5 Things and Excellence!

Ok, time to take care of some blog-bizness. Three Anouncements!

Second announcement: I have to write 5 things about myself.
Ok, I think I am officially the last person on the internet to have completed this meme. I forgot, guys! I smiled when I saw that Miss Kamutflake Girl (whose blog I adore!) had tagged me, and then got completely distracted when thinking about my five things. But here, lemme give it a shot.

1. I can't get anything done without music on. In fact, its fair to say that my brain moves sluggishly in silence. I study, cook, exercise, shower, and sometimes sleep with music on. And while my taste is constantly skipping around from post-punk to klezmer to 60's wall of sound to (fill in the blank), at the moment I'm obsessed with Athens band Of Montreal. Guess I'm sort of in a psychadelic mood.

Oh yeah, and that's where I got the idea for my blog title! The song "Bunny Ain't No Kind of Rider" where Kevin Barnes sings, "I need a lover with soul power/ and you ain't got no soul power."

2. I'm in law school and I HATE IT. But I think that's just part of the deal with lawschool, right? So hopefully I won't hate being a lawyer. Oh yeah, and I'm going into public interest law. So no big law firm for me, probably just a non-profit or legal services office with old "Free Nelson Mandela" posters hanging up.

3. I'm addicted to historical biographies. Eva Peron, the last Czars of Russia, Martin Luther King, Eleanor Roosevelt, ect. I just find it fascinating to get lost in someone else's imperfect life. I also think they are so revealing about the author's perspective. (Like, does one portray Peron as a victim of her time, a pre-feminist heroine, or a narcississtic manipulator? That says more about the author than her.)

4. I can't read clocks. Seriously, something about analog clocks doesn't work with my brain. Its like I have a very specific learning disability. If someone put a gun to my head and was like- "look at that wall clock! What time is it?" I be like, "Just shoot me now." (I'd have a better chance looking at the sun.)

5. Art Nouveau is my favorite artistic movement. Its so swirly and beautiful... Although, I really like Futurism too. And pre-historic art. But I am so excited to go check out all the Jugendstile and other art nouveau relatives in Eastern Europe.

And that brings me to the third announcement: I'm Excellent!
I have recieved the "E for Excellence" award, so graciously bestowed upon me by the lovely Jennifer of Veg*n Cooking and Other Random Musings. I quite adore her blog as well, especially since she shares my interest in cooking with whole foods and not relying so heavily on tofu and seitan. So, the other blogs I think deserve an "E":

-Fresh Approach Cooking : As I've said a million times, I adore this blog, and its the one that I most frequently make recipes from.
-And since I'm such a sucker for pretty pictures, I adore Vegan Visitor. The photos on this blog are just... LUSCIOUS! It makes me feel guilty for not always waiting for natural light.
-Swell Vegan is similarly beautiful and packed full of delicious-looking recipes.
-And finally, I just discovered Vegan Eats and Treats and its already distracting me from homework. I think its also the traveling aspect of this blog that keeps me skimming through the archives.

But really, this is just skimming the surface of all the blogs I love. I discover about 5 new ones (and about 100 new recipes) every day! Yay for blogging. Ooops, and yeah, I tag the above blogs in the share-5-things meme too. :)


Easter Dinner Spectacular

So believe it or not, my parents went for yet another all-vegan holiday meal! This is just getting too easy!
Of course, why wouldn't it be when we're turning out scrumptious treats like this!

While I don't actually celebrate Easter, my Mom does and after all, do you really need an excuse to have a lovely family dinner? (Especially with no school the next day!) Above is the highlight of the meal, the fabulous coconut macadamia carrot-cake from VwaV. It was a bit of prep work at the start, but in the end it came together easily and everyone loved it. So worth the work. (And trust me, I don't have the best track record with baked goods.) I mean, with a glass of soymilk you're pretty much in heaven. It also gave me the confidence I need to bake some other layer-cake delicacies I've been admiring of late.

