Tuesday, October 20, 2009

return from the lost (2) week(s).

So, I think I might have been suffering brain death the nearly two weeks I was M.I.A. Well, no, in reality I was suffering academic death in which I was (and continue to be) commuting back and fourth between my two separate schools for classes, rehearsals, the two weekends of the show... the list of places and excuses goes on and on. Oh, and after being involved in my first minor car accident (shock alert: it was not, in fact, my fault) I haven't had a car to drive for a week and a half. Which, of course, made the whole commuting thing infinitely more fun.

So, after catching up with a lot of class, spending a lot of long hours, dropping two classes that were ultimately just going to plummet my GPA, and doing a lot of explaining ... I made a cake.

Cake in point: Oozing.

I made this beauty (or, rather, potential beauty - in a rush I completely disregarded my melty frosting and runny fudge in an effort to simply get the damn thing made) for our closing night cast party. This was a double-layer marble cake with mocha mousse, crushed Joe-Joe and graham cracker filling with coffee buttercream frosting and hot fudge topping. It might have made a lovely slice - if the freaking sweet was devoured by twenty hungry mouths and forks digging into one communal plate.

I have to say... it was pretty goddamn good. At least, I sure liked it and I had received a roster of birthday-cake requests by the end of the night.

I like crazy, overdone, outlandish cakes. Most pastries I want simple: flaky fruit scones, sweet and sticky cinnamon buns, custard tarts. Cakes, however, need at least at tri-fold flavor combination, as many layers as time allows, and tower-high toppings. This isn't a half hour at Rachel Ray's... it's hell in Ace's kitchen (sans all that Ace of Cakes talent and whatnot). Even when I don't have the patience to really flesh out the appearance of a cake, I need it to literally ooze variety and sugar.

I'm supremely frustrated about this whole MoFo Fail business, though. Not because I feel like I've disappointed anyone - I mean, really, who exactly was chained to their computer, on hunger strike until another post came through? - but because this was going to be some fun posting, and all I can serve up are tired cake stories and droning whines. Hopefully I can continue to the post stream into November, though. It's never too late to make up for lost time! Until you're dead. Then, yeah. It is a little too late to make up for lost time.

Joe-Joe, anyone?


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

whine, whine, whine.

I will warn you of this immediately: this is a fake post. Virtually cheating the MoFo. I have no picture, no recipe, no review. Nothing interesting that I found or ate or got excited about (unless you count having a very nice conversation with the TJ's cashier about organic rooibos tea), and by golly that is just not what this project is about.

I knew that my challenge would be blogging every single day, especially when I've ended up doing all the things I basically despise about a string of blog posts - no pictures, no recipes, no manifesto, no new information or much humor. I'm doing it, though! That's something, and yes, my imprisonment - erm, ahem, work schedule - has subsided until the end of the month, so hopefully I can fill all that space-time with compendiums of vegan mofo goodness! (Well, there is that awfully neglected course load that I should also make-up... *shifty eyes and defeated sigh*)

Anyway, if I've nothing else to say, can I beam about Trader Joe's a little bit more here? Some have their miffs, and although I am feeling some heavy guilt about ignoring the local co-op, you really just can't beat their selection around here. I love grocery shopping, and unlike the grimy, fluorescent wards they call markets that seem to employ only junkies and my classmates, the atmosphere there is completely, totally tolerable. The produce is plentiful and fresh, organic pricing is very reasonable, and their wide variety of generic vegan products includes "gel cups" ("Jell-O"), a selection of meatless products including soyrizo, and soy creamer. The packaging is very clearly labeled vegan-friendly, too. Because their new store near me is now located right next to a Barnes and Noble, the bookstore features a little Pacific Northwest section in the cookbook aisle with a couple "Cooking With Trader Joe's" tomes. My goal is to scour the store, armed with the excuse of "experimentation," and grabbing anything vaguely interesting in attempt to replicate such a volume.

