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Aaaah! I guess I have too much free time or something. Actually I’ve been in this mood where I don’t really know what I want to eat for lunch at all, so only the most elaborate thing has been satisfying. So that begat sushi, which was the magical result of actually having avocado and cucumber in the fridge at the same time. The rolls were at the whim of whatever I had on hand, so I ended up with…

+ california (of course)
+ bunny rolls (apple, carrot and thin-sliced ginger)
+ vegetable with hot chili sesame oil
+ broccoli mashed with tahini and ume plum vinegar, with red pepper and red onion
+ and avocado-cashew!

I’ve also been harboring this serious craving for pizza, for like, ever. And I’d never made it before! (these days it hardly seems worth cooking if it’s not an experiment. *shrug*)

I cracked open my Vegan with a Vengeance and started on the pizza dough, and it was great – I’m so used to making bread with a poolish that I have to set up the night before that a straight-ahead dough recipe seemed positively lightning fast to make! Plus ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS.

This is my second attempt and I think I’m getting the hang of it. I was even flipping the dough in the air to get that paper-thin middle crust going! I could make pizza all the time, it’s totally playing with food, and anyway… this is my second creation, a grand mess of red onion, tofurkey sausage, artichoke hearts, sundried tomatoes, broccoli, olives, tofu ricotta and red chile flakes with homemade pizza sauce, YUM!

And check it out! CRUST BUBBLE ACTION!!

The bubble means it’s extra delicious. :D

It’s interesting these sayings one hears and doesn’t think about, like “cheap as dirt”. Yes, apparently dirt is very very cheap! Shows me. I picked up a ginormous bag yesterday and lovingly transferred my slightly cramped tomato plants to their rightful places in separate pots. They’re so beautiful, and not even so stunted for a few mishaps along the way (icy cold nights with the window accidentally open, and Satchmo deciding to munch on a few of them, ack). I’ve never grown things before, but I hope I get tomatoes by the end of the season. At the very least they make the apartment look great!

So that was the living part. The LEARNING part is hoboy, I should listen when a cookbook author describes something as a warming defense against winter weather, and possibly not make that on a gorgeous sunny evening. I mean, it used up all these mysterious odds and ends of things I had, and I tallied the total cost of this meal to be pennies (so really nothing lost), but I just wasn’t in the mood for braised seitan with chicory and brussel sprouts. The broccoli polenta was awesome, though. Thank goodness for freezers, maybe there’ll be a cold night later on.

And this isn’t living nor learning, but actually the exciting lead-up to what has immediately become my new obsessively favourite dessert thing ever —

Banana chocolate chip bread pudding! Oh yes, oh yes yes yes. Feel the mapley cinnamony soft deliciousness through the computer screen? I hope so, I would devise a device to do so if I could, forget wonka bars through the television, I wanna make bread pudding for everybody.

Seriously, I’m completely gah gah for this, I’ve had it for lunch for the past three days (with, you know, some bean salad so I don’t drop dead of malnutrition). Thumbs up again, Vcon!

Blub blub! Miso soup with real kombu (finally) required some sort of infantile time-wasting awesomeness, hence carrot-fish. I swear it made it more delicious!

And I actually ate something besides oatmeal for breakfast the other day! I love how sleeping in means I have to budget my time which means pancakes, ooh, life is hard. These weren’t perfect (oatmeal chocolate chip, for the record), but maybe I’ll fix the liquid ratio and put them in the zine someday. Chocolate for breakfast, though… it’s great.

This was another one I was thinking of putting in the zine, but then I was like, “uh, no. Everybody has a banana bread recipe and I actually suspect I got this from the ppk years ago, before I even knew what the ppk was.” Tasty, but I mostly just made it to see if I could still make banana bread, ha. (quartering a recipe and making it in a tiny pan turns it into banana bars, though, which is pretty cool!)

Yummy black bean and wheat berry salad, with corn, red onion, radish, carrot, cilantro, lime, cumin and cinnamon. It could use bell peppers and/or tomato, but not bad at all for an empty fridge kinda thing!

And banhi mi, banhi mi!! Okay, “vietnamese seitan sandwich with savoury broth dip” (from what else but Vcon). I was too excited to eat it to take a decent photo at all, but you can probably see that I deviated from the recipe and tried to make it more authentic, I suppose. So there’s cucumber sticks, sweet pickled carrot, green onion, radish, jalapeno, tomato, mayo, cilantro and delicious satan. I mean seitan. I’d never dipped a sandwich before, it was lovely, mushy spicy and bready.

