Saturday, October 30, 2010

Gettin’ happy!

The wonderful Molly at It’s a Vegan Dog’s Life bestowed unicorn kisses and fairy dust upon me with a Happy 101 Award! Whatever I did to deserve it, I have no idea, but Molly seems entertained by the thought of ten things that make La Burnout happy. Without further ado, the most random list ever:

1. my husband
Need I say more? He’s the love of my life, my stabilizing influence. That he’s great at vacuuming, chopping vegetables, and putting up with my shit are fringe benefits. He’s a pretty awesome yoga buddy, too.

2. Lucy, the Wonder Pit
My sweet snuggle-pup. She’s taught me so much about patience and unconditional love. Her frantic kisses makes my arms itch and she still can’t be left alone outside her room when we’re gone, but I wouldn’t trade her for any other dog. My Earless Wonder is such a blessing, even when she’s barking at the prissy German shepherds next door or releasing a suffocating death-fart. It’s worth it for the full-body wags when I come home and the sound of her snuffly breathing as she falls asleep next to me.

After the first glass of wine, playing tug while holding the second seems like an excellent idea.

3. Tom Waits
Mr. Waits’ particular brand of growly, tied-to-the-railroad-tracks doomsaying may not spell “happy” to most people, but some days he’s exactly what I need. Listen to “Hold On” or “Picture in a Frame” and tell me you disagree.

4. chocolate
Why yes, I am eating some right now as I write this! My staple bar is Equal Exchange Organic Very Dark Chocolate. It’s got 71% cacao, which means it’s lusciously dark and satisfying. Chocolate has all sorts of happy-making properties, and it’s my way of being extra-nice to myself every day.
5. lavender lotion
I am very particular when it comes to lotion. My skin dries out easily, especially on my hands, and then it hurts and cracks and I’m a grumpy bitch. I’ve gone through more crappy, watery vegan lotion than I care to admit, just because it was less expensive, and I am here to tell you that scrimping on skin care is a highway to hell, darlings. Currently I’m in love with Avalon Organics Lavender Hand & Body Lotion after I get out of the shower, Kiss My Face Lavender Shea Ultra Moisturizer for my hands at work, and Alaffia Lavender Mint Shea Butter for my hands and feet at bedtime. My skin has never been happier, and the scent of lavender chills me out. (Lucy hates it, BTW.)

6. naps
My name is Shannon, and I’m a napaholic. If I could, I’d nap every day. I frequently did when I was unemployed, and it was lovely. Nothing beats snuggling under the covers for a mid-afternoon snooze. That lazy, refreshed feeling when I wake up is just delicious.

7. the vegan blogosphere
Who says you need to meet face-to-face to be friends? I’ve gotten to know so many compassionate, wise, and funny people (vegan and otherwise) since starting this wee blog. Even though I’ve only been lucky enough to meet a few blog-friends in person so far, I am truly thankful for all the support and advice and “She thought ‘vegan’ meant I ate fish” stories that come across my reader every day. Without you, my world would be smaller, my Facebook friends list shorter, and my heart less open.

8. yoga
My journey to yoga has been a long one, starting with random classes in college, a complete absence of any time on the mat during and after grad school, and finally, over the last year, a regular-ish practice that has had huge benefits. It’s been a privilege to get to know my body better and experience its changes as I’ve become stronger, more flexible, and more present and comfortable with my own mind. At the same time, I’ve become more aware of my own limitations, which is humbling but also empowering. Red and I have been fortunate to find a teacher whose knowledge of yoga and Buddhism is (maybe) surpassed only by his Jedi powers and nerd-tastic sense of humor.
My mat. Well, not mine specifically, but you know what I mean.

