Thursday, October 31, 2013

Lazy vegan is lazy. So let me lay my soul bare.

I'm sorry, everyone. I've been a slacker. I have no excuses. I'm a lazy bum.

Recently, David and I had some guests over for dinner (David is my husband, for those who had forgotten during the hiatus). In true lazy fashion, I did not go to my two shelves (two shelves!) of vegan cookbooks to help me prepare. Instead, I made a "foolproof" non-vegan main dish and a handful of vegan sides. I realized a few things while preparing this meal:
  1. I love cooking, and I miss making delicious mad science in the kitchen. 
  2. I have reached the point that I can no longer prepare non-vegan food without gagging multiple times. This means I need to make vegan food more often so I can feel comfortable doing so when guests come over, so that delicious and hearty meals can become the new "foolproof" favorites.
  3. This is the most important one: I miss this blog. Real Vegan Food has brought together two of my creative passions. Cooking and writing are both creative arts that require skillful preparation. This blog has given me a means to develop and hone these two skills at the same time, and I need to resume updating for that reason alone.
Over the coming weeks, there will be some new recipe content, but I intend to spend a little time in site design as well to make browsing more user-friendly. I have the time. I have no excuses. I need to do it.

Tomorrow is November 1, which means the beginning of National Novel Writing Month. I will be participating. In addition to writing gobs and gobs and gobs of fiction words, I plan to plunge back into sharing my vegan cooking adventures, as well. I have a few recipes ready (pictures and all), but I never sat down to write. Now, I have regained my motivation, and hope to regain my momentum once I get going again. I make no promises about update schedules. Life gets busy, and I would rather commit to producing quality over quantity.

Thanks for your patience, everyone. Again, I'm sorry for the unexplained absence. I'm also sorry if the writing quality is lacking in this entry. I should have been in bed three hours ago, and my vision grows blurry with sleepiness as I type this. 
I will continue to strive to improve in my endeavors.

Keep it real,
Erin

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Small delays

Sorry, folks.

There's going to be a small delay in the rest of this week's entries. One of my kittens was injured (most likely playing too rough with his brother) on Monday night, and I've been doting on him and worrying over him until I've had the chance to get to the vet. He's fine (so says the vet), so I can stop worrying.

Unfortunately, my work schedule has gotten really demanding this week, so I have to choose between writing blog entries and getting sufficient sleep so I can properly do my job.

So. Sorry!

There will be three more entries in this week's archives: Spicy Lo Mein, Oriental-Style Broccoli Salad, and Sweet and Sour Tofu. They should be up by Saturday night. The tofu dish will be, at least. I've had a number of requests for it. *sunny smile*

Goodnight, all. Thanks for bearing with me.

Keep it real,
Erin

Monday, June 24, 2013

Szechuan Pickles

Good morning, friends!

Many of my readers who know me personally know that about once a month, I go out of town for a weekend to LARP (the link takes you to the homepage of the group I LARP with, and it explains what LARPing is). Some weekends, we hold a feast during the game. In February, we had a feast with a Chinese theme, for which I actually supplied a few authentic Chinese recipes. This is one of those. These pickles were a hit at the LARP; several people begged me for the recipe, so here it is!

Szechuan Pickles

YOU NEED:


Cucumbers
Salt
Brown sugar
Peppercorns
Hot chili paste
Sesame oil
Rice vinegar
Garlic

---

STEP ONE:

Slice the cucumbers into slender spears about 2 inches long.


I used two cucumbers.


The third is in the top left corner for scale, to show how many spears two cucumbers actually make.

Put the slices in a strainer in the sink.


Pour at least a tablespoon of salt over the slices.


Mix the salt and cucumber slices well.


This is to help release some of the water and make the pickles a bit more crispy.

Leave the cucumber to drain for an hour or two.

---

STEP TWO:

Once the salted spears have drained, put them in a mixing bowl.


Add a good amount of garlic. I used a heaping teaspoon full.


Add a teaspoon of peppercorns...


