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Showing posts with label vegan friendly. Show all posts
Showing posts with label vegan friendly. Show all posts

Friday, August 7, 2020

Pear Streusel Pie


The fruits of summer are bountiful and sweet! There's nothing quite like the summer in the city, except when you are in your 30s and you live in the American Midwest or South. Then, it's just awful, especially if you are an *ahem* ample person of the feminine persuasion, such as myself. (Sweat happens to humans with bosoms and thick thighs in a way that I wish not on others.) Summer sucks. It's hot. It's humid. I'm going to tell you that I hate humidity, so I count the days until fall occurs. I relish the changing leaves, and I mark days off my calendar until I can go apple picking. There is, however, the wonderful fruit that ripens just before the apple does, and I can get my crisp fruit pie fix...the pear. 

Pears are wonderful fruits that don't get nearly enough love. They're crisp and cool, they have delicious varieties that are vastly varied, and they grow on trees so you can pick them while imagining your perfect life in the south of France as you do it! They are not always as sweet as the apple, so therefore you can use them in savory and sweet applications. A grated pear in a marinade for a Korean-style beef marinade will add a note of freshness and sweetness without being overwhelming. How wonderful! 

I'm sure you've seen pears with cheese plates and your parents will remember poached pears with ice cream in fancy restaurants in the late 80s to early 90s. Heck, I myself am guilty of putting the retro-classic poached pear on a modern dessert because I love it so much! There's just something about the pear that heralds in the changing of the seasons for me. It bakes in a wonderful end-of-summer pie.  Here's how to make it!

End-of-Summer Pear Pie

Pie Dough

  • 4 oz vegan butter
  • 7 oz all-purpose flour
  • 1 oz raw sugar
  • 1 oz dark rum, more as needed
Pear Filling
  • Four medium-sized local pears, peeled and sliced thin
  • Juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • 3.5 oz raw or brown sugar
  • 1 tsp good Mexican vanilla
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  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/8 tsp Chinese long pepper, ground
  • 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
Honey Streusel
  • 5 oz all-purpose flour
  • 4 oz sugar
  • 1 oz local honey
  • 3 oz vegan butter, cold

This is my standard pie dough, and I absolutely love making it because it's suitable for decorating as well as tasty eating. Combine the flour and sugar in a bowl along with a fat pinch of salt. Roughly chop the butter into cubes and rub into the flour-sugar mixture with your fingertips, almost as if you were snapping your fingers. You only want to combine the flour until it looks like cornmeal, and then add in the rum. Turn all of this out onto a cool, marble surface and smear together, folding all the dough back on itself over and over again until everything is smooth and combined. Scrape together, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and chill for at least 1 hour, ideally overnight. 

Take your pears in a large bowl and toss it with the lemon juice and zest first before adding the sugar and spices. Cover this beautiful stuff and let it sit for 20 minutes at room temperature. The sugar and spices will draw pear juice out, and this beautiful liquid is going to make your pie taste delicious! Why don't you go ahead and turn on your oven to 350 F while you wait?

Meanwhile, lay more plastic wrap on your counter turn your dough out onto the surface. Rolling out your dough on plastic wrap or greased parchment paper will save you a lot of cleaning time! The idea is that you want to sandwich your pie dough between the parchment or plastic wrap and roll it out this way, so you don't have to add excess flour. Roll this out nice and thin and line a glass or ceramic pie dish and press into the corners so it's well-set. Let it hang out on the counter for about five minutes so the pie dough can relax a little before you trim the edges. This will prevent excessive shrinking! Once the dough has relaxed, trim the edges with a sharp paring knife and pinch around the edges to make a pretty scalloped finish. Take this opportunity to think about what kind of decorations you'd like to have on your pie! I chose feathers. 

I have this wonderful set of teardrop-shaped cutters that I discovered at a garage sale some years ago. All you have to do to make feathers is to take the excess dough that you've cut off, roll and cut out the shapes, and then use the back of the knife to make your cuts and indents. You can get really creative with what you put on your pie, so feel free to let your imagination run wild! Remember, any sort of decorative pie crust touch you make will need some egg wash to stick.

