W.I.P. Wednesday : The finished, the planned and the in-progress…

wipbanner_blue6

This is an extra-large serving of W.I.P.ness, so grab a little cup of tea and here we go!

The finished : Staring here is good, helps me to feel like I’ve accomplished something!

zen-carp

Here are the carp I told you about here. Love them. I hope my nephew does, too.

notebook-with-art-bag

He’s quite a sketcher (I sent him the watercolour-pencil roll for Christmas) so I thought a blank notebook would suit him. I also made him a black denim pouch to slip the notebook and some pencils in, in case he wants to do a little field work (ok, this is a bad inside joke because he lives on a farm. Sorry.)

It’s also my niece’s birthday soon, so here are her goodies :

wee-wonderfuls-butterflies

The little dude’s antenna/hat isn’t sewn on yet in this photo, but I assure you, it has since been sewn on and they are on their way to the U.S. along with this :

felt-flannel-pouch-felt-heart-pin

…a little felty pouch (decorated with ribbon on the other side) and a heart pin because they are so cute I’m making them for everyone! I used this felt, and for the butterflies I used this adorable pattern from Hillary Lang of Wee Wonderfuls fame. I just noticed she’s having a doll giveaway today – go throw your name in the virtual hat!.

butterfly-pattern

This was one of the first patterns I ever ordered (about 9 months ago), but this is the first time I’ve used it. I have a feeling I’ll be making more of these in the future they are so sweet. And springy.

Oh, and a new pincushion, because I just love making these little cuties!

beige-cordory-lavender-cotton-pincushion

and the other side, so you can see my wonky stitching.

lavender-beige-pincushion-other-side

Now, the in-progress :

unfinished-doll

Another one of these dolls. This is for a “new” baby (she’s already 3 weeks old – aak!). She’s mostly done – just need to sew her hair ribbon on and get her limbs attached. Have you ever noticed the less you have to do to finish a project, the more difficult it is psychologically to get it done? Or is it just me?

I started this last night for the talented Tacha :

bunny-under-construction1

Lucky me gets to test another pattern for her! This is going to be adorable – I’ll hopefully have it ready for show & tell by Friday! She has the best stuff in her shop – go check it out!

The planned :

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve surely heard of the terrible fires in Australia, killing so many – humans and animals – and destroying everything in sight. I wanted to so something, so I donated what I could, but still felt like I wasn’t doing anything. Then, the aforementioned Tacha told me about The Bushfire Quilt Project. Tia Curtis, an American quilter living in Australia, is rounding-up quilt blocks from all over the globe and with the help of local quilters, they are creating quilts for families who lost everything in this tragedy. If your life has ever been touched by fire, you know the devastation of completely starting over. These quilts may not be much, but they are a start, and a great way to show some global solidarity to our Australian friends.

That’s great, Shellyfish, but I don’t know how to quilt. Well, guess what? Neither do I! But I’m committing to making at least a few of these Wonky Stars thanks to the tutorial. My biggest obstacle is an anemic fabric stash, but I’m hoping to get some scraps organized Friday. Here’s The Bushfire Quilt Project Flickr Group if you want to be inspired. Doing what you can makes such a big difference, be it 2 or 50 squares. Others are sending quilting supplies to help out. Just wanted to spread the word, and thanks to Tacha for sharing the links with me!

And to finish, behold! Guppy’s new dress, er, dress fabric :

orange-cream-fabric

Ok, this fabric is just dreamy. It has such a great feel and weight to it. Yum. We don’t have a fabric store in town, but there is a vendor who comes to the marché twice a week. The up-side is he often has designer remnants at great prices. The down-side is that you can’t buy the amount you’d like – you’re stuck with whatever size the remnant is – be it a half meter or 3 meters. It’s a good thing in this case because I got nearly 3 meters for 10E which is just super exciting!

I wish I were only 4 and could have a dress, too. Ok, no, when I was 4 I wouldn’t be caught dead in a dress. But Guppy is rather excited about it, probably because she doesn’t have any cold-weather dresses so it seems special. I’m excited because I’ve never made a dress before. So much excitement.

