Sunday, December 20, 2009

Cookie Sloppiness

I tried my hand at gingerbread cookies last week. The recipe (from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar) was aptly spiced, but I had a lot of issues with rolling out the dough. Chilled it for a few hours, but no matter how much I floured my counter, I still had issues with the dough sticking. Good thing I was only doing circles and nothing elaborate. To up the dorkiness, I even attempted to use the frosting to write different elements, since I was serving the cookies to chemists after all. Let's just say that writing with royal icing (or whatever cookie icing is technically called) is much harder than you'd think...

And now for a bonus snow shot on Cornell's campus:

Monday, December 14, 2009

Bread and Breakfast

Somehow, in all of my German/European jaunts, the simple breakfast of toast with various spreads and fresh fruit has become my staple. Before becoming vegan, I was really big on cereal, but afterwards, I started eating it less and less. I think it was a combination of the cereal expense (when I lived on my own at school), and the soymilk in the cereal just wasn't doing it for me. In the deep of winter I'll switch to steel cut oats, but for most of the year, I'm a toast kind of gal.

I've even been experimenting with making my own jam (in small as needed batches), and you'll see a slice with cherry jam peeking at you from the back of the picture. My default has been two cups fruit with one cup sugar, and varying the cooking time. I still haven't found a good cook time as my first cherry jam was too much like soft candy (whoops! Had to mold it with my fingers instead of spreading with a knife), and the more recent didn't set up enough. I also made quince jam, which was my first experience with quinces! It was a lovely pink color and somewhat delicate tasting. I used the recipe found here.

I didn't want to talk about jam today, but rather my love of the sunflower seed spread that is so popular across the pond. If the states are lacking in the food department, it is a variety of spreads for bread or veggies. I brought back a myriad of several flavors, but my favorite was Apfel-Zwiebel (apple-onion). This sounds like a rather odd combination, but it is amazing. Since I no longer have my original jar, (it has long since succumbed to a mold invasion after residing in my fridge too long, as I kept putting off finishing the jar), I am not entirely sure if the taste of my homemade spread is exactly the same, but it sure is close. I based the recipe off of the one found on Mihl's awesome site and the ingredient list on my original jar:

Sonnenblumenkerne (sunflower seeds) 29%
Wasser (water)
Zwiebeln (onions) 19%
sonnenblumenöl (sunflower oil)
Apfelpüree (apple puree) 4%
Zitronensaft (lemon juice)
Meersaltz (salt)
Pfeffer (pepper)

Like the true science nerd that I am, I really did play around with the ingredient percentages to figure out the right balance of amounts. My tweaked recipe is below. It is really easy, and is not as liquid-y after a time in the fridge.

1/2 cup + ~1 Tbsp raw sunflower seeds
1/4 cup canola oil
1/3 cup water
4 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp salt
dash of pepper
1/3 cup white/yellow onion*
6 tsp apple sauce*

You basically throw everything together in the food processor, except the * denotes extra preparation. For the onions, I chop them up pretty small and saute them alone until they start to get glassy and soft. Don't cook them too long or they will get overly sweet. I usually do a whole small onion, which produces more than I need, and save the leftovers for some dinner dish later in the week. I add the onions to the food processor last, and puree half the amount rather well, then add the rest and just let them mix in slightly, since I try to make it authentic with small onion chunks in the finished product. For the apple, I take a decent sized one, not an overly sweet variety. Chop it up (skin intact), put it in a small pan with 1/3 cup of water, and let it boil and cook with the lid on for 15 minutes or so, until the apple is quite tender. I puree it in the food processor first, measuring out what I need, and eating the rest. (This very simple and satisfying applesauce of sorts was inspired by Mary.) Enjoy!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

I should probably live in Europe

Seriously. I get a total kick out of European/German things. Just last night, the German post-docs that I know introduced me to a few of their friends who were in town. Even got to speak a little auf Deutsch, and boy was I rusty (but still managed to get complimented on it?). Weird.

