Thursday, January 22, 2009

First Gnocchi and a Little Late W.I.P.

I admit to not getting around to my well intended blog time last night. But - with good reason. I was given the go-ahead to go back to work last night around 4:30. I never thought I would be this excited over the release of an imposed holiday from work. Funny.

But, never late than never - I am sharing my first EVER gnocchi, which I will definitely make again, and again, and again. I want to change the recipe up a bit and play with the different flour options I might/might not have.

I apologize for the steamy picture, but I just couldn't wait for it to cool down - I needed to sink my teeth right into these little potato & pasta pillows. It was surprisingly simple, something you really could whip up on a busy evening. There are tons and tons of recipes out there for gnocchi, many not vegan. So I played around and came up with my own version.

Gotta Have Some Gnocchi

8 potatoes - I saw lots of variety out there: sweet potatoes, russets, yukon gold
1 cup of whole wheat flour
1/4 cup of chickpea flour

Any sauce that you want to make, have on hand or ask a person on the street to borrow - your choice.

Here is what I did:
I boiled some water for the potatoes (next time I might take veganyumyum's advice and roast them to see if I get a different result), and waited for them to get nice and fork friendly. I pulled them out and went over them with a peeler, and then passed them over a grater. Following some net-advice, I let them air dry for about 20 minutes. I added my flours in halves until I had a nice little ball of dough. I separated the ball into 3 smaller balls and rolled each one out into a little cylinder that was about 20 cms long. Next, I cut them all into little gnocchi sized shapes and then imprinted them with my fork prongs.

I added the gnocchi to some salted boiling water and to my surprise, they popped up after about two minutes. I pulled them out, covered them in a quick tomato sauce and made them look pretty with a little basil. K and I both agree that they were yum yum.

I also have to give another well deserved shout to happyveganface! Earlier this week I got up the courage to make my own tortilla shells using her wickedawesomeface recipe. I changed it only by using a 6-grain flour, and adding some chili pepper flakes to the dough (K likes it HOT!). I stuffed the shells with my Sweet Potato and Refried beans, and some guacamole that I did end up getting all over myself whilst blitzing. Who cares - it was num num.

My work in my Mobile of World Dominators. Ok, well that is what K refers to it as. He came home while I was finishing off the cat and we both feel that the cat looks suspiciously like a certain tyrannical leader from the 1930-40s - I am not saying who. I am using a great template from a supergreat book that I found in England. Check out this post for more info. I just have to finish the duck and then put it all together....So far (in case you can't tell in the photo) I have a kitty, a whale and a bird. All done in felt with embroidery thread.

Does it count as a work in progress if I have printed off a template and instructions? I was so excited to read Vegan Noodle's post about the amazing, super, dynamic babyshower that she gave her friends. She posted a link to Chickpea Studios, where I found the pattern for a Birthing Quilt. I think this is a great project, and I have already saddled K into taking me to a Belgian quilting shop so that I can buy some material for this wonderful little project.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Lame Lasagna

I was all ready to try Isa's much raved about Tofu Ricotta in my very own lasagna this past weekend. Everyone in blogger land seems to be sharing similar vices for getting through the yucky winter weather that has gripped at least one hemisphere for the last month or so - Comfort Food.

There is no comfort food like my mom's cooking. She was the best for cooking just the right thing for her kids: Magic Squares (made with coconut, chocolate, and condensed milk), mac and cheese, cheese cake and of course - her amazing lasagnas. I am convinced that more than one of my boyfriends dated me purely for my mom's lasagnas. So, of course, I wanted to try and weave some of that magic into mine and Kevin's lazy Sunday, which we spent in bed, at the market and then on our respective coaches reading, suduko and crossword solving and physics tests marking - oh the wild lives of teachers.

