Monday, November 30, 2009

Chilled Cucumber Salad

We eat a lot of cucumber salad in Romania, so I expected the Chilled Cucumber Salad (page 60) to be fairly pedestrian for my guests, but they were intrigued and delighted by the use of dill weed. It's simple, refreshing, and still manages to impress. (And a lesson in how a simple touch can turn “same old” into “something new.”)

I served the salad with Smoky Shiitake Mushroom Crepes for a light birthday dinner (so as to save everyone some room for the impending chocolate mousse cake). The cucumber-mushroom crepe pairing had been haphazard (I needed a salad and all I had were cucumbers), but my guests immediately exclaimed how well the two went together.

My wonderful grandmother was my sous chef for this meal, chopping the cucumbers and slicing the onions paper-thin just as I requested. Mandolin? Ha! Slice-master Mimo needs no such contraptions. (She also poured the crepes for me; she raised us on crepes (clatite) and entirely approves of the vegan version.)

- - Ulpia, never going to cut the crepe (you roll and pick up, see) - -

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Angel Hair Pasta with Olive Oil and Garlic

Angel Hair Pasta with Olive Oil and Garlic

Sometimes the simplest dinners can be the most satisfying, and Angel Hair Pasta with Olive Oil and Garlic {page 211} falls right into that category.

Self-explanatory by the title, and quick to put together, this dish made a filling, comforting, and satisfying dinner, especially when served with some roasted brussel sprouts. Despite the temptation to ignore the recipe and just toss the ingredients together how I normally would, I did actually follow the recipe. The only alteration I made was adding a sprinkle of roasted red pepper flakes to the top once the pasta was plated.

The pasta was delicate but flavorful, and really addictive. I had to stop myself from having another plate after my first.

I haven't had this in a long time, and this recipe may have rekindled my love for this simple dish.

As an aside, the Supertoddler adored the pasta...but not as much as the brussels sprouts. He ate two helpings, and couldn't get them into his mouth fast enough. Strange child! <3

-- Your Friendly Neighborhood Batgirl

Peanut Butter Cookies

Peanut Butter Cookies3

Wanting something sweet I decided to go for the Peanut Butter Cookies on page 430 since I had all the ingredients.

The cookies were simple to put together the only change I made was not rolling out the dough since I don't have a lot of room. So I rolled the dough into balls and did get the 3 dozen the recipe indicates it yields.

Next time I hope to have chocolate chips on hand to add to the mixture.

--Gymmie the Cookie Monster :)

Barbecue Sauce

Baked Seitan with Barbecue Sauce2

The Barbecue sauce on page 549 is a very easy thing to put together and very versatile.

After becoming Vegan I learned just how easy it is to make gravies and sauces. And since you're making them yourself you can make it to your tastes.

This sauce is no exception the basic recipe can be tweaked to your tastes and specifications.

I used this particular sauce over some Baked Seitan (not in the book) and it was a great treat. I didn't change anything this go around other than not measuring the optional liquid smoke because liquid smoke is awesome!


Country-Fried Tofu w/Golden Gravy

Country-Fried Tofu with Golden Gravy

Since I had some left over Tofu and Gravy decided to give my hand at the Country-Fried Tofu w/Golden Gravy on page 285. This dish was previously done by Ms. Vegaorama on November 7th.

Since I had the Gravy left over from ThanksLiving all I needed to do was fry up the tofu.

The seasonings are simple as pointed out before just salt and pepper to taste and cornstarch for the coating. It's a very easy dish to make and


Saturday, November 28, 2009

Ginger-Pear Tart with Cranberries and Walnuts

Ginger-Pear Tart with Cranberries and Walnuts

One of my best friends is named Ginger, and fittingly, she loves food made with ginger. For the Friends Thanksgiving Dinner that my best friends and I had today, I knew that Ginger-Pear Tart with Cranberries and Walnut {page 469} was perfect -- both for the season and for G-licious.

The tart dough came together perfectly, rolled out easily, and was plenty to fill the tart pan and press into the edges. The pear filling was delicious, but made too much to fit in the standard 9" tart pan that is called for in the recipe. I mounded the filling quite high, and still ended up throwing out at least 1/4 of the filling.

My main issue with the recipe was the topping. Overall it was a good idea, but just didn't work out properly. The recipe said to bake the tart uncovered, and at that high temperature for that long, the walnuts and cranberries were burnt black. They tasted like poison. I picked out the ones I could get to, and warned everyone not to eat any others they might find. I sprinkled some uncharred cranberries on the top for flavor and color, and that helped quite a bit.

The whole tart was actually very delicious, minus the cranberries and walnuts. I would definitely make it again. However, I wouldn't add the walnuts and cranberries until the last few minutes of baking.

-- Your Friendly Neighborhood Batgirl

Butternut Soup with a Swirl of Cranberry

Butternut Soup with a Swirl of Cranberry

Nothing says fall -- or deliciousness -- like squash. Especially mild, slightly sweet, and more-than-slightly yummy butternut squash. Butternut Squash with a Swirl of Cranberry {page 170} is a silky delicious puree of butternut squash and other vegetables, swirled with a smooth cranberry puree.

The soup itself is delicious, light but flavorful, smooth, sweet, and comforting. A perfect bowl of wonderfulness for a cool fall evening. However, the cranberry swirl takes the whole dish to a whole new level. The tart-but-sweet nature of the cranberry pairs perfectly with the more mellow squash, and brightens up the flavor. As an additional benefit, if you're careful about how you swirl, your soup looks awesome! {If you are not careful, your soup looks like a murder scene, or worse...}

I can see this soup being a perfect first-course for a big fall or winter feast, or a complete meal when served with some crusty bread and a nice salad.

