Friday, June 11, 2021

Sequestration Meal #306

 I'm trying to address my COVID pantry, so I found a recipe for quick red beans and rice that involved bacon rather than sausage, and used the end of my tempeh bacon in it. It was an omnivore recipe, and I found it needed a bit more help than just the tempeh bacon, so I added a bit of soy sauce and liquid smoke. It was good, but nothing all that special. I think it probably would be better with sausage, but I'll know that next time.

About that COVID pantry, though: Wow, I bought a lot of things. I didn't fully realize that until I was able to go to stores again and find that things were generally in stock. I don't actually need to have a month of shelf-stable food on hand now. It's probably just fine if I don't have every possible variety of canned beans. I have no idea what possessed me to buy millet flour. But here we are. I look forward to trying to get through it all and showing you how I manage.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Interlude: Musings on Corn Flakes


I know, I know. I just gave you a breakfast post. I never include cereal in those; it's far too obvious. But I do eat cereal, and sometimes not just for breakfast. Here I am possibly overthinking corn flakes (solely in my brain; the bowl is just corn flakes and soy milk), but I guess I'm in the mood to muse.

Lately, it's been a struggle. You know this if you've been reading along with my intermittent spurts of despair. It's been a struggle for many of you, too. I'm in a transitional phase, and I genuinely don't know what comes next for me. Sometime in April I had a huge rug pulled out from under me and I've been floundering ever since. It doesn't help that the rugs under us keep disappearing, either. So that has meant more cereal meals than usual.

As a distraction, I started diving into Google Books to read old vegetarian magazines. (I know, I'm exciting.) The 19th century was different than ours, and also not so different. And it got me thinking about corn flakes. (I'm a historian, after all. It happens.)

Corn flakes are, of course, one of the original vegetarian staples, an invention of the Kellogg brothers, who brought us cold cereal itself. The Kelloggs had some weird ideas, but so did a lot of people in the early Western iterations of vegetarianism (which was often veganism, incidentally, before the term itself was coined). Today, some of what they say seems bizarre (like claims that vegetarianism will cure alcoholism), some of it is startling but practical (corn flakes don't carry food odors through the air like meaty breakfasts and will therefore attract fewer flies), some of it boggles the mind (they say you should toast your corn flakes in the oven and then eat them dry with fruit and possibly a splash of cream, but almost never mention milk), and some of it is surprisingly modern (like warnings about refined sugar and white flour not being that great for you in the end). Reading about all those early vegetarians again got me thinking about the joy of simple food. At times, I definitely make things too complicated.

But they made things complicated, too. It's not exactly simple to put corn flakes in the oven so your cereal is warm! Their breakfasts weren't just corn flakes, cream, and fruit; they'd also want you to have hot cocoa and muffins and potatoes and all sorts of other things alongside the cereal, to be fair to me. Although these sound like delightful combinations, I'm not prepared to make such meals in the morning day in and day out. I don't think I have the appetite to eat them, let alone the time and energy to cook them!

I hadn't eaten corn flakes since making my transition to veganism (as I noted in my post about vegan schnitzel a few days ago). It may not have just been the cholecalciferol in most brands. Corn flakes were once my favorite cereal, and I had what I had considered the perfect way to serve them--with whole milk and a bit of sugar. I thought that having loved the taste of that so much I wouldn't like them with plant-based milk. But time has passed, and now I don't find milk from a cow appealing at all. I also eat a lot less sugar, and I'm not inclined to put it in my cereal.

But I'd bought some vegan corn flakes for the schnitzel, and I usually like soy milk in my cereal these days. So I poured some soy milk over my corn flakes, skipped the sugar because the soy milk was sweetened anyway, took a bite, and enjoyed a whole new-to-me thing. It's simple, but somehow soothing in these challenging times. It's a memory in a way--the taste of the flakes themselves is still really familiar--without being overwhelming.

I am trying, still. There will be plenty of fun foods to share with you. And there is nothing remarkable about corn flakes, except that sometimes that's the remarkable thing. It can be truly remarkable that we keep going in the face of it all. It's remarkable to live in an age when a meal can be prepared as quickly as opening a box and pouring things in a bowl. And it's remarkable that people have been doing that for more than a century, many with the same motives I have for choosing what to eat.

