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!

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Vegan MoFo - Cookbook Challenge: 500 Vegan Recipes (pt 1)

We're now into the third week of Vegan MoFo!  Time is flying!  We're also in week 5 of the Cookbook Challenge, and this week is 500 Vegan Recipes by Celine Steen and Joni-Marie Newman.

This morning afternoon I made the Peanut Butter Pancakes (with Freenut Butter, of course).  I made the first half of the batch as per the recipe and the second half with chocolate chips.

Apologies for the pic - I forgot to take one before I started eating.

As suggested, I ate these with some raspberry jam.  The plain ones were a bit meh, but the chocolate chip ones were really good.  Mike quite liked both, though he had the plain with chocolate spread.  But he usually doesn't like PB stuff, so they must have been good.  That said, I find that a lot of stuff that has cooked PB (apart from cookies) almost seems like the PB flavour is baked out (like when you cook with alcohol).  Things that have a strong PB flavour tend to be uncooked (ice cream, buttercream, etc.) - I'm not quite sure why that is - which is why it kinda annoys me when I make something with a cup of PB and don't taste any PB, especially since the stuff I use isn't cheap.  But what can you do?

Oh, I should also say that the batter for these was crazy thick.  I could've made waffles with it.  Those up there didn't just fluff up - that's how thick the batter was.  They also took a while to cook, so these took me over an hour all told.  They also created a bit of a mess with mixing in the PB.  I don't know that I'd make these again just for us because they're a bit of a time-consuming hassle.  But they were tasty.  Oh, and as Mike pointed out, they turned green on the inside.

I made the Chili and Cornbread Pie for dinner (sorry, too lazy/tired to take a pic).  Let me start off by saying this - the instructions are wrong.  There's no way in hell all those ingredients can fit in an 8" square pan.  The chili alone came up to the top of my 10" cast iron skillet (which is the proper vessel in which to cook cornbread).  I ended up putting everything in my cast iron Dutch oven.

The chili was a bit odd - despite all the spices, it still felt a little bland, though that could be sorted with a bit of salt.  It also wasn't as saucy as I'm used to.  The cornbread was some kind of Yankee concoction - more flour than cornmeal, which felt a little wrong (as did the suggestion that it would be cooked in a glass pan - honestly).  Other than that, it was pretty good.  I'd make it again, but I'd change it a bit (like more liquid in the chili and more cornmeal in the cornbread).

We're going out for dinner tomorrow, so it'll be another restaurant review, but I might also make something else from 500VR.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Vegan MoFo - Another lazy dinner

I had another convenience food dinner tonight.  Cooking was involved, but not a single thing actually eaten was hand-made by me.  I didn't even bother taking a picture because it was so simple and full of packaged goodness - a Redwood's quarterpound burger with a bit of smoked cheddar Sheese (made in Scotland!) between two pieces of store-bought bread (Alinson's batch baked wholemeal, in case you're interested) with mustard, Infinity Foods' smoked garlic mayo, and ketchup, with a side of microwave-steamed veggies (frozen 4-pack from Sainsbury's).  Simple, but quick and delicious, though I feel a bit guilty writing about it.  But it is Saturday, and I technically don't have to do an entry today, so whevs.

OK, so the guilt got to me and I did something.  It's not much, but it'll serve me well in coming months - homemade hot chocolate mix.
I used the Go Dairy Free recipe, which has always been decent.  Another quick and easy thing that will come in handy when Mike wants hot chocolate but I can't be bothered standing over the stove to make it from scratch.  I went with the plain recipe because I like to be able to customise my hot chocolate each time and don't want to be tied to a particular flavour.
I did end up putting a bit of cinnamon in this, and topped it off with vanilla soy milk to cool it faster and make up for using less-than-vanilla-y vanilla sugar.

BTW, do us a favour and check out PPKer Jen's blog, That Pain in the Ass Vegan, a couple of times a day.  She's trying to get a million hits during MoFo so she can donate the money generated to her local food bank and animal shelters.  Unfortunately I can't help (other than trying to get the word out) because only US hits count.  Boo-urns.  So click it, share it with your friends, and then just keep refreshing the page all day.  That would be swell.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Vegan MoFo - Restaurant Review: Heavenly

I took today off from work and took myself to Glasgow for a day of eating and museum-ing.  Usually when we go to Glasgow, we don't stay long or do much because Mike's a bit of a homebody and doesn't like to stay out long.  Also, when we go to museums, he has a tendency to get bored quickly (because he reads faster and finishes sooner), so I end up getting rushed and not seeing everything I want to see.  So this time, I was by myself and could go at my own pace, and it was great.

