Tuesday, March 17, 2009

We're moving!

The time has come to move away from this happy little blog. Don't worry! I just have a new domain...

When I started this blog, it was really just a personal project, but it's growing and I need a few more options. Not to mention a web address that's easy to remember. It will probably take me a little while to get everything organized but I hope you'll come check everything out.

So update your bookmarks and blogrolls!

Just to entice you, I have a great post coming up of the three delicious meals I made for Saint Patrick's day...that's breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert with lots of bread and lots of potatoes.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Kitchen gadgets

vegan spritz cookies

I have a weakness for kitchen toys. While some people crave new electronics I like to fawn over kitchen supply catalogs. There's always that one thing that would make the coolest dessert or the best presentation. I mean doesn't everyone secretly want a sauce drizzler? Luckily I'm fairly good at keeping myself in check and not spending away my life on gizmos.

Over the holidays though, I did manage to acquire some neat toys in gift exchanges that I wouldn't have otherwise purchased for myself. Since they're definitely specialized, I hadn't even busted them out till now to test them. The first test was a cookie press for making those adorable spritz cookies. I really had no occasion to try this, despite my desire to see how the tiny cookies would come out, until a late night sweet craving took me over and they just had to be made.

Using the cookie press is definitely one of those processes that must involve some sort of technique; one that I definitely don't know. While about half of the cookies that came out were adorable, the other half were a bit more blobular. The main problem I had was making the dough stay on the pan ones it was squeezed out of the press. In the end, I usually just arranged the pieces together with my fingers. Luckily, no matter what each cookie looked like, they all tasted amazing. Absolutely perfect little treats that would be perfect for a party or gifts (or a late night snack). I can't wait to incorporate some fruit or jams into the recipes, or of course, chocolate. Recipe for vanilla spritz cookies can be found below.

chocolate fondue

Another product I got to try out was a ceramic fondue warmer. Ok, so perhaps fondue is a little out of style, but it seemed like a tasty idea to me. The warmer is only heated by a small tea candle, so I thought it probably wouldn't really keep the fondue that hot at all, instead it made the chocolate I pre-melted bubble even more than on the stove top. Amazing what conductive surfaces can do.

The great thing about making chocolate fondue for a dessert is not only how easy it is, but how amazingly satisfying. I simply cut up some apples and nectarines, and melted some semi-sweet chocolate with a dash of soymilk and it was ready to go. The result was fantastic. It's easy to forget how sweet and tasty fruit is when there are so many prepared desserts out there, but combined with the dark chocolate it was absolutely divine. In fact, I'm craving it now, just writing about it. The important thing is just to have fresh ripe fruit and good quality chocolate.

While I would have to say that having the fondue warmer increased the fun factor by at least 10%, it's totally not necessary to enjoy this simple dessert, just put the melted chocolate in a bowl or mug and it will stay warm for quite awhile. Another option would be to dip the fruit in the melted chocolate and refrigerate and harden for a cool treat later on.

spinach pesto pizza

Of course I had to include at least something savory, and of course, it's pizza. In an attempt to make a simple but different (sort of) dinner one night, I collected some remaining ingredients in my kitchen to come up with a spinach pesto. To my surprise, it turned out insanely good. I'm generally the type that is good at following recipes, but when I just throw things together, there is a high risk of things going horribly wrong. I suppose it's not hard to get it right when you combine such tasty ingredients though. I tried to keep the pizza uncomplicated and left off any other toppings besides vegan mozzarella. The result was a crispy, garlicy, spinach extravaganza. The pesto recipe is below.

Vegan Spritz Cookies
adapted from Wilton

3/4 cup earth balance
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tps egg replacer mixed with 1 Tbsp water
2 Tbsp soy milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
1 1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder.

Cream sugar and earth balance. Add egg replacer and beat till slightly frothy. Add soy milk and extracts to combine. In another bowl, mix flour and baking powder. Slowly add liquid mixture and mix until smooth.

Put mixture into cookie press and press cookies onto cookie sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until edges are lightly browned.

Spinach Pesto

1/4 cup almonds
1/4 cup walnuts
3 Tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic
3/4 cup chopped frozen spinach, thawed
1/4-1/2 tsp salt

Put the almond, walnuts and garlic in a food processor and blend till you have a coarse meal. Next add the spinach, oil and salt and blend until combined. Spread on pizza dough and bake away!

