Thursday, April 29, 2010

Full Moon Celebration

It started when I got the cutest kiss ever from a funny guy I met in
class. After a movie, some fries and a milkshake, he smacks me one
under a huge Hawaiian Full Moon. He kissed me so hard I thought he
might have been dared to do it, but it still left me grinning like a
Cheshire cat.

Two years, hundreds of emails, tearful skypes, a year in separate
countries, barrels full of delicious food and books of sickeningly
sweet dialogue later... We spent the Full Moon celebrating love,
happiness, and life in nature. We don't measure our time together by
days or numbers, we know by cycles of the moon.

We drove to Bonelli Park by my house to throw ourselves a little party
for two (not counting the ducks). The park is over in Via Verde by
Puddingstone reservoir. You would never know you were surrounded by
suburbia. For the picnic I made blackberry scones and he made
some vegan brie from The Uncheese Cookbook.

Black Berry Scones

We had ourselves a quiet little picnic, so quiet he almost fell
asleep! It was pretty cold, the wind caught the moisture off the
reservoir and chilled us like popsicles.

To warm up we went on a brisk hike and got some nice views. I
found a plastic bag at the head of the trail, so we picked up
trash the whole way. Doesn't sound to fun, but it feels so rewarding
and gets strangely addicting after a while. By the time we got
back, the bag was bursting with rubbish. I can't believe how
horrible people are like that.

The park itself is quiet large with a few different sections.
There is even a sanded beach area where you can swim in the
summer and probably half a dozen different playgrounds in the
picnic area. We played around and toured the whole park, but
it was cold so we retreated home when the sun was no longer
keeping us warm.

That night we did our usual ritual of awesome dinner and a movie.
I am so blessed that we both can take such pleasure in the
simple things in life. We don't need expensive dinners or trips
to the movie theater. I don't need hothouse roses or silly
jewelry to know I'm loved. But even in this short time that I've
been with my guy, I feel like I've known him forever. We can make
the best day out of nothing at all and I can't think of a better
way to live or ever being happier with another being.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Vegan Fettucini Alfredo

The summer I spent living with two of my best friends, our
cheap college fare was extremely bizarre and fatty. Granted
we did eat our fair share of potatoes and the vegetarian ramen,
there were three main things I learned to cook during that time
span. I learned how to make crepes from my neighbor, mochi from a
classmate and alfredo from my roomie.

I wrote before how we used to eat a crap ton of crepe...
But I have no idea why we started making alfredo. It was
originally what me started back on a path to attempting to
reincorporate mushrooms into my diet. Ultimately that was
foiled by my strange gag reflex triggered by them.
However, we used porcini mushrooms nonetheless in hopes that
someday I could stomach them.

Since those days I continued making alfredo, but very rarely or
when I was desperate to make something my mom would eat.

I learned to make it with fresh parmesan and heavy cream and
since been trying to make a vegan version with nutritional
yeast and soymilk.

*Enter 'The Urban Vegan'

I really dig this cookbook. Unlike most of the vegan books that
get churned out, it doesn't contain a lot of asian dishes or
bizarre expensive ingredients. I have a very european palate I
must admit.

So finally I shoveled out the earthbalance and made Balcavage's
Vegan Alfredo. I made a couple adjustments...

First, I added garlic. Sorry, but I don't know what alfredo without
garlic would be like... Oh yeah. Boring.

Second, I cut down on the earthbalance and upped the nutritional
yeast. Theory was to make a roux out of the oil and yeast. Well,
to make a proper roux you need equal portions of the fat and X--
typically flour.

Third, having a proper roux you don't need the kudzu root that is
called for.

Vegan Fettucini Alfredo~ Adapted


3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup earthbalance
1/4 cup heaping nutritional yeast
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cup soy milk
black pepper

In a medium pan over medium heat, saute garlic in melting
earthbalance. Once the garlic becomes fragrant, add the
nutritional yeast to form your roux.

Continue to cook for about for a few minutes to cook roux.
Whisk in soymilk a little at a time. Add salt and turn to
low. Allow to simmer until it thickens up.

Toss with fettucini or other desired pasta.
I made about 2/3 of a package for this much sauce and served
it with some dark leafy greens.

To add some extra protein try tossing in some vegan chic like

Even without the mushrooms, the memories hit me and I tasted
them anyway. Amusingly enough, Monkey-man said later that if
we hadn't had it with greens he wouldn't have been able to
stomach it either because he kept 'memory-tasting' shrimp.
Go figure! So, yes. This alfredo is so authentic tasting it
will blow your mind!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Vegan Glory- Glorious on a hot day

Recently, we set a date to hit the town and do all that we could do
on foot. By town, I mean Hollywood. On foot didn't really work out.
I took the bus all the way from Pomona to Hollywood to meet Monkey-
man when he got off work, which meant I caught the bus at 8:30 and
jump off just in time to see him get off work at 11:00 am. Yes, it
took that long.

