September 22, 2014

Tofu Udon Noodle Bowl



Usually I work late on Wednesdays, but I covered a day shift last week as a co-worker is on holiday. It was quite nice because my other co-worker Lucy and I got to have a little jaunt into town between assignments.

We work all over the place and rarely get to see each other. There’s one of my co-workers that I haven’t seen in six months. So this was a luxury. We are both interested in cooking and baking healthy food and we’re both veggies so we went in search of tofu for both of us and nutritional yeast for Lucy.

I ended up in a green grocer/health food/Asian food store that was brilliant and I was able to get everything on my list for our tea (that’s what dinner is called over here).

I made a dish from The Vegan Cookbook by Adele McConnell. The Udon Noodle Bowl was full of well udon noodles and pak choi, mushrooms and tofu.

Unfortunately the marinated tofu was the best part of the dish. The flavours were really good while I was working on it but the recipe called for four cups of water. I only put two and a half in but it was enough to completely drown out the flavours. I don’t think I’ll try this recipe again, but if I did I’d triple the amount of mirin, rice vinegar and miso.

There are other recipes I’ve tried in her book- like the artichoke pasta, which I’ve adapted by adding butter beans and is now a weekday staple for us- so I won’t let this one put me off making more. She has several recipes using tempeh, which is really hard to find around here. 

September 18, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Scottish Edition





For my photo blog this week I spent hours scouring my image archives digging out photos from Scotland. I lived there with my husband the first three and a half years of our married life and had visited many times before when he and I were long-distance so there were a ton of photographs to choose from.

So in honour of Scottish referendum I am putting up a whole slideshow worth of Throwback Thursdays. I do sincerely love Scotland. Whenever I go back and see how beautiful it is I have this feeling that if I didn't have any ties there, if it was uncertain that I would ever be back, that would be devastated. But knowing that I will have a connection with the country for the rest of my life makes leaving it a little easier.

My husband is a highlander. But no body calls it the Highlands except for Americans. In Scotland its just called the North or up north. Thurso is as far north as you can get without getting on ferry and taking it to Orkney or Shetland. And north of that is Norway! Thurso is right where the Atlantic Ocean meets the North Sea and therefore was home to an international surfing competition. (Billy's step-dad who sadly passed away this time last year used to say "Bondi Beach, Thurso!" comparing the surfing beaches).

Whenever I go up north I am always freezing. My mother-in-law (who was born in Glasgow but moved up there when she was 13) always has the windows open- even in the winter!! She opens the window in the bathroom after a shower and then I go to take a shower and my teeth are chattering. I always gravitate towards chunky fisherman sweaters when I'm there. I want to be warm and cozy. The sweaters/jumpers are called ganseys and they were different in each village so that if a fisherman was killed at sea whoever found him could find out where he was from by looking a the pattern knitted on his jumper.

See its these little things that make Scotland so special. If you want to know more about my opinion you can see my blog post on my photo blog though I tried to stay neutral.

September 11, 2014

Throwback Thursday


This photo was taken in 2006 when I was working for the Southbend Tribune in Southbend, Indiana. It was a seven month-long internship and it was the second internship I had worked after graduating.

I was still learning. I feel I learned more practical knowledge with those two internships than I did in my four years at uni. I loved working at the Tribune because it had a huge photo department and all the photographers there were great. They were so nice and helpful and one of the photographers, Chago, is still my buddy to this day. He, incidentally, is now the photo editor.

It was Chago who took this photo of me on my big day. I had had a frontpage photo before, but it was still exciting when it happened. The way the Tribune worked was that the Sunday paper was a big seller and they would keep it in the newspaper rack all week until the next Sunday paper came out.

On this particular day I came to work and stopped on the street outside where I saw my photo not just on one of the papers, but on both. I did a little happy dance right there despite the looks from the guys in the security booth.

The photo on the left is from Easter Sunday and the other photo is from a story on Indiana's first Saint that I had to go all the way to Terre Haute for. 

This photo reminds me of how far I’ve come as a photographer. And it reminds me of how far phone technology has come! Seriously, look at that flip phone. Thank god for iPhones.   

