late spring score

i won't play modest mousy here: when it comes to matters of the kitchen, when i'm on, i'm on. yesterday, the first real day off from work i've had in nearly 2 weeks, i made it my beeswax to spend a good part of my day cooking. first, after a relaxing morning in bed, a trip with ryan to the clark park farmer's market. the farmers' tables aren't as loaded as they may be in a month, but there was plenty to contemplate. we walked away with a canvas bag full of: organic brown eggs (for ryan), herbed homemade chips from the amish man (the first stand in the park if you're coming from baltimore ave. - also, try his mint iced tea!), a big leafy bunch of lacinato kale, two glowing red tomatoes, and a pint of the season's finest: strawberries. good lord, these strawberries are so melt-y and sweet, they make supermarket strawberries cry with shame.

back at home, ryan made some crazy amazing looking omelette, and i whipped up a big old tofu scramble, studded with some onions and roasted red peps. nothing too out of the ordinary, but a hearty breakfast nonetheless:

ry left for work around 3:30, and i biked downtown with him. i met up with my co-worker (and soon to be new housemate!) RJ, and we vented and laughed about work stuff over very, very tall pints of lager at oscar's - best dive bar in the city. we parted ways in the early evening and i savored my slow and somewhat wobbly bike ride back west. the sun was low in the sky, and a gentle breeze kicked off the river. it was the kind of moment i so often dream about during the cruel winter months, buried under blankets on the couch.

when i got back home to an empty house, i was invigorated and inspired to make something special with my farmer's market scores. i decided to really do it up in an everything-from-scratch, multi-step, multi-dish fashion. i didn't have a plan, but a quick rummage through the fridge brought on a slew of fresh ideas. i started prepping some ingredients, popped in a "jazz masters" cassette tape, and then a magical thing happened: i entered kind of a culinary trance, where one idea effortlessly transitioned to the next, and before i knew it, every burner on the stove was occupied, things were marinating in little dishes, and the image of the finished plate was formed in my mind.

and it reminded me of how cooking a meal is like writing a story: you need to give yourself a bit of structure or few character sketches, but the real beauty happens when you fill in the spaces between the plot points, when you loosen your grip on your brain and let it roam. stream of consciousness, kitchen-style, is when you put the cookbooks away and let the food just happen. a lot of the time, it's hard for me to get in this mode, but gorgeous produce and bountiful staple ingredients helped me let go...

much to my surprise, lauren came home from work (i thought she was dining with a friend), which snapped me a bit out of my stove-top reverie. she poured us lovely little grapefruit & gin cocktails:

and helped set the table while i flipped the last few things in the frying pan. she waited patiently while i plated, and then we sat down to what was one of the most creative, satisfying meals i've made in quite a long time:

quinoa w/ crispy leeks topped with chipotle scented lacinato kale & tomato salad, pan fried seed encrusted tofu with spicy crema,
and fresh corn griddle cakes with a minty balsamic macerated strawberries

one little recipe to share for the strawberry topping:
(it's best to make this first, before you even start prepping or cooking anything else, so the strawberries can soften up, with the help of the vinegar, and sweetend up, with the help of the sugars they release)

- mash 6-8 ripe strawbs in a non-metal bowl.
- drizzle about 1 tsp of the best balsamic vinegar you can get (the kind i used is super special, procured on lauren's trip to italy a few years ago)
- toss in about 1 tablespoon of chopped up fresh mint.
- crush up a couple black peppercorns with a mortar and pestle (or, okay, a twist or two of the pepper grinder), and add to the bowl.
- mix everything up and let it sit for as long as possible.
- try not to eat it all before it makes its way atop your griddle cakes, or whatever other lucky dish gets graced with this most luxurious condiment




the title reflects how we say bagels. you know how some people say tar-jhay instead of target? we say bah-jhels instead of bagels. not all the time mind you, but sometimes, when we're eating them, buying them, thinking about them or making them. MAKING THEM? wait, what?

yes, people, on a beautiful wednesday afternoon, with the sun shining and a big batch of orange kiwi juice in hand, i made bagels courtesy of the aforementioned vegan brunch cookbook.

