Hope Sinks

May 20, 2009, 9:06 pm
Filed under: Veganism

I am pleased to announce that I am moving my vegan baking home on the internet. I don’t know why I chose the name Hope Sinks for this blog, but I hate it, and the only way I could find to change it was to start a new blog, so I have! Named after my favorite Iron Maiden song, No Murders In The Rue Morgue is my new jam. Update your RSSes and feeds and bookmarks and links, and see you there!


Pot Lucky!
November 19, 2008, 1:12 pm
Filed under: Good Days, Veganism | Tags: , , , , ,

As you may be aware, I’m leaving my hometown of Edmonton, Alberta (look it up on google maps) and moving to San Francisco, California to be with my husband. While I’m greatly looking forward to the move, I’m going to miss the friends and family I’ll be leaving behind… well, most of them, anyway.

I tend to like to fly under the radar a lot. Especially lately when I’ve been trying to scrimp and save my pennies, I haven’t gone out much, and I’m sad to say I’ve neglected a lot of my friends, so I’ve been surprised the last couple weeks at all the people who have said they will actually notice and even miss my presence in Edmonton. Thanks, guys, and I’ll miss you too.

One of the people who really drove it home for me was my friend, Jennifer, who baked the most amazing cake I’ve ever seen for the PPK Edmonton Potluck this past Sunday. I don’t think I’ve ever had my eyes well up at the sight of food before, but I did this Sunday, and this is why:

It’s easy to forget that food can have that kind of impact. Though nowadays most people in my family can and do cook, from a young age, I was really the only one who would do things like make fancy dinners for my friends and family as a way of expressing affection. It’s not something conscious, but I guess I’ve just grown up feeling like there’s nothing that makes a person feel loved and cared for like a thoughtful, special meal. In fact, I would even go so far as to say the people who cook for you are the ones you keep.

Okay, that probably sounds mean, but looking back on the past 5 or 6 years of my life, the people who I remain close to are those I’ve made and shared food with. Not that the cake was a clincher or anything, but I’m pretty sure that whenever I think of this cake in the future (which is likely to be fairly often, since I’ll be seeing the Golden Gate Bridge fairly regularly in the coming months/years/lifetime), I’ll also think about sitting down to write Jennifer a note or postcard. When I have my wedding anniversaries, I’ll think of melisser, who baked my (belated) wedding cake and also the group of fine ladies who all chipped in to buy my new husband and I a fancy dinner. I didn’t literally share that meal with my girls, but I will think of them whenever I’m back at Millenium.

I suppose what I’m trying to get at is that while I love food and cook and eat a lot by myself, I look back at my life, and particularly my past 5-and-a-half years as a vegan, and I see special food connected to special people and special times (god, I’ve used the word “special” too many times in this entry, but if I were to get all thesaurus-y, it would be even worse, I know it), and I feel incredibly lucky to have met and broken bread with all of them.

<3, guys.

VeganMoFo: Back On The Wagon

I was so diligent in my MoFoing for the first 10 days or so of the month… right up until I went to San Francisco to visit my husband. Darn the luck. Anyway, there’s still time for one more (business) week of MoFoing, so hold on to your butts, because I’m starting out with Katie‘s Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls.

Like many of you, I’ve been meaning to make these for a really, really long time. Now that I’ve made them, I feel like a dope for not having done so earlier. I’ve talked before in this blog about how yeasted things tend to subconsciously freak me out, meaning that I tend to not make them much. I haven’t gotten to the root of why this is (I’ve never screwed up any yeasted thing I’ve made; I don’t find yeasted recipes difficult; etc.), but it’s prevented me from trying a bunch of things that I would normally been all over before even finishing reading the description. I suppose the time factor is a big one for me (I work 60 hours a week and have to find time for a bunch of other extracurriculars and international phone calls as well), but that’s not really a good reason either, given the amount of time I waste on the internet and the amount of reading I try to get done every day. Anyway, my point is, I have an irrational yeasted recipe aversion, and I’m happy I overcame it long enough to make these because they are fucking crazily good.

Bam! That’s right – they are all up in your face.

