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 That ban is no longer in effect, and I've received a few as gifts, but in my efforts to 1.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.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Vegan MoFo 27: Cake

One thing that just grinds my gears is when someone decides to write a review to publish on Amazon of a vegan dessert book, and complains that there's sugar, oil, or flour being used. They always say the same things about being vegan for health and looking for healthy desserts.

If you want a healthy dessert, eat some fruit. Cake, cookies, pies, candies, ice creams - these things are not healthy by definition. Listen, my sister is a total health nut, and she's always making lovely healthy desserts out of sweet plants. I'm less motivated to eat by health, so I just eat my 22.2 tsp. of sugar each day and mind my own business.

What really bothers me about these reviews though is that it perpetuates the myth that vegan=healthy. I eat a lot of healthy food, but the first week or two of MoFo was nothing but grief eating for this blog.

Whiskey and ice cream for breakfast, pizza from down the street, and lots of brownies composed the bulk of my intake. All were vegan, all were distinctly not healthy.

Even when I righted things by eating foods that were light and nutritionally dense, I kept eating my desserts. I always reduce the amount of sugar that I use in recipes, but even still I know what I'm getting into.

Even when I make something in the fruit crisp/crumble/cobbler spectrum, and even when I reduce the amount of sugar, and EVEN when I add oats, I know that the word "healthy" has no business lurking around my post-entree ritual. In fact, I don't even want to get close to it by claiming that any of my desserts are "healthier" than the non-vegan versions. Mine are better for other living creatures, but I'm not about to be a guest of Dr. Oz for my groundbreaking work in diets.

Or maybe I will be ...

Well until then, I'll continue doing my current job, which requires me to bake a cake for a celebration for the students. I love making cake, and I have the library to do it well. But to be honest, I don't want to be bothered. I don't want to mix all of the ingredients and do all the fancy groundwork for a cake that will be won and eaten (probably in a few messy bites) by a school age kid.

And so for the first time in years, I bought a box of cake mix and a can of frosting. I never realized that some varieties from Duncan Hines were accidentally vegan. On top of it, I don't even have to do much more, since soda replaces all of the other ingredients.

I can't help but think this is a little gross. I try to avoid soda as a rule. I once had a serious Dr. Pepper problem, and having a soda kicks off a lot of cravings and sugar intake. These cake mixes can't exactly be low in sugar either. So while this kind of cake won't become my regular Saturday night thing, it'll do its job for an event like this.

I did learn that with this method, you have to bake it significantly longer than the box times, and that the toothpick test seems a little less reliable.

Obviously, I couldn't resist the urge to at least zhuzh it up a little, so I added a little orange food coloring to the can of frosting and a handful of chocolate chips. I wanted to do some Quick Melty Ganache from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, but I ran out of time. I had to run the the grocery and everyone in Baltimore is doing the same for hurricane preparedness, so lines were long. Additionally, there wasn't good light for the picture.

Today, I'm going to health it up with an apple crumble.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Vegan MoFo 26: A Reason to Pay What I Did for Those Mushrooms

Once you've reached the point that you'll pay $11 for mushrooms, you may as well pay $14. Or so I've been told.

At the Baltimore Farmers' Market there is a really nice group of mushroom farmers that bring a nice variety every week. I've bought exciting new kinds of mushrooms there before, but never felt justified buying one of the mix trays.

That changed when I chose Mushroom Hash from How to Pick a Peach as one of my fall recipes to try. The recipe calls for a pound and a half of mixed mushrooms, and I figured I may as well go balls to the wall. Incidentally, that phrase is about airplane acceleration, so let's keep this clean, yeah?

I was looking over the $11 trays, but my companion pointed out that I may as well throw down the extra $3 dollars and experience the taste of "deluxe."

So I did.

Then I made Mushroom Hash for breakfast one day. The only changes I made were to substitute ingredients that I didn't have on hand. I used apple juice with a bit of vinegar to stand in for white wine, and almond milk instead of cream.

