Hot Knives Mac and Cheese

Oh man, US Elections are so much more fun from the US! I was totally excited to try to stay up until 6 last week and watch how a close race played out in my home state of Virginia. I went to a local bar where they were broadcasting US news and serving pancakes all night long. However, by 3am I was pretty drunk and tired of standing around with Berlin's entire American and British population in a bar the size of my kitchen, straining for a peek at CNN. So instead I passed out "early" (ie, before any swing state came in) and the next morning while passing me the coffee my husband commented casually, "oh by the way, did you see Obama won?"

Aaaargh. Its a total drag trying to translate American pleasures to a foreign context.

But its ok. I'm already looking forward to coming home over the holidays and partaking in the most American, female, East Coast possible activity- going to see Les Mis in the theaters the day after Christmas (of COURSE.) And until then, I have vegan mac and cheese. Did you guys see that Hot Knives posted a to-die-for new mac and cheese recipe with BEER? This may just replace my standard Vegan Yum Yum version. With leeks and carrots on the side its comfort food for the absentee voter.

Hot Knives: Perfecting Vegan Mac and Cheese

Song of the Day: Bombay Bicycle Club- Shuffle


Vegan Mofo: Green Goddess Dressing

So I've been on a garlic kick recently (like for the last 18 years or so). However, I am almost never on a salad kick. I don't know why, but salads just don't excite me the way that a good stew or casserole does. However! This is really dumb because I happen to live in a place where truly fancy salad greens like mache, arugula, butter lettuce, endives, ect are all totally commonplace and cheap.

Its kind of like how you can buy a stick of Brussels sprouts at Whole Foods for like $4.99, and a huge bag of them are like $.99 here in Berlin. (Chalk it up to being closer to Brussels, I guess.)

My point is, I should be exploiting this price difference to my advantage and eating my weight in fancy field greens! Yet, I often think of a salad as a pale side to a rich dinner.

Not today though! I've been working my way through Appetite for Reduction (insert obligatory gushing about Isa Chandra Moskowitz here) and she has a whole range of interesting salad dressings to try from. And her garlicky Green Goddess Dressing is truly a thing of beauty. With peppery parsley, creamy tahini and tons of garlic, its enough to even drive my salad-hating hubby to steal from my bowl.

This one is going in the permanent rotation.

Song of the Day: Taylor Swift- We are Never Getting Back Together


Vegan Mofo- Ginger Apple Cupcakes w/ Peanut Butter Icing

Guys, I know I should probably branch out a little from cupcakes. Aside from being calory-laden and packed with sugar, they are ubiquitous in the vegan world and beyond.

But the thing is, I'm so good at them! Its like the one dessert I have on lock! I make pies on very special summer days, I occasionally make cookies, and I've been known to make a real size cake when the mood strikes, but there's is nothing that I can whip up in 45 minutes flat like cupcakes. Cupcakes, once you get the hang of them, are ridiculously simple and can be altered to contain whatever is clogging your kitchen- plums, fig jam, cashews, wasabi.... (Well, I haven't tried that last one.)

Anyways, the obvious reason for my comfort and ease in the cupcake realm is because of the by now infamous tome 'Vegan Cupcakes Take over the World' by the Moskowitz/ Romero power house. I mean, it hardly bears mentioning since you ALL have this book. And like many of you, having familiarized myself with some of the basic cupcakes recipes, I can now invent cupcakes at whim with simple substitutions and combos.

So yesterday I felt the need for some fall-apple goodness, and decided to alter the Gingerbread cupcakes I love so dearly, subbing out diced crystallized ginger with diced apple. On top of this spicy, apple-filled cake I piped the luscious, crack-like peanut butter icing that is now taunting me from my kitchen.

They are very delicious. And now I have 12 11 of them. Maybe it is really time to step away from the cupcakes. Luckily, my good friend SMP has gifted me with an awesome ice cream maker AND a vegan ice cream cookbook, so now I have the perfect excuse to branch out into new arenas...

Song of the Day: Ronald Jenkees- Stay Crunchy


Vegan Mofo: Sweet Potato w/ Apple Corn Salsa

Hey guys! Just a normal Monday night, nothing too exciting but as its Vegan Mofo I will share my simple dinner. This was a baked sweet potato with some garlicky kale and "apple corn salsa" which is actually really good. You just saute some chopped red onion and add in a chopped apple and a handful of corn. Salt and pepper it up, then when everything is well-cooked add in a splash of balsamic vinegar.

The kale was also special because its super-rare in Berlin (at least, as far as I can tell.) I found a stand at the Farmers Market last week selling it so I bought a metric ton and froze it so I can have kale all winter!

