Tuesday, September 30, 2014

MoFo: Doodle Pancakes & Doodle Winners!

Congratulations! We made it to the end of VeganMoFo! 
I did 30 posts in 30 days ~ Huzzah!

I hope you had a great time blogging and reading and surfing around through more vegan blog posts than a person could possibly read in a month! I plan to continue clicking through randomofo.com, so that I can keep finding new blogs to follow. I had a really great time blogging this year, and I also did a better-than-usual job of surfing and commenting all month. I loved that bit!

Since it's the last day of MoFo, I wanted to go out with a bang!  Last week Mr VE&T saw a great little movie on Facebook of someone doing neat portraits with pancake batter. It was  pretty cool and we both thought how fun it would be to turn my little doodles of our family into pancakes!

can you even see the faint outlines of my doodles?

Well, as you can see, it might have been fun, but it wasn't really very successful. In fact I did some with some pancake batter and when that wasn't working, I tried it again with some crepe batter. I tried leaving the drawing part on the skittle for longer before adding the "fill-in batter", but nothing worked! Maybe I need a different kind of skillet? A different kind of batter?

Still I love this idea. What other fun ways could I do doodle food? I am already hard at work brainstorming ideas. I thought this would be such a fun post for the day when I reveal the winners of my Doodle Giveaway Contest, so even though it wasn't the biggest success, I forged ahead fearlessly!

ha ha. It is sorta weird to eat a pancake that's supposed to be you. 
But it's even weirder not to eat a perfectly good pancake, so it sure didn't stop us! 

Speaking of the Doodle Giveaway Contest
drumroll please!
We have TWO Winners:
#24 Nicole of Vegan Nom Noms
#28 Rachel

and HappyMoFo to all!

Monday, September 29, 2014

MoFo: Homemade Italian Tomato Paste, "Conserva"

Two years ago, I had a glut of tomatoes and my friend Kittee suggested a great recipe that used up many pounds of tomatoes, and made a super rich tomato paste. I made a batch, popped it in the freezer, and started using a little bit of it every time I made soup or wanted to add some serious umami tomato power to my dinner. Frankly, we fell in love with that stuff. It's hard to put into words just how flavorful and rich and amazing this stuff is. The problem was, I had totally forgotten what it was called and hadn't bookmarked my recipe. I asked Kittee and she didn't remember either. I was desperate! All I remembered was that it started with the letter "C." 

Well, we recently finally used up our last cube of "tomato power," and in a state of panic, I got down to some serious Googling ... and voila! I found it!! The glorious tomato power umami flavor cubes were called "Conserva." There are a lot of good recipes and ideas for conserva online, and I read a bunch of sites, then sort of combined a few of them. 

tiny little guy full of power!

The recipe starts with 5 pounds of tomatoes, and ends up with about 16 1-inch tomato boullion cubes. That's roughly 1 pound of tomatoes per 3 cubes of conserva. It's basically an Italian tomato paste with some salt and olive oil... but the end result is totally out of sight.

I used: 5 lbs dry-farmed tomatoes, 2 Tbsp olive oil, and 1/2 tsp salt.

lots of tomatoes!

First I washed and halved / quartered all the tomatoes. All of that went in to a pot (top left) with the olive oil and salt, and was brought to a boil over medium-high heat for about 30 minutes or so... "until the skin was beginning to soften and peel off the flesh of the tomatoes," as directed by one of the recipes. Some of the recipes said to seed the tomatoes, so I did that. But then, I was looking at that bowl full of tomato flavor, and I couldn't bring myself to leave it out. So I boiled that stuff down for a little while too.

food mill fun!

All the stewed tomatoes and the cooked down seeds/juice were run through a food mill to create a pot of thick soupy tomato-ness.

I don't have a super fine screen for my food mill, so a few tomato seeds got through, but that is totally okay with me in exchange for more tomato flavor. You can see, at this point it's just a thick, lightly-cooked tomatoey liquid.

I poured that tomatoey soup into a rimmed baking sheet, and baked it at 325 for about 1-2 hours. I know that's a huge window, but it really just depends on how liquidy the tomatoes are, how your oven works, etc. I used convection bake, so there would be more air circulation. You've got to keep an eye on it, and give it a stir every 30 minutes or so.

I know this isn't a great picture, but you're looking for the time when the mixture starts to pull away from the edges a little bit. That's a sign that it's starting to thicken, and at this point, it's time to turn the heat down to 200 F for another 1.5-2 hours. You still need to stir every 20-30 minutes, because the edges and the top cook faster and you gotta keep mixing it around.

