Sunday, 30 August 2009

Cookbook challenge, week 2, day 1 - Vegan with a Vengeance

It's week 2 of the cookbook challenge. I think I overextended myself last week with 10 recipes, so I'm cutting back this week. At least, I had intended to, but I've already made 2 recipes - Coconut Rice and Jerk Seitan.

I have to say, first off, that I loved both of these, but my husband wasn't a huge fan. He doesn't like lemon, but I didn't think lime, which is in both of these recipes, would be a problem. Turns out I was wrong. He liked it enough, but not enough to want me to make either of them again (unless, I suppose, I omitted the lime).

Anyway, I used the seitan recipe from Veganomicon, which is actually the seitan recipe from Vegan with a Vengeance except simplified. I used less cayenne than the recipe calls for because neither of us likes all that much spice, and I ran out of thyme. I left the shredded coconut out of the rice because I'm not a big fan (like the flavour but not the texture). I also used brown rice instead of jasmine because that's what I had on hand. Although I did 1/2 the recipe, I accidentally used the full recipe amount of water, which turned out to be a good thing because the rice needed to cook longer and needed more liquid.

The major off-putting thing about this recipe is the time involved. If you make your seitan from scratch (which I do because we don't have it available in stores in the UK), you're looking at over 3 hours from starting to eating. Now, most of that is sitting and waiting, either while the seitan cooks or while it marinates. But I would recommend this recipe as more of a 'I have a bunch of seitan - what should I do with it?' kind of thing rather than deciding at 6 PM that you want to make the jerk seitan when you have no seitan on hand. It's a really, really good recipe (unless the other person you're feeding is a citrus-hating freak), but you have to either prepare way in advance or have seitan ready to go in order to not be eating dinner at 10.15 PM.

Friday, 28 August 2009

Cookbook challenge, week 1, day 6 - Veganomicon

Today was day 6 of the Veganomicon cookbook challenge. I had originally intended to make the Almost All-American Seitan Pot Pie, but I got lazy and decided against it. That turned out to be a good thing, because the person who was supposed to come over for dinner forgot about it and ended up doing something else. I did, however, make the Lower-Fat Deep Chocolate Bundt Cake.

It's really nice. The coffee flavour is almost unnoticeable and merely enhances the flavour of the chocolate. It was a bit crumbly, which is really only a negative when you want to just have a quick piece that you can eat with your hands. I think that might be my fault, though, because I had the heat a bit too high without realising it. I also think it would be better with some custard or ice cream, but we didn't have any of either of those to allow me to test my hypothesis.

I'm taking tomorrow off from the challenge since I've already done 10 recipes (out of 3) and we have loads of cake and muffins left. But I'm already looking forward to next week's challenge - Vegan with a Vengeance!

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Cookbook challenge, week 1, day 5 - Veganomicon

I know I said I wasn't gonna make anything for today, but I lied. I was reading through the PPK forum thread about the cookbook challenge, and someone else had posted that they'd made the Lower-Fat Banana Bread because that was all they had ingredients on hand for. Then I realised that I had 2 bananas that were in danger of going off because I never got around to making the smoothies they were intended to go into, so I decided to try something new and make the banana bread.

And when I say 'try something new', I really mean it, because I've never made banana bread before today. I'm not a huge fan of bananas - I only really like them when their taste can be masked by other flavours, which is why these particular bananas were initially smoothie-bound. But I made the Banana Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding ages ago (late winter/early spring, I think), and I liked the way that the bananas combined with the chocolate and carob chips made the whole thing taste a bit like it had alcohol in it.

So, for today, I decided to make the bread as muffins (as suggested in the book) and added about 1/2 c carob chips (I took them out a few at a time because they fused together in my sister's luggage on the plane over here). I used slightly less oil/more applesauce than the recipe says to cut down on the fat as much as possible without leaving it out altogether. Here's the result:

I've had two already (after an hour at the gym and the 25 minute walk home, my small serving of leftover spaghetti and beanballs just didn't cut it). They're not bad - a bit of spice and the (insufficient) carob chips mask the banana flavour pretty well. I probably won't go out of my way to make them again, but if I do, I'll add more carob chips.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Cookbook challenge, week 1, day 4 - Veganomicon

Today I made the Leek and Bean Cassoulet with Biscuits

and the Chewy Chocolate-Raspberry Cookies.

