Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Scraping up some Soup

On Sunday night we were too tired to get groceries, and there wasn't a whole lot in the fridge. I wanted soup because I had made some oatmeal bread earlier in the day, but didn't have much to put in it. I knew I had lentils in the pantry, but was shocked that I barely had half a cup. I did have split peas, and decided to combine the two for a hearty adlib soup.

And the recipe...

Curried Lentil Split-Pea Soup

2 tblsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 carrots, thinly sliced in rounds
1 tsp mustard seeds
6 cups water
1/2 cup dried red lentils, rinsed
1 cup dried split peas, rinsed
1 cube vegetable stock (optional)
1 heaping tsp curry powder
1 tsp salt
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Heat olive oil in a soup pot. Saute garlic and carrots for 1 min. Add mustard seeds and saute for 2 min. Add water, lentils, split peas, stock and spices. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer 45 min. Serve in bowls garnished with cilantro.

Of course, I had to try more cupcakes. Here are Marble Cupcakes, which are totally awesome in the nude.

One of the great things about vegan cupcakes is that Princess can help in the kitchen and lick every utensil without worrying about nasties in the batter.

And tonight I made the Sexy Low-fat Vanilla Cuppers. They were fun and gooey and messy, and so so good.

Monday, November 27, 2006

No Creatures Were Stirring in This House

Over the weekend, my friend Sam and I made gingerbread houses. We actually didn't make them from scratch, but rather bought a kit as a fun little task to occupy our time. I was delighted to find out that it was vegan! Well, at least the gingerbread itself, the icing and most of the candies were! I was so excited! I hadn't planned on eating the house once the holidays were over (it would be too gross and stale), but during construction, a few little gingerbread men that were supposed to be decorations outside of the house were casualties instead.

Isn't it so cute, it all of it's tasty veganess? Even the jujubes were vegan! Costco rawks.

For dinner tonight, Kyle and I worked together to create a few faves - a Spinach-Shiitake Salad from Vegetarian Times, as well as a Butternut Squash Risotto from Robin Robertson's Vegetarian Meat and Potatoes Cookbook. I didn't modify the salad recipe at all, but I did take the risotto recipe, use onion instead of red pepper, and make it in the pressure cooker instead. I'm all for taking 5 minutes to cook dinner that way, versus spending 30 minutes stirring the risotto constantly. I will however use less stock next time, so that the risotto isn't so soupy. Working together, we had dinner on the table in 40 minutes.

Kyle said the mushrooms reminded him of bacon, but I tend to think not.

We then had plenty of time to hit the mall. I had received a $100 gift card today, and I already knew where I was spending it - at the Bay on a Cuisinart 4-slice Belgian waffle maker! I already had a crappy one that made only two waffles at a time, so this will be a big time saver. I'm so excited! It was like an early Xmas present just for me :)

Sunday, November 26, 2006

A Real Fauxstess Cupcake

So I planned to make the Fauxstess Cupcakes from VwaV this weekend. I got all of the ingredients (except the black cocoa - I decided I could live with a lighter brown cupper), and was ready to go. I made the cupcake part, and it turned out great (despite the instructions, I opted to NOT spray the cupcake liners this time - very wise decision). However, I didn't have so much luck in making the Cream Filling. The recipe called for soymilk powder, and not the low-fat variety (I didn't realize you could get 'skim' soymilk powder!) since it would leave a 'taste'. I knew I had soymilk powder, and it wasn't labelled as being 'low-fat' so I thought I was OK. What wasn't OK was that when I was pouring the soymilk powder into the bowl, a whole pile fell in. I tried to salvage the mixture, but it was way too gross. And it had a 'taste' - perhaps I had the 'low-fat' variety after all, or it was just the fact that four times the amount of powder went in :(

Needless to say, I scrapped the filling. I decided to make the ganache. After topping more than 8 cupcakes, I realized that I could've poked a hole in each cupcake and filled them with jam. Kyle told me to keep going and just leave them plain. Problem was, they were just topped with ganache, and not thick and creamy buttercream icing, so they would be really plain. I remembed someone had made the brownie cupcakes, so I decided to top the wet ganache with some walnut pieces. They were awesome. I didn't mind that they didn't turn out as fauxstess cupcakes anyways! It was like an actual fauxstress cupcake...

