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Zaq's Snacks :D

Adventures in vegan baking

Vietnamese spring rolls!
sweedish chef
... is what I call these puppies! I have been vehemently informed by some that these are UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES to be called spring rolls, but the internet agrees with me that these can be called Vietnamese spring rolls so there. I call them the only acceptable dinner when the temperature rises inexplicably to 35°C for a week straight before the end of May (seriously, wtf Mother Nature??). Rice paper wrapped around vermicelli noodles, with mint, bean sprouts, and carrot, served with a yummy, savory peanut-hoisin sauce. Funny story: shortly after I became vegetarian, I happened to notice a bottle of "vegetarian hoisin sauce" at the grocery store. I was all like "what could possibly be un-vegetarian about hoisin sauce?" so I mentioned it to a friend and she just about peed her pants laughing at me because apparently hoisin means oyster. So make sure you read the label when you're buying hoisin sauce, and be wary of restaurant hoisin!

This recipe is obviously very easily scale-able to the number of people you're trying to feed. I usually find that my limiting ingredient is the mint - I have a mint plant growing (hooray!) but if you're buying a little pack from the grocery store, I'd say that an average package would make about 12 rolls?? Sorry to be so vague.

Rice paper wraps (~12??)
Fresh mint (um, a bunch)
about 2 carrots, julienned
bean sprouts... a bunch
cooked vermicelli

For the sauce:
1/2 cup vegetarian hoisin sauce
2 tbsp peanut butter
1/2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 clove garlic
~ 1 tsp chili flakes

Cook the vermicelli according to the package directions. While the noodles are going, peel and julienne your carrots, rise your bean sprouts, and dice your mint. When the noodles are finished, drain them and rinse them with cold water so that you don't burn the effing hell out of your fingers and feel like a moron >_>

Set up a workspace with all of your ingredients, a soaking dish for the rice wraps, a rolling surface, and a clean plate for finished wraps:

Soak one rice paper wrap in water for about 30 seconds. The water doesn't need to be overly hot; you'll know that it's ready when it juuust looses its rigidity. If you soak it too long, it will become a gelatinous mess and it'll probably tear. No big deal, those puppies come in packs of like 100 and they cost approximately nothing.

Carefully lay out your now-floppy rice wrap. In the centre of the wrap, place a small handful of noodles, a couple of bean sprouts, some carrots, and a bit of mint. Here's the approximate proportions that I use:

Then fold up the bottom, and fold in the two sides:

Finish rollin'!

For the sauce: Chop your garlic finely, then blend well with the other ingredients. That's it! I didn't take any pictures because it is a brown goo and it doesn't look very appetizing but trust me it is delicious.

Dip your rolls in the sauce and try not to melt as the temperature outside skyrockets. Yay!

Alas, a post
sweedish chef
Coffee cake. It is delicious. It's been my family's standby recipe for many a year, so it was among the first recipes that I ever veganized. Although the recipe itself doesn't contain coffee, the general consensus is that it's called coffee cake because you're supposed to eat it with coffee. Although I consume basically every food with coffee, so I'm not sure why this cake gets a special label. The mysteries of life.

Streusel Coffee Cake (based off an olden-tyme Company's Coming recipe)

1/3 cup Earth Balance
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup silken tofu (blended)

1 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup soymilk

1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp flour
1 tsp cinnamon
~ 1 tbsp Earth Balance, melted

Preheat oven to ~375F, then grease and flour a 27x27cm pan.
Melt the EB, then cream with the sugar. Add the whipped tofu and mix well. In a separate bowl, combine the dry (cake!) ingredients. Alternate between adding the dry ingredients and the soymilk to the sugar mixture, mixing well in between additions. Pour the batter into your prepared pan.
In a separate bowl, combine the topping ingredients. Mix with a fork (or your fingers, assuming the EB isn't totally molten), until you end up with a crumbly mixture. You can use more EB if it isn't coming together. Sprinkle this mixture on top of the batter, then bake for ~35 minutes.

Bonus: Yaaay it's spring!!

