Saturday, November 27, 2010

The King Stag

I'm making apple butter and canning it right now.

But more on that later.

For now, I wish to share with you a harrowing tale of how I, Pancake, became the savior of one Banana.

Arriving home at my parents dwelling in the suburbs of Detroit, I walked in the kitchen to find three bananas in the fruit bowl in various states of decay. Shocked, appalled, saddened, I made plans to somehow liberate them from their slow and useless deaths. Unfortunately, I knew that this would have to wait until the day after Thanksgiving, when I would have ample time. I am devastated to report that two of the bananas did not make it to that day.

But one did!

I took Banana into my gentle hands, and to the sink where in the natural light flowing through the windows it became abundantly clear that we couldn't save its leg (rather, the last inch and a half on one end), as it was black and a bit fuzzy. The rest of Banana was at prime ripeness for baking. We discussed options, and Banana settled on the following.

Giant Chocolate Chip Banana Cookie

Preheat oven to 350, and grease up a 9 inch diameter round cake pan.

1 medium banana mashed (Banana was large, but having removed the end, I'd say medium)
1/2 cup vegan cane sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
3/4 cup safflower oil
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3 Tbsp water
A couple handfuls chocolate chips

In a large bowl, mix together the mashed banana, the sugar, and the oil until well combined. Sift in and mix the flour, baking soda, and salt. When this is all thoroughly incorporated, throw in the baking powder and the 3 tablespoons of water until everything comes together as a delicious cookie dough. Finally, mix in the chocolate chips to your taste. Spread the cookie dough evenly in the pan, and bake for about 30 minutes, or until top is brown and cookie seems cooked through. Allow to cool in the pan for some time before cutting, so you don't screw it up, CHUMP.

Proceed to mow down.

My dad really, really liked these.

May the force be with you, Banana.

Friday, November 26, 2010

How-To: Butternut Squash Tutorial

Fall fall fall. My favorite season. I'm told that a love of autumn is one sure sign that a person is from Michigan. We DO get glorious, glorious falls. And bevy of winter squash recipes flood the local food universe.

The autumn glory of the mitten-shaped state does, however, come with an expiration date. I'm not quite sure when that is, but eventually the leaves fall from the trees, the temperature nosedives and the sky becomes that slate gray overcast color for a seeming eternity. The sun sets at 5:03pm.


Butternut squash recipes live on!

The Oops! team has spent the last couple months eating squash of all kinds. This year (along with years past), I've noticed that while many recipes featuring butternut squash exist everywhere, almost all of them start with something similar to this:

"3 cups butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks."

I used to read sentences like this, then steal a glance at the large, bulbous, vaguely phallic vegetable sitting on the counter, and feel a creeping sense of dread. Fear. Anxiety. Feelings one should NEVER associate with a gift as delicious and healthful as the butternut squash.

Well, after a fall of practice, I finally feel confident hacking apart any butternut squash that comes my way. Here's how I go from this:


to this:


1. Assemble your tools. I use a big cutting board, a sharp knife, a kitchen mallet, a spoon and a bowl.

2. Laying the squash on its side, cut the sucker in half crosswise. Use the force, but safely. Depending on the size of the squash, I may or may not need to use a mallet to help drive my knife. This cut gives you two flat surfaces that are nice and stable to work with.


3. Take the bulbous end and set it flat-side-down on the cutting board. Chop the sucker in half.


4. Using your spoon, scrape away the seeds and pulp and set aside to throw in the compost bin. Setting the squash on its flat side, carefully peel the squash using your knife. I think this is much easier than using a vegetable peeler.


5. I like to clear the cutting board of peels as I go. Once you've cleaned up, set a peeled squash half on its flat side and cut into slices, then chunks. Be mindful of the stability of your slices - sometimes I try to stack too many slices at once, and they start to slip around. BETTER SAFE THAN SORRY.


6. Repeat with the other half of the bulb. You're halfway done!

7. Next, attack the top half of the squash. If you find your squash lacking in flat, stable sides to cut from, create your own! Show that squash who's holding the knife in this relationship!


8. Peel, baby, peel.

9. Slice and chunk. Throw the chunks in a bowl. You're doing it!

10. You're done!!


Remember, practice makes perfect. The more you try, the better you'll get and the more confidence you'll build. But what became of this squash featured here, you ask? Stay tuned...