Hurrah! Not every day can be exciting. :P

Song of the Day: Nie Mehr- CRo


Vegan Mofo: Trendy Chile w/ Chipotles, Sweet Potatoes and Chocolate

If you've browsed through recipe pages at all (and yes Mofoer, I know you have) you may have noticed that there are more Vegan Chile Recipes than there are vegans. Everyone has a slight variation with a wild weird ingredient that catches on like wildfire for a bit. For the last few years, you could say these were:
  • Chipotles
  • Chocolate
  • Beer 
  • Brussel Sprouts
  • Tomatillos
  • Sweet potatoes
 Well, I love trying new things and I'm not really married to any special recipe of my own, so whenever I make chile, I go for broke. This time was no different. This chile contained 3-4 chipotles, a handful of dark chocolate chunks, sweet potatoes, and a sip of beer, among other, standard chile ingredients. I served it over soft polenta with some chopped onions and cool yogurt. It was outstanding, if almost a little too trendy.

I would post the recipe, but I don't want to add to the clutter of the online vegan chile world. Just go experiment kids, its hard to mess something so essentially and innocently good!
Song of the Day: Basement Jaxx- Do your thing


Vegan Mofo: Anxiety Reducing Tamarind Coconut Curry

Oh my Gosh you guys, I went to the doctor yesterday and I was so freaked out. No idea why, but the idea of going to the doctor in a foreign country always freaks me out. What if he or she doesn't understand what you are asking for and removes a rib or something? Or what if they totally miss any problems because you don't understand the question? I once went to a doctor in Budapest complaining of a stomach ache and they gave me a sonogram. True story.

But then I remember that my German is much better now, and because everyone here is way into holistic medicine the only risk of going to a doctor is likely to be a lecture about doing yoga and taking magnesium supplements. Yes, my doctor ended up being super chill. She even wrote in my prescription that I should get a hula-hoop to reduce menstrual cramps. What American doctor (who wasn't insane) would prescribe a hula-hoop? No, they would hand you a bottle of painkillers. Oh America, how I miss you.

Anyways, despite kind of being in love with my new German doctor, I was still a little shaky from the morning of predicting horribles. And what better thing to eat to calm you down than a big, spicy curry? For some reason curries always calm me down- the spicier the better. Maybe curry powder has a secret calming effect. Or its just the appeal of standing in the kitchen chopping vegetables for big aromatic stew- definitely takes your mind off you problems.

Either way, for me curries are the ultimate soulful comfort food- plus a good excuse to get rid of any veggies remaining in your fridge. Its not really an authentic recipe (I mean, obviously), but lemme give you the equation for how I do it. Its hard to screw up, it gets the job done, and coconut milk is pretty forgiving if you need to add in more curry or spice.

Tamarind Coconut Curry
 1 onion
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1" ginger root, peeled and chopped
[Lots of veggies]
1.5 T curry powder
Cayenne pepper
1 T Tamarind paste (if ya got it)
1 14 oz can Coconut Milk (light is fine)

Tomato/ Tomato paste
Agave nectar (optional)

1.) While a pot or wok is heating up to medium with a few tablespoons of oil, chop up an onion, 3-4 cloves garlic, and  ginger. When oil is hot, throw them in.
2.) While they are cooking, chop up whatever veggies are lying around, eg., carrots, leeks, peppers, zucchini, broccoli, bok choi, mushrooms, ect.
3.) Throw those in to the pot, and saute a few more minutes. Next, sprinkle over everything 1 and 1/2 tablespoons curry powder, plus 1 tablespoon tamarind paste and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Stir to coat.
4.) Finally, add in a 14 oz. can of coconut milk, plus a squirt of agave nectar (to counteract the sour tamarind.) Throw in some chopped tomato if you have some, or a squirt of tomato paste.
5.) Cook for 15-20 minutes and taste to adjust seasonings.

Serve with rice, cashews, chopped herbs, ect.

Song of the Day: Ben Folds Five- Do it anyway


Vegan Mofo: Homemade Pizza

There is something really great about being able to control your own pizza destiny. Once you have an excellent dough recipe and an excellent sauce, its like, the world is your oyster pizza! If you have some vegan cheese lying around you can toss that on, or whip up some tofu ricotta from Vegan With a Vengeance. Or you can make it all healthy green stuff, safe in the knowledge that it still won't be *too* healthy. You could throw on tempeh bacon, caramelized onions, pineapple, corn (like they do in Europe) or any other crazy thing and its still going to be awesome!

For this edition of pizza roulette, I topped my little monster with shallots, brocoli, spinach, mushrooms and, the real kicker: soy curls drenched in BBQ sauce. It was kind of like that BBQ chicken pizza that was such a hit back in the nineties. Except way better because it was vegan homemade!

I know you guys can search through my pages yourself, but let me just hook you up with the no-fail dough and sauce recipes I use and save you the trouble in case you are in the mood for some pizza yourself.

