Friday, March 25, 2016

V is for Vegan Cookbook

Full disclosure: when I was offered a copy of V is for Vegan by Kerstin Rodgers for review, I was under the mistaken impression that the beautiful, hardcover tome was a book about veganism, not a vegan cookbook. So, while I was immediately impressed by the design, I'll admit I was slightly disappointed; I haven't been cooking much these days and I've been just fine with that- until I opened the book.


The book starts off briefly explaining a vegan diet, but quickly goes into specifics about what is/can be non-vegan about everything from meat/dairy/eggs/fish to gelatin/honey, and even alcohol, cosmetics, and clothes. Color me impressed. Next up is a significant section on ingredients and basics and then, when you delve into the crux of the book, there are seriously impressive savory creations that I, personally, have never seen/ heard of/ imagined- showcased in stunning color photos. I was intimidated, to be sure, until Andrea's Easy Vegan Cooking reviewed and bolstered my courage enough to dive in and at least create a shopping list.


I finally found myself with a day at home and planned a full menu straight from V is for Vegan:
To start, Black Cat Pancakes with Bananas, Cinnamon, and Maple Syrup- a recipe from Carole Stapleton, chef at the Black Cat. VifV isn't a collection of other people's recipes; it was just a coincidence that I chose this ode.


Pancakes are one of the most crowd-pleasing breakfasts you can pull together easily and with staples usually found in your kitchen, so I couldn't understand why anyone would develop a recipe for them that requires a food processor and stand mixer. In addition, there was a little weirdness and pretension in the recipe from my perspective. For instance, what is a heaping tablespoon of sparkling water? Don't gravity and physics (I don't know; I'm not a scientist!) prohibit liquid from "heaping"? This recipe also includes a note- presumably from the author, about having substituted sparkling elderflower drink in place of water. Is this a British thing, or are there others out there who would likely have sparkling elderflower drink hanging around instead of plain old seltzer? Normally substitution notes are for things you'd actually have in place of more unusual things- such as purple scallions, which are called for in another VifV recipe, but I digress.


Thankfully, these things failed to phase me once I realized that the pancakes- double batch natch, were terrific. They were the absolute fluffiest I've ever made and- aside from the kitchen gadgetry, achieved seemingly without effort. Every single pancake fluffed up- including the first. And I didn't even have to tamper down the cakes to ensure they cooked all the way through- they just did: quickly and somewhat miraculously. Because the recipe didn't call for any added accouterments, I didn't add chocolate chips- which was difficult for me. It turned out they didn't need it! Just a sprinkle of cinnamon (none in the recipe) and a boatload of maple syrup and they were perfection. A note about that boatload: these pancakes are a veritable syrup sponge. After all, isn't that what pancakes are meant to be- a vehicle by which to transport syrup into your mouth? Bravo. But then something weird happened. I realized that although I had doubled all of the other ingredients in the recipe, I'd forgotten to double the flour. I was positive, but- as a test, I made them again the following week: a single batch exactly as directed. The batter was so thick that it looked like I was making a loaf of bread, not pancakes. They didn't cook nearly as well or as quickly and ultimately tasted very tough. When I repeated my initial mistake of doubling the batch- everything except the flour, they were perfect again. So my first permanent notes in the book were born.


For lunch I chose the Sweet Potato & Coconut South Seas Soup. It was extraordinarily straightforward, save for no indication of total cooking time or direction on pot size. The finished result was gorgeous, but exceedingly rich- almost to the point of being inedible. As leftovers, I added 2 cups of broth, more veggies, a handful of cashews, and served over Jasmine rice. It was extremely well-received by VM, who dubbed it "one of the best things" I've ever made. She was still talking about it the next day. Again, lots of notes so that I can be sure to recreate the dish I want in future.

Dinner was a no-brainer. After cooking 2/3 meals for the day I bypassed the exquisitely appealing Artichoke, Potato, Spinach &  Tofu B'stlla with Poppy Seeds & Rose Petals for the Pizzette with Roast Pumpkin, Red Onion, & Sage, which is more my speed.

