Monday, June 30, 2008

Vegan blueberry muffins and a secret.

Orange juice is the secret to the sweet, fruity flavor of these blueberry muffins. It's subtle, but I like it so much that I never make blueberry muffins without OJ anymore.

Vegan blueberry muffins

1 1/2 t. Ener-G egg replacer
2 T. almond milk or soy milk
Heaping c. unbleached flour
1 1/4 t. baking powder
1/4 t. baking soda
1/2 c. sugar
1/4 c. canola oil
1/3 c. orange juice
1/3 c. blueberries, fresh or frozen

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Whisk together the Ener-G and almond milk in a small bowl and set aside. In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and sugar. Add the Ener-G mixture and canola oil and stir until just combined (overstirring makes the muffins less tender). Add the orange juice little by little; you may not need all of it. Stir in the blueberries very gently.

Pour batter until cupcake pan, filling each compartment nearly full. Bake 12-18 minutes, or less, until a sharp knife inserted into the center of a muffin comes out nearly clean.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Oat bread can kiss my butt

I made some oat bread and it turned out totally weird, which is what I get for following a recipe. The tiny bit I formed into a single-serving roll for Ben's lunch (pictured above) actually turned out sweet and nice, but the big loaf was gooey and excessively dense. The lesson is that I already know how to make bread, and should be wary of blindly following other cooks' recipes--even if they're printed in books.

Facebook is for preppies

On the Myspace vs. Facebook front, I just finished
reading an interesting academic, or possibly pseudo-
academic, essay about the two social networking sites
and the cultural and socio-economic issues that seem
to determine whether an individual is more likely to
use FB or its ersatz rival, Myspace. The researcher
suggests that Facebook users tend to be both a little
older and more educated. Or, in the vernacular of her
teenage subjects, "preppies."

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Sweet potato cornbread

Black bean chili on sweet potato cornbread isn't a fussy meal. The chili can simmer on the stove for hours with very little attention from the cook, and the sweet potato cornbread is easy to throw together once you've baked the sweet potato. This dish is a little more conventional and countrified than my corn-and-flour Johnnycakes version, and it's quicker, too. I'm not going to post our vegan chili recipe, because most cooks have their own. Chili can indeed be a very personal thing, so top the cornbread with some of your fave.

Vegan sweet potato cornbread

1 T. Ener-G egg replacer
1/4 c. water
1/4 c. soy milk
1 t. rice vinegar or apple cider vinegar
1 c. unbleached flour
3/4 c. cornmeal
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
scant 1/4 c. sugar
1 - 1 1/4 c. sweet potatoes or yams (baked, peeled, and mashed)
2 T. plain, unsweetened soy yogurt
3 T. soy margarine

Preheat oven to 350. In small bowl, whisk together the Ener-G and the water; set aside. In another small bowl, combine the soy milk and vinegar; set aside. In large bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar in bowl. Add sweet potatoes, yogurt, margarine, Ener-G mixture, and vinegar mixture. Stir gently until just combined. Pour into a lightly oiled square pan. Bake 30 minutes or until a sharp knife inserted into the center comes out clean.

Top left: simmerin' chili. Bottom left: sweet potato cornbread wins hearts.

Friday, June 27, 2008

To sleep, perchance to dream

I love a nice nap, and I love these napping instructions.

Chewy vegan peanut butter
cookies: an aspiration

Man. I've been trying to develop a perfectly chewy, sweet peanut butter cookie since about 2002. My various batches usually turn out yummy, but I just haven't achieved the chewiness I'm looking for. (Devotees of vegan brownies know exactly how I feel.)

I'm satisfied that brown rice syrup is the key -- the sweet, gooey key -- to the chewy cookie of my fancy, but I have to keep working on the proportions. And don't even get me started on chocolate-peanut butter cookies.

Vegan waffles!

