Sunday, August 16, 2009

Apple pie and black eyed peas and cats, oh my!

Today (Saturday) was one swelteringly humid day(probably 30 deg C or +90 deg F in the kitchen!), but that didn't stop me from baking my first vegan pie. Quite frankly I get intimidated with pies... I am not good at making crusts. The last time I made a pie was 2 years ago for my mom's birthday -- a (non vegan) apple pie. I hated rolling the dough on our kitchen counter because the dough would almost always stick on the surface.

But can you believe I haven't had pie in 8 months? And before that, about a year and a couple of months? Yeah, if I craved pie, I'd have to make it myself (ditto with cake, cookies, or cupcakes)...

So I did just that today. At first I was looking at Lauren Ulm's blueberry hand pies, but I was thinking, maybe I should stick to traditional pies (also, where the heck would you find blueberries in this country?). Then I spotted her mini apple pies, then I remembered Colleen Patrick Goudreau had an apple pie recipe in her cookbook, The Joy of Vegan Baking. That pretty much sealed the deal.

vegan pie crustapple pie, pre-baked (vegan)apple pie (vegan)

Colleen's instructions for her flaky pie crust were extremely easy to follow. I was a bit apprehensive about pie-making today because of the heat, but her tip to freeze everything -- the margarine, shortening, and flour -- helped mixing the dough a breeze. There's a 1-hr waiting period between mixing the dough and rolling it out into a crust, which was perfect because I was able to run errands and buy some apples. Her cookbook called for refrigerating the dough for 1 hour but I ended up freezing mine. If you live in a tropical country, you'll know that freezing dough makes more sense than refrigerating it.

Then came the hard part: rolling it out. I cheated and lined my kitchen counter with my Silpats, which helped immensely (I know I know, I'm a fake baker!). I suppose you can roll it out on plastic wrap or wax paper. And wow, how easy it was to transfer the rolled out dough from Silpats to pie dish! I may just make pies more frequently now.

apples for my apple pie
Diced apples with lemon juice, raw sugar, cinnamon, and a pinch of salt.

Colleen's recipe was super easy to follow and before I knew it, I had a pie baking in the oven. What excitement! What joy! I was so giddy. Unfortunately I stuck the pie in the oven at around 6pm and it didn't make it in time for dessert -- the recipe recommends letting the pie cool for 3-4 hours, to let the juices thicken. Actually this waiting process was a blessing in disguise... My family is having lunch out tomorrow for my dad's birthday, and he absolutely adores apple pie. So right now I can't say for sure how good the pie tastes like, except that it looks pretty good. Nevermind that the crust looks *slightly* brown -- so I tried to healthify it by using raw sugar instead of brown, big deal. The recipe called for sprinkling the top of the crust with a cinnamon-sugar mixture (I had to cover the pie in foil half-way through baking to avoid even more burntness). Here's to hoping it tastes as awesome as it looks.

PS I never used to crimp the edges of my pie crusts, I'd always just press the tines of a fork in the edges to seal them. I truly feel like a domestic goddess with the whole crimping action :)

vegan pie crustapple pie, pre-baked (vegan)apple pie, vegan


So after sticking the pie in the oven, I was left with an extra peeled apple. Let me tell you that refrigerators (yes we have 2 - the vegan and the omni. Three, if you count the one sitting in my garage, unplugged and unused) in my house don't bode well for little bits of leftovers. Leftovers often get shoved into our refrigerators, never to be seen or heard of again until we go around hunting for extra food containers (because we almost always run out of food containers with all the leftovers being shoved in the fridges -- what a vicious cycle!) and unearth food with fuzz.

I ended up sticking the extra apple in a black eyed pea spiced stew my brother and I were having for dinner (before you gag, read on!). We had a leftover container of this black eyed pea-tomato sauce mixture which didn't really have much taste... It had no spices (except for chili) or herbs whatsoever, only the usual garlic and onions. I decided to throw in a teaspoon of cumin seeds in a skillet of hot oil, sautee some slivered onion and sliced apples, add a dash of smoked paprika, oregano, and cinnamon, then mix in the black eyed pea mixture along with chopped cilantro. Oh and I added in the juice of half a lemon, whose other half I used for the apple pie (I am a total leftover saver!).

apple and black eyed pea spiced stew
An apple and black eyed pea spiced stew = yum!

What a fortunate fortunate discovery -- the apples did not weird the dish out at all! For some reason the sweetness of the apples tempered the spices, especially the cumin. I can't say for sure how long I cooked the dish, because I just winged it. The apples weren't mushy -- they were softened a bit yet crisp. So, tip: apples go well in spiced bean stews.


Just some gratuitous pictures of the babies:

lucky, taking a stroll
Poor poor Lucky, the little man has had fever for over a week and seems to be recovering. Last Saturday night I found a lump (!!! I thought it was a cyst!) in the left side of his throat which turned out to be an infected wound that turned into some sort of boil. The vet said he may've gotten bitten by another cat :( Unfortunately for us, the cats can't stay indoors because my mom believes that my youngest brother (who is fond of the cats himself) is allergic to them. We've built a nice cattery for them in the garden and I let them explore the garden during the day. Often times they meet stray cats, and believe me this country is brimming with stray cats. Lucky's on antibiotics for 2 weeks (now on his 2nd week) and we had to spread some ointment on his lump to speed up the healing process. He's had a fever for a week which made him pretty lethargic and sleepy most days. Today he decided to venture into the garden and disappear for the whole afternoon. As I put him back in the cattery I found out that he has another lump, this time in the right side of his throat :( Will have to consult the vet again tomorrow morning.

velma, trying to keep her cool
The little lady herself, who used to be healthier than Lucky, isn't in tip top shape either! Last Thursday night as I cuddled her, I smelled this awful sewer-like smell seeping from the top of her head. As I laid her down I felt my hands were wet and smelled like the sewer. Lo and behold, her bum leg was seriously infected. Apparently, since she doesn't use the paw on the bum leg, her thumb nail had grown so long and grew back into her paw. It caused a nasty infection, which spread onto her bum leg and her chest, causing her fur to fall out! In addition to the ingrown nail was rain getting stuck in her fur -- whenever her chest and bum leg would get wet, they wouldn't dry off properly because of the way she folds her leg over her chest. The vet was able to cut out the ingrown nail and prescribed an anti-bacterial cream to be spread on her leg and chest 2-3 times a day for a week, and antibiotics for 2 weeks. Included with the drugs is this cone she has to wear around her neck so she won't lick off the cream. Oh and, whenever it rains she's not allowed out :(

francis, hanging out
And Francis Boy over here is the healthiest of them all. This little guy hasn't experienced any sickness or complication whatsoever. Francis loves hanging out in the garden, meowing for attention and getting his ears rubbed by us. He absolutely hates being picked up. Sometimes he can be such a dear dear pet, always begging to be loved, but when he knows you want to put him back in the cattery, he runs for his life and disappears up the mango tree. I guess you can say he's the most streetsmart of 'em all because he loves climbing trees and fences and going into our neighbors' gardens, with nary a scrape or wound on him. He grooms himself quite splendidly and I'm sure he's aware he's one good looking cat.

francis, dagger eyes 2008francis, dagger eyes

The picture on the left is of little Francis as a baby, when we newly rescued him. This was taken in October 2008 and I'm guestimating that he's about a year old now. If you look at the pictures on the left (then) and the right (now), he still has the same dagger-eyes expression! Despite his fierce appearance, he is the sweetest, most lovable cat there is. He is almost like a dog in the sense that he doesn't look down on his human, as most cats do :)

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