Friday, January 27, 2006

vegan lemon-cornmeal waffles

just in time for the weekend and uh, sugar not high friday i guess. i wasn't planning on tagging this as part of the sugar high event since it does have sugar in it, but all my valient attemps at sugar-free yumminess were utter failures. the sole exception being a coffee cake made with maple syrup that was almost good enough. i think it'll be worth tweaking and posting at a later date. what else? hmmm, i made a batch of homemade amazake, but wasn't sure it'd be appropriate since it's not really a dessert. so i raise the red flag and submit this recipe for everybody's favorite breakfast treat, waffles...

these lemon cornmeal waffles, from the vegan with a vengeance cookbook are good. no, they are more than good, they are fantastic. why? well, i'll tell ya why...because they are light and crispy with a huge lemon punch and a satisfying cornmeal crunch. sounds like a jingle the waffle-y breakfast treat with a huge lemon punch and a satisfying cornmeal crunch. god, i hate alliteration.

the waffles are best if they are allowed to cool for a minute or so before serving. once all the steam escapes they get all nice and crispy. this recipe make a pretty big batch and if, in the unlikely event that there are any leftovers, they freeze and retoast very nicely. if you like these, you might also like vegan pumpkin muffins, from the same cookbook.

vegan lemon-cornmeal waffles
1 1/4 cups plus 2 Tablespoons flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cups cornmeal
1/4 cup light-flavored (canola, corn, etc.) vegetable oil
2 cups soy milk, plain
1/4 cup soy yogurt
2 lemons, zest and juice (please try to use organic lemons since you're using the zest...)
1/4 cup sugar

sift first five ingredients and set aside. place the liquid ingredients and the sugar in another bowl and whisk until well combined. pour wet mixture into dry mixture and mix until just blended. pour into waffle iron and cook.

if you like this recipe you can find more like it at the postpunk kitchen

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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

french-lentil tarragon salad

lentils get a bad rap. when one thinks about lentils (or at least me, before the great revelation) one might envision shaggy, musty, dirty hippies in soiled white caftans sitting cross-legged and underwear-less, chowing down on a bowl of brown baby-pooh like mush. with one dirty, communal spoon passed among the group. overcooked lentils: bland, texturless, maybe even gassy. what's to love?

well i have had more than my share of these "hare krishna lentils" and when i was just starting out as a vegetarian, i cooked up many a bowl of that brown glop. what can i say, i was just a kid, i didn't know any better...i thought that was what lentils were supposed to do.

and then i discovered the lentil rainbow: red, brown, green and black. shortly thereafter i realized that if you don't overcook your lentils they will not disintegrate (except of course for the red ones, but that's what they're supposed to do, right?). now when i cook things like lentils or mung beans, i soak them first, even though everybody says that you don't have to. this step seems to help them cook more evenly. a few other things i've learned from long experience is that they need to be cooked in salted water (so they are not so very, very bland inside) at barely a simmer. then, once they're drained but still hot, i handle them very carefully because they are more fragile and apt to come apart at this point. once they are chilled you can be more brutish with them.

the following recipe is an approximation of a dish i make fairly often and is just a guideline to be adjusted to your own taste and what you have on hand. i don't find it necessary to add any oil to this dish but it's a matter of preference. a generous splash of olive oil certainly wouldn't hurt...

french lentil tarragon salad
2 cups dried french lentils
1 large carrot, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
4 ribs celery (including inner leaves), diced
3 sprigs tarragon, minced
1/4 cup minced parsley
1-2 cloves garlic, pressed
1/2 - 1 lemon, juiced
1-3 Tablespoons prepared mustard (try this awesome and easy homemade version)
red wine vinegar to taste
salt and pepper to taste

soak the lentils for a few hours before cooking. drain soaking water and put lentils in a pan with enough salted water (should taste like the ocean) to cover. bring to a gentle simmer. begin checking lentils after 10 minutes and remove from heat when just tender. drain and reserve any juices. gently toss the lentils with the garlic and lemon juice. add the minced vegetables and herbs. toss again and season with additional salt, lemon juice and red wine vinegar to taste. make sure to taste this again once it has cooled to room temperature and adjust seasonings one last time. serve with a drizzle of olive oil (optional) and fresh ground black pepper. also optional: boil down leftover cooking juices until most of the water has evaporated and reincorporate into the salad. make sure to compensate for the saltiness of the reduced broth if using.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

weekend cat blogging #33: the secret life of cats

the secret life of cats.

