Monday, February 25, 2008

sweet teeth, mexican sammies and salty things

Eek, I have a bunch of photos and the memories are fading by the second, I should get right into my ovening activities for my last few days in Ottawa --

I was actually sick of baking when I threw this together, but can you possibly guess why one would make a batch of ppk graham crackers if not for something spectacular in the future? Those with an eye for pie will like the final destination of these cookies! (also these ARE in my top ten favourite cookies ever and might have made them anyway, even if I did have zero luck finding honey-less graham crackers in the store).

And a dinner at my dad's is not complete without a tray of mysterious cupcakes carefully towered on a pretty tray and ready for omni appraisal (usually, "oooh, something frosted!!"). I wanted to make the orange pudding cupcakes from VCtotW, but I didn't have orange juice, so I decided to be intrigued by the apparent roll of the dice that is the V-con Jelly Donut Cupcakes.

Turned out well! Only 2 craters and I kinda thought they were cute. Tastewise they were nutmeg-y and very sweet, maybe heavier than I like normally, but definitely donut-esque. Sis liked them enough to eat 3 and tell me to make ones with frosting next time. :P

Oh yeah, she also requested a cake. In the middle of a jigsaw puzzling session, I offer (as I do) to make her something to eat, and she says cake. SUCH A GOOD REQUEST. And I refuse to use a recipe, and throw flour and oft-used ingredients around in such a way as to come out with.... a damned good teeny tiny cake thing. That I eyeballed. So cool. (that's peanut butter swirl on top and a tasty carob-chip dome in the middle. We all agreed it would rock the universe with a fudge layer, too bad I can't recreate it, haha)

My last morning we hit the Wild Oat bakery for breakfast and I shoot this terrible photo of the mmmnummy El Oxuaca sandwich. Yes, I pronounced the X when I ordered it. No, I haven't been to Me-hee-co. For absolute certain I melted for the combination of sundried tomato tapenade + black bean spread + avocado, tomato, cilantro and greens on nutty multigrain bread that had travelled about five or six metres from the oven to hit my table. Good stuff.

Having filled our bellies with sound food and zinging with health, it stood to reason that a trip to Sugar Mountain might be just the thing to ruin all that sprout-eating. Yay! I got aniseed balls (my favourite) and salted licorice. But I couldn't eat the licorice! Yes, I checked at home and there's our old friend beeswax stuck on the outside of that lovely salty sweet like a microscopic force-field of candy denial. It's a very good thing I discovered that the chinese salted licorice-y plums I bought the other day (called Li Hing Mui apparently) are infinitely superior to regular salted licorice, so I don't mind so much now and I just suck on dried fruit. :)

Also, I made the Smlove. (graham cracker speculation can be laid to rest now).

I didn't like it as much as I thought I would... It was kinda like chewing on a big wad of baking chocolate... but I AM weird and have been known to dislike fantastic things. Am I kicked out of veganism now? :D

Sunday, February 24, 2008

homecoming blues and spices

So I rolled in on the bus late last night, perky for some reason, humming inaudibly to myself for most of the trip (Dr Worm by They Might Be Giants for anyone who's curious. It's catchy!). I didn't even nap like I usually do. And it's probably a good thing the trip itself was easy, because I came home to a mailbox full of mysterious bills written all in french for exorbitant amounts with weird phone numbers attached and a kitchen that would make pigpen blush. *sigh*

It's times like this I should (well, okay, start some administrative detective work, and yes, I am on hold right now) pore over probably my last fun grocery splurges for a little while. A few days before I left I went to the Kowloon market in Ottawa's chinatown and found scads and piles of fascinating dried things, powders, pickles, extracts, roots, sodas and noodles, beans and seeds and instant desserts with happy fruits on them, cakes and canisters and flakes, oh my!

I also ducked into a middle eastern bakery and picked up the sumac and harissa you see right there at the front of all the treasure. The rest of it is (clockwise from the jackfruit can), green jackfruit, mochi cakes, licorice dried plums, mung bean noodles, the cool rice-noodle-thingers I loved at the Green Door (the package says to let them soak for 12 hours -- we'll see how that goes), spicy pickled turnips, black sesame seeds, and YES a big stick of agar! Weehee. I can make lemon bars now, and any manner of fiddly cupcake devices, I'm excited.

