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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Look at Farmer's Markets Past

As winter creeps in, I am finding myself missing more and more the lovely farmer's market I was frequenting.  Over the summer we went for lunch and veggie snacks, and through the fall I was getting all my beautiful veggies there.  Now, I am relegated to grocery store produce and frozen veg.  Woe is me.

Now.  Admire my beautiful haul:
Look at those veggies!  The potatoes!  The apples!  The peppers!  And the pretty Japanese Lantern flowers which are now hanging in my kitchen.  Love.

And with that gorgeous collection, I made a delicious, spicy Eggplant dish:
And now that I've shown off a bit, look at my failure:

It should have been good, really!  I was attempting to modify the Potato-Spinach Squares from Vegan Brunch.  I started with the potato layer, and added pepper strips:

Next came slices of Japanese eggplant (or aubergines, is that more vegan?):
Then I topped it with more potato and the spiced bread crumbs.  What could go wrong?
Well, a lot, apparently.  I also made a tomato sauce to top it.  It should have been amazing.  I blended tomatoes, sun dried tomatoes, oregano, and soft tofu.  However, when everything was cooked and served, I ended up with this:
Appealing, no?  It tasted about as good as it looks...which definitely left something to be desired.  Do not do this, please.

From a different market haul, I made an amazing salad:
Fresh cucumbers, lettuce, onions, peppers, and tomatoes with a bit of added food from the store, dressed with sesame dressing...yum.

And now, I will require you to admire my cat:

I would also like to blame him for my lack of blogging...he has taken over the computer!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Turmeric and Quiche

A Tale of Two Dishes

Turmeric is a lovely spice, providing that lovely deep yellow color.  Sadly, I cannot blame the spice for my most recent culinary failure.  I just wanted to clear that up - do not hold the turmeric responsible for this disaster.

I was all excited this weekend (for several reasons, but for the moment I will stick to this one) - I was headed to a Potluck for Progressives event, and I was going to wow all these people I'd never met with my awesome vegan dish.  I was going to make mini crustless quiche from Fat Free Vegan ( ), which I have been eying for a while.  I was so excited for these, they would be tasty bites of vegan heaven, and these people would instantly love me.  

I went ahead and was making these amazing little yummies, swapping out the mushrooms and peppers for asparagus.  I put the entire mixture together according to the directions (which are surprisingly easy given how lovely they look in the pictures on the blog).  I then scooped some batter into each little greased muffin cup of my mini-muffin tin.  I figured I'd make mini-sized ones, since I needed more than 12...and I don't own a full-sized muffin tin.  

Everything was going according to plan - I had greased the tin, pre-heated the oven, and not overloaded the batter with veggies.  Little did I know the disaster about to befall my little beauties.

The timer went off.  I anxiously tested them with my knife and they were not cooked enough.  So I put them back in and let them cook until the knife came out clean.

I think the first mistake was not letting them cool enough.

I tried to get them out of the pan to put them on my fancy paper plate, but nothing happened.  So I flipped the pan and still...nothing.  So then I picked up this upside-down pan, and shake it, giving it a little smack to shake them out.  And that is when it happened...suddenly I had mini quiche On the table, on the plate (not neatly formed, as intended, but splattered), on my foot, and all over my computer cord.  There was only one word that came to mind at that moment, but for decency's sake I will refrain from writing it here.

So there I was - covered in hot asparagus quiche and no time to make new quiche for this Potluck.  So I did what any respectable person would do...I scraped the rest of the little quiche out of the muffin tin and into a little mini loaf pan to try to make a little quiche loaf to bring...not as cute, but might still work.  I even mushed up an avocado to spread on top with a bit of salsa to cover up the less-than-beautiful top...

However, I had to go to school, and this sucker just would not cook through.  By this time it was also looking less than I just turned off the oven, e-mailed the host excusing myself, and went to school (it was just as well, my meeting went 15 minutes past when I was supposed to be at the potluck, so I wouldn't have made it there anyhow).

