Tuesday, 30 November 2010

MoFo Survey II

As I mentioned yesterday, the survey that Mo did was slightly different than the one I filled out yesterday. And since I like to talk about myself, I'll crap out on my last MoFo 2010 post and fill out the one Mo has on her blog. I've removed a few questions that are repeats from yesterday.


What is one food you thought you’d miss when you went vegan, but don’t?
I'm gonna be a stereotype and say cheese, since I thought I'd miss brie a lot. I do a bit, but I'mma try this macadamia brie and see if it hits the spot.

What is a food or dish you wouldn’t touch as a child, but enjoy now?
Vegetables of most stripes - like I said yesterday, I almost never ate veg as a child (except, bizarrely, spinach for a while).

What beverage do you consume the most of on any given day?
I'd have to say tea on most days, especially now that it's cold. We consume a lot of tea in my office. I've been bad and have started drinking tea with milk and sugar again. I need to not buy anymore soymilk for the office so I only drink my unsweetened tea.

What dish are you “famous” for making or bringing to gatherings?
It used to be chocolate chip scones (veganized Food Network recipe) or chocolate chip cookie bars (from, I think, How It All Vegan). Now it's just cup/cakes in general, I think.

Do you have any self-imposed food rules (like no food touching on the plate or no nuts in sweets)?
I'm a freak about my food. I usually eat a bit of everything in every bite, unless I really want to savour a specific dish. I also start chewing on the left and always finish on the right - it's all about the symmetry (and, even before I studied it, the archaic cosmology of the inherent badness of the left and goodness of the right, which is why the "better" bites go to the right side). I also typically don't like sweet things in savoury dishes (like fruit in curry) or whole / dried fruit in desserts. I'm sure there are more - I could probably write an essay about my food habits. Ooh, that's a topic ripe for ethnological investigation!

What’s one food or dish you tend to eat too much of when you have it in your home?
Oreos. We can have loads of other sweets in the house for ages, but we really have to struggle to make a packet of Oreos (or similar) last more than a day. I have to ration them or they'd be gone in within 30 minutes. I'm sure if we had ready access to them, we wouldn't think twice about inhaling the package.

What ingredient or food do you prefer to make yourself despite it being widely available prepackaged?
Probably seitan. It's not as widely available here as it is in the US, but there's enough that I could just buy it most times that I need it. But it's so expensive, so why bother? On the flip side - something that's super easy to make at home but I always buy - hummus. We just don't like homemade hummus as much as store bought.

What ingredient or food is worth spending the extra money to get “the good stuff”?
Nooch - the stuff with B12 is 40-50p more expensive than the stuff without, but I'll pay it. Also, Plamil chocolate spread - it's £2.25 for, I think, 200g, whereas Whole Earth (I think that's the brand) is nearly a pound cheaper. But even though Plamil isn't consistent, it's still pretty much always better than any other brand.

Are you much of a snacker? What are your favorite snacks?
Not exactly. I have to really think about snacking, and I try to only eat when I'm hungry. I usually snack on noochy toast or bread with chocolate spread, or if I'm being really good, organic Pink Lady apples with smooth white almond butter. I'm usually not good.

What are your favorite vegan pizza toppings?
Chick'n or fauxsage and cheeze. More importantly, my favourite pizza dough is the Chicago-style deep dish in American Vegan Kitchen by Tamasin Noyes - if you liked Pizza Hut pan pizza pregan, this will be your pizza dough. It's the closest you'll ever get to that.

What is your favorite vegetable? Fruit?
Favourite veg is probably chard. Fruit - definitely organic Pink Lady apples.

What is the best salad dressing?
Goddess dressing - Annie's from a bottle, or Susan V's low-fat recipe if I have to make it myself.

What is your favorite thing to put on toasted bread?
Fluffy bread - margarine and nooch; dense bread - chocolate spread and raspberry jam.

What kind of soup do you most often turn to on a chilly day or when you aren’t feeling your best?
French lentil soup with tarragon and thyme from V'con - it's so easy for something so full of flavour

What is your favorite cupcake flavor? Frosting flavor?
I love me some cupcakes. I might have to go with the mint chocolate cupcakes from VCTOTW.

What is your favorite kind of cookie?
Snickerdoodle (no particular recipe) or the veganised version of Top Secret Recipes Keebler Soft Batch chocolate chip cookies

What is your most-loved “weeknight meal”?
Tofu scramble or pasta with tamari, oil, lemon, and nooch.

What is one dish or food you enjoy, but can’t get anyone else in your household to eat?
Shrooms. Mike's a hater. I had to eat an entire 250g package of them by myself tonight because I knew he wouldn't eat them, and if I tried to save them for another night, they would've sat in the fridge until I forgot about them and went off.

How long, in total, do you spend in the kitchen on an average day?
Minimum (including breakfast- and dinner-making time) is probably an hour, but up to 3 hours, maybe, depending on what I make. I think it averages out to about an hour and a half.

I was gonna do a post about tonight's dinner, but it's after midnight and I'm exhausted, so I'll try to not suck at blogging and actually continue to post now that MoFo is over (*sadface*).

Monday, 29 November 2010

Vegan MoFo Survey 2010

I kinda forgot about this, and now I look at it and it's 10 pages long! OK, not really.

The weather right now is horrendous. I've heard lots of people say they've never seen it this bad (though I thought last winter was about the same, but, to be fair, that happened in December, not November). Anyway, I had to drop my boss's dinner jacket at the hire place (he couldn't get there safely, and I live nearby). I thought I'd get a taxi, but it turned out that I would've had to have booked it about 3 hours in advance, so I ended up walking. Then I got the bus to Real Foods and did a bit of grocery shopping. I then walked home when it was hailing. The point of this story is that I got home cold and tired and ended up making pasta for dinner (and enough for both of our lunches tomorrow). Therefore, I have no pictures and nothing particularly interesting to talk about, so I decided to do the epic survey. So here we go:


1) What's your favorite spice or spice blend?
Hands down, without a doubt, cinnamon for sweet and cumin for savoury.

2) You have £20 to spend on fresh groceries and produce for the whole week (with a fairly well stocked pantry of dry goods, legumes, grains, and spices). What do you buy?
Broccoli, cauliflower, organic Pink Lady apples, chard, kale, tofu, green beans, onions, garlic, carrots, potatoes, orange juice

3) What's your favorite way to make tofu?
I think I have to go with scramble. Nine times out of 10, my tofu will end up as a scramble. I love it.

4) Vegan guilty pleasure?
Co-op donuts, Plamil chocolate spread

5) If you could make anyone vegan, who would it be?
My best friend Eva, just because it would be awesome.

6) If you could only read one other vegan blog, what would it be?
Mo Betta Vegan, without a doubt.

7) Were you always interested in cooking, or did veganism change the way you saw and interacted with food?
I'm a Southern woman, and so was my grandmother (as I've mentioned), so I grew up cooking. My mom was never much of a cook - she dumped things out of a can or a box and heated them up - apart from her famous lasagna, and my dad didn't cook anything but chili (until recently). So I learned from my grandma (dad's mom) from a very early age. My mom started working nights when I was about 10, and that's when I started cooking for my family. But I really cooked the way my mom did unless I was baking. That's when I made things from scratch with recipes. I mastered my grandmother's fudge and cherry pie pregan.
But veganism has changed the way I interact with food, in that I now actually cook fresh veg and can't even think of an animal carcass as something I'd want to put in my mouth. I think it's made me a better cook.

