Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Mushrooms and Collards in Lemon Pepper Sauce

Alyssa and I were looking through the fridge to figure out what to cook for lunch after our morning run. We rummaged through various cookbooks and food blogs trying to match or modify recipes. After a while with no luck, I decided to wing it. I do admit, however, that this is (very) loosely inspired by the Sausage and Collards recipe from Vegan Brunch, in that it involves collard greens and red pepper flakes. All else besides, this is an original Vegtopia certified recipe. I served this over a small batch of homemade spinach fettucini that Alyssa and I froze a few weeks ago.

Mushrooms and Collards in Lemon Pepper Sauce
6 Mushrooms, sliced
1 Small Onion, chopped
3 Cloves Garlic, minced
3 Stalks Celery, chopped
1 Bunch Collard Greens, chiffonaded
2 Generous Pinches Red Pepper Flakes
1 Tbs. Olive Oil
1/2 C Veggie Broth
1 Tbs. Vegan Margarine
1 Tbs. Lemon Juice
  1. Saute mushrooms, onion, garlic and celery in a pan with the olive oil over medium heat.
  2. Add the red pepper flakes and mix thoroughly.
  3. While these ingredients are sauteing, wash and chiffonade the collard greens.
  4. When the mushrooms look cooked and the onion is translucent, add the collard greens and veggie broth.
  5. Cover and let simmer for ~8 minutes or until the collard greens are tender.
  6. Uncover and add the margarine and lemon juice.
  7. Cook for ~5 minutes on low or until most of the liquid has cooked off.
Serve with a grain of your choice.

Unfortunately, there are no pictures to describe how tasty this recipe was. By the time we realized that this recipe was a hit for the blog, we were already halfway through lunch.


Sunday, January 24, 2010

New Projects: Pickled Turnips, Cream Soda, Canned Salsa

A few weeks ago I did something depressing, I bought a whole bunch of seeds. Why is it depressing? Because I live in Boston, and it's mid-January. As optimistic as I am that it's only going to get warmer (unless it gets colder first which is only too likely in New England), spring and summer are still months away. I can only daydream about how awesome my garden is going to be.

I also got out a bunch of cookbooks from the local libraries, and they are also making me wish for spring and summer and bountiful amounts of fresh fruits and vegetables. Last summer I made pickles for the first time, and that was pretty much my gateway drug to canning. The quick pickles were delicious, but the canned ones I did and let sit in the cabinet for a few months were nothing short of mouthwatering. Needless to say, I made sure to buy seeds for pickling cucumbers. I want to make buckets of pickles this summer!

The three books I got are (from left to right) Homemade Root Beer, Soda & Pop by Stephen Cresswell, The Joy of Pickling by Linda Ziedrich and Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving edited by Judi Kingry and Lauren Devine.

Homemade Root Beer, Soda & Pop by Stephen Cresswell
Jeff and I have made ginger ale and root beer, and I really wanted to try out new recipes, so I found this book and decided to give it a try. Last night I made the cream soda (of course, I changed around the ingredients a bit) and it was delicious even before fermentation. We bottled them into glass bottles for the first time, having just purchased a capper from our local homebrew store. I like glass bottles way better than plastic, the only disappointing thing is that the metal caps still have a small piece of plastic on top. It's still a lot less plastic than comes in new plastic caps, though.

Pickled Turnips & Cream Soda I was shocked at how quickly they fermented, this morning the one plastic bottle we filled as a fermentation tester was already rock hard. I don't know if the ale yeast we purchased is just quicker than bread yeast or what, but I was surprised that it was such a fast process. We put all 9 bottles in the fridge and Jeff and I had a taste this afternoon after they were nice and cool. It's definitely unlike any factory made cream soda that you've ever had, and I think brewed soda can be an acquired taste if you're used to Coke, but I thought it was pretty darn good. I like our root beer better, and I'm already thinking of doing some sort of fruit flavored cream soda for better taste.

I'm definitely going to try more of the recipes in this book, and I think, more importantly, that it's a good book to use as a springboard for trying out our own recipes in the future. More than just recipes, the book also includes a history of sodas, the brewing process, and other interesting tidbits.

