Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Did you grow up with haystacks? Most people my age seem to have enjoyed some version of this no-bake cookie in their childhood. This particular recipe came from my erstwhile roommate Shannon who, I think, got the recipe from her mother. Shannon used to make these for us quite often when we shared a three bedroom walk up in our last two years of school. When I decided to make them this weekend I sent her a quick message about it. She responded by saying that part of the Haystack Charm was that no two batches ever seemed to come out the same. Indeed. When I set out to make these this past weekend I was imagining something intensely sweet. After all, the only reason I chose to make them was that we had three young, chocolate-loving girls coming over for lunch. If that didn't call for something intensely sweet, I don't know what would.
Rather than being painfully sweet, my batch of haystacks were dense and chewy and very chocolately. The girls loved them (as did their dessert-loving parents!) The entire batch vanished before the afternoon was through, which was great because I certainly don't need the temptation of a bunch of leftover cookies hanging around my kitchen. Even ugly cookies like haystacks.
Oh yes, didn't I mention their ugliness? Well, allow me to do so now. These are pretty much the ugliest cookies you'll ever make. They will never make the cover of any Martha Stewart publication. They are small and scruffy. They remind me of our smallest dog. Who, comically, is actually named Oreo. Perhaps we should have called him Haystack.
Haystacks (recipe adapted from Shannon's)
3 tbsp cocoa powder
1 1/2 cup unrefined sugar
1/2 cup margarine
1/3 cup almond milk
2 cups quick cook oatmeal
1 cup unsweetened coconut
1 tsp cinnamon
Over medium low heat, warm cocoa, sugar, margarine, and almond milk until they begin to simmer.
Add remaining ingredients and stir until well combined. Remove from heat and let sit until cool enough to handle.
On a lightly greased cookie sheet, plop out tablespoons of cookie mixture.
Place in refrigerator for at least half an hour.
Makes approximately 20 cookies.
-I would like to make it known that these cookies were only a small component of the lunch for seven people that I prepared on Saturday. Our biggest gathering yet here at the House of Science. I also made a delicious squash soup and some basil pesto with pasta. Our guests brought wine and salad. All in all, a great meal. And afterwards we went across the street to a record sale. What could beat that?
-Speaking of desserts... I made the pear and cranberry tart from Vegan With a Vengeance tonight and holy crap! Was it ever delicious. Highly recommended. Has anyone else made this?
-For you Ottawegians, Octopus Books is hosting an interesting event next month at the Main Farmers' Market. On October 17th Thomas Pawlick will be discussing his book The War in the Country, which is about the fight to save small farms and rural life in general. I like the idea of having events like that in the middle of the farmers' market. I'm pretty much for any event that combines books and food.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
It's fall! Right now! It started yesterday! The season of root vegetables and Pavement albums and scarves and hot beverages! Hooray!
Perhaps you have guessed that this is my favourite season?
I harvested my first butternut squash for this recipe. At this point, it's looking like that might actually be half of my total squash harvest. One of my coworkers has so much squash he's bringing in bunches of them to foist on people in the office. How does that work? I want to be a person with too many squash! Instead, as it stands, I am person with two squash. Which is better than no squash, but seems hardly worth the work of gardening all summer and fighting off not one but two (two!) outbreaks of powdery mildew on my squash plants. Boo!
However, I'm not going to let powdery mildew get me down because this is a delicious, mildew-free supper that can be prepared with whatever root vegetables you have on hand. Carrots? Sure! Throw them in there! Parsnips! The more the merrier! I've been making this for years and it always comes out of the oven all fragrant and roasty and lovely.
One of the very few reasons I am not happy about the seasonal change is the lack of light for photographs in the evenings. Witness this picture of my completed meal, taken after the sun went down:
Hmmm, perhaps I need some lessons in photography as well as gardening!
