Taking in strays/Kimchi part 1

It’s been a whole week since I’ve written, and I feel pretty crappy about it. But I have the best excuses. Plus, I have several legitimately exciting food stories to share over the next few days, so that makes up for some of it, right? Well, you be the judge,

The first reason I was away last week is that we took in a stray kitten. If you’ve ever done this before, you know how those adorable fluffballs can just eat up any spare time you might have. This little one was part of a feral colony, but decided she wanted to adventure off on her own and consort with humans. She cried and cried outside my guy’s back door til we were finally able to trap her and get her spayed and dewormed and all those good things. She’d 4.5 months old and doesn’t know how to do anything other than snuggle and hide. But that’s ok. The rest will come with time.

World, meet Betty Boop (Boop for short, or sometimes Bloop, or McBlooperson)

World, meet Betty Boop (Boop for short, or sometimes Bloop, or McBlooperson)

The second reason I’ve been busy is that I have taken in a stray tourist from Japan! A friend of a friend’s lodging arrangements fell through just a couple of days before she was scheduled to fly to Montreal. Rather than cancel her trip, I gave her my room and am staying with my guy for the next couple of weeks. Needless to say, the sudden nature of this made things a bit hectic for a few days there- lots of scrubbing and packing and laundering happened. But now Tomoko is happily doing her thing out of my tiny little Plateau pad, and life is somewhat returned to normal.

In the midst of all this upheaval, I have managed to find some time for cooking, too. Mostly because if I didn’t, I’d go mad. Last Sunday, I had a fermenting/pickling day with a few lovely friends. We made kimchi and dill pickles. I won’t share all the deets until I get to taste the final product, but I’ll woo you with some pictures in the meantime.

Ladies at work

Ladies at work

It was actually a lot of fun, putting together all the little jars and stirring up big bowls of veggies with chili sauce for the kimchi. It would have been more fun had we made it through the day without one of us cutting herself and another squirting ginger juice in her eyes (that was me!) but, you know. The hostess graciously provided us with wine and baguette, which helped immensely.

Dividing the dill and garlic for the jars

The little countertop that could! Dividing the dill and garlic for the jars, grating turnip, carrots and ginger for the kimchi.

Pretty little jars all in a row, ready for their brine.

Pretty little jars all in a row, ready for their brine. Can’t forget the wine. Not for the pickles, for the pickle-makers.

I will report back with the finished results in a couple of weeks. I hope it will be delicious. I am sure it will be.

Smooth and Bright Chickpea Soup

I make hummus all the time, but I never really thought of making pureed chickpeas into a soup until I saw this recipe. What a great idea! However, being vegan, I can’t really puree chickpeas in stock and call it a meal… I mean 90% of the time hummus is the only thing I can eat at a non-veg restaurant, so I pack back a lot of lightly seasoned chickpeas. I need a little bit of oomph behind them to make them work preparing at home. So, this is my take on a creamy chickpea soup. The inclusion of fresh vegetables slowly cooked in olive oil goes a long way to making this dish truly satisfying.

Smooth and Bright Chickpea Soup
Makes 2 servings

1 500 mL can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 red onion, minced
1 stalk celery, minced
1 small carrot, minced
1 head garlic, minced
black pepper, to taste
2 tsp dried rosemary, crushed
2 tbsp olive oil
1 vegetarian chicken-style bouillon cube (for 2 cups of water)
juice from 1/2 a lemon
1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, minced
red chili flakes, to garnish

Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrot, and celery. Cook, stirring often, for 3 minutes, then reduce heat to medium-low until uniformly soft, fragrant, and beginning to brown. Add garlic, pepper, and rosemary, cooking quickly for 1 minute. Add chickpeas, then fill the chickpea can with cold water and add to the pot as well. Bring to a boil, add the bouillon cube, stir and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 15 minutes, then allow to cool slightly. Add the soup to your blender of food processor and pulse until just smooth- not the consistency of baby food, you should still be able to see some flecks of carrot, but it should coat the back of a spoon smoothly and not seem too fibrous. Return the pureed soup to the pot with the lemon and parsley, warm over medium heat until good and hot. Enjoy with some red chili flakes sprinkled over, some good crusty bread and a glass of Cabernet. Or water. Whatever floats your boat. 

Gnocchi with Criminis and Spinach in Brown Butter

Gnocchi is one of my favorite comfort foods. Soft pillows of potato dough take perfectly to light treatment- just a bit of Earth Balance and garlic, a splash of wine, maybe some fresh herbs. They also go well with tender vegetables like spinach, asparagus, fresh peas, and scallions. As a result, I usually associate gnocchi with spring. However, a dose of earthy mushrooms and brown butter will go a long way to making a spring dish seem more winter-appropriate. This is super easy to make, taking approximately 25 minutes altogether, and can easily be adjusted to suit the group you’re serving. In my case, I was cooking just for myself, but made enough for two meals.