I got to work on the Tofu Ricotta, changing the recipe only by the addition of some spinach. I was very mindful of Isa's warning to dry out the tofu as much as possible, which I did with some squeezing, patting and massaging. The recipe was dead easy to follow and it looked a doppelganger to Ricotta. Kevin came up short on his hunt for vegan lasagna noodles at the shop, so he made the executive decision and came home with cannelloni shells - good plan. But, alas, after being boiled for the 5 minutes recommended by the box instructions, they began to crack at the seams. I was unwilling to be beat by some wayward noodles, and decided to go with it and pulled them all apart, making exactly what I had wanted in the first place - a lasagna. Now, I will admit that in my lazy Sunday mode I did not make a sauce from scratch, but went with a nice Italian pre-made import to start and finish my layers - it was a pretty good sauce.

Alas, although I went in for seconds, I wasn't a happy camper. It just wasn't what I wanted. It wasn't my mom's lasagna, it was more like Aunt Jill's - love her loads, but she always used the more powdery cheese, versus my mom's pension for the gooey mozzarella. It just wasn't what I had wanted, and that made me a little sad.

All drama aside, it was a pretty good lasagna, might try to make a creamy cheese to go with each ricotta layer next time - I think that might bring me closer to the mecca that is my mother's comfort food talent.

Tonight I am making a Roasted Butternut Squash and Potato Soup. I have been roasting the squash all day, and can't wait to see how that will impact the flavouring of the soup.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Lots of Yummies

I have lots of yummies to share.

We had some nicely Roasted Beets on Thursday night, served with my favourite Pumpkin Burger. I also got around to trying out PeanutButter Cups. Oh My God. They were just too good. They are perfect little one bite wonders, curing all cravings for anything and everything all at once. Last night, sticking with the peanut theme, I made a Spicy Peanut Sauce that I used for two purposes - as a dipping sauce for the Tofu Stuffed Rice Paper Wraps and as a sauce for a really, really yummy Soba Noodle Salad. I fell in love with the salad the minute I started chowing down - a perfect salty, spicy, nutty combo.

Twice Cooked Herbed Beets

4 huge farm fresh organic beets
olive oil to coat
dried herbs of your liking (I did a mix of basil, oregano and thyme)
balsamic vinegar

I wrapped the four oversized beets that we picked up on Wednesday from the La Ferme Hoste market stand (they do all local/organic yummies and the farmer is super sexy. You can actually go and stay on the farm if you are looking to do an agro-organic holiday) in some enviro-unfriendly aluminum foil, and tossed them into a 400 preheated oven.
I left them for about 1 hour, waiting until I could pierce them with a fork. I then went through the annoying task of peeling the big guys, which I did under a cold water plunge to make sure my fingers didn't singe off. Once they were washed and cut into cubes I heated up a cute new skillet that I bought and threw them in with the remaining ingredients. I loved the vinegar and walnut inclusion - really complimented the roasted sweetness of the beets. Perfect side dish.

Organic PeanutButter Cups

2 bars of dark organic chocolate
2 cups of organic peanut butter
1/2 cup of confection sugar
splash of vanilla
mini muffin paper cups or confection cups

This was my first time and I looked through loads of vegan and non-vegan recipes, and decided that they all included some of the same things - p.b., chocolate and the willingness to get a little dirty in the kitchen. Despite the multistep process, it was actually quite easy and broke up my mobile making on Friday afternoon.

I started out by making a double broiler with a glass bowl atop a boiling pot of water. Inside the glass bowl, I plunked my two bars of chocolate and let them melt down. I then took a paint brush and coated each of the little muffin papers with a layer of chocolate - bottom and sides. Next time, I will only go half way up I think. I let this thin layer of chocolate dry for about 20 minutes. Step one done.

I then added the p.b., vanilla and sugar to a pan and warmed it through until it was gooey and liquidey. I added about 1 inch of the pb mix to each cup, allowing this time to cool as well.

Finely, after reheating the chocolate one last time, I topped off each of the cups with the remaining chocolate. They set in about 1 hour (without fridge time), and they were perfect.

