give thanks! it's the last day of Vegan MoFo!

Goodbye, Vegan Month of Food!
I have posted for all 30 days of VeganMoFo! It was great, but I am so glad it's over; no more "Wait, did I post today?!" feelings of panic before I go to sleep, no more forced entries on days I don't feel like talking about food. But I'm definitely glad I did it, and I'll definitely do it next year.

I finally have Thanksgiving pictures to post, and with them, a note on Thanksgiving. I touched on my thoughts on the day a couple years ago, but I want to reiterate them. Thanksgiving is about celebrating the blessings in your life, appreciating what you're thankful for. I think that it's important to take time to recognize the good things in your life. If you do that every day, maybe you don't need Thanksgiving, but is it really so bad that the government has reserved a day for us to spend time over a meal with our loved ones? People who claim Thanksgiving is about genocide and racism are unfamiliar with the history of the holiday, and I suggest to them that they read about our nation's history and that of the holiday, even if only the Wikipedia pages. Thanksgiving was always a harvest celebration. A feast or festival where we, humans, give thanks for the bounty of the earth, of our ability to survive, to be sustained by our environment--both in terms of food, and in terms of support from the people around us.

I appreciate my family. In the past few years, so many of my family members have gone vegetarian and vegan that our meal was almost entirely vegan. There was some token meat, but only for one person! And it's not in any of the pictures. All of the things below are vegan!

I got the idea for this delicious Cashew Goat Cheese recipe from C'est La Vegan. My family was so impressed with how much it looked--and even tasted--like goat cheese! It takes a lot time to make, but it's pretty easy. And I kept worrying at every step that I was doing it wrong, but it came out perfect.
I rolled it in a mixture of normal black pepper and freshly-ground cubeb, pink, and green peppercorns, just for effect.

One family member thought it was actual goat cheese, and tried to warn us vegans away from it!

Appetizers eaten, we then had THE MEAL:
Clockwise, from the bottom left: mashed sweet potatoes, rolls, earth balance, brussel sprouts with garlic, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole (with miso instead of mushrooms, to make it cheesy. I totally recommend adding a couple Tbsps to YOUR next green bean casserole), corn, cranberry sauce, my mother's awesome stuffing, herbed gravy that came with the tofu turkey.

You will note the central part of the meal, the tofu turkey, is missing; we hadn't yet brought it to the table. My family's favorite, so-simple entree for holiday meals is Fresh Tofu Inc's Tofu Turkey:
The Tofu Turkey is lightly seasoned tofu, with a crispy skin. It's tasty, but not overpowering, and, unlike most other vegan holiday roasts, it isn't especially salty. We had two for 9 people, and had a bunch of leftovers, so it serves plenty. Plus it's cute! I tried to get a better picture of its little smile, but it was too blurry:
It comes with an herby, rice-flour-and-nutritional-yeast-based gravy.

We paced ourselves pretty well with eating, which is good, because there was PIE:
I'm cheating, actually--this is last year's pie, because I forgot to take a picture of this year's. But we had the same options this year! Pumpkin pie (from Bryanna Clark Grogan's recipe), and Maple-Pecan Pie (also from Bryanna Clark Grogan). This year, we ran out of pecans, so my mother tried it with half pecans and toasted walnuts. It was so delicious that she's planning to make it like that every time.

Finally, though this didn't make it into this year's Thanksgiving dinner, Sunchoke Salad with olive oil, scallions, and balsamic vinegar is a go-to dish for most of our holiday meals, and WAS present last Thanksgiving.
And with that, my friends, we have come to the end of VeganMoFo! I'm glad to be done with daily entries. I'll still try to post at least once a week. And next week, look for another food-from-literature post! I read Great Expectations this weekend. You can also look forward to some posts that aren't about food.
Thanks for reading this month, and for those of you who just started reading, I hope you stick around!


a big pizza post!

The boyfriend and I are finally back from spending Thanksgiving with my family in upstate NY, but since I haven't had time to upload photos of our delicious almost all-vegan meal, you get the next best thing: a pizza post!
Bread, oil, something cheesy: what is there not to love about pizza? The sad thing for me is that because I can't have tomatoes, it's only white pizza for me--so even ordering from vegan pizza places can be tough or boring. Fortunately, pizza is delicious and easy to make at home; including the dough rising, homemade-from-scratch pizza only takes 2 hours, and an hour or more of that is just waiting for the dough to rise! It's incredibly satisfying to make your own pizza, and a lot cheaper than buying pre-made.

This looks like a lot of steps, but it's very easy. I'm just writing everything out in case you've never made any type of dough before.

Pizza Dough
Makes one large pizza dough. Servings depend on what you serve on the side. This serves 2-3 if you're not eating much else, but can serve 4 if you have side dishes)
1 C warm water
2 1/4 tsp dry active yeast (this is 1 packet if you use those)
2 tsp sugar (or maple syrup or agave) (optional but recommended!)*
2 Tbsp plus 1 tsp olive oil
1 scant tsp salt
2 1/2 C flour (You can sub up to half with whole wheat flour [not ww pastry flour!], but it won't rise as well. I only sub about 1/2 a cup with Whole Wheat flour.)
additional flour for dusting (I'd say a scant 1/4 C for the whole process)

In a medium-sized bowl, combine the yeast with the sugar and about half of the water, stir to dissolve as much as possible. (The water should be warm but nowhere near hot--err on the side of cooler water. Yeast comes to life best in warm environments, but temperatures over 110 F can kill the yeast.) Let this sit for about five minutes.

Meanwhile, use 1 tsp of the olive oil to lightly grease the inside of a medium-large bowl. It's good if the excess oil sinks to the bottom.

Back to the yeast! It should be mostly dissolved. There may be foamy clumps on the surface; that is good! (If there aren't, don't worry.) Add the rest of the water, the salt, and the remaining 2 Tbsp olive oil. Stir, then add the flour, about half a cup at a time if you have the patience. Stir to combine; it will be shaggy and messy. Take your dusting flour and sprinkle a little bit on a clean counter or cutting board. Also dust your hands. Now dump your dough mixture onto the surface, and use your hands to work in all the shaggy bits.

Now you're going to start kneading. Kneading isn't scary or intimidating; as long as you're always doing something to the dough, you really can't go wrong. This dough is a little wet, which means you may need to dust your surface and hands fairly frequently to keep it from sticking to everything. Push the dough around, fold it, twist it, whatever you want--basically you want to be punching it down and handling it until it becomes only a little tacky (not full-on sticky), and is consistent and kinda rubbery in texture. Smooth and shape it into a nice, smooth ball. Put the ball in your pre-oiled bowl, rotating it so that the whole surface has an oily glaze. Keep the bowl in a warm place (near a heater is good, or if you're cooking, near the stove), cover it with plastic or a dishcloth, and let it rise at least an hour.

You can use that hour to prepare your toppings, if you want.

Ideally, your dough will double in size. If you're in a hurry, an hour to an hour and 15 minutes is fine, even if it hasn't completely doubled. If you're not in a hurry, letting the dough rise for a couple hours is nice. Anyway, when it's done rising, preheat the oven to 425. Get out a baking sheet (or if you're fancy, one of those pizza stones; I have no idea how those work, though). Lightly grease that with a touch of olive oil. It's best if you do this with your hands, so your hands are a bit oily still when you go on to the next step. This is the best part: Remove the cover from your dough, and punch it down! It usually makes a satisfying sighing noise. Take the dough out, mash it and stretch it and mash it again a few times with your hands, then put it down on the backing sheet. Spread the dough out into the shape you want (ie, circle, rectangle, triangle, whatever), working it with your fingers to try to ensure that it doesn't get too thin or too thick in some places. (The bigger you make the pizza, the thinner the crust will be.)

