Utter Terror

Well, its here! Its time to scuttle off to New York to take the ... (deep breaths) ... BAR EXAM. Two months of studying, freaking out, and inhaling coffee like its oxygen. And it was all worth it, because now I feel so... incredibly terrified. Well, how bad could it really be, right?


Wish me luck!


Pancakes and Grilled Polenta with Portobellos and Gravy

How lucky is my little brother? Not only does he get all my old college poli-sci books, but I make him pancakes with strawberries and chocolate-hazelnut spread (inspired by CCV's contest, natürlich) every morning. Well, I made it once. But still. Lucky!

I guess it was partially for me too... the only antidote to learning boring and enraging shit about our legal system is to eat incredibly decadent food!

I'm studying corporations right now, and may I just rant for a moment? (I'll take that as a "yes.") The basic idea behind corporations is to offer protection to groups of people who wish to make a profit, by making them relatively immune to legal liability individually, and to allow them to hide behind the corporation as a "legal person". I just believe that this is inherently immoral. We don't allow that much power for groups that do NOT entirely exist to make a profit, so why only allow it for greed? The effect is that no matter how terrible the thing a corporation does (cough, cough, Monsanto, Enron, Blackwater, Exxon...ect) the individual members disclaim their responsibility for it to the end... and what's worse, they don't really have a choice! Our society has approved of allowing a fictitious legal representative take the fall for something individual people thought up and accomplished, we encourage it and reward it! The resulting legal and moral crimes never get punished... or do, and get taken out of the corporation's capital, never out of individual pockets. They get a kind of protection that individual people could never dream of, and are capable of perpetuating wrongs that individuals would never be capable of.

Its just. so. enraging.

At any rate, its only 12 more days and this is all over, and I can stop fuming about legal injustices and start getting excited for Berlin, Brussels, and... human rights abuses scholarship... ? Well, what can I say, I like being angry. I'm a glutton for punishment.

And a glutton for other things. This is a delicious dinner my Mom and I made to make studying a bit more enjoyable: Grilled Polenta over steamed spinach, with grilled Portobellos and Vidalia Onion Gravy. It was so marvelous, and extremely quick and easy to put together. I mean, I literally put the spinach on a plate, topped it with grilled polenta triangles, and grilled, marinated portobellas. The gravy is from VCON and though also quite easy, it defines decadent, especially with the summer's awesome supply of huge vidalia onions. This is definitely a good thing to throw together for company, especially since you can make most of it outside on the grill.

Too good to be true. And now, back to horrible, miserable Corporations

Song of the Day: Morphine- Buena


Bright and tasty!

The last few days have been so completely filled with studying that virtually my only break has been cooking and eating. As a result, I'm making sure that everything I eat is fabulous and cheerful. Its helping me cope... sort of.

Above we have an awesome salad made with what I expect is sort of a bizarre combination to most people... sweet potatoes and beets! (But they're both root veg, sooo...?) I roasted them both in the oven and cut into chunks, then put them over some spinach and topped with walnuts and Jessy's awesome Sweet Orange Miso dressing. The dressing was sooo good, like everything that little ray of sunshine makes! And I was nervous about my weird combo, but it right up my alley- especially with the walnuts, they are a must. But citrus, miso, beets and sweet potatoes are definitely weird-good rather than weird-bad. So, the beet obsession goes on.

Last week, we had a pizza night at my house where everyone basically picked their own topping. I was thrilled to descend from the study cave to top mine with pineapple, bbq sauce, onions, mushrooms, and a little nooch, before running back up to continue. Shortly thereafter, like magic, my delicious pizza was piping hot and ready for me to gobble down before running back, like Gollum, to my precious notecards. My Dad is getting way awesome at homemade crusts, although I want to introduce him to the concept of whole wheat flour.

Another one of my Dad's creations was a stir-fry made with every vegetable in the fridge, plus mock chicken. (Oh, if our ancestors could see us now. 10 years ago my family would have been eating chicken fingers, mac & cheese, and biscuits, and now we're all sitting around watching the Daily Show and noshing on completely vegan fare without complaints.) The sauce was a ginger-sesame oil-soy sauce kinda thing, and on the side we had SUPER-GARLICKY spinach, because that's how we like it, and some really sweet and perfect pineapple. (This must be pineapple season, because every pineapple I've eaten lately has been phenomenal.)

