Saturday, 27 September 2014

Vegan MoFo 2014 - New (to me) foods from Tesco

I spent most of today running around.  This included a pointless trip to Real Foods - pointless because I forgot they closed at 6.30pm on Saturdays, and I got there at 6.45pm.  Derp.  So today I'm just gonna talk about some new things that have popped up at Tesco, and one new-to-me thing that I got today.

First up, Tesco's new dairy-free ice cream.  It's £2 for 500ml of coconut-based vanilla ice cream.  It tastes alright, but it falls on texture, which I felt was a bit grainy.  It's a great option for a soy-free vegan considering how much other coconut-based vegan ice creams cost (I saw one at Real Foods a few weeks ago that was around £7 for the same size).  But compare that to £2.20 for 700ml of soy-based Swedish Glace.  I loves me some soy, so I'll stick to deliciously creamery Swedish Glace.

A new-to-me thing I got is their garlic sauce.  It's in that wee section of house-brand specialty spices and sauces, which actually seems to have quite a few vegan items.  Garlic is one of my favourite things, so obviously I had to get this.  I'd been eyeing it for a while, but yesterday's weird dinner, and the leftovers produced, pushed me to buy it.  I tried it on my casserole, and it was alright.  By itself, it's a little sweet, but it works on things.

Next up - Amy's breakfast sandwich!  I searched what felt like every health food shop in NYC looking for these things, but couldn't find them, so I was pretty excited when someone else posted they'd found them.  I had to go out to the big Tesco to find it (as well as the next thing), but as soon as I got home, I popped it right in the microwave.  Well, I hate to say it, but it wasn't great.  The microwaving made the bread really weird and tough in parts.  For £2.49 and having to spend an hour on the bus, I wouldn't make the trip just for these.

Finally - A few years ago, I went to Brighton VegFest and met up with some European PPKers, one of whom brought me some Speculoos pudding made by Alpro in ... Belgium, I think.  Earlier this year, during Tesco's Healthy Living Fair (or whatever it was called), they sold some gingerbread man-flavoured Alpro desserts.  They're hard to find, but they're still around.  If you look at the package, it actually lists Speculoos biscuits as an ingredient, so these are pretty much the same thing.  The TL;DR of this is - Speculoos pudding at Tesco.  Do I even need to tell you that these are good?  These are good.  If you like any of the other Alpro puddings (well, I think they're just called desserts), and you like Speculoos, then you'll like these.

Despite the pretty crap free from stuff (most of it has milk or eggs in it) and the fact that they label next to nothing, I'm pretty impressed by the expanding selection of vegan items.  I hope they keep going this way (and maybe improve their own-brand stuff by taking out the milk and eggs).

Friday, 26 September 2014

Vegan MoFo 2014 - Toona casserole

Sorry about the lack of pictures again. I'm blogging on my iPad (which is awful, FYI) and just don't feel like dealing with it.

Well, this has been my most failtastic MoFo ever! I missed most of this week, and really (mostly) just purely because of laziness. OK, in fairness, we were out late Monday and yesterday. I just had a few days where I just did not want to make anything worth blogging about. But what I made tonight requires discussion.

A few months ago, a vegan fake tuna called VeganToona came out. I bought a can when I was in NYC, but it's been sitting in the cupboard since then. I decided to make pumpkin mac n cheese for dinner tonight, and then I remembered the Toona. So I made Toona casserole!

I used the pumpkin cheese sauce recipe from Oh, She Glows and boiled some star-shaped pasta. I mixed these together in a square glass casserole dish with about a cup of petit pois, 1/2 cup of shredded Tesco smoke-style cheese, the can of Toona, and a few tablespoons of panko. I topped it with more cheese and panko, then baked for about 20 minutes.

The dish itself was actually pretty good, but lemme tell you about that Toona. First of all, I don't know where they get off thinking it's a tuna sub because it is nothing like tuna. It's dark brown and isn't remotely fishy in smell, taste or texture. And while it's flaky, it's less like fish-flaky and more like skin disease flaky. So gross.

If you want something reminiscent of tuna, just mash some chickpeas with dulse or something. You won't get what you're looking for with the Toona.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Vegan MoFo 2014 - Sunday baking: Golden Syrup Cake

Today's Sunday baking is a recipe from the Ms Cupcake cookbook.  I actually got this book before it was available in stores - I got a signed copy at Brighton VegFest last year (? - whatever year it came out).  But I've been really crap about making stuff from it.  In fact, I'm pretty sure I've only made 4 recipes ... after today.

I kept looking at the Golden Syrup Cupcakes and thinking I really wanted to make them.  But given my penchant for laziness and the fact that I have fewer than 12 cupcake papers, I decided instead to make these into a cake.  I made it in an 8" square pan and sliced it in half to layer it with the vanilla buttercream from the book, then drizzled with syrup as suggested.

Behold!  As you can see, I like my cake to frosting ratio at approximately 1:1.  I usually frost the sides as well, but for some reason I decided I liked the look of it more like this.  And frankly, it didn't need any more frosting.

This was good, but not really much different from a regular vanilla cake.  I would've preferred a more syrupy flavour, maybe less sugar and more syrup.  But it's lovely and moist.  And Zebby liked it!

Also, I had half a recipe of frosting left over, so, oh darn, I'm gonna have to make something else.