The mixture will thicken and thicken and reduce and reduce until you are left with something like this. The moment I knew it was ready was when the mixture suddenly had a shiny, brick-red look to it. It's sorta half-way between fruit leather and tomato paste. It's really thick.

I packed all that tomato paste onto a piece of foil, wrapped it up and popped it in the freezer. Remember, this started off as 5 pounds of tomatoes! This square is probably about 5 or 6 inches long on each side.

The next day I took it out of the freezer, and used a super sharp knife to cut it into 16 cubes. The foil was sorta sticky, so next time I'll use parchment paper for less fuss.

the final product!

In the end, I got 16 cubes of pure caramelized tomato power umami goodness. You guys. This stuff is SO GOOD and SO SPECIAL. It's definitely a project to make, but it mostly just requires you being around the house, not a lot of actual work. In fact, I already decided to make another batch, because I don't think this will be enough.

All the power and glory of a full-sized Amey in a tiny little Tomato-Conserva-Sized Amey!

Today is the last day to sign up for my

two winners will be chosen tomorrow: on the last day of VeganMoFo

Sunday, September 28, 2014

MoFo: His & Hers Pasta Night

my wonderful gifts from Cadry!

Did any of you do the retro-blogging-postcard-swap that Cadry organized? I loved that idea and signed up right away. Well, guess what? I got a package from Cadry herself! Lucky me! She sent me a lovely package of locally-made artisan pasta, a very touching card, and *a super awesome little ceramic bowl that she made!* So lovely! 

Back in the early days of our relationship, Mr. VE&T and I ate a TON of pasta. I'm sure we had pasta at least three times a week. But, at some point we both started watching our weight and counting calories, and now we don't eat nearly as much pasta. We don't love it any less, though! So, this pasta from Cadry was a super awesome surprise, and just the right amount for two good servings. 

 back row: Mr VE&T's dinner
front row: my dinner
everyone is happy

One result of eating pasta less often is that we have different fantasy pasta dishes. Mr. VE&T is all about the red sauce. Meanwhile, I like red sauce, but my heart lies firmly in the Pasta Aglio-Olio camp. Man, I love that stuff. So, last night I decided to make a fun His & Hers Pasta Dinner - where we each got our favorite thing. I used some of our fresh tomatoes and cooked up a light tomato sauce for Mr VE&T ~ with tomatoes, garlic, dried oregano & thyme, fresh basil and a touch of olive oil and salt. Mine was just classic: olive oil, garlic, a pinch of red pepper flakes, a pinch of salt, and fresh parsley. That pasta was SO GOOD. I loved the big wide ribbons, and the texture was perfect! I can be a bit of a pasta snob, so that's no faint praise!

In keeping with the theme of the evening, We also had His and Hers Broccoli ~ Mr VE&T got all the stems (his favorite part), while my plate focused on the florets (my favorite part). We also had a Tofurkey Spinach Pesto Sausage on the side. Have you tried that flavor? They are really good, and went great with this meal!

Usually I can't be bothered to make two dishes for dinner, and one of just settles for having something that isn't our top choice. This seemed like an easy enough way to make both of us super happy... and it was!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

MoFo: Fancy Little Hamburger Cookies!

Our 1st anniversary party at the yoga studio today went great. Those cookies I made yesterday were a big hit! We also had a Teacher Appreciation hour in the mid-day, with treats and gifts and a chance just to socialize together for our teachers. It was so sweet. Of course, I wanted to make an extra special treat for our extra special teachers! 

defying the heternormative cookie culture

I've been looking for an excuse to tackle some really special Italian cookies called "Baci di Dama" which translates "Lady's Kisses," and so I decided to dive in! 

oooh la la!

They are super cute, round little cookies with a layer of chocolate in between them. They are diminutive mini-nuggets of sophisticated yum. You will feel molto elegante and also molto happy when you eat them. Also - happily - they were super easy to veganize and they're authentically gluten-free. They take a little bit of time, but actually I found them easy and fun to make. 

rolls of delicate cookie dough

I followed this easy and clear recipe from David Lebovitz. The only vegan substitution I had to make was using Earth Balance instead of butter. The recipe suggests using white rice flour ~ which I did. I loved the light, crispy result in the final product, but the rice flour did make the dough a little harder to roll out. First I added a little bit of almond milk (maybe 2 tbsp) plus about 1 1/2 tsp hazelnut extract, to have a little more liquid in the dough. Then, I made six half-logs, instead of 3 long logs - as the recipe suggested. Finally, I found that I had to press the dough into rectangular shapes and then lightly roll it into a round log. It look a little experimentation, but it was actually easy.

Next time I think it would be interesting to try using half rice flour and half all purpose flour - just to see if that makes the dough a little more workable. 

