Saturday, 31 December 2011

Catching up to finish the year

I took pictures of things that I made and then didn't bother to blog about them.  That's because I'm lazy.  But here they are.  First up, I finally made Mo's kolaches!
As you can probably tell from the picture, I did mine a bit differently from hers.  I actually remembered having kolaches when I was younger, and this is pretty much what I always got - sausage in bread.  These were good but, because I didn't have enough filling, they were way too bread-y.  I'll almost certainly make these again, but I'll probably use different sausage (and more of it) and make them smaller.

Next up is Xmas dinner!
I made porkless pie with Granose sausage mix and the buttery double crust (vodka variation, no sugar) from Vegan Pie in the Sky by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero.  It wasn't exactly traditional, but it was probably the best porkless pie I've ever eaten.  I served it with leftover rice (I think I was ill and couldn't be bothered) and roasted broccoli.  Nom!
Dessert was yule log!  It was better than the last one I made, but that's not saying much.  Well, both were tasty, but this one was better looking, if only because it didn't fall apart as completely as the last one.  I used the chocolate cupcake and chocolate buttercream recipes from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World for this.  I'll probably try my hand at the log again, but I'll make a few changes - a) different filling (shocking as this is, I thought it was too much chocolate) and 2) use a bit of black cocoa powder for the buttercream to give it a darker, more log-like appearance.

And finally, our last meal of 2011!

This is the new Redwood's haggis with noochy Smash and steamed broccoli.  REDWOOD'S HAGGIS?!  It's really, really good - meatier texture than any other veg haggis I've ever had (it uses vwg), spicy, moist.  I haven't had f'real haggis for ... 8 years, and I think this might be the best fake I've ever had.  It's not just a bunch of kidney beans!  It could maybe be a little oatier, but otherwise it's excellent (as far as I can remember to compare).

I just had a look on the Redwood's site, and they don't even have it on there.  I think this might be a super secret Scotland-only product!  First time ever!  It kinda makes me feel special.  I hope no one is able to burst my bubble and tell me they have it in London or Brighton or something.

Anyway, last post of 2011!  I don't have much to say about 2011 - it was a mixed bag of mediocrity for me (including buying the flat, considering the work we have ahead of us), and I've heard a lot of people didn't have a great year.  So, here's to hoping that 2012 far exceeds 2011 in awesomeness!

Monday, 5 December 2011

PPK package swap!

It's the most wonderful time of the year ... that's right - PPK package swap time!  The swap always seems to happen around November/December, which is both good (treats are always good) and bad (let's just say I'm glad I already bought a party dress that's a bit too big).

The pic at the top is a bit small, so I'll just say what I got.  From left to right - soy curls, candy cane Joe-Joe's, TJ's maple cream cookies, dark chocolate bar, sea salt chocolate bar, Taza drinking chocolate, Clif spiced pumpkin pie and peppermint stick bars, two each of Go Max Twilight and Buccaneer bars, Sugar Plum Spice tea, agave sticks, and honey-flavoured agave nectar.  And everything is sitting atop an adorable Oregon tea towel!  We've already eaten a few Joe-Joe's and maple cookies, Mike had the peppermint stick Clif bar, and I made hot chocolate with the Taza chocolate.

It's such an amazing package, and I'm once again overwhelmed by the awesomeness and generosity of PPKers.  I also kinda feel like a dick because the package I sent was nowhere near as awesome.  I left out some stuff because postage was starting to cost more than the items themselves.  But then I got this, and she clearly spent more on shipping than on the stuff inside.  So I think Imma buy some more stuff and send her a second package (though maybe after Xmas so it doesn't get stuck in a warehouse for 2 weeks).

Oh, and bonus picture of the Taza drinking chocolate in action:
Lookit the foam on that bastard!  This was the first time I'd done proper Mexican hot chocolate (with the foaming, though I used my electric mixer with a whisk attachment instead of a molinillo).  It was pretty good, though it was kinda bitty.  Oh well.  The point to make here is that is a giant-ass mug, and it's half full of foam.  Mmm...foam.

I can't wait to see everyone else's swap packages!

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Catch-up on testing and cookbook challenging

I'm so far behind blogging about tester recipes.  It's pretty bad.

A couple of weeks ago (seriously), I had 2/3 of the Ethnocrew to dinner for for Nigel Tufnel Day and, incongruously, Eastern European food.  Well, it wasn't all Eastern European - dessert was well American.  But here's how we got on.
We started with the Roasted Beet Salad with Apples and Dill Vinaigrette.  This was a project, and salad shouldn't be a project.  It took over an hour to make, mostly because I had to first peel and then roast the beets.  I wasn't terribly keen on it, but the girls liked it.  I think it might have been better if the beets had been a little saltier (and roastier) and if we'd left out the lettuce.  At least it was pretty.
Our main was Shchi (Sauerkraut and Mushroom Soup) with Sour Dilly Cream.  This was really nice, and the cream really brought the flavours together.  I was pleasantly surprised by how much the cream tasted like sour cream without actually containing vegan sour cream (i.e., Tofutti).  The soup was lovely as well.  It was just the right amount of healthy, salty, and comforting.
Dessert that night was two cookbook challenge recipes - Chocolate Chip Skillet Cake and Very Vanilla Ice Cream from Vegan Diner.  Let's not pretend that this is anything other than a giant chocolate chip cookie.  It was really good, though I would've liked it to be a bit moister.  The ice cream did what it says on the tin - it was very vanilla.  It worked really well with the cookie cake.  I quite liked both, but I think, if I made the ice cream again, I'd use a bit more soy cream so it was a little fattier/creamier.

I also made a couple of tester recipes this week:
Sunday night, I made Pumpkin Black Bean Posole (but with butternut squash instead of pumpkin).  I love posole.  This was lovely, light and comforting.  It was also easy and quick to throw together.  The only thing I'd change about it is that it needs more cumin.  I'd definitely make this again (but with more cumin).  I might like it with cornbread instead of corn chips, though the corn chips make a lovely presentation.  (NB - I didn't use most of the suggested toppings because I'm either allergic, don't like them, or couldn't be bothered.  It didn't detract from the deliciousness.)
This was tonight's dinner - Gnocchi with Roasted Tomato Caper Sauce and Braised Greens with Lemon and Olive Oil.  The gnocchi was good but salty:  olives + capers + added salt in the sauce and pasta = way too much salt.  I like the concept, so I'd probably do this again with tinned tomatoes (for the laziness/sauciness factor) and no added salt.  The greens (spinach, to be precise) were delicious, quick, and easy.  Seriously, about 15 minutes from washing to eating (or possibly less if I had been focused on one recipe at a time).  I'd definitely make this again.  It's kinda like a Mediterranean version of the chard recipe from Viva Vegan!, which is one of my favourite ways to eat chard.  Also, that doesn't look like much, but we ate an entire bag of spinach between the two of us.  I think Mike got more than I did though.  I was too generous.

