A Post About Pie

Saturday was an odd day. It was unseasonably warm, but that didn’t stop S and I from going through with our Saturday-morning plans – seeing a matinee of Skyfall (solid Bond movie – I really enjoyed it). Afterwards, we went home and had a late, snacky lunch, then headed out to a local park with Moria to enjoy the warmth and read our books. Shortly after we arrived, however, the clouds came out, the sun hid, and we got a bit chilly. We packed up and started heading back just as it started to drizzle.

After we got home, S left to get a haircut while I started a baking project. Just a few moments later he returned; the barbershop was closing soon and wasn’t taking anyone else. Things started to go downhill at that point – I got cranky because the kitchen was a mess and there were dishes to put away, S didn’t like my crankiness, I got even crankier… it was Not Good. S left again, this time to pick up some panko for dinner, and I continued my baking project. He returned. He apologized. I ignored him. (Yes, sometimes I’m a child.) I continued my baking project. S disappeared into the other room to put away laundry. As I worked, enjoying the thrill of trying a new-to-me technique, my crankiness slowly dissipated. I apologized, and then I showed off my creation:

Top-down view of an apple pie with a lattice-work crust. It's sitting on a plaid tablecloth.


Yes, that is my first-ever lattice-crust pie! I know the edges need work; I didn’t leave enough overhang. But! The lattice isn’t half-bad, right? I was so proud as I eagerly checked the oven during baking and saw the pastry crust getting all flaky and puffy and beautiful! The funny thing is, though, that I actually don’t care much for pie crust in general – it doesn’t taste very good to me, and I just find it overwhelmingly rich. As a kid, the uber-fat-laden crust gave me a stomachache, so I often left large crust portions uneaten. Nowadays I can handle it a little better, but not by much – I still sometimes leave bits uneaten. For this particular crust, I followed Vegan Dad’s recipe, and as far as crusts go, it tasted just fine. ;)

In keeping with the season (nominally, if not actual-weatherly), I made an apple pie. Why not start the Thanksgiving season a little early, right? I used a mish-mash recipe for the filling, but next time I’ll be sure to cut my apples much, much thinner; I got a bit lazy with this batch and some of them were a little large. I was pleased that the pie wasn’t gooey or liquidy at all – there’s nothing quite as disappointing as a runny pie, y’know? I even had a little extra crust after applying the lattice – enough to make a mini-pie in my super adorable mini casserole dish:

Small oval-shaped casserole dish with apple filling and messy lattice crust.

Baby pie.

Both pies baked up beautifully (and I got to cross off one of my 25 for 25 goals!). As I topped S’s piece with some Soyatoo I’d picked up a few weeks back, I felt a little less guilty for snapping at him earlier – nothing like making dessert to prove your love and sincere regret for bad behavior, right? ;) Not that S needed it – he is insanely patient with me. Even while I was being mean to him, he’d been putting away my laundry for me. What a guy.

And what a pie.

Top-down view of a single piece of pie on a while plate. The tip is eaten and a fork is stuck into the top.

Ah, the wonders of natural light.

What’s your pie crust style of choice?

Queen of Apologies No More: From Restroom Run-ins to Rhapsodizing on Veganism, All in One Fell Post!

Sometimes the most mundane, silly experience can inspire serious self-reflection.

A few days ago, I had a fairly awkward restroom encounter. I was exiting, my coworker was entering, the door opened suddenly – it was all very surprising, and I let out an involuntary, “Oh my goodness!” and raised my hand to my throat; apparently when I’m startled I revert to Jane Austen-esque behavior. My coworker, equally startled, visibly jumped a bit and then started laughing and apologizing profusely.

“I always scare people like that with the door! I’m sorry!” “No, it’s okay, I’m sorry!” I said, also laughing. After we’d each said our repeated sorries, we went our separate ways, and I started thinking about those apologies.

What is it that makes us so quick to apologize in situations like that? Sure, I was sorry that my coworker was surprised at the door when she just wanted to use the restroom in peace, and I’m sure she was sorry that she nearly needed to bring out the smelling salts for my startled self, but were either of us sorry for attempting to enter / exit the restroom, respectively? Of course not! Our timing was just a little unfortunate, but neither of us could have helped that. Yet the sorries flowed as if we carried rivers of regret for our awkward meeting.

I used to pour forth gratuitous, nearly involuntary apologies like I was some overactive geyser of guilt. If Apologia Unecessaria were a country, I was the queen, showering my subjects with useless sorries from on high. I knew that the impact of an apology is fairly limited if it’s the 50th one you’ve said in a day, yet I had to consciously stop myself from saying sorry. And this need to show my penitence made its insidious, ingratiating way from my insecure little self into the kitchen and the dining room.

