I can make my own energy balls with pantry staples using the food processor. And look, ma, no waste!
I’m starting a new gig this week, and Minimalist Baker’s peanut butter cup energy balls are a perfect afternoon snack. Only five ingredients: dates, chocolate, peanut butter, chia seeds, and rolled oats. Lovely.
Also, pretty flexible! I was running low on dates, so I amped up the peanut butter, chocolate, and oats a bit and achieved the same texture.
Ginger! It’s warm, sharp, tangy, and yet seldom burns the tongue and isn’t likely to inflame any pepper allergies. So! I made carrot-ginger-chia dressing (Salad Samurai recipe) to drench my lunch in. Mmm.
It turned out a burnt orange shade because I used a purple carrot and a red onion – it’s what I had! Still good though.
Oh boy, it’s sugar-free (or no added sugar) day. I don’t have any sugar subs (unless you count dates?) and don’t believe the hype about “alternative” sugars that still contain calories. Look. I’m not a nutrition expert by any stretch, and I don’t wish to promote any kind of problematic health food/diet crap, but I’m pretty sure that sugar is sugar, more or less. So I wanted to keep this pretty straightforward and just bake fruit.
A lot of folks might go with dates and/or bananas. I don’t care for bananas and I usually use dates in a raw application, so I wanted to bake a whole fruit that I liked to eat on its own merits. And what I had was a very ripe nectarines.
Usually a baked fruit recipe will call for sugar, and I think it helps break down the fruit and release juices, but it isn’t absolutely necessary, especially starting with a very sweet fruit. So I simply topped it with a little bit of sea salt (to help with that chemical reaction), a drizzle of coconut oil, and a pinch of cinnamon to trick the palate into tasting “sweet.”
Baked at 350°F for 30 minutes, after which it is tender and juicy and a little bit browned.
I enjoyed it with a dollop of unsweetened plain Greek-style almond yogurt for a lovely creaminess. It’s definitely sweet, but not too heavy or cloying, plus it required almost no actually effort. No mixing bowl! Practically no measuring! Easy!
This week there’s a bunch of baking themes among the prompts, and that’s more than I can justify for just myself, so today I opted to revisit my attempt at gluten-free baking from last summer. They were a thank-you for a friend who fed the rabbits while K and I went on a weeklong road trip, and I’m told their intended target enjoyed them. They’re chocolate chip cookies with almond and shredded coconut based on a Minimalist Baker recipe.
I don’t keep “GF flours” on hand enough to bake this way often, but it’s nice to know the options exist.
While it’s my understanding that many nut-allergic folks can eat seeds, which might make sunflower seeds and sesame tahini fair game–not to mention coconut, which is classified as a tree nut by the US government despite being botanically quite different–I’d like to meet this particular challenge by avoiding that altogether. With rice.
Creamy rice dishes don’t require actual cream, just a different cooking technique (and, to a certain degree, the right kind of rice). Risotto, traditionally made with arborio rice, is simmered and stirred while liquid is added a little bit at a time; the grains release starch into the liquid as they cook, and the whole thing comes out creamy without anything even pretending to be dairy.
Wanting to try a different recipe, I consulted my mountain of cookbooks and landed on the one in the Crossroads cookbook with leeks, cherry tomatoes, and corn. Well, and it’s supposed to have a cashew cream, which I omitted. And the choice of cooking fats is a sensitive one when it comes to allergies, so choose wisely. I used coconut and olive oil.
I also made my own stock with the scraps from the leeks and corn cobs, though I am not sure how much it really added to the end result, since I didn’t simmer it terribly long (about an hour).
The end result was rich and creamy without any cream, plus it used some super seasonal produce from the market! Colorful, too. I made a meal of it with some wilted kale and baked tofu (made with a spicy seasoning salt a friend brought me from Hawaii). Delicious.
Learning to make bread is, by all accounts, a lifetime pursuit, and I’m not nearly dedicated enough to aim for greatness.
But I can aim to improve over time.
So this is my attempt to make baguettes. I think I’ve made them… 3 or 4 times before? And they usually turned out kind of awkwardly shaped and pale colored, but decently baked on the inside.
Today’s batch was an improvement. Still far from the standard, but better.
The slashes didn’t spread except in a couple places, but the seams on the side sure did. The crust didn’t brown as much as I hoped, but it did get a halfway decent crunch. I used sourdough in the poolish but there wasn’t much tang in the end result. Plus I did manage to split the dough into precisely measures thirds and it was a consistency that was easy to work with for all the stretches and folds.
