Pumpkin Pudding

Jay, god love him, has issues with recipes. In that he doesn't use them. Whoever's reading this might be thinking, "But, Maggie, you don't really use recipes either. You're always changing things or throwing things together." This is true, but I have several cookbooks, and the internet, and I look at recipes a lot. I look at other food blogs; I look at random cooking sites; I watch videos from everyday dish and food network. I have a lot of contact with recipes, and even though I almost never follow one to the letter, I generally use them to get an idea about proportions of ingredients, or what flavors might best complement each other.

When I say Jay doesn't use recipes, I mean he really refuses to even look at them. And in terms of complaints about boyfriends, I know this one is minor, but it's super dooper annoying because it can be so wasteful. I'm sure I don't have to remind you all of the pumpkin pie failure soup. There was also the bread that resembled a bowling ball, at least in texture.

The only upshot here is that he lives with two additional people who can generally rescue his unfortunate baking mishaps. The credit on this one goes to John. Jay tried to make pumpkin muffins. Who makes muffins without looking at a recipe? Jay does. They came out really dense and wet, but not altogether inedible. They just needed a little something extra. John made an orange maple syrup sauce and poured it over the top of them, turning them into delicious individual pumpkin bread pudding delights.


BBQ Tempeh and Lemon Dill Coleslaw

This is kind of awesome. John made a special bbq sauce with orange juice and rind, brown sugar, ketchup, and vinegar and poured it over some prefab garden vegetable tempeh. Then he baked it with some sauteed onions and peppers, and I made some creamy lemon dill coleslaw.

The coleslaw was just half a head of cabbage, sliced, mixed with some vegenaise, salt, pepper, dill, celery seed, and lemon juice. I like it really lemony so I used the juice from a whole lemon, and just enough vegenaise to moisten it. The lemon coleslaw and the orange bbq sauce made a nice pair, but I wish I'd done something kind of Asian-inspired, like ginger and lime coleslaw. Maybe next time.


Peach Cobbler

What? Stop looking at me that way. There has been weather and we've been cleaning the house and here I am with more food love for you.

This is a peach cobbler. I bought an enormous bag of frozen peaches from my local food co-op and I needed to use it. I was feeling sad about the winter and wishing I'd saved more lovely summer and fall fruit, and then all of a sudden there it was, like a beacon: ginormous bag of frozen peaches! I decided cobber was the way to go because it's so easy.

This one was made with flour and a five grain cereal blend and some baking soda and some soy milk and oil. Basically a rough biscuit dough. I put the peaches in a casserole dish, dumped a cup or so of sugar on top, and then spread the dough around. I baked it at 350 until the dough spread out and firmed up and looked dry. It was delicious and we ate it with vanilla ice cream.

Speaking of which, I posted something on facebook last week about the sausage apple stuffing and a friend posted a comment with something like "Sausage?! Was it vegan sausage?!" And I responded with this:

"Yeah, I actually am talking about vegan sausage. I dispensed with the superfluous words like soy or fake or vegan when describing my food a while ago. I just expect people who know me to assume, correctly, that I mean the vegan version of whatever I'm talking about."

If anyone reads this, what do you think about that? Do you generally modify the words when talking about your food? I just find it cumbersome and unnecessary. Thoughts?

Also, I added a tag. It's "local." I'm going to go back and stick it on a few previous entries.


Fettuccine Bolognese

I'm calling this a fettuccine bolognese. I'm not really sure what a proper bolognese is, but m-w.com tells me it's a tomato sauce flavored with meat. Well, this is a tomato sauce, and it's flavored with fake meat, so that's close enough.

I made my basic marinara, with onions and garlic, a can of crushed tomatoes, a bay leaf, some red wine, salt, pepper, and a bunch of Italian spices. Then I stuck a couple of Tofurkey Italian sausages in the food processor, ground them up, and added them to the sauce.

I know this isn't terribly exciting, but it was terribly delicious, and it's the easiest way I've found to make a really "meaty" pasta sauce.

I'm going to be playing a lot of catch up this week, I have posts ready to go about the following foods: pumpkin pudding, peach cobbler, homemade bread, bbq tempeh and coleslaw, spaghetti bolognese, aloo ghobi, and (coming up tonight) vegetable samosas.


Stuffed Squash and Sausage Stuffing

My roommate John had a birthday today. We had leftover biscuits and cornbread in the freezer, and a few leftover pancakes from breakfast. John had been wanting stuffing. Easy.

I crumbled up the bread products in a casserole dish, sauteed some sausage, diced apple, minced onion, and chopped fresh sage in a skillet, then mixed all that together and poured vegetable broth over the whole thing. I baked it at 350 for a while, until it looked done, maybe 25 minutes or so.

The squash was pretty easy, too. I sliced them in half, brushed them with olive oil, and baked them until they were sweet and mushy. I cooked some red chard, onions, and garlic in a pan with some nutritional yeast and other spices (I have no idea what I put in there, maybe some Cavendar's?) and dropped a spoonful in the middle of each one. Finally, I topped them with shredded mozarella teese. When John tasted the filling, he asked if it could be his boyfriend. This was an awesome birthday meal.



Sarah sent out an e-mail planning a big sushi dinner for her birthday, only the party wasn't until next Saturday. Screw that. The Rosetta household got a mad sushi craving and decided to do something about it. After hitting the Asian grocery for nori and miso paste and a few other essentials, we came home and made two courses.

The first was a big pot of miso soup, with dried shitake mushrooms, baked tofu, and hijiki. We pretty much just added the paste to the water until it tasted right, then added the other stuff and let it simmer for a long time. No real science to it.

The rolls were a little more complicated, but no one should be intimidated by making sushi. We sliced up a bunch of kale, shiso, steamed butternut squash, baked tofu, carrots, and scallions (from our own back yard). We made a bunch of jasmine rice in the rice cooker, with extra water to make it a little stickier. If you don't have sushi rice, any short or medium grain rice will work fine. When the rice was done, we mixed it with rice vinegar, salt, and sugar and let it cool off some before making the rolls. Then we sat down at the table and just kind of went for it. Everyone grabbed a sheet of nori, spread it with rice, threw various combinations of the ingredients on it, and rolled it up. I even made one inside out roll and sprinkled it with sesame seeds. We made some wasabi paste (from the powder) and some spicy mayo sauce out of vegenaise and sriracha. We ate sooooo much.