8) Excluding analogues, what new things have you tried that you probably wouldn't have as an omni?
Fruits and vegetables. Seriously - I almost never ate fruit and veg as an omni, and now I feel weird not eating something green with every meal. I even drink green smoothies (when commercially available - my immersion blender isn't up to that task).

9) What is the one vegan staple that everyone seems to love, but you can't get behind?
The only things that come to mind are things like quinoa, cashews, dates, etc., not because I don't like them, but because I'm sensitive to severely allergic to all of them. My cheese analogue recipe selection is severely limited, lemme tell ya.

10) What was your first "wow, I'm such a stereotypical vegan" moment?
Not my first (I can't remember that), but I definitely had one two weeks ago when I busted out my stash of nooch at work in an emergency "what will I eat for lunch" moment.

11) First recipe you veganized?
Chocolate chip scones. I think it was originally a Tyler Florence / Food Network recipe. They were the thing I was known for in my circle (and I still have a friend who'll message me to say she misses my scones!). When I first went vegan, people fretted over never getting another one of my scones, so I had to veganize them straight away to prove that I (and they) wouldn't be deprived.

12) What would you like to veganize, but haven't yet?
My grandmother's fudge. Now that we have access to vegan marshmallows and condensed milk, fantasy is starting to look like reality.

13) Favorite kitchen utensil/appliance?
Cast iron pans, immersion blender, and chef's knife

14) Most disastrous kitchen failure?
I'll be honest, I don't have a lot of kitchen failures. There aren't a lot of flaming pans and "ohgodI'mgonnadie!" moments in my kitchen. I think the worst thing that tends to happen is that my muffins come out gummy. I could be repressing some memories, though.

15) First vegan cookbook?
I think the first one I owned (rather than borrowed) was, funnily enough, a book by a UK author from which I never cooked because it was before I lived in the UK, knew from cooking with weight rather than volume, or ate vegetables. It was Easy Vegan Cooking by Leah Leneman, who I later discovered was a lecturer at my uni (I think in sociology or history - I think her academic work had something to do with women's studies) in addition to being a vegan cookbook author. The first vegan cookbook I owned and actually cooked from was probably Vegan with a Vengeance by Isa Chandra Moskowitz.

16) What question about being vegan do you HATE answering?
Pretty much anything from Defensive Omnivore Bingo:

I just have to mention this, because it's hilarious. When I told my sister that I made gravy for Thanksgiving, she asked me what I substituted for the fat. I was like, um...fat. She thought gravy only worked with animal fat. At least now she knows - fat from oil works the same way.

17) If you could tell the world one thing about vegans, what would it be?
Vegan =/= healthy - just because my cupcakes are vegan doesn't mean you can eat four. They do still contain fat and sugar.

18) Funniest vegetable?
The peen carrot:

19) What is a family recipe you have veganized?
I don't know that I have. I want to veganize some of my grandmother's recipes, but I don't have copies of them yet.

20) Weirdest food combination?
chocolate and Marmite - It was the best truffle I've ever eaten in my life.

21) Is there something you wish you could veganize, but can't/couldn't?
As mentioned above, up until recently, I really wanted to veganize my grandmother's fudge recipe, but it's made with marshmallows. Now we have the technology, it might be possible.

22) Favorite ways to prepare tofu, seitan, tempeh, any other vegan proteins?
I don't do it often, but just about anything beer battered is freaking awesome.

23) Are your pets vegan? if so, what do you feed them?
My cat lives with my parents and isn't vegan. Mike and I have decided that, if we get a pet in future, we'll be getting a herbivore.

24) Favorite non-dairy milk?
Alpro Soya unsweetened with vitamins, or Kara coconut milk / Alpro Soya vanilla for coffee and tea

25) What’s one “vegan myth” you’d like to squash?
Vegans are a bunch of skinny, malnourished, smelly, dirty hippies. Have you seen the number of vegan cookbooks devoted to baked goods?! And the most readily available vegan products tend to be junk food (it's easier to find vegan junk food than pre-made vegan meals or even meat analogues). There's a reason why Isa's just released Appetite for Reduction - a diet-friendly vegan cookbook. There's just far too much delicious vegan food to be had (which is another myth I'd like debunked - vegan food is bland and unappealing). And even the vegans who don't shower daily tend to take pretty good care of their hygiene. Honestly, as many vegan celebrities as there are, you'd think people would realise that the stereotype no longer has a basis in reality.

So, that's that. It took longer than cooking and photographing a decent meal. Oh well. I really liked the survey Mo did, so I might double post tomorrow and do that one, along with something of actual interest (like food, with pictures).

Also, I've just ordered Appetite for Reduction and The Vegan Cookie Connoisseur by Kelly Peloza as part of my plan to buy things for myself from the US and have my sister send them to me as my Xmas present (i.e., my present from her is that she's sending me my stuff). I'm super excited to get them both. Hopefully the one will balance out the other. Heh.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Tamales! Tamales!

I finally ate a tamale!

My best friend was visiting from Newcastle this week. We decided to make tamales. The plan was to make them Friday since we knew we'd have the most time that day. Also, since I don't have a freezer, I wanted to make them as close to the time Eva was leaving as possible since she'd be taking some of them home. As it turned out, we didn't need to worry about freezing them.

We made the Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tamales in Viva Vegan! They were delicious. They were so delicious that, despite the fact that Mike only ate one, between the two of us, Eva and I managed to eat all of them by this afternoon. They wouldn't have lasted that long if I'd been home on Saturday to eat them!

That was our meal Friday night - tamales, leftover green bean casserole (from our T'giving meal), and leftover Yellow Rice with Garlic. The beans were perfectly seasoned, a bit spicy, and the sweet potatoes were almost creamy. I could eat these daily. I've told Eva that the next time we make tamales, we're making at least twice as many as this time. I think I need to make them with seitan next time.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Vegan MoFo - Mix v. Scratch: Battle Lemon Drizzle

I know I said I was gonna blog about tamales, and I will. But here's the thing - I was too full of tamales and busy trying to catch up on "Glee" while my best friend was here and didn't have time to blog yesterday, and today I've been up since 4.45 AM for a work thing (for which I didn't get home until 7 PM). I'm super exhausted and can't be bothered sorting through my pictures (I took about 100 for the work thing), so I'll talk about tamales tomorrow and instead talk about the final Mix v. Scratch Battle.

Battle Lemon Drizzle

Let me first say that I've never strictly had a lemon drizzle cake before Monday. I'd never heard of the lemon drizzle cake as such until I moved to Edinburgh, by which time I was already vegan. For some reason it seems to be more than just a lemon cake with icing, though I'm not sure why. But, meh. I should also mention that I didn't bother to make sure I had margarine before I started, and it turned out I needed it. So I ended up not making the filling and only making icing, but it worked out fine.

How I made it vegan: The mix I used was just the Sainsbury's own-brand stuff. I had some soy yogurt left over from my baking spree the week before, so I subbed 1/2 c soy yogurt for the 2 eggs called for in the recipe. The only other thing it would've needed was margarine subbing for the butter for the filling (which I didn't make).