-- Your Friendly Neighborhood Batgirl

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving 2K9 Gymmie Style

ThanksLiving 2009

I haven't been big on eating "holiday" foods on holidays since it's just me for one and two never really wanted to take the time to make much of anything.

But this year I decided to do *something* even if not totally traditional.

I decided to go with a few recipes in the 1,000 Vegan Recipes book that had been done before.

After all the raving I've been wanting to try the Soy-tan Dream Cutlets on page 294 that The Divine Miss V made on October 19th and by Ms. Veganorama on October 25th.

As the other ladies stated the recipe is simple to put together. The cutlets are very versatile as they can be used for sandwiches, in salad,s used in stir-fry dishes or as is. I did not make any change to the recipe.

For the original meal I had it with the golden gravy from the Country-Fried Tofu with Golden Gravy on page 285 originally made by Ms. Veganorama on November 7th.

The gravy was easy to put together and like many recipes in the book consisted of ingredients already on hand.

I did not have any unsweetened milk but I thought it was fine with the sweetened milk.

One staple of Thanksgiving seems to be the Green Bean Casserole. Not being a fan of mushrooms I think I've only had it once so I don't know what it's suppose to taste like.

The Green Bean Casserole Redux on page 370 was originally done by Batgirl on November 20th. Other than using sweetened soy milk the only change made was omitting the mushrooms. To me the dish tasted fine with the sweetened milk and since I have no "memory" to compare it to nor any Omni's around I don't know if the taste was "off" by making those changes.

The casserole came together nicely since it took approximately 45 minutes to bake I made that first while working on the other dishes.

I don't have a steamer so I used a trick I learned from someone of using a colander in a pot to create the steaming effect.

When I had the Soy-tan Dream Cutlets today I had them with some Veganaise mixed with Sriacha that The Divine Miss V told me about. A very yummy combination that goes great with the cutlets.

The cutlets are on my definitely will make a zillion times list. I look forward to trying the gravy with the Country Fried Tofu and the Casserole will definitely be made again. Happy Nomming :)


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Vietnamese-Style Noodle Soup

Vietnamese-Style Noodle Soup

Vietnamese-Style Noodle Soup {page 151}, also known as pho, is hands down the very best thing I've made from this book so far. It is ground-breaking, earth-shattering, and definitely justifies the purchase of this book all on its own {not to mention the dozens of other incredible recipes found in this book's pages}.

I love pho, but it's really hard to find vegetarian pho in Vietnamese restaurants. Most have pho without meat, but the broth is laden with beef stock. The Ninjahusband and I both agree -- this is the best pho either of us has ever had, vegan or not, restaurant or homemade.

It is a little time-consuming, as you have to wait for the broth to simmer for 45 minutes, but once the broth is made, the rest of the soup can be ready in 10 minutes flat. The broth is so complex and completely delicious, and it will make your whole house smell like heaven.

I made 3 minor alterations to the recipe. As I began adding things to the pot, I realized that I was completely out of ginger, so I added about 3/4 tsp of powdered ginger. Seemed to work fine. I couldn't really taste the ginger specifically, so at least I didn't add too much.

My 2nd modification was regarding the seitan. I don't like seitan in soups. It gets all spongey and tastes funny. I decided to omit the seitan and add some fried tofu the last 3 minutes of cooking. It was absolutely phenomenal with the fried tofu. I would definitely recommend making it like that if you aren't a fan of seitan in soup.

Finally, I may have added a bit too many noodles to the soup. The original amount didn't feel like quite enough, so I added a bit more. Turns out that the original amount WAS quite enough. But it was still great with the extra noodles. Just made it more substantial. Yum!

Overall, this soup was just one of the very best things I've eaten in a long time. If you love pho, make it! Even if you don't love pho, make it, and you'll be a pho-lover before your bowl is empty.

-- Your Friendly Neighborhood Batgirl

Fruit Salad in Winter

Fruit Salad in Winter

With Fruit Salad in Winter {page 96}, fruit salad need not only be confined to your summer plate, you can enjoy this delicious concoction of fruit and nuts at any time of year.

This salad showcases winter fruits at their finest -- apples, oranges, pears, red grapes, and star fruit combine into a delicious medley of textures and flavors. Chopped walnuts paired nicely with the fruit, for a crunchy and savory surprise. My only gripe with the salad at all is the dressing. I don't really feel like fruit salads need dressing, but in the spirit of being true to the recipe, I made it anyway. It was very oily, and while I didn't find it too off-putting {although it was definitely unnecessary}, the Ninjahusband and a friend I had over joked about it being "greasy fruit salad" and how they felt like their mouths were now primed for eating any number of large or difficult to eat objects. If I made this again, I would definitely avoid the dressing, or maybe skip the oil and just toss it with the lemon juice/agave.

-- Your Friendly Neighborhood Batgirl

Chinese "Chicken" Salad

Chinese "Chicken" Salad

I don't tend to make salads at home. I find them time consuming, and the return on investment low, but Chinese "Chicken" Salad {page 83} may become a frequent exception.

The dressing had a great peanutty flavor that combined well with the crunchy vegetables. I can see adding additional vegetables and nuts next time, to provide more variance of flavor and color. I looked hard for Asian-marinated tofu, but couldn't find anything along those lines, so I used Honey Sesame Baked Tofu {read the package -- no actual honey in it! Go figure!} and it paired really nicely with the Asian flavors.

It was a very nice salad, and when eating a good-sized portion of it with some bread it could easily be a full meal. I will definitely make this {and variations of this} often.

-- Your Friendly Neighborhood Batgirl

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Morning Polenta with Drizzle of Maple Syrup

polenta 006

I love hot cereal in cold weather. I eat a lot of oatmeal and I was ready to try something different. So this morning I made Morning Polenta with Drizzle of Maple Syrup page 522.

