Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Holiday Cupcakes & Pigwidgeon Ornament

Made some Gingerbread Cupcakes with Lemon Cream Cheese icing and some Red Velvet with plain cream cheese icing.

My mom gave us this owl ornament for the tree. We call it Pigwidgeon. <3 Not food related, but adorable.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Feelin' Like Baking

Are you getting sick of cupcakes yet? No, me neither.

Chocolate Cupcakes with 'Abombinaball' icing. If you remember from my last batch of cupcakes, which were created to taste like the Lush 'Abombinaball' bath bomb, the icing was a melty runny sticky disaster. It tasted good, though. I figured a good vehicle for minty vanilla frosting would be plain ol chocolate cupcakes.

I also had a complaint with icing that is half margarine and half shortening, as you will see in an upcoming post about Snickerdoodle cupcakes. I hate the mouthfeel of shortening. But I like the consistency it gives to frosting. So while I was uncompromising with the icing for the Snickerdoodle cupcakes (all margarine, all the time!) for these I decided to go with 3/4 c margarine and 1/4 c shortening. The result is better, though still not perfect. It's definitely a better frosting to work with, that's indisputable, but I can still feel the shortening. Maybe I just need to get over it. Anyhoo, recipe.

From Isa & Terry's VCTOTW

1 c 'milk'
1 tsp apple cider vinegar 
3/4 c granulated sugar 
1/3 c canola oil 
1 tsp vanilla extract 
1/2 tsp almond extract, chocolate extract, or more vanilla extract (I used Chocolate extract)
1 c flour 
1/3 c cocoa powder
3/4 tsp baking soda 
1/2 tsp baking powder 
1/4 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 350F and line your cupcake pan with fun liners.
Mix the milk and vinegar together and set aside to curdle. Beat the sugar and oil together, then add the milk mixture and the extracts and beat until frothy, a couple of minutes. Sift in  the dry ingredients and mix until no lumps remain. 
Divvy up amongst the cups and bake for 18 - 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes before putting the cupcakes on a rack to cool the rest of the way.

Frosting (based on vegan fluffy buttercream also from VCTOTW)

3/4 c Eartch Balance, room temp

1/4 c shortening, room temp
3 1/2 c icing sugar, sifted
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp mint extract
1/2 tsp butter flavour
3 tbsp 'milk'

Beat the margarine and shortening together until fluffy. Add about half of the icing sugar and beat until well incorporated. Add a tbsp or two of milk and the rest of the sugar and beat well; add the extracts and beat to combine. If the icing is too stiff, add the rest of the milk. This is a LOT of frosting, so pipe very generous swirls onto the cupcakes.

Three Frosting Designs

Swirly swirls, mountain of frosting, lovely rose

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Pictureless Recipe: Panko Coated Chickpea Cutlets and Maple Mustard Sauce

I didn't get any pictures of this meal, but I assure you it was delicious and you want to eat it now.

Meal: panko coated chickpea cutlets with maple mustard sauce, mashed potatoes, green beans and tomato and fennel au gratin.

I've made the chickpea cutlets before but never to great effect. I decided that I would try one last time but instead of frying or baking them immediately, to steam them like one does with vegan sausages and then later coat them in bread crumbs and fry them.

Result? Success! They were definitely a little softer than they probably should have been but I found them much preferable to the other two trials I've made, so I'm pretty happy. The only problem is that I'm a slow prep chef and that combined with adding the steaming onto the cooking made the whole meal take almost 2 hours to make.

The recipes I used for the coating and sauce for the cutlets is from Food & Drink magazine.

Maple Mustard Sauce

1 tbsp olive oil
1 small sweet onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp flour
1 c veg stock
2 tbsp dijon mustard
2 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp soy sauce
salt & pepper

Saute the onion in the olive oil over medium heat until translucent (5 - 7 minutes). Add the garlic and saute another minute. Add the flour and continue to cook another minute, till there is no more white visible.
Whisk in the stock, mustard, syrup, and soy. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and whisk constantly for another 5 minutes or until thickened. Season to taste with salt and pepper; keep warm till ready to serve.

Panko Coated Chickpea Cutlets

1/2 recipe Doublebatch Chickpea Cutlets

 1 tbsp maple syrup
3 tbsp dijon mustard
1 tbsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt

1 c panko bread crumbs

Mix the syrup through salt together in a wide, shallow bowl and place the bread crumbs in a similar bowl. Coat each cutlet in the syrup mixtures and then coat in breadcrumbs. Pan fry over medium heat in olive oil until brown and crispy, 5 - 8 minutes / side.

Serve with the maple mustard sauce. Yum!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Abombinaball Cupcakes

Holy crap. Cupcake Challenge 1.0 is turning out remarkably well.

Today's project was Abombinaball cupcakes. Abombinaball has a remarkable vanilla mint scent which I thought would lend itself well to cupcakeification. I was right.

I'm not sure about the colour combo. Abombinaball has some gold and white and blue, so I made the cupcake blue and the frosting orange. I think if there were to be a round 2 I would do white frosting (if possible... I'll get to that in a second) and blue and yellow sugar sprinkles.

Frosting. The frosting is tasty, but I actually wanted something with a marshmallow consistency, not the soft consistency I got. I use Ricemellow Cream, which is a light gold colour (it's made with brown rice syrup, what did I expect...) and this is the first time I've ever used it so I had no idea what to expect. I think next time I'll either have to use some sort of agar frosting or else go with a plain cream cheese or butter cream frosting. The taste was phenomenal though.

Recipe? Sure.

Adapted from Isa's Vanilla Cupcake Recipe

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pan. 