Hopefully I'll keep up better with testing (and posting about testing) over the next couple of months, though we'll see what happens when we start moving flats and everything.  All being well, we get the keys next Friday (OMG!!!)!

Friday, 25 November 2011

Thanksgiving in Scotland

I think everyone is aware that yesterday was Thanksgiving in the US.  Thanksgiving is one of those sketchy holidays that you almost think you should stop celebrating because of all the dodgy history behind it.  I wish I could find that awesome video of the children's Thanksgiving play where they talk about giving the natives smallpox blankets to illustrate my point.  That said, a lot of people, myself included, have decided that Thanksgiving is really about the food.  And when you boil it down to its essence, that's really what it is - we survived a year in a hostile land and we now have a crap ton of food, so let's gorge ourselves on it.  Basically, Thanksgiving is a holiday all about gluttony, and I'm totally down with that.

This year was pretty good.  Unfortunately, my bff couldn't make it like she did last year (oh man, I wish I had some tamales), so I only took Thanksgiving day off.  I decided on the spur of the moment last Friday night to invite people over, so 2/3 of my Ethnology Crew came round, and then I invited a couple of Mike's gaming friends (who've been to dinner here before).  I was a genius and didn't decide on a menu until Wednesday night, but you know what?  It's the UK, and no one gives a crap, so I didn't have to worry about the shops all being sold out of everything I'd need.

And it turned out to be a good thing anyway, because Isa posted her new Seitan Roast Stuffed with Shiitakes and Leeks on Tuesday.  The laziness took over and urged me to buy Smash and stuffing from a box and then cover both with Sage Gravy from Quick and Easy Vegan Celebrations.  I also made roasted broccoli to balance out the white and brown.  (I had intended on making Q&EVC green bean casserole, but to my dismay, the only shop I ever saw fried onions in no longer sells them.  *sadface*)
Sorry about the darkness - the living room has even less light than the kitchen.
I know the roast is what everyone is here for.  First of all, it was actually pretty easy to make, and it was absolutely delicious.  It also reheated well in a microwave.  My problem with it was that I used UK vital wheat gluten and followed the recipe, so it was a bit moist.  I think it took nearly twice as long to cook as it was supposed to (I stopped keeping track after about an hour and 10 because I was trying to cook everything else).  But I'd definitely make this again - it looks good, it tastes amazing, and I went from decision to dinner (including shopping) in a few hours.  Oh, and it fed 6 people plus leftovers!  Next time, I'll use more vwg.

Rather than head right into dessert, we discussed our options and decided on nog.  No one but Mike had ever tried nog (even the non-vegan stuff), so everyone was intrigued.  I made my stand-by, absolute favourite vegan nog, Bryanna Clark Grogan's Pumpkin Nog.  Everyone thought it was good, and there was even discussion about making it into a custard (someone had mentioned having warm nog, and I said it would probably turn into custard if heated).

After sitting and chatting for a while to make a bit of space for more food, we moved on to dessert.  Naturally, I made pumpkin pie.  My go-to pie is usually the one I made last year, the Impossible Pumpkin Pie from the Fat Free Vegan blog.  But there was a pumpkin pie thread on the PPK, and Phoenix posted her Jack (the Pumpkin King) Pie.  A pie referencing The Nightmare Before Christmas and made with Speculoos cookie crust?  Hell yeah I'm making that pie.
It wasn't as burnt as it looks.

I served it with some Soyatoo Soy Whip (in a can - in my defense, the non-canned stuff is no longer being sold, and my only other option was Rice Whip).
Immediately after I took this picture, I covered the rest of the top with whipped cream.
I really liked this pie, but that's because I love a cookie crust.  The only thing I didn't like was that the crust didn't want to come up until day 2 (well, the last 2 slices).  But other than that, it was good.  The filling was pretty standard pumpkin pie filling.  But it was really easy to make and came out great.  We were all happy with it.

Along with the food, we also managed to polish off 2 1/2 bottles of wine between the 6 of us.  I usually don't drink much, but the Beaujolais Nouveau was released this week (I think), so I bought a bottle of that and had an astounding 2 glasses.  But with all the food, it barely made me sleepy.

And that was our Thanksgiving.  We're hoping to get to the US for T'giving next year, but we'll see how things go.  We'll be sinking a lot of money into the new flat, so we might not have it for traveling.

How was your Thanksgiving?  Did you celebrate even though you aren't American?

I completely forgot to post some tester stuff (I got lazy), so I'll try to write that up soon!

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Irn Bru cookies!

Remember this post about Irn Bru cupcakes?  They were good, but not quite right, and I thought further experimentation was warranted.

Well, some time last week, an ex-pat friend of ours (Brit in Canada) posted on Facebook that he missed Irn Bru.  What better excuse could I have come up with?  I know from homesickness (even if one wouldn't refer to that particular instance as homesickness), and he seemed to be having a crap week on top of that, so I offered to make him some Irn Bru cookies.  He seemed pleased by the idea, so I was like, YEAH LET'S DO THIS!

I did some research into using soda as a flavouring for baked goods and came across this post on grape soda cupcakes from Kelly of The Vegan Cookie Connoisseur.  I also looked for the right cookie recipe.  I finally settled on Kelly's recipe for Amazingly Soft Sugar Cookies.  I basically made an Irn Bru reduction and replaced most of the liquid with the reduction.  Kelly very kindly agreed to let me post her recipe with my minor changes, so here it is.
sorry about the crap pic - I was running late for work

Irn Bru Cookies
(recipe adapted from Amazingly Soft Sugar Cookies in The Vegan Cookie Connoisseur by Kelly Peloza)

  • 4 c Irn Bru
Pour the soda into a pan and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer and cook until it reduces to about 3/4 of a cup.  Set aside to cool.
  • 3/4 c margarine
  • 1 1/4 c sugar
  • 1/2 c soy yogurt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 c Irn Bru reduction (plus more if needed)
  • 4 c flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp salt
In a large bowl, cream the margarine and sugar.  Add the yogurt and vanilla and mix to combine, then add 1/4 c Irn Bru reduction and mix until well combined.  Sift in the dry ingredients a little at a time, mixing as you go.  Add more reduction if the dough is dry.  Refrigerate for an hour or more (or freeze for 15 minutes).

