Sunday, June 28, 2009

The "Jordan Marsh" Vegan Blueberry Muffin

Today is a very special day. It's my friend Sarah's birthday! She and her hubby are tromping through that other "Portland" (the Oregon one) and probably passing out in ecstasy at the vegan mini-mall there as I type. Aside from being a just amazing friend and super duper meteorologist (hurricane force winds? getting knocked over by a 10 foot wave? No problemo for this girl..she's up for it), she's also quite the vegan baker. So when she said she had a vegan blueberry muffin recipe, I knew it was going to be good.

I've affectionately called these "Jordan Marsh" blueberry muffins but technically they are not. Bear with me for a little Boston history. Jordan Marsh was a Boston-based department store chain that closed down a few years ago along with Filene's, our other well known local department store. Jordan Marsh and Filene's will always remind me of the "old" Boston that I used to know when I was a kid. My mom use to schlep me and my two sisters via Volvo station wagon two hours from New Hampshire to hang out in "the big city." Those Boston trips were the highlights of my childhood. I will always remember them with a smile. Boston was quite different back in the 80s compared to today. It's downright cosmopolitan now in some ways. Not that anything is wrong with that but strolling thorough town you can see the chains and brands that you can see in well, just about any other American city. Some of Boston's specialness has been lost unfortunately in this cosmo boom. Was it the big shoulder pads and big hair of the late 80s that made people think everything had to be big, that local was yokel? I have no idea but by the time I started college in Boston in 1990, the old Boston that I loved from my childhood was quickly slipping away. Boston is a very historic town so you may not realize how much has changed if you visit but for locals or even New Englanders, we notice..sigh..the price of progress. If you're interested in the whole story about the Jordan Marsh muffin, you can check it out here.

But we have our memories/muffins luckily! I grew up with my mom remembering from her college days those "Jordan Marsh" muffins that were sold at the namesake department store and well loved by Bostonians near and far. I can't tell you for sure if I ever had one myself but when I think of the gold standard of blueberry muffins, I always think "Jordan Marsh." It seems that I'm not the only one because there are a slew of variations of this muffin recipe on the web and all claim it's the best. However, they simply cannot be for one reason..they're NOT vegan!
So I christen these blueberry bundles of joy, the Jordan Marsh Vegan Blueberry Muffin!

Sprinkled with vanilla sugar on top (do you make vanilla sugar? I noticed that in Germany you can buy pre-made vanilla appears to be big in our German cookbooks but I rarely see it here in the US. So I just chop a vanilla bean in a few pieces and put it into a small locking jar with some sugar.)

Sift: 2 cups flour, 1 tbsp. baking powder, 3/4 cup sugar, 3/4 tsp. salt
In a bowl mix: the equivalent of two eggs, 2/3 cup "milk", 1/3 cup canola oil

Mix the wet into the dry ingredients until most lumps but not all are mixed.
Add 1 cup blueberries

Scoop into muffin tin, greased or lined and sprinkle sugar on top before baking (I used vanilla sugar..yum!)

Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 25-35 minutes when tops are golden brown.

The final product below..on my squirrel plate..H has the "lucky duck" variation. I spread some of my blueberry lemon jam from last year on top..yum. For whatever crazy reason I feel that I should hurry up with my current jam since it's pretty much jam season AGAIN. So we're eating a lot of jam lately from last year's batch (plum, blueberry lemon and strawberry..hoping to branch out and try some new flavors this year).

And of course, because I can't help myself, look at these sleepy Goos! Ohhhhh...believe me, they are as cute in person..can't stand the cuteness sometimes.

I'll be back soon with ice cream posts, vegan almond cheese and jammin'..later!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

I Scream, You Scream

We all scream for vegan ice cream! Well, dagnammit, it's about time! Two new vegan ice cream books have arrived. And this girl couldn't be more excited.

Now, first you must understand something about New England to understand why I am so excited. New England has the #1 per capita consumption rate of ice cream of any region in the country. Why? Not exactly sure but I think it is because ice cream is part of our local culture. Really. When I talk about growing up in NE with other native New Englanders we all have the same stories from our childhood. Going to Friendly's for a grilled cheese and ice cream with the grandparents. Taking a ride on a hot summer's eve with the family to wait in line at the local Creamy Cone under a stretch of tall pines while the purple mosquito lamp buzzes. Or day dreaming of the long gone Bailey's of Boston ice cream parlor complete with marble floors and tin sundae cups. And our "frappes" are not wimpy milkshakes..they're so much thicker cause the main ingredient is, you guessed it, ice cream!