If you've never made sushi before and still think it's scary, let me share two facts. Fact 1: we made about 14 sushi rolls for under $10 total. We fed 4 people with sushi that, at a sushi bar, would have cost close to $100. We had tons of leftovers. Fact 2: The very first episode of Post Punk Kitchen gives a step by step sushi making lesson in great, immaculate detail. No more excuses. You don't even need a mat. Just go for it.


Curried Pumpkin and Kale Soup

Oh, hello there. I'm a curried pumpkin and kale soup. I look delicious and innocent, but I have a dark secret. I started life, as do most pumpkin soups, as a can of pumpkin at the grocery store. Maggie and Jay brought me home and I sat in the cabinet for a few days, awaiting my debut.

Then, one night, among much revelry and perhaps a few drinks, Jay decided to make me into a pumpkin pie. Maggie wrote down the recipe that she likes, and brought it to him in the kitchen before returning to the living room to chat and watch movies with everyone else. I was delighted! A delicious pie! It was about halfway through the process that I got nervous. Jay didn't seem to be looking at the recipe much, and instead was tossing in ingredients without measuring them. Dubious.

Nevertheless, I trusted Jay. I mean, he made that great aioli last week, and delicious guacamole. Surely he wouldn't do me wrong. I was poured into a crust and put in the oven. I baked. And I baked. And then I baked some more until I was getting extremely worried. Everyone had gone into the backyard by the fire and seemed to have totally forgotten me. When Jay finally returned and alarmedly took me out of the oven, it was not a pretty sight. I was dark chocolate brown and, as Maggie quickly concluded, did not taste anything like pie should taste.

I was devastated. They banished me to the refrigerator and decided to think about me later. After waiting so long to satisfy them with my delicious, squashy goodness I knew I'd likely be thrown out into the compost heap. The next night, however, something magical happened.

Maggie, John, and Jay were again spending time in the living room, and John suggested that they might make a soup for dinner. Maggie volunteered to make some crusty french rolls to go with it, and while she was in the kitchen, ended up making the main dish as well. She started with 4 cups of vegetable broth made from bouillon. When the broth was simmering, she did something brilliant and magical. She scooped out most of my mushy, pie interior and dumped me into the broth. Jay whisked me into oblivion while she chopped kale. Once I was entirely incorporated with the broth, she added the kale, some more water, curry, ginger, salt, and sriracha.

I couldn't believe my good fortune. Instead of being tossed heartlessly into the compost heap, I had been reinvented as a delicious fall soup that everyone loved. I was soaked up into bread and eaten ravenously by the multitudes.


Pizza with Teese Cheese

Adieu, VeganMofo. I had a great time and it really kicked my ass into blogging again. I promise that even though October is done, the posting won't stop. It might lighten up a little, but who knows. This week I was out of town for work and then in stupid CLE all day on Wednesday. If a CLE is mandatory for all newly licensed attorneys, it should be equally applicable to all areas of practice and not some kind of civil lititgation love in. That's all I have to say about that.

I finally gave in and ordered some Teese. I was sort of holding out, thinking I'd make it back to Chicago soon and try more, but I heard they finally released the cheddar flavor so I caved. I'm so glad I did, because it's awesome. One of the good things about having a boyfriend who works at a pizza place is that you can bring your own ingredients and make pizza with their dough and their ovens. Actually, most of the pizza places here will let you bring in your own cheese, so it's not that big of a deal except that it's free. For this one, we brought the mozzarella Teese, fresh oregano, vegan pepperoni, and local shitake mushrooms. I ate like five slices last night and then another for breakfast this morning.

It doesn't taste like cheese. I cheat often enough that I remember very clearly what cheese tastes like, and this ain't it. That said, it tastes really, really good. And, of course, it melts. It melts and it browns and it looks just lovely. I mean look at it. While it didn't taste like cheese, it tastes close enough that it didn't make me feel deprived, and I think that's what's important when evaluating an analog. I'll post again when I think of something fabulous to do with the cheddar, but I definitely recommend the Teese.


VeganMofo 23: Baba Ghanoush

I had an eggplant that was about to be at death's door (pictured in the pantry below) so I decided to make some baba ghanoush. I've never been a big eggplant fan, but lately I've been trying to work on expanding my palate. I think people view vegans and vegetarians as picky enough as it is, and when you start excluding more foods it just gets overwhelming for people trying to cook for you.

I never have made it baba ghanoush before, but I've tried it at restaurants and thought it was okay. Jay smoked the eggplant on a fire in the backyard, then I blended it with tahini, olive oil, salt, pepper, a little curry, and lemon juice. I forgot to put garlic in it, but it was good anyway. Nevertheless, I'll remedy that tonight.

VeganMofo 22: Reuben Sandwich

Yesterday for the picnic I made reuben sandwiches. I made the corned beef seitan recipe from everyday dish. My corned beef, however, was substantially less attractive. It sort of looked like a naked meat loaf, and was a little bit spongy while it was warm. It firmed up quite a bit as it cooled, though. I put it on toasted marble rye with sauerkraut, sliced tomato, and thousand island. I was out of veganaise so I made the thousand island with garden herb dressing and ketchup, along with some pickle relish and a squirt of spicy mustard. They were really good, and my friend Eric said he wants to get together and perfect the recipe and maybe sell it at the new grocery store going in down the street. Wicked.


VeganMofo 21: Pantry

This is the shelf in the corner of my kitchen that serves as the pantry. I figured I'd share since I'm so excited about all the fresh things on there. Every Monday I make an order with the Arkansas Sustainability Network's food club, then pick up all my lovely veggies on Saturday morning. Pictured here: Sweet potatoes, eggplant, apple, butternut squash, turnips, potatoes, tomatoes, and summer squash. Everything but the potatoes are from ASN.

