Sunday, October 18, 2009

VeganMoFo #8: Boston Baked Beans

Baked beans for dinner on saturday nights is a long standing New England tradition for a few hundred years. The story goes that the religious settlers of this area strictly observed the sabbath and would not cook on sundays so the need for a precooked meal started on saturday was necessary. I don't know how this transitioned into eating beans on saturday nights..that part of the story is fuzzy! There are also stories that this was a common dish in many New England logging camps..a fire pit was created in the ground and the beans would cook in it for up to two days.

My family has had baked beans almost every saturday night since way before I was even born. Usually with hamburgers although when I was a little kid it was hot dogs. It would be easy for me to continue the tradition as there are many vegan options for baked beans and hot dogs but that's just a little too predictable for me! Instead I like to eat baked beans whenever I get the craving. Sometimes even for breakfast. Despite my love of the bean, I rarely make them myself. After locating a recipe for Boston Baked Beans, I found that it's easily veganized by substituting the traditional salt pork with just a dash or two of liquid smoke.

This is my absolute favorite picture of my mom and's from our June of '08 trip to Germany. Grandpa's second trip to Europe..the first time was 1945, the year mom was born!

My grandpa has always been the family expert on baked beans. He used to make his own beans many Saturdays in his own bean pot. Grandpa was just about to turn 92 in the picture above..he's now 93 as of June!

Grandpa recently sold his house which was also the family summer camp..lots of stuff full of memories had to find new homes. I was lucky enough to be the beneficiary of his bean pot! If you are looking for canned baked beans, Grandpa recommends Bush's Baked Beans. Although he doesn't buy the vegetarian ones, I can vouch that they (the veggie ones) are really good.

Below: Grandpa's Beanpot, now in my kitchen

Bush's recipe is a bit more tomato-ish than I remember traditional Boston Baked Beans the following recipe is less tomato-ish and more molasses tasting. I played around with the ingredients and ended up using more ketchup than it called for to get the taste that I wanted. You can also feel free to experiment with the type of beans that you use..I used much larger all works out just fine! For interesting facts and stories about baked beans, check this out. Or visit the Bean Bible!

Boston Baked Beans
3 lbs. navy beans
6 qts. water
2 tbsp. brown sugar (I substituted agave and it worked just fine)
1 tbsp. bottled mustard (or from a jar)
2 tbsp. ketchup
2 tbsp. vegan Worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 cupped onion
A few dashes of liquid smoke to taste
1 bay leaf

Soak the beans overnight or for 8-10 hours. In a large soup pot or crock pot, cover with water and bring to a boil. Simmer an hour til the skins break and the beans are tender. Drain off the water and set it aside. Put beans and bay leaf in a bean pot or suitable oven-proof cooking container. In a bowl combine the remaining ingredients and three cups of reserved bean liquid. Add mixture to beans. Cover and bake in a 300 degree F oven for about four hours. Stir occassionally. Add more reserve bean water if needed to keep beans from getting too dry.

Unrelated to bean but I wanted to share: I recently went to an art fair in New Hampshire and saw some of the nicest animal paintings I've ever seen. How could these paintings not convert a person to veganism immediately?! The artist's blog is here..check out those soulful sheep eyes. I love them!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Vegan MoFo Post #7: Lunch Out and the Return of...

Too busy for cooking today unfortunately..but had a nice vegan soup at Diesel Cafe..a celery root with dried cranberries soup with some whole wheat bread. I hope to recreate it with the two celery roots that I got in my farm share pick up tonight.

Diesel Cafe was packed as always...

Mongolian masks on display..perfect for October and Halloween!

And finally on our walk back to the office past our apartment building on the corner of Massachusetts Avenue, she returned..and by she, I mean Squirrelly! Tah dah!
"Hi Guys! Where have you been?"

She recognized us right away and stopped her mushroom harvesting (really) to say hello. I haven't seen her in almost two months. I was getting worried. Her daughter has taken over the nest in the tree across the street and had babies. So Squirrelly is a grandma now. But I hadn't seen "Grandma" herself in a while. This is actually common the five years that we've known her, we've always joked that she takes a vacation in August and September. We won't see her for weeks and then suddenly she will appear in October much to our relief. Here she is snacking on a wild mushroom that she just found.

