Seasonal Fruits Gone Savory: Pumpkin Fauxsage


On the third day of MoFo, I blogged about my infused vodka fail.The one upside to the debacle, at least to my optimistic (ha) self, was that I thought I’d gotten my requisite MoFo fail out of the way early. Ah, hubris. As if I couldn’t mess up twice in a month!

Tonight, I messed up. I returned home from work with a headache and a bit of nausea. I didn’t particularly feel like cooking, but I needed something to blog about. So I decided it was time to use pumpkin in a savory application—fauxsage! I liked the idea of making an apple fauxsage and then a pumpkin fauxsage to compare the two. Once again, 500 Vegan Recipes offered a promising recipe.

Because I wasn’t feeling my best, I was not in the mood for particularly careful measuring of the spices. So when it came time to add a quarter teaspoon of nutmeg, I figured I’d just shake a few dashes into the bowl. I reached into my alphabetized spice drawer and grabbed a small jar from the location the nutmeg belonged. The nutmeg has one of those perforated tops that lets you shake out small amounts at a time, so I swiftly unscrewed the cap and upended the jar.

I’m sure you can imagine what happened next.

My “nutmeg” was actually dried lemongrass, and my dried lemongrass does not have a perforated lid. A couple tablespoons of the fragrant herb spilled out and tumbled into my dry ingredients, crowning the mound of wheat gluten and nutritional yeast and various spices with a pale green dust.

Whoops.

Shockingly, I didn’t become enraged and start cursing aloud. I just chuckled to myself and started skimming the lemongrass off the top with a spoon. I guess I did an okay job (or our lemongrass is super old and taste-faded) because the fauxsage had no discernible citrus tang.

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Like I did with the apple fauxsage, I served this pumpkin fauxsage with potatoes and sauerkraut again. Instead of boiling the taters, I did a lazy girl’s Hasselback potato and roasted the small sliced spuds with olive oil, salt, pepper, and paprika in a tinfoil packet. They were quite yummy! I wish I could say the same for the fauxsage, but alas—we both found it very bland and in need of a much stronger umami note. (The fact that I used water instead of vegetable broth probably contributed to that lack of savory flavor, but I did try to make up for it by using some seasoned garlic salt in the recipe… I should’ve added some soy sauce!) With a big ol’ forkful of sauerkraut, though, it was just fine.

Have you had any silly spice mishaps?

Seasonal Fruits Gone Savory: Apple Sage Fauxsage

When I decided on seasonal fruits as my MoFo theme, I wondered whether I’d experience fruit burnout at any point during the month. Would the sight of a single blueberry send waves of nausea crashing through my stomach? Would I dread hearing even a whisper of the word “pumpkin”? Would I begin to revile some of my favorite seasonal staples?! But I refused to let fear deter me. I was wary but determined.

Now, halfway through the month, I can say with cautious optimism that I am not burned out. My determination continues undaunted, and I think I will make it through the month with few lasting ill-effects. However, there’s one unanticipated side effect of all this fruit-eating: I’m a little sick of desserts and baked goods.

I know! I know! Heresy. And it could be worse; it’s not like all my recipes have yielded scores of cookies or cakes or pies. But still. Sometimes a girl needs a break from sugar.

To that end, enter the savory! Yes, friends, you can use seasonal fruits in savory applications. As a person who typically dislikes any creep of sweetness in my savory dishes, I approached this as a personal challenge. How could I incorporate fruit into savory dishes without offending my tastebuds? Well, I started with sausage.

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I was never much of a sausage fan when I ate actual meat. We had hot dogs every so often, but that was about the closest my immediately family got to sausage. My extended family on my dad’s side cooked with sausage—mostly chouriço—more frequently, thanks to our Portuguese roots. But sausage in general always squicked me out a bit. The idea of ground-up bits of questionable meat mashed into a solid tube is revolting, and stuffing into a casing is just repellent.

Funnily enough, as a vegan, I love meat-free sausages! Field Roast and Tofurky offer up some mean options; Tofurky’s beer brats are my number-one choice for barbecues. But seitan-based sausages are also really easy (and less expensive) to make yourself. I recently purchased a very large amount of vital wheat gluten from Amazon (it’s way too pricy in brick-and-mortar stores around here) and wanted to start usin’ it, so I hit up 500 Vegan Recipes for inspiration. When I encountered the Apple Sage Fauxsage recipe, I knew it was meant to be. The recipe makes one large sausage, which you bake in the oven for an hour and a half. I delighted in watching it slowly expand and nearly burst its tin-foil packaging.

The result is an intensely tasty sausage that does indeed let the apple flavor shine. Of course, I was worried that the apple flavor would be too sweet. The first bite seemed to confirm my fears, but after a few more chomps I decided I liked it after all. S really enjoyed it as well; it was his first taste of a homemade seitan sausage.

