No Murders In The Rue Morgue


Plum overload!

My good friend Erika has a plum tree in her back yard that has been off the hook lately, so I found myself with a windfall of fresh, delicious plums. I normally buy the larger black plums when they’re in season, but Erika’s tree bears Santa Rosa plums, common in California, so I branched out to a new variety this time around.

Back in Canada, I have a box containing all my cookbooks, including one that I looked at and drooled over all the time but never used much: The Moosewood Dessert Book. I have a love/hate relationship with all the Moosewood cookbooks. I love many of their old standby recipes (the Six-Minute chocolate cake helped many people bake vegan before baking vegan was cool, and the menestra, while the name sounds like some kind of menopause drug, is delicious and one of the first things I ever cooked for people), I don’t like the reliance on eggs and dairy and much of the language the recipes are written in. Regardless, I love the style of the dessert book – delicious cakes and confections without all kinds of cutesy nonsense. One of the recipes I’d been meaning to try for ages was the Plum Upside Down Cake. I never got around to it, partly because plums were often so expensive back in Canada, but when Erika handed me the 9-pound bag of beautiful Santa Rosas, I knew I had to finally make it. Unfortunately, my book was still in the box in Canada, so I had to find another recipe.

Inspiration came, as it so often does, in the form of Alton Brown. I’ve got a bit of a crush on Mr. Brown, and I’ve been very into his book, I’m Just Here For More Food lately. That book contains a recipe for pineapple upside down cake, so I figured with a few tweaks, I could veganize it, substitute plums for pineapple, and be off to the races! While I’m not 100% satisfied with the result, it is a gooey, tasty, plum-y treat that, with a little more work, will be a real winner!

Plum Upside Down Cake

Gooey Plum Topping
8 tbsp Earth Balance
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup plum cheeks (the sides of the plum, sliced parallel to the pit from either side of the plum)
2 – 3 tbsp pomegranate juice

Cake
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Egg replacer for 3 large eggs
5 tbsp water
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract

Put the Earth Balance in a cast iron frying pan and melt it over low heat. Add the sugar and cook until dissolved, about 5 minutes. Stir to make sure it doesn’t burn. After 5 minutes, turn off the heat and press the plum cheeks, cut side down, in circles into the sugar mixture in the pan. Pour the pomegranate juice over the top of the whole thing.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. In another bowl, combine the wet ingredients and whisk together. Add the wet ingredients to the dry mix, and stir until combined. Don’t overmix!

Pour the cake batter over the sugar mixture and plums in the cast iron pan and bake at 350 degrees for 40 – 45 minutes, or until the cake springs back when lightly touched.



Beans and Rice
July 8, 2009, 9:04 am
Filed under: Cheapo, Cooking, Easy, Uncategorized

That’s right. I’m blogging beans and rice. What are you going to do about it? You’re going to love it!

To get you up to speed: I’m broke. I eat. Therefore, I’m trying to eat cheap.

I can’t think of a “real” dish that’s much cheaper than rice and beans. My recipe is basically what I ended up making with Food Not Bombs scaled down to a reasonable, 2 – 4 person size. The great thing (well, one of the great things) about this recipe is that pretty much all the ingredients are available either in bulk (cheap!) or at whatever cheapo produce stand you frequent (also cheap!). Here in San Francisco, there are a number of produce stands that sell fruits and veggies for ridiculous prices (my favorite is a place that sells about-to-go stuff for 75 cents per giant bag – score!). I usually head down there and see what’s cheap that day. If you don’t have this luxury, just hit up whatever’s cheap in your neighborhood. The key produce ingredients for my rice and beans are onions, tomatoes, and peppers, so if you can score bags of those for cheap, then you’re golden. If not, they’re all usually pretty cheap anyway.. except for the tomatoes. If you can’t find cheap tomatoes (and be sure to check all the varieties at your store – sometimes you will be surprised at what varieties are on sale), feel free to buy a can of cheap diced tomatoes. They’ll work just fine for this. Other than those four ingredients, you can feel free to experiment and add whatever looks good to you when you’re produce shopping. I’ve added spinach and chard with great success, and I suspect squash (either summer or winter) would be good too. Or mushrooms. Or broccoli.