Speaking of excitement, next week’s W.I.P. will have our Wipster of the Month interview and we’ll also have our March Stitch-Along – I bet you just can’t wait! Try to satisfy your curiosity by visitng the other Wipsters to see what they are up to this week, and don’t forget the W.I.P. Wednesday Flickr Group, too!

wipwed_pinkred2401

Whatever Happaned to Sunday Dinners : The General, Mihl & a Monday suggestion (if I may…)

Before we get all food p*rny, I’d first like to apologize to Mihl of Seitan is My Motor. She is beautiful, talented, makes the most amazing cookies ever and shares delightful German recipes and cultural tidbits. Reading her blog is like taking a little trip to Dresden, and if you haven’t been over there lately, you should!

elephant

gummies

Why am I saying I’m sorry? Mihl so sweetly sent me super-delicious vegan Gummy Bears and an adorable handmade card decked out with origami animals and despite my best intentions, I inadvertently left her out of my Happy Mail round-up. I officially suck and will hang my head in shame as I compose the rest of this post

It’s almost Mardi Gras!!! Wooot! Here in France we don’t get as crazy-wild-fun as does our friend Kittee (I can’t wait to see pictures of her in her costume!), but it does mean crêpes! Love it! But wait, mardi is Tuesday…whatever will we eat on Monday? May I suggest you make yourself some extraordinary New Orleans Style Red Beans? I made these last Monday and good grief did my house smell amazing all morning while those beans were simmering!

monday-beans

Delicious, simple beany goodness served over a mix of wheat berries, wild rice and whole white rice. Leftovers were enjoyed rolled up in tortillas. So easy, so nutritious and so affordable!

And now on to Sunday Dinner, which is brought to you today by the letter “K” as in Krys of Two Vegan Boys. She served up some General Tao’s Tofu the other day and it got me craving take out Chinese again (what is up with that?). The recipe is here though I just used it as a guideline : I doubled the sauce, played with the spices a little, cursed the fridge gods for not having any peppers or green onions, and thanked them for the broccoli, mushrooms, green beans, cauliflower and carrots I did have. Oh yum. Thanks for the inspiration, Krys!

general-taos-tofu

This was the first time I dipped tofu in an egg replacer before giving it a good cornstartch coat. I’ll be honest, I’m not really sure if it was necessary. I think just giving it a little dip in some non-dairy milk or even just a smidge of water would have worked fine. Just sayin’.

Happy Mail ! “I’m just lucky, I guess.”

While were not big on television here at the Fish household, we are movie fans, and we recently acquired the film “George of the Jungle” with “want to spread him on a cracker and eat him cute” Brenden Fraser playing George. Pardon my sexist aside, but yummy.

Guppy loves this movie, and while I’m not going to lend deep socio-cultural significance to a (BLEK!) Disney movie (shudder), I love the zen nature of George and his very Buddhist take on life. Despite spills, loss, separation and other tragedy, George remains true to his Buddha nature. He is cheerful, acknowledges that yes, sometimes the negative does happen, but then something good always happens, too. “George just lucky I guess.” is his refrain, his mantra if you will. While I’m obviously not watching this film in the same way as 3 and 1/2 year old Guppy, I so appreciate his underlining the lucky side of things, though it would be just as easy to highlight all the negative. I also thoroughly enjoy the fact that the protagonist thrives without the infectious encumbrances of Capitalist consummation, and once he and Ursla are finally united, they chose family and freedom in the Jungle rather than Nintendos, MP3 players, cheaply made, inferior quality clothing and all other bounty the free-market economy provides… I do hope they brought some aspirin and penicillin with them, though. You know, because they’re in the jungle and stuff.

Go George.

I’ve been pretty lucky of late as well. No, Monsieur Fish hasn’t taken to weight lifting and parading around in a loin cloth (sigh). I believe the following goodies delivered to my mailbox will illustrate my côté chanceux :

nom

These cute little kitty cats arrived from the sweet Krispycheks, proprietor of the most excellent nom! nom! nom! blog. These little cuties are decorating my sewing area, and I just love them!

vegemite

My dearest Jumblefriend of Jumbleberry Jam fame has been doing a stellar job de-cluttering her home, and she decided to share some of her many tubes of Vegemite with the blogosphere, i.e.: She had a little giveaway and I won! So excited was I. Monsieur Fish was amused by the Vegemite that traveled from Australia to the United States to France, and the beautiful paper her hand-written note had also traveled an amazing amount : from Tibet to Ireland to the U.S. to France. Wanderlust runs through my veins, now literally!