People always ask us how we recognize her. We don't actually by sight most times (although if we study her face we can usually recognize her)'s more based upon the fact that she comes bounding after us when she sees us. And of course, responds to me calling her name. Even after five years she still remembers.

In a neighbor's yard...

Our girl needs to fatten up for the winter..but she's working on it!

I finally got to say happy birthday to her in person. Happy fifth birthday my sweet little squirrel..wish you many more..

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

VeganMoFo Post #6: Another Year Celebrated With Two Cakes and Some Fuzzies

I'm really behind with my MoFo'ing..and this post isn't really about me cooking so let me distract you with some scenes from my recent birthday (Monday) and some fuzzies!

Wonderful sister got me two vegan birthday cakes! This is the chocolate raspberry:

And a vanilla strawberry cream cake..with vegan gum drops on top:

The day began with the first frost in New Hampshire. I ran around in my slippers trying to capture the frost melting in the sun but wasn't super successful. Frost is hard to photograph I learned!

The day ended with an amazing fireworks display put on by a local church to celebrate 100 years of, well, um, churchness?

Some birthday loot..Sarah gave me the VeganYumYum cookbook. Lauren Ulm, the author, is local and she's speaking at the Boston Vegetarian Food Festival on November 1st so this baby is so being autographed. I can't wait! And H gave me a copy of Scared Squirrel which is one of my favorite books of all times!

A variety of cards perfect for a vegan!

And finally to distract you further with fuzzies, the Goos got a new bathhouse. I tried to get a picture of them in the bathhouse. However, the mere presence of me with a camera was too much for their curiosity.

What are you doing? Do you have nuts for us? Are you going to let us run around in the bedroom now? Can we play?

Finally Keebler poses near the bathhouse. Degus, like Chinchillas, need daily dust baths to keep clean. We tried a variety of containers but found the dust as far as the kitchen so we knew we needed an enclosed container. I saw the bathhouse at a pet store and thought "perfect." The goos spent several minutes checking it out and enjoying their new private, members-only bathhouse! "Mom, you didn't tell us that we had to keep the dust IN the bathhouse!"

Friday, October 09, 2009

VeganMoFo Post #5: Sweet Ending to a Rough Work Week

There wasn't much mofo'ing going on today here at has been keeping me extremely busy. Work, home, eat, play with goos, go to bed. That's pretty much it. Aside from my stuffed squash dish last night, I really haven't cooked much this week. We've been living off the leftovers from Sunday's Red Flannel Hash (which only improved over the days..definitely making this one again) and had stuffed squash for lunch AND dinner. Also another great find this week. So although I am "wicked" behind in my mofo'ing posts, MoFo has pushed me to try two new recipes that I probably wouldn't have made the time for otherwise. So I'll be satisfied with that. Tonight I am planning on storming the couch with a good movie and the opportunity to let my mind go blank for 138 minutes..the running length of the movie. Seemed like the perfect time to indulge in a little treat. I found this vegan hot cocoa sweetened with only stevia and mint (they also have a delicious orange cocoa too). It's perfect for me because I can't handle a lot of sugar in the evening. Topped off with a little coconut milk creamer, it was a yummy treat along with three little mint UFO chocolates from Trader Joe's. Speaking of Trader Joe's..did you know that they have a list of vegan ingredients in the store? Nice..

Just add water and a little coconut creamer..yum..minty fresh goodness..

Some other sweeties: Wiley..Goo #4 out of 6. He's got a unique white patch on his back and he's a pretty easy going little guy. He and his two brothers, Brownie and Baby were the last three goos we adopted this spring. Our originals (Keebler, Cubbie and Trolli) came from a local animal shelter whereas Wiley, Brownie and Baby came to us via Craig's List. These two sets of brothers couldn't be more different. The original group were affectionate and fearless the very first day home. They literally came running over to meet us at the shelter! I thought this was typical of degus but it's not always. A lot of people buy them from pet stores and don't have enough time to spend with them. Since degus are extremely social animals, it's important that they work you into their social group. If you don't have time to do this with them, they will be terrified of you. The second set of goos' original owner became bored with them in a few months and wanted to feed them to his pet snake. They were rescued by the owner's roommate..who then moved out and took the goos with him (lucky little goos to cross paths with such a kind guy). He cared for them (and took very good care of them) for a few months but his new apartment didn't allow them so he put them up for adoption on Craig's List. That's when I met them!

