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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.

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.

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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