Another cleaning out the fridge deal, this time minestrone, with the expected vegetable guests, but also corn because I really really like corn. And macaroni noodles. And I even resisted making it spicy. Oh, and I added ground up toasted almonds to approximate parmesan and this was a good decision, it totally made it right.

So very nourishing!

This stuff is weird city, but I’ve pretty much fallen in love with “wet bean curd” now. I thought it was going to be spicy tofu in a jar, and for $1 I had to give it a try, but I got it home and it’s not tofu… exactly. It smells like briney blue cheese and the cubes inside are almost like… melted brie in consistency. So it’s kind of like cheese, but also a heck of a lot saltier and pungent-ier and I had absolutely no idea what to do with it (besides get kinda hooked on eating small bits of it with a spoon).

See? Weird! Yet compelling. There’s mysterious stuff floating in that brine, too, I’m convinced it’s either chiles or globules of pure yumminess, from the magical yumminess forest.

Luckily I did manage to find something real to make with it – fu yu ong choy! (aka: ridiculously more-ish stir-fried water spinach). Here’s what I did, if I remember correctly…

oil for frying
1 tsp grated ginger
1 tsp minced garlic
1 bunch of ong choy/chinese water spinach, rinsed and cut into long sticks (separate the leaves and stems)
2-3 cubes fermented tofu

* Heat the oil in a heavy skillet or a wok on high heat. Add the ginger/garlic and cook for about a minute.
* Add the spinach stems and cook for maybe 2-3 minutes, then add the leaves, and cook until they’re just barely wilted.
* Make a bare spot in the middle of the pan and mash in the bean cubes, then toss to coat everything. Serve whilst hot and juicy!

And if it’s just you… well then eat the whole pan with chopsticks and a big grin, and then have peanut-brittly-rice-caked-bottom-y candy things for dessert and revel in the not having to impress dinner guests and/or represent all major food groups in one sitting. woo!

There’s this elusive flavour I can never seem to get from recipes. Simple and rustic – maybe old-school hippy if you want to call it that – but utterly delicious in it’s own way, the food of the flaky potlucks I went to in my formative food years. (with roasted veg and homemade bread and vinaigrettes and lasagnas and OMG a trampoline in the backyard???)

Anyway, this pie is so it. Maybe all I had to do was not use a recipe and just try to make lunch, ha! It has millet and leeks and swiss chard and tomato and next time I’ll put walnuts in the crust for nuttiness, but it was really light-yet-satisfying anyway.

And yes, those are garlic-stuffed olives. I am also a fan.

Pictured here are probably the worst (looking) cookies I’ve ever made, but for future reference it’s good to know I can whip up a batch in less than 20 minutes. I halved the sparkled ginger cookies from VwaV, didn’t have molasses, didn’t wait for them to cool, and ran to a picnic, but they were awesome anyway (3 of us wolfed these down in an hour, which should be telling). I think it was the cloves that really wooed me.

Oh, and I lucked out the other day and picked up a whole bunch of super cheap cookbooks at chapters, including Moby’s Teany book, which is impossibly cute and has recipes like matcha-chocolate pudding and plum french toast I really want to try (hurray for cleverly disguised vegan pseudo-cookbooks – it doesn’t say vegan anywhere on it, but I knew. Oh, I knew). The first thing I made was the tvp chicken salad, cause like… sandwich-y crumbly fillings are the best. It needed a lot more mayo and I added basil and bell peppers, but it’s a pretty good base and tasted great on the last of my homemade bread (yay freezers).

And Indira has done it again – I think what I adore most of all about her recipes (besides how easy and downright delicious they always are) is how clean they taste. I didn’t even realize this was her take on Hoppin’ John until I was halfway through making this, but it’s oh-so south indian and SO ADDICTIVE. Like, “please hide the spoon from me” addictive. I love how all of the heat is from black pepper, too, it’s neat. (and it has bok choy instead of mustard greens, so um… that’s three points of the globe coming together for a pottage of homey happy rice? excellent)

I had the worst day yesterday — looks like I’m stuck paying for a course on ancient Aegean culture and whatnot, even if I drop it. They said it was art history, the trolls! It’s about freaking architecture. Well, I *did* learn what a ‘lentil’ is… (not the food kind, but the kind that holds up treasuries and apollonian temples). I’m going to drop it and go to the lectures anyway because it’s interesting but I have an average to think about.