Thankfully, I had plenty of Stuff You Should Know podcasts, so I hung
out with Josh and Chuck for a while.

Like I said the original plan was just to hoof it and see what we
could see. Well, I also had to print a paper that was due the next
day and upload an assignment I had completely forgotten about before
the afternoon. So we ended up driving back and forth to find an
actual kinkos in the blazing heat.

I had packed a small lunch and we spent the rest of the afternoon
lazying at a park. (Being greatly disappointed in what we thought
the Grove was going to hold for us). Then we hit some random Holly-
wood thrift stores, where I scored a food processor for $8. (Go me!
Finally, I don't have to use the blender for hummus!)

Poor Monkey-man was exhausted after starting work at 4am and
wandering around in the heat took a huge toll by dinner time. So I
pulled him in to Vegan Glory.
Its not thai in the sense that I know, but good nonetheless. See why...

We ordered a seitan wrap and some roti with guacamole....

Very refreshing and the perfect snack we needed. I like seitan,
but sometimes like this it reminds me of mushrooms to which I have
a sensitive gag reflex. Its that soft spongy texture, but I love
mushrooms! Monkey-man loved the roti and now I get to hear how I
need to make it.

To cool us down I picked out a fruity smoothie and he got a hibiscus
cooler. So purty! Everything was good. The place is a bit out of our
usual zone, but if I find myself drying out in Hollywood again I'll
know where to go.

After cooling down and powering up we were ready to hit our
double-feature movie. New Beverly Cinema was showing a double-bill
of David Lynch's Mulholland Drive and Fire Walk With Me.
The movies were sold out and started so late, we didn't get home
until after 2am. It was a long day for poor Monkey-man, even worse
when I had to get up to go to class at 9am the next morning...
All in the life...

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Everyday is Earth Day

Its been one year since I got to spend a couple days hosting
Paul Watson, Captain of the Sea Shepherd, in Hawaii for an
animal rights group that I led. As I was driving him to the
airport on earthday we had a great conversation about what
earthday really is.

Earthday has become such a greenwashing of corporate
marketing techniques that it is really hard to see through the
crap. Companies brand their products to make you forget the
guilt behind the consumerism and waste that is so prevalent.

"But this microwaveable dinner has organic beans in it!"
"All natural"
"Made with 5% recycled materials"

Should we really be spending one day remember that the
environment is important and then turning around the next
day and going back to our bad habits? You know something
is wrong when earthday events are sponsored by major
corporations like GE or Coke.

I feel that in a small way earthday is good for people that still
don't know any better. Last Earthday, after taking Paul to his
awaiting plane, I went to try and educate faire goers about the
impacts of factory farming, leafleting, and handing out PETA
stickers to little kids.

This year I leafleted down at the Mar Vista Farmers Market for
a while. Then today I attended a green jobs panel at school to get
some more ideas for internships that I could support. However I
couldn't help thinking about everything that has changed in the
last year.

My own life, it has changed alot when it comes to sustainability.
I'm not as able to get to good quality, local, organic food that I
once was. But I can recycle a hell of a lot more than I could in
Hawaii. I don't drive, but rely on public transit or biking every-
where. I don't use paper products (except for TP, which is a hard
vice to give up). Veganism has become second nature to me and my
partner has taken to the lifestyle and all my cooking more than
happily. I'm not a huge consumer. I reuse, recycle, reduce...
Where do I go from here? What more can I do?

When I started studying it-- turns out a lot.

In a way, my solution has been part of my New Years Resolution.
I promised to do whatever I could to become more environmentally
conscious and sustainable. And for the last couple months, I did
what I did with a lot of New Years Resolutions... I got lazy. I didn't
get worse, but I didn't get better.

The last month though, with the coming of spring, I planted my
own garden. Hell, if I can't find a decent farmers market in my
area... I'm just gonna have to grow my own. I've always composted,
but finally got my butt into gear.

My next step is to eliminate plastic almost entirely from my life.
I know this is gonna be hard with alot of vegan products coming
in packaging, etc. But I want to reduce that as much as possible.

I want to start making my own nut milks again and get soymilk a
little less often. I want to try to make my own nondairy 'gurt.
And stop using plastic produce bags. I ALWAYS bring my reusable
bags. I keep at least one in my backpack or purse at all times, its
really not that hard.

