Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Summer Eats

I don't know if you've heard, but it's hot outside.  Even if you're a total air conditioned shut-in, you know this from, well, Facebook.  Because everyone felt the need to post the status update, "OMG! It's, like, rilly hot outside!"

There are a lot of folks out there who don't like to cook in the summertime.  My step-mother, whose amazing cooking and baking really inspired me to get started in the kitchen myself, is one of those.  I never quite understand it because she lives in central air conditioning.  But who am I to judge?

I never stop cooking.  Mostly because I've gotta eat.  I only have an ancient window unit air conditioner in my studio-style living room/kitchen, but that's not going to stop me from preheating my oven to 350 and baking some cookies.  One must have priorities.  But I do try to pick good summer recipes.

From the book Vegan Brunch, I decided to make Courico Tacos with Grilled Pineapple Salsa.  Personally, I don't think of tacos as a breakfast food.  I've heard tell, though, that throughout South and Central America, it's common practice to eat leftover dinner for breakfast, so I guess there's something to it.  Maybe it's supposed to be breakfast-y because it has pineapples?  Well, to me, that just makes it a great summer dinner food.  So cool and fruity!   I made a side of Viva Vegan!'s Cilantro-Lime Rice because I had cilantro from the taco recipe, leaving out green onions because I didn't have them on hand.  Also, confession: it's Cilantro-Key-Lime Rice because, well, Key limes are what I had.

I never read a vegan blogger with a bad review of this one, have you?  It's so freaking good.  I ordered soy curls months ago expressly to make this recipe, and I'm glad I did.  Soy curls are amazing.  So... meaty!  I'm going to have to order a lot of them, since they store forever.  Rehydrate, cut 'em up, make some chili.  For some reason, I keep thinking about making chili with them over everything else. 


So, what's for dessert?  Well, remember I mentioned those Key limes?


I never actually had a Key lime before.  But there they were at Wegman's, and even though there is nothing local or organic about them, I couldn't resist.  I wanted to try them!  And, you know, they're tiny and kind of a pain to squeeze out without getting a ton of seeds in your measuring cup.  And maybe I'm unsophisticated, but I'm not sure they taste very different from regular limes.  Still, I made the Key-Lime Shortbread Cookies from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar, and they are addictively good.  It's hard to eat just one.


I didn't have any bright green decorating sugar, only this light green kind, and it does ok, although its coarseness may be a bit much.  Pretty little electric green crystals would be ideal.  I can't honestly complain, though.  This is a little delight of a cookie.  Definitely worth baking in the summer for.


Speaking of things that are in no way local or organic, this guy at Wegman's had samples of a Frankenfruit he called "plumigranates."  I've tried Googling it -- no dice.  It's some kind of hybrid between plums and pomegranates.  I shouldn't have bought any, I should really stick to the fruits at Phoenixville's Farmer's Market.  But for some reason I bought a few.




These things are just ridiculously good.  They taste like the most juicy, sweet plum you ever ate ever.  I wouldn't mind being the Bride of THIS Frankenfruit -- they're that good.  It's like that episode of Peewee Herman when he's going on about how much he loves fruit salad, and someone (Chairy, I think) says, "Well, why don't you marry it?" so he decides, okay, I WILL marry it!  And they have a wedding with a bowl of fruit.  That's what I'm looking to do with plumigranates.  Don't look down on our love!  Our love is pure! You'll see when you fall in love with a fruit from the wrong side of the tracks!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Extreme Ice Cream

I like to always have some homemade ice cream in my freezer.  Making ice cream not only causes one to feel quite accomplished in the kitchen, but it also consistently impresses guests.  And we all know that impressing people is among the better reasons to cook things that most people buy pre-made, like bread and tomato sauce.

My ice cream maker is pretty much the coolest one in the world.  I bought it at Goodwill for $3.99.  It was still in its original beat-up box.
Now, I don't know what year this baby was made, but it's old.  It didn't have the original operating instructions inside.  Instead, it had this letter, dated April 26, 1977, inside.  So that should give you a clue as to how old my ice cream maker is.
Poor Betty and family.  As if this weren't bad enough, ALSO in the ice cream maker box was this photocopy:
I sure hope that the dietary treatment for a hiatus hernia was ice cream.  But I seriously doubt it, since the maker was donated to Goodwill, seemingly unused.

Anyway, I wanted to make caramel-cinnamon ice cream.  I know, I know, those flavors are more appropriate for the Fall season.  But my awesome friend Caitlin gave me some cinnamon extract, and I've had this bottle of Da Vinci's Caramel Nut Syrup, which I got for free years ago when I worked at Borders Books and the cafes in all Borders were closing and turning into Seattle's Best.  They were supposed to have thrown the syrup away, but I salvaged it.  It also supposedly has an expiration date, but I have my doubts about that.  Especially since I've been making outrageously great vegan ice cream using it for a while now.  Seasons be damned, the cinnamon extract was calling out to me!  Caramel-cinnamon ice cream was just begging to be created!