  Pizza Crust
-1 packet yeast
-1 and 1/3 cup warm water
-1 tsp. salt
-1 T. agave (or honey or sugar, if you swing that way)
-Approx. 3.5 cups flour (for use a mix of white and whole wheat flour)
-2 T. olive oil, plus extra for the bowl

1.) In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast into the water and let it sit for 5-10 minutes.
2.) Add in the rest of the ingredients and blend together, kneading for 10 minutes, or until relatively smooth. At this point you can add in a bit more flour if its too sticky. (Nice to have an assistant on hand for that, since your hands will be covered in dough.)
3.) Form dough into a ball and place into a bowl that has been coated in oil. Set in a warm corner, covered by a damp cloth and leave it alone for an hour or so. (Pro-tip: My friend SMP let me in on a secret to quicker rising- just put your dough bowl into an oven along with a pot of freshly boiled water. The steamy oven will guarantee good a rise.)
4.) After time has passed, punch down the dough and divide into two balls. Leave one in the bowl and take the other one out, rolling out on a floured surface to your desired thinness and leaving some width on the sides for the crust. Transfer to pizza pan/ stone/ cookie sheet or just a rack.
5.) Top with toppings and bake in a 400 degree oven for 10-15 minutes.
6.) Repeat with the other ball, or freeze/refrigerate for later use as pizza, breadsticks, or calzones.

 Easy Tomato Sauce
2 14 oz cans Diced/ Crushed Tomatoes
1 small onion, diced.
3-4 cloves garlic, peeled and diced
1 tbsp EVOO
1/2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp basil
1/2 tbsp brown sugar
salt and pepper to taste

1.) Cook the onion in oil over medium-low heat for 4-5 minutes. Then add in garlic and cook a few minutes longer. Add dash balsamic to deglaze. Then add in the rest of the ingredients. Raise the heat to medium, cover, and cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste and adjust spices, then, using immersion blender, blend until smooth.

Song of the Day: Universal Heartbeat- Julianna Hatfield


Vegan Mofo: Mushroom Tibs

One thing about vegans is that we tend to have serious cookbook lust. Vegan cookbooks are portals into another world of not being outcasts because of our aversion to animal products, and we cling to them for dear life, hoping they will provide the perfect thing to serve to our in-laws or boss to trick them into thinking we are "normal." *(Which we will be in 20 years, when the entire world is vegan and artisan vegan cheese is in every corner market.)

Here in my household, my husband is a pretty good sport about not getting his desired ham and schnitzel dinners on the reg, but I still love finding a recipe that knocks socks off, vegan or not.

And I just found one yesterday, courtesy of (who else?) Isa Chandra Moskowitz, grand doyenne of Vegan cuisine. I've been reading her new cookbook, "Appetite for Reduction," more as recreational reading than instructional, but I decided to cook one of my bookmarked recipes yesterday, Mushroom Tibs.

An incredibly simple and pantry-friendly side, this is essentially mushrooms coated in a bit of tomato paste and tons of warm and sexy spices that will make your kitchen smell great. Served with some turmeric rice with raisins, and de-frosted green beans with tons of fresh lemon, I had an amazing, almost restaurant quality meal which thrilled us both for almost no cash.

Next time I will make twice as much! And there will be a next time, trust me.
Song of the Day: Aluna George- Your Drums, Your Love


Vegan Mofo: Vegan Pad Thai, in a way

Pad Thai is supposedly the national dish of Thailand, but those of us who grew up in Northern Virginia know: this is the dish of our people, too. Nova has an overflow of excellent Thai restaurants, and every Friday night without fail, government bureaucrats return home to their Lake Barcroft mini-mansions from a week of thanklessly pushing papers and sitting in traffic in our nation's capitol, to turn to their spouse and sigh: "Lets just order Thai."

This prevalence among the cosmopolitan upper-class has leaked into every nook of NOVA society, to the extent that my Art Teacher in high school would let us leave mid-class to go get takeout, as long as we brought back a shrimp Pad Thai for her, too. As kids, we went our for Thai before Prom and Homecoming, we went after victorious swim meets, we went our for Thai when we didn't have dates on Friday night. And now, when I come home to the US the first thing we do when we get off the plane is swing by Rabieng's to pick up a takeout order.

My point is: I love this dish. So when my boyfriend Husband S offered to go pick up the ingredients, I was thrilled. Until it came time to actually make the dinner and I realized he forgot something rather important. The noodles. He forgot the Pad!

So I wondered... can you make it with rice? It turns out, you can! Kind of! So this is my very tweaked take on the classic dish- minus noodles, fish sauce, and shrimp. Its vegan, and more of a Thai-style fried rice I guess, but its still absolutely delish.

