Archive forDecember, 2009

Boxing Day Nut Loaf

Regardless of the holiday(s) you celebrate this time of year, I hope you’re having a wonderful season. My Christmas was cold, windy, foggy, and rainy, but the rain melted all the snow and I can see our lawn again! Euge! My family eats baked ham for Christmas dinner, so I made baked “hammy” seitan, only instead of the mustard/agave glaze I used for Easter, I used my grandmother’s recipe for pineapple baked ham. I’ll do a post on it sometime. Today Boxing Day was celebrated in many parts of the world, but not America, where most people have no idea if it is some sort of pugilist holiday or what. I got some new kitchen items for Christmas I wanted to break in, and decided we’d celebrate the mysterious Boxing Day the way I’ve decided thousands of European and Australian vegetarians do: with a nut loaf. I’ve never made a nut loaf before, but it seems very British to me for some reason and I wanted to have a very British Boxing Day.

In looking for nut loaf recipes, I found that many of them call for an unfortunate ratio of mushrooms. I finally found this promising-looking recipe that requires no mushrooms (and is accompanied by a video narrated by a lady with a most delightful accent). My recipe is heavily influenced by this recipe, but instead of bread crumbs, I used some leftover couscous I wanted to get rid of. The result was husband-approved…little surprise considering my husband would live off nuts alone if I’d let him.

Boxing Day Nut Loaf

8 oz mixed nuts (I used equal proportions hazelnuts, almonds, and cashews)
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
1/4 tsp each: thyme, rosemary, basil, tarragon (or some other combination of dried herbs to your liking, although you have to pronounce the “h” even if you’re American and it sounds weird because it’s Boxing Day and everyone is British on Boxing Day)
1 tsp dried parsley
freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 medium onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
4-6 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 cup vegan stock
2 tsp Marmite
1 cup mixed frozen vegetables (I used corn, peas, and spinach)
5 oz cooked couscous
1/2 cup whole wheat panko (or other breadcrumbs) + additional for topping

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius or gas mark 6, which is 400 degrees Fahrenheit if your oven is American even if you’re not, which you’re not because it’s Boxing Day.

Place some olive oil in a small pot over medium heat and then add the onions. This is my new orange Le Creuset sauce pot, which my parents gave me for Christmas! I LOVE it!

While the onions are cooking, grind the nuts in a food processor or blender, but call it a “liquidizer” because you’re British today. Set aside in a bowl with the nutritional yeast and dried herbs (pronounce that h!).

Whisk the Marmite (it’s British!) into the stock. It’s not pictured, but another of my presents was an electric kettle (oooh, so British!). I had requested one, although with a few reservations, wondering if I would really use it often enough to make it worthwhile. Well, aside from tea, I used it no less than five times today, so the answer is yes, I WILL use it and it’s great! I brought a cup of water to a boil in less than a minute, then whisked in the bouillon and Marmite. Yes, I could have used the microwave, but for some reason I felt a LOT better about using the kettle.

I also used the electric kettle to defrost the frozen veggies. I put them in a bowl and poured boiling water over them to cover, let sit for a few minutes, then drained.

When the onions are soft, add the carrots, cook for a few minutes, then add the garlic and cook for another minute.

Here I’m weighing my leftover couscous so I can record how much I used.

In a large bowl, combine the mixed dry ingredients, the thawed frozen veggies, the onions and carrots, and 1/2 cup panko or breadcrumbs.

Add the liquid ingredients and stir to combine.

Spread into a greased loaf pan or baking dish. I used a shallow baking dish anticipating the same problem I had with my lentil loaf, in which it stayed so moist it never held together. Smooth the top of the loaf. (This baking dish was actually a previous Christmas present from my aunt, so it’s extra appropriate for this post.)

Sprinkle the additional panko or breadcrumbs atop the loaf. I forgot to take a picture before loading it into the oven, so here it is in the oven.

Bake for 30-40 minutes or until golden brown.

While the nut loaf was baking, I tossed some baby potatoes with some olive oil, salt, pepper, and rosemary and spread them out in another baking dish, which I slid in next to the nut loaf.

