Thursday, December 29, 2011

Leftover round-up = magic

Hey, I wasn't planning on posting anything today, but this came together so nicely I couldn't resist.  I had some leftover tofu fakin' (thinly sliced tofu that had been marinating in soy sauce, maple syrup, and liquid smoke), sweet potatoes, half an avocado, and some arugula that badly needed eating.  So I made what I'm calling fakin' sweet potato hash.  First I sauteed the fakin' until it was nice and crispy, then the sweet potatoes (I had the equivalent of two medium-sized ones), some pepitas, and half an onion until they were brown.  Then I turned the heat off and stirred in the avocado, some whole-grain mustard, and smoked paprika, and served the whole mess atop a bed of arugula.  This was really good!  Funny how I've made several highly engineered meal enterprises that turned out less than fabulous (see my last post)--meanwhile this improvised slop was totally gourmet and delicious.  Go figure.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

It just wouldn't be the holiday season without a lingering sense of disappointment....

Gather 'round while I give you the pertinent details behind this meal.  Everyone settled in?  Good, because this may take while....  

Did you ever have a favorite food experience that reached mythical proportions in your memory once it was no longer accessible?  I'm not positive this phenomenon has to be restricted to one-time eating experiences, although such cases may be particularly likely to lead to potent future obsessions.  I'm talking about eating something that you absolutely fall in love with, and then you are somehow tragically cut off from that something.  Maybe you move away from the restaurant that sold it, maybe they stop offering it on the menu, maybe (as in the present case) the place goes out of business.  Regardless of how, you are now stone-cold S.O.L.  

Or are you?!?! Maybe you can reverse-engineer your beloved food obsession!!!  Oh sure, you may hear objections from gloomy skeptics (like your very own mother, just say for instance, who may be nursing her own tragic obsession with the exact same food item).  Such pessimistic nay-sayers may try to tell you it can't be done.  They may insist that you leave the past in the past, that you are setting yourself up for further heartbreak.  They may further insist that the reason your beloved object tasted so great was because it was cooked on a grill with grisly meat products, which you (as a vegan) are in no position to simulate.  

Yet you (despite a reputation to the contrary) are not a pessimist.  You are a confident cook who knows her way around a kitchen.  So you set out to resurrect the world's best tempeh burger from beyond the grave.  You don't even really like tempeh all that much usually, preferring tofu and seitan, but something about this burger was magic and you are determined to recreate it.  It was smoky, blackened, and served with grilled mushrooms and green chile.  You start by marinating your tempeh overnight in soy sauce, tomato paste, liquid smoke, and brown sugar.  You make your very own homemade sesame seed buns.  You make a slaw and sweet potato fries for sides, and you grill up some red onions, mushrooms, and chile to go with the veganaise and Tofutti slices you procured.  After frying up the tempeh, you assemble it all, and it looks, well, pretty much perfect***.  

Then you sit down to eat, and it tastes, well, disappointing.  It's certainly not bad, but it's just not quite right.  The condiments are pretty much spot-on, but the burger itself is lacking something, a certain smokiness,'s hard to say exactly what.   The texture is part of the problem in that your burger is a little mushy, lacking the crispiness of the original.

So now what? Keep trying or concede defeat? Anybody got a great technique for cooking up crispy tempeh burgers?  Or is the problem not with the food, but with the memory of something so perfect that any real-life facsimile is bound to disappoint?

***seriously, usually my food looks pretty questionable, but this is pretty much textbook, no?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Recent noms I have loved, etc.

Hey everyone, here are a few things we've eaten/drank/snuggled with around the house lately for your possible viewing pleasure (I don't want to get presumptuous :)).  

Woke up kind of late one morning and needed to fix some fast, easy lunch for work.  Usually I like to have a salad but we didn't have any greens in the house, so I threw some quinoa, lentils, broth, and curry powder in the rice cooker first thing after getting up.  After I'd finished getting ready, the quinoa/lentils were cooked, and I stirred in some cashews, frozen peas, and cilantro (raisins would have been great, too, but we were out of everything! It was a Friday, what can I say?).  It ended up being a really easy, healthy lunch.

