dessert friday: apple cider jellies

A while back, I read and bookmarked a recipe on the kitchn for "spiced apple jellies." This is a classier way of saying make-your-own apple juice jello (with agar). I loved jello-esque things, but I don't like apple juice, so I decided to try the recipe with apple cider once when I had family coming to visit.

It was a success!
I topped it with whipped coconut cream. Because I used apple cider, it was tart, but in a good way. It was also so light that I had the leftover cups for breakfast the next couple of days.

I always find agar to be firmer than I want it to be; next time I might try less (so a scant teaspoon). Also next time, I'm going to take a tip from them and serve it in cute little mugs; I just didn't own cute little mugs at the time of making these.


Restaurant Thursday: Root (Now closed)

Edit: Root has closed since the writing of this post. Another vegan restaurant has opened in its place, but I have not yet been there.

Root is an all-vegan restaurant in Allston, a Boston neighborhood that is very close to my heart (and used to be close to my home, when I first moved out to Boston). It had big shoes to fill when it opened: its location was previously home to Peace o'Pie and before that, to TJ Scallywaggles, both vegan pizza places that almost all of us Boston vegans were sorry to see go.

Root has healthy, surprisingly inexpensive meals with a cafe feel. Kevin and I have been for dinner twice and brunch once. Dinner there was great!
Kevin got the sweet corn and jalapeno hush puppies with the Thai peanut salad (in the back), and I went with the sweet potato quesadillas and warm kale salad. The employees were transparent and accommodating when it came to my unusual food allergies.

While we were underwhelmed by the brunch (not a lot of flavor in the tofu scramble or the breakfast burrito), we'd be willing to try again, considering how good (and enormous) the pancakes looked.

A couple notes: for lunches/dinners, you order at the counter and choose your own seat, but brunch is a be-seated-and-waited-on affair. Also, Root doesn't offer desserts, but is conveniently located two doors down from Fomu, Boston's vegan ice cream shop. (The two businesses even share a bathroom.) If you don't want something as upscale as True Bistro, but want something a little less dingy than Grasshopper, I strongly recommend Root.


Isa Does It pesto risotto

I have made several recipes from Isa Does It, and I have liked them all. The tastiest so far is actually what I would have thought of as one of the simplest: the Pesto Risotto with Roasted Zucchini. (Recipe available here.)

I have roasted a lot of zucchini in my time, but there is something about the proportions called for in this recipe that make it THE BEST ROASTED ZUCCHINI EVER. I almost always use brown rice to make risotto, and it always turns out just fine (it just takes a little longer).

(PS do you like my red depression glass dishware? I don't have a lot, but what I do have, I have achieved through constant monitoring of ebay sales for reasonably priced dishes. I love it.)


sunday brunch: chicken-fried tofu and waffles

I don't really understand why "chicken and waffles" became a thing in the Boston area recently, but it did--lots of friends on facebook were posting about how this or that new restaurant was offering chicken and waffles. I think it's a Southern thing that only recently made its way up north? ANYWAY, this inspired brunch a while back:

Chicken-fried tofu and waffles (with gravy and spinach). The waffles are a strange purplish color because I used blue corn meal (and the cornmeal waffle recipe from Vegan Brunch). It tastes the same as yellow/white corn meal, but doesn't sell as well at my parents' natural food store, so when it goes past date, I sometimes end up with an abundance. ;) I couldn't quite bring myself to deep fry in the morning, so the tofu isn't too heavy, either.

So final thoughts on the chicken-and-waffles thing? It was a lot of work for a morning brunch, so I see why people get excited about it being available at restaurants rather than making it at home... but the flavors together are delicious. I'd do it again!


agedashi tofu!

I've always wanted to order agedashi tofu in Japanese restaurants, but I know that bonito (fish flakes) is a large part of the dish. It is usually sprinkled on top, so it may be possible just to leave it off, but notice the word dashi in the name of the dish--a word for a fish-based broth. It's possible the restaurants could make a completely vegan agedashi tofu, but it's usually easier to just safely order veggie sushi.

HOWEVER. Who would pass up deep-fried tofu if they got the chance? NOT THIS GIRL. So I decided to make my own!

I looked up a lot of different recipes online, but it turns out I didn't need a recipe, just a method. Cube silken tofu (I used the boxed kind, but I recommend using the water-packed kind, because the boxed kind is really slippery to work with--hence the broken one on the bottom of the pile). Lightly coat each side of each piece with cornstarch. Deep fry. Done!

