You don't have to be French to make crepes...

...though it doesn't hurt. Crepe-making can be, shall we say, a little nerve-wracking for the cook who is not accustomed to having to throw out the first 3-4 of whatever she's cooking. So whenever I make crepes, I always listen to music of one of my heroes, Josephine Baker to get me in the mood. She was the first American to so successfully "fake it till she made it" as French that she ended up spying for the French Resistance in WWII and eventually received the Cross de Guerre, the French Medal of Honor. (Although, let's not compare the small inconvenience of making crepes to the incredible story of Baker, who started out at 12 dancing on the street-corners of Harlem, became a vaudeville sensation, then landed in Paris where she danced as a topless savage in an (arguably racist) revue dressed in a banana bikini... then went on to learn French, buy her own club, transform herself into a ballgown-wearing diva, and become such an icon of dance, film, and music that she is known only as "La Baker" in France. You should really read one of her biographies sometime, she's awesome.)

Anyways, you have to have a little joie de vivre to attempt crepes, but if you do, the payoff is great and results in versatile but equally delicious treats. They go gracefully from a soft wrap for balasamic-kissed vegetables, as I served the other night (sauteed mushrooms, shallots, green beans and carrots in a tiny bit of balsamic with soy yogurt on top)...

...to a crunchy shell for dessert once you gently refry them, as I had the next day (with bananas, brown sugar, and more soy yogurt.)

In either case, if you can get past the fear (more like certainty) of a little failure, than you get the hang of it pretty quickly and have a stack of crepes to enjoy for as long as you hold on to them. The recipes are also omni-present in every vegan cookbook, and I've had great success with both the Sarah Kramer version and the V'Con version.

So basically what I'm saying is, whether you need a jaunty little beret, some music, or a banana-leaf bikini to get in the mood, be brave and make some crepes because they are delicious and will put your friends (and lovers) in awe.

Here are some more ideas and tips for crepe making and crepe-filling from the archives:
-Lentil and Walnut Dinner Crepes
-Banana, Brown Sugar, and Soy Sour Cream Crepes

Song of the Day: Josephine Baker- J'ai deux Amours


Curried Sweet Potato and Lentil Soup

Yesterday, on the way home from language school I encountered the most enormous sweet potato I have ever seen. Being the thrifty girl that I am, I thought I should just pass her by (süßkartoffels are feminine in German*) and proceed to my standby lentils and rice for dinner, but somehow my lust for fall food got the better of me and I brought her home. But then, as so often happens when you bring an attractive stranger home, I didn't have any idea what to do with her. I delicately introduced the idea of a soup, but then thought it might be a bit vanilla. But then I remembered that sweet potatoes love coconut milk and curry.... and some lentils might go in for health and depth.

I ended up with the this perfect fall soup, a sweet and spicy way to please an enormous sweet potato (and I still have half of her left for tomorrow!)

Curried Sweet Potato and Red Lentil Soup

1 tbs. oil
2 Cloves Garlic, diced
1 Heaping Tbs. diced ginger
1 small onion, diced
1 small (tiny) dried chile, crushed. (optional)
1/4 tsp. Turmeric
1/4 tsp. Cumin
1 and 1/2 Tsp. Curry powder
1 Med. Sweet potato, peeled and cut into small chunks (about 2 C.)
1/2 C. red lentils, rinsed
3 C. Water + 1 cube veg bouillon (or 3 C. veg broth)
1/3 C. coconut milk

1. Heat oil over med heat in a medium soup pot. Add in garlic, ginger, optional chile and onions and cook for 3-5 minutes, being careful not to burn garlic.
2. Add in sweet potato and Turmeric, Cumin, and Curry powder, plus a healthy pinch of salt. Cook a few minutes more (browning sweet potatoes) then add in lentils and stir to coat.
3. Add in water and veg bouillon and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 15-20 minutes, or until sweet potatoes are easily pierced with a fork and lentils are soft. Add a bit more water if too thick for your tastes (lentils absorb a lot of the liquid.)
4. Remove from heat. Blend mixture with an immersion blender, leaving half chunky if preferred. Taste and adjust spices.
5. Gently stir in coconut milk and return to heat. Simmer another 10 minutes or until ready to serve.

