31 March 2012

03.31

I originally intended to turn this jumble of spinach, pan-fried tofu, and marinated shiitake mushrooms   into a wrap or rice ball, but am content to keep it as-is for now. The marinade for both the tofu (a super-firm chunk that had been frozen) and mushrooms included shoyu, mirin, sriracha, and sugar. I quite enjoy that particular savory-spicy-sweet flavor combination.

30 March 2012

03.30

The tag on this bag of ginger tea reads, "Trust creates peace." The statement is at once timely and timeless--one that will linger long after the tea is gone.

29 March 2012

03.29

A sizable haul of homegrown Meyer lemons sits on my sister's dining table. If not for the lemons' slightly tapered ends, these deep yellow globes could nearly be mistaken for oranges with a quick glance.

28 March 2012

03.28

I meant to pack up stir-fried rice noodles (from a test recipe) and my sister's garlic-sauteed chard and spinach for today's long drive to the Bay Area...but I ate it all before we even left the house. I suppose I could have waited long enough to at least re-heat the food, but cold leftovers still made for a decent breakfast.

27 March 2012

03.27

This is called The Best Vegetarian Bean Chili for a reason: it's absolutely delicious. I am definitely looking forward to leftovers tomorrow. (Hell, if there's time and a way to make it happen--I'll be on the road for awhile, you see--I may very well end up making chili fries, A.K.A. one of my favorite comfort foods that happens to be hugely underrepresented in its vegan form.) Make a batch for yourself (or a more manageable half-batch, as I did) and just try to share. It's the polite thing to do, after all.

26 March 2012

03.26

It's time for a vegan food survey to shake things up ever so slightly. I spotted the questions here and will just assume they're blog-hopping in one form or another in dramatic fashion (or not).

Favorite non-dairy milk?
plain, unsweetened almond milk

What are the top 3 dishes/recipes you are planning to cook?
The Best Vegetarian Bean Chili
Veggie Burgers with Pomegranate Ketchup
Jim's Irish Brown Bread

Topping of choice for popcorn?
sugar and salt, kettle-style

Most disastrous recipe/meal failure?

Favorite pickled item? 
baechu (cabbage) kimchi

How do you organize your recipes?
I make the initial division among sweet and savory dishes, then go from there (e.g., Asian, baked goods, etc.). Yeast doughs get their own category, too, just because I'm always bookmarking recipes for them.

Compost, trash, or garbage disposal?
compost, whenever possible

If you were stranded on an island and could only bring 3 foods…what would they be (don’t worry about how you’ll cook them)?
rice, some sort of dried legume, miso

Favorite vegan ice cream?
coconut milk-based ice creams (read: most of the Coconut Bliss and So Delicious Coconut flavors)

Most loved kitchen appliance? 
the humble toaster, which is what I use to reheat practically anything that requires a crisp exterior and happens to fit in the slots

Spice/herb you would die without?
I couldn't go so far as to say I'd die without it, but smoked paprika is nice to have on hand.

Cookbook you have owned for the longest time?
I received Austrian Cooking & Baking (1975) by Gretel Beer as a Christmas gift several years ago. My copy doesn't get the attention it deserves. There's still time to change that, I suppose.

Favorite flavor of jam/jelly?
blackberry

Favorite vegan recipe to serve to an omni friend?
chocolaty cupcakes (always a huge hit)

Seitan, tofu, or tempeh?
I like them all, but tofu is always in my refrigerator and sometimes in my freezer. And then there is also the shelf-stable silken and freeze-dried tofu...

Favorite meal to cook (or time of day to cook)?
To be perfectly honest, I like cooking all meals. Dinner is my favorite to prepare, because it usually involves the most kitchen work (which I find therapeutic, if not simply enjoyable).

What is sitting on top of your refrigerator?
food storage containers, dried beans and lentils, quinoa, boxed cereal, bottles of hard liquor

Name 3 items in your freezer without looking.
frozen fruit, almond meal, Korean rice cakes

What’s on your grocery list?
leafy greens (always)

Favorite grocery store?
Trader Joe's for certain staples, Whole Foods for the harder-to-find items, and a local Asian markets for Asian food items

Name a recipe you’d love to veganize, but haven’t yet. 
pâte à choux

Food blog you read the most?
I read whatever shows up on my Reader feed, but I do end up returning to Just Hungry over and over.

