HAPPY HOLIDAYS from Fat Albert

...And a happy new year!

A Very V'Con Holiday, part 2

Ah, the second night of Christmas treats was as good as the first. I followed the Veganomicon recipe for Almost All-American Seitan Potpie, except for a few variations. I added leeks, because I pretty much add them to everything. (And it usually turns out well!) Also, I was at lack for seitan so I used baked tofu. Still wonderful.

I made them in these tiny caphalon pots that my parents had on hand, and me and my little brother munched away while my parents dined on steak topped with crab in cheese sauce or some nonsense.

*Phew!* After all this rich holiday food I'm ready for super-crunchy scary health food- like steamed tofu, kashi and kale. But on the other hand, I'm stocked with all these brand new fancy cookbooks, so I'm being pulled in two directions... we'll see what I come up with.

Also... anyone else see this? Yay Natalie Portman!


A Very Veganomicon Holiday, part 1

As bloody usual, I spent the whole of Xmas eve rushing around trying to buy last-minute gifts for everyone. Although the store situations weren't quite as dire as usual (boding poorly for the economy perhaps?) it was unpleasant circling the Best Buy parking lot for 45 minutes in my 1990 Volvo with my younger brother urging me to "be more aggressive". Whatever.

In the back of my mind, amidst all the people I forgot to get gifts for (my college roommate! my boyfriend's Dad's girlfriend! the postman!) was also the distinct possibility that if I didn't book it to Trader Joes, I was going to end up eating the following for dinner: sweet potatoes, french bread slathered with BBQ sauce. (If it hasn't been totally obvious, I've spending a lot of time with my family lately- none of whom are particularly fond of non-meat-centered dishes.) So, as we car-stalked old ladies potentially heading to their parking spaces, I had my little bro flip through Veganomicon to try to find some stuff for dinner tonight and tomorrow.

Typically I would try and use a combination of dishes, or veganize something I've been craving, but honestly, that book is so rock solid that I just knew anything he picked out would be a crowd pleaser. (Yes, its that good.) Soooo... not wanting to be all trad and pick out anything remotely Christmassy, he instead picked out the Pineapple cashew quinoa stir-fry and their take on a pot pie. "Good, grand, wonderful!" I cried, and quickly scoured TJ's for the necessary ingredients.

Now, its past midnight, I'm tucked into bed in brand-new pajamas (thanks, Mom!) and I can say, looking back, that despite lacking certain ingredients (cough, cough, mirin?), the quinoa was a complete success. Succulent pineapple, crunchy golden cashews, and tons of spices in each bite. Relying on Veganomicon was a phenomenal idea for Xmas eve. Tomorrow, I start on the Pot Pie. Maybe this should just be a new holiday strategy for me?

*The sweet potatoes were quite excellent, btw. Its another of my Dad's recipe which I will get into later. (He stole it from the White House kitchen!)

Basti's Gluhwein

My former roomate Sebastian came over for a holiday feast tonight, and brought as a great contribution the ingredients to what Germans call "Gluhwein" and English speakers probably call "mulled wine." There are as many recipes as there are types of wine, but I thought his was spiced just right, not too sweet, and made the whole
house smell like the holidays.

2 teabags of your choice (black, cinnamon, holiday blend, ect.)
2 bottles decent red wine
whole cinnamon sticks
whole cloves
1 orange, sliced (or berries)
dark rum

1. The basic set-up is this. Bring about 1 1/2 c. water to a boil, then reduce the heat and add the tea bags. After a few minutes, add the first bottle of wine. (This recipe is easily increased.) For each bottle of wine, add 1 T. sugar, 4-5 cloves, 2 cinnamon sticks, 1 tsp. allspice, a sprinkle of nutmeg, and slices of orange to your taste. As you increase the wine content, increase the other ingredients accordingly. Heat on low for 10- 15 minutes, but it can also sit for much longer.
2. When you are about to serve, add in 1 shot of dark rum per bottle of wine. Strain or carefully ladle into mugs or other glasses that are appropriate for hot beverages. Ahhhh.

Sure beats apple cider!


Penang Tofu

My Dad has been on a Thai food kick for the last, say, 15 years, but its rare that we attempt to recreate any of our favorites at home. We have such phenomenal restaurants nearby that we usually take out.

In NOVA, the golden standard is Duangrats, a classic Thai restaurant that's on the fancy side. You can't go wrong with the Sweet and Sour Tofu, the plaintain tempura, Pad See Ew... oh honestly, you can't go wrong. Everything here is fresh and perfectly seasoned- and their peanut sauce is the best I've ever had. On the other hand, there are plenty of meat dishes for family and friends to obsess over, so this can be a convenient special occassion place.

Right around the corner of the same shopping complex is Rabieng, a smaller restaurant owned by the same folks. The food is just as good but there is more of a street food focus, and the prices are slightly better. I always tend to get the ginger tofu, with plenty of fresh ginger and wood eared mushrooms, but all the other standards are equally great.

In Silver Spring (one of my other haunts) Thai at Silver Spring, right on the Hellsworth ave strip is actually pretty decent (and delivers!)I rarely stray from the Penang tofu (because its so freaking awesome) but I'm sure there are plenty of other great things too.