As this was my first attempt at confection creation, I was going for the "I did it" moment, next time I will concentrate on prettiness and getting it to look a little less DIY.

The Soba Noodle Salad that I made last night was excellent! I loved it and could have put away the whole thing on my own if it wasn't for that pesky Kevin needing to eat dinner too. It was dead simple and incorporated many of the ingredients I had pulled out for making the rice wraps. I boiled the soba noodles, tossed them into a cold water bath, and then coated them with sesame oil, and a tablespoon of the peanut sauce - mixing for about a minute to ensure coverage. I then threw on top some grilled tofu, yellow pepper and mango. I plopped the bowl in the fridge for about 30 minutes, and it was nicely chilled when we were ready to chow down.

I wish everyone in vegan land a happy start to your week - and I am trying to be much better about updating my vegan mummy blog.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Flavour Combinations and an essential WIP

A combination post is called for I think - there is no other way to truly celebrate the two little recipes I have for you. We all know how good roasted carrots are, we all know how good roasted cauliflower, aubergine and red peppers are? Of course we do! is when I put them all together the other night, with a simple dab of olive oil and some dried herbs that I apparently made magic in the oven. I am not sure if it is the ever growing belly...I said goodbye (maybe forever) to my favourite size two gap pants this past week, but I was licking the plate after I had gobbled up my second helping.

And then...last night, inspired by the vitamixing of Chocolate Covered Vegan, I made a little fruit yumminess. Granted - I do not have a vitamix - but, that didn't stop me. I used my super simple handblender, and got some wicked desert by combining the goodness of pomegranate, raspberries, mango, and banana. Does it get any better? No sugar, no soy, NOTHING but goodly fruit....oh, and some flax.

Kevin has been a busy little beaver of late - he went a head and booked us this uberly swanky trip to London, complete with....wait for to a Royal Shakespeare Theatre Company production (taming of the shrew) and a reservation for two at Saf's. He is so sweet and perfectly wonderful. Nothing more could appeal to this ex-English professor's loving heart. I just can't wait.

So if you are inclined to clean out your fridge, as I was the other night, and you want to give this combo a try...go for it!

Really Good Roasted Veg
1 med aubergine - diced
1 packet of extra firm tofu - cubed
1/2 a head of cauliflower
2 red peppers
6 market carrots - cut diagonally to look fancy
4 tsp of oil (I used a huge baking dish)
black pepper
chili flakes
your choice for spicing

I baked it forever - seriously, maybe 1 hour and 45. I served it with a cute little pile of mint, raisin and pine nut couscous. Oh my god - it was so good.

Frozen Fruit Frostie
pomegrante juice and seeds from 1/2 pom
1/2 a frozen mango
1 banana
about 2 hands full of raspberries
3 tsp of flax

Whiz this up with your hand mixer, throw it in the freezer for about an hour, and enjoy! I topped mine with a couple of extra frozen mangoes. WIP is hemming my maternity pants. All three pairs of them....I love how my wardrobe has shrunk and ironically grown all at the same time. You may want to look away if you are still thinking about getting pregnant one day - these things just aren't pretty. I know this WIP isn't very creative or imaginative....just essential!!!

Monday, January 12, 2009

I Heart HappyVeganFace Weekend!

I had decided a while ago that I was going to try my hand at homemade nann bread, given the recent curry crisis. And it was on happyveganface's blog that I found my recipe. But, I didn't stop at the nann bread, I also decided to give her burger bun recipe a try...and I am happy to report that happyveganface's bread recipes were the focus of two really yummy dinners this weekend. On Saturday night we grilled up tofu steaks and aubergine, piling it on top of the burger buns. I served them along side the pasta salad I had made on Thursday night. Perfect! Kevin raved about the buns - said it was a great bread recipe. I can't wait to make him some more.

