Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Vegan Christmas!

My boys on Christmas, plus girlfriend Hailey

Christmas snow!

It's been a crazy year.  So crazy, we've had nobody over.  We've had no holiday gatherings at our house in something like 3 years?  We've always politely suggested that we "meet at *your* house."  Because our house was what we euphemistically like to call "in flux."  I was working like a maniac and Ben was doing about seventy-five projects at once, and, know how it goes (or maybe you don't, but if that's the case, then let's meet at *your* house).

However, my poor mom, who hates to cook, and whom we abandoned on Thanksgiving to visit Ben's parents, really needs a break.  Therefore, I finally agreed we would have Christmas Day dinner at our house.

So, never mind my sprained ankle, stress level, and work load I am ignoring this week for the sake of my own sanity.  It's Christmas, which means it's a time for family, love, sparkly gifts, and especially cooking.  Here is the menu I'm planning:

Tofurken from here (because doesn't that just look so cool?)
Garlic mashed potatoes (no recipe, winging it)
Roasted blue-and-sweet potatoes with onions and mushrooms (no recipe, winging it)
Isa's punk rock chickpea gravy (from VWAV)
Dinner rolls with Earth Balance (purchased)
Peas (just plain and roly-poly, the way the kids like them)
Big Christmas Salad (with red peppers, hearts of palm, artichoke hearts, all that good stuff--free form)
Jamaican rice and peas (by which they mean beans--a recipe we got from a girl named Nana in Jamaica--she says it's the best)
Cranberry sauce (homemade because really, it's so easy, I don't get the canned thing--no recipe, winging it)
Gooseberry pie (with the berries from my dad's gooseberry bush, waiting patiently in the freezer--no recipe, winging it)
Red velvet cake with pink frosting (special-ordered from Fair Grounds coffeehouse, my fave vegan bakery)

Do you think that will be enough food? (Full disclosure: We also got a local organic ham so my dad doesn't swoon from a perceived lack of sustenance, and I'm working on him to take his first baby step from supermarket meat to locally-produced-on-small-family-farm meat, but the ham doesn't get to come to the table.  I know.).

I will report back with photos once cooking has commenced.   For now, I'm off to finish my shopping and then do some yoga so I can calm down enough to have a steady hand in the kitchen tomorrow and the next day.  Peace on earth and happy merry to all!

UPDATE:  Pictures!  Also, I was lucky enough to win one of the handmade cookbooks from Vegan Eats and Treats, so added the Panforte from that to my Christmas menu.
Grace, the cockatiel, is helping me choose a recipe.

Panforte ready to bake
Finished Panforte from Vegan Eats & Treats homemade cookbook, "Inter-Galactic Vegan Delights"

Rolling out the dough for Tofurken

Adding the sausages

Adding the cashew cheese layer

Rolling it up

Getting ready to steam it


Finished Tofurken--yum!

Preparing the gooseberry pie

Ready to bake

Cranberry sauce

Blue white sweet potatoes, ready to roast

Thursday, December 9, 2010

New Refrigerator!

For about six months now, we've been limping along with a refrigerator that needs to be completely emptied about once every ten days, turned off for 24 hours, then restarted.  This is due to some fancy-schmancy broken part that would cost nearly half the price of a new refrigerator to replace.  Finally, after one too many trips down the stairs and out to the garage (aka beer) refrigerator with armfuls of food, I decided enough was enough.  We were going to have to suck it up and buy a new one.

So, after much research and a series of fortunate mishaps for which Sears and LG were variously to "blame," we are getting this new refrigerator, at a drastically reduced price.   It's a long story, but suffice it to say, I am a happy customer.

However, upon measuring last night, we realized that our cabinets above our old refrigerator are too low.  At some point, we plan to rip them all out anyway, so Ben took the circular saw and just cut off the bottom of the cabinets.  Why not?  I never liked those cabinets. 