Put on your toppings. If you like thin-crust pizza, put it right in the oven. It'll rise a little as it cooks. If you have time and like a breadier pizza crust, you can let the dough sit and rise for another 30-45 minutes, preferably near the oven, before baking. It'll rise more in the oven, too. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the sides of the crust begin to brown, checking occasionally.

*-Note: Adding sugar to a yeast-water mixture is called "proofing" the yeast. Yeast feeds off on the sugars in flour, which is how it rises. Giving the yeast a little extra sugar earlier on in the process helps it rise more quickly, but some chefs suggest it is only marginally so, which is why I say it's optional.

The pizza pictured above is made with daiya cheese, onions, and my signature zucchini pepperoni. But I don't get daiya very often, so usually I make my own cheesy sauce out of nutritional yeast, herbs, cashews and/or tofu. Here is the same kind of pizza but with a homemade cheesy topping:
You may be wondering, what is with this "signature zucchini pepperoni?" WELL. Let me tell you. As much as I love pizza, I also try really hard to eat my 5-9 veggie servings a day. Zucchini pepperoni is my way to work in more vegetables and still have something salty and smoky on top of my pizza. Just to let you know, though, zucchini pepperoni is NOT pepperoni. It gives a salty, smoky, flavorful kick similar to pepperoni, but it's not meaty, nor is it going to trick you or anyone you know into the fact that it's not meat or fake meat. It's delicious, though, and worth making at least once.

Zucchini Pepperoni
Enough for 1 large pizza

1 zucchini, sliced very thinly
1-2 Tbsp olive oil (depending on how big your pan is)
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp liquid smoke
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp OR 1 tsp pepper (I like a whole tsp; it makes it spicier)
1/2 tsp garlic powder
dash ground cloves or allspice (optional)

Put the oil in a large pan (I use 9x13). Swish it around so that the entire bottom of the pan is coated with oil. Add the soy sauce, vinegar, and liquid smoke; swish around the pan so that they mix. Sprinkle over the pepper, garlic powder, oregano and (optional) spice.

Now, place all the zucchini slices in the pan in one layer. Flip them all over so that both sides have touched the liquid mixture before you lay them flat. Once all the zucchini slices you can fit are in the pan, gently swish the pan around so that the excess liquid washes over some of the zucchini. (If there isn't excess liquid, add a little more soy sauce and/or liquid smoke.)

Bake at 425 for 15 minutes, then check. Most of the liquid should be gone, and the zucchinis on the edge should be crispy. The middle ones will never quite get crispy, but they shouldn't look soggy--if things are soggy, let it cook for another 5-10 minutes. (Cooking time varies so much because it all depends how thinly sliced the pieces are.) Remove from oven, allow to cool at least a little before putting on pizza so you don't burn yourself.
Here is a homemade pizza with zucchini pepperoni, sauteed garlic and artichoke hearts. If you couldn't tell from these pictures, I'm pretty simple when it comes to my toppings: after something cheesy (homemade or store-bought), I like 2 or 3 at the most.


weekend brunch: cinnamon rolls

The Cinnamon Rolls from Vegan Brunch are amazing. You will eat more of them than you suspect.
Though I have made a ridiculous number of recipes from Vegan Brunch, I held off on the cinnamon rolls for too long. See, I really think of them as a breakfasty food, and yeasted breads are not easy to have warm and fresh and out of the oven for breakfast, since they take so darn long. But! Letting the dough do its first rise overnight leads to fairly quick preparation in the morning.

Also, when recipes tell you to sift your powdered sugar, sift your powdered sugar. I didn't for the icing, and you can see the little clumps of sugar that remained. The clumps are tasty, but not as photogenic.


weekend brunch: breakfast sandwich

My tea is trying to support my VeganMoFo blogging! For all the motivational quotes I've seen on the Yogi Tea tags, that's the first time I've ever seen this one. Ha.

If you can't read it properly, it says "Keep up."
Good timing, tea--the week around Thanksgiving is the tricky part of having Vegan MoFo in November. This week the boyfriend and I are visiting my family in upstate NY, where we have little internet access. I wrote this post a little ahead of time, and it'll be brief.

It's the weekend, so: Weekend Brunch!

I made this Ham, Egg, and Cheese Breakfast Sandwich for the boyfriend's birthday a while back. I bought Yves Canadian Bacon for the "ham," but I made the nutritional-yeasty cheese sauce myself. (There's only so much storebought fake stuff I want in a meal...). Some simple scrambled tofu, and English muffins with margarine made it deeelicous, though really messy to eat. The home fries on the side are white sweet potatoes, which aren't as sweet as their orange counterparts.

Looking at this picture makes me want to make it again really soon.


how to replace nightshades part 4: tomatoes

In my little series on how to replace nightshades, I have left the hardest for last. Tomatoes perform a variety of roles in cooking. Raw, they provide a nice firm texture and a fresh, tart flavor. Cooked, they provide thickness, acidity, sweetness, and hearty flavors for sauces, soups, curries, spreads, pasta, and countless other dishes.

Tomatoes are probably the hardest nightshade to replace for two reasons: 1.) tomato products come in so many shapes and forms that they are useful in all kinds of recipes, and 2.) they are often a substantial part of the dish they inhabit. Think about it: tomato sauce, tomato salsa, minestrone soup. Tomatoes are not just ingredients in these recipes, they are the base of these recipes. But all is not lost! When you encounter a recipe with tomato in the ingredients list, ask yourself: what is the role of the tomato in this dish? Is it acting as the dish's acid? sweetener? thickener? is it, in the case of a salad, there for texture and color more than for flavor?

Before I start discussing replacing tomatoes, I want to introduce you to your two new best friends:

Umeboshi Paste
Tamarind Concentrate
On the left, umeboshi paste. I only know the Eden brand kind, and I get it from a health food store; you may be able to find some at an Asian grocery store, or you can just order it online. Umeboshi paste is made from a tart Japanese plum that is pickled in brine and then ground to paste. It is incredibly salty, and though it looks expensive, one little tub of this will take you months to finish off (and it keeps for years in the refrigerator). Umeboshi paste provides a bit of the texture cooked or reduced tomato products provide, as well as all of the zing and near-sweetness tomatoes have. Stir a little (meaning maybe half a teaspoon) into any recipe that would otherwise have tomatoes (cooked recipes are better, but I've stirred some into mango salsas), and taste to see if you want more. Reduce the salt in the recipe by a little. If you really, really can't find it, you can use a little umeboshi vinegar (which is easier to find, but not as good a tomato replacement) in its place.

On the right, Tamarind Concentrate. I like the Laxmi brand, but you can find this in any Indian/Southeast Asian or Latin American grocery stores, or in a well-stocked grocery store's "ethnic food" section. Tamarind concentrate may also seem a little expensive, but a little goes a long way, and though you should keep it in the fridge once you open it, this too will last forever. (I have used tamarind that has sat in a fridge for about a year. The sugar in it crystalizes around the edge a little, but it was fine to eat.) It resembles molasses in appearance, but is much much tarter. It has a little sweetness to it, but is mostly sour. Any time a recipe calls for tomato paste, I use at least half tamarind paste to make up for it, because it resembles tomato paste in terms of taste in a recipe.

