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red white and umami all over

Happy July 1rst, that is to say – Canada Day!  It’s the nation’s birthday and I’m celebrating in Quebec, which means a certain amount of gusto is required to make any noise at all, what with everyone tired from St Jean Baptiste Day just about a week before.  It’s not quite the party that it is in Ontario, but by golly if I can’t make my lunch about as patriotic as a waving flag, at least in colour scheme anyway (and association to good old BBQ food… yes I SO do love the taste of char).
For lady Canuck’s 142nd, I dived into the sausage section of Vegan Brunch and couldn’t even approach deciding one recipe over another, so I made 2 batches at once – the Italian Feast and the Cherry Sage, done up into smaller links so they were hot dog sized.  And after discovering that the grocery store had no (NO) hot dog buns (and even if they did, they would probably be terrible because they usually are), I just had to make a little batch of my own.  Which I TOTALLY recommend, it makes a huge world of difference.  So much so that I’m gonna post the recipeeeee, taken from this blog, taken from King Arthur flour……
Hot Dog Buns
(chewy, wheaty, soft, dense in a good way, stands up to condiments – ie; perfect)
(makes 8)
1 tbsp sugar
2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1 cup warm milk
2 tsp vegetable oil
2 tsp salt
3 – 3 1/2 cups flour (I used 50% whole wheat, still came out fluffy and soft)

Directions:
– In a large bowl, combine water and sugar and let it sit for 5 minutes so the yeast gets foamy.
– Mix in the milk, oil, and salt, then add 3 cups of the flour and knead until it comes together into a dough ball.
– Turn onto a floured surface and knead for 6-8 minutes, until it becomes a bit like plasticine.  The dough isn’t as soft as in some recipes, and it shouldn’t be sticky (add up to 1/2 cup more flour as needed).  Move to an oiled bowl, cover and let it rise in a warm spot for 1 1/2 hours, or until doubled in size.
I’m just building anticipation for chewy perfect grilled bun-bite here :)

Once it’s risen, turn onto a lightly floured surface and cut into 8 equal pieces.  To shape a bun, make a piece into a rectangle, then starting at the end closest to you, roll it up tightly like you would roll a cigarette, folding in the ends on each side as you go.  Pinch the seam when you finish, then place it seam side down on a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Repeat with the rest, then cover with a piece of plastic wrap sprayed with nonstick spray and let them rise for 30 minutes. 
– Preheat the oven to 400F
– Bake for 20 minutes, then move to a rack to cool

INNARDS !!!!

Unrelated to photo above, but that’s what scrolling is for ———— the beautiful red and white salad next to it all was from the Tropical Vegan Kitchen and ab-solutely scrumptious.  I’m going to post the recipe, too, because I just saw a great video concerning appropriation and culture (and breakbeats) and I figured heck why not, share the love, share the coconut dressing —

Thai-Style Romaine Salad with Creamy Coconut Tamari Dressing

(serves 4)
10 oz. of romaine leaves
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup red onion, thinly sliced and soaked in cold water for 10 minutes, drained well
1/2 cucumber, peeled, seeded and thinly sliced
2 tbsp basil, rolled up and thinly sliced
Coconut Tamari Dressing:

6 tbsp coconut milk (full fat works best here)
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
2 tbsp tamari
2 large cloves of garlic, minced fine
2 tsp palm sugar, or brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp red thai chile, seeded and minced superfine
Directions:

– Whisk, let it sit for at least 10 minutes.
– Toss 1/2 the dressing with the salad components, arrange prettily onto plates, then drizzle with the remaining dressing.  
So patriotic!  (if a little Thai ;)

My tastes have been running along very childlike lines these days. Probably midterm stress coupled with the sudden news that Pomme – ie: the best, most esoteric, kitchen-wizardy, art-star, witty, gentle amazing roommate ever in existence – is moving back to Toronto in a few days… ;____;
(serious weepage. but I’m being stoic)

So I’m eating mac and cheese. Because, well… yay. Slurpy noodles. Susan V-style. Comforting yes… although next time I will leave the vegetables out of my comfort food, no matter how much I seem to have been in a “red & green cube” kinda mood that day (check out the tomato, cuke and basil salad behind the pasta – like eating christmas-y legos!)

Then I scratched this itch I had for loads of sweet beans and ZOMG I ACTUALLY BUY A FAKE MEATS. See hot dog? Delicious. Specially with V-con cheater baked beans, sauteed smoky mystery greens I found in the fridge, and scrambled tofu from Aux Vivres. (btw, it tasted more like egg than any scramble I’ve ever had, but I couldn’t really finish it… I’ve been spoiled on Vwav scramble I think).

And that up there is a gorgeous slice of procrastination. Essay-writing, smehn – Vcon apple peanut butter caramel bars instead! I used oat flake cereal instead of graham crackers, cause the crackers I thought I had in the pantry smelled intensely of 20-year-old warehouse, gross. But crushed cereal plus a bit of sugar worked great! I kinda wish they were apple-yer. But nonetheless they are coated in peanut butter caramel, and that stuff could make rocks taste good, sooo…… I now have a pan full of PB-love to pick at while I attempt to stuff 10 hours of meticulous drawing into… exactly 10 hours until class. WEE. I <3 LIFE. :)

Curiously enough, I have a habit when drinking to RUN NOT WALK to the kitchen and see if I can’t whip up something edible with blurry vision. And I usually can! Maybe it’s the challenge… and it’s certainly better than singing off-key, I should think.

My most classic preparation is some sort of seitan barfood after stumbling home. I guess 3 am and soused isn’t the best time to attempt to recreate a vegan hotdog, but I tried! It wasn’t hotdogg-y, but it was delicious, even if J was passed out like a rock by the time I set down a warm fresh chapati with a seitan-dog and all the fixins in front of him. (It made a perfect breakfast the next day, though!)

A week or two later some crepes were made, and turned out more perfectly than any sobre pancake I’ve ever attempted. The Vcon recipe is lightning-fast, delicious, and got rave vegetarian reviews (“these are even better than the kind with eggs! more flavourful and chewy!”). I did add a bit of extra oat flour, too, which gave them a nice homey touch.

Yum jam! Strawberry, blueberry, merlot, sour cherry, plus caramel sauce, cinnamon and fresh peaches.

And then last night (we all get off work on wednesday. we call it “fake saturday”), some whiskey prompted a mini-muffin adventure. What kind? Uhhhh…. banana! With blueberries! (we are also blueberry fiends, oh my yes). Use a recipe? Bah! That takes time and reading. Better to just throw some whole wheat pastry flour in a bowl with some ginger, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, soymilk, brown rice syrup, oil and vanilla. And they TOTALLY turned out. Not too sweet, loaded with berries and banana, and perfect for munching on while playing with plastic dinosaurs and discussing 37 ways the world is an unfathomably weird place. Rarr brontasaurus rex!

There were even 3 (oops, I ate one – 2) left over the next day!

Smashed Vegan’s Warning: please please please do not attempt to drink and bake at home, unless you’re of legal age and are prepared to find a huge mess waiting for you in the morning. I don’t want to be a bad influence… :o

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!

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 :)

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!

I could so get into the habit of making bread more often… I always dismiss the idea, thinking that chapatis are more of a single girl kind of food. But sometimes it’s just healing to the soul, you know? Something about snarfing fresh baked bread with a bit of Earth Balance is such a treat. Better than cake. I’m so serious.

I used the rustic bread recipe from the Freshloaf site, except with more whole wheat flour and gluten flour, and ooooh, was it good! I think I’m still partial to this recipe, but the freshloaf one was easier to work with and made twice as much, so thar ya go.

My oven is really stupid and it jumps all over the dial during the simplest of baking procedures, so the initial rise could have been a bit better. But they still rose like crazy. And smelled like heaven!

Yep. Perfect lunch. (not pictured, copious amounts of EB and some mayo for dipping veggies)

I’m not always suzie simpleton, though. And remember the 3 bricks of tofu? Well, the first one was seaweed flavoured, which I’d never tried before, so I mushed up a batch of asian-style tofu salad that turned out tasting exactly like tunafish! So weird, yet so nostalgically delish.

Forget the plain veg lunch – TOFUFISH is my new favourite. I’ve had it 3 days running now.
(I’m saving the recipe for a cookzine, I think!)

And brick number two was medium-firm, so I figured I’d give Susan’s crustless tofu quiches a go (seeing as everyone vegan with a muffin tin has tried them and professed their awesomeness from rooftops and stuff). They are wonderful! Much like the tofufish, they’re shockingly quiche-y in flavour. I had some issues getting them to stay intact (and it turns out I’m not the only one), but I’m pretty sure it was an oven issue, cause the ones that got good time under the parts of the coil that actually work were perfect. I think I can stop looking for a go-to quiche recipe, actually. I’m gonna throw this stuff in a crust next time I go home and seriously please some omnis!

I do have other cookbooks, I swear I do… but somehow I just keep coming back to the Vcon. It’s like this personal challenge thing to finish it, and it narrows my weekly grocery ideas down to a manageable level, definitely. Plus it tastes fantastic, like 98% of the time, can’t go wrong. :)

The prettiest salad award goes to the black bean, mango and quinoa salad, and also the “makeable in ohhh 5 minutes” award. I rank both factors pretty high, I’ll be making variations on this for years to come, I think. (and each subsequent salad will rock more than this one, because I was using up iffy mango and tasteless red peppers in it. and it was still great!)

I don’t know why I torture myself with risotto-making plans on my off-days. Maybe because on the other side of all that stirring I feel like I’ve climbed a mountain. A mountain made of patience! And about 1 more cup of water than the recipe called for. So yeah…. this is one tasty concoction. I’ve never even had regular risotto, but this one (the asparagus and lemongrass risotto) was worth every moment of glazed-over-eyes and stirring, stirring, stirring………. seriously! Something really nice and exotic about it (and yet comforting like only a big ol bowl of creamy rice can be). It was even good the next day.

And what does one do when the fridge is down to carrots, celery and peas? Make pot-pie of course! This was kinda iffy for me, actually, but I’m not much of a ‘beef-style’ person normally, and I think the toughness of the crust was my fault since I followed normal crust procedure and not what was written in the book (I added water, chilled, and rolled. Instead of adding water, rolling and chilling). I mean, it was good, but not my usual bag, you know? I’m actually kinda curious what recipes will be left for me to force myself through when I get near the end of the Vcon – I counted today and I’m 1/5th through the book!!! Whew! (and what happens when the cookie and brunch book come out? Liz explodes, basically. XDDD)

EDIT: The crust wasn’t tough it just wasn’t browned enough! And I dropped a bit of water in the filling before I made the second one, to up the gravy factor, and went mad with the pepper. MUCH better this time. Extremely yum. And oh lordy did I feel like June Cleaver while making this, did I mention that? The novelty of that alone will probably get me to potpie it up sometime again in the future, maybe chicken-style next time though, cause those are the freezer-burnt memories of my childhood. White sauce-y, nutritionally void, gooey crusted toasty gems… zomg I’m getting nostalgia-drool all over! haha, anyway….

Spring’s coming, I just know it! It might just be the feeling of health increasing with every passing morning, but today there was real sun, and slush, and I chose to take a long walk, for the first time since maybe december. It was *glorious*. And I felt like celebrating, so I knew dinner had to be spicy and full of fruit!

Before that, though….

Nothing says spring to me like nurturing small things like yeasty-beasts to life. Totally inspired by Ashasarala’s beautiful whole wheat sourdough bread, I decided to mix together my own sourdough starter. It already smells so very alive! I also started some sprouts yesterday, but I forgot to take a picture (and it’s pretty much just lentils in a jar at this point).

My first foray into boiling seitan – I was soooooo tempted to change up the spices (recipe’s from the V-con of course), but I left well enough alone in the name of seitanic science and I am yes yes very glad I did! Strangely, the simple flavouring is full and nice enough just as it is, and I even love the texture! It’s softer and more chicken-y, and perfect for what I wanted to make next —-

Okay, it’s just the mis-en-place for what I made next – Naughty Curry’s Pineapple Couscous Curry (and I was led to the wonderful NC site through the FatFree Vegan Kitchen, thank you so much!). Can we say fun to make? Fiery cauldron action, popcorn-loud mustard dances, chile-fire bubblin’ brilliant colours, yum yum yum!

And sooooo worth it, flavour-wise. I wish I’d had the full 1 1/2 cups of pineapple juice, I can definitely see where an extra bit of juiciness would push this over the edge, but certainly it was festive enough to actually make me turn off my ever-present music blaring and let the flavours riot on their own. This is the kind of thing excellent dinner parties are made of. Orange food! Anyway… I’m still holding strong on my vow not to buy any groceries for one full week and you know what? It is way way more fun to cook like that. Necessity and invention and all that.

(I can still buy oranges and catfood, though. Some things you don’t mess with. ;)

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