Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Vegan MoFo VI, Day 31 - This is Hallowe'en!

And this is why I'll never be a professional baker.

I didn't post yesterday because I was working on my stuff for today.  And frankly, this is so epic, it should count as 2 posts.

You know how, when Facebook first started up, you filled out all your info about what stuff you like - favourite bands, movies, books, etc. - but they changed at some point and sorta automatically subscribed you to the pages for the things you like?  So I get posts from movies that I like, usually stills from the film.  But every once in a while, they post other stuff - related but not exactly stuff from the film.

A few months ago, The Nightmare Before Christmas posted some Oogie Boogie cupcakes.  They looked pretty awesome.  Well, about a week ago, they posted Jack Skellington cupcakes.  How I didn't have this idea on my own I'll never fully understand, but I saw them and immediately thought, I am going to make those.

Well, their idea was to use chocolate cupcakes and vanilla buttercream.  But he's the Pumpkin King, so of course pumpkin cupcakes would be more appropriate.  But since vanilla buttercream would be a bit much for pumpkin cupcakes, I made cream cheese frosting.

I used the recipe for Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Cupcakes from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World but left out the chocolate chips, used pumpkin pie spice instead of just cinnamon, and made them gluten free.  For the frosting, I used the cream cheese frosting recipe from the same book.
That's right - I am the Pumpkin King!

Back to those Oogie Boogie cupcakes.  One batch of pumpkin cupcakes wasn't enough to take to the office, but I didn't have enough pumpkin to make a double batch (why did I only buy one can?!).  So I decided to make chocolate cupcakes.  Once I'd frosted the pumpkin cupcakes, I thought, what the hell, and threw some green food colouring into the rest of the frosting.

Looks like it's Oogie's turn to boogie!

Both varieties of cupcake tasted great.  The only problems I had were that doing small decorations like that is kinda a pain in the ass, and cream cheese frosting doesn't really take to being built up.  I probably should've made two separate batches (a cream cheese and a buttercream).  That's what laziness gets you, children - melty looking Oogie Boogies.  Also, a number of cupcakes didn't make the journey to my office, so there was a bit of carnage.  But I've only been at work for 20 minutes and I think about half of them are already gone, so meh.

I can't believe MoFo is over already!  I've really enjoyed it, even though I did reach a burnout stage.  I'm already looking forward to next year!


Monday, 29 October 2012

Vegan MoFo VI, Day 29 - Sunday Baking (on Monday)

Obviously today is Monday, but Mike hurt his hand and didn't feel like cooking tonight, so we just had leftover tofu scramble for dinner.  And I did bake yesterday, but I didn't write about it.  So I'll do that now!

Last night I made the Snickerdoodle cake from Have Your Cake and Vegan Too!  It was pretty easy to make and put together.  The only not-easy (but still not particularly difficult) part was putting the topping on.  My frosting had already set a bit and wasn't as sticky as it maybe should've been, so the sugar crystals kept bouncing off (all over the worktop and floor that I'd just cleaned).

We didn't have any last night, but I took it into work.  One person said it was lush; another said she was glad she didn't live with me because she'd be really fat.  And I believe 2 people had cake for lunch.  So, I'd say it was pretty successful.  I did get a piece in the end, and it was pretty good, though (I can't believe I'm saying this) it maybe had a bit too much cinnamon.  But it really did taste like a snickerdoodle, which is one of my favourite cookies, so overall I'm happy with the outcome.

The whole point of my Sunday baking theme was to make a few different cakes from Have Your Cake and Vegan Too! to determine if I want to buy the book.  Of the things I've made, I'd say the majority have been good to outstanding.  I could definitely see myself baking my way through the rest of this book (or at least the rest of the recipes that I liked the look of).  So, if anyone in my family is reading this - I want this book for Xmas!

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Vegan MoFo VI, Day 28 - My Hateful Kitchen

I've just spent the better part of 4 hours cleaning my kitchen in order to do a kitchen tour.  It's the cleanest it's been since we moved in.  That said, you'll soon understand how I feel about it because, as you'll see from the photos, it still looks dirty.  This is one of the many things I hate about my kitchen.

Anyway, this is a shot of the right corner of the kitchen from the doorway (attached to the sitting room).

You can see the kettle, toaster, microwave, and washer are all sharing one pair of sockets.  This is because there are exactly 4 outlets in the kitchen - that pair is one, one is behind the fridge, and the other is by the cooker (and the cooker is plugged in for the digital clock).

A closer view of the area - the microwave is sitting on top of the box that houses the gas meter.

You can see here that this is kinda the hot beverage and miscellany centre - we have a few varieties of tea,  and the coffee is behind the chocolate spread.  There's also a container of sugar and a container of a sugar/stevia blend.  And, of course, my vitamins, because this is a sensible place to keep them (in fairness, I keep them there because I have a glass of oj every morning and take my pills with it).

Above that is one of the cupboards.  I keep all my non-flour baking stuff on the top shelf (including apple cider vinegar, because it's a vegan kitchen), and the bottom shelf has sauces, vinegars, bouillon, condiments, a few spices and herbs, liquid sweeteners, and a couple of Japanese cooking ingredients.

Beside that is the cupboard with all the flours (top - the one groaning under the weight of all the flours), with pasta/noodles, beans, seeds/nuts (that I can eat), and grains on the bottom shelf.  Did you notice the ceiling?  Yeah, that's pink.  Even better, it's pink-painted wallpaper.  I don't know why they didn't just paint the ceiling pink, other than because they knew how much of a hassle it would be for the next owners to deal with it.  Also, the walls are covered with some kind of lino-like substance that was apparently all the rage in the 60s, supposedly because it was easy to clean.  That is a lie.  Or, at least, what's on the stuff in my kitchen isn't coming off.

The fridge came with the flat.  It looks alright, but it makes a lot of weird noises, so I suspect it's not long for this world.  I use the top for storing cereal and breadstuffs (and my electric kitchen scale, which is under the bread).  Also, notice the light switch - by its position, you'd think the lights were off, but no, they're on.  The genius that put in the light switches put them all in upside down.  All of them.

This is the full view of the main work areas of the kitchen from the fridge.  I did 2 or 3 loads of dishes today, and I couldn't be bothered drying all those.  The drawer beneath the dish dryer is where I keep my cutlery.  Notice how the cooker sticks out by about a foot?  That's because I measured it at the front and it was 60cm, but I didn't measure it at the back, which is not 60cm.  It makes perfect sense.  Also sensible - curtains in the kitchen.  We're gonna remove those and put in a blind soon.

This is the view of the left side of the kitchen, also from the fridge.  That unit there was in the sitting room when we moved in.  As a set, I didn't much appreciate them because they took up so much space.  But this one by itself actually proved to be great for the kitchen:

I keep my cookbooks on the top shelf, wine glasses, wide tumblers, large mugs and random storage things on the middle shelf, and most of my crockery on the shelves with the pull-down door.

Beneath that, I keep some pans and the bottom of my blender/food processor on the bottom shelf.  I keep my extra bagged spices and herbs in the top drawer and baking utensils in the middle drawer (the 3rd drawer is the junk drawer).

The bit with the sliding door is our drinks cabinet.  I keep the many bottles of wine that friends bring over for dinner parties and don't drink in here.

