Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Pie and Blasphemy

I finally got everything required to make a pie. I had planning on making Figgy Apple Hand Pies from Vegan Pie in the Sky for a few weeks, but kept having ingredient shortages. Over the weekend, I solved that problem, and got to work.

The pies were easy to make, even with a series of user errors that stalled the crust completion. Even the folding of little dough rectangles was easier than I would have anticipated.

They are lovely little pies, and the taste is completely pleasant without being cloyingly sweet. They almost seem appropriate for breakfast.

I will definitely make these again, but that's actually my chief complaint. I followed the directions and measurements perfectly. That includes filling the dough rectangles with a "scant 1/4 cup of filling." Well, it did until I immediately realized that I'd have more filling than necessary, and went with a not-so-scant 1/4 cup in each.

Even after that, I had only used half of the filling made. That means I had 2 entire cups of filling left over. Seriously? That's very annoying. I would have happily made a double batch of dough before I'd cleaned everything up. Hell, if it didn't need 40 minutes chilling time in the fridge, I'd have made a whole new batch right there.

It's one thing to have a little left over, but to have literally twice what you need gets wasteful. Of course I'll make another batch of pies, and yes, I know it could be worse. Nearly everything could be worse.

So I put a note in my book to make double the dough next time around, but I wonder if that should be my rule of thumb for hand pies from the book? I will make them again beyond this week to use up the dough. They'd be brilliant in kids' lunch boxes.

The thing is, this is the third pie I've made from this book. I didn't do a write-up on the Grasshopper Pie, but I wasn't really impressed with the texture or taste. I found the Apple Crisp a little ho-hum. Now I have a pie that's pretty good, but with an avoidable error in the recipe. This all makes me uncomfortable because I swear by Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar and Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. I have never had a flop from either.

In fact, anything by Moskowitz or Romero has been a smashing success for me. Maybe such consistent high performance sets an unfair standard. Writing this, I couldn't help but feel guilty about criticizing the work of two people who I admire so much.

I know three pies from a book are not enough by which to judge, though. You won't see me over at Amazon, writing a lengthy review based on such a pathetic sample size. In fact, I'll be even more determined to try more pies, and to see what the book really has in store.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Short and Sweet Celebration

Even though I didn't do a whole Thanksgiving spread this year, I still want to make good on my MoFo promise and explore Alicia Simpson's Quick and Easy Vegan Celebrations for the holidays. In the days leading up to Thanksgiving, I did so by making the Classic Macaroni and Cheese and Southern-Style Greens, and ate them with some Chipotle Lime Crispy Fingers.

Quick, easy, and crazy delicious. As with her nachos, Simpson's mac and cheese required no cheese analogs, no nutritional yeast, and no plant milks. I'm not opposed to those things, but it's impressive that she creates such smooth flavor using veggies and spices only.

This book is pretty awesome, and though the chapters by holiday are fun, this is more of an every day book than I remember to give it credit for.

This picture isn't as good because of the light, but when I realized that my Pika Chu stapler was in the frame, I had to post it.

A few days later, I decided to tackle the Raw Sweet Potato Pie to make a complete meal out of the meager leftovers. That didn't go as well.

When someone says "raw" and "in your high-speed blender" in the same recipe, they do not mean in your food processor. They probably don't even mean in your Magic Bullet. They probably do mean in your $400 kitchen Sarlacc pit/Vitamix. I don't have one of those.

The pie blended up eventually, but it was frustrating and I lost a spatula in the process. All that and the flavor wasn't great. The spices were perfect, and the crust was fantastic, but raw sweet potatoes may not be right for me. No pictures for that one though. It's ugly.

It's still haunting my refrigerator, but I'm starting to have some ideas for how to re-purpose it with other leftovers from Thanksgiving dinner.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Just Reporting on the Same Holiday Everyone Else Is (Was)

I ended up going out of town to a non-vegan dinner for Thanksgiving. That's OK though - it was not the first time I'd been in that position, and I decided to try one of the recipes that inspired me during MoFo.

The Beast is a casserole layered with semi-traditional Thanksgiving foods and flavors. I say semi because soy curls are probably not totally traditional. Megan over at Down Home Vegan posted the recipe she created after competing in a Vegan Iron Chef competition. Since I needed a meal that would travel for the holiday, I decided this would be it.

I am stunned by how fast and easy this was to make. I wanted to get a head start, so I started making the components while I had a few minutes, and before I knew it, the ramekins were going in the oven.

(Sadly, none of the pictures feature the pumpkin gravy, which was subtle and surprising in flavor).

I had to make a few adjustments, and baking it in ramekins was the first, so I reduced the cooking time a bit. I have these great ramekins that are large enough to hold a meal-sized portion, and that have these handy plastic lids. So they're much easier to pack and lug around, but more importantly, I clearly had a limited amount, and I couldn't share with the omnivores.

