Monday, December 31, 2007

happy new year's eve!

Here's to a happy and healthy 2008 for all of you. May it be filled with love, laughter, friends, and loads of delicious food!

For my final post of 2007, I decided to go back through the last year and bring you my favorite posts from each month. These are the posts that were the funnest, most memorable, most commented-upon, or just plain the most delicious. I hope you enjoy them, and I can't wait for another year in vegan blogland with all of you!


January: Friday Detox Food Round Up (Daiku and I followed this wonderful detox last January, and learned a lot from the experience. If you are planning on overhauling your diet and your environment in the new year, The Great American Detox Diet by Alex Jamieson ook is a great place to start)

February: Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder (while Daiku and I didn't get to spend Valentine's Day together, we did get to enjoy this healthy and romantic V-day meal. I have just two words for you: vegan ceviche!)

March: Thank You, Fellow Bloggers! (In this post, I showcased some recipes from your blogs- many of which have become all-time favorite menu staples - you guys have to try them too! Some of the best food we eat is inspired by you, fellow bloggers.)

April: I've FOUND it! (This post is among my favorites, because I remember the joy that went into it. Plus, vegan ice cream- can we ever really have enough?)

May: This Meal Took 2 Years To Make! (The funny and ridiculous story of our little lemon, the one that took two years to grow, and ended up in a yummy Moroccan-style dinner)

June: Farmer's Market Bounty (Even though I had lots of fun in June, visited a lot of places and experienced Puerto Rico for the first time, this post has a soft place in my heart. Every time I look at it, it reminds me of the exuberant joy of early summer- when the world and the market explode with color, energy, and promise. I can't wait to experience this feeling again!)

July: Take This Trend... and Eat It (The post about food trends. I think about this issue a lot, especially when some new food product is marketed as the latest and newest thing. Sometimes, the oldest, least trendy foods can be the best)

August: Follow Us as We Follow the Hudson River (This isn't just one of my favorite memories of August, it's one of my favorite memories of 2007. The day when Daiku and I left the sweltering heat of New York City and took the long and scenic way home to Syracuse, experiencing 10 hours of new sights, sounds, and foods along the way.)

September: The Sourdough Post (Was there any doubt? Getting the gift of a sourdough starter, and getting to bake delicious breads and other goodies is hands-down one of the best things that has happened to me this past year!)

October: Picking Apart Apple Picking (honoring Blog Action Day by celebrating the joys of local eating... and the self-satisfied idiocy of Slate Magazine)

November: Maxine's Mexican Casserole (it was difficult to pick my favorite VeganMoFo post, but this one would have to be it. Seeing Maxine's story, and thinking about all the animals in this world who undergo unimaginable suffering still makes me cry, and still inspires me)

What do you think? Did I pick the best posts? Do you have any favorite "Where's The Revolution" moments from 2007?...

Have a wonderful and safe New Year's Eve!


Saturday, December 29, 2007

quick snapshots of SoCal eats

Well, I've been in L.A. for almost two weeks, and have been eating well. The photos are piling up! Allow me to send you some snapshot postcards of the food of the last couple of weeks, with very brief descriptions. My friends and family have been kind enough to take me to plenty of vegan and vegan-friendly places, so I'll have a lot more to say about these restaurants in later posts. For now, let's look at...

...nachos, portobello burger, and pizza margherita at Native Foods in Costa Mesa...

...edamame and veggie rolls at a sushi place in Woodland Hills...

...rosebud tea with boba (black tapioca pearls) at Cha for Tea in Irvine...

...jack fruit turned into 2 delectable creations - carnitas for a Mexican-style torta sandwich and pulled pork barbeque sandwich (open and shut) - and veggie wraps at Pure Luck in L.A.... (whoever thought to make jack fruit into vegan pork is a genius and a saint, that's all I have to say. I can't wait to get back home and try to replicate this!)

...then across the street for vegan ice cream at Scoops (lemon jasmine flavor- yum!)...

... Wildwood soy yogurt, that I hadn't been able to get my hands on in Syracuse...

... and last, but not least, tons and TONS of fruit! Daiku and I have been gorging ourselves on the produce that we miss in Syracuse, that is abundant and cheap here in southern California. Fresh-squeezed citrus juice in the mornings, buckets of pomegranate juice, melons, smoothies, persimmons, not to mention all the orange and tangerine trees that I'd forgotten about. We are building up reserves of taste and memory for our inevitable return to the east coast and our snow-covered city...

