Dear Isa, I lurve you.

Okay, I would simply describe the recipe for the Skillet Stir Fry from Isa Does It. But, I feel that I have called out so many of her recipes, that this calls for something more... a love letter. Dear Isa, Where do I even start? Your recipes have convinced throngs of my friends and family that I'm an amazing wonder chef. You have taught me how to take a pile of mush with gluten flour and steam it to make f-ing sausages. Your Brooklyn Pad Thai is to die for. Because of Vegan Brunch, I am a master crepe chef. To say nothing of cupcakes that no one at any party believed were vegan. You gave us Appetite for Reduction- a calorie conscious book with the most amazing title ever. But then my life led me away from hour + long cooking endeavors and into 12+ hour days at work. Experimenting with recipes, weekend trips to the farmer's markets and veganism in general all fell by the wayside. I had nearly given up on cooking, my beliefs and this sad, old, neglected food blog. Until...Isa Does It came out- a massive tome dedicated to meals that could be prepared in about 30 minutes. I had become a firm believer in "good things take time" from my RFD book, but every thing I have tried from this book- the Summer Seitan Saute, Potato Leek Soup, Beefy Asparagus Stir Fry, etc- all are SO tasty and so flipping easy. I have had to revise my earlier stance on good food needing a long time to cook. And this- the wonders of the cast iron skillet and perfectly browned tofu. I mean, without you, Miss Isa, I could be out on the streets eating french fries from a fast food chain and pairing it with frozen pizza. You have elevated my cooking life. And for that, I am forever grateful and fatter. Yours truly, Nancy

I Am A Crepe Chef!

I had never tried Crepes from Vegan Brunch because there is a rather intimidating "letter to a young crepe maker" inside which very sweetly reassures Ms Chandra's readers that crepes are not to be feared but are manageably easy to make. I, however, took the need for her to write this "these are no big deal" calming letter in the cookbook as a surefire sign that these were hell on earth impossible to make. Turns out- they're either super easy- or I am a crepe chef genius that just discovered my purpose in life. They were perfect deliciousness and I will now subsist on nothing but crepes filled with anything at all because they are fantastic! One more reason Vegan Brunch rules- I can't wait for Isa Does It to come out!

Apple Rosemary Scones and the L.A. Food Swap

I made these Apple Rosemary Scones for my first foray into the Food Swapping world. Last night's swap was hosted by Reform School, who I sell my work through (see HERE) , which is how I found out about it. Turns out that I'm a bit late to the party, as this was their one year anniversary. It's a fantastic idea and was truly a lot of fun.

For those who don't know, the swap is a gathering of peoples who bring food that they've made, grown or foraged. You bring as little or as much as you like. There were; jams, pickled goods, chocolates, cupcakes, granola, nut milks, simple syrups, limoncello, herbs, citrus fruits, etc. I made 3 dozen Rosemary Apple Scones (I'll review the recipe in a sec) and had 4 bags of cherry granola as well. I made two batches of my Hybrid Granola, which made a disappointing amount. But, it turns out that granola wasn't too big of a hit with that crowd, so it was for the best.

The first 1/2 hour of the event was set up time. Everyone set out their offerings and samples (samples are the key!). The second 1/2 hour was mingle and tasting time where you walked around and ate peoples food and bid on it if you wanted to trade your stuff for theirs. Then the swapping commenced. I was shocked at what a smooth operation it was, it all went down in an hour and a half. My scones were a hit (yay), and I scored some serious awesomeness (see photo); Fresh herbs, grapefruits, oranges, a kick ask hot paste, more jam than I'll eat in a year, some chocolates and more. I'm not a haggler, but luckily there wasn't a lot of that. I did feel like a heel turning down swaps of dairy food- but they're very kind and assure everyone at the start not to feel bad about that stuff. I also was refused some simple syrup (which was amazing!) b/c the maker didn't eat grains (which I can't fathom, but a lot of people can't fathom being vegan either, so...)

As for the scones- the recipe is fantastic! I used a bit less rosemary than it called for because I simply didn't have enough. I loved the flavor, though, so I would go forward using less in the future (a bit over 1/8 cup where the recipe calls for 1/4). I also used Earth Balance in lieu of shortening, because I realized that my shortening is hydrogenated and I didn't want to inflict that on my swapmates. These are by far my fave scones ever, though- despite how much I loved the others in the book!

