31 March 2010

Cookie Winners!

Thanks for some great suggestions for my defense.  This will be a short post, I just want to announce the random winners and hopefully get some mailing addresses for you guys! I wish I could send something to everyone who commented, but I'm still on a grad student salary.  As much as I love supporting the socialist government programs that everyone seems to be okay with (like the post), I just can't afford to send six sets of cookies out (especially one to Australia!).  So I decided to go with two winners this time.  Maybe after I get a real job and start making the big bucks I can have another giveaway with more winners :)

Since I am a nerd, I used MATLAB randi() to generate two random numbers (well, psuedo-random because no computer program can ever be truly random, but we won't get into that right now ...), and the lucky winners are:

Chocolate Covered Vegan:
Haha I'd make fudge babies... because I am lazy and they're the easiest thing I know how to make. But in terms of yummy-ness, plain old chocolate chip cookies always get a good reception :)
and  Sophia:
you really set the bar high with your spread last time! i was trying to come up with science- or radioactive-themed cookies...but no luck, probably because of my ignorance in that discipline. so i'll suggest instead: my new favorite, cowboy cookies from VCIYCJ. and something i've been meaning to make for ages, getsconed's chick-o-stick cookies: http://letsgetsconed.blogspot.com/2009/05/chick-ofucking-stick-chocolate-chip.html. good luck with your defense!

I will try to email you both, but if you don't hear from me, please email your mailing address to theradioactivegan (at) gmail (dot) com

Thanks to everyone who made suggestions. I'm still not set on what I'll bake.  I made vegan baklava last night, and if it's turned out well then I'll take it.  Chocolate chip cookies seem to be a popular choice, but I'm torn between Dreena Burton's homestyle chocolate chip cookies and the cowboy cookies in VCIYCJ.  Both are delicious, but it would be silly to have two varieties of chocolate chip cookies ... wouldn't it? hmmm ... I'll let you know what I land on.  Thanks again, and wish me luck!

29 March 2010

Baking Warms the Cockles of My Soul

I have no idea what a cockle is, but it has a nice, down-home sound to it.  I mentioned in this post that I won the vegan cookbook tester lottery; I get to test for Carla's upcoming vegan bakesale cookbook.  She has given us so many great recipes to test -- not a single one has disappointed.  In addition to the great recipes I already mentioned, I've made:

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Blueberry Macadamia Nut Biscotti

And a million recipes I don't have pictures of (but trust me they are amazing), including British Flapjacks, Elvis Blondies, Blueberry Pomegranate Muffins, and so much more! I'm sorry that I am so slack about taking pictures of food.  It's rare that I remember to snap a photo before I snap my jaw around the delicious goodies.  You know how it is ;) Everyone needs to start saving for this cookbook now.  You won't be sorry. 

Speaking of baked goods, I am extending this giveaway opportunity till Wednesday at noon.  If you have any interest at all in baked goods (and really, who doesn't?) then throw in your two cents! 

28 March 2010

just the corndogs.

My boyfriend has told me many times how delicious corndogs at Denton's drive thru are.  I don't think I ever had the opportunity to eat at Denton's in my pregan days, so I have no idea how true his assessment is, but all the talk about corndogs has given me quite the hankering.  I don't know if frozen vegan corndogs exist, but I do know that they don't exist in Knoxville.  So I've been quietly suffering my lack of corndog for weeks now, possibly months.  But how to remedy this?  Joni to the rescue!

We are all lucky to have Joni Marie Newman making vegan recipes for us to enjoy, such as Cozy Inside, Just the Burgers, 500 Vegan Recipes, and the upcoming Complete Guide to Vegan Food Substitutions.  Joni was nice enough to share a few recipes from the newest book to get us all excited for its publication.

Not having much patience, I decided to try out the vegan corndog recipe now instead of waiting for the full book.  I want to say at the outset that I've not made a ton of seitan or seitan-based recipes yet.  I love seitan, but I never think to make it and have had very mixed results in the past.  Despite some serious failures, I decided to persevere with the All American Hot Dogs instead of buying some at the store.  Since I'm all alone here, I only made half the hot dog recipe.  Each of my four hot dog packages "exploded" a bit in the oven.  My big advice on this one would be to wrap it up in several layers to try to avoid it.  Even with the shoddy packaging, the hot dogs all ended up mostly hot dog shaped (mostly ... poor guy at the bottom).