Having made these, I have the following to say to those of you who haven’t yet taken the plunge, whether from laziness (like me) or worry about your cooking/baking skills, or just plain old ambivalence: Get over it. These are really pretty easy – the hardest skills involved are kneading the dough (easy) and cleaning the countertop afterward (harder, but worth it). They don’t even have to rise for that long (45 minutes + 5 minutes resting time), and they really do produce fluffy, delicious, better-than-the-bakery cinnamon rolls. If you’re like me, you haven’t had one of those since well before you went vegan. Assuming you’re vegan.

The other thing I thought of while I was waiting for these to rise is that one of virtues of yeasted food is that they rely on the principle of delayed pleasure. That is, I tend to pass over yeasted breads and rolls in favour of stuff that uses soda or baking powder, and I do this because I want instant (well, as instant as baking can be) gratification. I can’t be bothered, most of the time, to wait for an hour or 90 minutes while dough rises, and I don’t like that in myself. Yeasted foods, if you want to get really hippie dippy about it, force us to indulge in delayed pleasure, which probably fosters a good impulse in us.. particularly those of us who are considering fucking the whole delayed-pleasure thing in favour of more immediate (well, delayed by 8 months, so not that instant) pleasure… oh, I’ve said too much! But you get my drift, don’t you? Waiting for the things we want tends to be a good thing that encourages good traits in ourselves (just look at Love In The Time Of Cholera), and these pumpkin cinnamon rolls can improve me anytime.

Anyway, I’m a bit rusty. I don’t know how to write about food or innovate or anything, but this is my attempt to get back on the wagon.

VeganMoFo: Baking with Grandma
October 2, 2008, 8:53 pm
Filed under: Cooking, Veganism, VeganMoFo | Tags: , , , , , , ,

I got some really crappy news today: my grandma fell and broke her hip this afternoon. Luckily, she happened to have her cell phone (which my dad bought for her and made her learn to use) on her and was able to call 911 from the spot near the back of her yard where she fell. She got to the hospital, and my dad tells me that while she was looking a little grey when he saw her, she’s doing okay and will be having surgery late tonight or sometime tomorrow morning. Anti-serendipitously, I had planned to write about my grandma today (without having known about the accident), following a conversation I had had with my sister, but now it feels like a bigger deal. I’m going to write anyway, but watch this spot, because I’ll very likely revise this entry to do proper justice to the subject. Anyway.

My grandma was born in England in 1922. She was a nurse aide during the second world war and bicycled through the English countryside during the blackouts delivering supplies to various hospitals and medical centres, one time pitching headfirst into a ditch and knocking out some teeth. She became interested in communism following the war and has remained a principled leftist and keen political observer. During the brief time between leases one summer that I lived with her, I was more up on current events (especially local and provincial politics) than I have ever been in my life. Long story short: my grandma is awesome, and I am unmitigated scum for not calling her as often as I should.

Bringing it back to VeganMoFo, though, my grandma was also the person who taught me to bake. Some of my earliest childhood memories are of standing on a footstool at her kitchen counter making jam tarts – tiny, simple tarts made of basic pastry and homemade raspberry jam. Baking jam tarts with my grandma was my absolute, bar-none favorite thing when I was five years old. It’s hard to remember now how much I was actually able to do, but at the time, it seemed like my grandma hardly did any of the work, which meant that I was, at five, a totally awesome baker. Of course, grandma must have done most of the work (I live with a five-year-old now, and she is balls in the kitchen), but she did it in such a way that I felt like I was in charge. I guess the really awesome thing she did was give me confidence, and I am thankful that that confidence in my ability to make food has carried through to today.

I’m not an amazing cook. I’m a pretty good baker and definitely serviceable in the kitchen, but I know when I’m out of my league. I make the odd crappy dish (like the first thing I ever made for my husband and didn’t have any time at all and only had shitty knives and pots and pans, and the kitchen was a mess, and I was so nervous, and my dish sucked so bad, and I was so embarassed oh my god), and I still sometimes have to throw things away and start from scratch, but I’ve never had to deal with the hand-wringing, anxiety-inducing crises of confidence that so many people have when it comes to cooking. Cooking and baking have never been scary to me, and for that, I think I largely have my grandma to thank.

I had meant to post the recipe for those little jam tarts before I found out about the accident, but now I can’t call my grandma to get the pastry recipe she used. Instead, I’ll just have to leave you with a promise to make them tomorrow and admonitions to all call your grandmas, you unappreciative jerks.

