Sunday, November 7, 2010

Moribund leaves and nascent hopes of warm meal-time memories

It seems that, in my professing that Summer was not in fact over, I brought about its instant death. I'm very sorry.

Ok, I should stop short at taking credit for the death of seasons, while, meanwhile, I reminisce about what are now considered old-school AFI tracks ("Death of Seasons" being an actual song amongst other Autumn-themed beauties in their vast discography)....

But just as the moribund leaves have fallen and been scattered far and wide, my thoughts digress gravely. Summer is indeed over, and she ended swiftly, though without a bang: no mid-September heat wave, no day of grace at the beginning of October; heck, it snowed on Halloween this year, and I don't believe that has ever happened in the lifetimes of 2010's trick-or-treaters. So with my end-of-Summer denial post, Autumn swoops down and droops his shadowy wings over all of Nature that once lived, taking Summer's place and destroying her warmth....

Yet I do love Autumn, because Autumn cooking and baking offers emotional as well as physical warmth and comfort that is just as blessed, cherished, and beautiful as any summer night spent in the company of friends and loved ones. And yes, there's the emotional and physical warmth of people cuddling up with friends and loved ones around Chai, pumpkin pie, and Fall casseroles.

Like Summer, though for different reasons, Autumn is a true love of mine, and here, as we're almost two months into this season of changed colours, wardrobes, and harvests, I'll celebrate the Fall with photos of the past two months (I'm only just forgiving myself for this absence!). And, as a special treat, I am honoured and pleased to include a guest recipe from a dear friend of mine, the lovely, witty, and poetically talented Graeme (alias graemeghiskhan), currently residing in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.

As my tagline for this entire blog sums up, I started VeganinSuburbia as a place to showcase that vegan living is possible no matter where you live--in the city or the outskirts, in a metropolis or a nondescript village. This was really in the North American context, with the exception of my travel posts. Nevertheless, Graeme, has shown me in our frequent chats about food that, even in Mongolia (where, according to the eloquently hope-destroying statement in the Lonely Planet guidebook for Mongolia, vegans should either be entirely self-sufficient or consider changing their dietary habits for the duration of their stay because of the culture's heavily meat- and dairy-centric meals and because of the scarce availability of vegetables and fruits due to the short growing season), it is possible to make do with what you have, and with immense success, too, even when you're tucked away in the cozy depths of the coldest capital in the world. Thanks, Grae, for sharing your recipe with me and for letting me share it!


Vegan gnocchi that my friend, Vanessa, brought over. She whipped up a batch of pesto that even my mom--who, strangely, dislikes pesto--loved.
Vanessa also put together this simple but delicious salad: spinach, pear slices, and walnuts with olive oil and vinegar.
My trust apple crumble recipe. I added more brown sugar to this recipe, though, because my mum requested it.
Oh, I really should start jotting down the names and authors of the recipes I make, because I always struggle to remember the origin. I made this for Thanksgiving, and I can decipher carrots of various colours, chunks of TVP, zucchini, eggplant, thyme, thyme, and more thyme (I love thyme).
And here are the results of apple-picking, all of which employed the same recipe but baked in a different shape (the recipe is for the apple Bundt cake by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, in The Joy of Vegan Baking, though I replaced the entire cup of oil it calls for with apple sauce. In this case, replacing all of the oil works perfectly since the additional apple taste only enhances the overall delight of this dessert.

