Oatmeal Flax Pancakes with Fresh Fruit Syrup -or- My New Vitamix, a Novel

I finally broke down and bought the Vitamix I’ve been lusting over for the past couple of years.  I’ve watched the Vitamix Lady’s demonstrations on YouTube, seen demonstrations at Whole Foods, and read about how awesome they are, but I just couldn’t justify forking over $500 for a blender (blasphemy to call it that now, I know; it needs its own category). I thought there’s no way it could be worth that much.

One night a few weeks ago, I found myself watching the videos again.  Lea Ann (“the Vitamix lady”) has a lot of great information about the nutrients we can get from fruits and vegetables that have been blended in the Vitamix as opposed to using a regular blender or chewing them with our teeth.  The amazing power of the Vitamix breaks down seeds, stems, leaves, skins, etc to the cellular level, unlocking a lot of nutrients that generally pass straight through our bodies, unutilized.  Ok, so it’s amazing, but still… $500+?  I pay less than that for 6-months of car insurance!

I decided to email Lea Ann for more information.  What I really wanted was for her to justify the price.  I wanted to be convinced it was worth it.  She sent me SO much information, there’s no way I could fit it into a blog, but she sure did convince me.  Not only that, but she really educated me on the value of the refurbished 5200 model and saved me a lot of money.  I got it for around $350 with tax and she included all sorts of free goodies, including 2 huge cookbooks, 3 spatulas, 4 cutting boards, and a nutmilk bag for straining fresh almond milk, rice milk, etc.

I must admit, when it arrived last week (with free shipping – thank you Lea Ann!), I was a bit intimidated.  It’s HUGE!  You can see below that it towers over my Oster blender.

vitamixThe base that the motor is housed in is double the size of my blender and the pitcher holds 64 oz, so it’s pretty big too.  I had watched videos where people mentioned using it incorrectly and “re-painting” their kitchen with smoothie, so I was a little anxious about using it for the first time.  I read all of the instructions and watched the DVDs and my mind was put at ease.  Although it has a knob with 10 settings and two switches, it’s not complicated at all.  I had absolutely no issues my first go, which was this morning.  And that brings me to the recipes (and more Vitamix bragging)…

I used the Fresh Fruit Syrup and Oatmeal Cranberry Pancake recipes from the large, gorgeous, colorful Live Fresh cookbook that Lea Ann included.

Fresh Fruit Syrup
3 cups fresh or frozen fruit (if using frozen, thaw first)  I used strawberries and blueberries)
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Put everything in the Vitamix in the order listed.  Select Variable 1 and turn the machine on.  Slowly increase the speed to 10 and then flip the switch to high.  Blend for 3-4 minutes.

Ok comments on this are necessary because this was my first recipe ever made in my new Vitamix.  First, it’s not as loud as I thought it would be.  It’s actually not as loud as my Oster!  I read a Vitamix review online that said it was as loud as a lawnmower and that’s just not true.  I was initially worried about having to blend recipes 5-7 minutes since I live in an apartment.  I didn’t want people banging on the walls or complaining, but that’s not going to happen. Again, it’s not as loud as my Oster, which I actually have to stick my fingers in while I use because it’s so loud.  No earplugs required with the Vitamix!

As you can see below, it made a beautiful colored syrup.  When I’ve made smoothies in my Oster before with strawberries and blueberries, no matter how long or how fast I blended, it would always have strawberry seeds and bits of blueberry skin in the finished product.  NOT WITH THE VITAMIX!  After 3 minutes, I had silky smooth fruit syrup with not a trace of seed or skin and I actually got giddy and did a little dance when I opened the container. It was steaming!  Warm fresh fruit syrup?  YES PLEASE!

You can see below how the color changed in the 3 minutes it blended.  The end result is slightly darker because the strawberry seeds and blueberry skins have been fully broken down.

fruit syrup 1 fruit syrup 2

While the syrup was blending, I got my skillet oiled and pre-heated and gathered my ingredients for the pancake mix. I gave the Vitamix a quick rinse in the sink and then started the pancake batter…

Oatmeal Cranberry Pancakes
1 1/2 cups soy milk (I used almond)
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup flaxseed meal
3/4 cup uncooked rolled oats
1/4 cup dried cranberries (I used raisins)
2 tablespoons sunflower seeds (I omitted because I didn’t have any)

Put the first 6 ingredients in the Vitamix.  Select variable 1, slowly increase the speed to 10, and then flip the switch to high.  Blend 20 seconds then turn off.

Add the oats, cranberries, and sunflower seeds.  Select variable 1, turn on, and blend for 15 seconds, using the tamper to press the ingredients into the blades.  Let the batter sit for 5-10 minutes.

The batter will be thick.  These pancakes are hearty and very filling.  I used my Vitamix spatula to scoop the batter into the pan and then spread it out a little.  Cook 2 minutes on each side on medium heat, spraying the pan with non-stick spray in between flips.

oatmeal pancakes with fruit syrup

I know this isn’t the greatest pic.  It looks more like country fried steak drenched in something unmentionable, but I promise it tasted delish!  The fruit syrup is not overly sweet, but just sweet enough.  I felt very healthy eating this dish.  My blood sugar didn’t spike and then drop like it does when I use maple syrup.  After 2 pancakes, I was completely full and stayed satisfied until lunch.  My partner said this was her “favorite breakfast ever.”

