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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 ended up making soup for dinner again last night. It was a faux beef broth with carrots, potatoes, onions, leeks, garlic, seitan, and some leftover quinoa stirred in. Delicious and right on, since last night continued the (seemingly nationwide?) trend of being kinda… cold. I took a picture. It’s really not that exciting, so I decided to do an entry not just about what I ate (overwhelming theme of my Mo Fo) but about something I love to eat. Soup.

My father has some peculiar and specific ideas about food and weather, and he only wants to eat soup when it is raining or snowing outside. I am the complete opposite. I am so eager for fall and winter and the beginning of “soup weather” that I start making soup in late August, telling myself that it’s “almost fall.” For reference, the temperature in Charleston in August is regularly in the high 90s and occasionally pushes into the three-digit territory where the radio starts issuing warnings about keeping infants and old people inside. But still I sit in a tank top and underwear, pouring sweat, eating a bowl of soup because I feel that I just can’t wait any longer. Emerson famously said that the remedy for deformity is “first, Soul, and second, Soul, and evermore, Soul.” I think he made a spelling error, and those “L”s should be “P”s.

For your autumnal consumption, I present my list of top ten favorite soups.

10. Fresh Green Pea:  childhood experiences left me hating split pea soup. I can’t stand split peas in ANYTHING and I never use them, certainly not for soup. But I do like fresh or frozen green peas simmered until just cooked in a light broth and pureed into a bright green soup. My mother reports that pureed frozen peas were my favorite food as an infant. Make of that what you will.

09. Borscht: I like beets, but I can’t think of many uses for them beyond roasting, borscht, and pureeing them to make bright red biscuits. I use horseradish in my recipe, which gives it a pretty solid kick. I like eating it at room temperature or cold—especially cold and topped with piping hot chunks of potato. Don’t knock it until you try it.

08. Carrot Ginger:  well, narrow root vegetables and ginger, because when I make carrot-ginger soup I like to use both carrots and parsnips, left to sit overnight in rice vinegar with Thai chiles to get some tang and heat going. Add the ginger and this gets pretty eye-watering.

07. Pumpkin:  I love pumpkin, so I treat it very simply when I turn it into soup. Pumpkin, onions, salt, pepper, broth, and crushed red pepper. I don’t like dressing it with traditional pumpkin spices like nutmeg, clove, or cinnamon. I guess I don’t see the appeal of soup which tastes like pie.

06. Cauliflower and Leek:  I’m a fan of sneaking leeks into almost any soup, but this soup is for when I really want to taste them. It comes out very similar to a potato soup, but lighter and I don’t get the same “watery mashed potatoes” vibe. My bias against potato soup is showing.

05. Curried Squash:  acorn, butternut, long island… I’ll use any winter squash in this recipe. Squash, curry spices, coconut milk, and lime juice. I usually pair all soups with bread, but I like to pour this one over a bowl of rice.

04. Black Bean and Sweet Potato:  why do I feel like I never see black beans and sweet potatoes paired up? Maybe it’s because I’m in the South, where sweet potatoes tend to go into… well, sweets. But they’re so good with salty, savory black beans! I like to just cook them up with lime juice, cumin, ancho pepper, and eat them with rice or on tortillas, but in winter I add some extra liquid and suddenly they become soup. Which I then top with strips of tortillas.

03. Ramen: not the kind in a ten-cent package, although I do have a certain affection for that variety. Noodles in a hot, salty broth topped with whatever comes out of the vegetable crisper—leeks, peppers, scallions, chunks of steamed squash, green beans, baby corn, carrots, radishes, tofu. I have been eating ramen since I was a little tiny kid and it will never stop warming my heart.

02. Kale and White Bean:  I made this when Friendboy wasn’t feeling well back in September. I don’t usually add barley, I like to keep this soup pretty straightforward since I think there’s already a lot going on with the kale, beans, and Gimme Lean sausage. I let this one simmer for as long as I can stand it. I like my kale to be wilted into submission.

01. Tomato:  tomatoes, olive oil, salt, broth, sugar. We’re done here.

Go forth and soup thyselves!

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.

I am a Russian studies minor, and a former officer of my college’s Russian club. As such, I have had considerable exposure to Russian cooking, including borscht, which is usually made with a meat broth. Since the only must-have ingredient in borscht is beets, it is incredibly easy to make vegan. Tonight I made it with organic local beets, onion, several cloves of organic garlic, two carrots, horseradish, broth, and paprika (which is a bit of a Hungarian touch, I think it’s not a traditional borscht ingredient). I also roasted some potatoes and turnips, which I ate as a topping on the soup.

