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