A Very Soul Power Christmas


Let's face it: holidays are all about food.

Ceremonies, prayers, costumes... all that stuff can be nice, but nothing beats brunch, dinner, or the moments when you are eating candy at 9 am and nobody gives you any trouble. After all, what's the real show of loyalty and family? Not who's around when you go to bed or open presents, but who comes for dinner!

At my house, Christmas dinner is always a special affair because of the fact that it is also my brother's birthday. This makes for unusual holiday fare (chicken wings and velveeta mac & cheese anyone?) and is not always the most vegetarian friendly. Of course, who can blame him? On your birthday, you want comfort food, special food, but not always, say, a Christmas goose, or a seitan roulade. No problem! The fact that my brother picks out the carniverous portion of the meal leaves me in charge of pleasing my younger brother and I, which is convenient since we can sort of go wild on the crunchy hippy stuff and not try to make crowd-pleasing approximations of omni meals.

Although, for breakfast, we did just that. There's this amazing restaurant in Atlanta called Ria's Bluebird which has gorgeous bluebird murals on the wall, a great friendly atmosphere, and absolutely scrumptious vegan breakfast hash. I have to hit it up every time I'm in town, and one of the best things on the menu is the pancakes with caramelized bananas. Although I wouldn't vouch for this being vegan there, the many times I've re-created it it has always been equally fabulous.

So while my folks munched on the eggs benedict which is traditional in my home, we had some pancakes (recipe courtesy of The Joy of Vegan Cooking) topped with caramelized bananas and pecans. The soysage is Morning Star and (!) not vegan, but since it was already bought I didn't want to disappoint everybody.

To make the bananas, simply heat a few knobs of earth balance until melted, then stir in a fist-full of brown sugar. Blend the two until you've got a nice bubbly syrup going, then add in sliced bananas and coat to your heart's burned-ness content. Top with pecans. Mine were a little mushy today, but fabulous nonetheless. Oh Ria!

For dinner, we decided on a feast of my favorites with the main course being Jimmy's pick. We had the paradise pie from The Candle Cafe cookbook, one of the J's favorite meals EVER, plus a yellow beet salad and the brussels sprouts with apples and tofu from 101 Cookbooks. To drink, I mixed a cheap prosecco with sparkling pomengranite juice for a refreshing cocktail. (At least, to me. Everbody else preferred Heinekin. Yatever.)

So first, the bad news. The 'paradise pie' was so amazing at the actual Candle Cafe that I had very high hopes. Unfortunately, I overcooked the millet and didn't get the beans just right, so although the miso and cinnamon-laced sweet potatoes were scrumptious, it wasn't quite the revelation that it was in NYC. Next time I might used canned black beans as a shortcut... and obviously try not to overcook anything.

The yellow beet salad, on the other hand, came together wonderfully and was extremely simple. I was pulled into some yellow beets at My Organic Market and decided that, despite the holiday-appropriateness of red ones I would give them a go. They were drizzled with a home-made dressing from my Mom that was delicious and broiled on each side for about 8-10 minutes.

Beet Happening Dressing

Combine in a food processor: 2 chopped shallots, 1/3 C. Balsamic vinegar, 3 T. maple syrup or agave nectar, pinch of salt and pepper. Drizzle in 1/3 C. Olive oil until blended.

This dressing was a sort-of marinade for the beets, and then tossed into the spinach salad with some pecans (leftover from breakfast) as a landing for them after they came out from under the broiler. So perfect.

And saving the best for last, the Brussels Sprouts! OMG the Brussels Sprouts, with apples and tofu and pistachios! I know, I know, it has to stop, this obsession with those undesirables of the produce section, but holy frying pan was this good! The recipe, which is another brainchild of 101 Cookbooks' Heidi, the woman who brought us caramelized tofu, was beyond fabulous. It was by far the star of the meal, both with omnis and herbis, and so easy to put together (although I used pistachios rather than pinenuts). Cook this immediately. The recipe can be found AQUI.

