Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Vegan MoFo: That survey that everyone else did ages ago

Well, last, but not least. Actually, boring baby vegan that I am, I probably am least.

1. Favourite non-dairy milk?

Living Harvest Hempmilk, no question. If it didn't exist, though, I'd go with Vitasoy Green Tea or Vitasoy Holly Nog.

2. What are the top 3 dishes/recipes you are planning to cook?

My birthday cake, Christmas cookies, and Chili Sin Carne from Vegan with a Vengeance.

3. Topping of choice for popcorn?

Melted Earth Balance and salt, obviously. Freaks.

4. Most disastrous recipe/meal failure?

"Improvised" maple walnut cookies. They were very, very loosely based on an internet recipe that called for baking soda. That was pretty much all you could taste in the cookies. Blech.

5. Favourite pickled item?

I don't really like pickled anything... wait, are capers pickled? I can handle small quantities of capers.

6. How do you organize your recipes?

I don't.

7. Compost, trash, or garbage disposal?


8. If you were stranded on an island and could only bring 3 foods…what would they be (don’t worry about how you’ll cook them)?

Hmm. Right now, the whim says kale, pears, and chocolate.

9. Fondest food memory from your childhood?

My grandmother used to make hundreds of Christmas cookies each year, and that's not a child's exaggeration--she would make 4 dozen or so of at least four or five kinds. I was in cookie heaven. So were my many cookie-fiend uncles.

10. Favourite vegan ice cream?

The fruit-sweetened Soy Delicious, particularly almond-pecan. It hurts me that I can't find it anywhere near me.

11. Most loved kitchen appliance?

It's a tie between my cast iron pan and my immersion blender. I couldn't do anything in the kitchen without either.

12. Spice/herb you would die without?

Cinnamon, without contest. But I'm also very fond of cloves, oregano, and yellow curry powder.

13. Cookbook you have owned for the longest time?

I had an Alphabet Cookbook when I was little (one recipe for every letter of the alphabet), and my mom and I always made pinwheel cookies from it together. When I go home over winter break, I'm going to try and find it and do some veganizing.

14. Favourite flavor of jam/jelly?

Toss up between raspberry and black cherry.

15. Favourite vegan recipe to serve to an omni friend?

PPK Pumpkin chocolate chip bars.

16. Seitan, tofu, or tempeh?

I use tofu more, but seitan. It just has a better texture.

17. Favorite meal to cook (or time of day to cook)?


18. What is sitting on top of your refrigerator?

My electric kettle. We don't use it, my housemate has a better one.

19. Name 3 items in your freezer without looking.

Frozen strawberries, pita bread, lite coconut milk. Why I froze it in a plastic tupperware is beyond me.

20. What’s on your grocery list?

Um... Birthday cake stuff, hempmilk, agave, soy yogurt, sprouts, salad greens

21. Favourite grocery store?

Open Harvest, a whole foods co-op in Lincoln, NE. I haven't lived in Lincoln for three and a half years,a nd I miss it like I miss my cat.

22. Name a recipe you’d love to veganize, but haven’t yet.

I'm going to base my birthday cake on an online recipe. Veganizing it will be the least of the changes, though...

23. Food blog you read the most (besides Isa’s because I know you check it everyday). Or maybe the top 3?

Have Cake, Will Travel, Fatfree Vegan, and Where's the Revolution

24. Favourite vegan candy/chocolate?

Maya Gold. No question.

25. Most extravagant food item purchased lately?

Whole organic vanilla beans, at $10 for two. Shoot me.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Vegan MoFo: FINALLY.

Alright, THIS is what I wanted to post on Thanksgiving, but most unfortunately couldn't.
I'm probably the last vegan on the planet to make pumpkin chocolate chip squares, but just in case I'm not: here. I upped the pumpkin, the spice, and added a couple of tablespoons of brown sugar, because you can't have too much of a good thing. And oooooh, is it good!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Vegan MoFo: Bad Vegan Blogger

Alright, I lose. I missed two days in a row. See, I'm in DC without my computer, and while I stored a bunch of pictures and things online so that I could put them on the blog without my computer, the computer that I'm using instead of my computer might as well not be a computer at all, because it won't post photos that I already put online. Whew.

So, I didn't do Friday or Saturday. I didn't have much to talk about any way: I've been eating salads (without complaint--I like salads!) and rolls from Whole Foods while I've been here and seeing plays--exciting on an intellectual level, but not too exciting on the vegan front.

But it did occur to me that vegan restaurant reviews can be lacking, and maybe that's where I can be of use. Now, I'm not such an epicure as to talk about mouth feel and bouquet, but I can tell you what I thought of the few places that I ate out here, and I can make it short, sweet, and accessible.