Typically, I do like sharing, but it sucks to bring an empty casserole dish home and spend the next few days hearing about everyone else's damned sandwiches and soups while I'm making new meals and being pretty grossed out. This goes doubles for those meals at which NOTHING is suitable except what I brought.

So The Beast was quick and easy, and it worked to suit my selfish side. On top of all that, it was a dish that goes where you want it to go. I couldn't find soy curls, so I used TVP. Then, I decided that I wanted to make my own cranberry sauce, so I used Alicia Simpson's recipe, but I added the vanilla and cardamom as directed by Megan (I will never make it any other way). Finally, I forgot to top it with puff pastry, and it didn't matter because the mashed potatoes made for a lovely crispy topping.

None of that mattered, everything was amazing. Plus, like any holiday food, it was even better as leftovers. I had made it the night before, so it was all leftovers all day!

The Beast was only missing one part of a holiday meal, so I also made the Pumpkin Gingerbread with Pumpkin Butter from Quick and Easy Vegan Celebrations. I made it in a loaf pan and it was super cute. I did stress a little, thinking about how I should have made a glaze rather than the butter, since it would have looked more festive. Someone should have slapped me. The combination was awesome.

So at least I ate well. It's getting harder and harder to sit down to large celebrations that are so closely linked with a practice that I find so utterly revolting. It's heartbreaking and frustrating at best. I don't want to dwell too long on that right now. I'll keep dreaming of a day when I have the space to host the type of celebration of thanks that I'd like to see - one of hope, love, and compassion for everyone.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Ginger Whiskey Truffles

You can't have a proper Birthday Dinner without a celebratory dessert. I actually picked out the dessert nearly a month ago, and doing so inspired my post on MoFo Ideas That I'd Like to Try. When I saw these Whiskey and Ginger Truffles on Tea and Sympatico, I knew that I had found the perfect dessert for the bourbon-drinker in my life.

The truffles were super easy to make, except for one thing. As an American, I'm not used to measuring things in terms of mass, and I'm really not used to that near-mythological metric system. Luckily, I have a kitchen scale, and was able to measure everything in grams. While doing so, I took the time to figure out what that would mean in cups and tablespoons.

The really cool thing though, is that when I wrote to the author, she gave me permission to repost the recipe with the converted measurements! She informed me that hers is based on a recipe she found at her local food co-op, The Eighth Day.

If you want an alcohol-free version, or just a base version to experiment, check them out here. T&S informed me that she's experimented with variations like chocolate and orange, rum and raisin, and cherry and coconut, which have all turned out great.

I'll probably experiment a lot and then give away tins full as gifts, since they're easy and delicious. I'm thinking a crème de menthe version would be great for the holidays. The ginger whiskey were rich and decadent, and they left me feeling fancy and smug, like that one guy in Mad Men who's always in his scotty dog pajama pants. You know the guy.

If you want to feel that way too, but, like me, you're too American to be bothered by a logical and easy system of weights and measures, just follow the easy recipe below, and have your girl bring you your finest cozy jams.

Ginger Whiskey Truffles
with permission from Tea and Sympatico

3/4 cup dark chocolate chips
2.5 tbsp vegan margarine
1 tbsp whiskey
1 tbsp non-dairy creamer
1/3 cup ground almonds (grind up 1/4 cup of whole almonds)
1.5 cups powdered sugar
5 large pieces of crystallized ginger chopped into tiny pieces
cocoa powder for rolling

  • In a pot over low heat, melt the chocolate and margarine together.
  • Stir in the cream and whiskey, followed by the rest of the ingredients.
  • Chilling in the fridge until the mixture cools, and is firm to the touch.
  • Roll the mix into walnut-sized balls and roll them in cocoa.
  • Store them in a covered container in the refrigerator.

And that's it! Super easy. These took me less than 10 minutes to mix and cook, and the batter firmed up enough as I left the pot on the stove to cool a bit. The rolling step is fast too. The measurements above are approximate, but I can tell you that none of them are heaping. When in doubt, err on the side of under-measurements, as you can always add more of whatever to mix on the stove.

By the way, they're great with coffee in the morning.

Monday, November 19, 2012

A Birthday Dinner

With the pizza long gone, it was time to try the Grilled Seitan Caponata with Lemon Pilaf from The Sexy Vegan Cookbook.

Let me start by saying that I began this recipe on Tuesday so that it would be ready Thursday night. Brian Patton says upfront that the dish is "quite a production," and he wasn't kidding. This recipe requires 5 recipes from the book. I cheated just a little though. I had seitan cutlets from American Vegan Kitchen in my freezer, so I used those.