Tempeh stir-fry with zucchini, red pepper, and onion. Again, please forgive me for forgetting which recipe I used. This is more proof that I have to get writing more often, so that my memory doesn't have as much time to fail me. Ha! I served this along with marinated shiitake mushrooms and sundried tomatoes that we have in constant supply at my house.
So, this isn't food, but this sunrise that I'd witnessed on so many Autumn mornings left me speechless.
The red-peppered top of a delicious creamy pasta bake by VeganYumYum's Lauren Ulm. I even froze four or five separate portions of this for lunches during the week, and it defrosted beautifully.
One of the tastiest meals I've had in months, this was a gem created by Hannah Kaminsky. It's roasted zucchini and chickpea soup. I didn't have chickpeas ready, so I used some canned kidney beans. I was completely taken aback by how much of a difference roasting vegetables does before adding them to a soup.
Mooooooore apple crumble...
When I went apple-picking in September, I'd picked up a loaf of molasses bread and, for those of you who have never tried it, it possesses a beautiful golden hue that makes it resemble egg bread. It's marvelous toasted and is perfect for peanut or almond butter sandwiches. I tried to replicate the bread at home but made the mistake of using blackstrap molasses. The result was tasty but too molasses-y for my liking. Nevertheless, this was a really exciting milestone: This was the first loaf of bread I'd ever baked! The interesting thing about this recipe is that it was a veganized Betty Crocker one from my mum's 70's-era cookbook. For real.
Vegan apple dumplings by Beverly Lynn Bennett were fun to make and messy to eat, and I wouldn't have dessert any other way! My Nonna and Nonno actually really enjoyed these and wouldn't let me leave their house with the leftovers.
More apple muffins, with maple syrup drizzled over the top.
My mom's family-famous vegan stuffing for Thanksgiving. Oooooh, heaven...
Mom's roasted onions, potatoes, and sweet potatoes. I need to have these at least once every two weeks: my potato quota must be filled... or else.
Vegan Dad's luscious maple-dijon Brussels sprouts. My mum liked these so much that she made them twice this week alone. I have no complaints. If you think you don't like Brussels sprouts, think again, please, and try this recipe.
Potato-topped casserole for Thanksgiving! I didn't grab a good photo of what lies below, but it was the better part of the casserole, I believe. Regardless, this was a hearty meal that I was sad to see disappear (but that my tummy was happy to contain).
This is my Thanksgiving plate, and I will proudly affirm that I finished it all.
VeganYogini's pumpkin chocolate-chip doughnuts made another appearance this year for Thanksgiving. And yes, they disappeared quickly.

And now, it's RESS-YIPEE time! (quirky ress-yippee exclamation care of the ex-pat)

"Hackney Elbow-Patches Rice Pudding

This is for a double batch. The original recipe that I used comes from here. Aldon Brown hasn't ever let me down. [Intentional rhyme.] And his dry humor and wit are great. I miss The Food Network.
  • 2 cups of cooked Jasmine rice. [Most rice pudding calls for short-grain rice, but to the hackney elbow-patch cook, whatever is left over is fair game. I've even used brown rice to make a chai-flavored rice pudding.]
  • 2 cups of (fortified) soy milk. [Unflavored, though I'm sure that vanilla soy milk would have been great. In fact, I'd be curious to find out what STRAWBERRY soy milk would do!]
  • 1 270ml can of coconut cream.
  • 1/2 cup of sugar. [I put in way more than this -- No measuring cups -- though I'm not sure if there could ever be enough sugar.]
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon. [Original recipe called for cardamom because it was an "Indian" style rice pudding. This is more North-American and comforting.]
  • Splash of vanilla extract.
  • The great thing about those last two ingredients is that you can add more of either depending on the dominant flavor that you want. If you want a dominant cinnamon flavor, add an extra 1/8-1/4 teaspoon. If you want one that is more vanilla-y, splash a bit more in. Just make sure not to add too much of both.
  • Optional: Any topping that suits your mood! Crushed nuts (almonds or pistachios work best), raisins (golden or otherwise), flaked coconut, or whatever else floats your starchy boat
  1. With your rice in an appropriate sized pot, turn a burner to medium-high and add your milk. Stir frequently so that your rice doesn't stick to the bottom.
  2. Once it starts to boil, reduce heat to a simmer and continually stir the mixture until it thickens. [This should take about 5 minutes or so. I noticed that it reduced by about an inch in the pot.]
  3. Once reduced, add your cream and incorporate your sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla. Stirring constantly with a whisk (to prevent the cinnamon from clumping), turn the heat up again, and wait until it has thickened.
  4. You may choose to add your topping now or wait until served.
  5. Serve cold or at room temperature.
[Cooking time, approx. 20-25 minutes]"

And Graeme had the following comments for this extremely successful makeshift pudding:

"The substitution of heavy cream and coconut milk for simple coconut cream was done out of necessity, not just out of vegan-friendliness. Mongolian dairy isn't the most pleasant-tasting unless you enjoy the delicious consequences of gambling with a "best before" date. Not to mention, finding coconut milk in this city is as easy as -- to continue with the analogy -- winning the lottery. And while it might seem like a 1+1=3 equivalency, apparently heavy cream + coconut milk really does equal coconut cream. Granted, the end result was a little thick, but my unreliable stove with only 4 settings could have been the culprit, or I could have let it thicken too long. In any case, that's easily remedied with a little more soy milk on the side if you prefer something a little thinner.

