Friday, April 11, 2014

Good things to come

I still have to write about Christmas, there are pictures and well it was eventful, things got burned, not everthing was ready at the same time. But I've come out of it a little wiser I hope.

Anyway on with the rest of the blog...

My name is Suzi and I'm a shameless cookbook addict, even before I started cooking vegan I collected cookbooks. Where ever I went I was always on the look out for cookbooks, secondhand cookbooks are a wonderful glimpse into cooking of the past. The photos in 80's cookbooks! Wonderful, just wonderful.

I read cookbooks like novels, in an effort to manage the collection I have set myself a personal challenge to cook one thing from four different cookbooks each month.  I'm hoping in about 6 months I can look the collection over and see what doesn't have many sticky notes or worse has none, suss out why these books have been neglected and maybe pare the collection back a bit if need be.

For the month of April I've picked Isa Does It and Vegan Brunch both by Isa Chandra Moskowitz (and well used), Cheers to Vegan Sweets by Kelly Peloza (cooked from it once) and one of the newest additions to the collection and not cooked from yet More Quick-Fix Vegan by Robin Robertson.

I was really hoping to cook with Kohl Rabi, I saw it at the supermarket, I've been scouring my books for where I saw the recipe using this vegetable, no luck so far. I have two theories 1.) I saw it in a book I've had from the library, 2.) I've merely imagined ever seeing a recipe for this vegetable and have maybe seen it somewhere and further imagined I had seen a recipe for it.

Other things In my imagination, I have fallen in love with a new piece of kitchen hardware, maybe as a Christmas present for myself, in blue!

I have been watching videos on You Tube of people making stuff with the food processor, while shouting "Yeah baby! Slice all the vegetables! Oh yeah!".
Porn wishes it were this exciting. :)

Saturday, December 21, 2013

What my Christmas might look like.

The old adage you can't please everybody so you may as well please yourself? I did actually have a Christmas once all to myself. It was the best Christmas ever, the family rang up and tried to pretend they were having a jolly holly time. I wasn't buying it for one minute.

Despite what my mother thinks, there is nothing remotly awful about having Christmas on your own. To bust out another quote - Poor is the man who depends on another for his happiness. See? We're back to pleasing yourself basically.

And being a grown up, is about living your life, and making your own traditions, so I've been rapidly trying to shape some of my own. And possibly misquoting my History lecturer, traditions are only ever one generation old. I think it's one anyway. It was an incredibly small number.

I think we've established two clear facts to help us navigate Christmas.
1. Whatever you choose to do, someone will be unhappy, there are 364 other days to make other people happy, make this day yours.
2. Tradition is only one generation old, so basically "it's tradition" is a nonsensical statement and really only applies to that one generation. Therefore you in your own generation can have your own tradition, acknowledge other people's traditions like you would their religions.

This year is a bit weird, both my maternal grandparents have passed away so there is no gathering of my mother's family. In previous years all her siblings came home and it was hell on earth. We had to be at my grandparents house by 9am to open presents, so we can be at the uncle's by 12 noon, we're expected at noon, lunch won't actually be served for another 2 hours at least, or round about the time your ready to eat their furniture.
By 2pm the only thing I've eaten is a piece of toast at 8am, if I was lucky, depending on how cantankerous I was about getting dressed and hoping the immediate family would just leave without me - no such luck ever. I may not have had breakfast at all, and your not allowed to eat anything pre-lunch because were "going for lunch soon". Soon applies even if it's 9:30am.

The one saving grace is you might have got chocolates for Xmas, which you stash in your handbag, and find an opportune hiding place and eat them.
Tip #3: Be prepared by your own chocolate/snack in advance to be sure you will have something to stash in your bag.
Tip #4: Something I read about in Nigella Christmas and wish I had thought of myself years before. In the notes for her recipe for Lychee Martini, Nigella talks about taking some of the lychee liqueur in a small water bottle to tide you over during the school Christmas concert. I don't have to attend school Christmas concerts, but I can imagine a hip flask of something (not necessarily lychee liqueur, pick your favourite) would have been a boon to the chocolates.

Back to the problem at hand, new "traditions" or what to do with your immediate family. My mother has been telling people how weird it'll be this year, there won't be anybody to have Christmas with and since she won't see the family she won't get presents. She saw them last year and they didn't give her presents then either. And having Christmas with us the immediate family? Suppose it is a bit of a come down.

