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I have been a really, really bad Mo Fo this week. I have several tests and papers coming up, my roommate moved to New York, and I’ve been doing my best to spend time with Friendboy. It hasn’t been a vigorous week for cooking, but I have a few things and I’ve been remiss in not putting them up.

Smashed red potatoes topped with beef-style seitan simmered in a thin gravy, with blanched broccoli on the side. I think it looks unfortunately like something that might appear in a veg version of a cafeteria, but it was warm and tasty and required almost no effort.

The first part of this week was unseasonably cold for Charleston, with temperatures in the 40s and 50s. Today it was in the 70s and low 80s. Come on, South Carolina, get with the program. It’s fall, bring back the sweater weather! On one of the cold mornings, I made a warm breakfast for Friendboy and myself. Oatmeal with almond butter mixed in, topped with brown sugar and slices of local winesap apples. Usually I mix peanut butter into my oatmeal, but I bought some CRUNCHY (!!) almond butter the other day and couldn’t wait to use it.

Spinach udon in faux beef broth with red and yellow peppers, purple wax beans, snap peas, onion, and fried tofu. I drizzled some sesame oil over the top, and after I took this picture I added a little bit of soy sauce. The noodles and broth are cooked separately, the noodles are placed in the bowl and topped with the raw vegetables, and then boiling broth is poured over everything. I cover it with a bowl and let sit for a couple of minutes. Fast.

Tonight I steamed a spaghetti squash in the oven, scraped out the flesh, and mixed it with Smart Balance. I made a sauce out of canned tomatoes, diced red pepper, and garlic. Last weekend I bought some bok choy and I wanted to try something a little different from the usual Asian-style preparations, so I sauteed it in olive oil with chopped portobello mushrooms and then dressed it with balsamic vinegar and crushed red pepper. SO GOOD. I like bok choy in stir fry as much as the next girl, but it pairs pretty well with Italian flavors, too. I made some quickie garlic bread in the toaster oven out of “English toasting bread” (I don’t know, but it’s good), Smart Balance, and garlic salt.

Awesome byproduct of spaghetti squash:  spaghetti squash seeds. Everybody roasts pumpkin seeds, but did you know that acorn, butternut, and spaghetti squash also have edible seeds? You can roast them just like pumpkin seeds. I put these ones in the oven on some foil at 275F for 20 minutes. They’re coated with olive oil, salt, fresh cracked pepper, and curry seasoning. I’ve eaten a couple of them, but they’ll mostly be my snack with a mug of peppermint soy cocoa while I watch Mulholland Drive.

I solemnly swear that I will do better in the next and final week of Mo Fo.

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A variety of food-related pictures from my weekend.

This is my haul from my (very chilly!) trip to the farmer’s market on Saturday morning. I had a busy and somewhat stressful week, so I still had a lot of things left from last week’s trip to use up and I made it a light shopping day. Red potatoes, grafitti eggplants, persimmons, organic garlic, organic portobellos, organic wax beans, and organic bok choy. The persimmons are still very firm and need to ripen on my counter for awhile before I can do anything with them.

Faux beef soup made with beef-style seitan, carrots, red potatoes, leeks, onions, and broth. Simple, a bit boring maybe, but warm and tasty–which is the important part, because it’s been unseasonably cold in Charleston for the past few days.

A lazy stir fry made with portobellos, flying saucer squash, red and yellow peppers, shredded carrot, onion, leeks, soy sauce, and sesame oil piled on top of quinoa.

The picture isn’t much, but this was AWESOME. I made hot cocoa on the stove from scratch out of light soy milk, vegan sugar, cocoa powder, and the secret ingredient… raspberry extract. I drank two big mugs of it. Okay, the “process picture” of the cocoa and whisk in a saucepan actually became peppermint cocoa tonight, but the mug picture is from the raspberry cocoa on Friday. The technique is mostly low heat and constant whisking until the cocoa is steaming, but not boiling. Boiled soymilk has a funky flavor.

Grafitti eggplants waiting to be cut up for stew. I’m fairly sure these are a variation on the fat Italian-style eggplants, but I just think the skin is so pretty.

This next picture looks… well, unappetizing. But it was very tasty! I made a seitan and eggplant stew based on this recipe from FatFree Vegan Kitchen, but I added red peppers and some green peas. I used red lentils instead of split peas. I didn’t have any pomegranate molasses, so I splashed in a little reduced balsamic to give it some sweetness and acidity. It came out very thick, aromatic, and homey. It’s been about fifty degrees tonight in a house full of big old Charleston windows, so I was looking to make something thick and warm and umami. This was perfect.

I ate it on its own, but I think it would pair well with rice or couscous.

It’s true. Like many of you, I grew up in an omnivorous family. I became a vegetarian at age twelve, and after that my awareness of what meaty tidbits my family ate on a regular basis becomes a little dim. What I’m getting at is this:  I don’t know what omnivores eat on the nights when they’re tired and it’s late and they haven’t planned anything and they need to clear some things out of the fridge, but I do know what vegans eat in this situation. Stir fry. A concoction that often features Eastern flavor components like ginger, soy sauce, and sesame oil, the contents of stir fry are often based entirely on what is at hand and have only the most nebulous relation to anything found in Asian cuisine. The abuses that we, as a group, have committed against the concept of “Japanese food” in the name of using up some fast-fading vegetables are numerous and surprisingly tasty.

There are times when a stir fry is planned in advance and executed brilliantly, and then there are stories like tonight’s. I fell asleep, and woke up at 8pm both hungry and unwilling to put forth hard work. “Stir fry!” I said to myself, thinking of half a packet of carrot udon noodles in the cupboard. I rummaged around in the fridge to see what lucky vegetables would be included.

Looks like tonight’s winners are some impulsively purchased green beans, the last quarter of an onion, a portobello mushroom cap (I feel like this is not an Asian mushroom), and a stalk of green onion. Unbidden, my mother’s voice comes to my mind:  “What about protein?” But then out of the freezer, like a bat, flies a bag of frozen edamame. Veggies, carbs, protein–this is beginning to look like a perfectly healthy meal. There is a hitch. I am completely out of both soy sauce and sesame oil, which as far as I am concerned come standard in stir fry. It’s too late, I’ll have to make do with crushed red pepper, cayenne, garlic, powdered ginger, and powdered onion soup mix. I fry everything up in vegetable oil, which does the job just fine even though it lacks the savory kick of sesame oil.

On the side I have a pile of “fridge pickles,” which are just slices of cucumber, radish, and green onion which have been marinating in vinegar and salt in the fridge. Don’t be fooled by their simplicity, they are a sign from the gods that we, the people of Earth, are loved.

I spent the whole afternoon cooking, although none of it showed up in my dinner. I tried to make oatmeal bread in my bread machine, which became a long and chaotic story and ended with finishing the loaf in the oven. It is quite edible but very unattractive, so I doubt that I will ever post a picture of the actual loaf. Simultaneously, I made the pumpkin fauxsage from Have Cake Will Travel using the pumpkin leftover from Thursday’s pumpkin muffins. I made one giant log of fauxsage, but in retrospect I should have broken it up into smaller links. It is tasty, but enormous and a little more spongy than I would have liked. The fauxsage will be featured in more detail during breakfast tomorrow, but I’d like to close with something that will probably not show up on any other blog during Veganmofo.

That is a slice of homemade oatmeal bread topped with a layer of Tofutti “cream cheese,” a piece of fried and salted pumpkin fauxsage, and horseradish preserved in beet juice. Sometimes my tastebuds channel Eastern Europe in very strange ways.

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