December 2008


Happy New Year everyone!  Looking back over the past year, it’s surreal to think that everything that happened happened in under 365 days.  I almost moved to Germany.  I was going to graduate.  I was going to Africa for summer study abroad.  I was going to start a bicycle co-op in Clarkston for refugee children.  I decided to not graduate and decided write a thesis.  I moved back closer to campus and away from the city.  I met the poet.  I decided to take chemistry instead of going to Africa and ended up taking a fiction workshop instead (bad move, if you ask me–apologies to any fiction writers!).  I continued to take classes, mostly graduate level, and write my thesis.  I applied to graduate school for a MFA in poetry, not ecology.  I sent out my work to literary journals, and after a few months found out that I’m getting published in The Hollins Critic (an established and prestigious journal, actually).  I flew to Boston and met the poet’s important family–the twin sister and older brother–and survived.

And now I’m ringing in 2009.  2009 is pretty mythical.  It’s the year I always assumed I’d be graduating (not last year, which would have been after only 3 years of undergrad), and now it truly is.  And so so so much is up in the air.  I know I’m graduating, but I haven’t heard back from the summer job I applied to.  I know I’ve applied for MFA programs and I know that I have a really strong portfolio and fabulous recommendations, but it’s all just a shot in the dark.  If I do get into a program, I don’t know which one it is yet, so I can’t make any moving plans.  It goes on and on.  But I’m excited!  Waking up tomorrow will be surreal.  2009 will be real.  But I am oh-so-ready to face it.

I hope you all have a wonderful time doing whatever you’re doing tonight and that your new year is exciting and surprising!  I’ll see you with the new numbers tomorrow!

Forgot to mention, I’m in Boston until New Year’s.  See you then!

How the heck is Christmas next week?  I’m flying to Boston (anyone have good vegan restaurant suggestions?) on Thursday, and somehow I have to be ready for everything by then!  Time flies a bit too fast for my taste.

Oh, and since I’m out of town for the holiday, my mom gave me my Christmas gift last night–a Black & Decker vacuum cleaner!  Yippee!!!  (No, seriously, it’s all I asked for this year–a vacuum cleaner, any vacuum cleaner).  Cats are messy bedfellows.  Well, dirty, at least.

And now the part you’ve all been waiting for, the soup recipe!  I mentioned in the first post that the recipe is from Leite’s Culinaria, so you can link over to the original site to view the recipe as well.  The soup is extremely easy to make and 100% satisfying.  I was unsure about pureeing the vegan sausages since I figured they wouldn’t add that much flavor to the soup, but I think they did give the broth a bit of a kick.  As for the kale, you can substitute collards or some other leafy green vegetable.  You could also make the soup sans sausage–it would just be a potato-kale soup then, and that’d be quite lovely too, I think!  Oh, and I browned the garnish sausage dice in a bit of olive oil to give the sausage more texture.  While I love the steaming method, the sausage isn’t texturally perfect for eating on its own.

Caldo Verde

1/4 cup olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
4 vegan chouriços, diced
6 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
8 cups vegetable broth
1 pound kale, cut into very fine julienne
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until they are translucent. Add the garlic and half the chouriço and cook for 2 minutes. Add the potatoes, cover everything with the water, bring to a boil and lower the heat, simmering until the potatoes are almost done, about 15 minutes.

When the soup is cool enough to handle, purée it in the food processor and return to the pot. Add the greens, bring everything back to a boil and simmer for 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, ladle into bowls and garnish with the remaining cubes of chouriço.

I’m really glad you all like the sausages!  I have a couple sitting in my fridge waiting to go in another seitanic potpie I’m making for my mom’s birthday (which is today, but we’re celebrating tomorrow).

Now, step two of the perfect winter meal.  Bread!  My friend Melissa (who regularly stalks the blog–hey Ranger!) made this bread the other week and I fell in love with it.  As a no-knead bread, it couldn’t be any simpler, and it’s…well…perfect.  I’m getting a sourdough vibe from it.  But you don’t have to have any starter.  Just flour, yeast, salt, and water.   I’m not sure where she pulled the recipe from, so I can’t credit it, but damn, it’s good.  You can also use half whole-wheat flour, half all-purpose/bread flour, but apparently it’s a no-no to call it Bosnian Bread when it’s whole wheat.  But it’s ridiculously tasty that way too!

Bosnian Bread

4 cups bread flour (or all-purpose)
1 package instant yeast
1/2 tbsp salt
2 cups water

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl with a spoon or your hand.  The dough will be sticky and loose (not soupy though).  Cover with a wet warm cloth and let it sit overnight (or 8-10 hours).  (note: one time I made it at night and let it sit till morning, the other time I made it in the morning and let it sit until evening–both times worked great!)

