Thursday, December 24, 2009

'Nana Bread

You know how everyone thinks their mom's banana bread is the best? Well, my mom's banana bread recipe really IS the best. I started veganizing the recipe in college, in my vegetarian-but-poor-so-eating-mostly-vegan days.

We're attending a few Xmas Eve parties tonight, so I made these to bring. We also made a massive green bean casserole to bring to Kevin's mom's tomorrow. We liked it so much at Thanksgiving that it was worth repeating back home in Maryland.

This banana bread is easy as pie if you have a food processor; just throw in all the ingredients, processing intermittently. Without further adieu, my Christmas gift to anyone who happens to be reading this... my mom's banana bread recipe:

Banana Bread

  • 3-4 very ripe Bananas (3 if large, 4 if small)
  • 1 cup sugar, less if you desire
  • 1 egg replacer (I used Ener-G, but flax has worked fine in the past)
  • 1/4 cup canola oil 
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1.5 cups flour (WW pastry works too, just double the baking soda)
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans, optional
  1. Preheat well ahead of time to 325F.
  2. Grease a loaf pan.
  3. Demolish the bananas using your chosen method.
  4. Mix in each of the following ingredients in order listed.
  5. Scoops batter into loaf pan.
  6. Bake for 1 hr. If top becomes too dark during baking, cover with aluminum foil tent.
  7. Check for done-ness with a sharp object, like a skewer. Done when comes out clean.
Hint: I find that quick breads bake better in metal pans. They conduct heat better than materials like glass, so you get a more even distribution of heat. The Kitchn recently published a post with other quick bread tips. Sound advice.

Bare bones

Every time I leave town, they destroy my house just a little bit more. The plaster came off the wall while I was in Fort Myers. The contractor claims to still be sore from all the hard work, which makes me glad I paid him to do it instead of attempting it myself!

In the mean time, Baltimore had the biggest snowfall since 1966. Friday night was spent at the birth center, just in case. It was a good thing, too, since I had two moms come in. I left Saturday morning in the intermission of the snowfall. The rest of the weekend was mainly spent by the fireplace (we finally got it working!) and playing in the snow.

Sunday, December 6, 2009


It's been 3 or 4 years since I've traveled home to Fort Myers, Florida, for Thanksgiving. This year, I booked a week off from work so I could fly home and spend time with my mom. Kevin came too, and we celebrated his birthday while we were there.

Because all three of us (Mom, Kevin, me) are vegan, we did a totally Vegan Thanksgiving. (OK, my brother did make a turkey for himself, but we was totally down with all-vegan sides and dessert.)

Here's the menu:

Green Bean Casserole from PPK, per K's request.
Cornbread dressing, made with PPK cornbread and and my Grammy's recipe.
Homemade cranberry-orange relish
Sweet potato casserole
Mushroom gravy, from V'con.
Pumpkin pie, hybrid recipe from VegWeb and the Libby's can.
Apple Crisp, PPK again.
So Delicious Coconut Milk Vanilla ice cream to top it all off!

It was just the four of us for dinner, but several of my mom's neighbors joined us for dessert and coffee. Everyone seemed to enjoy the vegan desserts, which made me happy!

For Kevin's birthday we went to Pizza Fusion, which has vegan pizza options. I was skeptical of the soy cheese, since the much-applauded vegan pizza at Brick Oven Pizza here in Bmore doesn't really float my boat. Pizza Fusion's soy cheese (which I think is Follow Your Heart mozzarella, after internet researching,) is SO yummy. It behaved more like cheese, and I actually liked it. I made some vegan brownies from scratch since I didn't think PF would have vegan desserts, but to my surprise they actually DID have vegan brownies on the menu. I'll be damned! But I think my brownies, made with Hershey's Special Dark cocoa powder, were probably better. Plus, we had Mint Chocolate chip coconut milk ice cream to go on top!

On K's birthday, he was kind enough to shoot some photos of the fam, per Mom's request. They turned out well, and now she'll finally have some non-high school era photos framed in the house.

After Kevin flew back, Mom and I had some time to putz around, shop, drink wine on the porch, etc. On my last night in town I made YumYum's vegan alfredo and we dined on the porch. I tried to enjoy my last moments of warm Florida weather before flying back to Baltimore! Now that I'm back, it's frigid and even snowed yesterday. Oh well. Florida will always be there to revisit, whenever I manage to get time off again.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Hard Day's Night...

...brings a late morning breakfast.

In the baby business, it's feast or famine. I don't think I've had any labor patients at the hospital in 2+ weeks, then I get three in one day! My 24 hr shift yesterday both started and ended with breakfast cooking in the trusty cast iron skillet.

