Shiitake on a Stick, I’m Done

Headline of the week: Operation Emily-Freaks-Out-In-The-Kitchen Is Resounding Success Despite Devil Oven.

I’m happy to say the Huston Thanksgiving shebang has never  been so vegan-friendly, even if there’s only one veg*n among the bunch (moi). I cooked up all my favorites: chickpea cutlets, mashed taters (mine had less left over than the buttery ones, just sayin’), roasted broccoli, roasted garlic brussels sprouts (<3 <3 <3), and post-rock chickpea gravy. In addition to the two poor turkeys that died for the omnis, my Oma created a slow-cooked Indian-spiced cauliflower main, stir-fried sweet potatoes (not yams), fresh cranberry sauce (confession: I much prefer canned. Yes, I know!) and broccoli bell pepper dish: all delish. My Aunt Annabelle made a tomato caprese salad and was sweet enough to make me my own portion sans mozz. And my Aunt Nora made an amazing fruit salad complete with fresh persimmons and rasberries. Not to mention the snacklets: blue corn tortilla chips dipped in a bomb hummus, a dark chocolate/dried cranberry/almond mix (must recreate soon), and assorted veggies.

To end the night, I noshed on VWAV gingerbread apple pie with a big mug of coffee splashed with Pumpkin Pie soymilk. I think the pie’s success was best represented by my picky sister licking her plate clean: another victory for vegan baking.

Sadly this is the only picture of the night. Sorry folks: use that thing called your imagination.

Other than a can of Soyatoo which refused to dispense (I  later got a refund), all went relatively smoothly. I basically killed myself in the kitchen most of the day and later compensated by eating at least three plates of food and downing as many glasses of wine possible to distract from the stomach pains. Board games were played, Punkin Chunkin was watched, and it was an all-around spectacular night of food coma. Thanksgiving, you were good to me.

And another milestone: I survived Vegan MoFo IV and tallied a total of 21 posts in the process; that’s a forking miracle for this lazy blogger that usually cranks out–at most–5 posts a month. It’s been difficult posting when the schoolwork is calling, but I say just don’t pick up. Har har har I made a funny. Now, for a well-deserved MuffinTopped break as I devote my full attention to a never-ending to-do list. Die, pointless cover letters, die!

Vegan MoFie out.

Fresh Pineapple Banana Bread

You would not believe how difficult it is to find vegan baking recipes that utilizes fresh pineapple; everyone and their mama has this kooky affinity for the canned variety. It’s a travesty that must be remedied in the name of Google, our patron saint of vegan recipes. Thus, my rash decision go off the cuff and create my own unique pineapple bread wonder. Guaranteed success? Pshh overrated.

I originally planned to use pineapple chunks in the recipe but a few too many pulses in the food processor and an absent-minded baker led to smooth puree. It was mostly a happy accident as the puree gives the loaf a nice sweetness and moist texture. I still wanted some crunch though so a buttery oat crumble topping was in order. My expert (hah!) taste buds were overwhelmed by the molasses in the brown sugar so I would suggest reducing the sugar by half to get more of a pineapple flavor. Or cut it all out, you vegan health-balls with your fat-free stevia desserts.

I really want to take this opportunity to declare my undying hatred towards my parents’ oven. I’ve yet to master the art of baking in an oven whose knob has no marked heat indicators. It’s always a scary adventure: turn the dial and hope it’s 375 degrees or you’re screwed. You would think an oven thermometer fixes this problem, but it does not. Not to mention it refuses to hold a constant temperature, effectively desolating many a baked good. I feel so powerless against the devil oven and its heinous schemes to destroy my cooking. If I believed in a satanic force, it would live inside that oven.

But hopefully your pineapple banana bread won’t burn! You lucky duck.

And how many times–and in how many languages–can I express my guilt for the lack of fotografias? Sorry, lo siento, desolee, desculpe, scusa, أسف, piedod (that’s Latvian for ya)! But you’ve all seen banana bread before, right? Trust me, it’s dudn’t look any different.

