Friday, October 30, 2009

Skillet Bread (a.k.a. Nice Buns)

nice buns

My appetite is slowly returning after a week of having this annoying cold. The first thing I saw that made me hungry was this blog post from the Pioneer Woman about making delicious buns in a skillet and covering them with butter and rosemary. Such an excellent idea. And the perfect thing to go along with my tofu "chicken" noodle soup. I didn't want to use store bought rolls, though, so I made my own dough and hoped for the best.

I was actually surprised by how wonderfully these worked. They taste restauranty. Like the kind of bread that would be on the table at the chain restaurants where my confusing suburban teenage boyfriends took me on dates. That kind of bread certainly has its place. And right now, its place is in my mouth.

Skillet Bread

2 1/2 tsp yeast
1 tsp sugar or maple syrup
2 cups warm water
3 cups white all-purpose flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp melted vegan margarine
1 tbsp dried rosemary
sprinkling of kosher salt (approximately 2 tsp)

Combine the sugar, yeast, and warm water in a bowl and wait five minutes for the yeast to grow.

Mix flours and tbsp of salt together and add to the yeast mixture, one cup at a time, until a doughy blob has formed.

Turn doughy blob onto a lightly floured counter top and knead (adding in more flour if needed) until it is smooth and not sticky.

Place dough in an oiled bowl and cover bowl with a tea towel. Set in a warm place to rise for 1 hour.

After 1 hour, separate dough into seven equal blobs and place in a lightly oiled skillet. Let rise for 1/2 hour to 1 hour more. The longer you wait, the puffier your rolls will be.

Melt vegan margarine and brush tops of buns with it. Sprinkle with rosemary. Brush again with margarine. Sprinkle with kosher salt.

Place in a cold oven and set temperature to 400 degrees. Bake for 30 minutes, or until buns have browned.

Makes seven fist-sized buns.

rising


Some Notes:

-The "nice buns" comment came courtesy of the Man of Science. I'm pleased that he is still interested in speaking suggestively to me even after I've been lethargic and ailing all week.

-Anyone watch the vegetarian challenge on Top Chef this week? Seems like a lot of the dishes were vegan, too. Though why are professional chefs unable to understand the ins and outs of non-animal protein? I know they got on Mike's case for his kind of doofusy suggestion that a roasted leek stand in for protein in his dish, but a bunch of the other dishes were protein-less too! Including the one made by Bearded-But-Cute Kevin, who I like very much.

-And so ends Vegan Mofo for me! Whew. I enjoyed the challenge and the increased traffic, but I'm super happy to go back to posting a couple recipes a week again.

J.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Great Pumpkin

little pumpkin

I fell off the Vegan Mofo bandwagon yesterday due to my annoying cold that has been rendering me stupid and without an appetite. I made (and burnt!) some vegan macaroni and cheese for dinner which was sort of bland, but mostly just comforting and warm (once I scraped the burnt topping off). The pumpkin pictured above turned magically into some pumpkin risotto at the hands of the Man of Science on Tuesday night. It was delicious. Otherwise, I've been eating mostly toast and vitamin C. I will lay low tonight in the hope that I'll feel better as the weekend arrives.

For anyone in Ottawa I'm going to be reading fiction at the Octopus Books 40th Anniversary Party at the Carleton Tavern on Friday night. Come and celebrate and say hi!

J.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Sicky

sicky

I am home sick today, attempting to fight off a nasty sore throat before it turns in full blown illness. I've been asleep for most of the day (in a bed also populated by two dogs and one cat), but was just able to eat a bit of breakfast and take vitamins. I am also drinking plenty of fluids, which reminds me of this quote from my new TV obsession, The Big Bang Theory:

Leonard: Alright, well, get some rest and drink plenty of fluids.
Sheldon: What else would I drink? Gasses? Solids? Ionized plasma?

Back to bed.

J.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Imperial Pub Vegan Breakfast

Imperial Pub vegan breakfast

Ottawegian Vegans, can we weigh in on the Imperial Pub's vegan breakfast please? I am torn.