A weekend breakfast treat, these hot vegan waffles soak up maple syrup like a buttery dream. We make enough for two by combining a cup of flour, 1/2 t. baking powder, 1/2 t. baking soda, 1/2 t. cinnamon, 1 t. Ener-G egg replacer, and a dash of salt, then stirring in 1/4 c. canola oil and enough water to make a soupy mixture. As far as I know, you have to have a waffle-maker to make waffles; if you don't have one, you can use the same batter to make stove-top pancakes. Either way, enjoy with Earth Balance and maple syrup.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Headphones are go

Muscler's Guide to Videonics, by Tracy + the Plastics
Wish You Were Here, by Pink Floyd
The News from Lake Woebegone podcast, May 17

God wants us to walk more

Ben's car was stolen last night. Exactly one month to
the day after the comparatively trifling and unimportant
theft of my bicycle, Ben and I wonder if we are fated to
never get anywhither again but by our own unaided feet.

Without forgetting the many, many privileges with which Ben and
I are favored in this life, I do have several complaints and questions
about the loss of our vehicle. This morning, as I walked through our neighborhood listening to the melancholy strains of Pink Floyd on headphones, I observed that none of the other cars parked on our street were as old as our little Miracle Civic, near as I could tell. Why would someone steal our 18-year-old car when the street is lined with shinier, newer, and presumably more expensive ones? No one but us knew what a ridiculously good little auto the Miracle Civic was. With almost no repairs, the car has driven us across this country (Canada, too!) many, many times. It reliably and uncomplainingly moved us (and Ben and Bella, before they met me) from city to city and state to state, over and over again. Even if the insurance pays the full Bluebook value, how will we ever find another used car with such stamina and fortitude? For our $3,000 or whatever, I strongly suspect we'd end up with something that would require us to sink more and more money into it.

Did I mention that Ben needed the car to get to his job in St. Paul? The public transportation in the Twin Cities is totally inadequate, and costs upwards of $3.50 a day (I won't get off on my "how is this less expensive than driving?" tangent, but, really--how IS it? Thinking Green aside, it's outrageous!).

Another heartbreaker is that Ben's drum set, which was even older than the car but an extremely good drum set, was locked in the trunk. So unless he knows any songs that only require the single cymbal that's sitting on the carpet in our den, Ben can't even get his percussion on anymore.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Listening to

A Whiter Shade of Pale, by Procol Harum
Lived in Bars, by Cat Power
Jessie's Girl, by Rick Springfield
Kickapoo, by Tenacious D
When I'm with You, by Sheriff

Monday, June 23, 2008

Vegan pizza night #476

Recent advances in my pizza-making have resulted in Ben encouraging me to make vegan pizza pretty frequently.* Because I'm incapable of denying this darling man anything at all (and also 'cause I like to eat pizza too), we enjoyed homemade slices again this weekend. The soft and chewy crust is made of a flour-and-cornmeal dough.

The introduction of a spicy Italian "sausage" (made by sauteeing Gimme Lean breakfast-style vegan soysage with basil, oregano, and Sriracha sauce) has really bettered my recipe in recent months, so nowadays Ben and I both love pizza night more than ever.

*Sample exchange:
Me - Honey, for dinner would your rather have pizza or...
Ben - Pizza!
Me - Really? I was going to say "tortilla soup."
Ben - Pizza.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Ye Olde Vegan English Feaste

To celebrate finishing my reading of Richardson's 1747 epistolary novel, Clarissa, I prepared two traditional English dishes: a shepherd's pie crowned with golden mashed potatoes, and an old-fashioned tarte of pippins (to us modern yanks, that's an apple tart). The tart--shown above--turned out fine, but the shepherd's pie, with its characteristic fluffy, golden topping, was extraordinarily nice. Ben and I didn't listen to any madrigals or anything, but I'm pretty sure we played the Kinks that day. They're British, right?

I was too tired and impatient to measure anything that evening, but to make the savory pie I basically sauteed several cups of vegetables (leek, onion, carrot, corn, whatever root vegetables were around), used lots of spices (thyme, sage, oregano, basil, and black pepper, I think), stirred in some mild yellow miso paste, used some soy sauce and sesame oil, thickened the whole thing with a cornstarch slurry, and stirred in some faux ground beef. Whipped up some vegan mashed potatoes to throw on top, then baked it all for about fifteen minutes.

As for the "tarte of pippins," the secret is that a tart is really just an open-faced pie. And you already know how to make a pie.