If you want to substitute effectively, those are essentials. Below I will list how to substitute for (most) tomato products.

Replacing Raw and/or lightly-cooked Tomatoes

For the most part, raw tomatoes are often present in recipes to help add a bit of tartness, crispness, and color. To achieve similar flavor, you can use an under-ripe mango. I know this sounds crazy, but hear me out: an underripe mango has not ripened enough to be sweet, and it has a tartness and near-sweetness reminiscent of a tomato. Sliced, the fruit's texture is also similar to a thick slice of tomato. You want a mango that has only the tiniest bit of give when you squeeze it with your fingers--it shouldn't feel soft by any means, but it shouldn't be as hard as rock. Peel it, and either slice or cube it. This is perfect for sandwiches, salsas, and cold salads. You can also ad it last-minute to stir fries, but if you cook it too long, it will become sweeter. In a cold salad (grain, pasta or vegetable), you can also substitute raw zucchini or summer squash for raw tomato. Diced it small and add a small amount (about 1 tsp per tomato replaced by zucchini) of lemon juice to the recipe. Also consider substituting or adding cucumber, which provides the same watery, crisp texture as raw tomato.

For lightly-cooked tomatoes, like the kind you might have in an English breakfast or on Eggs [Tofu] Benedict or Florentine, lightly sautee sliced or fileted zucchini in a small amount of olive oil and vinegar over high heat until it begins to soften and brown on each side.

Replacing Tomatoes in Cooking

I have some bad news for you: if a recipe calls for an entire can or more of diced, crushed, stewed, peeled, ground, or pureed tomatoes, I can't help you. One can or more of tomatoes means that they are a significant part of the recipe that you are better off looking for a different recipe. But don't give up hope; lots of dishes that call for those ingredients are also available nightshade-free. For example, though minestrone soup usually calls for diced tomatoes, I have seen recipes without any. (Search engines' "advanced search" option lets you find recipes that don't include a word [like tomato].) You can find variations on curries that call for cans of tomatoes that instead call for a little tomato paste or a single chopped tomato (both of which are easier to substitute). Be creative, and don't despair.

First and foremost, if you're anything like me, you probably miss the occasional thick pasta sauce. I have a recipe for tomato-free marinara here, and you can find many others by a simple internet search. It may seem like a lot of work, but this stuff freezes well, and will help you out if you're missing this basic comfort food. You can also buy Nomato's nightshade-free marinara, barbeque sauce, or ketchup.

Mostly, though, in cooking, you'll need to replace a couple chopped tomatoes, or 1/4 C tomato paste, or a couple tablespoons of ketchup. Remember that tomatoes are primarily in these recipes to add some tartness, a hint of sweetness, and thickening properties. This is easy! And you have a variety of options. If the chopped tomatoes are supposed to remain whole throughout the recipe and not create a sauce, like in a sauteed pasta dish, you can substitute and equal amount of zucchini for the tomato. If the chopped tomato is supposed to cook down into a paste, treat it like tomato paste in a recipe, which you can substitute with:
  • Canned pumpkin puree, butternut squash puree, or sweet potato puree. Obviously not the kind with spices in it. These thicken a recipe, and with a tiny addition of vinegar (or ume plum paste!) also provide the sweetness and acidity of a tomato.
  • Umeboshi paste. I described this above, but this is great for adding to a tomato-textured thing, with tamarind to create the perfect fake-tomato paste taste, or by itself if you're just trying to replace the taste of tomatoes (like in salsa and other sauces, or curries).
  • Tamarind Concentrate. Again, I discussed this above, but it's great for adding the zing you miss with tomatoes to a variety of recipes. It is especially good in seitan, or other recipes in which tomato paste serves as a moistener and flavor enhancer. Works especially well with umeboshi paste. Tamarind and a little sweetener of some sort is the best substitute for ketchup in recipes.
  • Molasses. Molasses have such a strong, distinctive flavor that you only want to use a tiny bit of them, unless it's for something like BBQ sauce, which benefits from the taste of molasses. Combine this with one or more of the other options in recipes where tomato paste is added as a moistener and flavor enhancer.
  • Peanut butter. I know how crazy this sounds, but in certain recipes, especially in seitan or meatloaf-imitations, peanut butter adds a nice texture and interesting depth of flavor. Plus, it acts as a thickener.
The bad news with these is that with the exception of the purees (which still need you to add a bit of vinegar), they need to be used in some combination. The good news is that you can mix and match, and you can work on your ratios according to taste (ie, if you need 3 Tbsp tomato paste, you can use 2 T tamarind, 1 T peanut butter, etc). You'll need to do some experimenting, but at least you no longer have to overlook some of your old favorites.

In the case of sundried tomatoes, I know, I miss them too (especially the oil packed ones! yum). Consider using olives in their place.

And with pizzas, while non-tomato marinara can do the trick, if you're anything like me, you'll come to a new appreciation of white pizza. And of pesto as pizza sauce.

Tomato dishes are so ubiquitous that few of us can imagine comfort food without them. But like I said above, be creative, and don't despair! Nightshade-free doesn't mean comfort-free. You have options.

One final note on avoiding tomatoes. As with peppers and potatoes, tomatoes can sneak into unexpected foods. Many fake meat products, especially veggie hot dogs, bacon, deli-style slices, and Italian-flavored sausages, use tomato paste for color and/or texture, so as always for the nightshade-free vegan, read ingredient labels carefully before buying fake meats. Sweet-and-sour sauce, many other flavorful Asian stir-fry sauces, and barbeque sauce almost always contain ketchup or tomato paste, as do most homemade seitan recipes, so check ingredient labels and be sure to ask about these things if you're at a restaurant or friend's house.


know what I'm thankful for? My oven.

Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Kitchen Appliances.

Happy Thanksgiving! I'm in upstate New York for a couple days, with little access to the internet, so I wrote this post (and the next couple days' posts) ahead of time. Whether you celebrate the day or not, I wish you all good food and the ability to recognize the good things in your life--today and every day!

I am thankful for many things, and I like to think I have an idea of how lucky I am in life, but there are always things you take for granted. For example, THE OVEN. And THE STOVE. Think about it: how much of your food today, or any day, would be possible without one? Earlier this month, we didn't have gas at our house for almost two weeks, and since we have a gas oven/stove, I went two weeks figuring out how to cook in a kitchen without any fire.

Gas ovens and stoves have been around for about a hundred years; before that, people still cooked on heating stoves, in fireplaces, and in ovens built into fireplaces. I found myself wishing for the first time that our adorable decorative fireplace was functional. Alas, I had to figure out how to make two weeks' worth of meals (well, okay, we went out to eat twice, out of desperation) without fire.

Some of you are probably laughing at how easy this sounds: there are many heat-generating appliances in the kitchen! But while I cook constantly, and while I cook well, I am conversant in only the most basic of kitchen appliances. Stove, oven, toaster, food processor. Even the blender confuses me sometimes. We don't have a microwave. Before a year ago, I never knew how to use a rice cooker. Our toaster oven intimidates me (toasters are so much simpler!) with its non-numerical settings (what kind of setting is "frozen foods?" Is it supposed to thaw things, or cook them through, or...?). I've never made successful waffles in my waffle iron. But in the early days of November, I learned how to love the toaster oven, the rice cooker, and my waffle iron.

