Friday, October 30, 2009
So, we’ll be doing that. I’m making a pot of minestrone tonight. Ostensibly I’m bringing it to share, but we all know it’s just so I have something to eat! Last year, my friend’s grandmother harrumphed over the lack of meat in my minestrone when there were two or three other soups that were clearly meat-tastic. I love old people, but she once tried to force lentil soup on me after plucking out the hot dog slices that had been sitting in it. BACK OFF, LADY.
In a shameless act of ungratefulness, we’re also taking that ill-fated challah bread. I know it’s shitty to unload lovingly-baked desserts on other people, like the culinary version of regifting. To that, I say it’s better to let the omnis eat it than allow it to take up valuable tofu space in my freezer. Enjoy the cholesterol-laden goodness, my pretties! If I get my act together, I’ll thaw a loaf of zucchini bread and take that too, though I sort of want to keep that for us. Maybe I’ll make pumpkin bread instead. All this in preparation for several dozen people asking me why I’m not eating the turkey wraps or oozy, sticky meatballs.
Tonight, Red and I are going to rest up for Apple Butter-palooza. We’ll probably build a fire in the back yard and make s’mores. Just hang out and commune with each other and the season. We so need some time to just step off the crazy train and get back in the rhythm of not being constantly busy. Our plan for November is to actively avoid any unnecessary events or obligations, so we can have a little breathing room as the holidays draw near. I’m pagan, and in my tradition, Halloween (Samhain) is the New Year. I can’t think of a better approach than Vegan MoFo to help me focus my attention as the year closes and new demands press upon me. And, despite my whining over the lack of a more traditional Samhain celebration, I can’t think of a better way to welcome the New Year than by stirring a cauldron of apple butter.
Image ripped from Oestara Publishing.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
As you know, it’s officially autumn here in the Eastern United States. And while it’s no secret that the discovery of Sweet & Sara marshmallows and the delicious s’mores that followed really signaled autumn to me, last night Red and I enjoyed another fall favorite. Yes, my darlings, it's risotto season.
Like crêpes, risotto is another dish that used to make me nervous. That fancy rice! All that constant stirring! My wrist hurt! With regular rice (brown basmati for us), you turn it on, give it a stir, and leave it alone for 40 minutes. Bingo, you’ve got rice. Risotto is a much more demanding dish, but it’s 1) worth it and 2) not as hard as I once thought. You do have to stir, though.
Owing to my risotto anxiety was the fact that the first time I made it was during August. In my non-air-conditioned apartment. It was madness, I tell you. I had the upright fan pointed at me, the stove fan on high, and the back sliding door open, and I still succeeded in sweating into my risotto. Epically gross. I determined then that risotto would be reserved for fall and winter only. I’ve stuck to this decision, and I have no regrets.
Last night, I made a tried-and-true winter squash risotto that always leaves us happy. The recipe is here, though of course I veganize it. I’ve also learned to steam the squash before adding it to the rice, because it’s easier that way. Our magical Titan Peeler handily stripped the lovely butternut squash I’d scored at the grocery store on Monday, then Red helped me chop it. Well, first I chopped half, and he complained that the pieces were too big. I handed over the knife and that was that. We had way more than the cup and a half the recipe calls for, but so what? You can never have too much squash. It took about 15 minutes to steam it all in the microwave, and then it just chilled out on the counter while I stirred the risotto. It was kind of meditative to stand there stirring a big steamy pot of risotto, ladling in more broth every few minutes and doing it all over again. At least it was until my wrist got tired. Then my stirring may have suffered, but it worked out. I added the squash close to the end, because it was already cooked, but it spent enough time being stirred with the rice to meld flavors and thicken the risotto a little.
It turned out beautifully. Here, see for yourself:
Our next challenge is figuring out what to do with the rest of it. I’m happy to eat leftover risotto all week, but Kittens Gone Lentil’s baked risotto balls gave me another idea. Baking risotto sounds tricky, but if the worst that happens is that they fall apart, we’re in no worse shape than we were before. Wish me luck!
In totally non-risotto news:
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Kitchari simply means mixture, and that’s what it is. It’s quinoa and red lentils simmered to a mush—a very tasty mush that is reminiscent of mashed potatoes. It probably won’t win any beauty prizes, but neither will anything else I make, so it’s all good. It would probably taste fine with other lentils, but the red ones really bring the mushiness to the party. I know that shouldn’t sound appetizing, but it works. It really does. It’s warm and filling, even though despite the spices and tamari, it’s pretty bland and can be dry. (See: quinoa and lentils.) Then again, so can mashed potatoes until you dress them up. If I eat it plain, I add extra salt and pepper and finish it off with some soy butter.
Last night, of course, we were in the gravy groove. It was fairly basic: onions, garlic, and mushrooms with herbs, broth, and a spelt flour-vegetable oil roux. Easy and tasty. It added a nice touch to the kitchari and acquitted itself admirably when we poured it over Boca burgers. I foresee it also being ladled lovingly over biscuits in the near future.
I can’t say too much about the Boca burgers, other than that I splashed them with a little tamari as they cooked. They always taste blah to me, even with all the delicious toppings in the world. Yet, for some reason, they are an integral part of Dog Food Surprise. Maybe I OD’d on them during my early vegetarian days, when the worlds of soy and vegetables seemed so alien. They must have offered a familiar, processed comfort. Now I don’t even want to take them to a cookout because they look so sad sitting there on the grill.
Anyway, dinner was a success. An ugly, monochromatic success, because when you have brown food and pale golden food and you cover it all with light brown gravy, you get the opposite of food porn. Hence, there is no picture because even if there was, you would have had to squint to tell that it wasn’t cat puke.
I digress. Can anybody really tell the difference between soy sauce and tamari? Am I wasting my money on the latter?
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
I'm also very excited about Isa Chandra Moskowitz's Vegan Brunch! It's not here yet, but it will be. Oh, yes. And when it is, I will go crazy all over Guacamole and Potato Tofu Omelets, Chocolate Beer Waffles (hell yes to beer for breakfast!), and Samosa Mashed Potato Pancakes. And then there is the whole baked-goods section. Hurry up, Amazon.
Jay Leno: "It's amazing to me that you mistreat a dog and you lose your career and go to jail for two years."