This next dinner was tasty but nothing special (Melomeal's magic three ingredient burger, fries, and broc). However, I did want to comment on the "cheese" sauce on the roasted broccoli, which came from Joanne Stepaniak's uncheese cookbook, which I bought awhile ago and have barely used. The awesome thing about this particular recipe (which is called something like "instant cheese sauce") is that it really is virtually instant, but still totally delicious.  This broc was BEGGING for a sauce, but everything else was about ready to serve. I thumbed quickly through the cookbook, not expected to find anything fast, but there it was, and it was indeed fast and delicious!!!

Adorable kitty break. That is all. 

This next dish came from your vegan mom. It's the hot dog reuben!!!!  We have actually been trying hard to eat more healthfully over here for the past year, so this felt like a bit of junk food (I haven't had a sandwich on two pieces of bread in awhile!).  Boy was this good, though. I did make a loaf of homemade rye bread, which is at least partly why this sandwich looks so monstrous (I can never slice homemade bread very thinly).  Sauerkraut, avocado, and Tofurky dogs inside. Sauerkraut, I was wrong about you all those years. I apologize for all my rude comments about your smell. 

This may or may not spell something.

This last thing was gnocchi with pesto, tomatoes, and peppers on greens with roasted squash.  The pesto, tomatoes, and peppers all came from our summer stash of things we froze. 

Which brings me to my last thoughts for this post. How does eating seasonally/locally (I'll treat them as interchangeable terms, although they aren't really) fit into your cooking? This is on my mind for two reasons: first, Ingrid recently posted some very delicious-looking eats from Terry Walters' book, Clean Food, on her excellent and inspiring blog, and it got me thinking about this cookbook.  Let me say that while I really do think it's a great book, it's predicated on cooking seasonally, but often misses the mark in that regard.  I still love the book and highly recommend it; I just think there are some inaccuracies WRT the seasonality of some of the ingredients.  This is probably out of necessity: no one but the most hard-core locavore is going to want to make recipes that consist solely of cabbage, winter squash, and potatoes all winter.  But still.....I think for seasonal eating, Jae Steele's books are a little more accurate.

The other reason this is on my mind is that it's starting to be that time when the growing season is winding down for pretty much all of the US and Canada. Don't believe me? Check out this handy map.

It may not be clear from previous posts, but we are pretty serious gardeners here at SCB and we try really hard to eat seasonally.  One of the main reasons I initially started eating vegan was for environmental reasons.  I know that one person's food choices are not going to undo the damage a meat/dairy-based diet has done to the planet, but I didn't want to be a part of the wholesale environmental destruction the food industry imparts anymore (or at least I wanted to reduce my role in it).  However, veggie crops, especially those that come from large-scale convention farming, also have an environmental impact, and soon it will be that time of year where if you want to eat something green, it is unlikely to be local, and it gets harder to balance a plant-centric diet with eating locally.

Anyone who has perused my blog will readily be able to find examples of non-local eats, but most of what we eat here produce-wise comes from our garden and local farmers (every veg in this post other than the frozen peas and avocado, in fact).  At least, this is true 8-9 months out of the year.  But in February, there will be a time when a bunch of arugula trucked in from Texas will probably look too good to say no to.

Anyone else out there obsessively fixate on this stuff???

Sunday, December 11, 2011

To juice or not to juice (and no, I don't mean using steroids)

Do any of you guys have a juicer? If so, I would love to hear your thoughts on what you perceive to be the health benefits, good juicer brands, etc.  I am thinking about getting one, primarily because so many vegan bloggers post these awesome, incredibly healthy looking juices. I also think Mr. Stacy would be way more likely to drink a tasty juice than a smoothie.  However, I have some reservations. Namely:

1. I bought a crummy juicer about 15 years ago and never used it because clean-up was, frankly, a bitch.  But maybe there have been advances in juicer technology since then???

2. Our kitchen is pretty small, and figuring out where to put another bulky appliance is not an exciting prospect.

3. I eat a LOT of veggies and probably don't need to drink juice to get those vitamins. Plus I worry about missing out on the fiber that non-juiced veggies deliver.

