Christmas in the USA

The Russian Tea Room in NYC

Aaaaah, the holidays. Those precious occasions when you stare at departures screens for hours hoping your flight/ train/ camel isn't cancelled like all the rest, arrive home exhausted to see everyone you've ever known in a never-ending parade, and stuff yourself fuller and fuller of rich food. It's pretty exhausting, right?

However, also fun. I'm back in full-on USA mood, with all the attendant benefits of warm houses, a full pantry, and the Food Network. After a brief stop in New Jersey to see some relatives, my Mom and I headed up for a night in New York City; including a cocktail at my favorite over-priced NY institution, the Russian Tea Room (above.)

Back home for Christmas, we had a fabulous brunch with my Grandparents, with eggs benedict for the omnis and blueberry waffles, homefries, and veggie sausage for the vegetarians.

Needless to say, we were full until dinner. Actually beyond dinner! We had grand plans for a big feast with many components, but we basically down-scaled: tamales and a big salad. My Dad and I made and froze the tamales a week ago to avoid Christmas chaos, and the salad was an improvised delight.

Spinach with red bartlett pears, onions, pomegranate seeds and a dressing made from the following: 1 Clementine, 1 tsp. diced garlic, a splash of orange juice and couple tablespoons red wine vinegar, whirled in a food processor with enough olive oil to make it perfectly dressing-y.

The tamales were filled with a black bean and chipotle mixture and served with homemade tomatillo salsa, guac, roasted chipotle salsa, and soy sour cream.

Christmassy? I'm not sure. Delicious? Definitely. In fact, I had the same thing the next day. And now... back to my food coma. Hope everyone had and is having a great holiday, and that you were able to finish your dinner!


Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

Hello my nice relaxed and calm blog friends. What, you're not all sitting in your warm houses baking cookies, content with the fact that you have purchased all presents and just waiting for the next lovely holiday party? Well, that's how I imagine you, in stark contrast to yours truly, who is rushing around in a steadily-building panic trying to accomplish every last thing before leaving for the US tomorrow. I'm facing such queries as, should I send all Xmas cards before leaving, so that people get the thrill of a genuine "Luftpost" from Germany, or should I save money but add to my packing by doing it in the US? And how many more presents can I buy today that say "Berlin" on them, to prove that I've thoughtfully been thinking of my American friends all year and not just buying them shit from Target?

I'm not asking for advice here, because basically all of these are unanswerable questions, the real solution to which is: go back in time and do it last week, saukerl!

But last week I was calm and relaxed, having dinner parties and making bagels and cinnamon rolls. Speaking of which, I can officially confirm that the perfect menu for non-vegan parent types is:
-Moroccan carrot dip from V'Con and bread
-A big garden salad with pears and homemade balsamic dressing
-Wild Mushroom Risotto

Cheap, filling, and not full of mysterious (to parents) ingredients like "chipotles" or "tofu".

And previously I finally got around to making Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls, but this time I wasn't leaving it up to online recipes and just went ahead and gave it the old college try on my own. The result? Not too sweet, puffy and cinnamon-y rolls that were great out of the oven with a glass of soymilk, and even better in the next days reheated in the microwave. So here's my recipe, but as a warning I've only made these once so results may vary. (And here's more of a Joy of Cooking-style recipe format, to test it out.)

Hopefully, you are in a less hectic place than I am and have time for such pursuits!

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

-1 packet yeast
-1 Tbs. sugar
-1/4 c. warm water

1.) In a large bowl, combine yeast and sugar then stir in warm water. Set aside for 5-10 minutes to "proof" the yeast.

-1 C. pureed pumpkin
-1/4 tsp. cinnamon
-1/4 tsp. nutmeg
-2 Tbs. maple syrup
-2 Tbs. veg oil
-1/4 C. soymilk
-pinch salt

2.) In a second bowl, combine above ingredients with a fork.

-3.5-4 C. all purpose flour

3.) Add pumpkin mixture to yeast mixture and sift in about 3 and 1/2 cups flour. Knead for 10 minutes, adding in more flour until you have a relatively smooth, not-too-sticky ball. Put ball in bowl that has a drizzle of oil, and flip to coat.
4.) Special tip from my friend Sara for better rising: Put rising bowl inside of another larger bowl containing rather hot water. Let rise for about an hour.

