Friday, August 31, 2007

Noodles with eggplant, green beans and mushrooms

A Chinese style noodle stir fry: eggplant (Italian), baby bella mushrooms, green beans, sesame oil, peanut oil, sesame seed, almond slivers, scallions, fresh ginger, garlic, black pepper, siracha, ume plum vinegar, tamari, brown sugar and cornstarch.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Bitchin' Vegan Test Kitchen

Here is a spicy jalepeno burger I tested for Joni Marie of Just The Food . Smothering a veggie burger in nacho cheez = brilliant idea, damn. She already has one cookbook out called Cozy Inside with lots of comfort food recipes. You can buy it in print or download it at a reduced cost-- another good idea! This recipe is for a book of 101 veggie burgers. Whoa.

And here is some veggie cream cheez spread made for Melody of the beautiful Melo Meals blog. This is hands down my favorite homemade cheez recipe. Really Melody, genius, I think tofutti is gonna come after you though. I can't give it out obviously (you'll just have to wait for her book!) but if you ask really, really nicely I might make you some... if I don't eat it all first.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Lazy blogger says; "keep yer crap outta my veggies, k plz thnx?!"

Some spinach has been recalled again. I suspect coverage that is way overblown yet still fails to mention how factory farming is responsible for the spinach contamination. Vegetables don't make this shit (literally) themselves you know! Anyway, here's Friends of Animals on how it got there (ew) and also Vegan_Noodle on the media coverage.

Animal rights in the business section?

The New York Times has a story in the business section today on animal rights groups uniting around environmentalist arguments for vegetarianism-- and criticizing meat-eating environmentalists. I'm not a fan of the tactics Peta or HSUS uses, but this is certainly an issue we can all agree on. Meat = bad for environment, period. I'm not sure how I feel about going after Gore in particular though. I'm *not* saying he's beyond reproach, and certainly we need to talk about why the standard American diet wasn't mentioned in "An Inconvenient Truth," (ditto for the shop-happy consumerist green "solutions" getting so much press these days) but I think this is just another one of Peta's alienating tactics. By attacking an individual often seen as moving us in the right direction, I think Peta makes itself look negative and anti-people as usual. It's not as ridiculous as their letter to Michael Moore but similar in that they criticize a "liberal" for not incorporating vegetarianism (why can't we just start saying vegan already?) into their message and choose to make their arguments in a kinda nasty way rather than a "hey! you forgot this!" kind of way. You have the right arguments... so why use such yucky tactics ? I know, I know, nothing new there. Since most people think all vegans and animal people are automatically in line with Peta though (including the New York Times) it is frustrating.

Oh, and I also don't like their insinuating chickens aren't brave or something... don't they have it hard enough guys, hmm?

Read more:
*New York Times: Trying to Connect the Dinner Plate to Climate Change
*Alternet: So You're an Environmentalist; Why Are You still Eating Meat?
*Treehugger: Vegan Diets Healthier for Planet
*Go Veg: Meat and the Environment

Monday, August 27, 2007

Local Produce 101 (with Linkage!)

Gorgeous berries right? Well, they tasted as good as they looked too! Unfortunately that isn't always the case with our produce. I know one huge pet peeve of mine is spending a little extra cash on some pretty raspberries that only end up tasting like so much refrigerated water. Conventional fruits and veggies from the grocery store are now bred and selected for how they hold up on their long journeys from (industrial) farm to table and for how they aesthetically "perfect" they look on the shelves. Taste, is much less of a consideration in the U.S. unlike other countries where consumers demand produce that berries that taste like well... berries. Vitamin and mineral content (directly related to soil quality and rapidly declining, though overwhelmingly higher in organic produce) is also not a concern for the corporations that produce and distribute our fruits and vegetables and obviously neither is the fair treatment of agricultural labor or the preservation of the environment.

