Urban Vegan's Bangin' Havana Beans and Rice

Just a quick post because I am cranking out proposals for various endeavors, in a seemingly never-ending loop... but at least I have good brain food!

Last night I made such a damn-good dinner that I was sad (for a second) that no one was there to eat it with me and complement me. (And then I cackled gleefully because I knew I had the rest all to myself.) However, maybe the reason why you make such good food when alone is because you are only trying to please yourself, and can afford to be more adventurous and/or ridiculous. Like, I decided to make the Havana Rice and Beans from the Urban Vegan cookbook, despite having only a 1/2 the ingredients. Further, I had a handful of cashews, so I decided to try the cashew sour cream from Vegan Brunch. If someone else was there I probably would have done something less time-consuming, that I actually had the ingredients for, but it ended up being lovely puttering around the apartment, leisurely making the components for my meal while simultaneously freaking out about transnational citizenship.

Anyways, it was so FREAKING good. I dunno why a simple beans and rice dish is so amazing, but one explanation is that Ms. Urban Vegan is a genius. Go out and buy her cookbook immediately. This is by far one of the least exciting-sounding recipes in the book, and its still phenomenal. There's a bay leaf involved, and veg broth, and vinegar... but still, I was doing double takes while I ate it, like "did I just make this? woah." And that's with half the ingredients. Meanwhile, the cashew sour cream was equally exultant, the only problem being that its so easy and has so few ingredients that I might make it every day. Wow.

So there you have it, another cheap and hearty meal with lots of leftovers and happiness. But just in case you think I've strayed too far from my daily pancake routine, here is my pal Ted enjoying one of the 3 batches of pancakes made over the weekend. Still the best bang for the buck, those pancakes.

(Yes ladies, he's single. :) )

Song of the Day: Joe Strummer and the Muscaleros- Global A-Go-Go


Dutch Hutspot!

*The Baltic Sea*
This desolate, romantic landscape is where I spent the first few days of 2010, in a little cottage near Kiehl with a group of friends. If you can believe it, one of the more spartan members of the group actually took a swim in the sea. Crazy, right? Germans.

Anyways, I'm already back in swing of things in fabulous Brussels now. Why "fabulous" you say? Well after flying all over the northern hemisphere for the break I came to realize how much I like this little town. Yes, Brussels, with all of its duo-linguistic issues, inferiority-to-Paris-complexes, and bureaucratic nightmares, is a great place to come back to. Its calm, the public transport covers every inch of the city (once you figure it out), and in terms of food, its way easier then I make it seem to eat well on budget. (It just takes getting used to... and speaking the language doesn't hurt, I'm sure.) And I finally figured out how to operate my kitchen with a minimum of fire hazards. (But then, I've only been back a week.)

One of my new budget dishes is actually a Dutch treat I learned from S. in Berlin. Its called "hutspot" and its essentially mashed potatoes and carrots-- baby food, but good baby food! I guess its usually made with speck (bacon) but among the group I ate it with I didn't notice anyone hesitating to get seconds from the vegetarian portion. The great thing about this is you can obviously get huge portions, making it good for a get together when everyone is broke, or just in the mood for some baby comfort food.

Dutch Hutspot
-3-4 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1" slices
-8-10 boiling potatoes, peeled and quartered
-1 large onion, diced
-3-4 cloves garlic, diced
-earth balance

