Tag Archives: cooking

Pumpkin time

9 Oct

As we bought a pumpkin last week at Jucker Farm, I decided it was finally time to cut it up and make something with it. Even though the pumpkin was one of the smaller ones, I knew that I would need a couple of recipes to use it all up. I decided to make: a vegan pumpkin pie, pumpkin soup, pumpkin gnocchi and roasted pumpkin kernels.

Pumpkin pie

This was a vegan recipe that I adapted slightly. I needed to purée the pumpkin first which mean steaming it for 50 minutes before putting it through the blender. I then added silken tofu, a variety of spices and some sugar (but not as much as the recipe recommended to put in!) I made the crust using porridge oats that I had grounded down to a powder in a blender, water and oil. It then took about an hour in the oven to bake. I actually ended up making two pumpkin pies because my baking tin was clearly not the same size as the one that was used in the recipe. My initial idea was for my boyfriend to take one of the pies into the office with him so that we didn’t have to eat both of them but that didn’t happen because they were too delicious.

Pumpkin soup

Pumpkin soup is one of my favourites. I added some fresh ginger and served it with roasted pumpkin kernels and some delicious pumpkin oil.

Pumpkin gnocchi

I haven’t made gnocchi before. I have always thought that it was far too complicated to make it at home but I found an recipe online and it looked fairly straightforward. It also meant that we wouldn’t be left with 5 litres of pumpkin soup to eat. It turned out to be easy to make, although I think that I didn’t cut the dough into small enough pieces. If I do it again, I know that I need to make them smaller. I served it with a butter and sage sauce.

Roasted pumpkin kernels

As I don’t like to throw anything away, I decided to roast the pumpkin seeds so that we can use them on other soups and salads. I just put them in the oven with some butter and salt until they turned brown. Although you can buy these in the shops, it did feel satisfying to use every part of the pumpkin so it was worth the effort.

Now I am a bit pumpkin-ed out! I am tempted to go to the supermarket and buy another one so I can have homemade soup again. But as the pumpkin season will run until December, I have plenty of time to get my pumpkin fix before the end of the year.

Cookbook challenge

20 Jul

My vegan challenge has ended but my quest to cook every recipe from a cookbook continues. Over the past few weeks, these are the recipes that I have cooked.

Carrot heart Sushi

I have made sushi before but never before with a heart made out of carrot running down the middle. It was a bit fiddly to “carve” the heart into the carrot and at one end it looked more like a heart than the other end. It was quite a nice idea and something a little bit different to do.

thumbnail_IMG_2882

Smoked Tofu and Crunchy Veg Sushi

This was a straight forward recipe to do. I could see me making this again in the future as an alternative to using salmon in the sushi. All in all, both of the sushi recipes were good and easy to make. But is it only me who ends up making misshapen sushi?

Squash Soup with Caramelized Ginger

I’m not sure how I managed to find a squash in July because I always thought that squashes were in season during autumn. As soon as I saw it, I knew that I had to buy it so that I could tick this one off the list. It wasn’t very hard to make but the squash that I bought was about five times the amount that the recipe required so I ended up making some soup to freeze as well as roasting some of the squash to have as a side dish for a evening meal.

Indian Chickpea and Pomegranate Salad

The hardest part of this recipe was getting the seed out of the pomegranate. I have never bought a pomegranate before and there must be a simpler way to cut into it than the way that I did because it ended with the red juice of the pomegranate being sprayed all over the kitchen counters and all over me. Nevertheless, it was a tasty and filling lunch. If I made it again, I would make sure that I bought the pomegranate pre-prepared.

Courgette Cake

I have never made a cake without eggs before but this recipe, obviously, didn’t contain any eggs. I had to proof the mixture and I am not sure if I left it for long enough because it didn’t look like it had risen as much as it should have. This cake was described in the book as being “perfect for a snack during the day” and I thought it would be a nice alternative to eating fruit during the working day. Unfortunately, my boyfriend tried a piece and the cake was gone before the end of Sunday evening.

Baked Sweet Potato with Lentil and Avocado Salad and a Grapefruit Dip

This was the recipe that helped me perfect my lentil cooking skills (finally!). The salad was really easy to make once the lentils were cooked and cools. I am not sure I have had a baked sweet potato before (I definitely haven’t done it myself before). This was a nice change from salads for lunch. I didn’t add the grapefruit to the dip because I couldn’t find any grapefruits in our local supermarket when I went, so I added some chives to the dip inside which complimented the lentils.

thumbnail_IMG_3181

Grilled Mini Peppers with Rainbow Bulgur

This was another new option that I tried out for lunch. Before changing to a vegan diet, I haven’t eaten bulgur wheat before but I am definitely a convert! The thing that took the most amount of time was cooking the bulgur and waiting for the mini peppers to cook in the oven.