Spray a loaf pan with vegetable spray oil.

Scrape dough into pan and let it rise for 30 minutes.

After it has risen, place in a cold oven.  Turn the temperature to 500 degrees and bake for 15 minutes.  After 15 minutes, turn the oven down to 300 degrees and bake for another 45 minutes or until lightly browned on top.

Let it cool on a baking rack before you slice into it.  It’s worth it for a nicely sliced piece!

So I received my first Christmas present last night!  My dad and I met up for dinner at Across the Street (mmm tvp tacos! and sangria!) and a mini-shopping spree at Cosmo’s Vegan Shoppe last nigh,t and I walked away with a bag full of goodies.  Hurrah for being vegan and having vegan-specific stores in town!  At the bake-off on Sunday, a bag from Queen Bee Creations in Portland caught my eye.  Originally $98 but marked down to $76, I knew that if the chance arose I was going to nab it.  My original bigger bag that I use for school grew a hole in it, so I figured I better replace it before my keys fell out.

I also grabbed a copies of Bryana’s Nonna’s Italian Kitchen and Authentic Chinese Cuisine for the Contemporary Kitchen.  I stir-fry a lot and I normally find my recipes online, but having sauces and mock-meat recipes in one place is going to be great.  I haven’t decided what to make first–sizzling rice soup, kung pao chicken, beef and broccoli–it all looks so fabulously good.  Chinese cuisine is definitely one of my favorites.  I’m also excited about the Italian one because I’ve wanted an excuse to buy a pasta maker.  Homemade tortellini or ravioli?  Yes yes yes please.  I miss Italian food so much–not the cheeses, but the pasta choices.  Occasionally I end up at Figo, an Italian chain, and while I’ve learned that I can substitute meat from the sauces, I’m still stuck with penne pasta and a rather bland tomato sauce.  Have I mentioned that I love stuffed pasta?  I can’t wait to try any of these recipes out.

Now on to the recipe I promised.  I have I whetted your appetite yet?  Have I teased your tongues?  Well here’s the first installment!  Like many of you, I ran across Leite’s Culinaria’s recipe for Caldo Verde, a traditional Portuguese soup.  Last week, a beautiful bunch of kale came in my vegetable husband basket, and with the weather being so dreadfully cold for the South (it’s all relative, I know), I decided that nothing sounded better than kale soup.

One problem though.  Arguably, the main component of the dish is a hard sausage.  But I was determined to make this dish.  I did a few Google searches to see if anyone else had perfected vegan chourico, and Bryanna actually had one online!  Unfortunately, her recipe was for a loose tvp crumbles and the soup required a hard sausage.  While I normally don’t go out on a limb and veganize savory dishes (I’m truly more creative as a baker), I figured I could take Bryanna’s seasoning mixture and create my own saussage a la Julie Hasson.

The end result?  The most delicious vegan sausage I’ve made to date.  The poet agrees.  Don’t be dissuaded by the incredibly long ingredient list–this is worth it.  Plus the steaming method takes only 30 minutes, so you’ll have your saussages in no time.

Stay tuned for the next two pieces of the recipe!

Vegan Chouriço

2 1/4 cups vital wheat gluten
1/2 cup nutritional yeast flakes
1/4 cup soy flour
2 tbsp Veg Base broth seasoning stuff
1  tbsp paprika
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp marjoram
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp coriander
1/4 tsp black pepper

1 tsp liquid smoke
2-3 T. red wine vinegar
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp olive oil
2  cups cool water

In a large bowl, mix together all of the dry ingredients.  In a seperate bowl, whisk together the liquid smoke, red wine vinegar, soy sauce, olive oil, and water.  Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until combined.  Knead the dough for a minute to make sure everything is mixed, and then let the dough sit for 5 minutes.

Scoop 1/2 cup dough mixture at a time and shape into logs.  Place logs on piece of aluminum foil and roll up, twisting ends. Place sausages in steamer and steam on medium heat for 30 minutes.

Remove sausages from steamer to cool.  Once they are cool, remove the aluminum foil and refrigerate until ready to eat.

Caldo Verde & Bosnian Bread

Just a teaser, but over the next week I will be presenting to you the perfect winter meal in three parts. So stay tuned!

It’s hard to post something fabulous after a bake-off win, but let me introduce you to my new friend, the Komatsuna Green.  This delicious little leafy thing came in my first Vegetable Husband basket (a service I’m eternally thankful to Leigh for posting about) and I knew it was the first ingredient I wanted to use this week.  After a bit of research, I learned that Komatsunas are a relative of the turnip but are also called Spinach Mustards in the US.  Grown almost exclusively in Japan, Taiwan, Korea, and now, apparently, the state of Georgia, it’s a rich source of calcium that can be stir-fried and pickled, or used like bok choi in any dish.