1. Place all the carrots and potatoes into a stockpot filled with salted water. Bring to a boil and cook until fork-tender, about 15 minutes depending on how many you made.
2. In the meantime, drizzle a good knob of olive oil in a pan and bring to medium heat. Add in your garlic and onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent and garlic is starting to brown.
3. When potatoes and carrots are done, drain in a colander then return to hot pot. Add in onions and garlic, a good couple knobs of earth balance, a drizzle of soymilk, a few pinches of nutmeg, and of course salt and pepper. Mash together with a masher until fairly blended. Taste, and adjust seasoning to taste. (I usually end up using more soymilk and butter after the initial mashing.)
Serve with a salad, or just eat straight out of the pot. :)

song of the day: Wir Sind Helden- Denk Mal


Bagel Mania and Haiti

For the last two weeks I have been doing only two things: writing papers, and making bagels. (Well, 3 things if you count eating the bagels.) I've basically been chilling in Berlin with S. and hyperventilating over my various topics in between massive bagel orgies. (I also developed a cool way to stack bagels for brunch, as illustrated.) I used the recipe from Vegan Brunch which I thoughtfully received over the holidays. Man that cookbook is awesome.

So basically we've been making both sesame seed and *trying* to make blueberry bagels, with varying degrees of success. Apparently the trick is to fold the blueberries in when frozen, quickly before rolling out the dough and boiling. However, I think the real trick might just be using dried blueberries... well, I'll give that a shot next time.

Anyways, I know bagels seem like a bit of a chore to make from scratch, but I would encourage people to try them. Like tamales, once you get the hang of it, its simple. And best of all, the end product of your hard work is BAGELS! I.e., avacado's best friend! Coffee's soul-mate! And the best thing to bring to brunch, hands down.

At any rate, the bagel part of the week was exciting, but I was somewhat less thrilled to hear about Haiti. One of my paper topics had to do with Haiti's debt to France (a very terrible story, as a matter of fact), so I was already spending a lot of time focusing on Port Au Prince when I heard the news from Berlin. Naturally, the vegan community is usually one of the best responders to things like this (since people that care about animals usually care about people, too!) so I know many of you are probably donating and participating in vegan bake sales. (If not, head on over to the PPK blog for more info.) My Dad, as a journalist, is there right now. And while I'm worried about him, I also know that journalists do a service during times of disaster by drawing attention to the needs of the community in harm's way, so I'm also very proud! Here are a few pictures he sent...

Hope that all of you in the blogosphere are safe, and if you are take a moment to thank your lucky stars (and donate a few more dollars...)!



This year for Christmas dinner I was in the mood for something kind of challenging, since my cooking has been repetitive at best and "just pancakes" at worst. After seeing Tofu Mom's post about tamales on her awesome blog, I figured they were just the ticket.

Now, everyone has their own method of making tamales, and I won't expound too much on the recipe here since you can find it in many places, including the above post and in your trusty Veganomicon. But what I will say is that even though I've often enjoyed these goodies at local Salvadorean and Mexican restaurants, they always seemed a bit too complicated to make: like you need to be in a kitchen in Mexico with your grandmother explaining to you exactly how to do it. And while it was tricky to find the corn husks, even in DC, I think the grocery shopping was actually the most complicated part. The rest of it, while time consuming, is not really difficult.

Essentially, you make the filling first, which could really be anything, then flour mixture, then assemble it in a corn husk, wrap and steam. We chose to make a simple mushroom filling, as well as a black bean and sweet potato filling (just a can of black beans, a steamed sweet potato, and some cumin and cinnamon.) The result was gorgeous little bundles of joy that looked not unlike presents, and were perfect with some salsa and soy sour cream. (Guac would also be a good addition.)
Unfortunately, we didn't have any leftovers, but I'm told they are very simple to freeze and enjoy later on. They were so perfect with some caesar salad on the side as a light and festive Christmas dinner.

My family actually liked it so much that when I took off for more days of miserable travel, this time to reach Hamburg for a new years celebration, they decided to make more! This time my Dad and little brother made the filling out of black beans, sweet potatoes, and garlic spinach, which sounds incredibly delicious. They also wrapped them in banana leaves which they were able to find at a market close by. My Dad's tip? "The trick is to have the masa kinda soupy, like thick peanut butter, and spread on on with a spatula, then a little filling."

My tip would be to make them as soon as possible because they are fabulous and hard to mess up!

Song of the Day: Flaming Lips- I can be a frog