I made my favorite scramble yesterday morning. It helps me to have some protein on board and some leftovers in the fridge during a potentially long day. All I had was frozen-then-thawed tofu for the scramble. Toss in some onions, bell peppers, spices, and make the special sauce. Top with sriracha (hot sauce) and yum. The sauce is important here; it gives it the cohesive, slippery texture of scrambled eggs.

This morning, after a long nap, I made Vegan Yum Yum's Slow Rise Pancakes. I'd started the batter last night, so it's easy to cook them up in the morning. These are so unique. Instead of a fluffy, cakey texture, they're more silky and light. I heated up some Trader Joe's pumpkin butter and Maple-Agave syrup to top things off. And now I need a bike ride!

(Like my snazzy backdrop? I need a tripod and an intact kitchen!)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Death by Prixe Fixe

I was introduced to Great Sage about six months ago. It's an all-veg (and mostly vegan) cafe in Clarksville. Unfortunately, Clarksville really isn't convenient to anything worthwhile for me, but the 45 minute drive is so worth it. The first time, I had brunch with the ladies, a collective of college professor friends, and it was pretty damn delish.

Last night we gathered again for the Pre-Thanksgiving Prixe Fixe: all vegan and with proceeds benefiting Farm Sanctuary. The four-course meal was creative, fun, and yeah... pretty fantastic tasting.

One: butternut squash soup with sage and dried chillies. It was so creamy and savory, that I was bold enough to inquire about the origin of the creaminess. Evidently it contained butternut squash, sage, chiles, celery, carrot, onion, garlic, and vegan cream cheese! Aha!

Two: Sweet Inca corn flan with pea shoots and balsamic reduction. Without the reduction the flan wouldn't have worked, but with it it harmonized well.

Three: Field Roast rosemary cutlets with gravy, fresh cranberry sauce, and roasted cubes of B-nut squash. (My pal Julie and I also felt compelled to order the whipped garlic mashed potatoes and gravy.) I'm really not a huge fan of most seitan, and the Field Roast didn't overly exceed my expectations, but it was "toothsome" and definitely worth trying. And with enough gravy and cranberries, anything is tasty!

Four: Oh, dessert. I was so full, but what sane vegan could resist homemade vegan maple-pecan ice cream with chocolate fudge and whipped cream?! 

We were all catatonic by the end. My friend's final request for the evening was a wheel barrow to get to the parking lot.

Also, Roots Market is next door and has an amazing amount of vegan food! More selection and cheaper than Whole Foods. The combo of Great Sage and Roots Market makes it even more worth the drive.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Great Pumpkin pot pie

Yesterday's quest for Emily's Cafe was unsuccessful. Unfortunately Google Maps can't quite figure out accurate directions, so after searching for too long on empty bellies, we waved the white flag and headed for Liquid Earth to indulge in reubens. This also led to indulging in Bloody Marys and sunshine in Fells Point.

After a weekend of eating out (we celebrated Kevin's grad school acceptance at Yabba Pot the previous night-- so good!), it was high time for some home cooking. Enter: pot pie.

Susan of Fat Free Vegan posted an amazing looking recipe last week for Celebration Pot Pie with Pumpkin Biscuit Crust. As lover of all things pumpkin, I had to make it. Plus I wanted a a huge recipe that would yield leftovers for the week and some stash for the freezer. I'm trying to squirrel some food away in prep for the complete kitchen destruction.

Anyways, the pot pie was great. Fairly labor intensive, but worthwhile. Susan's recipe called for seitan, but since I'm not a huge fan and didn't think I needed to spend the time on seitan creation, I subbed a large can of cannelli beans instead. The stew of the pie is homey-tasting and hearty, and the biscuits have a subtle warm, nutty flavor from the pumpkin. And, as expected, I have a huge amount-- three pans worth!

Making Celebration pot pie while drinking Celebration Ale

Friday, November 13, 2009

Spreading the good word...

After being blown away by the amazing food at Millenium in San Francisco, I've been wondering why Baltimore doesn't have more vegan restaurants and cafes. There seem to be a reasonable number of vegan folks here in Charm City. Well, Emily to the rescue!

On November 1st, Baltimore celebrated the opening of the second all-vegan cafe and only all-vegan bakery-cafe, Emily's Cafe and Desserts. The Baltimore Sun gave recognition to the new spot, and described the space: "The new cafe has a six-foot fireplace and a porch for outdoor service when spring gets here." I'm thinking I'll hit up the farmers market on Sunday then swing over to Emily's for brunch. Baltimore's heading in the right direction, it seems.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Crash Buffalos

The pager was quiet last night (until 2 AM) so I was able to cook a big ol' Sunday dinner. I'm starting to acclimate to the kitchen-of-destruction, and all of the change put me in the spirit for testing some new recipes.

