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!