Dinner was lemon asparagus risotto. (Doesn't that sound spring-y?) I made it the same way I always make risotto. Except this time, I sauteed some asparagus and tossed that in at the end, along with a little lemon juice and lemon peel. Honestly, at this point I could make risotto in my sleep! (If I could stir in my sleep, that is.)

I served it alongside some cherry tomatoes sauteed in garlic, crusty bread, and a strawberry-spinach salad with homemade dressing (the same one I made on Valentines day, because its SO AMAZING). It all went off without a hitch.

I'd like to mention here that when I'm coming up with a menu, I keep in mind the age-old secret of different colors and textures on a plate. Thats why I chose tomatoes- more greens would have been overkill with the spinach and the asparagus, and some gingered carrots would have been way too reminiscent of the dessert. This worked out well, but I still wondered what else could have been served alongside to spice things up. Maybe some smoked tofu? The blog What the Hell Does a Vegan Eat Anyway? always has great ideas for full menus, as does Eat Air, another blog I love.

***In travel news, I am in the midst of preparing for my big trip in May. I have all my flights booked, my shifts covered at work, and Lonely Planet guidebooks/ dictionaries for everywhere I'm going. At this point, I'm trying to figure out how to distill my clothes into about 2 interchangable, weather appropriate outfits. I'm also working on booking hostels and coming up with itineraries based on where I might be staying. And of course, I'm also heavily focused on the food! So far, it looks like Budapest will be the most vegan friendly, based on the number of vegetarian restaurants listed in the guidebook. But, its always a different story on the ground.

One of the things I plan to do to prepare is to veganize a few recipes from each country to get familiar with the kind of ingredients used in popular dishes. (Also, basically just for fun.) I've never made a "goulash" before, I've no idea what kind of spices are predominant in Turkey, and I assume that many yummy Viennese pastries are packed with eggs and cream. So lm going to have to find out! As for Germany, having lived with a German for a year I feel fairly confident that there will be vegetable dishes galore in Berlin. Either that or he adapted amazingly well. :)

Hope everyone had a relaxing/ revitalizing holiday! Here's me gloating over my well-turned-out cake.


Bagels from Heaven

Like I was rhapsodizing about last week, there's nothing better for a weekend breakfast than one sweet and one savory bagel. And since everything must be topped with avacados for me lately, the everything bagel was really super-fabulous. Why oh why is soy cream cheese so awesome?!

Meanwhile, I'm having a bit of a dillemma today about what to make at my parents's house for Easter dinner. I've been focusing much more on Passover (the planning of which has been helped tremendously since I purchased Isa's Vegan with a Vengeance cookbook) so I'm kind of at a loss, and I need to shop today! Here's what I have so far:

-raw crudites stuffed w/ herbed soy-cream cheese dip
-brussels sprouts w/ pistachios and lemon
-Coconut Macadamia Carrot Cake (from aforementioned VWaW)

But what for the main course? I want something spring-y but rich. Like asparagus risotto, or maybe pasta primavera. My folks kind of just want grilled portobellas and mashed potatos since they loved them so much on Valentines day, but I want to mix things up. I'll let you know what I came up with!


Veggie Tacos and Mango-Avacado Salsa

Before I had a blog, nay, before I was even fully aware of the wonder of food-blogging from any angle, I used to simply email myself recipes when I came across them and title them things like "idea for passover" or "yummmm". Little did I know that I would soon base almost my entire diet off of recipes gleaned from the vegan and veg-friendly blogosphere...

This recipe from the Fresh Approach cooking blog, which I labeled simply "delish sweet potato thingie" has become a standby now for nights when I have a few veggies on hand and a sweet potato. The idea is simple- but oh my, is it heavenly. (That Rachael is a goddess!) I altered it a bit this time, what with my black beans and salsa, but I believe thats sort of the idea. Now, for the salsa:

Mango Avacado Salsa
-1 ripe mango, diced (if you don't know how to do this properly, here's a fun little walk-thru)
-1 avacado, peeled, cored and diced
-1 red onion, diced
-1-2 cloves garlic finely diced
-Juice from one lime
-Salt and pepper to taste

1. Combine all ingredients, tossing in the lime juice, and s&p, and cover with plastic wrap. For best results, refrigerate for about a hour until you are ready to eat.

