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I submit my dinner for your disapproval. If the Powers-That-Be had wanted me to “eat my colors,” they would have made golden beets, mushrooms, onions, quinoa, Russian fingerling potatoes, and balsamic vinegar more diverse in hue. The beets and potatoes were roasted with a little spray of olive oil, kosher salt, and pepper. The portobellos and onions were sauteed with balsamic vinegar, and I paired them up with quinoa cooked in veggie broth.

And here are some pictures from yesterday’s bagel-making.

Unboiled lumps of bagel dough whose holes are quickly closing up. I’ll get the hang of it eventually.


Boiling the bagels before baking. This was the step that I was most concerned about and it turned out to be the easiest part.

Tray of bagels fresh out of the oven. It may not look like it, but there are faintly detectable holes in all of them in real life.

And a close-up. I used a recipe that Isa Chandra Moskowitz included in her post on “food migration” on the Powell’s Books blog. These are really delicious. They are almost all gone. I’ve never been to New York so I don’t know anything about genuine NY bagels, but the bagels I get around here are extremely dense. These bagels were considerably lighter, with all kinds of holes and nooks in them for catching extra toppings (jam, Smart Balance, and PB have all tested well so far). I just wish I had a stand mixer with a dough hook–kneading bagel dough by hand is an extremely sticky process.

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Well, yesterday was my first postless day of Mo Fo. I actually did do something in the kitchen–I made a batch of bagels using the recipe Isa Chandra Moskowitz included in her guest blog post for Powell’s Books. They were very tasty, but sort of misshapen. I guess I just don’t have the hang of forming them into nice rings yet. Between their lumpy shapes and the bad lighting in my kitchen, the photos were not good.

I would have posted those badly-lit pictures of boiling dough, but life intervened. I ended up rather suddenly being invited to go with some friends to Columbia (about 1.5 hours away or so) to see Richard Dawkins give a reading from his new book and do a Q&A. I don’t always agree with Professor Dawkins, but he is a very charming public speaker and I really enjoyed the trip, even though most of it was spent riding in the back of a two-door sedan squeezed between two of my guy friends in a space that wasn’t even an actual seat. We got home late and I just barely had time to eat another (chewy, delicious, full of nooks and crannies for jam to hide in) bagel and brush my teeth before passing out in bed.

I will be back with more food-related blogging later tonight.

Yesterday was A Major Kitchen Project for me, so I decided to make today’s cooking a bit more scaled down and I made the choice to experiment with converting some fondly-remembered omni recipes from my childhood to vegan versions–some of them more successfully than others. Also today, I actually ate three whole meals, something I almost never do. Most days I eat one meal (dinner) and one or two snacks. I essentially only eat breakfast on Sundays and usually only eat lunch if someone has invited me out. This really doesn’t seem healthy, so I’m trying to remedy that.

For breakfast, I toasted one of yesterday’s sandwich buns and spread it with natural peanut butter and some slices of Jazz apple. I looooved peanut butter and fruit on sandwiches when I was a kid–in high school I used to eat peanut butter and kiwi sammies as a snack–and it seemed like a good way to kick off the morning. I ate it on the run with a travel mug of rooibos tea with soymilk and turbinado sugar.

For lunch, I tried my hand at adapting Childhood Classic #1: Chicken Fingers, using chicken-style seitan. I used a recipe on the side of a Bisquick box which called for dipping the chicken in egg before shaking it in coating. Lack of egg is usually my main problem in effectively breading vegan food for baking or frying, and today I decided to try soaking my seitan pieces in “vegan buttermilk” (soy milk + lemon juice). In addition to making the breading stick, I hoped that the soaking process would keep the seitan from drying out too much in the oven.

The seitan in a bag of “buttermilk.” I would have put them in a bowl, but we had “planned water line maintenance” on my street which meant that I was without running water for part of the afternoon and wanted to keep a stack of dirty dishes from forming on my counter.

And the seitan, breaded and drizzled with melted margarine as per the Bisquick instructions, waiting to go into the oven. Okay, the problems with this recipe were mostly strategic. The foil on the baking sheet is sprayed with olive oil. The side of the seitan which was facing down for the first six minutes of baking crisped up beautifully, exactly the texture I was hoping for. But because the flip side didn’t get this same oil exposure and had to rely on the margarine drizzle, only parts of its breading cooked properly. The directions on the box could have been a bit clearer on the purpose of the margarine drizzle–if I had thought about it, I would have sprayed the tops of the seitan with oil, too. But as cooked, one side did not crisp up as well as the other. The seitan inside stayed moist thanks to the buttermilk, and the properly cooked side of the breading was tasty and crisp. I ate these dipped in leftover Carolina barbecue sauce. I had a prettier picture, but I decided to use this one displaying the improperly crisped side of the seitan so ya’ll could see what I did wrong.