Chris Rock: "What the hell did Michael Vick do, man? A dog, a pit bull ain't even a real dog. A pit bull, that's the white stuff. Dogs are white man's best friend—dogs have never been good to black people."
I don't even know where to begin, so I'll just let this staggering insensitivity speak for itself.
Other people have addressed this far more eloquently than I have. Go read them.
- Animal Rights @ Change.org: Jay Leno and Chris Rock Think Dog Fighting Is Funny
- BAD RAP: Caring about pit bulls? That's "white stuff"
- About.com: Chris Rock Loses Movie Role Over Michael Vick Comment
Oh, Chris Rock. You're so fucking funny I just threw up a little.
Monday, October 26, 2009
I lie. It was rotini.
Whatever. I’m trying to be a good blogger. I know I’m preaching to the choir here, but this is my foolproof anti-recipe for spaghetti.
Cook a package of noodles. I don’t care what shape, or if they’re white or whole wheat or rice noodles. Just make them. Drain them, too.
Chop some garlic and onion, if you have them. Normally I just toss ‘em in the chopper. We were onion-less, so I blended maybe 5 cloves of garlic and a few fire-roasted red peppers that were languishing in a jar at the back of the fridge. Whatever, they smelled fine. Sauté those for a few minutes in a little olive oil.
Throw in a bag of frozen pepper strips. Trader Joe’s makes good ones, though we used some other brand last night. When the peppers are softened, or at least less frozen, pour in a jar of pasta sauce. Ours was basil something-or-other. You know what I mean—as long as it’s vegan, it’s gonna be tasty. Mix everything up, add some salt and pepper and Italian seasoning if that’s your thing, maybe a little red wine if you’re already drinking some, and let it simmer for 5 or 10 minutes. I had a bag of my mom’s basil in the fridge, so I snipped some of that into the sauce as well. You may want to add a tablespoon of sugar if your sauce is bitter. Taste it. If you like it, it’s done. Pour it over your pasta and dig in.
This blog post is brought to you by the letters V and B and the number 6, which is approximately how many loads of laundry are waiting for me at home.
As I told you here, New York-based animal rescue group Rescue Ink responded to our call (via a tattoo pledge) to bring their brand of in-your-face activism to Baltimore. This weekend, it happened. On Saturday, the Baltimore Tattoo Museum donated their time and services to ink everyone who wanted a pawprint tattoo. For $100 (split between Rescue Ink and the Baltimore Humane Society), each person chose either a pre-drawn dog or cat print. Red and I got there early, expecting a crowd. We weren’t the first in line, but we definitely made a good call in not sleeping in that morning. Because I’m difficult and had been planning to get Lucy’s pawprint for a while, I made the donation, then paid for my artist, Laura Rachel, to tattoo me with the print I made of Lu’s foot. Laura is a crazy-talented tattoo artist with an amazing spirit. After she tattooed me last year, I knew I’d be going back to her again. She was a great sport, letting a camera crew from a local university film us while she worked. It was the most badass fundraiser ever, I tell you! My parents even came to support us!
And did I mention how beautiful my new tattoo is? It truly looks like Lucy stepped in ink and then jumped on me. Oh, my sweet girl. She’s with me forever now. I can’t explain how happy I am to have been a part of this amazing day. Who says activism can’t be fun?!
On Sunday, Red and I headed to the Baltimore Humane Society for Pit Bull Awareness Day. The incredible people behind B-More Dog, a newer pit bull-advocacy group, put on a great program filled with pittie agility and drug-sniffing demonstrations, information sessions, and plenty of wonderful adoptable dogs to meet. Oh, and Rescue Ink showed up, too. They’d taken the train down from New York the night before, and after bemoaning Baltimore’s lack of nightlife (sorry, fellas), they graciously talked with everyone and posed for pictures. They signed my copy of their book, too, and complimented both my new tattoo and Lucy’s photos. It was a little weird pulling up my shirt in public for a bunch of strange dudes, but what the hell, it was for the pitties. They told us how bummed they were that they couldn’t make it for the tattoo fest, but they’d had a prior commitment. Oh, well. Next time, guys! We had a great crowd, too—enough people to generate a lot of positive energy and raise plenty of money, but not so many as to make the whole thing feel like a circus. Today, the guys are going to stick around and help with active animal-abuse cases and do a presentation at a local school before heading back home. As always, Jill at Unleashed is on top of it.
Johnny O, Joe Panz, Red, me, Big Ant, Batso, and Junior. Eric and G are off to the left somewhere.
I’ve been so overwhelmed with love all weekend. A lot of positive momentum was created, and I’m hopeful that all the dog advocates and responsible pit bull owners in Baltimore will continue to show the rest of the world that our dogs aren’t snarling monsters waiting to maul your toddler or have your kitten for dinner. If anyone has any doubts about that, Lucy will lick them silly. And, to quote Mr. T, I pity the fool who crosses Rescue Ink!
Friday, October 23, 2009
Ahem. You see my dilemma.
Luckily, I have Red to encourage me in my more adventurous culinary pursuits. Plus, 30-Minute Vegan has been pretty reliable during the two months we’ve had it, so we finally took the plunge and made crêpes.
Dudes. SO not hard. I have no clue what I was so afraid of.
Crêpes are weird, to be sure, but the terrifying ultra-thin-pancake-of-doom scenario I had anticipated failed to materialize. Basically, you mix up a thin batter. Preheat two skillets on medium, add a few drops of oil if you’re nervous, then tilt each skillet as you pour in a ladle of batter and it spreads out in a nice circle. Give it three or four minutes, and when the edges start to peel up and the center is firm-ish, you get to flip it. (I’m told that bubbles will form, like with pancakes, but my crêpes must like to misbehave.) This is the kind-of-tricky part.
My flipping method is totally amateur, so use it at your own risk. I try pulling up one edge of the crêpe with tongs, and if doesn’t fall apart, I slip a wide spatula under there (this is where holding up the crêpe with the tongs helps) and flip the whole thing over. If it’s ready to be flipped, it won’t fall apart. If it does, oops.