On Tuesday morning I took said cutlets from the freezer to thaw, since I'll need to marinate them for 1-4 hours. I also soaked the beans, salted the eggplant, and roasted the tomatoes. I made the Tomato Killer, which is the sauce that forms the base of the Caponata, cooked the beans, and made the Caponata that night. It took forever with all the chopping and simmering. I did this in part to save time Thursday, but also to make pizza for dinner, which I'll write about later.

On Wednesday, I marinated the seitan, and I made the dessert, which you'll hear more about later.

Finally, on Thursday, I grilled the seitan, made the pilaf, and put the whole thing together.

It's not necessary to begin so far in advance, but there is a lot of down time that makes this impractical without planning ahead. This is definitely a Sunday dinner scenario, where you have the whole day to roast, and soak, and salt, and wait. Also, I was working late on Thursday, so I knew I couldn't come home and try to put together a smashing dinner in record time. Even still, I put way more time into this meal than I have into any in a long time. So was it worth it?

I know that having to make a bunch of recipes from one book to make a single dish is a sticking point for a lot reviewers. I always grumble at first when I see that, but it's not so bad. In fact, making stuff from scratch is one of the real joys of cooking. You can exercise some serious quality control that way.

In this case, I have mixed feelings.

I do like the Caponata. It's all veggie and it you can't help but feeling you're getting a better nutritional experience than you might be with plain old marinara, which is the suggested substitute if you're feeling lazy. Plus, the texture really adds a lot in terms of making it feel like a full meal.

The Lemon Pilaf was bright and zesty. I liked the contrast with the heavier tomato flavor of the sauce. However, I wish I would have made this dish in the early spring or late summer. The veggies make more sense during those times, and the flavors just make more sense then.

Like I said earlier, the seitan was from another book, but I don't think that was a problem. I should have grilled it in my new George Foreman rather than laz-ing out and pan cooking it, so that it would have been crisper. I know that's user error, but one recipe complaint that I have is that it was too lemony. In the future, I'd reduce the amount of lemon juice by half in the marinade.

So in the end, this dish didn't knock my socks off as I'd hoped, but it was pretty good. I can't say that I'd make it this way again as it was so involved, but it might be interesting to play around in order to come up with a simpler, more flavorful version.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Curry and Cabbage

The description of the Butternut Squash and Green Beans in a Coconut-Milk Curry in 5 Spices, 50 Dishes suggests using the leftover butternut squash in a raita, which is a lot like a salad or relish, and is meant to be an accompaniment to an entree in keeping with Ayurvedic cooking practices.

So I flipped to the appropriate chapter in the book, just to take a peak, and I noticed the Tangy Shredded Cabbage Salad. I still had some purple cabbage left over, so I figured it would be a nice side.

I figured right. The salad lives up to its name, and would be a surprising substitute for coleslaw at a family picnic. It was particularly nice next to the rich Butternut Squash and Green Beans in a Coconut-Milk Curry. I love curries as it is, and I think making this recipe has taught me a better way to do it. It's also the first dish from this book that gave me a flood of ideas for altering it. Not because it was bad, but because it seems so versatile. I'd particularly like to add tofu or tempeh in the future.

The author, Ruta Kahate, suggests serving with steamed Jasmine rice, but I didn't have any. Instead, I went the other direction, and prepared a rugged wild rice blend. It worked perfectly, but next time, I'll prepare my rice with cinnamon. I think it'll do a lot to compliment the coconut milk and spice.

These are just two more winners from this book. I still have a dish or two to make, but I'll be tapping some of those other books this week. Eventually though, I'll return to 5/50 so that I can work on my veganizing skills.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


I've broken from the hold of 5 Spices, 50 Dishes and cracked open one of my other books! I chose Grilled Seitan Caponata with Lemon Pilaf from The Sexy Vegan Cookbook for a birthday dinner for my gentleman friend. Since the recipe for the Caponata yields more than I would need, I went ahead and took Brian L. Patton's advice and made some pizza.

One of the things I'm starting to think about this book is that nothing is easy. I would have to make 4 different recipes to make the Grilled Seitan Caponata with Lemon Pilaf (keeping in mind that I already had seitan made), and to make the simplest of his pizzas, I made 6! Now, I had already made the Tomato Killer, which was part of the Caponata, so maybe that was a bit of a freebie. But I still have a LOT left over for which I'm going to have to find a purpose.

With that made, I still had to make the dough, which was easy, but took a hella long time to rise. That's fine by me though, and it's one of the better doughs I've made at home. My major complaint is that Patton claims that the recipe will give you three 14-inch diameter thin crusts or two thick. As far as I can tell, that's not true. I used all of it to make a a thick crust pizza for The Mario.

