Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Report to Sick Bay

The last couple of weeks have been hell around here. Everyone is sick and it's holding on for dear life. It's moved into my chest. I'm not happy. I have been up since 3 a.m. puffing on my inhaler and struggling to breathe.

Some of the questions I've asked myself lately:

Is Luden's vegan?

Is Ricola vegan?

Is Mucinex vegan?

Is Afrin vegan?

Is albuterol vegan?

Why do I have such a strong association with that certain non-vegan animal-based soup of my childhood when I have a cold?

Why does the universe hate me?

When will this ever end?

How can one person produce this much snot?

Why did this have to happen during VeganMoFo when I was trying to hard to have a fresh start?

Why does the weather have to finally be so nice when I'm sick and all I want to do is be in bed?

Why is the light so bright?

Will the area between my nose and mouth ever heal?

Where will I get the strength to stand up in the shower?

Answers to those and other questions when this finally subsides. Until then, wishing all of you good health!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Chocolate Cherry-Filled Cookies

I'm busy doing a cookthrough of:

100 Best Vegan Baking Recipes by Kris Holechek

These are the Chocolate Cherry-Filled Cookies from page 42 if you're following along. I got the Tart Montmorency cherries in bulk at Costco. Well, I should say that my kid got them and I stole some for this recipe. I am glad I used a tart one because this is a sweet cookie!

As always, here's the batter shot:

It is a pretty thick batter and I was a little worried about that, but it was perfect for patting out it my hand. This is the first time I've ever made a cookie with a super secret middle. If you're looking at the cookie upon completion, as below, you can scarcely tell there's anything inside. But then if you bust it in half, there's a whole layer of cherries and gooey chocolate.

First, you pat out some dough.

Then you load it up with chips and cherries.

Then you roll it up in your hand and seal it all into a ball, then roll in a plate of powdered sugar. I mean, you roll the cookie in the sugar, not yourself. Although, I was covered in powdered sugar and my teeny phone speaker holes have powdered sugar in them now and I don't know how I will ever get that out.

In hindsight, I probably could have gotten 12 on the pan, but they were so big and I was afraid they would spread into each other. I'm pretty proud of myself, too. Last entry I was bitching about how I always end up with way too many cookies. The recipe says it will make 24 and I end up with like a hundred. This time, I wound up with exactly 18 cookies as the recipe predicted. When I was done, I felt like I'd given birth on my due date or something.

The consistency of these cookies is kind of like a snickerdoodle or a crinkle cookie but with a gooey middle of stuff. It has that crunchy, sweet bottom that I love in those types of cookies. I would definitely make these again, even though they were a little more work than your average cookie. Next time I might add cocoa to the batter so that I get some nice chocolate-on-chocolate action.

Usually, I find that others have made what I'm making and I like to share links, but this time, I might be the first. Hopefully I am not the last because these suckers are good.

You can visit the author of this cookbook on her blog nom! nom! nom! or on her Facebook page where she is pimping a new cookbook about vegan ice cream sandwiches.

This entry is part of the:

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Peanut Butter Cookies (with Chocolate Chips)

In case you missed it or aren't a regular reader like my husband and son are forced to be, I'm doing a cookthrough of:

100 Best Vegan Baking Recipes by Kris Holechek

So far, so good. Nothing has sucked and this cookie recipe is no exception. It's just shot to the very top of my peanut butter cookie list. The edges are light and crisp and the center is chewy. This is just how I like 'em.

You'll find this recipe on page 35. It didn't call for chips, but was a suggestion, so I added them because -- duh -- chocolate. It called for 1/2 cup, but after mixing, I could barely tell there were chips in there so I added another 1/4 cup. I also didn't let them cool for the full 10 minutes on the pan. They didn't seem to need it. Also, I rarely ever cook with parchment paper, which it called for. This is a really fatty cookie recipe, so since my pan is already nonstick, I didn't want to waste the paper. That stuff is expensive.

Here is a look at the batter. I don't know why I always post pictures of batter, but it's kind of helpful to know what it's supposed to look like. Sometimes vegan batters look a little different than nonvegan ones I was used to baking, so if I know what a batter should look like, it will keep me from making "corrections" like adding more liquid or flour before baking.

