Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Applesauce Oat Craisin Cookies

Some of the greatest inventions and discoveries were made by pure chance or came about through an egregious error or miscommunication.  These cookies are not a good example of that (or of good photography, perhaps I should consider getting a digital camera and giving my sidekick a rest?).

After having sampled the wares at The Wedge, my local co-op, I decided that it would be much more cost effective (and fun!) to simply make my own vegan cookies!  I was so excited at the prospect of homemades that I spent a few days gathering a few simple yet diverse recipes for experimentation.  I didn't want to get involved with anything too complex being that my friend Jamie spooked me on the baking tip with all of her accuracy banter and what not.  Accordingly I am convinced that I will only ever FAIL at baking.  Evidently, that's not quite true although it would be a stretch to say that I succeeded.  In my haste to make these cookies and then devour them I made one very important mistake:  I tried to make oatmeal cookies with oats.  Oops.  Unfortunately, I didn't quite realize this until I was already mixing together all of the ingredients and marveling at how this strange, gooey material was going to turn into the beautiful cookies I saw online... but they weren't going to do anything like that at all.

Aside from my temporary lapse in sanity, I followed the recipe just as it was presented here. Other than using oats instead of oatmeal, one of the executive decisions I made was to use equal amounts of oats and flour whereas the recipe states that you can roll with either 3c. oatmeal and 1c. whole wheat flour or 2c. of each.  Another cool option this recipe presented was to reduce the amount of sugar from 1c. to whatever your tastes may be, so I opted to move forward with about 3/4c. and the cookies were still plenty sweet so maybe even less next time?  I also elected to let mine bake a bit longer in hopes of producing a more cohesive cookie and I think the effect was achieved by leaning closer to 25 minutes at 350 degrees than 22 minutes.

Miraculously, my oat cookies actually taste pretty good!  Though I'd imagine the oatmeal variety is much more palatable, I'd have to assume that mine are somehow healthier... maybe?  Anyhow, Faint liked them... for whatever that's worth?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Hawaiian Baked Beans

Who doesn't love pineapple? If my touchy taste-budded roomie Jack can palate something, it has got to be universally loved, akin to pizza; or it must have a massive cult following a la avocado. Needless to say, I back pineapple... hard. I'll gladly take it straight, on pizza or a veggie burger, in cupcake form... pretty much however I can get it. That is exactly why, upon discovering this recipe, the choice had already been made for me. This had to happen.

Plucked straight from the FatFree Vegan website, whose blog I *just* started following (SusanV is amazing!), the recipe can be found
here. To anyone who creeps the recipe, I strongly encourage you to peek around the site a bit more, lots of beautiful things! Anyhow, this particular beautiful thing has some of my favorite qualities in a dish; simple and quick (perhaps by now you've caught on to this trend?). The recipe is seriously so short that you could get it tattooed across your knuckles... or you could I suppose you could just memorize it in a very short amount of time, whichever. The four ingredients are very basic so there's a lot of room for creativity and meandering, however I chose not to stray because Faint was hungry "now" and I tend to get distracted quite easily. I did manage to use what are in my opinion some of the best options for the beans, pineapple and onion. Amy's Organic was a no-brainer and since I was already spending a bit extra on the beans I didn't want it to be for naught by dropping something horrid into the rich stuff. Fresh purple onion and organic crushed pineapple was the route. I elected to steal some of my third roommate Kathan's jank unbranded lite-syrup because I have no regular need for such trash and I don't plan on developing any such habit! From there it really was as simple as tossing everything into the casserole dish, stirring apathetically and then pitching it in the oven for a bit.