To make the streusel simply mix all ingredients together in a bowl with a spoon. You'll be chopping and stirring the fat until everything sort of comes together in a kind of loose and lumpy sand, which shouldn't take long at all. Streusel is ready once it comes together when you ball it in your fist and it keeps its shape but quickly crumbles apart when tapped with a spoon.  

When you're ready to bake, brush your pie shell, edges included, quite well with egg wash. Add the flour to your pear pie filling and stir well to coat. You can use cornstarch if you like, but flour works just fine. Scrape your pie filling into the dough shell and arrange so that the slices are generally flat. Sprinkle your streusel all over the top to cover it, and decorate your pie as you so desire to. I really love the random look of these feathers strewn here and there! You can do whatever shapes you like; this is your pie, so you choose!

Bake at 350 for 50 minutes, or until the filling is bubbling and everything's golden-brown and delicious-looking. Your house is going to smell amazing! Turn off the oven and crack the oven door, and let it cool in the oven for about half an hour. Remove from the oven and let sit on the counter for at least 3 hours. Why? Pectin!

Pectin is this wonderful stuff that's found in high amounts in apples, citrus fruits, and - you guessed it - pears! It's a natural thickener and is essential for making homemade jams and jellies. The only thing about pectin is that it needs to set on its own, so that means you shouldn't cut this pie until it's cool to room temperature and the pectin is set. This way, you'll get much cleaner slices and you'll be able to enjoy that picturesque view of a non-soggy-bottom when you go back for a second, third, or fourth slice of pie. If you cut this pie before the pectin sets, the liquid will burst out and soak up your crust from the bottom, and it'll never set again. 

But what if I want warm pie??? 

Easy! Once it's all cooled, you can reheat it by the slice in the oven or - if you must - the microwave, and serve with some ice cream or sweetened ricotta cream. My general rule is that fruit pies should be served plain with coffee, but if you absolutely must indulge in some sort of ice cream, then I simply cannot stop you. Let go and let G-d, I say!

I love this pie because it's not too sweet but satisfies my sweet tooth in a much lighter way than an apple pie does. Pears are quite fragrant in a sexy, sophisticated way. I like to think of apple pie as your cute neighbor that just loves to wear bright patterns, whereas pear pie is that sexy stranger at the end of the bar wearing just enough of that expensive cologne or perfume...but when you get to the bar you see it's your neighbor, all along, in a new light. 

Thanks so much for reading along and spending some time of your day with me. It means so much to me to be able to pass on these awesome skills I've acquired over the last decade to you. I hope I inspire you to make this delicious pear pie. Happy cooking and happy eating!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Granola Bars

It's 2016, a new year for the new you!

America's twitter feeds have been trending with #NewYearNewYou and #NewYearNewMe, respectively. There are some that have even taken it so far as to proclaim they'll go entirely vegan for the month of January in pursuit of a healthier lifestyle. I'll be the first to admit that Veganism, while there have been studies done that say it's more harmful to the environment that one might think, is a good thing to try. My own mother went Vegan for a year when she was diagnosed with Cancer and she'll be five years Cancer-free come November 2016.

I personally think that everything should go with moderation. I'm all for Meatless Monday and rotational diets are honestly one of the better ways to stay healthy nowadays. Keeping a variety in your foods will keep those fun little bacteria in your guts healthy, happy, and strong(from all of the work they get to do). Perhaps have a Vegan Weekend, or a gluten-free week, or an entire month where you only eat seafood? You could also try cutting out carbs from your diet for a month, or just cut out soda for a month for water or tea, and record the results.

Dieting can be fun if done in the right way, and opening your eyes to a new kind of cuisine may be the key to the "new you" that you've been searching for. I remember taking my World Cuisine class in Culinary school and being absolutely floored by how much I just loved North African food. No, really!

The soup is "harira", the fish in the back is marinated with chili oil and harissa, and at the back-right is
chicken with cous cous!

