Friday, November 30, 2007

The End

Today is the last day of VeganMoFo. I only missed two days all month (of blogging, not veganning) and I think that's pretty respectable since I'm so new to it. I was going to make my last VeganMoFo post all about the things I've learned and how I've changed in the past month, but I'm no good at being poignant and shit (and really, the only change that will happen now that VeganMoFo is over is I won't post as frequently - especially on weekends - and probably won't include posts that aren't about food I've cooked, unless I eat someplace historically good or my friends cook), so instead I'll just follow up on my Misc. list.

1. I left the tofu to soak for four days before moving it to the dehydrator. I tasted one piece after it'd been drying for about a day. The outside had really firmed up and darkened in color, but inside was still softer and whiter, so I left it on. Will check it again when I get home. It's REALLY tasty, but the spicy pickle flavor comes out more the longer you chew it.

2. Got my groceries from Everything was...adequate. For produce, I had ordered Fuji apples, lemons, garlic, carrots, green grapes and Brussels sprouts. They were out of the apples (which was just as well since I just bought them to push my order over $50. Since it was their fault, I got away with placing a $47.50 order). The lemons, garlic and carrots look good. The Brussels sprouts are in those little cardboard containers, so it's possible that all the sprouts under the first layer are spoiled, but the tops look fine. The grapes aren't as pretty as the ones I try to pick myself, but I've seen and eaten worse. Overall, I'd give them 4/5 for produce.

Also, my mother was supposed to be home to take delivery of the groceries. My father's car broke down, so she had to go get him, so naturally the delivery came while she was away. The driver was very nice and came back to our house as his last stop of the evening, after my mother came home, without charging the extra delivery fee. Rock.

Thursday, November 29, 2007


Here is some advice. Free. No charge. Gratis. Just for you:

Don't break your arm in three places while arm wrestling drunk unless you have someone willing to bake you cupcakes while you're in the hospital.

Just saying.

Those are Your Basic Chocolate Cupcakes topped with green Vegan Fluffy Buttercream Frosting from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World and Harry Potter sprinkles in Harry Potter cups. Why green and Harry Potter? Why not?

I got home from visiting the hospital a bit after 1 AM, realized I couldn't sleep and was in the mood to bake, so I did.

I was always under the impression that ice cream scoops only came in one size. That's apparently not the case. The new one we got is huge and I can fill about two cupcake cups with it. Of course, it took me a while to realize that, so I ended up with a few muffin tops.

Also, my oven seems to be kind of fucked, so when the cupcakes were supposed to be done, they were still very wet in the center and the temperature was 340 instead of 350. I turned it up and left them in for a while longer and they seem to be OK.

This was my first time working with the pasty food coloring. It was pretty neat. I didn't know how concentrated it was, so I dipped a fork in the coloring, scraped the fork against the beaters, then resumed beating the frosting. It was pretty cool because the white frosting would turn really dark green around the beaters, then the color would slowly lighten and spread. I really like the mint green I got, but it makes me wish I had some mint extract to put in the frosting, making chocolate-mint cupcakes.

Also, I need to remember to use a bigger bowl next time I make that frosting. The beaters sprayed it everywhere, even when I tried to block it with my hands. I spent quite a bit of time cleaning up when I was done.

A friend gave me the Harry Potter sprinkles when I first got into baking, but I didn't know what I'd be able to use them for now that the series was over, so this was a good use. I bought the HP cups myself, on the cheap, to match them.

I had originally planned on spelling out GET WELL SOON in frosting on the cupcakes, but I miscounted the number of letters in the phrase and made two swirly cupcakes to use as spaces. Once I did that, I just did a bunch of other swirlies and wrote GWS (I couldn't bring myself to do one more swirl at 4 AM!). I really wanted to use the big star tip for the frosting, but it was upstairs and I was lazy, so I tried the small star. I think I would have been there until 6 AM if I used the small star, so I switched to a large crescent. The tip itself was pretty cool looking, but the icing was unimpressive. At least it was fast!

Naked cupcakes in all their nerdy glory:

Close up of the cup:

Spork 2000s:

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


1. Flipped and rotated the tofu for the jerky again last night. Allowed myself a taste and it was still very firm and pickled and spicy, but not overly so. If I get home at a reasonable hour, I'll but it on the dehydrator tonight (2 AM just didn't seem like the right time).

2. When I was in school, I used to order my groceries (except produce) from all the time. I've decided it's time to give them another shot. I don't know if I trust them since they don't carry peanut oil, but I'm attempting to do my shopping through them this week. Even produce. Will let you know how it goes.

3. Advice: If you've eaten beets, keep in mind that you've eaten beets. That way, you don't have a panic attack when you go to the restroom.

4. I just found a recipe I really want to make on a vegetarian-friendly omni site, but when I read the description, it said "I threw this together the other night when my wine club came over and liked it enough to make it again as a side dish / vegetarian main dish on Thanksgiving." I beg your pardon, but a side dish is a side dish and a main dish is a main dish. An extra large side dish serving is NOT a main dish for a vegetarian! We're allowed real food, with courses and sides too, honest! That really roasts my chestnuts.