I'm thoroughly convinced you would have to be COMMITTED to screwing this up in the worst way to even possibly misstep with this recipe. Thankfully my heart really wasn't into blowing dinner that night so it turned out just fine. It was no frills, really, but the subtle pineapple flavor that I experienced every few bites was even better than I imagined. I was actually a bit letdown with how seamlessly the crushed pineapple and finely chopped onion disappeared into the beans. I could have saved some time, effort and money buy just heating up the Amy's straight away if I hadn't gotten the occasional loaded bite. With that in mind, Faint and I decided that the next time we get at this one (which we definitely intend to do once grilling season hits), we'd roll with 2 cups total of pineapple, one crushed and one chunked. Another idea we tossed around was either leaving the purple onion in larger pieces, adding another tablespoon or possibly doing both! On a parting note, isn't my food model a pretty little thing?? =]

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Russian-Style Beet and Cabbage Soup

"Boris... why you not come home for borscht?  I make traditional family recipe!"

A simple truth:  the only reason I ever even looked up a borscht recipe in the first place was because of the horrifically inaccurate Russian-accented phrase above.  It is actually the only thing I'll say when attempting an Eastern European accent.  It is for this reason that I eventually came to be obsessed with borscht, which is otherwise nothing to covet.  As a matter of fact, President Obama recently knocked its main ingredient, beets, pretty hard by expressly omitting them from the new White House garden he and Michelle intend to start.  WHATEVER.  I refuse to be so much of a slave to fashion that I'll come off my borscht/beet pedestal and pander to this sudden anti-beet craze... I'm sticking to my guns!

Anyhow, not long ago I cruised a few borscht recipes to get a feel for what sort of variety I could expect and most were pretty similar.  I believe I ended up going with this particular recipe because it didn't ask for too much that I didn't have on hand by means of spices and I was likely to have any of the vegetables, save the beets, on hand at any given time in the form of leftovers from a prior dish.  I was excited to see a recipe that called for both carrots and cabbage, two veggies I've been admittedly geeked on lately.  Click Here For Creamy Borscht Recipe  Another draw was that it was a crockpot recipe and in the wake of my new crockpot purchase any such recipe has proven irresistible.  =]
With my culinary guinea pig Danger Faint on hand, we spent a solid half-hour dicing vegetables in my trashed kitchen (I'm developing this strange habit of cooking in the immediate aftermath of huge parties, perhaps because it necessitates doing the dishes?) before we realized that we were eventually transferring everything from the crockpot to a blender anyhow.  So I advise anyone considering this recipe not to be too meticulous in that regard, get the veggies small enough to cook through in the slow-cooker but don't worry too much about aesthetics at this point.  We made our vegetable broth with a few veggie boullion cubes in a money-saving move, I don't think the taste is any different from the pre-made cartons of stock that you can buy anyway.  After the crockpot phase we put everything straight to the blender, forgetting the vinegar, salt and pepper... oops?  So we just added it into the one gallon pitcher that we chose to store it in (still sitting in my fridge, looking exactly like raspberry smoothie!  It's only a matter of time before Kathan slips and sips!), no harm, no foul.  We opted for the vegan sour creme over the soy yogurt simply because we were looking for an excuse to have vegan sour creme on hand for our next run at breakfast burritos!  

I had a great time making this simple recipe and the end result was satisfying.  I'm not certain I would rush to make this exact recipe again, but I wouldn't advise against it.  I'm not sure what alterations, if any I'd make... any ideas???

Monday, March 23, 2009

Vegan Tofu Scramble!

