Friday, October 31, 2008

Fat-Free Vegan's Impossible Pumpkin Pie

We've reached the last day of Veganmofo. This makes me sad; I really enjoyed posting about my daily food adventures.

Susan V. from Fat Free Vegan Kitchen's Impossible Vegan Pumpkin Pie strikes me as good an ending as any, actually make that in the top tier of endings. I've made it before, but it's never formed as nice a semi-crust as it did this time (it's 'impossible' because it's crustless). One strange thing: it barely rose at all, even though I accidentally put too much baking powder. It was only about an inch thick. Maybe because I baked it in an oven-proof skillet? (I'm really hoping to buy some more kitchen tools tomorrow!) Or maybe it was because I checked on it too early & often, panicking it would finish sooner?

Who knows, in any event it was really tasty, another great pumpkin recipe to make and enjoy often in pumpkin season.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Acorn Squash & Leek Soup

For lunch today I had the usual left-overs, but decided to add a grain to the kale & peanut sauce that I had yesterday. I chose the white basmati rice purely because it only takes 15 minutes to cook and I was already hungry. Let me tell you, basmati rice is a revelation, nice and buttery just as Isa and Terry promise in Veganomicon. It went really well with the kale and peanut sauce too.

I tried making a quick yeast bread from The Dirty South Cookbook (the flip side of Hot Damn and Hell Yeah). It went pretty well! Pretty easy, I went with half whole wheat pastry flour and half regular white.

In really good (cooking) news, I finally finished my never-ending leeks! Indeed cause for celebration. I googled "squash and leeks" since I also had an acorn squash on hand and a squash and leek soup recipe from Cooking Light magazine came up. It had recipe traits I appreciate: a small number of ingredients and simplicity. The roasted garlic it called for added flavor, and the squash gave it a creamy texture. Overall, a nice fall soup.

Final thing: the other day I toasted some pumpkin seeds following instructions on's home cooking section, and they turned out great. I tried them before using a different method and they flopped, so I'm really happy I discovered that I can legitimately save pumpkin seeds based on taste and unrelated to the guilt-waste factor involved in throwing them away. Super easy & a savory healthy snack.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

VWAV Orange Glazed Beets & Kale

We have lots of winter vegetables now: kale, beets, carrots and not-so-wintery cauliflower (& never-ending cabbage & leeks that defy physical laws, but those are for another day).

I made the orange glazed beets from Vegan with a Vengeance to deal with the beets and a stray orange. For everything else, I sautéed lots of garlic, added the cauliflower and carrots, then threw in the kale in the last few minutes, sort of combining the VWAV garlicky kale and braised cauliflower recipes. I made some ginger peanut sauce to go with it which I think added a good punch, but then I am a sucker for peanut sauce - super easy and fast and very flavorful. I used the recipe at the vegetarian section of

I liked the beets, but they weren't tender enough and they didn't go together well with the kale. Both had strong flavors with complex ingredients so they weren't well-suited. The kale dish would've been better suited served with brown rice or a grain, and I'm not really sure what would go well with the beets - Isa suggests her roasted vegetables, grilled tofu, and a grain; I was thinking maybe lentils. But when I think of it, I think tofu would certainly be good.


Tomorrow: most probably dealing with an acorn squash.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Clean-Out-the-Fridge food

On the NY Times Bitten blog a while back was a post that I think of often when I have leftovers entitled "Creating the Garbage Plate." I have to agree with others who've noted that 'garbage plate' is not a very appetizing name for this phenomenon.

Anyway, this was my cleaning-out-the-fridge lunch today. I had some recently cooked chickpeas, about a cup of recently de-frosted tomato sauce, and fillings from the manicotti I made the other day (thinly sliced mushrooms, a little bit of tofu ricotta). I just threw it all in a pan together for a few minutes on medium heat, and I have to say, it was pretty good.