Pad Thai Style Fried Rice

1 c. rice

3 Tbsp. Tamarind Paste
2 Tbsp. Soy Sauce
3 Tbsp. Agave Nectar
2 Tbsp. Rice Vinegar
Chile Sauce or Chile Flakes, to taste

Peanut oil
3 cloves garlic, diced
The white part of one leek, sliced (OR half a head napa cabbage, sliced into thin strips)
4-5 green onions, sliced
2 handfuls Mung Bean Sprouts
1 package firm Tofu, pressed and sliced into small rectangles
Any other veggies you want to use up (e.g., sliced mushrooms, strips of peppers, broccoli, ect.)

2 Limes, sliced
Plenty of roasted peanuts for garnish

1.) Cook the rice. When its finished, remove to a bowl and drizzle with peanut oil, tossing a bit to coat. Set aside. (You want it as cool as possible so this would be great to do in advance~ or use leftover rice.)

2.) Next, in a small saucepan, combine tamarind paste, soy sauce, agave nectar, and vinegar. Bring to a simmer then lower heat and add chili flakes or sauce to taste. (Note: I used really thick tamarind that doesn't break down entirely, requiring me to add the mixture over a sieve. There are various types of tamarind paste out there so this may or may not be necessary.)

3.) In a wok heat the peanut oil to medium (but not to smoking.) Add tofu and fry for about five minutes or until lightly browned. Add in garlic, leeks and onions and cook a bit longer. Then add the rest of your veggies and sprouts and cook a little longer. Finally, add in your cooled rice and the tamarind mixture, tossing to coat. Cook for 5-10 minutes, until rice is fried  and sauce is evenly distributed.

4.) Serve with limes for squeezing and topped with roasted peanuts.

Song of the Day: Anita Ward- Ring My Bell


Vegan Mofo: Silver Dollar Pancakes

In my ongoing quest to make soulful vegan mofo-foodsies, today I had a special request for breakfast: Silver Dollar Pancakes! For the uninitiated, these are very special pancakes that take years of training and have nothing to do with normal pancakes. (Shhhh.... you just make normal pancakes, except smaller.)

Any-old-way, I used my old standby recipe from Vegan Brunch and doused them in maple syrup and vegan margarine. I served them alongside some grapefruit and amped up vegan wurstchen (sausages.) I trick them out by sprinkling garlic powder and paprika on them, which is basically enough to trick out anything.

Awesome breakfast, to be followed by problematic but still awesome dinner of Pad Thai!

Don't worry, I'll tell you tomorrow. :)

Song of the Day- Scissor Sisters- Don't Feel Like Dancing


Vegan Mofo: Miss America

Mashed potatoes and chickpea gravy, spicy tofu, steamed veggies
You know, its really great living in Germany and I have a great life here. But sometimes, its unavoidable, I just miss the USA.  I miss being able to get a bagel or a vegan cupcake or a soy pumpkin latte with great ease. I miss being able to watch the Daily Show at 11 pm instead of the next morning. Hell, I miss "pm". I miss movies without subtitles. And I especially miss that special brand of sarcasm, pop-culture references, and absurdity that defines the American sense of humor.

My hubby just went to Toronto last week, and thought its not the US, (its in a place called "Canada" for those of you who don't know) I was still insanely jealous that he was on the North American continent, with possible fleeting access to bagels and the kind of boisterous diversity that Germany has yet to accomplish. So this week, as I was focusing on my Vegan Mofo topic of "Soul Food" I was trying to think about what kind of Soul Food is really 'Merican. For me, really, it comes down to TV dinners and Pad Thai.

Sure, Pad Thai isn't very American, but that's what I grew up on (at least on special occasions) and the fact that Northern VA has such a embarassing riches of great Thai restaurants (among great Ethiopean, Salvadorean, Peruvian, ect) is EXTREMELY American. On the other side of the spectrum are the convenience foods- Mac and Cheese, Hot Dogs, Hamburger Helper- that people of a certain age and class grew up with.

Anyways, long explanation over- I was longing for some USA soul food today, so I went for what is to me classic TV dinner- Mashed potatoes and chickpea gravy, steamed broccoli and carrots, and some mystery meat (in this case, tofu is our meatloaf stand-in.) Simple and perfect- now it just needs one of those mushy microwaveable brownies....

Next up, Pad Thai!

Song of the Day: Weezer- American Girls


Vegan Mofo: Pumpkin Fries at SY's

I have a friend named SY who is very funny and talented, being equally skilled at feng shui, explaining German culture to beginners, booty dancing, and cooking wonderful food. She also has many nicknames which I like to taunt her with, including "Mamph-Mamph" (German for "yumyum!") and "Sookie Younhouse." (Having never seen True Blood she is less than thrilled with the last one, but tolerates it.)

ANYWAYS. I'm at her house today "working" and she made a lovely lunch centered around a Hokkaido Pumpkin, sliced, drenched in pungent pumpkin oil, and baked, kind of like "Pumpkin Fries".