Time: This was another one of those "beat for some ridiculous amount of time" mixes. I was terrified that I was gonna overstimulate the gluten (or whatever happens when you mix too much), but it worked out. Aside from that, it didn't take that long.

Initial results: I thought the cakes were awfully thin, but at least they cooked quickly. I thought it tasted alright, but it was a little more moist than I would've liked.

For the scratch, I made the lemony version of the golden cupcake recipe (oil rather than margarine) in VCTOTW.

Time: I've made this recipe a billion times, so it was pretty damn easy (even with doing a different version). This is the first recipe in the book, super basic but wicked versatile, and incredibly easy to make. It really didn't take much longer than the mix.

Initial results: This was a denser, less moist cake, and it tasted less like chemicals. I thought my icing was better than the packaged icing. I preferred this one.

Verdict: Unfortunately, I seemed to be the only one who preferred the scratch cake. Everyone else basically said it should've been a combination of the two - the moistness of the mix with the fluffiness and icing of the scratch.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Happy Thanksgiving, MoFo's!

First of all, I suck. I didn't post for two days. In my defense, I was prepping the house for a guest and then didn't have time to post either that day or the next. But I figured I should put in the effort tonight, and I might do two posts tomorrow.

Anyway, I'll make this short since it's already late here. My best good friend is visiting from Newcastle. Since we're both American, we decided to do Thanksgiving dinner. The original menu was gonna be Tourkey Cutlets with Sage Gravy and Green Bean Casserole, all from Quick and Easy Vegan Celebrations, a tester recipe for cranberry sauce, roasted potatoes, roasted cauliflower, and Impossible Pumpkin Pie from Fat Free Vegan Kitchen. But here's what happened:

We went shopping around 11.30 or 12. We went to The Chocolate Tree and had hot chocolate, truffles, and cake (well, I had torte). Then we hit Lupe Pintos, then a couple of other places before we finally made it to the store to get the stuff we needed for tonight's dinner. We got more junk food to eat while we watched TV, but what we didn't get was the cranberries for the sauce, so that was out. We came back and made the pie, intending to make the junk food immediately after that. I had already started making the pie when I read further down the recipe and realised it takes an hour to bake. Oops. So we ended up eating the junk food so close to when we were gonna have dinner that we decided not to make the potatoes or cauliflower. We did make the cutlets, gravy, and casserole. Here's our Thanksgiving meal in all its glory:

And here's the delicious, amazing pie:

It was a good-ass meal. Everyone loved the cutlets, including Eva, who's omni. The gravy was really nice, just the right amount of sage. I tested the green bean casserole before the book came out, and I've loved it ever since. It was the first green bean casserole I've ever liked, and I'd make it more often if Mike would actually eat it. And the pie was, as always, fantastic. Eva's already said that there won't be any pie left by the end of the day tomorrow.

Speaking of tomorrow, we're making tamales! Wish us luck!

So, how was your Thanksgiving? Did you make anything new to you?

Monday, 22 November 2010

My first stuffed peppers - Latin style.

I can't remember if I mentioned this, and I can't be bothered to look it up. Every time there's a thread on the PPK along the lines of "What will I be served at this omni event?", someone always suggests stuffed peppers. It seems to be a thing for some people that they're always served stuffed peppers. Well, I have never been served a stuffed pepper. Even when I was omni, I never ate a stuffed pepper, not even chiles rellenos.

Truth be told, I didn't like bell peppers for a long damn time, so it's kinda understandable. But I've liked bell peppers long enough, and have been vegan long enough, to have been served this supposedly omnipresent omni stand-by. But no, no omni (or vegetarian, or vegan, for that matter) has ever offered me a stuffed pepper.

Curiosity got the better of me, and I decided to take matters into my own hands. But having never been served a stuffed pepper, I didn't know what I should stuff in my peppers. So I asked the PPK. I ended up not using any of their suggestions, mostly because they were suggesting quinoa (I have a sensitivity) and Daiya (not available in the UK). But they did give me ideas.

There were two things that I felt my stuffed peppers needed. First, I had a block of tempeh that I bought on a whim and then didn't know what to do with, so I wanted to use that. Second, I knew I wanted to use brown rice as a grain. For some reason, I decided that I would use recipes from Viva Vegan!. This is what I came up with:

Latin Stuffed Peppers


one recipe Yellow Rice with Garlic made with brown rice
one recipe Tempeh Asado (see below)
one recipe Simple Latin Tomato Sauce
4 bell peppers (green or red, however you roll), cleaned, halved, and de-seeded
mozzarella-style cheeze


The best way to do this is to make the tempeh ahead of time so it can marinate for a while. I suggest making it the night before (which I didn't do), though you can probably make it no less than 30 minutes before assembly. Follow the recipe for Tempeh Asado, with the exception that you chop your tempeh roughly into crumbles to put in the marinade, then let sit for 30 minutes or more.

For the rice, you could also make that the night before. You can do brown or white rice - use about 2 1/3 c water if you do brown (rather than the 1 2/3 c called for in the recipe).

Make the tomato sauce while your oven pre-heats to 375F / 190C, after the rice is relatively cool (if you made it the same night). While the sauce simmers, you can clean et al your peppers and make the stuffing. Combine the tempeh with about 2 cups of rice (I just eyeballed it, but I didn't use all the rice I made), then add in about a cup of shredded mozzarella (or whatever cheeze you prefer). At this point, you should also line a lasagna pan with foil.

When your sauce is done, coat the bottom of your pan with a thin layer of sauce. Put the peppers cut side up in the sauce. Scoop about 1/4 c (more or less, depending on the size of your pepper) into each halved pepper. Spoon the rest of the sauce over the stuffed peppers. Bake uncovered for 15-20 minutes, until the peppers are relatively soft. Sprinkle additional cheeze over the peppers and bake for another 5 minutes or until melty.

You might want to serve these with something green like the Swiss Chard with Capers or the Brazilian Shredded Kale, but you've basically got everything you need - veg, protein, whole grains, and deliciousness (that's a vital nutrient, right?).

In case you couldn't guess, I loved my first stuffed pepper. I don't know how often I'll make them, though, because Mike didn't. Oh well, I can always invite friends over.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Vegan MoFo - Mix v. Scratch: Battle GF Chocolate Chip Cookies

It's time once again for a Mix v. Scratch battle. And yet again, I have no pictures. I did this earlier in the week, and I forgot to take pictures. Sorry.

I should say from the start that gluten-free baking, for those who are unaware, can be temperamental. Also, it's one of the few times when tasting the batter or dough doesn't necessarily give you an idea of how the finished product will taste. So I kinda feel like you have a higher risk of failure, since it's harder to correct before you bake. You pretty much have to take it all the way to the end before you know whether or not you've done it right.

Battle Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

The mix was from The Gluten Free Pantry:

How I made it vegan: I used Ener-G egg replacer for the egg and Pure sunflower margarine for the butter. I felt OK using the egg replacer this time because it only calls for one.

Time: Apart from having to stand there mixing for 3 minutes (and, of course, scooping out the cookies), this mix was pretty damn quick. It also didn't make very many servings, so I only had to bake two batches.

Initial results: The chips were a bit small, and they were thinner than I like. They were also quite sticky - they didn't even want to come off the parchment paper.

My taste test: These were actually quite nice. They had a good flavour and, despite being thin, were still pretty soft.

