Sunday, November 28, 2010

Chocolate Chip Cookies and some thoughts

Often I make a mini-batch of chocolate chip cookies (super mini actually - I quarter the recipe from vegan cookies take over your cookie jar), which I feel is just the right # of cookies. Today, I don't know why, but I made a whole truckload of them. I made the recipe from Joy of Vegan baking. I'm trying to figure out which recipe meets my definition of the perfect cookie better. However, I was only able to consume two cookies before I was pretty full (yeah, probably overdid the raw batter consumption this time..) Anyhow, I wished cookies didn't have so many calories and I could eat more of them without feeling ill. After Jan 1, there won't be too many cookies in my life - I'm going on a diet. Actually, in preparation for this diet I think I've gained 7 pounds, just thinking about the future deprivation! Also this semester has been rather stressful with marathon homework events.

I have this odd perfect baked good issue, where the first time I eat a particular baked good, it is awesome and wonderful, but all subsequent times its just okay. Some things seem to transcend this problem, but very few.

J. was very thoughtful and got me a wonderful present from Sur La Table recently: stackable cookie cooling racks. I had read that cookie racks helped your cookies to crisp, so I'd been putting the cookies on the toaster oven slide out wire rack but couldn't fit all the cookies usually. These stackable cookie cooling racks solve the kitchen space issue because they are stackable and we have a teeny kitchen, though not teeny in an adorable way which is endearing, just annoying.

chocolate chip cookies

For the purposes of science, I went to eat another cookie, and I think this cookie is closer to the perfect cookie for me. I used 1 TBS less flour than was called for, and 3/4 tsp salt (however, I will use 1 tsp salt next time as per the recipe). I baked them longer than the recipe stated because mine weren't browning. When you cook them long enough (without burning them), they get delightfully crispy while remaining chewy inside.

Now, onto thoughts. J. forwarded me the article about the former vegan previously known as "The Voracious Vegan". In the past I have read her blog, but as I recall there were too many green shakes on it, so I stopped looking at it. I'm just not that into green shakes. Regarding her transition to an omnivorous diet: I can see if you don't feel properly healthy on a vegan diet and then stop it, but what I can't understand is why then the need to try and say it is unhealthy for everyone, and how eating meat is necessary for everyone, and how eating local meat is the better choice for the environment, not eating local vegetables and grains. You could instead say that being vegan was not right for your particular physiology, and it might be fine for others.

J. and I discussed what if one of us fell into poor health and somehow we were able to find out that this was due to a lack of animal products in our diets. I think I would try to see how small a quantity of animal products I could eat and still be in optimal health. I think the best would be to find, through friends, a hunter with excellent aim, and ask him/her that when they go next to an area with a significant overpopulation of deer, to invite me along and I would be responsible for transporting the corpse to a butcher and then taking the meat home. I might need to make some space for a large freezer so that I could store the deer meat for a long period of time. I would find out what was required for me to live in good health, and eat only that. I'm not sure if I could stomach eating meat - because after not having eaten it in over ten years, I have grown to really dislike the smell and I hate having to walk through the hall to our condo when someone in the building is cooking meat, it grosses me out. However, I think if I sliced it thinly and maybe blended it up, I could somehow combine it with enough other strong tasting ingredients that I could eat it without really thinking about it. Maybe a mexican casserole with cheddar flavored daiya. I love taco seasoning and it might be strong enough of a cover flavor.

However, we are very, very lucky not to have such a difficult choice to make. We both enjoy excellent health for which we are very grateful. I hope that if you do find yourself in that situation of needing to eat meat due to a physical intolerance of the vegan diet, that you will consider the above solution rather than simply eating all types of meat from any source. Obviously you would want to research the most eco friendly wild animal food source appropriate for your region.

On the note of a Mexican casserole, I think maybe I will make a taco-flavored seitan Mexican casserole. Sorry to my lovely Jon (who just said "why are you calling me J. on your blog, that's weird!" I told him it was to protect his privacy. He said there are a million people named Jon so he didn't think it would reveal his identity :) ), who I don't think would like a Mexican casserole like the one I'm thinking of making.

