HAPPY HALLOWEEN! Vegan MoFo Day 31 – Mushroom & Spinach Risotto

Happy Halloween! I know I’m getting this in under the wire (it’s already after midnight here in France…but it’s still the 31st in North America, right? Right!). I really wanted to get one more MoFo post in before the end…

It’s been such a crazy trip! This is my 24th post this month, about twice what I usually do. I admit that it’ll be much easier to keep up with my favourite vegan food blogs now that it’s over and my Blogger reader will no longer be screaming triple digits at me, but how fun has this been? Spreading the Vegan gospel all over the blogosphere…Amen!

For my last MoFo post, I’d like to share one of our preferred recipes here at the Fish household. It’s not a quickie by any means (recipe you freaks), but it’s delicious and healthy :

Mushroom & Spinach Risotto

This is from a recipe I veganized from one of my monster-in-law’s Femme Actuelle magazines. The original called for beef stock, and rather than spinach you were to add sautéed duck. Yuck. If you’ve ever made risotto before, you know it falls into the “good things come to those who wait” category. This is just bursting with flavour and makes for a lovely main dish with a crispy salad to start, or a satisfying accompaniment. Just be warned, you’ll be standing in front of your stove stirring for a nearly half an hourish…

  • 2 cups sliced button mushrooms
  • a bit more than a pound (300g) fresh spinach, washed & destemmed
  • olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 generous cups red wine
  • 5 cups veggie stock (or water with a veggie bouillon cube if your me)
  • 1.5 cups Arborio rice

Pour one cup of the red wine in a lovely glass. Take a sip. Continue sipping throughout the preparation of this recipe. Now reserve the other cup for the risotto.

Sautée your mushrooms in a frying pan until they begin to shrivel up a bit (I don’t use oil here, as they’ll be swimming in their own juices soon enough. Just keep an eye one them.). Add a little salt and pepper, and once they are cooked through add your spinach. Stir from time to time to be sure that it all wilts a little, but not too much. Once it is a bright green color turn off the heat and set aside.

Have your veggie stock or bouillon water handy and warm. You’ll need it in a minute. Heat a little olive oil and sautée the onion until it’s translucent. Now add your garlic and maybe a little pepper or some herbs. I toss in some crumbled herbs de province. Add the red wine and let it reduce for a minute or so (you might have to turn the heat up here). Now add your rice. Here comes the labour-intensive part : get ready to stir! Keep stirring the rice until most of the wine is soaked up, and now just keep adding the veggie stock, about 3/4 cup at a time or so, continually stirring. Add more stock as the rice soaks it up. You’ll probably be waiting about 5 to 10 minutes before each addition, depending on how hot your burner is (turn it up if it’s not soaking fast enough). This can be boring, but it’s so delicious you’ll be glad you spent the time on it. Don’t get all worried if at the end it seems rather creamy – risotto is creamy! Once you’ve added all your liquid, turn off the heat and give it one last stir, then let it sit for about 5 or 10 minutes. And voila!

Bon appétit! I think I’m going to spend the next few days trying to catch up a little on my blog reading!

Pizza Party Daring Bakers Style! Vegan MoFo Day 30

Because I kept putting off the October challenge, I ended up re-living a Grad School nightmare of waiting until the deadline, and then because life gets in the way, missing it! I was really excited about this challenge, making pizza! We were to use the pizza dough recipe from one of my favorite books, Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice. Our mission : use the “Pizza Napoletana” recipe to make our pizzas, and I was thrilled because while I’ve made my own pizza before, I still hadn’t tried that one from the book. I have loved everything I’ve made from Apprentice, and this delicious dough is no exception!

But back to the challenge… well, life just kept getting in the way of the Shellyfish and her pizza-filled future. This type of meal is definitely one reserved for a weekend evening so that my little family can have fun and gather around a table set with various toppings. The thing is, our weekends just kept getting all filled up…which is lovely, but made pizza planning difficult. Then, this past weekend, catastropha! We were hit with an icky stomach-flu thing that made all food rather icky looking. Luckily I had banked a few blog entries for the Vegan Month of Food, or Vegan MoFo as it’s better known with the cool kids, because I couldn’t have written about food (or looked at food which is why I have been a bit behind in commenting on your blogs – sorry!). But now the Fish Family is back in action and you’d better watch out because tonight we were pizza making fools!