I made the basic chocolate chip cookie from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar, subbing Dove's Farm GF plain flour for the a-p flour. I could've sworn I'd made them GF successfully before, so I thought I was safe.

Time: It seems like chocolate chip cookies from scratch always take about 3 times longer to make than you feel they should. These took quite a while - first you have to cream the margarine and sugars together, and then you have to actually do all the scooping and baking of the cookies themselves. And since the recipe made about twice as much as the mix, the baking itself took a lot longer.

Initial results: Like I said, I thought I'd made these GF before, but I must have been wrong. The first batch was so oily - they spread really thin in the oven, and the rest of the dough was literally floating in oil. I ended up adding more flour to absorb the oil, which actually made it a little worse. I should've just left them alone and mixed the oil back in for each new batch.

My taste test: Despite that seeming failure, they were still quite good. I think I preferred the second batch - they weren't as oily and didn't flatten out, but they were less dry than the rest. Because they didn't flatten, they were a little doughy on the inside, which I actually really like.

The Verdict: I hate to say it, but most people preferred the mix. One other person (besides me) preferred the scratch ones, mostly because they had more and bigger chocolate chips. But everyone else thought the mix ones were better.

The best part, though, was when I asked if anyone could tell they were gluten-free, and everyone was in complete shock and said they never would've known the difference (for either cookie). That made me pretty happy - I can't hide the fact that my stuff is vegan since everyone knows I'm vegan, but I like to be able to surprise people with just what can be done when you have a restricted diet. So even though my scratch cookies didn't win, I was happy with the overall result.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Busy day of veganness

This will once again be short because I'm exhausted again, and I also forgot to take pictures (forgot my camera, then when Mike brought it to me, I forgot I had it!).

I had such a crazy busy day! I started out at the coffee morning. I was supposed to be on the tea/coffee stall, but since I was setting up the bake stall, I ended up staying there (which was fine by me). We sold quite a lot, and the people who bought my stuff in the 1.5 hours I was there seemed to really like it.

Then I met Mike at the Edinburgh Voice for Animals' Compassionate Living Fayre. It was quite a small venue, so it didn't take long to get around. But we managed to buy some mint chocolate truffles, several cupcakes and pieces of cake, and a Twilight bar. We had a few free things as well. And it was packed! I was so happy. We actually spoke to other vegans. It was really nice. And for anyone in the Dundee area, there's a couple who do vegan baking and are looking for a place to sell it. I'll update with the name when I can be bothered to get the card out of my wallet. One of the stalls had gingerbread cupcakes which I suspect were from VCTOTW, since they tasted like the ones described in there. They were gorgeous! Now I want to make that recipe (except put more frosting on mine). We also had some delicious mocha cupcakes and mint chocolate cupcakes (mine, i.e. the ones from VCTOTW, are better). The cake slice was a lush chocolate sponge with coffee buttercream filling - I definitely need to make something like that!

After that I went to a roller derby bout to shill more cakes. It was madness! There were so many people there that they were lined up out the door and around the corner (in the rain). And because everyone waited so long to get in, they bought up tons of baking, so we sold more than half of what we had before the bout even started. Before the end of halftime, we'd sold out, so we got to count up and watch the rest of the bout! The best part was that, at this one, there were loads of people who specifically asked for vegan stuff!

Apart from one weak thing that happened at the coffee morning, it was a good day for vegan food!

Friday, 19 November 2010

Bakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo

Yes, I used that title yesterday just so I could use this title today.

I'm exhausted. After a full day at work, I came home to bake. As I mentioned yesterday, I have 2 bake sales tomorrow, so I started yesterday and finished today. I still have to frost a cake, but I'm done baking. I think I finally turned off the oven some time just before 10 PM (and turned it on around 5.45).

Tonight I made two batches of GF pumpkin muffins from VwaV, one with and one without chocolate chips, chocolate raspberry cake (which was a double batch of Basic Chocolate Cupcakes from VCTOTW which will eventually be covered with Raspberry Buttercream from the same), and a double batch of the French Toast Muffins from 100 Best Vegan Baking Recipes (which ended up giving me nearly 3 dozen).

The pumpkin muffins came out great as per usual, and I haven't had any problems with the cake yet. But the French Toast muffins were a massive fail. I don't know if it was my fault or the recipe's fault, but this was just terrible. I mean, they tasted OK, but not nearly as maple-y as I had hoped. The big problem was with the texture - they were underdone and gummy. Like I said, it could've been (and probably was) my fault, and I might try these again. But it was super disappointing when I spent so much damn time making them.

I haven't taken any pictures of the stuff I made tonight because I was just trying to clear it away and get other stuff done. But I'll take my camera with me tomorrow and get a few snaps. And they might not suck because it'll be in the daytime!

One other thing - I made the Garlic Green Beans from Quick & Easy Vegan Celebrations. They were fantastic, and best of all, they were in my mouth within 10 minutes of starting. I had the idea to make them, pulled out the recipe, prepped and cooked everything in less time than it took to bake a batch of fail muffins. And they were lovely. Next time you need a quick side and have green beans on hand, make these!

Thursday, 18 November 2010


First of all, I can't believe I forgot to blog yesterday. I didn't even think about it until I was in bed and the computer was off. I wasn't about to get back up and switch my computer back on just to talk about having oatmeal for dinner (and not even give you a picture of it), so I just went to sleep. That means I've broken my awesome MoFo streak of blogging every day. Oh well.

Anyway, as I mentioned earlier this month, I have things to bake for. They both happen to be this Saturday. I don't know how I managed to do this, but I've baked for two bake sales in one day before (during the Worldwide Vegan Bakesale for Haiti, I held 3 sales in one week, two on the same day in different places) so it shouldn't be a problem.

I have a bake sale for a work event (coffee morning) and one at the roller derby bout. Since there are people at work who are baking but not going to the coffee morning and therefore bringing stuff in to the office tomorrow, I worked out to bring stuff in as well so I could get a head start. Tonight, I managed to make the Coffee Chip Muffins from Vegan Brunch:

and these low-fat Snickerdoodle Blondies, combining my favourite bar with my favourite cookie:

I love making the Coffee Chip Muffins because they're just so super easy. It probably takes less time to mix them than for the oven to pre-heat. I find the coffee flavour a bit lacking, so I always use instant espresso instead of regular instant coffee. I have some coffee extract, so maybe next time I make them I'll throw that in as well.

The Snickerdoodle Blondies were amazing. The only thing I might change is to make them like regular blondies (with chocolate chips - it's really the only way) in addition to the cinnamon-sugar topping. In fact, I might make another batch tomorrow and do just that.

The plan for tomorrow night (since that's all the time I have left) is to make some gluten-free The Best Pumpkin Muffins Ever from VwaV (double batch so I can cover both events), French Toast Muffins from The 100 Best Vegan Baking Recipes (since I was sent maple extract in my PPKare package last month), and possibly the Green Tea Cupcakes from VCTOTW. Oh yeah, I also have to make the chocolate raspberry cake - I almost forgot about that. I'll upset at least two people if I don't make it since it was specifically requested.

So I'll be busy tomorrow night. I probably should've made at least one more thing tonight, but I'm dangerously low on cinnamon and don't have all the ingredients for the other stuff I'm making. But I'll get it done.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Trying more new things

We're on the last half of Vegan MoFo 2010! I can't believe it's already the middle of November. I already have a sense of failure for not getting to things I wanted to do. At least this year I have the excuse of being in work.