Pro: It is fun to go somewhere and have pancakes.

Con: These pancakes are a bit weird. Like, grainy... or something. And they are supposed to be served with bananas.*

Pro: Potatoes are good.

Con: The first time I ordered this, there was maple syrup on everything and it kind of wrecked the dish.

Pro: The other sidedishes are tasty too, even the baked beans which I normally don't like.

Con: The toast is dry. Vegan margarine would be really nice.

The verdict? I'll continue to eat this, but really I can't wait to see what Imperial Vegan Breakfast 2.0 looks like. It would be cool if it involved something more proteiny, like vegan bacon or tofu scramble. But hooray for The Imperial for even attempting a vegan breakfast, something sorely lacking in most other Ottawa restaurants.

*A personal, rather than universal con. I hate bananas. I order my breakfast without them.

J.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Avocado Toast

avacado toast


A bad week culminated with an even worse Thursday night (Back pain! Noisy neighbours! Restless dogs!) causing epic grouchiness when I got up for my cold, cold, run this morning. Boo! The thought of avocado toast for breakfast was really the only reason I got up at all. Toasted rye bread, smushed ripe avocado, a bit of lemon juice, sesame seeds, and salt and pepper. So excellent.

Once I made this for 'Col and told her, "This is what I make when I'm feeling lazy."

"You know what I do when I'm feeling lazy?" she asked me. "I don't make anything."

Have an excellent weekend, everyone. In an effort to begin my weekend right, I am taking the Man of Science out to Zen Kitchen for dinner. Because what good is having a high end vegan restaurant in our town if we can't go there to perk us up after a blah week?

J.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Pumpkin Tea Latte

pumpkin spice tea latte

I was feeling like something sweet last night after dinner but due to my aforementioned enthusiasm regarding the macadamia date balls there were none of those left. So I fired up the Man of Science's weird little milk frother and made myself a soy latte with some pumpkin spice. I don't know why I never thought of doing this before. It was lovely. Though there was some confusion over the logistics of latte creation.

Me: Which do I put in first? Milk or tea?

Man of Science: Why are you asking me? I take my coffee black.

Me: Well... you know about sciency stuff.

Man of Science: When other people send me to get coffee, I forget the cream and sugar. It doesn't even occur to me. I can't help you. (pause) Put the tea in first.

J.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Date Macadamia Balls

macadmia nut date coconut rolls

This is a more desserty version of my DIY Larabars from a previous post. I made these balls on Sunday intending them to be a snack/treat for my upcoming week of lunches. Problem was, I couldn't get enough of them and I ate almost half of them in the following few hours. So I had very few left for weekday treats and had to make some muffins instead. A small price to pay, really.

I truly believe that these taste like chocolate donuts. The Man of Science, while he doesn't quibble about their deliciousness, disagrees about the donut thing. We are mature people, we can agree to disagree. And granted, it's been a long time since I've had a chocolate donut. But oh, how these reminded me of those days when I could eat Timbits with reckless abandon.

Date Macadamia Balls

1 1/2 cups macadamia nuts, ground
1 cup of dates, ground
2 tsp cocoa powder
approximately 1 cup of shredded coconut for rolling

Mix nuts, dates, and cocoa powder until they form a smooth "dough".

Shape dough into tablespoon-sized blobs and roll them into balls.

Roll each ball in shredded coconut to coat the outside.

Refrigerate for half an hour. Or just shove a bunch of them in your face right away.

Makes about 20 balls.

Some Notes:

-Wilco tickets go on sale today! Nothing to do with food, just excited.

-Have we talked about Ellen Degeneres' veganism yet? I am happy to live in a world where vegan lesbians have their own talk shows. And have you seen the food section of her website? It's quite something. Simple vegan recipes that will probably look good to her core audience. So much better than celebrities who talk up vegan eating, but only post complicated recipes that would bewilder and alienate most people. I'm looking at you, Oprah.

-Balls! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.