Mix together
1 c unsweetened almond (or soy) milk
1 tsp apple cider vinegar

Whisk together
1/3 c canola oil
3/4 c sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp artificial butter flavouring
2 tsp mint extract (I have the mint/peppermint combo extract)
Then add in the milk mixture and whisk till frothy (at this point I added somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 drops of blue food colouring. Optional for you, of course)

Sift in
1 1/4 c flour
2 tbsp cornstarch
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Mix up well, you don't want clumps, and then divide among the cups.  Bake for 20 - 22 minutes, remove from oven, cool for 5 minutes then remove to a wire rack and cool the rest of the way.

Beat together
1/2 tofutti cream cheese
1 c Ricemellow Creme

Sift in gradually until smooth
3/4 c icing sugar

1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp butter flavour
1/2 tsp orange extract
1/4 tsp mint extract
some gel colouring if you want

It was quite liquid at this point for me, so I popped it in the fridge for half an hour. This was an unsuccessful ploy. This frosting is really frigging messy and I am unlikely to bother using it again. Thank god it's tasty.

Quite disastrous.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Something I've Missed

I've mentioned before that I don't really miss a lot about my non veg life other than sushi, but once in a while I get a hankering for something that I haven't had in a while and that I used to find scrumptious. Today's craving? Rice crispy squares. Fortunately for me, Vegan Cookie Connoisseur has a simple recipe for these oldies but goodies. And man, they are goodie!

BTW, I'm sure it's equally easy to just replace the marshmallows in the original rice crispy treat with a vegan variety such as Dandies, Sweet & Sara or Ricemallow Creme, but I have the cookbook so I thought I may as well try this one. I also have ricemallow creme that I spied at Whole Foods and will try that later.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Carrot Cake Pancakes

Isa is a goddess of the kitchen. Only a goddess could come up with something so freaking delicious as Carrot Cake Pancakes.
With a healthy dose of Earth Balance on top!

For realz. Seen here with what Ian (lovingly?) refers to as 'smoky tempeh breakfast strips' or in the vegan world, is known simply as tempeh bacon. Awesome breakfast. Could it be made any more awesome if instead of earth balance and maple syrup I had whipped up a little cream cheese icing? Perhaps one day we'll find out.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Holiday Baking, Recipe The First

I bought a new cookie cookbook the other day. The Vegan Cookie Connoisseur. Full of a billion (okay, 140) recipes that I must try. I think the most important ones to try first are the ones that are a possibility on the holiday baking list, since that's coming up soon and I can't just give away cookies that I haven't tried before. You know, quality control and all that business. Thusly, the first recipe I decided to try was the Snickerdoodle one. Is it weird that I haven't had Snickerdoodles before? Fortunately, it was a friend's birthday, and she is a lover of cinnamon, so I didn't have to eat the whole batch myself (or else I would have) because apparently I like Snickerdoodles. I also really like the word Snickerdoodle.



A couple of notes about this: 1. They didn't flatten themselves out at all, I flattened them out after I rolled them in the cinnamon sugar. 2. I think they needed to be more heavily doused in the cinnamon sugar. Even doing them like to you do the chocolate crinkle cookies - first roll in regular sugar and then in powdered (cinnamon) sugar might do the trick. 3. I think it was too cold in here for the Earth Balance to get the proper consistency when I was creaming it with the sugar. That might help the flattening and should help with the consistency, which was a little doughier than I expected. I'll try them again and see what happens, though they were certainly passable as was.

Sunday, November 13, 2011


I actually haven't made brownies in ages, but Ian recently edited and transferred a ton of my food photos from the last year to me so I figure hey, why not make use of 'em.

This brownie recipe is from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar. They are second to none in my world of brownies. I can't find the recipe anywhere online but I can tell you what the secret ingredient is: silken tofu. Tofu brownies, people. So fucking delicious. They're dense, moist, have that nommy crust on top that is the mark of a great brownie... well I think I've said it all.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Mushroom Risotto

Ian's running a marathon on Sunday. 42.2km (somewhere around 4hrs) of continuous activity takes a lot of energy, so according to some website thing he found, he has to eat 20 cups of rice or pasta. That seems excessive, but whatever, I'm willing to help if it means making delicious risotto.

And none of this trendy none-rice risotto, either. Barley risotto? What the fuck is that? The Italians would have none of that, I'll tell you what.

 No, it's not pretty. I didn't have daylight. Sorry!

1 pkg dried mixed mushrooms
2 tbsp olive oil
1 very small onion, finely chopped
3 shallots, finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
8oz sliced mushrooms (I had button on hand; this is very delicious with cremini or mixed wild mushrooms too though)
1 1/2 c arborio or carnaroli rice
1/4 - 1/2 c white wine
5 c veg stock
salt and pepper
1 - 2 tbsp Earth Balance

Place the dried mushrooms in a measuring cup; cover with boiling water (about a cup) and let steep for 20 minutes.

Put the stock in a small pan and heat over low heat; keep heated throughout the process.

Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat. Toss in the onions and shallots and cook until softened and translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds more, then add the mushrooms. I like the mushrooms to retain their texture so at this point I only cook them for a couple of minutes; if you like super mushy mushrooms you may have wanted to add them when you started with the onions.

Add the rice and cook, stirring, until it's all coated in oil and cooked a little bit, about 5 minutes. Add the wine; I free poured cause that's how I roll but I estimate it was about 1/2 c or less. Stir until it's absorbed. At this point pull the rehydrated mushrooms out of their liquid and give'em a little squeeze. Chop them up and toss them into the pan. Add about half of the liquid and stir continuously until it's absorbed. Add the other half and repeat. Then start ladling in the broth in about half cup increments. At this point, I add broth, give it a good stir, and then leave the room and do something else for a couple of minutes. If you're a mother hen you can just stand and keep stirring, but I find it pretty unnecessary unless your pan is too hot.

When you've used up all the broth, turn off the heat and add the Earth Balance and salt and pepper to taste. Done!

ps Ian ran the marathon in 4:02. That's his new PB (personal best, duh) by 8 whole minutes!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Cupcake Challenge 1.0!