Childhood Classic #2 was peanut butter Hershey’s kiss cookies. Even if your own family never made them, I’m sure that you’ve seen them somewhere: a sugar-coated peanut butter cookie topped with a melty Hershey’s kiss. I love those cookies. I even already have an excellent vegan recipe for them somewhere, but I couldn’t find it, so I hastily veganized a recipe from the internet and hit a couple of stumbling blocks. The cookie dough had a texture closer to muffin batter and the proportions of sugar seemed off to me. I added more sugar and flour in tablespoonfuls until I had a dough I could work with (although it developed bizarre ooblick-like properties), rolled them in a mix of vegan sugar and powdered ginger, and popped the little suckers in the oven. When they came out, I topped them with squares of Chocolove dark chocolate* instead of Hershey’s kisses. The cookies themselves are soft and cakelike, and not terribly sweet–and honestly, I like them that way, because while I love to bake I do not have a big sweet tooth.

Childhood Classic #3 was Macaroni and Cheese. I used the Eazy Breezy Cheezy Sauce recipe from the PPK, and ended up channeling Cuny Queen by adding peas to my pasta. Normally I would use broccoli, but since I don’t have any, peas it was. On the side I fried up some beef-style seitan, as a nod to the chunks of Polish sausage that my mother would serve with mac and cheese when I was a kid. Then I drenched the entire thing with hot sauce. I actually tend to make my food much spicier than other people like. My father is anosmic–that is, he has no sense of smell–and because of this his sense of taste is very limited. Since the spicy “flavor” of hot peppers comes from capsaicin, he can actually taste spicy food, so most of what my mother cooks for him is very hot and she passed that tendancy on to me.

I liked the cheezy sauce. It’s not Kraft, but if you’re used to the boxed vegan mac and cheese mixes like Road’s End Organics, eazy breezy cheezy is better and cheaper than those. After I took the picture, I got a little concerned about my general lack of vegetables today and I cooked up some turnip greens with sesame oil and ginger. They were yummy, but I was rather hungry by that point and I neglected to take a picture.

*a note on Chocolove dark chocolate:  Chocolove bars work well for this recipe because they are divided into roughly Kiss-sized pillows of chocolate which break apart easily. Chocolove recieves some of their base chocolate from sources which do not have separate processing lines for dark and milk chocolate. While Chocolove uses separate dedicated lines for dark and milk chocolate bars in their own facility, and the dark chocolate bars do not contain dairy ingredients, they cannot promise that there is no cross-contamination from prior steps in the processing chain. I’m comfortable with that, but if you are allergic or if this is an issue for you, any other vegan chocolate bar which can be broken into Kiss-sized lumps can work for making peanut butter kiss style cookies. The higher the percentage of dark chocolate in a Chocolove bar, the lower the chance that there has been cross-contamination.

Back in my corned fauxsage hash post, I mentioned that, since I made my own seitan, the hash was made-from-scratchier than most omni hash-from-scratch. Now I present to you an EVEN MORE MADE-FROM-SCRATCHIER evening of home cooking.

My religion and pop culture class has been talking recently about Carolina barbecue as a religious ritual. If you’ve never been through the American South, you might not be familiar with a “pig pickin.” Basically, men roast a whole pig in a pit, shred it up, drench it with vinegary mustard-based Carolina barbecue sauce, and serve it to a crowd. I was inspired by all this talk of barbecue to recreate the classic Carolina barbecue sandwich without the cruelty–and I made every component with my own hands, in my own kitchen, in one afternoon.

First up, I made seitan. I actually made two batches in two different flavors, but the basic recipe for both of them was adapted from the pumpkin fauxsage I made last week. I made one chicken-flavor loaf and one beef-flavor loaf. Now, Carolina barbecue is made with pork. I am not equipped to make pork-flavored seitan, so I made do with “beef.”

On the left is beef-flavor seitan mix with sage, dehydrated onion, granulated garlic, paprika, chili powder, crushed red pepper, black pepper, and cayenne. On the right is chicken-flavor seitan mix with dehydrated onion, turmeric, crushed rosemary, paprika, cayenne, black pepper, and Old Bay seasoning. This is possibly the only use I will ever find for my tin of Old Bay. I used “beef style” and “chicken style” meatless soup mixes to make the broth for the liquid portion. I replaced the pumpkin in the recipe with an equal measure of pureed great northern beans.