they were pretty time consuming what with the the making of the dough, the resting, the rolling and forming into bagel shapes, the boiling, the toppings, the baking, the resting. i kvetch, but i kid. with a partner in crime, it was really quite fun. visit my lady anabell's blog for the recipe (it's below the eggplant recipe).

for you, i have .

follow the recipe. i told you, it's right here!

make the dough, it's like, 5 ingredients, don't tell me it's too hard.
knead that dough. i mean, really need it. a kitchen aid
stand up mixer that your sister got for her birthday really helps!

let the dough rest for an hour, go watch the 30 Rock season finale
three times in a row while you wait.
roll it into a log, then cut that log into twelve equal pieces,
or a baker's dozen if you're lucky!

boil those puppies 3-4 at a time in some salted water

apply toppings, go crazzzzy!

bake on parchment paper or a silpat at 425 degrees for 18-20 minutes.
oh god i still can't eat them yet? you ask. NO. let them rest for 3o minutes while you watch the latest family guy episode. THEN, only then, will those bagels be ready.

shmear on brothers and sisters!



it's my birthday and i'll blog if i want to

ok, so let's be clear here. my birthday, for me, is not about the presents, the "loot" or the giftcards. my birthday is about hosting some sort of event where i can cook a lot of (probably too much) food, get all stressed out the day before, have everything be fine, all the food get eaten, and then get drunk.

yesterday's memorial day/b-day bbq/potluck/kegger proved to be rather foodielicious as i made the following:

+chorizo sausages from vegan brunch (by way of julie hasson)
+black bean burgers from veganomicon
+seitan with backyard bbq sauce from veganomicon
+jello shots with vegan jello available at whole foods for $1.29 a box. who knew?!
+vegan coffee ice cream served a la mode atop the best damn vegan brownies ever, all from a vegan ice cream paradise, a newly discovered vegan ice cream recipe blog
--i'm going to be honest, because we're not perfect here at vegan royale, and say that my vegan ice cream attempts were not so successful. i believe some steps were, ahem, mis-executed, and we got more of a coffee ice cream slushy than actually ice cream. i'm going to give it another go while the ice cream maker is in our possession. (props to elisha for letting us borrow this awesome appliance!)

in addition, potluckers brought: ryan's famous potato salad with pickled onions and cucumber, more black bean burgers and brownies (i'm ok with repeats!), corn, TONS of grillables - dogs, burgers, etc. (the gracious hosts, i.e. my housemates and i even let some of our friends grill bbq chicken, because we're not fascist vegans. however, the grill was thoroughly scraped clean before more vegan goodness went back on), SEVEN LAYER DIP (can i name all seven? refried beans, tofu sour cream, guacamole, corn, fresh salsa, cilantro - hint, it's not actually seven layers, the maker tells me), fresh guacamole, more beer and watermelon!

some shots of the table and its wondrous offerings:

hammy's 7 layer dip

seitan skewers

ry's potato salad

karina's guac

the table!

i think i would call it "a successful barbeque". the keg was finished, the food was demolished (i didn't even get a bbq seitan skewer! luckily though, i snagged a snausage and a black bean burger before those went). only one person got trapped in the downstairs bathroom with the broken doorknob, the house wasn't trashed, everyone left by midnight and the housies and i had a mini dance party and then watched super troopers. NOT TOO SHABBY!

plus, ok, i did get some sweet presents:

cutie pie kitchen timer
vegan cupcakes and a vegan cake from my coworkers!:

a-dang-dorable green bean button and a shirt with patch:

a future dinner date with/from my sis (should we go here, here or here?)
border's giftcards! who doesn't love buying books?
a batch of banana-chocolate chip cupcakes with peanut butter icing:

can't wait to do it all again next year!