Which brings me back to my Dad. He discovered a small Asian foods market right next to Rabieng that has a lot of the ingredients necessary for their dishes. On top of everything else, they sell tofu wholesale for $.33 a pound. They also have a small can of penang curry paste with which he makes this simple and delicious dish. Its so good that is has actually held us back from Duangrats a few times.

Penang Tofu
1 package tofu
1 can penang curry paste
1 can coconut milk (1 1/4 c.)
1 tsp oil

1. Do your usual routine to rid tofu of excess water. (Freeze and defrost, weight it on a colander, ect.) Cut the tofu into thin squares, and in the meantime heat a wok or saucepan full of vegetable oil to high. Deep fry the tofu by placing pieces in the oil, and plucking them out when they are golden brown and floating. Keep the finished pieces on a plate with paper towels.
2. In a large pan, combine the paste, coconut milk and oil. Heat to medium and add the tofu. Serve over rice.


If you can't beat 'em... (NYC restaurants)

It would be too much to hope that my family would happily accompany me to a vegan restaurant, even in a town as packed full of them as New York City. But, every so often we come across a place that has as many delicious vegan options as meaty ones- so that I don't end up munching on french fries. Little Havana is just such a place.

It's a cute little restaurant in the Village that is so small, the bathroom is literally in the kitchen. But its authentic, the service is great and the small menu packs a punch with plenty of diverse and flavorful dishes. I got the fantastic lentil, kale, and butternut squash soup. Spiked with spicy ginger and big chunks of butternut squash, I'm dying to make this at home. (And so I shall... soon.) I also got sweet plantains (known as Maduros) and a salad with avocado and a house-made vinagrette. I also helped myself to some of my Mom's beans and rice. Having been to Cuba, its safe to say that Little Havana beats the Big Havana (with its state-run restaurants) in everything except location.

The fam also headed to little Italy to take in some fine cuisine at Angelo, a real institution (and Little Italy's oldest restaurant!). Its definitely the place to go if you've watched too many mafia movies. My brothers were convinced that the blinged-out old men at the table nearby were mob bosses. (I'm not so sure...) My parents munched on calamari and lobster ravioli, and I had homemade pasta with mushrooms, garlic, and tomatoes (no butter please). It was simple and fabulous- and so wonderfully garlicky. (And you know how I love that stuff.)

So while I wish I could have visited all the vegan hotspots, its nice to know that if you keep your eyes peeled you can find places that make everyone happy.


Creamy Mushroom and Leek Risotto

Its the end of the semester at law school. The time when I retreat to my parents house to hibernate and study for five days with my best friend. The situation is perfect because its nothing like our house: the pantry is always stocked, there's always a full supply of booze and coca-cola, and our laundry magically gets done. Since its the first night here, I decided to thank my parents for their hospitality by cooking up something delish. With stress levels being what they are, finals food needs to fulfill two requirements:
1. Must be creamy and comforting, and
2. Must produce leftovers.
(Note how I am unconsciously writing everything in outline form. Ugh.)

So what could be more perfect than warm, rich mushroom and leek risotto? (Never had it with leeks before, but suspected it would make it even creamier, which was right.) I served this with a side of green beans (leftover from the Spicy Peanut Stew) sauteed in garlic and a splash of good balsamic vinegar. It was so good, I nearly forgot that I will be taking a 4 hour evidence exam in less than 3 days...

Creamy Mushroom and Leek Risotto
2 knobs Earth Balance, or other vegan margerine
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 medium onion, diced
1 large leek (only the white and light green parts) rinsed, sliced and halved
1 c. white wine
4 c. vegetable broth
1 and 1/2 c. Arborio rice
2 c. mushrooms, (I used shitake, baby bellas and caps), clean and sliced thin
1 and 1/2 T. thyme
salt & pepper

1. In a large pot, melt 1 knob of earth balance along with 2 T EVOO at medium low. Add in the garlic and allow to cook until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add in the leek and onion, stirring to coat. Cook until soft, about 5 more minutes. Then, season well with salt and pepper.
2. Meanwhile, put the broth in a small saucepan and place over medium low or low heat.
3. Add the rice to the large pot and stir to coat for a minute or so. Then, add in the wine and raise the heat to medium. Stir until rice has absorbed the wine.
4. Now comes the portion of risotto-making called "ladle and stir." As in, ladle some of the warmed broth into the rice, and stir with a wooden spoon until it has been absorbed. This is going to continue until the rice has lost all of its crunch.
5. While all the ladling and stirring is going on, heat 1 T EVOO and 1 knob earth balance in a saute pan over medium low heat. When nearly melted, add in your shrooms and toss to coat. After a few minutes, add in a splash of wine and the thyme. Cook until softened.
6. As you continue to add broth to your risotto, taste it occasionally for seasoning and crunch. If you run out of broth, its fine to ladle in some warm water. When the risotto is done, the rice should be cooked through and not too chewy, and it should be surrounded by a thick sauce. When it hits this point, lower the heat.
7. Add in the shrooms and stir to mix. Turn off the heat and cover until ready to serve, stirring again before doing so.

Now that is some satisfying finals food. Serve with crusty bread and bracing veggies or salad.