I also did not mash them down with a fork since there were chips. I might have gone ahead with this step if I'd made them without chips, since I do like the little criss-cross marks. They spread and puffed up, and then as they cooled, they sunk into the shape you see here.

The recipe made well over the 2 dozen it stated. I finished with a whopping 5 and a half dozen cookies. I have this problem a lot and I don't think it has to do with my cookie size, really. I mean, that pan usually cooks 15 at a time and I did 12 at a time this time. I guess the chips added to the bulk, but seriously, this is a recurrent problem I have even when I am using my scooper for uniformity.

I am not the only one to make these cookies and live to tell the tale:

When I make a recipe I always like to find others who have made it, too, and link there so that you can see several examples of what it is supposed to look like or what mistakes others have made that you might be able to avoid.

You can also visit the author of this cookbook on her blog nom! nom! nom! or on her Facebook page where she is pimping a new cookbook about vegan ice cream sandwiches.

This entry is part of the:

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Lil' Yellow Cake and Chocolate Frosting

So, I'm flipping through the cookbook I'm cooking through right now.

100 Best Vegan Baking Recipes by Kris Holechek

I realize that the recipe I made yesterday is very similar in style to the one on the next page, and that brings me to the conclusion that I don't want to cook straight through this, but rather I want to skip around. That way I'm not making 20 cookie recipes all in a row, either. I don't think there are any hard and fast rules in this cookthrough game, so I will do what I want.

At any rate, I get to the back of the book and I'm sort of skimming and see this recipe for a cake that calls for 5 teaspoons of flour.

Spit take.

Shut up.


I go back to the section's intro and realize that I have stumbled upon greatness. The author has veganized Easy Bake Oven recipes for children! And, well, for adults who like to be transported back to childhood, too!

What this means is that they also translate perfectly to the toaster oven which is sort of my food fetish. I don't know why. Could it be the cute little size of the thing? Could it be that it takes so much less energy? Could it be that it doesn't heat up the entire damn house when you just want to bake a couple of cookies? Could it be that it produces better warmed-up leftovers that the microwave? Could it be that sometimes I don't want to make 50 cookies or a giant layer cake? Could it be that if I am not sticking birds in my oven then I don't need a giant one anyway? Could it be that if I move into a tiny house (and by tiny I do not mean my 964 square foot house which is already technically considered tiny, but I mean a reallyreallyreally tiny) I will probably not own a full-sized oven, and so in my my mind I think I'm just getting ready? Living the tiny dream...

I just love the toaster oven. Squee!

When I got this toaster oven, I bought a set of little pans. These are the mini rounds made by Wilton and come in a set of three. Aren't they adorable?

And here they are filled with the batter. This recipe is on page 143 and the chocolate frosting recipe is on page 156. I tripled the recipe to make 3 layers and cut the frosting recipe in half.

I was using Almond Breeze almond milk and the batter wasn't as yellow as I wanted, so I altered the recipe just slightly and added a few drops of vanilla and a pinch of turmeric for color. The best (and cheapest) almond milk is always the one that you make yourself. It's kind of ridiculous the price of this stuff considering what's in it. I can make my own with as little as 1/2 cup of almonds. Sometimes I'm in a hurry, though, like when I'm hangry in the morning and just want a damn bowl of cereal. I like this one because it's the one that Costco sells by the case and it's shelf stable. That means it's easy to take camping or on a road trip, too.

Here is one of the finished cakes. Quarter shown for scale. Ha.

I am not the only one to make this cake and live to tell the tale:

  • JahLioness - a mix of two Lil' recipes to make a marble cake. Also points for cooking with an actual child!
  • Meet Your Treat - an itty bitty layer cake like mine

When I make a recipe I always like to find others who have made it, too, and link there so that you can see several examples of what it is supposed to look like or what mistakes others have made that you might be able to avoid.

You can also visit the author of this cookbook on her blog nom! nom! nom! or on her Facebook page where she is pimping a new cookbook about vegan ice cream sandwiches.

This entry is part of the:

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Vegan Lime Drop Cookies

Today, I am in the mood for cookies. After all, it's 99 degrees outside which means it's not 100 or above, so perfect for baking, right? I just don't care any more. I'm so tired of waiting for this weather to cooperate with my baking needs. I'm ready for fall weather already.