Another thing that grinds my grits: went for Japanese with my family on Sunday and ordered a dish called "Vegetable Bi...something" I don't even remember what the third word was. It was BLAND. And didn't have any vegetables in it except scallions, pea pods and bak choy. It was very clear that this was just a meat dish with the meat omitted, not a vegetable dish. How can they call it "Vegetable...." without any real vegetables in it?! The mind boggles.

Sorry this post is so ranty, I've just been having that kinds of day. And it is vegan-related.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

In a Pickle

I love pickles.

When I saw McClure's Spicy Garlic Dills at The Brooklyn Kitchen a few weeks ago, I had to have them. So I did. Those are damn good pickles. Spicy! They're almost a bit too spicy for me, but that's good because it prevents me from eating the whole jar at once (which I've been known to do).

When I got home, I looked at my receipt and saw the jar of pickles cost $12. $12! For pickles! I vowed at that moment that I'd use every single thing in that jar in some way. Hell, I'm even going to use the jar for storage and the label as a bandage.

Not long after I finished the pickles, I made something that called for one pound of extra-firm tofu. The tofu came in 14-ounce packages, leaving me with 12 ounces of extra-firm tofu to play with. I also have a dehydrator.

Brine + tofu + dehydrator = JERKY?!?!?!

I pressed the tofu for over an hour, then cut it into halfish-inch wide/thick, twoish inch long strips and threw it in a container with the brine, dill, garlic and some cayenne peppers (I still have a few untouched peppers). I flipped and rotated it after 24 hours (mostly to make sure it didn't get crumbly or something from sitting in the liquid) and will try to remember to do so again when I get home tonight. So far, they've been soaking for about three days. I think I'm going to take it out tomorrow night and attempt to dehydrate it. I will, of course, keep you updated on the status of my possible pickly jerky.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Beets Dont Fail Me Now!

I once said beets freak me out and challenged myself to try them this month, so I did. I made the Autumn Latkes (page 53) with Horseradish-Dill Sour Cream (page 208) from Veganomicon, with a side of Sauteed Beet Greens.

I knew beets would be an adventure from the time I picked them up at Whole Foods: they were wet and muddy and pretty damn gross. I try to use as few plastic bags as possible when I shop, but I had to bag them all by themselves to keep everything else from getting filthy.

Despite their drippy nature, they didn't smell or anything, which was awesome...until I rinsed them off and started to peel them. As soon as the peel broke, I smelled garden (to put it nicely, or dirt if you want to be blunt). That kind of freaked me out because it meant the smell was coming from the beet itself, not the dirt or the peel and they'd therefore taste like shit (logic!). Thankfully, they didn't smell dirty enough to make me give up on my cooking plans for the day.

Autumn Latkes (AKA Beet Cakes): YUM! I don't own a food processor, so I had to shred the beets, carrots and sweet potato and chop the shallots by hand. Ow. Each beet took a little under fifteen minutes to shred and the other things were even faster, but it was still unpleasant. After that, the recipe went smoothly and was done pretty quickly.

This was my first time frying since I started all this cooking stuff and I was shocked by the amount of oil (and paper towels) I used. I ended up having to pour some down the sink when I was done, which made me feel wasteful, but better in the sink than in my belly!

The sweetness of the beets is countered really nicely by the fennel (which I don't think I chopped small enough for my taste) and frying them with the exact timing indicated in the book gave the latkes really crispy edges and nice, chewy centers (just how I like them). I still have one beet and most of the other ingredients left, so I think I may do a half batch baked this weekend.

Horseradish-Dill Sour Cream: Not my favorite thing I've made so far. It's OK, but I think I may not have used enough dill because it had started to turn. Despite the fact that this doesn't really count as giving it a fair chance, I don't think I'll make it again, just because I'm kind of meh about horseradish, like dill and hate sour cream. There's nothing about this recipe that made me jump up and think I needed it ASAP; I just made it because it was recommended with the latkes.

Sauteed Beet Greens: I don't think it's possible to go wrong with greens, garlic, onion and olive oil, do you?

Autumn Latkes, AKA Beet Cakes:

Makes about 2 dozen beet cakes

I serve these with an apple chutney or horse radish sauce but I don’t have those recipes handy, I just wing it so make up an apple sauce (the roasted apple sauce in VwaV will do nicely) or serve with apple sauce or tofu sour cream. I also sauté the beet greens in sherry and garlic. Yums.

2 cups peeled shredded beets, (about 3 average sized beets)
1 cup peeled shredded carrot (about 1 average sized carrot)
1 cup peeled shredded sweet potato (you guessed it, 1 average sized sweet potato)
1 shallot, finely chopped (about ¼ cup)
½ cup flour
¼ cup corn starch
½ teaspoon salt
several dashes fresh black pepper
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, chopped
1/4 cup water
Olive oil for pan frying

Combine the shredded veggies in a large mixing bowl and mix them up. Add the onion and combine. Add the corn starch, flour, salt, black pepper and fennel seeds. Use a wooden spoon to combine everything, the flour should coat all the veggies. Add the water and combine again, until all the flour is dissolved.

