Saturday, 26 October 2013

Review - Considerit Chocolates

Apparently there's a Saturday market on Grassmarket!  I had no idea.  On one hand, I love that there are so many markets springing up all over Edinburgh - there also seems to be one just off Princes Street nearly every Saturday (I can't remember the name of the street, but it's next to the HSBC branch), and every once in a while one pops up at New Kirk Gate Centre (down at the bottom of Leith Walk).  On the other hand, they almost never have anything vegan, apart from things like marinated olives.

I'm in a local vegan Facebook group, and, Claire, the proprietor of Considerit Chocolates, posted that she'd be selling there this weekend, so I went along after buying nearly all of the tofu from The Engine Shed at the farmers market.  Pro tip - If you go right to the back of the farmers market, there's a stair that leads onto the bottom of the Grassmarket.

Claire had two tables loaded with a huge variety of truffles, truffle bars, and Halloween chocolates, all of which was vegan and gluten free.  I went with the deal she was doing for 5 truffles and a truffle bar for £7 - quite a bargain as it would cost about £8.50 for a similar purchase from The Chocolate Tree, and they don't have nearly the same selection of vegan options.

The truffles, from left to right, are salted caramel (x2), amaretto, cinnamon, and vanilla.  The skull is a plain chocolate truffle, and the bar is a mint truffle bar.  Plus bonus Zebby nose - he was more curious about what I had on that plate than when I brought out my lunch of VBites fish-style steaks.

The truffles were amazing - I really wish I'd bought more, because I ate them all (except the skull) in about 5 minutes.  The salted caramel was a liquid centre, but the rest were ganache.  The flavours worked really well and weren't too subtle as to be overwhelmed by the bitterness of the chocolate.  Claire does a great job of balancing the flavours (they're obvious without being a punch in the face or feeling like the flavour comes just from extracts), and she clearly knows from chocolate.  I honestly couldn't even tell you which was my favourite as they were all delicious in their own way.

I think I'm gonna have to make at least a monthly if not bi-weekly trip to the Grassmarket to get a box of truffles.  If you can't make it to the Grassmarket, or want truffles sooner than next Saturday, you can order from the website (linked above).  I'm so pleased that this wee business exists and wish Claire all the best of luck so that she keeps making these delicious chocolates.

Review - Zen Zen vanilla ice cream

Image from the Zen Zen website

I'm always willing to try new ice creams (as long as they aren't made from ingredients that will hospitalise me), so when I saw that Real Foods had Zen Zen ice cream, I grabbed a wee 125ml container of vanilla.  I never get to buy the wee containers because the only ones they usually sell are dairy ice creams or Booja Booja (made with cashews = hospitalisation).  They're so cute, with their little flat spoon/scraper things right in the lid.  Fun times.

Anyway, I love the concept of a non-dairy but also non-nut based ice cream that was slightly healthier than my beloved Swedish Glace.  I'm hard to please with vanilla because I almost never eat it straight up (without any toppings), and the only one I've ever been happy to do that with was Swedish Glace.

The Zen Zen ice cream just isn't the one for me.  The coconut flavour was really pronounced and overwhelmed the vanilla.  I think a coconut milk base is just too much for a vanilla dessert.  I'd love to try the chocolate (the only other flavour Real Foods had was the nut one) because I think chocolate is a strong enough flavour to power through the coconut.  But vanilla is just too subtle for it.  And considering that the 125ml tub was the same price as a 700ml tub of Swedish Glace - still undefeated as my favourite vanilla ice cream - I think I'll stick with the stuff I like, even if it is full of chemicals and gums and precious sugar.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Cookin' through Cookin' Crunk: sweet potato bread

I have to be honest, I was sure I wouldn't like this one.  I try so hard to like banana breads (which, despite the title, this is) but never do.  But I was determined to at least try this, with the assumption that I wouldn't like it and would take the rest of it in for my work potluck/bake sale.

The recipe calls for a ripe banana.  My banana was so ripe, it smelled like it might be about to start fermenting.  It was still good (as good as bananas can be), just really, really ripe.  So I was certain that the banana flavour would be so pronounced that I wouldn't be able to taste anything else.

Well.  I actually really like it.  I can still taste the banana, but the sweet potato and spices outshine the flavour.  I ate it with some margarine and cinnamon sugar.  Mike and I both liked it.  I don't know that I'd make it again, but we're gonna finish it ourselves!

Monday, 14 October 2013

Cookin' through Cookin' Crunk - creole steamed sausages

I spent about half of the weekend making these sausages.  Or so it seemed.

I started them Saturday evening.  I went through the tedious process of mashing beans by hand, threw everything together, mixed it up, and then realised that I didn't have any aluminum foil.  So I put the dough in the fridge.

I went out Sunday to buy foil, then came home and made the sausages.  Well, as I was trying to form the sausages, little (and not so little) bits of bean kept falling out, and they didn't really want to take shape.  I think I'm blaming the beans - I forgot that great northern beans are haricot beans here, not cannellini, so I got the wrong ones, and they were a bit tough.  But I finally got them into the foil, wrapped and steaming.

They turned out alright.  But here's the thing - they contain my herbal arch nemesis, thyme.  And because of the bean thing and the thyme, they kinda annoy me, texturally.  But they taste good!

They're seen here over rice in a sauce of garlic, shallots, red peppers, tomato sauce, chili powder, cumin, and paprika (I think).  This was a spur-of-the-moment, throw in what works type of sauce.  The tomato sauce was left over, the red pepper needed to be used, and I used the dregs of the frozen shallots and garlic.  And it turned out really good, so, hey.

So far, this has been probably my least favourite recipe because of the texture issues.  So I'll make these again with the right beans and maybe try to find a way around the thyme and report back, since I don't want to dismiss them because of what might have been my fault.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Cookin' through Cookin' Crunk - fried green tomatoes and cauliflower creole

Those of you who know me know that my journey to veganism was a lot faster than my journey to liking vegetables and fruit.  The potential reasons for this are plentiful - possible childhood trauma (the only veg we had at home was boiled-to-death canned or frozen stuff), being a supertaster (I'm one of those people who can taste cucumber), personal preference/texture issues, who knows.