9. art museums
I may be biased, but the very best museums are art museums. I love science and natural history museums, too, but I feel most at home surrounded by classical paintings, bizarre installation pieces, and everything in between. You know that feeling like you need to lie down because your eyes are so tired from all the beauty you’ve taken in? I adore that. That’s when I know I’ve seen all I can for one day, and there will always be more when I come back. Favorites: the Baltimore Museum of Art (hey there, Cone Collection), American Visionary Art Museum (where gorgeous chaos reigns), and the Rubin Museum (art of the Himalayas? yes, PLEASE!). Oh, and the Met, obvs. Honorable mention: Glasgow’s St. Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art.

10. Buddhism
I’m not a Buddhist. Well, maybe I am. I prefer to say that I study Buddhism, because there’s an awful lot of it to study. I went to a Buddhist university and wanted nothing to do with it while I was there, but a few seeds must have been planted, because a few years ago I felt drawn to Buddhism and started researching. Learning how to manage my crazy-ass mind and act with compassion (toward myself as well as others) has helped me become more grounded, thoughtful, and definitely happy.

His Holiness has quite the popular Twitter feed.

Now, I get to (lovingly) whack ten people with the Happy 101 Award stick!

1. Vegan Feminist Agitator. I think of Marla as my vegan fairy godmother. She’s a smidge older than I am, so it’s been very valuable to hear about the evolution of the vegan/animal rights movement from someone who remembers the days of buying your tofu from that one health-food store run by unwashed hippies. She’s been a mentor and a friend, and is funny as hell.

2. EcoYogini. Lisa graciously welcomed the weird vegan who wandered into her yoga blog, and we’ve been having thought-provoking conversations ever since. She’s teaching me about Canada, too!

3. Voracious Vegan. Tasha is a fierce activist who throws her whole being into everything she pursues. Whether it’s food justice or feminism, she’s there, with plenty of animal pictures.

4. Red House Over Yonder. Take that, husband! It’s been ages since you blogged!

5. Plate+Simple. Hilary’s on a blogging hiatus, but you should read her archives. She has great taste in interviewees. Bonus: a super-cute toddler!

6. The Deportee’s Wife. Giselle and her husband’s story is far too common and completely unacceptable. Do yourself a favor and spend some time on her site. She has one of the strongest spirits I’ve ever met, and I’m better for it.

7. City Pittie. All pitbulls, all the time! No BSL bullshit! Lots and lots of pictures!

8. Lazy Smurf’s Guide to Life. Like the Smurf, I am lazy, so I love this blog. I also love learning about Austin and all the amazing vegan options there. WANT.

9. The Preconceptionist. A pregnant yogini/writer? Maybe that will be me someday! I love reading about Melissa’s journey and gathering tips for when Red and I spawn. Don’t miss her yoga blog, either.

10. Book-Love. Libby and I have been friends for…holy cats, ten years! It’s been joyous to be a part of her life, and I can always count on her for a smile.

You know the drill, or maybe you don’t: Make your own list, tag your own beloveds, or…don’t. As Kerouac said, I insist on your freedom. Know that I love you—jeez, isn’t that enough for your people, anyway?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

CSA Week 19: What kind of squash are you again?

The surprise this week was a strange creature of unknown provenance. It was listed on the pickup sheet as “red cory squash.” As that list is frequently rife with creative spellings, Red began Googling “red curry squash,” which netted us a million recipes but little clue as to what kind of squash-pumpkin-thing we had sitting on our counter. Eventually he discovered that what we had was a red kuri squash, and, as you see, it looks very like a small reddish pumpkin:

Whew, mystery solved. Then, he tried to slice and peel it, which was easier said than done. For your reference, red kuri squash has the hide of an elephant. Don’t try to peel this mother. Whack it in half by whatever means you need to (big knife, circular saw), scoop out the seeds, and roast it like you would an acorn squash. The flavor is definitely squash-like, but with a texture that’s the slightest bit reminiscent of potato. So as not to let the oven feel neglected, we roasted our sweet potatoes and Week 18’s butternut squash at the same time and had a roasted fall vegetable supper.

More cilantro! Guess where it went? The freezer.

