Vegan MoFo Day 15 – I love pot pie!

We’re in the home stretch of Vegan MoFo kids! I have discovered so many new blogs and “met” many new bloggers thanks to this fabulous month highlighting vegan food. How cool is it to meet new people and enjoy so much “virtual” food? Rock ‘n roll, kids! I’m loving this MoFo Mojo!

Like so many of my fellow bloggers, the chilly Autumn weather has lulled me into pot pie time. Growing up, those nasty, fat-filled hydrogenated frozen wonders, the individual pot pie, was one of my favorite treats. When I had a bad cold and was home from school, or maybe just to make my day extra special, I was allowed to have a pot pie – these were very special treats to be rationed. The idea of having food out of the freezer, and out of an individual box was so hypnotizing, seductive even.

I didn’t grow up on junk and fast foods. When I was a kid, my mum made homemade yogurt and always had sprouts next to the window. Sugar-sweetened cereals were something we got to eat when visiting Grandma, not at home. This health food-heaven did slip slowly into the SAD as each new member of the family arrived (I’m the eldest of 6), convenience and time management winning over more time-consuming healthful food preparation. If I’m sharing this with you, it’s to really underline the exceptional nature of the pot pie in my tender childhood memories. That being said, the pendulum had swung to the complete other side of the spectrum for my youngest siblings who ate fast food multiple times a week and who lived on frozen foods. The yin and the yang of the universe.

I now make vegan pot pies once or twice a month during the winter months. I most often just make veggie pot pies, but I wanted to try the “All American Seitan Pot Pie” from VCON to see what it was all about.

Here’s my crust – I used half buckwheat flour half white AP. I really prefer using whole wheat, but I was out so opted to try this little experiment. I really liked it. The buckwheat gave it a deep, earthy flavor that we really enjoyed.

Do you see that steam? My fillings just in the crust. I just used the veggies I had in my freezer – corn, green beans and peas, plus some carrots and potatoes.

And here we are, a hair short of an hour later (notice the now yellow picture due to the freaking darkness outside – grrr). May I serve you up a bit of pot pie?

I could never malign a pot pie, I just couldn’t do it. I will say I found this particular recipe a bit too salty, but I think that’s because I’m not accustomed to using the seitan in the pie. Maybe not. It was powerful good, though, and the leftovers had but a brief stay in my fridge.

One of the television stations is carrying the presidential debate starting at 4:45 a.m. I might get up for it. You know. Trying to make me feel less concerned that McWar isn’t going to give Bush a third term…

Vegan MoFo Day 14 – Tea Cakes, anyone?

Make that Orange Raisin Tea Cakes, kids. Being a recipe tester for Ricki of Diet, Dessert and Dogs is one of the most fun “jobs” I’ve ever had in my entire life! She’s hip, she vegan, and her recipes somehow defy all scientific logic and allow for the creation of decadant “this is a treat” goodies with humble, healthy ingredients.

These Tea Cakes are moist, rich, delicious, and have this aeromatic Orangey-Raisin thing happening. M. Fish was napping his afternoon away when the aroma roused him from our room and drew him to the kitchen where he asked eyebrows raised, expectantly, “qu’est-ce que tu fais?” , “What ‘ca doin’?”

This was one of the fastest “baked goods” type recipes I have ever put together. These would be just the right thing for a last minute brunch or breakfast treat, or for to have with your quatre heures or afternoon tea. I drizzeled a little orange glaze on some, but kept some plain. These were all gobbled down in mere moments.

I already have these on my “to make” list for next weekend…a nice, fresh from the oven Saturday morning wake-up treat. Gives a girl something to look forward to!

You can check out Sweet Freedom – the blog – for a peek at all the mouth-watering VEGAN treats to come!

Vegan MoFo Day 13 – I Love You Vegan Chocolate…

I was never a big chocolate fan…

(Please don’t throw things at me. I’m sorry.)

Let’s start over.

I was a late-bloomer in the chocolate department.

(That’s better. Now you won’t reject me or find me alien. Whew.)

As a child, I was far more interested in light, sugary tastes or even caramel, but chocolate just didn’t do it for me. I never picked the Hostess Cup Cakes. I was a Twinkie girl. My favorite birthday cake flavor was lemon with lemon frosting. I’d pick jelly beans over a chocolate bunny and day of the week.

