Saturday, February 25, 2012

Vanilla Milk

Come watch as I make raw vegan Vanilla Milk with a special guest over here at

I'm so grateful for the many readers who have been part of this blog, lots of you for a very long time. I hope you'll join me as I transition to posting at In the next week or so, I'll move over there, and this site will automatically redirect. You can still find all the blog content and recipes, same as here, in an easy-to-locate format.

As always, you can connect with me through twitter and Facebook. Or, send me an email at hello at joytienzo dot com. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Raw Vanilla Bean Cheesecake

Vanilla Month continues with one of my favorite desserts: cheesecake.

The very best cheesecake is made simply--not with dairy or soy cream cheeses, but with raw cashews. Soaked overnight, the nuts blend into a luxuriously smooth cream which meets with lemon juice, zest, agave nectar, coconut oil, and flecks of vanilla bean. This mousseline mixture tops a date nut crust, which tastes of caramel and graham crackers. It's a simple, no-bake recipe, and great for pleasing all kinds of palates.

Vanilla Bean Cheesecake
12-16 servings
I swirled the cheesecake above with strawberry puree (fresh strawberries, agave, and lemon juice), and it can accommodate any topping or addition you can think of.

For the crust:
3/4 cup raw pecans
3/4 cup raw almonds
1/2 cup dried flaked coconut
1/2 cup dates (6-8 medjool)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

For the filling:
3 cups raw cashews, soaked for at least 3 hours
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup raw agave nectar
1/3 cup virgin coconut oil (any consistency is fine)
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
zest of 1 lemon
seeds scraped from 3" of vanilla bean

fresh fruit, date caramel, or fruit sauce, for serving

Make the crust:
Line a 9" round pan with plastic wrap, and set aside.

Make the crust up to two days in advance and refrigerate, covered in plastic wrap.

In a food processor, process pecans, almonds, and coconut until fine but not oily. Add dates and cinnamon, and process again, scraping down the sides as necessary. The crust it ready when it holds together when pressed against the side. Tumble mixture into prepared pan, and use the bottom of a glass to press the crust firmly into the pan. Set aside.

Soaked cashews. Why, yes! That is my cookbook in the background!

Make the filling:
Combine all filling ingredients in a blender and process until completely smooth, scraping down the sides as necessary. This may take several minutes. Pour filling onto prepared crust. To release bubbles, tap against a counter, then run a knife through the mixture in a figure-8 pattern. Smooth the top.

Refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight.

To serve, gently lift with the plastic overhang and ease onto a platter. Pull out plastic from underneath. Using a small offset spatula, smooth creases from the sides. Serve topped with fresh fruit, date caramel, or fruit sauce.

This is the last photo I have, because it's still chilling in the freezer. Tonight, I'm surprising my Mr. with twitter founder Biz Stone's Seitan Bourguignon over polenta and this cheesecake (don't worry; he doesn't read the blog!). I'll post a photo as soon as it's finished. It's going to go right here:

I hope you're celebrating love in some little way, whether it's meeting girlfriends for drinks or savoring a good piece of chocolate and a cup of tea late into the night. Happy Valentine's Day.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Go Vegan for Lent!

If you're interested in going vegan for the upcoming Lenten season, the guide is now available. It's full of recipes and resources, and it's free.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

New! Now, with Cookbooks!

Come on over and join me at my fresh, glowy site.

And while you're at it, order your signed copy of Cook, Eat, Thrive, because IT'S COMING! More details this way. Follow me.

But oh! Before you go, take a moment to vote for me for The 25 Best Vegan and Vegetarian Moms. Thanks, and I'll see you over here.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Vanilla Vinegar

Made with white balsamic, at Enchanted Spice Recipes

Scent provides the most vivid link to memory, and serves as a powerful representation of events and places. I remember my first apartment, and the smell of chlorine (from the pool), mint (growning in the courtyard), and a peculiar carpet odor. When I think of India, my nose prickles with the scent of coconut hair oil, the ground after rain, and incinerating garbage. And until recently, the idea of vanilla brought to mind cloying drugstore fragrances and intolerably scented candles.

But not anymore.

Now properly schooled in the ways of vanilla, I associate the flavor with a delicate waft of tropical blossoms, and marshmallows eaten slowly, their powdery coatings licked from each finger. Vanilla is the smell of macaroons and good cream soda, of warm sea air, sugary custard...

Although vanilla beans look similar to green beans or other pod-based plants, they are part of the orchid family. Most are grown in Madagascar, Tahiti, or Mexico, and are one of the most labor-intensive crops to cultivate. After a ten-month maturation period, they are harvested as each individual bean achieves its perfect ripeness. The beans are then cured, sorted, and graded according to size, appearance, and moisture content. This rigorous process allows the best beans to command steep prices for use in culinary applications.

Fortunately, using the vanilla bean isn't nearly as labor-intensive. In recipes where the flavor of vanilla is a supporting element, or the tiny flecks would be lost--like most cookies--the extract is preferable. If, however, the seeds will remain visible, and the delicate, pure flavor of vanilla is desired, a vanilla bean is the best choice. 1" of vanilla bean is equivalent to about 1 teaspoon of extract.

When purchasing vanilla beans, look for plump, dark pods that appear slightly shiny on the surface. Be sure they are packaged in an airtight container like a corked vial or plastic-lined spice jar. When you buy the beans whole, shop around; they can usually be found for less than $1 per bean.

After you've scraped the seeds from a bean, they can still be used to infuse foods with flavor. Toss a spent pod into your sugar tub for vanilla sugar. Simmer it with hot cocoa or dessert sauces. Even steep it in vinegar for unique savory dishes and vinaigrettes, as below.

Vanilla extract is simple to make: Place 1-2 vanilla beans in a glass jar and fill with 1 cup of your favorite vodka. Place in a dark space, shaking occasionally, and allow to steep for 1 month.

Another simple thing to do with vanilla is steep it in a neutral-flavored vinegar. Balsamic varieties abound, but I prefer a lighter vinegar to emphasize the sweet, delicate nature of the bean.

Vanilla Vinegar
2 cups
Add this unique and tangy liquid to sauces, dressings, drinks, or anywhere vinegar is called for.

2 cup white wine, champagne, raw coconut, or white balsamic vinegar
1 whole vanilla bean

Pour the vinegar into a mason jar or other glass jar (an old vinegar bottle is ideal for this). Split the bean lengthwise, and use a knife to scrape the seeds into the bottle. Add the bean, cover, and give the jar a gentle shake. If you prefer the vinegar without the tiny seeds, double the amount of vanilla beans and leave the bean whole.

Allow it to sit for at least a week, and up to several months, to develop flavor. Before using the vinegar, gently shake the bottle to stir up any seeds that have sunk to the bottom.

One of the loveliest uses for the vinegar is in this tangy, old school tonic.

Vanilla Fizz
2 servings

vanilla sugar, for serving
1 tablespoon agave nectar
1 tablespoon Vanilla Vinegar
1 cup raspberries
2 cups unflavored sparkling water
spritz of lemon (optional)

Wet the edges of two glasses and dip in vanilla sugar. Set aside to dry.

In a small bowl, muddle together the agave nectar, Vanilla Vinegar, and raspberries until the raspberries bleed. Divide the mixture between the prepared glasses, and top with sparkling water, stirring briefly to combine. Add a spritz of lemon, if you like, and serve immediately.