First, here's a Crimson Velveteen cupcake I made from VCTOTW for a staff meeting the other day.

Pretty wrappers!

Cheerio in the background!

They were a hit. I need to pick up some chocolate extract next time I'm at Golda's, since according to the recipe the flavour will be elevated to supreme deliciousness with it, but I forgot last time I was there so just added a little more vanilla and almond instead. I frosted regular cupcake type swirls and then decided to branch out to roses with my trusty 1m frosting tip. Seriously, that thing has been the best $1.99 (if it was even that much!) purchase ever. I think I just keep making cupcakes so I can use it.

Speaking of just making cupcakes. If you don't know, I work for a lovely soap company called Lush which makes really delightful bath, body, hair and skin things for the masses. Every year at Christmas they come out with a huge collection of wonderful limited edition treats, mostly bath stuff, though for the past couple of years they've done lip tints, a facial cleanser, and a lip scrub as well. Anyhoo, I thought I'd have a good time and turn some of these superb items into cupcakes.

Abombinaball: Super cute abominable snowman shaped bomb which smells of vanilla and mint. I'm in love with this guy. I'm thinking either a vanilla bean cupcake with mint buttercream frosting or else just trying to make both components amazingly vanilla minty. I'll be tinting the icing light blue, natch. Perhaps some nice blue and gold sugar crystals on the edge? I'll be thinking about how to make this a boozy frosting too. That would be double bonus points.

Gingerbread House: exactly what it sounds like. I could even make it look identical to the bubble bar really easily! How adorable would that be.

Snow Fairy:If I can find gelatin-free swedish berries (which, I'm pretty sure actually do exist?) this sweet fragrance would make some lovely, yummy cupcakes. Not to mention the fact that they'd be beautiful and hot pink. Double whammy of awesome.

There are a lot of citrus scented things out this Christmas, too, and I will contemplate them but I'm not a super huge fan of orange flavour cupcakes. If only there were more lemon things! Darn it all.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Halloween Cupcakes!

I would say this post is going to be boring, but of course nothing with cupcakes can ever be boring.

I bought some fun eyeball cupcake liners and just made some plain mini vanilla cupcakes with vanilla buttercream frosting that I tinted orange with gel food colouring. This is also the first time I've use the gel food colouring and let me tell you, what a delightful treat! The colour is super pure so you need only a tiny bit to get vibrant frosting. It's much less messy than those darn little elf hat topped liquid colours too.

Unfortunately, my frosting wasn't soft enough for the sprinkles to stick, so there are 5 sprinkles on 1 cupcake and approximately a million sprinkles on the kitchen table.



Terrifyingly adorable!

In retrospect, it would have been funny to hold two cupcakes with the big eyes showing so they look like they were looking at you with their creepy eyes. Oh well. Next year. Happy late Halloween!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Wood ear mushrooms!

Exotic ingredient spotted: dried wood ear mushrooms at Whole Foods! Something twigged in my mind when I saw them and I couldn't quite remember what it was, so naturally I bought them and took them home and leafed through Veganomicon. Sure enough, there's a recipe for a hot n sour soup with wood ear mushroom and napa cabbage.

I haven't had hot n sour soup since going veg almost two years ago, so this was a particularly fortuitous find. I didn't know how much to buy - they're ridiculously light! - so it turns out I have enough left to make another pot.

Anyway, the soup is amazing even if not exactly what I remember. I think it was just a consistency thing - this soup isn't the super thick almost gelatin-y soup I had come to expect. The flavour was perfect though and the chewiness of the wood ears was divine.

Something I rarely do: use the white bowls. Thought the colour of the soup should be shown!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Lentil Soup

In a short time I made two lentil soups. The first was the Sniffle Soup from ED&BV, which we enjoyed. The most recent was Arabian Lentil and Rice Soup from AfR. Verdict? We love lentil soups!

The soup was easy to throw together and of course yummy. I don't know anything about Lebanese or Arabian cooking, so I trust that the cumin and coriander made it authentic tasting. However, once again AfR proves itself to be one of the most valuable books in my collection. Also, we eat a lot of soup.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Vegan Staple: Chili

I read once that there are as many vegan chili recipes as there are vegans. I'm sure that's true; I wanted chili the other day and looking through a few of my cookbooks alone I probably had 15 or 20 at my disposal. None of them suited my tastes however; I wanted the chili I used to make in the good ol' omnivore days, hearty and sweet with just  touch of chili.

Problem: where in heck did I used to cook the recipe out of? Scoured a couple more cookbooks and found it: People's Choice Chili from The Complete Canadian Living Cookbook. Their recipe is pretty much all about the meat, but what I wanted was the flavour, so here's my take on it.

Another ugly but taste food.

The "Meaty" Component
1 c tvp crumbles
1 tbsp maple syrup
1.5 tsp liquid smoke
1 tbsp tamari or soy sauce
1 c broth
Boiling Water

Put the crumbles in a bowl. Mix the syrup, liquid smoke, tamari and broth together. Pour onto the crumble and then add enough boiling water to cover; cover the bowl and let soak until ready to throw into the chili (at least 15 minutes).

The Chili
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 large carrot, or 10ish baby carrots, chopped
1 stalk of celery, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced or crushed
1/4 c wine (I used red, white would be great too)
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can kidney beans
1 can baked beans
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp molasses
1 tsp dry mustard
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce (I finally found vegan Worcestershire! It was at Whole Foods! The back of the bottle reads that it's great with chicken. I mean, why bother finding the vegan variety if you're only going to put it on chicken? Weird.)
Salt & Pepper
Hot sauce if you want it spicier (I added probably 1/2 tsp Frank's Red Hot)

Saute the onion, celery and carrots in the oil over medium-high heat until softened. Add the garlic and cook for a minute more. Deglaze with the wine, then toss in everything else. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and let cook for about half and hour. Drain the tvp of any excess water and add to the chili and cook for another 15 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

I got a new frosting tip!