And we didn't just eat junk food - I made what was supposed to be a porcini mushroom stroganoff that I had made before. It called for dried porcini mushrooms, which were of course sold out at the grocery store, so I made a mix of oyster and some other kind. It didn't taste as good as what I remembered before, but it was still OK. Part of the problem was that I didn't add much salt. This was because I made another Isa Pizza on Friday night, but didn't taste test the pesto before adding it to the pizza. That wasn't smart, since I must have added WAYYY too much salt. Both Kyle and I were dying of a sodium overdose when we ate it on Saturday for our lunches.

So I'm getting a *little* tired of the kitchen disasters. Fortunately, with the Xmas season on it's way, I'll be making some tried and true delectables. It all starts on December 1st with Skor Bars!!! I can't wait!

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Dora's Picnic

Last night I made "Chick'n" Fajitas for dinner using slices of a Soyarie veggie burger and fajita spice that we bought at one of those hostess parties where you feel obligated to buy something.

The strips were sauted with onion and peppers then laid on a tortilla smeared with refried beans and topped with avocado.

After dinner I snuggled in for a bedtime story with Princess and even though we've read this book a thousand times, never remembered this page:

Love the character's name:

And that's where Princess must have got the idea for chocolate cupcakes with pink icing.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

My Seven-Year Itch Has Been Scratched!

I used to think that these were an urban legend...vegan marshmallows! I'd never seen them in Ottawa, and they certainly weren't stocked by Whole Foods in the San Francisco area at the beginning of this decade. Finally, after seven years of wanting to find these, I have them! It was such a great early Xmas present to get these!!! I now have to carefully ration these when deciding what recipes to make!

More glimpses of my carrot cake cupcakes...once totally chilled in fridge, everything looks normal and I'm exaggerating about my carrot problems, right?

Well, they are very dense, considering that with icing, they are the same height as a toonie:

Especially, when half of the height is accounted for by the icing:

But regardless, they taste SO good!

Tonight, I was going to make a pasta dish I had planned, but forgot to buy fresh mushrooms, so I made Potato Yam Leek Soup from Extraveganza. It was really good! I was surprised by how flavourful it was, and the dill and sweet potato really stood out. It was also pretty quick to make, despite making cubes out of 6 white potatoes and 1 sweet potato, and cutting up a pile of leeks. Good thing it didn't take long, as tonight is my last night to study for this certification thing I need for my job.

Now I better get back to studying! Well, once America's Next Top Model is over, anyways...

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

A Week's Work in the Kitchen

Baking is my current obsession. As soon as I received my copy of VCTOTW, I had picked out several cupcake recipes, like Peanut Butter Cupcakes with Chocolate Ganache.

Mmmmm, good. Of course I’m a peanut butter/chocolate fan. And Basic Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Buttercream.

Sensing a theme here?

This was my first experiment with piping. I used molasses in the icing, which I wouldn’t do again because the molasses flavour was strong.

Princess created her own.

And a customized colour for each member of the household (dogs not included).

Smarties are not vegan, so let’s call them “inedible decorations”. Princess got the idea from the photo of the Chocolate Mint Cupcakes on pg 74.

Obsessions grow and mutate, and soon I had plucked a bread machine recipe book from the library shelves. Several loaves of bread popped out, such as Autumn Pumpkin Bread.

The only fall meal that I think of when bread is baking is soup. This one is “Creamy” Mushroom Soup from The Vegetarian 5-ingredient Gourmet:

The cool teen who is vehemently opposed to the presence of tofu on the table didn’t even realize that it was the ingredient that gave the soup it’s creaminess. Don’t tell her.

