You are currently browsing the monthly archive for December 2008.

(pumpkin oatmeal cookies, molasses snaps, sugar cookie sticks, meltaway shortbread, sugar-plum stars, chocolate thumbprints with cranberry or chestnut, PB and chocolate bonbons, PB-fruit-coconut-almond bonbons, and 12th century nutmeg spice cookies)

Merry season everyone! Those cookies up there are the symbols of festivity I decided to make lest there be no christmas cheer in my heart at all. Not to say I didn’t have a wonderful and family-filled trip home, but somehow… I’m feeling distanced from the traditions. No big surprise really… age and a certain mistrust of buying shit will take their toll, making it a very good thing that my heart will always ring with passion for cooking at least. And so, there was the night of a million cookies. Or rather, maybe six or seven batches. It was AWESOME. Just me and a table full of flours and extracts and whisks, neatly and precisely churning out dough after dough, and pulling perfectly browned trays out of my mom’s oven (that actually WORKS). I was so surprised it only took me a couple of hours – with the notable exception of the shortbread, which had me up to wee hours with the hand-whipping and chilling and 45 minute baking times but it was worth it in every way a mind can conceive. Move over butter – baking for so long turns EB into something intensely delicious, toasty and redolent and I’m glad I left it unadorned in it’s proud “cadillac-of-margarines” glory.

Then I made a cake, inspired in large part by these lilliputian mandarins my mom picked up. It’s the mandarin-orange-spice cake that has it’s own full colour glamour shot in extraveganza, and it’s glossy photo is more than deserved. The cake itself isn’t over sweet, instead it’s spicy and moist (and very christmas-y!), and a perfect vehicle for rich almond butter citrus icing that tasted a lot like magic. Should have been cashew, but you use what you have. Almonds have more personality anyway!

Giant slice for me? Oh, you shouldn’t have! No really, you take this slice, I’ll have the rest of the cake…… :D

It’s a christmas day tradition at my dad’s to have non-vegan belgian waffles with berries and cream, and every year previous I’ve made myself happy with (actually pretty good) fruit salad and maybe a tofurkey brat fried up with ketchup. But this year I was offered a spot in the waffle maker and I figured why not? I made the ppk apple waffles that were so good my step-mom jumped on the leftovers and I started to seriously consider spending my mall money certificates on a novelty waffle iron. They even picked up a bottle of whippy edible oil topping that in very very small doses (ie: once a year) I actually enjoy.

Later christmas dinner, the photo of which I considered not posting even at all. It’s a little smooshy! But yummy. So much so! I made red wine and maple baked tempeh, roasted potatoes with mushroom gravy, sesame broccoli, butternut squash with fresh thyme and garlic oil, rye stuffing, roast parsnip, turnip and carrot, dill and avocado salad, and lime-glazed beets. Just excellent, I was moaning all over the tempeh, which is always a treat to me, and even managed to save room for dessert – an apple cherry crumble with almonds and pecans that I will NOT post because it looks a little like something undergoing surgery but I can assure you was almost addictive with some Vitasoy Holly Nog splashed on top. (Said Nog also made my oatmeal xmasserrific my whole week home, I love that stuff.)

Here’s to a new year and to Xmas being through and to all a goodnight (I can’t wait to get back to school!!!)

EDIT: At Joanna‘s request, and because it’s available online anyway, I’m posting the Mandarin cake recipe.

Mandarin Orange Spice Cake

1 3/4 cups spelt flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp each nutmeg, cloves, and allspice
2/3 cup maple syrup
4 tbsp canola or other natural oil
3 tbsp mandarin orange juice, freshly squeezed (about 3 mandarins)
1 tbsp mandarin orange zest
1 tsp fresh gingerroot, grated
3/4 cup rice milk or soy milk
1 recipe Creamy Mandarin Icing

Preheat oven to 350F. In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and allspice. In a smaller bowl combine the maple syrup, oil, orange juice and zest, ginger and soy milk and whisk together to emulsify the wet ingredients. Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture and pour in the wet ingredients. Mix with a fork gently; do not beat. Pour into a lightly oiled and floured 8×8-inch cake pan, a Bundt pan, or an 8-inch springform pan. Bake 35-40 minutes. Check to see if cake is done by inserting a toothpick into the centre of cake; it should come out clean. Let cool on a rack before removing from the pan. Decorate the cake with Creamy Mandarin Orange Icing and garnish with edible flowers such as tangerine gems or calendula.

