halloween pumpkins, and goodbye VeganMofo!

Happy Halloween! This is one of my favorite holidays. Kevin and I carved pumpkins earlier this week so we could put them on the porch in the hopes of luring trick or treaters! (Since we moved this summer, we're not sure how many trick or treaters we're likely to get.)
Kevin's is on the left; mine is the cat on the right.

After we finished carving, Kevin roasted the seeds. I've tried this in the past and not had the best luck--the shells always stay too chewy. His recipe involves boiling the seeds first, which softens the shells.
They're really crunchy and tasty, without being too chewy. I was finishing up my pumpkin when he was making them, so I'm not sure what seasonings are on there; onion powder, cumin, and salt, maybe?

Finally, though this soup wasn't made from the pumpkins above, just last week we had a pumpkin soup that I made from a pie pumpkin we got in our CSA.
I added pea tendrils just after it finished cooking, which are another veggie we'd gotten in our CSA. I'd never cooked with pea tendrils before, but they were good! Served with some nutritional-yeasty bread and roasted chickpeas.

With this entry, we close out VeganMofo, the Vegan Month of Food. I hope you've enjoyed it! And have a great Halloween!


roasted cabbage slaw

I really love roasted cabbage, so when I found this Kitchn recipe for Roasted Cabbage Slaw with Hazelnuts and Lemons, I had to give it a try.
Soup, sandwich and slaw! I love all the colors on this plate. They call for half red cabbage and half green, but all I had was a lot of red, so mine is especially purple/pink.

The slaw itself was decent, and didn't require as much chewing as normal cole slaw because the cabbage was softer, but I'm not sure I roasted/broiled it long enough to really get a good roasted flavor. I didn't let any of it blacken, since I was afraid of burning, but next time I'm going to wait till the edges are charred to pull it out of the oven.

One thing I like about cooking is how much chemistry and science are involved; if I had been taught real-life (okay, fine, just food-related) applications of science in school, I would've liked it better. Like beets, the color of red cabbage depends on the chemicals around it--acids in the recipe (like lemon juice) make it pinker, while more basic ("basic" as in the opposite of acidic, not as in "easy") ingredients keep it darker purple/bluish. You can see the chemical reactions in action in the picture below, which is the step at which I added the lemon juice, but had not yet stirred it in. See how the lower edges of the slaw in the bowl are a more blue-purple? You can tell where I sprinkled on the lemon juice, because it's where the cabbage starts to turn more pink. (Mostly at the top and right of the bowl.)
This all reminds me of that T-shirt that says "Baking is Science for Hungry People." Science is really cool when you can eat it!


korean bbq marinade

I've used Emily Ho's recipe for Korean BBQ Marinade several times for tofu and tempeh dishes. I've never had Asian pear juice, so I usually add a splash of lime juice to help give the recipe a little acidity.
Here served over stir-fried bok choi and carrots, with rice. I almost always add some homemade kimchi to the top.

I love Korean food to begin with, and I like that this is one recipe I don't have to adjust because of my allergies to hot pepper--it's not spicy at all. It's also gluten-free if you use gluten-free tamari instead of soy sauce, which I do for most recipes. It's a little sweet, a little salty--in short, it's my favorite marinade.


Sunday Brunch: my favorite: tofu "eggs"

This is the last Sunday Brunch of Vegan Mofo! So I'm posting a couple brunch-y dishes I haven't had a chance to write about individually: tofu "egg" dishes.

Back when I was vegetarian, my favorite brunch/breakfasty foods were egg-based dishes: scrambled eggs, fried eggs, omelettes, French toast, etc. So as you may have noticed, our Sunday Brunches tend to be veganizations of eggy things. Tofu, in my opinion, does a good a job of mimicking the texture and ease of all the above dishes, and with a bit of black salt (a sulphur-tasting salt used in some Indian cuisine) to top it off, the flavor is essentially the same as well.

Tofu eggs florentine, made with fried tofu. It's only sort of "florentine," since I used spring greens instead of spinach.

Tofu eggs benedict, only Kevin's famous tofu bacon is on the side instead of on the "eggs." And a side of Japanese (white) sweet potato hash browns.

And, of course, scrambled tofu. It's not exactly easier than frying tofu to resemble fried eggs, but it's still really easy, and just strikes me as being a heartier breakfast.
 With sweet potatoes, the natural (or at least, ubiquitous, in our house) accompaniment to tofu "egg" brunch dishes.


Saturday Snack: Fomu: Boston's tastiest vegan ice cream

Fomu is a vegan ice cream parlor that has been open in Boston since this summer, but I haven't been able to get there until this month. They have a wide variety of flavors available as scoops or in pint containers. You can have your ice cream in a bowl, in cones, or IN VEGAN WAFFLE CONES (even gluten-free ones!), and they have a large selection of vegan toppings, from fudge sauce to gummi bears.