Preheat the oven to 350F/175C.  Roll the dough into walnut-sized balls in your hand and then smoosh them down (alternatively, you can roll and cut them).  Place on a greased or parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 7-10 minutes or until slightly golden at the edges.  Remove from the oven and let cool completely before icing.

For the icing:  Dump a good amount of icing sugar into a bowl and add about 3 tbsp Irn Bru reduction.  Beat with a fork until smooth.  It should be pretty thick - if it isn't, add more icing sugar.  Dip the tops of the cooled cookies into the icing and place on cookie sheets to firm up.  If you're awesome like me, make another batch of glaze and double dip those bad boys once the first round of icing is set.

The whole process takes a few hours, but it'll probably be easier and faster the second time around since I know what I'm doing (and hopefully won't be having an allergy attack like I did this time).

After all that, I never got my friend's address!  But his loss was everyone else's gain - I gave the cookies I took in for shipping to my co-workers, and Mike ate the rest (about a dozen in one night - he really liked them).

I imagine this would work for other types of soda-based cookies, so I might give it a try with something else.  And I might also try to reduce the Irn Bru even further for a stronger flavour - even with the reduction instead of the straight soda, the flavour was still pretty mild.  Any ideas what I should try next?

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Cookbook Challenge - Cheating with testers

Thinking about testing always makes me think of one of Tom Hanks's many SNL appearances, the one in which he played Wayne's cousin Barry, who was a roadie for Aerosmith, and gave a demonstration of his job by doing a mic check ("check, check, sibilance, sibilance").  I digress.

This week's cookbook challenge is another Isa and Terry week.  I spent all of my new-recipe-making energy on Terry testing, so I'm cheating and saying I did them for the challenge.  Let's be honest, the only Isa/Terry book I haven't already made loads from is the cookie book (well, and the pie book, but that just came out), and I really don't need to make a bunch of different cookies (especially after my week-long cookie-fest in which I made 3 types of chocolate chip cookies).

I ended up making five testers this week:
The first was Toasted Lentils, Onions, and Rice.  Yeah, it's not all that pretty, but it's tasty.  It's loaded with caramelized onions, which are one of my cooking nemeses.  It took me about an hour (probably longer) to caramelize those bloody onions.  Next time, they're going in the slow cooker.  This would actually be a pretty quick-ish recipe if one were to use frozen caramelized onions.  It's got a bit of a sausage-y flavour with the addition of whole fennel seeds.  I tasted this shortly after it finished cooking and didn't really care for it, but the flavour improves immensely after sitting or a few days, so I'm glad I reserved judgment.  The recipe also makes a ton, so I had lunches all week and a few dinners.
After a most of a week of frozen food and leftovers, I knocked out three more testers on Thursday (well, four, but I made another tester with tester seitan).  Pictured are Gyro Roasted Seitan (made with Lemon & Olive Seitan), Lemon Garlic Roasted Potatoes, and Roasted Broccoli with Lemon and Sage.  The reviews were mixed on this meal.  We both loved the broccoli - roasted broccoli is really a thing of beauty.  I really liked the potatoes, but Mike thought they were just OK.  I only kinda liked the seitan (the flavours were good but the texture was off due to my seitan being underdone, as you can probably see from the pic), but Mike didn't like it because he thought it was too "different".  Honestly, I'd make it again because I knew it was just a user error, but Mike probably wouldn't eat it (or would eat it but complain about it, more accurately).  Together, it was actually an excellent meal.
We went to Glasgow today to get Mike's passport sorted and had lunch at Heavenly.  Be warned - you don't wanna rock up at 1 on the Saturday they do the craft fair, because you might not get seated.  We actually had to get a snack at Holland & Barrett and do some shopping, then go back after we'd picked up his passport.  Anyway, I finally got the breakfast, and I was not disappointed.  On the plate are tofu scramble (made with smoked tofu), mushrooms, tempeh rashers, toast, beans, tomatoes, sausage, and a potato scone.  This was the best vegan breakfast I've ever had at a restaurant, and the two things that made it were the scramble and the scone (which was actually more like a mushy hashbrown or giant latke).  It was so, so good.
Bonus picture of Mike eating his brunch.

For dessert, we both got caramel hot chocolate, which was delicious, and I got the gingerbread.  I was really excited to eat it based on my previous experience, but they've already changed it.  This one came out floating in a puddle of really thin custard with no chocolate sauce.  It was still good, but not mouthgasmic like the last time (and the presentation, which I usually don't care about, was sub-par).  The custard wasn't as flavourful, the cake was flatter and seemed less fresh (which isn't surprising since the last time I know they'd just baked it), and it didn't come together as well without the chocolate.  I'll maybe skip this if we're not having it as a post-dinner dessert - I'm hoping that they just didn't try as hard because it was a lunchtime thing.

I'll be doing more testing next week, and I'll also be attempting Irn Bru cookies.  Let's hope they work better than the cupcakes.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Perfect chocolate chip cookies

I thought I would take a break from blogging for one day, but then I decided not to.  It's World Vegan Day!  And because of that, I had to make something.  I decided to dig out my old favourite chocolate chip cookie recipe and see how it compared to the ones I'd made the past few days.
Many years ago, I was not really a cookie fan.  I don't know why - maybe because people thought putting things like oats and raisins and nuts in cookies was acceptable practice.  I pretty much only ever ate chocolate chip cookies, and my favourites were Keebler Soft Batch cookies.