I have also experimented with lifting the pan like I’m trying to flip the crêpe in midair, like fancy-ass French chefs do on TV. You know what I mean, right? Act like something’s in the pan and you want to fling it out of there. If you do this and the crêpe starts to come free of the pan (you’ll feel it), it’s ready to flip.
Give ‘em another couple minutes on the flipped side, then slide them onto a plate and into a warm oven while you do the rest. Monitoring two pans at a time can be tricky, but I haven’t burned anything yet. If you need to do one at a time, no worries. It will just take longer. I did tear an epic hole in my first crêpe last night, but I have a theory on this: 1) I was impatient. 2) The gluten hadn’t relaxed yet. I know, whaaaaa? Stay with me. In Vegan with a Vengeance, Isa suggests letting your pancake batter sit for about 10 minutes before starting to cook. This allows the gluten to relax, giving you a fluffier pancake. I have a hunch that something similar is in play with crêpes, because the first two are always tougher than the rest. Maybe they also need time to chill out before meeting their delicious destinies.
Now comes the fun part: filling your crêpes! So many wondrous possibilities. For our first crêpe experience, since we were having them for dinner, Red and I whipped up 30-Minute Vegan’s savory mushroom-spinach crêpe filling. Highly recommended. I like sweet things, even for dinner, so last night I re-heated some diced apples I had cooked with cinnamon and brown sugar and wrapped them up snugly in my crêpes. I drizzled a little maple syrup over them, which sort of tied everything together. For breakfast, I like to spread my crêpes with Tofutti cream cheese, sprinkle with brown sugar, then top with maple syrup. I’m thinking that cream cheese + jam would also be a good combination. The crêpes keep well in the fridge, so don’t worry about resurrecting a soggy, falling-apart crêpe for breakfast the next day.
Photo ripped from Finest Chef.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Dosas, you have my heart.
What’s a dosa, you ask? A dosa is basically the Indian version of a taco or crêpe. It’s samosa filling folded inside flatbread, and if you don’t know what a samosa is, then God help you. It is heavenly. What I make are more accurately called “dosadillas” (not my word) since I just use tortillas instead of making my own fancy flatbread. What can I say? When I’m hungry, all pretense goes down the drain.
Here’s what I did last night. You’re supposed to use baked potatoes, but we didn’t have any. I parboiled 4 red potatoes instead. This was a decent substitute, but red potatoes don’t mash nearly as well, so the filling was lumpy. No matter. I sautéed some garlic (Red used the last onion, but that’s okay because he used it to make fried potatoes), then added a 10-oz. bag of frozen peas and carrots. I stirred in the potatoes, which still refused to be mashed, and added a teaspoon each of turmeric and curry. And a few shakes of salt, too. (Here I feel the need to clarify that I am normally much more elaborate with my spices, but as I said, we were hungry and short on time.) When everything is hot, move it to the other side of the stove and preheat a little (just a little) oil in a skillet.
This is the fun part. Once your filling has cooled a little, scoop some (1/4 cup? 1/3? I don’t know, people) into a tortilla and fold it over. Try not to use so much that your filling squeezes out of your dosadilla. Plus, you want to have extra room for chutney.
Place 2 dosadillas in the skillet over medium heat. Watch them so they don’t burn! After a few minutes, check the bottoms. If they’re brown to your liking, flip them over carefully. When they’re done, remove them from the heat (duh).
Red likes to spread chutney along one flat side of the dosadilla, then eat it with a knife and fork. I prefer to eat mine with my hands, dipping it into a small bowl of chutney as I go. I love mango-ginger chutney, but we recently picked up apple-cranberry as well. Red suggested that our next batch of dosas be more savory, with less Indian spice and more sage, which would go well with the apple-cranberry chutney. I’ll keep you posted!
Tonight I’m feeling like crêpes. This will be my second crêpe attempt, so I’m less nervous than I was before. Breakfast for dinner!
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
I love my crock pot for the sheer fact of how I got it. Secondhand things are so much better, because they come with stories. “I just popped down to Bed Bath & Beyond and scored this sweet crock pot” is nowhere near as interesting as “The theater where I work cleaned out the kitchen and had a massive liquor sale, and my friend the bar manager threw in this crock pot for $10.” Which is exactly what happened, with the side notes that 1) I don’t work there anymore and 2) I also bought a lot of booze. I think I did, anyway. They were having liquor sales every other week for a while there.
Ahem. The crock pot. Red and I are in the middle of a psychotically busy week, the kind that makes you want to call in dead. We couldn’t do that, but we could adapt 30-Minute Vegan’s Homey Vegetable Stew with Dumplings to be crock pot-friendly. We had it with crusty bread, because we couldn’t find a way to work the dumplings into the crock-pot revision. Basically, we chopped a bunch of onions, garlic, potatoes, and carrots (with greens!), dumped them in the crock with some spices and broth, and left it in the fridge overnight. The next morning, I turned that baby on low before I left for work. When we got home, the whole house smelled like Thanksgiving without the animal murder.
It was tasty. Not the most transcendently awesome vegetable stew I have ever had, but I think we should give the original version a try and see how it compares. Something was mildly overpowering the vegetables, but I can’t figure out what it was. Maybe it needed less pepper, or thyme, or more soy sauce. Maybe the vegetables gain something from being sautéed first instead of just simmered all day. Beats me. What I do know is that it was easy, filled us up, tasted good with bread, and saved us from a dinnerless evening.
Crock pot, I love you. Now if only you were self-cleaning.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Now, that is a hella long name for a snack that is, when we get right down to it, granola bites. And don't worry, I'm not selling out to Mareblu and showering them with praise in exchange for kickbacks. (Though, if they're reading....) The stuff is just that good. Red and I were wandering around Costco one day, and I found these in the impulse aisle. You know the one I mean—it's right near the front, and it's got all the candy and chocolate and pretzels. Usually, nothing good lurks there. But the Mareblu Trail Mix Crunch must have been new, so they were pushing it hard.
I may have kicked up my heels a little when I read "100% Vegan" on the back of the bag. They're also gluten-free, wheat-free, and peanut-free (though certainly not tree-nut free). They don't have too much sugar or salt. Best of all, I can eat a handful—and my hands are small—and quiet my stomach's desperate whining. A coworker tried some, and immediately ordered me back to Costco to pick up a bag for her as well. (I did. She paid me.)
