White Bean and Roasted Garlic Soup

I finally made the white bean and roasted garlic soup. This involved a couple of "firsts" for me. For one thing, I'd never made beans before. Sure, I eat beans all the time, but I'd never actually bought the bag, soaked the beans, and boiled them before. I always use canned. The whole process seemed complicated and intimidating, and you have to know in advance that you're going to need that kind of bean? No thanks.

Well, lately my cooking style has changed a lot. Rather than deciding I want to make something and going out and buying ingredients for it, I'm much more likely to stock staples -- things like rice, pasta, and vegetable broth -- and decide what I want to make based on what looks good at the grocery store or what I have on hand. The summer salad I posted a few weeks ago was born of the fact that, even though they're not in season, I spotted some beautiful strawberries that were just begging to be consumed. In this case, I had a bag of great northern beans left over from making the king cake, where I bought the entire bag of beans just to hide one in that monstrous confection. I decided I'd give it a go and see what I could do with them, so I grabbed my cookbooks and landed on this amazing soup recipe from Vegan with a Vengeance.

The process of soaking and cooking the beans could not have been easier. Shout out to my mom for all her advice, because she's awesome. I soaked the beans overnight, then I dumped them in a pot with a bunch of water, salt, pepper, some celery sticks, and about a fourth of an onion just to give them a little flavor. If I were eating them on their own instead of using them in a recipe I probably would have used vegetable broth instead of water. I kept them on a low boil for a couple of hours until they felt and tasted like beans. That's it. Then I divided them into tupperwares and froze what I wasn't going to need right away. I think I can easily do this every couple of weeks, and then I'll always have some beans on hand that I can thaw out and use.

The recipe also involed another first: roasting garlic. This, also, was surprisingly easy. I cut off the tops of the heads to expose the cloves and set them on a cookie sheet. I sprayed them with oil and baked them about 40 minutes at 350. That's literally all it takes. Veganomicon suggests wrapping them in foil, but I didn't and they turned out fine.

The soup itself was also pretty simple. Beans, onion, vegetable broth, fresh sage leaves, salt and pepper, a bay leaf, and some celery seed which I substituted for the fennel seed that the recipe called for. I boiled all that for a bit, added the roasted garlic, pureed it with the immersion blender, and squeezed in half a lemon. While everyone is nuts over immersion blenders, I think for pureed soups I prefer the regular blender just because I like the supercreamy texture. This one was nice a little chunky, however, because it sort of had a rustic edge to it. The little croutons are just a sliced hard baguette that I brushed with oil and stuck in the oven. They made awesome dippers.


Impromptu Pasta Salad

I made a big batch of pasta the other night and only sauced my own serving, thinking I might get creative with the rest of it. Today for lunch I was craving something substantial, so -- while it's not terribly creative -- I made pasta salad. My mom makes a pasta salad with chicken and peas, and for some reason I can taste the chicken in this one even though it's not the same recipe at all. It's just cooked pasta, frozen peas, chopped celery, vegan parmesan, vegan mayo, salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Yum.


Studying for the bar exam is total poop. I woke up this morning mentally exhausted from evidence drills last night, and found myself craving pancakes. I totally cheated and used Bisquick, but they're just as easy the traditional way. I've been loving this recipe since I first found it in like 2002. It was not so flower-infested at the time, but it did have the goofy exhortation. I've always been sort of a snob about using real maple syrup, as in I've been known to sneak it into diners in my pocket so I don't have to use the faux corn syrup stuff. I think the only valid reason to deviate is if you really need the sugar free kind for some reason, but it's only like 100 calories for 1/8 cup so just bite the bullet because it's so worth it. The maple syrup they make in Vermont is great, but the really premium shit is from Canada.


Noodles for a Sick Girl

It must seem like I get sick a lot. The truth is, I almost never get sick. Before I had that kidney infection a few weeks ago (when I posted the ditalini) I hadn't been sick with anything in over a year. Then that thing takes me out for a few days, followed in short order by one crazy bitch of a cold. I woke up fine on Saturday morning, went to the gym, spent the day with my grandma, and by bedtime I was hacking like a little old man with the consumption. It was on Nigella Lawson's suggestion here that I decided to use udon noodles in my sick girl soup. I didn't follow this recipe, but it turned out pretty yummy. The broth was kind of weak so on the second day I threw it out and just ate the noodles and veggies. I'm better now, so I guess it worked.