Then this dude started coming out with books for making home versions - nearly exact replicas - of packaged and restaurant foods.  One of them had Keebler Soft Batch cookies in it.  Score!  I bought the book and made the cookies, and they ended up being my sister's favourite as well as mine.  I think about her every time I make these, if only because of the time she insisted I make them at her tiny little apartment when, not being a cook/baker herself (she preferred things from cans and boxes in those days) and not having much equipment, we had to try to cream the first ingredients by hand with a spoon (or maybe it was one of those hand-cranked egg beaters).  I think we gave up after about 15 minutes (but we still made the cookies).

One of the first recipes I veganized was that cookie recipe.  Instead of posting the recipe here and running afoul of copyright law or something, I'll just direct you to the link above and make the following suggestions:
  • Only make half a batch unless you're taking them to a potluck or something (otherwise you'll be in the kitchen for hours)
  • Replace the butter with vegan margarine
  • Replace the egg with either a flax egg or commercial egg replacer
  • If you live near sea level/in a moist climate, increase the flour a bit (you should be able to shape them by hand)
I love how these cookies are still soft a day or two later (if they last more than 2 days).  I don't know if it's the molasses or the method, but whatever it is, they're amazing both right out of the oven and the next day.  They're the only chocolate chip cookie I've ever had that stayed soft, which is how I like them.  Oh, and if you mess up and take them out too early (like I did tonight), you can still eat them and they'll still be delicious!  I actually kinda love gooey, undercooked cookies.  I think I ate about 5 tonight, and now I feel a bit sick.

I tested a recipe for Terry last night, but since this post is already kinda lengthy, I'll post that tomorrow.

Monday, 31 October 2011

Vegan MoFo - Another copycat and a wrap-up

It's the last day of MoFo 2011!  I'm sad it's ending, though a part of me is glad to be getting a break!  I actually managed to blog every single day of October!  I did that the first year I participated, but that's because I wasn't working, so I'm really impressed with myself that I was able to do it this year.

There were, let's face it, quite a few things that I wanted to do that I didn't get around to.  I didn't make stovies, skirlie, or tablet.  I didn't make poutine.  I didn't make nearly enough recipes from the Cookbook Challenge books, and I could've done better at testing.  But I made a lot of stuff, so that's something.

Anyway, my last MoFo post is another copycat from the I-40 Kitchen -  Potato Chip Chocolate Chip Cookies!
FYI - I used 3 25g packets of Tesco's ready-salted crisps to make up the cup called for in the recipe.  Once again, I did the roll-and-squish method.  The dough for these was a little thinner than the other ones I made, so they spread a bit more, but they still needed a bit of smooshing.

These were soft and delicious right out of the oven.  The chips just gave it a little bit of extra texture and a pleasant saltiness (though they were thirsty-making!).  They were pretty crispy after sitting overnight.  One of my co-workers said they were exactly the kind of chocolate chip cookies she likes, and they didn't last long with the rest of the office.  I liked them, but they still weren't my favourite cookies.  My quest for the perfect chocolate chip cookie continues.

So, even though it's the end of MoFo, I'll still be blogging.  I'll continue testing for Terry's next book, and I have a few more projects that I'll probably cover.  So this blog won't go silent until next October!

I hope everyone else enjoyed this MoFo as much as I did.  It went by so fast!  I can't wait for next year, though hopefully I'll have more time to prepare!

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Vegan MoFo - Copycats and crap shops

One of the things I wanted to do was a whole week of copycats - recipes that other MoFo'ers posted this month.  I didn't get around to that, but since I'd bought all the ingredients to make The I-40 Kitchen's Sausage Balls, I decided that those, at the very least, I had to have.
I only made a half batch because I didn't want to use up the entire box of Bisquick on one recipe.  I used Cheezly mature red cheddar for the cheese and Fry's sliceable sausage log thing for the sausage.  I tried one almost right out of the oven, and they were amazing, but they were also kinda crying out for gravy, so I whipped some up.  This was probably the trashiest and most delicious meal I've ever eaten!  I kinda wish I'd made a whole batch because we ate them all, but at the same time, I would probably already have eaten the rest if I had done.

After breakfast, we had to go get Mike's passport photos done, and then I headed up to Cameron Toll shopping centre.  They have a new American store called Amerikandy (I guess using a k when neither America or candy is spelled with a k gives it that added whimsy so crucial to a store that sells nothing but junk food).  When I walked by the other day and saw a tower of root beer, I promised myself I'd go back and check it out.

I had a comprehensive look around, and this is the impression I came away with - the person running the shop has probably never been to the US and possibly was accidentally sent a bunch of crap that s/he then marked up ridiculously to try to offload it to dupes.  They have boxes of Cocoa Pebbles for £8, and cans of soda (Mug and A&W root beers, Wild Cherry Pepsi, vanilla Coke, grape Fanta, and a few flavours of Mountain Dew) for £1.50 each or £16.50 for a 12-pack.  They also have Pop Tarts.  The rest of the shop, which, as you may recall, is called Amerikandy, is full of candy and junk food from the UK, some of it even made in Edinburgh.  I promise you that no child in the US will have ever consumed an Iron Brew (their spelling) lollipop.

Growing up only buying brand-name sodas when they were on sale for 2/$5 (because the generics were half as much and tasted the same), I'm reluctant to part with what amounts to about $25 for a box of soda.  When you then consider that Lupe Pinto's has most of the same sodas for £1.10 each, and also has other products I'd actually want to buy, I'm unlikely to shop here again.  However, I did grab a few things out of a combination of desperation (for root beer) and curiosity/shock value.
Mountain Dew, Wild Cherry Pepsi (which I've loved since my childhood taking the Greyhound from TX to NY, stopping at Withville, VA, for driver changes on almost every trip), A&W root beer, and Mug root beer.  Let's get a closer look at that Mountain Dew, shall we?
What the honest fork, Mountain Dew?!  Yes, that is a mountain man (called Hillbilly Willy) with a moonshine bottle cork blasting a hole through his hat, and it's called "throwback".  Well, at least he doesn't have a wild look in his eyes and isn't brandishing a shotgun.  The gimmick with this is that it's made with sugar (like the original Mountain Dew) instead of HFCS (like current Mtn Dew).  Soda companies' attempts to be down with the kids by doing some stupid promotion or changing their products to be more "xtreme" are annoying but usually not offensive, so could we please not use stereotypes in our marketing campaigns?