Naked beets waiting to be diced up. I peel my beets before I cook them, I find it less messy and painful than trying to skin cooked beets. They ooze less when they’re raw.


My jar of horseradish and beet juice. I blame my Russian professor for my addiction to this stuff.


Beets, carrots, garlic, onion, and horseradish simmering away in broth.

Potatoes and turnips roasted in olive oil with kosher salt and crushed pepper. They may not look like much, but these are amazing. The exterior gets very crisp while the inside is so soft and tender that it practically melts when bitten into. I think this is due to high heat–I roast potatoes at 475 for half an hour.

Plated and ready to eat. I pureed the borscht and let it cool to room temperature, then topped it with the roasted potatoes and turnips.

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.

Friendboy was feeling sick today, and spent most of the afternoon reading or napping and making sad, sick noises. I am a huge compassionate soft-hearted girl, so I offered to make him soup for dinner. I ran through a list of possibilities–tomato, carrot, bean and barley, pumpkin–but he didn’t have any preference, so I went with one of my favorite combinations, kale and great northern beans. I don’t usually make it with barley, but I wanted to get as much good healthy stuff into him as possible, so I tossed some in.

Kale and White Bean Soup (with Barley)
2 1/2 cups water (or broth)
2 cups shredded kale
1 cup canned great northern beans, rinsed
1 medium-size carrot, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup diced onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup pearled barley
1/4 sleeve of Gimme Lean vegan sausage, or about 3.5 oz of your preferred vegan sausage
1 vegan stock cube (I use Telva Kosher Vegetable broth cubes; omit if using broth instead of water)
1 TBSP olive oil
1 tsp crushed red pepper
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp salt

Grease your hands with a little bit of oil or margarine, and form the Gimme Lean into small balls (about 1/4 inch or so each). If using another kind of vegan sausage, dice/cube/roll as you see fit. Heat 1T olive oil in a pot, and brown the “sausage.” When the sausage is browned, add the garlic and onions and let cook until onions are translucent. Stir in the kale–two cups will look like a lot, but it will shrink down–and the carrots, and add one cup of water. Cover and let sit over medium heat for a few minutes while the kale cooks down. Crush and add the stock cube. Add the seasonings and the beans and stir. Cover and let it cook down for another five minutes or so, then add the remaining cup and a half of water and the barley. Cover and let sit over low heat until the barley is cooked, about fifteen or twenty minutes. Adjust the seasonings to your taste. Serves 2 as a main course, would serve 4 as an appetizer.

On the side were saltine crackers, plus ice water for Friendboy and orange juice for me.

I had swine flu. No, really. It was very similar to the regular flu, except that I have asthma, and developed a lot of difficulty breathing because of it. I ended up on several different steroids, antibiotics, and expectorants to keep me from developing a secondary infection in my lungs. With all of these things together, I ended up not eating very much last week.

The night before I got sick, I had some friends over and I whipped together some Southern cooking for our dinner. Clockwise from the top left:  fried green tomatoes; fruit salad with raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, and red grapes; butterbeans with peppers and onions; and spicy cheddar grits (made with stoneground Anson Mills grits, which I LOVE–I will never go back to quick grits). The butterbeans were actually the hit component of dinner, everybody liked them.

And the next day, I had a 101-degree fever and a persistant cough, and cooking got put on the back burner for the week. All day every day from Monday to Saturday, I had herbal tea, vegetable broth, electrolyte drinks, and applesauce. My dinner every night was Campbell’s Vegetarian Vegetable Soup with friendly little cheddar whales swimming about on top.

My first non-soup meal was on Saturday, just a straightforward bowl of couscous with peas and smoked tomato dressing. Very boring, no pictures. On Sunday I fixed myself a simple but tasty breakfast:  scrambled eggs with garlic, blueberries and raspberries, and Mayan Dark Chocolate “coffee.”

For my Sunday dinner, I braised a red cabbage that had been sitting in my fridge all week. I wanted to use it before it turned on me, and I had been planning to make a vinegary slaw for sandwiches, but I didn’t have anything else for sandwiches, so I threw together a carrot, a couple of cloves of garlic, and about 1.5 lbs of cabbage in a pan with olive oil, apple cider vinegar, onion broth, and some seasonings. It went into the oven at 325 degrees for two hours. On the side, I made smashed red potatoes with light Smart Balance and mushroom gravy and some steamed peas with garlic and salt. To round it out, I had a cup of unsweetened applesauce with cinnamon on the side.

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