If you're in L.A. and so inclined, the swap organizer's Facebook page is HERE. I know that the idea isn't unique to here, though- so if you're elsewhere, you may want to google around to see if there's one near you. I loved the experience and will totally do it again!

Cranberry Orange Nut Muffins

These are some tasty muffins from Isa Chandra Moskowitzs' Vegan Brunch book. Her Bakery Style muffins from this book have become my go-to recipe (which I've oddly enough never photo'd for the blog). These are equally amazing in a way that feels a mite more healthy (there are cranberries, orange juice and walnuts involved- it's practically a meal in a muffin).

They have a great balance of flavors, any one of them seems dominant when you focus on it, which I think means that they're all doing a good job. The crans are crazy tart. The muffins have an all over orange-y taste. There's almond extract, which is very prominent (that stuff is STRONG!), but in these, it's ok (generally I halve any almond extract called for in recipes b/c it is so overpowering). In this case, it adds a fullness that the muffins need b/c between the crans and oranges could get a bit too citrus/ tarty. Same with the nuts, they are an absolute must or- again- the muffin would be too high pitched. The nuts add a low end (forgive the music analogies- I am married to a music fella). All in all- they're really good.

The tops are nice- they have a light crunch to them b/c (the author says) of the juice in the recipe. I would still prefer blueberry over anything, but this is good to mix it up. It is also great as a fall muffin and would even be good during the holidays when you have family spending over to have these in the morning. They're super easy too, which is a plus, particularly at this time of year when you have enough to do :)

Waffle Maker!

Oh, man! Glorious day! My uber husband bought me this uber double waffle iron for my bday (along with other lovely gifts, and yes, as you could guess by the fact that I have a blog about food- I seriously love getting kitchen stuff for gifts!). I wanted some cheapy one waffle at a time, get the job done iron. But this... oh, the luxury! You can cook two at once (no more stabbing at your family's hands with your fork when they try to steal your waffle), and- as if it needed another reason to be awesome- the pockets are a flipping inch deep! Entire blueberries fit in the pockets! It's magic and cooks to perfection and will make every Sunday morning amazing in my house from this day forward.

The recipe used is the same one that I used for the waffle pan- the Buckwheat Waffles from Vegan Brunch. I did alter it (minused the Buckwheat since I had none)- which I'm sure defeats the intent of the recipe, but for the record- 3/4 white flour with 1/4 wheat (of what the recipe calls for- not cups) is perfect. If you'll excuse me, it's 10pm on a Thursday and I'm gonna need to go make some waffles now.

Battle of the Tofu Scramblers

Anyone who's been vegetarian or vegan for more than five minutes has probably had tofu scrambler. I had so much of it years ago that I pretty much never eat it anymore. But on the rare occasions that I want it, I want to make it. I have had too many nastily prepared versions at restaurants to ever order it out again unless for some reason, I'd know that the restaurant makes it amazing.

This is getting on a tangent, but the thing about ordering tofu in restaurants is that most places (non-veg restaurants) do not prepare it well. You need to use the right tofu for the right job (Silken for sauces and deserts, water packed for stir fries and scrambles). I went to a big, chain Mongolian barbecue style place with a client and ordered a stir fry with tofu- they served silken in a stir fry that was undercooked and unmarinated! No wonder tofu has a bad rep with most of the meat-eatin' crowd!

So, yeah, water packed is the way to go for this dish, firm or extra firm. These recipes are from Vegan Brunch and Dolce Vegan. Dolce Vegan is the one in the tortilla and was the clear winner. I would halve the mustard that it calls for, but other than that, it's a great, basic recipe that you can doctor up with peppers or whatever you like. It's just yellow and neutral with enough flavor to make it interesting. I also threw in some vegan chorizo to justify the tortilla b/c we were out of bread (toast).

The Vegan Brunch recipe was not my thing. I suspect that the author is also bored with this dish and just wanted to jazz it up, but 2 teaspoons of cumin was overkill, and not the flavor that I'm looking for with scrambler. Plus, it calls for quite a lot of nutritional yeast, which I think is great in small doses but too much of it damns a dish for me.

So that's my tofu scramble report until next year when I make it again and try a new recipe.

Vegan Chorizo

Craaazy! Vital wheat gluten is a thing of wonder.