4. Do most people skip a meal and have juice instead? I'm not sure I could do that.

Any thoughts are greatly appreciated!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Nothing epic going on here

Hey, I kept waiting to cook something that would blow everyone's mind! Then I realized that day will never come.  So here's some of the usual, non-mind-blowing fare.

First in the line-up, some homemade flour tortillas.  See, we don't discriminate here at Shorty Can Burn.  Corn, flour, we will happily eat them all.

The final product: ye olde bean burrito. I was kind of excited about the sauce, which was my (reasonably successful) attempt at replicating one served by a local restaurant.  I liked their sauce so much that I actually tried to get them to sell me a quart of it, which they refused to do. This ought to teach them not to try to deprive me of delicious sauces--I will simply make a sauce clone in my evil underground sauce laboratory! Ha ha ha ha! HA HA HA HA!!!!!

This is an adaptation of this recipe over at  The tasty part about this (which may not be obvious from this EXTREME close-up) is that you saute cooked pasta in some olive oil, then dump it into a soup.  Neat technique!  I added some broccoli for some green.
And this is my version of this pesto recipe from the PPK, although what I did bears little resemblance to the PPK version. I didn't have cauliflower, so I roasted broccoli instead, and I didn't have time to make tofu balls, so I used gardein fake chicken instead. I also added in tofu feta and sundried tomatoes.  Nothing special, but pretty tasty. I used half rice pasta, half regular, and the taste did not make me want to quit eating pasta forever, so that was a plus (I am struggling with finding a healthier substitute that we like for white pasta in Italian-style dishes).

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Recent meals

I had this post half-written, and did something to make it disappear entirely. Boo! How does that happen, so I can avoid having it happen again?
Anyhow, I made this based on Zoa's veganized recipe for greens pie by Jamie Oliver.  So aesthetically pleasing, right?!? You could totally serve this to actual human beings.

I mostly followed the recipe, but added tofu feta, nutmeg to the tofu omelette, and copious amounts of tomato sauce (I definitely recommend the nutmeg + sauce; the feta was not so noticeable). It was so, so good!! Thank you, Zoa!!!

Sorry for the lack of crappy knickknacks in this post,  but you can see our fugly thrifted wine goblets and my book from the "A Song of Fire and Ice" series (by George RR Martin) in the background. Anyone else reading these?

Now, as for should make it right now! Why are you still reading this blog?!?!  Well, leave a comment before you go.  Brussels sprouts, apples, garlic, pinons, maple, so tasty. 

Really, this was so good. I put sriracha on mine and loved it maybe even more than without. Major thumbs up. It looks so humble here, but it really was incredibly delicious. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Smoky potatoes and squash rancheros

 Howdy, and happy Thanksgiving to those living in Canada's dirty beard! Maybe you will actually be spending time with loved ones, and not checking the innernerds?!? What's up with that? 

Anyhow, here are a few noms I made recently.  I can't say I followed a recipe for either, but they were both inspired by blog posts/actual recipes.  First, these smoky potato wedges from Vegan Crunk.  She doesn't give the recipe from the cookbook it came from, The Complete Guide to Vegan Food Substitutions. I'll be damned if I'll buy yet another cookbook from which I use a total of two recipes, but I wanted smoky wedges so I decided to wing it!  I tossed potato wedges in smoked paprika, potato starch, olive oil, and salt, and baked until crisp.  They were really good. 

Now, this next thing was really special albeit something I might be inclined to overlook. Beans and squash--deceptively simple! But I promise you this is really wonderful!! It was based on this recipe from the PPK.  I'm sure it'd be great if you just followed the recipe, but I used way more coriander and cumin, and substituted a chipotle in adobo + tomato paste in lieu of the jalapeno.

Holy crap, this was so good!!!  Make it now! Or after your Thanksgiving coma!!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Epic tortorial

Hey everybody, brace yourselves for what will probably be the longest and maybe most boringest post ever on this here blog. I hope you're not wearing shoes, because what I am about to show you will blow your socks off!!!! Or not. Ahem.  