We got a rather hefty cabbage, much larger than the petite cabbage from Week 17. As nice as it was, we decided to share the wealth and gave it to Red’s grandma. She was really pleased. So were we, even though she planned to cook it with ham.

The interpretive-spelling trend continued with a leafy green described only as “scarole.” Obviously, this was escarole, a vegetable that (unlike red kuri squash) we had actually heard of. It looks like lettuce. We used it in Veganomicon’s Escarole with Capers and White Beans. This one was kind of strange. We ate it over pasta, and it was fine, but something kept it from being super-duper-delicious. The textural clash of capers and beans? I don’t know. It didn’t sour me on escarole, but I was less than enthusiastic about the end result. I look forward to trying escarole again in another type of dish.

Last but not least, we had baby eggplants and spinach. Curry time! I hacked Vegan with a Vengeance’s Chickpea and Spinach Curry, subbing the seared eggplant for the chickpeas. This dish has a crazy amount of spices, but it’s delicious.

Almost to Week 20! I can’t believe we’ve been doing this since June.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

CSA Week 18: Spinach + arugula = BFF.

Programming note: Microsoft Word does not recognize “arugula” as a word. WTF, Bill Gates & Co.?

Anyway, here’s our Week 18 haul:

PSYCH! (Remember that?!) For real though, this is it:

If not for that butternut squash, it would have been monochromatic indeed.

You’ll notice the absence of lettuce. It was indeed available for pickup, but Red judiciously left it behind, given our track record with it. Hopefully someone else enjoyed our forsaken lettuce.

The spinach and arugula were definitely the stars this week. We made 30-Minute Vegan’s Pasta Florentine, which only calls for spinach, but the arugula was a welcome addition. This was easy and creamy and very tasty. One note: We should have washed our greens a bit more thoroughly, as some mouthfuls were kind of gritty. Oops. Also oops: I forgot to take a picture.

Bok choy made an appearance again this week, and once again helped create a yummy stir-fry with broccoli and tofu. We recruited Week 19’s broccoli, because heaven knows you can never have too much broccoli. I don’t know what went into the sauce we used, because Red has been improvising our stir-fry sauces and doing a fabulous job of it!

Is this or is this not the ugliest stir-fry you have ever seen?

We had a lovely butternut squash, and roasted it with Week 19’s sweet potatoes. Those two things together in a baking dish with some olive oil and salt and pepper? Awesome and comforting on a chilly fall night. Highly recommended. I’ll have a picture of that for you in Week 19’s post.

Ah, cilantro. I don’t like you. I think you taste gross, but I can’t describe the precise type of gross. Just weird and gross and I wish you tasted better, or that I liked you, because the rest of the world thinks you are Mother Nature’s gift to Mexican food. But my husband likes you, so he put you in the chopper, stuffed you in a baggie, and stowed you in the freezer.

Well, this was kind of a short roundup, wasn’t it? Never fear, I’ll have Week 19 for you soon!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

CSA Week 17: Bakin’ up risotto.

Week 16 yielded some seriously delicious meals (I love you, chard frittata!), so Week 17 had the bar set quite high. We got a lot of green stuff, as you see:

I won’t tell you what happened to the lettuce. At this point, you can guess.

We got more lovely random hot peppers, which joined their fellows in the chopper and then in the freezer. We’ll be so set for hot peppers when winter comes, I tell you!

Now, y’all know I love me some risotto. I love it fiendishly and would eat it every day, unless I absolutely had to, then you know I’d get sick of it pretty quickly. Anyway, my mom has been telling me for ages that you can actually bake risotto, thus relieving yourself of the housewifely drudgery of stirring that damn pot for an hour. Usually I pretend that the steam is opening up my pores and doing lovely things for my skin while I stir, but it gets boring after a while.

