Peanutty Yumminess Part Deux, or, Making Do

I've been feeling a little under the weather today, with various aches, pains, and an overwhelming desire to go to bed that hit me a little while ago. So I was going to skip posting tonight until I remembered that I'd already typed out most of this entry a few nights ago. Well! That changes everything. ;)

Apparently my peanut inspired dinner on Monday didn't fill my daily peanut quota, because later that night (after dutifully finishing my art history reading) I decided to break in my new copy of VCTOTW by making the Peanut Butter Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting.

Now, one of the downfalls of going to school far away from home is that I am sadly unable to bring my family's well-stocked kitchen along with me. I live in an on-campus townhouse this year with B & E, my two best friends here, and although we're slowly stocking our kitchen with necessary utensils and whatnot, those things ain't cheap, and inevitably we find ourselves lacking certain items. So my Peanut Butter Cupcake making journey was a lesson in making do.

First, I don't have any molasses. I know, I know. So I substituted a little of the brown sugar for some of the white sugar and added a bit of applesauce, since molasses is sort of liquidy, right? And my lack of crunchy natural peanut butter led me to crush some peanuts instead. And because we don't have a sifter (I know, I know!) I sort of used a whisk to make sure my cocoa powder was lumpless. And since we don't have cupcake liners (...), I just (unhealthily) greased the muffin tins with shortening. Oh, and for once I don't have soy milk - just the almond milk about which I rhapsodized in my previous post.

When it came time to make the frosting, I used the same sifting... trick... to make sure my powdered sugar didn't have huge lumps. And then my lack of a hand mixer compelled me to beat the frosting with a fork, a strenuous process which has left me with a rather sore right arm.

Somehow, though, everything magically worked out in the end. The cupcakes themselves, to be honest, sort of straddle that line between cupcake and muffin, but they are still yummy. I wouldn't call them sweet though; they have a mellow, rich taste that doesn't hit you until you actually begin chewing on the bite you've just taken. I bet the molasses would've added just the right depth of sweetness.

And the Chocolate Buttercream Frosting? Well, let's just say that the next time somebody disparagingly calls vegan fare bland, boring, and waaay too healthy, I'll just whip up a batch of this frosting and in one fell swoop topple all those stereotypes! This stuff is super rich! Tasty, but heavy. VCTOTW suggests topping the Peanut Butter Cupcakes with a drizzle of ganache, but my lack of chocolate chips led me to make the buttercream instead. In retrospect, the buttercream is probably too heavy for this cupcake - it almost overpowers the peanut butter's flavor. Ah well. Live and learn and in the meantime eat lots of delicious cupcakes!

...or not, since later that night I had a very unpleasant stomachache which can really only be attributed to the rather large quantity of fat in the frosting. I've never been able to tolerate too much fat, so I think it did me in this time. Alas!

Anyway, now I'm going to curl up in bed with a comps book - Virginia Woolf's Orlando, which is one of those books that gets better and better each time you read it - and read 'til I'm ready to fall asleep. Ciao!


Nutty Milks - Who Knew?!

I have a new favorite thing, and its name is Milk - Almond Milk, that is. I've been trying to cut down on my soy intake, not necessarily because I've been frightened away by all the rumors about its possible health effects, but because I believe in a balanced diet. As veg*ns, it's all too easy for us to rely on soy-based products, so I figure that if I can use a non-soy based milk instead, it'll sort of balance out my consumption of tofu and such. As my momma always says, quoting my incredibly wise grandpa, "Everything in moderation." :)

But I'm not gonna lie - I'm having a hard time using this almond milk in moderation! The Blue Diamond brand was on sale for $1.79 a carton at the co-op, so I bought the unsweetened original and the sweetened vanilla varieties.

One sip and I was sold! The vanilla is so much creamier than vanilla soy or rice milk, but it's not at all overwhelmingly nutty. I will say that I think it's *just* bordering on being too sweet, so next time I'll get the unsweetened vanilla (the sweetener is evaporated cane sugar.) As a testament to how much I like this stuff, let me just say that I actually drank a glass of it with my dessert tonight. This is meaningful because I pretty much drink only water (and tea, I guess). I don't drink soda, I don't buy juice all that often, and I don't really count smoothies as drinks. :) As a kid I was never fond of drinking glasses of milk, and I don't like soy or rice milk enough to drink it plain, but I actually enjoyed this by itself. Pretty sweet. I haven't tried the original variety yet, but I'm optimistic about it and will probably use it mostly for baking/cooking.