Lea Ann told me cleanup would be easy, but when I saw that thick pancake batter all over the container, I had my doubts.  Despite my Vitamix noobie skepticism, I did just what she had told me to do.  I filled the container half full with warm water, put a tiny drop of dish liquid, and blended on high for 30 seconds.  CLEAN!  Rinse, leave it upside down on a dish towel and walk away.  It couldn’t be any easier than that!

I’m so excited… let’s see what else I can blend…

Vitamix FTW!

 

Hearty Tomato Stew (a farewell to winter)

Since winter has decided to give us an encore performance, I made one last stew to see the cold season on its way.  I love tomato soup and grilled cheese, but tomato soup always leaves me unsatisfied.  If it doesn’t require any chewing, I’m most likely going to feel hungry 20 minutes later.  I call this a stew instead of a soup because if you puree half and leave half chunky, you get a rich, thick, hearty result that “sticks to your ribs” as folks say.  I couldn’t even finish my grilled cheese I felt so full!

I had some chickpeas in the freezer, but you could also use navy, cannellini, or any white bean would be nice.

1 medium onion, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
Two 28 oz cans whole plum tomatoes with juice
1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained (or 1 ½ cups cooked from dried)
1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro (depending on your taste)
1 cup vegetable broth
salt and pepper
sugar or agave, to taste (optional – see note below)

Saute the onion in olive oil over medium heat for 6 minutes.  Add the garlic and saute for another minute.

Tear the tomatoes into chunks with your fingers (careful not to squirt yourself in the eye with tomato juice) and add them to the pot.  Or if you’re civilized, you can chop them on a cutting board, but I like to hold them over the pot and tear them so I don’t miss any of the juice and because I like the more rustic chunks than unified pieces for this stew.

Add the leftover juice from the tomatoes, chickpeas, broth, and a couple pinches of black pepper.  Cover and bring just to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

While the soup is simmering, wash and chop the cilantro.  After the 15 minutes is up, add the cilantro and salt to taste.  At this point, the stew is done.  You can enjoy as is, transfer to a blender (carefully!) and puree the whole thing, or use an immersion blender to puree half (which is my favorite method because you get a slightly creamy, mostly chunky result that doesn’t feel like you’re just drinking hot liquid.)

Note:  If the soup taste a little too acidic to you (this will depend on the tomatoes), add a 1/2 teaspoon of sugar or agave at a time until it balances out.  I ended up adding about 1 teaspoon to mine to get it right.

I suggest a Daiya grilled cheese for dunking!

Vegan Jalapeño Cheddar Cornbread

It just occurred to me today that this is a “Southern” blog and I’ve never posted a recipe for cornbread! Of course I’ve modified it, but if you want plain ‘ol cornbread (as seen below), just leave out the jalapeños and cheddar!

cornbread

My adaptation of Skillet Cornbread from Isa Moskowitz’s cookbook Veganomicon.

2 cups almond milk (you can use soy, but don’t use rice, flax, oat, or coconut as they don’t react the same way with the vinegar)
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
2 cups yellow cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose, unbleached flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup shredded Daiya cheddar
2 jalapeños, seeded and finely chopped

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. I like to make my cornbread in an iron skillet, so I spray it with a little non-stick spray and place it in the oven while it’s heating, but you can also make this in a pie plate or a cake ban too.

Combine the almond milk and vinegar and set aside to curdle.

Sift together the cornmeal, flour, salt, sugar, and baking powder. Use a spoon to create a space (called a well) in the middle of your dry ingredients and pour in the oil and almond milk mixture. Mix well and then fold in the cheddar and jalapeños, if using.

Pour into your prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes.

PS This is awesome served with Earth Balance Buttery Spread!

Earth Balance Vegan White Cheddar Popcorn (Product Review)

Maybe my taste buds are just too needy, or maybe they’ve been over-stimulated by cheap, horrible, artificial ingredients for way too long, but most vegan pre-packaged snacks just have no flavor to me.  I guess I expect too much when I tear open a package of something that isn’t laden with crap ingredients and expect it to wow me, but I am well aware that vegan food can be so good it’s like a flavor punch to the face, so why, oh why, can’t I get that from most vegan convenience foods?

I don’t rely on these “easy” foods very often.  I cook every night of the week and everything I make is from scratch, so perhaps I’ve just spoiled myself that way.  But it seems like if I can make flavorful snacks like buttery cheesy vegan popcorn at home, why can’t awesome brands like Earth Balance?

Don’t get me wrong.  I LOVE Earth Balance products.  I use their mayo, butter, and shortening on a regular basis and have not found any other vegan products that compare. But they sort of let me down on this one…

popcorn

 

The white cheddar flavor is very light.  My taste buds barely detected it.  And as far as the claim that they used their Buttery Spread, I couldn’t taste any trace of that at all.  The teensy bit of saltyness was the only (somewhat) redeeming quality about this snack, but they could have doubled the salt, in my opinion.  So overall, not something I would buy again.

If you’re looking for buttery cheesy goodness on your popcorn, pour 1/4 cup corn kernels into a brown paper lunch sack and fold the top over twice (small folds). You don’t need oil or anything else in the bag! Lay the bag down in the microwave and set it for about 2 minutes.  As with all popcorn, when the popping slows down to 2-3 seconds between pop, take it out.  Pour the popped corn in to a bowl and drizzle melted Earth Balance Buttery Spread over the top (about a Tablespoon) and sprinkle with salt and nutritional yeast.  Flavor city!