Sticky Fingers Bakery: I wouldn't miss any vegan bakery anywhere, given the chance to go. I'm so happy that they exist that I'm generally always willing to fork out $15 (which is what I spent on lunch) just to be able to order anything on the menu. That said, Sticky Fingers didn't knock my socks off. Don't get me wrong, everything I had was good, but nothing was great. The cinnamon roll was actually a little disappointing--I am a HUGE cinnamon roll afficianado, and I had kind of hoped for the overly-sweet, truly sticky Cinnabon type of cinnamon roll, rather than a more traditional, fluffy, gently sweet one. I suppose it's for the better--Cinnabon always made me sick, anyway.

Busboys and Poets: I gorged on leftover Tofurkey before eating here (not because I thought I wouldn't be able to find good food--it's just that the leftovers were taunting me), so I didn't have much of an appetite before I arrived. It's a pity, though, because they had a large, varied menu. My one complaint is that they marked their vegetarian items, but they could have been a lot clearer about which items were vegan. The servers seemed pretty well-informed, though, so I guess it could have been worse. Actually, I overall give this place two thumbs up. Considering how much I ate before I went, it's pretty impressive that I managed to put away soup, a mojito, and a vegan cupcake. Yum.

Cafe Asia: There was only one vegan item on the menu, but they were clear about it (what I originally tried to order contained fish--I'm so glad that the waiter warned me!). So, they're not great as selection goes, but I must say, that the one item--I don't recall the name, since I told the waiter that I would order whatever the purely vegan meal was--was delicious. It was a lightly fried tofu in panko with carrots and broccoli, in a completely divine sauce.

I would go to any of these places again. In the meantime, though, I clearly need to make my own cinnamon rolls.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Vegan MoFo: Pictures to come?

Well, although I saved them online, the computer that I'm using at my uncle's house doesn't want me to post pictures on Blogger. Anti-vegan conspiracy, or an outmoded computer? You decide.

And in the meanwhile, have a very happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Vegan MoFo: Good Food for a Bad Day

Well, it's not really a bad day, but it is a pretty annoying day: I ordered a pair of rain boots a week ago, and they've only just shipped today--and we're having what feels like a monsoon; my housemates left so many dirty dishes on the counter and in the sink that I couldn't make my lunch without washing them first; the same housemates are now downstairs playing Grand Theft Auto very loudly, so I have to go all the way to the library to write my paper, despite the fact that it's pouring out. Hmph.

Well, at least my belly is full, and the ten minutes that I spent wolfing down my lunch were delightful. Plus, I have a recipe that's actually worth sharing! This dish has plenty of phytonutrients, but it doesn't have a "health food" taste. It's because of all the fat. Healthy fat, mind you.
Loaded Couscous
½ C Israeli couscous
½ C leek, sliced
1 Tbsp. olive oil (omit if using sundried tomatoes in oil)
¼ C golden raisins
1½ C baby spinach
¼ C sundried tomatoes
¼ C kalamata olives, coarsely chopped
½ tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp. oregano
2 Tbsp. sliced almonds (for garnish)
salt and pepper to taste

Boil the couscous in a large saucepan (I used my 3-quart, but 2-quart would be fine) for about 7 minutes while you chop leeks, olives, almonds, etc (I’m super lazy and I bought sundried tomatoes in strips). After seven or eight minutes, pour most of the water out of the pot so that only half an inch remains. Pour it slowly, or you’ll lose a lot of couscous!

Put the pot back on the stove, and lower the burner heat to medium. Add the baby spinach, and leek, and stir for a minute or so until the spinach shrinks. Add the oil (if you’re using sundried tomatoes packaged in oil, it adds a nice flavor to use the oil from the jar—if you don’t rinse the tomatoes off before measuring them, you don’t even need to add oil separately, you’ll get more than enough with the tomatoes). Add the raisins, tomatoes, and olives, and stir until heated through. Add a little more water if the couscous is sticking to the pan. Before serving, stir in the pepper flakes and the oregano. Garnish with sliced almonds. Serves two.

About 320 calories per serving, based upon two servings

As a bonus, it's so photogenic that even my camera can take a nice shot of it! Yum.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Vegan MoFo: Vegan Karma

At risk of sounding majorly idealistic (and just dumb), I must admit that I'm beginning to believe in vegan karma. If you truly want something but aren't willing to deviate from your diet, the universe will provide! After I wrote about my vegan clotted cream, commentators here on the blog and on the PPK forums said that they had wanted clotted cream sometime since becoming vegan. Recently, I've been at a few restaurants where I used to order creme brulee for dessert (yes, I know that's a lot of saturated fat. Shut up, it tasted good), and I was just thinking earlier about how much I would love to find a vegan version when I stumbled upon two in one day, including this one! Yea, if ye shall be faithful vegans, the universe will provide!

