VeganMoFo Day 30 – This is The End!

So I guess this is it. I didn’t really do what I set out to do, but that’s okay. The point is, I kept up with blogging through the whole month, even if it wasn’t as frequently as I would have liked. No, I didn’t have a theme. No, I didn’t post more than a single recipe. But overall, I’m satisfied. I blogged. I did it.

Unfortunately, I don’t have the strength or motivation to give a good send off. I have drafts galore with all the things I could review, walk through, etc. But I don’t want to. My personal life has basically been turned upside down and I need to focus a bit more on picking up the pieces.

Today was so hectic, I haven’t had anything more than a single mini-donut. It was pumpkin and delicious, but yeah. That’s it. I’m not exactly in the right place to be blogging about food.

So enjoy this picture of food that I ate recently and didn’t particularly enjoy. Don’t look at the background if you’re easily offended by drawings of dead fish.

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Sushi Lover fried tofu with tempura sauce. I love Sushi Lover and this was quite the treat with OH, but plain fried tofu is hardly my cup of tea.  Based on the wording on the menu, it sounded like it would be a tofu roll. C’est la vie. At least I can leave you with a picture, without irritating my appetite!

P.S.: The VeganMoFo “challenge” (if you will) did leave me the motivation to really get my blog going. I’m thinking of posting at least twice a week, with something like Savory Mondays and Sweet Fridays.

The Betty Crocker Project and the more famous, less vegan Julie/Julia project have given me the idea to do something similar, since I want to know how to cook, but I hardly have the varied experience. “Why do you have a food blog?” you may be asking. Good question. To learn!

I’m thinking if I do this, I’ll tackle Veganomicon, and I’ll do it as a new year’s resolution. Stay tuned!

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VeganMoFo Day 27 – My Apologies to Daiya

I was wrong.

I was wrong about everything. Thank you, Tofurky, for showing me the light.

It showed me the light so hard that I gobbled it up. I didn’t’ take any pictures. None. It went straight down our gullets. Thank you. Thank you thank you THANK YOU.

The box is the garbage.

It was just SO GOOD. It was like cheap pizza, like Tony’s. But in an AMAZING way. I think my issue with fake cheeze/pizza is that it tries to be fancy if you say, make it at home, or order it in a parlor. This was trying to be cheap tasting. And there was so much spicy pepperoni to very little cheeze. I was just in HEAVEN.

If you haven’t yet, you need to EAT THIS. EAT IT. SERIOUSLY.

Down it with a pint of ice cream for extra PMS-ready goodness.

VeganMoFo Day 26 – Eclectic Noms

I officially can’t make it to twenty posts for the month. Oops. To be fair, I’m doing alright for having a) not planned ahead b) not signed up for the actual event. So ha!

I have nothing prepared today. Sooner rather than later, I plan on making pumpkin cheesecake tarts (in mini-graham cracker crusts)!  Sooner rather than later, I’m hoping to receive my Earth Balance coupons. So that will be fun. And I have been cooking. . . I just haven’t been writing things down. I’m in that end of the month, must-use-all-the-old-stuff stage. The old stuff isn’t quite enough to do on its own, so I’m combining with the new. It’s yielding tasty results, but everything is being eyed and it would be silly to measure anything. So enjoy the eclectic noms for now.

Take out sushi from none other than my precious Sushi Lover! Avocado and sesame seeds topping a tempura veggie roll. YUM. I did without the “wasabi” and ginger.

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The much less fancy, but much more work friendly. . . Gardein sliders! Gardein’s “I’m meat-free” subtitle always amuses me in that the product might be free of meat. . . but it’s also apparently sentient. Hee hee.
I don’t much like the excessive onion taste in these, but it’s nice to have a backup work snack that is not an Amy’s burrito or oriental Top Ramen. Meh.  (Sidenote: I’ve yet to check in store, but according to the ingredients and my amateur knowledge, the chili flavor might also be vegan?)

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Two nights ago I threw in some fried Smart Dogs and frozen broccoli into a ??? mac and cheeze from scratch. Whole wheat shells with a roux of whole wheat flour and Smart Balance light, some almond milk, nooch, spicy brown mustard, siracha, Go Veggie cream cheese, and cheddar Follow Your Heart shreds. Yum. . . and more importantly, an amazing way to use up ingredients I didn’t like and couldn’t find much use for, transforming them into something not only edible, but quite tasty!