Part of this month’s challenge was to be photographed tossing our dough. Monsieur Fish was getting very frustrated because the light was horrible in our kitchen at 8 p.m. and it was impossible to take my picture without it being too blurry, but I told him blurry was a good thing. I’m shy.

I just made the most amazing catch ever!

We love making pizza at home. This crust was the easiest crust I’ve ever made, and it was also mighty delicious. Crazy delicious. I have a tiny little stove which would probably be illigal in North America – I mean, the thing looks like someone built in out in their garage or something. There is only enough room for one cookie sheet and I can’t get it hot enough for “a real pizza crust”, so I improvise. I just put the sheet on the bottom of the stove, which has indeed warped the odd cookie sheet, but works really well.

Here’s a very blurry, badly lit photo of a most delicious pizza :

Roasted red pepper strips, sautéed mushrooms and toasted pine nuts. Woot!

I used my Great Grandmother Antonia’s Garlic Gravy for the base, which always works so well for pizza sauce because it’s wonderfully flavourful without being too thick- which is key to keeping your crust nice and crispy. Pizza night is the most fun kind of night – especially when you’re actually hugry for solid foods! Sorry for the poopy pictures, but I wanted to get this challenge up as soon as possible, and we were way more into eating and making pizzas than taking picutres!

The lovely and talented Rosa of Rosa’s Yummy Yums hosted this month’s challenge. I’d like to say a special thank you to her as she ended up hosting solo. Due to the sudden, tragic death of her co-hostess Sher of What did you eat? she was on her own. I didn’t know Sher who died of a heart-attack this past summer, but I know she was a well-loved food blogger, and a wife, mother and daughter. I was fortunate enough to be on vacation in the U.S. with my own mother, a multiple heart-attack survivor, when I learned of Sher’s passing and it reminded me yet again of how precious “family time” really is. I think that this challenge, which was a a fun family meal that had the three of us, Guppy and M. Fish in stiches (the 3-year-old tosses pizza dough like nobody’s business!) is a beautiful testimony to the memory of Sher and her love of life.

If you haven’t already made the rounds on the Daring Bakers Blogroll, get moving people!

Daring Bakers Challenge – Coming in a few hours…

Ok, I have no excuse – three weekends in a row I’ve said I was making pizza and then various things would happen – invites to eat with friends and family, a family epidemic of the gastro-intestinal flu…and I told myself I would do it this weekend…until I realized that the posting date was today!! The dough is in the fridge…we’ll be eating pizza tomorrow…see you then!

Vegan MoFo Day 28 – The Joy of Vegan Baking

I would like to talk to you today my friends about one of my favourite vegan cookbooks. The Joy of Vegan Baking: The Compassionate Cooks’ Traditional Treats and Sinful Sweets by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau. This was one of those books that I’d been eyeing when I’d peruse the cookbooks on various websites, but as is often the case, the international shipping would have been as expensive as the book itself! I managed to pick it up during my summer vacation to the US and I couldn’t be a more satisfied customer.

Jam-Filled Oat Bran Muffins

This is the most comprehensive “baking” book I’ve ever owned. It reminds me so much of the copy of the Better Home and Gardens baking book stationed next to the sugar canister and the oven during my childhood. Weighing somewhere around 15lbs, this huge tomb was my mother’s go to cookbook when she had a question or wanted to try to incorporate something new in her baking – that is how I would describe Joy of Baking. There is such an amazing collection of recipes here : your basic cookies, cakes, bars, cobblers and crisps, but it goes above and beyond with recipes like “Butterscotch Pudding” (and chocolate, and baked pumpkin), “Rugelach”, “Caramel Popcorn”, a huge choice of pie crusts (including raw!), sorbets, smoothies, Naan, pies, cheese cakes, cupcakes, frostings, sauces, waffels, biscuits, pancakes…the list is seemingly sans fin. Oh, and it is visually beautiful as well : loaded with glossy pages and lovely photographs.