Spicy Peanut Stew

If you hang out on Epicurious at all, you will start to notice that every recipe has about 24 comments. I always read these, not just because they tell you if the recipe is any good, but also because they are hilarious. The two most common types are over-shares ("I tried making this for my little darlings, Albert and Geoffrey, but they simply won't touch lettuce because it reminds them of Oscar the Grouch...") and chronic alterers ("This dish is great with a few changes- eggplant instead of chicken, and pesto instead of garlic-lemon sauce".) I guess I'm sort of a little of each. I can't follow a recipe all the way through, whether because of a stupid problem or an overactive imagination.

You see, I had every intention of making this recipe from the May issue of Vegetarian Times. But problem after problem prevented me from following the recipe, to the extent that I made a whole new- but excellent- variation. The recipe calls for celery, cauliflower, butternut squash and sweet potato. I used chickpeas, green beans, butternut squash and kale. I also used extra ginger and garlic. :)

I eyeballed the recipe, headed to the store, and promptly forgot the celery and sweet potato (although, to be fair, I usually have those on hand.) I did remember the butternut squash and cauliflower. But when I got to cutting up the cauliflower, I noticed these tiny little bugs all over it. Not wanting to toss the thing, I did a little googling and found out that soaking it in salted ice water for 10 minutes will usually do the trick. Um, not so much. So it had to go. :( Luckily, I had some kale and green beans handy. Add a can of chickpeas for the sweet potato, and I was back in business. So I will reprint the recipe here with my little variations. I highly suspect that with the spicy, garlicky, gingery, peanut sauce, any combo of veggies would work.

Spicy Peanut Stew, a la T
2 tbs EVOO
1 diced, medium sized onion
1 1/2 T grated fresh ginger
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 can chickpeas, drained
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes with chiles
1 lb/ 3 c. butternut squash, cut into smallish cubes
1 handful green beans (about 1/2 c.)
1 bunch kale, washed and chopped
1/4 c. peanut butter
3 c. cooked brown rice

1. Heat EVOO over medium well and throw in the onions, cooking until they are translucent. After that, throw in the garlic and ginger. Cook a few minutes longer, then stir in the tomatoes and chickpeas and raise the heat to medium.
2. After sauce has thickened, add 2 c. of water and season well with salt and pepper. Cover partially and simmer for 10 minutes, then add in the squash. Cook for five more minutes, then add in the green beans and kale. Cook the whole thing partially covered for about 10 more minutes.
3. Whisk 1/2 c. warm water in with the peanut butter. Add that into the stew, stirring well. Reduce the heat and let it thicken a few more minutes before serving over the brown rice.


Do the Zombie

My younger brother is not really a drinker, at all. In fact, its pretty rare to see him drink anything outside of orange soda (blech). So you can imagine my family's curiosity and amusement when, on Christmas Eve last year, he ordered a "Zombie" at our local Chinese restaurant. We were even more amused when they brought out the drink: a glass the size of my head filled with bright turquoise liquid, and adorned with a whole fruitbowl full of tropical fruits (and of course, topped with several dainty umbrellas.) This was my brother who can't even finish a Miller Light.

But, he had just broken up with his girlfriend, so he was able to slurp that sucker right down and actually be in a slightly festive mood for the first time all holiday season. (I don't usually advocate drinking your problems away, but it sure worked this time.) I had a taste too, and was put off on the cloyingly-sweet beverage forever. That is, until I read this Ny Times article about a man seeking to resurrect the Zombie and other tiki bar drinks that have been wrecked by clueless bartenders over the years.

“When people think of tropical drinks, they think of the syrupy slush that gets served on a cruise,” Mr. Berry said, his voice rising in pitch. “But when you get a properly structured tropical drink, it’s unbelievable.”

Alright, sold! I am psyched to try out his recipe. I know it doesn't really seem like a holiday drink off the bat, but with the cinnamon, citrus, and rum, it actually seems more suited to this time of year then to the summer. And I'm pretty sure it won't be electric blue...

Beachbum Berry's Zombie(From the Times.)
3/4 ounce lime juice
1 ounce white grapefruit juice
1/2 ounce cinnamon-infused sugar syrup (*available at Whole Foods and elsewhere)
1/2 ounce Bacardi 151 rum
1 ounce dark Jamaican rum
Sliced fruit and mint for garnish.

Shake all ingredients well with ice cubes. Strain into a highball glass filled with ice. Garnish with fruit and a mint sprig.
Yield: One drink.

And speaking of theme restarants, I had a great dinner at the Argonaut the other night. This bar is one of the many new hipster dives cropping up on H street (like Red and the Black, Rock and Roll Hotel, Palace of Wonders, ect.) and it features a really subtle pirate theme which you have to see to understand. (I mean, how do you make something "pirate themed" without looking like a Disney ride?) Anyways, I was pleasantly surprised to see that they have upped the vegan content on their mostly omni-menu. I got cauliflower-apple soup, black bean, potato and zucchini pancakes, and their excellent sweet potato fries.

And if you're thirsty, the "Dark and Stormy", with ginger beer and house-infused rum, is a force to be reckoned with.


8 Days of Hannukah...

And 8 new (or newish) vegan cookbooks! Coincidence? Or has there just been a Renaissance in the world vegan cooking of late? I think the latter.

You can buy alot of them here or amazon (obvs) and see many of them reviewed here.
*Also, that Vegan Lunch Box cookbook is insanely popular and awaiting its second printing. But if you can't wait, amazon still has a few.

