Monday, December 28, 2009

A merry vegan Christmas

Greetings, and merry Christmas and happy holidays to everyone!

I hope the holiday season is treating you all well and that you are untouched and/or unharmed by the hustle and bustle that sometimes plagues certain people's lives during the holidays.

Now, this may be anti-climactic of me but I'm going to let this picture show you just what I've been up to these days (and I am grateful that my mother has now become accustomed to my hours spent messing up cooking in her kitchen).

So for the past few weeks since I finished school and handed in my very last assignment, I've been cooking and baking, and I thank goodness that I have workout equipment at home because, otherwise, my clothing--or should I say my hips?--might not have fared well. It has been my most recent mission to use up as much of my active dry yeast as possible before it expires in January, so I made cinnamon buns and English muffins (both à la Isa Chandra) two days ago and may attempt vegan croissants, but the amount of butter they require freaks me out. Of course I forgot to upload photos, but I will sneak them in after my next cooking extravaganza, that is, New Year's Eve.

Without futher ado, here are the photos.

Below we have apple butterscotch cookies that were absolutely to die for. No, really. The recipe is here, thanks to Seitan Is My Motor. I modified the recipe slightly, and I do mean slightly: I didn't peel the apples, because sometimes I'm lazy, and I used whole wheat flour instead of all-purpose.

Look how cute they are when they're all prettied up! I put a bunch of them in red plates and gave them to my bosses for Christmas. I'm not a suck-up; I just like to spread the (vegan) love! There was lots of leftover butterscotch icing, so I left it in the fridge, consciously forgot about its existence, and loved how thick it became. It's great for spreading, which I did just once on muffins that I made that were not sweet enough because I reduced the sugar way too much.

Below we have egg nog cheesecake, by the lovely lady behind Fat-Free Vegan Kitchen. I'm not a huge fan of egg nog, but Matt is, so I knew I had to make this for him for after Christmas dinner. (The things we do for love!) I didn't have any graham crackers on hand so I made the fat-free oatmeal cookie crust which was actually quite good. When I told Matt it was a fat-free crust, he said, "I could tell," but he devoured his slice, as did my uncles who were in awe. I mean, egg nog cheesecake? That's friggin genius! Thank you, SusanV!

Now, this below might not be the most fetching of desserts (mostly due to my old brownie pan), but may I tell you just how decadent and scrumptious it is? This is sucre à la crème, a traditional Québecois type of fudge that is creamy, beyond sweet, and completely nutrient-deficient. That's how desserts are (secretly) meant to be, right? I hadn't had this since before I went vegan over six years ago, so when I came upon the recipe on the blog Live It Up Vegan by the fabulous lady behind Viva Granola Vegan Store, I nearly fell over with joy. I didn't cook it long enough, but as per Lady Gaia's suggestion, I cut these into squares and stuck them in the freezer. They are absolutely fabulous straight out of the freezer and melt between your fingers. Mmmm...

As per tradition in my family, fish is served for Christmas Eve dinner. This is very sad for me, of course, but it offers an opportunity to bake and cook like a madwoman (how do madwomen cook?) and let my family taste my kitchen creations. I've made a bit of a reputation for myself amongst my relatives: my aunt routinely requests that I make vegan spanakopita for family gatherings at her place. Yay!

So, for an appetizer to my vegan Christmas dinner, I made the chickpea cutlets from Veganomicon, served drenched in tomato sauce (below, they are naked).

Here are the somewhat famous spanakopita from Vegan Planet by Robin Robertson. Spanakopita are phyllo pastries stuffed with spinach and feta, traditionally, but these guys are made with silken tofu. I made two batches: one with sun-dried tomatoes (my favourite) and one without (specially for my cousin).

Here they are served covered in home-made vegan tzatziki sauce (mine is made without mint).