Most of the ice cream is made with a coconut base (but tastes less coconutty than the Purely Decadent brand ice cream), though they have a few flavors made with nut bases. When I was there, of all the possible flavors, only 2 (cake batter and cookies and cream) contained wheat-the rest were gluten-free! The employees are friendly and will let you try a tiny bit of any flavor if you're torn between options.
This is a "single scoop" of cookies and cream and was actually too much ice cream for me. In the best possible way.

I also got pints of Strawberry (because it's tied with cookies and cream for my favorite ice cream flavor), Salted Caramel (because when the lady behind the counter let me try it, I knew I HAD to bring some home for Kevin), and Bourbon Maple Walnut (for my mother's birthday, not pictured).

Fomu is in Allston, two doors down from Peace O' Pie, Boston's vegan pizza parlor. It's also just down the street from Grasshopper, a vegan Chinese restaurant, AND a short walk from Genki Ya, our favorite, organic, not-vegan-but-very-vegan-friendly sushi restaurant, so heading out to this neighborhood means you can eat a great vegan meal and have a fantastic vegan dessert afterwards.


Friday Dessert: soy panna cotta

A couple years ago, I needed a light dessert for a small dinner I was hosting. The dishes were almost all Italian and a little on the heavy side, so I wanted a light, Italian dessert. I started browsing and found the Vegan Bicyclinguist's Panna Cotta. In a recent search for vegan panna cotta, I've noticed that vegan adaptations abound, but at the time, his was the only one I could find. So, in my normal spirit of ignoring the rule that you shouldn't make a recipe you've never made before for a dinner party, I decided to give it a try!
Sorry about the dim photo--I sneakily took this shot just before bringing them out to the table.
It was delicious, though I had my doubts in the making. The batter itself wasn't delicious. You combine soy yogurt, soy creamer, water, and agar. and before it set, the mixture had a tang I did not like. Figuring I had nothing to lose and just wouldn't serve dessert if it failed, I put the panna cotta into little bowls to set, just in case. After they set and chilled for a while, they were awesome! I used vanilla yogurt so that they had a slight vanilla flavor, and I topped them with canned peaches, some of the syrup from the peaches, and a couple pinches of cinnamon. I've never had non-vegan panna cotta, but from what I've read about what it should be, the texture was spot-on.

There may be other, newer vegan panna cotta recipes out there (point me to them if you have any favorites! I'm interested in trying other approaches too!), but this one will always have a special place in my heart for being the first one out there.


comfort food for dinner

Almost every city/state has the reputation for being crazy drivers, so of course Boston is no exception. And anyone who bikes in the Boston area knows that our crazy drivers can make it difficult for cyclists. On his commute yesterday, my husband joined the ranks of those of us who have been hit by cars while cycling. He's okay, with just a few bruises and a sore rib cage, but I wanted to make him something hearty, comforting, and delicious for dinner to help make him feel better. I asked if he had an requests, and of course (because his idea of comfort food is wildly different from mine), he only requested "greens."

I made sure to grant that request, but I added a couple other favorites of his to the mix: tofu and gravy.
Breaded and fried tofu, mashed sweet potatoes, and gravy. The gravy is the Rich Brown Gravy from Julie Hasson's Vegan Diner, and I dredged the tofu in a combination of white flour and hazelnut meal. Tasty, filling, and most importantly, comforting for someone who's had a rough day.


my annual vegan mofo pizza post!

Most Sunday mornings when I was a kid, my mother would take pizza dough out of the freezer to rise for that evening, when my dad would make a dozen or so mini pizzas (there are 6 people in my family; we'd always have leftover pizzas for the next day, which is good planning because leftover pizza is THE BEST). My mother would grate and chop a bunch of toppings and put them in bowls, then we would all have a chance to customize our own mini pizzas. We would also go to Pizza Hut about once a month, and later in life, when we'd grown out of pizza Sundays and both of my parents were working, Friday nights became takeout nights, which 90% of the time meant pizza nights. This all on top of the fact that for all of K-12 at school, Friday lunch was always pizza.

What I'm saying is, I have a deep-rooted love for pizza that becoming vegan and nightshade-intolerant (no tomatoes or peppers) can never squash. So while I don't have pizza as frequently as I did as a kid, and I usually can't have pizza when I go out, I still make it pretty often. And each year, I show you several of my creations in a big Vegan Mofo pizza post! Here are the ones from 2010 and 2011, in case you want to see even more homemade, nightshade-free, vegan pizzas.

I think I've talked enough about pizza for now; time to show you! I'm going to go with minimal captions just letting you know what the toppings are. Feel free to comment if you want to know more about any given pizza!

My basic white pizza: pesto topped with spinach, caramelized shallots, and daiya.

This pizza features carrot marinara, a tofu-based cheesy spread, and minced Tofurky sausage on top.