Extra super bonus:

Veganism = Environmentalism
sweedish chef
Whoop, I am bad at updating. The thing is, I actually have been doing some exicing cooking! And I've actually taken pictures! But I've been too lazy to actually make the effort of writing up a post.

In lieu of actual food, here is an interesting figure that I found on an amazing blog called Sociological Images. This figure (originally from the New York Times) depicts the difference in energy required to produce vegetables with the same caloric value as meat. I thought it would be appropriate since yesterday was Earth Hour.

If you really care about the environment, you should at least reduce the amount of meat that you consume.

Happy New Year!
sweedish chef
Happy New Year everyone! I had an awesome holiday and I hope everyone else did, too! :) The best part of my Christmas haul?

Hooray!! I also raided my dad's record collection and stole a record player that he won as a door prize so long story short my apartment is the place to be if you like classic rock and cupcakes (and I don't know who doesn't!). Oh, and here are the video-game themed gingerbread cookies I made my friend for his Secret Santa gift. I am also working on a Space Invaders scarf but I am a slow knitter so it's not done yet. Bonus points if you can name all the characters!

Anyway, I am back at my apartment after spending the holidays with my family and friends. The time passed much too quickly.. but the good news is that my cats have moved down to my new place so they can keep me company. And the other good news is that I spent New Year's eve with my friend and her new husband and they cooked me basically the best vegetarian chili ever! It was so good that the first thing I did upon returning to my apartment was to whip up a bastardized version of their recipe (which came out of Clueless in the Kitchen... which my friends are not, but I digress). Here is my horrifying concoction.

Monster Chili
2 yellow onions
4 cloves of garlic
1 eggplant
2 zucchini
2 green peppers
1 jalapeno pepper
2 cans of diced tomatoes (don't drain!)
~ 1.5 cups (or 1 can)* of black beans
~ 1.5 cups (or 1 can)* of kidney beans
1 cup frozen corn
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp black pepper
1 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp allspice

* I am too cheap for canned beans so I buy 'em dry and soak them. I didn't measure them because I am an animal so these quantities are approximate.

Dice the eggpplant and place it in a colander. Sprinkle on the salt and allow it to drain while you do the rest of your prep.
Mince the garlic and dice all of the veggies into cubes (about 1 cm squared). Place a deep pot on the stove and heat to medium-high; add the oil and allow it to heat through. Saute the onions and the garlic for five minutes, stirring frequently, then add the zucchini and the peppers and cook for another five minutes. Add the eggplant, the beans, and the spices and stir well. Dump in the canned tomatoes with their juice. Heat until boiling, then cover, lower the heat, and simmer for forty minutes, stirring occasionally. Adjust the seasoning to taste. If you wanted, you could lower the temperature further and allow it to simmer for a few hours for extra deliciousness. When the veggies are tender, add the frozen corn and cook for a final five minutes. Devour with cornbread or fresh baked bread or tortilla chips or something tasty.

This is called Monster Chili to reflect its origins; my newleywed pals' last names can be mashed together into Monster, and I tried really, really hard to convince them to legally change their names (to no avail).

Happy Holidays!
sweedish chef
Happy Holidays everyone! I baked a truckload of cookies but they are mostly gifts so I don't want to post pictures until they've been given out ;) So instead, here is a picture of some of the gifts I'm handing out, arranged around the traditional Christmas gumball machine.

Have a safe, happy holiday everybody! I think I speak for a lot of people when I say that this has been a serious craphole of a year. Eat lots of candy and cookies... this wretched decade is almost over!! :D

Lasagna and French Bread
sweedish chef
This is my first weekend in my new city, because I was back home last weekend for a wedding. That means that I hadn't done groceries in two weeks. I ran around like a crazy person and visited 3 grocery stores today because I am a big cheapo who didn't want to pay 2x the price to shop at Metro when there's a No Frills just a 20 minute walk away!

When I was finally done running around, it was 1pm and I hadn't eaten lunch yet, so I decided that the best way to feed my rumbling tummy was to make some long, labour-intensive food!