I'm glad I did though. Once I rolled it out, and topped it with Caponata and Patton's Not-zzarella Sauce, it was so heavy, a thinner crust might have perished. The Not-zzarella Sauce is unlike any cheese-style sauce that I've ever made because it's a thin liquid. Additionally, I found it a bit bland right from the blender, so I added a bit of lemon and pepper. As with the Caponata, I had way more than I needed, even after loading up the pizza with more than the recipe mandated.

So after all of that, I got the pizza in the oven, and I still had to make the Parmesan Topping and the Balsamic Glaze. At this point, I was tired and indignant about making two more recipes with such a tremendous yield. The Parmesan Topping was easy though, and I just reduced the amounts. It is really good and will probably be my new go-to.

The Balsamic Glaze annoyed me though because even if I had two cups of Balsamic vinegar hanging around, I'm not going to make that much glaze. So I halved that one too, but I have to admit, it was unbelievably good, and I'm sure I'll pour it on all kinds of things.

Finally, after all of that, the pizza was out of the oven, and doused in the glaze. I skipped the arugula garnish because the grocery list for these recipes already broke the bank this week. I did add the basil leaves I wouldn't be using later in the week though. It didn't look like the pizza you'd get in a shop, which I expected, and it was not an elegant eating experience - if you're not comfortable licking your fingers, then you'll need a fork, because you're not going to want to leave anything behind.

This pizza was fantastic, and incredibly filling. Additionally, I felt like I got a lot more nutritional bang for my buck with this than I might have from a Johnny Rads or Tofurky pizza. I'll undoubtedly use his dough from now on, and maybe even the Not-zzarella Sauce, but I'll probably stick to more basic sauces and just add veggies unless I happen to have another odd gallon of Caponata lying around.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Even More 5/50

No grease fire is going to derail my Indian cuisine kick. I didn't really mean to start off my cookbook exploration by focusing so heavily on one book, but I got carried away meal planning last week. Plus, 5 Spices, 50 Dishes has proven to be so user-friendly, and has yielded such tremendously delicious results that it's been hard to put it down. In fact, the super quick and easy recipes have been for breakfast most times.

I most recently made three lovely dishes.

Sweet Potato with Ginger and Lemon

Sautéed Beets with Mustard and Lemon Juice

Corn with Mustard Seeds

I really like the whole five spices shtick because everything goes with everything. I have used more mustard seeds in the past two weeks than I have in my entire life, and they're awesome every time.

One thing I learned in making the sweet potatoes is that Ruta Kahate knows what she's talking about, and that I don't need to reduce the spices or the salt. Usually I do that when using Indian food books, but she really hit the sweet spot for an American who likes spicy enough to break a head sweat, but not spicy enough to cry.

Now I haven't strayed from the vegetables section - I haven't even crept in daals, which is weird for me, but I'd say the book is worth it already. I still want to make some of the non-vegan dishes (obviously altered to be acceptable), and will get to it, but I also want to jump into some of my other books.

I still have a few recipes to make, since I've already bought the groceries, so for now, I'll just keep eating these spicy, tasty veggie dishes and telling you how great they are.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

No Thank You, I'm Vegan

Another milestone! I didn't say this last night, rather, it was said to me. It was very exciting.

Earlier that yesterday afternoon, I was ready to finally make the Figgy Apple Hand Pies from Vegan Pie in the Sky. Then I realized why that book is so under-utilized in this house. Pie almost always requires two recipes when you count the crust, and I had no Earth Balance to make one.

So I turned to my battered copy of Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar and made the Chocolate Fudgy Oatmeal Cookies. I had never made them before, and balked a little at the dried fruit, but the trust I put in Moskowitz and Romero served me well.

The cookies are fantastic. They're exceedingly rich and maybe a little too sweet, but then I usually reduce the sugar amount and I didn't in this one, for no particular reason.

Even better, they got rave reviews when I took them to some friends. When I offered one to an unexpected guest, he politely rebuffed me with that all-to-common mantra, "No thank you, I'm vegan."

Surprised, I chirped back, "So am I!" It took a moment, but it dawned on him that what I was really saying is that the cookies were vegan. He loved them.

I am always passing on treats, so it was a very satisfying moment to be able to provide for that vegan who usually has to say no thanks.

However, this was not this week's only vegan victory.

I went to talk to one of my superiors about what happened on the staff wine tasting retreat. She was very kind and when I explained that the lack of vegan food was a contributing factor, she told me that from now on, there would ALWAYS be vegan food at events. She told me that she's used to being the odd one out due to a disability, and that she didn't like seeing anyone having to go through it. Additionally, she enjoys vegan food and would love to have more.

I will still bring my emergency food stores to any boozy event, but I was really warmed by how she wanted to make inclusiveness a priority.