Vegan Spicy Bean Burgers



Its funny how we have certain roles when it comes to food. I am the Katsu Curry, chilli (we debate about this one), falafel and baked goods maker and Billy is in charge of lasagne (his is the best), pizza, calzones, bread and Sunday roasts. We make lots of other things together like Indian dishes but we definitely have our specialities. 

Friday nights have long been Pizza Fridays in the Sully (Su + Billy = Sully) household. But lately we've been feeling a bit bored of the usual pie. So last Friday I opted to make one of Billy's recipes- his Spicy Bean Burgers. I made these once before in Florida when Billy was busy making meat burgers and I had to fend for myself. 

These are really great veggie numbers that are pretty healthy as they are full of, well, beans. As I was in charge of making these guys I decided to make them vegan by using the flaxseed "egg" as a binding agent. I am again in awe of this method as I think it actually worked better than an egg. I was able to get perfectly formed little patties and I got to nibble on the mix while I chopped up the sweet potato wedges. 

Your eyes are not deceiving you, those are sweet potatoes! Every once in a while we'll get a few sweet potatoes that are white and it is always a bit odd eating them because they look like normal potatoes but with all the yumminess of the sweet variety.

The burgers (which we had again last night) freeze very well which makes them a great mid-week meal. I like them with corn on the cob that I grill on the George Foreman so it's healthier that always having the wedges.

Though I love these burgers I still want to try some other recipes. Giraffe has a super tasty falafel, burger with hummus, beetroot, rocket, tzatziki, harissa and best of all halloumi. I make pretty good falafel and tzatziki already so this should be pretty easy.

You can find the burger recipe here. It uses my simple salsa which can be found here. The sweet potato wedges are super easy. You just chop a sweet potato into the wedge shape and mix in a large bowl with a tablespoon Grey Poupon mustard, olive oil, some cayenne pepper and sea salt and pepper. I bake them with a little bit of oil and they are super tasty. Bon App├ętit!


September 7, 2014

It's Salsa Time!


I love Mexican food. I love nachos, tacos, enchiladas, quesadillas, burritos, chimichangas, empanadas and tamales. I'm getting hungry just thinking about it. But you can't have good Mexican food without salsa.

I've talked before about how I grew up eating out of tins, jars and cardboard boxes (think Kraft mac n' cheese) so its no surprise that my salsa too came from one of these containers. I would make burritos using a tin of refried beans, season my beef from a small packet and use my jar of salsa to top it off. 

It wasn't until I was visiting my bf Jess in Washington DC that I ever saw anyone make salsa- I was I was 27! Jess used her food processor and quickly tossed a few ingredients in and suddenly there was a green salsa that was incredibly spicy but otherwise amazing and it only took minutes to make. My mind was blown! 

Now salsa is a staple in our house. We use it in veggie burgers (see my next post), as a side with steak (when I ate meat) and of course with Mexican food. The great thing about my recipe, which I developed over years of trial and error, is that if you add avocados, then presto, you have guacamole! 

So here is my simple salsa recipe.




September 4, 2014

Throwback Thursday



I've spent the past few days going through old photographs and videos on my computer in an effort to free up my scratch-disk so I can actually do some proper work. Its crazy the photos I've found that I completely forgot about, both professional shots and just-for-fun friend shots. I also came across a ton of 'selfies' from when my husband and I were long-distance dating. We didn't have webcams back then so we relied on photos to remind each other what we looked like!

I've decided to do some 'Throwback Thursday' postings with old shots on my professional website to highlight work that has aged out of my portfolio (you don't want a bunch of old work in your portfolio because people will think you haven't done anything new). I figured it would be a good idea to do it on this blog too. Hopefully I won't embarrass my husband/friends with all of our youthful dalliances. I don't care if I embarrass my family cos lord knows they embarrassed me enough growing up!

This photo is of my dear friends Jess (Larsen) Jukelevich and Meg (Vincent) MacKay at the Colosseum in Rome from December 2003. We were at the end of our semester abroad in London and about to head back to the states. We all look like babies in our early twenties!

Meg and I were mooning over the Scottish boys we had met a few days before when all three of us had gone to an indie club in London. Fast-forward to present day and Meg and I are married to those Scottish boys and Jess is married to her boy who was at the club that night. 

If it hadn't been for Jess neither of us would have met the lads. Jess dragged me out on the dance floor and literally pushed me into the arms of my future husband and we proceeded to dance to the Clash and play some mean air guitar.