Well, no, I still don't actually love them. But I sure learned how to use them.

First timid step, turn the plates in my waffle iron over to use the "griddle" side, which I tried once and gave up on after everything stuck even though it's supposed to be nonstick. I made savory pancakes, first putting some chopped leeks and carrots on the griddle with some oil, Mongolian-grill style. Once softened, I scraped them off the griddle into pancake batter, then poured the batter on the griddle.
Result? Some tasty pancakes! I used hot water from the tap to dissolve some miso with black pepper and oil for emulsifying, so it was sort of a gravy (because the water didn't stay how long, it was actually more like a thick salad dressing, but it was tasty!). It turns out it's probably not my appliance ineptitude; this griddle takes a lot of time to get hot, then at no matter what setting, it gets really hot and everything still sticks to it. The food was good, but the process was not fun. So no more of the griddle, I figured. That's cool, I still have THE RICE COOKER.

I'm not completely rice-cooker challenged; it's just that I'm not comfortable with it, since I've always been a boil-your-rice-in-a-pan kind of girl. In the last year or so, since I moved in with the boyfriend, his rice cooker and I have come to an uneasy truce, as using it allows me more space on the stove. I have always imagined that grains other than rice would work in a rice cooker, so my first adventure was to cook quinoa in it for a quinoa salad. That went well, so later in the week, I decided to step it up a little; I made paella by turning on the cooker and leaving the top open to sautee veggies with some oil, cooking those till soft, then adding the rice and some flavorings before finally closing it. After it shut off (as it does when it's done), I turned it back on to get the crispy rice along the bottom/sides. It was pretty good, though it got a little mushy. I even made some pasta in the rice cooker (by boiling water in it, then cooking pasta accordingly) and tossed it with roasted veggies (from the toaster oven) some arugula, and a vegenaise-mustard-vinegar sauce to make a tasty pasta salad.

At this point I felt pretty confident with my rice cooker skills, so for my next big experiment: SOUP IN A RICE COOKER.
Broccoli and Pumpkin Cheese Soup from Vegan Today. This was delicious, though I didn't cook the carrots long enough, so they didn't get super smooth when blended. I served it with toast, from the toaster oven.
It looks evil, but the toaster oven became my best friend for two weeks. I started out only using it to toast bread as a side for whatever else I was making.

For example, I made Chilled Avocado Soup, from the Elephant Walk's recipe.
The Elephant Walk is an upscale French/Cambodian restaurant that is surprisingly good to vegans. I can't have the soup at the restaurant because it has tomatoes, but upon hearing people rave about it, I made it at home without them. It was easy to make without a stove, as the soup is raw. It was good, but be generous with the avocado, since it's the only thing that really helps cut the acidity. We had a side of warm bread with cheese sauce, courtesy of the toaster oven.

Soon, however, I wanted more than bread. Two weeks without baked goods is, for me, a very sad two weeks. And/or an impossibility. Neither muffin tins nor baking sheets fit in the toaster oven, but it CAN hold 8x8 baking dishes and springform pans, so I opted for brownies.
Melting chocolate without a stove is not so easy, though. I made a makeshift bain-marie with two bowls, filling the bottom one with hot water from the tap. I covered it and let it sit for five minutes, then stirred the chocolate and replaced the water (which had cooled) with hotter water--the whole process took almost half an hour. But! The chocolate melted, and two cycles of the toaster oven's "Cake" setting later, I had brownies! And not just any brownies:

Pumpkin Pie Brownies, from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar. (Online version of this recipe here.) Because I had to guess at cooking times and temperatures (surprisingly, the "cake" setting isn't 350, but ranges between 325 and 350, and the cycle is only 25 minutes, so I had to run it twice), I was worried it'd be a little dried out, but I really think this was the best recipe I could've gone for, since all the pumpkin kept it nice and moist. We had a bunch of friends over shortly after I made these, and everyone was crazy about them.

With successful toaster-oven brownies under my belt, I felt like I could handle anything, so I took on a FULL HOMEMADE TOASTER OVEN MEAL.
I felt like toaster oven McGuyver! Oven-fried tofu, roasted sweet potatoes with arugula, and biscuits. (I made a quick balsamic sauce on the side, in case things were too dry.) This took a lot of advanced planning, as obviously all these things can't go into a toaster oven at the same time. I made the biscuits first; they're the cornbread biscuits from Vegan Brunch, my latest carb crush. Half a recipe would fit on the tiny baking tray that comes with the toaster oven. Then, I tossed chopped sweet potatoes and arugula in salt, pepper and oil, then folded them all up into a foil packet. These went into the toaster oven on one of the higher settings ("Frozen Foods," I think, or "Roast." I imagine this is somewhere around 425).

THEN the Oven-Fried Tofu!
This is actually really easy, and can be made in any kind of oven. It serves 3-4, depending on how much other food is on your plate.

1-2 Tbsp vegan margarine (I use Earth Balance)
1/2 C flour
1-2 tsp dried herbs: I like sage and garlic powder, but you can add any you'd like.
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 16-oz block of tofu, sliced into slabs (their thickness is really determined by how many you can fit into your pan. 8 can be squeezed into an 8x8 baking dish, 10 into an 8X12, so cut it according to your pan size.)

If you have an oven, preheat it to 425. (I only had a toaster oven, and it was already on.) Put the margarine in a baking dish, then put the baking dish in the oven so the maragrine melts while it preheats.

Combine the flour and seasonings in a large ziploc bag. Put in all the tofu slabs, and SHAKE LIKE CRAZY until all the slabs are coated.

Take the baking dish out of the oven, and swirl it around so the bottom is coated with margarine. Take the tofu slabs out of the plastic bag one by one, shaking them a little to get off excess flour. You only want a thin coating of flour on each piece. Put the tofu in the pan, then placei n the oven. Cook for 20-30 minutes, flipping the tofu about 15 minutes in. You want the tofu to get at least a little golden on both sides before it's done. Serve with a dipping sauce or gravy.

Having only a toaster oven, I made this recipe and set the pan on top of the foil packet of veggies. Everything took a little longer than normal, but came out great, and super hot. While I put those on the plate, I popped the bisuits back in the toaster oven on "toast" for a minute or two, just to warm them up, and we had a full meal from the toaster oven! And fortunately had our gas hooked back up soon after.

I'm glad to know that if for some reason we don't have gas again, I can still eat well, but right now, I am SO thankful to have our oven back.


go max go candy bar review

A little while ago, the boyfriend and I discovered a little gourmet foods store while we were on a walk. We decided to check it out, and were disappointed to find that it stocks a lot of the same stuff we can get at our co-op, but is also one of those places that's so proud of their charcuterie counter and their exotic smelly cheeses. So we were about to leave the store empty-handed, when we noticed, right by the exit--a display of vegan candy bars!

Vegan candy bars!!!

Now that I know what to look for, I've since seen (and bought) these candy bars at our co-op, and Whole Foods carries them, too. Go Max Go is the name of the company who makes them. Their mission is to make a vegan candy bar with no hydrogentated oils or high fructose corns syrup. They produce four styles of vegan candy bar, each modeled after an existing non-vegan kind. (Which is to say, the kind you miss!) The "Jokerz" bar is like a Snickers, the "Twilight" bar is like a (U.S.) Milky Way, the "Buccaneer" bar is like a (U.S.) Three Musketeers, and the "Mahalo" bar (the one not shown here) is just like an Almond Joy.