But back on topic, here is something that I should have shared a month and a half ago, but yeah... So, belatedly presenting my ppk care package exchange!

For anyone who has been over the pond and back a few times, you'll recognize the yellow postal service package and symbol on the box that is similar from to several different countries. I was lucky enough to have an exchange parter from Austria, which was great fun, and an excuse for me to send a card in German along with my mailed goodies.

One of the cutest things in my package, hands down, were the owl pretzels. Seriously. How can you not love those little guys? I found that dipped in the hazelnut spread that I also received, together they made a great sweet and salty afternoon snack. Mmm too bad those birdies went into my stomach a bit too quickly.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A gradual return

I'm back to blogging, well, sort of. At least, I plan to resume in the next few days. Lots of things happened with school and I lost my passion for cooking for a bit. However, things have been on the upswing, sort of, and a two different friends who like to have cooking dates with me as well as another friend who wants me to give him cooking tips have helped me to love time in the kitchen again. Plus, with the semester winding down, I'll need to have some way to get rid of the stress of finals since most of my own TA duties are almost over. Not to mention that I just caved and bought Isa/Terry's new book as well as Celine/Joni's 500 vegan recipes. I'm pretty excited and just couldn't wait and only request them as holiday gifts...

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Jumping Ship

So, I am sad to inform that I may have to give up on VeganMoFo for this year. My posts ended up being sporadic because of all sorts of stressful things cropping up with school, and, now, it looks as if the method that I use to transfer my photos to my computer is not working. (Which is quite unfortunate, as I have a week's worth of posts on my camera at the moment.) So, to soften the blow, I'm going to put up a lovely picture that I took last Sunday when I went for an afternoon walk since the weather was so nice. I am in love with the fall colors that we have here at the moment. Things are turning a lot more yellow now, but the sheer amount of trees around making everything so breathtaking.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

European Eats

And by eats, I mean hazelnut spread. I was a great lover of Nutella in my pregan days, but now I've found something better: Chocoreale. I made sure to bring home the three varieties after my trip to Europe in June. Like that other brand, there is a hazelnut chocolate in addition to a dark chocolate, and a chocolate/white duo. Lately I've been a big fan of my duo, which was surprisingly tasty, as I was skeptical at first. (Plus, the jar that I brought home was my first taste of it, since I had overlooked it in favor of the other two on previous visits.) Luckily, my stash of the duo has been temporarily refilled as I received my ppk care package swap from Austria yesterday...

So, this ode to the duo Chocoreale spread will not be a farewell, but rather a renewing of acquaintances.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Vegan Food for the Masses

Last week, I signed up for a vegan cooking class at my local co-op on a whim. I'd never taken a formal cooking class, let alone a vegan one, so I was intrigued. I'm glad that I took it as Tuesday was my most stressful day last week, and it was nice to escape things for 2 hours by being in this class. Overall, it was a very interesting experience.

One of the most curious facts of the evening was that, beside the instructor, I was the only vegan in the room. Most of the other people were omni or vegetarian, and wanted ideas of how to incorporate more vegan food in their diet for health reasons. The instructor kept this health slant for the most part, except when she went on a brief tangent about how horrible factory farms were, but it was used as an example of her philosophy that you don't want to be putting bad and negative food in your body since those animals were agitated and downtrodden when they were raised and killed.

As a whole, I thought the instructor was a sweet old lady. She shared a lot of her microbiotic philosophy even though half of the food that she cooked for us didn't really follow all of her 'rules.' The meal consisted of a mushroom seitan and pasta dish, a warm vegetable salad including tofu, sauteed Italian greens, and an almond butter pudding served with maple syrup and granola. The food itself gave me a few ideas, but the flavors were a little too subdued for me, except the greens, which were perfect as they were with salt and pepper. I guess on a whole that I like a little more umpf in my food. The other people in the class seemed very receptive of most of the dishes, and I even got to give an older couple sitting in front of me some tips as they were very much wanting to move towards a vegan diet.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Impressing the Omnis

Over the weekend, two of my friends came over to my house to socialize and cook dinner with me. One friend was particularly excited because I had never had rutabaga before, and, being largely of Swedish decent, she knew her rutabaga well. Plus, she could not believe that she would be introducing a vegan to a new vegetable. Her enthusiasm was ever so cute and amusing. That would be her (or rather, her hands) preparing the rutabaga below.