Now, we've got a space all ready.  They will come and haul away the old one and install the new one.  Supposedly.  I remain skeptical, as it all seems too good to be true. 

I swear I'm going to keep this one shiny-sparkling-clean, oh mighty refrigerator gods!  I swear it!

In the meantime, I let the camera battery die so wasn't able to take pictures of what I've been cooking all week, but this included:

-A vegan butternut squash cheesecake, based on this Vegetarian Times pumpkin cheesecake recipe, but subbing puree I made from butternut squash I had from my CSA and using some homemade cranberry sauce in place of the candied cranberries.  Easy and so good, seriously, you should try it.  My kids had no idea it contained tofu.  Even my son's very picky girlfriend ate an entire piece, and she usually won't eat anything.
-Butternut squash soup with coconut milk, to use up my leftovers.
-Tofu breakfast burritos
-Follow Your Heart quesadillas (used their "monterey jack" cheese) with green salsa and Amy's chili (my "fast food")
-A failed attempt at Essene bread. A friend has enlightened me to my errors so I'll re-do that and post it later. 
-Probably a lot of other food I can't remember, since I eat a lot.

Now, my camera is charging and I am waiting with baited breath for my new friend, Ms. Fridge. She's stainless steel.  With four doors.  French doors.  And separate drawers for fresh fruits, crisp veggies, and various tofu-related products.  And two freezers.  And a wine drawer.  And a really tall ice maker, so I can fit the whole pitcher in there.  And...and...and..  Oh, I'm sure the reality of our relationship will soon bring my reverie to a screeching halt, but until she arrives, just let me have my fantasies. 

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Hells Yeah Vegan Peanut Butter Cookies will spoil your dinner!
Now that Thanksgiving is over, and Christmas is next, and I'm sitting here at my desk looking out the window at actual SNOW, I have a hankering for cookies.  Peanut butter cookies.  My 12 year old son Emmett gave me the idea the other day, when he said, "Mom, will you make peanut butter cookies?" 

Hells yeah.

So I looked around and found these, on the Hell Yeah It's Vegan website.   Thanks Claryn!  I don't know you, but I like you already. 

First, I prepared my mise en place. Because I'm fancy like that.  The only thing I did differently from the recipe was to use some light coconut milk I happened to have leftover, instead of the soy milk. 

I mixed it up in my KitchenAid stand mixer (LOVE), formed the dough into balls, and then on a whim, rolled each dough ball in Florida Crystals before putting on the cookie sheet and making the old-school fork marks.  (Because it's the secret code for peanut butter cookies.)  I admit to eating some of the dough--but if I hadn't, it would have made more than two dozen cookies, and I only have two cookie sheets.  And two dozen peanut butter cookies should be enough for anyone.

Here they are, ready to put in the oven:

And here they are, all baked and delicious.  Chewy, soft in the middle, as promised.  I even baked them a little longer than stated, and they were still perfectly textured.  As you can see, between oven and plate, I now have far fewer than two dozen remaining.  Because we are all naughty cookie-snatching dinner spoilers.  All of us!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Salad, Sally, Snow, and Soup

Wow.  I mean, wow.  The Mofo postings overwhelm me.  How the heck do people have time to cook and photograph and write every day like that?  I'm impressed.  I'm also now officially obsessed with this blog.  But I digress.

We hit the road, literally going over the river and through the woods to "grandmother"s" house (BF's mom), where Thanksgiving was definitely not vegan but had many delicious elements, like this:

My main course

and this (Angus was just so exhausted waiting for his food!):

Wake up, Angus--dinner is almost ready and you should really be helping!

and of course, "Grandma" in the kitchen.

Ann at the stove

It was also Sally's birthday.  She's 12.  We made her a little turkey cake.

Happy Birthday Miss Dog!

So, while there was turkey on the table and I could only drool and dream about the amazing vegan creations I saw on Mofo this week (Tofurken, I have my eye on you for next year...or Christmas!), I had plenty of good salad and corn and sweet potatoes and I ravished the relish tray--and we had serious happy-family time, unplugged from computers and blackberries and televisions.