For the sake of your edification, dear reader, I took it upon myself to try each one. I only took pictures of three, though. I ate the Mahalo too quickly. (Uh, but I swear I ate these all over time, not on the same day!)

I'll review them in order of my favorites! The Mahalo, the Almond-Joy-ish one, was my favorite by far. For those of you who have had an Almond Joy, that's what this is! For those of you who haven't, it's a sweet, moist coconut base with a couple almonds whole on the very top, then the whole thing coated in chocolate. Delicious. Sorry I didn't take a picture, but there's a nice one on the "Products" page of the Go Max Go Website.

My next favorite: the Twilight bar. This is a Milky Way knock-off.
I assume most of you know your basic candy bars, but there may be some confusion: "Milky Ways" are called "Mars Bars" ourside the US. It is a layer of nougat topped with a layer of caramel, coated in chocolate. When I was little, Milky Ways were among my favorite candys, because the caramel was really good. I ate the nougat just to get to the caramel... and I kinda feel the same way about the Twilight. The nougat is a little gummy, with a very slight chocolate flavor. The caramel is a little grainy and not as firm as I remember Milky Ways', but it tastes awesome.

A right behind the Twilight bar in my opinion is the Jokerz bar, which resembles a Snickers bar.
It's just like the Twilight bar, but with peanuts inside as well.

Finally, the Buccaneers bar, which resembles a US Three Musketeers Bar (or a European/Austrialian Milky Way).
It's light, chocolate-flavored nougat coated in chocolate. I'm not really crazy about nougat to begin with, and I never used to eat Three Musketeers bars, but the boyfriend was realy excited about this one; it's his favorite. I find the nougat a little gummy and a little too sweet.

So! Pros: Your favorite childhood candy bars--but vegan! That's a pretty big pro. Also, the chocolate on all these candy bars is a pretty decent quality for a candy bar. You can actually taste it as chocolate. And the caramel is rich and flavorful.

Cons: Maybe it's just because I'm a grown up now (ha), but these things are very sweet. I'm not really into super sugary things; I tend to try to reduce sugar in my recipes and I prefer very dark chocolate, so it may just be that my taste buds aren't used to candy-bar levels of sweetness. The boyfriend and I split each bar, because one alone would be too much sugar for our mouths to handle. (You know how if you eat too much sugar, the back of your mouth feels weird?) But again, that might just be me. Also, almost all of the bars have barley malt, so they aren't gluten free, so sorry gluten-free vegans.

Have any of you tried the Go Max Go candy bars? What do you think? Are there other (high-fructose-corn-syrup-and-hydrogenated-oil-free) vegan candy bars out there I don't know about?

Note: Go Max Go doesn't endorse or even know about this review; I just got excited to see vegan candy bars in a store, so I bought them and decided to let you know what I thought.


barbeque seitan brisket

A while back, one of the boyfriend's co-workers brought barbeque brisket into work to share with everyone. The boyfriend, feeling a little sorry for himself, texted me to ask if I thought I could make a seitan brisket. I had no idea what brisket was, but I'm always up for a challenge, so I said yes and commenced looking up recipes online.

It turns out brisket is actually a cut of meat (usually beef). It's most commonly associated with Jewish and Southern cuisine. Once I actually realized brisket is just... meat... I was a little unsure I could or wanted to pull off a convincing seitan version, but considering that neither the boyfriend nor I ever had the real thing, and the fact that it would be smothered in barbeque sauce, I figured it couldn't go too wrong, so I gave it a shot.

It turned out really well.
As I said yesterday, my go-to seitan recipe is the Seitan o' Greatness recipe from the PPK. This is a good base for the brisket, but needed quite a few changes, for three reasons: 1.) brisket by itself isn't as flavorful as Seitan o' Greatness, 2.) Brisket isn't shaped like a log, and 3.) Brisket isn't cooked in foil. So! Changes I made:
  • I made the substitutions for nightshades I mentioned in yesterday's post.
  • I left out all the spices, since this seitan is supposed to imitate a basic cut of meat and shouldn't be super flavorful.
  • I DID use the full amount of black pepper, though, and added a pinch each of sage, thyme, rosemary, and parsley.
  • Instead of shaping it into a log, I made an approximate brisket shape.
I lightly greased an 8x8 pan, then put in the seitan brisket. Next I preheated the oven to 375.

The next step is to mix 1 Cup barbeque sauce and 1 Cup water in a small bowl or large measuring cup. I make my own barbeque sauce, but you can also use store-bought. Either way, it should be a little smoky, so if it isn't, add a tsp of liquid smoke. You need to add the water because otherwise the seitan will dry out in the oven. Pour the sauce mixture over the seitan, swishing it around a little to make sure the bottom soaks some up, too.

Bake it, uncovered, until the water evaporates and the barbeque sauce thickens on the brisket, and on the bottom of the pan. This took me somewhere around 40 minutes. I'd recommend checking it at 30 minutes; if there's extra liquid, spoon it over the brisket. If there's not extra liquid, add some. There's a lot of guesswork here because I didn't write down what I was doing, but I will make it again sometime to confirm the cooking time and temperature. But keep an eye on it and you'll be okay. It should look like this when it comes out of the oven:
Let it sit for a couple minutes, then transfer the brisket to a cutting board. Slice.
It is up to you whether you want to google "brisket" to see what the meat version looks like, but if you do, you will be as amazed as I was at how close this looks.

Spoon the thickened barbeque sauce that was left in the pan over the slices, and serve with southern-style sides (like greens and mashed sweet potatoes, above; biscuits would be good, too). After if cools, slice it thinly and use on sandwiches. It is ESPECIALLY delicious on sandwiches.


sausage o' greatness

If you've been around vegan blogs a while, you've probably seen the recipe for Seitan o' Greatness. PPKer Lachesis posted this recipe on the PPK forum, and it seems like every vegan who had access to the internet made it and blogged about it. I was a little late in the game, having only discovered it last year, but now Seitan o' Greatness is my main use for gluten (though Veganomicon's chickpea cutlets are a close second). The recipe makes one large log of seitan, good for sauteeing like a burger or for deli-meat-style slices for sandwiches. We, however, have little use for a seitan log, and a lot of use for SAUSAGES!
So I've adapted the recipe to make Sausage o' Greatness.
This version is adapted from the original to be nightshade-free, but if you can have nightshades, you can use the original recipe, just prepare the dough this way instead of that way. It makes 4 large sausages, each of which makes for a large serving.

1 1/2 Cups gluten
1/4 Cup nutritional yeast
1/2 to 1 tsp salt (depending on how much of a salt fan you are)
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cumin
1/8 tsp allspice
2 tsp pepper (less if you don't want it spicy)
2 tsp garlic powder
(If you have a specific flavor in mind, like Italian, or Thanksgiving-y, leave out the cinnamon and add ~2 tsps of other spices: italian seasonings, thyme and sage, curry, etc.)

3/4 cups water
4 tbsp pumpkin puree -AND/OR- replace some of it with 1 Tbsp tamarind paste, and/or 2 Tbsp peanut butter* (some combination of the 3 is good)
2-3 tbsp tamari/soy sauce
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
dash of liquid smoke (optional but tasty)

*-I know peanut butter sounds crazy, but you can't taste it in the final product as long as it's 2 Tbsp or less, and it makes the texture smoother. Chunky peanut butter helps give even more of a convincing sausage texture.)