Roasted Autumn Vegetables
1/2 block of firm tofu, cubed OR two large veggie sausages, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cubed
3 potatoes, cubed
1 apple peeled, cored, and cubed
4-5 cloves of garlic, smushed slightly
1 onion, quartered
3 sprigs of rosemary
2 tbsp chives
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp maple syrup
3 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients in a baking dish or cast iron pan. Stir to mix everything up evenly.
Bake at 425 degrees for about half an hour or until all vegetables are tender.
Makes four servings.
-The sausage recipe I used was, of course, from Vegan Brunch. Hooray again for the mighty Vegan Brunch!
-We ate this with brown rice and some portobello mushroom gravy and it was great! I will admit that I left the apples out of the version I made because the Man of Science has this thing about fruit in savory dishes. I normally have that thing too (leave your raisins and apricots out of my couscous, thank you very much!) but I do like the apples in this dish.
-As you can see from the sidebar, I'm in for this year's Vegan Month of Food (affectionately known as Vegan Mofo). I'm going to post daily notes and photos about what I'm eating as well as the usual recipes.
Monday, September 21, 2009
In 2002 I went to San Francisco by myself to attend Ladyfest Bay Area. I'd been to the first ever Ladyfest in Olympia Washington two years earlier and had no much fun that I was eager to recreate the experience. It didn't occur to me that going to San Francisco might be a totally different experience than going to Olympia. In Olympia, for instance, almost every person you saw was there for Ladyfest. Our hotel was packed with punk rock girls from all over the world, all united with the common goal of soaking up as much music as was humanly possible in the span of one long weekend. In San Francisco, I ended up in a hostel surrounded by young tourists who couldn't wait to get to Alcatraz. It made me feel freakish and alone. Of course, it didn't help that I'd arrived two days before the festival actually began. I didn't have a hope of meeting some like-minded ladies until 48 hours into my vacation. And when you are bummed out, far from home, and sleeping in a room full of loud Australian girls, 48 hours can seem like a really long time.
I had two comforting experiences in those 48 hours that made me think that maybe the trip would be all right after all. First, I went to City Lights Books. Then I had a vegan chocolate peanut butter shake at a small cafe nearby. The visit to the bookstore was life-altering, mind blowing, and heart wrenching, just like I thought it would be. The chocolate peanut butter shake was simple, comforting, and satisfying. I remember them both fondly. I can't instantly transport myself back to City Lights, but I can certainly recreate what I consumed while I read the books I'd bought there. I don't know why it's taken me so long to do it.
Chocolate Peanut Butter Shake
1 frozen banana
1 heaping tbsp of peanut butter
1 1/2 tsp cocoa powder
3/4 cup vanilla soy or almond milk
Makes one shake.
-This recipe is easy and surprisingly healthy, considering how junky and delicious it tastes. I didn't add any sweeteners because I find that the bananas are sweet enough. I'd recommend making it and tasting it prior to adding any extra sweetener because I really don't think it needs it unless you are one of those people who likes her food to be face-bendingly sweet.
-Weirdly, when I was feeling freakish and alone in the San Francisco hostel, I was just around the corner from the Man of Science! He was living in San Francisco at the time and his apartment was in the same sketchy Tenderloin neighbourhood where my hostel was. Too bad we didn't actually meet until 2007 in the less exciting neighbourhoods of Ottawa.
-I didn't end up needing soy shakes for comfort for long. As soon as the festival started I met a bunch of girls and ended up hanging out with three of them for the rest of my trip. We saw tons of great rock shows (The Gossip, The Bangs, Tribe 8...), ate burritos, shopped for records, and went to see the dreadlocked, punky-looking strippers at the first unionized strip club in the USA. It was a great trip.
Monday, September 14, 2009
First, a word of advice.
Don’t serve borscht to your remarkably squeamish partner when your evening plans include eating dinner while watching Dexter on DVD. Our conversation went something like this:
Me (looking at my bowl of thick red soup): Oh! This is perfect we’re watching a show about blo-
Him (wincing): Stop! Don’t say it!