Vegan eggplant parmesan never ceases to please, so I made it for Christmas. I flirted with the idea of baking the eggplant slices instead of frying them, you know, to make the dish more healthy. I figured I'd might as well go all out, so I fried them. What a naughty vegan!

I've been thoroughly enjoying my holidays for the first time in many years, and it is such a relief to be happy. I worked retail every year up until three years ago, so I was a veritable Scrooge for Christmas because it always involved being super busy, working on Boxing Day, and dealing with cranky, stressed out people. Then, two years ago, in December, my father passed away, and Christmas has been the most difficult time of year. But I am blessed to have such a wonderful, tight-knit family, and we all support each other. I do venture to say, as well, that cooking and baking around the holidays, and in general, has lifted my spirits, though I do wish I could share these baked goods with my father. I believe it is from him that I inherited such a passion for food and for cooking. Thank you, Papa! I dedicate this post to you!

I guess that's it for now. I look forward to New Year's when I'll be having just a small group of friends over for dinner. I'll be poring over my cookbooks and recipes saved to my e-mail account over the next two days in order to decide upon the perfect menu. Until my next post, have a wonderful week and a safe and pleasant new year's eve.

Lots of love,

Vegan in Suburbia.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

I'm a person again!

Greetings, dear readers!

Yes, you read right: when I am in school, I feel like I'm a little bit less than a person. My room is a mess, I get exempt from washing dishes, and the phone doesn't ring because my friends know of my semester-long hibernation from which I cannot be awoken. Those are not the traits of a full person, are they? Who gets exempt from dish-washing? Why does my room get to be messy? How come I can't be surrounded by the love of my friends? Ah, yes, because I have to study, and write papers, and attend lectures. Awesome.

But now... oh yes... I am done school. Maybe not forever, but with my last exam of my Bachelor's degree written, and my last essay completed (as of this morning at 1 a.m., minus the editing that it definitely needs), I get to be a person again! I get to wash dishes (joy of joys!)! I get to clean my room (amazing!)! And, best of all, I get to alert my friends and family of my reappearance out of hibernation!

All of this doesn't mean that I've stayed out of the kitchen, though. As many people who list cooking and baking among their hobbies know, cooking up a hearty, wholesome meal is therapy in itself. Even with deadlines approaching, I made sure to spend a decent amount of time in the kitche. And, thanks to my duty as a Happy Herbivore recipe tester, I had plenty of excuses to take a break from studying.

So, below I have a few photos to share of my culinary distractions explorations during the last two weeks of the semester since my return from Italy. But before I get there, I have to express my delight at having all the time in the world to bake! Eeeeeeeeeeeeeee! I'm going to make croissants (well, I'm going to try!), and cookies, and English muffins, and cakes! And I get to peruse food blogs without feeling guilty about leaving homework behind! Eeeeeeeeeeeeee!

Ok, I'm done. Here are photos.

Enjoy :) And please allow me to take this opportunity to wish you a very happy holiday. May you all be blessed with happiness, good health, laughter, warmth, and love.

Vegan in Suburbia

Broccoli, carrot, and chickpea casserole from Vegan with a Vengeance

Foodeater's recipe for mac and cheese with Daiya, second time around, with brown-rice pasta and a mixture of mozzarella and Cheddar-style Daiya

Oh, Heaven...

Happy Herbivore's fabulous Chicky Seitan, for her upcoming cookbook

Happy Herbivore's fat-free pesto on Nonna's home-made gnocchi

Pesto blessed with tomato sauce

Happy Herbivore's baked sweet potatoes

My curried tofu (thanks to Patak's!) with broccoli, onions, and orange bell pepper served atop a glorious mix of red rice, millet, flax seeds, and barley. I just mixed 4 tbsp of Tikka curry paste with 4 tsp. of soy milk and added it to the pan after frying the tofu and lightly cooking the veggies.

The complete meal :)

Sweet-potato and Swiss chard fritters à la Emeril--ridiculously awesome, by the way, and ever so simple to prepare.