But I've always had a problem with tomatoes.  I started out not being able to eat anything other than ketchup (catsup?), then progressed to being able to eat completely smooth tomato products.  I've now reached the point that I can have small diced tomatoes, but only cooked.  I can't eat raw tomatoes.

So, as you can imagine, the Fried Green Tomatoes recipe was kinda daunting for me.  A thick slice of tomato - brrr.  But I bought those green tomatoes at the farmers market (lookit that wee one!  it's so tiny!), put on my big girl pants, and made some fried green tomatoes.

I have to say, they were alright, but I probably wouldn't make them again unless they were for someone else who really loves them.
I made the Fried Green Tomato and Tofu Sandwich with them, and that was pretty good, but it was more the tofu than the tomatoes that I was interested in.  The coating on the tomatoes gave it a nice crunch, though.  This used the Sweet & Spicy Marinated Tofu, which was really easy to make and was very, very tasty.  I can see it going into regular rotation.

Dinner tonight was Cauliflower Creole.  I did it in stages, so it probably took longer than it would have if I'd made it as written.  This was fantastic.  I don't think it really mimicked shrimp creole all that well (at least texture-wise - I've never had shrimp creole to compare the taste), but whatever, it was tasty as hell.  I served it with the remaining tofu and some brown rice.  I would definitely make this again.

My shrooms went off, so I didn't get to make the cream of mushroom soup.  I'll buy more shrooms and make that this week since I cubed the tofu chicken to use in a recipe that also requires the cream of mushroom soup.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Cookin' through Cookin' Crunk - curried sweet tater fries

Oh man, I'm so used to only blogging during VeganMoFo that I almost went to find a MoFo banner to top my post!  Unfortunately I no longer have that to fall back on.

So, yeah, as most people who know me are aware, I usually only post during VeganMoFo.  But one of my 40 Before 40 goals is to cook through Bianca Phillips's book, Cookin' Crunk: Eatin' Vegan in the Dirty South (to give it its full title).  One reason is because I've never cooked every recipe in a cookbook before.  Another reason, which I may have mentioned already, is that it's like it was written for me - a book full of recipes for classic Southern dishes.

Today I made the Curried Sweet Tater Fries.  I bought one giant sweet potato instead of 2 normal-sized taters.  I baked instead of frying, which took a lot longer than I expected (about 90 minutes, I think).  I think I might not have had the heat up high enough.  We ate them with some Sainsbury's LoveVeg Indian spinach and lentil burgers and the tahini sauce in the book.

They came out a bit floppy, but Mike and I really liked them.  The sauce was the perfect accompaniment.  I left out the cayenne because I've become a bit of a spice wuss, but they could've used a touch of spice.  I should've thrown in a bit of chipotle powder.  Regardless, they were super tasty, and I could definitely see myself making them again.

I went to the farmers market today and bought green tomatoes, spaghetti squash, and loads of tofu.  I've already started marinating two blocks of tofu - one for Tofu Chicken and the other for Sweet and Spicy Tofu.  I'll fry the tomatoes and use them and the S&S tofu in the Fried Green Tomato sandwiches for my lunch tomorrow.  I'll use the spaghetti squash later in the week - it's a big bastard so I can probably get two dinners out of it.

Monday, 30 September 2013

Cheesy burger mac

It's the last day of MoFo 2013!  I feel like this MoFo has gone by faster than others, because there are so many things I didn't get around to.  I think I also got so caught up on making stuff from Cookin' Crunk that I ignored my other theme, which was to cook from my pantry.  I think I actually have more stuff now than when I started!

Today's post is a bit of a cop-out because I actually made this yesterday.  I had a long, exhausting day today, so I don't feel like cooking.  But yesterday, along with all the ice cream shenanigans, I also made Cheesy Burger Mac from Cookin' Crunk!

This recipe has three components - the cheese sauce, the burger, and the macaroni.  I made the Basic Cheese Sauce and boiled the macaroni while the Ground TSP Beef was cooking, so it all came together pretty quickly.  I'd say I was in the kitchen for about 30 minutes, which is good for me.

I threw some frozen peas in with the macaroni towards the end of cooking, so I just ate this as a one-bowl meal.  It was really tasty, though I kinda wish I'd put more cheese sauce in mine.  Oh well.  It works well as leftovers, though the pasta does soak up the sauce.  I could definitely see myself making this again (probably later this week since I have enough of everything for another batch).

And since I didn't take a picture of the food, here's a picture of Zebby.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Sundae Sunday - We're gonna need a bigger bowl.

Today is the final Sundae Sunday of Vegan MoFo 2013, so I thought I'd make it a pretty epic sundae.  My inspiration was classic glutton Homer Simpson.  In the episode where Homer intentionally gains weight to get on disability, he and Bart are at the diner.  Homer has a banana split, and Bart tells him to eat around the banana - it's just empty vitamins.  So tonight's sundae is a banana-less banana split!

Sorry about the shadow - I had to work fast before the toppings oozed off the ice cream.

The components of this sundae are:  Swedish Glace vanilla ice cream, homemade chocolate ice cream (using my variation of the V'con chocolate), raspberry jam ice cream (using the method I mentioned in this post), fudge sauce left over from making the Dublin Mudslide, Lyle's Squeezy Syrup butterscotch syrup (which has "suitable for vegans" right on the label!), marshmallow sauce using this recipe and Sweet Vegan marshmallows, and zero bananas.

I think traditionally a banana split would have strawberry rather than raspberry ice cream, but I hate all things strawberry (with the exception of Rekorderlig Wild Berry cider because the strawberry is sufficiently masked).  And, obviously, it would have a banana.

I have to admit, my sundae was a bit sad.  The marshmallow topping was a complete failure - I spent  £3.49 on the biggest, fluffiest, most delicious marshmallows I think I've ever eaten (I took a bite of one) and wasted it all on this gross, gloopy, chewy sauce.  The flavour was alright, but the texture was awful.  I actually pulled the whole thing off of my ice cream.  Speaking of which, the chocolate ice cream was also kinda naff.  I think my chocolate kinda seized up when I put it into the mixture because it was really bitty.  So basically that third of the triumvirate was a bit crap.