If these cookies survive the weekend, I'll bring her some!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

"Fore! I Mean Five! I Mean Fire!"

Finally My Life is Like the Sims. I had my first grease fire! I left the oil in the wok too long making some corn from 5 Spices, 50 Dishes, and when I lifted the lid, I heard a whoosh as a ring of flame burst upwards. I returned the lid to the pot and watched the entire apartment fill with acrid smoke.

Luckily I have a lot of fans and windows.

Sadly my wok looks like it's run by BP.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Simple Cabbage Stir-Fry

I love a spicy breakfast, and I had what I needed to make some more food from 5 Spices, 50 Dishes. The Simple Cabbage Stir-Fry lived up to its name and description. The author said that as a child, she loved this dish even though it was too spicy for her, but assured her readers that it wasn't that spicy.

She was wrong. I found this pretty hot, but I enjoyed it. It paired well with the also easy to make Railway Potatoes. In fact they used the same set of spices. This made for a sweat-inducing breakfast.

The only change I made was that I used purple cabbage over green.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Blogging Sister and a Dinosaur Song

My sister finally started a blog! I say finally, because I've been bugging her to do it for ages.

She is a vegan who eats a diet that is pretty different from mine. She's gluten-free, and really focused on nutrition. She knows a lot about food and the human body, and I learn a lot from her, even if I don't always take her advice.

You can read it here: Plant Based Paige. These are her gorgeous kale chips. She's taking suggestions on varieties to try, so I suggested wasabi and crab - like Crab Chips, which I've only ever seen in Maryland.

After you've read her blog, watch this video! It's from Dinosaur Train, which is one of the few kid shows I can actually stand. I really like how those dinosaurs aren't reinforcing gender roles, and are actually encouraging kids to think scientifically. I also like how they sing a lot. This particular song is my new response to people who don't understand what veganism is.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

This is Exactly Why I Created This Blog

I had it in my head at some point that this blog would serve to help me navigate those choppy waters of eating well. When I first went vegan, it was like I had sworn off everything except for Chik'n Patties and Oreos.

Needless to say, I felt crappy all of the time. Plus, my face broke out like crazy. I don't actually know if it was related to the eating, but I decided to see if eating better would help that, so I bought a cookbook and I eschewed packaged foods altogether.

That went surprisingly well, and turned me into a person who loves to cook and who actually knows how. With my cooking abilities came a set of skills that makes being vegan much smoother. I can plan a months full of meals and snacks, I can pack all types of foods easily, I can always find something to eat even at the worst of places.

However, I was very foolish yesterday, and I assumed my eating needs were covered at a work function, and that day ended in disaster. I am sharing that disaster with you now, as it's vegan related, and because I am about as red faced as can be. This sort of public confession will help that go away faster.

We went on a wine tasting trip. It was great. I did the tasting, then played Settlers of Catan for the first time while everyone else ate. I had checked on the catering situation, happy to bring my own lunch, but was assured that the lunch was hummus and dolmades and olives and such, and that I would be covered.

The reality was that the food was covered in cheeses, yogurts, egg sauces, and butter. I had some olives, and thought to myself well I'll be a hungry Pete, but it won't be the first time.

Had I known that there would be no food, then I would have had no drink. At the very least, I would have brought something. Too late for that though, and it seemed like all was well, and we played and carried on, and then were herded back to the giant van.

Then, as my gentleman friend likes to say, things got grim.

The rolling country hills, the hot air of the defroster, and my weakened belly came to blows, and I threw up. In a van. With 14 of my 18 coworkers.

I don't remember much. Someone drove me home. I passed out in my car for hours before I could stumble into the house.

I slept and slept and now, 24 hours later, I still feel a bit terrible. I've lost a lot of productivity over the two days.

Worse than all of that, I'm horribly embarrassed. Only the woman who ordered the food knows that I'm vegan. Many of them have commented on my slight frame, which makes me worry that they'll think I have an unhealthy relationship with food, since I didn't eat at all. I know I can't control any of that, but it bugs me.

This whole situation is one that reflects a few of the challenges of being vegan. I had nothing to eat, and so I got ill. I drink more than I probably should in general, so it's not a simple case of my not being used to it.

I fell into the trap though. I believed for a minute that someone else could be trusted to meet my needs. It's not her fault, and I don't know if the caterers knew or not. The bottom line is this: I need to eat vegan food regularly throughout the day. That's a responsibility to falls to me alone.

So I will go back to the days of ALWAYS carrying a lunch with me. Worst case scenario, there's great vegan food where ever I go, and I eat my lunch for dinner.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Brutally Delicious Potatoes and Cauliflower

I am off to a good post-MoFo start! At last week's farmer's market, the man and I netted two heads of cauliflower to take advantage of a sale. The cheddar cauliflower ended up split between a very loaded Mac and Cheese-style casserole and a dragon bowl, but I hadn't made any plans for the cool, fractal-looking green cauliflower.