I wonder though at certain places they get pissed when I produce
my own bag. Like using a reusable bag makes me self-righteous.
TJ is always happy about the bag thing, but I've found that mexican
markets and big markets like albertsons always sneer at me when I
pull out my own bag... Have you guys had this problem.

Back to the produce bags. I like them because I hate to think of
what has oozed out on to the conveyor belt at the market and putting
my veg on it bare. I use the bags to hold my compost in the kitchen
til I get a chance to take it out to the garden, then I wash and recycle
the bag if its got holes. Now I'm going to take it further and sew my
own mesh bags for produce and bulks. I've seen them sold at whole
foods and whats easier to sew than a freakin bag?

I use recyclable razors, but I want to find and use a straight razor.
After that, I'm gonna try to sew cloth panty liners. Although I use the
ones without plastic, I still hate throwing anything away.

My trash output is about 1 gallon every three months.
(Not including Kitty poooo)

After that? I don't know we'll see. Maybe I can eventually give up
TP, find a decent farmers market, and get a better bike to forsake
public transit. The point is that I am aware and I am trying.
Are you? I challenge you to finally look at one of those habits that
you find yourself burying away to ignore the microguilt. Look at it
closely and ask yourself "is it really worth it", "what can I do
differently and better", and "what benefits come of rejecting my
habits". Consider it self spring cleaning for earthday.

Its not about changing the world by yourself, but really living by
what you believe in. Do you believe in waste, garbage, and
destruction? Than why incorporate that into your life?

Happy Earthday folks...

Monday, April 19, 2010

Breakfast Burrito Bamboozle

There are these really large flour tortillas sold at trader joes,
one of the only wraps or tortillas that are vegan. They tend
to tear pretty easy, but they are soo good- especially if you
get them on a fresh day.

They are one of the things I always seem to have around, showing
you just how often I eat burritos and wraps. I have to say that
I like them because they are cleaner than sandwiches and you can
be more exciting with what you put in 'em. I like throwing left-
over curry or salad in a wrap.

Not that I only eat white flour tortillas, they are just the most
accessible and the only ones near that don't have over 20 ingredients.

But hands down, I love breakfast burritos the most. When I'd get
taken to a fastfood mexican place as a kid, I always wanted to
order french fries with my burrito to stuff in to attempt to simulate
a breakfast burrito.

It is also one of the only ways I would eat eggs or red sauce.
Now I love mixing it up with different beans or just doing some
spicy taders.

My latest joy as been getting the vegan tofu eggs down.
I'm not talking about a tofu scramble here, very different.
Think plain scrambled eggs, now we're talking.

I just cooked the potatoes with some chili powder, cumin, salt,
pepper, garlic, onions, basil and a tomato. I don't have any
hot peppers right now, so I just added a splash of some hot
chili thai sauce that gave it a bit of tabasco fiasco.

Now the eggs are super simple. Cooked in a nonstick pan, dry...
Mash half a block of tofu add a squirt of mustard, 2 tablespoons
of braggs, black pepper, and a good sprinkling of kala namak-
black salt.

I got it at the Punjab market a couple miles away.
Basically its carbonized salt (pink, not actually black) that has
a strong sulfuric essence. I picked up the idea from the Vegan Crunk
who posted a recipe for some tofu deviled eggs a while back.
Haven't made the deviled eggs, but I've been using the salt in my tofu
salad sandwiches and scrambles. One smells screams eggs, try it
and you will understand. The pack was only $1, so there is no reason
not to.

So, cook the tofu over medium heat until it starts to dry out a bit
and brown. Throw it furiously into your tortilla and eat with voracity.

Like I said, any kind of beans are awesome in these guys, or
peppers. Vegan cheese, I'd recommend Follow My Heart's Pepper Jack
to grab a little spiciness. If you asked my brother, he'd say it
needed catsup. What is your favorite thing to put in burritos?

P.S. Since I mentioned the Vegan Crunk, I have to add that she is
having a giveaway right now for a copy of Tamasin Noyes' cookbook,
American Vegan Kitchen. So check that out!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Vegan Fondant

I must have been about four or five when my parents held a ceremony
to renew their vows. This was more out of a desire to hold an actual
wedding than for real renewal purposes.

I don’t remember much of the whole experience, just bits and pieces.
I do remember that it was in Vegas, my Mom made my dress, my brother and
I were constantly sneaking out of the hotel room down to the pool when
our grandparents snoozed off... and the cake.