Creamy Mandarin Icing

1/2 cup soy margarine
1/4 cup maple syrup
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup cashew butter
1 tbsp mandarin orange zest

Blend all ingredients in a food processor on high for several minutes until very creamy and thoroughly combined. Chill icing for 1-2 hours. Spread onto thoroughly cooled cake and decorate with grated orange rind and calendula flowers. Keep cake chilled until serving. Variation: Add 1/2-1 tsp each of beet powder and turmeric to dye the icing an orange colour. Add a small portion of each at a time as you blend the icing, until you reach a desired colour.

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Gorgeous! Floating rice in big white space! It’s the hunan fried rice from Vegan Fire & Spice, which is actually pretty fantastic. It actually has flavour, and I especially love how the tofu pellets explode with sherry goodness. I switched up the vegetables completely and can see myself pulling out this basic recipe to accomodate any old veg & rice, cause it’s really yum and takes like 2 minutes to bash up.

Equally fast and furious – the snobby joes from the Veganomicon on spaghetti squash with baked paprika yam fries from Extraveganza. I’m so officially hooked on spaghetti squash right now, it’s like noodles except refreshing. It had been so long since I’d had it that I forgot you could actually slurp the stuff, and that became so much the deciding factor in my new love for it. Veg! You can slurp! Everyone wins. :)

Persimmon blondies!! As luscious as they sound and look, they’re a tester recipe for Hannah‘s upcoming book. I am super lucky that things like this freeze well, or I’d have polished off the pan already. :p

And I picked up a cool looking bag of assorted herbs in chinatown the other day. It was only 70 cents and I kind of saw it as a taster pack of a bunch of exotic ingredients I might never get around to trying all in one spot. Like… lotus seeds, dioscorea, dried lily bulb, fox nuts, dried longan and polygonatum. And a big pouch of barley!

I assumed it was for boiling with chicken for to make extra-healthified chicken soup (at least according to my book on asian cooking) so I just skipped the chicken part and boiled it for 45 minutes or so. The funny thing is that I went for a quick grocery run in the middle – yes I am that bad and I leave the stove on while I’m gone sometimes ^^; – and when I came back the apartment smelled so nutty and sweet and… quite like chicken soup. Strange! But not bad. I strained it out because the solids were tasteless, added some tamari, green onion and tofu cube and it was strangely very satisfying. Not a taste sensation or anything, but it felt good going down the throat and I could see myself picking up a pack the next time I get a cold.

You’re also gonna think I’m weird, maybe, but this salad was a great accompaniment to barley broth. I didn’t know that endive, pear and pecan (in my case walnut) was such a classic salad! This is the veganomicon version, but I’m pretty interested in playing around with the components, maybe adding some fermented tofu as a blue cheese element, or tossing in some roasted beets like Emilie did. It’s also so pleasingly in season, I love that. So far, winter hasn’t been half bad!

I can’t even feign surprise or indignation over this. Instead of hitting the last vestiges of humanity untouched by fast food culture with bibles or giant stickers that say “Democracy!”, why not give them a burger? RIGHT???

This video is adorable and it makes me queasy. I really wanted to scream at them “Don’t do it! You’ll get hooked on the salt and the strange meat! You’ll eventually start craving cheap white bread instead of whatever delicious real food you were serving to those deluded BK-advocates! Put the sandwich down!!!”

Bonus points for everyone who poked it like it was a malformed sea creature. :/

Gah.

I always end up making curry on a whim. Without fail I am on my way to make something else, something usually boring and somehow between the fridge and the stovetop it turns into curry in my brain and I’m always thankful for the switch. I can always eat more red lentils… and I got to try out these unreal curry powders my friend J brought me from India when he went this summer. Why have I not used these all over the place before???? They are crazy good, more on them later. They made an acorn squash, red lentil, coconut, pea and green pepper curry absolutely golden. Actually, pistachio coloured. Who says curry is homely? And cardamom raisin quinoa underneath doesn’t hurt in the pretty department, either.

Here are those spices (I couldn’t be happier that there’s massive quantities of both).

The south indian blend has — white pepper, chili, mango powder, dagger fool, clove, ginger, mace, citric acid, concoun, cassia, and akarkhora. Badass.

The garam masala is black cumin, black pepper, bay leaves, piper, cinnamon, mace, nutmeg, clove, black cardamom, ginger.

These are seriously aromatic and complex, and for some reason taste different in every curry I add them to. Maybe it’s like that chemical thing where the same perfume smells different on various wrists? Maybe it’s the akarkhora.

Then I made some DAIIIII-FU-KUUUU, yippee! I didn’t realize I was out of red dye for my envisioned green-and-red holiday colours, but I did have a beet, which worked perfectly and the subtle flavour didn’t mess with the beans at all. They are bean paste (anko) filled, which has got to be my favourite stuff ever. I’m still not 100% on the mochi part, I may have found the one food I’m not super crazy for, but they are definitely fun to make. And it was much as Julie in Japan describes: truly they are weird. But I did keep eating it and then later I did really want another one. That strange earlobe jellyness kinda becomes… intriguing? In a way? I must say I can taste the difference in the supple freshness of homemade mochi versus those awful pucks I got over christmas.

