Vinegar Variety (part I)

The other day, as I was observing my pantry shelf, I realized I had a semi-dusty almost full bottle of red wine vinegar. I hate buying something for one recipe then never using it again, so I searched online for “recipes with red wine vinegar” and almost every recipe was for salad dressing. Now I don’t mind a good red wine vinaigrette, but I was surprised with the lack of variety.

From that incident, I decided that vinegar seems to be a bit of an under appreciated pantry staple. Due to that, I’ve decided to dedicate two posts to writing about different types of vinegar and how to use them in your dishes (with no salad dressing recipes in sight).

Apple Cider Vinegar

ACV is a very common vinegar. It’s made by crushing and releasing the liquid from apples, then putting the juice through the vinegar fermenting process. It’s a pretty mild type and has a light fruit undertone with a sharp tartness. The latest health craze seems to be drinking ACV plain (yuck) or washing your hair with it (I’ll just stick with my Jason’s shampoo, thanks), but this vinegar is still great for eating too, as is shown with the coleslaw below. The recipe was creamy with a hint of sour from the vinegar and relish in it. I served it with a barbecue Boca burger.

coleslaw

Balsamic Vinegar

Equally sweet and sour, this vinegar has the richest flavor of them all. It is commonly drizzled over salads with sweet accents, like fruit. Although the traditionally made BV from Italy is amazing (I’ve only bought a bottle once, but it was worth the money), the commercial made will make due for those who don’t want to splurge on it. But if you’re doing a dish with the vinegar as a main focal point, it might be worthwhile to get the traditional. I didn’t want to do a shameless plug and encourage you to cook my balsamic pasta and beans (recipe here), so I chose some salty and crunchy goodness with kale chips. These chips were super simple and delicious. You only need kale, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and sea salt. I ended up eating these while watching Supernatural in lieu of an unhealthy snack.

balsamic kale chips

Malt Vinegar

MV is made by malting barley, then brewing it into ale, which is finally converted into vinegar. It is commonly used in the UK for fish and chips, but it’s also known for being a good pickling vinegar. I’ve never actually pickled anything before, so I thought I’d give it a go! I chose to make pickled mushrooms since shrooms are one of my favorite foods. In the finished product the Malt vinegar has a distinct taste and the slice of onion and garlic in the jar add an extra depth of flavor. I’m going to serve these sprinkled on a salad with a sweet raspberry dressing to balance the vinegar taste.

pickled shrooms

Last Meal (Vegan MoFo #21)

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I decided to end Vegan MoFo with an entire book-based meal. Main dish, sides, drinks, and dessert are all mentioned in the book, so I cooked it all! I’ll miss the challenge this month has been, but it will also be nice to be able to not worrying about blogging five days a week. I’m already planning my theme (*cough* Disney movies *cough*) for next year.
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The genre of vampire fiction has grown rapidly these last few years. But the first vampire series I remember getting truly invested in (before all the Twilight hubub took over)  was Cirque Du Freak by Darren Shan. The first book in the series is A Living Nightmare, in which the main character is a young boy, Darren. Darren’s obsession with the supernatural and outlandish prompts him and his friend, Steve, to visit a traveling freak show that has just rolled into town. Due to their encounters at the show, Darren and Steve end up over their heads and thrown from their mundane everyday lives into being involved in the dangerous vampire world. Now Darren must choose between saving Steve’s life and sacrificing his own human future.

In the same vein as Goosebumps, but with much better writing, A Living Nightmare (and the rest of the Cirque Du Freak books) tells a harrowing story involving vampire mythos, a dash of sarcastic humor, and good old fashioned gore. Great for anyone wanting to read a vampire story that does not involve romance or sparkles.

This would be my last meal with them and I wanted it to be special. When I was looking back on it in later years, I wanted to be able to remember us together, at home, a happy family.