 A fancy pizza because I used fillo dough for the crust. I also used the fig-almond spread I had made for this potluck, because there was a lot left. AND I topped it with "goat cheese" made from leftover nut-milk solids mixed with miso, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, and a few herbs and spices. Also onions, because onions are my favorite topping on pizza.

It was so good I did it again, only for a whole-grain, deep-dish pizza.

After using the fig-almond spread for the above fancy pizza, I've discovered I like a bit of fruit as a sauce base. This sauce is made of raisins, carrots, and some seasonings. Topped with grated daiya, spinach, and homemade bean-based sausage crumbles.

Another white pizza, topped with daiya, chickpeas, my zucchini pepperoni, and shallots.

French bread pizzas! This was my best nightshade free marinara sauce to date; one beet, 4 carrots, boiled till tender and food-processed with vinegar, fresh basil, and a couple pinches of oregano and rosemary. Topped with grated daiya and onions.

A white pizza with a homemade tofu "cheese," minced seitan, and onions.

Finally, these calzones (which totally belong in this post, as calzones are basically just folded-up pizza) are from Peace O'Pie, Boston's vegan pizza parlor:

 Kevin's had a lot of nightshades in it and I was afraid to touch it.
 MINE had daiya cheese, artichoke hearts, and caramelized onions.

I hope you enjoyed this epic pizza post, a favorite tradition I have to celebrate one of my favorite foods.


what a dal

UGH I'm already sorry for the pun. But dal! Made with lentils or split mung beans, dal is a simple, hearty, easily-adapted dish that I love. I sometimes use my Lord Krishna Cuisine cookbook for spices and flavorings, but usually I just wing it, using my own curry powder.
Here's a dal with sliced carrots, served with rice and homemade pickles; you can tell this is Kevin's plate because he has a serving of spicy garlic pickle in the back.
And here's a dal with radishes, served with poppadums, white rice (a rarity in our house, but so tasty) and a side salad.


Hasselback (sweet) potatoes

I have no idea how I heard about Hasselback potatoes. I think a character in a book had one? Or referred to one? Because I remember seeing the words and quickly doing image and recipe searches for Hasselback potatoes and wondering how I had never encountered these before. I thought I knew of everything you could do to a potato (or in my nightshade-free case, white sweet potatoes). And then once I found out about them, of course I had to make them.

Hasselback potatoes are sort of a fancy version of baked potatoes, and a way to serve potatoes that makes it look like you've done a lot more work than you actually have. They are sliced thinly only part of the way down and baked with butter, often topped with breadcrumbs or cheese.
I topped mine with breadcrumbs and served them alongside some Tofurky beer brats over greens.

My "recipe" for these is actually more of a process, since the ingredients are very simple and flexible. I use white sweet potatoes because I can't eat regular potatoes, but feel free to use whatever kind you want; orange-fleshed sweet potatoes, real potatoes, taro roots, whatever. (In fact, any root vegetable would probably be tasty this way, though cooking times would be vary depending on the vegetable.)

Hasselback (Sweet) Potatoes

1 potato per person
Olive oil and a pinch of salt OR vegan butter/margarine, depending on how much work you want to do (you'll see what I mean below)
Optional toppings:
1-2 Tbsp bread crumbs per potato/person
1 Tbsp nutritional yeast per potato/person
1 clove garlic, crushed, minced, or sliced incredibly thinly
1-2 Tbsp shredded vegan cheese per potato/person
Optional garnish:
Chopped fresh herbs

Preheat your oven to 425, line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and wash your potato(es) thoroughly.

Set your potato on a cutting board and prop it between two chopsticks. These serve as guides for your knive, so you won't chop all the way through the potato as you make your slices. You can also use barbeque skewers, or you can even set the potato in a large spoon if it'll fit. This sounds tricky but is very easy. Now slice through the potato, stopping your slicing when you reach the guides you set down. You will have an accordion-like potato at the end of this step!

Here's where you can make this easy, or a little more work. If you want it easy, as I did, you can now simply drizzle olive oil over the potato, trying to get into each of the slots. Sprinkle on a little salt. If you want to do a little more work for a slightly more delicious potato, slice cold margarine into very thin slices, and place a slice in each potato slot. This would also be a good time to add very thinly sliced garlic to each potato slot, if you wanted to. (I want someone else to do this for me, because it sounds awesome but I am lazy.)

Place your potato on your baking sheet and bake for about 40 minutes, until soft all the way through with crispy, browning edges. If you want any of the optional toppings, (which you can mix and match by the way!), take your potatoes out of the oven after 30 or so minutes, before they're completely done, and sprinkle your topping over the potatoes. Push some of it into the slots if you can, but I had some trouble with that step because the potatoes were hot! Return to the oven and let the potatoes cook for 10-15 more minutes, until the potato is cooked all the way through and the topping is starting to brown a bit.