Mama Burnout’s never steered me wrong before, so I decided to try this baked risotto business. She promised I didn’t even need to alter the recipe! Per her instructions, I sautéed my onions and rice a bit, then scooped them into a baking dish with the diced butternut squash and broth. That was a nerve-wracking operation, I can tell you, because our biggest baking dish is ever-so-nearly too small for this risotto recipe. By the grace of the kitchen gods, I managed to get it from the counter into the oven without sloshing hot broth everywhere. After that, I counted whatever came out of the oven as a job well done.

And well done it was, readers! It took about an hour or so at 350° and was just as creamy and delicious as stovetop risotto. Even better, we didn’t need to steam the squash first! I’d added an extra half-cup or so of broth to help the squash cook, and it worked very well. I thought I had a picture to show you, but evidently we were so hungry we forgot to document our success.

Oh, cabbage. I’ve never liked you. I don’t know why, but I tend to foist all cabbage-related duties off on Red, because he loves the stuff. This was a small cabbage, though, so I decided to give it a shot. We made Spicy Smothered Green Cabbage from Bryant Terry’s Vegan Soul Kitchen, and it was really good! I think my previous cabbage experiences must have involved overcooked cabbage, because this was sautéed until wilted but still a bit crunchy. I don’t see cabbage supplanting, say, winter squash or asparagus or broccoli in the “Vegetables Near to My Heart” category, but I like it a little more now.

Red chopped our baby bok choy, and twice I made miso soup. Bok choy is great in miso soup, in case you were wondering! Miso soup #1 included kombu broth from a Moosewood cookbook and bean thread noodles. You may already know this, but bean thread noodles are thirsty little fuckers and will slurp up whatever liquid you put them in. This is doubly true if you have soup left over and want to reheat it the next day. You’ll be reheating miso noodles. Miso soup #2 was my attempt to make myself feel better after a nasty allergy attack and consequent two-hour nap. I kept it simple (no kombu broth because we were freshly out of kombu) and it did the trick.

Sweet potatoes and mustard greens! What the hell can a person do with those two disparate ingredients? Well, you can pull Vegan Soul Kitchen back off the shelf and make Uncle Don’s Double Mustard Greens and Roasted Yam Soup, for starters. (Okay, okay, I know that yams and sweet potatoes are different, but I don’t care.) This is a super-easy soup that is light but crazy flavorful. I’d never had mustard greens before, and they are yummy! We even used Week 18’s red mustard greens, too (yes, they come in red, and much Googling was involved to figure that out). We’ll be making this again.

We had a few sweet potatoes left, and I wanted biscuits, so I made some. I tested recipes for Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s upcoming Appetite for Reduction, and these biscuits are divine. Buy the cookbook when it’s out, because it’s worth it for these babies alone. I ended up with two dozen, which I ate for breakfast every day until they were gone. (Shut up, it took longer than a weekend.)

And there you have Week 17.

Friday, October 15, 2010

As American as Mama Burnout’s birthday pie.

During my work-induced blog hiatus, I baked my first apple pie. I was excited, because I’d never baked an apple pie before and it was for my mom’s birthday. I was also nervous, because my dad, while always a good sport about vegan food, is an apple pie snob nonpareil and I didn’t want my sweet little vegan pie to be disdained.

I spent a ridiculous amount of time, even for me, choosing the perfect recipe that would result in a pie to render the pickiest omni swoony with delight. Nothing with whole wheat. Nothing involving additional fruit. No crumbly crust. This would not be a “vegan” apple pie: It would be THE BEST GODDAMN APPLE PIE EVER.

In the end, I went with a classic: Betty Crocker. Even better? It’s naturally vegan (well, except for the butter)! In your face, Dad!

The bottom half of the crust went easily enough. I freaked out the entire time I unfolded it into the pie dish, but the pastry gods smiled upon me and the crust didn’t fall apart. Hurdle 1 cleared!