And just because, here's a picture of Zebby looking at something.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Vegan MoFo 2014 - Review: Brass Monkey Leith

I'm pretty sure everyone's aware of the results of the referendum, so you're probably not surprised that I didn't blog yesterday.  I actually hadn't intended on doing so today, but I had to get my laptop out to order pizza (for Mike's birthday, yay!), so I thought I might as well.

Yesterday evening I met a lovely Aussie PPKer for dinner at Brass Monkey in Leith.  I keep hearing that they have great vegan options, and they do have a really good booze selection, so we decided to give it a try.  I hadn't been there in years, and last time I only managed to get bread and olives to eat, so I figured anything had to be better than that.

First, the booze:  Both their food and drink menus are online, so you can have a look at them.  Like I said, they have a lot of good options for vegans.  My concern, of course, was the cider selection, and it doesn't disappoint.  They have Thistly Cross, which is made somewhere in the Lothians and is fantastic, as well as Jeremiah Weed (which I don't really consider cider but I guess it's not really classifiable).  I went with the Jeremiah Weed Sour Mash, which almost tastes like alcoholic root beer.  So good.  Beer-wise, they have Brew Dog and Innis & Gunn, amongst others that may or may not be sfv.

For dinner, I had the falafel burger, and Michelle had the veggie chili.

So, the falafel burger.  As you can see, the bun to burger ratio is about 3:1 (if I'm being generous), and the bun was really floury.  The burger itself wasn't great - mushy, bland, and unseasoned.  It was really only edible with the chips (which were pretty decent).  I'll note that I specifically asked for the bun to come out dry (it usually comes with some kind of onion jam and a chutney or something), so maybe they're hoping the condiments will serve for flavouring.  But you shouldn't have to rely on condiments to make something edible.

Michelle's chili, on the other hand, was actually pretty good (sorry, no pic).  I had a bite with one of the accompanying tortilla chips.  I probably wouldn't have enjoyed a whole bowl of it (British chili is just not really chili to me), but it was infinitely better than the burger.

So, a mixed bag, but only 2 entrees.  We didn't have any starters, and I didn't even bother to see if they had any vegan desserts (I doubt it - very few places do unless they're actually veg*n).  I wouldn't suggest avoiding the place because maybe that burger was off.  They also have a falafel sandwich that might be good (like, possibly actual falafel, not a slab of mashed chickpeas with veg and coriander mixed in).  And, you know, they try - they actually have quite a few vegan or veganisable options.  Ultimately, it's a pub, so if you go in expecting pub food, even if you have a bland burger, you're still gonna have a better experience than in most other pubs.  And even if you have a bad food experience, they'll getcha drunk (and much more cheaply than a lot of other pubs - I'm pretty sure I spent £2 more for the same drink at a different place).

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Vegan MoFo 2014 - Alan Cumming's indyref stovies

Oh my glob, it's indyref day!  For the one person in the world who isn't aware, today is the day Scotland decides if it wants to be independent from the rest of the United Kingdom.  As I write this, I keep looking at Facebook and Twitter to see what people are talking about (I started this post about an hour ago).  I'm feeling a mixture of excitement, fear, hope, and hunger, because I didn't make dinner until about an hour ago.

For the sake of transparency, I support the GreenYes campaign.  I mean, I'm American *and* Southern, so secession is in my blood.  But as a progressive vegan feminist, I've been for many years and will continue to be a Green.  All that said, as an American citizen, I didn't actually have a vote!  It really, really sucks.

OK, enough of the politics.

I was gonna make this recipe tomorrow but made plans to have dinner with an Aussie PPKer, so I changed tonight's dinner plans.  I follow Alan Cumming on Twitter, and when I saw him tweet his recipe for stovies, I immediately decided I'd make it during MoFo.  He didn't call them indyref stovies, but since he's one of the most visible celebrities supporting the Yes campaign, and I made them on voting day, I thought it was appropriate.

Mmm, brown food.

Yeah, it's not particularly photogenic, but it was tasty as hell.  I don't know if I quite got it right - I think I might have added too much mince.  I think maybe stovies are meant to be the opposite of mince and tatties in that they're meant to have more tatties than mince.  But they were alright for my first stovies.

I only did about half the recipe, and I used Alan's suggestion of BBQ sauce because I didn't have, couldn't find, and couldn't be arsed to make Worcestershire sauce.  I can see myself making this again (especially since I still have a huge bag of tatties to use up), but I might add a touch of liquid smoke next time.  And I'll use Worcestershire sauce.

Hopefully when I blog tomorrow, it's be from a (soon-to-be*) independent Scotland!

*Independence day is set for 24 March 2016

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Vegan MoFo 2014 - Bourbon biscuit spread

Another lazy post today - I'm super tired (again) and couldn't be bothered making the thing I'd intended to make.

Remember Speculoos spread? Of course you do because you never stopped eating it. But in case you aren't familiar, it's a peanut butter-like spread made from caramelised cinnamon biscuits. It's made out of cookies (probably NSFW).

Not to be outdone, Tesco decided to make a series of cookie-based spreads. And the Bourbon biscuit spread is vegan! Obviously I bought some. You may or may not be surprised to learn that it tastes pretty much just like Bourbon biscuits. In fact, I would say it's better than Bourbon biscuits. Yeah, it's really good. I've been eating it on bread because carbs (and fat) on carbs.