And the finished products. In the first picture, the top loaf is chicken-flavor and the bottom is beef-flavor. In the sliced picture, the darker left-hand slice is “beef,” and the right-hand slice is “chicken.” In the interests of science, these slices were fried in a bit of oil and eaten straight.

While the seitan was in the oven, I got started on making buns. I used this recipe from Vegweb, and made it with half unbleached all-purpose and half white whole wheat flour. Making bread is fun–my mom used to bake her own bread all the time and enlisted her children as baker’s apprentices–but damn my hands get tired from kneading. I’ve found that it goes faster if I watch TV while I work.


Rising on top of the stove…


…and the finished product. These came out very soft and and a little bit sweet, and I quickly scarfed down a small roll spread with Smart Balance and jam. Delightful! While the rolls were in the oven, I got started on the most important component of dinner:  Carolina-style barbecue sauce.


If you’re not from the South, you probably think of the thick, smoky tomato-and-molasses based stuff as barbecue sauce. While a Memphis-style sauce is very tasty and I like to keep it around, I have developed quite a taste for sweet bright yellow Carolina-style sauce, which is made with mustard and vinegar. There are a lot of different recipes–most of them different only in their proportions–but mine is based around a 2:1 ratio of prepared yellow mustard and apple cider vinegar. To that, I add white sugar, brown sugar, cracked black pepper, and cayenne and simmer it for half an hour. [EDIT: I’ve put my sauce recipe in the comments, but there are literally soooooo many Carolina sauce recipes available on the internet that if mine doesn’t fit what’s in your pantry, there is definitely one out there that will]

I cut up some potatoes and roasted them in the oven exactly the way I roasted the vegetables for the borscht. While the potatoes were roasting, I shredded up a chunk of the beef-flavor seitan and let it crisp up with just a tiny bit of oil in a pan. I let them “burn” a little bit on one side to get some of the smoke flavor that barbecue has. To the pan of seitan, I added several spoonfuls of the sauce and stirred it until everything was evenly coated. Then all I had to do was pile it on a freshly-baked bun with plenty of extra sauce and dig in!


If I were doing this properly I would have made sweet tea, but I didn’t think about it in time, so I have a glass of orange juice instead. Also, if this were a pig pickin’, there would be coleslaw, but unfortunately I didn’t have any cabbage. Extra sauce in the cup for dipping the potato wedges.

And now I am sitting on my bed feeling completely exhausted and sipping a cup of apricot tea. Was all the made-from-scratching worth it? Yes, but not every day. Besides, now I have a whole batch of sandwich rolls, loaves of seitan, and a container of barbecue sauce which will keep me from putting forth too much effort for future meals.

UPDATE:  I don’t have any pictures because I got to the potluck and realized that my camera was still on my kitchen counter. ARGH. This also means that I have no pictures whatsoever of the cupcakes, soup, or tomato relish because for some reason, I didn’t take any shots of them in my kitchen before I left. So this is a tragically photo-less post. I will make it up to you later. With, umm, whatever I cook tonight. And I’m not sure what that will be, because I don’t have anything planned. Bear with me.

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No pictures for this yet, I’ll add them after the potluck, because I want pictures of all the other delicious veg foods, too.

So my friend and former roommate, S, is turning 23 and his roommates are throwing a party themed around colonialism. It’s a potluck, and the guests are kindly requested to bring veg dishes which we would not have been able to make if it weren’t for the long history of European colonialism. Yes, they’re kooky kids, but I love them all dearly and S really is abnormally fascinated with colonialism.

I’ve made two dishes:  peanut butter cupcakes with bitter chocolate ganache, and black bean soup with spicy green tomato relish. The peanut butter cupcakes are the ones from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, with a couple of very small changes–dark brown sugar instead of molasses, banana instead of flax as the egg replacer, and the addition of pumpkin pie spice. I’ll add pictures later, but here are the recipes for the bitter chocolate ganache and the spicy green tomato relish. They’re both too simple.

BITTER CHOCOLATE GANACHE
1 cup vegan bittersweet chocolate chips
3 tablespoons spiced rum
2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter

Melt the chocolate chips and rum together in a double boiler. When they have formed a sauce, stir in the peanut butter until thoroughly combined. Makes enough to top twelve cupcakes.