I started off with lunch at Heavenly.  They're a fairly new all-vegan restaurant - they've only been open since May.  Heavenly became my favourite restaurant after my first meal there, and it remains firmly in first place after today.  It doesn't hurt that they don't have much competition, but they easily quash the few other contenders with a varied menu that doesn't seem to be based around vegan stereotypes (elaborate salads and every other dish full of nuts).

They just debuted their winter menu today, so the lunch service was a bit off due to having just received the ingredients.  There were a few things on the menu that I liked the look of but weren't available, but even with that I had some tough decisions to make.  I started out with a new item, garlic mushroom crostini (picture below).  It was gorgeous - so much so that I got it again at dinner.

Luckily for me, the one thing on the old menu that I'd not been able to try made it to the new menu, and they had that ready to go, so that was my main - bangers and mash with red onion gravy.

As you can see, the gravy was nice and thick.  The sausages were a bit overcooked, but it didn't detract from the taste (neither did the fact that they're clearly Redwood's or similar).  The whole dish was tasty and comforting.

The only dessert I fancied wasn't ready yet, so I moved on to my next destination.

I went to the Kelvingrove for the AC/DC exhibition.  It was really good.  It not only contained your standard photos, ticket stubs, backstage passes, clothing, and other memorabilia, but interactive bits like a guitar with tabs for some of the more famous songs, and a couple of screens showing concert footage and interviews.  And it was only £2!  I'm glad I went - I still have "For Those About to Rock" in my head.

After that, I did a bit of shopping.  I went to Roots and Fruits, which seems to have reorganised and shifted half of the shop to the new (2nd) location on Argyle Street.  However, I did manage to get some Tofutti Sour Supreme, so hopefully I'll get it in gear and make the Deli Reubenettes from American Vegan Kitchen.  After that I went to Lupe Pinto's and bought Bisquick.  I will make the I-40 Blog's sausage balls.

Then it was time for me to meet PPKer Debbie for dinner, again at Heavenly!  I was going to get the polenta cakes, but then I realised they had pesto, which was made with pine nuts (allergen), so I had the crostini again.

Sorry for the green-ness - we sat at The Smiths booth, which has a green-shaded light overhead.  This was even better than earlier - loaded with creamy, garlicky mushrooms and slightly crispy - I could eat it daily.

Debbie had the soup and sandwich combo.  The soup was leek and tattie, and the sandwich was the New York Doll.  I don't recall what she thought of the soup, but she said the sandwich was good but messy, and the seitan was a little less firm than she would've liked but still tasty.

My main was the roast vegetable pie with mash and gravy (which they inexplicably call sauce here, but that there is white gravy, I don't care what they say).  The pie was a little odd - really large cuts of veg, including leek, piled on top of each other and sandwiched between two rounds of puff pastry.  It was tasty, but kinda weird.  But the mash and gravy were good, though I prefer brown gravy on my mash.  But dessert made up for it.

I got the gingerbread with cinnamon custard - the chocolate sauce was a pleasant surprise.  This is hands-down one of the best - if not THE best - desserts I've ever had at a vegan restaurant.  I always bemoan the fact that no one seems to be able to make a simple damn cake with no crap in it - no nuts, no dates, no raisins, just cake and icing.  Though not exactly "just cake and icing", this was brilliant.  The gingerbread was very cakey, and the custard was a perfect complement, and the chocolate sauce tied it all together nicely.  If I hadn't been so full, I might have gotten a second serving.  It was delightful, and I'll be sad if they don't have it next time I'm there.

So, in case you hadn't worked it out, I would absolutely recommend Heavenly.  We've been a couple of times when it wasn't very full, so we worry a bit that they'll stay open.  But with the new menu moving away from, as Debbie put it, everything looking like the one vegan option in most non-vegan places, to truly unique and creative dishes, I hope it's soon regularly packed and in no danger of closing, because every other restaurant now pales in comparison.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Vegan MoFo - Alcoholic Ginger Beer (Bread)

Someone from Cake Liberation Front posted in the giveaway thread about a giveaway they're doing, so I checked out the blog.  They had a recipe for Alcoholic Ginger Beer Bread - a cake-like quick bread with ginger, ginger beer, and chocolate - so I decided that I needed to give it a try.

