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May 23rd, 2011


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04:08 am - Snarky Thoughts on Cookbooks & Food
I'm allergic to milk protein, which is no big deal for cooking most of the entrees that I like, but seriously sucks for many desserts. As a result, I am always interested in new recipes for good or at least acceptable substitutions. After seeing a wonderful-looking recipe for a triple chocolate mousse cake , which is ideal because it is also flourless and thus also perfectly fine for Alice.

The problem is that the top two layers require whipped cream, which is one of various ingredients I've not found a substitute for. There are near perfect substitutes butter, milk, and ice cream, and an excellent yogurt substitute (the milk, ice cream, and yogurt all being made from coconut milk), but nothing that I know of for whipped cream. Looking up recipes for "vegan whipped cream" and "vegan chocolate mousse" turned up some truly horrifying ideas, including one alleged whip-cream-thing made with soy milk and avocado, and a deeply horrifying sounding chocolate mousse made with avocado, soy sauce, and balsamic vinegar (as well as chocolate). Naturally, almost none of these desserts contained actual sugar either.

I found some interesting suggestions for using full-fat coconut milk with a dob of cornstarch added to help stabilize it, which sounds interesting, and then I found a mention of a non-dairy cream variant made from unroasted cashews, which sounds quite intriguing. I saw that this was from a cookbook called The Conscious Cook, by Tal Ronnen, that sounded interesting and actually like cuisine rather than dietary penance.

I'm getting a copy from the library to see exactly how useful it will be, but I almost bought one after looking at the Amazon reviews. What interested me wasn't that almost everyone said it was excellent, but exactly what the negative comments said – they ranged from a few about the recipes being too hard & time consuming, to a majority about how it wasn't "healthy". That sold me then and there. As someone who has cooking as a major hobby and who has made my own puff pastry, hollandaise sauce, and red wine reduction sauces, a cookbook that at least some people don't describe as too hard and time-consuming is simply going to be too simplistic to be useful or interesting for me.

The second comment was even more hopeful sounding – for too many people, being vegetarian or vegan seems to be all about the sort of allegedly virtuous self-denial that I prefer to leave to 18th century Puritans and 19th century health cultists, combined with an absolute horror of food that contains any fat or salt that I have absolutely no patience with – fat makes food taste good. A few people need to avoid one or the other for health reasons, but very few indeed. One of the Amazon comments even compared the cookbook negatively to the reviewer's favorite macrobiotic (shudder) cookbook.

I'm an avid carnivore, but more than that, I like food, and I also firmly believe that there are ways to make excellent food within the limitations of any dietary restrictions. IME, the most important aspect of healthy eating is simply (as Michael Pollan, who has some good ideas, as well as many terrible ones) said – "eat food" and not nastiness like high fructose corn syrup or toxins like partially hydrogenated oils. In any case, it sounds like this book contains recipes for high quality vegan cuisine, which should at minimum have many interesting and useful dairy-free ideas for me. If nothing else, in a week or two, I'll work out some of the substitutions for whipped cream and then try that cake.
Current Mood: sleepysleepy

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Comments:


[User Picture]
From:nancylebov
Date:May 23rd, 2011 11:16 am (UTC)
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What's your issue with macrobiotic food? I don't know whether it would be a good idea to try to live on it, but I've had single meals which were pretty tasty.
[User Picture]
From:seika
Date:May 23rd, 2011 11:49 am (UTC)
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a deeply horrifying sounding chocolate mousse made with avocado, soy sauce, and balsamic vinegar (as well as chocolate)

What? No. Those things should never touch each other on a plate, let alone be deliberately combined, let alone pass themselves off as mousse.


for too many people, being vegetarian or vegan seems to be all about the sort of allegedly virtuous self-denial that I prefer to leave to 18th century Puritans and 19th century health cultists, combined with an absolute horror of food that contains any fat or salt that I have absolutely no patience with

Yeah, I have this problem with vegetarian cookbooks as well. I'm not in it for the health benefits, and I think cheese is one of the two major food groups, the other being sugar. And I have allergies and aversions to many of the vegetables that seem to comprise most "vegetarian meals", to the point where there's not much in vegan cookbooks that I can eat at all.

Taste-wise I never used to think salt was exciting, but then there was a time back in college when I was eating mainly poorly-chosen microwave meals and didn't realise how little salt I was getting in my diet until someone opened a can of Pringles near me, and I tasted one, and realised that my body craved ALL THE SALT IN THE OCEAN, and since then I've had no patience whatsoever with salt-free things. Or any kind of diet that cuts out some "unhealthy" thing entirely.

I probably wouldn't get along with the cookbook because "time-consuming" makes me turn tail and run away as fast as I can, but still, I'm glad to hear about meatless cookbooks that don't avoid all the stuff that someone else's doctor wants them to avoid.
[User Picture]
From:kitten_goddess
Date:May 24th, 2011 01:23 am (UTC)
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I ran into vegan food less than 10 times in my life. Two of those times I got violently ill because I'm allergic to cashews. Vegan food can be a health hazard if one has nut allergies.

And the less said about Tofurkey, the better...*shudder*
[User Picture]
From:seika
Date:May 24th, 2011 07:49 am (UTC)
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I actually really like tofurky! But then, I don't expect it to taste like turkey, just like some vaguely savory thing with harvesty spices. I use high quality soy sauce for the base, and real butter, and it's pretty good stuff IMO.
[User Picture]
From:dancinglights
Date:May 23rd, 2011 02:21 pm (UTC)
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for too many people, being vegetarian or vegan seems to be all about the sort of allegedly virtuous self-denial that I prefer to leave to 18th century Puritans and 19th century health cultists, combined with an absolute horror of food that contains any fat or salt that I have absolutely no patience with

a-fucking-men.