Thursday, November 25, 2010


Hey folks - Happy Thanksgiving!

I have mixed feelings about today's holiday. On the right hand, I think it's fabulous to have a holiday that's - theoretically - about gratitude. And food. Food and gratitude. Plus, I'm lucky enough to only have fond memories of Thanksgivings past with my family and loved ones. And mashed potatoes. Mashed potatoes are my loved ones.

On my left hand, however, I can't can't help but feel like the entire holiday is based on the fact that we Americans are merely thankful that the Indians taught us how to plant corn before we executed a mass genocide on their ethnic groups. Then genetically modified the shit out of their corn.

Not to mention, it's a little alienating to be the only vegetarian in a family of meat-embracers. It's hard for me to participate in a day based around the preparation and consumption of factory-produced meat and vegetables.

Maybe by holidays of the future, I'll have figured out a better way to balance these mixed feelings. As of right now, all I can do is created an epic vegan plate for myself, and look forward to creating new and more ethical holiday traditions in the future.

My fellow vegetarians and vegans, we have much to be thankful for. And today, a turkey is thanking you!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

400 babies

Today the gym was overrun by children of all ages. Children running. Children yelling. Children swinging Tarzan-style on ropes. Children in my ABC class.

There is, however, good news.

Today is a joyous day, as it marks the last 3-6 year-old climbing classes for the fall. After a massive birthday party this afternoon, I get to enjoy two weeks off before I have to start re-teaching those little heathens how to clip to ropes and climb up walls again. Bliss!

And to celebrate, cookies! Cookies! Celebrate!

Chocolate Chip Coconut Macadamia Shortbread

2/3 cup palm shortening, or vegetable shortening. Whatever.
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup coconut flour
3/4 cup white whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
Small handful each of:
Chocolate chips
Coconut flakes
Macadamia nuts

Preheat oven to 350. In a bowl, stir up the shortening so that it's nice and smooth. Not globby. Mix in the powdered sugar until well incorporated, and then the vanilla. In another bowl, mix together the flours, salt, and baking soda. Add them to the shortening bowl and mix together until you have a crumbly dough. You might have to use your hands, if you lack a mixer as I do. Finally, add in all the goodies and make sure they are mixed in thoroughly. Press into the bottom of a prepared 8in diameter circular pan, and throw in the oven. Bake until the top is lookin' golden brown (I think mine was in there around 20 minutes. Just check in on it!). Remove, and cool until set before attempting to cut it!

Friday, November 19, 2010

How to Survive in a Non-Vegan World

Some lessons I learned over the 4 days I was trapped in a conference center buried deep in terrifyingly paved big box store land 45 minutes outside Chicago:

1. Calling ahead to confirm the presence of vegan food means nothing. NOTHING. So you better come prepared. This means packing your own snacks - I brought a disgusting amount of curried cashews, a bag of trail mix, fruit leather, and two bars of chocolate. Note that I didn't include any fresh vegetables. This proved to be a mistake.

2. Befriend the waitstaff. They can - and will - hook you up with secret dishes from the kitchen. After a ten minute chat, I managed to score a plate of roasted vegetables and a cup of amazing lentil soup being served in the restaurant. I received more than a few dirty looks from my miserable veggie comrades as they forced down yet another bowl of mushy pasta from the buffet, but it was worth it.

3. When you're forced to have meals with 260 new people every single day, you better believe that someone is going to notice you're not eating the pork chops, and launch into the dreaded "are you a vegetarian? why??" song and dance. Practice your elevator speech - I've got mine down to a 30 second vegetarian manifesto. Try not to groan when they reply, "that's awesome, but I could NEVER give up cheese!!"

You will face unbelievable odds, but persevere anyway. Every time you step out of your comfort zone - in this case it was my comfy local and veggie food bubble - you learn something new. A good attitude goes a long way. Orange juice on your cereal is actually kind of good.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Kitchen Lab turned Kitchen Success!


For quite some time I've been interested in attempting to cook risotto. Yes, that glorious, creamy rice dish. The issue has been time, as risotto requires 20 minutes of undivided attention. I finally decided to get down to learning and experimenting.