I'm hoping to get some more tester recipes done tonight and tomorrow, so I'll blog about those then.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Vegan MoFo - Cookbook Challenge: The Best Veggie Burgers on the Planet (pt 2)

Sorry this is so late - we're just back from seeing the cinema re-release of Ghostbusters!  I love that flick - I've probably seen it 100 times (no exaggeration) - and it's even better on the big screen.  I wish more of my favourite films would get re-released (or that the Cameo cinema would bring back the Breakfast Club, the once-a-month weekend morning show of an 80s classic).  I know this re-release is just a lead-up to Ghostbusters 3 (which I'm not sure about), but whatever.  Anyway, on to the foods.

I made another recipe from The Best Veggie Burgers on the Planet by Joni-Marie Newman.  Tonight was the Bacon Cheeseburger.
I would like to draw your attention to the bread substance containing the burger.  That is regular-sized sliced bread from the store.  The burger is overflowing the bread.  It is a giant-ass burger.  The recipe said it makes 4, but when I made the first two, they were humongous, so I made 4 more patties out of the rest of the dough.  Those went in the freezer because I knew neither of us would want more than one.

These were pretty easy to make and didn't take too long.  I think I cooked them longer than the recipe suggested because they were so huge (I didn't think they'd cook through with only 3-5 minutes of frying).  If I'd had more time, I probably would've baked them, but that would've made us late for the movie.   I might bake the other ones whenever I decide to eat them.

As far as taste, I thought they were a bit too sweet.  They have barbecue sauce and maple syrup in them, and I feel like I could've had less of one of those (probably the syrup).  I would've liked a little more smoky flavour as well.  Despite the 1/2 cup of nooch, I didn't think they tasted particularly cheesy - the sweetness kinda overwhelmed that flavour.

I used beef-style broth for the TVP.  The only thing I subbed was tahini for the peanut butter, since the Freenut butter is too sweet to sub in savoury dishes.

I don't know if I'd make these again.  I prefer a more basic burger that I can add things to, and I prefer my cheeseburgers to be cheesy.  I'll try out one of the basic burgers and see how that works out.

We set our clocks back tonight, so if you're in the UK, don't forget - 3am becomes 2am!  But only once!

Friday, 28 October 2011

Vegan MoFo - Simple things are often best

I was initially gonna review the Linda McCartney mini sausages that I bought last weekend.  But then I ate them and realised that they really are just smaller versions of the regular-size LM sausages, so I figured there was no point.  But I didn't just eat the mini sausages.
The side here is microwave-steamed rice mixed with microwave-steamed veg (cooked separately - they're two different products).  After I served Mike's rice, I threw my veg into the rice, then shook some liquid aminos and nooch over them and gave them a stir.  It's amazingly delicious, and actually kinda reminds me of fried rice!

It specifically reminds me of my pregan days when I hardly ate any veg and would only ever get chicken fried rice when we got Chinese take-out.  Of all the things on the menu, it had the least veg in it, so I figured it was safe.  I'm glad I've expanded my palate since then.  I can't wait to get back to Dallas and go to Veggie Garden for some awesome vegan Chinese food.

In other news, the soy milk powder available in the UK is so far inferior to that in the US that I could almost cry.  I don't know why this is, but the proof is in the fact that my instant hot chocolate mix is now nearly undrinkable.  I'm most displeased and will definitely be buying some US soy milk powder for my Xmas present from my sister (my present is that she pays to ship stuff I buy from the US).  So if anyone has a coupon code for Pangea or Cosmo's or any other US online vegan shop, it would be awesome if you shared.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Vegan MoFo - Quick dessert, quick post

Mike took me to dinner tonight.  We went to Bonsai.  I love Bonsai - so much that I've already done a MoFo post about it!  So I had to figure out something else to blog about for tonight.

On my way home, I decided to make cookies, since I figured they were something I could knock out between getting home and leaving for dinner.  I've never made anything from Kelly Pelosa's The Vegan Cookie Connoisseur, even though I've owned it for a year, so I decided to make something from that.  I already knew I wanted to make chocolate chip, so I flipped to that section of the book.  I picked a recipe that I liked the look of, only to discover that my applesauce had gone off (I really need to start freezing it in portions).  Then I chose another recipe but couldn't decide if I could go ahead and use actual soy yogurt instead of making the fake soy yogurt concoction the recipe calls for (a mixture of soy milk and cornstarch warmed up).  By the time I decided I could probably just use soy yogurt, it was too late to make the cookies.

And this is why I'm posting at 11.30pm - I've just finished making the cookies.  We got home from dinner, I sat around for a bit trying to decide if I'd rather just make blondies, and then I sucked it up and made the cookies.  I finally decided on Kelly's Chocolate Chip Cookies.
These won't replace my favourite chocolate chip cookies, but they were really tasty and pretty easy to make.  The recipe didn't say anything about flattening them, so my first batch was pretty puffy.  It also says it makes 16, but I managed to get 25 decent-sized cookies out of the dough.  This seems like one that would make decent sammich cookies, since the dough feels stiff enough to roll into a log and slice uniformly, but I just did the roll-and-squish method of dough shaping.

The book is packed with recipes I'd like to try, so I'm looking forward to having more time with it.  I've already decided to make another recipe for my office Xmas party.

Do you have the book?  What's your favourite recipe from it?

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Vegan MoFo - Nooch makes everything better

A couple of days ago, I made the Bacon and Egg Burgers from The Best Veggie Burgers on the Planet by Joni-Marie Newman for the cookbook challenge.  I didn't love them, but I really wanted to.  Despite not being great, they made an excellent breakfast - I eat breakfast between 8 and 8.15am, and when I ate these, I wasn't hungry until about 12.30 or 1pm.  So I was determined to make them more than just edible, and I think I've accomplished that!

One thing I realised is that the imitation bacon bits available here are far less salty than the ones available in the US.  You see, in the UK/Europe, the government actually regulates the food industry in a meaningful way, so they have limits on, for example, how much salt can be in food.  So my burgers were a little bland because I didn't account for the lower salt level.  The other thing I realised is that these are basically tofu scramble burgers.  As far as I'm concerned, it's not scramble if it doesn't contain nooch, and there's no nooch in these.

So I made the burgers again, this time adding about a teaspoon of liquid aminos (for the saltiness) and 1/4 cup of nooch.  I managed to get away using slightly less flour this time as well (and I only used 1/2 cup of flour last time, which is the low end of the range for the recipe).  They turned out great!  I actually want to eat another one right now, but having just calculated the calories (roughly 186 each), I can't really afford to after all those Manner wafers I ate this afternoon.