Mom cooked my favorite food: chicken, roast potatoes, corn on the cob. Annie and me had freshly squeezed orange juice to drink. Mom and Dad shared a bottle of wine. We had strawberry cheesecake for dessert. Everybody was in a good mood.” – Cirque Du Freak (A Living Nightmare) (paperback) page 225

I won’t tell why (I hate spoilers), but Darren is having his last meal with his family. Because of this it’s a very important dinner and I wanted to make sure I captured that in my last Vegan MoFo meal. For the chicken I used PETA’s cruelty free Chick-fil-a recipe, the potatoes were just thinly sliced and baked with Lawry’s seasoning salt and pepper, and then some fresh corn on the cob. I served it with barbecue sauce and orange juice.

cirque du freak mealThe best part of this meal though was the dessert. I decided to adapt my lemon-berry cheesecake recipe and make it into strawberry cheesecake. I wish I’d done this recipe earlier in the month when strawberries were more in season, but it still turned out well with the mediocre selection that was available.

strawberry cheezcake

Strawberry Cheesecake

Serves 8

Ingredients:

One graham cracker crust (store-bought or home-made)

1 cup silken tofu

2 cups fresh strawberries

1/2 cup sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 tablespoons cornstarch

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a food processor blend together all the ingredients (except the pie crust) until smooth.

Pour the strawberry mix into the crust, place on a cookie sheet, and bake for 60-75 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Chill for at least 5 hours and then slice and serve! This is also great garnished with strawberry sauce or vegan whipped cream.

Twig’s Sausage Soup (Vegan MoFo #7)

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The story for today focuses on Twig, who is written about in The Edge Chronicles: Beyond the Deepwoods by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell. Twig is a young human who lives among a tribe of Woodtrolls. He’s always known he was different, due to his lack of fur and inability to work well with wood (the usual Woodtroll occupation), but it wasn’t until now he desired to know where he came from.

Soon a group of Sky Pirates are coming to trade for wood from his local village. Twig’s adoptive mother fears the Pirates will attempt to kidnap him and force him to join the crew. At his mother’s request, Twig decides to stay at a nearby Woodtroll village until the Pirates leave. While traveling to the village,  Twig breaks the one rule he’s always been told: Never leave the path. Even though it was kind of an accident, those fateful steps off the path send Twig on a fantastic journey.

While traveling on a journey to find a home and his true identity, Twig encounters many strange creatures. Including the Slaughterers, human eating trees, Sky Pirates, rot-suckers, and even the gentle giants of the forest, Banderbears. As he continues onward, Twig will learn the answers to some very pressing questions. Who his true parents are, who has been secretly guiding him in this dangerous quest, and what is life like off the path?

The tilder sausage soup tasted as delicious as it had smelled. Simmered until the sausages were soft, in stock seasoned with nibblick and orangegrass, the soup was rich and spicy. It was also just the start. Juicy hammelhorn steaks, rolled in seasoned knotroot flour and deep-fried in tilder oil came next, accompanied by earthapples and a tangy blue salad. And this was followed by honey trifle and delberry blancmange and small wafer biscuits drenched in treacle. Twig had never eaten so well – nor drunk so much. A large jug full of woodapple cider stood in the centre of each of the four tables, and Twig’s mug was never allowed to empty.” – Beyond the Deepwoods (hardcover) page 56

I had to sit and imagine what I thought nibblick and orangegrass would taste like. I chose fennel seeds for nibblick and orange bell pepper for orangegrass. Everything else was just kind of thrown into the pot willy-nilly and it turned out great! Spicy and rich, just like the book described.

tilder sausage soup

Tilder Sausage Soup

Ingredients:

1 medium yellow onion, diced

1 orange bell pepper, finely chopped

3 cloves of garlic, minced

2 tablespoons olive oil

10 cups of vegan “chicken” broth or vegetable broth

5 jumbo veggie dogs or 8 regular size veggie dogs, sliced (I used Smart Dogs)

1 large potato, cubed

3 medium carrots, sliced

2 bay leaves

1 tablespoon fennel seeds

1 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon sriracha

3/4 cup orzo

Directions:

Saute the onion, bell pepper, and garlic in the olive oil. While that cooks, begin heating your vegetable broth to a boil. Cook the onions and bell peppers until they’re soft and fragrant.

Once the broth is boiling, add all the remaining the ingredients except for the orzo. Boil for 10-15 minutes, then add the orzo and boil for another 10 minutes. Then you’re finished!

