Snow Drift/Pantry Challenge

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Day 26: It’s cold and rainy and there’s a snow drift outside your door! 

Wow, it’s cold and rainy and there’s a snow drift?! That’s some weather. Thanks, climate change! Truly, this prompt is really just a pantry challenge — and y’all know how I love a pantry challenge!

I had to set some ground rules for this prompt, though. Roots Market — one of my favorite local grocers — has been celebrating its “grand reopening” throughout the last week, and they’ve been running some great sales. I headed out to Clarksville to stop by and pick up some goodies, like Califia Farms almond milk (two for $7!) and a few Gardein items (buy one, get one free!), along with a pound of organic almonds (on sale for $5.99/lb!). But I didn’t think it would be fair to include anything I bought today, since I wouldn’t have been able to make it out of the house with that big ol’ cold/rain/snowdrift keeping me in. Instead, I used ingredients I already had to put together a super simple, super comforting kale and yellow split pea soup.

Kale and Yellow Split Pea Soup

Truthfully, I didn’t measure everything I put in this soup. If I were snowbound, I likely wouldn’t be worrying about keeping track of everything! And in a soup like this, the proportions don’t really matter; you can’t go wrong. This particular soup was nice and brothy, with lots of kale. Roughly, here’s what went in:

  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 big bag of Tuscan kale (from TJ’s)
  • ~1 cup dried yellow split peas
  • ~6 cups water + concentrated veg broth
  • Lotsa spices (coriander, cumin, onion powder, turmeric)

This is exactly the type of thing I’d make on a snow day! I’d also whip up a loaf of crusty homemade bread — because what could be better than hot straight-out-of-the-oven bread when it’s cold outside?! Today, I used this recipe, because I wasn’t in the mood to knead the dough. I don’t have a Dutch oven, so I cooked it in a cast-iron skillet instead. And I didn’t include any herbs because I wanted a simpler bread. It was so simple and surprisingly good. Again, perfect for a snow day! (Or, y’know, a somewhat cool early fall day. Same thing?)

My Favorite Cuisine?!

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Day 25: Share your favorite cuisine.

Hmph! Today’s prompt is tough; I’m hard-pressed to think of a cuisine I don’t like! My thought process is going something like this:

“I really love Indian food. Dal, curry, naan… is there anything BAD about Indian food?! Nope. I could eat it forever. Oh, but what about Thai? Man. Those flavors are seriously some of my favorite. And I love noodles. Although I also love guacamole. Mmm… Mexican. Really anything from Viva Vegan!: 200 Authentic and Fabulous Recipes for Latin Food Lovers is good…”

Can I just say that my favorite cuisine is “anything delicious” and be done with it? Sigh. I’m so boring and indecisive. Really, though, my favorite genre of food is hearty, homey, comfort food. And for me, that’s a blanket term that encompasses quite a few individual ethnic cuisines. For example, I don’t really think of mashed potatoes as comfort food, like a lot of Americans do. But a big ol’ yellow split pea dal? Oh yes, sign me up. And there’s nothing like risotto for a warm-your-belly meal that seems much more complex than it really is.

Butternut Squash Risotto with Sage and Toasted Hazelnuts

Comfort food can be sweet, too — like apple crisp, which reminds me of my mom, or angel cake, which reminds me of my grandma. (Although angel food cake has yet to be veganized, it’s coming! Go aquafaba!)

So maybe this is a cop-out, but hey — my favorite cuisine is comfort food and I ain’t ashamed of it.

Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through my link, it costs nothing extra for you, but I get a few pennies. I’m not looking to make a fortune, just to cover hosting costs. :)

Jane Goes Vegan

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Day 24: What [insert well known person] would eat if they were vegan. 