I blended the remaining chickpeas up into hummus that didn't turn out tasting like any hummus I've ever tried (some fresh thyme leaves I added introduced a foreign flavor), but I think if you're not after "real" hummus it's pretty alright.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Vcon Leek and Bean Cassoulet

I've had three leeks sitting in my fridge for maybe two weeks from our produce box, so I've been wanting to do something with them for a long, long time. Luckily they keep pretty well. Today I attempted the Veganomicon leek and bean cassoulet recipe to remedy the situation.

I have to say, it turned out really nice. BTW, those white bits at the top are biscuits, not cauliflowers! A very hearty, wintry stew, and the biscuits that go with it add a really nice crunchy texture.

I did a few changes as usual: skipped potatoes since we're all out, increased the amount of leeks (well, I wanted to be at least one whole leek down), & added some cabbage that I'm also trying to use up.

In other news, a cookbook zine I ordered about three weeks ago finally got here, Hot Damn and Hell Yeah which presents vegan southern/tex-mex food. Bethany at Spotted Devil Cat reviewed a few of the recipes a while ago, so I will definitely check those out. Looks pretty good overall so I'm excited.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Manicotti Flop

Feeling inspired by a recent Vegan Dad post about pumpkin-filled manicotti (like giant penne that you stuff then bake in the oven/ similar to cannelloni), I decided to wing my own manicotti concoction. I made some tofu ricotta from Veganomicon that I've been wanting to try for ages, finely chopped cremini mushrooms, and had the mr. grate a carrot and dice a little cauliflower then everything together. After boiling the manicotti for four minutes as suggested, we stuffed the manicotti with the mixture, I poured some jarred tomato sauce on it, and threw it in the oven for 45 minutes. Then I had a quick glance at About's Italian food section which imparted the following wisdom:

The one thing you do have to remember is to make sure that the sauce you pour over the cannelloni once you have arranged them in the baking dish is somewhat more liquid than what you would normally use for pasta, because it will thicken in the oven.

But it was too late, they were already in. 45 minutes later, they came out, and the pasta was crunchy from being dried out, burnt on the bottom in parts, and the mixture was bland. The sauce did indeed thicken, plus there just hadn't been enough of it to begin with. It really got me down for a while, but as the mr. pointed out, "if you're not making mistakes you're not learning" etc.

Anyway, I think manicotti is definitely worth another shot, perhaps in cannelloni form since I have some lasagna noodles I can use. They just need a heck of a lot of watered-down sauce poured all over them to make sure they don't dry out like this time. Also, since tomato season is no more, I might try it with some kind of nut-based vegan alfredo sauce. As for imparting flavor, options include some garlic I roasted today, left-over thyme leaves, and of course, plain old spices.

VWAV Pumpkin Muffins

I've made these muffins a bunch of times, but now that I think about it I don't think I've ever baked them as "muffins" before - I tried them more than once in cake pans for lack of muffin tins. Anyway, since moving I have the opposite problem, a muffin tin without cake pans. But I digress. These muffins are totally delicious, and they were my gateway into pumpkin love.

Even though the pumpkin we bought was tiny, it was still enough to make both the breaded baked ziti recipe from Veganomicon and these muffins. Pumpkins are generous like that.


In food reading news, I started reading a new book yesterday, "Plenty: One Man, One Woman, and a Raucous Year of Eating Locally." Co-authored by a young couple living in Canada, it's their memoir of a year spent eating only food coming from an 100-mile radius (160 km). It makes for good reading too; I'm already half-way through.

Friday, October 24, 2008


I finally took the second half of the dough that's been sitting in the freezer for ages* and made pizza with it. It was pretty good, but not great, and I couldn't really put my finger on what prevented it from reaching greatness. I think it was something about the tomatoes.

Anyway, this is what I put on it:
cremini mushrooms
vegan mozzarella
vegan sausage
red bell pepper

I definitely want to make some more soon. The picture shows the mr. slicing it with the rotella (pizza cutter, doesn't it sound nice in Italian?). I used the pizza instructions in Vegan with a Vengeance.