Thanksgiving Post

I recall when I went vegetarian someone asked me "you aren't even going to eat turkey for thanksgiving?!?!" Of all the things I would miss, turkey certainly wasn't one of them! And now, many years later, I don't like tofurkey either. However, I did miss the tom turkey tofu from Vegan Vittles this year, because I forgot my nutritional yeast and we were cooking in a non-vegan's kitchen. So I'm making it tonight, yay! I might bake it (its much better fried), but I'm feeling lazy.

I did make - from the Joy of Vegan Baking - the pumpkin pie recipe which is perfection. However, the crust didn't turn out so well for me. I used the spectrum spread as my fat, and even chunked and froze it according to the recipe, however once I got it out of the freezer I could hardly work with it. I didn't use my food processor (though the recipe calls for that), because I just was too worried about overmixing. The crust was non-workable, I had to add a lot of extra water to get it to roll out. Then it was too hard - it was crisp but not soft and flaky yet crispy. So not the worst crust I've ever had, I have had much much worse, but not ideal either. I think I will try the 50% marg. 50% spectrum spread option next time...I feel like I did that 2 thanksgivings ago and had great results. Since J. is a pecan pie fan, I made a pecan pie topping from Vegan Cookies Take over your Cookie Jar (used for the pecan bars), and after baking the pumpkin pie for about 20 mins placed the topping on, and baked another 28 minutes. Sadly we had to wait for it to set, because we really wanted to dig in immediately. I think next year I will go with apple pie because apple pie a la mode is really heavenly.

Thanksgiving Spread

You can kinda see the edge of a large white bowl with a salad consisting of: thinly sliced sunchokes, salad turnips, some fresh cranberry vinagrette, and lettuce. I highly reccomend salad turnips, they are awesome (even though turnips just sound gross, don't they?), but sunchokes aren't worth the 35 minutes it takes to peel those little bastards. They are like 25 individual pieces of ginger, and we've all been there peeling a fat load of ginger, and cursing.

I also made some dressing (I think that its called dressing when outside the turkey, stuffing when inside) with leeks, celery, bread, poultry seasoning, oil, vegetable broth, salt and pepper. It turned out okay, but I prefer the way my Mom makes it. We would have used onions but we had some leeks we wanted to get rid of. That was an issue and also I forgot to use margarine and instead used canola oil to fry up the leeks and celery. Other dishes included two type of greens from the farmers mkt, mashed sweet potatoes and mashed white potatoes.

J. made a badass butternut squash coconut curry soup. Yes, I'm finally posting an ACTUAL recipe on a food blog. Sorry its so rare but I can't bring myself to post cookbook authors recipes on the internet when they should be earning $$ for their hard work. This recipe was provided by J's coworker.


1 butternut squash
1 T vegetable oil
1 medium sweet onion
1 T fresh ginger grated
1/2 tsp cinnamon
4 tsp Thai red curry paste
4 cups veggie stock
2 ripe pears, peeled and chopped
1/2 to 1 apple, peeled and chopped
1 t salt
2 tsp brown sugar
14 oz can low fat or regular coconut milk

Cut squash in half, scoop out seeds and place cut side down on oil baking
sheet. Bake at 375 F until tender, about 50 minutes. Once cool enough to
handle, scoop out flesh and set aside. Heat large soup pot to medium, add oil, sauté onion until tender. Add ginger and curry paste; sauté 1 min, stirring constantly. Add squash, stock, pears, apple, salt, cinnamon, and sugar, bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes. In blender or food processor, puree in batches. Return to soup pot, bring to a simmer, and stir in coconut milk. Cook until thoroughly heated. Garnish with freshly chopped cilantro.

I think to save time you could easily sub pears canned in pear juice or water so save yourself having to peel the pears. We felt next time we'd use low fat coconut milk, the recipe was awesome but we'd like to try it lower fat. I have to warn you against purchasing a generic/store brand of coconut milk though. Just don't do it. I have learned from experience that a high quality brand of coconut milk is just one of those things worth paying a little bit more for, especially when you are talking about lower fat coconut milk.

Popcorn on the cob

When J. told me about this, I was in disbelief that it was even possible. How could you pop popcorn that was still attached to the cob? Why had I never seen this before? It was probably a year ago that he told me about it, and then I'd forgotten all about it.