Filled with homemade apricot jam…

Patrick-Goudreau’s introduction is engaging and informative, both for the veteran vegan and the vegan-curious, she’s included a fantastic section entitled : “The How-to’s and What-nots of Vegan Baking” with invaluable suggestions for subbing and switching up more traditional (and more cruel) ingredients. There is also a comprehensive appendix section with information on yields and equivalents, pan substitutes, a glossary, celebrational and seasonal suggestions… whew!

Cookie Model “Guppy” with Sugar Cookies, ready for the oven…

I have made so many things from this book, it’s crazy! Some of our favourites are the “Sugar Cookie” and “Royal Icing” recipes, the “Pastry Cream” (custard) and “Vanilla Cupcakes” (which makes a perfect white cake) are also amongst our favourites.

“Look What I Made!”

Guppy was snubbing my orange pumpkins for pink & blue sprinkles…

There are so many recipes in this book that it will take me a lifetime to go through them all, and that’s what I love about it! These recipes will accompany my family for years to come!

I’d also like to say that it is through her cookbook that I have come to appreciate Ms. Patrick-Goudreau and her advocacy efforts. I’ve become a regular listener to her podcasts at Vegetarian Food For Thought, and am thrilled to have such an articulate and cultivated person fighting for the animals. Her podcasts are always thoughtful and thought-provoking, and I especially love that she highlights short fiction which has a lien or link to animals and animal rights. You can learn more about her by visiting Compassionate Cooks.

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

Vegan MoFo Day 26 – Halloween Treats, BBQ Treats, Blondie Treats! (No tricks, kids).

BOO!

Are these not the cutest ever? Originating with the Celts around 2000 years ago, Halloween has remained a mostly anglo-saxon holiday, moving to some of the various colonised countries with the colonizers. Despite various marketing attempts, it is not really celebrated in France. In Paris and in some more anglophone cities you can find stores selling decorations and goodies, but they are more and more the exception and not the rule. Imagine my joy when walking in front of my favorite little chocolaterie with Guppy the other day…the front window was decorated with Halloween treats galore! The ghosts and pumpkins really caught my eye, and when we walked in and I told the owner how I loved the window display she offered right away, “You know, I’m pretty sure the ghosts and pumpkins are dairy-free!” She then swiftly went in the back to consult her notes and confirmed with glee, “They are made with an almond paste, but it’s no dairy.” Yeah. Ok lady, twist my arm.

I’ve decided to dedicate Vegan MoFo to trying yet untried recipes in my (small) collection of cookbooks. I came across the “BBQ Seitan and Crispy Coleslaw Sandwich” in VCON and thought, hey, I can swing this, I even have tempeh in the fridge! Yes, that’s right, I said tempeh. We’ve been eating a great deal of seitan around here lately, so I decided that this sandwich would be just as yummy with tempeh, and by golly it was! (Says the Shellyfish channeling a 1950’s teen). I never buy vegan mayo, so I just sort of fudged the dressing for the slaw with plain soy yogurt (which I usually do for slaw dressing and it’s just fine), but I did make the “Backyard BBQ Sauce” from VCON. My stand-by sauce is the BBQ from New Farm, so I felt a little guilty, but it was worth the infidelity because this sauce was rather scrummy. I just put the pre-fried tempeh in a baking dish with the BBQ sauce for about half an hour. Ding. We piled the sandwich goodness on some fresh baguette and dinner was served!

These beauties are the “Butterscotch Blondies” from Ricki’s soon-to-be-published Sweet Freedom. They are some of the best blondies I’ve ever tasted – decadent, rich…

All this Sweet Freedom deliciousness is really spoiling me! Luckily I’m a bit of a distance runner, otherwise I would have to make some new pants! Ricki, you are a recipe-writing genius.

