Graham Cookie Bars

Another blogging challenge! January’s “Sugar High Friday” challenge is to recreate a favorite childhood dessert.

When I was a kid, Christmas was exciting for two reasons: presents, of course, but also the ridiculously sugar-laden snacks that were a constant presence in our house for about two or three weeks every December. My mom would always make three treats: peanut-butter rice crispy squares, fudge, and this amazing gooey concoction of graham crackers, condensed milk, chocolate chips, and powdered sugar. That one was always my favorite. And since turning vegan, it’s gone off the list of seasonal foods I can look forward to — the chocolate chips and powdered sugar are easy enough to replace, but finding honey-free graham crackers can be a bit of a challenge, and condensed milk? Forget about it.

I’m still working on the condensed milk recipe, but my first attempt turned out pretty great. Behold:

Chewy graham cracker-chocolate chip awesomeness.

Chewy graham chocolate awesomeness.

Graham Cookie Bars

1 1/2 cup soy creamer
1/4 cup soy milk powder
1 tablespoon corn starch
2 tablespoons sugar
14 graham crackers (Keebler brand is vegan)
6 oz. chocolate chips
1 tsp. vanilla

Blend together soy creamer, soy milk powder, corn starch, and sugar. Pour the mixture into a small saucepan and heat over a medium flame until it begins to simmer. Stirring constantly, allow the mixture to simmer for 30 seconds to a minute, until it thickens. Pour into a bowl and let cool. (If time is an issue, stick it in the fridge.)

In a bowl, crush the graham crackers with your fingers or a potato masher. Mix with the condensed soy milk, vanilla, and chocolate chips, and pour into a greased 8×8 pan. Bake at 350 for about 35 minutes, until it turns golden brown and begins to pull away from the edges of the pan. Cool in the pan, cut into bars, and sprinkle powdered sugar over the top.

TGRWT #14: Malt + Soy Sauce

I’ve been eyeing the plethora of blogging “food challenges” out there for some time, trying to figure out where to start. I really love the concept, and complete and utter nerdiness, of this one: “They Go Really Well Together” (TGRWT), which looks like it got started here. The idea is simple: some flavor combinations just taste awesome. Sure, we all know that chocolate and coffee taste great together — but have you ever tried combining bananas and mushrooms? The FoodPairing website has put together “food trees” showing some of these more unusual pairings. Apparently there’s some “science” behind the decision to pair blueberries with tomato paste and apricots with blue cheese, based on shared flavor characteristics. Or something.

Anyway, the food combo of the month for TGRWT was actually pretty tame: malt and soy sauce. I thought about the flavors for a bit before deciding where to go with the combination, but didn’t get much further than, “Well, barley malt tastes sort of sweet, and soy sauce is, uh, salty…hmm.” So I just mixed them together to see what it would taste like. The resulting sauce was really intense, thick and somewhat pungent. I’d forgotten just how rich barley malt tastes, and with the added soy sauce, I worried that this flavor combination would overpower any dish I put this sauce into. Throwing caution to the wind, because I’m crazy like that, I decided to just go with the richness, and added red wine to the sauce. Originally I was going to make some sort of braised tempeh dish, but the barley malt was so thick (and strong-tasting) that a reduced glaze worked a lot better — and even that was pushing it. Seriously potent stuff.

What with the tempeh and soy sauce and wine and all, I decided to add sauerkraut as a garnish to round out the fermentation theme. It turned out to be a perfect accompaniment!

Fermentation: A Celebration
(AKA Wine-Glazed Tempeh with Sauerkraut)

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup red wine
1/4 cup barley malt
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 cloves garlic, minced
a pinch of red pepper flakes
8 oz. tempeh, cut into 12 slices
1-2 cups sauerkraut (as desired)

Mix together the wine, barley malt, soy sauce, garlic, and red pepper, and set aside. Saute the onion in the olive oil over low heat for about 10 minutes, until light brown. (A deep, cast-iron skillet works best for this recipe.) Add the tempeh slices and fry for 1-2 minutes on each side. Pour in the sauce and gently stir, making sure the tempeh is completely coated. Simmer on low or medium low heat for about 15 minutes, or until the sauce has reduced to a sticky glaze. Serve with sauerkraut.