All in all, a great time was had. Good friends and wine is a great way to spend a Saturday evening. (We were even more wholesome after dinner and played a modified version of Clue.) They were really impressed with how the Vegan Brunch quiche turned out. (I made the broccoli and onion one with mushrooms added.) Both of them were flipping through Isa's cookbooks and enjoying the humor as well as the variety of recipe (and photos, in the case of Vctotw). I think that I may have just created a few more Isa fans. Even better, they claimed that they need to make cooking dates with me a regular occurrence. That, and another friend proclaiming on Friday that she needs to organize a girls night in the upcoming weeks with me as the main cook, makes me blush at all the attention. At least I can show how easy vegan cooking is in the process even if I don't think that I'm that spectacular of a cook; I just enjoying cooking and sharing with others.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Produce Adventures: Watermelon Radish

Okay, so this isn't the most attractive of photos, but isn't this watermelon radish absolutely adorable? I picked up three at the market last weekend because I had never heard of a watermelon radish before. (If I had, then I'd since forgotten.) All three were bigger than your average radish, but this particular one was quite a good size and comparable to a small apple. They tasted just like a regular radish, except perhaps with not quite as much bite. All sliced up, it was a great snack to be dipped in hummus. Once I make another batch of hummus, I'll have to buy some more.

Saturday, October 17, 2009


So, I succeeded in falling off the MoFo wagon this week... whoops. I was really busy and stressed out with school things, but the week is over, and classes are going much better. A definite pick-me-up after one of my stressful days was the Vegan Brunch pumpkin pancakes with chocolate chips thrown in. A great way to cheer up and welcome fall. If you haven't tried them already, go on and do it! You won't regret it. Mine were extra special because I used a gluten free flour mix that I got from the co-op. Made me feel slightly less guilty about eating so many...

Monday, October 12, 2009

Local Eats: CTB

CTB as it is fondly known, or Collegetown Bagels, is a local establishment here in Ithaca, also known as Ithaca Bakery. The particular location shown above is right near Cornell's campus in Collegetown (hmm, the name starts to make sense now...). Also, I live within 5 minutes walking distance, which is both a good and a bad thing. It doesn't seem like it in the picture (since it was taken on a Sunday evening, and during fall break), but this little shop can be quite hopping both during the week and weekends.

This is one of my favorite places to go for a quick meal or drink not only because of the closeness but also because of the vegan friendliness. Most of the bagels are vegan (unless they obviously contain cheese), and they carry both the plain and veggie Tofutti. There are several sandwiches on the menu that are vegan, usually one of the soups is vegan, and you can even get the breakfast scrambled wraps with tofu scramble! There are also a few baked goods in the front section that are usually vegan, but those have been a hit or miss for me.

I find that I end up here at least once a week. Sometimes I run out of bread and pick up a bagel on my way home for the next day's breakfast, other times I meet someone for my once a week soy latte, or a few friends meet up here for a pitcher or two for beer. Yep, they also serve beer at a small bar in the back. I've been getting my local brew, Roosterfish from Watkins Glen, fix at this place. Very convenient when you don't want to walk down the steep hill to get the classier beers at Chapter House...

If you ever find yourself in Ithaca, NY, one of the many locations of CTB should definitely be on the list for casual eats!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Produce Adventures: Brussel Sprouts

If veganism has taught me anything, I have learned to be more adventuresome in regards to my foods. New to me (aka strange) spices, grains, or produce? Alrighty! But in all honesty, if it weren't for my turn to veganism, I would never have discovered that swiss chard is one of my favorite vegetables or quinoa a well enjoyed grain. Recently, I realized that I had not been as adventuresome in trying new foods as of late, so I figured MoFo was as good as an excuse as any.

