Satisfying on a Shoestring

Every year when school starts again I vow to change my life: get more organized, wear someting cute to school every day, pay attention in class, and of course, eat a healthy breakfast and pack my lunch. The food issue is also a financial one- after spending too much money of mararitas and guacamole during the summer, the fall marks a return to frugality: warming, cheap food that can stretch into leftovers and keep one awake during a snoozer like, say, Agency Law.

With that in mind, I invested in a few new cookbooks: Vegan on a Shoestring and Vegan Lunch Box. I recieved VOAS pretty quickly, and I have to say I love the DIY feel of the book- handdrawn illustrations and handwritten recipes, some of which are scaled to feed 300 people! The soups are definitely a huge draw, as are easy to understand explanations of how to stock a vegan cupboard and different cooking definitions.

I immediately fell for the breakfast grains recipe, which I had to alter a little bit for serving size and available grains. Whats awesome is, you can buy a bunch of grains in bulk, mix them up and store them, and each time you can add whatever to make the bowl sweet or savory. Cheap and unbelievably satifying. So I'll give you my altered version, but definitely shell out for the VOAS because its awesome.

Breakfast Bowl
1/2 c. mixed grains (quinoa, amaranth, millet, pearl barley, ect.)
1/2 c. quick oats
1 1/2 c. water
1 T. agave nectar
Raisins, cherries, and a splash of soymilk.

1. Bring water to a boil and add mixed grains. Cook for about 15 minutes or until water is mostly absorbed. Add in oats and raisins, stir until mostly absorbed, and serve. Each serving should get a splash of soymilk and nectar, as well as any fruits or nuts you feel like. YUM!

So that takes care of breakfast, but I'm still waiting on Vegan Lunch Box. Will I be too old for the recipes in it? Doubtful. Like a child, lunch is my main source of joy at law school, so I think that tiger-shaped sandwiches and carrot stars will be perfectly suitable for my mentality.

So far i've been living on cucumber, avacado, tomato, and hummus sandwiches, and ginger-lemon cupcakes from VCTOTW for desert. Not bad, if I do say so myself.

But all this still leaves the question of dinner. I think to be cheap, I'm going to spend a lot of the fall eating variations on an old stand-by: rice and beans. This time I made coconut rice (adding a small can of coconut milk and some turmeric when cooking) and spicy beans (add a can of diced tomatoes with peppers to black beans) and had an instant feast. With some soy sour cream and Mexican beer, this really can't be beat. Anybody have equally cheap meal ideas?


Veggies, Seeds, and Wheels

So we have a new(-ish) radio station in the DC Metro area called 94.7- "The Globe". I kind of like it, which I guess is a sign of being finally weaned off of Album 88.5, Atlanta's college station that was just as likely to play Ugly Duckling or the Fiery Furnaces as Gregorian Chant.(Oh how I miss that!) "The Globe" isn't quite as musically diverse, but it is distinctively upbeat, in contrast to the other dominant local station DC 101, which has a brash, frequently sexist, and Lincoln Park-loving style that makes me crazy. The Globe is way calmer: along with chirpy deejays and nostalgic alt-rock, there are occasional tips on how to save the planet, one tiny action at a time.

Having this blast at me right before the new R.E.M. song always leads me to thinking (angst-fully) about my daily actions and their potential impact.

For all the millions of ideas about how YOU! can save the planet from our inevitable descent into a climate change disaster, its very difficult to actually gather a comprehensive plan for living wisely. Well, its not that its difficult- more like, contradictory and confusing. For instance, you could unplug all of your appliances at night, but turning on a desktop computer everyday is enough to undo all that hard work. You could try to use cold water washing dishes, but doesn't it seem to take longer and defeat the purpose? And using re-usable napkins and diapers seems like a good idea, but aren't washing machines huge energy-drainers?

...And on the other side of the spectrum are the rich-people ideas. I'm thrilled for people that can afford install solar-powered toilets and bamboo kitchen flooring, but unless its IKEA-priced and fit for a rental, its not coming to my abode.

The problem with these kinds of actions isn't that they don't work, but that they seem to require expert intervention to make it work. I'm of the opinion that you don't need a PhD in Environmental studies to make a difference. Isn't it possible that just doing a few things, consistently, could make a huge difference if done on a large scale? In my opinion, and I'm no expert, 3 moderately sized life-style changes could make a huge impact that would negate the little fuck-ups we all make everyday when forgetting to unplug the toaster.