I’m not saying I disliked chocolate, but I just didn’t get what all the fuss was all about. Especially with women who were, geeze, like my mum’s age (from the Cretaceous period or something, or so it seemed to the Littlefish I was). They just went on and on about chocolate as if it were some kind of cute guy they couldn’t get enough of. Or a drug.

I can’t tell you when exactly it was that I came to the Dark Side…and I mean that sincerely, because while milk chocolate used to be fun from time to time, it was only after really getting to know dark chocolate or chocolat noir that I began to understand that there was something special about the stuff.

The beauty of the dark chocolate is that it is nearly always vegan! Hurrah for vegan food! Vegan chocolate! Vegan goodness! Do read your labels and all, kids, but here in France, where the peeps are more dark aficionados, one discusses the quality of his or her chocolat noir as they would their wine – it’s très serious. All this quality and care of the dark chocolate is really just wonderful for those who wish to avoid ingesting mammalian secretions, because as any artisan de chocolat or chocolate craftsman can tell you, pure dark chocolate would be tainted by any milk products.

I couldn’t agree more…

I want to thank you all most sincerely for the encouragement and kindness in your comments yesterday. I really needed them, and was pouring over them before leaving for work this morning. I did indeed quit, and while it was very unpleasant, I do feel relieved for it to be out in the open and official. It’s rather bitter-sweet, because while I feel so much lighter having freed myself of a horrible psychological burden, I now have to try to find a replacement job ASAP because while it was only a few hours a week, the paycheck made a large difference in our month-to-monthness.

Enter the chocolate.

As is the case of many French towns, we have multiple chocolateries, but I have a little weakness for one in particular. They specialize in chocolates from Belgium (though they make the majority of their wares in their shoppe). I spotted this beauty last week while buying a little chocolate love for some friends, and I just couldn’t resist. Dark chocolate with mint leaves? Brilliant. I love mint-chocolate, but I’d never, ever had chocolate with mint leaves, only extract. And the ingredient list has only 6 items! Just the pure cocoa goodness, sugar, mint leaves, vanilla and emulsifier. Ta da! Needless to say, I broke into my little mint-chocolate stash this afternoon. Helped me take the edge off…

I’m not going to get all preachy about the touted health-food aspects of chocolate. These are still hotly debated benefits in the medical community, and if you closely examine ANY study done on the benefits of chocolate you will find the names of the heavy-hitters in the food industry and their cousins, the agribusiness goons, who all have ties to the major candy manufacturers in the world. Am I saying it’s all bunk? No. But should we really trust them to tell us what’s really good for us? (Cause, you know, they were SO telling the truth about drinking all that cow’s milk…). Just saying we shouldn’t be cracking that fudgy-smudged smug grin too soon.

But hey, good for us or not…who cares? It’s chocolate.

Vegan MoFo Day 12 – Where’s The Beef?

I posted recently about making some, (ok, an environmentally-friendly truck-load) of Seitanic goodness, and I thought I’d share with you one of my favorite Seitanic dishes…and never fear, for those who can’t/wouldn’t/don’t want to get all gluten-y, it’s ok. You don’t need to be a Seitan worshipper to love this dinner! And I I’ll stop with the trite Seitan clichés now. Promise. Wait…

The Seitanic Sauna

Though sometimes brushed-off as a Macrobiotic-only cookbook, Cooking The Whole Foods Way by Christina Pirello, is a wonderful vegan cookbook for anyone, Macrobiotic or not. Pierello’s wealth of experience as a whole foods chef is concentrated into this vast (it’s huge!) volume of 100% vegan meals, snacks, salads and desserts. I use this cookbook often, and whole-heartedly suggest checking it out at your local library if you can. One of my favorite recipes in CTWFW is her “Where’s The Beef?” Stew.

Stew was one of my favorite foods when I was a kid. It brings back memories of chilly Autumn walks home from school, rosy cheeks and steamed kitchen windows as my mum was getting dinner on. I think one of the other reasons I loved stew as a child was because it often meant baking powder biscuits, which were – and still are – one of my favorite treats.