J.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Hubbard

pretty hubbard

I got this nice looking hubbard squash at the farmers' market this weekend. I'd never cooked a hubbard before and all the recipes on the internet called for apples and raisins and maple syrup and other ingredients that the Man of Science would want no where near his dinner. So I de-seeded it and filled it with a mixture of crushed garlic, rosemary, thyme, and olive oil. Then I put it in the oven and took the dogs to the park.

When we got home the house smelled amazing and the squash was about ready for eating. The humans of the household had it for dinner with some baked tofu and steamed purple kale. Yum.

J.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Vegan Eggplant Parmesan

vegan eggplant "parm"

My friends, please, come closer. For I must tell you of Sunday night's dinner. Do I sound like I'm being dramatic? Well, if anything deserves drama, it is this Eggplant "Parmesan". Did I know it would turn out to be so freakishly delicious? No I did not. Was I completely winging it through the entire recipe hoping randomly that the end result would be edible? Yes I was. Will I make this for every dinner party from here to eternity? Yes I will.

Seriously, though, we here in Canada have very few options when it comes to the fake cheese. You down there in the fancy United States may not have universal healthcare, but you sure do have one up on us when it comes to vegan cheese, what with your Follow Your Heart and your Teese and your Daiyah or whatever that's called. What I'm saying is that those of us here in the North need to fend for ourselves. Ergo, I replaced the parmesan cheese in this dish with a mixture of roasted cauliflower, tofu, and nutritional yeast. I did this only because we happened to have a rapidly declining head of cauliflower in our fridge. And guess what? It was stupendous. Flavourful and hearty with an excellent texture. I swear. This dish now tops my list of things to cook for anti-vegan naysayers. And I can't believe how little oil I used to make this. It's low fat and crazy-delicious. Take that, naysayers!

parm in progress

Vegan Eggplant Parmesan

1 large eggplant, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch rounds
1 head of cauliflower, chopped
salt
4 tbsp olive oil
1/2 block silken tofu (about 1/2 a pound)
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 cup bread crumbs
3 cups tomato sauce (I made a simple sauce from a can of diced tomatoes cooked with onions, garlic, basil, salt, and pepper)
additional salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Liberally sprinkle your eggplant sections with salt and put them in a colander to drain the bitterness out.

While all that draining is happening, toss the cauliflower pieces with two tablespoons of the olive oil and spread them out on a cookie sheet.

Bake cauliflower at 350 for about twenty minutes, shaking them up a bit halfway through. They're done when they are browned and tender.

Rinse eggplant slices and pat dry. Switch oven to "Broil".

Use one more tablespoon of olive oil to grease a cookie sheet and lay all eggplant rounds out as flat as possible. Spread remaining tablespoon of olive oil over tops of eggplant rounds.

Broil eggplant for approximately fifteen minutes, turning slices over halfway through. They are finished when they are browned and soft, but not falling apart.

While eggplant is cooking, combine roasted cauliflower, nutritional yeast, and tofu in a food processor or large bowl.

Pulse or mash cauliflower mixture until it is thick and "cheesy" with no discernible pieces of cauliflower left. Season with a bit of salt and pepper.

In a lightly oiled casserole dish, layer half the eggplant, half the bread crumbs, half the tomato sauce, then half the cauliflower mixture. Repeat.

Reduce heat of oven to 350 again and bake, uncovered, for twenty minutes. If you'd like the top to be a bit crunchy and brown, turn the oven up to broil for the last five minutes (or so) of baking time.

Serves 6.

delicious

Some Notes:

-I remember my roommates and I making a dish similar to this when I was in university only we called it "Eggplant Explosion" and we fried all the eggplant slices in oil before baking them. There was also no cauliflower, just a ton of nutritional yeast and tofu. I was always charged with the frying of the eggplant because one of my roommates couldn't stand to watch the amount of oil that it sucked up. In retrospect, yes, it was kind of gross.

-Do you know how many tries it took me to spell "Parmesan" correctly? A lot. A lot of tries.