Favorite vegan candy/chocolate?
I don't eat much candy, but I do love homemade nut butter cups. I'm still on the search for a vegan form of Peanut M&Ms (hint, hint, candy-makers).

Most extravagant food item purchased lately?
whole vanilla beans


***
Food photo of the day: French toast stacked with tsubu an and fresh strawberries. Both the bread and tsubu an were homemade. The tartness of the strawberries offset the sweetness of the bean paste. The hint of sour flavor from the bread was a nice touch, too.

25 March 2012

03.25

It's apparently never too early for sampling cookies. While everyone else sleeps in--apparently the thing to do on Sundays--I wake early for a quick run in the rain, still thinking about how I might improve the cookies I baked last night. With a few trial batches complete, my quest for a certain type of chewy butterscotch cookie is officially a work-in-progress.

24 March 2012

03.24

Months after my old sourdough starter took a turn for the worst, I am finally cultivating a replacement. My barm is only a couple of days old, but I couldn't resist putting it to use for a Basic Sourdough loaf. As with the seed culture and barm, I consulted the recipe in my beloved, go-to bread baking tome, The Bread Baker's Apprentice (Reinhart, 2001). The loaf has such a lovely, golden, crusty exterior and smells amazing. In an act of self-discipline, I haven't actually cut into this loaf yet; I stupidly told my mother that I would have fresh bread to share for dinner and prefer to present an intact loaf at the table. Based upon past successes using Reinhart's recipes, I have no doubt I'll be able to count this sourdough among them.
In a couple of weeks, the barm will develop its full, delightfully sour flavor...and I simply can't wait. Fortunately, I have the other half of the dough from this batch to bake up later, so there won't be a shortage of carbohydrate-laden goodness to hold me over for in the meantime.

23 March 2012

03.23

Kale chips are hardly a new snack sensation, but they never get old for me. This batch was rubbed with a blend of tahini, sriracha, shoyu, apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, olive oil, nutritional yeast, salt, pepper, smoked paprika, garlic and onion powders, oregano, and basil, yielding a delightfully spicy, smoky, vaguely pizza-like flavor.

22 March 2012

03.22

My first attempt at homemade ichigo daifuku (strawberry- and anko-stuffed mochi) was a predictably messy affair. It was, however, unexpectedly frustrating for two reasons: 1) the mochi didn't cook properly for the first time in several attempts with the same method (note: molten mochi hurts almost as much as molten sugar) and 2) the smallest strawberries were gargantuan relative to the mochi pieces. The less-than-perfect appearance has a certain rustic charm that perhaps matched the preceding mishaps. At least it didn't affect the flavor, which was a nice balance of sweet and tart.

20 March 2012

03.20

As with dehydrating, sun-drying, and roasting, freeze-drying amplifies a fruit's natural sugars. These unsweetened, unsulfered, freeze-dried grapes I recently purchased are like crunchy grapes with the intense sweetness of raisins. The novel combination of flavors and textures is strangely appealing, albeit in small doses.

19 March 2012

03.19

This sticky, chewy, crunchy snack was inspired by a pre-made version I recently sampled on a grocery excursion. The combination of tangy, sweet, and spicy flavors was both interesting and tasty, so I decided to try my hand at making a similar nut blend at home. I admit, my version is stickier than and doesn't taste quite the same as its inspiration. But the flavor profile is just as good, making the minimal amount of effort required to create this snack worthwhile. Homemade snacks are inherently satisfying, anyway--clumps and all.
Spicy Pomegranate-Glazed Nuts (printer-friendly version)
Yields approximately 2 cups
Gluten-free, soy-free

⅓ c pomegranate juice
¼ c orange juice
2 T evaporated cane juice or granulated sugar
¾ c raw, shelled pistachios
½ c raw, shelled almonds
1 tsp orange zest
⅛ tsp ground black pepper
1 T coarse, raw sugar
¼ c unsweetened, dried cherries, diced
pinch of flaky sea salt

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set it aside.

In a large saucepan, combine the pomegranate, orange, and evaporated cane juices (or sugar). Heat over medium-low, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Allow the juices to come to a steady simmer, then allow the mixture to continue simmering until it becomes thick and bubbly, approximately 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low.