Later in the week I made an attempt to develop some cherry brownies, but I think I went a little overboard on reducing the oil and sugar, because in my opinion they were not nearly gooey enough. When I fix it I'll post the recipe. But in the meantime, they worked in a pinch, and they were pretty!


I also wanted to point you guys to an awesome section exclusively on canning that was in the Washington Post this weekend. There are a ton of recipes and stories about various people's experience with canning. I was really into canning over the fall, when I made fig spread and tomato sauce, but summer is a great time for it too! If you're thinking about it, and ARE NOT studying for any huge exams, I would recommend giving it a shot!

Song of the Day: Bright Eyes- Poison Oak


"Food Inc." and Swell Curry

One of the stars of "Food Inc."

Today, I took a break from studying to see "Food Inc," a documentary that purports to expose the dark side of the American industrial food complex, and does a decently good job of doing so (particularly when it comes to the plight of illegal immigrant laborers). However, though I thought it admirable that the movie explores the problem from a range of socio-economic positions and tries not to be too judgmental of the people inside and out the system, there were some points when my jaw-dropped at the totally glaring omission.

Here: I can sum up the problem very simply. Our first introduction to the narrator features him (Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation) sitting at a diner counter, thoughtfully perusing the menu before finally landing on a cheeseburger and french fries. Let me just pause to have you think about that for a moment.

This is the guy who exposed the fast food industry. The guy who is going to spend the next two hours touring the nation's biggest producers of meat to expose the disgusting conditions, health risks, and human rights abuses caused by our food system skewed towards mass meat production. A guy who is going to quote The Jungle by Upton Sinclair. And he opens the movie chomping down on a burger? WHY?

This was my issue with the movie in a nutshell. They overview the major issues with the food system, and examine a few possible solutions and potential areas of improvement. But never, once, does anyone mention the word "vegan", "vegetarian", or "plant-based diet". (The word "herbivore" is thrown in there- in reference to an animal.) And believe me, after watching this movie, your decision to go vegetarian is going to be the #1 thing on your mind. The lack of ANY reference to vegetarianism as a viable solution or even step in the right direction isn't just an oversight, its outrageously bizarre given the context and, I think, offensive.

As a matter of fact, I struck up a conversation with a guy leaving the movie theater, who immediately brought up the fact that his first reaction with the movie was revulsion at the treatment of animals throughout the film. "I'm an athletic guy, and I always thought I needed protein... but you look at those animals, and how sick they are, and loaded up with crazy chemicals and think: I need THIS to stay healthy? There's got to be a better way." Couldn't agree more, movie-guy. Just wish "Food Inc" would have thought to mention that.

Did anyone else see the film and think differently? I would encourage others to see it, just take it with a grain of salt since it clearly equivocates on animal rights.


At any rate, the movie did make me thrilled to be vegan. And I was even more thrilled when I got home and, in no time at all, threw together this scrumptious little curry from the fabulous Swell Vegan's line-up of delicious recipes. I made her "Lower-Fat Rama Spinach Curry," subbing green beans for spinach and seitan for tofu. But it was perfectly lovely, and made a sweet background to me ranting at my parents about the industrial food complex for a few minutes.

You make people dinner and they'll forgive a lot of things. :)

Song of the Day: Fugazi- Merchandise


Caffeine Alternatives

Something about summertime makes the following things mandatory to consume daily, at least for me: mango, lime, corn, ginger, avocado. Well, actually, these are pretty much year-long obsessions. But, there is something about hot weather that entices you to eat things with less preparation, to add a little kick or spice to something and call it a day. Its either laziness or a testament to how sweet summer produce is, or a little of both. (Actually, all of those things together are pretty awesome too.)