Now we are home, and it's snowing!  In fact, I believe it's the first snow of the season.  That means soup weather, so I'm cooking up delicata squash, kale, and green chilies in mushroom broth, for pureeing:


I plan to sip it from a big mug.  With a side of toast.  Topped with pumpkin butter.  Because it may not be winter yet, but it feels like winter, so who am I to behave otherwise?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Squash Saturday...Sunday...Monday...

I may occasionally be late on deadlines, but I would never fail to honor a commitment--especially to a squash.  Therefore, I felt it my sacred duty to spend the day cooking my beautiful bunch of squashes and making them into squash truffles (and do it right this time), roasted stripetti squash (I owe it to my CSA--second half of this post explains why), pumpkin spice syrup (but with homemade pumpkin puree instead of canned, because I've got it) and pumpkin butter (I'll just make it up as I go).

They've been waiting so patiently.  See?  See how long-suffering they are?  Just waiting, waiting to be made into something delicious?  Because they just know they have it in them? 

First, I roasted them for about 15 minutes so they would soften up enough to cut and scoop.  Then, I returned them to the oven to get nice and soft.

After they were fork-tender, I scooped all the squash to make 4 cups, and scooped the pumpkin separately, to make the pumpkin recipes.  I pureed everything in the VitaMix to make a beautiful, silky, creamy squash puree and pumpkin puree, respectively.  I am here to tell you, the VitaMix truly makes a complete puree--no straining necessary.  It's beautiful.

For the squash truffles, I heated the squash puree on low heat, as instructed in the recipe--but two hours later, it will wasn't "very dry."  I don't know what I'm doing wrong, but it just doesn't want to firm up into anything I could possibly roll. Maybe it's the weather.  I added the almond butter, syrup, vanilla, and salt.  I tried to drop a few onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment.  They weren't very round.  Finally I gave up and stirred in a bunch of grated coconut.  This made it shape-able, so I rolled it into balls, put a few chocolate chips in the middle of each one, and put them on parchment on a baking sheet.  Put them in the refrigerator to see if they will firm up any further.  More on that later.

For the pumpkin syrup, I measured out 1/2 cup pumpkin puree, 1-1/2 cups water, 1/2 cup Florida crystals, 1/4 cup maple syrup, and 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice.  Boiled the heck out of it, and yum!  I've been scooping the stuff into my coffee cup ever since. 

For the pumpkin butter, I combined the remaining pumpkin puree with 1 cup of orange juice, 1/2 cup apple syrup (I used up all my maple syrup and I happened to have apple syrup from a local farm), and another tablespoon of pumpkin pie spice (I'm going to need more of this!).  I boiled it until it was thick and yummy.  I've been spooning the stuff onto toast ever since.

Finally, I "roasted the heck" out of the stripetti squash (as instructed).  The shells, blackened, contained the most delicious carmelized squash!  Wow.  I take it back, I take it all back, what I said about stripetti squash before!  I've been eating it all by itself all weekend, and also put some into my lentils. 

I spent most of Sunday and most of today so far eyeing those unfinished squash truffles in the refrigerator--with suspicion.  I'll finish them before I leave for Thanksgiving--which will not be vegan so I guess I'd better bring something--something more substantial than squash truffles, but they might make it into the car, too. 

Anyway, the squash and I had fun.  We laughed.  We cried.  It was better than cats.  Now I'm ready to have a great holiday--you do, too! As soon as Thanksgiving is over, Christmas recipes are fair game--and I just saw a recipe in Better Homes & Gardens for coconut and grapefruit gumdrops...