So here's to cereal. Here's to those fascinating people who invented it well over a century ago to avoid meat. And here's to trying again tomorrow, to see what we can do to fascinate the 22nd century.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

10 Vegan Breakfast Ideas (Compilation #23)

This one may look a bit weird, since it's in that awkward transition from winter to spring. So there is wintery food and more spring-like food here. And something about this series of breakfasts is more beige than is typical for me, probably because I didn't realize as I was doing it how many non-colorful backdrops I used with non-colorful food. But they were all good breakfasts. As usual, they're mostly sweet, but I did include one savory one at the end for all of you savory breakfast fans out there.

1. Salted Caramel Smoothie Bowl (Gluten Free)

I've been experimenting with smoothie bowls a lot lately, though this is the only one you'll see in this post. I think the artistry of arranging the toppings is some sort of morning mediation for me. This one turned out sweeter than I intended, but it was delicious anyway! I mixed up two frozen bananas with about a tablespoon of homemade date caramel, 1/4 cup of soy milk, a tablespoon of maple syrup, a pinch of salt, about 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon, and some vanilla extract. The toppings were mini chocolate chips, chopped pumpkin seeds, sliced bananas, a maple pecan granola I had on hand, almond butter, hemp seeds, and chia seeds. I think this didn't need the maple syrup, but that's only because I don't eat as much sugar as past me did--past me would have needed it, so you might, too. This was also a great punch of potassium for me in the morning, which is something I've been trying to get more of.

2. Chia and Blueberry Yogurt Granola Parfait (Gluten Free)

This was meant to have an ombré effect, but it didn't quite go according to plan, I think because I used fresh berries. You can see what I was going for on this One Green Planet recipe, which may help you to see at least some hints of layering in my version. It is also lighter in color because I didn't have any blackberries, so I just used blueberries. Not having cute figs to use as a garnish, I added a dollop of coconut whipped topping. I think this became its own thing and I'll look forward to trying the original later on with all the right ingredients! But I did like combining a sort of instant chia pudding with a yogurt parfait.  Altogether this was much heavier than most of my breakfasts are, even with the 2021 goal of making breakfast more substantial, but I still managed to finish it, a testament to how nice it was to eat.

3. Gingerbread Pancakes with Warm Pear Sauce

This was a recipe I found at The Pretty Bee when I had some pears headed south (because let's face it, in spite of my efforts I'm still not great at getting myself to eat my pears). It may not look like much but these were just about the best pancakes I think I've ever eaten. They stayed relatively moist so they didn't even need syrup; just the liquid from cooking the pears was enough. That wonderful molasses-and-spice flavor of gingerbread definitely comes through. Although I genuinely like everything I show you in these compilations, there is a difference between a satisfying breakfast and one that makes you pause to savor every bite and feel sad that you've finished your pancakes when they're gone. This has to be in my top ten breakfasts ever. If you're following along with my get-more-protein-at-breakfast quest, meanwhile, I had soy milk to accompany my pancakes, and I'd recommend that, too.

4. Peach Smoothie (Gluten Free)

I've learned some things about smoothies since I've started making them so often. One is that spices are often the key to making something delicious. This peach smoothie (as I'm calling it), veganized from Well Plated's recipe using soy milk, vanilla soy yogurt, and a vegan honey substitute, would likely be a lot less dimensional without the ginger and cinnamon, but those additions make it amazing. I didn't add any ice because it really didn't need it in my opinion. With the soy milk and soy yogurt, this was probably substantial enough to meet my targets on its own for a low appetite day, but since I'm trying hard not to let my breakfasts go under about 350 calories, I also had some toast and almond butter with this.

5. Buttery Crumpets

On this side of the Atlantic, I had never encountered a crumpet, let alone a vegan one, but I recently found some and of course I had to try them! After toasting, they are wondrously crispy on the outside and pillowy soft on the inside. There seems to be some controversy over whether one is meant to eat them for breakfast or with tea in the afternoon, and I say we should play for both teams. I had mine with herbal tea, slices of Cara Cara orange, and some Field Roast breakfast sausages.

6. Farina with Blueberry Swirl

It may be a dream, but I think I had something like this as a child that came in microwaveable sachets with some sort of squeezy packet for the berry swirl. But this is so much better. I followed the recipe at Williams Sonoma, but scaled it down to serve one and used soy milk to cook my farina so I'd get the added nutrition. Pushing my berry puree through a sieve felt a bit extra, but I think it made for a great texture in the end. This was a wonderful hot breakfast for a chilly spring morning.

