Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Corn Tortillas

So, we had some deliciously delicious fajitas the other night, with some damn crazy good marinated tempeh, some veggies sauteed to perfection, that fabulous not-queso sauce featured a while ago, wrapped up in some homemade corn tortillas. Throw a little salsa on top, maybe a pinch (or pile) of cilantro, and you have something incredible.

Let's start at the base eh? Tortillas are easy to make, but a little tricky to make well. Sometimes they crack when you fold them , sometimes they break when you're trying to transfer them to the pan....so here's how to do it right!

The ingredients are simple: Masa Harina, Water, and maybe salt to taste. One cup of Masa makes about nine ~6" tortillas. Multiply the recipe as you like!

Corn Tortillas

1 cup Masa Harina
~2/3 cup water, plus extra just in case
Salt to taste, if desired

In a mixing bowl, add in the masa and a pinch of salt. Add in the water in batches until it comes together in a single mass. Now, take a golfball sized chunk of dough and round it in your hand. This is what I call the smoosh test.

Gently squish it between your palms and look at the slightly flattened disc. Did it crack at the edges? If so, put it back in the bowl, add a little bit more water and massage it together with your hands. Sometimes covering it and letting it sit for a few minutes helps to hydrate the masa. The ideal mix you're looking for is just the right amount of water added that allows you to smoosh the ball into a disc without any cracking, but not much more than that. If you have more, you run the risk of it being too wet & sticky, and you won't be able to remove the tortilla after pressing.

Once you've got the right mix, take off a golfball sized chunk and get ready to press it! Make sure to cover the stuff in the bowl as it dries out easily. You need two pieces of plastic wrap or a plastic bag with the sides cut so you can unfold it, and then either a tortilla press or something like a heavy flat bottomed pan.

Place that ball in between the plastic and place it on the press or on a countertop, and squish it gently. Practice will help you find the right thickness, but this may give you an idea.


When you have it, peel the tortilla off the plastic one side at a time and flip it onto your palm. Then, just a quick flop onto a hot griddle and a turn over when it's done to your liking (some like brown spots, i just turn it when it looks dry) and you have a fresh tortilla.

Stack them on a plate and cover with a towel till they're all done! The warmth & steam will help keep them pliable. Now you can fill them up with delicious stuff like this wicked tempeh!

Tempeh Fajitas

March 28th, 12:20pm
To: Beerdsmith, Pancake
Subject: Friends, We Must Blog

"I have steamed tempeh marinating. And Frog Holler peppers from the freezer. Cy has a tortilla maker. Jaygef is the master of vegan queso.

Shall we have fajitas 2nite? and blog about it?? i wanna grill. maybe the weather will cooperate.


The above email is an example of the extensive behind-the-scenes work that goes on around Oops! It's Vegan. And the weather did not cooperate on Sunday. It rained. All day. However, that did not dampen - heh heh heh - my enthusiasm for fajita night! Vegan style!

Tasty fajitas require, in my humble opinion, a wee amount of forethought and prep. Around 1pm, I sliced one package - about eight ounces - of tempeh into strips. I steamed the pieces for twenty minutes, then poured the combined ingredients for the marinade on and stuck 'em in the fridge while I did some volunteering. Easy.

Marinade for Fajitas, loosely adapted from this recipe:
1 teaspoon ground cumin

2 teaspoons chile powder

1 teaspoon paprika

2 dashes of cayenne - cause I like it spicy

2 cloves garlic, minced

juice of one lemon

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

2 long splashes soy sauce

1 short splash liquid smoke

pinch of salt and a little black pepper, to taste

At five-thirty pm, my friends and fellow bloggers arrived. Having three capable cooks, each working on a different piece of the meal, in the kitchen made quick and easy work of this dinner. Beerdsmith was in charge of the homemade tortillas - see above post. Pancake whipped up a batch of our favorite vegan cheese sauce, and I did the rest. First I browned the tempeh on both sides in a bit of olive oil, until it was crispy and golden and delicious-looking. While the tempeh cooked, I prepped the veggies. I had one red onion and three precious peppers - quickly thawed out of the freezer - from my favorite organic farm of all time, Frog Holler.