Since this recipe has raw garlic, I recommend using it for baked items. Otherwise, roast the garlic beforehand and add to the blend.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

February roundup

Okay I have to admit I've been a bad blogger this month. I have been distracted by a number of things and have not devoted the time to this blog that I would like. In an attempt to find some redemption, I have a few things to report on.

Firstly, I inherited some ultra cute pastry dishes and despite the fact that I initially wanted to make them alternate cat food bowls, I resisted and actually put them to use feeding humans. To break them in, I made the asparagus tarragon quiche from Veganomicon, except smaller. They had a subtle flavor which I really enjoyed. I'm pretty sure you can't go too wrong with a ton of asparagus, sauteed, seasoned and blended. The thing I liked about this recipe, was that even though it is emulating an egg-based dish, it did not rely on tofu to give it the right texture. Instead, the main ingredients were blended asparagus and walnuts.

The most important recommendation I could give for this recipe would be to make the crust as thin as possible. This really lets the filling of the quiche shine. Also, especially with my miniature versions, it was difficult to cut through, even though my crust wasn't overly crunchy. Because of the difference in consistency between filling and the crust, I ended up eating mine a little bit like a pizza, which was perfectly fine with me. Overall, delicious recipe. It took awhile to prepare as there is a lot of refrigeration time for both the crust and the quiche filling but was fairly simple. Obviously, it would be easy to prepare the beginnings ahead of time, but would still take over an hour for baking and resting.

Another thing I wanted to address was a interview I heard on the radio regarding the economy and comfort foods. Public radio is pretty much where I get all my news from. I find it much more informative and interesting than a lot of what gets reported on television and elsewhere. Of course, there are exceptions. I was genuinely disturbed by a recent interview with Irene Rosenfeld, the CEO of Kraft foods. This interview was really oriented towards the business aspects of the company, but I couldn't help but find the content deeply disturbing.

One of the first points made is that in a troubled economy, many people turn to comfort foods. This fact on it's own, isn't what irked me. What got under my skin was the equation of Kraft brand foods with comfort foods. Who doesn't love a grilled cheese sandwich and bowl of tomato soup when they're having a bad day? That's why it's called comfort food. It certainly does not mean it needs to be junk. "Pasteurized prepared cheese product" is not food. The tomato soup and grilled soy cheese you see above has all the appetizing qualities and simplicity of any good comfort food and it's vegan.

Without going on a diatribe about how bad certain processed foods are, I just want to point out that if you want something simple and inexpensive there are vegan alternatives that cover these bases as well. Not every meal you make has to be gourmet. If you want a box of mac and chreese that is better than that blue box you had when you were a kid Roads End Organics makes some amazing vegan versions that are not only insanely delicious but under $2 a box. I recommend the Shells and Chreese especially.

I suppose I'm just upset by the fact that something like this interview even made it onto the air. I can't believe that someone can go on and say that Velveeta mixed with salsa is a healthier direction. How about just salsa? How about delicious fresh tomatoes, chopped and seasoned with herbs and spices? Doesn't that sound more appetizing? I realize I'm ranting a little, but I'm just a bit shocked still that on the same station I hear reviews of local farmers markets that I also heard this garbage about processed junk and how to market it to people when they economy is down.

And moving on...

One of the reasons I've been a bad blogger this month, is that Shawn and I have been out of town a number of times. On one occasion, we went camping in the Salton Sea. We got to be zombies with a bunch of cyclists and other such craziness. It's been a long time since I've been camping, luckily Shawn is an expert. He also had a really awesome stove from the 1900's to make us some great meals. We even managed some flavorful toast, which is pretty much a staple in my diet.

For Valentine's day breakfast he cooked up some tofu scramble, camp style of course. Tofu and mushrooms mixed with nutritional yeast, ketchup, mustard and cooked over flame in vegetable broth. It was seriously delicious. We also enjoyed the typical camping fare: veggie dogs, veggie burgers and oatmeal. You can check out some more of our misadventures and Shawn's beautiful photos of the trip over at studiodrome's blog We even made it in the local paper!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Vegan Benedict - AGAIN!