So yeah, that brought on a severe chocolate cake craving. And not one of those shrink-wrapped Skinni Mini vegan squishy fudgey squares they sell at the grocery store check-outs EVERYWHERE here, no I wanted a wedge, a slice, a piece of cake.

Luckily I find fractioning recipes therapeutic in the extreme.

I also recently made some cashew & agar cheese, or at least attempted to achieve that grate-able holy grail of yeasty goodness.

Not so pretty, and alas…

…not so firm.

Absolutely, 100% scrumptious though – maybe even better than that aged cheddar crock-cheese my mom used to eat while I wrinkled my nose. This also marks my first vegan melty-cheese experience and it did bring on giddy stupid munching, I will not lie. I had a griller with tomatoes and pickles just like I used to survive off of, glee!!

EDIT: due to popular interest, more talk about cheese! I adapted a recipe from this site here.

What I ended up doing:

3/4 cup water
2 1/2 tbsp agar flakes
1/4 cup raw cashew pieces
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp tahini
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp paprika
1/8 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp salt

“Place the water and agar-agar flakes in a small
saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and
simmer for 5 minutes, stirring often. Place in a
blender with the remaining ingredients, and process
until completely smooth.

Pour immediately into a lightly oiled, 3-cup [1 cup, really]
rectangular mold, loaf or other rectangular container.
Cover and chill for several hours or overnight. To
serve, turn out of the mold and slice. Store leftovers
in the refrigerator.”

Next time I’ll probably make a full recipe (I went through this block fast!) and add another tablespoon or 2 of agar flakes. Also, I would suspect that the moistness of the tomatoes played a crucial role in the meltyness.

And speaking of lunchables, I must tip my hat to Amy of a A Stranger in the Alps for her cardamom-vanilla-pear muffin recipe. If a muffin were a person, this one would wear cotton gloves and ride a skinny black bicycle through moors and stuff (okay, I’ve been reading Virginia Woolf’s Orlando and I’ve got immortal british elegance on the brain, but THEY WERE SO AWESOME). The carrot soup was good, but a victim of my blended soup kitchen-sink philosophy and a bit too much curry powder. Anyway…

I also feasted last week on crispy crunchy stuffed tofu (from Cake Maker to the Stars), and sweet & sour green beans (from the More Than Twigs & Berries zine), and holy novelty tofu batman! I think I was channeling kitchen genius fairies cause I don’t know why down-home sweet potato tofu chews got made with chinese-ish beans, but they went together like a dream, like sweet and gooey with crunchy and nutty… yeah. Quite good.

So in conclusion I am bad at memorizing dates and couldn’t tell a Kore from a Kouros if you paid me, but hey, I can make up for those things. With tofu. Rarrr!

Yep, those are jackfruit carnitas taco-deliverers of spicy delish! This is all part of my grand master plan to celebrate all and every holiday that means I get to eat party food on a monday night. And thank you Melisser for the recipe!

Oh, and it really is cause for celebration, since I got these wonderful things in the mail a few days ago – JCD’s More Than Twigs & Berries zine, which is full of recipes I can’t wait to try out, like soup with homemade noodles, nanaimo bars and peanut butter banana muffins! And my first postcard in the ppk mail-art swap came! (thanks Pixel!)

I love getting things in the mail… in fact so much that my local postage-guy (who curiously works every single day, all day) seems more than a little amused every time I walk up to the counter with yet more mysterious and brightly-stickered/doodled packages and letters… postage is like a treasure system, really.

(oh, and the zine is crinkled like that cause I’ve already cooked with it :)

So I was tagged again for the 5 Things meme, by Swell Vegan and Rabbit Food! Eep, I’m not sure what else there is to say about myself, unless we had a lovely beverage and a sunlit cafe to talk in for a while… I suppose the most important things about a person are those things they strive for, though, so I’ll list my top five upcoming projects.

1. A cookzine, finally! I can’t boast a lot of recipes, but those that I do have are special and fun, and it’s been too long since I’ve made a zine. I just need to come up with a name first, and then all the cutting and pasting will follow after. It’ll probably be decorated to the nines. :D

2. I saw Rachel Brice on tv recently and fell in love. At least with the concept of tribal bellydance. It’s almost like how I dance anyway, but I’m really interested in adding some real structure and tradition into my own thing. I’ve already found some instructional videos on Youtube and I can make my belly swim like a snake! (this also has the added bonus of increased ab-strength, which just makes life easier in general). Not to mention I get to make a similarly decked-out costume for the next solstice festival I go to!

