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


Travel Flashback: Istanbul

*First installment of my summer travel flashbacks: keep in mind I'm not the expert, these are just my unseasoned impressions.*

There's a legend about Istanbul that, like all mythic tales about the city, is recounted as historical fact. Constantine apparently had a prophetic dream that he would found a city "across the from the blind." Coming upon the crescent-shaped valley among 6 hills, he saw a settlement of people nearby. Wondering why they hadn't settled instead in the lovely bay near the water, he said, "why, they must be blind!" and realized that THIS was the location of his great city.

And its true, then as now, that the scenic appeal of Istanbul is absolutely undeniable. The outline of the city- straddling the outrageously blue Bosporus that divides two continents- appears exactly as it looks on any map. The water and the many landmarks make it easy to get oriented to the layout of the city. However, it doesn't prepare you for how tremendously dramatic it all is! Walking up a dusty alley or some stairs, or exiting onto a dingy rooftop, you constantly find yourself confronted with what looks like the entire world! It's supremely strange to find yourself simultaneously gazing upon two continents, when all you wanted to do was get some tea.

Actually, tea, or "cai" is very easy to come upon in this city. Alcohol is banned within certain distance of a mosque, so in the mosque-heavy area I stayed, Sultan Ahmet, you were much more likely to encounter young couples and resting waiters sipping on tea from tulip-shaped glasses. As one man told me, "if someone offers you tea, you just accept! Its like an informal gift." After getting over my apprehension of boys shouting at me all the time ("Hey blondie! I have a question for you!") I eventually had many cups of tea with various locals. It turns out that quite a few people speak English- or maybe that was just the people that wanted to talk to me. ;)

At any rate, one cannot live on tea alone (although some college students seem to.) Luckily, the street food in the parts of the city I found myself in were supremely vegan friendly. Roasted chesnuts were a common sight, as were vendors selling grilled sweet corn.
There were also tons of "simits"- round, sesame seed crusted pretzel-like things that go for about 1 turkish lira [YTL]. Unfortunately, considering how many of them I ate, these weren't vegan like I was told. Oh well! I will definitely get around to veganizing these one day, as they are like an awesome mix between sesame seed bagels and pretzels.

I got so swept up in walking around Sultan Ahmet watching the food vendors, honeymooning couples, and dramatic scenery. If I close me eyes I can still picture it: the smoky sweet smell of chesnuts and corn, the bright blue sky studded with towers and domes, a flowered green veil catching the sunlight and drawing attention to a sweet couple... and of course, the dozens of omnipresent cats skirting around benches and rolling around in bushes. Of course, this innocent scene is just one side of Istanbul. Outside of Sultan Ahmed's sleepy Disneyland is a bustling city with a seedier and more serious side. But for the first couple days its extremely difficult to step away from the pleasure and dusty beauty of Sultan Ahmet.
But, step away I did, and the more citified Taksim, just a trolley ride away, one can find all sorts of vegan goodies. Fast food places have heated metal trays filled with meats and pastries, but also packed with vegan eggplant salad (a sweet-ish concoction that often had red peppers as well), cucumber and tomato salad, and plenty of fried goodies: zuchini, potatoes, falafel, ect. A lot of these restaurants showed up in other parts of Eastern Europe, but it was never as good as in Istanbul!

In addition to fast-food, there are a few Vegetarian restaurants in Taksim too. I convinced a friend to show me one, where I indulged in Potato pie and cherry soda. Unfortunately, the winding alleyways of Taksim don't make it convenient to find the same place twice- but I saw plenty of vegan options on the menus I checked out. And Dolmades (stuffed grape leaves), cucumber salad, baba ghanoush and hummus are regular features in the appetizer section of most menus.

And you don't want to miss Taksim at night: in stark contrast to Sultan Ahmet, its packed with rowdy families eating seafood and taking shots of raki, hipster college students filing into clubs like "Peyote" (which plays awesome music) to drink huge beers, and fancily dressed twenty-somethings roaring through the alleys on motorcycles to dance the night away at a rooftop bar.

So whats the connecting thread between the two Istanbuls I saw? Cats.

I was sorry to leave gorgeous, romantic Istanbul, but I had to move on to dirty, sexy Budapest. Even leaving Turkey was pleasant though, as Turkish airlines has a fabulous vegan meal. :)