Random Product Reviews

A few weeks ago, I visited my favorite store, Super H and picked up a couple of interesting products, which I have taken the time to review for your edification. I’ve noticed that a lot of food bloggers seem to receive free products that they in turn review on their blogs. I’ve never received any free products. So I have to resort to buying bizarre items in the grocery store and reviewing them. Life is tough, my friends.

First up is my personal favorite:

Meatless Spaghetti Sauce with Pickled Cucumber! Because WHY NOT?

This was a tiny can and I feared there would not be enough for two so I chose to try this product on an evening when Mark was not dining with me. Because what if it was so awesome I didn’t want to share?!?

First impression upon opening the adorable little can? Well, that it resembled cat food, to be honest.

I didn’t let that deter me, however, because Brachtune really likes cat food and she seems pretty discerning, so I figure maybe she’s on to something.

To prepare this exotic dish, I removed the contents of the tin to a microwaveable bowl and heated it for a few minutes.

I then spooned it over some prepared pasta.

My thoughts? Well, that it was pretty disgusting, actually. It was greasy and weird and oddly sweet, and after considering Brachtune’s culinary opinion a little further I remembered that she considers plastic bags and her own butt to be great delicacies, so I decided that an uncanny resemblance to cat food wasn’t necessarily an indicator of good grub after all. However, I did consider the possibility that Meatless Spaghetti Sauce with Pickled Cucumber is a great idea, just one that does not translate well to canned versions. So I whipped up my own version of the same using chopped homemade seitan, cucumber relish, and chili paste …

… which I also served over pasta.

This, with its significantly lower amounts of oil and sugar – yes, sugar! – was an improvement on the canned stuff, but I still found it in my best interests to defrost a frozen pesto cube and toss it with the remainder of the pasta for the rest of my meal.

Next up, Soy Pudding. Great for dessert!

We don’t usually eat dessert unless we have company, but I was feeling a bit peckish after dinner tonight and, recalling that the Soy Pudding I bought at Super H was about to expire, I figured there was no time like the present to try it out. My original plan was to throw away the syrup it came with because it contained high fructose corn syrup and make my own ginger-flavored topping, but at the last minute I decided that would be cheating. The syrup comes in a little packet taped to the pudding tub, which is pretty classy.

I didn’t expect this one to be too bad, quite frankly. It’s really just soft tofu – how bad can it be? And I like ginger, so despite the fact it’s made with high fructose corn syrup, how bad could that be?

Mark’s a lot more squeamish than I am, however, and I’m going to tell you right now he went into this venture with a bad attitude.

I can’t help but think that if he’d cleared his mind of any prejudices against tofu for dessert this would have gone over better with him.

He valiantly tried a bite in an attempt to be supportive of my efforts to bring you unbiased product reviews.

But I’m afraid he ultimately issued an unfavorable review of Soy Pudding.

As for me, I found it much more palatable than the spaghetti sauce, but also to taste very much like tofu drizzled with ginger-scented high fructose corn syrup. I think I’ll stick to chocolate.

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“Tuna” Salad

This may be the most unoriginal recipe I’ve yet posted. I’m sure most vegans have already made some sort of faux tuna or chicken salad. I’ve made several, using both tofu and chickpeas, and while some of them were good, none of them really had the texture, or taste, of real tuna salad. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, although sometimes it’s fun to have vegan versions of childhood staples. That’s why I was happy to realize this Nature’s Soy chicken-style seitan, which I find in Asian grocery stores (even the one in N. Charleston!) has a somewhat tuna-esque texture quality to it. Possibly. I say things like that but then realize it’s been well over twenty years since I’ve had tuna. I do give Brachtune tuna, though, so maybe she could clear this up for me. If only her English lessons were going a bit better.

Anyway, this post is really, therefore, more a product suggestion than a real recipe. If you can find this Nature’s Soy stuff, try it in your favorite tuna or chicken salad recipe and see if the texture isn’t a bit more realistic. It’s more processed than what you’d make with chickpeas or tofu, but it’s dead easy to make. Here’s what the package looks like:

“Tuna” Salad

1 package Nature’s Soy chicken-style seitan
1 stalk of celery, diced (I didn’t have any and omitted, but it’d definitely have been welcome)
1/4 red onion, diced
3-4 Tbsp vegan mayonnaise, depending on your love of mayonnaise.
3 heaping Tbsp dill relish (or diced pickles)
1/2 tsp mustard
3/4 tsp powdered kelp
1/4 tsp salt (optional) – I used Indian black salt, which would really be more for a faux egg salad (the sulphur content makes it smell, and therefore taste, like hard boiled eggs), but there are so few things I want to smell or taste like eggs that I always have a ton more of this stuff than I really need, so I used it here. Tuna doesn’t smell like eggs, but it IS smelly. Regular salt is fine, if you think you need it.