I love purple food, and it would be easy to make a SUPER PURPLE dinner with deliberately chosen purple veggies and “black” grains and beans that would blend in well in a photo.
That is not what I am sharing today.
Today I made dinner that turned out purple without entirely meaning to.
I made a lentil soup from Decolonize Your Diet. It calls for chard and carrot. The only carrot I had was a purple one. Between that and the rich red of the chard stems, the broth was a rich shade of plum.
It is a very, very nice soup.
To go with that, I made pan-fried squash blossoms stuffed with a quickie almond flour ricotta (1 cup almond flour [not meal], juice of 1 lemon, pinch salt, ~⅓ cup water, mixed in a little at a time to desired consistency) and crusted with corn masa – you guessed it, I used a little blue corn masa. Which looks purple.
I mean, less so after you’ve fried it, but you get it.
I refuse to pander to your lack of creativity, sir. I’m just gonna make some shit *I* like.
Tacos are a good bet, though. I’m not aiming to “convince” anyone, but who doesn’t like a taco? Cheese and meat are not necessities. Spice, texture, and a range of flavors are all that’s required. I’ve made my share of tempeh “chorizo” tacos for satisfied relatives, but tonight I felt like using some nice market-fresh mushrooms (trumpet and shiitake).
Filling: Chipotle mushrooms with red onion and pinto beans, made using homemade chipotles in adobo (based on a recipe from Isa Does It)
Toppings: Lime-juice marinated shredded cabbage, avocado, and tomato-mango salsa (mmm)
Tortillas: Homemade yellow corn
Some of my relatives wouldn’t eat this, but that’s primarily because some of my relatives are fungiphobes. That’s OK. I’d make ‘em something else. They usually like my food, and they aren’t vegan.
You can’t convince someone to give up animal products entirely based on a single meal. The meal can, at best, show them plants in a new light. Show them what’s possible. But change must come from within.
I mentioned in my Day 1 post that I’m inspired by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. I’ve cooked out of her books a lot, and there are plenty of recipes I’ve committed to memory and made my own. So for today’s prompt, how could I not return to that well? But to make things interesting, I wanted to go back and try a recipe I hadn’t yet tried.
Paging through Isa Does It (my copy is signed <3 <3), I landed on the Dilly Stew with Rosemary Dumplings. This is not the kind of thing I usually cook–stew with lots of delicious starches, mmm–so MoFo seemed like as good a time as any!
So first you make a roux. Then you make a stew (potato, carrot, celery, onion, garlic, dill, thyme). Then you mix up some simple dough and drop that stuff in your stew and let it cook on the stove top. No oven! Weird!
Anyway, pretty satisfying all around, though if I were to make it again, I might add fresh dill in at the end and maybe microplaned a little garlic in with the beans for extra garlicky punch. And possibly include more salt? I should’ve tasted it as I went a little better. I have watched sooo fucking much Top Chef, you guys; underseasoning KILLS.
Today we’re asked how art inspires us in our cooking. I hope this doesn’t sound too pretentious, but cooking is–at least sometimes–my creative outlet, so arguably all my food is art (and would we call that pretentious? or… timeless?).
But we need inspiration for today. Here’s a lovely chickpea socca, tinted yellow with turmeric, topped with some market-fresh rainbow chard and seasoned with onion, garlic, allspice, cumin, white wine vinegar, dried apricot, and pistachios. There’s texture, color; flavors ranging from earthy to bright. (Recipe from Vegan for Everybody.)
Come with me on a journey, if you will.
You’re on vacation. Or just spending a day off in a city, or a town, or somewhere with a museum or gallery you want to spend a long, leisurely day exploring. At some point, you realize … you’re hungry. You need something simple and pleasant to keep your mood and energy up. You stroll into a cafe and order socca and a coffee and people-watch and chat about what you’ve seen so far and what to look at next.
I couldn’t read this prompt without getting Dan Bern’s “Jerusalem” stuck in my head.
All the ancient kings came to my door
They said “Do you want to be an ancient king too?”
I said “Oh yes very much
But I think my timing’s wrong”
They said “Time is relative
Or did you misread Einstein”
I said “Do you really mean it?”
They said “What do you think we come here for
Our goddamn health or something?”