* I used the first half to make calzones.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Breaded Baked Pasta

I used the Veganomicon recipe for the breaded baked ziti to make this. I was kind of in a rush, so I used breadcrumbs from a box instead of making some myself, and substituted spiral pasta for ziti. It turned out pretty well, I really recommend this.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Sweet Potato Gnocchi Follow-up

Here's the sweet potato gnocchi I made yesterday for dinner, served with the thyme vinaigrette and lemon cashew cream at Vegan Yum Yum. We had it as left-overs today, and it was not bad at all. I think yesterday I was tasting less because I was distracted with having people over. I also made the arugula salad from Veganomicon, with a few substitutions, like quinoa instead of bulgar. Today I made it again with chickpeas instead of white beans. The dressing in it is great, which elevated the salad to fantastic-level. Coming from someone who's not a fan of salads or arugula, that's pretty high praise. For some reason it didn't turn out as well today (too many chickpeas, maybe), but we still ate it up.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Cabbage Stir-fry, Sweet Potato Gnocchi

I made a stir-fry yesterday with cabbage, red bell peppers, and tofu in an attempt to use up the cabbage & red bell pepper. It was pretty good, the cabbage and pepper were nice and crisp so that was a nice contrasting texture to the soft tofu and noodles.


Today we have friends coming over for dinner, so I made sweet potato gnocchi. I was worried about not having enough time so I started early, but I was too early, so I decided freezing the gnocchi was probably a better idea than leaving it out for two hours. There they are awaiting their fate in a baking tray.

I always wanted to try a sweet potato version of gnocchi, ever since I found out it was an option. Last week I plugged in "vegan cooking shows" to you tube & this sweet potato gnocchi recipe came up. The guy in it suggests going half and half with sweet potatoes & regular since regular potatoes are starchy and that starchiness makes the dough easier to work with, although a google search revealed lots of people do pure sweet potato. I made the thyme vinaigrette and lemon cashew cream at Vegan Yum Yum that Lolo uses to top her gnocchi.

I'm also planning to make an arugula and quinoa salad based loosely on one I saw in Veganomicon, so we'll see how all this goes.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Moosewood Brown Bread

Because I didn't want to go out to the supermarket for toast, I made bread. Not of the replacing-toast sort, though. I found an easy enough recipe in my Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites. It's an everything but the kitchen sink kind of recipe: one cup each of corn meal, whole weat flour, and plain old white; plus raisins, molasses, and brown sugar with some cinnamon, allspice, and even ginger thrown in.

Just after I'd added apple cider vinegar to rice milk to substitute the buttermilk, I glanced through the recipe only to discover that it called for a loaf pan, which I don't have. I remembered reading somewhere that bread can be cooked either in a loaf pan or "free form" on a baking sheet, so figured I'd wing it.

Anyway, turns out it's a batter bread, not a dough bread - i.e. you get a liquidy mixture you have to pour into something, not a firm dough that can stand alone. So I just poured it into an oven-safe pan and cooked it for half the time. It turned out pretty okay, but I still think it's time to invest in a loaf pan.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

VWAV Peanut Butter-Oatmeal Cookies

So I used the Vegan with a Vengeance recipe for Big Giantoid Crunchy Peanut Butter-Oatmeal Cookies to make these, except I used creamy peanut butter instead of crunchy (I never buy crunchy, but I'm guessing it would've been good here) and added about half a cup of chocolate chips. To up the healthiness quotient, I did my usual subbing of some apple sauce for the oil and went with half white and half whole wheat pastry.

Overall, a very good cookie. I was worried it would turn out too sweet, but as usual with the recipes in this book, it was just right. Plus I really liked the tip to fill 1/3 of a cup with the dough, roll it in your hand, then use the bottom of a (lightly greased) glass to flatten the cookie for nice, even cookies. I wish I knew it back when I used to make cookies for bake sales, but oh well.