I'm really glad I gave these another try, because I can see them becoming a breakfast staple.  They're really easy to make and take relatively little time, and, as I said above, are filling enough to get you through to lunch.  They're a little more calorific than my usual breakfast (cereal and soymilk), but I think I'll make that up by not feeling the need to snack between meals (I hope - abundant Manner wafers notwithstanding).  Oh, and they freeze well, so you could make a couple of batches (I managed to fry the whole of one batch in one go) and pop a bunch in the freezer.

Mike's taking me out to dinner tomorrow, but I need to check that I haven't already reviewed this restaurant (I have a feeling I have).  If I have, I might make something between getting home and going back out so I have something to blog about!

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Vegan MoFo - Sick again

I'm going for a cop-out survey post tonight.  I'm either having another allergy attack or have caught a cold for real this time, so dinner was a Freenut butter and jam sammich, hot chocolate and some allergy pills (and Mike just ate ice cream).

1. Favorite non-dairy milk? Alpro Soya sweetened, in the blue carton

2. What are the top 3 dishes/recipes you are planning to cook? Sausage balls from the I-40 Kitchen, Mo's Texas-sized kolaches, and Isa's Apple Pie Pancakes

3. Topping of choice for popcorn? nooch and seasoned salt

4. Most disastrous recipe/meal failure?  A couple of months ago, I was trying to be good and make lunch for Mike the night before so I didn't have to get up early to do it.  I put the pasta on, then promptly forgot about it.  About 45 minutes later, Mike said "what's that smell" and I remembered his pasta.  It ruined the pan and made the flat smell like smoke for days.  But I got a really good new pan out of it, and now we know our smoke detectors don't work.

5. Favorite pickled item? I don't really like anything pickled!

6. How do you organize your recipes? I used to have them organised by category on my computer, but then my hard drive crashed. Now I just have a few things on my hard drive and everything else in my bookmarks.  And I pretty much never look at them.

7. Compost, trash, or garbage disposal? Unfortunately, we can't compost and don't have a garbage disposal, so we have to trash our food waste.

8. 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)? Tofu, nooch, chard

9. Fondest food memory from your childhood? Big Southern-style breakfasts at my grandparents' house – scrambled eggs, biscuits and gravy (or jam or sorghum), bacon, cereal, juice – I've made a vegan version many times

10. Favorite vegan ice cream? One I made myself – PB Speculoos cookies and cream: a base made with Freenut butter and homemade Speculoos spread (using the PB variation of the ice cream recipe in Veganomicon) with crushed Oreos added in at the end

12. Spice/herb you would die without? cumin

13. Cookbook you have owned for the longest time? Since I moved to another country, I can really only count the books I've gotten since I came to Edinburgh, so that would have to be Vegan with a Vengeance.

14. Favorite flavor of jam/jelly? Seedless raspberry

15. Favorite vegan recipe to serve to an omni friend? Probably The Best Pumpkin Muffins Ever from VwaV, made with less sugar and added chocolate chips

17. Favorite meal to cook (or time of day to cook)? Brinner! It's not just because it's eating breakfast any time you want – it's eating breakfast without having to get up early to make it and without having to do anything afterwards, like get on with your day.

18. What is sitting on top of your refrigerator? Nothing – it's an under-counter

19. Name 3 items in your freezer without looking. Mr Rak's mini-latkes (closest thing to tots I can get here), frozen veg, Linda McCartney mini-sausages

20. What’s on your grocery list? Nothing right now – I just went shopping the other day.  Oh, I actually need some soy milk powder because I ran out when I made the last batch of hot chocolate mix, and we're almost out of hot chocolate mix.

21. Favorite grocery store? Real Foods for specialty/vegan stuff, Sainsbury's for everyday stuff, Lupe Pinto's for Latin ingredients or American convenience foods (like Hershey's syrup)

22. Name a recipe you’d love to veganize, but haven’t yet. Poutine – it seems like the best idea ever – fries, gravy, and cheese. I just haven't had the chance, though it shouldn't be that difficult.

23. Food blog you read the most (besides Isa’s because I know you check it everyday). Or maybe the top 3? Mo Betta Vegan, Don't Eat Off the Sidewalk, and Cupcake Kitteh

24. Favorite vegan candy/chocolate? Go Max Go Twilight or The Chocolate Tree sea salt and caramel dark chocolate bar or Marmite truffle

25. Most extravagant food item purchased lately? It's really only extravagant when you convert the currency, but I spent £4 (about $6.40) on a small box of Bisquick which probably would've cost about $2.50 in the US. I really don't often splash out on food. I find it difficult to justify spending £2.60 on a 2-pack of Redwood quarterpound burgers (though they're really good).

Monday, 24 October 2011

Vegan MoFo - Testering

I mentioned that I'm testing for Terry Hope Romero's newest book (working title might be World of Vegancraft).  I wanted to have done more by now, but once again, the flat situation got in the way - we had a second viewing at 7pm, so I wasn't really interested in cooking when we got home.

So, the recipe I started with was the White Lima Bean Soup with Tomatoes and Thyme.

I have to admit, I didn't love it.  I didn't hate it - there's definite potential there.  I like all the individual ingredients, and they should work together.

To be honest, I think the fault might have been mine.  I accidentally added an extra teaspoon of thyme, and then the pot boiled over.  I'll probably make this again and actually get the quantities right and not let the pot boil over.  I kinda feel like, even though I managed to get a lot of the extra thyme out after it boiled over, I owe it to Terry to make sure it wasn't my fault that I didn't like it.

Hopefully I'll be able to crack on with another tester recipe tomorrow.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Vegan MoFo - Cookbook Challenge: The Best Veggie Burgers on the Planet (pt 1)

Holy crap am I tired.  It's 11.30pm and I've only recently finished cooking for the evening.  I made soup, bagels, burgers, and cake, and I'm exhausted.

Today starts week...something (I can't be bothered to check) of the Cookbook Challenge.  This week's book is The Best Veggie Burgers on the Planet by Joni-Marie Newman.  I've chosen a lot from this book, but I'm already pretty sure I won't be able to get through it.  We'll see - I've also started testing for Terry's new book, so I might not have time for everything.  I actually made a tester recipe today, but it's one of those "tastes better the next day" deals so I'll reserve judgment until tomorrow.

