Sep 26, 2008

Internet First: Liveblogging My Tap Water

OK people: this may be the lamest thing I'll ever post...or the greatest?

I moved into a new place last October, and it's aces, except for one small issue, which affects 80% of my body and most of my food (also my cats, and various wiping procedures). In the interest of meaningless junk science, I present to you: The Mystery of The Water In My Apartment. Toronto water isn’t that bad, but in my neighbourhood (Old Town, close to the Market) it seems a lot of the water is hard. Toilets get nasty fast, skin and hair get pretty dry, the water demands a bribe every month or it’ll flood my bathroom – you know, hard.

Now I’ve seen cloudy water before; this ain’t my first H2-odeo - but it usually settles quickly so you can pretend that it’s fine and your eyes were just smudgy from all the sleep you don’t get. This stuff, though, is a little longer-lasting, and I intend to get some hard, completely non-scientifically gathered facts to give to my landlord when he tries to hike my rent at the end of the lease.

INNOVATIVE WEB 2.0 ALERT:This may be the first time anyone has ever liveblogged a glass of water. Now that’s progress!


PHASE 2: 5 minutes later - Typo-Prone Octopus Releases White-Out Instead

PHASE 3: 8 Minutes later: Wicked Witch Watch - Tornado Alert Level: Ruby

PHASE 4: 12 minutes later: Great, but where did all the schmutz GO?

I learned something today. The city wants us to cut down on bottled water, which is totally fine, because, garbage, but it might be a little easier if the city's water didn't have so in it.

In honour of this experiment, sing with me:

Sep 24, 2008



I have missed block cheese a lot, more for the texture than the flavour. I’ve never been one to throw slabs of cheese (or really, anything else) down my throat. I like a little ‘zazz, ya know? I make a lot of burritos, nachos, lasagnes – the texture of shredded or melted cheese is a huge component of the overall experience, so I am determined to find the vegan analogue and turn it into a cornerstone of my kitchen. This was the first recipe I found that had uniformly good reviews. I’m not sure why, to be honest. Maybe it’s just me, but this was nothing like cheese. It was like a block of gritty tofu. Didn’t melt, didn’t shred, was soggy, and tasted like…tofu. I looked at the quality of my ingredients, the prep method, and the final result, tweaked a bit, and tried again. The original recipe is here.

My revised ingredient list:
11 fl oz (300 ml) water
2 tsp agar agar powder
4½ oz (100g) RAW cashew nuts
½ oz (12.5g) nutritional yeast flakes
3 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp tahini
1/3 cup red onions, finely diced
1-2 tsp Dijon fancypants mustard
¼ tsp salt
2 cloves garlic, finely diced

For lack of a food processor I used a hand blender with the chopping bowl attachment thingamabob. I’ve ground coffee beans in here before with no problem, and it handled the cashews well. I used raw cashews this time to keep some of the stickiness and chewiness, and about 10 more than the original recipe called for as the first batch came out pretty thin.

The original recipe says “onion/garlic granules”. I have never seen an onion or garlic “granule”, so I’m assuming the chef meant “powder”. I used standard garlic and onion powder on the first pass, so this time I chopped some garlic and onion into very fine pieces, put them in a dish, and marked the dish “GRANULES ONLY! ALL OTHERS KEEP OUT!” and put a little security guard in front to prevent incursion.(ok, it was a cashew. with a hat. that i made.)

The mustard powder became Dijon mustard as the powder is so foul-smelling I refuse to keep it in my home. I have never been a mustard person, ever. Lame as it sounds, forcing myself to eat and cook with mustard and mustard products to make vegan cheese analogues has been really nasty for me. The smell, the flavour…just thinking about it makes me nauseous. Yet, never let it be said I wouldn’t try!

You will recall my excitement about agar powder, which I finally got a chance to use – the only other weirdie ingredient was the nutritional yeast. OK, I use Smilin’ Old Farmer Guy Bob Something brand yeast, and I’ve come to the end of a package and want to try something else. This stuff was flavourless, expensive, and Smiling Farmer Bob creeps me out. So I’ll be looking into a new brand, but for now, that’s what I used. Sorry, Bob. I'm sorry you had to find out this way.