The cassoulet was decent - a bit bland, but probably because I didn't put enough salt and pepper in it, though otherwise nice. I think Mike liked it a lot - he had seconds, and he very rarely does that. But I don't know if I'll make it again just because it takes so much time and effort.

The cookies were really nice. I was hoping for a slightly more pronounced raspberry flavour, but they're still good. Good enough that we've nearly eaten them all already, and I just made them a few hours ago. I used a bit of applesauce to replace some of the oil, which I think made them slightly cakier than they would otherwise have been. They were less dense than I expected, and they spread more than the recipe says they're supposed to (which is not at all). I was hoping to make sammich cookies with them, but they were a bit too cake-y for the purpose. They were actually a bit like individual brownies.

I think I'll take a break from the challenge tomorrow (especially since I've more than covered the suggested 3 recipes), but for Friday, I'll be making the seitan pot pie and the Lower-Fat Chocolate Bundt Cake.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Cookbook challenge, week 1, days 2 & 3 - Veganomicon

Yesterday was day 2 of the Veganomicon cookbook challenge, and I made the Applesauce-Oat Bran Muffins.

They were nice the day of, though I wish I could've had one while they were still warm. My only complaint for the first one was that the cardamom was a bit overwhelming, but I got used to it after a few bite. On day 2, the spices seem to have mellowed, so it's just a nice spicy muffin.

And it's healthy! Loads of applesauce and only 2 tbsp of oil (though the recipe calls for 3), made with wholemeal flour, and only 1/2 c of sugar. This is the kind of thing you make when you want to bake but don't want to feel guilty about eating all of it. I'll definitely make these again, though I might up the cinnamon (just because I love cinnamon) and grate an apple to add to the batter (I didn't have any yesterday).

Tonight's dinner was roasted spaghetti squash from the Farmers' Market with V'con Beanballs and Roasted Garlic Marinara

and new leaf salad with Miso Tahini dressing and wholemeal croutons.

The spaghetti squash was weird. It was really liquidy - I poured off about 3 cups worth of liquid when I took it out of the oven, and then at least another 2-3 once I'd shredded it. It wasn't terrible, but I won't spend £5 for another one. However, the marinara and beanballs were delicious, so much so that I ate my entire plate of food even though the squash was funky. I'll be using the leftovers to stuff pitas (because I have pitas and not sub bread). The beanballs weren't an exact replica of meatballs texture-wise (I think tofu balls do a better job of that), but they were very close in taste. And I think they might even have been a little easier to make than tofu balls, as well as being cheaper (beans are cheaper than tofu) as long as you have vital wheat gluten on hand.

It took a while for the dressing to grow on me. It was very salty. Unfortunately, since there's no actual salt in it (it's just equal parts miso and tahini and warm water to thin it out), there's not much you can do to make it less salty. I added some pepper and garlic powder and used about twice as much water as the recipe called for, but it didn't really help much. It was good, but I don't think I'll make it again because of the saltiness issue.

Tomorrow I'll be making the Leek and Bean Cassoulet with Biscuits, and I'll probably make the cookies again, but with a bit of a change.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Cookbook challenge, week 1, day 1 - Veganomicon

The cookbook challenge is upon us, and I've already gotten 2/3 of the way through the goal of 3 recipes over the course of the week! As I mentioned yesterday, this week's challenge is Veganomicon. In addition to what I've made today, I'm going to attempt the following recipes this week - Roasted Garlic Marinara (p. 205), Beanballs (p. 189), Miso Tahini dressing (pp. 93-94), Almost All-American Seitan Pot Pie (pp. 159-160) and/or Leak and Bean Cassoulet with Biscuits (pp. 172-173), Applesauce-Oat Bran muffins (p. 229), and Lower-Fat Deep Chocolate Bundt Cake (pp. 256-257).

I'm being a bit ambitious since, as a housewife, I have quite a lot of time on my hands. Also, I've never made any of these recipes before, and some of them have ingredients that I'm not sure I even like (i.e., leeks), so I'm kinda stepping out of my comfort zone with this. But then, it wouldn't be much of a challenge if I made stuff I make all the time (hello, chickpea cutlets!).