Sunday brunch: gluten-free high-protein pancakes

I can't take any credit for this idea, only for the meal above. My mother is gluten intolerant, and her go-to gluten-free flour of choice is chickpea flour, which has worked for almost every recipe she's tried to de-glutenize... including the Vegan with a Vengeance/Vegan Brunch Perfect Pancakes, which here are made with all chickpea flour. You make the exact same recipe (which is readily available by googling it if you don't have the cookbooks, but you should have at least one of those cookbooks!), but swap out chickpea for wheat flour, one for one. For help binding, you also have to add a flaxmeal "egg" (one Tbsp flax meal mixed with 3 Tbsp water). The texture is the same, and the taste is only a little nuttier. My parents most often make blueberry pancakes with this, and you really can't tell at all that they're gluten-free.


Saturday Snack: molasses milk

A quickie Saturday Snack today, since I have a busy day ahead! One of my quick fixes for when I need a snack, especially if it's late at night, is simply stirring a tablespoon or so of molasses into soymilk (or whatever kind of "milk" I have around). The taste sort of reminds me of ovaltine, which I only had a few times when I was little but loved.
Depending on what brand you use, just one tablespoon of blackstrap molasses has 10-15% of your recommended daily amount of calcium, and 5-20% your recommended daily amount of iron, so it's good for you in addition to being really tasty.


Friday Dessert: hazelnut cake

My parents own a natural food store in Cooperstown, NY. That means that whenever they come to visit, they bring a huge amount of groceries: some things I need, and other things that they need to get rid of. This is awesome, since I love food and can always find a way to use unusual ingredients, but sometimes I get a little hard-pressed to think of new ways to use the same old stuff (remember when I had 7 quarts of Mimicreme to use up?).

Once, the hazelnut meal was about to expire, so they brought me 3 bags of it. I actually use it most often as a gluten-free, protein-containing substitution for breadcrumbs in a lot of recipes, and I like to toast it and mix it with a little nutritional yeast to make a parmesan-y topping for pasta dishes.

But sometimes you just have to make dessert. Like this Hazelnut Cake!
I doubled the hazelnut cupcake recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World for the batter. You can find an online version here at the Daily Meal, but really, why don't you own Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World already? Since I'm not really that into frosting, put blackberry jam in between the layers and on top. And of course, made it pretty with more hazelnuts.

I left the finished product out on our counter when we were having open houses in our old place. I like to think it helped sell the place.


Vegan Diner veggies and dumplings

Julie Hasson's Vegan Diner was a really exciting find for me because of how much Kevin loves diner food. It has a lot of great recipes for great vegan comfort food. Most of the recipes (especially the ones I love) seem to revolve around seitan, bread, or flour, so I don't know how gluten-intolerant folks would do with it, but otherwise the book is great.

The recipe I keep coming back to is the Veggies and Dumplings.
I think it's supposed to mimic chicken and dumplings in flavor, but I never had any sort of soup with dumplings before going vegan, so I don't know what it's supposed to taste like, I just know it tastes good. It's surprisingly quick and simple, and I have discovered I loooove dropping dumplings into soups. I've made this recipe quite a few times, and have never had any problem swapping things in and out when I didn't have the right ingredients.

I've even made a gluten-free version! I generally use chickpea flour for the roux anyway, to get a little extra protein in, but a couple times now I've tried making the dumplings with chickpea flour in place of the white flour. They don't get quite as firm, and they don't keep as well (they start to dissolve after being stored in the fridge for more than a day), but if you serve them right away, they're a great substitute for normal white-flour dumplings. However, this dish DOES make for great leftovers, so if you're like me and looking to make something that will last you for a few days' worth of meals, I'd stick with the normal recipe.


panisses (chickpea fries!)

You all know I'm obsessed with chickpeas, right? I don't know if I've ever properly discussed my love of chickpea flour, but I find that as versatile as the whole chickpea itself. I use it most often to make socca, but I recently discovered another use for it that replaces one of my long-lost loves: french fries. Being allergic to nightshades means I can't eat potatoes anymore, and while sweet potatoes usually do the trick for me, they always get even sweeter upon roasting, so they're not the best French fries.
Panisses with an enormous salad and a dab of homemade apricot ketchup
CHICKPEA FRIES, on the other hand, have all the delicious texture and starchiness of the real ones, while actually being a bit healthier. Called panisses in France, chickpea fries are really easy to make.

You start by making a simple, quick, chickpea flour polenta, let it cool, then cut it up and sauté it in a pan of olive oil. I was going to give you a recipe here, but two French-cooking experts have already done it so well before me that I will just link you do them: David Lebowitz and Mark Bittman both provide great recipes and explanations.



sweet potato quinoa burger

I don't always have time to sift through the VeganMofo Blogroll to find new blogs and see what other participants are up to, so I love randomofo.com. It displays a random participating blog each time you load the page; sometimes I just end up clicking "next random blog" a dozen times when I was just going to read one!