So without any ado, let me present brussel sprouts. This vegetable seems to have a less than desired reputation of being served in school cafeterias and such to young kids. I don't know if this is still the case, but I was hardly ever exposed to it as a child. I got adventuresome last fall and prepared some with the cornmeal crusted Indian spiced recipe from Veganomicon. It was good, but all that oil made me not want to prepare it on a regular basis. Enter this recipe. After being bookmarked for ages, I finally decided to give it a try. The only alterations that I made to the meal was subbing apples for the pears and just sprinkling the baked stuff with marjoram and fennel instead of adding the tempeh mix. I was surprised by the simplicity of the meal and got to have fun with purple potatoes. (Not sure if I've ever had the pleasure before!) I have a feeling that variations on this meal will be making appearances in my meal rotations from now on.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Friday: A day for something other than the start of the weekend

After a long week, I'm always glad when Friday comes, not only because I usually hang out with all my older chemistry friends in the evening, but also because it is the day that I plan my meals out for the next week!

It may sound sort of dorky, but I have found this habit to be quite useful. Above is a shot of the bulletin board in my kitchen, and, as you can see, I have my meals for the week listed out as well as an as-needed grocery list. Now, I don't always follow my plan exactly because I allow for some flexibility, and it has worked out quite nicely so far this school year.

I'm still getting used to making meals for one person on a regular basis (since last year I fed my other vegan roommate to a degree as well). But, my planning ahead has helped me from going totally crazy when buying produce and groceries on the weekends. Yes, I'll often have a little extra produce at the end of the week, but I haven't been overly wasteful either. Though, I will admit to having 5 zucchinis at the moment since I haven't taken the time to put them in the food processor to shred them for mid-winter zucchini bread... The planning has also helped make sure that I eat a variety of meals and don't just fall back on pasta or rice and beans all the time. Don't want to get myself in a food rut, after all.

My list for this week should be quite interesting because I plan on picking up some new-to-me produce at the market tomorrow. Fall is a great time to be adventuresome with produce. After all, it was how I discovered my love for raw red cabbage last year! A few that I am considering are kohlrabi, quinces, and rutabagas... so if you know of any good recipes, send them my way!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Being all saucy and hodgepodge

Another thing that I've experimented with this fall has been making pasta sauce from scratch. Isa did a great tutorial on her ppk blog last year, but I've been a lot more inexact with my sauce making. Actually, both batches in my freezer have drastically different flavor profiles. The most recent being a bit of a hodgepodge of things lingering in my fridge from other meals that needed to get used up. Along with the usual tomatoes, my last batch also included mushrooms, a lonely sweet pepper, basil, and some red wine that was lingering past its prime.

I tried to use a recipe the first time that I tried it, but making sauce isn't terribly difficult when you use the lazy (wo)man's method. I don't feel like spending a ton of time taking the skin off my tomatoes, so I just leave it on. It doesn't really matter too much since I'll be sticking my hand blender in the pot at the end anyway. I started out with chopping up some garlic and throwing it in the pan, then deglazing with wine or cooking sherry. Then I added the pepper and mushrooms and let them cook for a few minutes until adding the tomatoes. The timing wasn't exact, and I think that I let it cook for 45 minutes or so, or until I thought that the tomatoes had broken down enough. Then went in the basil as it cooked for 5-10 more minutes. Salt, pepper, and a tiny amount of oregano went in before I blended the heck out of it.

