Monday, December 21, 2009

Irish Soda Bread with Golden Raisins

Irish Soda Bread

It's cold and snowy outside so all I wanted for the past few days was soup and bread. I ended up making an awesome tomato cabbage barley soup but there was no bread to be found in the house. *gasp* Clearly I have been slacking since I always have at least one type of homemade bread in the house. I didn't want to wait hours for a yeasted bread so I decided on Irish Soda Bread with Golden Raisins (page 400). Yes I know those aren't golden raisins. It doesn't matter though because the Thompson raisins I used were excellent as well, so back off!

Anyway, the bread is super easy to put together with ingredients you most likely have kicking around. It bakes up in about 45 minutes and the result is a warm, dense loaf which is wonderful slathered with margarine and served alongside a hearty soup or stew. This bread however, is best the same day you make it as there's really not much fat in it (i.e., it doesn't store well).

Taste-wise, it is a fairly neutral bread. Since there isn't any yeast or a lot of other flavourful ingredients, there isn't a ton of flavour. That neutral taste though goes for any Irish Soda Bread and it means it goes well with a savoury soup or stew or even a sweet jam. Even though there are raisins in it, the bread doesn't clash with other dishes. It went surprisingly well with my strong-tasting, heavy soup.

The next time you want some bread to go along with your soup or stew, give this a shot. It's easy, neutral-tasting, fast and a nice change of pace from yeasted bread.

Hula Cookies

I recently organized an event for the German department at my university and decided to bake some cookies to take. Because, I mean, you know. The season and all. (No, well, it was just a good excuse to bake; I'm ever on the look-out for those.) The Hula Cookies (page 435) had one grad student complimenting me repeatedly between cookie after cookie. I sent some to a friend in Chicago, too, who enjoyed them just as much as I did while I was tasting for quality—a good chef has to taste first, right? Don't want to serve a dud. Multiple tastes ensures the first delectable piece wasn't an outlier. This is all pour l'art du baking, non?

Basically, they're thumbprint cookies with a tropical jam of your choice; all I could find was strawberry-mango, which resulted in a great tangy touch with each buttery bite. I chose them in particular for this because among the delightful panoply that is German wintertime baked goodies, there's a certain jam-filled kind I though could be suggested with these cookies.

Each is a pure little piece of homemade goodness; a cheerful little note from simpler times.

- - Ulpia, makes life so sweet – pour a little sugar on it! - -

Whipped Cream vs. Cashew Crème

I enjoy a good show-down, especially if it involves foods I get to sample. So I whipped up some crèmes and got to tasting.

Cashew Crème (page 501), pictured above:
  • thicker in consistency
  • cashews! nothing says creamy like those there nuts
  • rich cashew taste with enough of a life of its own to be positively delightful eaten as-is like a pudding

Whipped Cream (page 501):
  • smooth but a little on the thin side; even potentially runny (this can be affected by the type of tofu used; if more tofu is used than the recipe suggests, it gets a much better consistency and a milder taste, which, as is, is a punch of sweetness—so eyeball and adjust and taste, taste, taste)
  • fairly tasty, but a tad too sweet with a bit of an aftertaste

Verdict: Cashew please.

If you're looking for a creamy dessert topping, the Cashew Crème is the way to go; while the taste of the whipped is fair to good, the consistency isn't there; it's too runny and not at all thick, maybe some cornstarch is in order: or maybe just make the cashew crème—it is in all respects heavenly.

What others thought? Well, the Cashew Crème was heartily approved previously by five guests. The Whipped was tried by my mother and her mother, just as a quick spoonful; they liked the taste, but in no way more than the cashew. Either way, it's too runny to function as a whipped topping unless you adjust the ratios. It could do well on a fruit salad, though, or a bowlful of granola, or poured over pancakes or French toast or waffles as a sauce. Or over anything as a sauce.

Anyway I still like the cashews more. Om nom nom.