Anyhow, this is how I make corn tortillas.  First, dump some masa harina into a bowl.  How much? Who knows?!? I just eyeball it. This time I dumped in about 4 cups and ended up with about 8-9 tortillas. You can totally follow the instructions on the masa package as far as amounts are concerned.  Disclaimer: this here post is more about technique than recipe. 

Nope, masa harina is NOT the same thing as cornmeal. Never has been, never will be.

Add a pinch of salt. Can you see it? It's the slightly paler white stuff just south o' the center.  I estimate that I added about half a tablespoon. You just want enough to where the tortillas aren't totally bland.

Mix the salt in, then keep adding water until you end up with a dough that looks like this. I think it looks like ice cream, or stiff mashed potatoes.  Or what's inside my cold, dead heart. 

You should buy a tortilla press if you can!! Tacky ceramic boots from the thrift store are an optional accessory.  Most cities in the US have Latin markets nowadays so what's stopping you? It can't be the price, as these go for less than $20 USA Fun Tickets. Having said that, if you don't have one, keep reading--I experimented in making these without a press. Because I care. 

Open up the press (pls ignore those brown stains. I have no idea where they came from.)  Tear out a long piece of plastic wrap, long enough to lay across the length of the open press. THIS IS ESSENTIAL!!! I hate plastic wrap on environmental grounds, but even I concede that you must do this or your tortillas will be a miserable failure! Don't worry, hippies (like me)--you can reuse the plastic many times (maybe that's where the brown stains came from?).

Pinch off a ball of the dough, roll it up into a ball, then roll said ball in some masa. Something about the perspective here is off--the ball looks way bigger than it was.  It should be slightly bigger than a golfball. 

Man the presses!!!!  Fire at will!!!

This is what it will look like after pressing, safely ensconced in the plastic wrap. 

Take the flattened dough out, still in the wrap. 

 Peel up one side of the plastic, like so.

Next, flip it over so the bare naked tortilla is resting against your palm. Try to stay calm as you peel up the other side of the plastic. 

Throw it onto a hot skillet! You were preheating one all along, right? Right?! No? Sorry. 

You will need to flip it after a few minutes but I didn't take a picture of that. It's easy, though, not like flipping pancakes or any other "loose" substance where sh*t can get real at the flipping stage.

For those in a state of press-deprivation, I tried making one with a plate and my kitchen counter. 

Like this....

It may not be obvious, but this is insufficiently thin despite me totally pressing down with all my middle aged might. However, a couple of rolls from the rolling pin and it was ready to go. 

With this batch, I made vegan huevos rancheros (corn tortillas, shredded cabbage, refried beans, tofu scramble, red chile sauce, and guacamole).  

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


More goodness inspired by Mr Jamie Oliver. One of his books has a recipe for raw beet + feta + parsley + horseradish! When I saw this awesome horseradish for sale at our farmer's market, I snatched it up and the rest is (really boring in the grand scheme of things, but quite tasty all the same) history. The "feta" in this case is whatever tofu feta version you like. Mine was cubed feta marinated for several days in miso, nooch, olive oil, oregano, dried red pepper, and apple cider vinegar. We have a lot of beets in our garden that need to get et. 

 This was really good. Plus beets still look gorgeous, even with my bad camera and poor lighting. Now I just gotta figure out what to do with all the rest of that horseradish--I welcome any suggestions.
PS I made corn tortillas tonight and took a lot of pics for a "tortorial" of sorts. Stay tuned. Or not, actually; I wouldn't blame you. 

Saturday, November 12, 2011

World's Best Mustard?

I sometimes go to this expensive "gourmet" type store in town to stock up on tomato paste in the tube, fancy salts and olive oils, etc., and was mesmerized by this hefty crock o' mustard.  The salesperson said, no kidding, "This is the world's best mustard." So of course I HAD to buy it. 
It came with this thick, red seal on top.  After scattering a brazilion little wax shards across my kitchen trying to hack the seal off with a butterknife, I conceded defeat and had to actually go look up the company's website to figure out how to open *the world's best mustard.* Here it is, with a bean burger:
After all the hyperbole and the struggle to get it open, I guess I was bound to be slightly disappointed. It's pretty good, but not the end of the world or anything. Then again, no one called it "World-ending mustard."