I had to work late one night, and when I got home, I grabbed two of my chosen books to find a way to use it up before it started growing some fractal mold.

I tried 5 Spices 50 Dishes first, but nothing grabbed me except for the insanely simple Railway Potatoes. I had all of the very common ingredients on hand, particularly a bag of potatoes that was beginning to wear out its welcome. Great! But I still wanted to use up the cauliflower.

I decided to give Vegan Fire and Spice a try since many of Robertson’s recipes are easy to make in a not-so-fully-stocked kitchen. For a moment, I was torn between the Vegetable Pakoras and the Cauliflower and Mustard Dill Sauce. The latter won out though because by a stroke of luck, I had every ingredient needed, even vegan sour cream, which I don't usually have on hand. I could have adjusted the pakoras, but I do like to make things to the letter the first time through if I can. As it was, I was already adjusting by using the green cauliflower instead of the white.

Making these dishes at the same time was easy. I only had to chop some potatoes and an onion, which I did as I steamed the head of cauliflower whole. From beginning to end, I would say I spent 20 minutes in the kitchen on the two of these together.

When we sat down to eat, I immediately hopped back up to get pictures. Usually, I wait until the next morning, and then I fix a plate of leftovers for breakfast, and snap a quick picture of that in the gorgeous morning light of my otherwise shabby apartment. At first bite, I knew that there would be no such opportunities.

The potatoes were just spicy hot, and I dare say buttery. They, along with the onions, just melted as we ate them. The dill sauce complimented the cauliflower in a surprisingly decadent way. And as it turns out, there is no way to write about tasting food that isn't just a little gross.

However, that won't stop me. In fact, a large part of why I've decided to focus on a handful of books is to get well-acquainted enough to write competent reviews for them. I've expressed my annoyance with reviewers in the past, but that was only a scratch on the surface of my seething hatred for the jerk-ass review.

One particularly grievous sin is to review a book from which you've tried few or (worse) NO recipes. Nothing looked good to you? For real? OK fine, maybe nothing piqued your interest, but that means that you are basically the worst person to be writing a review for it. Baseball has never looked interesting to me, but you'll notice I'm not commenting on games, players' performances, or field goals.

Kidding, I know those are part of one of the other sports that I mostly ignore.

Anyway, I'm not going to be that person. Even though I want to go running to right now to sing the praises of these two books for that time I ate every last bite of dinner, I'll wait. I figure that once you've made 20% of the recipes, plus read the introduction and any other vital information, then you have the experience you need to form and share a solid opinion. It should certainly be enough to know the layout, quality of instructions, and general tastiness of the recipes.

One thing you won't catch me doing is gushing about mouthfeel. Can you even imagine?

Friday, November 2, 2012

Eating During the Storm

Hurricane Sandy came and went in Baltimore. I'm very fortunate. Except for some leaks here and there, and a loss of income, my household was unaffected. It was, and still is pretty chilly here though.

I did stock up on emergency supplies though, and I still have plenty to eat. I wanted to make a big, filling, comfort meal beforehand so that we'd be well fed in case of an outage. Initially I decided on Mac and Sleaze from 500 Vegan Recipes, but I had loads of veggies from the farmers' market that I wanted to use up. I always bolster my M&C style recipes with extra veggies to make them healthier, but I ended up completely changing the recipe to do so.

I added:

-15 oz tomato sauce
-1/2 bunch kale
-1/2 head roasted cheddar cauliflower
-1/2 head broccoli, chopped
-1 roasted red pepper

Since I had power and gas, I did a lot of other cooking, partly just to keep the joint warm. I had overfilled my stock bin again, so I made a batch of that. Since I didn't have a perfect however many cups, I made some tablespoon-sized stock stars.

Naturally, I also made cookies.

I realize now that I began to make good on my promise by making Game Day Nachos from Alicia Simpson's Quick and Easy Vegan Celebrations. I've made these incredible nachos before, following the instructions to the word. This time, I didn't have everything required, but I was close enough to make reasonable substitutions.

I'm the last person to obsess over how healthy my meals are, but I gotta say, these nachos stack up pretty well in that arena. The cheese-style sauce is mind-blowing because it requires no plant milks, no nutritional yeast, and no animal product stand-ins of any sort. It's all veggies. I can't help but think it's cool. If anyone ever gives you crap about being able to give up cheese and weird vegan foods, just slap them with this book.

The above is the best of the quick and dirty pictures, so you'll notice that I took care of any healthy moments by having these for dinner, with beer.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Ghost Post: Horizons in Philly - Again!