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Charmed with the idea of a German-inspired meal, I followed the suggestion in 500 Vegan Recipes and served up my sliced sausage with steamed potatoes and sauerkraut. What our dinner lacked in color, it made up for in fill-your-belly goodness. A seasonal pumpkin beer rounded out the meal perfectly. ;)

How do you feel about vegan sausages? What’s your favorite way to use seasonal fruits in savory applications?

The Post-Holiday Rambling Rundown: Part I, New Year’s Edition

HELLO MY FRIENDS! HAPPY 2011!

I was all excited about posting from RI, but when I was actually there, sitting on the couch in my parents’ living room and enjoying the Christmas ambiance, I realized that I had much, much better things to do – things like catching up with friends over tea or brunch, and spoiling my doggies with love, and visiting my sweet grandmother in her nursing home, and playing really cheesy LAN games with my family, and being generally inane and ridiculous with my sister. So I’m not sorry for not posting – I see my RI family and friends so rarely that I wasn’t about to squander my time with them by putzing around on the internet and reading blogs when I could be enjoying their company – no offense. ;)

And when I finally got back to Madison, a day and a half later than expected thanks to some major travel!fails*, I was tired and stressed, and blogging was sort of beyond my comprehension. Then I had a quick two days of work before taking off for a New Year’s Eve celebration with some of my best friends from college. I did bake cookies for our celebration:

Flat Stanleys.

Oh, they look a little flat, you say? Oddly thin and grotesquely large, you think? Well… yeah. I won’t argue with you. I had a little baking!fail with these Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies from 500 Vegan Recipes – had to keep the travel!fail company, y’know? I suspect I must’ve added a bit too much EB – I was a little sloppy while measuring. But they still tasted rich and delicious despite their dubious appearance.

And, while making them, I got to use the brand new sifter and cooling rack my wonderful parents gave me for Christmas, which was very exciting for me!

Sifty sifty!

I think cooking or foodie-related gifts made up half of my Christmas haul this year – my family knows me so well. As for me, I felt all filled with Christmas cheer when I watched my family open the plethora of handknitted gifts I spent months creating – look out for them in an upcoming post. :)

Now, though, I’m thinking ahead to 2011. I never made an official resolution until two years ago, when I made a very deliberate decision to improve my outlook on life and to replace my characteristic pessimism and negativity with optimism and positivity. Despite my skepticism, I succeeded, and last year I extended that resolution with what I called my “Positivity Plus!” goal, which was essentially just keeping up a [mostly] positive attitude.

This year, though, I’m focusing on a few other things. I definitely will maintain my newfound optimism, difficult though it can be at times, but I also want to extend it to my shyness and social anxiety – half the reason I get nervous about various situations is because I always think about them in negative terms; I’m convinced that they’ll be terrible and awkward, and I set myself up for failure. No more! I will consciously try to not do that anymore.

At my NYE gathering, my friends all issued 2011 challenges for one another. For example, my physics major friend is tasked with reading 4 books this year. What a terrible challenge, right?! Oy. Anyway, my challenge is to try one new fitness DVD/YouTube video a month and to write a review of it for my friends. So – anybody have a suggestion for that? It can be serious or otherwise! :)

Those are my two serious goals for 2011, but I also have some general thoughts about other things I hope to achieve. For example:

* Continuing to buy mostly used/upcycled/thrifted clothes and other household items
* Trying out new crafts, like crocheting and embroidering
* Making time to volunteer with the Humane Society
* Taking risks!
* Being more active in general
* Focusing more on really learning Italian and ASL (instead of dabbling in multiple languages)
* …a few other personal things :)

Whew! Those are my thoughts for 2011… what are yours? Do you make resolutions? Set goals? Issue challenges? I’m so excited for this year! Are you?

* Things that are good about travel!fails: Extra time with your family, the possibility of compensation by the airline for their screw-ups, an extra day of vacation
Things that are bad about travel!fails: Being too tired to enjoy extra family time because you had to wake at 4:30 to catch the flight that failed you, needing to take 1.5 more days out of work than anticipated, not getting compensated because everybody’s blaming everybody else for the fail
…overall, though, I didn’t mind the extra time with la famiglia. :)

Cranboozlement!

When I was a kid and anyone asked me what was my favorite fruit, I happily replied, “Grapefruit!” While most children preferred the more conventional apple or maybe a banana, I’ve always been a fan of all things sour. Perhaps, then, it’s no surprise that I share a similar, if recently cultivated, love for cranberries. I sort of forgot they existed for a while, partially due to having a low-key Thanksgiving, but then I remembered, and now I can’t get enough of their tart, juicy selves (twss?). It’s appropriate, I think, because I have now officially been a Wisconsin resident for a year (!), and – guess what? – Wisconsin is the #1 cranberry-producin’ state in this here nation! So these ruby-red morsels of delight are local. Win!