Dice the onion.

Drain the relish. I like to smoosh it in a potato ricer. In fact, I use my potato ricer more for squeezing liquid out of things than I do ricing potatoes.

Can you tell how dry the relish is here? I hate it when wet relish waters down my salads.

Put all the ingredients into a bowl.

Stir to combine.

Now, this is important if you’re me: transfer to a blue Pyrex refrigerator box.

This is just like the container my parents always made tuna salad in. They probably still do. I think they mixed it up right in the container, which I tried to do, but it was too full to mix without making a mess. To me, “tuna” salad just has to be kept in a blue Pyrex refrigerator box.

Here is a loaf of bread I baked today. It’s Hamelman’s Five Grain Bread, which is currently my favorite bread, though I don’t have any rye chops and have been substituting millet.

It’s so good. I also have a ton of rolls made from that dough in the freezer and they freeze wonderfully. I’m thinking about baking a few loaves for the Falls Church Vegan Bake Sale for Haiti. Everyone always makes sweets for bake sales, but yeast breads are baked goods too, right? It’s not a faux pas to bring yeast bread to a bake sale, is it? It’s really more my niche.

Anyway, you know the drill. Put some of the “tuna” salad on a slice of bread …

… top with another slice, and serve! With pickles, of course. It’s really much improved if you let it sit in the refrigerator for at least an hour or two, but I made this right away because I was hungry. Subsequent sandwiches will be even better though!

Mark’s not a fan of mayo and he tends to shy away from any sort of mayonnaise-based salad, so I didn’t even bother offering him any, however, he showed up and demanded to be allowed a bite.

He didn’t gag or spit it out, so I guess that’s a good sign.

I asked Mark for his opinion and he offered, “It’s chewy…like Chewbacca.” I don’t really know what that means, but I was expecting him to say it was disgusting, so I took it as a compliment. It’s really the bread that’s chewy though. I make this salad when it’s late the night before a work day and I realize I don’t have anything prepared for lunch the next day. I’m hungry again…I think I might go make another and top it with some melted vegan cheese…

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Guest Post! Kylie’s Chicken with Thai Basil and Chilli (with vegan options)

Note from Renae: All the way from New South Wales, Australia, Smucky’s sister has written a guest post! This is a vegan blog and her recipe contains chicken, but as she points out, it is very easy to substitute vegan “chicken” strips. I made this recipe for dinner tonight and at the end of the post, I’ve posted my photos. It was delicious!

I should point out for the vegans that Quorn, which Kylie suggests, contains egg whites (though it is readily available here in the US). However, I totally back her suggestion that you go to England because it is great there! (And very vegan-friendly.) LightLife Chick’n Smart Strips are vegan and available in most grocery stores in my area, and Trader Joe’s Chicken-less Strips are also vegan (and are what I used). You could also make your own chicken-style seitan, or even just use tofu. So don’t be alarmed that Kylie used chicken. This is exactly the type of recipe I’d see somewhere and be excited about; I don’t even read “chicken”, I just read “chicken substitute”. And Kylie’s just the type of person I’m glad this blog attracts: people who may not necessarily be vegan themselves but who are open to eating vegan meals. So with no further ado, here’s Kylie:

Hello! My name is Kylie. I know it seems like we don’t know each other, but in fact we do. Well, sort of. You know my brother – sometimes called Mark, sometimes called Smucky, but more often than not, called ****head.


(I am the one in the glasses).

Chicken with thai basil and chilli

Technically this is not a vegetarian meal, let alone a vegan meal. I mean, it has meat in it. And also some meat products. But don’t be put off by that. I would recommend quorn strips in place of the chicken, but if you’d have to go to England to get it (like I would), it’s probably asking a bit much. Unless you are very ambitious, in which case, go for it! It’s great there! You’ll love it!

You will need:

2 tb peanut oil
600g chicken breast fillet, stir-fry-strip-style * Renae’s note: this would be about 2 or 3 packages of most brands of vegan “chicken” strips
2 cloves garlic, minced
1cm/5g fresh ginger, minced/grated
4 small red chillies, thinly sliced
4 or 5 lime leaves, ‘shredded’ (I just cut it with scissors)
1 medium brown onion, sliced thinly
About 4 mushrooms, quartered
1 carrot, sliced thinly

This is the sauce according to the original recipe. I do 1.5 times the sauce though:
1/4 cup (60ml – so I would do 90ml) oyster sauce (or vegan oyster sauce, which almost definitely exists, but I haven’t checked) * Renae’s note: it does exist and should be available in just about any Asian grocery store
1 tb soy sauce
1 tb fish sauce (or vegan fish sauce) * Renae’s note: or just double the soy sauce
1/3 cup (80ml) chicken stock (or vegetable stock)

About a cup thai basil
A cup bean sprouts (optional: I don’t usually get it because you can only buy huge amounts of bean sprouts here, and I kept ending up throwing 3/4 out. So I just don’t get it anymore).

