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Sunday 31 August 2008

Trashy Foodz

I did a little baking this weekend, but more on that in a bit. Mostly I have eaten trash this week so I think a week of salads and stir fries awaits me!

The day after my last post, I cooked up the remainder of the ribz and this time did them in a regular non-stick frying pan and they worked MUCH better. I just served them with some greens sauted with spring onion and garlic. mmmm.

For lunch on Thursday & Friday, I made some spicy carrot soup. I know it's still technically summer (for about 3 more hours anyway) but the weather in this country sucks so I decided on soup instead of salad. Please don't laugh at my rubbish effort of a chef-y (read: tossy!) swirl of soya cream on top! I went a bit trigger happy on the pepper so it was a tad over-spicy but when I get it right, I'll post the recipe.

Friday's dinner, I was in the mood for some trash! So I cooked up some Hot Damn & Hell Yeah's Country Fried Tofu (although I think the original recipe has breadcrumbs and mine didn't), with some chipped potatoes baked with sea salt, thyme, olive oil and paprika and some mushy peas.

So onto the baking then. My friend celebrated her birthday yesterday and she requested bran muffins (most people want cupcakes, but noooo) and bran muffins she got. We even stuck a candle in it, lit it an sang happy birthday! I used this recipe but I added 2 defrosted frozen bananas to the wet ingredients as well.

But what kind of friend would I be if I only provided healthy snacks for a birthday? The type the other guests would not be best pleased with! So I made VCTOtW basic vanilla cupcakes and I came up with a new peanut butter/choc frosting recipe. I wanted something soft enough to spread, not pipe and not be sickly sweet like butter cream and this came out perfect! huzzah.....

....only there was way too much of it for 12 cupcakes! So what to do with the rest? Make another batch of golden vanilla batter, pour it in a sheet tin and make one big choc/pb cake to take to work tomorrow. Good plan.

I didn't take pictures of the rest of the food, but I also made a couple of salads and a tofu dish to go with the potato wedges and mushrooms that my friend bought (and some disgusting processed chicken things and fishcakes for the omnis).

When I got home today, I wanted something quick so I cooked up some tofu in barbecue sauce, put it on a ciabatta roll with a tofutti slice and some gherkin and it rocked! TRASH!

For dinner, I had another go at veggie hash. Potatoes, sweet potatoes, onion, red pepper, mushrooms & peas. YUM!

That's all folks.

Cooking to: (Cupcakes) Matchbox 20 - Mad Season / (today's dinner) DVD: Season 2 of Alias

Sunday 24 August 2008

Just gimme 1 rib. I'm pretty hungry!

What I love most about bank holiday weekends is having time to cook awesome food. I started with turning this lot .....

Into this.... This is veggie hash with some pesto grilled portobellos. I got the inspiration from THIS recipe. Mmm mmm, it was seriously good!

Lunch on Saturday - I made the quick creamy tomato & basil pasta from veganyumyum again but this time I had the basil. Twice in one week - this recipe is a good one!! Awesome with tiger bread! :)

I also made granola. I felt the need to put goji berries in something as I have a massive bag of them and haven't used them in ages!

I also made ginger & lemon muffins. They have a double dose of ginger from ginger jam and fresh root ginger in them. They are good but I think they need to be even more gingery so I'm going to try again so I can post a better recipe!

Finally, onto today's dinner. I have been eyeing this recipe for ages and finally had time to do it. They are Susan's Barbecue Ribz from the Fat Free Vegan Kitchen. They are REALLY good except that I think the 25 minute baking time was too long (in my oven anyway) and they stuck to my griddle pan like shit to a blanket! I have half of them left to experiment with again tomorrow, I think I just need to use the grill or a better pan to cook them in. I had some homemade barbecue sauce in the fridge already to use up. This isn't the best picture I'm afraid but I was hungry! You can't see from this angle but they do actually quite look like ribs!

Cooking (today) to: Del Amitri - Change Everything

Thursday 21 August 2008

Do you want to love me sexy?

You will when you bake this cake! I promised a chocolate cake and a chocolate cake I give you. Recipe is at the end of this post.

I made the cakes Tuesday and refrigerated them overnight to help them firm up a bit. Then I frosted it today when I was slacking off instead of studying for my safety exams – bad me! (I did make up for the studying later though!)