Front view of the cooker - it's all gas.  We wanted a dual fuel, but there's no ground in the electrical wiring, so they legally couldn't install it because it was an electrocution risk.  Fun!  To the right are my cast iron pans that need re-seasoning and a few bottles for recycling, and to the left are my slow cooker and a few bottles of oil.

Moving to the left, we see the spice corner.  Most of my bottled herbs and spices are here (apart from the ones in the cupboard), mostly because I couldn't think of anywhere else to put them.  There are also a few large jars of things - plain flour, nooch, and sugar.  That hanging utensil thing was here when we moved in, and I'm actually glad it was left (but probably only because they couldn't be arsed to unscrew it from the wall).  Speaking of the wall, why WHY is the socket so far up the wall?  Why?

And finally, the worktop (with breadmaker and other random stuff to the left).  I didn't get a close-up of why I hate that too.  The person who lived here before us obviously put a hot pan on it, because there's a raised ring on one bit.  It also stains really easily, so I can never tell if I've spilled something or if it's a 20-year-old stain (which is maybe why I hadn't deep cleaned in so long).

I forgot to take a photo of the cupboards beneath, but they're basically all my other stuff (pots, baking sheets and pans, colander, storage stuff) that I just threw in there when we moved in.  The other thing about hating my kitchen is that I don't even want to spend the time making it more user friendly, so it's not particularly well organised.

So now you know why I hate my kitchen, or can at least sympathise to a degree.  I can't wait until we either save enough to get the kitchen redone or I get a new job and can afford to make payments for a new kitchen.  Having a crappy, uninviting kitchen really sucks the joy out of cooking.

And now that my kitchen is finally clean, I'm gonna go make a mess!

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Vegan MoFo VI, Day 27 - Still sneezing

I've been sneezing since about 3pm yesterday, and I slept really badly.  I kept waking up with my tongue feeling like sandpaper because I couldn't breathe through my nose.  At least Zebby let me sleep in a bit.  Anyway, all this is to say that today I'm just gonna review some products that I've had recently.

First up are Redwood's beef-style and turkey-style roasts, which I really like, but they're usually a bit more costly than I like to spend on what is essentially a big seitan sausage that I could make myself.  But when they're on sale (like during one of Holland & Barrett's sales or marked down at Real Foods), I kinda can't help myself.  They're not meant to be cooked in anything other than an oven, so I bought some months before I could actually cook them because they were on sale.

It turns out you can cook these in a slow cooker (there are ways of doing so that I found at the time, but I'm too lazy to google them now), which is what I did with these when I didn't have an oven.  In the oven or the slow cooker, they come out moist and tender and taste remarkably similar to what they're mocking (though the texture isn't the same, but that's probably a good thing, especially for the beef).  The only issue I have is that the turkey-style roast really stinks when it's cooking.  I made one a couple nights ago and I thought I was smelling the cat's room (which is at the other end of the flat).

Both varieties work well as an actual roast, i.e. with potatoes, carrots and onions, or with mash and veg on the side, or with vegetable rice (which is how I ate the turkey-style the other night).  However, my favourite way to eat either of them is to slice into strips and put in a wrap with boiled potatoes and carrots and a bit of gravy.  So good!

Next up is Prewett's chocolate creams - gluten free chocolate biscuits with a chocolate cream filling.

From Amazon - which doesn't actually sell them.

I bought these at Real Foods today when shopping for nice things to take to people in the States who are letting me stay with them (and trying to figure out what happened to my tea, which they seem to have discontinued).  The photo is a little misleading (they don't have nearly that much cream filling), but they were really good - a bit crumbly, but good flavour and nicely crisp without being hard.  I also like that they don't have a gluten-free feel to them - they just have a regular old biscuit texture (and taste).

Finally, Tesco has a range of juices called Juice Bar.  They look to be mostly vegan - they're juices, but I've found fish oil in juice before, so I'm not gonna issue a blanket all-clear on them.  Mike used to get them often from the Tesco near his office, but he thinks they may have stopped carrying them (or that they moved to another part of the store and he can't be bothered looking for them).  I had my first try of them tonight with the Virgin Sangria - grape, apple, and orange juices.  I really liked it - it obviously didn't taste like real sangria, but the flavours worked surprisingly well together (I was wary of the combo initially).  Mike had the Rootin' Fruitin', which was a combo of pineapple, mango and carrot.  I wasn't impressed with this one, and he didn't love it either.

They usually have them on offer - 3 for £3 or 5 for £4 (I think) for 250ml bottles.  They're not massively great value for drinking from home (I usually have oj and get it on offer for 2/£3 for 750ml of Copella, the best oj I've ever had), but they'd do in a pinch if you didn't want to buy an entire 750ml bottle of juice for drinking on the go.

Here's a bonus picture of my cat being super adorable:

FYI - That is not an invitation.  He will cut you.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Vegan MoFo VI, Bonus! - Rekorderlig Winter Cider

A few days ago, I mentioned finally finding Rekorderlig Winter Cider (cinnamon and vanilla flavoured apple cider) after having seen the company tweet about it for ages.  It says on the bottle that you can drink it hot or cold, so we first tried it hot.  To be honest, I didn't love it.  And considering the hype, I felt like I should have.

Well, I bought two bottles, and I had the second bottle tonight.  It is so so SO good.  So good.  You definitely want to drink this cold.  And you definitely want to drink this.  The cinnamon gives it a subtle warmth while the vanilla gives it a different kind of sweetness than you get from the apple alone.  It would've been good as just apple/cinnamon, but the vanilla pulls it together.

I feel like this one isn't quite as sweet as, for instance, the berry cider (which is one of my favourites ever).  It might work for someone who likes a slightly drier cider (though it is still pretty sweet, so maybe not).

I really want to drink this all the time.  I'm gonna be super sad when this goes away after the winter.  I could drink it all year.

Vegan MoFo VI, Day 26 - British Food Friday - Sausage and Mash

I'll be honest - I'm a little burned out, but I've also been really tired this week, hence a lack of posts for the past couple of days.  And today's post is a bit of a cop-out (again) because I only came up with it around 5pm today.  Also, I'm having another allergy attack, so I'm doubly tired and can't stop sneezing.

That said, at least I can talk about something new.  As I said, it occurred to me that I didn't plan anything for BFF (I kept thinking I'd do a roast in the slow cooker, but I never remembered in the morning and was always too tired to prep in the evening) when I was standing around the office trying to decide what to do about the fact that it suddenly started hailing out of nowhere (the forecast for the entire day was sunny).*  I decided to go to Tesco to figure out what to buy for dinner while I waited for the bus, and I suddenly had a brainwave that I could do sausage and mash.

It just so happened that Tesco had a new variety of Linda McCartney sausage (red onion and rosemary) on offer for £1 for a packet of 6.  Combined with the fact that the regular LM sausages were both more calorific and more expensive, I decided that it might be good if I talked about a product I've never actually talked about before.

I wasn't really sure about them, but they turned out to be really good.  They had a nice flavour and texture that were completely different from the regular LM sausages.  And they were really tasty even though I burned them!  I could see myself buying these again.  I served them with some noochy Smash and microwave-steamed veg.  It was quick, easy, delicious, and filling, which is exactly what I needed.