SPICY GREEN TOMATO RELISH
10 oz green tomato, chopped into large pieces
1/4 cup pickled green jalapenos
1 green onion stalk, chopped
1 tsp crushed red pepper
1 tsp kosher salt
apple cider vinegar

Place first five ingredients in a container with a lid. Add enough apple cider vinegar to cover, and refrigerate overnight. When you’re ready to make your relish, drain the vinegar and place all the solids in a food processor. Whiz it about until everything has been diced into uniform small pieces. Can be served with chips or any Mexican food–I’m putting it on top of black bean soup.

PARTY RECAP
The potluck was fun, and the food was delicious. Also on the table:  sticky rice, pumpkin pudding, fried spring rolls, a green salad with avocado and pepitas, burritos, tortilla chips, corn salsa, and straight gin. The cupcakes and relish were both big hits, and someone asked me for the tomato relish recipe for inclusion in a vegan cooking zine that is coming together in the area. After the feasting was over, we cleared out the kitchen and my other former roommate, T, set up his turntables and crates of 45s and DJ’d a set. I walk-of-shame’d my way back home at 7am. Moral of the story:  vegans party really hard.

On Facebook, I referred to today’s baking spree as “Muffinocalypse 09.” I woke up this morning and decided that the way to kick off Veganmofo was muffins. I had promised Friendboy more muffins earlier this week, and had specifically promised pear-butterscotch and apple-pumpkin, and that’s what I delivered.

The first batch was pear-butterscotch, using the accidentally vegan butterscotch morsels sold at Food Lion, previously featured in my chocolate-butterscotch chip cookies. I used a basic non-vegan apple muffin recipe as a jumping off point, but I feel totally comfortable calling this “my” recipe, because the only things the final recipe had in common with the original were flour and sugar.

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ cup vegan white cane sugar
¼ cup light brown sugar
½ tsp salt
½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1 cup plain soymilk (or non-dairy milk of your choice)
¼ cup vegan margarine, melted
1 pear
1 tsp lemon juice
¼ cup pear puree
1 ½ cups of vegan butterscotch chips, divided (1 and ½)
1 TBSP spiced rum

PEAR PUREE
1 15-oz can of halved pears in juice
1 TBSP vegan white sugar

Peel and chop your pear. Put in a covered bowl with 1 tsp lemon juice to prevent browning and stick it in the fridge. Make your pear puree—break up the pear halves in a 15-oz can of pears and place them in your food processor or blender, along with about 2 TBSP of the juice from the can and 1 TBSP white sugar. Process until relatively smooth—a few lumps are fine. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and ginger in a large bowl. In a medium-size bowl, mix together the white sugar, brown sugar, and vegan margarine. Add ¼ cup of the pear puree and mix, then stir in the 1 cup of soymilk. Slowly add the wet mixture to the dry mixture, stirring as you do to combine. If the batter seems too dry or sticky, add another tablespoon or so of the pear puree. Fold in the chopped pears and ½ cup of butterscotch chips. Cover the batter and set it aside, it’s time to make butterscotch sauce.

Now is a good time to start preheating your oven to 400 degrees. On your stovetop, rig up a double boiler—if you don’t know, it’s a saucepan of water topped with either a metal bowl or another saucepan with ingredients in it. Bring the bottom saucepan to a boil, and put 1 cup of butterscotch chips and 1 TBSP of spiced rum in the top saucepan. I strongly recommend a nonstick saucepan on top. Stir the contents of the top saucepan continuously until the butterscotch chips have melted down completely into a sauce. Add this sauce to the muffin batter and stir once or twice, just enough to swirl the sauce through.

Spoon your batter into your muffin tin—should make twelve regulation-size muffins. Bake for twenty minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out “clean”—for our purposes, this means without uncooked batter, because there WILL be melted butterscotch on the toothpick. As tempting as these might be to eat right out of the oven, let them cool before removing from the muffin tins, as the butterscotch becomes extremely hot.

The second batch of muffins essentially followed this recipe from Diabetic Living, with the following changes: 1 ripe mashed banana in place of the two eggs, vegan buttermilk (soymilk + lemon juice) in place of the buttermilk, 1/2 cup of brown sugar instead of 1/4 cup, and 3 tablespoons of rolled oats instead of 3 tablespoons of wheat germ. I had no wheat germ in the house.

