Zucchini Gratin, Lemon-Basil Seitan

Hello, I’ve missed you! I have recipes! With really, really, really bad photos!! In fact, the photos are so bad I’m ashamed of them, especially as someone who has urged you to keep up on my life if you’d like to by going to my photo blog, though I tell you the photos there are of a little higher quality. I’ve been doing a lot of things, and even posting regularly (though perhaps not as personally) on my photo blog, but I sure haven’t been posting here, have I? I’m not going to make any promises that I’ll be posting regularly now, but I did make a dish or two last night I liked enough to want to record, so here I am.

And what have I been doing with my time instead of cooking magnificent, blog-worthy food? A lot of wildlife volunteering, of course. I have regular shifts at two different wildlife hospitals here, which I absolutely love. It’s very interesting working in two very different places, and it’s going to be REALLY interesting in the next month or so when baby wildlife season starts. I have so much to learn, especially about all the non-raccoon and non-raptor species as well as the differences between Virginia and California species. I’m interested in caring for all animals, although both hospitals are aware of my special interest in both raptors and rabies-vector species and I’ve have started working with the education raptors (and other species) at one of the hospitals and have been handling rehab raptors at the other. California seems to be a lot more rehab-friendly than Virginia was and my volunteer work here has been my favorite thing about California. It’s really great.

My next favorite thing about California is NATURE. It took me a while to get used to the parks here as they are very different than Virginia’s parks, and arriving during the middle of summer AND a drought was probably not an ideal introduction. All the parks were dry, brown, hot, hilly, open, and apparently devoid of wildlife when I first got here. As it turns out, though, winter in California is a magical time. I despised winter in Virginia, but in California, everything turns green – and not just an ordinary green, but a GLOWING green – and thousands and thousands of raptors migrate through here: the parks have become extremely beautiful and I don’t know if there is just more wildlife this time of year or if I’ve gotten luckier, but I’ve started to see so many more animals that it may be even better than Virginia. Plus the weather is amazing: comfortable temperatures and NO SNOW. The San Francisco Bay area is a very populous, congested area, yet there are so many parks and open spaces, it’s pretty amazing. I typically go hiking several times a week and don’t repeat many parks all that often, and I have a thick folder full of used park maps, and there are still many I haven’t yet been to. Also, I stare at Google Maps a lot looking for green areas to explore, and yet, nearly every week I talk to someone who mentions some park I’ve never even heard of. It’s really pretty incredible. I LOVE it.

Last, but not least, is friends. I don’t have that many here, but some of my very old friends are coming to me. 🙂 Our good friends Brad and April moved to the Bay Area a few months after we did, which was SO GREAT. And at long, long last, Fortinbras has FINALLY made it back to California. He moved to LA just a couple of weeks ago. I wish he was closer, but LA is way better than Baltimore, and we are driving distance from each other, if not pop-by-on-a-whim close. He drove up here the week before last, which was the first time I’d seen him since I left Virginia in July. He’s actually the reason for my first recipe today because he bought a bunch of zucchini and yellow squash while he was here and we didn’t eat all of it, so a few were languishing in my fridge and needed to be used up. I’ll typically just lightly saute zucchini and top with a flavored salt, but though he’ll eat that, Mark tends to take only a few slices and I’m always harping on him about eating more nutrients, so last night I had a little more time for dinner preparations than I usually have and I tried to think of something different to do with the zucchini and squash that might appeal to Mark. I decided to make a gratin.

I’ve made gratins in the past, often relying on the gruyere recipe in Artisan Vegan Cheese, but I’ll be honest with you: I haven’t made fermented cheese since I moved. I keep wanting to and not finding the time. What I have been making a lot of, though, is various cheese recipes by Lacey at Avocado and Ales. Lacey left me a lovely comment on my last post so I checked out her blog and found she’s pretty amazing. (Lacey, if you are reading this, I tried to leave you a comment telling you that but I had issues doing so and I don’t know if you ever saw it.) So when I googled around for gruyere ideas and found a recipe (that I think was adapted from the original vegan cheese bible, The Uncheese Cookbook, which you would THINK a vegan of as many years as me would own but I for some reason do not), I took a tip from Lacey and replaced the acid with vegan lactic acid powder. I don’t think I’ve ever actually had real gruyere cheese if you want the truth, but I thought the resulting sauce was pretty tasty. Also, she didn’t write this particular recipe, but you should really check out Lacey’s recipes – I’ve quit buying Daiya mozzarella and just make her mozzarella, which I prefer, on pizza, and her vegan cheddar sauce is really great.

Anyway, on with the recipe:

Zucchini Gratin
Cheese sauce adapted from a recipe in the comments on this page, with inspiration from Lacey at Avocado and Ales

4 small or 3 large zucchini and/or yellow squash, evenly sliced
1 small yellow onion, sliced into half-moons
1 recipe vegan gruyere sauce (recipe follows)
1 cup bread crumbs
vegan parmesan, optional

Vegan Gruyere Sauce:
1 cup water
2 Tbsp tahini
2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
2 Tbsp flour
4 tsp arrowroot
1 1/2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp vegan lactic acid
1/4 tsp salt

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. If you don’t have pre-made bread crumbs, make some first so you can work with a dry blender or food processor: toast about 3 slices of white or whole wheat bread until they are quite dry, then roughly crumble into a dry blender or food processor. If you’d like, add some seasonings: I added a little vegan chicken broth powder, salt, and dried parsley. Process until you are left with small crumbs and set aside. Next make the gruyere sauce by placing all ingredients in a blender or food processor and processing until smooth. Pour into a small saucepan and heat over medium heat, stirring until sauce is smooth and thickened. Set aside. Slice the zucchini or squash and the onion, then heat a little oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until soft, then add the zucchini and squash until they are lightly cooked. Pour the gruyere sauce into pan and mix everything up, then pour the mixture into a medium baking dish.

Sprinkle the bread crumbs on top.

If using, top with vegan parmesan. I just happened to have seen Follow Your Heart’s shaved parmesan for the first time the other day and bought it out of curiosity, so I used that, but I don’t generally buy or make vegan parm and if I hadn’t had it, I would likely have generously sprinkled Dragonfly’s Bulk, Dry Uncheese, which I always have on hand and use for all my powdered or sprinkly cheese needs, on top.

Bake for 20 minutes, remove from oven, and let sit for 10 minutes before serving.

BAD, CURIOUS CATS!

They are so cute and SO annoying when I’m cooking.

Mark’s thoughts on the gratin? He liked it a lot. He declared himself a “foodie”, closed his eyes and said he tasted hints of “berry”. I said that was absurd, to which he commanded, “Silence! Do not contradict the foodie!” In a slightly less silly assessment, he said it was both creamy and crunchy and he enjoyed that dichotomy. He also ate all of what was on his plate and didn’t make a single complaint about the fact it was squash, which he ordinarily has very mixed feelings about. Success!