-We had my friends Megan and Brigid over for dinner on Saturday night and I cooked up a bunch of polenta, tacos, and black bean soup. They made dessert, which I feel the need to tell you about. Picture it: pears, cored, and then stuffed with marzipan and chocolate chips, then wrapped in puff pastry and baked until they were all soft. Very, very tasty. They can come back any time. The guests, not the pears. Well, okay, the pears can come too.

J.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Oh, Oatmeal

morning oatmeal

One of the many, many reasons I welcome fall is that it starts to feel right to have hot cereal in the mornings again. This is how I do my vegany oats most mornings: 1/3 cup quick cook (not instant, yuck) oats into 3/4 cup boiling water. Reduce heat to low immediately and stir.When water is absorbed, empty into a big bowl and top up with unsweetened vanilla almond milk, unsweetened shredded coconut, walnuts, fruit and a bit of maple syrup.

Eat it fast so it doesn't turn into gluey orphanage food.

Any food related plans this weekend? I'm hoping to go to the Thomas Pawlick talk that Octopus Books is presenting at the Main Farmer's Market on Saturday. Even though it happens at exactly the same time as the grand opening of Auntie Loo's vegan bakery, the first of its delicious, delicious kind here in Ottawa.

Have an excellent weekend, whether you choose cupcakes or vegetables.

J.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Mushroom Gravy For a Crowd

mushroom gravy

Do you ever worry that you won't have enough gravy? I do. Clearly. Because when I set out to make gravy for Thanksgiving last weekend, I decided I'd better make a lot just in case. After all, my days of making vegan gravy for one are long over. At this weekend's dinner there were four (FOUR!) vegetarians at our dinner table. And everyone needs gravy. I figured I'd make twice as much as I normally do and that would cover it.

Indeed it did. I made ten cups of gravy. Ten cups! Slightly overboard perhaps. But we certainly had enough gravy. The good news is twofold: 1. It is good to have leftover gravy, and 2. gravy freezes well. That second one is a winner for me because I don't actually enjoy making gravy. It always comes at the end of a long cooking session and I usually want to just hurry up and eat already. Having gravy on hand in the freezer makes this much less annoying.

So go ahead! Make the full recipe! Have a bathtub full of gravy! You'll be happily eating open-face sandwiches for days and days.

chop chop

Mushroom Gravy For a Crowd

1 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
4 cups of mushrooms, roughly chopped (I used portobellos and creminis)
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup red wine or port
4 tbsp soy sauce
4 cups vegetable coup stock
1 tsp sage
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp rosemary
black pepper to taste
1 tbsp flour

Heat oil over medium heat in a large saucepan.

Add onion and garlic and saute until onions are tender.

Add mushrooms, bay leaf, wine, and soy sauce. Stir constantly until mushrooms begin to reduce in size (five minutes or so).

Sprinkle flour onto mushroom mixture and stir until it has completely combined.

Add soup stock, herbs, and pepper. Raise heat to medium high. Let simmer until mushrooms are very tender.

Remove bay leaf and blend gravy with your handy immersion blender (or transfer to a blender or food processor) until smooth.

Makes ten (ten!) cups.

Some Notes:

-The Man of Science was out of town last night and I had vague-but-grand plans for all the cool, girly stuff I was going to do. What did I end up doing? I ate a tempeh bacon and tomato sandwich for dinner and listened to loud music while sewing. Then I went to bed early with two dogs and a cat for company. I am a mild party, rah rah hooray.

-Anyone else getting Mofo fatigue? I wake up every morning and think, "Oh shit! Do I have stuff to blog about?" Press on, vegans. Press on.

-Something I've been listening to lately is Hooray For The Riff Raff. Perfect for this season of cooling weather and root vegetables.


J.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

La la lunch

lunch today

Off in a rush to work today!

Lunch is leftover channa masala and bangan bharta, rice, naan, an apple from the farmers' market, and one of those pumpkin muffins I baked on Monday. Delicious!

