Monday, November 30, 2009

Review: Harvest Moon Deli in Orono, Maine

Harvest Moon Deli occupies a long, sunny storefront on Mill Street in Orono. It's just a few doors down from Fiberphilia, so I always order a sandwich during Saturday knitting classes. Harvest Moon offers several vegetarian sandwiches, and it's easy to assemble a vegan sandwich from the tempeh, hummus, mustard, and vegetables on the make-your-own menu. Little Lad's Herbal Popcorn and Maine Root natural root beer are also available for a treat.

When I gave up gluten, I thought my deli sandwich days were over, but recently Harvest Moon began carrying Food for Life White Rice Bread! It's dense, but it tastes like bread, and it held together my hummus, carrot, spinach, tomato, olive, and pickle sandwich. Of the packaged gluten-free breads I've tried, it is the least weird. We stopped by for lunch this weekend, and I was delighted to have choices beyond a garden salad and bag of chips.

Harvest Moon is a safe bet for a tasty vegan lunch (rare north of Bangor), especially if you're gluten-free. They usually feature a vegetarian special with tempeh bacon, tofurkey, or cheese. I'd love to see them expand their nondairy offerings by adding avocado and vegan mayonnaise to the make-your-own menu. Harvest Moon earns three chickpeas for vegan friendliness, and my everlasting gratitude for stocking rice bread.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

My Trendy Thanksgiving Menu

2009 is the year turkey-free Thanksgiving became mainstream. The New York Times has been sharing vegan and vegetarian recipes on its Well Blog, and last week Martha Herself dedicated a show to vegetarian holiday recipes. Even my local paper, the Bangor Daily News, jumped on the bandwagon with a story last week (I'm in there, five or six paragraphs down).

Despite the hostility evident in some readers' comments (why so defensive, meat-eaters?), I hope this recent attention helps allay the anxiety of hosts and hostesses cooking for vegan guests. Creating colorful, interesting plant-based dishes is easy; the links above include more than a dozen recipes.

One great thing about vegan dinner guests is that by and large, they love to cook and share. I'm eating elsewhere this year, and bringing the following:

A salad of spinach, sliced apple, pecans, red onion, and pepitas with Cranberry Vinaigrette
Chickpea Pot Pie
Spiced Cranberry Sauce
Pecan Pie a la mode, made with Namaste Gluten Free Biscuits, Piecrust & More flour mix

I'm most excited about the pie; I used the recipe last year and adapted it this time, omitting the ginger and adding cinnamon, nutmeg, and a cup of shredded coconut. I believe the Pilgrims would have approved.

A happy and relaxing Thanksgiving to you, whatever you're eating.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

I am Ready for Some Football

Beer and pizza. Pizza and beer. Impossible to achieve gluten-free, you say?

Nay! This recipe resulted in a deliciously normal crust. Crispy center, thick chewy edges, and a rich wheat bread flavor. Substituting powdered soymilk for dry milk and agar flakes for the gelatin didn't affect my results. Best of all? This crust is packed with protein-rich chickpea flour.

I thawed some of the pesto I froze last August and brought it back to life in the blender with olive oil and fresh spinach. Then I added my favorite toppings, kalamatas and broccoli, and enjoyed the best pizza I've eaten in years.

Pesto pizza, a perfectly adequate pint of Redbridge, and five Jets turnovers: Sunday afternoons don't get much better than that.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Homemade Cranberry Sauce: Almost as Easy as Opening a Can

Forget turkey, stuffing, or mashed potatoes: nothing tastes more Thanksgiving than cranberry sauce. I grew up on the bouncy, uniform stuff, the kind that keeps the shape of the can and slides around the serving plate. I find it too sweet now, but I'm sentimental about the jiggle. (Do they even sell that stuff between January and September?)

I pulled out my canning equipment, for the first time in a couple of months, to make real cranberry sauce to eat and give away. Let me tell you, boiling four gallons of water for 20 minutes straight is more pleasant on a rainy day in November than in August.

I followed a recipe but tossed in some spices and whole orange. Citrus is acidic, and my jars have sealed, so I'm trusting there'll be no botulism. I cut the recipe in half below, in case you want to make your own cranberry sauce and store it in the fridge. I found the 2:1 ratio of cranberries to sugar a little sweet; you may want to reduce the sugar to 1½ cups. If you're not trying to can the sauce, you can play around with the recipe all you'd like.

Spiced Cranberry Sauce
Adapted from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving

2 cups sugar (or less, if you'd like)
2 cups water
4 cups cranberries
1/2 cinnamon stick
1/2 tsp whole cloves
1/4 orange (with peel)

Pick through cranberries and discard any that are soft or shriveled. Secure cinnamon and cloves in a cheesecloth square.

In a large pot, boil water and sugar over high heat for 5 minutes. Add cranberries, spices, and orange and return to boil. Lower heat and simmer 15 minutes, until most of the cranberries have burst. Remove spices and orange.

Pour into a serving bowl or storage container and cool before serving. Sauce will thicken as it cools. Makes approximately 4½ cups.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Cookie Cheat

I'm going to admit something I am not proud of: I used a baking mix.