The rest of it was delicious.  I still love Swedish Glace vanilla ice cream.  I even prefer it over the French vanilla I made for Mike's birthday party.  I've never eaten a better vanilla ice cream, and I anticipate I never will.  I also love that butterscotch syrup, and I love Tate & Lyle for making it vegan.  The raspberry jam ice cream was good, and the fudge sauce worked well with it.

I have loads of ice cream and sauces left, which is probably the best part!

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Southern Saturday - sweet potato hash

It's the last Southern Saturday of MoFo!  I can't believe it's almost over (and almost October).  Since I'm nowhere near finished cooking through Cookin' Crunk, I might keep blogging about my experience.  I've at least liked everything I've made so far, and I've loved quite a lot, so I'm looking forward to the rest of it.  A lot of it is stuff that takes advanced prep, multiple steps, or loads of ingredients (some of which I might not be able to get here), so it might not come as thick and fast as the recipes I've made for MoFo.  That said, I have to make food for a work potluck at the end of October, so I might take a range of stuff to that (since I can usually only eat the hummus and bread).

I meant to do more today, but I was out and about and hauling things around a lot, so I just made one dish for brinner - Sweet Potato Hash.  I didn't take a picture because, frankly, it ain't pretty.  I honestly can't remember if I'd ever had corned beef hash pregan.  Surely I must have, but maybe I blocked all occurrences of it from my memory because of that time my dad fed us dog food and told us it was corned beef.*

Mike and I both loved this, so much so that we finished it all off before it even got cold enough to reheat.  I thought I'd have to use it up as leftovers tomorrow, but it was gone pretty quickly.  I used the ground TSP beef from the book, so I did all the prep and the beginning stages of cooking while that cooked.  Apart from grating the sweet potatoes, it was pretty easy.

I would absolutely make this again.  It was super delicious and really homey and comforting.  In fact, I still have some TSP beef left, so I might make a personal-sized serving while Mike's at his game!

*Unfortunately, true story.  Or so I'm told.  Apparently, dad could only afford a potato and a can of dog food.  I was probably too young to have understood what corned beef was and that dog food was different and not to be eaten, but maybe he felt the need to lie to us in case mom asked what we'd eaten and we told her dog food (even though none of us could've read the label at that age - my now 32-year-old sister wasn't even on solids yet).

Friday, 27 September 2013

New stuff from Sainsbury's and another Cookin' Crunk recipe down

I found a new thing at Sainsbury's today!  They have their range of meatless alternative frozen foods, and they've recently come out with an Indian Lentil and Spinach quarter pound "burger" (along with a bunch of other stuff that wasn't vegan).  I pretty much couldn't resist, so I bought a pack and had some for dinner.

I served them with some spinach (cooked from frozen with lemon juice, salt, and garlic granules), boiled new potatoes, and Creamy Tahini Sauce from Cookin' Crunk.

The burgers were pretty tasty, and I could see myself buying them again.  I might try to make my sides with more Indian-style spices the next time I make these.  I loved the tahini sauce - it's slightly similar to Isa's Classic Vegan Caesar dressing - but I had to add a lot of water to get it to sauce consistency.  Regardless, I would absolutely make this again.  It went really well with the potatoes and spinach, and I imagine it would work in loads of other applications.

Oh, before I forget, in their wee Jewish section, Sainsbury's sell these chocolate wafer things (like the inside of a Kit Kat but twice as wide) that are vegan!  They're super delicious.  Now they just need to bring back the mini-latkes.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Granny's Corn Casserole

I went to my local hfs, Real Foods, and spent ages trying to decide if I wanted to buy any delicious, delicious processed convenience foods because I could not figure out what to make for dinner.  I had already decided to buy some cream cheese (Sheese brand, fwiw), nooch (finally replenishing my stock), and marshmallows (more on those at a later date), but that obviously didn't help with dinner.  Then Mike called to ask me something, and while we talked we figured it out.

We decided on chickpeas and broccoli - I already had frozen chickpeas, and he bought broccoli.  When I got home and started cooking, I decided to use the cream cheese I'd just bought to make Granny's Corn Casserole from Cookin' Crunk.  It turned out super quick and easy - apart from chopping the roasted red pepper that stood in for the pimento, there was almost no work required.  It took about 5 minutes to throw together, which is always a bonus.

It tasted alright, but I think that was down to using a lesser cream cheese.  I bet it would've been great if I'd bought Tofutti, but the only one they had was the herby one (which probably would've been fine).  I liked it, but I think I would've preferred the version she mentions in the intro.  I might see if I can recreate that one myself!

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Lazy day - pizza for dinner

Today was payday, I got an email for 2-for-1 + 7.5% off* pizza from Pizza Hut, and I was feeling lazy.  Guess what we had for dinner!

Pizza Hut pan pizza crust is vegan (at least in the UK).  Also, if you order online, you can do all your additions (+shrooms and olives for me, +onions and mixed peppers for Mike) and subtractions (-cheese for both of us) without having to speak to a person!  As you might imagine, I love ordering from the Hut.

I had some of the Tesco smoky cheese left over from taco night, so I grated the rest of it and had just enough to lightly cover both pizzas.  If I'd had it, I would've thrown something chick'ny onto my pizza (my pregan favourite was chicken pan pizza with extra cheese), but I didn't.  It was good!

*There's a thing here called VAT Parity Day, which is the day on which food and drink business owners cut their prices by 7.5% in some kind of protest at the fact that you have to pay VAT on restaurant food but not on food you buy at the store.  I'm not entirely clear on why this is unfair or whatever.  There are a number of reasons why people don't eat out as much as they make their own food, and while cost comes into it, I don't think anyone would really notice if restaurants paid 7.5% less tax because they'd probably leave their prices as they are anyway.  And even if they reduced their prices by 7.5% if they didn't have to pay VAT, it would still be more expensive than cooking my own food, so I would still eat at home about as much as I do now.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Taco Tuesday - lentil tacos

It's Taco Tuesday!  I had some lentils left over from a few days ago that I wanted to use up, so I decided to make lentil tacos.  But the recipe I have calls for chili powder, which I didn't have, so I first had to make chili powder.  I used this recipe but doubled the quantities, used chipotle powder instead of cayenne pepper, and added a bit of allspice and coriander because the old bottle had those in the ingredients.