Valentine's Cookies

OMG Happy Valentine's Day! I made the sparkled ginger cookies from Vegan with a Vengeance but left out the molasses, added a little red food coloring, and dipped them in sprinkles instead of tourbinado sugar. I think they turned out super festive. The ones I sent to my valentine got broken in the mail, so they arrived as emo broken hearts, but the ones I have here maintained their shape and are still lovely.



I made the cornbread from Veganomicon the other day, since I was cracking open a can of chili and a girl can't have chili without cornbread. I think this is maybe a regional variation, but I like my cornbread pretty sweet and I think people who put jalapeƱos in it are the devil. Savory cornbread just isn't for me. So I doubled the sugar, and it turned out perfect. I didn't have a cast iron skillet handy so I made mini-muffins. Here are a few reheated last night with some vegetable soup, since I'm sick again.

In other news, my church is going to have a vegan cooking class hosted by me and a couple other of the young adults. I'm freakishly excited about this.


Salad Love

As the introduction to the salad chapter in Veganomicon suggests, salads are something of an enigma among vegans and vegetarians. People seem to assume it's all we eat and, all too often, it's the only option available at many restaurants. But I have a confession: I love salads. I love them with all kinds of fancy toppings. The one I made for lunch last Thursday, pictured here, was topped with lemon oregano soy feta, sliced strawberries, clementine sections, chopped walnuts, and a light honey mustard vinaigrette. The one I had for dinner Friday night had crushed tortilla chips, salsa, mozzarella, and chili. Especially when I'm trying to watch calories, salads are such a staple food for me, but the stereotype is the reason you don't see my lunch fare more often.


Super Fat Tuesday King Cake

I was planning on getting together with some people to socialize and pretend to watch election returns on Super Tuesday for a while now. I honestly hadn't even realized it was Mardi Gras, but an e-mail went out to the group asking if we should try to get a king cake for the occasion. There are a few vegans among the group, so I shot one back and volunteered to bake it so that the vegans could happily partake. I'm a decent cook, it's a cake, how hard could it be, right? I even looked up a few recipes and it seemed like a few steps but nothing overly complicated. Let me say right now: this was one labor-intensive motherfucker of a cake. I ended up using this recipe, which I modified marginally: a little more sugar, a little more filling, and oil instead of egg replacer. I also used some Fleischman's Unsalted margarine instead of Earth Balance because I had it in sticks and that's easier for me to measure, obviously.

I did take the suggestion in the recipe of rolling it out on the formica countertop, which worked surprisingly well. I did not, however, take the suggestion of using my stand mixer's dough hook because I don't have a stand mixer. Insert lamentations here. There was a lot of kneading and wrestling with dough, but the result was really worth it. My glaze was a little lumpy, my sprinkles were less than brilliant, but the cake was really, really delicious.

I think one of the greatest compliments a vegan can get on her cooking is the one I got last night. "Did you say this is vegan?! I totally can't even tell." Several other non-vegans made similar comments, one of them even expressing his annoyance at me for bringing something he couldn't stop eating. On one hand, it's sad that people have low expectations of vegan food. If someone is a good cook, you shouldn't be able to tell that something is vegan, especially baked goods. There are so many good substitutes for the basics, like eggs and butter, that the finished product should be indistinguishable from the normal variety. On the other hand, it's nice to have the opportunity to change those perceptions, even just a little bit. The cake was HUGE (it turns out the recipe was supposed to be for two: oops) but when I left there was maybe a fourth of it left. So, while it wasn't the prettiest cake, I feel like it was definitely a success.


Pizza with Pretend Cheese

So, I got in the mood for pizza. I had a few servings of the Follow Your Heart Mozzarella flavor left and some Martha White pizza crust mix, and figured I'd put them to good use. It was super easy and actually turned out really nicely. Of all the pretend cheese I've tried, FYH is the most meltiest. I wish I'd had time and forethought to shred it, because I think that would have made the pizza more awesome, but it was fairly rad as it is. It's just olive oil, spices, chopped tomatoes, and cheese.