After your hotdogs are ready, just mix up some beer-cornbread-batter.  I used an IPA for my beer, and I think it was a mistake.  It's a very distinctive taste, and probably not the best one for this application.  You live, you learn.

Once your hotdogs are fully coated in cornbread batter, dip them into the fryer until brown and crispy.  I had to cut my dogs in half so that I could fit them in my small fryer.

* Got this little beauty for $5 on craigslist. I love that site *

Finally you've got some 100% homemade vegan corndogs!  No matter what you may think about this much effort going into a corndog, the end result is tasty and satisfying.  I definitely need to keep working on my seitan-making skillz.  And I think the hot dogs could have benefited from a touch of salt and possibly some pepper.  But all in all, these are great.

This valiant effort at vegan corndogs is my first entry in One Hot Stove's Blog Bites Challenge for this month.  Yes, that says "first" entry.  I'm hoping to find a nutburger recipe to rival the one at Sunflower Natural Restaurant in Fair Oaks, CA.  I was lucky enough to eat there once in 2008 and I've been thinking about that burger ever since!  If anyone has any insight into the secrets of this burger, please let me know.

23 March 2010

The Best of Intentions

Being even moderately plugged in to the internet vegan scene can be very fortuitous at times.  The good folks over at The Bountiful Vegan offer a monthly cookie giveaway of their cookie variety pack.  The cookies are each named for an honorable intention:

Prosperity (Chocolate Chocolate Chip)

Love (Chocolate Chip Orange)

Harmony (Lemon Snickerdoodle)

and Well-Being (Coconut Pineapple)

After months of patiently waiting and seeing other lucky recipients of the vegan cookie assortment, I finally got that long awaited email letting me know that I had won the monthly giveaway! woot woot!

Just three anticipatory days later, I got a small package in the mail.  Tearing into it, I was happily surprised to see that these are no small cookies.  Each cookie is easily the size of a tall man's palm (I would say the size of my palm, but that wouldn't mean much to those who have never seen me and wouldn't be very impressive to those who have ...).  I was anxious to try all the cookies, but certainly couldn't finish a single cookie of this size in one sitting, let alone four!  Isn't it awful to be faced with such challenging problems as having too many free cookies? :)

Unfortunately, these cookies came just days before I left for a week in DC, and even more unfortunately I didn't think to take them with me to eat there.  So the poor cookies languished in my kitchen, seemingly forgotten.  However, upon my return, I eagerly tore in to each of them in due course.

I began with Prosperity, because who wouldn't? Chocolate-Chocolate Chip? Amazing.  Be warned, in addition to the double dose of chocolate prominently displayed on the package, these cookies also contain pecans.  This makes for a triple threat of awesome flavors when you bite into it, but may be a bit of a surprised to people who don't like pecans.  But, really, who are these people? Pecans are delicious, and a powerhouse of nutrition.

The next evening, I sampled a bit of Well-Being.  This cookie was lightly flavored with pineapple and just a touch of coconut mixed in.  Honestly, I would have liked the two main flavors to shine through more, but I still thoroughly enjoyed this cookie and had no trouble finishing it.

Love is studded with soft chocolate chips and flavored with a healthy splash of orange.  This cookie offered a strong combination of both flavors, chocolate and orange.  This cookie was moist and soft, even after waiting so long to be eaten.

I saved Harmony for last, expecting it to be my favorite flavor.  I wasn't disappointed!  This cookie is definitely my favorite; the lemon and cinnamon play together amazingly.  With a cup of coffee, this cookie was pure harmony.

I want to note here that I received these cookies for free, but there was no expectation of a review or product recommendation.  I wasn't approached by the makers to write anything about their cookies; I just really enjoyed them and wanted to spread the word!

I highly recommend you all join the Bountiful Vegan mailing list for your chance to win this great cookie variety pack!  And while you're thinking about baked goods, skedaddle on over to this post to let me know what I should make for my dissertation defense and a chance to win some goodies baked by yours truly.