So all in all, this meal was a bit of a departure from last year. I played around with tradition a bit and some things didn't come together. But tastes change, and I'm very happy with the way things turned out. And now, as a new year's resolution, I must find some new vegetables to obsess about. Any nominations?

Hope everyone's Christmas/ Chanukah was spectacular!


A decent break

I think its difficult to really realize how mentally exhausted you are sometimes after doing a lot of work. For me, I always want to immediately get back to work after finals - complete all the tasks I've been putting off, cook all the recipes I've been meaning to try, do the three weeks of laundry in my closet...ugh! Therefore, its doubly frustrating when you find yourself unable to get out of bed or stop watching episodes of Jake and Amir. It feels like not only are you not getting anything done, but that you're still caught up in finals, which is not a good place to be.

However, after being a little misanthropic and lazy for a few days, I realized that the come-down period was only necessary to get back the emotions and brainpower I had expended over the last few weeks- if I had attempted to try anything new I probably would have completely freaked out! I guess what I'm saying is: if you've been working really hard, don't feel guilty for hibernating a litte! It makes such a difference in your mood and energy!

But anyways, its over, and the world is new! I put on some loud music, cleaned and scrubbed my apartment, paid some parking tickets, and bought some christmas/ Chanukah gifts. And of course, I made some uncomplicated but nourishing food to ease my way back in to living on more than coffee and hummus. Behold, my favorite new sandwhich: roasted beets, avacado, and onions. YUM! And yes, I know I'm overly obsessed with beets. But they're good for you, so fuck it.

As for presents, I tried to go green this year. I rode my bike down to U street, determined to fit everything in my saddlebag. I bought vintage jewelry for for my Mom and Grandma at Legendary Beast, a really amazing jewelry store on U street that has a ton of cool (and weird!) old jewelry, especially egyptian themed stuff. For the rest, I got some gorgeous digital photography prints from Dekka, an artists community store, that also carries clothing and jewelry. To top things off, I wrapped everything in leopard print tissue paper that I've been saving for like, 2 years! I knew being a packrat would come in handy sometime. Everybody seemed to like everything, so I'm happy.

And I didn't make out too badly either, recieving some very lervely books and cookbooks. I got the Jewish Vegetarian Year Cookbook (I'm overly stoked about the Eggless challah!) the Papa Tofu cookbook that I've been drooling over for-like-ever, Making Stuff and Doing Things, a collection of DIY guides, and a book on Spinoza by Deleuze. I think I've got more than enough to keep me busy for a while and drive the horrors of finals far from my mind.

Hope everybody's holidays were just as lovely!


Anything taking me away from Agency is a good thing

The darling JD at Veggie Terrain tagged me for this meme... which I confess I was sort of secretly wanting to get tagged for anyways, hehe. So now I grant myself permission to take 15 minutes away from non-stop studying misery to find some identity-encapsulating pictures!

This is so me:

This is so not me:

This is so me:

This is so not me:

This is so me:

This is so not me:

This is so me:

This is so not me:

This is so me:

This is so not me:

This is so me:

This is so not me:

Well that was fun! And now, back to work! No food pics since I have been subsisting solely on coffee and thai leftovers for days.... Oh, and I don't have time to see if everyone has already done this, so let's say all the youngins are tagged: if you're under 23 and you read this blog, TAG!


No use crying over spilled soymilk


Wow, so guess what happened to me this week? Its the first week of finals, I have my second 26 page paper due in 3 days, and my ENTIRE computer crashed. As in, hard-drive is completely wiped clean.

It all started the other day when I turned on my computer to find the screen replaced with a blinking question mark. "That's not good," I thought. And so it wasn't. I headed to my friendly neighborhood Apple Store to have it worked on, chastened, but still upbeat.

The Apple Store is increasingly reminding me of a doctor's office the more I go there. There are scared parents rushing in with cracked baby i-phones, ashamed dumbasses like me trying to sheepishly reveal our sketchy symptoms without mentioning that we don't use protection (back-up), and over-cautious newbies bringing their new macbook in because it merely froze. And meanwhile, the smug "geniuses" walk around saying "well, that's not good" and smirking at eachother while jangly hipster music plays in the background.