When I did eventually get home, I took the pan of tofu-asparagus mess and dumped it in my wok.  I heated it through, crumbled it up a bit more, and it turned out to be a lovely tofu scramble.  I put it in a dish with some of the avocado mush and salsa, and had a delicious dinner.  I took the rest of the scramble and put it in a tomato-basil tortilla with more of the toppings and made a wrap to bring for lunch today.  It actually turned out nicely, but, boy, was this a frustrating cooking experience.  Next time I will use a bigger muffin tin and actually let them cool.

Opening the salsa clearly was its own fiasco:

However, I discovered that if you stab the lid, it breaks the tight seal, and then I could just replace it with an un-violated lid from an old salsa jar I'd saved.  Problem solved.

A less traumatic dish that featured turmeric:  tofu omelets!

This is from the Vegan Brunch cookbook and is absolutely delicious.  The consistency was exactly what I was looking for, and made for a wonderful, hot, egg-y dinner.  I can't wait to make these for someone else eventually...but I think I'd need to double or triple the recipe because they are that good.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Epic Vegan MoFo Survey in which I use too many !

A bunch of cool people over on the PPK came up with a survey!  So, of course, I am going to respond.  Hopefully my answers will not disappoint, the way that my promise to blog daily has.  *sob*  Forgive me...

What's your favorite spice or spice blend?
This is tough.  I love the moment, I think I will stick with smoked paprika.  Soooo good.  Although, cumin is rather versatile...

You have $20 to spend on fresh groceries and produce for the whole week (with a fairly well stocked pantry of dry goods, legumes, grains, and spices). what do you buy?
Tofu, asparagus, spinach, and udon. Probably also an avacado and some peanut butter, as well. I think that pretty much covers all my food groups...(note: *my* food groups, not the ones the FDA makes up)
What's your favorite way to make tofu?
I like to marinate it in some sesame oil, soy sauce, mirin, sriracha, and whatever other spices I'm feeling like that day, then bake it until it has that nice chewy texture...this is especially good when served with spinach. (are you catching my spinach theme...?)
Vegan guilty pleasure?
Tempt frozen dessert. sooo good. Though, now that I have cut out sugar, I guess I will have to find a new guilty pleasure. Probably popcorn.
If you could make anyone vegan, who would it be?
My sister. I think she would enjoy it, and it would make playing in the kitchen together so much more fun!
If you could only read one other vegan blog, what would it be?
Sadly, I don't read enough other blogs often enough to have a firm answer to this yet...
Were you always interested in cooking, or did veganism change the way you saw and interacted with food?
A month after becoming vegan I moved into my first apartment and stocked my first kitchen, so the two went hand in hand. I don't think I'd cook or play in the kitchen nearly as much if I weren't vegan, though.
Excluding analogues, what new things have you tried that you probably wouldn't have as an omni?
What is the one vegan staple that everyone seems to love, but you can't get behind?
I'm not sure if it is a staple, but I really, really dislike mushrooms.
What was your first "wow, I'm such a stereotypical vegan" moment?
Aha! I promised this would come! I was eating my dinner at school one day, when I looked at what I was eating, and realized my stereotypical state. I was eating my homemade smoked paprika hummus with the Sticks & Twigs pretzel sticks from my package. I realize this may not be a great story, but it was amusing. That, or the day I spent an inordinate amount of time discussing how much I loved spinach.

First recipe you veganized?
What would you like to veganize, but haven't yet?
Hmm...this will require some thought.

Favorite kitchen utensil/appliance?
garlic press! It saves my food from huge chunks of garlic!