Mark suggested that I also post the recipe for the seitan I served, which I agreed to do because it gives me a chance to talk about my brand new Instant Pot, which I’m excited about. I’m a little late to the Instant Pot game, which is surprising because I love kitchen gadgets, but with my move last year to California, I spent the first half of 2015 purging as many material items as I could from my life and not buying anything. And the second half of 2015 found me needing to be extremely frugal because CALIFORNIA IS EXTREMELY EXPENSIVE. I’ve had my eye on an Instant Pot for a while, though, because although I managed to cram all my appliances into a kitchen that is much smaller than my previous one, several of them, such as my dough mixer and slow cooker, were inconvenient to use, and I had dreams of replacing the slow cooker and rice cooker with the Instant Pot to free up some space and make all of the appliances easier to reach and use. And then my stovetop pressure cooker stopped working properly – it would maintain pressure, but release a lot of steam while doing so. Now, I won’t lie to you: I probably just needed to replace the gasket, which would have been the cheapest solution, but I instead decided to take that as a sign it was time to indulge in the Instant Pot. And I’m really glad I did because I know it’s going to get a lot of use and now my dough mixer is going to be a lot easier to use from its new location on the counter. I had started getting back into baking a little bit when we first moved and I had some time (before I was able to start volunteering again), but I’d gotten pretty lazy about it partially because the mixer was just inconvenient to use. And another thing I’d been lazy about was buying and stashing a bunch of Gardein products in the freezer, which is NOT a frugal move. I should have been making my own seitan more regularly, but my preferred method for that was steam-then-bake and my slow cooker/steamer was also inconvenient to get to so I tended not to do it. Then I thought about returning to my previous favorite method of seitan making, which was pressure cooking, but my pressure cooker was getting on my nerves. ENTER THE INSTANT POT, in which I can steam OR pressure cook the seitan – though I’ll tell you now I’m pretty much always going to pressure cook it.

For pressure cooking, the Instant Pot is far superior to a stovetop pressure cooker, because you can set the timer and just walk away – in fact, I could leave the house if I wanted to. (And the weather in California is generally so glorious I USUALLY want to leave the house.) PLUS there is none of the really annoying “run cold water over the pressure cooker to bring the pressure down” nonsense I was always doing with the stovetop cooker. I’m not yet sure about making rice; I doubt it’s going to be easier or better than my high-end fuzzy logic rice cooker, whose place its taken on the counter, but I also didn’t get rid of the rice cooker and I intend to bring it out of the cupboard when I want to cook something in the Instant Pot AND have rice, which I think might be rather often.

Basically, though, I convinced myself I’m going to save tons of money on bread and fake meat by investing in the Instant Pot. Hopefully that’s true. I’ve already baked a couple loaves of bread – the bread crumbs in the recipe above? Made from homemade bread. I will also hopefully use the slow cooker feature much more often than I was slow cooking before because I am very often not home during dinner-making hours, usually coming home starving and throwing something sub-par together as fast as I can.

So that’s my Instant Pot story. If you have favorite Instant Pot tips and recipes, please share!

As for the seitan recipe, generally when I want to make seitan of any type, I’ll google Vegan Dad’s lunch meat recipe to get the basic ratios of beans/liquid/vital wheat gluten (though you’d think I’d have it memorized by now), then I season it however I’m in the mood for. Previously I would steam and bake as Vegan Dad instructs, but now that I again have a reliable pressure cooker, I’ll be doing that as it takes half the time and is in my opinion easier. Something that I’ve been doing for a long time is cooking large batches of dried beans and freezing them in 1-cup portions to be used for seitan down the road. I’ll be able to either slow cook or pressure cook these beans in the Instant Pot from now on.

Enough blather, here’s the actual recipe:

Lemon-Basil Seitan
Seitan adapted from Vegan Dad’s lunch meat; sauce lightly adapted from Epicurious

For the seitan:
2 cups water
1 cup cooked or canned beans (I usually use some sort of white beans but used canned Lebanese fava beans this time)
1/4 cup neutral oil
1 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp vegan chicken broth powder
2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt
2 3/4 cup vital wheat gluten

For the sauce:
1 cup vegan chicken broth
zest and juice of one lemon
4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1/2 cup (lightly packed) basil, chiffonaded

To make the seitan, add all ingredients except the vital wheat gluten to a blender or food processor and process until smooth. Measure the vital wheat gluten into a large bowl, then pour in the liquid and stir with a wooden spoon, or just mix with your hands. Lightly knead until entirely mixed. Form the mixture into a log shape. Take a large piece of clean cheesecloth or muslin and roll the seitan up like a tootsie roll, tying the ends with kitchen string. Place in a pressure cooker and cover with water or vegan broth. (I used plain water but salted it generously.) After bringing up to pressure, cook for 50 minutes to one hour then release the pressure naturally. (I kept my Instant Pot in “Keep Warm” for 10 or 12 minutes, then moved the valve to “Venting” to release the remaining pressure.) After removing it from the pot, you can unwrap the seitan at this point, but let it completely cool before slicing or using. In fact, the seitan is best used the next day after firming in the refrigerator overnight, though you can use it as soon as it is cool.

For the Lemon-Basil sauce, slice as many pieces of seitan as you want and pan fry them in a pan large enough to accommodate them, then remove from the pan. In the same pan, pour a little olive oil, add the garlic, and stir a couple of times, then pour in the broth and lemon juice and zest. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until reduced to one half or one third of original volume. Add the basil and stir, then return the cooked seitan to the pan, coat with the sauce, and re-warm. Serve. I served mine with the gratin above and rice made with vegan chicken broth in the Instant Pot.

Boy, is this picture bad:

So there you have two recipes and an update on my life. If you are interested in seeing some GOOD photos, again, I refer you to renae.org, where you can also find my photo blog. I have a lot of super-exciting photos like this one:

and this one:

there. That’s all for now – I’ll try not to be a stranger. Leave me Instant Pot recipes. 🙂

Comments (9)

“Chicken” Pot Pie

I live!!! Were you wondering? The only difference is where I live. Can you guess where?

Yes, Mark and the cats and I have moved from one coast to the other. So I’ve been busy with THAT. I work remotely now (at the same job I had before), which is really cool. From my home office I have a view of the bay and San Francisco. I’ve started volunteering at not one but two wildlife hospitals, which I absolutely love, and I’ve been exploring a lot of the parks around here, usually in a rather fruitless search for wildlife, though I’m getting better at finding it. You can read – and SEE – more about my nature and wildlife adventures at my photo blog, which I’ve been a LITTLE better at updating than this one.

Now with food! The other day I went shopping at Trader Joe’s and decided to put together an easy pot pie for dinner, using TJ’s chicken-less strips, some frozen veggies, and TJ’s crescent roll dough (which I was pleased to find was vegan since they didn’t have any vegan pie crusts and I wasn’t feeling like making one). Well, Mark scarfed that dinner down and then tried to eat the half of my pie that I didn’t eat, although I said I was saving it for lunch the next day. Then we had friends over for dinner two days later that weekend for Mark’s birthday so I asked Mark what he wanted for his birthday dinner and he said, “MORE OF THOSE POT PIES!!!” So I doubled the recipe, swapped in fresh veggies for frozen, and made it again, and guess what else I did? I TOOK PICTURES SO I COULD DO A BLOG POST! Yeee-haw!!

