Sunday, September 21, 2014

Vegan Pumpkin Pasta

A couple years ago, before I was vegan, I had a dinner party in my little apartment, bringing together people who previously had not known each other but who I knew would get along. It was a very adult thing to do; at least I felt adult doing it.  I cooked all day, the windows open to let in the cool autumn air. Before anyone arrived, my decades-old green table with spots of bare wood sticking through the paint was adorned with serving platters, a gravy boat and plenty of food. I set a jazz Pandora station to play on my iPad at just the right level. I made sure to finish the cooking before anyone arrived, so I could spend my time as a gracious hostess. My heart beat fast as I waited for my guests to arrive, people I'd known for years. 

There were only five people, including myself, and the apartment was crammed. I almost did not have to get up to bring the dishes from the stove to the table. Some people were in chairs, others were on the two-person couch. Still a few months from meeting my beau, I sat among the two married couples and enjoyed abundant conversation between kindly minds.

The only dinner party rule I broke was probably the biggest and one I still break often without remorse -- I served dishes I had never made before. I hosted the party to have a fun grownup meeting,  yes, but also so I could try something new. There was pumpkin, sweet potato and apple cider. The spices of fall abounded, and every dish was a hit.

I look back on that evening so fondly as a moment of Amanda growing into herself, throwing a party with married couples in her very own, no-roommates apartment. The dishes were an important part of that evening, and so I knew I had to veganize the Pumpkin Pasta dish. Last weekend, I served it in the very same apartment, on the very same table, in the company of my beau, and the cycle felt complete.

Here, it is, veganized, with mushrooms and a little cheat to it.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Vegan Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

Fall has come at last. This past week here in Boston has seen absolutely perfect weather. It's sweater and leggings season, evening walk with a crisp breeze season. And it's pumpkin season. I know I'm not the first nor will I be the last blogger to rave about pumpkin, but how can I not? Cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and all the flavors of fall just fold in so nicely with the velvety orangeness of pumpkin.

What I have brought today is actually a recipe my parents made using my grandmother's rolling pin, shown above. She used it to bake with love for many years before I came along and then watched it create a lifetime of goodies. And it's no worse for the wear, still going strong. So, this may not be a recipe from my grandmother, but she certainly played her part in it.

Let's welcome Fall back with some Vegan Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Vegan Snickerdoodles

I will be bringing these cookies to one last summer BBQ. I'm very excited to celebrate a dear friend's milestone birthday and to spend time with her adorable baby (and with some other cool people, I guess). Non-vegan food-centered social events like birthday parties do pose some challenges for vegans and others with specific diets. These times are much more challenging than the proverbial protein issue, especially since they aren't imaginary.

Mostly the challenge is fitting into the event socially. I would gladly go to my friend's birthday to laugh with friends and catch up without eating. I wouldn't complain one bit, but other people would be uncomfortable. There is a certain social expectation everyone must eat if anyone is. We all learned these manners from childhood, and overall they are a fair set of rules. When there are dietary restrictions involved things just get convoluted with politeness pressure. It's rude not to eat, and it's rude not to serve everyone; so hosts and guests alike stumble over each other worrying if the other one is happy.

I like to have an idea of the menu going in, which is easier the better I know the host of the party. Today's host is one of the most selfless people on the planet, so she has made sure there will be vegan options. I told her I would bring something to ease her workload and arranged to bring a dessert. This way I can participate in the oh, so socially important cake time. The conundrum then became bringing something sweet that would not compete with the birthday cake. Let's face it, vegan cupcakes eclipse anything else. So, I settled on the sugary, cinnamony snickerdoodles you see above. Also delicious, but less flashy.

This is another recipe from Martha Stewart's Cookies, with applesauce replacing the eggs.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

A Tale of Sourdough Redemption: Reviving a Moldy Starter

My starter in recovery with its favorite book for comfort, Peter Berley's Modern Vegetarian Kitchen

I'm the kind of person who plans her next day as she lays in bed the night before, then rehashes the plan when she wakes up the next morning. Last night, I fell asleep to visions of sourdough fairies, since I had decided to make my preferred whole wheat sourdough bread that takes about a day and a half to complete. I was going to get the bread started, clean the apartment, learn some music, copy some music and do who knows what else.

The whole plan was derailed from step one, however, when I took out my sourdough starter only to find it had grown a layer of mold.
"Freddy III!" I exclaimed, "What are we going to do?"
I was shocked. I was devastated. Okay, so maybe I hadn't been the best sourdough mom, neglecting my starter so long it got moldy. I didn't mean to; he just never told me he was in trouble! I don't make bread every week, but I love having the possibility waiting there for me. We always had a sourdough starter in my childhood house. Freddy the First lived there, happy to make us pancakes, crusty breads and baguettes. After we made something, it was often my job-- nay, privilege-- to feed him  I loved the yeasty smell and the messy glop sloshing around I mixed in flour and water. Then came the bubbles as he grew! Freddy the First never got mold.

But his grandstarter did. After a moment of mourning, wondering if we had reached the end, I turned to the internet. Lo, there was hope! This site showed me the way. Now Freddy is in recovery, and it's not certain that he'll make it. He is bubbling, though, and it gives me hope.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Grandmother's Crazy Cake: One-Pan Vegan Chocolate Cake

I am so excited to give you one of my grandmother's recipes as is! Her "Crazy Cake" contains no animal products, and it only dirties one pan. It is also fluffy and delicious. What more could a baker want?

As July winds down and we have more of this year's summer BBQs behind us than ahead, I find myself reflecting on how nice it is to have summer get-togethers. The holidays are the time we more traditionally think about reuniting with loved ones, but those are so few and precious that we don't get to see everyone. The weather can be so unpredictable, and many times a holiday is about sheltering in place with one faction of our family.

Summer, on the other hand, is practically a word meaning "much more time to do things." Sure, we fill that time up pretty quickly, especially as adults; but there seem to be more possibilities shining in with the summer sun. The days are longer, the weather is more forgiving for travel, and the sunshine allows us to gather more people into backyards than we could ever fit into houses.

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of attending one such backyard gathering of a community I have been part of for over a decade now. It was wonderful to see old friends and to even make new ones. Sure, vegans attending omnivore BBQs cannot always expect much for food (though the hosts at this event do always provide some delicious plant-based fare); but the food isn't really the point. Sometimes it's nice to fill up one's plate and giggle about what so-and-so's baby just did rather than discuss the food. It's also good to see people in person, even if Facebook tells us their every move. We see their faces and their expressions, hear their laughs and (ever more commonly in my life) hold their babies. I am very grateful for summer and for my friends who take the effort to bring friends together.

So, to friends, BBQs, veggie burgers and, of course, to cake!