These are topped with Tesco smoky cheese, Uncle Ben's Mexican rice, Joya plain soy yogurt, Tesco mild salsa, and iceberg lettuce (in no particular order).  They were super delicious.

Monday, 23 September 2013

Sick day comfort food

I stayed home sick today, so I pretty much took it easy.  I had enough energy to make cornbread because I knew in the long run it would make me feel better.
This is the Jalapeno-Buttermilk Cornbread from Cookin' Crunk, but without the jalapenos.  I mostly left them out because I didn't have any.

For dinner, I cooked some black-eyed peas with a bit of veg broth, soy sauce, liquid smoke, garlic and onions.  I used some cavolo nero kale in the Mess O' Greens recipe.  And of course, I had it all with more cornbread.  It was delicious, though I think actual greens would work better in the greens recipe.  I also left out the turnips because I didn't have any.

The meal was really delicious, and I'd definitely make the cornbread and the greens again.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Sundae Sunday - Vegan Dublin Mudslide

My favourite pregan ice cream was Ben & Jerry's Dublin Mudslide - Irish cream ice cream, chocolate chocolate chip cookie* pieces, and coffee fudge ripple.  I'm pretty sure it was the last non-vegan thing I ate intentionally while I lived in the US**.

One of the things I put on my 40 before 40 list was to veganise the Dublin Mudslide.  It doesn't seem like something that would be terribly difficult when you think of it as just veganising some ice cream.  But when you consider the various components, having to veganise those, and the amount of time it would take to make them regardless of their animal content, it's a goddamn project.  For the vegan version, not only do you have to figure out a way to make the ice cream, cookies, and fudge swirl vegan, you have to make your own Bailey's Irish cream!

I got a bug up my butt today and decided to just do it.

I started by making some Irish cream liqueur - I used the recipe in Quick and Easy Vegan Celebrations.  I then made the cookies - I used the soft baked chocolate chip cookie recipe in The Vegan Cookie Connoisseur but switched out 1/4 c of the flour for 1/4 c cocoa powder.  I used my modified V'con ice cream base for the ice cream, adding 1/4 c of the homemade Bailey's to a vanilla recipe.  I used this recipe for the fudge ripple with some instant espresso added for the coffee element - my original attempt ended in chocolate syrup, so it was the wrong consistency.***

The final product was good, but it wasn't Dublin Mudslide.  *sadface*  I'll probably make this again, but I'd make the following changes:
  1. Use the homemade Bailey's instead of rather than in addition to the soy milk (so the full soy cream and 1/2 c Bailey's), and add a bit of coffee flavour to the ice cream itself.
  2. Leave the chocolate chips out of the cookies (I honestly don't remember chocolate chips in the cookies in the original).
  3. More coffee flavour and more sweetness in the fudge ripple.
I think these changes would make it much more like the original.  I made about a liter of Bailey's, and I still have some cookie dough (it would be pretty easy to pull out most of the chocolate chips), so I could probably make this again soon.  For science.

*The description I read said chocolate chocolate chip, but as I mentioned in my post, I don't remember the chocolate chips.
**I had a hard time adjusting to life in the UK as a vegan, so I went back to ovo-veg for a couple of weeks until I found my footing.
***My 2nd attempt almost failed too.  The original recipe calls for maple syrup, which I probably wouldn't have used even if I had it.  I tried to use light corn syrup, but to my great surprise, it wasn't sweet enough, so I added in some golden syrup.  Next time, I'd go with all golden syrup, or maybe agave.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Southern Saturday - Mike's birthday party

It's Southern Saturday - yaaaay!  Mike's birthday was yesterday, but no one could come round then, so we had people over today.  I made Tofu Scramble Enchiladas, Caramelized Cabbage and Onions, Un-fried Corn, and Buttermilk Ranch (as a dip) from Cookin' Crunk, and French vanilla ice cream from "A La Mode" to serve with the yella cake I made yesterday.

I served the ranch with carrot batons and crisps, but no one ate the crisps.  I don't even know if anyone other than Mike ate the ranch because I was busy in the kitchen making the rest of the food.  I did get to try it, and it was really tasty.  There's loads left, so I'll get to try it with the crisps tomorrow.

I made the enchiladas with Quick and Easy Low-Cal Vegan Comfort Food enchilada sauce, Viva Vegan! tortillas, and Tesco smoked cheese.  They fell apart a bit, but they were super tasty.  If I make these again, I would probably use store-bought tortillas just to avoid the hassle.  Because some of my tortillas fell apart before we could fill them, I still have filling left!  I might have to make a mini batch of tortillas and have breakfast tacos at some point.

I really, really liked the corn.  It was nice and creamy with a good balance of sweet and salty.  I usually don't get to eat corn as a side because Mike isn't a huge fan, so I try to make it when I'm feeding multiple people.  Having made this, I now really want to try the corn casserole.

The cabbage was OK, though I'm not a huge fan of cabbage at the best of times and usually only eat it in stir fry.  However, it was so stupid easy to make.  This would be a great side for a weekday meal.  I would maybe use a bit less sugar and just let it caramelise on its own if I made it again.
The ice cream was a bit of a mission.  I didn't read the recipe through and realised after I'd already put some of the ingredients together that I didn't have margarine.  I had the coconut oil mentioned as a suitable substitute, but it was solid!  So I boiled some water and melted the oil enough to pour it out, but I put it in the mix at the wrong stage.  In spite of all the setbacks, it was really good and was the perfect accompaniment to the cake.

Everyone seemed to like the food, and we had almost no leftovers.  And because of the dishwasher, I was able to clean as I went, so the rest of the cleanup won't be too bad.  Woo!

Friday, 20 September 2013

Yella cake

Today is Mike's birthday, but we're celebrating tomorrow.  But it's no birthday without cake (except my birthday because I didn't make my own), so I made his birthday cake tonight.

Of course, I made the Yella Cake with Fudgy Frosting from Cookin' Crunk because it's well suited to birthday cake.  It looks like the kind of cake you'd make with a box and a tub!