I’m hooked on this stuff! It is indeed an acquired taste – reminds me a bit of blue cheese in my Omni days. First time I’d tasted it I shuttered, but, oddly found myself wanting more. It’s the same thing here people, but unlike blue cheese it’s cruelty-free and really good for you! I’m not sure if this is a blessing or a curse, because I needed another favourite something to slather all over a fresh baguette like a hole in the head. My new favourite thing to do with the Vegemite? It is amazing for boosting an anemic gravy – and the B-vitamin goodness… love it!

books

cards

Here is my ultimate loot from the book exchange Carmen organized. I felt so spoilt, because Carmen included handmade cards along with these great books! She is so talented, and if I lived near her I would be hanging out at her house until she shared all her great handmade card tips with me! They are just beautiful, and it’s not going to be easy to send them off to new homes because I want them for me! Oops, selfish moment there. Ok, all better.

Thank you ladies for the wonderful mail! I’m off to go make myself a little Vegemite tartine with some faux E.B. and baguette. Yum!

W.I.P. Wednesday : Sugar Free, Fat Free, Calorie Free Donuts! A tutorial…

wipbanner_blue5

I know what you’re thinking : With a title like that, there’s got to be a catch. You’re right.

finishednuts

I’d been wracking my little brain (ouch!), trying to think of something to make for my Pay It Forward (PIF) winners. It’s not easy knowing what to send someone you know without really knowing them outside of their blog lives. I considered making handbags, but not knowing their individual tastes, didn’t want to send something in their least favourite colour, or something that would sit in a closet forever. The only real criteria for the PIF gifts were that they be vegan and handmade.

felt-donuts-raspberry-vanilla

Enter the donuts! As I was thinking of goodies to add to their parcels, I thought of making a treat to send, but was concerned that even though they weren’t leaving the European Union, cookies could be crushed or frosting smudged, etc. by they time they arrived at destination. I’d made some felt food for Guppy to play with, and while she was setting up a little tea party for us one day, I thought felt donuts would be the ticket!

maple-glazed-chocolate-donut

Please do note that this felt is indeed vegan : made with post-consumer recycled plastic bottles, we’re cruelty-free and lessening the environmental impact by using a recycled medium. Woot!

Would you like to make some donuts? It’s really very easy, though it is a little more time consuming if you stitch your “sprinkles” on. I set this up assembly-line style and it was a fun little project. I can hardly take credit for these – felt food has been around since I was little (Regan child. No, ketchup is not a vegetable. Shudder), and I’ve seen felt donuts in felt food packs for kids, on the net, etc. If you do decide to use this tutorial to make donuts that you’ll be selling, please remember me when you’re rich and famous!

Let’s begin! First you’ll need some felt. I chose two colours of brown for the “cake” part – so we have regular and chocolate flavours, and some assorted colours for your glazes :

pick-some-colours

You’ll also need the following :

materials-needed

Thread, pins, beads for your “sprinkles”, something to trace your donut shape (I used a CD, a canning lid or something similar would obviously work, too, but would indeed be less musical), a needle, an exacto-knife or rolling cutter, scissors and maybe even a self-healing mat if you have one (a clean cutting board works ok, too).

First : Trace your basic donut shape in the darker felt. Don’t forget, you’ll need two pieces per pastry. I made a dozen, so that meant 24 pieces (my math skillz are amazing, n’est-ce pas?).

Next :

use-a-spool-to-trace-your-centreYou can use a spool to trace the outline of the centre. Don’t worry too much about this if your circle isn’t perfect -it’s going to look beautiful once it’s sewn up. Do try to cut two at a time, though, makes matching them up later a wee bit easier.

Now : (night was falling, so sorry for the flashy-blek.)

glaze-coulours

Whip out that CD again and trace your glaze colours. You can be traditional or get crazy – these are your donuts and they are your art!

Ensuite : (which means next, but I already said that above)

finish-glazes

You’ll want to cut along the outer edge of your glazes to give them a drippy look. I just weaved in and out with my scissors. Again, if it looks funky don’t worry – it’ll be sweet as can be once it’s all stitched together.

Let’s Sew!

stitch-the-glaze-on

You can proceed a number of different ways – I tried doing things in different orders because I’m curious like that – but this is the order that I found worked best pour moi. Begin by sewing the outer edge of your glaze to the top layer of your donut. Try to centre the glaze on the donut, and if the holes don’t perfectly match up it’s ok, you can trim them to match in the next step. It’s more important that your glaze is centered over the donut right now.