I'm going to continue on a cookthrough journey I started a long time ago:

100 Best Vegan Baking Recipes by Kris Holechek

Disclaimer: I am not a super-skilled chef type person, just so you know, and I live in a house that is 964 square feet, so you can imagine how small my kitchen is. All this just proves you don't have to know how to cook to go vegan and you don't have to have a fancy pants gourmet kitchen set-up to make things that are edible.

So, some things to know about this recipe. It is the Lemon Drop Cookies recipe on page 31. I was out of lemons, but just went to Costco and bought the mondo sized bag of limes, so I used those instead. I just got this insane zester, so I'm not sure if this recipe is actually vegan since it probably contains parts of my knuckles. I guess they were given sort of voluntarily, though. Probably still vegan.

I also didn't have shortening, so that might have affected the consistency and shape of my cookies. These turned out sort of flat and not very drop-like. The Earth Balance sticks I had in the fridge had expired because I usually just use the Earth Balance in the tub and everything turns out all right. I forgot I even had shortening until this recipe called for it! I tried refrigerating the dough, thinking it might have been too warm and was spreading too fast. That didn't really help much. Next time I might try these at a lower temperature so they retain their shape or freeze the dough for a couple of hours before baking.

The dough was fluffy and light, and as with all eggless doughs, you can eat it raw.

I was surprised that there was no baking powder or baking soda or salt in these, but then realized they are more like a butter cookie. The consistency was light and delicate and they were delicious! My son was wolfing them down faster than I could coat them with powdered sugar.

That's another thing I would change in the recipe. It called for 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, but I didn't use anywhere near that and would probably just use 1/2 cup for rolling next time or not roll them at all. They're great either way.

I am not the only one to make these cookies and live to tell the tale:

When I make a recipe I always like to find others who have made it, too, and link there so that you can see several examples of what it is supposed to look like or what mistakes others have made that you might be able to avoid.

You can also visit the author of this cookbook on her blog nom! nom! nom! or on her Facebook page where she is pimping a new cookbook about vegan ice cream sandwiches.

This entry is part of the:

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Begin Again

What a time to kick off the Vegan Month of Food this year. My first Vegan MoFo was in 2010 and it was in November. A big holiday month. A challenge to go from turkeys and hams to grain loaves and stuffed squashes and Tofurkeys. That year I had only been vegan for about a month, so I just caved and pre-ordered the vegan meal from Whole Foods. Easy! This holiday wasn't much different. I haven't been vegan for a while but I'm coming back around to it. I've spent roughly a year not thinking about whether or not there was cheese, milk, honey or a million other things in my food. And now, everything is new again. Except that I'm still lazy sometimes. And I'm still busy sometimes. And I still want the easy thing sometimes. Luckily, the tide is turning and there are more vegan foods out there than ever before. So, here is what I had for my Labor Day cookout:

One of these things is not like the others. Maybe. This is something that you will probably encounter many times on your vegan journey. In the beginning, it is a constant exercise in ingredient reading. You go down the list. You keep going until you find that one thing (or maybe more) that is not like the others. That one ingredient that isn't vegan just stops you in your tracks. Worse is when you find an ingredient that could be either vegan or from animals. Becoming vegan is about making choices ever single day about everything that goes in your mouth.

It can be frustrating. Animal products are in so much food. (And things that aren't food, but I will get to that later.) Some ingredients are easy to recognize. Eggs are an easy one to spot because you can just look for the allergy warning. Contains: Eggs. In bold writing on every label. It's as easy as that. But what about everything else pictured here? Can you spot the one thing that might not be vegan?

Vegenaise Original ingredients: expeller-pressed canola oil, brown rice syrup, apple cider vinegar, soy protein, sea salt, mustard flour, lemon juice concentrate.

These are pretty simple ingredients. Nothing stands out there, and, of course, Vegenaise is something you kind of have to go out of your way to find and it's well-known that it is a vegan substitute for mayonnaise. What does stand out to me here is how on earth they make it so much like mayonnaise with just those ingredients. I would be hard pressed to try to duplicate this type of sorcery in my own kitchen, so I will keep paying the $5 per jar. Those Boca burgers are kind of dry and need some sort of sauce, after all.