This is a meal you can make as simple or as complicated as you have the time and patience for. You could make it entirely from convenience foods: store-bought vegan “chicken”, frozen veggies, and pie crust, or entirely from scratch: your own chicken-style seitan, all fresh veggies, and if you are a better person than I, a homemade crust. The pot pies I made for Mark’s birthday dinner were a hybrid. The quantities below make two 2-serving pot pies, although it’s easy to vary the size of the pot pies by choosing whatever baking dishes you have on hand. I made double this for Mark’s birthday dinner, which served four of us and left us with a couple extra pies for lunch the next day.

“Chicken” Pot Pie
adapted from Allrecipes.com

1/2 white or yellow onion, diced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
3/4 cup green beans, trimmed and chopped
1/2 cup fresh or frozen peas
1-3 Yukon gold potatoes (depending on size), chopped
12 oz vegan “chicken” strips (or reconstituted Soy Curls, or chicken-style seitan), chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 3/4 cup vegan “chicken” broth
1/3 cup unsweetened, plain soy or almond milk
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp vegan margarine
leaves from a few springs fresh thyme, or about 1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp fresh or dried rosemary
black or white ground pepper, to taste
1 package vegan crescent roll dough (like Trader Joe’s brand)

I did a lot of the prep work for this the day before, chopping everything and storing it in the refrigerator. Here are the “chicken” strips and veggies, chopped:

I also pre-chopped the onions:

I used Trader Joe’s “chicken-less strips”. In fact, I think almost every single ingredient except the herbs (which I am amazingly growing) and the “chicken” broth came from Trader Joe’s. Trader Joe’s is the closest grocery store to our house, which is convenient because we are on an extremely strict budget these days.

Peas from Trader Joe’s!

The next day when I was ready to prepare the pot pies I did the following:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Put the celery, carrots, green beans, peas, and potatoes into a large pot and cover well with water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Put the olive oil and margarine in a Dutch oven over medium heat. When the margarine has melted, add the onions and saute for a few minutes, then add the garlic and saute until the onions are soft.

Add the thyme, rosemary, and pepper.

Incorporate the flour to make a thick roux. Cook for a minute or two to take the raw edge off the flour.

Start slowly adding the “chicken” broth, stirring thoroughly after each addition of 1/4 to 1/2 cup.

Stir in the soy or almond milk. Here is the gravy after all the broth and the milk have been added. Remove this pot from the heat.

Brown the “chicken” in a large skillet. This step may be optional for some types of “chicken” and is personal preference, but at least for the TJ’s “chicken-less” strips, I preferred to do this. Note, though, that I skipped it the first time I made these pot pies and I got no complaints from Mark. Or myself.

Stir the drained veggies and the “chicken” into the gravy.

Find some oven-safe dishes that are a good size to bake the pot pies. I like making individual pot pies, although most of the pictured dishes are a tad large for a single serving. Divide the pie contents between your dishes. Remember that for the dishes pictured here, I had doubled this recipe.

Pop open the crescent roll dough package and use the pieces to form a top crust over each dish. Use a knife to create a few vent holes in each crust.

Arrange the pot pies on a large baking sheet and bake for about 45 minutes. When I doubled the recipe and baked all these dishes at once, I found I had to bake them a little longer. You want the crusts to be golden brown – probably even a little darker than they are pictured here.

I served this with homemade bread (I’ve been baking more than I was in Virginia!) and a fresh tossed salad.

This has been the first post I’ve made in months, and the first picture-heavy recipe post I’ve made in FOREVER, so that’s probably all the pictures I’ll bombard you with, but as I mentioned before, I have been sharing a few of my nature and wildlife photos over at blog.renae.org, so if you are interested in following my quest to find wildlife in the Bay Area, check it out over there. And hopefully I will be back here soon with more food. My current kitchen is small and features a stupid glass-top stove I don’t get along with, but working from home has provided me a little more leisure for cooking as I no longer have a commute, and we have to be very frugal to live here, so I’ve been spending a fair amount of time in the kitchen. Mark’s been urging me to start posting here again, so perhaps this will be my comeback!

Comments (10)

“Pork” seitan

One of my go-to seitan recipes is Vegan Dad’s Veggie Lunch Meat. (All of Vegan Dad’s seitan recipes are good: and even Mark can make them!!). Anyway, although I refer to Vegan Dad’s lunch meat recipe for the basic bean/vital wheat gluten/liquid ratio, I often mix up the seasonings a bit to get different flavors. Follows is a porcine take on it, with all due credit to Vegan Dad (who I am so glad is blogging again!).

“Pork”-flavored Seitan
Lightly adapted from Vegan Dad’s Veggie Lunch Meat

1 cup cooked (or canned) white beans
2 cups water
3 Tbsp beet juice (OPTIONAL)
2 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp onion powder
2 tsp salt
1 tsp liquid smoke
1 or 2 packets Goya “ham” flavoring (there is no ham in it)
2 3/4 cup vital wheat gluten (plus maybe a couple teaspoons more if you add the beet juice)

So the first thing you need to procure is some cooked white beans. Since I make this seitan often (Mark scarfs it down so fast I can barely keep it in stock!), what I do is pressure cook a whole pound of soaked, dried white beans (like Great Northern), then divide it into 1-cup portions, reserving one for immediate use and freezing the others. These containers are the perfect size for freezing individual portions:

Then the next few times I want to make seitan, I just grab one portion from the freezer, either thawing in the fridge or on the counter for a few hours if I have time, or sitting the container in very hot water to thaw and warming slightly in the microwave if necessary. Yes, I was canning at the same time I was making this seitan and had a lot of help from a certain Torticia, and yes there will be more cat pictures at the end of this post (about time, eh?).

Put all of the ingredients except the vital wheat gluten into the jar of a blender. For the beet juice, I pour in a little juice from the jar of pickled beets that I always have open in the fridge. I do it to add a pink color, which looks lovely while the gluten is raw but almost entirely disappears when it’s cooked, therefore there’s really little point in doing it, but I’d just be pouring that pickle juice down the drain eventually anyway and it at least provides a little extra zing to the final seitan. But totally don’t go out of your way to use it if you don’t have it handy.

Blend until smooth.

Combine the blended mixture and the vital wheat gluten in a large bowl.

Stir with a spoon until you can’t …

… then mix with your hands until all of the vital wheat gluten is incorporated. Then knead for a few minutes until you can see the gluten start to form (this will look like “strings” forming within the dough ball) – you don’t need to work it hard like you would bread dough but just enough to give it some structure.

Rip off a big ole piece of aluminum foil (you can re-use this several times and I encourage you to do so) and place your seitan at one end of it. Form it into a thick log as shown.