Total: a little under $15

And being in Ottawa I had to replenish my spices at my favourite bulk bin health place. When I first started cooking I couldn't fathom the idea of tossing out spices after a year, I just couldn't understand how that wouldn't waste anything. And then I noticed my thyme canister was down a few teaspoons and I got simultaneously proud and concerned about my next quiche. Kardish is great for this kind of thing - I got basil, thyme, oregano, dill seed, ground and whole coriander, ground cardamom and cumin, aniseed, cinnamon sticks, kelp powder, mustard powder, onion powder, tons of paprika, white pepper, fennel, caraway and cream of tartar.

Total: $4.28 <----- (why I shop at Kardish)
The mochi was one of those pure experiential purchases. Having never tried it I didn't waste much time breaking into that package and inspecting the chewy little blobs within. I was surprised to find them all filled with pastes (and pleased, at first, to find this), and the three flavours were pretty obviously sesame, peanut butter, and plain white with red bean.

I'm not sure if this was just low quality mochi, and it probably was, but I wasn't totally bowled over by the stuff. The peanut butter was especially tasteless and UN-nutty, and the sesame was aromatic and crunchy but not much better. The plain white was without question my favourite, and I discovered that eating the paste first and *then* the plain mochi was definitely the way to go. But all in all I'll leave this stuff to the macrobiotic crowd (actually, these ones did have sugar, so maybe I got the candy-style kind, I don't know). They were really really fun to poke!

So in the interim I've hung up the phone, the musak even stopped playing. Time to put on pants, knock on some doors and squeeze my culinary dreams into whatever a bag of rice and the contents of my pantry can bring me. I have sumptuous photos from the rest of my trip to blog about after I get some work done, and hey, I actually love steamed rice and brown veggies (*guffaw*), so I'll-a be fine.

And I DO have agar. Rawr!!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

hey look, it's a survey!

Survey time again! Liz makes interesting questions, and I memed it from Coppe and Adele. I fight boredom good, yeah? :)

1 . If you have to choose between locally grown or organic, which do you usually choose?

I usually don't have an option, I tend to go with whatever's cheapest out of necessity. But if I was in a position to choose, I would probably go with local, out of a desire to community-build. And with any luck it would be part of a performance piece.

2. Favourite way to prepare potatoes:
Any way! Okay, fittingly enough, the aloo paratha recipe down below is probably my favourite way. It's hard to go wrong with cayenne and cilantro and lime.

3. Do you press your tofu before preparing/cooking it (if you eat soy)?
Pressing tofu makes me not want to eat it so much, which is sad cause it's my fav. So I usually make recipes that don't call for pressing (ie; crumbled feta type stuff or scrambles)

4. Name your favorite recipe that is a tradition in your family:
Probably mincemeat tarts at giftmas, which we *usually* make with "minced fruit" (the vegetarian version), but this year it was the real lardy stuff so I couldn't partake. And we usually make trays and trays of them, the really tiny kind and they're immensely pop-able. Next year, I guess.

5. Any food allergies?
Penicillin is based in bread mold I guess, but no, not really.

6. When you want to go to a fancy dinner, where do you go?
Where would I *potentially* go if I did indeed go out for fancy dinners? The Green Door Restaurant in Ottawa is choice tops. It's buffet-style, and the marinated shrooms are otherworldly, as is anything they decide to do with noodles and/or squash. In Montreal it's alllll about Aux Vivres, though. They have a chickpea curry sandwich they put on a fresh-made chapati with mango chutney that is pretty much keeping me from trying anything else on the menu. They have awesome cookies, too.

7. When you have a cold, what do you crave?
Ice-cold fruit, which I put in the fridge. Not much else.

8. What kind of water do you drink? (Filtered, spring, tap, etc.)
Tap water. And sometimes I'll put lime and stevia in it for kicks.