I've mentioned before that eating local food is really important to me. In fact, for almost the entire summer, I ate nothing but local produce save for one head of organic broccoli that left me guilt-ridden for weeks. It would take a long time to explain why this is so important to me, but if you ever get the chance you should take the Menu for the Future discussion course. Heck, just order a few of the books with your friends and do the course yourself. It doesn't have to be taught really, as it's more like a book club than a class. That will give you a much better understanding of the ethics behind my choices than I ever could articulate.


VeganMofo 20: Tofu Scramble

I'd never made a tofu scramble before. Maybe that's not true. It's possible I tried it once in high school and the result was so abysmal that I swore it off. But yesterday was a banner day. A few months ago, I signed up for the couchsurfing project. I have no idea where I heard about it, but it seemed like a cool idea: if someone is traveling through town, help them out by hosting and letting them crash on your couch. Since my house has a huge couch, a twin hide-a-bed, a futon, and a big air mattress for overflow, I figured it was ideal. Thursday afternoon I got my first couch surfing request, from a girl named April, her boyfriend Jonah, and their two dogs. He had a dj gig at a club downtown, and they were going to come in late Friday night and leave fairly early the next morning. My roommate John expressed apprehension about the dogs, but in the end his desire for good karma via unconditional hospitality won over.

As it turns out, April is vegan. We had already planned to make a big breakfast for them before they headed out, but it was extra special because there are few things a road-weary vegan appreciates more than a hearty vegan breakfast. Mostly because they're so hard to come by.

The other great thing about the cooking experience was that my two roommates and I cooked three things in the kitchen, all at the same time, sort of tandem cooking all the dishes together. My kitchen isn't huge, but we worked amazingly well together, like a well-oiled breakfast machine, and had a great time. We made biscuits and gravy, tofu scramble, and home fries.

The tofu scramble was easier than I'd imagined. I sauteed some onions, peppers, and garlic in smart balance, crumbled in some extra-firm tofu and let it cook until it had some chewy toasty brown spots on it. I also added cumin, chili powder, salt, and pepper. John taught me the method of patting it down and letting it cook for a while, then stirring it and patting it down again. When it got close to done, we added some diced tomato. Both the tomato and the tofu were contributed by our lovely house guests, who said we should go ahead and use them before they go bad. It was really delicious and much easier than I anticipated. I'll be making it again.


VeganMofo 19: Chocolate Chip Pancakes and Sausage

I'm not a big fan of chocolate. There, I said it. I'm not one of those women who coos and swoons whenever she sees a brownie. I like sweets, and I like chocolate fine, but I don't place it on a pedestal.

That said, these chocolate chip flaxseed pancakes were awesome. And yeah, that's some Gimme Lean sausage. I love that shit.


VeganMofo 18: Guacamole

I'm always mystified by those packets of powdered guacamole mix they have in the grocery store. Guacamole is not difficult and shouldn't requite a packet of any sort of powder. Jay made this one with two avocados, a small tomato, a bunch of minced garlic, minced fresh jalapenos, fresh cilantro, a whole lot of fresh lime juice, and some salt. We tried it on several types of condiment conduits (because you know whatever you're scooping with is just a vehicle for transporting the guacamole) and we both preferred the olive oil and cracked pepper triscuits.

In general, Jay really prefers snacks to actual food. One of the first weekends he spent at my house, I left one Saturday morning for brunch with my mom. When I came home he was sitting at the dining table with literally every condiment in the house spread out on the table along with various chips and crackers and tortillas. I was a little startled. "What are you doing?" I asked. "Having a dip fest!" he replied, as if it were obvious. His strength in the kitchen really is in making fantastic dips, probably due to his affinity for them. He made a great asparagus aioli a few weeks ago that I'm drying to have him duplicate once I get more vegenaise. Yesterday for the picnic he made a garlic butter spread with the smart balance and garlic and salt that we spread on my focaccia (which was better than the previous one, if that's even possible). His other kitchen adventures are good, I'm not saying he's a one trick pony, but for some reason condiments are where he really shines. That's really good, since creamy delicious vegan condiments aren't so easy to come by here in Little Rock, and I've seldom had the inclination and skills to make them.


VeganMofo 17: Biscuits and Bacon

I'm a breakfast person. I'm not a bowl of cereal, powerbar kind of breakfast person, either. I like to sit down, preferably with a friend, and actually eat real food. I build in time in the morning so I can do this before work several days a week. For me, it sets the tone for the day. For one thing, I'm not starving before lunch time and hitting the vending machine. But beyond the physical benefits, sitting at the table and spreading jelly onto freshly made biscuits, listening to Morning Edition, and taking some time to mentally map out my day or the rest of my week is a great mental sanctuary.

This morning it was drop biscuits, tempeh bacon, and sliced pears. After I took the picture I made little biscuit sandwiches with smart balance, local muscadine jelly, and bacon. They could kick an egg mcmuffin's ass any day of the week.


VeganMofo 16: Focaccia and Marinara

I got my breadmaker back from my friend's house where it was being stored and decided to break it out. I started with this recipe and modified it by adding a bunch of fresh rosemary in the dough and a bunch of nutritional yeast.

I didn't feel like chopping onions. Actually I never feel like chopping onions. I know you think I'm being a big baby, but it really does hurt and my eyes swell shut if I'm even in the same room. Usually I get someone else to chop them, but Jay didn't want to chop them either. We decided to use the handy food processor, but somehow they turned out more like onion mush. Whatever. We added a bunch of garlic to to the mush, then dumped the mush out into a skillet with olive oil and started cooking them. I added more fresh rosemary (we had pilfered a ton of it from my mom's garden), fresh thyme, and fresh oregano, along with some dried Italian seasoning. With all the fresh herbs, the mush started to turn a lovely green color.

I took the bread out of the bread machine when it was done kneading, oiled it, and let it rise for a bit until it was fluffy. Then I smashed it out in a thick circle on a pizza pan and made little dimples with the end of a big spoon. When the mush seemed to be done cooking, I spread about a fourth of it on the top of the bread and put it in the oven at 400.