Breakfast of Witch Fighting Champions (Vegan MoFo #3)

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The Last Apprentice – Revenge of the Witch by Joseph Delaney is about Tom Ward, a young seventh son of a seventh son who is apprenticed to the local Spook. Spooks are fighters of the dark who battle witches, ghosts, boggarts, demons, and even the Fiend himself. As Tom starts his apprenticeship, he learns about all the things that go bump in the dark. His learning focuses on witches especially since they are quite common in this area. There are blood witches, who like to drain blood for ceremonies and occasionally drink it, and also bone witches, who will cut off the thumbs of enemies for spells. The Spook warns Tom that the easiest way to identify a disguised witch is by her pointy shoes.

One day, during an errand run into town, Tom meets a young girl named Alice. She seems fairly harmless and nice, but there’s one problem. She wears pointy shoes. Despite this, Tom has a hard time believing the girl could be capable of harming anyone. Since he has no friends since moving in with the Spook, he decides to befriend the girl.

Soon the Spook has to travel due to a job in another town. He leaves Tom in charge of the house, and promises to be back within a few days. Almost immediately, things take a turn for the worst. It’s not long before Alice is back, and Tom has a promise to keep to her. Through trying to keep his word and an unfortunate beginner’s mistake, Tom releases one of the most feared witches in the County, Mother Malkin. As she begins to terrorize him and his family, and without the wise guidance of the Spook, Tom must learn to fight the dark on his own.

“Yes,” I said “it was the very best breakfast that I’ve ever tasted. And I’m sorry for coming down too early and I promise that it won’t happen again.”

At that, the Spook grinned so much that I thought his face was going to split in two; then he clapped me on the back and led me out into the garden again.

It was only when we were outside that the grin finally faded. “Well done, lad,” he said. “There are two things that respond well to flattery: boggarts and some women. Gets them every time.” – The Last Apprentice – Revenge of the Witch (hardcover) pages 94-95

In the Spook’s home is a boggart that cooks, cleans, and protects the property. While it is a friendly boggart (most of which in the book are not), it does not like people coming down to breakfast early or insulting its cooking. The result is the offender either getting boxed in the ears or their food being burned. In honor of the boggart’s breakfasts, I’m made breakfast food for lunch today (since waking up early to cook an actual breakfast is over rated).

boggart breakfast

Plated up is some cheesy tofu scramble (this tofu recipe with a handful of Daiya), Gimme Lean sausage patties, and a drop biscuit with strawberry preserves.

Sandwiches, Scones, and Game of Thrones

The weather was extremely nice last week, so Peter and I had a picnic at the park. There we munched on these grilled pizza sandwiches (which had pizza hummus and Daiya inside) and cucumber slices dipped in Italian salad dressing.
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I made a batch of Mom’s Chili, which I ate with crackers. I skipped using canned beans though, and cooked up some dried black beans and red beans the day before in the slow cooker. Then I mixed them with the rest of the ingredients to make the chili.

???????????????????????????????The next day the leftover chili was turned into a “Frito pie”. With layered crushed Frito corn chips and chili then smothered in healthy cheese sauce.

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Tomato-rosemary scones from Vegan Brunch. I’ve actually never baked scones before, but these were extremely easy to make and very delicious. My favorite way to have these is warmed up with a pat of margarine in the middle.
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Soft tacos with Upton’s Naturals chorizo seitan, Daiya pepper jack, lettuce, and tomatoes. It was my first time trying the Upton’s seitan. I really liked the taste and texture of it, but the small amount of seitan per package for a fairly high price (at least at my local Earth Fare) was not worth it.
???????????????????????????????“Chicken” parmesan, made with soy-tan dream cutlets from 1,000 Vegan Recipes (which I breaded and pan-fried), with melted Daiya mozzarella, all on top of spaghetti in a creamy marinara sauce, and sprinkled with nutritional yeast.
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Lentil and veggie soup, which I mostly made because I needed to clean out my refrigerator’s produce drawer. It has lentils, onions, corn, carrots, tomatoes, green beans, peas, potatoes, and lima beans which were all cooked in a garlic tomato broth.