There's no photographic proof (we were too busy eating,) but here was the lineup:

Tempeh Buffalo Wings (from Don't Eat off the Sidewalk) - I've never made buffalo'd anything, so this was uncharted territory. I put way more hot stuff in the sauce than the recipe called for. I also didn't read it closely enough and made about half of the batch with the sauce under the panko instead of spreading the sauce on the already-baked and breaded tempeh. Either way, these were totally worth the work (and mess.)

Crash Hot Potatoes (Vegan Yum Yum) - your standard potato, salt, rosemary, olive oil combo meets a creative spin. Kevin ate three of these.

Pumpkin Pie in Whole Wheat Crust (Bryanna Clark Grogan) - I've made a lot of pumpkin pies in my day. In fact, I've been the family's resident pumpkin pie pro for at least 10 years now. That said, I've never made a vegan pumpkin pie. This pie was... OK. The crust was pretty good, considering I rolled it out with a can of Pam since I couldn't find my rolling pie. The pie reminds me of southern sweet potato pie, not as fluffy and kind of sticky compared to pumpkin pie. I want fluff! I want creaminess! I use ground cashew to make my quiche more fluffy, maybe ground pecans for the pie? ...Alas, back to the drawing board.

Two outta three ain't bad.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Nashville goes vegan!

Five journalists from Nashville's newspaper, Tennesean, went vegan for a month and detailed it in this blog: Vegan for a Month.

After being vegetarian and mostly vegan for a number of years, I moved to Nashville and stopped being vegetarian because it was almost impossible for me to make the effort in a "meat and three" town while in grad school. In hindsight, it wouldn't have been so impossible. It sounds like things have improved for veggie-vores in Nashvegas. The blog is pretty poignant; a lot of the writers have thoughtful things to say about the pros and cons of transitioning to eating vegan. One of my favorite entries is about always apologizing to waitstaff at the start of the month ("sorry, I don't normally eat vegan") but eventually realized there wasn't any cause for apology.

Anyways, worth a read.


After ten great days of traveling in California, I came home last night to my newly-demolished home! Here's photographic proof:

Original tin ceiling exposed by cutting away the crappy, cramped bulkhead.

Massive feeling kitchen, sans wall cabinets.

Operations supervisor on the stairs.

Monday, October 19, 2009

VeganMOFO and Kitchen Plans

Things are developing with the kitchen reno. I didn't think I'd give into the temptation of letting my reno expand beyond my original plans to just replace some cabinets and countertop. Now I'm look at:
  • Tearing out the ceiling and bulkhead to expose vintage tin ceiling
  • Ripping up the floor to expose original pine floors
  • Moving the door to the basement
  • Shifting the basement stairs by about 2 feet
  • Eliminating the current peninsula
  • Moving almost all major appliances
  • Expanding the kitchen into the livingroom/stairwell by 23"
  • Cutting out the wall that separates the upper stairs from the dining room
  • Custom cabinets
  • And I still have to get the Chambers up and running!

Kitchen taped off to test drive new designs. Kitty accommodates.

The wall that's coming out. Once again, Kitty inserts herself in the shot.

In foodie news, I haven't been cooking quite as much lately. I was sitting on the committee to write the Nurse-Midwifery certification exam last week, and they feed me so I didn't have much reason to cook. To their credit, they were kind and careful to make sure I had vegan options.

However, I had been craving vegan kimchi. I had some time to kill in Catonsville while they prepped my new car, so I swung over to H-Mart, a huge international market. I bought the necessaries for making Julie Hasson's vegan kimchi.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

MOFO day 9: Spaghetti Squash in Spicy Cream Sauce

The farmers' market is a good inidicator of how the seasons are changing. A couple weeks ago hard squash were just making their debut, but last Sunday a lot of the tables were covered in autumnal colors of "winter" squash. I'm a big fan of anything butternut, and acorn squash have won me over recently as well. Spaghetti squash have always intrigued me: noodles made of vegetable. But what to do with it? I like this recipe a lot from Sunset. However, last time I made it the jalapeƱo flavor was mostly lost. A reviewer suggested green chilies instead. Here's my veganized, updated version of the Sunset's recipe. It bakes in the oven and is reminiscent of a baked mac-n-cheese.