This lasagna was like an explosion of new things for me. I have actually never made lasagna before. My mom used to make it sometimes when I was younger; I always used to "help" in the kitchen, and I remember that making lasagna was one of my favourite jobs. The best part (at the time) was rolling up a bit of cheese in an extra noodle and scarfing it down. Times have changed, and this lasagna is of course cheese free; instead, it has tofu ricotta. I have also never made my own marinara, but I did it for this lasagna, too. It was so simple and super delicious that I will DEFINITELY do it again in the future; no more canned sauces for me! And I have ALSO never bought olives before, but I am really trying to learn to like new things, and I have to say that the olives in this marinara were super delicious. Also also, I bought and used kale today for the first time because I kind of neglected to buy enough spinach at store #1, and somehow store #3 had no spinach at all. Kale not only makes you a true vegan, but it is also pretty darn tasty in a broco-spinach-y kind of way. Mmm.

All of these new things somehow came together into one amazing dish. I am incapable of serving lasagna neatly so here's a picture of it straight out of the oven. I devoured it in one sitting.

Haha, just kidding. It will definitely last me a week. And my new place has a fridge with a big freezer, so I can save some for later! Score!

As if that wasn't enough delayed gratification for deliciousness, I baked two loaves of French bread because making two loaves takes basically the same amount of time as one and, hey, freezer space abounds these days. I also learned that my tiny oven is approximately 2 mm too small to accomidate my beautiful stoneware pan properly, so I had to jam it in as if it was a shelf. Whop. Despite this setback, I still managed to produce two misshapen bread-like objects. They are as delicious as they look. If you've never baked your own bread, you really should. It is easier than pie, even if you are like me and you don't have a stand mixer / food processor / bread maker, and even though the entire process takes about 4 hours to complete, you spend the majority of that time loafing around and organizing / backing up the files on your computer if you are me.

Franglais Bread

4 cups AP flour*
~2 cups warm water
1 tsp yeast
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar

* yes, bread flour is better to use than AP flour, I just don't have any kickin' around. No, don't use pastry flour unless you feel like adding in a bit of gluten. Yes, you can sub in whole wheat flours but don't ever use 100% whole wheat flour for the whole thing or else you will end up with a huge hockey puck.

Dissolve the sugar in the water, then sprinkle the yeast overtop. Give it about 10 minutes to make sure it's alive and well. When 10 minutes have passed, add about half of the flour and stir together with a wooden spoon. Add in the remaining flour in small portions, mixing with your hands when the dough begins to form a ball around the spoon. Add in only enough flour to form a nice, non-sticky dough. Knead for about 15 minutes on a floured surface.

When you're done kneading, grease a clean glass bowl, put the dough ball inside and cover with a damp tea towel. Allow the dough to rise until it has approximately doubled in size (approximately one hour). This step works well on the counter on a warm summer day, but when your apartment is <20 C, you might want to pop the bread into the oven on the absolute lowest possible heat setting humanly possible. Like, turn on the oven, allow it to become warm, then turn it off. Don't let it bake at this point! And don't set your tea towel on fire.

After the first hour, punch down the bread. Form it into the shape you ultimately want (I went for "blob"), place it on the tray it's going to be baked on, and allow it to rise for about another hour, until it has again doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to about 350F. Slash the top of your bread three times with a sharp blade. Right before putting the bread in the oven, spray the inside of your oven with water. This helps your bread to form a nice crust. Put the bread in the oven and bake unitl the crust is light brown and the loaf sounds hollow when you tap on it (about 40ish minutes). You can spray the inside of the oven with water periodically while you bake.

When the bread is done, allow it to rest for about an hour before you cut into it; the heat trapped inside helps to complete the baking process.