Then I halved some Brussels sprouts – which I think the British love during Christmas and I’m assuming Boxing Day – and placed them cut side down in some olive oil in my OTHER new Le Creuset pot, a gorgeous kiwi Dutch oven (which I’ve been lusting after for a while) from Mark.

I let them cook for a few minutes, covered, then took the lid off, stirred them and cooked a few more minutes before seasoning with salt and pepper. I didn’t take any pictures, but in the orange Le Creuset, I made some Fiery Red Wine Gravy – I was pretty true to that recipe, though without the mint.

The finished nut loaf:

And here was our meal, served on a new stoneware plate from my parents, although you can’t see the pattern, which is red boxes (it’s Boxing Day after all!) for the food. Mark and I ate it while watching Whale Wars. The crew only eats vegan meals, which I liked to hear while eating my vegan meal, although I had a hard time with some of the scenes of whales being hurt.

I love my new pots so much I’m storing them on the stove. Well, I love them and also I don’t have anywhere else to store them. So it’s especially good I got the electric kettle since this means the tea kettle got kicked off the stove.

And in other news, Mark and I made gingerbread cookies, using my mother’s recipe, on Christmas Eve. I decorated mine pretty traditionally:

I don’t even know what to tell you about Mark’s:

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Baking during a snowy weekend

We are trapped: buried under more than a foot of snow! Aargh!

Nothing to do in that case except bake, I guess. Here’s what I’ve made this weekend:

Sparkling cranberries.

Spoon cookies.

Salted caramels (made with MimicCreme and Earth Balance buttery sticks). This was the first time I’ve ever really made candy and they turned out amazing despite the fact I didn’t really trust my thermometer, as it’s not a candy thermometer. But I stopped when it said 248 degrees (I also tested by dropping a bit into ice water and checking the consistency) and it was perfect! I topped them with extra salt (I actually used Maldon, which is my favorite salt; I can’t afford fleur de sel) and my only regret is I wasn’t more heavy-handed with the salt because some pieces didn’t get any and the pieces that did are sooo good.

Crusty cheese bread (using Follow Your Heart cheese) from Peter Reinhart’s Artisan Breads Every Day.

Pretzel from Artisan Breads.

San Francisco Sourdough from Artisan Breads…proofing in a brotform.

Sourdough after baking; I’d say I got some oven spring:

We really are trapped; this is our street. It may not look too bad to owners of four-wheel drive cars or SUVs, but we both have rear wheel drive cars. Mine’s completely useless in the snow and I don’t even try; Mark’s is bigger, heavier, and a little better, but he couldn’t make it up the second hill in this picture and had to turn back home. He was trying to get to Wegmans to buy some orange juice because he’s drunk a gallon of it since Thursday.

Mark’s decidedly less healthy alternative to orange juice, chilling.

If we lived on the side street next to our house instead of the main road, we’d be stuck here for weeks!

It was really hard for me to walk around the yard other than where Mark shoveled because the snow was deeper than the height of my boots:

It took a lot of effort, but I made it over to the pool. Man, I miss summer. This picture is just plain depressing.

Our patio table looks like a cake:

I was very fortunate in that Mark decided that shoveling all the snow himself would suffice for his workout since he couldn’t make it to the gym. I thought he looked particularly cute here surveying all his hard work:

The sunshine today really belies the intensity of yesterday’s storm.

We took Brachtune out briefly to let her see the snow.

She didn’t like it.

But as soon as we took her back in, she thought maybe she’d like to go out again.


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Real Ginger Ale

I’m really excited about this recipe. After three failed attempts at a potable ginger ale, I have finally found the method and ratio of ingredients that works for me. Now, I have previously posted how to cheat at making ginger ale, and that’s a fine method to use if you’re in a hurry, unduly afraid of explosions, and/or like buying seltzer. I’ve taught myself patience by getting into fermentation (I make year-fermenting miso, I’m remarkably patient!), and I hate buying seltzer. It’s heavy to lug around and uses too much packaging. I even bought a soda siphon to try to make my own seltzer, but I had to go and buy an antique and it doesn’t work. (Sometimes my love of old things backfires on me.) Since I hate buying soda even more than I hate buying seltzer (it’s always sickeningly sweet), it eventually dawned on me I was going to have to do this right.