Just wanted to share the joy that is the 1M frosting tip. It's been a long time coming, and I've been making do with other tips, which are fine, but don't make the cupcake look nearly as glamorous as the ones in the magazines.


Vanilla with Vanilla buttercream.

Chocolate with Chocolate buttercream

See how the chocolate one has more defined ridges and just looks a bit fancier somehow? Sadly I don't have pictorial evidence of using the 1A tip to do the chocolate frosting, but it's just a plain smooth tip and makes it look like cartoon dog poo on a cupcake. I mean, we know it's chocolate and all, but this is definitely preferable. So, if you don't have one, go get the 1M tip. It's pretty magical. Also, be prepared for so many more cupcakes. I'm planning on some good Christmas (LUSH!) themed ones.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Fall = Soup

The weather the last few days (weeks?) has been spectacularly crummy. I like Autumn, but this business of raining constantly is just getting on my nerves. The one upside in this is that it's soup weather. In the Service (of Guelph) residence, it's always soup season, because we don't like to discriminate. But summer soups are lighter and brothier, for the most part, than the creamy, heavy, blended soups we consume so much in the fall / winter months.

I've had this soup out of ED&BV on my list for quite some time now. Fortunately, it's one of those soups that you probably always have the ingredients for on hand, so even though it wasn't in my meal plan this week, I had forgotten that the kid was going to spend the day with his grandparents on Wednesday and that it would be nice to send him with some food - as well as have some to take to work for lunch for myself! Whipped this up at 9pm the night before and tomorrow will be day 3 of lunch from it, so roughly 6 servings. Perfect.

Sniffle Soup

Now, the description says that it was originally made for Dreena's daughter, who had a cold. I would probably up the curry ante by about a tablespoon if I really wanted this to be a good sinus clearing soup, but as is, it's quite tasty and definitely super hearty. One thing I really like about most of the things I've cooked out of ED&BV (this is no exception) is that they're naturally low fat even though it doesn't profess to be a low fat book. This soup is no exception; you can cook the onions in as little or as much oil as you want, and there's no added milk of any kind to make this creamy, since the lentils make it that thick consistency all by their lonesome.

If you have the book and haven't tried this recipe yet, go for it; it's perfect for this time of year.

Monday, October 17, 2011

What do you do with leftover roast?

I've been planning on cooking out of Robin Robertson's Vegan Planet since I bought it a week or two ago. I figured I couldn't let MoFo go by without purchasing at least one cookbook. Flipping through, a few things caught my eye, among them Belgian-Style Seitan Stew with Dark Beer. Perfect! I've got about a pound of seitan leftover from last week's Thanksgiving dinner.

First things first, of course. Dark beer. Normally my husband drinks Guinness, which isn't vegan, so I had the task of finding one that is vegan. Fortunately for me, for his most recent birthday our friends gave Ian 30 different beers (30 beers for 30 years!), so this task was no more difficult than venturing to the basement and happening upon a German dark beer still residing in the beer fridge.

Checked the trusty internet, and yes, this dude is vegan! Sadly, it's not a beer I could actually sit down and drink. It's super bitter and kind of terrible. I'm sure someone who's really into dark beers might enjoy it, but it's not for me.

Next, I had to worry about feeding Dash, who was wandering around, yelling at random stuff, and pulling measuring spoons and cups out of the kitchen drawers. One of his favorite things? Toast with avocado.

What can I say, he's an easy kid to please when it comes to food. Thank goodness!

Then, Dash's appetite sated and the correct beer found, I was free to make the stew. The recipe comes together pretty easily and quickly, though it calls for quite a bit of oil which I cut down on drastically. It also caramelizes the onions by adding brown sugar, which I did this time, but if (when) I make this recipe again, I will definitely caramelize the onions myself without the sugar. It's unnecessary and barely any quicker, on top of which caramelized onions have so much depth of flavour without added sugar that it seems foolish to try to replace them in this fashion.

The finished dish is pretty tasty, I must say, caramelized onions aside. The consistency is great as well, just the perfect thickness. I threw in a handful of baby carrots when things were simmering, too, just to get some veg in there; plus, what's stew without carrots? Not stew. Not. Stew.

I wish stew was more photogenic, but alas, it's ugly. I'll be serving it over mashed potatoes possibly with some sort of green vegetable (or, who knows, roasted endive, since it's Belgian).

On a semi unrelated note, I read an awesome thing about food photography during the very beginning of MoFo and then couldn't find it. While I was searching for it, I came across a different, yet equally awesome blog post about it. Vegan YumYum's post is lovely and gives lots of fun info without getting crazily complex. The most important thing she says is this

Using natural light is probably the number one thing you can do to improve your photos. Turning off the flash, since you’re using lovely natural light, is the second best thing.
One thing I can't stress enough is how awful photos taken with a flash look. I know Vegan MoFo isn't all about how good people are at photography, and yes I have loads to learn myself, but I guarantee that 90% of the photos I shudder at could be improved about 90% by having been taken in natural light. Yes, this can't always be done. However, by and large I think people just don't realize how easy it would be to make more awesome photos. You don't need to have fancy equipment or turn pro; you could take perfectly passable photos just by putting the food on a surface near a source of natural light!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Monday, October 10, 2011

It's the REAL Thanksgiving, y'all!

Starting off right - with a picture of dinner.

Because I'm a big idiot I forgot to book any time off for Thanksgiving this weekend. Both sides of the the family did the dinner thing on Sunday, so with no prospect of a big food coma inducing dinner on the horizon, I took those reins into my own hands and decided to make a fairly traditional Thanksgiving meal for just the three of us.