7. Orange Creamsicle Tofu Pudding (Gluten Free)

You may have figured out already that if there is a way to make something into a Creamsicle flavor, I will do it. So of course I had to make this recipe from Avocado Skillet. The coconut sugar gives it more of a caramel appearance than orange, so next time I'll make it with plain granulated sugar, but it definitely tasted nice and orangey. I topped it with a dollop of coconut whipped cream. 

8. Black Forest Oatmeal

I can't help it if I want chocolate for breakfast! Don't resist the urge; sometimes it can be pretty great. I'm pretty proud of my recipe for this black forest oatmeal.

9. Chocolate Chip Banana Bread Waffles

I finally got a full sized waffle maker! It makes waffles somewhat too large for me to eat, but hey, that's life. These are the chocolate chip banana bread waffles from the Minimalist Baker. I tried having them with almond whipped topping, but of course it melted because I put it on there when it was still really hot. But honestly, who can mind that? If I had any bananas left for a garnish, of course I'd recommend that, and either a chocolate or peanut butter drizzle--or both!--for your more decadent waffle mornings.

10. Breakfast "Pigs" in a Blanket

There are several different options if you're looking for vegan breakfast sausage links out there (including making your own if you're brave), but Field Roast breakfast sausage works perfectly here so that's what I used. Just roll one in a triangle of crescent roll dough and bake as usual, giving them a few minutes more than crescent rolls without "pigs" in them. I enjoyed these with and without mustard.

Monday, June 7, 2021

Sequestration Meal #305


I'd been wanting to try this recipe for vegan schnitzel from Chef Jana for ages, and finally managed to find the energy to do it! Because the proteins in the schnitzel come mainly from oatmeal and flax, I wanted to amp up the protein content of the meal, so it occurred to me that the tempeh bacon in my fridge would probably go well in German potato salad, a natural accompaniment to schnitzel, in my mind. I made the German potato salad--something I've never made before and only recall ever eating at the age of six at a picnic and being weirded out that it was warm--based on an omnivore recipe I found at All Recipes. It's pretty easy to veganize German potato salad, because the only non-vegan thing in it is the bacon. After all that I was too tired to make anything to go alongside this other than sliced cucumber with salt and pepper. By the time I was finished (as you can tell from my terrible lighting) it was pretty dark outside, and that isn't common for me at dinner in June.

The schnitzel does not pretend to be meaty and makes no strides toward meatiness; I think it might have benefited from some no-chicken broth rather than water to soften up the flax and oatmeal. It has some textural contrast with cabbage and onions, but otherwise has the same texture you'd expect from a patty made of oatmeal and flax. I've loved all the Chef Jana recipes I've made before now, so these were a bit of a disappointment, but fortunately they were pretty cheap to make--the most expensive thing in them were the corn flake coating, and that's only because corn flakes aren't typically vegan around here (for some reason, American cereals seem to have cholecalciferol added to them) and a box of the actually vegan kind cost me about $5 (because I had it shipped, long ago when I was first considering this recipe). So it was no huge loss that these were a bust, other than the time I took to make them.

The potato salad, on the other hand, redeemed the meal. It still intrigues me. I liked it better the next day (cold) but it wasn't bad warm. It was the perfect sweet/sour/salty blend. I love how so many cultures have their own potato salads!

Friday, June 4, 2021

Recipe: Black Forest Oatmeal (Vegan)


Oatmeal is such a great canvas for so many flavors. Growing up, I thought I didn't like cherries. I think a lot of us think that, because we've only been given maraschino cherries, and those are hard to like right away. Or maybe we don't like dealing with the pits. I don't know. All I know is that I had to be an adult before I appreciated cherries, and now I look forward to finding them available fresh every year for that short window of time they appear.

This oatmeal is inspired by black forest cake, though of course it's still oatmeal. I read a lot of not-quite-right recipes before I decided to just wing it on my own. You could probably use frozen cherries, but if you do, I would recommend adding them before you add the oatmeal and letting it come up to a boil again before putting in the oats.