For a final fun giveaway, head over to Love Veggies and Yoga to enter to win an Easy Lunchbox.  They look super useful and fun!

22 March 2010

Cookies all around

** Update -- I'm extending the deadline here until Wednesday, March 31 at noon.  Get your comments in! **

I'm quickly coming up on my dissertation defense.  In fact, it's next week (April 1)!  For those of you who haven't gone through this particular ordeal, a lot goes in to passing a defense.  You need a good topic and well-executed research to justify becoming a doctor,  a concise (ha!) document that can convince the reader that the work you've done is new and vital to the field, and a strong foundation in your major area in case they ask questions about something you haven't thought about in four years.  And, of utmost importance, you must bring snacks.  I once went to a defense with no refreshments, and questions were raised.  The professors actually mentioned the distinct lack of cookies.  So, in preparing for my defense, I'm focusing primarily on what sort of desserts (or savory treats, why are desserts so typical?) to bring.

I'm opening the floor for suggestions, fair reader.  For my proposal defense, I made coffee cake, samoas, pumpkin pie brownies, and fig not-ins.  As you can see, if you click through, I made a ton.  I'm sorry to say that some of those treats just went to waste.  To avoid any spoilage this time, I'd like to send some of the more transportable treats to you all!  If you want to be entered in the contest, just leave a comment telling me what kind of treat you think I should make.  You can see the list of cookbooks that I have available to me in the sidebar, if you have a specific recipe in mind.  Just leave your suggestion by noon on Wednesday, March 31; I'll randomly chose a winner (winners?) on Monday and announce it here.  Make sure you check back to see if you won!  I'm afraid I'll have to restrict the winners to people living in the 48 contiguous states.  I'm not confident enough in the postal system to think that the package would get to another country before everything inside is stale.  Thanks in advance for all your suggestions!

If you want to double your chances of winning, just post on your own blog or twitter about the contest and leave me another comment letting me know you did. Thanks!

19 March 2010

Victimless Crimes.

I ate nearly an entire bag of potato chips tonight.  Admittedly, it was a  small bag, and a few chips were eaten by others, but by and large I consumed the bag.  I paid for the chips.  I will pay for the calories.  I feel this was a victimless crime, and I have no remorse for it.

So why does my boyfriend think he should point out to everyone that I over-indulged?  He didn't pay for the snack.  He doesn't pay for rent on the apartment where it was consumed.  He doesn't cover cost for electricity that was used to illuminate the chips during consumption.  Honestly, he probably didn't even pay for the gas that got me to the grocery store to buy the chips.  He has no stake in this ingestion.  However, it is apparently nonetheless his place to judge me for it.  Why, I ask you! Why?

For the interested reader, I consumed nearly an entire bag of these chips, which were on clearance at the local grocer for only $1.34 per bag.  Hardly even a crime against me!  And a delicious one :)

The Luck o' the Irish

As someone who is some significant fraction Irish, I consider it my duty to celebrate my heritage the only way I know how.  In honor of St Patty's day, some friends came over for a traditional roll-your-own-sushi dinner.  We had some great fixin's: carrots, cucumbers, avocado, spicy sesame spinach, cooked shiitake mushrooms, tempura asparagus, and spicy sushi sauce.  To make it really festive, I dyed some of the sushi rice green, because that is really how you celebrate St. Pat -- dying things green.  You can see my first ever inside-out roll below (ooooh, how fancypants!) and some other vegan rolls made by Elizabeth, sushi master.

If you've never had a sushi party, I highly recommend it.  Just cook a ton of sushi rice ahead of time so that it'll be nice and cool, get some nori, and lots of good fillings.  People will come up with some crazy things, and it's a ton of fun.  Throw in some random, non-traditional fillings, too -- apples, hotdogs, nuts, ... anything goes! Just be prepared for some mess.

18 March 2010

Porcupine Potatoes

I may have mentioned before how much I enjoy StumbleUpon, but let me reiterate -- I know no better way to waste time at work than stumbling around the interwebs.  A while ago (maybe weeks?), I stumbled on this blog post at Sea Salt with Food.  I was instantly intrigued and knew I wanted to try this recipe out.  I have no idea why, but I associate these potatoes with porcupines.  They don't look at all like porcupines, but I can't shake the connection in my mind.  After leaving the page open on my computer for weeks, my time with Hasselback Potatoes finally came.

