23 December 2009

Two of My Favorite Greens

Before my inevitable return to southern California, I managed to make some use of my sister's kitchen while introducing her to two of my favorite leafy greens: swiss chard and kale.  I was slightly surprised that despite having easy access to several farmers' markets--including one held each Sunday a few short blocks from my sister's house--she had never eaten either vegetable.  However, my sister and her boyfriend are meat-eaters and cannot have it any other way, so animal protein takes priority in meal-planning, sometimes leaving vegetables off the table entirely.

If I recall correctly, my sister enjoys spinach.  I didn't think it much of a gamble to replace the spinach with organic rainbow chard in a basic saute of greens with onion and garlic.  Sauteed greens fit well with nearly any savory meal, and my hosts seemed to agree that it was a nice element to complete their holiday dinner.

I knew that getting my hosts to enjoy kale would be more difficult, but fortunately, one of my favorite ways of eating the dark, leafy green--as kale chips--has already been approved by several other non-veg family members.  Kale chips are not only easy to make, but addictively delicious.  All I did was to clean, dry, and de-stem a small bunch of organic dinosaur kale, tear the leaves into small pieces, and toss them with a bit of olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic powder.  I spread them on a baking tray and placed them in the oven, preheated to 325 degrees Fahrenheit, and baked the kale until the leaves were crisp but not too brown, about 10 to 12 minutes.  Despite looking and tasting nothing like chips as we traditionally know them, the kale was quite popular.  Even my sister's boyfriend, who is a meat-and-potatoes type of guy, couldn't stop snacking on them.
I never try to force vegan ideals on anyone, just as my non-vegan family and friends never push their dietary lifestyles on me, but I admit that it was nice to have been able to successfully introduce something tasty and new into my hosts' diets.  While it's not certain that they'll continue to eat those leafy greens regularly, I hope they will at least consider picking up some chard, kale, or other veggies on future farmers' market trips, because those greens are wonderful in so many ways.

17 December 2009

Eating at My Home Away From Home

For the next few days, I'll be taking a much-needed break from the disarray that is my normal life in southern California to visit Dear Big Sister and her boyfriend in Oakland.  It's always nice staying here with them.  And it's so much easier to eat well without necessarily having to cook for myself; there are either clearly-labeled (or more importantly, available) vegan dining options at many eating establishments in the area as well as actual completely vegetarian or vegan restaurants--a stark contrast to the food situation where I normally reside.  Despite the comparative ease I have with being able to lazily locate something good and filling to eat around here, my approach to this little trip has so far been very casual. This essentially means that I have foolishly not prepared for potential in-house meals, including this morning's breakfast situation, and have concluded that although I have half a grilled tempeh sandwich (tasty) leftover from last night's Herbivore outing, I'd rather go for the deliciously vegan Double Chocolate Cookie acquired yesterday from Nabolom Bakery.  Yum.
As it turns out, I baked up some cookies to bring to my gracious hosts, consulting Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar (2009) for a holiday-appropriate recipe that also happens to work out for breakfast with a cup of hot coffee or tea.  Gingerbread Biscotti, anyone?  So maybe it's not really breakfast, but I consider anything I eat in the morning "breakfast."  There's nothing like an unhealthy dose of cookies to start the day.
The plan is to eventually cook something during my time up north, which should be interesting for my non-vegan hosts, and fun, as always.  We'll see how it turns out.

12 December 2009

Baking Kit Giveaway at Diet, Dessert and Dogs

You know that the holiday season is in full swing when mountains of cookies and other baked sweets start popping up everywhere.  For those of you who are interested in the gluten-free route, check out the lovely giveaway posted at the Diet, Dessert and Dogs blog.  Click through for details on the products involved (I'm excited about the teff flour) and how to enter.  Happy baking!

11 December 2009

Another Week, Another Cookbook, and More Good Food

You may or may not remember mention of my cookbook fixation.  I suppose anyone who loves to cook would have some feelings of attachment to cookbooks, and increasingly, online recipe databases and food blogs.  But there is nothing like setting a mighty tome of recipes atop the kitchen counter to procure good, old-fashioned marathon sessions in the kitchen.  I recently won a free copy of Celine Steen and Joni Marie Newman's new cookbook, 500 Vegan Recipes (2009), and giddy with excitement for the the seemingly endless edible creations presented in it and the fact that I actually won something (very rare for me, indeed--thanks, Celine and Joni!), I very quickly realized that my kitchen fate for the week was sealed.  Although there were no marathon kitchen sessions to speak of, I did, of course, have to try at least a few dishes from yet another magnificent book.