Oh, this is a prompt that I just love! There are so many directions to take it: current pop culture figure who’s super-duper not vegan, politico who you’d like to imagine as vegan, historical figure who would probably have been vegan if s/he were alive today… so many fun thought-experiments! I briefly toyed with the idea of focusing on a distant relative of mine, John Greenleaf Whittier. He was a Quaker poet and an outspoken abolitionist during the mid 1800s, and I like to think that he would have been more than receptive to veganism, thanks to his deep and abiding compassion. Just look at this Wikipedia quote (emphasis mine):

“In 1833, Whittier published the antislavery pamphlet Justice and Expediency, and from there dedicated the next twenty years of his life to the abolitionist cause. The controversial pamphlet destroyed all of his political hopes — as his demand for immediate emancipation alienated both northern businessmen and southern slaveholders — but it also sealed his commitment to a cause that he deemed morally correct and socially necessary. He was a founding member of the American Anti-Slavery Society and signed the Anti-Slavery Declaration of 1833, which he often considered the most significant action of his life.”

Awesome as Whittier was, I ultimately knew there was a different author I wanted to choose: the one, the only, Jane Austen. I’m currently reading Jane’s Fame, an exploration of how her fame has waxed and waned over the years, and it’s fascinating. There have been so-called Janeites from nearly every walk of life, and her novels have made their way into unlikely places — like the trenches during the first world war. The evolution of literary criticism — and how those changes affect Austen criticism — is fascinating to me as a one-time English major. Jane it is!

Book with a turquoise cloth cover, which features the feet and legs of folks dancing in old-fashioned clothes.

I was tempted to choose an Austen novel for the book/film prompt, but her books include a surprisingly small number of explicitly mentioned foodstuffs, and nothing really appealed to me. This prompt is a much better fit, though: Now I can play around with the entire Regency period’s palate! As it turns out, the Regency period ushered in some fairly substantial changes in dining habits — like the introduction of lunch (because breakfast was eaten earlier and dinner later). Most of these changes, of course, started with the upper class, the people who were in high society and needed to keep up with their trendy neighbors. The Austens were solidly middle-class (some higher-class acquaintances thought Jane herself a bit low-class and vulgar), so it’s hard to say how many of these changes would have trickled down to her family.

The good news for our cause, though, is that Jane was an avid letter-writer. Although her steadfast sister Cassandra destroyed many letters before her death, those that remain give us a little glimpse into what we might’ve found on Jane’s table. There are also two extant cookbooks used by friends and family close to Jane. Dining with Austen uses those resources to recreate recipes from Jane’s time. It promises to be a great resource for food Jane herself might have eaten; although it’s still a work in progress, the ultimate goal is a Jane-centric cookbook. For this prompt, I’m going to take it from the top and share my ideas on what vegan delicacies a day in the life of Jane might have featured. I’m trying to stay true to ingredients that the Austens would have been able to access — no Chao cheese or hemp milk here!

Breakfast

The Austens probably sat down around 9:00 or 10:00 with a pot of tea. Although breakfasts used to be heavy (I’m thinking of the full English breakfasts Jenny has been tantalizing us with!), by this time, they were probably simpler. Jane might have had some homemade bread with jam, canned from the previous year’s harvest. Or maybe she would have had something a little heavier, like a piece of spiced cake or a scone or two.

My recipe calls for spelt flour, coconut milk, and vanilla extract, but the Austens’ cook could substitute regular wheat flour, homemade oat milk (since oats would be easier to access than almonds and could be manually ground), and any other extract they had on hand. Jane’s tea could be sweetened with a lump of sugar and some of that oat milk, if necessary.

Luncheon

Jane’s midday meal wouldn’t have been anything fancy — maybe some small cold sandwiches of homemade bread and any vegetables that were on hand. The Austens would have eaten these sandwiches with knives and forks after they’d been cut into small triangles. On the side, Jane could snack on fresh fruit and leftover cake from breakfast. This was a light meal to tide her over until dinner. Perhaps the cook could have experimented with something like my Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup Sandwich!

Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup Sandwich

Other than the nutritional yeast, I think they would have been able to manage something similar! Even the pickles on the side would have been welcome — pickled veggies were quite the fad.

Dinner

This was the largest meal of the day, and by the early 1800s, Jane’s family had begun eating it around 5:00 pm — a big change from their previous dining time of 3:00! Dinner would have consisted of many courses and much variety, including something like my Warm Lentil & Brussels Sprout Salad with Roasted Radicchio Wedges.