I think at the moment you can only get it at Tesco Extra. But if you live near one and want a chocolate version of Speculoos, you should look for it. I think I found it in the aisle with the PBs and jams and such.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Vegan MoFo 2014 - Newsday Tuesday Two-fer!

It's another Newsday Tuesday, and today it's a two-fer!  Do radio DJs still do Two-fer Tuesdays?  I had a love/hate relationship with them because sometimes you'd get 2 songs by Adam Ant or The Cure or The Smiths, and sometimes you'd get 2 from The Eagles or something.

I made two more recipes from Cookin' Crunk today:  the twice-baked potatoes and the Mint Julep Brownies.

The taters took a while because of the baking, but if I'd done it right (cooking the leeks while the taters cooked), it might not have taken so long after that.  I was distracted and didn't pay attention to what I was doing, so it took longer than it should have.  But luckily it didn't affect the outcome.

These were so good!  They were totally worth the time and effort, though they really weren't that difficult.  I would totally recommend making these.  Though now I have pretty much a whole leek to use up, and I'm not sure what to do with it.

I made the brownies while I baked the tatties.  They didn't turn out quite so well.  I don't know why, but they didn't bake all the way through.  I had them in for an extra 10 minutes and they were still nearly raw, so I had to put them back in the oven.  Even after an extra 20 minutes, they're still gooey, and they're meant to be cake-like.  Mike liked them, but I can't take them to work like I'd intended.  And since I'm not a huge brownie fan, Mike will probably end up eating most of them (and he's already eaten about 1/3 of the pan).

Monday, 15 September 2014

Vegan MoFo 2014 - Natural Selection Foods

Sorry about the photo-less post - I can't be arsed turning on my laptop, so I'm doing this from my iPad. I'm being lazy in another way in that I'm just gonna talk about a shop because I just made standard tofu scramble for dinner, which is nothing new.

Yesterday we went to lunch with Mike's mum at the city centre-ish location of Bonsai. When we left, I noticed a new shop around the corner, so we checked it out. It's called Natural Selection Foods, which frankly makes me a little uncomfortable. They mostly have stuff like packaged nuts and dried fruits, teas, flours, and snack bars, which I guess is where the natural part comes in. I think it's the muscle gain products that put that bit of discomfort in.

They had some high-protein cookies that happened to be vegan, so we got some of those. The brand is Lenny and Larry's, which I would've linked to but I keep getting an error on their site. They also did a lot of the other body builder-type snacks (like Fit brownies or something like that). Anyway, we got a chocolate chip, a double chocolate chip, and a pumpkin spice cookie, and we ate the first two when we got hot chocolate at Starbucks (ha!). I thought they were good for GF cookies, and then I realised that they weren't GF. Oops. They weren't bad, but they were a little dry. I think that's because they're kinda fitness snacks, so instead of fat they have a protein flour blend. They were £2.50 each, but I'm not sure if that was reasonable or a rip off. They were pretty big, but still.

We worried going in that this shop would give Real Foods a run for their money, but I think RF is safe. Like I said, they mostly just have snacks, whereas RF has pretty vastly different stuff. NSF doesn't have chocolate, toiletries, fresh fruit and veg, frozen or fridge foods, etc. I think the two shops would compliment each other, but I don't think one will drive the other out of business.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Vegan MoFo 2014 - Sunday Baking: Whole Wheat Beer Bread

It's Sunday baking day!  Today I made the Whole Wheat Beer Bread from Cookin' Crunk.

Warm bread always means jam piece for me.

Beer breads are pretty great - you get freshly baked bread in about an hour, and you don't have to knead!  This came together so quickly that I actually had to do some other stuff while my oven pre-heated before I put the beer in because I didn't want to mess up the chemical reaction by having it sit around before going in the oven.

So, as you can see, I used Innis & Gunn Toasted Oak IPA*.  I had a wee taste of it before I poured it into the bowl, and it was super hoppy.  That really comes out in the bread.  Unfortunately, what I can't handle with beer is the hops part, so I thought the bread had a bitter note to it.  The slice on the right is a bit thicker than the slice on the left, and I almost gave up on the bread because the bitterness overwhelmed the sweetness of the jam.

Apart from that, it's got a lovely texture - slightly dense (without feeling like a brick), moist, and soft.  It definitely has potential, and I think it's my mistake that makes it not fantastic.  Since this is the first time I've made this, I'm gonna assume it's the particular beer and not the recipe itself, because I have had beer breads I've enjoyed.  I might try this again with a less hoppy beer.

*Innis & Gunn are Edinburgh brewers, and most if not all of their beers are vegan.  Woot!

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Vegan MoFo 2014 - Bagels I've known

First things first - I am so annoyed with myself that I didn't call my coffee post Coffee Talk.  Seriously, what is wrong with me?

Moving on and speaking of cop-out posts, today is another because I don't really have anything to talk about.  I thought I might review a cafe I went to this afternoon, but I ended up only getting cake because none of the savoury food appealed (and they had surprisingly few vegan options knowing that a large group of vegans was visiting).  And this place is known to be shutting in the next 6 months, so really there's no point.

So I'm gonna talk about bagels.