Now, let me explain how things generally work with new kitchen challenges. They are often failures, and take repeated efforts. Typically, I write down the things I am doing while I make them, that way I can blog everything I did without having to pull from memory later. But when "Kitchen Lab" is the name of the game, I don't usually write anything down on the first go, as the chance of success is so minimal. I figure I'll just report on the process.

But was an unexpected and delightful success. And I simply must share it.

Impossibly Vegan Creamy Winter Squash Risotto

Your FAVORITE winter squash, or whatever you have on hand
1 large onion, chopped
2 1/2 T Earth Balance or other butter substitute
3 cups vegetable broth
1 cup arborio rice
Olive oil
1/3 cup dry white wine, ROOM TEMP
Black pepper
Garlic powder
Dried parsley

First, I cooked up my winter squash (I used delicata, as that was simply what I had on hand) in the microwave. I just cut it in half, and laid it face down upon a plate. I then microwaved it until it was soft to touch (about 5 minutes. May be more for your squash). The squash was carved out and food processed until smooth.
Meanwhile, in a medium-sized pot I melted about 2 1/2 T of the Earth Balance, and then threw in the chopped onion to cook until translucent.
While my onions were cooking down, I divided my attention between them and preparing my vegetable broth. I have the cubes, so I mixed the appropriate amount in with my 3 cups of water and brought that to a simmer.
When the onions became translucent, I removed them from the pot using a slotted spoon, allowing the EB to drip back into the pot, before setting them aside in a bowl. With the onions cleared out, I was free to throw in my rice. As this point, I felt that their wasn't quite enough EB left at the bottom of the pot for this rice sautee, so I just drizzled a slight amount of olive oil on the top. This is when your constant attention will be needed up until the end. Stir the rice constantly, so it doesn't stick to the bottom, for about 6 or 7 minutes as the rice becomes a little translucent. Do NOT let it burn (I was on low-medium heat), as you don't want the outside of the rice to start flaking off. After this time elapsed, I poured in my room temperature white wine (IMPORTANT- Cold wine will shock the rice and crack the outside. NOOO!), and allowed it to evaporate. When it was mostly gone, I started to add the broth a ladle at a time.
This is when you start building that classic risotto creaminess. Allow the broth to cook down, but make sure to add the next ladle BEFORE the last is entirely evaporated. You never want the rice to dry out. Done appropriately, the rice should be al dante by the time you finish (or maybe just a bit on the soft side, depending on how you prefer it).
When the last ladle was added, I continued to cook the rice, but removed it from heat before all the broth was cooked away. At this point, it was looking nice and creamy. I added in my squash, which was about 3/4 cup, and stirred until all incorporated. I then added salt and pepper to my tastes, about 1/4-1/2 tsp or so granulated garlic, and a couple of sprinkles of the dried parsley. The results were FANTASMIC. I wanted to just eat it all right then, even though I had prepared the dish for my dinner tonight at work. At least now I have something to look forward to!

My shaman friend Uncle Walter even came to the kitchen to see what smelled so good.

I learned a lot about this dish by doing some research on the interblag. I googled risotto, and read through pages of suggestions. I'm generally not a fan of wikipedia, but I found the entry on risotto fascinating.

Coming up tomorrow, or maybe Saturday: What the HELL are the Oops! poverty corners?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

When do cats hit terminal veloctiy?

Hello, friends.

I managed to keep my kitchen clean for 24 hours...up until now. I wasn't planning on cooking or baking anything today. I usually don't have much time on days that I work, since I work from 3-10 or 3-11 on the weekdays. That being said, it's nice to cram it in when I can because taking the creations to work for taste-testing is ideal. Climbers like snacks.

So I was initially just going to grocery shop, ride in the chill, and hammer out my winter work schedule before going in today...until I considered apples. Apples, which are good. Apples, which are delicious. I thought about putting them in things, on things, under things, through things...and then I freaked the fuck out and made THIS.