The Joy of Pickling by Linda Ziedrich
Pickled Turnips Jeff and I have been getting copious amounts of turnips from our produce shipment, and we haven't been particularly good about eating them. In leafing through this book I found a recipe for Korean Pickled Turnips and decided to give it a try. What better way to enjoy anything than to ferment it?! The list of ingredients was short (and all basic stuff we already had) and the process was very simple. I was pleased to see a good amount of brine after rubbing the sliced turnips with salt, and after a few hours put the turnips and other ingredients into a quart sized jar to sit out for awhile. I'll report back in a week or so and comment on whether or not they're any good. For now, they smell fantastic and I can't wait to try it out.

The book has many recipes for pickling pretty much everything, not just the standard cucumber. (But it has many recipes for cucumbers in case your old standard just isn't doing it for you any more.) While I will skip the last chapter on pickling meat, fish and eggs (yuck), I look forward to trying out kimchi and maybe see if we can't pickle some of our other stubborn root vegetables.

Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving edited by Judi Kingry and Lauren Devine
This book is the one that is really making me pine for summer. The first few chapters are all about jams, preserves and fruit spreads. I love nothing more than a good jam on my morning biscuits (especially these decadent Side Hill Farm jams made in Vermont). Hopefully I will have plenty of opportunity to try them out come summer. The only thing is that the recipes mostly all call for pectin, and I would like to try the slow boil method to get more flavor from the fruit. At the very least I think the recipes make for good guidelines, how much sugar to add to how much fruit, etc.

But that's not all that's included in this massive tome. This book also covers pickling, condiments, salsas, pie fillings, sauces, vinegars, and pretty much anything you can put in a can and preserve.

I decided to try the jalapeño salsa because I rarely ever make salsa with our Mexican themed dinners. Why? Because I never want to go out and buy a tomato, but we always have beans, rice, peppers, onions and fixings for tortillas. I finally realized that instead of making fresh salsa before every meal, I can can it and eat it as I need it. What a novel idea! The salsa, miraculously, fit into exactly 6 half-pint jars so I was unable to taste any. Given how much Jeff and I love eating burritos, I'm sure I'll be trying it out real soon.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Cool Things - X's to O's Vegan Bakery

I wrote this review on Yelp a few months back, and feel it's worth repeating here on Vegtopia. I spent the first 20+ years of my life in the capital district area of NY, and went to college in Troy. I wasn't vegan until I moved to Boston, but now that I am I know that I can go home to a newly opened vegan bakery on 4th Street. How awesome is that? Become their fan on Facebook and check them out if you live in the area!

A vegan bakery in Troy is basically my dream come true. Unfortunately I don't live in Troy anymore so I can only indulge in these delicious desserts when I travel home.

I was so excited to visit X's to O's last Thanksgiving break that I ordered 4 goodies - a cinnamon raisin cookie, maple walnut cupcake, cinnamon roll, and a gluten free pumpkin canoe ("twinkie"). The owner and woman working at the counter were both very friendly, and the owner remembered me from leaving comments on their Facebook page.

The inside of the bakery was very sparse but I am under the impression that they are working on expanding their bakery as they had previously just focused on wholesale orders. I'm excited to see how it evolves over time.

But the important part of my review - how were the pastries? Excellent! Even after sitting in my parent's fridge overnight, they were still amazing. My favorite was the cinnamon bun, it was sweet with just the right amount of cinnamon and the bun itself was a delicious offset to the sweetness. The cupcake was decadent, and if I had a more robust sweet tooth I probably would have loved it even more. Not to say that it wasn't wonderful, it was just on the sweet side. The cookie was amazing, I think the first cinnamon raisin I've eaten since going vegan, and cinnamon raisin is my favorite cookie. The pumpkin canoe was a bit weird, but I got it for my boyfriend as a novelty really. I'd be interested in trying their other canoe flavors in the future.

Will I be going to X's to O's again? YES! Every time I'm back home I will make sure to visit this wonderful bakery. I don't have to lament the fact that I can't enjoy delicious baked goods from Troy (Cookie Factory, previously Vanilla Bean) as X's to O's has stepped up to the plate to ensure that us vegans will never go without a satisfied sweet tooth again.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Vegan Wine Kits

As the cherry wine Jeff and I are fermenting nears completion, we are starting to think of what kind of wine to make next. We've done a white (sauvignon blanc) and an apple cider, and this cherry wine will make our non grape wines outnumber our grape wines. I think that we would both like to do a red wine next and see how that goes.

