Final Finals!

Its my last final exam period of law school, and I'm determined to make it more successful than the five that came before. This time, I will NOT chug diet coke, wine, and coffee simultaneously. I will NOT wait until 6 hours before the exam to start studying. I will NOT get caught up in the Hills, or the Real Housewives of Hades, or whatever else is on my parents bountiful cable channels.

Instead I'm going to continue working out, eating healthy, and getting an adequate amount of sleep. Because thats the way to get good grades, right? Well, actually, I have an ulterior motive: I'm going to Berlin and Brussels right after finals and I want to look hot for all the fancy europeans, and one in particular. Eating jellybeans, doritos, and coffee for two weeks isn't the way to look your best. So instead I'm all over a bunch of very boring healthy food, like hummus and carrots, spinach salads, bananas. So no very interesting food things at the moment. Instead, here are my top 5 favorite finals distractions. Enjoy!

1. Autotune the News

This is self-explanatorily awesome.

2. International street style websites.
The only thing better than American hipsters: international hipsters!
But really, I like to think I could get good fashion ideas from these cool sites, if I ever get out of self-imposed study quarantine.
Still in Berlin
Mess this Dress (Mexico)
Easy Fashion (Paris)
Modaturkiye (Istanbul)

3. Looking up conspiracy theories on wikipedia.
Dude, its amazing what you can learn about a historical event based on the conspiracy theories that branched out of it. Try JFK, Jonestown, or the Vatican for starters... and be prepared to be creeped out, in an educational kind of way.

4. Pancake Mountain
I love watching clips of Pancake Mountain. This public access kids show, which has featured The Evens, M.I.A., and the Go! Team in the past, is what DC kids would watch if DC was actually cool.

5. Hark! A Vagrant

And finally, Kate Beaton's online historical comic, Hark, a Vagrant! is so weird and funny and I lerv it. Example: Marie and Pierre Curie

So there you go, T's guide to calorie-free procrastinating bliss. Now, back to work.


Tea for two...

This saturday was the premiere of the movie version of the iconic documentary "Grey Gardens," and being amply obsessed with the original (available free here) I figured it warranted a small celebration. And who better to watch it with then my very own dear (and non-Big Edie-esque) mother?

If you haven't seen either the doc or the recent movie, "Grey Gardens" is the story of two of Jackie O's relatives, Big and Little Edith Beale, who fell into poverty and squalor after Big Edie's separation from her husband and their subsequent retreat from high society into the increasingly decrepit Hampton's home of their glory days. It's not just interesting as a reversal of fortune story, however, because the two characters relationship- both loving and incredibly delusional and restrictive- is the main focus of the film, particularly the effect it has on the ambitious but delicate Little Edie.

If I wanted to make theme food, it would been along the lines of cat-food or ice cream, so instead we decided on the following:
-Stuffed mushrooms
-Tropical Sliders- with veggie burgers, pineapple, and mango ketchup
-rosemary french fries
-and for dessert, apple turnovers (from your grocer's freezer).

The Stuffed Mushrooms were de-stemmed and brushed with olive oil. Then I heated some shallots and leeks in a pan with oil until translucent, sprinkling liberally with salt and pepper. Finally I tossed in some breadcrumbs and cooked 2 minutes more, then dropped tablespoon-fulls into the mushrooms. They were cooked 15 minutes at 450 (I think...).

For the tropical sliders, I made the "mango ketchup" from the Candle Cafe cookbook. I used a cleaned out coconut milk can to cut the buns into little circles, and grilled pineapple and burgers for them. And they were so good, although the mango ketchup didn't totally knock me out. Next time I'll try making my own rolls I think...

Anyways, we ate everything too fast to get pix of the rest, but the HBO version definitely lived up to my expectations (while not surpassing the documentary, of course) and the food did as well. And I have this newfound obsession with scarves...

Song of the Day: Rufus Wainwright- Grey Gardens


High Standards

Why is it that when I'm stressed, my reaction is to attempt an entire lifestyle makeover, rather than address the one source of anxiety with calm and focus? Maybe its the same impulse that causes you to clean your room when you have 24 hours until a big paper is due. Or start revising your resume and surfing Monster rather than work on the simple task your boss asked of you.