Not very exact, but the end product looked good enough, and it'll be refreshing to use later in the winter when fresh tomatoes are scarce. (Plus, I can impress friends with my saucy skills and all...)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The perfect surprising quickie food

So, in my last post, I made a passing comment about how calzones are my new favorite quick meal, and today I'll talk allll about them. For some strange reason, I was intimidated by calzones, and I'm not entirely sure why. Perhaps because they seemed more complicated to make or required more preparation time? Who knows, but I got it in my head a month ago to try my hand at making them since it seemed more freezer friendly than sticking a ball of pre-risen dough in there.

To my surprise, they were very easy to make and a great way to get rid of random leftover things! I had made the vodka pasta sauce a few days previously, and a batch of cashew tofu ricotta to stuff some lasagna rolls the day before. The only extra thing that I had to do was to whip up a batch of pesto since I had a bunch of basil that needed to get used up. Above is my assembly line of sorts. Other fillings that I used were fresh tomatoes, marinated baked tofu, and a raw spicy corn salad that had been taking up space in my fridge.

Using the dough recipe from VwaV, I divided it up into 8 pieces to get some decently sized calzones. (Excuse the poor quality of the above picture as it was late at night.) As long as I was mindful of only putting the filling halfway and making sure there was room to seal the edges, I never had a problem with filling squirting out. I went a little crazy with fork poking (for venting), as you see below, and I cooked them for 7 minutes (or so) at 500 F. Somewhere around the ppk I also learned the trick of putting them on parchment paper before putting them on my baking stone. This method worked really great, as I could only fit two on the stone at once, and I had no sticking mishaps! (As opposed to the last time that I used my new stone for pizza, which was an absolute disaster.)

These little dudes are awesome and have frozen quite well. If you can reheat them first in a microwave then crisping them up in a toaster oven works great. Since I made several filling varieties, I always feel like I'm playing some sort of game whenever I reheat them (since I didn't even label which kinds were which). It is quite nice to find myself pleasantly surprised by the tasty flavor combination of my dinner! And, just by writing this post, I have realized that another great filling would be leftover bbq pomegranate tofu (since I made some last night) paired with leftover sautéed greens... See, calzones are a great way to get spontaneous and creative!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Thinking ahead for the busy times

I'm doing my contribution for tomorrow a bit early because I may be roped in to roasting a lot of pumpkins... (i.e. Two friends gave another friend 8 pumpkins with the deal that she'd make them pie and other goodies, and I've offered to help her complete the task!)

It isn't the most attractive of pictures, but I'd like to briefly say how much I've enjoyed stocking up my freezer. Since this is the first time that I've lived on my own with no roommates, I have been greatly enjoying the fact that I have a whole kitchen to myself as well as a fridge to fill up for all my own. No more worrying about the food of other roommate's going bad! (But, I digress...)

As a first year graduate student, I know that my life is going to be extremely busy at times, so I'm hoping to make those times easier by having a variety of meals stashed away in the freezer. Some things are simple and possible to do on a slow afternoon or evening, like cooking beans or chopping up bell peppers to freeze, but cooking extra meals isn't too hard either. During the times that I am able to cook, I often cook a recipe in its entirety even though I'll probably only eat 2 or so servings of it. The rest I can just toss in the freezer. By using this method, it has also allowed me to stock my freezer with meals made from fresh and local produce as I have been buying 95% of my fruits and veggies at the Farmer's Market on the weekend.

The contents of my freezer thus far:
basil and olive oil cubes
2 different batches of from scratch tomato sauce
savory bean dish from V'con (the name is escaping me)
corn, black bean, and chipotle soup
beet and rice soup
shredded zucchini
lots of pitted cherries (picked by me!)
raspberries (from my parent's garden!)
chopped bell peppers
bags of beans (chickpeas, white beans, black beans, and adzuki)

Whew! I like to think that I have a good mix of actual meals and saved up produce from when it is in season. Some of the meals have already come in handy, such as the calzones. I had a tough time this past week, and those things were my meal in less than 10 minutes. Pop it in the microwave to nuke it, then crisp it up nicely in the toaster oven. Once I run out, I will definitely be making more of those for sure!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Good-bye summer...