- - Ulpia, where there's a whip—PTSCH!—there's a way - -

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Mexican Fideo Soup with Pinto Beans

Mexican Fideo Soup with Pinto Beans

I had purchased the missing items for the Mexican Fideo Soup with Pinto Beans on page 159 but The Divine Miss V beat me to making it.

I do agree with her assessment on the flavor. The spices need to be upped if having right away. I'll see how sitting overnight changes the flavor.

Otherwise the soup is edible with the suggested flavoring you just may need to add something.

I did have Fideo so did use that. I also cooked the onions in a separate pot for saving time and I didn't see any special reason for using the same pot. I would have an extra dish to wash regardless.

When I make this again I'm going to check and see if there are any hotter chilies (the recipe suggests hot or mild) and see if that changes the flavor.

ETA 12/21--I tried to soup today and as The Divine Miss V said the flavors meld together better with the suggested measurements once allowed to sit.


Saturday, December 19, 2009

Black Bean and Corn Burritos

Black Bean and Corn Burritos5

I love burritos and the Black Bean and Corn Burritos on Page 127 hit the spot.

This can be a quick snack as it just takes as long to heat up the filling and warm the tortillas.

I forgot to double check my Salsa as when I went to grab it it was bad :(.

Black Bean and Corn Burritos

But I added some Sriacha and all was nom :).


Three Bean Soup

Three Bean Soup2

The Three Bean Soup on page 161 is very delicious and addicting.

I had some celery and carrots that hadn't been touched in a while so it made good sense to use them up.

I think soup has become my newest addiction so simple to put together.


Three Bean Chili

Three Bean Chili4

The Three Bean Chili on page 249 is a very filling dish or snack.

The Chile in Adobo adds the extra zing to the Chili. In my measuring I inadvertently added too much Chili Powder when it dumped in but it didn't seem to alter the taste negatively.


Black Bean Soup with a Splash

Black Bean Soup with a Splash4

Another easy to put together recipe is the Black Bean Soup with a Splash on page 159. The soup takes about 45 minutes to cook.

I didn't realize I had an immersion blender until I looked at some attachments I have for my Do it All. It's a gadget I bought off an infomercial a million years ago that I probably used twice pre-gan but a zillion times now that I'm vegan.

The "splash" is some optional Brandy that you can either add at the end or serve separately and allow your guests to add if they choose.

I liked the punch that it added. I didn't realize I forgot the parsley so put some dried parsley on top :p.


Indonesian Chile Sauce

Indonesian Chile Sauce

I know I'm still slacking on recipes here but I've been so busy lately with work (for me, this is always a good thing). I did however manage to crank out something new from the book, a really flavourful but simple Indonesian Chile Sauce (page 572) on top of my own variation of Soy-Tan Dream Cutlets (page 294, mentioned in previous posts by several of us I made this with beans instead of tofu).

The sauce is so simple yet packed with flavour. The ingredient that really pulls everything else together is the rice wine vinegar. It adds just enough tartness and depth to the sauce without being overpowering. The sauce can be served warm or cold (I prefer cold) and is excellent with the Soy-Tan Dream Cutlets.

With only a handful of ingredients, the whiz of a blender or food processor motor and the sizzle of a sauce pan, this sauce is done in minutes. This sauce is definitely on my regular rotation now.

— Ms. Veganorama

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Chocolate Swirl Tofu Cheesecake

cheesecake 002

I have been absent for so long, I feel guilty! After shopping at Macy's on a Saturday a couple of weeks ago, I went to my favorite coffee shop and treated myself to a piece of peanut butter cheesecake. Because Macy's Herald Square during holidays is surely one of the circles of hell- maybe the one where they send obnoxious tourists? The cheesecake was delicious and I immediately decided I had to make my own. After all, an entire cheesecake at $6 a slice would be too expensive. At first I was going to adapt a different cheesecake recipe to a peanut butt version, but then I remembered the Chocolate Swirl Tofu Cheesecake page 454.