I might try to get some extra entries in over the weekend if I can get over this allergy attack and find the energy to do anything.  And I'll definitely post next week, since it's nearly the end of MoFo (*single tear*).  I'm hoping to at least be able to do Sunday baking (especially since one of my co-workers asked me why the baking had stopped) and some more cookbook challenge stuff.  And there might be another restaurant review since Mike totally owes me dinner.  We'll see how it goes.

*That was some crappy sentence structure, but I can't be bothered fixing it.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Vegan MoFo VI, Day 23 - Soup!

Today's post is gonna be another cop-out because I realised that I don't have anything for my lunch for tomorrow unless I buy another can or carton of soup.  I'm a little tired of store-bought soup, so I'm gonna make some scramble, which I've blogged about extensively.  So instead, I'm gonna talk about ... store-bought soup!

It's proper soup weather in Edinburgh, and that was especially true today.  It was a pretty crappy day to start with, and then the haar rolled in.  It's been misty and dreary all day.  Today was the kind of day where you can't imagine eating anything other than soup.

Since I'm trying to lose weight, I've also been relying on soup for my lunches when I don't have anything to bring from home.  I don't know of any store-bought vegan soup that's particularly calorific, if only because they aren't loaded with meat and cream and stuff.  It's also pretty easy to find vegan soup at the store, whereas you're less likely to find sandwiches or other ready-made lunch-type foods that are suitable.

The only problem I have with store-bought soup is chunkiness - I'm a big fan of pureed soups (generally, though I also love a soup full of barley).  It's pretty difficult to get a smooth vegan soup from a can, so I've gone through a bit of trial and error trying to figure out which soups have the right chunks (e.g., potatoes, beans, carrots) or are smooth enough to not put me off.

My go-to brand is usually Baxters - they make quality soup and (usually*) label them if they're vegan.  They're also sold in pretty much every big-box store in the UK.  I think I used to like one that had butternut squash, but I kinda went off it last year, so I'm not even sure if they make it anymore.  My current favourite of theirs is the Carrot and Butterbean.

I also like Tesco's tinned lentil and veg soup.  I'm not sure if that's exactly what it's called, but it's in their low-cal range, and an entire can is, I think, 180 calories - not bad.  Tesco have also just released a couple of vegan soups in their fresh cartons.  I'm 99% certain that the Lentil, Bean and Barley and the Mexican Chili Bean soups are both vegan.  I tried the first yesterday and really liked it, though I would've preferred more barley and fewer chunks of tomato.  I tried the other one today, and it was just awful.  The potatoes were so undercooked that they crunched.  Tesco is getting a strongly worded email from me.

This is obviously not an exhaustive list of store-bought soups.  I mainly buy soups for lunch, and I only have a Tesco nearby, so I can't really speak to the options at Sainsbury's, Morrisons, M&S, etc.  Maybe I'll do another soup review if I get another job that happens to be near a different shop.

*I picked up a revamped can of Carrot and Butterbean today that didn't specify, so I'm wondering if they've changed that practice.  That would suck since it's the quickest way to determine if I need to bother reading the ingredients.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Vegan MoFo VI, Day 22 - Mike Makes Monday Meals - Tofu Noodles

First of all, sorry for slacking yesterday.  I didn't have as much alone time as I'd hoped, and the kitchen wasn't clean (and I couldn't bear to clean it again), so I had cereal for dinner and didn't bake anything.  But I posted something, so there's that.

I went to an event tonight - a book launch for Voicing Scotland:  Folk, Culture, Nation by Gary West, who was one of my lecturers at uni (and the piper at my wedding!) - so I didn't get home until nearly 9pm.  I picked the perfect dinner for Mike to cook tonight - soba noodles with smoked tofu and spinach.  I based the technique on a recipe from Get It Ripe - I think that one is noodles and kale, no tofu - but did my own thing with not measuring and using different stuff.

It's super easy - cube a block of smoked tofu and fry it while waiting for your water to boil, then add soba noodles to the water.  Add spinach to the tofu pan and wilt the spinach while the noodles cook for 5 minutes.  While the noodles and spinach cook, make a sauce with soy sauce, toasted sesame oil, sriracha, and garlic (I used 2 cloves, but could've used more).  Once the noodles are done, drain and add to the pan with the tofu and spinach, then pour over the sauce.  It takes about 10 minutes to come together, which is brilliant when you want a filling and (relatively) healthy meal but can't be arsed/don't have time to wait for something more complicated.  It's even faster than cooking up chips and a Fry's chicken burger!

I also finally, finally found Rekorderlig Winter Cider - it's now being sold in Sainsbury's! 

From their Facebook page

Rekorderlig is my favourite cider, possibly because it's one of the few vegan-friendly brands that are available both in stores and in pubs.  Also, their flavours are amazing.  I imagine most people wouldn't be super keen if they were dry cider fans because they tend to be quite sweet, but they're exactly the way I like them.  I've never had a flavour I didn't like, but then again I've never tried the orange ginger (which I've been told tastes like duck's ass).

We tried the winter cider warm.  It's alright, but I think I prefer my alcoholic cider cold and my non-alcoholic cider warm.  But I have another bottle in the fridge to drink cold another night!

Bonus Zebby picture - it'll get me hits!

 D'aww.  BTW, the cat bed is from Luna's Apawthecary.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Vegan MoFo VI, Bonus! - Cookbook Challenge - Vegan Sandwiches Save the Day! (and breakfast)

As I mentioned last night, I was gonna make the Oreo Wafflewiches from Vegan Sandwiches Save the Day! for dessert, but it was far too late once we got to the dessert stage of the night.  So I made them for breakfast!  And since it's daylight, I actually took a picture!

Sorry about the spill - I didn't notice it when I took the picture.
 These were pretty quick for waffles - or as quick as waffles can be given my hateful kitchen and my slow-ass waffle maker.  I subbed a bit of black cocoa powder for some of the regular cocoa powder for a bit more Oreo realness, but I don't know how much it helped.  Maybe I should use half and half next time.
These were fairly similar in taste to Oreos, though obviously the cream tasted fresher and less of chemicals.  It was kinda like eating half a packet of Oreos in one go - delicious, but now I feel a bit ill, though I don't feel particularly full.
I'm definitely gonna have to go to the gym soon.
Since I finally got around to taking a MoFo pic, I discovered that I had loads of photos of my cat, Zebedee, on my phone.  So, bonus Zebby and Mike photo!

 I don't always sit here, but when I do, I step all over his junk.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Vegan MoFo VI, Day 20 - Cookbook Challenge - Vegan Sandwiches Save the Day

I know this post is pretty late, but I have a completely valid reason - I slept until shortly after noon, so we ate dinner around 10pm.  I haven't had a lie-in for ages because we've had to be up early for one reason or another every weekend for months.  Everyone always says you eventually get up earlier on purpose (i.e., you reach a point when you don't sleep until noon), but I don't see that happening for me, and I have no problem with that.

Anyway, I made a couple more recipes from Vegan Sandwiches Save the Day! - Moo Free Seitan and the Philly version of the Pittsburgh Steak Sandwich.