There was, again, some weirdness and pretension followed by a terrific meal. Why would I have to proof my yeast in a pitcher when any old bowl will do? How do I roast minced garlic on a baking sheet with squash and onions without it burning to oblivion? Moreover, how to I transfer said minced garlic to the pizzette? As noted by Vegansaurus, the recipe directions in VifV often leave a lot to be desired. My pizza had to cook three times as long as indicated in order for the dough to be cooked through. And, before you say it, I do use an oven thermometer- so don't even go there.

All in all the recipes have their hearts in the right places, but they seem to need a little TLC. It's frustrating while you're cooking, but by the time you're eating it you totally forget how annoying it was. Kind of like childbirth? I'd definitely recommend this book, but be aware that a little finesse will be in order.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

89 = 4

Saturday was 89's birthday so we did a lot of celebrating. If you're here just for the food, you may wanna come back later; this post is all about 89 (although there are snacks)!


 We started the day with one of 89's favorite foods: pancakes! She got a stack all to herself.

Here she is perturbed that she had to wait to eat them (but peep her pin!).

Stealing the idea from a pal, we got these fab balloons.

They were even cool on the flip side.


Of course there were gifts and cards to be had.


And, you may have already noticed that her hoodie has been customized by VM since Christmas.

A better view of the tush.

Be on the lookout for more bday duds, but 89 was mostly interested in eviscerating this bird.

And then she received a timely special delivery from Vegan Divas, which she unceremoniously made off with before a proper photo op (don't worry; there's another one). Review up on Vegansaurus

We went to the grandhumans' house for more festivities:
more balloons, 

More presents,

and ice cream!

Per usual, it was a fun day in celebration of this nerd and her 4th bday!


Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Aster's Ethiopian Restaurant, Vegan Austin Texas

You know how vegans have unusual habits like checking out what vegan things are to be had at Whole Foods Markets that are not their own? I do the same with Ethiopian food.


Because of this propensity for Ethiopian food tourism, I stopped at Aster's Ethiopian Restaurant when I was in Austin traveling with fellow fans of Ethiopian eats.

As is typical of Ethiopian restaurants, you can choose an entree and three sides from the vegetarian (vegan/fasting) menu.

Or, you can put on your big girl pants and order the Atakelt Beyaynetu (vegetable combination) that is a sample of all of the vegetarian dishes and may or may not be intended for two to share. You can do it!

Clockwise from top:
Azifa: these mixed lentils with onion, gree peppers, mit'mit'a, fresh lemon juice and a touch of olive oil and vinegar (served cold)
Timatim Fitfit: Ethiopian mixed salad with diced tomatoes, green peppers, onion, and diced injera topped with olive oil, fresh lemon juice, and spices (served cold)
Bedergan: eggplant spiced and prepared with tomato sauce, garlic, onions, and special Ethiopian seasoning.
Alicha Miser: split lentil cooked to perfection with ginger and garlic
Gomen: Ethiopian style collard greens cooked with onion, garlic, and spices
Fasolia Wott: potato, green beans, carrots, onions, tomatoes with garlic, cinnamon, and ginger sauce
Keyi Miser: split lentils cooked with berbere, onions, cooked to perfection with other Ethiopian spices
Atakelt Wott: fresh cabbage, green beans, carrots, onions, garlic, and ginger in a zesty turmeric sauce
In case you're counting, there was one extra thing on the plate that was not listed. I'm not one to turn down extra grub- particularly when it contains potatoes, but I don't know what exactly it was- didn't then and certainly don't remember now.

I won't say that this was the best Ethiopian food I've ever had the pleasure of consuming, nor did the resto have the nattiest atmosphere. But, the servers were very kind, they had Ethiopian spices for sale, AND one of the beverage options was Dr. Pepper, which is a huge win in my book.

Monday, March 7, 2016

ICYMI: Ben & Jerry's Vegan Ice Cream Flavors!

In case you missed it, I did a review of Ben & Jerry's new vegan ice cream flavors over on Vegansaurus! Please note that I've since procured and sampled the elusive 4th flavor, chocolate fudge brownie, and was- surprisingly, not a fan. As a tremendous chocolate lover I'm a little flabbergasted by this development, but I found it bland in flavor and a bit off in texture. S'okay; 3/4 ain't bad!

Read this and all my Vegansaurus contributions here.

Updated to include my favorite comment on the Vegansaurus post:

No idea what I'm talking about? Catch up!