Garlic is magic!

One of the top things that I am really pedantic about (aside from, you know, feminism, immigrant rights, veganism, ect) is GARLIC. Whenever anyone around me starts sniffling, you can count on me to be obnoxiously yelling "Go eat some raw GARLIC! Put it on a veggie burger! Sprinkle it on pasta! I swear to G-d, it works!"

And as annoying as it is to yell at sick people all time (my bad) I'm actually right here. The Times Health Blog ("Well") has a quickie today on how scientists have been finding all sorts of health benefits hidden inside the gorgeous little cloves.
In the latest study, performed at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, researchers extracted juice from supermarket garlic and added small amounts to human red blood cells. The cells immediately began emitting hydrogen sulfide, the scientists found.

The power to boost hydrogen sulfide production may help explain why a garlic-rich diet appears to protect against various cancers, including breast, prostate and colon cancer, say the study authors. Higher hydrogen sulfide might also protect the heart, according to other experts. Although garlic has not consistently been shown to lower cholesterol levels, researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine earlier this year found that injecting hydrogen sulfide into mice almost completely prevented the damage to heart muscle caused by a heart attack.

Ok, so I guess none of that proves that it cures the common cold... but I bet you that if you up your garlic intake you will find that you get sick less often, as a nice side effect to avoiding various cancers. Also, wear a scarf to bed when your throat starts hurting. My roomate swears by it.

Unlocking the Benefits of Garlic


Sticky Fingers Bakery

I went to this fabulous vegan bakery/ coffee shop this weekend and was thrilled beyond expectations. Here are some of the features:
-pink and brown walls
-cinnamon buns
-cakes and cupcakes (tried the carrot cake and chocolate cupcakes- both were scrumptious and completely kick cakelove's ass)
-DIY hot dogs with cheeze and chili!
-really cute employees
-good coffee and soy creamer sitting out to put in it

I think I will be living there during final exams. Yay for Columbia Heights!


My Veg Thanksgiving

So after much agonizing about what to make for Thanksgiving, everything ended up coming together easily.

I started off with some Spinach Dip to munch on while cooking and to ply the guests with while they waited for the ornery turkey to be done. I just mixed a garden variety onion dip mix with a container of Tofutti sour cream and a package of frozen spinach, thawed and patted dry. It was perfect with whole wheat crackers.

For my main course, I tryed the NY Times recipe for Roasted Squash w/ Sage Cornbread Stuffing and Vegetable Ragout. I used seitan rather than tempeh, because seitan is more turkey-esque to me. The cornbread stuffing, studded with sage and roasted chesnuts, was very sweet and crunchy, while the stew-like ragout on top was filled with savory leeks, parsnips, carrots, seitan and shrooms. Next time I would have added a little soy sauce or tamari to add a bit more salt to the ragout. It was pretty much perfect though, and definitely centerpiece-worthy.

On the side, I had all the delicious dishes that my parents had thoughtfully prepapred with earth balance and soymilk. (After I bugged them about it all day, that is. And swore not to tell my brothers.) We had green bean casserole, Mashed potatoes, and my Aunt Mary's sweet potatoes (recipe here.) In addition, I made the cranberry sauce recipe from Veganomicon which was magic, like everything else in that cookbook. I also made the Mushroom gravy from Dreena Burton's awesome cookbook The Everyday Vegan, which has always come out perfectly the last 20 times I've made it. (Love her, btw.)

All in all, my fabulous meal definitely disproved the notion that vegans have to feel sad and neglected on holidays. And I didn't have anyone trying to ply me with turkey this year, either--- my plate was too full as it was.

After dinner, everyone sat around the outdoor firepit my Dad built last year. My little brother passed around his guitar and we all sang Bob Dylan songs and drank bourbon. Considering the hell on wheels most Thanksgivings are, I can't imagine a better dinner or night!


Mystic Vegan Pizza and Caesar Salad

Its not always easy being in an inter-diet partnership. My boyfriend eats almost exclusively meat, and is loathe to try new foods that don't have bacon in them. He's always polite, mind you, but if I offer him, say, an eggplant casserole, he turns white and just says, "oh, no thanks baby, it looks great though." So I usually end up polishing off most of my delicacies myself, or with the help of my veggie garbage disposal roommate. :) But on the rare occasion that I do want to accommodate him, I make sure to make the least scary, most friendly-looking thing I can think of, and then add in a secret ingredient or two.

So last night I made him Caesar salad with homemade croutons and from-scratch pizzas with his choice of topping. I topped mine with marinated tempeh while he topped his with pepperoni, but just the fact that he happily gobbled down the Caesar made me happy. (I used the Veganomicon recipe to give it a shot, and I have to say it is the closest I have ever tasted to real, anchovy-based Caesar. Except way, way better, of course.)

You all know how to make home-made croutons, right? They have saved many a salad of mine. Just heat up a few tablespoons of olive oil and throw in some garlic and whatever spices you have handy. (Basil, thyme, oregano, savory, parsley and sage are all good bets.) When the oil is hot and the spices are fragrant, turn off the heat and toss in some cubed, stale bread. (White bread works best, but whatever floats your boat.) Once they have been adequately coated with the oil, spread 'em out on a cookie sheet, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook to desired crunch on 425 degrees. So easy.