The seitan was pretty easy - I did it in the oven instead of the slow cooker because I didn't get around to making it until after 3pm.  It had a really good texture, and I liked that I could throw it in the oven and actually go do things while it cooked - I went to the gym and to the store and I didn't have to rush home to take it out of the oven.  I don't think it would be all that great on its own, which is possibly my fault for not putting enough stuff in the cooking broth, but it was great in the next recipe.

The sandwiches came together pretty quickly - it would've been even quicker if I hadn't been cleaning and trying to sort out storing the leftover seitan (to get it out of the way) at the same time.  Slicing and cooking the seitan is pretty much all you have to do with this recipe.  I also had to warm up the ciabatta and shred the cheese, but I had garlic mayo so didn't feel the need to do the spread (especially since Mike doesn't like spreads on his sandwiches and I only did a half recipe).

The sandwiches were simple and delicious.  I wouldn't make them frequently only because that much bread and cheese doesn't really fit with my weight-loss plan.  But I might use the seitan cooking method for Mike's lunch sandwiches.

Tomorrow is a new cookbook challenge week, but I have a few more things I wanna make from this book, so I'll still be cooking from it.  In fact, I think I might make the Oreo Wafflewiches for breakfast tomorrow ... right before I go to the gym.  They're the new Little Chocolate Donuts.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Vegan MoFo VI, Day 19 - British Food Friday - Treacle Tart

Lemme 'splain something - UK sweeteners are kinda confusing.  When I was younger, listening to loads of British music, I would hear the word "treacle" and assume it was something super sweet and sticky.  Well, it turns out that what the Brits call treacle is what Americans call molasses - so at least the sticky part was accurate.  What I thought was treacle is actually golden syrup (or just syrup - not to be confused with the syrup Americans put on pancakes, which they don't really have here).

So, treacle tart - technically, it doesn't actually have treacle in it.  It's made with golden syrup.  Also, breadcrumbs!  So you're basically eating a crust full of syrup and bread.  There's almost nothing else in it.  I always found treacle tart to be the kind of thing that sounded both horrific and delicious, and this was before I even knew what was in it.

I can't even remember the first time I had treacle tart, but it was well after I'd moved to Scotland.  It was pretty much exactly what I expected - a little bit dirty, but addictively delicious.  I struggled to not eat the whole package.

I knew I had to make treacle tart at some point - it was one of the recipes that made me decide on this theme.  So I looked up recipes and landed on this one from a few MoFos ago.  I had all the ingredients on hand, and it looked pretty easy, so I went for it.

Well, it wasn't quite so straightforward.  Part of this is to do with my hateful kitchen - I don't have the best surface for making pastry, so the rolling out of the pastry was a bit of a project.  Then it turned out that the filling didn't actually fill the crust!  So I ended up having to nearly triple the filling.  I also ran out of syrup, but luckily I had a bottle of the maple-flavoured syrup, so I used a bit of that.  I'm so glad I made my own breadcrumbs because I used nearly all of them, and it was more than would've been in a box.

In the end, it all worked out.  Everyone loved it.  It had just a hint of maple flavour, which made it a little different than the usual treacle tart.  I might try to recreate this on purpose some day, but it might not happen until after I get a new kitchen (or maybe use someone else's).

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Vegan MoFo VI, Day 18 - Cookbook Challenge - Vegan Sandwiches Save the Day!

I got around to cooking today - yaay!

This week's cookbook challenge book is Vegan Sandwiches Save the Day! by Tami Noyes and Celine Steen.  I actually bought this book because of the challenge, which kinda defeats the purpose (in that you're meant to get use out of books you already own).  But I'm super excited to make some stuff from it, so I'm glad I bought it.

Tonight we had a friend over for dinner, so I needed to make something that was quick and easy but also suitable for serving to a guest.  I chose the Chickpea Shawarma, mostly because it didn't require making any breads or mock meats before making the rest of the recipe.

This was exactly what I was looking for - it was super easy to make, and I managed to get the sauce made while the chickpeas cooked.  I doubled the chickpeas because I figured the guys would have seconds and I could save some for my lunch the next day.  We had them as wraps because it just seemed easier, and I served them with some roasted cauliflower, which complemented the chickpeas perfectly.

I really liked the way these turned out.  I think it would be a great way to recreate chicken shawarma (which I've never actually had) if you subbed the chickpeas with chicken-style seitan (possibly the No Cluck Cutlets from the book).  This was a great recipe to start with, and I'm looking forward to making more!

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Vegan MoFo VI, Day 17 - Restaurant Review - Yeni

Sorry for doing 2 restaurant reviews in a row, but it's either that or I talk about my breakfast cereal.  I think this is more interesting.

Mike owed me dinner (well, closer to 5, since I've been doing a lot of dishes), so we decided to go out tonight since we're having a guest tomorrow.  I looked for a few places online, even consulting The List, which is a pain in the ass since they don't list vegan options (so you have to look at the menu for each place that says they have vegetarian options).  I used the Round the World tag since "world" cuisine tends to have better options than almost any other category.  After trawling through nearly every entry, I found a Turkish (I think) restaurant called Nargile.

Well, it turns out that Nargile is now Yeni (so when you click on the Nargile link, you go to the Yeni website).  Apparently they've just reopened as Yeni (and when I say "just", they've only been open for a couple of weeks) and are focusing more on mezze than ... whatever it is they used to make.  I don't know because I'd never been there.  But the best thing - they clearly label all of their vegan options!  And there are more than 2!

I made a reservation, but it wasn't really necessary - we got there a bit early and there was only one other couple there.  But if word gets around about this place, that situation won't last long.

The full menu is online, so I had a pretty good idea what I wanted when we got there.  But I had to let Mike make some decisions.  We got the bruschetta, hummus, red lentil rolls (lentil and herb croquettes), spinach börek (spinach in pastry flutes), falafel, patates (thinly sliced fried potatoes in tomato sauce), and Arabian flatbread (which came in a basket with several small pieces rather than one large piece).

Mike ate all the bruschetta - he said it was tasty (and +10 points for being able to find vegan bruschetta).  We were both kinda meh on the red lentil rolls - Mike said they were kinda like Scotch eggs, but I've never had a Scotch egg so couldn't confirm or deny this assessment.  I think they would've been better warm.  The falafel was maybe a bit heavy on the coriander and/or onion - strangely, I wasn't quite sure which it was - but was still good.  The hummus was tasty - you can't really cock up hummus - and the flatbread was warm, fluffy and delicious dipped in the hummus.  But my favourites were the spinach börek and the patates.  I told Mike that we can skip the red lentil rolls next time and just get two orders of the spinach börek.

We had a decent meal for less than £30, and we got a card for 25% off our next visit!  Also, the staff were really friendly and helpful - when we told them we were vegan, they asked if we'd like to sub the sauce for the falafels unprompted.  This would be a great place to take a large party because of the nature of the meal - you get a bunch of stuff to share.   We'll definitely be going back - there are some things I didn't get to try but wanted to - and would highly recommend it.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Vegan MoFo VI, Day 16 - Restaurant Review - Forest Cafe

I had this one in the bag in case I had another day of being unable to bear the thought of cooking, and that day came a lot sooner than I expected.  I sneezed for 2 days straight, and I've felt a bit crap all day today, so I think I'm just gonna be making Fry's chicken nuggets, Smash, and microwave-steamed veg for dinner tonight.