Well, for whatever reason I got on a real self-improvement kick this weekend, deciding that before the end of the semester, with its attendant heart-attack inducing bar exam stress, I need to accomplish the following adjustments:
- spend (waaay) less money
- lose weight and get exercise regimen back on track
- complete all of my outlines two weeks before finals so that exams will be a breeze
- simultaneously complete all bar exam legwork and applications
- learn german and french (for international law career, of course)
- dress professionally and wear make-up, rather than rolling around like old man in woolen blazer and checkered slip-on vans
- just generally be a successful, self-motivated, healthy individual, rather than sad-sack bed-confined walking-hangover with literally thousands upon thousands of dollars in debt.

Hmm. Well, I've accomplished one goal: spend less money! I've been exploring the concept of leftovers, as well as avoiding my weaknesses- the various delicious restaurants a stone's throw from my house. I even invented a few things, since I've also developed this bizarre laziness that won't let me open a recipe book.

Above we have the luscious Apple-Leek Salad I concocted with the leeks leftover from passover. So simple: Toss spinach and apples in (vegan) green goddess dressing, and top with leeks that have been sauteed in a little EB or olive oil. Ground pepper's nice on top too. I could eat this everyday for lunch...

Next, I used up the rest of the spinach along with a trusty can of chickpeas in a super-quick Curry, with coconut milk, curry powder, turmeric, and fresh ginger and garlic. This one needs some work so I'll post the recipe when its sufficiently improved. But it satisfied my need for mango and coconut (who needs chutney when you have fresh mango?!) so it certainly worked for me.

Still obsessing about mango, and finding myself with half an avocado on hand, I concocted this feast, which, while freakishly bright in the photo, was just about the BEST THING I'VE EVER EATEN. It was so good that I had a fit of existential angst while eating it, knowing that no matter what, I could never duplicate such simple deliciousness for anyone else. *Sob*
At any rate, here's what it was: a can of black beans, sauteed with onions, tomatoes, and cumin, over saffron rice. On the side, fresh mango and (here's one killer) fresh corn off the cob tossed in lime, salt and pepper. And now here's the other killer: Coconut lime cream Guacamole. You will want to try this one. I combined half an avocado and juice from half a lime, along with 2 tablespoons of coconut yogurt (the kind that's entirely coconut milk.) Oh my godfathers was this good. I definitely didn't regret the decision to avoid El Rinconcito for once.

Of course, all of my penny-pinching was thrown in my face as a hideous cosmic joke when I received a $100 parking ticket from the District of Columbia for not removing my borrowed car from the street by 4:01pm. F*ck it. I'm going back to shoveling take-out food into my mouth while lying in bed watching Arrested Development until the sun comes out and stays out, for good.

Song of the Day: Liz Phair- Polyester Bride


Next year in Jerusalem!

Hope everyone is in the midst of a good Pesach or a happy Easter, or like me, both! I tried out a couple new recipes this year and was very pleased with the result, so this is a recipe heavy entry, at least where my blog is concerned.
Passover is a very special holiday to me, because its the first Jewish holiday I celebrated when I started to get in touch with my spiritual side (if you will) a few years back. That year, I actually went out and bought the materials for my own seder and had a little solo dinner- with a beet root subbing for the lamb shank and a parsnip for the egg. :) I knew that if I found it meaningful and exciting on my own, that I would really like it once I had some others, be it family or friends, to celebrate with.

Since that year I've hosted my own seder for 13 people, and had other years where, for whatever reason, I found myself pretty much on my own. But luckily this year I had no need to celebrate solo! My friend Karen had a seder at her house along with her fabulous roommates. I offered to make the charoset (an apple-nut mixture which is used on the Seder plate) and to bring a few vegan options. I decided to make the Cauliflower-Leek Kugel from VWAV and also to try to veganize some coconut macaroons, one of my fave desserts from years past. 