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It finally started to cool down here, so last night I made OH and I some hot cocoa from scratch. The last of my almond/coconut milk went with some additional almond milk, some soy creamer, cocoa powder, vanilla extract, and a touch of pre-made hot cocoa powder. The almond/coconut and hot cocoa powder were sweetened, so I only needed about 1/2tsp of agave to balance it out. Topped it with Dandies marshmallows (only one for me, chopped as below). It was awesome – tasted remarkably like dairy cocoa in texture, and the obviously non-dairy flavors from the milk only enhanced the flavor! It tasted a lot like when you add Steven’s brand cocoa to dairy milk, if memory serves correctly.

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We followed the cocoa up with The Vegan Stoner’s Rice Balls. Because the Vegan Stoner is incapable, these did not disappoint! HOWEVER, it was extremely annoying trying to form the balls without the rice sticking all over your hand. This is the only ball I could photograph without the filling spilling out.

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I hope to try something more exciting for tomorrow. In the meantime. . . As Tigger would say, “TTFN – Tata for now!”

Vegan MoFo Day 24 – Adventures in Squash, Part II

Yesterday, I shared with you some “adventures” in squash. For being an “adventure,” it was awfully dull. If your main bone to pick is that it went too well, do I have the post for you! A better title? “How Not To Prep Pumpkin.” Sigh.

Anywhere, here’s my pumpkin. Isn’t it a beaut? I tried to get the heaviest one they had, since it was priced by unit, and not by pound. It was something like $2.58 for 3.25lbs, so I’d say I did pretty well! My goal with produce is almost always <$0.99/pound. No complaints here. And. . . Look at it – it’s just gorgeous! It looks ready to be stabbed with all kinds of novelty knives for Halloween. . . but don’t. Meaty pumpkins are for baking. Hollow pumpkins are for cutting.

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Remember how I said not to use a dull bread knife? Yeah. . . Uh. . . Just don’t. Buy a new knife if it’s the best you got. Your neighbor/kitchen-mate won’t be around every time you need to cut autumn squash.

Ugh.

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See the four lines? Where I gave myself leverage before finally slicing through? Yeah. BUY A GOOD KNIFE.

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Eventually, I sliced it in half. Somehow.

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And I gutted it. . .

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I then quartered it and put it on a cookie sheet. I forgot to take a picture, so enjoy the darkness of my old-school oven.

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I then had fun with the guts. . .

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Which were twice as easy as the guts of the spaghetti squash. It took me twenty minutes to clean the spaghetti squash, and a mere ten with the pumpkin. For more seeds, at that.

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When I threw the two together, all was confirmed: they’re basically the same damn thing. Can you notice any difference?

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Me neither. After 45 minutes and plenty of aroma, I knew the pumpkin was done.

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Meanwhile, I simmered the seeds in salt water for ten minutes.

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And noticed I might have over-cooked the pumpkin. Or maybe I need a cleaner baking sheet? This used to be the color of steel, by the way. And as far as I know, stainless steel doesn’t “season. . .”

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Anyway, the seeds got drained and thrown on the oiled pan. . .

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. . . While I peeled the pumpkin. Note: wait for it to cool down a bit, or the skin WILL break on you. And it will be a pain in your ass.

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The pumpkin seeds were done roasting before I was done peeling. And they were GOOD! Screw the bags of factory pumpkin seeds, okay. This is where it’s at. Hot, toasty seeds fresh from the oven. Perfectly salted. Yum.

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If it weren’t for the pumpkin seeds being ready, showing this whole ordeal worthwhile, I might have given up at this point.

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Instead, I decided to do things my favorite way: the old fashioned way. With a potato masher from the Dollar Tree. Yeah, um, don’t do that either. After about an hour of smashing, I was left with. . .

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Stringy orange goop! As you can see, I gave up and processed it. Now I know: process this. Pilgrims apparently had magic to get their pumpkin silky smooth. In the 21st century, we have the food processor.

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Much better.

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Mmmm.