Last year (or was it 2 years ago?), the Forest Cafe was under threat of closure because their landlords had gone bankrupt and had to sell the building from which they operated.  Threat turned to reality and they closed their doors, but they've recently re-opened in what was once a quick-e-mart at the corner of Lauriston Place and Brougham Road (near Real Foods) in Tollcross.

My best good friend Eva was in town on Saturday, and we wanted a place to eat that wasn't too unhealthy.  We were near the end of Princes Street, and the only local place was Henderson's, which is always pretty hit-and-miss for me, so we decided to check out the new Forest Cafe location.

When they were at the old location, I always found the Forest to be a bit hippie-ish, and they really didn't change much (apart from the space being a lot tidier as it's not had time to be broken in, I guess).  It was another place that I found hit-and-miss, as they seem to have more vegan options on their online menu than they actually offer (this is especially true of the cakes - I can't remember ever being there when they actually had vegan cake).

When we got there Saturday around 11.30, we found that the kitchen was still closed - apparently they hadn't finished making everything and were still waiting for some stuff to be delivered.  But they had enough to make us some falafel plates (3 falafels, a toasted pita, hummus, and salad), which is what I wanted anyway, so we both got that.  They didn't have one of the salads made, so they gave us a double portion of the one that was made.

I have to admit, I wasn't expecting much, but this turned out to be an amazing meal.  The big surprise for both of us was the salad.  I'm not quite sure what was in it besides chickpeas and cabbage, though they said it was some kind of mushroom dressing, but it was one of the best salads I've ever eaten.  I think Eva almost asked for the recipe - it was that good.  It was, apparently, a "special" salad, so I don't know if they'd have it regularly, but I certainly hope so.  We definitely got our money's worth (it was a fiver!), and we both left feeling full and satisfied.  I just hope next time I go they have some damn cake (no, flapjacks won't cut it).

Monday, 15 October 2012

Vegan MoFo VI, Day 15 - Mike Makes Monday Meals - Yellow Split Pea Soup

I'm really liking this whole Mike cooking thing.  Even though I help, he still does the bulk of the work, and it makes getting a decent meal on a Monday super easy.  It's especially good on days like today when I've been sneezing since the previous day and feel like crap.

Today I showed Mike how to make the Yellow Split Pea Soup from Quick and Easy Low-Cal Vegan Comfort Food.  This was one of my favourite recipes during testing - I loved it so much that I copied it from the forum because I knew I'd want to make it again before I got my tester copy.  I don't even know how many times I've made it since testing.

The beauty of this recipe, and the reason why I showed Mike how to make it, is that it has very few ingredients and you just bung them all in the pan.  There's no sauteing of things and then adding a few more things and then a bit more.  You just chuck it all in, get it boiling, then simmer until it's done.  Even if it sticks to the pan, it comes off once it starts to cool.  It's also easy to modify by adding extra veg - I usually add in some kind of leafy green (spinach or chard) and cauliflower.

Mike thought it was really easy to make as well.  Of course it was incredibly tasty, as per usual.  I think I've mentioned this before, but this is probably my favourite split pea soup recipe of all time.  I think it's better than the one in Appetite for Reduction.  It's just really, really delicious.  I kinda want another bowl.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Vegan MoFo VI, Day 14 - Sunday Baking - Cake Balls!

It's Sunday, so I'm baking from Have Your Cake and Vegan Too!

As I mentioned yesterday, my best good friend Eva was visiting from Newcastle, and since we love Tex-Mex, I decided to make the Gluten-Free Mexican Chocolate Torte.  But it turned out she didn't plan for cake, so she didn't have any.  It kinda worked out, because it took almost twice as long to bake as the directions said, and then only about half of it came out of the pan.  Oops.

Mike and I both had a piece, and it was really, really tasty.  But I had planned on taking the leftovers to work as a treat to the two gluten-intolerant people in my office (especially as one of them occasionally gives me a lift home).  Considering that it fell apart just by slicing it, I didn't think it would go over well at the office.  But what better excuse to make cake balls than a cake that could only be held together by copious amounts of frosting?

I made a quick cinnamon frosting by creaming together 2 tbsp each of margarine (Vitalite) and shortening (Trex), then adding a couple of drops of vanilla and almond extracts and about 1/2 tsp of cinnamon, and alternating icing sugar and soy milk (I didn't measure either of these - just dumped them in until I had the right consistency).

I kinda chopped up the rest of the cake, then mixed it into the frosting.  It quickly disintegrated, so it was clearly a good plan.  I also melted a good cup or so of chocolate chips in the double boiler.  I balled up the cake/frosting mixture and put it on a plate covered with parchment paper, then let the balls set in the fridge while the chocolate cooled (because hot chocolate + frosting = cake soup).  Once the chocolate was cool enough, I rolled the balls in it and put them back on the plate, then back in the fridge to set the chocolate.

The result?  Well, it's a ball of cake and frosting covered in chocolate - how could it possibly be bad?

I haven't actually put this week's MoFo plan together yet, but I already have most of it planned out in my head.  I just need to decide what to make from the cookbook challenge book, which I'll talk about probably on Tuesday!

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Vegan MoFo VI, Day 13 - Cookbook Challenge - Yellow Rose Recipes (again)

I'm back on board with the cookbook challenge!  I kinda cheated with tonight's recipe, in that I've made parts of it before, but I hadn't ever eaten it exactly the way it's written (OK, I didn't do that tonight either).  I made the Taco Salad from Yellow Rose Recipes.  I've made the taco "meat" part of it (for the tamale pie), but I never did the salad.

My best good friend Eva is in town to see Phantom of the Opera with me, and we pretty much always have Tex-Mex when we hang out.  We're both trying to lose weight, so instead of having our usual tacos, we decided to go for the taco salad.  I've never been a huge fan of taco salad because of the lack of tortilla, but I've been getting more accustomed to eating bowls (bed of greens, grain, protein, sauce), so I figured this would work out.  I left off the avocado because I'm allergic; Eva had tomatoes but I didn't because I'm a hater.  We both had a bit of the Appetite for Reduction Green Goddess Dressing on our leaves because it's healthier than sour cream.

We all really liked this.  Eva and I liked having the salad at the bottom because it's a good way to get a lot of salad in without really thinking about it.  We both thought it was missing a little something - Eva kinda wanted a cheesy substance, and I missed the sour cream (though cheesy substance would've been good too).  But it was still quite good and filling (though we ate really early and now we're both hungry), and it was fast to make - it would've been on the table in 15 minutes if I hadn't misread the directions and had to cook it longer because I forgot to put the spices in at the right time.

I would recommend this, but if even if you're not down with taco salad, the taco filling itself is super quick and tasty.

Now we're gonna drink some Big Red and watch Star Trek: The Next Generation, because we regress to age 12 when we're together.  Because we're awesome.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Vegan MoFo VI, Day 12 - British Food Friday - Fish and Chips

It's British Food Friday!

I really struggled with what to make tonight.  I didn't want to make another sweet thing because we've had sweets in the office every day this week and it's reaching the point of overkill.  I was waffling between pot roast and fish and chips because that's all I could think to make.  I dug out a couple of pot roast recipes and realised that most of them were for crock pot roasts, which would take 4+ hours to cook.  I'm not spending 4+ hours on dinner on Friday night.