9. Name a flavor of soda you'd love to see:
*** I change my answer!! Not strawberry, no, some of these flavours maybe:

- apple chai
- mint cucumber
- balsamic strawberry

10. If the recipes you ate as a child were compiled into a cookbook, what would the title be?
Creamy Garlicky Potatoes and Pasta With Probably Some Pork Involved and a Yorkshire Pudding Chaser

11. If you were allowed to grow one food that can't grow in your climate, what would it be?
I've always wanted to try a warm orange off the tree. Something tells me I've never had a real orange before.

12. Favorite type of mushroom?
I haven't tried many of the fancy kinds, but right now I'll reach for shitake in a pinch. I like a mushroom to speak up about it's presence!

13. Most frustrating part of your kitchen?
Total lack of storage, and trust me, I've turned every conceivable place I could into a shelf of some kind. Half my pantry is currently in the living room and if I wanted to buy more flour I'd have to make real estate under my desk, I think. :/

14. Last food you burned?
The cornmeal masala coated vegetables I made for the Indian meal - the tips of the onions and the outsides of the brussels sprouts got a little blackened. But they tasted fine. I'm actually shocked when I burn anything, I tend to have really good luck in that department.

15. Usual response to a veg*n's favorite question, "But where do you get your protein?":
I usually blink a bit, stare off into space over their shoulder a bit, recite a line something like "beans, tofu, whole grains, beans, lentils, fake meat, there's this stuff called satan that's really weird and good." I rarely take the question seriously, I've never come across anyone who really seemed to think I didn't get any.

16. If you were baking your own birthday cake today, what flavor would it be?
I will be making it soon! And I'm making a key lime cheesecake, which I crave like the dickens about once every 5 years. I'll probably put a strawberry or mango element in there somewhere and then eat half of it. :)

17. Favourite brand of chocolate chips?
I like the President's Choice dark chocolate chips. Yeah, I know, they're not fancy or even quality chocolate by any stretch of the imagination. But they're cheap and decent enough and I like the packaging, it's very manly.

18. You have $200 of your tax return reserved for Williams Sonoma - What do you buy?
What's Williams Sonoma???

*quick google later....*

OHHHHHH. Holy crostini. Most of it? Okay, how about you hold this food processor and I'll be over here loading up on cake pans. Excellent...

19. Do you plan your menus in advance? Any tips to share?
I usually check the online flyer for my favourite grocery store, scan the produce and try to pick meals for the next week that incorporate most of the interesting ones in somewhat labour-intensive meals that I'll use to entertain myself between classes. Then I use the leftover produce in the second (more experimental) half of the week, and use every inch of my willpower NOT to run out for scallions or whatever that would be "just perfect in this meal!" in the interest of frugality and NOT being a grocery store addict.

And if I'm staring out into space on the bus with a glassy look and a fiddling thumb? You better believe I'm debating wether to use that yam in a soup or a sandwich. :p

20. You have 3 minutes before you have to leave the house and you're starving- What do you eat?
A small handful of tamari almonds and a piece of fruit go in my bag, and then I jet.

21. If Martha Stewart, Paula Deen, and Rachel Ray got into a fight, who would win and how?
Rachel Ray's got the arms... but there's something sneaky about Paula. And she's my favourite, so.... Paula. She'd have the butter-gun cocked and ready, anyway.

22. If you eat oatmeal, what do you add to it before serving?
3 1/2 chopped dates. cinnamon, nutmeg, very occasionally ginger. salt.

23. If you got to travel to one country and learn all the traditional dishes there, where would you go (ignore commitments in your current place of residence)?

24. Favourite late night snack?
A banana. It's a quiet soothing food, and more importantly it has tryptophan so the sleepy feeling isn't totally psychosomatic.

25. Favourite springtime food?
I am waiting with bated breath for the first wave of strawberries, at which time I'll get a huge plastic container of them, find a sunny green spot to sit and eat every juicy morsel.

26. Favorite food-related magazine?
I don't really get magazines, but I flipped through Vegetarian Times and I liked it.

27. Which do you prefer: shoyu, tamari, conventional soy sauce, or Bragg's Aminos?
I really liked the San-J shoyu I got for sushi-dipping.