So, I have come to realize that I've been in denial about the end of summer and the approaching fall. The weather has certainly been changing here, but today is the first beautiful day this whole week. If only it could stay 70 and partly cloudy for a little longer... Another indication of fall was a distinct drop off in the tomatoes available at the Farmer's Market this morning. There were some heirlooms, but no roma or cherry tomatoes to be found, which means that I'll be switching over to canned tomatoes very soon. So, here is a brief pictorial tribute to the tomatoes and summer produce that I've enjoyed in the past few weeks.

One good thing about fall is the varieties of apples, squash, and bell peppers! I love red bell peppers so much. I'm way excited because this morning I got an eight quart box for only $15! Those beauties are getting chopped up or roasted and stuck in the freezer for the winter. However, I may have to find a way to sneak one or two into a bell pepper centered dish later this week...

Thursday, October 1, 2009

VeganMoFo: Reminiscing and plans!

So, I apologize, but my first post for VeganMoFo is going to be a bit of a cop-out. My only excuse is that I just got back from trivia night and also took a 3 hour long Inorganic Exam this evening (yes, and it was as bad as it sounds). But, on to bigger and better things...

A friend of mine is currently in Germany, particularly Berlin, so I've been reflecting a lot on my time there and missing the place like none other. (Especially when he uploads pictures from Prenzlauerberg; my old stomping grounds.) Once I finish my exams for this week (another tomorrow evening...oh joy), I'm going to up the level of cooking since I have been so lazy this week. First on my list is to recreate my favorite Streich spread, which is the amazing sunflower seed based spread that can be found in most German health food stores ( Biomarkt or Bioladen). The flavor of apple and onion may seem quite strange, but it was the favorite of the ones that I brought back with me. (My supply is slowly dwindling, so I need to figure out how to recreate them fast!) Even though Germany may not seem like the most vegan-friendly place, I have found it to be quite accommodating, especially when one has a good enough grasp of the language. I've actually found it to be easier to get food there than in the middle of nowhere Illinois, believe it or not...

Another two things that should be getting more use this month are my two German vegan-friendly cookbooks that I brought back with me. I cook my own bread, so I'm going to experiment with a German cookbook about bread baking, and the other is 'Baking without milk and eggs'. Surprisingly, the book is not totally vegan (apparently goat milk is ok?), but it seems easily adaptable. I'm excited to see how they work and to exercise my German skills once more while reading them!

Sooo get ready for a month of a menagerie of posts, and happy MoFo-ing to all!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Walks, Vegans, and Fruits (oh my!)

(Yes, I'm wearing a dress underneath, but you'd never guess, right?)

Goodness, it seems like things keep getting busier as the summer winds down. Tomorrow I've got my first batch of organic lab reports to grade, later this week I proctor my first exam and then help grade it, and next week is my first exam as a grad student. *cue apprehensive music* Despite these things, I've got plenty of things to look forward to in the upcoming weeks.

In early October (over my fall break, coincidentally), I'll be participating in Ithaca's segment of the Farm Sanctuary's Walk for Farm Animals. I'm really excited about this as hopefully I'll get to meet some great people with similar interests as well as to raise money for such a great cause. In undergrad, I was very active in several organizations, and I really would like to continue doing various forms of activism in grad school as well. Despite being so close, I still haven't made an actual visit to the Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen, but soon I should hopefully fix that. If you want to learn more or would like to contribute to my walk, go here.

Another upcoming activity is VeganMoFo (also known as Vegan Month of Food)! I participated in it last year and cannot wait as I am hoping it will help revive the lack of activity around here as of late (i.e. I've been cooking but not blogging...) It launches in October, and many of the participants can be seen listed on Kittee's blog.