-3/4 C. brown sugar
-1/2 C. chopped almonds, pecans, etc.
-1/2 tsp. cinnamon

5.) When dough has risen, punch down and let sit for another 10 minutes or so. Meanwhile, mix above ingredients for the filling.
6.) On a lightly floured surface, place you dough ball and sprinkle with flour. Roll dough out to a large square of about 1/2" thickness. Sprinkle with your filling mixture, then carefully roll from the bottom, until you have a large "tube". You don't have to be much a perfectionist about this, in my opinion, you can manipulate the ends if they aren't perfect.

7.) Preheat oven to 375 degrees (175 C) and lightly oil or spray a brownie pan. With a sharp knife, cut tube into roughly 2" pieces and place them into pan, smooshing them against eachother if necessary. If outside dough is too floury, brush with a little bit of soymilk.

-1 C. powdered sugar
-2 Tbs. soymilk

8.) Bake rolls for 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned and meanwhile whisk together above ingredients to make a nice glaze. Drizzle glaze over finished rolls and consume with soymilk and a holiday movie.


So the next time you hear from me I will be in the USA, hopefully eating large amounts of Thai and Mexican food! Good luck to anyone else embarking on holiday travel, and tchüss for now, Berlin!

Song of the Day: Cracker- Duty Free


Shivering in the Kitchen

Ah, my first real winter in Berlin. So far I've been torn between thinking, "Bah, I hate this weather, these gray skies, the fact that I can't understand Celsius enough to figure out what to wear, I hate this continent! winter!" and thinking, "SNOW! Pretty." But I suppose so long as I can reconcile myself to a lot of time spent indoors wearing German military grade long-underwear, I will eventually make it through to the other side. (I guess you can only imagine how I look sitting around all day in men's long underwear, swearing at the cold and applying to an ever broadening selection of jobs. Its pretty damn attractive, let me tell you.)

In the meantime, I'm trying to bring in sunshine via baking! What you see above is yet another batch of bagels (although that one has no hole, interesting) topped with peanut butter, bananas, and a drizzle of maple syrup, the very best thing about winter. I also attempted to make pumpkin cinnamon rolls the other day, as promised, but oddly the dough never rose! I tested the yeast so it should have, and I'll have to chalk this one up to the mysterious different flours in this country and their vastly different rising properties. Oh well.

Another delicious recent meal was the potato-mushroom enchiladas (rather than kale) from Veganomicon complimented, just for fun, with Venezuelan black beans and Orange rice from Viva Vegan. This wasn't exactly the kind of meal that you whip together in a few minutes, but I had some hungry friends coming over and suspected that Enchiladas alone would not do. (I usually make two batches and its still not enough for a small group.) I may have used every pot and pan in the kitchen, but everything turned out delicious- spicy, savory and sweet. And let's face it, as an unemployed and freezing cold American I have lots of time to spend in a nice toasty kitchen.
Song of the Day: The National- Conversation 16

From the Archives:
More Bagels!
More Enchiladas!
More Viva Vegan!


Vegan No-Fo

Well, I guess its time to admit that the end of Vegan Mofo was a big fail for me. This can be attributed to two factors:

A.) I was in England for 5 days, graduating from my Masters program. And although I thought this might make for exciting blogging material, I couldn't find anything to eat in that country! All I had ate the entire time were atrociously expensive french fries and beer. Even the one fancy vegan restaurant I singled out (Mildred's, in Pickadilly Circus) was freakishly closed the one night I made it there. But all was not totally lost, because I did indeed graduate, from Canterbury Cathedral which was lovely.

B.) Upon return home I promptly developed a horrible flu that kept me in bed for a week. During this time I missed Thanksgiving (AGAIN) and the last week of Vegan Mofo, in which I consumed nothing but oatmeal. But again, there's a silver lining, because I lost 10 lbs, just in time for the holidays, and kept all of the luscious food that was intended for Thanksgiving to dole out over the next few months.

Including the canned pumpkin that I have already put towards some delicious pumpkin pancakes from Vegan Brunch, topped with a dollop of cranberry sauce. Next stop, pumpkin cinnamon rolls, yuuuum.

In spite of the disappointing last couple weeks, I find it difficult not to be excited now: its Channukah, I have a lot of fun Christmas markets and parties to go to in the next few weeks, and soon I'll be in my parent's kitchen in the USA, cooking up a storm of my vegan favorites. And to make up for all the missed posting, I'll try to be vigilant about posting my holiday creations this year. Latkes, tamales, and tofu benedict, oh my!

So now back to my regularly scheduled blogging, and I look forward to drooling over what all you lucky Americans had for Thanksgiving dinner!

Song of the Day: AC/DC -Back in black