28. What vegetable or fruit do you dislike the most?
Pomelo hasn't wowed me. Or papaya unless it's dried.

29. Name a holiday food you look forward to all year long:
A gigantic creamy slice of pumpkin pie, with soy whip and maybe an extra fork so I can scare people away from the leftovers and eat them ALLLLL myself. hee hee.

30. If you could convert anyone to veganism with your magic wand, who would you convert?
The love of my life, whenever they decide to show up.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

moongazing with cocoa-tongues

Happy lunar eclipse everyone. My sister ran in breathless and then we ran out to watch the moon slowly get blanketed by the red-black shadow of the earth, freezing our fingertips off, small pieces of 100% dark chocolate melting bittersweet down the sides of our cheeks. I think she felt more magic in it than I did, but as the elder I suppose that it's only fair, and it's her time to feel spirit in wonders like this. It was pretty magical anyways. And then we went in to eat vegan jamaican patties and I made some spiced rice, but really it's all about the moon tonight.

alooooo paratha (aka The Goods)

shhhh... it's a wiki photo, but don't tell anyone!

These flatbreads were the first thing I made (and photographed) after starting up veganism again this summer, so the recipe has a special place in my carb-lovin' heart. It's weird, because it's so simple, but people kind of melt for it, and I especially love bringing this to random get-togethers (especially if a few beers have been downed first), 'cause in the eyes of slightly drunken people (or anyone really) this is golden heaven-sent breadyum. You don't even have to worry about keeping them warm in transit, cos they retain heat pretty well, and a bit of a foil-wrap and some time in the oven fixes them good as new.

Actually, I just remembered I still have that picture I took way back last July. My very first attempt at food porn.... innit cute and slightly crappy? Ah, memories...

Aloo Paratha

for the chapati dough:

2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup white flour
1 tsp salt
1 cup warm water
1 tbsp oil

for the potato filling:

2 large russet potatoes, peeled, boiled and mashed
1 small onion, finely chopped (optional)
1/2 tsp cumin seeds (dry-toasted in a skillet over medium heat until aromatic)
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp cayenne
1 green chile, diced finely
1 tbsp lemon, or lime juice
2 tbsp fresh cilantro
1/2 tsp salt

oil or melted margarine for brushing the finished parathas


1. To make the chapatis, put the flour and salt in a large bowl, then make a well and slowly add the water and oil, mixing with one hand until it comes together into a dough. Knead on the counter for about 5 minutes, then let it rest, covered, for 20 minutes.

2. Mash together the ingredients for the filling, and form into 6 balls.

3. Divide the chapati dough into 6 equal pieces. Cover the unused balls with a damp cloth, then take a ball and roll it out on a floured surface until it's about 6" across. Then place a ball of potato filling on top and wrap it completely with the dough. Flatten carefully and roll into an 8" round, then fry on a dry cast-iron skillet on medium heat until browned on both sides. Brush with margarine or oil and serve warm with chutney, curries or a soygurt sauce.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Indian feast for the fam

So here it is! I went a little all-out, but I had two leisurely days to do it, so it was actually a great lesson in NOT stressing over food. From right to left, there's Aloo Paratha (spicy potato-filled flatbread - kind of my specialty, I might post the recipe later), Tamarind Lentils, Gajar salad (carrots with lemon and toasted mustard seeds), 5-Minute Mango Chutney, lime-pickled cucumber, Matar Tofu (tofu marinated in this), more Aloo Paratha because it's basically the best bread-type food in the world, and v-con Masala Roasted Vegetables (brussels sprouts, carrots, parnsip and onion). And it was all gone in 10 minutes. I give flying colours to everything!

I ran to the kitchen to get a good shot of everything. Soooooo gooood. I'm especially in love with the mango chutney and the matar tofu - Indira's recipe is so fresh-tasting and comes together like magic in a few minutes if you have everything prepped.

I made some cashew-dates and toasted almonds for good measure, but really who cares about that when you've got.......