The Chickpea Cutlets from Veganomicon have been getting a lot of MoFo action this year. First, Isa gave us the double recipe, so we not only no longer have to do the math to double it, but we can also just chuck in the entire can of chickpeas. Then Katie at Don't Eat Off The Sidewalk decided to stuff her cutlets. Then I saw a link to Vegetalion's Vegan Cordon Bleu, though I can't remember where. This was actually before the other two by about a month, but it's the first time I've seen it.

So, with all this cutlet love all over the internets again, I decided to make some again. I haven't made any in ages, and the last time I did, I used my hummus method. I was shopping at Real Foods after work today and decided to buy some chickpeas and "cheatin' rashers" and try out the cordon bleu. I already had the other ingredients at home.

I figured this would be a pretty easy recipe to make, seeing as how chickpea cutlets are pretty easy to make. I was so wrong! I ended up having to basically use Katie's method of stacking one on top of the other, but since I didn't use her replacing some of the gluten with regular flour method, I didn't make them thin enough (which is also why I had to resort to that method in the first place). They also didn't stick together all that well, so the cheese oozed out a bit.

I served these with another first, roasted broccoli. I burned about 1/4 of the florets, so my dinner was laced with failure. The rice was just the stuff in the microwave packet, but I threw in a bit of soy sauce and nooch, so that was about the only thing that I didn't screw up. Mike said it was lovely, but he left most of his cutlet.

Mike says: It was an awesome meal cooked by my wonderful wife. xx

Aww. (He really did type that.)

I'm hoping to make the Seitan Parmesan from Vegan Celebrations tomorrow. I'll need to have another look at the recipe to be sure I have everything. Hopefully it'll be better than tonight's dinner.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Pumpkin cinnamon rolls - like a dream come true

As I mentioned in Saturday's post, I've been wanting to make the pumpkin cinnamon rolls from Don't Eat Off the Sidewalk for over a year. I think the only thing keeping me from doing so was the amount of time and space it takes to make a roll-out yeast-raised bread-type product. It's a bit daunting. But other PPKers have talked about how great they are, and the PPK is always right.

Another factor spurred my decision to make these. I have a tendency to bookmark recipes online and then never look at them again. I really want to break that habit, though one of the reasons I do it for things like this is that, for instance, I'll see a pumpkin recipe in the middle of summer, when there's no pumpkin to be had. I realised the other day that I actually have so many pumpkin recipes bookmarked that it justified an entire folder for them.

So I was determined to make these, and I'm so glad I did:

As expected, these were amazingly delicious - warm, gooey, soft, sweet, and just a little spicy. I actually ended up with a few extra (I may have rolled my dough too thin), so I had one big pan and one small pan and had to double the icing to cover them all. It took a long damn time - I started some time after 11, and we weren't eating them until after 2, at the earliest (I can't actually remember). But they were worth it. It's not something I'll make frequently (especially since they were so good that Mike and I ate all of them before the end of the day), but I will probably make these again (either when there are more people here or when it's been long enough that I've forgotten how long they take).

What are some recipes you've been meaning to make for ages but still haven't gotten around to?

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Papa Chorizo Frittata

I finally got around to making a recipe from Quick and Easy Vegan Celebrations that I didn't make during testing. And let me tell you, Alicia didn't give all the best recipes to the testers!

I kinda feel like a jerk because I had intended to make this days ago. In fact, I had intended to spend most of last week making recipes from this book that I hadn't made during testing. I ended up falling behind when I couldn't think of anything to make, and then I pretty much just gave up on the idea. I looked through it again last night, and I really don't know why I felt uninspired. There's so much I want to make from this book!

Tonight I made the Papa Chorizo Frittata, served with Swiss Chard with Capers (no raisins) from Viva Vegan! and just some regular old roasted red potatoes.

Sorry about the shadow - pictures taken any time after 3 PM during winter in Northern Europe requires unnatural lighting.

First, I should say that I've made the Swiss chard dish so many times since I got VV. This and the Swiss chard frittata from Vegan Brunch are my favourite ways to use Swiss chard.

Anyway, the chorizo frittata was delicious. The only change I made (apart from not using the specific type of chorizo suggested) was to leave out the potatoes. I'm not a fan of potatoes in frittata - I find they draw out too much of the flavour. So I just put my potatoes on the side, and it worded fine! I also cooked this in a silicon round because everything sticks to my springform pan. I just flipped it over onto a plate and it came right out!

I definitely recommend this frittata and this book!

ETA - Last night while waiting for the leftovers to cool off for storage, I kept cutting off slices of frittata. I seriously almost couldn't stop eating. If it hadn't been for the fact that I needed the leftovers for my lunches, I would've eaten the entire thing. I wanted to eat the frittata more than I wanted to drink the hot cocoa I'd just made. Seriously. It was very difficult to pull myself away from it.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

I love soy curls.

One of the great things about the PPK is that there are people from all over the world on the boards. Every once in a while, we do a swap, where PPKers exchange food and other items with people in other states or countries. I love the swaps because I can get stuff I miss from the US, as well as things I've never tried.

This year I swapped with Luciana, aka designedtobekind, and this is what she sent me:

We've already finished off most of the junk food (natch), and still have most of the non-junk! I have to say, though, I am in love with the soy curls!

So far, I've only used them in pastas. Yesterday I used one of the chicken-style bouillon cubes to add them to Get It Ripe sesame kale soba (in place of the smoked tofu I usually use). Tonight I made my standard quick pasta and threw in some soy curls soaked in the beef-style bouillon. So good!

What I really want to do, and will hopefully do soon, is make General Desdemona's Sesame Orange Soy Curls. Desdemona is one of my favourite PPKers and also one of my favourite bloggers (seriously, check out the rest of her blog). I've had my eye on this one for ages. It looks like something I might have gotten at Veggie Garden in Dallas (well, Richardson). I can't wait to try it.

Speaking of recipes from other MoFo'ers / PPKers, I am totally making the pumpkin cinnamon rolls from Katie at Don't Eat Off the Sidewalk. I've been wanting to stuff my face with these since the first time I heard of them. This is my plan for tomorrow - I hope I see it through, because I want them in my belleh.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Vegan MoFo - Mix v. Scratch: Battle Chocolate Sponge

I've got the next Mix v. Scratch battle tonight! It was all about the cake this time - I used the exact same frosting (same batch of Raspberry Buttercream from VCTOTW) for both cakes. So, here we go. (I'll add pictures tomorrow because it's late and I'm exhausted.)

Battle Chocolate Sponge

The Mix version is the Asda Chocolate Sponge Mix.

How I made it vegan: This one was pretty easy. It only required one egg and water. I replaced the egg with Ener-G egg replacer.

Time: This was super quick - one egg replacer and about 1/3 c water, then throw it in the pan. I don't even think the oven was pre-heated before I finished making it. The mix only just made one 8" round cake (and it was pretty thin), so it only took about 18 minutes to bake.

Initial results: Well, there was no milk or oil in the cake, so draw your own conclusions. To be honest, the mix didn't even taste that great, so I knew the cake itself wouldn't be wonderful.

My taste test: This was pretty dry and flavourless, even with the frosting. I was unimpressed.

