Thursday, December 25, 2014

Pressure Cooking

I've been longing after the Instant Pot ever since I first saw Chef AJ cooking with an electric pressure cooker in her Chef and the Dietician videos on YouTube. I already own a Fagor for over 5 years now but rarely use it as a pressure cooker. I have a hard time getting it to seal, sometimes taking over 5 minutes just to get the lid on right, then it takes a few more minutes waiting for the water to boil and noticing it never comes to any pressure, so I have to turn off the heat, remove the lid, and start all over again. I love the Fagor pot itself, with its super thick bottom that retains heat for a long time. Soups and stews made in this as a plain old pot come out terrific.

Other times, no matter how long I cook a pot of beans, they never soften to my liking, which is as soft as beans from a can. No added salt, no added tomatoes, beans newly purchased, they just won't cook.

And let's face it, beans cooked from dry with no salt tastes a heck of a lot different than canned beans rinsed for a minute or so. I finally found a source for some no-salt added beans from Goya, but even though they cost less than Eden brand they're still sometimes twice the price of regular Goya beans with salt. 

My husband has told me I can go ahead and buy an electric pressure cooker after seeing me watch all those Chef AJ chili recipes again and sighing. He mistook the sigh to mean "she wants that pot," instead of "It's almost time to start dinner and I don't feel like moving" sigh, but if he's willing to let me spend the money, I won't argue!

I started looking around to find places besides Chef AJ's videos to get McDougall-safe recipes, and remembered the Vegan Pressure Cooker Yahoogroup, run by Susan V of Fat Free Vegan. I just rejoined today, and encourage others who are interested in healthy WFPB, no SOS cooking to also join up. I was surprised to see that although there are almost 200 members, there's been no activity for over a year! We can really use some new blood and activity over there, and if any of the current members are reading this, why not pop in again and say Hi to let us all know you're still around. And if you have a favorite PC recipe to share or even need help in transforming a non-PC recipe into a PC one, just give a shout. I'm sure somebody there will be be able to help with the conversion.

Now to find a good (cheap) source for organic heirloom beans. I've been on the wait list at Rancho Gordo for over a year now and the local HFS has been getting less and less dried beans, so I better start looking elsewhere so I'll have something to make right away when I do order my IP.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Smoked Paprika Vegan Cheese

Oil-, nut- and fat-free, too! 

You have GOT to make this recipe!


The blog it comes from is called Cooking With Plants, and basically, she takes a standard nooch sauce recipe and adds agar-agar thickened in water to it, pours it into molds (I just used my 3-cup plastic containers), and let it harden.

Be sure you use agar-agar powder and not the flakes. It's much more concentrated. If all you can find are flakes, use three times as much as the recipe calls for to make up the difference.

Watch the stove and keep stirring when heating the agar-agar! I expected it to take a while to thicken, but it was ready in about 2 minutes. And it really helps to use a non-stick saucepan, too. Any that stuck to the sides came right off before water was even added to the pot to clean.

The batch filled 2 of my three-cup containers, so a total of 6 cups of cheese. My containers are similar to these from Glad:

I left out the smoked paprika because I was making this cheese primarily for my son, who still uses dairy-based cheese and he doesn't like "spicy." Cheese is the one SAD food he still eats, but his latest cholesterol results are still pretty bad (LDL 105, HDL 48 and trigs 236), so he knows he has to give that up now. I'm glad he's doing this at age 30, not in his late 40's like I did or needs his own CABG like his dad.

He wasn't too thrilled with it for a few reasons. First, the texture - it's slimy. More of a slipperiness to it than slime, but if you've been eating processed American cheese-like food since before you had teeth, it's a lot different than you're used to.

Even without the smoked paprika it was a bit of a kick to it, most likely from the dry mustard. He's like Petey in the Cul De Sac comics:

But he said he'll give it a try, and had about a quarter-inch square nibble before declaring it something he would eat only if starving.

But my husband and I love it! Once it's sitting on a slice of bread you don't notice the texture at all, and it tastes great with that little bit of mustard in the sauce. I usually use the wet mustard in the cheese sauces I make, anyway, and wouldn't have even noticed it if not for my picky son pointing it out.

Since I made this the other day, I had about 2 slices and my husband is almost finished with the first container. Since it only keeps about a week in the refrigerator, when I sliced them up I immediately wrapped the second one in plastic wrap, popped it in 2 quart-sized freezer bags and tossed it right into the freezer. To make it easy to take out just a slice or 2 instead of having to defrost the whole brick I put cut-up pieces of plastic between each slice. This is a trick I've been using for years with freezer stuff, like bean burgers or un-meatloaf, or quickbread slices. I take the lids from things like oatmeal containers and cut off the lips, leaving a flat disk, and use those to make non-stick dividers. Works like a charm.

Back to the cheese - my husband has been making sandwiches with them on whole wheat rolls or on whole grain bread with "the works", and I had one slice unadorned to taste, the other between 2 slices of sprouted wheat bread and grilled. This makes the most delicious grilled cheese sandwich. It's dangerous - I can see myself eating 2 or 3 sandwiches a day. It's because of this addictiveness I have to refrain from eating this cheese more than once a week, if I know what's good for me. 

But it's SO GOOD!!!

Maybe just one more sandwich tomorrow after we get back from shopping. A quick lunch on another busy vacation day, the first day without rain all week. It'll be my reward if I don't break the budget in Bed, Bath, Beyond.