(Note: I am so, so glad we finally bought a pastry cutter. You may think it’s a bullshit kitchen gizmo that you will never need, and that if you do need it the old “use two knives to cut your shortening and flour together while trying not to stab yourself” trick will work. It won’t, and you will never regret buying even the cheapest pastry cutter. It’s worth it for that one pie a year.)

Faced with a pile of Granny Smith apples (my favorite kind), Red and I pondered for a while how best to slice them for maximum apple-iciousness. Genius that he is, he hit on using our mandoline to slice them super-thinly, the better to layer them with! We learned that slices stick together and are a little more difficult to toss with the sugar and spices, but we got it done. Into the crust they went, tucked in as snugly as possible. We even had too many, and cooked the leftovers later for a snack.

The top crust was the real challenge. Have I mentioned that I’d never done this whole top-and-bottom-crust thing before, and that I’m clumsy in the kitchen? Our pie pan was ever-so-slightly larger than Betty Crocker’s, so we had to get creative with stretching and patching the top crust to make it fit as we draped it over the apples. Next time, we’ll make extra dough so we don’t have this problem. Once we got the crust situated, I was feeling artsy and wished for tiny cookie cutters to cut out sweet little leaves or something to decorate the crust. Say it with me: Next time.

After that, we cut slits in the pie and popped it in the oven, praying for perfection. Partway through, there was some wonkiness as we tried to cover the edges with strips of foil to keep them from browning too much, but Red saved the day. When the pie finally came out, it looked beautiful:

The next day was my mom’s birthday, and the pie’s moment of truth. Would my parents wish I had bought a crappy grocery-store cake instead?

Darlings, I can happily report that they loved it. The crust was appropriately crusty, and Red’s apple-layering technique was a huge success. Not only do you get more apples, it creates a more evenly distributed internal surface (like lasagna), so the pie is easier to slice! We left half the pie with my parents, and took the other half home for noshing over the next few days.

I am now officially over my fear of baking pies, and Mama Burnout had a happy birthday indeed.

Close-up for maximum layering action.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

C is for cookies!

As promised, here’s the recap of the first two batches of tasty treats from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar. Why two batches? Because I couldn’t decide on just one!

The guy who sold me the book highly recommended the Mexican Chocolate Snickerdoodles, so I started with those. I don’t even know what a snickerdoodle is (shocker: Wikipedia does), but I know that these were easy and baked up beautifully. I was excited about the chocolate-cinnamon combination, and it didn’t disappoint. One caveat: Next time I make these, I’ll probably only add half the cayenne pepper. I liked it because it meant I had to savor each cookie one bite at a time instead of inhaling three or four, but if you like your cookies with less heat than sweet (painful rhyme, I know), go easy on the cayenne. The weekend I made these, I couldn’t find chocolate extract, so I doubled the vanilla. However, this weekend, the hippie grocery had a single bottle of chocolate extract that had clearly been left for me by the baking fairies! I’m looking forward to seeing how much of a difference it makes.

Pregan, some of my favorite cookies were pignoli cookies from Vaccaro’s. Sweet almond paste and pine nuts? Heaven! As a matter of fact, Red had brought some home for himself the week before I made mine, so I was very curious as to how VCIYCJ’s Pignoli Almond Cookies would compare. They were easy to whip up, and pressing the dough balls into the pine nuts was easier than I’d anticipated. They’re probably the prettiest cookies I’ve ever made! I thought they were delicious, but I was afraid they wouldn’t be a match for Vaccaro’s. “Are they as good?” I asked Red nervously. “No,” he said, chewing thoughtfully. “They’re better.” I did a happy dance around the kitchen as he explained that while Vaccaro’s pignoli cookies are indeed fabulous, they’re too rich and heavy to enjoy more than one. These, on the other hand, were light and flavorful without being overwhelming. Veganism for the win! (However, almond paste and pine nuts aren’t cheap, so these will probably be special-occasion cookies only.)