Most disastrous kitchen failure?
Last year I was trying to make a bean cassoulet. However, I thought it would be fun to use dried beans and actually make them, rather than just opening a can. Well, silly me, I figured they'd cook the rest of the way through in the cassoulet, so I didn't bother making sure they had fully cooked before making the dish. It was terrible. I tried to persevere and eat it anyways, but the beans and biscuits were undercooked and it was just...bad. I ended up ordering take out that night. *sigh*

First vegan cookbook?
Vegan With a Vengeance!
What question about being vegan do you HATE answering?
Where do you get your [insert nutrient here]?
If you could tell the world one thing about vegans, what would it be?
Being vegan is not the same as hating food! It is rather about redefining food and loving that! We also don't hate people who eat meat (at least, not on that basis)!
Funniest vegetable?
Brussel sprouts...they're like little, itty, bitty lettuce heads.

What is a family recipe you have veganized?
Crunchy peanut butter cookies! Top secret, but maybe I'll post a picture at some point...
Weirdest food combination ?
JalapeƱos and chocolate. So good, though.

Is there something you wish you could veganize, but can't/couldn't?
My mom's baked mac and cheese. I am just not sure I can get that creamy gooey thing going.
Favorite ways to prepare tofu, seitan, tempeh, any other vegan proteins?
Tofu - see above; Tempeh - crumbles in beans and tomato dishes! yum!; I have yet to try seitan...
Are your pets vegan? if so, what do you feed them? tell us about having vegan furbabies!
Benjamin is not vegan, sadly. And one of his favorite attempted foods is me. And I am not vegan in the acceptable-food sense of the adjective!
Favorite non-dairy milk?
Almond milk!
What’s one “vegan myth” you’d like to squash?
That I can't get a complete protein without massive food combinations? Or that it somehow makes me defensive about my food...I find that people who worry about preachy vegans are a little on the preachy side, themselves.

Tomorrow (or the next time I post...) will be the epic tale of my very sad attempt at mini-quiche. And sometime soon will be a bragging session on the yummy things I got this weekend at the store. Stay tuned.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Milwaukee Vegan Bake Sale This Weekend!

There is a vegan bake sale this weekend!  Everyone should go!  Here is the information:

Also, there is still time to volunteer to donate something, so if you are so inclined, follow the information on the site and get to it!

I made cupcakes, know...I happen to have a thing for cuppies.  Since I've been a bit preoccupied with school, I didn't get a chance to get any special ingredients, so I had to work with what was already in my pantry.  Luckily, I keep some pretty good stuff stocked.  Therefore, we ended up with these:
Peanut Butter Cupcakes with Rich Chocolate Ganache Topping.  Yum.

Somehow the batter made more than my 12 cupcake liners could hold, so I scooped the rest of the batter into the mini-cuppie tray I have to bring to the coach for my oral argument for Appellate Writing and Advocacy, since she is amazing, as well as a mini-cake for my parents who are coming to visit this weekend.  The cake sank a bit in the middle, but I'm sure it still tastes good.  Here is the full batch:
However, I apparently made a mess while I was drizzling the ganache...
I guess it is a good thing I had just washed my apron the day before...oops.  I must say though, I love my apron.  I have two aprons right now, and I'm sure I'd have more if I had the space to hang them and show them off properly.  My sister got me this one last Winter Holiday, along with a great cupcake carrier and some cute little cuppie wrappers with feet.

Moral of today's post:  either bake something, go buy/eat something, or both at the Vegan Bake Sale this weekend at the Urban Ecology Center!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

October Package Swap

Since I never got around to putting the pictures up on the boards, I figured I'd dedicate a posting to the wonderful package Leah sent me last month.  She sent me juice boxes, gummies, ginger snaps, crisped rice marshmallow treats, fruit leather, vegan jerky, pretzel snacks, and a worry doll.  It was an amazing package.

The gummies were wonderful.  There were two kinds:  vampire snacks and bears.  The vampire ones were shaped like blood drops and skulls.  So cute!  If I hadn't been so busy inhaling them at the time, I would have taken a picture.