This salsa is good enough to eat straight from the bowl, but I usually top it on tacos or burritos that are a little spicy. (The avacado cools things down a bit.) I like it with spicy flaxseed chips too.


Vegan Brunch at Asylum (and my house!)

I can't believe I never heard of it until now, but a bar in the ultra-hip Adams Morgan neighborhood has a weekend brunch featuring extensive vegan options. As soon as I heard, I had to drag my boyfriend along to check it out!

Asylum is nestled between an array of other late-night hostpots on 18th street. A wrought iron fence by the entrance leads you to the downstairs level, where a pool table and brick walls surround the crowds by the bar. The upstairs features blood-red canopies and gothic light fixtures along with a second long bar- this is where the brunch takes place. When we got there around noon a waitress rushed up to tell us it would be a 20 minute wait- then came back 2 seconds later to seat us. This place is busy, but the tables turnover fast.

The menu has two sides- one vegan and one non-vegan. They make it clear that the vegan side is completely vegan, ie, even the worchester sauce for bloody marys contains no animal products. I also overheard a waitress telling the table next to us that the vegan brunch items are prepared in a separate kitchen from the other stuff. Very thorough! The menu featured a southwestern take on brunch, with tofu huevos rancheros, a scrampled tofu wrap with black beans, and assorted standard fare like french toast, soysage and pancakes. I opted for the huevos (although a texas toast breakfast sandwhich was tempting as well.)

The food came out fast and the portions were huge! Mine was a corn tostada layered with tofu scramble, salsa and soy cheese. It was served over black beans and fried potatoes. I was skeptical- the tofu looked undercooked and the salsa looked watery- but it was great! Subtly spicy, crunchy and filling. Total perfection for a hangover meal, or in my case a good start for a busy day. And when I looked up from wolfing the whole thing down, the boyf was pleased with his bacon breakfast wrap as well. We will DEFINITELY be back.

And speaking of brunch, I had the most perfect homemade brunch saturday as well. No pictures (alas!) but let me just tell you. I took half an everything bagel and half a raisin bagel, toasted each and spread with soy cream cheese. The everything bagel got topped with avacado, cherry tomatoes and red onion, the raisin bagel got strawberries. So simple, and oh-my-goodness was I in heaven. I don't think I'll ever go a weekend without this combo again.

Oh, and in other brunch news, Isa Chandra Moskowitz is coming out with a new brunch book! (Who hasn't heard that already, but still. ) I'm so psyched!


Two-bean Cinnamon Soul Power Chili!

Everyone and their vegan blogger mother has a recipe for chili. And with good reason: just a little variation (sweet potatoes, zuchinni, chocolate?! ect) changes the taste totally. Its also a good clean-out-the-cupboard dish- and that was the plan tonight. I've been meaning to try some of the awesome looking variations from the vegan blogosphere, but I ended up just tossing a bunch of things in and hoping for the best. But here were some of my inspirations:

*Chipotle sweet potato and black bean chili from Swell Vegan
*Red Bean and Lager Chili from Veggie Meal Plans
*Chocolate Chipotle Chili from The Urban Vegan
*Black Bean and Pumpkin Chili from Vegan Visitor

So I took the idea to use sweet potatoes and cinnamon, and the rest all came together based on what I had around (beer! tomato puree! corn!) And actually, it turned out super-fabulous. So here it is, my very own...

Two Bean Cinnamon Soul Power Chili!

