October 2009

October, where have you gone?! My goodness, it’s been a crazy-awesome month MoFoing with you all. I wish I could have kept up the pace a bit better, but the conference in Houston, Alternative Thanksgiving, and school kept getting in the way. You all were so inspiring and now I’ve got a long list of recipes to catch up on: A-K’s Vegan Haggis, Lazy Smurf’s Sanguine Moon Curry, Monica’s Carrot & Walnut Tofu Neatballs, Chow Vegan’s BBQ Yuba Ribs, Becky’s Lentil & Sweet Potato Soup, and Becka’s Chocolate Breakfast Soft Serve, among others.

One recipe that I did get around to making this month after it was posted was Mihl’s beautiful Dark Wholemeal Bread with Flax Seeds. The loaf only lasted three days, it was that good, and, remember, there’s only one of me eating my food. Good heavens, the crumb, the dark nutty flavor, the satisfying swipe of each piece against my soup bowl! Mihl’s a goddess of bread baking and her recipe turned out absolutely perfect when I made it. Thanks to her and Peter Reinhart, I will never be able to make a loaf of bread without starting a poolish or biga the night before–the extra fermentation works wonders!

Dark Wholemeal Bread with Flax Seeds

from Seitan is my Motor

17.5 tbsp whole wheat flour
17.5 tbsp water
0.6 tsp active dry yeast

10.5 tbsp whole spelt flour
7 tbsp whole rye flour
10.5 tbsp water
2 tsp salt
1.2 tsp dry active yeast
3.5 tbsp whole flax seeds
3.5 tbsp water

The day before mix whole wheat flour and water in a bowl. You can mix it with a spoon just until everything is combined. Cover with a plate or plastic wrap and let rest on the counter for at least 8 hours/overnight.

The next day, add remaining flours, salt, remaining yeast, and 10.5 tablespoons of water.

In a small bowl mix flax and 3.5 tbsp of water and set aside.

Knead the dough for ten minutes. Because the dough consists of whole meal flours only it won’t be as elastic as regular bread dough. This bread has a relatively high water content, so it will also be considerably wetter, a bit like thick cake batter.

During the last minute of kneading add the flax mixture. The flax should have absorbed all the water by now. Knead the dough for another minute or until the flax is well incorporated.

Preheat your oven to 480°F.

Oil a loaf pan or line it with parchment paper and transfer the dough to the pan. Let the dough rise until doubled, or for one hour.

Transfer it to your oven and bake for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 420°F and bake for another 30-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. A very good way to determine if your loaf is done is a candy thermometer. Stick it into the center of the baked bread and if it registers 93°C/200°F the bread is done.

Let cool completely before slicing.

This week has been a little bit insane, and it’s aiming to be only more so until November hits on Sunday, so bear with me these last few days of Vegan MoFo 2009. I tried…but, well, last year was a bit more successful on the daily posting side of things.

Lately I’ve been making a lot of soup–it goes a long way, is cheap, filling, and absolutely satisfying with a slice or two of bread and a nice little salad on the side. The current soup is a mash-up of butternut squash, acorn squash, Indian spices, and coconut milk. It’s a little spicy and hearty, squashy and coconut milky all at the same time–a blend of flavors and textures that I really enjoy. If you have the time, straining the soup will help take out any little bumps and squash pieces in the soup, but I don’t mind them so I just whir it through the food processor and leave it at that.

Curried Winter Squash Soup

1 medium-small butternut squash, roasted
2 acorn squash, roasted
1 tbsp vegetable oil/olive oil
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp hot curry spice
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp corriander
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp tumeric
1 can coconut milk
1 c water (or more if needed to thin the soup)

Saute the onion until translucent, approx. 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and spices, cook for 1 minute until fragrant. Remove from heat.

Scoop the roasted squash flesh into a food processor. Add the onion-garlic-spice mixture. Add the coconut milk and water and blend until smooth. Add more water as needed.

Pour into a pot to reheat. Serve with bread & a salad or side of your choice.

Makes 8-10 servings.

First of all, I swam a mile today!!!! Wooohooo! It’s not my first, but it’s been awhile since I’ve dedicated enough time and energy to attempt one, and I feel like I might be getting back on track exercise wise. Last week I started swimming with my friend A. here and it’s made all the difference. We swim at the same pace and I find myself so much more relaxed in the water (and thus able to swim a lot farther) with her as a partner. So yay, I’m excited! Swimming is so the best justification for cooking all the time.

