2/21/11

Breakfast of Champions... or cleaning ladies

Now that I actually have a job (my dream job, as a cleaning lady in a kindergarten) my weekends have taken on extra significance. I used to be happy eating a little bread and jam, but not anymore... now I have to clean out my fridge and eat huge, epic, brunch-like feasts on Saturdays and Sundays. It just makes my celebration that I don't have to use a mop that day all the more enjoyable. This weekend, I made tofu scramble for the first time in, it feels like, years. (In fact, I think it has been years...) This is partly due to the fact that I *finally* found some local tofu that doesn't have the consistency of feta cheese, so now I have to eat it everyday in some form. The above pictured foray back into scrambled tofu territory brought me back to my college days,when me and my 3 roommates would often cook together and tofu scrambles were pretty much standard on weekends. (This was before I mastered pancakes.) Just a bit of tofu, some red peppers and onions, and a bit of turmeric and thyme, and you are cooking with gas. (Or electric. Whatever.)

Sunday I took advantage of the bulk of frozen blueberries in my fridge to whip up some banana blueberry pancakes for S. and I... they were gone before we had finished our first cup of coffee.
Not being satisfied with that carb feast, I also whipped up some sesame-poppyseed bagels to enjoy throughout the week (or, lets be honest, through Tuesday) so that my weekday breakfast can have a little flair as well. As you can see, they turned out lovely, even in my cold kitchen. (Ever since I got the tip to keep rising dough in the oven with a bowl of hot water, I haven't had nearly so many disappointing dough experiences. Thanks, SMP!)

Now, feeling fortified from the weekend, its on to the freezing, mop filled days of the working week... let's hope Spring comes soon...

PS: I added a recipe index, as much for my use as for yours, as well as a page with some photos from my travel. I didn't do an "about me," as blogger suggests because, well, don't the posts say it all?

song of the day: Kanye West- All of the Lights

2/18/11

BBQ Sauce

As a kid, my family went on a "BBQ Tour of the South" to find the greatest version of BBQ sauce on offer. I don't totally remember the verdict, but I do remember getting a wicked sunburn on Tybee Island a week before the 8th Grade Dance (dammit.) However, I came out of this excursion with a great fondness for all varieties of BBQ, and turning vegetarian has not altered it one bit.

However, not all my favorite BBQ sauces are vegan, and I cannot stand to use those Kraft or similar fake-ass BBQ sauces that are all corn syrup and onion powder. So, rather than stock up on sauce the last time I went to the US, I made sure to get some fixings to bring back so I could make it myself: most crucially, molasses and liquid smoke, both difficult to find here in Berlin.

Yesterday, eyeing a block of tofu in the fridge and not wanting to indulge S's newfound obsession with deep-fried tofu, I decided to whip up some BBQ sauce and bake some slabs instead. I was a bit intimidated though... could anything I make approach the level of greatness of North Carolina or Memphis style BBQ sauce? I decided there wasn't much to lose in giving it a whirl. I looked up several recipes and combined them into one that featured the ingredients I had on hand, including a chipotle from an already opened can. (Never waste chipotles, that is my mantra.)

And upon taste, it turns out BBQ sauce is kind of... um.... easy? I mean, this may have not been a blue ribbon winning version, but it was damn tasty for something I made in less than 30 minutes. For a sauce that inspires such cult-like reverence in its followers, shouldn't this be a little more complex?

Well I'm sure I could stand some improvement, but this will more than do for those occasions which necessitate a slathering of BBQ to save the day. Here's my simple recipe. Feel free to alter it.
******************

*Perfectly Decent BBQ Sauce*
vegetable oil
1 small onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 can diced tomatoes
1 Tbs. brown sugar or Agave nectar
1 diced Chipotle + 1 Tbs. adobo sauce
1/3 C. Apple Cider Vinegar
1/3 C. Molasses
1 Tbs. Soy Sauce
Salt + pepper
1 tsp. liquid smoke (opt.)