The other great thing about this recipe is that it’s really only a suggestion. My recipe here will give you a good, basic pot of rice and beans, but it’s very amenable to experimenting, so go all New Mexico with squash and corn and chipotle and sage! Go french(ish) with carrots, celery, thyme, and wine! Go American and add a whole bottle of ketchup! The sky is the limit, friends!

Beans and Rice That’s Nice

1 large diced onion (whatever colour is fine with me!)
1 or more diced non-hot peppers (any variety, however many you want)
3 or more large-ish diced tomatoes (or one 14 oz. can of diced, though you could use more if you like)
1 – 2 tablespoons chili powder (or add/substitute whatever kind of spice you want to accompany whatever veggies you throw in)
2 cups long-grain brown rice (though don’t freak out if you have short or medium grain – they’ll work!)
6 cups veggie stock (or you can use water if you don’t have stock – just add salt to taste while it’s simmering)
2 cups soaked beans* (I use red kidney beans most of the time, but you can use whatever you like – even chickpeas!)

Saute the onion in a bit of oil in a large pot (I usually use a stock pot for this) over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the peppers and saute for 5 more minutes. Add your tomatoes and your spices, and let it go for 2 – 3 minutes, or until the onions and peppers are cooked and just beginning the caramelize, and the tomato is juicy and cooked down a bit.

Throw in your veggie stock (or water) and your beans. Reduce the heat to medium low, stir the whole thing up, and cover the pot. Leave to simmer (checking periodically to stir and make sure things aren’t sticking or burning) for about 20 minutes. Add the rice, stir the whole deal up, and cover again. Leave this for about 45 minutes (again, stirring and checking periodically), and you’re done!

Let the rice and beans cool a bit before attempting to eat, because you’ll regret it if you don’t. I like to garnish this with some green onion, diced avocado, and diced tomato (and even some cilantro if I have it), doused liberally with Crystal hot sauce, which is like my crack. You can top your beans and rice with whatever you like (you can even wrap it in a tortilla and call it a burrito if you like!), just be sure to bask in the smug satisfaction that comes with eating a cheap, satisfying, healthy meal that you cooked yourself. Good job!



Selling Out!
June 30, 2009, 7:40 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

You should be aware of two things about me from your readings of this blog so far:

1. I’m broke;
2. I can and do make raised (yeasted) vegan donuts.

As such, I’m offering these bad boys up for sale by the dozen. $20 will get you a baker’s dozen beautiful, raised, vegan donuts in either vanilla, chocolate, or maple glaze. My target market is the San Francisco Bay Area right now, but if you’re from elsewhere and dying to give these a try, please send me an email (anti.speciesist@gmail.com), and we’ll see what the USPS and I can do for you.

To order, email me at anti.speciesist@gmail.com. Coffee not included.



Worldwide Vegan Bake Sale – San Francisco
June 29, 2009, 10:37 am
Filed under: Activism, Baking

Just in case you didn’t know, the last week of June has been official Worldwide Vegan Bake Sale week. The idea was to host vegan bake sales all over the globe, each one raising money for a local pro-animal cause. Here in San Francisco, we did two days worth of vegan bake sale-ing, and we raised $3,000 to be split between Animal Place and the East Bay Animal Advocates. Both organizations do great work for the animals, and we were all really stoked to be able to give them some cash!

While the activism and the camaraderie and the getting to meet new vegans you hadn’t met before was awesome and all, the real high point of the event was the baked goods themselves (well, okay, the activism was just as good, but it’s harder to photograph). Both days featured masses and masses of cupcakes, cookies, scones, exotic Swedish pastries, pies, loaves, donuts, and all manner of other amazingness, and both days sold out!

Not only was the sale a very successful fundraiser, but we also were able to really get the point across the vegan food does not equal healthy, boring rabbit food. It’s amazing how far a good chocolate chip cookie can go in helping people to see veganism in a different light. With one bite, a person who had never seriously considered veganism can have their heart and mind opened, and that tiny seed of “maybe this isn’t such a hard thing to do after all” can be planted. Not to get all sentimental, but it’s pretty amazing what the simple act of baking something with pride and with care can do. I guess that’s what got me thinking about what I was going to make for the sale myself: Donuts! Perfect – I was even able to decorate them to match up with the Pride theme (June 28, the second day of the bake sale was Gay Pride Day).