It was delish and maybe a good idea for mo-foers looking for a way to consume their October pumpkin bounty.

Song of the Day: Against Me! -Thrash Unreal


Vegam Mofo: Enchiladas and Tacos

Potato Spinach Enchiladas with Chipotle Sauce
 One of the nice things about having a repetoire of dishes that you've made dozens of times is that , if the dish is flexible enough, you can tweak it to include just about anything. That's how I feel about Enchiladas. I've got this so down that so long as I have some diced tomatoes and tortillas, I can make an enchilada out of just about anything. This week? I used chipotle for spicing up the sauce, and potatoes and spinach for a filler. Topped with a bit of vegan yogurt for cooling and its pure comfort food.

The leftover tortillas I used as a vehicle for using up some of the other veggies hanging out in my kitchen. Acorn squash, baked with some thyme and olive oil makes a nice, mashable base for  a simple sofrito from extra onions and peppers. Garnished with some hot sauce and guacamole and you've got a very serviceable quick and easy Friday dinner after a week of cooking up a storm.

Song of the Day: Metric- Synthetica


Vegan Mofo: Choco-Raspberry Cupcakes

Chocolate cupcakes with buttercream icing and homemade raspberry preserve filling, a birthday treat for a friend. Maybe not soul-food, but definitely heavenly. 

Song of the Day: The Shoes- Time to Dance


Vegan Mofo: Black Eyed Pea Stew and Battered Okra

Hey guys! Its day 3 of Mofo and so far I made something Southern, something Latino, and today I continue my journey of soulfood with a dish from Carribean Vegan, the Black Eyed Pea Stew. The author, Taymer Mason, specifically mentions that this is a good dish for recovering from a cold because its hearty and nearly fat-free. Since I'm recovering from a cold, that really spoke to me. Its even extra perfect because I have a special love for black-eyed peas. Who wouldn't love a bean that is tasty, renowned for bringing good luck, and much faster to cook from scratch than your average bean? In this stew its also souped up with some carrots, tomato, and bajan seasoning- a must for cooking from this cookbook that I will demonstrate in a later post.

On the side I decided to have something fatty after all- battered okra. I know some people are totally icked out by Okra but ever since I discovered its wondrous properties in gumbo I'm all about it. For this I soaked it for a minute in soymilk, then dredged in a mixture of cornmeal, flour, salt and pepper and garlic powder. Then I fried it in a couple inches of oil. (I was kind of thinking about hush puppies.) Worked like a charm!

All in all, a totally soulful and satisfying Wednesday supper. Now it would only be more delicious if I could eat it alongside the Presidential Debate tonight in the US, but alas, I will have to enjoy that event with my morning coffee here in Gerrrrrmany.

Song of the Day: Portugal, the Man- So American


Vegan Mofo: A Tale of Two Chard Soups

Creamy Chard Soup w/ Tostones, from The Inspired Vegan
 I have this vision that comes to me when I'm feeling under the weather. Since I'm already compelled to eat lots of garlic, my Dayquil-addled brain reasons, why not just roast a shitload then make it into a soup? Yes, roasted garlic soup! With some greens! Why not? It should work!

Roasted Garlic Soup (kinda)
But you know, it kind of doesn't. I mean, its not horrible or anything, but I've never successfully managed to bring out the rich, velvety flavor of roasted garlic without drowning it in broth. Well pas failures aside,  I tried my old trick again this week, this time spicing it up with some swiss chard, mushrooms, and a bit of miso. (And then, since I was sick and couldn't taste it anyways, I squeezed a bunch of lemon juice and put a bunch more diced up garlic in there too.) It was fine. It got the job done- the job being "transporting nutrients to my system"- but one couldn't really call it "Soul Food."

I will perfect this one day, troopers. But this week, I had to make room for another Chard soup, this one from Bryant Terry.

I actually spend a lot of time on this blog discussing how much I like Bryant Terry, I realize, but he actually is so freaking cool that he sort of deserves it. His cookbooks are packed full of exactly what I would describe as "Soul Food"- vibrant, multi-ethnic dishes with history and flavor that doesn't come from using fancy ingredients. His Creamy Chard Soup with Tostones (pictured above), for example, has very few ingredients- some chard, coconut milk, a pinch of cayenne, some plantains- but its all about the technique and the mix. He says its inspired by a Carribean dish, with Tostones naturally being a Latin American addition that brings some crunch to the subtle soup. (They are also a fun way to release aggression, I have learned.)

So thanks to Terry for saving the day. And now on to the next culinary soul food adventure!

Song of the Day: Sister Nancy- Bam Bam


Vegan Mofo: Jambalaya

Jambalaya! I feel like there was a dorky commercial in the nineties advertising some instant Jambalaya-flavored rice mix, where a couple danced around the kitchen while a brass band plays, instantly transporting themselves from their hum-drum lives to the spicy streets of New Orleans.