If you have an Earthfare grocery near you, make sure you're signed up for the weekly coupon.  This week it was for a free 5-lb bag of organic russet potatoes.  I took this opportunity to make some (FREE!) potatoes for dinner.  Unfortunately for him, my boyfriend wasn't feeling quite as adventurous as I and just had a regular baked potato.  You can see my tasty dinner here:  Hasselback potato, Garlicky Kale with Tahini Dressing from Vegan with a Vengeance (pg 120), and pressure cooker Pinto Beans.

I only made a few minor modifications to the potato recipe.  I think that with some practice I will be able to slice it thinner.  In my imagination, that will result in a potato that is more like a baked stack of homemade potato chips (yum!), so I'll definitely try this again with some of my remaining free potatoes.  Here is the recipe for one potato (in case you also have some un-adventurous eaters on your hands).

Vegan Hasselback Potato
makes 1

1 russet potato
1 small- to medium-size clove garlic, thinly sliced
1 sliver of Earth Balance
1 tsp olive oil
sea salt and fresh ground black paper to taste

Preheat oven to 425*.  Find a baking dish with sides, no need to grease it.

Wash potato very well.  Beginning at one end, slice almost all the way through the potato making slices. Make about six slices per inch, slicing as thinly as you can without cutting the potato apart.  Place the potato in your baking dish.  Evenly slide the sliced garlic in between the potato slices.  Dot the potato with the cut up sliver of margarine.  Drizzle the oil on top and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Bake for 40 minutes to an hour, until the skin is crispy and the potato is cooked through.

16 March 2010

Just in time for St. Patty's Day

My Dot sent me this hilarious video of MaryAnn sharing a kitchen tip, and I just had to pass it along.  I tried it tonight to make some gnocchi from VwaV (pg 138) and the skins really did slide right off! I will tell you that the 15 minute cooking time is a little short, especially if you aren't making potato salad or something else where the potatoes need to retain shape.  I had to microwave my skinned potatoes for a few minutes before they were soft enough to mash for the gnocchi.  So, without further adieu, the Skipper's best lady-friend:

Hope it helps you all out in your leprechaun celebrations.

14 March 2010

Chillin' in the District

I have some awesome friends who live in the DC area -- Nishka who was an undergrad with me and now works and the NRC and his wife, Holly, who is in law school and works for the evil petroleum industry somehow ... (I don't know too much about it; everyone has to have a job).  Since DC is a short 8 1/2 hour drive away from Knoxville, it made perfect sense to go visit them for spring break (okay, there may be a note of sarcasm there, but it was totally my idea, so I can't complain at all).  I had a great time -- we saw some sites, visited great friends I haven't seen in years (as well as a few other friends who have made their way to the DC area recently), and had some great food.  The two highlights for me, food-wise, both came on Friday and both came in Columbia Heights.  Unfortunately, I'm an awful blogger and didn't take pictures of any of this great food.  I'm sorry for that, but you can take my word for how delicious it all is.  You know I wouldn't lie!

If you are anything like me, you plan vacations around where you can visit a vegan mecca -- Mighty O Donuts in Seattle, Chicago Diner in Chicago, and Sticky Fingers Bakery in DC.  Now, be careful not to confuse this establishment with the Memphis-style barbecue joint.  I have no experience with that restaurant, but every time I mention Sticky Fingers to anyone they ask about the BBQ place.  Anyway, back to the vegan goodies.  I managed to control myself and not buy one of everything (but I REALLY REALLY wanted to).  I did buy three items:  a cowvin cookie ($2.75), a sweet and salty cookie ($1.75), and a brownie ($2.50).  All worth every penny. I may have eaten pretty much every crumb of all three.  Derek may have taken a bite out of each, but I definitely hoovered the cowvin cookie before it had a chance to get stale.  The sweet and salty cookie and brownie were not too far behind.  They did make it to the next day, but were easily enjoyed.