Until tomorrow, lovelies.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

the thirty second cake.

This post is aptly named; thirty seconds is about as much time as I've got to post this. I know my lack of forethought has deprived the masses of pictures, and for that I send my due apologies. I really despise a retelling of food nary a single lighted culinary pose to tempt and tantalize, even if the resulting cross-section of a cake looks more like the cross-section of a carcass. And in all fairness, the thing just wasn't that pretty anyway.

I've been getting home very late this past week. In fact, I haven't been home much for the past two weeks, and it's taking a clear toll on my diet and mood. But alas, my complaints are for another day and have near wiped me out already. Only a few more days and a "normal" schedule will return...

But, I'm sure the claim that a cake can be made in the span of thirty seconds has intrigued. Of course, it is false; you cannot even open your cabinet and find the vanilla extract in under thirty seconds (perhaps that's just me and my disorganization...). But you can make a mini-cake - a CUPcake if you will - very, very quickly.

You remember Easy-Bake ovens? Of course you do, even if you didn't have one. They're the epitome of nostalgia, the crowning glory of kitsch! I had a Mrs. Field's oven. I fucking loved that thing. I went through the packages of sweets in mere hours, I'm sure, and insisted in keeping the lightbulb-powered convection in my room because although my room was barely a person's height away from the kitchen, it was like my own personal bakery. A year or so ago I wondered whatever happened to it and discovered my mother had sold it on eBay - not even a week before my inquiry! Needless to say a small fit was thrown then and there. After all I have a package of movie stubs from middle school - why wouldn't I want to keep my culinary passion's one tie to my childhood?! The poor schmuck of a children's toy never even saw the beauty of a cruelty-free brownie.

I was amused and delighted to find that The 100 Best Vegan Baking Recipes by Kris Holechek includes a small chapter dedicated to "Lil'" this-and-that desserts fit perfectly for the kitsch-tastic, retro-kitchen-chic appliance. However, as my previous anecdote explains, I am without such a "toy" (if it can even be called that... it's a childhood necessity). Instead, I glanced at the ingredients, threw them together, and popped it in the microwave for one minute. When it looked done (after about 30-40 seconds), I tested for moistness with a toothpick and voila - personal ramekin cake! (I did indeed bake my sweet in a cup-size ramekin.)

The microwave makes it significantly gummier than baked cake, though you can certain bake it in a countertop toaster oven or even a regular-sized convection oven (though why would you and waste all that energy?). The center however is still fluffy and cake like, and when all you have are those thirty seconds to satisfy a dessert craving there's no real harm done. This would never be something I'd serve, but in a sweet-less pinch I'd make it.

Baby Cakes in Thirty Seconds

More than 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
More than 1 tablespoon milk
A little pour oil

Grease one cup-size ramekin lightly with oil. Stir together the flour, baking powder, and sugar in the ramekin, create a small well, then add milk and oil. Stir quickly with a fork or small whisk. Microwave for 30 seconds, check, microwave for another thirty seconds. Center will be dry when done and a toothpick is inserted. The top should be spongy and will be a little gummy. Top with jam, ice cream, leftover frosting, whatever... it's your cake. All yours and none to share!

Monday, October 5, 2009

peanut butter jelly time.

Come the windy, chilly, soaking months of autumn, everyone's talking about comfort food. After all, when we're freezing our asses off and stuck inside because of yet another rain storm or icy-road blockage, we look for just about anything to remind us that it's all okay, life is still good, and food is still delicious.

I've never met a peanut butter and jelly sandwich I didn't like (except perhaps with those icky breads that insist whey or milk fat makes it "better"). That there's my comfort food. The whole wheat nuttiness of bread, the salty nuttiness of peanut butter, and the sweetness of jam all coheres into a soft delicacy like hand-held pie. I've never been sick of the sandwiches, not since elementary school, not since ever. I'm a little Cindy Brady that way. The only times I've had myself lay off the stuff have been when I get a little too paranoid about calories and fat grams (I'm still adjusting to the calm-the-fuck-down, eat-mostly-fruit, don't-put-additives-in-your-mouth Skinny Bitch mindset).

