Sunday, October 31, 2010

My Vegan MoFo 2010 project

Where the magic happens!
Happy Hallowe'en, everyone, or Samhain or whatever you're celebrating!  This is just a quick post to introduce my project, before it begins tomorrow, and to wish my fellow Mofies a fun and educational November.  This is my second MoFo, and last year was so much fun, but so much research and other work (I was eating Japanese for the whole month) that I didn't get a chance to explore the efforts of others as much as I wanted to, and also felt restricted by my theme in that I couldn't replicate some of the awesome dishes I was seeing on the other blogs, since they weren't Japanese.  This year I plan to be much more free.

Often in moods of reckless optimism, I buy food items that, well, I don't know what they are exactly but they look intriguing, or that I've read about and always wanted to try, or I pass items in the grocery store and every single time think to myself, What on earth is that?  Or I see other people buying stuff and wonder what they're doing with it all.  The other day I was in line at the market behind a Jamaican guy who was buying plantain.  Lots of plaintain.  I'd seen him in the plaintain section joyfully yelling into his cell phone, "I found it, I found it, even though you said it wasn't here!"  So we were standing there waiting for the checkout and I asked him what he did with it.  "I just cook it, you know."  Thanks, Jamaican guy.  I hope that this month I'll be a lot more informative than that.

November is going to be my month of enlightenment about these foods.  When I sat down to write a list of things I was interested in trying, I easily came up with far more than 30 items, probably about half of which I already have but haven't got around to experimenting with for one reason or another.  They're spices, fruits, vegetables, dried things, riffs on some of the food I already eat like "tofu strands" that look like spaghetti but are tofu.  A lot of them are Asian, but not all.  I've never tried posole, for instance, or habanero peppers.

Workspace and compost container; in my tiny kitchen I try to be neat, or at least clean up after making a mess

My list isn't finished, and I certainly haven't done all my posting ahead of time like some clever Mofies, so I'll be experimenting day by day and hopefully can work in some of the ingriguing things others will be doing as well.  My only restriction is that I have to try at least one new (to me) food item per day.

Best wishes to all, thanks to the organizers for facilitating this excellent event, and let the games begin!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Pa jeon (vegetable pancakes)

As no doubt everybody reading this already knows, I love to cook every day, and I don't love eating leftovers unless they can be cooked into something else.  So I try not to make too much of any one dish so that I'm faced with eating it for days or throwing the leftovers away.  This means that at times the vegetable bins in my refrigerator fill up with bits and pieces--a quarter of a sweet pepper, half a carrot, a slice of onion, half a lime, two mushrooms.  A great way to use those little scraps is in a savory pancake like this one.

My version is based on one in Cecilia Hae-Jin Lee's Quick & Easy Korean Cooking, which I bought the other day while I was for Asian cookbooks...for my MoFo project... It's not a vegan cookbook, but Asian meat and fish recipes are usually pretty easy to veganize and I'm hoping to do that with some of the ones from this book.  Her recipe for pa jeon, however, is vegan, and so simple that I added an experimental twist of my own: I substituted whole wheat flour for all-purpose flour.

It's sad that whole wheat flour doesn't work as well as white flour in these kinds of recipes.  Or rather, doesn't look as good.  Nevertheless, these were very tasty and super-easy to create.  Here's what you do:

Pancake batter
for 2 8-inch pancakes

1/2 cup flour
3 tbsp rice flour
1/4 tsp salt

Mix these three ingredients together in a measuring cup and add water until it attains the texture of thin pancake batter.  You should be able to pour it easily.  These ingredients can be multiplied ad infinitum if you want to make more pancakes.

Now finely slice or julienne the vegetables you'll be using.  These should include green onions but otherwise anything goes.  In mine were red onion, crimini mushrooms, beech mushrooms, carrots, sweet red pepper, green serrano chili, and green onions.  Heat a little vegetable oil in a non-stick skillet, and, when hot, put some of the longer-cooking vegetables (in my case, everything but the green onions and the sweet red pepper which I had cut into very thin shreds) into the bottom of the frying pan.  You only want enough in there to thinly cover the bottom of the pan. 

Stir fry them on medium-high heat just until softened, then add the quick-cooking vegetables:

Continue to stir-fry just until the new vegetables are hot, then pour on the batter.  Start in the middle and work your way out in a spiral.  The batter should be thin enough to spread out around the vegetables by itself:

Fry uncovered on medium-high heat until the bottom is golden, then flip:

You can continue to flip the pancake a couple of times to keep it from burning, until you attain the level of golden done-ness you prefer. 