Well, maybe not exactly, but I do really love that vegandom imparts a sense of community. Is that a dumb thing to say? Well, dumb or not, it's accurate--the fact that the vegans of the world can't just go to any local French cafe and order a creme brulee aside their cafe au (soy) lait provides quite the impetus for vegans of the world to get together and share what they know. It's like the cultural feminism of the food world, but reasonable, realistic, and non-essentialized!

Alright, that sentence is a sign that I need to be doing school work, not Vegan MoFo. But I'm still glad for Vegan MoFo, because it makes me believe, as I suggested, that the (vegans of the) universe will guide us to find what we want.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Vegan MoFo: You have given me cake when I have asked for bread and butter!

It's tea time!
Here's my vegan confession: when I first thought about changing my diet, I was planning on becoming 95% vegan, but allowing myself a little cheese at fancy restaurants every so often, and Devonshire cream whenever I went to tea in England. When I realized that I could be 100% vegan and be happy (and take a load off my conscious), the only thing I thought I would really miss was clotted cream. It's not that I have any special affection for raw milk goo; it's just that it's such a quintessential part of tea time. To miss the clotted cream is to miss the experience.

Fortunately, you can't actually get Devonshire cream outside of England--as aforementioned, it's made with raw milk, which makes it both not vegan and not legal. I grew up watching my mom make a substitute with cream cheese, so I decided to get out the Tofutti and see what I could do.

I didn't want to just add sugar to my vegan cream cheese. First of all, it's rather uncreative, second of all, my Mom's fake clotted cream was always a little too sweet and tangy--sorry Mom! But I admit, I didn't exactly do a whole lot more than that. Clotted cream is mostly fat anyway, so Earth Balance seemed like the perfect addition to mellow out the cream-cheesey taste of the Tofutti. A small amount of sugar evened out the sourness (is that a word? It looks misspelled), and a little bit of soy creamer smoothed it all out.

The verdict? I personally had to restrain myself from eating it with a spoon before my guests arrived, but I'm glad I did, because they both had two scones (orange-glazed from Vegan with a Vengeance) and positively slathered them with my clotted non-cream. One friend told me that she couldn't taste a difference between my concoction and the Devonshire cream she ate in England. Another friend, a self-proclaimed carnivore (he claims to be unable to make a salad without bacon grease. I claim that if it weren't for all the coke he does, he'd be fat), was still raving about tea time chez Gwenlet at a party a week later. Mission accomplished!

This isn't much of a recipe, but it does seem to be the magic formula, so it is with great pleasure that I share it with you:

Clotted Non-Cream
2 Tbsp. Earth Balance, cold
2 Tbsp. Tofutti Cream Cheese, cold
1 Tbsp. Vanilla soy creamer
1 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. powdered sugar

Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl (or large cup) until they’re incorporated. Mix with a hand blender to remove all the chunks. Let sit in the refrigerator for 10 minutes or more to thicken before serving. Serve with scones and a British dialect.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Vegan MoFo: This is such college food.

I love peanut butter. Who doesn't? But that's a silly thing to say--it's completely obvious, because everyone loves peanut butter. My peanut butter dilemma, however, probably isn't universal, but I bet some of you can sympathize. I have no bread in the house whatsoever. I'm cutting down on refined grains, and my intense love of couscous and pasta don't leave any
room for bread. I occasionally use peanut butter for sauces and dressings, so I always have some, but see, it was getting lonely. It just wasn't getting enough attention. I always have some jelly on hand for when I have my friends over for tea (shut up. It's fun), but unless were to cave and get bread, how could the two meet? And even if had caved and get bread--it would have been an entire loaf of bread! Unacceptable! All the non-pasta grain must be barley, rice, oatmeal, or quinoa, so help me God! Hey... hold on a second here... oatmeal!

And so, history was made. And it was goooood.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Vegan MoFo: a PSA

It's 9:24 PM. Do you know where your Vitasoy Holly Nog is? Vegans, please take the time to call a local retailer and find out. They want to know you care.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Vegan MoFo: Back to Basics

Vegan food has come a long way since the term "vegan" was born in 1944. Hell, it's even come a long way since my first vegetarian meet-up (I was 8. I remember being served a sort of seaweed-shake-thing that tasted quite a bit like Maalox). Still, you gotta love the classics. I enjoy a vegan cupcake as much as the next girl, but I love, love, love rice and beans.

Pictured here is wild rice and kidney beans, seasoned with turmeric, chili powder, and lime juice. As you can see, I had a lot of broccoli to use, as well as green pepper, shiitake mushrooms, and avocado as a garnish. This was good and I would make it again, but I wanna know about your rice and beans--how do you do it?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Vegan MoFo: Trying a new grain

I'm cheating a little bit here: I've had quinoa. In fact, I've had it enough in my life that when I struck out on my own, I had little to no interest in making it for myself. See, my mom used to serve it a lot-- boiled, salted, and with a drop (seriously) of olive oil. It wasn't bad, but it sure as hell wasn't that exciting.

