baking with avocados

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I’ve come to the realization that in order for me to cook regularly, it needs to become a puzzle for me that I have to solve. In the case of vegan cooking and baking, it’s figuring out how to substitute for dairy, eggs, and other animal products in a way that is close enough to the original recipe, or turning it into something completely different and wonderful. Even though I’ve always loved to cook, I never really did so regularly for myself. My two main reasons are because it’s really not a whole lot of fun to cook for yourself, and when you’re done cooking, you’re the only person there to clean up after yourself, and I definitely don’t enjoy cleaning! But when it comes to vegan cooking, since I know I can’t run across the street to McDonald’s or Wendy’s from school for breakfast or lunch, I have to prepare food for myself in advance at home. This has forced me to spend a lot more time in my kitchen than I normally do, and I’m really enjoying being creative in trying and adapting new recipes. I still don’t enjoy cleaning up after myself, but if I’m going to keep cooking, I eventually have to wash the dirty dishes and clear off the counters!

Ever since I stumbled across the vegan muffin recipes in Forks Over Knives – The Cookbook, I’ve been obsessed with vegan baking. I’ve baked vegan ginger peach muffins and banana bread several times in the weeks since school’s started. They are both simple, tasty, and filling items for me to grab for a quick breakfast when I’m running out the door to work. (And are much better than the egg mcmuffin or sausage burrito I’d get from the drive-thru more mornings than I care to admit!) Several days ago, one of the blogs I follow posted a recipe for avocado, blueberry, and orange muffins. I’ll let you head over to Poppy’s Patisserie for the recipe. They were amazing. I had no idea that this funky looking green batter would turn into such delicious, orange-scented muffins. I’ve never cooked with avocado before. Sure, I’ve put it in a million salads and made guacamole hundreds of times, but I had no idea that it was such a versatile ingredient. This got me hooked — if it tasted this good in these muffins (and there was absolutely no hint of avocado flavor at all in there), what else could I bake with it? So the search began…

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I turned to my trusty recipe file (i.e. google) and began searching for baking recipes that used avocado. I eventually settled on making scones. I had trouble finding exactly the recipe I was looking for since most either used ingredients I didn’t have on hand, weren’t vegan, or were gluten-free. I’m not ready to dive head first into gluten-free baking yet — those require a little more science and accuracy than I care for at this point. Plus, I don’t have an issue with gluten, so whenever I make gluten-free stuff, it’s more a matter of wanting to experiment with alternative grains.

Anyway, I finally decided I wanted to make orange, cranberry, and ginger scones and would attempt to create my own recipe, adapting what seemed to be fairly standard ingredients and proportions in the scone recipes I found. The only thing I was really unsure of was how much butter or oil one avocado would replace. I couldn’t find anything specific online, but I decided to go for it anyway. The end result turned out pretty well. They looked amazing and the texture was definitely scone-like. The recipes I compared varied from 2 tablespoons to over a cup of sugar so I erred on the side of caution. Next time I’ll add more sugar or maple syrup or something–they just needed a little more sweetness. I also couldn’t really taste the ginger so I’ll either increase the amount of powdered ginger or add grated fresh ginger next time. I’m posting the recipe exactly as I made it, so be forewarned that it may not be sweet enough for your liking. Some recipes called for brushing the top with milk or sprinkling with sugar before baking, so those are some things I might try next time. This recipe could also be adapted to other flavors and mix-ins, so be sure to let me know if you come up with a great flavor combination!
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orange, cranberry, ginger, avocado scones

ingredients

  • 1 large, ripe avocado, peeled, pitted, and diced
  • 1 orange, juiced and zested
  • 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp powdered ginger
  • 1 tbsp ground flax seed
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup raw sugar
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup almond milk

directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400˚F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Put the diced avocado in the freezer for approximately 20 minutes.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, ginger, and flax seed.
  4. Place the frozen avocado into the flour mixture and work it in using your fingertips or a pastry cutter until the mixture is in small granules.
  5. Stir in the orange juice, zest, and cranberries.
  6. Gradually add in the almond milk until everything is moistened.
  7. Spoon the batter onto your prepared baking sheets (approx. 1/4 cup per scones). They will spread a little as they bake so leave some space in between.
  8. Bake for 10-15 minutes until scones are golden brown and firm to the touch.
  9. Leave on baking sheet for 5 minutes before placing on a cooling rack. Enjoy!

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polenta with tomatillo and avocado salsa, two ways

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Yesterday I bought some tomatillos at the farmer’s market. I’ve never cooked with them before, but I thought it would be fun to experiment with a new ingredient. I have had tomatillo sauces and salsas on occasion but I haven’t worked with them first hand. I started thinking about the different ingredients I had in my fridge and headed to my trusty recipe book: Google. I finally settled upon what turned out to be a Weight Watchers recipe: Mexican Poached Eggs Over Polenta with Tomatillo-Avocado Salsa.