The broth that you pour over is a mixture of dashi (for a vegan version, seaweed simmered in water for a little while), soy/tamari, and mirin. I looked up various recipes for it, but just settled on a to-taste version: salty, savory, and a tiny bit tangy. Topped with chopped scallion and kelp flakes. Served with (in the back) brown sushi rice and teriyaki-flavored chard.

In general, I find deep frying tedious; it's hot, it's messy, it requires a lot of oil, and I sometimes end up burning myself (as I did while making this). I'm not likely to make this dish often, but I will definitely make it again, and I am really happy I got to try it!


cookies and cream cake!

"Cookies and cream" is one of my favorite flavors, so when I feel like splurging on Newman Os, I return again and again to the cookies and cream cupcake variation in Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.

When friends and I got together to watch The Room (often hailed as the worst move ever made) a while back, I decided to make some food to go along with the theme: since there is a birthday party, with cake, in the movie, a cake would do! (We also had pizza--some of which was vegan, of course--to fit with the theme.)
I doubled the recipe to make a two-layer cake, with more frosting in the middle. I should have taken a picture of cutting into the cake, so you could see that middle part, but we were running late to the movie.

Have any of you seen The Room? My friends and I still quote it to each other from time to time.


what to do with dukkah?

Dukkah is a Middle Eastern seasoning, made of spices, seeds, and nuts. My mother and I once saw it used as a spice rub on a cooking show, and I copied the recipe.
This is like 1/4 cup of dukkah.
It's made mostly of coriander seeds, sesame seeds, and hazelnuts, with cumin seeds, black pepper, and salt to finish out the flavor. The seeds and nuts are toasted, and it all gets ground together, resulting in a blend with a delicious aroma.

But now I have a lot of it, and few ideas. I know I can use it as a spice rub for tofu/tempeh, etc. I originally made the recipe to use as a dry dip for roasted radishes. You can also use it as a dip for bread (after dipping the bread in oil). But that's all I've got; I need your help, internet! How would you use dukkah?


chocolate-covered katie's protein bars

Before you look at the pictures of the "3-minute" high protein granola bars that I made from Chocolate Covered Katie's recipe, you should look at hers. They are sweet and cute and pretty, and if you follow the recipe closely, yours will be too.

The recipe is also delicious. However, readers of this blog will know that I am almost incapable of making a recipe without somehow making changes, so naturally I changed a bunch of things. My version of her granola bars is NOT pretty. In fact, my granola bars turned out really ugly.
But I am not ashamed! They are still delicious, and a little more nutritious.

They're green-brown because I used hemp protein powder and added some spirulina, because I used almond butter instead of peanut butter, AND because I added cocoa powder. They are still delicious, and take less than 3 minutes to make. (A little longer to freeze, which makes them cuttable.)

In case anyone is wondering whether they have to be kept frozen (as Katie suggests), the answer is no! I only froze them to slice them. I've carried one around in my bag all day and it was still solid enough to be held at one end (similar to a Larabar in texture). We are storing them in the fridge just so they keep longer.


pasta tossed with cashew ricotta

The Cashew Ricotta recipe is probably my favorite recipe from Veganomicon. At the very least, it's the one I make the most often. I use it for lasagnas and baked ziti, and, at my mother's suggestion, a vegetable dip for parties. It is always a huge hit, and no omnivore (even my most meat-obsessed friends) has ever balked at it being made from tofu.

It also makes a simple meal tossed with pasta (and, if you think of it, extra garlic and basil!
Above, tossed with extra basil and avocado, served with salad. Below, tossed with shredded yellow zucchini and carrots, served with grilled portobellos and crispy sage leaves.
It's a little blurry because I moved while I was taking the picture... and didn't notice until after I ate the whole thing. Oops!

My first day of fall semester teaching is tomorrow. Wish me (and my students) luck!


sunday brunch: savory waffles and coconut bacon

This morning's brunch consisted of pancakes so full of yellow zucchini and corn that they were essentially veggie fritters. For savory pancakes like these, I use the Perfect Pancake recipe from Vegan Brunch, leaving out all the sweet stuff (cinnamon, syrup, vanilla). I added generous sprinkles of black pepper and cumin, and more salt... and 1 ear's worth of corn and an entire grated yellow zucchini.

Served with gravy made with a chickpea flour roux, and Jess Scone's Coconut-Balsamic Bacon.