The great thing about working with vegetable products instead of meat is that you can use leftover marinade to create sauces or gravies to accompany your dish - there's no poisonous bacteria to worry about like you would with chicken or beef! For this meal, I decided to saute the sliced peppers and onions in the leftover tempeh marinade to add flavor and to reduce, reuse, recycle. It worked out great. The veggies took about ten minutes to cook down, until the onions were soft and mellow and the peppers were on the softer side of crisp-tender. I sprinkled some extra salt and pepper onto them as they cooked.

All of a sudden, each piece of the meal was complete! An amazing homemade tortilla? CHECK. Deliciously tangy and flavorful protein? CHECK. The best locally-grown veggies you can imagine, and miraculously preserved in the freezer until March to boot? CHECK. And everyone was glued together by the zesty "cheesy" sauce. Incredible.

And we didn't even need the grill.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

My brother's favorite granola

Hello, hello, friends. Pancake reporting from home base kitchen. Xtina is here as well. I just whipped up a batch of my famous granola. This stuff had my dad bothering me for months on end to make him some, and is my brother's favorite. My brother is picky about his chocolate peanut butter granola, so this is a meaningful distinction. Cook it. Eat it. Love it. Love ME.

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Granola

Preheat oven to 350.

4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
3/4 cup ground flaxseed
1 cup coconut flour
1 tsp salt

Mix these dry ingredients together in a large bowl. GREAT JOB! YOU DID IT!

8 Tbsp pure maple syrup
6 Tbsp safflower oil
8 Tbsp peanut butter (I used a Michigan-made variety)

Mix these wet ingredients together in a small bowl. Pour into oat mixture and stir/work with your hands until well-combined. Pour onto prepared cookie sheet. Bake 18 minutes, stirring about half way through so the granola around the edges of the sheet doesn't burn.

When you take the granola out of the oven, immediately pour 1 cup chocolate chips over the top and start stirring it around. The chips will melt and make the granola delightfis and clumpy. Yum yum!

Here is a shameless shout-out to some friends over at Square Deal Farm in Walden, VT. You should order a gallon from them. You don't have to pay shipping for it, nor will you regret your choice. Best maple syrup I've ever had.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

We're ADVANCED hikers.

When journeying to the Northern Hand, hiking is an absolute must. Here is a nice list of places to adventure to around Traverse City. There are plenty of marvelous locations to do this (Sleeping Bear being of particular repute), but it's really great when you don't have to pay to play. Fortunately, Michigan has expansive state forests, where you can keep your wallet in your pants. We took a 15 minute drive to the Sand Lakes Quiet Area, a sweet spot with 10 miles of trails all closed off to motorized vehicles. Joy! They are also open to mountain biking. When we arrived, there was one other person in the parking lot. He was computing on his car roof while talking on his cell phone. Man had disappeared by the time our hike was over, but car mysteriously remained.

Smokey the Bear on crack.

This lovely place gave you a chance to hike some of the North Country Trail. If you've ever hiked Pictured Rocks, then you've been on it before! The trail, in theory, will span completely through 7 states. It is as of yet incomplete. I would like to do the whole thing someday if it is, minus that whole Ohio part. Bleh.

We hiked for a little over two hours, deciding as we went which routes to take. Choose your own adventure! We went from trails rated easy, to trails rated advanced, to a trail rated medium. We came to the occasional obsticales on the black diamond trails that took excessive strength and endurance to cross.

There are (as you can tell from the name of the trail) an abundance of lakes that you can stand and view stoically. The air smells like sand and happiness. We love you, mitten!

Review! Cafe Serenity in Traverse City!

Hello Friends,

Pancake has informed me that I get a D for turning in my homework - this post - late. Oops, I'm a slacker. Sorry!! I know you all were just hanging on the edge of your seats for this one.

Anyway, the assignment was to review Serenity Tea Bar and Cafe, a delightfus hang-out spot for vegetarians, vegans and tea lovers in Traverse City. This little cafe, located on Front Street across from the movie theatre, boasts a long menu filled with animal-free food and a tea list that made me salivate. I love tea, and am always searching for new tea houses.