Another great justification for cooking all the time is the produce here. I know I’ve gushed about it in nearly every post, but I just can’t get over how local and fresh and organic and delicious and relatively affordable everything is. I spend all my money at market or at the co-op, true, but for me it’s all I spend money on. That and my membership to the YMCA so I can swim off the pounds. One of the foods I’ve been loving, and eating tons of, since moving here is the apples. Some are hit-or-miss, i.e. the Arkansas Black Apple, and some are just darn delicious like the Granny Smiths and the Golden Crisps. Some make great pies, some beg to be munched whole, some make great hiking companions, and some like to hang out in bowls of oatmeal. It all depends.

Some, however, want to be made into apple butter. It’s surprising that I haven’t made apple butter before, given my addiction to it, but I’m never buying the stuff again now that I know how easy it is to make. My one complaint is that the texture isn’t quite right–the jar I’m working on now is a little gummy and hard. It tastes won-der-ful, and it does spread, but it takes a little work. Does that mean I overcooked it? This batch of apple butter was also my first attempt at canning, so I hope I did everything right (I sterilized the jars and lids and then sealed everything in a hot water bath), but time will tell, I suppose.

Seriously, if you’ve never made a fruit butter before, get on it! Butter-free, fruity, and delicious on everything, you can’t go wrong. In fact, I have a pumpkin waiting around begging to be cooked into a nice batch of pumpkin butter…

Apple Butter

from Simply Recipes

8 lbs of good cooking apples (I used Granny Smith)
2 c apple cider vinegar
4 c water
8 c sugar
1 tsp salt
4 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp allspice
Grated rind and juice of 2 lemons

Cut the apples into quarters, without peeling or coring them (much of the pectin is in the cores and flavor in the peels), cut out damaged parts.

Put them into large pot, add the vinegar and water, cover, bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, cook until apples are soft, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat.

Ladle apple mixture into a food mill and strain the mixture through, removing the seeds and peel. Measure resulting puree. Add 1/2 cup of sugar for each cup of apple pulp (approx. 8 cups). Stir to dissolve sugar. Add a dash of salt, and the cinnamon, ground cloves, allspice, lemon rind and juice. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.

Cook uncovered in a large, wide, thick-bottomed pot (CP note: I used 2 large pots, and the cast iron one seemed to work a lot better than the stainless steel pot) on medium low heat, stirring constantly to prevent burning. Scrape the bottom of the pot while you stir to make sure a crust is not forming at the bottom. Cook until thick and smooth when a bit is spooned onto a cold plate and allowed to cool (1 to 2 hours).

Pour into hot, sterilized jars and seal. If you plan to store the apple butter un-refrigerated, make sure to follow proper canning procedures.

Makes approximately 7 pints.

Saturday–thank goodness. This week seems like it’s dragged on and on. Most of this might be due to the 3:45 am wake up time I had on Tuesday for filming the morning show segments. Most of this might be related to the fact that I gave up coffee this week (seriously not the best week to do this–but I do feel clearer headed and more focused already!). But mostly I think I just haven’t had a break. So today, while I had planned on going to an urban farming conference down the street from me, I’m just going to take it easy, buy some produce at the farmers market, and cook a nice breakfast. Sometimes my body just needs a break, and when it does, I’ve got to listen! Later on I will hit up the 350 Rally for the International Day of Climate Action and show my support for the planet, but for right now, I’m going to cozy up to a plate of fried maple pumpkin polenta, tempeh tube sausage patties, and sauted garlicky kale (the below is obviously not polenta or kale–it’s french toast and tofu scramble).

Tempeh Tube Sausage

1 block of tempeh (can be gluten-free)
2 tbsp tapioca starch
1/2 tsp sage
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp crushed black pepper
1 tbsp dried parsley flakes/2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
1 tbsp nutritional yeast
1 tbsp Bragg’s Liquid Aminos/soy sauce

Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Add the tempeh and boil for 10 minutes. This will help to eliminate the bitter taste.

In a food processor, combine the boiled tempeh with the rest of the ingredients.