Before you follow this recipe exactly, you should probably know something of my tastes in soda, because I’m not sure if they are conventional. First of all, I’m proud to say I was raised right: I was only given soda on special occasions: usually birthdays and trips to visit grandparents, and I still consider soda a treat, not a daily beverage. Second of all, I don’t generally like most sodas. I despise diet soda of all kinds; I think it tastes like chemicals and I think it’s extremely bad for you. But I also hate sugary soda as well; it makes me feel like my teeth are rotting. Pretty much I only like ginger ale, birch beer, and high quality root beer, and even the latter two are sometimes too sweet for me. You may be wondering why I even bother with soda in the first place if I’m so hateful of it, but I do sometimes want something bubbly. Obviously the only solution is to make my own soda and control the sugar. So the first thing to know about my ginger ale is it’s not very sweet.

The next thing to know about my ginger ale is it’s definitely an “ale” and not a ginger beer. I’m not sure why, because generally I like everything in its most potent form: red wine over white, dark beer over light, intense, spicy foods over subtle, delicate foods – and I love ginger – but I don’t like ginger beer; it’s too strong. So my ginger ale is not overly gingery or spicy. It DOES taste a heck of a lot more like ginger than Canada Dry or Scheweppes, though, neither of which I think even contain ginger.

It’s also a bit tart. When I first tasted it, I thought maybe I used too much lemon juice, but now I’m positively addicted to this stuff so I must like it tart. I think the lemon adds to its intense refreshing quality. But I don’t know, some people who are used to sugary soda might find it surprising upon first tasting it.

Anyway, on with the recipe. I scoured the internet for recipes, and the ingredients are pretty much the same in all of them, though the method varies, so there’s no one I really attribute this too, however I tested the methods and proportions of all the ingredients several times before coming up with what I found satisfactory, and this is it:

Ginger Ale

scant 1 cup sugar (any kind will work: white, brown, agave nectar)
9 cups warm water, separated
4 – 6 oz fresh ginger, chopped (depending on your love of ginger)
juice of 1/2 to 1 lemon (I use an entire lemon and the result is fairly tart)
1/8 tsp champagne yeast (from a brewing supply store)*

* About the yeast: several sources, including Alton Brown, say you can use bread yeast. I tried this once a couple of years ago and the result was so nasty it turned me off from trying to make my own soda again for over a year. So try it at your own risk: I’m perfectly willing to believe I did something wrong that time. I ordered champagne yeast – as well as birch and root beer extracts and empty bottles from Jay’s Brewing and they were great.

Chop or slice the ginger. There is no need to peel it.

I pureed the ginger for one batch and the result was so strong I couldn’t tolerate it. This method is much easier and tastier, to me.

Put the sugar and one cup of the water in a small saucepan and heat over medium high heat, stirring. Add the ginger slices.

Juice the lemon and add the juice to the pot. Don’t worry about the seeds; you’ll be straining the mixture later.

Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, sterilize your bottles. The easiest way to do this is by running them through the dishwasher, but if its inconvenient to do a load, just boil them in a stockpot for 10 minutes. As I mentioned, I got my bottles at Jay’s Brewing. This recipe is scaled to make 4 16-ounce bottles.

Most web sites I visited recommended newbies use plastic two-liter soda bottles, due to the possibility of glass exploding. One charming character trait of mine, though, is I never do things the easy way. For one thing, using a plastic two-liter soda bottle would involve buying and drinking two liters of soda: gross! For another, apparently sterilizing plastic involves bleach: scary! I want to make you very aware, however, that the possibility of explosions is very real. It happened to me the first time I made a batch of root beer.

When the ginger solution is finished steeping, let it cool for about 5-10 minutes (you don’t want it to be so hot it kills the yeast), then place the remaining 8 cups of water into a large pot or bowl. Whisk in the yeast, then pour in the ginger solution through a strainer.

