Easter "ham"

I foodically (what? it’s a perfectly cromulent word!) celebrated two holidays today! I made matzo ball soup for Passover lunch. I should have taken a photo, but I made it exactly as Isa directs in Vegan with a Vengeance. I’d never had it before, but it was good.

Then I was a day early, but I found myself in the mood to experiment with making seitan ham again, so I tried to make an Easter ham. It was a last-minute, throw-it-together sort of thing and I didn’t take photos, didn’t write it down, and didn’t think it would turn out well. However, it ended up being the closest I’ve gotten to a hammy taste, so I’m going to record approximately what I did. I’ll try to tighten the recipe up later and report back to you. Oddly, I think the breakthrough thing was an accident. When I went to add the liquid smoke to the pot, I thought for some reason it had the sort of cap on it that limits you to a few drops at a time and I rather rambunctiously dumped it in before realizing it had no such thing, and I added much more than I would ever have thought of using. I thought at first I had probably ruined the broth but I tasted it and it wasn’t bad, so I figured I’d try it. I think the smoky flavor is what made it taste more like ham to me. I have no idea how much I ended up pouring in there but I guessed two tablespoons below. It could well have been three or even four, though.

Seitan Ham

Simmering broth
7 cups water
1 cup soy sauce
2 Tbsp liquid smoke
1 large onion, chopped
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried sage
1/4 cup nutritional yeast

Seitan
1/3 cup soy flour
2 1/3 cups vital wheat gluten
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp white pepper
1 Tbsp smoked paprika (use sweet paprika or omit if you don’t have smoked)
1 1/4 cups water
1 cup ketchup

Bring all of the broth ingredients to a boil in a large Dutch oven or stock pot. In a large bowl, mix together the soy flour, vital wheat gluten, salt, pepper, and smoked paprika. In a large liquid measuring cup, whisk together the water and ketchup. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry and knead with your hands until all of ingredients are thoroughly mixed. Cut the resulting seitan mass into 6 pieces; shape each into a ball then flatten with your palm and place in the simmering broth. Cover the pot, reduce heat to medium, and simmer for an hour. Remove with a slotted spoon and pan fry or bake. Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days in some of the broth.

I did manage to get a picture of the ham floating in the broth:

I don’t know that ham is often pan fried. I think it is ordinarily baked. But I was anxious to get the meal on the table so I just browned it a bit in my cast iron skillet.

I served it with some broccoli and cheeze sauce, corn, and some yeasted bread, because for me, Passover was over.

Tomorrow I may bake the leftovers for my “real” Easter dinner. If I do, I’ll let you know the results.

Mark really liked the ham. Although I asked him if he thought it tasted at all hammy and he said it tasted more like horse. I asked him when he’d ever eaten horse meat and he said once when he was young he said he was hungry enough to eat a horse and a genie appeared and granted him his wish and a horse appeared so he cooked it and ate it. And I said I didn’t believe that story because he doesn’t know how to cook. And so he said he microwaved it. And I asked how did he have a microwave big enough to fit a horse and he said it was a tiny show pony. I still think he might be lying though.

And another thing. When Peter Reinhart’s new cookbook comes out, don’t be afraid to make the cheese bread! I can’t share the recipe, but I made it using a mixture Follow Your Heart nacho and Cheezly mozzarella and it was AWESOME!

Also, my mom reminded me to tell you how Brachtune got her name. I know you’re probably sitting up at nights wondering. I didn’t name her. When I was in college, I rescued her from some neighbors who had her for a while, and because they were irresponsible college boys, no longer wanted her and were going to take her to the pound. They informed me her name was “Brocktoon” and said that it had something to do with Mr Belvedere, which I never fully understood. Although it was not my initial plan – I already had two cats – I ended up keeping her and as I had never seen her nonsensical name in writing, I had to make up a spelling, so I made the spelling Brachtune, figuring it looked vaguely German. People would often ask me what it meant and I’d have to say vaguely, “uh, Mr Belvedere?” One night, however, I had a party which an old friend of mine from high school I hadn’t seen in a long time attended. He asked the name of my cat and when I told him, he laughed and said, “oh from the Saturday Night Live skit with Tom Hanks! That’s hilarious!” Not only did he know what Brachtune was, he had a video tape of the very episode! Two nights later I was at his house watching The Guy Who Plays Mr. Belvedere Fan Club! And it all suddenly made sense.