With tremendous efforts from farmers, health advocates and food activists, local farmers markets are experiencing a renaissance in the U.S. Along with home gardening, CSA's (Community Supported Agriculture) and food co-ops, farmers Markets offer consumers alternative to industrially produced food that may be cheap in the short run but hides its "true cost" by compromising nutrition, human rights and the environment. It's also fun and delicious! Much of the produce available there is organic (talk to your farmer-- who may or may not be able to afford official organic classification) and all of it is much fresher than what you're used to. You'll certainly find new things to try, foods that grow well in your climate that you may have never heard of (I've found jerusalem artichokes, parsnips, garlic scapes and red scallions among others here in NY) and you'll definitely be inspired to cook more, experiment more, and eat better.

*Deconstructing Dinner is not a vegan podcast per se, but they do have some amazing podcasts on the realities of industrial food-- and our alternatives to it. The episodes on "Packaged Foods Exposed," "Personal vs. Corporate Responsibility" and "The End of Food - The Evolution of Nutrition and Human Health" are some of my favorites. There are also episodes on organic farming, co-ops, local food, food in public schools and more.
*Just Food is a non-profit dedicated to creating a sustainable food system in NYC.
*The Southern Fried Vegan has some yummy ideas for her local produce.
*The Way We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter is the book that made me go vegan. It is not written at all from an animal rights perspective, but if you want a Fast Food Nation-type look all the food you buy, this book gives a good overview.
*Last weekend at the market I answered a survey for a for Farm Aid worker. Her questions reminded me of how important talking about these issues really is. She also gave me a flyer for the concert and a cute pin, see?

Italian Scallion!

It's red, white and green-- get it? An improv potato soup inspired by my Mom who taught me to cook without recipes.

New potatoes, kale and red scallions from the farmers market with garlic, Earth Balance, soy milk, thyme, rosemary, oregano, black pepper and red chile flake. Lots of leftovers of course, which will be even better when accompanied by some really, really delicious vegan "cheese" crackers.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Candle Cafe

Spoiled city vegan that I am I figure I may as well start posting about some of the bitchin' vegan meals I consume outside of my kitchen. (Not that you guys need it what with Super Vegan and their magical restaurant index). My awesome new vegan friend Melissa took me out to lunch at Candle Cafe over the weekend and she was gracious enough to let me take some food pornography before we dug in.

I had the Walnut Crusted Seitan served over french lentils, with broccolini, green and white beans. It was plated with some lovely golden sauce. I wish I had the menu description but alas, it was a daily special. I did not think the seitan tasted especially nutty and it could've been a tad crisper. That is seriously nit-picking though-- this was really very yummy.

Melissa had "Aztec Salad: Bi-color quinoa, black beans, red onions & corn topped with spiced pumpkin seeds and barbequed grilled tempeh. served over mixed field greens with a toasted cumin vinaigrette." I didn't try it, but it looks amazing, right?

Overall Candle Cafe ( Candle 79's more accessible little sibling) was great: a diverse menu, good service, classy vegan food, cute atmosphere. Check out their menu online, it's really fantastic. All this don't come cheap however, and (like Kate' Joint, Gobo and Viva Herbal Pizzeria) their soy cheese has casein in it. Maybe we can put an end to all this madness once Cheezly is finally in town. Preview: I've already pre-ordered some from Vegan Essentials; I'll let you know if that stuff lives up to its reputation.

Thursday, August 23, 2007


So Jackie is moving to Philly to go to fancy lawyer school. We totally hate her for leaving New York, but figured it was a pretty good excuse for a dinner party regardless. Here's the money shot: spanakopita from VWaV, saffron risotto stuffed tomato (arborio rice, saffron, shallots, white wine, olive oil, sauteed artichoke hearts, garlic, pignoli, red chile, black pepper), asparagus with margarine, lemon and pepper and some homemade hummus with tahini and garlic a la Esme, our lovely hostess. If you own the VWaV cookbook you really should make that spanakopita. it takes some time with all the washing, chopping, squeezing, sauteeing and such, but it is so, so, so worth it.