Right. So maybe this is a meal best served on a night when we’re watching, like, 30 Rock or something. My mistake.
Luckily, this soup, my first attempt at borscht, was delicious. And the Man of Science was able to get over his squeamishness and enjoy both the dinner and the DVD. Soup made from roasted vegetables is always so flavourful. And the addition of the white bean puree made it all thick and smooth and upped the protein quotient considerably. A bloody good dinner. Yes, I did just say that.
White Bean Borscht
2 medium carrots, chopped into large chunks
2 broccoli stalks or 3 celery stalks, chopped
1 small onion, quartered
2 cloves garlic, smashed
10 small beets, washed well with the tops and tails cut off
1 sprig rosemary, broken into three
1 potato, cubed
¼ cup olive oil
3 cups soup stock
2 cups of white beans
Approx 1 cup of unflavoured, unsweetened soymilk or almond milk
Salt and pepper to taste
Parsley or dill for garnish
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Place all vegetables and the rosemary in a lidded casserole dish and drizzle with olive oil.
Put covered dish in oven for one hour or until vegetables are all soft and easily mashed.
Place a large soup pot on stove over medium heat. Add soup stock and heat until simmering.
Add roasted vegetables to soup stock and cover. Reduce heat to minimum and let simmer while you prepare the bean puree.
The bean puree is not an exact science. What I did was put two cups of cooked white beans in a bowl and pour in enough soymilk to just cover them. Then I used my immersion blender to puree the mixture until it was totally smooth.
When the puree is ready, uncover your soup and use that immersion blender to blend the veggies and the soup stock. If you don’t have an immersion blender, you can put the whole shebang in your blender or food processor and mix it until it’s all smooth.
When the soup is blended and your eyeballs are singed by its lovely pinkness, mix in the bean puree. Then season with salt and pepper.
If you’d like to be all fancy, save some of the bean puree to add to the bowls of soup before your serve them. Dropping a few blobs of the puree onto the surface of the soup and dragging a knife through it a few times will make it look all pretty like mine is in the photo.
Garnish with parsley or dill.
Makes 6 servings.
-I’m not usually one for pushing the purchase of kitchen appliances, but if you don’t have an immersion blender I’d highly recommend getting one. They are perfect for making soups like these and eliminate the practice of dumping hot, lumpy soup into a regular blender which, for me always resulted in burnt hands and messy counter tops. Also good for blending cashews, rice milk, cocoa powder, and almond extract together if you have a late-night pudding craving. I’m just saying.
-It’s not always something I think about, but this dish is very low in fat for something with so much flavour. I was totally full after one bowl (and some bread on the side) and still felt fine when I got up the next morning to go on my run.
-If you have dill, I’d go for that over the parsley. I found the flavours didn’t work so great together.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
The last time I was a serious vegan was when I was in university. I ate a lot of great food, thanks partly to two vegan roommates who were excellent cooks, but I also ate a lot of really crappy junk food. Sugar wafers dipped in Cool Whip anyone?
The point is, we all do stupid things in our youth. And despite my poor choices regarding edible oil products, I feel the need to tell you all that I would have NEVER sat out on my balcony at 3 AM shrieking and yelling and annoying all of my neighbours. Never. And I certainly would not have sat out on my balcony at 3 AM shrieking and yelling and annoying all of my neighbours for three nights in a row. So what on earth is wrong with the group of students who just moved in behind us? Are they idiots? Or just jerks? Jerky idiots?
This has nothing to do with muffins. But hey, I'm exhausted. I was lying in bed listening to the shrieking students at 3 AM and wondering if I could hit them with the stream from our garden hose if I pulled it close enough to the edge of our property. The first two times the noisiness happened, the Man of Science went over to ask them to please be quiet. Last night we just called the appropriate authorities. I don't know if anything was done about it because I just gave up, closed the window, and put my head under a pillow. If they are outside yelling tonight I may have to go over there and shame them with the Disappointed Teacher Face I inherited from my mom.