There was never any question that Red and I would keep all these cookies. We ended up with four dozen, and we certainly didn’t need that many! I had originally planned to send my sister and her boyfriend a cookie care package (she loves pignolis, too), but even after that, we still had more cookies than we could eat. Into leftover Chinese takeout containers they went, and both sets of our parents received special cookie deliveries as well.

Sweet success. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a date with a snickerdoodle.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Baltimore Book Festival—now with more vegans!

Recently, I spent an evening at the Baltimore Book Festival. Do they have book festivals where you live? I hope so, because they are wonderful. They are also an excuse to spend money guiltlessly.

I’ve been to the Book Fest before, but I was super-excited this year because there was a vegan authors’ panel! Books and vegans: two of my favorite things. Since I got there early, I headed for the Radical Bookfair Pavilion to indulge my book habit. I purposely didn’t get any extra cash beforehand, because Red and I are trying to avoid bringing home too many stray books before we get additional bookshelves. I’m telling you, it’s a problem.

I picked up a lot of random free literature and A. Breeze Harper’s Sistah Vegan. I haven’t had time to read much of it, but it offers such a valuable and under-represented perspective. I’m happy to have it. At the next table were the friendly local anarchists from Red Emma’s, where they will sell you books and make you vegan lattés for a ridiculously low price. (The coffee, not the books. Books ain’t getting any cheaper, you may have noticed.) I was happy to find Kathy Acker’s Pussycat Fever—I did part of my master’s thesis on her novel Empire of the Senseless, and highly recommend her if you’re into tasty things like nonlinear narratives and the aesthetics of plagiarism. Also, sex.

I also found a copy of Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar. I’ve wanted it for a while, but avoided buying it because what am I gonna do with a houseful of cookies? I said as much to the dude behind the table. “Have a vegan cookie party!” he suggested with glee. That convinced me, and I forked over the rest of my cash as I congratulated him on the score he’d made for capitalism. “Hey, when all you got’s a hammer, every problem looks like a nail,” he reasoned.

Laden with books and relieved of all my money, I wandered over to the tent where the panel was scheduled to take place. I ran into Linnea, who joined me on my transatlantic lunch date, and we settled in for the panel. Here’s an awful photo of the panelists:

L-R: Corrine Bowen, Tracye McQuirter, Ben Shaberman, and Jonathan Balcombe.

It was such fun. Ben Shaberman read a sweet story about his girlfriend’s cat from The Vegan Monologues. Corinne Bowen told us how she went from commenting on to being its editor. Tracye McQuirter told wonderful stories and had a beautiful smile. She’s doing something right, because her book had sold out before the panel! Davida Gypsy Breier talked about photographing animals for Ninety-Five at different sanctuaries, including Poplar Spring. Jonathan Balcombe told us how rats like to be tickled and display metacognition—that is, not only do they know things, but they know that they don’t know other things! They think about their own thinking! I wanted to buy his books, but I was out of cash and the shop didn’t take plastic.

After the session was over, I asked Ben if he’d sign my copy of The Vegan Monologues. (I felt very shy, because I hate pestering people for their autographs.) I won it last year in a giveaway on It’s a Vegan Dog’s Life, and Ben seemed amazed that his Maryland/DC-centric book had made it all the way to Wisconsin and back! I told him about IAVDL and Lucy the Vegan Beast, and he was very funny.

And that was that. I’m amazed by how, just a decade or so ago, it would have been laughable for a table of vegans to give a lecture at a public festival. But so many people showed up and were completely engaged! The vibe was overwhelmingly positive. The next time I feel grumpy because the hippie grocery is out of my preferred tofu or cruelty-free lotion, or someone asks me where I get my protein, I’ll remember that even though plenty of things still suck, we’re making progress.

Next time, I’ll tell you about my first experiments with Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar! (Spoiler: They were delicious.)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

What’s better than cake?