To the remaining mush, I added a big can of crushed tomatoes, more olive oil, salt, pepper, and (of course) more fresh rosemary. I didn't have any wine in the house, but normally I also add a splash of whatever's handy. I covered that and let it simmer while the bread was cooking, and in 20 minutes we had something magical. As you can see from the picture, I'd already eaten a huge chunk of it before I was like "oh crap I have to get my camera." That's how much I love you, internet. I stopped eating magical focaccia so that I could show it to you.

Edit: I am, once again, internet famous. It's a shame he suggests serving it with grilled chicken, but it's nice to sneak all this good vegan food into the popular media.

VeganMofo 15: The Vegan's Hundred

Yanked from Bittersweet, via Baliwhat.

1) Copy this list into your own blog, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
4) Post a comment here once you’ve finished and link your post back to this one.
5) Pass it on!

I was surprised at how many things I had to leave unbolded because, while I've eaten them, I haven't eaten a vegan version of them. Interesting. Also, nothing is crossed out because I can't imagine ever refusing to try any food, especially a vegan food.

Read the list here.

VeganMofo 14: Garlic Hashbrowns

Good boyfriends wake you up with kisses. Great boyfriends wake you up with garlic hashbrowns.


VeganMofo 13: Tiny Pear Pies

So, I'm like 30 minutes late for the VeganMofo Iron Chef Challenge, but I totally have a good excuse. I didn't think to actually check the challenge until 7. When I did check, the theme ingredients this week were pears and nuts. That worked out well for me since my friend Sally had just come by with a crapton of pears from her grandparents' pear tree, and these tiny pies were already underway.

Jay made a pie crust with flour, salt, sugar, smart balance, and a little water. We smushed it into muffin cups. I took the pears and left the skins on, cored them and chopped them up in the food processor with some sugar and ground clove. We put the filling in, topped it with another crust, and then I dropped a couple of almonds on top, sprinkled it with sugar, and baked it at 400 until it started to brown on the edges. Did I drop the almonds on top just so this would fit the Iron Chef Challenge? Yes, of course I am that transparent. The bright spot is they turned out really nice, all toasty on there, and added a lot to the pie.

VeganMofo 12: Pomegranates

Three distinct things going on in this post. The first is that those poms were grown in my Maw's yard. They're my favorite fruit and I had no idea they could grow here. All this time I could have been eating local pomegranates. I have no more palpable regret than this.

The second is that my friend Benton's shirt matched them almost exactly.

The third is that this is the first time I've edited a photo before I posted it here. It's evening and the light's not so great, but I don't like using a flash. I just opened up the editor in Irfan View and played with the sliders until it brightened up. I've been meaning to play with some editing but I don't have the funds to invest in anything like Lightroom or Photoshop. Ever since I read Lolo's blog about food photography, I've been trying to push myself to take better pictures. This one I did of the spring rolls may be my best ever, but this one's not bad.


VeganMofo 11: Taquito Thingies

After spending all morning and afternoon at a church leadership retreat, I'm actually in a much better mood. And I still love my deep fryer. Jay had made some pinto bean dip the other day and it was stored in the fridge for future innovations. I decided to roll it up in some flour tortillas and drop it in hot oil. This was the result, and it's delicious and crispy and flaky.

Tonight I'm singing in public for the first time in ages. I'm a little nervous. I love singing, but singing or any kind of creative expression is very vulnerable for me. The good thing is I'm singing with two friends, in a bar where I know most of the audience. Still, a little nervous, so that means you have another entry to look forward to: vegan cocktails.


VeganMofo 10: Deep Fried Oreos

I don't know why I was craving these. They were good, but I think they were better in my imagination. I used this recipe, but for some reason my batter came out a little lighter. That was okay, though. I mean, like I said, they were good, but I'm in a bad mood and I guess I needed something a little more familiar or comfortable. I don't even especially like oreos (or in this case, generic oreos). Maybe I'll be in a better mood tomorrow.


VeganMofo 9: On Fasting

So, until late tonight, you won't see me blogging about the food I am eating. That's because it's everyone's favorite holiday, Yom Kippur. I'm not observing strictly this year, but I am fasting because, for me, that's the most important part of the atonement.

I've talked here before about how much I love food. Food, to me, is beautiful and spiritual and creative and sensual. Because of this, spending 25 hours without it really gives me time to reflect and appreciate life in ways I'm not otherwise able to. I've been working on some New Year's Resolutions, and here they are.

1. Go to work every day by 9. I know that should go without saying, but I've totally been slacking lately and working weird hours and I need to stop. A regular schedule is good for me.

2. Try to be more efficient and effective when I'm at work. This means surfing and chatting less, if at all.

3. Eat out no more than twice a week. This includes lunches.

4. Drink no more than one night a week. This is more a monetary thing than a health thing, but obviously health benefits will ensue.

5. Start working out again. Every day.

6. Sleep at least 7 hours a night, but no more than 9.

7. Make a realistic budget and stick to it.

A lot of these don't seem like they have to do with food, but they all lead back to it. Getting on a regular schedule includes eating at regular times, and sticking to a budget means cooking more. Food is so central to everything else in my life, but I don't feel like I have to apologize for that. It's just that I have to realize that and treat it with reverence so it doesn't interfere with other needs and responsibilities.


VeganMofo 8: Chili and Cornbread

My roommate made chili yesterday while I was making corn chowder. It is awesome. I have no idea what he did, but he used canned beans and canned tomatoes and fresh onions and garlic.

The cornbread I made a few weeks ago, and kept wrapped in foil in the fridge since then. It's the V'con recipe and it reheated really nicely in the oven with a little water in there to keep it from drying out.

I mentioned a few days ago, it's nice to be around people who have similar values when it comes to food. I mean, after it was done John covered his with shredded cheddar and sour cream, but in it naked form it's totally vegan.