I finally decided to make the Fish and Chips (kinda) from Quick and Easy Vegan Celebrations by Alicia Simpson.  As you might recall, I tested for this book a couple of years ago.  Well, this recipe wasn't on the tester list, and for some reason I kept passing it over when I flipped through the book.  I honestly don't know why because fried fish is one of the few pregan things I still miss.

Of course, when I finally went to start cooking, I realised that the light above the cooker is now out - the day after we got the other light fixture replaced.  I very nearly decided to just say "fork it" and make some Fry's chicken nuggets for dinner.  But I powered through the annoyance of my hateful kitchen and made the seitan.

I was really unsure about this - you cook it in a smaller-than-usual pan in not very much broth.  But it actually turned out really well.  Unfortunately, it wasn't particularly fishy, but it was still really, really tasty.  Also, I have to say, the coating was more Southern than British (even though this is a St Patrick's Day recipe).  Again, super tasty, but not quite what I was expecting.

I couldn't be bothered making chips from scratch, so I bought the non-coated chips at the store.  Yes, most of the bags of chips I looked at were battered or otherwise coated in some way.  I just wanted straight-up chips, so I went with the bag which had an ingredients list so small (potatoes, sunflower oil) that it took me about a minute to find it.

I made a quick and dirty tartar sauce from some smoked garlic mayo, lemon juice and minced capers (I don't do vinegar on my fish).  It all worked really well together, and I'd definitely recommend it!

I will eventually do that pot roast, but maybe at a weekend.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Vegan MoFo VI, Day 11 - Chocolate Pasta

When I left the house this morning, it was sunny and not that cold, so I wore my trainers.  When I left work, it was pouring rain.  I ended up walking home because I missed my bus, and by the time I got home, my feet were soaked.  I mention this because it's my excuse for not trying very hard today.

But I tried something new!

Some time last year, Mike decided on the spur of the moment that he was gonna go to some 24-hour gaming thing.  In fact, I think I'd planned dinner with friends and he suddenly decided to bugger off for a whole day for role-playing.  But it was for charity, so I couldn't really say anything.

Well, the next weekend, he brought home a gift for me - one of his friends bought me a bag of chocolate penne (durum wheat semolina and cocoa powder) from Hotel Chocolat as a thank-you for letting them steal him for, effectively, an entire weekend.  It was my compensation for being a gaming widow.

From Hotel Chocolat, who, btw, have a decent vegan selection

The thing is, I had no idea how to use chocolate pasta.  It didn't seem quite right to put tomato sauce on it, but I couldn't think of a cream sauce that wasn't super garlicky (and therefore would be weird with chocolate).  But then I made the pumpkin alfredo yesterday, and I realised that chocolate pasta would be the perfect vehicle for noochy, pumpkin-y cream sauce.

The chocolate pasta smelled great cooking.  And, as suspected, it worked really well with the pumpkin alfredo.  It wasn't sweet at all, but lent a nice earthiness to the pumpkin.  I don't know if I'd buy it myself as it's a bit expensive for pasta, but it was a nice gift that I really did appreciate even if I didn't figure out how to use it for over a year!

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Vegan MoFo VI, Day 10 - Talkin' Pumpkin

I finally got around to doing one of the things I was thinking about - using my bookmarks!  Tonight I made Manifest Vegan's Pumpkin Alfredo for dinner.

Lemme back up a second so I can talk about pumpkin.  I may have talked about pumpkin before, but that's because it's awesome!  I have my bookmarks sorted into a few different categories, and I actually have a category for pumpkin (and it has more stuff in it than most of the other categories).  I love pumpkin sweet or savoury (though I usually end up eating it sweet).  I could eat pumpkin any time of year.  I do feel more inclined to eat it during the colder months, but I'll make The Best Pumpkin Muffins at the height of summer.

Anyway, back to the recipe.  I really liked this.  But how could you not like a recipe that calls for 1/2 cup of nooch?  I had to add some of the pasta cooking water to make it blend (I find that my food processor doesn't really get things smooth, so I usually use a blender), but I otherwise didn't change a thing.  I just wish I'd remembered my chocolate pasta - I have a feeling it would've been perfect with this, and I've been meaning to use it.  But I have leftovers, so I'll just make the pasta another night!

I also made The Great Pumpkin Bundt Cake from Have Your Cake and Vegan Too! on Monday.  I was iffy on this initially because it took at least twice as long to bake as the recipe said, and it came out a little underdone.  I actually had a few pieces and thought, it's not a complete failure, but I don't know if I'd make it again.  But when I had some tonight, I microwaved it and ate it warm, with the glaze melting in to it.  It was delicious.  I wish I could have more.  The only thing I might change about it is to add chocolate chips, but that's because I feel chocolate and pumpkin is one of the best combinations ever devised.

My best good friend Eva has a pumpkin bread recipe that is good enough to sell, and she sent me the recipe to veganise.  It turns out it would be super easy to do, so I might make that soon (I even bought another can of pumpkin - I might need to stock up again soon since I actually ran out).

I still need to figure out what I'm doing for British Food Friday!  I'll come up with something...

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Vegan MoFo VI, Day 9 - Cookbook Challenge - Yellow Rose Recipes

This week's cookbook challenge book is Yellow Rose Recipes*.  This is one of those books that I love, but for some reason**, it kinda languishes on the shelf.  It pretty much always comes up in the cookbook challenge, and I know I've written about a couple of recipes here (the Sloppy Joannas for sure - they're the best sloppy meat-like substance I've ever eaten).

Because I've used it for so many challenges, there really aren't that many recipes I want to make that I haven't already.  I'm terrible about making sides, though, so there were actually quite a few that I could choose from.  Tonight, I didn't feel like cooking what I'd originally planned (I didn't feel like cooking at all, really), so I decided that I could at least chop up a head of cauliflower and made the Braised Cauliflower.

Now I loves my cauliflower, but I almost always eat it roasted.  Every time I try to do something else with it, I pretty much just wish that I'd roasted it.  But I persevered, and I'm glad I did.  This recipe was fast and simple.  It took all of 30 minutes from taking the cauliflower out of the fridge to sitting down and shoveling it in my mouth.  I got everything cooked in that time (possibly even less - I can't be sure because I wasn't paying attention), which is always a huge plus.

The only change I made is that I sprinkled on some nooch (after I tried a piece) - it was OK without, but amazing with.  But there really isn't much you can change about this recipe - it has very few ingredients.

I can definitely see myself making this again.  It's not exactly like roasted cauliflower, but it's certainly less calorific, and it was nearly as tasty.

I probably should've mentioned earlier about the lack of pictures.  I'm sure I talked about this last year, but it's pretty much always dark by the time food is ready.  Also, one of the lights in my awful kitchen is jacked up, so I have even less light than I would normally, and the light in the sitting room makes everything look yellow.  So, I'll try to get pictures of stuff that I make during daylight hours, but otherwise, sorry.

*The original YRR is out of print, so I've linked to Joanna's newest collection, which has YRR favourites and a few from her zines.  Go buy it!
**The reason is my kitchen - I hate my kitchen.  Did I mention that?