It was through randomofo.com that I found Vegetable Centric Kitchen's Sweet Potato Quinoa Burgers, just as I was wondering what to make for dinner that night. Problem solved!
When making the recipe, I (accidentally) left out the maple syrup, and used olive oil because I didn't have coconut, and the burgers were delicious! We had them with stir-fried bok choy and a side of quinoa. and of course, pickles on top (and pickled carrots on the side). The burgers take a while to make, as the potatoes and quinoa have to be fully cooked beforehand, and then the burgers bake for 40 minutes, but there's so little effort involved that it's an easy recipe to just have cooking while you get other stuff done. And they're much healthier than some of the other veggie burgers out there. So thanks, Veggie Centric Kitchen!


anniversary beignets

One year ago today, I married the love of my life!
You can check the archives for information about our wedding (I wrote a few how-to type posts in January); I won't go on forever. But we had a wonderful wedding and have continued to have a wonderful first year of matrimony!

If you remember, we went to New Orleans for our honeymoon. I loved it there, and we found it very easy to be vegan. but walking past all the cafes that advertised fresh-cooked beignets--Café du Monde in particular, which is famous for its beignets-left me feeling a little sorry for myself. I knew I would love beignets: they are a cross between doughnuts and fried dough,  Almost as soon as we got home, I started looking for a recipe version to veganize. I am happy to present to you my findings: delicious vegan beignets, perfect to serve to your loved ones (or just to your face, that's totally acceptable as well).

Beignets are deep-fried sweet bread, so obviously they're a sometimes food in terms of health, but also because they are a bit labor-intensive. However, I assure you that they are ENTIRELY worth the effort. This recipe makes about two dozen, but you can easily double or triple it. They're best fresh, but if you don't get to them right away, store in an air tight container and heat in a toaster oven or oven just until warmed through, and they'll be just as tasty as when you first made them.

Vegan Beignets (adapted from Paula Deen's recipe)

1/2 Cup water
2.5 Tbsp sugar
3/4 tsp yeast
2 tsp flaxmeal
2 Tbsp water
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 Cup nondairy milk of your choice
2 1/3 Cups flour
1 1/3 Tbsp shortening at room temperature (I use Spectrum)
oil (for deep frying)
~1 Cup powdered sugar

Stir together the first three ingredients (water, yeast, sugar) and let sit for a little while (~5 minutes) to proof. (Ideally, that's the amount of time it takes to foam slightly.)

In a large bowl, mix together the flaxmeal, water, salt, and nondairy milk until everything's all well combined. Mix in the yeast mixture, then add half the flour and stir to make a wet dough. Add the shortening, and stir to make sure it's all mixed in before adding the rest of the flour.

Knead the dough for at least 5 minutes, until it is consistent throughout and you're tired of kneading. If it starts sticking to everything while kneading, sprinkle on a little flour to stop it. Shape it into a ball, then it put it in a lightly-oiled bowl. Cover with a paper towel, let rise for two hours or until doubled in size.

After it's doubled in size, heat up your oil for deep-frying! If you have a thermometer, you want to get the oil up to 350 degrees. If you don't have a thermometer, heat it up, then toss in tiny scraps of dough to test: you want it hot enough that dough pieces bubble like crazy right away. This is also a good time to line a cookie sheet with paper towels, because you're going to need it later and things move quickly from here.

Now, roll out your dough into a big circle, no more than half an inch thick. If you're like me and have lots of trouble with rolling pins, you can also just squish the dough into place. Use a knife to cut it into little squares, about a square inch and half. When your oil is hot enough, drop in the dough squares, piece by piece, until your pot is full but not overcrowded. You want enough room in there that they don't have to touch while cooking. They should start turning golden brown after only a minute or so; you want to flip them around every 10 seconds or so to get them evenly fried. Once they're a beautiful golden brown color, fish them out with a slotted spoon and plop them on your paper-towel-lined cookie sheet.

Repeat in batches as necessary until they're all done, then sift powdered sugar over top of all of them. Serve immediately, because they're so so so delicious warm, with a side of jam for people to dip them into or spoon onto them.

Enjoy the beignets! And here's to many more years of being happily married vegans ^_^


Sunday Brunch: Kevin's omelette

In honor of my one-year wedding anniversary tomorrow, I'm going to show you one of my favorite recipes that my husband came up with:
Shredded tofu omelettes! Here with a sauce, some avocado, and a side of tempeh bacon.