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For our three-year anniversary, Peter got me (along with a few other things) The Unofficial Game of Thrones Cookbook. I’m a big fan of the television show and hope to begin reading the books soon, so I was super excited to have these recipes based on the series.

Our local gaming group is actually starting a GoT roleplaying campaign, so for our session I made Arya’s Apricot Tart to share. Except there are no fresh apricots available around here, so we settled for peaches. To veganize the recipe I subbed Earth Balance for butter, coconut milk for heavy cream, and I used this recipe for the crust. It turned out delicious with a flaky crust, juicy peaches, and buttery crumble topping. I can’t wait to try more recipes from the cookbook.

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Summer Food Lovin’

Summer is upon us! So now is the time to be free and spend my days cooking, baking, crafting, blogging, and playing with my new kitten (who shall get his own post later).

I moved out from the dorms and into a lovely apartment with my friend, Ryan. We have a nice kitchen with plenty of space, and I plan on trying at least one new recipe a week over the summer break. This should give me plenty to blog about and, hopefully, add a few good recipes to my repertoire.

Below are the meals I’ve made from the last two weeks of school up until I moved into the apartment (except the last one).

Chilled rice salad made with brown rice, corn, carrots, tomatoes, and water chestnuts, all tossed in an olive oil and vinegar dressing and placed on top of mixed greens.
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Spaghetti with “meaty” marinara sauce, and a side salad.
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Slow cooker refried beans. Not particularly pretty, but delicious and much cheaper and healthier than the store-bought canned kind.
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Homemade salsa verde made by blending tomatillos, cilantro, lime juice, and garlic in the food processor. ???????????????????????????????Soft tacos with black beans, corn, tomatoes, onions, spinach, and salsa.

???????????????????????????????Homemade chick’n seitan patty with ketchup, a side salad, and Spanish rice.

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And now I bestow upon you, my faithful readers, the most delicious vegan mac and cheese in existence. I tried the recipe on a whim, but this butternut squash mac and cheese is totally amazing. A lot of vegan cheese sauces are close, yet not exactly what I remember mac and cheese to taste like. But this recipe is so creamy and cheesy tasting, I bet you could even trick an omnivore. It reminds me of the Cracker Barrel mac and cheese I loved during my pre-vegan youth.
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Veggie salad with saffron couscous.???????????????????????????????One of the first meals I made in my new kitchen was seitan tetrazzini, mashed potatoes and squash, and fresh corn on the cob (take note of the awesome pig corn holders). I changed the tetrazzini recipe by adding an onion, Mrs. Dash garlic and herb, and using Morningstar chick’n meal starter strips instead of seitan. It was good, but a bit dry after baking it. Next time I’ll probably skip baking it and just broil the Daiya on top.

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Easter Treats and Eats

I hope everyone had a good Easter! My Easter was full of friends and good food, so I would count it a success.

The University of Montevallo’s Family and Consumer Sciences Student Group had an Easter-themed bake sale on Wednesday. For that I made pumpkin spice cake bunnies with cream cheez frosting.

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I also made cookie dough bites from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar. These were a great hit and multiple people kept asking “There aren’t any eggs in these?!” Um, no. I’d prefer vegan cookies over a case of salmonella any day.
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For actual Easter day I had a lovely lunch with Peter and our friends Charlie and Sierra. Then afterwards we spent time playing board games and making Easter things.

For a festive look, I knitted this adorable bunny hat. I used Slip Slip Knit’s knitting chart for the bunnies.
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Instead of the traditional egg-dyeing, I went an animal friendly route and got some blank plastic toys from Hobby Lobby and decorated them with markers.

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For lunch we had a mish-mash of snacks.

I made some tea sandwiches with whole wheat bread, sliced cucumber, spicy sriracha bean dip, and Vegenaise.
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Avocado hummus with pita chips
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I used my go-to potato skins recipe, but got lazy and boiled the potatoes with the skins on and mashed them with the other ingredients (minus the onions and Tofutti cheese). They had all the taste of potato skins, but without the added effort of scooping out the filling.
???????????????????????????????And for dessert Sierra made this delicious spicy peach pie. Can you believe this is the first pie she’s ever made? I never would’ve guessed.

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