1.) Heat a saucepan over medium and add in a glug of vegetable oil. Add in onions and salt well, then wait until onions are translucent. Add in garlic and cook 2-3 minutes more, being careful not to burn.
2.) Add in remaining ingredients (except for liquid smoke, add it at the end if using) and raise heat to a boil. Lower to a simmer and cook for 20-30 minutes (or more), stirring occasionally.
3.) When sauce has reached desired thickness, remove from heat and blend well with an immersion blender. Taste and adjust salt/ sugar if necessary. Put back on low heat, stir in liquid smoke, and cook a few minutes more.

Remaining sauce can be kept in an airtight container in fridge.

*Substitutions* : I imagine you can go wild with substitutions here, subbing pomengranate molasses for molasses, white vinegar for apple cider, chile peppers or cayenne pepper for chipotle and other fruits(like mangoes for instance?) for the tomatoes. I will try it again soon and let you know.
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The finished product slathered on some tofu and broiled for a perfect simple sandwich. (Number 30, anyone?) Just heavenly, and you don't even have to leave the house, let alone head south on 85.

Song of the Day: LCD Soundsystem- I Can Change

2/17/11

A Simple Sexy Valentines Day

Although you know I LOVE Valentines Day, I almost always end up not celebrating it with the object of my affections. Last year I was away from my man in Brussels, and besides, Europeans don't really do Valentines Day. The year before that I crashed my parents dinner (respect) and the year before that I opted to work at a restaurant rather than force my bf to take me to one. In fact, the last time I may have had a Valentines Day proper was with my long distance college boyfriend, who agreed to watch "The Cutting Edge" over the phone with me while I ate a box of chocolates and my dorm mates made fun of me. While that relationship didn't last, my affection for "The Cutting Edge" as the greatest romantic movie of all time did. (Moira Kelley is the most adorable film bitch of all time, and D.B. Sweeney does hot jock with a heart of gold better than anyone. Plus, there's a lot of snow and ice skating, which is perfect for February.)

This year I also kind of gave up on a commercially endorsed Valentines Day. Trying to get roses and a box of chocolates out of German on Valentines Day is more or less like trying to leash a cat, so I decided to hedge my bets and have a sexy little dinner party a few days before for some friends, and not mention the V-word.

Now, having a "sexy little dinner party" is rather less easy than one might anticipate on a putzfrau's salary, so I decided to really simplify and see what I could get to feed 6 for less than 15€. Turns out, a lot! Here was the menu:
Bruschetta with roasted garlic and balsamic drizzle: I toasted sliced french bread in the oven in shifts, while meanwhile roasting 2 whole bulbs of garlic. (Is there anything more seductive than roasted garlic?) When finished and cool enough to handle, I mashed the roasted garlic bulbs with a bit of olive oil, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes until I had a thick paste to spread on the bread. The topping was just a drizzle of reduced balsamic vinegar. These were so freaking good and all I had to buy was the bread.

Caramelized Fennel, Arugula and Orange Salad: This was also ganz einfach (simple.) While my oven was working on the bruschetta I put my stovetop to work caramelizing a huge sliced fennel bulb in a bit of margarine and oil. After about 20 minutes on low heat, it was sweet with just a hint of anise. I kept it warm until ready to serve, but prepared the rest of the salad: orange wedges, arugula, and a simple balsamic dressing. The fennel ended up being the most expensive part of the dinner.


Finally, I served it all with some V'Con vodka sauce over penne pasta, an instant creamy classic that is easily doubled for a crowd. The photo isn't great, but the end result was everything that a good vodka sauce should be, and went well with the other two featured items.

All this and 2 bottles of wine for under 15€! I was also going to do dessert, but we ended up just drinking wine for dessert. See? Simple, Sexy, and dare I say, very European. :P

Real Valentines Day wasn't so bad either: no wine and roses, but beer and sushi in the bathtub, while watching Arrested Development episodes. Works for me, my friends.

