Tuesday, March 29, 2011

In which I pwn teh interwebz.

Okay, maybe I exaggerate slightly. But La Burnout and her man do get a little blogular love from Animal Rights & AntiOppression, which is one of my very favorite websites. The divine Deb, who hung out with us at Poplar Spring last weekend, was so intrigued about Open the Cages Alliance’s Vegan Pledge Program that she asked to interview me and Red for AR&AO! We couldn’t accept fast enough.

My half of the interview is here, and Red’s is here. I loved thinking about Deb’s questions and putting my experience with the VPP into words (and not only the mumbly, made-up words I use at home). While you’re over there, spend a little time browsing AR&AO’s other articles. A smarter, more compassionate group of writers I have never found, and their commitment to combating injustice in all its forms is a breath of fresh air in the progressive blogosphere. I’m thrilled to be in such august company. Thank you, Deb and AR&AO!

Monday, March 28, 2011

This ‘n that.

Apologies for the half-assed nature of this post, darlings. Since I’ve taken pictures of food we’ve made recently, I feel obligated to share them with you, my lack of photography skills be damned. Enjoy!

First off, three meals from Appetite for Reduction:

Smoky Tempeh & Greens Stew is a great example of a dish that I didn’t think would work, but it does. Splendidly. I was a little skeptical of the tomato base (wouldn’t it be like pasta sauce?) and lima beans (childhood dinnertime traumas), but when everything gets together, it’s party time. The greens are dealer’s choice, so we used kale. This is savory and satisfying, and prompted at least one, “Oooh, that smells amazing!” from a coworker. Cue impromptu tempeh lesson.

We don’t usually make multi-part meals, but this time we did, following Isa’s suggestions for complementary dishes. Here we have Broiled Blackened Tofu, Pineapple Collards, and Butternut Coconut Rice. The rice is creamy and satisfying enough to be a meal on its own, and the tofu is very tasty (I could have left it in the oven for another few minutes, but the broiler makes me paranoid). As for the collards—I love ‘em, and any dish that lets me eat pineapple out of the can while I cook is a winner. (P.S. You know I saved the leftover juice and drank it with some vodka later.)

“Are you sure you want that?” I asked Red when he chose Tempeh Helper for dinner. More accurately, I wasn’t sure I wanted it; nooch sauces tend to taste less like cheese and more like old socks, so I just avoid them. But we made it anyway, and lo and behold, it was yummy! So easy, too. I get what Isa was going for—that out-of-a-box weeknight goodness, with the powdered sauce packet that will still be good a hundred years from now and is probably flammable. Next time, we’ll add more peas. Or will that ruin the nostalgia factor?

From Vegan with a Vengeance:

Red wanted breakfast for dinner, so we made Fronch Toast and Tempeh Bacon. He has cemented his place in our household as tempeh bacon-slicer, because he gets the pieces perfectly thin and even in a way that I can never hope to. Knife skills, he haz them. And thin is definitely the way to go with tempeh bacon—the thinner the better, because then you get lovely little crispy strips of savory smokiness. Usually we make our Fronch Toast with sandwich bread, but this time we did it Isa’s way and used a baguette. Let me tell you: It’s tasty, but a pain in the ass to eat. Regular bread is easier to slice. If we never do the baguette thing again, I won’t miss it.

And finally, from 30-Minute Vegan:

This is the Monk Bowl, and it is super-delicious in that “I’m so healthy” way. Most of the 30-Minute Vegan recipes are like that, actually. I’ve never been good at baking tofu, but I tried it again this time, and it came out very well. It will never get as crispy as pan-fried tofu, but whatever, it’s less fat and much less work. To speed things up, we deployed some frozen edamame and a bigass bag of mixed Asian veggies from Costco. (I know, I know, Costco is evil and those vegetables sure as shit weren’t organic.) Topped with a splash of tamari, the Monk Bowl is good eating, even if it does have “I’m a damn hippie” written all over it.

Thanks for helping me clear out my camera! I’d promise you a more socially relevant post soon, but we all know it would just be pictures of Lucy and maybe some story about how I scandalized my husband by scooping mold out of the applesauce jar because the rest of it was still totally edible.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Vegans invade Poplar Spring!

As I’ve told you before, Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary may be my favorite place in the world. I’m so blessed to live within driving distance of such a peaceful, nurturing spot. This weekend, Red and I had the chance to visit again, as part of the first-ever Baltimore Vegan Pledge Program, organized by Open the Cages Alliance. The program, which pairs newbie vegans with mentors for a month of potlucks, social events, and discussions, is the first of its kind here, and Red and I were happy to take part. Once we learned that a Poplar Spring trip was in the offing, though, that really sealed the deal. I had planned to write about the program once it ended (this weekend is the wrap party), but I have so many animal pictures to show you!