I used this recipe for the scratch cake. I was thinking along two lines - 1) I want to make something new, and 2) I want to make a "sponge" cake, assuming that the label "sponge" makes it different than regular chocolate cake (I don't know if this is true). I don't think I've ever made a recipe by weight rather than volume, so it was different.

Time: Like I said, it was a new-to-me method, so that took time to get used to. Other than that, it didn't take long - less time than last week's swirl cake. It made a much larger cake than the mix - I used my 9" round silicon pan, which is almost twice as deep as the 8" metal rounds.

Initial results: I wasn't keen on the amount of cocoa in this. I like my cakes chocolaty, not CHOCOLATE. It still came out a lot better than the mix - much moister, and a better flavour overall.

My taste test: Like I said, this had a much better flavour than the mix. I definitely liked it more.

The Verdict: Fewer people tried these, but they preferred the scratch cake by far! I'm vindicated! I just wish the winning cake had tasted better. Oh well.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Starbucks (or, I feel kinda dirty)

I'm not a big coffee drinker. I go back and forth with it - sometimes I love it, sometimes I can't stand it. When I do drink it, it has to have almost as much sugar (or syrup of some flavour) and milk as it has coffee. I do like tea, but I'm pretty particular about it. I either have something like rooibos or chai with (again) loads of sugar and milk, or I drink Celestial Seasonings Bengal Spice or Cinnamon Apple straight up. I rarely drink herbal or fruit teas, and I never buy them at a coffee shop. This is why, when people suggest going out for coffee, I'm usually not best pleased.

I've had my ups and downs with coffee shops in Edinburgh. I do have a favourite - Kilimanjaro on Nicholson Street - that very rarely lets me down in the chai department, and another - Artisan Roast on Broughton Street - that has quite a few amazing vegan hot chocolates (they make them with flaked chocolate and soy milk). On the whole, though, people tend to want to go to places with which I'm unfamiliar, or they want to go to Starbucks.

Ah, yes, Starbucks - the evil empire. There are probably more Starbucks coffee shops in Edinburgh (and most cities, I would imagine) than all the independent coffee shops combined. Well, rather than argue the merits of their existence, I'll just help out those UK vegans who have friends who don't know any better and insist they go there.

Out of curiosity, I decided to email Starbucks to find out what they had on offer for my people. I received the following email today:

Thank you for taking the time to contact Starbucks Coffee Company regarding the nutritional details of our current product range. The products which are suitable for Vegans are as follows.

Tazo Tea
Filter Coffee
Café Misto with Soy
Steamed Soy with or without syrups
Espresso Macchiato with Soy
Café Americano black or with Soy
Soy Lattes with or without syrups
Soy Cappuccinos with or without syrups
Mocha with Soy
Classic Hot chocolate with Soy
Tea based Frappuccinos

Perfect Porridge with Soy Milk and Dried Fruit
Fresh Fruit Salad
Fruit Salad
Seasonal Apple
Fairtrade Banana
Falafel Panini
Hoummous with Vegetable sticks
Roasted Almonds
Nut Mix
Fairtrade Chocolate bar - dark
Sea Salt Potato Chips
Sea Salt and Cider Vinegar Potato Chips

We appreciate you contacting us and look forward to welcoming you back to your local Starbucks soon.

Seasonal apple! Fairtrade banana! I had no idea those were vegan! /sarcasm

It's a pretty decent list, to be fair, though I feel the need to point out that when they refer to Tazo tea, they're talking bags, not the chai mix (which contains honey). But we can get hot chocolate at Starbucks! Yes! So next time you're forced into a Starbucks (or go of your own free will - I'm not judging), you know that you'll have something to drink other than the bagged tea that you could make at home yourself for a fraction of the cost.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Quick dinners

We went to the cinema tonight (saw Red - it was great). Mike usually doesn't get home until either 7.20 or 7.40 (depending on when he leaves work), so we always have to see a late-ish movie. Tonight's movie was at 8.15, and he got home around 7.20, so we didn't have much time for dinner. In a case like this - short of time, nothing else to cook, or zero inspiration - I almost always fall back on pasta.

Years ago, I never would've eaten pasta without either a cream sauce or a tomato sauce. These days, I almost always make it sauceless. I don't know when I started eating pasta without sauce, but I'm sure I was influenced by my old flatmate.

Mike likes his pasta different than I like mine. He'll eat it with nothing but pepper, but I usually throw on some seasoned salt and tamari. Once I give him his portion, I like to throw in a teaspoon or two of olive oil, about a teaspoon (more or less, I never measure) of lemon juice, and a couple tablespoons of nooch. It's like having cheesy pasta without all the work. It's not the healthiest thing in the world (mostly carbs, some fat, little protein and no veg), but it's quick and easy.

How do you like your pasta? Do you only eat it with sauce, or do you go sauceless? And what are some other things that you like to make when you have less than an hour to cook, eat, and get out the door?

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

A note about links

I realised the other day that my linking may be confusing to some. Here's the thing - yes, I live in Scotland, but I assume that most people who might read my blog are in the US. So when I link to a book, whenever possible, I'll give the link to Herbivore Clothing Co. Herbivore is, as you might guess, a vegan-owned company based in Portland, OR. They sell their own awesome clothing, stickers, and buttons, as well as accessories and books. They might cost a bit more, but buying from them puts more money directly back into the vegan community rather than some nasty corporation.

If you live outside the US, I would recommend checking out The Book Depository to satisfy your cookbook habit (or any reading habit, really). Not only are they less sketchy than Amazon, but they ship free anywhere in the world (even if you only spend £1), and they tend to be cheaper than Amazon (usually only by 1p, but still).

As far as UK foods go, I'll obviously try my best to link to reputable UK suppliers. Real Foods, which I linked in my last post, ships for free to the UK mainland. They're based in Edinburgh (with two actual stores), and the shops seem to have more than the website. You can also get a lot of vegan junk food, cruelty free shoes and accessories, and vegan household products and cosmetics from Vegan Store.

I'll try to mix up the links as much as possible, but I like linking to the companies that directly benefit other vegans. If you know of any, pop 'em in the comments.

Leftovers and makeshift desserts

I went to the gym today, then did the dishes when I got home. By the time that was done, I just wanted to sit down. Also, I had no idea what to make for dinner. But we had a ton of beans left over from last night, so I just made more Yellow Garlic Rice and we had leftovers.

That's that out of the way. Now let's talk about makeshift desserts. We here in the UK have a pretty wide variety of chocolate spreads (or at least those of us in big enough cities do). I have about 4 plain chocolate spreads, a couple of chocolate and hazelnut spreads, and a few carob (sometimes with hazelnut) spreads to choose from. I've even seen raw hemp and chocolate spread. My favourite is Plamil Organic Chocolate Spread.

The first time I bought chocolate spread, I had no idea what to do with it. It sounded like a great idea, but then I got it home and realised that I had nothing on which to spread chocolate. My then-flatmate pointed out that it's totally normal to put it on bread. I never would have thought to do that, even though it now makes perfect sense.

I usually keep a jar of chocolate spread on hand for quick desserts, for those days when Mike wants something sweet but I can't be bothered to either make something or go out and find something. We had chocolaty bread tonight. I had mine with a bit of Ricemellow Creme, which I would show you if my camera batteries hadn't all decided to die.