I love making cookie crumb crusts after the success of my pumpkin cheesecake. This one is made from chocolate cookies- I used Newman's Own chocolate alphabet cookies. I ended up using a little bit more cookie crumbs and margarine than the recipe called for, but I couldn't tell you how much more- I went by eye. The filling was easy to whip up in my trusty food processor and was ready quickly. And scraping the filling off the sides of the processor bowl was a delicious preview of the finished product. The funnest part was pouring in the melted chocolate and swirling it into the cheesecake. I felt like an artist! Or at least like a kid fingerpainting (with a knife, but let's not get technical). My oven is a bit wonky so I had to bake it a bit longer-I'd say an extra ten minutes. The worst part was that I made this late. I had it out of the oven at 11:30. Then it had to cool on the counter; then be refrigerated for four hours. So no cheesecake last night. No matter- cheesecake is a perfectly acceptable breakfast- especially when it has peanut butter and banana in it.

I really like the finished cheesecake, but it tastes more like banana than peanut butter. Next time I will use cornstarch instead and up the peanut butter. I'll also substitute maple syrup for some of the sugar for added moisture. It is also pretty to look at, at least before I cut into it. Now I'm off to eat another piece!


Mexican Fideo Soup with Pinto Beans

Mexican Fideo Soup with Pinto Beans

I love soup, I love easy soups, and I especially love dishes that hint of any Latin flavor, so the Mexican Fideo Soup with Pinto Beans (p159) was sure to be mine.

Since the recipe only called for 15.5 oz of beans, I used canned. I also followed the suggestion of using angel hair pasta if fideo wasn't available (which is wasn't). I also used fire-roasted diced tomatoes instead of crushed, as that's what I had on hand.

No surprise here, the soup didn't have enough flavor for us. It was "fine," but just a little flat and bland, which made it perfect for Grandma V. The flatness was resolved with an overnight stay in the fridge and the soup was much better in the flavor department the second day. However, there wasn't much liquid to the soup to begin with, and by the next day the pasta had absorbed what there was and it was basically spaghetti. So that's what I decided to call this one--Mexican spaghetti. It's good, and better with a hot sauce such as Cholula or perhaps one with chipotle flavor. It's worth making for its ease and use of pantry staples, and the next go round I will add more seasoning to make it more compatible with our tastes.

--The Divine Miss V

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Pumpkin-Cranberry Bread Pudding

Pumpkin-Cranberry Bread Pudding

Bread pudding is not generally something that strikes me as delicious. Soggy bread? No thanks... However, I do like pumpkin, and since the Ninjahusband really likes bread pudding, somehow Pumpkin-Cranberry Bread Pudding {page 481} found its way to our table.

It was extremely quick and easy to put together. It was in the oven in 10 minutes flat. My only complaint about the recipe is that 4 cups of bread doesn't seem like enough. However, I'm sure it was just a difference in how the bread is packed, and how heaping the cups were. Upon first measurement, my 4 cups did not seem like nearly enough. I had to add another couple cups to get it to the point that it seemed like it would have any structure at all.

The baking time was accurate, and filled my house with an incredible aroma. I am pleased to say that the bread pudding tasted as good as it smelled. Soggy bread-ness aside, it was extremely flavorful and delicious. The cranberries added the perfect note of tart, and complimented the spicy warm pumpkin flavor perfectly.

I don't have a lot of experience with bread puddings, but Soyatoo vegan whipped cream seemed like an appropriate accompaniment, and it was! I would definitely make this again, and maybe not just for other people...maybe even for myself!

-- Your Friendly Neighborhood Batgirl

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Arugula and Apple Salad with Creamy Mustard Dressing

Arugula and Apple Salad with Creamy Mustard Dressing

Oh my. Another stellar success. The Arugula and Apple Salad with Creamy Mustard Dressing (p50) is super simple to put together and would be great for a quickie weeknight meal or side, but it would also be just as at home on your fanciest dinner party table. Its flavors and textures are perfectly balanced and impressive. It's the type of salad you would get in a nice restaurant, only it comes from your kitchen for a fraction of the cost.