Hope you lot had a nice V-Day, or had fun ignoring it all together!

song of the day: The Cardigans- Lovefool

2/2/11

50 Vegan Sandwiches

Every so often the Times has a huge food section article with like, 101 ideas for salads or 101 ideas for grilling. My Dad usually saves the print version from his work and brings it home for me, where I proceed to drool over the unlimited possibilities, or at least the vegetarian ones. (Btw, how great is my Dad? He is in Egypt right now covering the protests! Crazy, right?)

The idea is, relatively simple combos that might be a bit unusual or sort of a cheater recipe for something usually prepared in a more complex way. Or maybe even classics that you don't normally think of as being "fast food." Regardless, the list-iness of it jogs your memory and inspires you to come up with interesting meals instead of opting for that restaurant, frozen item, or over-used standby.

In my opinion, us vegans need something like this. A long list of ideas for simple snacks or whatever, not so much recipes as combinations that you can use as a guideline for improvisation.

So! I will start off with a list for sandwiches! This is not meant to be exhaustive and leans toward my own personal tastes, so if you have any good and simple ideas, leave it in the comments! And if you want to make a list like this for desserts, breakfast, snacks, ect, go ahead and leave a comment and we can link it up. It'll be an instant score for anyone wondering what to eat for a quickie vegan meal. So without further ado...!

50 Vegan Sandwiches!!!

*Classics*

1. The Hummus Supreme: Hummus + cucumbers + tomatoes + thin sliced red onion + drizzle of pomengranate molasses on multigrain bread

2. The Roasted Wrap: Balsamic Roasted eggplant, zucchini, mushrooms + tomatoes + basil and arugula rolled into a lavash or tortilla

3. The Portobello: Grilled, marinated portobello mushrooms + roasted red peppers + hummus + basil on french bread

4. The Rueben: Tempeh bacon + Vegan Russian dressing + Sauerkraut on toasted sourdough

5. The Poor and Toasty: Herbed Earth balance slathered on a roll and toasted face-down in a nonstick pan until crusty, stuffed with tomatoes and or onions (depending on level of poverty).

6. Italiano: Pesto mixed into a little vegan mayo + tomatoes + olives + roasted eggplant on focacia or ciabatta

7. The Pizza Bagel: Tomato Sauce + Sliced Mushrooms + plenty of nooch (or soy moz) on two bagel halves, broiled.

*Breakfast Sammies*

8. The Waffle-wich: Peanut Butter + Sliced Bananas+ Drizzle of Maple Syrup, between two toasted frozen waffles

9. The Wafflewich, revisted: Same as above except with vegan sausage patties (like Gimme Lean) instead of bananas and pb. (Oh, like you haven't done it.)

10. The Scramble: Tofu scramble wrapped up, burrito style, in a tortilla

11. The Mexican Scramble: Tofu scramble + guac + salsa in a tortilla

12. The Radial Bagel: Soy Cream Cheese + Sliced Avocado + Sliced Tomato + thin sliced red onion + sprouts open faced on a grilled bagel

13. The Einstein: Chopped veggies and herbs folded into soy cream cheese + everything bagel

14. The McTuffin: Broiled/ Baked Tofu + Nooch Cheesy sauce or soy cheese slices+ circular breakfast sausage on an English muffin. (They serve these at Sticky Fingers Bakery in DC, btw.)

*Fruity Favorites*

15. Elvis: Peanut butter+ banana grilled in earth balance (add in a slice of soy bacon if you're feeling really cheeky.)

16. PB + F: Peanut/ Almond/ Cashew butter+ fresh sliced peaches, apples, strawberries, ect.

17. The Weekender: Sliced green apples + whole grain mustard + vidalia onions on pumpernickel

18. Sophisticated: Faux Cream cheese + Fig preserves + sliced toasted almonds, open-faced on good mulitgrain bread

19. Bollywood: Mango chutney+ faux cheddar, grilled cheese style

20. La Casita: Pan-fried, sliced plantains + chili powder + peanut butter in a tortilla

21. The Brussels : Sliced Apples+ Shredded Carrots+ Soy Cream Cheese + Agave Nectar in French Bread

22. The Peaches and Cream: Sliced peaches + creamed cashews + drizzle of agave stuffed inside a panini and grilled

23. The Lover: Toasted french bread+ vegan chocolate hazelnut spread + sliced strawberries + dusting of cinnamon or powdered sugar (serve w/ soymilk, plz)

24. The Banana Cream Pie: Sliced Bananas+ Soy cream cheese + brown sugar broiled open-faced on thick cut multigrain bread or a bagel.