Here is a vegan version of French Onion Soup from Vegetable Soups from Deborah Madison’s kitchen.

We only had one bottle of red wine in the house (what’s going on???) and it was a good one. There are one and a half cups of it in the soup. There are a whopping five, count ‘em FIVE huge red onions in there. Great soup. I did notice at work the next day that my coat smelled of onions. I imagine the house reeks of onions. But onions, red wine and fresh bread? You can’t go wrong.

We got a whack of red, yellow and orange peppers on sale, so planned for the end of the week is a Roasted Pepper soup from Vegetable Soups.

And last but not least – Princess’s request from The Vegetarian 5-ingredient Gourmet that we call Green Noodles, which is actually Contemporary Creamed Spinach over pasta. The first time that I made it I used green swiss chard, which I actually preferred over the spinach version. And the first time I used fresh tofu from Chinatown, while this time I used Mori-Nu tofu from the grocery store shelf. You could tell the difference, nothing beats the real thing.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Isa Pizza!

After seeing way too many blogs with Isa Pizza from VwaV, I decided to try it myself! I first made my own whole wheat dough in my breadmaker:

I then made the Tofu Basil Ricotta, as well as the Basil Pesto. I used plain tomato paste as the sauce, then added the ricotta and pesto as instructed. I piled on the mushrooms, but decided to omit the olives:

After baking:

This was SOOOOOO good. Thank goodness my dough recipe makes two pizzas! I'll definitely be making this again soon!

I also baked up some cookies that I kept in the freezer - individually frozen, so that I would bake up a few when necessary. Kyle likes these alot, and feels like it's breakfast in a cookie. I only have a pic of the 'before' shot, as I forgot to take a pic of the 'after'. I thought I'd make up for it by including my tasty recipe.

Sarah's Yummy Vegan Cookies

¾ cup chopped pecans or walnuts

¾ cup chopped almonds

2 ½ cups large flake oats (not instant or rapid)

1 ½ cups chocolate chips

1 cup all-purpose flour

¾ cup whole wheat flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

1 mashed banana

1 ½ cups Sucanat

1 cup Earth Balance

1 teaspoon vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.

2. In a medium bowl, mix nuts, oats and chocolate chips. Set aside.

3. In a smaller bowl, sift together flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

4. In a large bowl, cream together banana, Sucanat, Earth Balance and vanilla until very smooth. With a wooden spoon, add flour mixture to banana mixture and stir until combined. Add oats mixture to banana/flour mixture, and stir until combined.

5. Drop a tablespoonful of dough onto lined cookie sheets (or use a small scoop!). Flatten each mound of dough with the greased bottom of a measuring cup. Bake for 10-12 minutes until golden, but not brown (they may look underdone, but as they cool they will harden and stay chewy!). Cool on sheets for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

6. Store in an airtight container. Enjoy!

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Sarah + Carrots = Disaster

If you had read my post about Tracy's Birthday, you would know that I don't have much luck with baking carrot-based creations. I was assured from many PPKers that if I tried VwaV's Carrot Cake, my creation would be great. Being the optimist I am, I told myself that I would yet again try to come up with an edible and equally presentable carrot creation.

So today, when I was supposed to be studying for my certification and/or vacuuming (neither of which is a desirable task), I thought that I should make some cupcakes. I thought that my blog entries have been a little bland lately, and a cupcake is more fun to post than a bowl of soup or uncooked gnocchi. I whipped out my copy of VCTOTW, and started to flip through the pages to find something that I already had the ingredients for. I first stumbled across the basic chocolate cupcake, and thought that it would be do-able. After a few more pages, I found today's cupcake: Carrot Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Icing. I had flashbacks to all of the horrible carrot cakes I had made in the past - way too damp, dense and greasy...but I knew that Isa and Terry would be able to help me erase those all too vivid memories of carrot cakes past.

