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.