Well, that commercial may have been stupid, but it got one thing right: something about the food of New Orleans makes people feel festive! Its interesting, because so much of said food is like, rice, gravy, and boiled crustaceans, but somehow the people there know how to transform humble beginnings into rarefied gourmet delicacies. Jambalaya is no different- you can't help but feel a little bit special when you make it. Just please don't make me cringe by dancing around your kitchen shouting, "Jamba-LAYA!"

Note: I don't pretend to be an expert on Authentic Cajun cooking (and certainly, vegan food tends to not be very "authentic").  This recipe is loosely inspired by several in the Southern Foodways Alliance Cookbook but they also have widely different ways of preparing it, including one version where the dish is baked. Of course, if you have alternative suggestions please feel free to chime in in the comments.

Vegan Jambalaya 
1- 2 Servings Vegan chorizo, (or other sausage) sliced (A cups worth is great)
1 medium onion, diced
1 Green pepper, diced
3 stalks (or so) celery, sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup mushrooms, diced
2 cups rice
3 and 3/4 cups veggie broth (or water + bouillon, or faux-chiken broth)
1 tbs. Creole/ Cajun seasoning
2 Bay leaves
Sprig thyme
1 14oz. can diced tomatoes (with green chiles is good)
Liquid Smoke
Tabasco sauce
Salt and pepper

1.) In a large pot, saute your sliced soy-sausages in oil. If they are chorizo flavored, you're good to go, but if they are plain, then soup them up generously with the following: paprika garlic powder, liquid smoke. After they are good and browned, remove them with a slotted spoon to a separate dish, and keep the flavored oil.
2.)  Add in the onions, celery, and pepper and cook for 5 minutes. Then add in garlic and mushrooms and cook until softened, seasoning with salt and pepper.
3.) Add in water or veggie broth, tomatoes, Bay leaves, thyme and Cajun seasoning. Bring to a boil, then add in rice. Stir to combine, lower heat to a simmer, and cover until rice has absorbed most of liquid and is soft (you might need to add in more liquid if its too dry). Stir sausage back in and a dash of liquid smoke. Season to taste with Tabasco sauce and serve, alone or as part of a Cajun dinner.


Vegan Mofo and Winter are coming! Better bulk up!

Its the end of the September, and that means two things: 
1.) Time to start breaking out super-star winter breakfasts, like the banana pancakes above, bedecked with toasted walnuts, raspberries and maple syrup. Packing on the pounds this time of year isn't a no-no, its practically a an obligation. Especially if you have a cruel husband who refuses to turn on the heating until November.
2.) Its almost Vegan Mo-Fo!

And what IS Vegan Mo-Fo, asks no one? Well, in case you missed out the last 3 years, it is a month long blogging event wherein food bloggers all over the world write a blog post every day of the month about, you guessed it, vegan food! Sometimes people have themes and only blog about e.g., orange food, or sauces, or ice cream recipes, but it is not necessary to have a theme to participate. It is really fun because vegan bloggers are in hyper-blogging mode for a whole month so there is tons more food porn, recipes, and cool ideas that you never thought of before from blogs that you may never have heard of before. On top of all that, the Vegan Mofo Headquarters webpage has a list of all participating blogs for your perusal, and will highlight cool posts, as well as run some competitions and giveaways.

Its just good old fashioned fun.

SO of course I will do it again this year, although I usually run out of stamina at one point. And I have a theme, kind of! I will be blogging about recipes from my cookbooks, but focusing on what I consider Soul Food- vibrant, creative comfort food. I especially dig stuff from Latin American, Caribbean, and Southern traditions. Most of my cookbooks are vegan but for those that aren't I may also veganize a few recipes. In sum, you can look forward to some highlights and experiments in my version of Soul Food.

Here's some of the cookbooks I'll be using:

 So, I am super excited for another successful Mo-Fo! The deadline for sign-up is tomorrow, so if you are interested head on over to Vegan Mofo HQ to read more and sign up if you like! If not, you can still follow along at home, because I'm willing to guess that many of your favorite bloggers will be participating. See you next week!

Song of the Day: Grouplove- Tongue Tied


Sauteed Veggie Sandwich, Cupcakes, Eggplant Accras

Ahh, the ex-pat life. Where one day offers exhilarating discoveries (OMG Markthalle Neun has a vegan milkshake stand!) and the next day has you sobbing over ridiculously trivial challenges (OMG I can't understand my yoga teacher... wie sagt mann "Downward Facing Dog" auf Deutsch?!)

Now that I am really kind of a Berliner, by marriage and passport, I am feeling the pressure to get my sh*t together and stop being intimidated away from things like dentists and the metric system. Its time to face the German music (just not Wagner, please) and make a grown-up life for myself here.