Here are the green tea cupcakes from VCTOTW with marzipan hearts and fresh fruit. These are my favorite cupcakes out of the book so far (and I've already made quite a few!). They're really fluffy, just like real Japanese baked goods and now that I have the matcha green tea powder, I will be making these again soon for sure.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Quick pasta

Been busy cooking for an upcoming extraVEGANza, so I was not feeling like a complicated dinner. Here's a pic of what I came up with: whole wheat penne with butternut squash and spinach sauce. I just cooked the pasta, and immersion blender-ized a can of butternut squash puree, some pre-washed spinach, a clove of garlic, some pignoli nuts, tomato sauce, tomato pasate, oregano, red pepper flakes, black pepper and nutmeg. Garnished with some fresh flat-leaf parsley and more pignoli.

Look out for a ton of food pics tomorrow. There won't even be any more mushy brown-orange food either :)

Monday, August 20, 2007

CARE rejects U.S. "Monetized Food Aid"

While the Farm Bill is being debated in Congress, the international repercussions of our seemingly contradictory agriculture subsidies and unabashed faith in the "free market" ('cause that part is only for poor people, k?) have lately become apparent. The international NGO CARE announced that the U.S.'s "help" does more harm than good. It's not just about dumping unhealthy food on WIC recipients and kids in the school lunch program here at home anymore. We also ship out grain to poor countries--and instead of distributing it to *hungry* people--we specify that it must be sold on the market (inevitably to those who can afford it.) While sales theoretically fund further development, you can't feed that to starving people any time soon--and CARE doesn't have much faith in the long-term vision anyhow.

Read more at Daily Kos:
CARE Rejects Millions in U.S. Food Aid (they're fed up)

Stereotypical Vegan Food Alert!

First a smoothie. It's the beloved pre-yoga beverage of us coastal, urban, bleedin' heart, health-nut types, but it should be recommend drinking for everyone! I've been having this one for breakfast almost every day now and been feeling pretty awesome. I blended up some frozen raspberries, a banana, a handful of spinach, (you can't taste the greens, don't worry) a teaspoon of flax meal, a teaspoon of cocoa powder and some plain soy milk. Sounds weird but is delicious. What are your favorite combinations guys? I have some mango in the freezer for instance...

Authenticity is sooo overrated, and so are nationalism, and arguably, my cooking skillz. Thus I present you with the India meets Japan stir-fry. I couldn't decide what I wanted, and now you don't have to either! In here we've got broccoli, "baby bella" mushrooms, brown rice, onions, cashew bits, unsweetened coconut flakes, fresh garlic and ginger, safflower oil, sesame oil, tamari, lime juice, Japanese curry powder, red pepper flakes, and black pepper.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

What to do with chickpea flour?

Besan "quiche" with baby portobello, onion, walnut and chard. Dressed with red pepper aioli and basil pesto.

So I bought some chickpea (besan) flour my beloved local Indian market a few weeks ago without any immediate plan of action. I've been browsing some recipes (crepes, "omlettes," etc.) in the meantime, but when Roommate brought me hope a copy of The Voluptuous Vegan I was excited to find several recipes using this stuff. I tried out a quiche-like recipe though I changed it quite a bit. Mainly, I Italian-ized it and cooked it in a pie plate instead of a tart pan. It took much longer to firm up, and I still wanna tweak the seasonings a bit, but this was really yummy with whole grain toast, and homemade aioli (roasted red peppers, garlic, vegannaise, fresh basil, salt, pepper) and pesto (basil, olive oil, pignoli, vegetable broth, lemon, garlic parsley, pepper, nutmeg, oregano). Interestingly it reminded me less of egg than it did poultry. I might play that up next time and try a thanksgiving version with cranberries and sage. The crust is screaming for some breadcrumbs too. In any case, I'll post my exact modifications sometime when I have it down perfectly. In the meantime... someone should come over and eat the left-overs... There's a lot here!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Farmers Market Greens

It's summer and the farmer's market rocks. See how happy this little tomato is? Aww. I stole it from some other vegan bloggers.

