Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Great Caramel Sauce/ Fudge Fiasco

It's a universal truth that sometimes things just don't turn out the way you planned. Sometimes, despite our best efforts, our most careful planning, research, and testing, it all just goes to shit. And sometimes you get the Red Rider BB gun you've been pining after, but you end up breaking your eye-glasses and the neighbors dogs eat the Christmas dinner and just when you think all is lost, you discover chow-mein for Christmas dinner really isn't such a bad thing after all, it's just a little different than what you were expecting. 

Such was the case with the pumkpin pie fudge turned caramel sauce turned fudge. Let me backtrack for a minute: a few weeks ago, I asked my wife to pick up a can of pumpkin from the store, as I was planning on making a pumpkin risotto. She came home and proudly presented me with a can of pumpkin pie filling; the next day had a lesson in the grocery store about the variety of canned pumpkin products and we chocked it up to a learning experience. That can sat on a shelf in the pantry for a few weeks, until I decided there just wasn't room for it, and something had to be done. 

Pumpkin pie fudge sounded good, so I gathered my rice-mellow creme and vegan white chocolate chips and set to work. Truth be told, I should have done some testing, but sometimes I have no patience (which is what really screwed me over in the end here), and I should have realized something was bound to go wrong when the white chocolate wasn't melting properly. But I pushed through and folded in the rice-mellow creme and poured the gooey mixture into a pan. 3 hours later I discovered, not a set fudge, but a brilliantly smooth pumpkin spice caramel sauce, perfect for topping a brownie or ice cream. I poured the sauce into pretty little jars and placed them in the fridge to store them, and went about my business. a few hours later, i grabbed one of the jars to give to my mother as a gift, and discovered my brilliant caramel sauce had set and turned to fudge. Awwwwwww fudge! The experiment may not have been a success in a conventional sense, but now I have two options: heat up the jar and have a caramel sauce, or just dig in with a spoon and eat fudge from a jar. In the end, it might not be what I was expecting, but it'll do.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Stuffed Winter Squash

Cooking is as much about eating as Friday Night Lights is about American football. I'm sure everyone who knows me and reads this silly little blog just did a double take when I said "football" since I have never exhibited the slightest interest in football and often go out of my way to avoid American football to watch more civilized sports like hockey and roller derby. Yes, American football is central to the story line in Friday Night Lights, it's the glue that binds the characters together, the engine that drives the story line, but it's the character's attitudes and struggles that transpire off the field that suck us, the viewers, into this weekly teen drama with a capital D. It's like that with cooking. It's the act of supporting the community you live in buy buying from local farms. It's prepping a meal for friends, driving down to their house and having conversations in the kitchen while you spoon out the guts of acorn squash, setting the table together, laughing, debating, and yes, eating, that make cooking more about community than food itself. Food is something that makes it possible for a group to gather around a table, raise a glass of wine, and toast "Here's to good friends living large in Texas" (or where ever you happen to be).

Stuffed Winter Squash

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Peanut "Beef" Maifun

Apparently I tripped and fell off the blogosphere this last week. In my adventures off the web during the last week I've quilted, turned the Christmas music off and turned Amy Ray up, took my wife to A Christmas Story: The Musical (which I hope makes it to DVD eventually so I don't have to watch just the movie 500 times during the month of December, because the movie doesn't have pirates, and the musical does), was taken to Maurice Sendak's Nutcracker Ballet, took a trip to Oly to visit friends and share a squash dinner and my reasoning behind why December is my least favorite month of the year (really, America, do you need an excuse like Christmas to have goodwill and compassion? Can't we just have it regardless of what season it is?), I made a damn good faux beef stew, played slots with my mother-in-law, kicked it at Seattle's best les bar with new and old friends, saw Narnia: the Voyage of the Dawn Treader (which, btw, is not worth seeing in 3D, or perhaps even in the theater for that matter, but IS worth seeing for Will Poulter of Son of Rambow fame, who pretty much saved the movie), met with the tattoo artist that will be inking my arm in Banksy, found out I'm not shaped like a lemon, read quite a few chapters of the Alice B. Toklas Cookbook, made a small dent in the 80 oz. jar of chunky peanut butter residing in my apartment, had coffee at Cafe Vita while watching an uncharacteristly Seattle type monsoon, drew on a napkin, and made a KICK-ASS asian inspired beef noodle dish.

See? I've been B to the U to the S to the Y. Maybe a little to busy, which is why it may have taken me 'til today to realize I was ignoring my computer on non office hours. The break was swell, but the swellin's gone down, and I'm back with vengeance. So here's one of the dishes I made this week, which I have affectionately dubbed Peanut "Beef" Maifun, and it's even more fun if you make it, share it with a friend, and hit the movies after.

Peanut "Beef" MaiFun

Monday, December 6, 2010

Celery Pear Soup

Yesterday’s post was about Christmas, so it’s only fitting that tonight I would post about Hanukkah. A few nights ago, night two of Hanukkah, to be exact, I wandered up to my good friends apartment (a whole 3 floors up from my apartment. Boy, life is hard…) with some stuffed squash (I’ll post the recipe soon. Scouts honor. ) and a celery pear soup. I know, I know, it sounds weird. But there was celery root in the stuffing of the squash, and a sweet soup sounded like an ideal pairing with the earthiness of squash, wild rice, mushrooms and celery root. The soup was light, sweet and spicy with after notes of fall with the pear and celery subtly dancing. We lit the menorah, drank some red wine, chowed down, and, as always when good friends get together, our conversations lasted into the wee hours of the morning. Good food and wine will do that.

Celery Pear Soup

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Bah Humbug Gets a Christmas Tree

We got a tree. A real noble fir that stands slightly over 5', smells like the forest, and left a trail of needles from the side door of our building, up the stairs, through the door of our apartment, and down the hall to the living room. My childhood is filled with memories of real trees– going to Auggie's U-Cut X-mas trees, a small tree farm on Vashon Island, and walking through the trees until my mom and I found the perfect Blue Spruce. We cut the tree ourselves (well, dad cut it while uttering on long string of "jesusmaryandjoseph-thesefuckingblades-neversharp-whatapieceofshitsaw-christ"), strapped it to the top of the car, and drove it home where it was promptly set up up in the living room, lights and ornaments were hung, and I made myself sick on candy-canes. This tradition continued until the year my mother and I picked out a ten foot tall beauty of a Blue Spruce which was a bitch to cut down and broke 2 tree stands. It then got thrown on the front lawn and a fake tree was erected in its place.