There’s nothing too difficult about this stew : just dredge your seitan in some arrowroot & spices, fry it up a little in some oil to get it crispyish, then add in your veggies. What I use of course depends on what’s in my pantry or freezer, but I usually have some red onions, potatoes, parsnips, carrots, green peas and maybe some green beans in there. It’s a warm and healthy meal if you can manage not to pig out on the biscuits (which are not mandatory, but so yummy to dip in that stew!).

This stew is also just as good sin seitan. You could use any soy analogue or just the veggies. I’ve made this with no meat sub and it is also delicious, so don’t let the gluten stop you from drooling over my dinner!

On a non-food note, tomorrow is a big day for me. I’m going to try to quit one of my jobs. I hate it. HATE it. I started almost 2 years ago and never thought I’d still be there, but well, the money is nice for frosting the cupcakes if you know what I mean. It’s a part-time teaching gig at a vocational high school and it’s awful. I’ve finally decided that it’s taking a toll on my health, my happiness, and that the small amount of hours I get isn’t enough to justify the evilness…but I have to quit. I really like my co-workers, and I feel like I’m breaking up with them or something…which is probably why I haven’t already walked out – so many times I’ve almost walked out…in my mind anyway. By sharing this with you all I’m hoping not to lose my nerve and just getting it over with tomorrow.

Wish me luck!

And thanks, guys.

I need all the moral (or immoral, cause that’s fun, too) support I can get!

Unmasked! A Picture of Ms. Fish & The 5th Year Anniversary Dinner That Wasn’t… It’s Vegan MoFo Day 11 Kids!

You may have noticed that I took a day off of the MoFoness yesterday. You see, yesterday was a rather special day. October 10th marks our, that is to say M. Fish & moi, 5-year anniversary ensemble. I know what you’re thinking, 5 years doesn’t seem long… but as the majority of my past relationships had a shelf-life rivaling a carton of soy milk (ahem! fear of commitment! ahem!) it’s a big ‘ole fiesta!

This isn’t our wedding anniversary, which will be 5 years next June, but the anniversary of just knowing from that first night that we would be together forever : M. Fish coming back (stumbling back?) to my place after an evening of drunken debauchery with friends at a noisy, smoke-filled bar (this to differentiate it from all other bars), staying up until 7 a.m. talking about everything there was to talk about… and M. Fish never left. Ok, not in a “creepy-freaky-guy-squatting-in-my-apartment way, but the “here’s a key, hot stuff” way. I’m not one to hand out keys (or my heart), so I knew, as did Monsieur F, that this was it. And it is, or was…you know what I mean!

I’m about to commit photographic heresy and show you a picture of a picture – our scanner is mort, muerto, as in R.I.P., but I wanted to share with you, for the very first time, a photo of moi.…to mark this grand occasion…

Why this picture? It’s my favorite of our weddings pics, that’s why. I know it’s not a close-up, so you can’t make out the piercings or all the tattoos, but you get the idea. Note the combat boots. No, they weren’t vegan. They were all I could afford at the second hand shoppe during grad school. I did wear some very snazzy, sexy and over-priced shoes during our civil ceremony. But as I cringed in pain listening to M. le Maire pronouncing our legal affiliation, I decided there was no way I was going to spend the next 12 hours in agony so we stopped back at our place before the grueling photo session so I could get my boots! A wise decision indeed.

“So what the hell, Shellyfish? Where is the MoFo? Where is the food? Why are you posting about his?”

Good questions…

So I was saying, yesterday was our anniversary. We were to go out to dinner, just M. Fish and I. We aren’t one of those couples who never leave their child with a sitter because they are psycho and afraid that something will happen to them or that no one can be trusted. We just don’t have anyone to watch her. No teen-aged or retired neighbors who like kids. My family is across the world, and my in-laws who would watch Guppy live on the other side of the country. We live in a town where none of our friends have children, or who know people with children, and finding a baby-sitter is nearly impossible. Trust me. But managed to secure a babysitter – I asked her over a month ago if she was free – and she was going to watch Guppy. She’s watched Guppy before, and she’s sweet, and Guppy likes her. It’s all good…

Then the babysitter got sick. At the last minute.

Our plan was to have dinner at our favorite Sushi restaurant. It just so happens that Guppy freaking loves sushi. We did what any other normal couple would do. We got take out :

Me: “Hey Guppy, do you want to come with Mumma to get some Sushi for a special party tonight?”.