I eat a bagel for breakfast almost every day.  But I don't think I can call myself a bagel purist.  I mean, I'm Southern, and we don't really do bagels the way the North (specifically NY) does bagels.  I grew up on frozen Lender's Bagels and never knew a fresh bagel until adulthood.  I had one bagel when I visited NYC and, sadly, wasn't that impressed.  I think that's mostly because I like my bagels toasted, and this bagel was cold (baked that day, but not fresh from the oven).  It was alright because garlic bagel, but it wasn't the life-altering experience I expected a NY bagel to be.  And of course, living in the UK, I only have access to store-bought bagels.

That said, I do have preferences.  I used to favour plain bagels, but then I discovered sesame.  I can't remember why I picked up the sesame bagels - either I was curious or that was the only variety available other than the dreaded cinnamon raisin (cinnamon yes, raisin no*).  But now sesame is my go-to bagel.

I've made my own bagels before (the ones in Vegan Brunch, I think), and they were great.  But I sucked at shaping them, and even though it was pretty easy as far as bread-making goes, it was still far more complicated and difficult than buying them.  I convinced myself it was so easy to make them that I shouldn't ever have to buy them again, so I went without for months.  Those were dark times.

As far as brand - Sainsbury's bakery only.  I've tried every other store and shelf brand (New York Bagel Company, you're fooling no one), and the Sainsbury's bakery bagels are the only ones that are even tolerable.  I think the most disappointing bagels I've ever eaten were the Asda sesame bagels - they looked and felt exactly the same as Sainsbury's, but once cut and toasted, you realise that they're horribly dry in the middle.  They were so bad, worse even than Tesco because at least you knew going in that those were inferior.

I always eat them toasted.  I just can't handle cold bagels.  I've eaten my bagels the same way forever - toasted, layer of margarine, then a layer of cream cheese (Tofutti - other brands here have a wang).  If I'm honest, they're mostly a conveyance for cream cheese.  I think I've tried other things - I'm pretty sure I've had a plain bagel with either chocolate hazelnut spread or Speculoos because sometimes I run out of cream cheese.

Like I've said before, I'm a creature of habit.

I'm sure my bagel-eating ways will be blasphemous to some, but I like what I like. So what are your feelings about bagels?  Favourite flavour?  Toppings?  Toasted vs untoasted?

*OK, so I think I've mentioned my thing about dried fruit but never explained.  I have issues with the texture and appearance of dried fruit in things.  Frankly, it creeps me out.  And when I bite into dried fruit, especially when I'm not expecting it, honestly, my eyes water and I gag a little bit, and I sometimes think I might cry.  So, not that this is likely, but if you ever want to make me something, don't put dried fruit in it unless you want me to cry.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Vegan MoFo 2014 - Review: Pizza Express

I may or may not have reviewed Pizza Express before, but I’m not bothering to check.  I mean, since Mike introduced his dad to the Pizza Express near our flat, it’s the only place we ever go when he’s in town.  Ever.  So I’ve eaten there a fair few times, which means I might have written about it before.

The reason I’m (re-)reviewing now is twofold:  a) They now have a pizza that’s specifically vegan, and 2) On our last visit, they told me which wines are vegan, and since they all have the same wine list, this information is pertinent to everyone.

So, the wine list:  We took my bff Eva to PE for one of my birthday dinners in August.  They’d sent me a voucher for a free bottle of Prosecco, so I asked the server if she knew whether or not it was vegan.  About 5 minutes later, we got tired of waiting and looked it up*.  While we were in the middle of that, the manager actually came out and gave us the full list of wines that are suitable for vegans.  Well, actually, he gave us the list that *aren’t* sfv.  So here are the vegan wines:

Pizza Express vegan-safe wine list
Nero d'Avola Syrah, Sicily, Italy
Merlot, Sicily, Italy
Barbera d'Alba D.O.C., Piemonte, Italy
Chianti Riserva D.O.C.G., Tuscany, Italy

Grillo Chardonnay, Sicily, Italy
Trebbiano, Marche, Italy
Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand
Gavi, Piemonte, Italy

Merlot Rosé, Veneto, Italy

Or for ease, the ones that aren’t sfv are the Montepulciano and Valpolicella (red), Moscato (white) and Pinot Grigio (all varieties).

Onto the food.

As I said, Pizza Express now has a specifically vegan pizza (which most of you probably knew).  For those of us who were asking for vegan cheese, unfortunately, that’s not how they played it.  Yes, it’s a bit nonsensical that they would create an entirely vegan pizza by just making a new veggie one without cheese, since nearly any veggie pizza ordered without cheese is vegan.  So I don’t know if they were trolling us or throwing us a bone (not vegan) by creating the Pianta.  At least they kinda paid attention to the vegan request, just not exactly what we asked for.

That said, I actually like the Pianta, though I do have to modify it a bit.  I’m allergic to pine nuts, so those have to go, but I replace them with olives.  I like a bit of extra garlic oil on mine too, because if I have to forgo cheese, I have to make my pizza deliciously greasy somehow.  They go a little heavy on the rocket, but otherwise it’s really quite good.  It’s now my usual every time we go (because I’m also a creature of habit and stick with things I know are good).

I’ve heard that you can bring in a sealed bag of shredded vegan cheese and they’ll use it on your pizza, but I’ve never tried it.  Maybe I’ll do that next time.

