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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.

I was not feeling up to cooking today. I had the day off from school, it was cool and rainy out, and I preferred spending the afternoon on my screened porch reading kabbalah to scurrying around my kitchen. I’ve done a lot of (I think) good cooking lately, so I took a brief holiday from being experimental and dedicated and had that long afternoon of tea and Abulafia.

But I can’t take a break from food altogether. I thought about ordering Chinese, and I thought about throwing together a macaroni salad, but the all-day rain put me in the mood for soup. I put together a simple vegan version of chicken noodle soup while watching the Food Network and wearing very soft pajama pants. One carrot, 1/4 cup chopped sweet onion, two cloves of garlic, diced chicken-style seitan, whole wheat spaghetti broken into little pieces, olive oil, crushed red pepper, and faux chicken boullion. Done. That’s it. Just like mom used to make, only with no dead birds. And no celery, because (I’m sorry, I know it’s part of the Holy Trinity) I hate celery with a passion.

I hadn’t used seitan in any soup or stew applications yet, and I was a bit worried that it would break down. No chance! Boiling only gave it a very realistic texture, which took some getting used to. Why did I wait so long to try making my own seitan?

On the side, I had a toasted bun with Smart Balance and garlic salt. Sometimes a simple, straightforward dish is exactly what I want. Now I’m going to kick back in my bathrobe with a mug of rooibos and wait for House to come on.

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.

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