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Not being one to waste, I decided to “clean” the processor of stuck pumpkin by throwing in some mylk, soy creamy ice cream, and pumpkin pie spice. How better to enjoy autumn produce in the warm weather?

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I see no better way.

The take-away? It was an experience, to be sure. And now I know all the ways to not mess it up in the future. The pumpkin tasted great when I dipped my finger in it plain, which is more than I can say of the canned stuff. I froze an ice cube tray’s worth of it for later use, in case I can’t find a suitable pumpkin around Thanksgiving. The stuff in the jar, however. . . I’m trying to decide. Again, to fuse summer with fall, I’m thinking cheesecake. Cheesecake seems like it would highlight the pumpkin better than a quick bread or cookie, where I’d feel satisfied using Libby’s. It’s that or homemade pumpkin butter. Stay tuned!

VeganMoFo Day 23 – Adventures in Squash, Part I

Over the weekend, I had. . . fun with squash! Man, that sounds lame. And it kind of was. . . But it was something of an arm workout. Have you ever tried cutting large gourds with a dull bread knife? I suggest you don’t. Seriously. . . don’t. But more on that later.

I started the Adventures in Squash on Saturday, while grocery shopping. As mentioned before, I do the bulk of my shopping on the paycheck where I don’t pay rent, and go to WinCo for dry and fresh goods, and Whole Foods for packaged vegan specialties.

On the paycheck where I do pay rent, however, I still need food. . . Just less of it! WInCo is amazing, but it’s a pain in the ass if you’re only buying a few vegetables and some bread. They don’t have a 20 items or less lane, or even 10 items or less. It’s either wait in a poorly managed line with everyone and their mother, waiting upwards of ten minutes just to touch the belt, or stop at Customer Service if you have less than five items, and none of them can be items you weigh, such as produce or bulk foods.

So, on in-between trips, I’m all about Walmart. Yes, there are ethical issues with Walmart, but I’m a broke (kinda)student, so I don’t have the money to really care. I also stop by Trader Joe’s for my in-between vegan specialties, such as ice cream, flavored hummus, and chocolate.

This weekend, I found two squashes I never can seem to find when I hear about them: spaghetti squash and sugar pumpkins! The sketti squash was from Trader Joe’s, where I vow to never buy produce. But how could I resist the opportunity? This led me to buy even more items I usually would not get at Trader Joe’s, for one awesome meal.

So. . . on the knife issue. I was sawing away at my giant-ass gourd with a weak-ass knife, and it was going all of nowhere. Luckily, my kitchen-mate/neighbor saw me struggling and offered me a sharper knife. OH (Obnoxious Hand) then pulled the Gentleman Card and sliced it open for me. I’m perfectly capable of doing it myself but. . . I’m also a klutz, so I let it slide.

Here’s the beauty all sliced up. . .

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And gutted, seasoned, oiled. . . Ready to go! (I used a little salt and garlic powder.)

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While gutting the squash, I noticed the seeds looked remarkably similar to pumpkin seeds.

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So I cleaned them up and set them aside for Part II.

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I then threw some frozen Meatless Balls in a sauce pan. . .

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And cooked them in cheapo spaghetti sauce. . .

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Served it all up with artisan bread and butter. . .

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And. . . forgot to take a picture of the plates???? Here’s some boring photos of the plain squash, instead.

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Look at them “noodles”!

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Overall, this adventure was. . . a major pain in my ass. The squash took forever to prepare. I think I’d be happier making wheat pasta and tossing in some vegetables with the sauce. Still, it impressed OH, and that’s got to mean something, right?

VeganMoFo Day 20 – What Was I Thinking. . .?

Vague title? It’s relevant on two points.
a) What was I thinking, doing a daily challenge when I haven’t started blogging consistently here at ALL? Like, not even posting monthly. I posted thrice in June and just disappeared for a few months. Then it’s like, “LOL, SURPRISE!!!!!! NOW I’M DOING EVERYTHING!” It’s good, in a way. It forces me to really do it. But also, it makes it easy to want to give up. Sigh.
b) What was I thinking,  trying the same thing over and over; expecting different results?

This is about Daiya.

UNPOPULAR OPINION TIME: I really fucking hate Daiya.