Gnocchi with Criminis and Spinach in Brown Butter
Serves 2, or one very hungry person

1/2 package gnocchi
2 tbsp Earth Balance
1 generous handful criminis, sliced
1 shallot, sliced
2 generous handfuls baby spinach leaves
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 tsp thyme
A grind of pepper and a sprinkle of fleur de sel, or whatever your favorite salt is
1/4 lemon, and/or a splash of dry white wine

Put on a pot of water to boil for the gnocchi. Meanwhile, melt the  Earth Balance in a large pan over medium heat. Add the shallots and criminis. Stir occasionally, until the vegetables and Earth Balance are browning lightly. Add the gnocchi to the water once it is boiling, and be prepared to drain it as soon as the gnocchi float to the top.  As soon as the Earth Balance is a warm, golden colour and the vegetables are looking toasty, add the remaining ingredients. Drain all but 2 tbsp of cooking water from the gnocchi once it is cooked, and toss them along with the reserved water into the pan with the vegetables. Toss a few times and cook for about 2 minutes, coating the gnocchi in the sauce. Serve with a kitten, and maybe a glass of wine…

Lemon-Garlic Beefless Tips and Broccoli with Wild Rice and Daikon Sprouts

Have you had Gardein’s Beefless Tips? They are so. Very. Delicious. Tonight, the boy was craving broccoli and beefless tips, and I was too sick/tired to cook anything that I had planned, so he won. We had some wild rice blend kicking around, a mix of wild rice, red rice, and brown rice. I also decided that some peppery daikon sprouts would offset all that earthiness nicely, and it really worked well. These sprouts are gorgeous, perfect, tiny little leaves in purple and green. They taste just like daikon too. Which is awesome, by the way, if you haven’t had it. Just like a radish.

Lemon-Garlic Beefless Tips and Broccoli with Wild Rice and Daikon Sprouts
Serves 4

1 package Gardein Beefless Tips, or any fake beef
1 1/3 cups wild rice mix
1 head broccoli, florets and young stems, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1/2 small red onion, diced
6 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
2 tsp lemon pepper
1 tbsp tamari
1 tsp vegan Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp vegan butter
1/2 cup daikon sprouts

Get the rice going in your cooker, or according to directions on the stove. About five minutes before the rice is set to be done and you have everything mise en place, add the vegan butter, lemon pepper, tamari, vegan Worcestershire sauce, and broccoli. Stir, add a splash of water if it’s looking dry, and put the lid back on. In a hot, oiled skilled, add red onion and beefless tips. Cook, turning a few times, until the onion is browning and the beefless tips are browned on all sides. Add garlic, cook for one minute. Push beefless tips off to the side of the pan, leaving most of the garlic and onion in the center of the pan. By now, the rice and broccoli should be ready, so add them to the center of your pan with the onions and garlic, and stir them in, trying not to mix in the tips. Serve by placing a quarter of the rice and broccoli mix under a quarter of the beefless tips, and top with a quarter of the sprouts. Or more. You can’t really have too many sprouts, you know.

Vegetarian cat approves of this dish

Happy Family

lux nursingLux believes that her babies should nurse until they are good and ready to stop. So, at three months old, these babies still nurse when they’re feeling snuggly and mama Lux will take the opportunity to make sure their ears are clean.

Is she not the prettiest lady? Barely a year old herself, her adoptive mama found her and took her in, giving her a good safe place to raise her babies.

Sigh. Warms the cockles of my heart.

I Eat Trees: a survey!

Gray kittenSometimes you just need to do a light, fluffy survey to get you through a big stack of marking…. I remember as a kid I would get teen mags just to do the surveys in them. There’s something so satisfying about the quiet, self-reflective act of answering questions about oneself. Feel free to share your responses, but link them in the original post comment section! Keep the Vegan MoFo going!

What is one food you thought you’d miss when you went vegan, but don’t? Ice cream. The thought of not having traditional ice cream out of a truck at parks and in my own back yard on sunny days was really disturbing to me. But one of the many things I learned when becoming vegan was that ice cream isn’t that important to me- I’m far, far more interested in savoury snacks.

What is a food or dish you wouldn’t touch as a child, but enjoy now? Marinated vegetables- pickled peppers, hearts of palm, artichoke hearts, capers. Hated them. Now, I could live off them.