Monday, 8 October 2012

Vegan MoFo VI, Day 8 - Mike Makes Monday Meals - Tofu Scramble

First of all, apologies for missing out yesterday.  I had a really bad allergy attack and couldn't be bothered to do anything once I got back from my 5-hour round trip to IKEA.  (But I did get some awesome stuff, like the potato rostis (finally!), and discovered that their gingerbread cookie dough seems to be vegan.)  I still didn't feel magnificent today, but it's Monday, which means it's Mike's night to cook, so it didn't matter.

I've mentioned (multiple times) my love of breakfast, and that brinner is my favourite meal.  I probably make tofu scramble once a week on average.  I almost always use the same recipe, mostly because I've tried so many and just stick to what works.  The Vegan Diner scramble from last week was delicious, but since I was teaching Mike how to make scramble, I just went with the simple recipe I usually make.  It takes the best parts of the Vegan with a Vengeance recipe with a few changes to make it simpler - garlic and onion granules instead of actual garlic and onions, chopped frozen spinach, and a simple spice mix.  It works for me - it fits in my diet and it makes great burritos.

Mike said this was straightforward and easy to make, though it did stir up controversy.  He didn't like squishing the tofu by hand, so he said he'll cube it next time.  I informed him that in this house, we crumble our tofu.  To paraphrase a wise person, cubed tofu isn't scramble, it's stir-fry.

I also made a pumpkin bundt cake, but it's still cooling, so I'll have to talk about that in another post.  I'm taking it in to work tomorrow - for the first time in about a year, we've replaced someone on our team, so we're having a team lunch.  As much as I'm excited that we get a free lunch, I just realised that a) I still have to bring in at least part of my own meal (because the place we go to doesn't have anything vegan) and 2) this means I don't get to read during my lunch hour.  Boo-urns.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Vegan MoFo VI, Day 6 - Planning my US trip

This is kinda a cop-out post, but Saturday isn't a "required" day, so suck it.  I was actually gonna make food, but I'm super crampy and can't be bothered, so I'm taking the opportunity to instead plan my trip to the US.  What does this have to do with food?  Well, when I say "plan my trip", I really mean "figure out where I'm gonna eat and what I'm gonna bring home".

I'm starting my trip in New York.  I will eventually be in the city, but I'm starting out upstate in Pine Plains with my mom's side of the family for about a day and a half.  At first blush, it doesn't seem promising, but my plan is to get off the bus not in Kingston (which is nearer), but in New Paltz, where I'll be able to hit up Lagusta's Luscious!  And in case you're wondering, yes, I will be buying the vulva chocolates (hopefully to share with PPKers if I can arrange a meet-up when I'm in NYC).  I might try to convince my grandma to have lunch in New Paltz because it'll probably be home eating the rest of the time I'm there.  Pine Plains is pretty far away from, well, everything, and the places that are near-ish don't have many options.

After that I'm in NYC.  I have so many options and only just over a day.  The only thing I'm certain about is going to Dun-Well Doughnuts.  I freaking love donuts.  I have no qualms about eating a full dozen by myself.  There are only 2 vegan donut options here, and they're not exactly amazing (they hit the spot in a pinch, but meh), so having access to proper donuts is exciting.

After NYC, I'm going to DC for about a day.  I can't get Southern food here unless I make it myself, so I fully intend to go to Soul Vegetarian Cafe (their website is a bit crap, so I won't link it).  I will also most definitely go to Sticky Fingers.  Again, hopefully I'll meet up with some PPKers, so I'll leave any other choice up to them.

After DC, it's on to Chicago, and frankly, looking at the menu, I could eat every meal at the Chicago Diner.  I mean, they put umlauts in words to indicate that these are the vegan versions of the things they're offering!  I'm at least going for brunch when I get there and some other meal (because I'm determined to try the Reuben).

Then it's on to Dallas (well, the Dallas area).  Everyone thinks any part of TX outside of Austin is a vegan wasteland, but Dallas and its suburbs have loads of options, including completely vegan restaurants.  And they're not all downtown or in the swanky gentrified areas!

My first food stop will be Spiral Diner and Bakery.  I went to the Ft Worth location a couple of times when I lived in Dallas, but I've never been to the Dallas location.  I also now like vegetables, so it'll be a brand-new experience.  I'll also be eating several meals at Veggie Garden - not just because my friend Joy owns the place, but because I loved the food since before she took over.  Now that it's all vegan, I can't wait to try as many dishes as I can put in my face.  I also have a soft spot for Fadi's - it's an omni restaurant, but the vegan options are great and they have the best forking pita bread on the planet.  Another friend pointed out D'Vegan, which serves Vietnamese food, including pho.  I'm also determined to find some Ethiopian food.

After Thanksgiving, my mom and I will be road-tripping to Nashville to visit my grandpa.  Since we'll have to go through Memphis, this calls for a trip to Imagine Vegan Cafe.  An awesome PPKer makes desserts for them, so if nothing else, I'll go there for that.  But the menu looks pretty impressive, and they do Sunday brunch, so I see us stopping there both ways.

As if that wasn't enough, my brother and I will then be taking a day trip to Austin.  My plan is to start at Biscuits + Groovy (because it's a restaurant that specialises in biscuits and gravy).  Again, there are so many places that I want to try and not nearly enough time.  I really have no idea where to start.  If you look at Jojo's blog, Vegan in Brighton, you can see why this would be such a difficult choice!

When I was looking at hotels in Dallas, I limited my search to those with gyms.  Otherwise my clothes won't fit on my way home.

So, where else should I eat?  What should I absolutely not miss in NYC, DC, Chicago, Dallas, and Austin?

Friday, 5 October 2012

Vegan MoFo VI, Day 5 - British Food Friday

Yay, I stuck to my theme today!

For the first British Food Friday, I made the classic Bakewell tart.  According to Professor Wikipedia, the Bakewell tart hails from Derbyshire and consists of a shortcrust pastry, jam filling, and almond sponge layer.

I've only ever eaten Bakewell tart once - I think it was during the Worldwide Vegan Bake Sale this year.  I actually got the train to Glasgow and built a day out around going to a bake sale.  That's what not having a working oven does to a person.  I really, really liked it, but it wasn't quite jammy enough for me.  I swore I would make one myself one day when I had a working oven, but I'd have a massive jam layer.  So, naturally, this was the first thing I thought of for this theme (in fact, I think I decided I wanted to make this and treacle tart and built the theme around that).

Last night, before I met Mike for dinner, I bought a block of frozen Jus Rol shortcrust pastry.  I figured it would be thawed by the time we got home.  Not so much, but I just defrosted it in the microwave.  But because I'm a genius, I decided that it would be awesome if I made 2 tarts after 10pm and take them in to work when only 13 people were in the office that day.  I mostly made this decision based on the fact that you're meant to use the crusts within 24 hours of defrosting and can't refreeze them.

I decided to make what I always thought was the standard - cherry Bakewell.  I thought cherry Bakewell meant that the jam layer was cherry, but apparently it's just cherry because it has almond icing and a glace cherry on top (what?).  But, whatever, whatever, I still used cherry jam.  That was my first one.  I decided to get a little experimental with my second one, so I made a PBJ Bakewell - raspberry/cherry jam layer (because I had extra cherry jam but not quite enough raspberry) with a Freenut butter cake topping.