“Sorry for being a pest!” “Sorry for making you go out of your way to cook me something!” ”Sorry for making us choose a restaurant that doesn’t serve your typical American food!”

Not wanting to seem like I was purposely creating trouble for people with my veganism (and previously my vegetarianism), my gut reflex was, for the longest time, to apologize, apologize, apologize, and then thank, thank, thank. After all, who was I to force people to adapt their cooking styles?  Was my personal eating pleasure worth making others go out of their way to accommodate me? My instinct – that insidious, insecure instinct – used to say no. My dietary restrictions are voluntary; it’s not like I’ll go into anaphylactic shock if I eat a scoop of ice cream or chomp on some cheese. I’m sorry for making things difficult! I’d say.

These days? I am not sorry anymore. I am proud of my dietary choices. Going vegan was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I harbor absolutely no regret for kicking dairy and eggs to the curb once and for all. In so many ways, I feel happier, healthier, and cleaner of conscience now than I ever, ever have in the past. I feel more complete.

And the sorries? They’ve stopped (although the thanks continue). When my friends bake with Earth Balance instead of butter, when my co-workers experiment with vegan alternatives instead of making egg-laden quick breads, when my family chooses to eat at a vegetarian restaurant while visiting me, I know these actions are their choices. They do so because they want to be inclusive, to share the simple act of eating with me, not because they’re begrudgingly bound and beholden to appease the girl who doesn’t do dairy or eat eggs. They’re cooking from the heart, and each cruelty-free bite of their food tastes so much the better for that simple reason.

My heart has been opened by veganism. I’ve made a conscious effort in the past few years to shed my cynicism and my defensive sarcasm. I am trying, truly, to let my compassion and empathy overpower the walls I’ve built up over the years. So how could I ever, ever be sorry for something so life-altering?

Especially when being vegan is so satisfying, not only to the heart but to the tummy. Being vegan has given me the chance to slowly work past my aversion to combining the sweet and the savory with foods like this shockingly delicious Curried Couscous Salad with Dried Sweet Cranberries.

Using the Hot Curry powder from Penzeys takes this dish to new levels of awesome.

And it’s let me play with presentation to make sweet little Cucumber Tea Sandwiches for a garden tea party with dear friends.

Garnished with watercress for good measure.

And it’s given me the courage to experiment, to take an inspiring Maple Hemp Granola Bar recipe and tweak it to make my own granola bars for camping, and then eat the crumbly leftovers with soy yogurt for a simple, delicious Sunday breakfast.

Perfection in a bowl?

Nope, I am not sorry for being vegan. Not one eensy-weensy, teeny-tiny little bit. So there.

Garden Fresh Guacamole

We’re gonna have to make this a quickie (twss) because it’s late and I must go to work in the morn, but I wanted to get a fast post up tonight because I’M GOING CAMPING TOMORROW! We’re only going for one night, but I haven’t been camping in ages so I am wildly excited. I even made a variation of VeganDad’s granola bars and the Independence Day Wieners from 500 Vegan Recipes for the occasion.

But first – something simple yet satisfying, made from veggies from my CSA and my parents’ garden (more about that soon).

Goodness greenness.

Garden Fresh Guacamole
1 avocado
1/2 – 1 small jalapeno, seeded and diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 medium tomato, chopped
Juice of 1/2 lime
Other spices to taste, or a spoonful of your favorite salsa for the cheater version

Mash up the avocado. Add the other veggies. Eat.

…yeah, everybody and their mom knows how to make guac, but whatevs – this was a simple version I created with veggies I had on hand. Piled onto organic blue corn tortilla chips made right here in Wisconsin, this sure hit the spot on a warm summer day.

…and that’s all she wrote. Happy Friday, all!

Food Frenzy Friday

Get ready for some seriously good eats, folks! I’ve been a busy little vegan during the past 24 hours, and I have photographic evidence. But before the good must come the bad, alas. Thankfully, the only bad eats I’ve had lately were not made by me. Tonight my aunt I and went out to dinner so we could catch up and I could update her on some Important Life Events (more about those in the future). We decided to forego our standard favorite eateries for a new Thai place nearby; we felt adventurous and willing to give a new business a shot. Unfortunately, I wish we’d stuck to our tried and true restaurants, because this place was just not good. We ordered pad thai and a dish with steamed veggies and fried tofu, hoping to share the two between us. Well… we did share them. We shared the slimy, overcooked pad thai noodles and the flavorless steamed vegetables that probably came right out of the freezer. The only decent part of the meal was the peanut sauce, and even that was nothing to write home about. My aunt is much more assertive than I am and complained about the pad thai, so we didn’t end up paying for it (or eating it, for that matter.) Oh well – at least our conversation was satisfying.

