Sunday, April 29, 2007

2 dinners, 1 dessert, and random thoughts


So, TV turnoff week is coming to an end. I survived it just fine. I do admit to going through some withdrawals, but it's amazing how quickly you can distance yourself from t.v. Usually, a new episode of a favorite show would be much anticipated, but if you don't watch it, it starts seeming pretty unreal! What did I get accomplished? I did some major filing and organizing. The house is pleasingly clean and clutter-free. We took a really nice road-trip to Massachusetts (more on that later). I got to enjoy the newly warm weather with walks around the neighborhood and just sitting in the back yard.

What I thought was especially fun was that Daiku and I sat down at the dining room table and had really nice dinners. Usually, we time our dinner to coincide with t.v. and eat while watching some show. This has a double negative effect: the eating distracts from the show and the show distracts from the eating. So this week, we tried some new recipes, had some old favorites, and got the luxury of getting to really savor what we were eating. I'll share two of those meals with you in this post.


Dinner #1:







Menu: Cypriot lima bean soup (I subbed cannelini beans, cooked quickly in the pressure cooker), Moroccan carrot salad with cilantro (because we had a bunch of cilantro that we needed to use up!) and homemade pita breads.

The soup and the salad were from Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian. I was weary of the salad at first- when I mixed all the ingredients together, it gave off a pungent smell. But it got better as it sat, and it was especially good the second day, when the flavors had melded together. I made Cypriot soup because... well, I won't tell you yet, it's a surprise! The pita bread recipe came from Nava Atlas's blog. I used 1/2 white bread flour and 1/2 white whole wheat flour. They were really good. I had previously baked pita bread using a no yeast recipe, and this one, with yeast, was definitely more fluffy. As much as I liked them, I can't help but think that our local Egyptian market sells fresh baked pitas, fluffier than I could ever make them, white or whole wheat, for only $.69 for 8. How can I match that?

Dinner #2:









Ok, it's confession time. Ready? Daiku and I love baked beans, and often make huge batches in the crock pot. (I've posted the recipe on this blog). But sometimes, we just want store-bought baked beans (vegetarian, of course.) Yes, those baked beans- jacked up with sugar and corn syrup and all manner of things that don't belong in beans. There is just something in canned baked beans that reminds us of childhood and we succumb and buy a can every now and then. To eat them, we doctor them up with blackstrap molasses, sriracha, cayenne, paprika, and some other spices.

We had the baked beans (in the top photo you see the molasses swirl) with a side of Susan's cajun tempeh bacon. I had read on Amey's blog that when she made the bacon, she found it too salty, so I took that into account (I have a pretty low salt tolerance.) I cut the soy sauce in half and increased the water, decreased the hot sauce, and only used cajun seasoning salt on half the batch. The result was delicious, but still a bit too salty for my taste. However, the tempeh bacon (salty and smoky) played off of the sweet and spicy baked beans really marvelously. We had some leftover pita breads with the beans 'n bacon.

To round out the summery feel of the meal, we had a fabulous salad of organic spring mix, organic strawberries, cucumbers and mandarin slices with a balsamic vinaigrette. Yum!

Finally...

Dessert:



Ok, I have another confession to make here! A couple of months ago, I got sick. Very, very sick. I'm not sure exactly what I had, but it knocked me out for more than a week and was stronger than any other flu I can remember having. While I was sick, I lost my appetite, big time. I couldn't even drink water. Everything tasted really weird- too metallic, acidic, just wrong. For the first time, I realized how it must feel to be a picky eater, someone for whom most foods just don't taste good. This was actually a psychologically and emotionally stressful time- for someone as in love with food as I am, suddenly losing all interest in eating was pretty alarming. By the end of the week, I could tolerate only one thing: coke. For 2-3 days, it was my only source of calories and hydration. How sad, right?