It's effortless prep:
Boil the water and sprinkle agar agar powder on top.
Stir and simmer for around 3 minutes.
Place in a food processor together with the remaining ingredients. Blend until smooth.
Place in a mold.
Chill in fridge overnight

Doesn't get easier than that.

The mixing went well (lot more watery than I thought – watch out for spills) and the setting as well. In hindsight, I should have tried to get all those bubbles out before I let it set, but it was so liquidy I thought they’d work it out for themselves, and it seemed like a private matter I shouldn’t get involved in.

The cheese was firm, came out of the mold well, and I let it air-dry a little covered in a thick paper towel to try to get the condensation off. After an hour or so, it was a bit more dry, so I cut a chunk off to try, being sure to take this incredibly artistic (possibly award-winning?????) photo. The kids today, they like the photos of food. Big market. Denny Crane.

Verdict: Meh. Not much flavour. Held together well. Basically tasted like tofu with lots of bubbles in it. Didn’t melt, and was too soggy to shred. My search for a block cheese continues. I think I’m going to try this one more time, but swap in some turmeric, and maybe use garlic/onion SALT instead of powder to try and add some flavour. And the cashews did add a nice mellow sweetness, so I think raw cashews are the way to go – just maybe a few more of ‘em.

FUN FACT: It’s AUTUMN. In honour of Bill Hicks, the cowboy hero himself, I’d like to quote him.
“Every day in L.A., hot and sunny. People say ‘Isn’t it great, every day is hot and sunny!’ What are you, lizards? I’m a mammal. I can afford scarves, coats, cappuccinos, and rosy-cheeked women, all of which are for sale on the streets of New York City.”

Sep 10, 2008

So cherry!

I was nominated for some Blogger's Choice awards! Here's a completely self-indulgent post about it. Aren't you excited you dropped by today?

Here are my sweet badge things if you are of a mind to vote. For some reason, they don't seem to be seinding activation emails when people sign up to vote, so maybe it's just not gonna happen, but thanks to anyone who tried!

Otherwise I hope you're enjoying Fall so far. I am making some pumpkin-chai foods this weekend - a new latte recipe I want to try, a stew I keep forgetting to write up for a friend, and best of all, an ambitious attempt at my first vegan pie - pumpkin, specifically. I'm thinking of subbing the condensed milk with a soy & icing sugar mix, but I'll have another look at the one in "How It All Vegan" first. Pumpkin time means Hallowe'en time too...ungh, this is the best season of the whole year!

My site was nominated for Freakiest Blogger!

Sep 1, 2008

What rough pakora, its hour come round at last...

...slouches toward the frying pan to be born?

I love indian food, and it's easily made vegan, so I took advantage of my time babysitting Paula's cats and picked up chickpea flour on Gerrard to make pakora. Everything else I had, though I used more garam masala than recommended, and a standard bag of frozen vegetables. Fun fact: a co-worker of mine once referred to these as "welfare vegetables". Then she got fired. Who's eating vegetables now, bitch????

How easy was this to make? Easier than writing this multi-Flickr'd post. Thanks to Moira Adams at VegWorld for the recipe.

* 1 cup (4 oz, 110 g) gram (chickpea) flour
* 1 tsp. mixed ground spices (I used cumin, turmeric, and garam masala)
* About 1 lb (450 g) of vegetables, cut into very small pieces (for carrots, celery, bell pepper and parsnips, prepare thin slices; for cauliflower and broccoli, cut into small florets)
* Oil for frying

Mix the flour and spices. Slowly add cold water, stirring all the time, until you have a thin batter. Heat the oil in a skillet. Dip each vegetable piece in the batter, one at a time. Make sure that it is fully coated. Drop it into the hot oil, and cook for a few minutes until crisp.

The raw mix looks like shreds of birthday cards in a velvety banana cream pie. But it's not, so don't try to make that instead.
pakora mix

Then you fry them for about 45 seconds, turn, and fry again. They fry really fast if you use frozen vegetables, and also they spit at you in disgust, which really hurts. Emotionally and physically. They must have heard that "welfare vegetables" comment and internalized their inherent class consciousness into hateballs.

Frying the pakoras

I'm sorry, angry pakoras. You were very tasty. I hope you get yourself sorted out one day, because you have kind of a lot of issues for a snack treat.