Chia and Cashew Pudding with Apricot Purée

I haven’t ventured into cooking many of the dessert options in the book. But it just so happened that I had all of the ingredients in the cupboard so I thought that I would do it. It was a bit messy because most of the ingredients need to be put into a blender and it was a bit of a pain to get it out. Waiting for the chia seeds to swell up took the longest amount of time for the whole recipe. Because the pots that I had were small, I ended up making four so that we could have it for dessert for two nights in a row.

thumbnail_IMG_2884

Peanut Butter and Puffed Rice Crispies

I wanted to take these on a hike that I went on but I made the mixture slightly too wet and they hadn’t set overnight so I couldn’t take them with me. They weren’t hard to make but I am not sure that I would make them again – they tasted okay but they weren’t so special.

That makes 47 out of a possible 100. Almost half-way there!

Cookbook challenge

16 Jun

Thanks to my vegan diet challenge, my Challenge #25 of cooking every recipe from one cookbook is going well because I chose a vegan cookbook!

Here are the latest recipes I have made:

Almond and Cinnamon Drink

This was basically a smoothie and easy to make. It wasn’t all that special and I didn’t include the star anise in the recipe because I don’t like the flavour of aniseed.

Little Potato Cakes with Yogurt Dip

This was so easy to make and so tasty. I somehow managed to make about 3 times as many as the recipe said it would make and I though that we might be able to freeze some for another day. But nope, we ate them all in one sitting!

Roasted Chickpeas

This was a spicy snack and only took 20 minutes to bake in the oven. It was my idea to take these into work as a alternative to snacking on fruit and nuts in the office. However, they were so moreish that I ate them all soon after they had cooled down in the oven.

Soba Noodle Summer Rolls with Tofu and Coriander

I have only made spring noodles once before and that was on a Vietnamese cooking course that I went on last year. These are called summer rolls and not spring rolls because they are not deep-fried so they are a bit healthier. They were easy to make but a bit fiddly to get all of the ingredients in the wraps and wrap them up neatly. The recipe also suggested making a peanut butter dip made with soya sauce and agave syrup and was a nice accompaniment to the summer rolls.

Asian Noodle Salad

Making good on my promise to make and bring more of my lunches into work with me to save money, I made this Asian Noodle Salad. I didn’t use the specific noodles that the recipe stated. I used the soba noddles that I used for the summer rolls above. Our cupboards are so full of ingredients that I have had to buy to make one dish from this book that I am running out of space to put things. The salad itself was a nice alternative to a salad with lettuce and tomato and didn’t take long at all to make. The peanut butter dressing was ok but it turned a bit solid by the time I was able to pour it over the salad. I would definitely make this again.

Mexican Pepper Salad

Another lunchtime option (and we also had a portion of it with dinner one evening as well) that was very easy to make. Because the weather has been recently good in the last few weeks I was able to eat this outside in the sunshine. I’m not sure why this was a Mexican salad because I always associate Mexican food with spicy, hot food.

Quick Ajvar

This a Serbian roasted red pepper and aubergine relish. It’s really nice and spicy and goes well with toast or just on the side with vegetables. It really was quick to make – the vegetables are roasted and then puréed with oil and seasoning.

Colourful Little Toast Spirals

The quick ajvar was a main component of these. The ajvar is spread onto wholemeal bread that has been squashed flat by a rolling pin. The bread is then rolled up and baked in the oven for 15 minutes. It was a quick and easy snack to make and delicious too.

Sandwich spread

I was slightly nervous about this recipe. The ingredients (vegetable stock, rice cakes, onions and tomato purée) seemed a bit unusual to put together to make anything that would taste nice. However, I made some sandwiches with this spread and grilled vegetables. The mixture also kept well in the fridge so I could have it a few days later on bread or with vegan crackers.

Little Quinoa Balls with Mint Sauce

Like many of the things that I have made from this book, my creation looks nothing like the pictures in the book. In this case, I used multi-coloured quinoa whereas the book used the normal variety. The next problem with this recipe was that it said that the quinoa needed to be made into balls the size of tennis balls – I’m not sure then were the “little” part comes from. When I tried to move the balls around in the pan while frying them, they are started to disintegrate. I decided to make small burger-like patties so that they would definitely be cooked in the middle. It meant that I ended up with about 20 of these quinoa “burgers” which didn’t last for very long!