And then there's my Dad, initial plan is my sister and I were going to do a special breakfast, sit around eating, unwrapping presents, eating some more, breakfast rolls onto lunch. More like morning grazing than any meals. My Mum was talking about making the turkey roll the day before, and then just having it cold with salad and people help themselves when their ready. What's Susan going to eat asks my Dad? So I tell him all about what I'm making and my Dad's complaining about the room in the kitchen for everyone to make things. I was oh no, I'm having dinner, I won't be cooking till the evening.

My Dad got in a huff because "surely we can all eat lunch together on Christmas", I was regaling my sister with this tale. She scoffed at this, doesn't he realise were spending all day together?

The current incarnation of the Christmas day menu looks like this:
Breakfast (A long breakfast that kind of heads into lunch territory):
Bagels from Isa's Vegan Brunch - my sister's special request.
Individual Panettones from Hannah Kaminsky's Vegan Desserts
Banana Eggnog Pancakes (No cranberries, but it is raspberry season here so probably fresh berries!)

Skipping lunch, no time to prep that as it will be all eating a long breakfast and opening presents and staying in my pajamas.

Stuffed Thanksgiving Burgers
Whiskey Sweet Potato Mash - 500 Vegan Recipes by Celine Steen and Joni Marie Newman
Green Bean Almondine (with a Twist) - Also from 500 Vegan Recipes or Roasted Broccoli
and Gravy, most likely made from good ole' Massel Supreme Gravy Powder. Actually this is my parents new favourite for making gravy, apparetnly it's not as salty as some of the other ones they've tried.

And I may yet make a fruitcake, will post an update later if it gets off the ground.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Isa Does It and now so do I!

Isa Does It has been the most anticipated cook book I think ever for me.I've made a couple of things since it's arrived but I have made a couple of things from Isa's blog the PPK which have made their way into the book. I've included links were they are available.

Chai Spice Snickerdoodles

Marbled Banana Bread #1

Marbled Banana Bread #2

Puffy Pillow Pancakes #1

Puffy Pillow Pancakes #2
(Everyone's a fan of pancakes.)

Tempeh Orzilla

New England Glam Chowder
Make this! A wonderfully creamy soup. So good!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Wait it's that time of year already?

Apparently it is and it started in September. I know what we're all thinking surely we can have Halloween before you break out the Christmas stock giant retailers!
That's another story for another day.

Today's story is indeed about Christmas, last year I talked my sister into doing an Asian Christmas this year. Especially now we've discovered she likes firm tofu.
Now we've acquired my parents home for this year, so we've shifted the Asian inspired menu to New Year. Which I might add looks currently like this:- Marinated Baked Asian Tofu (Veganomicon), Crispy Stir-Fry Greens with Veggie Oyster Sauce & Steamed Long-Grain White Rice (both from Vegan Eats World).

My sister's plan for Christmas is we should do a special breakfast, which tentatively stands as Bagels (Vegan Brunch), Chocolate Croissants (Nigella Express) and my Mum's all time favourite Gingerbread Muffins (Feast by Nigella). Currently I'm dissatisfied with this line up, it needs something.

Mum was all like we should just do cold things on the day, cook the turkey roll the day before and serve it cold with salad.
I don't eat turkey and I'm allergic to that S word. That idea is getting no enthusiasm from me whatsoever.
As for my Dad, he's just excited he doesn't have to drive anywhere and gets to stay home.

I was perusing the Habitat Christmas catalog, not a lot of actual Christmas stuff this year and what there is seems to mainly consist of unattractive super expensive decorations. A tad disappointing.
But, they were advertising a creme brulee set, 4 ramekins, the blow torch and the butane gas. The sale runs till the 24th December, so if I save my pennies between now and then I may just be able to treat myself to a set for Christmas.

Since Christmas is shaping up to be a bit anti climatic food and cooking wise, I've devised my own menu for dinner. Have breakfast with the family, then I've go the rest of the day while there eating cold stuff ot faff about the kitchen making something awesome for myself.
The line up is:- Stuffed Thanksgiving Burger (minus the roll), Sweet Potato Mac n' Cheese, and some yet to be decided upon vegetables. Although I was thinking I'd really like gravy with those burgers and I thought I might make this gravy again, I really liked it the first time. And for dessert possibly, inspired by the Habitat catalog, Holiday Spiced Creme Brulee.