Well, actually, my "genius" was super nice and did all he could, but my hard-drive is gone, along with 16 lovely pages of my European Union law paper. *SIGH* I guess this is G-d's way of telling me that the last version was crap, and its time to try harder! I just wish my semester's worth of notes could have been salvaged...Oh yeah, and my 6,000 songs... *DOUBLE SIGH*.

At any rate, amidst all this madness I made some serious comfort food- Vegan Yum Yum's Mac & Cheeze. This was my first attempt at vegan mac & cheese, y'all! Can't believe I waited so long! It was way good. Even without the tomato paste or tahini, which I didn't have on hand. Toss in some roasted brussels sprouts and finals season, with its attendant computer woes, seems world's away...

Song of the Day: Somebody got murder- the Clash


Block Rocking Beets

I've been on a kick lately of rediscovering veggies that I used to consider weird and gross. When I first started heading towards vegetarianism about 8 years ago, I was willing to try mildly exotic things (for me, red peppers were exotic) but I had no intention of taking a second look at things like brussels sprouts, lima beans, sprouts, or beets. Now, for some reason, its a thrill to discard my old unadventurous tastes and discover a new love. And I really enjoy mocking my younger brother when he makes a face. Which, come to think of it, is exactly what my parents used to do when I turned my nose up at beets. ("Tastes just like candy!" my Mom used to say.)

Well, I'm snobby no more, and I'm officially in love with beets. The chewy and dense texture, the earthy-sweet flavor, the boatload of folates, manganese and potassium... what's not to love? My Dad bought a sh*tload last week and we've been working our way through them while I take my first crack at finals studyin. The easiest prep is slicing them thinly, tossing with some EVOO and roasting at high temps until the pieces are like chewy beet chips. Tossed with some apples and pecans you don't even need dressing (but it couldn't hurt.)

Of course, I also like the way beets complement caraway seeds and mustard in a dish like the one my Mom made for debate night a few weeks back. My Dad went in another direction for the salad at the top. He was inspired by a Peruvian beet salad he likes at a local restaurant.

Basically, he steamed some potatoes, beets, carrots and onions, and after letting the whole mess cool, tossed it with some oil and red wine vinegar. Super simple, but after a day in the fridge the flavors really "got to know eachother" as he would say, and it was awesome with some simply dressed lettuce. I liked the addition of green onions on top too, for some crunch.

I've also been crushing some brussels sprouts lately, but I keep eating them right out of the oven like popcorn before taking a picture. Am I a major dork for feeling like a bad-ass for liking unpopular vegetables? ;)

Oh, and I hope everyone loved their Thanksgiving dinner! Mine was decent but not the most vegan-friendly fare... but I've got some holidays left, so you just wait and see if I don't make that seitan roulade.


Bowls of warmth!

I live in an apartment that has a number of doors where typically there would be windows, leading out to a balcony that was oddly never built. This doesn't really bother me, and in general the arrangement provides a good amount of light. On the downside though, one of the doors in my room doesn't lock, and keeps swinging open in the middle of the night. So I wake up in the morning to a gust of icy-cold Columbia Heights air, and immediately start a tirade of curse-words as I rush over to close the door. Needless to say, this isn't my all-time favorite way to wake up. (No, my favorite way to wake up is to have a certain french film star whisper in my ear that if we want to make it to Morocco in time for cocktail hour we better catch the 2pm train...)

Anyways, I have a found a way to mitigate the situation. Oatmeal! Its no surprise that vegans love oatmeal, I see different yummy recipes all the time. But mine is the best, seriously. First, I stir in some peanut or cashew butter. Then, I throw in some sliced bananas, blackberries, and sliced almonds. Then I drizzle the whole thing in agave nectar. And then I proceed back to bed, in my room that is just starting to warm up, and curl in the covers and giggle to myself about how freaking amazing my little blackberry-banana-nut oatmeal is. By then I've totally forgotten about my ghost-door...