Do you have any recipes that you won't make or learn how to make because you love to have other people make them for you? This is one of those for me. Kevin (the husband) came up with this himself, and while he has told me it's simple and I could do it, I refuse to learn because I like having it made for me. So I semi-stay out of the kitchen (as much as that's possible for me) when he makes it, but I'm under the impression that all he does is grate tofu with some egg-type spices (black salt, asafetida, turmeric), mix it all together, and saute it like an omelette. Sometimes it comes apart, but mostly it sticks together, and is great with almost any filling. I especially love spinach and Daiya on the inside.

Someday maybe I'll have Kevin write a guest post on how to actually make his awesome tofu omelettes,  but in the meantime I will just enjoy eating them.


Saturday Snack: starfruit!

Today's Saturday Snack is just a quick glimpse at a food I had always wanted to try:
Starfruit! It is also known as carambola, and is used most often in cuisines from the Asia-Pacific region. (Though this little guy was in the Latin American section of our grocery store, so. I guess it's pretty universal.) Starfruit is crisp and sweet, and the best way I can describe the taste is "tropical." You know how candies/juices/flavored things will be "tropical fruit flavored?" Well, starfruits taste like they're one of the flavors "tropical fruit flavor" is trying to copy.

Now that I've tried starfruit, and know it's available at our local grocery store, I'm going to look into recipes for cooking with it.


Friday Dessert: cookie-dough popsicles

If you remember, I love popsicles. So when I saw a recipe for Cookie Dough Popsicles on the girlichef blog, I knew I'd have to try it. The original recipe isn't vegan, but all I had to do was swap out the real milk for nondairy milk.
Thanks to the husband for taking this picture!
It's so simple; you heat brown sugar in milk (soy, in my case) until the sugar dissolves, then add a pinch of salt and some vanilla. Let cool, then put chocolate chips in your popsicle molds, pour the milky mixture over, and freeze! I didn't have mini chocolate chips like the recipe calls for, so I just chopped up the chocolate chips I had.

It's amazing how much these ingredients, together, actually taste like cookie dough. One of the reasons I like to make popsicles at home is because I don't like them to be too sweet, and that was the only problem I had with these-they were a little too sweet for my tastes. This could be because my popsicles were bigger than Heather from Girlichef's-she made 10 2.5-ounce popsicles from the recipe, whereas my popsicle holders are a little more standard in size-a scant 4 ounces each, and so I had made an even 6 popsicles. Smaller servings might make the sweetness seem less intense. I'll make them again, for sure, but next time I'm going to decrease the sugar from 2/3 cup to 1/2, and see how I like that. But people who aren't so picky about sweetness, or who make smaller popsicles, will love these as is!


pho (and happy birthday, Mom!)

Today is my mother's birthday! Happy birthday, Mom!

Pho is one of those things I never think I'll like. "Noodles and barely-cooked vegetables soaking in broth? Give me a stir fry instead." But twice now, I have made pho just to see what the fuss is about, and both times I thoroughly enjoyed it! Obviously the ingredients you use play a big role in how it tastes, but the dish is simultaneously light and hearty, and different every time you make it.
The broth, I have been told, is the most important part of good pho. Since the whole point is to just toss everything into broth, the broth makes or breaks the dish! My favorite recipe so far is one from Emily Ho at the Kitchn. You char onion halves and ginger over an open flame (Kevin was afraid I'd burn myself when I did this over our gas stove, especially since our kitchen tongs weren't very cooperative in holding an entire half onion, but there were zero pho-related casualties!) before boiling them with spices and veggie stock. I think a top-quality veggie stock is in order here; I always use my own.

While I make the broth, I also cook noodles and chop the veggies that will go in. I just always use the veggies in my fridge, not really the ones in any recipe, but I do find necessary the lime and herbs (cilantro and/or basil and/or mint) to finish it. I also like to sauté up some sliced tofu in tamari, sesame oil, and whatever seasoning strikes my fancy, but you can go with just plain tofu if that sounds like too much work.
Same bowl, different pho

Put noodles in a bowl, top with the broth, add all your veggies, and you have tasty vegan pho!  I like eating it with chopsticks because then I can feel like I got it in a restaurant.

Here's something ridiculous, though: I never feel comfortable saying it out loud, since I worry it sounds like I'm swearing. (It's pronounced "fuh.")


garlicky sauteed radishes

When I eat radishes, they're usually raw. Occasionally pickled. But this week, after receiving a beautiful bunch of radishes in our CSA, I didn't feel like crunching on them... and, as I showed you yesterday, we have enough pickles for the moment. So I decided to try something new with them!

It was so simple to saute the radishes that feel silly giving you a recipe, so I'll just tell you the process: I sliced an entire bunch of radishes, then sauteed them in a Tbsp of olive oil with 3 cloves of minced garlic and salt and pepper. Once they started to get tender, I added the radish greens, chopped, and a Tbsp of balsamic vinegar. I then cooked another minute or two, until the greens were lightly wilted and all the liquid was gone.