Like I’ve mentioned before, I’m pretty broke, and that means that I don’thave much money to spend on ingredients for baked goods that I’m not going to eat. I wanted to make something impressive that would draw people in and that people might not associate with vegan baking, but buying 3 tubs of Earth Balance was out of the question. I racked my brain and eventually settled on yeasted donuts. I’ve made them a couple of times before and have been working on perfecting my recipe, and I’m happy to say that on Day 2 of the bake sale (sorry Day 1), I think I finally got it! The donuts were cheap to make, totally bad for you (no vegan rabbit food here), and pretty tasty if I do say so myself. I made a couple dozen basic glazed, and then painted the tops using Wilton food colouring paste. The result was visually appealing and pleasing to the stomach. These bad boys required a couple hours’ worth of work, but I like to think that they’re a pretty good example of what you can do with good intentions, a bit of work, and not a lot of money.

Thanks to all who volunteered, baked, or bought at the Worldwide Vegan Bake Sales all over the globe, and hopefully we’ll see you again next year!



Cheap and Easy
June 20, 2009, 10:17 am
Filed under: Cheapo, Easy | Tags: , , , , ,

I recently had my mom and little brother leave after a pretty epic visit, during which I more or less sucked my bank account dry. If I’m going to make my rent next month, I have to tighten my belt, but I refuse to survive on ramen and veggie dogs. I may only have $5 a day for the next little while, but I’m still going to cook… and bake! First up? Chard soba.

Noodles

My favorite cheap and easy go-to standard is soba noodles with greens. You can use whatever kind of greens you feel like, but on this day, I used rainbow chard. I love chard, but right now, I love it even more because it’s $1 for a big, leafy bunch of the organic stuff at my local farmer’s market. If kale or collards or spinach are cheaper wherever you are right now, use those! You may have to adjust the cooking times slightly, but you’re all big boys and girls and can totally handle it.

To make this dish, you’ll need a package of soba noodles (or enough of a package to feed two people), some sesame oil, tamari (regular soy sauce or even Braggs works too, but it tastes better with tamari), red pepper flakes, white pepper, and (if you feel fancy) some toasted sesame seeds. If you have some ginger on hand and are feeling feisty, you can grate some of that in too, but it’s good without it too.

First, wash off your greens and roughly chop them. Set the greens aside, and grab yourself a big pot of water. Bring it to a boil, and throw in your soba. Soba cook quickly (around 5 minutes, though I know my package says 3 – 5, which I think is a lie), so don’t leave the room or anything. After 2 or 3 minutes of cooking, toss your greens into the pot (unless you’re using spinach, then you only want it in the water for maybe 30 seconds), cover, and let cook for another 2 minutes or until both noodles and greens are tender. Strain everything and put back in the pot.

Now, I tend to not measure things very exactly, especially with dishes like this, so forgive me. Add to the noodles and greens in the pot about 1.5 tablespoons of sesame oil and 2 tablespoons of tamari. Shake on however many red pepper flakes you desire and some sesame seeds and some white pepper to taste. If you have grated ginger, now is the time to add it to the pot as well. Mix everything together well, dish up, and eat!

All told, this dish costs around $3-$5 to make, depending on what you’ve got on hand, and feeds two people (or one starving person).



To Palm Springs and Back!

I don’t know shit about film noir, but nevertheless, I accompanied my husband to his home town of Palm Springs this past weekend to take in some noir films and hang out with his family. I’d never been to the desert and didn’t know what to expect, but I had a great time and ate some awesome food on the way.

Our first stop once we hit the road was L.A. Mike lived in Los Angeles for a couple of years before coming to his senses and moving back to San Francisco. For a number of reasons, I had kind of a grudge against L.A. and wasn’t entirely stoked to be stopping there. Sure, I’d heard good things about some restaurants, but I’d always felt like it was a shallow, expensive, mean-spirited place. I am happy to report that I’m a total idiot and that I really liked what little I saw of L.A. on this trip. First up, Pure Luck.