Preheat the oven to 350. Combine all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add all of the wet ingredients, and mix well, with a fork if that helps. After a minute or two of stirring, it will be a thick dough; turn this out on a cutting board and knead it a few times, until all the ingredients are incorporated and the dough's texture is consistent. The dough should be pretty stringy; if not, knead until it is. If this sounds like a lot of work, don't worry--this whole process normally takes less than five minutes. Now, form the dough loaf into a circle. Cut it into four equal pieces.

Take a medium-sized sheet of foil. Shape one of the quarters of the seitan into a log, snake-like. Put it on the bottom edge of the foil, making sure to leave at least an inch or two on either end of the log. Roll up the foil, like a sushi roll or wrap, and once it's a long foil tube, twist the ends shut. Tight is good, but don't make it TOO tight, since seitan expands a little when heated. Now that you've done it for one sausage, the other three are a breeze. Once you have four little foil-wrapped sausages, place them in the oven (I do it directly on the rack, but if that makes you nervous, put them on a baking sheet first). Bake for 45 minutes, turning at least once during cooking. Once done, the packages should be firm; if they seem a little soft, try 10 more minutes in the oven.

You can eat the sausages as-is, but they're also really good browned in a skillet in a small amount of oil, and/or with onions, as above.

Another delicious use of these sausages is Beer Braised Sausages with Warm Potato Salad, a recipe I took from Martha Stewart.
I used white sweet potatoes in lieu of potatoes. The boyfriend brews his own beer, so we always have beer around the house. The dish tasted very... German. I am unconvinced as to whether I like beer with potatoes, but it was a great compliment to the sausages, and the boyfriend really enjoyed the whole meal.


weekend brunch: tofu frittata

I love the frittata recipes (like this Shiitake Dill Frittata) in Vegan Brunch, especially because they give ideas for frittata "bases" that you can improvise off of.
For instance, I made Zucchini and Dill Frittata by swapping out the shiitakes with zucchini, but I've also made it with broccoli and no dill, or with cauliflower or chard (also from frittata recipes in the book). But one thing I don't like about the Vegan Brunch frittata recipes is that they recommend you use a glass pie plate to bake them! This "glass pie plate frittata" stuff doesn't fly with me. Frittatas get the BEST "crust" when made in a cast-iron skillet (as I did, above). You can see the nicely browned edges in my photo above; a pie plate wouldn't give you quite the same crispiness.

My cast-iron skillet is my best buddy in the kitchen, especially at brunch time. The ability to go from the stove top to the oven to the table is one of my favorite things about cast iron in general. I think that after my knife and chopping board, the cast-iron skillet gets the most use out of anything in the kitchen.

What about you? What's your favorite kitchen ware? What do you use for any and every recipe you can?


weekend brunch: sunchoke hash browns

In yesterday's entry, I mentioned that you can use sunchokes as replacements for potatoes, including in hash browns. Here is some evidence!

Sunchoke Hash Browns. This probably about 1.5 pounds of sunchokes, grated and cooked, ready to serve. They cook down quite a bit, but take a while. I used quite a bit of Earth Balance at the bottom of the pan, seasoned them with salt and pepper, and (I think) I put in a little water at one point to prevent them from drying out too much as they cooked. They took 15-20 minutes on medium-high heat, and I had to stir fairly often. All the cooking made them lose their characteristic crispness (which is good if you're making hash browns!), but the sunkchokes retained their fresh taste. I also included a finely chopped onion, which provided a really good flavor. I don't think you'd be able to fool anyone into thinking they're potatoes, but they satisfy hash-brown cravings and they're delicious in their own right.


how to replace nightshades part 3: potatoes

Potatoes were not the hardest nightshade for me to give up (peppers were, because I used to LOVE hot sauce), but they were one of the first things I was desparate for which to find a suitable replacement. My mother is Irish in descent, and we had some potato product on the dinner table easily 5 nights a week. Potatoes, and recipes that contain them, are tied in my brain and in my mouth to the feeling of family, home, and comfort.

Potatoes are ubiquitous, used in all kinds of cuisines for everything from making a soup creamy to binding veggie burger ingredients to taking the center stage as a baked potato. If you find yourself missing potatoes, or have a recipe that has potatoes as an ingredient, consider some of the following substitutions.

Replacing Potatoes

Each of the following vegetables (almost all of which are roots) is a good potato substitution for different reasons, and for different forms of potato, so mix and match at will.

Sweet Potato: Despite the name, sweet potatoes (also called yams) are not actually related to potatoes. Which is good for those of us who can't eat nightshades! You can bake sweet potatoes, mash them, turn them into fries, and fry them up for hash browns, all like you can with potatoes. There are varieties of white sweet potatoes that are starchier and less sweet than the orange tubers you probably think of when you think of sweet potatoes; those work great as replacements for potatoes, but brown quickly when the raw flesh is exposed to air. Japanese yams are also whitish (with purple skin), starchier, and less sweet than most sweet potatoes.

Taro Root: While taro root can be difficult to come by, and I've never actually seen it organic, most Asian markets have some in stock. They come in two sizes: large, which aren't as sweet, and baby, which are smaller than your fist and a little sweeter. Boiled and mashed, it makes a great substitution for potato. You can also chop it up and include it in soups and stews, but it gets grainy if you overcook it. Taro root is sweeter than a potato, but not as sweet as a sweet potato. Roasting it for chips or fries brings out that sweetness a litle more than boiling it. I have recipes for mashed taro and taro patties here.

Cassava/Yuca/Manioc/Tapioca: These are four names for one root. Cassava doesn't keep long, so if you find it in a store, its skin is likely to be covered in a thick wax. It can be difficult to find, though grocery stores that stock Latin, Caribbean, and African ingredients often have them, because all of those cuisines use cassava. Cassava can be fried, sauteed, baked, boiled, and mashed. Let me tell you, though, overcooking this baby results in a starchy, gluey texture. Tapioca starch, also made from cassava, is a great replacement for potato starch.

Sunchoke/Jerusalem Artichoke: Sunchokes have a bright flavor, and don't ever get as mushy and grainy as potatoes, which can be a real asset in dishes in which you want your potato-like substitute to maintain its shape and struccture. Use them in soups, stews, and "potato" salads. You can also grate them and use them as hash browns, but they cook down a lot. I have a recipe for potato-style sunchoke salad here.

Celeriac: Celeriac, or celery root, has a distinct flavor of its own, but it is a tasty root vegetable in its own right, and you can use it in place of chopped or diced potatoes in soups and roasts--and even as oven fries, as I posted in this entry.

Turnip/Rutabaga: Like celeriac, turnips and rutabagas have distinct flavor, but give a nice, earthy, root-vegetably flavor and texture for use in almost any recipe where you'd use chopped or diced potatoes. I have an entry about what I do with turnips here.

Bread/flour/starch: I know this sounds crazy, but wait: in recipes like blended soups, where potatoes aren't the main focus but are there to make a soup creamy, you can substitute a large piece of bread. Simply remove the crust, then blend the piece of bread in a blender or food processor with a cup of water and/or a cup of the broth, then stir back into the soup. Also, many recipes, like potato pancakes (latkes; I have a recipe here for sweet potato ones), gnocchi, or veggie burgers, call for cooked potatoes. This is because potatoes are very starchy (much more so than sweet potatoes), and the starch in them acts as a binding agent. For each 1 cup cooked potatoes you replace in these recipes, add 2 Tbsp to 1/4 cup flour, depending on desired stiffness. You can add more if your dough (or recipe) doesn't stiffen as much as you'd like, and you can experiment with also adding some cornstarch or other starch (like tapioca).

