Monday, November 30, 2009

Princess of Pies: Part Two

The pie parable continues...

Typically we are confronted by two kinds of pie right?
Custard/Cream Pies and Fruit pies.
Generally it is thought that pumpkin pie and sweet
potato pie fall somewhere in the middle if not make up
their own new category. What say I? Who gives a trixie's butt.

I love the idea of creating pies that no one would expect.
Or creating pies out of whatever you can scrape together.

For the vegan potluck we attended at Rancho Park in LA
on Thanksgiving, I made a winter fruit pie. Originally from
Catt Johnson's Witch in the Kitchen, I veganized it.

It uses a basic pastry crust, but I can imagine something like
a gingersnap or oatmeal crust being really good too.

The filling includes

3 cups of dried fruit (any, chopped)
I used apricots, raisins, golden raisins, and cranberries
2/3 cup vegan rum (white bacardi is good)
1/3 cup turbinado sugar
juice of one lemon or large lime
2 tbsp of earthbalance
1 tsp of vanilla extract
1/2 tsp freshly grated ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp sea salt

Mix all your dried fruit in a bowl, so its evenly distributed.
Heat the alcohol, sugar, juice, earthbalance, and seasonings
over a medium heat until it starts to thicken and bubble.
Add the vanilla and pour over the fruit, stirring to coat well.
Allow to sit about 20 minutes, so the fruit absorbs the syrup
and it can thicken a little. Pour into your prepped crust and
bake for about 20 minutes at 375F.

With the extra bits of crust, I shaped some autumn leaves and
placed them on top. Beautiful!
For more picture in this series checkout my facebook page!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Seven Pies for Seven Brothers: Part One

You may be thinking to yourself why the heck would I be making
so many pies and how in the world do I know seven brothers,
well the answers are simple. First, I like pie. I also would like to
mention that the holidays are here and you all need to refresh
your traditional pie making habits. Seven brothers, no. I just
hijacked the name, but if I end up eating all of these on my
own I will be the size of seven brothers by New Years.

Step One: Revamp or Perfect your crust

Although its been a while since I've even tasted a store bought
pie (blasphemy!) my main complaint at the time is that the crust
either appeared to be made out of tissue paper and paper mache
or rolled out- sugary wall paper paste that absorbed the jelly
filling. Yeah, I've been making my own pies for years and a
damn good crust is something I kind of pride myself on.
Now I don't plan on divulging all my secrets of pie making to you
here and now, but I want to just state some simple things.

Be inventive and match your crust to your pie, it doesn't all
have to be the same basic pastry crust. Here I made a strawberry
pie with a chocolate crust by just adding a couple tablespoons
of sugar and cocoa powder to the mix.

Don't over mix your crust when you're preparing it.
When you add the oil (i.e. Earth Balance, vegetable shortening etc)
keep it in the form of little pea sized bits. They make pastry knife
do hickeys for exactly that purpose... Dough Blenders... I can't
recommend a specific one because I don't actually own one.
But they come in handy and are very easy to find. And if any
company wants to send me one to endorse, I'm certainly open to
that! The act of adding the oil into in the dry ingredients in the fashion
is called 'cutting'. You 'cut' the margarine into the flour. This ensures
a flakey crust, as the bits of oil will melt upon baking-- it will create
layers in your crust.

Do not knead or over mix your dough. We're not making freaking
bread here folks. If you over mix your dough, it will not be flakey.
Or worse, if you start to get into really mixing it you will activate
the gluten in your flour and it will get chewy and tough.
You can start to see this when you roll out cookies or a pie crust
multiple times.

Keep your surface floured lightly and evenly when rolling out.
The thing that pisses me off the most is when after rolling it out,
the crust sticks to the counter.
After rolling it out, trace the pie pan + an inch with a knife into
the crust. Fold it into quarters and place it that way into the pan.
This makes it easier to move and your crust won't tear.

