. I plan to make it again and modify a bit. I like to try original recipes first then modify to my liking. If you have this cookbook, it's a good quick recipe to try where you just throw the ingredients in a blender and stir. I prefer these kind of recipes, as well as lazy-one-pot-meals.
Last up, I made Easy Caramel Sauce from Vive. Talk about easy! This took less than 10 minutes to heat up and stir on the stove, including clean up time. I let it cool like the recipe said, warmed it back up again and served it with wonderful cookies n cream ice cream and Ahlaska chocolate syrup. Yum. (that's one of my special ice cream bowls, I am very particular about "special" utensils, eating-ware, my-side-of-the-bed/couch, and many other detailed things)I was in such ice cream la-la-land, that I ate it all up and hung out for a while and then went to bed with it still cooling on the counter. I slept in that morning, even made coffee with it right in front of me, and still never realized until almost 12 hours later that it was left out. Most importantly, I can't believe Killian didn't get to it. He loves creeping up on the counter and "being bad". Not this time.
Due to my extensive food safety and microbial knowledge, I decided to toss it. It's a shame because this easy caramel sauce was awesome, so like how I remember caramel from 7+ years ago, so easy to make, and so light and creamy from the raw sugar. I plan on making this again, but remembering to put it away properly, or just eat it all up right away. I'll go for the first and even try out different recipes with it. I have a few ideas...


Dori said...

Glad to see you are back and posting great looking food, non baked foods again. Hope the dessert is beginning to cool a little for you. Caramel sauce... yum!

Megan the Vegan said...

Wow - OK, that's a lot of cookin'! I am dying to get my hands on Dreena's new books so I can try the maple cream. I love putting pudding into phylo cups...., and maple cream would really put it over the edge.

Artful Vegan - I have that one too and I've only made 1 thing! You have to dedicate an entire day to each recipe!

Emmy said...

Just found your blog today :) Those fruit gels looks great. Yum! Nice to know there is a vegan version that can easily be made at home. Oh those sopapillas look amazing!! As for the purple pepper, I remember the first time I cooked with them too. I was so bummed that the purple color faded.

Your phylo pastries dessert looks fab. What do the hemp seeds taste like? I see people blogging about them but I've never tried them.

SusanV said...

Wow, what a post! You have really been cooking! Glad to hear that the agar fruit cups worked out for you--your juice/fruit combo sounds delicious. And how disappointing that the purple pepper fades (I've noticed that with other purple stuff like light purple eggplants) but I think it looked kinda cool with the white inside.

maybepigscanfly said...

I've been eyeing those baby fruit gels too. I like your combination of fruit and am glad to see that it still worked just fine with fresh vs. canned fruit. Maybe I'll splurge and get some agar (about $40/lb in bulk).
Thats so cool that you found a purple bell. Too bad it wasn't purple inside- I would have been dissapointed also. Oh and thanks for the vegan nog recipe review. I haven't tried the silk nog, but maybe I'll try this one instead. So glad to see you back to so much posting (and ice cream eating of course)!

Anonymous said...

so much food! now you know why i will love the agar agar! LOl

Kaji's Mom said...

I'm with you, I'm surprised to see that the inside of the purple pepper wasn't purple!

Dreena said...

This is one serious food post!!!

I too was disappointed by purple peppers the first time I tried them - as you said they are only purple on the outside and taste just like green peppers really.

Your pudding cups look divine! The stir-fry looks very healthful and of course, that TOTALLY justifies having the treats afterwards!! :) So, when am I coming over for dinner - er, I mean dessert, er, I meant to say dessert-S!


raising_kahne said...

ahh, so this is the 'interesting things' that you have been cooking up! It was well worth the wait! Ive always kinda been freaked out by the fruit gels, but they do look cute! I have never even heard of purple peppers, they look so pretty. And the caramel sauce looks so yummy. Ive never really been a fan of caramel, but I might give this one a shot!

Oh btw, I just got through with my AWESOME supper: banana bliss pancakes with blueberry syrup and kiwi. Id heard you talk about them so much, I couldnt resist! I also put a lot of chocolate chips(barley sweetened) on them too! Im glad I did! I think next time, Ill do strawberry syrup!

