Sunday, January 27, 2008

I love the smell of fennel in the morning...

Sometimes I think I forget that making food for myself should be about what I want sometimes, and not about what's in the fridge, or what recipe technique I've been meaning to try, or how much protein I've gotten in a particular day, or pretty much any reason besides appetite. So when I woke this morning with a one track mind playing "ITALIAN SAUSAGE SOUP" loud and clear, I put beans on to soak post-haste (did you know they only really have to soak for 4 hours?), and ran out for the only thing I needed to get, which was celery (wooooo celery!).

It turned out pretty fast and it's a beautiful thing -- spicy and tomato-ey and full of luscious seitanic veggie goodness. Totally worth every moment and for once I think I'm really gonna look forward to eating the same meal for the next few days... mmmmmm snaussages.... :O~~~~~~~~

I stole the recipe from allrecipes, but I changed it somewhat concerning spices and vegetarian-ness and left the pasta out 'cause this way I can have an extra bread roll with it, you know?

(by the way, I LOVE the smell of cooking kidney beans like nothing else - they smell kinda like... earth and afternoon and burgundy)

(also, I bet zucchini would be pretty good in this, it was just real expensive at the store today)

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Recent foodstuffs

Yum, yum, croquettes! K, I think I'm seriously obsessed with any food that comes with a dip and can be eaten with the fingers.

(Broccoli-millet croquettes with white bean aioli from the Veganomicon)

Then I had to try my hand at making some fake meatstuffs, 'cause there's something just so empowering about that, ne? And having seitan in the freezer is just a nice feeling.

The spices are so pretty I could never have planned or expected them to be as incredibly universally exquisite as they are right there. And yeah, I added fennel 'cause these are Italian sausages, not no sissy lame-boy regular saussices.

Finished sausage! There was another one but I ated it real quick, since the foil broke on it and it was all misshapen and puffy and ummm... smelling really good. Thank you Julie Hasson!

And finally, the least sexiest of all the photos and yet so the tastiest -- I made my first baba ganouj yesterday and it was to DIE FOR. I squeezed out all the stringy bits with my hand and squished it and squished (with my clean hand) until it was perfectly whippedy smooth, and then I mixed in the lemon/tahini/salt&pepper/garlic/parsley and then I toasted up some garlicky pita chips and then I had a dinner of awesome simplicity.
(moral: I love eggplant. lots!)

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

And we have a winner!

Sophisticated and slightly unusual, intriguing (even invigorating!) flavour? Check. Streusel topping cause we're not thaaaat sophisticated? Yep. Absolutely PERFECT muffin crumb? YES! And even the cookbook muffins I've made lately haven't had crumb this good!

Okay, so they're a little burnt. (my oven thermometre died, I think, *sob*)

But look at that crumb!

It's just what I was going for, and the flavour is spot on, too -- it finally hit me to make the batter taste like something I'd actually order in a cafe. I'll make a porn-worthy batch eventually, where I fill them up to the top of the tin and hopefully get some huge and awesome muffin tops out of them (I think this recipe's got the oomph for it, I really do -- it foamed up like magic when I stirred it together... and it tasted like a latte in batter form!)

Café Cardamom Streusel Muffins

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup spelt flour

1/3 cup brown sugar

1 tbsp instant coffee powder
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cardamom

1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup strong-brewed fresh coffee

3/4 cup nondairy milk

1 tbsp maple syrup
1 1/2 tsp vanilla

3 tbsp canola oil

1/2 cup pitted dates (finely chopped and tossed in 1-2 tsp of flour to keep the pieces from sticking together)

For the Streusel:

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 cup brown sugar

2 tbsp margarine

Preheat the oven to 375 and lightly grease a 12 cup muffin tray.

To make the streusel, mix together the flour, cinnamon, sugar and margarine together with your fingers until it looks like wet crumbly sand. Set aside.

In a large bowl, sift together all the dry ingredients (flour through salt), and mix the wet ingredients together in a smaller bowl (coffee through canola oil). Make a well in the centre of the dry mix, pour in the wet and stir until just combined. Fold in the dates and spoon into the muffin cups - you can make 12 regular muffins, 10 large ones, or 8 giant muffins with actual cafe-style muffins tops. If you want. :) Sprinkle the streusel evenly over the tops and bake for 22-25 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. (you might also want to rotate your pan halfway through the baking time, just in case your oven has a hotspot)

When they're done, pop them out of the pan with a spoon and leave them on a cooling rack until you're ready to enjoy! Sooooo good with EB. Even better with fresh fruit and a newspaper. :D

When puffy baked goods go all Battle Royale...