The first step here was finding Hollows Alcoholic Ginger Beer as Crabbie's is, apparently, not vegan.  I'd never seen it before, so I contacted customer service, who sent me a list of retailers the next day.  The contact person also said they'd send me some free samples if I found it in a shop that wasn't on their list.  Well, after I bought it from Earthy Foods & Goods (on my first visit; I also bought my favourite rooibos chai and my favourite dark chocolate - The Chocolate Tree's sea salt and caramel dark chocolate), I happened to spy a bottle in Real Foods (which is kinda funny because I didn't even think of looking there, even though it's exactly the kind of thing they'd sell and I'm there a couple times a week).  And, true to her word, the contact person asked me for my address to send me some samples!  I eagerly await them - it'll brighten my work day, since that's where they'll be delivered.

Anyway, I digress.  So, I made the bread, and I had some ginger beer left over.  I don't think I've ever had straight alcoholic ginger beer, but I've had the non-alcoholic stuff.  I like it enough, but only sparingly, as I find it has a bit of an ohgoditburns! quality to it.  This, however, did not taste like burning.  It has a mild, pleasant flavour, definitely ginger but not so strong that it hurts, but it also doesn't taste like alcohol.  I would definitely order this in a pub - it's more refreshing than cider and less vile than beer.  Unfortunately, I only had about 1/4 of a bottle left, and Mike drank most of it, so I couldn't judge the level of buzz one might get from it.

On to the bread:

I like it a lot, though I wish it had come out a little more cake-like.  As you can see, it's loaded with chocolate chips (which I used in place of chunks because I'm lazy and had about a kilo of chips vs no bars/chunks), and the chocolate flavour almost overwhelms the ginger.  Despite having 2 tsp of ginger and 12 oz of ginger beer, the ginger flavour is actually pretty subtle.  I'm hoping that will change with a bit of a sit.

BTW, the company that makes the alcoholic ginger beer is owned by Fentimans, who bring us Curiosity Cola and Victorian Lemonade.  They make good stuff.

I'm super excited about tomorrow - I'm going to Glasgow for eating, meeting up for cake and beverages, and going to museums.  Two things - new menu at Heavenly, and AC/DC exhibition at the Kelvingrove!  More about that when I get home tomorrow evening!

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Vegan MoFo - Cookbook Challenge: Appetite for Reduction (pt 2)

I did a couple more recipes from Appetite for Reduction for the Cookbook Challenge.  Today was Broiled Blackened Tofu and Mac & Trees.

I think you can tell by the picture which of these recipes I preferred.  I loved the Mac & Trees.  I'm pretty sure I've made the pea version before, but never the original broccoli version.  It was really good - it tasted like comforting, creamy, cheesy mac and cheese, but the broccoli and the fact that it's low-cal made it feel OK to eat (which I did, repeatedly, one spoonful at a time every time I went to the kitchen).   Even Mike liked it, and he hates cooked cheese-type foods.  He liked it enough to want to eat it again!  So this is a definite winner.

Also, I just love that cheese sauce.  It takes all of 15 minutes to make all told, and it's really really good.  And no added fat!  That's what you want in a cheese sauce.  And the best thing about vegan cheese sauces - easy clean-up.  You can let a vegan cheese sauce cool and still be able to rinse out most of it.  +1 for veganism.

The tofu, however, was not my favourite.  The flavour was OK, but I didn't dig the texture.  I think, once again, it was my nemesis thyme.  I love/hate that bastard substance.  I almost didn't put it in, but then I decided to go with the original recipe.  I kinda wish I hadn't.  I kept getting jabbed in the gums by it, and at one point, I had a hard time getting a piece out of my gum.  It was uncomfortable, which is the exact opposite of how I want to feel when I eat.  Also, I don't really have a broiler, so I had to just bake the tofu on high heat close to the element.  It didn't blacken, though I think that was the least of its problems.

So, yeah, I'll make the hell out of the Mac & Trees, but if I try the tofu again, I'll leave out the thyme.

In other, non-food/veganism related news, we were approved for a mortgage!  We're hoping to put in an offer on a flat soon.  We're super excited.  For me anyway, it's mostly because I get a cat after the majority of the work has been done on it.  So keep your fingers crossed for us that everything goes smoothly and I'll be cuddling a kitteh soon!