VeganMofo 7: Attractive Corn Chowder

So, the corn chowder came out really, really good. We boiled the cauliflower florets until they were mush, pureed them in the food processor, and added them back to the water to make a nice, thick stock. We chopped up the fresh corn in the food processor until it was mealy, then added that too. We also roasted on ear of corn so we got some nice carmelized whole pieces. We added a bunch of spices and then just let it cook down a while until it was a good consistency. After that, we added some sliced scallions and served it in Panera bread bowls. I think the goal of making it more attractive (and just generally more successful) than last time was achieved several times over.

VeganMofo 6: Food Survey!

This morning I had 8 grain toast from Boulevard with Smart Balance and Jay's homemade butternut squash spread. Toast with orangey brown spread isn't worth a picture, although it was delicious, so instead here's a survey! Courtesy of Food Snobbery is my Hobbery.

1. Name a song that involves food in some way.
Rock the Casbah. It uses the words oil, grille, and kosher, so it totally counts.

2. What criteria do you use when choosing a new cookbook to buy?
Recommendations from other vegans.

3. What did you eat today?
See above.

4. Name a vegan food that you know exists but you have never tried.
Homemade vegan ice cream.

5. The Food Network just called and needs you to start your new show tomorrow. What will the title of the show be?
"Maggie's Noshy!" (Thanks, Jay.)

6. Favorite hot sauce or other spicy condiment?
Frank's Red Hot.

7. How old were you when you became vegetarian/vegan?
16, but there have been lapses since then.

8. Favorite vegan cheeze?

9. Cutest baby animal?
Baby polar bears.

10. Favorite type of jam/jelly/marmalade/preserves?
This year's homemade pear butter with garam masala.

11. Do you take any vitamins/supplements?

12. What food/dish most embodies the Fall season?
Sweet potatoes.

13. What food would you have a hard time living without?

14. Coffee, tea, or hot chocolate?

15. It's 10PM and you're starving. What do you eat?
Chips and chili cheese dip.

16. If you have an animal companion, what is his/her favorite food?
No animal companions at the moment.

17. Worst injury you've gotten in the kitchen?
Burns. Lots of them.

18. When you have a food-related question, who do you call?
My mom.

19. Summer is ending- What food will you miss most?

20. What snacks do you keep in your purse/backpack/desk at work?
On my desk at work, I always have peanut butter, salt, and a few spices. I always try to keep a Luna bar in my bag in case of emergencies.

21. Favorite soup to make on a rainy day?
Anything warm and creamy, preferably served in a bread bowl. Hence, question 24.

22. What's your favorite combination of fresh vegetable and/or fruit juices?
I always go for the green blends with spinach and spirulina.

23. Favorite brand of root beer?
Diamond Bear's Big Rock Draft Root Beer.

24. Make up your own question!
What are you making tonight?
Corn chowder with a pureed cauliflower base. Hopefully prettier than last time.


VeganMofo 5: Butternut Squash Spring Rolls, Take 2

Last time I blogged these, I followed Isa and Terry's recipe from V'con pretty precisely. This time I sort of winged it and used whatever I had laying around. I roasted half a cubed butternut squash in the oven this morning and managed to not eat all of it before lunch time. I had some leftover tofu so I diced it and deep fried it to a nice chewy consistency. We also threw in some raw spinach, rice noodles, and tempura portobello mushrooms. I made a peanut sauce with apple cider vinegar, homemade peanut butter, tamari, sriracha, oil, sugar, and cayenne pepper.

I just realized I don't really have much else to say. It's nice to be with someone who not only can appreciate my cooking but actually contribute and make it better, and has the same kinds of values I have when it comes to food.

VeganMofo 4: Sweet Potato Pancakes

I realize I just posted about sweet potatoes yesterday (and they even got a shout out in my entry this morning), but when you're eating local produce, this season entails a lot of sweet potatoes, apples, and squash. Just get used to it.

Fortunately, sweet potatoes are awesome and versatile. Plus, this from wikipedia: "In 1992, the Center for Science in the Public Interest compared the nutritional value of sweet potatoes to other vegetables. Considering fiber content, complex carbohydrates, protein, vitamins A and C, iron, and calcium, the sweet potato ranked highest in nutritional value." How about that?

I made these chunky sweet potato pancakes by using my favorite vegan pancake recipe and using a partly mushed up sweet potato as the egg substitute, as well as throwing in a little cinnamon.

Edit: I am internet famous, again.

VeganMofo 3: Mostly Raw Lunch

I've been trying to eat more raw food lately. I'm not going to get all crazy about it and start talking about live food, but I know it's generally healthier so why not try to incorporate? Here's a lunch I took to work last week. I had the apple and a few pine nuts for midmorning snack. For lunch I made a little wrap out of the spinach tortilla and the tomato, avocado, and lime. The celery was afternoon snack, along with the peanut butter that lives on my desk.

In addition to being healthy, I really like the simplicity of eating this way. I know raw food can get really fancy and complicated with all kinds of obscure ingredients and elaborate dehydrator techniques, but it can also be about finding fresh things and just eating them.

For me, the major drawback is that I think it would be nigh on impossible to eat both raw and local. Since the beginning of the summer, 90% of my produce has come from my amazing CSA. In the summer and early fall I'd be able to keep afloat on berries, peaches, tomatoes, apples, peppers, and grapes. We're coming up on the season, however, when I'd be stuck chomping on raw sweet potatoes for a good bit of the time.

Eating local food is important to me. It's more important to me than whatever health benefits might derive from eating raw. I had a great conversation last night with my roommate, John, and then later with a few other friends, about the need to apply what John called "a discerning mind" to religious and ethical choices. Every set of beliefs or principles is going to leave one with competing interests, from time to time, and it's necessary for a person to be able to practice awareness and choose the best course of action, weighing those interests.

About a month ago, my mom, who is a dean at the law school here, gave my contact information to one of the new law students. She was new in town and having trouble finding vegetarian options. My mom enthusiastically told her that her daughter is vegan and loves food and loves to cook. I was, of course, happy to help out. Once I started exchanging e-mails with this student, however, I realized she was one of those vegetarians that makes people hate vegetarians. She complained that she was from another part of the country and had never had any trouble with eating vegetarian there, but that here in Arkansas the a restaurant wouldn't even change out the oil to make her eggplant parmesan free from meat particles! I've had friends who are Jain, and while I don't know whether this student is, I understand ahimsa and the desire to keep your food free from any particle that would contaminate it with violence. As John pointed out, however, asking a restaurant to throw out perfectly good oil to accomodate one person's preference is a huge waste, and waste is a form of violence. This person seemed to be applying an ethical principle without approaching the situation holistically and discerning the best course of action.