Warm Lentil & Brussels Sprout Salad with Roasted Radicchio Wedges

With a few simple substitutions, this nourishing, warm dish would have been entirely possible. Or maybe they would have served a soup.

Kale and White Bean Soup

The cook could have managed Kale and White Bean Soup easily enough! Jane might also have eaten whatever veggies were in season, sauteed in oil instead of the rich, buttery sauces that were popular at the time. She would have sipped wine with her meal, and rounded it off with dried fruit, nuts, and some kind of sweet — maybe candied ginger or something heavier, like cake.

Supper

If Jane stayed up late, she might have another bowl of soup around 10:00 or 11:00 pm, along with another glass of wine — or maybe negus, a nasty-sounding gelatinous beverage made with water, wine, lemon juice, spices, and, traditionally, calves-foot jelly. Jane’s vegan version would strip out the jelly and be more of a mulled wine. ;)

~~~

That was fun! And now I’m inspired to research what ingredients were available to Jane so I can recreate some of her family’s recipes. Maybe that will be next year’s MoFo theme!

Autumn Equinox Eats

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Day 23: Autumn equinox eats.

Truth be told, my stomach has felt off all day — not much appealed to me for dinner tonight. I considered celebrating the first day of autumn with some kind of pumpkin- or apple-based baked good, but a sugary dessert didn’t sound like a great idea for an unhappy tummy. I decided to go super simple instead.

Autumn Dinner

I defrosted the last few pieces of Unpork and gently pan-fried them, then served them alongside a big helping of sauerkraut. I also whipped up a quick cornbread, because I thought the mild flavor would soothe my stomach. Unfortunately, it was lackluster and a little too salty, even though I reduced the amount called for. Sigh! Not a very auspicious start to this autumn!

Kabocha Squash Pizza Sauce

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Day 22: Make a dish using all seasonal produce.

What a perfect prompt for this autumnal day! I had a big ol’ kabocha squash sitting on my counter, and all day long I mused about how to use it. Simple roasted slices? This beautiful soy-braised preparation? A gingery soup?

And then, on the give-and-take bookshelf at work, I found a copy of Mark Sutton’s Heart Healthy Pizza cookbook up for grabs, and pizza sounded mighty appealing. I’ve seen butternut squash-based cheezy pizza toppings, so why not kabocha?! I decided to make a thick sauce to top a pizza, and it exceeded all my expectations. This sauce is creamy, complex, and perfectly flavored with roasted garlic. And it’s a unique, unexpected way to use kabocha squash!

kabocha

You can prepare the sauce ahead of time, but I did everything in one night. It’s a little time-consuming, but there’s downtime for each component that lets you prep the next component. I included my workflow in the steps below.

Kabocha Squash Pizza Sauce

  • One kabocha squash
  • One head garlic
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 2 T nutritional yeast
  • 1 T yellow or white miso
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • A few grinds black pepper

Toppings

  • Basil
  • Caramelized onions

One recipe of your favorite pizza dough

Preheat your oven to 400˚ and pour a little water into a rimmed baking tin. Leaving the rind on, roughly slice the kabocha squash into sixths; don’t worry about how even they are. Place the slices rind-down into the baking dish, drizzle with a little olive oil, and place in the oven. Next, prepare the garlic for roasting. Add the foil packet to the oven and bake both the squash and the garlic for about 45 minutes, or until the squash is fork-tender.

In the meantime, prepare the pizza dough, following your recipe’s instructions. Let it rise while the squash and garlic are in the oven. If you’re topping your pizza with caramelized onions, start caramelizing them now.

When the squash is ready, remove it (and the garlic) from the oven and let them cool for a few minutes while you roll out the pizza dough. Give the dough a brief second rise (after rolling it out) while you prepare the sauce. (If using onions, they should be done by now — just turn off the heat and leave them on the stove until ready to use.)

Preheat the oven to 450˚.

To make the sauce, carefully scoop the squash out of the rinds and add it to a food processor. Squeeze the garlic out of the papery skins into the processor. Be careful here too; it’ll be hot. Add the rest of the sauce ingredients and process until it’s very smooth and creamy.