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Vegan MoFo - PPKlassics: Pandacookie's Butterscotch rum cake

I think this might be my saddest post ever, because it's a post about failure.

I'll be honest, I'm not used to baking failures that are my own fault.  I mean, I can handle something like the Irn Bru cupcakes that didn't come out the first time because it was an experiment and I couldn't have known what would happen.  But when I fail at something that has been tested and approved by others, I feel kinda crappy.

There's a thread in the Kitchen about PPKlassics - recipes that made the rounds on the old boards or early days on the new boards.  One of the recipes mentioned was Pandacookie's Butterscotch Rum Bundt Cake - a yellow cake made with rum and butterscotch chips.  I know, it sounds amazing.  I didn't actually have anything to write about today because Mike came home tired and didn't want anything elaborate for dinner, so we just had sammiches.  Then I remembered I had been gazing longingly at that recipe, checked that I had the ingredients, and went for it.

Well, in the interim, I got upset about something (I won't talk about it here), and I didn't tend to the cake as I should have.  I tested it, but I must have tested the wrong bit, because, after cooling, I discovered that it was still gooey on the inside.  I ate a bit, hoping it would be at least acceptable for home consumption, but it was really bad.  I actually think I may have gotten buzzed off the rum that didn't bake out.

So, yeah, my cake was a failure, so my previous upset was compounded by failcake (that I can't even make in to cakeballs).  Not only did I waste the time, I also wasted almost all of the rest of my stash of imported butterscotch chips and most of a bottle of Morgan's Spiced Rum.  But since it's my own failure and not that of the recipe, I'll post it here.

Pandacookie’s Rum Butterscotch Bundt Cake

2 1/2 c all purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 c sugar
3/4 c rum
1/2 c canola oil (I used 1/4 c oil and 1/4 c applesauce)
1/2 c soy milk
equivalent of 2 eggs (I used ener-g)
2 tsp vanilla
1 c vegan sour cream (I used soy yogurt)
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 c butterscotch chips

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Grease and flour a bundt pan.
Sift flour, baking soda, salt and sugar into a large bowl.  In another bowl combine rum, oil, milk, egg replacer, and vanilla.  Add the liquid mixture to the dry ingredients and mix.  Fold in the butterscotch chips, then fold in the sour cream.  Add the vinegar and stir briefly (the vinegar will, react making pale swirls in the batter).  Quickly pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake 35-45 minutes.  Cool 10 minutes before turning out of the pan.

If you try this, let me know if it works out for you.  Maybe it was the subs, or maybe it was taking it out too early, or maybe it was the pan being too small.  All I know is, I am sad that I have no cake, because that one is going in the bin.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Vegan MoFo - Cookbook Challenge: Appetite for Reduction (pt 1)

So, we're doing the Cookbook Challenge again.  It seems to always coincide with MoFo, which actually works out great for me.  It not only gets me to use my cookbooks, but it also gives me something to blog about!

This week is actually supposed to be Vegan Soul Kitchen by Bryant Terry, but I don't have that book, so I'm going back to week 1, Isa and Terry Week.  I still haven't cooked much out of Appetite for Reduction (in my defense, I've been testing for Alicia for several months now), so I decided to focus on that.  I have the rest of the books after that, and there's a 2nd Isa/Terry week, and I'm really looking forward to using a few books I haven't had for long.

It's kinda late and I'm pretty tired, so I'm just posting the recipe I tried last night, which was the Smoky Split Pea Soup.

Split pea soup is another one of those things that I didn't try for a very long time because my mom always made it seem like something vile.  Pea soup was the stuff of nightmares, and this was before I saw The Exorcist (or did my Linda Blair impression at that Halloween party a few years ago).  I've since learned to love split pea soup.  How could you not?  It's creamy and savoury and comforting.  It's like a bowl of liquid hugs for your insides.

Isa's smoky, low-cal version is great.  It mimics that bit of ham you'd get in an omni split pea soup without the fat or cruelty.  The only thing I didn't like about it was the thyme.  I wish there was a way to have the flavour of thyme without the texture.  Those little bastards always stick in my teeth.

To be honest, I tested another low-cal split pea soup recipe for Alicia that I like better, so I'll probably stick with that.  But until the rest of you mortals have access to that one, I would recommend this one.