...a couple teaspoons of hot chili paste...
(the recipe calls for a lot more, but I didn't want to make them too spicy this time)


...2 teaspoons brown sugar...


...1 tablespoon of vinegar...


...and 2 tablespoons of sesame oil.


Mix everything together.


Let it sit either at room temperature or in the refrigerator for at least a few hours. This allows the flavors to blend properly.

---

THE END!

These pickles are quite tasty, but be warned: the spiciness builds slowly while you eat them. If you try one and say "Eh, it's not that spicy," wait before you start eating them too quickly. After a minute or so, you'll start to feel the burn.
The original recipe called for a few ingredients I didn't have on hand. Instead of a few teaspoons of hot chili paste, you're supposed to use 1 teaspoon of hot bean paste and 2 tablespoons of hot chili oil. The original recipe also calls for brown peppercorns, but I used black instead.

Keep it real,
Erin

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Sweet Stuff Sunday: Chocolate-Covered Stuffed Lychees

Good evening, friends!

I apologize for the delay in today's post. I was busy cooking everything that will show up during this coming week's entries! Well, nearly everything.
I had wanted to make a special week full of delicious Chinese food around Chinese New Year this year, but life conspired against me. This week, I can make up for all that with a few recipes I had intended to post along with a few new things! It's Chinese New Year in June! But not really.

Today's post is from a cookbook of vegan Chinese food, but I'm not convinced that it's authentic traditional Chinese cuisine. From my limited experience, "dessert" usually consists of a little fresh fruit, if anything. However, these little delights are tasty enough for me to overlook the fact that it's not true Chinese food. It's sweet stuff, and that's all that matters to me!

Chocolate-Covered Stuffed Lychees

YOU NEED:


Canned Lychees
Vegan semisweet chocolate
Candied Ginger

---

STEP ONE:

Drain the lychees.


What are lychees? Lychees are what they are. They're quite sweet, and the texture is somewhere between a plum and a grape.

Wrap the lychees in a towel to dry them off.


(It's pronounced "lee-chee," by the way.)

---

STEP TWO:

Put some wax paper on a baking sheet.


Don't ask why I brought out two baking sheets. You only need one.

After an hour or so, when the lychees are well-drained and dry, place them in neat rows on the wax paper.


---

STEP THREE:

Break the candied ginger into smallish pieces.


Gently put a few pieces of ginger into the hollow of each lychee.


As you fill the lychees, place them back on the baking sheet.


---

STEP FOUR:

If you have a double boiler, use it. If not, get creative!


Once the water comes to a boil, or nears a boil, add your chocolate to the upper saucepan. Or whatever you call the part of the double boiler you put whatever isn't water. I've never used one, so I have no idea what I'm talking about.


Stir the chocolate as it melts, encouraging it to melt evenly.


Once it's all nice and melty...


Proceed to the next step.

---

STEP FIVE:

Gather a big spoonful of chocolate.


Gently place one of the stuffed lychees in the melted chocolate.


Roll it around until it's thoroughly covered with chocolate.


Roll the chocolate-covered lychee back onto the baking sheet.


Repeat with all the lychees. You may need to re-melt the chocolate if you've removed it from its water bath.


Be careful if any of your lychees are sort of falling apart. They will more than fall apart when sumberged in chocolate. Observe the confection in the top right corner.

Blaarrrrghhhh....

---

STEP SIX:

Put the lychees in the refrigerator so the chocolate sets. You can leave them in there for as long as you'd like. I let them set overnight.


Put them in another container if you'd like, or put them on a pretty plate to serve to company!

---

THE END!

David said it best: these chocolates make you think. They're like a work of fine modern art. The contrast of the flavors plays on your expectations in a delightful way. Rich chocolate, sweet and juicy fruit, and spicy ginger mingle together in a wonderful play of flavors. I would never have thought to combine these three things, but I am glad I did!

Keep it real,
Erin

Friday, June 21, 2013

Not-Egg-Salad Sammiches

Happy Friday, everyone!