I wanted a cake with a softer icing than normal. Also, much as I love buttercream, it can be a bit sickly. Although it’s not the prettiest cake ever, I think it turned out absolutely freaking awesome. You could replace the vanilla extract (in the cake and the icing) with orange for a chocolate orange cake too.

The frosting is really runny when you make it and personally I like to frost it when it’s still pretty soft – I like the messy homemade look! If you don’t though, just refrigerate the frosting an hour or so and it will thicken up enough (not overnight though, it wouldn’t be very easy to spread if you did this). I kept the cake refrigerated once I assembled it. I’m not sure how the frosting would hold up out of the fridge.

A couple of things I learnt from watching the Barefoot Contessa: 1) that cornflour in combination with regular flour lightens the batter; and 2) that a bit of coffee added to chocolate cake intensifies the chocolateyness! I got love for Ina, even though her recipes are full of butter, cream and eggs, she does come up with some good stuff! I’ve printed off a couple of her cake recipes that I’m gonna try and veganise – I’ll post the results of any successes!

This cake is super chocolately and really REALLY messy to decorate; that is the joy of it. But the absolute best thing about this cake? You can feed it to un-suspecting omnis, wait for them to moan with pleasure then smugly inform them it contains tofu and wait for the nauseated look to appear on their face. Score!

My friends loved this cake, one had seconds and one took a piece home for her fiancĂ©, as he gets upset if he doesn’t get cake too! She also told me last night that she wants me to make cupcakes for her wedding reception next year! I’m so thrilled, but a bit terrified too. I’m already doing the wedding make-up and I’m a bridesmaid – I think she wants to give me a nervous breakdown! Haha just kidding, I can’t wait.

Back to tonight’s dinner and I know the main course is not really that important when cake is on the cards but this is what we had; mushroom & sun-dried tomato pilaff and garlicky spring greens! Mmm mmm! Weird that you can hardly see any mushrooms in this pic considering it was chock-full of 'em!

OK onto the important part - the cake.

UK peeps, I weighed the frosting ingredients but not the actual cake so the cake ingredients are in cups - but if you don’t have American cups you just need a measuring jug. The 250ml / ¼ litre mark is one American cup! (But go buy some cup measures seriously, they are a couple of quid in the supermarket and are SO much easier than weighing!)

Sal’s superrad messy chocolate cake
Wet ingredients:
185 ml / ¾ cup non dairy milk
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
125ml / ½ cup light oil (I used sunflower)
½ a pack of firm silken tofu (I used Mori-Nu) – or you could use 125ml / ½ cup soya yoghurt
1½ tsp good vanilla extract
1 tsp instant coffee powder (I know that’s dry, but trust me!)
Dry Ingredients:
1 cup plain flour
¼ cup / 4 tbsp cornflour
⅓ cup cocoa powder
1½ tsp (level) baking powder
½ tsp (level) baking soda
½ tsp salt
¾ cup golden caster sugar
140g / ¾ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
125ml / ½ cup soya cream (I used alpro)
4 tbsp / ¼ cup vegetable shortening
4 tbsp / ¼ cup vegan margarine
1 tsp good vanilla extract
80g / ½ cup icing/confectioners’ sugar
2-4 tbsp jam
Chocolate sprinkles or shavings to decorate

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F.

Combine the non-dairy milk and vinegar and set aside to curdle.

Whizz the tofu in a blender until smooth, then add the rest of the wet ingredients. Mix the coffee into the soymilk mixture, then add to the tofu mixture and blend well. I use a hand immersion blender and a pyrex jug, because I don’t have a stand blender yet.

Then sieve together the dry ingredients into a large bowl (except the sugar). Don’t skip this step, cocoa really needs to be sieved or you get mingin lumps in your cake! Blech. Stir together and add the sugar and mix well.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix well until no large lumps remain, a few small ones are ok – just don’t over-mix or you’ll get tough chewy cake – ick.

Pour into 2 round sandwich tins and bake for around 25 mins or until a cocktail stick comes out clean. Cool for 5-10 minutes then carefully turn out and leave on a cooling rack until completely cold. I put them in the fridge overnight to firm up.

Then make the frosting. Melt together the chocolate and soy cream gently in a double boiler, mixing well until smooth and shiny.

