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