This was really easy and quick-I didn't stir enough however. I got distracted making Bonnie's breakfast. (Bonnie is my three year old Catahoula.) So some of the cornmeal burned to the bottom of the pan. I would advise you to keep a closer eye than I did and remember to stir!

polenta 003

This picture is how it looks if you make it strictly by the recipe and don't add any fruit. I think it looks very pretty with the color of the strawberries. I like some color in my food! This is a nice alternative to oatmeal and takes just a bit longer than rolled oats to cook.


Monday, November 23, 2009

Pumpkin Cheezcake with Cranberry Drizzle

pasta and cheesecake 011

I love pumpkin and I love cheesecake so I couldn't resist making the Pumpkin Cheezcake with Cranberry Drizzle page 454. I have been planning on making a pumpkin cheesecake ever since I tried a piece at a local health food store. I had planned on using another recipe but decided to try this one. And boy, I'm glad I did!

This was a first for me: I made my own crust. I had to add a little extra Earth Balance to the quarter cup the recipe called for, I'd say maybe an extra tablespoon. I also greased the sides of the pan to help the graham cracker mix stick. The filling was easy to make and I tasted some before putting it into the oven. It was delicious just like that. I had to wait what seemed like forever to try the finished product though-an hour cooling on the counter then four hours in the fridge. Well it was getting late and I couldn't wait any longer so after three hours I whipped up the cranberry topping and tasted my yummy cheesecake. The cranberry is the perfect topping-a little bit tart to balance out all that sweetness.

Here is the cheesecake fresh out of the fridge without the cranberry:

pasta and cheesecake 005

I am probably going to have to make up extra cranberry drizzle because I don't think the recipe makes enough for the whole cake. I promised the boyfriend I would save him a piece for when he comes home. It's a good thing it's a three day or I might not be able to keep that promise! This will be the perfect dessert for Thanksgiving.


Creamy Cashew Sauce

pasta and cheesecake 004

I haven't cooked in quite a while. I have been sick and busy and living off mostly chocolate and peanut butter. But today I needed a real meal I bought some pumpkin ravioli from Bruno Ravioli which I thought would be perfect with a cream sauce. So I made the Creamy Cashew Sauce page 551.

This is a really quick sauce to put together; about 5 minutes in the blender and then 5 minutes on the stove and you're done. I added a little garlic powder to the recipe because I am a garlic lover and besides, gotta keep those vampires at bay.

This sauce is easily customizable if you wish-just add different seasonings. I sprinkled a little smoked paprika on top.I plan to use the leftover sauce to make an alfredo dish later in the week.


Maple Baked Beans

Maple Baked Beans2

The flavors of maple and molasses come together to make an easy baked bean dish.

The Maple Baked Beans on page 257 is a great main dish or can easily make a side for a summer picnic.

The dish is simple to make the sauce is cooked over the stove and then you pour the sauce over the beans and bake and then nom!

I had to improvise on the crushed tomatoes because I didn't realize I had forgotten to get some when I was at the store so took some canned whole tomatoes and put them through the processor.


Linguine Puttanesca

Linguine Puttanesca4

This is an easy dish to put together again relying on canned ingredients this Linguine Puttanesca on page 196 is a cinch to throw together.

This dish uses two types of olives Kalamata and Manzanilla along with capers to add that additional punch.

Growing up spaghetti was always broken not sure why it was just what was done. However breaking pasta makes my friend Mad Max Papis cringe! LOL! He's given us lessons on how real Italians do things on Twitter as well as teaching us some Italian :).

Anywho, the flavors melted together wonderfully and the olives were a great addition. I'll definitely be adding them to other pasta dishes :).


[Spinach]-Mushroom Phyllo Packets

As a light, impressive snack, I decided to wrap up some [Spinach]-Mushroom Phyllo Packets (page 43) for my four guests. The original recipe called for artichoke hearts (“Artichoke-Mushroom Phyllo Packets”), but a spinach variation was suggested, and we all know how I feel about spinach. They were wildly popular. The crispy crunch of the paper-thin phyllo, followed by the soft, flavorful warmth of the spinach and mushroom filling ensured that no one could stop at one single packet; or two.

I was trying to describe them to some friends later that day, after very little sleep, and the first thing that came out of my mouth was “little packets of joy.” Which describes them perfectly and caused said friends to insist I make some for them, too. The only downside: assembly takes some serious patience. Phyllo's involvement generally assures this. But the wow-factor is through the roof; so if you've got someone you want to impress, buy yourself some phyllo and get comfortable with it.

- - Ulpia, phyllo phyend - -

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Seitan and Potato Torta

Seitan and Potato Torta

I've never had a torta before, but anything layered with potatoes is good by me. Seitan and Potato Torta {page 315} was just such a dish.

In my limited knowledge, tortas are supposed to be round, correct? Unfortunately for me, I was lacking in round baking receptacles, so I had to use the 9x13" option Robin offered. The prep work of slicing all the potatoes took a little time, but it wasn't nearly so bad as I'd figured it might be. I had to use 2 tomatoes instead of just one, as one tomato barely covered half of the bottom of the pan. Once all the prep work was complete, however, the Supertoddler and I had a lot of fun layering ingredients, making this a really awesome recipe to make with your kids. He especially loved brushing the olive oil onto the layers of potatoes, and sprinkling with salt and pepper.

The top of my torta didn't brown much, even after 20 uncovered minutes in the oven, but the finished product was still delicious. The flavors are subtle, but definitely there, and overall it's a very satisfying and comforting dish. Ninjahusband was kind of ambivalent about it, but I chalk that up to present work stress {he works from home on Saturday nights}. The Supertoddler LOVED it, and devoured a large adult-sized serving.