The results were superb! It was a nice change from the normal ways I eat radishes; sauteeing them gets them nice and soft, but not soggy like braising them sometimes does. They have a light texture and taste, so they're a nice, lighter touch to a heavier meal...
Like if you're eating them with cornbread (I use the recipe from the Veganomicon) smothered with a bean-based gravy. At the time: the bread and butter pickles I showed you yesterday. I put them on everything.

I have a confession: after I took this picture, I ladled waaaaay more gravy on top. It ended up a lot less photogenic than this : )


there are always pickles in my fridge

No regular reader of this blog will be surprised by the fact that I love pickles. Our CSA gave us a ridiculous amount of cucumbers this year, and the vast majority of them went straight into brine, just so I could have pickles throughout the year month week. (The husband and I eat pickles at an alarming rate.) There were so many pickles to be had that even now, more than a month after cucumber season has ended, we still even have some pickles left!
In the big jar on the left, Bread and Butter Pickles from Recipe Girl. These were so good this is half of a double batch--and this double batch was the second time I'd made them this summer! The first time I made them, they were good, but felt like they were missing something: cloves. I added about 1/2 tsp of cloves to the recipe the second time I made it. If you make these pickles, DO THAT. It really adds an extra "oomph" to the tastiness. Thinly sliced onions make such a great addition to pickles, I can't believe more recipes don't include them.

In the middle, Garlic-Dill pickles from the Kitchn. I had enough to make 3 jars of this, and gave away one as a gift. These were a little saltier than I would have liked, but the garlic flavor is nice and strong. I'd make them again, but next time I might cut down on the salt.

Finally, on the far right is something to do with leftover pickle brine: use it to pickle more things! Like... Pickled Carrots! The jar is cloudy from condensation; the brine is the same clear yellow as the Bread and Butter pickles. I simply julienned some carrots and stuck them in the brine. They needed to soak longer than if I'd blanched them first, and they were always quite crispy, but they absorbed just the right amount of flavor.

For the record, I only ever make refrigerator pickles; I never can them. But I've been thinking of trying my hand at canning this fall, in preparation for making edible holiday gifts. I've been doing some preliminary research, but are there any canners out there with advice for someone new to canning (who doesn't want to buy a whole huge set of equpiment)?


crispy sesame tofu

I'm not proud of the amount of time I have spent on Martha Stewart's website in my life. I always feel a little weird that I follow tips, tricks, and recipes from the quintessential preppy 70-year-old homemaker. But I can't quite bring myself to be ashamed, either. Her websites are a great resource for cooking (mostly baking, actually--she has such nice ideas for making pretty cakes and cookies! And I've had a lot of success veganizing things I've found there) as well as occasional home decorating advice.

So it is with only mild embarrassment that I present a quick and easy tofu recipe from Martha Stewart's website:
Crispy Sesame Tofu, here served with salad and fried brown rice. The recipe is simple: press tofu, coat it in sesame seeds, saute until golden, add soy sauce. I use gluten-free tamari in place of soy sauce in recipes, which made this entrée gluten free. (I also cut the tofu into smaller sections.) It was really quick, easy, and flavorful; I imagine this recipe will now become a weeknight staple at our place. The recipe includes serving it with broccoli, but as you can see I ignored that recommendation because I didn't have any at the time.

One note: the recipe calls for reduced-sodium soy sauce. If you don't have reduced-sodium soy sauce, I'd cut back on the amount you use (try 2 Tbsp instead of 3). I did use reduced-sodium tamari, and even then it was about as salty as I could want it.


Sunday Brunch/The Invisible Man: crashed sweet potatoes

Just like last year, around here, Sundays during VeganMofo are all about brunch food! However, I also like to write an entry for Banned Books Week each year, and from time to time I do a "food from literature" feature, so this is a multi-purpose entry.