J. arrived home recently from a business trip and handed me a bag of a few dry ears of corn (which look exactly like the type you hang on your door in the fall), and explained that three of the ears were popping corn!

unpopped cobs of popping corn

We placed three of them in a brown paper bag, set the microwave for about 2 mins or so, and out they came, two cobs of popped corn. Some of the kernels fell off of the cob when they popped but a lot stayed on. They were dear, because the kernels were much, much smaller than commercially available popcorn - so teeny and adorable. The only thing is that you have to let it cool a bit because some unpopped kernels stay on the Cob and are really, really hot and will burn you if you bite down too soon.

Here's the popped cobs:

popped cobs

In case you're sick of hearing about popcorn, I do think about other things... sometimes. In this case, a wonderful product I found at WF (or maybe J. found it), which we used to make awesome awesome "beefy" seitan amongst other things.

Better Than Boillon No Beef Base

Then after falling in love, they stopped selling it. I was sad, and kept thinking maybe they would carry it again, or I should buy it on Amazon. Last time I was at WF I actually went through every single one of the better than bouillon jars (they had probably 40 in total) and checked every label. No such luck. I purchased their vegetarian chicken stock goo, but it just didn't cut it. I don't know if I just never liked chicken stock or if this was just not that flavorful, but it wasn't anything like the wonder and glory that is their vegetarian beef broth goo. Yes I'm calling it goo..its just is too goopy to be called a paste.

After all that effort, I asked customer service how many jars were in a case. Only 6, sign me up! I will be getting a call hopefully soon when my 6 jars come in. I am SO EXCITED to make seitan london broil, and seitan pho (I just saw the pho recipe on Bryanna Clark Grogan's blog and felt inspired/excited to try making pho). I remember when I was probably 8 years old and I was filling out some sort of kids beauty contest questionnaire and they asked what your favorite food was and I wrote "London Broil". What a weird favorite food for a kid, no? I recall my Mom said "say pizza instead, they like a generic kind of person in these beauty contests and pizza is as common a favorite food as you can get". I believe I was also encouraged to write down "world peace" as my #1 wish. :)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Popcorn, how do I love thee?

We had a bunch of people stay at our place for the rally for sanity/and or fear, and from one of these folks, J. learned of a wonderful and magical trick you can use at home - for popcorn!

I have a special relationship with popcorn: a love relationship. And actually, whenever J. goes out of town, its on. However, when you buy one of those popcorn boxes, with the some ridiculously small # of popcorn bags in it - is it really three? Geez, thats tiny. Anyhow, whatever number it is, clearly they have no idea how much popcorn I'm able to consume. Case in point - last night: the equivalent of four bags. (I think...maybe it was just three - it was my dinner - as if that somehow excuses my behavior). So popcorn never lasts around our house. Pretty much if it exists, I eat it and then we don't have it for a long time because I try to limit my purchases of irresistible (chocolate chips) things.

So you know how the popcorn is in a papery type bag? Well, guess what, you can just put the same amount of unpopped corn into any old regular brown paper bag and achieve the same results! Seriously! Its that easy!

1/4 cup popcorn kernels
place popcorn kernels in a brown paper bag, and fold the top down. Place it in the microwave so that the folded part is facing down and will be held down by the weight of the bag. Press the popcorn button on your microwave, for a 3.5 oz bag. About 2 minutes. Actually, with our microwave I found 2 mins or 2 mins 5 seconds is best. 2 mins 10 seconds is the timing for our microwave's popcorn button but I find that some of the kernels get a little burnt that way. Actually, you have to choose between either a decent quantity of unpopped kernels or some burnt kernels. I choose the former.

The great thing? You can re-use the brown paper bag a lot of times---until it gets too many holes in it from flying popcorn hitting the sides (yes really that happens), or it gets too oily. Even dry unoiled popcorn has some natural oil on it which will eventually make your bag look oily.

This is very eco-friendly, since you can buy bulk popcorn kernels from the store (in a re-usable container!), there's no plastic around your brown paper bag, and no cardboard box every 4th bag of popcorn. The only remaining issue is who wants to eat plain popcorn?