How weird. I was tooling around on my blog settings in order to procrastinate around the house, and I found this entry that was never published from 2011.

It's short and about Horizons in Philadelphia, which is no longer around. My understanding is that the owners have opened Vedge, which I have yet to try.

Oh well, here it is because why not?

How did I neglect to mention my visit to Horizons yesterday? When I went to see Rise Against, I stopped in at the restaurant for appetizers, dinner, and dessert.

The appetizers and entrees were awesome, but the dessert that was ordered by all four diners at my table was the Lavender Cheesecake. There was more in the title and description, but I just remember eating wonderful cheesecake.

Sadly I forgot my camera, so phone pictures are all you're going get here. [Except I can't find those right now! I guess I didn't uplaod them firt time 'round]. If you're ever in Philly, it's worth stopping in. The food is creative and delicious, and Horizons is just a nice place.

(Side note, in my head I always pronounce the word horizon, HO-rizon because in my high school Japanese class the mnemonic for the Katakana character ho was "the truck is on the HO-rizen.)

I also have the cookbooks from the restaurant New Vegan Cuisine, and Gourmet Meatless Cuisine and have never made anything from them that wasn't great.

Granted, I find that they lack some of the explanations that I enjoy (and sometimes need) in other cookbooks, and having a half-sheet pan is a must for the desserts.

I'll probably finally make my first sticky toffee pudding today from the book to celebrate the end of my semester.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Vegan MoFo 31: Going Forward

A few weeks ago, LA Weekly has declared it The Year of the Vegan Cookbook! Pretty exciting stuff. I don't have any of the books on the list. In fact, I didn't read the list, as I don't want to face temptation.

Awhile back, I was subject to a household-wide cookbook ban as my collection had outgrown its allotted space. That ban is no longer in effect, and I've received a few as gifts, but in my efforts to 1. be happy with less and 2. to use the cookbooks I have more fully, I have resisted buying every beautiful book that has come out. Also, serious budget constraints are the worst.

Rather than coveting though, I am recommitting to rediscovery ... or in some cases discovery. Frankly, some of my books are woefully underused. I cook a lot, and I use cookbooks a lot, but some have become go-tos while others are collecting dust.

It says something about me that my two most-used books are Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar and Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. Meanwhile Vegan Pie In The Sky is in oddly pristine condition. I've only made one pie from it , despite my grand plans to take advantage of seasonal farmer's market offerings.

Given the number of perfectly clean cookbooks in my kitchen, I've chosen five books that I'm going to explore moving forward. I think I'll do one at a time, so this should extend far past MoFo, but maybe that means that blogging will cease to be an annual thing, and that I'll actually know enough to write a real cookbook review in my life.

Are you ready for my list?

1. 5 Spices, 50 Dishes
Double challenge! This is not a vegan cookbook, so in addition to using it, I'll have to make adaptations. This book promises simple Indian recipes using five common spices. I love Indian food, and I'm always game for simplicity. My mom gave this book to me several holiday seasons ago, and I've done nothing with it. The first few pages are promising, discussing philosophy, spices, techniques, and menu ideas.

2. Quick and Easy Vegan Celebrations
This one was a gift from my little sister. I made the Tempeh Cakes with Spicy Remoulade once, and I'm pretty sure they converted an omnivore to veganism. The Game Day Nachos are off the hook too. I know I once planned to make a whole bunch from this book, but I didn't and I don't know why. The food looks so fancy yet simple, and every vegan I know loves Alicia Simpson's recipes. So maybe I'll stop being a curmudgeon and I'll actually celebrate some holidays this year.

3. Vegan Fire and Spice
I love Robin Robertson. I'm sure if she invited me over and cooked a bunch of food for me, the feeling would be mutual, but that hasn't happened yet, so I'll continue to admire from afar. Vegan Planet was my first cookbook, and I've been a fan since then. I actually won Vegan Fire & Spice during a past MoFo give-away, but I've only made about one thing from it. I love spicy food, I love Robertson - why has this been an issue?

4. The Sexy Vegan Cookbook
I got really excited about this book because the food all looked like the stuff you eat while nursing a hangover that you got from the drinks in this book. I'm not a big fan of the whole concept of gendering daily tasks. Everyone needs to eat, and men aren't idiots in the kitchen, so I don't like the manipulations of those things as marketing tools. I didn't realize the extent to which this book did that, but oh well, I have it now. I've made one thing from it and my dog stole most of it off my plate while I was elsewhere.

5. The Voluptuous Vegan
This book was a gift from my little sister, and it had been on my wishlist forever, so I was thrilled to receive it. And it's still brand new. I've never made a thing from it. It's organized to make fancy meal planning easy to do: Soups, Main Course Menus, and Desserts. I've flipped through it plenty of times, ready to have a proper meal, but always opted out for something familiar. I tend towards one-dish meals, so it would be nice to do a serious spread, even if it's only once a week.