If you're skeptical of apples and onions together, let that go. They play off of each other in the most delightful way, and the dressing--oh the dressing--brings everything together so stupendously you (and your guests) will be in awe of what you created.

For my trial run, the dressing was made as written (Have I mentioned the dressing? Oh the dressing!). My modifications were slight--romaine instead of leaf lettuce, and a baby arugula/spinach mix instead of straight adult arugula. It was still enough to get that lovely peppery bite from the arugula, which was only enhanced by the creamy mustard dressing. Have I mentioned how good the dressing is?

Both Mr. V and Grandma V were enamored. And me? Well, I was a tad disappointed I had to share. The only thing I would do differently next time--and oh yes, there will be many more to come--is to make more of everything.

--The Divine Miss V

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

"Sour Cream" Coffee Cake

"Sour Cream" Pound Cake

I DID IT! I WIN! I found THE BEST RECIPE in the entire book!

Okay, it's not a contest, but if it were and if it were based on the best one I'VE made and TO DATE, the "Sour Cream" Coffee Cake (p449) wins. I am neither creative nor eloquent enough to describe to you how absolutely fantastically orgasmically delicious this cake is. See that lovely little river of something running through the middle of the cake? That's walnuts and cinnamon and sugar. So simple, yet such an utterly wonderful combination. This cake is perfectly stunning, "good enough for company," great for potlucks and office parties, and nice to keep at home--just like we did. Grandma V could be happy eating spoonfuls of sugar so I knew she'd like it. The surprise came from Mr. V who doesn't have much of a sweet tooth, yet I returned to the kitchen to find him devouring Piece #2, and then the next morning a noticeably smaller cake with the following note: "This is INSANE! Best cake ever! I took two pieces to work."

Other than adding a tad extra cinnamon and the dusting of powdered sugar, I followed this recipe to a T. And so should you. Because you should make it. For yourself, for family, for friends, for loved ones. Hell, make it for total strangers and find your new best friend!

--The Divine Miss V

Kiss My Grits Breakfast Casserole with Tempeh Bacon

If you're one of those people who didn't grow up eating grits like I did, 1) I feel kinda sorry for you and 2) you just might fall under that category of folks I could never understand, The Grit-Haters. Well, the Kiss My Grits Breakfast Casserole (p510) may never bless you with the gum-smacking and coffee-pouring skills of Miss Florence Jean Castleberry, but it just might change your mind about grits.

I've made this twice now, the first time with Lightlife Organic Smoky Tempeh Strips and most recently using the recipe for Tempeh Bacon (p525) pictured here as it was browning in the pan.

Tempeh Bacon

The strips fell apart on me a bit, but this was fine since its was going in the casserole anyway. When I cooked the second batch I went ahead and crumbled it in the pan and was able to get the pieces nice and extra crispy. Combining soy sauce and liquid smoke provides a tasty basting liquid for your bacon, but I can't say it's worth simmering the tempeh, waiting for it to dry and cool, carefully slicing, and then pan frying if you can purchase tempeh or another type of vegan bacon in your local store. However, if you don't have access to a vegan bacon or if you don't have any on hand but you DO have a pack of tempeh, it's quite simple to make yourself some tasty bacon.

But back to the casserole and kissing my grits!

Kiss My Grits Breakfast Casserole

Here's another simple dish to put together--the biggest chunk of time is the baking--that gives a lot in terms of flavor and texture. I used low fat soymilk, Daiya as the cheese, and for the corn, Trader Joe's frozen roasted (which I pretty much put in everything that calls for frozen corn).