To continue my trend of making things that I henceforth never considered actually making (bagels, seitan...) this is a homemade vegan chorizo from scratch, featuring the magic of vital wheat gluten and zero soy. The rest of the base of this is mashed pinto beans. Then there's a bunch of spices, veg broth and tamari (oh, a bit of soy, I guess).

This is from Vegan Brunch and for the life of me, I can't imagine how anyone could invent this- but I'm so happy that she did. It's magical. You make this springy dough and then form it into "sausages", roll it in tin foil and steam it for 40 minutes. Then, slice it, pan sear it a tad to get a nice crispy outside and a better, deeper color. This stuff is amazing. It's spicy, flavorful, eyes-roll-back into your head amazingly good. Plus, there's no intestinal casing involved (not to get grodie, but that's a pretty nasty component of real sausage.

This is used as a brekkie side (hence it's origin in the Vegan Brunch book), but we made tacos with it. Flipping. Amazing.

Cinnamon Coffee Cake

This is from Vegan Brunch and it's delicious! The crumble was way too floury and not sweet enough the first time that I made it, so I doubled the sugar in the recipe. Only, I forgot to cut the flour down and ended up with a fat stack of crumble (see photo of 5" crumble stack). So, next time, double the sugar, half the flour.

The cake is very moist and not at all sweet on it's own, so once the crumble is ironed out, it will be the perfect coffee cake to enjoy with my Alterra Burly Blend :)

Bagels from Scratch!

This was fun. I love making things that I never thought you could make by hand before. I mean, I guess I knew that it was possible, but I never thought I'd do it. These were made with a recipe from Vegan Brunch. They're pretty time consuming (as any yeast bread is), but fun too.

You make the yeast dough like any other, let it rise, etc. Then, after separating the dough into bagel size balls, you poke your hole in the middle and bob them in boiling water for two minutes (this gives them that lovely bagel gloss), then bake, then enjoy!

You'll see that I have gobs of stuff on one for these photos. That was inspired by the Empty Bottle's "Bite" café in Chicago. They had a small bagel menu on their brunch menu. There's a section called "Superbagels" with offerings topped with every imaginable ingredient. In that section, each type of bagel is numbered. It turns out that the cream cheese, basil, tomato and red onion one was #1 on the submenu. Meaning that when we went there, and I ordered my favorite bagel, I got to ask for the "Number One Superbagel!" Which, honestly, I'd want to order no matter what was on it, just to say that.

I subbed out vegan cream cheese, and it's still #1 Super to me.

Also, I've picked out the next thing that I didn't think that I could make to make- English Muffins (or if you're in England- Muffins).

Scones (best scones we've ever tried!)

These are from Vegan Brunch p.180 and are hands down the best scones that I've ever tried (including pre-vegan ones). They're a lot more moist than your average scone. Also, I tried a tip that I read in one of these books about muffins. I made these for our Disneyland trip that we'd be taking the next day. There was to be a car load of peoples, and I wasn't sure what variety of scone to make (we had blueberries, chocolate chips and cinnamon sugar in the house). So- I made all 3. Nothing was folded into the batter, I just divided the batter into 3 and then had 3 varieties of scones to bake. Our favorites in order were; blueberry, cinnamon, and choc chip (I really only made those b/c I heard that other peoples like them).

Excellent recipe. If you get Vegan Brunch, I highly recommend you start here!

Perfect Pancakes

These are the "Perfect Pancakes" from page 87 of Vegan Brunch by Isa Chandra- the recipe is also on page 31 of Vegan With a Vengeance (same author). They're a bit indulgent as there's maple syrup IN the batter- but the name doesn't lie. They are perfection. The darker color comes from the cinnamon in the batter (yup, that's in there too!). The recipe lists it as optional, but I have never omitted it. It's too dang good to leave out.

This is one that involves mixing the wet and dry separate and adding wet to dry. I mix the wet together with a wisk b/c of the oil and water factor. I have no idea if this helps, but I'm always thinking that if the wet goes into the dry one at a time- things won't mix properly.

Anyway- they're delicious and super sweet and totally worth buying either book for. I like to couple it with soy sausage or something savory to balance the sweetness. Also, if you make more than you can eat at one sitting, just undercook the last batch or two and make them small enough to fit into the toaster. Let cool and freeze them. They toast up uber yummy later on.