Are you making a wet pie? If there is a lot of juice in the pie you are
making, like a fruit pie that I just did for Thanksgiving, than it is
important to prebake. Prebaking is simple, so don't look at it
as some sort of daunting task. After prepping your crust, just
throw it in the oven for about 8-10 minutes at 350F. This seals
it a little and prevents later sogginess. Another cool trick is
to brush the crust with soymilk before prebaking. Also try
that five minutes to the end of total baking time on the crust's
edge or top to add a beautiful gloss one would only expect with
egg whites!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Pasty Palooza

The all time best way to go through some on-the-edge veg
is by making soup, for sure. But what if instead of adding
all that broth, water, or (non-dairy) milk we kept all our veg
and seasoning ready for something else.
Howsabout some cornish pasties? They are dinner turnovers
to put it simply. Pronounced past-ee, not like pasty when
some is pale beyond belief.

Traditionally I believe they are made with lard (ew barf) and
beef (ew double barf). I made these with tempeh and a bunch
of different vegetables.

I used onion, a couple cloves of garlic, carrots, celery, turnips
(my favorite!!), collard greens, bell peppers and a bunch of
fresh parsley. The 'gravy' is pretty basic. I just start the
vegetables cooking in some oil or earth balance, add a little
bit of broth along the way and then add a few tablespoons of
flour when the vegetables start to look tender. This creates
a kind of basic roux. You can also go crazy with herbs.
Fresh of course is always best, but use what you have.
I like sage and thyme, marjoram is good to... maybe dill...

So then you just plop your 'sloppy soup' into the center
of a rolled out ball of pie crust.
[1 1/3 cup flour, 1/2 cup earthbalance, 1/2 tsp salt, 4 tbsp water]
Fold the dough over and pinch the edges.

This made three very large pasties and we still had a lot
of filling. So leftover soup is a good filling where you
don't have a ton.

Put a couple of slits in the top to let the heat escape and
bake them at 400 for about 40 minutes or until golden.
You can brush the top with oil or soymilk during the last
five minutes of baking if you like to add an extra gleam...
*shiny shiny pasty*

Monday, November 23, 2009

Manic Mondays: Apple Dumplings with Rum sauce

Sometime between breakfast and ending up in the produce aisle
yesterday I had to choose what I was going to make for dessert.
I had a friend over for dinner before Monkey Man's gig. He was
making pizza and I had the assignment of wow-ing with dessert.
I didn't have much time to commit to cooking something, so it
had to be quick, simple and (as usual) absolutely delish.

I knew though when I saw those pretty little gala apples at the market
what dessert was going to consist of. Whenever I go camping I do baked
apples, stuffing them with just some sugar, raisins and cinnamon.

But last night I made full blown dumplin's.
Don't know how much wow-ing went
on in the rest of the room, but my taste buds were pretty happy.
I believe my taste buds where dancing to a punk rock version of 'what a
wonderful world'...

I started with a sweetened pie crust recipe- cut in half because there
was only three of us.

2/3 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup earth balance
1/4 tsp salt
1 tablespoon raw sugar
enough ice water to form a ball with the dough- about 2 tablespoons.

Cut the earth balance in to the dry ingredients, forming little pea
sized balls. This makes the crust flake, so don't knead it at all.
Add the water and split into three balls (?) Two if you want
a thicker crust. Roll these balls out and cut into squares.

The Apples
Core the apples, removing all the tough bits inside.

The filling
mix together a couple tablespoons of raisins and sugar
add about a 1/2 tsp of cinnamon and couple tbsp of rolled oats.
I also added abut a tablespoon of sun flower seeds, but you can
use walnuts, pecans, or whatever blows your skirt up.

Place the cored apples on the center of rolled out crust.
Pack a third of the filling into the center of the apple.
Pull the corners of the crust up to meet the opposite corners
like a little package.

Stick em in the oven at 375-400 for about twenty minutes
or until the crust begins to turn golden brown.
To be honest I wasn't really watching the time or heat.
So don't worry too much. If your crust is cooked, your apple will
most likely be tender. Just don't put it right under the pilot light.

While this is all in the over or just ready to come out, start on your
rum sauce... which is comprised of .... soymilk... earth balance... sugar...
cornstarch or arrow root powder and rum. Dark or light rum is fine.
I used light, but dark would be just as tasty.

