Monday, August 25, 2008

Vintage Vegan Lunchbox: Back to School!

School starts today! The smell of pencils and protractors is in the air! Unlike most years, I did not buy new school supplies or new school clothes, unless my maternity wardrobe counts. Still, back to school is as exciting as ever. This year I have a dual role, as a student (though I'm not taking any classes, just a few very stressful days of exams and--fingers crossed--the beginning of the dissertation process) and as a teacher at a nearby university where I will be adjunct faculty.

Most days packing lunch means throwing together some fruit and granola bars, leftovers, or a peanut butter and pickle sandwich (by the way, I eat pb and pickle even when I'm not pregnant, I grew up eating it, and all you doubters should try it husband was initially disgusted at the idea and not only does he eat them now, but has elevated the sandwich to a new level by grilling them). But today, a most stressful day when I should spend all my extra time studying for my exams and making final preparations for my class, I am cooking a vintage vegan lunch thanks to an inspiring contest on one of my favorite sites, Vegan Lunch Box.

For my entry, I have chosen a few recipes from different cookbooks including from my most used vintage book, my great-grandmother's Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, and from a book never seen here before, The Vegetable Protein and Vegetarian Cookbook. The Vegetable book was published the year I was born, 1974, so it doesn't really qualify as classic, does it? But still, for the sake of this post we will pretend that 1974 was a long time ago.

SANDWICH: There sandwich is cucumber and margarine on wheat bread, picked from a list of suggested fillings from the Boston cookbook. I guess sandwiches are fun treats because the sandwich chapter of the book is towards the end smack dab between the chapter on cakes and the chapter on confections. The book has neat ideas for checkerboard sandwiches using different kinds of breads, but we are boring and only have wheat, and ideas about how to shape sandwiches including an elaborately rolled "calla lily" sandwich. Alas, I jammed mine into a container.

BEANS: The beans are Mexican Red Beans from the Vegetable cookbook. They aren't fancy, and could probably be spiced up a bit. Still, they are easy and that fit the bill for today. The original recipe calls for dried red or pink beans but for some reason I didn't have any in my dried bean drawer. Of my choices--garbanzo, black, mixed, and pigeon peas--I went with the pigeon peas. They cook faster and are bland enough to take on the seasoning.

CAKE: Isn't this what lunch is really about? The dessert? Back to the Boston cookbook for this recipe. This is essentially a vegan recipe with only minor adaptations, including margarine for butter, and soymilk for buttermilk.

FRUIT: No recipe for this, this is as classic as it comes.

THE LUNCHBOX: This is a vintage brunch bag that I have used a lot, torn zipper and all. It has a sweet little matching insulated container which is great for soup, but not so much for drinks; I usually just tote along my Sigg bottle pretty much wherever I go anyway. The containers are a bit of a hodge podge.

Mexican Red Beans
Adapted from The Vegetable Protein and Vegetarian Cookbook, 1974. As mentioned above, I subbed pigeon peas for the red or pink beans with nice results. You can definitely add more seasoning, I added cumin, but do not add salt until you are finished cooking the beans or they will stay firm. Since I started these early in the morning and I had to get out the door I did not try simmering them all day, but I think that would make them nice and mushy if that's what you are looking for. One more thing, you will not see a scanned cover of this book because this is what it looks like: green. No writing. No awesome 70's drawings. Just a plain green cover.

1 pound dried red or pink beans
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
2 cups canned tomatoes
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp chili powder
2 tsp salt
1 Tbs imitation bacon bits

Sort, wash and bring beans to boil in just enough water to cover. When they come to a boil, drain and cover again with cold water. Bring to a boil. Add remaining ingredients, cover kettle and simmer. The beans can simmer slowly all day, if enough water is added to prevent them from getting dry.

Eggless Chocolate Cake
Adapted from the Boston Cooking-School Cookbook, 1948. Because this recipe is already eggless, the only changes I made to the original recipe was to use margarine instead of butter and soymilk instead of buttermilk. Another change I made to the recipe was to add black cocoa for part of the cocoa. I bought this awhile ago to make Fauxstess Cupcakes from Vegan with a Vengeance and it has become my secret ingredient for any chocolate cake, cookie, or brownie I make. I bought mine from King Arthur Flour. This recipe comes together pretty easily, and I especially like that the margarine (or butter) is melted because that means I don't have to remember to get it out of the fridge to soften, or cream it, or any other special steps. Just mix everything together and bake!

1 2/3 cup flour
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup cocoa
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup soymilk
1/2 cup margarine, melted
1 1/2 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 375. Grease 9x9 pan. Sift together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Stir in soymilk, melted margarine, and vanilla. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Peach Muffins: A Snapshot of Excess

"Nature's candy in my hand or can or a pie
Millions of peaches, peaches for me
Millions of peaches, peaches for free"

Peaches, by The Presidents of the United States of America

Peaches slipped from our hands into an overflowing half bushel box at The Homestead Farm and it didn't really feel like millions of peaches. The air was surprisingly humidity free, the sky was clear, as we walked through yellow and white peach orchards with a couple friends of ours talking about local food and less noble things, and eating and picking peaches. But come this morning, when faced with dozens and dozens of peaches (not to mention the many pounds of blackberries we picked, and the 8 pounds of tomatoes, 5 pounds of zucchini, 4 pounds of cucumbers, and assorted other produce from our CSA) it sure felt like millions of peaches.

I wasn't quite sure of my plan of attack, having some vague idea that peaches could be frozen and I could bake with some and we would certainly just eat some of them. There are directions for freezing peaches online and it is surprisingly easy. Still, after hours of boiling, skinning, chopping, coating in lemon juice, and mixing with syrup it didn't feel so easy. And my kitchen was covered with peach bits and skins and juice, like a peach volcano had exploded from the sink.

After getting a few pounds of tomatoes, blackberries, and half a bushel of peaches in the freezer, I still had 20 or so peaches staring at me. And while it was satisfying to see the produce in the freezer and dream of the cold winter day when we will have a taste of summer on our plates, it was impossible for me to leave the kitchen without having made something to eat. Enter super simple peach muffins from The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book.

Peach Muffins
These muffins are from the Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, and are a variation on the basic muffin recipe. The recipe calls for pastry flour, but I substituted whole wheat pastry flour (also called graham flour) since that is what I had on hand. Instead of melted butter, I used canola oil and used soymilk instead of milk. I am the substitution queen and while that may sound like cheating since I am not following the original recipe, I believe it is in the spirit of early cooks who were more likely to use what was on hand than chasing down ingredients. The range of recommended sugar depends on what you are adding to it; I used about 1/4 cup of sugar with good results.

2 cups pastry flour
3 tsps baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbs to 1/2 cup sugar
1 cup milk
4 Tbs melted butter
1 egg
1 cup peeled and chopped peaches

Preheat oven to 400. Grease muffin tin (12 regular or 24 small). Mix and sift dry ingredients together. Beat together milk, butter, and egg. Mix wet ingredients into dry until just moist. Gently mix in peaches. Bake 15 to 20 minutes.