Homemade pizza takes a bit more effort, but its worth it. And working with dough is soothing, anyhow. (For me, anyway.)Here's the Joy of Cooking recipe for the dough, and while thats rising you can work on this easy chunky tomato sauce and marinate some tempeh.

Easy Roasted Tomato Sauce
1 28 oz can Fire Roasted Crushed Tomatoes
3-4 cloves garlic, peeled and diced
1 tbsp EVOO
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp basil
1/2 tbsp brown sugar
salt and pepper to taste

So simple. Just cook the garlic in the oil on medium low heat until its fragrant. Then add in the canned tomatoes, and the rest of the ingredients. Raise the heat to medium, cover, and cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring occassionally. Definitely adjust the spices if needed, I am a basil FIEND.

For the Marinated Tempeh, I simply sliced up a plain package of tempeh and tossed it in an air-tight container with some soy sauce, EVOO, fennel seeds, garlic salt, and a few drops of hot sauce and liquid smoke. After a half-hour or so I sauteed the slices until just brown and set them aside to top the pizza with, along with some sliced mushrooms and onions.

The trick with vegan pizza is if the toppings are good enough the cheese is utterly unnecessary. If one were so inclined they could always find some soy cheese, but I don't much care for it on pizza. With a fire-roasted sauce and marinated tempeh, what's the point? My boyfriend even agreed when he had a few bites.

See? He is so turning. Slow and steady wins the race, kids.


Hain-Celestial makes HRC's List Again

Just wanted to mention that this is the second year in a row that the Hain Celestial Group is on the Human Rights Campaign's list of companies that do NOT support gay rights. In fact, they scored lower than Wal-Mart. (And that's saying something.)

I would almost guarantee that you have something in your cabinet from this company right now. According to their website, they are "a leading natural and organic food and personal care products company in North America and Europe." They make products like Arrowhead Mills (many different flours and gluten-free baking products), Celestial Seasonings (tea) and Soy Dream ice cream. Oh yeah, and tons of different soy and rice milk products.

Its sad since they have so many great cooking basics and frozen veggie entrees, but I will try to avoid their products as long as they stay on this list. How can you bill yourself to vegans and environmentalists and then not support gay rights? How can you care about animals and the planet but not people? I hope they make some major changes this year. Its a shame that I have to miss out on their brownie soy ice cream.

Hain Celestial
HRC's 2008 Buying for Equality Guide


Food filled weekend

This weekend I had the pleasure of helping my friend Nick prepare a six course meal for 12 people. He's not a chef, but he enjoys cooking so much that he often ends up throwing these big fetes and cooking ridiculously huge pots of jambalaya or beef stew or the like. Such was the case this weekend- he signed himself up to cook a full Thanksgiving dinner for a group of friends. He's insane.

Anyways, the meal was by no means vegan, but as usual I like to pick up tricks that can be adapted and just see what he comes up with. I always get some great new ideas. The first course was these little roasted beet napoleans. They were super easy and I can think of a few ways to make them vegan. Essentially, you are just roasting beats for about 30 minutes at 375 degrees, then taking them out, carefully slicing them, and sticking them in a bowl of red wine vinegar. Then you stack them with sliced rounds of goat cheese. The vegan way? Maybe thin slices of tofutti cream cheese that have been mixed with the green onions? I will have to give it a try- look how dear they turned out. (Oh yes, and use a well cookie cutter to get them perfectly rounded like that.)

Next up was delicious butternut squash soup, the recipe for which is available in every cookbook on the planet. Then, in place of traditional sweet potatoes, we made sweet potato gnocchi with a sage butter cream sauce. They were so awesome. The recipe was essentially the epicurious one except we didn't use the cheese. The process is simpler then you might think. You are essentially roasting and peeling the sweet potatoes, then mashing them up and using them as a base for dough. So you add in some salt, pepper and egg replacer, along with a bunch of flour, then roll it out thin, cut it up into little squares, then roll them off the bottom of a fork. Lastly, you cook them like pasta with the sauce of your heart's desire. They were fabulous.

The rest of the meal was rather meat and dairy filled, but we finished up with these delish pecan shortbread cookies, which are just a hop, a skip, and a tub of earth balance away from being vegan. They were topped with some spiced pumpkin pie filling and a dollop of whip cream- a sort of deconstructed pumpkin pie. I'm telling you, Nick is just full of ideas.

*UPDATE* Urban Vegan has a step-by-step guide to sweet potato gnocchi with a yummy-looking cream sauce. Give it a shot here.

Sexual politics of...wtf?

Wow, our culture is so confused about its symbols. Here we have a standard handbag being carried by a stylish young woman on the way out the door. But whats that on her bag? Why.... its a uterus!

Hmmm... thats.... interesting.

And even better: its sewn out of leather! So. This kicky girl is wearing around a bag that features a picture of one of her most embattled internal organs--- stiched out of dead skin from a cow. In other words, an animal had to die so she could make a heavily confused statement whilst toting around her lipstick and wallet. (Is that image supposed to be empowering? Perhaps, educational?)

The whole thing just reeks of dismemberment and absent referents. I mean, we are referring to a woman's insides by way of a cow's insides... and ignoring the living beings behind both.

