Thursday, November 27, 2008

A Vegan Thanksgiving

So I went to this vegan Thanksgiving potluck today. A lot of firsts: my first Thanksgiving, which I've discovered is a Really Big Deal here in the US (I thought it was mostly having kids make turkeys out of colorful construction paper and dress up as pilgrims and Indians; at least that's what we did in my American elementary school in Kuwait) and first vegan potluck. It was great not to guess what was in all the food, which was abundant and mostly pretty good. Things weren't very Thanksgivey besides the food - although there was no Tofurkey, which I was led to believe was the very essence of vegan & vegetarian thanksgivings.

The place was packed, and I met lots of interesting people. On the way there, we carpooled with a couple who revealed they keep a neat food blog, Vegan Ricans, complete with videos they've shot making Puerto Rican recipes.

Also, Bethany from Spotted Devil Cat and his Vegan Assistant was there, and it was really fun to meet up with her again. She brought Susan V's black bean dip with her - very tasty.

I met a man who's been vegan since 1980! I was really impressed. I imagine no-one was vegan back then. He said the only "vegan" food you could get back then was tofu, and I'm guessing it wasn't at your friendly neighborhood chain supermarket.

The only bad thing was driving back from Issaquah, since it was dark and rain with signs warning of deer skipping merrily along the highway, but we survived.

I made Veganomicon's Spinach-Noodle Kugel/Casserole and a double batch of VWAV's Pumpkin muffins. It was my second go at the spinach casserole. Last time I skipped the fresh dill, and it made a world of a difference here - it complemented the lemon juice in there wonderfully.

(Side note: nice tip on the PPK forum about lowering sugar/fat in the muffins that I just saw now and will definitely try next time I make them.)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Spinach & Tofu-Ricotta Pizza

What is it about pizza? You know how they say, even when it's bad, it's good? Well, this was actually really good.

I'd been thinking of making Fat Free Vegan Kitchen's Polenta Pizza yesterday (out of a desire to avoid making real pizza dough rather than health reasons of avoiding gluten) but then decided to bite the bullet and roll out the real deal. I've made the polenta pizza once before long ago and I liked it, although the polenta somehow made it look and taste a lot like an omelet. But maybe that was just me. I would definitely make it again though.

Anyway, I went with the VWAV pizza dough recipe which I tried before. I topped it with the VWAV tomato sauce (naturally), tofu ricotta, spinach, chopped tomatoes, vegan sausage and a sprinkle of nutritional yeast. Somehow it was very successful, maybe because I decided to listen to the mr.'s advice that lots of toppings = better pizza. Pre-baking, I was a bit worried it was overload, but those eight minutes in the oven seemed to shrink the toppings down to normal amounts.

Plus, I'm not really sure why I wanted to avoid making dough - it's so fun. I don't like cleaning up the counter afterwards, and I also get intimidated by the wait periods involved in letting the dough rise and then 'rest' (the 'rest' always makes me feel like it's an exhausted diva that needs beauty sleep). But really it's not such a big deal, and kneading out the dough and eating the pizza are well worth the labor involved.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Parsley pasta

Parsley is not a herb I like very much, so when I saw a parsley-vinegar sauce on Bitten, I marked it to use some of the green stuff that was coming in the CSA box.

Bittman says you can use the sauce over "steaks, pork, or chicken," but commenter number two remarked that they often paired pasta with parsley pesto. In my mind I just registered it as, "okay, I'll throw it on some pasta." As I was making it I worried it would be too strong for the zucchini and carrots I was having with the pasta, so I threw a little tofu into the blender after everything else to mellow it down, just in case. It worked great: nice creamy green pasta sauce, and a full cup of parsley down.

Isa's perfect chocolate-chip cookies

I tried the new cookie recipe Isa posted a few days ago yesterday. I replaced most of the canola oil with apple sauce (I added a tablespoon of oil) and the tapioca flour with cornstarch. They really were good, I think the extra vanilla gives them a really rich flavor. The apple sauce made them really soft though. I used Julie Hanson's tip of using an ice-cream scoop to form the cookies, and it worked great, but it made gigantic cookies.