Now, figuring out which Boca burgers are vegan is easy, too. They say it right on the package several times. Potatoes and tomatoes are obviously vegan because they are -- duh -- plants. And really, one of the best and fastest ways to figure out if something is vegan is just to make damn sure it came from a plant and didn't come in a package at all. No guesswork involved. If we were all smart, we'd just eat this way most of the time.

Sriracha sauce is vegan. How do I know? Well, the ingredients are mostly obvious:

Chili, sugar, garlic, salt, distilled vinegar, potassium sorbate and sodium bisulfite as preservatives, and xanthan gum.

But there are a few things here that could be questionable. And what about the sugar? Did you know that some sugar is processed through the burnt bones of animals? Becoming vegan is a learning process and in time, you will learn about many ingredients that you thought were free of animal products, but actually are not. I will talk about sugar another day as well, but for now, here is something wonderful to know about becoming vegan: You have a support network! You have a team! It takes a village and a huge one exists here on the Internet. I know that this brand of Sriracha is vegan because other vegans have gone out and done some legwork for me.

For example, over at Is It Vegan, you can check out many ingredients and products including Sriracha. Not only that, but there is often discussion about whether or not individual ingredients are vegan or not and clarifications can be found in the comments. For instance, in this case, sugar is discussed and the author actually posts a letter from the makers, Huy Fong, where they confirm that they use beet sugar, which is not processed with bone char.

Sometimes you might find that someone has called or written a company, but the information is old and the formula or recipe has changed. Usually those in the vegan community are quick to comment on these posts and make corrections, so read the comments and double check dates. But do lean on these great folks who want to help you get it right.

So, what's left here is the bread. You'd think that bread would be vegan, but sometimes the very obvious eggs, milk and honey are in there. If you've ever made your own bread, though, you know that it can be made with just a few very vegan ingredients.

Here's what these buns have: enriched flour [wheat flour, malted barley flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamin mononitrate (vitamin b1), riboflavin (vitamin b2), folic acid], water, high fructose corn syrup, yeast. Contains less than 2% of: soybean oil, salt, wheat gluten, monoglycerides, calcium propionate (preservative), calcium sulfate, grain vinegar, datem, soy lecithin, citric acid, potassim iodate.

If you do an ingredient-by-ingredient lookup, like you can at the Vegetarian Resource Group, then you will find that everything here checks out all right except for the datem / monoglycerides. These could be animal derived but are listed as "Typically Vegan."

These hot dog buns were what we had already on hand, and I didn't want to waste them or make a special trip to buy my own bread (my son and husband are not vegan, by the way, which is also a story for another day). I decided to settle for the Mrs. Baird's hot dog buns. Sometimes, at the end of the day, going vegan is about settling just so you can eat.

I know someone will come on here and argue with me or talk about how easy it is, but I'm just being honest about what you might face and the type of person I am. Reality is that I don't want to waste food that is right in front of my face. Reality is also that settling on the non-vegan thing too many times will lead you down the slippery slope of not eating vegan at all. Reality is also that being too uncompromising and unyielding can just as quickly lead you down that same slope. I will talk about all of these things because I have lived them. It's ugly sometimes. But mostly it's not. The alternative is uglier.

To be sure, I could have made my own bread. I probably should have made my own bread. But make my own bread I did not. To be sure, I could have done without bread completely, but I did not. That was a choice I made. That was a conflict I fought inside my brain and the little devil on my shoulder saying, "Eat the bread," won this round. There are many who find this to be a very black-and-white issue. (The ingredients might not have been vegan, period, so do not eat / do not pass go.) Others find more grey. (Well, those ingredients are usually vegan and they did comprise less than 2% of the total recipe, so...) I feel that each individual is different and there are a multitude of factors to consider, many deeply personal. In the end, I think you have to do the thing that causes the least harm and also allows you to continue the journey rather than end it completely. And so, yesterday, I chose the packaged bread with a questionable ingredient that is "typically vegan."

If ever you had any notions of your own perfection or anything near it, know that you might find going vegan to be a bit humbling. That I even experienced such a conflict about a food ingredient means that I am doing this thing right.

This entry is part of the:

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