Monday, February 22, 2010

Bourgeois taco salad.

“What to Eat This Week” is a regular game at our house. Typically we pick a few recipes, maybe three, and go shopping for the ingredients on the weekend. This saves money as well as time, as having a shopping list greatly simplifies the process. Since I could live on apples, hummus, and rice, I try to take Red’s desires into account before we go shopping. Occasionally, I’ll ask him to pick whatever recipes he wants and we’ll do those. I don’t think this is a huge imposition.

He, on the other hand, has been known to react as though I’d just asked him to prep his own arm for amputation. Maybe it’s the sheer number of cookbooks we have. Maybe it’s the difficulty of anticipating what might be appetizing later in the week.

Last week, one of his chosen recipes was taco salad. Ironically, we do not have a recipe for taco salad, and I’d never made it before. I realize that I’m in the extreme minority here, and he would offer that as proof of my bourgeois upbringing. Yes, it’s true: La Familia Burnout did not sit down to dinners of taco salad. We had tacos on a rare, forgettable occasion, and my mom makes a mean salad, but never did the twain meet in that cross-cultural dance of lettuce and salsa.

So, Red suggested that I buy some lettuce. I rolled my eyes, because I barely acknowledge lettuce as food. Really, what is it good for? Anything lettuce does, spinach and chard and kale do better. Lettuce says, “Oh, you’re vay-gan? Well, we’ll just get you a salad, then.” You know what that salad looks like.

I bought romaine lettuce, because it is classier than iceberg and I had a heretofore-unknown bourgeois reputation to uphold.

Red also told me that we’d need burger crumbles. I bought those too, with considerably less angst than I had the lettuce.

[Note: At this point, I’m sure you’re all wondering, “Where the fuck was he while you were buying groceries?!” Simmer down, gentle readers. He had homework to do. Rest assured that we slay the grocery store beast together 90% of the time. Although, since we go to the hippie grocery, it’s more like we lull it with Nag Champa and sing it Pete Seeger tunes.]

In case you don’t know (I didn’t), taco salad is stupid-simple. Red chopped some onions, sautéed them until he liked the way they looked, then threw in the burger crumbles and a taco spice packet. It was Old El Paso or Taco Bell, or a little of each. They’re full of MSG and pre-date my residence in our home, but they get the job done. While that cooked, he crushed some tortilla chips in the bottom of a larger-than-we-usually-use bowl, then layered shredded lettuce on top. Here I was confused, because I had thought that taco salad would be more akin to nachos, with all the fixings heaped on whole tortilla chips, which we would then use in lieu of silverware.

“No,” he said.

We then scooped the burger mixture on top of the lettuce. We had neither vegan cheese nor sour cream (why? because they weren’t on the list), so we finished the pile off with salsa and a dash of taco sauce. It looked very artful:

And, holy shit, it was good. Talk about a conversion experience. I could have eaten that taco salad until I exploded. Cool lettuce, crunchy chips, and spicy-warm burger mush. It was a sensation-fest, even though my nacho fantasy was cruelly dashed and I had to eat it with a fork.

Red was suitably vindicated. My de-bourgeois-ification continues.

Bonus pic: spider friend. He’s been hanging out on my doorframe all day. I told him to be careful, as he is very very small.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Frustrating pit bull conversation #7,421.

Because I enjoy beating my head against the wall, I opened my mouth in defense of pitties the other day. You can guess what ensued.

Background: I’m Facebook friends with a young lady whom I used to babysit. (Newsflash, Burnout: You’re old.) Recently, she posted a link to a petition urging Congress to ban pit bulls (because we all know how well Facebook petitions work out). I knew she worked at a doggie daycare, so I was confused and commented to that effect. I don’t have the comment because she deleted it, but it was something like, “How can you want to ban pit bulls if you work at a doggie daycare? Come meet my pittie!”

The following conversation transpired. Because I’m a bitch and firmly believe that the younger generation isn’t being taught to write properly, all typos have been preserved. (No, I don’t capitalize on Facebook. Count yourselves lucky I capitalize here.)

Her: yea and one of the reasons i work there is because pitts are not aloud. no i dont blame the dogs i blame the people who bred them this way in the first place.

Me: yeah i know a lot of people feel that way. we get plenty of looks when we take lucy out. then they meet her and love her! since you love dogs i'd encourage you to check out best friends animal sanctuary (utah), bad rap (cali), and recycled love and bmore dog (both baltimore), all of whom work with abused pitties and advocate responsible dog ownership. after all, pitties aren't the first dogs to be demonized (german shephers, dobermans, rotties) and they won't be the last.