I was almost late to work because I was having seconds. This is a decadent breakfast option, and I won't hesitate to buy exotic mushrooms again if I'm entertaining and need to impress. It was an easy dish to make, and took under 45 minutes to do, start to finish. All of the ingredients seemed to work to bring out the flavor of the mushrooms, and then that was imparted to the potatoes.

I know I said that I'd wait to try recipes from all the seasons before reviewing the book, but I don't think I need to. I will, but really, just check out the book already.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Vegan MoFo 25: Barley Chili

I've enjoyed my recipes from How to Pick a Peach, but I haven't forgotten my decision to work through the soups chapter of 500 Vegan Recipes either. I was on my own for dinner tonight, so I decided to take it easy.

I thought I'd finally gathered all of the ingredients for the Smokey Black Bean Soup, but I had already cooked my black beans, which the recipe does not want, and I had a 30 oz. can of diced tomatoes, but not any 15 oz. cans. None of that bothered me, but I realized that it might be easier to make the Barley Chili, and to use up my yellow squash from the farmers' market.

The other major change I made was to use up a half red onion that had been in my fridge for a few days and been browned a bit by a misguided attempt at iced coffee. I recommend it. It might have been the coffee, but I think the red onion really added something. In addition to that flavor, it was pretty spicy. I had to use two kinds of chili powder to make up the required 2 tablespoons, but I think that also worked in my favor.

However, one thing that did not work in my favor was the barley. I managed, despite 3 cups of broth and 15 oz of tomato sauce, to burn the barley. I'm no stranger to this when I'm cooking straight up grains, but this is an entire chili. There was still liquid in the pot ... how does the grain burn? No one knows.

I was too lazy to make corn bread, so I ate some day-old baguette on the side. I also added some fresh cilantro before digging in. Definitely a repeater! This chili was hot, rich, and chewy. The cilantro should be a requirement, and the baguette did a lot to mitigate the spice. I'll probably go crock pot next time though.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Vegan MoFo 24: Asian Pear Crisp with Walnut Topping

I had an Asian pear once awhile back, and I wasn't really wild about it. It was pretty, but a little syrupy-sweet for me. I was intrigued, though, by the promise of a fruit crisp flavored with a bit of bourbon, like the one in How to Pick a Peach. Besides, this recipe specifically mandated the use of ramekins for baking, and I'm always looking for an excuse to use them.

So we made Asian Pear Crisp with Walnut Topping to take to our engagement with friends. The recipe called for 3 pears, or 1.5 lbs. My pears were a little small, so I had to use about 10 of them to get enough. Coring the little buggers was a pain, but probably the worst part of the job.

I will complain about the two setbacks though. First, I had toasted the walnuts for the topping, and I suppose I didn't give them enough time to cool. So instead of the crumbly textured dough I was supposed to end up with, I had a buttery spread on my hands. I topped the fruit mix with it anyway though, and the dessert still ended up smashing. It was just more of a smashing cobbler than a crisp.

The second came when I was finally using my box of Healthy Top. I take issue with the name, because come on, dessert is not healthy, but I was still excited. I refrigerated it prior to opening, and started whipping. Then I noticed a after-factory sticker on the tetra-pack box that said "Oops!!!! Freeze Immediately And Whip As Soon As Possible." So I bought this off a shelf, but I have to freeze immediately? What the hell?

Well it tasted awful. So we snagged some vanilla So Delicious on the way out, and it was great. I'm just bummed that I didn't get to have the bourbon cream recommended by the book.

All of that aside, this knocked everyone's socks off. Everyone loved it, especially me! And I felt like I had brought it, so to speak, on the behalf of fancy cocktail hour vegans everywhere. This was no more difficult to make than a plain old apple crisp - in fact it had fewer ingredients than many of the crisps I've made over time. But it sounds so showy, and it has bourbon-soaked raisins in it.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Vegan MoFo 23: Pasta with Broccoli and (Tofurky) Sausage

So as promised, we did the big farmers' market shop this weekend. We got there a little earlier than usual, which is nice because the market gets uncomfortably crowded by mid-morning.