*We never really figured out if the Prosecco was sfv.  We couldn’t find the specific one they were offering online, but all the ones we could find that matched generally (Prosecco from that particular region) were coming up vegan.  We took a chance on it, but I’m not necessarily advocating that everyone else do the same.  Please let me know in the comments if you happen to know one way or the other if it’s sfv.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Vegan MoFo 2014 - Chili Cheese Dogs

When Mike and I went to Mono last week, we were there on a Thursday.  They do daily specials, and the one for Thursdays is £5 for a chili dog and a beer.  I fully anticipated getting that, but it turned out that the only beer option was Heineken*.  I don't actually like beer so was hoping we could substitute for, say, one of their microbrewed drinks.  But even if we could have, the only one available was ginger beer, and I wasn't in a ginger beer mood.  And since they wanted £4 for the dogs, I just said, I can make that at home.

And so I did.

I made chili cheese dogs with fried onions (which you can't see because they're under the chili and cheese).  And in case you were wondering, yes, I did cover my broccoli with cheese sauce after I took the picture.

I used Fry's hot dogs, Asda meat-free chili (I can't remember the exact name), to which I added some of the leftover weird non-Latin passatta, and leftover Basic Cheese Sauce from Cookin' Crunk.  Served with Tesco beer-battered onion rings and steamed broccoli.  They were pretty damn good.  Though the onion rings were surprisingly bland - most things have too much salt, but these had too little.

*So, that's another complaint I have about Mono, though not referring specifically to Heineken.  They have a lot of alcoholic beverages that are known to be non-vegan, e.g. Guinness and Strongbow (and I think they stock Rekorderlig or Bulmers).  Yeah, they say all their food is vegan, so they can get away with saying they never said they were a vegan establishment, but they're listed in Happy Cow as vegan.  I wonder if, when a customer orders a non-vegan booze option, they tell them that it isn't vegan or just assume the person knows what they're ordering.  I dunno, it just feels sketchy to me.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Vegan MoFo 2014 - PSA: coffee and milk

I was thinking about not posting tonight because I'm super tired and just made Linda McCartney sausages and hash browns for dinner. But then Mike asked me to make coffee, and I thought of something to blog about - how to make coffee without curdling the milk.

It's pretty easy with regular coffee. If you're brewing coffee, you just put the milk in the mug first. And you pretty much do the same with instant, but you put the coffee in the milk and give it a good stir before pouring the (not boiling) hot water over it.

It gets a bit trickier with decaf, which is a recent problem. Mike and I both discovered that regular coffee upsets our stomachs, so we've had to switch. The first couple of times I made decaf, I did my normal method and the milk kept curdling. After some trial and error, I realised that the milk mostly doesn't curdle if it's heated before adding the water. It's slightly annoying because the point of instant is to eliminate all those steps and the time it takes to do things, but at least I can just pop it in the microwave while the kettle boils.

Oh yeah, I should mention that I use soy milk exclusively. I've tried a lot of different types of non-dairy milk, and I keep coming back to soy. As long as it's cold, it has the best mouth feel and flavour, and it has the best consistency for things like tea/coffee and cereal. I'll use other stuff in baking/cooking (unless it needs to curdle - I've found nothing else really curdles like soy) if I've decided to experiment and need to use it up. Obviously any recipe I post can use any non-dairy milk (apart from the hot chocolate, which requires soy for idealogical reasons, though someone kicked up a fuss about almond milk so you could use that too). I guess I just am who I am, which means I find what I like and stick with it. And it doesn't hurt that soy is about 70p cheaper (usually) than the next cheapest non-dairy milk, so I'm saving £7+ per month.

Do you have any tricks for making coffee? Seriously, I need to figure out this curdling biz.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Vegan MoFo 2014 - Newsday Tuesday: Cookin' Crunk Breakfast Lasagna

It's Newsday Tuesday!  I can't remember if I explained why I chose to do my food experimentation on Tuesdays.  It's not just because it rhymes.  Mike works late on a Tuesday, so I have more time to make stuff without someone else constantly asking me when dinner will be ready.  He's usually home at the weekend, so Tuesday is pretty much the only distraction-free day I can do stuff like this.

Today's recipe cuts two carrots with one knife as it's also part of my project, Cooking Through Cookin' Crunk.  If you're new to the joint, I'm attempting to make all of the recipes in Cookin' Crunk before I turn 40.  When you think about the time frame (I started last year and have another 5 years to go), it doesn't seem very ambitious.  But having this project has helped get me out of a cooking slump a couple of times, so it's better than letting my cookbooks moulder on the shelf while I eat 18p ramen all the time.

I almost didn't make tonight's recipe - I've been sleeping really badly lately and got home exhausted and already hungry, which is a terrible combination for cooking something with this many steps.  It has so many steps!  You have to

  1. make cheese sauce
  2. peel, slice, and cook the potato
  3. slice and cook the sausage
  4. make tofu scramble
  5. layer and bake everything

But if you overlap some steps (make the sauce while the tatties cook) or make stuff ahead of time (the recipe kinda assumes you've already made the sauce), it actually comes together pretty quickly.  It's not a regular weeknight meal (OK, technically it's breakfast), but it's not a half-day project.

As you can see, we had this with some garlicky asparagus on the side.  I figured we needed something green.  Obviously this isn't really pretty, and, as per usual, it's dark and shadowy.  Sorry 'bout it.