And speaking of things that might make one catch a cold, I'm now fully recovered from last week's onslaught of sniffles, so thanks for the kind words, kids! (And actually, now that I think about it VeggieGirl mentioned banana-nut butter oatmeal as one of her favorite home remedies!)

At any rate, while still recovering I attempted, once again, to re-create the world's most awesome soup that I had in a Cuban restaurant in New York right around this time last year. Its a lentil soup laced with bright ginger, butternut squash chunks, and kale.

Once again, this attempt was good, but I still didn't hit the nail on the head. I used a ginger broth that I made in advance for the congee, grated in extra ginger at the end, even put in a dash of mirin, but its not quite right! Its good, don't get me wrong, but its not super-amazing-magic soup. Maybe I need to get up to NYC and try it again.

At any rate, Happy Thanksgiving! Hope everyone enjoys the yearly ritual of explaining to your relatives that gravy isn't vegan. :P Can't wait to see what everyone comes up with this year!

Song of the day: Matt and Kim- Daylight


Me vs. Cold Season

A dear old friend of mine (let's just call her "Flower Bug" since that's her preferred nickname, hehe) recently emailed me to ask if I had any foodie cures for a sore throat. (Try Cayenne pepper, Bug!) I imagine she reached out to me since I am one of those obnoxious people who constantly talks about how she never gets sick and rattles off a list of veggie cures to common ailments. Seriously, mention that you have a cold, and I'll probably be all "Oh, I never get sick! You should go vegan! And eat some garlic!" A few lesser known foodie cures:

Anise seeds + water= no more hiccups
Cardomom + ginger= no more tummy ache
Pistachios = cheap cure for jaundice and dermatitus
Mangoes = Giardia killer
Onions= defense against asthma attacks

(A lot of this stuff I learned from The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods by Michael Murray, which my awesome brother gave for my birthday.)

*Cough*. So anyways, this morning when I awoke I was amazed to find that I wasn't feeling well: sore throat, runny nose, headache, the whole shebang. I was shocked not only because I so rarely get sick, but also because it was the first really cold day, and how stereotypical is it to get the sniffles the first day the temperature drops? So conformist. Well, not wanting to go against my own commonly given advice I decided I would take my sick self to the grocery store and see what I could whip up to kill the cold before it broke into my finals week. My main hypothesis is that I can get better before getting worse merely by overloading on garlic, ginger and vitamin C.

So first I made the "Ginger Congee" from this month's Vegetarian Times. Congee is apparently a rice porridge eaten for breakfast. The Veg Times version is a ginger and garlic broth that you soak dried shitake mushrooms and rice in to make a nice soup. This was super comforting and warming. It was a little sweet (especially with the addition of mirin) but it mostly tasted like a milder miso soup. I'm going to eat this for breakfast tomorrow too.

To get even more garlic then the few measly cloves in the soup, (yes, I'm hardcore) I made a roasted garlic pizza. I roasted a whole head of garlic, mashed it with a little olive oil into a paste, and spread it over a vegan ready-made pizza crust. There's some tomato and orange pepper on there- which, might I add, is also good for throats (along with some more red pepper flakes for good measure.) I sprinkled on a little nooch after it got out of the oven and sat down to my super cold-killer meal.

Tomorrow I'm going to use the leftover broth to attempt a lentil soup with kale, ginger, and butternut squash. I'm sure by then I'll be completely better though... *cough*

Do you guys have any home remedies? After all, everbody knows chicken soup is for losers. ;P

Song of the day: "Narcissist Waltz"- Die Romantik


Too too too fast!

Doesn't it seem like it was just Halloween? How can I already be filling out course evaluations and getting ready for finals? I didn't even get a chance to show you guys these awesome brownies I made for the Misfits party.

Crap picture, I know, but these pumpkin-pie brownies (with my own cream cheese topping) were awesome, and not one person knew they were vegan! The recipe is from Isa Chandra Moskowitz's blog (no shocker, her being the queen of decadent vegan sweets.) Chocolate and pumpkin might seem like a weird combo, but its heavenly!