Yet another recipe that I dug up while on the computer at work (3x Employee of the Month!), it caught my eye in the wake of a series of hilarious events.  My first few trips to Hard Times Cafe, the premiere local vegan hangout, were a touch of culture shock on a few levels.  The most pronounced was that of the food.  At the time that I was introduced to Hard Times I wasn't even vegetarian yet so seitan was a mystery and I couldn't figure out why everything had circled V's next to them on the menu.  My favorite thing to order was the biscuit breakfast, which came with an egg any way you like it and was also available as a vegan option. Pure curiosity led me to order it vegan every time and, as per Hard Times guidelines, I had to write my own order ticket up that would be given directly to the cook after I had paid the barista.  The ticket would usually read something like "VEGAN BISCUIT BREAKFAST, EGG OVER EASY".  I figured that would convey that anything that can be vegan should be but I don't mind the egg... yet each and every single time I did this as soon as I would sit down with my friends and the barista would pass off the ticket to the cook I would hear someone from the kitchen screaming "WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS!?"  Seriously, without fail, the cook would always lose his cool and then I would have to put the fire out by explaining what I meant.  The only exception was the last time such a misunderstanding happened.  The cook just assumed I meant tofu instead of an egg and he scrambled some up along with the rest of my order.  To my surprise, it actually tasted quite good.  From then on I specified tofu eggs on my order tickets and the staff has been forced to find new things to get pissed off about.

In light of discovering that tofu actually makes a pretty legit egg-substitute, I found a pretty simple recipe for vegan tofu scramble that I decided to make into vegan breakfast burritos!  Click Here For Vegan Tofu Scramble Recipe  The first time I attempted this recipe my silly ass picked up active dry yeast instead of nutritional yeast... oops?  I outright skipped it the second time around when my roommate Danger Faint and I made them the morning after a mild rager.  We essentially did everything by the book, steamed a few tortillas when the scramble was done, rolled a couple of burritos and tricked them out with Cholula, green Tabasco and some green chili salsa.  

All in all this was a pretty straight forward recipe and it turned out great.  Super easy, ridiculously quick and (one of my favorites) highly customizable!  Faint suggested we get some bell peppers in the mix and I'm stoked on topping them off with vegan sour creme and a few black olives.  Also, diced tomatoes and jalapenos would be ridiculously legit too.  Any suggestions for the next incarnation???

Friday, March 20, 2009

Vegan Banana Bread: The Fourth Incarnation

To chase the stir fry on Avatar Day I had planned on making a recipe for vegan banana bread for a fourth time.  My good friend Erin, who adopted veganism for lent, and my homeboy Lazer were sick of hearing me talk about how awesome I think I am for always making such sweet banana bread so we had all planned to put it behind us that night.

The recipe is ridiculously simple and the process is seriously dummy-proof. Click Here For Vegan Banana Bread Recipe Another recipe I found while at work (Employee of the Month), I like this better than the countless other recipes around because it is fat-free and surprisingly customizable (Jamie likes to remind me how precise baking is compared to cooking even though I measure everything out perfectly as yet another outward manifestation of my O.C.D.).  The first time I made this recipe was on the night that my friend Natalee taught Jamie and I how to roll sushi (which was one of the single most empowering experiences of my life, realz!) and I followed the recipe verbatim for fear of botching it and looking stupid in front of everyone (Jamie and Natalee)!  Everything went fine and the bread turned out well but a bit bland.  So, next time around I had this genius idea to substitute chocolate silk for vanilla silk to up the flavors, but being that it is only 1/2 cup it didn't make any sort of noticeable difference and I decided that it was time to get real serious on this banana bread.  I hit up my local co-op in search of vegan chocolate chips and scored a bag of carob chips, a chocolate-like alternative.  Borrowing from a similarly portioned recipe, I simply tossed in 1/2 cup of carob chips at the final stage of mixing prior to baking and the result was exactly what I was looking for... a major flavor to kick my banana bread in the ass and get it motivated.

On this fourth occasion, I used both the chocolate soy milk and carob (why not!?) and it turned out beautifully, as usual.  We decided to follow a suggestion on the recipe's site that recommended wrapping the slices in foil and freezing them only to pan fry them in olive oil later for a toasty version.  It tasted pretty rad that way, but my bread has this habit of crumbling in a serious way when we slice it so I hope to somehow remedy this issue by tinkering a bit more in the future... more to come on this tip!