But I've had success with all the recipes I've tried from Vegan with a Vengeance, and my intense, almost unhealthy love of red pepper made me decide to try the quinoa, black bean, and mushroom stuffed red pepper. I only ran into one problem with the recipe, but it was a pretty big one--I couldn't find any red peppers. So, I just sort of ended up with quinoa... stuff.

But, apprehensive as I was, it was great! I souped it up with some broccoli and spinach, and, um, flat out forgot the spinach, and it still, somehow (miraculously) turned out not only edible, but delightful! Vegan with a Vengeance is my favorite cookbook (of course, I don't yet have Veganomicon--the recipes are so fantastic that even a scatterbrained cook like me can butcher them and still end up with a good meal.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Vegan MoFo: Putting Out...

. . . recipes. The pictures in yesterday's entry were the most successful meal I've ever made. Of coures, I made it over fall break, and I spent about two and a half hours on it (seriously impossible in my current life), so I guess that makes sense. I could go on about why it's special--my family's British, I'm trying to get citizenship and move, British food isn't always vegan friendly, yadda yadda yadda--but I think I'll just give you the recipes instead.

Lamb-Friendly Shepherd’s Pie

2 C chickpeas, cooked
2 C Great Northern beans, cooked
4 tsp. Bragg’s Liquid Aminos
3 tsp. Liquid Smoke
1 tsp. Fresh or Dried Rosemary, Chopped
1 tsp. Dried Thyme
1 tsp. Dried Sage
¼ tsp. Dried Mint Leaves
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1/3 C chopped leeks
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
1 ½ tsp. Vegan Beef-flavored Broth Powder
¾ C warm water
1/3 C apple cider or juice
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 C frozen peas
4 medium-large Yukon Gold potatoes
generous ½ C plain soymilk
3 Tbsp. Earth Balance Margarine
salt to taste

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Dissolve broth powder in warm water; set aside. Mash chickpeas and Great North beans together in a large mixing bowl until pasty, but leaving some pieces of bean. Mix in two or three tablespoons of the broth mixture, along with the liquid smoke, Bragg’s, and herbs. Set aside.

In a large frying pain, heat leeks and carrots on medium-hot. When the leeks are aromatic, add the bean mixture. Continue to stir it well; the bean mixture will stick to the bottom of the pan if you’re not careful. After a few minutes, when the bean mixture is heated through, add the remaining broth, the apple cider, and the tomato paste; stir well. Allow the mixture to bubble and reduce for 5-10 minutes, again, stirring to make sure that it doesn’t burn. When the mixture is thick and not liquid-y, add the frozen peas. Stir until they’re evenly mixed in, and then scoop the mixture into a 1 ½ quart baking pan. Set aside.

Cut the potatoes into quarters, peeled or unpeeled, and boil them in salted water until they’re tender (about 20-25) minutes, then drain. In a large mixing bowl, mash them with the soymilk Earth Balance, and salt.

Spread the mashed potatoes on top of the bean mixture, crosshatch with a fork, and bake until the top is golden, approximately 35 minutes. Serves 8.

Butter-ish Scotch Pudding

1 ½ C French Vanilla Soy Creamer
3 Tbsp. cornstarch
½ tsp. Ener-G Egg Replacer
¼ C brown sugar
2 Tbsp. molasses
Pinch salt
1 Tbsp. Earth Balance Margarine
3 Tbsp. Scotch
1 tsp. Vanilla Extract

Whisk ½ cup of the soy creamer with the cornstarch and Ener-g until they’re well-incorporated; set aside.

Combine the remaining soy creamer, brown sugar, molasses, and salt (since Earth Balance is salted, go easy on the salt—you won’t regret it), and heat on medium or medium-high, whisking all the while to be sure that the sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil, and when the sugar is fully dissolved, slowly mix the hot creamer into the creamer with the cornstarch.

Return to the same saucepan and heat, this time on medium-low, whisking until it starts to boil and thickens; it should take 5-10 minutes. When it’s thick, remove it from heat, and mix in the scotch (I used 3 T because I like it to taste pretty strong, but you might like to use less), Earth Balance, and vanilla. Allow it to cool, and divide into three ramekins. Cover and chill until serving (three hours or more is ideal). Serves 3 (obviously).

Monday, November 12, 2007

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Vegan MoFo: Pizza!

Okay, my last two posts of have been really sucky, so I'll be more charming and interesting today to make up for it. Actually, I'm a little hung over (see yesterday's post), so I can't guarantee that I'll be charming, but I can give you a pizza recipe.