I bought a pumpkin the other day and am planning to make the totally delicious pumpkin muffins from Vegan with a Vengeance soon.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Kale with Fried Rice and Cashews

So, today was my first kale cooking endeavor. Lots of firsts this week. I did a combination of the garlicky kale recipe in Vegan with a Vengeance and a recipe for Chinese cashew fried rice I found at the Vegetarian About page.

So I sauteed the garlic for a few minutes, added the rice, threw in chopped kale for a few minutes, and in the last minute added mashed silken tofu, a small bit of leftover cabbage I had, and a handful of chopped cashews. I added soy sauce, lemon juice and a pinch of salt for flavoring.

Turned out pretty well. The soy sauce and lemon juice are a pretty successful combo.

The salad was a salad (on the left) was a salad mix in our produce box, dressed with balsamic vinegar, which I think makes everything taste good. A very vegan day, all green.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Gingered Fennel with Garlic

I decided to use up some left-overs today / try and finish up the stuff left in our produce box.

One of the main "left behinders" was the fennel - luckily my Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites had a recipe for gingery fennel with garlic. Fennel is hard to just throw in anywhere, it has a really distinctive (possibly overpowering) liquorice taste. Also, the fennel recipe was the only one I found in my handful of cookbooks.

I'd gotten some fresh ginger just to try the gingered fennel; it was actually my first time using fresh ginger, not the powdered variety I usually use. The ginger was good: strong in that "it's probably good for you" kind of a way. Basically, sautee chopped fennel and garlic for a few minutes, then add the ginger, cooking until the fennel is tender. Throw in a little sugar, salt, and pepper.

It's pretty spice, so I'd recommend serving it with something mild - I think a grain would go nicely here. I think it also be good with noodles and maybe even toned down with some peanut sauce.

For sides we had the left-over rice filling from yesterday's cabbage rolls, and some baked potato chips. You can't really go wrong with potatoes, and these chips were not an exception. The potatoes and rice were bland enough to turn to for comfort from the spicy fennel, so I was happy.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Calzones & Mahshy Kromb

I had a very big cooking day today, in several respects.
I used yeast for the first time. Yeast is what they put in (most) bread to make it rise and get puffy, I'm not really sure how it's different to baking soda and baking powder, which do the same thing. One difference: yeast takes a lot longer so you need to wait about an hour for the yeast to work its magic in the middle, and you also need to knead it to make your dough stretchy.

It was very fun making the Calzones - sounds like an Italian-American family name, right?) because of the dough. All the kneading and stretching and watching the dough grow big and even at one point punching it.

The filling I used was: mashed white beans, jarred tomato sauce (need to use it up), shittake mushrooms, caremlized onions and some really good sweet vegan sausage (made from apples). I sprinkled the "cover" which I folded over with a little bit of oregano, thyme, and chili pepper.

The basic pizza dough recipe was from Vegan with a Vengeance, but I was inspired by this and consulted again with the Life, Love, and Food blog here to calzone-ify the dough at the end.

The other thing I made was cabbage rolls (mahshy kromb). I really wanted something close to an authentic Egyptian recipe, but I didn't find one / I didn't have necessary ingredients (like parsley), so I made a bastardized version. The filling I used was a mixture of cooked white rice, a pinch of thyme, soy sauce (!), lemon juice, caramalized onions, garlic & an ill-advised teaspoon of fennel leaves (which taste, of all things, very much like liquorice.) The rolling itself was very funny - funny because it was hard and so what are supposed to be the size of a thick marker ended up stodgy and stout instead. The picture is misleading because there is no reference scale. Oh well. The recipe was based loosely on one I found in Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites. Another bastardization: baked in the oven, not on the stove.

My inspiration came from Vegan Dad. But as for making them Egyptian style, for those of you in Cairo, I would suggest finding a mahshy kromb mentor to show you.

As for how the calzones & cabbage rolls turned out, you'll have to tune in tomorrow - we're going to eat them now.


Post-dinner update: The calzones turned out really good! The mr. (literally) gave an enthusiastic two thumbs up. The dough seemed just perfect, but I really want to try them again with either vegan mozzarella or tofu ricotta and see how they turn out.