There's also the obvious makeshift dessert - vegan mug cake. I've also seen mug cobbler, but I can't seem to find the link. What are some desserts you've pulled out of your ass (figuratively, that is - please)?

Monday, 8 November 2010

Viva Vegan mini review

Let me just get this out of the way - I know I was gonna do recipes from Quick and Easy Vegan Comfort Food this week. But I didn't spend enough time looking at it and ended up feeling overwhelmed and couldn't think of anything to make other than what I'd already made during testing, so I'll maybe look at it later in the week. There are, of course, recipes I want to make, but they're mostly cakes.

So, rather than try to dig up the tester forum and copy and paste my reviews from there, I decided to make something from Viva Vegan!

A word about VV - this is one of the best cookbooks I've ever owned. I've probably cooked as many recipes from VV in the 6ish months that it's been out as most of my other cookbooks that I've had for years. It's comparable to how much I made from Vegan Brunch including the cookbook challenge last year. I even bought copies for my sister and my best good friend. If you like Latin food, even if you aren't vegan, you should pick up this book.

Tonight I made the Drunken Beans with Seitan Chorizo and the Yellow Garlic Rice:

The Yellow Garlic Rice is my favourite rice dish ever. Of. All. Time. Seriously - it's amazing. I can't even bring myself to make the other types of rice because I just know they can't compare. And it's so easy! It has about 7 ingredients and takes less than 30 minutes.

This is the second time I've made the drunken beans. I kinda screwed up - I couldn't get my hands on Mexican cerveza, so I bought what I assumed to be a close enough approximation. Turns out, not so much. My beans were super bitter. Mike liked them, but I had a hard time eating them, and they made me sad. It is in no way the fault of the recipe - I loved them the first time I ate them. If I hadn't already had the beans on the stove cooking, I would have waited to make these when I realised I couldn't get the right kind of beer. I'm gonna try to doctor them and see if I can decrease the bitterness. Wish me luck!

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Revisiting a classic - Tofu Scramble

Huge surprise - Mike didn't make bread today! He says he'll do it tomorrow when he gets home from work, but that's unlikely. We'll see.

Since I didn't have a guest blogger, I decided to revisit one of my favourite topics. I've written at length about tofu scramble. I believe it to be an essential dish in any vegan's repertoire (unless you're soy-free, though there are some interesting soy-free tofus being made by enterprising individuals). In fact, you should probably know how to make tofu scramble even if you just live with a vegan for whom you might end up cooking. I'm actually a little surprised I haven't forced Mike to learn how to make it without my help (though it is one of the 2 dishes he's ever cooked for me).

It seems like it's also a really personal dish - there are probably as many ways to make tofu scramble as there are vegans who eat it. My favourite way to scramble is similar to the recipe in the PPK recipe archive and Vegan with a Vengeance. I usually leave out the thyme (being jabbed in the gum by a dried sprig of thyme once too often put me off it in scramble) and double the nooch, and I use whatever veg I like (most often onion, red pepper if I have it, and broccoli).

But that's the great thing about tofu scramble - you can put pretty much anything in it, and it's great.

If you look back at some of my older post (from last year's MoFo and earlier, mostly), you'll see that I've blogged about scramble a lot. I love a lot of the various scramble recipes from Vegan Brunch, but the VwaV recipe is my go-to, never-fail, don't even need the recipe scramble.

So, how do you scramble? I'd love to hear from soy-free people about making scramble without (soy-based) tofu. I'm also curious to hear your take on 'tofu scramble' v 'scrambled tofu' - which do you prefer? (I think my preference is obvious.)

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Shopping deals

A lot of people seem to be blogging about veganism on the cheap, so I thought I'd throw in for the UK people. I hadn't planned this, but I ended up going to Asda today, then read Mo's post about checking out the dollar store, so I decided to share my wisdom.

Before I get into it, I'll say right now - I almost never shop at Asda. I know they're owned by Wal-Mart, and Wal-Mart is the enemy, etc. But every once in a while, you hear about a product they have or you just need to save some damn money, and you have to decide for yourself what to prioritise. Maybe this makes me a hypocrite, but I never said I wasn't (at least not in this aspect of my life).

That said, I'll explain what led me on this journey of discovery. I'm a "fan" of the Vegan Society on Facebook, and they posted some info about the Ethical Voice for Animals' Compassionate Living Fayre (which, of course, is the same day as both my work's coffee morning and an ARRG bout). While poking around their site, I found that they'd posted the vegan food items lists from most of the big box stores (their Co-op list links to the Sainsbury's list). I had a look at the other three and noticed that Asda seemed to have a ton of vegan junk food, so I decided to take a trip there.

Part of the reason I decided on this is because the Asda list is seriously outdated; I wanted to see how accurate the list was. But I also kinda like going to Asda because it's a really long bus ride away, and I like long bus rides (it gives me lots of time to read), especially when the last stop is my destination (so I don't have to keep looking up to make sure I haven't gone past where I'm going).

My mission was to score the following items on the vegan list - garlic bread, chocolate sponge mix, potato croquettes, battered onion rings, fruit jellies, and chicken-style fillets (and a few other things that I needed anyway). I had mixed success with this list. The potato croquettes were most definitely not vegan. I didn't find any fruit jellies, and most of the similar type of sweeties had pork gelatine (barf). The chicken-style fillets had egg in them (as do most of their frozen meat analogues). I did manage to get the cake mix, bread, and onion rings, along with a few other things:

Pictured in no particular order: tahini sauce, dark chocolate spread (more on that another day), garlic bread, vegetable pâté, soba noodles, chargrilled red pepper hummus, roasted red peppers, maple syrup, and chocolate sponge mix (more on that another day as well). Not pictured: onion rings, Linda McCartney sausage rolls (eaten), "Footballs" (like round potato croquettes), seedless raspberry jam, and some clothes (including some cozy-as-hell pajama bottoms).

The most expensive of the food items was the maple syrup at £2.99. Seriously - £2.99 for a bottle of maple syrup. Score! The chocolate spread, pâté, noodles, sausage rolls, and jarred peppers were also cheaper than anywhere else I've bought them. There were other deals to be had, such as Vitalite margarine (my favourite for most of my marg needs) for 80p, that I couldn't take advantage of because I didn't have space for them.

So if you have no problems with shopping there, hit up Asda for their surprising abundance of vegan items. Just be sure to check the ingredients if you're using the list they provided.

Tomorrow, if everything goes to plan, Mike will be guest blogging about his bread-making experience! This all depends on his actually making the bread, so we'll see what happens.

Friday, 5 November 2010

My first recipe (no actual recipe included)

I was lazy tonight and didn't cook. Well, I did, but it was just pasta with nothing special. And then we had mint Oreos for dessert. Awl-raight*! But since I didn't do anything particularly exciting food-wise today, I borrowed some ideas from Isa's inspiration thread and decided I'd talk about my first recipe.

OK, in fairness, I think this is just the first thing I very specifically recall making. And it's just the story of it.