However, one area where I am pleasantly caught up is in the kitchen. I know where to buy agar agar and miso, where to find vegan tamales, and how to navigate the baking aisle. I am even a regular at several farmer's markets. Thus, after a day of blustering through phone conversations or awkward interactions with librarians, I can still come home and enjoy something that reinforces that, to a very small extent, I know what I'm doing.

Above, for example, is a new sandwich creation. You know the magic sandwich, right? With the margarine+ nooch+ herb crust and various fillings? Well, above is a new take, with quick-sauteed spinach, mushrooms and peppers with a bit of balsamic as a filling. Totally takes lunch to another level. (Plus, hot sandwiches are crucial for your winter arsenal.)

 And clearly enough time in the kitchen leads to cupcakes. These ones were vanilla on vanilla, with fig filling and baby apricots on top.

I also recently acquired Taymer from Vegan in the Sun's cookbook, Carribean Vegan. It is totally jam-packed with things you will want to make, like jerk seasoning and Trinidadian doubles, but I had to start out with the eggplant accras- a riff on the little fried fish balls that are popular in that region, except with eggplant to sub for the fish. Taymer herself calls them her signature dish, and you can find the recipe on her website, here.  I made these for me and S. the other night and we dipped them in a little ketchup with lemon... it was like, restaurant quality. I highly recommend. They could be a great appetizer, but they would also be great for dinner with a side salad.

I'm definitely looking forward to making more from that cookbook, and continuing to reassert myself in the kitchen (before reasserting myself all over the rest of this country!!!)

Song of the Day: Dinosaur Jr. - Start Chopping


Back in Form: Cupcakes and Hoppin' Jimmy

Chocolate-Raspberry-Cupcakes with Lemon Cream Cheese Icing
Whew! After what now seems like several years of wedding-related madness (but was actually only a few months) S. and I are finally, really and truly, married and legally resident and official and all that jazz. I am allowed, by God, my parents and the Ausländerbehörde, to stay in Germany for the time being and start living a normal, somewhat less precarious existence. This doesn't mean that everything is stabilized (still looking for a steady job, after all) but things are calm enough that I can actually do that ultimate house-wifey activity: cook!

My first and foremost obsession of late has been cupcakes. I received a handheld mixer as a wedding gift so I can finally make American-style icing, not this glorified whip cream that Germans dig so much. The other day my friend K. finished her final law school exams and held a big party to celebrate, so I whipped up some marvelous cupcakes inspired, natch, by the PPK cupcake tome we all know and love. I made one batch of chocolate and one of vanilla, filled with homemade raspberry compote and topped with lemon cream cheese icing. Big hits (especially with me- I ate like 10 in two days.)

I've also been really into Southern food lately, following our sojourn in the US South. I got a couple of neat Community cookbooks (more on that in later posts) and also brought back some crucial ingredients- liquid smoke, molasses, and creole/ cajun seasoning.

Hoppin' Jimmy with garlicky-spinach
So far, the most popular of my "experiments" (don't ask about Peanut-beurre-blanc) is my version of Hoppin' John. I really like this for a weeknight meal because, unlike with other beans, black-eyed peas only require a quick soak and not the night-before treatment. Also, you can jazz it up with loads of spices or keep it simple as a side dish for more elaborate meals. The authentic Hoppin John would be bare bones, with the inclusion of an actual bone, a ham hock, or some other meaty thing. Mine, obvs, isn't authentic because I added a sofrito and additional spices, so we will call it Hoppin' Jimmy after my vegetarian little brother who lives for beans.
Hoppin' Jimmy
1 cup black-eyed peas, rinsed and soaked for at least one hour
3/4 cup white rice
1 large onion, diced
2 bell peppers (any color) diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
2 tbs. tomato paste
1 tsp. liquid smoke
1 tbs. Cajun or Creole seasoning 
oil, water, salt, pepper

1.) In pot, bring black-eyed peas and enough water to cover them to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Let simmer for ca. 1 hour, skimming off foam occasionally and adding more water if necessary, until beans are cooked through and soft.
2.) When beans are cooked to your liking, add rice and 1.5 cups of water to pot (less if there is still a lot of bean-cooking water.) Add some salt, bring back up to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer and cover.
3.) While the rice and beans are simmering away, add your onion to a medium sized, heavy bottomed pan with plenty of oil heated up to medium-low heat. When onions have slightly softened, add in chopped bell peppers and garlic and season with salt and pepper, plus the Cajun seasoning. Cook over medium heat until all vegetables have softened.
4.) Now, we combine. Give rice a check for done-ness, then a stir before adding in liquid smoke, tomato paste, and onion-pepper mixture, stirring gently to combine. Simmer for 5-10 more minutes until most of the liquid is cooked off and taste-test for any seasoning adjustments. 