At the moment, I can't recall what size pan Robin lists in the directions (and to be honest, I'm cozy and too lazy to go downstairs to look it up!), but I know the first time I made the casserole I used a larger pan. This made the casserole thin and a bit polenta-like. The second time, I used a round dish that provided a deeper dish. This is probably closer to the intended texture of the casserole, but I actually preferred it on the thin side. It's delicious either way--the thicker the creamier, and the thinner the crispier, so go with your preference. Or make it twice like I did and pick your fave!

The word "breakfast" may be in the title, but don't let that stop you from having this casserole any time of day. It's best served hot, but not bad cold; and it's vegan-, vegetarian-, and omni-approved. In fact, I caught an omni helping himself to thirds.

--The Divine Miss V

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Ragin' Cajun Popcorn

I had some plain popcorn boring me tonight. So I thought, “Hey, I wonder if 1k has popcorn in any recipes? There are one thousand.” Then I thought, “Naaah, popcorn?” And then, “Well, still...” And so I went over to my stained and graffiti'd copy and asked, “Hey, 1k, got any recipes with popcorn?”

And 1k....well, 1k said “Yes. Yes, I do.”

The Ragin' Cajun Popcorn (page 4) is ragin' indeed. My mouth's a'burnin' and I'm loving it. Since my popcorn was already popped and I was too lazy to calculate how many cups of popped corn result from 1/3 cup of unpopped corn, I just sprinkled in the called-for spices at will. And I love it. I love it very much. I wish I'd've thought of this before eating all that plain popcorn. I'm never making that mistake again, no sirree—next time I'm going to try an Indian-spice-blend. And then: pumpkin pie spices. My popcorn's going places. Is yours?

(In case you're curious, which I know you are, I went that extra mile tonight, for you, kiss kiss. curry powder + coriander + popcorn + shake it hard = mmm, yeah. And cinnamon + ginger + allspice + nutmeg... heyyyy, there.)

- - Ulpia, pops it like it's hot - -

Peanut Butter-Ice Cream Pie

Peanut Butter Ice Cream Pie

Okay, really now. When you look at the title of this dessert, how can you go wrong? It's peanut butter, and it's ice cream, and it's PIE. What's not to love? Well I am delighted to inform you that the Peanut Butter-Ice Cream Pie (p468) is a little round chunk of luscious peanut buttery ice creamy love.

Despite its simplicity, I did end up with a few changes. One by design, the other two by necessity. The recipe calls for "vegan chocolate cookie crumbs," but when I went to purchase these I realized I didn't exactly know what that was. Graham cracker crumbs, even vegan ones, are widely available, but I've never seen chocolate cookie crumbs. Can't exactly say I've ever sought them out, but this time I did, and there were none. I considered getting some plain chocolate cookies (such as Cat Cookies from Trader Joe's) and processing them into crumbs, but I wasn't at TJ's and couldn't find a comparable substitute. Then I came across a Wholly Wholesome Chocolate Pie Crust and decided to go with that. The other changes came about because the store was out of plain vanilla ice cream, so I went with one pint of Turtle Mountain/Purely Decadent's Dulce de Leche and one pint of their coconut milk vanilla bean. This worked out fine and did not impart a coconut flavor that I could detect. But even if it had, that wouldn't have been a bad thing.

I cannot adequately explain how easy this is to put together. No one could mess it up! And imagine how impressed your friends and family will be when you serve them ICE CREAM PIE. You've baked nothing, you've mixed a few things, and you have an impressive decadent dessert that your guests will think took far more time and effort. So take a few minutes to make it, serve, enjoy your accolades, and figure out whether a spoon or fork works best.

--The Divine Miss V

Ted's Artichoke and Green Bean Bake

Ted's Artichoke and Green Bean Bake

The story behind Ted's Artichoke and Green Bean Bake (p354) made me want to try and love this recipe as much as did the ingredient list. Briefly, it involves one of the book's testers, her deceased father who never had a chance to finish his own cookbook, Hurricane Katrina, destroyed homes, and lost family recipes. So you see my dilemma when I realized I didn't "love" this dish.