Spread the sauce as thick as you’d like on the dough. (Save any extra to use with pasta!) Top with caramelized onions and bake for 12 minutes. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with basil, and let cool for about 3 minutes before slicing. Enjoy!

Note: This post contains an affiliate link. If you purchase something through my link, it costs nothing extra for you, but I get a few pennies. I’m not looking to make a fortune, just to cover hosting costs. :)

Desert Island

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Day 21:  What three endless food supplies would you take if you were going to be stranded on an island?
(Imagine your nutritional needs have been met, these are a bonus!) 

SO MANY QUESTIONS! Are my nutritional needs met by a multivitamin or some sort of Soylent-esque meal replacement? Or is the island laden with a variety of nutrient-rich produce? If so, what’s there already? Are there peanuts to make peanut butter? Is there fruit? How can I choose bonus foods if I don’t know what the baseline/regular foods are?!

…clearly I’m overthinking this, but the parameters are unclear and I dislike ambiguity. I’m going to assume I’m eating some kind of boring nutrient-rich food and that most of the flavor I’m getting comes from my bonus foods. In that case, I would bring…

  • Unsweetened dried mangos. These are better than candy to me, particularly the ones from Trader Joe’s. I can go through a bag in a day. I don’t think I’d ever get tired of them!
  • Dark chocolate, because duh. A square a day keeps the doctor away… or something like that. Let’s go with 75% cacao so I can share with any fellow strandees who don’t love super-dark choc.
  • Barbecue kettle-cooked potato chips. These are a total guilty pleasure for me, but I make no apologies or excuses. If I were stranded on a desert island, I’d deserve a salty, crunchy snack to balance my uber-healthy mangos!

Unrelated, but — happy 60th birthday to my dad! Love you!

A Veganized Family Recipe: Pepper Steak

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Day 20: Veganize an old family recipe.

Full disclosure: This is going to be a quick and dirty (and kind of cheater-y!) post! This has been a super duper busy weekend visiting my family in RI, and I just haven’t had a chance to actually make this recipe. But I know exactly which recipe I would veganize: pepper steak. I haven’t eaten it for years, yet I can vividly remember many dinners that included this recipe alongside mashed potatoes. I have a particularly fond memory of eating it at my grandmother’s table, surrounded by family. And I have this recipe card, with my mom’s distinctive handwriting (albeit a version  from ~20 years ago!) and lots of stains from years of use.

peppersteak

Veganizing this recipe would be pretty simple — I’d just use steak-style “beef” strips (homemade via Miyoko?!), vegan Worcestershire sauce, veg “beef” broth, and a reduced cooking time. I’d serve it with mashed potatoes and some extra gravy, and I’d savor the cruelty-free version of a childhood favorite.

Lunch on the Go: Pizza Strips!

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Day 19: Lunch on the go.

Today’s prompt couldn’t be more appropriate! I’m in Rhode Island this weekend, here to celebrate my dad’s 60th birthday and my nephew Charlie’s 1st birthday. Two days of big gatherings, bookended by days of chilling out with my immediate family. There will be lots of party foods and snacks, but I guarantee we’ll make time for one of the best on-the-go lunches: pizza strips!

Pizza strips; image from RIMonthly
Image from RIMonthly.com

Pizza strips (also called party pizza or bakery pizza) are a Rhode Island specialty. They’re incredibly simple — a focaccia-like dough topped with a thick tomato sauce — but they’re definitely more than the sum of their parts. They’re baked on sheets and cut into strips, which you can then slice into squares for smaller portions. I think they’re very similar to an Italian tomato pie, which makes sense — RI has a big Italian-American population, and you can find pizza strips at nearly any Italian bakery. My family has always served them at parties; they’re relatively inexpensive and are a great supplement to the typical chips and veggie trays served at these kinds of gatherings. And — bonus! — they’re typically vegan, although some bakeries add parmesan cheese. I’ve always preferred the corner pieces, since I love thick, crusty bread. When I was a kid, I didn’t like the tomato sauce topping — it was too thick for me, so I’d wipe some of it off. These days, I’m far less particular, and I’m always happy to grab a piece with a healthy amount of sauce!