Finally, as a word of warning to people who are new to avoiding nightshades: potato starch, like paprika and cayenne, is really sneaky, and works its way into all sorts of things. Almost all store-bought gluten-free flours and baked goods contain potato starch, as do all powdered egg substitutes (like Ener-G or Bob's Red Mill), so be careful about eating baked goods whose ingredients you don't know. Other ubiquitous ingredients that can sometimes be potato-derived are maltodextrin and "modified food starch." Both are usually from corn, but be careful. Also remember that some vodkas are distilled from potatoes. Some nightshade-free people can digest potato vodka, others can't--know what you're drinking. Most brands' websites mention whether theirs comes from grain (usually wheat or rye) or potato.


vegan girl's guide to life signing, plus some food

Last night, Melisser came to Peace o' Pie and signed copies of her new book, The Vegan Girl's Guide to Life. Of course I snagged a copy. Not only does it have a bunch of awesome recipes (including the jackfruit "carnitas" tacos, which are so delicious), but it's also a great resource guide for all things vegan, from the ethical hows and whys of veganism to substitutions in cooking/living to vegan knitting. There are also dozens of interviews with female vegans in a wide range of successful business or writing endeavors. It's a good read and a great resource, especially for new or aspiring vegans. (Ooo, I should get another copy to give to my newly-vegan sister for Christmas.) It really drives home how accessible and easy veganism can be. Melisser will be signing books in Brooklyn on the 20th, and Montclair, NJ on the 21st before heading over to Europe. You should go see her and get a copy!

Also at the signing: Jaymoh, who's keeping Melisser company on her travels, and other PPKers there, including Desdemona and her partner; DarthCupcake; Lixa" Fupupack' and B.Vicious. There were others, but I didn't catch their names. Almost all of us ate too much pizza.

So I didn't cook yesterday. But I have some food to share with you that I made a while ago and never made it into the blog:
Tamarind Lentils from Veganomicon. Since Veganomicon is such a large book, and we have so many cookbooks, I haven't made many of the recipes more than once, but I've made this recipe about a dozen times. (Here's the recipe, care of Google books.)

Vegan Crispy Rice Squares from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar. These were really tasty, and are the closest thing I've had so far to my mom's rice krispie treats from my childhood. (Vegan Newbie posts the recipe here.)

Finally, less picturesque but just as tasty, the Zucchini Carrot Crumb Casserole from one of the Dreena Burton cookbooks. I think Eat, Drink and Be Vegan, but now I'm not sure. We ate a lot of this per serving; it's pretty low fat and has lots of veggies, so we didn't feel bad. Actually, I almost never feel bad for eating large servings.

Except last night after eating an entire Peace o' Pie calzone. I was so full I felt like I was waddling everywhere afterwards.


snack update

3:00 snack: time to try the Low(er) Fat Banana Bread muffins I mentioned in my last post.


Next time (and there will be a next time) I might add a couple Tbsps of liquid (non-dairy milk or water) to the batter, just to moisten it up a little more, but they are so delicious.

Guys it is banana bread... IN A MUFFIN.


I am a snacker. I've always been a snacker; some of my earliest memories involve three-year-old me procuring and discussing snacks. My mother calls me a "grazer," because I tend to eat food throughout the day. On a normal day, I eat breakfast around 8, need snack #1 around 10:30, eat lunch at noon, need snack #2 at 3pm, have a smaller snack at 5:30 or 6ish, and then dinner around 8pm. Except for dinner, all of these snacks/meals are pretty light. If I were to eat a large breakfast or lunch, I might be able to delay the need for each snack by an hour or two, but my metabolism is such that snacking is essential.

My usual go-to snacks are fruit, soy yogurt, pretzels, roasted nuts, rice cakes, or chocolate. But sometimes I feel like something different. So here are some of my recent snacks!
This is not a great picture (because I took it with my phone at my desk at work), but it is my hands-down favorite snack ever. Mashed avocado on toast. With salt. I discovered this by accident once (I started to make a sandwich but realized I was out of my other components) and thought I was a genius, only to be informed by my South African roommate that that is a traditional breakfast in South Africa. Avocado on toast is my perfect trifecta for snacking: carbs, protein, some fat; all of these take a while to digest, allowing you to feel fuller longer. I use about 1/4 to 1/2 an avocado per piece of toast.

In keeping with the carbs-protein-fat trifecta, I present to you last week's emergency snack. I don't normally snack after dinner. Last Thursday, however, I was out all day, and my dinner--on-the-go-falafel from my favorite place--had an accidental tomato in the wrap that I discovered well after I'd left the place, so I had to abort dinner after only eating half a wrap. When I get hungry, I get first light headed, then really tired, and then REALLY CRANKY, so I was in a downward spiral by the time I finally got home at 10ish.
Toast with arugula pesto to the rescue! It's a clove of garlic, some walnuts, a large handful of arugula, olive oil, salt and lemon juice. Look how adorable our mini food chopper (on the right) is! I call it a mini food processor, but the boyfriend pointed out it's actually a "chopper." I've broken this thing so many times I've permenantly set off the safety shut-off and have to jam electrical tape into a slot in the base to override it and get the chopper to do anything.

I try not to have too much sugar in my snacks, because I like to pretend I'm healthy and because I tend to crash faster after sugary foods. But sometimes you just want sweet snacks.
Sweet Wine Biscuits with Sesame from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar. A friend of mine recently visited Jewell Towne Vineyards in New Hampshire, and upon finding out that their fining agents are vegan (clay), she brought us back some port. Which meant I could finally make these cookies! First of all, they are very good. A little unusual--I don't think I'd've recognized that they were made with wine if I didn't know the recipe. Second, even though the picture in the book makes them look all pink and rosy, they came out purple!
Purple! I made these when we had some friends over. I like to feed my guests, mostly because I'm a good hostess, but also in part because I won't feel bad snacking if my guests are snacking. Plus if any of them are like me and need food like all the time, they don't have to worry about getting hungry when they come over!

Speaking of friends coming over, Melisser, the Urban Housewife is coming to promote, sign, and talk about her book The Vegan Girl's Guide to Life TONIGHT at 7pm at Peace o' Pie. She's staying with me, so in anticipation of her arrival, I have made:
Low(er) Fat Banana Nut Muffins! I used the recipe for Low(er) Fat Banana Bread from Veganomicon, but added a cup of walnuts, a splash of nondairy milk, and put them into muffin cups. (And halved the baking time, of course.) I haven't tasted them yet, but they smelled amazing cooking. I imagine they'll be denser than muffins normally are, but hopefully not drier--that's why I added the splash of milk. I will eat one as my 3pm snack and let you know!


pasta and squash

...such an awesome combination.

I love pasta. I think when most people think of pasta, they immediately think of some type of marinara sauce. My nightshade allergies make this an unfortunate impossibility, but they don't stop me from loving pasta. I try not to eat a lot of it, because even though I go solely with organic, whole wheat pastas, it still tends to lead to me eating a lot of carbs that I might not work off. But I'd say we still have pasta at least once a week.