On our first visit, we split a large pot of Persian Peach White Tea (read about different kinds of tea here) while we waited for lunch. Tea at Cafe Serenity is served on a tray, and you get a pot of hot water, and an infuser filled with whatever delicious variety you chose. The tea is accompanied with a timer, so you know exactly how long to brew your type of tea. Ours was pleasantly mild, warm and contained subtle hints of sweet fruit in each sip. Relaxing in the open, inviting interior of the cafe is easy, but despite the zen of tea drinking, we couldn't. We were too excited for the food.
An order of portabella mushroom fries started off the meal. Served with a tangy vegan ranch dipping sauce, these fries were crispy on the outside, smokey and chewy on the inside. They were quickly devoured.

Cafe Serenity offers many different kinds of black bean burgers, and I chose the Ragun' Cajun for lunch. A zesty spiced patty, made in house, was served with chili sauce and the usual fixings - lettuce, onion, tomato. The flavors danced in my mouth. I was sad when it was over. My faithful companions were equally delighted with their selections, just two of many, many vegan options. And the prices are good, with most meals pricing out under ten dollars.

We love this place so much that we returned for a second visit on Wednesday afternoon, this time getting a pot of the Manitou Masala chai. We even scored some soy creamer! Cafe Serenity, we love you.
Looks of love. These are looks of love.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Polenta Fries & North Country Beer

Two great contributors to a great day:

1) Great Food

2) Great Drink

Given that, I made some tasty polenta fries, and in the process of doing so remembered just how easy it is to make something so delicious. I whipped up the bulk of it the night before, and fried them up into crispy tasty bits the following morning. Here goes!

Polenta Fries

1 part dry polenta (aka corn grits)
3 parts water or broth of choice
Salt & Pepper to taste
Optional: herbs like basil, rosemary, thyme, nutri-yeast (for cheesiness), garlic...anything you want your fries to taste like!

Remember when you're deciding on polenta & water quantities that the amount of water is more accurate for guessing how much polenta you'll have. For example, if you only want a small amount of polenta, using only a 1/2 cup grits and 1.5 cups water will give you an amount of polenta closer to 1.5 cups, don't be thrown off by the small dry volume!

Get the liquid boiling, and then slowly add in the grits. Lower the heat as it starts to thicken, then start seasoning it. Salt and pepper should go in first, then any dry herbs so they can hydrate and get around, and fresh herbs should go at the end so they don't overcook and lose their goodness. Let it simmer, stirring so it doesn't stick & burn, for about ten minutes to make sure all the grits are cooked through.

Then, spoon it out onto a greased/parchmented sheet pan, spreading it to a relatively even thickness, and chuck it in the fridge for at least a few hours or overnight. It will set up firmly when it's cool.

When you're ready for fries, slice the polenta into your desired size & shape, and then cook them up in a fryer, a hot pan, or under the broiler! Make sure to rotate them to crisp up on all sides; when tasty brown, remove and place on a paper towel & re-season lightly with salt, pepper, etc. Presto! Fries!

After nomming on these and other tasty snacks, we had to break. Xtina had a phone-terview to do, and I had arranged for a brewery tour at a favorite place of mine. Wishing X the best of luck in her interviewingness, Pancake and myself headed off into downtown TC, specifically the warehouse district, and stepped into the wondrous Right Brain Brewery.

 Even their railings are cool

This place is great. The atmosphere is unlike your typical bar and brewery. Many bars have "Mug Clubs", and so does RBB. But here, you get to paint your own mug! Creativity and booze discounts CLEARLY go hand in hand.

We got a little tour of their brew "house"/room, which just reaffirms their awesomeness. It's pretty small compared to most, yet in this small room, they are able to keep up an amazing selection by brewing about 4 times a week. The three person brewing staff and seven barrel system make happiness and sunshine regularly. Unfortunately, the space limitation means that they can only produce enough to sell on-site and distribute locally. Not enough to send down the mitten sadly.

I enjoyed a most delicious Black and Tan, made with The Hawk, an RBB Amber Ale, and The Crow, their American-Irish Stout. Superbly delicious. Even more awesome because it was the very first Black and Tan served there. And the owner, Russ, poured it for me himself after our tour. I was pretty damn happy.