My wife, on the other hand, has never had a real christmas tree. She has never
known the allergy inducing magic of an evergreen smelling house, the joy of sweeping up thousands of dried brown needles from the floor, or the bliss of figuring out how exactly, to dispose of a dead tree. So when she asked if we could have a real tree this year, I knew it was high time for her to partake in the experience. We started out slow this year, forgoing a u-cut tree for a tree lot, and only getting a 5' noble fir that would fit in the back of the car. 

The only time I channeled my father's wit/ bah humbuggery was when we were putting the tree in the stand and dearest wife was being all a-type personality and tried to tell me how to tighten the stand. she got a snide retort of "oh- how many live trees have you put up? that's right, none. So let me do what I know how to do. Thanks." But the lights and ornament hanging went off with a hitch, and when she walked in on me this morning, smiling at the little lit tree as the sun rose, and said "See? You do like Christmas." a small part of me begrudgingly had to admit she was right. even if that small part of me really only likes A John Waters Christmas Album, spiked vegan egg-nog, and the after x-mas sales on twinkling lights.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Vegan MoFo 2010 comes to an end.

The end of November, and the end of VeganMoFo, is officially upon us. I wish I could say I had a delicious recipe like pumpkin pie fudge to share with you, but it appears that our building manager has taken an extended vacation, and I think my package from Pangea is sitting in the office. Though truth be told, my kitchen is such a mess right now I couldn’t cook anything, or bake, or even put peanut butter on a piece of bread right now because every inch of my counter has been taken over by dirty dishes and ingredients waiting to be placed back in the pantry. Sigh. I need a cleaning fairy to come look after me. Any volunteers?

In lieu of posting a recipe, or reviewing a cookbook, I think I will just take a moment to reflect on this past month. I’ve been introduced to some great blogs via VeganMoFo and looked at way to much food porn; made soups, kale chips, purple shepherd's pie, and one masterpiece of a tofurkey bake. Shared food with friends, drank copious amounts of Market Spice tea, enjoyed the food and drinks at the Highline a little too much, ate vegan Pizza from Z Pizza, and generally had a blast with food. As we head out of November, I’m pretty proud of getting 23 posts up this month, and I can’t wait to blog, and read blogs, for VeganMoFo 2011. Until then, y’all know I will continue sharing my food and crafting adventures, as well as an occasional rant, here at Kitsch & Kitchen, and since it is my last VeganMoFo 2010 post, I finally decided to get on the MoFo bandwagon and full out that damned survey that’s been making the rounds (it’s beneath the cut). And that’s that. Peace out fellow MoFo’ers!

P.S.– Have fun baking this holiday season, but avoid overzealous use of nutmeg in those baked goods, unless you want deranged pre-teens busting down your door in search of the latest high. Happy Holidays, Bitches!


Monday, November 29, 2010

Roasted Rosemary Sweet Potatoes

I'm always at a loss at what to do with sweet potatoes for Thanksgiving dinner (ok, ok, I promise this is my last post about this years Thanksgiving.) But sweet potatoes are tricky for me. Aside from the standard candied, smothered in butter and brown sugar and toasted marshmallows, I don't really recall any other way I consumed them when I was growing up. Scouring the interwebs doesn't provide much relief these days, but i did find a very nice, slightly sweet, slightly savory recipe for roasted sweet potatoes over at Two Peas and Their Pod, and, as almost everything else that was on the Thanksgiving table, the vegan version went faster than it's non-vegan counterpart. It was a little oily, so I would suggest cutting out half a tablespoon of olive oil but other than that, it's pretty awesome. 

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Now this is the story all about how
Vegans turned thanksgiving upside-down,
And I'd like to take a minute, just sit right there
I'll tell you all about mashed taters that were lighter than air.

See, I was making all the Thanksgiving sides,
But my mum’s tater wishes I just couldn’t abide:
Boil ‘em, mash ‘em, deliver ‘em hot,
And she wanted two versions, on vegan, one not.
“But Ma!” I cried, in a state of shock
“I’ll just use margarine!” I said, as we fought.
No sooner had I hung up the phone in triumph
Another person called and said “Vegan?!? Harrumph!”

“There’s only one reason I come to Thanksgiving Day,
So you better not mess up the taters or I’ll be on my way!”
Now that’s a lot of pressure for one lil’ vegan,
But I hit the kitchen, determined, donning a cute vintage apron.

I turned the oven on to 400,
Filled a stockpot with water and put it on the stove.
Grabbed Yukon Golds and threw ‘em in the water,
And then I opened the refrigerator

Took out earth balance and rice milk, thyme, salt and pepper
And while the taters were boiling, I roasted garlic.
I realized then I didn’t have enough, so I called up my Mum
And said “your wish came true! You make yours and I’ll bring mine”

When all the cooking was done and we finally arrived,
I saw those omni’s look at my taters with tears in their eyes,
See, theirs were bland, no garlic to be seen
And I settled my throne with my taters supreme.

Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Homemade Tofurkey with Mushroom and Wild Rice Stuffing Recipe

Well, the first Vegan/ Non-Vegan Thanksgiving to be had in half a decade has officially come to an end. There were a few hiccups here and there, but it was pretty damned successful in the end. I had good friends to help me cook some damn good food and keep good company. The power went off att my mum’s house, but our good family friends north of Seattle stepped in to host, and the in-laws, the wife, and our good friend Dee made it through the snow to a delicious meal, good friends and family, and a rousing game of Apples to Apples
Right out of the oven

We ended up making toast points, “cheddar bay” biscuits, roasted garlic mashed taters, roasted yams with rosemary, green beans with alder wood smoked salt, market spice tea cupcakes (after a failed attempt at a cherry torte, which shall never be spoken of again), and a bitchen’ homemade tofurkey. I will post the rest of the recipes, but I wanted to start with the star of the vegan meal: 
the homemade tofurkey 
Slice o' heaven
with mushroom and wild rice stuffing. Deedra had send me the recipe* from Chow a few weeks ago, and while it’s quite time intensive, it’s not hard, and it is by far the best Thanksgiving main dish I’ve had. The tofu takes on the taste of the sage and thyme, and the savory earthy dressing compliments. This bake will definitely be making an appearance in future Thanksgivings. 