Free cake! That’s what Red and I had this weekend, courtesy of the lovely Tamara at Brunie’s Bakery. Tamara made our wedding cake and our wedding reception desserts (cake plus bite-sized goodies), and because she is wonderful, she offered us a complimentary mini anniversary cake. On Friday, I brought home the sweetest little Chocolate Peanut Butter Awesome cake.

Let me say that I have never had a bad dessert from Brunie’s. They’re all vegan, and they’re all delicious. That said, I think the Chocolate Peanut Butter Awesome may be my favorite. I really liked our wedding cake, too (Strawberries and Cream with chocolate ganache), so that’s saying something.

Gluttonous though we may be when cake is involved, Red and I decided to make Mr. Chocolate Peanut Butter Awesome last for more than one evening, so we divided him into six pieces—three for each of us. Also, I can’t believe I just anthropomorphized my anniversary cake. Lucky for me, my husband likes being married to a lunatic. Anyway, six pieces was definitely the right move, because the cake was so rich that four pieces would have been suicidal. The cake itself was light and the peanut butter filling was just salty enough. Tamara had told me that Chocolate Peanut Butter Awesome is a favorite of most of her clients, and now I see why. My own attempts at chocolate ganache and peanut-butter caramel have been fumbling in the extreme, so whatever she’s doing, it’s perfect. Amazingly, our willpower held out, and the cake lasted the entire weekend. It was a sweet anniversary gift indeed.

Thanks, Tamara!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Welcoming autumn.

This year’s autumn equinox fell on September 22, and I wanted to celebrate. I always intend to celebrate all the various seasonal festivals (equinoxes, solstices, you get the picture), but sometimes I forget. I’m a lazy blogger and a lazy vegan (and a super-lazy yogini), so it shouldn’t shock you to learn that I can be a lazy pagan as well!

Depending on your flavor of pagan, the autumn equinox may be known as Mabon (where my Wiccans at?) or “Witch’s Thanksgiving.” It’s a harvest festival, and while I would love to have a massive pagan harvest feast one year, this year wasn’t it. Since it fell on a Wednesday and we had to eat anyway, I decided the simplest way to celebrate would be with appropriately autumnal food. We had two acorn squashes from our CSA, so Red halved them and scooped out their guts (preparation for pumpkin carving!) and I roasted them. We ate them with Earth Balance and cinnamon, which I think is by far the best way to eat any winter squash. They were sweet and creamy and delicious.

Because no pagan festivities, no matter how low-key, are complete without some sort of libation, I mulled apple cider. This was more drama than it should have been, because we were about a month early for our hippie grocery to carry apple cider. In a fit of frustration, we bought local unfiltered apple juice and determined to make the best of it. (Once we got home, our best friend the Internet told us that unfiltered apple juice basically is apple cider, so my angst was for naught.) Our cider went into a pot with cinnamon sticks and a reusable muslin teabag (God, I’m such a damn hippie) filled with whatever spices Kristin Madden told me to use in her excellent book Mabon: Celebrating the Autumn Equinox. While the squash roasted, the cider simmered, and the kitchen started smelling homey and delicious.

Red and I ate our squash and sipped our cider while watching TV. Terribly reverent, I know. But before we did that, I whipped up a loaf of pumpkin bread (I veganize this recipe, and it hasn’t failed me yet, although I don’t know why it was necessary to name it Baked Pumpkin Bread; if you can tell me how to make bread without baking it, I’ll give you a dollar) and popped it in the oven for dessert. (We pagans like our dessert.) Clearly, I was determined to keep our house smelling like cinnamon and nutmeg all night. A storm was brewing, but we briefly went outside to have a few moments in nature (a.k.a. our deck), light a candle, and say what we were thankful for. After that, we escaped being struck by lightning and ducked back inside to our waiting pumpkin bread. It was a lovely celebration, very peaceful and comforting.

Whatever path you follow (or don’t), blessed be! Have you welcomed the harvest in your own life in any particular way?

Sunday, October 3, 2010

CSA Weeks 15 & 16: Potatoes and bok choy (but not together!).