This recipe has opened my mind to the world of tortas. Since dinner, visions of all the different types of tortas I could make have been dancing through my head. Oh the possibilities -- the possibilities!

-- Your Friendly Neighborhood Batgirl

Friday, November 20, 2009

Kale and Sweet Potatoes

Kale and Sweet Potatoes

Simple but delicious, Kale and Sweet Potatoes {page 371} would make a delightful addition to just about any meal.

It was extremely simple to put together, and required few ingredients. It was healthy and hearty and a treat to eat. I mean really, who doesn't like sweet potatoes? This is one of those "don't really need a recipe for it" kind of recipes, but that being said, I've never thought to put sweet potatoes and kale together before, so I appreciate the recipe's presence in the book.

The Supertoddler went cookoo bananas over it. He was convinced the sweet potato was his beloved pumpkin, and after a while I just gave up correcting him. Hey, if your toddler wants to devour mass quantities of brightly-colored vegetables, you freaking let him!

Sweet potatoes are extremely serious business, business which apparently can only be conducted while wearing three different hats {!?}:

Oliver w/ Green Bean Casserole and Kale & Sweet Potatoes

I can definitely see myself making this again and again, especially when I need a vegetable side dish for dinner but just can't decide what. This recipe is definitely a winner!

-- Your Friendly Neighborhood Batgirl

Green Bean Casserole Redux

Green Bean Casserole Redux

I positively detest green beans. In fact, the very mention in a recipe is usually enough to make my stomach turn. I have NEVER liked them, even when I was a baby I would spit out any food with green beans in it. Finally, around age 16, my mom gave up and stopped making me eat them. Hallelujah, sweet respite from the evil green devils!

However, there is one BIG exception -- I LOVE green bean casserole. I don't care if it's made with dented bottom-shelf cans of store-brand slimy green travesties, I will inhale the stuff. When I went vegan, I was worried that green bean casserole was a thing of the past. Thankfully through the last couple of years, I've found {and created} several awesome green bean casseroles, even better than the "dump a bunch of cans together" kind that I had in my pregan days.

With my love of the stuff, it was only a matter of time until Green Bean Casserole Redux {page 370} graced my glass baking dish.

Overall this was a very good rendition of the casserole. It uses fresh green beans and fresh mushrooms, which I appreciated. The gravy was a little thin, so the cornstarch thickener needed to be doubled, but that could just be a matter of personal preference. Once in the 9x13" pan, the layer of casserole was pretty thin too, leading me to think that perhaps it would be just fine baked in a 9x9" instead.

The casserole was delicious, although definitely needed a little more flavor. I think next time I'd add some seasonings to the gravy to perk it up a bit. The Supertoddler looooved it, but picked all of the french fried onions off and ate only the green beans underneath -- weirdo!

Overall, it is a good, solid green bean casserole. Definitely worthy of your celebratory dinner table.

-- Your Friendly Neighborhood Batgirl

Orange-Chocolate Chip Muffins

Orange-Chocolate Chip Muffins

Do you remember those Terry's Chocolate Oranges, rich and chocolately and orangey and unfortunately not vegan? Orange-Chocolate Chip Muffins {page 410} is like a Terry's Chocolate Orange's muffin-sister.

Orange and chocolate are a match made somewhere even better than heaven, and what better place to showcase these flavors than in a muffin? The muffin derives its orangey flavor both from orange juice concentrate and fresh orange juice. I used dark chocolate chips because I was going for a rich chocolate flavor. The muffin is topped with a chocolate streusel, which I used dark chocolate cocoa powder for. These muffins truly tasted amazing.

Two small gripes with the muffins: First of all, the cooking time seems to be off. They were very overdone when I got them out at the prescribed time. Generally I start watching my baked goods about 5 minutes before they're set to come out of the oven, just to make sure that they don't overbake. This time, however, I trusted the recipe and got in the shower. So, the overdoneness could very well be my error. Secondly, the muffins stuck horrifically to the wrappers. Every time one was peeled, you lost about half of the muffin to the wrapper. In the future, I would spray the muffin tin and just skip the wrappers all together. I get so mad when paper steals my nummies!

Overall, I would recommend these muffins strongly, but watch them carefully in the oven, and don't use paper wrappers!

-- Your Friendly Neighborhood Batgirl

Sesame Spinach and Cranberry Chutney over Some-Kinda-Nut Cutlets

With my guests still over and having all returned from visiting the Saint Louis Arch, I had to cook up an impressive dinner and I had to do it fast—in under 30 minutes, to be exact; people were waiting and vocally hungry. I had already made the Fresh Cranberry Chutney (page 562) before leaving to sight-see with them, so all I had to do was cook up some Sesame Spinach (page 381) and fry up Some-Kinda-Nut Burgers (page 120). Oh yes, those babies are definitely good enough to repeat. This time my nut mix of choice was almonds, walnuts, and cashews.

I worked backwards on this, I wanted to make cranberry chutney, having never made any kind of chutney before, and it went perfectly with the nut cutlets. (Almost like a sophisticated savory version of PB & J.) Our family friend from Boston enjoyed it especially much, being a great lover of tart things and nut things. Sweet-tart cranberry chutney over delectably nutty cutlets? I've got to agree with her: a match made in gourmand heaven.

And the Sesame Spinach? It got even more raves than the nut cutlets! My dad couldn't stop praising it. It's incredible and I'll be making it again and again. I've always had a particularly passionate love affair with spinach, but after this dish, I think we're ready to tie the knot. It's creamy and full and flavorful and you're all invited to the reception.