So melt a tablespoon of earth balance and 1/4 cup of sugar over med heat.
Dissolve 2 tsp of cornstarch in 1/2 cup of soymilk, making sure to avoid
lumping. Cook until just starts to thicken and remove from heat.
Add 3 tablespoons of rum and use immediately. That means pour
it over those hot apples!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Curry in a Hurry

It never ceases to amaze me that although I really don't have
tremendous amounts of stuff going on in my life-- at least
compared to what I was doing during my undergrad--
Everyday I still feel like everything is done in a hurry.

I cannot say if it is our culture, our society or just me, but
I always feel like I have so much to do, never get anything done
and am always HUNGRY!! Hee hee. Well, maybe not always,
but when I get home I want food right then in my face!

And the joy of being on one's own? I get to make whatever I want.
... Sort of. Although I dream of eating gooey brownie ala mode
every night and pie every morning for breakfast, I don't because
I don't wanna look as round as a pie. So instead I look to my other
favorite foods for respite.

All time, absolute favorite, king of them all?? Curry... *wipes drool*
You can get curry powder pre-mixed ready to go or you can throw
in the spices separately. Amusingly enough curry is not a traditional
indian dish, as many of us believe. Its actually a westernized take
on an indian blend of spices in a sauce used on whatever. Funky, eh?
Although each curry powder you buy is gonna be different most do
have a blend of coriander, turmeric, cumin and fenugreek. Red or orange
curry powders have different kinds of chillies and peppers.

Here I just used an average blend of yellow curry powder and
added some extra surprises.

Yellow Curry in a Hurry

1 tablespoon of olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, chopped
1 tsp grated ginger
1 large bell pepper, chopped
2 carrots, cut into rounds
3 potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 package of tofu, cubed (can be fried beforehand)
2 tablespoons of curry powder
2 tablespoons of hot chili sauce
1 cinnamon stick
1 can of coconut milk

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat.
Add the onion and cook until translucent and tender.
Add the garlic and ginger and keep stirring until fragrant,
about a minute or so. Next add the spices and chili.
Next drop in the slower cooking vegetables-- mainly the
potatoes. Add a little water, while these are all cooking to
prevent sticking. You can use vegetable broth if you like too,
I like adding a bouillon cube to add a little extra flavour.
Throw in the cinnamon stick and continue to cook on low-med
heat until all the vegetables start to cook. Stir in the coconut
milk and tofu and cook until heated through. Season with
salt to taste.

Serve over basmati or jasmine rice topped with fresh cilantro!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Manic Mondays: The Easiest Vegan Pancake in the Universe

Monday is always a hectic day for people it seems.
Getting back to the typical work week, going back to class,
packing your kids lunch, etc etc etc
So will that this chaos going on breakfast isn't always feasible.
So we need something fast, easy, and filling.
Well pancakes isn't alway the first thing that comes to mind
when talking about something fast, but when you make them
easy- its lightening baby. (Filling is always a given when talking
about lightening, I mean pancakes).

Pancakes can be a very delicate item when making. The batter
is super easy to over mix and then you're left with a flat-cake.
So if you want a pancake that is not like a fat lady came and sat
on your breakfast, take it easy Tex. Pretty much every culture
has sometime of pancake or flatcake, little leavened bread...
I like adding some vegan chocolate chips or berries. Oh, my
absolute favorite combo is chocolate chips and dried cranberries.
I top my pancakes with just a dab of earth balance and a drizzle
of light agave syrup. Leftovers are easy to pack up and roll with
some peanut butter and take for a snack.

The Easiest Vegan Pancake in the Universe

1 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon sweetener
dash of salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 cups soy milk

Combine the dry ingredients first then mix in soymilk gently
until just mixed. Preheat your griddle to cook on over med heat.
You will know when the pan is hot enough by sprinkling a
dash of water on the pan. If the water hisses and skips, the pan
is ready.