It's too bad that we associate pizza with junk food. Of course, it often is. Consider the average pizza-joint pizza: overly-sweet marinara on a nutritionally empty crust, covered in flavorless cheese that's inundated with grease. Yes, it's safe to say that too much Domino's will not help you get fit.

But who says that all pizza has to be like Domino's? Whole wheat crusts taste much more complex and interesting than ones made with bleached, refined flour. Pizza sauce doesn't need sugar or sodium. I put FYH cheddar and Tofutti cream cheese on the pictured pie, but it was mostly because wanted to use them up. I actually think that cheeseless pizza can be much better than pizza that's smothered in saturated fa--I mean, cheese. Roasted eggplants, fresh tomatoes, and roasted garlic are an amazing pizza combo that could only possibly be diminished by the addition of drippy, pus-filled cheese. But I digress--pizza topping preferences are as beautiful and unique as snowflakes, and therefore, I'll give you my crust and sauce recipe, so you can do with them as you please.

Gwenlet Piglet Pizza Crust
I used beer as a leavening agent instead of yeast here because I'm lazy. I'm also a college student, and beer is pretty much omnipresent. The vital wheat gluten adds a little protein to the crust, and makes it moister and springier. And everyone likes springy pizza.

½ C +1 Tbsp. whole wheat pastry flour
½ C AP flour
1 Tbsp. vital wheat gluten
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
4 oz. beer of your choice (I like Sam Adams Oktoberfest)

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Sift together the flours, salt, and the baking powder. Add the beer, mix it until it's incorporated, and then knead it with your hands. The dough doesn’t need to rise, but it’ll be pretty sticky (handle it with wet hands). Turn the dough out onto a cookie sheet (covering it with parchment paper makes the bottom of the crust nice and crisp), and flatten it with your hands, making an indentation in the middle for the sauce and toppings. Once you've assembled your pizza, bake it for 15-20 minutes, until the crust is golden and dark around the edges.

Yet Unnamed Pizza Sauce
Unlike a lot of tomato sauces, this one actually counts as a serving of vegetables, and won't give you hypertension. I like it on pasta, too.

2 tomatoes
1 red pepper
2 garlic cloves
2 + tsp. dried oregano
½ tsp. dried rosemary
5-10 fresh basil leaves

Roast the garlic cloves in an oven or a toaster oven. Slice and roast the red pepper in a cast iron pan over medium high heat, until the skin blackens. Using a blender or an immersion blender, blend the tomato, garlic cloves, basil, and red pepper together. Mix the oregano and rosemary into the sauce, and pour it onto the pizza.

Topped with veggies and divided into three slices, this pizza comes out to about 210 calories per slice, low in sugar, sodium, and really low in fat. Does that sound like junk food to you?

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Vegan MoFo: I DIDN'T forget!

I'm just late. And only by 11 minutes. And hey, it's still the tenth in three quarters of the country, so blogging at 12:11 AM is really totally legit, if you think about it.

I went to Cosimo's in the Hudson River Valley tonight. It has vegan pasta (though only one variety), vegan pizza crust, vegan bread baskets, and vegan love. Go call up a local Italian restaurant next time you're not sure if you can find vegan food--more likely than not, they'll be able to accomodate you.

I'm drunk. I'll do a better MoFo tomorrow.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Vegan MoFo: Stumped!

It's kind of embarrassing that I'm nine days (or, for me, six) into Vegan MoFo, and I'm already out of ideas. No, scratch that; I'm out of topics. I'd love to throw a vegan dinner party and write about that; I'd love to spend a day volunteering at an a farm sanctuary and write about that (that's actually a possibility, if I get a move on this 30 pages paper--but not for a few weeks at a minimum); I'd really, REALLY love to spend all day experimenting with original cookie recipes, but since I'm trying to shed a little weight/not get sick while the rest of my housemates are wheezing, that's not even a vague possibility.

So, even though I've been living off leftovers (supplemented with lots of oranges and antioxidant-rich broccoli to ward off the debilitating sickness that's reigning supreme in my house) and fretting about my reading rather than being brilliant in the kitchen, what I can do is give you recipes. Whenever I create something I love, I write down what I did so that I can make it again. Now, it's all nothing fancy; I'm not these people. But while their creations may be exciting, sophisticated, and gourmet, there's something to be said for cheap, fast, and easy, too.

