Friday, 22 October 2010

YES soup for you!

Being unable to eat milk products has left me with a wanting for certain foods such as pizza, mac'n'cheese, cream of tomato soup with grilled cheese sandwiches...

Thankfully, the list is small and I've stopped craving cheese so I'm able to find easy substitutes for these comforting foods.

Pizza is easy for me; I just use a yeast-free base and don't add cheese to my toppings. Problem solved.

Mac'n'cheese used to be an issue when I really wanted cheese but now it's OK. I sort of miss it but not enough to even take a bite of someone else's.

When it came to cream of tomato soup with grilled cheese sandwiches I was really stuck. I can't have the cream in the cream of tomato soup; can't have the cheese in the grilled cheese sandwich and even finding the right bread for me can be tricky. Nightmare.

That is until last week when I decided to just wing it. Thankfully, for the first time I started writing down what I was throwing into the pot instead of guessing afterwards. This also allowed me to take accurate measurements so, if the experiment worked; I could share it with confidence that what I told you wouldn't result in something horrid!

Well, it definitely worked. It worked so well I decided that night was officially Date Night and (pardon the pun) made a real meal out of it!

Thick and Creamy Tomato Soup

In a large pot add the following:

1/4c Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3 400g (14.5 oz) cans of chopped tomatoes (please approximate if your can size is different)
1 cup chopped spinach (mine was frozen)
2 bags of Steam-Fresh type mixed vegetables (I used Broccoli, Sweetcorn and Carrots by Birds Eye)
1tsp mix dried Italian herbs
1tsp Oregano
1/2tsp onion powder
1tbsp minced garlic (I use Very Lazy Garlic)
1.5L (about 6.5 cups) vegetable stock
Set aside 1 - 1.5 cups soya cream (I used reduced fat to great effect)

Bring this all to a boil allow to do so for about 10 minutes. Reduce to low heat and leave to simmer for about an hour (I left mine for about two hours and simply added some more stock later to thin it a bit but I like heavy soups).

Use food processor to blend the soup (make sure not to over-fill the food processor, this may mean you have to do two batches) and return it to the pot over low heat.

Just prior to serving add soya cream and stir to blend well.

I served this with garlic bread and it was a hearty meal that I intend to make a lot this winter. YUM!

Our backyard/garden/behind-the-flat/house-area is coming along nicely, the ground work is all completed and all that's left is to finish the decking!

I've been baking a bit lately:

Basic Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Mousse topping

Almond Cupcakes with Vegan Cream Cheese frosting...

...and a surprise Chocolate Mousse filling

(Why do I feel the need to add the word "Vegan" when I say "cream cheese" considering the entire dessert is Vegan? I only bake Vegan but I worry that people will see "Cream Cheese" and get the wrong idea, I guess, so it's a little added emphasis that it's still OK even though it's called "cheese". I worry, though, that stressing the Vegan bit only there will lead to people to think that that's the only part that is Vegan. Oh, well. Can't please them all, as they say!)

See you soon!

Friday, 15 October 2010

Laundry "spiders", cookies and other life detours...

When I started this blog it was with the intention of showing you, dear readers, what it is that I love to do and how that love affects my daily choices, especially regarding my eating habits.

What I love to do is bake. I love to bake vegan sweet goodies that people are surprised about and utterly melt over.

This blog isn't very old and yet I already have a plethora of tags that aren't at all related to baking. This, for me, is a bit annoying but completely not surprising. I've always had many "layers" in my life and having begun to share more of them here seems, now, like a natural progression.

I'm sorry if you came here wanting only vegan goodies (sweet or savoury) and aren't that entertained by the rest of me. I wish you well on your own personal journey but this is a journey that I must make and, therefore, am taking the wheel and consciously deciding that it shall be reflected in this blog. All the layers. All the Me-s I have to offer.

If you don't mind and/or enjoy seeing more of my layers; welcome! We're in for a strange and wondrous trip, indeed!

Since it's been so long since I last posted I have a few things I'd like to share today so stay tuned or tune out. Either way I've numbered them so you can skip topics (or refer back to them) as you like....

1. Laundry "Spiders"

I have long hair. Very long hair by some standards, though it's not yet as long as I'd like it (and yet, simultaneously, I wish I could sport a chic, shorter style that better befits my physical age but alas, the build of my body makes longer hair aesthetically necessary *sigh*).