who knows what kind of company they keep when we're not around? yeah, you think they just lie there and sleep in a furry, dejected ball until master and feeder returns home with a bag full of treats and maybe a catnip ball or two. but no. methinks the reality is that our sneaky little friends get on the horn and call up a few buddies from the neighborhood, maybe a few of the female species (or cross-species as they case may be), break out our good scotch, light up some cuban cigars and have a party. hah! now i know why that nasty porn site keeps showing up in my browser history...

and if you have some time to kill, the video link for this weekend is called roof sex. contrary to the title, it is good, clean, animated fun from the folks at who have also done commercials for nike, and diesel. check it out, it's hilarious.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

vegan pumpkin muffins

just look at those muffins. they have loft. they have crumb. they have pumpkin and spicy goodness. what they don't have are eggs. and they don't seem to miss those little yellow and white shell-clad nuggets at all.

it is a huge problem (some might say challenge and to them i say "bah-humbug! i am already quite challenged enough, thank you") in egg-free baking to get a good loft and crumb. how many dense and chewy cakes have i (and maybe you too) gnawed away at, pretending that it wasn't that bad, when in fact it was? how many oily vegan cookies have i greased my pompadour with? lots. and in the end i am a "sweegan" because, try as i might, vegan baking just doesn't compare to the real thing. and because there is something just enough removed about consuming animal products (as opposed to the animal themselves) in an infrequently indulged in treat to make it okay for me. militants raise your weapons and don't shoot till you see the whites of my meringue. i freely confess it, i am a hypocrite. i may go to peta hell but at least i'll be having a slice of some delectable dessert on my way down.

but seriously, in an ideal world i would have my own hen house and gladly eat their little eggies knowing that the little cluckers were getting good food not comprised of other animal parts, a big yard to scratch and squabble in, no hormone shots, no clipped beaks, no overcrowding and no hatchet when their spring chickenhood has passed. being a bit of an old hen myself i have a lot of sympathy for those old gals.

in a less than ideal world i would have vegan baking that works.

in this world i have some very good recipes from vegan with a vengeance. if you are a vegan, know a vegan or are vegan curious, i recommend picking up a copy of this book. the recipes don't use too many exotic or fancy-pants ingredients, don't require the use of pricey or obscure kitchen tools and is written in a really straightforward conversational tone. it is very novice-friendly.

these pumpkin muffins have a great, spicy flavor and, as long as the batter is not man-handled (no offense to any ham-fisted, neanderthal-gaited, wooly-chested men out there) they attain a nice crown and a good crumb. if using paper muffin cups you might want to give the cups a quick coating of pan spray to discourage sticking.

for more (free) recipes and reviews of vegan with a vengeance recipes, you can go to the postpunk kitchen forum index.

vegan pumpkin muffins
1 3/4 cups flour
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1 cup pureed pumpkin
1/2 cup soy milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 Tablespoons molasses

sift together all the dry ingredients and set aside. in another bowl whisk together the remaining wet ingredients. pour wet mixture into dry and combine with a fork until just mixed. do not over mix or your muffins will suffer in texture. pour batter into muffin cups about 2/3 full and bake for 18 - 20 minutes. these muffins are a little chewy when they are hot so allow to cool completely before eating.

Monday, January 16, 2006

homemade mustard

mustard. i've never really given much thought to the stuff aside from a rather knee-jerk preference for the dijon style. that bright yellow ballpark stuff just gives me the creeps. unless it's an ultra processed snack food item filled with sugar and hydrogenated fat, no "food" should bear such an ungodly shade of, um, yellow. or is it vermilion?

during a recent conversation with my man's mom the subject of homemade mustard was brought up. which led me to recall a bbq i recently attended where the guest of honor was mr. sausage. delicious, smoky, succulent, tasty, char-grilled, off-limits mr. porky pig, accompanied by a variety of specialty mustards. there was the chunky country-style brownish mustard, the ubiquitous bright yellow bland and scary stuff, a heady dark beer mustard, a honey mustard, hmm, maybe even a chipotle mustard. needless to say i had my fill of mustard sandwiches that afternoon. and you know what, i liked them. they were all pretty good, each with their own unique blend of sweet, hot and pungent flavours.

sparked onto yet another obsessive quest, i poured through my arsenal of cookbooks finding very little information on homemade mustard. then i turned to that oracle of misinformation, the internet, and hit paydirt. i tried several different recipes and this one, borrowed, i mean poached, okay, let's just call it stolen, from emeril (BAM! - don't you just hate that?), struck the right balance of heat, pungency and acidity. i was astounded as i'm not generally a fan of mr. BAM! but this recipe came out really quite delicious. it's my new favorite condiment, as a matter of fact.