And quite frankly, I don’t know why it’s such a big deal. Okay, I guess I’m being unfair. I didn’t become vegan in the cheeze dark ages, for this to be my knight in shining armor. I went vegan when this was the established IT cheeze. I also made the mistake of trying it within my first week. I worked at a pizza restaurant for the first three years of my working life, so I (rather unhealthily) ate it about once a week. Really. Little Caesars should have offered me a frequent buyers discount.

So I ate vegan cheeze within my first week. It was Daiya. It was horrid.

I later bought a bag of cheddar, and it went bad because I used maybe a handful in two months. I would sprinkle the tiniest bit in with my Trader Joe’s mozzarella when making homemade pizza or take ‘n’ bake. It made it look pretty. ..  and that’s about the end of the appeal.

I think Daiya was over-hyped for me. It’s the It Cheeze. And I get it – it’s nice that it melts and stretches. But I don’t need stretch, I guess. Trader Joe’s is all melt, no stretch, and I quite enjoy it. . . in small amounts.

That’s another thing: do we really need to glob it on? Look at this pizza from Noble Pie:

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Unnecessary!  This crust is cracker thin and there’s more cheeze than there is bread! NO NO NO NO! I would hate this even with DAIRY cheese. I loved this parlor prior to veganism, too, and I don’t remember the proportions being so odd. Kudos to you for giving me a good amount when you charge me a surcharge. Seriously. But I don’t want it.

The uglier half was the (much more delicious) half that is pesto with the juiciest grape tomatoes known to man or beast. Yes. VEGAN pesto. They even label it on the menu as such! Double kudos. Triple kudos to you for being delicious and open until 4:00am Friday morning, letting me actually enjoy something after my late Thursday shift. Noble Pie is all good.

And, to further prove that my vendetta is against Daiya, and NOT Noble Pie, let’s examine the bruschetta from my beloved GreatFull Gardens.

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I initially ordered this cheese-less, since the menu item is made with dairy. The waitress offered Daiya and the owner of that obnoxious hand thought we should try it, thinking I’d love that. He’s an omnivore, by the way, so he deserves a respectful n od (but also a few “boo”s and “hiss”es as he has yet to read this blog).

If memory serves, I wasn’t even charged extra to veganize it! They did it up with Earth Balance and Daiya free of charge.

But did I like it? Did the kindness of the waitress and dinner date make it worthwhile?

No. I did not and they did not.

I ended up picking off most of the Daiya (while Obnoxious Hand gobbled it up to avoid embarrassment). Not a total loss, however. Even a sloppy, messy bruschetta with too much Daiya stuck on is still delicious. Amazing bread, amazing tomatoes, and incredible balsamic reduction. But that’s all a story for another day.

The point is, I hate Daiya with a passion and I’m waiting for the moment when Trader Joe’s decides to make a vegan cheddar, so I can say goodbye to it for good. In the meantime, are there any cheezes out there worth trying? As far as I understand, Daiya is the highest standard. Is there something else I can try, short of making my own?

VeganMoFo Day 18 – A WINNER IS YOU (ME)!

Again, I’m busy busy busy with working towards my future career, so. . . Not much to really discuss today!

Instead, I want to brag. I won one of the giveaways through VeganMoFo! And it was the one I was the most excited about – EARTH BALANCE!!! That’s right, 5 VIP coupons should be delivered to my door, assuming I replied with my address fast enough! 

I am SO excited! It’s all the self control I have to not go out and snag five bags of white cheddar puffs! 

Depending on when the coupons expire, I’m thinking. . . 
1) coconut spread
2) baking sticks (apparently now available soy free?)
3) shortening sticks
4) just ONE bag of the puffs. . . 
5) ??? Maybe they’ll have a seasonal soy milk soon? Maybe a store in my area stocks their nut butters? I’M SO EXCITED!

That’s the fun route. The practical route is buy five boxes of sticks and freeze them (if the coupons expire), or bring them with me to Whole Foods to save on my regular purchases, if they don’t. But a big part of me says screw that. Yes, I’m pretty broke, but that sounds like all the more reason to get a fun haul – when will I next have the chance? I might even go all new with this and say no to baking sticks and puffs. There are many things I’ve wanted to try but simply haven’t had the money for! 

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Like. . . Just what is this sorcery?