Considering the volume of recipes provided, it will take quite awhile to get through all of them.  Here's what I've made from 500 Vegan Recipes so far:

Apple Sage Fauxsage
Not only was this very easy to make, its unique sweet-savory flavors were also quite tasty.  The apple-sage combination would work perfectly for an autumn feast.  I sliced some of the Fauxsage to serve with dill potatoes and sauteed chard.

Peanut Butter Pancakes
I don't know why I had never thought to make peanut butter pancakes until seeing this recipe; they were rich, nutty, and addictive.  Crunchy peanut butter would add lovely texture, as would semisweet chocolate chunks or chips (the peanut butter-chocolate combination is so deliciously classic).  This time around, I cooked up a quick batch of blackberry syrup to serve with the pancakes to give them that PB&J sandwich type of nostalgia.

Potato Bread
Two weeks after Thanksgiving, and there is still sweet potato puree lingering about.  I do love both sweet potatoes and bread, so combining the two to make a couple of soft, slightly sweet loaves of walnut-studded deliciousness was no issue at all.  I may consider using this recipe to make rolls in the very near future; in any case, I will be making this bread again.

There are so many recipes to try, I'm not even sure where to go from here.  I've marked quite a few of the recipes I want to try most urgently, so it looks like the most sensible thing to do is to approach them one at a time.  Undoubtedly, you'll see glimpses of my attempts at various recipes from Celine and Joni's book here in the future.

05 December 2009

A Cookie Invasion--Just in Time for the Holidays

Unable to wait any longer for a copy of Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero's Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar (2009), I recently found myself yet again at the book shop with the sole purpose of purchasing another vegan cookbook.  As the cashier completed my transaction, he inquired in typical small-talk fashion how I'd be spending the rest of my particularly sunny afternoon.  "Baking vegan cookies?" he asked.  "No, not today," I replied.  I was in between engagements and would likely have neither time nor energy for any kitchen activity that day.  But soon, I thought.  December is, after all, the heart of the winter holiday season and the month for cookies and all things sweet.  I plan to make a short visit up north in a couple of weeks as well, so cookie gifts are definitely on the horizon.

It turns out that I didn't bake anything that day, but in the past week I did try out a few Vegan Cookies recipes.  I have to test a few before giving any cookies out, right?  That was my excuse for all of the baking that's been going on in the kitchen this week, despite being pretty much certain that I would like them all from the start.  And so far, I have enjoyed all that I've tried (consumed in moderation, of course).  Once really cannot go wrong with cookies.  Here are the results of my week of cookies:

Sweet Potato Blondies
This recipe was perfect for using up leftover Thanksgiving sweet potatoes.  I used toasted pecans rather than walnuts.

Big Fat Crispy Rice Squares
They were a bit crumbly--maybe next time I'll make more of the syrup mixture to glue the rice together--but the taste was indeed reminscient of the non-vegan favorites from childhood.

Tahini Lime Cookies
I really enjoy the flavor of sesame and the limes I had on hand were about to take a turn for the worst, so I figured it was time to make these sesame-lime morsels of goodness.  In addition to the sesame seeds called for in the recipe, I sprinkled lime sugar on top of the cookies before baking for that extra sparkle and kiss of lime.

Deluxe Cocoa Brownies
I'm a sucker for a fudgy brownie.  These were indeed fudgy, rich, and perfect with a hot cup of strong coffee.

I seem to have gravitated toward the bar cookie section of the book, and Vegan Cookies has not disappointed me.  The cookbook also has plenty of drop (the Tahini Lime Cookies being one tasty example), filled, and cut varieties, which I'll probably stick to when diving into official holiday baking next week, for the practical purposes of packaging and travel.

01 December 2009

Anyone Like Free Stuff?

December might be the season of both giving and giveaways.  (The season of giving really should be year-round, and also meaningful, rather than the beacon of commercialism we have come to associate with the winter holidays.  But I digress.)  Chocolate-Covered Katie just posted an Artisana giveaway that is worth checking out.  You can find out more about it here.