Top to bottom: disappearing tart, tart crust, yet another picture of a tart, vegan shepherd's pie, and mo' shepherd's pie.

Friday, June 20, 2008

I finished Clarissa!

Longer than both War and Peace and the Bible, Samuel Richardson's 1747 tale of virtue, deceit, and atonement took me almost exactly two years to read! I finally bought the enormous Penguin Classics edition two summers ago, after realizing that the two-month loan allotted by the public library was not, simply put, going to cut it.

And so, too colossal to drag to the coffee shop or stick in my purse, Clarissa took a while to read. But, to be fair, I wish to mention that I did set the novel aside many times during our two-year affair. Periods of cold silence marked our relationship, and it was not uncommon for the two of us to go weeks or months without acknowledging one another. When I was dangerously sick last year, for instance, I set Clarissa aside for nearly ten cruel months! Remarkably, our reunion earlier this summer was a warm one. Once reunited, we were inseparable, and the book became more my darling, my doting-piece, than ever before.

And I'll say, au serieux, that I really enjoyed the novel, which is a collection of fictional letters that tell the cautionary story of a mid-18th-C. girl who is ruined by the famous (well, literature-famous, not Britney-famous) rake and libertine Robert Lovelace. Instructive, exciting, and entertaining, the book is a serious bargain... where else can you get two years of entertainment for $24.95? Oh, and the last 500 pages got really, really good.

Personally, I really dig the epistolary style, and in particular the letters that pass between the main character and her BFF, Anna Howe, are really wonderful. Tender, funny, and chastising in turns, those letters are my favorite parts of the novel.

You should totally read it: prithee do.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Sweet lemon cupcakes!

This is the rare cupcake that prefers to be drizzled with a sweet glaze, rather than being piled high with fluffy frosting. They'd be seriously awesome that way, too, though.

Vegan lemon cupcakes

1/4 c. soy milk
1 1/2 t. lemon juice, separated
1 c. unbleached flour
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 T. Ener-G egg replacer
1/2 c. sugar
dash of salt
scant 1/4 c. canola oil
1 1/2 T. plain soy yogurt
1/4 t. lemon zest

For the glaze:
1/2 c. powdered sugar
1 t. lemon juice
1 T. soy milk

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a small bowl, whisk together the soy milk and 1 t. lemon juice. Set aside. In mixing bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, egg replacer, sugar, and salt. Mix well, then add the canola oil, yogurt, lemon zest, and remaining 1/2 t. lemon juice. Pour in the soy milk mixture and stir until barely combined (over-stirring makes for stiff batter and tough cupcakes). Oil cupcake pan if you aren't using papers, then fill each well slightly more than halfway. Bake for 13-18 minutes. Oven temps vary; take the pan out when a sharp knife inserted into a cupcake comes out clean. (Because thees cupcakes are so very spongy and moist, the cupcakes may look less dry than your usual cupcakes. But if the knife comes out clean, they're done!) Allow to cool.

Make glaze by whipping together the powdered sugar and lemon juice. Add the soy milk little by little, as needed. Drizzle onto cool cupcakes.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

I can has Lolcats?

Speaking of Lolcats, I love them sub rosa, and the Wikipedia entry on this Internet phenomenon is one of the funniest things I've read since discovering Wodehouse. The level of discourse analysis in this Wikipedia entry is impressive! It's academic and wide-ranging: a true review of the available literature on Lolcats. Here's an excerpt (a long-ass one), but you should really go read the whole thing:

A Lolcat, or LOLCAT, is an image combining a photograph, most frequently a cat, with a humorous and idiosyncratic caption in (often) broken English—a dialect which is known as "Kitty Pidgin",[1] "lolspeak", or Lolcat. The name "lolcat" is a compound word of "LOL" and "cat".[2][3] Another name is cat macro, being a type of image macro.[4] Lolcats are created for photo sharing imageboards and other internet forums. Lolcats are similar to other anthropomorphic animal-based image macros such as the O RLY? owl.[5]