And what is it about fruits that is making me excited? Several things, actually. This upcoming weekend is the Apple Harvest Festival in Ithaca. It is a three day event, and I've been told by the older grads that it is a lot of fun, so I can't wait to check it out! (And expect lots of pictures.) Tomatoes have still be in season (yes, they are a fruit, didn't you know?), and I've been subbing fresh tomatoes instead of canned in as many recipes as I can. Later this week I plan on making a huge batch of sauce to freeze, so that should be fun. (I'll probably be doing the lazy woman's version of not peeling them since who cares about a bit of extra fiber...) And lastly, I'm experimenting with making jam tonight. Sour cherry jam to be exact. So hopefully, I'll have full documentation of this foray later in the week...

Monday, September 14, 2009

I haven't disappeared, really

So, grad school has started, and I realized today that I haven't updated this quite as frequently as I would have liked. No need to fear; I have not turned into a starved grad student just yet. I've been doing a fair amount of cooking, stocking my pantry and freezer, and visiting the Farmer's market religiously. Actually, I have to plan my meals out for the week since I get so much produce.

But really, the lack of activity is just due to the fact that I forget to take pictures or think that the food I'm making hasn't been too notable. I've been doing a lot of baking. The cupcakes above are ones I made for a birthday this past weekend (the photo isn't mine). Mint cookies and cream based on the cuppers in Vctotw. They were quite the hit, and I still have a bit of frosting lurking in my fridge that I am trying not to eat by the spoonful. (But it tastes so much like the ice cream I loved as a kid!) Hopefully I'll be making graham crackers later in the week to get rid of it.

One thing that I have continued, however, is baking my own bread. It is so easy to do; I can always manage to toss a few things in the bread machine no matter how little time I have. Got to love the throw it in, go away, come back to delicious smells method. Since moving, I've been experimenting with adding spelt flour to things, and now, along with sunflower and pumpkin seeds, have included it as a permanent addition to my usual bread recipe. The seeds really remind me of some of my favorite breads that I would eat in Germany. For those curious, I'll include the recipe:

2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup spelt flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
~ 1/4-1/3 cup raw sunflower and pumpkin seeds
2 tsp vital wheat gluten
1 1/4 cup water
2 Tbsp black-strap molasses
2 Tbsp canola oil
1 tsp sea salt
2 tsp yeast

Hopefully I'll have more interesting things to share soon since classes haven't started to be too crazy yet, though I do have a few good stories already since I'm a TA for undergrads in organic lab. They are silly sometimes, and I can't believe that I was in their place just three years ago. My does the time fly.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Produce Overload and Planning Ahead

Oh my, if being here for almost two weeks has taught me anything (unrelated to chemistry), it is that I do enjoy a good Farmers Market. Until recently, I had not attended a good weekend market since the beginning of May! For me, this is an unbelievable oddity. Here, there is so much great produce that I almost don't know what to do with myself and I'm in danger of buying more than I can eat in a week. But there is a solution for that...

I've been trying to plan ahead and stock up my freezer with in season produce and quick meals, though the quick meals are still a little lacking. (I blame this on the fact that I've been eating rather simply while the produce is still in season and very fresh.) I got an extra two pounds of tomatoes last weekend and made some pasta sauce from scratch, blended together an olive oil and basil base for quick pestos or sauce additions, as well as chopped up and froze some hot peppers. As soon as I spot red bell peppers at the market, I am going to snatch them up to freeze as well. (The lack of sighting might be due to the fact that I visited the market rather late the past two weekends...)

Tonight, a batch of V'con vodka tomato sauce was thrown together, and I think that the block of tofu in my fridge is begging to be made into cashew ricotta for either pizza or calzones; I can't decide. Any leftover dough will be saved and frozen for later use. Once fall starts, not that I want the warm weather to go away any time soon, I'll make sure to make a bunch of fresh soups and freeze them as well. I want to be fully prepared for when the semester gets crazy and, heaven forbid, I don't have the time to spend an hour or two in the kitchen on a regular basis. It is bound to happen since I started mapping out the semester today to see when intense lab grading weeks fall at the same time as tests and other busy times for my own classes. Oh, the life of a first year grad student...