I'm sure I've mentioned this before, but my grandmother pretty much taught me how to cook from about the time when I could physically be put to work helping. She was one of those 50s housewives who grew up poor on a farm in the South but got just far enough into the middle class to get into that weird semi-homemade / heavily branded thing. Looking through some of her recipe books, and recipes she wrote herself, almost every recipe had either an ingredient that would normally have been an entire recipe on its own (e.g. pudding mix) or demanded the use of a particular brand (e.g. Crisco shortening). So she had her well-seasoned cast iron pans that probably belonged to another woman in the family before her sitting next to her various molds for the shaping of Jell-O (OK, I'm not actually 100% sure she made Jell-O molds, but it's a reasonable assumption). She was also a Navy wife, and her travels took her to places and introduced her to cuisines that most of the people back home wouldn't have heard of until the 90s or later (like couscous).

The point I'm trying to make is that the woman knew how to cook at the best of times and the worst of times, with both the best and worst ingredients. And by getting me in the kitchen from a young age, she fostered a love of cooking in me.

I can't really remember when I started baking. I have vague recollections of making biscuits and gravy from a very young age. But I remember when I started to realise I was good at it. When I was in 4th grade (age 9), I was in 4H. We had a baking contest, and my entry was my favourite dessert made even more sickeningly sweet and thus perfect for a 9-year-old. I made chocolate chip blondies with an entire jar of marshmallow cream swirled into the batter. I wasn't the only person who thought these things were a party in one's mouth. I ended up tied for first place with the boy I had a crush on. He made peanut butter cookies (this was well before the days of banning peanut butter in schools so allergic kids wouldn't be exposed to it), so I was unable to judge for myself who had the best baked good.

When I was 9, it was the best thing I'd ever put in my mouth. At 31, it would probably make me vomit as soon as I woke up from the sugar coma (or vomit then sugar coma). But the great thing about progress is that I could actually make a vegan version of this, since we (people of the world, not necessarily those of us in the UK) now have access to delicious Ricemellow Creme. So hey, if someone out there wants to make the Call Me Blondies from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar and swirl or fold in a tub of Ricemellow Creme, you should totally let me know how it turns out. Actually, if I hadn't already eaten most of my tub, I might do it myself.

*That should be pronounced as heard in this video.

Thursday, 4 November 2010


Quick one tonight since I'm just back from a party and it's almost 1 AM here. I might come back and add a picture later, but we'll see.

As I said, I've just been to a party. The person who was head of the department when I was at uni has retired. It was a good time - basically a traditional ceilidh, with songs and tunes and poems, and a bit of dancing at the end (Canadian Barn Dance, since the honoree is Canadian). Food was served; I ate unadorned bread.

But the thing that struck me about it was interacting with others. The first person I spoke to, a friend and the department librarian, told me she'd had red velvet cake and thought of me because it was rubbish (I'd made her red velvet cake for an event and everyone loved it). The next person I talked to didn't remember my name, but she remembered the amazing cake I made for a picnic 2 1/2 years ago. And another person told me that her nephews still talk about the chocolate chip cookies I made when I met them.

The point is this - I am obviously associated, at least in that circle, with making delicious vegan baked goods. I suppose there are worse things for people to think of when they think of you.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Vegan MoFo - Mix v. Scratch: Battle Swirl Cake

This is the first in my "Mix v. Scratch" project, wherein I make both a boxed mix and a homemade-from-scratch version. Challengers will be graded on the time taken to make them, the initial results, and side-by-side taste testing by me, my husband, and my co-workers and/or friends. Today's challenge:

Battle Swirl Cake

The box version is a Betty Crocker Chocolate Swirl Cake with Betty Crocker Chocolate Fudge Frosting:

How I made it vegan: The box calls for 3 eggs, water and oil. To make up for the binding power of 3 eggs, I used three egg replacer eggs and used milk/acv instead of water.

Time: The box says it takes 10 minutes. If you take into account prepping the pans, preheating the oven, mixing it, and doing the swirl, it's a lot closer to 30 minutes.

Initial results: The cakes baked in the amount of time suggested. I cooled them until they were below room temperature. When I went to frost them, they started falling apart. I barely managed to get the second layer on top of the first before it completely crumbled in my hands. I was mostly able to patch it together with frosting, but it didn't look great.

My taste test: The cake was incredibly moist. It was also incredibly sweet. I could tell from the batter that it would be sweeter than the cakes I've been making. The frosting was also sweeter than what I'm used to. I think the combination of sugar in the two actually gave me a headache, and I still feel a little sick an hour after eating it.

The scratch version is the Marble Cupcakes with Thick Fudgey Frosting from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.

Time: Admittedly, this took about twice as long as the mix. There are a lot more steps, and you have to actually get all the ingredients together yourself. Another thing that added time was that I did a recipe and a half to have enough batter for two 8" layers, which meant doing the mental math for the half while I measured!

Initial results: I think I overmixed the batter and/or overcooked the cakes! They seemed to bake a lot faster than I'd expected, so after 30 minutes (the cupcakes take 24-26 - it seemed a reasonable amount of time) the layers were already overdone. I could tell just by looking, and from taking the cakes out of the pans, that they would be dry.

My taste test: As suspected, the cakes were pretty dry. I also didn't think the frosting was particularly fudgey. It was much less sweet than the other cake, which was good, but the texture and dryness actually made me like the mix cake more (I'm ashamed to say). But I put this all down to my failure to properly mix or pay attention to my scratch cake.

The Verdict: A few of my co-workers had a bit of each cake. While one person preferred the scratch cake because the mix cake was too sweet, the others preferred the mix because the scratch was too dry. One of those preferred my scratch frosting to the tub stuff. Overall, I think the mix was preferred.

THE WINNER (yes, this was the best shot I got):

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Vegan MoFo - Trying something new

It's day 2 of Vegan MoFo - I hope no one is burnt out from trying to read all 700 of the participating blogs! (Full disclosure - I'm not reading all 700-odd blogs.)

As I mentioned in my last post, I made an assload of chickpeas on Sunday. Part of my plan was to make falafel, but the other part of the plan was to only use things that I had on hand. Unfortunately, I used the last of my breadcrumbs making Chickpea Broccoli Casserole (nom!) last night and therefore had none to put in the falafel. So, I needed to come up with something else to make for dinner.

Someone suggested yesterday that I use my abundance of chickpeas to make Chickpeas Romesco from Veganomicon. For some reason, I barely even glanced at this recipe before. Maybe it was because I just can't be bothered roasting peppers, and it would've taken a lot of forward planning. Well, as luck would have it, I bought jarred roasted peppers for a tester recipe I made a while back, and I had exactly enough left for this recipe. Not only that, but I also had every other ingredient apart from the serrano pepper (which I probably wouldn't have bothered with anyway).

This came together really easily, though it was a bit time consuming. I sped up the process by using pre-ground almonds instead of grinding them myself. It would've taken me less time if my dishwasher would actually wash all the dishes and therefore my garlic press had been clean.

I served it over couscous, since I could throw that together during the 10-minute sitting phase of cooking the chickpeas. (Sorry, it's not the best picture, and none of them will be because it's winter in northern Europe and therefore dark by 3.30.)

I can't believe I waited so long to make this! It's amazingly delicious. Mike loved it too. Apart from the absence of the serrano, I didn't make any significant changes. Since the recipe suggests fire-roasted tomatoes, which are unavailable here, I added a few drops of liquid smoke for the smokiness those might provide (a tip I got from Liz at Cooking the Vegan Books).

If you've never made Chickpeas Romesco, bust out your copy of V'con and get cookin'!