Give Me Spiciness or Give Me Death

In case I have never made this clear, I love me some spicy food.  I don’t know if it’s the cold weather or what, but I have days and weeks at a time where I crave only spicy food, and when I eat out at any kind of Mexican, Thai, or Indian restaurant, I actually get a little annoyed if my food is not satisfactorily spicy.  Anyway the point is that I’ve been craving hot food (especially Indian!) and so this post is about a couple little Indian dishes that I have made for myself.  It works out better anyway because it’s cheap and I can control the spice level!

Last week I made a Madras curry using an organic store-bought simmer sauce that I thought looked yummy.  Here it is:

For the curry, I sauteed thinly-sliced onion in olive oil, then added strips of fresh red pepper, fresh broccoli, chopped mushrooms, and defrosted pressed tofu, then added the simmer sauce and simmered for 10 minutes as directed.  Here it is before I added the simmer sauce:

And here’s the finished product, steaming hot!

I ate the curry over basmati rice that I cooked up with Earth Balance, cloves, and a bay leaf.  Even though the simmer sauce jar says “a red hot curry sauce”, it wasn’t all that spicy, so I added a generous amount of red pepper flakes while cooking, as well as a nice helping of hot sauce before eating.   Still could have been spicier though!  Nonetheless, it was a true delight and it literally lasted me about 4-5 meals.  Not bad for a made-up recipe! 

I also dug up some pictures of a “chana masala” that I made based on a web recipe a couple of months ago.  

 

First of all, I have no idea where I got the recipe…sorry.  It had chickpeas, spinach, lemon juice, onion, cumin, garam masala, etc.  Second, it’s not chana masala, it’s definitely chana saag because of the spinach and lack of tomato-y goodness.  But I made it work for me!   It was a fairly simple recipe and one that could be recreated easily by anyone looking for a quick, easy, tasty, Indian-inspired dinner.  Of course, if you want it spicy, you’re going to need to add a boat-load of pepper and hot sauce, but it’s worth it!

I actually found out that there is an Indian grocery store not too far from me, and I want to get over there sometime this week to buy some good quality hot peppers and have some more fun in the kitchen!

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Health is Wealth, And I Am Poor

I like junk food.  Alot.  Especially sweets. This is why I gained weight last semester.  That, and the fact that law school trains us outside of the classroom to be lawyers by shoving alcohol at us at every turn (in all seriousness).  I’m planning to be alot better this semester, and in general, I’m off to a good start!  However, this past week and weekend I was a little bad with the sweet-ing and dessert-ing…

First, the least of all evils, Zucchini Spelt Muffins, from Eat, Drink & Be Vegan by Dreena Burton.  I made these once before, but that time I used yellow squash instead of zucchini, and used the full 2 cups of banana that the recipe calls for, while this time I substituted about half with applesauce (because I ran out of bananas).  I made these just for fun, but mostly because I had a zucchini that needed eating.


Lovelies

These were sooooo delicious warm out of the oven, and were a little less sweet than that ones I made with yellow squash.  I brought some to school the next day and my one friend said she liked the flavor but thought the texture was a little weird.  I ate another one and they did seem a little grainy, so maybe I overbaked them?  Also, about 48 hours after I made them, the ones that I had covered in plastic wrap went bad!  I was really upset; I hate wasting food.  I think next time, storage in the fridge in a plastic container with a lid would extend their life.

Next up are Mucho Margarita Cupcakes out of my brand new copy of Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero!!!  I actually debated quite a bit with myself over whether or not to purchase this book because it might very well lead me to bake (and eat) cupcakes every week, but I felt so sure of the many hours of fun I’d get out of it that I bit the bullet.


Before icing


After icing

I made these for my roommate’s birthday because we both love margaritas, and everyone who tried them really liked them!  My roommate’s boyfriend said “It’s like chewing a margarita,” which I thought sounded bad, but he assured me that it was a compliment.  Two small warnings about these: 1) licking the bowl might make you a little tipsy, and 2) the icing is pretty runny, and though I added more confectioner’s sugar to thicken it as the recipe suggested, I found that it was still too runny to be able to do the pretty sugared rim I had intended, so I ended up just sprinkling the sugar on top.

Lastly, going with the theme of unbridled unhealthiness, I wanted to share some pics I’ve had around for a long while of my favorite go-to recipe to knock the socks off of my non-vegan friends.  These are the Cookies ‘n’ Cream version of Basic Chocolate Cupcakes with Vegan Fluffy Buttercream Frosting from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, which I had found online several months ago.  I usually make this as a double-layered cake, but here are some pics of actual cupcakes made from this recipe:  


yes, I am the kind of girl who has star-shaped baking tins

It’s so sad how you can totally tell by the sheer beauty of those pictures that a) they were taken with my old, dearly departed camera, and b) they were taken in outdoor lighting during a season when there was actually daylight and you could bear to go outside for more than 5 seconds.