The cookies are tiny and adorable on the baking sheet! After they've cooled, you get to apply the tempered chocolate. I needed a blob about the size of two chocolate chips per cookie, and the suggested quantity of chocolate was just slightly more than necessary. I laid them out in rows, piped on some chocolate, and then put them together in batches. I think it's prettiest if just a little bit of chocolate squeezes out the sides.

tiny little adorable cookies of yum! 
they look like little soldiers marching into my mouth!

Aren't they just adorable?? They look like little mini hamburgers! But they are better than hamburgers because they made of hazelnuts and chocolate! They are light and crispy and they look fancy and fun. They are one of my new favorite cookies!

joyful little bundles of fun!

don't miss my

two winners will be chosen on the last day of VeganMoFo

Friday, September 26, 2014

MoFo: Brutti ma Buoni ~ Italian Hazelnut Cookies

Tomorrow we are holding a celebration at my yoga studio to mark the first year of myself and two friends taking over as owners at the studio. We're offering three free classes, plus cookies and tea in between classes. So, I had a lot of cookies to bake!

I knew right away that I wanted to try my hand at veganizing a cookie I just had for the first time this summer, when I was in Italy. I found one brand that was accidentally vegan, fell in love, and then every other brand I found after that contained eggs. Boo! The cookies are called Brutti ma Buoni, which means "Ugly but Good." As you'll see, that's pretty much truth in advertising right there. As it turns out these cookies were really easy to veganize! Plus, they are naturally and authentically gluten-free.

In fact, the only ingredients are: roasted hazelnuts, flax meal + water, vanilla, powdered sugar, and a pinch of salt. Amazing! And yet, the end result is a really great cookie - crunchy on the outside and slightly chewy on the inside.

Brutti Ma Buoni / Ugly But Good Cookies
veganized from this recipe

8 ounces hazelnuts (1.5 cups)
1.25 cups powdered sugar
pinch of salt
2 Tbsp flax meal
1/4 cup water
2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat your oven to 400F. Spread the hazelnuts on a baking sheet, and roast them for about 12 minutes, until they start to turn golden and the skins are peeling. At that point, remove them from the oven and pour them into a dish towel and let them cool down a bit. Once they're cool, rub them vigorously in the towel to get off as much of the skins as you can.

While the nuts are roasting, combine the flax meal and water in a medium bowl and whisk it vigorously until it starts to turn viscous. Set aside.

Put the roasted nuts and the powdered sugar into the bowl of a food processor and start pulsing until the nuts are coarsely chopped. You want some of the nuts to be ground up like coarse polenta, but you want some bits that are a little bigger than that.

Now, add the hazelnut mixture to the flax goo, and also add in the vanilla extract. Mix well until you have a thick dough, and there are no dry bits left:

my cookie dough today
you can get a sense of how coarsely/finely ground the nuts are supposed to be

Next, line your cookie sheet with parchment paper, and put tablespoon-sized blobs on the sheet, with about one inch in between them. The cookies will rise and spread a little, but not a whole lot. 

 cooling off before they will be ready to eat!

Bake the cookies for about 13-14 minutes, until they are slightly golden on the tops and lightly golden on the bottoms. I use a spatula to peek under the bottom and check on them. Let them cool on the sheet for at least a few minutes before transferring them to cooling racks.

I guess they are kinda ugly, but they are so tasty that I think they are beautiful. A cookie only a baker could love! I made a double batch, but Mr. VE&T and I had to taste a couple to make sure they were good (spoiler alert: they were).

All in all, today was quite a zinger. I spent all morning baking in the kitchen, then Mr VE&T's back went out and he needed lots of help and care... then the cat threw up all over the bed... then I rode my bike to yoga class and got caught in a freak downpour-hailstorm. I was drenched! Then I had to walk the dogs in the dark, have dinner, and finish up preparations for tomorrow's event... and now I'm squeezing in a last-minute mofo post. Phew, I made it! Now I am all pooped out and ready for bed. As they say in Italy, "Buona Notte!"

Thursday, September 25, 2014

MoFo: Our Original Tomato Soup

Tomato Soup
from "The Art of Taste," by Beatrix Rohlsen

Today I made tomato soup for dinner. Mr VE&T loves tomato soup more than almost any other food. He is constantly asking me to make tomato soup. Over the years, I have made many fine bowls of tomato soup. But today I went way back to the original tomato soup. Some couples hear a song come on the radio, and say "Oh, it's our song!" Well, this soup is sorta like "our tomato soup."

We have been together so long that I could practically have called this another noshtalgia post. 
We were so young!