Serve with greens and hot sauce.

Song the Day: Soko- I'll Kill Her


Birthday Lecsó

If there's anything you take away from this blog, I want you to be able to look at this photo and think: Lecsó! That is, I want you to face the inevitable onslaught of late summer tomatoes and peppers armed with this delicious Hungarian dish, which combines those two ingredients with a soy sausage of some sort and spices for a saucy, rich, homey stew that is perfect to serve to a big gang of friends.

Which is exactly what I did, this weekend! It was my birthday and I decided to go low-key and have some friends over to sit on our rooftop, listen to music, and eat a bunch of Lecsó (pronounced Lecho) with some good Turkish bread. As a condolence to some of the more militant meat-eaters I let S. make a batch with German sausage, while mine was made with soy-rizo from the local Bio-markt. Interestingly, though, mine turned out better and when both were empty, people passed around the vegan lecso pot to soak up the sauce with leftover bread. :)

You can find my recipe for vegan here, but I don't mind repeating it for those of you who don't feel like going through the archives. I also sometimes add a pinch of cayenne pepper, because I am a heat monster.
Lecsó ("Leh-cho")
(Note: this is an approximation, just keep to the rule of thumb of twice as many peppers as tomatoes and you'll be fine. Also, you can sub other peppers for Hungarian yellow paprika, but you may want to adjust the flavorings .)

-olive oil
-1 big onion (or two small) diced
-1 Hungarian-style vegan sausage (or sub about 3/4 cup some other type of crumbly sausage or even soy hot dogs and add 1 tablespoon smoked or sweet paprika as it cooks with the onion)
-8 Hungarian yellow peppers, cut into chunky dice
-4 tomatoes, diced
-salt and pepper, sugar (optional)

1.) In a large non-stick pan, saute onion and sausage in a little olive oil over medium heat until onion is soft and flavored by sausage. (If using paprika powder, add it now.)
2.) Add in peppers and cook for 10 minutes. Then add in tomatoes, salt and pepper (and an optional pinch of sugar.) Cook for 20-30 minutes, or until saucy and peppers are cooked to desired "done-ness."

Serve w/ rice or crusty bread.

All in all, it was a lovely birthday celebration with my good German friends, who as you can see above, are starting to get the hang of American English. :)

Song of the Day: Ben Folds Five- Where's Summer B.?


Recipes from The Inspired Vegan- Beans, Greens, Yams, Molasses Cake

I believe I have expressed my fondness for Bryant Terry on this blog before, and his first cookbook Vegan Soul Kitchen is now somewhat of a classic (according to me.) SO when I heard he had come out with a new cookbook, The Inspired Vegan, I knew I had to rush out and get it. (And/ or, wait 6 months until I was back in the US to grab it.) Happily, while on my honeymoon I had the chance to go to one of my ALL-TIME-FAVORITE places in the whole country, Charis Feminist Bookstore in Atlanta, GA, and they happened to have a copy sitting on the shelves! And that's not exactly a coincidence, because much like Charis, the book is packed with fascinating info about art, music, and social justice. The menus are dedicated to different themes and people that interest Terry, like Shirley Chisholm, Grace Lee Boggs, and Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, and interspersed with his own memories and interests, while giving information for those who are interested in further reading or volunteering for different causes. In this respect, it is much more than a cookbook. But just in case you have no interest in politics, history, music, the environment, or history (HA), you can still enjoy the recipes, which range from Southern soul food to Asian fusion to African cuisine. For me, being interested in all of those things (and how!) its the perfect drool-worthy cookbook that also inspires you to go beyond the pages and find out about all the cool people and movements he mentions.

I picked out a few recipes to cook for me and S.'s one month anniversary: black eyes peas in garlic ginger braised mustard greens, (or in my case, chard) and molasses, miso, and maple candied sweet potatoes. I served it with white rice rather than the suggested forbidden black rice, and it was totally delicious. The greens and beans were spicy and flavorful but still subtle in comparison to the juicy sweet potatoes that were bursting with strong flavors. Despite being an objectively healthy meal, this was still special occasion-type food that was really exciting to prepare and eat. We ate the meal with 'Dark & Stormy' cocktails, a mix of strong ginger beer and dark rum that is my new favorite special occasion cocktail.

For dessert I made another recipe from the book, ginger-molasses cake. (Its supposed to have walnuts but I didn't have any so I served it with peaches.) This was super easy to make with ingredients that most vegans would have on hand, and turned out really moist and delicious while still tasting very sophisticated and "different." It also looks like chocolate cake so its a fun way to trick guests. :)

I have no doubt that I'll be cooking plenty more from this tome and I hope that Terry keeps 'em coming.

Song of the Day: Fela Kuti- Water Got No Enemy