Now, there are problems with rushing recipes before work. Namely, that when you see potential problems in consistency, you say "Oh, fuck it, I'm gonna just roll with it!" No back-tracking. Back-tracking is a non-option. What I'm trying to say is, the structural integrity of this piece wasn't PERFECT. I mean, it wasn't horrible by any means. It definitely stayed to together very well. The center just collapsed a tiny bit. Really, I don't know why I'm complaining. It didn't turn out like your standard quick bread. In fact, it was kind of like a coffee cake to me. You know what? I'm going to call this a coffee cake. I have that right. All that matters is, it was DELIGHTFUS. I took it to work and it was scarfed down very rapidly, and all who dared to try it transcended to some greater state of being.

Cinnamon Apple...Coffee Cake? Thing.
Preheat oven to 350. Chop up your favorite flavor apple into small pieces.
In a small bowl, mix:
1 3/4 cup whole wheat white flour
1 T baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cloves
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
3 T ground flaxseed

Set that aside. In a larger bowl, mix:
3/4 c light brown sugar
1/2 cup vegan cane sugar
1 cup safflower oil
1/2 cup soymilk

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir to combine. Mix in about 2/3 cup chopped apple. Spread in your standard bread pan, and throw in the oven. Meanwhile, mix in a small bowl:
3 T melted vegan butter sub
3 T brown sugar
7 T flour
It should get crummy. I baked the coffee cake bread thing for about 45 minutes. With 15 or so minutes to go, I spread this little mix over the top to crisp up. Remove from the oven after the 45 minutes are up, and let it cool in the bread pan for quite some time before tipping it out to let it cool further. It wasn't what I had initially envisioned, but it turned into something glorious. Something I would want to serve with vegan ice cream and warm syrup. Or just plain. As it is.


Saturday, November 13, 2010

The pictures every Michigan parent has of their child.

Hiking. It's cheap fun. You don't need a lot of shit to go walk in the woods for a day.

Sleeping Bear and Traverse City

Friday, November 12, 2010

You should get a bear tattooed on your ass.

Vacation's over! Vacation's over! WHY. WHY. We had to leave the Traverse City Penthouse, and my best pal and I parted to our respective, distant homes (but not for much longer! Xtina will soon be moving nearby. Epic blogging will happen often!).

The memories of vacation linger, however. As do the tastes. As promised, the DESSERT from Wednesday night's lovely meal.

Butternut Squash Cranberry Walnut Bread Pudding

Say that ten times fast, bitches.

1 loaf cranberry walnut bread (it's usually best if it's a day old or so)*
1 1/2 cups non-dairy milk (we used almond)
1 1/4 cups butternut squash (thanks Frog Holler!), cooked and mashed
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2/3 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup flour

*Our bread came from Pleasanton Bakery in TC. Yum.

Preheat oven to 350. Slice the bread into 1x1 inch cubes (I mean, you could do them smaller if you wanted. I just did it that size). Set aside. Mix together "milk", squash, spices, and syrup until well combined. Sift in flour and stir until mostly incorporated. It will be VERY liquid-y. But we're gonna amend that shit with some HEAT, son. Place this mixture into a saucepan, and heat over medium-low heat, stirring constantly. You will see your mixture gradually start to thicken over time. When it has the consistency of, perhaps, a chowder-esque soup, it's time to remove it from the heat. In a casserole dish, pour some of the pudding mixture over the bottom. Then layer on some of the bread. Then layer some pudding. Then layer some more bread. Get it? Continue this until everything is used up. I would make sure to finish with the pudding mixture on top. Get it? Got it? HOLD IT.

Let's put this sexy dish in the oven. Ours was in there approximately 35 minutes. At the 28-ish minute mark, I took the dish out and sprinkled it with large coconut flakes, so they would toast (CLASSY). Let it cool just a bit before mowing down.


Realizing that this masterpiece needed ice cream, Xtina, myself, and guest Nick ran to Tom's (the grocery store) to score some vegan-friendly variety of this frozen delight. Lady Gaga guided the journey. We chose a caramel breed.

The end result (I misspelled that relust before correcting it. I don't think that was necessarily wrong, though):
Bread pudding+caramel ice cream+spiced chocolate shavings+bottle of Black Star Farms Be Dazzled wine (an excellent contribution from our guest)

Go forth.

Classy. To a Point.

This somewhat blurry photograph proves two things about the Oops! team:

1. We don't need a man to light our fireplace


2. We're always keeping it classy. To a point. What's classier than playing Zelda in a Traverse City penthouse? Playing it next to a roaring fire.

