Friday, May 29, 2009

Are You Daring Enough for the Vegan McPizza?

Many of your distinguished palates are probably familiar with the McPizza. This is when a pizza is covered with Mickey Dees cheeseburgers, french fries, and chicken nuggets:

<span class=

Or perhaps you have made your own concoction of fast food on a pie goodness. I know a favorite during my college years was the Taco Bell pizza:

<span class=

Either way, being vegan I have always missed on this gluttonous side show, and for someone who likes junk food so much, it's been a sad hole in my diet. Luckily, there is this guy out in the world who was also pretty into this concept, but unlike me, he didn't let his diet stand in the way of making this priceless meal. With the help of two of the cutest vegan children I've ever seen he was able to craft one delicious looking pile of vegan junk food.

He describes the vegan McPizza as being, "very will only take a piece, maybe two, to fill you up…and I mean fill. I daringly went for two pieces…a half burger, half fry and a half burger, half nugget...I was stuffed." He goes on to give it more than favorable reviews, and to me, it sounds like maybe this could qualify for more than just junk food? Maybe... "The flavors were all actually quite good. The tomato sauce and cheese go well with all 3 toppings by themselves…chicken parmesan, cheese fries w/ marinara dipping sauce, a pizza burger. But all combined on a pizza…Vegan McMagic!"

To read more about the making of a vegan McPizza check out this post he wrote for the blog/website he shares with his wife called Ste Martaen. This is an excellent down to earth, welcoming vegan site. Plus, they sell what looks like awesome Vegan Gourmet Cheese. I haven't attempted to purchase it yet (online shopping intimidates me), but it's tempting. Please check it out for great recipes, thoughts on healthy eating, and of course fresh cheese!

And Now a Word from Ms. Jones

Today WWEIL is debuting it's first contributing author. She's a cook, baker, and all around rockin' lady, she's Ms. Jones. Bon Appétit!

Eating in New York City is usually determined by time. Lack thereof leads to convenience and a lot of it leads to cooking at home or dining out. From my teensy kitchen in Brooklyn...a small preface.

Many consider NYC one of the culinary capitals of the world. I'd definitely agree, although the variety presented to you here and the fast paced lifestyle that you're forced to live makes eating insanely challenging. Eating healthy is an even more daunting task. Not many of us in the city have the luxury of 4-star restaurants every night. Sometimes, the only thing open when you get home is the seedy bodega on the corner of your street. (I know, I live right next to one.)

I'm a cook in Manhattan. Pastry is my forte, but in my time in kitchens here, I've been surrounded by cuisine prepared by some of the most respected chefs in the game. The reality is, though, as any other cook will tell you, staff least decent ones...are hard to come by. Family style chicken drumsticks, day old arugula salads, and egg and pepper dishes are not exactly haute cuisine. Plus, when the person responsible for it also has their station mis-en-place to take care of, chances are, they're not going to pour as much effort into it. Its not like your mom is cooking homestyle for everyone.

Personally, being a pesca-tarian pastry cook, getting sustenance for the day is like a scavenger hunt. Despite what you may have heard, genoise cake, whipped cream, candied fruit, chocolate, and pastry cream are not the 5 food groups. Realistically, there is no time for a proper meal break in the midst of service prep, too. So, when you finish a 12-14 hour shift, you'll pretty much eat anything you can get your hands on. Plus, by the time you make it home, (Brooklyn in my case) it's 1 a.m...which do you think will win out in the snack battle: a well balanced meal, or a few handfuls of animal crackers? Most of the cooks I know don't even have the workings of a full meal in their cabinets or fridges. You become MacGyver, fashioning things out of saltines, baby carrots, and mystery condiments.

I supposed it's my goal, as part of this blog, to bring you both serious and laughable food from a cooks point of view. Trying to eat cheaply and healthily in the city, while working just about 7 days a week. I'll even say that most of my posting on here will be savory. I am surrounded by sweets all day, therefore, most of the time, I kind of want a salt lick to carry around in order to balance my system out.

Thinking back to Tuesday, when I had the day off, I spent most of it refreshing my soul by biking around the Prospect Park area. I left at 10:30 a.m. and returned home around 6 p.m. After swinging by Bliss vegetarian cafe on Bedford Ave for an organic black bean burrito, then cleaning up and running errands and doing laundry, I finally returned home at 11pm and needed to consume something before turning in for the night. When I was out, I swung by Whole Foods and got a couple of scones from their bakery department. I am constantly trying sweets around the city looking for an interesting flavor or texture. Whole Foods does vegan and wheat-free cookies and baked goods, but this time around, I opted for a Strawberry Pecan Scone.