For dinner I had stir-fried left-over radishes (thinly sliced), bok choy, and mustard greens, topped with some grated carrots with peanut sauce and noodles. This was good because the strong flavor of the mustard greens got cushioned by everything else; last time I made them on their own and I couldn't finish them.


Even lunch was exciting yesterday: I mixed left over rice and chickpeas with sauteed radishes, added a little vegetable stock, cumin, and raw garlic in an attempt to get rid of my cough. It was good stuff, cumin is my new favorite spice (farewell, oregano. Note: nothing will replace fresh basil).

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Chickpea Cutlets & Middle Eastern food

I made the famous chickpea cutlets from Veganomicon yesterday, baked. They were good, and I was most impressed by how fast and hassle-free they were to assemble.

Today I had a flop and a mid-range success. The flop was falafel. I had two recipes, one from the food memoir "The Language of Baklava," and another in VWAV. I decided to try the first today, and the latter another day. It seemed simple enough: mix everything together, let the mixture sit in the fridge for awhile, form into little patties and then fry those babies up. Sadly, it was not to be. The batter didn't want to be formed into patties and kept breaking up, so I made them smaller and figured it would be okay. It wasn't: two minutes into the frying and they completely disintegrated! I tasted some of the broken-up crumbs rescued from the hot oil, and the flavor was right on, but they were nothing more than crumbs. Big disappointment. However, I need to point out the other recipes I've tried from "The Language of Baklava have been really successful.

Luckily I'd also made mujaddara, which is a cousin of an Egyptian dish called koshari. I'd never heard of mujaddara until a few days ago. It's a fried onion, rice and lentil mix with a little bit of spices thrown in. Pretty simple. Also from "Language of Baklava," but recipes abound on the internet.

Veganomicon's "mediterranean-style cashew-cucumber dip," which is the vegan version of the Greek yogurt dip tzatziki, was supposed to accompany the falafel, but in their absence I put a little on the mujaddara. I was really impressed with this dip, mostly for even trying to recreate it. And it was not bad at all.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Cabbage Rolls, take two

I gave cabbage rolls (mahshy kromb) another shot today. I'm pleased to say it turned out way better than last time. I can attribute the success to several things done differently (mostly due to the guidance of the recipe): using regular cabbage instead of Chinese (Chinese cabbage has a different, thicker texture) and cutting the stalky parts of the cabbage leaves - these add too much bulk. I used a different recipe, also from The Language of Baklava, and just excluded the meat. The stuffing was a chickpea, onion and rice mixture with a little cumin and cinnamon. It tasted pretty good, although not exactly Egyptian as I know it. It was cooked on the stove, simmering for about an hour, not in the oven as lots of non-Middle Eastern recipes seem to call for.

I'll probably make these again. They weren't as fiddly as I thought, although somehow I ended up with less than a dozen, because a bunch of cabbage leaves got accidentally torn.

Oh, and on the right of the plate is a bunch of baked Jerusalem artichokes (or sunchokes). They're quite similar to potatoes in taste and texture.

Caramelized Pear Bread Pudding

So, as planned, I used up the last of the overripe pears yesterday. Since they were really soft, I was wondering if they could replace bananas in a quick bread. I turned to the internet, discovered it was possible, and got the idea somewhere to make a bread pudding. Bread puddings have been in the back of my mind since I saw this at veganlovlie. Anyway, Google revealed pear bread puddings did exist, and found me a recipe from the Mayo Clinic's website, of all places. I did the usual vegan substitutions, and it turned out to be pretty pleasant, warm with a little crispiness in the midst of much creaminess. I think some ice-cream would've gone really well with it too. It was a little heavy though, even though it uses only 3 tablespoons of fat.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Return of the fennel

We had fennel again in our CSA box and again I didn't know what to do with it. I considered the gingery fennel I made last time, but then I saw a recipe in Vegan Italiano for a fennel and pear salad. It called for ripe yet firm pears, which I thought was the case with ours until I took a look at them... they were sadly overripe, but I made the most of the situation and set aside the mushy parts for another use. Anyway, this salad was delicious, and the usually hard to integrate licrorice taste of the fennel was put to good use combined with the sweet pear.