Wiley is very bold and an excellent climber. He's also very good-natured and affectionate..only after months of getting to know me though. It's a really cool feeling to have these three little guys warm up to me after living in fear of me for the first few weeks.

Brownie (below) bit me on the index finger the first week we had him, pretty hard. It was my fault because I swatted the air near his nose and he took that as a threat. We have worked hard at reconciling and he's now the most devoted friend..sitting on my leg for 10-20 minutes just happy to chill out with me. Typically I'd say that goos do not bite that much (at least my shelter animals do not) but this second group is much more fearful and they will bite if they feel threatened. Now that everyone is comfortable with each other, there are no more bites which is great. I do not have a picture though of Baby because he is often hiding. He is extremely skittish but now even he has taken to sitting on my leg and shoulder.

If you can't tell, I'm absolutely and totally in love with these six little boys. H has got a bad case of Goo Fever too..I often finding him hoovering in the goo house, giving out little treats or tickling them. Expect many more goos stories and pictures in the future to supplement my squirrels!! Okay, good night sister is coming to Boston tomorrow and we'll then head up to New Hampshire for leaf peeping, family visiting and some good vegan chowing. More posts to come soon..have a great weekend!

Thursday, October 08, 2009

VeganMoFo Post #4: Baked Delicata w/Herbed Stuffing

We picked up the farm share tonight and while I'm usually not so down with my CSA's recipes..this one caught my eye because a. it's vegan and b. I had most of the ingredients in the cash-strapped Gemusings kitchen. Oh, you may or may not remember that I had a wonderful summer with a few trips. Notably a big one to NYC. In the words of Edith Pilaf "Je ne regrette rien!" I regret nothing. Well, except that it left the ole budget in serious needs of some belt tightening. So begins the Gemusings Bare Cupboard Challenge. Just in time for VeganMoFo. Oh crap. This should! Sure! Recipe below with my cheapskate substitutions as needed:

Baked Squash with Herbed Stuffing
(from the Rolling Prairie Cookbook by Nancy O'Connor..recipe shared by my CSA)

2 delicata squash (CSA gave me three..I used them all)
1 tbsp. olive oil (we have like 1 tbsp. of olive oil left..okay, now we have none)
1 med. leek, chopped (luckily I had these)
1 sm. apple, finely chopped (0ut of apples..used worked!)
2 stalks celery, chopped (had 'em)
2-3 cups bread cubes, 1/2" (from the bag in the freezer of stale bread ends softened in the micro)
1/2 cup veg. broth (from a cube..almost out..will have to resort to the yucky powdered stuff soon)
3/4 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. chopped parsley

Cut squash, remove seeds (dry and save for goos if you've got 'em!), and baked at 350 for 40 minutes. Allow to cool slightly. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the leek, celery, and apple. Saute until tender..about 10 minutes. Add bread cubes. Pour veg broth over the mixture, stirring to evenly distribute. Stir in the salt, pepper and the parsley. Mix well. Remove the stuffing from the heat. Heap the filling into the squash shells. Cover and return to the oven for another 20 minutes. Serves 4.

This recipe turned out pretty well but it was missing something. Luckily I caught it before it went into the oven: SAGE!! Is it just me or is stuffing not stuffing without sage? This helped round out the taste and made it feel a little more festive. I might save this recipe for Thanksgiving day.

And last but not least, some edible flowers are still going strong in the garden. I'm drying them on drying racks. Never done this so I hope it works okay. I've got a ton of lavender to dry too. For certain special little somebodies' winter diet:

And speaking of the budget-conscious, the squirrels don't have to tighten their belts this year. Supposedly there is acorn explosion this fall. The squirrels can't keep up. Luckily for Squirrelly and her this little guy!

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Book Review: Ani Phyo's Raw Food Kitchen

This summer I tried my hand at some raw "uncooking." I got of copy of Ani Phyo's Raw Food Kitchen and dug right in.