Vicki said...

this IS a dangerous post... makes me want to eat it all up! Yum, but most especially on the phylo pudding poppers! those look so incredible w/dreena's sauce and hemp seeds -- WAAAY over the top, les.

Anonymous said...

I always enjoy your posts (although they're too far and few between). :-) The phyllo dough pudding cups look really cute. I think they're the perfect dessert size for a little dinner party. I'll have to see if I can find them around here. I've tried your chocolate pudding recipe before and it was really yummy so I can definitely see making these (although mine will have to be minus the maple butter cream).

I'm on a week hiatus from sweets/desserts. I've been overloading and I think I need to take a bit of a break. It's nice to come here and dream...

Anonymous said...

Hol-y Leslie! You have been whipping up a storm! I looooove the gel-o cups! And the mango addition sounds awesome!

Urban Vegan said...

What an amazing spectrum of stuff! Esp ove the agar concotion--looks liek a stained glass window.

laura jesser said...

Your fruit gels turned out beautifully! In fact, everything did! What proportion of agar flakes did you use? I can't find the powdered form either...

That vegan nog looks good. The idea of drinking raw blended eggs always grossed me out but I'm excited to try a vegan recipe that I can enjoy!

Jennifer C. said...

I'm with you on the one pot meals! I used to have The Artful Vegan but got rid of it during one of my cookbook purges. The one recipe I tried wasn't good enough to justify the time it took to make it.

All those desserts...yum! I can only dream about being able to eat so many treats!

funwithyourfood said...

Silk nog ALREADY? I always think of that as a fall thing. Say it ain't fall yet. I was just enjoying summer! I love the purple bellpepper too. it looks so beautiful and tastey


jess (of Get Sconed!) said...

Leslie I love how you've been doing giant posts - my favorite kind!

The stir fry is my favorite thing here, I've been craving them and always forget to make em - I know exactly what you mean regarding the purple pepper. Where's the sweet flavor?? Whites are even more dissapointing! Of course I'll still buy them.

Mary said...

Hi Leslie! Those phyllo dough cups look amazing. So does the ice cream (as always). I should try making the sopapillas sometime soon. Thanks for inspiring so many of us!

kris said...

very yummy! I have yet to work with agar, it's on my list of irrational food fears.

I have the Artful Vegan and you're right about the recipes taking 10 hours! But the food looks heavenly! I told Jim that for our 5 year anniversary (next year) he's taking me to Millenium in San Francisco. I've made the seitan sausages and seitan medallions from it, they probably have my favorite seitan recipes ever in there.

bazu said...

Leslie, your post is so delicious, someone has to stop me from licking the computer screen. I saw some agar powder last night, but it was $73 a pound so I shied away- but one of these days I will have to go for it. Especially if I can make something so pretty. We have purple bellpeppers growing in our garden, and I was pretty shocked too the first time I cut into one and the inside was regular green! I'm sure the purple color still means it's good for you though, phytochemicals and all that.
Is it o.k. if I link to your blog from ours?

KleoPatra said...

Nice, nice new photo of you, Leslie. Such the vegan beauty!

I don't know what happened to my long (but well-meaning!) post that i had on here from Friday (i think it was Friday) but, among other raves, i mentioned digging all your goodies here and being thrilled about the anti-hooves-ingredient gels. Gorgeous stuff!

raising_kahne said...

What a cute picture of you, Leslie! Im loving your jeans!

Maryjamie said...

I haven't used agar yet ... maybe this will inspire me :-)

Anonymous said...

I like the new pic. I popped by because I wanted to ask your opinion on food storage (I know you were looking for a way to use your degree in the real world, right). I have found that if I store some veggies in a gallon sized ziploc bag, filled with water, in the fridge, they stay fresher longer (carrots, celery, green onions, lettuce, etc). Do you think this is safe? I can't really see why not but I got to thinking about it the other day and I thought you (and Dori) would be good people to ask. Since I've already bugged the bejeezus out of Dori regarding bread, I'm coming to you.

Richard of said...

ooh a new pic! :)

Mary said...

I saw the phyllo dough cups at Sunflower. I'll have to pick them up. For so little calories too! I'm lazy about the pudding. They sell pudding cups at Sunflower so maybe I'll just do that. Where do you get your hemp seeds from? And what's the price? I know you were saying hemp butter is expensive but I've never seen it so I have no idea how much it costs.