So, without further ado, here's some schtuff I make:

Forgive the cutesy name of this one. I made this on a day when I missed greasy, drive-through Chinese restaurant Vegetable Fried Rice, the kind with questionable bits of egg in it. Fortunately, I don't miss it anymore, because I created something better:
Tof-egg Fried Rice:
1/3 C brown or wild rice
½ lb. firm or extra-firm tofu
2 Tbsp. + 2 tsp. soy sauce
½ C. white wine
½ tsp. Indian black salt
pinch turmeric
2 carrots, diced
½ C peas (frozen is fine--I'm not sure I've ever had the privilege of using fresh)
1 large or 2 small cloves of garlic, crushed
pinch ginger
canola oil

Press the tofu. After it's pressed, mash it into small or stringy pieces, and marinate in ½ cup of white wine, a teaspoon of the soy sauce, turmeric and Indian black salt. Let it marinade for half an hour on each side, or more.

Prepare the rice as you normally would; set aside.

Heat canola oil in a frying pan, and add the garlic, ginger, and tofu when it’s sizzling. Stirfry the tofu to let it get as brown and crispy as you like before adding the carrots, broccoli, and peas. You can put in a little of the tofu marinade, too. Stirfry the vegetables and tofu for a minute longer before adding the rice, and possibly a little liquid too (oil is the obvious choice—water is alright too). Fry until heated through and slightly crispy, adding the soy sauce as you go. Serves two.

Roasted red peppers are my crack, and tomato soup is a quintessential comfort food. This is kinda like comfort-crack.
Roasted Red Pepper Tomato Soup:
1 large red bell pepper
2 large tomatoes, diced
½ small onion, minced
1 tsp. olive oil
¼ C. water
¼ tsp. beef-flavored veggie broth (onion works well)
½ C seitan pieces
2 Tbsp. Tofutti cream cheese
1 Tbsp. Nayonaise
Salt and pepper to taste

Cut the pepper into four large pieces, and place in a hot cast-iron pan or grill pan, and roast until the skin begins to blacken and the pieces start to get soft.

Meanwhile, sauté the onion in the olive oil for two minutes or so. When it starts to look transparent, add the tomato, water, and beef-flavored broth powder. When the peppers are ready, chop them and add them to the saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring; then, reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for about fifteen minutes.

Uncover, and turn the heat on low. Using an immersion blender, blend until the soup is as chunky or smooth as you like; I like it really creamy. Put back on low heat, and add the seitan pieces. Let it cook until the seitan is heated through, two or three minutes. Remove from heat, and add tofutti cream cheese and nayonaise, stirring until they’re fully incorporated. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serves 2.

This is warm and spicy, but not at all heavy. It's a good food for sick days. Too ugly to post a picture, though:
Curried Carrot Soup:
2 tsp. curry powder
½ tsp. beef-flavored veggie broth
1 tsp. canola or olive oil (optional)
2 medium carrots, diced
2 cups light veggie broth
2 Tbsp. onion flakes
½ tsp. dried oregano
½ C fresh spinach

Saute or smoke the curry powder and broth powder until they’re fragrant (or smokey), around three minutes. When they’re done, add the vegetable broth, carrots, onion flakes, and oregano. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Partially cover, and simmer until the carrots are tender (30-40 minutes), adding the spinach in the last ten minutes of simmering.

Reduce the heat. Transfer to a blender or use an immersion blender to blend the soup until it’s smooth. Serve with parsley, if you have it. Serves 2.

There. Now you have all my secrets. Promise not to use them against me?

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Vegan MoFo: Fucking up

Well, it happens to the best of us. Happens to the mediocre among us, too (that's me).

I have a bag of organic cornmeal on my shelf that's been staring me down lately. I wondered what to do with it for ages until one day, it hit me in a blinding, Saul-on-the-road-to-Damascus-type flash (only without the intervention of deities): POLENTA! Of course! I should have thought of it sooner!

My mom used to make polenta, so I assumed it would be easy--I really don't give my mom enough credit. I used an Epicurious recipe for basic polenta, and by the time it was supposed to be simmering, it was already a solid chunk caught in my whisk Hmm. Long story short, I added less water than the recipe called for, and it still never firmed up and became polenta. What I had for lunch was basically grits with some mushroom, black bean, and spinach in it. It was tasty enough, but far too ugly to warrant a picture, and far too much of a failure to warrant a recipe.

I guess I'm sticking to the pre-made polenta in a tube for a while.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Vegan MoFo: Cooking when you don't want to cook

I've felt really tired and sluggish today, and I don't know why. It might have to do with the massive quantities of reading I have and the three papers that I have to write this weekend, none of which I'm even vaguely interested in or excited about--but then, who knows? What I knew tonight was that I wanted a warm, substantial dinner that didn't require too much time hunched over the stove.