The "Save the Chicks" Pâte..very tasty..I enjoyed this in a lettuce wrap.

Buckwheat Crispies which are simply soaked sprouted buckwheat dehydrated in my toaster oven which conveniently came with a dehydrate setting. Serving here as cereal w/raw almond milk and some red plums.

Raw lemon coconut date bars. Really easy to make and yummy. This recipe finally convinced me to buy a citrus zest. My life is changed! How did I ever live without a zester? A grater just doesn't do the job! Anyway, I made this recipe several times.

A raw chocolate milk made with dates, cacao nibs, almonds, vanilla and water..delicious cold on a hot day! Ignore those chocolate chips on the side..that was for some non-raw recipe! Long since eaten, long since forgotten.

And finally, my favorite raw foodists..having their daily dried unsweetened cranberry.

I enjoyed these recipes, however, a few pounds later and after a lot of advance preparation, I gotta say, the raw food diet is not for me. I definitely will try to incorporate more raw into my diet but my schedule just doesn't allow for this kind of time for preparation and the high amount of fat included in many of the recipes was shocking to mine eyes! A cup of olive oil, a 1/2 cup of all adds up. However, I really liked that Ani's recipes are much simpler than a typical raw food cookbook so if you are going to try raw, check out Ani's books. Even if only for those raw lemon bars! Yum..

Monday, October 05, 2009

I'm on Day 2 of my VeganMoFo'ing and this post is one that I shoulda coulda written in August. Better late than never, right? Let's get right into the pickles! I'm not a dill pickle kind of girl..I mean, I love a good dill pickle in a certain deli situations but it's rare that I crave this kind of pickle. However, a good bread & butter pickle I could eat anytime! They are sweet and not for everyone but for me and my extended family, they are something we crave. Chopped up in a tofu salad or with a veggie burger: just dreamy. I was previously very intimidated by canning and very slow to warm up to the whole pickle making idea. I didn't realize that pickles are super easy and really hard to screw up! Really, I promise! Here's what you do:

First you start out with some basic equipment along with some canning jars that you should be able to pick up at most markets or indie hardware stores (for whatever reason!). Yes, I did just describe hardware stores as indie. There's a great one around the corner from me with wooden troughs that you can pick just one nail out of. Just one nail! Love it. Besides there is something about Home Dippo that makes me into a raving lunatic. Ack, I just hate that place. Okay, back on track..1 quart jars work'll probably need 3-4 or you can do a mix of whatever you have like I did. You'll also need to purchase (if you don't have):

Canning tongs..seriously so worth it. I tried my first canning experiment without these. It's a horrible difficult job to lift a slippery wet jar out of boiling water without these guys. If you want to expand to jamming and other food preservation, the $5 investment is worth it!

A big ole pot that is several inches taller than the tops of your tallest jars. I got this cheap pot at a discount store and just use it for canning a few times a year.

You'll need cucumbers. Ideally, the small pickling cucumbers (the ones with wrinkly skins) are best but feel free to experiment with other kinds. You want 10 cups of 1/4" sliced cucumbers + 3 3" onions cut into 1/4 slices.

Take your cukes and onions and place them in a bowl. Sprinkle with 3 tablespoons of salt and add 1 tray of ice cubes. Mix to combine. Cover with a towel and let it sit for three hours. This helps remove some of the water from the vegetables and softens them up.

Drain and rinse..gently fill your clean, sterilized jars with pickles and onions. Try to efficiently pack the jars without cramming them too tight. Leave 1/2" head room from the rim of the jar.

Now make your pickle brine. This brine includes: 2 1/2 cups sugar, 1 cup cider vinegar, 1 teaspoon turmeric, 1 tablespoon mustard seed, and 1 teaspoon celery seed. Place all ingredients in a non-reactive saucepan and bring to a boil. Once the sugar is dissolved, pour brine into the prepared jars leaving 1/4" headroom from the top of the jar. Put the jar lids on and screw the metal rings moderately tight. Now you are ready to "process" your pickles! Note at this point you can skip the "processing" if you plan to eat the pickles right away. Simply put them in the fridge and consume them in 1-2 weeks.