Roll the sticky “sausage” into balls, flatten, and fry in oil over medium heat on the stove for 2-3 minutes on each side until golden brown.

While I owe you guys a recap of my Alternative Thanksgiving talk and demo this past Tuesday night, I just must share this amazing, oh-my-goodness-this-is-the-perfect-autumn-easy-but-fancy-pants dinner. Last week Barbara of Dish ‘n’ That shared the most amazing looking polenta recipe from Cuisine magazine: Maple Pumpkin Polenta. As soon as she posted it, I knew I had to make it. I mean, pumpkin and maple syrup and polenta all in one dish? How much better can it get?! The recipe comes from Gigi Trattoria in Rhinebeck, New York, and all it is is roasted pumpkin (or canned), maple syrup, and polenta. So simple yet so flavorful! I can’t keep myself from scooping up additional servings.

But I needed something to go with the amazing polenta and that’s where, per usual, the lovely Grandin Village Farmers Market comes in handy. Paul Carter of Thistle Dew Farm in Charlotte County Virginia is my mushroom hook-up. He’s the one who supplies me with the utterly amazing (yet sadly now out-of-season) Chicken of the Woods mushrooms. Now, thankfully, Hen of the Woods are in season! For several months Holeman & Finch (my favorite restaurant in Atlanta) had a roasted Hen of the Woods Mushroom with polenta on their menu and I’ve been itching to recreate it for awhile, so now was definitely the time. At $5 a container, they’re not the cheapest items, but freshly foraged mushrooms are my Achilles heel.

Also at the farmers market, I scored a head of Tatsoi “Spoon” Mustard Greens. I was attracted to the mustard greens because 1) I’d never heard of them before, and 2) they whorl around a center stem like baby bok choi, and seriously, how cute is that? I’m such a sucker for cute food. All I did to these lovely greens was chop off the chunky midstem and then saute them in olive oil with garlic. A little bit spicy, a lot green and good-for-me tasting–they were the perfect accompaniment for the mushrooms and polenta.

The best part about this meal is that it’s so easy to whip up. The polenta takes 15-20 minutes and while it’s cooking you can saute the greens in one pan and the mushrooms in another. Plate all the pieces together and voila–one ridiculously good meal. And I must admit, it’s nice to be back in the land of cooking non-Thanksgiving food. I’ve got to get on the breads and pies, but that’s easy…and far less squash-oriented!

Pan Roasted Hen of the Woods Mushrooms with Maple Pumpkin Polenta and Tatsoi “Spoon” Mustard Greens

For the Polenta
adapted from Dish ‘n’ That/Cuisine magazine/Gigi Trattoria

1 tsp salt
1/2 tbsp olive oil
3/4 c ground yellow cornmeal
1 c pumpkin puree (fresh or 100- percent-natural canned pumpkin)
1/6 c pure maple syrup
1 tbsp Earth Balance
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan. (CP note: I used the pumpkin juice left over from roasting my pumpkin–the juice you squeeze out when you put the roasted pumpkin in a cheesecloth.)

Add salt and the olive oil, reduce the heat to a simmer and gradually whisk in the cornmeal, a small amount at a time to prevent clumping.

Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring often, until the polenta is tender and is pulling away from the sides of the pan, about 20 minutes.

Stir in the pumpkin puree and maple syrup, and cook for another minute or two.

Then remove the pan from the heat and stir in the Earth Balance. Add salt and pepper, if needed.

For the Hen of the Woods Mushrooms
adapted from New York Magazine

1/2 lb hen-of-the-woods mushrooms
2 tbsp olive oil
1 sprig fresh rosemary, chopped into three pieces
1 tbsp Earth Balance
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp fresh-cracked black pepper

Turn mushroom over to expose the stem. With paring knife, remove the core of the stem.

Using your hands, gently break mushroom into pieces. In a 12-inch sauté pan, heat olive oil over medium flame. Season mushrooms with salt and pepper.

Place them in the heated oil, taking care not to overcrowd the pan, and cook for 3 minutes. When the mushrooms have a golden-brown surface, flip them with a spatula and continue cooking for 2 to 3 minutes.

Add Earth Balance and rosemary, and baste mushrooms for 1 minute. Drain on paper towels to remove excess oil, and serve.