Anyway, you eat your green leafies every day, right my Informed Reader? Of course, I know, who doesn't, right? (Nervous laugh.) Well, somehow it seems I've gone 22 years of life having never cooked chard. Jackie, my unlikely accomplice at last week's farmers' market outing (we love her... but girl can't cook to save her life) insisted I get some of the pretty, pretty rainbow chard for purely superficial reasons. Luckily I took her up on it and I've finally cooked it. I roasted the chopped stems at 400 degrees for about 10-15 minutes with a little canola spray and salt. I cooked the greens on the stovetop with more canola and salt as well as lemon zest, black pepper, red chile flakes and toasted pignoli. I combined the two and it couldn't have made a prettier dish.

Poor deprived vegans!

I made these brownies today. They're quite yummy though I will advise you to underbake them a few minutes and to use the glass pan suggested. I think I'll stay on the look out for something a bit fudgier though (these are slightly more cake-like) perhaps a recipe with applesauce might keep everything a bit more moist and dense. Feel free to post your favorites people!

Listen up cheeseitarians!

"Oh I could never be vegan. I'm addicted to cheese!"

Yes, indeed you are addicted; but you *can* go vegan!

Let me explain. You see, all mammalian mothers (including cows and humans) secrete a protein called casein in their milk which when consumed by their babies converts into a substance called casomorphine. Yes it's related to *that* morphine. Nature puts a little of this calming "drug" in there so that babies of all species want to go back to mom for milk and grow up strong and healthy eating what's best for them.

Now, having messed with the natural order of things, stealing milk from other species and continuing to drink it into adulthood, humans are consuming large amounts of casein every day. Unconsciously we're getting that subtle high as our bodies process casomorphines. The product that is most concentrated with the stuff is cheese. Casein is what makes cheese melt (which is why some manufacturers put it into soy cheeses-- so always read your labels!) and also what makes it addictive to us.

I know what you're saying; "hey, it's a natural high; what's wrong with that?" Well... It's not really *natural* for humans to be drinking food designed to make calves gain hundreds of pounds of weight within a few months. The authors of Skinny Bitch say that if women give up one animal product to lose weight it should be dairy. Kinda makes sense, doesn't it? There's also the fact that many, many people, especially people of African, Asian and Latino backgrounds are actually allergic to dairy in some capacity. its been linked to frequent stomach irritations, constipation and acne among other common health complaints. Furthermore The China Study singles out casein as the most dangerous animal protein we consume. Seems that what makes your butt grow too big for your jeans is also what can make a few anomalous cells grow into cancerous tumors. Scary stuff.

"But I need calcium!"

You certainly DO need calcium, but you're way better off getting that from plant foods as they generally offer more absorpable sources of calcium without all the heart-clogging saturated fats and harmful animal proteins present in dairy. The dairy industry has spent a ton of money on "Got Milk" ads and other campaigns to get you to think dairy products are the only sources of calcium but this isn't true at all. If you're eating a well-balanced, varied vegan diet then getting the calcium you need is no problem. Did you know that tofu, sesame seeds, collard greens, figs, almonds, flax seeds, arugula, white beans, kelp, kidney beans, black beans kale and LOTS of other foods actually have more calcium that cow's milk (per 100 grams)? If you're still worried about getting enough, add some fortified soy milk or orange juice or maybe some blackstrap molasses to your breakfast. Easy and yummy.