Because I have long hair I end up with it everywhere. On the floors, in the shower drain, on MrB's back as he's leaving for work, worked into a knitting or crochet project. That part's a nuisance, certainly, but OK as they're in small numbers and easily contained and removed.

What utterly annoys me, however, is the little balls of hair that I find in the laundry. Every. Single. Time.

I call them Laundry Spiders and toss away several of them every time I do a wash. (The record for one load is 7. SEVEN! from one load of mostly socks.)

Am I the only one who gets these?? Surely I can't be!

What do you call them?

Do you have any hints, tips, tricks for getting rid of them? I'd LOVE to know!

2. Baking

And now for something you may or may not have been waiting for. My original Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe.

Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies

1cup dairy-free margarine, at room temp
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon molasses
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (when I mix it up a little I use 1 teaspoon vanilla and one teaspoon almond)
2 1/2 cups all-purpose/plain flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (or vegan carob chips)
3/4cup vanilla soy yogurt

Preheat oven to 350 F

Cream the margarine and sugar with a hand mixer until fluffy

Add the molasses and vanilla and incorporate. Add the dry ingredients to this mixture and mix until a dough forms. Fold the chocolate chips into the dough.

Drop by tablespoons onto ungreased cookie sheets or an ungreased, unlined cupcake tin. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes (my oven is -definitely- 8 minutes) until lightly browned. (Two notes: Due to their vegan status and chemistry, the cookies will not spread as much as normal cookies but that's good! Also, Don't worry about under cooking them as there's no raw eggs to worry about, though, the 8-10 minute rule, for me, leaves a cookie that's gently soft-crunchy on the outside and wonderfully soft and gooey on the inside!)

Allow to cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes then transfer to cooling rack. (At this point baking sheets can be rinsed under cold water to prepare them for the next batch.)

I know there are a ton of other good, vegan chocolate chip cookie recipes out there and respect that they are probably very good. I only decided to invent my own recipe when I realised that most of the better recipes which yield a softer cookie contain flaxseeds/linseed and I know a lot of people have seed allergies so wanted to avoid them if I could.

If/when you make these, please do let me know what you thought of the recipe. I live for feedback and won't necessarily know I need to change something unless you tell me. Yes, you.

3. Life

Just recently (last Thursday, to be exact) I went to see a psychiatrist who has diagnosed me with Adult (Inattentive) Attention Deficit Disorder and my life has been quite strange since that moment.

I went to him thinking I had it or something akin to it (Would it really be me if I had gone to a doctor without investigating the jeepers out of something first?! I thought not.) but when he confirmed that I do, indeed, have it I can't accurately describe what I was thinking or feeling.

There was some relief, some disbelief, some shame, some anger, some fear, some impatience... gosh, the list is virtually endless.

At the suggestion of a dear friend I purchased some books by Edward M. Hallowell (Driven to Distraction and Driven from Distraction - both can be purchased from and from what I've read so far I truly believe my life will change for the better with this diagnosis. I'm almost through the first book and it's almost as though this book was written specifically for me. Mr. Hallowell certainly seems to understand the condition (as he well should, he suffers, too).

I'm sure there will be a lot more written on this blog about ADD in the future so I'm going to stop here now that I've introduced it.

4. AOB

Stay tuned because in the next few days I'll be introducing a Tomato "Soup" recipe!

Monday, 4 October 2010

Those poor, neglected cupcakes!

Mr Landscaper has taken a week "off" (he's working on someone else's garden that was booked before we hired him) and so I spent last week "cleaning".

"Cleaning" consisted of taking everything out, sorting through it, tossing what should be tossed, shredded what should be shredded, donated what should be donated and finally (and most importantly!) organised what was left!

It took me more time than I care to admit but it was fun! I thoroughly enjoyed the work that went into getting everything sorted, streamlined, easier to find/use/clean. I have a deep feeling of satisfaction from having everything in its place and a place for everything. I am, however, more than a little embarrassed at having let things get in such a state that it took so long to pull them back together in some sense of non-chaos.

During this past week I've also done some cooking and baking.