For those of you in the UK, I used the Fry's slicing sausage/polony.  It probably affected the taste because it doesn't taste anything like US breakfast sausage, but it was still tasty.  And that was the only substitution I made!

So, yeah, this was super delicious and totally worth the effort.  I would absolutely make this again, and from the way Mike was all but licking his plate, I think he'd be OK for me to make it again.  Plus, now I have 2 days' worth of breakfast and I was able to use the leftover cheese sauce in the burritos I made for my lunches (leftovers from taco night, woo!).

Monday, 8 September 2014

Vegan MoFo 2014 – My Awesome Birthday Cake

As I mentioned in my introductory post, my 35th birthday was in August.  I’m sure most of you know what it’s like when it comes to birthdays and veganism – if you have a cake, you’ve probably made it yourself.  That’s what I’ve done almost every year I’ve been vegan (one year Mike helped).

But I decided 35 was a big enough year to warrant having someone else make my cake.  And since I was paying to have a cake made, I figured I might as well do it up big style instead of just getting a sheet cake.

As some of you know, I’m a huge nerd, and Star Trek: The Next Generation is one of my favourite shows of all time.  I’ve seen every episode and all the movies at least once and have the entire series on DVD (I had all the films but they were Region 1).  I’ve even read some of the books and follow several cast members on Twitter (which reminds me, I should be following LeVar Burton).  I have pajamas that look like a command uniform (specifically Captain – 4 pips) and a bat’leth letter opener.

I’ve been feeling especially geeky lately – maybe because of a renewed personal interest in general nerd things and specific Trek things, maybe because I discovered (new to me, not Columbused) or have been paying attention to more geek culture (e.g., The Mary Sue) – so I decided that I needed to have a geeky cake.

So I commissioned an Enterprise-D cake from Alicks Fraser of Licks Cake Design.  Check out how cool my cake was!

The saucer section and other parts were cake, but the warp nacelles were wood covered with sugar paste.  We had a lot of fun disassembling and eating the cake.  Any time someone would eat a bit of the black icing on the bottom, we’d say they were eating space!  Heh.

Everyone really liked it (even Zebby – he was all up in my biz every time I had a piece) and it looked really impressive.  If you’re in Edinburgh or nearby and need a vegan cake, you should speak to Alicks!

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Vegan MoFo 2014 - Sunday Baking: Bakewell tart

I'm having an allergy attack today, so I don't have the energy to be clever, which means this will be a short post.

I'm sure I've mentioned this, but I love Bakewell tart.  It's just so good!  I don't know why I don't make it more often, other than because I'd eat too much.  I'm actually surprised at my restraint in not having had any yet.

I made pretty much the same recipe last year (Sainsbury's shortcrust pastry, seedless raspberry jam, and the cake part of the Bakewell cupcake recipe in the Ms Cupcake book), only this time I remembered the sugar before I put the cake mix on top of the jam/crust.  Below is the finished product.

badly lit slice

It was tasty, as expected.  I'm taking a bit to the office tomorrow, which marks the first time I'm taking baking to this office.  I hope they like it, and if they don't, they can suck it.

As you can see I put some chocolate drizzle (cocoa powder, icing sugar, water) on top.  I made a bit too much, and Mike came in to the kitchen while I was trying to decide what to do with it.  He decided that he'd use it to make chocolate milk.

before stirring

after stirring

It looks like regular chocolate milk, doesn't it?  It was not.  I had a couple of sips, and it was good/gross.  It almost tasted like a milkshake ... that had sugar added to it.  It was so sweet.  Maybe that's why I didn't have any tart after I made it.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Vegan MoFo 2014 - Filthy Toxic Hot Chocolate

Last night, Mike wanted to make hot chocolate. I'm not the best at remembering ratios and stuff for how I like my hot chocolate, so I looked up some recipes to jog my memory. And boy howdy did I not like what I saw. Yes, there was a how to that took 10 steps even though it called for hot chocolate mix and a microwave. But then I saw a recipe that called for cashews (with an hour+ soaking time) and dates. And then I saw some of my most hated words - paleo, no refined sugar, clean eating.

Nope.  Nope nope nope.

Friends, these are not words and ingredients to be used in connection with hot chocolate.

Hot chocolate is a treat. It should have sugar. It should not have dates. And it sure as shit wasn't around in the palaeolithic era.

Instead of my righteous rant against food policing and woo peddling, I give you a recipe for hot chocolate rich in most of the things that are freaking people out right now (I don't have any MSG so couldn't include everything).

Filthy Toxic Hot Chocolate
Serves 2

Handful of chocolate chips
1 c soy creamer
1 c soy milk (more/less depending on how you like it)
1/4 c cocoa (I used Hershey's to make it extra dirty)
1/4 c sugar (more/less to taste - probably less for most people because I like mine super sweet)
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
Mini marshmallows

Place the chocolate chips and a couple tablespoons of the creamer in a small saucepan over medium-low heat and stir until melted. Slowly stir in the remaining creamer. In a separate small bowl, make a paste of the cocoa powder and sugar with some of the soy milk.  When it's as lumpless as possible, add it to the pan along with the rest of the milk. Add in the salt and heat to your desired temperature. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla.