I also made Veganomicon's baked pumpkin ziti again. It was great, again. I added some sliced vegan sausage and green onions and fresh (frozen) thyme to use them up. I could barely taste the green onions, but the sausages were nice.


A few days ago I made pumpkin-apple soup. I remembered a soup I made a few weeks ago as being pumpkin-apple, but really it had been sweet potato-apple (and I subbed pears for apples), but the pumpkin-apple worked pretty well. I sauteed onions for two minutes on medium heat, added the apples for another 10 (til soft), then spooned roasted pumpkin into the pot. Roasting pumpkin is so wonderful, I just always roast now whenever a recipe calls for pumpkin in any state, it's so much easier than cutting up in in an uncooked state and cutting it up. Then I used an immersion blender to make it creamy. I garnished with never-ending green onion. It turned out pretty well, apples sauteed with onions taste surprisingly good.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The 7 random things meme

I've been tagged by Bethany at Spotted Devil Cat and his Vegan Assistant.

  1. Link the person that tagged you and post the rules on your blog.
  2. Share 7 random and/or weird facts about yourself.
  3. Tag 7 random people at the end of your post and include links.
  4. Let each person know that they've been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.
1. I've had a lot of short-term odd jobs. One of the oddest was summarizing an Arabic religious show into English for the English-speaking editors.

2. I go through phases of deep interest in different activities. Right now it's cooking, but there's also been art, writing, comics, embroidery, crochet, and knitting.

3. I have trouble throwing things away, especially old receipts, clothes tags, and bus passes.

4. The best dessert I've ever made were some chocolate peanut butter shells that I found at Yeah, That Vegan Shit. Despite that, I've only made them once because they were a little labor-intensive. I should remedy that situation one day.

5. I'm not sure why my blog is called nineteen ninety nine. I wanted something random and I think I got it, but I would do it differently if I made a new one today. Also the old URL used to contain a misspelling.

6. My favorite thing in my flat is our small square wooden dining table that we got from a vintage furniture store.

7. I don't drink coffee because caffeine's powers seem to multiply by 10 for me, but I love coffee flavored things like cake and candy.

I'm tagging:

Monday, November 10, 2008

Collard Greens Stir Fry & Lentils

I've never had collard greens before, so I figured I'd try the Veganomicon easy stir-fried leafy greens recipe which is pretty straightforward, any leafy green with some ginger, garlic and soy sauce. I was expecting the collard greens to taste kind of neutral like chard or kale, but instead it turned out to be bitter like mustard greens, which I'm not a fan of. Oh well. I added some hummus to it to try and salvage the situation, it helped. It needs to be mixed with other things to cut down on the strong bitterness, maybe quinoa or any other grain.

Since there were leftover lentils from the soup, I thought it would be easy enough to sautee some onions and add a few spices to jazz them up. But no. I'd already soaked the lentils overnight to make soup, so I brought them to a boil and let them simmer for 20 minutes. I forgot to add salt, and they kind of disintegrated. And the flavoring turned out to be off. I turned to hummus again for help, and it worked. So now I know I have a way to go before I become an intuitive cook who can live recipe-free.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Sushi, VWAV Ginger Cookies & Tofu Scramble

Yesterday was my second solo sushi attempt. I did two variations: avocado, carrot, chives, and the same thing but with tofu ricotta added. I think they turned out pretty well, and luckily I still remembered how to roll. The rice was still crunch after 20 minutes, which made me think I was cursed (combined with the cookies that were too sticky, not to mention I forgot to preheat the oven), but I added water and kept checking in two minute increments, and finally it worked. The carrots added a little crunch, the chives a subtle onion flavor & freshness (for lack of a better word), and the avocado and tofu ricotta creaminess.

After I saw the sparkled chai cookies on Bitter Sweet, based on VWAV's Sparkling Ginger Cookies, I figured I should give the originals a shot. The dough was super sticky. I tried the trick of putting it in the fridge for a bit, which was okay for the first two cookies but didn't last long. So I adapted by using a spoon and sprinkling the sugar instead of using my hands to roll the cookies out and sprinkling on the sugar. The sugar added a crunch that was nice, and the flavors worked pretty well together. I think I'm going to make more gingery-things in the near future.