J.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Moskowitz Monday


Almost everything I cooked yesterday came from a recipe by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. Brunch was pancakes and tempeh bacon (there's enough left for a tempeh bacon and tomato sandwich for me later in between work and my volunteer shift. I'm looking forward to it already). Dinner was the divine Veganomicon chickpea cutlets (a Man of Science favourite). And after dinner I made these Pumpkin Bran Muffins from Vegan Brunch, thus effectively depleting my supply of pumpkin puree just as we were about to all get completely sick of it.

J.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Pumpkin Spice Bundt Cake

Spiced Pumpkin Bundt Cake

More pumpkin, people! 'Tis the season. Canned pumpkin was on sale at the grocery store so I came home with some without really having a plan for it. Th bundt cake idea came to me out of the blue, so I poked around on the internet and decided to veganize a recipe from Martha Stewart for this one. I had to giggle when I watched the demonstration video and she makes a point of saying that you should never, ever make changes to a baking recipe. Because it's science.

The veganized version was lovely, science be damned. Moist and sweet and perfectly spiced. Thank you, Martha. I carted it (in my brand new cake-taker) to our family's Thanksgiving dinner where it was almost as much of a hit as my mother's frozen chocolate mousse pie.

Our vegan Thanksgiving dinner was prepared by my vegetarian mother and my omnivore aunt. My mom made my roasted autumn vegetables (one batch without apples especially for the Man of Science) and my aunt did all the regular side dishes: corn, potatoes, peas, and a batch of stuffing that didn't get shoved in the turkey's body cavity. I made some mushroom gravy (stay tuned for that recipe, folks). We all ate ourselves silly. And saved room for dessert, of course.

pumpkin and pan

Pumpkin Spice Bundt Cake (with maple glaze)

For Cake

4 cups all purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup vegan margarine (softened)
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup unrefined white sugar
4 tbsp flax meal
1/2 cup lukewarm water
1 cup soy milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups canned pumpkin puree

For Glaze

6 tbsp icing sugar
3 tbsp maple syrup

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease and flour one bundt cake pan.

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.

In a separate bowl, beat butter and sugar together until fluffy.

Mix flax meal and water, let sit for one minute, then add to butter mixture, slowly while stirring well.

Add vanilla extract to soymilk and let sit for one minute.

Alternately add flour mixture and soymilk to butter mixture, stirring well. Add pumpkin last and stir to combine.

Pour batter into prepared cake pan and bake for about an hour or until a chopstick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

When cake has cooled for half an hour, turn it out of the pan and leave it to completely cool before glazing.

To make the glazed combine the ingredients and stir until smooth.

Drip glaze onto cooled cake and top with chopped walnuts, if you wish.

mess

Some Notes:

-The cake taker I bought is functional but a bit too white and plastic and modern for my tastes. If anyone ever sees one of those great old tin ones with flowers on them please send it to me immediately and I will send you baked goods in return.

-My mom and I had this conversation about her crowd-pleasing chocolate mousse pie:
Me: Looks good. Is it vegan?
My Mom: Are you kidding? It's three quarters whipped cream.

-We not only brought all three dogs to Thanksgiving dinner, but also invited the Man of Science's friend Jamie to come along since his family is away for the weekend. All those creatures combined with me carrying a cake and gravy on my lap to make for a somewhat dicey car ride to the country. I sort of feel like I need to go to sleep soon. Happy Thanksgiving, Canadians.

J.

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Crafty Vegan

Still getting back in the swing of cooking. I'll certainly post about Thanksgiving on Monday, but our meals over the last two days haven't been very exciting. And tonight it's veggie burgers, fries, and carrot sticks. Yummy, but hardly worth posting about. I thought instead I'd show you something I made today. It isn't food, but it is related to eating, so I say it counts.

cutlery holder

What is it?

cutlery holder

Let's see.

cutlery holder

Unroll it!

cutlery holder

Flip up the top cover.

cutlery holder

Oh! It's a cutlery holder! Genius!

cutlery holder

I made this because I travel around the city a lot as part of my job and I often need cutlery to eat my lunch with. I have no system of carrying my forks and spoons, though, so often they end up just clattering around in the bottom of my bag. And I hate using plastic cutlery if I get something from a take away restaurant. So now I have this handy thing with space for a knife, fork, spoon, and napkin. I'll just put it in my work bag and have it with me constantly.