- - Ulpia Spinacia - -

Sesame Spinach and Cranberry Chutney over Some-Kinda-Nut Burgers

Salad with Lime Cilantro Dressing

Lime-Cilantro Dressing

You would think I'd learned by now not to make recipes that feature ingredients I don't like. I'm certainly not talking about the lime or the cilantro in the case of the Lime Cilantro Dressing (p103), but the yogurt that forms the base. I have never liked yogurt, neither dairy nor soy nor coconut milk nor any other, but I seem to be okay with it if it's "in" something. I trusted the lime and cilantro to cover up enough of the yogurtyness to make me love this dressing, but alas, they did not.

However, the flavors of the dressing are great, and actually the more I ate it, the more I liked it. But I cannot get used to yogurt, no matter how hard I try. If you don't mind the taste of yogurt, this is a cool and creamy dressing that goes nicely atop a salad with a Mexican twist such as beans, corn, tortilla chips, jalapenos, etc. In my opinion, this dressing would have been better as a vinaigrette and I will try it again, but go in that direction over a creamy dressing.

--The Divine Miss V

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Pound Cake

Pound Cake

Well, I've found it. The Holy Grail, true salvation, the meaning of life, whatever you want to call it. And it's in the form of a loaf. Pound cake has to be one of the most nostalgic dishes for me. Grandma V has always made the best I've ever had, and I scarfed down embarrassing amounts prior to going vegan. It didn't even deter me when I learned the origin of the name--it's called POUND CAKE for a reason--there's a POUND of butter in there. Not sure why I never put that together, but denial is a powerful motivator when it comes to food. Because of my past adoration, the recipe for Pound Cake (p448) was one of the first I marked to try. I really made this one with Grandma V in mind. Her approval would validate this recipe in my opinion.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that the recipe does not call for Earth Balance at all. Other vegan pound cake recipes I've seen simply sub out the dairy butter with margarine, and they usually taste like it. The only modification I made was to sub half the vanilla that was called for with almond extract, as I ran out of vanilla.

This cake is not too sweet (as pound cake should be), has the right texture, very easy to put together, delicious toasted a bit, would make a nice gift as it's loafy and good for wrapping, and would be even more delicious with strawberries and whipped (vegan) cream. I am delighted that I tried this recipe and will undoubtedly return to it time and again. Oh, and it is WAY grandma-approved.

The Divine Miss V

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Spinach Salad with Fuji Apple and [Dates]

We're still in the what-Ulpia-fed-her-guests series. For an elegant lunch, I served the Spinach Salad with Fuji Apple and [Dates] (page 55) with a French Onion Pie and it got rave reviews from all of my guests (like most everything I made from this book). The salad is simple to put together but looks and tastes sophisticated. The original recipe calls for figs, but seeing as I could strangely find neither fresh nor dried figs, I used dates. They worked beyond well. So well, in fact, that the next time I make this (and there will certainly be a next time), I plan on keeping the dates.

Because I had the pie in the oven and no clue how to roast almonds (and no time to find out); I tossed them into a pan and sprinkled on a touch of olive oil. Super plan; they were incredibly delicious and had my guests coming over into the kitchen to steal some straight from the pan.

The sweetness of the dates paired with the tartness of the Fuji apple and the delectable crunchiness of the roasted almond slivers—not to mention the appearance of my lifelong beau, spinach—make for one stunningly beautiful salad.

I'm running out of adjectives to describe these foods. The English vocabulary lacks the means of conveying all of these glorious tastes I've been trying to blog about. I nearly threw in “umami,” which is what I'd call those almond slivers all nice and roasted, cozied up to the sweet and tart. Anyway, buy the book and make the stuff—including this salad—and then you won't need descriptions.

- - Ulpia, whose lovely grandma chopped the fruit - -

Monday, November 16, 2009

Agave Baklava

Baklava is a family vice. Of course, no one in the family's ever made any themselves, much less imagined that anyone in the family ever would. So I had a certain feeling that making the Agave Baklava (page 439) would impress and delight my parents especially much.

I was right. They thought I had bought it from somewhere and could barely believe my assertions to the contrary, especially after tasting it. And tasting it again, and again, before even turning their attention to the savory food. They all unanimously agreed, grandma and family friend included, that this was the best baklava they'd ever tasted. Did I mention baklava was a family vice?

The filling is amazing and it's all wonderfully syrupy without being overbearingly sweet. It's perfect. I don't say this lightly; I've had a lot of baklava throughout the years. But, seriously, it's perfect. (It's also changed my mind about walnut baklava, which I always thought inferior to pistachio; though you bet I'll be trying this with pistachio too next time.)

That said, it's very time-consuming. Don't underestimate how time-consuming it is—I did. It's not particularly difficult, but taking each sheet of phyllo (and there are a lot of sheets) and brushing it individually gets tedious fast, especially since they rip so easily and must be stacked fairly evenly. So for the first time in my life, my legs actually hurt later, and I work my gams hard. But boy am I glad I went through with it.

My guests liked it so much, in fact, that we decided to play a trick on our local friends by taking some to their house and pretending it was purchased. (My dad brings them baklava from a shop close to home often, so this seemed perfectly plausible.) They couldn't believe their taste buds either. Another case of “What do you mean these are vegan? No way!” (I've been getting that a lot lately.) Way.

Seriously, the whole book was worth it for this recipe and its reception alone.

- - Ulpia, purveyor of fine sweets - -

Black Beans and Wild Rice

black beans and wild rice2

I LOVE Spinach. When I was little I only liked about 5 vegetables and Spinach was one of them.

I also like recipes with little prep work hey what can I say I'm lazy and am not a fan of chopping a million things! LOL!

So the Black Beans and Wild Rice on page 255 fit the bill perfectly!