We had this tofu scramble for breakfast with the recipe from VWAV. Thinly sliced radishes, a bit of shiitake mushrooms, and the grated carrot at the end. For some reason it turned out to the best tofu scramble I've made so far.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Braised Cabbage & Lentil Soup

So, last week I checked out a bunch of vegan cookbooks from the library since a bunch of them were just hanging out on the "reshelf" aisle. One of them was "Vegan Italiano," which as you might guess is a collection of vegan Italian recipes, but the cool thing is that they are all authentic Italian recipes - i.e. no tofu, mock meats, soy cheeses, etc. Naturally, this book is right up my alley, and I think I will purchase it soon. The recipes all seem fairly simple too, although I've really only skimmed it so far. Two days ago I made the Braised Sweet & Sour Cabbage with Kidney Beans, and it did not disappoint. I never know what to do with cabbage, but we get it in our produce box fairly often these days, so this was a good solution. I made some "Fancy biscuits" to go with it from "How it All Vegan" (also from the library). The fanciness is attributed to the green onions added. They were more like scones than biscuits, very soft, but I liked them.


I just finished reading this food memoir entitled "The Language of Baklava" by Diana Abu-Jaber, a Jordanian-American, so I decided to try out some of the recipes. The book itself is a great read, full of memorable characters and pepppered with recipes from her chidhood, most Jordanian/Middle Eastern. Anyway, for lunch I followed her lentil soup recipe, with a few tweaks. The flavors were exactly right, but I like a thicker lentil soup, so next time I'll just reduce the amount of water she calls for. It was really easy too. This is a perfect winter soup.

Lentil Soup, adapted from The Language of Baklava

1 C lentils (soak your dried lentils overnight)
1 medium onion
splash of olive oil
3 C water (I used 4, but I think 3 or even less will make a thicker soup)
1 carrot, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon cumin
juice from 1 lemon
salt & pepper to taste

Rinse lentils. Sautee the onions in olive oil until transluscent in a medium pot. Add everything else and cook over medium heat for 30 minutes, or until carrots are tender. Wait until soup cools slightly to blend, or use an immersion blender in the pot.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Mango Salad, Roasted Tubers, & Pure Baked Apples

I made lots of food today in an attempt to finish up the CSA produce. We had one mango, turnips, carrots, beets & green onions. There was a mango in there because our farm has some kind of exchange program with other farms so occasionally there are a few very non-local things thrown in.

Me and the mr. were both apprehensive about eating the mango as a proper 'dessert fruit' since we're used to juicy mangoes heady with sweet fragrance from the balmy summers of Egypt. In comparision, the ones I've eaten here (two to date, including today's) strike me as being crossed with lemon. Anyway, I found a salad in Veganomicon to use: quinoa, mango, black beans, and a little wine vinegar (I used white since that's what I had on hand). I ommitted the black beans and repalced scallions with green onions: I think I would've done well to exclude it altogether. I still think it's wrong to eat mangos in non-fruit fashion, but hey, desperate times & desperate measures, etc. Still, the salad was good, especially pre-green onions; the mango added a nice sweet surprise between the pretty quinoa.

In my newly-purchased cookbook, The Candle Cafe, I found a recipe for roasted tubers and proceeded to throw all my edible roots in: carrots, beets, and turnips. I think there was a similar recipe in Vegan with a Vengeance too, but it was interesting to see the different flavor suggestions. Where the latter frequently suggests maple syrup, ginger, and a splash of lemon; Candle recommended dried herbs (I used fresh thyme, which I've actually frozen in order to freakishly preserve it forevermore - better than being thrown away in two days! - thanks to a tip gleaned on the increasingly useful Chow forums), soy sauce, garlic, and of course, olive oil. It was pretty good, and I think some mushrooms and caremalized onions would've been very happy to join for an all-around hearty winter dish.