Her: ive met allot of pits, and yes some can be good but everyone has the potential to snap. and i dont like any breeds that are built and bred to protect, dogs are saposed to be mans freind. they shouldent be used for protection at all ever. and no i dont want to check out pit bull rescues.. i will never own a pit or would recomend a pit to any one. and if anyone wants to own one fine, but they should know that they will have to go threw allot. they wont be let into allot of places, certain vets, dogy daycares, apartments, dog parks, and there are allot of countys who have already banned them.
And with that, I went to snuggle my Lucy, possibly detouring to the kitchen for a fortifying glass of wine. Even though it was delivered by a less-than-articulate 20-year-old, the message that came through loud and clear was, “Your dog’s vicious. No one wants her around. She should be outlawed.” Hello, if I wanted this bullshit treatment I’d move to Denver. Red and I were well aware of the hoops we’d be made to jump through by choosing to live with a pit bull, and it has been 100% worth it, whether or not Lucy will be turned away from doggie daycare. I could spend my time dissecting her argument—dogs shouldn’t be bred for protection? Your doggie daycare welcomes German shepherds, doesn’t it?—but it should be obvious to anyone reading this that it’s full of holes and myths. Still, I can’t pretend I wasn’t discouraged to hear such breed discrimination from a so-called dog person.

Oh, and Camp Bow Wow? I’ve searched all over your site—including the local franchise site—and can’t find a single mention of bully breeds not being permitted. So either your employee is talking out of turn, or I call false advertising. The former would seem to be the case, as a link on your News page to Tracie Hotchner’s Dog Talk podcast #148, which aired on October 17, 2009, indicates that an earlier pit bull ban had been dropped and that all dogs would be evaluated as the individuals they are. What gives?

Photoshop says Lucy doesn't have flash-eye. It is wrong.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Puppy love!

O hai...u adopts me? I haz Chow tongue!

I’m posting this as a favor to a friend, and as a favor to three sweet dogs who need a loving home! Mama Dog had puppies with some random neighborhood scoundrel, and oh, sweet fancy Moses, cuter puppies I have never seen. (Well, maybe on Puppy Bowl, but they have professional lighting.)

Mmmm, pancakes.

It is bitterly cold in Baltimore right now, and Mama Dog and her two pups—a boy and a girl—have taken refuge under a welcoming porch. (The porch belongs to a friend of a friend, which is how I came to learn of these snuggle-able sweeties.) They have warm shelter and plenty of food there, but no one should have to live outside! They don’t seem too keen on coming inside, plus their foster mom has cats. Mama Dog looks to be a Chow or some kind of Chow mix, and the pups, as you see, resemble baby bears.

Do I eat it or play with it?

U givez us good homez?

Their foster mom would like to find a home that will adopt them together, if possible. They are a little shy but have been getting plenty of cuddles and human attention, so they’re warming up to people. I don’t know how old they are, or what the other half of them is, but you can ask and I’ll put you in touch with their foster mom. If you're in the MD-PA-DC-VA area and have room in your heart and home for one of these lovebugs, post a comment or email me at shannon[dot]river[at]gmail[dot]com. Thanks!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

It's a happy Valentine's Day for these guys, indeed!

Thanks to the amazing efforts of people on and off the interwebs, Jodi and her husband Dan of This Is It! Creations were able to save the lives of the three bulls who graze on their land! They raised $3600 in two weeks, and now Pooka Cow, Spotty Friend, and Less Spotty Friend can look forward to long, wonderful lives grazing and mooing and doing cow stuff to their hearts' content. Blessings on everyone who helped save their lives—you truly helped give them the best Valentine's Day gift ever. Congratulations, Jodi and Dan! I can't wait to hear all about your adventures with the boys.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Save the bulls, save the world.

Okay, so maybe it doesn't have the same ring it does on Heroes. Still, if anything can save the world, it’s compassion, and these three handsome boys sure need some. Molly at It’s a Vegan Dog’s Life alerted me to the fundraising campaign over at This Is It! Creations, an eco-friendly shop full of lovely handmade items. The bulls graze on their land in Oregon, and their owner plans to send them to slaughter. He’s given Jodi and her husband until February 13th—that’s this Saturday—to scrape together the $3600 he’s asking for them.

Their names are Pooka Cow, Spotty Friend, and Less Spotty Friend. They would like it very much if you'd help save them.

Obviously, that’s a lot of money, but how do you put a price on a life? This Is It! Creations is a member of Vegan Etsy, and several awesome shops are donating all or part of their sales through Saturday to saving these bulls. Jodi’s first post about the bulls is here, and a subsequent post lists all the Etsy shops joining the effort. They’re already halfway to having enough money, but they’ve only got three more days! This is a super way to stock up on presents for loved ones or yourself, especially with Valentine’s Day this weekend. I’ve been snowed in almost all week and my credit card is starting to feel it! Of course, you can donate directly too. Every little bit helps. Give the ultimate Valentine’s gift and have a heart for these guys. They’d give you sweet cow kisses if they could.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

O hai!

Kitteh snuggles to those of you who’ve recently bounced over from The Voracious Vegan’s Weekly Wednesday Wrap-Up. I never thought that a throwaway post about Self magazine and hot vegan sex would win me new readers, but I’m glad you’re here! Stay a while and let me know at shannon[dot]river[at]gmail[dot]com if you have any ideas for further advancing my agenda of vegan world domination.

tofu and kisses

Duh, it’s from I Can Has Cheezburger.

Random food gift experience #2: Wild rice.

So, you know by now that I love the stories about how I acquired random things more than I love the random things themselves. (See: crock pot.) The bag of wild rice that took up residence in my cupboard for a month or two is no exception.