I feel the same way about eating raw. Of course I care about my body, and there are great benefits to adopting a raw diet. For me, the benefits of eating local, sustainable food far outweigh those. For now, it's an occasional treat and a way of simplifying my lunch-packing process.


VeganMofo 2: Sweet Potato Fries

I have an obscene number of kitchen appliances. I have a food processor, a blender, a toaster, a toaster oven, a crock pot, and a microwave. I think those are all pretty standard. I also have a bread machine, a waffle iron, a deep fryer, and a rice cooker. I used to have a stand mixer but I lost custody in a messy break up and I don't like to talk about it.

At any rate, it takes a while for a new appliance to really work its way into the rotation. The deep fryer was a gift from my older brother in 2005, and it's really just now coming into its own with the debut of these sweet potato fries. I think the first time I had sweet potato fries was in Charlottesville, VA when I went to visit Jett during his MFA program. I was instantly in love, but I think they're more of a coastal south food because they're a little scarce here. Now I can make them myself.

Since sweet potatoes are kind of hard, I cut and boiled these before deep frying them. You could probably just parboil them but I got distracted so they got a full boil. The deep fryer is alarmingly simple, so after the boil I loaded them into the basket, set the thing to 375 and, after some preheating time, lowered the basket into the canola oil to the tune of a satisfying hiss. The ones in Charlottesville came with a brown sugar dipping sauce, but I went slightly less cloying and dipped these in bbq sauce. Served here with baked beans and tempeh bacon.


VeganMofo 1: Kitchen Makeover

Wow, look at that. It's October. And I haven't posted since May. I didn't even post my review of Chicago Diner, and here it is VeganMofo again and I'm feeling like a jerk. A lot has happened. I have a house and a roommate and a pretty boyfriend and life is generally of very high quality. Buying a house is a crazy process, so to kick things off I'll post some before and after pictures of my kitchen. This is where the magic happens.

As you can see, there was no magic happening in this kitchen before. The walls were some kind of putrid sunshine urine color, and the rest was stark white except for the oddly ecru dishwasher. Also, note the tragic laminate backsplash.

In order to remedy a lot of what was wrong here, I removed the doors from the three biggest cabinets, removed the backsplash, replaced the counters, painted the cabinets, painted the walls, installed new hardware, painted the hinges, and got rid of that weird shelf thing above the sink. When I put it that way, it sounds like a lot, but here it is in all its glory. Although the dishwasher is the same, the butter yellow on the cabinets makes it look a little less ridiculous, even though the stove is white and the refrigerator (not pictured) is stainless steel.

The other major problem was how claustrophobic the kitchen is. I like cooking and I like having people over, but whenever you have to disappear into a kitchen, it feels like abandoning your guests. This kitchen isn't small, but it's not big enough for a kitchen table. You can see the tragedy here, as you peek around that door frame into your living room, where the forlorn guests await your return as they stare awkwardly at one another. Not a good party.

The obvious solution here was to cut and frame out a big pass through area. I had it wired for the hanging glass lights so it wouldn't just look like a big blank maw into the dining room. It's pretty big, at four by six feet, and the ledge is wide enough to set drinks or plates on without them teetering over.

I also extended the countertop about six inches out from the edge of the counter on this side so that there wouldn't be that wasted space between the edge of the stove and the door frame. It created a little area that might be big enough for one of those rolling storage units, but I haven't had the time or funds to check that out yet.

You can also see that the counter is now flush with the stove, which was the result of removing the door and cutting park of the actual cabinet off. I need to go back and touch up with paint because of little changes like that, but it doesn't look bad enough that I'm desperate to fix it.

At any rate, this is where the vegan cooking takes place. I'm going to try to write twenty entries this month in honor of VeganMofo, and you can check out an explanation and the blogroll here.


Chicago Diner

I didn't have internet my first two weeks in my apartment, so posting would have been cumbersome. I just got back from an amazing trip to Chicago. I ate so much good food, and I want to make a post about my lunch today at Chicago Diner. I'll do that tomorrow, because I'm tired and sort of road-weary right now.


Box of Goodies from Taiwan!

I said way back in my first post that one of my exceptions to being vegan is when I have a chance to experience something from another culture. This is the first example of that this year. My friend visited Taiwan and brought back a huge box full of goodies, and none of the packaging is in English so I have no idea if anything in here is remotely vegan. I am assuming there may be some butter and gelatin tucked away in the plethora of luscious goodies. I'm trying a little bit of everything and passing some of it along to friends and coworkers.

While I think Anthony Bourdain goes a little overboard on his blanket characterization of vegans as the enemies of good food (I really love food) and says he couldn't live in a world without veal stock, I kind of see where he's coming from. When I heard him speak a few months ago, he talked about food as a cultural passport. He said when he was in Vietnam the people in the village where he was staying offered him a whole chicken. He knew it was all the meat they could afford in a month, and it was a huge honor to be offered that, and of course he accepted. When you travel, one of the best ways to show people that you respect them and want to learn more is to try the food without reservation or judgment.

While of course my friend who brought me all these goodies isn't going to judge me, a different Taiwanese friend commented on it last night. "It's weird that you like all that stuff. Most people don't like it unless they grew up eating it." I can't imagine what's not to like about flaky, delicious pastries and chewy soft candies, but it was noteworthy to her.

That leads me to believe it's not specifically a vegan or vegetarian issue. People are generally hesitant to open up to new foods, especially when they look totally unfamiliar or have unidentifiable ingredients. Vegans, I think, have a much better reason (whether it's health or animal rights or environment) than others (where it's probably just xenophobia). When it comes to opening up my world a little bit, I try to put all my reservations aside, including those that I find very important in other circumstances.