I had already chosen three fall recipes from How to Pick a Peach by Russ Parsons, so we set out to find our ingredients. Surprisingly, broccoli for the Pasta with Broccoli and Sausage was the biggest challenge. There was plenty of broccoli, but a lot of it looked like it was harvested too late into its growing cycle.

I should mention that reading that book reminded me to support my local farmers, but I think it also has influenced me to be a dick about produce. In fact, I had a giggle fit as I watched a shopper direct her friend to smell "that sweet broccoli aroma" on a particularly yellowed and crumbly head of broccoli.

"That is exactly what you should be looking for," she explained and looked happy when her friend bought the most pathetic stalk of the bunch.

I did find broccoli that was in good shape though, so I was able to move on. The broccoli was huge, and I could have multiplied the recipe by 6 from this one head. We made the dish that night, replacing the sausage with Tofurky Italian Sausages. We went ahead and used the whole package, and added a little more broccoli than called for. I was feeling lazy, so rather than making some proper Parmesan substitute, we just dumped a bunch of nutritional yeast in the pot.

At the first bite, we decided that the dish needed some heat, and we added some red pepper flakes. Perfect! We couldn't stop eating it, which is normally fine, but we had cocktail plans with people who had made an effort to provide vegan snacks, so we wanted to go with our appetites intact.

This dish will be in the regular rotation, I'm sure. I really want to try it with some crumbled tempeh in the future, and red pepper flakes will always be added with the nutritional yeast.

This dish went so well that I have high hopes for the Mushroom Hash that I'll be making next.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Vegan MoFo 22: I Wasn't Even Hung Over

Even before I started to eat breakfast today (standing at my kitchen counter), I could hear the voice of my colleague addressing one of her unruly first graders: "How could you be making a better choice right now?"

Beats me, this was great!

It took me like 4 tries to finish this incredibly rich Vanilla and Chocolate Square from One World Cafe.

And that quality material I mentioned is coming. I won't survive if I just keep eating cake and coffee.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Vegan MoFo 21: A Bit Rambly

I very suddenly got calls to do a lot of work over very few days, but I think I've done well by MoFo. I tried to line up MoFo posts, and keep them a bit simple too. I'm out of material that I can preload, so this is a little disjointed. I'll come back next week though with all kinds of great foods that I ate over the weekend!

One thing I mentioned the other day was Rutabaga Fries, which my sister turned me onto a few years back. I've never had them any other way though, now that I think about it. Anyway, I sliced them up and tossed them with olive oil, nutritional yeast, and salmon seasoning. Then I baked them for about 40 minutes at 400 degrees. I would like to work on getting them crispier, to be better stand-ins for French fries. I don't know if they're better for you than French fries, but I'm going to go with yes.

These are really great, if a little unusual tasting. I ate them with left over collards for one breakfast, and felt very full.

In other attempts at easy, I stumbled upon what is now one of my favorite meals ever. I had some leftover chickpeas and roasted sweet potatoes. I cooked up some barley, and added it to those two. I topped with coconut oil, powdered garlic, nutritional yeast, and hot sauce. I'm not kidding, this is a top 10 dish right here.

I had no plans to mention this post-work snack here, so I took the picture after I'd already started eating.

One other byproduct of the crazy work week was some excellent staging. I am no stranger to multiple job sites and functions in one day, so I'm good at planning and packing, but one day this week was a 14 hour one between three sites. So i had to come up with and pack a day's worth of food one evening. Granted, for most of the day I was working near One World Cafe, which has awesome vegan options, but I'm trying to save money. Besides, I had supplies from the farmer's market, either in raw or leftover form.

So this is what I came up with: rutabaga fries and collards for breakfast, green smoothie for snack one, Sweet Potato, Roasted Red Pepper, and Corn Bisque with corn bread for lunch, Brazil nuts with dried figs for snack two, and a dragon bowl for dinner. Naturally, I packed it all into my Ask Me Why I'm Vegan bag so that I could grab it and go in the morning.