Stir in the nuts, orange zest, black pepper, and raw sugar. Continue to cook the nut mixture over low heat, stirring frequently, until the liquid has almost evaporated completely and becomes thick and sticky, approximately 1 or 2 minutes. Remove the pan from heat. Stir in the dried cherries and sea salt. Spread the nut mixture in an even layer on the parchment-lined baking sheet. Allow the nuts to cool completely before enjoying.

Store at room temperature or refrigerated in an airtight container.

***

And here's my photo-of-the-day: Spicy Stir-Fried Japanese Eggplant and Cucumber. Having never actually cooked with cucumber prior to trying this recipe, I was intrigued. The quick-cook method allows the cucumber to remain crisp, so the dish isn't as unusual as it initially seems. While it is enjoyable at any temperature, I prefer to eat it warm with a side of steamed brown or white rice.

18 March 2012

03.18

I've attempted to make black bean brownies several times, never to my satisfaction. A combination of unappetizing textures and "off" flavors resulting with each attempt were continually disappointing. However, I persisted in trying different recipes, if only to prove my brownie doubts unwarranted and to finally be able to echo the praise of other bakers who had seemingly found the success that eluded me. A recent post by a fellow blogger ensured me that I am not alone in my black bean brownie woes. Nearing the brink of abandoning my intermittent fascination with this fiber- and protein-bolstered form of chocolaty indulgence, I decided to make just one more attempt, having also caught sight of a tempting recipe for Dark Chocolate Stout Brownies. I'm glad I did.
Although I'm not about to exclusively bake brownies with black beans, I am finally able to see that there is something behind all the fuss. Perhaps it helped that the recipe I used doesn't eschew granulated forms of sugar, as some others do. The inclusion of beer may also make a difference, as provides a certain bitterness that seems to enhance that of the chocolate. I did actually adapt the recipe a bit, substituting whole wheat pastry flour for regular whole wheat or all-purpose flour; replacing most of the water called for with oatmeal stout (the remainder of a 12-oz bottle, after the cup required by the recipe was already measured); and reducing the sweetener to a combination of one cup granulated sugar and a half-cup light brown sugar. Both to my surprise and delight, the brownies emerged rich and decidedly not "beany" at all--a far cry from the gooey, foul messes that characterized my prior failures. The lack of added fat in these brownies is made clear by a distinctly no-fat-added denseness, but not to the detriment of the overall fudgy texture and flavor. It's a decent result--one that is enough to encourage further black bean brownie experiments.

17 March 2012

03.17

I am beside myself with amazement over this Tofu Omelet. The recipe, apparently a PPK adaptation of the Vegan Brunch version, turns out a satisfyingly "eggy" product (in the good, no-animals-involved way). Although Isa writes that this is "not an exact replica of an egg omelet," I consider the tofu-chickpea flour version convincingly similar to an actual egg omelet. In any case, the filling of broccoli spinach pesto and sauteed mushrooms, onion, and sweet bell pepper rounded out a satisfying, scrumptious morning treat.

16 March 2012

03.16

This is not a waffle; it is a wa-FAIL. Too impatient to keep an eye on the waffle iron, I stepped away to wash a few dishes, then proceeded to forget about the iron altogether. The result is obvious. Fortunately, it was the single charred waffle of about a half-dozen perfectly golden ones.
It happens every time.

15 March 2012

03.15

One errant craving for pasta and bunch of Italian basil later, I now have a tub of bright green broccoli spinach pesto to dress up whatever I please. I used this recipe, but roasted the broccoli instead of steaming it and blended in a large handful of the aforementioned basil. The broccoli and spinach give the pesto more body than that of typical pesto Genovese (classic basil pesto); this version works marvelously as a dressing for pasta (more corn fusilli, in this case) and certainly as a spread or dip.

14 March 2012

03.14

Happy Pi Day, all. To be perfectly honest, I don't actually have a particular fondness for irrational numbers, but I'll go ahead and celebrate this day with an edible vegan pie. It's the thing to do, of course. I made the Boston Cream Cake Pie from Vegan Pie in the Sky (2011), primarily out of curiosity for how it would turn out. The more traditional form (i.e., all cake and no crust) was not something I ever craved, and unfortunately, this cake-pie hybrid didn't do much to alter my longstanding ambivalence. The filling seems too firm, while the cake layer is dense and gummy. Despite textural issues, the cake-pie's flavor is fine--not amazing, but certainly not bad. To be fair, the overall result isn't exactly bad, either; I just expected it to be better.
By the way, I made the crust with speculoos cookies. I may have found my favorite graham cracker crust alternative. Everything has its silver lining, right?