They are tasty little cubes of nomniness (Kelly @ easyVegan, I told you I was going to steal that!). That's all.
Photo ripped from Mareblu Naturals. Don't sue me after all the sunshine I just blew up your ass.
Monday, October 19, 2009
1 cup orange juice (pulp or not; your call)
2 T. sesame oil
2 T. soy sauce or tamari
2 T. maple syrup (agave would probably be good too)
Whisk all that together. Add a block of firm, drained tofu, cut into whatever shapes and sizes you like. (I prefer cubes.) Let it bathe in all that tangy, orangey goodness for a few hours or overnight or whatever.
Retrieve the tofu from the marinade. Keep the marinade—just put it in a small saucepan because you’ll need it later. Sauté the tofu in a medium-hot skillet with just a touch of oil (it’s pretty oily already thanks to the marinade). You know how you like your tofu, so when it’s as crispy or brown as you like it, go ahead and remove it from the pan.
Chop a bunch of scallions and a few carrots—four or five is good, but if you have a glut of carrots, more will certainly not hurt you.
[Yesterday, our carrots still had their greens. I didn’t want to consign them to the compost, and my best friend the Internet assured me that they are edible. I chopped the leaves and discarded the stalks, which can get woody. The leaves added a pleasant texture and didn’t taste weird or bitter or anything. Don’t be afraid of your carrot greens!]
Add those scallions and your carrot greens to the skillet and sauté for a minute or two. Add the carrots and stir well. Sauté for a few minutes, then cover and let steam, stirring occasionally, until the carrots are done to your liking.
While you’re doing all that with the vegetables, gently heat the marinade in its wee saucepan. When it bubbles, add a little cornstarch (about 1 T. mixed with an equal amount of water) and stir to thicken.
Toss the tofu back in with the carrots and scallions. Mix well, then pour the sauce over everything. Let simmer for a few minutes until heated through. Enjoy over rice, or quinoa or couscous if that’s your thing. I don’t know your life.
Maintenance hopes to get the temperature above 68° (Fahrenheit, y'all). I know that may seem positively tropical to some of you, but it's only October and my ladybits are going numb.
I am a warm-weather creature. Always have been. I was born in July, and the languid heat of that month must have soaked into my bones. I am happiest during the balmy days of spring and summer, where the question is, "What else can I take off?" instead of, "Sweet Jesus, do I even own any more clothes to put on?!" I prefer running around in flip-flops and sundresses, not bundling up and doing my best yeti impression.
I must admit defeat: I am officially finished with cute work clothes. Goodbye, sweet little flats and classic button-down shirts. From here until April, it's knee socks, combat boots, and thick fuzzy sweaters. And possibly an illegal space heater as well.
Please, everyone, for the love of me (if no one else), go vegan. Global warming has got our seasons all fucked up, and we have no one but ourselves to thank for it. If you can save me from another winter of agonized shivering, I'll bake you cookies and give you Eskimo kisses.
Friday, October 16, 2009
At my last job, my team members frequently went out for lunch. I didn’t, because I’m cheap and my lunch options were basically limited to the Whole Foods across the street. The Whole Foods tempted me, though. Anyway, one day they came up with the bright idea to make lunch for each other. Each person would bring lunch for everyone else, one day a week. It sounded just as expensive to me; besides, why would you let someone else decide what you’re going to eat for lunch? I played along, because even though I knew I wouldn’t be getting much out of the deal, I wanted to surprise them all with a vegan feast.
They were more accommodating than I had expected, actually. I had a lovely Greek salad one day (the girl’s boyfriend worked at his family’s diner). Another day, I think I got some green beans to supplement whatever I had brought. The green bean dude was kind enough to ask in advance if they would still be vegan if cooked with the pot roast and then removed before serving. When I told him no, he was skeptical about the potential of green beans to taste good plain, but he gave it a shot anyway.
In the days leading up to my turn, everyone wanted to weigh in on the mysterious vegan lunch. Despite the fact that they regularly exclaimed over how good my food smelled, they were cautious. No tofu. No nuts (squeamishness, not risk of anaphylactic shock). I tried to nip it in the bud, but my goddess, they were picky. I refused to tell them what I was bringing. I was dead-set against bringing a lame pot of spaghetti or massive salad, but agonized over what I could possibly make that they would eat.
The night before, I cooked like a madwoman. It was going be delicious, and they were going to like it. I vowed that my presentation would be as good as it could be when cubicles and plastic containers were involved. Damn if they weren’t going to eagerly await lunchtime. Their first vegan meal was going to rock their faces off.
I was usually the first person in the office, so I took advantage of the extra time to create a menu. When they arrived and checked their email, this greeted them:
I may have even made little labels for each dish; I can’t remember. My boss, a staunch tofu opponent who delighted in good-naturedly ribbing me, admitted that I’d outdone myself. I went with quinoa instead of rice in order to expand their horizons a little, and also to dispel the protein myth. I did include nuts, because 1) there were only a few of them and 2) if I make you food, you don’t get to dictate every detail. It was also one of my first attempts at biscotti, and I was stoked at how fabulously easy and biscotti-esque they were. Goodbye, $4 café ripoff! Hello, awesome homemade biscotti!
Subject: Vegan Gourmet
Good morning, dearly beloveds!
Submitted for your gustatory approval today:
Chickpeas Romesco: chickpeas (garbanzo beans) simmered with fire-roasted tomatoes and red and green peppers
Saffron-Garlic Quinoa: like rice, only better!
Almond-Anise Biscotti: delicious with everything from cappuccino to herbal tea
Enjoy! All recipes are from the Veganomicon by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero.
Yours in animal-friendly deliciousness,
My coworkers were floored. Chickpeas? Quinoa? Whaaaaa? But they gamely tried everything, and even the two who ended up getting salads from Whole Foods said they were glad they’d finally experienced vegan food. The next day, another exclaimed loudly over the, ah, miracle the chickpeas had worked on her GI tract. It was a strange, yet tender moment.