And actually, now that it’s nearly my half-birthday, here is my birthday cake that I made for myself back in August:

I made an Oreo cake for a friend of mine who has been known to say things like, “Vegans are stupid” and “I’m not saying that you can’t cook.  I’m sure you prepare the food well, but that doesn’t change the fact that nothing tasty is vegan.”  He ate the entire thing and then, yes, admitted that “vegan” and “tasty” are not mutually exclusive.

Though vegan cupcakes and losing weight just might be… :b

Indoor Sunshine

It is SO.COLD. in Boston this week. I’ve been eating alot of soup, and while it’s easy (and truthfully, fairly yummy and satisfying) to heat up canned soup (I always have Amy’s or Whole Foods soups on hand), tonight I wanted to make some of my own. I’ve been thinking of the squash-broccoli-cauliflower soup concoction that Dad made for Christmas dinner (which was absolutely delightful) for a few weeks now, and the fact that I had a butternut squash in the kitchen that desperately needed to be eaten made my decision for me.  The result was something I am calling Sunshine Soup, because of its sunny color and pleasant warming taste.   A rough version of the recipe (because I sort of made it up as I went along) follows the pictures!


The star ingredients (squash, broccoli, onion, and garlic), mise en place


Simmering away (peas and carrots? ha)


Ready to eat!

This soup is tasty and seriously filling.  I was super-hungry but could only eat the portion shown, plus one slice of whole wheat bread as accompaniment.  The main tastes that stood out to me were the white pepper and the turmeric, with a hint of sweetness from the squash.  Overall it was a little reminiscent of curry (mostly I’m sure because of the turmeric!) and had the slightest hint of spiciness.  Also, I happen to love the strong and distinctive taste of white pepper, but if you don’t like it or haven’t tried it before, I’d recommend skipping it in the recipe.  The broccoli doesn’t actually add much flavor but it definitely adds a nice texture and some solid nutrition.   I have a ton left over, which will be great to pack up and bring to school over the next week.

And as promised, la receta:

Ingredients
1 small butternut squash, peeled and 1″ cubed (or as close as possible to cubed)
1 head of broccoli, stems only, 1″ cubed (or as close as possible to cubed)
1 medium onion, roughly diced
4 small-medium cloves of garlic, cut into strips (see picture above…sort of in the shape of slivered almonds)
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil (I hardly ever use 2 full tbsp. of oil for cooking, but for this recipe it’s necessary in order to properly “roast” the garlic without burning it)
2 1/4 c. vegetable stock
1 c. water
a boatload of whatever spices you want (I used ground white and black pepper, ground coriander, oregano, turmeric, a bit of garam masala, a bit of cumin, and sea salt, obviously)

Instructions
Heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Throw in the garlic and push it around with a wooden spoon for a few minutes til it starts to brown (be careful not to burn it!).  Toss in the onion and sautee for 2-3 minutes until it starts to soften.  Add the squash and broccoli and sautee for about 5 minutes, until the mixture seems like it’s getting soft.  Put in whatever spices you are using and stir for another minute.  Add the broth and water.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.  Puree using an immersion blender or in batches using a food processor.   Adjust seasonings as necessary.

Note: If you puree the entire thing, it’s pretty thick.  I reserved about 1/6 of the soup with the veggie chunks in it and pureed the rest, then stirred the brothy chunky part back in at the end, because I wanted it a little more soupy.

Playing House

It’s unbelievable, but as of Monday, my second semester of law school is underway!  I have a pretty good schedule this time around, meaning I’ll have lots of time to cook and even get to the gym. 

I spent the last 2 weeks of my vacation doing a whole lot of nothing, which felt amazing, especially since I haven’t had a winter break since college.  I spent a good part of the last week helping out a friend who had recently undergone surgery and cooking for that friend, who is an omnivore.   It’s not my style to try to convince anyone to become vegan, and though I’m not opposed to cooking non-vegan for someone else, the fact is that I’m most comfortable with and adept at cooking vegan foods.  To that end, when cooking for others, I try to make dishes that anyone can enjoy, and I think I am usually pretty successful! 

Now, for some reason I only have photos of one entree.  There is a picture of one of them on my friend’s camera, which I’ll try to retrieve soon, and the other got eaten before its photo op.  Sowwy.

The photographed entree was Bean & Corn Tortilla Lasagna with Avocado from Eat, Drink & Be Vegan.
 

The whole shebang


A nice little portion (with lime, as suggested!)