I made the ice cream using basically the recipe from Veganomicon, but the coconut milk I have, for some reason, doesn't have that thick cream on top, even when it has been stored in the refrigerator, so I added some corn starch to thicken the batter up a bit.  Also, I omitted some of the soy milk, replacing it with delicious, delicious caramel syrup.  And I added a tablespoon of cinnamon extract.  Here it is in the ice cream maker, pre-churning.

 
Now, what is super-rad about my old-school ice cream maker is that you don't have to freeze anything.  You just put the whole gadget into the freezer, plug it in, close the door over the wire, and go watch The Sarah Silverman Program, or whatever.  It churns away in your freezer.
Yay!  Here's the part where you watch TV!  Did you ever see the episode when Sarah loses her keys so she becomes homeless?  And there's a part where a news crew goes out to interview the homeless about how the recession is affecting them?  And Sarah tells the reporter that one of the homeless guys does a great impression of Manny from Degrassi: The Next Generation?  And the guy just looks like this crazy, bearded guy who you could never imagine doing a Manny impression?  Oh man, that show is funny...

Hey, wow, the ice cream is done!  It looks much more ice creamy now, doesn't it?
And let me tell you, this ice cream is good.  Really good.  I wish the whole world could taste it and understand that the secret to world peace is probably vegan ice cream.  Well, ok, I actually think that there is no secret to world peace, but I DO think that the secret to conflict resolution is freezy pops.  But that's a subject for another post.
 
Doesn't that look so good?  Don't you wish you were eating that right now?  Frankly, I wish I was eating it right now.  You know what?  Stop at my apartment, maybe before karaoke on Thursday, and I'll totally feed you some.  Lucky ducks.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Meditations on Chocolate Chip Cookies

There were geese hanging out in the dam that is visible from Phoenixville's so-called Low Bridge, which I walk over every day.  I never saw geese playing in the dam before!  In fact, I've never seen any geese in Phoenixville at all.  But there they were, just hanging out, playing.  Cute.

I finally made the plain old Chocolate Chip Cookies from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar.  Now, I gotta admit, I've been hesitant to make vegan chocolate chip cookies because I grew up on the tastiest CC cookies recipe that exists: the one on the back of the Nestle Tollhouse bag of chips.  That one calls for TWO (!!!) sticks of butter and two eggs.  I'm curious to try adjusting the recipe by simply using Earth Balance margarine and Ener-G Egg Replacer, just to see how it turns out.  But knowing how expensive two sticks of Earth Balance is, and knowing how rarely I use egg replacer, I thought I should just try a legitimate recipe.  But I really struggled to decide which Moscowitz recipe to use: the one she put in Vegan with a Vengeance or the one she and Romero put in Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar.  I have a feeling that the VwaV recipe is a bit more decadent.  As time went on, I think Moscowitz/Romero became more concerned with having things be less over-the-top unhealthy.  The original recipe had shortening in it, the new one just has 2/3 cup of canola oil.

Anyway, they were quite good!  I wouldn't say they were Nestle Tollhouse good, but they were soft and chewy, with a bit of crispiness on the bottom.  I fed them to a party of drunk folks, and I gotta say, when it comes to cookies, no one is looking to be very judgmental.  People are happy to just enjoy a cookie.  Also, although these may not be as good as the very most unhealthy non-vegan chocolate chip cookies, they're far better than the AVERAGE chocolate chip cookies.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The 3rd and 4th of July!

It was a really great holiday weekend.  Hot as hell, just like it should be 'round Independence Day.
On the 3rd, some of my friends threw a party where a good time was had by all attending, and where no one left until after 3 AM, even though it was in a house in the middle of nowhere (otherwise known as Honey Brook, PA).

To our left, we see a picture of lovely ladies Desirae and Liza celebrating with vino.













And here, a picture of just Liza, who generally hides from cameras.  On the right, you can see the banana brownies I made and brought to the shindig.  I sometimes refer to these brownies as, well, the "best brownies ever."  Because that's what they are.  I didn't invent them, they're in Vegan with a Vengeance, you should probably make them now.






On the actual holiday, I went to Faye and John's surprisingly nice house in north Philly, where they were having a cookout with a lot of really great conversationalists.  For this, I made some veggie burgers.  You can see the last two being cooked with love by Faye, a seriously great hostess.







We laugh it up heartily while chowing down!
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