Pour onto a preheated griddle by the 1/4 cup. Cook until
the bubbles on the backside of the cake pop and flip.
cook a few minutes and remove, repeat and enjoy.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

In Silence Sunday

As I am breaking the week up into a set schedule for my posts
and delineated what topics I will cover or what I want to show
that I've been cooking, I thought it was essential that I designate
a day for the discussion of the plight of non-human animals and
the degradation of or planet. Since Sunday is usually a day off for
me and comes as a holy day for many, I thought it was natural
that I choose this day to open to you all issues that come up
in my week that I feel are particularly pertinent and I can set
a space of time to honor the non-human animal that suffer at the
hand of their fellow earthlings. It is important that we honor who
we fight for and we remain grounded remembering that we're
not alone. In a way, it is honouring the fallen and rediscovering
our passion for life.

Today I came home from a class debate meeting slightly disappointed
in our not covering an angle that I feel is very important.
Our debate is on the effect of illegal immigrant on the economic
and social well-being of the US. It is unfortunate that this narrowed
thesis doesn't seem to allow for a discussion of environmental
well being. Yet, we must acknowledge that without long-lasting
environmental sustainability, you will not have economic
or social well-being. The degradation of our land will not support
the perseverance of any species-- thats the bottom line.

So here is the issue that I was hoping we would be able to outline.
The traffic and discarding of waste by illegal immigrants traveling
up through the US-Mexican border is destroying Southwestern parks,
wildlife refuges, and natural habitats.

The increase in border control near by urban areas has pushed illegal
immigrants into environmentally fragile areas. It would only take
some forethought to protect these areas, as well as their borders.
The main areas that are being affected are the Organ Pipe Cactus
National Monument and the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge,
which span more than a million acres of natural desert wilderness and
house beautiful creatures such as the Sonoran pronghorn, jaguar,
desert bighorn sheep, Gila Monsters, tropical kingbirds, and desert
tortoise-- and damage inflicted on these areas and these species could
take decades to repair.

In July of 2009 video footage from hidden cameras was put out
showing hundreds of immigrants carving trails though sensitive lands,
leaving behind piles of trash, human waste, clothing, drugs, CARS (!),
and evidence of fires. These roads are destroying vegetarian, wildlife
habitat and force migratory animals to retreat. These immigrants
draw the attention of Border Patrol helicopters that can disturb wildlife
as well as off roading vehicles that damage sensitive regions. The
trash left behind can poison the soil and water, as well as affect natural

And what is the response to stop illegal immigrants tromping through
these precious wildness areas? Building huge fences and watch towers
across the borders. These fences are just as destructive to animal habitat
and wildlife patterns. This could be avoided by more innovative designs
for construction projects or more intelligent surveillance equipment
to improve security and reduce the need for fences, since all the fences
do is harm the animals-- they don't impede people. Partnerships could
be struck between environmental conservation groups and government
agencies to work together to protect these desert forests.

Now it has become a war in the government with opponents arguing
that once again environmentalists are impeding the progress of national
security. I read somewhere that there has at least been a decrease
in vehicles used by border control-- replaced by agents on horseback
in attempts to protect the natural wilderness.

If you watch the video (Created by a right wing group surprisingly),
you will be shocked by the disgusting disregard these people have
for this ecosystem. Trash and debris litters the trails in heaps. They
discard their belongings on the last part of the trek before taking off
in packed vehicles, led by coyotes (human traffickers).
Animals are shown frequenting these areas. As a hiker that religiously
abides the ultimate rule (leave only footprints), it makes me sick.

I'm not sure that I have a specific solution, but spreading the knowledge
is more important. Read more become aware.
And always write to your political representatives to make your views
and concerns known, even if they don't always read these things
what do you have to loose? A few minutes?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Thursday Vegan Review

The best thing by far of being in a city again (probably the only good
thing actually) is options. You actually have the option of going to
a restaurant and pretty much depend on an all vegan menu if you so
choose. I can say that its become almost like a little side hobby of ours
in finding these little spots. Some have been pretty hot and popular--
others are classic hole-in-the-wall joints.

Don't get me wrong, above anything else I would rather cook at home.
And cooking is my passion, but once in a great while it is fun to go out.
It gives you ideas, lets you try new things, and lets you get out of the
freakin house already!!