The first thing you want to do is chop the shit out of everything.
In one bowl, put: the minced garlic, grated ginger, sliced chillies, shredded lime leaves and sliced onion.

In another bowl: the quartered mushrooms and thinly sliced carrot.

In a third bowl: the sauces (oyster, soy, fish, stock). The sauce issue is contentious. On the one hand, some people like it to coat the food, and no more. I think it would taste more caramel-ly if you took this approach and used the recommended quantities. I, however, do not like to eat boiled rice by itself, so I make enough sauce that it will also flavour all the rice, and if there is too much, you can always boil it off at the end. So I up the quantities by half.

You’ve pretty much done all the work now! Well done! Time to chillax a bit! Have yourself a beer. But not this one..

..unless you are not a vegetarian.

Right! Back to work!

Ok, I have actually omitted a step here. If you eat chicken, at this point you heat half the peanut oil in a pan and cook the chicken in batches until cooked through. Set it aside. If you are using some chicken substitute, I imagine you don’t need to ‘cook’ the chicken as such, just heat it, so you can leave that til later.

Moving along. Heat the remaining peanut oil in the pan (about a medium heat) . Throw in the garlic, ginger, chilli, lime leaves and onion. Cook until onion is soft and mixture is ‘fragrant’.

Ooh that looks nice, doesn’t it. You can’t beat frying onion.

At this point, add the mushrooms and carrots, and stir fry til carrot is as soft as you like it. Actually, til it is almost as soft as you like it. It is good if it still has a little crunch to it.

Throw the chicken back in with the sauces. If I was using a substitute, I would probably put it in first, stir it through til it was warm, then put in the sauces. Turn the heat up a bit and cook til the sauce thickens to the consistency you like. Now for me, I have a fair bit of sauce at this point, and it generally takes the same amount of time to cook (actually, to boil) the sauce off, as it takes to cook the rice. If you have less sauce, you should start the rice before now. Sorry.

Also, I don’t really think there’s a perfect consistency. You just want to cook it enough that it tastes NOTHING LIKE FISH SAUCE.

While that’s cooking off, cook some rice perfectly:

When the sauce is at the consistency you like, take it off the heat and stir through the thai basil, and bean sprouts if you’re using them.

And that’s it! Very easy, but restaurant-quality. It looks nice to serve it like this:

..but this is how I have it:

In other news, I made Renae’s lentil loaf today. It smelled awesome, and this is how it looked before it went in the oven. Mmmmm. It smells better than it looks.

It’s me, Renae, again. Here’s the line-up of the ingredients I used:

If you’ve been reading for a while, you know that I hate mushrooms, so I left those out. I did use the bean sprouts, though, but forgot to remove them from the refrigerator to have their picture taken.

I won’t give you a commentary of the steps because Kylie already did, but here are some intermediary pics:

There is definitely no need to go running around looking for vegan fish sauce for this dish. I had some on hand so I used it, but it can be hard to find (vegan oyster sauce, however, is not). You hardly use any and as Kylie says, you don’t want the dish to taste like fish sauce anyway. Just use extra soy sauce.

I’d never bought vegan oyster sauce before today, mostly because many times it’s mushroom flavoured. I was going to be brave and get it anyway today but managed to find a non-mushroomy vegan oyster sauce! If you can’t find vegan oyster sauce for some reason, try a smaller amount of dark soy sauce: it was sort of thick and slightly sweet like dark soy sauce (it’s not as sweet though, so dilute it with extra stock). Or try vegetarian “stir-fry sauce”, which is usually about the same consistency.

Kylie suggests using my idea of a bit of aniseed and European basil if you can’t find Thai basil, or just the basil if it’s strong-flavoured. I can almost always find Thai basil in my Asian grocery stores.

Here it is plated …

… and mixed up:

The beer Kylie was drinking, Tooheys, is vegan, so if you can get your hands on it, drink up! No stags were harmed in the making of their beer, nor was isinglass used to refine it. In fact, I believe I drank a few Tooheys at Kylie’s house when I was there earlier this year! I’m not sure it’s available outside Australia, so here’s what I had tonight instead:

Verdict? Well, Mark’s been requesting French onion soup for the last day and a half, but he got this instead. I was slightly worried he’d deduct points from it for not being French onion soup, but when I asked him what he thought he responded, “It was chicken-tastic! I really enjoyed it: it was very tasty; full of flavour and magic!” I agree on all counts: it was extremely flavourful and tasted like a restaurant dish. It was also quick and easy: I think this is another case where the vegan dish is probably easier than the non-vegan dish because the “chicken” doesn’t need to be cooked; just heated through. I’ll definitely be making this again, most likely on a weeknight when I don’t want to spend much time on dinner but want a big return on taste. Thanks, Kylie!