You know, I'm lucky that I can drink this at all - nut allergies run in my family; my dad's allergic to almonds and my sister is allergic to all nuts. So when I am home (not at college, where I live at the moment) we can't keep stuff like this in the house. I think I'll try to explore other milk alternatives, like oat and hemp. :)

Tune in next time for part two of my peanutty yumminess series, wherein I will share my first experience with Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World! The dessert I mentioned earlier, which went so well with a glass of almond milk, will be featured prominently. Well... solely, actually. Hehe.


Peanutty Yumminess

Last fall, I made a food discovery that rocked my world and changed my life. Ever since this delightful spicy, salty, nutty goodness first danced across my taste buds, they've craved it at least once a week. What is this culinary creation, you ask? Two words: peanut. sauce.

...okay, so maybe I was the last person on the planet to realize that peanut sauce was even possible, but somehow I spent 21 years of my life in a peanut sauce-less flavor wasteland. The fact that I'd never encountered it before is odd, because I love peanut flavored anything and I love noodle-y dishes with exciting sauces in general. Possibly it has something to do with my younger sister's nut allergy; if she weren't allergic, I bet my culinarily gifted dad would've made something like it at some point. But anyway, I discovered it last fall and after I mixed up my first batch, I was hooked.

That right there is heaven in a dish, folks. I like to serve a large helping of peanut sauce over udon noodles and some veggies. I nearly always use broccoli, and in the past I've used snow peas with great success. This time I used some edamame, and then I topped it all off with some raw peanuts. It's such a simple dish, but it's so flavorful and delicious.

I don't really have a set recipe for my peanut sauce, but the key is to mix equal parts peanut butter (natural, duh!) and water and then spice to taste. I like to add soy sauce, garlic, chili powder, and enough cayenne pepper to give it a real kick. It's pretty simple, but so awesome over the noodles and vegetables.

Ah, peanuts. I can never decide if I like them in sweet dishes (mmm, peanut butter & chocolate flavored anything!) or in a savory, spicy incarnation, like this sauce. But hey - who said I have to choose?! :D


Kale Soup on Sunday

It was my turn in the rotation to cook Sunday dinner for my lovely housemates this week, and since I've been craving my mom's kale soup, I asked her for the recipe and set about recreating one of my favorite dishes from home. She varies her recipe based on what's in the house, so I tailored it to my friends' tastes. I was proud that my first attempt at making Mom's soup came out so well, and even though my friends had never had kale before (shocking, I know!), they enjoyed it and E had a large second helping. :) Anyway, I'm going to share the "recipe" here, although I'm guesstimating on some of the measurements because I pretty much winged it for most of the ingredients. It's pretty simple - but oh so yummy.

Mom's Kale Soup

2 quarts vegetable broth (I used 1 qt Imagine veggie broth and 3 cups water with a bouillon cube, just because that's less expensive)
1 bunch kale, shredded into smallish pieces
1 1/2 cans beans - I used a mixture of kidney and great northern; Mom suggests cannellini
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/3 cup chopped carrot (I chopped up baby carrots; I like the small rounds)
1 can fire roasted diced tomatoes
A couple shakes Tabasco sauce
Spices - I used dried basil and a bit of cayenne pepper; Mom suggests basil, rosemary, and red pepper flakes, but I didn't have the latter two in the cupboard
You can also add corn or a finely chopped potato or two, but I left them out because neither E nor B particularly likes corn, and I prefer the soup without potatoes

Pour a little broth into the bottom of a large soup pot; add the onions and garlic and cook until they begin to get soft. Shred up the kale and add it to the pot, adding a little more liquid as necessary. Once the kale has softened and cooked down, add all the other ingredients to the pot and let simmer for about an hour.

That's it! Super simple but really delicious. You can mess with the spices to taste; I think the fire roasted tomatoes and a few dashes of Tabasco sauce give this just enough of a mild kick to keep it from being boring. It wasn't really spicy to me at all, but E, a native Wisconsinite known for her aversion to spicy foods, said she could taste it.

I served the soup with a batch of Baking Powder Biscuits from VwaV. B loved the biscuits and couldn't stop eating them! They definitely rose nicely and were a great compliment to the soup, but they were too salty for my taste - I definitely won't put in a whole teaspoon of salt next time I make them!

