Tuesday, December 11, 2012
In this, the season of holiday parties and other festive get togethers, vegans sometimes get left out in the cold (hopefully not literally). I've found it gets better as the years go by, but I still expect to find myself attending at least one lunch/dinner/party/whatever where I spend the whole time crankily snacking on baby carrots and staring at cookies I can't eat.
I wasn't really thinking about what I would eat when Milo and I set off for a lunch in honour of some of my coworkers retiring that also served as my office Christmas gathering. I was mostly excited to see my colleagues again and they were super excited to see me. Ha! Just kidding! They wanted to see the baby.
It wasn't until we actually sat down at our table in the surprisingly glamourous Giovanni's restaurant (the website sings to you, be warned) that I thought, uh oh, this is a traditional Italian restaurant. I've never had much luck finding interesting vegan dishes in these kinds of places.
When the waiter came by I asked him about soup. Our conversation went like this:
Me: "Is your fagioli vegetarian?"
Him: "Sadly, no."
Me: "What about the minestrone?"
Him: "No, sorry."
Me: "Are any of your soups vegetarian?"
Him: "Well... no. Our chef's idea of making a soup vegetarian is to only add one veal bone to the stock."
Gross. But I appreciated his honesty and he was very friendly and did not act annoyed by my questions.
I ordered brushetta (minus cheese) where the soup would have been, and got my hopes up high about a beet salad that the menu described as "roasted yellow beets, red endive, avocado, truffle vinegrette." I was right to get excited. It was vegan without me having to ask for any substitutions. And when it arrived it looked beautiful.
And holy, it was delicious. The flavours were perfect together and the beets were somewhat magical. Some of my colleagues tasted them and agreed that they were delicious. And not a veal bone in sight.
I have no idea what the dinner menu would be like for vegans, but I would certainly recommend Giovanni's for lunch if you are with a group of omnivores and don't want to feel short changed. Unless you're in the mood for soup.
Monday, December 10, 2012
We had yucky weather in Ottawa today. Freezing rain. And snow. And regular rain. One of those days where maternity leave is a blessing because you really shouldn't leave the house, but also a curse because you really shouldn't leave the house.
Luckily, Milo decided to be super relaxed all day and took two large naps, which left me time to tidy the house, sweep the floors, and do some cooking. Also eating. I did quite a bit of eating. The cookies pictured above were baked by my mom this weekend using my vegan gingerbread recipe, which is bringing a whole bunch of traffic to the blog these days. 'Tis the season.
Those cookies and a mug of tea set me up for a day that was actually rather pleasant, even with all of us housebound. The dogs napped by the window, the baby sat in his bouncy chair and stared at the Christmas tree, and I took photos. We all stayed warm and dry and well fed. Not bad, maternity leave. Not bad.
Friday, December 7, 2012
"It's probably nothing," I told The Man of Science on Sunday morning as I eased myself into the front passenger seat of the car, "And then we'll end up wasting the whole stupid day in the emergency room. This is so frustrating."
Are "probably nothing" considered famous last words? If they aren't, they should be. Twelve hours after my self-diagnosis of my right side abdominal pain as "probably nothing", I was waving to the Man of Science and Milo from a stretcher as a porter wheeled me towards the operating room for my appendectomy.
For those of you keeping track, that's my second abdominal surgery in the past three months. It would be funny if it didn't hurt to laugh.
However sometimes when you have to have surgery your friends show up with containers of waffles that you can keep in your freezer and pull out when you need a special breakfast to cheer yourself up. I was the lucky recipient of just those sorts of waffles from my friends Krishna and Magi. The Man of Science was amused by the gift. "Who are you?" he asked, "Leslie Knope?"
All that to say I felt like having a bit of a special breakfast this morning. And since I have no new and exciting recipes for you this week I thought you might want to gaze upon my breakfast with delight. Or envy. Or whatever you like. Those are Tofurky brand sausages that I cut up and pan fried in a bit of olive oil. The waffles toasted up perfectly, directly from the freezer and they are served with some blueberries (also from the freezer), some Earth Balance, and a bit of agave nectar.
One last word of warning: If you need to get up before you've finished your breakfast to comfort a fussy baby, just look out for hungry interlopers. Some of them don't care if you've just had surgery. They'll steal your last two bites of sausage, regardless.
Sunday, November 25, 2012
I probably haven't mentioned yet that the Man of Science and I have a new, excellent roommate. (Our new house has a basement "suite" with its own nice bedroom, bathroom, and kitchenette.) Like everyone who realizes how much money they're paying for their new house, we thought it would be prudent to rent out space in our home to someone we know and trust. Which is how we ended up with the incomparable Meghan Dailey as our brand new roommate/hairdresser-on-demand/expert-baby-holder.