Sadly the cabbage rolls didn't fare so well. I think part of it was that I used (I discovered when eating) Chinese cabbage, which, while interesting and explains something I could never figure out in Chinese restaurants (namely, what is this?), creates a very different (thicker, more gelatanious-seeming) texture different to the one I'm used to. Of course, the different filling/cooking/rolling were also factors.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Pasta & fresh bread

I made the Irish soda bread yesterday! From the Elizavegan blog. It was really easy as promised (and fast, not including oven time, although even that was not too bad since I was cooking/washing dishes throughout), although shaping it was not, so it came out resembling a gigantic oatmeal cookie. It was pretty tasty too, so I think I will try more bread soon.

So for dinner yesterday we had pasta (a fettucine/ fusili mix, we ran out of fettucine and it needed supplementing) with red sauce. I 'sweated' the onions as per Veganomicon's instructions, (15 minutes in the pot on low heat with no oil added), then sauteed garlic, thinly sliced radishes and shittake mushrooms. At the end I threw in half a block of tofu that was left-over from something. I liked the flavors together (in my book, you can hardly go wrong with tomato anything) and the tofu added some chewy texture. The bread on the side was a nice touch too, although I think I went a bit overboard by cutting giant hunks of it for us.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Veganomicon Snobby Joes

We had left-over Snobby Joes for lunch today - the mr. is home because he's sick. This was my second time making them and they turned out much better this time - I'm not sure why, but I think it's related to making sure they were hot when I served them, and increasing the amount of chili pepper (which I'm increasingly fond of these days).

Actually, I did a lot of kitcheny things yesterday: I made scrambled tofu for breakfast, and some maple-walnut cookies for a post-lunch snack, both from Vegan with a Vengeance. I really liked the maple-molasses combo in the cookies, and tried it on some oatmeal today for breakfast. Good way to 'break' the strong taste of molasses with additional sweetness.


Things I'm thinking of making:
Cabbage rolls - Vegan Dad said he would be making some soon, and I have some cabbage that I'd like to use up.

This recipe for Irish soda bread. It sounds so easy, and I've been wanting to make bread forever.

Calzones stuffed with white beans, inspired by this recipe & the helpful veganizing suggestion from Rose-Anne in the comments.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

VWAV Fettucine Alfreda

Yesterday for dinner the mr. and I made the fettucine alfreda from vegan with a vengeance. We had it with broccoli and very thiny sliced radishes, which by the way, no longer taste like radishes when thiny sliced and sauteed. It was my first time trying out the much-celebrated nutritional yeast (a powdery yellow vegan foodstuff that gives a cheesy taste to things). The sauce was interesting, definitely creamy, but I think I'd like to try one with more pine nuts (or other nut, I've heard good things about cashews) and less nutritional yeast.

Saturday, October 11, 2008


When I wrote the other day that I never make Egyptian food, it was a half-lie.

One can of ful (fava beans) from the Middle Eastern market in a pan with some onions, garlic, cumin, a tomatoe if you have it, and a few drops of lemon is a very good breakfast indeed, with (pita) bread on the side to wipe your plate clean.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Fresh Corn Fritters with Salsa Verde

I have a lot of unfamiliar things in this week's box of produce. At the top of the list: tomatillos. The only recipe I found for them was salsa verde in Veganomicon, so I went ahead - replacing cilantro with parsley & putting chili powder in lieu of an actual chili. Then I made corn fritters with the two ears of corn using the Vegan With A Vengeance recipe to go with the salsa verde. The salsa verde was like nothing I've ever tasted (can't quite decide if that was a good thing), and the fritters were okay, pancakey in taste and texture. I had to omit the chili from them too, which I think would've given an interesting kick. The fresh corn that went into them was delicious - I had no idea raw corn was so good. I hope I get to play around with more sometime soon.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Mashed Red Potatoes

A few weeks ago when I was mashing potatoes to make gnocchi (I know I mention this as often as possible, bear with me), it occurred to me how good they looked, and I realized at a later date I would have to mash some potatoes to eat as a final product.