The term lolcat gained national media attention in the United States when it was covered by Time,[6] which wrote that non-commercialized phenomena of the sort are increasingly rare, stating that lolcats have "a distinctly old-school, early 1990s, Usenet feel to [them]." The superimposed text is usually assumed to be uttered by the cat in the photograph. There are parallels between the language used in lolcats and baby talk, which some owners of cats often use when talking to them.
Common themes include jokes of the form "Im in ur noun, verb-ing ur related noun."[11]. This construction is a snowclone stemming from the phrase "I'm in ur base, killing ur doodz," which became a common meme in several real-time strategy games. "I has a noun" pictures show a cat in possession of an object while "Invisible noun" show pictures of cats apparently interacting with said invisible object.[11] The related "flavor" shots specifically show a cat (or another animal) licking/eating an item, person or animal (including sometimes themselves) and remarking how "[noun] haz a flavor."[12] "My noun, let me show you it/them" pictures are accompanied by cats apparently presenting or offering an object. Another common lolcat displays a cat with a specific look, which is described by adjective, and the text, "[adjective] cat is [adjective]", "[adjective] cat is not [adjective]" or "Your offering pleases [adjective] cat." A version of this is also stated as "adjective cat is not amused", or "[adjective] cat has run out of [noun]" (when the cat in related picture seems to be feeling the opposite of the adjective used to describe it.) Photographs exhibiting the red-eye effect might be captioned with text concerning "lazrs".

End of extract. If Lolcats make you laugh until you cry, please leave a comment in which you identify your favorite Lolcats genre. Is it the "Im in ur [noun], [verb]ing ur [related noun]? Maybe it's the more ambitious "i can has cheezburger" category. Or perhaps, like me, your favorite is the "invisible [noun]" genre?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Social (f)utility

Trying not to be addicted to stupid old Facebook is
indeed futile.

Ben and I have been theorizing that Facebook is mainly
for introverts, although it is a "social networking
utility" or whatever. And really, you can tell who the
extroverts are right away: they're the ones who immedi-
ately send you a message indicating that "we should hang
out more," or one containing their phone number. But
because I'm more introverted than 90% of humans (at
least, that's what my Myers-Briggs test results
suggest every time I take it), I prefer to just look at
people's profiles, play habit-forming online word games,
and find out which Buffy character I'm most like.

I mean, hanging out in real life is cool sometimes. But
in general, I'm satisfied to write on your Wall and enjoy
your LOLcats.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Vanilla chai cupcakes

Like the chai drinks enjoyed in coffee shops and teahouses, these cupcakes combine distinctive Indian spices and sweetened milk... in this case, soy milk. Top each vanilla-scented cupcake with a single clove.

Vegan vanilla chai cupcakes
(small batch)

1/4 t. baking powder
1 T. rice vinegar
1 c. flour
1/2 c. sugar
1/4 t. baking soda
1 t. Ener-G egg replacer
dash of salt
1/8 t. each ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom
scant 1/4 c. oil
2 T. unsweetened soy yogurt*
1/2 t. vanilla
1/4 c. soy milk

For the frosting:
1 chai tea bag
1 1/2 T. soy creamer, scalded
1 T. soy margarine
1 T. non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening
1/2 c. powdered sugar
optional: 6 whole cloves, for garnish (don't eat these!)

Preheat oven to 325 F. Whisk the baking powder into the vinegar and set aside. In a bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, egg replacer, salt, and spices. Add oil, soy yogurt, vanilla, and vinegar mixture. Stir gently. Drip in the soy milk little by little until just combined (you might not need all of the liquid). Pour batter into cupcake pan, filling each well 3/4 full. Bake approximately 15 minutes, or until a sharp knife inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean.

To make the chai frosting, steep the tea bag in the scalded soy creamer. Set aside to infuse. When the tea is cool, whip together the soy margarine and vegetable shortening. Add the powdered sugar. Remove tea bag and add the soy creamer to frosting. Whip.

When cupcakes are cool, pipe frosting on with a pastry bag or just pile it high with a spatula. Garnish each cupcake with a clove.