For the Mustard Greens

1 head Tatsoi “Spoon” Mustard Greens
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
fresh cracked pepper to taste

Snap the mustard green leaves and stems off the center stem of the tatsoi head. Rinse the leaves of any grit.

In a pan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the minced garlic and saute for 1 minute until fragrant.

Add the mustard greens and saute for 3-5 minutes until just wilted (add 1 tbsp of water if necessary). Serve!

First of all, I want to extend a warm welcome to everyone who found the site via WDBJ Channel 7 Roanoke’s morning show! If you’re interested in seeing step-by-step instructions for how to construct the Gluten-Free, Vegan Stuffed Acorn Squash I demonstrated on today’s show, click here. Other Vegan, Vegetarian, and Gluten-Free Thanksgiving recipes can be found at the top under the Thanksgiving Tutorials tab.

My talk and demonstration will begin at 6 pm at the main branch of the Roanoke Public Libraries at 706 South Jefferson Street. Throughout the event I will discuss the vegan and gluten-free lifestyle, demonstrate one or two recipes, and pass out free samples. Additionally I will answer any questions you might have about what vegans eat, what gluten-free means, and offer suggestions for how to veganize or make gluten-free your own family recipes. Come armed with questions! I’m excited to answer them!

If you missed the WDBJ segments this morning, you can visit WDBJ and see the videos under their Video Gallery or link to them here:
Part 1: The Stuffing
Part 2: The Squash
Part 3: The Gravy

I’m honored to have been asked to be on the show and even though it was the earliest I’ve been up in a long long long time, it was a great experience. I’m looking forward to tonight, and I’ll see you all at 6 pm sharp!

I’m starting to get a little burned out on cooking right now, just a little. If you head over to the Thanksgiving Tutorials section you’ll find lots of new goodies: gluten-free cornbread, stuffed acorn squash, cranberry orange relish (among others). By this time next week I’ll be in Thanksgiving overload–and it’s only October! It is exciting though, so I can’t complain too much, and thankfully folks managed to eat a huge chunk of the stuffings, squash, and relish last night at a potluck I hosted. As a magnet on my fridge says, “good cooks never lack friends.” So true!

In other news, it’s been cold and wet over here in southwestern Virginia–I know I’m farther north than I used to be, and at a higher elevation, but I wasn’t expecting it to be in the 40s so soon. The weather report says it’s going to warm up again next week, but I’m not sure if I can believe it. My friends who are thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail reached just north of here and have realized that the weather is downhill, as well as their hike, from now on. Thankfully they’re southbound, so they’re not hiking up into New England’s nasty end-of-autumn-beginning-of-winter-weather. Dorian, as you can see, is enjoying the local fauna.

For these cold and blustery autumn days, when I’m not cooking up a Thanksgiving dish or meal for Alternative Thanksgiving, I’ve begun to make a lot of soups. Soup is just so warming–anything that warms my nose back to a regular temperature while I’m eating it gets major points in my book. This Southwestern Cabbage Soup is my answer to a clean-out-the-fridge-and-pantry day: half a cabbage, a can of beans, potatoes, onions, a habanero pepper, chipotle chili powder. Corn would have been nice, but I didn’t have any. So my serving of cornbread on the side had to suffice. The soup couldn’t have been easier or more convenient to make and it definitely warmed my spirits while the rain poured.  As with any recipe like this, mix and match whatever ingredients you have on hand–the flavor builds with almost any ingredient!

Southwestern Cabbage Soup

1/2 cabbage, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1 onion, chopped
2 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
1 habanero pepper, minced
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
5 cups vegetable broth
1 tbsp chipotle chili powder

Warm the olive oil in a large thick-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Stir in the salt and potatoes. Cover and cook until they are a bit tender and starting to brown a bit, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the onion and cook for another 5-7 minutes, until the onion softens. Add the minced habanero pepper and chili powder and cook for 30 seconds more.

Add the vegetable broth, beans, and cabbage and bring the pot to a simmer. Let the soup simmer for 35-40 minutes, serve with cornbread.

You know those moments when all of a sudden you realize that you’ve totally rocked something out?  Moments when skipping and singing “by jove, I’ve got it” don’t seem unreasonable, when all things vegan and gluten-free seem possible?  Well, I had one of those moments the other day, and let me tell you, it rocked.