I love creme brulee, one of those kits has been on my birthday and Christmas lists for years. Sadly no one ever has gotten me one.
Of course the current alternative is a frozen dessert called a Winter Wonderland Peppermint Pie, white chocolate and peppermint. Sounds delicious. Or possibly in homage to the fact it's summer, another frozen dessert known as a Watermelon Bombe, a bit tricky to put together maybe but it would be a spectacular dessert to look at. And hopefully eat.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Christmas Inspiration

**Warning** - This is very photo heavy, also I talk through my hat quite a bit and well it's all about Christmas, curmudgeons look away now! I have a box, a box of Christmassy goodness. Something I can delve into for ideas, it's all in there gifts, decorations and food. 

I've tried to include years where possible, so you can get some context of when these became popular.

The Tree!
Yes, this is an actual Christmas tree! More impressive than the twig tree or the length of paper stuck on your wall with a tree shape drawn on it, believe me. (2004)
Love purple! My sister describes these matching trees as "soulless", I don't know I quite like a matching tree myself.

Blue, my other colour choice.
More blue...

And yet more blue....can't just be me who likes it?

You might have noticed the God's Eyes decorations on the tree above, the one on the left in this picture is one I made well over 20 years ago, actually longer I think. So they can't be hard to make can they?

Other Decorations...
As a knitter, this instantly appealed to me, I do have a wreath shape floating about and no shortage of yarn.

I fell in love with this at first sight, a little bit naff perhaps. (2001)
When planning this Christmas (2012) we debated about simply making foods we really, really like or going with a theme, the themes mooted were Indian or Asian. It's been officially decided that 2013 will be Asian or more precisely a Very Westernised Asian theme.

I knew before Asian Studies that fortune cookies were a Western idea. Having done a unit in Asian Studies and History unit looking at some of early European forays and communication around the world I came away feeling prior to all this I had been very ignorant and also a tiny bit racist.

Also I am beginning to suspect that Asian look or style I have coveted and admired my whole life is perhaps more of a Western construct than something truly Asian.
I can think of two things that were probably the points of ignition for this and they both happened about the same time. One was Monkey Magic, the second was one of the girl's in my class, her family were hosting a Japanese girl.
The Japanese girl was coming into class a couple of times, she wore the kimono and the sash (an obi?), we made paper cherry blossoms and learned a cherry blossom dance which we performed at school assembly. I'm sure there may have been more, but that was Grade 2, some of the other information has been lost in the mists of time or in the alcohol I've drunk in the intervening years.

Red and white candy canes = Christmas for me.

Nativity set with Vietnamese hats - As an nonreligious woman I feel a bit of a charlatan even contemplating religious decorations, but I just love this! (Oxfam 2012)
Maybe next year If I'm feeling uber crafty I'll sew some of these up. I love the high heeled boots they have a very Victorian/Goth/Steam punk vibe to them. (2003)
The Table...

Did I mention how much I like candy canes? And peppermint candy in general?

It's not that I'm obsessed with red and white candy you understand.

Alright you got me. I am.
I love this, I suspect the cat would as well. (2002)

Love at first sight when I saw this table setting. (2001)
Now the article refers to this setting as Contemporary Christmas and it's blurb reads "The Christmas table can be sleek and modern, with a Zen-like elegance, and still be festive."
And get this, the Style Idea - Collect flowers and team with dried pods, twigs painted silver, unusual pieces of bark and d

Um, I'm down with the flowers, they actually look like something my parents have in their garden. Twigs painted silver? Maybe not. Dried pods and unusual pieces of bark? Bit too arty for my tastes. Driftwood? Don't live near a beach and if I'm honest I am not touching anything that's been drifting in the local river.

I think what I loved about this setting is it leapt out at me as being Asian.
The dishes are square and "jade" green, the reedy woven looking place mates. You see? Kind of what I was talking about with the fortune cookies wreath.

Edible Centerpieces
I know what your all thinking, more edible decorations? Really more? How many do you need woman?

Caramel Popcorn Tree - I adore caramel popcorn!