Charlotte (top) and Lily (bottom) are Holsteins. Charlotte is Lily’s surrogate mom.

Heidi saved herself from death by twice refusing to get on the slaughter truck, then jumping through a barn window. When the Poplar Spring truck arrived to take her to her new home, she happily climbed on board.

Here’s Dexter, who took a bite out of me back in November. Isn’t he handsome? I think that’s Hal munching contentedly, though it could be newbie mule Sal.

Julio is one of the newest piglets. He’s grown so much since I saw him and his sisters in November! All three are crazy smart—watch Deb’s video of them learning to sit! Not sure who’s chillaxing back there—Timmy?

Tiny Alina is a Seabright hen, and she’s fully grown. It was very nice of her to let me cuddle her.

Lenny and his brother were rescued as newborns from a small family farm. They had been left to die because male goats are useless for cheese-making, which is how this farm made their money. I hereby call bullshit on that “We’re a happy family farm, we care only about our animals” myth.

Malcolm mugs for the camera.

I totally got to first base with a baby goat. Yeah, I said it.

More pics are here. I think I’m breaking up with Flickr because I don’t feel like paying for a pro subscription. Google practically owns my ass anyway, so I might as well go with Picasa and enjoy the extra storage space.

It was wonderful to meet Poplar Spring’s founders, Terry and Dave, and learn about how they started the sanctuary. They are truly amazing people. Even better, we got to hang out with Deb. Go read her recap from the afternoon!

I’m so thankful every time I get to visit the sanctuary and see animals the way they’re meant to be—happy and free. This time, I got to bring a tiny bit of Poplar Spring home with me in the form of a wall calendar with photos by Deb. It’s hanging next to my desk at work, so whenever I start feeling bitchy or glum, I can glance over and remember what really matters, and that everyone deserves sanctuary.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Cookies for breakfast? Yes, please!

Remember when I told you about my love for Fruity Oaty Bars? I still love them (and so does my mom! Go Mom!), but have recently explored some of Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar’s other breakfasty options. Check it out:

Cranberries and walnuts are pretty much the best ever.

These are Banana Oatmeal Breakfast Cookies, and, well, there you go. No explanation necessary. But if you’re not into bananas, fear not. These are not banana-licious at all. All the banana really does is bind the cookies nicely, and offer some of that delicious potassium. These are wonderful for breakfast: hearty and chewy and lightly sweetened. I ran the recipe through a nutritional-info calculator (there are plenty online; I used SparkPeople’s, which worked well except for not having agave nectar in the database), deciding on two cookies as a good breakfast serving, and was pleased with the results.

Next, I tried Apple Walnut Softies. You’ll probably make them more efficiently than I did, because I had the heat too low and my applesauce took twice as long to cook down as it should have. Oh well, next time I’ll know to crank that sucker up and dodge molten droplets of spitting, steaming applesauce. Anyway, once the applesauce was reduced and cooled, the cookies came together in a snap. The apple flavor is not very strong—again, it works more as a binder and liquid than anything else. They tasted almost like light molasses cookies, and you know how I love a molasses cookie. While delicious, these proved to not be the best choice for breakfast. Two cookies didn’t keep me full, and munching cookies all morning didn’t seem wise. Had they included something bulkier, like oatmeal, I think they would have been more satisfying. Still, I’ve been happily snacking on them just the same. If you want to bake something sweet for a loved one who’s trying to do the healthy-living thing, these would be received with delight.

Back to the banana cookies it was, but I was feeling lazy—yes, too lazy even for drop cookies, which is saying something. So, I mixed up the dough and spread it (smooshed it, really) in a pan, reasoning that even if it was a colossal failure, what the hell, I’d eat them anyway. Since I was feeling experimental, I only used one-third of the white flour called for, and made up the other two-thirds with spelt flour. As you can see, it was not a colossal failure, and these cookies work brilliantly as bars! I cut out 12 bars (each bar = 2 drop cookies) and have been trying to eat them before Red can spirit them away to his office. Laziness, thy name is breakfast bars.

When I bought VCIYCJ from the anarchists, I had no idea it would be worth its weight in gold. Delicious, cookie-flavored gold. For breakfast, and any other time of day.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Work people will eat anything.

That, dear readers, is a fact of life I have seen borne out time and again. Indian takeout that spent a tepid evening being warmed over Sterno? Sad-assed fruit salad left to disintegrate in its own juices? Birthday cake the texture of Styrofoam, the frosting falling off like chunks of drywall? I’ve seen the stampede occasioned by the office-wide email heralding free food. You have too.