Slice and serve with a soy sauce-based dipping sauce.  Delicious.  I had it for breakfast, and it made a lovely breakfast.  Not as pretty as the white flour version, but wholesome, you know?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Baozi (Chinese steamed buns)

There was a bit of filling left over from the other day's dumplings, so today I tried something I've always wanted to do - steamed buns.  These will be, for readers, boringly the same as the dumplings from my last post, which they essentially are, except that instead of the flour-and-water wrapper, the wrapper is a yeasted dough.  It's just plain white bread dough, according to my source, Bryanna Clark Grogan, in her Authentic Chinese Cuisine, so that's what I made. 

You create the buns much the same way as the dumplings, except that the dough is sort of pleated up around the filling.  You want to put as much filling as possible into each bun, so as not to end up with a thick glob of dough at the top (or bottom, depending on how you cook them):

Once you've got the buns made, place them on a piece or pieces of waxed paper or parchment paper in a steamer, and let them rise for 20 minutes.  I've poked holes in my parchment paper to allow the steam to come through:

Then you just steam them for 15 minutes.  Here's what mine looked like right out of the steamer:

Again, like the dumplings, though the texture was great and they were definitely cooked, they don't look like the fluffy white buns you see in the markets.  Why not?  It's a mystery to me at least, but if you know, please comment and enlighten me.

Anyway, apart from the appearance I was quite pleased with them and would make them again. 

They were served here with a coconut-milk-based soup from Chat Mingkwan's Thai Vegetarian Cooking and some more rice vinegar/grated ginger dipping sauce for the dumplings.  Mmmm...

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Kimchi mandu & dukbokki

I guess this post could be entitled Even more fun with kimchi, because I am developing a fascination with the stuff and started a new batch yesterday.  Today I used up the last of my first batch in kimchi mandu, or kimchi dumplings. 

I had also bought some "rice cakes" at the oriental market the other day.  These are not the crunchy rice cakes Westerners know and love (or hate; personally I am neutral towards them), but a kind of rice pasta or gnocchi.  It comes in different shapes, but mine was in slices or coins.  With this I made another Korean dish, dubokki.

Where to begin?  Here are the rice cakes in their packaging:

They look kind of soft and lima-bean like, but that look is deceptive.  They're quite tough and dry, and once the packet was opened, fell out of it in individual slices without sticking at all.  Cooked, they're more like gnocchi than anything else.  I based my dish closely on this one from Maangchi.  I didn't use a recipe but followed her method, though instead of anchovies, I simmered about 2 square inches of kombu in the water for ten minutes, then removed it before adding the other ingredients.  Watch her video; the way the rice cakes suddenly thicken in the broth is magical.  This dish reminded me a little of spaghetti with tomato sauce, though of course without spaghetti or tomatoes...

I did use this, Korean hot pepper paste, something new to me in the last week.  It's a dark red paste, spicy but not fiery hot.  Its texture is a little gritty and floury and it does in fact contain some wheat flour:

Then I made dumplings.  Kimchi dumplings.  Again, I'll give pictures but not a recipe, because I mostly just put it together with things I had.  My efforts were based loosely on this recipe, which I halved, and I also subbed ground seitan for the pork.  Dumplings seem like a ton of work, and of course they can be if you're making them for an army, but 24 dumplings took me about an hour.  I made most of it in the food processor.  The dough first, which is just flour and water:

Then the filling.  If you didn't want to use seitan, there's no reason at all they couldn't be all-tofu.  The only trick to a dumpling filling is not to let it be too wet.  I squeezed out my tofu and kimchi in a cloth before adding them to the mix:

Then roll out the little bits of dough into circles about 3 1/2 inches in diameter and place about a tablespoon of filling in the centre:

Wet one half of the edge, fold the other over and pinch shut, then join the two ends of the half circle to make a cute little circular dumpling:

A family group:

So far, so good, but when I steamed them they didn't come out all shiny and glossy like the ones you make from the bought wrappers, but they held together well and tasted fine.  I ate seven and froze the rest, so it may be that after their chilly sojourn in the freezer their texture will improve.  I have special plans for those dumplings!