Of course, Russ also offered Pancake a beer, not knowing that she really was not a fan of the genre. However, after a brief exchange with the 'cake, he offered up a sample of one of their Belgians. Russ, nay, Traverse City, had succeeded where so many before had failed, by producing a beer that Pancake found palatable enough to enjoy finish! Another fun surprise came when P said that she felt a little tipsy! Tipsy you say? After a mere sample, 3 ozs at most? How can this be, their Belgian, The Garnet, is only 6%, hardly stronger than the cider she's used to imbibing... And then it hits us. The beer that did what no other beer could was in fact their Belgian Trippel, brewed with Indian Coriander & California Orange Peel, weighing in at a solid 9.2% ABV.

Finished the visit with a pour of their Brown Donkey Smasher, an Imperial Brown Ale, and took my first sip as Xtina called to say her interview was done! Well, she got to sit tight for a few minutes while I savored my final drink, and then we were on our way back to the base.
Every visit to Right Brain ends far too soon...

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Womp, We're Winos.

A red wine! Ga-ga!

Can you handle it (Tell 'em, B).

Readers, it's Pancake. Now home from Traverse City, I am feeling a little blue. There are two pieces of advice I would like to give all of you: 1. Don't graduate. Ever. 2. If you go to Traverse City, DON'T LEAVE. The consequences are disastrous.

Anywho, so what's all this "womp, we're winos" about, you might be asking. Well, in the last couple of weeks, Xtina and I decided to start liking wine. To start MAKING ourselves like wine. To create a palate. Why? I suppose that the reasons are numerous. Because we are growing up. Because we need an excuse to drink together with some frequency. Because of our life theme ("Classy...to a point"). Because I dream of sitting alone in the Leelanau hills drinking a bottle of lavender wine in the warm sunshine. All of these are legit. All of these are true. We decided to begin our wine journeys, appropriately, in Michigan's wine country. Some of you may not know about Michigan's wine country. You may not know that it has a rather fantastic reputation. California gets a lot of press, so the mitten has trouble elbowing into the limelight. Michigan wine is very much worthy of exploration.

Our wining was split between two days, starting with our second in Traverse City. While enjoying a beautiful day in town, we stopped at a booze shop that advertised a SALE! SALE! SALE! Unfortunately, Michigan wines were not included in this blow-out, as they tend to sell quickly at full price. We went for one red (in homage to Lady Gaga), and one white. The red was compliments of Chateau Chantal, one of the many wineries in the Old Mission area. We oscillated between two of their offerings, one titled "Naughty" and one titled "Nice." "Naughty" was the drier variety, but the reason we wound up choosing it was simply because Lady Gaga would have wanted it that way.

I was rather persistent on selecting an ice wine for our white, knowing that it was something that my parents seemed to enjoy quite a bit. An ice wine is made from grapes that were frozen still on the vine. This makes them more concentrated (similar to what Beeardsmith did with the syrup). We walked away with Leelanau Cellars Vidal Ice Wine.

Upon returning to the condo that evening, we began the wine-liking with "Naughty." Given that I'm not yet a connoisseur, I'm not in with the lingo yet. Bear with me. I've tried red wine in sips in the past and have been unimpressed to disgusted. My face always cringes without prompting. This wine did not cause any such issues. I found it quite drinkable (if not yet LIKEABLE). It wasn't terribly sweet, nor bitter. It was just...mild, and pleasant. I drank three glasses, so I think that says a lot. We had an excellent, classy time with this beverage, as can be seen in our photogs. Classy. Friends. Wine. Classy.

Encouraged by this experience, we decided to take a break before spending the evening with the ice wine. We headed over to the main resort to enjoy the outdoor hot tub (we had it to ourselves!!) and all of the free products in the locker rooms. Free! Free stuff! Yeah! This gave our palates a chance to cleanse, and our buzzes to subside.

The ice wine was nothing short of excellent. I can't recommend that stuff enough. Bubbly, sweet, fresh...it tasted like winter and fairies. Our tastings were more limited this time, as the bottle was smaller. Such a tragedy. Had we enjoyed these wines properly, we would not have been idly sitting around the condo having arrogant conversation. Unfortunately, we didn't enjoy it as Lady Gaga would have us do so. She would have totally disapproved of our wearing pants. Sorry, Gags!