KleoPatra said...

Leslie... thank you for your kind words on my blog!


You are such a caring, compassionate soul. Thank you for using your seat belt, too...

EatPeacePlease said...

Dori, the caramel sauce was good. Too bad I wasted most of it by leaving it out overnight. It still isn't cooler here in the day, only nights, but ask me again in February (hee hee).

Megan, I know all of Dreena's new recipes will be great, but just the new pesto and butter cream is reason enough to buy the book! Can't wait either.

Emmy, thanks for finding and commenting on my blog. The fruit gels were super-easy and fast. As for the hemp seeds, they don't taste like much (to me) but they have a sort of earthy, nutty taste. I like to spoon them over almost anything, especially cereal. Again, thanks for visiting, hope to see you around soon.

Susan, I'm glad the fruit cups worked out too. Mostly, I'm glad you posted a recipe for those. My fruit combo was random, but I couldn't think of anything much better than plum and mango, anyway.

Teresa, our agar is $6 per ounce (28g) and as that is expensive, you don't use a lot at once, unless you plan on making a ton of things with agar. It took me a long time to "splurge" but after using just a bit here and there, it doesn't seem so bad now. Very justifiable, I think. Silk nog is wonderful, very different than what I posted about. My nog was more of a banana nog. Silk nog is heaven!

Johanna, you will get the agar soon. Do you still want it off the list for now?

Kaji's mom, the purple pepper to me is just like people, you never really know who they are from the outside until they open up. Then you really discover what's up.

Dreena, yes, this was a serious post because it took me a whole week to get computer time to post it! Things just kept adding up, as it was going to just be an agar post. So when are you coming over for dinner (dessert!)? You tell me. You are welcome anytime and everytime! I already know I like you.

Savanna, it's good you've been freaked out by the fruit gels until now. Now there is no junk or animal bones ground up. Try it! Your pancakes sound wonderful, totally my type of dinner.

Vicki, waaaay over the top, eh? I guess I have a lot to redeem, hence my super-lack of posting.

Crystal (VV), I know my posts are too far and in between, I hope to remedy that one day soon. Those phylo cups are great for anything. Pre-baked and you can make them sweet or savory. I've never gone savory, maybe you should during your "break" from sweets. They are made by Filo Factory. (I'll comment about the freezing at the way bottom.)

Pure Zuke, make the jello cups, you will enjoy them. Plus, it would be a great snack to take along with you to work or on the boat. Your dad would probably go for them too (no tofu!).

Urban Vegan, I thought it looked like stained glass too.

Laura Jesser, 2T of agar flakes is equal to 1t of agar powder. I think you should try Silk Nog. It's wonderful, very light (suprisingly) and it actually has less caloric value, fat and ingredients than vanilla soy.

Jennifer C, one pot meals are great for those lazy times! Why do you only dream of so many treats? Moderation would be ok (although I go way overboard).

Teddy, no, no Silk nog already! Although they do still have Soy Dream EggNog ice cream (weird). "Say it ain't fall yet"... It ain't fall yet. The wind blew through and gave us a bit cooler mornings and evenings, but that really just means it's under 100 degrees then.

Jess, I know giant posts are your favorite kind, I can tell from your blog. Wow, the stirfry is your favorite!? You have willpower.

Mary, yes, you should make sopapilla sometime soon. You are welcome for the ice cream and sweets inspiration (coming from a nutritionist), although I hide nutrients and good stuff in my vegan junk. It's funny how my junkiest foods aren't even really bad.

Kris, agar was on my list of irrational food fears too. Now my list just consists of tools used to make foods, and the oven and toaster oven tie at #1. Hate them!!! Terrified of them! I know it's a year away, but don't forget to do a huge review on the Millenium.

Bazu, of course you can link me! Agar does cost a good amount, but as I stated above in the comments, you don't need much at a time and it will last for a while. My $6/oz was worth it.

Kleo, thank you for your kind comment, and I don't know what happened to your long post either.

Savanna (again), thank you! Those jeans are as old as they look. I refuse to buy pants with pre-made holes in them like the "style" that is "popular" now. Can't a woman get a regular pair of jeans without rips, pre-stains, pre-wrinkles, and glitter?!