The moral of the story? I don’t know—I’m a badass cook? Veganomicon has the power to convert the infidel? They were all appreciative, didn’t leave work hungry, and learned a little about my choice to be vegan. As Vegan MoFo swirls around us in a haze of intoxicating photos and recipes, let us remember that pulling out all the stops for a hardcore omni audience (one girl ate pigs’ feet, for Christ’s sake) and feeding them silly may eventually result in a first step towards a kinder life.
That, and pass the biscotti.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Aside: I once saved my friend from alcohol poisoning through the use of mushrooms. She hates mushrooms, loathes them with an unholy ardor. The smell of mushrooms sautéing makes her nauseous. One evening, she came home rather drunk. Drunk enough to curl up on the bathroom floor and moan. Clearly, she needed to puke and go to bed. She knew it, too, but just couldn’t seem to manage. I’m not one for sticking my fingers down someone else’s throat, so I told her that I was going to cook some mushrooms. As I had hoped, the very idea made her spew rancid booze vomit. After a few rounds, she was recovered enough to stagger to bed, where I held her hand and smoothed her hair and told her she’d be fine in the morning.
So, anyway, Red and I made 30-Minute Vegan’s Stellar Stuffed Mushrooms the other night, using four big portabella caps. It was ridiculously easy: blend spinach, mushroom stems, green pepper, cream cheese, and spices, then plop into caps. (Stick blender represent!) Twenty minutes in the oven, and you’re good. Each of us only needed one, they were so big and satisfying. (Let’s see what Google searches this blog comes up under now!) They would definitely be a good appetizer using smaller mushrooms, which is what the recipe originally calls for, and the filling would be a delicious dip or spread.
My only gripes: portabella juice can make whatever it touches look kind of blah and muddy (hey, it’s a superpower) and while the rosemary was pleasant, I have issues with anything twig-like. Maybe I need fresh rosemary, as the dried version is very twiggy indeed. Or maybe I’m just sensitive about the whole, “Huh, do you eat, like, twigs and bark and stuff?” thing.
Portabella 'shroom photo ripped from What's Cooking America.
There will be a Vegan MoFo post later, rest assured. But right now, I want to call your attention to a few things:
- Today is Blog Action Day for Climate Change. Don’t want to drown in a hella storm or explain to your kids why there’s no ozone layer left? Ditch the animal products and go vegan. Then you can think about buying that Prius, because animal agriculture contributes more greenhouse gases than driving. ETA: Read Stephanie's incredibly informative Change.org post here.
- Carol J. Adams rocks my world. I want her to be my vegan feminist godmother. Read Mark Hawthorne’s interview with her here, then get yourself one of her books. The Pornography of Meat is on its way to me via Amazon, and I have been doing the dance of the nerdly all week.
- In less awesome news, Will over at Green is the New Red reports that the terrorism convictions against the SHAC 7 have been upheld. Basically, what this means is that, in his words, “Supporting and facilitating non-violent civil disobedience is not protected speech.” This is a huge loss to activists of all kinds, but animal-rights activists seem to really be feeling the injustice of the current “Let’s just call it terrorism and freak everyone out” mentality. It’s a crazy involved case, but Will breaks it down so non-law types like me can understand it.
- Rescue Ink is coming to Baltimore! Last month, I told you about the grassroots effort to encourage the guys to visit for a massive tattoo party. Well, it worked, and they’ll be here next weekend for a tattoo-in and outreach. The Baltimore Tattoo Museum, my ink parlor of choice, has graciously donated their artistry and services, and the Baltimore Humane Society has been instrumental in making this happen. It’s incredible that this has all come together in just about a month. I’m on a total activist high right now, you better believe it! We don’t have a lot of details yet, but I’ll post again when I know more. Hopefully Lucy sits still so I can make a print of her paw!
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
I know, right? For dinner, I had cold pizza and a glass of wine. It was a good deal, though. We ordered pizza this weekend because Papa John’s has some loopy football offer where you get a large pizza and two sodas for cheap. Well, they brought us our vegan pizza (onions, black olives, green peppers, mushrooms, and tomatoes) and three sodas, for a grand total of $20 including tip. It was quite a pleasant change from Red’s original calculation. Finally, a reason to like football.
I think that might be it in the food department. I’m definitely looking forward to digging in to that Tortilla Soup later, though. Until then, I’ll be tempting myself with Kelly’s list of vegan Halloween treats!
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Red is a great person to make soup with. Last winter, he found a crock-pot recipe for spicy black bean soup. It was easy and good, but a little too spicy even for him. There was that one time he forgot to add the broth to the minestrone, but we’ll let that be. This weekend, with fall clearly upon us, he agreed that we should indulge in some seriously heavy soup action.
First order of business: 30-Minute Vegan’s African Sweet Potato Soup. I was a little nervous of a soup that involved peanut butter, but the cookbook hadn’t steered us wrong yet, and it was only a quarter-cup, so what the hell. Peanut butter in soup? Be my guest. I souped while Red studied (or maybe he was reading There I Fixed It), and the result was a silky, tangy-sweet creation that was half hearty vegetable soup, half creamy peanut-ginger bisque. It sounds weird on paper, I know, but it was delicious. And all the credit goes to my immersion blender.
Not where you thought I was going with that, huh? But, all exaggeration aside, the immersion blender is a miracle of engineering. Gone are the days of ladling hot soup into a blender and praying the lid doesn’t explode off in a steaming volcano of fail. Instead of puréeing and scraping the peanut butter-spice-lime juice mixture out of a blender—our blender weighs about 90 pounds, did I mention that?—all I had to do was dump everything into a mixing bowl and go to town with the immersion blender. It does a number on hummus, too. Then, it helped me purée half the sweet potato soup to get that creamy consistency without the blender-pitcher-spatula drama. It is a handy little gadget and I love it. Thanks to my dad-in-law for listening when he asked what I wanted for Christmas.
Moral of the story: African Sweet Potato Soup is definitely a keeper. And so is my stick blender (’scuse me, fancypants, immersion blender). More soup goodness to come later this week!
Sweet potato photo ripped from Wikipedia.
Monday, October 12, 2009
Oh, sweet marshmallows. How I’ve missed you: your sugary squishiness, the way your outsides caramelize over a fire, your coyness as you peek up at me from a mug of hot cocoa. Worst of all, I thought I was fine—I didn’t realize the size of the marshmallow-shaped hole in my heart.