Unfortunately, the wine kits that come with grape juice (such as what we used to make our sav blanc) come with chemicals in the box already. The kits, made by Winexpert (as far as I can tell nobody else makes such a thing) include everything you need to make wine, minus the equipment. I contacted them today to see if their kits are vegetarian, and, alas:
All kits include everything you need to complete the batch - they all have the packages and Isinglass in the box. All the whites contain Isinglass and the reds contain Chitosan.
Isinglass is fish bladder, and chitosan is made of the shells of sea creatures such as shrimp. Why are they necessary in wine making? Quite simply, they aren't. Bentonite and sparkalloids make fine alternatives to isinglass, and for the low-tech vintner, gravity will do the trick. These chemicals are fining agents. They are slightly ionized, which allows sediment in the wine to attach to them. These heavy particles eventually sink to the bottom of the carboy (fermenting tank). When the wine is bottled, you simply stop siphoning it out as soon as you get to the sediment, leading to a very transparent wine, like the kind you get from a "real" winery.

Wineries with high tech equipment can also filter the wine, but that is simply not realistic for Jeff and me.

When the weather is nice again, I may take a trip to the Finger Lakes with my parents to tour the vast wineries in the area. While there I will try to ask if it's possible to buy grapes or grape juice from the wineries. I'm not sure if this is something that's done often but it's what the helpful salesperson at the local homebrew store has suggested. Otherwise, unless Jeff and I start growing our own grapes (not likely), we will be sticking with non-grape fruit wine.

As for other wines, how can you tell if the stuff you drink is vegan? Wineries aren't required to list the chemicals they use on the label (except for sulfites, which are present in every wine as a byproduct of fermentation, and are added as well in most cases as a preservative). But there are a few online guides to help you out.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Roasted Root Vegetable Soup

I admit it--I went to bed early last night. Eleven, to be exact. I got off work early, but I was still too tired to stay up for midnight.

No matter. It was worth it to be up at 8 this morning and enjoy the quiet morning streets, strewn with snow and metallic confetti. Three pancakes (chocolate-peanut butter-banana pancakes), a soy hot chocolate, and a grocery trip later, Corey and I were home with tons of winter produce. Blood oranges, grapefruit, lemons, parsnips, turnips, and celery root, they are all working their way into this week's meals.

I received a beautiful cookbook from my dad this Christmas called (wait for it): Vegan Recipes by Nicola Graimes. Not the most inspiring title, but it is definitely going to be my favorite cookbook this year. Every recipe has step-by-step color photographs, and the region most prominently portrayed in the book is planet Earth. Morocco, Iran, Japan, Italy, Spain, they are all there, and more. And in the book is, you guessed it, Roasted Root Vegetable Soup.

I'm not using the recipe in the book, I'm just winging it, (this is in the present tense because the vegetables are roasting as we speak) honestly because I didn't think about making soup until I was in the grocery store with celery root and parsnips in my hands. I remembered the beautiful photograph in the book, and, well, I want to go to there.

I'd highly recommend Nicola Graimes' cookbook for new vegans, vegans who are new to cooking, and vegans who have every other vegan cookbook. Again, step-by-step color photographs of every recipe, a wide array of dishes from around the world, and the introduction has extensive health information for new vegans, for vegan parents, and for pregnant vegans.

For the soup, feel free to use lots of different root vegetables. I like the squash because it gives the soup a pretty orange color, and I avoided carrots because the parsnips smelled like carrots (they were under investigation). I've never cooked with turnips or celery root before, so I got one of each to try them out (the celery root, or celeriac, turned out to be a total winner). As for the herbs, I like thyme, but you can roast the vegetables with bay leaves, fresh sage, or rosemary, too.

Roasted Root Vegetable Soup


1 small butternut squash, seeded, peeled, and 1" cubed
2-3 parsnips, peeled and 1" cubed
1 purple top turnip, washed and 1" cubed
1 celery root, peeled, washed, and 1" cubed
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tsp sugar
salt and pepper to taste
several sprigs of fresh thyme
4 cups Vegetable stock
2 Tbl ground sage
2 Tbl ground cumin or toasted cumin seeds
1 Tbl  toasted coriander seed

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Toss the cubed vegetables in the olive oil, sugar, salt and pepper, and place them in a deep baking dish in a single layer. Place sprigs of thyme throughout and roast for 45 minutes, turning half way through.

2. Add half of the vegetable stock and half of the roasted vegetables to a food processor fitted with a metal blade, removing the thyme. Add the sage, cumin, and coriander. Puree until smooth. Add the rest of the stock and vegetables and puree, adding more stock if necessary.

Serve very warm with sour supreme and french bread!