That said, the chocolate mousse I learned to make from Cull (and he got in turn from an old roommate of his) contains little other than aseptic-box silken tofu, very rich soy milk, sugar, and melted baking chocolate put in a blender for a Very Long Time. It also takes a while to set in the fridge before it's any good.
[User Picture]
From:shesingsnow
Date:May 23rd, 2011 02:50 pm (UTC)
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You might look up Chloe Coscarelli, the vegan cupcake queen. She won the show Cupcake Wars with 100% vegan cupcakes. I think her frostings were based on coconut milk, but she also uses organic non-hydrogenated shortening and/or coconut oil. Ah, I found it: http://www.chefchloe.com/ Look for recipes.

Avocado in a recipe is akin to a buttery taste - it's just the color that's an issue. Green frosting... LOL
[User Picture]
From:seika
Date:May 24th, 2011 07:51 am (UTC)
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Coconut (which is often found in desserts and associated with them) probably comes out a lot better than avocado (where any lingering avocado-specific taste would not remind one of dessert).

Well, I also get super-sick from eating avocado, so I might be biased against the taste as well. But even for most people, doesn't it seem more like a savoury thing?
[User Picture]
From:lupagreenwolf
Date:May 23rd, 2011 06:07 pm (UTC)
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Hmm. Would be curious as to how some of these turn out, and whether you solve the whipped cream quandary!
[User Picture]
From:obsessivewoman
Date:May 23rd, 2011 08:51 pm (UTC)
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My father-in-law has to eat gluten free, dairy free, citrus free and no chocolate. We're living in a better time to have food allergies because tasty dairy-free options are easily stocked, even in regular grocery stores.

I think your leads for recipes are good.

Here are three different recipes which would work (probably ones you found):

http://chemistsdaughter.blogspot.com/2009/06/vegan-whipped-cream.html
coconut milk - based but it's pretty high in tasty fat and will taste of coconut
http://www.godairyfree.org/Recipes/Cream-and-Butter-Subs/Almond-Cream-Vegan-Gluten-Free-Soy-Free.html
almond based - little firmer than the following recipe with the stabilizer (which you can easily use with any option) Agar-agar is a good one, though corn starch isn't difficult to work with and is much cheaper. http://dairyfreecooking.about.com/od/dairyfreeglossary/g/AgarAgar.htm
http://www.grouprecipes.com/119492/almond-or-cashew-whipped-cream.html
uses either almonds or cashews and uses fewer ingredients

Re: cookbooks, I would suggest focusing on books made for folks with allergies, not necessarily vegan/vegetarian. I don't really like agave nectar or honey in baking, unless that's the taste (and chemical reaction) I'm going for.

Also, you may want to get checked to see if goat and sheep products are okay for you. Goat butter is fabulous and there are yummy goat versions of almost any type of cheese that you can think of - brie, cheddar, romano, etc....

Good luck!


[User Picture]
From:heron61
Date:May 23rd, 2011 10:29 pm (UTC)
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Thanks for the info. I'd only seen the first of these recipes and will be trying that first (since I love the taste of coconut and think it would go perfectly in a chocolate mousse.
[User Picture]
From:obsessivewoman
Date:May 23rd, 2011 08:56 pm (UTC)
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Oh, since you mentioned that you bake for someone who needs GF, I love the Gluten-Free Almond Flour cookbook by Alena Amsterdam, if you are baking.

and

http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Hungarian-Flourless-Hazelnut-Cake/Detail.aspx# Nagella Lawson had a similar recipe with a citrus glaze that looked interesting - though I'd be changing out the citrus with ginger or other flavors.
[User Picture]
From:rjgrady
Date:May 24th, 2011 12:02 am (UTC)
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What are the ground rules? What about, for instance, meringue?
[User Picture]
From:kitten_goddess
Date:May 24th, 2011 01:20 am (UTC)
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heron61 said:
Looking up recipes for "vegan whipped cream" and "vegan chocolate mousse" turned up some truly horrifying ideas, including one alleged whip-cream-thing made with soy milk and avocado, and a deeply horrifying sounding chocolate mousse made with avocado, soy sauce, and balsamic vinegar (as well as chocolate). Naturally, almost none of these desserts contained actual sugar either.


Ewwww....so that's what Daleks eat for dessert!

This reminds me of the time I brought home a case of Seven Up Plus. It was healthy, or so I thought, because it had 0 calories and 10% of the RDA of Vitamin C. Unfortunately, it tasted like Spree dipped in Bubble Yum.

It quickly got a free trip down the sink.

I also bought home a jar of Skippy Fat-Free Peanut Butter. Mark threw it away and explained to me that fat makes food taste good. "So that's why Lean Cuisine tastes like cardboard!" I thought.
[User Picture]
From:heron61
Date:May 24th, 2011 08:04 am (UTC)
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Fat-Free Peanut Butter???!!!

I'd advise fearing whatever they used as ingrediants in a monstrosity like that far more than fat. Wow. In looking this up, I also saw Walden Farms, Peanut Spread Calorie-Free on Amazon - it has 81 reviews and gets a big 2 stars (shudder). IMHO, the entire diet industry is a curse on both US cuisine and US general health.

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