You might want to pin the glaze on before doing this to keep it in place, or maybe you’re a renegade and you scoff at my idées bourgeoises – best translated as playing square or safe. Anyway, you can whip stitch (I did) or straight stitch this part. Youtube has great videos to show you what that means if you don’t know. I didn’t know a year ago, so don’t worry, it’s cool. You’re cool. I said so.

Sammich time!

stitch-through-the-three-layers

It’s time to stitch all three layers together via the centre. If the three holes don’t match up well (ahem, at all), fear not. You can trim them to fit, just don’t cut too far into your donut or you’ll end up with an onion ring, which is tasty, but not what we’re going for here (but what a great idea! And fries, too! Yes!). Be sure and sew through all three layers using a nice, tight whip stitch.

donut-hole-stitch1

If you’re stitching looks like your 3-year-old did it (see above) don’t worry a bit! It’s going to look just lovely when it’s stuffed. Promise!

Sprinkles!

What’s a donut without sprinkles? A naked donut, and I’ll have no nudity on this blog! I used beads, however, if you’re planning on making these for small children, animals, or batty adults, you may want to consider just using embroidery to embellish. Do that now, because the layers are open and it’ll be easier. Let me know when you’re done.

Closing Time!

I had a picture of this, but it was terrible, so it didn’t make the cut. You don’t really need one, though. Just try to match up the outer edges of your donut, and whip stitch them together, leaving a small hole so you can stuff it with polyfill. I used a chopstick (see Katie, I can use chopsticks, too!) to push the polyfill around. If your edges don’t perfectly match up, it’s really ok, just slide them forward or back so that they do – once you’ve added the stuffing you won’t be able to tell.

to-finish1

See how easy that was? And fun, too! Now go make a guilt-free dozen!

Don’t forget to see what the other Wipsters are up to, and to check out our W.I.P. Wednesday Flickr Pool, too.

I’ve received some most excellent Happy Mail in the past two weeks and I will be posting about it soon! I’m totally behind, but please super-cool sender-people, don’t think your mail didn’t rock my socks – my next post is all about you!

Whatever Happened To Sunday Dinners? : Chow Baby, Divine Lemon Scones & an Award!

I am once again swooning but for the deliciousness of Ms. Joni’s “food courtesque” Chinese-style recipes! Be still my beating heart (and growling stomach) we have Chow Mein, or Mein Chow if you prefer, action happening here :

chow-mein

The most effortless and versatile vegan chow mein ever! Here we have carrots, onion, green beans, mushrooms, mung bean shoots…but baby corn, broccoli, and faux duck (aka seitan) would also be excellent choices. This was a perfect one-wok meal, and as always, I love you both Celine and Joni, as weekly meal planning is a no-brainer for me, and you all are going to love 500 Vegan Recipes! There are some fabulous photos at the 500 Vegan Recipes Cookbook Flickr group, too. But warning : don’t go on an empty stomach!

But let’s get onto the scones, shall we? As many of you know, since my little accident in November, my Sunday routine has been drastically altered. I loved Sunday mornings because they meant me sneaking out of the apartment before Guppy and Monsieur Fish were awake, greedily soaking up the warm smells of baking croissants and baguettes wafting from the boulangeries as I made my way through the streets of my still-sleeping French city… then on to the forest trails, where the morning mist was still hanging heavy, and save the occasional company of a fox, rabbit or (yikes!) wild boar, I was free to spend one and a half to two glorious hours of me time : the long run.

There was nothing like coming home after my long run, feeling both spent and refreshed at the same time (though not smelling so fresh, gotta admit!). After some stretching and showering, it was time for a decadent Sunday brunch with my little family. While I’m sad (and frustrated) to say my foot/ankle is still not letting me do much other than dream about running, I woke up Sunday morning with that basta! feeling we get when enough really is enough and damn it if I can’t go run at least I’m going to make a fun Sunday brunch treat!

And the Divine Lemon Scones were born. Out of necessity. Because I wanted something citrus, something sweetish (as opposed to Swedish, though, that would have been a good idea, too) and I have a sac of lemons that Monsieur Fish bought last week because they were 1E and he just knew I could use them for something.

divine-lemon-sconeI might have gotten a little carried away with the glaze on this one…what do you think?

These scones have a lovely lemon cakesque groove going on which is perfect for the lemon-lover in me. If, however, you are not as lemon crazy as I am, you may want to use less lemon juice or extract for the glaze, or just skip the glaze all together, though I would think you mad because it’s so good!