In case you're itching for one, they're available here. And don't worry, they've also got heart, lungs and kidney. :)


Oooh, and did I mention...

That I made those potato kale enchiladas from Veganomicon?

They were so amazing, my vegetable-hating roommate had three.

Quite a bit of effort, but so, so worth it. I ate them all weekend with dollops of Tofutti Sour Cream. Go make them now.

Potato Kale Enchiladas
*One note: they are so frigging spicy, even with only 2 Anaheim peppers, so I would check yourself before roasting three.


More Thanksgiving tips

The Internet is abuzz with tips on how to make thanksgiving more veggie-friendly! Who needs all that tryptophan anyways?

Epicurious has a great article on vegetarian mains from cookbook author Crescent Dragonwagon. (Thats her name. I shit you not.) Here's what Ms. Dragonwagon has to say:
"You need something visually big and bold enough to stand alongside—or in place of—the bird," she says. "I like to make a stuffed pumpkin. You can put it on a platter and let it be the visual star. It's as captivating and once-a-year-ish as the turkey." And though this dish might not go pound-for-pound against turkey for heartiness, it does take the place of another Thanksgiving favorite: the stuffing, which is probably soaked with turkey stock and off-limits for vegetarians. Moistened with vegetable stock, the pumpkin's apricot- and prune-accented filling is ready for everyone at the table to enjoy. And the pumpkin flesh itself, rubbed with salt, pepper, and brown sugar, is delicious.

Vegetarian Thanksgiving

The NY Times has a zillion recipes in their food section, and also quite a few veggie resouces. Here's Denise Landis on veggie thanksgivings:
One view of vegetarian dishes — an outdated one — is that they are too simple, and therefore lack elegance. Chefs like Mr. Tucker disprove this with dishes like the one he created last Thanksgiving: a rich mix of chestnuts, sage and corn bread roasted in squash and mounded with an apple-cider spiced ragout. There were also stuffed baby pumpkins and a roulade of wild mushrooms with seitan (wheat gluten) wrapped in pastry. The pastry was layered with yuba, a tofu product that has a crisp texture when roasted.

The Times Thanksgiving Special

And finally, here's an article written for carnivores about how to make Thanksgiving dinner more friendly for their vegetarian guests. I'll admit, its a little dumbed down. ("Start by sorting out what type of vegetarians you will be serving. Many won't eat red meat, poultry or seafood, but will eat eggs, cheese, milk and other dairy products. Vegans exclude all animal products, including honey.") But, it could be an easy thing to email to Mom or Dad in advance to give them some ideas.

Vegetarians Over for Dinner? Focus on the Sides.

They really will take over the world...

Just finished with my first experiment from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, another stellar cookbook from the Post Punk Kitchen ladies Isa and Terry, and OMG they are the most adorable food products I have EVER produced. And my word are they tasty.

These luscious cherry-chocolate cream cupcakes are almost enough to make up for my crappy weekend spent preparing for and competing in a moot court trials competition. And for the fact that I can't help ending all my sentences now with "isn't that so?" Ugh. Law school sucks. Cupcakes are awesome! And did I mention these were super easy?

Here's some bonus vegan baking tips from the Post Punk Kitchen website. Wow, I'm really starting to fall in love with those womyn.


An elegant, herbaceous Thanksgiving

This is the meal I would make if I was hosting a table full of refined individuals... say, Jonathan Safran Foer, Dave Eggers, Naomi Klein, and my political science professors from college.. and wanted to impress and entice. This seems like the kind of adult Thanksgiving food that would inspire great conversations, rather than increasing sleepiness.

Neo-classical Thanksgiving Dressing with Apricots and Prunes, stuffed in a whole Pumpkin

Spicy Glazed Sweet Potatoes (Sub earth balance for unsalted butter, obvs.)

Brussel sprouts with white wine and thyme

Carmelized Shallot and Sage Mashed Potatoes

Mushroom-Miso-Mustard Gravy

Chocolate Pumpkin Pie
(I don't know if I can wait till thanksgiving to give this a try...)

Of course, some NSA organic red wine should be served alongside this feast. I'm currently searching for some good stuff myself, and I'll post my findings.

More pumpkins!

I know I've been harping on pumpkins a little too much lately, but still- they're so good! And seasonal!

Anyways, the Washington Post has an interesting article about the resurgence of pumpkin in a culinary (rather than decorative) context, along with two yummy looking recipes: one of which is vegan and the other of which is vegan if you sub vegetable broth for chicken broth. Enjoy.

Consider the Pumpkin, But Not for Your Porch


Thanksgiving Menus

Thanksgiving is a notoriously tough holiday for vegans and vegetarians alike. Family members may be bewildered to learn that you have recently changed your diet. Or, it might be a long-running family joke. Or, like my family, they could be pretty accepting of the vegetarian stuff, but constantly urging you to partake of the dairy filled delights on display. Whether you are avoiding food or relatives, it doesn't make for the most fulfilling holiday.

So why not throw your own? Over the next couple weeks I'll be posting possible menus- perfect for your own feast, or as a chance to pick a few to tote along to the fam's festivities. Trust me, it will be a lot more satisfying than trying to make it on brussel sprouts alone.