This was served with a salad with a simple soy sauce/rice vinegar/sesame oil dressing, and some sweet-and-salty daikon pickles from Madhur Jaffrey's World of the East Vegetarian Cooking I made a day or two ago and am really pleased with.  The dumpling-dipping sauce was just rice vinegar with grated ginger, and was superb!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

More fun with kimchi - Kimchi jigae (kimchi soup)

Here's another kimchi recipe, not made up this time, but mostly veganized from Marc's over at No Recipes.  Other than substituting for the pork belly, I made very few changes because I was curious to try his suggestions of adding miso and Earth Balance (in his version, butter).  On the whole, from me miso gets a thumbs up and the Earth Balance got a thumbs down, possibly because Earth Balance is so salty and the one thing this dish didn't need was any more salt.  Nice meal though, and quite pretty to boot.  Except I'm getting a complex about not composing my photos better and I have to set up some sort of lighting arrangement so I can take pictures elsewhere than only on the surface of the stove...

Kimchi Jigae
Serves 4

1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 cup shredded seitan, or reconstituted Soy Curls or yuba or TVP
1/2 small onion sliced
1 1/2 cup loosely packed kimchi
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup kimchi juice
2 cup water
1 tsp grated ginger
1 tbsp cooking wine (such as mirin or shaoxing)
2 tsp gochujang (Korean chili paste)
2 tsp miso
2 tsp soy sauce
2 tbsp gochugaru (Korean dried chili flakes; optional)
8 oz silken tofu sliced into cubes
enoki mushrooms
2 green onions thinly sliced
1 tbsp Earth Balance

Heat a medium saucepan to medium heat. When hot, add the oil, and when the oil is hot, add the seitan etc., and the onion. Fry for a few minutes, until the onion is translucent, then add the kimchi juice, water, ginger, cooking wine, gochujang, miso and soy sauce, stirring everything together to combine.

I used gluten balls for my protein but next time will try yuba
Bring to a boil and taste for spiciness; adjust if necessary. Add the tofu and enoks, turn down the heat to a simmer, and let the soup cook for 15-20 minutes, or until the kimchi is tender and the ingredients are well incorporated.

When you’re ready to serve, add the green onions and Earth Balance. Serve with rice or noodles.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Kimchi jeon (kimchi pancakes)

Kimchi pancakes.  When Katharine suggested them in the Comments to my kimchi post, I was initially skeptical.  Kimchi pancakes?  I couldn't really imagine it.  Kimchi pancakes?  So I had to make them, just to discover what it was all about.  This is Korean bar food.  I read several recipes, then made up my own, and was very pleased with it.  Would I make this again?  Oh, yes.  Will I make this again tomorrow?  Um, probably.  It really was awesome.  
On Edit:  I did make it again, and the above picture shows the second batch.  I also tried it with a simple dipping sauce of 1 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tbsp rice vinegar, and 1 tsp sesame oil, but I think the very best thing to serve with these is probably beer (not tried yet; that will be a future experiment!).

The recipes out there vary quite a bit.  I used rice flour for its crunch, besan flour because I love it, black salt for its egginess, and the result was a bit of at least mildly Korean heaven.

Kimchi jeon (kimchi pancakes)
serves 2 (makes 3 large pancakes or 8 small)

1/2 cup rice flour
2 tbsp besan (chickpea) flour
1/4 cup kimchi broth
1/4 cup non-dairy milk (I used rice milk)
1/2 tsp sugar
1/8 tsp black salt (or regular salt if you don't have black salt)
1/2 cup kimchi, chopped
3 scallions, finely sliced
3 tbsp canola or other vegetable oil

Mix together the rice flour, chickpea flour, kimchi broth, rice milk, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl.  Add the kimchi and scallions and stir to mix.

Heat 1 tbsp of the oil in a non-stick pan over medium-high, and, when hot, add 1/3 of the batter.  Spread the batter out as thin as you can--you're aiming for a thin, crisp pancake.  Fry about 2 minutes on one side, then flip.  The pancake should be lightly golden on both sides.

Serve.  My goodness, this was good!  So thanks, Katharine.  The time it would have taken me to come up with this idea on my own would have been...well, infinite.  But I'm so glad I made this!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Fresh turmeric + tarka dal

If it's true that brightly coloured foods are especially good for you, then turmeric is (as indeed is often maintained) at the apex of that rainbow food pyramid.  My Chinese friend from work, Fiona, found these in one of the markets in Chinatown and we both bought some.  Neither of us had used it before--and I'd never even seen any.