Now we’ll move onto better – and tastier – things! My parents are away for a short vacation, so I’m enjoying having the run of the kitchen. Not that they don’t love it when I cook for them, but I kind of enjoy being able to blast my music while I’m cooking! Plus I can experiment with new recipes and not have to worry about anybody seeing my failure… not that I’ve failed lately. Yet. Anyway, when I filled out that Vegan’s 100 List last week, I was shocked to realize that I’ve never made vegan chocolate chip cookies. Although I’ve only been officially vegan since the beginning of this month, I’ve made exclusively vegan baked goods for almost a year now. So when I saw some dairy-free semi-sweet chocolate chips on sale at the grocery store, you know I had to snatch up a couple of bags. Last night I decided that I should make some cookies to accompany the new Office episode. I debated between using a chocolate chip cookie recipe I found on the PPK and the Happy Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe that has rave reviews on VegWeb. Ultimately I went with the VegWeb recipe. All those laudatory comments left me with pretty high expectations. So how did they turn out? Well… they look pretty!

Happy cookies?

And they taste pretty good, although I’m not sure these are my holy grail when it comes to chocolate chip cookies. I found the dough waaay too dry and ended up adding extra soy milk, so I’m a little skeptical of this recipe. At first I was not impressed at all, but after I ate a couple the taste began to grow on me, and today they taste even better. But I’m definitely going to try another recipe next time I get bitten by the chocolate chip cookie bug! What about you guys? Do you have a tried and true chocolate chip cookie recipe?

My next kitchen endeavor occurred this morning when I consulted the wonderful Vegan Brunch in search of a waffle recipe. I ultimately settled on the Chelsea Waffles, since I wanted a pretty neutral flavor that would pair well with my marinated apple topping (chopped apples + cinnamon + turbinado sugar + maple syrup). It turned out to be an excellent choice.

And in the mornin', I'm makin' WAFFLES!

Oh, yum. These were awesome! I didn’t have barley malt syrup, so I substituted a mix of brown rice syrup and blackstrap molasses. This worked really well, although I think it made the waffles sweeter than they should have been. Still utterly delicious, though. But what else should I have expected from this book?! Duhhh.

My final cooking experiment came from Vegan Dad. Although I’ve been a huge fan of his blog for ages now, I’ve never actually tried one of his recipes before today! But I’ve had a box of vital wheat gluten sitting in my pantry for about a month, and I decided it was time to tackle a seitan-based recipe. Now, I’ve only actually eaten seitan twice in my life before today. Both times it was from Whole Foods’ prepared foods bar (the two times I tried it were the only two times I’ve actually eaten there). But I enjoyed it, and since everyone and their mom seems to whip up seitan in their sleep, I knew I had to attempt it.

When I was omni, I was never a huge wings fan, but somehow the idea of vegan wingz really appeals to me. I’ve made the tempeh wingz from Don’t Eat Off the Sidewalk twice; the first time I didn’t have panko and they were really kinda gross, but the second time I absolutely loved them. So I thought that trying out Vegan Dad’s Ultimate Vegan Hot Wingz would be an appropriate way to attempt seitan. And I was right.

Wingz, baby.

Although wingz aren’t the most photogenic food, I think these lil guys are sorta cute. I ate them with about 3/4 of a red pepper, not because they were spicy at all but because wingz feel like junk food to me, and in my mind I can counter eating junk food by eating straight-up, super-healthy, raw veggies. Whatever. In any case, the wingz were surprisingly yummy! I was a little nervous that they’d be too squishy; a few commenters apparently had that problem and I was concerned that I’d used too much onion and destroyed the delicate liquid/dry balance. But the dough stayed together perfectly well, and I loved the feel of it! Is that weird? I’ve always been a tactile kind of girl; I love polymer clay and Play Dough used to be one of my favorite “toys”. So I got a kick out of the strangely-textured seitan dough, I’m not gonna lie. And the end result was so good. I used the wing sauce recipe from Don’t Eat Off the Sidewalk instead of Vegan Dad’s, since I really like that one, but other than that I didn’t stray from his recipe at all. And I’m glad I didn’t.

So, all in all, the past 24 hours have been an EPIC SUCCESS. And who knows what the weekend will bring! I’ve got the kitchen to myself for two more days… muahahaha.