The soy milk, coconut cream, cinnamon combination gives this dessert the rich, deep color of mixing cement. Nevertheless, using frozen berries as your topping easily makes it more appealing. On the whole, and probable diabetes aside from adding too much sugar, this was extremely well-received. The warm pudding comforted me while the wafting cinnamon scent relaxed me like only cinnamon can. I'll definitely be keeping this on hand throughout the winter months!"

And that's it for this Autumn post. I pinky swear I'll write again before Christmas. I'll be baking and cooking up all sorts of comforting dishes in the next while. I wish I could contribute to Vegan MoFo but waking at 5 a.m. every day and being in bed by 10 p.m., with 8 hours of work and 3 hours of transit time in between doesn't give me much leeway. But you vegan bloggers keep bloggin', though, showing us all that it's possible to work, study, and whip up delicious meals, every single day. Thank you for keeping us envious, entertained, and salivating.

Thank you again to dearest Graeme for sharing his Mongolian recipe, and don't forget to check out his adventures in Mongolia here.

Till next time, dear friends,

Vegan in Suburbia

Monday, September 6, 2010

L'été n'est pas encore fini !

Maybe I'm in a bit of denial over the progression of the seasons, but, technically, summer doesn't end until the 21st of September. Despite the abrupt cooling of the weather in the span of two days--in Montreal, it was 30 degrees Celsius or more until two days ago, when the temperature dipped as low as 12 degrees Celsius--, summer remains with us for another two weeks. And if you hear someone yelling, "Come baaack!" to the geese flying south for Winter, know that it's your friendly neighbourhood vegan.

So, hello! How are you? This was my first summer working full-time, and without an inkling of thought of the impending doom of school in September, for the first time in my life; nevertheless, I was out and about more than I ever have been in my life as well. People close to me know that I am more likely to be found at home reading a book on any night, weekday or otherwise, than out on the town. I've never been much of a partier, but this summer, there was a sociable beast in me that needed to be unleashed. The only phenomenon to which I can attribute it is that all of my days spent as a hermit during my years in university piled up alongside unconscious desires to let loose and/or socialize with fellow humans instead of fictional or historical personae in Italian literature. So, my bank account dipped slightly, but my satisfaction with the summer mounted to unprecedented levels. As my best friend quite accurately expressed: "My goal for this summer is to go to work tired every day." And that we did, and it was well worth it. I have to admit that, one no fewer than three occasions, I went to work at nine a.m. after going to bed no earlier than 4 a.m. And yes, I am proud of it!

This summer was the best of my life. And I have my friends and family to thank. So, with a curtsy and a humble bow, I thank you all.

Now, all of this going out and celebrating the beauty of life (*sniff*. Yes. I am a hippie and I smile through the days because life truly is beautiful, and I am grateful for every day I have to discover this funny Earth of ours with my loved ones) had to go hand-in-hand with one of my favourite things ever: food. I didn't bake or cook as much as I dined out--sometimes even at delicatessens at 3 a.m., in the heart of Montreal suburbia; the italics are not for the foreign nature of the word but, rather, they are for emphasis: how on Earth does a vegan eat at a delicatessen? Well, by going with a companion who points out the obvious: potato latkes are vegan, right?

See, I've been going to this one deli called Chenoy's, on St. Jean boulevard in Montreal's West Island, for years, mostly with friends who are craving poutine (see my article on late-night vegan eats for an idea of what Montrealers tend to eat after a night out on the town), and I'd end up ordering fried mushrooms, or nachos sans cheese, bacon, or sour cream (essentially, tortilla chips with salsa). But when I went there after a movie with my date after a failed attempt to grab some falafel pitas at a local Lebanese restaurant, we opted for Chenoy's. I was about to settle on fried mushrooms when he said, "what about latkes?" Gasp! Seriously? I'd always skimmed over that part of menu; it never even occurred to me to inquire about what usually consists of an inherently vegan dish. Potato latkes! Obviously!

So I asked. And we ordered a plate of three. They were humongous, about the size of large burger patty. They were soaked in oil (vegetable oil: I specifically asked about what kind of oil they use), and I promise that my heart and stomach hurt after eating just one (and a few bites of another one); my date confessed that the potato gods were not on his side that night, either. But, alas, delicious food was had at the delicatessen.

Summer heartburn and heartache aside, here are some photos of other delicious summer eats. On a side note, how was your summer? Did you bake or cook anything special? How did you fare at summer BBQs? I'm ever so curious :-)

Thanks again for the visit, enjoy these last precious days of Summer, and don't be alarmed if you hear me yelling "come baaack!"