Vegan Pie In The Sky
Well most of the books have plenty of dessert offerings, but I already mentioned how little I'd used a book I was so excited to get my hands on. I've made the Grasshopper Pie from it, and to be honest, it wasn't the best I'd ever made. It was good, but I have another recipe that I favor a bit. I won't let that hold me back though. Pie will be lovely as it gets colder, and maybe it'll be healthier because of antioxidants in fruit or something ...

So there it is. I have no excuse to not catalog everything I eat all year round. MoFo is fun for the sense of community, for the giveaways, for the pictures and ideas from bloggers, for the regular exercises in writing, and for the encouragement to be adventurous. I really enjoy it, but I feel a little silly investing so much for just one month a year and then staying quiet the rest of the time. I'd like that to change, and we'll see how that goes.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Vegan MoFo 30: MoFo Ideas I Want to Try

I wrote a post for every day of the month, and my post for the 31st is already written! I saw a lot of great ideas over the course of Vegan MoFo, and I added too many cook books to my wish list. Even better, I added a bunch of lovely new blogs to my reading list.

I still want to make an effort to comment on blogs every day. The reading and writing are a lot more fun when they are part of a conversation. I think nearly every comment I made was to exclaim over beautiful things, or to try to win cookbooks, but there were a a lot of entries that made me want to try new things.

There's no way I could write a comprehensive list. In fact, I read only a few blogs regularly because I had to keep it under control somehow. It did occur to me, however, that I should have kept a running list of the things I really wanted to try, but wouldn't get around to during MoFo.

So here's a partial list. If you have suggestion, especially if it's from your own blog, please let me know! I've already thought about how to keep the MoFo spirit going, and this is one way that I can do it.

So here's my make soon list in no particular order. I'm going to print it, and stick it to the fridge so that I don't forget.

National Coming Out Day Treats

Whiskey and Ginger Truffles

Cheese Danish

Black Forest Shakes

Tofu Katsu Musubi

The Beast

Black and White Cookies

Sweet Potato w/ Apple Corn Salsa

A Vegan Meringue Topping/Hot Chocolate with Flax Meringue

Loaded Sweet Potato Fries

Treacle Tart (she uses this as her source)

Pennsylvania Shoo-Fly Pie

Dirt Cake

Cake Balls!

Cheezy Apple Roll-ups

Monday, October 29, 2012

Vegan MoFo 29: Apple Crisp and Waiting for the Storm

We're all waiting for the storm now.

As part of my disaster preparedness plan, I used up my 4 lbs of apple to make the crisp recipe from Vegan Pie in the Sky. Despite having had this book for about a year now, this is only the second recipe I've made from it.

To be honest, I'm not in love. I've made simpler crisps with more flavor. I'm not going to give up on the book though, I'll try a bunch of pies before I make my decision.

The major obstacle in this was that I didn't have any ground cinnamon. I did, however, have cinnamon sticks, a magic bullet, and a coffee grinder.

We went back to the farmers' market this morning, and it was a bit of a ghost town. On the plus side, we got two deluxe trays of mushrooms again because they were on sale! Also, the line at the pickle stand was finally not some twisted waiting game, so we got wasabi pickles!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Vegan MoFo 28: Getting Down to the Wire

I have to say that today is the first day that I'm actively searching for post topics. I really only need two more - since I know what's happening on the 30th and 31st. With everyone in Baltimore kinda squirrely about Hurricane Sandy, I definitely don't want to venture to the store again, so I can't be too adventurous.

I'm sort of ruing not owning Vegan Unplugged: A Pantry Cuisine Cookbook and Survival Guide. It's not that I don't feel like I can deal with the incoming storm - between my parents and my boyfriend, I know that not having emergency supplies on hand is not worth the talkings-to. (My mom called today to be sure I had batteries). However, I like to read themed food books, and now would be a particularly good time for a review. Looking at reviews now, I see that a lot of people talk about its utilities in day-to-day emergencies, which is appealing.

Incidentally, when I was searching for the link for the book, I found these emergency food kits that are vegan friendly. Plus they're Coastguard-approved, which is one of the few endorsements I find exciting enough to pay attention to.

One thing the Coastguard should endorse are these Brussels sprouts from 500 Vegan Recipes. They're crazy easy to make, and the perfect solution when you've bought 2 lbs. of the damned things at the farmers' market with no real plans on what to do with them. I was out of agave, so I used barley malt, and I think I'll stick with that. It really worked and kept the sweetness subtle. I also opted for hot horseradish mustard over Dijon. That was also awesome.

If I've learned anything from MoFo this year, it's that I need to use 500 Vegan Recipes more often.