The flour I've been using lately is Einkorn flour. Have any of you used this? It's a variety of wheat, supposedly one of the oldest known strains, and while the bag tells me it has a slightly nuttier taste than normal white flour, I don't taste that at all. It's something like 80% whole grain and acts (and tastes) like white flour in the recipes I've used it for, so I am a fan.


nimono from just bento

I've used recipes from Just Bento in this blog before (like my post about the peanut-curry furikake recipe), and I also love the sister site (run by the same person, Makiko Itoh), Just Hungry. Itoh always marks when a recipe is vegan, and many of the non-vegan recipes on the site can be adapted easily.

This week I used her guide on how to make Nimono (Japanese "simmered dish"), and to go with it, used her guide on pickling sauces for quick-pickled veggies to pickle some radish and cucumbers on the side.
The nimono contains basically what I veggies I had to use up: sweet potatoes, black soy beans, radish greens, some celery, and the last of last year's yield of butternut squash. It was not very traditional (I pretty much think that being vegan means you go off-book when it comes to traditional Japanese food anyway), but was delicious! And, for the record, I chose the ama-zu sauce for the pickled veggies, which was ama-zing!

I just groaned out loud at my own pun, which is probably a bad sign.


dessert friday: gluten-free mini tarts

I am fortunate enough to be able to eat gluten, but there are many people in my life (my mother and 2 brothers, my sister-in-law, friends, etc) who are gluten intolerant. So around holidays and family events, the food almost always needs to be gluten free.

For my sister-in-law's bridal shower, I was in charge of making a dish that was dessert-y but easily eaten as finger food. I used Vegan Pie in the Sky's gluten-free variation of the press-in almond crust to make mini tarts! (Note: in the cookbook, though not on the site, Isa recommends using 2/3 cup oat flour and 1/3 cup rice flour as the flour substitute.)
I pressed the crust into a muffin tin lined with paper cups. Since it was a fall shower, the fillings (also from Vegan Pie in the Sky) were cappuccino mousse and pear frangipane.

They were a little crumbly, but VERY well received and VERY delicious. So I decided to make some variations on the theme for my family's Thanksgiving dinner!
I winged these fillings on my own; a straight chocolate mousse (made of tofu, melted chocolate, and cocoa powder), and an apple-pie-type filling. They were both great but the chocolate mousse ones were my favorite of all 4 options!

If you plan on trying this at home, one note of caution: the individual tarts don't keep very well, because the crusts get soggy after not too long, and start to lose their structural integrity. They still taste delicious, though!


Restaurant Thursday: The Dining Car food truck

I'm trying to give myself a few theme days of the week, just to help me come up with some ideas for posts. Thursdays this month will be posts about restaurants!

...but this first Restaurant Thursday post is kind of sneaky, because it's about a food truck. Like most major cities these days, Boston has a great food truck scene, for vegans too! I've already written about the Taco Party vegan taco truck, and I've had some things from Clover Food Lab (vegetarian, trucks and storefronts); there are certainly many more options around the Boston area.

Kevin is a beer guy. Like the way there are people who are really into wines, Kevin is into beers. One way I try to get this across to people is to explain what I call his "Beer CSAs." There are a lot of great small craft breweries in the greater Boston area, and a few of them do series where they try an experimental style of beer, which "members" can pay for up front, and then only the "members" get to try the beer. It's a cool way to fund small breweries' new ventures, and, for a beer snob guy like Kevin, it's also a way to be able to try beers that will never be released to the greater public--and may never exist outside of that one limited bottling. Among the breweries we love that do this in the area are Night Shift brewing, Mystic brewing, and Idle Hands brewing.

Night Shift doesn't serve food, but they encourage people to bring food to their bar/pouring room so you can stick around a while. To that end, they have a food truck there many nights of the week. When we've been in the past, it was usually a grilled cheese truck (sigh), but the last time we were there, it was the Dining Car! They don't have vegan meal options, but their signature side dish is Crispy Cauliflower, which is gluten free and vegan without the aioli.
Crispy Cauliflower and Kevin's "beer CSA" pickup
IT WAS DELICIOUS. We split this one little tray but could easily have each had one (or two) to ourselves. The cauliflower is breaded with corn flour, seasoned with salt and pepper, and fried to the perfect level of crispy-but-not-greasy-ness. I didn't miss the aioli at all.

Oh, and for those interested: Night Shift, Mystic, and Idle Hands are all vegan friendly. Sometimes Night Shift will make beers with honey (or oyster shells?!) in them, but they is always clearly labeled as a special beer, so it's easy to tell. Their process itself is vegan.


"what to do with..." wednesday

When I have an ingredient I don't know how to use (or am tired of the ways I normally do), my first  solution is to check my cookbooks. But I'm already pretty familiar with most of my cookbooks, so they usually host the recipes I'm tired of in the first place. My next step is to google "____ recipes" or "what to do with ____." This works pretty well for me, and I've found some cool new recipes that I wouldn't have found otherwise.