28 November 2009

The Inevitable Thanksgiving Recap

While so many people I've talked to were grumbling about feeling stuffed to the brim with food after indulging in Thanksgiving festivities, I felt fine.  Really.  Cooking essentially with myself in mind before catering to the lack of dietary restrictions of everyone else at the family dinner--I get to be middle child, black sheep, and the only vegan (probably) within a country mile--I didn't exactly feel up to squeezing into the kitchen crowd Thursday, so I threw together a grand total of four items: protein, veggies, starch, and dessert.  For a holiday meal, one might have thought my plate looked pathetically well-balanced and sensibly portioned, but I try to keep all things in moderation, because I just feel better that way.  Here's what I made:

Savory Leek Quiche
I used this Vegetarian Times recipe once to bring to a barbeque/potluck, and people (myself included) seemed to enjoy it.  I particularly like that it calls for firm tofu rather than the silken tofu whose texture I typically don't relish. To give the tart an autumn-esque spin, I added chopped, roasted, and peeled chestnuts; a few chopped sage leaves; and a touch of poultry seasoning.

Braised Kale and Red Swiss Chard
I love greens, and I figured that my family could use something both healthy and delicious to accompany the fattening and very unhealthy things already on their plates.  The dish was simple, involving eyeballed amounts of chopped onion, roasted garlic, vegetable broth, salt, pepper, shoyu, and a bundle each of kale and red swiss chard.

Whole Wheat Pan de Sal
Pan de sal is a Filipino bread roll often consumed at breakfast.  It's soft and fluffy in the center with a slightly crusty exterior and distinct breadcrumb topping.  I've consulted this recipe from Allrecipes.com many times, and with a few alterations, it never fails to produce excellent bread.  I increased the amount of sugar to 1/2 cup and used mostly whole wheat flour rather than all-purpose for a more wholesome bread, adding a 1/4 cup of vital wheat gluten to ensure that the end results wouldn't be dense.  The original recipe also does not call for the breadcrumb topping, but it's essential for emulating the pan de sal of my heritage, so I brushed the rolled dough with almond milk and sprinkled the tops with whole wheat breadcrumbs before baking.

Pecan Pie with Chocolate Chunks
Using this recipe from Vegweb.com, I managed to bake up a candy-sweet vegan dessert in very little time.  I spotted the recipe months back and saved it to my recipe box online, always intending to replicate a popular, non-vegan pecan pie a friend told me about produced by a specific cafe/bakery back in our little college town; it apparently was full of pecan halves, leaving very little room for a sweet "goo" layer to settle at the bottom (which ruins too many perfectly good pecan pies), and studded with not-quite-melted dark chocolate chunks.  Feeling suddenly inspired, I created a thin whole wheat crust--I'm not much of a pie crust-loving gal--to hold the filling.  I added an extra 1/2 cup of pecan halves to the filling to minimize the chances of that "goo" layer from forming and to maximize nuttiness.  I figured I could get away with using only half of the melted Earth Balance called for, and it worked out fine that way.  Midway through baking, when the recipe calls for a reduction in oven temperature, I buried a few scattered chunks of dark chocolate into the filling and proceeded with the baking.  By the time I cut into the pie a few hours later, the chocolate chunks had resolidified as I intended.  I never did try that pie my friend told me about, but my own might have been decadent enough to rival that other non-vegan (and from what I hear, quite pricey) version.

It may not have been a fancy vegan Thanksgiving meal, but I'm satisfied with it.  There was no pressure to compromise my lifestyle, and with sensible servings of relatively healthy dishes, I didn't feel like a glutton post-meal.  I say that's successful enough.

25 November 2009

Kitchen Happenings

With so many wonderful recipes hitting bookshelves and the blogosphere, it seems quite remarkable that people are still devising novel ways to cook up tasty eats.  There are so many delicious-sounding recipes floating around, in fact, that my list of "to-cook" dishes has long been too long for me to find the time and materials necessary to get through each item.  But in between cooking up the ever-familiar "go-to" meals and life beyond the kitchen, in the last week or so, I've found the means to try some new dishes, all of which were more or less as tasty as they looked or sounded when I first came across them.  Here are a few notables:

Sweet Potato Cake from VegNews.  I halved the recipe to achieve a single-layer cake, substituted sweet potato with roasted blue ballet squash--it has a similar texture and nutty flavor--used only cinnamon rather than the other spices, threw together a cinnamon icing, and topped that with sugared walnuts.  The cake was moist and sweet, but not overly so.
Celebration Pot Pie with Pumpkin Biscuit Crust from Fatfree Vegan Kitchen.  I halved the recipe and it still made enough to feed a few people.  I also had roasted and pureed acorn squash on hand rather than pumpkin for the biscuit topping.  It was warm, comforting, hearty, and very, very tasty.
Cauliflower "Risotto" from One Frugal Foodie.  I made no substitutions, although I eyeballed the amounts of onion and cauliflower, using a leftover hunk of the onion and an entire small- to medium-sized head of cauliflower.  This grain-free dish is remarkably reminiscient of the more familiar type made with arborio rice.  It was so delicious.  This is such an easy and creative way to cook cauliflower that I would never have thought of myself.
Butterless Avocado Brioche from Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes.  As suggested by the recipe's author, I baked the loaf at a lower temperature than the original recipe states, for a slightly longer time.  I love the creativity that spawned this recipe, too.  Who would have thought that using avocado to replace eggs and butter could yield bread, of all things?  And the dough pre-bake is a lovely avocado green that is retained in the finished product.  Thick slices would make great French toast.
Obviously, there are many, many recipes out there worth trying!  I'll probably never make a serious dent in that "to-cook" list of mine, but I'll keep trying anyway, especially if the payoff is as delectable as it's been so far.

22 November 2009

So Many Lemons

I don't know if it has something to do with living in this particular part of the state, or if it's a "California thing" in general, but there never seems to be any shortage of lemons here.  Even with many of the housing developments of the last couple of decades occupying former orchard or other agricultural lands, one need not travel far to come across the next lemon tree; lemon orchards are still quite abundant despite the continual growth of housing units, and many residents grow their own backyard citrus trees.  It's no wonder that I realized the abundance of locally grown lemons at my disposal.

My favorite store-bought vegan cookie is of the lemon poppy seed variety, and it just so happened that I just recently devoured the last of this infrequent indulgence.  After savoring the last bite, I resolved to attempt to bake up some chewy, lemony cookies of my own, despite having had few successes in the realm of chewy cookies.  Sure, I've baked up pretty batches of lemon biscotti and lemon cornmeal cookies, but I also find it much less difficult to bake up something crispy than to achieve the perfect balance of soft, chewy, and completely cooked.  And I knew it would be difficult to exactly replicate the texture and flavor of my beloved store-bought favorite, but I gave it a go anyway.  No sense wasting perfectly good lemons, in any case.
I actually really like the cookies resulting from my first attempt at chewy, lemony, baked deliciousness.  After consulting the Internet and finding an appropriate Vegan Treats recipe (featured at VegNews), I made some adjustments to suit my taste and what I had available in the kitchen.  In terms of the inspiration recipe's use of soy yogurt, it was something I did not have on hand and did not want to track down on a late Sunday afternoon, so I replaced that and some of the margarine called for with a blend of leftover silken tofu, the remainder of vegan soy mayonnaise in the refrigerator, and a small amount of vegetable oil.  Now, I've not tried Vegan Treat's recipe as written, but sticking to their given amounts of margarine and soy yogurt obviously sounds much easier than my method.  But I try to work with what I have at any given time, if possible, as well as adjust the other amounts to my tastes (in this case, increasing the lemon factor for more of a citrus punch).  These cookies are still a work in progress, but I'm fairly happy with my first shot, so hopefully future adjustments can be kept at a minimum.

Lemon Poppy Seed Cookies (inspired by a Vegan Treats recipe) (printable recipe)
Makes 32

3/4 c granulated sugar
3/4 c light brown sugar
1/4 c vegan soy mayonnaise
3 oz firm silken tofu (equal to 1/4 package of the vacuum-packed type)
2 T vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 T lemon juice
zest of 1 lemon
2 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp poppy seeds

Blend the soy mayonnaise, tofu, and vegetable oil until smooth.  In a large bowl, mix the tofu mixture with the sugars, vanilla extract, lemon juice, and lemon zest until well-combined.  In a separate bowl, mix the the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture, along with the poppy seeds, and mix well.  Scoop walnut-sized portions of batter onto parchement-lined baking sheets, leaving at least an inch of space around each dough ball to allow for expansion.  Gently press the dough balls down slightly to smooth out the top and slightly flatten them (this isn't completely necessary, but the resulting cookie will look nicer and will brown more evenly).  Bake in a preheated oven at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 to 24 minutes, until the edges begin to turn a light golden brown; check after 15 minutes for browning, turning the sheets midway.  After removing from the oven, let the cookies stand on the sheets for a minute or two before placing them on cooling racks.  Enjoy!