*Protein Central*
25. BLT w/ a twist: Crispy tempeh bacon + Avocado slices+ lettuce+ tomato slices on toast

26. Meatball Sub: Leftover meatballs + leftover spaghetti sauce + soy cheese on a sub roll

27. Turkey club: Tempeh bacon + deli slices+ lettuce, tomato and mustard

28. The Momma's boy: Veganaise+ Lettuce+ Tomato + Soy Cheese + Deli Slices

29. The Way-better McRib: Broiled Morningstar Riblets + Slaw on focaccia

30. BBQ Baby: BBQ Tofu+ Grilled/ Caramelized Onions+ Toasted Roll

31. The Sailor Girl: (Leftover) breaded, fried tofu + veganaise mixed with a little relish or capers + generous squeeze lemon on a roll

32. The Babysitter: Cooked Soy hot dog, cut in 1/2 + Ketchup and Relish on whatever bread available (just make it fast, before the parents get home)


*Salad Sandwiches*

33. The Greek: Lettuce+ Cucumbers+ Slivered almonds+ grapes+ olives+ crumbled tofu+ Greek dressing stuffed into a warm pita

34. Tofu Salad: Not-egg salad on white toast (not for me, thankyouverymuch)

35. The Jimmy: Tons of raw spinach + thin sliced red onions + red pepper hummus on a toasted bagel

36. The Leftover heaven: Whatever awesome salad you had yesterday inside a hollowed out french bread loaf

37. The Chik'n Salad: Mashed cooked chickpeas + diced onion and carrots + relish + vegan mayo + salt, pepper and praprika on toast

38. The Tahini Dream: Roasted Eggplant + Spinach + tomato chunks in tahini miso dressing (equal parts tahini and miso plus a little warm water and agave nectar) rolled in a lavash

*Even More Sandwiches

39. The Portobello burger: Grilled or broiled portobello mushroom cap + pesto + tomato slices on a burger roll

40. The Patty Melt: Grilled Black Bean Burger + Grilled onions + soy american style cheese, grilled in between two buttered sour dough slices. A southern classic.

41. The Orange Monster: Roasted sweet potato mashed and spread over a whole grain tortilla + mushrooms + onions + corn + spinach + hot sauce

42. Mexi-Wrap: Mashed black beans + salsa + guac + jalapenos rolled in a whole grain tortilla

43. The kid brother: PB+J + potato chips

44. The Doug: Sliced, roasted beets + avocado slices + sweet mustard + sliced onion on whole grain bread

45. The George Bush Sr.: Broccoli or Broccoli Rabe + Nooch + Red Pepper Flakes, broiled on sturdy whole grain bread until broccoli is starting to char in places

46. The Tea Luncheon: Thin sliced radishes + cucumbers+ salt and pepper + soy cream cheese on white toast with the crust cut off.

47. The Open Sesame: Baba Ganoush + roasted red peppers + roasted zucchini + squeeze of lemon on pita

48. The Subway: Cukes+ tomatoes + sliced onions+ lettuce + Italian dressing on a hoagie roll

49. Harriet the Spy: Veganaise + Tomatoes + plenty of salt and pepper on wonderbread

50. The Pita: Falafel+ red cabbage slaw + hummus/ soy-yogurt sauce/ hot sauce in a warm pita

...so, that's about what I could come up with. Please add your faves in the comments!

(Top right image via Treehugger)