Remove from the heat and leave to cool a bit while you mix the other ingredients.

Measure out the other frosting ingredients into a large bowl and cream them together with a fork until just combined. Pour in the chocolate/cream mixture (don’t add the other ingredients to the chocolate, the residual heat in the bowl will be too high!) and use an electric hand beater to mix it till smooth and creamy (a minute or so), scraping down the sides as necessary.

Put the frosting in the fridge and leave it for about 20-30 minutes before assembling the cake.

To assemble, upturn one cake onto a plate or cake tray so you have a nice flat surface. Spread a generous dollop of jam over the cake if using (it is easier if the jam is at room temp, if it’s cold it will be hard to spread). I like to add the jam because sometimes chocolate cake can be a bit too much without some fruit to break it up a bit. I used blueberry because blueberry & chocolate make sweet sweet love together!

Then spread a good blob of the frosting over the jam and sandwich the second cake on top.

Pour about half to ¾ of the remaining frosting into the middle of the top cake and using a spatula, spread it gently out and ‘encourage’ it to drop over the sides, then use the remainder to build up the top and cover any holes. (Alternatively, leave the frosting in the fridge for an hour or so and spread it on.)

Decorate with sprinkles or shavings and put back in the fridge for a couple of hours.

Inside shot of what was left this morning - it was excellent for breakfast by the way :-) :

Cooking while watching Semi-Pro (hence stupid post title)

Tuesday 19 August 2008

Just a quickie

Tonight I made Veganyumyum's super fast tomato & cream basil pasta (sans the basil - stupid supermarket ran out). A few people have blogged / porned this lately and I am just going to back up everything they have said - it's freaking gorgeous. I recommend you head on over right now and write down the recipe!!

I’m working on a new recipe – cranberry orange cornbread. This has definite potential but it is not right yet. I think the spelt flour and oat bran I added had a detrimental effect on the texture and it needs to be more orangey and more spicy! So I am going to give this another go at the weekend with some amends. Hopefully I’ll get it right next time and will post the recipe.

But to tide you over, here is a pic of attempt no. 1, hot out of the oven spread with some pure soya:

All going well, tomorrow I will have a recipe for a chocolate cake to post!!

Whew! Spicy.

The good thing about Sundays are that you have extra time to make something awesome! So I decided that I would try my hand at a tagine style stew and it turned out really well. I made some lemon couscous to go with it.

Edited recipe is at the end of this post - I forgot the chickpeas and added extra chilli which made it realllllly hot. I added the chickpeas in when I reheated it for dinner last night and they definitely belong in there!!

For dessert, I had some puff pastry that I defrosted that needed using up so I came up with these. Basically I just cut the pastry into rounds and bake at 180°C for about 20 minutes until they are lightly golden. Then I filled them with some rosewater pastry creme (recipe from VCTOTW, I just replaced the vanilla extract with rosewater). On the top I just mixed some icing sugar and rosewater together until it was a runny paste, drizzled it on top then sprinkled on some smashed up pistachios. These were tasty but MESSY! Luckily I live alone!

What to do with the leftover pastry? hmmm. I know, roll it out, fill it full of peanut butter and chocolate chips and bake it along with the pastry circles! Excellent with a cup of tea - 70's Animal agrees!

As promised, the recipe for the tagine-esque stew. It feels wrong calling it a tagine as, a) it was cooked in a crockpot and b) I don't really have any idea what should be in a tagine. So forgive the shite name and I give you...

Moroccan Inspired Veggie Stew
1 small onion
Tbsp or so of olive oil
3 or 4 carrots (dep. on size – I used 4 small ones)
½ a large aubergine / eggplant
¼ small butternut squash
1 medium sweet potato
1 red pepper
1 can (400g) chick peas
500ml (2 cups) veg stock or water (in my case water from a kettle and 2 tbsp of oxo veggie stock concentrate!)
2 tbsp harissa (you can alter this to lower / raise the heat – if you don’t like spicy, start with one and add more later if it needs it!)
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp cinnamon or a cin. stick
¼ tsp ground coriander
¼ tsp smoked paprika
A 500g box of creamed tomatoes or passata (you can use a tin of tomatoes and just blend them if you don’t have passata)
2 bay dried leaves
Salt & pepper to taste
Juice of half a lemon
Small handful of fresh coriander, roughly chopped

Couscous ingredients:
1 cup dried couscous
250ml / 1 cup hot veg stock or water
1 tbsp olive oil
1-2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
Salt & pepper to taste
4 tbsp / ¼ cup sultanas
4 tbsp / ¼ cup pine nuts

While you prepare the veg, turn the crockpot on high and add the olive oil.