Scones are more than Scrooge McDuck's favorite food...Its a quickbread with Scottish origin, but is standard in British, Irish, and Canadian fare as an accompaniment for coffee or tea. In the U.S., scones are larger and drier than their European counterparts. For those of you who have never made scones before, there is a precise mixing process that takes place in order to achieve the perfect flaky texture of a scone. Cubes of butter are cut into the dry ingredients until they are the size of little pebbles. The mixture ends up looking like slightly damp sand before one would incorporate the rest of the wet ingredients. Its the little bits of butter than melt and create buttery pockets in the baked dough.

So, I am exhausted and just looking for something small to put in my system before hitting the hay. The outside of the scone is beautiful and I figure it'll be great with my NY local Macintosh apple. The outside is nicely browned and I can see chunks of strawberries in it. I'm psyched. I break it open only to see this:


About 1/8 of an inch of the scone all the way around is nicely baked, however the inside, while solidified, is not baked at all. Knowing ovens and baked goods, I can tell you that the lovely cooks at the Whole Foods kitchens probably had their ovens WAY too high up, blasted the scones for a a little while to make sure the bottoms were cooked, and never tested the insides of any of them. In the world of mass production, and even in small scale baking, every ingredient and cooking time is calculated with precision for a reason. If you're not going to take the time to do it right, then don't do it at all. As a cook, I was disappointed. As a consumer, I felt wronged. As a hungry and exhausted individual, I felt....hungry.

I ate it and my apple...and came to the conclusion that it was like eating an under baked cookie. It also probably could have used more pecan flavor, but then again some of that may have come out during a longer baking process. Belly full, I crashed for the night, knowing I could have done it better.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Wendy, you're a whore and a tease.

While I wait for Nick to send me the pictures of my Memorial Day cookout (soon to be featured here as "4th of July Cookout" because, if nothing else, we believe in vérité), here's a quick hitter.

Pretty soon, you're going to be hearing all about the boneless wings at Wendy's. Man, I can already hear those ads with "Sweet Home Alabama" cranked in the background, because nothing screams secessionist Southern heritage like a piece of deep-fried mystery chicken. OK, so KFC already did that, big deal. It wouldn't be the only recycled thing Wendy's putting out there.

Their "boneless" "chicken" "wings," for instance.

For $3.99, you get 8 of these sad little fuckers, all dressed up in whatever sauce they had laying around the test kitchen on the fateful day that these disgraces were brought into their horrifying existence. Guess what? THEY'RE CHICKEN NUGGETS DROPPED IN SOME SAUCE. So if I can get 5 nuggets for $0.99, what does my extra $3 buy me? Best I can tell: 3 more nuggets, some sauce that tastes like I sweated it out after a chili cook-off, and a plastic box.

What is traditionally known as a "boneless" chicken wing is a deep-fried breast tenderloin, not to be confused with a chicken tender (which can be any part of the breast meat) or chicken finger (which can actually be cut from any part of the chicken). The tender or finger can actually even be ground or processed chicken, like what you'd find in a chicken nugget. The nugget, however, is not a tenderloin, which in turn means it also is not a "boneless" chicken wing.

So you can understand my outrage when I opened up a shitty box of chicken nuggets with a terribly bitter and mildly spicy (Wendy's marketers call that "bold") sauce. For half the price, I could have 10 nuggets and douse them in my choice of elegant hot sauces at home.

This last part is for you Wendy. You fucking bitch. You know how much I love chicken wings. You know that they're probably my favorite food. I trusted you and you blatantly betrayed that trust. How can I ever take you seriously again? You're a lying, manipulating, conniving whore, and I can't live like this anymore. Get out of my life.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Lazy Restaurant and Movie Review Post

I went out this past Firday for dinner and a movie with my friend Heather. As she was dog/house sitting for her parents in Willoughby that's where we met. While the Willoughby Brewing Company is conveniently located in downtown Willoughby we opted for Ballantine's. A nice place over all with an upscale-corner-bar appeal.

The dining room seems a lot bigger inside that outside so despite a relatively full crowd we were seated immediately. I liked this place immediately when I discovered the beer list to be significantly larger than the food menu. When we asked what was on tap our waitress pointed us to the menu as there were nearly forty (40!) beers on tap, plus a rather extensive bottle list. I am strongly of the opinion that if good draught beer is available why bother with a bottle? She opted for the Bell's Oberon, one of the best summer seasonals available in the region, and I for a barley wine whose name I now forget, suffice it to say it was delicious. An excellent balance of malt and hops and a strong, but pleasing bite, it was nearly 11% after all.