*I strongly prefer plain, unsweetened soy yogurt in baking, because it's just a cleaner palette, so to speak, and it gives me more options. I can add sugar if I want to, or add vanilla if I want to. In this recipe, sweetened soy yogurt is okay, but reduce sugar by 1 tablespoon. Vanilla soy yogurt is also alright, but omit the 1/2 t. vanilla from the ingredients list (also reduce sugar if it's sweetened vanilla soy yogurt!).

In case you were starting to think this is
nothing but a cupcake test kitchen

I must have had cutlets on the brain when Ben asked me a question about what I would like to eat for dinner, because I thought he said, "Should I make herb-crusted tofu for dinner?" I replied with such excitement in the affirmative that the sweet, gentle fellow insisted on creating such a dish.

The photo above displays the really delicious herb-crusted tofu, which he made by marinating the tofu in all sorts of divine things and then "herb-crusting" the slices by some magical procedure that I did not witness. 'Twas yummers, as Shakespeare said.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Cupcakes noir

The triple threat of dark chocolate cake, chocolate frosting, and chocolate sprinkles created a real danger at our place yesterday afternoon. For stale adults, Ben and I have surprisingly little self-control, at least when it comes to vegan cupcakes.

Vegan chocolate cupcakes

1/2 t. Ener-G egg replacer
2 T. soy milk
1 c. unbleached, all-purpose flour
3/4 c. sugar
3 1/2 T. cocoa, Dutch-processed or regular
1/4 t. baking powder
1/4 t. baking soda
dash of salt
2 T. canola oil
3 1/2 T. plain soy yogurt
3/4 c. water or soy milk

For frosting:
2 1/2 T. soy margarine
2 1/2 T. non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening
Heaping 1/8 c. cocoa
1 c. powdered sugar
2-3 T. soy creamer (you can substitute soy milk)

Preheat oven to 325 F. Combine the Ener-G and 2 T. soy milk and set aside. Whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, Add the oil, soy yogurt, and Ener-G mixture, stirring gently. When nearly combined, begin adding the water or soy milk little by little (you may not need all of the liquid). Stir until just combined; over-stirring results in tougher cupcakes.) Pour batter into cupcake pan, filling each well just slightly more than halfway. Bake 15-20 minutes. When a sharp knife inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean, they're done... even if they look a bit moist. They just are moist! That's how you like them, true?

To make the frosting, whip together the margarine and shortening until fluffy. If you're using your beloved red Kitchenaid mixer like we did, the whisk attachment will be happy to get some play here. Add the cocoa and powdered sugar and beat. (Unlike cake batter, frosting can be stirred and mixed and fluffed and whipped for a long time without anything bad happening.) Drip in the soy creamer bit by bit. Be conservative (trust me). You might not need all of the liquid.

When the cupcakes are cool, pipe on the frosting or just daub it on in big, cute blobs. Be generous with the sprinkles: it looks lame if there are only like six sprinkles on there.


Ben and I went to a bonfire party at John and Shari's last night,
then slept late and got up to make banana pancakes, which we
consumed with some hot, strong coffee. Ben has been battling a
cold lo these two weeks, so we'll just continue to take it easy
this weekend, I think. A good life.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

New plant for me

Check out the lovely fuscia-flowered plant Ben brought home for me last week! Disregard the sweater that makes me look like an elderly shut-in, please. It's been cool and rainy and sweater-y all month. But guess what keeps us warm: LURVE! And now, the cheerful presence of a pink cyclamen.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Vegan gingerbread doughnuts

Cute, perfect vegan doughnuts.  I would post the recipe, except I can't remember how much of anything I used. Sorry, darlings. Another time.

If you're looking for a recipes for something vegan and adorable, though, how about tangerine dream cupcakes or some peanut butter cups, oh my god!

Effing Facebook

I've gotten mixed up in the murky affair that is Facebook.
I hate it already.

When I added a marital status to my profile,
here's the message that popped up:
"You are now in a relationship with Ben (insert our surname)."

Facebook, how can I ever express my inestimable gratitude
to you for legitimizing my relationship with my husband?
I was also honored when, earlier this week, you validated
my eight-year friendship with Gabby Schmidt.

