Archive | October, 2011

MoFo #22: Halloween!

31 Oct

Halloween is my absolute favorite holiday of the year so I always try to do something special. This year we did a bunch of new stuff, which included checking out a new haunted house, trunk or treating, and seeing a special Halloween concert in SF.

Trunk or Treat is basically a way for parents to provide a safe space for their kids to celebrate Halloween. A lot of churches do it because it’s an alternative for parents who don’t want to send their kids out to strangers’ houses on Halloween plus they can control how spooky everything is. The parents line up their cars and sit in their Halloween-bedazzled trunks, handing out candy. Since everyone knows each other, you can totally make homemade sweeties to hand out instead of pre-packaged candy! I’m usually stuck buying the “boring” (i.e., non-chocolate) candy for Halloween, since the cheap chocolate is full of dairy (and slavery!) and the fair-trade/vegan stuff is way too expensive.

I didn’t have a lot of time to make stuff so I opted for chocolate-covered pretzel logs (with vegan Halloween sprinkles!) and caramel popcorn balls.


They came out great! I put the pretzel logs in special bagse you can find at any craft store. I also had Sour Patch Kids and Swedish fish, but the homemade stuff was the first to disappear! In fact, I think the pretzels were gone in the first 10 minutes 🙂

The next day we went into San Francisco to go see a Halloween performance of The Phantom of the Opera. Of course, if we were in the city we had to check out a new vegan restaurant!

There’s been some buzz on the PPK about a new vegetarian Thai restaurant, Thai Idea. There’s also a good review of the place in SF Weekly.

Here’s what we ordered:

Thai iced tea

Firecracker balls – they are deep-fried, panko-crusted and nori-wrapped veggie tuna balls.

Massaman curry with tofu

Pad Thai with veggie chicken

Everything was good! The restaurant was super cute and all the entrees were under $10. The service was really attentive, too. I recommend the firecracker balls. They tasted a little fishy from the nori and they were served with a delicious sweet chili sauce. The Massaman curry was one of the best I’ve ever had (and I’ve had a lot!). The Pad Thai was just ok…it needed more zip but I’m also really picky about my Pad Thai. We were hoping they’d have mango sticky rice for dessert, but instead they offered deep fried bananas with coconut ice cream. As good as that sounded, I was only in the mood for mango so we passed.

Yay for a great new Thai restaurant (sans fish sauce!) and yay for Halloween!


MoFo #21: Vegan Yarn Swap!

27 Oct

If you knit or crochet, you’re probably aware of the awesome website Ravelry. It’s like facebook for yarn enthusiasts! You can post your knitting projects, look at others’ projects, download patterns, browse yarn, and chat with other knitters in the forums or common interest groups. There’s even a PPK group on Ravelry! My favorite group is the Vegan for Every Season Swap, which hosts season-themed swaps. I’ve done it three times now and have always had a lot of fun. Once you’re paired up with a partner, you have to put together a package of vegan yarn, treats, and other goodies related to your partner’s interests.

Here’s what I sent my partner for the fall swap:


So there are some Halloween-themed goodies…socks, tea towel, glow-in-the-dark nail polish…and inside those treat bags are the whole collection of Go Max Go bars, Primal Strips, Swedish Fish, and Sour Patch kids (hope she likes candy, haha!). The yarn in the back is really soft fall-colored cotton from Yarns of Italy. My swap partner likes wine so I sent her a nice local Red, and I also made the cookie jar mix from the PPK. I also made some Dia de los Muertos stitch markers. I wanted to bake some treats for her pet bunnies, which I’ve done in the past, but dang I just ran out of time.  Anyway, I hope she likes it all!


Here’s the package that came in the mail to me today!


Here’s what is in the picture above:
-lovely organic cotton yarn from Long Ridge Farm…and some patterns tucked alongside to inspire me!
-fiber wash
-candy corn (my favorite Halloween candy-this one is almost vegan, except for some beeswax and confectioner’s glaze),
-adorable pumpkin stitch markers from See Jayne Knit
-greeting cards, I think they are handmade, wow!
-a bound notebook that I’m going to use to write down patterns
-fall themed tea towel
-a little Halloween figurine that is already decorating my desk at work
-lots of fun teas to try
-a box of sweet annie, a really fragrant and lovely herb I had never heard of! I’ve been having a lot of fun reading up on its medicinal uses and history. I think I will make some sachets with it with rosemary and lavender 🙂

I love these swaps! They’re so fun to assemble and I love getting treats in the mail.