I also recently found my copy of Vegan with a Vengeance. Man, I love that cookbook! I consider it to be one of the three pillars of cheap vegan cooking. The other two are Vegan on a Shoestring and Don't Feed the Bears. All three of these cookbooks, in case you don't know, are jammed with delicious and relatively cheap recipes that are really filling and don't rely on super-fancy ingredients. I also just realized that all three have sort of a punk aesthetic... coincidence? (All three are available on Herbivore.)

Anyways, I'd never tried the mustard-maple veggies from VWaV so I made them for my parents the other night along with some creamed cauliflower.
Wow, these were fantastic. Very gourmet tasting and made a great gravy for the cauliflower. And I already had all of the ingredients in my pantry!

And now things are accelerating quickly towards Thanksgiving. Despite the fact that I've already stocked up on recipes to veganize, it looks like I'll be bringing just one or two dishes to Thanksgiving at my Aunt's so I'll need to choose wisely. It won't be like last year's feast, that's for sure. But on the other hand, with all the work I have coming up it will be nice to let others cook! But in case you aren't in the same boat, here's some great places to look for ideas.

*Epicurious.com has lots of vegetarian menus, but many are heavy on the dairy.
*101 Cookbooks has some great ideas in the archive.
*Here are my posts and recipes from last year.
*And here's the uber-inspiring creme de la creme Thanksgiving from WTHDAVEA.


Song of the Day: "Too Too Too Fast"- Ra Ra Riot


Ah! Ich habe deinem mund gekusst....

I know I shouldn't be fixating on fin de siecle romantic Operas. I should be focusing on fin de semester papers and exams. But the lovely/ creepy refrain from the final number of Strauss' "Salome" simply will not leave my head! In it, the precocious teenage dancer-of-seven-veils kisses the severed head of John the Baptist, and finding it bitter with the taste of blood realizes (so I think) that one-sided, unrequited love can be a tragic (and morbid) waste of time. "SO whats the point? Whats the point?!!"

Well, I don't really have an answer... but I would say that dear Salome would probably have been a lot more satisfied in the end if she had sated her creepy blood-lust with a nice bowl of Jennifer's potato-leek soup instead. (Yeah, I know, BIG jump.) Creamy, warm and filling, and no one had to be beheaded. So there.

And if she still felt a little violent she might enjoy breaking out the immersion blender. :)

Here's the recipe!


Guest Blog: Dispatch from the Obama Campaign

My Dad is a cameraman and has been covering the Obama campaign the last few weeks. Here's his impression of food on the campaign trail. :)

Campaign coverage can definitely be hazardous to your health. Last evening, a member of the member of the traveling press protective pool (read that: "Death-watch") that follows the candidate wherever he goes, tripped over a fire hose and broke her shoulder as we we sprinting from the motorcade to cover the victory speech at Grant Park.

I saw her this morning in the hotel lobby, grimly clutching her laptop case and holding a starbucks latte in her slung hand.

Not the least of the hazards come from the food. Twenty hour days, a different hotel every day and constant stress makes for a hungry press corp and the campaign staff obliges by feeding us at every chance they get. Meet in the hotel lobby at 6am: coffee and doughnuts, get on the bus to go the the airport: bacon and egg sandwiches, get on the plane and fly to the next town: full breakfast, back on the bus: snacks, event site: local catering including buffet tables and white tablecloths, back on the bus: more snacks...and on and on til you burst. You get fed an average of six times a day and that number is reflected in bulging waistlines and an average of one heart attack per campaign. My personal method is to eat every other time and never on planes, and I usually manage to lose a few pounds due to the constant running around associated with being a cameraman.

In the past, both republican and democratic campaigns used very similar catering. All the food looked about the same; if you were in the South, it had to be barbeque and mac and cheese and pecan pie, the Midwest meant beef and potatoes, the Southwest was Tex-Mex of course and no trip to Wisconsin or Michigan was complete without beer and sausages. The campaign staff researches the local restaurants and tries to come up wit the best hot dog in Cincinnati, the best burger in Denver, etc etc. The very few vegetarians who travel in the press corp usually get by okay on the side dishes and salads, but its definitely a meat-oriented world.
(I am an omnivore, but the have a vegetarian daughter with proselytizing tendencies.)
So imagine my surprise the other day as I was covering the last week of the Obama Campaign and we come rolling into the press tent to find a complete Thai buffet with curry tofu and pad Thai from a local restaurant in some town I have lost track of.