Everything was going so well. I grated the carrots (and re-read the recipe to make sure that I didn't have to drain them or something), and prepared the mixture. I then read a strange step:

Spray the cupcake liners??? Odd, I thought, but I performed the task anyways. I'd do anything weird if it helped me right the many carrot wrongs! I poured the mixture into each liner, baked for 29 minutes until a toothpick came out clean, then let them cool.

So far so good, right? I thought that they looked a little too moist, but convinced myself that I was being too critical. I then prepared the frosting. The recipe called for soy cream cheese, Earth Balance, icing sugar and vanilla. Since the cupcake recipe had called for 1/3 cup soy vanilla yogurt, I had a little left over in my tub. I'm not a fan of the Tofutti hydrogenated oil/tofu combo, so I opted to use the yogurt in lieu of the cream cheese and vanilla. The icing turned out great!

I was going to use my new pastry bag set, but I was too lazy. Already, too much time had gone by without studying or vacuuming, so I couldn't waste any more time on something that wasn't totally necessary. I just used a knife, but it still looked pretty:

I had spoken to my mom earlier in the day, and found out that Tracy, Pete and Princess were going to pay her a visit tonight for some tea. Perfect, I thought, as I could take over Tracy's favourite dessert! Due to all of the disappointments I had created in the past, I decided to taste test one cupcake. Good thing I did:

In case you can't tell what this is: it is actually a cupcake after an attempt at peeling off the liner. Just like every other carrot creation, it was way too damp, dense and greasy. It didn't even remain intact! I called my mom and left a message that they would have to fend for themselves tonight for dessert :(

Does this happen to anyone else? Do the carrots shipped to Ottawa have a higher water content than those found in other locales? I just don't get what I do wrong!

I hate carrots.

Baby It's Cold...

Anytime I think of the Christmas song that I refer to in my title, I think of Nick and Jessica's awful Christmas special from a few years back - but that's an aside - now onto food...

It's been really cold here, so I've been craving warm and yummy comfort foods. This month's Vegetarian Times issue featured one of those 5-ingredient recipes for Creamy Broccoli Soup, and it just so happened that this one was vegan! So on Thursday night, I cooked up a sliced onion, added some garlic, then poured in veggie stock, broccoli and sliced mushrooms. Once cooked, I then puréed it (the mushrooms were supposed to contribute to the 'creaminess'), but it was REALLY watery. Once you added a pile of salt, it had more flavour, but I think I'll stick to my potato- and soy-based creamy broccoli soups for next time.

Kyle also informed me that at work on Friday, it was his bi-weekly Fried Egg Friday event. A bunch of guys at his work all bring in meaty and eggy dishes - a whole pile of buffet-style foods for feasting. Obviously I don't cook up any of those things, but I like to help make yummy vegan stuff! I think Kyle likes to tell them how vegan food can be tasty and healthy! This week, we made brownies, simply because we were at the grocery store, didn't look at any recipes before we left the house, and I often always have ingredients on hand to make brownies. I remember seeing Bunnyfoot's blog about Fran Costigan's recipe, and considering I had purchased both of Fran's Great Good Desserts Naturally Books, I figured I should give it a try.

Instead of making prune purée, I just used prune baby food. I also used Sucanat instead of brown sugar. But the big modification was the freakin' time! The recipe said that you cook 17-18 minutes. When I read that, I thought that was pretty quick, considering most of the stuff I cook in a glass 8x8 pan takes about 30 minutes. We tested at 5-minute intervals after the initial 17 minutes, and it took more like 30-35 minutes to bake. They were really good, and don't need any frosting if you use the chocolate chips (since Kyle was eating these, you can bet that we sure used them!). Only thing was that these were more like a cakey brownie, whereas I'm used to the flatter, more dense variety.