Sometime around Solstice/Christmas, I went to get my hair cut. I love my salon: It’s a happy combination of the old-school beauty parlor where everyone gossips the day away and the trendy, eco-hippie “studio” type of place. It’s family-run, the prices are good, and they send all the cut hair off to make mats to absorb oil spills. I digress. As I was getting my hair washed, one of the stylists held up a bag of wild rice and asked me what to do with it.

Now, being vegan and mouthy, I’m used to having people ask me what to do with haphazard food items. I inspected the bag of rice, then went on to explain how she could mix it with white or brown rice and make it into a nice pilaf with some veggies, or throw it into some soup, or…. You get the picture. She interrupted to explain that the rice freaked her out, that it was a random Christmas gift from some equally random client. Wild rice as a Christmas gift? That gave even me pause. We scrutinized the bag of rice as though it were some exotic species, and she admitted that the tiny black grains looked like bugs. She asked me to take it.

“I can’t take your Christmas present!” I objected.

“Please, I don’t want it!” she cried.

Well, dear reader, what would you have done? I didn’t want her to be stuck with a bag of rice she’d never cook and that made her feel like an insect assault was imminent, and I couldn’t let the rice be thrown out. So, after my hair was coiffed to perfection, I tucked my accidental gift into my bag and wondered what I would do with it once I got it home. But not before I promised her I’d blog about it and make her internet-famous for her generosity.

Eat me.

Last weekend (or perhaps the weekend before, they all blur together in a haze of laundry and cooking and naps), I sent my new bag of wild rice to its great reward: Veganomicon’s Porcini and Wild Rice Soup. I highly recommend this tasty soup, but as you will see, it had a surprise up its little soup-sleeve (or under its lid, as the case may be).

All went well with the soup preparation. My dried mushrooms (porcinis? I have no clue) are ancient, so I soaked them for much longer than the recipe called for, and they reconstituted beautifully. The broth was made, fresh mushrooms (I subbed baby bellas, I think) sliced, herbs added, and wild rice stirred in for a deliciously fragrant brew. It looked great. It was nowhere near dinner time, so once it was done, I turned the stove off and let it sit for a wee while to cool before I put it in the fridge.


When I came back to the kitchen and lifted the lid of my big stockpot, what greeted me had long since left soup territory behind and was rapidly approaching the outer limits of what could be described as stew. That bastard rice had soaked up all the liquid and looked ready to eat my soul, as well.

“What the hell!” I shouted at it, visions of this demon-grain eating my mushrooms along with the broth clouding my vision. Fuming at this disagreeable development, I stirred the pot to see if any broth at all was left. A scant bit was—not enough to reclaim the title of “soup,” but enough to keep the—pilaf?—moistened and tasty.

And tasty it was, dear reader. Once I calmed down enough to stop cursing the weirdo salon client whose fault this clearly all was—seriously, next year just get a gift card—I acknowledged that whatever I had made, it was yummy. It was still wet, and I still needed a spoon to eat it, and it still had mushrooms. Not a triumphant charge over the finish line, perhaps, but a respectable showing.

Seriously, Vcon readers, make this soup. Only don’t expect it to stay soupy for long.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Taste o’ the Bay.

Major win for Isa’s Vegan Brunch, my new favorite cookbook: Chesapeake Tempeh Cakes. I tried for a more subtle lead-in, but I just can’t do it. Subtlety be damned: They are so spastically good that you must make them right now. Or as soon as you can get your hands on some tempeh and Old Bay.

While Old Bay is not called for in the recipe, trust me, you should add it. For those of you not living in the strangely-shaped state of Maryland, bear with me. Old Bay would be our state spice, if such a delicious honor existed. It’s made here and always has been. Long associated with seafood—it is the only acceptable way to season blue crabs here, just for context—it is a magical blend of seasonings that join forces to kick the ass of whatever food it’s sprinkled on.

In some highly-guarded combination, it contains celery salt, mustard, red pepper, black pepper, bay leaves, cloves, allspice, ginger, mace, cardamom, cinnamon, and paprika. Basically, it’s like your spice rack got into a fight and Old Bay happened. Red loves it on popcorn, FYI. Many people add it liberally to Bloody Marys. It’s spicy and salty and savory and whatever other s adjective (aside from sweet) you can come up with. And it is a must for any recipe that claims the title “Chesapeake.” (Isa can be forgiven for the omission, since she is from Brooklyn.)

So. The Chesapeake Cakes. I followed the recipe, but added a few shakes of Old Bay to the tempeh as it steamed. Then I added a few (dozen) more shakes when I mashed it with the other ingredients and formed it into cakes. Take it from this Baltimore girl, you can’t have too much Old Bay. The cakes held together nicely, fried up quickly, and had he not known what I was making, Red totally would have believed they were crab cakes. I can’t describe it. If you’ve had crab cakes, perhaps these are similar, if a little less fishy. I dialed down the spiciness of the remoulade, but it was still plenty hot and I was more than happy to eat the cakes plain.

Conclusion: Make these now. Or come visit and I will show you how Baltimore gets it done.