Next day in Desmoines, Iowa they had contracted with the Ritual Cafe to feed us some awesome red roasted hummus and veggie sandwiches on whole wheat and great fair trade coffee. The choice was salad, veggie chili or sandwiches with cool black cat cookies for Halloween and I didn't hear even one complaint about any lack of meat. And trust me, this is one group that doesn't scrimp on the complaining.

I actually got into a press van in Indiana and found it stocked with raw food from Whole foods, including raw pumpkin bars and something called a spirulina energy bar that actually perked me up a little, no small feat after since we averaged about two hours of sleep a night on the last days of the sprint to the finish.

Now I am not taking sides here, as a journalist that would be wrong, but as the pundits look back on what worked what didn't work in turns of campaign strategies, is it possible a healthier, happier press corp contributed to Obamas' victory? Who knows, its a small thing, but emblematic I think of the campaign's tendency to look forward instead of back.


Pumpkin Pancakes


I'm right in the middle of massive amounts of work, but I decided to make a fabulous dinner to cheer myself up a bit. Since I'm going to have to pull an all-nighter, breakfast for dinner was a no-brainer.

I also wanted to incorporate some pumpkin, since I've been drooling over everyone's fall-appropriate feasts the last few days. And the most absolutely perfect recipe awaited me over at Tofu and Sprouts. These pancakes were made with egg replacer, which I generally avoid (for no particular reason other than expense.) They were not only fabulously pumpkin-y, but just the most beautiful vegan pancakes I've ever made! They were fluffy and flawless. I cannot even tell you how much my mood improved sinking into these babies, accompanied by some maple syrup, earth balance, gimme lean sausage and apples. I even had some apple cider on the side! Now, staying up all night seems almost intentional. :) Well, almost.

The fantastic recipe can be found here.

Song of the night: The Smiths- The Headmaster Ritual


Law-school fright-fest

Can I offer you a vegan brownie, darling?

Halloween is my all-time favorite holiday. Its all about sugar, kids in funny and/or stupid costumes, and watching the Shining on repeat on TBS until you're no longer scared of it. (I'll get there some day.) But I can't fully appreciate the creepy/ mysterious feeling in the air this year because I am completely swamped!

This is seriously the week from HELL! A midterm, a 26-page paper, a presentation, oh my.... and two out of three are on seriously yawn inducing subjects (like the GATT... aside from being sort of sinister, who wants to read about tarriff reduction? Not I.) This really seems like mission impossible. But nonetheless, I fully intend to hunker down at an independent Columbia Heights coffee shop (that is, if I can find one) and spend countless hours toiling away until Halloween, when it will all be over. (With a wing and a prayer...)

The problem is, I'm also totally broke, so I can't get away with what I might like to do in this situation and eat out every day, unless I want to live on empanadas. But all the same, taking a few moments to cook something can be very soothing. (As can reading everyone else's blogs for inspiration!) Today, for example, I took the leftover veggies curdling in my fridge from my stir-fry and transformed them into quick and luscious life-affirming balsamic roasted veggies. I just tossed them with some s&p, EVOO and balsamic and served them over the quick grains I usually eat for breakfast.


I was cackling with glee at how good this turned out, let me tell you. And I didn't spend any extra money. (More for coffee!)

Another cheap and healthful food product? Dad, if you're reading this from the campaign trail (which I suspect is also quite frightening at the moment), get ready for the "I told you so"- potatoes! Just ask the Times, they are packed with vitamins and nutrients (B, C, potassium, fiber) and are low in calories and fat. And they are tremendously delicious with soy sour cream, tempeh bacon and chives. So even though my father thinks potatoes are the king of evil and fattening carbs, he is wrong, wrong, wrong and I will be eating them daily while my personal economic and scholastic crises plays out. (Looks the rest of the world is on top of that too, according to the recently potato-obsessed Times.)