Milli Vanilla

this is key here, watch my lips and listen to the pre-recorded vocals: buying vanilla extract is a total waste of money. i'm not looking down on you for doing it, i'm just trying to show you the light.

sure, i've bought my fair share of vanilla extract, and i'll be honest, i usually go for the imitation shit because it's cheaper and i'm cheaper. i once saw a bottle of organic vanilla extract on the shelf of whole foods for $10.99 and literally gasped. with the price of vanilla extract so high AND maple syrup reaching cosmic outer space high prices (higher than sky-high, mind you) this baker had to figure something out, FAST.

enter scene: a pouch of vacuum sealed grade-A tahitian vanilla beans i bought for sister emma somewhere between two and four christmases ago, as part of a gourmet gift basket, the ingredients of which i assembled myself (we've been foodies for awhile, just not so publically recorded). some minimal internet research indicated the ease of which vanilla extract can be made at home. this recipe will last for months if you're an avid baker like myself, longer if you're less inclined to make all those sweet treats at home.

note: DO NOT buy your vanilla beans in a grocery store. they cost something like $8.99 for four beans and they're all dried out and shriveled. that's bull. buy them online and it will be worth it. i got twenty beans for $12.99 (granted, that was years ago but a quick e-bay search proved that we're still working it somewhere in that price range).

vanilla extract
2 cups (or about 500 milliliters) vodka
5-7 vanilla beans

(it's not really an exact science as you're basically soaking some vanilla beans in some booze. but that's about the ratio you want to work with.)

split the beans down the center and then cut them in half or thirds, so as the liquid level drops (as you use it!) the beans stay submerged. place beans in a glass container with a tight-fitting or cork lid. some people like to use brown or green glass bottles (see: grolsch) to keep their extract safe from the sun, but i prefer a clear glass bottle so i can see my progress. just store that sucker in a dark place and it'll be fine. top your beans off with your booze, cap and stick it on a dark shelf in the back of your pantry (do you have a pantry? lucky.). you won't be using this 'nilla for about 6-8 weeks. every couple of days, pop in to say hi and give your bottle a little shake. i don't know if this is necessary but it makes me feel like i have a little pet, as sadly, we have no real pets (i am aware this statement is pathetic).

once your extract has a nice amber color it's ready to go! leave the beans in there so your extract will continue to develop in flavor as you use it. once it's about halfway used up, just top it off with vodka like you would your favorite cocktail and keep on bakin! THIS COULD POTENTIALLY LAST YEARS, so they say. once your extract no longer turns amber, it's time to replace the beanies.

one big happy family!



no stress baking!

i love recipes where you start with a solid base and then can just throw in whatever. usually this kind of laid back approach is confined to cooking, not baking. baking, in fact, is one of those things where people are all, "you HAVE to follow the recipe or it's gonna get all messed up." yeah, i respect that some forms of baking employ a certain careful chemistry that burritos or a stir fry do not, and that's cool. sometimes it's really satisfying to follow every step of a recipe to a T, and produce a flawless sponge cake or a beautiful cream pie (though i don't think i've actually ever made a sponge cake or cream pie...).

but some kinds of baking break away from that stringent, sometimes stressful chemistry and allow for wiggle room. let's call this "casual baking," good for quiet afternoons and any other situations when you want kitchen time to be relaxing, not intense or super focused. for instance, the cookies i made today: they resemble granola in the kaleidoscopic possibilities of fruit, nuts, and sweets that could go in them. and with banana, rolled oats and whole wheat flour, they are the closest to a healthy cookie you can really get without heading into the territory of wheat germ, kelp powder, hemp seeds, and the like. to the simple batter, i folded in chopped almonds, pumpkin seeds, chocolate chunks, and a tiny bit of shredded coconut that was hiding out under some brown sugar on the baking shelf. i topped each cookie with the dregs of a bag of pecans and they turned out so well! any kinds of dried fruits, other seeds or nuts, carob chips, etc. would be great too...see below for the recipe.

"tim's** variation to pat walton's oatmeal cookies"
from the tassajara cookbook
~~makes about 4 dozen small cookies~~
~~takes about 1/2 hour, start to finish~~

preheat the oven to 375 F.

- mix together 1/4 cup soy or rice milk with 1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar. set aside.

- cream together 1 mashed banana, 1/4 cup canola oil, 2 tablespoons molasses, 3/4 cup liquid sweetener (brown rice syrup, honey or agave nectar), 3/4 tsp vanilla and 2.5 cups rolled oats. when all that is well combined, add in the soymilk and cider vinegar mixture.