It’s on the Best of Tom Hanks SNL DVD, by the way, if you ever have a chance to watch it. It IS funny.

Also, since it is Easter, I will share with you a strange factor about my life. PEOPLE ARE ALWAYS MAKING ME DRESS UP LIKE A BUNNY. I DON’T KNOW WHY.

It started when I was very young. This is me and my godmother. I’m what, a month old?

Late-breaking addition from my mom:
I was then a bunny on what my mother said was my first Halloween, but as I was born on October 19, this was either technically my second Halloween or I was a very early walker:

I guess she meant my first Halloween dressing up. I guess I went as an infant for my first Halloween.

Then when I worked in the grocery store in high school, THEY made me dress up like the Easter bunny and walk around terrorizing small children. (There’s a sign for ham behind me, ugh!)

After a time, I just gave in. When a friend of mine asked me to be a bridesmaid, I insisted on hopping down the aisle wearing bunny ears. She vetoed that idea but I did get away with wearing them at the reception.

And this…I can’t even explain this. (Yes, that’s Fortinbras.)

Speaking of Fortinbras, wow, I had no idea you guys were going to want to start a Fort Fan Club! I shouldn’t be surprised as he is pretty awesome. He’s excited to make another post, possibly even next weekend, so keep your fingers crossed. We may have to nag him about it, though. You saw how long it took him to make his Christmas post. In the meantime, here’s one of my favorite pictures of us. We’re in New Orleans for Halloween:

I’m also fond of this one …

… though this one is a bit more typical:

Man, you want more pictures of Fortinbras? That’s a dangerous request. I have more pictures of him than I do of Tigger. I have more pictures of Fortinbras than I do all other subjects put together! But I think instead of digging up old photos, we should just implore ole Fort to make more guest appearances! He’s not vegan, but he’s always been extremely supportive of me, and in fact, he veganized ALL of the holiday foods he made to give away to friends and family just because he was baking them at my house.

And now I’m going to go celebrate my third holiday of the day: it’s Godless Saturday. I figure, since Jesus died yesterday and he’s not to be resurrected until tomorrow, we can all sin with impunity today! And with that, I’m going to go get another beer.

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Guest Post by Fortinbras! Peanut Butter Salvation Cookies

Note from Renae: I’ve been promising you Fortinbras’ Christmas post forever, and he decided Easter was as good a time as any to get around to it. (He exists! He exists! I didn’t make him up!) So with no further ado…

heeeeeere’s Fort!

…and just in time for Easter, I Eat Food Presents:
Peanut Butter Salvation Cookies (a delicious story of addiction, decadence, and ultimately redemption)

WET INGREDIENTS:
6 bottles of champagne
1 cup of granulated sugar
1 cup of light brown sugar
2 sticks of margarine (slightly cool and softened)
The equivalent of 2 eggs using egg substitute (we used egg replacer)
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1 cup of unsweetened, salted all natural crunchy peanut butter (Crunchy is what the recipe calls for, but smooth can be used instead, really the decision is left to the discretion of the baker. Remember: Life is short, as Jesus has taught us, so you use the type of peanut butter that you desire because, who knows? Tomorrow somebody may want to crucify you and you don’t want to be hanging there wishing you had used the kind of peanut butter that you prefer. Amen)

DRY INGREDIENTS:
2 1/2 cups of all purpose flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup of soy milk chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat your oven to 350 and get ready to make the most delicious cookies you have ever eaten in your entire life. Seriously, they are life altering good.

LETS GET STARTED:
Go on ahead and pop open that first bottle of champagne.

Pamper yourself and pour a nice healthy glass and take a big ol’ swig from the bottle, as if you could be, if given the proper circumstances, a rock star or a naughty politician.