I find it a little puzzling that so many cranberry-centric baked good recipes ask you to chop your cranners. I think there’s something enjoyable about keeping them whole and having big cranberry chunks in your bread or your muffin, ready to explode into bright-red bursts of tartness on your tongue. That (and, fine, my lack of a food processor) leads me to keep mine whole in most recipes, and I was pleased to see that the wittily-titled Cranboozy Cake (or, in my case, Giant Muffins) from 500 Vegan Recipes also calls for whole berries. Cranberries, vodka, triple sec, and orange juice? Sign me up!

Festive cranboozlement!

I’ll be honest – I wasn’t head-over-heels crazy about these at first. I tend to be a little leery of baked goods sweetened solely with agave, partially because it’s quite temperamental during the baking experience and partially because I find the flavor lacking a certain something (but maybe that’s the sweet tooth talking). However, by the time I ate the third muffin (not in one sitting!), I was properly cranboozled. I appreciated the muffins for what they are – a sophisticated baked good with a blend of flavors that leaves no room for overly sugary sweetness. And the liquors add a little somethin’-somethin’ extra, a pleasant smoothness that lingers on the tongue. Yep, I’m a fan.

If you don’t own 500 Vegan Recipes, never fear! Celine has the recipe available on her blog. Do you have any favorite cranberry recipes (sweet, savory, or something in between the two)? I’m in the market!

And don’t forget to enter my giveaway for a chance to win some fun crafty goods and a cookbook!

Erudite Eats: District 13 Bean and Onion Stew

Yesterday morning, as part of my campaign to slow down and make time for myself, I took a bath, an honest to goodness fill-up-the-tub-and-scald-your-girly-bits bath. I used a Lush bath bomb I’d been holding on to for a year or two, and it was glorious. Sure, I learned that the stopper in my bathtub’s drain doesn’t actually work very well, so I had to cover it with a sponge and anchor the sponge with my foot, and sure, my long, curly hair doesn’t take well to immersion-washing and might’ve turned into a bit of a rat’s nest afterwards, but hey, I spent twenty minutes soaking in hot, almond-y water and reading. So you know what? I’m calling it a success.

I used the in-tub downtime to start reading Mockingjay, the third and final book in Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy. I’ve already shared my bibliophilic tendencies, and yes – those tendencies extend to young adult fantasy(ish) novels. I’m not ashamed; I think the series is great and definitely worth a read. They’re like brain candy; quick to get through and immensely enjoyable. As I read my book, MoFo was the last thing on my mind; I was more concerned with, y’know, the story’s plot. But then I read the following line and knew what I had to do:

“Either because the prep team’s incapacitated or I’m too on edge, Plutarch releases me from Mockingjay duties for the rest of the day. Gale and I head down to lunch, where we’re served bean and onion stew, a thick slice of bread, and a cup of water.”

There was just something about the idea of a warm stew that appealed to me yesterday, possibly because it was chilly, grey, and drizzly. So I headed into the kitchen to whip up District 13 Bean and Onion Stew:

Katniss-approved?

Inredients
1/2 [very] large yellow onion, thinly sliced (If I’d had a whole onion, I would’ve used it!)
2 T extra virgin olive oil
2 C roughly chopped mushrooms (I used baby bella)
2 C vegetable broth (I use Better Than Bouillon’s Vegetable Base, but I think a faux-beef stock would work fantastically here)
15 oz cooked Great Northern beans
1 bay leaf
3/4 t dried sage (I used sage I’d dried during the summer… mmm!)
1/4 t thyme
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a saucepot, heat the olive oil over medium heat and add onions. Cook until the onions begin to get soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook them down for about another 10 minutes. Add the vegetable broth and the remaining ingredients and bring soup to a boil. Turn heat down to low and simmer for another 30 minutes, until the onions are very soft.

Simple, yet so delicious – I was quite pleased with this stew! I didn’t think adding mushrooms was too much of a stretch from the book version, as I’m sure they could be grown easily in District 13’s underground gardens. Or, if not, Katniss and Gale could gather them during their 2 hours of sanctioned daily hunting time. And I bet potatoes would make another great addition to this rustic, homey stew.

I served this with the Dijon-Thyme Bread from 500 Vegan Recipes, which was not entirely successful. It was my first yeasted breadmaking experience (!), and I realized too late that I didn’t have either of the kinds of flour called for in the recipe. Really, though, the only problem was its failure to rise; it tasted just fine. I know Dijon-Thyme Bread is probably a little fanciful for District 13 – it’s more appropriate for the Capital, perhaps – but maybe my baking error humbled it a little bit. ;)

Have you read the Hunger Games series? Do you ever read books that aren’t targeted to your age group? I’ve already said that I’m a diehard Harry Potter fan, so perhaps it’s not surprising that I’ve enjoyed the Hunger Games books so much!