Divine Lemon Scones

Because I didn’t feel like washing a million cups, this is a metric measure recipe. Sorry Imperialists Imperial-measure folks. This makes about 12 scones.

  • 300 ml non-dairy milk (I use soy)
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 350g AP flour plus 100g AP flour
  • 60g sugar
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • pinch salt (but not hard)
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • zest from 3 lemons

Preheat your oven to about 200c.

Mix the vinegar and “milk” and set aside. Sift together the 350g flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Now add the oil, zest and curdled soy milk mixture. Stir until just combined, adding flour from the 100g as needed to achieve a powdery, not-even-a-little-bit-sticky dough.

At this point I usually divide the dough into two or three as it’s easier to work with. Knead a piece a few times and flatten it into a bit of a disc-shape. Now cut wedges, about six if you divided the dough in two, and get those babies on a parchment or silplat-lined baking sheet. Bake them for about 10-15 minutes (my oven is psycho, so sometimes it’s more like 10, sometimes 14ish).

While they are on the cooling rack, make your Divine Glaze:

  • about 180g powdered/icing sugar (give or take, depending on the consistency you like)
  • the juice of three lemons (you know, the ones you just scalped for the zest)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon extract (optional, this really gets things lemony)

All you need to do is mix this up until the powdered sugar dissolves. When the scones are mostly-cool just drizzle this all over them. Setting them on parchment paper is a good idea to help with easy clean-up since this glaze could also double as tasty super glue I think. If these don’t float your sconey-boat, you could also try the Rose & Almond Scones I made for BBD last May – delicate rose flavoured almond scones – yum!

Speaking of lemons, look what I got!

lemonade-award2One of my favourite blogger buddies, Jumbleberry Jam, passed along the Lemonade Award which goes to bloggers who show great Attitude and/or Gratitude. My wise and witty Jumblefriend loves gourmet vegan food, wine, dark chocolate…wait a minute, I think that this describes the majority of my readers! Anyway, thank you so much for this much-appreciated distinction. While I’m to pass this on to 10 other bloggers, I am incapable of choosing because there are so many of you that I just LOVE, so consider yourself awarded if you meet at least one of the following criteria :

1. You can’t wait to read your favourite blogs, and are incapable of keeping up with your “Reader” which makes you crazy!

2. You feel a genuine connection to your favourite bloggers and refer to them as “friends you met on the Internet” when talking about them to non-blogging people (as opposed to just calling them “bloggers”).

3. You’re eternally grateful for the fabulous recipes and food ideas you find in blogland and have no idea how you’d plan your weekly meals without them.

There you go! Do let me know if you’ve been tagged!

I love crêpes & la fête de la Chandeleur! Oh, and Whatever happened to Sunday dinners? Sweet & Sour Tofu and Asian-Style Veg

Happy fête de la Chandeleur! Let’s get crazy and eat crêpes!

While some of you are “celebrating” Groundhog Day, here in France it’s one of my favourite little holidays of all – la fête de la Chandeleur, and we get to eat crêpes! I wrote a lovely explination of this holdiay last year, and let me tell you, it is the most popular post on this blog. I can’t begin to tell you how many English language “Chandeleur” searches lead folks to me. There is also my tried & true vegan crêpe recipe on that post, which is also quite popular this time of year. So go read up on Catholic propaganda and crêpes – what fun!

But what about Sunday dinner?

sstofu

Sweet & Sour Tofu

One of my favourite “treats” as a child was going out for Chinese food. Now grant you, there was only one Chinese restaurant near-by (and near-by being a rather subjective distance), and it was only on very special occasions that my parents piled us all into the mini-van for some Chinese cuisine. Now a mum myself, I can only discern virtual Congressional Medals of Honor for the courage and heroism (and insanity?) my parents displayed bringing us all out to eat in public, in a restaurant. All six of us.

My absolute favourite thing as a kid was the Sweet & Sour Chicken balls. The sticky-sweet red sauce clinging to the deep-fried, breaded balls – which really should have been called Sweet & Sour breading balls with a tiny piece of chicken in them, seriously – and the sticky white rice painted pink after a proper slathering in the sweet & sour sauce…it was like dessert, but for dinner.