Now that we all feel better about life let’s begin to mix together the essential wet ingredients. Mix the sugars, the egg substitute, the vanilla, the margarine and lastly the peanut butter together in a large bowl.

When incorporating the margarine it is very important that it be soft and slightly cool. If the margarine is melted or room temperature your cookies are still going to taste good, but they will be more thin and crisp after baking. Also, the cookies tend to come out better if the peanut butter is added last, I have no idea why this is but I do know it has something to do with physics and viscosity, parallel dimensions and the letter W. VERY SCIENTIFIC COOKIE STUFF, Y’ALL.

By now you should have finished, at the very least, one of your bottles of champagne. So lets open another, shant we? Why yes, yes we shall.

Now, children of the New Testament Era, it is time to sift the flour and the salt and the baking soda together in a bowl of your choosing. So take a few sips, refill that glass and hop to it.

After sifting the dry thangs together, you should be tired, so reward yourself for all of your hard work by taking a long smooth drink of your cool bubbling champagne. Feel free to laugh as the bubbles tickle the back of your tongue and throat, knowing in your heart of hearts that you deserve this moment. Lucky, lucky you.

NOW FOR THE DEAL, THE OPUS, THE SHOW! Grab your wet ingredients and your dry ingredients and get thee to a mixing station! If you are using a hand mixer I am gonna tell you now, there comes a point with this dough, that you will have to get in there with your hands and mix it using the raw power of all ten digits. Don’t be afraid, it will be okay, take a sip of your fourth bottle of champagne and get in there and make that magic happen! Humph! For those of you who own a professional mixer you may want to forgo allowing those ingredients to fornicate together in the relative privacy of the mixing bowl and just pretend that you own a hand mixer and get in there as well. Let’s keep it clean, but let’s not forget to keep it sexy as well. Everyone begin to add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until they form a firm dough.

And for the love of God do not forget to take that fifth bottle of champagne out of the freezer!

Now, at this point you should have a good buzz and a stiff cookie dough going. Form the dough into a ball

And, if you were raised in the circus as I was, feel free to toss it about as if it were a bowling pin or a baby.

But remember, accidents can happen.

So if you are not circusy you should probably just take that ball of dough and put it in a bowl and chill it in the fridge for 15 to 20 minutes. Use this time to prep your cookie sheets with parchment paper or tin foil, again, remember the cross, and do what you prefer. LET THERE BE NO REGRETS DURING YOUR CRUCIFIXION!

15 minutes and one bottle of champagne later:

IT IS TIME TO GET TO SMOOSHIN’!

By now you should have lost the pretense of the glass and you should be drinking long and deep directly from the bottle, you should also be removing the ball of dough from the fridge and getting out a tablespoon sized scooping apparatus from your drawer of apparati. Now get your cookie sheet in front of you and get that scoop in your hand and I want you to take a very healthy tablespoon sized scoop from your ball of dough using your scooping apparatus of choice and then I want you to roll that scoop of dough between your palms until it is in the shape of a ball.

I suggest that you start with eight scoops on your first tray, spacing them evenly until you gage how much your dough will spread during baking.

Now that you have your dough balls spaced evenly on your baking sheet I want you to smoosh them down slightly, giving each potential cookie a little smack down.

Next place 1 to 3 soy milk chocolate chips in the center of each of the smooshed down dough balls.

Now it is time to raise your bottle and your adorned cookie sheet in celebration of the fact that you have come this far. You are very intelligent and gifted, by this point in the recipe you should already be aware of this.

NOW, very carefully, (because by now if you have been following this recipe to a tee, you are drunk) place the baking sheet with your unbaked smooshed down cookie dough upon it onto the middle rack of your oven and remember to close the door .