Pour the soda into the bottles through a funnel, whisking it before each addition to keep the yeast evenly distributed. Important!: Make sure about an inch and a half of air remains at the top of the bottle, or you’re guaranteed an explosion. (You don’t want to leave too much air, though, or the soda will be flat.)

When all the bottles are full, seal them tightly.

Now, after my explosion event, I am very careful and I stick my bottles in a plastic bag in the laundry room. I sincerely suggest you do the same. So far I haven’t had any more explosions, but if I do, it will be contained.

Let the bottles sit for 48 hours, then move to the refrigerator and chill for at least 24 hours before drinking. Note that there will be some sediment in the bottom of the bottle. This is normal. If your pour the soda from the bottle fairly carefully, it will stay at the bottom and won’t go in your glass. It’s harmless if it does, though. Open the bottles very carefully! I’d do it – at least the first of the batch – outside or over a sink as it’s hard to gauge how carbonated they are. My last unsuccessful batch foamed so much upon opening that only a few ounces were left in the bottle!

It’s particularly picturesque with a slice of lime!

By the way, if a cup of sugar (I actually use slightly less) seems like a lot to you, you should be aware that the yeast entirely consumes 1/3 of it. That means that after fermentation, each 16 ounce bottle contains 2 1/2 tablespoons of sugar. Which means one bottle is still a source of your daily sugar intake that you should be aware of, but it’s far, far less than the average soda. One of these days, I’m going to try to substitute some of the sugar with stevia, but honestly, I don’t consume that much sugar from other sources and I’m so pleased with the way this tastes I’m wary of messing with it.

This was the perfect accompaniment to pho tonight, and when this next batch is ready, I’m going to try it with some whiskey and see how it mixes.

I hope my talk of explosions and foaming didn’t put you off making your own soda. You do need to be aware of the risks, but it’s really a surprisingly quick and easy – and very cheap – procedure and I found it very rewarding. The only downside is I don’t think I can ever drink store-bought soda again. And I’m kicking myself for not making this batch sooner because I drank my last bottle of the previous batch tonight and I can’t wait for more!

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“Beef” and Barley Stew

Northern Virginia has been suffering from winter temperatures for just over a week and I’m already completely sick of it. Today was cold, rainy, gray, overcast, cold, wet, chilly, cold, and basically just not hospitable. I’ve been threatening to move to Australia. I dealt with the miserable weather the only way I know how, which is by making stew. Here’s what I made:

“Beef” and Barley Stew

1 Tbsp olive oil
3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
6 cups vegan “beef” broth
2 tsp Kitchen Bouquet
2 tsp Marmite
3 bay leaves
2 cups vegan “beef”: beef-style seitan, TVP chunks, tempeh, etc., chopped into bite-sized pieces if necessary
1/2 cup hulled barley
2 huge carrots, chunked
1 cup potatoes, chopped
1 cup pearl onions
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 cup cooked lima beans
1/2 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup frozen corn
1/2 tsp thyme
freshly ground ground pepper and salt, to taste

Prep the ingredients: chunk the carrots (I like large chunks of carrot), chop the potatoes, garlic, and “beef” (if necessary). Cook the lima beans (I used dried limas and cooked them in the pressure cooker). Bring some water to a boil, add the pearl onions, cook for 5 to 7 minutes, drain, them pop out of their skins.

In a Dutch oven, heat the olive oil, then add the flour and mix. Cook for two minutes.

Slowly add the broth. Since I was using bouillon cubes, I just added the water, then added the bouillon cubes once it came to a boil later.

Stir or whisk as you continue to add the water or broth to keep lumps from forming.

Bring to a boil, add bouillon cubes if necessary, Kitchen Bouquet, Marmite, bay leaves, barley, potatoes, and carrots.

Reduce heat and simmer half an hour. Add the remaining ingredients except frozen veggies.

Simmer another 20 minutes, then add frozen veggies and adjust seasonings. Cook for another couple of minutes, until frozen veggies are warmed.

Serve, preferably with crusty bread.