1. Biking
2. Gardening/ composting
3. Going vegan

I have done all three of these things, but I never seem to do them at the same time. Its kind of funny, because they feed into each other a bit, don't they? Biking requires healthy, high energy food, the likes of which a vegan diet is well-equipped to offer. Gardening and composting are both well suited to vegetarians, since after all, you can't grow animals on your patio like you can zucchini, and second, you can't (or shouldn't) compost dairy and meat products.

All of these tactics target major polluters and energy wasters- cars, the factory farming industry, the produce industry- but they are all also personally exciting and fun. (Somewhat unlike, say, not wearing socks for a year or replacing all your lightbulbs.) And the bottom line is, these practices get you outside (or at least to a farmers market) and interacting with the world around you to the extent that you can no longer ignore it.

And isn't that kind of the point?


French Toast w/ Figs and Coconut yogurt

Its a beautiful day in the neighborhood and I woke up wanting something brunchy- without having to leave the house, of course. I always get tempted to make french toast, but most vegan recipes seem so needlessly complicated- if there's a food processor involved, I'm not likely to make it for breakfast.

But my college boyfriend used to make divine french toast using only soymilk, cinnamon, earth balance, and french bread. I remember sitting on his washing machine waiting for the next mini-pieces to come off the skillet and popping them directly into my mouth. No need for syrup!

So I tried to make something equally simple and jazz it up a little with some figs and divine coconut-milk soy yogurt I had. Sooo good.

1. Take a piepan and splash in some soy milk and soy creamer. (About 1:2 ratio.) Add some cinnamon and whisk together.
2. Dip pieces of bread into the milk and fry over medium in a knob of earth balance.
3. Serve w/ figs, pecans, yogurt, or syrup or powdered sugar! You're done!


You say its your birthday

So Monday was my (gasp!) 25th birthday. I didn't notice it coming up, and I certainly didn't have any aspirations for a huge celebration. I just wanted a small dinner with a few friends and family- hopefully grill centered, it being August and all. It turned out that my family was willing to oblige and cook a menu that I picked out, and everything was AWESOME! Here's what we had:

-Bruschetta with heirloom tomatoes and whole grain french bread


-Grilled Corn with lime and garlic Earth Balance

-Grilled marinated portobello mushrooms (as usual)

-Mango and strawberry upside-down cake- my Dad's invention that I will get around to veganizing and posting soon.

Everything was super-easy and delicious, but that sweet potato salad especially was a huge hit- I would try this recipe immediately while the grills are still going. People were literally fighting over the last slices of cumin marinated and grilled sweet potato slices. My Mom admitted later that at the last step she added a tiny bit of mustard and brown sugar to the cumin oil, and that definitely made it even more delish. I would show you but the camera ran out of batteries!

So, other than having amazing food, I also got great presents. Specifically, a new bike!!!! No more tottering up hills on my 1970's classic (sorry Sebastian) I now have a wicked fast jet-black 'Specialized' to dash to law school in. So perfect too offset the amount of earth-damage I did riding in airplanes all summer...

My best friend also bought us both tickets to the DC Salsa Congress in Arlington which I think is going to be amazing.

So... a new school year and I'm starting out with awesome food, a new bike, and apparently a newfound love for salsa. Now I just need to work on a newfound love for studying the law.

*PS* And while I hate "___ is the new ___" food articles, this one got me craving some beets like crazy. And why not have spinach AND beets? With a little red wine vinagrette and some toasted pecans it sounds like lunch...


What I did on my Summer Vacation

I regret to concede that I have been utterly delinquent in blogging the last few months. I have good reasons (over-traveled, over-worked, limited computer access) but excuses are boring and pictures are pretty! So here's some choice photos with a promise of more, far more to come, not only in the way of pictures but also in the way of recipes, lawschool bitching and moaning, and travel tips. Its good to be back!

AYA SOFYA in Istanbul, Turkey

Castle Hill in Budapest, Hungary

Berlin, Germany

Aran Islands, Ireland

Oh, and yes, it is possible to travel widely and still be vegan. Stay tuned.