Peel and chunk up the sweet potato, squash, carrots and onions into large dice. Cut the pepper and aubergine the same sort of size.

Add the onion to the olive oil and stir around then add the rest of the veg, except the chick peas.

Veggies in the pot - I took a pic cuz they were so pretty and colourful!

Mix the harissa and spices into the stock and add to the crock, with the bay leaves and tomatoes and a good pinch of salt and pepper.

Turn the crock down to low, cover and cook for 8 hours. Stir every now and then. When there’s an hour or so left of cooking time, check for seasoning and heat. Add some chilli flakes if needed and adjust seasoning (this needs quite a bit of salt I found, but then I like lots of seasoning!)

To make the couscous, mix together all the ingredients, except the pine nuts, in a bowl and cover with a plate. Set aside for at least 5 minutes. Toast the pine nuts in a dry non stick pan, over a med-high heat for a few minutes until golden and toasty. Keep your eye on them – they go quick!

Fork through the couscous (don’t use a spoon or it’ll get claggy) and then mix in the pine nuts (I like to reserve a few to sprinkle on top).

This will easily feed 4 people but tastes great reheated the next day as well!

Cooking to: Weezer – Pinkerton

Saturday 16 August 2008

Warning - crap food maybe closer than it appears!

Long post / rant follows.....

I’m home. Hurrah.

Two weeks of venue catering and hotel/local pub food and I really cannot put into words how glad I am to be home (although I’d be lying if I said that was the only reason I was glad to be home!).

The hotel food was the usual crap, pasta & tomato based sauce, cheeseless pizzas yada yada yada... but there was one good Chinese meal and that was about it.

The venue catering on the other was dire. The first day I got lucky! The veggie option was a really delicious morrocan veggie tagine with squash and sweet potato and cous cous. The next day, the veggie option was some cheese infested cholesterol-fest, but I could eat salad, potatoes and rice. Day 3 however, it became apparent that the course co-ordinator had not passed on my dietary requirements to the caterer and I was stuck with dry bread and cucumber. I didn’t sit there and complain to everyone though – unlike the insufferable asshat, with the ridiculous eyebrows, that whinged on and on and on about how much he hates fish, for pretty much the rest of that day! What a tool.

So anyway the next day I was told they were now aware of my ‘special diet’ and the waitress asked me if I would eat plain chicken?? Hmm, is it vegan if it’s plain – that’s news to me! So I politely said no and got a lunch of soggy veggies and dry new potatoes, instead.

After that, the food ranged from just about edible to damn right shite. Examples are the mushroom stew veggie option thing, but without the cream & tarragon sauce (so that’s plain mushrooms then), a sweet potato with sun-dried tomatoes and mushrooms on top, that was still hard in the middle, the most disgusting stir-fry in the world which consisted of courgette (PUKE), broccoli and chewy cabbage doused in a little soy sauce (and that was IT aside from some dry bread!) and an incinerated aubergine with flavourless veggie mush on top.

So I got back home yesterday and I’m so freaking glad and to celebrate I cooked up some portobellos with home-made pesto on top and grilled, with mashed potato and VCON corn & edamame salad (well almost, I forgot what was in it and was way to lazy to get the book out so it was my take on it).

On to today and to prove remind myself that it’s easy to make something vegan and delicious I’m posting the directions. Hey maybe I’ll direct them to this post when I email them to tell them how easy it really is to cook good vegan food!!

Vegan Lasagne – the ingredients are approximate because I didn’t really measure anything.