I will have a lot more to write about our time in L.A.- the people we're meeting, the foods and restaurants we're getting to try, and everything else, in future posts. For now, I hope you enjoyed the photos!


Monday, December 24, 2007

happy holidays

We hope that wherever you are, whatever you're doing, that you are having a joyous and peaceful winter holiday season.



Saturday, December 22, 2007

holiday baking and gifting

view from our bedroom window-Toto, we're not in Syracuse any more...

Last week, right before we left Syracuse, I did a marathon day of cookie baking, and here is what I made:

chocolate-drizzled samoas

peanuttiest blondies, courtesy of Vegan Diva- we also made these last year, and they are Daiku's favorites

lemon-poppyseed cookies from Eat, Drink, and Be Vegan- these were awesome!

mini chocolate-chip cookies from Vegan with a Vengeance

Here is the completed selection (along with My Sweet Vegan's pfeffernusse and VwaV ginger cookies). Do you notice a problem...? While all the cookies tasted great, they were all practically the same shade of beige! This happened to me last year, too. I will have to do something about it next year!

So far, we have given these cookies to our families on the east coast, the west coast, and everywhere in between, and they all seem to love them. Success!

Also sticking with our home-made, minimalist holiday aesthetic are these chai kits that we have given to friends:

The trick to making homemade chai kits (or similarly, mulling spice kits) is to find a good source of bulk spices. In my case, I used organic cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, candied ginger, nutmeg, and dried orange zest. I put these together along with some black tea (bulk black tea from Iran) in unbleached teabags, and some instructions, and voilà! An easy and fun way for our friends to brew themselves something warm and comforting. I think you can make chai kits with any kind of tea you want- I bet rooibos would go well, or something herbal, or green...

Speaking of gifting, I was so happy to finally meet Textual Bulldog in real life last week! And I was beyond happy when she gave us a huge tin of holiday cookies:

including chocolate chip, chocolate walnut, (not pictured, because we ate them too quickly!) iced sugar cookies, and the piece de resistance: chocolate cookies with crushed Trader Joe's candy cane joe-joe's! These were genius cookies. And notice how she, unlike me, managed to bake colorful and non-monochromatic cookies. Thank you, TB!

This is a good time to talk about one of my favorite baking ingredients- Frontier brand fair trade vanilla that I buy in bulk from the food co-op. This has changed my baking- I can never go back to regular vanilla extract. This stuff is so good, and has such a pure, strong flavor. It is suspended in glycerin instead of alcohol, so it's thicker and heavier- I usually use half of the vanilla called for in a recipe. The result is a baked good with a soft, round, mellow yet assertive vanilla flavor, with none of the sharp, overpowering, cloying, or artificial notes of other vanilla extracts that I have tried. If you come across this vanilla, give it a try. Like me, you may never go back.

Happy holiday baking and gifting, everybody! I'm continually in awe of all your fantastic, home-made goodies.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

book review: My Sweet Vegan

Greetings from Los Angeles! I can't believe that almost 10 days have gone by since I last blogged, but time just kind of got away from me in the whirlwind of writing, packing, grading, cleaning, baking, and traveling that was the past week. Now, things have calmed down and Daiku and I have 3 weeks to get our hands on all the vegan food goodness that southern California has to offer, so I can relax and catch up on blogging.

My first post is about something I'm very excited about- My Sweet Vegan, the new cookbook written by the lovely and talented Hannah of BitterSweet. I had been waiting for this book to come out ever since getting to know Hannah through her photos and blog over the summer, and so didn't hesitate when asked to write a review of the book.

This book caps a great year for vegan cookbooks, and makes me believe that vegan baking has truly come into its own. There is simply no reason to ever think that "decadent vegan" or "vegan dessert" are oxymorons any more! Even though it was difficult deciding what to make from this book first, the fact that I received it in the middle of holiday baking narrowed down the field a bit. Daiku and I noticed that Hannah included a recipe for Pfeffernusse - traditional German spice cookies laced with anise. Between Daiku's German heritage and my love of all things anise, we knew that these cookies would be added to the rotation.

Here they are going into the oven. While they were baking, they filled the house with an indescribable scent- sweet, spicy, evocative of everything that is good about the holidays.

Here they are after baking and covered with powdered sugar. These cookies exceeded expectations in both taste and texture. Fluffy yet chewy, full of the scent of anise and other flavors, they were a great twist on the traditional ginger holiday cookie. My uncle, who used to live in Germany, loved them. So did my mom, who is not even a big fan of anise- ok, she hates the stuff! But she loved the cookie!