Still not sure if I picked the right rice but picked up the only thing at the store that said wild rice so here we go!

The recipe is easy to put together and takes just under an hour. I think the flavors blended together nicely but might add some Chili powder next time. No reason in particular just sounds like a nice addition :).

--Gymmie is strong to the finich cause I eats me Spinach

Spicy Black Bean Orzo Soup

Spicy Black Bean Orzo Soup

The recipe for Spicy Black Bean Orzo Soup (p160) was full of promise. It had four things I love just in the title alone, especially spicy and soup. My interest was also piqued by the addition of sun-dried tomatoes, which pair so well with black beans.

Overall, it was very good. A little different for a black bean soup in that you puree this one, and the orzo goes in the bottom of the serving bowl and is then topped with the soup. Our carb portions are likely way off anyway, but I didn't have nearly enough orzo to go with the amount of soup I had. Next time I would double the 1/2c called for in the recipe. I would also (of course) double or triple the jalapeno as I didn't really get any spicy notes. Mixing in a little Tabasco Chipotle perked this soup right up and closed the flavor loop.

This one wasn't served to Grandma V as I assumed it would be too spicy for her. Mr. V's initial comment was "It's good, it's just really mellow for the time it took to make it." I would make again, but with the addition of more jalapenos, more orzo, and more sun-dried tomatoes. Geez, I'm becoming a stereotype of myself.

--The Divine Miss V

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Triple Coconut Cheezcake

Triple Coconut Cheezcake

Triple Coconut Cheezcake {page 453} needs no introduction. This was, hands down, the most delicious vegan cheesecake I've ever had {and probably one of the most delicious cheesecakes out there, vegan or not}.

The recipe was very easy to make, and only took about 15 minutes to get in the oven. The baking/cooling directions are a little elaborate, but follow them! I think they really made the cake. The coconut was present, but not overpowering, and the filling was absolutely perfect in texture, taste, and mouth feel. I never wanted to swallow it, it tasted so good! As we were eating it, me, the Supertoddler, the Ninjahusband, and the Wondersisters could barely say anything except "Oh my gosh this is so good. This is SO good. This is amazing..." We all thought it was one of the most delicious things we'd ever eaten.

This recipes has made me extremely anxious to try every other cheezcake in her book. I would highly recommend this to anyone who is looking for a delicious dessert for a special occasion...a special occasion like, oh I don't know, sitting at home in your house with a desire to eat an entire cheesecake by yourself. Trust me, it will be hard to stop at one piece.

The leftovers are already calling to me...

-- Your Friendly Neighborhood Batgirl

Pumpkin Ravioli with Peas and Caramelized Shallots

Pumpkin Ravioli with Peas and Caramelized Shallots

Making pasta from scratch can seem intimidating. Lucky for me, I jumped headfirst into it years ago in my formative cooking years, long before I knew that I was supposed to be intimidated by it. I've been making pasta for ages, but I believe that Pumpkin Ravioli with Peas and Caramelized Shallots {page 230} was my first experience making ravioli.

I decided to make a double batch because the Wondersisters were coming for our weekly Sunday Dinner-and-Doctor-Who fest. As time consuming as it was, it felt like the construction of the ravioli went fairly quickly. The recipe makes far too much filling for the amount of dough, but that's not a terrible problem. Better too much than too little.

I had a ravioli stamp to assist in the cutting process, and I think that little $5 gadget was paramount to maintaining my sanity. It simultaneously cuts and seals the ravioli, and makes them look cute and, well, ravioli-like. I would definitely recommend acquiring one if you plan to make any quantity of ravioli.

The caramelized shallots and tender baby peas really made this dish, and paired perfectly with the luscious pumpkin filling in the ravioli.

Overall, the recipe was a ton of work, but really fun and delicious. Also, it made me crave pierogi again...

-- Your Friendly Neighborhood Batgirl

Spicy Indian Cauliflower

Spicy Indian Cauliflower

In our house, Indian food is a staple. The Supertoddler's first "real people" food was channa masala. He never liked baby food, and would always refuse it or spit it out. One day when he was about 11 months old, he was sitting on my lap as I was eating some leftover channa masala. He was making indications that he wanted it {such as grunting, screaming, and grabbing for it}, so out of frustration I gave him a small bite. He loved it and devoured it. To this day, it is by far his favorite cuisine. Just yesterday we were at our favorite Indian food restaurant, and he ate me under the table. He has an astonishing capacity for the stuff.

It was with him in mind that I made Spicy Indian Cauliflower {page 363}. It was easy and absolutely delicious. Unfortunately, the Supertoddler was in the middle of a typical two-year-old tantrum, and refused to eat it {or anything}. I'm sure had he tried it, he would have loved it.

It was very well flavored, and quite spicy. I used half the amount of cayenne it called for, as I had two of my little sisters {the Wondersisters} visiting, and they can't handle a ton of heat. The Wondersisters still found it a little spicy for their liking, but they both had seconds, so I think that's a positive sign.

Overall, this was a quick, healthy, and delicious side dish. I will definitely be making this again.

-- Your Friendly Neighborhood Batgirl

Saturday, November 14, 2009

(Not) Radiatore with Aurora Sauce

Pasta with Aurora Sauce

I wanted a quick fast dinner with simple ingredients, but the finished dish still had to be delicious. Flipping through the book I decided to make Radiatore with Aurora Sauce (page 196). Clearly that pasta above is not radiatore, but linguine. I didn't have any smallish pasta, but I didn't let that stop me. The sauce, while best with radiatore or even penne, still works great with long pasta.

Pre-vegan I used to make pasta with a tomato cream sauce a lot. Back then I used half & half reduced and mixed with a tomato basil sauce. Really simple but enjoyed by many. Post-vegan, I never really thought to make it again until now.