Hardin Farms Strawberries

I went to the new farmer's market in Argenta this morning and it was awesome. It was their first morning of operation but it's going to be a regular thing on Tuesdays and Saturdays. The weather was comfortable and beautiful, but the 8 or so booths were fighting with the wind the whole time. The reason this market is so necessary is because the one in the river market tends to be overrun with people who import produce and just mark it up, or tacky craft booths which are fine in moderation but can be overwhelming in great numbers. The market in Argenta is all certified Arkansas-grown, which is absolute rocksauce. Here are the strawberries I picked up from the Hardin Farms booth. Beautiful.

Update: I am internet famous.


Passover Seder

I went to a seder at my church tonight and it was awesome and beautiful in so many ways. I made my first vegan matzo ball soup with this recipe and it turned out really nicely. I wanted the balls kind of dense, and they turned out great, but I might let them fluff out a little bit more next time. Here's the one I made for my mom with rosemary instead of dill, because she thinks dill tastes metallic. I thought the dill tasted lovely.

I have to admit, doing a seder with twenty or so people and only five Jews in the room was a unique experience, but it turned out really great. In a lot of ways it reminded me of my vegan cooking class, where there weren't that many vegans present but a lot of people who were interested and wanted to learn more. Which is great because, in my opinion, most Jewish holidays are all about learning. They're filled with stories and history, and traditions that echo those.


Portuguese Flor de Sal

Some girls have a few beers and realize, when they sober up, that he was neither cute nor an actual music video producer. I have a few beers and realize, when I sober up, that I spent $12 on salt. Fortunately, expensive salt is less shameful than skeezy hook ups and, as it turns out, it's really good! I've been using it since I got it on salads and pastas and roasted eggplant. It's got kind of a tangy spicy thing going on that reminds me of these mangoes they sell on the beach in Thailand. They're little slices of sour green mango and in the bottom of the little plastic bag there's some mixture of spicy chili and sugar. In American cooking we tend to separate our flavors more than I've noticed elsewhere: something is either sweet or spicy or savory. While this is definitely still predominantly a savory flavoring, it's a nice twist on plain salt and a good way to challenge your palate.


Spinach Dip

So, here comes another admission that I've succumbed to the ease of a canned vegetable. Again, it's the kind of vegetable that in some ways is best when it's cooked until it's beyond soggy and well into the territory of almost-disintegrating. Spinach is, of course, also great fresh or steamed, but for purposes of a dip I like it easy to mix. Frozen spinach, the cut up kind not the whole leaf kind, would probably also work here. To the drained can of spinach I added about 1/4 cup (4 tbsp) Vegenaise and 1/4 cup Tofutti cream cheese, then added a chopped up tomato as an afterthought (which is helpful because the vitamin C makes you more able to absorb the iron in the spinach). I've been going crazy with the Vegenaise lately. I saw an episode of PPK where they talk about the grapeseed kind being superior and I finally got around to trying it. It's AMAZING. I don't even like mayonnaise really but I could eat this stuff straight. The spinach dip is pictured with some pita flat bread that has an alarming number of calories but is so worth it when you toast it a little.



I got to craving a BLT. I know there are a lot of great recipes for bacon out there, but I just wasn't feeling up to it. I got the bright idea to take some vegan pepperoni, sprinkle it all over with bacon salt, and stick it in a 400 degree oven until it got a little chewy and crispy. It worked surprisingly well! I threw it on some toasted whole wheat with red leaf lettuce, beautiful organic Arkansas tomatoes, and a smear of Vegenaise. Really, it was heavenly. I don't think this would work as a bacon substitute for other purposes because it was still pretty spicy, but with the combination of flavors it was really great.

I know I promised baked goods. I still haven't found time to make them but I will soon. Also look for a couple of product reviews of my favorite things, and a nice creamy spinach dip.


Another Pasta Salad

It's boring lunch time! I'm sorry, I've neglected posting, but starting work and adjusting to a new schedule has taken a lot of time away from cooking and putzing about in the kitchen. I did make a big pot of pasta shells last night and took half of it for a pasta salad. Here is it on my desk. It's got sliced almonds, golden raisins, peas, celery, and some vegenaise.

This morning at my gym some people presented me with a cookbook and a card they'd chipped in for to celebrate me passing the bar exam. How adorable is that? It's the Designing Women Cookbook: lots of great traditional southern food. This link mentions the cookbook at the bottom, and on the left you'll find a link to Designing Women Fanfiction. Now I've seen it all.

I think I'm going to make something Thursday morning to share with the people who got it for me, so I'll post about that when it happens.


Red Beans

My mom loved these, and told me a story about the first time she made red beans and rice. The funny part was that all she did was heat up some red beans and make some rice. Yeah, that's not so much how it works. It was funny though, because I was feeling lazy when I made these and started by dumping a can of red beans and a can of diced tomatoes in a pot. I quickly thought better of it and dumped them into a bowl, rinsed out the pot, and sauteed some onions and garlic. Then I put the beans and tomatoes back in, heated it all up, and added tons of chili powder, some kind of salty cajun seasoning, and a little cayenne. I ate it with some cornbread leftover from the cooking class, but you could just as easily serve it over rice.


Vegan Cooking Class

I'm still kind of in shock about how well the cooking class went. We've received nothing but compliments, and I feel like I had a big part in making the class successful. I don't even know where to begin. At about 2, I met John at Kroger and we hopped around buying all the food. We got back to the church around 3:30, cracked open some beers, and cooked nonstop for the next 2 hours. People started to trickle in about 4:45, and we had relish trays out on the tables with celery, sliced tomatoes, olives, and pickles. It was brilliantly easy and a relish tray is a classic Southern appetizer, so it went with the night's theme. People seemed to be mingling and talking, so it gave us a little extra time to cook and prepare. There was definitely something wrong with the ovens at the church: everything took like three times as long as it should have, but somehow it all worked out.