In non-food related news, I am free of the tyranny of iTunes! Not only am I at long last completely managing my iPod in Linux, but I converted all the DRM files I’d purchased from iTunes to mp3. Sweet, sweet freedom! I never have to look at iTunes again, or Windows for that matter (at home anyway). I know this has nothing to do with food, or even cats, but I’m just so ecstatic about it I can’t help but gloat.

I haven’t posted in a while, I know, but I have been taking photos of some of my meals, so I’ll do a sort of conglomeration post this week, as well as a post on real ginger ale, which after three failed batches I have finally perfected and I’m super excited about it. To help make up for my lack of posts lately, here is Brachtune helping me make reusable gift bags.

And here she is simply being beautiful, which is what she does best:

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Drunken Noodles, more authentic

The last time I made drunken noodles, I warned that it was not my usual drunken noodles and not remotely authentic. My “usual” drunken noodles are generally me standing around the kitchen throwing things together and making it really spicy. Last night I decided to “get authentic” and actually look at recipes for drunken noodles. I did what I usually do in those cases and read a bunch of recipes, kept it all in the back of my head, then went into the kitchen and worked something out that was a conglomeration of what I’ve read. This recipe probably weighed the most heavily.

One thing I learned is the basil used in real drunken noodles is not Thai basil, as I thought, but holy basil. I wish I’d thought of this before I went to Super H the other night because they have holy basil, but as it was, I had NO basil and was still determined to make the dish. Which right there probably eliminates it from the realm of “authentic”. I did throw in a frozen basil cube, though, for (completely the wrong) basil flavour. (I just typed “flavor” like a normal American and Firefox – which on my laptop thinks I’m British for some unfathomable reason – underlined it as a typo and I went back and “corrected” it. It’s very distracting for Firefox to keep telling me words are misspelled when they aren’t. Curiously, Firefox also insists that “Firefox” is misspelled.) I don’t really recommend the frozen basil thing though, because in addition to probably getting you mocked by serious Thai food connoisseurs, these noodles could really have used some green basil leaves snaking through them for the sake of appearance if nothing else. They weren’t all that pretty. Mark mysteriously announced that in the wok, it looked like Hamburger Helper. Trust me, that’s not what you want to hear when you’re going for an authentic ethnic meal.

The good thing about this recipe is it’s super fast. I prepped everything in about 10 minutes, then just waited for Mark to come home. When he arrived, it was just 10 minutes, if that, to prepare. It looks like a lot of ingredients, but it’s mostly just sauces you’re mixing together at one time. Easy.

Drunken noodles should be very spicy; add as much heat as you can handle!

Drunken Noodles

6-8 oz wide rice noodles (banh pho)
2 Tbsp vegan oyster sauce (readily available in Asian grocery stores)
2 Tbsp light soy sauce
1 Tbsp seasoning sauce (This is usually Golden Mountain seasoning sauce, which is a Thai condiment similar to Maggi seasoning. The second bottle from the left in my photo is a Vietnamese seasoning sauce with ingredients that look identical to Golden Mountain, so I’m assuming it’s pretty much the same flavour-wise. Substitute Maggi seasoning sauce and/or more light soy sauce.)
1 Tbsp dark soy sauce
1 Tbsp vegan fish sauce (substitute more light soy, or omit if your mixture is too salty already)
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 Tbsp sambel olek
1 tsp sugar (I used brown sugar, white is fine)
6 oz chicken-style seitan or cubed tofu
1 cup holy basil, or Thai basil, or if all else fails, regular basil, or if you’re completely desperate, a frozen basil cube
3 large shallots or 1/2 onion, diced
4 cloved garlic, minced or pressed
1 carrot, chopped
1/2 can baby corn
1 jalapeno (this is what I used because it’s what I had; Thai peppers would be more appropriate if you have them)
2 Tbsp canned jalapenos, chopped (optional; I still had some leftover from the Mexican pizza and nachos)

Because I had the canned jalapenos I wanted to use up, I figured I’d make a cheater’s version of one of the condiments you get in Thai restaurants. I took the canned jalapenos and covered them in rice vinegar (and a splash of the vegan fish sauce for good measure, but that’s just because I have it and feel like I should be using it). If you don’t want to bother with doing this, just add the vinegar to the sauce in the next step instead.

