Monday, September 28, 2009

New Projects

I haven't been posting much but Jeff and I have been up to lots of new projects in our new apartment. It's nice having a kitchen big enough for two of us to work without bumping elbows trying to slice veggies.

Our vegetable garden has been a great success, so far I've eaten probably a dozen yellow plum cherry tomatoes from my giant tomato plant; we've had four ripe orange and one green habañeros for hot sauce and two ho-chi-minh chiles (one ripened to yellow). The Thai chile plant has at least two dozen tiny chiles and one has burst into a bright red color seemingly overnight. Unfortunately our strawberry plant is in recovery from some spider mites but they seem to be gone (for now) and our one strawberry is starting to get bigger.

We've also started on some bigger projects. Last month we bought a wine making kit and some grape juice (sauvignon blanc grape juice), and it's busy clarifying right now for the next two weeks. Unfortunately, our kit came with isinglass which we used as we didn't have anything else for clarifying, so our wine isn't actually vegetarian. Next time we will research alternatives and make a totally vegan wine.

I've got some pickles that have been jarred (it was my first time canning!) and they're sitting until early October. I made some quick pickles a few weeks ago and they were delicious, so I hope these come out just as good. I want to can some pumpkin butter next, and now that I have a real pumpkin to use (instead of canned), I'm excited to try that out.

Jeff and I also experimented with soda and made a batch of ginger ale using a great recipe online. We found sassafras root bark at Harvest Co-op and purchased some to make root beer. Maybe I'll try that out this weekend. The ginger ale was delicious, although it was completely unlike any commercial soda I have ever consumed. It's got a bit of a beer-y taste, which is not surprising considering the soda is made by a yeast process. There's actually a tiny bit of alcohol in the soda (nothing you can really tell by drinking one bottle of it) and the carbonation is quite pleasing. I used quick bread yeast, but I think I'll experiment with ale yeasts once I get to the homebrew store again.

In the meantime, if you want to keep up with our soda or wine making exploits, check out or Facebook pages for them.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Okara Burgers and Zucchini Bread

Alyssa and I just moved into our new place, and have been unpacking boxes for the past few days. Naturally, the kitchen supplies and equipment were at the top of our list to unpack. We are loving the new kitchen space (previously cooking out of a kitchenette) and have not only unpacked all our stuff, but brewed soda, began fermenting wine, made a huge batch of hot sauce, and canned a bunch of pickles. Before this weekend we hadn't tried any of these things, but what a great time to try something new.

Along with these, I made a batch of soymilk. The thing with making soymilk is that the fresh milk is great if you can get used to the bean-ey taste. We've used it in the past with our recipes with no noticeable difference from storebought soymilk. What is inconvenient with the process is that you are left with the pulpy bean bits that don't make it through the filter into the finished product. These bean bits are called Okara, and until now we didn't have the slightest inclination to use them. They did make good compost, but they would weigh down the trash if the compost was full.

Keeping with the adventurous theme of the weekend, I searched for a recipe in The Book of Tofu. This book deserves credit, as the soy milk recipe and most other Tofu recipes in the Joy of Cooking are derived from this book. The recipe is not vegan (it calls for egg), but it's easily veganized. I used egg replacer instead of the 1 egg that it calls for, plus a tablespoon or two of water to get the burger mixture to the right consistency.

Cooking Okara Burgers with Jeff

The burgers ended up being much more cohesive that was expected. We had made bean burgers in the past that used vital wheat gluten, but the egg replacer and whole wheat flour held the Okara together quite nicely. The burgers were cooked in the cast iron skillet:

Flipping the Burgers

A few minutes of browning on each side and they were done, just in time for the Savory Zucchini Bread to come out of the oven. The Zucchini Bread recipe was from vegalicious:

Vegalicious Savory Zucchini Bread

We found that adding 1/4 C more soymilk than the recipe called for was required for the dough to be moist and cohesive. Alyssa didn't like the italian spices that was called for, so we made another one without them. I thought both were delicious, especially sopping up mushroom gravy.

Zucchini Bread

We also replaced the 1/4 C vegan butter with 1/8 C Canola Oil, skipped sauteing the onions, and didn't squeeze out the zucchini. It came out great nonetheless. It always feels good to improvise a recipe and have it turn out much better than expected. This was the perfect end to a great weekend.

Okara on FoodistaOkara