That was before Sweet & Sara.
It’s fall, and that means s’mores. S’mores traditionally mean gobs of sugared animal bone (ahem, gelatin) sandwiched between chocolate and graham crackers. Since I’ve been vegan, I’ve simply done without marshmallows. I admit, it’s been less than satisfactory at times. When my sister and I lived together, one night she decided to make s’mores over candles in our living room. It worked quite well for her, actually. I improvised a marshmallow-less s’more by holding a square of chocolate over a candle to soften it before smushing it between the graham crackers. I miscalculated, and melted chocolate quickly squashed the candle flame. In the battle of the s’more-making sisters, I was clearly the loser.
I vowed this would not happen again.
This is all to give you an appreciation of the spastic happy dance I did when Red and I found Sweet & Sara’s marshmallows in our grocery store. Poor man, I think he thought I was having a seizure. Now, normally I am skeptical of new vegan interpretations of non-vegan foods, having been disappointed countless times (see: cheese). However, bolstered by Easy Vegan’s in-depth evaluation of Sweet & Sara vs. Dandies (a veritable Great Marshmallow-Off), I was confident that it would be worth the risk.
Oh, how it was. I have not experienced such marshmallow ecstasy for years, since my
I would continue to sing the praises of Sweet & Sara, but we’re making soup for dinner. It’s a toss-up between African Sweet Potato Soup and Mexican Tortilla Soup, both from 30-Minute Vegan. For today, at least, I’m happy it’s fall.
Yup, it was pretty much like this. Photo courtesy of Sweet & Sara.
Friday, October 9, 2009
Anyway, we were there for some friends’ going-away party. Here’s where it gets interesting: sometime during the course of the evening, someone ordered the Buffalo Tofu appetizer.
I was skeptical, as I don’t really go for super-spicy things. But my non-veg friends raved about it and practically forced a piece into my mouth. After which I said:
“Sweet fancy Moses, I must learn how to make that!”
So, this past weekend, that’s what I did. Armed with a 19-oz block of Trader Joe’s extra firm tofu and this recipe from All Hail Seitan!, I got to work. The tofu had been frozen, so it had a chewier, spongier texture that maybe helped it soak up more of the batter. At any rate, the batter was the easy part. I’m iffy about deep-frying or even semi-deep-frying things, as it’s pretty terrible for you and all that oil is just a disaster waiting to happen. (Come see the Jesus-shaped olive oil stain on our carpet if you don’t believe me.) But, when in the land of greasy, buffalo-sauce-coated party food….
The frying commenced. All was going well, too—the tofu bites were crisping up nicely, and I set them on a wire baking rack to drain onto paper towels. La di dah. Then, I tried to flip a cube of tofu, it stuck to another cube, scalding oil flew everywhere, and I dashed for the sink to run my arm under cold water. I don’t even think I had time to yelp, it happened so quickly. Now, anyone who’s ever done any cooking has been burned at least a little by spitting oil. It just happens. It’s not a big deal. This was, to quote Ron Burgundy, kind of a big deal.
I didn’t think it was a problem at first. I washed my hand and arm off, figured out pretty quickly where the oil had landed, then enlisted Red to help finish frying the tofu. Once it was drained, we didn’t bother with All Hail Seitan!’s fancy buffalo sauce recipe—we just doused the tofu in Frank’s Buffalo Sauce and chowed down. Let me tell you, it was good. A little vinegary for me, but that can easily be fixed next time. Red declared it definitely as good as buffalo chicken wings. See for yourself:
What was not good was the way my hand looked. I had three small burns across my knuckles, but they hurt like holy hell and I was afraid they’d blister. Oil had also gotten on my thumb and forearm, but not as badly. We had to go to the grocery store anyway (I love MOM’s! have I told you that?!), so I pitifully presented myself and my sore hand to the coolest health-and-body-care department manager ever, Ellie. I told you about Ellie here, but she is so nice and always helps me find what I need. I told her I thought I needed arnica gel, but she gently corrected me and hooked me up with calendula gel instead. I slathered that stuff on the second it was paid for. It felt even better after an hour in the fridge, you better believe it. Once we were home and the groceries safely stowed away from Lucy, I took a nap. (What, you’re surprised?) It took me a few minutes to find a sleeping position that was comfortable for my hand, but I did it.
Long story short, my hand is on the mend. It did blister, which was kind of gross, so I wrapped it up for a couple days. This proved to be a great sympathy-getter from my coworkers, at least until I told them I had the stigmata. It looks rather like I’ve been in a bare-knuckle fight. It’s slowly progressing from hurting to itching, which is a good sign. The burn on my thumb is almost completely gone, and the ones on my arm didn’t even blister. I think I’ll live. I also think I’ll let Red do the frying next time.
Thursday, October 8, 2009
As you can see, it doesn’t look like much, but it tastes great (he ate it all in two days). Here’s what you do:
Chop an onion and a box of mushrooms (usually 10-12 oz.). Sauté in a little oil until the vegetables are soft and juicy. Add some sage and/or whatever herbs you like. (Rosemary is good.) Crumble 4 thawed Boca burgers (or whatever vegan burger-like substitute you have) into the pan. When everything is heated through, serve over rice.
Red would like it mentioned that fried potatoes are an excellent stand-in for the rice. I wouldn’t know, because he ate them all, but that’s okay because I’ve been subsisting on the blandest of diets all week. He also reports that A-1 is a very tasty addition. Of course, A-1 is not vegan, but if anyone knows how to DIY it using vegan Worcestershire sauce, I’ll give you a big kiss.
Indian more your thing? Swap the Boca burgers for Trader Joe’s Vegetable Masala burgers and the mushrooms for frozen peas and carrots. Add a little curry, and voila: it’s like a samosa exploded in your skillet! I might even like it better than the original. I try not to buy processed meat substitutes very often, but they do come in handy in a pinch. Plus, they are more omni-friendly, which Red appreciates.
So, there you have it. Dog Food Surprise. Perfectly ugly, perfectly delicious, and perfect for those nights when you only have one clean pan.