I made very slight changes to the recipe as written--baby bellas instead of white mushrooms, because they are the only mushrooms I can tolerate; the can of artichoke hearts in my pantry was 13.5 oz rather than the 15 oz listed; and I left out the parmesan substitute altogether, though I did add a sprinkle of nutritional yeast. I followed the instructions as directed, but the texture of this dish (as I assumed it to be) never seemed to come together. It was somewhat liquidy, and despite the inclusion of flour in the recipe, it remained runny, even on the second day. In addition, despite the lesser amount of artichokes, they were overpowering to the flavor of the dish.

This recipe is full of things I like, and I would give it another go with the following changes: decrease the amount of artichokes, perhaps by a quarter or even half; lessen the amount of vegetable broth; skip the bread crumbs; include the parmesan substitution; and I might try cornstarch rather than flour. Despite the pic above, it's actually a pretty dish when you use fresh green beans that are livened up by the pieces of red bell pepper. I think a little less artichokes and "sauce" would make it even more attractive (and taste better).

--The Divine Miss V

Friday, December 4, 2009

Ulpia's Thanksgiving - Pastry-Wrapped Portobellos with Madeira Sauce; Sweet Potato and Apple Gratin; Chocolate Mousse Cake

This year I celebrated my first Thanksgiving as a vegan and as a devoted cook. My family very obligingly gave me free reign with the meal preparation. So I packed my spices, measuring cups, and a cake pan into my luggage (causing the man at the airport to curiously open said luggage up), enlisted my grandmother's help, and got to cooking. The entire meal, two desserts and a gratin included, took me almost nine hours to complete (with plenty of breaks for snacking in between, and some waiting around the oven). But boy was it worth it! Batgirl's post about the Pastry-Wrapped Portobellos (page 331) with Madeira Sauce (page 546) convinced me I had to make them the centerpiece of my meal. Completely independently, my mom thought so too; minutes after I'd decided, she sent me an e-mail telling me as much.

With my grandma's invaluable cleaning, chopping and dough-rolling help, it came together wonderfully (and a lot faster than if I had been on my own). And it was pure glory. Alongside, we made the Sweet Potato and Apple Gratin (page 379)—oh sweet, sweet baked goodness. I had no gratin dish, but a deep pan worked splendidly.

My dad's words were “This fits everyone's tastes.” and then “I could eat ten of these!” (They're pretty big...and I agree with him completely.) I think I've succeeded in impressing them. No, actually, I floored them. Well, I was just the medium; this book is what came through for me—yes. Just, yes. A hearty, please-more-now yes! This is most definitely and without a shred of a doubt something I will be making again for festive occasions or any time I'm looking to impress. (Don't let that nine-hour-comment deter you from making this, the mushrooms themselves took less than an hour to make. Which means I really did take a lot of snacking breaks.)

And of course, no festive meal is complete without plenty of dessert. The Chocolate Mousse Cake (page 445) which I'd made before for them was requested. I happily obliged. (And baked up a Double-Layer Pumpkin Cheesecake too for good measure.)

My friend and her mother who live a few houses down happened to drop by and I instantly put together plates for them—they had to try this stuff too. They were particularly enamored with the gratin, insisting that I share the recipe. Then I pushed some dessert on them, too, and they loved it. That makes six omnivore vouches for this meal.

My grandma got creative with the stuffing I had left over, added more mushrooms, and made a lovely salad (we use the term “salad” loosely in Romanian, obviously). My dad and I scarfed it down before anyone else even saw it. It was very delicious. Very.

My first vegan Thanksgiving was a smashing success. Simply smashing!

- - Ulpia, thankful for her wonderful sous chef and trusting parents - -

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Black Bean and Walnut Croquettes

Black Bean and Walnut Croquettes

What pairs perfectly with mashed potatoes, stuffing, and other comfort foods on a cold fall day? If you guessed Black Bean and Walnut Croquettes {page 267} you are right!