Sunday started with our second trip of the weekend to my new favourite spot - a bagel cafe. Yes! That's right, not a 15 minute walk from my house (and wonderfully situated between Kim and I) is a great cafe. I must admit that it offers me everything that I miss about back home - bagels, tea in biggish cups, comfy bank seats and a groovy atmosphere. I couldn't keep it a secret and had to invite Kim, Kate and (the other) Kevin for a bagel-breakfast on Sunday morning. I of course took away some of their great baked goods, and just finished a whole wheat bagel for lunch - topped with curried (!!!) beans.

When we got home from our bagel fun and a quick trip around the market, I got to work on the nann bread, wanting to give it time to rest, breath and rise. Despite it being my first time, hvf's instructions made the whole process totally manageable, and the results were totally delish!

While waiting for those good bits to rise (after our darling cat Sylvia knocked the whole lot of 12 rising dough balls all over the kitchen...10 second rule), I got to work on making two mini crumbles - a Pear Crumble and an Apple Raisin Crumble. We gobbled the Pear Crumble up for desert, topping it off with some cashew cream that I had a chance to make while the nann was baking.

Here are two recipes for yah! Simple, but in their own ways - totally divine:

Family Picnic Pasta Salad

3 cups of whole wheat pasta - I used little penne
3 tbsp of olive oil (you could use less if you like, but I have some poundage to put on)
1 English cuke - sliced & diced
2 Tomatoes - sliced & diced
Basil, Oregano, Thyme and Black Pepper
2 tbsp of balsamic vinegar - I used one with a hint of fig

Once your pasta has cooked through, add all of the ingredients together. Put the whole lot (it will be quite a bit) into 1 large bowl or into mini Tupperware. Let chill at least 2 hours before serving.

No Mixing Bowls Needed Crumble

3 large apples or 3 large pears - skin left on, cut into 1 inch cubes
orange juice or any other type of fruit juice - I used some left over cranberry and orange that we pressed that morning
1 tbsp of brown sugar (or maple syrup)
1/2 cup of rolled oats
1/2 cup of flour
raisins - own quantity
walnuts - own quantity
1 tsp of nutmeg (you could cinnamon or cloves as well)
2 tsp of vegan margarine (you can use oil, but that means you might need a bowl)

I used 3 X 4 inch glass baking dishes (one for pear, one for apple) and added the fruit, fruit juice, sugar, raisins, walnuts and spice, and gave it a good mix. Make sure that the raisins and walnuts are tucked under your fruit. On top of your bed of heavenly fruit, add the oats, then the flour and then the two tsp of margarine. Now use your fingers to work the margarine through the dry ingredients - takes a couple of minutes and your fingers get mucky - but it is one less bowl to fit in the dish washer!

Bake for 45 minutes at 400.

So a big fat thank you to happyveganface for making my nann baking bread dreams come true! Great recipes!

Friday, January 09, 2009

Duxelles in Bruxelles

A couple of nights ago I was peering around the health food shop that is across the road from me, and I found in their (rather meager) fridge, a huge hunk of seitan. That doesn't sound very appetizing does it? But really, that's all it was, a big roast-looking hunk of seitan. I was feeling like a challenge so I decided to throw it in with the other goodies (like all natural, all organic, sugar free peanut butter!).

Anyhow, in one of those cooking sprees that accidentally turned out to be an ode to the cooking of my youth (because I also made a classic-my-mom-pasta-salad for our lunches today) I felt inclined to turn the hunk o'seitan into a roasty type dish, with some carrots, brussel sprouts, gravy and...drum first attempt at a Duxelles stuffing.

Now, according to the fountain of knowledge, otherwise known as wikipedia, (my credit as a researcher just went down by five points), Duxelles style stuffing was crafted in the 17th century by a French chef. One would usually mince mushrooms, onions, herbs and fry them up in butter to make a paste that you would then ram inside a poor unsuspecting piece of meat. I however, with the constant advice of one Master Chef Kevin Healey, decided to go with: wild mushrooms, olive oil, organic yellow onions and some herbs d'provence. Voila. When it was all done, the bits that weren't sticking to my cast iron pan, I added to my seitan, place the whole shabang in a casserole dish and added a bit of veg stock.