The jerky was a new thing to me.  Since I was raised pescetarian (vegetarian plus fish), I had never had real jerky to compare this to.  The flavors were good and smokey, which I enjoyed.  The texture though....apparently it is very accurate, but let me tell you...I'm glad I'd never had jerky before.  That was not something I could eat.  It was kind of tough and chewy at the same time.  So weird.

The pretzel snacks were Sticks & Twigs brand, and quite tasty.  They will feature in a post coming on Sunday regarding stereotypical vegan moments.

I really enjoyed getting the package, and I hope she enjoyed hers as much as I did!  Putting one together was a blast, as well, and I can't wait for the next swap!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Haul Me Off to Baking Jail

I failed.  I'm guilty.  Take me away to baking jail...I did not, in fact, post daily as I intended...*sigh*  I have a good excuse though!  No, I'm not going to blame the cat for eating my blog posts...wouldn't that be a good one though?  Would you believe me if I tried that one?  Maybe?  Next time, then.  In the mean time, I do have proof of my good excuse!  Liz and I had a huge paper due on Friday (50% of our grade!) which resulted in no time to sleep or eat, let alone cook and post, sadly.  And this weekend was given over to an attempt to get caught up on sleep.  Here is my proof...we got the guy at the printing place to photograph us in our sleep-deprived state:
I'm pretty sure the picture being out of focus is because we were just soooo tired.  The guys at Printworld were exceptionally helpful and nice, so if you need something printed in Milwaukee, be sure to go see them!

Now, back to my food.  Today I haven't gotten to cook yet, but here are a few dishes featuring red pepper flakes, which I am rather partial to, myself.  I'm pretty sure they are good on just about everything...

Not surprisingly, I enjoy them on pizza:
This was a quite delicious pizza I made this weekend.  I had been craving pizza, but lacking time to make any.  It was quite tragic.  This one has a basic tomato sauce, cheddar style Daiya, and olives.  Also oregano and red peppers.  And just for fun, when I was making the crust I added a bit of chili powder to give it a bit of a kick.  It was, as expected, delicious.

One of my favorite easy meals lately has been edamame...Though much better with fresh soy beans, the frozen kind is still a very nice meal.  I put a bit of salt and some red pepper flakes on mine:
This may have also resulted in my super-vegan moment of the week last week.  I was packing some of my edamame to bring to school with me for lunch.  Which does mean that I was eating the above bowl of edamame for breakfast, rather than dinner.  That is part one of my super-vegan moment.  Part two is that I packed my edamame in a washed-out salsa jar to take with me...Next to all the other lunches in the school refrigerator it looked a bit out of place...
Regardless of being slightly out of place (to put it mildly), it was probably the tastiest lunch in there.  

Another meal that I really love, though I am out of spinach so I can't make it at the moment, is a spinach-noodle toss that I eat probably twice a week or so...sometimes I even leave the noodles out because it is just that good.  This probably also qualifies as a super-vegan moment I have occasionally...I find myself bringing up how much I love spinach in near-daily conversation...I will be talking about who knows what with my friends, and suddenly I realize I am proselytizing on spinach.  It may be a little ridiculous.  I cannot currently find a picture of this miraculous dish, but here is the general way to make it...picture coming soon.
1 bundle soba or udon noodles
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon mirin
1 teaspoon soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes (or to taste)
1 teaspoon sesame seeds
1/2 package frozen chopped spinach
Cook noodles according to package directions.  Heat oil, mirin, and soy sauce in wok and add garlic.  Saute for 30-60 seconds, add spinach (you can thaw it first or not...depending on how hungry you are and how that affects your patience).  As you cook the spinach, add pepper flakes.  Once spinach has cooked through, add noodles and sesame seeds.  Remove from heat and mix.  Serve hot.  Enjoy.  

Obviously more has happened in the past week than I had realized.  However, I think I will leave the rest of my recent excitement to another post.  Possibly even today, if I'm feeling ambitious, to make up for a week of absence....

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Chili Powder (and cumin!)