First of all, dear readers, lest I forget to show you what we did with Week 14’s green peppers:

These are Creole Stuffed Peppers from Veganomicon. They were delicious over quinoa, but also by themselves. We used fresh CSA thyme and oregano (I think we got oregano in Week 14’s share, but I forgot to mention it). One thing I don’t understand is why it’s necessary to blanch the peppers before stuffing and baking them. I know I’ve stuffed raw peppers and just shoved them in the oven, and haven’t noticed any difference. Lazy, I know.

Okay, onto Week 15:

The first thing we made was Vcon’s Fresh Dill-Basmati Rice with Chard and Chickpeas. I know, I know—we make it at least once a month, but it’s one of the easiest, yummiest dishes I know. So we made it again. I didn’t bother with a picture, because you should already be making it yourself on a regular basis.

More peppers and our first bok choy? (This was a baby bok choy, to boot.) Time for a stir fry! I admit, I was a little weirded out by the bok choy because I don’t like cabbage, but it didn’t taste like much and cooked up very nicely. Well played, bok choy. You can come back for dinner whenever you want.

The lettuce went into a few hummus wraps. The rest went into the compost. I know, I suck, but lettuce is basically crunchy water anyway.

I like spaghetti squash, but wasn’t sure how to make it more interesting (normally I’d just bake it and eat it). It was Vcon to the rescue again: Spaghetti Squash Mexicana with Tropical Avocado Salsa Fresca! Obviously that is the least autumnal dish you could imagine, but it was super-tasty. Red made it while I was at yoga, and despite his hesitation over chopping a mango, it was a total success.

We got some thyme and cherry tomatoes, so let me jump ahead to Week 16, when we got Italian parsley as well. Sounds like the makings of some serious pasta, right? Only the best pasta ever: Orechiette with Cherry Tomatoes and Kalamata Tapenade from Vegan with a Vengeance!

Obviously, that’s not orechiette, but whatever. I don’t even know what orechiette looks like. This is some of the most delicious pasta I’ve ever had. Every time I make it, I have to restrain myself from snarfing all of it at once. As it was, I had two bowls that evening.

Here’s the rest of Week 16:

We still had Week 15’s potatoes left, so we got them together with Week 16’s and made Sage and Onion Roast Potatoes. Do click over to that recipe, because I’ve been making it since I first went vegan and it never fails. Stick ‘em under the broiler for a few minutes at the end to get them nice and crispy. They are excellent breakfast potatoes—Red will tell you that ketchup is a worthy complement.

I wanted something else to do with the red chard (the holy trinity of chard, chickpeas, and rice two weeks in a row is overkill even for me), so I made a Vegan Brunch frittata. I showed you my first frittata here, and this one was possibly even better. I’m telling you, Twin Oaks tofu makes all the difference. We ate most of this for breakfast, and I can’t fathom going back to cereal. Good thing we’ve still got some roasted potatoes left!

We got another bok choy, an adult one this time. Stir fry again, with tofu and frozen Asian veggies from Costco:

Eggplant and I are not the best of friends. I don’t blame the eggplant; I seem to be limited in the ways I can prepare it to my liking, and none of those ways appealed to me. It sat and sat in the Crisper drawer until I gave up and pawned it off on my eggplant-loving mother, who has big plans for stew or moussaka or something. Loves her eggplant, she does.

More lettuce. Don’t ask.

More thyme. It’s in the freezer.

Finally, the peppers. The first time I got a CSA share, a few years ago, Joan gave me a bunch of random hot peppers and told me to throw them into the food processor. I could then keep the resulting pepper puree in the freezer all winter, adding a scoop of peppers to whatever needed some heat. It worked beautifully, so I did the same with these. Any ideas what they are?

That’s it! Well, almost. Keen-eyed readers will notice that we got acorn squash both weeks, and I haven’t mentioned them yet. They’re getting their own post, so check back soon!