After we had eaten our weight in food, laid on the floor like fat walruses and groaned as our bellies gurgled while processing our gluttony, and had a few glasses of wine, we ate cupcakes and I totally kick serious ass at Apples to Apples. (We have since procured said game, and I welcome some serious game nights. Bring. It. On.) Though it was a bit different from the last few Thanksgivings (no one was referred to as “Fuck Face” all evening), and some east coast faces were missed around the table, in the end, it was a pretty damned good day.

*I used vacuum packed extra firm Wildwood brand tofu, only used 60 oz., and did not drain it in a cheesecloth as instructed. If I had used water packed tofu, I would have, but I think the vacuum packed is so dry it’s a pain in the ass step that can be skipped. I also switched out brown ride for wild rice. It’s a nice change. You just have to add ¼ cup extra of wild rice, as it won’t soak up as much water as brown.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

"Cheddar Bay" Biscuits

Just a quick post today between finishing up cooking 8 dishes, showering, nursing my hangover with a cup of coffee and hitting the road north to spend thanksgiving with my mum, in-laws, and some good family friends. These biscuits have been a staple on the table at Thanksgiving for the last 6 years. they have gone through many reincarnations, but I think this year I am so pleased I can call the tweaking quits. They are so damn close to those biscuits they serve at Red Lobster it ain't even funny, proving once again you can have compassion and eat it too!

"Cheddar Bay" Biscuits

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Chick’n ‘n’ Dumplings (slow cooker recipe)

I head into this years Thanksgiving with apprehension. It’s the first year in 5 years I am going to have Thanksgiving with my family, and while I am grateful, I do have apprehension. For the first time in 5 years, I will be having a mixed vegan and non-vegan Thanksgiving, and mixing family and friends. I’m making all the sides, plus an app and dessert that are vegan friendly. It’s a little stressful. And who has time to make a meal for themselves the day before with that pressure? Thankfully, I think I have found an answer: Slow cooker chick’n ‘n’ dumplings.

With the exception of the chick’n, I had everything else on hand, as the rest of the vegetables were all getting cooked in Thanksgiving dishes. That’s what makes this dish brilliant for the day before Thanksgiving– you can pretty much have everything on hand, and with little extra work, you’ll have an awesome dinner to empower you through cooking. 

Chick’n ‘n’ Dumplings (slow cooker recipe)

Monday, November 22, 2010

Faux Turkey Through the Years

Today I thought I would step back and take some time to reflect on Thanksgivings past, and reminisce about faux turkey dishes I have eaten through the years.

Oh, how I wish peta2 had been around in my early days of flirting with vegetarianism: their thanksgiving checklist might have made curbed my teenage angst a little. Alas, ‘twas not. My first vegetarian Thanksgiving attempt in 1995 was not so successful, I made a Tofurky Roast (it was the new hot product on the market!), had one piece, and went the rest of the dinner sans turkey or faux turkey. I broke the next day and ate bird flesh, feeling terribly guilty about the whole ordeal. Thank goodness the Tofurky Roast and the rest of the ready-made products have improved a bazillion times since 1995, not to mention I picked up a few things about cooking along the way.

Here’s some of my favorites on the market, and from my patchwork cookbook binder

Remember when you could ONLY get this at the deli section of Whole Foods? Oh wait… that was, like, last year. Thank goodness they are now making this for resale. We can stock up and have a thanksgiving feast every month till next year! Seriously, this is, hands down, my favorite ready-made faux turkey product. The outside is breaded and crispy crunchy and buttery flavored, and the inside is juicy melt in your mouth/ freak you out because the texture is so real. Add in the cranberry stuffing and all is good.

I’m pretty sure this loaf is the older, more refined cousin to the old standard Tofurky Roast. The stuffing, made of the their faux sausage, apples, and squash is pretty much bangarang. Field Roast also just released a new product: the wild rice cranberry fig roast en croute, which looks er-maze-ing.

I made this for the first time in 2005, and fell in lurve. It’s simple, and filled with dressing goodness. Throw some gravy on that and it’s the shit. Freezing the tofu before you make it gives it a meaty texture, and the onions and celery give it a perfect thanksgiving taste.

Actually, I haven’t made this, but I am making it this year. It seems a bit time consuming, but with mushroom brown rice stuffing and an orange mustard glaze baked in a spring foam pan, I’m sure the work will be worth it. Better be.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Shepherd’s Pie

Our friend Vanessa has been hounding me since we moved back a few months ago for the privilege of following me around the kitchen while I cook in an attempt gain some mad cooking skills through osmosis*. She finally invited herself over to make this dream come true today, but unfortunately, not realizing an eight week old baby affects scheduling, arrived more than a few hours late, just as I was putting dinner in the oven (don’t fret Vanessa, there are many more opportunities in the future).

Since the air finally took on that distinct crisp, fresh scent that means snow is on the way (which the weatherman has been promising), so I decided it was the perfect time to make Shepard’s Pie. If tender veggies and faux beef topped with mashed taters with a side of crispy kale seasoned with sumac doesn’t warm you to the core, just add in your wife, three good friends, and an eight week old baby snuzzling into your chest, and your heart will grow three times, like the Grinch’s did after the icicles around his heart melted.

Shepherd’s Pie

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Bacon Cornbread dressing

My mother-in-law makes a mean cornbread bacon dressing. I’ve never actually eaten her version, since I’ve been veg since before my wife and I hooked up, but looking into my her sad puppy eyes our first Thanksgiving away from home and hearing “I miss my mom’s dressing,” I took on the challenge soon after of making a vegan version. As soon as I tasted it, I thoroughly understood her woes, and it’s been a staple at the holiday table ever since. It’s slightly sweet and slightly salty, and easily veganized: proving you don’t have to be a bacon-loving hipster to enjoy such a treat.