That's it for now! :-)

EDIT: How could I forget! In the rush before leaving to Italy, it was my best friend Maritsa's birthday and my Nonno and Aunt's birthdays. I made a birthday cake for Maritsa and lasagna (for the vegans at the party) for Nonno and Zia Franca's celebration.

Red velvet cake with buttercream frosting (recipe from The Joy of Vegan Baking)

Me and the birthday girl with cake, soy milk, and, ahem, post-shower wet hair.

Slice of heaven. LOOK AT THAT ICING. Mmmmmmm

Sorry, Bijou, no cake for you!

Hello, Daiya lasagne. I love you.

Melty, melty goodness.

Why have one slice of heaven (heaven comes in the form on cake and lasagne) when you can have two? (This isn't my plate, by the way. Ha ha ha)

Ok, I'm done for real now! Thanks for reading :-)

Vegan in Suburbia

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Italian Escapade and More Photo Collaging


For shame! My last post was on the 22nd of October? Oi, school does really make me nonexistent.

Well, I was going to not post until I was done exams, but I figured I'd end up with an obscenely large photo collage (not that that's a problem, since who dislikes food porn?), since goodness knows I'll be taking breaks from studying in order to cook or bake (hopefully cook since baking and studying is a bad combination: I tend to want to eat when I'm studying, which is why I chew loooots of gum during finals. My dentist loves me).

Just a quick update first, though: I went to Italy last week for a two-day conference in the town of Frascati, jsut a half hour away from Rome. It was the fifth regional conference on emigration. I was the youth delegate for Montreal and well over 100 people attended from all over the world. Basically the conference is held in order to help the various Lazio associations around the world (Lazio is the region in Italy in which Rome is found and from which thousands of people have emigrated over the years) find strategies to keep in better contact with the mother region and how to keep customs and traditions alive overseas and throughout the upcoming generations. I ate very well, naturally, since pasta and pizza that are eggless are not at all hard to come by, though I did not have dessert (not a huge deal, since cholesterol-laden croissants and butter-filled cookies are not my bag). I definitely had soy chocolate ice cream on the last day of my trip, though! Allll right. Here are some photos of what I ate:

Ok I'm freaking out because the hotel (which was paid for like the flight was) provided slippers. The hotel was called Villa Vecchia and was enormous, comfortable, and beautiful.
Candies, some of which were vegan, provided in the room of the hotel
Pasta with olive oil, artichoke, and garlic

Ubiquitous yet always delicious grilled veggies

Not the greatest photo but oh my goodness, was this delicious! Grilled veggies on pizza

Blessed chocolate soy ice cream with Claudia :)

Now for images of home-baked goods, that is, baked in my home. Drum roll, please?

Peanut butter cookies from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar by Isa Chandra Moskowitz for Matt's graduation (I ran short on peanut butter so I added vegan chocolate spread) filled with chocolate icing (left over from my sister's birthday cake)

Godly risotto (base recipe from Vegan Italiano by Donna Klein) with additions by me

Sunny blueberry muffins (recipe by Isa Chandra Moskowitz from Vegan with a Vengeance) for my yoga class

 Delicious vegan frittata (recipe by Happy Herbivore)

Banana-marshmallow muffins (recipe by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau in The Joy of Vegan Baking), modified by me to include marshmallows! I had no idea that they would explode when I sought to make these today. I guess I have that little experience with marshmallows. But dude, get your hands on some Dandies. These things are amazing and taste just like "regular" marshmallows. No joke.

Breakfast bars (recipe by Happy Herbivore), filled with date puree and vegan chocolate spread

I think that's it for now. I'm off to make dinner now and then to disappear for the next two week, as assignments are due and one exam will require studying for more than a week. The joys of being a university student!

Be blessed, eat well, and happy preparations for the holidays. See you all in two weeks, and I thank you for reading.

Vegan in Suburbia (and beyond)