Harissa, tajine, cous cous and yummy date bars...I was shocked at how much I loved a food I had literally never heard of before school. Not pictured are the fabulous Medjool date bars, which were super tasty. My point is that you never know what you'll love until you try it, and trying all of those different foods kept me healthy enough to power through working a full-time job during full-time college.

What can be done about keeping healthy, but watching your wallet? Making your own (X), of course!

I have (admittedly) covered a lot about cake and very little about eating healthy, though I'll rant and rave for days about how America is so unhealthy. Well, shucks, it doesn't do much good if I'm willing to rant but not willing to do anything about it, does it? What's even sicker about that entire thing is that I don't even want to diet because I want to be healthier; I just want to remain a size 8 because I've been (essentially) the same size since high school and I really don't want to buy new clothes. I hate buying clothes and I hate having to try on clothes because I don't know what size I am...I'm a size 8 and I'm staying a size 8, not for my well-being or vanity, but for my sanity when shopping.

Anyway, my wonderful boyfriend has a bit of an addiction to granola bars and will often take them with him to work. I think his granola bars are too sweet to be a "healthy" snack, so I eat them when I am feeling too lazy to bake cookies. He's getting on in his age, too, and since we're both pushing 30, I figured I would save us both some money and make granola bars at home. It's shockingly easy, and it costs about $0.03 per bar versus $0.60 per bar you'll pay for a similar one at the grocery store. Then again, that's math for a recipe that will yield 16 granola bars versus 5-per-box...so you would pay something like $9 for the same amount of granola bars that this one recipe would cost you, which is somewhere close to a dollar per recipe. You do the math.

Favorite Granola Bars
(Adapted from/Inspired by Alton Brown's recipe on "Good Eats")

  • 12 oz rolled oats(you can find these at the bulk section of most markets)
  • 2 oz slivered almonds(can be substituted for pumpkin seeds)
  • 2 oz chopped pistachios(can be substituted for sunflower seeds)
  • 4 oz local honey
  • 2 oz organic fruit preserves(I use a blackberry jam that I make myself)
  • 2 tsp flavoring(vanilla, almond, whatever)
  • 1.5 oz butter( 3 Tbsp) or coconut oil(the fat should be solid at room temperature)
  • 2.5 oz brown sugar
  • 3 oz dried cranberries
  • 6 oz dried banana chips
  • 3.5 oz chocolate chips/chopped baking chocolate/carob chips
Start by measuring your dry ingredients(oats, nuts, seeds, etc.) onto a sheet tray that's big enough to comfortably toast all of that goodness and park it in a 350 degree oven for about 12-15 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure an even cook. You're toasting these to both get rid of moisture(which is the enemy if you want to keep your bars preserved well) and to add depth of flavor. You can use just about any mix of stuff you want, so long as it is mostly the oats and the total weight for your dry ingredients is a pound(16 oz). 

Measure your honey, preserves, flavoring, butter, and sugar into a medium saucepot and set on a low and gentle heat. You're wanting to heat it until the butter melts and sugar dissolves. Remove your freshly-toasted crunchies from the oven and pop into your pan, along with your fruit of choice. I pounded the banana chips using a mortar & pestle to make them a more uniform size with the dried cranberries. Remember, you want every bite to be(relatively) the same. If you have dried apricots going with dried blueberries, remember to dice them into small cubes so that it's all the same size. Add the chocolate/carob chips at the very end and stir.

When your stuff is properly mixed up, all nice and gooey in the pot, spread onto a buttered/oiled sheet pan of your choosing(I used a cookie sheet, but you can use a standard 13 x 9 glass pan, or even two 9" pie tins) and bake for approximately 17 minutes at 300 degrees F. 

When done, let cool before flipping upside down onto a cutting board and, with a serrated knife, cut into squares, wedges, any shape of your choosing. It does help to have it at least mildly warm, for cleaner(and easier) cuts, but it certainly won't hurt it if it gets cool enough to break into shards for a snack. You can also break this stuff up in to chunks/clusters to keep in a jar and add to your yogurt in the morning.

