Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Outta the Club

Hey, gang.  How's everyone recovering from MoFo?  Ovens and stove tops finally starting to cool down?


I'm doing a little bit of soul wrestling right now.  When I decided to go for this MoFo, I was hoping that the month would restart my devotion to vegetarian cooking - and maybe even convince me to give going vegan another try.

And the past month did remind me about how awesome vegan food can be.  I've always loved the challenge of vegan baking; it gives me a mad scientist thrill every time I replace eggs and yogurt with flax and tofu and then spy a lively, fluffy cake rising over the side of the pan.  The chewiness of tofu broiled just so, or a bean croquette sauteed in olive oil until a crisp shell cradles the tender creamy center, are pleasures that rival any omni dish in the world.  Vegan cooking introduced me to chickpeas, mustard greens, barley pilaf, and red Thai curry.  Why would anyone turn their back on all of these flavors, textures, and colors?

I wouldn't.  But I'm also not willing to turn my back on omnivorous food, either. 

I have all sorts of reasons why I won't give up animal products (sustainability for my part of the country, medically necessary weight control, better availability of well-raised meat near my home), and lots of qualifiers about how I've decided to proceed with my life in food (only eat meat, cheese, or milk from verifiable "humane" sources; eat it no more than once or twice a week) but to a devoted vegan those just sound like excuses.  Which they are, of course; but they're also choices that mean a lot to me.  I made a resolution a couple years ago to not apologize or explain away my vegetarian food choices.  I'll stick to the same idea now that I've chosen to take a different path.

This blog has been a number of things over the years.  It started as a gardening record, then morphed into a mainstream cooking blog, only to flow into a vegetarian living blog.  I still kept my veggie card when I decided to start cooking meat again for my family, and I kept my membership active while I fell off the wagon during my last pregnancy.  But now that I'm out of Club Veg, I'm thinking it's time to move the blog as well.  I'll post the vegan caramel bun variation before I call it quits here, and I'll drop a line with the new address in case anyone wants to move with me.  But after that, it's off to new pasture.  I hope you'll stop by.

What will be in my new diet and on my new blog?  Food, of course; some completely vegetarian meals, a few vegan eats (I'll try to keep all my baking recipes vegan friendly, because y'all deserve lots of sugar), some meals that are completely omni, and a lot of meals that are - hate the word! But I guess it's the best descriptor - flexitarian.  And of course, good Lord willing, I will be in the mix next year for MoFo.  Because even though I'm leaving the Green (Vegetable) Room, I'm still keeping one foot in the door.  

What's more, if I'm following your blog, you should know that I will still be lurking there in the shadows. Good food is good food, and you all do dish up plenty of it!  Thanks for all of the great pictures, inspiration, and good reading.  I am a drop out from Club Veg, but I'm still a member of the Vegetarian Blogger Fan Club.  And I'll be cheering you on from behind my Google Reader account.

Be back in a couple of days with sticky buns.  Until then!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Going Out With a Dang...

Hiya, MoFoers!

It's Halloween.  And just in case you haven't gotten your requisite annual cavity yet, here's a plate of sticky buns for your approval:

This is to use up that last little chunk of pumpkin brioche dough.  You know, the one that's just not enough for another loaf (or is, but you don't want any more bread).  This is mad easy.  All you need are my recipe notes, which are tucked in my copy of Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day, which is currently laying on my kitchen counter top.  I, however, am currently sitting on my mother's couch watching my daughter play tug-of-war with Gretchen the Dog, which according to Google Maps is 67.8 miles from said kitchen counter. Sorry, gang.  I'll be home on Thursday, so if you're curious you can check back over the weekend to see what I did.  Hint: it involves brown rice syrup, walnuts, dried cranberries, and love.  Lots and lots of love.

I did love all this vegan cooking I've done over the past month.  It's been fun to revisit my favorites, to try out some things I've always wanted to make, and to be seduced by all the new and exciting delicacies (John P.'s squash casserole and rye biscuits, I am talking to you).  Thanks for all the good times, gang - it's been another splendidly plantriffic October!

I'll be back tomorrow for an epilogue to my 2011 MoFo experience.  Until then!  And thanks again for an extraordinary thirty-one days.

Friday, October 28, 2011


OK, maybe this "Fry Day" thing wasn't such a great idea.

My intention was to find healthy things to put in my face.  New forms of oven fries.  Instead, I've discovered that I really like pakoras.

Why, yes, those are fried chickpeas to the left.  Seemed a shame to waste that hot oil opportunity...

I guess these aren't truly pakoras.  This recipe was my (naturally vegan) guide, but I fooled around a little with it.  I eliminated the chiles and substituted a little dried cilantro for the fresh; criminal on both counts, I know, but I didn't have them and wasn't about to do a grocery run.  I also made them waaay too big.  The first ones I did were huge, and even though I cooked them too long on the outside the batter was still runny on the inside.  So we'll call them onion fritters.  Whatever the case, they are deee-lish-ush.

They are also deep fried.  I love things that are deep fried.  If you battered my computer mouse and deep fried it, I'd probably at least try a bite.  I don't need to be introduced to more things that are deep fried.  My waist line can't take it.

From top left: Victorious sriracha ketchup, mango chutney, and plain old Heinz.