So if that doesn't get you off of the cheese, there are other points to consider too. For instance, did you know that the veal industry is a byproduct of the dairy industry? You see, cows need to have babies to give milk, and while female calves will become dairy cows themselves, the males will be turned into veal (typically after living a short, miserable life in a dark crate deprived of the nutrition they need-- to keep their flesh pale) or, if prices are low some factory farms will simple kill them straight away. In any case all calves are taken away from their moms within hours of birth since it is their milk farmers are after-- and they won't be sharing it. Something else to consider is the rennet used in cheesemaking. Traditionally rennet (used as a curdling agent) is made of baby cow stomach. Some cheaper cheeses use vegetable or microbial rennet from non-animal sources, but if you're eating fancier-type cheeses (including cheddar, parmesan and brie), or eating out in a restaurant where you can't check the labels-- you can't really be sure you're eating a product that can even be labeled vegetarian. Oh, and goat cheese often requires rennet from goat stomachs too. So you aren't off the hook there either.

Finally, I'll attempt to simply gross you out: dairy products are fulla pus. Yup, you're eating... pus. Since dairy cattle are generally kept in pretty heinous conditions (standing on dirty pavement hooked up to machines all day and never getting to see the sun or step foot on grass) they tend to get an infection of their udders called mastitus which causes the area to become inflamed, pus-filled and really painful for cows. Pretty much all milk and cheese in the U.S. contains unbelievable levels of pus.

"Ok, you got me you crafty vegan demon; what can I eat now?"

I highly recommend the Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook by Jo Stepaniak. Her recipes are all-natural blends of healthier ingredients like tofu, nuts, sea vegetables, tomato products, tahini, vegetable oils, beans, herbs and spices. I also like some of the commercial products on the market such as Follow Your Heart brand vegan cheeses or Tofutti Better than Cream Cheese (make sure to get the trans fat free version with the yellow label!) but you may want to give yourself some time away from cheese before you try some of these recipes and products. They don't taste *exactly* like cheese and you'll appreciate them more once you've conquered your post-addiction jitters (they really do go away after two weeks or so, honest!) Health and compassion will taste so much better than concentrated cow pus ever did. :)

The delicious picture up top is the "Gooey Grilled Cheez" from Ultimate Uncheese cookbook on whole grain oat bread with slices of a farmers' market tomato. The recipe is very easy and fast and probably have all of the ingredients you need to make it already. I love how it has that crazy orange Kraft Single look (fun fact: Kraft Singles cannot legally be labeled "processed cheese food" anymore as they don't even use milk, but some weird milk byproduct. Now it has to say "processed cheese product" on the package. Scary eeh?) to it even though it's colored only with nutritional yeast and tumeric! I promise it's really, really yummy too.

More information is available at:
Compassionate Cooks "Life after Cheese" Episode
from E: The Environmental Magazine, "Just like Cheese? Avoiding 'Addiction' with Dairy Free Alternatives""

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Eggplants and Chickpeas in Peanut Masala

Made my very first recipe from Fat Free Vegan Kitchen today and had to rave immediately! I used a white eggplant from the farmer's market, a whole can of chickpeas and a few handfuls of spinach I needed to use up. This recipe is really wonderful; spicy, complex and super healthy; and I sense it will make even better leftovers tommorow. I think my garnish of cilantro (hey, I know it's in everything I make lately but it's summer, so it should be!) and toasted peanuts freshened it up and added some texture since I was too lazy to make rice to accompany it.

Yummy Indian food with no added oils? Susan V. you are my vegan hero!

Eggplants and Chickpeas in Peanut Masala Recipe

Thursday, August 9, 2007

He's just not that into your vegetables

'Cause you know I wanna date that guy right there. Eww.

It's sorta become part of my morning ritual: orange juice, toast, the eternal wash-hair-or-don't-wash-hair debate and a batshit crazy offensive article from the New York Times. Whether it's a piece on which outer borough neighborhood a trendy lady should gentrify (to save money for shoes, natch!) or Pulitzer Prize winner William Safire doing something straight up racist (I know the guy's gone now-- but tell me how someone who writes a column called "On Language" and doesn't think to look up the word "Womanism," which he had apparently thought he made up... for a *terrible* punchline no less) I can always count on The Paper of Record to remind me why I need to get out of bed and go yell at some people.