Pour into two mugs and top with mini marshmallows.

I used the new Freedom micro mallows, which contain both carrageenan and hydrolysed soy protein! In case you're keeping track, that's non-organic processed soy, fat, sugar, salt, and carrageenan all in one delicious cup of hot chocolate. It was like drinking a melted candy bar.

Sorry about the terrible picture - it was late when I made it.

If you're even remotely familiar with me, you know that I'm all about comfort and convenience foods, so this ramping up of food shaming (which, let's be realistic, is mostly aimed at and hurts women, and disproportionately restricts non-animal foods) is really pissing me off.  Luckily I'm not the only one.  PPKer MissMuffcake's theme is about vegan finds at Target and was spurred by a series of posts about food shaming.  And really, the PPK is great for calling out food policing and woo.  Because veganism is about the animals, first and foremost, and restricting yourself until you have almost nothing to eat doesn't help the animals (especially when you decide that veganism is the problem and go back to eating them).

So, fuck food shaming.  Eat what you want and do the least harm possible.

Friday, 5 September 2014

Vegan MoFo 2014 - Review: Saramago

I'm doing double duty because of my lack of posts over the last couple of days.  This is the post that was meant to happen today anyway.

As I mentioned in my last post, I met up with a friend (interrobang?! from the PPK) for dinner, and we went to Saramago at the CCA.  I've been there a few times now, and I'm glad that I gave it another shot after my first, rather dismal, visit (wherein I got a sausage sandwich that contained a single, pre-packaged sausage).

They do a pre-theatre offer of 2 courses for £10.95 and 3 for £12.95, so I went for the three courses.  I should've done 2 and skipped the starter, but I'm a glutton.

I got the red pepper hummus for a starter.  It was a bit thick, but at least it came with actual flatbread.  It was really tasty - I'm pretty sure they use smoked paprika in it because it had a lovely smokey flavour.

My main was the haggis fritters (made with lentils and seeds, not nuts, woot!):

For some reason, they serve these like fried fish, with lemon and tartar sauce.  I'm not complaining, though, because they're freaking delicious.  They have a really similar feel to haggis (from what I remember), which I guess can be off-putting to some.  But they're just kinda soft, and the seeds add some nice texture.  I got some aioli to go with the chips, which were quite good, but I couldn't eat very many because I'd eaten too much and had to save room for dessert.

This is, according to their menu, chocolate cake.  The cake is a lie.  I'm not saying it's not good, because it is, but don't go in expecting cake.  This is a brownie - crusty on the outside, dense and fudgy on the inside, no layers, no frosting.  I know from cake, and I know from brownies, and this is a brownie.  Delicious, but a brownie.

Anyway, yeah, you should totally go to Saramago.  The food is excellent (I can also recommend the paella and the gelato affogatto), and they have a good booze selection.  It's a nice space too, though a bit out of the way if you're otherwise in the centre of town.  But it's worth the walk - I'm starting to think this might be the best vegan food in Glasgow.

Vegan MoFo 2014 - MoFail and a review of Mono

As you may have noticed, I haven't posted for a couple of days.  Here's what happened:

Wednesday, I expected to go out to dinner, but I came home to find out that wasn't happening.  I was exhausted (I did a lot of traveling for work and slept badly the night before), so once I bothered to cook, I couldn't be bothered to get my laptop out and write a blog post (if I could've even figured out what to write).  And yesterday, I was out all day, got home later than I expected, and again couldn't be bothered getting out my laptop and writing.  I should mention that my laptop is on its last legs, so I've been using an iPad for general internetting, and I don't like using it for blogging.

So, there you go.  On to the review.

Yesterday was supposed to be a day out in Glasgow.  We were supposed to have lunch around 12, do some stuff, and then I was meeting up with a friend for dinner at 5.30 (after Mike got the last pre-rush hour train home).  We ended up not even getting to Glasgow until 2.30, which meant just the eating (and checking out one cute new shop called GeekABoo).

We had lunch at Mono.  I have a sort of love/hate relationship with Mono - well, maybe not hate, more like frustration.  Sometimes the food is just outstanding, and sometimes it's a bit poo.  We go there a couple of times a year, and it seems to go in waves where every other year is poo, and every other year is great.  Well, unfortunately, it was great last year.

I had the same stuff I always order - hummus to start, and the seitan burger for my main.  Normally I would get the sundae for dessert, but knowing how little time I had between meals, I skipped dessert this time.

The hummus itself was alright - it's pretty hard to mess up hummus.  But I realised after a few minutes that the "flatbread" was a flour tortilla.  Yes, technically a tortilla is a flat bread (of a sort), but it's not flatbread the way most sensible people understand flatbread.

Then the burgers came out, and I had a sad.  They didn't even look as good as usual.  They were at least 1/3 smaller than last time (last time they filled the bun, this time, nowhere near).  They were also overcooked, dark and crunchy on the outside.  It was really disappointing.  But at least the chips were good (though where they got their concept of skinny fries I don't know, because they were proper chips).

I'm not gonna stop going to Mono (which might be part of the problem - complacency), but I'll probably give them some time to sort themselves out.  There are other places to eat that have equally good or better food, and some places I've not been to before, so I'll give them a shot before going back to Mono.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Newsday Tuesday – Waitrose soffritto passata

It’s Newsday Tuesday, where I make/have food that’s new to me!  For a minute I thought I’d failed at it – I forgot that I actually have made the recipe I was gonna talk about.  But then I realised that one of the components is new to me, so it worked out!

