Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Incredible Edible ... Aquafaba?!

I'm putting on my half-assed vegan hat today to talk about eggs, or rather life without them. For various reasons a lot of people cannot eat eggs. They might be vegan, or allergic, or have to watch their cholesterol.

Like my half-assed vegan status, I'm half-assed off eggs. Once in a while I will order them when I'm out for breakfast, but I have cut my egg consumption down to almost nothing. It's kind of like what happened when I started cutting back on eating meat, I started losing my taste for it. And with a diary allergy, I have to watch how they are prepared.

Tofu quiche with hash brown crust
There are lots of premade egg substitutes out there, but did you know you already have egg replacements in your pantry? It's true. Applesauce, banana, and cornstarch can all be used to replace eggs in cooking depending on the recipe.

Looking for an egg-free scramble or omelet,? Look no further than tofu. I make a lot of tofu based scrambles, frittatas and quiches. All yummy and pretty much identical in taste to the egg-made counterparts. And tofu based dishes like this reheat better than the same items made with eggs.

The trick with a lot of these tofu "egg" dishes is to use some turmeric, which makes it look like eggs. After all, we eat with our eyes first. Next is to season it well. Some tofu scrambles have you make a sauce which you then stir into the cooked veggies and tofu for seasoning, and some have you blend the tofu and seasonings in a blender until its a chunky batter, then cook it. I've done both and both work. It depends on what your making. If I'm just looking to make a scramble, I prefer adding the sauce separately near the end of cooking. The Internet is filled with tofu based traditional egg dishes.

As far as baking goes, most vegans use flax eggs in place of real eggs. A flax egg is 1 tablespoon of ground flax seed combined with 3 tablespoons of water. Stir well and let rest for 5-15 minutes until it becomes a sticky egg-like consistency. You can also do this with ground chia seeds.

But if you're like me, you don't have ground flax or chia seeds hanging around. I might if I baked more, but I don't. And this brings us to the fun portion of this program:

The Amazing Aquafaba!

I'll bet you think this is some kind of fancy prepackaged egg substitute, 

Bzzzz - Wrong!

Aquafaba is something that is sweeping vegan baking and it's something most of us have right in our pantry. You see, aquafaba is just a fancy word for garbanzo/chickpea juice or liquid. That's right, the stuff you pour down the drain when you open a can of garbanzo beans!  Trust me, a lot of vegans and half-assed vegans are now saving that stuff and using it in baking. You can even freeze it.

I use a lot of garbanzo beans. It's one of my favorite proteins in my vegan cooking and there's almost nothing you can't do with or to them, but even I was surprised when I learned this.

Generally, 3 tablespoons of aquafaba replaces 1 egg. If the liquid from canned garbanzo beans seems too watery, it can be reduced down slightly until it is a little thicker and the consistency of a raw egg. I reduce mine down a little, cool it, then freeze it for later use.

I have used aquafaba as an egg replacement in pancakes and baked goods with great success. It's not something you can scramble up like real eggs or tofu, but it has a gazillion uses. And you can't even taste it in these recipes.
  • Raw: Fluffs, whips, nice creams, and drink and pie toppings
  • Baked: Meringues, macaroons, and pavlovas
  • Confectionery: nougat, marshmallows, fudge and icing
  • Savory: cakes, waffles, cookies, mayo, burgers, cheese, butter, breads, etc
Garbanzo juice - who knew?!

Meringue made with aquafaba
The official aquafaba site FAQ

And there are a couple of groups on Facebook where you can learn more:
Vegan Meringue (vegan use/discussion only)
Aquafaba Everything

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Serial Not Cereal

I confess I'm a serial writer, as opposed to a serial killer, which I might be too, considering how many bodies I've killed to date between the pages of books. I once started adding up all the bodies trailing behind my computer keyboard, but as the numbers piled up and headed toward triple digits, I became increasingly alarmed.

That many? Really? Who knew?!

But when it comes to writing stories, with or without bodies, I am a serial writer. I love writing stories about characters that don't end at the end of a book, but continue over many books, with the characters changing, developing, and growing as they face the same challenges we all face in our daily lives. Minus the string of dead bodies, of course. I also love to read serial fiction.

When I first started writing my Odelia Grey mysteries, I knew it it had potential to be a long series, if given a chance. I saw the arc of Odelia's life spanning lots of pages and time, and was very fortunate that my publisher, Midnight Ink, saw that too and purchased twelve books in the series. I'm currently writing RHYTHM & CLUES, the 11th book. It has been a very long, bumpy road for both Odelia and me.

When my Ghost of Granny Apples series began, I never saw it as going beyond three books. Really I didn't. But here I am now writing the 9th! Once THE GHOSTS OF MISTY HOLLOW is done, I will have penned six full-length novels and three novellas in this series. Again, who knew?!

2nd in series Available Here!
So when I started writing the Winnie Wilde romance novellas under the pen name of Meg Chambers, it was no surprise to me that I saw Winnie's journey of self-discovery extending over a series of short fiction instead of containing it all in one long book.

I love writing these short digital novellas filled with humor, sexy adventure, and family drama. Somewhere between a short story and a novel, they give me, the author, time to create a full story, condensed and distilled into a hundred pages or so, and leave the reader wanting more. While some earlier reviewers weren't sure about my use of this format, I think it's a perfect fit. Frankly, I'm not sure I'd want to write, or read, 350 pages of bed hopping, but this way each short novel can focus on another segment of Winnie's life, keeping on hand a core group of supporting characters, as in my mysteries series, while allowing other characters to come and go within just one book.

And sometimes the reverse happens. Years ago I started a series of short stories, the Holidays From Hell series, in which I played out a dysfunctional family's crisis against the backdrop of holidays. There are currently four short stories in this series available on Amazon. I stopped writing them a couple of years because as I developed the story of the Bowen family, especially Zelda Bowen, I realized that this story arc should be taking place within the pages of a full novel. Unfortunately, with all my other writing obligations, it has taken me quite a while to finish this book, but it is about 3/4 done and I hope to finish it up by the end of 2016. The working title is STUCK IN THE MIDDLE.  So stay tuned on the progress of that book.

But back to Winnie. A week ago the 2nd novella in this series, WILDE WOMEN, was released. The plan is to have the 3rd, WILDE AT HEART, out later this year, followed by WILDE THYME after that. I have notes on at least six books, and already can see how the series will end. Hopefully readers will be biting at the bit for each one.

After Winnie, my alter ego Meg Chambers has another romance series up her sleeve. One with a lot more possibilities. So stay tuned!

But just as someone cannot live off cereal all the time, neither can a writer live off of serials. Although born of a series, STUCK IN THE MIDDLE will be a stand alone novel, and I'm currently jotting down notes on a stand alone thriller. I also have several stand alone short stories available on Amazon for just 99 cents, and another partially completed.

Reading is a lot like eating. Sometimes we need a snack, sometimes we need a quick soup and sandwich, and sometimes we need a three course dinner.