Tomato Sauce Ingredients:
1 can of chopped tomatoes (blended with a hand blender)
250ml (1 cup) hot water
1 tsp vegan Worcestershire sauce
½ tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried sage
½ tsp paprika
Salt & pepper to taste
Veggies of your choice
I used ½ a green pepper, ½ a yellow pepper, 1 small onion, around ½ cup edamame beans defrosted, 1 large mushroom, ½ a pack of spinach, ½ large aubergine. – all diced to around the same size.
White sauce ingredients:
2 heaped tbsp vegan margarine
2½ heaped tbsp plain flour
250ml (1 cup) soy milk
1 tsp Dijon mustard
About ½ tsp veggie stock concentrate (optional)
Slack handful (around 2 tbsp) nutritional yeast
Salt & pepper to taste

Dried lasagne sheets
Vegan cheese (optional)

Preheat the oven to 180°C / 350°F

Mix together all the tomato sauce ingredients (except salt & pepper) and stir well. Over a medium heat, bring up to a low bubble and then turn off the heat.

Sauté the onion in a little olive oil for a few minutes, then add the rest of the veggies (except edamame and spinanch) and cook for around 5 minutes. Add the spinach and cook till wilted, then add the edamame and the tomato sauce. Stir well and test for seasoning.

Heat the soymilk over a low heat but don’t let it boil. Then make the white sauce by melting the margarine on a low heat (make sure you use a pan you can use a metal whisk in). Stir in the flour and whisk well with a small whisk. Cook for a minute or so then add a little bit of the warm soymilk and mix gently till incorporated. Repeat this process until all the soymilk is incorporated (you’ll need to use a bit of elbow grease!!) and the sauce is smooth and thickened. Add the rest of the ingredients, mix well and take off the heat.

I used a 9.5 x 9.5 in lasagne dish for this, any bigger, you’ll need to increase your quantities!

To assemble, line the dish with a layer of lasagne sheets (2½ ) covered mine. Then add a third of the veggie mixture and spread it over well, then a third of the white sauce and spread around. Repeat this process 2 more times and spread the top layer of white sauce well over the top. If using, grate some vegan cheese over the top (I used smoked cheddar sheese!) and then bake, uncovered, for 50 minutes.

Cooking to: Incubus – Light Grenades

And because I’m feeling really spiteful, here is a quick, super easy pudding that seriously takes around 5 minutes from starting to shovelling in your gob:

Chocolate Lime Custard / Pudding

250ml / 1 cup non-dairy milk
Zest of ½ a lime
4 tbsp / ¼ cup non dairy chocolate chips (I use Dr Oetker dark baking chips)
2-3 tbsp sugar (depending on your taste)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1.5 level tbsp arrowroot

It could not be easier, it could try – but it would fail! Mix all ingredients together in a saucepan and mix until the arrowroot is dissolved.

Stir constantly, over a low heat, until the chocolate chips have fully melted and incorporated and the pudding reaches the desired thickness. This usually takes around 4 or 5 minutes and just as the mixture is about to come to boiling point, it’s done.

Serve immediately. If you want to leave it to cool or make double and leave some, you need to cover it straight away (with parchment paper or in an airtight container) to stop a really gross looking skin forming. Although it’s no biggy if this forms – just mix the bugger back into the pudding.

Yummy, light, tasty and chocolatey and the lime provides enough zing to stop this being sickly!

Cooking to: Matchbox 20 – Exile on Mainstream

Tomorrow I have big plans for dinner and recipes!! Watch this space to check if it all works out!!

Oh and a bonus pic – today’s lunch, cold sesame noodles. YUM!

I kept getting the same sort of questions from omnis this week - oh don't you miss cheese / chocolate / chicken .... not with food like this I don't.

They can take their squidgy aubergine and cholesterol laden puddings and shove em up their a-holes!

I'm not bitter though.

Sunday 3 August 2008

Short & Sweet

I don't have much for you today, just a couple of stickies. I will in be in London monday - friday for the next two weeks on a course and will be staying in a hotel so 2 weeks of pasta and tomato sauce probably await me! :(

Next weekend I'll be making up for it no doubt!

So anyway, here are some cupcakes I made for a workmate's birthday. Chocolate peanut butter CCs and lemon CCs. Unfortunately, I decided to use a straight piping nozzle for the PB frosting and they look a little like poop! ah well, they tasted nice which is what matters!

I also made some peanut butter cookies. I know there's a zillion pb cookie recipes out there, but I wanted to make my own version up. It's good, but not quite right so I need to work on perfecting it a bit before I'm happy to share it.

Cooking to: Bon Jovi - 7800° Fahrenheit & Incubus - A Crow Left of the Murder (cakes) / Van Halen - 1984 (cookies)