Spaghetti Squash with Chile Cream Sauce

1 medium sized spaghetti squash (3 lbs-ish)
2 cups non-dairy milk, whatever you prefer
2 long green chiles, roughly diced
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus some to grease the pot
3 tablespoons flour (I used white whole wheat)
1 tablespoon cornstarch or arrowroot
1 tsp salt
1 cup shredded white vegan cheese (I used Veganrella) - optional but so good
Paprika to sprinkle on top - optional

  1. Preheat oven to 375. Cook the squash in the microwave for about 10 minutes or slice in half and cook in the oven for 15-20 minutes. Either way, cook that thing until it's tender when pierced with a fork. Let it cool before you handle it.
  2. Meanwhile, slice the chiles and places them in a saucepan with the non-dairy milk. Simmer until just almost boiling, then let simmer for 15-20 minutes. 
  3. Strain off the peppers and reserve the infused cream.
  4. When the squash cools enough to handle, scrape out the stringy innards and place in your baking dish.
  5. In a saucepan, slowly heat the olive oil to medium heat and gradually whisk in the flour and salt. Continue whisking until it smell cooked (like pie crust,) about 3 minutes. Then slowly add the cream, whisking it constantly for about 3 more minutes. I had to add some cornstarch to get this thick enough, but if yours is thick enough-- skip it.  
  6. Pour the cream over the squash innards and mix. Taste for salt. 
  7. Sprinkle cheese over the top, and hit it with the paprika.
  8. Place in pre-heated oven and cook until the cheese is melted and bubbly.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Great White Stove

I'm in the process of renovating my kitchen. The appliances have started retaliating against me since I decided to take on this endeavor. The range can't hold a steady flame, so things start boiling over that had been set on low. The light above the stove won't stay on unless you bang on it. I'm pretty sure there's a gas issue in the oven. It's a mess. The kitchen reno was instigated by my (perhaps eccentric) purchase of a 1960's Chambers 90C gas stove. Unless I re-do my cabinets, the Chambers won't fit in the kitchen.

She had to be taken apart to fit through the front door.

I'm trying to do this the right way: clean it up, restore rusted areas and coat with rust inhibiting sealant, order new rock wool, replace old screws and bolts with newer ones (that took about 2 hours at the hardware store.) Of course, this is all very easy considering nothing on the stove is standard these days. To top it all off, she weights almost 800 lbs.

Cataloging hardware

Rust-colored rust sealant.

Cleaning the gas cones.

Why bother with this behemoth? There's a great article on Slate that sums it up:
"This Old Stove. Why going vintage is better than modern." My favorite part is this quote: "Fred Carl started Viking around that time after his wife could not find the range of her dreams. (Ironically, it was a vintage Chambers.)"

Hopefully the finished product will look something like this. My stove actually looked much better before we dissected her to reduce the girth (and weight!) The photo below is a real person's actual restored Chambers from the Chambers Rangers discussion board, my go-to place for advice.

Soup and Mad Max

It's just started feeling like autumn here in Baltimore, which means it's officially soup season. We buy beautiful kale from the downtown farmer's market, but sometimes it doesn't get used up quickly enough. I also happened to have a bit of black-eyed peas in the freezer from a large-scale crock pot bean cooking/storing venture. A southern version of traditional Portuguese kale soup (it's almost like southern New Years in a bowl) hit the spot.

Kevin's been on a bread making kick, and he whipped up a really gorgeous baguette to go with dinner. I'd read this article on ways to add steam during bread baking and gave it a try by throwing a couple ice cubes on a heated baking dish. The results were delish. I think we ate more soup just so we could dip bread in it. Kevin also caught me eating disks of bread at the kitchen sink with olive oil drizzled on them. Needless to say, there was no leftover bread. Oh well.

We don't have TV, but sometimes we'll watch newscasts or the Daily Show during dinner. Tonight we had a treat: Mad Max Beyond the Thunderdome. Cinema at its finest.

Anyways, here's the soup recipe. It's easy to make and you could definitely add any other veggies that suit your fancy.

Portuguese Kale and Potato Soup

1 medium sized onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tsp salt

1 heaping tablespoons tomato paste

2 small potatoes, diced (or one if large)

1 quart vegetable broth, divided into halves

1 ½ cups black eyed peas (or one can. Cannellini or Garbanzo would be fine too.)

Thyme, to taste

Oregano, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Kale, de-veined and cut into bite-sized ribbons

  1. In a heavy soup pot, warm olive oil over medium heat. Saute onions for 5 mins. Add garlic and cook 1 more minute.

  2. Add tomato paste and salt, stirring to coat the onions.

  3. Add half of the veggie broth and potatoes, bring to a boil, and cook until potatoes are tender.

  4. Using a slotted spoon, place most of the potatoes/onions in a blender with a little broth and blend until velvety.

  5. Replace blended potatoes in soup pot, add the rest of the broth and the peas/beans.

  6. Season to taste with salt, thyme and oregano (fresh or dried,) and a generous amount of freshly ground pepper.

  7. Add kale and simmer, stirring occaisionally, until kale is tender.

  8. Add more broth or water if too thick.

Serves 4 as a meal or 6 as a side