Morning everyone.

So my roommate and I are on a bit of a funny schedule. She leaves for work at 5 am every day... and I? I am only just then contemplating maybe going to bed. It's kinda nice, actually - hearing her in the bathroom means I get the whooooole apartment to myself pretty soon, and that usually means some wacked out experiment in the kitchen. Enter, the Coffee Date Muffin. Cute name notwithstanding, it's not an easy flavour combination to wrap my head around. Maybe that's why I picked it. Anyway....

Attempt #1:
I figured cardamom would be a natural choice to tie the two flavours together. And I have a hard time making muffins that aren't all healthy and stuff, so I added oats. It was that or spelt, and I eat oats most mornings with dates in it, so hey, why not. The batter smelled pretttttty interesting....

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup quick oats

1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
2 tbsp instant coffee

1 tbsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp cardamom

1/2 tsp salt

1 tbsp ground flax
1/4 cup strong-brewed coffee

3/4 cup almond milk

1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup applesauce

1/4 cup canola oil

1/2 cup chopped pitted dates

Verdict: Squat little suckers! I tore into one straight away and I think I was hungry cause it disappeared pretty fast. I liked the nuttiness of the oats, the coffee flavour wasn't as weird as I thought it would be, and the dates were, well, awesome. Cause dates are awesome. But it hardly rose at all! I actually went back to bed at this point, mentally switching ingredients around in my head and not really in any danger of falling asleep, no. And then of course I had to get up and try again, cause I'd never actually honestly tweaked a recipe before, and I'm not an insomniac, no... not at all.........

Attempt #2:
I figured going the "cakey" route might get me some decent leavening, which it did. I also wanted to try making all the flavour milder and more, I guess, conventional. Maybe I'd get a real muffin out of it, or something. The batter tasted better! (sweeter!)

(I also left out all the oil just to see what would happen)

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup white sugar
1 tbsp instant coffee

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp salt

1 tbsp ground flax

1 1/4 cups almond milk
1 tsp cider vinegar

1 1/2 tsp vanilla

6 tbsp applesauce

1/2 cup chopped pitted dates

Verdict? Kind of really gross, actually. I couldn't believe it. They're beautiful and puffy and all that, but biting into one is a gluey experience, and the flavour is bo-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-ring. I made them more amusing by staging little muffin wars while I took pictures of them (I'd post the muffin-war pictures, but it looks a lot more like a stack of muffins sitting on a chair than an actual exciting battle scene, phooey).

Oh, and for the sake of science, both were baked at 375 in a 6-cup tin, for 22-25 minutes, approximately. And both the recipes were halved (thank god, or I'd be drowning in just-ok muffins). I guess if anyone has any ideas for tweakness, that would be cool. I'm really starting to think the first batch was pretty good, I would just need to fill up the tins higher, or use a muffin tin that isn't so very wide and flat (grrr, I can't make cupcakes in that thing at all!). Be a total adventurer and try out the recipe yourself! (if your instant coffee powder is of decent quality at all they WILL turn out better than mine)

Anyway, that's it. I swear I'll try and sleep now. :)

(Bonus Picture! Satchmo the Cat attacking my baked goods! Will they fight back with their tender muffin-bodies? Or will they become kitty toys like so many muffins before them and many a pancake besides? I'm guessing on kitty toys, myself. ;))

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Sweet Potato, Black Bean and Kale Enchiladas

It's official. I'm obsessed, and seriously considering trying every single recipe in the Veganomicon. (maybe I've just got a thing for crossing off titles in the front of the book with a little pencil, haha).

I made the enchiladas!

Worst photo ever. I don't care, it's the most delicious photo, taken by me already slightly tipsy on whiskey-coke and just about mouth-gasming all over the place for the Sour-Cilantro Cream as it mingled with the firey enchilada sauce and by some miracle of chemistry the two together tasted like something quite like but much much better than cheese. This will haunt my dreams for a while, I just know it...

I made the filling with sweet potatoes and black beans, because Ben-sen and Co. are irresponsible vegetarians and they need more protein in their lives, and also, potato? why stop there? Sweet potatoes are sweet, and mexican food without beans seems sacriligious somehow. I really couldn't imagine this dish without the creamy sweetness and earthy tones that were there. Like, I know it would be awesome, but I'm glad I made it this way.