V-con Coconut Lemon Bundt Cake! OMG make this cake! It's so moist, and so good. Everything that everyone's been saying about the crispy outside is bang on, and the inside is all zingy and coconutty and kinda melts in the mouth. I'm having more for lunch. With vanilla pudding on top, I think. And I broke the top because de-panning cakes is hard when you're impatient, but icing sugar (and a little bit of careful surgery) is a girl's best friend, I'm discovering.

(the sound of the dinner table, btw ~~~ "mmmmiammm munch munch sigh SO GOOD mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm snarf snarf pass the chutney zomg mmmmm") :D

happy... Family Day! (no really, it's today)

Okay, first off -- I LOVE going home and I LOVE finally being in a house that practically inhales food faster than I can make it! It's so gratifying, and I can cook up a storm like I could never do for just myself. And there's a big 'ol feast I'm making tonight, so I have to throw up all the other pictures first so I can post about the dinner later. Anyway...

Peanut butter banana ice cream (based on ED&BV's Cashew Banana Ice Cream). This was the last meal I had before I got on the bus. Nice meal, eh? Ooh, I want to let *every* banana in the world go overripe and then freeze them all and make creamy nutty soft serve. ALL the TIME.

And this is the leftovers I brought with me on the bus -- the cauliflower curry and saffron garlic rice (both from the Veganomicon). The rice would be better with the chickpeas romesco I think, but it's still the best rice I've ever made, so I shovelled it all up anyway. Does anyone else feel like they're totally indulging by using white rice instead of brown?

I also brought a big container of tofu salad with me, because I make a really mean tofu salad, and I feel better travelling with a huge amount of no-brainer protein. It basically incorporates half my fridge door -- braggs, lemon juice, nayonnaise, dijon, bbq sauce, garlic, paprika, turmeric, thyme, oregano, pepper, nooch, diced pickles and red onion. Oh, and a niiiiiice loooooooong squirt of sriracha, 'cause I roll like that. It's so good. I had to fight my mom away from this sandwich.

So then my sister says "I'm hungry.... lizbeth, go make me something." and I'm like "YES. This is called the V-con. What does your heart desire?" and she goes "Chocolate Chip Brownie Waffles" and I'm like "You rule so hard I can't fathom your rulingness. Where's the cocoa?". These are basically the best thing to ever come off of a panini press, which we had to use instead of a waffle iron but that hardly matters because you could fry this on the sidewalk and it would still be good. They're all fudgey... but not too fudgey. Pleasantly mid-fudgey. *drool*

I can't believe I'm closing with vegetables. But I'm really proud of myself! I made a squash soup worthy of rivalling those little expensive pseudo-gourmet boxed soups. Nothing out of the ordinary, regular squash soup stuff like apple vinegar, almond milk, nutmeg, pepper, cinnamon, salt. A *tiny* bit of soup powder (but this kind was organic and actually tasted really nice). And a bit of maple syrup, and a bit of coconut milk. I didn't even warm it up, I just blended the roasted squash with everything and put it in the fridge to reheat when I need it, and it's, dare I say it, lovely.


So that's the spread, but there's a whole wack of goodies happening tonight, I spent all yesterday blending spices and prep-cooking pastes and making chutne---- oh, I shouldn't say anything else. (I made a cake!)

Okay, I'm done. :)

(oh, and my sister actually DOES rule the universe, and keeps bringing me home treats from her job at the health food store -- Belsoy puddings (chocolate and vanilla), asafoetida, gluten flour, thai ginger kettle chips, organic sesame-spelt bread, organic millet and red quinoa, vitasoy soynog (which is amazing, btw), carob chips, a jar of raw cashews about as big as a cat, lots of produce. Most of it free/about to expire. Quelle yay! I wuv her.)

Thursday, February 14, 2008

mmm... ginger pear waffles taste better in heart-shapes

Happy Valentine's everybody!

I wish I had time to make more heart-shaped food, some part of me loves a useless holiday that embraces little more than a funny symbol. Hehe. When I was in high school I used to treat it kind of like Halloween for softies, and dress up in pink and white taffeta and striped red stockings and give out chocolates to my friends and anyone in the halls who looked like they wouldn't be offended by an overly friendly "happy valentines!!" and a little dark chocolate square. Today I don't have time, and I don't know how amenable the militantly awkward art school kids would be towards pure fluff and hallmark celebration (maybe they would get the irony?). So I'm off to paint two brazilian men kissing, and then I'll buy pecans for the smlove so I can make a big wonderful pie for my family when I go home for reading week tomorrow.