Vegan MoFo Day 25 – Happy Mail & I’m Proud to MoFo!

I’ve been watching with secret envy as many of my fellow bloggers have been receiving Happy Mail… but low and behold, what is this I see? A package of love from Germany from the lovely and fabulous Mihl! Her blog, Seitan is My Motor is one of my favorites – she is articulate, funny, shares the most beautiful photos and delicious recipes (like her most recent post, Norwegian Cinnamon Buns. Good grief! Save me from my own gluttony!).

Guppy, photo-layout assistant & cookie lover

My super package of love contained not one but two kinds of homemade cookies wrapped beautifully with care, a sampling of Mihl’s favourite dark chocolate and a gorgeous post card :

The cookies traveled beautifully (at least the cold weather is good for something!). They are delicious!

blurry photo due to fighting off 3-year-old cookie monster…

Even if you didn’t get some Mihl vegan cookie love in the mail, you too can enjoy the cookie goodness! You can make the Almond Chocolate Cookies found in her recipe index. Mihl, is the recipe for the Chocolate Cookies with White Chocolate Chips up, too? Let me know & I’ll link it! I didn’t see it, but I was distracted by the cookie-induced nirvana I was experiencing…). Merci mille fois, Mihl! I’ll have my revenge…just you wait and see…

Can you believe it’s already Vegan MoFo Day 25? Personally, I can’t. This month has flown by like the Wicked Witch of the West on her bad-ass broom. I continue to discover new vegan bloggers and am inspired by so many groovy folks living compassionate lives. With much political debate around the impending elections in North America, I have to chuckle when I come across the occasional “I’m not going to get all political on you” type comment on vegan blogs…I understand what the person is trying to say, but the fact of the matter is that everything is political, like it or not, and being vegan is one of the most outwardly political things you can possibly do. We are living our convictions, whether you arrived in Veganland to fight speciesism, because of your concerns about the environment or for personal health reasons – or heck, all three, you are living your beliefs every day and I think that’s the most amazing thing a person can do. Vegan MoFo has allowed us a wonderful arena to showcase the delicious delights of vegan cuisine and food preparation, and to really concentrate on getting the word out about what it is we love – nourishing, tasty food sans cruelty. Beautiful.

Vegan MoFo Day 24 – More Delicious Vegan Cookies & An Award!

EDITED TO ADD:

Please don’t worry if you don’t see your blog on the links list. As you can see I’m changing things up a little and I’m re-organizing the links. I still love you all – just give me a day to get you’re names back up! :)

I’m feeling rather thankful for happening upon a little blog called Diet, Dessert & Dogs back in February of this year. I have since read many an eloquent and entertaining post, tried a veritable plethora of delicious recipes, and am now being spoiled as a tester for Ricki’s vegan dessert book Sweet Freedom, due out in early 2009 (hey, my birthday is in January, did she plan that on purpose?!?). Ricki’s blog has become one of my favourites for her wit and prose, and I am grateful to count her amongst one of my friends in the true sense. Through comments and emails I’ve gotten to know this rockin’ woman from the great, white north that I would never have meet had it not been for this beautiful vegan blogosphere I hold so dear in my heart…and, er, stomach…wooot!

These are the “Easiest Almond Cookies” from Sweet Freedom. A self-proclaimed cookie-snob, I can tell you that these babies are a cookie-lover’s dream : a light crunch on the outside, paired with a soft and chewy centre. Oh, and they are, get this, Gluten Free! They are a snap to make, a trait terribly important in cookie land, because since they’re quick and easy, you’ll find yourself making them often! So many of the Fish Family’s new favorite recipes are from Sweet Freedom…you’re gonna love this book!