**EDIT:  Shield your eyeballs: ugly pictures added! It really does taste better than the burnt top implies. Really.

For the loaf:
3 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
2 large (or 3 smallish) bananas
2 cups fresh pineapple (packed) or a little more than 1 cup pineapple puree
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup apple sauce
1/2 cup oil
1 tsp coconut extract (optional)

For the oat topping:
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
2 T Earth Balance, softened
1 T oil
oil/butter/parchment paper to coat the pan

Preheat oven to 375 °F.

Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt (which I forgot oopsies) into a large mixing bowel. Mash the bananas thoroughly with a potato masher or a large spoon in a medium mixing bowel; you want it basically pureed, but a few lumps are okay. Next, take the fresh pineapple and whiz in a food processor until thoroughly pureed. It should make a little more bit more than 1 cup puree, but just dump it all in! Whisk together banana puree, pineapple puree, oil, apple sauce, sugar, and (if using) extract until incorporated. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix well. Pour into an oiled medium-sized loaf pan.

For the topping, pulse the oats in a food processor 2-4 times depending on the speed of your processor. Be careful because you don’t want oat flour here! After each pulse I checked until it resembled a coarse, crumbled texture; 4 pulses just about did it. Mix together oats, oil and brown sugar in a small bowel. Cut in the room temperature Earth Balance with a knife and mix together with your fingers to create small clumps of oat topping. You don’t want big glops, but just little fragments of oats. Spread the oat crumble on top of the bread mixture.

Bake at 375° for about 45-60 minutes or until a knife comes out clean. Try not and curse at your bastard of an oven because your mom can hear you. Breathe in the sweet perfumes of banana and pineapple and convince yourself all is right in the world. You are now at peace (or close enough).

Thanksgiving Quickie

Dirty implications? Or possibly my mind goes irreversabily to the perverse all willy nilly.

T-minus I hit “publish” on this post, I shall begin Thanksgiving cooking like practically every other person in the vegan blogosphere. I’ve never planned to make so much for any one family gathering and I hope I don’t crap out. Here’s the goods: chickpea cutlets (already made chyah!), post-punk chickpea gravy, roasted broccoli, roasted garlic brussels sprout, (the oblig) mashed taters, and a gingerbread apple pie for extra caloric yumz. Mmmm I like feasting.

Last night I dined at OneSpeed in East Sac with my dad, brother, and (just-arrived-from-SLO) sister. I’m (wo)man enough to admit I was Mr. Krabs the whole night and the 30+ minute wait for a table plus the menu with sparse vegan options did little to improve my glorious mood. I must have asked at least 3 different people about the v-word before they gave me any real entree choices. To their credit,  they all seemed to recognize the word vegan (it’s a start!), disregarding the annoying “do you eat fish?” question from our waitress.

I decided upon the Napoletana pizza–creamy eggplant, marinated olives, capers, and tomato sauce on an artisan crispy crust– minus anchovies and mozz. It was quite delectable, albeit liberally doused with oil, and I nearly finished the whole thing. That’s saying something because it’s one of those annoying “single serving” entrees that you just know is meant to be shared. Don’t these people understand my inherent glutttony? My pizza, MINE.

A note on the picture: moody lighting does no favors for food photography. Nor does three other diners sneering at you food porn endeavors while you try not to convince yourself you are not a complete vegan weirdo. The half-eaten piece adds a nice (gross) does of honesty to the pictorial.

Anway, Happy Thanksgiving to all you Yanks and best wishes as you try to enjoy a hearty helping of *beloved* family time. I love this holiday muchly, but one more crack about tofurkey/protein/veganism and I might have to choke a bitch. Toodles.

Product Review: Silk Pumpkin Spice Soymilk

Praise seitan, I’m officially home for Thanksgiving and I’m officially freezing my patootie off. Whilst I will always be a complainer a heart, I can’t help but admit it’s simply magical this time of year. A rainbow of burgundy and mustard on tree leaves a’changin’, plush cotton scarves to nuzzle into, snuggle time with my furry ragamuffin, the sweet crisp NorCal air in my lungs. Yah, it ain’t bad.

So first thing’s first, I went grocery shopping. Yes, fulfilling my vegan priori-teees! Whilst dodging throngs of last-minute shoppers playing bumper carts at the co-op (and in my mind’s eye wondering what the fuks I would post for MoFo), I happened upon Pumpkin Spice soymilk and you can guess the rest. Without even a momentary twinge of monetary regret into the cart it went. A chocolate chip cookie might have somehow mangled its way in there too.