Pre icing

Seitan Turkey
Mushroom Gravy
Roasted Acorn Squash
Mashed Potatoes
Wax Beans
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cupcakes with Cinnamon Icing

The roast was pretty good. I had some anger issues when I was making it because my dough hook was being a crappy old son of a bitch, so I had to do the first ten minutes of kneading by hand. These hands are not made for manual labour, people. That was hard work. Ian's criticism is that it won't make him tired and gassy - for shame.

For the gravy, I followed the recipe I posted last week, except that I added some dried porcinis. I soaked them in hot water (one cup) for 45 minutes first and then used the mushroom water in place of one cup of the broth.

Pretty Shallots

I roasted the squash with the turkey for the last hour and a half because the oven temp was lower than I would do squash by itself. It turned out perfectly, and I just added salt and pepper to serve it.

Mashed potatoes... well if you don't know how to make mashed potatoes. I don't know what to say. I used Earth Balance and veg stock and a spoonful of dijon in mine; I also boiled them with 4 cloves of garlic. Pretty typical mashed potatoes, yes?

I like beets pretty simply done; roasted in a tin foil package with a couple tablespoons of water, some salt and pepper and a drizzle of oil for an hour and a bit (425F or so). Then I peel them, cut them into chunks, drizzle with olive oil and good balsamic and then salt and pepper to taste.

The cupcakes were dreamy. For serious. So good. Make them now and always. That's an order.
Fun Artsy Icing Squiggles

Lesson time: don't bother buying these pretty tulip cupcake papers. They're $5.50 for only 15 wrappers. They're so thin the oil is really evident. And really, they're just silly. So yeah.

Friday, October 7, 2011


There comes a point in your cooking career - and yes, if you make dinner more often than not, even if you don't get paid for it, it's a career - where you start to think you're actually pretty good. You may consider this the point when your food is perfectly cook every time. It may be when you develop a recipe of your own. It may be when you start to cook by taste and improve on your grandma's recipe for your favorite stew. Wherever that point may be, it exists. You start to think highly of yourself. You start to shun particular types of restaurant food because you can make it better.

And then, if you're me, you colossally fuck up a majorly easy dinner and remember that you're not Gordon Ramsay. You're Brianne and human and still prone to errors sometimes. Bloody hell.

Last night I *tried* to make fried breakfast sausages with sauteed spinach, VWAV baking powder biscuits, and mushroom gravy. I made the sausages. And burnt them like only the flames of hell can burn a sausage. The spinach? Had a weird piece of plastic in it. The biscuits? Flat and over cooked.

The mushroom gravy turned out great. Thank god, because otherwise I would have quit cooking for the rest of the month. It could almost disguise the charred flavour of the sausages. Almost.

Need a great gravy recipe? Here you are.

Mushroom Gravy

3 tbsp olives oil
8 oz cremini mushrooms, sliced
2 shallots, cut in half and sliced thinly
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
3 tbsp flour
2 c veg broth

Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and shallots and saute until mushrooms are soft. Add the garlic and cook 30 more seconds.

Add the flour. Stir to coat the vegetables completely. Stirring often, cook the flour and oil until it is slightly golden, 5 minutes or so.

Stream in the first half cup of broth while stirring constantly. Add the rest of the broth, bring heat up to high and bring to a boil. Let boil for 7 or 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until desired thickness is achieved. Add salt and pepper to taste. Gravy will thicken more as it cools, as well.

Other things you can do:
sub 1/2 c (or more, you wino) of broth for white wine
add a tablespoon of dijon mustard to the broth
add dried herbs when you add the broth: dried tarragon would work well

Monday, October 3, 2011


Udon with Shittake Mushrooms and Kale in Miso Broth

Super yummy, especially great autumn food. I blogged about this last year too but everyone probably needs an increase in their leafy greens so it's worth a second visit. The recipe says it'll serve 4 people; if you are Ian and I, it doesn't go further than lunch. We either eat a lot or the recipe is lying a little; you make it and decide!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Last Night's Dinner

Vegan Mofo Day 1: Pasta.

I'm not a super sauce lover on my pasta. Tomato sauce is something we have maybe once a year. We eat curried noodles slightly more often, with a coconut milk and curry sauce, but even then, we're more likely to have curry on rice than pasta. Most recently we had the fennel and tomato 'sauce' from ED&BV on pasta, and that was pretty delicious, but not at all saucy.

So I wanted pasta last night and didn't want real sauce. I took inspiration from Isa Chandra Moskowitz's Ginger Bok Choy and Soba Noodles recipe out of Appetite for Reduction. I'm still a little sick from a cold that I started feeling a week ago so ginger, garlic, and red pepper flakes are the first things on my mind. I modified it enough that it pretty much isn't even the same recipe anymore, so here you go.

8 oz soba noodles
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, cut in half then sliced thinly (I used a sweet onion because I had it; I can pretty much guarantee a red onion would be good too.)
8 oz mushrooms (I used pre sliced portobellos; use whatever you like. I wanted a more hearty component)
4 cloves garlic, 3 minced/crushed, 1 sliced
2" knob of garlic, prepared however you like (I use a vegetable peeler to peel off super thin slices; sometimes I then cut those into strips, but usually not. If you like it minced or chopped, go ahead!)
red pepper flakes to taste - start with 1/4 tsp, but if you like spicier go with 1/2 tsp
1 head broccoli, cut up into florettes
1/4 c white wine (broth would work if you don't have wine)
2 tbsp tamari

1. Start your water boiling for the noodles. The rest comes together pretty fast so it's important to get this started. Remember to salt the water well.

2. Heat the oil in a pan over medium - high heat. Saute the onions and mushrooms (add a pinch of salt, too) until the onions are translucent but not totally soft, they're good with a bit of crunch. Add the ginger, garlic and red pepper and saute 30 seconds more. Add the pasta to the boiling water.

3. Add the wine and deglaze the pan, then add the broccoli. Pop a lid on the pan and, stirring occasionally, let the broccoli steam in the wine until tender crisp, roughly ten minutes.