3. The etsy store, but I’ve already mentioned that! I went to the bank yesterday to find out why I have a Visa account but no card yet. They didn’t know, and advised me to call Visa themselves, but I AM taking steps toward this!

4. Finish the final and fifth installment in my Treehead painting series. I got an A on the four I have so far, but I want to make a fifth on my own time and see if maybe a bar or small cafe around the city would want to put them on the walls for a bit. Five is a good number for an art proposal, I think.

5. Start volunteering at the Santropol community garden. I couldn’t schedule it in between classes last fall, but I can do it now, and I want to learn everything about growing things. Also, keep nurturing my tomato plants into strength – I hope I can transfer them soon. (and my herbs are starting to smell like herbs, which is such a thrill!)

And one thing I CAN cross off the list? I finally got Satchmo fixed, and she is so relieved and relaxed now, stretching out her funny little shaved belly! I’m pretty relieved, too. The summer should go by a lot easier now.

Love Like a Vegan also tagged me to post 6 words that describe myself, and I could save everyone a lot of time and say paradoxiquacious, but I can use english, too. :D

serious (no really, it’s true)
determined
idiosyncratic
thoughtful
idealistic
tough

Neat! Okay now I tag… Sugar Shock, Damzlfly, Tropical Vegan, Ruby Red Vegan, & Vegan Eats and Treats to do the same thing.

I had the best time in Ottawa with the fam, having free reign of flours and sugars, and access to an oven that’s probably 4 times the size of my own. Not to mention plenty of eaters of baked goods! I have a hard time justifying sweet recipes at home, as all I really need is a cookie here and there. But near the end of my stay I was just churning out sugar-soaked excellence everywhere and it was actually getting eaten (and quickly!). Kinda heavenly. I’m also considering taking a pastry course after uni or something… I’d like to take some culinary classes too but I don’t know how the veganism will factor into that… are there vegetarian culinary schools (with prestige) at least? Anyway, the cookies up there are the oatmeal raisin cookies from the Veganomicon. They smelled like skinned knees and school lunches, and even replace Larabars nicely as travelling rations! (half regular thompson raisins and half organic flame raisins).

I like to think of this as clash of the transitory seasons – spring and fall duking it out! It’s the 101 Cookbooks roasted butternut and farro salad making time with those strawberries. But it worked!

And then I made Vcon red and white bean seitanic jambalaya with Old Bay-spiced Julie Hasson sausages, sauteed collards and french bread — ooooooh, if only I could eat like this every night! It’s funny, cause I loathed sausages as on omni (they tasted like grease and salt and ACK, parts), but I’m a nut for the gluten kind. Everyone got sick the day I made this so I was a little aghast at the mass amount of food left over, but it made killer leftovers all week, and people kept pulling it out of the fridge as if seeing it for the first time with renewed interest in the smoky goodness.

Another perk to cooking at home – there are always random things around that need using up that I can be happily surprised by. Like a half tin of peaches! I had to make the Fatfree Vegan peach upside-down cake of course, which CAN be quartered, it can be done! I admittedly put a splash of canola in this, but that was a teaspoon maybe, and it came out like almost like a peach donut, if that makes sense. Really really good! I’d want to experiment with cornmeal I think, when I try again with real peaches.

Yummmm, Vcon curried carrot dip made my crackers sing! It should be called pâté, really, it’s that good. Especially with parsley on Ryvita.

And a barbecue came up, I wanted to make margarita cupcakes, but I’m SO glad I made mini jalapeno-onion corn muffins instead. Portability-wise, much better, and much more casual. I think I described the heat of the peppers as “haunting” and I stand by that. I wasn’t sure if they would work out, since I used rinsed pickled jalapenos instead of fresh (+ sugar / – salt to make up for that), but they DID work and the end result was pretty addictive.

We had zombie day dinner very late this year so here’s the holiday plate! Steamed fresh asparagus, black bean and mango salad, rosemary roasted potatoes, salad with lots of fruits and toasted hazelnuts, and leftover tofu scramble, yum!

Aaaaand…. I did in fact make the cupcakes! The orange and redcurrant ones! OMG SO MOIST AND DELISH. wee! (ha ha, as my memory fades so does my ability to articulate). They were springy, poppable, juicy and tender-good, ya.

Phew, backlog of photos done, hurray! It was a bit of a week!