Granted, it’s pretty ridiculous since I’d only tried a g-f pie crust once before, but, on my second try, I really really really think I’ve got it.  The crust worked just like any other gluten-filled one–it chilled the same, it rolled out the same, it was pliable and easy to work with, and, after it baked, it flaked just like my favorite recipe (and wasn’t crumbly at all).  It was just darn delicious.  And, as R. pointed out, when you expect second best as a celiac, it’s pretty awesome to eat something 100% delicious by any standards.

I used the pie crust in individual-sized Asian pear, apple galettes.  I’m not sold on the pears, they certainly take longer to cook down, but the combination of flavors worked really well.  For the recipe for the galette, follow this one–the only difference is that I made them individual size (six in total) and I didn’t make the glaze for on top.  Just pears, apples, crust, a little bit of sugar, and a little bit of melted Earth Balance.  I may have eaten pie for breakfast two days in a row…

Perfect Vegan Gluten-Free Pie Crust

¾ c Bob’s Red Mill all purpose gluten-free flour
¼ c brown rice flour
¼ c besan (chickpea flour)
¾ tsp guar gum
½ tsp salt
½ tsp raw sugar
½ c Earth Balance
¼- ½ c ice water

::note:: this recipe yields one crust–to make a double crust for an apple pie or something like that, double the recipe.

Mix flours, guar gum, sugar, and salt in a large bowl; add the EarthBalance in tablespoon chunks, and use a pastry blender to blend until the mixture resembles coarse meal.

Add ice water slowly, while gently stirring with a spatula just until dough holds together without being wet or sticky. Be careful not to over-work the dough. To test, squeeze a small amount together: If it is crumbly, add more ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time.

Form dough into a ball. Flatten into a disc and wrap in plastic. Transfer to the refrigerator and chill at least 1 hour.

Roll out and use as a pie or galette crust!

I’m really due to give you another recipe, but first a quick announcement for anyone in the Southwestern Virginia area. Next week, Tuesday, October 20, I will be giving a demonstration and talk on vegan and gluten-free Thanksgiving menus at the main branch of the Roanoke Public Library. The event begins at 6 p.m. and will last for about 45 minutes. During that time I’ll address the two “main” parts of the Thanksgiving meal–side dishes and main dishes (or turkey alternatives as I might as well call it). Through an interactive discussion, I’ll address concerns about what exactly vegans and gluten-free folks eat, demonstrate how to cook one or two dishes, and, hopefully, depending on how the food codes work, pass out samples.  Next month, date TBA, I will give another talk on bread and dessert (oh how I love pies!).

If you don’t live in the Roanoke-area, as most of you probably don’t, you can access my tutorials in the Thanksgiving Tutorials tab at the top of the blog. The recipes include step-by-step photograph instructions in addition to the recipe in order to facilitate an easier cooking time on Thanksgiving day. Currently you’ll find recipes for dishes like collard greens and maple pecan roasted sweet potatoes, as well as staples like vegan and gluten-free gravy. The index will be updated almost daily from now until Thanksgiving, so if you all have any ideas about recipes you’d like to see veganized, let me know at TheCupCakePunk [at] gmail [dot] com.

Hope to see you next week!

Saturday morning I headed back to Roanoke, but not before scarfing down a delicious vegan brunch. I dragged my family over to 821 Cafe in the VCU/Fan area. I’d wanted to go to Ipanema’s brunch so so so badly, but they only serve it on Sundays and everyone in my family wanted pancakes and omlettes, so 821 fit the bill. The space was pretty dark, hence the horrid lighting in the photograph, but the food was delish. The coffee while we waited helped too. My brunch consisted of vegan french toast topped with bananas, vegan sausage (I think they make it there), and rosemary potatoes (which I doused in ketchup and Sriracha sauce because that’s how I like it).

The food was perfect for my drive west across the state and, swept up in the beauty of being back in the mountains again, I drove all the way to Roanoke from just outside of Charlottesville on the Blue Ridge Parkway. It only added about an hour and fifteen minutes to the drive and was so worth it for the beautiful reds and oranges and yellows that lined the road’s spectacular overlooks. Richmond was nice, the “big city” vegan food options were de-lic-ious, but it’s so good to be back home!

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