Our next foray into wine enjoyment came on St. Patrick's Day. Given that we all more or less hate this foolish yearly event, we decided to spend it doing other activities, like tea-drinking. Most notable was the evening, when we journeyed to Old Mission to do a wine tasting at Black Star Farms Winery. Just to get it straight right from the start, the property is stunning. I wish I could have stayed for ever and always. The wine tasting took place in a barn-like building. It was very classy inside. We felt equally classy (or maybe really out-of-place). A wine tasting is $3. You get to try five wines and receive a souvenir glass (if you come back with the glass, further wine tastings are free). My five selections were judged on a smiley-face grading system. I tried a sweet white called Be Dazzled, a Vintners Select, their award-winning Hard Apple Cider, the Late Harvest Riesling, and the Sirius Cherry Dessert wine. Of the Three Musketeers, I am the least exposed to wine, so my grades were often different than what my companions would have chosen. I will say this: the Late Harvest Riesling was one of the best things I've ever had to drink, and swirling the Sirius Cherry in your mouth with a bite of chocolate truffle is simply heavenly.

In the words of Beeardsmith: OHMYBORK!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Mexican Nite!!

Hello friends, X here blogging from Traverse City! More on that later. First, I'm going to take you back to Saturday night at Jayje's. The three musketeers convened with a mission – dinner. Me and Beerdsmith arrived armed with ambition and cookbooks. The night was young, and infinite culinary opportunities lay before us.
“Alright kids,” announced Jayje, “we better be making Mexican tonight. I've got a LOT of refried beans to get through. And fake cheese sauce, too.” Great. We set to brainstorming.

I had brought along one of my first – and favoritest – vegetarian cookbooks, Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home. Despite our recent lackluster meal at their restaurant in Ithaca, I still love and cook regularly from their recipes. It was a cold, rainy blah kind of day, so naturally I'd been thinking about soup. I paged through the book until I reached their tomato-lime soup recipe, which is ridiculously easy, and ridiculously tasty. It was a perfect start to Mexican night.

Tomato-Lime Soup, adapted from the Moosewood collective

3 gloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 46oz can of tomato juice (about 6 cups)
3-4 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped (or more if you're obsessed like me)
the juice of 1 small lime
salt and pepper to taste

Saute the cumin and garlic in a little oil, until the garlic is soft but not brown. Add the tomato and lime juice, and bring to a boil. Stir in the cilantro and salt to taste. Simmer for a few minutes, then lower the heat and keep warm until its time to eat. Serve with tortilla chips, and add a dash of hot sauce if you like.

Course number two was quesadillas! We had quite the spread of filling options:

-chopped tomato
-red pepper
-rainbow chard
-green onion
-vegan queso sauce
-refried beans
-cilantro YESSS

I took a tortilla, and spread one side with beans and the other with cheese. I quickly sauteed some mushrooms, red pepper and greens until the mushrooms were reduced, the chard bright green, and the pepper crisp-tender. I flung the veggies onto the tortilla, folded the thing in half, and fried in Pancake's wonderful cast iron skillet until the sides were crisp and brown.

You may think that a cheese-less quesadilla would be prone to falling apart. However, with an adequate application of beans and sauce, your quesadilla will remain intact, or at least until you stuff it into your mouth.

MMM iz good...

Pancake, enjoying dinner and working on the teen novel. Stay tuned.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

How to Build a Vegan Power Breakfast in Six Easy Steps

Step 1: Grab bread. I used a slice of flaxseed multi-grain bread, obtained for free with a coupon from my local upscale grocery store.

Step 2: Toast the bread.

Step 3: Thinly slice the apple of your choice. I really really like Empire or Gala apples for snacking.

Step 4: Spread peanut butter over the toasted bread and top with sliced apples.

Step 5: Drizzle the whole thing with maple syrup.

Step 6: Eat!

Now you're ready to go forth and conquer the day. Make me proud.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Romantic Italian Dinner for One

Wow. I feel like I'm kind of taking over the blog right now. Sorry about that, everyone. I guess I'm just on a roll. Or just really lame.