So in tribute to those ten long days in Jerusalem, where he ate nothing but olives, I went for something inspired by that place. With a side of olives. (I don’t like olives).
First off, homemade pita bread. I’ve made this plenty of times. I like Breadtopia’s recipe and sometimes use the sourdough variation.
Next, a simple chopped salad, with all market-fresh veggies: tomato, cucumber, onion, pepper, parsley, mint.
Then, I thought I’d attempt to make vegan labneh, which, admittedly, isn’t something I’ve had in its nonvegan form, but it sounded tasty and a fun thing to try as an alternative to hummus. Do you think the ancient kings would be okay with almond milk yogurt?
I can’t speak to the taste – though I suspect it isn’t as funky as a homemade goat’s milk yogurt would turn out – but the texture is thick and dry, just as described in the recipes I read. It wasn’t too difficult. I mixed a cup of Kite Hill Greek unsweetened yogurt with a pinch of salt and a little lemon juice, wrapped it tightly in cheesecloth, then hung in a linen bag for several hours until all the liquid dripped out. Served with za’atar and olive oil, along with the pitas and the chopped salad…this is going to be an excellent lunch. For the ancient kings too, I guess.
(OK, I will probably make hummus, too. I made a LOT of pitas, you know?)
Not every day is a damn inspiration. Today it is a salad. 🥗 🥗 🥗 🥗
But it was a GOOD salad, OK?
K’s mom has been growing shiso and shared a few leaves with us. I found some interesting recipes to use it in, including several salads. I went with this soba noodle salad – tweaked in a few ways (no dill or chile, added tofu, carrot cut into thin strips with a peeler instead of chopped into coins, chiffonaded three large shiso leaves instead of adding several small ones). Oooh, it was nice. Satisfying, hearty, and with few zingy notes from the raw ginger and the shiso.
Hey, fellow vegans and interested parties. I’m Emily. This is my … fourth? or fifth? (I don’t remember exactly) go-round on the MoFo wheel. I’ve been vegan since, I don’t know, 2011? and I’ve regretted not marking the precise day ever since I saw people on Instagram self-congratulating on their veganniversary. I DON’T HAVE ONE BECAUSE I DON’T KNOW. Kind of like I don’t know when my pet rabbits’ birthdays are, since they’re adopted, and honestly, for years I thought their “gotcha” day was in November but then I found a very old blog post and it turns out it’s October. Anyway, going vegan was a slow process, blah blah blah, my partner of almost 16 years has been vegan since long before I met him so I’ve been cooking vegan for a damn while now, thank you.
Though I post to a Tumblr for the purposes of the Vegan Month of Food, most of my food-related social media’ing happens on Instagram. I also (sometimes) write a newsletter with plant-based food advice, extolling the virtue of various ingredients, and random personal/political rambling.
I cook dinner most nights and shop at my favorite farmers’ market here in Silicon Valley religiously. (My market IS on a Sunday.) I don’t always get super creative or experimental because I am tired, but I do have a decent repertoire and skillset in the kitchen. I don’t make a weekly menu and stick to it, but I do buy stuff that looks good and put things together like I’m playing Chopped only without all the gross stuff. My #1 vegan cooking inspiration is Isa Chandra Moskowitz, which I realize is a little like saying your favorite band is the Beatles, but fuck it. I also like to bake – cookies, the occasional cake, and sometimes bread. My tendency to prefer DIY is based partly on not liking my options at the grocery store (too expensive or too shitty ingredients) and partly a method of self-sabotage so that when it’s 7pm on a Tuesday and I have been thinking about making tacos, I fucking can’t, because god dammit, I’d have to knock out a batch of tortillas first, and we wouldn’t eat until 9 and I’m tiiiiiiired.
Besides plant-based vegan food, you may find me obsessing over TV (too many favorites to name, though I will recommend a thousand things to you if you ever ask), reading science fiction, or getting extremely angry/sad about politics on Twitter and/or my couch. I might identify as a comedy nerd, as if saying so isn’t already a self-deprecating joke.
Finally, a note about ethics and vegan-adjacent attitudes: you won’t catch me judging folks for their dietary choices. I can’t stand the diet culture-y, shaming, often a tiny bit racist wing of veganism. I’m not here for superiority complexes of any damn kind. What works for you, what squares with your beliefs, isn’t going to be for everyone. Be a good example. Be kind. (Except to Nazis.)