hugs to allison’s gourmet

Artisan Vegan Caramels from Allison's Gourmet

Artisan Vegan Caramels from Allison’s Gourmet

Are you familiar with Allison’s Gourmet? You should be. Allison, maven of mmmm, is all about chocolate. Award-winning, artisan, organic, dairy-free, fair-trade chocolate. Oh, and it’s out of this world delicious too. Do yourself a favour and get acquainted. May I suggest the pure vanilla caramels? I’m a fan. Take a look at Allison’s site and feast your eyes. You can’t go wrong with any of the choices there—with cookies, brownies, toffee, brittle, fudge, chocolates, caramels, tea, coffee, and hot chocolate—there are endless gift-giving possibilities. Why not include yourself s a recipient?

A longtime admirer,  I had the pleasure of meeting Allison in person at last summer’s VVC in Portland–so when she recently asked if she could interview me for the Friday With Friends series on her blog, I was chuffed. Check it out here, blush. It’s short and sweet and focuses on my enthusiasm for vegan baking and my massive sweet tooth.

*photo used with permission from Allison’s Gourmet

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another green smoothie.

The other day I wrote espousing the virtues of spinach smoothies. Well, I just made a new variation deserving of its very own little announcement.

This time I used organic vanilla soymilk instead of water, half a banana, and enough spinach to fill about half of the blender.

It. Is. Divine. It’s creamy yet light, subtly sweet, almost dessert like. And it’s the most delightful botanical, pastel green colour. It made a very refreshing accompaniment to my little fruit salad.

In short, I highly recommend it.

Spinach Smoothie #2:

1/2 cup vanilla soymilk
1/2 banana
Spinach – enough to loosely fill half the blender (leaf only, remove stems)
3 or 4 ice cubes

    • Blend until completely smooth and enjoy.

    rice squares, again.

    By now I’ve dabbled with rice squares several times, each time with different results. I’ve changed up the nut butters and done them with or without chocolate. The critical variable for me (if a rice square can have a critical variable) has been the amount of brown rice syrup.

    I am not a huge brown rice syrup fan. Okay, I am a fan in the sense that it is an all-natural sweetener, low GI, etc, all good things, yada yada yada. I am just not totally and completely in love with the taste straight up. This means that, for me, the syrup should never be the primary flavour in any given recipe. This is not a huge issue with the rice squares since the nut butter features strongly, particularly if peanut butter is used, but I digress – back to the rice syrup amount.

    When I first tried my hand at making vegan rice squares I followed a recipe. I mis-transcribed the amount of brown rice syrup required and ended up making the squares using 3/4 cup instead of the 1-3/4 cups called for. At first I thought this was disastrous – my squares were a tad on the dry side and crumbled a bit when bitten into. I eventually remade the squares with the full 1-3/4 cups brown rice syrup. In a word, yuck. They were way too sweet and they didn’t stick together all that well at all.

    So my initial error was actually a happy accident. I don’t like things too sweet so I immediately knew that the lesser amount of brown rice syrup was the way to go for me.

    I recently remade the squares using 1 cup of brown rice syrup – more than enough. I would say that, based on your tastes, you could use either 3/4 cup or 1 cup. Using 1 cup will give you slightly softer, chewier, slightly sweeter results. Using 3/4 cup will give you crispier, not as sweet results.

    The nut butter is completely interchangeable. Use whatever you love and have on hand. I’ve tried peanut, almond, and hazelnut so far. The hazelnut is particularly good with chocolate. I will soon give cashew and macadamia a whirl. You can make the squares with rice cereal alone or you can add extras in as you see fit.

    For this batch I used organic crisped riced cereal, a 2:1 ratio of organic peanut to organic almond butter and a 1/2 cup of organic vegan chocolate chips. Instead of chocolate you could use carob, nuts or dried fruit. You can also increase the volume of these extras to a cup or more. Anything goes really. I’ve used almond slivers and rolled oats in the past with sweet results.

    It’s a rice square free for all.

    Crispy Rice Squares, version 37 (and counting):

    • 1 box crispy brown rice cereal (regular sized box, approx. 7 cups)
    • 3/4 cup or 1 cup brown rice syrup (more for softer, chewier – less for crispier)
    • 1/8 tsp sea salt
    • 3/4 cup nut butter (this batch is 2:1 ratio of peanut to almond)
    • 1/2 cup to 1 cup something extra, e.g. chocolate chips, carob chips, nuts, oats, dried fruit, ad infinitum (this batch includes 1/2 cup chocolate chips)
    1. lightly grease a 9x 13-inch pan or casserole dish with earth balance, oil, or cooking spray.
    2. warm brown rice syrup and salt in skillet on medium heat until liquefied – stir in nut butter until combined, remove from heat.
    3. place rice cereal in a large bowl – pour melted rice syrup and nut butter mixture over top.
    4. use a large wooden spoon, or other firm utensil, and stir until combined.
    5. if adding extras such as chocolate chips or nuts, add now to mixture and combine.
    6. press mixture into prepared pan or dish and allow to cool approximately 1 hour.
    7. cut into squares.