For dessert I decided to bake our two remaining apples. Allrecipes suggested coring, then stuffing the hollows with some brown sugar, butter and cinnamon and parking them in the oven for 15 minutes at 350 F (175 C), but I wanted to try them plain to see what flavor they would have in a pure, unadulterated form. I expected them to be really sweet and juicy, but actually they retained a little crunchiness and there was a fair amount of tartness, so I think I will do the brown sugar medeley next time. (Note: in typing this, I realize I probably kept my oven at only 325 by accident, thereby preventing them fom becoming more tender). In any event, I think they will be quite pleasant with some oatmeal for breakfast tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


I made some cornbread today. This is the third time I've made cornbread, and the third recipe I've tried. To me, it seems to taste better if you throw in some chopped stuff: I used some green onions, carrots, and fresh thyme since that's what I had on hand.

I just got a cast-iron skillet, and I think it made a big difference in helping form a nice crispy crust at the bottom of the cornbread. Cornbread in general is nice and hearty and very adaptable in terms of things you can throw in, and luckily today was no exception. One tweak I'll do if I make it again is use less sugar; the recipe called for 2 tablespoons but I think one or even half would be more appropriate. I used the first cornbread recipe in a book devoted to all things cornbread, aptly titled "The Cornbread Gospels." Rose-Anne of the Life, Love and Food blog posted her version of the recipe here, along with a hefty endorsement for the book it comes from.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Chard-Noodle Casserole & Balady Bread

I basically followed Veganomicon's recipe for the spinach-noodle kugel, replacing chard with spinach and breadcrumbs for matzoh meal. Some immensely useful website that I don't remember informed me that you can substitute chard for spinach anywhere as long as you cook it longer*, and I decided to do just that, since spinach recipes abound (rightfully so, spinach is delicious) while poor chard gets lain to the wayside despite being one of those dark leafy greens we hear so much about (not to mention chard was in my produce box this month and spinach is out of season). This casserole is basically mashed tofu, chard, macaroni, onions, and bread crumbs all mixed together.

There are other things to do with chard, like make a lasagna (I was seriously considering this one); there seem to be lots of good recipes on the New York Times blog about health, "Well." There's a basic chard introduction here up there too.

* To cook chard, throw it into a pot of boiling water, and then once the water boils again, let it cook for a minute. It should wilt but still be bright green. Remove and drain.


In other exciting kitchen news, yesterday I made balady bread! In case you don't know, think of it as pita bread's cousin, in the same thin circle but thicker. I used this recipe from's middle eastern section. (Okay, it's really a recipe for pita bread, but like I said, they are cousins and I think in English they're treated as one, despite being divided into sub-types in the middle east.) They even have a video too if you need more encouragement. One thing to bear in mind: when you preheat your pan in the oven before baking the bread, don't flour it. I did and the flour burnt completely, prompting the fire alarm to go off and transforming the flour into what strongly resembled rich fertile soil. The bread also seemed to bake faster than the suggested times, so it's worth it to check it earlier. I used two cups whole wheat pastry flour and one cup plain old white, but I might make it all whole wheat next time for an even coarser texture. It turned out great this time and it was really pretty easy to make, it just needs a little time for kneading and waiting for the dough to rise. But kneading is fun and you can spend the hour it takes for the dough to rise reading, not to mention the bread is great, so go ahead and make it.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

I got a new cookbook

I just bought a new cookbook, and I have to say I'm intimidated. I know, it's just a cookbook and it's not going to bite. Trekking out in the moderate rain armed with an umbrella with the mr. in hand towards the bookstore (about half an hour away, walking), I'd intended to purchase "The Voluptuous Vegan" since I've heard good things about it. But my memory hadn't served me well: it wasn't in stock (or who knows, perhaps this was a recent development)." The Candle Cafe Cookbook" graced the half shelf devoted to vegan cookery instead. It's a restaurant cookbook for an apparently highly-regarded vegan gourmet restaurant in New York. The pictures are certainly beautiful, but the tone seems just a little cold. Maybe it's the fanciness? I guess I've gotten used to friendly encouragmenet from cookbook authors (on the page, not in person). Time will tell if it'll grow on me and whether the recipes on its pages will join the repetoire of those put into frequent rotation.

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