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Pizza, salad, pears

I didn't have a lot of time to cook tonight.  After working out with one teenager at the gym and then picking up the other teenager at the bowling alley (bowling is an actual high school sport now--who knew?), I had to pick up my local CSA share.  Fortunately, my local food co-op makes excellent pizza.  Therefore, dinner:  Vegan pizza from NewPi, big salad with local CSA lettuces (three kinds) and breakfast radishes plus red peppers, hearts of palm, and peas. I was a sesame vinaigrette girl until I discovered Goddess Dressing.  And then of course the pears--because everybody should eat more fruit.  There are days when I am thankful for how far convenience food has come.

While picking up my produce, I was dutifully chided by one of the farmers, who was apparently angry to see my less-than-enthusiastic opinions of stripetti squash published for the world to see.  Apparently, I am doing a disservice to CSAs and stripetti squashes everywhere!  Oops.  I'm sorry stripetti squash (and CSAs everywhere).  I didn't mean to diss you.  The farmer gave me specific instructions on how to cook them so they will be irresistible, and requested that I try it and publish that.   Um...OK!  I was also recently informed by the author of the squash article in Hobby Farm Home magazine that when I tried to make her recipe for squash truffles, I skipped a crucial step. Oops!  Sorry, Adrianne!

Apparently, squash and I have some making up to do.  And I have every opportunity, as this is what I now have on my table.  I will do better, squashes.  I promise, I will do better.  This weekend.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Samosa potatoes, lentil curry, and basmati rice

After those cookies I couldn't stop cooking, so for dinner I cracked open Veganomicon again and made the samosa baked potatoes.  I also found a recipe for spicy Indian lentils on, but used the brown lentils I had instead of the red lentils it demanded.  Added brown basmati rice, a side of the remaining peas that didn't go in the potatoes, and some spinach salad with Annie's Goddess dressing.  Finally...time to stop cooking and start eating.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

White chocolate cranberry almond cookies

All I want to do on Sundays is cook--or, in this case, bake.  There's a chill in the air so it seems like the right thing to do.  Why wait for the holidays?  Certain kinds of weather simply demand certain kinds of cooking.  I didn't make the rules.

As usual, I searched Veganomicon for inspiration, and found the Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe.  I substituted whole wheat flour for the cocoa.  Instead of chocolate chips etc., I added 2 cups of the white chocolate/almond/cranberry trail mix nobody has been eating.  Voila!  This is some serious good--it's amazing I got two dozen cookies out of this experience because I ate so much cookie dough. Now maybe some hot cocoa...

Friday, November 12, 2010

Velvety Potato Soup

We are messy soup eaters in my house
After gazing at my new VitaMix for a long time, I decided that perhaps the baked potato fries I had in the oven that were falling apart might make a nice soup.  I took them out, scraped them off the pan and into the VitaMix, added some unsweetened soy milk, a splash of soy creamer, the rest of a carton of veg broth, and about half of the onions, peppers, and garlic I was sauteeing in evo/EB for the vegloaf.

A little tamari, a small handful of radish greens, and then I pureed according to the directions for soup. Wow--this thing doesn't just blend, it actually heats up the soup!  I blended for 5 minutes and when I turned off the blender, the soup was steaming hot and as smooth as velvet.  Sprinkled with some daiya and croutons, my teenage son (who likes to complain, "Why is every single thing to eat in this house made out of soy beans?" Which, by the way, is totally not true) ate it right up.  See?

Angus is always hungry

Meanwhile, I added the rest of the peppers, onions, and garlic to a roll of GimmeLean ground "meat", added tamari, bread crumbs, chili powder, garlic powder, ketchup, mustard--mixed it all up, baked for 30 minutes at 375 in a mini loaf pan, then turned out and glazed with ketchup, mustard, brown-sugar mix and baked 15 minutes more.  Served over fettucine, with salad.


Thursday, November 11, 2010

VitaMix Worship

Look what a certain special someone just sent me in the mail as a special thank-you for a special book we might just have coming out in special 2012!  When she heard about my plight--my burned-out food processor, which I killed making raw brownies--this arrived soon after. Wow.  I've been staring at it all day, with lust in my heart.  This bad boy has power.  Authority.  Prestige.  And potential.  What  should I make first???