The first thing I baked was Green Tea Cupcakes from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World - I've since discovered that simply baking them isn't enough. While I was so busy cleaning I left the poor things sitting for a week. No love, no icing, no photo shoot, not even a bite taken to test how they tasted. The poor things just went to waste. I feel so horrid. They were lovingly created and then quickly forgotten. Left to sit in a bag, unable to live to their fullest potential. Their lives unfulfilled. Their destiny the trashcan instead of satisfying some lonely tastebuds some where. Poor things. I'll have to make them again. Soon. And this time actually pay attention to them!

I've also made some delicious Veggie Burgers from a recipe created by this talented lady. With her permission, I'm now going to share the recipe for these little beauties with you.


Smoky Tofu and Red Bean Burgers

(makes 6 patties)

1 14oz. can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed 7 oz. firm tofu, squeezed of excess water and crumbled 1 carrot, grated 1/2 onion, chopped finely 2 cloves garlic, minced handful of parsley, chopped 1/2 cup whole grain vegan breadcrumbs (I use a little more to hold the patty together) 2 T flour 1/4 tsp liquid smoke 1 tsp soy sauce 1 tsp all purpose seasoning (like Mrs. Dash or Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute) 1/2 tsp each of garlic and onion powder (you may add less if you like) 1/2 tsp paprika salt and pepper to taste

Mash beans in a bowl and add the crumbled tofu. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir to combine. I like to use a blender/masher or fork to help chop and smoosh the mixture which will make it form into patties easier. You may have a taste in order to adjust seasonings.

Refrigerate mixture in the fridge for about 30 minutes. Shape into patties and place on oiled baking sheet. Bake for 25-30 minutes, flipping halfway at 400 degrees F or until browned and crispy. (I actually fry mine in olive oil), Serve on a bun w/ caramelized onions, lettuce, tomato, sprouts and sauce below:

Thousand Island Burger Sauce With A Kick

1/2 cup vegan mayo 2-3 T ketchup 1 T chopped dill pickle or relish a squirt of lemon juice 1/4 tsp all purpose seasoning blend salt and pepper to taste 5-6 drops of hot sauce

Combine all ingredients and chill. Is great on the tofu burger and with seasoned fries.

I made mine a little differently. I placed my ingredients in my food processor and sort of pureed them. This meant I had to add more dry ingredients so I increased the flour by 1/4 cup and the breadcrumbs by 1 cup.

I really loved the way these tasted and can totally see them as "meatballs" in a pasta recipe! I will definitely make these again. And soon!

Now, for those of you wondering how I can have breadcrumbs since I can't have yeast I'll let you in on a little secret; I cheat.

Every once in a while (less often than I like, to be honest) I get to a Whole Foods and buy their sourdough bread. (It's amazing and light and not the least bit sour. I don't understand how this is but I don't argue!) When I slice it I don't like the ends as they're too thick for sandwiches or the toaster. Because of this I specifically leave the ends extra thick and throw them in the freezer. Then, I forget about them until I throw more into the freezer. Then I forget about them again and again until, eventually, I need breadcrumbs and I lament about not being able to have yeast. This happens for about 20 minutes before it finally dawns on me that I actually have yeast-free bread that I can use to make my own breadcrumbs! Yeah, sometimes I can be pretty slow. Don't ask. We don't like to talk about it.

I take the bread ends out of the freezer, let them defrost and then stick them into my food processor. (I find it's a lot easier to cut the thawed bread into golf-ball-sized pieces and use the "pulse" button on my machine. It cuts down a lot of the frustration and it makes the whole process take a lot less time.)

I then bag them in one cup portions (most recipes seem to call for this amount, why is that?), label the bags and store them in the freezer.

So, this week the landscaper is back (mid-week) and I can't wait. The closer we get to the finished product the more antsy I get to see it, use it, adore it.

I'm also getting a couple of little health nigglings sorted out in the next few weeks and working on my nutrition as I work on a vegetarian/vegan way of eating. (It's becoming more and more difficult as I'm having difficulties digesting beans without intense gas/wind and associated pain. Considering I'm allergic to lentils and don't want to over-do soy... I'm running out of ideas for proteins *frown*)

That's a savory recipe shared and the infamous vegan chocolate chip cookies recipe is on its way (hopefully this week) - so what would you like to see me make next?