I loved this recipe hot out of the oven.  It makes six servings and I ate two of them right away, doused with chipotle hot sauce (because I am a spicy food fiend!).  My only issue with this recipe is that it doesn’t work especially well as leftovers, which I guess I should have anticipated because of the avocado.  The weird thing was that the avocado stayed green and fresh-looking but tasted funky after 1-2 days.  The rest of it was still delicious so I just picked out the avocado.  So if I made this one again, I’d do it for a family dinner or at some other occasion where all of it would be consumed in one sitting.

Because I am a sweets lover and because I equate desserts with comfort and love, I made sure to make lots of them during my friend’s recovery.  For these, I used my beautiful brand-new copy of The Everyday Vegan by Dreena Burton! 

First, Chewy Nutty Cereal Chip Squares

These are heavenly.  Seriously, I kind of want to make some tonight.  My only complaint about these is that they fall apart fairly easily when picked up.  I might use a little extra maple syrup next time and see if that makes a difference.  For this batch, I used peanut butter instead of almond because that was what I had open in my kitchen. 

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
 

I have never been a huge fan of oatmeal raisin cookies, but these rock.   Well, okay…I actually should admit that because I didn’t have any raisins, I used chopped Turkish apricots, so really they were Oatmeal Apricot cookies.  But they still rocked.  They were so soft and chewy and flavorful.  Between me, my friend, and my friend’s roommate, they were gone in about a day and a half.  

Coconut Raspberry Squares
 

I apologize for the less-than-stellar picture, but the lighting was terrible in my friend’s kitchen.  I know they kind of look like pizza squares, but that’s not the picture’s fault; they actually really look like that.  I have to be honest and say that I didn’t love these; the flavor and texture reminded me of Passover (a holiday that I loathe) because they tasted a bit like matzoh with cream cheese and jelly. 

I have some more fun food to post about, so look for that in the next few days!

A Vegan-ish Christmas

Happy New Year!!! First, news: I got a new digital camera for Christmas so now I can get back to blogging. Yayyy!!!

Second, food!  Christmas 2008 was a bit of an unusual holiday at the Cook house.  M was away for the week and didn’t return until about 7 p.m. on Christmas Day, so most of the presents and stuff happened at night instead of our usual morning.  Also, the food was alot different than normal.  Both of my parents have been working really hard to lose weight and lead a healthier lifestyle, with great results!  Because of this, our Christmas dinner was very veggie-heavy, and actually was 100% vegan outside of the turkey.  It might not seem like alot, but it was really exciting stuff for me!  We had mounds of roasted vegetables: broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, asparagus, and rosemary potatoes.

Here are all the veggies laid out, waiting to be roasted:

 

Then we had to consolidate in order to fit everything in the oven.  Aren’t they gawwwgeous??

 

Here is a picture of the spread, before the turkey came out: there are the veggies of course, plus a quinoa dish (with assorted chopped vegetables and spices cooked in), and in the pear thingy was the most delicious squash soup (made with onions, roasted garlic, broccoli and cauliflower stems, and butternut squash), which my Daddy invented (no pic of the soup itself…but you get the idea.  It was orange.) 

 

As for dessert, traditionally every year M and I spend all of Christmas Eve day baking cookies to bring to our neighbors and friends.  The cookies we always used to make weren’t vegan, with the exception of one: Betty Crocker’s gingerbread!  I was so pleased last year when I realized I could continue to make this holiday favorite. 

 

Since M wasn’t here this year to bake with me, I didn’t go too overboard, but I did make sure to carry on one Cook family tradition, the Tiny Tim gingerbread cookie.  I think this originated 2-3 years ago, when M and I were cutting out the cookies and she accidentally cut off one of their legs.  For whatever reason, we called the cookie Tiny Tim (though I’m aware that Tiny Tim’s ailment had nothing to do with having only one leg!) and every year we make one.  So here he is. 

 

Our other dessert was Gingered Pear Crisp, which I believe is from Eat, Drink, & Be Vegan.  I didn’t have the foresight to bring any of my cookbooks home with me for the holidays, so I got the recipe off of Dreena’s blog

 

The pear crisp was delish; I loved the flavor of all the spices in it, and the topping was addictive.  If I made it again, I’d definitely use a different sort of pear (maybe Bosc or really ripe Bartletts), because the d’Anjou pears I used were a little too firm for my liking, even after baking.  I guess I wanted it to have more of a gooey texture like apple crisp, and I think altering the type of pear could make the difference.  Still, a really yummy and festive dessert!

I’m on break for another week and I’ve been cooking up a storm, so I’ll definitely have more posts to make.  Also, I used a Christmas present (Amazon giftcard!) to finally purchase The Everyday Vegan, and I’m really excited to start cooking out of that as soon as it arrives!