That being said, Dear Reader, I'm already addicted. So please
look me up on Facebook and ratify whatever our relationship
might be.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Perfect vegan cupcakes

Light and fluffy, these birthday- and bakesale-worthy cupcakes are among the most delicious cupcakes I've ever enjoyed. They're moist and feather-light because the batter contains both egg-replacer and plain soy yogurt. These cupcakes are diverse, too; if coconut isn't your thing, just use vanilla extract instead of coconut extract in both the batter and frosting. Other flavors work great, too.

Vegan coconut cupcakes

1/4 c. soy milk
1 t. rice vinegar
1 c. unbleached flour
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 T. Ener-G egg replacer
1/2 c. sugar
dash of salt
scant 1/4 c. canola oil
1 1/2 T. plain soy yogurt
1/2 t. coconut extract

For the frosting
2 T. soy margarine
1 c. powdered sugar
1/2 t. coconut extract
1 T. soy milk (might need a little more)
optional: shredded coconut for garnish

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a small bowl, whisk together the soy milk and rice vinegar. Set aside. In mixing bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, egg replacer, sugar, and salt. Mix well, then add the canola oil, yogurt, and extract. Pour in the vinegar mixture and stir until barely combined (over-stirring makes for stiff batter and tough cupcakes). Oil cupcake pan if you aren't using papers, then fill each well slightly more than halfway. Bake for 13-18 minutes. Oven temps vary; take the pan out when a sharp knife inserted into a cupcake comes out clean. (Because thees cupcakes are so very fluffy and moist, the cupcakes may look less dry than your usual cupcakes. But if the knife comes out clean, they're done!) Allow to cool.

Combine frosting ingredients. Mix with electric mixer until fluffy. Apply generously, then roll the edges in optional coconut.

Left: my favorite cupcake pan, an antique Muffinaire.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Vegan tapioca pudding in beta testing.

In terms of comfort food, tapioca pudding ranks somewhere just under mashed potatoes and gravy, chocolate cake, and a homemade pot pie.

I'm still working on my veganized version of tapioca pudding, but it's already way beyond decent: thick (see photo below), vanilla-scented, and yummy. I'm going to try it with a more subtle soy milk, or maybe almond milk. A little less sugar next time, too. But for now, feel free to mess around with the beta version!

Tapioca pudding

1/2 c. tapioca pearls, soaked overnight in enough water to cover, plus half an inch
1/2 c. sugar
2 c. soy milk
1/2 c. soy creamer
dash of salt
scant t. vanilla

You don't need to drain the tapioca pearls unless you can actually see water above the pearls. Probably, though, the pearls have soaked it all up, so, in a heavy pot, combine the tapioca pearls with sugar, soy milk, creamer, and salt. Over medium-high heat bring to a boil. Immediately reduce heat to low. Stir or whisk constantly for five minutes. If the mixture sticks to the pot as the pudding thickens, continue to stir or whisk constantly for about 10 more minues. If it isn't sticking, you can just stir it occasionally for 10 minutes.

The pudding still won't be totally thick at this point, but it will thicken as it cools. Remove from heat, stir in the vanilla, and pour into individual bowls or a larger dish. Refrigerate.

Below: As far as I'm concerned, this should happen!

Smart bird.

Love reading about Koko the gorilla and her "soft good cat cat"?
Check out this New Yorker story on a really smart parrot.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Homemade pita bread

I know you can imagine how amusing and satisfying it is to take your homemade pitas out of the oven, cut them open, and realize that they're really, truly hollow! You can actually cram stuff in there! (Well, it seemed miraculous at the time.)

Believe it or not, baking pita bread is as simple as making some bread dough, letting it rise in the usual way, and using a rolling pin to flatten small balls of the dough into thin circles. See? Just be sure to flour the hell out of everything, for reals.

Then you bake the circles in a really hot oven (like 500 degrees!) on cookie sheets. I flip mine in order to brown both sides, but pita doesn't need to be in the oven for more than 6 or 8 minutes total. It totally rises and bubbles and loses its mind. It's awesome. I wish I had an oven-cam (or at least one of those neat-o transparent oven doors!).