Yet, despite the fact that my job is not the paradise I was promised all those years ago when I was struggling with long division, I do like my colleagues. And so when the sign-up sheet to bring snacks to our weekly Friday meeting came around, I picked a date and started planning. The fact that I can only rarely eat what they bring (thank you for the bunch of grapes, lady from two weeks ago!) doesn’t mean I shouldn’t knock their socks off when it’s my turn.

And so I planned. Oh, how I planned. Red can tell you how I nagged him about which recipes to pick. “Well, scones would be good, but I’ve never made scones before, and what if they don’t come out? Do I need those paper things for the muffins? If I do the blueberry coffee cake, can I have fruit in something else, or is that too much fruit? Should I make something with chocolate? What if I don’t make enough for everyone? What if they hate it?”

“They won’t hate it,” he assured me.

As you’ve probably guessed by now, they did not hate it. Angels sang, rainbows sprouted over the conference room door, and everyone got a happy sugar high first thing in the morning. Here’s how I did it:

That is Veganomicon’s Coconut-Lemon Bundt Cake. This is probably the easiest cake you will ever make, and it is certainly one of the tastiest. Slicing it was a bit of a pain, but Red saved the day with his skillful deployment of our bread knife. It’s very moist and a bit crumbly, but that’s part of the fun. I ran out of unsweetened coconut and had to make up the difference with sweetened, but we all know that feeding skeptical omnis requires extra fat and sugar. The full-fat coconut milk surely did the trick, as well. I am not ashamed to tell you that I tried to lick the inside of the empty can.

Here we have Blueberry Coffee Cake from Almost Vegan. I’ve been making this for years, and it’s always fantastic. I’ve actually begun halving the recipe, because it really does make a lot, but I put extra blueberries in. So, half the cake, all the berries! Win-win. The streusel-y topping is perfectly sweet and crunchy.

Finally, I made the Cranberry Orange Nut Muffins from Vegan Brunch. I was very nervous, because I can’t remember the last time I baked muffins and I was afraid they’d explode in the oven or something. I did have a brief “oh shit” moment when I realized that I’d used dried cranberries instead of fresh and worried that I’d ruined the muffins completely, but they were more resilient than my reading-comprehension fail. They were fabulous, and while I wish I’d gotten to nibble more than one, I’m sure I’ll make them again soon. I learned two things from baking these: 1) the batter smells exactly like amaretto and orange juice, which is one of my favorite drinks, and 2) your muffins get fluffier the longer you let the batter sit. It’s because the gluten relaxes, yo. Next time I’ll take a 15-minute break between mixing and baking, but for my first vegan muffins, I was impressed with myself.

After all that work and a few other close calls (emergency baking-powder run, scraping the bottom of the sugar jar), I was more than gratified by how much my coworkers enjoyed everything. I didn’t explicitly mention the vegan part, but the few who already knew were excited and curious, and the ones who didn’t seemed happy to be eating something other than, you know, doughnuts again. Even the guy who cracks on me about my “bird food” copped to being pleasantly surprised. Oh yes, he took seconds back to his office.

As of today, three coworkers have asked for the recipes. Vegan domination continues!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Finally, brownies.

Remember when I told you how I got drunk and tried to bake brownies, only I didn’t have any of the ingredients, so I made those shitty peanut butter cookies instead? Yeah? Well, I finally got my chocolate-craving ass to the store for brownie fixings. Let me tell you, it was worth the wait.

Eat me!

The recipe makes 12 brownies; I took this after giving four to Red’s folks.

These are Chocolate Chip Deluxe Brownies from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar. The photos may not look like much, but that’s because their sheer mega-awesomeness defies any feeble attempt to capture it for posterity. Indeed, I soon regretted giving any to my in-laws and began scheming for ways to steal them back.

Darlings, I have not baked brownies for years, and even then, they were the boxed kind. These brownies are…I don’t have the word. Delicious? Amazing? Orgasmic? Yes, yes, and yes, but I’ve applied all those to foods before. These are something else. They are scrumtrulescent. (My heart breaks that I can’t embed that, but I beg of you, click through. A baby panda will cry if you don’t.)

Even my husband, who likes chocolate but does not share my slavish devotion to gooey, rich, dark confections, adored these. My chocoholic dad-in-law raved about them. Here’s one à la mode with Soy Delicious Dulce de Leche ice cream:


These brownies are so easy to whip up that it’s only by dint of sheer willpower that I haven’t made them every weekend since. Though they are small, resist the temptation to eat more than one at a sitting. These are meant to be savored, one soft and warm bite at a time, and melted chocolate licked off fingertips (by whoever you choose, as long as it’s not your dog. Chocolate’s bad for them, you know).

Okay, that took a turn for the smutty, didn’t it? Whatever, chocolate does that to me. There, my secret shame is revealed. Brownie porn for everyone!