- in another bowl, combine 1.5 cups whole wheat flour, 1/2 tsp salt, 3/4 tsp baking soda, 1.5 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp nutmeg, and 1/4 tsp ground clove.

- add the dry mix to the wet mix and stir gently to combine. then fold in 2.5 cups of whatever morsels you like. the original recipe calls for 1 cup of chopped pecans, 1 cup of chocolate chips, and 1/2 cup flaked coconut. but don't feel held to this! seriously, throw in all kind of odds and ends, the more the better.

- drop rough tablespoon sized pieces of batter on a well oiled baking sheet. your silpat, or any silicon baking sheet (or even parchment paper), is perfect for this, too.

- bake for 12 minutes and immediately transfer the cookies to a wire cooling rack.


** who is tim? i don't know, but i like his style.


the best presents: from me, to me

for no real reason other than the book's recent release and the fact that i love myself, i work hard for the money and i deserve it, i just bought a copy of Isa Chandra Moskowitz's Vegan Brunch cookbook. my new work schedule affords me THREE GLORIOUS days off in a row and that's a lot of days on which to make brunch. so it's more of an investment really.

while i was at it, why not throw in a copy of Bryant Terry's Vegan Soul Kitchen: Fresh, Healthy, and Creative African-American Cuisine. i'd never really heard of this guy until a few months ago, when this book hit shelves to pretty fabu reviews. plus, who doesn't love soul food? but, who also hates ham hock as much as i do?

expect lots of recipes and pictures and maybe get yourself some sort of drool-guard so you don't short circuit your keyboard (again).



oh so good

during my first few years living in philly, i worked a 9 to 5 job at a small non-profit in center city. i will save my mixed feelings and thoughts regarding office jobs for another post, or perhaps just keep them to myself. one thing that i will say, is that each day by lunch time i was so ready to get out from behind my desk, breathe some smoggy outside oxygen, and be amongst the humans. during spring and summer months, i'd often pack a little lunch and find a nice grassy corner in LOVE park or meet up with other working lady friends (mostly mary, kate and karina) in our secret garden on chestnut street. but on rainy days, or in the colder months, what was i to do? the dim atrium in the building i worked in was somehow more soulless than my office, as was the quizznos built right into the ground floor. so i stopped packing lunches as frequently, and started to explore the "under $6" options in the neighborhood. one of my most favorite discoveries was a little deli/salad bar place on 19th street, between market and chestnut, sort of embarrassingly called Oh So Good Eatery (there is another location at 17th and market but it's not as good). sure, i'd been to other little grab-and-go buffets in town, but oh so good trumps them all! and since working at 20th and sansom for the past 2 years, i treat myself to a special oh so good plate once in awhile, and damn is if doesn't still do the trick.

a fair warning: it's not all so good. over half of the buffet is greasy "chinese food," too-yellow mac and cheese, fried chicken and more in that genre of boring and gnarly fare. tucked in another little corner is an odd selection of sushi, as well as a fresh fruit and jello bar (seriously). that, too, is silly and weird and never finds a place in my plastic containers. there is also a deli counter on the far left side of the store. i got their veggie burger once, and even though it was only $3.75, it never felt worth revisiting.

the real appeal is the fresh salad section, where for $5.25/lb, there is a rotating selection of wondrous vegetable dishes. some of my favorites are: kale salad with sesame dressing, angel hair pasta w/ mixed peppers salad, and big triangles of cold tofu stuffed with avocado and sun dried tomatoes. true, many of the salads feature crumbled feta or slices of grilled chicken, but same can be said for lots of the dishes in the infuriatingly overpriced salad bar at whole foods, right? of course, there are also salad greens and all kinds of other veggies, so you can make up a super plate of stuff that resembles real food that you might actually pack for lunch if you had enough time or discipline to assemble 4 salads a day at home.

the atmosphere at oh so good is rather dull, but they always have a big stack of philly weeklies by the door, and the people who work there are really nice. and - little secret for ya - after 3:30 p.m., the entire salad bar is 30% off. they close around 4:30 or 5, so i guess they just want to get rid of stuff. and that's a good sign! because i'm pretty sure it means salad-y things are made fresh daily. another small bummer is that they are closed on the weekends, as their main patronage comes from the monday-to-friday drones. but if you're in center city on a tuesday, or whatever, and want a quick, cheap snack, this place kills it.