Pure Luck is an all-vegan restaurant that serves lots of good beer, tacos, and some awesome-looking appetizers and salads. I’d heard nothing but good things about their jackfruit “carnitas” tacos, so I ordered one of those and a “fish” taco to go with it. I was worried about having to pee during the rest of our drive, so I abstained from beer and instead had a gigantic glass of house-made lemonade, which was a good call. The jackfruit definitely didn’t disappoint- the jackfruit mixture was perfectly seasoned and with just enough of a kick to be tasty but not so much spice that the flavour of the jackfruit was overpowered. It was the fish taco that was the real winner, however. The “fish” was a kind of fishy patty, grilled up and served in two corn tortillas with shredded cabbage, salsa fresca, and a kind of sour cream-ish tartar-ish sauce. With my mouth full, I described it as perfect, and I will be actively plotting my return to L.A. if for no other reason than to eat another couple thousand fish tacos from Pure Luck.

Right across from Pure Luck is one of L.A.’s vegan-friendly ice cream parlours, Scoops.

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Scoops, I hear, is the brainchild of owner and chief ice cream maker, Tai Kim. Scoops has gotten a bit of bad vegan press in the past for carrying foie gras ice cream (gross! Also, inexcusable, though I don’t know if I necessarily think foie gras is worse than, oh, dairy or any other kind of meat, but I’ll not ruin everyone’s food boner with that), but they have since mended their ways. All their ice cream (vegan and non) is made in house and flavours are often produced based on customer requests (evidently, this is how the foie gras variety came about – I hear that when Kim was approached about it by vegan customers, he felt bad and stopped making it right away). I don’ know what genius came up with the idea for banana oreo vegan ice cream, but whoever you are, I thank you! I don’t normally go in for banana-flavoured anything, but this stuff was perfect. Creamy, banany, a bit crunchy from the oreo pieces, and generally awesome and a perfect treat.

From Scoops (oh, which is RIGHT ACROSS THE STREET from Pure Luck – can we say synchronicity?), we hit the road to Palm Springs with full bellies and drank gin and tonics while watching The Garment Jungle, which I highly recommend.

locationsimg

The next day, we hit up Palm Springs’ vegan mainstay, Native Foods. My husband, who’s been vegan for almost 9 years and vegetarian for at least 11 before that, is a Native Foods devotee and was excited to take me there for the first time. We sat on the patio (which, amusingly, has fans! An outdoor patio with fans! Palm Springs is crazy!) and shared some Save The Chicken Fingers. These weren’t what I was expecting. The “chicken” is Chef Tanya’s (Native Foods’ founder and chief chef)  own creation and uses soy, gluten, and pea protein (incidentally, this stuff is also used by Gardein, the company that makes awesome fake chicken that isn’t yet widely available in the US, though is used in some of the new Trader Joe’s “chicken” products…). They weren’t spicy but instead were hot, battered oblongs of pure deliciousness served with ranch sauce. On the recommendation of Mike, I ordered the Baja Surf Tacos for lunch and was not disappointed. Two tacos stuffed full with shredded cabbage, salsa, “surfer sauce,” and battered, house-made tempeh with a generous dollop of bright green, perfect guacamole on top. I inhaled my first one and then was too full for my second, which I saved and shoved in my face later. My only beef with NF was that they aren’t open on Sundays, so I’m going to have to wait until my next visit to the desert (months!) for another helping.

After taking in Desert Fury and Riff Raff (both recommended, though Desert Fury was my favorite), we disappointedly hit up Del Taco for a couple of gross/good green burritos with no cheese (Mike lived on these as a teenager and young dude) and hit the sack because Palm Springs is HOT and TIRING.

1550

After saying our goodbyes the next day, we drove back to L.A. and hit up Follow Your Heart. FYH, many vegans are aware, are makers of vegan cheeses and other dairy-replacement products. What you may not be aware of is that they also operate a natural foods market (stuffed full of, among other things, FYH products that aren’t widely available anywhere else) and a cafe. Mike had a reuben and grabbed a pre-made club sandwich to go, and I had the “chicken” sandwich. I normally hate sauerkraut and haven’t had thousand island dressing since I was a kid (and hated it then!), but the reuben was awesome. I mean, it was super gross because it was full of sauerkraut and thousand island, but in a really delicious way. My sandwich was full of fake chicken, grilled onions, tomato, lettuce, fake cheese, and thousand island (my new favorite sandwich dressing). We also grabbed a small container of the smoky “chicken” pasta salad, which contained about 8,000 calories according to the container, but was tasty and awesome.