1 big ole onion, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, diced
1 sweet potato, you guessed it, diced
1 red pepper, diced
1-2 jalapenos, sliced and seeded
1 can black beans, drained
1 can kidney beans, drained
1 can tomato puree
1 can diced tomatoes
3/4 c. frozen corn
1 bottle of vegan Lager
Varying amounts of the following: salt, pepper, sugar, cinnamon, smoked paprika, chili powder, habanero sauce

1. Toss your onion and garlic in a big ole pot with your choice of oil at medium heat. After a few minutes, add in the sweet potato, red pepper and jalapeno, and sprinkle liberally with salt, pepper, smoked paprika and cinnamon. Stir and cover for 5 minutes.
2. Pour in about 1/3 of the beer and cover again- checking occassionally to see if the sweet potatoes are tender (about 5 minutes). Once they are, add in the beans, tomatoes and sauce. Add a few pinches of sugar to cut the acidity.
3. Now comes the spicing. People have different ideas of whats spicy, so start out with 1 tsp. of chili powder and a few dashes of habanero sauce, and add more depending on how spicy you're feeling. ( I probably ended up with about 2 tsp. and 8 dashes and it was spicy but not too much for my Mom.) Add in the rest of the beer, frozen corn, and more water as needed to make it saucier. Bring to a simmer then lower the heat and cover until ready to serve.

Serve over sliced and lightly fried store-bought polenta.

*And for dessert I had "vegan" muffins that my little brother made with soymilk. How freaking cute is that!?*


Banana, Brown Sugar and Soy Sour Cream Crepes

In Rehobeth Beach, Delaware there are many lovely things. There's a long boardwalk that leads to a kid's playland, rainbow flags that line the streets and wave in front of most businesses, a Victorian-themed hotel with exotic birds that fly around the lobby and land on people's shoulders... and of course, there's the beach itself, not quite as crowded as Ocean City, not as spare as Bethany, and filled with both families and adults on holiday. I used to go there every year, with my best friend, and really, the whole trip was about two things: chocolate covered strawberries and crepes from Le Crepe Suzette. Oh, we flirted with the ideas of piercings or henna tattoos, but crepes were really the main event for me. Cute foreign exchage students stood in a little boxy stand with the radio blaring, pouring streams of batter onto a huge round surface and using a squeegee to comb and trim the excess. After flipping, they would fill it with whatever you wanted: and for me, that meant bananas, brown sugar and sour cream.

It was only natural that I would learn to reproduce this treat at home, which I did to great effect with friends and dinner guests. But when I went vegan, I thought my crepe-capades had come to an end. (Afterall, they're so eggy!) But thank heavens, the wonderful vegan pioneers that came before us have veganized the recipe to absolute perfection. So now, even Rehoboth's famous crepes are an easy vegan feat.

There are plenty of vegan crepe recipes floating around the internet, and I know there are two in V'Con. However, I rely on the recipe from the fabulous Garden of Vegan by Sarah Kramer and Tanya Barnard (I've had this cookbook something like 5 years and I still use it all the time). Their recipe uses powdered egg replacer which I think works great, but of course, I've seen them done many other ways. (And a lot of people seem to avoid egg replacer for whatever reason.) Here are some of my own tried and true commandments of crepe-making:
1. Make the batter in a blender. This produces a smoother result, and you can pour it out of the blender rather than ladling it.
2. Pour the batter into the center of the pan then rapidly tilt it in a circular motion till the batter has spread.
3. The first one is always a throwaway (or eat-away.)
4. Wait till bubbles appear and the edges start to curl up before flipping.
5. Always make a comically small one for any pets or babies around.
6. When doing the filling, throw the crepe back on the pan to warm up the ingredients.

For me, although a pretty crepe is wonderful, its really all about the filling, baby. So the bananas, soy sour cream and brown sugar is one way to do it, and its fabulous, but here are some others I have obsessed over:

-fake nutella and bananas
-fake nutella and sour cherry jam (lust!)
-mangos and rasberries with powdered sugar
-almonds, butter and maple syrup
-sliced strawberries and balsamic reduction
-tofu scramble
-asparagus or broccoli and nootch cheezy sauce

Once you get the hang of it, you'll be cranking out more cruelty-free crepes than any stand at Rehobeth beach can shake a stick at. (But all love to Crepe Suzette anyways- I'm sure they'll come around and go vegan one of these days.) (And yep, they're still there.)