We're hoping you've checked out our recent comeback post about sweet potato curry burgers. Pancake expertly crafted tender, savory patties that each of us could JAZZ UP to our liking. And jazz up we did. I'm going to break down for you, dear reader, how you can boost the sophistication on your plate with some classy ingredients.

First, we started with some infused extra-virgin olive oil. Ours came from Fustini's, but it's super easy to infuse your own - just stuff some aromatic shit in a bottle of oil!

Secondly, braise your greens.

Braise –verb (used with object), braised, brais·ing. to cook (meat, fish, or vegetables) by sautéeing in fat and then simmering slowly in very little liquid

Sounds classy, doesn't it? Here at Oops! we avoid meat and fish, but we eat a LOT of kale. This champion of greens gets especially tasty when the weather turns to winter. To top our burger, we used Dinosaur kale, sauteed with ginger and braised in vegetable stock for 15 minutes or so.

Thirdly, don't just use regular onions in your dish- use carmelized onions instead. Caramelizing onions is easy! Just coat the suckers in your infused olive oil and cook over low heat, stirring often, until they look toasty brown and taste like candy.

We started the onions before anything else, and kept them going until everything was complete. What I'm trying to say is that they cooked for probably 40 minutes or so while we created our bean burger patties, braised the kale, toasted the bread, and drank a glass of wine or two.

Wine? Classy.

Another elegant ingredient we added to our burgers was roasted bell peppers - you may have noticed them peeking out beneath the delicious patty. Roasted bell peppers come either in a jar at the store or from your own oven, where they can be charred to your liking.

Are you noticing a pattern yet? To create swank, all you need to do is take normal ingredients and bump them one notch. ROASTED peppers. BRAISED kale. INFUSED oil. Fancy sea salt flakes, a garnish of cilantro, and scattered pomegranate seeds were also a part of this meal. All you need, in the end, is a little attitude.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

I just want to get a bottle so I can put a fish in it.


We've come back.

The times changed, and the bloggers went separate ways, and Oops! was lost. We knew that it wasn't forever, and that the time would come for its gallant return. We waited until the moment was right, and that moment, my friends, is now. And Oops! will be better than ever!

We blog to you from the Traverse City penthouse (a place we have blogged from before--go back to spring). This epic return will be done in a SERIES of posts--although this trip North is short, we have much to impart. It may take us several days to get all the posts done.

Right off the bat, we have some excellent recipes to share with you, and we hope you give them a try. We had a fine dinner together with a long-lost friend here in Traverse, and it engaged many components.

Now let me say, I've eaten, and made, a lot of veggie burgers. Sometimes they turn out really crappy, sometimes they're pretty good. This recipe? BOMBER. Definitely the best I've ever made, if not one of the best I've ever HAD. Are you ready for this?

Sweet Potato Curry Burgers

1 medium sweet potato, cooked and mashed
1 cup black beans, cooked or canned
1/3-1/2 cup rolled oats
3 cloves garlic, chopped
Pepper and salt, to taste (I threw in some flakes of sea salt as well, for a pleasant surprise bite here and there)
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder (want to learn how to make your own? Worry not! A stellar mix is on the way! The one we used for this recipe, in fact...)
Olive oil

To prepare my sweet potato, I stabbed it with a fork, wrapped it in a towel, and microwaved in 2 1/2 minute intervals until it was soft. I then peeled the skin (and ate it) before mashing the innards. Add the cup of black beans to the sweet potato, and mash in with a fork (This leaves many of the beans smashed, but some of them whole. I find this pleasant in a veggie burger). Mix in the remaining ingredients until well-incorporated. Meanwhile, heat some oil in a pan over medium heat. When it has come to temperature, form patties (whatever size you want, I suppose. We got about 4 out of it) and cook them until done! It was about 7-10 minutes per side, for our batch.

We served up this beautiful sandwich with some EXTRA. CLASSY. layers. Want to stay as classy as this sandwich? Worry not, we've got he hook-up.

Stay 'tooned for posts on Extra Classy Ingredients (the ones on this exquisite sandwich as well as others), the DELICIOUS dessert we had, wine pairings, and more. We've got lots to tell you all.