Processing simply means placing your jars in a pot of boiling hot water for five minutes cooking time. This create a vacuum seal within your jars making them shelf stable. Place the jars in your boiling water pot and set your time for five minutes..remove with your canning tongs.

As the pickles cool you may hear a popping noise as the vacuum seal pulls the "button" on the top of the lid inwards. When your jars are cool, test to make sure they are vacuum sealed by pressing your thumb down on the "button." If it pops up and down, it is not vacuumed packed. Sometimes if you press down, the button will stay down..that is okay. You may have just pre-empted the vacuum seal but that's fine. As long as the button doesn't toggle up and down, it should be vacuum-packed. If it does toggle, you can either re-process it in a hot water bath or just put them in the fridge and eat them within 1-2 weeks.

And there you have it: pickles! I found a free WebCT course from the University of Georgia two years'll learn all about different kinds of food preservations and if you complete the course, they'll even send you a certificate showing that you completed the course. This course was excellent and helped resolved some of my anxiety around canning before I starting pickling and jamming. Now I feel like an old pro! However, they are revamping their web courseware..if you check back in January you should be able to sign up. In the meantime, they have a lot of great resources on their web site for the first-time pickler. And if I can can, you can can too =) Blech! Somebody give me a corndog. And pass the bread & butter pickles..

Saturday, October 03, 2009

The Great Glass Pumpkin Patch and Red Flannel Hash

Hellooooooo! My last post was August 15th. What the heck was I doing for a month and a half that kept me away from blogging?'s hard to remember. Watching the passing of summer into fall? Counting my adorable little mini bell peppers as they ripened? Working with my newer bunch of Goos to get them used to sitting on my shoulder? Check. Check. Check.

But the real boring story is that I've been busy working. Boo! Oh yes. However, VeganMoFo III is here to save me once again. This is my second year participating and I have been anticipating it all year! Last year's MoFo gave me the opportunity to meet so many other vegan bloggers online..and it didn't just end with VeganMoFo..we read and comment on each others' blogs regularly. We all know it's hard to find a big group of vegan friends because we are such a small percentage of the population so finding friends online is almost imperative for any vegan looking for a little cooking know-how, support or other tidbits! Hello MoFo!

To start of my "MoFo'ing" here are some pictures I took this weekend at the MIT glass pumpkin festival. The glass studios at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) do this as a fundraiser for the studio. They do one preview only day where you can look and touch but not buy. Not only is this helpful for my budget, it avoids the madness of the next day where swarms of people descend upon the MIT campus to purchase the pumpkins!

The glass studios put all the pumpkins under a tent on tables. In past years, the pumpkins are all spread out on the glass but since it's a rainy weekend in New England, this wasn't possible.

Literally overwhelming how many different styles and shapes of pumpkins were present!

From more traditional "pumpkinish" colors to crazy colors..

I hope these people brought their checkbooks..the pumpkins are expensive. From $40 for a small, tiny little pumpkin the size of a medium tomato...

To much higher prices..such at the price for this adorable little glass gourd..I loved him immediately but the sticker shock made me that realize he and I were not meant to be! $245..ow!

Of course this is putting me into the mood baking...unfortunately I don't have a cute little pumpkin recipe to share with you so more on that later. Instead I am going to share this weekend's experiment: New England Red Flannel Hash.

This is an old New England dish..I remember my mom making this when I was a little kid and for some reason I think it was always after skiing. Since my fridge is overrun with beets, it seemed to be an ideal time to try to veganize this old favorite. The result was tasty..H had a few servings which is always a good benchmark.

New England Red Flannel Hash (adapted from "Old New England Recipes" by Bear Wallow Books)

4 tbsp. vegan margarine
1/2 cup chopped onion
3 cups boiled potatoes, diced
2 cups (cooked or canned) beets, diced
2 cups vegan corned beef alternative*
1/2 cup soy or almond milk
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. hot sauce (or more to taste)

Melt the margarine in a frying pan and sauté onion, Stir in remaining ingredients in order given. Cook and slowly brown. When crust forms, turn as an omelet.**

*I used Gardein BBQ pulled shreds..Lifelight's steak tips would work fine too.
**Mine never turned omelette-y so I just served it as is and it was fine!