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Hot Dog Casserole

I don’t have a shot of the ingredients for this one because even as I had begun to prepare it I still wasn’t sure what direction I was going in with it. All I knew was I had three leftover hot dogs and I wanted to use them up in a non-bun manner. (I don’t know why that was because I now have six un-used hot dog buns I need to find a use for.) This was another throw-whatever’s-in-the-fridge together meal, this time in delicious casserole form!

Hot Dog Casserole

8 oz whole wheat elbows
1 recipe Yeast “Cheese” (from New Farm Cookbook/Simply Heavenly!; scroll down a little bit to see recipe(s)); I used extra mustard
3 vegan hot dogs, sliced into coins
1/2 onion, diced
1/2 green pepper, diced
1-2 cayenne peppers, minced (I used 4 and it was overwhelming; I’d use 2 next time)
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes (I used orange, which I keep buying at the farmer’s market because they’re awesome)
1 cup to 1 can baked beans*

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Cook the pasta until al dente, drain, and set aside. Prepare the “cheese” and set aside.

Mince the chili pepper(s) …

… and chop the other veggies and the hot dogs.

Mark entered the picture this point to steal “free” macaroni and tomatoes. I had to shoo him away.

Saute the onions, bell pepper, and chili pepper for about 5 minutes.

Combine all of the ingredients …

… and place in a baking dish.

I topped it with some panko bread crumbs and Dragonfly’s Bulk, Dry Uncheese because it seems like that’s what you do with casseroles.

Cover and bake for 45 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Eat.

* A note about the baked beans: I threw this in because I had them leftover from the other night and I think the flavour is essential to the casserole, however, they need to be more of the “Boston” variety than the British Heinz variety. I only had a bit left over and wanted to try it with more beans, so I removed a little of the casserole and tried adding a bit of a can of Heinz vegetarian baked beans (from the British aisle of Wegmans, and which I buy because I like beans on toast because sometimes I think I’m actually British and my parents aren’t telling me something…) but they were too runny and too sweet and just not right. So if you are using canned baked beans, use some brand that is sort of thicker, darker, and has molasses in it. I also described how I cheat and make Boston “baked” beans in this post. (In regards to my Britishness, I’ve also begun subconsciously adding extraneous u’s to words like colour and favourite. I guess it’s both because I read a lot of books that are in British English, and also my laptop seems to think I’m British for some reason and tries to tell me “color” and “favorite” are spelled wrong…and they really do look wrong to me now. I am not, however, phobic about zee/zed and realiZe that no matter what the laptop says, I’m American enough to embrace the zee.)

In other news, I noticed a Vegan Lunch Box display in Wegmans the other day, complete with the cookbook and the laptop lunch boxes that Jennifer uses. How cool is that? I’m not sure why, because I like the website, but I never got around to buying the cookbook, so despite the fact I don’t have room for any more cookbooks, I might buy one anyway just to make sure Wegmans knows I’m happy they promote vegan products. (I actually also bought another vegan cookbook at Wegmans a couple of years ago; they’re well-stocked!) You know, Mark and I have been talking about how much longer we really want to stay in Northern Virginia, as there’s a lot not to love about the area (read: traffic), but there are entire vegan displays, not just in Whole Foods or other natural food stores, but my regular, local, every day grocery store. Anything I need is pretty much available to me within a five mile radius. I’m sure that would also be true if we moved to San Francisco or New York, two of our favourite cities, but here we also live in a house and not a one or zero bedroom, 500-square foot apartment with no parking space, which would likely be the case in the good places. Oh, Northern Virginia, how I both hate and love you.

Speaking of lunch boxes, though, here’s mine!

I take my bento box in sometimes, but most of the time, it’s my trusty Tupperware lunch box, and I love it. I didn’t have one when I was a kid – I had aluminum lunch boxes with Strawberry Shortcake or Smurfs or something on them – but my best friend in elementary school did and I was always fascinated by it and its matching interior containers. And the fact that my friend’s contained a hard boiled egg and a tiny little packet of salt every single day. I had a peanut butter and jelly or ham and cheese sandwich with a rotation of Hostess snacks every day. Now, I have leftovers from the previous night’s dinner 90% of the time. Anyway, you can find these Tupperware lunch boxes on eBay, and I’ve seen them in thrift stores a couple of times as well. I have Corningware that I transfer contents I want to microwave to at work because I don’t like microwaving plastic. Other than the little extra clean-up I have to do, I find this works very well for me.