Doris’ Bacon Cornbread dressing

Friday, November 19, 2010

Essentials for Holiday Treats

The week before thanksgiving I start to get really excited for the baking and candy making that generally fills my late November and December calendar. I’m not a big sugar person the rest of the year, but during December I could easily consume thirty pounds of sugar. But before I become a sugar filled Tasmanian devil, I have to stock my pantry with all the staples for the December sugar rush.

Sweetened Condensed Soymilk

Make your own (I just found this and my mind is blown- never tried it- will get on that!) or order it through Pangea (they ran out a while ago, but don’t worry, it’s back). It’s essential for fudge and caramel sauce.

Vanilla Soy Creamer

A key ingredient for baking, I use as a substitute for milk in most baking recipes–it’s a bit thicker than regular soy milk and tends to make consistencies a little thicker, generally ending in better results.

Pumkpin Puree

Essential for pumpkin pies, pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin pie fudge, veganized cherpumples (ok, if anyone actually makes one of these, please, please, send me pics!), and pumpkin pasties! (By the way, I am uber excited about Harry Potter 7 pt. 1 opening and will, in celebration, be making some pumpkin pasties tomorrow. I have decided my version will be southern style fried pies, filled with pumpkin pie filling)

Ricemellow Crème

Fudge, fudge, fudge! I really like to make fudge during the winter holidays. I’m sure there are other things you can use for

Vegan White Chocolate Chips

A necessity for cookies and fudge (if you don’t just want chocolate fudge)

Peppermint Candy Canes

Peppermint bark anyone? Peppermint topped fudge? Tree decoration? Many uses, one candy.

Agar Agar

While perusing the lofty shelves at the Seattle Public Library yesterday, I ran across a gem of a cookbook from the 70’s entitled The New Joys of Jell-O (as opposed to the old joys of Jell-O?) and is full of ornately molded “food” in neon colours with bits of fruit and/or vegetables suspended throughout. Watch out world: this holiday season, with the help of agar agar, vegans will join in the garish retro food revolution. (I draw the line at jelled gazpacho. That’s some sick shit.)

Egg Replacers

Bobs red mill…extra firm silken tofu…flax seeds. All must be kept on hand at all times to use in tandem or on their own. Stay tuned for uses.

Cookie Cutters, Pie Cutters and Gelatin Molds.

I’m not even going to ask what you would make for a custom cookie cutter, but the possibilities are endless. And while it’s true that pie crust cutters are totally extravagant, I just love the kitsch factor of trees adorning a pie crust. Also, don’t tell me zombie brain molds are only good for Halloween. Fuck that- don’t you know zombies don’t care what time of year it is? When those bitches want brains, those bitches want brains.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Meet me at the Highline!

I love Asylum, a bar in DC that has awesome vegan chicken wings, cheeze fries and $1.50 tacos. With The Clash on the jukebox, a plethora of live shows and events (like vegan taco eating contests) to attend, and hot surly waitresses, it was pretty much my favorite place in DC to go. Alas, I left Asylum for the left coast, but thankfully the Highline opened in April, and it’s kind of better than Asylum. I know, I know… blasphemy…

There’s mixed reviews on Yelp, but most of the gripes are about greasy food. Really? First of all, it’s a bar. A bar that totes greasy veganized versions of classic pub foods, and doesn’t even have flesh or dairy on the menu. The first 4 items listed on the website are Beer, Sandwiches, Whiskey, and Airhockey. What in the world would make anyone in their right mind think they would find healthy food at this place? Newsflash: Vegan does NOT equal healthy (all the time). There are plenty of good healthy vegan places in Seattle to go, but this ain’t one of them.

I can’t say the service is fast, but the bartenders I’ve had are all really nice. The bar is a really large space, and there’s really not a lot of staff that work there, so don’t expect fast service, but it’s worth the wait. There’s a great selection of infused liquor (lavender infused vodka lemonade? Yes please… I’ll take 4…), cheap tall boys of Olympia beer (which, by the way, is the only cheap beer worth drinking… even if it is now manufactured by SABMiller), metal on the jukebox, and really awesome greasy bar food.

I’m in love with the poutine, which is basically French fries smothered in creamy garlicky sauce… yummmm…. “The meltdown” is their take on a tuna melt: layers of melty cheeze and faux fish smashed between greasy grilled bread with a pickle on the side. Last time I was there I had it with a cup of roasted tomato pumpkin soup. Drool. They carry fake meats galore and don’t skimp on their variety of sammies, nor do they skip on stuffing the sammies. Seriously– these are 2 person sammies, and for $7-$10 a pop, you can have a pretty cheap meal. 

So if you don’t mind slightly sticky tables, good booze, greasy food, nice bartenders and metal blaring on the speakers, come meet me at the Highline. Oh yeah, they also have cake-arokee, which is karaoke with vegan cake one night a week. So hit me up, I do a mean rendition of
"livin' on a prayer," and I'll let you sing along if you can keep up. 

I totally did not take this pic of the Tempeh Lettuce Tomato sammie. Stole it from Yelp.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Sautéed Veggies and Rice

Tonight my friend Brooke busted her ass down to our apartment, showed me the new hair-do she’s got planned for me (I’m going back to short, with bangs. Holla!) and we spent the evening reminiscing about days long gone. I may have had one too many glasses of wine, but by no means got crapulous (seriously–it’s a word–look it up) and we talked waaaaay too much about past transgressions involving rice crispy treats. At any rate, after a day of work, and before an evening of hanging out, I had time to make a quick dinner using the excessive amounts of veggies in my fridge.

Sautéed Veggies and Rice

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Persimmon and Tart Cherry Cookies

Autumn is my favorite season. The flame orange and yellow leaves falling to the sidewalk, the chill outside that creeps under our hardwood floors. The rainboots and slickers that passersby don. Apples, pumpkins, kale, cranberries and other produce that pair well with cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg make my heart sing. It’s the time of year I get to hunker down with my favorite ingredients and cook, and the time of year I really bust into long neglected craft projects. It’s gray and cold and there’s no guilt in staying inside and cozy. I also like to bake in the winter–fill myself and those I love with sweet earthy tone treats.