For the sponge on the classic, I made a half recipe of the almond cake in Have Your Cake and Vegan Too (which I think I talked about in my first post).  For the jam layer, I used some reduced sugar cherry jam from Sainsbury's that, because it had whole cherries, I blended until smooth (I don't like bits).  I topped it with a simple water glaze (icing sugar mixed with water - I didn't even measure it).  For the PBJ, I made the PB cupcakes in Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, and I used the last of my seedless raspberry jam mixed with a bit of leftover cherry jam.  I melted some chocolate chips in the microwave with a couple of splashes of soymilk to drizzle over the top of this one.

These weren't quite the hit that the almond mocha cake was, but I think that's partially down to the office being half empty (there were 3 people working away from the office, 5 PT people who don't work Fridays, and 4 who were on holiday).  The people who ate them loved them, though the classic was the clear favourite.  I think people here really just don't do PBJ.  I ended up coming home with a full pan (half of each).  But I think it was a success for the first attempt!

I think I'm gonna try to make something savoury for the next BFF because I think my co-workers are gonna be a bit caked out after too long (especially since I'm taking something in on Monday and another person said he'd bring something on Tuesday).  Also, I think I'm PMSing, because even though these weren't as good as the almond mocha cake, I wanted to cram both of them in my face all day, so I need to personally lay off the cakes too.

So, any ideas for what I can make next week?

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Vegan MoFo VI - Day 4 - Restaurant Review - Ann Purna

I don't know if I ever mentioned in MoFos past that, up until recently, in the 4+ years that I've known Mike, we went to one Indian restaurant.  He didn't like it and declared Indian restaurants off limits thereafter.  I spent the next 3ish years almost never eating at Indian restaurants because he didn't want to go to them.

A few months ago, my boss took me and the other admin on our team to dinner at Kushi's (omni place with vegan options).  I decided then that Mike was gonna have to suck it up and learn to like Indian restaurant food (he'd eat curries I made, but they were hardly authentic) because I was tired of limiting our restaurant choices so much.  Since then, he's finally realised that Indian food is awesome, so we've been going to a lot more Indian restaurants.

Tonight, we went to our favourite - Ann Purna.  Ann Purna has been around for a while - I'm not sure how long, but at least since well before I moved here.  The first time I went there, I wasn't too impressed, but I also still didn't like vegetables, so I wasn't the best judge of quality then.  They've since come under new management, but it's still within the same family that owned it originally.  I think they've changed up the menu since my first visit, because I want to eat everything on it.

The first time Mike and I went there, we got the vegan thali.  It was alright - the highlights were the poori (fried bread), the chana batata (chickpeas and potatoes), and the kofti (vegetable dumpling).  But I've always found that thalies are hit and miss since it's up to the discretion of the chef to decide what to put in it, and I'm far too picky to let someone else make my food choices.

We've now been there enough that we've settled into a bit of a routine, as you do (well, I do) - pretty much the only thing we change up are the starters.  I always get the saag aloo (greens and potatoes), Mike always gets the chana dhal (dhal made with split chickpeas), and we usually go for the chana batata as a side.

Tonight we started with the kachori - potatoes and lentils in a thin pastry shell, fried and served with tamarind sauce.  It was the best starter we've had there - a bit of crunch from the pastry, soft potatoes, and mildly spiced lentils, with just the right amount of sweetness from the sauce.

We then had what we always have, served with pulao rice and a poori to split between the two of us (though I totally could've eaten one by myself).  They make the absolute best saag aloo in Edinburgh.  OK, so only one other place has a vegan saag aloo, and it's good, but Ann Purna's is better.  Though we get two chickpea dishes, they're prepared in such a way that it doesn't feel like you're eating chickpeas twice.  The chana batata is a bit tomato-y, while the dhal is creamy.

The only vegan dessert they have is basically mango puree.  But that's OK, because we usually leave full and with leftovers.  That's the only thing my other favourite Indian restaurant, Kalpna, has over Ann Purna - Kalpna has a vegan dessert that isn't just pureed fruit.

I would absolutely recommend Ann Purna.  The food is wonderful, the prices are reasonable (and they're doing 20% off Mon-Thu this winter), and the staff are incredibly friendly and helpful.  If you find yourself hungry in Edinburgh, check them out.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Vegan MoFo VI - Product Review - Alpro/Provamel Puddin' Cups

I was gonna do the Blue Plate Special from Vegan Diner tonight, but I dicked around too long and finally decided that I didn't feel like making the waffles because it takes about 10 minutes per set of waffles.  So I ended up eating another burrito (mmm...burrito) and decided to do a product review.

I'll say right now that I don't get free stuff from companies.  I bought all of these at some point (apart from the one a friend gave me) and I'm reviewing them because I feel like it, not because I'm compelled to.  But hey, if Alpro (or any other vegan company) wants to hook me up, I won't say no.

So, I'm not entirely clear on this, but I think* Provamel and Alpro are essentially the same company, but Provamel only makes organic stuff, whereas Alpro mostly does non-organic but with a few organic things.  Basically, they have about the same products give or take a few, but the Alpro stuff tends to be fortified (and, at least for the vanilla soy milks, sweeter).  Alpro is sold in big box grocery stores, but Provamel is only sold in health food shops.

Both brands just call these things desserts, but if we were in the US, we'd be talking puddin' cups.  Different countries have different varieties on offer.  In the UK, Alpro offers vanilla, caramel, dark chocolate, and "smooth" chocolate (which I guess is meant to be like milk chocolate), while Provamel offers vanilla, chocolate, caramel and "moka" (according to their website - the package I have says cappuccino).  But other countries might have other things - I know for sure that Belgium gets Alpro speculoos puddin' cups, the lucky bastards.

The good stuff.

So how are they?  Well, I'll admit two things:  a) I've never tried the vanilla of either brand as far as I can recall, and 2) I can never remember which of the chocolate varieties I like.  That said, I quite like the Alpro caramel, though I prefer it mixed with chocolate.  The Provamel moka/cappuccino is good on its own (though I don't know where they get off calling it moka, which implies chocolate, when there's no chocolate in it).  And I think I like one of the Alpro chocolates, but I'm too cheap to buy both to figure it out because then I'll have a package of stuff I don't like (though I'm sure Mike would eat them).  Of course, the standout winner is the speculoos stuff, but I've only had that once (well, one package of 4) because, like I said, it's only available in Belgium.

They're also kinda diet friendly, if you're looking for that kind of thing.  My bff, who isn't even veg, loves the dark chocolate for a dessert, not only because it's tasty, but because it usually fits within her calorie budget.  (I can also confirm that the Alpro Light Chocolate Soya Milk works well if you need a hot chocolate fix but don't want to consume 500 calories in one cup.)

I'd definitely recommend giving these a try.  They're usually pretty tasty, not too bad for calories, and almost always on sale somewhere (at least the Alpro ones are - usually 2 for £2.50 at Sainsbury's and/or Tesco).

*Thanks for clearing that up, Professor Wikipedia!  Also, they're from Belgium, which is why the Belgians get all the good stuff first.