Preheat a heavy bottomed non-stick or cast iron skillet on the low side of medium high heat. Add about ¼ inch layer of oil. Let the oil heat up for about 2 minutes.

Form the beet mixture into quarter sized balls, then flatten out into 1 ½ inch medallions. Add to the oil, and fry for 5 minutes, flip the beet cake, flatten a bit with the spatula and fry for another 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel or paper bag to drain. Serve!

Sauteed Beet Greens

1 bunch beet greens
2 tablespoons oil, divided
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chopped onion
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and onion, and cook for a minute. Tear the beet greens into 2 to 3 inch pieces, and add them to the skillet. Cook and stir until greens are wilted and tender. Season with salt and pepper.

My shredded and chopped vegetables. Oh how stratified!

Shiny, garlicy greens:

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Flesh-Free Friday

I may want to revisit Thanksgiving at some point and write a bit about how that all went down (quite well), but at the moment I want to write about a tradition my family started this year: Flesh-Free Friday. From now on, my immediate family will go vegan for the Friday after Thanksgiving (I will do all the cooking, obviously). This time, we brunched on three dishes from Vegan With a Vengeance: Asparagus, Olive and Mushroom Frittata (page 14), Baking Powder Biscuits (page 26) and Tempeh Bacon (page 23). We dined on two from Veganomicon: Caesar Salad with Roasted Garlic Croutons (page 81) and Tomato-Rice Soup with Roasted Garlic and Navy Beans (page 137). We obviously love garlic.

My mother loves biscuits. Almost more than she loves her children. When I first started cooking and baking, her reaction was almost "Pretty cupcakes are great. Yeah. Whatever. Can you make biscuits?" So when we decided we were all going to finally sit down and have a vegan meal together, I knew I had to include biscuits. She loved these babies before they even went in the oven. She just sniffed the raw dough and deemed them worthy (by comparing them to a memory of the Pillsbury dough, I believe). By the time they were ready to come out of the oven, she and my brother were practically dancing around in front of it waiting. They weren't disappointed. She said these fulfilled her biscuit craving perfectly, while my brother deemed them "professional quality". My father liked them as well.

Not only are they tasty but the texture came out absolutely perfect and they're so easy to make they're almost impossible to mess up. Fast, too. And you don't need a food processor or blender or anything. I think I'm going to make them with whole wheat flour soon (I like to follow recipes exactly the first time I make them, if possible).

Tempeh isn't bacon. However, after being marinated per the VWAV instructions, it's damn tasty. It's also thick, chewy and definitely "meaty". Almost the entire plateful disappeared before I finished making the frittata!

Speaking of the frittata, I lost my tumeric so I made it without. I also kept it in the oven quite a bit longer than indicated. I baked it in Pyrex and just kept it in the oven until bubbles stopped coming up the sides. My family likes things very well done. So well done that I have a friend who used to joke that because of how I prepared food, he thought the only way to give kosher, vegetarian food flavor was to burn it.

I made it with asparagus, fresh cremini mushrooms and black olives. My brother is deathly afraid of mushrooms, but he finished his portion anyway. He said it was the first thing I'd made that wasn't fantastic (but it was still edible, so I consider that a victory). My father said it was a winner (it was his first time eating olives) and my mother loved it and would like to eat it again.

Just like with the biscuits, the bacon and frittata are incredibly easy to make (but take a bit more time) in addition to tasting fabulous. It's the sort of food that people will assume you totally stressed out over, which earns you points when you don't feel like taking out the trash.

My brother loves Caesar salad almost as much as my mother loves biscuits. He's had it in so many different places, I consider him a bit of a connoisseur on the subject. He loved the strong dressing and the spicy croutons, doing everything but lick his plate to get the last of it. My mother is still raving about the croutons. I'm just angry at myself for serving it with romaine lettuce only; my spinach was old and I thought my arugala was basil.

I've already discussed the soup, so I won't go into much about that here, but just know that my family absolutely inhaled it. I swear, I dished out the soup, blinked, turned around and all the bowls were empty and mouths were smiling.

So yeah, if you're ever looking for a few easy, omni-approved vegan recipes, look no further. Here's your salad, your soup, your protein and your carb, all in one place (well, two books, really).

Seventeen biscuits go into the oven:

I take them out, blink and there are fourteen left:


Extremely well done frittata:


Saturday, November 24, 2007

Seitan Said Survey

Thanksgiving may be over, but I'm still cooking more than ever before. I have a mteric assload of vegetables to shred without a food processor tonight (I'm making the Autumn Latkes from Veganomicon), so instead of taking time to upload pictures and write real things, I give you the Food Snobbery survey (and apologies for not writing anything yesterday; when the sun sets early and I'm cooking all day, there's no time to blog before the sabbath!).