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Coney Islands

I realize I’ve been a little heavy on the commercial fake meat lately, and I feel bad about that. It’s really not all I’m eating! I was going to do a huge, beautiful Ethiopian post yesterday, in fact, but my injera turned out bad. Real bad. So bad Mark and I got sushi for dinner instead. (All the wots and wot-not (har har) went in the freezer until I can get to the Ethiopian grocery this weekend and buy injera because I’m feeling gun shy about making it. I will try again at some point, however.) Last week I was just playing around with the fake meats I found in the Vietnamese grocery store. This week I’ve been looking at more “old time” recipes in cookbooks borrowed from the library. I usually keep a stash of vegan ground “beef” or “hot dogs” on hand for nights when I don’t have time to make a real meal, although often I find that they pass their expiration date before I get around to needing them. So tonight’s meal uses up some such packages. The recipe is an adaptation of one in Rare Bits, a cookbook that explores the “forgotten” origins of popular recipes. According to the book (which is really pretty interesting), the vendors at Coney Island didn’t like the association to dog meat the term “hot dog” brought to mind and refered to their weiners in rolls as “Coney Islands” or “Red Hots”. This is my vegan version of the recipe found in the book, scaled to make two “dogs”.

Coney Islands

1/3 cup vegan “ground beef”
1 small or 1/2 large onion, small dice
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1/2 tsp chili powder
freshly ground black pepper and salt, to taste
3 Tbsp tomato sauce
2 Tbsp water
2 vegan “hot dogs”
2 vegan hot dog rolls

Set aside 3 tablespoons of the diced onions. Heat a small skillet over medium heat. Add a small amount of oil. When hot, add the rest of the onions and the garlic.

Cook until onion is soft.

Add the “ground beef” and cook for 2-3 minutes.

Add the tomato sauce, water, chili powder, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the hot dogs according to package instructions. I cook them on the George Foreman grill. Here they are probably overcooked.

Place a cooked hot dog in a bun.

Top with half the chili.

Top with half the reserved onions.

I served with a tossed salad (not shown) and Boston baked beans.

I cheated on the beans, which also make me feel bad. Instead of using dried beans, I used a can of small white beans. I didn’t measure, but I added 1/4 onion, a pinch of cloves, dry mustard, 2-3 tablespoons tomato sauce, some molasses and brown sugar, and salt and pepper, topped off with some water, and simmered for half an hour or so.

The Toonse helped me eat.

She loves books as much as I do, although her preference is more to rub her face on them than to read them.

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Vegan Spicy Stewed Fish

I’ll warn you up front: this recipe will annoy most of the vegans among you. It’d annoy me a little bit if I came across it in a vegan blog. That’s because it calls for two ingredients most people probably can’t find. It may also annoy the non-vegans among you as well, because I’ve found that many non-vegans are annoyed by things that pretend to be meat. I’m going to post it anyway because I do sometimes find myself in possession of some realistic fake meat that I have no idea what to do with and it turned out really well. In fact, it turned out so well that I might try to replicate it with tofu – making it much more accessible – in the future. If you try it with something easier to find, like tofu, let me know the results!

Vegan Spicy Stewed Fish

8 oz vegan “fish” slices
1 lime
2 large cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1″ piece ginger, grated
1/4 cup vegan “fish” sauce (you can try 2 Tbsp soy sauce + 2 Tbsp water if you can’t find this)
1/4 large red onion, or 2-3 shallots, small dice
1 jalepeno
1/2 tsp coarse red salt
1/2 tsp coriander, ground or crushed
7 oz diced tomatoes (half a can)
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped

Here’s another frozen vegan “meat” I found in the Vietnamese grocery store after Mark and I went bowling: “codfish slices”. Like the cocktail weiners, they contain absolutely NO BORAX!

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.

Zest and juice the lime and add the results to a large, shallow dish along with the garlic, ginger, and “fish” sauce. Whisk.

Marinate the “fish” slices in this mixture for anywhere from 15 minutes to a couple of hours, turning occasionally.

Slice the jalepeno …

… and dice the onion or shallots in a small dice.

Chop the cilantro:

Heat a small skillet over medium heat with a little oil. Add the onion and saute a few minutes.

Add the jalepeno and continue sauteing …

… until both are soft.

Smear a thin layer of the tomatoes into a baking dish.

Add the “fish” slices, sprinkle with salt and coriander, and then evenly pour the marinade over the slices.

Add the sauted onions and jalepenos in a layer.

Add the rest of the tomatoes in a layer then sprinkle with the coriander and press the leaves down into the sauce so they don’t burn.

Bake for 20 to 30 minutes. While the “fish” was baking, I sauteed up some more of those French beans I made the other night, this time tossing with garlic, shallot salt, and half of the rest of the tomatoes.

I also made some couscous, using broth instead of water and stirring in the remaining quarter can of tomatoes as well as some more of the shallot salt, with which I seem to be pretty heavy-handed lately.

Remove “fish” from oven.

Serve!