Since I can't have tomatoes, I rely on white sauces, alfredo sauces, or just--my favorite--olive oil, garlic, and herbs. I saute up some veggies (and often beans) in lots of oil, then add cooked pasta--bam! delicious pasta. My favorite veggies to add are onions, garlic, greens, and this time of year, winter squashes.

I love squash almost as much as I love pasta. Acorn, carnival, butternut, dumpling, delicata... you name it, I love it.

I usually don't peel squash before cooking, because it's awful to peel, and most squash skins are edible. (Well, they're all edible, it's just that Acorn squash skin is sometimes a little tough.) I just cut it in half, trim off the stem, then roast it at 475 for 20-30 mins, until I can pierce it with a fork.
This is delicata squash, one of the sweetest squashes, roasted and ready to be added to:
PASTA! Fusilli (that is, the spirally kind) is my favorite. There are also chard stems and onions and LOTS OF GARLIC in here. Probably rosemary, too (I don't remember), since rosemary goes really well with squash.

There is one squash I don't like as much as the others though: pumpkins. Don't be mad. Everyone else this time of the year goes crazy about pumpkins and pumpkin products. They're okay, but there are so many delicious squashes out there, I just think it's silly to go bananas over this one in particular, which isn't even as tasty as delicata squash!

I do love them for carving, though.
These were our pumpkins this year. Mine is the scary one, the boyfriend's is the one on the right. I wish I'd taken a picture of these lit up; they looked great. To the left, you can also see the organic Trader Joe's lollipops we gave out for Halloween.

Okay, more than halfway through VeganMofo. Great job to everyone who's writing for it, and thanks to all of you who are reading it!

Oh! ATTENTION BOSTON-AREA READERS: Melisser, of Urban Housewife fame, is talking about and signing her new book, the Vegan Girl's Guide to Life, at Peace o' Pie tomorrow evening (11/17) at 7pm. In addition to being awesome, Melisser is a fellow Vegan Mofo-er. You should totally be there!


vegetable stock from scraps

With this entry, we are officially halfway through Vegan MoFo! I'm pretty proud of myself for posting every day so far, and now that I know I'm capable of posting so regularly, I won't have an excuse not to update at least once a week after VeganMoFo ends.
Today I want to post about vegetable stock. Historically, I have not been the biggest fan of soup, but I've finally started to appreciate it, especially after the tooth extraction fiasco. The first ingredient you encounter when making a soup recipe is almost always stock or broth of some sort. I've gone back and forth between using water with a little soy sauce, which is only useful if your soup has many flavorful herbs and spices already. But if you're making a simpler soup that doesn't call for large amounts of herbs and spices, stock is what gives the soup a real depth of flavor.

I've been using Rapunzel's salt-free bouillon cubes, because that is one of the few brands whose veggie stock doesn't contain nightshades or mysterious "spices." It's fine, but the flavor isn't rich or complex. I also tried Imagine's No-Chicken Broth, which is flavorful, but it is absurdly salty. And I think the "spices" gave me a bit of a rash, so they maybe contain nightshades. And none of the packaged substitutes compare with real, homemade veggie stock.

Veggie stock recipes usually call for some whole carrots and whole onions and whole celery sticks, but the first time I made it, I didn't want to waste precious vegetables in case my veggie stock was a failure. So I looked more into the scrap method of cooking veggie stock, and let me tell you, it is the greatest thing ever. Save the ends and peels of vegetables when you're cooking with them. It's like composting, but you should save the scraps in the freezer, because otherwise they'll decompose. I recommend one of those gallon-sized ziploc bags. Every time you chop a vegetable, put the parts you don't cook with into the plastic bag. The only caveat is that you have to wash your vegetables really well so you don't get dirt in your broth. And if you don't eat organic, I'd maybe think twice about putting in peels from the higher-sprayed vegetables (celery, potatoes, carrots, peppers).
So! Save veggie scraps, freeze them in a container (like a ziploc bag). When the container gets full, remove from freezer. Dump them into a large stock pot. (It's called a stock pot for a reason!)
The general rule is that you add twice as much water as you have scraps. I use a gallon-sized plastic bag. 1 gallon = 16 cups, but there's a lot of space between veggies, so I wouldn't say there's a full gallon. If it were a full gallon, I'd need 32 Cups of water, but I put in about 20-24 Cups. Anyway, it's not a precise science. The less water you use, the deeper the flavor of your stock. Obviously, the smaller your container of frozen veggies, the less stock you'll be making.

Cover, and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally. Once it boils, reduce heat to medium-high, so it doesn't boil over, but so that it stays at a hearty simmer. Let it cook for at least an hour, then check the veggies. They should all look pretty lifeless at this point. If they still look like they have more flavor to impart, let them cook longer.

Turn off heat, and let it cool so it won't burn you in the next step, which is to strain the soup. I set a large strainer in a bowl, then pour the stock through the strainer. I lift the strainer out of the bowl, and what's left: veggie stock! However, if you don't have a large bowl or strainer, or you don't want to lift up the whole pot of stock, you can use a slotted spoon or smaller strainer to fish out all the veggie pieces from the pot itself. The point is to remove all the veggie pieces. You can then compost them or throw them away, knowing that you have used all parts of the vegetable, and really got your money's worth out of all of those veggies.

Now you have lots of veggie stock. It keeps 3-4 days in the refrigerator, but will keep forever in the freezer. I divide it up into 2 Cup or 4 Cup portions, then freeze them.
4-Cup containers. (These are yogurt-sized containers.) Look at the gorgeous color! (You can also see a 2-Cup container of frozen beans to the left of the stock. I'm big on saving money and on cooking and freezing things ahead of time.)

Ideally, if you know you're planning to make soup in the next 3-4 days, move the stock out of the freezer and into the fridge 6-8 hours in advance. If you're like me, though, you don't know what you're going to make for dinner until you start making it. However! I have a simple solution: almost every cooked soup recipe calls for you to saute some vegetables before you add the stock. So, if you want to make a soup but all your stock is frozen, here is a cheat: Take the stock out of the freezer just before you chop the veggies and set it on the counter. Proceed with your recipe. Toward the end of the veggies' sauteing time, dump the (frozen) stock in with the veggies. If the stock won't come out of the container, run the container under warm water for a second; it should separate the stock from the container.
Frozen stock amid the veggies for the gluttonous vegan's smoky sweet potato soup! It looks silly, I know. Stir to get the frozen stock to touch the bottom of the pan. Cover, wait 5 minutes. It will have started to melt; once the bottom of the pan is covered in water you can proceed with the rest of the recipe while the rest of the stock melts in.

Homemade veggie stock is very easy, and it makes multiple meals' worth of delicious, rich stock--from stuff you would have thrown away otherwise! In terms of veggies, almost anything goes. You really can't get enough of almost all members of the onion family: onion, garlic, leeks, scallions, etc. It's also good to have some sort of scraps from one of the sweeter veggies (carrot, sweet potato, hard squash). Mushrooms are good, too, and any stems from fresh herbs, or used bay leaves. Basically, any vegetable is game for stock except veggies from the cruciferous family, because they are very strong-tasting and long boiling times make them smell funny. So leave out broccoli, kale, cauliflower, cabbage. Also, for the same reason, leave out asparagus. Taste-wise, beets are fine, but know your veggie broth will turn purple or even black if you use them.