Roll the foil around the seitan log and then fold the two sides up as you would wrap a package (or twist them like a Tootsie Roll – I prefer folding it as it’s easier to prevent tearing the foil when you open the package later, but know that the seitan will expand while cooking, so if you fold, make sure you do so tightly enough that it stays folded).

Steam the seitan for one hour. You can do this on the stovetop, but I love my slow/multi-cooker for this task (and many others). Obviously, I put the lid on after taking this picture.

Once it’s done steaming, cook the seitan at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for another hour. I often use the toaster oven for this.

Let cool completely at room temperature, then refrigerate or freeze. It’s best used after a rest of at least a few hours in the fridge, so this is something I like to prepare at least a day in advance.

You can slice it thinly as lunch meat for sandwiches as Vegan Dad suggests, or use it in any recipe calling for seitan or meat. (Put it in a food processor for perfect minced “meat”.) Here I’ve cut thick slabs to bake up in some barbecue sauce.

Seitan slathered in barbecue sauce is just about my favorite thing. I put a few slabs in a baking dish …

… then top with homemade barbecue sauce. And here I have scattered some pickled grapes on top because I pickled grapes last night because apparently pickling grapes is something that I do these days. I pickled grapes TWO WAYS last night. (By the way, pickled grapes are awesome.)

Mark had already stolen about a quarter of this loaf before I made dinner tonight, so after popping my barbecue dish into the oven, I chopped the remainder of the seitan loaf into two pieces about 8-10 ounces each and stored them in the freezer, each chunk of which will provide a good amount for a later meal.

And here is what I had for dinner tonight: barbecued seitan, scalloped potatoes, and peas:

I promised you cat pictures. It’s been a while! So, the cats, and especially Torticia, are ALWAYS helping me cook. Torticia is the most loyal little buddy in the world; if I’m in the kitchen, she parks herself on the island and watches over me, EXACTLY as Tigger used to do. (I always said that would be what I missed most about Tigger so I find it extremely comforting.) If there’s a box on the island SO MUCH THE BETTER. She sat in the box of peaches I canned last week for several days. It rained hard here all day Saturday – the first weekend day it’s rained all summer, and frankly, I NEEDED that rain to keep me in the house and get some canning done. So I was canning several different things Saturday and making the seitan, and this is what was happening on the island the whole time:

You can see my seitan baking in the background of this one:

If those pictures seem a little skewed towards my beautiful Torticia, know that I have a picture of Gomez on my credit card and on the skin I created for my Macbook Air to obscure the fact that I’ve become a Mac user. Okay, I’m not fooling anyone, but HOW PRETTY DOES MEZZIE MAKE MY LAPTOP LOOK?? He’s so ridiculously handsome.

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Soyrizo-stuffed Sweet Potatoes

Here’s a tasty dish I whipped up last night partially to use up several different leftovers: a single link of soyrizo, a couple of poblano peppers that had seen better days, and a little less than a cup of cooked black-eyed peas. I also had a box of super-cute baby sweet potatoes from the farmers market that I wanted to base my meal around. I just combined all of that stuff et viola!

Soyrizo-stuffed Sweet Potatoes

4 large baby sweet potatoes or 2 medium regular sweet potatoes
1 link vegan chorizo (“soyrizo”)
2 poblano peppers
1/2 – 1 cup cooked black-eyed peas
shredded vegan cheese (I used jack flavor) (optional)

I used the largest 4 in a box of baby sweet potatoes, but you can also use regular sized ones. Poke them a few times with a fork, rub lightly with olive oil, and bake them (the toaster oven is perfect for this) at 400 degrees Fahrenheit until a fork pierces them easily. How long this will take will depend on the size of the potatoes; my baby potatoes were probably done in 30-40 minutes. Remove them from the oven, make a slit lengthwise down the top of them by poking with a fork, then put one palm on either end of each potato and press your hands together until the split opens up to a perfect pocket for stuffing.

While the sweet potatoes are cooking, prepare the filling. Roast the poblano peppers. If you have a gas stove, you can do this right over the flame. I have an electric stove (bleh), but this pepper roaster works great on an electric stove. You could also put them under the broiler for several minutes, though if you do that, I’d stem and seed them first instead of after roasting so you don’t have to turn them. In any case, roast them until the skins are black and charred, then pop them into a paper bag, close it up, and set aside to cool. After 10 or 15 minutes, the charred skins will slide right off the peppers. Remove the seed and stems and chop the peppers.

Heat some oil in a small skillet, then add the soyrizo, chopped roasted peppers, and cooked black-eyed peas and saute for a few minutes.

When this mixture seems thoroughly cooked, spoon it into each of the sweet potatoes. If you’d like, top with shredded vegan cheese.

Pop back into the oven until the potatoes are warm and the cheese, if using, is melted.

I served this with kale chips seasoned with cumin, chili powder, and smoked paprika, and a garden salad tossed with a homemade lime vinaigrette. (I believe the vinaigrette was olive oil, lime juice, garlic, salt, cumin, and cilantro.) The leftover potatoes and kale chips made a nice lunch today.

I haven’t posted any raccoon pictures lately! This was was taken from within a cage that I was cleaning. One of our wild mother raccoons was bringing her babies by for a visit.

We released 19 raccoons a few weeks ago. We’re lucky in that we can do what is called a soft release, which means we can release the animals right on the property, leaving their cages open and providing food for a few days until the more cautious are ready to totally make on their own and go find their own territory. A few take off as soon as we open their little escape door and we never see them again, but many hang around for varying lengths of time. This is a raccoon that we released this summer who was lurking around the deck hoping for a food handout.

Speaking of raccoons, if you have three minutes, this is an awesome video by the Humane Society that explains how we receive many of our orphaned babies – in fact it features Dogue Hollow! So if you want a tiny glimpse into where I spend a chunk of every weekend, watch through to the end.

In other nature news, about the only thing I don’t like about Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge (other than the fact that their website looks screwed up right now) is they aren’t open from sunrise to sunset like many parks. Instead they are open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. in the spring and summer and 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the fall and winter. This is frustrating because the majority of wildlife comes out at dusk and goes back in at dawn. As the closing time changes to 5 p.m. next month and the days are getting shorter, this is a good time to go down there after work to take pictures because it’s one of the few times of the year you can really be there near sunset. So that’s what I did last week. Unfortunately I didn’t encounter much wildlife other than these turkeys …

… but the sunset was pretty.


(Yes, I was naughty and stayed past 7!)

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Greek Seitan and Potatoes, with Tsatziki

Aunt Lynn, see the end of this post.