I almost had a disaster when I went to make the frosting - I didn't have enough icing sugar or margarine!  I supplemented somewhat by adding a bit of Speculoos, but it would've been fine without it.  As with most frosting recipes, I still had more than enough even when I didn't have enough ingredients.

I really liked the flavour of this, but it was a bit denser than I was hoping for.  I wonder if maybe that's because it doesn't have any baking soda.  I was tempted to add a bit, but I wanted (for once) to follow the recipe.  It was still tasty, just not as fluffy as I expected.

I'll be doing loads of recipes from this book tomorrow.  Or at least, I hope I will - I might end up getting lazy and/or running out of time.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Cheater Affogato

We had leftovers for dinner, and I didn't have anything to blog about!  I had some leftover cake from an experiment earlier in the week, so I made Birthday Cake Ice Cream from A La Mode.  It was suuuper sweet - cake plus sweetened soy milk plus sugar - so I wanted to mitigate the sweetness with something.  I had some cold-brewed coffee in the fridge, so I heated it up and poured it over the ice cream.  Cheater affogato!

I know this picture is terrible, but I had to post it so I could talk about the pointlessness of buying Soyatoo whipped cream in a squirty can.  That tiny white blob is all I could get out of the can after having left it out for the specified amount of time.  This happens every time I buy the stuff, so I don't know why I keep buying it.  I don't think I've ever gotten through an entire can because it just stops working once it's been in the fridge.

Anyway, my ice cream was really good!  So at least there's that.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Masa Masala Burgers - except not!

Eeek, I got caught up in doing dumb stuff and almost forgot to blog!

Taking inspiration from Mandee and last night's dinner, I made the Masa Masala Burgers from The Best Veggie Burgers on the Planet.  However, I decided that I didn't really want Indian-flavoured burgers tonight (I'll probably go back and make them right some other time), so I used chili powder (the American-style blend, not straight ground chilies) in place of the garam masala.  So basically, they were just Mexican-influenced burgers.  Oh, I also subbed some tomato puree for half of the oil (for flavour and fat-reduction).

Mmm, delicious shadows.  Sorry about the crap pic, but I thought it would be better than the wall of text that my posts have been lately.

Anyway, I served this with vegetable couscous, because what else would you serve with a masa burger, rice?  OK, I didn't have enough time or clean pans to make rice.

I thought these burgers could use a touch more flavour.  Maybe if I were making lentils specifically for these burgers (i.e., just enough for this recipe rather than a big batch to use in other applications), I might add some spice to them during cooking.  The burgers are a bit dry, which is to be expected from something masa-based, so you'll either want some saucy sauce or a drink handy.   I ate them with brown sauce*, which worked pretty well.  Something Latin, like chimichurri or enchilada sauce, might be tasty too.

My next post won't be amazing - I don't even know what it'll be, but I can assure you of that - but Mike's birthday is Friday and we're both off, and we're having friends over on Saturday, so the couple or three posts after tomorrow will be epic.  I'm excited about that.

*It took ages to find a brown sauce I can eat.  Most of them are made with dates, and I'm allergic to dates.  It turns out that Sainsbury's sells a cheap brand - Gold Star chip shop brown sauce - that not only is date-free but also labeled suitable for vegans!

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Taco Tuesday!

I know I'm late to the game, but I'm ready to get on board the Taco Cleanse, y'all.

I love tacos.  When my best good friend Eva and I get together for more than a day, we always have taco night.  There isn't even a question of whether it'll happen, just when.  I haven't had a lot of tacos lately because there was a recall of all the vegan mince a while back, and it still isn't back in stores.  But I went minimally fancy (nowhere near schmancy) tonight by making some stuff from scratch!

Tonight's dinner was homemade corn tortillas from Viva Vegan!, tofu chicharrones (also from VV!), and tinned refried beans (I forgot to soak beans and also I'm having an allergy attack).  I'd never made either of the VV recipes, but luckily I chose what turned out to be two really easy ones.

When Terry says if you can lift a bag of masa, you can make tortillas, she's not kidding.  These were so easy.  I was thinking about pancakes while making these, and I realised I could probably make 2-3 dozen tortillas in the time it would take me to make a single batch of pancakes.  It doesn't hurt that I have a tortilla press - it makes wee baby tortillas (well, smaller than I'm used to)! - but I bet rolling them out wouldn't take all that long either.

The chicharrones took a long time but weren't a lot of effort.  Most of the time is waiting - freezing then thawing the tofu, then pressing and marinating.  But it's about 30 minutes of actual work, which was great tonight when I was sneezing so much I thought my whole face might come off.  You can make the marinade and throw the tofu in it, then make the tortillas, then fry the chicharrones in the pan you used for the tortillas and have dinner ready in half an hour.

I'm so excited to eat leftovers tomorrow and make my co-workers jealous that my lunch is so much more awesome than theirs.

I have to say, I'm not even at the mild level of the cleanse and my mood has improved.  Now I just need to decide what to make for next Taco Tuesday!

Oh yeah, Mike insisted I post this educational video for those who might not know the difference between tacos and burritos (NB - not vegan!):

Monday, 16 September 2013

Vegan MoFo VII - Almost Zatarain's Red Beans and Rice

A few weeks ago, I needed a potluck dish but had almost no money to buy ingredients for one.  I had red beans, and I had rice, so I decided to make red beans and rice.  I didn't really use a recipe - I basically just started throwing stuff in a pan.  It was a combination of guessing what should be in beans and rice with some of the spices from the Red Beans and Quinoa recipe from Cookin' Crunk (and since I can't eat quinoa, I'm calling that recipe made).