So what is this like?  Everyone is familiar with the yellow turmeric powder made from these roots.  That powder is fairly bitter; you can't use too much in a recipe or the whole dish will taste of it.  I don't mind the bitterness of powdered turmeric, actually, but it's something you always have to keep in mind.  The roots aren't bitter at all, however.  They don't have much of a taste, raw or cooked.  The look and texture are like ginger, and the two plants are apparently related.  The colour of the inside is about like that of carrots, or the masoor (red lentil) dal I used to make my tarka dal.  Unlike ginger and red lentils and even carrots, however, this stuff stains.  We were pre-warned, so Fiona had put together a little kit of disposable plastic gloves and a plastic cover for her counter.  Fiona has beautifully manicured hands.  I don't, and didn't use plastic gloves, and by the time I was finished peeling and grating the roots, my hands looked like the hands of a twelve-year-five-pack-a-day smoker, fingers bright orange to the second joint.  And fresh turmeric has a slight tarriness, which you can see a little bit at the bottom of the grater--this is the underside though; the front was clogged with it so that after grating this much I had to actually wash and scrub the grater to get it off before I could grate more.  Same with the knives I had used for slicing and peeling.  My fingers didn't feel sticky, but they had the tarry stuff on them too, so I had to be very careful even after washing my hands about what I touched.  Later on after a good scrubbing most of it did come off (my hands; I was careful in the kitchen).

You can use fresh turmeric in any recipe that calls for the powder by doubling the amounts.  With mine I made tarka dal and turmeric rice to go with it. 

Tarka refers to an Indian cooking technique where spices and other flavorings are fried in hot oil to bring out their flavours, then added to the main part of a dish either at the beginning, or as I most often do it, at the end.  Tarka dal is amazingly delicious, and super easy to make, with a million variations.  Here's what I did:

Tarka dal
serves 2

1/2 cup red lentils
1 tsp grated fresh turmeric or 1/2 tsp dried
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 medium onion, finely sliced
1 tsp grated ginger
1 tsp garlic, crushed or pressed
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded if desired, and sliced lengthwise
1/2 cup diced or crushed peeled tomatoes (canned is fine)
cilantro for garnish

Wash the lentils and put them in a medium saucepan with about 1 1/2 cups water (you can add more water later if you like a soupier dal) and the turmeric.  Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down, partially cover, and simmer for half an hour, or until the lentils have mostly broken down and the mixture is soft.  Watch that this doesn't boil over.

Meanwhile, make the tarka.  Heat the oil in a skillet, and, when hot, add the cumin seeds and, a few seconds later, the onion, and cook until the onion is brown and partially caramelized.  Remove half of the cooked onion/cumin and set aside for garnish.  To the other half still in the pan, add the garlic, ginger and sliced peppers, stir and cook 30 seconds, then add the tomatoes and continue to cook for a few more minutes, until everything is hot. 

Pour the tarka into the cooked dal and mix well.  Add salt to taste.  Serve sprinkled with cilantro and the reserved caramelized onions.

For the rice, I simply cooked 1 cup of jasmine rice with 1 tsp of grated turmeric in 2 cups of salted water.  Isn't it beautiful?  Yes, it really was this bright!  There was a very slight turmeric taste to the rice, but it was not much like the taste of powdered turmeric, just a nice fresh flavour.  Would I buy this again?  You bet!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Cabbage kimchi

Ah, the healthful, delicious trio of ginger, garlic, and hot chili!  My obsession continues, and kimchi is another food that combines them all.  It can be hard to find vegetarian kimchi in stores--most brands are made with fish sauce and I have found that even the ones that don't list fish sauce as an ingredient still often taste kind of fishy--but when it's this easy to make, there's really no excuse not to.  Actually, there is one excuse and that is if you live in a small apartment, because this stuff is powerfully fragrant while it's fermenting, and though the smell is delicious it can be a bit wearing if you're exposed to it morning, noon, and night.  You'll want to give the kimchi a room of its own, or do what I did and let it ferment in the basement.

My experience with fermenting foods is limited, and I'm certainly no expert, but it's a fascinating process.  Unlike with pickles, you don't sterilize or even cook anything.  I was following a recipe in Madhur Jaffrey's World of the East Vegetarian Cooking, but there are plenty of very similar ones all over the Internet.

Start with a pound of Chinese cabbage (about one small head or half a large one) and a pound of daikon radish.  Slice the cabbage into thick ribbons, and peel the daikon and finely slice it as well (I used a mandoline).  Put the vegetables into a bowl with 5 cups of water and 3 tbsp salt.  Weight the top down with a small plate, cover lightly, and let sit 12 hours or overnight.

