Monday, October 31, 2011

Celebrating the Sabbats as a Vegan: Samhain

I know this is a bit late. This year I didn't plan on doing a full menu because I was supposed to hang out with a few fellow witches, when the hostess fell ill the day before (bless her poor heart). So, while I did have a few things in mind, I had nothing solid.

I came across a really nice little article about traditional Halloween meals... in Ireland. I'm ok with that, since here in the US we're too busy stuffing our face with candy to make a feast. I'm really glad I came across it because it taught me something new and forced me to TRY something new which turned out completely awesome.

So here it is:

Main dish: Colcannon
Side dish: A simple salad if you want & Roasted butternut squash
Dessert-ish: Fruit scone & Apple cake

I know the menu is short... the Colcannon is a warm, hearty comfort food that has starch, veggies AND (faux) meat in it... and really doesn't need to have a whole feast surrounding it (in my opinion).

Colcannon was based on THIS recipe. I pretty much followed the recipe, I did use almond milk instead of soy. The only other thing I changed was the seitan. My significant other came home and said "I have a surprise for you." I'm always suspicious when he says that... and slightly hopeful its a kitten (I need a kitten like I need a broken leg). He handed me a funny green package of what looked to be PORK RINDS. I nearly smacked him with it... lucky for him I read the fine print "Vegan Pork Slices, imitation pork".

The brand is VegeUSA(I find this insanely ironic considering it is a product of Taiwan) and they are dehydrated imitation pork pieces, made from soybean protein, starch, wheat protein, "vegan fiber(uh?!)", and soybean oil. It actually tasted pretty good in the colcannon considering its apparently traditionally made with pork! It was such a funny coincidence that he just happened to bring it home. Unfortunately, I don't know what to do with the rest of it since I didn't even eat pork when I was a meat eater.

Sometimes when I'm particularly lazy I will heat up some (instant) mashed potatoes and throw veggies in it... often, leafy greens like kale. So to find out that there is actually a dish that NORMAL people eat that is kind of similar, I was pretty stoked. Would have been REALLY tasty with a sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds on top too. SO YAY! COLCANNON! *big heart*

For the roasted butternut squash, I prefer mine VERY "bland". Ie: I do not use sugar on my squash. I cut it in half (I leave the seeds in until done - and then toss or eat them, whatever...they've got a great nutty taste), I roast it cut face down at 350 for like, an hour and a half and then I may or may not add vegan margarine and salt. Thats it. I eat it cold, I eat it for breakfast... I love squash, but I don't love to have the flavor drowned in syrupy sugary sweetness. For those of you that like that sugary sweetness - cut, scoop out seeds (boil them in salted water for a couple minutes and then roast!) add a glob of margarine in the center and sprinkle on the maple syrup or honey or vegan brown sugar and then bake as directed above. Check occasionally for burning (and if getting too brown cover with aluminum foil).

If you're going for a salad I would recommend something light and simple. However, if you're trying to stick to "in season" stuff and have extra kale, a raw kale salad is wonderful. There are lots of different ways to make kale salad, you can google and find one with your favorite ingredients. my favorite way isn't quite "traditional" ie: some of the ingredients are not local... Here is a great video recipe for how I like to make it. Avocado, yum.

OK! Onto the desserts! So, I have never had, much less made, an apple cake. However, I think this one turned out pretty good! I followed the recipe, I threw in a handful of wonderful dried cranberries (I wish I had had other dried fruit, but used them all in the scone below) and sprinkled with walnuts. I REALLY wish I had roasted the walnuts and THEN mixed them in, because the ones on top were AMAZING. This was wonderful for breakfast too. I pulled it out when it was still the TINIEST bit moist. Also, pan size really does matter... I used a round cake pan, and it did overflow a little. Luckily, I had it on a pizza stone... (maybe not luckily).

As for the scone, I made two of these because they are SO DARN AWESOME. I think I posted the first try last post. Well I made another, everything was the same (chocolate, coconut, walnuts) except I added about 1/4 cup of dehydrated fruit (that I had re-hydrated with some hot water). I can't remember if I drained all of the water or not, but it made for a MUCH more moist scone than the last one, more cake like I guess. I think I ate the whole thing. I don't recommend that, be good to yourself and give some to a friend or neighbor.

I wanted REALLY badly to make a pumpkin pie(I mean, come on... Samhain, pumpkins... correlation?), but currently lack the ingredients to do so... however a friend suggested THIS Pumpkin Tart recipe that she made for Thanksgiving last year.

Anyway - the other stuff I've made, but didn't add to the menu was home made sugar free applesauce, which was AMAZING. You can find that recipe HERE. As well as the banana bread I mentioned in the last post, but this time I added some oatmeal to it, which made it incredibly moist and delicious.

Anyway, I hope you guys had an amazing Samhain/Halloween and I hope this upcoming year is amazing for each and every one of you! If you have any questions about this blog and wonder why its not laid out like my other Sabbats post, don't hesitate to leave a response below.

Also, I'm blaming big corporations for my sweet Christmas cactus' confusion and early bloom... (since there has been CHRISTMAS music playing at the mall since Nov. 1st).

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Curry and stuff!

Lately I haven't felt like doing anything, cleaning my house, cooking dinner, cleaning the cat boxes... yeah, none of that. However, some of it needs doing regardless of how I feel... and some of it, well... I have ramen as back up.

Anyway, I've been inspired by Melomeals photos that she posts on her Facebook. All of her meals look hearty and filling - which so often, vegan meals (especially raw meals) lack.