These little babies are made from pantry staples {if you're into keeping walnuts stocked, like I am}, and come together in minutes. The mixture is really easy to work with, and holds together great {unlike many croquettes I've made in the past}. Lightly coated in panko breadcrumbs, these little babies fry up great, the outside getting crisp and delicious while the inside is still soft and supple. Mmmm...supple...

I served these with Hollandaze Sauce drizzled over top {as the recipe suggested}, and it paired really well. I can also see these being great in a wrap, pita, or sandwich. They are flavorful on their own, but are also happy to work behind the scenes to make the flavor-magic happen for other accompanying sauces or dishes.

Both the Ninjahusband and Supertoddler enjoyed them {the Supertoddler calling them "poke-ettes"}. I can see this recipe being easily modified to use any bean and nut combination you like. These will definitely end up on our menu again and again. Great, solid, cheap, quick, versatile...what's not to love?

-- Your Friendly Neighborhood Batgirl

Lemon Glazed Baby Carrots with Cranberries

Lemon Glazed Baby Carrots with Cranberries

Like many dishes in the book, Lemon Glazed Baby Carrots with Cranberries (p360) is so simple you'll smack your forehead and ask "Now why didn't I think of that?" Well, because you didn't. And neither did I. It is another of those seemingly too-easy-to-need-a-recipe recipes, but its complexity is found within its inherent simplicity. Now go ponder that for a while.

When you return, take a few minutes to put this beautiful side dish on your table, especially if you celebrate any of the upcoming holidays for which you need something that doesn't require a lot of time or skill, but still needs to "look pretty." Oh yeah, and taste good. Which it does. I'm not one for lemon in savory foods, and I'm also not one for very sweet dishes during a meal. But these babies--heh--balance my likes and dislikes perfectly. I could not taste the lemon, but it provided enough acidity for a (non-sticky) glaze for the carrots. The dried cranberries plump up nicely and add just the right bit of tart.

In sum, this is a festive and lovely dish that will add a burst of color and some sparkle to your table. It was well received among the vegans and omnis to whom I served it, and it's certainly "good enough for company" without taking up too much of your time, and makes for an impressive presentation.

--The Divine Miss V

Hot Cocoa

Maybe you don't really need a recipe for Hot Cocoa (page 540), but having only ever made it from a pre-made mix before (gasp!), I appreciated having ratios to follow. This—this creamy, rich goodness is unattainable from a mix, my friends. It is simply beyond a mix's capabilities to match such delectable liquid comfort. I raise my mug to it! Indeed, I tip back my mug to it—and with it. And then it's gone.

All right, okay, you're right—making hot cocoa was mainly an excuse to show off my 1-of-only-50-ever-made color-changing Venture Brothers mug. My VB enthusiasm knows no bounds. But come, a more fitting receptacle for such a warm delight there never was!

- - Ulpia, girl adventurer - -

Tempeh with Maple, Mustard, and Balsamic Glaze

Tempeh with Maple, Mustard, and Balsamic Glaze

Wow, it has been quite some time since I last posted. I'm such a slacker! Anyway, here's Tempeh with Maple. Mustard and Balsamic Glaze (page 299) served with some roasted yellow cauliflower and mustard greens.

I should preface this review by saying that both me and the Mr. are extremely picky when it comes to tempeh.

For the recipe, all the ingredients are easy to find and probably already in your pantry. It is super easy to put together with the most amount of work being to fry the tempeh. My only changes were that I simmered the tempeh for only 5 minutes instead of 30 minutes (30 always seems excessive to me), substituted a strong dijon mustard for the spicy mustard and doubled the tabasco.