And comfort food aside, I am very much looking forward to the end of the week when I can bake some Halloween treats and head to a party featuring a Misfits cover band in Brookland. (We walk the streets at night, we go where eagles dare!) I'm thinking Marlene Dietrich for the costume, pumpkin-chocolate-cream cheese brownies for the treat. But I'll have to cross that bridge when I come to it, because there's a lot of bluebooking between me and friday...


Kabocha, Eggplant and Mushroom Stir-Fry

There is nothing more amusing than the food combinations that other people find appealing. Today I was sitting with my friend Karen and after drinking some blackberry tea (and bitching/ rhapsodizing about boys) we decided we were a little hungry. So she waltzes into the kitchen and returns with the following: yellow spanish rice, salted edamame with lemon juice, apple sauce, and cheddar cheese chunks. WTF? I was cracking up.

My friend Bri would have preferred a spoonful of cottage cheese and spoonful of peanut better, directly out of the containers. Sebastian would just have cup after cup of coffee and hand-rolled cigarettes, and widen his eyes at the suggestion of something as bourgeois as a "snack." My roomate M. prefers french bread slices spread with nutella and strawberries (especially when her boyfriend makes it). Can you tell anything about a person by what they choose to snack on?

Me? I like potato chips and chocolate soymilk... but don't make me pour it into a glass, because that would ruin it.

At any rate, I was still giggling at Karen's little feast when I came home to make dinner for myself. I thought up a combo that was also a little strange to my thinking, but it worked out deliciously! Sweet, earthy, a little spicy.. How great when disparate elements come together to make something harmonious... a lot like my friends and I, come to think of it.

Kabocha Squash, Eggplant and Mushroom Stir-Fry*

(Serves 4)
-1 Onion, diced
-1/2 T fresh ginger, chopped and crushed with a knife
-1 Small Kabocha Squash, Seeded, peeled and diced into 1" cubes
-1 Graffiti Eggplant, sliced and quartered
-A handful of mushrooms, sliced
-1 1/2 T Mirin
-1 1/2 T Soy sauce or braggs
-salt and 1/2 T red pepper flakes (or to taste)
-Sprinkle of sesame seeds

1. After preparing veggies, heat 1 T of oil in a wok over Med-Low heat. Add in onions, ginger and squash. Cook for about 4 minutes, or until onion are transclucent. Add an optional pinch of brown sugar and cover for 4 more minutes (to steam the squash.)
2. Raise heat to Medium and add in eggplant and mushrooms. Stir fry until veggies are softened and browned. Add in mirin, soy sauce, salt and red pepper flakes. Turn up heat and cook 1-2 more minutes. Serve hot over brown rice.

*Tofu would be nice in this too, I bet.

Song of the Day: The Extraordinaires- "Wings over Siros Island"



Chicago, in fashion, the soft drinks, expansion
Oh Columbia!
From Paris, incentive, like Cream of Wheat invented,
The Ferris Wheel!

A few weekends back I had the privilege of visiting my lovely, radiant friend Maggie in Chicago, along with my gorgeous gothically-inclined friend M.E.. Among other things, we argued endlessly about which building was the Sears tower, stayed out way too late, got cute new haircuts, and looked for vegan friendly restaurants. Oh, and we also rode the ferris wheel down at the waterfront!

The last time I went to Chicago (ages ago, when I was foolishly in love with Big Ten Frat boy... oh man) all I remember eating was deep dish pizza... and beer. And while both of those have their charms, this time I was hoping to see a different side of Chicago.

The ladies in Wicker Park

I knew right away I would like Chicago more this time- mainly because of the Sufjan Stevens album "Come on, Feel the Illinoise!" (what a classic.) I did think Chicago has the same fin de cicle air about it that I expected from that album- the occassional art nouveau and art deco touch, huge old trees lining the street, senselessly huge buildings springing out of the horizon... its gorgeous! A lot like New York City, but cleaner. :)

We did manage to find a few restaurants to service our picky crowd. One such restaurant was "Manna"- an omni restaurant with plenty of vegan options in the Wicker Park neighborhood. In addition to a cute server, this place had some great treats I think I could manage at home. For example, the watermelon, tomato and cucumber salad with a nice bite from fresh jalapenos.