My favorite mid-day snack and caffeine-alternative at the moment is mango, doused in lime juice, salt and pepper, (shout out to M.I.A.!) or alternatively, lime juice and sriracha. The salt and pepper just adds a little kick, while sriracha turns it into weird spicy candy. Both effectively kick me back into study mode. Splashed down with a little homemade ginger limeade (still working on the recipe) and I'm in heaven. Ginger is another one of those foods that seems to go straight to my head and wake me up. And lord knows, I'm not above trying anything that will wake me up. (Well, except for like, meth.:P)

The other night to celebrate my brother being in town we had a little bbq with even more summer goodness- sweet corn with lime and earth balance, marinated grilled mushrooms, garlic-sauteed spinach and home-fries. It's so convenient to have grill access for quick and easy suppers after a long hard day of... studying in the air conditioning. I'm trying to get braver about trying things on it, since I tend to burn all things that are not vegetable kebabs.

And speaking of studying, back to it! In exactly 3 weeks from today I'll be walking out of the NY bar exam a free woman!

Song of the day: Regina Spektor- Dance Anthems of the Eighties

More spicy summer lovin:
Instant Mango Avocado Salsa
Jerk Tofu, Mashed Plaintains, Garlicky Kale
Spicy Gingered Chickpeas
Chipotle Black Beans and Red Quinoa


Cowboy Corn Cakes w/ salsa, caramelized onions and avocado cream

I whipped up these corn-cakes the other night in a effort to use up some cobs of sweet corn and the rest of the avocado-lime-cream. All the recipes I've seen for them would have made Paula Deen blush by how packed with butter and eggs they were, so I was a little skeptical about coming up with a vegan version. I shouldn't have been, obviously! It never ceases to amaze how unnecessary eggs and butter often are. Not only were these awesomely yummy without being totally heart-attack inducing, but they brought to mind the kind of easy and hearty food cowboys might eat around the campfire, after a long day of... hmmm, what exactly do cowboys do, other than get in fights in saloons? Anybody know?

Well at any rate, they were super topped with spicy salsa and avocado cream and I highly recommend them for yourself and any badass vegan cowboys you may know. Thinly sliced scallions might be a good addition to the batter as well.

Corn Cakes
-1 C. flour
-2 tsp. baking powder
-1 tsp. salt

-1/8 tsp. onion powder/ season salt (optional)
-1 C. soymilk
-1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
-2 C. corn kernels (preferably fresh)
-2 Tbs. earth balance, melted
-1 tsp. agave nectar

1.) Combine flour, baking powder, salt, and onion powder and set aside. If using fresh corn, carefully cut corn off of cobb, cutting close enough to get some of the pulp. (If you're like me, the corn flies everywhere, so maybe do this into a bowl.)
2.) Whisk together soymilk and apple cider vinegar and set aside.

3.) Add 3/4 C. of the corn, the melted margarine, and agave nectar. Process until fairly smooth. (Some lumps= ok.)
4.) Grease and heat a griddle to medium heat. Combine the wet and dry ingredients along with the rest of the corn and whisk together until "just mixed." Ladle onto the griddle in small batches, heating about 2 minutes on each side.

Serve with salsa (as long as its not made in New York City, since cowboys hate that), caramelized onions, and avocado cream or guacamole. :)

Song of the Day: The Thrills- Big Sur


Gertrude & Alice; BBQ Tofu & Plantain Tacos with Avocado Cream

Unsurprisingly, I'm really getting burnt out on studying. I'm feeling very petulant these days, because while it is perfectly clear that I can't stop now, so close to the test, I still have the overwhelming urge to ditch all these notecards and tapes and sulk all day at a coffee shop over some Gertrude Stein novels and massive soy vanilla lattes.

As a matter of actual fact, my real escapist fantasy would be to just actually be Gertrude Stein, presiding over an avante-garde salon of famous artists and writers and making wisely arrogant quips while my lover cooks me french delicacies, a la Alice B. Toklas.
Stein and Toklas in their fabulous Parisian flat. Don't they look so relaxed?

However and unfortunately, I've yet to wake up in Paris just yet, so I guess I will have to just take some inspiration from both Stein and Toklas: look at every obstacle as if its just foolishness, and cook myself delicacies at every spare moment.