I don’t think this flavor deserves a whole lot of wordage because my taste buds were screaming “NOG NOG NOG! This tastes like Nog!” I do have a sneaky suspicion the crazy Silk soymilk scientists are pulling a fast one on the vegan community in an effort to  duke us out of our holiday soymilks. The bastards.

With undertones of nutmeg and strong kick of pumpkin pie spice, this isn’t your garden variety soymilk. Scrumpdidilumptious to say the least and probably even butter in something baking-related. Not that it’s going to last long enough to get in some muffins, let’s be real. Oooh this would taste good as a muffin accompaniment though, my oh my yes.

It’s Silk-y too, if the pictures don’t speak to ya. Maybe not 1000 words, but at least 999?  Beware: lame joke territory entered with reckless abandon.

It may taste like Nog, but cha know what? I like me some Nog. My next mission: side-by-side taste comparasion all up in yo’ soymilk biznaz. Oh yah the shit’s gonna go down.

Book Review: Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer

A few months ago I was thrilled to receive a copy of Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals through a giveaway by the lovely Yo Soy!

“How interesting! How bizarre!” (3:52) To read an animal rights book that isn’t the least bit preachy, judgmental, yet that also packs a punch in the motivational department. Foer lets the facts regarding the obvious cruelty of Big Ag to do the talking, allowing readers to draw their own conclusions and, what’s more, encouraging them to do so. Instead of a push toward vegetarianism, it’s a strong nudge toward evaluating the current methods of global food production. For Foer, as we align our values with our eating habits we form the best coalition of activists to rid the world of our flawed system of “meat production”, or what is to this vegan the unnecessary slaughter of fully sentient beings merely to sate a passing whim of the tastebuds. As more Americans begin to bring the full-court offense on animal agriculture, it’s only a matter of time before all the cards shall come toppling down.

This is a book I would wholeheartedly recommend to anyone–omnivore, vegetarian, vegan, or veg-curious–as it functions as a safe space for all those with a common interest in food. Even the most stick-your-head-in-the-sand meat-eater can’t ignore Foer’s exceedingly well-researched conclusion about America’s fundamentally flawed factory farms. For Foer, the videos we’ve all seen of unspeakable acts of cruelty in factory farms almost imply they are an exception to a rule. No such luck. They are the industry standard and the meat execs know it.

Even as a two-year vegan, I learned things I never wanted to know from this book, a irrevocable conclusion of cruelty that questions my every-quavering belief in the so-called “humanity” of our species. For instance, did you know that 26 pounds of other sea animals are killed and tossed back into the ocean for every pound of shrimp? Relay that little gem to the pescatarian in your life.

I love that Foer doesn’t ignore the fishing industry which is so often left to minger in the shadows while cruelty towards land animals receives all the media bright lights and under-cover investigations. Be it cows, chickens, turkeys, or fish– each animal industry in demolished in rich detail and all with a surprisingly even hand.

No other word but compelling can describe the first-hand accounts from those directly involved in the food politics arena, from a prominent family-run ranch head, a PETA activist, or a vegetarian wife of a rancher. After the aformentioned independant rancher admits the immense ethical difficulties of  the “moment of slaughter,” Foer probes him further for coping strategies. He receives a reply that you just have to take a “deep breath.” What follows is one of my favorite passages of the book:

“You take a deep breath? For a moment that sounds like a perfectly reasonable response. It sounds romantic. For a moment, ranching freels more honest: facing the hard issues of life and death, dominion and destiny.

“Or is the deep breath really just a resigned sigh, a halfhearted promise to think about it later? Is the deep breath confrontation or shallow avoidance? … Not responding is a response–we are equally responsible for what we don’t do. In the case of animal slaughter, to throw your hands in the air is to wrap your fingers aroudn a knife handle.” (bold added)

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Although it makes little sense that such an intellectual fellow as Foer can cut through all the crap of the meat industry and only remain vegetarian (why not vegan?), I fully respect his choice. He has done what few are willing to do: honestly–without excuses, justifications, or nervous humor–recognize the unsanitary, polluting, unethical and hopeless journey his steak has endured to make it to the plate before him. What’s more, he took the risk of writing a thoughtful prose on the subject to his largely omnivorous readership. It’s surely commendable.