After finding the bakery, we wandered around the area waiting to meet up with another friend from school, Scott.  We wandered and watched for possible dinner options, and found Pho 14 just a few streets away from Sticky Fingers.  I personally love all kinds of asian food (except Chinese buffets ... what's that all about?).  They have a huge sign just inside the door that specifies that the vegetarian pho is absolutely vegetarian, so we decided to give this place a try for dinner.  A regular size bowl of Pho Chay is $7.95, and has lots of vegetables along with the tofu and noodles.  It definitely looked more appetizing than the meaty ones, which are just meat and noodles.  I give this place a big thumbs up for having an affordable, filling vegan option.  If you're in the area, I recommend checking it out.  I do want to note that I didn't talk to the waiter about any of the dishes except the pho, but there were a lot of tasty looking options.  If you're interested in anything else, please check with your waiter.

07 March 2010

Purportedly the Best Broccoli Ever

This coming week is Spring Break.  Spring break is an interesting phenomenon in the grad school world.  Even as an undergrad, I didn't have much time to travel during the break.  However, for the last few years I've been making a point of getting out of town for the week.  This year, Derek and I are going to visit some great friends of mine in Washington, D.C. for a few days.  This means seeing some amazing historical sites, eating some great meals, and visiting some awesome people.  Unfortunately, it also means that all the food in my fridge is under threat of spoiling before I get back to town to eat it.  As much as I like traveling, I am really bad at planning ahead for it.  So, this Sunday finds me with two heads of broccoli, half a bag of spinach, quite a bit of basil and cilantro ... and several other things that I don't expect to last the week.  So, I'm looking for ways to either eat it all up or preserve it between now and Tuesday.

The spinach and basil are going into some Classic Pesto (Vegan with a Vengeance, pg 132).  Pesto freezes wonderfully, and it's really nice to have some on hand, so I think this is a perfect excuse to restock my freezer.  I've also got some fruit -- mango and pineapple most notably -- which I chopped up and froze for future smoothie making.  Thank goodness for a little bit of extra room in the freezer :)

Some random foods, including lettuce, onion, opened tofu, bell pepper, and some others are going into a salad for dinner tonight.  And to go with the salad, I'm making some of the best broccoli I'll ever eat in my life (supposedly).  I stumbled upon this recipe (originally from Back to Basics by the Barefoot Contessa) last week when I was trying to put off some research (StumbleUpon is an excellent way to put things off, if you're in need of a way to waste time).  When I saw the recipe and its ballsy claim, I knew I'd have to try it out for myself.  I (very slightly) modified the recipe, and it was truly delicious.  Quite possibly, it lived up to the best broccoli of my life.

Some Damn Good Broccoli (maybe the best of your life)

Two stalks broccoli
2 Tbsp olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper and Kosher Salt to taste
3 large cloves garlic, roughly chopped

One lemon
3 Tbsp slivered almonds
1/2 Tbsp Olive Oil

Preheat the oven to 425*.

Cut the broccoli into large florets and slice up the stalk (I love broccoli stalk, so I always throw it in).  Put the broccoli into a baking pan, drizzle with approximately 2 T olive oil, sprinkle with freshly ground pepper and kosher salt.  Sprinkle the chopped garlic over all of it and mix to cover everything with the oil.

* Before roasting *

Roast in the preheated oven for 20 minutes.  Remove from oven, zest approximately half the lemon over the broccoli and add juice from half the lemon.  Sprinkle with slivered almonds and extra olive oil. Mix it all up, then return to oven and roast for approximately 5 minutes more.

* Some damn good broccoli *

This is best served warm.  If it gets cold, pop it back in the oven for a few minutes until the broccoli crisps back up.  This recipe makes enough for two or three people as a side dish (you'll want to eat a healthy sized portion of this one!).

* My clean-out-the-fridge dinner *

This leaves the cilantro, and a few more things (bell pepper, red onion, some very well pressed firm tofu, carrots).  Does anyone have any great ideas for this combination of ingredients?

Before I head off for a few days in the nation's capital, I'd like to let you know about a pretty great giveaway at Love and Olive Oil.  Lindsay is giving away a great set of Chef'n utensils that any vegan cook would be lucky to have.  So skedaddle on over there and enter to win!