Now mix together 2 tbsp finely minced ginger, 1 1/2 tbsp minced garlic, 1 tbsp (or more) hot red chili powder, and 1 tsp sugar.  You can also add scallions, but I didn't this time because all mine were in the garden and it was night and I hadn't thought ahead and didn't want to go out there and try to pick scallions in the dark.  Anyway, put all this into a large bowl and mix it together. 

Scoop the cabbage/daikon mixture out of its brine with a slotted spoon and add it to the spices (save the brine though).  Mix the vegetables and spices together well and pack into a jar.  Mine filled a two-quart jar a little over half full.  Pour in just enough of the brine to cover--Madhur says two cups but I only needed a little more than one.  Loosely cover the jar, with a cloth, for instance, and let it sit in a quiet place by itself for 24 hours.

Taste and stir.  The fermentation should be well on its way.  This is the same as, or at least pretty similar to, what happens with sourdough starter or wine must after the yeast has been added, i.e., micro-organisms are growing in it.  That is, in more politically correct parlance, probiotics.  By Day 2 the kimchi is actually bubbling, not like carbonated soda or boiling water, but there are definite bubbles forming in the mixture.  By Day 3 it was perfect, but I didn't know that so I left it in the basement for another day and it now seems very slightly over-fermented and a bit sour.  My sources tell me that this is not a problem, and that kimchi can become very sour, too sour to eat by itself, and still be good in stews, soups, stir-fries, etc.

Once it's fermented to your taste, refrigerate your kimchi.  The commercial brand I had been buying lasted almost forever in the fridge, which probably means that it was pasteurized, but homemade kimchi should be used within three weeks or it will become over-fermented, which I believe just means sort of alcoholic-tasting and not as nice as when it's fresher.  My Internet sources claim that the fermentation generates lactic acid which will preserve the kimchi so it doesn't actually go bad.

What to do with kimchi?  My current favorite recipe that calls for kimchi is the one for soon tubu jjigae over at i eat food.  I've now made this at least six or seven times, and haven't been able to improve on it in any way.  In fact, though, I haven't been making it right because I didn't have Korean chili paste, so I was using sambal olek, which tastes great, but I had a whirlwind lunchtime guided tour through Chinatown yesterday with a co-worker originally from Hong Kong, and she was able to find a source for this for me.  All those people who say that Korean chili paste isn't like sambal olek but has a taste all its own are right; it's a whole different substance--so there's an excuse for me to try the dish again.  Do click the link above for incredibly beautiful pictures, kewl cast iron dishes, and the recipe.  Renae, of course, also makes her own kimchi.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Oven-roasted hotchpotch

This is an easy kind of make-it-and-forget-it dish that can be a main dish or a side.  It's based on a recipe in Celia Brooks Brown's Party Food for Vegetarians which has pretty pictures and fun ideas (and some recipes for fish, which are actually under a chapter heading containing the word "pescetarians", but you don't have to look at it...).

Her version is fat free.  I added a tablespoon of olive oil to mine but honestly, it didn't seem to make much difference.  Better would be to follow Celia's suggestion and serve the dish with something a little oily like garlic bread.

I didn't actually follow her recipe, nor did I use the same vegetables she recommends, though that is all probably part of the "hotchpotch" experience and she probably wouldn't mind.  First chop slow cooking vegetables into bite-sized pieces.  I used celery, mushrooms, kabocha squash, garbanzo beans, sweet potato, sweet red pepper, and sweet millions.  I missed the part in the recipe where she adds red onions, so I didn't put any onions in mine, but if you make it, you should, as they will improve it.  Mix the vegetables in a shallow baking dish or a casserole dish.  You don't want them too high, but they can be layered a bit higher than you would for roasting.

Now add your spices.  Celia and I used the interesting mixture of lemon zest, basil, coriander seeds, nutmeg, salt and black pepper, and cayenne pepper.  I liked the coriander-nutmeg blend and will use it again.  Now pour on a considerable amount of carrot juice.  I've had a bottle in the fridge for a while and wanted to use it up, which was my inspiration for this dish, along with the lovely photograph in Party Food for Vegetarians.  For about 5 cups of vegetables I used almost 2 cups of carrot juice.  This seems like a lot of carroty goodness, and it is, even for a carrot fan like me.  Next time I'll probably sub half of it for vegetable broth, but you can't deny that it turns the dish a gorgeous fluorescent orange.  Now cover with tinfoil or the lid for the casserole dish and bake it at 400F for about 40 minutes.  It will smell great--the lack of onions (and garlic) prevented it from being overpowering in my small house, however, for which, later, I was grateful.  After 40 minutes I took it out and stirred it and also took the opportunity to add shredded red chard and some frozen edamame beans.  After another 10 minutes, it looked like this:

Nothing got browned; it's intended to be more of a baked stew than a roast.  With that in mind, this would probably be a fine dish for the slow cooker.  Next time I'll try it.  I served it over couscous, topped with pumpkin seeds and almost the last of the chives.  It was tasty and colourful and no-fuss, and you can't ask for much more than that.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Garlic, ginger, and hot chili

This has some carrot too, but the theme is clear
You know how it's all the rage these days to be consuming large quantities of miracle medicine foods like blueberries and probiotics, whatever they are (bacteria, I think)?  I'm personally not convinced.  The only way you can get me riled about nutrition is by inflammatory statements like, "You can't get the nutrients you need to survive on a vegan diet," and then I'm just irritated because if you're saying it to me the proof that you can is standing right in front of you and you are clearly a fool.  For most of us, the ones without medical degrees or advanced training in nutrition--and even those, often enough--it's my opinion that vitamins go into the same mental category now that demons and fairies and magic spells used to, that most of our thinking about nutrition is a mixture of superstition and prejudice, which is why people tend to be so adamant about and emotionally invested in their nutritional convictions, whatever they may be.

The cooking sauce, with plenty of garlic chili sauce
With that preamble, I caught a little cold a week or so ago.  Colds are going around, but I haven't had one for seven or eight years, though I had them frequently when I was younger.  Actually, I kind of enjoyed it.  It was mild enough that after the first day when the sore throat went away it was mostly just a nice buzzy feeling, augmented from time to time by the odd dose of medication--decongestants make me pretty high so sometimes it was more than just nice, but anyway.  Why did I get sick?  Looking back over past posts, the reason seems all too clear: all those hot pots and Japanese stews, which do not contain the anti-cold substances garlic, ginger, and hot chili.  Sometimes they have one--ginger--but Japanese cuisine despite its many other virtues is not a garlicky, hot cuisine, and frankly Japanese dishes just don't taste right if you add those magical ingredients to them.  Is Japan a nation of chronic coughers and sneezers?   I've never been there but probably would have heard about it if it was.  However, I believe with all my heart in the prophylactic properties of garlic, ginger, and hot chili.  There's no point in disagreeing with me on this.  It's true, and truth is just truth, you can't argue about truth.

Brightly-coloured foods are good for you
Of course after I caught the cold, I couldn't taste much anyway, and although my diet was mainly composed of garlic, ginger, and hot chili soups, it was too late.  Even though I wasn't very sick, it's not much fun cooking when your sense of taste is all off, and not much fun blogging when you're eating more or less the same thing at every meal, which is the reason for the lack of posts recently. 

A delicious cold-fighting stir fry
I spent a lot of time lying about reading, and got kind of obsessed about the state of my couch.  This couch is pretty old, but it's still in excellent shape and it's perfect for a reader because of all the pillows that can be rearranged this way and that so you don't get a sore back or other reading-related injuries, even if you read all day long and into the night.  Over the years the Moon Goddess and I have made various coverings for it, as the Moon Goddess is an excellent seamstress and I am adequate for pillows and other simple tasks.  After her shoulder replacement surgery last year (though it went very well), the Moon Goddess retired from heavy upholstery-type labour, and I have cats, and even though they're good cats and never intentionally scratch the furniture their little claws do inadvertently stick in here and there, and I'd washed the fabric several times, and in short, the couch was looking a little shabby.   I did some research and they have these super-stretchy tight-fitting slipcovers now--these ones are from SureFit--and with pillows and armrest covers I made, this is what my couch looks like now:

With its matching chair:

Very splendid, no?  It's extremely luxurious reading in it now, let me tell you.  My sister Diane's opinion is that "It will go really well with your Christmas tree," but scoff away, I can change it to something else in the spring if I wish, and maybe I will!

Eventually I did get back to cooking, and was very very weary of soups and stews and one-pot meals generally, so I broke out with this, braised Soy Curls with brussels sprouts and edamame beans (based loosely on a recipe for braised seitan in Veganomicon), with mashed potatoes and roasted kabocha squash, and of course sweet millions, of which I still have infinity ripening down in the basement:

So that's how I spent the last two weeks...