This was also my dinner for that night, so when it was done, I served it up.  It tasted remarkably similar to the delicious, MSG-laden delight that is Zatarain's Red Beans and Rice.  And since that stuff is about £3 a box here, I'm sure my concoction was significantly cheaper (especially since I got about 6 meals out of it outside of it being eaten at the potluck).  So I present to you now:

Almost Zatarain's Red Beans and Rice


3 tbsp olive oil
¼ c shallots, diced
1 tbsp garlic, minced
1 roasted red pepper, diced
1 tsp mixed herbs
½ tsp salt
½ tsp file powder
½ tsp celery salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 c rice
4 c water
2 bay leaves
1 bouillon cube (I used Kallo tomato and herb)
2-3 c cooked red beans (preferably homemade), with some liquid


Heat the oil in a large pot.  Add the shallots, garlic and red pepper and sauté until the garlic and shallots are just beginning to brown.  Add the herbs and spices and stir to combine.  Add the rice, water, bay leaves and bouillon cube.  Bring the rice to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cook for about 15 minutes (depending on your type of rice – you may need a bit more time).  Add the beans and a bit of bean liquid and continue cooking until the beans are heated through and the rice is tender.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Sundae Sunday - Toffee in a tin!

A few weeks ago, I wondered out loud (on Facebook) if you could do with condensed soy milk what you can do with condensed dairy milk - boil the tin to make toffee.  No one knew because it's so hard to come by condensed soy milk (and then no one buys it because they don't know what to do with it).  Well, I sacrificed myself (and my condensed soy milk) for science and did this experiment.  Turns out, it totally works and is delicious.  I left my tin boiling for an hour and 45 minutes, and it was pretty runny, so I'd do at least 2 hours next time.

On to the sundae!

I made Mocha-Maca Rocket Fuel from Vegan a la Mode via Tami's website.  This is a cooked recipe, and I usually don't have great success with cooked recipes (except the jam ice cream I made last week).  Also, maca has a really weird smell.  Frankly, it smells like burning.  So I wasn't sure about this one.

I'm really glad I tried it, because it's great.  The maca adds a sorta buttery/butterscotch flavour to the mocha.  Topped with warm toffee, it was AMAZING.  Unfortunately, it didn't get very solid in the ice cream maker, and it didn't freeze much in the quick freeze drawer of the freezer, so it was a bit melty.  Once I put the warm toffee on it, it was pretty much a soup of shades of brown - not very attractive.  But I assure you it was fantastic.

I really need to get Vegan a la Mode.  Maybe I'll ask for it for Xmas.

Southern Saturday on Sunday - Grits, Hush Puppies, and ... Hummus?

I have a totally legit excuse for missing out yesterday's entry.  We were at our friends' place playing a game called Civilisation, which seems to never end.  I mean, there is an end point, but after about 12 hours worth of play (with a break for dinner), we still weren't anywhere near the end when we decided to give up because everyone was exhausted.  By the time we got back, all I could do was make a cup of tea and go to bed.

I made the Garlicky Black-Eyed Pea Hummus to take to the game.  It took about 10 minutes to make, and it was delicious.  It obviously looked a bit different from regular hummus, but it didn't taste very different.  I think that was because the only difference was the type of bean used.  I would highly recommend this, and I definitely see myself making this again.  No pic because grey hummus.

I did two recipes today.  The first was the Cheesy Tempeh Bacon Grits.  I didn't have any tempeh to make bacon, so I used store-bought bacon bits.  This recipe was also fairly quick and easy.  I've only had proper grits once, and these were a bit different, probably because I don't have access to grits grits, just coarse ground cornmeal (for polenta).  I ended up having to add a lot more liquid to the recipe to keep them from sticking before they were done.  Regardless, they were awesome - creamy, cheesy (without adding the optional shredded cheese), salty, and wonderful.  I would totally make these again.  In fact, I might make them again next weekend.

I also made the Hush Puppy Corn Muffins.  For some reason, I thought I was gonna have a hard time finding creamed corn here, and if I did find it, it would be in the American section.  But not only did I find it easily, I got it in the regular tinned veg section.  These would've come together really quickly if I hadn't cut my onion wrong.  But I did, so they took a while (because of the mincing).  But they were worth the effort.  I thought they would be good, but I never expected they would actually taste like hush puppies.  They're so close to one of those deep-fried balls of goodness, and probably contain a lot less fat.  Yet again, I would absolutely make these again.  They're amazing.

So, that's three wins in two days with this cookbook.  Next weekend we're having friends over for dinner on Saturday, so I'll make quite a bit (I hope) from Cookin' Crunk.  I bought some stuff to make at the weekend and didn't get a chance, so I might have a Southern Monday (and/or Tuesday) post this week as well.  I hope y'all don't mind, because I freaking love this book and want to try everything.

Friday, 13 September 2013

Lazy day post - cheap but delicious eats from Lidl

A couple of weeks ago, Mike and I were trying to buy ramen at Tesco, and we couldn't find any flavours that were vegan.  I learned shortly after this trip that Lidl has these tarts that are vegan, so I decided to divert to Lidl on my next shopping trip (since we have a Lidl on our way home from the Tesco we usually shop at).

So, this is what the tarts look like:

These consist of a shortcrust pastry, seedless raspberry jam, some type of cream filling, and a raspberry fondant.  They're so freaking good!  They also have pineapple, which aren't as good but would do in a pinch.  A pack of four small tarts is 99p (or if you're lucky, they'll be a little smashed and only run you 69p).

Lidl also have packets of ramen for 18p each, and the ones I looked at were vegan.  Now, I can't vouch with certainty for every flavour, but the ones that are vegan are labeled as such.  Score!  The chicken and barbecue beef flavours are definitely vegan, and they really hit the spot.

My dinner tonight was the chicken flavour with an extra bit of miso and some frozen peas.  It was great.  One of these days I'll use the noodles to make some decent ramen a la Mo.

Lidl has a few other bargains.  I found organic carrots for £1, and they have a big jar of red peppers for £1.79.  I mean, all of their stuff is cheap, but some of it might be worth making the trip for (especially since the trip for me is a couple of steps out of the way).

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Homemade Luna Bars, or slightly less sugary rice crispy treats

One of the things I've been spending a lot of money on lately is a new breakfast bar from Kellogg's.  It's a chocolate-chocolate chip All-Bran bar with added vitamins.  They're really good and great as snacks (if I wanted to eat a biscuit for breakfast, I'd eat a real biscuit), but pretty expensive when not on sale.

In the interests of saving money, I decided to try to make my own bar.  A while back, I found this recipe from V K Rees (probably best known as the photographer behind the amazing photos in Isa and Terry's latest books) for pumpkin Luna bars.  I didn't make those because I'm trying to wait until at least October before busting out the pumpkin everything.  But it led to the original recipe by Chocolate Covered Katie, upon which I based the recipes for the two batches I made.  The first recipe is also somewhat inspired by some treats that Sal made for a PPKamping trip a few years ago.

