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Vegan March Madness

         March is one of the worst months out of the year in my opinion.  In New Jersey at this moment, the weather is zig zagging to freezing or not-so-freezing.  For a few blissful days, the temperature reached the 60’s, but then promptly dove back down to freezing again.  Spring has begun, but there are still no signs in sight.  =(
          For this first bit of spring, winter foods are still comforting but they’ve grown a bit stale.  I’m itching for spring foods like light soups, salads, sandwiches, and quick sautees.  One of the best ways to overcome the stagnant cold of winter is to…drink,  Let’s face it, St. Patrick’s day is just an excuse to throw some Irish drinks back and forget about how long it will be before the warm days begin.
           I often use St. Patrick’s day as an excuse to make my favorite Irish comfort foods.  When I was younger, my mom would make the hackneyed and traditional corned beef and cabbage with boiled carrots and potatoes.  Not of the vegan persuasion at the time, I loved the corned beef the most.  I never really liked beef, but I think I liked corned beef because it just tastes straight up like salt.  Who doesn’t love salt?
           As the rest of the dish is very bland, the corned beef’s saltiness is necessary to bring some flavor.  As I’ve grown older and more capable in the kitchen, I’ve learned to create my own St. Patrick’s Day culinary tradition: Irish Cream and Irish Soda Bread.  
           When I first became 21, I immediately took to Bailey’s Irish Cream.  I loved the fact that it was mellow, semi-sweet, creamy and tasted very minimally of alcohol.  I’m not a big drinker by any means, but I do enjoy alcoholic beverages if they have taste value to them.  Bailey’s has it’s place.  I usually drank it around the holidays with desserts or in my coffee.  It’s definitely a relaxing and indulgent drink.  Needless to say, I had to veganize it once I gave up dairy products.  
           Irish soda bread is something I never had a home made version of as a child.  I didn’t really know what it actually tasted like.  Every version I had eaten was store bought and really dry.  Not my favorite.  But, once I started baking, I experimented with a recipe from Gluten Free and Vegan Bread, a cookbook written by the Seattle Flying Apron Bakery’s owner Jennifer Katzinger.  She has a Teff Irish Soda bread recipe that is quite good and much different than the traditional soda bread I had eaten back in the day.  Teff flour lends a nice texture and flavor to the bread as well as wholesome nutrition.  I made mine with dried cherries and it was quite tasty.
         This recipe was good, but it was on the drier side with a stronger flavor.  I wanted to create an Irish Soda bread that was a bit more mild in flavor so it could act as a canvas for any type of mix-ins.  This year, I tried Babycake’s Irish soda bread recipe.  The results were very successful.  The dough came together really fast too, which is great if you are impatient like me. =P  

Picture

Psst…those are chocolate chips! 😉

   

            Having the Irish cream and soda bread together is like St. Patty’s “tea time”, only with a bit of whiskey added in there. 😉  The Irish cream has been a big hit with my friends, who downed a good amount of it gladly.  I don’t blame them.  I actually implore that you share the batch that you make.  Otherwise, it may be gone and you may be drunk.  

          The only note I would have about this recipe is that it really does need full-fat canned coconut milk.  If you must use a processed non-dairy milk, use coconut or soy creamer.  The texture of coconut milk is almost identical to that of heavy cream and is the reason this drink is so delectable.  Go ahead, indulge a little!
          

Vegan Irish Cream
Yield: 3 1/4 cups

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup brewed coffee, cooled
  • 2 cups full fat canned coconut milk
  • 1 1/2 Tb cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup coconut sugar (adjust to taste or if using a different sweetener)
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 3/4 cup Jameson Irish whiskey
  • pinch salt

Instructions

  1. In a small saucepan, heat the coffee, milk, sugar, cocoa, and almond extract over medium-low heat.  Stir occasionally until the cocoa and sugar are completely dissolved.  Remove from heat and let cool for about 5-10 minutes.
  2. In a blender or with a whisk, incorporate the milk mixture with the remaining ingredients.  Blend thoroughly.  Best served chilled over ice or hot in coffee with a slice of Irish soda bread.  =)

I hope this recipe will tide you over until March decides to become spring.  It can’t come soon enough.  Cheers!

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