But one nice thing about VeganMoFo is that there are so many more people reading up on vegan blogs, so, dear readers, on Wednesdays of this month I'd like to hear what YOU like to do with certain ingredients. Because I am out of ideas!

So my first question of the month... What To Do With Cranberry Maple Syrup?
We got a lovely bottle of cranberry-infused maple syrup from the farmer's market a while back, and so far the only things I can think to do with it are to use it as pancake topping and as a drizzle for squash. I don't really eat enough pancakes/waffles/squash to use up the bottle this way, and I'm afraid baking with it will take away the cranberry flavor. What would you do with it?


Red Currant Jelly!

One of the venders at the farmer's market had fresh-picked red currants, and I couldn't resist grabbing a pint. The currants were so small and plump and bright that they were basically calling to me. I got them home and tried one... and discovered that fresh currants are NO WHERE NEAR as sweet as dried. They're as tart as cranberries! So I quickly dug through my old cookbooks to find a recipe.

The thing about old cookbooks (I have a few from the 1930s-50s; I love them) is that they assume you already know your way around making jellies. They also all seem to assume that you are a farmer who has bushels of the kind of produce you want to prepare. So I had some translating to do, and the following recipe is the fruit of my labor. (HA! Literally.)

Glowing because the window is right behind it.

Red Currant Jelly
(For 1 pint of currants, which makes a little over 1 cup of jelly. Can be scaled up!)

1 pint red currants
1/2 to 3/4 cup of sugar

First, we're going to turn the currants into currant juice. Wash them well, pick out any bruised/moldy ones, but you don't have to separate them from the stem. Place in a pan with just enough water that they don't burn. (Water up to 1/4 the amount of currants is the max). Cook them over medium heat until the berries start to lose their color, 10-15 minutes.
Line a strainer with fine cheesecloth. Pour the berry slurry into it. If you want perfectly clear jelly, don't squeeze the cloth, but if you want maximum use out of your berries, squeeze all the extra juice out of them, through the cheesecloth. (You'll have to let them cool to do this.)

Measure the juice. It should be about 1 cup, but it's okay if it's scant! Basically, for each cup of juice you want a scant 3/4 cup of sugar (technically 1/2 Cup plus 2 Tbsp). So if you don't quite have a cup, just use a couple tablespoons less sugar. We're not going to can this jelly, so honestly, getting the proportions exactly right is not that big a deal. So anyway, put the juice and sugar into a pan over medium heat.

Stir this jelly mixture constantly until it reaches the jelly stage: 220 F. (If you don't have a cooking thermometer, you can figure out when it's reached the jelly stage by using a metal spoon to take a spoonful. Let it cool for a moment, then pour it back into the pan. If two separate drops form at the same time on the side of the spoon, so that it's dripping back from 2 parts of the spoon, not 1, it has hit the jelly stage. Start checking after 5 minutes of boiling.) This took me 15-20 minutes of simmering, but I think this depends on your cookware and on your stove's definition of "medium."

Remove from heat, and voila! You have made red currant jelly!


Vegan MoFo 2014! Labor Day BBQ

It's Vegan MoFo, the Vegan Month of Food! And what a good time to bring this blog back to life, since it was during Vegan MoFo last year that I fizzled out. I have a good excuse (working two jobs, one of them full time and totally new to me), but now that I have more time (quit the part-time one), I have less of an excuse and would like to get back to blogging!

As I am a college instructor and live on an academic schedule, Labor Day means back to school, so I never look forward to it, but the weather was hot and summery here in Boston and Kevin and I had a lazy day, complete with a nice dinner from the grill: tofu burgers with grilled onions and corn on the cob. Having everything (even the buns) on the grill made it feel like a real Labor Day Barbecue, which made the approaching autumn seem acceptable.

For the tofu, Kevin made a marinade of vinegar, tamari, mustard powder, and olive oil. I used the marinade to baste the tofu and the onion slices as they were grilling.
Also pictured : loads of homemade pickles. It was my first time grilling corn on the cob! Which, of course, means I studied up on the best method. I read this article on the difference between the 3 most-used methods and opted for the third (shucking and cooking, simple!).

And that's it for now! This year, I don't have a theme for VeganMoFo or anything, except: GET BLOGGING AGAIN. I always feel a little apologetic about this, since there are so many great bloggers with cool themes, but maybe next year I, too, will be able to have a cool theme. In the meantime, it's nice to be back! And I'll work hard to have a post each day.