Menu #1: Traditional All the Way

This meal (minus the tofurkey, which I ca't justify for just me) is basically what I eat every year. Over the last 5 years, I have slowly (very slowly) convinced my Mom and Aunt to make small substitutions in their age-old recipes that make them more vegan friendly. Amazingly, after trying it once, they have stuck to it! (Mostly because there is literally no difference in taste.) I mean, even when I switched to vegetarian my Mom still used soymilk and earth balance! How awesome is that?

Tofurkey Turkey.

Cranberry Sauce

Commercial stuffing (hopefully with cranberries!) omitting the chicken broth.

Green Bean Casserole using vegan mushroom soup in lieu of Cambells.

Mashed potatoes w/ earth balance and soymilk.

Easy, Fabulous Sweet potatoes a la my Aunt Mary:

2 (big) Cans Sweet potatoes in syrup
Brown sugar
2 Apples
Earth Balance

1. Preheat oven to 375. Pour out your sweet potatoes, reserving a few tablespoons of the syrup. Mash them in a medium casserole dish with the syrup, a little soymilk, and a tablespoon of brown sugar. (Whip 'em if you feel like it.) Next, slice your apples into thin, lengthwise slices, and cover the sweet potato mixture. Last, roughly chop the pecans and mix them with a fork with about 2 tablespoons earth balance and 1 1/2 tbs brown sugar. When this mixture is crumbly and the pecans are fairly coated, sprinkle this evenly over top of the apples. Bake until brown and bubbly on top.

And for dessert, Apple Pie and Pumpkin Pie.

Root Vegetable Curry in a snap

This recipe simply could not be easier and uses up the rest of the leftover sweet potato and onion from the smashed bowl below. Delicious and much faster than ordering curry from your local Thai joint. Don't forget to double the portions if you plan on having any leftovers.

Quicky Curry
1 small can Coconut Milk
1 heaping tsp. ginger
1 1/2 tbsp. curry powder
Couple pinches each of salt, garam masala, and chile powder
1 plum tomato, diced
2 c. of leftover sweet potatoes, butternut squash, onions, parsnips, ect., cut to roughly the same sized chunks.
1-2 c. cooked brown rice

1. Toss the veggies in a bowl with some EVOO, salt and pepper. Spread them out on a cookie sheet and stick in the oven at 425.
2. Meanwhile, mix together the coconut milk, ginger, curry powder, salt, garam masala, and chile until well blended. Add the diced tomatoes. Give it a taste to make sure the spices are up to snuff.
3. When veggies are browned (about 20 minutes, depending on your oven) take them out and mix them in the bowl with the curry sauce.
4. Spread them back out on that cookie sheet and cook about 5 more minutes.
5. Serve over brown rice.
6. Top with cashews and raisins. (optional.)


Smashed sweet potatoes w/ apple-corn salsa and balsamic reduction

Now, I realize that most foodies HATE Rachel Ray. Its like, you either read her magazine, watch her show, read her books, and light candles by her altar every night, or you vehemently despise her and hopes she dies by choking on one of her tuna burgers with spicy wasabi mayonaise. I certainly don't love her, but I'll watch her show if its on and get some ideas. For example, I dig how she takes a few ingredients and sets it up so you can make dinner twice- using the leftovers from night 1 to make night 2's dinner. I came up with a set up like this that is awesome and seasonal, so give it a shot! (Also, these are both one or two person meals, so you might want to up the proportions or serve alongside a big salad if you are cooking for more.)

Night 1: Smashed Sweet potatoes with apple corn salsa and balsamic reduction
I got the idea for this from a a few different side items at a restaurant I used to work at. Its total heaven in a bowl.

You will need:
2 sweet potatoes Soymilk
Maple Syrup Earth Balance
1 red onion 1 Green apple
1/2 c. balsamic vinegar

1. Bake 1 and 1/2 of the sweet potatos. Reserve the other half. You all know how to bake a potato, right? Bake at 475 or mike with a damp paper towel for a few minutes, yada yada.

2. While you're waiting for that to be done, put your balsamic in a small saucepan and bring to a low boil (this should easily be accomplished at medium heat.) Quickly reduce heat to low and simmer for while- it should reduce to a thick and syrupy consistency. (But keep an eye on it while its reducing- it burns quick.)

3. Make the apple-corn salsa. Shuck the corn and rinse it off. Then, standing the corn on one side, run the blade of your knife down the sides so that you are skimming all the pieces off. Put these kernels in a lightly oiled skillet while you are chopping the apple and 1/2 of the onion in like-size cubes. When the kernels are lightly browned, add in the apple and onion, season with salt and pepper, and turn off the heat.

4. Mash yr sweet potatoes. Mash in a bowl with a fork, and slowly add in some soy milk, earth balance, and a decent drizzle of maple syrup. You could use a mixer to get a really smooth consistency, or just go to town with a fork.

5. Put it all together. Spoon a bunch of the salsa onto the sweet potatoes and drizzle with balsamic reduction. Yum-O!

Stayed tuned for a dish that uses the leftover onion and sweet potato.


Pumpkin Soup

Sometimes the best vegan recipes come from non-vegans. After all, there are plenty of dishes that are just incidentally meat and dairy free that are intended as side dishes. But Rachael from Fresh Approach Cooking has an excellent habit of making vegetables the centerpiece of her creative meals.