While the guys at Kyle's work were impressed, I think next time, I'm going to make cupcakes and really knock their meaty socks off!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

My Imaginary Chef

I had the loooongest day ever today, with being at work after a long weekend, then going to my Body Pump class until 7pm. While in class, I realized that I was starving. I then remembered that I had prepared and assembled everything in my slow cooker! My Crockpot is like my imaginary chef - I just love coming home to a cooked dinner! From Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker, I made the Half Day Ratatouille. I threw in a pound of cubed tofu to the eggplant-onion-canned tomatoes-red pepper-zucchini-garlic-pesto combo, and it was so yummy on brown rice. You're supposed to cook it on Low for 4 hours, but I had it on Low for 8, then on Keep Warm for eons until I finally got home. So, I should rename it the Looooongest Day Ratatouille.

I also enjoyed leftover dessert (to completely nullify my workout). On Monday, Kyle and I had made Apple Crumble from my only non-veggie standard cookbook, the New Cookbook. Obviously, I subbed in Sucanat and Earth Balance for the brown sugar and butter to give it the vegan touch:

My mom would be so proud that I made a 'normal' recipe. However, with just a few more batches of Brooklyn vs. Boston Cream Cupcakes from VCTOTW, I'm pretty sure I would have her kicking Betty Crocker to the curb for good! They're just that yummy.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

One for Two

The weather here is not very nice, and like every Remembrance Day, it was miserable. Since I didn’t have any plans during the day yesterday, I thought that I could either a) vacuum and clean bathrooms or b) cook/bake something yummy. Things were headed in the right direction for Option A when I started cleaning my closet to find clothes to donate to charity. Once I finished in my closet, I went into my office closet to find more clothes, only to end up on the computer. I then found recipes that looked fun for Option B. You know where this is headed.

I thought that I should bake up a tasty meal. But given that it was only 9am, I scratched that plan for during the day in order to bake a scrumptious treat. There is a recipe I plan on making for Christmas – vegan buttertarts – so I thought it might be good to test them in advance.

Upon reading the recipe, I noticed that I would make a few substitutions…maple syrup for the brown rice or corn syrup, and as a result, an extra tablespoon of powdered egg replacer with a little less water. Since I didn’t have any pre-made tarts, I decided to make up some pastry and just put it into my muffin tin. Bad idea – everything was going smoothly, until the tart filling puffed up so much and seeped out of the pastry shell. Since the muffin tin was not flexible, it was too hard to get the tarts out of the pan. I decided not to take a photo of this catastrophe.

Next time: I will buy little foil tart pans that are flexible. Good thing I tried this out before committing them to a family dinner!

After reading Thursday’s post by Tracy, I decided that I would give this 5-ingredient cookbook another shot.

I was going to buy store-bought gnocchi, but the ‘lactic acid’ ingredient made me nervous. I remember seeing a homemade gnocchi recipe in VwaV, so I decided to give that a try.

It turned out great! Here is the uncooked result:

I could have used some tips/graphic to show me how to get the fork imprints to stay on each piece, but wow – it was so easy and tasty! Kyle was a pro at making all of the gnocchi – he was way better than I serious:

I made the same sauce Tracy made but with spinach instead of swiss chard. Yum! So for the day, I had one success out of two recipes.

I have now vowed to only make cupcakes once every month, otherwise, I will put on too much weight. Plus, I think I will appreciate them more! I think it’s a wise decision given that I will be making Xmas treats in a few weeks, and it’s hard enough to have willpower to avoid eating whole tins of cookies. I can’t wait to start posting some pics and recipes of our family treats.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Two Dinners and a Cupcake

I had to try out some recipes from my birthday presents.

This is Gnocchi with Fresh Greens from The Vegetarian 5-ingredient Gourmet.

It was really good, and the gnocchi totally made the dish.

Tonight I made Eggplant Cacciatore from Vegan Italiano.

I like eggplant, but it has to be done right. This was. It was tender and flavourful.

And for dessert, Gingerbread Cupcakes from VCTOTW!