In case it wasn't obvious, I'm quite pleased with myself about this. I'm going to make one for each of my coworkers for Christmas.

J.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Fridge!!!

I would have posted this sooner, but it had to wait until I got back from seeing "Whip It" with Megan. (Go see it! It won't be super popular because it doesn't fall prey to one billion Hollywood cliches, but it is so fun and cool and inspiring. It made me want to punch the air for a while and then go do cool stuff.) Anyway, FRIDGE! It came this afternoon, via two very grouchy delivery men.

fridge

Yes, I know it looks like all we have is beer. Because mostly what we have is... beer. Everything else got eaten or thrown out over our past few fridge-less days. But also, how cool are those indents where the beer goes? Who wouldn't want to show that off?

fridge

In the background you can see even more beer! And margarine! And apples! No wonder I had a peanut butter sandwich and popcorn for dinner.

Oh, and did I mention the freezer?

freezer

There it is! For all your coffee, bread, and weird-plastic-cup needs! I love all those compartments. Everything about this new fridge is bigger and better than our old one. It is almost freakishly gigantic. "Well, we have a lot of fridge to grow into," said the Man of Science when he saw it. Indeed. Good thing I have the day off tomorrow to get some groceries so I can fill it with vegan excellence. Hopefully I'll get back on the Mofo track.


J.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Rerun: Pumpkin Almond Pancakes

IMG_3613

My relentless mofoing has hit a tiny snag. Well, not so tiny actually. This snag is about the size of a refrigerator. More specifically, my refrigerator. Which stopped working at some point this weekend. Argh. We now have a lot of soggy, rotting food.

It takes a little while to realize that your fridge is broken, what with the previously cold air being trapped inside and all. When I realized that the temperature wasn't as low as it should have been, we messed with the controls a bit and hoped for the best. No dice, the fridge just kept getting warmer. And it started smelling like yuck.

It's an old fridge, due to be replaced anyway, but that didn't make it any less annoying. We went to Sears tonight and got a reasonable deal on a floor model Kenmore fridge. I like it because the freezer is big and versatile. "The freezer in this model is a freezer for someone who cooks food and puts it away for later," I said to the Man of Science, "but the freezers in some of those other ones were for people who buy frozen dinners to eat." So I'm happy with our new fridge. But still, the whole ordeal has been a bit of a pain.

And because of all this, I have no new cooking to blog about. So I bring you this older recipe published on my personal blog last year. It was delicious, so don't let it's re-run-ness scare you off. It is pumpkin season, after all.

IMG_3608

Pumpkin Almond Pancakes

1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp of salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup pureed pumpkin

1 1/4 cup almond milk
1 tbsp of oil
1 tbsp maple syrup

sliced almonds

-Mix dry ingredients and add in pumpkin.

-In a separate bowl mix milk and oil, then combine with dry.

-Heat frying pan to med-high and add a tiny bit of oil. When oil is hot, pour in spoonfuls of pancake batter and sprinkle the top of each with sliced almonds.

-Flip after a minute or so and cook other side, being careful not to overcook and scorch almonds.

Some Notes:

-Hey guess what, Americans! Canadian Thanksgiving is this coming weekend. We'll be having a big family dinner at my Grandad's house on Sunday. The vegetarian numbers within my family are increasing, which is nice, so my mom is making something for all of us non-turkey eaters to, uh, gobble.

-I am sort of embarrassed to admit that I have never used an actual pumpkin in my cooking, only canned pumpkin puree. I feel slightly daunted by the selection, peeling, chopping, and de-seeding involved in the use of a pumpkin, but perhaps I'm just being an idiot and it's not any more complicated than say, a squash.