Meghan doesn't eat any gluten or dairy, and she's a really "clean" eater in general, so when I wanted to make her a treat this weekend, I started doing a bit of research about gluten-free pie. I didn't want to get into the whole xantham gum zone, so I went with a nut crust. Pecans to be exact. The crust was super-easy to make and stood up very well in the long run.
The pie itself was sweetened only with maple syrup, and so it fit well with Meghan's clean eatin' lifestyle. The Man of Science, Meghan, and I sat down to a nice dinner tonight (with a baby blissfully napping for exactly how long it took us to get through a plate of food) and for the first time in a long time I felt like a Normal Human Adult Person. We take it where we can get it.
Speaking of dinner and babies, a few people have asked me how I manage to still cook dinner every night when caring for an infant. Here's how:
Milo really likes this sling, and I can get a few good hours of cooking accomplished if I just wear him. It's a bit hard on my body if I do it for too long, but I love the freedom it gives me to get things done with both hands. I was thinking today that when he's a rambunctious toddler I'll probably long for the days when I could just pop him in the sling and do some chores. Or make a pie.
Gluten-Free Apple Pie
21/2 cups whole pecans
1 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
2 tbsp Earth Balance coconut spread, melted
1 tsp maple syrup
Process the pecans, baking soda, and salt in a food processor until the nuts are very crumbly, then mix in the other ingredients.
Press the crust evenly into a regular sized pie plate or tart pan. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes.
Six apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup maple syrup
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1 tbsp agar agar
In a medium bowl, mix the chopped apples with all other ingredients until everything is evenly mixed.
Pour apple filling into crust, bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes-1 hour or until apples are tender.
Oh, and maybe you're wondering about that superb looking vegan whipped cream? It's actually the best vegan whipped cream recipe I've ever eaten and it was also the easiest to make. The recipe is from the Oh She Glows blog and you just need to read this post and do everything Angela tells you to. I was doubtful at first but I am now a zealous convert. This stuff is amazing.
I should end with a piece of useful information or a witty joke, but it's 9:30 PM which means I need to put that baby to bed and get to bed myself so I can be a functioning person tomorrow. You can go enjoy your pie without me.
Saturday, November 17, 2012
Perhaps, like me, you have someone in your house who really loves mashed potatoes. In my case, the Man of Science will basically eat mashed potatoes until he explodes. So when I make mashed potatoes, I tend to make a lot of them. This means that if the MoS manages to reign in his enthusiastic eating of said potatoes, we end up with leftovers. And what's the best thing to make with those leftovers if it's a Saturday morning and you want to have a big, weekend breakfast? Mashed potato pancakes. They aren't hard to make at all. Here, I'll give you some tips:
First, attempt to distract any small humans who might demand your attention and interrupt your cooking.
Then mix two parts mashed potatoes with one part flour (I used spelt) and add one flax egg (1 tbsp ground flax seeds plus three tbsp warm water) for every cup of flour. It will look like a pasty, gloppy mess, but press on! If you don't mind getting a little gucky, you can mix this with your bare hands. Otherwise a rubber spatula or wooden spoon will work. You'll end up with a mixture that resembles bread dough, not a pourable batter like conventional pancakes.
Heat up a cast iron or non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Maybe you have an awesome new stove that you'd like to use? Maybe it has big red knobs and gas burners and is the greatest non-human, non-pet thing you've ever lived with. Ahem. Pour in enough oil to just cover the bottom of the pan. Use a neutral oil, like safflower or canola.
Distraction techniques have failed. Put that baby in a sling so you can keep both hands free for cooking. It's just like a womb. He'll fall asleep immediately. Heat your oven to 200 degrees if you aren't going to eat the potato pancakes right away. Also, lay two layers of paper towel or one thick tea towel out on the counter so you can drain some of the oil from the finished pancakes.
Roll the dough into 2 tbsp balls with your hands (wet them first if you don't want the dough to stick) and flatten them into pancakes. Drop these into the oil and fry for approximately three minutes on each side, until they are golden and crispy. For some reason it helps if you stab a chopstick through the middle of each pancake while it's cooking. I have no idea why, it just makes for a more appealing texture for the whole thing. When they've finished cooking, let them sit on the paper towel for a minute or two to get rid of excess oil.
If you want to take additional time to make a (sadly mediocre) hash of kale and tempeh bacon to accompany your pancakes, just spread them out on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and put them in your 200 degree oven to keep them warm. This should also keep them from getting soggy before you can eat them. Season with salt and pepper before you serve. And if that baby woke you up three times last night, you'll probably want to serve this meal with lots of caffeinated beverages.
I used two cups of mashed potatoes and one cup of flour for this, and ended up with a dozen pancakes. You can vary the quantities of the ingredients and also the size of the individual pancakes if you like. Smaller pancakes are bound to end up crispier, which is how I like them. But if you like yours all soft inside, go ahead a make bigger ones.
Then eat! Then go do something fun with your weekend! It's beautiful weather here, meant to be enjoyed. As all those creepy people on Game of Thrones say, "Winter is coming."