1. Favorite non-dairy milk?

I never drank milk, so I haven't really tried many non-dairy milks. Most recipes I make call for soy milk and Silk is the easiest to find, so I usually get that, so I guess that's my answer.

2. What are the top 3 dishes/recipes you are planning to cook?

a - Autumn Latkes

b - Mac Daddy, also from Veganomicon

c - I think it's time for jerky, AKA left over tofu + an experimental marinade + my dehydrator = an accident waiting to happen.

3. Topping of choice for popcorn?

I like it plain.

4. Most disastrous recipe/meal failure?

I haven't had any serious disasters yet, unless you count things that are ready about six hours after I expect them to be. The thing that's come out the worst so far would probably be the VWAV matzo balls, though.

5. Favorite pickled item?

Cucumbers! (Yes, I'm boring)

6. How do you organize your recipes?

An email draft full of links.

7. Compost, trash, or garbage disposal?


8. If you were stranded on an island and could only bring 3 foods…what would they be (don’t worry about how you’ll cook them)?

Jerquee, bread and....something sweet. Cupcakes? Cupcakes.

9. Fondest food memory from your childhood?

Finally getting to order food for myself at a fancy restaurant. I wanted fettucini alfredo and asked for "fettucini al-scaredo" (alfredo sounds like afraido in Brooklynese).

10. Favorite vegan ice cream?

I've only had Tofutti. It's OK.

11. Most loved kitchen appliance?

Blender. Makes me think I maybe don't need a food processor.

12. Spice/herb you would die without?


13. Cookbook you have owned for the longest time?

Jewish Vegetarian Cooking by Rose Friedman. Have never used it.

14. Favorite flavor of jam/jelly?

Strawberry, I think.

15. Favorite vegan recipe to serve to an omni friend?

Tofu Pumpkin Pie.

16. Seitan, tofu, or tempeh?

Tofu. I still haven't tried to cook seitan (which is stupid since it's in my blog name, I know. Sorry).

17. Favorite meal to cook (or time of day to cook)?


18. What is sitting on top of your refrigerator?

Asparagus and onions.

19. Name 3 items in your freezer without looking.

A tofurkey, leftover VWAV vegetable broth and leftover Tomato-Rice Soup with Roasted Garlic and Navy Beans from Veganomicon.

20. What’s on your grocery list?

Tumeric, black cocoa powder, soy milk powder and golden raisins.

21. Favorite grocery store?

Sunac in Williamsburg.

22. Name a recipe you’d love to veganize, but haven’t yet.

After reading this, egg rolls.

23. Food blog you read the most (besides Isa’s because I know you check it everyday). Or maybe the top 3?

I kind of go with ones with easy to remember names, so I check Fat Free Vegan, Vegan Chicks Rock and VeganYumYum nearly (and sometimes more than) daily.

24. Favorite vegan candy/chocolate?


25. Most extravagant food item purchased lately?

McClure's pickles. $12 for a jar of pickles! I will use everything in that jar (and the jar itself), I swears it!

26. How did you get so pretty?

That's how my mommy and daddy made me! (Note: that's the actual answer I used to give when I was little and people asked me how I got so smart).

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Fly By Blogging

Not even having to drive all the way to New Jersey in holiday traffic will keep me from updating daily during VeganMoFo (we'll ignore that I skipped Monday, OK?).

Tofu Pumpkin Pie and Raw Apple Pie. Details later.

Enjoy the season, everyone!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Sunac Sushi

This isn't really related to the point of this post, but I'd like to share an observation: around Thanksgiving, soft tofu is the first thing to sell out in this town. During the past two weeks or so, I went to Pathmark, Stop N Shop, Cross Island Fruit (Long Island), Sunac (Brooklyn), Klein's, Whole Foods Chelsea, Whole Foods Union Square, Trader Joe's and some other grocery store (Manhattan) before finding it in the Union Square Food Emporium. If you want soft tofu this week, get there by noon.

Anyway, I've obviously been cooking for myself lately and haven't really been eating much preprepared or restaurant food. However, when I went to Sunac for the tofu on Monday, I saw this sushi and it called me.

Please allow me to elaborate on the awesomeness of this sushi.

I was probably the only barbarian left who'd never had brown rice sushi before. It was SO GOOD. Despite being in the fridge case (probably all day), the rice was still fairly tender...or they put enough sesame seeds on it to hide what wasn't.

I love inari so much. The bigger the inari, the happier I am. Look at how big and puffy those things are! And they were full of brown rice too! I was ever so much the happy camper.

I adore asparagus in sushi (and other things, but especially in sushi). After avocado, it's probably my favorite sushi filling, so consider me joyed. I'd never had sprouts or broccoli in it before either. The sprouts were a nice touch, but the broccoli was a little dry (and I don't use soy sauce on sushi. I'm considering trying Nama Shoyu on it one day, but really, I like it as is, so why add the salt?).