Taste-wise, we thought it was okay. Good, but not fantastic (remember we are picky). I found that the balsamic vinegar really overpowered the other flavours so that the predominant taste was sweet (from the maple) balsamic. I love balsamic but I wanted to taste the mustard in it as well as more maple since mustard + maple is a wonderful combination. I think that the glaze recipe as is would make an excellent salad dressing if emulsified with some olive oil. Or maybe I'm just saying that because I use most of those ingredients in my own balsamic vinagrette. :p

I think if I make it again I would cut the balsamic down to 1 tbsp and I would probably skip the vegetable stock step. It really didn't need more liquid especially since it was already plump from simmering and after frying, the tempeh lost its crispiness.

Having said all that, it's a good recipe but may need to tweaked to your liking. Do give it a try though. All this talk of tempeh makes me actually crave this tempeh again.

— Ms. Veganorama

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Jerk-Spiced Red Bean Chili

Jerk-Spiced Red Bean Chili

As I discussed on my personal blog recently, I really hate chili. It usually has all the wrong flavor, too many random vegetables, and the list goes on. However, upon reading the ingredient list for Jerk-Spiced Red Bean Chili {page 251}, to my surprise it actually sounded...edible. Even good! And since the Ninjahusband is generally jonesing for chili {and I generally fail at satisfying that particularly jonesing}, I thought it was only fair to put this chili on the menu this week, being that it actually sounded like something I might eat.

And now I must, Batgirl, The Chili Hater...liked this chili. It was spicy and sweet from the BBQ sauce and just had a wonderful flavor and texture. I swapped out the seitan in favor of Boca crumbles {seitan + soup = hatred}, and aside from accidentally putting twice as much cayenne in as was specified, that was the only change that was made.

Because of the cayenne mistake, it was too spicy for me to eat more than a small bowl, and there was no way that the Supertoddler was going to eat it, but the Ninjahusband loved it and took it to work with him to share with his coworkers with more spice-adjusted tongues than mine.

I liked it enough that I'm considering putting it back on the menu for next week -- sans double dose of cayenne.

-- Your Friendly Neighborhood Batgirl

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Chocolate Mousse Cake with Cashew Crème

My mother and her friend, whose birthday we were celebrating, are veritable chocoholics. The darker and more chocolaty, the better. (I broke my addiction by eating nothing but chocolate for a few weeks during the ChocolART chocolate festival in Germany. You read that right. Nothing but chocolate. And I got a chocolate massage, too. And, eventually, nauseous. Anyway.)

The Chocolate Mousse Cake (page 445) covered in Chocolate Ganache (page 502) seemed only natural. Upon tasting it, my mother's first words were “You've surpassed yourself.” (Technically, her first utterance was “Mmmmh.”) Suffice to say they positively adored it. There was plenty of praising involved, yes.

There was Cashew Crème (page 501) too, and it was truly delectable. Miha, the birthday girl, likened it to crème brulee. I'll liken it to a romantic gondola ride, were said ride a silky dessert cream.

Moist layers holding between them smooth, creamy mousse—even my chocolate-jaded stomach could agree: more please! Some assembly required, but the result is worth it. Though if you decide to stop and eat the un-moussed, un-frosted cake as-is, I wouldn't blame you; nor if you just spoon the mousse right out of the food processor. The stuff's fantastic. Luckily, there's plenty of it. So go ahead and help yourself to a spoonful or five.

I wrote a dedication (Happy Birthday Miha) with almond slivers to go along with the swan I'd shaped out of marzipan. Nuts go well with chocolate, so go nuts with the décor. Speaking of nuts; when I repeated it for Thanksgiving—they demanded it—I was too eager to assemble and didn't wait for my cake to cool (patience!); it broke into pieces, sliding slowly much like chocolaty plate tectonics. My grandma gave me a lesson in thinking fast and adapting to kitchen mishaps: we filled the cracks with walnuts. Everyone loved the touch. And the cake, again. We took some to an out-of-town friend. She loved it too.

- - Ulpia, no stranger to chocolate hangovers - -
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