I like to think of myself as a whole foods, slow foods cook, the antithesis of Sandra Lee. Until recently, there was nothing instant or pre-cooked in my cupboards. But since buying an old, demanding house and finding out I have Celiac, I've fallen off my do-it-yourself high horse a bit. I'm busy, I'm disorganized, and gluten-free baking requires more perseverance and good humor than I have at the end of most days.

I've reverted to dorm-style cooking, neglecting my ice cream maker in favor of Purely Decadent (delicious and habit-forming), and heating up Amy's Rice Crust Spinach Pizza (chalky and plastic). I've indulged in Van's Wheat-Free Homestyle Waffles more than once. They're gritty and dry, but they're an instant gluten-free vehicle for maple syrup.

Imagine my dilemma when I discovered that Cherrybrook Kitchen's gluten-free baking mixes are egg and dairy-free. Their sugar cookies call only for margarine, vanilla, and rice milk. I haven't bought a baking mix since high school, but times were desperate. Everyone knows that unless you bake sugar cookies at least once between Halloween and Christmas, Santa will not come to your house. So "bake" them, I did.

You cannot roll this dough out and cut it into adorable holiday shapes. Instead, you form pea-sized balls of dough into spheres which don't spread much in the oven, forming cute little button cookies. I rolled half the dough in cinnamon-sugar, for cheater snickerdoodles.

Once cooled, the cookies were buttery and sweet with a strong vanilla aftertaste. They were soft and chewy, though grainier than traditional sugar cookies.

Bottom line: if I could eat gluten, I wouldn't use this mix, because I'd make big, flat, conifer-shaped sugar cookies from scratch. But since I've yet to crack the code of gluten-free, egg-free baking, thank goodness for Cherrybrook Kitchen sugar cookie mix. These will tide me over until next year.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A Lifetime of Homely Cakes

Each November, my husband insists he wants nothing for his birthday—no party, no presents, no balloons or noisemakers or special sparkly hats. He will permit cake, but only if it's eaten in secret, and only if it's carrot.

So that I could eat it, too, I set out to find a vegan recipe that would work gluten-free. People seem to love the Ginger Macadamia Coconut Carrot Cake from Vegan with a Vengeance, so I made a few tweaks to the recipe (more warm and cozy, less Caribbean), and used a mix of gluten-free flours, flax seed, and xanthan gum. I worried when the pudding-thick batter clung to itself in the middle of the cake pans. I became alarmed when the batter never gained loft and browned after only 30 minutes. I was prepared to pull out my back-up all-purpose flour and start again on a cake at least one of us would be able to eat.

As the layers cooled, a few pokes indicated they were in fact fluffy in the middle. I decided to frost them. I was excited to find non-hydrogenated Tofutti cream cheese at my natural foods store, but it didn't hold up well in frosting. No matter how much powdered sugar I added, the whole concoction was gloopy. I threw on shredded coconut and some walnuts to disguise its resemblance to Elmer's glue.

We ate the cake, and it wasn't bad. A little dense, but I'd make it again with some vinegar and baking soda. It wasn't the ostentatious, gleaming white display of frosting ruffles and marzipan carrots I'd imagined but it tasted good, and believe me, I've made uglier birthday cakes.

Four years ago there was this lop-sided spice cake with melted wax vanilla frosting. Our oven wasn't level, so the layers were like wedges. I couldn't be bothered to to frost the sides, or to wait for the cake to cool before assembling it. I'm just not a details person.

Even better is the chocolate cake I made my husband in the kitchen of our dorm when we were first dating. It says "Happy BDAY." Squeezing frosting through the cut-off corner of a ziploc bag did not allow for the elegant script I'd envisioned.

Next year, my husband says he wants something non-traditional, like grilled birthday pineapple. I can definitely make that look good.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Chickpea Pot Pie at Maine Food & Lifestyle

Still looking for a hearty alternative to turkey? I've posted a recipe for Chickpea Pot Pie over at Maine Food & Lifestyle. Visit me there (and get a load of that gluten-free crust)!

Friday, November 6, 2009

When Life Literally Gives You Lemons...

...juice them and freeze the juice for later use (it's way too cold for lemonade this time of year).

Last weekend, I was strolling around Bar Harbor when I passed a large box of lemons marked "FREE" in the doorway of a gift shop. I crouched down and loaded up my bag until I had about a dozen and began to feel greedy. In retrospect, I should have just lifted the whole box and put it in the back of my car. I use a lot of lemon juice in baking, salad dressing, tahini sauce, and pasta dishes; I'm always running out of lemons.

I juiced these lemons using my trusty wooden reamer (good exercise!), strained out the seeds and pulp, and poured the juice into an ice cube tray (one cube = 2 tablespoons). Now I'm stocked for at least the next month. I can thaw the cubes for cooking, or toss them into hot tea or sparkling water.

I don't often get the chance to live out a folksy metaphor: I can't throw stones from the comfort of my own glass house, and if I called the kettle black it wouldn't acknowledge me. But thanks, life, for the lemons! I've put them to good use.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Wild Rice Stuffing at Maine Food & Lifestyle Blog

I'm working on a gluten-free vegan Thanksgiving menu. Here is my stuffing.