Two points for cheap, tasty, healthy, fast convenient vegan food.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Sunday, Soupy Sunday

I can never cook anything in the amount of time it says in a recipe. NEVER. Sometimes it's because I make changes to the recipe that make it take longer. Sometimes it's because I'm just slow and/or distracted. Sometimes it's because the time listed is just flat out wrong. This weekend, I made the Tomato-Rice Soup with Roasted Garlic and Navy Beans from Veganomicon and hit the trifecta of temporal failure (but it was worth it!).

I made changes to the recipe that made it take longer: True. I substituted dried beans and fresh tomatoes for canned. I soaked my beans over night and boiled them for an hour. I roasted the garlic (which was fun, easy and interesting - photos below) while the beans were boiling. That was also when I worked on the tomatoes. I sloppily diced up about ten tomatoes as small as I could, then threw the pieces in the Smart Chopper (I don't have a food processor) to make them kind of soupy like the stuff you get from a can.

I'm just slow and/or distracted: This is true all the time. I chop ridiculously slowly because I'm clumsy and thumbs in the soup mean it's no longer vegan. This is even more true when I have the great idea to start cooking my weekly food at 11 PM Saturday night instead of 10 AM Sunday morning and have already played with my polenta and made more Golden Vegetable Broth (this must be on hand at all times. I added some celery and a zucchini, which was great. The zucchini is a little soft, though. I think I'll put it in closer to the end next time). Being half asleep does not help my accuracy when measuring and cutting, nor does it enhance my ability to move swiftly.

The time listed is just flat out wrong: One of my many peeves is when cookbooks list the time required to make a dish, then contradict themselves within the recipe. I recently came across a recipe like this in Vegetarian Times, and the Tomato-Rice Soup with Roasted Garlic and Navy Beans represents for Veganomicon. The recipe is classified as 45 minutes or less, but you need to let the soup simmer for 45 minutes. That's on top of the chopping, sauteeing, etc.

That said, the soup is still extremely easy and pretty damn fast to make. Just not 45 minutes. However, this does NOT make me love Veganomicon any less. It's still my ichiban numbah won! cookbook.

The soup is also very tasty. Because I used fresh tomatoes, it's not as smooth as it would normally be and almost feels like rice and beans with a ridiculous amount of tomato sauce on it. I happen to like rice and beans and tomato sauce, so it still wins.


Topless (scandalous!):

Looks like one was almost about to sprout:

After being drizzled with olive oil, wrapped in foil and left in the oven for a while:

After that, popping the slippery cloves out of the skin was fun. Mashing it was less so. A tip: mash your cloves against the side of the bowl, not the bottom. If you mash against the bottom, you'll be chasing them around your bowl for ages.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Polenta Revisited

As mentioned a few days ago, I made the Soft Poppy-Seed Polenta from Veganomicon last weekend. I doubled the recipe so I basically had a metric assload of polenta to eat and by this weekend, it got a little boring (still tasty, but boring). So I decided to experiment with what I had left. I broke out my last container of polenta, mashed it with some nutritional yeast, and put it in a muffin tin and broiled it per the Veganomicon instructions.

The Veganomicon technique worked great, but mixing the nutritional yeast into the polenta prevented it from firming up like it should. I like the creaminess it added and sprinkling it over the top was a nice touch, though. After broiling it got just firm enough to be eaten by hand (OK, a few fell apart, but never into more than two pieces).

This was my first time working with nutritional yeast and I consider it a moderate success. 3/5 points.

What does soft polenta look like after sitting in a container in the fridge for a week?

Mashed and nooched:

Tinned and re-nooched:

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Quote of the Millennium

"I'd go vegetarian if Dayna* would cook for me!"

- My mother AND brother

(and yes, I know this is a cheap post, but it's Saturday night, so cut me some slack, OK?)

*Dayna = Me

Friday, November 16, 2007

I Do Cool Shit With a Little Help From My Friends

This is not at all vegan-related, but I saw Clap Your Hands Say Yeah at Studio B Wednesday night. "Satan Said Dance" was the second song they played, which gave my friends and I joy.

Anyway! It's been about a week since I last mentioned my dehydrator, so let's discuss that a bit more, shall we?

Since then, I put up another batch of cucumbers, left them on too long, then did a small batch of carrot and parsnip slices. The absolutely coolest thing of all is that my carrots and parsnips are now CRINKLE CUT because my friends bought me the coolest wavy chopper thing I've ever seen in my life (and an ass-kicking serrated peeler). Not only does it make my vegetables look all fancy, but the edge is really sharp. It was actually easier to cut the carrots and parsnips with the chopper than a real knife.

Just so you know, if you leave cucumbers dehydrating too long, they get really thin and taste funny. By funny, I mean borderline gross. Most were OK, but I almost spit a few out. Next time, I'll dry the cucumbers on the weekend so I can be around to observe them.