On a brighter note, the recipe that gave me onion fritters also introduced me to the joys of sriracha spiked ketchup.  Now there's a winning condiment!  I also want to try her ketchup chutney recipe, but first I need to schlep up to the Southside area of Jacksonville and visit the excellent Indian Grocery for chaat seasoning.

And if I do that, I'm only a stone's throw from about four good restaurants that each do a kick-butt channa masala.  So I might as well stop for lunch.  And while I'm having lunch, I could have them send out a little plate of samosas.  And then throw a couple of pakoras on there for good measure, just so that I could measure my home effort by the work of a pro.  Y'know, purely for research.

Please, if you know Red, don't mention my little fryddiction.  He might insist that I start a twelve step program, and it would be a shame to have waste an hour in a support group every day when I could be immersing things in hot fat.  Let's just keep this our own oily, crispy, magnificently spiced secret.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Holy Vegan, Bat Toast

Have you tried The Pioneer Woman's recipe for cinnamon toast?

I won't say it will change your life.  But I bet it will change your snack.

It's not even worth mentioning how simple it is to veganize.  The only difference I've found is that the Earth Balance tends to almost liquefy when you blend in the sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla.  But that just makes it easier to spread.  Vegan score!

So have a snack.  It's especially fine on a slice of Vegan Dad's everyday whole wheat bread - the whole wheaty goodness gives it an oomph, making it a better choice than even my beloved pumpkin brioche (that's OK, brioche - I have a new use for you.  Just wait and see).  Not a ridiculous Luddite with enough time to bake your own bread?  Just use whatever you have.  I won't mind, as long as you share.

Bat cutters are optional, of course.  In fact, The Girl ruined my Halloween vibe by requesting train toast.

Yup, that's a train.  We also have a dinosaur cutter and puzzle pieces.  Those turn out better.

Now if you'll excuse me, I've got some serious noshing ahead of me.  Tune in tomorrow, same cinna-bat time, same cinna-bat channel.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Not Just Eye Candy

Pumpkin brioche.

Wait a minute, I forgot something: mostly whole wheat pumpkin brioche.

Five minute mostly whole wheat pumpkin brioche.

And did I mention that it was a snap to veganize?

We owe you a debt of honor, Dr. Hertzberg and Ms. Francois.

If you want to replicate these delectable results, check out the following.  This is a half-sized version of the real recipe; it will yield three mini loaves, or one standard (eight or nine inch) loaf with a enough dough for a mini loaf left over.

Veganized ingredients:

1 1/2 C (6.75 ounces) white whole wheat flour

2 1/4 C (11.25 ounces) all purpose flour
1 package (1/4 ounce) instant yeast
1 1/2 t kosher salt
2 T vital wheat gluten
1 t pumpkin pie spice (if you don't have it, use the spices in the ingredients list HERE)
1/2 C + 2 T water
1/2 C silken tofu (Mori-Nu)
1/4 C agave nectar (haven't tried it, but I bet brown rice syrup would rule here)
1/4 C + 2 T neutral flavored oil or Earth Balance, melted (if you use margarine, cut back on the salt a little)
3/4 C + 2 T pumpkin puree (I used a little less than half a fifteen ounce can)
Oil or oil spray for the top of the loaf
Raw sugar for sprinkling on top

Follow the method HERE with the following modifications:

  • Blend the ingredients, water through pumpkin puree, in a blender or food processor, then pour into a microwave safe bowl (a quart sized one will do nicely - hey, if you have a stick blender you can just process everything while it's in said microwave safe bowl).  Nuke everything until it's lukewarm (warm enough for you to stick you finger in and be pleasantly surprised, not uncomfortable, chilled, or scalded).  Alternately, you can pour from blender to saucepan and heat it all on low.  Your call.
  • After you do the initial two-hour rise and mandatory chill period, you can bake it in a variety of pans: loaf, brioche, muffin tin, etc.  I don't have a brioche pan, so mine was loafy all the way.  BE SURE TO SPRAY THE PAN, even if yours is nonstick. I also line mine across with a single sheet of parchment.  You can, in a perfect world, pull it out like a sling that way.  You may still have to chisel the sides a little, but it's miles easier than the horrors of an ungreased, unlined pan.  
  • To shape for a loaf pan, gather a ball of dough (cantaloupe sized for a regular pan, grapefruit sized for a small pan like mine) as described.  After the initial shape and gather, keep pulling and stretching until it's an oblong long enough to fit the pan.  Make the top of the oblong as tight and smooth as possible to ensure the best rise or appearance.  The short ends of the dough oblong should touch the short ends of the pan.  I know this sounds annoying and nit-picky, but it will take you about a minute, tops.
  • If you're anti-plastic wrap or don't have any (I was guilty of the latter) you can rest the dough after shaping under a damp kitchen towel.
  • Replace the egg wash with a light spray or brush of the neutral oil, then sprinkle the sugar.  Works like a charm.

Charming.  But how can you enjoy this pumpkinliciousness?

As tender, fluffy French toast, of course.

As the base for a "turkey" sandwich (lingonberry jam optional but highly recommended).

As decadent cinnamon toast:

Or just sliced.  Maybe with a smear of Earth Balance?

Up to you, my fellow MoFoers.  Up to you.