So what's a girl to do when she goes vegan? Distance herself from her dairy-ridden past? No way! In Boston we are so incredibly fortunate to have a vegan ice creamery to line up during the hot humid summer months sweating in relief. Okay, even in the wintertime when New Englanders' appetite for the cold creamy stuff doesn't disappear with the first snow. Our own Wheeler del Torro opened up his Wheeler's Frozen Dessert Co. Shop just last year. I hadn't heard a peep about Wheeler's new book, The Vegan Scoop until earlier this week when I stumbled upon it in my local bookstore. Imagine my surprise (jumping up and down in the cookbook aisle is a regular form of exercise for me). Just released last week, so hot, or should we say cold, off the presses! This book is AMAZING! If I must tear myself away from its gorgeous pages to say, shower, feed the Goos, or go to work, it's only out of necessity. Check out his book web site..some sample recipes and fun stuff.

Also released recently is Lick It!, another vegan ice cream book. I have yet to get my hands on a copy but Tami from Vegan Appetite has heaped praise upon it and Tami's thumbs up is good enough for me! Check out the publisher's web site and sample chocolate raspberry ice cream recipe.

So finally, with new cookbook in hand, I realize it is time to invest in my own ice cream maker. I've had my upstairs neighbor's hand crank ice cream maker on "permaloan" (upstairs neighbors rock!) but I find it's not a very good ice cream maker. Well, not to my creamy perfection at least. So time to go electric? off to Williams Sonoma. Now, just a quick disclaimer..yes, Williams can be a bit overpriced with some items..but not always. I usually compare on Amazon. But when making an appliance purchase, I usually try to purchase at Williams because of their AMAZING return policy. I can't tell you how many times I have bought small appliances at other retailers, even local mom and pop ones, only to have the appliance malfunction or break in the first months, year, etc. and be told by the retailer that I'll need to contact the manufacturer. Contacting a manufacturer is often torture (I'd rather be blogging, cooking or eating!) and if they won't cover the shipping it can get expensive. Williams is a snap for situations like these. Even if it's been several years..just bring in your original receipt and they'll either give you a new appliance or give you a fair value discount based on your use of the item towards a new item. They rock! And as long as every darn small appliance I want just happens to be made in China, I feel I need the little extra insurance (no offense meant to my chinese factory worker blogger friends..which number zero at this point but ya never know!). Okay..sorry, didn't mean to turn this into a Williams Sonoma advertisement! To get back on topic, some ice cream machine options I am considering:

At almost $300 this guy is WAY out of my budget. And I think it would be a bit overkill for just me and H. The main advantage with this guy is that he has a built in compressor so you don't have to prefreeze the chilling bowl. Isn't this the same ice cream maker that Lorelei receives as a wedding gift after she calls it off with Max in what, the fourth season of Gilmore Girls? He he he!

This one is $79.95 and does 2 quarts. You do have to freeze the chilling bowl in advance. Williams Sonoma is offering a $30 gift certificate for when you purchase this guy. Cool. Literally!

This guy is $59.95 and includes an extra freezer bowl..hum, sounds convenient. Makes 1 1/2 quarts at a time vs. 2 quarts in the machine above but hey, 1 1/2 quarts is quite a few servings of ice cream. Even for a New Englander...
Do you have an ice cream maker to recommend? Let me know!

Monday, June 08, 2009

Watching My Wallet..Some Veggie Storage Tips and A Whole Lotta Asian Food

Before I get started with this post, just want to let you all know that I have three guest bloggers working with me on this post. They are Cubbie, Keebler and Trolli..and they are fuzzy and have really cute floppy ears. Yup, this post is gonna be a little "goo"-ey aka Degu-y. So when they decide they have something to add, they've gonna do it. In between comments, they will be trying to chew on any remaining piece of wood furniture I have left in my bedroom.

Cubbie says: ```````````````````````````````````````````````

It was one of those days recently when I came home for lunch and we didn't have a thing ready in the fridge that wouldn't take more than /======== (Trolli) a few minutes to prepare. So we decided to run out and try a "new" sushi place down the street that opened two years ago. Obviously, we are creatures of habit (as far as lunch choices go) so this was a big outing! It was a pleasant surprise..and light on the ole wallet...

We loved the laughing dragon tea pots and the soy sauce containers were darn cute too!
\\3 (Cubbie)

Sweet potato tempura sushi is my weakness..oh yeah..and chocolate cupcakes..shhhhh!
Note: Guava has let me know that not all tempura is vegan..most has egg..ack! Big duh on my part. Sayonara sweet potato sushi..I'll check next time I go. Thanks Guava!

Cucumber avocado isn't bad either...they even had a vegetarian dragon roll..don't know about where you live but those are tooting hard to find here in Boston. Speaking of dragons, I almost died laughing reading Santa vs. Satan a book of imaginary fights. Chinese Dragon vs. European Dragon was hilarious! I digress..$8.95 for two sushi rolls + miso soup (and it's vegan..whoot!). Not bad. My wallet is happy.