This was really good! I asked Mark what he thought and he said, “I pretended it wasn’t fish and found that I really liked it!” (I don’t think that pretending it wasn’t fish required a large stretch of the imagination considering it wasn’t fish.) He also really liked the couscous and he ate more than a half a skillet of the beans, so for someone who claimed he wasn’t hungry, I’d say this meal turned out pretty well.

Here’s the whole meal:

I liked the texture of the “fish”, which I think will be hard to replicate without commercial products, but I do think tofu would adapt easily to this combination of flavors, so I think I’ll definitely try it again with tofu. Oooh, and I just realized that jackfruit would work really well here too! I think I’ll try that next now that I think of it!

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Vegan Cocktail Weiners

The weekend before last, Mark and I went bowling. Bowling isn’t something we ordinarily do, but we thought it’d be fun. I kicked Mark’s butt!

Mark claims it was because I was “trained” in bowling, but the fact of the matter is that although I did in fact take both Bowling and Billiards as my gym credits in college, I had to cheat to pass bowling class. I suck at bowling. Also, bowling class was at 8:30 a.m., which is simply outrageous. At least Billiards was at 4:30, when the bar was open and I could drink beer during class.

Anyway, we went bowling, and we didn’t take any skinheads. After bowling, we wandered into a nearby Vietnamese grocery store because I had never been there. I was surprised to find a lot of frozen vegan “meat” there, some of which I purchased just for the novelty of it. One of the items I found was vegan cocktail weiners:

What’s more, vegan cocktail weiners are entirely borax-free!!

I know it may seem extreme to some, but Mark and I are both committed to a borax-free diet. So into my shopping basket this rare find went!

Apparently what you are supposed to do with cocktail weiners is mix together a jar of grape jelly and a jar of barbecue or chili sauce and throw in the tiny weiners, then cook, generally in a crockpot. I can’t stand bottled barbecue sauces to begin with because they are too sweet, so I can’t even imagine to what levels of disgust grape jelly would elevate it. Therefore I made up my own weiner sauce. (Apparently cocktail weiners are also sometimes called “little smokies” and though that nomenclature has its appeal, I’m sticking to weiner.)

I bought a pineapple (it’s my favorite fruit!) for our weekend-long party, but never got around to serving it. Oops. So I incorporated it into tonight’s dinner as the “sweet” flavor. If you don’t have a pineapple lying around, try agave nectar or brown sugar to taste for the sweetness.

Vegan Cocktail Weiners in a Spicy-Sweet Weineralicious Sauce

1/3 cup chili sauce
2 Tbsp prepared yellow mustard
2 Tbsp vegan Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 slices pineapple (fresh, frozen, or canned), chopped finely
sriracha, to taste
8 oz vegan cocktail weiners (try cutting up regular-sized vegan hot dogs if you can’t find these, maybe adding a little liquid smoke to the sauce)

Defrost the weiners if necessary. I put them in a pot of hot water and put a weight on them to submerge them. Within 10 minutes they were defrosted.

If necessary, core and slice the pineapple. I set it in a bowl so I can collect any juice that escapes; I poured this juice into the sauce pot.

Chop the pineapple finely; you should have about 1/3 cup.

Mark’s been complaining for a few years that we never have “normal” mustard. By this he means French’s yellow mustard. I love mustard and prefer a high class product. I recently caved in and bought him some French’s as a treat. Cocktail weiner sauce seemed like something that would call for French’s. Use whatever mustard strikes your fancy, and add it with all the other ingredients except the weiners to a small pot.

To my surprise, the cocktail weiners were individually wrapped like tiny little sausages; I had to pop them each out of their casing.

Add the weiners to the sauce:

Simmer over medium-low heat until the weiners are warmed through and the sauce is thickened.

Serve!

Mark pronounced the cocktail weiners “strangely good”. I’d buy them again.

In other news, since I sometimes talk about books here despite the fact they are rarely considered food (except in Firmin, which, by the way, is a very cute book), I would like to announce that it is my opinion that Pride and Prejudice is improved greatly by the addition of zombies. Fortinbras brought Pride and Prejudice and Zombies down for me this weekend and I’ve been reading it along side the original, which I hadn’t read for many years. As far as I remember I was pretty ambivalent about P&P when I read it, which must have been in college because it has a price tag from my university on it. Reading the zombified version, however, I find myself constantly going back to the original to see if the non-zombie parts are really quite as ridiculous in the original and they are! The zombie version, which uses the original text for at least half of the wording, is actually much easier to read as they’ve tightened up the prose in order to fit the zombies in. Maybe it’s sacrilegious for an English major to prefer zombies to pure Pride, but it’s a lot more lively. Which is a funny assessment to make of the living dead, I guess.

