Herbaceous Babe is going to be a little less regular in the days to come as the author gets launched in her professional career. Keep checking back, because there's no telling when a new post will appear!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Pumpkin Ravioli et al

My mom has The Best Ever Vegetarian Cookbook by Linda Fraser. Unfortunately it is of little use to a gluten-free vegan. Still, we were determined to try the Pumpkin-Stuffed Cilantro Ravioli.

The filling is just pumpkin, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, and ricotta cheese. We made cashew cream to replace the ricotta then set to work peeling the pumpkin... The instructions were not clear about whether the pumpkin was cooked or raw. (Note to self: cook pumpkin before peeling next time.)

Also tastes great on crackers!

We used chickpea flour and substituted flax for the egg in our pasta - and ended up with a dough so soft and gooey it was nearly impossible to shape the ravioli. But we prevailed!

Admittedly, not my most glamorous photo. In fact, I almost forgot to take a picture. The tomato sauce lent a bit of moisture to the still-too-thick pasta but stole much-deserved attention from the pumkin.

Day two found the remaining dough even more unmanageable and, it being a particularly eventful week, I didn't feel like messing around. A fully-sliced baby eggplant and a dollop of inspiration later, I had a picture perfect meal for one.

A few short years ago, you could not have paid me to eat an eggplant. Perhaps the subtle, titillating bitterness is an acquired taste, but I prefer to think of it as "sophisticated." Either way, I thought a squirt of lime would finish off the dish perfectly.

Stuffing persists, and my creativity is spurred onward. Behold: the mushroom cap.

THEN one lazy Sunday, I was cruising the web for inspiration, and Eureka! I found it: Rosemary Pumpkin Paradox. Who ever heard of a cheese-less quesadilla? It's silly. It's preposterous. It's amazing! Serve with marinara, or for a spicier, more authentic flavour, try marjoram and serve with salsa.

There seems to be no end to the possibilities. It also tastes good as a cracker spread.

Monday, October 22, 2012


Smitten Kitchen is my favourite (non-vegan) cooking blog. Good reading. Good eating. And a dream come true.

Even before I became a vegan, before I really started cooking, I wanted to make ratatouille the way Remy and Linguine made it. Thin slices of courgette (zucchini), aubergine (eggplant), et poivron (pepper) snuggling in a bed of tomato puree infused with garlic, onion, and thyme... I was singing Le Festin almost the entire time it was in the oven.

Pre-bake picture

I highly recommend small variety eggplant - not just because it stacks better with the zucchini, but because they aren't as bitter. Large purple eggplants work well enough, but they have to be peeled and "sweated" first.

Mandolines are wonderful, but they always shred my eggplants :-( No matter how much confidence you lack, you can probably get a more uniform cut using a sharp knife.

Since all of my veggies were smaller than I'm used to, I doubled the recipe, making four people happy and one person unhappy (the 14-year-old was not a fan). 

It always surprises me how much vegans can eat. This was my optimistic first helping. The second was much bigger :)

Monday, October 15, 2012

Carrot Cake (and GF flours)

Most of the time, I'm perfectly content to be a gluten-free vegan. But every once in a while... I just want to gorge myself on that-which-is-forbidden. Equally tempting is the urge to describe, in-detail, the thoughts and sensations that necessitated today's guiltless baking experiment. But I shall resist, and share instead my comfort food solution: carrot cake.

The recipe calls for chestnut flour, which I don't have. And being indecisive, I took advantage of my grand GF selection by splitting the batter into four parts and comparing how each turned out.

I felt like Goldilocks: "This one is too firm... This one is too soft... This one is just right!"

1) Arrowhead Mills GF All-Purpose Flour
Batter was the consistency of cookie dough. It did not rise at all. Top colour was golden with some dark gold peaks. Inside was moist and gumlike, but firmer when cooled.

2) Namaste Buscuits, Piecrusts, & More Mix
Batter was porridge-like, rose slightly with an evenly golden top. Inside was moist and sponge-like: might need more baking time.

3) Bob's Red Mill Garbanzo Flour
Batter was the consistency of regular muffin batter. It rose to a beautifully round, golden puff. Inside was dense and smooth, and just a touch on the dry side, a bit like cornbread. Baked 35 minutes.

4) Almond Meal
Batter was soupy and sunk in the middle during baking. Inside was still extremely wet: perhaps longer bake time at a lower temperature? Flavour was good, but you'll need a spoon. One advantage to vegan baking is that you don't have to worry about under-cooking :)

It's hard to say which one was "best," since every person has different preferences. Sister likes 2, Brother likes 3, Mother likes 4, and I'm torn between 1 and 3...

And of course, no carrot cake is complete without cashew cream cheese frosting! (Real Sustenance's frosting has coconut in it.) I used 1/4 c water to get the right consistency... Now I need to find another GF cake recipe, because I have five times more frosting than I actually need (a very good problem).

So, why such a difference? Every grain, pseudo-grain, and legume has distinct characteristics: flavour, density, moisture, self-rising properties, etc. That's why GF recipes and all-purpose blends often have complicated mixtures of flours, starches, and gums. That's why one flour makes great muffins but horrible pancakes or pasta. The GF all-purpose I see most often in recipes is Bob's Red Mill, but I've never tried it myself. Experiment, and see what works for you.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Vegetable Pot Pie

My stepfather is a man after my own heart when it comes to cooking. He reads recipes, looks in the fridge, and creates something all his own.

Simmer veggies in water until tender, adding GF flour to thicken into a stew, and top with a GF pie crust. Our veggies included mushrooms, asparagus, carrots, celery, onion, garlic, sweet potato, herbs and spices. The pie crust was simply one part water, two parts GF flour* and a bit of olive oil. It was just a tad too sticky to use a rolling pin, so I just flattened it with my hands. Too soft for hard tack and not salty enough for saltines, I really liked it and may actually make some saltines from this recipe.

*At least, I thought that's what I did until I tried to make it again... Keep adding flour until it's dry enough to work (but not too dry). Made with Namaste Biscuits, Piecrusts & More flour mix. There's a recipe on the bag - maybe I got the water and oil quantities switched around...