Whatever Happened To Sunday Dinners? Twice-Baked Potatoes, how I love thee!

This was one of those dinners that made me feel all down-home and comfort-foody. Love that!

The closest I had ever come to making twice-baked potatoes are the Samosa-Stuffed Potatoes from VCON. Monsieur Fish and Guppy both really like them, they’re quick and easy and they are always a big hit with omnis, so they work well as appies when we have a little soirée. However real, honest-to-goodness born in Betty Crockeresque kitchen in the 1960’s twice-baked taters had never been on my list of things to make. Maybe because I’d never had them before? I have had potato skins – those were considered “party food” when I was little and my mum wanted to make us a special finger-food type meal. But twice-baked potatoes? Nope. Never.

Oh how wrong I was to have neglected such an easy and delightful dish!

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Sunday Dinner: Twice-Baked Potatoes, Basic Seitan Crumbles, Roasted Green Beans with sautéed Mushrooms & Onions, and Orange(r) Carrot Coins

These Twice-Baked Potatoes were dangerously good. I mean, hide the left-overs so there will be some left for tomorrow good. Don’t get me wrong, they are not to be considered low-fat or something I will make every week, but they are now in the canon of “comfort foods”. And those Basic Seitan Crumbles? Outta sight! So versatile, they could be used in a myriad many ways – on pizza, over a salad…we ended up sprinkling them on our potatoes like bacon bits. Heaven. The Carrot Coins also scored high on their “not tasting like health food carrots” according to Monsieur F. We were having trouble not having thirds, and fourths…

With the exception of the roasted beanies, this meal was built by Celine and Joni, the goddesses of vegan recipe creations. You’ll have no choice but to pick up a copy of their 500 Vegan Recipes. Ok, you’ll have a choice, but really, you won’t be able to help yourself from wanting all this goodness! Want to see more? Go check out the 500 Vegan Recipes Flickr Group.

While preparing the potatoes for this dinner, I couldn’t help but thinking about my friend Ricki of Diet, Dessert and Dogs, but I couldn’t figure out why. I mean, this wasn’t one of her recipes – though I do use her recieps often! Then it hit me: last year Ricki wrote a very moving post, one of my favourites, and she therein mentions potato boats. This post touched me for many different personal reasons, and so deeply that well over 6 months later I was brought back to her childhood memories as I prepared my meal. As most of you know, Ricki was recently nominated for a blogging award grâce à her beautiful prose. I just wanted to say that award or not, Ricki’s talent, culinary and literary, is undeniable!

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 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 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!

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 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?