16 November 2009

Almost-Pasta Dinner

I spend so much time in the kitchen.  Really.  But sometimes I either lack the energy or impulse (or both) to cook, leaving me snacking and trying to find quick meals to assemble with on-hand ingredients and minimal effort.  Pasta is up there on my go-to list of quick-and-easy meals, but as I drew closer to plunging the last of my whole wheat elbow macaroni in a pot of boiling water, I suddenly lacked any desire for noodles.  It's rare for me, but it happens.  Strangely enough, the meal that would be pasta morphed into a slightly more labor-intensive seitan-making session.  As in chicken-style seitan for a "chicken" marinara sandwich.  I guess I snapped out of my laziness.  The reasoning probably isn't that solid, but hey, at least I stuck with the pasta sauce, so the idea didn't just come from nowhere.

Anyway, I used yet another Fat Free Vegan Kitchen recipe to get dinner going.  I followed the directions for the seitan cutlets through the steaming step.  I used only half a cutlet for my sandwich--I wasn't that hungry--and rather than flouring it, I sprinkled it lightly with salt and pepper and browned it in a nonstick skillet.  The sandwich bread was the end of a store-bought French baguette that I lopped off for my eating pleasure.  I thought I'd keep the sandwich simple by just dressing the browned, chicken-style seitan with homemade marinara.  Had I any greens in the house, I would have applied them to making this a heartier meal.  But while those extras would have made dinner more substantial, they really weren't necessary here and I rather enjoyed the simplicity of the sandwich as-is.  It was surprisingly reminiscient of the chicken parmesan sandwiches I enjoyed back in high school, sans pan-frying and animal products, of course.  I guess it was a good thing I dumped the pasta plan.  Not that I have anything against pasta, mind you, but I'll save it for another lazy night.

13 November 2009

When Cravings Compete

It's a bit unusual for seemingly opposing cravings for Thai food and pizza to swoop upon me at the same time, but maybe it was just one of those moments on one of those days.  It could have been a dilemma, but I was too hungry to ruminate.  Rather than settling for something quick and totally unrelated to the aforementioned cravings, I decided to slap the two ideas together and call it lunch.  Yes, it was time to finally try out a Thai-inspired pizza about which I've been quite curious but had never ventured to sample.  Its existence is not unheard of; in fact, I've heard that the California Pizza Kitchen, non-vegan manifestation of this concoction (Thai Chicken Pizza) has been pretty popular since its creation.  I've never had CPK's Thai pizza, but as far as I know, they use a peanut sauce as its base, which is what I did, so I'm sure my vegan version was somewhat reminiscient of CPK's non-vegan one.
I had some Trader Joe's Chicken-Less Strips lying about the refrigerator, so it worked quite well as a vegan substitute for protein.  I would have just stuck to veggies and peanut sauce had I not had those strips on hand, and it probably would've been just fine that way, but I liked that added substantiality from the protein.  I made a sauce from natural peanut butter, rice wine vinegar, shoyu, cilantro, chili paste, and a touch of water to loosen it up when it became too thick to spread nicely, eyeballing everything and tasting it to make sure the mixture resembled a Thai peanut sauce.  I dredged some browned pieces of faux chicken in the sauce so that they wouldn't be too dry while baking and set them aside while I spread the rest of the sauce on the disc of homemade whole wheat dough I had just rolled out.  Pre-oven toppings went as follows: faux chicken, red bell pepper slices, and steamed broccoli florets.  While the pizza was baking, I whipped up yet another batch of a Fatfree Vegan Kitchen recipe (this time for Mozarella-Style Cheeze).  After removing the pizza from the oven, I drizzled the Cheeze sauce over the top of the pizza, then sprinkled it all with grated carrot (supposedly in the style of CPK) and chopped cilantro.  Crushed peanuts would have made for an excellent crunchy topping.  I have to say, it can neither be considered remotely authentic (Thai or Italian), which is why I'm referring to my pizza as "Thai-inspired," but it was tasty anyway.  I basically used whatever vegetables I would have put with a peanut sauce, threw it on pizza crust, and topped it all with "melted" Cheeze to fuse the cuisines and tie the pizza concept together.  Surprisingly enough the Cheeze complemented the peanut sauce well, and half the pie later, my hunger and cravings were satisfied.  I'd say that experiment was a tasty success.