13 March 2012

03.13

I can't recall which recipe first inspired my venture into the realm of cookie dough-like chickpea dips. Like hummus, these concoctions are, as the name suggests, chickpea-based and of spreadable consistency. The main difference, then, is one of savory versus sweet, with a cookie dough-like dip occupying the latter end of the flavor spectrum. I make it differently each time, due to memory lapse and my tendency to just wing it. My latest craving for a quick, sweet snack yielded an oatmeal cinnamon cookie dough-like concoction, some of which I ate with slices of an anjou pear. The dip is a combination of cooked, drained, and rinsed chickpeas; crunchy, raw almond butter; rolled oats; apple juice; pure maple syrup; molasses; vanilla and almond extracts; and ground cinnamon.

12 March 2012

03.12

This smoothie may not look very exciting (it wasn't), but it was somewhat unusual as far as smoothies go around here. Instead of blending up the the usual green number, I opted for something vaguely tropical. A combination of pineapple, clementine, frozen banana, and unsweetened almond milk made for a mildly sweet, refreshing pick-me-up. I typically use only fruit and vegetables for smoothies, but threw in the almond milk to avoid wasting the small amount remaining in the carton. That mere splash actually made the smoothie taste a bit like an orange creamsicle, which was a nice surprise.

11 March 2012

03.11

It's not only entirely possible to create a vegan version of Pocky, but also quite easy. I used this recipe, which produces a yeast-risen dough--something I did not think would be necessary for making a proper imitation of the original, store-bought inspiration. But as is often the case with yeast-risen versus chemically-risen methods of leavening, I'm glad I went with the former, because the results were very similar to the "real thing," boasting just the right flavor and snap. After making a few simple substitutions--almond milk for dairy milk, light agave for honey, and vegetable shortening for butter, respectively--I had a batch of my very own, highly-snackable cookie sticks. A coating of tempered dark chocolate and selective sprinkling of homemade jimmies were the finishing touches.

10 March 2012

03.10

I only used half of a roasted squash for the tacos from a few days ago, leaving me more with which I could experiment. Given the squash's namesake and strand-like texture, it comes as no surprise that I wanted to treat it like noodles. I could have taken an even more obvious route by making something like spaghetti marinara, but instead opted for Asian flavors. What resulted was pancit-style spaghetti squash stir-fry, a very unorthodox, but nonetheless delectable homage to a popular Filipino stir-fried noodle dish. My noodle-free version most closely resembles pancit bihon in particular, which is traditionally made with very thin rice noodles. I always use onion, garlic, carrots, celery, vegetable broth, shoyu, lemon juice, sesame oil, green onion, and ground black pepper when I make any type of pancit, and did so here. For this particular dish, I "broth-sauteed" the whole thing, only using a touch of sesame oil for flavor, and also added sliced daikon and shelled edamame for crunch.
Although I don't think anyone would mistake the spaghetti squash for rice noodles, the flavors were wonderfully reminiscent of traditional pancit. I'm quite satisfied with this as a grain-free alternative to stir-fried noodles. I've already added spaghetti squash to my grocery list, with plans to see what other noodle-like creations I can make with it.


Any ideas or suggestions?

09 March 2012

03.09

A seemingly endless supply of fresh strawberries and tub of nearly-expired, nondairy yogurt were excuse enough to make Strawberry Yogurt Scones. I consulted this recipe, using half the given amount of sugar and adding vanilla extract. I also made several substitutions, primarily based on what was on hand (the corresponding ingredients listed in the recipe are obvious): unsweetened, plain yogurt; lemon zest; a flax "egg"; and coarse, raw sugar for the topping. I allowed the strawberries to macerate with a tiny bit of balsamic vinegar, granulated sugar, and ground black pepper before adding them to batter. (That was a last-minute decision inspired by seeing someone use that combination of flavors for another dessert on some televised cooking program I can't specifically recall at the moment.) I'm honestly not sure whether that touch made much of a difference, although the overall strawberry flavor of the scones seemed prominent enough, even without the use of strawberry-flavored yogurt. Maybe roasting the strawberries in a balsamic glaze and adding more black pepper would yield a more robustly-flavored result.
These scones were just fine, in any case. It was beginning to feel like ages since I've had baked goods in the house.