Yellow Split Pea Lentil Soup

This weekend I was determined to cook so naturally I promptly closed the binds, donned my most loosey goosey pair of sweatpants, plopped my butt on the couch, and zoned out to movies all day. I didn’t leave the digs for 40+ hours and it was glorious. Yaaaaaaay agoraphobia.

I’ve been in a leftover rut the past few days so I had the cooking itch, like one of those annoying back itches that is just out of hand-reach with nary a back-scratcher in sight. That plus some yellow split peas (chana dal) in my cupboard have been sitting around all lonely-like and were just begging to be made into a soup. There’s literally no produce left in my fridge and my pantry is laughably empty so my creative juices were severely limited. Beauty is often wrought from the worst circumstances, right? Humph, riiiiight.

The soup wasn’t god-awful, but it really needed some garlic zing, an onion, and maybe some coconut milk for creaminess, none of which were in za kitch. Pictures turned out butt-ugly as an extra plus. Posting an “in-progress” recipe (translation: meh) in my humble opinion is absolutely ridic. There are already thousands of crap recipes clogging up my Google searches and I refuse to be part of the mediocrity.

Ehh at least I made an effort. Thanksgiving break is teasingly close and I’m losing what little motivation is left in these lazy bones of mine. My dreams are full of mashed potatoes, chickpea gravy, and pumpkin pie followed by rampant food babies. And nuuuuuuu school. Shit man, can you tell I’m excited?! So delighted I’m breaking out the interroBANG.

Lazy Blogging, Lazy Friday, Lotta Love

Chamomile tea in my beloved Vegan Dish mug (bought at the equally awesome Never Felt Better vegan gift shop)

Fantastically ugly leftover pasta.

I am not addicted to films I am not addicted to films I am not addicted to films. I would show you a big honking bowel of popcorn too, but Mr. Camera pulled a suicide on me.

Panda snuggle time underneath the covers.

Sending happy thoughts your way for a wonderful weekend!

CSN Product Review: Emerilware Pro-Clad Sauce Pan

Today we bring you the CSN sauce pan review *cue deep warbling voice* IN THREEEEE DEEEEE! Okay, so it’s in plain ol’ 2-D, but this shot is just screaming for some 3-D glasses, yes? And now we end this tangent to bring you back to your scheduled blog post.

The kind folks over at CSN offered me a $40 certificate to review one of their products and I was happy to oblige. Free kitchen stuff? Yes, thank you, mhhhhmm. After wasting quite a few hours browsing my eyeballs off on the huge CSN website, I narrowed it down to this Emerilware stainless steel saucier. I have to say that after one look , I was smitten. It’s obnoxiously shiny, well designed, and clearly a high-quality product. For someone used to cooking with 3 crappy, scratched-up, scorched IKEA pots, this was the holy grail of kitchenware. Without the blood-thirsty white rabbit, of course.

See where it astutely warns, “Keep an eye on it. Heat and shatter resistant tempered glass lid for monitering cooking progress”? This is good advice for ANY pot or pan.

Let’s say, hypothetically, you accidentally left your IKEA pot’s lid on a burner that, remember, hypothetically was left on. When you’re sitting on the couch hearing imaginary popping noises, you (and of course I mean a very non-personal you) should probably get up and take the lid off the burner. Otherwise, this theoretical situation could turn into a very real mess of shattered glasss. And thus, we are left with a pot without a lid. But you wouldn’t do that, I’m sure.

I’m giving it to you straight: I’ve only used this sauce pan once: for melting chocolate. Because I’m a good little girl and I read the stupid user manual, I knew to only use low to medium heat on this thing. Turns out, Emeril knows his shit. The chocolate melted wonderfully, only needing an occasional stir from my end to prevent burning. And really how can I complain when the house smells like melting chocolate? Impossible, yes, impossible my good sirs.

I don’t watch Emeril, but now that I have his pot I’mBAM! destined for cooking greatness. Without all the dead meat and lard and such.