So, here's to you, PB&J. Always the when-in-doubt rehearsal snack, always a decent breakfast, always a mid-day comfort. Here's to your versatility - your humble adaptation to your more hoity-toity cousins, cashew and almond butters, and your posh niece, fruit preserves. Even though most of us grew up with you on the old-fashioned, dairy-ridden, empty-calorie monstrosity that is Wonderbread white bread, we appreciate your sophisticated reincarnation on Dave's Killer bread or homemade spelt. Here's to many more years and work breaks and picnics and children's lunches.

May you live long and, um... prosper, and such.

A Sandwich in Abstract... with rounded edges.
I call it, Sandwich in Abstract.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

scone city.

Whoops, better late than never! I was baking up a scone storm to bring to this morning's workcall (set construction all weekend mornings) and fell right asleep... ok, so maybe I was watching a few hours' worth of DVR recordings, but I was nodding off the whole time, I swear.

These blueberry scones are a success in (almost) gluten-free baking. The recipe for Raspberry Scones comes from Babycakes, which I adore if for no other reason than the cutesy-kitschy photographs. Instead of using two cups of whole spelt flour, though, I used the rest of my light spelt flour (about 3/4 cup) and Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour. Because of the spelt, they can't be considered gluten-free. They turned out much better (and much prettier) than the gluten-full Orange-Chocolate Chip Scones that I made for variety. More scone like, they seemed - tender, buttery, hint-of-sweetness sweet. I hate serving things I'm not one hundred percent happy with, but off they will go anyway. Too bad I didn't double the Babycakes recipe - but I'll definitely be coming back for more the next time a scone craving hits!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

the second day survey.

Do you remember when MySpace became really popular and one... three... three and half hours were easily passed filling out your friends' tacky surveys? Surely that kid in my Spanish class desperately wanted to know who I would invite to my celebrity dinner, and my New Zealand pen pal couldn't sleep at night without knowing theme songs picked arbitrarily from my iPod shuffle. ...Maybe that was just me in the seventh grade. But trashy magazine quizzes have always been a very guilty pleasure. During some shows that don't involve a lot of preshow work, someone will bring a stack of Cosmos, QuizFests, and Seventeens backstage to entertain ourselves. When we're not working seriously on our coloring books. (Now, remind me: am I working for a drama department or a kindergarten?)

Lauren of Whoa Wren devised a survey for her first day of Vegan MoFo that I, with all my quizzical tendencies, found quite irresistible. Be prepared to become entranced once filling out your own... or mildly-suicidal-bored while reading mine.

1. Favorite non-dairy milk?
Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Breeze. It's DELICIOUS, they're low in fat, super low in calories, and I've been a big fan eons before I was vegan. And now they come in gallon cartons too!

2. What are the top 3 dishes/recipes you are planning to cook?
Pizza to use up some dough and a homemade marinara sauce I haven't put to much use; Baklava Bread from The 100 Best Vegan Baking Recipes; a tempeh reuben sandwich.

3. Topping of choice for popcorn?
Salt and GARLIC. GARLIC, GARLIC, GARLIC. (You can tell not much of my movie-watching time is spent on dates.)

4. Most disastrous recipe/meal failure?
I could not for the life of me get a peanut butter fudge, which I had previously made at least three times, right for a party. By the time I came up with something remotely serve-able, it was already dark and I was about an hour late. On the way there I ended up painfully lost and drove home in a hysterical panic where I promptly threw away the fudge, sobbing. It's the story that gets me, really.

5. Favorite pickled item?
Jalapenos. Yeahhh, spicy.

6. How do you organize your recipes?
I have twenty something cookbooks, so I mostly cook from there or peek from off the Internet. I do have a file organizer with some of my favorite printed-off recipes, though.