That’s 34 recipes out of a total of 100 already finished!

My week of vegan eating

10 Jun

Another week has again flown by and my vegan challenge is one week closer to completion.

Here are some of the highlights of my vegan eating this week:

More Supermarket Offerings

This week I tried a soya substitute on the grill that really did look exactly like a marinated chicken breast. I’m pretty sure that someone could pick it off the shelf without realise that it was vegan (apart from the huge Vegan symbol on the packaging!)

img_2750

I’ve had hardly any sweet treats in the past 7 weeks but I spotted these in the supermarket this week, so I thought I would try them. They were surprisingly good, although the taste of the cola bottles wasn’t quite like the Haribo ones but I could certainly have these as a substitute and not miss the “real” ones.

img_2821.jpg

Vegan-ising Recipes

I found a recipe for red lentils burgers but the recipe contained eggs to bind the mixture together. I had read that 4 tbsp of chickpea flour and 4tbsp of water is a substitute for one egg in baking so I replaced the egg and I made the burgers. The mixture made more burgers than I thought and I ended up freezing a few for another day. Here are the burgers before I cooked them:

Eating Out

As it was my turn to choose the restaurant for our Team Lunch this week so I took us back to Stripped Pizza where I went a couple of weeks ago with Araz and Mark. Everyone seemed to like the place, even though I was the only one of us to enjoy a vegan option.

Last weekend we had a Christening to go to because my boyfriend became a godfather. I was a bit worried about the meal to celebrate afterwards but I was delighted to find out it was a buffet. It meant that I was able to enjoy a lot of vegan options. Unfortunately all of the sushi wasn’t vegan and there was some amazing roast beef which was extremely tempting! However there was plenty of options for me and I didn’t go home hungry.

Weight Loss

This week my weight dipped under a certain number (which I can’t reveal as women don’t like to make their weight public) that I have been trying to dip under for about the last 4 years. Although this number isn’t my goal weight, I’ve been surprised by how easily I’ve lost week considering I haven’t been regularly exercising for the last 5 or more weeks due to a knee injury. In the past I have always tried to manage my weight through exercise and largely failed. It just goes to prove that you can’t out-train a bad diet.

Only 5 more weeks to go!

Cookbook challenge

27 May

I have been busying myself with cooking in recent weeks in order to get nearer to my goal of cooking every recipe from one cookbook. There have been some interesting and surprising results. Here are the latest dishes to be ticked off my list.

Museli bars

These were surprisingly easy to make but I had to find some vegan butter to add to the recipe which wasn’t hard to find at all. I would definitely make these again and the boyfriend also approved! Next time I will make them a bit fatter because they ended up being really crumbly because they were a bit too thin.

Pesto and “Ricotta” Balls

When it come to eating, beware of anything in quotation marks. It normally means that the substitute that you are making is a poor substitute for the thing you are trying to replicate. The recipe was easy enough to make and the consistency was similar to ricotta cheese in fairness. But it just wasn’t *quite* the same.

Spicy Oven-Roasted Cauliflower

This was another super easy recipe. I added some vegan Thai curry paste as well to the spicy mixture to give it a bit more of a kick. And kick it did!

Aubergine Rollmops

For this recipe I needed to find juniper berries. I thought that in Switzerland that this would be a mission impossible but, as ever, an expensive department came to my rescue. I should have sliced the rollmops a bit thicker because during boiling they did become quite flimsy and it was difficult to put the onions, gherkins and mustard inside and roll them up before they disintegrated. It looked a bit like a (vegan) dog’s dinner but it tasted great.

Greek Farmer’s Salad

The idea of this recipe is that the feta cheese is replaced with marinated tofu. It was absolutely delicious and we ate it with some grilled vegetables from the grill. I also made extra so I could take a portion into work for my lunch. I would happy eat this again and again.

Andalucian Asparagus Salad

At the moment in German-speaking countries, it is Sparagelzeit (Asparagus time) everywhere. You can’t move in the supermarkets without bumping into asparagus and there are lots of stalls on the side of the road selling them, so this recipe is perfectly seasonal. It needed white and green asparagus and also some dates. I was skeptical about the using the dates but it worked well with the other flavours.

Courgette “Spaghetti” with Wild Garlic Pesto

There is also a lot of wild garlic around at the moment as well. This was another easy-to-make recipe and another one that I took into work for lunch. The main problem was that the garlic is so strong that my breath smelt for the rest of the day. Plus, as I said before, courgette made out of spaghetti isn’t like the real thing.