I started off with the Bacon and Egg Burgers and the Bagel Buns.
The buns are what you'd expect - taste and texture of a bagel, but without the hole.  They were a bit time-consuming, but no more than any other yeast bread.  Actually, they were pretty easy.  I used a bit of wholemeal flour to make them a little healthier.

The burgers were kinda meh.  They were a little flavourless, which is odd considering how much stuff goes into them - garlic powder, onion powder, bacon bits.  I'm hoping that the flavours will develop overnight and they'll taste better tomorrow.

I also made the Espresso Chocolate Chip Cake.  I didn't take a picture because it kinda fell apart and didn't look great.  But it tasted amazing!  It's very chocolaty - I barely detected the coffee, despite it having as much espresso powder as cocoa powder and 1/4 c of coffee liqueur.  I honestly wasn't sure about it when I tasted the batter, but it really works.  It's fluffy and moist and slightly gooey from the chocolate chips.  It's kinda everything I want in an unadorned chocolate cake.  OK, I'd be happy if it did the same thing with half the fat, but what can you do?  Oh, word to the wise - eat this with a glass of your non-dairy milk of choice at hand, because you'll need it.  In fact, maybe keep the carton out.

I'm feeling better about this book than the last, especially with a success right out of the gate.  Hopefully today's burgers were a fluke and everything else will be comparable to the cake and buns.

Are you participating in the cookbook challenge?  What are you planning from this one?

Vegan MoFo - Giveaway winner!

The winner of the giveaway for a bottle of Hollow's Alcoholic Ginger Beer is ...


If you see this before you see the post on the PPK, PM me your details.  If you get back to me by 1pm tomorrow, I'll be able to send it out tomorrow.

Also, apologies for not being able to prove the winner.  I used a random number generator for 1-7 and got 4 (and xherbivorex was the 4th official entry), but I couldn't figure out how to get the number generator onto here.  You'll just have to trust that I didn't fix the competition or anything.

Congratulations, xherbivorex!!

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Vegan MoFo - Cookbook Challenge: 500 Vegan Recipes (pt 4)

Tonight I tried to make the Kahlua ice cream from 500 Vegan Recipes.  Here's how it failed:

First, I didn't have quite enough Kahlua.  I solved that with throwing in some vanilla, which also made up for the fact that I can't get vanilla soy creamer in the UK.  But that shouldn't have made much difference.

Then, when it was simmering, I stirred in the arrowroot slurry.  It cooked, and I stirred.  It cooked, and I stirred.  And it never. got. thick.  This may have been the fault of my arrowroot powder, though I didn't have a problem when I used it a couple of weeks ago.  So, I made a bit more slurry, this time with some Bird's Custard Powder (which I just bought recently).  It didn't quite dissolve, so when I poured it in, it left some chunks.  But at least the mixture got slightly thicker.

I poured it into my container, let it cool on the counter, and then put it in the fridge to cool for several hours.  When I thought it was sufficiently cool, I set up my ice cream maker and poured it in.  About 1/4 of it went on the counter.  But that was kinda OK because there was too much for my ice cream maker anyway.

I went back to check on it after about 20 minutes, and it was still completely liquid.  So I left it in for another 20 minutes or so.  Still mostly liquid, though it seemed to be forming some crystals.  After over an hour of churning, it still only had some crystals, but it wasn't anywhere near ice cream.  (Bear in mind, I've used this machine before with great success.)

I ended up just bunging the mixture back into the container and putting it in the freezer.  I refuse to give up when alcohol is involved.  We'll see if it comes anywhere near ice cream.

Overall, I have to say I've been pretty disappointed with this book.  I've only made one recipe from it that I loved and made multiple times (the yeasted pumpkin bread).  Everything else has been mediocre at best.  I won't give up on it entirely because I've barely cracked it (even if I made 50 recipes from it, I'd only be 1/10th of the way through), but I don't ever see it being in heavy rotation.  At the same time, I won't warn people away from it entirely because there are obviously loads of people who love it.

Next week's cookbook challenge book is The Best Veggie Burgers on the Planet, also by Joni Marie Newman.  I've dog-eared a lot of pages, and I have to start testing, so I'll be busy next week!

Friday, 21 October 2011

Vegan MoFo - Cookbook Challenge: 500 Vegan Recipes (pt 3)

I was thisclose to not bothering again today, but then I decided that I had to do something better than review more convenience foods.  I decided to make another recipe from 500 Vegan Recipes for the Cookbook Challenge.

I made the Cast Iron Skillet Frittata, a combination of the Lorraine and Mexican variations.  I could've used my bac'n bits to do the Lorraine straight up, but I'm not sure if I can get any more, so I didn't want to take the chance (since I plan on using them for something else later).  So I used some chorizo that I made during testing for Alicia's next book, Quick and Easy Low-Cal Vegan Comfort Food (which, btw, will be amazing, I promise).  I served it with Mac & Trees Peas from Appetite for Reduction.

I have to be honest - I didn't love this.  The texture was weird to me - I'm used to frittatas just being mashed up tofu pressed into the pan, so the blending of the ingredients here made for a texture that was disappointing.  It also wasn't terribly flavourful, despite the amount of garlic and onion powders chucked into it.  And despite containing soy creamer and 1/4 c of oil, it was mouth-parchingly dry.  So, needless to say, I won't be making this again.  It pales in comparison to the Papa Chorizo Frittata in Q&E Vegan Celebrations, which is my absolute favourite frittata recipe of all time.

Speaking of testing, I got an email yesterday telling me that I get to be in the tester pool for Terry's next book!  I'm super excited, but also a little bit anxious because she already has so many recipes up.  It's a little different from what I'm used to.  I'm looking forward to starting soon (just need to go through everything and figure out what I'm doing!).

Don't forget, for those of you in the UK, you can still win a bottle of Hollow's Alcoholic Ginger Beer.  Just leave a comment about your favourite ginger and/or beer recipe in the giveaway post before 12pm Sunday!

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Vegan MoFo - More convenience food and a GIVEAWAY!

More flat stuff and being a bit unwell (sinusy holdover from the other day, I hope) equals another review of convenience food!