Monday, November 8, 2010

Procrastination Stew & It-Can-Wait Kale Chips

When I'm starting a new book, it can be hard to...well...hard to start.  So I often procrastinate by cooking in the middle of the day.  That's right.  I can do that.  I work at home.

So today, I stood in front of my refrigerator with the door open (I scold all others for doing this) and looked at all that CSA produce.  This stuff must be eaten, and soon.  I'm sorry, but work is just going to have to wait.  Clearly, this is an emergency. 

And the obvious remedy?  Kale chips and veg stew.

First I tore up the kale, tossed with olive oil and a bit of sesame oil, and baked at 350 for 25 mins.  Sprinkled with salt.  It was almost too easy.

While kale chips crisped in the oven, I put the rest of cooked pinto beans I made last week in a saucepan, added some veg broth, onions, garlic, mushrooms, and a big handful of chopped greens (collards and radish leaves).  Boiled for 20 mins. Topped with crumbled tortilla chips and avocado cubes.  Because everything's better with avocado.

I'm afraid it didn't take very long.  I'm already back at my desk with no more excuses not to get down to work.  Although I do think I need to give my full attention to eating.  For at least, hour? Darn it, I think my co-author is calling...

Candy at Last (for a price)

You would think I've never cooked before.  Seriously.  I've been cooking for years.  *Successfully.*  Until this week.

Yesterday, I put dates, walnuts, cacao nibs, and cinnamon in the food processor.  Processed--my first clue should have been that the food processor seemed to be having a hard time, but I was determined to make my candy so I kept going.  I added agave, then tried to process some more, and that's when I smelled the smoke.  I seem to have blown out the motor on my food processor.

I guess maybe it's time to ask for that Vita Mix for Christmas...who has one?  Worth the exorbitant price?

In any case, although the walnuts and cacao nibs didn't get a chance to be ground up as finely as I intended, and although the squares of candy are a bit irregular, I'm enjoying the crunchiness of the cacao, and the candy is pretty freakin delicious. Good breakfast.

R.I.P., Cuisinart!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Carnival Squash Candy Improv

Finished!  Finished!  A certain celebrity someone's third book is finally finished!  After I have a good stiff celebratory drink, and maybe sleep for 12 hours, it will be time to start the next book, for the next person who has hired me.

Said latest book's exact emphasis is not yet to be revealed, but in essence, it's about raising children naturally, organically, peacefully, gently...and vegan-ly.

That means it's time to turn my attention to all things kiddo--especially foods they would like, and foods that can help them be healthier, happier, calmer, etc.  This applies to both those raised vegan and those whose parents decide to make the switch.

So, about that squash candy I mentioned in my last post...

Yeah, it didn't really work at all. 

This is what I did:  First, I roasted a panful of Carnival squashes--actually, two Carnival squashes and one Sweet Dumpling squash. (Will roast seeds later, with salt, to aid in coming down off candy high.)  I scooped out the cooked flesh, and put it in the blender--about 4 cups-ful.   Added 1/4 cup almond butter, 1/4 cup brown rice syrup, 1 tsp. vanilla extract, pinch cinnamon, pinch salt.  Pureed.

At this point you are supposed to form balls and chill it, but it was more like a very fluffy pudding.  There was no forming it into anything.  I stirred in a cup of unsweetened coconut, 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips, some maple syrup to sweeten it up a little more--still not roll-able.

So I spread it in a pan, sprinkled more chocolate chips on it, and put it in the freezer.  We'll see how it looks tomorrow.  If it's not good frozen, maybe it will end up getting spread on toast.

Post script:  It's not good frozen.  It's not even that good on toast.  It's more light, like a mousse.  I think I'll just defrost the rest of it, and eat it with a spoon!