Cauliflower and Potato Salad

This is one of my favourite dishes that I have made so far. It was delicious and served warm. It had a spicy flavour and was filling.

Spicy Tomato Tartare on Ciabatta 

I am not sure why it was called spicy as there was no chilli in it but I have no complains on the taste side. It is very similar to a dish that we normally make anyway but with olives and onion added. When I toasted the bread I also rubbed garlic onto it to keep the vampires away.

img_2568-e1527329863412.jpg

Spi

cy red lentil spread

The final product, after cooking the lentils and adding the spices, was too wet so I tried to reduce it in the pan to thicken it up. I was able to keep in the fridge for a few days and then use it as a substitute for butter with bread and also on crackers. I need to make this again and again because we bulk-bought a huge 5 kilo bag of lentils and they need to be eaten.

Aubergine Schnitzel with Garlic Cream

Although I can’t deny that this was delicious, I made a horrendous mess in the kitchen. What didn’t help was that I think I bought the “wrong” vegan cream. The recipe said you needed to “draw the aubergine through the cream” but the cream was too thick and I ended up having to paste the cream on with a pastry brush.

The result was tasty but if I was to do it again I would make sure I bought the right cream and do it in a bigger kitchen because ours was too small for all the different “stations” that you need to construct this – flouring station, breadcrumb-ing station etc.

And that is 24 of the recipes completed! I’m off to get started on my next batch of cooking now!

Challenge #25

16 May

Challenge #25 is currently under way. This challenge was to cook every recipe from one cookbook. The inspiration for this came from a film called Julie and Julia, that I saw and is based on a true story. A bored New Yorker (Julie) decides to cook all 524 recipes from Julia Childs’ “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” in a year.

My challenge is not so daring. There was no way that I was going to choose such a long and complex book to cook but I thought it was an interesting challenge because: don’t we all have at least one cookbook at home that we have tried only a handful of recipes from?

Because I was new to being a vegan, I decided (with the persuasion of my friend, Stefan) that a vegan cookbook would be a book to chose. Then I could use recipes from book during my three months of being vegan. The book I chose is called Vegan on the Go. I don’t consider this cheating – I still have to cook all of the 100 plus dishes.

If you make a quick calculation, 100 dishes into 90-ish days means that I should be able to complete this easily in the time that my other challenge is running.

In practice, this hasn’t really happened. If I make a salad for lunch, I will make it to have for a couple of days. To cook 100 dishes while I am working full-time is also difficult because some of the recipes take a while to prepare. 14 of the dishes are desserts so these can’t be eaten for breakfast or lunch, even if I want to.

So, I will be cooking as many of the recipes in the coming months and then finishing off with the rest later.

Here is my progress so far:

Spinach and Banana Smoothie – I have had a lot of smoothies and this one was very similar to what I normally make. I did substitute the orange for grapefruit as we had this ingredient at home and needed to use it.

Guacamole – this is one of my favourites and the recipe was very similar to the one that I normally use.

Hummus – again I have made this a lot in the past and the recipe was almost the same as what I normally use.

Brocolli cakes with Mango and Avocado Salsa – I made these and put them on the grill and they were really easy to make. I was a bit worried that they would disintegrate during cooking but they didn’t. The salsa was delicious and I have made that again to have with grilled vegetables.

Gazpacho –  this took ages to make. I had to peel fresh tomatoes, deseed and core them. It took a long time and the kitchen looked like a bomb had gone off after I had finished. The result was good. It was the first time that I had even eaten Gazpacho. I enjoyed it, especially as we ate it on the balony in the sunshine.

Brocolli Cream Soup – in case you are wondering the cream in the soup was coconut milk, which does not come from a cow. Brocolli and Stilton is one of my favourite soups but this was a nice alternative. I would happily make this again and again.

Creamed Carrot Soup – again this was made with coconut milk. The recipe also had ginger in it which gave the soup a refreshing kick to it. Delicious!

Spicy Quinoa Chilli – I made this back in November last year. The recipe is basically the same as a chilli with meat but the meat is substituted with Quinoa. I made far too much of it and was eating it for about four days. It was a good job that it was nice or it would have ended up in the bin!

Panzanella (Italian Bread Salad) – I’ve made this a couple of times to take into work with me. It is so easy to make and so tasty as well. The receipe says to take the dressing in a bottle and then add it to the salad. I had to take an unused travel shampoo bottle with me because we didn’t have any small bottles to transport the dressing. Putting the bottle in the dishwasher was a mistake because it was too hot and the bottle melted a bit.

img_2481-2.jpg

Sweet Potato Burgers with BBQ sauce – as I am yet to find a vegan BBQ sauce in Switzerland and I am not a huge fan of it anyway, I missed this bit of the recipe out. The burger was easy to make. The main ingredients were sweet potato, courgette and breadcrumbs. It really didn’t take too long to make. I now have to convinced my boyfriend that these are worthy of a regular place on our BBQ.