As a bonus, here is a lovely view from my excursion last Sunday to the state park in Watkins Glen!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Ithaca Beginnings

Well, I've officially moved to Ithaca, NY. I'm excited that this is my place of residence for the next five years not only for the vegan friendly-ness but for the nature as well. My new apartment is so cute in a 1920's arts and crafts style house with the original wooden doorways and window frames! I've also got a very nice sized kitchen with lots of cabinet space, and a gas stove.

At least it is a self lighting gas stove, as opposed to the one I used in Berlin last summer. However, as someone who has used electric for most of her life, it takes some getting used to. I've managed to cook some simple meals as I am still getting used to how long it takes for things to heat up and such. My very first meal in the new kitchen wasn't even picture worthy as it was a thrown together curry of sorts with rice noodles. (Plus, I hadn't figured out that I could still have the burner on and not be on the high setting, silly me.)

So, my first real meal consisted of sauteed chard with tomatoes and fingerling potatoes with a spicy mustard/thyme/caper seasoning. My, my is the potato dish addicting. I meant to save half of it for my lunch the next day, but I couldn't help myself from eating it all. Apparently I have a new food addiction/craving once I get more potatoes. Plus, the meal was made from produce exclusively from the Saturday Farmer's Market!

In other news, I finally bought a copy of Vegan Brunch! I had received a gift card for my birthday and acquired it after a random trip to the bookstore on Saturday. I'm really excited to start trying out recipes. My first foray consisted of highly modifying the mushroom and tomato stuffing for the Poblano pepper recipe. Despite my tweaks and serving it over millet, it was quite the delicious meal.

And as a little extra on Ithaca; check out these photos that I took while walking/hiking the Cascadilla gorge. There are so many beautiful nature areas here, and I hope to take advantage of them before my study schedule gets super busy!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

cherries, cherries everywhere

Last weekend my family took a mini vacation in Door County, WI when picking up my younger brother from his jazz band camp. Located on the WI peninsula jutting out into lake Michigan, this county is also known for producing as much as 13 million pounds of cherries every year. Luckily, it was the peak of the growing season, and you could find multiple pick your own farms while driving along the highway.

I got to go picking twice. The first time was with my dad just south of the town Egg Harbor, where we were staying. Picking your own is great fun as you just get handed a bucket and told to have fun! It was such a great activity, and the loaded cherry trees were absolutely gorgeous. In an hour, we each had filled a bucket of our own. The buckets are a great deal as you get several pounds of cherries. At this stand we only paid $6 per bucket, which is almost a steal considering how much they are in the grocery store.

The next day we went picking with the entire family just south of Sturgeon Bay. Again, the whole family worked on two buckets, and this farm even had ladders for pickers to use to get the higher up fruit. The buckets here were $8, but averaging $7 isn't such a bad deal. One of those bags was left with my Aunt whom we visited on the way home.

Now, what is one to do with so many cherries? Well, if you are going to bake with them, then you have to pit them. I was too lazy to buy a cherry pitter, so I used the curved end of a bobby pin. It worked out really well, actually, as the curve was just the right size to grab the pit if you go in through the stem hole. Plus, the cherries look nicer since you only have a hole on one side (if you are good and don't rip them open in the process...). After several hours pitting, two buckets of cherries were frozen to be used later in the fall and winter. Those two buckets produced 10 quart sized bags, which is a lot of cherries.

The other bucket of cherries is being used this week in a variety of ways. Yesterday about two cups were combined with a half cup of sugar and two tablespoons of corn starch to make a compote for serving over french toast. It was my first time using the fronch toast recipe from Vegan with a Vengeance, and I was pleased, especially after adding a little vanilla extract and cinnamon so that they tasted like the french toast of my childhood.

Even more cherries were used this evening in a cherry cobbler along with the addition of two peaches on one side. Served with some quick banana ice cream (frozen bananas and a little soy milk blended together) for myself, it was the perfect summer evening snack.