Apparently, persimmons are in season, as I’ve gotten 4 in the last 2 weeks in my CSA box. I believe I’ve only had a persimmon once in my life, and while they are delicious (with a soft apricot honey flavor) I was pretty stumped as to what in the world to actually do with such produce. So, if you’re in the same boat as I am, try making some cookies.

Persimmon and Tart Cherry Cookies

Monday, November 15, 2010

Cold Weather Breakfast

The fall weather is in full swing, and the best morning breakfast on these days must be steel-cut oats. Chop up some apples, sprinkle with sugar and add a pinch of nutmeg. Pair with some Market Spice tea and all the chills in your toes and fingers will disappear. I use Bob's Red Mill, and it only takes about 20 minutes to cook, and is creamy and delicious. I don't even know why people bother with regular oatmeal when they can have steel-cut oats. 


Friday, November 12, 2010

Essential Cookbooks

If you came over to my house, and walked into my kitchen, you would see a shelf by the stove overcrowded with cookbooks. The top of the fridge is also an overcrowded home to cookbooks. And then there’s the box in the office of cookbooks I need to get rid of. Not all the cookbooks are vegan, but you can bet your ass they all get veganized. Some I use all the time, some I use as reference points, and some I use on occasion and mostly serve as total food porn. I thought today I would share some of my staples, and I promise not to include ALL the books in my collection, as the point of this post is not to lull you to sleep.

Vegan Brunch: I used to only have friends over for dinner parties, but lately I’ve been feeling the desire to start having friends over for Sunday brunches. Isa’s book makes me want to NOT wake up with a hangover reminiscent of my college days just so I can make Chesapeake Tempeh Cakes, Potato Spinach Squares and Cherry Sage Soysages.

La Dolce Vegan: when I need to know how to make mock meats, this is where I turn. It’s got a ton of other amazing foods, like vegan mac and cheese, and fun craft projects, but mostly it’s my faux meat bible.

Soy Not Oi: Give Big Brother the finger and go vegan. Long before vegan was chic, the Hippycore Krew put out a gem of a cookzine with “over 100 recipes designed to destroy the government.” You won’ find Daiya Shreds or Gardien Steak Strips in here, my friends, but what you will find is a collective of recipes, most of them of the “throw veggies and spices in a pot, cook, and bring with you to a basement show” variety. Almost every recipe has a suggested soundtrack, and if you can’t get behind a punk-wok stir-fry, well, you can just bugger-off.

Veganomicon: I firmly believe Veganomicon is the single most essential cookbook for anyone who eats or cooks vegan. It’s like the Joy or Cooking, but for vegans. And not stupidly complicated. Inside the covers lies recipes for croquettes, samosa, sammies, mix ‘n’ match sides, hot and sour soup, French lentil soup, southwestern corn pudding, chile verde, asparagus risotto, and a whole section for sauces and fake cheeze, breads, and desserts. I pity the fool that doesn’t have this book.

The Conscious Cook: Not only does Chef Tal offer up an amazing array of French and Asian inspired dishes like “Gardien ‘Chicken’ scaloppini with shitake sake sauce, braised pea shoots and crispy udon noodle cakes,” he includes sections on his favorite herbs, sea vegetables, and citrus fruits (to name a few), which I appreciate, and he has a whole section on cashew cream. The whole book is food porn at it’s best.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Chocolate Ginger Pear Torte

Yesterday was a friend’s birthday, which, in my book, is just a good excuse to bake. I used to hate baking (well, that’s not true–I liked it, I just wasn’t very good at it). Where cooking moves organically and free flowing: you can add a smattering of this, a dash of that, balance X flavor with Y all during the process. Not so much with baking. In baking, ingredients must be precisely measured, the correct temperature, and mixed in just the right way. There is little room for error. Not to mention, when you first start replacing eggs with other ingredients, it can take some time to wrap your head around what works best for what, or even learning to combine different substitutes to end up with the best end product you can. But the PPK can help you with those building blocks.

It wasn’t until I moved in with my friend Dee, who is a great vegan baker, that I began to reign myself in and get down with the chemistry of baking. Now I treat it as some sort of science experiment, which makes the precise nature of baking enjoyable. So, it was my friend's birthday, and I attempted to procure 35 helium balloons “like a big bunch- the kind a little kid would have at a park in France!” at the bequest of her partner who is out of the country (this did not work out as planned, only 22 would fit in the car and one popped on the way home. but 21 is still a big bunch of balloons). In order to complete this Parisian themed birthday evening, I decided to attempt to make a torte, and although it looked a little homely, it was fucking delicious. We shared a few pieces over a bottle of pinot noir (red wine + chocolate = perfect equation) and I probably would have sat there and stuffed the remaining half of the torte in my face and ended up looking like a chocolate driven zombie had my wife not gracefully prodded me out the door back to our apartment.

Chocolate Ginger Pear Torte

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

J.P.’s Itsy Bitsy “Meatball” and Dumpling Soup

I don’t know Joshua Ploeg, but I wish I did. Fortunately, he’s got a cookbook and a couple of zines out, so I don’t have to know him to be able to try and cook like him. See, Ploeg is a traveling vegan chef, riding the Greyhound and Amtrak through this land dubbed amerika, cooking dinner parties, sharing his cooking wisdom, and generally stirring up mischief (don’t trust me? Grab a copy of The Traveling Chef and read it. If you are fluent in the language of kitchen and not a prude, you will die multiple times from laughter.) 

At any rate, he put out a little gem of a cookbook a few years ago entitled In Search of the Lost Taste. It’s a whole $8, so just STFU and get a copy. It has tastes I would never think to put together, but I’m glad he did. From sweet to savory, sometimes using local fresh ingredients, sometimes using tofutti cream cheese, and always using what’s on hand (although you might not have it on hand…) it’s one of the most diverse little cookbooks out there. Plus he cooks the way I do, which is to say “if you’ve got some extra XYZ, you should just go ahead and throw that in there…” Like I said, it’s a little gem.