Coming to the end of our CSA box of produce, one of the last things remaining was a bag of freshly-dug red potatoes: it was the perfect day. I left the skin on, chopped & boiled them, mashed them with a little bit of margarine, and added a bit of celery and parsley (the only two things from our produce we haven't managed to finish).

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Home Food

I'm not sure when I really started cooking. I think the first thing I cooked as an adult was a vegetarian chili recipe in the book "Get Crafty: Hip Home Ec" by Jean Railla. The section on cooking in that book was short, but very inspiring, and it encouraged me to give it a shot. Despite the inspiring encouragement, for the longest time, the chili was all I made: it featured at potlucks, dinner parties my sister and I hosted, and dinners in front of the TV.

Since then, I’ve expanded my repertoire to include more than just an endless variation of chili. Curries, pastas, a range of baked goods (everything but the active yeast) – recently, even a Ukrainian stew. But the line has been drawn, rather sharply, on Egyptian food. My parents are both Egyptian, and while it’s true I wasn’t raised there, I did spend the last six years there, I speak the dialect, and the Egyptian government has been responsible for issuing every passport I’ve had.

My mother didn’t cook much, relying on our housekeeper for day-to-day affairs and saving her efforts for big ‘izoomas (dinner parties) where she’d go all out for the three days leading up to the big event, and then returning to our largely macaroni-with-red-sauce-centered lives.

Sure, molokhiya (green stew eaten with rice) made periodic appearances, and stuffed vine leaves were always on the menu when the dozen guests were invited for those dinner parties, but I can’t exactly say that Egyptian food is what I grew up eating.

Egypt is not particularly well known for its cuisine (the Lonely Planet described it essentially as being nothing to write home about) – I can accept that – regardless of what the world’s favorite travel guide thinks, I am attached to certain dishes - but it doesn’t explain why I’ve never cooked anything that could really be called Egyptian.

I just finished reading the food memoir “The Lost Ravioli Recipes of Hoboken: A Search for Food and Family,” yesterday – in which Laura Schenone, the author, undertakes an endeavor to unearth her family’s authentic Genoese ravioli recipe. Schenone recalls the elaborate Christmas dinners her mother would host - describing the meal as being “… the Italian food of American technology and industrial technology” – and pointing out that her family neither desired Genoese staples of times past nor remembered how to make them. Instead, the food at the Christmas dinners had “no direct connection to us. But this does not matter. We all agree in the meanings – that it is good, that it is right.”

Is this direct connection to the food we eat important? And does the connection have to be linked to “ethnic heritage”? What about the place where we live, and the connections that can be formed by eating locally and in season?

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Roased Sweet Potato and Pear Soup

This turned out pretty well. Another sweet main-course dish (unless you think soup isn't a main course - it was actually the only course yesterday, unless you'd like to count hot toast as a side).

Another plus: super-easy to make.

Roasted Sweet Potato and Pear Soup
Modified from Real Simple magazine

Serves 4 generously
Takes about an hour

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion
2 pears, peeled & chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
3 medium sweet potatoes
salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 C). Prick sweet potatoes with a fork 4 or 5 times. Place on baking tray, preferably lined with parchment paper to protect the tray. Roast sweet potatoes in the oven for 45 minutes, or until tender.

Heat the oil in a large pan, then add onions, pears, and celery. Cook for about 8 minutes on medium high heat, or until pears are soft.

When sweet potatoes are ready and have cooled enough to handle, cut them in half and scoop out the flesh with a spoon, adding it to the pan with everything else. Cook until heated through.

Wait until soup cools and put it in a blender or food processor, or use an immersion blender right in the pan to puree.

Serve with bread.