4. Check the pasta, and drain and return to the pot when it's done. Remove the lid from the broccoli and add the tamari. Cook off the excess moisture for 2 minutes or so.

5. Taste for salt. Dole out the pasta and then top with the broccoli. Enjoy!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Beginning of Vegan Mofo 2011

Hi! Welcome to Vegan Mofo 2011!

I'm hoping not to crap out early like I did last year. I had wanted to be doing a cookbook challenge simultaneously with Mofo but I don't think that's super realistic right now so I'll just concentrate on doing whatever I can and keeping up with the posting.

I must go make some dinner now... about which I will likely post on the morrow.

Here's to an Amazing Mofo 2011!

Vanilla Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting - VCTOTW

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Cookbook Challenge: Week 1

My Week 1 cookbook was Eat, Drink & Be Vegan by Dreena Burton. I actually purchased this for the spring cookbook challenge and did make some stuff out of it, but haven't really cracked it since.

As tomatoes are looking pretty lovely and are from Ontario fields right now, not just the hothouses, I decided to go with Roasted Tomato and Fennel Pasta with Pine Nuts and Capers.

The recipe is super easy, since it pretty much just involves throwing the fennel and tomatoes on a baking sheet and roasting them for a while. You boil your pasta and when it's done you add the roasted vegetables and some capers and fresh basil and chow down! I thought I had pine nuts but apparently I got rid of them in the last round of kitchen clean up so I was missing that element; bet it would have been great with them though. Although I don't really have 'staple' foods per se, I will definitely be making this recipe again. The smell of the roasting vegetables was phenomenal and alone is enticement to make it again!

I made my own balsamic dressing for the salad, an old stand by my mom taught me. It's balsamic, olive oil, a clove of garlic, a spoon full of dijon mustard, salt and pepper. Beat together with a fork until it forms a nice emulsion and voila!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Cookbook Challenge!

A website I frequent regularly has 'Cookbook Challenges.' Everyone votes on which cookbooks to choose, and those books are assigned to a week. The challenges are usually 12 weeks long and each week a thread is started wherein everyone posts which recipes they have made (we try for a minimum of three for the week) from the selected book that week and awesomeness ensues. The idea is to pull out books that you maybe haven't cook from in a while, or to choose recipes that you haven't ever used before.

The last challenge was more of a challenge than most since I had a young baby to tend to and I kind of crapped out part way through, though I did get some of it done but never blogged about. The pictures are still in Ian's black hole of food pictures which may never see the light of day, by the way. The current challenge includes a ton of cookbooks that I do not own and, as I have now once again relegated myself to the realm of poor-studentness, I do not plan on purchasing any time soon.

Therefore, I've decided that I will do my own challenge with the books I do own. The one currently getting the most use is Appetite for Reduction, which, while it's awesome and totally deserving of the spot light, means the rest of my collection is gathering dust on my shelf. Time to do something about that.

Part of the challenge happens to coincide with Vegan Mofo, which this year is the month of October. Last year I vowed I would work on veganizing favorite dishes for MoFo. Since the challenge will take up a good part of my time and 'blogging energies' as it were, I will veganize one dish / week. Plus I've only managed to veganize two dishes ever anyway. This could be a disaster. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Mish Mash

Sometimes two things sound good to me and I can't decide which I want. Then I make both, even if they don't go together. That's the case with this meal, it's a mish mash of various flavours that don't necessarily go together but who are you to tell me what I can and can't eat together? NO ONE. You're not the boss of me. I'll do what I want.

Both recipes adapted from Food & Drink magazine (free from the LCBO.)

Orzo with Fresh Orange & Olives
Early Summer 2011

I'll start with your basic lesson on segmenting oranges. Use a good knife to slice off the peel & pith from the orange, following the line of the peel so you don't lose too much orange. Once it's devoid of peel, slice the orange into section between the membranes, so all you'll have left is a weird membrane-y thinger that is the skeleton of the orange. For this recipe, do this over a bowl, because you'll want to save the juice. It's a bit of a messy process, but you're left with awesome clean segments.

  • 2 large oranges
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 c rice (I prefer Thai Jasmine, but whatever you like will work)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp hot pepper flakes (I probably used almost 1 tsp; we're spice freaks)
  • 3 1/2 c veg broth*
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 c kalamata olives, pitted and sliced, a few reserved for garnish
  • 1/4 c snipped chives or thinly sliced green onions
*depends on how much orange juice you have

Do your thing with the oranges. Reserve the juice; pour into a measuring cup. Add enough broth so that you'll have 4 c total liquid.

In a pot over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Add rice and fry, stirring, until a little golden, around 7 minutes. Add the pepper flakes and garlic and continue to saute for about a minute.

Add the broth-juice mixture and the salt. Cover and bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for 10 - 15 minutes, until all liquid is absorbed and rice is tender. You know, like how you cook rice.

When it's done, stir in the sliced olives, put it in your serving dish, and top with the orange segments and whole olives. Or be lazy like me and stir everything together and serve it from the pot, 'presentation' be damned.

*note: if using Orzo, use only 2.5 c of broth plus the orange juice*

Maple Mustard Mushrooms and Beans
Adapted from Maple Mustard Pork Medallions with Two Potatoes, Spring 2011
I made regular old garlic mashed potatoes instead of the two potatoes this recipe includes; if you don't know how to make mashed potatoes, vegan or not, there's a problem. You should probably exit your kitchen and leave the cooking up to the *real* chefs.