The brussel sprouts and carrots were coated in maple syrup (eh?), and a little bit of frozen olive oil. I was most impressed with the veg! They turned out amazingly scrumptious. The hunk o'seitan was ok.....but then again, I never really liked roast when I was a kid (sorry mom). The gravy was great - a rip off from the Miso Gravy recipe in How It All Vegan.

The pasta salad is wicked and I can't wait to gobble it up for lunch!

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Soup and Sammich

Sometimes you just want the good old soup and sandwich option. That was exactly what my gut wanted last night after a rather exhausting day at work. It was one of those meals that ends up being exactly what you know those ones? Totally satisfying and simple. The weather in Brussels has been remarkably cold - more chilly than my native land - so, I wanted thick and heavy soup to warm my bones and my belly. I sold myself on Chickpea and Potato Soup. It was awesome, with a very creamy consistency and a dynamite taste. If ever I become as uber cool as Celine, Bianca, or any of the other amazing vegan chefs out there and craft my own vegan cookbook, this recipe is going in there!

Chickpea and Potato Soup

6 yellow potatoes - cubed

1 yellow onion - diced
1 tsp of olive oil
1 can/jar (about 2.5 cups) of cooked chickpeas
5 cups of water (or veggie broth)
fennel seeds
coriander seeds
1 Kevin who is willing to whirl up the soup because you always manage to get some in your eye

The soup didn't stand alone though. No, no. It was accompanied by a hoagie style, way-too-packed-with-the-good-stuff sandwich! Let's see...baked tofu, parsley, fresh organic tomatoes, organic avocado and lots of cucumbers. Holy smokes, I was in heaven.

And how much do I love my mom? She sent one of my bestest friends home from Canada with the cutest maternity winter coat ever! Thanks mom!

Monday, January 05, 2009

Vegan Loving Friends

Here is an ode to the vegan loving friend....

I love all my friends who, like Andrea, calls ahead to restaurants; like Kim, who willingly fights with jerky waiters to get me my food; like every member of my grade-level team who bake vegan-friendly options on treat day; like Kevin, who is always fighting the vegan fight for his vegan lady love. Like Sandy...ahh Sandy. Sandy who heard me verbally loving the hell out of vegetarian sausages. Sandy who brought me Linda McCartney sausages to school today as a post-holiday present. There, wrapped up in the staff room freezer, were my sausages. I love love love Sandy.

There was nothing more to be done with these veg delights, but put together a British Bangers and mash menu for dinner tonight!

Kevin had a bit of a meltdown when I announced tonight's menu. He was going on about Northern England tea and how long it had been since he had sausages, potatoes and beans. It must be said that according to the resident Brit, a real British tea of this variety should include some good ol' white bread, a fried egg and some fried potatoes. I am happy to say not one thing was fried - we baked the whole lot!

It was uber yummy, though I am not totally sold on Linda's sausages...the taste is a little hotdoggish.

Had a great work out today and enjoyed being back at school today - it was amazing to see friends and co-workers. Loved it. Oh yeah, I updated my Vegan-Mommy blog, so if you are interested, feel free to check it out!

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Belgian Seitan Stew and Creamy Coconut Rice Pudding

Lots of good food to share!

Saturday night was a regular bean patty night, but I used Red Kidney Beans in the Vcon' Chickpea Patty recipe and was pleasantly surprised. I prefer the less chewy consistency of the kidney beans to chickers. I had a perfectly ripe avocado to go with the patties - a perfect combo! I would really recommend trying this different bean with the Vcon recipe - not that Isa and Terry aren't vegan know-how goddesses, but I really think that this kidney has it beat!