Here are just a few of the recipes that I hope to make from My Sweet Vegan soon:
  • orange hazelnut biscotti
  • ginger dream pie
  • coconut custard pie
  • baklava tart
  • root beer float cupcakes
  • poppy seed cupcakes with lemon curd filling
This is a book you'll want to read both in and out of the kitchen- the elegant photographs, informative text, and skillful recipes will give you a lot to enjoy. My only warning is this- if you are easily sent into existential crises, you might start freaking out that an 18 year-old college student has written this book and set the bar higher for all of us! Try to get over the angst though, and reward yourself by trying a recipe or 3 from this book.

Congratulations, Hannah!

(check out My Sweet Vegan on

Soon to come- more holiday baking, quick meals, and of course, posts about traveling and eating in Southern California, my former home. Have a great day, everybody!


Sunday, December 09, 2007

simple foods for harried times

I am a little guilty, because as the holiday season gets into full swing, I feel like I should be posting fancy, gift-worthy recipes on this blog. Alas, that is not possible right now! Daiku and I are dealing with giving and grading finals (him), finishing a chapter of a dissertation with a tight deadline (me), and trying to plan and pack for our upcoming 4 weeks of traveling! As many of you probably know from first-hand experience, this is a recipe for stress. So, as the awesome and fancy recipes I see on everyones' blogs and in all the new cookbooks stack up on our "to-make" pile, Daiku and I have been eating very simply with an eye to a) quickness and ease of preparation and b) finishing up what we have in the house.

So, this blog post will be about some quick and simple recipes that use a lot of normal ingredients, but somehow manage to be marginally healthy as well.

First up, tempeh reubens! This has always been one of my favorite foods, but we only got around to making it at home recently, and it was awesome. We used this recipe from The Vegan Cooking School website, but changed around some ingredients and the sauce a little bit. You would not believe the smells that were wafting through the kitchen as the tempeh baked!

Tempeh Reuben Sandwich

One 8 oz. Package Tempeh, sliced into sandwich sized pieces
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup soy sauce
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon caraway
2 teaspoons grainy mustard
1 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 Cup Sauerkraut
1/4 Cup cooked cannelini beans
1 Tablespoons veganaise (vegan mayo)
2 Tablespoons ketchup
3 Tablespoons minced pickles
2 tsp teaspoon lemon juice
thin slices of red onion
Sandwich bread, toasted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In small bowl combine water, soy sauce, cumin, caraway, mustard, garlic and oil and whisk together. (I used the Magic Bullet to blend everything together) Place tempeh in a baking dish and pour marinade over it. Bake in oven uncovered for 40 minutes. (It will look like you have a lot of marinade, but the tempeh will absorb most of it during the baking process) When finished cooking tempeh will be dark and should be removed from any excess liquid. Place on a separate dish and set aside.

Place sauerkraut in a small frying pan over a low heat to warm through. You want the sauerkraut to be warm for the sandwich but not burned so keep the flame low!

Make the Russian dressing by combining the cannelini beans, veganaise, ketchup, pickles and lemon juice and mixing thoroughly. (Using the beans gave the dressing plenty of body, but allowed us to cut down the fat quite a bit) Now to assemble this tasty sandwich: Place bread on a plate. Spread a tablespoon of the Russian dressing on and add the tempeh. Add the warmed sauerkraut, sprouts, onion and place the other piece of bread on top.

These sandwiches were wonderful, savory, and filling, and the leftovers made quick lunches to take to school the next day.

The next recipe I have is so easy, that it's a bit ridiculous to post it, really. But I figured when you're hurried (and maybe your kitchen isn't as neat and orderly as you'd like, and you don't want to mess up any more dishes, and you don't have time to bake, and you're running out of ingredients... you get the picture!) you might still want a quick sweet morsel to pop into your mouth and so I bring you...

Bazu's Chocolate Butterscotch Oat Bundlies (beginning to mouth in under 15 minutes!)

Ready for the ridiculous recipe? Here goes:

Take a handful of chocolate chips or chunks of chocolate
Take a handful of butterscotch chips (or peanut butter, white chocolate, or more regular chocolate chips)
Put these in a small deep bowl or mug with a splash of your milk of choice

Microwave for about 20 - 40 seconds until mostly melted, then whisk with a spoon until thoroughly melted, uniform, and mixed.

Now take a couple of fistfuls of quick (important - these won't work as well with old-fashioned) oats and stir into the melted chocolate until well-incorporated.