Serves 2 for dinner, 4 for a starter


*The way that everything is gendered in German leads to strange sentences, where a child, being neutral, is referred to as "it", and a sweet potato, being feminine, is "her". So you could conceivably say, "Can it (the child) bring her (the sweet potato) to me?"

Song of the day: Celia Cruz- La Vida es un Carnaval


Viva Vegan!

Although I hail from the DC metro area and not, say, Guadalajara, the home cooking in my neck of the woods is often distinctly Latin inspired. DC has a huge Latino population, and in my neighborhood in particular you can get chipotles for pennies, at least five different kinds of tortillas at the local Giant, and plantains at all stages of ripeness any time of year. As a result, I'm a bit spoiled when it comes to Latin American cooking. So imagine my snobby annoyance that I have to scour Berlin for a measly can of cooked black beans. And you can forget about corn tortillas or chipotles. (I have to rely on my parents care packages for those.)

So imagine how thrilled I was to see that Terry Hope Romero, of PPK and Veganomicon fame, has come out with a new cookbook packed with DIY methods for my favorite Latino dishes, plus tons of things I had never dared dream of after going vegan (like Tres Leches cake!!!). Of course, I had to have it. And naturally, Viva Vegan, is amazing. (I had little doubt.) Some of the recipes seem rather intensive, but so worth the effort. I never really thought about it before, but Latin American cooking is actually such a natural fit for vegans. Its always rich in veg favorites like tomatoes, beans, and corn, plus it can be spicy and filling without relying entirely on dairy or protein for heartiness. It substitutes innovative cooking techniques for quick fatty fixes. And although its not a stretch to veganize dishes like guacamole or tortillas, Romero really goes the distance with a range of dishes that I haven't tried before, like hearty stews and sandwiches, as well as tamales, empanadas, pupusas and enchiladas. (oh, yeah, and flan. That's right. Flan.)

I tried the Venezuelan black beans, citrus tofu, and garlic rice the other night (with some cashew sour cream) and it magically attracted the whole neighborhood, to my dismay. (I had plans for leftovers...) It was all amazing, even given my less than stellar tofu supply. The garlic rice was especially surprising, since I kind of thought rice wasn't really in need of improvement. (I was wrong.) The black beans were mild and a little sweet and really flavorful- totally worth the wait.

Well, I could fawn some more but I think you get the picture. Terry Hope Romero is a high priestess of Vegan cooking and I am thrilled beyond belief that she turned her attention to my favorite home cooking. You can get it here, and I imagine you will be seeing many more of its recipes featured on this here blog.

Song of the day: Jeanette- Por Que Te Vas

More Latin flavor:
-Chipotle Plantain Enchiladas
-Vegan Mole Power
- Mango Avocado Salsa


Austerity Measures: Baking

So you may have heard about the austerity measures introduced in Europe that many are protesting these days- cutbacks on government spending designed to reduce debt. Unfortunately, we are also participating in my household- not just to reduce debt (ha) but because there is no more money to spend. Turns out getting a job isn't as easy as I'd hoped... nevertheless, I am prepared! From a whole year of insanely cheap living in Brussels I have honed my skills for cheapest of the cheap living. And one of my favorite tactics to eat inexpensively but not feel overly deprived is to use lots and lots of flour. Pancakes, bagels, muffins, pierogies, and more can be had majorly on the cheap, especially if you keep a well-stocked pantry leftover from more profitable times. Not to mention when you are making something with dough, you are usually getting something you can eat all week. And of course, baking is also fun. :)

So in the spirit of saving dough through dough, I have 3 recipes to offer (as opposed to the usual none). First, the delicious Mexican Hot Chocolate Snickerdoodles pictured above are from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar! and the recipe can be found (along with a helpful video) on the Post Punk Kitchen website, here. I'm not usually the biggest cookie person (more Team Cupcake, if you must know) but these were so amazing its ridiculous. They are made with very simple ingredients that you already have and I don't even want to tell you how quickly they disappeared.