As you might expect from only 1/3 cup of applesauce, these muffins aren’t very apple-y. Next time I would definitely add some peeled, chopped apples to the mix to up the apple factor. But with only 2 tablespoons of oil and 1/2 cup of sugar, these are pretty healthy muffins. And I can be honest with myself: the main ingredient in the other muffins is essentially candy. The pumpkin muffins are not dessert masquerading as breakfast.

After so much muffin-tasting, my stomach sort of hurt, so I went super-simple for dinner. Vegetable soup with diced tomatoes, great northern beans, green peas, carrots, garlic, a Telva vegetable broth cube, crushed red pepper, and cracked black pepper. And the most important bit for an irritated tummy:  saltines.

I didn’t do much cooking yesterday or today–I went out to lunch with a friend, and then had pizza for dinner (and then for breakfast, and then for lunch). But I DID indulge in one of my favorite activities:  baking. I made some vegan chocolate and butterscotch chip cookies. If you live on the East Coast, the super-generic butterscotch chips sold at Food Lion (they’re just called “butterscotch morsels”) are vegan.

The basic recipe is Happy Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies from VegWeb. I added 1/2 cup of butterscotch chips, 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice, and I substituted 1/2 cup of plain light soymilk for the 1/4 cup of water called for. The cookies came out with a nice crunch on the outside (probably due to the turbinado sugar) and a chewy center, and they aren’t overwhelmingly sweet. Friendboy praised them extensively (between these and the pumpkin muffins I am “the best baker [he] knows,” even ahead of his ex-gf and her peanut butter cup cookies) and I sent him home with a generous bag of them to share with his roommates.

I’m going to use the rest of the butterscotch chips in butterscotch-pear muffins later this week, to further indulge Friendboy’s love of sweets, affinity for muffins, and admiration of my baking skills.

I’m sure this seems ridiculous, but of all of the things I cooked over the past couple of days, I was most excited about blueberry pancakes. Not because I had a surplus of blueberries kicking around and not because I am particularly fond of blueberry pancakes, but because I have never IN MY LIFE successfully made pancakes before this week. They always came out lumpy, thin, translucent, burnt, or rubbery, no matter what recipe I followed. Scratch? Failure. Boxed mixes? Failure. Who messes up making boxed pancake mix? I do, every time.

But the stars aligned on Thursday morning, and I pulled off perfect light, round pancakes. Accompanying these blueberry-cinnamon pancakes are a cup of Greek yogurt topped with three-berry preserves, red grapes, and Gimme Lean vegan sausage.

Next up are vegan chocolate chip pumpkin muffins. The recipe:
1 1/2 cups unbleached flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 1 16-oz can of pumpkin puree, 1/3 cup vegetable oil, Ener-G egg replacer (2 eggs’ worth), 1 1/4 cups vegan cane sugar, 1/2 tsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp ginger, and 2/3 cup of vegan chocolate chips.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/tonguetrip/3957097056/in/photostream/

 

At Whole Foods the other day, I discovered that Gimme Lean (my favorite vegan sausage) also comes in a beef-style version, so I bought some to make meatballs. I thought about just serving them with spaghetti, but my friendboy had a meatball sub for lunch and it sounded good to me. “Meatballs” browned in olive oil, served on a toasted sesame bun with tomato sauce and an Italian six-cheese blend that my roommate uses for pizza. On the side are braised brussels sprouts with carrots and onions and a green salad with grape tomatoes.

I was not in a good mood today, so I went with something very lazy and comforting for dinner. The recipe comes from the Jif peanut butter website and is called “Easy Peanut Pasta Twists.” One of my former roommates used to make this dish, and while the ingredients seem kind of like a strange combination (peanut butter, soy sauce, vinegar, chili powder, crushed red pepper, garlic, ketchup), it’s spicy and creamy and delicious. I didn’t even bother to plate it, I just ate it out of the serving bowl with a tall glass of orange juice and a Law and Order marathon.

Veganmofo III is about to begin in October. While I didn’t have a blog until this year, I followed Veganmofos I and II. I am an ovo-lacto vegetarian, not a vegan, but I will be going vegan for the month of October to participate. I was a vegan for several years, and I “reverted” to vegetarianism after a period of serious illness during which I lost a lot of weight. I wasn’t gaining weight back fast enough on a vegan diet, and so I returned to eating eggs and dairy. It bugs me a lot, but I feel… fallen? Disgraced? Strangely religious language to use, but lacking a religion, veg*nism is an important part of my ethical views and I feel like I’ve let down myself and factory farmed animals by falling off the vegan wagon.

So I’ll be a vegan again for the month of October, eating and blogging exclusively vegan food every day for thirty-one days.

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