Tonight we went all out and made some super scrumptious Belgian Seitan Stew, which we served with a fresh baguette from our favourite bakery. The stew was quite easy, just one of those "in parts" recipes. When I got home from the market I got busy getting the seitan together. I always prefer to steam mine, a la seitan sausages, rather than boiling the seitan. I find that the boiling method leaves me with a too-chewy outside.

After putting curtains up in the babies room, K got to work on the stew, using a traditional Belgian beef and beer stew recipe. The seitan was a perfect substitute for the beef. The stew was amazing.

Belgian Mushroom and Seitan Stew

1 yellow onion
2 tsp of flour
100 kilos wild mushrooms
200 kilos white mushrooms
1 pound of seitan
1 star anise
2 tsp of sunflower oil
1 bottle of dark belgian beer (Chimay)

How To: Brown the onions and seitan in the oil, turning it around, letting the seitan and onion brown, but making sure it doesn't burn. Take the seitan out of the pan and add the mushrooms and beer. Mix together some flour and water, to thicken the stew. Add the anise, and let the stew sit for two hours. Serve with mashed potatoes or bread.

I felt that we needed to take the comfort food a little further and made a pot of rice pudding. I used brown rice, and decided to get a little crazy and added a cup of coconut milk to the rice while it was simmering. The results were amazingly tasty. I was super happy with the consistency - I was a little worried that the coconut milk would make it a little too thick. Yummy.

I am really looking forward to all the fun I am going to have with this week's market haul. We picked up great organic goodies from my favourite farmer including: apples, pears, lettuce, aubergine, mushrooms, oranges, and cauliflower. Hoping to find some time to make a couple of soup, some salads and a cauliflower curry.

I wish everyone a happy week back at work!

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Kevin Lends a Hand....

At my last midwife appointment we all noticed that I haven't gained much weight in the last little while, and I decided that the best cure for that would be some delightful veganny goodness. Last night, while I slapped together some boring old chickpea cutlets and roasted potatoes, Kevin showed off his vegan kitchen skills and whipped up the most spectacular (get ready for this)....Vegan Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownies.

We had a little help from the dynamic mom/cook/woman extrodanaire over at Two Vegan Boys, only subbing the soy milk for CHOCOLATE soy milk!

Her recipe was, in K's words, really to the point and easily extractable from blog land. So thanks bunches Krys and great job Kevin! (I even let him have some of the brownies).

Friday, January 02, 2009

Anything Tastes Good With Lime Pickle...and a W.I.P. "Wednesday"

I love Shellyfish's blog. Love with a capital heart. So, I hope she will forgive me for not getting a chance to post my W.I.P. until this morning. This little dollie has come all the way from England, and has many, many friends. These little 'Clothkits' have everything - the stuffing, the thread, and the pattern. I admit it takes some of the creativity out of projects, but the doll was too cute not to put together. This company also makes the most adorable 'grown up' clothes!

Our quiet little New Year's Eve (no wild vegan parties over here this year) was complete with each of us crafting our own vegan pizza. Yum!

In the morning, I pulled together all the bits and pieces in the fridge and made a pretty descent Tofu Scramble. I, of course, had mine with Lime Pickle. I can NOT get enough Lime Pickle these days.

Despite efforts to have a nice dinner out, we were plotted against by those who thought they needed the night off. In the end we each went for something a little different - K had a veg*n pasta plate, while I went for the experimental and tried a new Mac n' Chreese. It was.....acceptable...and bordered on 'good' with the Lime Pickle. But, don't let me be a judge - I have never been good buddies with any vegan cheese - EVER! Having grown up with a mom that could make the BEST mac n cheese on the planet, my palate is forever forged in the memory of those old school recipes.

What was yummy was the cucumber and mint sandwich I threw together (I had suspicions that I was going to be disappointed). I just diced the cucumber, mixed in 1 TBSP of Hummus, and 1 TBSP of Ks homemade aubergine dip and added some mint. Presto! A fresh and tasty treat in the middle of a frozen tundra kind of night!