Monday, October 06, 2008

VWAV Glazed Orange Scones

For my painting class today I'd volunteered to be the one to bring snacks, so I made the Apple Pie-Crumb Cake Muffins and Glazed Orange Scones, both from Vegan with a Vengeance. For some reason the muffins didn't turn out so great - although they were so great last week when I made them at home - but the glazed orange scones rocked!

They look kind of cheesy (it's the orange glaze!) in the picture, but I'll blame that on the fluorescent lighting in our kitchen. Strangely enough, the scones tasted lemony, not orangey - but that wasn't a bad thing at all.

Cooking now: Roasted sweet potato and pear soup. I saw a recipe in Real Simple magazine for sweet potato and apples, but we're all out of apples, so here goes nothing with the pears.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Solo Sushi

My friends taught me how to make sushi. At our local natural and organic supermarket the salesclerk scanned the packet of seaweed, bamboo rolling mat, sushi rice and rice vinegar - my guiding cookbook had preemptively warned against using regular vinegar.

“Ooh, sushi!” she gushed. “Is this your first time?”
"It'll be my first time without guidance." She said she'd recently undertaken the same transition from guided to unguided sushi, and it had gone over well enough.

So, a few days later, avocado good and ripe, and the clouds bountifully shedding near-incessant rain and making me think home was a pretty good place to remain, I decided today was the day.

I didn't realize I would have a strong friend-missing moment rolling my own sushi. Back in Cairo, we’d had a Sushi Making Workshop (slash party) where our brave friends who'd already ventured into sushi-making territory guided us all into making perfect little rolls, with tons of photo ops along the way, not to mention a rule that any deformed sushi could be consumed immediately.

But thousands of miles away, I wondered how I had been part of this perfect-sushi universe. I was confronted with sticky rice that stuck to my fingers, not the seaweed; mushy avocado; and forgot which direction I was supposed to roll in. Not to mention that the rolls didn't want to bow down to the fate of the knife and be sliced.

A few Google consultations later (which weren’t that helpful – I needed pictures!), and a few last-minute sushi set-up readjustments, it came together. Cucumber, avocado, and thin leek slices united together surrounded by the sweet vinegary rice and the rolls submitted to their sliced fate – and their ultimate destiny of soy-sauce dipping and happy consumption.

Quinoa with Summer Squash

This was supposed to be last night's dinner, but instead we went out to watch the potential vice presidents debating each other - strange, I know - and ended up eating out (hummus platter and onion rings - a nice balance I think between healthy vs. unhealthy).

Anyway, since it was all pretty much ready, I went ahead and ate it for lunch. I was inspired by Mark Bittman's recipe for pasta with butternut squash over at his blog Bitten, so decided to follow his instructions for the squash but pair it with quinoa (pronounced keen-wa, a grain). It was a little bland, so I doctored it with everything suggested in the recipe: salt, pepper, a teaspoon of sugar, and (from one of the comments) chili powder. When I ate it I discovered it needed another direction: soy sauce. So I'm thinking of adding some bok choy (Chinese cabbage that came in our produce box) and some ginger for dinner to push it further into pseudo-Asian territory.

Speaking of the CSA box: it was packed! I really don't know how we're going to finish all this food. Apples, a bunch of grapes, pluots (like plums), the bok choy, celery, pears, a big cucumber, one onion, parsley, radishes, and lettuce! For two people, for one week. Not to mention we still have other produce we need to eat. I'll report how it goes.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

DIY washable ink tattoo

Tell me I don't have a future as a kick-ass tattoo artist.

Model Apple Reinvents Itself; Sacrifices Self in Process

I made the Apple Pie-Crumb Cake Muffins from Vegan with a Vengeance last night for dessert, since I needed to use the fruit originally utilized as pretty models for my still-life for art class. The big red apple seen in the background seemed like a logical place to begin this endeavor.

The mr. said, "So we're eating art?"

I've included a photo of the before and after to the left to help you get a better feel of the transition that took place. I still need to utilize everything else in the painting: orange, pear and lemon, but the tiny apple in the front row is still up for debate (it has unsettling brown spots).