Anyway, today brought us "Be Yourselves, Girls, Order the Rib-Eye" which is actually not about being yourself at all (least of all us vegan girls) but instead how to trick men into thinking you are going to be the least amount of hastle for them. Oh and clogging your arteries while you do it. Sexy. Excuse me while I get all Carol Adams on you NYT but I really do think that the fact that beef (especially the $$$ steak) has been fetishized and imbued with such meaning ("eating this dead hunk of animal means i'm 'one of the guys!' dontcha know?") is indicative of just how troubled we are by eating it. Certainly there are less conflicted food choices. No one gets too worried about pasta or curry for instance. I do not think it's a coincidence that we choose to read manliness into steak either. Beef is the *one* animal food that I've never heard a "vegetarian" say they eat (we all know those pesky pesce- and pollo- people). It's just uncompromisingly dead, red, bloody animal and we know it. To justify this then there is then an ethos of; "Hey, look, I had to kill it and eat it because my raw, violent masculine energy DEMANDED it." Right. Women then, according to the NYT can borrow a bit of this manliness (an ironically homosexual tactic to bait/hunt/catch a man) since it's you know, that particularly narrow vision of masculinity is so entirely unproblemmatic and all.

Insert mandatory self-deprecating vegansexual joke here.

Be Yourselves, Girls

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Tortilla Soup with Uncheese

This is the Tortilla Soup from the Real Food Daily Cookbook. Roommate and I were sweating like crazy eating hot and spicy soup in August NYC heat but it was totally , totally worth it. This is the first recipe I've tried from RFD but I'm looking forward to making more as this was so spot on: delicious, healthy and pretty simple to make. I did add some rinsed canned black beans (post puree) to the pot on Day Two of Tortilla Soup Extravaganza 2007. A generous squirt of lime juice before serving is also highly recommended. Garnished here with cilantro, avocado and homemade Monterey Jack Cheez (one of the block uncheeses from The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook).

A word on the cheez: this particular batch actually reminds me more of egg than of cheese, but in any case it tastes really nice grated in soup or sliced on a veggie burger. You really do have to tweak the recipes in that book to your own specifications (I always add extra chile and garlic, much less lemon juice than she suggests and use soymilk instead of water for a creamier result) and you can't be afraid to play around. Jo Stepaniak gives you a basic plan for good texture and a basic flavor platform, but you have to trust your instincts with the variations. Definitely not for the nutritional yeast phobes either; so its suggested for your more exerienced vegans. Get your delicious B-12 you deficient weaklings! ;)

Welcome to Bitchin Vegan Kitchen!

To celebrate my inaugeral blog post I cooked up the Mango-Ginger Tofu from Vegan with a Vengeance exactly according to the recipe. To compensate for all that crazy coloring in the lines and such I free-handed some sesame greens (broccoli and baby bok choy in peanut oil, sesame oil, garlic and Chinese five-spice powder) and some coconut cashew rice (brown basmati, toasted cashews, toasted coconut flakes, coconut milk.

The meal went over well with my enthusastic taste-testers. I do wish I had thought to marinate the tofu a bit longer as the Mango-Ginger marinade had an incredible flavor--but it hadn't penetrated the (well drained and pressed, extra-firm) tofu. I also garnished with chopped fresh cilantro which added another nice layer of flavor. Very fresh and summery.

For dessert there was another Isa Chandra Moskowitz recipe-- the Low Fat Sexy Cupcakes from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. The cupcakes are very light and almost more like muffins than cakes but when topped with jam, fresh raspberries, a confectioner sugar glaze and my inspired addition of non-dairy chocolate chips something magical happens. I'm not telling you anything you don't know though, since you already own that book... right?