As promised, I have delivered five recipes to you this week. Because I owe it to you, my wonderful, faithful readers. Because you're awesome.

Today's recipe is a follow-up of yesterday's vegan mayonnaise. I know some people just love to use mayonnaise in everything, but neither my husband nor myself are really mayo people. However, we are both sandwich people. Well, David likes sandwiches more than I do, but I still love a good sandwich. I especially have fond memories of egg salad sandwiches (fond because they were delicious and I loved knowing that I had a more refined palate than all the kids who refused to eat anything other than boring old PB&J. Seriously, they tried to bully me because I had an awesome sandwich. Taunts about my food never got under my skin; I knew what I was eating was delicious, and they obviously had no taste).

A cookbook I acquired recently has a fantastic recipe for a vegan alternative to egg salad that I modified only slightly. It also features the weirdest ingredient that I would never have thought to work with, but will now add to anything that requires an egg flavor (like scrambled not-eggs).

Not-Egg-Salad Sammiches

because "sammiches" feel better in the mouth than "sandwiches."

YOU NEED:


Extra-firm tofu
Celery
Soy sauce
Dijon mustard
Dill relish
Nutritional yeast
Pepper
Turmeric
Curry powder
Garlic powder
Onion powder
Ground turmeric
Celery seed
Black salt (more info below)

---

STEP ONE:

Take a long stalk of celery, or an equivalent amount (as shown here).


Slice it thin.


Dice it into small pieces.


Now, drain the tofu and put it in a large mixing bowl.


Crumble it with your hands.


Don't worry about making the pieces too small. Just break it apart.
(So much easier than boiling a bunch of eggs and then mashing them!)

---

STEP TWO:

Add 1 tablespoon of soy sauce to the tofu.


Add the celery.


Add 1¼ tablespoons of nutritional yeast (or more if you really dig the flavor).


Now add 1½ tablespoons of mustard...


...2 tablespoons of relish...


...½ teaspoon of turmeric...


...¼ teaspoon of curry powder...


... ¼ teaspoon of garlic powder...


...¼ teaspoon of onion powder...


... and ½ teaspoon of black salt.


We're not done yet, but I needed to stop to talk about this awesome salt. I had never heard of black salt before I read this recipe. I found it at an Indian grocery store not too far from where I work, tucked on the bottom shelf of the spice aisle. I had no idea what I was looking for. Contrary to my assumption, black salt is more of a light maroon color, but it definitely smells like egg. As soon as I added this ½ teaspoon to the mix, the whole kitchen smelled strongly of sulfur. Egg smell: achieved!

Now, toss in a good little bit of celery seed.


Finally, add 2 tablespoons of mayo...


...and a few good dashes of black pepper.


---

STEP THREE:

Stir everything together!


Make sure to mix everything thoroughly, but don't be too rough. You don't want to break up the tofu too much.
Or maybe you do. I can't really tell you want you want.
I didn't want to break up the tofu too much. How's that?


Once everything's mixed, leave it alone for a little while. This gives the flavors a chance to blend properly, and activates the yellow coloring in the spices you've added.

---

STEP FOUR:

After a few minutes (I think I took a shower or something, so fifteen or twenty minutes went by when I made it), stir it again, and put some on a piece of bread.


We're making a sammich, so put another piece of bread on top of the salad mixture.


Cut it in half (diagonally is the best way, of course, but that's just my opinion).


Hooray! It's a sammich!

---

THE END!

The result: a delicious sammich that tastes "just like the real thing." I hate using that phrase, since I'm learning more and more that "the real thing" isn't always the best thing.
My husband's only complaint was the texture; the tofu was too soft to be truly mistaken for eggs. I prefer a softer texture, but if you prefer a firm texture, press the tofu for 15-20 minutes, give or take, before crumbling it.
This does keep in the refrigerator fairly well, I assume, but we used it all up within a day or so, so I didn't have a chance to test that. The following day, though, it did have a more "eggy" flavor.

There you have it! An easy vegan not-egg-salad!

Keep it real,
Erin