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
My stomach does not love the curry. (Sad panda.) I thought feeling hungry again was a good sign, but it turns out that I’m only hungry for certain, very bland things. Like oatmeal. And bread. And ramen noodles. So while I sit here at my desk trying not to hurl, let me tell you about my love for ramen noodles. I think I need to make it clear that when I say “ramen noodles,” I mean this kind: Definitely not the fancy expensive kind. Certainly not the homemade kind.
When I was a wee sprite of a burnout, my mother called them Chinese noodles. I loved them something fierce and slurped them up with gusto. My favorite part was stirring in the ice cube she added to cool the noodles so I wouldn’t burn my mouth. After childhood, ramen noodles practically disappeared from my life until high school, when I rediscovered their deliciousness. Hell, it may have even been college. When I lived in Boulder, I ate them often because they were cheap. Like, 6 cents each cheap. Eventually, I realized that 1) most of the flavor packets weren’t vegan, and 2) eating that shit regularly wasn’t very good for me. So, I quit buying them. That’s as far as my willpower goes: if I don’t buy it, I can’t eat it. Problem solved.
Periodically I’d go through ramen noodle binges where I’d buy a bunch of packages, eat them over the course of a week or two, then go for several months without thinking of them. Somehow, during the year and a half that I’ve lived with Red, ramen noodles have become my go-to sick food. When I’m feeling gross, like I am now, but I need to eat, that’s all I want. Not the healthiest thing in the world, I admit, but I'm only semi-rational on my best day. All my Googling suggests that Top Ramen Oriental flavor is vegan, so that's what I eat. If it isn’t, I won't make a big deal out of it. Just tell me. But since, as far as I know, it is, here’s how I like to make it:
Boil water and add 2 noodle bricks. Cook for 3 or 4 minutes. Whatever, they’re ramen noodles. Drain. Add Earth Balance and a few sprinkles of one spice packet. Throw the other spice packet away. Enjoy on the couch while watching Law & Order: SVU and cuddling with the dog.
It’s cheap, it’s fast, and it gets the job done on a sick day. Now if only I had some here at work.
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
1. Favorite non-dairy milk?
Soy milk. Lately we’ve been buying
2. What are the top 3 dishes/recipes you are planning to cook?
Spinach-mushroom crepes from 30-Minute Vegan. And some other stuff too, but right now I’m just eating ramen noodles and sorbet.
3. Topping of choice for popcorn?
Salt and melted Earth Balance.
4. Most disastrous recipe/meal failure?
I tried this sweet-and-sour winter squash once. It smelled like ass and didn’t taste much better. Thanks, New York Times.
5. Favorite pickled item?
6. How do you organize your recipes?
My mom put a bunch in a book for me. And Red and I have a big recipe binder. There are some duplicates. Oh, and there are cookbooks.
7. Compost, trash, or garbage disposal?
8. If you were stranded on an island and could only bring 3 foods…what would they be (don’t worry about how you’ll cook them)?
Veggie pizza, apples, and chocolate.
9. Fondest food memory from your childhood?
Making garlicky alphabet pretzels with my mom.
10. Favorite vegan ice cream?
Any kind of sorbet. I’m on a mango kick right now.
11. Most loved kitchen appliance?
Electric chopper! Take that, onions!
12. Spice/herb you would die without?
Salt. I’m so lame.
13. Cookbook you have owned for the longest time?
Probably this vegetarian cookbook (heavy on the eggs and cheese) from Tuesday Morning. It has pretty pictures.
14. Favorite flavor of jam/jelly?
15. Favorite vegan recipe to serve to an omni friend?
Chickpeas Romesco from Veganomicon. With a side of saffron-almond rice or quinoa. Never fails.
16. Seitan, tofu, or tempeh?
Extra-firm tofu. I like Trader Joe’s because you get 19 ounces instead of the normal 16, and I’m cheap like that.
17. Favorite meal to cook (or time of day to cook)?
Weekends, I guess. No need to rush.
18. What is sitting on top of your refrigerator?
Lunch boxes, chips…I know there’s a lot more stuff up there, but I have no energy to go check.
19. Name 3 items in your freezer without looking.
Frozen pepper strips, ice cream, coffee.
20. What’s on your grocery list?
I think we need jam.
21. Favorite grocery store?
22. Name a recipe you’d love to veganize, but haven’t yet.
Macaroni and cheese. I have issues with nutritional yeast.
23. Food blog you read the most (besides Isa’s because I know you check it everyday). Or maybe the top 3?
I really don’t…oh, yes. Voracious Vegan. Otherwise, I try not to ogle food blogs too much. I have too many recipes, and I get camera envy.
24. Favorite vegan candy/chocolate?
Theo dark chocolate. I kept going back for more samples at last year’s Green Fest.
25. Most extravagant food item purchased lately?
Spinach from the farmer’s market. Whoo, it was good.
26. Ingredients you are scared to work with?
Monday, October 5, 2009
After we re-bandaged Lucy, we were so tired we just let her sleep with us. This resulted in half-assed sleep for everyone except Lucy, and Red and I woke up late and groggy. (I napped later, of course. As a matter of fact, so did he.) We did very nearly nothing all day, then ate popcorn and watched three episodes of Mad Men before bed.
Yesterday, I woke up with a scratchy throat and the intense desire to do nothing again. Instead, I made buffalo tofu bites. (I’ll post pictures once we take them.) They were yummy and pretty easy to make, but I would have enjoyed making them much more had I not gotten a nasty oil burn for my trouble. This is why I don’t like frying things. It’s minor, but it hurt like holy hell. I would be more descriptive, but my mother reads this. It hurts worse than being tattooed, that’s for sure. Off we went to our hippie grocery store, where Ellie the health-and-body-care lady fixed me up with some calendula gel. Wikipedia tells me that calendula is a freakin' marigold, so there you go. Once we got home, I (you guessed it) took a nap.
Once I woke up, survived a two-year-old’s birthday party, and realized my throat was still scratchy, I started slamming the Emergen-C. (This is the food/not-food part.) I went double-or-nothing and dissolved two packets instead of one, chasing it with Amy’s Lentil Soup. That’s good stuff, if you didn’t already know. I grabbed half a dozen Emergen-C packets to bring to work, then crawled into bed and passed out while Red and Lucy watched Family Guy.