That was my Sunday night meal. Simple, healthy, yet filling and yummy. And the night got even better when B and I returned home a little later from our comps meeting (comps are the big senior project type things we have to pass to graduate, eek) to find that E had baked a big ol' chocolate cake - and it just happened to be vegan and delicious! Best night ever. :)


Lentil Soup on a Frigid Night

Look at me - posting two days in a row! It's a record! ...aaand you know it's a bad sign when two days is a record. Oh well. :)

Tonight I was musing aloud and wondering if I should make some curried split pea soup from VwaV for dinner when one of my housemates, B, suggested I use up her lentils and make lentil soup for both of us. Works for me! I threw together a soup from the limited ingredients we had in the house. See, the arctic tundra has come to Minnesota this week, with temperatures in the negatives and windchills making it feel like -30ish. So, needless to say, we're avoiding leaving the house for anything other than classes. That means no grocery runs this week (since we walk to the store). Luckily I stocked up on Sunday, anticipating this week of being practically house-bound. Brrr.

Anyway, on to the soup! I kept it simple and sauteed onions, garlic, and sliced baby carrots in a bit of EVOO (good gracious, did I just use that acronym?!) and then dumped that mixture into a big pot of about 4 cups of veggie broth. I used about a cup of lentils, and then I added some leftover fire roasted tomato chunks for good measure. I added a splash of balsamic vinegar, and spiced it with oregano, basil, thyme, marjoram, black pepper, and some cayenne pepper powder just because it was there. :P Oh yeah - I also added a potato, chopped into small pieces. I let it simmer until the lentils were soft and nearly all the liquid was absorbed/evaporated.

And then I devoured a large bowlful. It was surprisingly tasty, if slightly salty due to the veggie broth, which I made from a bouillon for availability/frugality reasons. But I was well pleased with it, and it was pretty much the perfect meal for a freezing cold winter night. :)

The return - for real this time!

If my lack of bloggage led you to believe that I have spent the past three months not eating, let me assure you, that is not the case. I am just phenomenally lazy when it comes to food blogging. BUT THAT WILL CHANGE. Even though I'm crazy-busy with classes and studying for my impending big ol' senior comps exam, I will post here IF IT KILLS ME. I just will have to give up on the idea of writing really long, elaborate posts filled with lots of pretty pictures. That can wait 'til after I'm all graduated and have entered the "real world" of unemployment and binge eating. Just kidding. Or am I?

Anyway, for Christmas this year I asked for some food/cooking related paraphernalia, and now I am the proud owner of Vegan with a Vengeance and Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World! I know I'm pretty much the last vegan/aspiring vegan on the planet to have these, but whatevs, man. Last night I made the Black-eyed Pea and Quinoa Croquettes from VwaV, served on a bed of quinoa with a side of baby carrots. I still don't know exactly what a croquette is supposed to be, other than perhaps the female version of croquet (ha ha ha), but my little croquettes were like small, crispy-on-the-outside meatballs. Except flattened, like decidedly non-vegan marshmallows. They tasted... well, not bad. Not bad at all, but sort of bland, to be honest. If I make them again, I'll definitely add more spices. I also cheated and made mushroom sauce from a package, because I had to buy like 934 comps books this week and my checking account suffered a severe dent, so I didn't feel inclined to spend the extra money on stuff to make the sauce from scratch. Oh well. I guess this meal was sort in the B range. Acceptable, but not stellar.

Tonight I made curried chickpeas, served over cous cous and again with a side of baby carrots. The curried chickpeas were actually really quite good; they were simmered in veggie broth, lots of garlic, a curry powder mix, extra garam masala, and a bit of chili powder for some kick, which may've been gratuitous. I also added a bit of cornstarch when nearly all the broth was absorbed/boiled away to keep a bit of sauce. The whole meal was quite tasty and just spicy enough, but it was one of those heavy meals that just sort of sat in my stomach all night long and made me feel vaguely uncomfortable. :( I tried to remedy the lingering curry taste in my mouth by eating some (non-vegan) chocolate, but then I just felt even more icky.

So that's pretty much the rundown of my meals so far this week! Well, not Sunday, because my two housemates and I alternate making big "family" dinners on Sundays, and this week my roomie, E, made yummy stir fry with tofu, veggies, and rice. Oh! Last night I made Susan's Pineapple Coffee Cake because I had half a can of pineapple rings, and it was really yummy and a welcome warm treat in the subzero temperatures of the frigid Minnesota tundra. Not that we were eating it outside, but you know what I mean. :)

Okay! I am done for now! I don't have any relevant food pictures so I will instead post an old-ish photo of my adorable chihuahua, Tamale, being uncharacteristically sweet and demure.