Saturday, June 18, 2011

Masala Chai, because "Chai tea" means "Tea tea"

"Chai Tea" means "Tea" in Hindi, Persian, Urdu, and Bengali (or a variation of the word), followed by "Tea" in English. Besides for giving this ancient medicinal beverage from halfway around the world a ridiculous name, America has also turned it into a milkshake. Even worse is the "Chai tea latte" meaning "Tea tea milk", spoken in a number of South East Asian languages, English, and then Italian.

 The traditional "Masala Chai", or "Spiced Tea", is a mixture of milk, water, loose leaf tea, and spices simmered on the stove. Eager to use to heaps of dried spices I picked up in southern Tel Aviv on my recent trip to Israel, I set off to make Masala Chai the way a [vegan] chai wallah, or South East Asian tea vendor, might do it. It's a wonderfully spicy, sweet soothing drink that's as pleasurable to smell as it is to taste.

 Masala Chai
- 2 C almond milk
- 2 C water
- 1 level tbsp black tea
- 1 handful dried spices: cinnamon, ginger, green cardamon, cloves, and dried roses (optional)
- honey

Bring almond milk, water, tea and spices to a boil on the stove. Reduce heat and allow tea to simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour mixture through a fine mesh sieve into two cups, then swirl in honey, to taste. Top with frothy almond milk for a Chai tea latte, or what we enlightened ones like to call a Tea tea milk. To maintain the theme of redundancy in different languages, bhog keejeeae, berma'id and enjoy!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Israel, Documentaries, & Vegan Date Toffee, Banana, and Quinoa Custard Pie

I've been on a vegan kick lately. My behavior during the last five weeks I spent abroad warrants that kind of repentance and detoxification... to say the least. Not to mention, one of the first things I watched upon arriving home was Forks Over Knives. In a mostly un-PETA-like fashion, it illuminated some of the destruction caused by the animal products - mainly meat and dairy - as well as processed foods in the Western diet in a clever, relevant way. It's pretty biased (as in, don't start praying to Colin T Campbell or believe his claims about the China Study without researching the actual results first), but any skeptic should be able to recognize that aspect of the film. If you haven't seen it yet, it might be a good idea to check it out... with a critical eye, of course.

On another note, I spent the last 40 days enjoying nothing but dairy in Israel! Dairy 24/7! Here's a sampling:
Shoko B'Sakit - Chocolate milk in a bag, in delicious flavors like mocha and milkshake

Tnuva Cottage Cheese - Fluffy, creamy cottage cheese best eaten with scrambled eggs, against which US curds-in-water-cheese can't compete

Kinder Bueno - Perfection in a chocolate bar: crisp wafer and light  hazelnut ganache covered in milk and dark chocolate

Labneh - A Lebanese soft, white cheese made from yogurt that's good on just about everything

Magnum Ice Cream - in flavors like dark, hazelnut truffle, white, almond, and gold... best eaten on the beach.
(Beware, they've recently infiltrated the US).
Being dairy-free has been easy since getting home; this I accredit to an overload of superior dairy abroad and the "duh" moments I experienced during Forks over Knives (What's this you say?Processed, low fat, bovine byproduct is bad?); however, being sweet-free would just be blasphemous. Here's the recipe for last night's pie - and it's layered with everything you (I) have ever wanted. Overall, it's not difficult to prepare, and it's hands down the most delicious, nutritious pie ever finished by everyone at an entirely carnivorous BBQ... plus, it's so full of health benefits that it would only be appropriate to have it again for breakfast the next morning, right? I thought it was. B'tayavon & bon app├ętit! 