10 November 2009

Recent Kitchen Action

Although I've not yet confirmed what to do about my little vegan corner of the Thanksgiving table this year, I am leaning toward making an assortment of appetizer-like or bite-sized treats, savory and sweet.  Of course, that leaves the dilemma of deciding upon the specific little bites to make without going overboard.  I already have cookies and cupcakes in mind for dessert (pumpkin pie isn't doing it for me lately), but the savory element is up for grabs.  Hmmm.

In the meantime, I'm staying active in the kitchen, wondering whether I should even stick to a Thanksgiving-themed menu--ya know, cornbread dressing, mashed potatoes, etc.--or try for something more non-traditional, like say, a tasting of international delights.  I tend to cook whatever fits my mood, and often fall into particular types of cuisines for short spans, but this week, it seems that I'm all over the board.  Here are a few things I've created during the past few days:

Black bean and tofu enchiladas
These were a result of the remnants of a huge pot of freshly-cooked black beans and a leftover hunk of firm tofu.  The sauce is also from scratch, and on top of that is some "cheese" sauce (using Susan's recipe from Fatfree Vegan Kitchen) I still had from making baked potatoes a few days earlier.  I would occasionally buy a certain frozen black bean and tofu enchilada plate from the grocery store across the street from my apartment while still in school; this is my homemade version of it.

Pumpkin scones
I had a bit of black futsu pumpkin puree that needed to be used up, and found a recipe for Pumpkin Scones from Carole Raymond's Student's Go Vegan Cookbook.  I added just a bit of cinnamon, ginger, and cloves to prevent blandness and bring out the pumpkin flavor, but using a light touch to avoid overpowering it.  These were meant to be drop scones, but I wanted a more uniform size and shape, so I opted to drop the batter in muffin tins, resulting in the muffin-like appearance.

Hoppin' John
I saw the dried black-eyed peas in the pantry, and remembering how much I liked this recipe for Hoppin' John, I gave the recipe another go with most of the alterations I'd used the first time.  I threw in the last little bit of leftover black beans and a couple of seeded Thai chili peppers from the garden, so the dish turned out quite spicy.  I do enjoy spicy food, but even I have to admit that I was not expecting so much heat from the peppers, especially because they had not seemed to spice up other dishes I've used them quite to the same degree.  Apparently, I underestimated their potency.  But the food was good, so I can't complain too much.  I'll just make note of the amounts for the next time around.  Sorry for the poor quality of that last photo!

05 November 2009

Vegan Croissants, Two Ways

I made croissants for the very first time today, and they were vegan to boot.  Admittedly, I have never been too fond of the flaky French crescents or anything very buttery in general, even before becoming vegan, but the occasional croissant suited me fine.  Sure, it's fine to indulge in little treats now and then, but a croissant always seemed like the type of thing that just felt fattening, akin to the donuts of my youth, so trying to live with moderation and health consciousness in mind, I typically have little issue with avoiding such things.  But something compelled me to make croissants anyway; I think I was drawn in by the challenge of not only the specific process of folding the dough with the fat, etc., but also of successfully adapting a traditionally non-vegan recipe to produce relatively tasty vegan end products.  Whatever the reason, I made the things, and I'm pretty sure that even the omnivores in my life will make sure the pastries won't stick around for much longer.

Newly-rolled dough crescents.  Better than pre-made?  Probably.
These croissants are about as buttery as they get without the use of actual butter.  Earth Balance vegan buttery sticks provide the butter substitute that make the pastry so flaky, although they did turn out a bit greasy as well.  I used the croissant recipe from Nick Malgieri's How to Bake, a cookbook among my mother's mighty kitchen arsenal, and was a bit taken aback by the amount of fat required.  I actually considered reducing the amount required by the recipe by a half cup, but since I'd never made croissants before, much less using this particular recipe, I followed the amounts precisely and only made alterations in order to "veganize" the dough; as mentioned, vegan buttery sticks replaced the butter, and unsweetened almond milk replaced dairy milk.  When preparing to bake the dough, I rolled half of it into plain croissants and they other half into the Almond Croissant variation given by Malgieri.  The almond paste used in the latter was a homemade, vegan version, of course.  And because I have dough leftover--the recipe for the croissants themselves is written for a half-batch of dough--I may try making Malgieri's Chocolate Croissants.  But I should probably stay away from too much pastry for awhile after this fattening kitchen venture.