TIP: The bottom of your cast iron pan will be covered with thick malted grossness after you’re done. When you’re ready to clean it, heat it up again and pour in some lemon juice. Let the lemon juice simmer, and use a spatula to spread it around. You’ll very quickly be able to scrape everything off the bottom of the pan. Then just wash as usual.

Glazed tempeh with greens, sauerkraut, and wild rice.

Glazed tempeh with greens, sauerkraut, and wild rice.

Attack of the Killer Tomatoes

You know, back when I was nine or ten and watched this movie at my grandma’s house, it seemed like a work of pure genius. Killer tomatoes? Hilarious! That’s really all it took to make me satisfied with the movie; everything beyond the general concept of the movie was just filler.

I guess it takes slightly more to satisfy my adult sensibilities, because man, this movie was really hard to sit through. I’ve definitely watched worse movies, but…yeah. It was painful.

A killer tomato chases down its prey.

A killer tomato chases down its prey.

What’s frustrating about this movie is that it could have been really funny. If they had taken out the annoying slapstick, camp, and self-aware humor (and the songs oh god the songs), changing it from an obvious parody into a straightforward cheap, B-grade horror movie, it would have actually been pretty entertaining. The scenes with the “killer” tomatoes splattering against windshields and people’s faces were great, and if they’d just stuck with that, it could have been good. The audience gets that it’s supposed to be funny; they’re tomatoes. You don’t need to bash people over the head with the novelty oversized comedy hammer, screaming, “It’s funny! See, it’s funny!”

We should have watched the sequel. At least that one has John Astin in it.

Still, the movie prompted some awesome potluck dishes:

My "tomato" cupcakes...

My "tomato" cupcakes...

...and the vastly superior killer tomato cake.

...and the vastly superior killer tomato cake.

The GingerDEAD Man

There’s really no other way to pronounce the title of this movie. Simply saying “gingerdead man” makes it seem like a mistake, a slip of the tongue. “Witty” titles like this really deserve the extra effort; say it like you just thought of it yourself. “Gingerbread man? More like gingerDEAD man! Zing!” God, I love cheesy horror movie wordplay. I think that’s why I get so excited about Christmas-themed horror movies — it’s like an unspoken rule that you can’t make one unless you have a name like “SLAY Bells” or “Santa CLAWS.”

Where was I? Oh, right: murderous cookies.

The movie is basically a remake of Jack Frost, which is a remake of Child’s Play, which for all I know might be a remake of something else…how many movies are out there in which a murderer/criminal/Bad Guy has his soul enter an inanimate object upon death? This one features Gary Busey — well, mostly Gary Busey’s voice — as Millard Findlemeyer, who kills the protagonist’s dad and brother in the opening scene. Years later, on what would have been little bro’s 21st birthday, Sarah Leigh (Hah! Get it?) works late at her mother’s bakery, reminiscing wistfully that “he wanted to go to a titty bar” to mark the occasion. Backstory dialogue tells us that Findlemeyer has been executed, thanks in part to Sarah’s testimony in court.

Thoughts full of her dead brother (or maybe the titty bar she could have been at right now, dammit), Sarah whips up a batch of gingerbread cookies in a bread mixer. (The dough she uses is actually bread dough, not cookie dough, as anyone who has ever made either bread or cookies would notice.) She pours in some “gingerbread flavor mix” dropped off by a shadowy figure in a cloak, not realizing that it’s FINDLEMEYER’S ASHES! Duhn duhn duhhhhh! (Best guess is that we’re supposed to think the cloaked person was Findlemeyer’s mom, seeking revenge in the form of animate baked goods…?) A bumbling bakery worker accidentally cuts his finger and holds it, dripping, over the bowl of dough, as the camera lingers on the drops of blood mixing into it to make sure we understand that blood+ashes+dough = evil cookie monster. Inexplicably molding one large gingerbread cookie out of the whole batch of dough (instead of something the bakery could, y’know, sell), Sarah pops it in the oven and, well, this happens:

The scariest thing about him is his sweaty, shrunken face.

His sweaty, shrunken face is actually sort of disturbing.

You can probably figure out the rest. Group of people gets picked off one by one, sometimes accompanied by bad cookie puns (but not nearly enough, IMO). Fakeout ending with one of the characters killing the Gingerdead Man by eating him, then getting possessed by the spirit of Millard Findlemeyer. (The “possessed” makeup looks like a perfect blend of a Deadite from the Evil Dead movies and a vampire from Buffy the Vampire Slayer ca. Season 2.) Then they kill him again, in his new host body — but apparently not for good, because there’s a Gingerdead Man 2 (subtitle: “The Passion of the Crust”) already on DVD and a third in the works.