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This post is little more than a pathetic excuse to play with my new laptop

I rushed through the making of dinner tonight because my new laptop unexpectedly appeared on my doorstep this morning and I wanted to go play with it. Since I also wanted to make sure it recognized my camera, I snapped a few pictures before eating, but I can’t say this post is up to my usual standards of bombarding you with a million photographs. But doing things I often do on the laptop will tell me what all I settings I need to set and what I need to download and stuff, so here’s a boring post for you!

Cabbage and Seitan “Ham” Skillet Dinner

1 onion, sliced
1/4 pound seitan ham
1/2 jalapeno, chopped
1/2 head savoy cabbage, chopped
1 cup water
1 vegan “beef” bouillon cube
1/2 cup Dutch Apple Catsup
freshly ground salt and pepper, to taste

Heat some olive oil up in a large skillet. Add the onions and sauté for 5 minutes, until beginning to brown. Add the “ham” and jalapeno; sauté for another 5 minutes. Add the cabbage, water, bouillon cube and salt and pepper. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until cabbage is soft; about 15 minutes. Stir in the catsup.

That was my own recipe, thrown together with little thought. I also made a tossed salad. I enjoy making up my own salad dressings, but tonight I adapted a dressing I found in one of those “old time” cookbooks I borrowed from the library. Only this book claims to contain recipes from “historic” Alexandria, Virginia, but the only thing historic about it is the fact that all the contributors were female and all used their husbands’ names instead of their own first names. It seems to be from the 1970s or thereabouts. A time when a can of soup was considered something to base a recipe around. In fact, the recipe for this dressing does just that. It was called Tomato Salad Dressing and instead of the can of tomato soup it dictated, I used tomato sauce. I decided it tasted more like Bloody Mary Salad Dressing. I’d share the recipe with you, but I’ve decided I don’t think Bloody Marys should dress salads. The original recipe noted that the dressing was good on “cold cuts of beef”, so maybe it’d be better on some seitan. OR WITH VODKA.

Here’s my new laptop, which I got after arguing with Mark for about a year. But because it’s me and Mark it was a backwards argument: he arguing that I needed a new laptop and me insisting I didn’t. I finally gave in when it became impossible to boot my old one. By the time I got home from work today, Mark had removed that bloody awful Vista and installed the latest version of Ubuntu for me, and I have to say that after 8 years of using Linux on my personal computers, it is really nice to be able to plug stuff in and have it magically work. Like my camera. And (cross your fingers!) maybe my iPod! And I’d set aside the evening to download and install all the apps I’ll need, but the only thing I could think of that wasn’t already installed was Picasa. I just needed that and a picture of The Toonse for the desktop and I was set!

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Colonial Apple Catsup and Baked Seitan Ham

Wandering the library the other day, I for some reason decided it would be a hoot to look for really old recipes, particularly from this area, that I could veganize, so I trotted on over to the cookbooks. I expected to find just a couple of books, but my arms were full after looking over just a shelf and a half of about six shelves of cookbooks. I checked out books containing recipes from colonial Williamsburg, the Civil War, and our “founding fathers”.

Flipping through them a bit more intensively at home later, though, I started having second thoughts. I don’t know that I really want to veganize anything called “Sheep’s Head Stew,” which yes, really is what it sounds like. I couldn’t even read some of the recipes they were so disturbing. One of the books used the old-style “s” that looks like “f”, though, which made the chapter called “Flesh and Fish” look like “Flefh and Fifh”, which I kept reading as “Flesh and Filth,” which was sort of amusing…and accurately conveys how appetizing I found most of its contents.

I did eventually mark a few recipes, though. One of the more interesting was Dutch Apple Catsup. The modern intro says,

Just as catsup is very American, so is the idea of making it from apples instead of tomatoes.

Which I thought was funny given the name of the recipe is Dutch Apple Catsup. The recipe is in the chapter on New York recipes, though, where there were a lot of Dutch settlers – it was called New Amsterdam when this recipe was in favor – and in fact, most of the recipes in the chapter are Dutch this or that. I just thought it was linguistically humorous.

The intro also goes on to say,

This recipe looks strange, but if you prepare it, you will be surprised at what a great relish is it with roast pork, baked ham, and many other main course dishes.

The recipe is entirely vegan as written, though I have halved all the amounts (and still made more than I can probably use). I didn’t find it strange at all!

Dutch Apple Catsup
an old New Amsterdam recipe from the 18th century

6 large or 8 medium apples (or 1 pint prepared applesauce)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp white pepper
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1 medium white onion, diced
1 cup white vinegar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup prepared horseradish

Pare and core the apples …

… then quarter.

Place in a pot and cover with water.

Simmer without a lid until the apples are very soft and the water has almost completely evaporated.

Puree the apples. You can either push them through a sieve (the colonial method), run them through a food mill, beat them with a spoon, or put them in a blender. I did the least colonial thing:

At this point I realized I’d spent an hour and a half making apple sauce. You can easily skip all of the above steps and buy non-sweetened, all-natural apple sauce.