My mom used to buy pizza strips at a bakery called the Italian Breadbox, which was just down the street from my family’s house. Sadly, they closed down years ago, so she now patronizes DePetrillo’s Bakery. She’s confirmed with the chefs that the recipe is indeed 100% vegan, so that’s my bakery of choice when Steven and I need to pick up a tray for the ride back to Maryland. Since they have no melty cheese and never have any toppings, they’re super easy to eat on the go!

Mmm… I can’t wait until my dad’s party starts later today. There will, in fact, be pizza strips. ;)

My Vegan Inspiration: Auntie Jae

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Day 18: Honor a human or non-human animal who inspires your veganism.

Truthfully, every non-human animal I meet reinforces my veganism. From the dogs who come to work with me to the rescued animals I meet at every sanctuary I visit, every animal reminds me that we are all alike and all equally deserving of compassion, respect, and humane treatment.

threeanimals

From left to right: 1. Our little adopted Luna, a tiny mutt with megaesophagus. She’s often aloof and enigmatic, and she requires special care, but when she deigns to give us a lick or a nuzzle, our hearts just melt. 2. Rescued piggies at Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary. You can’t not smile when you see how much they enjoy wallowing. 3. My Moria, the sweetest girl in the world.

On the human front, so many people buoy my spirits and keep me going. Steven is, by far, my #1 supporter and my #1 champion. My parents, who are vegan and mostly vegan, make me proud every day. My compassionate friends are forever enthusiastic about vegan food and cute animals and saving the world. There’s a lot of inspiration in my life.

But today I’m thinking especially of my Auntie Jae. She was the first family member to go vegan, years ago, in an effort to address a few health problems. I think she was the first vegan I ever knew! She’d bounced around from diet to diet, but nothing stuck — except veganism. It’s a far cry from Atkins, but veganism has one big difference from all those fad diets: its base in ethics. As my aunt says, once you learn about the horrors of factory farming and what goes on behind closed doors, you can’t go back. And even if you become vegan for health reasons, the ethics behind it keep you going.

jae
My smart, compassionate, lovely aunt.

My aunt is one of my biggest fans. She’s an enthusiastic supporter of my blog and always likes to hint about a future cookbook, which is flattering and charming. When we get together (which is rare, because I’m in Maryland and she’s in Colorado), we chat about veganism and food and politics and all those topics that help you really get to know how someone else thinks and feels and believes. We’re very much on the same wavelength where it matters. I like to think it’s because she babysat me when I was an infant and my mom was wrapping up her last year of teaching — like she passed on her progressive values to my tiny self!

So here’s to you, Auntie Jae! Thank you for showing me that veganism is both simple and incredibly important. I can’t wait to share a meal with you soon!

Chesapeake Tempeh Cakes

VeganMoFo 2015 bannerDay 17: Make (or eat!) a traditional local dish.

Maryland is one of those states that’s pretty synonymous with a specific dish — crabcakes. Or anything with crab, really. As a child, years and years before I moved to Maryland, I visited cousins who lived here and went out crabbing with them. Even then, I remember feeling unhappy with the practice and very uncomfortable with the whole boiling-and-eating-them thing.

Now, thinking about my participation in the catching and killing of perhaps dozens of crustaceans makes me feel sad and guilty. Tonight’s dinner — the Chesapeake Tempeh Cakes from Vegan Brunch: Homestyle Recipes Worth Waking Up For — is my small way of offering up a little tribute to those crabs of my youth.

Chesapeake Tempeh Cakes

With a tempeh base, these cakes are quite filling. I didn’t have a red bell pepper in the house, so I substituted a yellow pepper instead. I also made one other big substitution: using Old Bay instead of the spice blend in the recipe. You can’t make crabcakes without Old Bay!

I did have a little trouble with this recipe. The cakes didn’t hold together well at all; I ended up adding some aquafaba as a binder. They’re also pan-fried in oil, making them a little heavy for me. That side of sliced peppers certainly helped!

Here’s to you, crabs of Maryland, and here’s to eating tempeh instead of flesh!

Note: This post contains an affiliate link. If you purchase something through my link, it costs nothing extra for you, but I get a few pennies. I’m not looking to make a fortune, just to cover hosting costs. :)