You are going to want to bake these cookies for 13 to 16 minutes depending upon your oven, if you have a slow oven you may need to bake them even longer. After you get a feel for how the dough bakes you can increase or decrease the temperature of your oven if you feel that it is necessary. Baking times are so inconsistent between ovens that I refuse to draw a hard line where time and temperature are concerned. Just know this: These cookies aren’t going to be golden brown; at the golden brown stage after they have cooled they tend to be a little over done, still more delicious than any other cookie on the planet, but a little over done. Instead, I recommend that all bakers everywhere should shoot for finding that point where they are simply cooked thoroughly. I find that tasting the first tray of cookies, even if it means that you have to eat them all, can reveal the subtleties of the cooking process that will give you the information necessary to bake these Peanut Butter Salvation Cookies to perfection, just the way Jesus would.

HAPPY EASTER EVERYONE!

Fort out – it’s Renae again. I CAN’T BELIEVE OF ALL THE PICTURES OF ME FROM THAT DAY I SUPPLIED HIM WITH, HE CHOSE THE ONE CALLED “VERY UGLY RENAE.JPG”. Why is he my best friend again? Oh yeah, because he’s hilarious. And also he thinks it’s okay for us to drink six bottles of champagne while doing all of his holiday baking. And also “very ugly Renae.jpg” was probably one of the least horrible looking photos of me in the batch. (I’ll never let very ugly Renae-2.jpg get out to the public, boy.) Yes, I love Fortinbras. But since he didn’t include any of the nice pictures of the ole Tiggster from that day, I shall:

Tigger used to always hang out with us during parties, no matter how raucous we got. Brachtune, on the other hand, doesn’t know what to make of us when we get rowdy and tends to hole up in a safe place:

And with that, I wish you all a happy Easter as well!

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Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, a day late! I made “corned beef” last night:

I was going to share the recipe with you, then decided it’s not quite there yet, but worth working on. At least it was edible. Whenever someone says to me, “everything you make is so good,” Mark is always quick to say, “not EVERYTHING”. When asked to elaborate, he never fails to bring up “the corned beef”. I tried to make “corned beef” seitan about five years ago – following a recipe from the internet, I don’t know which one – and it was so salty it was completely inedible, and it’s saying something when Mark finds something too salty to eat because he’s a saltasaurus. A complete disaster. So I went very easy on the salt in my invention last night, although I think real corned beef is fairly salty. (I’ve never actually had corned beef. I know, I led a very sheltered life before going vegetarian! What’s weird is I think reubens would have been my favorite food ever had I ever had one.)

The other thing that I have made that was not good was the infamous “gasoline cake” that I baked for a friend’s birthday shortly after going vegan. However, that incident was entirely Fortinbras’ fault. It must have been a wacky cake because it had vinegar. Fortinbras showed up at my apartment to help decorate as I was mixing the batter, which I tasted and found to be “off”. I claimed I was going out to buy more flour and mix up a new cake because I’d ruined that one, but Fortinbras tasted the batter and said it was “fine”. I was still pretty new to cooking and baking and didn’t really feel like running up to the store, so with some misgivings, I listened to Fort and baked it up. I decorated it nicely and it looked quite lovely. After singing Happy Birthday, the cake was sliced and pieces were handed around. Suddenly people were making faces and politely putting their pieces down without finishing them. “What’s wrong?!” I shrieked. “It tastes like gasoline,” the birthday girl (never one to mince words) informed me. The only thing I can think of is I added too much vinegar. Only Fortinbras finished an entire slice, claiming it was “fine”, while I yelled at him because I’d TOLD him it there was something wrong with it and had wanted to make another.

A year or two later, though, I baked a cake for another friend who said it was the “most incredible cake” he’d ever tasted and who took the leftovers to his family who also said it was the most amazing cake they’d ever had. So I redeemed myself, just as I hope to redeem myself in regards to the corned beef incident.

I really like the texture I get from pressure cooking seitan, but I’ve been noticing that whenever I do, no matter how many flavorings I put in the seitan and in the broth, the finished product always tastes somewhat bland. I’m really quite baffled by it. Both the liquid for the seitan and the broth I made last night were very flavorful and I thought that seitan was going to be amazing, but it was just…seitan. Like all the flavor had cooked out of it. So I think I have the ingredients right, I need to work on the execution. I’ll try steaming this time. Has anyone else encountered this problem? Were you able to fix it?

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