Last night’s dinner was inspired partly by Artisan Vegan Cheese, because I’d made some yogurt cream, and partly by my current love affair with dill. These two forces combined to form tzatziki, and from there I decided to go Greek. I wouldn’t say this meal was authentically Greek by a long shot – I used sriracha, for god’s sake – but I figured serving it with tzatziki was enough to label it so. I didn’t follow any recipes, just mixed up some ingredients I decided were Greekish. I’m also relying on my terrible memory to remember what I did, but it was pretty tasty, so here we go:

Tsatziki

1 cup vegan yogurt cream, plain yogurt, sour cream, or a combination of these items
1 cucumber, de-seeded and shredded
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
juice of 1 lemon
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
1 sprig dill, chopped

Combine all ingredients and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Greek-flavored Seitan

1 lb seitan, sliced about 1/4″ thick (I used the basic seitan from Real Food Daily, but you can use your favorite)
1 cup vegan “chicken” stock
juice of 1 1/2 lemons
4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp dried oregano
3 springs fresh dill
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1/4 tsp red chili flakes
sriracha or other hot sauce, optional

Whisk together all of the ingredients except the seitan and the optional hot sauce. My seitan was frozen, so to make the “chicken” stock, I used boiling water and bouillon, then whisked everything else together and poured it over the frozen seitan, then I heated in the microwave for a couple of minutes to bring it back to boiling again. After letting it marinate for an hour or so, the seitan was thawed. You can skip all the boiling if your seitan isn’t frozen and just pour the marinade over the seitan. If the seitan isn’t frozen, slice it before marinating for more flavor.

Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove seitan from marinade, reserving the marinade. If necessary, slice the seitan. Pan fry the slices in a bit of oil until golden brown on both sides. Place the seitan slices in a single layer in a baking pan and pour some (not enough to submerge them) of the marinade over them. If you’d like, squirt or spread some hot sauce over the seitan. I don’t know that sriracha is used very frequently in Greek cooking, but that’s what I used. My theory with this meal is tzatziki, so cool and refreshing, exists for the sole purpose of providing a contrast to spicy heat, so I wanted some kick to my seitan. Bake for about 45 minutes, adding a bit more marinade if it all disappears.

Greek-flavored Potatoes

1 lb young potatoes, chopped
2 Tbsp olive oil
1-2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
juice of 1/2 lemon
salt to taste
several springs fresh dill, chopped

Whisk together everything but the potatoes in a small bowl. Boil the potatoes in salted water until cooked to your liking. Drain and toss with the vinaigrette.

I cut up some fresh veggies to dip in the tzatziki, which I also spread on the seitan as I ate it. I don’t know how Greek this really was, but it was very tasty (can you tell I’m really into lemon and dill right now?) and Mark enjoyed it. He asked what I was doing when I was sitting here composing this a few minutes ago, staring at the ceiling blankly, and when I responded, “trying to remember the ingredients I used in last night’s seitan,” he said, “awesome; you used awesome!”

In other news, my heart goes out to everyone affected by Sandy. NYC is one of my favorite cities and I can only imagine how hard it is to be there or in parts of New Jersey right now. I haven’t been to Ocean City, MD in years, having traded it for other beaches after high school and college, but I have many memories and the damage there and other coastal areas makes me sad. (So glad the ponies on Assateague are okay, though!) We were almost entirely unscathed. Our yard is still a bit swampy and there are tree limbs scattered about, but we suffered no real damage and never lost power. I took down all the bird feeders before the winds got bad, although the yard remained full of birds eating seed off the ground well into the hurricane. First thing Tuesday morning, while it was still raining but the winds were calm, I re-hung the feeders, and man, were the birds happy! They were so excited they didn’t fly away while I was out there. In fact, most of them let me get right up next to them and stick a camera in their face.

Mid-afternoon I happened to look out the window while working from home, and was surprised to see a fox. I see them in the yard occasionally, but they are always running away. This one was apparently eating bird seed mere feet from me and stayed long enough for me to grab my camera and snap a few pictures. See how scruffy he looks, though? His tail is hidden, but it was very thin, not full and beautiful like it should be. He has mange. He doesn’t appear to be too bad off – mange is often much worse – but I still need to treat him so he doesn’t get worse. Mange is easily treated with a drug called ivermectin. To treat a wild animal, such as a fox, you monitor the animal’s eating habits and/or create eating habits by leaving food out for him, then once you know when to expect him, you inject some food with the medicine and hope he eats it. So believe it or not, this 15-year-vegan/25-year-vegetarian has to go figure out where the meat department is at Wegmans (I seriously have no idea) and buy some raw chicken to give this fox. UGH! I’ll be having a crisis over that, believe me. But that’s what foxes eat and I want to cure him, so that’s what I’ll be doing.

And finally, I didn’t do a Halloween post, but Happy Halloween and Dia de los Muertos! In fact, I don’t think I usually do a Halloween post, because Halloween happens to be Mark’s and my wedding anniversary (8 years!) so we usually go out to dinner that night (Ethiopian this year, yay!!), but my aunt had requested that I share the following picture with you this Halloween and I forgot to do it that day and she has reminded me of my promise to do so. She came across this Halloween costume, which my grandmother made my grandfather many years ago, while cleaning out my grandmother’s house, and somehow while I was over there one day I ended up in it – I’m not even clear on how or why it happened – but please enjoy me looking thoroughly ridiculous. (To those of you afraid of clowns, I apologize. I hope I’m not too frightening.)

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Corned “Beef” Stew

I wasn’t going to post my St. Patrick’s Day dinner because I figured those of you who read a lot of food blogs have been bombarded with very similar recipes all week, and I wasn’t fixin’ to make anything unique. I couldn’t decide, though, between “beef” stew or corned “beef” and cabbage, and so I ended up combining them into Corned “Beef” Stew. Still nothing all that groundbreaking here, but I quite enjoyed it and thought I might want to make it again, so I decided to post it anyway, if only for my own reference. To be honest, I’ve never had corned beef, so I don’t know how corned beef-y this really is, but I used seasonings I think are used for corned beef, and I made it a bit tangier than my usual “beef” stew. This may look like a lot of ingredients, but really it’s a very simple recipe that comes together in no time; perfect for a weeknight.

Corned “Beef” Stew

1/2 onion, diced
1 package Gardein Beefless Tips, “beefy” seitan cut into bite-sized chunks, or your favorite vegan “beef” substitute (TVP chunks are good here, too)
3 carrots, chunked
3 stalks celery, chopped
5 tiny to small (fingerling-sized) or 2 medium potatoes, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups vegan “beef” broth (I used Better Than Bouillon)
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 cup pearl onions, peeled (I used Trader Joe’s frozen variety, which seem better than other frozen brands)
2 cups chopped green cabbage
several splashes malt vinegar (other types of vinegar would work as well)

Seasonings
1 tsp yellow mustard seeds
1/2 tsp brown mustard seeds
1/2 tsp coriander seeds
1/2 tsp peppercorns
1/4 tsp red chili pepper flakes
1 or 2 bay leaves

If you’d like, lightly crush the seasonings (except the bay leaves) in a suribachi or with a mortar and pestle, or you can leave them whole if you prefer. Put the seasonings in a mesh tea ball or tie them up in cheesecloth, or something similar, and set aside. Heat a Dutch oven over medium heat, then add some oil. Add the diced onions and cook until soft, then add the “beef” and saute until browned. Add the carrots, celery, potatoes, and garlic and cook for another couple of minutes. Stir in the flour to coat the “beef” and veggies. Slowly pour in the broth (it helps if it’s hot; I heat the water for mine in my electric kettle and pour it into the pot, then add the bouillon to it), stirring so it thickens without lumps. Stir in the tomato paste, then add the pearl onions and cabbage. Bring to a boil and add the seasonings in their container. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour. Add the malt vinegar to taste. When you are ready to eat, remove the seasoning container.