VeganMoFo: Cultural Soup Hegemony!
October 1, 2008, 10:52 pm
Filed under: Cooking, Veganism, VeganMoFo | Tags: , , ,

For this, the first day of VeganMoFo, I decided to try some cultural appropriation in the form of my friend Mel C‘s Vietnamese-style Soup.

As a Canadian, I live in a multicultural society, but as a vegan, I sometimes find my ability to try truly authentic foods from different cultures and ethnic groups hampered. I couldn’t tell you what prosciutto tastes like, where to get a good plate (I think it’s served on a plate, anyway) of ceviche, or even how to properly pronounce “pho” (well, until I read Mel’s blog entry on that particular dish). In short, while I am eager to try new things, I am, at least in my town, sometimes unable. So, in the spirit of actually trying something new (and in the spirit of cheering up my recently-single sister, whose lust for Vietnamese soups is impressive and insatiable), I set out to make Mel’s Vietnamese-style soup.

Mel’s recipe calls for some ingredients not available in “regular” supermarkets, so I made a run over to Lucky 97 “Oriental Market” for some provisions. I visit Lucky 97 pretty regularly (I am lucky to live a 15 or 20-minute walk away from both an Italian supermarket and Lucky 97), but some of the ingredients in this soup had me wandering the aisles, looking, I’m sure, very much like the clueless white girl I am. Tamarind paste had me particularly mystified, and I never did find Ngo Om, a supposedly common herb in Vietnamese cooking. In this recipe, I ended up adding some thai basil in lieu of the Ngo Om, which is probably sacrilege, but I’m a basil freak, so I decided to go with it and put my own distinctive Western stamp on this otherwise traditional dish.

I did end up scoring tamarind paste (which, I learned, comes in seeded and unseeded varieties; I bought seeded but should have bought unseeded for this soup), lemongrass stalks, vegetarian “fish” sauce (well, called “dipping sauce” in English but “Poisson” in French), and, unrelated to the soup, steamed pumpkin buns, and some of the most amazing coconut ice cream (ingredients: coconut milk, sugar, coconut meat) I’ve ever had.

Mel’s recipe is amazingly straightforward: essentially, put all the ingredients in a pot (except whatever you use for protein and some fresh garnishes) and simmer for 35 – 45 minutes. Preparation was done while the pot bubbled, which made for amazing ease of cooking – I set up my cutting board next to the stove and just tossed stuff in as I chopped it, saving the fresher ingredients like the fresh tomato and garnishes and tofu for last.

Honestly, the hardest thing about this recipe was carting the groceries home, followed closely by getting the rather unorthodox packaging of the veggie fish sauce open. Otherwise, while I was a little hesitant to put the pineapple in for the full cooking time (I shouldn’t have been because it really added to the flavour), this was one of the easiest recipes I’ve ever made.

The finished product was, by far, the best Vietnamese-style soup I’ve ever had. The broth took on a bit of the tang from the pineapple, but tempered it with a bit of heat from the chili sauce I added (not too much – I’m a wuss) and the saltiness of the broth. The soup was just spicy enough to make my nose run a bit (which means it will be perfect for cold winter nights), but with enough big chunks of pineapple and tomato and with enough herbs to make it interesting.

Beautiful, isn’t it?

August 15, 2008, 2:46 pm
Filed under: Cooking, Veganism | Tags: , , , ,

Now, I’m a Canadian. As my husband is constantly reminding me, that means I have no idea when it comes to Mexican food. While I know me a good burrito when I eat one and know enough to know that the “Mexican” restaurant here in town (Julio’s Barrio) sucks, he’s probably right about the rest of it. I don’t know a torta from a flauta from a churro, and, until yesterday, I didn’t really know what carnitas were either. Thanks and praise be, therefore, to the mighty melisser for posting her recipe for carnitas that use young jackfruit in the place of meat.

Jackfruit is weird.

Jackfruit is weird.