So, I love to cook (duh). I really love to cook FOR people. I am at heart, really, a bit of a romantic. I therefore love to cook romantic-esque meals. I don't have anyone to cook them for, so I sometimes make them for myself. I had such a night two days ago. This was the result:

I totally take after my dad in that my favorite variety of food is Italian. So much love for tomato sauce. When I come home late from work in Ann Arbor, I don't want to go through some big production (I've been known to go to great lengths to feed myself). So, like the pizza, this is very simple. I made enough vegetables for two meals, but everything else was single serving. I keep a bag of whole wheat pasta on hand (check the ingredients, pasta is sadly not often vegan), and I just scoop out 3/4 cup whenever I need some. I wish I could tell you the brand I bought, but I don't have the original packaging anymore. Alas. Bring a small pot of water to a boil and pour it in.

In the meantime, veggies.

3 tsp olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
3-4 mushrooms (your choice of variety), sliced
1 clove of garlic, chopped
2 leaves of rainbow chard, washed, chopped (discard the stems)
1 roasted red pepper (I get my fancy jar from Trader Joe's)
Salt and pepper to taste

**Kay, let's discuss seasoning here. I didn't season my veggies very heavily because the sauce I used was rather spicy. I didn't want to go and over-do that shit. I used Tuscan Sunset, a delightful mix of flavors brought to me by Penzey's Spices. Man, I love that place. Should you not have a generic Italian seasoning mix, no worries. Standard parts to such mixes include: basil, oregano, garlic, pepper, onion, marjoram...etc. You can easily whip up a little mix at home with what you have from this list in your pantry.

So, warm up your olive oil over medium-high heat, then add the chopped onions. Cook until translucent. Add garlic and mushrooms. After maybe 2 minutes, throw in that chard and red pepper, and start seasoning to your preference. Don't towel off your chard after you rinse it. The water on the leaves helps them to cook down nicely. I cooked mine for maybe another three or four minutes at this point. While this was going on, I poured a little pasta sauce into a glass bowl to heat up in the 'ol microwave. I have my own tomato sauce that I made and canned working on the farm last summer, but I don't know where it is. This was okay, as I was interested in trying some sauce I'd seen at the grocery store: Elenas. I am pleased to report that it was quite tasty, and worth the extra cash-the jar was about 6 bucks-for this meal (I wouldn't spend that much on sauce on a regular basis, but dammit this was my romantic meal and I was going to TREAT MYSELF!).

Putting it all together now. I drained the pasta, and put that down on my smiley plate first (my stance on meals is always to stay classy only to a point, hence smiley plate). Then I poured the sauce over, and finally, the veggies. To give yourself some nutritional UMPH, you might want to sprinkle some nutritional yeast over the top at this point. The day before I had purchased a miniature whole wheat baguette, so I had a few pieces of that along with. To drink, I picked up a bottle of JK Scrumpy's. This is the best hard cider around, and it comes from Flushing, MI. Admittedly, this was a poor choice to have WITH the meal, as it has a very strong (and delicious) flavor. Like pie. Alcoholic pie. When my mom came home, she took a whiff and said it smelled like vinegar and was probably gross. I'm glad I had a glass while I could, because she and my dad finished off the bottle over the course of the evening. Livin' with the parents. Drinkin' your booze.

"You can't just eat good food. You've got to talk about it too. And you've got to talk about it to somebody who understands that kind of food." -Kurt Vonnegut

Monday, March 8, 2010

Spring! Pizza! Sore butt!

You may be curious as to why I am totally rocking out on what appears to be an air guitar in this picture. The answer is simple: FIRST ROAD RIDE OF THE SEASON! WHOOT! It warmed up all nice-like today, so the game was on. I threw on my brand-new cow socks (created by Sock Guy-a true gift to the cycling world), grabbed my Redline 'cross bike (AKA Bruce-my honey #1) from his basement den, got him and myself primed to go and hit the road. Ah, first ride of the season. Hello, quads, where have you been? Getting back into traffic patterns, heart-rate sky-rocketing from a turtle pace, bloodshot eyes, crotch in unaccustomed agony--yup, must be time for base miles. Every road season starts with the base miles, and I began my countdown at 400. Base miles are great, cuz they're slow. In a month, the base miles will be behind me, and the real work begins. No more rocking out on air guitar. Base miles: The pleasant prelude to anguish.

Anyhow, that's totally not what I was going to talk about today. I was going to talk about the foodings I made for a climbing gym staff potluck last night--vegan pizza and vegan banana cake.