The food menu is simple but tasteful, nothing overly fancy but nothing terribly dreary either. A handful of pizzas top the menu ranging from the simple--four cheese and white--to some fancier fare which I cannot recall. The middle of their menu featured a good mix of salads and sandwiches, including their burgers, which is what we both ordered. She got the basic burger which came with cheese and fries, I got the bleu cheese burger with caramelized onions, bleu cheese, garlic aioli, and bacon (I don't remember seeing bacon on the menu's description, but it was a great surprise). The burger, cooked medium, was moist and juicy, with the onions and the aioli balancing out the dryness of the bleu. My burger came with a side of fries, thin cut and fried crispy--well done!--and a fried pickle! Death by food!

More beer came with the food, Heather sticking with the Oberon still, I however switched to a summer bock from a brewery I can't remember. Malty and strong with just the right hint of hops in the aftertaste it was the perfect accompaniment to such a hearty burger, cool and refreshing with a lightness that balanced the heaviness of the meat without being lost in the shuffle.

The bill came to about forty dollars, not bad for four delicious beers and two serious burgers.

Next we were off to the movies where I finally saw Star Trek. Totally worth the wait. Great acting, solid action, and a twisty plot that wasn't impossible to understand. The new Kirk as all the swagger and charisma he needs to fill Shatner's shoes and, thankfully, none of the weird phrasing. The new Bones is as dour and grouchy as he should be, and Syler as Spock is fantastic. Overall, a great summer action movie and a great re-introduction to the series.

After the movie we decided to grab another drink, this time at Frank and Tony's, or F.A.T.'s as they call it. A dimly lit little dive of a bar, their liquor shelf and draught selection belied the iffy clientele, an odd mix of "bros," metal dudes, and their assorted female companions and hangers-on. But I love a dive and I heard Slayer twice so I can't complain too much. We started out with Dortmunders but I switched to the new Grassroots Ale, also from GLBC, for the next round. I'd been interested in trying this since I first saw it in a store a month or so ago. Flavored with coriander, lemon balm, chamomile, and lemon basil it bears a more than a passing resemblance to the beer it seems to be replacing: Holy Moses. Light and crisp with tons of citrus and hop notes, it's not my new favorite at GLBC, but it's a solid summer sipper, very clean and refreshing.

All and all it was a good night out: good food, good drinks, and a good movie.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Things I Do When the Boyfriend Is Gone

I love to cut corners, especially when it comes to meals. I hate the longevity of prep, cooking, and then cleaning up. I usually try to cram all the steps together in some explosive way that I usually regret later. I make a hobby of this mostly when the live in boyfriend is out. He doesn't consider throwing salad dressing into the bag of mixed greens a viable option, and he's not impressed when I eat peanut butter straight from the jar for lunch. He's really into cooking whole, healthy, and delicious meals and then putting them on a plate. The plate part is important, it took me a year to get him to eat Chinese food out of the take out box with me.

I really love that he makes all the meals because a) it's very thoughtful and b) I don't have to do shit, except eat his wonderful me more time to write about, uh, food. See it's not that I don't want yummy meals, it's just difficult to make them when you live in Lazytown USA. So when he goes places and leaves me to my own devices I blithely do lots of lazy things around the kitchen that I know would make him cringe. I leave the fridge door open while I use stuff, I stick the same knife into multiple condiment jars, I eat things cold with out cooking them, I eat ice cream for dinner if we don't have food, and I stack dishes up on the floor in front of the couch after I eat off of them, that is if I even use a dish. I try to avoid that as much as possible. Recently I've indulged in just eating whatever right off the cutting board, why dirty more stuff?


Then if a dish is dirty, I try my hardest to get someone else to deal with it before I just pull it together and toss it in the sink.


I know, I'm a total maverick. And now, I'm off to eat hashbrowns and cereal for breakfast. Yes, I will be eating those shredded potatoes right out of the pan...

Friday, May 22, 2009

Fool Me Once, Shame On You...