Speculoos Crispy Bars
Inspired by Chocolate Covered Katie and Sal

 3 c rice crisp cereal
1/2 c Speculoos (crunch or smooth)
1/2 c sticky liquid sweetener (I used rice syrup)
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 - 1 1/2 c chocolate chips*

Line an 8" square pan with parchment paper and put the cereal in a large bowl.  Put the Speculoos, sweetener, and vanilla in a small, microwave-safe bowl and microwave at 15 - 30 second intervals, stirring in between, until everything is melted and blended together.  Pour this mixture over the cereal and mix well, making sure all the cereal is covered.

Pour the mixture into the pan and freeze for 30 minutes.  A few minutes before taking these out of the freezer, melt the chocolate chips (either over a double boiler or in the microwave).  Pour the chocolate over the cereal mixture and smooth over to cover the entire top, then put everything back into the freezer for another 30-odd minutes.  When the chocolate is solid, cut the bars into your desired size.

PBJ and White Chocolate Crispy Bars**

3 c rice crisp cereal
1/2 c peanut butter (or PB substitute, like Freenut Butter)
2-3 tbsp raspberry jam
2 tbsp raspberry syrup (or more jam)
2 tbsp sticky liquid sweetener
1 - 1 1/2 c white chocolate chips (vegan, obvs)

Follow the instructions as above.

*I used about a cup, and it barely covered my stuff.  If you want a thick layer of chocolate, use more.
**I only just put these in the freezer, so a) there's no pic and 2) they might suck.  I'll try to remember to update about their quality.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Cherry chocolate chip ice cream

Disclaimer:  The recipe below is adapted from A La Mode by Hannah Kaminsky.  I asked for permission to print my version but haven't heard back, so if she comes back saying no, this will be removed.

I bought Hannah Kaminsky's e-zine A La Mode (a precursor to her full-size book Vegan a la Mode, and which seems to no longer be available) a while ago and then never made anything from it.  I don't know why - loads of stuff looked amazing.  I had another look through it when I decided on Sundae Sunday as a theme, and I have plans to make a few things.

One of the recipes that jumped out at me was the Jam Ice Cream.  It's super versatile - you can use any kind of jam and therefore make as many flavours of ice cream as there are flavours of jam - and it only has 3 ingredients.  So I decided to make some, but because I'm me, I didn't trust the original recipe and made some changes.

Cherry chocolate chip ice cream

300g smooth cherry jam (or any other flavour)
1 c soy creamer
1 c soy milk
1/4 tsp vanilla bean paste
a few tablespoons of chocolate chips

In a small saucepan, cook the jam, creamer, milk and vanilla bean paste over low heat just until the jam has dissolved.  Pour into a container and let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.  Pour the contents into your ice cream maker and churn until mostly frozen (mine took about 20 minutes, but ymmv).  Add in your desired amount of chocolate chips and churn for another minute or two.  Put the contents back into your container and freeze until solid (or eat it straight out of the container - I won't judge).

I bet this would be super delicious with some kind of cherry-flavoured alcohol, which would have the added benefit of keeping the ice cream from freezing solid (if, unlike me, you manage to freeze it completely before eating it all).  I have some other jams I want to try this with, which I might actually post about for the next Sundae Sunday!

This has also spurred me to make more recipes from the e-zine and buy Vegan a la Mode.  Do you have this book?  If so, what are your favourite recipes?

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Bean and Broccoli Pie

 After making the Latke Breakfast Pie and the baked beans, I still had about 2 cups of beans left to use up before they got funky.  I also had that light puff pastry crust to use, and a head of broccoli that was getting a little sad.  So pie was a pretty obvious choice.

I used the bean, leek and mushroom pie (I'm too lazy to look at the actual name of it) from Vegan Brunch as a guide.  Instead of walnuts (I'm allergic), I used almonds (not allergic and had them to hand), and I used broccoli in the filling instead of leeks and mushrooms.

Bean and Broccoli Pie
with thanks to Isa Chandra Moskowitz

1 pie crust, ready made or homemade*
1 medium-large head of broccoli**
1 c roughly chopped almonds
2 c cooked haricot beans (navy beans in the US) with liquid***
1/4 c nutritional yeast
3 tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic granules (or powder)
1/2 tsp onion granules (or powder)
extra water as needed for blending

Preheat the oven to 375F/190C/gas mark 5.  Press your crust into a 9" or larger pie plate (I have a 10 or 11" plate, so you might have some leftover filling if yours is 9").

Chop your broccoli into smallish pieces and steam for 5-10 minutes.  Make the filling while the broccoli steams.

Blend the almonds until they're finely ground and sorta sandy.  Add the beans and bean liquid and blend until relatively smooth.  Add a bit of water if they don't blend easily.  Add the rest of the ingredients and blend until incorporated.  Pour the filling into a medium bowl and fold in the broccoli, then pour the mixture into the prepared pie plate.

Bake for 35-45 minutes or until the crust is browning and the filling is relatively firm.  Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes.  This will allow the filling to set a bit more.

I served this with green beans cooked relatively similarly to the garlic green beans in Quick and Easy Vegan Celebrations.  Mike liked it so much that he actually suggested I make it again, though with a different vegetable.  He thought it tasted like chicken pie, so I bet it would be even more like chicken pie with some soy curls or light TVP chunks soaked in chicken-flavour stock.

I had some leftover dough, so I mixed about a tablespoon of Vitalite, 3 tsp of sugar, 1/2 tsp of cinnamon and 2-3 tbsp of chocolate chips, put it in the middle of 2 scraps of dough, rolled them up (sorta), and baked in the oven after the pie came out.  And it was amazingly delicious.  I'm actually a little impressed at how great today's evening meal turned out.

In that spirit, what was the best meal that you made up on the fly?

*If you care about crustiness, you might want to blind bake the crust for 10 minutes or so before adding the filling.
**I just used the florets, so if you use the stem, you could get away with a smaller head of broccoli.
***Because you include the liquid, it's probably best to use homemade or tinned organic beans.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Baked beans from scratch!