And in other news…look what I received :

I am sincerely touched by this thoughtful gesture! Thank you dear Cheryl of the wonderful Gluten Free Goodness blog. I began following Cheryl’s blog after “meeting” her through the Daring Bakers. Her GF & whole foods approach to eating is refreshing in the oft buttercream and sugar-laden food blogging world (don’t get me wrong, I like the sweets, but it’s all about balance people!). I especially like her “Menu Plan Monday” feature which has helped inspire me to plan my meals further into the future than tonight and tomorrow, and to see the bigger picture nutritionally over the coarse of a week. If you’re not familiar with Cheryl’s blog, you really should check it out! Merci Cheryl!

Vegan MoFo Day 21 – Scary Skeleton Cookies!

I was counting up my MoFo posts and realized that I was only 4 posts away from Vegan MoFo Glory! Wooooot! So I decided to give myself a little break from the posting and to have a little Halloween fun with the Guppy… Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I can run with the likes of the Queen of Halloween, River, and her amazing, spooky treats, and I think that Diann’s Spider Web Soup is the most boooodiful I’ve ever seen, but hey, I wanted to get in on the Halloween baking fun :

Don’t you love these Skeleton People?  I would have made Vegan Gingerbread People, but since neither Guppy nor M. Fish are fans, I decided to throw caution to the wind and try something new. I took my favorite recipe for Sugar Cookies from The Joy of Vegan Baking (which I really need to blog on some day), doubled it, then added 3/4 cup of Dutch-Processed Cocoa. Yummy! These babies tasted just a little bit like the Oreos of my youth. A piping bag and some royal icing and I was all about the scary goodness!

 

I’m bringing these cookies (the ones that I managed to hide before we all started devouring them) to the little Halloween party I’m having with my (little) students tomorrow – I know, it’s not Halloween yet (thought it looks like it here in our apartment. You can’t have too many decorations, can you?) but it’s already vacation time here in France, and the kids won’t have class during the week of Halloween, so we’re gonna get our party on a wee bit early. Boo!

On a personal note, yesterday was my last day at the other evil job I hated and quit! WOOOT!

 

Vegan MoFo Day 18 – Vegan Food That Sticks To Your Ribs…

Veganizing traditional French cuisine has become a fairly routine thing for me. Some dishes are rather obvious such as a tofu quiche or not using beef anything in my onion soup, etc. Because we tend to eat so many foods from varying culinary traditions such as Thai, Mexican, Japanese, Indian, etc., it’s generally pretty easy to make things that are naturally vegan, but sometimes we find ourselves faced with an envie for something truly français.

Enter the “Leek and Bean Cassoulet with Biscuits” from Veganomicon. This is one of those recipes of which I took mental note when I obtained this cookbook early last spring, but it never went further than that.

Cassoulet is a traditional dish born in the warm sunshine of Southwestern France, an area well-known for their specialities using duck : duck sausage, duck lard, duck livers, duck tape…oops, sorry… You can often see jars of prepared cassoulet dressing the windows of butchers or gourmets shoppes, a thick paste of lard hovering at the surface. I knew it was a duck-laden meal, but I wanted a little more information, so rather than do a google search (which is what I would normally do), I decided to ask my sweet and adorable local bakery owner who is aimeable and chatty and loves talking about food. A pretty typical recipe for this thick bean stew is 1 kg. (2.2lbs) of white beans, a ham hock, hunks of “Toulouse” or other spicy sausages, and many, many duck thighs (at least 8). Oh, and a carrot, an onion, some garlic, maybe some thyme and bay leaf. I’d like to thank my boulangère, as well as the three other women who were waiting in line with me at the boulangerie when I went to buy my bread a few days ago for this “rough” recipe.