We were having this big send-off party for our boss Tony who is leaving for a 2-month bicycle odyssey across America and I was asked to make baked beans. I make great baked beans, by the way. My recipe comes from a Boston pub that has been making the signature dish the same way since the Revolutionary War. Anyway, I didn't have the time to make them the proper way, so I decided to cheat and take the good things about the Boston recipe and add them to some canned beans and hope that I could get away with it. Here's how the crime unfolds:

Boston baked beans traditionally use salt pork, but that's best when stewed in the beanpot for 6 hours. I didn't have that kind of time, so I fried up 24 ounces of bacon instead. I picked cheap, fatty bacon because I had ulterior motives which I'll explain in a bit. It's important to cook bacon fully, but you don't want "bean bacon" to get crispy. Here's the before and after:

Normally when making baked beans, I'll put a half or whole onion on the bottom of the pot and let the long cook time soften it up. Again, I had to hurry the process so I quartered the onion and fried the pieces in the bacon fat. If you try this at home, do yourself a favor and save some of that bacon fat for the next time you make a pan of popcorn. You won't be disappointed. Also, be carful frying large pieces of onion this way, as they accumulate grease due to their cup like nature, and they tend to want to "dance" in the skillet. Cook 'em till they're translucent and soft.

Chop up the bacon but not the onions. Put that mixture in a crock pot and add four 28-ounce cans of baked beans. Your choice, but the plain varieties work best. Mix in about half a cup of molasses, 2 tablespoons of dry mustard, salt and pepper to taste and a little bit of magic juice (aka bacon grease) and set the crock pot on high for two hours to let the flavors congeal.

The result is a pot of sweet, meaty, stick-to-your-ribs baked beans that are pretty good, but nowhere near as good as the made from scratch variety. I'm sure I'll have to pay a penance to the gourmet gods for allowing these abomination beans into existence, but my coworkers all had high praise for them. Bacon wins again.

Fun With Kitchen Toys

A while back my mom picked up one of these:
a BonJour Mini Frother from a kitchen store for about ten bucks. This has been maybe the most fun ten bucks one can spend on a kitchen appliance.

My mom mixes together half'n'half and skim milk with a little sugar then froths it and pours it over coffee, instant fake lates. This works in tea, too, if you prefer your tea British style. For some reason the skim froths better, the half'n'half gives it some body, and the sugar sweetness as well as support.

I've played around with it a few times but with less success. Until last night. Looking for something to satisfy my sweet tooth, I was poking around the kitchen to no avail when it struck me: a rich, delicious dessert-y beverage, not so much a milkshake or a smoothie, more of a frappachino. I grabbed a few ingrediants and got to work.

Here's how I did it:


  • tall glass or large mug
  • mini frother (a blender or imersion stick blender will work, too, if you don't have a frother)
  • measuring cup
  • spoon
  • cocoa powder
  • instant coffee or espresso power (optional)
  • vanilla extract
  • milk (dairy or non, mine was half real half almond and delicious!)
  • half'n'half (optional)
  • cinnamon and/or other spices (optional)
  • sugar (optional)

What to do:

  • Following the microwave hot cocoa instructions on the cocoa power pack put 3/4 the recommended amount of cocoa in the bottom of your glass (the remaining 1/4 is made up by the coffee or espresso powder if you so desire, otherwise use the full dosage).
  • Add in 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract (if you're using a vanilla milk sub you may want to use 1/4 tsp or none at all).
  • add in any spices you may desire.
  • Add a tsp or two of sugar depending on your tastes and whether or not your cocoa powder is pre-sweetened.
  • Pour in the appropriate measure of milk per your cocoa pack's instructions (probably 8oz.)
  • Put the spurs to it!
  • Froth or blend in pulses until there is no cocoa powder floating on top and you've built up some good foam.
  • If you want to make this a little richer you may add half'n'half now or when you add the milk. If adding now give the mix another pulse or two to ensure even distrobution.

Drink as is or drop in a few ice cubes.

Optional additions: Di Saronno, Frangelico, Bailey's, whiskey, vodka, creme de menthe, creme de cacao, etc.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

you are what you eat

Since i never bothered to set up any sort of "home page" on my work computer every time I open Explorer I'm greeted by the MSN home page, which prominently features a box in the middle of my screen that flashes through a handful of the most current news topics. These range from general news updates to entertainment "news" ("Kris beats Adam" was one of today's), to the fascinatingly strange (and article listing the 100 things you didn't know about death was there a few weeks ago).

Today I was greeted by an article about the "Ten Foods You Should Eat But Don't." Seemed interesting enough so I clicked through the slide show and read the little blurbs about these "wonder foods" and was pleased to discover that there wasn't anything on this list I wouldn't eat, but, other than dark chocolate (the only chocolate really worth eating anyways) I don't eat these things nearly enough.

While I'm not wild about blue berries (the melon of the berry realm: bland, over used, wrongfully popular) or cherries (great big meh + pits = thanks-but-no-thanks), I will go to town on some kiwi, destroy some fresh coconut, and munch up some cooked kale like a bunny! I just need to make an effort to eat more of these and less of... well most of what I do eat.