Mark liked his over rice. Serving it over cooked barley would be delicious. Or you can eat it as is. I think I preferred this to my usual “beef” stew.


(Yes, Gomez strikes again in the background of this picture!)

It’s becoming spring-like around here! Tomorrow it is supposed to be 75 degrees!! The kittens are loving the extra hour of sunshine…as am I.

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White Chili

I have only a short post for you tonight; it’s been a very long weekend and I’m eager to just kick back and relax for an hour or two before going to bed and braving a new week. As I mentioned, when I reorganized my kitchen after I bought a bunch of vintage Mason jars, I found a few things I had several packages of because I couldn’t see things hidden in my cabinets and kept buying more. One of the things I have a ton of was dried navy beans. Always one to go against the grain, though it was allegedly the first weekend of fall (although fall has traditionally been my favorite season, I’m still fighting the passing of summer and am rather depressed about this) and the weather was relatively cool, and soup has been popping up on everyone else’s blogs, I didn’t want to make soup with them. I don’t feel the need to start making more soup this time of year because I never stop making soup. Soup’s my favorite food; I love it. I just didn’t want to make navy bean soup. Nor did I want to make baked or barbecued beans, probably because I did so pretty recently. So I thought about it and eventually came up with White Chili, and it was good enough to write up here, although I didn’t take preparatory pictures.


Torticia involved herself in the photo shoot….and a whole lot of other trouble today.

White Chili

8 oz navy beans
1/2 onion, chopped
4-6 cloves garlic, smashed
3 large pickled jalapenos, chopped
1/2 tsp Mexican oregano
1/2 tsp chipotle powder
vegan “chicken” stock, enough to cover the beans after soaking
1 1/2 cups vegan “chicken” or chicken-style seitan, cubed – although I made some seitan today, it wasn’t ready in time to use in this dish, so I used Gardein Chicken Scallopini

Soak the navy beans, either overnight, or, after boiling for two minutes, for an hour. Put the rest of the ingredients, except the “chicken” in a pressure cooker, bring up to pressure, and cook for 25 minutes, then use the quick release method. Reduce any additional broth by boiling it off. Meanwhile, prepare the “chicken” by grilling or browning in a skillet. Combine the bean mixture with the “chicken” and make sure it is warmed through. Serve with rice and Tabasco sauce for additional seasoning.

If you don’t have a pressure cooker, simply cook the beans on the stovetop until tender, which may take two or more hours.

While Torticia was interfering with my photo shoot in the dining room, Gomez was getting some love in the kitchen.

Finally, I’ll leave you with a picture of the flowers I couldn’t resist buying at the farmers market this morning. They look very nice with my dried beans when I use one of the Mason jars as a vase.

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Grilled Heart Attack, and Dill Relish

So, the kittens, Mark, and I all survived the weekend, which was an issue because we hosted a party for a bunch of people we don’t know. Which was especially difficult for us as a group because I’m extremely shy, Mark’s a member of the People Who Hate People Party, and the kittens are just baby kittens who’ve never experienced the turmoil of a bunch of strangers invading their home at one time. See, our friend Matty has graduated from college and is at long last on his way to becoming a sign language interpreter. And Matty needed a place to have a party because he lives in an apartment, and as everyone who sets foot in our house feels at home there (something I take pride in, but it’s as much this house just having some crazy great vibe as it is anything I do), he wanted to have it here. Matty has a lot more friends than I do, however, and knows a lot of people I don’t, meaning I knew maybe 10% of the guest list. It also meant this was not a vegan party. I generally throw one or two smallish parties a year, which are completely vegan, and which I completely cater. But I wasn’t about to tell Matty he had to have a vegan party and I didn’t have time to cater it either. So Matty bought a grill and he and his friends made hamburgers, and each of the guests brought a dish. I did buy a bunch of snack foods, though, and I went to the farmer’s market that morning and got a bunch of veggies that I cut up for dipping in my homemade ranch, tomatoes, jalapenos, cilantro, garlic, and onions that I made into salsa, as well as tomatoes and onions for the very non-vegan burgers, and I made nacho dip, baked beans (in the crockpot), hamburger noodle bake, sourdough bread, and five grain levain rolls. Oh, and chocolate mousse ice cream. And iced tea. I didn’t intend to make that much food, I just can’t help myself. I didn’t take any pictures since most of what I didn’t make wasn’t vegan and you’ve already seen most what I made. I think I’m going to have to do a post on those rolls, though, because I got a ton of compliments on them. People seemed rather amazed by them, in fact. So maybe I’ll do that this weekend.

Anyway, everyone was very nice and I didn’t have a nervous breakdown or anything. I really am VERY shy around people I don’t know (although Matty and many other people have expressed surprise at this assertion), but I think having the party at my house actually helped because either I was too busy to be shy, or I figured since it was my house, people were obligated to be nice to me. The heat index was 110 degrees (43 Celsius for you non-Americans) Saturday, which made grilling very pleasant, I’m sure. The kittens were a huge hit, and they behaved exactly as I had hoped: too scared to leave the bedroom (and therefore not running outside or getting underfoot), but not so freaked out they wouldn’t come out to play for small groups of people who came to see them. There was a ton of food left over, all of which Matty packed up and took home with him (he won’t have to make himself dinner for a month), but he left the grill behind. So now I have a grill. Which is cool because I’ve always wondered if I’d like a grill, but never wanted to invest the money in case I didn’t.

In typical Renae fashion, I read the grill instructions front to back Sunday morning, then today came home from work feeling like a grilling master. Although I thought Mark might kill me for playing with fire when I’m home alone and have no idea what I’m doing, I decided I was going to grill dinner while waiting for him to get home from work. Today was a mere 89 degrees (32 Celsius) – seems practically chilly in comparison to this weekend; time to unpack the sweaters! – so it seemed like a good day for it. For my inaugural grilling, I made a recipe from the grill instructional manual, which must have been designed to kill anyone who eats it: Stuffed Hot Dogs. Wrapped in bacon. Seriously. You stuff hot dogs with cheese and relish, then wrap them in bacon and grill them. That’s it. I renamed it Grilled Heart Attack, although I don’t think the vegan version is going to cause any heart attacks. I thought I had relish, but I didn’t, so I made some, and a recipe for that follows.