Next up, here is a recipe for *slightly healthier* bagels that are a nice treat with peanut butter and bananas, or soy cream cheese.
Cinnamon Raisin Bagels

-1 packet active yeast
-3.5 Tbs sugar, or sub out 1/2 with agave nectar
-1.5 C. warm water
-2.5 tsp. cinnamon
-1/2 C. raisins (or cranberries)
-1.5 C. whole wheat flour
-2.5 C. flour (Europeans: I recommend Type 1050 for bagels)
-2 tsp. salt
-1/2 c. oatmeal flakes

1.) Combine yeast and water in a large bowl and let sit for 5-10 minutes, until starts to bubble.
2.) Add in both kinds of flour, salt, sugar, raisins, and cinnamon. Knead together for 10-15 minutes, using additional flour if necessary, until dough is less sticky but not completely dry, and relatively smooth. (The raisins might want to fight their way out, but stick them back in.)
3.) Drizzle a bit of vegetable oil in a large bowl and place dough inside, flipping to coat. Cover the bowl with a damp towel or plastic wrap and set somewhere sunny. Let dough rise for at least an hour.
4.) In the meantime, set up your bagel workshop. Here's how it should look: on one side you have a large floured surface that you can roll the bagels on. This is right near the stove top, where you have a large pot filled with water. Then, a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, and finally a plate filled with the oatmeal flakes.
5.) So, after an hour, bring the large pot of salted water to a rolling boil and preheat the oven to 400(f) or 200(c). While these items are heating up, you get to form the bagels! Punch the risen dough down and divide into 8 separate balls (for big, huge bagels) or 10 for smaller ones. On your floured surface, roll each piece into a loose ball, flatten a bit in a thick circle, and pierce a hole through the middle using your thumb. Smooth out a bit and place on floured surface.
5.) Now its time to boil the bagels. On one side, you have your floured surface with 8-10 bagels. In the middle you have the boiling water. On the other side, a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Lower bagels (carefully!) two at a time into boiling water, and let boil for about 3 minutes, flipping once halfway through. Remove each with a slotted spoon to cookie sheet and repeat with the next batch. As soon as bagels are cool enough to handle, dip quickly into oatmeal.
6.) When all bagels have been boiled and dipped, place cookie sheet in oven and cook for 15-20 minutes (depending on your oven and bagel size.) They should be golden brown and fully raised. Remove from oven and cool on a cooling rack until ready to eat!

And finally, here are some lecker muffins bedecked with plum and a hint of ginger that one can enjoy using tiny baby plums or regular sized ones.

Plum and Ginger Muffins

2 C. Flour
1/2 C. Sugar
1 Tbs. Baking powder
1 Tbs. Soy Flour
1 C. Soymilk
1/4 C. veg oil
Pinch salt
1 C. plums, peeled and diced into small pieces
1 Tbs. Ginger, diced into very small pieces

1.) First, preheat oven to 400(f) or 200(c) and line a muffin tin with muffin liners.
2.) Next, deal with your plums. If they are very small plums you don't have to bother peeling them, but for the larger ones go ahead because the peels can be a tiny smidge bitter. Slice in half, remove pit, and chop into smaller chunks.
3.) Peel a large chunk of ginger and dice or grate into very small pieces, a tablespoon's worth. Mix together with plums.
4.) Mix together wet ingredients then sift in dry ingredients. Stir until everything is wet, then add in plums and ginger. Stir until "just mixed" then ladle into muffin tin, filling each cup a little more than halfway. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.


Hmm, and speaking of baking, time to go take out the next round of bagels...