 Banana Foster Cake, by Hannah Kaminsky, in My Sweet Vegan, by my mum's request for her birthday. It was absolutely scrumptious, and it blew my family away. 
Vegan guacamole at Mesa 14 restaurant with home-made tortilla chips
Part one of DIY fajitas at Mesa 14
So... I made Hannah Kaminsky's Raspberry Carrot Cake with epic sour-cream frosting, but I was way too impatient to wait for the cake to cool down. So frosting soup it was!
I have to admit that I should have let the icing cool and harden in the fridge, but I seriously couldn't wait. This cake blew me away. Maritsa, my best friend, said that it was one of the best cakes I've ever made. Hannah... dude. You are a goddess. My aforementioned date enjoyed it as well, and his favourite dessert is carrot cake. This was an all-around win. And if you are wary of combining raspberries with carrots, do yourself a favour and move past it: it is as divine a combination as chocolate and peanut butter. Mmm...
Strawberry muffins, once again à la Hannah Kaminsky ;-) Hers, in her book My Sweet Vegan, are heart-shaped for Valentine's Day, but I'm not that fancy--yet. On several occasions, I've made a whole bunch of these and frozen half, for grab-and-go snacks for work.
Chickpeas Quinoa Pilaf by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero in Veganomicon. It was really tasty.
This sandwich I came up with on the spot after work, and though I usually don't think my sandwiches merit a photo, I really impressed myself with this one: whole-grain multigrain toast with avocado, fresh tomato slices, Tofurky slices, lettuce, and mayo. Mmm.
As you can see, I was cooking a lot with quinoa as of late. I have a huge bag from Costco and want to try different dishes. Any suggestions are welcome, because I'm not the biggest fan of it, though I know it's really good for you. I despise corn, but for some reason, at the supermarket, I saw the corn on the cob and craved it... and lost the craving not even a day later. But I needed to use the corn, so I tried this Quinoa and Corn Medley from Colleen Patrick-Goudreau's The Vegan Table. It was decent with gravy poured over it. :-)
Vegan scramble from The Vegan Table
  Chocolate Devastation Cake by Hannah Kaminsky from My Sweet Vegan, made by my mom and aunt by my request demand for my 24th birthday. It was... I... it rendered me speechless. The only way I could express myself, my intense emotions, my euphoria, was by having a second piece.
Mmmm... Coffee custard...
Cappuccino Cupcake filled with Espresso Creme, by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero, in Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. I made these for someone dear, and of course I kept myself classy and had two. Yeah, okay, I'm gross. But they were that good.
Vegan shrimp in green curry sauce at Chu Chai
Vegan duck with basil eggplant at Chu Chai. This is my new favourite dish--yes, I actually order this instead of something with peanut butter sauce.
I'd recently invested in crumpet rings when I saw a recipe for crumpets (which I'd never previously had in my life) in Vegan Yumyum by Lauren Ulm. I was craving warm biscuits, ripped open with steam rising from the fluffy insides, with butter melting on the dough. Crumpets seemed to fit the bill, but they're apparently a whole bunch of work to make. But make them I did. Does anyone know, though, how they should be served? I've heard of the clichéed "tea and crumpets", but are crumpets eaten just like that, or with jam and butter? Maybe I broke some rules, but that's how I ate them.
Whole-wheat pizza with eggplant slices, cherry tomatoes, spinach, and Daiya. I love pizza.
One of the best meals I've had in a while: pizza and sweet potato fries.
I recently purchased Sweet Freedom by Ricki Heller, and I was delighted to receive it in the mail with a personalized autograph (thank you, Ricki!). These are her Dalmatian Cheesecake Brownies. I modified the recipe slightly because I had two containers of vegan sour cream that were on the verge of expiration, so I made the cheesecake topping with sour cream. It changed the flavour quite a bit, I imagine, but it was delicious, sweet, and luscious. And, true to the nature of the recipes in this book, these brownies were actually mostly healthy. Check out the book here and Ricki's blog here.
Finally, for Labour Day, I wanted to make pancakes, so I made these from Sweet Freedom. They were thick, moist, fluffy, and I filled them with bananas, but they can be filled with berries or other fruits chopped small. They are the healthiest pancakes I've ever made, and they were also among the tastiest. A true vegan win.
Pancake with creme de marron in the foreground, covered in blueberries, pancake with vegan butter and maple syrup, and sweet potatoes pan fried with onions (made by Momma)

And I end with that. :-)

Until next time, yours truly,

Vegan in Suburbia