Grilled Heart Attack, or Stuffed Hot Dogs

vegan hot dogs
vegan cheddar cheese, grated (like Daiya)
dill relish
vegan bacon

Keep in mind I have never worked a grill before in my life and I was doing this alone, so I could have been doing this all wrong…. but here’s what I did:

I made a pyramid of charcoal briquets, doused them in lighter fluid, and set them on fire.

I let them burn, then smolder, for about 15 minutes, until they were mostly covered in white ash.

I made a little pan out of aluminum foil, put it in the center of the charcoal rack, then used tongs to move the hot coals into a tight circle around the pan.

I let that smolder while I prepared the hot dogs. I cut each almost but not quite all the way through, then stuffed with relish and a bit of Daiya cheddar.

Then I wrapped a slice of vegan bacon around each one and placed it in my foil pan.

I also put some water-soaked corn (which I had de-silked) on the grate above them, then closed the grill.

I turned the corn a few times, and let it all cook for about 15 minutes, toasting some hot dog buns during the last couple of minutes.

I dressed the finished hot dogs with mustard …

… and served with left over baked beans.

I was unsure if I would, but I definitely did discern a unique grilled flavor in the veggie dog. Mark agreed. I’m not sure it would be worth going through the trouble just to grill a packaged veggie dog, but overall it was a successful foray into grilling and I’m eager to try more exciting things. I don’t think the corn was well done enough, though.

I was hoping to get some input from my wonderful readers – I’ve always gotten great answers when I asked for advice, so: what do you guys grill? Any tips or pointers? I picked up a pretty nice grill wok for $6 at Wegmans; it seemed like something I should have. Obviously I’ll have to make veggie kabobs, but what else is good? The more exotic, the better!

I told you I’d also show you how I made a quick dill relish when I realized I didn’t have any. I might make a fancier one down the road, but I wanted something super fast, so here’s what I did:

Quick Dill Relish

1 small jar dill pickles, minced
1 shallot, minced
3/4 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp coriander seeds, crushed
1/2 tsp mustard seeds, crushed
1/4 tsp dried dill weed
salt and freshly ground pepper

Grind the coriander and mustard seeds in a mortar.

Mince the pickles and shallot.

Place all ingredients in a small bowl and mix.

Refrigerate for a while to allow flavors to blend.

This is a horrible picture, but here’s what happened when I tried to eat my dinner:

And here are the kittens on a lazy summer afternoon:

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VeganDad’s Meatloaf

I’m definitely through with that pesky nausea. I’ve been eating like a champ. In fact, I seem to be eating even more than usual, possibly to make up for all the calories I missed when I was ill. Also, the Mid-Atlantic is currently suffering wild weather fluctuations, which is fairly typical for May but still annoying. This pattern has been on repeat for a couple of weeks: Saturday it was in the 80s and sunny – I got sunburned driving around in my convertible – then Sunday was mild and cloudy, Monday was cool and rainy, and today it is DOWNRIGHT FREEZING. So between my recently ravenous state, an invigorating swim this afternoon, and an unseasonably cold and rainy day today, this evening’s stroll through my starred Google Reader posts for dinner ideas ended with VeganDad’s Cajun Meatloaf: hearty comfort food fits the bill.

VeganDad’s recipe calls for 2 packages of tempeh and I only had one. I did have, however, leftover grated Tofurkey Italian sausage links, which I’d used in lasagne on Sunday and really wanted to use up. So after looking over VeganDad’s recipe, I went into the kitchen and figured I’d just throw together what I had in a dish “inspired by” VeganDad. Later when I went back to look at his original, I realized I’d actually followed it pretty faithfully, so I’m not taking any credit for this. But believe me, I’d like to: the texture was perfect. This was probably the most successful “meatloaf” I’ve ever made. Not that I’m surprised – VeganDad’s recipes are always a guaranteed success, aren’t they?

Here’s what I used:
1 package tempeh
about 2 links Tofurkey Italian sausage links
1 onion
4 cloves garlic
3/4 cup vital wheat gluten
1/2 cup whole wheat panko
about 1 cup marinara sauce (also left over from the lasagne and needing to be used up)
2 Tbsp vegan Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp salt
several strong shakes Tabasco (to appeal to Mark, who has been drinking eating about a bottle of this stuff every other day lately)

For the glaze:
3/4 cup ketchup
6 Tbsp brown sugar
several more strong shakes Tabasco
pinch salt

I used a mini-chopper to grate the sausage, tempeh, garlic, and onion, and I just whisked the glaze together without cooking and glazed the unbaked loaves. I baked them covered at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about half an hour, then uncovered for another 20 minutes or so. I wasn’t really keeping track.

I also loved VeganDad’s “individual meatloaf” idea, which makes for easy serving. I made 8 fist-sized, egg-shaped individual loaves and put four into each of two small glass loaf pans (see first photo). I served with roasted potatoes, peas, and some kale chips. Tonight was the first time I’ve ever made kale chips, which is weird (why haven’t I made them before today?) but true. I was surprised that I didn’t love them – I found them bitter – although I compulsively ate them despite not really liking them, which is strange.

Last night I got to attend an artisan bread baking class with Peter Reinhart.

I tend to get so caught up in the picture-taking process that I don’t pay real attention to what’s going on in front of the camera, and I didn’t want to miss anything Peter said, and I didn’t want to be obnoxious, so I didn’t take my “real” camera. All I got, therefore, was this iPhone picture, which I had to crop.

I wish I had a better picture or two, but I’m actually glad I didn’t take my camera because I know myself and I know I would have missed a lot of what he said if I’d been messing with it. If you ever have a chance to attend one of Peter’s classes, I strongly urge you to do so. He’s full of knowledge, he’s so enthusiastic about bread, he’s funny, he’s nice, and he just genuinely wants to teach others everything he knows. Very inspirational. What I liked and disliked about the class is probably completely backwards from everyone else in the class though! The one bad thing about the class? The bread! I knew this going in, of course, so I wasn’t surprised, but most of the loaves he made were from enriched dough, which means milk, butter, and/or eggs. I’ve mentioned that I was a tester for his new book, Peter Reinhart’s Artisan Breads Every Day, so I have made just about all the loaves he made in the class (the only one I didn’t test was the challah, which I felt had too many eggs to warrant a vegan’s perspective on testing), and I know they are all DELICIOUS. But of course, although he says in his books you can use non-dairy milk, etc., he wasn’t using it in the class, so I had to pass on all the samples except the French bread. This was heartbreaking because they smelled and looked soooo good. I was especially drooling over that babka that he’s glazing in the photo, because my vegan rendition of it was amazing (use silken tofu for the eggs). In fact, I’m going to have to make it this weekend.