Check out the article and the full list here:

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

But I'm Hungry Noooooow

So when I got the mail today and saw there was a menu for a new Chinese Delivery place I hadn't tried yet, I took it as a sign that I was meant to order in tonight. Other signs included my lazy lazy hands, and a fridge so hollow with nothingness it echoes. Yet, when I flipped through the mail a little more and saw IKEA was having some "holy shit" sale this weekend (memorialize our troops with savings!), I figured I'd save the 15 bucks and put it towards a Swedish something or other, since my new apartment is lacking in sit ware. In my desperation to own furniture that wasn't originally made for camping, I decided to ditch the Chinese food idea and opt for one of the few things kicking around in the freezer.

<span class=

Trader Joe's Soy Corn Dogs - you can tell they're mine because my name's on them! These are not great, I don't recommend them unless as a vegetarian you miss corn dogs so much you can't stop yourself. I understand. As a fair food fanatic, I would still sneak the meat ones once every summer for a few years after becoming vegetarian. Some people can't give up steak, my hurdle was corn dogs. Having officially weened myself years ago, I've long been searching for a mock kind that can bring the taste and texture of the originals. After going through the 6 or 7 different veggie options I've seen, I'm gonna say it's not possible to match, but to be fair, I think it's just impossible to find any kind of freezer corn dog edible, this isn't just a soy issue. I think it's actually a physics* issue. The outside of a corn dog takes not long to heat because it's breading, the inside is frozen meat or tofu and there's more of it, so it takes much much longer. So while the inside is taking a million years to even thaw, the outside is getting either burnt or soggy (for the record I've had both, and I recommend burnt over soggy). So, yeah, this is the meal I went with in hopes of being able to curl up on a couch this time next week.

So the box is like, "microwave or heat in the oven, it'll suck in the microwave, but it will take 20 friggin minutes in the oven and you're hungry now." So I was like, "fuck you box, I'm going with the stove!" With no one to tell me to just calm down and make them like the box says, I threw caution to the wind and heated them on the stove in a pan! Like a boss!

<span class=

So because the stove is a useless electric stove (and not for any reason involving my reckless decision making), my already meh meal got burnt to shit by way of smoking up my entire apartment. Oh well, burnt isn't inedible, right? Now they're Cajun!

<span class=

See? There's still some good lookin' golden brown to gnaw off. Oh shit, what's that you say corn dog? Your middle is still cold and not at all cooked? Too bad, I already started eating you.

<span class=

I figured a cold soy dog couldn't really harm me, so I nibbled away at it futilely in an effort to not make waste (and also to avoid more time cooking). That's about as much as I could get through in my hunger and desperation. As you can see, I tried to mask the chilled taste with ketchup and mustard, but it did little more than make me wish I was just eating straight condiments for dinner. Stupid stove.

disclaimer: I've never once taken a physics class and I understand little to no science. Sometimes I can name different types of clouds or dinosaurs, but that's it.

Doctor Doctor

Taking simple comfort food and making it better is pretty much how I learned to cook. Take the classic grilled cheese and tomato soup combo, for instance.

I was working with what I had today, so there's nothing special about the sandwich (wheat bread, American cheese slices, and some margarine to grill it with), but the soup's been touched up considerably. First thing's first: Campbell's tomato soup is perfectly good in a pinch, but if you're making it with water and not milk, you may as well eat your own spew. Use 2/3 of a can of milk to get a thick, rich, creamy soup. Here's where it gets interesting: add in black pepper, crushed red pepper, basil, garlic salt and parmesan cheese to complement and accentuate the tomato flavor. Heat slowly and enjoy.

This whole meal costs about $2, takes under 10 minutes to prepare, and is utterly delicious. Seems like a no-brainer...

Monday, May 18, 2009

For Shame...

I am a terrible person.

Well, I feel terrible at least. Here's the deal: I've been working on a big project at work for the last 2-3 weeks and it's required me to be in the office almost every day. My office is 100 miles from my house, so I usually get to work from home 2-3 days a week. Just not these weeks. 200 miles of commute means I have to pack life in around the edges, so I don't have time to cook, and I don't have time for meals at fancy restaurants. Most of my meals have been handed to me through my car window for most of the month, and it's finally beginning to take its toll.

I have explored pretty much every I-70 exit's food possibilities between Columbus and Dayton. Tim Horton's on Hilliard-Rome Road (just past the west outerbelt in Franklin County) is great for the Bagel B.E.L.T. sandwich and a cup of coffee in the morning. The McDonald's on US42 in London consistently forgets my hash browns. There's a Hardee's in Springfield that has almost made my heart stop. The Burger King in Huber Heights has the worst fries I've ever tasted. The Wendy's on Hoke Rd. in Englewood has actually handed me an entire bag of food that was *almost* what I ordered. But I keep going back to these places (and all the other fast-food joints that litter the landscape) because my work life is encroaching heavily on my social life.