Overall, this is a high-quality professional sauce pan that has–for all the worry warts out there–a life time guarantee. Although I don’t know how much I’ll use it due to its small size, it’s a worthy investment for future cooking endeavors.

And now, DOMO TAKE-OVER!

The inevitable has struck.

Wednesdays can suck it. Work class class eat class CRASH a.k.a a pitiful amount of time for cooking/blogging in schedule. Thus, a survey was in order. I’ll be honest and admit that I automatically skim any posts without pictures in my reader, so I really hate to let the words take over this one. But words are fun, guys. Read the words!

What’s your favorite spice or spice blend?
I have major lovin’ for nooch, but is that technically a spice? I keep it in my spice cupboard is all I’m sayin’. Worst: I just ran out and now I have to wait a week and a half to get some more and I’m GOING INSANE. If I don’t get nooch soon I may just have to hit up my local apothecary for some cyanide. Jay kay I’ll live.

You have $20 to spend on fresh groceries and produce for the whole week (with a fairly well stocked pantry of dry goods, legumes, grains, and spices). what do you buy?

Carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, zukes, kale, garlic, basil

What’s your favorite way to make tofu?

I luuuuuurve that little soybean block in almost any way, but all time faves? Probs the VWAV Asian baked tofu. And I haven’t had a noochy scramble in far too long.

Vegan guilty pleasure?

Chocolate and peanut butter, preferably together. I’m also nutso crazy for popcorn, which if I have my way, gets slathered in embarassing amounts of olive oil, nooch, and salt.

If you could make anyone vegan, who would it be?

My future husband, as cheezy as that sounds. I really can’t imagine sharing the rest of my life with someone who doesn’t share one of my biggest passions: vegan food.

If you could only read one other vegan blog, what would it be?

I’m hating all these decisions you’re making me take on! If you had a gun to my head, probably Oh She Glows. Lots of easy recipes, but never boring or overdone. And–the thing that always hooks me–beautiful photography. Maybe someday I’ll be in the mood to empty my bank account for a DSLR.

Were you always interested in cooking, or did veganism change the way you saw and interacted with food?

I would have to say that making the switch to veganism basically transformed me into a fanatical cook from planet Vega. I’ve always loved food, but now I find myself in the kitchen more and more. It’s my go-to activity when I’m bored, procrastinating, or… well… hungry.

Excluding analogues, what new things have you tried that you probably wouldn’t have as an omni?

So many things in the big wide world. Kale, nooch, smoked paprika. Not to mention the ever easy, delicious, and diverse variety of vegan baked goods.

What is the one vegan staple that everyone seems to love, but you can’t get behind?

This is hard because I’m honestly one of the least picky eaters I know. Even when I was pregan, my Opa used to marvel at my love for salad and other “strange” foods for kids.

I’m gonna say casserole, because something about slopping everything together in a mush just doesn’t get me salivating. I tried the VWAV Chickpea Broccoli Casserole and I HATED it. Very odd seeing as those are two of the best foods in the entire universe.

What was your first “wow, I’m such a stereotypical vegan” moment?

When I first began to really crave veggies like the dickens. A outrageously large bowel of chickpeas, steamed veggies, a grain and some sauce is like crack to me. I think the pregan me would have been a little mystified.

First recipe you veganized?

Some strawberry muffins. Banana for egg and muy delicioso, I’d say.

What would you like to veganize, but haven’t yet?

Bleu cheese dressing, but a very specific kind from an Italian restaurant back home. I don’t really miss anything as a vegan, much less cheese, but I do miss that dressing; it’s got a very particular flavor that’s hard to replicate.
Maybe if I’d ask the owners they’d give me the recipe to veganize? They actually know my family and I because we used to go there so much.

Favorite kitchen utensil/appliance?

My air popper (for popcorn, obvs). I’m gonna be buried with that thing, I love it so much.

Most disastrous kitchen failure?

Recently? I blended silken tofu with pumpkin, cinnamon, cloves, and sugar and it came out disgusting. An overwhelming amount of spice and not enough sweetness. It sat in my fridge for two weeks because I have this thing where I can’t throw away food, especially if I’ve made it. Taught me a lesson: when in doubt, follow the damn recipe.