The resolution:
Either A: Melt 1-2 tsp earth balance in a small bowl in the microwave and drizzle on top of your popcorn while kind of shaking it around and mixing it up for even coverage
or B: Spray popcorn with can of spray oil, then quickly throw some nutritional yeast and salt on it. You have to mix it around a bunch and keep spraying different layers of the popcorn with oil and adding nutritional yeast and salt. I really , really need to buy some popcorn salt. Normal salt is too big and thus...too heavy to stick nicely onto popcorn.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Tempeh Tacos with Kale and Chili Paste

Tempeh Taco w Kale n Chili paste

So this photo is not great because you can't even see the tempeh, but I have to get back to my HW, no time for a fancy photo shoot. This was based on the Veganomicon recipe, which is supposed to have cabbage and not kale, pickled jalapenos instead of garden mutt-peppers (look like jalapenos, taste mostly like a bell pepper), and also some lime crema but I only had 1 lime. Sigh. I did happen to have two starting to get wrinkly ancho chilis, 1 red hot pepper of some type, and two itty bitty green hot peppers of some other type. I roasted them all in my toaster oven (I love you toaster oven), 10 mins on each side at 350. Then I put them in the seed grinder and pulsed and shook that think around until they were all blended. I hate cleaning that thing though, I'm sure you do too.

It was late and I didn't feel like busting my butt to bike to WF before it closed (I guess I could have biked to harris teeter but it never occurs to me - plus the roads are scarier to get there). We were also out of corn flour, so I decided to make some wheat flour tortillas. I used the joy of cooking recipe (except I didn't have vegetable shortening so I used 2TBS earch balance + 2 TBS oil), and you end up with a VERY wet dough. Its hard to knead. I added flour but then gave up and then just massaged the mass of wet sticky dough thoroughly stuck to my hand. After 4 mins "kneading", I then separated them out into their litle 8 balls, and let rest overnight b/c I didn't need the tacos until today.

Today I took the very wet balls out of their little plastic wraps, and had to add a lot of flour to the surface of them and the cutting board to roll them out properly. It was hard to get them round but I'm not picky. The instructions say to use a pizza stone or an inverted baking sheet. I used the inverted baking sheet. It worked much better once the baking sheet was warm in terms of cooking in a decent amt of time and not being raw in the center like the first ones, but it was hard to get the tortills onto the hot surface laying flat, because they are so thin and flexible, the tortillas kept folding up on top of themselves and were tricky to flatten out without making holes in them or burning myself on the baking sheet.

So, was it worth it to make my own tortillas? Well, they certainly weren't gummy, which I find most white flour tortillas to be from the grocery store. However, I try to buy whole wheat tortillas which aren't gummy, which is much easier than making my own. At least I know I can do it, if for some reason elecricity becomes really cheap and tortilla-making machine labor very expensive and it makes financial sense to make my own tortillas.

Back to the tacos themselves. I marinated the tempeh overnight and then fried it up in the morning. I had sliced the kale thinly and put with the salt and vinegar overnight. However, Kale is not cabbage, and really it doesn't do too well raw. At least not curly Kale. It was still very raw. I sauteed it for a few mins to get it soft enough for the tacos.

To assemble, I slathered a tortilla with the chili paste, added the tempeh, and topped with the kale. It was pretty good, but I wished I'd put more chile powder in the marinade. I wanted more spice. Also I kind of wished I had salsa or that lime I would have needed for the lime crema.

Next time I will try to make this with cabbage, because I love the cabbage slaw I used to get from the El Salvarean place which unf. closed down. I also made a double recipe since I had a ton of kale, which possibly is calling out to be eaten with some chickpea cutlets (also from V-con). We'll see how my HW goes...

Roasted Eggplant Stuffed Tomatoes

Eggplant Stuffed Tomatoes

This is a great summer farmers market recipe from Vegan Yum Yum. We made it what seems like 150 years ago, but really it was just during the summer and I finally - well, I can't say learned because its too easy really - accepted that I would need to upload my own photos and not rely on J. to do it for me. He used to do it so often and I didn't feel like dealing with it. Actually, its so ridiculously easy and not at all a big deal.

I can't post the recipe due to it being in a cookbook, but I can say it involved sliced bread, roasted eggplants, and of course tomatoes. The only issue with this recipe is it tasted like the ocean. That is how salty the recipe was. Please use caution if you have this cookbook and make this. I would add maybe 1/4 what she calls for. If not for the crazy amount of salt, I know I would like this recipe a lot and I will definately make it again with much less salt.