I decided to stir fry it with dry-fried tofu in a ginger almond miso sauce recipe from About.com.  As much as I love cookbooks themselves, I kind of majorly love the internet as well.  I would have never used this sauce otherwise.  I chopped up the komatsuna greens like I would bok choi, stir-frying the stems first and then the leaves, and the recipe worked perfectly.  The flavor is a bit stronger that bok choi–more green? if that’s a flavor…–and the sauce was  bit too salty for me–maybe you should use a red miso instead of white–but I like the combination mostly.  If you have the chance to pick up some komatsunas, do!  I’d love to see them turn up in my next basket!

Komatsuna Greens in Ginger Almond Miso Sauce

1 bunch Komatsuna Greens, stems and leaves separated
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, diced
1 lb firm tofu
2 tablespoons soy sauce/Bragg’s Amino Acids
1 tablespoon miso
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
2 tablespoons sliced almonds
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup cooked red quinoa (or rice or other grain)

Dry fry the tofu. I divide to tofu into 2 batches to do this. After it is crisped the way you prefer it, set it aside on a plate to add to the stir-fry later.

Chop the komatsuna stems into 1/2 inch pieces.  Julienne the leaves.

Heat up a wok (without oil) and add the almonds.  Stir-fry quickly until fragrant and toasted, about 45 seconds. Remove.

Then in the wok, heat up 1-2 tbsp of sesame oil on medium heat. Add the onion, cook for 6-7 minutes or until the onion turns clear and soft.  Add the garlic and cook for one minute.  Add the komatsuna stems and cook for 5 minutes.  Add the leaves and cook for another 5 minutes.

While the komatsunas are cooking, combine the soy sauce, miso, and vinegar until smooth and set it aside.

When the greens are tender, add the tofu and then drizzle with miso sauce and sprinkle with almonds.

Serve immediately.

…but I just can’t help myself!

Now, let me take you on a little photo journey:

First, I spent a few days making this

Then some judges did this to it…

Then  Leigh (who is on the left) stood on some stairs and said some words…

and handed me this innocuous looking whisk…

which said this!

And congrats to Sean & Lisa for winning the other two categories!

So, like any good winner, I have a few thank yous to say.  Thank you Cosmo’s & Leigh & Ken & the three wonderful judges & all of the other entrants with their lovely cakes and cookies and cupcakes and pies & my boyfriend for putting up with me while I made this cake for three days & my mom for the chocolate baketastic pastry skill genes she gave me AND for also showing up to have a slice & Martha Stewart for her undying provision of inspiration.  Because really, really, where would I be without Martha Stewart?

Dear blogging world, meet my mom.  I look like her.

Right, so about how I won.  Well, back in April 2007, the Daring Bakers took on Martha Stewart’s chocolate crepe cake.  I made the cake for the first time in May 2007 after the posts were up because I wanted to see if it were really so god-awful to make.  I think that month was the first time most DBers cursed on their blog.  The cake was that hard to make.  I made the cake.  I cursed it.  I hated it.  It was that hard to make.  I’m telling you: blood, sweat, and tears.  Of course, I’ve now learned that my crepe recipe was off and that I shouldn’t attempt to flip crepes (I have my own system now), but it was a really bad Saturday.

Fast foward to December 2007.  I had planned on making the crepe cake with a peppermint twist for Cosmo’s First Annual Vegan Bake-Off.  But then I got a weekend job had to work Sundays so I never entered the cake.  This year, with my Sunday free, all bets were off.  After a bit of research, I found a crepe recipe that looked easier to work with (no egg replacer!), decided to use the same method as VCTOTW’s chocolate mousse, and, since I had a bottle of peppermint schnapps sitting in my cupboard, I knew the peppermint twist needed to happen.  The end result?  Three days of work, no crying, no cursing, and one beautiful 14 layer prize-winning cake!

Check out Cosmo’s blog for other info!

Vegan Alcoholic Peppermintastic Dark Chocolate Crepe Cake

For the Crepes:

1-1/2 cups soy milk
1-1/2 cups water
3/4 cup melted Earth Balance
3 oz semi-sweet chocolate, melted
3 tbsp cocoa
3 tbsp  sugar
1/4 cup and 2 tablespoons agave nectar syrup
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
teaspoon salt

In a large mixing bowl, blend all ingredients.  Cover and chill the mixture for 2 hours.  (I made the batter the night before I wanted to make the crepes and left it in the fridge overnight–it worked great!)

Lightly grease an 8 inch skillet (I have a crepe pan) with some spray oil. Heat the skillet until hot. Pour approximately 3 tablespoons batter into the skillet. Swirl to make the batter cover the skillet’s bottom.  You want the crepe to be super thin.