Now, don't get me wrong, I like to cook. I find it therapeutic, even--it's something that's enjoyable, but also necessary, so I don't feel like I'm procrastinating my work while I do it. In my mind, Sunshine Burgers and Annie's Meals are for emergencies, when you get an email saying that your presence is essential at a meeting taking place thirty seconds from now, and you haven't eaten since 6 AM. And since that happens to me relatively often, I didn't want to break into my supply of Sunshine Burgers.

I have this funky little cookbook of soups from the '70s, and it had a "recipe" that inspired me. I put that in quotes, because it basically suggested combining a can of tomato sauce and a can of refried beans and heating it up. But hey, it sounded tasty enough, and I had a green pepper that was getting wrinkly (I'm ageist when it comes to peppers) and a portobello that I'd forgotten about in my fridge, and it seemed like a good way to use them. I made a lot of changes to the original "recipe," and it's still not really enough of a recipe to bother posting. But here's the process and the basic idea:

I put about a teaspoon of olive oil in a sauce pan over medium heat with about a teaspoon of Mexican chili powder and half a teaspoon of cocoa. I sauteed the chopped pepper and portobello in it until the spices began to stick to the pot. Being the industrious problem-solver (and cheapwad) that I am, I turned on the fan and tossed about a quarter of a cup of water into the pot. The can of refried beans (I used Bearitos organic fat-free vegetarian pinto beans--yummy) went in next, followed by about half a 6 oz. can of tomato paste (didn't have sauce). I added half a cup of plain hempmilk to make it a little smoother, a few dashes of liquid smoke to make it... smokey (?), and a scant tablespoon of lime juice at the end. Despite the fact that it's a pathetic excuse for a recipe, it was actually pretty yummy! I kept licking the spoon while I stirred it.

I'll post pictures when I actually feel like taking the pictures off my camera and bothering with Flickr. Until then, enjoy the non-recipe!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Vegan MoFo: PORN!

I've been eating a lot of leftovers lately, so it's only appropriate that I'm posting leftover food porn. My dad is something of an amateur photographer, and when I go home on breaks, he lets me play with his camera! So, without further ado, here are a couple of the better pictures I took with it:
Clafoutis, recipe here.
Barley, with sungold tomatoes and green stuff.
Chocolate covered pretzels--prettier before they're edible, tastier after.

It's sort of strange when pictures of food, not people, make you want to go home. I miss you, Mom's kitchen!

Monday, November 5, 2007

Vegan MoFo: veganizing something I never ate in the first place

I was reading through the list of suggestions for Vegan MoFo on Don't Eat Off the Sidewalk, and while they're all great, some of them don't really apply to me. I was raised vegetarian from the age of 11 on, so I don't even remember the first time I ate at a vegetarian restaurant. And tofu has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I do, however, remember eating at some upsettingly non-vegetarian restaurants.

See, I grew up in Nebraska. No, I did not ride a horse to school, yes, we had a computer, and no, I didn't go to a one-room schoolhouse--not for my schooling, anyway. My mom is an actor, and she works with an organization that brings artists to public schools for workshops and performances. One of the focuses of the organization is bringing artists to schools that don't have arts programs at all, which, in Nebraska, means rural schools. And some of those rural schools did happen to be one-room school houses.

Now, I went to big public schools for all of my pre-college life: there were about 700 students at my elementary and middle schools, and 2,100 at my highschool. So, naturally, my mom thought that going to see a one-room schoolhouse was an essential life-experience for me, and pulled me out for school for a week in sixth grade to take me with her to the one-room schoolhouses in Western Nebraska. Actually, it was a pretty cool experience. I remember a surprising amount of it, and most of my memories are pleasant and interesting.

What was not pleasant, though, was eating. My mom and I were both vegetarians at the time, and consider a place where a school that has a total of eight students services all the kids within a 20-mile radius of it: probably not population-dense enough for a vegetarian restaurant, right? Yeah, probably not. We always ended up at the only restaurant within driving distance of wherever my mom was teaching, veal and steak were always on the menu, and it seems like we had the same conversation at each place:

Us: So, is the lentil soup (it was always either lentil or minestrone) vegetarian?
Server: Well, it could be, but 'sgot bacon.
Us: So could it be vegetarian without the bacon?
Server: It can't be made without the bacon, it's already in there.
Us: So how could it be vegetarian?
Server: Well, if you eat bacon...

Needless to say, eating was difficult. We often ended up with plain pasta or baked potatoes. The cuisine was the worst part of the trip. But if nothing else, it's given me an idea: if so many people like bacon in their otherwise vegetarian soups, maybe they're on to something... maybe tempeh bacon would be a good addition to my lentil soup!
I can't speak for pig bacon, not having had it in more than a decade, but the tempeh bacon added a lovely smokey flavor to a nice, subtle lentil soup. I used this recipe but subbed an onion-y broth for veggie stock, tarragon and oregano for coriander and cumin, and green beans for potatoes. So, I can safely say that it's a recipe that adapts well to whatever you have in your kitchen. Plus, it's nice with pieces of tempeh bacon!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Vegan MoFo: Trying a new vegetable

I actually didn't intentionally do this for Vegan MoFo: I wanted to make salt and pepper tofu with bean sprouts on the side, but when I went to buy food, my grocery store was out of bean sprouts. They had some nice-looking daikons, though, and since they seemed basically to be bendy white carrots, I tossed one in my basket.

