holiday comedown

it's been quite the holiday season for the sisters kovach. lauren has been working tirelessly selling umpteen cases of fine booze to the thirsty masses, with nary a day off to call her own. i, on the other hand, have loads of time off from my cushy university job, but, despite my desires to not get caught up in all the holiday-inspired madness, have been running around quite a bit more than i'd like to. this year i was invited to, and happily attended, more holiday parties than ever before. plus, being married means double the family obligations! i love spending time with the fam (a facet of growing up that i never would've anticipated), but all the driving and socializing can wear a body down. good food, wine, gifts and conversation help keep it fun, but it's nice to feel settled back in our cozy home.

today, thanks to christmas being a few days behind us and to the truly epic snow storm that dumped well over a foot of frozen precipitation upon our fair city, today has been a good one for relaxing. ryan and i started the day off with an extended snooze and a hearty breakfast. more practical people would maybe use this forced time inside to take down the holiday decorations, but i don't think either of us are all the way ready yet.

another aspect of holiday trappings that i'm not ready to say goodbye to yet is christmas beer. while i don't always crave the sweet, strong, spicy character that holiday beers boast, i found myself taking solace in their soothing caress this season. one of the best i've sampled was rude elf's reserve (formerly known as rudolph's reserve) made by brew works. i feel like every other day i learn about a new craft brewery in our region. hell yeah!! when the roads are less treacherous, i fully plan on scheduling a mini-road trip to tour the brew works in either allentown or bethlehem, pa.
this special bottle was part of a beautiful gift basket given to us by our dear friend and fellow blogger annabell. anyone named annabell is pretty much destined to give adorable, thoughtful presents and just be an all around sweetheart. just saying. anyway, this belgian style holiday ale pours a thin head that gently gives way to a beautiful dark amber color. a strong gingerbread-y aroma follows. i couldn't stop sticking my face right in the glass and huffing the baked-good fumes.
despite the kind of obnoxious art on the beer's label, the flavor is sophisticated and expensive. pure sweetzel's on the nose with a slow, spice burn on the finish. there is a lingering, but smooth alcohol taste long after swallowing, akin to brandy or scotch. if you took a big bite of fresh gingerbread and washed it down with a shot of maker's, it might taste something like this. the beer's beefy 10.5% APV is good for slow sipping and savoring. so good, in fact, that i, a habitual fast drinker, took nearly 90 minutes to finish my glassful. it was my only beer of the night, but an amazing one. the notes of the beer kind of changed as it warmed up, in an incredibly pleasing way. i always like how strong winter beers claim that they "warm" you. insider's tip: that really just means they pack on a killer buzz!

so happy holidays, and don't feel bad if you're kind of happy that they're over. doesn't mean you have to stop quaffing badass bevs!


here's to two

happy 2nd birthday to Vegan Royale! things have changed in both our lives, but sister lauren and i are still committed to ever pursuing adventure and comfort in our tiny philadelphia kitchens. thanks to all who read and follow us. can't wait for 2011 and all it holds.

emily & lauren


bob and weave

where we come from, a lovely little place called delaware, there is a sandwich shop. and this sandwich shop is called capriotti's. to the naked eye, it doesn't look like much. a very no-nonsense interior and a short menu with all the standards: subs (that's what they call hoagies "down south"), salads, chips, et al. throw in some gruff men and ditzy teenagers working behind the counter and you've got your average sub joint.

but look a little closer. is that a vegetarian section on the menu? wait, does that say veggie turkey sub?! veggie burgers and hotdogs, too?!?! if only more mainstream eateries would note the genius of what capriotti's has done here: while they certainly cater to the all-american non-diet, they've stealthily created a cult following of die hard vegetarians fans, who might normally never step foot in their stores. if you make it meatless, they will come (and i ain't talking no cheese hoagie, here). the vegetarian turkey sub is nothing short of amazing, btw - these people really know how to make a quality hoag.

capriotti's has also developed a following around its take on the t-giving leftovers feast: the bobbie. the bobbie (which is trademarked, so don't even THINK about stealing that name), is made with pulled turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce and mayo. wowzas. kind of a gross-but-great idea, and if they made a vegetarian version, i'd sure as shit try one. but they don't.

so on sunday, to ward off the ever-creeping cold and vodka hangovas, lauren, ryan and i tried our hands at making a veganized bobbie. or should we say....bauxbie? sorry, just had to.

sissy bought a righteous loaf of bread from claudio (hoagie rolls are hard to find on a sunday afternoon), that we cut into thick, mega rad, texas toast style slices. ryan came back from the whole foods with a delightfully savory hunk of seitan (field roast, WHY do you have to have to be so expensive?), and with the addition of some leftover cranberry sauce & some quick stuffing it was time to get this badass, bastardized sandwich started.

first, the field roast "celebration roast" (which we diced, but would've been amazing sliced, too) and the stuffing went in a 350F oven for about 25 minutes. we added a bit of veggie stock to each pan throughout the baking process, but not too much! don't want it getting all soggy. while these were baking, we made a salad and sipped some brunch-y cocktails.

sadly, tomato juice & vodka was probably the healthiest part of our meal

once all the components were ready, it was time to assemble. capriottis serves the bobbie cold, but we unanimously agreed that this seemed unappealing. so instead of letting the stuffing and wheat meat cool, we toasted up the bread and just went for it. first, a lovely crimson spread of cranberry sauce on one half of the bread. mayo or veganaise on the other slice of bread would be divine. then spread on some stuffing, a generous heap of fake turk, and squish it all together gently...