Like I said, I've made 2 things today - Mac Daddy (pp. 195-196)

and Wheat-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies (p. 237).

I chose these two for basically the same reason - using up ingredients that I otherwise rarely use. I've had a bag of macaroni in my cupboard for at least a year, and I've only used it once or twice. So, even though I only had enough macaroni to make 1/2 recipe of Mac Daddy, at least I finally used up the rest of the package. As for the cookies, I bought a bag of oat flour without really knowing what to do with it, so I checked the index, and this recipe called for oat flour. Sold!

So, tonight's dinner was 'steaks' made from Vegan Dad's Hickory Smoked Veggie Turkey Lunch Meat (grilled on my kickass combo thing that my sister gave me as a wedding present) and Mac Daddy using the chickpea and pea variations:

I've seen a lot of blog posts reviewing Mac Daddy, and the best was that it was just OK. I'm glad that I ignored the nay-sayers and made this, because it was lovely. Admittedly, it lacks...something...but it's so difficult to say exactly what that it seems wrong to say that it's a bad recipe because of this. Compared to the vegan mac 'n' cheese in a box, this is far, far better, and close enough to 'real' mac 'n' cheese that it would satisfy a craving. When (not if) I make this again, I'll probably try the tofu variation, and maybe make a bit more cheezy sauce. It could just be lacking in the fat that would've been present in the tofu. Still, I keep taking bites when I go into the kitchen, so it's definitely a keeper.

Since I used it here, I'll review the Vegan Dad recipe. It's nice, but it's a bit bland. Mike liked it, and it's supposed to be for his lunch, so I guess it doesn't really matter. However, I think all it really needs is to maybe use veg broth in place of some or all of the water. I'll probably make this again (since it makes an assload of fake meat), so I'll try that and see how it goes.

The cookies - oh my. Let me just point out, these are gluten-free vegan chocolate chip cookies, and they are absolutely delicious. Also, the recipe states that it makes 18 cookies, but I got at least 5 more than that. Anyway, I think Mike and I have eaten at least half of them already. The dough seems a bit loose in the bowl, but they spread nicely and come out pretty uniform. If you take them out just at 10 minutes (or maybe 30 seconds earlier), they're nice and soft. I've been looking for a cookie that comes out relatively uniform, flat, and soft to make sammich cookies. Henceforth, this will be my go-to recipe for sammich cookies. They're nearly perfect. My only complaint is that they have kinda a lot of fat, so I might sub out some of the fat for applesauce next time I make them. I've heard cookies turn out more cake-y with applesauce, which might actually be good for my purposes.

Since we'll likely finish off most of the cookies quickly (Mike just asked for more again), I'll probably have another cookbook challenge post tomorrow.

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Cookbook challenge is almost here!

So, the PPK cookbook challenge starts tomorrow (well, technically Monday, but I'm starting tomorrow). The point of the cookbook challenge is to get us to use our vast array of cookbooks in a structured way, so that we can share experiences and favourites and try new things that we might not have. We're meant to make at least three recipes from the book chosen for that week and post in the forum about how we got on. The first book is Veganomicon by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero. I'm super excited. I already have my recipes picked out, including at least one dessert (so I can make use of my oat flour), and I'll be posting as I go along. Hopefully this will be good practice for VeganMoFo.

I went back to the Edinburgh Farmers' Market today for the first time in at least a month. I'd been missing Swiss chard and was hoping to find some good stuff to use for the challenge. To be honest, I stopped going because basically one side of the market is almost entirely comprised of meat producers, with some of them offering cooked meat products at the stalls, and frankly, it makes me a little nauseous. It would make my life a lot easier if the meat producers were all on one side and the non-meat people (even the cheese toasty people) were on the other. Oh well. I'm hoping that today's score is indicative of increasing variety, which would at least temporarily alleviate my other problem - they had the same stuff every week. But this week, I got my standard greens (chard and spinach, though I could've gotten kale as well), but I also got two lovely squashes. One was a 2Kg spaghetti squash, the first time I've seen one since I moved to the UK. The other was this lovely squash that they couldn't identify, but PPKers identified as a kabocha:

I've been told that it's best when it's left to its own devices for a few weeks, otherwise it pretty much tastes like courgette. So, I'll be saving that beauty for a later challenge. Anyway, the chard went into a delicious Swiss Chard Frittata (recipe in Vegan Brunch), and I'll figure out what to do with the spinach later.