If you are a non-annoying university student, perhaps you would like to bake these muffins and take them to class with you. That's the best segue I can think of. I may need a nap.
Cranberry Bran Muffins
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 cup almond milk
1/2 cup safflower oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup unrefined sugar
1 1/2 cups wheat bran
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup fresh cranberries
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Grease a muffin tin or use paper liners.
In one bowl, whisk together applesauce, almond milk, oil, vanilla, molasses, and sugar.
In another bowl, mix flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda.
Mix dry ingredients into wet ingredients, until just combined. Then fold in cranberries.
Fill muffin tins with batter until it is even with the top. Bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick in the middle of one muffin comes out clean.
Makes one dozen.
-There are no notes. I am too tired for notes.
Monday, September 7, 2009
I've been a bit of a Goldilocks regarding the Saturday Farmers' Market these past few weeks. Last Saturday I said it was too cold and rainy to go. A week or two before that it was too hot. This past Saturday, however, was sunny and breezy. Perfect for biking over with backpack and appetite.
I go to The Main Farmers' Market because it is close to my house and features only local growers. I really like seeing the same people week after week and watch as their stalls fill up with more and more produce. Some of them are organic, some aren't. A lot of them aren't certified organic, but let you know that they grow without pesticides. And everyone is friendly. I came home with a backpack and a bike basket full of produce, mostly organic, for $27 and change.
The most exciting things I got this week were from a grower named Colin Samuels. He helped to further clarify the mystery of the Dragon's Tongue Beans. When I saw a big bucket of the beans in his stall I pointed and asked if they were Dragon's Tongues. He said, "People call them all kinds of things: cranberry beans, romano beans, and yes, Dragon's Tongue beans." He opened a pod to show me the beans inside. A ha! Romano Beans! This makes sense! When Dragon's Tongue beans grow up, they turn into romano beans. "Soften them up," he told me, "And put them in a stew with some greens."
Farmers' Market Soup
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
3 ribs of celery, chopped
2 potatoes, diced
2 cups of cooked romano beans (see notes if you have fresh ones like I did)
3 bay leaves
1 14 oz can of diced tomatoes
1 cup veggie soup stock
2 cups of collard greens, chopped
1/4 cup cilantro (or other fresh herb like parsley or basil), chopped
salt and pepper to taste
In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat.
Saute onions and garlic until onions are tender
Add celery and potatoes and cover pan. Let cook for two minutes.
Add beans and bay leaves and let cook, uncovered, for one minute more.
Add soup stock and tomatoes, stir to combine ingredients, and then cover. Raise heat to med-high until soup is simmering, then reduce heat to medium-low and cook until potatoes are tender.
Add greens and herbs, season with salt and pepper.
Makes 4-6 servings.
-This recipe is wildly easy going. You could probably substitute anything you wanted as long as you keep the liquid to vegetables ratio. It certainly tastes better with fresh vegetables, so I recommend making a big batch and freezing some to eat when fresh vegetables are just a distant memory.
-I loved the flavour and texture of the fresh-from-the-pod romano beans. They do need to be cooked before they are added to the soup. I put them in a pot with enough water to cover them up, added three cloves of garlic, and boiled them until they were tender. It took about twenty minutes.
-My own garden yielded a pile of lovely tomatoes this week which were promptly made into a great pasta sauce at my friend Adam's house for Friday night dinner. We ate them with a batch of tofu balls and made lots of balls-related jokes while we did so. A non-dirty balls-related joke came courtesy of Adam's partner, Gary, who is anti-tofu. When he asked why Adam had closed the front door (which had been open to let air into the apartment) Adam said he didn't like to eat with the door open. Gary scoffed, "Do you think someone is going to come in and steal your TOFU BALLS?" Unlikely, in Adam's neighbourhood of Quebecois meat eaters.