Okay, this is actually making my mouth water now, so disregard any blabbing about weirdness. You can also see that I like my anko (I LOVE my anko) chunky, generous in proportion to earlobe-jelly, and only moderately sweet.

J’s (half awake) response was A: “They look like the kind of thing that people eat in cartoons, Liz.” (I nodded). And B: “Hmm… they taste like rice cake.” Which I thought was mighty open-minded for a technicoloured blobby-dessert ambush, and indicative of an awesome generation of eaters. My parents would have certainly gone for the bugspray or something. :)
Yay Daifuku!!

EDIT:
In response to KingoftheFrogs — what I did for the mochi:

The red and the green both had pretty different textures, since I used more water in the green, but they were both good… it takes some playing around I think.

approximately…
1 cup rice flour
1/4 cup sugar
2/3 cup water + (if needed) 2-3 tablespoons
food colouring (optional)
(1 cup of anko/red bean paste)

* stir the flour, water, sugar and colouring together in a microwave-safe bowl, adding more water so that it’s smooth (but still pretty thick)

* microwave 2 minutes, then stir it like crazy

* microwave until it inflates, stir like crazy and stretch it and wack it with a wooden spoon until it’s smooth and bouncy.

* turn it onto a tray covered with potato starch (or cornstarch) and roll it into a snake, then cut that snake into 12 equal pieces.

* stretch a piece into a disc, thicker in the middle than at the edges, place 1 tablespoon of anko paste in the middle and wrap it up like a parcel, pinching the seam to join the mochi together. Dust with extra cornstarch, and set it aside, repeat with remaining mochi pieces.

note 1: they freeze pretty much perfectly, so uneaten candy can be squirreled away for later.

note 2: anko is soooo easy to make, it’s just red beans cooked with sugar and a touch of salt. Take cooked adzuki beans, add sugar til it’s sweet enough for you, mash with a spoon and cook over medium heat stirring constantly until it’s really thick, like cookie dough. Let it cool completely before using.

This was the result of a hankering for an old-fashioned face-stuffy burger, and did it ever deliver on that. I made some crusty kaiser rolls, some straightforward black bean burgers (with rye flour and tortilla chips instead of white flour and breadcrumbs), put a bit of mayo and pepper on it and it was absolute perfection.

Oh yeah, and pomegranate salsa is like salsa with pink jewels in among the spiciness, and it really really works.

I also tried soygurt for the first time last week (in order to make that harissa yogurt swirl for the fava soup) and I loooooooove it. I didn’t eat cheese as an omni, I ate YOGURT, and loads of it, so I don’t know why it took me this long to grab the blue tub and add it to everything. This almond butter-lime dressing was so easy and yummy!

And speaking of soy… the other day a half block of firm tofu practically jumped into my blender and went “eeeeeeh! add sugar and lemon to meeeee!”. And who was I to argue? I baked this one, and added a pinch of nutritional yeast which sounds weird but gives it depth (just a pinch). The texture was perfect too… it sliced off into tart little “wodges” which in my odd mind is the exact word for an ideal slice of cheesecake. I wish I could live off of this stuff!
(oh and it was about 4″ across. I love mini tins!)

Finally I made Juineve’s creamy eggplant and roasted pepper soup with zaatar crackers. I doctored it a bit, roasting the vegetables and added tomatoes and a splash of sherry, and wished I had made more, it was so luscious. Thumbs up!

Ahhhh! So cute! They’re like koala bears! Except s’more flavoured! Mini-sizing these was SO perfect, it made them actually s’more sized. And unlike last time (of which we speak nothing and try maybe to forget the day-glo blue frosting on essentially my first batch of cupcakes ever), my painting class loved them! I only had three to take home from the critique, which I gladly invited to my belly. Oh, and I even put a bit of caramel syrup in the frosting for that burnt sugar thing, plus did I mention the grahams were homemade? Anyway, my teacher looked one moment at the tray I put on the table and declared my paintings A-worthy, sight unseen. Ha!

Sometimes I fry up leftover mushroom millet mash (mmm) into a crispy fritter of late-night eating, and it is good.

I was also blown away by this spicy rutabaga fava bean soup recipe from Tofu for Two. It’s so bloody tasty, I had it for breakfast, snack, dessert, hot, cold, with harissa yogurt, with pomegranate arils, with basil, and now it is gone and I am sad. I’m such a sucker for pureed soups, especially ones that taste like fanciness and comfort at the same time. And fava. Fava is specially good.

Unreal, eh?

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