A few days ago, I actually read the little book that came with my dehydrator instead of skimming it and noticed something important that I hadn't read before: in order to properly dehydrate carrots and parsnips, you're supposed to steam them first. Oops. I'm not a raw foodist, so that's no BFD for me, but I wonder if they dry carrots and parsnips. If so, maybe they soak them in something instead of steaming before drying (I don't actually know if that'd help since it's, you know, drying).

This was an excellent opportunity for me to use the steamer basket I'd bought a couple of weeks ago, making this a two-new-tool night. I'd never used a steamer basket before, so I didn't really know how to use it and therefore got it all wrong. My first mistake was I thought the basket was supposed to sit in the mouth of the pot, not on the little legs (they seemed to short to me to hold enough water, since it evaporates during steaming). Since the basket obviously didn't just suspend itself in mid-air at the top of the pot, I improvised:

That, of course, lead to my second mistake: steaming the vegetables uncovered. This took eons and the larger pieces never really got tender. I waited until they got rubbery and threw them in the dehydrator for a little over 24 hours.

When I took them out, a few pieces were OK, but most were hard as rocks. However, even they weren't a total loss since I could just suck on them to soften them up, yielding long-term parsnippy goodness.

A friend and I stopped at The Brooklyn Kitchen on our way to see Clap Your Hands Say Yeah on Wednesday, and they explained what I was doing wrong with the steamer. Armed with that knowledge, I will go forth, steam and dehydrate more carrots and parsnips. Stay tuned to see who will reign supreme, in the me vs. parsnip dehydration event of the year.*

* I have no idea why I wrote that, but I laughed while reading it over, so I'm not deleting it!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Babys First Failure

I've finally done it. I took a perfectly good recipe and completely fucked it up.

Tuesday night, I attempted to make Vegan Matzo Balls for my family's Friday night soup.

As far as I know, I did everything according to the instructions. I did all the blending and pureeing in a blender. I did all the mixing with a silicon spatula. I covered my bowl with saran wrap and let it refrigerate for an hour. I put all the balls on a parchment-covered cutting board and dropped them in one by one using a slotted spoon (when doing the non-vegan balls, we just use our hands, not a blender, maybe a fork for the initial mixing, the batter just sits out at room temperature for twenty minutes to firm up and we drop the balls into the boiling water by hand as we make them). The only way I varied from the instructions was to make them a bit larger than written.

Unfortunately, the photos don't tell you where I goofed:

The whole ball-making process went fine. They even floated up to the top of the pot when I removed the lid, then sank again just like the VWAV said they would, which I thought was a good sign. Yet when it came time to take them out of the water, they were seriously mushy. About half were just sludge. This is especially bad since, as my grandmother would say, in my family "We like our balls big and hard" (to be 81 and have the sense of humor of a thirteen-year-old boy!).

I'm not giving up, though. According to the Internet, this recipe has worked for people other than Isa, so I will try again. I think I'll add a bit of extra matzo meal and leave the mix in the fridge overnight instead of for an hour, though.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


I bought a 29-ounce can of pureed pumpkin to make Sunday's Tofu Pumpkin Pie. I only needed 16. I woke up Monday wondering "What the hell am I going to do with the other 13 ounces of pumpkin? It's not enough for another pie and probably won't last until Thanksgiving anyway, even in the fridge in a tightly sealed container. What a waste!" I pondered my leftover pumpkin through the morning, until I had some free time at work and was able to hit the blogs. My first two are always BrooklynVegan and The PPK. After that, I hit up Fat Free Vegan and low and behold, their fat free recipe of the week was Pumpkin-Apple Butter. Turns out they had leftovers too.

And while we all loved the pie, pumpkin pie without whipped cream is almost criminal in some parts, so I attempted a Bryanna's Best Tofu Whipped Creme on Monday night too.

Pumpkin-Apple Butter: I basically followed the recipe as is, skipping the nutmeg because I don't have any. Yes, I will be rectifying that soon. FFV used a hand blender to puree the raisins, then returned them to the pan. I'm totally lazy and used the hand blender in the pan. Is that terrible? After a while, I got even lazier and left a few raisins only semi-pureed. Chunks add character, right?

Much like the polenta, the butter thickened as it heated and bubbled and glooped along as I watched it. It didn't need nearly as frequent stirring as the polenta, though. I ended up bringing my knitting into the kitchen and giving the butter a quick stir every time I finished a round.

The butter tastes and smells very much like really good pumpkin pie, but lighter (I guess because of the apples). FFV recommends putting it on toast. I ate it with melba toast and though I enjoyed it immensely, my mouth kept thinking "This needs rice cakes!" so I've picked up two packages and am ready to rock them with pumpkinny apply goodness.

Here's the recipe as I did it:

Pumpkin-Apple Butter

1/2 cup golden raisins
3/4 cup apple juice
2 cups pureed pumpkin
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 cup natural apple sauce
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup sugar

Put the raisins in a medium-sized saucepan, and pour the apple juice over them. Heat on low until raisins plump up, adding water when they get dry. When they are plump, puree the raisins in the juice. (I used a hand blender in the pan.)