MoFo #20: I prefer my desserts in threes

25 Oct

Actually, these are the contents of a gift box I sent to my mom.  For her birthday I decided to do a sweetie of the month for the next year.  I fell behind in September so I made an extra large package this month:


-Red velvet loaf with cream cheese frosting: I saw this at a coffee shop recently.  What a cool idea!  I like being able to see the red cake with an outline of frosting.  I just used the red velvet cupcake recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World and baked it in a loaf pan for about 15 min longer than you would bake the cupcakes.  It came out great!

-Oatmeal sandwich cookies from the Sunny Days in Texas Zine

Chocolate peanut butter pillows from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar

Of course, I saved a few for myself! 🙂

MoFo #19: Tortellini soup

24 Oct

My mom used to buy a canned tortellini soup.  I thought it was the bees knees and had it almost every day for lunch.  I the tortellini had ground beef and some kind of cheese…the flavor wasn’t even that good but the texture was rich and velvety inside and biting into the little pastas was so much fun! The broth was tomato-y but didn’t have that many veggies.  I wanted to recreate that soup tonight and decided to make a tofu ricotta and TVP-stuffed tortellini soup. Here’s how it came out!


While I was buying my tofu at the store I spotted Tofurkey Italian Sausage. I was already feeling too lazy to work out how to spice the TVP, so I just decided to spring for this stuff instead. It’s actually pretty tasty! I think it’s mainly tofu and seitan with spices so I didn’t feel like it was too processed. I made the tofu ricotta from Vegan with a Vengeance and mixed it up with the sausages, which I ground up in the food processor. IMG_0665 IMG_0664 IMG_0667
As I was preparing everything I started to saute the holy trinity of soups: onion, celery, and carrots.  I also added some zucchini.  Then I added broth, diced tomatoes, spinach, frozen corn, frozen peas and spices and let it all simmer while I made the tortellini.IMG_0669
Wrapping the tortellini was pretty easy, if a little time consuming.  The pasta dough recipe is from Vegan Dad’s site.  I had waaaaay more filling than I needed.  It might find its way into a lasagna this week.  There are a million videos on how to form tortellini…I’ve condensed it down to a few easy steps:

1) Roll out some of the dough till it’s pretty thin and cut it into 3″x3″ squares using a pizza cutter:

2) Place about 1 tsp filling in the center:

3) Fold dough in half over filling and press the pocket shut:

4) Roll the bottom up.  Be careful at this step – if you fill the pocket too full and roll too much it can bust open:

5) Place your finger in the middle and fold the corners over.  Pinch together.


One batch of pasta made about 50 large tortellini. Please excuse my ugly tray!

When the soup was done I threw in all the tortellini and simmered it, covered, for about 10 min:

It was delicious! Even better than the canned stuff.

Here’s a list of the ingredients:
-tofu ricotta, per VWAV
-4 ground Tofurkey sausages, or equivalent amount of spiced TVP
-1 batch pasta dough (see link above)
-1 onion, chopped
-3 stalks celery, diced
-2 large carrots, diced
-1 zucchini, diced
-1 large can (64 oz) can diced tomatoes, with juice
-6 cups water or broth
-1/2 cup (or 1 handful) frozen peas
-1 cup frozen chopped spinach
-1/2 cup (or about 1 handful) frozen white corn
-2-3 Tbs Italian seasoning
-salt, to taste

MoFo #18: Sprout Cafe, Lake Tahoe

23 Oct

On Saturday we took a trip to Apple Hill (we picked apples…stay tuned for apple posts this week!) and Lake Tahoe.  Of course, I had to try out the local veg restaurants!

There are a few places for vegans in Tahoe but they can be pretty expensive.  Sprout Cafe is pretty reasonable and had  good reviews on Yelp so we decided to check it out.  It’s a mostly vegetarian cafe that relies pretty heavily on cheese but almost everything can be made vegan (there is no vegan cheese though).

I ordered the tempeh burger, which had to be served on a plain bagel rather than a bun.  Apparently the bun contains dairy.  The burger “patty” was a big slab of tempeh that tasted like it had been marinated in teriyaki sauce.  So I guess this was more of a sandwich than a burger!  It was also loaded with veggies – carrots, cabbage, sprouts, onion, tomato, and avocado.  The bread was slathered with a tasty sweet mustard dressing that was full of whole mustard seeds.  Thinking back, it may have been a honey mustard dressing…I’m not sure and didn’t think to ask.


I was also happy to see that all their soups are vegan, made with a water base. On the day we visited they had a sesame noodle soup and a pesto veggie soup. Intrigued, I decided to try a cup of the pesto soup. It was really good, basically just a normal vegetable soup with pesto mixed into the broth. I really liked it and will probably try this out in my own soups.