Unfortunately, I have been so busy this week that I didn't get a chance to write about Banned Books Week until it was already over--it ended yesterday. But just because it's no longer Banned Books week doesn't mean you can't support the cause! Here's what I wrote about Banned Books Week last year:
I wrote about my feelings on banning books in my 2010 Banned Books Week entry, so I'll spare you a second diatribe, but if you care about intellectual freedom, first-amendment rights, or just about being able to read some really good books, I strongly recommend you participate. There are lots of ways to show your support for not banning books. The easiest, and in my opinion, the best, is simply to find out which books are most often banned, and borrow or request them from your library. Libraries can use records of how often a book is checked out to help support the argument against banning that particular book, so not only do you get to read a good book, but you support intellectual freedom! If you're handy with a camera, and have always wanted to read, say, the opening passage from Nabokov's Lolita to an audience, another way to show your support is with the Banned Books Week virtual read-out. You can upload yourself reading passages of your favorite banned books on their YouTube channel! Finally, your local library may be having Banned Books Week events, and I'm always a fan of supporting local libraries. Get involved!
Despite being an avid reader in high school and an English major with a focus on American literature in college and grad school, I never had to read Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man for a class. It was always on my personal "to-read" list, but it was one of those that took me a while to get around to. When I finally picked it up last year, I couldn't believe no one had ever told me: Read this. This is an important book. So I'm telling you now. Above and beyond the story itself, Ellison's writing is beautiful, intelligent without being obscure, powerful without being heavy-handed. But the story he's telling is even more powerful. There isn't enough space here to do full justice to the symbolism-heavy plot, but in brief, a nameless young black man trying to make his way in 1940s America becomes first disillusioned with the struggle to conform to white America's expectations of blacks, and then with the political movements supposedly working for his rights; he aims to find ways black people in America can truly be seen by society.
Anyway, there is a pivotal moment for the narrator early in the book; he has spent much of his life conforming, as I said, to what white people expect from him. While he can't deny the color of his skin, he rebels against his upbringing, and struggles to be completely different from the Southern, small-town black men he was raised among. His--and society's--condemnation of his identity make his life difficult well through his education and his move to Harlem to seek out a job. When things seem their bleakest for him there, he stumbles upon a vendor selling baked yams (sweet potatoes) from a stand. The narrator buys one, and this baked yam, which to him is THE Southern food, THE black man's food, reminds him of his roots, his past, his heritage--and his identity. His sudden surge of pride in his racial heritage is the impetus for a larger event later in the chapter, one that shapes all of the rest of the events in the book. Oh man it is such a good book I'm getting excited writing about it.

Anyway, as you can see, the humble yam has a huge significance in this book. Ellison's narrator has this fantastic 5-page revelation about yams, and describes them in delicious detail. I remember reading this passage on the T and being so hungry for baked sweet potatoes. (For the record, in the US and Canada, the words "yam" and "sweet potato" refer to the same sweet-fleshed, often orange vegetable. The dry, starchy tuber known as a yam in Africa, South American, and parts of Asia is almost nonexistent in the US.)

But you all know how to bake a sweet potato, right? It's simple: Wrap a sweet potato in foil, put the oven on high, and bake it till you can pierce it with a fork. There's no fun in telling you how to bake one...

I used oriental (white-fleshed) sweet potatoes because that's what I had. I doubt Ellison or his narrator would approve. 

I saw a recipe for "Crashed Hot Sweet Potatoes" on the dlynz blog, and I knew it was for me. I can't have hot pepper, so mine weren't Hot; all I had to do to adjust the recipe was leave out the chili pepper ingredients and sprinkle in a little allspice and extra black pepper for a warm flavor. You parboil thick slices of sweet potato (she says she might not parboil them next time, but I found this to be an essential step), crush them slightly, press the spice mixture onto them, then drizzle with olive oil before baking. They make a fantastic side to any meal, but as we like potatoes as a side for our brunches, I especially recommend it alongside a nice scrambled tofu!

Ellison's narrator rhapsodizes about baked sweet potatoes for 5 pages, but when it comes to this recipe, I'll just leave you with these three words: It. Is. Awesome.


Saturday Snack: peanut butter and jelly pockets

For the duration of VeganMofo, I'll feature some of my favorite snacks on Saturdays! I'm a big snack person. I get hungry often throughout the day and am always on the lookout for healthy, hearty snacks to bring to work or to slip into my purse. Whole Wheat Peanut Butter and Jelly Pockets from the Kitchn sounded right up my alley. Peanut butter and jelly inside whole-wheat-peanut-butter dough? Yesssss. While the linked-to recipe isn't already vegan, it is very easy to veganize: I swapped agave for the honey and soymilk for the milk. The non-peanut inclined can use any other type of nut/seed butter.
The recipe was delicious, but the steps for forming the pockets seem unnecessarily involved. I do not have the time or interest to thinly roll out 32 separate tiny sheets of dough! I followed the recipe's steps exactly for half of the pockets and decided it was 1.) a lot more complicated than the recipe makes it sound and 2.) a huge amount of work that whose only purpose is to make the pockets look cute. So I gave up on that, and instead shaped the second half of the pockets into mini PB&J calzones. It saved me a lot of work, tastes the same, and actually makes for less jelly leakage during cooking! So the recipe is a hit with me, though next time I'll use it only for the ingredients list, and I'll make up my own steps as I go along.

On the left, the shape you're supposed to make. On the right, my easier, much-recommended "calzone" shape.

This may seem obvious, but I didn't think of it for the first few: when you're applying the PB&J to the dough, start with the peanut butter. Trying to spread peanut butter on top of jelly on top of a soft dough was pointlessly messy and difficult. Also, a full tablespoon of jelly seems like a lot when you're making it, but the jelly sort of absorbs into the dough while it bakes, so anything less than the full amount will get lost.