Sushi! I love veg sushi, so I was excited by this. And probably also the healthiest edible decoration of the bunch.

Chocolate Gingerbread House, every year I tell myself I'll make a Gingerbread House. Now there's a chocolate one.

How's this for a very Aussie Gingerbread House? Very cool.

Chocolate Crackle Tree - My sister's idea of heaven.

Chocolate Noodle Christmas Tree - You know like the "Spiders" mixture??? I love those things.

What have we established? I love blue and purple, Westernised Asia, edible decorations and yes sugar is my crack.

Saturday, November 10, 2012


So in preparation for what my sister and I are dubbing "Grown-Up Christmas", I had a test run of a few things.

Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes from Quick & Easy Vegan Celebrations 

Green Bean Casserole from Quick & Easy Vegan Celebrations
These both came out a success, although I did make a double batch of sauce for the beans as one lot didn't seem to be enough and that was using only half the quantity of beans.

Still a few more things on the to try list, which is very exciting. And of course on the day I'll be serving up on the "good" china, even break out the special cutlery, neither of these have seen the light of day since ?????? A really loooooong time.

A certain extended family member has started putting in requests for what they want for Christmas, most notably home-made shortbread and Xmas pudding. Which reminds me I must investigate vegan Xmas puddings, no way am I attempting to veganise great-great-grandma's with it's 9 eggs.
Then my sister doesn't eat Xmas pudding so I could probably make something else for dessert that day, there was a chocolate raspberry tart in Vegan Pie in the Sky that looks promising. Choc-raspberry is a win-win combination.

Friday, October 26, 2012

It's not November but...

It may actually still have been the end of August and not even officially ticked over into September when I first saw the Christmas stock appearing in stores. Too early!

Here we are not quite the end of October so no where near the beginning of November and my Christmas plans are formulating. Initially I thought it was just going to be the Daft White Cat and I, cue visions of sugar plums, bad Christmas movies and eating popcorn, naked.
Turns out I'm spending it with my sister, alright re-make plans, perhaps all of the above but without the nudity. Possibly in pajamas instead.

My sister the carnivore is fine with vegan sides and vegan desserts/baking, but she sneers at the possibility of tofu or "something made with wheat gluten" for a main dish. TVP was disdained as well, I didn't mention tempeh. We've established I can cook whatever I like out of whatever I want, since she won't be eating it so she dosen't need to like it.
Currently I believe my sister will actually be eating a steak as big as her own head (or maybe bigger?) accompanied by the various veg side dishes.

I'm going to try some stuff out over the next month and see how it turns out, this is the initial hit list of new things I want to do.

Christmas menu from Quick and Easy Vegan Celebrations by Alicia C. Simpson
Christmas Tamales
Hazelnut-Crusted Seitan
Agave-Glazed Acorn Squash - Finding acorn squash or it's Aussie equivalent, not a high priority.
Jamaican Curried Pumpkin Soup - Jamaican curry powder in the hard to find basket, also soup in summer? I'm down with a cooked dinner for Christmas. Might save this for winter.
Green Bean Casserole - I read on an American expat forum, that some of them have had success with those fried shallots you buy in the Asian section of the supermarket when unable to buy the Fry's fried onions. Duly noted.
Dill New Potatoes - Scratched as I have my heart set on a layered potato casserole.
Twice-Baked Sweet Potatoes
Mulled Pomegranate Cider - My sister expressed a desire to try mulled wine despite our summery weather, mulled cider popped into my head as I was sure Nigella had a recipe for both. Then there this one was, it's got a stamp of approval.

Some stuff I've made successfully in the past from off the Interwebs (actually this list appears to be all PPK at the moment) and will make an appearance:-
Seitan Roast Stuffed with Shiitakes and Leeks - So this might only get an outing if the other mains flop.
Scalloped Potatoes and Eggplant Bacon
Roasted Broccoli

Of course I'm still desperatly trying to adopt Delia's tradition of sausage rolls on Christmas Eve, albeit veg ones now, so some trials there to do as well. And of course I really want to adopt that all American movie tradition of Holiday Cookies!
Only because this is the Darkside, I suspect I'll end up with Ninjabread Men or Ghosts or something equally nontraditional Christmas. Well nontraditional for other people maybe. :)