I haven’t had the sweet & sour goodness in so long it is crazy, since at least 1990 when I went veg, but probably before. This is a test recipe for 500 Vegan Recipes, and I feel like I need to have a second child and name her Joni in order to properly thank her for this recipe it is so damn good. If you ever enjoyed food-court-style take out in your pre-vegan days and miss that wonderful, terrible sticky red sauce, you are going to love this recipe.

ss-tofu-vegAsian-Style Veg and Sweet & Sour Tofu

I’m a little embarrassed, but I’ll admit it. I made this twice in three days I love it so much. There. I said it. Please don’t totally lose respect for me.

I don’t know what I’m going to do when Joni & Celine are done testing their recipes for their upcoming cookbook 500 Vegan Recipes. What will I make? Seriously, I love this because I just consult what needs to be tested and I have my menu for the week! Don’t forget the Flickr group for more food p*orn love.

Tuile We Meet Again… Vegan Tuile Cookies! Tuiles Végétaliennes! It’s the Daring Bakers January Challenge

blue_db

What a fun and easy challenge! I loved it! The Daring Bakers were baking Tuile (pronounced tweel) this month and it was pure joy!

I’d bookmarked Vegan Yum Yum‘s recipe for Tuile Cookies back in April, but never got around to making them. What a sillyfish I was! These cookies came out perfectly : light, crisp with a hint of chew…I served these with a luscious maple-lemon custard (and of course with sprinkles, because that’s Guppy’s signature touch) and they were just heavenly. Vegan Yum Yum’s recipe is a slam-dunk, her directions clear and her style impeccable, so really I cannot take much credit for this culinary success – it’s thanks to Vegan Yum Yum!

Here’s what I did (per VYY’s instructions ) :

trace

I traced three circles in some cardboard. She’d suggested not baking more than three at a time because they cool quickly and shaping would be tricky. I followed her advice and had no problems.

tuile-mould

Using my lil’ knife and self-healing mat I cut out the circles.

dough

I put a few dollops of dough in each circle, then using a butter knife I leveled things out.

first-shaping

For a more traditional shape, I used my rolling pin. But the their traditional shape doesn’t lend itself well to filling, so I decided to use espresso cups.

cooling

Right out of the oven I would slide them onto the outside of the cup, then one by one I would pinch them into a taco shape and slide them into the cup. They retained their shape as they cooled.

taco

Here’s a cooled tuile just waiting for some maple-lemon custard…

filledtaco

Notice how the custard opened the taco just a smidge? The key is not to fill them before you’ll be eating them as the filling can lead to soggy tuiles…

stuffedtuiles

Notice how the ones on the left are all perdy and the one on the right is creeping open…it was filled about a half hour before the picture was taken. So, be sure and wait until just before serving to fill your tuiles!

This month’s challenge is brought to us by Karen of Bake My Day and Zorra of 1x umruehren bitte aka Kochtopf. They have chosen Tuiles from The Chocolate Book by Angélique Schmeink and Nougatine and Chocolate Tuiles from Michel Roux. Thank you both for a great challenge!

Be sure and visit the Daring Baker’s Blogroll to see all the tuile-y goodness!

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!

26109-sunday-dinner

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!

The unbearable deliciousness of Marmite Biscuits (Crackers)

marmite-crac

Like many of you, my first Marmite experience was rather brutal : I’d heard Marmite and Vegemite mentioned before here and there, but I had no idea what it tasted like. I was 16, and visiting England for the very first time.

Gullible, trusting and rather naive, I allowed myself to be seduced by the groans of pleasure coming from the 6 and 9-year-old children who were seated near me at the kitchen table, as the bit into their Marmite and cucumber topped slices of bread.

“So what does it taste like?” I asked, sniffing the open jar. The colour reminded me of the pints of Guinness I’d had the night before with the children’s uncle and cousin at the local pub. I was still marveling over the staying power of the foamy brew, the way the “S” the barkeep traced in frothy white top of my glass remained intact until I managed to finish it down. My head hurt too, but I was 16, who cares about that?

“Here, have some,” the elder of the two beamed, slathering a gigantic dollop of Marmite onto a slice of bread. “It’s kind of like peanut butter, only different,” he offered reassuringly.

I couldn’t help but notice the 6 year-old giggling, but she seemed to giggle all the time, so I wasn’t really sure what that was all about.

Blek.

Of course I obligingly took a big bite of the tartine offered me, only to realize that I was about to be sick and needed to get to a toilet fast. Embarrassment. I was teased it was the Guinness from the night before. It wasn’t. It was that damned Marmite. Bugger.