Hopefully things will return to normal soon. I feel awful. My liver is begging me for forgiveness. I respond by drowning it with alcohol once I get back to Columbus. I have probably consumed enough sodium in the last year from eating fast food to last me for the next decade. Not to mention that I am not as svelte as I once was as a young man.

I should probably go on a diet of shredded newspapers and wasabi to counteract this egregious sin I've committed against my body, but I think I'll settle for another Beef & Cheddar with curly fries and admit that the situation is hopeless as long as I live like a nomad.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Vegan Cookies, jon's first post

Vegan Chocolate Chip, Oatmeal, Peanut Butter Cookies

I thought for my first post I’d use one of my favorite recipes. I’ve made these twice in the past week, and have knocked out a few other batches in the past for parties and birthdays. The cookies are dense and chewy, with an excellent balance of all its flavors, not overwhelmingly peanut buttery, a good hand full of chocolate chips, and just enough oatmeal for texture. The holy trinity of cookies, combined!

It’s a pretty simple recipe and is difficult to go to far wrong. If you have a stand mixer I recommend using that, otherwise you’ll want a good hand mixer as this dough gets pretty thick, especially once you add in the oatmeal.

1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon crunchy peanut butter
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 cup turbinado sugar
1/3 cup soy milk (regular or vanilla flavored)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour (4 ounces weight or very lightly scooped)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup rolled oats
2/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips — use non-dairy such as Tropical Source
1/3 cup chopped, toasted walnuts or pecans (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together first five ingredients.

In a small bowl, thoroughly stir together flour, soda and salt. Stir into batter. Stir in oats and chocolate chips, followed by nuts if using.

Drop batter by rounded tablespoonfuls onto Silpat or parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes or until set. Remove sheet from oven and let cool on tray for 5 minutes.

Makes 18 cookies

Notes: The recipe, as I found it online, suggests crunchy peanut butter, I don’t. Between the oatmeal and the chocolate chips these guys are dense and have a ton of texture already, crunchy p.b., and the optional nuts at the end, are going to make them overly textural. As far as brands go I can’t recommend full flavor creamy Jif nearly enough, for this and any other baking application requiring p.b. It blends well and as this is replacing the bulk of the butter you would normally use in a cookie recipe the higher fat content is appreciated for flavor and needed for body and binding.

For a moister cookie substitute half a cup of brown sugar in for half the turbinado. Incidentally, if your natural sugar has larger grains you may need to use more sugar as the larger granules have more space between them.

I prefer almond milk for this and most other sweet vegan applications, it’s richer, creamier, has less of that gaminess soy milks so often does, and the nuttiness compliments the nuttiness of the cookie, but any milk sub will do. Also, you may want to consider adding in an extra tablespoon of milk as this batter is a little on the dry side.

Using pastry flour instead of all purpose makes a lot of difference. The first few times I made these I only had all purpose flour and the cookies came out much denser. While not inedible by any means, using pastry flour yields a lighter, but no less chewy cookie. (For more information on how flour and fat choices affect the out come of your cookie check out the episode of Good Eats entitled “Three Chips for Sister Marsha” here:

When checking for doneness don't wait until the cookie is golden brown and set. Remove cookies when the edges are brown and set. Allowing them to sit on the warm cookie sheet for five minutes or so after will allow the heat stored inside to carry over and finish cooking them out of the oven, thus protecting you from dry or burnt cookies.

When sifting together the dry ingredients—always sift!—I like to add in half-to-three-quarters teaspoon of cinnamon. The cinnamon, oatmeal, and chocolate work so well it’s ridiculous, and it perks up the peanut butter, too.