Add all remaining ingredients to the pan. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for about an hour. Makes about 3 cups.

Bryanna's Best Tofu Whipped Creme: Meh. I definitely wouldn't bring it to a party and think my pie is better off without it. Maybe we'll just get a vegan whipped topping from the store. I have so much to do this week, I just don't have the time to hang out in the kitchen perfecting my whipped topping. Alas!

Instead of coming out like whipped cream, as I made it, the topping has the consistency of cupcake batter, but without all the tasty goodness my cupcakes usually have. It even leaves my mouth feeling kind of dry, like after I eat tahini. Bizarre.

If you look at the recipe on the site, it's full of "or"s. Here's how I made it, so you know what not to do. One of the other variations may work better.

Bryanna's Best Tofu Whipped Creme
Makes about 1 and 3/4 cups

1 and 1/3 c. soft tub tofu [water-packed in plastic tub]
1/4 c. raw cashews, ground very fine in a food processor or coffee grinder
3 T. very light granulated unbleached sugar
1 and 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. lemon juice

Place all of the ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend for several minutes, or until very smooth and fluffy. Scrape into a small bowl, cover tightly and refrigerate for at least four hours before serving. This will keep for several days refrigerated.

Extreme closeup of the butter, for texture:

The elusive raisin:

The pie with the whipped topping:

I was actually considering not even posting that picture because it looks so unappetizing. At the risk of being dirty and taking "food porn" to a new level, this picture looks too much like a money shot for me to be comfortable serving it to others. Especially my grandmother and her contemporaries on Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Tis the Season

I didn't mention this yesterday because I wanted to have something to write about today, but after I finished cooking all that food (yes, I know that's like nothing for some people, but to me, it's a whole lot) Sunday, I did a trial run of Tofu Pumpkin Pie for Thanksgiving (we're going to family in New Jersey. If all goes well, I'll be bringing Tofu Pumpkin Pie and Raw Apple Pie. My mother is bringing a huge salad and Cranberry Crumble (both vegan) and my grandmother will bring a fruit platter. I'll have plenty to eat just from what's coming in our car. Holiday traffic, I laugh at you! I have the desserts! - That's all that counts, really, isn't it?)

When I first started looking into the whole vegan thing, there were several dishes I found approximately 473829 recipes for. Macaroni and cheese, butternut squash soup, pesto sauce and pumpkin pie are a few of them. Lucky for me, I love all those things. I mentioned the multitude of pumpkin pie recipes to my friend Sarah and her reply was something like "Fuck them. I have the best pumpkin pie recipe EVAR. I make it every Thanksgiving for a whole load of omnis and no one ever knows it's vegan until I tell them, and when I do, they say they like it better than regular." This sounded like my kind of pie.

The recipe calls for "1 can (16 ounces) pureed pumpkin". I've been on a natural, real foods kick, so I wanted to use a real pumpkin and puree it myself and somehow could not find a pumpkin at the regular supermarket that wasn't a jack-o-lantern pumpkin. In November! I didn't have time to go to the farmer's market, so I made the test pie with canned pumpkin. This probably means I should make the real pie with canned too, since I already know how it'll come out. Bah.

It also requires "1 9-in unbaked pie shell (buy a frozen one with no offensive ingredients, or use the classic Betty Crocker recipe substituting vegetable shortening or soy margarine)". I obviously wanted to make my own, so I searched for pies until I found Ms. Crocker's recipe and made the appropriate substitutions.

I have to give Sarah credit; the pumpkin pie filling is definitely one of the best I (and my testers) have tasted. My brother doesn't even want to look at Entenmann's now (which is a good thing!). However, after leaving the pie in the oven for an hour, the pumpkin was starting to crack (you can see that pretty well in the picture of the slice below) and the crust turned out to still be kind of raw (oddly, my brother prefers it that way), so I guess I'll have to experiment with the crust a bit to get it to bake at a lower temperature (the baked crust wants to be done at 475, but this pie bakes at 350).

Tofu Pumpkin Pie

Unbaked One-Crust Pie Crust:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon vegetable shortening
2 to 3 tablespoons cold water

1 can (16 ounces) pureed pumpkin
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 package (10-12 ounces) tofu, any kind does but firm if you can get it

Pre-heat oven to 350.

Mix flour and salt in medium bowl. Cut in shortening, using pastry blender (or pulling 2 table knives through ingredients in opposite directions), until particles are size of small peas. Sprinkle with cold water, 1 tablespoon at a time, tossing with fork until all flour is moistened and pastry almost leaves side of bowl (1 to 2 teaspoons more water can be added if necessary).

Gather pastry into a ball. Shape into flattened round on lightly floured surface. Wrap flattened round of pastry in plastic wrap and refrigerate about 45 minutes or until dough is firm and cold, yet pliable. This allows the shortening to become slightly firm, which helps make the baked pastry more flaky. If refrigerated longer, let pastry soften slightly before rolling.