Place the remaining ingredients in a pot.

Stir in the apple sauce:

Simmer slowly for one hour.

As the recipe had said to serve with roast pork or baked ham, I figured I’d finalize my “ham” recipe. So here goes; it’s nearly identical to my last attempt.

Seitan Ham

2 1/3 cups vital wheat gluten (one box)
1/4 tsp white pepper
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp smoked paprika
1 cup beet juice (or just use water; the resulting “ham” simply won’t be pink)
1 cup ketchup

For the simmering broth
7 cups water
1 cup soy sauce
3 Tbsp liquid smoke
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp sage
1 onion, chopped
1/4 cup nutritional yeast

Bring the simmering broth ingredients to a boil in a large pot:

Meanwhile, mix the dry ingredients together in a medium bowl:

In a separate bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients.

Pour the liquid into the dry and mix with your hands. Pardon me, but I forgot how to focus at this point. I’d have trashed the photo, but I wanted you to see the fuschia color.

Form into a log and place on a large piece of cheesecloth. I wash and reuse cheesecloth, which is why it looks dingy.

Roll up then tie of the ends like a Tootsie roll:

Place the seitan log in the simmering broth.

Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for an hour and 15 minutes (or pressure cook for 45 minutes).

Remove log from the broth.

When cool enough to handle, unwrap it. It’s much less pink, though the interior was pinkish when sliced.

It’s best if you bake it. Slice it up:

Baste it with something. The recipe I gave here is really tasty, but of course tonight I used the apple catsup, which was also tasty.

Bake at 400 degrees for half an hour.

Serve, with additional catsup.

Mark stole one of my slices off my plate, so it seemed to go over well with him. I have a ton of apple catsup left over. Now I’m wondering what else to do with it!

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Baked Easter “Ham”

As I predicted, I baked some of the ham I made last night for Easter dinner tonight, and I have to say, it was definitely the “hammiest” thing I’ve eaten in 20 years, so I’m getting very close!

I took three of the “cutlets” I boiled last night, scored them, brushed them with a mixture of about 2 tablespoons agave nectar and 2 tablespoons of the balsamic mustard I mentioned in this post (that I got from this post on Cupcake Punk), and studded them with cloves, then baked at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for about 45 minutes.

I deplore having nothing green with my dinner, but I’m pretty much out of veggies and I don’t think Wegmans was open today. So homemade sauerkraut and more frozen corn it was.

I’m a little hammed out having had it two nights in a row now (and there are still more leftovers!), but I think in a few weeks when I get the urge to make it again, I’ll have a perfected recipe for you!

I also tested the babka recipe for Peter Reinhart’s upcoming cookbook, appropriately enough as it’s Easter. I wasn’t expecting it to turn out that well because it calls for a lot of egg yolks. But I substituted an equal weight of silken tofu and it turned out AWESOME!

I did some more organizing in my kitchen this weekend. What’s interesting about that is I was just looking at my first seitan “ham” post and realized that I made that attempt the same weekend I completely reorganized my kitchen the first time. Weird. Anyway, in the course of cleaning out my cupboards, I found a few things that I’m simply never going to use and I’d like to offer them to any of you who could use them.

First, I bought this set of Calphalon Hard Anodized cookware a few years ago. I use the pots all the time, but I never use the skillets, because as you know, I am extremely attached to my cast iron skillet. These are really, really nice skillets, though. I may have used the larger two once or twice, although I’m not sure I ever used them at all. They are pretty much brand new. I have used the smaller skillet a bit more often, though only for toasting things like seeds, so I therefore never use oil on it and it’s completely clean. I thought about keeping the small skillet, but then I figured I’d keep the set together and get myself one of the small cast iron skillets I’m always eyeing up and talking myself out of because I have a small skillet. If you are interested, leave a comment and I’ll email you for your address so I can send you the set; shipping is on me anywhere in the US. Internationally, let me know your country and postcode and I’ll figure out what shipping will be and if it’s a lot, we can talk. Together the set weighs just under ten pounds.

Secondly, this Italian bread pan. I used it a few times after buying it and it’s great, but I then got a huge baking stone that I now bake directly on. Same deal as above: if you want it, leave a comment.

These are both really nice items that I simply haven’t given the attention they deserve. I also don’t have room for them in my kitchen. I’d love to see them go to someone who will use them. I bought these items specifically because I like the brand name: most of my non-cast iron cookware is Calphalon hard anodized, and most of my bakeware is Chicago Metallic. I just don’t use these particular items. If you want, I can post pictures of them.

I guess if more than one person is interested in one or both of the items, I’ll pick winners at random on Friday, April 17 at 8 p.m. (Eastern time). If no one responds by then, I’ll either give them to the first person to comment after that time, or I may find something else to do with them. I’d just like them to have a good home.

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