7. Compost, trash, or garbage disposal?
Compost & trash. Hooray for yard waste collection making compost such a no-brainer.

8. If you were stranded on an island and could only bring 3 foods...what would they be (don't worry about how you'll cook them)?
Hummus, peanut butter, and fresh tortillas. Surely I will get scurvy provided I can't find any fruits or vegetables on this island... but it'd be worth it.

9. Fondest food memory from your childhood?
When we lived in Seattle, my mom used to take me to a bakery in the U Village some weekday mornings so I could get an almond croissant or a pain au chocolat before school. It was before the Village was high-end shopping, so it was a lot more quaint. It's probably why I miss those pastries so damn much.

10. Favorite vegan ice cream?
Turtle Mountain Peanut Butter Zigzag. Are you picking up on a certain obsession with a particular sandwich spread?

11. Most loved kitchen appliance?
Stand mixer! Oh, stand mixer, how I adore thee for facilitating my laziness. (And my kitchen scale. I get to pick two.)

12. Spice/herb you would die without?

13. Cookbook you have owned for the longest time?
I bought Vegan With a Vengeance and Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World at the same time, before I decided to give up all animal products. They totally taught me to love new foods, foods that even my culinarily-inclined parents hadn't introduced to me. It's what eventually coaxed me into blowing the full Monty.

14. Favorite flavor of jam/jelly?
Apricot preserves put the smile on my face.

15. Favorite vegan recipe to serve to an omni friend?
People love these banana cupcakes with caramel glaze and brown sugar frosting, so I'm always handing the recipe out. They're not even my favorite thing that I make, but people freak over them.

16. Seitan, tofu, or tempeh?
Tofu. It can't do toothsome like seitan can, but tempeh's the most expensive and seitan involves more time and effort...

17. Favorite meal to cook (or time of day to cook)?
I like to cook early in the morning, when I have the kitchen to myself because the house is asleep and the kitchen's clean from the night before.

18. What is sitting on top of your refrigerator?
Bins of cookie cutters, cake decorating supplies, and old tupperware.

19. Name 3 items in your freezer without looking.
Tempeh, vegan shrimp (I still need to do something with that), pizza dough.

20. What's on your grocery list?
Raisins, whole wheat pasta, avocados.

21. Favorite grocery store?
Trader Joe's. I'm a total TJ's fangirl, especially since one just opened up so close by.

22. Name a recipe you'd love to veganize, but haven't yet.
Pre-vegan, I went to New York and ate at Junior's, bringing back a box of cheesecake and authentic Black & Whites for my parents. I've since found a cookie recipe to satisfy the cravings, but I've been dying to veganize a recipe from the Junior's Cheesecake book my mom bought recently.

23. Food blog you read the most (besides Isa's because I know you check it everyday). Or maybe the top 3?
Oh, no! Don't make me choose! Perhaps Hannah for the insight and divine photos, FatFree Vegan Kitchen for the oh-so-appreciated creations and nutritional info, and Cakespy for being cutesy, mouth-watering, vegan-friendly at times, and a Seattleite.

24. Favorite vegan candy/chocolate?

25. Most extravagant food item purchased lately?
I bought pistachio nutmeats the other day for the aforementioned Baklava Bread. I get pretty scandalized by the prices of nuts as it is, so I felt just a little guilty paying the extra for the pre-shelling.

26. Ingredients you are scared to work with?
Agar agar. I've worked with it before, but the brand I buy is outrageously finicky, and I get panicky every time I go for a recipe calling for it. It rarely turns out *disastrous,* but it's completely hit or miss.

the top ATE ... erm, EIGHT best things about food & fall.

8. Vegan MoFo
So, I missed Midnight MoFo by about a quarter of an hour (by the standard of 12:01 am EST, that is) but I'm still holding to it by Pacific time. If YOU want to be part of this monthlong organized convention of over 320 blogs from around the globe so that you too can talk about vegan food as much as you possibly can, you still have time! Take a peek at the official VeganMofo blog to list yourself by tomorrow, October 2nd.