Aside from desserts, I don’t think I could find many dishes that couldn’t be improved by putting a fried or poached egg on top. In fact, if I had to come up with a second choice for my blog title, it would probably be “Put An Egg On It.” This dish was great. I left out the tomatoes because I thought the tomatillos added enough tomato-like consistency and I didn’t have jalapeños on hand. I’ll have to pick some up this weekend at the farmer’s market. I liked the sweet and sour tartness of the tomatillos, the creaminess of the avocado and polenta, the kick from the chili powder and red onion, and the runny yolk of the poached egg melded everything together really well. It was filling and satisfying and one I would happily pay money for at my favorite restaurants.

Tonight I decided to change the recipe a little bit since I had meat at lunch this afternoon. As part of the Vegan Before 6 diet, I need to eat vegan for two meals a day so I decided to substitute tofu for the poached egg. I had about a half-sized portion of the salsa left over from last night, so I cut up a peach and threw that in with the avocado and tomatillos. I also thought I’d kick it up a notch and added cayenne pepper and smoked paprika to the dusting on the polenta and tofu. For the sake of presentation, I cut the tofu into a circle the same size as my polenta rounds and stacked it polenta-tofu-polenta, but you can do it however you want.

Tofu will never replace eggs permanently for me, but this dish was still quite good. The addition of the peaches counteracted the extra kick from the cayenne and I think will make a regular appearance in this salsa whenever I make it. I left my tofu to drain while I was out for a couple of hours, thinking it would save me time when I go home, but I think I ended up drying it out a bit too much. I might also try it with firm instead of extra-firm tofu next time to see if it will stay creamier like the polenta. I still really enjoyed it despite the tofu being a bit dry.

The recipe is below with the notes for making it vegan.

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mexican poached egg over polenta with tomatillo-avocado salsa

ingredients

  • 1 tsp white vinegar (for poaching the egg)
  • 1 egg (or a 1/2-inch thick slice of firm or extra-firm tofu, cut into a circle the same size as the polenta)
  • a pinch of chili powder
  • a pinch of garlic powder
  • a pinch of cayenne (optional)
  • a pinch of smoked paprika (optional)
  • 1/2- to 1-inch thick slice of polenta from a prepared polenta log
  • 3-4 chopped tomatillos, boiled until soft (about 2-3 minutes)
  • 1/4 of a red onion, diced
  • 1 medium avocado, diced
  • fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 medium peach, chopped (optional)
  • juice of 1 lime
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper

directions

To poach the egg, fill a small saucepan half way up with water and place over medium-high heat. Bring it to a boil and add the vinegar. Reduce the heat to a simmer. Crack the egg into a small dish or cup and gently slide the egg into the simmering water. Cook until the egg white has set, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and set on a paper towel and cover to keep warm.

(If using tofu instead of an egg: Fold up a paper towel in a square large enough for your tofu to sit on. Place the paper towel on a small plate. Set the tofu on top of the paper towel, and take another paper towel and place it on top of the tofu. Set another plate on top of this and put a heavy weight on top of the plate — I used a can of pumpkin purée. Let your tofu drain for 10-15 minutes. Then follow the directions for the polenta below with regards to spicing it and frying it. You can use more than one tofu round if you want to make your stacks taller.)

Take your slice of polenta and sprinkle one side with the chili powder and garlic powder. If desired, you can add cayenne, paprika, or any other spice of your choosing. Place a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and add some olive oil. Cook polenta (and tofu) for 2-3 minutes on the non-spiced side. Flip over and dust the other side with spices and cook for another 2-3 minutes. The time will vary based on the thickness of your polenta (and tofu).

To make the salsa, combine the avocado, tomatillo, red onion, peach (optional) and cilantro in a bowl. Lightly coat with olive oil and lime juice, mix well. Salt and pepper to taste.

To assemble, place your polenta round on a plate. Top with the poached egg and about 1 cup of the salsa. (I also splashed a bit of tabasco over the egg on a whim). Save any extra salsa as an accompaniment to your lunch or dinner the next day. (For the vegan option, stack your polenta and tofu rounds — I used two rounds of polenta and one round of tofu, but you could make it taller — start with polenta on the bottom and alternate with the tofu. Top with salsa and enjoy!)

Serves 1

summer gazpacho

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Summer gazpacho inspired by this recipe. I used what I had on hand, and added a few more ingredients just because. I also cut the recipe down since I didn’t want a week’s worth of leftovers!  Continue reading

summer burger

Tonight’s dinner is once again brought to you by the farm fresh grab bag. A buffalo burger from Harvest Co-op, on top of caramelized onions and peach slices. Topped with a slice of Gouda cheese, avocado slices and cilantro. Surrounded by my homemade refrigerator pickles and fresh blackberries, drizzled with Worcestershire sauce and fresh lemon juice. Surprisingly delicious and summery!

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breakfast of champions

What’s better on a Saturday morning than a giant bowl of fruit for breakfast? How about a giant bowl of fruit with fresh-squeezed lemon juice?

20110910-110015.jpgYou could put any kind of fruit you want in here. I used what I had on hand which this morning was kiwis, nectarines, grapes, banana, avocado, and watermelon. And of course, fresh lemon juice. Not only does everything taste bright and fresh, if you are preparing a fruit salad several hours in advance, the lemon juice will keep your fruits from turning brown. You could also add nuts, yogurt, granola, quinoa, honey, etc. The possibilities are endless!