Friday, February 29, 2008

My first sourdough bread!

I'm sorry I've been neglecting this blog. Sometimes life gets in the way, and sometimes I'm just lazy about updating. I've started a new job, which I really like. I still cook on a regular basis, but sometimes I just don't feel like taking a picture. Also, we have several favorite meals, and there doesn't seem to be much point in blogging about a recipe I've already featured on here before.

Until recently (read: when I made these loaves), I'd never had sourdough bread. My boyfriend kept raving about it, though, and when we found some dry sourdough starter when we are at the new Whole Foods in Nashville, he begged me to make it. It took me awhile to get around to it, but I finally did. Truthfully, I didn't get successful bread until the second try. Ideally, the starter should be doing its thing at around 80-90 degrees. The instructions that came with mine said that if it was too cold in your home, to put it in an oven with only the oven light on. I'm sure that would work just fine, except my oven is old and does not have such a light (but oh what I wouldn't give to have an oven that had one!). As such, it took my starter longer than the instructions suggested it would to actually be viable. In my sourdough ignorance, I tried to use it before it was ready and man was that dough tough. And it didn't rise; not one bit. So I threw it out, waited several days (and a couple of more feedings) and actually got my dough to rise. Woohoo! I'm told the sour flavor will grow stronger over time, but my first (okay, technically second) attempt was certainly not bad. And now that I've got the starter going, my boyfriend says he wants to try making the next loaf.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

A Rare Salad

I don't eat a lot of salad. I don't know why, as I like it just fine. Sometimes I get salads at restaurants, but rarely ever do I make them at home. I've been eyeing the Caesar salad recipe in Veganomicon, though, and I finally got around to making it today. The only other time I've tried capers (which are in the salad dressing), I didn't like them. It wasn't just a mild dislike, either. I found them completely unappetizing. Nevertheless, I got it in my mind that I wanted to try this recipe. I have no idea whether or not I still dislike capers on their own, but I loved this salad dressing. I never ate Caesar salad before going vegan, so the only thing I have to compare this to is the vegan Caesar dressing at a local restaurant called Sunspot. It's been awhile since I had that stuff, but I think I like this recipe better. It's creamy and tangy and, well...just plain good.
I made the roasted garlic croutons per the Veganomicon recipe as well, but I used cracked wheat bread. I was going to buy French or Italian bread when I went grocery shopping, but all the stuff that Earth Fare had, which they supposedly baked in-house, contained L-cysteine. Seriously, Earth Fare.....what gives? Is that really a necessary ingredient? (Hint: the answer is no.)

Monday, February 11, 2008

Indian Yumminess

I'm fairly certain that there isn't much you can do to potatoes to make me not like them. Even so, these Samosa Stuffed Baked Potatoes from Veganomicon still rank very high on my list of favorite ways to eat potatoes. And as a bonus, they're not nearly as bad for you as a baked potato loaded with Earth Balance and Tofutti sour cream.

To go with the potatoes, I made Red Lentil-Cauliflower Curry, also from Veganomicon. I am so glad that we have discovered a love of cauliflower. This recipe made a ton, but that's okay because it was delicious and we enjoyed eating the leftovers. I didn't serve it with any rice at first, since we had the potatoes alongside it, but once we ran out of potatoes, I made Saffron-Garlic Rice (yet another Veganomicon recipe) to go with it. Garlic is pretty much one of our favorite things ever, and we can't get enough of that rice recipe. I used to love those Near East rice pilaf mixes, but they are horribly high in sodium, so I never felt very good about eating them. I now found a yummier replacement, and it's less expensive to boot.

Clearly this is not part of the Indian meal, but this is the Skillet Corn Bread from Veganomicon, which I served with chili. I was intrigued by the jalapeño-onion variation, but it calls for putting cooked jalapeños and onions on top of the cornbread mixture. I like my jalapeños mixed into the batter, so that is what I did. This was my first time making skillet cornbread. My boyfriend had an old large cast-iron skillet that I never used because he had cooked meat in it. We got a wire brush attachment for our drill and removed the old seasoning so that I could re-season it and use it for vegan stuff. I guess I did a decent job of seasoning it, because the cornbread didn't stick at all. Yay! I love my "new" skillet. It sure is heavy, though. The skillet cornbread turned out great, even though I strayed from the recipe a bit. I was running a little low on plain soymilk, so I made up the difference with some plain soy yogurt. I'm always playing with new cornbread recipes, but I think I'll be sticking with this one now.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

I'm a slacker about posting, but not cooking.

While the veggie burger recipe from Vegan with a Vengeance is still our favorite, I just had to try the black bean burger recipe from Veganomicon. These turned out very well, and the flavor of the burger wasn't overpowered by the bun and condiments and whatnot, which is always a plus. These were also much less time-intensive than the VWAV recipe, so when I want some veggie burgers but don't have much time to devote to making them, I'll definitely turn to this recipe again.