Plain croissants (foreground) and almond croissants (background).
Almond croissant, on a festive Eiffel Tower plate.

04 November 2009

Thinking Up a Meal for One

Because no one else in my family can even imagine Thanksgiving without the bird, real butter butterhorns, and other traditional feast fare (a.k.a., saturated in animal products and totally unhealthy), I'll most likely have to cook up some vegan eats for myself this holiday season, not that I don't already do that on a regular basis, mind you.  Really, the main problem I have is that I need to reduce the scale of whatever it is I decide to make, because frankly, while the family might taste a little bit of whatever is on the table--vegan and non-vegan alike--they won't be grabbing for seconds from my stock (preferring the aforementioned traditional fare over my stuff), and I can't see myself eating it all in one sitting.  I know, leftovers are an inherent part of Thanksgiving, but I can only take so much of them and I hate to waste.  Hmm.  I'll be thinking hard about this one for the next few weeks.

In the meantime, I cooked up a couple of things during the last few days and thought I'd briefly show you the results.  The first was a result of trying to mix up my weekly sourdough routine, and the second, just a craving for a vegan version of a Filipino staple dish.

Sundried tomato and garlic sourdough bread.  Thick slices make great savory toast.
Tofu pancit.  I used thin rice vermicelli rather than the thicker wheat noodles that are often used.
Croissants are in the works, so check back for those a little later.

01 November 2009

World Vegan Day 2009

Happy World Vegan Day!  Today kicks off World Vegan Month (all of November) and that sounds like a good reason to celebrate with more great vegan food as the winter holidays begin to roll around.  Check out the World Vegan Day site for related links.

Tomorrow, 2 November, is World Pneumonia Day.  It's the first ever held, and many will be showing their support for the cause to prevent and treat this often devastating disease by wearing blue jeans.  See other ways to show support.

31 October 2009

Butter in Pumpkin Form

Ah, Halloween.  I hope y'all are having a fun one.  And I hope you've had fun with Vegan MoFo this year; I did, and it's been great to connect to and be part of such a creative and amazing worldwide vegan community.  So thanks to you all for making it such an awesome foodie month, and I wish you the best in cooking, blogging, and celebrating veganism!

Admittedly, I haven't been in the most celebratory Halloween mood at all, but this morning I did still have yesterday's roasted black futsu to work with, and I had said that I'd try to at least use do something with it to honor the spirit of the season (kinda).  I was so close to just making the Vegan with a Vengeance Pumpkin Waffles again (so deliciously awesome), but I think I'll save it for breakfast tomorrow instead.  I found an awesome recipe for Maple Pumpkin Butter from Vegan Visitor, and having never even tasted pumpkin butter--like nut butter, it has nothing to do with dairy at all--it seemed an appropriate time to try some out.
This is some good stuff.  The recipe seriously calls for only six ingredients, requires minimal effort, and still turns out oh-so-tasty.  You can't go wrong with the pumpkin-apple combo, and the addition of warm, autumn spices enhances the tastiness.  The aroma of the pumpkin butter as it cooked made me a bit impatient, so against my better judgment, I dipped up some of the spreadable pumpkin goodness while it was scorching hot and burned my tongue in the process.  I recommend you wait for it to cool slightly before indulging; it's worth the wait and much less painful.  And it will be so delicious paired with those pumpkin waffles in the morning.

30 October 2009

The Return of Pancakes and Pumpkin

I spent the entire day out and about, so I never got much of a chance to do my usual kitchen takeover after finally returning home early this evening.  But I did pick up a huge bag of fresh okara, something about which I knew only vaguely and had never actually tried, so I figured I could pull something together using the okara as a foundation.  I recalled having seen a few recipes utilizing the stuff in my mom's copy of A Taste of Tofu by Yukiko Moriyama, and immediately decided upon Okara Pancakes, figuring that they could pass as a decent, quick-ish dinner.  I went along with the recipe despite being a bit taken aback by the entire cup of sugar it called for, adjusting only to use egg replacer to make it vegan.  The result?  I was right to worry about the sugar, because these pancakes were definitely more saccharine than I prefer--the sweetener and flour were in equal amounts, after all, and the sugar actually carmelized to form a shiny crust.  They were really were so cloying, but I suppose they'd be good for dessert at least, and definitely more palatable with a vast reduction in sugar next time around.  I'll be looking for more savory uses for okara very soon.
In the meantime, I did happen to cut open the black futsu for roasting.  Of all the winter squash I have, the black futsu has the shortest shelf-life after it's harvested, so it only made sense for it to be used first.  And because tomorrow is Halloween (and last day of Vegan MoFo), I'll try to get into the spirit of things by finding some pumpkin-related goodness to cook up with the roasted futsu.