I just can't help it, vegan benedict (tofu florentine, whatever you like to call it) is just one of my favorite breakfasts. It is in fact one of my favorite prepared meals altogether. If there is a vegan restaurant that serves this dish for breakfast I always order it, even if there are other delicious breakfast options. It's just that good. Obviously, one cannot just go out to breakfast all the time, especially for such a basic dish. I've tried a couple different versions in the past but this is by far the closest to the real thing, not to mention it was super easy.

This attempt came out really well. Satisfying and yummy all at once. The cayenne gives it a bit of a kick and all the flavors compliment each other wonderfully. I suppose that is the nature of the dish. Definitely a perfect way to start the morning. I ended up having a bit of hollandaise leftover and just mixed it with some tofu to make a tofu salad sandwich, which was also excellent.

I really love how this recipe came out but I think I'll continue to experiment.

Vegan Benedict

sourdough english muffins
tomato (I used roma), sliced
olive oil
hot sauce
garlic minced
onion powder
vegan hollandaise (recipe follows)

To prepare the tofu, slice into 1/2 inch slabs. Pour about a tablespoon of olive oil into a pan and warm over medium heat. Add minced garlic and let brown a bit before adding the tofu slabs. Sprinkle the onion powder, salt and pepper onto the tofu to taste. Pour a bit of the hot sauce on the tofu as well. Let cook for about 5 minutes or until slightly browned and flip carefully onto other side. Again season the other side of the tofu with a bit of hot sauce and let cook until brown. Flip one last time and lower heat. Add the spinach, a large bunch, into the pan and stir until softened.

Vegan Hollandaise

1/2 cup vegenaise
2 tsp dijon mustard
lemon juice from 1 small lemon
1/8-1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste
approx 1/4 tsp turmeric (for color)

Mix all the ingredients until combined.

Toast the english muffins and spread with a bit of Earth Balance. Lay a slab of the tofu on top, then a slice of tomato, then spinach and top with the hollandaise.


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Onion pie and vegan cat food

Let me start off by saying that I don't like onions. I understand that they provide a good deal of flavor to certain dishes but if given the option, I would more often than not go without them. I really wanted to make a savory pie though and even though this was nothing like the recipe I envisioned, I came across this recipe and decided to try it.

The end result was delicious. It was something like eating sweet onions on a cheezy biscuit crust. I even had seconds. It's not necessarily something you would want to have for dinner all the time and could probably have used some greens to go along with it but was insanely good. Check out the recipe below.

Onion Pie
Recipe adapted from How to be a Domestic Goddess.

2 very large yellow onions
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp Earth Balance
1/2 tsp dried thyme
2 oz soy cheddar cheeze, finely shredded
salt and pepper to taste

1 1/3 cup flour
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp egg replacer
2 Tbsp water
1/2 cup soy milk including 1 tsp apple cider vinegar, left to curdle
1 tsp dijon mustard
3 Tbsp Earth Balance, melted
1/2 cup soy cheddar cheeze, finely shredded

For topping: Cut onions into large pieces. Heat olive oil and Earth Balance over medium heat. Add onions and saute for about 30 minutes, covered and stirring occasionally. When the onions being to soften, add the salt, pepper and thyme. Continue to cook until the onions are quite soft and browned on the edges.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 9" pie dish with Earth Balance.

Put the onions into the pie dish, sprinkle with soy cheeze and set aside.

For the crust: Mix the soy cheese, flour, baking powder, nutritional yeast and salt in a bowl. In a separate dish, beat the egg replacer and water together until frothy. Combine the soymilk/vinegar mixture, egg replacer, melted Earth Balance and mustard. Pour into the dry ingredients and stir. The dough will be fairly sticky. Remove from the bowl and stretch out as if you were making a pizza crust about the size of the pie, being careful not to tear holes in it. Lay on top of onions in pie dish and seal edges.

Bake for 15 mins then turn down heat to 350 degrees and bake for another 10 mins or until the crust is golden brown. Let sit for a few minutes after removing from oven then place a large plate on top and flip the pie upside down. Slice and enjoy!

And on to the cats...When I decided to adopt cats, one of the big concerns in our household was what to feed them. Being vegan, it didn't seem right to feed them non-vegan food, but being that they are naturally carnivores, it was important to give them proper nutrition. So far their diet is a bit of an experiment and a combination of vegan and non-vegan cat foods.