08 March 2012

03.08

Roasted spaghetti squash tacos with lettuce "shells" were satisfying and easy to make. I rarely use store-bought taco seasoning blends these days, but having an injured, bulkily-bandaged finger gives shortcuts a certain appeal. The squash had been roasted and eviscerated prior to my minor kitchen mishap (the result of which is about as ugly as the word "eviscerated") and I happened to have leftover chopped sweet mini bell pepper, onion, and cilantro on hand. Canned, diced tomatoes were convenient and probably more flavorful than the bland, out-of-season, fresh tomatoes currently available. A squeeze of fresh lime juice jazzed things up a bit. Although corn tortillas are my preferred taco shells, I needed to use up the green leaf lettuce that had been idling away in the refrigerator--an oddity, considering my general disdain for lettuce. But it turns out the leaves aren't half-bad as vessels for a flavorful filling. In fact, the lettuce's cool crispness was a much-needed contrast for the surprisingly spicy taco seasoning.

07 March 2012

03.07

How it took me so long to discover the simple delight that is Puppy Chow, I'll never know. I've made it a few times since first tasting the sweet treat (intended for humans, not dogs). One can find a myriad recipes for it online. Puppy Chow's traditional form--cereal squares coated in melted chocolate and peanut butter, then tossed in powered sugar--is not vegan, but easily made so with substitutions of nondairy butter and chocolate for their respective dairy-based counterparts. One could use gluten-free rice cereal if gluten sensitivity is a concern (not the case for me, but what I chose for this batch anyway). I put a different spin on the snack here by using equal parts crunchy almond butter and bittersweet chocolate, a touch of almond extract in addition to the vanilla, and a dash of instant espresso powder. Restrained munching followed, with some difficulty.

06 March 2012

03.06

I know, it's quite the odd stack of gluten-free, vegan meatballs. The recipe is just one of several I've tested for a forthcoming cookbook review. I intend to post the review soon, so do stay tuned.

05 March 2012

03.05

I recently rediscovered my liking for lapsang souchang, a distinctly smoky tea. The brewed leaves produce a lovely, reddish-brown hue and retain their unique smokiness, both in scent and flavor. I typically just drink it straight, but am curious about how it fares in the culinary realm.

04 March 2012

03.04

Dried strawberry rolls (because "fruit leather" sounds unappetizing) are incredibly easy to make for someone with a certain amount of patience. I periodically make this no-sugar-added version, which calls for three ingredients: fresh strawberries, lemon juice, and water. Simply puree the berries and simmer with a bit of water and lemon juice until the mixture cooks down to a thicker consistency. Pour it into a parchment-lined, rimmed baking sheet (the rim is crucial) in a single layer, no more than approximately 1/4-inch thick. Bake at 200°F for several hours, until the berry mixture has dried and is firm to the touch. Ideally, the majority of the berry mixture becomes a single, flexible sheet, perhaps with a few brittle edges.
I imagine this project operates more efficiently in a toaster oven or dehydrator than it does in a regular oven; in lieu of either and in the interest of conserving energy, I don't make berry rolls very often.

03 March 2012

03.03

Today's lunch was an Asian-inspired bowl of mushrooms, spinach, and long-grain brown rice. Crimini and enoki mushrooms were lightly sauteed with sliced onion, given a splash each of shoyu and mirin, then tossed with sliced scallion. I threw a handful of baby spinach into the pan after removing the mushrooms, so they picked up some of the seasoning as the greens wilted.

02 March 2012

03.02

Just a wee plate of fresh fruit: locally-grown strawberries, Fuji apple slices, and super-sweet pineapple,  . I could snack on this every day, and have indeed been doing so lately.

01 March 2012

03.01

I have decided to try something new for March, taking a sort of food-photo-a-day approach here. This concept isn't remotely novel, but it will help to keep me motivated to continue cooking, if not at least thinking about cooking. With any hope, a recipe or two, testing update, and cookbook review will spruce things up around here soon. A daily dose of food spotlighting (plain as it may be) will be a change of pace, in any case.

Today's image is of lentil chili with corn fusilli. It's vegan (of course), low-fat, and gluten-free. Although not the prettiest bowl of leftover-bits-turned-slop, it was the right combination for satisfying the occasional craving for hearty, smoky, spicy chili.