I was at Waitrose the other day stocking up on frozen stuff (I got garlic and ice cream, but they didn’t have shallots) and happened upon a new item – jarred soffritto.  I quickly scanned the ingredients for anything non-vegan, not bothering to note the bizarre stuff some British person decided was supposed to go into sofrito, and, seeing that it was safe, bought a jar.

It wasn’t until I got home and had a good look at it in comparison to a recipe in Viva Vegan! that I realised that this is some kind of Euro-sofrito.  Sorry, soffritto.  It contains carrots and celery instead of peppers*.  I don’t know what’s wrong with me.  Regardless, I used it in a couple of recipes, and it was actually pretty good.

I made the Viva Vegan! Latin Baked Tofu with it, but due to the lack of Latinness, I added a bit of cumin to it before I poured it over the tofu.  I also made the Cuban black bean soup, which saved me a ton of time standing at the stove (but not much in the actual cooking process, which took FOREVAH).

Mike and I really liked it over the tofu, and we really liked the soup, so I can’t really say it’s a terrible product.  It just wasn’t what I expected.  But I guess I should’ve known, since I got it at Waitrose and not Lupe Pinto’s.  Still, I would give it the seal of approval – even though it was different, it was still tasty!

And since I don't have a picture of any food, here's a kitty tongue:

*A quick search tells me that this is Tuscan-style soffritto.  So I guess my Latin baked tofu was actually Italian baked tofu.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Vegan MoFo 2014 - Intro and NYC Trip

Welcome to Vegan MoFo 2014!  If you’re new to the joint, Vegan MoFo is the Vegan Month of Food, when vegan bloggers from around the world blog about vegan food for a solid month.  I think this is my 5th year to participate, but I could be wrong.

I have a few things planned for this month, but it’s not quite as plotted out as last year.  I’ll be doing Sunday baking, which I think I did two years ago, as well as Newsday Tuesday, where I’ll be making something new to me every Tuesday.  I’ll also continue my quest to cook through Cookin’ Crunk.

There are a couple of big deal things happening this month, namely the Scottish Independence Referendum followed two days later by Mike’s 30th birthday!  So I’ll be doing something to mark both of these occasions.

Speaking of occasions, my 35th birthday was in August, and I treated myself to a trip to NY in July to celebrate.  Well, the July part wasn’t exactly a treat because it was hotter than the devil’s balls.  But the timing was a concession to my family – my grandmother’s 80th birthday was in July!  I spent a weekend upstate with my family.  We had a BBQ at my uncle’s house, and since my cousins are GF and dairy-free, we had a vegan cake to go with the non-vegan cake!  Woot!

After that, I was in NYC for almost a week.  I ate so much, but I don’t think I photographed everything (for which you’ll thank me).

My first stop in NYC was Yonah Schimmel Knishery, which was right next to my hotel (though I only ate there once – sadness).  I got a spinach knish and a root beer.

I had Groupons for Vegetarian Paradise 2, so I ate there thrice (the only Groupon option was 3x $20 for $10, and I wanted to get my money’s worth).  But I must have gotten tired of taking pictures of all my food because I only have one meal’s worth of photos plus one starter (you’re welcome).

Collard green rolls

Spinach “crab” dumplings

Texas fried “chicken” and tots

Death by Chocolate Cake

Portobello pub fritters

I also hit up V-Note, mostly because I had a Groupon for there as well.  The big draw there was the tiramisu, which didn’t disappoint.  Actually, it was one of the best tiramisus I’ve ever had (including pregan).

Black-eyed pea cake

Seitan cordon bleu (or possibly Seitan Piccata)


I hit up John’s of 12th Street, which has a really impressive vegan menu, and had the seitan parmigiana.

I also had cannoli, but I didn’t take a picture of that.

The only other photo I have is of the vegan soft serve I got at The Ice Cream House (the Williamsburg location, I think), which is a kosher ice cream parlour with loads of vegan options.  Seriously, if I’d had a freezer while I was in NYC, I would’ve spent half my money there.

Vanilla soft serve in cookie crumb-coated cone

To round things off, as if this post wasn’t pic-heavy enough, here are some gratuitous tourist photos:

The Seinfeld café

Alice in Wonderland statue in Central Park

One of the lions outside the NY Public Library (no free-floating vaporous apparitions, though)

Pavement art outside 8 Hook and Ladder

8 Hook and Ladder with the Ghostbusters 2 sign

Despite the heat, I absolutely loved NYC; I wanted to go back almost as soon as I got home.  I went to several museums and still missed out on a ton of stuff.  There were loads of restaurants that I didn’t get to just because I had to be so selective due to both time and monetary constraints.  NYC is HUGE, but it’s somehow still comfortable for me where other big cities (I’m looking at you, London) aren’t.  Maybe it’s because people in NYC are generally as uninterested in dicking about as I am.  I wish I could go back next year, but unfortunately/luckily I’m going to TX instead (for Vida Vegan Con, woot!).  Maybe I’ll go back for my 40th birthday but spend the full two weeks (instead of just 8 days) there and upstate (and maybe finally get to Lagusta’s!).