If you want an extra bit of luxury, melt baker's chocolate in the microwave(I like the dark kind) and drizzle across each bar using a pastry bag (or a ziploc bag with the corner cut out) in zig-zag patterns. Each bar is roughly 120-130 calories and have a good bit of fiber in them. The sodium content is so low that it's practically nonexistent at a mere 40 mg per serving, if that. The sugar may be on the higher side, but it's still better than your run-of-the-mill granola bar that has who-knows-what in it. There's really no reason for you to not start making these yourself and become a better you by doing it. I've already saved money by making these, and where my darling lover would go through a box per week, this will last us twice as long at a fraction of the cost. That being said, I sell them at Pistachio Bakehouse, my pop-up bakery concept, if you want to eat healthier snacks but just don't want to make the bars.

These can be kept in the freezer for about 3 months, or in the cabinet in an airtight container for at least 2 weeks. To be honest, though, they won't last that long. 

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Lulu's Thai Noodle Shop (Crossroads)

Beef Jantaboon
It's no surprise that I love Asian cuisines of all types, and Thai holds a very special place in my heart.

When I was in Culinary School, I learned about Thai cuisine for the first time. I suppose I never understood it until then, but here's a little excerpt on Thai food from my notes:

Thai Cooking brings in the….Five tastes:


There's also, usually, a crunchy bit or two in there. They also have influences from Portugal and China, which include the stir-fry thing and the sweet egg thing...but that's not what this is about: this is about Lulu's Thai Noodle Shop in the Crossroads, where I ate lunch at yesterda.

I got mango and she got strawberry...and both were delicious!
I completely love this place. I couldn't think of a better place to drag my friend Marietta to on a nice sunny day like yesterday. The atmosphere is really tropical and fun without being kitschy, and the service is always impeccable. They've got a wide selection of cocktails and infusion, as well as Bubble Tea, which I couldn't help myself in getting.

The menu is extensive, but not overwhelming; it has something for everyone. They can easily do vegan/vegetarian/gluten-free. Actually, the noodle dishes are mostly all gluten-free, since rice noodles are...well, gluten-free. You could choose from some appetizer platters, or perhaps just go with a salad or wrap. They have bahn mis there, which are more of a traditional Vietnamese sandwich(from what I understand), but at the same time...who cares, they're delicious? They also have papaya salad, which is a really traditional Thai street food, and just perfect for a light lunch dish. I was hangry, though, so I set my sights on the beef jantabon(seen above), while Witchy opted for the Thai cashew chicken.

I tried getting an action shot.
The beef jantaboon is a stir-fried rice noodle dish with cilantro and a crap-ton of delicious sliced flank steak to go with it. The cashew chicken is, obviously, chicken with cashews and spring onions, served with rice. Both were filling and delicious...we each ate half and wrapped up the other half to go.

I'm actually eating the second half for breakfast, right now. Or, maybe, since it's 11 am...it's brunch? Yeah, I think it's brunch. 

My favorite part about the meal(oddly) was the end, when we got these adorable little fortune cookie! They're not the flavorless vanilla-esque wafers you get with Chinese food, but flavor-packed coconut-y little tubes of awesome. Honestly, they were like those yummy pirhouette cookies you get in the tin cans, but the cookie part was about ten-times thicker. I would have loved it if they were filled with some kind of coconut custard cream, but they had a fortune in them, instead, all rolled up in a tiny scroll. Seriously, I wanted a handful of those cookies.
They are so freaking cute.

I've eaten at Lulu's once before on a date with B. I seem to remember the both of us getting Drunken noodles, and I also remember teaching him how to use chopsticks. I also remember the meal being similarly excellent, as well as the service.

I'm so lucky to live right down the street from this place! You can bet that it comes highly recommended for a date, for lunch, especially with how diverse the menu is, and how consistently good they are. I don't think I'd come here for a business meeting with the whole office, trying to work on paper work or finish a big project, but maybe a business lunch with a client that you're trying to keep casual. (Maybe I don't know the difference?) Two thumbs way up! Happy eating, Kansas City!

Lulu's Thai Noodle Shop & Satay Bar on Urbanspoon