The sauce came together really quickly. Just aromatics, a large can of crushed tomatoes and herbs. I did add a teaspoon of sugar to cut the acidity because I pretty much always add a spoon of sugar to all my tomato-based sauces. For the cream part I used Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese. There's an option to use silken tofu as well but I wanted a richer taste so I went with the Tofutti. You could also use unsweetened and reduced soy creamer or a thick cashew cream. Really, you just need something creamy and rich. I also took the liberty of throwing in some baby spinach from our CSA share while it was simmering. The dish was tasty with a great balance of tomato with cream. You can't go wrong with a tomato cream sauce. Well, unless you hate tomatoes. And cream. :p

For the ingredients, use the very best crushed tomatoes you can get. The quality of the tomatoes can easily make or break a sauce. I like the imported Italian brand crushed tomatoes which taste far superior to many regular grocery story brands.

This recipe is marked fast and you could have it on the table in 30 minutes or less. Start preparing the sauce when you put your pasta water on the stove. Everything should stop cooking at roughly the same time and you've have a delicious plate of pasta that is a little different than just plain old marinara.

— Ms. Veganorama


ETA: In less than one month, we've gone through over 100 recipes. Big round of applause to everyone! :)

Pastry-Wrapped Portobellos w/ Basic Mashed Potatoes & Madeira Sauce

Pastry-Wrapped Portobellos w/ Basic Mashed Potatoes & Madeira Sauce

I ashamed to confess this, but for me food in rarely just functional. As much as I hate the term, I'm a "foodie" to the core. If something doesn't taste amazing, I will eat a couple of bite, but that's about it. I'm always searching for that next euphoric food experience.

Pastry-Wrapped Portobellos {page 331} with Basic Mashed Potatoes {page 373} and Madeira Sauce {page 546} was one such euphoric experience.

Flaky golden pastry encases a tender portobello mushroom, filled with a walnut stuffing. Paired with the creaminess of the mashed potatoes and the deep, complex richness of the Madeira sauce, it was a flavor party in my mouth.

As I was eating this meal, it occurred to me that the mushrooms would make an AWESOME main dish for Thanksgiving. If anyone is still searching for the perfect centerpiece for your Thanksgiving feast, this just might be the thing.

One more thing I wanted to mention -- when I looked at the recipes this evening, the whole meal felt very daunting to make. However, it came together really quickly. I went into the kitchen at 4:45pm, did a bunch of dishes, and still had dinner on the table by 6pm. So...don't let the "fanciness" of this dissuade you, it's actually really easy to put together.

Pastry-Wrapped Portobellos is definitely a recipe worth buying this book for.

-- Your Friendly Neighborhood Batgirl

Avocado and Tempeh Bacon Wraps

Avocado and Tempeh Bacon Wraps
Another recipe chosen for its page number, Avocado and Tempeh Bacon Wraps {page 113} also graced my table on Friday the 13th.

This is one of those things that you don't really need a recipe for, but that the recipe is in the book to remind you to make it. As I chose from the two recipes on page 113, I realized "Oh man, it's been a while since I've made BLTs..." and with the added avocado {does that make them BLATs? I think so...}, these sounded delicious.

They were quick and easy to put together, and tasted great. I mean really, where can you go wrong by wrapping tempeh bacon, tomato, avocado, lettuce, and Vegenaise up in a tortilla? You just can't, it's impossible.

So while this isn't a "recipe", in my mind, I'm grateful for it being in there as it reminded me to start making these again.

This is your reminder -- make BLTs {or BLATs!} sometime very soon.

-- Your Friendly Neighborhood Batgirl

Mylie's Secret Queso Dip

Mylie's Secret Queso Dip

I'll admit, it was the title that drew me in. Anything with the word "secret" in it makes me feel like I'm on some sort of secret mission about to commit some espionage. you commit espionage? I don't even know. Things to look up later...

In any event, Mylie's Secret Queso Dip {page 13} seemed like a perfect thing to make on Friday the 13th. After was shrouded with mystery and intrigue {and on page 13}. Did I mention I have OCD? I do. Just a little. A lot.

Annnnnyway, so the dip was a little disappointing. While you're making it, the recipe alerts you that you may need to use more soymilk than is listed, which is accurate. I had to use twice the listed soymilk, and probably could have used even a little more. I was expecting the dip to be a spicy cheese dip with some flecks of tomatoes and chiles throughout. Instead it was kind of a big tomatoey spicy goo thing. Remember the Lasagna Pinwheels I made a few days ago? Well I think all the flavor from that recipe ran away from the page and leaped onto this one. There is way too much seasoning in it, to the point that it pretty much just tastes like you dumped your whole spice rack in there. It doesn't taste cheesy at all, just spicy and tomatoey. Not spicy as in hot...but spicy as in...lots of spices. I don't know how else to describe it.

Me, the Ninjahusband, and the Supertoddler all had several chips with the dip on them, and it was edible, mostly. I mean, it wasn't terrible or really all that bad, it just wasn't good. Ninjahusband liked it best, I think, but he said that he wouldn't really call it a queso.

I feel like I'm a terrible person always giving all the bad reviews. With a book with 1000 recipes in it, there are bound to be some that are better than others. Maybe I just know how to pick the ones that are a little lackluster.

On second thought, it could be that I'm a rather fussy eater. Maybe I will give this another go sometime, to make sure that I followed all the directions correctly. Or you know, maybe not.