some of the other recipes i tried, especially the ones that used all brown mustard seeds were far, far too pungent for my taste. it is claimed that you can reduce the bite of a mustard by nuking it for 20 seconds at a time until it reached the right flavor. my all brown seed mustard could've been nuked until world war III and i don't think it would've lost it's overpowering bite and bitterness. i was concerned that using any amount yellow seeds might make the end result too wimpy, but i was wrong.

so i guess mustard isn't just mustard after all. next time i will try using different liquids (dark beer? camel piss?) and /or adding herbs like tarragon. and, as always, if anyone out there has a good recipe or some ideas, i'm all ears...

homemade mustard
3 Tablespoons yellow mustard seeds
2 1/2 Tablespoons brown mustard seeds
1/3 cup white wine
1/3 cup white wine vinegar*
1 minced shallot (2 Tablespoons)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
pinch of ground allspice

place all ingredients in a covered bowl or a lidded jar and let sit out overnight. the next day dump everything into a blender, coffee grinder or mini food processor and blend until it reaches the desired consistency. adjust seasonings to taste. if the mustard is too pungent, place in a microwave oven at 50% power for twenty seconds. allow to cool and taste. repeat if necessary.
* i added a little extra vinegar to taste

Friday, January 13, 2006

weekend cat blogging #32

"'the boy'.

that is what those hairless, clumsy, bad-breathed, tottering, two-legged fools call me. when they're not calling me 'bunny', that is. or worse yet (and yes, it does get worse, much worse) 'funny-hunny-bunny'. sigh. it's terribly demeaning really, considering the fact that i am old enough to be either of their fathers and that my IQ is higher than both of those revolting chicken-skinned chimps combined. and you should see the things they make me do for a little piece of chicken. what do they think i am, the bear in a three ringed circus? well, i guess i get the last laugh in the end. after all, they have to scoop up my excrement. and those hairballs? heh, they're not accidental..."

by the way, if y'all have a fast internet connection and a little time on your hands, check out this amazing video of superhuman acrobatic feats.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

hoshigaki R.I.P.

here it is, the result of my great hoshigaki experiment, henceforth to be known as the great hoshigaki debacle. yep, thats them, those darkly menacing figures swaying gently in their own fetid breeze. it all went very well for the first two and a half weeks or so, the fruits merrily drying and wrinkling and looking oh-so-festive hanging out my window. and then it happened. they arrived. the great gushing rot-inducing rains commenced. my little orange-tan nuggets bloated up like mc donald's big mac scarfing teenagers. valiantly i attempted to save them, bringing them inside and singing gently to them each evening to the accompaniment of a handheld hair dryer. to no avail. daily they grew blacker and blacker until they were nothing more than macabre garlands of decay strung along the walls of my hallway. when, after a month more of this, my man demanded that i throw them away, i did not object. they were beginning to stink.

and here is a closeup. coal black and mushy inside. it appears to have sprouted a few good-luck hairs as well...

needless to say i was crushed and delighted at the same time. they turned out so horrendously nasty i couldn't help but giggle. however i was still in need of my hoshigaki fix. i cruised the net and found a place, starr ranch, that sells dried persimmons. this is what i received in the mail. not hoshigaki but rather sliced and air-dried persimmons. very pretty and quite tasty in their own right but not what i was after.

then lo and behold, one fine december day whilst cruising the aisles of the japanese grocery store, what did mine eyes behold but these guys. the real deal. hoshigaki.

sadly enough they weren't very good. they lacked the essence of persimmon flavor i so vividly recalled from my aunt's home dried persimmons. maybe i will try again next year...

shortly thereafter, the sacramento bee came out with another article about the revival of this artisanal process with mail order sources for ordering the real deal. slowfood la has a link to the pdf here if you're interested in learning more about hoshigaki or ordering some yourself.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006


sorry for the long silence but the holiday season gets me so scattered that all i can manage to do is splay my sorry ol' brittle skeleton on the couch, claw at a nearly empty bonbon box with flour-encrusted fingers and watch old columbo reruns in between cooking up monsterous batches of cookies, caramels, spiced nuts and other goodies intended for friends and neighbors. keyword is intended. reality is something else altogether. shortbread cookie anyone? no, perhaps a nutella filled man-shaped sugar cookie?

aside from afternoon intrigues with that rumpled old glass-eyed tv police detective and his basset hound, i've been doing a little vacationing. can you guess where?

hint 1: yes, it is a place with some real purty sunsets

hint 2: and some water

hint 3: and don't forget the tacos
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