(This makes a lot of dough, like 3 pizzas worth, so you can leave some in the fridge for later pizza endeavors)
2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1 tsp granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups warm water
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 T salt
2 tsp olive oil

Dissolve yeast and sugar in the warm water. Let it rest until it foams up, or doubles in size. This takes 3 minutes or so. If you have a kitchen aid, or a big, gnarly food processor, this is the time to use it. Put the salt and flour into the mixing bowl for one of these machines, and mix it up. Turn the mixer on low, and then start adding the liquid slowly. Once a dough ball is formed, let it run for another 30 seconds to knead the dough. Coat the dough ball with olive oil and put it in a plastic bag and knot the top. Let the dough rise in a warm place (I like to use the oven with the light on) for about 45 minutes.

Place the dough on a floured surface, FACE PUNCH IT DOWN, and let it rest for 5 minutes. Take off a chunk, roll out the desired size pizza, and place on oiled or cooking sprayed pan.

Tofu ricotta, courtesy of the Post Punk Kitchen. I halved the recipe, as I only made one pizza
Tomato sauce
Basil Pesto
Nutritional yeast
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 red pepper, chopped
Mushrooms, chopped
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

This is pretty straightforward. Preheat the oven to 400. You want it on for a good while, as this is best for cooking pizza. First, I made the tofu ricotta. Then I heated about a tablespoon or so of olive oil in a medium pan. I threw in my chopped onion and sauteed until translucent, then added the pepper and mushrooms. I cooked them for a few minutes, salted and peppered, then removed from the heat. I mixed my tomato sauce with the basil pesto and a few tablespoons of nutritional yeast. Spread the sauce over the dough, spread the tofu over the sauce, spread the veggies over the tofu, and BAP-you're ready to oven that shit. I baked mine for maybe 18 minutes.

Now, the banana cake...This was me trying to veganize a very NOT VEGAN recipe my mom and I picked up at Penzey's Spices. Although the cake turned out, I was not entirely pleased with it. My co-workers agreed that it perhaps "missed the mark," but was still very good. The overwhelming opinion was "it needs more banana." The unvegan recipe had called for a mere one banana, and then a whole crap-ton of eggs (1 crapton= 5 eggs). I used two bananas, one of those replacing two of the eggs in the recipe. I used other egg replacers for those remaining. In the future, I know to just go all out and replace them ALL with banana. I'm not going to post a recipe because I think it needs work, but here is a photog:

Carly got to lick my hands after I was done baking, and she thoroughly approved.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Cat bone! Cat bone!

My dog is dreaming. She must be kicking a squirrel with her back leg.

Last night, it was time for the ladiez to come together for a debriefing. It had been a while since our last time all together. Each of us is going through our own set of struggles, so sometimes we just need to come together to barf them all out (sometimes literally, sometimes figuratively!). It sounds depressing, but it can be very helpful. Never underestimate the importance of friends in troubled times. When you have a group of people that can be made to laugh at their plights, things can feel moderately improved.

We gathered in Dearborn to spend the evening with Un-lawyer's family. We began the night with a group reading session. Xtina and I have begun writing a teen novel that will someday make us wealthy. Not rich, WEALTHY. We will perhaps post excerpts for you in the future. When it is published, you should go out and purchase it. Group reading sessions can be very therapeutic, especially when you have something funny to read! And change your voice up for different characters. That makes it more fun. Un-Lawyer also gave us all a short taste of Moonlight: A Parody. An excellent spoof of Twilight.

But what's a REALLY great cheap hoot? BOARDGAMES, OF COURSE! Hurray! We're the type of people that prefer games with minimal rules, so our first choice for the night's entertainment was Apples to Apples. As an English major with a soft spot for comedic writing, this game of word absurdity is by far one of my favorites. It's easy, and it never really stops being funny. Ever. The only irritation is when you have a hand full of names. The names are never really fun.

This was a night of creativity, really, as the next game was Pictionary. A classic, but one with significantly more rules than Apples to Apples. Rules! NOOOO!

Somehow, we managed to understand the laws of the board, and had a rousing, successful game. Our team was unfortunately cursed to always roll a five and land on All Plays. Damn you, All Plays! Un-Lawyer's parents and sister had a knack for guessing the right answer before members of our own team could. Alas.

So I guess that's about it! The moral of this post? Uh...play boardgames!