Wikipedia tells me that carnitas is a type of heavily seasoned braised or roasted pork that is relatively common in Mexican cuisine. The meat is used to make tacos, sandwiches (tortas, apparently), burritos, and any number of other dishes. I’ve heard about young jackfruit as a substitute for meat (particularly pulled pork type meat) from a couple of different people now, so when the husband gave me a can of young green jackfruit as a parting gift on one of my last visits, I knew it would eventually get made into carnitas. Unfortunately, I’m lazy and a big procrastinator so that can of jackfruit had been sitting in my cupboard for several months by the time I finally got around to doing anything with it, but I had the day off and the kitchen to myself yesterday, and as luck would have it, I was feeling homesick for San Francisco and wanted some Mexican food. The time was right.

Uncooked jackfruit with salsa verde, garlic, onions, and seasonings in the crock pot before cooking.

Uncooked jackfruit with salsa verde, garlic, onions, and seasonings in the crock pot before cooking.

Having never tasted either jackfruit or carnitas, I felt like I was flying a little blind with this recipe. Melisser doesn’t list quantities for the seasonings in her recipe, so I guessed as best I could (I tended to go heavier on the smoked paprika and oregano than the cayenne and cumin) and came out with (I think) a pretty satisfactory result. I also had never really tasted salsa verde (in fact, I had never seen salsa verde for sale in Edmonton before until a recent visit to the new Sobey’s market on Jasper Avenue and 104 st., where I shelled out $12 for a container big enough for the recipe – a flagrant rip off), so I wasn’t sure how all the spices called for would interact with those (if any) already in the salsa. I guess you can see why I felt like I was flying blind…

Melisser’s recipe cooks up the jackfruit in a crock pot with a bunch of salsa verde, onion, garlic, lime, and spices. Melisser likes to let her jackfruit simmer for 8 hours, but I’m not that organized. I originally planned to give it 2 hours, but in the end, I think my jackfruit cooked for about 4 hours, during which time I added a couple of tomatoes I had on hand that were about to go off.

My best guesses seemed to be okay, since my carnitas came out savory and with just a bit of kick. The green salsa leant a distinctive flavour to the dish, though if you asked me, I wouldn’t be able to tell you what it tasted like. It is apparently impossible to get corn tortillas in Edmonton. I was forced to use mini flour torts instead, and next time, I’d like to make my own corn ones.

Cooked jackfruit and seasonings in the crock pot.

Cooked jackfruit and seasonings in the crock pot.

On the husband’s recommendation, I topped the carnitas with pico de gallo (which he informed me is a traditional Mexican “chopped sauce,” or chopped tomatoes, onions, and chiles – plus whatever else you care to add – I added lime juice and cilantro) and a bit of lettuce and extra cilantro. The result was awesome. It didn’t taste like the the packaged Old El Paso taco meat of my childhood at all. Instead, the jackfruit took on a bit of the zest of the salsa and the smokiness from the smoked paprika (a wonder ingredient in my opinion). The rest of the flavours blended together nicely, and while I have no way of knowing how authentic my carnitas was, I do know it was tasty and that I’ll make it again.

Finished product in tortilla with homemade pico de gallo. Mmmm.

Finished product in tortilla with homemade pico de gallo. Mmmm.

June 27, 2008, 9:56 am
Filed under: Veganism | Tags: , , , , , , ,

My grandma makes something she calls Baked Apple. It’s something of a misnomer, since it’s not actually a baked apple, but a thick applesauce with a sweet bread-crumb-ish topping. It’s super simple, but really flavourful and satisfying in really any season.

When my grandma makes it, she uses homemade applesauce, which is both a nicer colour (kind of pinkish – delightful!) and more flavourful and tart. When I had my craving this morning at breakfast, I only had unsweetened store-bought sauce, so I made do with that, but I highly recommend making your own applesauce if you have the time – it’s easy and so much better than the store-bought alternatives.

For my version, I put about a cup of applesauce into a small corningware dish. For the topping, I didn’t have any breadcrumbs, so I made a mixture of about 1/3 cup large flake oats, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1.5 tbsp vegan margarine, and 1 tbsp flax seed. I mixed it all together and then crumbled it on top of the applesauce. I threw the whole thing into the oven at 400 degrees and baked it on up for about 20 minutes.

The result was a satisfying, reasonably healthy breakfast I hadn’t eaten 800 times before. I’d like to get my grandma’s recipe for this and do it up proper, and I’ll be sure to write about it when I do.