On an unrelated note: I listen to CBC radio every morning while eating my breakfast (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) and this is the second day in a row that they've had an extensive discussion on veganism! Yesterday they hosted Rory Friedman (the author of Skinny Bitch), and then a reaction interview with Debbie Rasmusen (the publisher of Portland's Bitch Magazine) and Annahid Dashgaardt (the Executive Director of Anima Leadership, a Toronto-based organization dedicated to community building). I'm not the biggest fan of the Skinny Bitch book, but there were some interesting points brought up - like the fact that the information on farming and animal rights in the book is actually somewhat sound, and that it's the first mainstream piece of vegan literature to be embraced in popular culture. I can't wait to hear what they talk about today. I do have to say... Rory kind of rubbed me the wrong way in how she almost greasily sidestepped direct questions about the so-called "healthiness" of the diet proposed in the book (it's a diet book! IT IS A DIET BOOK! and not a good one). And Debbie and Annahid thankfully made a strong argument for healthy body image and rejection of (even vegan) fad diets. Ideal solution being intelligent integration of the information offered in the book and ignoration of the idea that we all stand around hating the thinnest girl in the room? Could take a lot more social change than we'll see in our lifetimes...
They even brought up the racism factor - by flat-out demonizing meat and cheese, the book is creating guilt on a cultural front, too! Oh god, I hope I'm not getting preachy. Ha ha ha. Does it help that I don't know exactly where I stand with all this and so really can't be preaching at all? It was interesting to listen to, I know that.

I propose a day in the garden and a rainbow-bright spread of veggies and grains for alllll the skinny bitches (people of all sizes and temperaments) of the world. Or maybe a square of dark chocolate and a flurry of fuschia lace. La la la la! This bitch is off to go paint...

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Underwater Cigarettes #3 gets some press!

Oh my gosh! I got an email yesterday from someone who had read a review of my zine in Broken Pencil and wanted a copy! Eeeeeeeeeh! I didn't know I was in there! (Broken Pencil is pretty the voice of canadian underground press)

"Underwater Cigarettes is what a little zine should be. Lovingly crafted and photocopied, it's a smorgasbord of drawings, photos, vegan manifestos, stories and a dash of random musings on life. The entire zine is handwritten, and mercifully, Elizabeth's writing is neat and legible. I sometimes found the vegan bits a tad preachy, but the random life reflections and artwork make up for it. There's a wintery/hibernation/holiday theme and even a "bonus recipe" for pork cake! She probably found in it an old recipe book back in the day when they didn't know better. Ingredients call for a pound of fresh ground pork, molasses, cinnamon, dates and raisins." --Michelle Kay

I found the pork cake recipe in an ooooold soul food cookbook and it just about knocked my funny bone clear to tuesday, I just had to include it. But there's real recipes in there too! Holiday stuffing, wine-marinated tofu, soy whipped topping, pumpkin pie and how to make a pie crust (and a happy NOT-eaten pig presiding over the food pages). So yeah, if anyone wants a copy for $2 canadian plus postage, email me at and I'll send one right your way! :D

(oh yeah, and the vegan bits? NOT PREACHY. Sometimes I think all you have to do is mention the V-word and people go all buggy and defensive. I was just talking about why *I* eat the way I do, and briefly at that.)

There's more good news, too! To nurture the sourdough starter in the beginning, you have to toss out 1/2 cup of it and replace it with fresh flour each day. But today it looked really ready, with a white foam and a delicious smooth sourness. So I figured why waste the 1/2 cup and why not attempt to make pancakes?


I have not eaten pancakes before this day.

Gorgeous, fluffy, tangy and sweet, slight crisp outside, the texture is to DIE for and they cooked up like an absolute dream - I am never ever making soggy old regular pancakes again (at least, not unless they have cool things like chocolate or figs in them, because I'm pretty bad at making the regular ones). Seriously, this is the stuff pancake dreams are made of. Yay sourdough!