A couple days ago I made banana bread, many vegan recipes found all over... however I based mine on this "low-fat" version. I did in fact, use sugar this time - and I REALLY regretted it... the bread tasted "fine" but after not eating sugar for so long, it tastes kinda... yucky. I prefer agave or maple syrup and won't make this mistake again. I also didn't use margarine, but instead used vegan shortening. Oh yeah, I always use a tiny bit more vanilla than called for, three bananas instead of two and almond milk instead of soy. Best of all, I topped the whole thing off with sweetened shredded coconut... AMAZING! OMG. I will never make plain banana bread ever... ever again.

I also made a Chocolate Coconut scone! I've never made a scone before so I found this recipe and based if off of that. I did a mix of half semi-sweet chocolate chips made by Ghirardelli. I also "splashed" some walnuts in there (whatever I had extra from the banana bread, probably a tablespoon or two max. Came out great! I was not sure what to expect as its "dry"(not a bad thing in this case) and crumbly - it so makes me question my decision to leave my coffee maker in storage. Pleasantly surprising, and I think I will make it again, but maybe with fruit next time.

I also made some baba ghanoush!! Michael & I found a great deal on eggplant at the grocery, $1 each! However, they were on the exit stage left side of freshness... so I decided to roast them. I found a recipe here, but I did adjust stuff... a lot... and added extra stuff... So I roasted two eggplants, I added only enough tahini for one, I also only added 2 cloves garlic (and think this may have been too strong!) and a splash of liquid smoke which gave it a wonderful smokey flavor that it didn't get while roasting. Michael loved it and I was quite surprised. I ate it with these AWESOME Wasa Sesame flavored flatbread type crackers, shredded napa cabbage and parsley. Nomnomnom.

Last night I felt desperate for something tasty and hearty but not HARD. So I pulled out this can of Chu Chee Thai curry paste that someone had given to me. I normally use a curry powder and make my own base, but I thought "Hey if I have it, why not?"...and my curry powder is getting low! *sad face* So I read the ingredients, all safe, the instructions were for using with fish however - and since that wasn't an option I googled it... all fish. Like, seriously people! Lets get creative here!

I found a few curry recipes and gathered a few veggie ideas and then put it together. So essentially I added half a can (2oz) of the paste to one can of coconut milk (including all that yummy fattening cream that sticks to the lid) and some almond milk to stretch it a little... Then to that I added a ton of veggies, zucchini, collard greens, browned sweet potato... other stuff? I can't remember... broccoli I think. Anyway, greens & sweet potato are my new favorite curried foods... I literally picked out all of the collards and sweet potatoes before sending off the remainder to work with Michael (Sorry baby! lol). I served it over rice.

Today I decided I had to put the other half of the can of curry to use and with some help with my Pakistani friend, I made what (he would be horrified by) I can only consider a curry stew. I fried up some onions, garlic & ginger, tossed them in a pot, once again browned a sweet potato and threw that in as well as zucchini, broccoli, Great Northern beans (? - they're white) and about 3 cups of radish greens. You read that correctly, radish greens.

Today, I helped a friend of the family build steps for her elderly sister out of concrete blocks and mortar and as payment I got the most bizarre overgrown radish plants ever. My friend made the comment that they looked like a monster... she might not be far from the truth. These giant stems that were pink and over 3 feet long! I had gathered them with the intention of giving them to my rabbit, but after a few quick searches I found they were edible and could not pass up on saving a "few" for myself... and 10 cups or so of greens later I felt pretty good about life. They're really awesome, a little... textured... but spicy like mustard greens. I think they'll be awesome in a salad and are really great cooked in curry (once cooked, they no longer have that texture issue... read as... spiny).

So those are mostly my adventures for the week... OH I was also SUPERLY (yes I made that up) by a "neighbor" (I live in a town of less than 1500 people - everyone is your neighbor) told me I can raid their garden for kale, mustard greens and until frost, fresh basil! YAY! I'm so excited!! I was also introduced to the Tennessee Passionflower fruit! It reminds me of a pomegranate except more... tart? Like, if you eat rhubarb raw except not nearly as tart as that... (Oxalic acid is all I can think of - if you've ever eaten wood sorrel you know what i'm talking about) I was given a few to take home, YUM! I can't possibly live a more blessed life, even if I am broke all the time.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Not going to talk about food today... but health care products!

Recently I sent my significant other on a shopping trip for a few necessities, specifically shampoo and hand soap for the bathroom. He came home, all proud of himself having not forgotten a single item... however, when I pulled the items out of the bag I asked him "Did you read the ingredients?" He had not.

I really try to avoid products that do not say "Not tested on animals". I've seen the bunny pictures that have had cosmetic testing done, and I really do not want to support that, its unnecessary.

First, he's a vegetarian, and not at all vegan... and the hand soap he got was "Milk & Honey". It hadn't even OCCURRED to him that this isn't at all vegan. However, I guess it could have been worse... because the shampoo is what really got me. Now I'm going off of memory, but I'm pretty sure it not only had gelatin in it, but hydrolyzed keratin AND silk in it. There may have even been other ingredients that are animal based that I'm not familiar with. Something I hope to correct by educating myself a little bit more.

There is nothing like taking a shower and scrubbing with animal by-products. Really. Yay, dead animal in my hair! GAG!

Ok. So. With that in mind, I'm going to link a few really great sites, the first one is HappyCow's list of animal ingredients. Here you will find an alphabetical listing of animal products and where you would find them. The second link is Ask Us Why's list of cruelty free companies and products. Ask Us Why's web page seems like it could possibly be out dated, there might be newer sources, but I don't really have time to research. Please let me know if you find a better source! Thanks!