Obviously the Vcon recipe is sans sausage and duck, but it is still full of flavour. When I informed M. Fish that I was preparing a cassoulet he replied with incredulous smarmyness “ah bon, puisque tu as réussi à faire du faux canard maintenant?” (Really? Because you’ve managed to create fake duck now?). In lieu of duck I used some seitan I made earlier in the month using Kittee’s Basic Gluten Log recipe (this stuff freezes really well which is so nice). I also upped the veggies adding way more carrots & peas than the recipe called for…

This was absolutely delicious. It reminded me much more of a pot pie than anything else, but because I am a huge fan of the pot pie, this was not a problem. M. Fish was rather confused about the addition of the biscuit topping, and to be honest I don’t think it’s necessary at all. This is already a very heavy, satisfying Autumn/Winter dish, and the biscuits just add to the heaviness – this is coming from a self-proclaimed biscuit lover, just for the record. Next time I make this, because I will indeed be making this again, I will omit the biscuit topping and just cover with foil until the last 15 minutes, add some green beans and mushrooms and omit the seitan because I don’t think it adds anything to the dish. Some people love their meat analogues however, so they would probably really like the addition to some vegan sausage or seitan

Thanks for all the kind comments about the apron I made for my sis. You guys are the bestest!

Vegan MoFo Day 17 – Birthdays, a gift and my favorite thing (in my kitchen)

Political aside :

I was so sleepy last night after waking up at 4:30 a.m. to watch the presidential debate that I opted to go to bed rather than write a MoFo post. This might sound weird, but I feel sort of sorry for McWar. Most political analysists agree, he was slated for the Republican nomination in 2000 (save that little “mistake” when he said that he thought that decisions about abortion should be made by women and their families it was deemed better to to get him out of the spotlight, enter Bush). He reminded me of a little Jack Russel trying to play rough with a German Shepard – he knows he probably isn’t going to win, but wants to show us all the fight he has left in him. Let’s just hope the Obama voters don’t get too confident- go out and vote kids!

MoFo Post :

One of the great things about Vegan MoFo (besides having a backlog of blog reading to do) is that the kids are sharing some of their favorite things. I love reading about your favorite kitchen gadgets and appliances, and so I thought I’d share a picture of the thing in my kitchen that I love the most…

That’s right. It’s not a stand-up mixer (though I would love one) or a vitamix (yeah, I’d like one of those, too). It’s my Wonder Woman mug. I use it for measuring, for heating water in the microwave, and for cutting out biscuits. When I was 5, I wore my Fruit of the Loom Wonder Woman Underoos like they were my uniform, and my poor mum had to engage in some serious negotiations to get them in the wash. My mug lets me relive my Wonder Woman nostalgia (dare I say complex?) in a healthy, quiet way. I do try to save the world, but allow me to reassure you, I don’t parade around France in a stars and stripes bikini and knee-high red boots…though that might be fun.

I also use my mug to drink my favorite tea :

Their almond green tea is the most amazing tea I’ve had in a long time. It smells so good, I find myself just giving it a little wiff from time to time when I open the pantry…Does that make me really weird? Since the spring I have been striving to eliminate coffee from my life. I love coffee so so so much, and it hasn’t been easy, but I’m down to about 4 espressos a month. My one raw day a week really helped me break the cycle. But I think the green tea has helped more.

Today is one of my sister’s birthdays. We are only 21-months apart, and as children (and teens) fought like cats and dogs. We are like night and day. She and her husband have a dairy farm, are Southern Baptists, put large signs for whatever Republican candidate is running in their field…you get the picture.

That being said, even though we could focus on everything that divides us, since becoming adults we work very hard to agree to disagree and focus on what we have in common, and we do have much in common. I wanted to make her something special for her birthday, and this is what I came up with :

You might remember this apron that I made for Jen. I loved the retro look and color combination so much that I decided to make the same one for my sis. This was actually my first crack at embroidery (I stitched up the pockets over a month ago…before the leaves even!) Hoping to broaden my crafty horizons, I bought the Sublime Stitching Kit last spring, but it wasn’t until this project that I actually used it (not because it isn’t adroable, just because I am always working on 10 projects at once!). I stitched the pockets using the retro transfers from the kit. I felt much more confident after this first project, and everything I’ve embroidered since have been just things I drew free-hand.

I know that my nieces (ages 11 & 13) will enjoy using this apron in the kitchen as much (if not more) than their mum!

Also (at the risk of embarrassing myself because I’m wrong) I’d like to wish a happy birthday to our Bianca! Joyeux Anniversaire ma belle!