And I rarely eat pasta, but I do love a good pesto. So I threw together some whole wheat spaghetti, tomatoes, marinated broccoli, greek olives, and spinach & sunflower seed pesto for an A+ awesome lunch. Gotta celebrate, right? :D

Sunday, February 10, 2008

dense food, concentrated flavas

The good news is, the cherries dried perfectly, and they're ready to turn into cake flowers and scone fillings and oatmeal mix-ins, yum!

There's bad news, though. See... I think I have two enemies in the kitchen. Or at least, two things are making themselves apparent as factors I need to watch out for. The first of these is vegetable stock cubes/overly salty broth, which just seems to stomp all over any delicate flavour in it's path (I sincerely don't know why I even have that box in my cupboard!!). And the second is impatience.

Two cases in point: I come home last night to see my innocent little crock of very recently born sourdough starter just LAVA-ing all over the top of the coffee maker. How very exciting, I figured - it was ready! At the very least it was about 3 times the size it used to be and smelling really nice and making a respectable yeasty mess of my kitchen, so I threw together a sponge for rye bread and went to bed. Then this morning I made the rye bread, which rose not at all and came out of the oven as dense as a log (despite smelling great). Completely inedible. I had a piece and I felt like I ate a rock! I hate wasting food so I'm going to have a supply of caraway breadcrumbs pretty soon, but I've never had bread turn out so badly! *sniff*

(note to self: sourdough starter is ready when a white foam shows up. no sooner, silly girl!)

My other enemy, salty broth, reared it's ugly head for what I thought would be a lovely counterpart to fresh caraway-rye bread - the Tomato Dill Lentil soup from Eat, Drink & Be Vegan. First off I threw in more broth than the recipe called for, to use it up. Then I had to substitute a bunch of stuff - dried dill for the dill seeds, brown sugar for molasses, dijon mustard for mustard powder, etc - and maybe after all that I was silly to expect perfection, but it came out really heavy. I had to water it down a TON, and the flavour was good, it just didn't have a fresh tomato and dill kind of thing going on, so that was sad.

On the plus side, I made fajita-y type things the other night with refrieds, peppers, onions and sour tofu cream that were really excellent, and I'm closing with that so I don't feel like a total complain-y susan. Yay mexican! At least I know there's no such thing as too much hot sauce. :D

Friday, February 8, 2008

I saw the sun in my cast-iron skillet...

Spring's coming, I just know it! It might just be the feeling of health increasing with every passing morning, but today there was real sun, and slush, and I chose to take a long walk, for the first time since maybe december. It was *glorious*. And I felt like celebrating, so I knew dinner had to be spicy and full of fruit!

Before that, though....

Nothing says spring to me like nurturing small things like yeasty-beasts to life. Totally inspired by Ashasarala's beautiful whole wheat sourdough bread, I decided to mix together my own sourdough starter. It already smells so very alive! I also started some sprouts yesterday, but I forgot to take a picture (and it's pretty much just lentils in a jar at this point).

My first foray into boiling seitan - I was soooooo tempted to change up the spices (recipe's from the V-con of course), but I left well enough alone in the name of seitanic science and I am yes yes very glad I did! Strangely, the simple flavouring is full and nice enough just as it is, and I even love the texture! It's softer and more chicken-y, and perfect for what I wanted to make next ----

Okay, it's just the mis-en-place for what I made next - Naughty Curry's Pineapple Couscous Curry (and I was led to the wonderful NC site through the FatFree Vegan Kitchen, thank you so much!). Can we say fun to make? Fiery cauldron action, popcorn-loud mustard dances, chile-fire bubblin' brilliant colours, yum yum yum!

And sooooo worth it, flavour-wise. I wish I'd had the full 1 1/2 cups of pineapple juice, I can definitely see where an extra bit of juiciness would push this over the edge, but certainly it was festive enough to actually make me turn off my ever-present music blaring and let the flavours riot on their own. This is the kind of thing excellent dinner parties are made of. Orange food! Anyway... I'm still holding strong on my vow not to buy any groceries for one full week and you know what? It is way way more fun to cook like that. Necessity and invention and all that.