Crazy huh? We think it would make a good movie someday. 

August 28, 2014

Vegan Tofu Quiche



I never liked omelettes, fried eggs or egg salad sandwiches. I had a thing about eating the yolk. I don’t know why but it really wigged me out. Maybe I intrinsically knew how gross eggs are. Quiche therefore wasn’t even an option for me and I hated my mom’s potato salad for the same reason.

One day (I actually know the exact day- Halloween 1997- and I was sitting on my sister’s porch and she was curling my blonde wig for my Marilyn Monroe costume) out of nowhere I said “I want mom’s potato salad.” This was a dish I had dodged for years at barbeques, family picnics and holidays. It was full of potatoes (duh), pickles, onions and yes eggs.

To this day it is one of my favourite dishes (my mom is happy to adapt it for individual needs). After this revelation I became open to other egg-related dishes and when I was 19 I tried quiche for the first time. Honestly it was full of things I love: broccoli, cheese and pastry goodness. After that I was hooked.

Now that I am trying to cut out dairy products I am trying to find new recipes for my old favourites. I have been perusing the vegan blog “Oh She Glows” for months bookmarking yummy dishes and having very good intentions of making them.

Yesterday I was looking for a healthy dinner recipe and I opted to try the Sun-dried Tomato, Mushroom, and Spinach TofuQuiche. I really loved the idea of using almonds and oats for the base. It turned out to be fairly sweet and would probably make a good cheesecake base.

It was also the first time I’ve baked with tofu. I’ve cooked with it but creaming tofu was a new experience. I’m not a huge fan of mushrooms but when I had all the ingredients simmering in the wok I couldn’t stop myself from taking bite after bite- quality control I assure you.

I was really surprised by how flavourful the filling was even without the “nutritional yeast,” which I couldn’t find in the shop. I’ve never had it before and I had to Google it when I saw it in the recipe. It evidently adds a cheesy flavour to sauces but I can tell you the filling really didn’t need it.


All together this was a very successful recipe (I didn’t follow all the measurements exactly as I tend to just eyeball it). My husband really liked it and proceeded to have the leftovers for lunch and again for dinner. Oh She Glows is a really inspiring blog for a new non-diary cook/baker and I will for sure be making more things for her recipes in the future.

August 19, 2014

Brighton

Last weekend we had friends visiting from Belfast and after our intended plans went askew we decided to head to Brighton for an overnight stay. We were supposed to go to to the Jabberwocky music festival to see some cool bands but the festival was cancelled at the last minute (stupid ATP!!!!).

We headed to West Sussex on Sunday after a late-night at Vinopolis in London. So slightly hungover I drove the two-hours and we got in at 2pm. We followed our fearless leader Matt who was very adept at getting us around the town.

We stopped for lunch at the Green Chair and I had a yummy veggie burger with halloumi and pesto. MMM. Then we wandered the Laines and found some amazing shops (I could have bought everything in Edited and Zoing Image).

I was really surprised by Brighton. I expected it to be a quaint, posh seaside town like Aldeburgh or Southwold, but it was very run-down in parts and had a large homeless population. I liked that it was a bit grittier than Aldeburgh and I fell in love with all the veggie/vegan restaurants and food stores. There is even a vegetarian shoe store!



Brighton also has a large gay community and we wandered into a block of flats and shops lined with rainbow flags. We stopped down this road at The Black Dove for an afternoon cocktail (I had the Paloma). The decor was so dark and eclectic but I felt it would have been more at home in Tennessee. It just had that Appalachian feel. The downstairs had a room (which was really creepy when I was the only one in there) where I imagined a Nina Simone-esque singer croning through the thick cigarette smoke.

We then made our way to the sea where Matt decided to take off his shoes to dip his feet in the water and then preceded to get soaked by a large wave. Up on the pier Matt spent a large amount of 10p coins trying to win Minions (all the call machines seemed to have the Despicable Me characters). I tried once then gave up in frustration. Instead I opted to spend £3 for 5 minutes on a trampoline. Two minutes in I was exhausted- seriously it was hard work. I could spend hours jumping when I was a kid.