Maryjamie, try agar, don't be afraid! Baby steps... start with this like I did. You can really get creative with agar after a while.

Teddy, ooh, yes it is a new pic on blogger but not really a recent photo of me. It was taken on real grass in Kansas. We don't have real grass here.

Mary (again), do you remember how much they were at Sunflower Market? Mine were I think just under $3 for the box of 15. I only take a few out at a time to use and tape the box back up. The pudding is seriously something so quick and easy to make. You just need a bowl, a blender and a microwave. I microwave the water since I'm too lazy to boil just 1/4c water. I get my hemp seeds at the co-op. They are $11 per pound. I usually get 1/2 lb at a time and they last months. I keep them refrigerated. They have hemp nut butter at Sunflower (it's new there, I requested it) but only buy it if they moved it to the fridge section of the natural living department. They refused to move it there when I had serious concerns and because it was on sale ($8 something per jar), I made the mistake of buying it (on the shelf) and the butter turned to oil and it leaked out all over the rest of my stuff. Don't buy the hemp butter there, get it at WFM or something. But the seeds, go for it!

Kleo (again), you are welcome. I think you are compassionate, caring and a whole bunch of fun. I know way too many people to even count on both hands that have died in car accidents (since I was 13, and on) and I have major "issues" about the car. I'm with you all the way.

Crystal (again), you probably didn't bug the bejeezus out of Dori, but you cracked me up telling me that. Ok, first, don't freeze lettuce. It's not good. As long as you are freezing under 0 degrees F, you basically hinder the growth and movement of any bacteria, yeast, mold, basically microbes. You also retain the nutrient values, color and flavor. But, the thawing part is the dangerous part, where the microbes can have all the factors they need to get you sick. Once you defrost the veggies, you want to treat them as if you never even froze them before (since you didn't kill anything, you sort of just froze the growing process). If you go to this link they can help you with how to store your frozen goods. You may not want to add water to everything before freezing because you can end up with certain air pockets. Just read the link:
www.extension.iastate.edu/Publications/PM1045.pdf if you can't view it let me know and I'll attach it for you. All in all, freezing is a good thing and won't make you unsafe or sick, it's the thawing you need to watch and do quickly. Does this rambling (or the link) help?!

primaryconsumer said...

Wow, I don't even know where to begin. Your posts are always great, but this time you've outdone yourself!

Mary said...

Wow girl you sure you write a long comment. I don't remember how much they were, but next time I go I'll make sure to jot it down. I do live about 4 blocks away from a co-op so I'll have to check it out. Also, I didn't know Sunflower carried hemp seeds, but when I go again I will definately look! I would go to WFM, but there isn't one here. :( When I go up to Phoenix again sometime I'll have to check WFM again. Definately have to eat at Green again too!

Carrie™ said...

Hey Leslie! I like your new profile picture. Very cute.
Lots and lots of food here. Ice cream too...BIG suprise ;o) Everything looks really, really scrumptious. Your drunken sopapillas look a little more sober this time around. I really like your jelly molds! I haven't had anything like that in eons! Maple cream again! You're torturing me over here!! I can't wait for that book to come out either.

Jody from VegChic said...

Those fruit gels look interesting, I've seen them around n a few blogs. They are added to the list of things I need to try.

The purple pepper looks super cool. Since green peppers may actually make my personal top 5 worst tasting foods, I think they are off limits for me.

The pudding cups and sopapillas look great. ---And that ice cream, with the caramel...man that is some tasty, frozen goodness!

Looking forward to your next post!

Miriam said...

Everytime I come here I want to pop 10 or 20 of those mini pastries in my mouth. Mmmm!

Geraldine said...

Wow, glad I stopped by!! All the food looks delic...and Im starving right now, time to take a break!

Love the stir-fry and those purple peppers are gorgeous!

Huggs, G

cindy said...

Wow, want a post. That was a lot of food to digest, actually I wish I was digesting it all because it looks so delicious. The chocolate cups were by far my favorite and looked unbelievably delicious. The stir fry looked great too. We grew black bellpeppers and they are similar to the purple, very dark on the outside, but green on the inside. The flavor was much like a green bellpepper and slightly disappointing.