What I liked most about the class was all the things that went wrong. Which may sound weird, but hear me out. I’m a fairly experienced baker, and I’ve made most of Peter’s breads, and often everything goes exactly as it should. But it’s not unusual for something to go wrong. So what I got the most out of during the class was watching Peter adapt to problems that arose. I think you learn much more from mistakes than you do perfection. The ovens in the classroom were terrible: they baked unevenly and not at the temperature on their knobs. Undaunted, Peter showed us how to deal with that: by rotating the loaves, covering them with aluminum foil, telling us at what point in the baking process it was safe to lower the temperature of the oven. That’s the sort of thing it’s hard to learn from books, which tend to assume perfect conditions. The doughs were mixed the day before by the store’s staff, and the first batch of lean dough (which is what I could eat) didn’t rise well and didn’t spring much in the oven, and basically came out dense and not what Peter was going for. Which was too bad because I was really hungry for that sample after jealously having to pass on the thumbprint rolls and sticky buns. But that gave Peter the opportunity to discuss what might be wrong with it and how we would avoid or deal with it. (After trying a single bite of the finished loaf, he realized the problem was too much salt. I scarfed down my sample anyway.)

And I know I’m really going to seem perverse, but my favorite moment was when he broke the Kitchen Aid mixer. Okay, it very well may have been having problems before he used it (I’m sure it wasn’t really his fault), and I’m sure he uses Kitchen Aids in just about all of his classes without incident, but I’ve mentioned a few times how many problems I have had trying to mix dough in a Kitchen Aid mixer (as I mentioned in just my last post, I destroyed two of them in a year), so I felt vindicated seeing Peter struggle with one as well. My reaction to my final broken Kitchen Aid was to (make Mark) buy Hieronymous, the trusty Bosch Universal Mixer, but I really liked having the opportunity to see Peter react to a broken mixer. Which was basically to not react: he happily mixed the dough by hand. What’s great about the recipes in Artisan Breads Every Day is, with the refrigerated fermentation method, you barely need to knead, so a mixer isn’t really saving you that much time or effort anyway. Peter removed all of the fear of hand mixing that I somewhat irrationally have by showing how easy it really is. So I’m glad the mixer broke. For those recipes, it’s probably not even worth dirtying Hieronymous.

Well that’s my probably-overlong review of the class. Peter’s touring around the States a bit right now; if he shows up in or near your town and you like bread at all, I definitely recommend you go.

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Mark’s Picks: Jerk “Chicken” and “Beef” Stroganoff

Often when I ask Mark what he wants for dinner, he answers, “I don’t care.” Then I’ll usually whine and say, “well I don’t care either, so think of something,” and we go ’round and ’round in that fashion for an hour. Lately, though, Mark’s been actually firing back requests when I ask him what he wants. Sort of without thinking, though, I believe. Saturday night I asked him what he wanted for dinner and he immediately responded, “jerk chicken.” “Wow, really? Where did that come from?” I asked. “I don’t know, I don’t even know what jerk chicken is,” he answered. Jerk chicken, though, was the perfect answer because I’d earlier in the day commented that I had a couple of habaneros I needed to use up. So I made him jerk “chicken”. Then tonight I asked him what he wanted for dinner and he said, “Beef stroganoff. I don’t know what it is, but that’s what I want.” Always happy for requests, I made him “beef stroganoff”.

Both of these meals used commercial vegan “meat”, so I didn’t mean to write either of them up as recipes for the blog, because I feel as if I’ve cheated somehow. But Mark urged me to photograph the meals anyway and also really liked them, so since I don’t have any more original posts for you, here are some examples of what we’ve eaten over the last few days….I’m still not back to cooking as much as I usually do, so I’ve been lazy.

For the Jerk “Chicken”, I pretty much followed this recipe almost exactly, substituting Gardein Chick’n Scallopini for the chicken breasts. I let them marinate while we went to the gym, then grilled them on the George Foreman when we got home. I served it with Jamaican-style “rice and beans”, which was long grain rice cooked in a can of coconut milk + enough water to make up the liquid called for by the rice, seasoned with some minced onion, a habanero that I stabbed a few times, some salt, and a can of red kidney beans.

Mark loved this – after eating two “breasts”, he ladled some of the extra marinade onto his plate and sopped it up with some stale bread he found in the kitchen. He also praised the rice, which I’ll admit I tasted a few million times as it was cooking (although next time I’m making it in the rice cooker because my stove is horrible at cooking rice). The greens, by the way, are callaloo, a can of which I rather bizarrely found in my cupboard. Which was perfect, but it just goes to show that you never know what you might find in my cupboard. Mark refused to eat the callaloo.

I had the leftovers from this for lunch today, prompting several people at the office to tell me my meal smelled wonderful.

If you examine it, Mark’s random request of beef stroganoff tonight should have been even more difficult for me to pull off, considering beef stroganoff consists of the following unvegan things:

  • beef
  • beef “juice” (broth, stock, consommé, etc.)
  • sour cream
  • egg noodles

…usually lavishly garnished with mushrooms, which both Mark and I despise. Really the only vegan and non-gross thing about beef stroganoff is onions. But Mark requested beef stroganoff and 20 minutes later, he got “beef” stroganoff.

I cooked 8 oz of bowtie (because that’s what I had) pasta. Meanwhile, I thinly sliced half an onion (that I wanted to use up) and a couple of shallots and sauteed them in olive oil in a Dutch oven. To the sauteed onions, I added a few cloves of pressed garlic and a couple of tablespoons of flour and made a roux, then I added about half a cup of red wine – what was left in a bottle I wanted to finish so I could open a new one to drink with dinner – using it to deglaze the pot. Then I added maybe a cup of vegan “beef” broth, some salt, dried tarragon, and lots of freshly ground pepper. As this was simmering, I added some Gardein Beef Tips and a spoonful of Better Than Sour Cream. When that was all warmed through, I served over the pasta. Mark said it was “really good”.

I’m sort of embarrassed about sharing those meals with you lest you think we’ve been surviving off nothing but processed food lately – actually we’ve been eating a lot of salads, too, or were until the weekend, anyway, although yeah, I do seem to have plowed through all the Gardein stuff I found at Wegmans and wanted to experiment with a lot faster than I anticipated. Speaking of Wegmans, the one near our house is now selling Daiya, and since this has been a rather pro-processed food post I might as well tell you that the minute I saw that, I decided the struggle is over: veganism is now mainstream. I can buy a tasty, melty, high quality vegan cheese at my regular, local grocery store: it’s all vegan cake from now on. I know Wegmans is sort of an upscale grocery store and that I’m very lucky to live in the part of the country and world that I do, and that my friends in the Midwest and in other countries are probably much less impressed with the selection in their local grocery stores, but finding Daiya at Wegmans was the day I’ve been waiting for for the twelve years I’ve been vegan. For me, it’s officially no longer more difficult to be vegan than it is to not be. Wooo!

In technical news, Mark and I (mostly Mark) have been migrating to a new server and even regular commenters may find their first comment held for moderation. Don’t be alarmed. Hopefully the new site will be a bit faster, though. And I’ve just remembered I need to re-do the blogroll because it disappeared…

In the process of moving all our stuff to the new server, I have been looking at old pictures. Let me tell you who I miss more than you can imagine:

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