All in all, the trip was a delicious success, and I can’t wait to get back to SoCal for some more food!



Last Minute Birthday
May 27, 2009, 12:55 pm
Filed under: barbecue, Cakes

My husband turned another year older yesterday. I’d arranged to borrow a charcoal grill from my neighbor to grill up some veggie burgers and kebabs for the occassion, since the birthday boy said he didn’t want to do anything. When I told him what I’d arranged, he was disgusted and told me that in America, y’all don’t barbecue without inviting people over (forgive me, I’m half-watching Cold Mountain while I write this), so we hastily invited over some friends, and I started throwing together some food and a birthday cake.

The birthday boy requested homemade veggie burgers and kebabs and corn on the cob, so I made a trip to the co-op for GimmeLean ground “beef” and a trip to the big, crappy Safeway for corn and kebab veggies. I made up some veggie burgers mixing the “ground beef” with some finely diced onion, sage, and a bit of tamari. Then I marinated the veggies (cherry tomatoes, sweet onions, yellow summer squash, pineapple, and mushrooms) in a bit of olive oil, tamari, garlic, and a touch of ginger. The corn was grilled in the husk. All in all, prep took about 40 minutes and produced enough food to feed about 8 people.

Next up: birthday cake! My husband told me after eating is birthday cake that he hadn’t had a cake in over a decade, so I’m glad I made it. I didn’t have a lot of time and didn’t want to spend a tonne of dough on ingredients, so I made two 8-inch vegan “wacky” cakes (the standard vegan chocolate cake – flour, cocoa, baking soda, sugar, water, oil, vanilla, and vinegar) and a batch of Isa Chandra Moskowitz‘s peanut butter caramel. I let the cakes cool and turned one of them out onto a platter. I spread it with the caramel and then turned the other cake out on top. In retrospect, I should have turned out the cakes onto a board and brushed all the crumbs off, but I didn’t, so I had to make do. Next, I whipped up a batch of peanut butter frosting. My recipe is close to all the standard versions but seems to be just distinct enough to warrant posting:

Jordan’s Peanut Butter Frosting (that’s not much different from anyone else’s)

2/3 cup smooth natural peanut butter (use natural PB that isn’t too grainy or separated – you want the stronger, truer peanut taste of the natural stuff, but you don’t want to grainy texture or the oiliness of the kinds that separate – check your grocery’s bulk bins)
1/2 cup Earth Balance Buttery Spread
1/4 cup Shortening
1.5 tablespoons brown rice syrup
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups icing sugar

Mix the buttery spread and shortening (both should be at room temperature) until smooth. You want to get all the lumps out (because lumps of shortening in the frosting is nasty!). Add the peanut butter and vanilla and brown rice syrup beat the shit out of it. I did this all by hand with a whisk. If you’re doing it that way, your arm should be good and tired before you move to the next step.

Add the first cup of icing sugar and beat until very smooth. Then add the remaining cup and beat again until smooth. The frosting should be smooth but fairly firm. The longer you beat it, the fluffier it will get. Electric mixers or beaters are great for this, but it can be done by hand.

I frosted the cake with the peanut butter frosting and threw it in the fridge for about half an hour. Next, I mixed up some quick and dirty ganache (about 1/3 cup of vegan chocolate chips melted in a double boiler with about 3 tablespoons of soy creamer). I had meant to borrow a pastry bag and tips from a friend (I know – it is lame that I don’t own my own yet), but I forgot, so my sole decorating tool was a spoon and a butter knife. In the end, I decided just to pour the ganache over top of the cake and go for the classic chocolate-dripping-down-the-sides-of-the-cake look.

Not my favorite decorating job ever, but it turned out okay and was devoured in about 30 seconds.

All in all, about $50 was spent on food and supplies, maybe 2.5 hours spent in the kitchen doing baking and prep work, and about 4 hours spent having fun! Not a bad investment at all if I do say so myself, and the birthday boy enjoyed his day immensely.




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