I'm really quite good at packing lunches. I do recognize that this is pure boasting, but marathon I thought I'd be completing turned into a train-wreck and all of my staging was for naught, so give me this one at least.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Vegan MoFo 20: One World Cafe Review

One of the places that I've visited more than any other since moving to Baltimore is One World Cafe. One World is considered a vegetarian restaurant, but they do serve fish. Even still, the word "vegan" is all over the place because there are plenty of options for us.

I visit more often for weekend brunch with my partner than for anything else. They always have specials and at least one is always vegan, but more often than not, most are. On top of that, they have a seriously good tofu scramble that can be inside of a burrito, and reliably humongous pancakes. (You'll pour your syrup from Absolut Vodka bottles with spouts affixed). I always pair any of these with their Velvet Hammer coffee and almond milk. The best bit is that the Bloody Marys are vegan.

Despite my love of the breakfast foods there, I've been in for more than one dinner and lunch. I almost always have to decide between two or four vegan dinner specials, and those have never disappointed. The regular menu items are great too and my favorite is the Thai Vegetable & Tempeh Saute. Either way, I usually have to take half home so that I can something from their dessert case, since they always have a number of vegan cakes (you always get a HUGE slice) and other treats.

I get dessert with lunch too. I usually have the OWC Wrap (pictured below). It's worth it for the herb dressing that comes with it. I had the veggie burger of the day once and it was amazing, so maybe I need to do more of that.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Vegan MoFo 19: How to Pick a Peach

One thing that I had been meaning to do after my move to Baltimore was get a library card. That was taken care of for me when I started working for The Village Learning Place. Once I had my card, I found the cookbook section and started to browse. Sadly, there are no vegan cookbooks, but there are vegetarian ones that seem to be perpetually checked out - bittersweet I suppose. I also found a particularly vegan-friendly book, thanks to a recommendation from a coworker.

How to Pick a Peach by Russ Parsons is a book that approaches everyone's favorite buzz phrases about eating seasonally and locally and attempts to cover the "The Search For Flavor From Farm to Table." Parsons approaches this search by weaving together several aspects of produce selection.

One thing that struck me immediately was the organization of this book. Following the Table of Contents, there was a list of the fruits and vegetables alphabetically, and then all of the recipes divided into course categories. This bodes well for a book that has several functions. It's all well and good to provide recipes, but for we meal planners, a merely chronological list just won't do it.

The introduction provides a brief primer on the history and economics of American agriculture. Parsons explains how a modernizing nation changed its habits, how grocery stores came to be, and how farmers' markets went from being common to scarce before enjoying a renaissance that seems to be getting stronger. He also highlights how convenience and availability have hurt our enjoyment of food, and how the organic movement isn't exactly what we think it is.

The other "modern irony" he discusses was more thought-provoking. Parsons points out that we have access to more ingredients than ever, but that most of them are not very good, and certainly not worth spending money on. He specifically points to how foodies may have obscure knowledge of techniques or fancy vocabulary, but they still don't know how to choose produce at the market. This is important because, "when you start with good ingredients, you finish with great dishes."

This makes me wonder how many people who claim that they could never give up meat/cheese/whatever really just couldn't give up such heavy flavor. How many of those people would be won over if they could choose and prepare amazing plant-based dishes for themselves?

What I really liked though was that the tone of the introduction inspired me to think about these things without being too assertive. I like assertive, but a lot of people are turned off by food politics because of arrogance, condescension, or outright cruelty. "I'm not one of those preachy vegans," is a cliché for a reason right? The introduction basically says that there are some things that people could benefit from knowing, and that's a great way to start a conversation.

From there, the book is organized by season, each one having several fruits and veggies under it. For each plant (or sometimes groups of similar plants), Parsons provides several pages of general information and then summaries under the headings: Where They're Grown, How to Choose, How to Store, How to Prepare, and One Simple Dish. All are very informative, but One Simple Dish is the most interesting to me because it would come in handy when you have something that needs to be used NOW, or when you have last minute guests to feed.

