In my opinion, the first thing we should always keep in mind in the kitchen is this: recipes are flexible. All recipes serve as guidelines and can be sources of inspiration to create a dish which is your own. Ingredients can be substituted or sometimes even omitted depending on your individual needs and tastes. You may be gluten-intolerant, allergic to soy, or you may simply dislike the taste and smell of coconut oil.
Don’t feel you have to throw out a recipe because it contains one or more ingredients you do not want to use. Instead, experiment with alternatives. For example, in the recipe you will learn today, I use whole wheat pastry flour.
If you would like to avoid the gluten in wheat, you can experiment with almond flour or use a grain that has a lower gluten content, such as spelt. Using this approach, even recipes with animal products do not need to be put in the trash. They can, in fact, be veganized!
Because of this basic philosophy, I boldly attempt to veganize all recipes, with varying degrees of ease and success. As you all have undoubtedly figured out, I wasn’t born a vegan and Italian families do not typically avoid animal products.
My mother, grandmother and aunts are all superb cooks and we have many old family recipes floating around, many of them containing meats, eggs, and various forms of dairy products. At a family gathering a few weeks ago, my cousin Anna asked me whether I remembered a certain “cake with the blueberry inside” that our mothers used to make all the time when we were kids.
Not only did I remember it, I loved it as much as she did! Eager to please with my cooking, I told her I’d make it for her and immediately my soul began to ache: what do I do about the eggs and the butter? Can I possible veganize this classic Italian recipe and still have it taste so heavenly?
I really wanted it to turn out well since I was making it for Anna, but honestly, I wasn’t sure I could pull it off. Well, if you never try something, you’ll never know.
“You miss 100% of the shots you never take.” ~Wayne Gretzky
I started with a “practice cake.” I knew Anna’s favorite version of this cake was blueberry, but for my practice run, I just blended a variety of berries I had in the freezer and used this as the filling. Once baked, I put on a fresh pot of coffee and called my most eager and devoted taste tester, my mom.
“Oh, man, it’s delicious! No one would ever know there are no eggs in here!”
That reminds me of another useful hint in the kitchen: when trying to turn family members on to vegan dishes, you can always trick their taste buds with familiar and well-liked flavours and textures. As we saw in last week’s recipe, seasoning with steak spice is very effective in creating that hardy and comforting taste we are looking for in a Shepherd’s Pie.
Also, to make dishes healthier, you can hide vegetables in them! Next week, I’ll show you how to make a scrumptious veggie paté with four different raw vegetables buried in it and four types of nutrient-packed seeds! Later on, once we’ve all had time to work off Anna’s Blueberry Cake, I’ll teach you how to conceal two cups of spinach in your chocolate brownies! Ohhh
ya … !
Eccola qui: an old Italian favorite, now new and improved in its veganized form. Introducing Anna’s Blueberry Cake! Enjoy, in joy and in health!
4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup cane sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
3 teaspoons egg replacer (I have been using EnerG Egg Replacer)
1 cup grapeseed oil OR coconut oil (heated until liquefied)
¾ cup water
½ teaspoon sea salt
¼ cup almond flour
¼ cup cane sugar
3 teaspoons Earth Balance vegan butter
–Rub mixture between fingers until it begins to form small clumps.
Your favorite pie filling. Anna’s favorite is blueberry.
2 cups fresh or frozen berries of your choice.
–Blend fruits in a blender with ¾ cup raw agave nectar OR a few drops of Stevia, sweetened to taste.
1. Preheat oven to 350˚F.
2. Combine cake ingredients in a large bowl.
3. Knead mixture into firm loaf. Remove 1/3 of the mixture and set aside.
4. Press down remaining mixture in a 10 inch x 10 inch glass or ceramic baking dish.
5. Pour in fruit filling.
6. With remaining cake mixture, take small amounts and make palm-sized patches with your hands. Place patch by patch over fruit filling until all the fruit is completely covered.
7. Sprinkle sugar topping over top.
8. Bake 50 to 55 minutes.
9. Remove from oven and allow to cool for at least 1 ½ to 2 hours.
10. Garnish with fresh berries, if desired.
“The love for all living creatures is the most noble attribute of man.” ~Charles Darwin