29 October 2009

Winter Squash Abound

I finally made it out to a pumpkin patch, but not with the intention of hay rides or even to select my Jack 'o Lantern to-be.  No, my goal was to peruse the wide, interesting array of winter squash, harboring ambitious plans to pick a decent variety to admire then cook in creative and delicious ways.  Also no stranger to the kitchen, my mother opted to join me on this adventure.  This particular pumpkin and squash purveyor offered the usual varieties like acorn, butternut, and delicata squashes, along with types of which I'd never heard nor seen.  They ranged in size from the roughly hand-sized Hungarian finger fruit to banana squash almost the size of a toddler.  The guy minding the stand was kind enough to lend us a helpful guide--created by the so-called Squashman years ago--about the various squash available, which included tips on how to cook each type and even offering accompanying some of the Squashman's favorite recipes.  Taking note of what seemed most interesting and tasty, my mom and I grabbed us a wheelbarrow and made our selections.  She chose her two acorn squash, so called for its acorn-like shape, which happens to be Mom's favorite winter squash; I picked up a Guatemalan banana squash, an oblong, blue squash probably around two feet long; a blue ballet, blue and round with slight points on opposite ends; a Tahitian butternut, which looks like a typical butternut squash but a bit larger, smoother, and often with a long, craned neck; and a black futsu, apparently a "hard-to-find" Japanese heirloom pumpkin that is black when ready to be harvested, then turns to an amber color (like mine) as it sits.  With such a wonderful assortment of winter squash, it should be exciting to explore all of the great ways to cook up these edible beauties.  I'll definitiely be doing a lot of roasting, because I like how the process brings out squash's natural sweetness.  I welcome and would be thankful for any suggestions for cooking and recipes, if anyone cares to share them here!

Squash types: (left to right) blue ballet, Guatemalan banana, Tahitian butternut, black futsu, acorn.

28 October 2009

Spiced Cider Pancakes

I've never been a huge fan of spiced apple cider, but seeing it absolutely everywhere lately got me curious about it (a recurring theme, as you may notice)--curious enough, in fact, to pick up a bottle of it last week to reassess my judgment.  And of course, now I'm finding that I quite enjoy the stuff.  It complements the smells, colors, and flavors of autumn nicely and seems like the perfect pairing for the returning cool weather.

To make it even more quintessentially autumn, I whipped up a quick and tasty batch of Spiced Cider Pancakes this morning.  Inspired by the prominent ingredients in the cider--like unfiltered apple juice and an array of spices--I incorporate some of the apple cider itself into the batter and enhance the cider flavor with additional cinnamon and clove.  Applesauce gives the pancakes more apple flavor while reducing the amount of fat.  The sweetness of these pancakes make them delicious as-is, but they are also good with just a tiny drizzle of pure maple syrup if you like them extra sweet.
Spiced Cider Pancakes (printable recipe)
Makes approximately 15 silver dollar-sized pancakes

1 c flour (I used half whole wheat, half all purpose)
2 tsp baking powder
2 T brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch of ground cloves
pinch of salt
2 T oat bran
2 T vegetable oil, or other mildly-flavored oil
3 T unsweetened applesauce
3/4 c spiced apple cider
1 tsp vanilla extract

Sift the dry ingredients (except for the oat bran) into a large bowl.  Mix in the oat bran.  Combine all of the wet ingredients in a separate bowl.  Pour the wet into the dry ingredients and mix until combined.  The batter will thicken a bit as it sits; if it seems too thick, add a bit of extra cider.  Lightly spray a skillet with oil and heat it over a medium-low flame.  Drop batter into the hot skillet in 1/4 c amounts, allowing space for spreading.  Flip after bubbles form on top and the underside is golden brown (this can happen a bit quickly due to the sugar), and continue cooking the pancakes until the other side is also golden brown.  Enjoy!