7. Squash
In between schools this morning I rushed into our brand spanking new Trader Joe's for groceries, and BEHOLD: a plethora of butternut, acorn, and spaghetti squashes. Sugar pumpkins too! No matter how blustery and soaked it is outside (and honestly, for the love of god it's the Puget Sound - when isn't it?), I refuse to accept the equinox until I'm being suffocated by produce of the root vegetable variety. I can already hear Isa's Apple-Pumpkin Risotto from the newest issue of BUST coaxing me into the kitchen...

6. Spices
As hyper-thrilled as I get come fall for slices of pumpkin pie and bowls of butternut squash soup, seeing all my herbs (oh, how few the things that will flourish in my yard are!) wither and die is a total Debbie Downer. Thank the heavens for sage, rosemary, and thyme! All three are heartier herbs because of their thick, weather-resistant stems and grow well into fall. Because of the popular autumn-y pairings such as pumpkin-sage in ravioli and lemon-thyme roasted with potatoes, it's rather well known that these herbs are available year round for the most part, but I will be remembering to take advantage of this as my lavender wilts away!

5. Soup
Even though we hit a cold patch every season, the summer can get pretty damn hot. So even when it's the chilliest of summer days, I tend to readily dismiss a soup for dinner. I will be the first to admit that soup is not my favorite meal. Perhaps sipping a meal doesn't appeal to me as much as feasting on slabs of barbecue-soaked tofu. However, I think the comfort of a very hot soup on a very cold day is universal. Mmm, I can already see a menu panning out before my eyes. Potato chowder in a bowl of sourdough... tomato basil with rotini...

4. Caramel Apples
I could have just said apples, but where's the fun in that? I mean, apples don't disappear for too long around here, and what is a holiday without its sweets? Caramel apples play their cards well into the beginning of December, making appearances at Halloween parties and carnivals and masquerading right on through to a satisfying Thanksgiving dessert alternative to the obligatory pumpkin pie. I loved the "tricked-out" version featured on Chow and the blogosphere last year, so I'm thinking of exploring that deliciousness very soon.

3. Anything With Maple Syrup
Now, I don't know about the rest of you, but when I'm chowing down on some flapjacks with my Christmas-snow powdered sugar and carafe of maple syrup (you know, per usual), I start thinking about how sinfully expensive that sweet sin we call maple syrup really is. And despite the aggravating price increase every so often, the expense has good reason. Tapping the syrup isa taxing process requiring much patience as is going through the process another few times to obtain grades A, B, and uh... so on of the stuff. And when I'm so thoughtfully pondering the origin of my liquid amber-gold, I can only imagine one scenario: a cheery, bundled up Canadian tapping maple trees in the snow. I should note that I have absolutely no factual backing for this image...

2. Cranberries
If I were to die today, as a homecook my greatest regret might be not using cranberries enough. Sure, they make its way into a tangy sauce every Thanksgiving. But where's the real cran-love? More cranberry spritzers for brunch, I say to you, America. More nom-tastic biscotti with white chocolate and dried cranberries. More fruity, sage-enhanced fauxsages. Yes, we can!

1. Pumpkin Delicacies
I may have already mentioned my joy surrounding every variety of squash, but pumpkins are something special to American food culture. What would Halloween be without a jack-o-lantern? Thanksgiving without a pumpkin pie? Starbucks without the Pumpkin Spice Latte? Ok, so maybe the last would fare on its own without the festive beverage, but I get genuinely excited when it pops up on the menu. It can only mean that fall is around the corner or already here, and many more pumpkins abound! This blurb does not do my ardor toward the pumpkin nearly enough justice. I can only say this much more: when you can find a better, more fibrous, low calorie, and more versatile accompaniment to a savory meal and replacement for fat in the richest sweets... you call me.