Now, if you can flip a crepe, by all means, do that.  I, however can’t.  So here’s my method.  Once the batter covers the skillet, watch it until it starts to solidify like a pancake.  Air pillows will form and poof up the crepe.  When the crepe looks fully cooked (but before the bottom burns!), place a wire cooling rack on top the pan with an oven mit underneath, flip the pan upside down (as if you were flipping a cake out of its pan onto a cooling rack), and voila, one perfectly cooked crepe that didn’t break!

For the mousse filling:

2 15 oz packages of firm Mori-Nu tofu, drained
3/4 cup peppermint schnapps
4 tbsp agave nectar
2 tsp vanilla extract
24 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped

Crumble the tofu into a blender or food processor.  Add the peppermint schnapps, agave, and vanilla.  Puree until completely smooth.

Meanwhile, in a double boiler, melt the chocolate.  Let cool for a minute or two, then add to the tofu mixture in the blender.  Blend until combined.

Set aside.

For the ganache:

1 1/4 cup soymilk
1 tbsp agave nectar
10 oz semi sweet chocolate, chopped
pinch of salt

Bring milk, agave nectar, and salt to a boil in a saucepan over medium heat.  Remove from heat.  Add chocolate and whisk until melted.

Set aside.

To Assemble:

Day One: Make crepe batter and let it sit in the fridge overnight.

Day Two: Make crepes.  Let them cool.

Once cooled, place a crepe on a wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet.  (Or I just did this directly on my cake board–which I made out of cardboard covered with tin foil–and wiped the excess ganache off at the end.)  Spread with about 3 tablespoons of the mousse. Top with another crepe.  Continue layering with the mousse and crepes, ending with a crepe on top. Thanks to crepes breaking and other errors of execution, I only managed 14 layers.  But this can certainly be taller!  Refrigerate until firm (2 hours-overnight).

Day Three: Make the ganache.  Set aside.

Take the cake out of the fridge and trim the edges with a sharp knife until the cake looks uniform.  Then spoon 1/2 cup glaze on top of the cake, spreading to edges. Spread remaining glaze around sides of cake, coating completely.

In a freezer ziplock bag, place 20 or so round peppermint candies.  Bash the candies with a hammer until you have pieces.  Using your hands, pat the peppermint pieces onto the side of the cake.

Refrigerate the cake for at least 30 minutes before serving!

And when you serve it, slice it very thinly–this cake is diabetes on a plate.  And super rich.  But super worth it!

Watch out kids, I’m bringing a killer cake tomorrow.  Chocolate + alcohol + cake can’t go wrong.  Hope to see all the Atlanta folks in a few hours!!!

Let’s just roll with that orange theme for one more day.  I’ve been in a bread baking phase lately, so naturally Have Cake, Will Travel is the first site I hit when I’m ready to make a loaf.  For some reason carrot bread sounded absolutely perfect this week.  And it was.  The crumb is light and moist, the color delightfully orange, and the loaf did rise perfectly like Celine said it would.  Of course the winter light in my apartment doesn’t make for the most vibrant picture, but you get the gist.

So go make a loaf!  And have a fun and peaceful weekend!

Carrot Bread

a la Celine and HCWT

3/4 cup soy milk [room temperature or slightly warmed up if in the fridge, to lukewarm]
1 cup finely grated carrots [moisture will depend on the quality of the carrots in use, you will have to play around with the amount of flour]
2 T turbinado sugar
2 T canola oil
1 t sea salt
2 T vital wheat gluten
1 cup whole wheat flour
about 2 cups bread flour, might need more or less: up to you to find out as you knead
2 t  instant-rise yeast

First, proof your yeast by heating your soymilk until it is lukewarm.  Then add the yeast and sugar.  Let it sit for 10 minutes until it is foamy.

Add rest of ingredients, but with only 2 cups of flour (1 cup whole wheat, 1 cup bread) to begin with.  Stir with a wooden spoon and pour the batter/dough onto a clean, lightly floured surface.  Add flour as you knead until the dough isn’t too sticky anymore and is smooth and elastic.

Place the dough in a large bowl coated with a little oil, cover, and let rise (in a warm, draft-free area) for 90 minutes or until doubled in size.

After the dough is done rising, preheat oven to 375F.

Punch dough down and flatten it with your hands in a rectangular shape. cut in two in length, roll each portion tightly in the shape of a loaf.  Place on a parchment/Silpat-lined baking sheet and let rise for another 30 minutes.  Bake for 30 minutes, or until the bottoms sound hollow when tapped, the top is golden brown, and if you have one: that an instant-read thermometer gives you a 190-200F reading.

Let cool on a rack before slicing.  (I wasn’t able to follow this step properly…)

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