Guppy, twirling, clapping, and panting in a blitz of dancing around the salon watching Gorillaz Live in Harlem

“Sushi!?! A party?! What kind of party?” as she twirls into the couch, throwing herself onto the over-stuffed cushions with delight.

Me : “A kissing and love party, because Mumma & Papa are in love.”

Guppy : “Sushi and love!” She begins dancing again, “I loooovee sushi and love! But after this song, ok?”

And so, Guppy & I went off on foot in the beautiful cool of the Autumn evening in one direction to pick up 4 avocado rolls, 4 cucumber rolls, 4 pickled daikon rolls, three “house salads”, and some sweet mochi cakes, M. Fish went off in the other direction for champagne and some vino, and we all met back here for a huge sushi love party! I didn’t even try to take pictures of anything because we lit candles and had our twinkle lights on, and really, it just wasn’t a take pictures of food kind of moment.

But, because you’re a bunch of food-p*rn junkies, here…

Have a big bite of my Banana Chocolate Chip Muffin from The Joy of Vegan Baking. Fantastic. Will be blogging on this gem of a cookbook soon, so stay tuned!

Vegan MoFo Day 9 – The easiest meal in the world…

I’m about to share with you a 20-minute meal that is so fast, easy & healthy that I’m almost embarassed to post it, but I will, because in my quest for Vegan MoFodom I have no shame…

But first, look what was sent to the United States today :

Go back to your Arizona ranch McCain – this is Obama’s Game!

My collegues are all rooting with me. We’ll be drinking champagne Wednesday, November 5th after my morning classes together. I doubt I’ll be getting much sleep on the 4th. Damn time difference…

And now, I will present you with one of the embarrassingly easy things I throw together when I have no meal plan, and will give you the tools you need so that you too can feign suave sophistication serving healthful foods to your friends and family…

Yes, even the picture is a total schlep job – but it works kids! Seriously! You’ll be loving it!

Here’s what you’ll need to make this dinner :

2 cups lentils & 4 cups H2O – yellow, green – whatever color you want, because even though the textures are different, it’ll all be ok in the end. If you’re in a big hurry go with the red or pink ones because they cook a little faster. Get them boiling. Yes, they’ll take more than 20 minutes to cook, but just start them up & check your email, comment a few blogs, then go back into the kitchen.

1 cup quinoa & 2 cups water – get that simmering in a pot, cover it, check it from time to time to be sure it isn’t burning, and add a little water if things get too dry. This should take about 15 minutes give or take.

1 Onion, 1 can crushed tomatoes, some cumin, salt, pepper, olive oil – While your pots are bubbling away on the stove top, chop your onion. Put it in a frying pan with the oil & spices and brown it up. Add the crushed tomatoes.

Stop! Your quinoa is done! It’ll burn if you don’t get it off the stove! Fluff it and cover it and leave it alone.

Stop! Drain your lentils, they’re done! Chances are, they soaked up all the water and that’s just fine. Now dump them in with the onion and tomato and stir it up. You may want to add some hot sauce or some more spices. I like to add some chili paste, you know, because I’m hot like that. Once it gets a little thick and yummy you can turn off the burner.

2 soy yogurts, a small bunch of fresh chopped coriander leaves, a little lime juice, salt – Mix these up in a bowl together. With a spoon. Lick the spoon. If you don’t like the way it tastes you can add a fresh chopped tomato, maybe half of a diced cucumber, more salt…you get the idea…

Voila! You have a balanced meal chock full of protein, fibre and vitamins! If you want to be super-cool you can wrap it up in a flat bread or tortilla or just pile it up in a bowl as I did above. Personally, I love the juxtaposition of the hot, spicy lentils and the cool, fresh yogurt sauce with the mellow and zen quinoa making peace and love in between. That’s just the kind of girl I am.

Vegan MoFo Day 8 – Gratitude…and a secret family recipe to share my gratefulness with you!

There are days when I am overwhelmed by waves of gratitude. I am able to look beyond the artifice of the superficiality our consumerist-bulimia so often imposes upon us. This shallow egotism, to which we are unwittingly yoked, is so often subversive and hidden… just discreetly clouding to the corners all that is really who we are… our substance, our essence. Who we are is of course the decisions we make, the choices which delineate diets… our politics, really. The life we live is the best suited spokesperson for what we believe in, and there are moments of serendipity where we can feel that what we’re doing is in harmony with what we want to be.