What vegan dish or food you feel like you “should” like, but don’t? Vegan yogurt. I loved dairy yogurt, but can’t stand the veg version.

What beverage do you consume the most of on any given day? Tea, herbal or decaf black, winter or summer.

What dish are you “famous” for making or bringing to gatherings? Um…. probably stuffing. I think stuffing should be a once-a-week sort of thing, not once-a-year. Either that or cupcakes. I do so love to make cupcakes.

Do you have any self-imposed food rules (like no food touching on the plate or no nuts in sweets)? No sweetness in my savoury dishes. I strongly dislike sweet main-course dishes. Most Chinese take-out is off-limits for this reason. The most you will ever get out of me is a bit of sugar in a peanut sauce, or some dried, unsweetened cranberries in a pilaf… maybe.

What’s one food or dish you tend to eat too much of when you have it in your home? Overeating is a bit of a problem of mine… but likely it would be popcorn with nutritional yeast and Earth Balance, or fresh bread with Earth Balance, especially if there’s wine involved. Oh, and any sort of homemade “cheese” or Daiya. Macaroni and Daiya for breakfast! Why not?

What ingredient or food do you prefer to make yourself despite it being widely available prepackaged? Pasta sauce- I know people who cook everything from scratch but still buy pasta sauce! I don’t get it…

What ingredient or food is worth spending the extra money to get “the good stuff”? Definitely vegan cheese, marinated vegetables like olives, oils, vinegars and mustards, wine- the things that make food tasty!

Are you much of a snacker?  What are your favorite snacks? Well, a snack for me is likely a meal for someone else, but quickly seared criminis and kale with a splash of lemon, tamari and garlic on toast is my go-to snack. Rice crackers, popcorn and wasabi peas are also on the list.

What are your favorite vegan pizza toppings? There’s a place in Edmonton called Famoso, the only pizzaria offering vegan options, and they have the most delicious olives on their primavera pizza! I re-create the pizza at home with a few modifications- a garlic and rosemary pesto base, artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes, olives, roasted red pepper, Daiya mozzarella and a mountain of arugula and a drizzle of olive oil thrown on top right as it comes out of the oven.

What is your favorite vegetable?  Fruit? I am torn between mushrooms and kale, but probably both together are my fave. I am allergic to most local tree fruit, and I’m not a big fruit person in general, but raspberries are up there. Especially if there’s good, dark chocolate involved.

What is the best salad dressing? Probably the Caesar out of Veganomicon. It’s stellar. I use it on everything- toast, vegan eggs benny, pasta… so versatile.

What is your favorite thing to put on toasted bread? Earth Balance.

What kind of soup do you most often turn to on a chilly day or when you aren’t feeling your best? Some sort of root vegetable soup with Indian spices.

What is your favorite cupcake flavor? Frosting flavor? The more chocolate the better. Chocolate cupcakes with raspberries and raspberry ganache over… /dies.

What is your favorite kind of cookie? Cowboy Cookies from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar, except I add a teaspoon of cinnamon. Oh, or the Magic Coconut Bars from the same book- exactly like my Oma used to make!

What is your most-loved “weeknight meal”? Don’t laugh…. Shake’n’Bake Tofu sammiches on a soft bun with Vegenaise, tomato, and lettuce….

What is one dish or food you enjoy, but can’t get anyone else in your household to eat? It would take too long to answer this question… the boy is a vegetarian who doesn’t like vegetables. Not even mushrooms. One of the deep tragedies of my life.

How long, in total,  do you spend in the kitchen on an average day? I am afraid if I answer this question honestly, my thesis supervisor will tie me to my desk and order me take-out til I finish writing… let’s say over two hours.

How many fingers am I holding up? (Just kidding… but the answer is 11.  “My name is Inigo Montoya…”) Hahaha, Ms. Tree!

Off with a bang: Hello Vegan MoFo!

Vegan MoFo logoWelcome to Sexy Clean Living! Here you will find all that is glorious in the world of food, posted every weekday for the entire month of November. And possibly longer.

I have sooo many exciting recipes to share this month, and other fun things to write about too, like kittens (!!!), and what it’s like being Way Up North in November, how to grow kale in the snow, belly dancing, LARPing, video games, and the benefits of blogging while writing a thesis. Did I mention the kittens?

Tomorrow, a recipe. Today, I finish marking Philosophy 101 essays… In the meantime:

My kittens, Malcolm and Inara, make muffins.

Malcolm, aka Baker #1, is the baddest little tabby boy. Inara, aka Baker #2, supervises.