What did we eat this pita with? Well, it's good with a bowl of homemade hummus, but I made these for Friday's falafel dinner. The sandwiches were pretty exciting with homemade baba ganouj and some sprouts, red tomato, and spinach. I made a little vegan dressing for it, too. And we stuffed the fried chickpea patties in there too, of course. Bad photo, delicious lunch:

Friday, June 06, 2008

I should make more Lauren
Bacall references

The BBC makes reality TV palatable. Having already devoured
the Colonial House, Frontier House*, and Manor House**
series on DVD when we lived in Wisconsin and never had anything
fun to do, Ben and I have now sunk our teeth into "1940s House,"
in which three generations of a modern-day British family take
up the customs and environs of a WWII-era household.

Turns out it's not all red lipstick and pin curls and putting
your lips together and blowing. For example, watching how
this family adapts to rationing is intense, but not as
intense as the air raids. It's always sobering to think that
during the war years, every household had to black out their
windows each night so that no slant of light could be seen
by the bombers overhead? Your neighbors might put a rock
through your window if you screwed up, because it jeopardized
the safety of the entire neighborhood.

You can get the 1940s House series at Netflix!

Next: Edwardian Country House!

*this series was actually produced on American soil by PBS, which makes sense. Anyway, I loved this series, and, despite its depiction of great hardship on the frontier, the show failed to tarnish my completely romanticized and fantastical estimation of what it would have been like to be a prairie girl.
**this is PBS, too. But they obviously got the idea from the BBC.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Love and marriage (and stromboli)

To celebrate the four-year anniversary of our wedding,
Ben and I shared a beautiful meal at the French Meadow
, a lovely, low-key, romantic local place. The vegan
stromboli is one of the most elegant Italian dishes you'll
ever meet, and the breaded tempeh with coconut red beans
are pretty special. And although I know that it's a whole
big thing with food blogs, I just can't bring myself to
take photographs of restaurant food, no matter how
gorgeous and yummy, and post them on my blog. Sorry,
just not how I roll.

Vegan mango ice cream

The owner of the Asian market I frequent always convinces me to buy something fabulous that's not on my mental list. Recently, it was two ripe mangoes, which I brought home, peeled, cubed, and froze. A few days later, I brought out our ice cream maker for the first batch of what I hope will be a long, charming summer of homemade vegan ice cream.

This particular ice cream is sweet and creamy, like mangoes themselves. (Some people don't think a fruit can be "creamy," but mangoes are; so are avocados and bananas, in my book.) This batch was more than enough for a couple different Ice Cream Nights, and on the first evening we enjoyed the ice cream on top of some cute and yummy chocolate cake cups (see last photo, below) that Ben whipped up.

Mango ice cream

2 ripe mangoes, peeled, cubed, and frozen overnight (or longer)
12 oz. silken tofu
scant 1 c. sugar
1/4 c. soy creamer or soy milk
1/2 c. canola oil

Puree 3/4 of the frozen mangoes in food processor. Add tofu, sugar, soy creamer and oil and blend very, very well. If it seems really thick, drip a bit more soy milk into the bowl and blend again. I didn't need any extra liquid, though.

Freeze according to your ice cream maker's directions, adding the remaining frozen fruit before turning on the machine. If you don't want to use an ice cream maker, you can also just freeze the mixture in a mixing bowl (not a glass one, please). However, you'll have to get in there and stir it every half hour or 45 minutes, which is fine if you don't have kids or a job.

This ice cream flavor was so elegant and nice that I'm going to make it again in a few weeks, probably with a nice, nutty almond milk instead of soy milk. Substituting coconut milk for the soy milk and oil would be wonderful, too.

Here's the juicy, delicious, fresh mango. It's hard to resist eating it all:

The food processor-azzi snapped this one:

The ice cream starts to form as soon as you put it in the frozen machine:

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Vegan pierogies!

Homemade pirrogies rock our household a few times a year. They're special because they're a bit of work, but surely you'll love them, too. Promise me you'll at least have a salad on the side, though, okay?