First vegan cookbook?
That I actually use? Vegan with a Vengeance. But I think I got a PETA cookbook for free a long time ago that’s underneath my bed somewhere. It’s full of “vegan celebrity” recipes that probably aren’t half-bad.

What question about being vegan do you HATE answering?

“But what do you eat?” Obviously food you ignoramus! It’s like omnis have NO IDEA what other food options they are out there and that makes me angry. And also a little sad.

If you could tell the world one thing about vegans, what would it be?

We don’t always want to talk about our veganism. I’m happy to talk with you later if you’re truly interested, but I hate having the same convo with the same clueless omnis every time I meet/eat with someone. It’s tiring.

Funniest vegetable?

Carrots that have… ahem… members. I’m not elaborating.

What is a family recipe you have veganized?

I don’t really have any “family recipes.” I learned to cook hashbrowns and a few other simple things from my dad (who used to work as a cook), but nothing fancy schmancy.

Is there something you wish you could veganize, but can’t/couldn’t?

The aforementioned bleu cheese dressing

Are your pets vegan? if so, what do you feed them? tell us about having vegan furbabies!
No, but Leeloo loves strawberries. Will turn up her nose at any dropped carrots though.

Favorite non-dairy milk?

Sweetened Vanilla Almond Breeze disappears like crazy in my house. I put it in my fridge and then POOF! gone.

What’s one “vegan myth” you’d like to squash?

We eat just as well, if not better, than those who dine on animal products. So please put away the pity pony and just accept that being vegan is a cheap, easy, and delicious lifestyle.

And…. I’m getting off the pulpit.

Wacky Curried Borscht Stew

As I stared into my produce bin, all I could think was: “Beets, there has to be another use for you than in my (world-famous, I’m sure) Two-Grain Beet Salad”  And then a bolt of inspiration struck: I’ll throw them in a pot, add some of my orange babies (carrots, derrr) and see what happens! When added with a very neglected jar of red curry paste taking refuge in the back of my fridge, ambrosial delights happen, that’s the whut whAAAt.

Fun fact: I was on an intense Dexter procrastination sesh a few minutes before I made this weird, blood-red borscht-ish stew. So when a pot of bubbling red guck was staring me in the face, all I could see in my mind’s eye was my future as the Bay Harbor Beet Butcher. And this dish was great for my kitchen, let me tell ya: little bubblets of pink lava are *fantastic*accent points for white walls. Sponge(bob), to the rescue!

Turns out, eyes lie. This is one of my favorite stews yet and I like me a warm bowel of hearty goodness to comfort me in these dark winter days.  It would have been a soup, but I added too much rice until the whole thing went kaput (or in plain speak the rice soaked up all the water). This is a great soup for using up leftovers as I was staring into my fridge with a half-empty–NOT half-full, you optimistic assholes–tupperware of lentils and a week-old batch of sticky rice. Thus, out of humble (almost about to go bad) ingredients a palatable stew was born.

I didn’t measure the amount of rice I used (dump,stir, and taste is my preferred cooking method) so add in slow amounts to see what you like best. If you have a bigger pot, you might want to add another 1-2 cups of water as well. My little IKEA pasta pot can only hold so much.

Splash liberally with lime juice and enjoy this odd Russian/Asian/scrumptious dish. My batch of leftovers is calling my name: “Emiiiiiiilyyyyyyy…..”

Wacky Curried Borscht

olive oil for sautéing (as much or as little as you want)
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 medium-sized beets, peeled and chopped
3 cups water
1 T red curry paste
3 T soy sauce
1 T siracha (start with 1 tsp if you dislike the heat)
2 tsp curry powder
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp cumin
salt and cracked black pepper, to taste
¾ cup cooked lentils
½-1 cup cooked rice
1 package firm silken tofu, drained and cubed

Heat olive oil over medium heat and sauté carrots and beets for about 5 minutes or until soft. Add the water and bring to a boil. Add red curry paste, soy sauce, siracha, and spices and stir to incorporate. Taste-test the broth adding more or less spice as necessary. Add lentils, rice, and silken tofu. The silken tofu will crumble and disintegrate and that’s okay, just go with it. Bring the mixture to a boil. Serve hot with lime wedges for a nice pucker.

Makes 4-5 servings