Lazer Ray's Vegan Ramen Stir Fry

Anyone who has been paying attention at any point over the last two years understands that Lazer Ray is my boy, plain and simple.  I take care of him (float him Avatar cards) and he takes care of me (insists on making me dinner).  Yesterday we celebrated Avatar Day (no, not like in Avatar: The Last Airbender Season Two: Episode Six "Avatar Day") and over the course of a day such a celebration can take a lot out of a guy.  Naturally, I tried to convince Lazer that we should just eat whatever I have on hand, typically more than enough, but he felt the need to repay me for whatever (he always makes this shit up) and insisted that we run to the grocery store so he could score the necessary jams for some stir fry... why even try to dissuade him?

The ingredients and process weren't too out of the ordinary for stir fry.  Lazer loves to include standard ramen noodles but all of the accompanying seasoning packets contain milk so we ran with some veggie broth I had on had to boil the noodles while we fried everything else in a skillet.  He usually rolls a szechuan stir-fry sauce that we couldn't find so we tried out some new cut that was deceptively tangy but it worked as will any sort of stir-fry sauce.  We tossed half a head of sliced cabbage ("My cabbages!" -Unfortunate Bystander) and some frozen broccoli into my steamer to soften them up some before throwing them in the skillet with some freshly chopped mushrooms, minced garlic, olive oil and soy sauce.  Lazer was reaching for some chili powder but I've yet to add that to my spice arsenal so we made do with what we had on hand.  After letting the veggies and spices fry on their lonesome for a bit we added the ramen noodles and a bit of the veggie broth they were cooking in and that was essentially all there was to it.

For making things up as we went along it turned out seriously ill.  If we ever get down to it again I'm gonna lobby harder for water chestnuts and I'll make sure to stock up on chili powder and the aforementioned szechuan stir-fry sauce!


I moved into my very first apartment on January 1, 2005.  It was the dingiest, most repulsive four walls I've ever subjected myself to, but at the time it was affordable and I wasn't aware that someone my age could even live anywhere cleaner.  One of my roommates (the one I didn't have to share a bedroom with) had a pretty sweet hookup for free home cooking through his mom's catering company which, coincidentally enough, I used to work for.  Around the day our fridge broke his mom had given us this gigantic vat of cheesy grits, which I had only ever even heard of through the episode in Duck Tales in which the Civil War re-enactors fired piles of the stuff at each other through cannons... good episode actually.  Anyhow, we were poor, it was free and the clock was ticking on how long it would keep in our busted fridge... so we attacked it with ravenous fury.  To my surprise, it was DELICIOUS.  Just add salt and pepper, reheat and it was an instant free breakfast, lunch and dinner for days!

After purchasing my first slow-cooker the other day I started cruising vegan recipes on my phone while I was at work (Employee of the Month) and I stumbled across a very simple recipe for grits.  Click Here For Grits Recipe  It has got to be the simplest recipe I've attacked to date.  For anyone not familiar with grits, I can only describe them as either cornmeal porridge or mashed potatoes sans potatoes, add corn.  To get a feel for how these grits might taste I took a bear-bones approach and used boiling water in lieu of soy milk or vegetable broth and I skipped the optional butter or olive oil.  It occurred to me as strange that a crock pot recipe called for constant stirring but I soon learned why.  I got the grits going right before I worked for a few hours so I had the chance to stir them once or twice before skipping out and I noticed a little bit of build up on the sides of the crock pot.  When I got home it was straight up CORN BREAD surrounding the finished grits in the middle.  Oops.  I did my best to mash and incorporate it into the legit grits with mixed success but after a healthy smattering of salt and pepper they didn't taste half bad, perhaps a bit bland (sorry Jamie!).  

Being that I have a gigantic bag of cornmeal on hand now I'm certain I'll tackle this recipe again but with a few key revisions.  I would definitely go with the soy milk instead of the boiled water and I'd add the optional vegan butter to try to give it a bit more flavor.  Also, something I'd considered but decided against initially was to score some absurdly expensive vegan cheese and add that to the mix in some fashion to harken back to my grit roots!