Sweetcorn frittatas with Mango Chutney

This was a bit messy to make. You have to salt and then squeeze water out of the courgettes which takes time. The actual making of the mixture was pretty straight forward and they were cooked quickly. I made a jar of the chutney because we had two large mangoes to use and I thought it would be nice to have with other dishes like a curry or on the side of a salad. I think I was heavy-handed with the curry powder but apart from that it was delicious. I served it with salad as well.

img_2552.jpg

Asparagus Quiche – rather than make a one large quiche, I made four smaller ones so that I could take them into work. I cheated slightly because I didn’t make the pasty myself but used shop-bought vegan pastry instead. I should have added chillis to the filling but there weren’t any in the shop, so I used chilli flakes instead. I think the fresh chilli would have enhanced the flavour but it still tasted good.

Fruity Macadamia Cream – I made this back in November as well. I didn’t like the texture of it. Maybe I hadn’t blitzed the macadamica nuts enough but the others said that they liked it. I wouldn’t make this again, unless I had to.

12 recipes from just over 100 done!

Vegan dinner

7 Feb

I seem to be obsessed at the moment about doing research into finding vegan-friendly alternatives for when I start my #40Before40: Challenge #14, when I will attempt to eat vegan for three months. This challenge is enough to make even the most determined person weak at the knees – hopefully not literally though. However, the more research I do, the more confident I am that this is more achievable than I thought it was and the more inclined I am to think that I could actually remain eating a vegan diet long after my little experiment is done and dusted.

There are plenty of websites and information about there about eating a vegan diet. Obviously some of the claims that are made are probably coming from a biased angle, so it is not always easy to sort fact from fiction. But, if even half of the claims are true, the health benefits alone are a reason to cut dairy and meat  products from your diet. I was also surprised that lots of athletes are switching to vegan eating and are actually performing much better than previously, which goes against the stereotype that all vegans are puny things that lack nutrients.

As part of my planning and research before I jump head first into the world of veganism, I decided to cook a three course meal for three of my friends at the weekend. My definition of friendship is that if I am suffering then you should feel my pain too. After assuring them that the beer and wine I had was also vegan and, therefore, we would not be drinking tap water for the whole evening, they accepted my invitation.

Here is what I made for them.

First course was a roasted red pepper and sweet potato soup with a hint of chilli, which I was assured was the “right amount of spice”. I served this with bread and some homemade houmous.

The main course was a vegan moussaka. I love moussaka and, although I don’t eat it all that often, I was keen to try it out to see if it was any good or not. It took a while to make it and I managed to make enough for about 8 people. I was worried that we wouldn’t be full from a dish made from aubergine, tomatoes, mushrooms and walnuts. It was so tasty that I was more than happy to finish off the leftovers for dinner the following night.

The dessert was a bit of a disaster. I decided to make a macadamia nut cream from a vegan cookbook and an egg free meringue recipe that I found online. The macadamia nut cream went down well but I wasn’t so convinced about the texture as I thought it would have been better if it was smoother. But everyone ate it. The meringues just didn’t work and I’m not sure why. I make a lot of meringues and pavlovas and the mixture itself was identifical to the mixture that I have made with eggs. I think that the temperature for the oven in the recipe was wrong because the meringues came out flat and it came out a bit more like honeycombe than anything else. As I had vegan sorbet in the freezer, I served the sorbet with some of the meringues/honeycombe stuff sprinkled on the top. I will try the egg free meringue mixture once again though and see if the oven temperature was the problem.

All in all, I think we all enjoyed the meal. So a BIG thank you to Stefan, Mark and Araz, who suffered in the name of friendship and who, I am sure, will have to endure some more vegan meals in the near future!

One question that still remains about the diet is about the use of ingredients that technically are vegan (i.e. contain no direct animal products) but come with the warning may contain milk, because they were produced in a factory where milk products are made. On the one hand, you could argue that because the products will possibly only contain traces of animal products that I should be able to eat them. But, if you had a nut allergy, there is no way you would eat something which said it may contain nuts. I have also found a product which has an official vegan label on it but the small print for the ingredients says it may contain milk. So how can that be vegan?

Do you see my dilemma? I have asked several people what they think and I still haven’t found a general consensus. Do any of you have the answer? Please let me know your thoughts?