I love beans on toast.  Well, I usually don't put the beans on toast, more next to toast.  I'd never even heard of this delicious concept before my first trip to the UK.  It makes sense in a way because UK and US baked beans are so different - I can't really imagine eating US baked beans with toast.  If you're in the US and have never had UK baked beans, hit a Kroger (or whatever other store has a British section) and buy a can of Heinz Beanz.  They're far less sweet and more tomato-y than your Bush's baked beans or what have you.  I was about to suggest eating them with sausage (as well as toast, of course), but I don't think you can get a British-style veggie sausage in the US.*  But along with the toast, you can eat them with some tofu scramble, fake bacon and sauteed mushrooms for a (nearly) full English!**

So, with the slow cooker beans I cooked the other day, I made some baked beans.  I used this recipe, except that I obviously didn't cook the beans the same night.  I just threw 3 cups of cooked beans into the sauce at the stage that tells you to combine the beans and sauce.  I used sriracha for the hot sauce because it's the only hot sauce I trust.

I was looking for a recipe that emulated Heinz Beanz, but these tasted like reduced sugar Heinz Beanz with hot sauce.  Honestly, I questioned the hot sauce, but I thought this was supposed to be an authentic recipe, so I went with it.  That said, I'd definitely make these again, just with a few changes.

*This is actually kinda funny because I was just saying in a PPK thread about ex-pats that I didn't find the transition from US to UK that difficult because there are so many similarities.

**My understanding is that a full Scottish (breakfast) differs from a full English in that it contains tattie scones and haggis and/or black pudding.  I could be wrong, and I'm too lazy to GTS***, so feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.

***OK, so I did a bit of Googling and learned something pretty interesting.  Baked beans are native to North America, so they were originally sold in the UK at Fortnum & Mason as a high-end, exotic import for crazy money.  And now they're cheap as chips and are a staple in the diet of nearly every person in the UK.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Sundae Sunday - Hazelnut Latte Sundae

Remember earlier in the month when I was trying to make hazelnut syrup and ended up making hazelnut sugar (and burning my finger)?  Well, lemons to lemonade and all that - I grated that sugar and used it in place of the regular sugar in my ice cream.  I used the same V'con-esque base that I posted about with the PB Speculoos ice cream (so, everything but the PB and Speculoos) and added in a bit of coffee in place of the soymilk (as suggested by Isa) and also threw in a dash of coffee extract.

The ice cream by itself was really nice.  I topped it with some chopped candied hazelnuts, "mocha" sauce (Hershey's syrup with coffee extract mixed in), and some whipped cream.  Here's a not-great phone photo:

At some point, I might try to be adventurous and make something that isn't topped with chocolate syrup.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Southern Saturday - Biscuits and Gravy

My Saturday theme is Southern Saturdays.  One of my 40 before 40 goals is to cook my way through Cookin' Crunk by Bianca Philips.  I've already made a few recipes, and I thought this would be a good way to get some more stuff out of the way.

I figured what better way to start (blogging, at least) than that good ol' Southern breakfast (or, if you're me, brinner) staple, biscuits and gravy.  Seriously, biscuits and gravy is one of my death row last meal foods, so how could I not make these?

I used the Whole Wheat Buttermilk Biscuits and Sausage Gravy with Sage recipes.  Like Bianca says, every Southern cook has a biscuit recipe in their arsenal, and hers is really similar to the one I usually make.  The only difference is that I usually use white flour.  The only change I made to her recipe was to make cat-head biscuits instead of rolling and cutting.  For the gravy, I used some leftover Tempeh Sausage Crumbles from VwaV that I made the other day in place of the Gimme Lean called for.  I also cooked the gravy in the skillet used for the sausage because that's the way gravy should be made.

Despite using all whole wheat flour, the biscuits were soft and fluffy.  I honestly expected to like them less than I did, but they were great.  The gravy was delicious and was perfect with the biscuits, though I think I prefer white gravy.  I would definitely make this again.  I think I'll try the Chocolate Gravy next time!

Friday, 6 September 2013

Vegan MoFo VII - Cheater ingredients

I used to cook from scratch a lot more than I do now.  It's a combination of laziness, lack of time, and lack of will that keeps me from doing it more often.  Most of the time, I'll buy something fresh and it ends up going off before I can summon the will to cook it.

I've found a few items that are sort of transitional between prepackaged and from-scratch.  These are the things I fall back on to keep my food a little bit fresher without wasting money on ingredients that go off and saving time on cooking:

Sainsbury's frozen chopped spinach:

I love this stuff.  I use it almost exclusively for tofu scrambles, though I've used it for other things as well.  It lets me get some green in my food without spending stupid amounts of money on things that go wilted and slimy in a couple of days.

Karyatis roasted red peppers:

Do you know how much red peppers cost?  Those fools are expensive - about 80p each for fresh, conventionally grown red peppers.  I rarely use fresh red peppers anyway, and this jar is £2.39 for 4-5 roasted peppers.  And they last a lot longer.  So really, that's just good sense.  I use these peppers in my Almost Zatarain's Red Beans and Rice.

Frozen chopped onions and minced garlic:
You'd think most people would be able to use onions before they go off because they last so long.  Not me.  I don't even know how many rotten onions I've thrown out because I just couldn't bother using them when I actually remembered I had them.  And I've had some bad luck with garlic sprouting before I get a chance to use it (I mean, within a week - I need to remember to stop buying garlic from Tesco).  I usually get frozen onions and garlic (and occasionally shallots) from Waitrose because they often have them on special.  It seems like such a lazy thing to use until you realise that I just wouldn't use them at all if I had to chop them myself (well, and remember to have them on hand).

Sainsbury's ready-rolled light puff pastry:

Every once in a while, I want a savoury (or sweet) pie, but I don't want to faff with making crust.  Enter the pre-made, pre-rolled crust.  Yes sir.  I've used this to make porkless pie and chocolate parcels and probably some other stuff that I can't remember.  This will feature at some point this month - I think I might make another bean-based pie or a tofu-based savoury pie.

What are your favourite convenience ingredients?