Cookbook Challenge: 500 Vegan Recipes

Today’s theme: Cookbook Challenge

Hey y’all, guess what? I made 3 recipes from 500 Vegan Recipes! I feel a Bon Jovi comin’ on: whoa, whoa, I’m halfway… a quarter… okay fine, .6% of the way there. Yeah, that was pointless.

Anyway, I purchased this cookbook a few months ago when I received a $50 gift certificate to Barnes & Noble for renewing the lease on my apartment. Score, right? I used the book a couple of times during the summer, but it’s been lazing about on my cookbook shelf ever since then. So I decided it was high time to give it another go. I actually made these recipes over the course of two nights, but I’m going to post them all in one shot.

First up – Spicy Frites. Okay, I know, this is sort of a cop-out recipe to make – I make oven fries in my sleep (Literally; I’m a pro at sleep-cooking. Okay I lied.), and they reallllly don’t require a recipe. But sometimes it’s nice to mix things up and use somebody else’s idea for a spice blend or a technique, y’know? These are flavored with garam masala and cayenne and definitely require a Kleenex or two when you eat ’em. Celine & Joni suggest serving them with a sprinkle of lime juice, but I 1.) didn’t have a lime, and 2.) get a little icked out by putting liquid atop something that has the potential to get mushy. Back in RI, people do the whole malt-vinegar-on-fries thing, which makes me want to vomit – I hate vinegar and I hate mushy fries. Nas-tay. These fries, however, were not nas-tay.

Taters, precious!

Pretty! Just ignore the little pile of peeing ketchup in the corner. Muir Glen ketchup is tasty but incontinent, apparently. On the subject of liquids, I should note that this recipe calls for peanut oil. I, however, do not keep peanut oil in the house, so I used the oil from the top of my peanut butter jar. I’m either a genius or a cheapskate. Your call.

Moving on! Up next: Chickpea Blondies. Now… I wanted to love these. I’ve been intrigued by bean-based baked goods for a while now, and the ingredient list was simple enough that I had [nearly] everything on hand. I made a half batch and baked ’em up in a loaf tin, and other than the issue where my roommate’s Magic Bullet didn’t want to blend everything very well (I don’t have a food processor, wahhh!), the recipe came together quite quickly.

Blonde chicks!?

They look sort of fudgy and chewy and intriguing, right? Well, they taste… meh. That’s really the best (and perhaps the worst) I can say. They’re not bad, and I don’t mind eating them, but I wouldn’t necessarily serve them to a skeptical omni and I can’t imagine waking up at night with a mad craving for them. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt, though, because I didn’t have strawberry jam and ended up using a lackluster apricot variety, and then I didn’t even have enough apricot, so I added a tiny bit of canned pumpkin. Maybe if I made them with a bolder-flavored fruit, they’d have had a little more flavor.

I will tell you, though, that my final recipe was not at all lacking in flavor. No, this was the winner of the bunch, without a doubt. Take a look:

Gooey goodness.

Folks, that is the unlikely but ingenious Butterscotch Pumpkin Pudding, and it is heavenly. Like, I-can’t-stop-eating-this heavenly. Like, how-can-I-work-this-into-my-family’s-holiday-meal-plans heavenly.

I was a tiny bit skeptical before trying this, because I’ve traditionally been fairly ambivalent towards puddings in general, and I’ve always found butterscotch puddings to be wayyy too sweet for me. But this is a true, homemade butterscotch, and it’s sweet in a way that doesn’t give you a tummyache or make you want to go straight to the dentist without passing Go immediately after having a spoonful. What I’m saying is, it has a distinct flavor beyond just SWEET!!!1!!!111! It has just enough pumpkin-y flavor to add a fun twist without being overpowering and it’s wonderfully spiced, with notes of cloves, cinnamon, and a bit of molasses. Plus there’s a spoonful of rum for all you boozers out there. A winner is you, Butterscotch Pumpkin Pudding!

So there you have it, my 3/500. It strikes me that all three photos have a fairly similar color palette, despite their subjects having wildly different ingredients. And that’s only enhanced by the the horrible no-time-to-take-photos-in-natural-light side effect of MoFo being in November. Ah well. Anyway, I can’t wait to tackle some of the more substantial recipes from this cookbook, because Celine and Joni have really put together an outstanding collection. I’m lookin’ at you, Pumpkin Fauxsage!

Do you have a cookbook you know is full of fantastic recipes but that you just don’t use often enough?Alternatively, how do you feel about pudding?