                       Vegan Macaroons alongside other goodies

I thought they turned out pretty decently, so here's the recipe.
Passover Macaroons
1 Bag coconut (in the baking aisle)
6 T sugar
1  T arrowroot flour
2-3 egg replacer eggs (Ener-G brand works for me)
1 tsp. almond extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In large bowl, mix together coconut and sugar. Toss together w/ arrowroot.
2. Add in wet ingredients and mix well with your hands. 
3. Drop by the tablespoon onto a greased cookie sheet and bake until slightly browned, about 10-12 minutes. Let them sit for a few minutes before carefully putting them to cool on a cookie sheet. (This is the part where they tend to fall apart, so use caution!)
At any rate, Karen's Seder went off, relatively, without a hitch. One of the cool things about Passover is that its a holiday that doesn't merely venerate the past, but rather asks participants to think about the present. In what forms does slavery still exist in the modern world, and what have we done in the past year to eradicate it? For me, in addition to being a sobering reminder about human trafficking and child soldiers, this always brings animals to mind. To look at our actions, it would appear that we consider animals objects who only exist to serve our needs and have no other purpose in life. Vegetarianism is a great way to reverse this treatment, but around Passover I always try to think about other ways to help the fight for animal liberation.  
But aside from philosophical considerations, its always nice to eat a big dinner with friends. And my charoset, a mixture of apples, walnuts, kosher wine, and figs (my secret ingredient!) went over great as well. So what if Karen and I kept the drinking going far past the proscribed 4 glasses with dinner...
I got to have a second holiday supper today, since part of my family celebrates Easter and part celebrates Passover. So tonight we had a sort-of Passover-friendly Easter dinner, and I took the opportunity to jazz up the kugel I served on wednesday and try out another dish I've been gunning for lately (with, you guessed it, beets.)
You see, I felt the cauliflower leek kugel, as is, is a bit bland for my tastes. I think its because I'm not so keen on dill, which is the main flavoring. So I changed it up a bit, and here's my new version, with mad props to both Isa and Bon Appetit (the source of the non vegan recipe.)
Cauliflower-Leek-Mushroom Kugel with Herb Crust

2 small heads cauliflower, cut into smallish pieces
3 (egg-free) matzohs
2 leeks, white parts only, well-rinsed
1 small onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, diced
3/4 C. mushrooms, sliced
1 container silken tofu
1/2 C. almonds
1 tsp. agave nectar
Parsley, thyme, salt, pepper, and olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 375. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil, cook cauliflower about 10 minutes, or until soft. When done, drain and put in a large bowl- mash it up!
2. While cauliflower is cooking, crumble up two of the matzohs into the food processor and grind into bread crumb consistency. Set aside. Then empty the silken tofu into the food processor and liquefy until creamy. Once the cauliflower is mashed, add the tofu and bread crumbs, using your hands to combine.
3. In a large saute pan, heat some olive oil over medium low heat. Add in garlic, sliced leeks, and onions. Cook until onions are transparent. Next, add in mushrooms, and cook 3-5 minutes more. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and thyme. 
4. Add leek-mushroom mixture into cauliflower mixture, combining with your hands. (You could put a little more salt and pepper in at this point if you wish.) Pour the whole thing into a lightly oiled casserole dish.
5. Now, for the topping: chop almonds coarsely and put into a bowl. Crumble the third matzoh in there with them. Then, chop a good amount of parsley (maybe a third a cup) and add that in there as well. Drizzle with olive oil and 1 tsp. agave nectar, and mix it up with your hands. Sprinkle this mixture over the casserole until it is covered.
6. Cook for about 40 minutes and let stand a few minutes before serving. :)
This last dish has no symbolic meaning for Pesach or Easter, but I saw some delicious looking golden beets at the grocery store the other day and I.... I just couldn't help myself. I was inspired to try a walnut dressing from Mark Bittman's preparation in the Times last month, and this turned out just great. Basically, roasted beets are coated in a simple dressing of walnuts, roasted garlic and olive oil, to which I added a little bit of lemon juice and agave nectar. It turned out fabulous.
Roasted Beets with Walnut-Garlic Dressing

1/4 C. Olive Oil
5-6 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 C. walnuts
Juice from one lemon
1 T. Agave nectar, or 1 T brown sugar

1. Heat olive oil over medium heat. Add in whole garlic cloves, and let them roast until browned on all sides.
2. Add in walnuts and cook a few minutes longer, until lightly browned.
3. Remove from heat and wait a few minutes before adding to a small food processor. Add in lemon juice, agave or brown sugar, and a pinch of salt. Grind until no large pieces remain.
4. Toss with chopped beats and serve at room temp. YUM! (This is also nice over mixed greens for the leftovers.)
I hope everybody's holiday was as fun and full of leftovers as mine was! 