My parents made their own fondant. Unfortunately, when I tried to
pick my Dad’s brain about it. He couldn’t remember entirely what they
used in it. I particularly wanted to replicate that taste and scent.

I’m going to keep working with fondant, but I think this is a good
place to start offering up what I’ve done. I’m starting to think
that maybe my Dad used marzipan, but who knows.

I’ve never been too much of a cake person, not enough a cookie gal.
I was more into the dough, which is scary looking back at all the
non-vegan cookie dough that I’ve probably consumed in my lifetime.
I’ve always enjoyed decorating cookies and cakes though. I love
sculpting and shaping little things. I used to make all sorts of
little ornaments and beads out of fimo(?) dough.

This cake was for my Monkey-Man and the first time I have ever ever
covered a cake in fondant. I wanted it to be a surprise and since
his chosen theme was dinosaurs-- this is what followed.

Let me warn you that this is only the beginning and the adventure
will only get crazier than this...

I baked the cakes in a glass bowl to get the semi circle and frosted
them with a basic cream frosting. Always make your cakes at least a
half day before, so you’re frosting will be smooth and the cake will
hold up.

Super Simple Vegan Fondant

1/2 cup sugar (corn or other syrup)
1/2 cup earthbalance or vegetable shortening
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1lb bag of vegan powdered sugar
+ about an additional half bag for kneading

I tried to make a boiled fondant without my candy thermometer on
hand, but failed and resorted to this. I will retry the boiled again
when I am equipped.

First whip all the ingredients, except the sugar together. Then add
the sugar, a little at a time so that it remains smooth. Add just
enough to get it to a point that you can knead it.

Sprinkle your clean counter top with sugar and knead the fondant,
adding in sugar to keep it from getting sticky, for about 15 minutes--
until firm and glossy.

Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator overnight to ripen.

The next day when your are getting ready to prep your colours and/or
additional flavors, remove the fondant and cut into portions.

I made a bunch of different colours, incase I thought up something I
wanted to do later. But most importantly I wanted a basic skin to cover
the cake and shape into a head.

You can use a glove, but mine didn’t hold up that long and you may
be kneading for a while. Take the fondant you want to colour or
specific flavor and shape it to receive a couple drops. You won’t
need that much flavor extract, but you will have to keep adding food
colouring until you get the shade you want. Keep sugar on hand to
prevent it from sticking to everything as you knead in your colour/flavor.

Store again (airtight) in the fridge, until you are just about to use
it. The fondant will dry out, so work quickly if you can. Keeping your
workspace well powder with sugar or cornstarch is essential.
Once the fondant sticks or starts to tear in a spot you have to start
over and roll it out again.

I stupidly folded it before placing it over the first cake I covered
(green) and got a nasty crack across the whole thing. The second came
out much smoother- see what practice does for a gal?

Putting the fondant over a frosted cake gives it something to adhere to.
Your frosting is the glue, but don’t use glaze because fondant doesn’t
take to moisture well. And don’t think you can patch a spot with water.

Water will dissolve your fondant. If you have to try that, I’d use
shortening in an emergency.

From there on, you’re just shaping little bits and sticking them on.
Once the fondant is warmed from your hands, it will stick on fine.
I mentioned before that I was working fairly quickly and if I had time
to slow down, the result would have been much smoother and cleaner.

Keeping it out before serving will let it harden completely.
This was so much fun, I can’t wait for another birthday!!

... or maybe an ‘UnBirthday’!??
Tea Party anyone?

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Dinomite Bday

My spring break went by quickly and quietly. Well, with me quietly
plotting that is...

I spent my spring break plotting and planning for Monkey-man's
birthday party. It was our first party in LA and it was a nice
little get together. As always, I made too much food but it was
nice to really get back into the swing of cooking, menus and
testing. I haven't done a full spread or catered a party in a long

This is part of our spread... The theme was Dinosaur,
so I tried my best to match up the foods. My main effort went into
the Birthday cake(s), which also premiered my first efforts at a
vegan fondant.

I am pretty pleased with the results, but also know exactly
what I would change next time. Someone else needs to have a
birthday soon so that I can test this out again and tweak it
accordingly. I definitely needed more time more than anything
else, to get it smoother and cleaner. I was pretty rushed and
a lot of the parts came out looking funny. But not bad for a
first try.

I ended up going with the orange-ginger cake and the orange-choc.
With tons of other foods, I'm going to be posting them a little
at a time, so I don't have to post billions of recipes at once.

My next post I'm going to focus on the fondant and cakes I tried
out and finally decided on. I just wanted you all to know I'm
still here, still alive, and still cooking. Stay tuned.