In a small bowl, whisk together the oyster, soy, seasoning, and fish (if using) sauces, sambel olek, and sugar. Set aside.

Prepare the rice noodles according to package instructions. What I do is bring a pot of water to a boil, remove it from the heat, add the noodles and stir, and let them sit for 3 to 5 minutes or until soft. Keep an eye on them; they soak quickly this way. Drain and run under cold water when soft, then toss lightly with a bit of oil to keep from sticking.

Chop your shallots or onion, carrots, baby corn, and hot pepper. Mince or press the garlic. (Not pictured: prepare your basil.)

Heat some oil in a hot wok, then add the shallots and fry for 2 or 3 minutes.

Add the carrots, baby corn, and hot pepper and fry for another couple of minutes, then add the garlic and fry another minute.

Add the tofu or seitan and fry another minute or two.

Mix in the noodles and basil.

My picture of the next step was too blurry to use, but add the sauce, mix well, and bring it all up to temperature. I added my jalapeno/vinegar condiment here because it was just me and Mark and we like it the same way, but you can also serve it at the table for guests to add to their own liking.

Bonus kitty picture:

It’s snowing here, heavier than they’d predicted. I was supposed to go up to Baltimore to see a friend I haven’t seen in several years, so I’m frustrated. Mark, despite the fact he spends most Saturdays sitting at his computer, is going stir crazy because he is being forced to sit at his computer instead of doing some myriad of unidentified outdoor activities he’d suddenly rather be doing, and keeps coming into my sunroom/library and dancing around like a maniac. Brachtune is the only content one. See above.

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Kimchee “Beef” Ramen; Nachos

I’ve done a post on ramen before, but here’s another idea. I’ve been going into work early (for me) this week and was too tired when I got home to make much of a fuss with dinner, so this is what I came up with.

Kimchee “Beef” Ramen

4 cups vegan “beef” broth
4 oz vegan “beefy” seitan, sliced thinly or purchased in a small format
1 carrot, grated
equal amount of daikon, grated
2 Tbsp gochuchang (Korean spicy pepper paste) (optional)
2 Tbsp vegan fish sauce, if available (I just threw this in because I have it and don’t know what to do with it)
2 cups kimchee, chopped
1 package chuka soba (curly noodles)
1 cup bean sprouts
4 scallions, chopped

Grate the carrot and daikon.

If your kimchee isn’t chopped small enough for your tastes, scissors make short work of it.

Combine the broth, “fish” sauce (totally optional), gochuchang (optional if you want to cut down on the heat), kimchee, and “beefy” seitan in a soup pot.

Bring to a boil then add the ramen. You don’t need to break it up, but do submerge it.

Cook for a minute, then add the carrots and daikon.

The ramen will be done in 3 to 5 minutes; when it is, you can stick a spoon or chopstick in it and twirl to separate the noodles.

Add the bean sprouts and scallions; stir.

Serve topped with additional scallions and maybe a sprinkle of sesame seeds.

Next up, not so much a recipe so much as an idea. I had leftover “beefy” sauce, jalapenos, and “cheese” from the Mexican pizzas I made the other day, so last night I made nachos to use it all up.


tortilla chips, enough to thoroughly cover your baking dish (and feed everyone)
taco-flavored vegan ground “beef”
vegan refried beans (I used half a can for two servings)
diced onion
canned or fresh jalapenos, sliced
salsa (I used half a jar for two servings)
vegan cheddar cheese (I used Daiya)
guacamole and/or vegan sour cream (I made guac by pounding a bit of onion and garlic with some salt in a molcajete, then adding avocado and hot sauce and mashing well; you can use a bowl and fork instead of a molcajete)

Mark got home late, so I made two separate sets of the nachos, each in an 8×8 baking dish, which was about right for a single serving, and saved his to bake when he got home. I just layered the tortilla chips, then the refried beans and “beefy” sauce, then the onions and jalapenos, then the salsa and cheese. I baked it at 375 for about 10 minutes, then added some guacamole.

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