Black Forest Oatmeal
Serves: 1

1 cup soy milk, or non-dairy milk of choice
1 dash salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
2-3 teaspoons liquid sweetener of your choice (I used Bee Free Honee)
1/4 cup cherries, halved and pitted, plus more for garnish
1/2 cup quick-cooking oats
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 small carton (about 1/4 cup) non-dairy vanilla flavored yogurt

Whisk soy milk, salt, cinnamon, cocoa powder, and liquid sweetener together in a small saucepan over medium heat until it comes to a boil. Add cherries and oats and cook, stirring, for about one minute until thickened a bit. Stir in vanilla.

Transfer your oatmeal to a bowl and top with yogurt and additional cherries. Serve.

Thursday, June 3, 2021

A Review of New Things I've Tried #28 (Sjaak's Chocolates Edition)

 A combination of factors led to me having enough examples of Sjaak's chocolates to review here, and for that I'm grateful! A friend sent me some for my birthday, not knowing I'd already ordered some for myself. Sjaak's is a vegan brand of fancy chocolates, all handmade in California (they apparently even make their own nut butters!), and the chocolate itself is fair trade. It's usually far too expensive for me but sometimes things align just right. And if you're not a fancy chocolate person, they also make candy bars. I'm reviewing both things today.

1. Sjaak's Nuts & Chews Melk Chocolate Truffles

The lighting here makes it look like these are floating in space on one side, but that was how I managed to avoid having the box lid cast a shadow on these babies. In this case, to fully appreciate them, you need to see how cute they are. A friend sent this to me as a birthday present, because it's hard to buy chocolate boxes like this for yourself (although I have definitely done it). I think my tastes have changed a bit as I've gotten so used to dark chocolate--these were definitely convincing as milk chocolate but oh, so sweet! I liked the nuts a bit more than the chews, but they were all really good. Be forewarned, though: The cherry pepper one is spicy!

2. Sjaak's Truffles and Mini Bunnies (Assorted)

After Easter, I was able to get some of these adorable little bunnies for a great price! (Buying chocolate bunnies on sale after Easter is far more my speed for what I purchase on my own.) They are organic cinnamon churro white chocolate, coconut lime in melk chocolate, and cherry truffle in dark chocolate. All were delicious, but my favorite was the cinnamon churro white chocolate--the little crunchy bits of churro in the milk chocolate were so nice. I was expecting more of a cherry cordial-type thing with the cherry one, but it was filled with a proper soft, fluffy pink truffle filling.

Here's another assortment, but not in bunny form: Hazelnut butter, green tea-lime, and orange caramel. The caramel here, unlike in the others I've had, was not dense and chewy, but rather the more liquid sort, reminiscent of Caramello from my pre-vegan days. All of these were delicious.

Mixed bunnies and not-bunnies here: Peanut butter, mint, and almond butter. The nut butters here are light and fluffy, not like a peanut butter cup you might be more used to--much more like a fluffy truffle. The mint is also not quite so dense as a peppermint patty (at least on my memory), but soft and delicious.

3. Sjaak's Eli's Candy Bars

The Celebrate bar is their melk chocolate with coconut caramel and almonds. The caramel is very dense and chewy, which was not what I expected but fun! I very much enjoyed this candy bar.

The Treasure bar is hard to describe, but so good. It has crunchy peanut butter bits in it like bits of Butterfinger, as well as fluffy peanut butter and some chewy caramel. There's a lot going on here, which makes it extra fun to eat.

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Sequestration Meal #304


I had forgotten that I don't particularly care for Trader Joe's veggie fried rice in the freezer section. Their Japanese fried rice? Inspired! Delicious! Love it! The veggie fried rice? Bleh.

Recently I had a meal you were not shown of that fried rice and some of my own vegan egg rolls I'd frozen. (It was the last of that batch, alas; they reheated beautifully in my toaster oven for about 15 minutes and I was glad I made enough to freeze!) After that I had some of that sad fried rice, so I decided to make some of it into this fried rice soup for a light meal.

It was a very easy soup and I'd recommend it as either a starter or on a day you have little appetite (it's very light--I calculated it at less than 200 calories per serving of this size--so I made a mug cake afterward). I cooked some ginger and garlic in sesame oil, added some chicken-style veggie broth (made from Better than Bouillon "no chicken" paste) and a splash of soy sauce, and then put in the leftover fried rice with some soy curls and heated it up until the soy curls were soft and everything was hot. The soup didn't look that great at that point so I garnished it with some scallions and black sesame seeds, which I think made it a lot prettier.

Inspiration is returning to me! So we'll see what I come up with next.