Vegan Date Toffee, Banana, and Quinoa Custard Pie

- 1 1/4 C blanched almond flour (you can use whole-wheat or all-purpose if you don't mind gluten)
- 1/3 C hemp milk
- 2 tbsp almond oil
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp maple syrup

Date Toffee:
- 1/4 C dates, finely chopped
- 3/4 C hemp milk
- 1 tbsp coconut oil
- 2 tsp maple syrup sugar
- 1 tsp blackstrap molasses
- 2 bananas, sliced

Quinoa Custard & Coconut Cream:
- 1 cup quinoa seeds or flour (I used seeds, but if you prefer a more smooth custard, use flour).
- 3 1/2 C hemp milk
- 1/2 C maple syrup
- 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon or espresso powder
- pinch of salt
- 1 C coconut milk
- 1 tbsp cornstarch or kuzu root

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and coat an 8-inch pie pan in non-stick spray. To prep the toffee, soak the 1/4 C of chopped dates in 3/4 C hemp milk. 

In a large bowl, combine all crust ingredients until consistent (do not overwork dough), and press into the pie dish. Prick with a fork, then bake for about 25 minutes, or until lightly browned. Set aside to cool.

To prepare the custard and cream, place the quinoa (seeds or flour) and 1 1/2 C of hemp milk in a saucepan, bring to a boil, then simmer for 15 minutes. Add another 1 1/2 C hemp milk and beat well with an electric mixer or handheld blender. Simmer for another 5 minutes, then add the maple syrup and divide the mixture between 2 bowls. To one, add the cinnamon/espresso powder, 2 tsp vanilla, and salt, mix thoroughly and set aside. To the other, add the coconut milk, 1 tsp vanilla, and 1 heaping tbsp cornstarch or kuzu root (you may want to dissolve this in hot water first to avoid clumping), then beat cream until smooth.

Now that the crust, custard and cream are ready, make the date toffee layer (remember the dates soaking in hemp milk?). Except for the bananas, blend all toffee ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Spread the date toffee cream into the pie crust to harden and top with a layer of sliced bananas.

Finally, spread the quinoa custard on top of the bananas and chill pie in the refrigerator. Serve cold, topped with coconut cream and cocoa powder. Note: similar to Thanksgiving leftovers, as good as it might be the night you make it... it tastes even better the next morning. Enjoy!

Friday, June 10, 2011

You Can't Please Everyone? Oh Contraire... Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies!

Chocolate chip cookies: the definition of a perfect dessert. You want one (or five) just from looking at them. Butter-only, oil-only, yogurt-only, just white sugar, just brown sugar, crispy, crumbly, chewy, molasses-y, salted, cake-y, thin, or thick... they're all fantastic. Adults love them just as much as kids do, although the traditional butter-and-eggs recipe can prevent people with dietary restrictions from joining in on the fun. But wait! There's more... now your lactose-intolerant friend (no butter), eternally-on-a-diet friend (94 calories each), and vegan friend (no eggs) can love them, too! Enter the inoffensive chocolate chip cookies...

Batch results: thick and crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside. The texture is substantial from the whole wheat flour, but not too heavy because of the all purpose flour; the 1:1 ratio can be played around with based on preference. From an adult perspective, the flavor was "deliciously complex and satisfying from the brown sugar, walnuts and rich chocolate chips." To a kid, they were "big and chocolate-y and crunchy!" Such people pleasers... enjoy!

Vegan chocolate chip cookies
- 1 C all purpose flour
- 1 C whole-wheat flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 2/3 C vegan chocolate chips
- 1/3 C walnuts (optional)
- 1 C brown sugar
- 1/2 C coconut, canola, or vegetable oil
- 1 tbsp vanilla
- 1/4 C water
- 1 tsp molasses (optional, for color and a deeper flavor)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine flours, baking powder, chips, and nuts in a large mixing bowl and create a well in the center. In a medium sized bowl, combine sugar, oil, vanilla, water, and molasses (if desired) and mix well.  Add wet ingredients to dry; do not over-mix! Spoon drops of dough onto cookie sheet and mold into desired shape. Bake for 5 minutes, then switch racks and rotate trays 180 degrees. Bake another 6-7 minutes, cool, serve, and demolish. Makes 26 cookies.