After another round of cocktails at Laines Brewery we headed to The Blue Man for North African Tapas and a lot of wine. The food was pretty good. I had most of the veggie tapas to myself and I think their tortilla was the best I've ever had. The hummus however was a bit bland. After my husband was hit on by the barman (he wanted him to move to Brighton!) we left after a few hours.

We stayed at the Best Western on the main seaside road. It was acceptable but by no means nice. My prerequisite was my own bathroom and a bed so I can't really complain. It was cheap. We left the next morning after a very hungover breakfast of toast.

I would definitely go back to Brighton. I'd like more time to explore- especially the shops and the restaurants. Maybe next time someone will hit on me!

August 11, 2014

Butternut Squash Katsu Curry


For over a decade now my signature dish has been Chicken Katsu Curry. When I was a student in London in 2003 Wagamamas was the restaurant du jour for poor students and the CKC was by far my favourite. When I went back to uni in New York I craved katsu curry like nothing else. So after a few trial and errors I found a way to make it (and I think its better than the original, but I may be biased).

Since I've stopped eating meat this dish has been off the menu, much to my husband's disappointment. A month or so ago we went to a street food market in london called Kerb and I got Pumpkin Katsu Curry. I was really surprised, not by how good it was because I have long loved pumpkin, but by how well the pumpkin held its structure.

So for the past few weeks I've been scouring the internet for recipes for pumpkin curry. There are loads out there but in the end I decided I'd make it exactly the way I make Chicken Katsu Curry but with one difference- I used 'vegan eggs' aka flaxseeds as the binding agent. I again am amazed at the powers of the flaxseed. I think it binded better than eggs.

Now I should say that I am of the mind that anything that comes packaged is bad and there is probably a way to make it better (and more healthily) yourself. This includes things from fajita and chilli mix (seriously this just takes about 6-10 spices that you probably already have in your spice rack) to cake and brownie mixes (I grew up using these but now everything bake is from scratch and therefore much better. It is so ingrained in my family that the last time I was home and I made my brownies- which are amazing if I do say so myself- and my sister asked what box mix I used! Pah!!).

That being said I have never found a way to make the golden curry sauce that is as good as this one. I will endeavour to find a good recipe one day but until then I will go to the Asian food store and use this one. Honestly when I open the package it fills the entire room with magic curry aromas that if you're not careful to fully clean-up after cooking will continue to fill the room the next day when curry smells may not be as welcomed.

Seeing as how it is August there was nary a pumpkin to be found and instead I used butternut squash. As every good southern girl knows, the secret to good fried chicken is coating it with seasoned flour before putting it in the egg mixture. After I cut the squash I dipped it in wholemeal flour then into the flaxseed and water mixture then into the Panko (Japanese bread crumbs that are a must for this recipe). I was really chuffed with how well the Panko stuck to the squash (which I par-boiled for five minutes but will probably not do the next time as the squash was a little too soft).

Then I baked the squash until the Panko was golden brown. We paired it with brown rice, golden curry sauce, and the all important edamame (soy beans- mmm).

I was really happy that I was able to adapt my recipe to be vegetarian- well I guess it was actually vegan. I think the squash was probably a little too sweet and I needed to slice it thinner but it was still good. I definitely want to try again when the pumpkin comes into season.

August 8, 2014

Egg-less Banana French Toast


So I woke up at a friend's house on Sunday morning very hungover, tired and hungry. All I wanted was French toast or American style pancakes. Unfortunately not every cafe sells such breakfasty goodness and instead I settled for a croissant.

But I couldn't shake the craving. I was able to make an egg-less French toast using a banana, flaxseeds, vanilla bean extract, cinnamon and skim milk (the recipe was actually for vegan French toast but I was out of unsweetened almond milk and used lactose-free skim milk instead).

The result was tasty and French toast-esque. I used multi-seeded bread that I think was too thin and long because I had trouble getting it well cooked in the centre. I used coconut oil because I think its far better than olive oil when making sweet things, though I do use it on savouries too. The edges of the bread were pretty good though. The banana caramelised and helped the firming up of the bread. And I topped it off with a little pure maple syrup (I don't use Aunt Jemima or any other syrup that uses high-fructose corn syrup- yuck).

I would totally make these again but I'd like to try the vegan version. I'm starting to think that I could give up eggs altogether, which I'm pretty excited about. Now if only I could work on my cheese addiction.