Well, I got better of course, and once again, slowly, tentatively, could eat. Coke was again banished from my house, and all was as it should be. Everything was right with the world again. Except for one thing. I realize now that this might have been residual psychological dealing with the illness, but something inside of me snapped and I started hating healthy foods. One day, I made some scones with white whole wheat flour. When I tasted them, they were so flour-y and heavy, so not like scones, that I actually said "fuck whole wheat!" I went crazy baking everything with white flour, white sugar, the works. This was a passing phase, but I think the result is that I no longer think that whole grains can be substituted into any recipe, willy nilly. I respect the texture and flavor that white flour brings to foods, even though I also respect that for health reasons, I shouldn't eat that way all the time. I have learned to experiment and not be so dogmatic.

Ok, that was a long introduction to one of my favorite discoveries this week. You might remember these "banana chocolate chimp" muffins that I posted about back in November. The recipe was from VegNews magazine. This week, I had a lot of ripe bananas to get through, so I decided to make some more of these muffins, which are just amazing.

I made one batch using half white flour and half white whole wheat flour. I thought they were ok, until I made another batch- and hit pay dirt! Surprise, for the second batch, I used 100% whole spelt flour. And guess what? These were so much better than the first batch, even though the first only had 1/2 whole grain flour and the second had all whole grain flour. The spelt made the muffins tender, light, and delicious! So that was my real learning experience this past week: experiment, experiment, experiment. I still don't think 100% whole grain flour is always an appropriate or tasty substitute, but in this case, it was just perfect. I think the key is finding recipes where whole grains work perfectly, rather than automatically subbing whole grains in everything.

So I bring you the recipe for:

Bazu's Whole Grain is O.K. After All Banana Chocolate Peanut Butter muffins. (Ok, the title is a joke, but these muffins aren't!)

(adapted from recipe in the October 2006 issue of VegNews magazine)

Ingredients: (makes 6 muffins)

2.5 TB Earth Balance margarine, slightly softened
1.5 TB all natural peanut butter
1/4 Cup unrefined sugar (I used Florida Crystals)
1 Cup whole spelt flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1.2 oz. dark chocolate bar, smashed to pieces (or 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 very ripe banana, smashed
1/4 Cup soymilk (I used unsweetened)

Directions:
  • Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. (I used a toaster oven, since I was just using a 6 cup muffin pan)
  • Using a fork, mix margarine, peanut butter, and sugar until well incorporated
  • In a seperate bowl, mix banana, vanilla, and soymilk until well blended and set aside
  • Add flour, baking powder, and baking soda to margarine/PB/sugar mixture and mix
  • Add liquid mixture to this, mixing until well incorporated
  • Gently fold in chocolate pieces
  • Divide batter among 6 muffin tins, and bake 20-30 minutes until golden brown.
  • Cool on wire racks.
  • Enjoy!




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Friday, April 27, 2007

What do I do with tofu?



My hope is that someone, someday will find this post helpful in trying to figure out what to do with tofu for the first time.
I want to make it clear that a delicious, impressive, filling, healthy and fun meal with tofu can be quick (with a little prep in advance) and easy to make.

So you finally did it. You braved your local supermarket and are home with a block of tofu (preferably firm or extra firm). What do you do now?
  1. Take the block of tofu out from its container, drain the water, discard the container.
  2. Handling the tofu gently, rinse it well with cold water.
  3. Grab a flat dish, like a cookie sheet or roasting pan. Line it with several layers of tea towels or paper towels.
  4. Slice the tofu into steaks, around 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick
  5. Line up on tea/paper towels.
  6. Now cover with several more layers of tea towels and paper towels.
  7. Place another roasting pan or cookie sheet on top, weigh it down with heavy objects such as cans, bricks, your toaster, what have you.
  8. Leave this for at least an hour.
  9. Meanwhile, prepare marinade. Here's my favorite combination, but feel free to experiment and increase/decrease spicyness to your taste: tamari, water, crushed garlic, crushed fresh ginger, chili oil, chili sauce (such as sriracha), sugar or maple syrup (tiny amount!), sesame oil, mirin or rice vinegar. Mix well.
  10. After tofu has drained well, place in marinade inside ziploc bag or securely lidded tupperware dish. Place in refrigerator for at least 2 hours, or preferably overnight, moving tofu around a few times to ensure even distribution.
  11. Heat a cast-iron grill or pan to high, brush lightly with oil.
  12. Grill tofu 3-5 minutes on each side, or until golden brown (or nice grill marks), reserving marinade.
  13. Meanwhile, bring some water to a boil (do NOT salt the water). Throw in your favorite vegetables, fresh or frozen, until just tender, about 1-2 minutes. (I used broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots) Take out with slotted spoon. Toss with leftover tofu marinade. (You couldn't do this with chicken marinade, now, could you?)
  14. Use same water to cook 2 bunches of soba (Japanese buckwheat) noodles for about 3-4 minutes.
  15. Drain noodles and rinse with cool water.
  16. Plate! Sprinkle with some toasted sesame seeds for garnish, texture and taste.
  17. Eat!
TOFU IS EASY!