To cut out the circles of pierogi dough, you're going to need to buy this fancy kitchen contraption called the lid from a Tofutti container. After that, you're set. Basically, you roll out the dough, cut out the circles, fill them with some mashed potatoes, and fold the dough over. You pinch 'em closed with another kitchen gadget called Your Fingers, then boil the pierogies for 10 minutes to cook the pasta dough. If you want to kick it Polish old school, and we certainly did, fry them in some butter (i.e. vegan margarine) with some thinly sliced onions. And if you're the type who enjoys an actual recipe, you'll find mine beneath the photos.

Vegan pierogies

1/2 c. soy milk
1 T. Energ-G egg replacer
2 c. semolina flour
Approx. 1 c. unbleached white flour (for flouring)
1/2 t. sea salt
2 T. canola oil
3 small potatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 T. olive oil
1 t. salt
1/4 t. black pepper
1/4 c. soy milk
1 small onion, thinly sliced
2 T. soy margarine

Start the potatoes boiling in a large, covered pot while you make the pierogi dough.

You can make the dough by hand, or with the hook attachment for your KitchenAid mixer. First, whisk together the soy milk and Ener-G in a mixing cup and set aside. Combine the flour and sea salt, then add the canola oil. Add the soy milk mixture and mix until sticky. Add more flour if too wet; drip in some water, or more soy milk, if too crumbly.

Use a floured rolling pin to roll out the dough on a floured surface. (Seriously, use lots of flour. Throw some extra flour on the dough itself, even, and also some all over your face.) The dough should be really, really thin, about 1/16". Using whatever you're using as a cutter (e.g. Tofutti lid, tea cup, legitimate cookie cutter), cut out your circles. Keep re-using and re-rolling the dough until you can't make any more circles. (It doesn't seem like pasta dough gets "tired" like roll-out cookie dough can. In my experience, you can just keep rolling out pierogi dough until you've used it all up.)

Strain and mash the potatoes, adding the olive oil, salt, pepper, and soy milk. Stick the mashed potatoes in the refrigerator to cool for a few minutes, then begin filling the pierogies. Place a 1 1/2-inch ball of filling in the center of each circle of dough, then fold each circle in half and press the edges together. If your dough is very dry, you might want to put a little lukewarm water on your fingers while you're pressing the edges together, to ensure the seal. (I don't bother, though, and mine don't fall apart.)

While you're filling and sealing the pierogies, begin boiling a large, covered pot of water. When you're done filling and sealing, boil the pierogies four at a time for ten minutes. (If the filling starts to come out, you know your edges aren't sealed tightly enough!) Remove with slotted spoon and set aside.

In a large non-stick skillet, melt the soy margarine. Sautee the sliced onions until brown, then lightly fry the pierogies 4 or 5 at a time. Serve immediately.

Meet your miso

Miso soup is the perfect easy lunch: it's savory, warm, satisfying, and yummy. It travels well in a thermos, too! I've made versions of this soup that are slightly more work, like a butternut red miso based on one I used to get at Rainbow Market in Seattle, but pretty much all miso soup is terrifically easy to prepare.

Miso soup

2 bunches scallions, chopped (white parts only)
1 t. olive oil
pinch of sea salt
3 1/2 c. water
4 T. white miso paste
4 oz. firm tofu, cubed (don't use silken!)*

In a soup pot, sautee the chopped scallions in the olive oil over medium heat for several minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the salt and cook for a few more minutes. Add water, then miso paste. Whisk until miso dissolves completely, then cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, carefully add the tofu. Boil for 1-2 minutes, then reduce heat to low. Simmer for at least fifteen minutes, stirring occasionally.

* A tofu note: you probably don't want to open a new package of tofu just to use 1/3 of the block, right? Me neither. So, whenever we make tofu cutlets, or a stirfry with tofu, I just slice off a bit of the block, cube it, and put it in a little container in the fridge. Then, when I want to make miso soup, I have some tofu to throw in. The tofu doesn't keep longer than a couple days like that, though, so hurry up and make your soup.

Monday, June 02, 2008

"a mixed up, muddled up, shook up world"

Listening to:
"Lola" (the Kinks)
"Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man" (Loretta Lynn and Conway Twitty)
"Time in a Bottle" (Jim Croce)