The vegan option that seemed the most promising was some supplements made by Hoana that you make into your own cat food. It comes with a bunch of recipes from kibble to rice and tofu mix. I went with the recipe for seitan as seen below.

kittie seitan

It may not be the prettiest meal, but isn't that far from something that I would eat myself. I made some very simple seitan, by just boiling some chunks of vital wheat gluten mixed with nutritional yeast in water with a bit of soy sauce for an hour. If I had a vegetable stock without onions or garlic in it I would have probably used that. In the future, if I have more time, it would be possible to make the stock and would make the seitan itself more flavorful.

I tore up about 3 cups of the seitan into even smaller pieces and mixed them a sauce made of 4 tsp VegeKit, 1/3 cup nutritional yeast, 1 Tbsp olive oil and a bit of soy sauce.

The verdict? They really like the stuff! I was surprised after hearing quite a few people say their cats wouldn't eat vegan cat food. I can understand where this general misconception would come from since a lot of people wouldn't take the time to make food for their cats. For example, they really don't like the canned vegan cat food I ordered and won't eat it unless it's mixed with something they do like.

Since the seitan chunks are a bit more chewy than just plain cat food, Mochi (the grey one) has taken to batting them around on the floor while she eats. Personally I'm fine with this. If a cat were going to eat a live mouse, they would probably play with their food just the same. Meeme on the other hand likes to lick most of the 'sauce' off the seitan before she eats it. Every time I have fed them this, it is all gone by the morning. I'll definitely have to try some of the other recipes but this is a total success.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

A bit of craft

Today I'm bringing you all a completely food free post (eek!) but I'm just too terribly excited about my new lamp to wait. I had been wanting to put another light in one corner of our living room that was a bit dark. I often lay in read in this corner but the nearest light is one that shines directly into your eyes and is more distracting than helpful. Because of the layout of the furniture in the area, it seemed to me that the only option was to hang something from the ceiling.

I had been casually browsing for ideas of something to make for awhile when I found an option in a copy of ReadyMade that seemed like it would bring enough additional light while also being simple to make. My initial attempt did not come out as planned and I almost caved and hung some Ikea china balls that were hidden away. I did a little research to solve my problems and used just a mix of glue and water instead of fabric stiffener to hold the form.

I love this lamp! The warm tone of the yarn I used brings a warmth to the light in the area as well as diffusing it from feeling like a raw lightbulb. I'd like to make a few more in other sizes and textures to add in the area.

Here is another little stuffed octopus from the holiday season. There's something really rewarding about making stuffed animals. It's as if you're adding life to your home. This little guy went to live with my nephew in Las Vegas.

Coming in the future, I have a few kittie creations to share...

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


I know it's a new year (first post of 2009 in fact) but I still have a few things left to share from 2008. For the holidays I tried to create as many gifts as possible instead of buying them. I made a handful of stuffed animals, knit projects and of course holiday cookies. While I started all of these ambitious tasks well in advance, there's only so early that you can bake cookies without delivering them stale to their recipients. I had decided on snowflake sugar cookies and had even acquired some edible glitter to decorate them. Unfortunately, this cookie baking session was doomed from the start. I burnt whole batches and had other mishaps including dropping an entire sheet on the floor while burning my hand. In the end, the beautiful glittered and iced cookies I had imagined did not come into fruition. I'm pretty sure the end product still tasted good though, even if it wasn't as pretty as I would have liked.

Immediately following the new year was Shawn's birthday. To celebrate he got the dessert of his choice, which ended up being peanut butter cup cupcakes. I think my favorite thing about these guys is getting to say "cup cup." Ha! As you can see, they're chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter filling/frosting and peanut butter cups on top. They turned out super good. I think next time I will have to try a different way of frosting them so that they can have an entire peanut butter cup on top (and not look ridiculous). Also, I'd love to make the peanut butter frosting a bit more fluffy. It's a great consistency for the filling but a little dense on top.

Meeme and Mochi

Also, we got two new additions to our home. We adopted two 4 month old kittens from the shelter. They're adorable, loving and playful and I couldn't be happier with them. Despite not looking alike, they're actually sisters. I'm sure they will be making some appearances on this blog in the future. In fact, little Mochi is desperately trying to help me write this by walking all over the keyboard.