-- Your Friendly Neighborhood Batgirl {who is sometimes the meanie on the schoolyard}

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Maple-Walnut Oatmeal Cookies

I'm something of a cookie fiend, so I decided to whip up some round little delights for my guests. To be perfectly honest and as much as I love oatmeal cookies, the Maple-Walnut Oatmeal Cookies (page 430) sounded slightly boring as I was making them. But the heavenly aroma wafting from the oven piqued my interest. Then I pulled them out, waited a moment or two, and picked out the ugliest one (these were for company, after all).

It was love at first bite. Tender and chewy, perfectly sweet with that warm, maple flavor calling to mind snowy cabins and deep forests, log fireplaces and softly descending snowflakes. But unlike a Thomas Kinkade painting, these are deliciously authentic. The walnutty touch brings forth memories of childhood, if yours involved large amounts of walnuts, cooked, baked, and freestyle. Why, we'd climb the trees to get at 'em. We'd spread 'em outside to dry in the sun (or eat them green, infinitely better).

These are both decadent and homey, best still-warm straight out of the oven. Or on a plate next to a cool glass of some nut-milk for whoever shoves the presents under your tree or into your socks.

The cookies were gone a day before my guests were; I'll infer that means they enjoyed them. Of course, these little darlings, yummy as they were, rather paled in comparison to the other desserts I whipped up. Especially a certain Mediterranean one. (We didn't abandon that theme, no; stay tuned.)

P.S. Can you spot the hidden bat? It's always Halloween 'round here.

- - Ulpia, the other cookie monster - -

Sesame-Stuffed Spaghetti Squash

Sesame-Stuffed Spaghetti Squash

I have loved spaghetti squash since I was very little. I love it prepared all different ways. However, I think that Sesame-Stuffed Spaghetti Squash {page 345} is my new favorite way to serve it.

The "spaghetti" is mixed with lightly stir-fried vegetables and a delicious sesame tahini sauce, then piled back into the shell and baked until toasty all the way through. Then the halves are topped with more tahini sauce and black sesame seeds.

I am not the biggest fan of tahini, but I figured I would like just about anything if it involved spaghetti squash, and I was right! This was delicious, really flavorful and down-right good. The Ninjahusband and I both loved it, and ate all of it in no time flat.

This brings me to my only gripe with this recipe: it definitely does NOT serve 4, especially as a main dish. I'm not a big eater, but the Ninjahusband is, and it barely fed both of us. In fact, we were still hungry afterward.

So, make it, but make some other side dishes to go with it.

-- Your Friendly Neighborhood Batgirl

Lemony Rice-Stuffed Grape Leaves

Along with the spreads I greeted my guests with upon their arrival, Lemony Rice-Stuffed Grape Leaves (page 28) made an appearance. We again have something similar in Romania – which is probably why we like Mediterranean foods: we've got our own versions of the stuff. Only they're called sarmale and are made with cabbage leaves. Still, same idea: the filling involves rice and the wrapping is some manner of sweet or sour leaf. Some people prefer their sarmale sour; some sweet. Grape leaves are usually sour; and if there's lemon involved, like here, the tartness factor is amplified.

My guests were delighted by these aromatic, lemony little packets. My dad, though, told me he prefers sweet sarmale; still, he liked them all right despite not being much into anything sour, unlike myself and one of the other guests – we're sour-holics. Well, I'd say pleasantly tart rather than sour, as dolmas should be. Simple and elegant, these make a fine appetizer, side-dish, or buffet-feature. (Use basmati rice; the filling's simple so you want all that aroma.)

And, though wrapping the filling into grape leaves is somewhat time-consuming, it's entirely worth it for the “I've done that too and it wasn't as complicated as I thought it would be!” feeling you get afterward. I'm only a few months into cooking, and this book has been affording me a lot of exciting firsts with, so far, no blunders to speak of. Wait, it gets more exciting presently, I'm all about jumping in headfirst.

- - Ulpia, [grape] leaf roller - -

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Smoky Chipotle Hummus with Tortilla Chips

Smoky Chipotle-Pinto Hummus and Tortilla Chips
With each of the project bloggers selecting which recipes she wants to make, we were bound to repeat something besides the mushroom sauce. Now that we're close to ten percent of our way through the book, it seemed like as good a time as any. And besides, ever since Gymmie blogged about the Smoky Chipotle Hummus (p11) I knew it would be mine. I don't have much to add to what she said, and I agree with her assessment that this is an easy and delicious dish (is it just me, or does that remind anyone else of SNL?). But I will let you in on my very minor tweaks: the recipe calls for one clove of garlic. Well, when I see one clove of garlic in print anywhere, it makes me giggle. Helloooo, it's garlic! So my hummus received three large cloves. Also, the recipe calls for 1 1/2 tspns of chipotle in adobo. Again, I giggle. Helloooo, it's chipotle! In adobo! So this hummus got a full pepper and some extra sauce. These two small additions made this a perfectly spiced dish for my taste. I mean perfect. As we used to say back in the day, so good make ya wanna slap ya mama.

Since I had no tortilla chips in the pantry (not sure how that happened) but I did have a pack of corn tortillas in the fridge, I took a teeny amount of time and made the Tortilla Chips (p5). They really couldn't be any easier. Some cooking spray, some salt, and a few minutes in the oven is all it takes to have freshly baked corn tortilla chips. I don't know why I never thought to do this before. The biggest bonus over buying the precooked and bagged kind is that you can control how crispy your chips are. I often heat the bagged chips, but I really enjoy the variation of extra crispy to a bit chewy you can achieve by baking them yourself. You could also customize these further by adding fresh cracked pepper, cajun seasoning, lime juice, or anything that strikes your tastebuds prior to baking.

These two humble little recipes pack a huge flavor and interesting textures into a few short minutes of prep time. Jarred bean dips and bagged tortilla chips best take notice and beware.
Related Posts with Thumbnails