I made the Itsy Bitsy “Meatball” and Dumpling Soup last night, and if anyone wants a bowl, come hit me up, 'cuz I’ve got a ton of leftovers. I’m not giving you the recipe–that’s just rude to disperse others recipes, especially when the chef in question sell his book for $8. But I will say this. I added smoked paprika to the dumplings, had an adventure whist making vegan faux meatballs, used 2 bunches of carrots (as opposed to 2), and should have thrown in some taters and kale. The only issue I had was the dumplings were a little chewy, but everything I have made in the last few weeks that has supposed to be light and fluffy just hasn’t worked out. Please do not bring up the word “gnocchi” in my presence right now; I need a few weeks to get over that epic fail before I tell you the story. Also, if anyone runs into Mr. Plague, please let him know my birthday is March 6th, and I would like nothing more to have him cook a dinner party for me in my tiny kitchen with no counter space and my ¾ sized stove. At least I have a large stock pot, a cast iron skillet, and some decent Henckels. Thanks! Oh, and here's his recipe for pumpkin pie!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Spinach Artichoke Dip

Continuing on with the “here’s some more thanksgiving appetizer recipes I always make” posts, I thought I would share the spinach dip recipe I’ve been using for the last 5 or so years. 2 days of short posts, but I promise a full post tomorrow on what promises to be an awesome dinner I’m whipping up tonight. Stay tuned!

Spin dip

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Ham and Cheeze Toast Points

There’s a comfort food I come back to time and time again. It’s a quick recipe that is always a crowd pleaser, and generally finds it’s way into my table as an appetizer at Thanksgiving. It’s creamy and rich, hot and melty, and puts any other open-face sandwich to shame. So, while you plan your Thanksgiving menu, don’t forget to include this little gem. 

Ham and Cheeze Toast Points

Friday, November 5, 2010

Why I Cook, plus Simple Tofu Scramble

If you ask me why I cook, I’ll tell you it’s not about food. Not really. I mean, I could probably survive on rice and lentils with no seasoning if I needed to. Or ramen. Or grass. Or McDonald's burgers and shakes. (Though if I went that route, I wouldn’t survive very long as my colon, along with every other organ in my body would run the risk of spontaneously combusting by the time I hit 30).

But cooking, for me, is not about survival. It sounds pretentious, but I know I’m a good cook. I have a decent knack for what flavours go together and how to season food. I love farmers markets and like adventure, so I try new vegetables and fruits and grains on a regular basis. If you bring me a vegetable, I’ll figure out something to do with it. And I like the quietness of the kitchen when I cook. The care and patience it takes to prepare that which nourishes us.

Cooking and sharing meals for me is just that: nourishment. And not just for our bodies. It is something I can share with the people I love, give the people I care about. Most of my friends work in some field of social justice or social welfare. The great majority are activists, counselors, non-profit workers, teachers and artists. They are the ones that choose to look society in the face and fight back. It’s not easy to look at the scars left on each other and our planet and not give up.

At the end of the day, I don’t believe anyone wants to go home to a TV dinner, even the vegan ones. “remove from wrapper, place in microwave for 5 minutes. Eat.” How very sterile and boring. At the core, I think what we want, and need, is connection. Anthony Bourdain says cooking should be taught in school, that it would make children more patient, appreciative, and in general, better people. I don't agree with Bourdain on much, as he can be a vegan's nightmare, but I will give him props for that statement.

I offer connection and nourishment to you when I cook. A thank you for being in my life, offering me your friendship and support. So stay in the kitchen with me and taste the process. Sit in a space with me and share what I have made. Good ingredients cooked well and good company make for good conversation shared, and it is for that simple connection that I cook. I should stop now before I sound anymore like an overdone Hallmark card.

Here is a simple little recipe I whipped up the other day to share. While it’s true there are thousands of ways to make a tofu scramble, sometimes simple is best.

Simple Tofu Scramble:

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Market Spice Tea Cupcakes

Does anyone else remember when vegan cupcakes took over the world? I do– it was 2006, I was living in Norfolk, VA, in an apartment that with a dining room that resembled a barn, a big ass kitchen and a porch perfect for southern evening beer drinking. I had quite a few vegan friends, and it seems like there we were, all minding our own business, living our lives, and then: BAM!!! Within the course of a few weeks we had all become masters of the vegan cupcake. There were cupcake clubs at the office. There were personalized cupcakes for everyone’s birthdays. There were 20 different kinds of vegan cupcakes at office potlucks. Sweet Abandon opened. Annie made a super cute batch with gummy sharks riding "butter cream" waves. I made Mexican hot chocolate cupcakes with sugar skulls. The small wonders were everywhere.

So congrats, Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero, if your intentions were to have Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the Word (literally), well, in our little corner of the world, you succeeded. Of course, once Veganomicon came out, the cupcake craze died down a little, but I think for all of us in 2006 that used VCTOTW as a springboard for cupcakery, the sweet treats will always have a place in our hearts.

I haven’t made cupcakes in quite a long time, but walking through Market Spice Tea at the market a few days ago, I picked up a new stash of their original (orange cinnamon) tea. It’s the perfect fall tea, with orange and cinnamon and clove, you just can’t go wrong. I also had the idea it might be really good in cupcake form. So I busted out my batter splattered copy of VCTOTW and got to work modifying.

Market Spice Tea Cupcakes

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Book Review: A Busy Cook’s Guide to Spices

Book Review: A Busy Cook’s Guide to Spices

Like it goes with the rest of my life, I’m one of the last to hop on the bandwagon for Vegan Month of Food. But I guess what matters is that I made the blogroll deadline and am now fully committed to kicking out vegan food blogs left and right this month. So, dear friends, if I don’t answer your emails or phone calls, it’s because I’m up to my eyeballs in produce, spices, and baking. This also serves as an invitation for Seattle friends to just stop by and have a meal, or just pick up to-go containers of food.

But before the baking and cooking commences, I wanted to share with you a gem of a book I picked up the other day at Market Spice Tea in the Pike Place Market. This is not a vegan cookbook. Hell, it’s not even really a cookbook. It’s a total resource of amazing ideas and flavour for us “home cooks” who never, and will never, go to cooking school.

Wondering what other herbs complement basil? Just flip to page 22. Or how about the folklore of chervil? Take a gander at page 37. Never even heard of chervil? Well, that’s ok; you’d just learn that its flavour is a “mild licorice with a peppery aftertaste.” And apparently it goes well with leeks. Ever wonder what spices are in “mulling spices”? That’s answered as well.