On Saturday night, we visited a thai place in the burbs called the Lemon Tree..delicious garlic chive pancakes

My favorite Thai dish..Rainbow Garden aka Smother Me In Peanut Sauce And Call It Bliss (that's my literal translation)

What wasn't bliss..the bill. Almost $50 for two people for dinner. Like, really??? Geez..I so screwed up looking at the prices before we ordered..just too focused on the vegan items I suppose. We're in a recession Thai Restaurant Peoples! Have mercy on the working masses. So I'm on a self-inflicted restaurant hiatus for a week or so to make up for this! Hence, the lumpy mango summer rolls from Vegan w/a Vengeance below ...they aren't so pretty but man, they were good. I whipped up a peanut sauce to go. Sorry for the upside down picture..didn't realize it until now and am just too lazy to change it =)

\\\\\\94 (note from Keebler who just climbed on my keyboard..must be in code..hopefully you know what this means 'cause I don't)

Another good reason to eat at home this week is that my first farm share pickup starts this Thursday. Good excuse to empty and clean the fridge since, well, I won't share the details..let's just say, it needs a good bath. We've been on hiatus with our farm since November so it will be nice to be back with the fresh local veggies. In the off season months, I've been supplementing with our local fruit and veggie delivery service, Boston Organics. Love them and am considering switching my delivery over to just fruit every other week instead of canceling for the season since my farm rarely has fruit to offer (strawberries in a few weeks and melons in August but that's it).

Some tips I have gleaned over the years for storing my produce:
  1. Wash all non-leafy veggies before storing in the fridge otherwise you will end up with a very messy fridge. Organic farm share veggies are often straight from the field and can look the part! Also, let the veggies air dry a little after washing before going in the fridge.
  2. Buy special bags. Those green bags that claim to prolong the life of your produce really do work. Hands down, they triple, maybe quadruple the life of my greens and other greens.
  3. Don't put twisty ties on your bags..instead loosely fold them closed. Something about the air circulation helps my greens stay fresher this way. I got this tip from my German mother-in-law who is a fountain of knowledge in the food preservation area!
  4. If your greens, green onions, herbs, etc. come bound with an elastic or twisty tie (or both), remove those. Shake off excess water and towel dry if necessary. Greens/green onions/herbs do best with the minimum of moisture (too much encourages rot) and lots of space within the bag.
  5. Put herbs and green onions in a cup of water if using within 4-5 days..they'll stay perked on your countertop as if you just picked them yourself!
There are a lot of interesting suggestions out there for storing veggies and prolonging their fridge life..I try to avoid methods using paper towels or newspaper but some people swear by these methods. I'm sure those work just as well!

And finally, my first soap from the Strawberry Hedgehog vegan soapworks arrived on Friday afternoon. My mailbox was wafting with a lovely scent..just in time too because my vegan bar from Nakid is so melting, you haven't checked out Tracy from the Hedgehog, please do so..she's a vegan soapmaking star!

And finally, finally, the winner of my little "Tell me what you like about New England" is the amazing Shellyfish! More on her "cool" prize later..don't want to spoil the surprise!

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

A Whole Buncha Fuzzy Wuzzies

I am very excited to tell you that this:

Came from this, my very own container garden, just started two weeks ago!

Also very excited to say that my Goos are head over heels herbivores. I had no idea they would love a fresh herb salad quite as much as they did. Here they are on their "patio" which is a board on an old fish tank on a table with a beer box on it..for whatever reason, they love it.

There was much enthusiasm in grabbing the lavender and mint from the bowl. Even the chive flowers.

And again today, repeated this time with some oregano which was a big hit too! So much so that Cubbie grabbed some away from Trolli before he realized there was enough for everyone (and will be all summer!). Silly Goos...

And today we caught a glimpse of Squirrelly's spring babies, almost grown up! It's amazing to watch how fast they grow. Mom was no where to be seen but three of these little guys came out to gawk at the weird, tall hairless squirrels with the camera (me and H).

This is actually one shot where the tree baby on one side, another on the other.

Young squirrels have such cute white fuzzy bellies. Let me tell you, there are few things as nice on this earth as getting to rub a fuzzy white squirrel belly. And the squirrelly doesn't mind either..well, at least if she knows you! I wouldn't recommend it with a squirrel who doesn't know you that well. H used to rub Squirrelly's belly at night to help her sleep and she loved it. Whoever would have known?

And finally, the food..I whipped together some sushi tonight from some leftovers. A sushi ar-tiste I am not! They barely held together. But they tasted great with the avocado and carrot. Hopefully my technique will improve over time..please..maybe??