Hello Again :)
sweedish chef
Hello! Boy, I just had one heck of a month (and a bit). The good news is that I defended my thesis and now officially have my MSc; I moved to a new city to start working in the lab where I'm going to begin a PhD in January; I lived at home for a month, where I ate awesome canned soup and homemade vegan meals made by my super awesome non-vegan mom :D ; and my awesome friend from high school got married to her high school sweetie and I got to make one of her THREE wedding cakes (because she and her fiancee are so awesome that people were falling all over themselves to make her cake). Unfortunately, someone who worked in my old department passed away very suddenly and I think it hit everyone in the community pretty hard. But after a LOT of crying and tea, I think we are all ready to carry on.

I'm all settled in to my new place and I am ready to do some cookin'. New food by the end of the weekend, I promise!

VeganMofo 27: Pumpkin cookies!!!
sweedish chef
I am moving at the end of this month (ie. this weekend) :( That means that I've been working on packing EVERYTHING that I own. To make matters more complicated, I'm moving home for a month before moving into my new place 6 hours away, so I need to divide all my stuff into "need immediately" / "it can wait a month."

I've been a good girl and I've done a lot of packing but I saved my kitchen for last. I am a big nerd so I thought hard about what I wanted my last meals in my apartment to be. The last real meal: yesterday's mac 'n cheese (the leftovers will last me the rest of the week). The last baking: VWAV oatmeal pumpkin cookies.

I am SO grateful that VeganMofo has made me dig into my cookbooks because these are seriously my new favourite cookies. They are spicy and delicious, like gingerbread, yet pumpkiny, because they contain a cup of pumpkin.

Now I can pack my cookbooks (in my IT CAN'T WAIT A MONTH box, of course) in peace.

VeganMofo 26: Mac 'n Cheeze
sweedish chef
Everything was going fine today until I was suddenly irrationally angry. I couldn't figure out why until I remembered that a friend mentioned to me that the first sign that she has a fever is uncontrollable rage. Sure enough, an hour or two later, I had developed the sniffles andI was so tired that I could barely stand. This, coupled with the fact that everyone I know is sick (including one person who may have swine flu :S ), made me decide that it was time to go home.

Luckily for me, I had already planned to make the coziest comfort food I know of: Veganomicon Mac Daddy.

I was never much of a mac 'n cheese girl growing up - even after Kraft Dinner was declared a Canadian staple - but I find that the vegan version really hits the spot. It's savoury and creamy without being as heavy as the boxed version I grew up with.

Now I am going to spend the evening drinking tea and reading under a pile of cats :)

VeganMofo 25: Costa Rican feast
sweedish chef
I am tied to Costa Rica in three amazing ways:

1. Costa Rica is the only country I have ever been to outside of the US or Canada. My friends and I visited Costa Rica as a graduation gift to ourselves when we finished our undergrads, and it was an amazing experience.

2. Part of my MSc research was on a Costa Rican plant :D

3. My awesome labmate is from Costa Rica and she invited me over for dinner tonight.

Costa Rican food is generally not aggressively spicy, but it does share many flavours in common with other types of Central American cuisine. Because it's milder, each ingredient shines, making dishes incredibly fresh-tasting. Most of it isn't vegan by default, but it is relatively easy to veganize. Because my friend is awesome, she made me black bean soup, which was cilantro-y and onion-y and amazing, followed by rice 'n beans, chimichurri, guacamole, and FRIED PLANTAINS. I love plantains but I never knew how to buy them. Apparently, you want to buy them when they are yellow, then allow them to turn black until they look like overripe bananas. The darker they get, the sweeter they are. If you cook them when they are just beginning to develop brown spots, they are excellent in savoury dishes.

Also her chimichurri is amazing. As opposed to other types of chimichurri, Costa Rican chimichurri is meant to be eaten more like a salsa than a meat rub; since I am always looking for an excuse to eat salsa, I can eat this stuff straight out of a bowl with a spoon, no chips necessary :)

Costa Rican Chimichurri
1 red pepper
1 tomato
1 onion
2 garlic clove
4 tbsp chopped cilantro
2 tbsp chopped parsley

1/4 cup oil
1/2 cup lime juice
1/4 cup lime juice
salt and pepper to taste

Chop the veggies into a fine dice, then marinade in the liquid ingredients for at least 12 hours before serving. Devour.