This evening's meal was a good start: I found some good plantains at the store and had a yen for BBQ tofu, so made my meal around that. The result? BBQ tofu tacos with plantains, black beans, and avacado-lime cream, topped with shredded lettuce and cucumber/mango relish. (I know, I got carried away.)

Looks kind of bizarre outside of the taco, but believe me it was all very tasty. I think anyone of the components could be good again in the future or with different combinations. What I might do differently next time is use a spicier BBQ sauce because altogether the meal was pretty sweet. But then again, any kind of sauce (jerk, hot) would work just as well.

BBQ Tofu
*Everyone has their favorite tofu strategies, I just happened to use this method because I wanted small pieces that would stay crunchy in tacos yet soak up the sauce.

-1 lb. extra firm tofu, pressed, drained, and sliced into smallish cubes
-plain soymilk
-spice rub, seasoning salt, ect.
-oil for frying
-your fave BBQ sauce

1.) After cutting the tofu to your desired bite-sized dimensions, fill a large saute pan with about 1/2- 1/4" peanut or vegetable oil and heat to medium. While its getting hot, fill one small bowl with plain soymilk. Next to it, fill a small bowl with equal parts cornstarch and flour, and a good heap of spice rub or blend. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375.

2.) When oil is hot (test by dropping a small piece in and seeing if bubbles quickly fizz around it) start dropping chunks of tofu in the milk bath, then rolling them in flour/ cornstarch mixture before dropping them (carefully) in hot oil. Do this in batches depending how large your pan is.
3.) Using chopsticks or tongs, flip the tofu pieces over after about 3 minutes. When both sizes are lightly browned and crunchy, transfer to a plate or bowl lined with paper towels.
4. When all batches are done, remove paper towels and douse the tofu in your favorite BBQ sauce. Transfer to a greased cookie sheet or pan and stick in the oven for 10 minutes or so. This should render the outside BBQ sauce a little crunchy and keep your tofu hot while you prepare anything else you're having.

-1 Avocado diced
-Juice from small lime
-1/2 clove garlic diced
-1 tbs agave nectar
-salt to taste (i used about 1/4 tsp)
-1/2 lb. silken tofu

1.) In food processor, pulse first 5 ingredients until creamy. Add in silken tofu by a couple spoonfuls at a time, stopping when cream has reached desired consistency and tanginess. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Perfect Plantains
-2 large Plantains
-Earth Balance
-Brown sugar (optional)

1.) First, find the right plantains. (This is where I usually f*ck up.) The ones you want for sweet plantains are going to be browning and speckled all over and yielding slightly to the touch. Basically it should look like a banana looks when you think "time to make banana bread."
2.) Peel plantains, using a knife if necessary. Quarter by cutting it once in the middle, then cutting each half into four. Meanwhile, place two knobs of EB over medium/ medium low heat and wait until butter has just melted but not yet started to bubble or brown.
3)Add in plantains, quickly coating to toss. If there is not enough butter to coat them all, add in a little more.
4) Raise the heat to medium and cook, turning and tossing occasionally, until sides have caramelized and plantains have changed to a bright golden yellow. At this point, sprinkle with a little brown sugar if desired, cook a minute or two more, and remove from heat. YUM!

Quickie Cucumber Relish

*Utter simplicity but so nice and cooling, I like to serve this relish aside thai or african dishes too. Alongside, for instance, tofu satay I would sub out mango for chopped red onion. Traditional recipes boil the vinegar first, but I don't bother and still like it. (Up to you my friends!)

-1 large cucumber
-1/2 mango
-Rice vinegar
-pinches of sugar

1.) Peel and de-seed cucumber, then cut into thin matchsticks. Cut mango into tiniest pieces possible (just try making matchsticks, ha!) Combine in a bowl, sprinkle with sugar, and pour over enough rice vinegar to coat. Toss once, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Well its back to work, fortified by all the exotic fusion yumminess. And as Gertrude Stein would say: "Considering how dangerous everything is, nothing is really very frightening."

Song of the Day: Paolo Conte- Sparring Partner