But that’s not even the half of it. This book is like a little bible of flavour. The first section of the book contains “Flavourings and how they are used,” which includes the spice name, a description of taste, when it should be added, complimenting spices, and history and origin. As well as a guide to herbs, it also includes the same for wine and beer, beans, and nuts.

The second section contains “Foods and flavorings that go with them.” Now, there is flesh listed in here, but it doesn’t take a great leap to translate the guide to vegan options. Wondering what you could put in your scrambled tofu to spruce it up a bit? Check out the eggs section. Have a bag of Gardien steak strips? Turn to the “beef” page and see what spices would go well to make a faux beef stew. See where I’m going with this? Anyways, there’s a ton of other ingredients in this section, the majority of them vegetables, running from apples to zucchini,
and there's even some recipes.

Other fun resources include a guide to the four tastes, measurement equivalents, a pasta variety chart, a mini guide to mushrooms, and a spice substitution list. Out of turmeric and to lazy to run to the store? Try using ginger instead. No, it’s not a cookbook, but it’s an amazing base from which to build your own recipes. Plus, the pages smell like the original cinnamon-orange tea.* Whether you’re a foodie or a food whore, you’d do well to have A Busy Cook’s Guide to Spices, by Linda Murdock, in your collection.

* Only true if you buy it from a tea shop where the smell of orange-cinnamon has permeated every object.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Indian Inspired One Pot Lentils and Rice

Just because I like good food and I like to cook doesn’t mean it’s all I like doing. I also enjoy reading personal ads and taking long walk on the beach. Just kidding. I don't really read the personals unless they are the personals on the back of The Stranger. That’s some good shit. At any rate, somedays, I just want to make a dish that takes me 5 minutes to prepare, 20 minutes to cook, and I can have leftovers for lunch for a few days. And that’s exactly what this one pot meal is. Easy, delicious, filling, and contains a complex protein I made this yesterday afternoon for lunch, and had it for breakfast and dinner tonight. Then I decided to switch my dietary habits up a bit and had a chick-o-stick (ummm... Dear marketing people at Atkinson: you really should think about renaming your candy to something one would not find in Toys in Babeland…) and a glass of wine. 

Indian Inspired One Pot Lentils and Rice

Friday, October 29, 2010

Cardamom Spiced Sweet Potatoes, Crispy Sesame Kale, and a note about Project Runway

I will get to the food in just a minute, but first, I want to take a minute and go on a rampage against the stunt Project Runway pulled last night. So if you don’t want the show spoiled, just skip to the deliciousness that lies ahead. Otherwise, sit back and enjoy a good ol’ “Colleen’s lost her shit moment”

I have two things to say: One: If Betsy Johnson and David LaChapelle ran away with the circus and gave birth to a love child on Día de los Muertos, his name would be
Mondo Guerra. The genius that boy showed with mixing patterns and prints on this season’s Project Runway! But of course Michael Kors went and got another stick up his ass (too bad it wasn’t an electrocution prod. I would have been happy to see the bastard anally electrocuted like the beings he makes his ugly-ass bags out of) upon seeing that Mondo is clearly a better designer than he is, and since clearly no one can be better Michael Kors, he somehow convinced the rest of the judges that Gretchen’s crunchy granola throwbacks to the 1970’s should win the whole of season 8. Two: Heidi, my respect for you has fallen immensely. Way to let that bully Kors and that bitch Nina Garcia push you around. I hope you feel like shit.

Crunchy granola fashion does not belong on the runway. It does not belong in New York fashion week. Hell, it doesn’t even belong at JCPenney. The only thing crunchy granola thinking is good for is the sentiment of buying local seasonal food. Don't get me wrong: I have great respect for hippies. I have them to thank for Jimi Hendrix, Vietnam Protests and the Moosewood Cafe cookbook, but
those nouveau hippie phish heads and widespread panic kids really chap my ass. No offense.

My point of all this rambling is that I sat in my half put together apartment last night, watching the season finale of project runway (ok, mostly I was just yelling obscenities at the T.V., whatever) ranting about boho hippies with my longtime friend Aly. All while eating, hands down, one of the best meals I’ve cooked since moving back to the Pacific Northwest, entirely consisting of local organic vegetables that had been bought at the co-op up the street. And probably grown by crunchy-ass granola hippies. The irony is not lost on me. Oh, I will eat your produce, but I will never, ever wear your fugly clothing.

Cardamom Spiced Sweet Potatoes with Crispy Sesame Kale

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

An Evening at Plum Bistro: Seattle

Confession: I’m a food slut. Not a foodie, not wannabe chef, not even a connoisseur of all things edible. I’m just a total slut. I sit around at night and look at food porn like “Great Chefs Cook Vegan” and “The Conscious Cook.” I go to spice stores even when I don’t need anything just so I cook gaze longingly at big glass jars filled with beautiful colours. I can tell you what channels on the TV are the food network, the cooking channel, and the travel channel, because outside of PBS, food shows are pretty much the only thing I watch. Sometimes, I even wish I were Gertrude Stein so Alice Toklas could have cooked for me on a regular basis.

“But, Colleen!” you might say, “I thought you were a foodie!” no, sadly, I am not. A foodie would have been aware that this week was restaurant week in Seattle. But not me. No, I was too busy whoring around– pouring lentils into glass jars and setting up my pantry to notice such things. Hence, I am not a foodie.

So when I wandered into Plum Bistro with a few friends on Sunday night, didn’t recognize the menu, and didn’t see a price, I felt really out of my element. I mean, I feel out of my element anyways in Plum, it being a *gasp* upscale vegan restaurant, filled with people wearing matching jewelry and black clothes that are not covered in cat hair, but the whole menu without prices thing really threw me for a loop. But no matter, a ginger-coconut-milk-vodka concoction and an explanation from our server that we had wandered into the week foodies live for cleared my confusion and we were good to eat.

And did we ever. The three of us just shared whatever we ordered. Yam and kale bruschetta, stuffed Portobello mushroom, apple and sage rubbed seitan steak, Jamaican burger, garlic aioli fries, butternut squash quinoa risotto, and three types of mini cheesecake at the end. Pumpkin, ginger, and chocolate. It was, and I do not say this lightly, orgasmic. The yams spiced with cardamom and the crisp baked kale complimented the toasted bread in perfect harmony. The seitan was so luscious it fell apart in your mouth, leaving traces of apple and sage to sing their autumn song on your taste buds. And the dark chocolate cheesecake was so dark, smooth and creamy you just wanted to curl up in a chocolate pillow and fall asleep.