At about 5:20 we got started with the class, and by that time there were around 20 people there. John and I did a brief introduction. I did a talk on vegan health and also a little vegan mythbusting regarding things like a diet of nothing but tofu and salads, or overly complicated protein combining. Then Brandy talked about why veganism and vegetarianism is important to her as an omnivore, before Dan (another omnivore) talked a little bit about the environment and the impact of dietary choices. After that I did a demonstration of the chickpea cutlets from Veganomicon, and talked about fake meat vs. other protein sources. I emphasized that if you expect it to taste like meat you're going to be disappointed, but if you just expect it to taste good you might really enjoy it.

Then we served the food, buffet style, and took some time to eat. Chickpea cutlets, roasted garlic mashed potatoes, cornbread, and turnip greens. Classic Southern food with a vegan spin. For condiments we had agave nectar, bbq sauce, hot pepper sauce, bacon salt, and of course salt and pepper. People seemed to really like the food, which was awesome, and I got a break to sit down and eat with people and talk.

When people were mostly done eating, Gene gave his heavily censored talk about animal rights. This was so important to me, because although it absolutely needed to be said, I'm so cautious when dealing with a mixed audience. It's easy to put someone on the defensive. He did an awesome job, though, and the audience then started sharing their own stories, also tactfully, about their own experiences with the meat industry.

John then gave a quick talk on stocking a vegan pantry, and eating vegan on the run. It was a good way to show people some of the staples they might not previously have kept in their kitchens but might need to think about in order to eat more vegan food. Throughout the night, we also touched on other issues like eating local and organic foods, and using cloth grocery sacks. They integrated into the topics so easily, and why not talk about important things like that when you have a captive and friendly audience?

I wrapped up the end of the night with a brief note on how dietary practices tie in to spiritual beliefs, and then we served dessert. John totally bailed me out on this one, because when we met up I still had no idea what to do for dessert, but he had a quick fruit crisp recipe that was super easy and hello, cobblers and crisps are about as Southern as you can get. It was fantastic, despite the unruly ovens, and everyone loved it. We ended at about 7:15 or so, and the young adult group stayed for clean up and celebratory vodka shots.

Looking back, it was such an awesome experience. I'm a total introvert so speaking in front of a group and organizing and event like this takes so much out of me (look how pink I am!) but it was so rewarding to be able to share a topic about which I'm so passionate with new people. A Mexican theme follow-up class is already in the works. I can't wait.


Roasted Brussels Sprouts

I've been sucked onto the roasted Brussels sprouts bandwagon. They really are amazing and you munch them like popcorn or potato chips. Cut off the bottoms, slice them in half, toss them in olive oil (or cooking spray) and a bunch of salt. Cook them 10 minutes on each side at 400 degrees. I think the bigger ones should have cooked longer, so next time I may take out the little guys and leave them in for a bit.

I'm also playing around with taking pictures without a flash. I think I like it better.


Simple Mattar Curry

Remember how I lamented about the droopiness and yuckiness of canned vegetables in my last post? There is one exception. I love making curry with canned peas. I think it's because real curry cooks for a long time, so the peas are sort of brown and wilted by the time it's served. Frozen or fresh is superior, certainly, if you have a long time to cook or the forethought to use the crock pot. Today I was lazy, however, and threw together this really easy mattar curry. I sauteed half an onion and a few cloves of garlic, added a can of peas (undrained), and then threw curry powder all over the place along with a little salt and pepper. Then I just let it simmer for a few minutes, and served it over some short grain brown rice. Basmati would have been preferable, sure, but I didn't have any and I like the sweetness of the short grain brown. I think it's a nice compliment to a sweet yellow curry. I start work for real on Wednesday (right now I'm working but not in the office) so a lot of my posts may be of my cute little sectioned lunch box that my mom got me.


Green Thai Curry

I know, I've been abusing the hell out of the frozen stir fry veggies lately. They're just so goddamn versatile, I can't help it. For me, the quality of frozen vegetables isn't low enough that I don't enjoy the food (like it would be if they were all droopy and canned) and it's the only practical way I know to get the diversity of vegetables in the small amounts I work with.

So here's another look at them, this time with tofu. I used the Thai Kitchen brand curry paste which was sort of lame. The flavor was weak and the spice was almost nonexistent. I need to go back to Sam's Oriental and get more of that stuff in the tub. Anyway, this was super easy: a block of tofu, a bag of frozen veggies, a can of coconut milk, some vegetable broth, lemongrass, and lots and lots of curry paste until I realized it wasn't going to get spicy and just added sriracha.


Chocolate Banana Peanut Butter Rolls

I had a yoga retreat at my church this morning, and there was a potluck brunch afterwards. My assignment was to bring bread. I did bring bread, a nice multigrain from Boulevard Bread Co., but my cooking class is coming up in a week and I figured I should bring something good to pimp it out. I think I may have mentioned this before, but nothing represents veganism as well as delicious baked goods.

I've also just been wicked intent on making these lately. I love the combination of chocolate and bananas, and peanut butter I like as a nice accompaniment. Last week we had a few bananas who had seen better days and I was going to make banana bread, but then I looked on the bjorkedoff blog and saw these and fell in love.

Unfortunately, I didn't get around to it until too late for those bananas. Also unfortunately, there was no recipe posted for these, but there is a bjorkedoff recipe for cinnamon rolls that others seem to enjoy. I used that recipe (modified for my usual impatience and inability to locate ingredients) and made the following modifications: instead of the flaxseed and water as egg replace, I used one large banana; instead of the cinnamon filling, I used about 3/4 cup of chocolate chips melted up with 3/8 cup chunky peanut butter. I left them un-iced, also, because the sweetness of the chocolate was sufficient, I thought.

They turned out really well, considering I winged it entirely, and everyone at the brunch was adequately impressed. I'd like to try to get more banana flavor in there, because it's so incredibly subtle, so I may play with the recipe more next time. A few people asked if I was going to teach them how to make these at the cooking class. I stumbled a lot before I muttered something like, "These are pretty difficult, on the general cooking, uh, difficulty ... scale." And it's true: real baked goods, with yeast and kneading and time to rise, take a lot of time and labor. I was up at 6:30 this morning making these. The result, however, is so, so worth it.