In addition to these quick dishes, each food has a few simple recipes to showcase it. These recipes aren't all vegan, or even vegetarian, but for the most part, the recipes are meant to feature vegetables and fruits, so making them vegan is simple.

Also interesting to the vegan who loves food politics (don't we all?) are the essays between each season. In the first, "The Plant Designers: Factories in the Field," Parsons uses the strawberry as an example to discuss how scientists and farmers mutate and manipulate breeds over time to produce new varieties of produce. GMOs as a serious issue are touched on briefly, but the focus is on the goals and the results of efforts to make produce that is robust, and ultimately profitable. While you may or may not agree with Parsons on everything, you can probably learn something or become interested in learning something thanks to these.

Finally, throughout the book are pages that are like sidebars; they aren't listed in the table of contents and they provide helpful bits of information. Some of them are about produce, like "When It's OK to Buy Unripe," while others talk about recipe concepts like Clafoutis or Souffles. As a lover of the sidebar, I'm all in with these.

Now nothing drives me crazy like a person who writes a cookbook review having never made any of the recipes, but this isn't strictly a cookbook. Plus, I won't review the cooking aspects yet. However, I will say that this is a book worth having, or at least reading. The tips on selection lined up with what I already knew, but I still learned quite a bit. I'm excited to go flex my new muscles at the Farmers' Market this weekend. Additionally, the information about agriculture reminded me why farmers' markets and food education are so important. Not only can you cook better food, but you can do right by your local farmers and community by making an effort to send your money directly to them.

I've selected three recipes from the fall section to make this week. I should be able to pick up most of the ingredients at the farmers' market. I will naturally report back. I know I can't really review this book completely until I've sampled all the seasons, so I'll revisit it throughout the year.

If you can't stand the suspense, take a sneak peak with this 2007 NPR story, Russ Parsons: In Search of Quality Produce. It excerpts the section on Artichokes, complete with recipes.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Vegan MoFo 18: Sweet Potato, Roasted Red Pepper, and Corn Bisque

Don't be mad, I did say I'd just go ahead and make all the soups in 500 Vegan Recipes, so this is another one of those. However, this soup was a surprising departure from the pattern.

It took over an hour to make. Well, it only took a few minutes to get on the stove, but it had to simmer for an hour. I've been spoiled by quick soups. This was worth it though - thick, spicy, and filling. I didn't even use the called for 2 cups of creamer - I'm not rich or something. I just used two cups of coconut milk beverage. I did opt for the extra chipotle pepper, and I could feel the heat.

Another keeper! Maybe I should rank these soups at the end of the month.

Oh and I learned something while doing the shopping for this. If you buy roasted red peppers packed in water in a jar from the sort-of Italian section of the grocery store, you're going to pay about three times as much as you will if you get "Fancy Pimientos" from what my grocery calls the "Hispanic Foods" section.

In my experience, the same is true for anything you can get in an "ethnic" foods section. Red lentils are fancy eating in one isle, and cheap Indian fare in another. I have a love/hate relationship with the politics and economics of that fact, but I think it's just one more reason to encourage people to save money and eat better by exploring traditional meals that are made of actual foods when they are able.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Vegan MoFo 17: Why Toast When You Can Roast?

When I turn the oven on, I'm all in. I try to be efficient by doing as much as I can while it's heated up. And this weekend, I had plenty of material to work with.

I hit up the Baltimore Farmer's Market on Sunday with my gentleman friend and even though I had my week's soup ingredients, I went a little crazy. When I got home, I decided to make corn bread to compliment the breakfast for dinner I had planned in my head as soon as I had laid my hands on the collards. Shortly after paying for those collards, we grabbed breakfast and the falafel stand and I had this beautiful wrap. It's falafel, beets, apples, tahini, and hot sauce, wrapped in collard leaves! Yum!

Since the oven was going on, I started planning, and I ended up with:

Corn Bread

Kale Chips

Rutabaga Fries

Apple Crisp

It doesn't sound like a lot, but let me tell you, we were stuffed by the end of the night.

We also had tofu scramble, Tofurky Beer Brats, and garlicky collard greens.

It was a good day.