While waiting for pastry to cool, blend tofu in a food processor or blender until smooth. Add remaining ingredients and blend well.

After 45 minutes, roll pastry, using floured rolling pin, into circle 2 inches larger than upside-down 9-inch pie plate. Fold pastry into fourths; place in pie plate. Unfold and ease into plate, pressing firmly against bottom and side and being careful not to stretch pastry, which will cause it to shrink when baked.

Pour blended mixture into a 9" unbaked pie shell. Bake for approx. 1 hour. Filling will be soft, but will firm up as it chills.

Chill overnight and serve.

Per serving: (1/8 Pie, filling only) 122 calories, 0.9g fat, 4g protein, 0mg cholesterol, 49mg sodium, 26g carbs.

I made the pie exactly as written above, but Sarah says: "I usually reduce the sugar, and you can also mess around with the spices. Try allspice, but maybe leaving out the cloves." I also ended up with a bit of extra dough (which probably wouldn't have happened if my board wasn't so small; I'm ordering a pastry mat today in the hopes of getting it by Thanksgiving), so I stuck some vegan chocolate chips in it and made a nice, crispy cookie.



Monday, November 12, 2007

A Flock of Firsts

I achieved many culinary firsts yesterday. I:

1. Cooked tofu.
2. Made a "real" meal (a protein, a grain and a vegetable all on a plate together).
3. Plated the food after cooking it and actually sat down and ate it while it was still hot.
4. Had polenta.
5. Worked with poppy seeds.
6. Got my entire family to eat (and like!) asparagus.
7. Made recipes from Veganomicon.

I started with the asparagus, following the incredibly easy Veganomicon grilling instructions: cut off the ends, throw in a bag with garlic and olive oil, rub, let sit for at least ten minutes. I let mine sit while I made the rest of the food.

Bagged asparagus:

Then I moved on to the polenta. Forgetting about cooking for a moment, I'd never even eaten polenta before, so I was kind of nervous about how it would turn out. How would I know it was done? How could I tell if I fucked it up without any basis for comparison? I did a quick search for "polenta" on flickr and decided that would have to do.

Veganomicon has two polenta recipes: broccoli and soft poppy seed. I picked the Soft Poppy-Seed Polenta just because it looked like it took less time to prepare (this was because it was left soft). Then I noticed I had some broccoli left over from my weekly Big Ass Salad that would never survive until next week, so I chopped that up and threw it in with the poppy seeds (which were full of static somehow and stuck to everything). It was probably a bit less than a cup of broccoli.

Polenta when it was just added to the pot, so you can actually see the broccoli:

Please heed the instructions when they say to stir regularly. I didn't know how often I needed to stir until I saw that if I left it alone for more than about thirty seconds, it started to bubble and make lovely glooping and popping noises like a witch's cauldron (even on the lowest heat setting). It was actually pretty fun to watch.

According to the book, the recipe should make 4-6 servings. I doubled the recipe so I can eat it all week (don't know how well that will turn out, but we'll find out) and I got about fifteen servings out of it. Talk about bang for your buck! Definitely worth the complete lack of effort.

Finished polenta:

Extreme Closeup! If you look really carefully and know it's there, you can see the broccoli:

Then I moved on to the Basic Broiled Tofu. The hardest part of this recipe was cleaning the broiler. My family moved to this house nearly ten years ago and the broiler had never been used. The storage drawer under the oven was full of dust. It was pretty nasty.

I doubled this recipe too and I'm glad I did because I could just inhale all of it. That's how good it is. And it took less than 30 minutes to make. And it's low fat. WIN! (actually, according to the icons, all three of the recipes I made are low fat, take less than 45 minutes to prepare and are regular supermarket friendly). I think I may have put a bit too much lemon juice in the braising sauce, but that's OK because I love lemons. I think it adds a nice zip. I used Nama Shoyu as the base for the sauce because I don't really like regular soy sauce, but Nama Shoyu is totally yummy. For me, I think it's worth the price, but I try not to use it too often.

Once it was done, it was really, really difficult for me to keep myself away from the tofu long enough to grill the asparagus in my new grill pan. I'm glad I kept my self-control, though, because the results were amazing. Right before putting it in the pan, I added a bit of sea salt and shook it up again. Seven minutes in the pan and I had gorgeous, tasty, perfectly textured asparagus.

Check out those grill marks!

It was so good, I thought I might even be able to get my no-green-food-eating little brother to try it. He and his friend did, then came downstairs begging for more. So did my equally no-green-food-eating father. My mother doesn't like the look of asparagus, so she closed her eyes before biting into it, but ugly or not, she loved it. If I'd let them, they would have left me with nothing to eat during the week (the brother also really liked the tofu and thought the polenta was OK)!

It's so thrilling to have found something my whole family loves that isn't chocolate. And that's just from my first time trying out the book (of course, I also got oil and garlic on it)! I see many happy meals on my family's future, thanks to Vegan With a Vengeance and Veganomicon.

Vegan food on acid?