I’m so grateful for …

twirling through the forest trails

the last of the summer berries

some of the last tomatoes I’ll be buying before next Spring

the amazing aroma of garlic frying in olive oil, just waiting for the above tomatoes…

Very gratefully feeling better, I was able to set aside some time to enjoy my family, make a few litres of what my family calls “Garlic Gravy”, which is just the most amazing and most simple tomato sauce. I’ve got a good amount in our deep-freezer for Winter cooking. I never buy jar sauce, ever. I do, however, during the winter months, buy canned tomatoes. But my great-grandmother Antonia’s “Garlic Gravy” needs fresh tomatoes to really shine. This is our family recipe, but it is so terribly basic that you might be thinking, “she’s got to be kidding, this isn’t a tomato sauce recipe…”. Oh yes, it is. Let me reassure you…

Great Grandmother Antonia’s Garlic Gravy

this is for just a normal amout of sauce, for lasagne or for a pasta dinner…

  • 2 to 3lbs vine-ripened tomatoes
  • 1 bulb of purple or pink garlic, or just normal if you can’t find them
  • fresh parsley
  • about 30cl or a 1/4 of homemade ketchup or a few tablespoons of tomato paste
  • salt and pepper to taste

Now here’s the deal kids – cut up your garlic and tomatoes BEFORE you do anything else. Seriously. I have begun this thinking I could chop tomatoes like the wind, only to find that my garlic is burned and that my haste made nothing but waste.

So, once everything is all cut up & ready, cover the bottom of your pot with olive oil and heat it on high until it’s just terribly hot. Add your garlic, and while stirring it, *very* slowly begin lowering the temp, being very careful to not burn your garlic. If it looks even a little brown, get your pot of the burner NOW! Continue sautéing your garlic until you just know it’s about to brown on you and add your tomatoes. Now turn that heat back up until it begins boiling. Don’t forget to stir from time to time. Bring the sauce down to a simmer, and let it go, uncovered, for about a half an hour. Add your ketchup, parsley, and add your salt and pepper if you need, and let it go for a few more mintues. That’s it. Sometimes I leave it with the chunks of garlic and tomato, sometimes I blend it up and it looks just beautiful. The taste will bluff you, because you’ve done nothing incredible, but your sauce will taste as if you did.

I’ve never met my great-grandmother. She passed away before my parents were married – she was in her 80s, outside working in her garden (she chopped her own firewood until the end) when she suffered a what would prove fatal stroke. Despite all her talents, she never quite mastered English (she was Croatian), and she took coins from her pocket to communicate to the paramedics that my mum worked at “Penny’s” department store, and that’s how they knew to call her there. I feel very close to her despite never having seen her – genetic memory? – and feel so greatful that she shared this recipe with my mum, who shared it with me when I began making my own food, about two years ago.

What are you grateful for?

I’m so thankful to be a vegan, and to have wonderful, nutritious vegan foods to eat, and fabulous blogger pals like you!

Vegan MoFo Day 7 – Animals on my table?

I’ll tell you one thing, this Vegan MoFo posting is a bit like when I first began running…I need to build up my endurance! I’ve never posted 7 days in a row evah! I’m feeling a little out of breath, and my legs are a little shaky, but I’m gaining ground!

Luckily, I have help like this in my kitchen…

These are the only animals you’ll ever see on my table!

Guppy is obsessed with dinosaurs, and animals in general, but really dinos. She knows so many of their names (in both French & English), it’s crazy the way she just soaks it up. M. Fish and I had to study up to be sure we weren’t messing up their names! She can also tell you if they are carnivore or herbivore. She fancies herself a comedian when she talks about Spinosaurus or T. Rex, “They eat other animals…Grrr (imagine the two plastic figures smashing into one another in an epic reenactment of Godzilla vs. King Kong)…but not my dinos. They only eat leaves and no animals!” (the dinos then kiss – SMACK – and proceed to eat imaginary “leaves” suspended in the air. This is all her, by the way. We don’t make a big deal about her diet sans animaux. It comes up, but for now we prefer to live more by example, and talk about the loving bonds ALL families share, regardless of species. Guppy carries her dinos with her in cotton drawstring bag (the mammals travel separately, they are more “snugly” says Guppy), and she brings them everywhere with her. For example, here there are on the kitchen table…

…because here she is tossing a most delicious salad. It’s the “Cabbage and Corn” salad from The Raw Gourmet. (I know, you were wondering where the food was in this MoFo post!). It’s so delicious, and beautiful, too, with the purple and yellow yumminess. It’s really an easy salad, just fresh or frozen corn and purple cabbage with a light vinaigrette – simple, sweet and sublime. I make a double batch each time, because it’s really better the next day once the cabbage has pickled a bit in the vinaigrette.