Song of the Day: Metric- Gimme Sympathy



                                A gas-station fruit stand On Ponce de Leon Avenue

While the rest of the East Coast (including the lovely Jessy!) was enjoying the Cherry Blossom festival in my hometown, I dodged traffic and allergies by taking a short trip to Atlanta to see some of my best friends from college. I have to say that I love Atlanta more than almost any place on earth- its funky, diverse, full of weirdos from all over, and spilling out all over with its own brand of music, art, fashion and food. This weekend I was thrilled to see some of my favorite people and places... and not that much has changed since I lived there!

Cabbage-town, home to delicious food and lots of dogs and chickens

When I arrived, my pal B. and her shy and retiring girlfriend Kiki (hehe) met me fresh off the MARTA and carted me off to the awesome East Atlanta Village taqueria, Cantina La Casita. The menu here has expanded a bit since the last time I was there, but they still have awesome guacamole and salsa, killer mushroom tacos, and a new treat: peanut butter plaintain tacos. They also have a variety of tamales and other options. (And did I mention margaritas?) We happened to be there on trivia night: did you know  that Australia has no active volcanos? (Me neither!)

The next day, while my hosts were at work, I met my darling friend Maggie to hike around and find sustenance. Atlanta is many things, but its not particularly friendly to people with no wheels. No matter though, since most of the things we wanted to check out were in walking distance. We had lunch at the less-vegan-friendly-than-I remembered Radial on Dekalb ave, got coffee at Java Monkey (which also has delicious vegan rasberry-fudge cake), and much later a few beers at Twains, all in my college-aged haunt Decatur (properly pronounced "DeeKaaaaaayter".)

                                           Yours truly at Twain's in Decatur

While we were pretty tame our first night all together, the second evening we had a little retro-style dancing and debauchery in mind. So of course we hit up the Cabbagetown favorite 97 Estoria, location of a variety of scandalous evenings in our past, and also home to some damn good food and beer. I got the vegan riblet sandwich with caramelized onions on ciabatta bread, while my girls split the awesome falafel sandwich.

The music was rocking at Estoria, but for oldtime's sake we had to head over to MJQ, a converted underground parking lot that often has the best dance party in Atlanta, if you can catch it on a good night. Sometimes its just riddled with hipsters and the music sucks, but we had decent luck, and it was pretty much hilarious to see my rather strait-laced, adulty friend B. transform into her wild college-era self, dancing for hours and beating off the boys that flock to her like flies to honey. A real heartbreaker on the dancefloor, that one. :)

Nursing a hangover we headed out the next morning to one of my all-time fave's: Ria's Bluebird, on Memorial ave in spitting distance of the cemetary. This brunch-heaven has inspired plenty of my own breakfasts since I moved away, so it was great to experience the original! I got the "bionic breakfast"- a vegan hash packed with potatoes, mushrooms, corn, sprouts, and a killer spicy tofu sauce. I think this breakfast gave me super-powers.... if only I could have it every weekend!                    
There are also plenty of other vegan options, 
including a killer tofu scramble and options for subbing tofu for eggs in other recipes.

                                 Bionic Breakfast at Ria's Bluebird in Grant Park

Aside from visiting a handful of my favorite institutions, I was also lucky enough to experience some of B's own delicious cooking: Oat- pecan pancakes with berries and bananas. Here's the recipe, courtesy of B!:
B's Vegan Oat Nut Pancakes

Serves 4.

3/4 c. white flour
1/2 c. wheat flour
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. cinnamon & nutmeg, each
1/4 c. toasted & chopped walnuts (or pecans!)
1/4 c. quick-cooking oats
1 1/3 c. soy milk (vanilla is good)
1 T. veggie oil
1 tsp. maple syrup

Mix wet. Mix dry and add the wet to the dry. As a bonus, caramelize some bananas or apples, or spread the pancakes with PB (the one time I'll eat PB any way other than straight out of the jar). I adjust the spices and baking powder according to my taste that morning, so if you want 'em fluffier and spicier, add a little extra.

I was so happy to be able to even briefly hit up my Atlanta before the end-of-semester madness really kicks in. And now I'm looking forward to a few weeks free of traveling and/ or visitors to get my act together and finish up this law school bullshit!

Song of the Day: Lil' Mama- Lip gloss