this is my container from the other day:

clockwise from L to R: angel hair pasta with peppers, kale salad, cucumber dill salad, avocado stuffed tofu, and sesame string beans



As Seen on TV

I have a confession. I'm kind of a sucker for infomercials. Sigh. It does feel good to get it off my chest. The Giovanni's Roll Out Keyboard, the Perfect Brownie and good old Debbie Myer's GreenBags (don't forget the Snuggie!). Love 'em or hate 'em, when that in-faux-mercial comes on, you kind of CAN'T change the channel. What are they going to throw in, I ponder? Wait, that's not all!? How many easy payments before I can own this piece of television history?

Alright, so there's a bit of deflated sarcasm mixed in with that confession. The truth is, I DO watch infomercials, but usually only because they are so stereotypically ridiculously hilarious. However, the other night, after enjoying a few libations, em and i settled on to the couch and flipped on the telly. WHOA! THE TOPSY FUCKING TURVY!

after our garden master mary left the nest, i've always been a bit afraid and intimidated of the backyard greenery. fortunately, emma has taken the reins and we're chugging along nicely back there. well this, this wonderful, revolutionary new plant technology could transform our backyard into a bountiful lush tomato production facility. WOW! And that's not all, for only $19.99 they'll throw in A SECOND topsy turvy hanging tomato planter for FREE! PLUS a recipe guide and a handy kitchen slicer! Plus, the topsy turvy not only grows tomatoes, it can also be used for zucchini, peppers, cucumbers or home grown herbs!

sigh. i think i need help.

cheese please

hi this is ryan, housemate and partner in crime to emily and lauren, the vegan royale sisters. Since joining forces with emily many years ago, I have been eating and cooking all things vegan. I truly enjoy the challenge of making interesting and delicious vegan food. That being said I am in no way even close to vegan. I LOVE CHEESE! The royale sisters even let me have a dairy drawer in our fridge. I have recently been stocking my drawer with a variety of local farms' cheeses from the mariposa co-op. Even though shopping at the co-op is like going to the dentist for me, they always have a killer cheese selection - everything from herbed pepperjack to smoked cheddar to havarti dill. Also for those that don't know, the cheese there is super cheap. Maybe the hippies haven't quite figured out the pricing gun. My usual favorites come from a farm called Friendly Farms located in Gap, Pa. Today I found a new farm called Hillacres Pride, located in Peach bottom, Pa. I urge you to check out the website, busted as it is they have some funny recipes, including tater tot casserole, tacos in pasta? and cheesy potatoes! Here is their horseradish cheddar:

today i just sliced some up on a hummus bagel, delicious! but i am jonesin to get some melted between bread, in an omlette or just shredded on top of some fried eggs. the horseradish adds that extra zazz i am always looking for in cheese. my main vessel for cheese is eggs and bread a.k.a The Egg and Cheese. I like to add mayo, franks hot sauce and micro greens. below are some pictures of past gourmet egg and cheeses i have made:

Fried eggs, herbed cheddar, micro greens on a metro croissant

Garlic and herbed cheddar omelette on an everything bagel w/ mixed greens

English muffins, over easy eggs, tofu bacon, avocado, arugula, chives topped w/ spicy mustard crema

so for all you vegans out there dont be shy eat some CHEESE! just kiddin hope you enjoyed reading about cheese though. til dairy strikes again.

high fives,


eat up, kids!

people have been trying to get kids to eat their vegetables for ages. drowning them in butter or cheesy sauce, hiding them in there somehow or bribing kids with the prospect of dessert. there's always the cute presentation idea - one that jennifer at the vegan lunch box blog has done well, maybe a bit too well if you ask me!

but what if your audience (twenty-somethings, not tots) doesn't need a push in a healthy direction, what then does food-cuteness equal?

a witty, whimsical and irreverent cook, if you ask me...

polenta dinos!

black beluga lentils, polenta dinos, spicy tofu,
swiss chard and portebellos with a tarragon onion sauce