Now, using a spoon, take little round bundles of this mixture and drop on a plate or small cookie sheet, and stick in the freezer for about 5 - 8 minutes. (Just enough time to brew some tea or coffee, actually)

Take out of freezer, allow to thaw for just a moment or two, and pop into your mouth! This recipe really is greater than the sum of its parts. The chocolate re-solidifies wonderfully and you feel like you're eating something between a cookie and a candy, and the oats let you believe you're being kinda sorta healthy- it's a win-win!

Sometimes, Daiku and I just give up and order pizza. We do this really infrequently, and you know things are overwhelming when we do. I just had to show you this his-n-hers veg-n-notvegan pizza with cheese on one side and no cheese on the other, since it looks pretty funny. We had a coupon, so this large pizza came to $6, not too bad. Oh, and while it's horribly unhealthy, Papa John's garlic sauce is, indeed, vegan, so file that under "desperate times call for desperate food"... moving on!

Finally, we have tea. Specifically, what you see above is "Casablanca Twist" from Adagio Teas, a mixture of green tea and mint leaves. Woah- this stuff is so strong and has such pure flavor! It's a wonderful mixture of energizing and soothing for when you're studying, writing, grading, packing, you know, all the good stuff! Mint tea is also great for digestion, say, for when you eat take-out pizza... The ever-wonderful Celine was kind enough to hook me up with Adagio teas by sending me a gift certificate. Now that I've ordered from the site (after a few weeks of browsing, drooling, and trying to decide what to get!) the site will let me send gift certificates to whoever I want. So, if you want a $5 off coupon for Adagio, just leave me your name and email address in the comments and I will send one to you immediately. I think I want to try the Valentine's Day blend next (it's tea with bits of chocolate-dipped strawberries- how crazy wonderful does that sound??) Thanks, Celine!

I hope you are all getting through this season with your sanity and sense of humor intact!


Wednesday, December 05, 2007

spicy 'n sweet maple-y nuts

Just popping in for a quick post- I can never bear to let the blog sit idle for long! Here is a recipe for some spicy and sweet nuts. I made these for the first time for our Halloween party, and they were so good they've become a favorite around here. This is a perfect dish for this time of year, when everyone can use a quick, easy, and healthy snacky food for parties and get-togethers, plus now is a great time to stock up on nuts in their shells since most stores carry them in time for the holidays.

I got the inspiration for this recipe here at 28 cooks, but made quite a few changes. The combination of mapley sweetness and spice is perfect, and the nuts become really crunchy and caramelized. Oh and bonus- nuts are great brain food, perfect for studying for those final exams and powering through those term papers! Just sayin'...

spicy 'n sweet maple-y nuts
  • 2 c raw nuts (I used a mixture of walnuts, almonds, cashews, and hazelnuts, but mix it up according to your favorites!)
  • 1/4 c brown sugar
  • 1/4 c maple sugar
  • 1-2 tsp. agave nectar, as necessary (optional)
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice
  • pinch of pepper and/or cayenne pepper

In large pan, combine walnuts and sugar over medium high heat. I used my cast-iron pan for this. Stir frequently until sugar starts to melt. At first, it doesn't appear that the maple sugar is melting, but give it time. You might want to add a little bit of agave nectar at this point to help the melting process along. Lower heat, and stir continuously for 4-6 minutes, or until sugar starts to fully melt and cover nuts. Add spices and continue to cook for an additional minute or two, until nuts are well glazed and seasonings are well mixed in. Be careful not to burn- if you're using cast-iron, it will continue to be hot for a few minutes after you lower or turn off your heat, so calculate accordingly. Pour onto sheet of wax paper on a cooling rack, and spread out. Allow to cool. Store in tightly-sealed container.



Monday, December 03, 2007

quick update

Hi everybody,

Just a quick post to say I haven't disappeared, I'm just a little buried in schoolwork right now! I have lots of blog posts up my sleeve, but it might take a few more days before I'm back to regular posting. For now, check out my sidebar- I've updated my links and added a large number of really cool blogs and websites that I hope you'll have fun browsing!

One last thing before I go- if you're looking for a recipe to make, make the caesar salad from Veganomicon- NOW! The croutons are awesome (especially if made with *cough*sourdough*cough*) but the dressing itself is the star. So creamy and garlic-y, it's perfect as a spread for bread and sandwiches, as a dip for veggies (or even fruit- try it on apple slices!), as a topping for beans, or just to eat out of the jar if you happen to be stressed, under a lot of deadlines, and hungry!

Have a great week, and I look forward to catching up with everyones' blogs soon.