J.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Naan Pizzas

naan pizzas

One of the nicest places to eat in Ottawa is The Manx Pub. They have consistently delicious food, friendly servers, and it's all cosy and cute inside. They are one of the few places in Ottawa that offer a good vegan breakfast option on the weekends. Every year they win countless people's choice awards in our local weekly. It is also the worst place in Ottawa to gossip because the tables are all really close together.

Also at The Manx, they have a daily Naan Pizza special. Never vegan, but hey, it looks delicious. One night last week when I was stumped as to what to make for dinner, I decided to try this out at home. I made a bunch of Naan and threw on whatever toppings we happened to have in the fridge. One had cheese for the Man of Science and the other three were vegan for us to share.

Turned out the most delicious one was the vegan pesto topped with fresh tomato slices. When it was in the oven the tomatoes got all roasted and lovely and the oil from the pesto seeped into the naan in a delightful way. I also really enjoyed the combination of chopped swiss chard and sundried tomatoes. The chopped onion, tomato, and basil one was good, but a bit to much like boring bruschetta to make it a real winner.

To make these, I used the flatbread recipe from this post, and just cooked the dough in my cast iron pan for a few minutes on each side. Once the toppings were on, I baked them in the oven for about ten minutes, or until the veggies had softened and the cheese had melted. That made four pizzas and we finished them off in one sitting with some red wine. Fairly easy and totally delicious.

J.

Monday, October 5, 2009

On Dinner

There was a slightly irksome article in the New York Times this weekend about the “family dinner” and how guilty some parents feel when they can’t get their whole families to sit down and eat together on a regular basis. What bugged me about the article was that it focused on the guilt and stress involved with the situation rather than what could be done about it. And I’m sure that getting all stressed out about eating together doesn’t exactly make for nice mealtimes when the family does get together and eat.

I’m curious to hear what dinner time is like in your homes. Do you eat at the table? In front of the TV? In separate rooms? Does it stress you out? Is it an enjoyable experience?

When I was growing up my family ate together every night and it was, as far as I can remember, usually enjoyable. It was a time for us to chat, tell jokes, and check in. For a family where we are all pretty independent and involved in our own stuff, it was our one bit of “family time” during the day. I likely would have resisited enforced “family time” having never been a joiner of any kind, but having those meals together allowed us to connect in a non-stressful way. There was never pressure involved, no “you have to be home for dinner or else!” decree. If we were busy doing something out of house that was fine, but if we were home, we ate together at the table.

My current little family of two (well, of seven, but the animals don’t eat with us, as much as they’d like to) eats a whole lot of our meals in front of the television. We don’t have cable, so we watch shows on DVD or on the internet. I don’t mind eating this way because we still have a relaxing meal and reasonable conversation. I don’t think I’d do this as frequently if we had kids. The Man of Science and I can easily chat and check in while focusing on The Daily Show. With more than two diners, that might get difficult.

Sunday night

Lately, we’ve had more non-TV meals than usual. This weekend we ate a few meals outside on the back porch (our last few outdoor meals before the cold comes, I imagine) and last week we had a nice meal at the dining room table after a long, long work day. I like knowing that we can still enjoy a meal and a chat without the TV on.

And I like the act of setting the table, whether we’re eating in front of the TV or at the table. We have nice placemats and napkins and glasses, we might as well use them even if we’re just crashed out on the couch in front of Battlestar Galactica instead of sitting across the table from each other eating by candlelight. Spending our mealtimes together is what really matters to me at this point.

Oh, and the delicious vegan food. That matters too.

J.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Hotel Room Breakfast

yawn

So, for the first day of Vegan Mofo, I found myself in a hotel room in Pembroke, Ontario where I was working for a few days. I've written about Pembroke before, and while it has its merits, it isn't exactly a vegan paradise. Dinners are fine. Breakfasts are another story. Last time I'd stayed overnight I'd ended up eating a crappy Tim Horton's bagel with sugary peanut butter for breakfast. This made me cranky. And I got even crankier when my blood sugar plummeted about an hour after I ate it. This time, I resolved to do better.