Long story short, I feel like ass today, so I’m declaring Emergen-C a suitable topic for Vegan MoFo. I spent a tense few minutes this morning Googling its vegan credentials, but it appears to be animal-free. Honestly, I’d probably still take it even if it wasn’t, because I have a whole box of the stuff and need to feel better. Think kindly of me as I suck it down with hot water and a side of “Is it time to go home yet?” I don’t have a fever and I’m not achier than usual, but my ears itch and my throat is grumpy. I’m tired and my head is a little foggy. It could be allergies, or swine flu, or Monday. Stay tuned.
Friday, October 2, 2009
I love Highland cattle. They just look so friendly. Photo ripped from Wikimedia Commons.
What, you wanna know what I order? Fine: burrito bol with rice, black beans, fajita veggies, tomato salsa, and guacamole. It’s yummy, filling, and comes in under 500 calories. For dinner, that’s not a bad deal. Of course, it’s also full of salt and guacamole is certainly not low-fat, but once a month or so, it hits the spot. Chipotle is also one of the few places where Red and I can grab food together. Actually, Mexican restaurants in general are pretty good for that. We’ve happily chowed down at Baja Fresh, too—most notably after a massive, filthy group effort to help a friend move—but Baja Fresh is no Chipotle. Although, I still do remember that Baja Fresh burrito, so that’s a good sign. Plus, their mango salsa is pretty sweet.
I’ll stop singing Chipotle’s praises in a minute. I don’t want to get started on happy meat or welfarism or any of that stuff, because it’s Friday and other, smarter people hold forth on those subjects far better than I do. When Red and I are out running errands and realize it’s past dinnertime and we have nothing but pasta and apples in the fridge, Chipotle is there for us. We’re lucky they don’t deliver, or else we’d be shoveling in burrito bols of guacamole-coated goodness twice a week. For now, it’s an indulgence we can justify. Pass the guac.
Thursday, October 1, 2009
It’s October. Vegan MoFo has launched, and my month of yoga has limped across the finish line. I committed to practicing each day during September, and I think I did a decent job. I missed four or five days, which out of 30 is 16% or something. If I’d been taking an exam, I’d have about an 84%. I think. Someone with actual math skills may come along and tell me I was flirting with a D-.
Why am I trying to quantify my success? Why am I framing this in terms of success at all? I have no idea. I think I wanted—my expectations getting the best of me again—to have a yoga epiphany, to desperately long to spend hours practicing Sun Salutations. Instead, most evenings I dragged myself downstairs to my mat, yawning as I pushed back into Downward Dog and sighing with relief as I sank into Child’s Pose.
Y’all, I am tired. I don’t know why, but I just want to sleep for a week. If I could fall sleep on my back, I would have passed out during every Savasana like it was my job. (Why do I use the Sanskrit names half the time and the English translations the other half? I have no idea.) I was fidgety and itchy and wanted nothing more than to rush through my practice so I could go to bed. This happened more frequently than I care to admit.
At the same time, I noticed some changes. For one, I don’t need a class or a teacher or even a DVD to practice. For another, some days I can actually feel my body responding. I’m not a huge fan of the Warrior Poses or standing side bends, but I did them the other night. My obliques felt nicely stretched out the next morning. I reminded myself that I wasn’t half-assing it if all I could do was a few Cat-Cow rolls before bed, even if I did them in bed. I treated myself gently, shortening a practice when my right shoulder acted up. (What it’s acting up about, I have no clue. Maybe that’s my weaker side.) I think I can fold more deeply into Seated Forward Bend, though I definitely need to get back to weight-training if I want to get anywhere with arm balances.
I also discovered that I enjoy Seane Corn’s teaching style. I borrowed two of her DVDs from the library, and found the first one easy to follow and free of annoying yoga-speak. You know the kind. I was looking forward to the second DVD, but when I popped it in, I found…the first DVD. Again. The library had another copy of the first session in the second session’s case, with the second session nowhere to be found. I cracked up, then followed some of the practice anyway. I’m going to have to talk with the library when I return the DVDs.
I don’t think I’ll be practicing yoga every single day. Of course, I could be wrong. But I’m trying to listen to my body, and if sometimes my body just wants to take a long shower, paint her toenails, and go to bed early, that’s good too. I love yoga, and I’ve loved exploring it during this past month. Now I know that I can create my own practice (thanks, Eco Yogini!), and I’m more confident about deepening my relationship with yoga. And that means knowing when to take the night off.
Photo ripped from Zazzle.
As Vegan MoFo kicks off, I offer this lesson: Don’t burn your mouth. It makes it that much harder to enjoy your food.
Yeah, I’m sitting here poking the roof of my mouth with my tongue, wondering when it won’t hurt anymore. Drinking coffee didn’t bother it too much, but eating granola bites sure did. Looks like I’ll be avoiding sharp, pointy foods for the next few days, which should help keep me away from the chips and crusty bread. We’ll see how the roasted edamame goes. (Aside: why is “edamame” not in Microsoft’s dictionary? Lame.)
I would post a picture of our feisty curry, but my camera’s not that great, the lighting in our house is uniformly unflattering, and I’m a crappy photographer. Plus, it’s a curry. You all know what they look like. I appreciate gorgeously plated food as much as the next girl, but my meals are built for speed and comfort, not style. If it looks like dog food but tastes great, I’ll eat it. As a matter of fact, I created a dish lovingly called Dog Food Surprise. Maybe I’ll make it soon and actually post a photo along with the recipe (I use the term loosely) so you can appreciate just how ugly it is. But oh, if you could taste it.
Speaking of dog food, we bought a bag of Natural Balance vegan food and have sloooooowly begun adding it to Lucy’s current food. I know plenty of people have successfully switched their pups’ food in only a week or two, but I think we’ll do it even more gradually since Lucy has such a sensitive stomach. Plus, poor girl, she’s having that lump on her elbow removed today. I don’t want to add too much new food while she’s recovering. I’m worried enough already. I know she’ll be fine, but that doesn’t stop me fluttering around nervously like a mother hen. (Do mother hens seriously do that, or am I unwittingly being speciesist?)
I’ll feel 100% better once she’s home safe with us tonight. In the meantime, I’ll be sure to let my lunch cool before snarfing it down.
Curry photo ripped from Things that Fizz & Stuff.