They also had a juice bar but I was way too full to try it! The staff were young, friendly, and courteous and were knowledgeable about what vegans eat – always a plus.

MoFo #17: Apple cider syrup

23 Oct

Whaaaa?  That’s what I said when I first heard of apple cider jelly, which is what I was intending to make.  It sounded amazeballs.  What I ended up with was apple cider syrup, delicious in its own right – sweet and tart with undertones of caramel, it’s the essence of a glass of apple cider condensed down to a teaspoon.  I haven’t tried it in too many things yet but so far it’s been a champ on toast, in oatmeal, and warmed up on top of vanilla ice cream….OMG delicious.  If you sprinkle it with a little granola you have what I’m calling an apple crisp sundae.


How did I end up with syrup and not jelly?  Well, we had heard on the radio that you could basically just cook cider down to jelly, taking advantage of the pectin that’s naturally in the juice.  So we bought a gallon, poured it into a large pot with a cinnamon stick, and simmered away.  The recipe we followed said to cook the cider down for 3 hours and it would start to gel.  WRONG!  In fact it started to caramelize once the volume had gone down enough.  I freaked out and removed the pot from the heat, poured the contents in a mason jar, and let it sit overnight.  I was saddened to see the next morning that the liquid never firmed up, but at least it was still pretty tasty.  I decided to look on the bright side and declare this a new culinary feat!  Apple cider syrup!


I did a little research into the matter and discovered a few things about making apple cider jelly:

1) Almost every recipes calls for additional pectin.  Apparently others have had the same issues getting it to gel up!

2) If you don’t add pectin and rely on what’s in the juice, you really need to use the freshest cider available because pectin loses potency over time.  This means you need freshly bottled cider that’s been refrigerated and is preferably unpasteurized.   Not the dust covered, unrefrigerated, pasteurized stuff we bought!

3) If you don’t use added pectin, you need to reduce the cider down really quickly because heat also degrades pectin.  So the recipe we followed that calls for 3 hours of simmering is dead wrong!  Ideally you want everything to concentrate down in 30 min, which means high heat.  I don’t really know how you’re supposed to condense a gallon of cider down to a pint in 30 min without burning everything, but there you go.  Maybe divide it into a few pots to increase surface area?

/science lesson!

If you want to try this out yourself, just grab a gallon of decent quality cider from the store and start simmerin’!  In my research I found some people say there is a difference between apple cider and apple juice (cider apples are picked earlier so they are more tart), but there is really no true difference these days.  These days cider refers more to the homemade stuff that sits around longer and tends to ferment a bit. What’s called cider in the stores is glorified juice or may have some spice in it.  So buy whichever you want but I would suggest testing them first and buying a juice that is not super sweet.  I think unfiltered has more apple essence, too.  Pour it in a pot with some spices (I used a cinnamon stick and 4 whole cloves), reduce it down for 2 hours, remove the spices, and simmer/reduce for another 45 min or so.  Check on it often at the end stages so the sugar doesn’t end up caramelizing!  I ended up with about 3/4 quart of syrup from 1 gallon of cider.  Here it is in the pot after about 2.5 hrs:


We’re still going to try to make some jelly…I think it will make great Christmas gifts!  In the meantime, we’re enjoying our syrup.

MoFo #16: Pumpkin soup with pumpkin seed-mint pesto

19 Oct

More pumpkin and more Sunset recipes!  This one is featured on the front of the this month’s issue and immediately drew my eye.

This time I tried out a sugar pie pumpkin.  It has a nice mild, sweet taste and a smooth texture.  The actual recipe’s pretty simple: saute up some onion, garlic, fresh ginger, and coriander.  Add some pumpkin, stock, salt, pepper and simmer till soft.  I pureed everything at the end and added some soy milk powder for creaminess.


The mint pesto was really cool and really tasty!  I was actually going to pass over this recipe until I saw Urban Vegan’s MoFo post about various pestos and their uses.   I didn’t mortar and pestle it all like the recipe says….the food processor is much easier but the pesto isn’t quite as pretty.

So what’s the verdict?  Honestly, I think the soup was pretty bland and needed way more spice.  I ended up mixing in a lot of the pesto to add flavor.  The mint was a pretty neat complement for the pumpkin along with the crunch from the pepitas.  I don’t know about the coriander.  I couldn’t really taste it.  I think the ginger was a good call and added more.  Curry powder would actually taste really good in this.  Next time I will try that.  So…overall it came out pretty and was fun to make but the recipe could use a little inspiration.  But YAY for more vegan-friendly recipes in Sunset!