ladies & gents: the vegan bob

a silence fell over the table as we tackled these sammies. i can only use the words "savory" and "comforting" so many times but damn it if those aren't the exact words to describe the experience of these veeg bobbies. the sage notes of the stuffing, the tartness of the cranberry sauce (we hardly used any sugar while making it), and the complex spices of the field roast melded together into harmonious bliss.

up until eating this, the concept of stuffing on a sandwich seemed odd to me. why add more soggy bread to something already nestled between bread? but i suppose that is the magic of stuffing: it isn't just soggy bread, it is transformed into something so far beyond that. and it is my 2nd new opinion that cranberry sauce should fully graduate to an everyday condiment. it's such a simple, healthy, lovely relish that has the power to complement an array of flavors. toast with almond butter & cranberry sauce, anyone?

Tart Cranberry Sauce w/ Ginger Beer
~makes 2.5 cups~
~take 10 minutes~

1 pound fresh cranberries, rinsed
1/2 cup sugar (this is FAR less than most recipes call for, but it's how we like it)
1/3 - 1/2 cup reed's ginger beer (or water) (or regular beer?!)
1/2 teaspoon allspice (optional)
cinnamon stick (optional)
1 clementine: zest the rind and gently mash up the fruit, keeping the juices (optional)
a few slices of fresh ginger (optional)

- in a medium pot over high heat, combine the cranberries, sugar and ginger beer. stir, and bring to a boil.

- reduce the heat to a simmer, add the fresh ginger, allspice, and cinammon stick if using. add the mashed up clementine, and let the whole thing simmer for 5 to 8 minutes.

- stir in the clementine zest, remove the ginger pieces and the cinnamon stick.

feel the antioxidants flowing through your veins! you'll never go back to canned stuff again, swear.



brisk bisque

soft scarves, cute slickers, twirling umbrellas and humidity-inspired curls in your hair are great in theory, but sloshing through a torrential downpour at 8:30AM on the way to work is not. today was one of those mornings where it feels like the universe has conspired against you, and you'd give like ANYthing to just stay snuggled under the covers, hitting the snooze button until the numbers read double digits.

alas, when you are a grown up ("semi-grown up?" i never really know how to identify myself) with a full time job, this isn't really an option. you gotta face the rain, the crowds, the stuffy public transportation, and haul yourself to the office. when you get there, maybe you have the luxury of drying your socks off on the radiator:

there, that's a little better. i'll take a leap here and say that the food equivalent of putting toasty socks on cold, damp feet is a winter squash soup. there are many ways to prepare this classic autumn dish, and every last one of them feels nourishing. i always feel an extra sense of accomplishment when i use squash and root vegetables - they're kind of the misunderstood loser vegetables, but they're healthy, in season and unparalleled in the comfort department if prepared properly. and, usually priced at 99 cents per pound or below and complemented nicely by some garlic bread made from a forgotten heel of baguette in the back of the freezer, this is dinner on the cheap!

while these kinds of vegetables are often (wrongly, i say) associated with earthy aka dirt-y, less-than-desirable flavors or textures, the recipe below is smooth, rich and anything but spartan! this soup is like a pair of silk stockings, like an expensive perfume. even the word feels good in your mouth: "bisque." is it the "q" that makes it feel fancy?

Pumpkin/Winter Squash Bisque
~serves 6~
~takes 40 minutes~

1 tablespoon oil, butter, or margarine
2-3 pounds winter squash (cook's choice), peeled, seeded and chopped
1 yellow onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 large potato, rutabega, or a few parsnips, peeled and chopped (optional)
2-4 cups of vegetable broth, depending on how thick or thin you want the soup to be
1 can of light coconut milk - make sure you shake it up to mix the cream and the water!
salt & pepper
mixed spices: this is kind of cool - you can steer this soup in any direction. some suggestions are sage + thyme + a bay leaf for a more traditional wintry profile, paprika + cinnamon + red pepper flakes for a spicier, more savory feel, or curry + cumin + garam masala for an indian flavor. start with a teaspoon or two and taste as you go. you can always add but you can't subtract!

- heat the oil in a soup pot over medium heat. add the onion and garlic, and cook for 3 minutes.

-then add carrots and root vegetables (if using) and saute until it starts to softens up, maybe 6 minutes. sprinkle these vegs with about 1/2 of your spice mixture.

- add the squash. stir it around with the satueed veg mixture and let it cook all together for a minute or two. getting the squash coated in some savory onion juices helps to deepen the flavor.

- add enough vegetable broth to the pot so that it almost covers the squash. raise the heat and bring it all to a boil.

- once it has achieved a boil, lower the heat to a brisk simmer, and cover. stir occasionally and after about 20 minutes, check the squash to see if it's soft. the more tender, the better.

- once the squash is almost falling apart, take the pot off the heat and let it cool down a bit.

- blast that sucker to hell with your immersion blender until smooth. or, puree it in batches in a food processor or blender, being very, very careful not to burn yourself or splatter soup all over your kitchen.

- stir in the can of coconut milk and watch the magic happen. what was just moments ago mere pureed vegetables is now a sexy pot of bisque.

- heat the soup back up. taste it for more spices, salt and pepper. a little hot sauce or lime juice stirred in can add some pop, too!

long neck pumpkin bisque (& a beautiful salad courtesy of Lydia M.)

stay cozy, ya'll.