Amazingly good. I used the leftover icing from the Lemon Gem Cupcakes. Maybe I'm a little light on icing as I still have some left over.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Good Eats and Cupcake Treats

I thought Kyle was going to be eating dinner at my place, so I wanted to make a yummy, healthy, protein and fibre-filled meal. Linguine with Red Lentil Sauce from Vegan Planet was just the ticket.

However, I ate alone. Oh well, more leftovers for my lunch!

Kyle did come over *just* in time for dessert, though. I had made Cookies n' Cream Cupcakes earlier on in the week, and had enough willpower to save two for each of us to enjoy. After we ate those, Kyle tried my Chai Cupcakes from VCTOTW. Kyle's verdict on the Chai Cupcakes: "Really, really scrumptialicious" (sp?). I used some buttercream icing instead of the icing sugar.

I do have to admit, that snacking on frosting is not advised. After I frosted my chai cuppers, I licked the bowl, and the icing tool clean. Not recommended. My tummy is sore from all the sweets, and I haven't yet gotten over my tummy-ache to try my iced chai cuppers...hopefully tomorrow!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

A Little Walk on the Thai Side

For dinner I made Thai Chickpeas from Great Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure by Lorna Sass, which I have out from the library.

They were really great, and the total cooking time was 18 minutes.

I'm starting to get the feeling that all my dishes look the same...

Monday, November 06, 2006

My First (of many, I'm sure) Cupcakes

I’m anxiously waiting for my copy of VCTOTW to arrive, so in the meantime I made the Lemon Gem Cupcakes from VwaV.

Obviously my cupcake decorating skills are in need of some practice. But they are scrumptious, absolutely delicious, words cannot convey how good they are. I’m not really a baker, at least I don’t bake too many things, nor am I a cake fan, but I think I could get seriously addicted to cupcakes. Dust off the treadmill.

On Saturday night, I was in need of some comfort food, so I improvised a sun-dried tomato porcini mushroom spinach dish. I’ll do my best to recall the recipe.

Sun-dried Tomato Porcini Mushroom Spinach Pasta

1 tblsp oil from oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
2 cloves minced garlic
½ cup white wine
¼ cup sun-dried tomatoes, julienned
½ cup dried porcini mushrooms, reconstituted in boiling water, drained and reserved
1 can chickpeas
2 cups baby spinach
1 box farfalle pasta

Cook pasta according to directions. Heat oil in wok. Saute garlic for a few minutes. Add wine, sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms, chickpeas, and spinach. Add reserved mushroom water if more liquid is required. Toss with pasta.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

A Full Menu

Last week, I made the modified Asparagus and Sundried Tomato Frittata from VwaV. I used two portobello mushrooms instead of the asparagus. It was delicious! It was my second or third time making it. Although it's listed as a brekkie, I tend to eat it for an easy dinner.

This morning, I treated Kyle to Fronch Toast, again from VwaV. I LOVE this recipe! I had borrowed the book from the library, and after making this recipe first, I realized I needed to buy my own copy! I've tried every other banana-tofu-whatever combo, and this recipe, with the chickpea flour (which is amazingly easy to find at Bulk Barn), tastes just like the real deal. Today, I cooked up some apples from a local orchard with maple syrup, given that we're now way out of strawberry season.

My friend Sam came over for dinner. She made our fave guac recipe from the Voluptuous Vegan, and I got to keep the leftovers! It's the best guac recipe out there!

For dinner, I wanted to make a recipe from a book that I just gave Tracy...I think it was called Curried Red Lentil Soup or something. It was from the Vegetarian 5-Ingredient Gourmet. I didn't find anything gourmet about it - it was bland. If I made it again, I'd use vegetable broth instead of plain water. Nothing stellar to report about it.

Fortunately, my contribution to dinner was saved - finally Cookies n' Cream Cupcakes from VCTOTW!!! These were SO good! I made the whole recipe for the buttercream icing, but only used half of the icing for these, as I want to use the rest on the chai cupcakes later this week. I'm glad I made this decision, since they're very sweet! I took some to my mom and stepdad and they really liked them too. Cupcakes make everyone smile!