Next up was "Bi bim bop"- a Korean dish my friends were familiar with but I had never had before. It was basicaly roasted veggies in a spicy chili sauce with brown rice... sounds simple, but it was so good! I especially dug the inclusion of okra, which is something I rarely ever eat, but always love.

I actually found a recipe for the stuff and I plan to make it soon. It was a perfect variation on fall comfort food.

We also got desert (as girls are wont to do) and had a yummy little rasberry tart with walnuts and some delish house-made sorbet. All in all I thought this place was great and would definitely give it a go if you are in the hood. It also, I must admit, cleansed my mind of the hideously stupid "Wicker Park" movie starring Josh Hartnett and an array of confusing yet sexy females vying for his attention.

For the rest of the weekend we went to some house parties and stuck close to home, which was, of course, perfect. We ended up eating at the house and gorging on candy, so there wasn't really anymore restaurant reviews to share.

But hey, Chicago! I dig it!



Red Food for a Blue State

Last week I decided to go to my parents house to watch the debate and eat dinner. Although that would normally be nice enough, my Mom decided to improve matters considerably by cooking up a storm before I got there- and to make everything vegan!

Just because one cannot readily identify any blue food that's good for dinner does not mean there is none, however we coincidentally ate a politically incorrect fuschia and red feast: a Polish beet, mushroom and potato casserole for dinner and brownies with cherry sauce for dessert. Trust me , I know how odd the beet casserole looks. But it was SO good. Even my skeptical father enjoyed it. My Mom got the recipe from an old british vegetarian cookbook* and easily veganized the recipe.

Essentially it was mashed potatoes with a creamy gravy flavored with roasted beets, caraway seeds, mustard, shallots, and soy creamer, and topped with meaty portabello mushrooms. Though its definitely odd to eat pink gravy (it reminded me of that scene from "Hook" where they are all eating mounds of imaginary neon food) it tasted like pure comfort food. And the texture of the beets was a great foil to the crunchy shallots and meaty shrooms. YUUUM this recipe is a keeper. (Especially since beets are total nutritional superstars!)

Beet, Mushroom and Potato Casserole
-1 Onion, diced
-3 T flour
-1 1/4 c. veg stock
-1 1/2 lbs. cooked or roasted beets, peeled and chopped
-5 T soy creamer
-2 T Horseradish
-1 T nice brown spicy mustard
-1 T red wine vinegar
-1 tsp caraway seeds
-2 T earth balance
-1-2 chopped shallots
-8 oz mushrooms chopped (my Mom used portabellos, but you could use wild mushrooms or other varieties.)
-2 lbs potatoes (russet is good)
-1/2 C. soymilk
-s & p

1. Heat EVOO in a large saucepan and add in onion, cooking until translucent. Add the flour and take off burner, slowly adding in stock until blended. Return to the heat and simmer until thickened (about 5 minutes.) Now add in the beets, cream, horseradish, mustard, vinegar and caraway seeds.

2. Now make the mashed potatoes. Bring peeled potatoes to a boil in salted water, cooking until you can pierce with a fork. Drain and mash with soymilk, salt and pepper. Spoon the potatoes into a lightly greased casserole dish and make a little well in the middle- fill the well with the crazy-looking hot pink beet mixture.

3. Melt the butter over medium low in a frying pan and add chopped shallot, taking care not to burn it. When soft, add in mushrooms, cooking until juices run. Raise the heat to cook off the juices, season with salt and pepper. Spoon mushrooms over top of the beets.

4. Cook the casserole covered at 375 for about 30 minutes. Serve at once with a nice spinach salad or some green beans.

...Too bad the debate wasn't quite as compelling.

*Adapted from The Best Ever Vegetarian Cookbook by Linda Fraser