Also, I used firm (not silken) tofu in the cilantro cream and I left out the oil and just whipped the bejeezus out of it for a long time with a stick blender - the result being a perfect smooth dolloping consistency and I hardly feel bad at all for inhaling the leftovers. Would it be wrong to make a batch, swirl in some salsa, crumble some chips over top and call it soup? I see that in my future, I really do... some summer night for sure.

And here's the centrefold ------

Kick. Ass. I cut off the tip of my left index finger while making this and I really really didn't care. The roasting green chiles were punching through the air and I was Kitchen Warrior, holding my hand at a funny angle to rip apart kale and trying not to bleed all over the place too badly. I didn't even realize there was part of my nail missing until I closed the oven door and started the timer. What a rush! (this is what happens when you say you can pull off dinner for five in 1.5 hours, oy!)

And dessert? Oh, there's dessert! I made the Mexican Chocolate Rice Pudding from VwaV, since I wanted something low-key to finish with, and I'd never tried rice pudding before, and I am sooooo glad that peoples were too stuffed from dinner to even think about the pudding in the fridge, 'cause now I have bowls upon bowls of luscious, spicy chocolate ricelove to eat all by myself. Chocolate ricelove with cayenne in it, even. Leftovers have never been a more tempting prospect... :o

Friday, January 18, 2008

Samosa Stuffed Baked Potatoes w/Mango Chutney

A: These are the bombest thing I ever did taste. SO GOOD THEY ARE. All crispy and indian-y and fresh from the chutney. And super easy. I added more cumin and mustard seed, and dolloped with cilantro paste and red chile sauce and I was in total carb heaven. Mmmmmmm.

B: I finally finally finally have a real camera!!!!!!!! I love you, CanonA560, you rule. I love how you capture the freezerburntness of my peas with exquisite detail, and are about 374 million times easier to use than a macbook camera, and a squillion times prettier. I'm certain that eventually I'll actually be able to use you all proper-like, but for now I'm revelling in the freedom to shoot from any angle I want! Oooooh. <3>

Thursday, January 17, 2008

I <3 Chickpeas (no really, I do!)

Well, Liz is a happy vegan - I finally picked up Vegan with a Vengeance yesterday (it was between that and Refresh, or maybe Heaven's Banquet, but hey, it's Isa ramblings we're talking about here, and I needed that recipe for the raspberry blondies). And the muffin recipes! There's so many! Very happy vegan. :D

I thought I'd try the Hijiki-Salad Sammiches first, since I didn't have hijiki, but I had nori..... thus the chickpea maki-wraps above. Muy tasty! It's beyond simple, I just mashed the chicks with nayonnaise, salt, pepper, cider vinegar, tabasco and celery seed, then I spread it on toasted nori and rolled it up with carrots, cucumber, lettuce, red onion and sunflower seeds. Oh, and Braggs to dip, of course.

Hey, look, it's thematically relevent! Peanut-Sesame Hummus from ED&BV. It's good, especially with lots of crushed peanuts swirled in.

Also..... Chickpea Cutlets?
I am so sorry for having doubted you! You taste delicious the next day, as does that addictive Mustard Sauce, I just have to remember not to form you into the shape of meat lest I get weirded out by it. (my very good vegetarian friend Ben-sen just about busted a gut laughing when I told him I'd made a shmancy fancy dinner with roasted potatoes and cutlets and everything. He also polished off the leftovers and declared them "creepy yet delicious")

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Chickpea Cutlets!!!!!

See, if I blog I don't have to write essays... (oh, the logic that sustains me XD )

Sooo... I made the cutlets. And I think I confirmed my suspicion that I'm not the biggest fan of Knife & Fork style dinners... I also discovered that I actually DO own a steak knife, which I needed to eat these. They were good, I guess, but I only really started to enjoy myself once I scraped the mustard sauce off and started eating everything with my hands. Basically, there was a lot of hype, and I think if I had heard absolutely nothing about them I'd be pretty impressed, especially with the texture, but I don't think I'll even be making them again. Or if I did, I'd make them into nugget-sizes and dip them in a creamy tofu dip, which I think would match them like a charm.

The v-con mustard sauce itself was pretty good, just not on top of anything, which is probably due to sheer salt content (broth, grain mustard, my low-quality sherry wine, soy sauce, AND caper brine are all basically made of salt and that's like 95% of the recipe). I liked it out of a spoon, and I think it'll make a killer mustard-y sandwich spread tomorrow, but it was kinda too thick and strong to use as a sauce. Dreena's lemony green beans and potato smashers get A++++, though, I liked those best of all.