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp Earth Balance
  • 1 sweet onion, cut into quarters and then sliced thinly (called for finely chopped, but since the sauce is the main dish and not just a topping, I like a little more texture to it. YMMV of course)
  • 8 oz cremini mushrooms, halved
  • 1/4 c flour
  • 1/4 c mustard - it called for grainy, I used tarragon dijon, just don't use prepared yellow or Keen's hot and you'll be fine.
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 c veg broth
  • 1 can white kidney beans, drained and rinsed sliced green onions for garnish (or chives or parsley; I skipped this part because I am lazy)

Heat the olive oil & Earth Balance over medium heat. Why are there are various settings is beyond me; you may as well just do everything on medium. Anyway. Add your onions & mushrooms. Saute until soft & translucent, as onions are wont to get; mushrooms should release their mosture and cook down a little but not till they're gone. 5 - 7 minutes should do it. Toss in the flour and stir constantly, cooking until it becomes a lightish golden colour, another 5 - 7 minutes or so. Just make sure the flour's cooked, no one wants that gross raw flour flavour and texture in their yummy sauce.
Add the mustard, syrup, vinegar and broth, stirring well to incorporate everything. Let it come to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until it's almost at the thickness you want - like gravy. If it gets a little too thick, just stream in a bit more broth.

Toss in your beans and heat through. Serve over mashed potatoes with green onions sprinkled on top.

Butter Chicken - Vegan stylez.

I almost never miss meat. I miss the convenience factor because all fast food is meat centric. Some of my favorite cuisines include Indian and Thai, both of which are pretty easy to take the meat out of, so I'm fortunate that way. One thing I've never seen a veg version of, though, is butter chicken. I always, and I mean ALWAYS, ordered butter chicken from our local Indian haunt (which has sadly closed its doors. Heart breaking). Why can't you just make that sauce and put it on vegetables, darn it?

Oh, wait, you totally can. No one does, but I'm nothing if not a pioneer. Okay, I'm not a pioneer, I'm just a gal craving a comfort food from ages past.

I adapted this from the lovely book 1000 Indian Recipes, by Neelam Batra. For all you veg*ns out there, it also has clearly marked all vegan recipes which is awesome, of which there are many.

There are a couple of different steps involved, but I promise it will be worth it in the end. This first go-round, I decided to straight up sub vegan things for the dairy; next time around I will probably change it up a bit and make the cream sauce from cashews. I'd love to find vegan ghee, and I know it exists, but for the amount I'll use it I don't think it will be worth the search, so I will likely stick with Earth Balance next time as well. I'm actually really confused as to why this is even called Butter Chicken, since the amount of butter is so negligible (2tbsp? Seriously?).

Step 1: Tandoori Tofu

1 lb extra firm tofu, pressed
juice of 1 lime
1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)

Cut your tofu into grillable squares. For me, that's 8 pieces. For you, that might be different. Put it into a container with the salt and the lime juice, shake it all up so it's coated. Marinate it for somewhere around 2 hours. The tofu will suck up most of the lime juice, which is cool. It'll have a yummy zing when you bite into it.

1 tbsp grated ginger
3 cloves crushed garlic
1/3 c soy yogurt
2 tbsp soy creamer
1 tbsp peanut oil
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/8 tsp turmeric

Mix all these guys together; toss it in the container with the limey tofu and shake it up so everything is coated. For chicken, the book recommends marinating for a minimum of 8 hours. I didn't have that kind of time so mine marinated for around 4 or 5. If you have the fore thought to go longer, by all means do so.

When you're tired of marinating it, preheat your BBQ and toss the pieces on until they have lovely char marks on each side. That's roughly a few minutes / side. You could bake it or broil it if you want, just bake or broil it however you normally do tofu.

Tear or cut it up into bite size pieces to prepare it for the 'butter' sauce!

The "Butter" Part

2 tbsp Earth Balance
1 1" stick cinnamon
2 bay leaves
2 black cardamom pods, crushed
5 - 7 green cardamom pods, crushed
10 cloves
4 cloves garlic, chopped
8 slices of ginger (about the size of a quarter)
1 - 3 green chiles ie serrano (I used 2, and I used red finger peppers because green / serranos were not available. Mine turned out much more spicy than average butter chicken, so beware, especially if you are a spice wuss!)
5 large tomatoes, chopped
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
2 1/2 c water
1 tsp salt
1/2 to 1 c soy creamer

Melt your Earth Balance over medium heat and saute the cinnamon stick through to the peppers until fragrant and peppers are starting to brown a little, 2 or 3 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, paprika, nutmeg and water. Turn the heat to high and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce to med-low, and let simmer 20 - 25 minutes or until reduced to about half.

Let cool. Pass through a food mill or a fine mesh strainer. I used the strainer and mashed everything to heck with the back of a wooden spoon. The mill will result in a thicker consistency at this point, and probably would have avoided my thin sauce problem that I ended up with (fixed by adding a tablespoon of cornstarch mixed with a tablespoon of water, later).

Return to the pan, add salt and your tandoori tofu and cook for about 10 minutes. Add the soy creamer and let cook for another 5 minutes. If your sauce seems thin now is the time to add a little cornstarch mixed with water. You want the sauce to coat the tofu, not run off it.

Extra Fat Flavour

2 tbsp peanut oil
1 - 3 serrano or other chiles, sliced
1" ginger, peeled and cut into matchsticks

Heat the oil, turn it off and toss in the ginger and pepper, swirling. Mix this into your butter sauce when it's all done, to finish.

And in the word of Gordon Ramsay, Vegan Butter Chicken, DONE.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Some light activism for this Friday afternoon

I don't intend this blog to become a thing about food activism. For the most part, I don't really care what other people eat (though I definitely judge what other people feed their kids... but that's a whole 'nother story). I eat what I eat because of my own personal ethical & environmental choices and I expect other people to follow their own ethics and make their own decisions.

I've taken it upon myself to get a little education about food over the past year. I don't mean learning nutritional information. Unless you're a moron it's actually pretty easy to eat a balanced diet. I mean learning about the production of food, how it's grown, where it comes from, how it's slaughtered (if applicable), why the chain of food (note: not the circle of life chain of food) functions the way it does.