I also managed to find a use for the carob chips my sister brought from the US (she was supposed to bring chocolate chips), and here are the results:

The Best Pumpkin Muffins from Vegan with a Vengeance. Not the best picture, I must admit, but they were tasty as hell. I almost always make modifications to the recipe when I make them, but they are by far the best muffins I have ever eaten in my life, regardless of how I change them up. This batch had about 1/2 c of carob chips, used only 3/4 c of sugar, subbed half the oil with applesauce, and subbed the flour as follows - 3/4 c plain flour, 1/2 c wholemeal pastry flour, 1/2 c spelt flour (also, the recipe in the book, which is what I use, doesn't have soy yogurt). The sweetness of the carob balances out the 'healthy' taste of the flours, even with 1/2 cup less sugar than the original recipe. These also do really well with chocolate chips, and I would imagine they would taste alright with some kind of berry, if you go in for that sort of thing.

Anyway, hopefully I'll be able to post my first cookbook challenge experiences tomorrow. Yay! Also, I just realised that it kinda looks like I'm whoring for Isa since I've posted all but one of her (and Terry's) books. I'm really not - I just love the books, and they happen to be the ones I use most. Part of why I'm taking part in the cookbook challenge.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Flourbin delivery!

I finally got my delivery from Flourbin today. It's totally not their fault - they tried to deliver last week, but I guess I was out, and you have to sign for it, so it didn't get delivered. Anyway, here's my haul:

The only thing not labeled is the cinnamon sticks. To be honest, I thought I would get a few small ones rather than 2 really big ones, but I guess I can chop them in half. I should also mention that the Milky Way Cake Bars in the background aren't for me. I bought them for my sister because we couldn't find them while she was here, and I'm saving those to send to her when it cools down (she's in TX, they're coated with chocolate, so you can see the problem). However, once I get a real fridge (not the pee-wee fridge that we currently have), I'll figure out a way to make vegan versions of them myself.

Anyway, the reason I'm excited about this is because I have vital wheat gluten again! Yay! I've been seitan-less for almost 2 weeks, and I have not been happy about it. It's funny how quickly you can begin to rely on a type of food - I only started using vwg at the end of June/beginning of July (when my sister and my best friend brought a pound each from the US). So yeah, I went through 2 pounds of vwg in a little over a month, I think. And I didn't cook for almost a week when I went on my honeymoon.

So, tomorrow's dinner is curry, but I'm probably gonna make something with seitan the next night. I'm thinking Veganomicon chickpea cutlets, some sort of vegan mac 'n' cheese (either V'con or Vegan Vittles/Ultimate Uncheese), and some kind of veg (apart from the peas I'll probably put in the mac 'n' cheese). And it'll be game night, so hopefully people will turn up to eat this stuff.

Monday, 17 August 2009

Firsties, and what it's all about

This is my first post, obviously, so I thought I'd let you know what this blog will cover. To be honest, I started it because I wanted to participate in VeganMoFo, but it'll cover more than just that, since that'll just be the month of October.

I guess it's first and foremost about food, specifically vegan food, because I'm vegan, and I love food. In fact, I don't know any vegans who don't love food (despite what the haters might think). So it'll also be about veganism and being vegan in Edinburgh - where to eat, where to shop, etc. - and regular food stuff - fun kitchen toys, interesting ingredients, things like that.

There are a few things I feel are related to veganism, or at least my reasons for being vegan - animal rights, environmental and sustainability issues, human rights, and health. I'll probably touch on those things in one way or another. And I may or may not talk about things that are completely unrelated, like film and music, or the newest crappy sci-fi flick (my husband likes to drag me to those). Then again, I saw a vegan message in Transformers, so it might tie in.

Anyway, I hope anyone who stumbles upon my blog likes it.