I also made the ED&BV Supercharge Me! Cookies this morning, and zomg, they have come to waggle their deliciousness at all the other, more unhealthy cookies that have come before. Cause they're A-W-E-S-O-M-E. They don't taste like health cookies at all, they just taste spelty tender and chewy, with a faint hint of toasty coconut and nutty butter chew... dear, I could eat a whole pan.

I've decided to start seriously working through the V-con and my Dreena books, as you might be able to tell. I'll have to quash my desire to experiment haphazardly with my own recipes for a while, but I'll probably learn more about cooking this way (or at the very least start grocery shopping with an actual plan). I'm hoping that one day, someday, I can say to my grandkids that "yes, I made EVERY recipe in that there book. Who knows why! Now let's go climb a mountain cos I'm vegan and insanely healthy for an old lady, woooo!" (or something like that X)

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Salad Improv & the Ubiquitous Stir-Fry

I'm experimenting with a bigger font size, because I agree with you guys - I found my blog hard to read, too!

My first attempt at vegan pizza (actually from a week or so ago, but I forgot to post about it). 2/3 of it was italian-styled, with garlic marinara, Tofurkey sausage, caramelized onions, sundried tomatoes, roasted red pepper, eggplant and herbs; the other 1/3 was mexican, with homemade salsa, onions, more sausage, jalapeno, cubanelle pepper and hot sauce. Oh, and a half recipe of Bryanna's Melty Pizza Cheese courtesy of Kittee's pizza page that I wish wish wish I hadn't halved because of how severely delicious it was. What's particularly amazing about this is that it was made on New Year's Day with hardly any veggie in the fridge and no grocery stores open, and yet it was still veggieful and fantastic!

Back home, yesterday's breakfast (ha ha). I think I'm starting to get good at this stir fry business, which is one of those skills I would call "invaluable". Note the Yellow Pepper of Greatness making it's last yummy appearance.

And cause I'm really not a rice person but for some reason I make some for the stir fry, I had a bunch left over and I made my favourite rice vehicle ever - salad! I'm gonna post the fake recipe because I also consider this one of those invaluable kitchen throw-together methods...


2 cups of cooked grains (rice, millet, quinoa, etc)
2 cups crunchy vegetables, diced small
any leftover legumes you have around
1/4 - 1/3 cup of leftover salad dressing (in this case, Cumin-Cinnamon Vinaigrette)
salt and pepper

1. Mix, let it sit for at least an hour (many hours would be better), eat with chopsticks because everything tastes better with chopsticks. :D

In other news, I tossed the compost in the rubbish because there really wasn't a responsible place to put it, but I'm going to research into worm composting and see if I can't get one set up. It WAS kind of interesting to confirm my suspicions that a full half of the garbage I put out is food waste. Makes me feel a little better (sort of) about my footprint, even if it's still going to a landfill for the time being...

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Pureed Spicy Sweet Potato & Peanut Stew with Chickpeas

My new gotten-for-giftmas copy of Eat, Drink & Be Vegan is finally a little warped and cook-stained! I got home from used-book shopping* very VERY starving, but for some reason instead of being sensible and making a sandwich I decided to go Moroccan, because I'm on a severe Morocco kick, I think. I almost bought a jar of pickled lemons. Haha.

So yeah... after about an hour I had a gigantic pot of incredible stew, a quick salad with her Cumin-Cinnamon vinaigrette, a somewhat-okay attempt at a Batinjaan Zalud (maybe deficient due to lack of garnish?), moroccan olives, and the cutest portion of whole wheat couscous you ever did see, prepared in a tiny metal measuring spoon. The flavours were all very good friends on the plate (yet each distinctive), and the stew itself was pure comfort (t
hough it could use more heat and didn't seem to suffer from lack of celery). It was also suprisingly clean-tasting for something I expected to be heavy, and I'm having a hard time running back to the kitchen to grab another mouthful... mmm. I love Dreena's food! I can't wait to make more stuff from this book! Anyone have any recommendations?

*if anyone cares, I got the Life & Opinions of Tristram Shandy, The Transposed Heads, and a Kafka collection, woo!

~~ ALSO: in an interesting twist of internet-fate, I stumbled across Envirowoman's Amazing Blog shortly after eating my plastic-wrapped noodles the other day and went, "woah, hey - I really can't be eating this for reasons of the earth, as well!". I got inspired. I have a hideous compost container right on the counter now (even though I live in an apartment and don't actually HAVE a place to put all the rotten-food when it gets fulled up). I started a paper bin. I have no idea what to do with my tin cans. Maybe I'll just sneak my stuff into other people's recycling bins in the dead of night, with a ninja mask on, and pretend I'm some kind of bizarro-universe version of Robin Hood...