One thing has been repeated over and again. Corn is bad. Corn is the debbil. Corn is everywhere and it will kill you. Okay, so maybe it won't kill you. But it IS everywhere and the evils of corn are so pervasive that there isn't a facet of the food production industry that is not somehow involved with corn.

Take, for instance, the beef industry. When you think of a cow, you picture it standing knee deep in a luxurious field of grass, chewing its cud, lowing at its calf, a red bank barn somewhere in the distance, and so on and so forth. Idyllic. And great, cows are made to eat grass. That's what they do. It keeps them healthy and happy.

Guess what cows shouldn't eat? Corn. They can't digest corn properly and tend to get sick and require antibiotics. A cow in the wild would never say to itself "Mmm look at that luscious corn field, fuck this grass y'all."

Guess who's having a massive advertising campaign? Ontario Corn Fed Beef! People, please don't believe the hype. Corn fed beef is ridiculously bad for agriculture, the consumer, the cows, and the environment. Avoid beef altogether if you can't find grain or grass fed.

Why is it bad?
- they have to do a lot of work to make cows eat corn because it's not a natural food for them
- corn fed cows are prone to sickness, so they are injected with antibiotics before slaughter, which are unnecessary in grass fed cattle
- corn crops are almost 100% owned by Monsanto, which is pretty much the world's most evil corporation (genetically modified foods, legal battles with small farmers, and so on)
- corn fed beef is not from your happy outside cow; it's from a giant factory farm which are terrible for the environment

There's so much more. Please check out Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma, Jonathan Safran Foer's Eating Animals and the excellent documentary Food, Inc. I've also heard good things about the documentary King Corn. While the books have a bit of a vegetarian lean (Safran Foer is vegetarian) their discussions of the food chain are definitely, shall we say, enlightening.

The take away? Seriously, kids, avoid that corn fed beef. The marketing industry is almost as evil as the corn industry, but don't let their shiny posters fool you. Corn fed bad. Grass fed good.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Here I am!

The one that you love!

Okay, not really. But I haven't posted anything in a million years. I still have pictures that need to be processed on the other camera from MoFo. But I thought I'd post a very amateur non edited pic of a cake that I veganized today. And not only is it my first veganization, it's my first recipe that I'm posting here! But before that...

Food & Drink is a free magazine put out by the LCBO. It used to be my favorite mag in the whole world to cook out of (I have almost 10 years worth of copies!) but they don't offer a lot in the way of vegetarian / vegan variations. Now that I cook exclusively vegan at home, I'm finding that while I still enjoy leafing through the magazine, I'm just getting sad that I can't have everything in it. Not using animal products doesn't mean that I don't want to try out these amazing flavour combinations, you know? My goal is to make MoFo '11 all about veganizing some of my faves, but in the meantime, I'll do a couple here and there for fun.

So the recipe is Wholesome Carrot Bran Brunch Cake from Food & Drink magazine. It's pretty dense and moist, not unlike a proper carrot / bran muffin. The icing adds just a hint of sweetness, as the cake itself is actually not overly sweet, but it's probably not entirely necessary if you're watching your lovely figure. I'm loving this, even though there are so many steps, as it is one tasty cake, and it kind of feels healthy what with that whole wheat flour, bran, and grated carrot, you know?

So here goes...

3c grated carrot
1/2c raisins, plumped by submersing in boiling water if too dry
1/2c almonds plain almonds, chopped and toasted*
1 can (398ml) pineapple pieces, drained, juice reserved (mash the pineapple with the back of a wooden spoon into your sieve to get as much juice out as possible)
1c non dairy milk mixed with 1tsp apple cider vinegar, left to curdle
2 tbsp ground flax seed
8oz (1/2 pack) extra firm silken tofu (Mori-Nu)
2/3c vegetable oil
1/4c yogurt - I used vanilla Yoso because I find it impossible to find plain!
2tsp vanilla
1c brown sugar
3c whole wheat flour
1 1/2c wheat bran
2tbsp baking powder
1tsp baking soda
1tsp salt
1 1/2tsp cinnamon
1tsp cardamom
1/2tsp allspice
1tsp ground ginger

*Toasting nuts: you can pop 'em in your preheated oven for about 6 minutes, stirring in the middle or you can toast them in a dry frying pan on the stove for around the same amount of time, tossing every couple of minutes.

1/4c pineapple juice
2 1/2c sugar

1. Preheat your oven to 350F. Put your rack in the bottom 3rd of the oven. Also, grease a bundt pan. Although I usually wait to grease because I use spray and if you spray too much in advance, you run the risk of a puddle of oil sitting in the bottom - gross. Either way, don't forget to do it!

2. Get out the food processor or blender. Blend the tofu with the oil. If it's not blending nice and smoothly (mine didn't), add a tablespoon or two of the reserved pineapple juice. Scrape down the sides of the blender, add the yogurt, and blend till creamy. Add the flax to the milk mixture and whisk together for a minute or two.

3. Transfer the tofu and milk mixtures to a bowl; add 1/4c of the reserved pineapple juice, the vanilla, and the brown sugar. Beat until well combined.

4. Put all the dry ingredients in a large bowl and whisk together. Make a well in the centre; pour in the wet ingredients and stir until just combined. Add the nuts, raisins, and pineapple and stir. Sprinkle on the carrot and give a final stir until everything is mixed in good and proper.

5. If you didn't spray / grease your pan back in step 1, do so now. Put your cake batter in the pan and even it out with a spoon - it's super thick and will not spread evenly on it's own in the oven. Bake for an hour to an hour and ten minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool 10 or 15 minutes. You may have to use a thin knife around the inside of the pan to get it to come out, or if you're lucky like me, you may not, but either way get it outta there and let it cool on a rack the rest of the way before glazing.

6. Glaze: whisk together the sugar and juice, adding more juice if necessary. You want to be able to pour it onto the cake but you don't want it to be runny, so be careful! Then go ahead and glop it on the cooled cake, slice with a serrated knife, and serve!