Tonight we had some roasted squash, baked tofu, and rice.  Nothing fancy.  Deborah Madison (in her book Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone) suggests throwing freshly minced garlic and parsley on roasted squash, right after you take it out of the oven.  It's delicious!
In unrelated noms, have you tried this tahini dip?  It really is pretty fabulous. I highly recommend the addition of liquid smoke.  I made a small jar's worth the first time I tried the recipe, and upgraded to half a quart next time!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

More questionable photos of tasty meals

So today's installment of good food, horribly immortalized in digital format, comes in part from Zoa who has lately been talking up Jamie Oliver's cookbooks. I never thought I would bother with his oeuvre, but Zoa made his recipes sound awesome so I got some of his cookbooks from the library. In this one, there was a recipe for Jools' beef stew. I guess Jools is his special lady friend? I don't know. Anyhow, the recipe sounded good except for the beef (ugh). It entailed many root vegetables, winter squash, lemon zest, sage, and rosemary.  Subbed in seitan for the beef.  It was pretty much delicious.

Now back to the Vegan Slow Cooker.  This week I made the chickn noodle recipe (it was a little on the bland side, but I think if I had a cold, I would love this. Half of a toasted cheeze sandwich on the side), and.... 

the mushroom "soysage" ragu recipe (definitely not from the Betty Crocker Cookbook for Boys and Girls--I just included that for Shen).

So far I would rate this cookbook pretty highly. I'm not blown away, but the recipes deliver what they promise: straightforward, easy, wholesome, accessible, and healthy vegan food.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Miscellaneous grub part II: Electric boogaloo

I am a bit reluctant to post this photo because it looks like total ass compared to Rose's beautiful chowder, which was the basis for its inspiration. Having said that, Rose is 25% of this blog's readership, and she already knows this is tasty, so how much harm can a fugly photo of this recipe do?  I made a few changes out of love of booze/laziness/lack of ingredients.  First, I fried up some tempeh bacon then deglazed the pot in a buttload of white wine. I could only get trumpet and crimini mushrooms, so I augmented those with some dried shiitakes.  I think they imparted a nice smokiness.  Also, I didn't smoke the shrooms so I added some liquid smoke.  Finally, I added peas 'cause I like peas.  And I don't chop very finely OR peel anything. 

This is just here because it was delicious. That is all.

This. What can I say about this horror?

Do I need to tell you that it is not real chicken? It is in fact fake vegan chicken I bought from our local Asian superstore.  Could someone please tell the genius who extruded the soy protein into the chicken-shaped mold that no one EVER ate chicken because of the goose-pimply plucked appearance? They needn't have bothered! I only bought this because this company made a shiitake fake chicken product that I loved. Either the store isn't selling it anymore or the company isn't making it. Either way, after MUCH deliberation, I bought this.
I ended up shredding it (hope the artiste who lovingly sculpted the chicken shape mold it came in can forgive me) and serving it in Bryanna Clark Grogan's fried rice recipe from Authentic Chinese Cooking. Damn I love that cookbook.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Miscellaneous grub

This was inspired by Zoa talking about Bryanna Clark Grogan's Authentic Chinese Cuisine cookbook recently to make Dan Dan noodles.  Turns out we didn't have many of things one would need to make this recipe, so I skipped to the chow mein recipe a few pages down.  Much simpler for a lazy person like me.
 I added tofu and homemade seitan because someone once told me protein is important for satiety (the recipe in the book is just veggies; also, this photo was taken before I added the noodles. It was a good shot for me and I gotta take what I can get).

A few days later I managed to get my act together and take a picture of something I've been making quite a bit of lately: the bean-oat patties from Melomeals.  I have been having these for breakfast, actually, on top of a kale salad.  This version, though, was a little different and I recommend the approach. If you have some beans that are highly seasoned already (e.g., for chili; in the present case, I used leftover lentils from the Veganomicon's Snobby Joe's), use them instead of plain beans for EVEN MORE NOMS!!!!

Here there are in a pita with our Halloween decor.

And here's a sneaky boy, trying to steal some people food. He will actually eat almost anything if you let him.