Sadly, today cooking has not happened.  However, I have my spice adventure from yesterday!  Yesterday was about chili powder, and yet again, cumin was thrown in as well.  Poor cumin, look at how sad it looks back there next to yet another spice that is overshadowing it:
Cumin will get its day sometime soon...promise.

I suppose I should also share what I've make with the chili powder...

Breakfast and lunch yesterday were the same thing:

It may look not so appealing, but it was really tasty.  I took a can of black beans and heated them in a bit of olive oil with some chili powder and cumin, then once they were mostly heated through I added some hot sauce, nooch and some Daiya cheddar until it got all gooey and delicious.  Then I sprinkled a bit more hot sauce and chili powder on top.  So good.  And it was good cold at lunch.  

For dinner I had hummus again (I know, it is surprising).  I added some chili powder and mixed it in, which added a nice layer of flavor.  
My brief is due on Friday, so Saturday I should have some more exciting food reports.  I think tomorrow's post will be from my stock of pictures that I have collected over the past few months.  I'm not sure what I've got that highlights a spice, but we will find out together, I guess.  Here's to hoping this brief doesn't kill me...

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Smoked Paprika and Cumin

As I mentioned yesterday, this week is rather hell-ish for me (and my fellow law students with a million things due this week), so my cook time has been limited.  Luckily, I snuck away from school yesterday for an hour and a half and whipped up some hummus.  Yum.  The best part about hummus is that I can add a different spice to the individual serving and get a new variation that way (and a way to be lazy about my theme...).

When my parents were here a few weeks ago, my mom and I came across this smoked Spanish paprika...and it has changed my life.  Seriously.  I put this stuff in just about everything now.  It is so good in bean dishes, on popcorn, in soup, and, as I did yesterday, in hummus.

Here is a picture of my beautiful jar of smoked paprika, with the poor cumin lurking in the background, being sad it isn't the star anymore:
And nothing makes me happier when I have hummus, than to also have some nice, fresh veggies.  So I chopped up a red pepper and a cucumber.  Yum.  I had a variation on this for dinner as well...I brought some Sticks & Twigs pretzel snacks to have with my hummus in the evening, and that was amazing as well.  Now look at how pretty my lunch was:
I am almost sad that I have to use other spices all month...I would probably use this one every other day if I hadn't committed to exploring my spice rack.  I can't promise, though, that I won't highlight this glorious spice again.  

I need to track down the rest of my pictures of dishes that I've put this in, but until that happens, here is Benjamin, working hard, again:

Monday, November 1, 2010

Vegan MoFo 2010

It is November 1 and that means it is also Vegan MoFo 2010!  This is my first Vegan Month of Food, so bear with me.  The Vegan MoFo is a huge event, better explained here:  That is also where you can find a complete list of bloggers participating in this glorious month.

I am a second year law student, so I spent 10-14 hours a day at school, but I am dedicated to seeing this through.  Since cooking and baking are such a good stress relief, I plan to dedicate a bit of time each day to both playing in the kitchen and updating here.  In the past I have been lax in my updates, but this month I will get at least 1 update each day.  If I fail, I will need bail money, since I will be in baking jail.
My theme for the month is spices.  Today I am also started a low-sugar lifestyle adventure, so I figured it would be a good chance for me to explore other ways of injecting big flavor into my cooking.  Each day I will do at least 1 dish that highlights or uses in some way a different spice from my spice collection.  I have several I have never used, and I may even get my hands on some new ones.  As always, this will occasionally include cupcakes, but in deference to my new low-sugar commitment, those will be less frequent than the savory dishes, and most of the reviews of flavor will come from those that are force-fed cuppies.  Since I've been hoarding my food porn, there will also be some pictures and (raving) reviews of past recipes I've made.  We will just have to see what else I decide to throw on here as I go, which may also be dependent on how busy school is keeping me...which this week is very, very busy.

So check back here daily, check out blogs by everyone else, and check out how cute my cat is: