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Liz Holding Food Gallery: entry #27 – BROWNIE-STYLE
I tried T’ai Chi today for the first time!  That’s got nothing to do with chocolate, sure, but I feel really good right now!  Like a natural chocolate high.  Or a, uh… non-sugar induced high, yes.  Seriously though, I feel like a dancer, I bounced all the way home in my high tops, and then  threw together the roasted vegetables I’d made that morning into some whole wheat penne and home-soaked chickpeas for a really attractive dinner.  It needed something parmesan-y, but I have leftovers to subject to ground almond & lemon zest, there is always tomorrow.
So back to cupcakes!
I made the Brooklyn Brownie cupcakes for a friend’s 25th birthday in the park.  We played duck duck goose, Stella Ella Ola, a fun game called Sheep… I love being a nonkid, it’s so natural to be.  And the cuppers were a big hit!  These are dense dark weighty cakes with a huge woodsy whiskeyness that probably needs refreshing milk around for maximum enjoyment, but definitely brownie-ish and definitely good.  Super moist, too.  I think I like the regular chocolate VCtotW recipe better, but hey, I got to bake with whiskey, and I’ve been wanting to do that for, like, ever!  
Then something a little more virtuous… I made the Mole Roasted Cauliflower from the Swell cookzine that involved – of course! – cocoa powder.  REALLY good preparation for cauliflower, I had to resist buying another whole head and roasting it up the exact same way, which says something, that I would repeat a recipe so soon.  Not that it was hard to eat a whole giant head of this, it’s pretty addictive like better than popcorn good.  It was the star of the plate next to the mango slices, and some creamy mint & basil polenta I made, but actually the whole combo worked really well and I recommend it – mango with dinner I mean.  (what?  mango with everything!!  of course!)

Oh yes yes, I made some luncheon meat, via Vegan Dad’s recipe.  It is a bit dry as he says, but the flavour and texture is eerily spot on and I made some really satisfying sandwiches and I froze most of it into little single-servings for later.  Next time I thaw out a packet I’ll be sure to have some cheap yellow mustard around, because it would just work with this stuff, mmmm yeah.
What else?  Tofu nuggets!  I saw the Tofu Skewers with Espresso BBQ Sauce on Vegan Appetite and knew exactly what to do with the half pound of tofu I had in the fridge.  I’d not skewered food before, and you know, it actually does make a difference to the flavour!  The leftover tofu-bobs I cooked sans-impalement were less succulent and fun.  Like, you couldn’t gnaw on them at all, boo, I like skewers now.  Oh, and the sauce was great!  I added cayenne cause I can’t leave well enough alone and insist on mouth burning when it comes to anything BBQ.

Right, and finally, this is definitely the result of my new love affair with my wonderful freezer.  Never could have concocted something so specific without being able to freeze tiny bits of things throughout my cooking.  The whole door is filled with single cookies, 1/4 cups of icing, cake shavings, and other fun detritous I collect, mwahaha.  For this little cake that I made for a dinner on friday, I started with a disc of leftover Brooklyn Brownie cupcake (the recipe really does make a LOT of extra batter).  Then I made a base cheesecake cream in the blender, divided that into two and stuffed one with melted chocolate and the other with peanut butter.  I layered and baked that at 350 for 45 minutes, then I made a quick chocolate agar-gel for the top and was really really pleased with myself for rocking agar finally.  And then!  Crushed-up peanut butter cookies for the sides.  You know the awesome kind that are essentially just peanut butter and sugar?  Yeah, those kind.  And I almost forgot – star dollops of leftover chocolate cupcake frosting!  PIMPED.  OUT.  

Now I just need to get myself a cheesecake tin that’s bigger than 5″ across. ^_^;
It’s taken me enough time, but I think I might pursue some serious explorations into raw food this summer.  It’s probably because of this festival in the woods that my friends organize each year… this year I’m a part of the kitchen crew, and that means providing raw options on top of the fully vegan menu.  Which I’m actually pretty excited about!  The way it’s set up we each get about one full day of leading the kitchen, and I have no clue what I’m going to make… but I am collecting ideas, and I figure I should start practicing my skills now.
I took out a book from the library – Nettie Cronish’s New Vegetarian Basics – and figured I would actually cook something from it instead of just flip pages.  Well… it’s a mint and tahini sauce up there and it seems like it would be great on paper (and I’m not exactly sure how one messes up tahini sauce!) but there was like, no flavour in it whatsoever, so I had to double the tahini and add some ume vinegar and then it was pretty good.  (I should mention that I like how she uses a lot of pumpkin seeds and seaweeds in creative ways in her book, though!)
To ease into Rawville I approached my blender with a lot of vigor and an open mind (and about 3 open recipe books!).  I think I did okay for a try… I would never ever EVER call those thin bits of celery “pasta”, but the tomato sauce was a sort of marinara and actually quite delicious!  I used both red wine and balsamic vinegar with some fresh basil and it definitely wasn’t salad-y, in fact surprisingly sweet and piquant and actually went pretty well with crispy celery.  The soup was hella fun!!  It involved…. (I wrote this down)….. 

a full stalk of broccoli

3″ of zucchini

1/2 cup of corn

1 kale leaf —- THE CULPRIT!!

knob of ginger

3 cloves garlic

lemon juice

apple c vinegar

olive oil

flax oil

juice of 2 grapes

tamari

regular soy sauce

sunflower seeds

1/2 a green apple

cumin, coriander, cayenne, paprika, salt, pepper

whole corn niblets

Good and good for you… but I read only afterwards that adding leafy greens to raw soups make them characteristically bitter, and this definitely needed those two grapes to balance things out.  I felt really energized afterwards, but next time I think I’ll keep my kale on the side.  I do love making food like this, though – I feel like a scientist, cutting off bits and bobs of things to create a harmonious liquid whole. 

Last and the sweetest!  Mocha chia pudding, as per Swell Vegan’s recipe, made with some probably unraw ingredients (cocoa, instant coffee certainly isn’t), but in principle sure.  Really quite good!  Like tapioca pudding with the texture of strawberry seeds and the flavour of chocolate, and intriguingly… gloopy.  In a good way!  Like you can stir it up and much as you like and it will reconstitute back together immediately, which I think is a huge bonus, not liking runny pudding all that much.  Plus this fills you up, so I hear, being hydroscopic and thus able to soak up all your drinking water… so it’s the dessert that could save your life in a desert, aha!  
apple sprout!
Every so often (in fact, very often), on those days I have left my apartment with a slog in my step or even just no specific inspiration for the day to come except possibly another coffee and another ride on the bus… I will check my little metal mailbox and see personal mail inside.  And instantly I’m five and it’s my birthday and I’m grinning cheekily and cracking open a pretty envelope and the day is, so to speak, saved.  Needless to say I was happy to see my copy of Swell Vegan’s cookzine last week!  It’s beautiful, first of all – the covers are home-silkscreened in a burnished gold on creamy green card – and inside are 15 absolutely enticing recipes.  I’ve already tested a spare few (the Maple Mustard Chili Tofu, Sweet Potato Black Bean Burgers, and OH the Sweet Potato-Cranberry Scones with that gooey maple glaze!) and been really impressed each time.  The recipes are easy and vibrant, definitely on the healthy side and did I mention delicious?  The only thing I’ve made since getting my copy is Sarah’s Savory Baked Tofu, but of course that was perfect too, even when I just eyeballed the measurements to make a 1/3 recipe.  I actually really like the way A-K’s food tastes, there’s something really great about it.  
some past swell food…

Sweet Potato-Cranberry Scones – as WannabeVegan mentioned, these are worth the price of admission, I’m 100% serious about this.  Consider the price of a huge batch of the best scones you’ve ever eaten, then factor in being able to make them again and again each fall (or anytime), plus a few tempeh recipes and that just makes sense, doesn’t it?

Maple-Mustard-Chili Tofu – this recipe keeps wanting to be made and then I remember I don’t have maple syrup and then I am sad, because the maple flavour is vital and really delicious.  The salad underneath it was weird (artichokes and grapes, huh past self?  WEIRD!!) but that tofu was addictive.

And the first thing I tested were the Sweet Potato Black Bean Burgers, which are a combination of some of my favourite things ever (almond butter, leeks, millet and sweet patats), in a more-ish kind of spicy burger.  You gotta eat these fresh, they crumble in the freezer (unless the recipe has changed, and A-K you can correct me if I’m steering anyone wrong here?), but they then turn into taco salad crumbles.  So not bad!

The latest dish!  Sarah’s Baked Tofu on some rice & millet, steamed vegetables, and a lemon-y sesame-thai dressing from the Millenium Cookbook that livened up broccoli like crazy. (It’s the dressing from the Chilled Soba Salad if anyone’s wondering).  Straightforward looking, but take a bite from this and it’s got zingy depth.  Serve it to omnis.  Mention whole grains and steamed veg and lean protein and then let them try it and giggle when they go all “ohhhh.  Wait, this is good!”  At least, that’s my secret plan.  Swell will be my secret recipe weapon, I’ve got the Mole Roasted Cauliflower on the mind to make next. 

Oh, and I made the Lemon Zucchini Bread and the batter was great and then the most disastrous thing happened ever.  My oven had the audacity that afternoon to turn into a dehydrator, resulting in the most depressing baked thing I’ve ever had the misfortune of creating.  It turned this beautiful lemony-sweet cake batter into a block of chewy (albeit tasty) crust with raw lukewarm uncooked battergoo inside.  I weep tears.  No, actually, I threw it out.  And I NEVER do that.  So um… word to the wise, before risking a lemon zucchini bread make sure your oven works, or else microwave yourself an end piece and put enough Earth Balance on it so you don’t notice you’re eating liquid cake… errr. yeah.
That’s a horrible way to end a supportive post!  But it happened.  It’s my funny story.  :)
PS: A-K you rock!

Just a quick update, a couple photos that have been on the computer for a few days…

In retrospect I think this was turnip, but the mashed rutabaga recipe from Vcon was nonetheless amazing, especially with corn (lime, coconut + corn? yes!)

And I’m really not exaggerating when I say this is my favourite tofu marinade yet – it’s a Swell Vegan tester recipe for maple-mustard-chili tofu, and it’s awesome. The salad paled in comparison, and the second half of the batch got eaten straight up, with glee, much like a plate of chicken nuggets of yore or something. Total make-again recipe!

And more pizza! I’m pizza-obsessed! J says I’m also crust-bubble obsessed, but he’s quite allowed to say that because… I am. This is only my favourite crust-bubble, and there were many, each with a photo… I am a nerd. :D

And J is still staying with us, and my new roommate is a kitchen-goddess in her own right and works at the best vegan restaurant in the city, so we’ve been collaborating on dinners! Her own component of a brown rice macro bowl was so delicious there wasn’t a speck of leftovers to take a photo of the next day (imagine perfectly cooked rice, confetti-bright vegetables and toasted sesames everywhere), but there was a little bit of my curry around for lunch the next day, so here it is. Aloo paratha, gajar salad, lentil sprouts and a really nice katirikka rasavangi (south indian eggplant curry). I think I might explore this south indian thing a bit more, I’m adoring the heat and the coconut.

And woo! Blackberry-lemon verbena sorbet success! I don’t have an ice cream maker, so I had to nurse this stuff over the course of a few days, stirring it constantly and waiting for my wonky freezer to make it scoopable (I also had to add a bunch of water to help with the freezing, but I was really happy to do that, it was a little sweet in the beginning). Anyway, I’m totally hooked on this sorbet thing! It’s so refreshing, and the herbal bit was transcendant. I’m thinking of trying vegan addict’s Black Hole Sorbet next – it looks sooo decadent. yum!

Best breakfast ever? Why yes!

Mmmm…. I’m actually still licking my fingers from these right now (my computer is getting filthier with each passing day, but it’s all from baking so I really don’t mind). I used the Vcon maple brown sugar pinwheels recipe as a base, but realized I didn’t have maple OR ground cardamom on hand so I turned them into your basic cinnamon-pecan-raisin sticky buns. With the orange left in though, of course. I think I’m adoring everything orange these days. Personally I think I overbaked them a little and it could have used more fat to cut the sweet, but everyone else was going crazy and offering to kiss the ground I walk on (for what? kneading a bit of dough? oh silly), which is a testament to the power of cinnamon buns. Maybe we should just bake cinnamon buns to solve all conflicts. Or some other pat answer to life’s confuzzlements. At the very least we could make kitchens smell nicer all over the world. Righto.

And hoboy… out of the two iced baked things I’ve made recently these are soooooo my favourite. As in, I would actually make them again (and again and again). It’s the Swell Vegan sweet potato tester scones! The scones alone are perfect – just sweet enough to savour slowly with tea, but the optional caramel glaze is pretty much THE caramel goop recipe I’ve been looking for! Sent these to another level. A level of mouthgasm. (and almost virtuous! Because scones are healthier than cookies! Because I say so!)

(that is, unless you use lots of Earth Balance, which is really quite nice. :)

Yum! Amazing! Could I gush more? I should! I was fortunate enough to be a tester for the very talented A-K of the Swell Vegan blog, and I’ve just fallen in love with her Sweet Potato & Black Bean Burgers with Millet and Leeks! They’re so delicious, with a sweet note of almond butter, some spicy mexi-kick, a nice meaty bite and very easy to make. I usually douse my burgers in nayo and ketchup, but not this time! Condiments like that t’would be sacrilege in this case, as they’re plenty flavourful enough on their own (though her suggestion of guacamole would be verrrrry nice, I’m thinking). They firm up nice, too!

Aren’t they pretty? There was much (much) finger licking going on during forming of these things. I can’t wait to get on the scone recipe….

And yesterday I wanted lentil soup but also not to work very hard, so I made the vcon Ancho Lentil Soup. Which was good, but I kinda wish it were spicier, or the ancho flavour more pronounced (and I used a huge one). Or even had vegetables in it of any kind? The pineapples were a fun touch, though.

Aaaaand, I promised myself a bar of Terra Nostra Rice Milk Chocolate on Zombie Jesus Day but got sidetracked by florentine’d tofu and other foods that AREN’T CHOCOLATE (insane, I know). So I fixed that and bought a bar, and woah! This is some special milky-mouth-melt action! I think dark is still my absolute favourite, but it’s an utter treat to reach into the chocolate drawer (yes, I have one of those – usually 2 or 3 bars open at any given time… for emergencies!) and pull out milk chocolate. *grin*