This salad is also really great wrapped up in a tortilla with some breaded-fish-style tofu. AMAZING! It tastes like the sea shore (without the gritty sand), or vacation, or maybe summer vacation. The crispy warm and the light, bright salad – W-O-W! You gotta try it! I of course have no pictures of that, because when it’s ready I just dive in and sacrifice photographic evidence for culinary satisfaction!

Tomorrow I’ll bring you some quinoa love, because damn it, it’s worth it!

Vegan MoFo Day 6 – Be My Bulghur, Baby!

Don’t you just love bulghur? I do. I like to say it nearly as much as I enjoy eating it. And talk about an easy-peasy thing to make – I would easily call it nature’s fast food. I like it warm, with root veggies or with curry and spicier sauces, but I often find myself eating it cold – or at least room temperature – and often in the form of a salade composée, a salad composed of various elements.

I for one find that the wholesome taste of the bulghur marries so well with black beans that it is almost a tradigdy to separate them. Let them live and play together in harmony my friends, they belong together.

This is one of my favorite salades composées. It’s often a little different, mostly depending on what I happen to have in my kitchen, but the main players are the same – black beans (when I can find them), bulghur and shredded carrots – from there the sky’s the limit. I often find myself adding diced green onions, celery, chopped tomatoes, corn, cilantro, peas…you get the idea. This salad calls for a light and sweet accent, so I like serving it up with a maple vinaigrette : some olive oil, a bit of spicy mustard, some apple cider vinegar, a little maple syrup and some salt and pepper. I am of course incapable of giving you any measurements because I do it au pif, I just taste and go. Same for the salad – it’ll be maybe a cup of uncooked bulghur, maybe four tomatoes…I just sort of add things to the bowl as I go and decide from there.

I try to let it sit for about half an hour before serving to let the flavours become one with each other, but that’s just me. I’ve also served this with tostadas or tortilla chips – it’s such a fiesta! Olé!

Vegan MoFo Day 5 : Making Dogs & Sausages & Seitan!

Thank you all for your sweet comments on my embroidery & such yesterday. I feel like a 5 year-old showing my parents my scribbles – those first tentative steps towards art, and the encouraging words validating the effort…

Since some of you were asking about what recipes I use to make homemade doggies I thought this would be a great MoFo post :

I have been bursting at the seams to tell you’all about this seitan recipe which is the most amazing seitan I’ve ever made in my entire life! Sworn to not propagate “blogiddity”, mum was the word for her testers, until the super-cool Kittee posted this recipe for her Basic Gluten Log. Now you too can be in on the best (and easiest to make) seitan ever! I have a large three-tray steamer, and I make the log in that and it works just fine. I’ve made this a few times, and frozen it up for other meals – it’s really amazing.

He’re a really terrible, over-exposed picture of a sandwich, slathered in Dijon mustard!

One of our favorite ways to eat it is just to brown it up in a dry frying pan, but I have also made mini-logs, more like hot-dogs, and they are just too perfectly cool! It slices up really thin, so you can do so much with it! Kittee is so cool!

Another great seitan sausage recipe is of course Julie Hassons’s which is just yum, and let’s not forget Celine’s Fauxsausage – Celine is trop douée! too talented! Love her! I’m a hot & spicy kind of gal, but little Guppy, well, not so much, so I usually tone down the spices for her, and M. Fish and I drown things in mustard or hot sauce later.

So free yourself from buying soy dogs with lots of unpronouncables and preservatives and other random things. Yes, gluten needs to be used sparingly (or not at all by some), but once you start playing with your spices, you’ll find that you can make some really yummy home-cooked, homemade dogs! How liberating (and fun) is that?