Baking Playlist, courtesy of iTunes shuffle:

Misfits – Bullet
Pedro the Lion – Eye on the Finish Line
Saturday Looks Good to Me – (even if you die on the ) Ocean
Misfits – Static Age
The National – Cold Girl Fever
James Brown – My Thang
Detachment Kit – Ricochet
Del tha Funkee Homosapien – Signature Slogans
Elliott Smith – St. Ides Heaven
Ol’ Dirty Bastard – Rollin’ Wit You
The Kinks – Muswell Hillbilly
Caetano Veloso –
In the Hot Sun of a Christmas Day
The Dwarves – Back Seat of My Car
Hall & Oates – It’s a Laugh
They Might Be Giants – No One Knows My Plan
They Might Be Giants – Famous Polka
Cibo Matto – Clouds
The Replacements – More Cigarettes
Caribou – She’s the One
Supergrass – Road to Rouen
LCD Soundsystem – Us V Them
Jesus and Mary Chain – Frequency
Stylex – No!
Beulah – Popular Mechanics for Lovers
The White Stripes – Prickly Thorn, but Sweetly Worn
Klaxons – Isle of Her
Crystal Castles – Love and Caring
Rocket From The Crypt – Good Bye
Fugazi – Returning the Screw
Pavement – Fight This Generation

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Easy Vegan Indian Food in 20 minutes or Less (Depending on the Suckitude of Your Stove)

I just moved into a new apartment. It's got everything I want (two bedrooms, hardwood floors, ceiling fans) and one thing I really effing hate: an electric stove. These stoves are crap because they make it overly hard to shift the temperature, or be precise about anything. Also, the burners stay hot long after they get turned off, which is bad for kitty paws that like to hop up when no body is looking. But despite these disadvantages, I was able to cook a pretty quick and delicious Indian dinner for two last night.

I bought two different dishes from separate companies to compare. Trader Joe's Indian Fare "Madras Lentil" and Tasty Bite "Bombay Potatoes." Both are vegan and are about three bucks. The latter was bought at a Giant grocery store, and I assume it can be found in other such places (Meijer, Kroger, Hy-Vee, Safeway, Giant Eagle, etc.). I also bought Trader Joe's White Basmati Rice for around three dollars. You can definitely make Indian dishes with regular rice, but the taste and texture won't be quite as authentic.

<span class=<span class=Align Center

I also recommend Trader Joe's Garlic Naan (for dippin'), though my sheckles are lacking and that was one three dollar purchase too many for this meal...I'm going for meager chic here.

<span class=

Okay, now you know what to buy, so here's how it comes together. First get out your/buy your rice cooker and dump the rice plus two cups of water in there with it. 1/3 bag of rice is a filling meal for two. More rice means more water, and I only ever make enough for two, but a good rule of thumb is to just make sure the rice is submerged with a 1/2 inch or so of water above it. So once the rice is in the cooker, it's practically done, and you can ignore it while you prepare the rest. These Indian meals come in handy little foil packets (like space food) and in order to eat them, all you have to do is heat them up in boiling water. Just make sure you lay them as flat as possible in the pot, and that the water is mostly covering them. Due to buoyancy issues, one corner will always stick up out of the water a little bit just to drive you to the brink of insanity, so try to ignore it if you can. Trust me, there is no amount of poking or prodding that will keep it totally under. Then if you're like me you'll wander around the kitchen eating snacks (because you're starving, duh) until the cooker and stove have done their magic. It takes about three minutes for the Indian space packets to be ready, and a little longer for the rice (like 10 minutes-ish) so that's why you should start the rice first. Or do whatever you want, I'm not trying to boss you.

<span class=<span class=<span class=

Once the cooking magic is done, grab the packets out with some kind of tongs, because they are hot and not above burning the shit out of you. Then rip 'em open by the convenient slit at the top, and dump them on the rice I'll assume you already smartly distributed on your plates. Then it'll look like something not wildly beautiful, but pretty fucking delectable (see below).

<span class=<span class=

The lentil one is on the top and the potato one is on the bottom. The lentil one is much more mild, while the potatoes are spicy spicy, too much for my wimpy palate. Also, if you're into texture, the lentil one is pretty runny, and soaks into the rice right away, while the potato one lingers a bit more in it's chunkiness. All in all, it's a pretty great dinner for two. It's yummy, under 10 bucks, and it'll be cooked in less time than it takes to watch another That 70's Show rerun.

The Lowest Common Denominator

I watch more TV now than I used to - not particularly proud of that. I'm a slightly-more-than-casual baseball fan, so I end up watching a lot of games. When I don't get up in between innings to refresh my beer (springtime means Columbus Brewing Company Apricot Ale) or, um, let it out, I end up watching commercials. Now I'm a fairly educated man, so I understand the point of advertising is essentially to fool you into wanting something, which is why I'm fascinated by the ads for Pizza Hut's Tuscani Pastas. Take this one, for instance:

If you're old enough to remember, it's essentially the same as "we replaced your regular coffee with Folgers crystals." Anybody with half a taste bud in their mouth knows that Folgers tastes like burnt horse turds compared to an artisan-roasted coffee, but if you need a caffeine fix, you'll take it. I haven't tried the Pizza Hut pasta, but I'd be willing to make two assumptions:

1) It's not good enough to be served in "America's finest restaurants," as Folgers would put it, and
2) It's probably not the worst Chicken Alfredo you'll ever taste in your life.