I’m a peace and love kind of gal, and I’m always trying to make amends with my enemies. Like the yeasty-spreads. Thrilled I am to say that during Grad school one of my sweethearts had a real thing for the “mite” sandwiches, and I was all about people making me lunch, so I became a fan.

These crackers, however, take the love to a whole new level:

fall

These biscuits are rich, buttery and have an almost eyebrow-raising bacony taste to them. The yeast spread gives them a depth of flavour that is satisfying and surprising. These are perfect for snacking, and would also be lovely dunked in a steamy bowl of soup. I served them with cocktails and billed them as crackers because here, biscuits are sweet and that would have been weird.

This recipe and 499 others will be available for your vegan pleasure in Celine & Joni’s 500 Vegan Recipes. You can check out the Flickr photos if you want more food p*rn, too. It’s a real treat to be working on such a comprehensive book. I’m not trying to be a tease, really! Come on over and I’ll make you some so you can have some, too. Promise.

*Another grand merci to Libby who sent me these super-cute cookie cutters. She was turned away at the polls during the 2001 election in Florida when that phoney election when down. She was there, man. Yet another moment in my day where I am thankful for Obama!

Whatever Happened To Sunday Dinners? : Wild Rice, Mushrooms & Flageolets Verts Au Vin Blanc

In our continuing series of Sunday Dinners, I bring you some earthy yummieness I cooked up today. Born from the need to use the mushrooms and leeks that were in my fridge, this delicious dish was of the “stick to your ribs” type.

If you don’t care for or have a difficult time finding flageolets (which are a French green kidney bean), you could easily sub any mild-tasting bean like cannellini beans (which are the white Italian version of the same bean!). You can play with the proportions of wild rice to whole rice – I used my extra special wild rice stash sent to me from Libby in America! Lucky me.

Oh, and did I mention the wine? It sounds a little classier to say “au vin blanc” than to say “hey, there’s wine in it!”, right? Now pour yourself a little vino and get cooking!

thiswildmushroom

Don’t be deterred by the rather drab-looking photo, this is a flavourful dish with lots of depth and a hearty, toothsome texture thanks to the mushrooms. I tried to remember to write this down, but it’s not as precise as it could be so if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to let me know! I’m here for you!

Wild Rice, Mushrooms & Flageolets Verts

  • 1 cup wild rice
  • 1/2 cup brown/whole rice
  • 1 leek, top & tail removed and sliced into thin half-moons
  • 400-500g mushrooms I used crimini, cleaned & roughly chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves sliced thinly
  • 2 cup dry white wine 1 cup for you to sip while preparing your meal, the other is for the recipe (or veg broth would work, too if you’re sans vin.)
  • 2 cups cooked flageolets
  • salt, pepper, dried herbes de provinçe
  • a little olive oil
  • pine nuts (optional)

Cook your rice – if you’re rather organized you could rinse and soak over night, but if you’re not, don’t sweat it. I wasn’t that organized today, trust me.

While your rice is doing its thing, get to the veg prep. Heat a splash of olive oil in your pan and add the garlic, and when it’s fragrant add the leeks. Stir that around, and in a few minutes, add your mushrooms. If things seem a little dry you can add a few splashes of water. When the mushrooms are tender lower the heat and add the wine and spices and let this simmer – I think this was about 5 minutes or so. Now add your rice and your beans and cover. I had the heat on low and just let things simmer to share their flavours.

While this is happening you can toast your pine nuts in a dry frying pan – if you’ve never toasted your own pine nuts you’re missing out on one of the easiest and gratifying little tricks in the kitchen. Just add your pine nuts – I used a handful – and with a wooden spoon or spatula just shiggle them around so they don’t burn – you can lower the heat if you need to, don’t worry, you can always turn it back up. They’ll get all toasty and smell yummy.

And voila! In the interest of nutrition you should serve this with a green salad or a bowl of soup, but I didn’t do that. Today was one of those “feeling sorry for myself because I’m still not able to run or do much else” days. I’m also feeling helpless and terrible about the horrible war crimes happening in Gaza. My heart just breaks when I think about the families who have no water, electricity, can’t bury their dead with dignity…not even aspirin or antibiotics to give the wounded. I cannot help but feel embarrassed to be human.

We all stayed in our p.j.s all day and watched movies and I did a little crafty sewing. We were salad-less and I wasn’t up for making soup. Be a better vegan than I was and have a little something with this, ok?