We watched the “making of” feature after the movie was over, and learned that the original Gingerdead Man was going to be all CGI. He would have looked something like this (used in their promo materials):

Sort of like the Pillsbury Doughboy gone horribly, horribly wrong. Instead, they used a combination of puppets and a guy in a suit, which of course looked really cheesy — but still better than CGI.

We also learned a little bit about Full Moon Entertainment, the company behind this masterpiece, and producer Charles Band. RESPECT. This is the guy who made Puppet Master, Re-Animator, Ghoulies, and Robot Jox, as well as hundreds of other movies with titles like “Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama” and “Dollman vs. Demonic Toys.” I’d say he’s a modern-day Roger Corman, but Roger Corman himself is still producing movies like Dinocroc and Supergator… On Band’s blog, he has an enticing offer that I’m actually sort of considering: buy $120 worth of stuff, and you get your name in the credits of his next movie as executive producers.

As usual, Matthew and Salena won the prize for most appropriate potluck dish.


Gingerdead Man: “Save room for dessert — ’cause I’m coming after you.”

Gingerdead Man: [After cutting off a woman’s finger] “Mmm, ladyfingers.”

Gingerdead Man: “Eat me, you punk bitch!”

Brick Fields: [After eating the Gingerdead Man’s head] “Got milk?”

My Bloody Valentine in THREE-EFFING-D

Holy crap I am excited about this. When I first heard they were doing a remake of My Bloody Valentine, I didn’t think too much about it. Another rehashing of a classic slasher movie, with all the camp taken out and a lot of drama added. Yawn. Then I found out it was going to be in 3-D, which significantly increased my interest. (Seriously, when was the last time there was a new horror movie released in 3-D?) But the trailer makes me think this actually might be…good.

Food Gone Bad, Part I: The Stuff

It really surprises me that The Stuff never became a cult classic like They Live. After all, it has a lot of the same crucial elements: satirical commentary on consumerism, media, and corporate control; wingnut militias; aliens masquerading as humans; a killer soundtrack…okay, maybe not that last one. I’ll admit, it can’t really compete with “Rowdy” Roddy Piper discovering that paper money actually reads “This Is Your God,” but The Stuff has plenty going for it.

Direct action!

Direct action!

Score one point for the scene in which young Jason, after seeing some of The Stuff move of its own accord, goes to the local supermarket, smashes the glass of the refrigerator cases, and dumps hundreds of cartons of The Stuff all over the floor. Score another point for the cheesy face-ripping awesomeness that occurs when The Stuff decides to leave one of its human hosts.
Your Head A-Splode

Your Head A-Splode

Score a third for the crazy right-wing militia led by Paul Sorvino. Might have to take off a point for the some of the stereotypical funny-black-man-sidekick stuff they wrote for SNL vet Garrett Morris. But we can score one more for the character of industrial saboteur “Mo” Rutherford, who hides his craftiness behind a convincing “dumb” face and a friendly Southern drawl. Seriously, one of the most interesting and bizarre protagonists I’ve ever seen in a horror movie.

We discovered this movie is excellent as an eating game — just take a spoonful of Ricemallow Fluff every time someone eats The Stuff! (We had to make do with yogurt, but will invest in some Fluff for next time…)

Vegan Stuff?

Vegan Stuff?


David ‘Mo’ Rutherford: No one is as dumb as I appear to be.

Col. Spears: I will permit this colored man to speak. But speak one word of the Commie party, or one word in code, and I will blow his head off.

Col. Spears: Pay the drivers, issue a ten-percent tip, get a cash receipt.
Militants: Yes, sir!

David ‘Mo’ Rutherford: Well, everybody has to eat shaving cream once in a while.

January: Killer Food!

This month’s theme started out as an excuse to watch The Stuff, but we’re excited about all three:

Jan 4: The Stuff — satirical horror-comedy about a fad health food that turns people into mindless zombies.
Jan 11: The Gingerdead Man — Gary Busey stars as a psychopath who turns into a killer cookie. (Warning: this might actually be worse than Jack Frost.)
Jan 18: Attack of the Killer Tomatoes — The classic B-movie spoof.
Jan 25: NO POTLUCK (Amebix at Great American Music Hall!)