See? Food slut. I rest my case. And while I was silly enough to leave my camera at home, I did jack this pic of their sliders off their facebook page, just so you too, could lust after the offerings at Plum. Come visit me sometime, and I’ll let you take me to dinner there. 


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Zucchini, Yellow Squash and Spinach Soup

In a continuation of the “look in the fridge and figure out what to do with bits and pieces because I don’t want to go out on this rainy, blustery day” series, I find myself making soup. Again. Actually, I quite like soup, which I guess is a damn good thing, considering it looks like soup is shaping up to be a dietary staple…

At any rate, a good bowl of soup paired with a few slices of good bread (oh Essential Baking Company, I wish you could just come deliver Parisian loafs to my door three times a day), a decent glass of pinot grigio, and a few friends (who don’t mind eating whist sitting cross-legged on the kitchen floor because I still don’t have any chairs) pretty much makes for the perfect night. Phew! Check out that run on sentence!

This soup is thick and creamy and bright fucking green! Like, Kermit the frog green. Which makes it really fun to eat. I also thought I’d share a nifty trick this recipe utilizes: to make a “creamy” soup without the cream, just add a potato or two. When you blend the soup, the starch will thicken it, giving it that thick creamy consistency.

Zucchini and Spinach Soup

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef or Why Math and Handicraft Go Hand In Hand

An artist and a scientist are sitting at a bar. The scientist says “There’s no money in public schools anymore. They should cut art from the curriculum.” The artist says, “What the fuck is wrong with you?” The scientist says “Well, are you saying science should get cut?” and the artist answers “No, but neither should art. They are equally important.”

Want more proof artisans are more evolved than most? Okay, twist my arm… When it comes to space in mathematics, I am currently obsessed with hyperbolic space. An alternate theory to Euclid geometry and Spherical geometry, hyperbolic geometry has a negative curvature. I could go on for hours. I won’t. Now, what I do find interesting about hyperbolic space is that critics accepted it in 1868, and paper models illustrating hyperbolic space were created, but they could not move and tangibly illustrate hyperbolic space. In fact, many in the ol’ boys math club thought a tactical rendering of hyperbolic space simply couldn’t be made. But then, in 1997, mathematician Daina Taimina called upon her childhood in Latvia and learning to crochet and knit, and realized the equation could be illustrated through increasing the number of stitches in rows in crochet. Margaret Wertheim says, “So here, in wool, through a domestic feminine art, is the proof that the most famous postulate in mathematics is wrong.” SNAP! Bet those math boys could have figured that out sooner if they had given any thought to the clothes their mamas made them.

But wait! There’s more! In 2006, Margaret and Christine Wertheim, sisters from Australia, started crocheting hyperbolic space models as a commentary to the detrimental affect climate change has Great Barrier Reef. Turns out coral, sea slug, and leafy greens all have something in common: hyperbolic geometry. Since the inception of the project 5 years ago, it has been shown in a ton of galleries, and has had a fuck TON of people crochet and contribute to the piece. Satellite pieces have also been made. White reefs have been made to illustrate the bleaching that occurs in coral when it dies. Reefs have been crocheted out of plastic bags to illustrate pollution problems. The Wertheim sisters are literally and physical playing with ideas in a space where mathematics, marine biology, feminine handicraft and environmental activism collide. If you are lucky enough to live in the DC area, or are visiting, go check out the reef, which is on display at the Smithsonian. My wife just went and sent me pictures, which, I guess since I no longer live in the district, must suffice.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Curry Carrot Soup

Well, the rain has officially started here in the Pacific Northwest. Sure, we had a few day stretch about a month ago when it sprinkled, but that wasn’t really the start of the rainy season. A few last warm sunny fall days had been promised, so spirits were still high. And then yesterday happened. Gray and rain, and we officially stepped foot into the weather Seattle is known for. The showers permeated the city, the old windows in our apartment started to rattle against the wind and the “clunk, clink, whoosh” of the steam radiators that heat our apartment building kicked in at 7am.

Once I drug myself out of the quilted cocoon (a.k.a. my bed), and had a cup of tea, I spent the morning hanging shelves all over my apartment (which, by the way, has no storage, but very high ceilings). I realized around 3 pm I was famished, and found an onion and some carrots in the fridge: fixins for a perfect meal to welcome in the fall weather. Nothing beats hot soup on a cool day, especially when it doesn’t take much time or effort. 


Curry Carrot Soup

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Nikki McClure adorns my walls

A new place doesn’t feel like home until the pictures are hung. I can continue to live out of boxes as I slowly put stuff away in their new spaces and still feel settled if I’ve got pretty stuff on the walls to look at. So last night I thought, “walls be damned, I’m not waiting to paint! I’m a gonna hang me up somethin’ purdy to look at.”

Nikki McClure has long since been one of my favorite artists. Before she started creating totally amazing art with an exacto knife, I would rock out to her song “Ominvore,” the last track on the Stars Kill Rock compilation and dream of singing in my own grrl punk band. Now, 14 years later, I get to sit in my living room (or I will be able to, as soon as I get my hammock up), look at her amazing cut paper prints that adorn my walls, and think about the somewhat circular life I lead. 

But back to the prints: I ended up picking up a tension wire from Ikea the other day (do you know expensive 6-14x18” frames are? Fuck that!) and just clipped the prints along the tension wire. It was a cheap solution and they look pretty damned good (and will look even better once I get my walls painted.) I must give props where they are due, so a major thank you to my friend Vanessa who hung her prints on twine with wooden clothespin. Also a rad solution for a small budget.

Nikki McClure’s prints speak of simplicity and compassion, sustainability and community, and have a quintessential northwest style. Plus, they’re all paper cuts- the lady’s got mad skills with an exacto knife. Each of the six I choose represent a truth that is
intrinsic to me, and serve as a reminder on how I wish to live my life. Take a look for yourself, and if you fall in love with her work, you can always grab one through