(Incidentally, I actually think I would have a huge crush on this woman if I ever met her. She's an awesome cook, blogger, and photographer, and she calls her readers "peaches!" LOVE!)

Anyways, I tried out her "Morrocan Pumpkin Soup" the other day and it was scrumptious. Particularly with a couple pieces of whole wheat toast and a sprinkling of pumpkin seeds. Here's the recipe, and below some links to some of my other favorite recipes by her.
Morrocan Pumpkin Soup

2 15 oz. cans pumpkin
2 T. vegetable oil
1 large onion, minced (I did this in the Cuisinart)
6 cups vegetable stock
2 15 oz cans chick peas, with liquid
2 T tomato paste
pinch of cayenne
smaller pinch of nutmeg
cilantro or parsley for garnish

Saute the onion in the oil, until tender.

Combine the onion, squash, broth, liquid from garbanzo beans and one can of the beans. Heat a few minutes, then puree. This is best done with an immersion blender.

Add tomato paste, salt, pepper, nutmeg and cayenne. Add remaining garbanzo beans, garnish with cilantro and serve.

[I upped the spices considerably when I made it, and added some ginger and garam masala. Totally depends on taste.]

Other awesome recipes from Fresh Approach:

Carrot Cashew Cream Pasta
*Tried this the other day and it was way awesomer than I expected.

Spicy Mushroom Tamales

Eggplant, Pumpkin , and Tofu in Garlic Sauce

Green Beans w/ Ginger Tomato Chutney


I've been drooling over this new master vegan cookbook by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero ever since I got it. I haven't cooked anything yet, but that doesn't mean I can't give my first impressions, right? The first thing to note about it is that its HUGE.

Well, relatively huge. Vegan cookbooks tend to be smaller than veggie cookbooks or other kinds. I have no idea why.. maybe they figure they can set you up with some ideas and you can just run with it? (Bananas instead of eggs in baked goods- brilliant!) But that comprehensiveness that I value in tomes like Joy of Cooking and other classics is something that easily applies to vegan cookbooks- sometimes I just can't remember a pancake recipe or need a refresher on salad dressing and don't want to have to make something up.

Anyways, Veganomicon isn't necessarily the Joy of Cooking for vegans (maybe that prize belongs to the Sarah Kramer and Tanya Barnard classics) but it definitely is packed with a lot more ideas- from grocery shopping to grilling- than most cookbooks. And the recipes really run the gamut. I love the fact that there are recipes that only a real veggie-freak could love ("Braised Seitan with Brussels, Kale, and Sun-dried Tomatoes") and ones that you could easily imagine serving to your grandparents (like their "Penne Vodka" which cleverly subs almond cream for half and half.)

Its also extremely ethnically diverse (gotta love Brooklyn) featuring their versions of Jambalaya, Cholent, Mole Sauce, and various risottos. I've also noticed a lot of yummy Jewish recipes that would be perfect for the holidays.

Like I said, the book is big. So go check it out. In the meantime, their website has some sample recipes (like the potato and kale enchiladas pictured here) to tide you over.


How it all vegan again.

So I decided to go vegan...again.

Let me back up. I grew up eating whatever my parents put in front of me. Generally, meatloaf, mac & cheese and a full glass of milk. I was so busy running from field hockey to musical rehearsal to student government meetings, I really didn't care what I ate (as long as it included daily chicken nuggets and a sugary dessert!) When I arrived in college, I started to be scared away from the food-court meat offerings, but I found I could get along pretty well on chocolate milk, pizza, french fries, and whatever the restaurant I worked for would provide me with. But as I eased into campus politics, I started to become aware of the issues surrounding the foods I ate. Did the bananas come from farms that employed children? Were the cafeteria workers earning a living wage? Then, came my big moment: like so many young, impressionable girls, I read the Sexual Politics of Meat and concluded that in going vegan, I could help fight the patriarchy. (Doesn't everyone do that in college?) Also, I had a cute vegan boyfriend who introduced me to all the vegetables of the rainbow and showed me that I didn't have to live on pizza during college. Instead I could live on vegan pancakes, huge salads, mock chicken and broccoli, and chocolate soymilk.

But soon, like my relationship, college was over. I got a job at a posh restaurant and on the first day, they asked me to take out my nose ring and grow out my hair. Bummer. I started working doubles 4 days a week and not having the time to cook myself the delicacies I had become accustomed to. In fact, I barely had time to eat at all unless it was something I snatched from the kitchen. And sadly, after about 10 mixed greens salads, hold the cheese, I gave in to the ample temptations of that coy mistress, goat cheese. I was off the wagon.

Speed up to now. My first year of law school was an emotional roller coaster in which Ben & Jerry's and Prosser and Wade were my constant companions. If anything, now was the time to go back to eating healthy and feeling good about my small constribution to the food chain. But it actually took my meat-eating roomate to jar me out of complacency. After getting a dog, she happened upon the book Skinny Bitch, which she thought was about dieting. Funnily enough, the book is sort of a tricky guide to getting women to go vegan (under the guise of being a bitchy dieting guide.) Seeing her get so excited about animal rights and veganism made me remember why I first got into it. And snapped me out of the assumption that growing up meant you had to let go of every radical quirk you cultivated in your youth.

So now, I'm back. In a big way. And thats what this blog is all about.