About 25% of people are what are called "supertasters," meaning they experience taste more intensely than average people - see the They Might Be Giants song "John Lee Supertaster" for more information. I've never been tested, but I like to think that I'm one of them for as much as I obsess about food. The basis for operating a successful restaurant is serving great food, but there's much more to it than just that. If only 25% of the population can really experience the true depth of a dish, that means 3 out of every 4 people who come to your restaurant think that a happy meal is as good as your aged porterhouse steak. So why do they spend the extra money?

Remember when I said that the point of advertising was to fool you into wanting something? We've been conditioned to believe that a steak tastes better than a processed hamburger, but only 25% of us will ever know for sure. We've also been conditioned to believe that a steak dinner is more elegant, more sophisticated, more romantic than the lowly burger. Where would you rather take a date: Ruth's Chris or Hardee's? Since 75% of people don't really enjoy food with their mouths, it's become a full-sensory experience, hence why that Pizza Hut pasta "tastes great" in a fancy NY bistro.

So what happens when you actually order it? I'll have to follow-up with an actual review, but I'm guessing it's not as good as it would be if you served it to me in a white tablecloth establishment. However, I'd put money on it being average, dare I say, re-orderable. Just because food comes from Pizza Hut doesn't mean they didn't have a chef prepare it at some point. And just because 75% of people don't taste food in all its glory doesn't mean they can't distinguish "yum" from "yuk." If they expect repeat business on a mass-market scale, it has to be pleasing to the lowest common denominator, which means it'll appeal to certain base responses from everyone. The Chicken Alfredo will be velvety-smooth, probably with a hint of savory smokiness from the meat, and a rich sauce (but not *too* rich). It'll be adequately salty due to the cheeses used to make Alfredo sauce, and spiced just enough to enjoy it without doctoring.

Doesn't sound bad, right? I haven't even tried it yet, but I instinctively know what it will taste like. There's a science to pleasing everyone that, shockingly, involves actual science as well as culinary skill.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mission Impossible

I'm not much of a cook, but I love to fill different kinds of breads with various fillings. Mexican food appeals to me on this level. Burritos are quick and delicious, but not always easy. The perfect burrito relies pretty heavily on it's tortilla to keep it from being a salad of sorts. There's no way of telling what kind of tortilla is gonna support your burrito, or which kind is gonna sell it out in favor of feeling your fingers poke through it sensually. The Russian roulette of dinner time meals, nothing pisses me off faster than a weak ass flaky tortilla.

Which brings me to Mission Tortilla, the jerkiest of all store bought Mexican flatbreads. I've tried regular flour and multi grain, and both options have left me with nothing more than a fist full of rice, beans, and tofu chicken. If I wanted my hands covered in food, I would have actually cooked something, Mission Tortilla! I know you think you fooled me good, but the real joke's on you. Your fancy grocery store endcap also conveniently stocked with salsa is not gonna reel me in again. Trader Joe's brand is the same price and 100% better quality. I may have to drive farther to get them, but it is well worth it. You've ruined Cinco De Mayo for the last time. You and I are finished...right after I eat your last few pieces.


The Birth of a Blog: From Lowly Status Update to Mass Consumption

Sitting in front of my computer some morning last week, I was feeling some pressure to update my stale Facebook status. Having been in the work trenches all day, the only thing I could think to talk about was the deliciousness of the Trader Joe's soy yogurt I was devouring at that moment. It was everything I wanted at the end of a shit morning; with little bits of peach it had the exact texture and taste of dairy yogurt and was shocking in it's absolute perfection. It made me wonder why the Whole Foods brand I had got a few weeks ago could only muster an old vegetable taste. It gave the impression of dairy yogurt only in that if it hadn't been soy, I would have sworn it had curdled.

Updating my status to reflect this fact, I hadn't expected much of a response, but in only a few hours it had more garnered more comments than any actual update about my life. The next day I wrote about trying to make breakfast out of tortillas and peanut butter (due to a constant lack of funds for more meal-like prospects), and it got even more comments. It was at this point my friends and I decided that there needed to be more accessible writing about food we actually consume, that being waffles, novelty candy, booze, and philly chesse steaks (of the soy and meat/dairy variety). We are also pretty into concocting dishes, and planning theme dinner parties, so we figured an amalgamation of all of these things would make for pretty sweet reading. Have a taste, we know you'll agree.

template by