I was really excited to make my favorite salad dish..Oshitashi..a Japanese marinaded spinach salad. It turned out okay..I think I'll try a different recipe next time and maybe let it marinade more. I should have plenty of opportunities to practice soon as I just got a postcard from my farm share..the first deliveries start next Thursday..eeekk!!! I just yesterday cleaned out some purple cabbage and rutabaga (so sad I know, hiding my head in shame) leftover from last November.

Over and out for tonight good buddies!

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

A Portland Moment

First, a BIG GIGANTIC thank you to Jenn from Vegan Can Dance! Jenn gave away three signed copies of Vegan Brunch and I am one of the happy over the top winners!

Next, here are some soundbyte (or photobytes!) from my weekend. Most people when you mention that you're going to Portland assume that you mean Portland, Oregon..unless you're in New England. Then we know you're probably going to Maine! I needed a break away last week so I drove up to Portland to visit my friend Sarah last Friday. It's about a two hour drive up from Cambridge, going north from Boston, up through the tiny coastline of New Hampshire and then hugging the coast of Maine up I-95. While Sarah sees a trip to Cambridge as her escape, I see visiting a trip to Portland as mine!

First and most important was tons of girl talk on her comfy sofa but after a bit, we were hungry and that meant the moment we had been waiting for: The Green Elephant Vegetarian Restaurant!! This is by far my favorite veggie restaurant in New England. I've blogged about it before so I won't go into more detail but will instead show you what we ate:

A crispy Asian salad with a sesame soy dressing

Crispy soy nuggets

Fresh rolls ( favorite..I have to admit that I eat these at least once a week wherever I can find them..he he he)

An inside shot...we got here right at 5pm when they opened but it very quickly filled up. That's always good to see isn't it? When a veggie restaurant is doing well!

Chocolate mousse pie with dark chocolate dipped orange segments..oh oh oh...the best...

A close up!

I woke up in the morning to the smell of freshly baked vegan blueberry muffins..served with watermelon and cherry blossom green tea. Do I love this girl or what??

Then off to the Portland Farmers' Market..Sarah packed the cute bag that she got in Japan last summer. Like many Japanese-English translations, it's a little peculiar and adorable!

We loved this edgy basil..very fragrant and almost a little fuzzy!

Looks of pickled items for sale..I was intrigued by the pickled garlic..hum..note to self to try this.

Sarah's radish shot...

Deering Oaks..a park of sorts where the market is held

Later, lunch at Yosaku, a Japanese restaurant with a patio and zen-ish garden

They have a great selection of veggie sushi..I got the sweet potato tempura (my fav), mushroom avocado (pretty good!) and inari. I was suprised when the inari arrived as inside out rolls. I'm used to it as pillows of rice stuffed into the inari (fried tofu) pockets..but instead the tofu was rolled up inside the rolls. Tasted just as good!

Tom's Agedashi tofu in broth

After lunch we went for a walk in downtown Portland..gorgeous day..lots of people out.

We stopped for a coffee/tea at a local coffee shop. Isn't Sarah a cutie?? Normally she and the hubby would zip on downtown on their Vespa..but with me the third wheel they might need to add a sidecar (shhh..don't tell them I'm planning on moving in especially if they keep feeding me such great chow)..

I had an iced chai w/soy and vegan "love" chocolate almond cookie which was warmed up to melt the chocolate chips.

Finally, we hung out in Sarah's backyard and admired her gardens.

A very rare Lady's Slipper..they grow wild in New England and it's illegal to pick them. More than one New England child has made that mistake! Mom?

White lilacs in bloom...

Chives in bloom..does anyone else love looking at chive flowers? I've always loved them.

Tibetan prayer flags. Sarah and Tom got to see the Dalai Lama last month..he wore a New England Patriots hat during the!

And last but not least...chocolate...Sarah introduced me to this chocolate, Coastline Creations' "River Mill" in January. Maine-made and it's all dark chocolate with..sea salt! Sounds odd, huh? We thought so too until we tried it. I don't know what it is but the salt balances the chocolate out perfectly and I find that I only need a nibble or two and I'm satisfied. And their label is completely honest and lists one serving size as a whole bar! I hate it when chocolate bars list nutritional info as something odd as 2.5 servings. Pluzzzeee!!!

So in the spirit of giving, if you're interested in a little gifty from New England (hint see image above!), post a comment before this Friday, June 5th and tell me what you think of when you think of New England (yes, it can even be gay marriage..we're kinda proud of that!). I'll randomly pick a comment and send the person who commented a little gifty!

And a big thanks to Sarah for giving me the escape I needed!