When I got it home, though, I realized that it was more than a pale carrot with impressive flexibility. It was softer, and it looked like it was growing hair. Apparently, it's a radish (or some scoundrel on Wikipedia is lying to me), which is a vegetable I've actually never never used at all (any variety). I wanted to be able to taste the veggie itself, and not just whatever sauce I could smother it in, so I decided to keep the prep simple--I peeled it like a carrot, and sauteed it in garlic and oil. I know, I know that it barely counts as prep at all, but the simple, mild taste of the daikon was the perfect counterpoint to my (unsurprisingly) salty tofu. I made a double portion, and I'm so eating the same thing for lunch tomorrow. Yum.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Want my Goodies?

Today's theme is "Things that suck that I use anyway" (see below), and this entry is about packaged food. Theoretically, I try not to use it. It's usually full of sodium, sugar, refined grains, saturated fat, and corporate corruption, all of which I avoid. Making food from scratch is usually better for you and better for the planet--plus, it's a lot more interesting and fun.

But I admit, I'm neither perfect nor perfectly healthy, and sometimes, I fall victim to the pretty, shiny tetrapacks on the shelves of my favorite health food store. And sometimes, who can resist? Also, another confession: Tofutti (among other companies) can do things I can't. There. I said it. So, while I try to use packaged food sparingly, here are some that I really enjoy, despite my guilty conscience:
Tofutti cream cheese. It doesn't taste exactly like cream cheese--it's really, truly better! I like to add a spoonful to roasted red pepper soup (recipe coming soon!), and it's the only thing I can think to use to make vegan clotted cream.
Chocolate Chai Rice Dream. 'Nuff said. Okay, actually, not quite enough said: rather than drinking it all in one sitting (tempting!), try using it in place of soymilk in your favorite tea.
Nayonaise. Yeah, I like it. What you gonna do about it, hmm?Vitasoy Green Tea Soymilk. Okay, now I'm cheating, because this is currently sitting unopened in my cupboard (I have to finish the Rice Dream Chocolate Chai before there's room for it in the fridge), but I do have high expectations. I mean, it's green tea! And soymilk! And sweetened! Plus, it's a really pretty shade of green.

Thoughts on Counting Calories

My overall thought: it sucks. Food is social, food is nourishing, food is comforting, food is pleasant, food is culturally significant, food is health. Food is, in a word, complex. So why are we so fixated on reducing it to a numerical value? Nothing is worse than wanting an apple and not eating it because it'll put you over your caloric limit for the day. Wait, I take that back--what's worse is eating the apple because you want the apple, and then feeling like shit for eating an apple. That feeling really sucks.

That said, calorie counting is, at times, useful. I personally managed to screw up my hunger signals with years of an on-and-off eating disorder, and an inconsistent college schedule to boot. I count calories--not because I want to, but because it's a knee-jerk reaction to eating for me. As stated above: it sucks. The upside, though, is that when your hunger signal are as messed up as mine are, calorie counts can help you figure out when to eat. Eating because I'm lonely or unhappy can easily lead to a binge for me (which, in turn, leads to several days of unhealthy behavior), and roughly estimating how many calories I've consumed helps me to figure out if I'm eating because I'm hungry, or eating for emotional reasons. On the flip side, there are days when I just don't feel that hungry (like I said, my hunger signals = weird), and when I realize that it's 6 PM and I've only eaten 700 calories during the day, knowing that I need to sit down to a nice big meal, stat, or risk slow my already-confused metabolism, is a good thing.

So, I guess where I'm going with this is that I'm reticent to provide calorie counts for recipes, but I will (sometimes). But please, use them as help, not as torture. Use, don't abuse.

Yeah, well, I'm often late.

But better late than never! Despite the fact that I'm not a food blogger and I've only been fully vegan for a mere two months, I'm hopping on the Vegan MoFo bandwagon, because, well, it seems fun! We'll see how well I do--I'm a senior in college, and my workload for today alone is about 150 pages of reading, some memorization (drama student), text work, and a paper revision. Still, I like food and I like procrastination, so this could be a match made in heaven!

I'm not entirely sure what I'll write about yet, but I have some ideas. Expect food porn, musings on food, tips (or rants) on sharing a kitchen with housemates, and maybe even the occasional recipe.

So that's me: who're you?