So starting, now that I have the option to do so, I will be doing a weekly
review of something vegan! I may not get to a strictly vegan restaurant
every week because a lot are pretty far away. So the review may be of
a vegan option at a big chain, a vegan product, store, etc.

So lets get munching!

My Vegan
633 S Arroyo Pkwy Ste 3
Pasadena, CA 91105
(626) 578-9017

My Vegan is just out of downtown Pasadena, in the same general area
as Whole Foods and Trader Joe's-- and Granny's Natural Foods (?)
The place has the same vibe as a chinese restaurant, which worried
me a little at first because chinese restaurants are the bane of my
existence. But we were starving and it was hot hot hot outside.
So it was like a little sanctuary.

We were so hungry when the food came that we were actually giggling
with anticipation. First of all, their menu was enormous, so choosing
was a little difficult. They had a variety of asian/thai dishes with
some random continental ones thrown in.

We got a 'chicken' appetizer to start off with.
It was marinated in a yellow curry-- the brand-- no clue.
But they were in cutlet type shapes, kabob style.
They came with a cucumber salad and an orgasmic peanut sauce
(maybe a little too oily though).

We also got a serving of pumpkin fried rice with pepper steak. Every thing is shown on the menu and you get to add whatever fake meat you like. Retrospectively I would choose something else for this dish though, probably seitan. But it was still really really good.

The service was nice and helpful, the place was spick and span,
great location, a lot more dishes I would like to try.
Overall critique? Absolutely delish. Would I go back? Yessir.
Did I vote for them for the #1 Vegan restaurant in LA County
at the Vegan Day celebration?!? (I can't say! Hee hee!)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Not a Nut Sunflower Stew

No peanut butter for me from now on folks!
Well, at least not for a while. November 1st was international Vegan
Day. We went over to Burbank for a Vegan Roller Skating Party, which
was a blast. There were tons of vegan food vendors, a silent auction,
raffles, goodie bags, and lots of roller skating vegans.

So I left with a huge bruise on my tail bone and the winning bid for a
huge basket of sunflower seed butter (5 jars and a bunch of other stuff).
Sunbutter is pretty darn tasty-- and if you have a peanut allergy, its the
butter for you. My basket and goodie bag came with a bunch of their
little sample packs too, which I guess will be good for school lunches
but I don't like all that extra packaging that cannot be recycled.

Since I love peanut thai dishes, I absolutely had to try this out.
All the flavour and love of a traditional thai dish without the hidden
nastiness of the fish sauce. (That is something to remember kids,
whenever you eat out ANYWHERE-- thai dishes [curry, etc] will
ALWAYS have fish sauce or flakes init-- even if it is on the vegetarian
portion of a menu). You know how, even after you tell people that you
don't eat meat they still think you eat fish because some how fish
doesn't qualify as an animal (??!).

Anyway, enjoy my come back boys and girls (and monkeys)

Thai Sunbutter Stew

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 roma tomatoes, diced
1 large bell pepper, diced
1 tsp fresh ginger, minced
some vegetable broth or water
1 package of firm or extra firm tofu
1 sample pack or about 2 tablespoons of sunbutter
3 tablespoons sweet chili sauce
(1 tablespoon fresh lime juice- opt)
1 tablespoon (or more) of soy sauce
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat and add onions.
Cook, stirring, until they start to turn translucent. Add garlic
and cook for one minute more. Add tomatoes, pepper, ginger and
some water or vegetable broth to assist in cooking and prevent
sticking. Cook for a few minutes more until peppers just start
to get tender. Add sunbutter, chili sauce, juice and seasoning. Stir until
all mixed and add tofu. Continue to cook until tofu is heated through
and peppers are thoroughly cooked. Serve over jasmine rice or a
super thin pasta like I did.

The pasta I used is similar to a thin angel hair, but it is packaged
in almost cake like packs at mexican markets. Super good and
satisfies every peanut craving.

Feel free to add a hot chili pepper to this recipe to add an extra
kick, I would have if I had had one...