I HIGHLY recommend the muffins - there's an adaptation over at Mad Vegan in the Kitchen. One thing I've been puzzling over though, ever since becoming 'civilized' enough to use measuring cups and spoons: my quantities are turning out way less than the recipes promise! This recipe yielded only about 9 muffins instead of the typical dozen. What's that about?

In other food news, we're getting our first box of produce from the farm we signed up with as our CSA (Community-supported Agriculture, read about it here). Exciting.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008


I did an experiment today. It wasn't intended to be an experiment, it was just supposed to be a walk. I left the house with only a set of keys for a 20-minute brisk walk. It took me a while to decide to do this. I don't really usually like leaving the house, especially not alone. This is not because of safety issues.

So, as I used to do especially right when I first got here, I let myself walk in whatever direction I liked, turning when I pleased, with the vague idea of reaching either a park half an hour away or a neighboring district (maybe 15 minutes away). The idea of walking - no, the actual walking with no possessions on my person save for my keys and the clothes on my back, as it were, was physically light. I generally like to lug around my (currently) 6 x 8.5 inch journal, pen and marker, book to read, wallet, tissues, a water bottle, and (recently) a set of colored pencils. Individually, they are all light enough, but together they form a collective burden on walks exceeding 15 minutes.

The going out without money was interesting too. I have a friend who did an experiment where she would go out with neither money nor possessions on alternate days for a period of her life. She had to walk everywhere, even if she had an appointment all the way across the city unless she had a ride from someone (no possessions = no car and no cash and so no cabs).

Like my friend, the lack of possessions carried with cut down on my options. No stopping for coffee or buying something impulsively or giving a dollar to someone asking for change. I always think that money gives people options, in a bigger sense. And there is of course the inherent assumption that options are good. More options is just better. I'm not saying I want to wake up tomorrow morning and discover my bank account has been depleted - and there is no point in glorifying poverty from a position of privilege like the one I have essentially been born into. I guess I'm just saying that options, in certain contexts, can be maddening, and I think can create shortened attention spans. I rotate in five-minute intervals between crocheting granny squares for a blanket, perusing my laptop and the time-consuming wonders of the internet, reading an Italian-American woman's 'food memoir', and checking my new cookbooks for recipes to try. Sitting on the lime green couch in my living room, surrounded by my things, switching back and forth from one activity to another, not knowing which to focus on, because there are so many choices at my fingertips.

Not-Quite Ukrainian Beet and Bean Stew

Last week me and the mr. trekked out to the library book sale, and I was able to stock up on bargain-basement-priced cookbooks, one of which was Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites. Having read on one of my favorite blogs about how great her Moosewood cookbook is, I got it. Now, my normal cookbook relationship is to flip to the index and see how I can use up the vegetables in my fridge before they go bad. So, looking under B for beets I found Ukrainian stew.

I made a lot of omissions and substitutions. Cabbage and celery were just eradicated, plain potatoes replaced with sweet; caraway seeds with cumin (Google advised on the last one), among other things. So here's my modified version:

Ukrainian Beet and Bean Stew
Serves 4
Modified from Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites

1 teaspon canola oil
1 medium onion
2 C water or vegetable stock
1/2 C sliced carrots
2 medium sweet potatoes
2 large beets, peeled and chopped
3 tomatoes, chopped
1 teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 can black beans (original called for kidney beans)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 C chopped leek

Heat the oil in a pan, add the onion and saute for a few minutes. Add 1/2 C water, cover, and simmer for 5 minutes.
Add carrots, stir, and simmer for another 5.
Add the rest of the water, potatoes, beets, tomatoes, cumin, vinegar and salt and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover, and simmer for roughly 35 minutes. You're done when the beats are tender.
Add the pepper while it's still hot, garnish with the leeks.

The end result is a sweet stew. For me I enjoyed it because it was such a departure from my usual vegetables - broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and zucchini. I served it with the Leak and Bean Cassoluet biscuits from Veganomicon.

Occasional art, comics, food, and other things of less interest to the general public.