This is pretty similar to last night's dinner, with just a few changes.  Tonight is Sainsbury's Love Soya sausages (which actually are labeled vegan), noochy Smash, and microwave-steamed veg.

I realised what I don't like about these sausages that I noticed in last night's sausage rolls - too much pepper.  They're really, really peppery, and it kinda overwhelms the rest of the flavours.  The texture is great - very nearly the same as the Linda McCartney sausages - but they're just that little bit different.  And I think that's the difference between a vegetarian company and a company trying to cash in on a trend.

So, remember last week when I posted about Hollow's Ginger Beer?  Well, they sent me free stuff!  And since they sent two bottles, I'm giving one away!
I'm terribly un-clever, so I guess tell me your favourite recipe with ginger and/or beer, and I'll choose a winner randomly!  Since this is only available in the UK, and I'm not sure about shipping alcohol to other countries, this is open to UK residents only.

I promise I'll make some real food soon.  We're extremely focused on getting this flat, but we may have reached another waiting period.  Also, I can't get IKEA's kitchen planner to work on my computer, so I don't have that to play with.  So tomorrow, I'll actually make something from scratch!

Aaahh, sorry, I forgot to put a date on this!  Giveaway entries accepted through this Sunday at 12pm BST.  I'll pick a winner and get your details so I can (hopefully) send it out on Monday.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Vegan MoFo - Cookbook Challenge: 500 Vegan Recipes (pt 2)

Seems like yesterday's ailment was just run-of-the-mill allergies.  Back on form today, but I still ate convenience food, but here's why:

We found out that the flat we want is being offered to us at 75% of the original list price.  That is freaking amazing.

Anyway, I came home from work and shopping to this news, then waited for Mike to get home to share with him.  By the time we finished talking about it with each other, talking to his dad about it, and looking at furniture on the IKEA website, it was nearly 8pm.  And I just so happened to buy a bunch of new frozen convenience foods, so I decided to cook that instead of fresh food.


We have here another plate of nothing but convenience foods.  The small things are in Sainsbury's newly revamped frozen free-from line called Love Soya - mini sausage rolls (btw, the whole range is on sale, but check the ingredients - not everything is vegan).  The large one just behind those is a Linda McCartney sausage roll (I had 2 left and wanted to get rid of them).  The pile of beige to the right is noochy Smash, and the veg is frozen broccoli and cauliflower.

I'll be honest - I prefer the Linda McCartney sausage rolls.  But maybe if I'd cooked the Sainsbury's ones a little less, I'd like them more.  As always, noochy Smash is a winner, but the veg was kinda meh.  I think I'll stick with the steam bags (which I love).

But I still managed to do something for the Cookbook Challenge.  I made the Chocolate Breakfast Cake from 500 Vegan Recipes.
Oh dear lord, you must eat this with something on it.  To give you an idea of how not sweet this is, it has more cocoa than sugar.  Right out of the pan, it's dry and kinda icky (though I have to admit, the banana flavour isn't very strong at all).  However, spread with a bit of raspberry jam, it's actually pretty good.  Since I had to make a point of buying a banana, I don't think I'd make this again, but it was nice to try something different.

In other fabulous news, it looks like another American import shop is opening up in the 'burgh.  It's in the same shopping centre as my preferred Sainsbury's, which is slightly more convenient than Lupe Pinto's.  Unfortunately, it looks like it's mostly candy and junk food (most of which I'm sure I can't eat).  However, I saw 12-packs of Mug root beer and Wild Cherry Pepsi.  Hell. Yes.  Hopefully since it looks like they're more exclusively American, they'll be importing more of everything and therefore have it available for less than LP's (which would be awesome - £1.10 for a can of A&W is a bit ridiculous).

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Vegan MoFo - In which I fail due to sickness

This will be a short post.  I had to come home early because I'm ill.  It's probably just allergies, or at least I hope it is.  So I didn't really do anything today.  I couldn't be bothered cooking, so I ate convenience foods that I've already talked about, and I drank a lot of hot chocolate that I already talked about*.  So, apologies to those who are actually checking my blog for new content.  Hopefully I'll be back on form tomorrow and able to post some actual food-related content.

*OK, so I can kinda talk about the hot chocolate mix again.  The recipe calls for 1/4 c mix to 1 c hot water.  I think that's way too much.  I use a giant mug that's easily 1 1/2+ cups, and I use 1/4 c in that.  So I would say it's maybe 2 heaped tablespoons per cup of hot water.  Also, I think the mix itself needs at least another tablespoon of cocoa powder.  So, there's your food-related content.  Oh, and we went through that mix so quickly that I already had to make another double batch, and now I'm out of soy milk powder.  *sadface*

Monday, 17 October 2011

Vegan MoFo - Restaurant Review: Phuket Pavilion

I'm gonna be a bit lazy today as I slept badly and had a crazy busy day, and then we went out to dinner.  Also, I forgot my camera.  Sorry.

We went to Phuket Pavilion, which is an amazing Thai restaurant up the road from our flat.  We could've walked there if it hadn't been raining.  We probably go there every couple of months because the food is delicious and filling, and it's really convenient.

Mike always gets the spring rolls as a starter.  I usually get the sweet potato fritters to start, but the last time I had them, they were just too greasy, so this time, I got the Soup Pak (veg in clear broth).  It was really lovely - not spicy, not too heavy, and very few bits to avoid (unlike the Tom Kah Hed Nang Fah, which, while delicious, has bits of lemongrass and such that aren't very appetizing to me).

For mains, we shared a Panang Tao Hu (bean curd in red curry sauce) and a Chu Chi Hed Nang Fah (oyster mushrooms in red curry sauce), and we got a coconut rice each (which comes out in a hollowed out coconut!).  I wanted bean curd but also something veg-like.  We usually only get a starter each and one curry and rice to share, but I thought I'd still be hungry enough for my own curry tonight.  I was wrong.  Even though I only ate about 2/3 of my soup, I still only managed half of my curry and rice.  That said, it was, as usual, delicious.  And we have leftovers!

 We'd probably go more often, but it's a bit pricey, and I usually need to be in the mood for Thai.  But I'd definitely recommend it.  Also, it's not a veggie restaurant, so it would be good for groups full of omnis.  And they always seem to be a bit empty, so we worry about them staying open.  Go there!