And yes, those are baked beans that you see on the plate along with the bean burgers. I was having a rather forgetful day. See, I made these burgers and even went so far as to make the buns from scratch. In all the time that I was opening and closing the fridge that day, I never once noticed the leftovers from the evening before sitting on the top shelf of the fridge just waiting to be eaten. I'm the one that made dinner the night before, so how I could so easily forget about having done so, I don't know. It wasn't until I went to put away the leftover burgers after dinner that I noticed the other leftovers. Woops. And the baked beans were because I was going to serve broccoli with dinner, but forgot to cook it until it was too late.

While we were in Portland, I got a copy of Yellow Rose Recipes. This crispy beer-battered seitan was the first recipe I tried from it. It was messy to make, but very good. I actually liked it better the next day, but I think that was because I like seitan better after it has been in the fridge overnight. I made the seitan for this recipe (also from YRR) the earlier in the day, so it didn't sit in the fridge for all that long. I look forward to trying more recipes from YRR. Right now I'm eyeing the mustard-crusted seitan, since I still have more seitan to use.

The new issue of VegNews contains a macaroni and cashew cheese recipe. I don't usually get VegNews (I'm not really big on magazines), but I saw some pictures of the recipe in the Food Porn section on the PPK and really wanted to try it. I found a variation of the recipe here. I'm so glad I tried it. This might be my new favorite vegan mac and cheese recipe. And, for those of you that don't care for nutritional yeast....don't worry, this recipe doesn't call for any!

These are the jelly donut cupcakes from Veganomicon. Sorry, no inside pictures. These are so neat. You put a spoonful of jelly on top of the batter and it sinks down into the middle during baking. Apparently a lot of other people have trouble with this (the jelly either doesn't sink at all, or it sinks down to the bottom), but they worked just fine for me! I also like that they don't have any frosted. Granted, I like frosting, but it can be a lot of work, so it's nice to have cupcakes that are delicious and pretty without it.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

We went to vegan heaven!

Before the holidays, my boyfriend called me from work one day to make sure my calendar was clear for MLK weekend. He was buying plane tickets for us, but wouldn't tell me where. Turns out, he got us tickets to Portland. Woohoo! He said that was a really hard secret to keep, and everyday and he wanted to break down and tell me where we were going. He did finally tell me a few weeks before the trip, so that I could plan where I wanted to go (and have any clue what to pack). I didn't take a ton of food pictures while we were there; I'm still a bit shy about taking pictures of food in restaurants, but we did get a few.

Bamboo Fries from Nutshell. Warning: These are so good that it is really easy to eat too many of them and then be too full to enjoy your actual dinner.

Jamaican Barbeque Plate from Nutshell. Very good (especially the stuffed orange and the dumpling things), even if I didn't eat much of it due to the bamboo fries.

Tandoor Fire Roasted Vegetable Plate from Nutshell:

Salad from Blossoming Lotus (I tried beets and liked them! I didn't like the salad dressing, though.):

My boyfriend's dinner at Blossoming Lotus. It was the chef's special; I think it was teriyaki.

BBQ Tempeh Platter from Blossoming Lotus. Their tempeh is awesome! I want to know their secret. We also got a small thing of soft serve ice cream (chocolate almond) there, but for some reason didn't take a picture. I must have been too excited about the soft serve.
Blossoming Lotus wasn't actually on my list of places to eat while we were visiting, but we walked by it one afternoon and it was packed and looked really good, so we decided to go there for dinner that day. I'm so glad we did. It was delicious. Sure, the atmosphere is a little odd, since you're eating dinner in a yoga studio and all, but it was kind of nice to eat dinner in a quiet restaurant.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Mission 3: Butternut Squash

Mission 3 of Operation "Let's Eat Some New Vegetables" had us eating butternut squash. Normally I'm not much of a squash fan, but I'd heard such good things about butternut squash that I decided to give it a go. This recipe was simple. I just cut the squash in half (which wasn't nearly as difficult to do as it is with spaghetti squash), then roasted it cut-side up at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 45 minutes (until fork tender). I'm not sure if it matters whether you roast it cut-side up or down, but thought it was worth mentioning. I scooped out the squash and mixed it with a bit of brown sugar. It's that simple. And really, it tasted pretty close to mashed sweet potatoes. The texture was a little bit different (read: stringier), but otherwise it would have been difficult to distinguish the two.

Technically this was mission 4 or 5, but I don't have photographic evidence of the other vegetables we tried at my boyfriend's parents' house. We had fried yellow squash (which is really sautéed, not so much fried) and turnip greens. We both liked the homegrown squash, which was much softer and melt-in-your-mouth-y than I expected it to be, but only I liked the turnip greens. This is why you won't see much in the way of greens as part of Operation "Let's Eat Some New Vegetables." My boyfriend finds them bitter and just doesn't like them. Spinach was a stretch for him. He liked it at first, but said he started to find the leftovers bitter. I don't taste any bitterness in spinach, but to each his own.