Luckily, on my way to dinner I saw a grocery store out of the corner of my eye. Score! And it was a pretty good one too. Full of vegan possibilities. I came home with a bag full of food.

saved by the grocery store

The agave, almonds, and pear were all brought from home, but the almond milk, blueberries, instant oatmeal, sausages, and green smoothie came from the grocery store. I was delighted. My hotel room had both a microwave and a fridge, which made a big difference in my breakfast plans.

In the morning I heated 3/4 cup of water in the pot for the room's coffee maker and dumped in a package of instant oatmeal. On top of that I threw in some blueberries, almonds, and almond milk.

hotel room breakfast

I heated a few of the sausages up in the microwave as well, and drank my smoothie out of one of the very sophisticated plastic cups provided. The meal kept me full and alert for most of the day! I didn't get hungry again until the drive home.

I must disclose the one failure of this excellent plan: the oatmeal turned out not to be vegan! Ack. The last time I bought packaged instant oatmeal was when I was a daycare teacher and we'd give it to the kids as a cosy winter snack. Since I've never bought it for myself, it didn't occur to me that the unflavoured, unsweetened kind would have milk products in it! And I didn't think to check until after I'd eaten it! Lesson learned.

J.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Butternut Squash Muffins

Butternut Squash Muffins

Welcome to Vegan Mofo! Also known as The Vegan Month of Food. Zillions of vegan bloggers writing about the loveliness of vegan food every freakin' day in October. Huzzah!

I will be posting my usual two recipes per week and filling up the other days with notes and photos about some of the other things I'm eating. Wondering what the hell a vegan can eat for breakfast in a hotel room in Pembroke, Ontario? Stay tuned, people. Stay tuned.

Anyway, squash muffins. These came about because of the squash soup that I made on Saturday. I brought home a gigantic squash from the farmers' market and only used half of it for the soup. I wasn't hot on the idea of yet another pot of soup or pan of roasted vegetables. So muffins it was.

These are tasty and slightly sweet. Don't leave out the walnuts because they take the muffins to a whole new level of deliciousness. But feel free to leave out the egg replacer because when I made my batch I wasn't paying attention and that's what I did. Because, you know, I'm an expert in the kitchen and all.

Butternut Squash Muffins

1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 cup vegan margarine (like Earth Balance)
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup agave nectar
1 "egg" worth of egg replacer
1 cup pureed squash
walnuts, chopped for tops of muffins

-Preheat oven to 350 degrees

-If you're starting with raw squash, peel and roughly chop the squash and place it in a pot full of water.

-Boil squash until tender, then drain and puree with a blender or mash by hand.

-Mix all dry ingredients (including spices).

-Whip margarine with a fork until fluffy, then add in other wet ingredients, including squash.

-Add dry to wet and mix until just combined.

-Pour into greased muffin tins and top with walnuts.

-Bake for half an hour or until muffins brown and the tops spring back when poked.

-Makes 12 medium sized muffins.



Some Notes:

-Megan and I were out for breakfast once and I ordered a scone. "That has walnuts in it, you know," Megan said, concerned. Because she doesn't like walnuts. It didn't occur to her that perhaps I did. "We're not actually the same person, you know," I whispered back, and we both cracked up. That's the kind of weirdo friendship we have. On Monday night we laughed for ten minutes straight about the possibility of us both being Velma from Scooby Doo for Halloween.

-Agave is so excellent. If it wasn't so expensive I'd fill my bathtub with it like Mrs. Hannigan did with gin in the Annie movie. It doesn't mess with blood sugar the way regular sweeteners do and that gets a big thumbs up from me.

-Lesley, who one of the best bakers I know, told me that you should only ever mix batter with a wooden spoon, never a metal one. Science! I try to remember this, because it does seem to result in fluffier baked goods.

J.