(I can still buy oranges and catfood, though. Some things you don't mess with. ;)

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

*cough cough*

I've been sooooo sick this week. Fever, headache, chills, nausea, all that stuff. Plus I think the mineral spirits I use to thin my oil paint have been making everything twice as bad.... X_X

But uh.... you'd think I would stay in bed or something, and eat white rice (as sick food goes my roommate swears by vegetable broth with little pasta stars - kinda tempting, actually!)

But no. No, I've been cooped up and damned if my deadened tastebuds won't appreciate the only thing I can do to pass the time (reading is out due to double vision, ha ha ha *SIGH*)

The black bean burgers (oh yeah, everything in this post in Veganomicon. For the record) actually hit the spot! It was one of those better stomach days, and it was nice to get something classic into me. I think that's what the flavour of these are - they won't smack you in the face with anything distinctive, but I actually don't like when veggie burgers taste like hemp or rice or almonds. These taste like... burger!

Chickpea noodle soup = MAGIC SOUP

I had NO appetite that day. I have no idea what possessed me to make soup. But I did make it, and I took one bite and it was like my mom had wrapped a blanket around my shoulders.... amazing stuff.

The mushroom and spinach strata was okay. I don't think it was substantial enough for a dinner and I think I may have burned something or not used enough bread (the parts with bread were pretty good). Everything was kinda tasting bitter to me that day anyway. *shrug*

And this morning I made the chocolate-hazelnut biscotti (with almonds instead), for a friend teaching english in Korea. Right now she's helping clean up after the December 6th oil spill... washing the shore one pebble at a time. (I think she definitely needs chocolate in the mail, yes?)

K, I should probably go make some plain rice now... or soup with pasta stars... I am eyeing the chipotle black bean recipe...... ahhhhhhhh!!!

Friday, February 1, 2008

cherry bombs!

So I haven't been cooking a lot this week, which is definitely a good thing. Sometimes I buy so much food it's ridiculous, and my freezer is about the size of a shoebox - fills up fast! So I've been eating leftovers and tomato soup, mostly (btw, adding dried onion/garlic, vegetables and leftover beans to tinned tomato soup has got to be the best most easiest cold-weather supper ever). Didn't stop me from making cookies, though! Officially my first batch of cookies from Vegan With a Vengeance, it's the chocolate thumbprints! SO incredibly good, like little brownie fudgebombs, zomg. The batter was insane gooey so I had to add more flour, but it's pretty wet around here and the end result turned out great anyway. I didn't have raspberry or apricot jam, but I did have sour cherry preserves that my mom canned while she lived in Kelowna and the combination is wonderful - a little tart button of juiciness in the centre, so perfect. I gave most of them away, but now I kind of want to make another batch for ME, haha.

And I've been waiting - just waiting - for the second I had french bread in the house to make the fronch toast. (okay, so it was actually panini-bread, but vutever, it works!). It was a little chewy the first time, I definitely overtoasted the bread, but it was still a total revolution to taste my FAVOURITE breakfast ever, after years of not having it. Whenever I went out for breakfast as a kid I would always get french toast - big fat icing-sugared slabs (usually more than I could handle), covered in strawberry sauce and whipped cream... so eating this is like being an eight-year-old in a hotel breakfast nook alllll over again. tres nostalgique!

It was so good in fact, that I had to make it again (this time without toasting the bread and letting it soak more in the milky batter). Beautifully crispy-tendersoft toast! I could eat this forever and ever and ever..... and can you believe I found pretty much a bucket of cherries for a dollar? So not in season or anything, but tasty nonetheless.

I also added a splash of vanilla and a dash of salt and cinnamon to the batter, and I'm already thinking of wackier versions (chocolate? herb & garlic? curried? hee hee). I mean, it's just battered toast, right? What more could you ask for in a meal-base? Mousse on top! :OOOO

Yeah, I'll have the weirdest hotel in the world someday. :D

(coming up: experiments with drying cherries in incredibly humid weather, ooh!)