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!

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!

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.