Mr VE&T and I met when we both worked at Yahoo! Geez, it was almost 16 years ago that we met. While working at Yahoo! I also met the first vegan people I ever knew (hi Bill! hi Jen!) I was a vegetarian for many years before I ever heard the word vegan or the concept vegan, and my excellent friends at work were loving guides as I started exploring this new idea. Within a year, I was a vegan too.

Right around the time that Mr VE&T and I started "officially" dating, I completed my first Yoga Teachers Training. I had been practicing for about 5 years already, but I was hardly a natural-born yogi. Even after 5 years, I still couldn't touch my toes. I remember being on my mat and staring - dumfounded! - at the lithe young gal next to me who could wrap her hands around her feet. How was that possible!? Ha ha. I'm happy to report that I can now touch my toes. 

At that Teachers Training course, all the food was vegan. It was a 16-day course and I ate vegan the whole time. It was such a great experience. By the end, I felt totally amazing. In fact, I had never felt better. All that yoga, all that good eating, and especially that refreshing clean conscience! The woman who cooked for our retreat had a cookbook, and I bought myself a copy. And, that's where this tomato soup recipe comes from. 

For me, this soup reminds me of when I was first really learning to cook, when I was first really committing to veganism, and when I was first really committing to Mr. VE&T. So, that's pretty awesome. In fact I featured this recipe in the very first Christmas Cookbooklette that I ever made, in December of 2000. I've made one every year since then! Nowadays I put a lot more effort into my doodles - look how elementary that little drawing is! ha ha. 

don't miss my

two winners will be chosen on the last day of VeganMoFo

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Mofo Noshtalgia: Unlimited Italian Sodas!

watching Mom get out the Torani syrups

When my brother and I were little, sometimes my mom would make us something really special: "Italian Sodas." It was basically fizzy water with a spoonful of flavored Torani syrup added in. In the corner of their kitchen is the liquor cabinet - filled with bottles of all shapes and sizes and colors. Very mysterious and exciting. That's also where they kept the Torani syrups.

I not sure if "Italian Sodas" are an actual thing, or if it's just something we did. I think mostly those syrups are used in coffee drinks these days, but I still haven't tried that. As a kid, my favorite flavors for Italian Sodas were Raspberry, Lemon, Lime, and Anisette. That Anisette flavor was so special. It's kinda weird that I remember that one as my most favorite flavor, because it's definitely not a very kid-friendly flavor. I think it must just be that my parents were so excited about it, and their enthusiasm must have been infectious. 
At some point in my youth - I am totally hazy on the details here - one of the local cafes held a Limerick Contest. There were different categories, and different prizes... One of the prizes was really amazing - something like free coffee for a year. I think it was one free espresso drink every week for a year. Anyhow, little youth-Amey entered that limerick contest, and guess what? I won! In particular, I won that amazing prize!

But I was just a kid. I didn't drink espresso! So, the people who ran the cafe offered me Italian Sodas for a year. Or maybe it was 50 Italian Sodas. I really don't remember, except that as a kid it felt like an infinite and unfathomable motherload of a prize. It was a really cool cafe, in a pretty spot right by the bookstore, and it was a nice place to be. I recall that I had a little punch card, and I could just walk up to the counter and order my free Italian soda. They had lots of syrups on hand there, so I had many choices to choose from. It was totally rad.

I'm sorry to report that I have no memory or written record of my award-winning limerick. 

Boy, it has been a seriously long time since I had an Italian Soda.

Driven by the spirit of Noshtalgia, I decided to make myself an Italian Soda. This involved a totally awesome first-time trip to BevMo. Damn, they have everything there! Actually, they have a lot of things, but they don't have Anisette flavored Torani syrup, unfortunately. So, I went with my childhood second choice and bought a bottle of the raspberry syrup. Yesterday was pretty hot, and I rode my bike home after a two-hour yoga class... with visions of Italian Sodas in my heart.

Kiddo Amey & J.D.

Wow, it really 100% hit the spot. Somewhat to my surprise, this was one of the more powerful noshtalgia experiences I've had. The flavor was so familiar, and also so distant... something I hadn't had in so long. It took me right back to the good ol' days of drinking Italian sodas with my first dog, JD by my side. I was thinking I would give the bottle of syrup to my mom after I did this post (she still makes Italian Sodas for her grandkids)... but it turns out that I really liked my Italian soda. And I kinda want some more. For now, I'm hanging on to that bottle.

don't miss my

There once was a blogger who drew doodles
She loved to draw veggies and dogs and noodles
So she made a contest
Which wasn't in jest
For readers to win drawings of themselves and their poodles!

two winners will be chosen on the last day of VeganMoFo