Monday, January 7, 2008

Home economics?

This, my friends, is a $2 yellow pepper. I didn't plan it like that - I was just doing my usual fridge restocking after getting home (lazy stuff, baba ganouj, pita, carrots, etc) when I saw it looking all taut and beautiful next to some green ones on sale. I figured, "hey, why not?", but they tricked me with their misleading sale arrangements - it was so expensive! Not that I wasn't going to appreciate it...

And in light of a grocery faux pas, I made another one! I pass this at the dollar store ALL the TIME and it's always tempted me with it's non-food prepackaged glory (yes, it's vegan!). So I finally bought it for some reason, for $1.

First result, an absolute scrumpfest of a roasted veggie sandwich - eggplant, red onion, baba ganouj, garlic, lemon, regular roasted onion and loads of kalamata olives - sooooo goood. And the yellow pepper was 100% the star here, and I had enough for 2 sammies and a half-pepper left over besides! Lovely.

Result #2: After 3 minutes in the microwave and some ingenious plastic draining action, I had myself a little tray of insta-food. I wish I could say it sucked, guys, I really do. But oh my god, I never eat food like this cause it's completely nutritionally awful, but this was some tasty MSG-ed tvp. Generously spicy, the noodles were chewy, the oil/flavour packet combo was zesty in a kind of Doritos way. Anyway... I probably won't buy this again. But that's only because I could feel my body going "nooooo!" while my tastebuds went "yesssss!!!", and that's not a good habit to get into.

Oh, and I found a video that pretty neatly explains all the hard work involved in making this noodle-crack ----

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Birthday #2: Jay's cake

My two new favourite questions have definitely become -

1. "Sooooo.... when's your birthday?"
2. "Aaaand.... what are your favourite flavours?"

Best response so far? Blueberry orange - thank you Jay for being adventurous!

This isn't even the grandolith-monolith cake-o-glory - this is just the home cake! I ended up doubling the vanilla cake recipe from ED&BV, so I had enough left over to make a cake for my family for my last day in town. Tongue-in-cheek captioning and all! I also switched most of the milk for real-squeezed organic orange juice and added zest and orange extract.

Break time for real food. Tofu sharks on the cast-iron waters, arrrrrr!

Yummy stir-fry goodness, on udon noodles. And since I was candying oranges anyway for the Grandocake, I tossed some of the extra syrup in the stir-fry sauce I made and it was awesome. I also got to use my new chili-garlic sauce! Can you believe I lived this long without owning any? I totally can't.

Home cake innards, with about a mile of icing on top because I decided to use up the extra and be generous like that. It's almost all dyed naturally, and the blueberry flavour is the juice from the pot that I stewed the blueberry filling in. It tasted... blue. Amazingly, burstingly blue. (I pat myself on back now).

And the pièce de résistance - A triple-decker, fully torted, stuffed with filling, moist and citrusy, sparkling berry bonzanza mouth-party!!!

I wish I had pictures of the insides... they would bring a tear to your eye. I woke up the next morning to find birthday boy excavating the orange mountain with a fork and a slight hangover and a pretty blissful expression on his groggy face, to which I say mission successful! and also....

what are your favourite flavours? :D

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

New Year, New Spurdle

So, a spurdle (or spurtle, or spirtle, or - of all things - theevil) is a Scottish porridge-stirring stick. I'd known about their existence for a while, but had never seen one in stores, and really wasn't sure how much of a difference it would make versus a wooden spoon. It's supposed to keep the oats from breaking up too much, and by golly it actually works like that! I felt like I was wielding a fairy wand when I used it for the first time. It makes really fluffy oats. yay! I also got a gigantinormous glass jar of my favourite brand of porridge, and an bowl-cozy with moo-cow pattern on it, cos my mum knows me sooooo well and knows I would squee like a wee kid for all the oatmeal bling. I wonder how many times I can say oatmeal? :o

I'm also pretty keen on stirring deosil - clockwise, instead of widdershins - counter-clockwise, lest the faeries come and steal my first born or turn me to ice or at any rate have their evil fun with me. You can't be too careful!

The Banana Wheat Germ Muffins from the Veganomicon are really nice, too. Slightly crispy as advertised, verrrrry light, almost cupcake-y in texture. I wish I had remembered to stir the walnuts inside, but they're pretty on top. I also might add another banana to the recipe, or use bananas that were more ripe and flavorful, but anyway they were tasty. (use the whole tbsp of cinnamon! It's not too much)