**Wait, we're not done! After this meal, you probably feel light and refreshed, right? How about an equally light and refreshing dessert?



Grab yourself some vegan chocolate spread. Here you see two options from the U.K.: chocolate hazelnut (with real chunks of hazelnut- take that, Nutella!) and chocolate orange (possibly my favorite flavor combination.) Organic, hydrogenated fat free, cruelty free, this is one dessert you can feel good about!

Take lid off jar and microwave for about 30 seconds.

Grab some juicy strawberries (or whatever fruit is in season. Frozen bananas are especially good, as is canteloupe) and drizzle with chocolate spread.



Isn't life great?


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Thursday, April 26, 2007

I've FOUND IT!

This deserves its own post, I think.

So lately, Daiku and I have been in a bit of a vegan ice cream funk. Our local food co-op only carries 4 flavors of Purely Decadent, and we were getting so bored with those. Our major supermarket (Wegmans) used to carry a greater selection but, inexplicably, stopped carrying Purely Decadent all together. This is especially painful because Purely Decadent has just come out with 4 fascinating-sounding new flavors (Coconut Craze! Pomegranate Chip! So Very Strawberry! and my favorite of all, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough (gluten free)!)

We felt really out of the exciting vegan loop. One Friday night, as we were driving around to pick up cat litter (yes, that's just how exciting our lives are, thank you very much), Daiku mentioned that we might have a last best hope. "There's a SUPER Wegmans," he said. "In the... suburbs." The suburbs, eh? I was up for an adventure. "Let's go!" I said.

So we took the freeway a couple of miles to a super Wegmans, which, honestly, is one of the biggest supermarkets I've ever seen. Best of all, it had the world's biggest natural/health foods section. Damn, these suburbanites have it good! We made a beeline for the ice cream freezer, almost knocking down an innocent child in the process. This Wegmans, unlike our own, which by the way was seeming more and more puny with every passing second, still carried Purely Decadent. We didn't see any of the new flavors, though.

But wait! And I swear that KT Tunstall's song "Suddenly I See" started playing over the loudspeakers just as I noticed...



Temptation! Temptation! Right here in Syracuse! This is the famous vegan ice cream that I had heard so much about, but had never gotten to try. I had even emailed the company, asking if they were distributed in Syracuse, and had gotten a negative response. I had actually hatched elaborate plans involving driving 45 minutes to Ithaca, where I knew the co-op sells Temptation, with coolers and ice packs to stock up on Temptation, that is how bad I wanted to try this ice cream.

Daiku picked vanilla. I picked cookie dough. We drove home, deliriously thrilled. We put some in a cone. We tasted. We were in heaven. The flavor is a lot lighter and more ice-cream-like than Purely Decadent. It has less of a cloying soy aftertaste. And it is rich. Did I mention they were only $2.99 a pint?



Here is a cone with one scoop of Temptation Vanilla and one scoop of:



Have you ever tried fruit-sweetened Soy Delicious? It really is good- I have tried and liked both the pistachio almond and awesome chocolate varieties, and they were both delicious, with vibrant flavors.

So in conclusion, I feel like spring is truly here. Vegans have awesome ice cream options. I think I might like KT Tunstall now. And Purely Decadent? I'm sorry to say, it is SO not my favorite any more. We had our good times and all, but I'm ready to move on.

Temptation is a cute little 100% vegan company that wears their heart and ethics on their sleeves. Literally- you should read their pacakging. If you live east of the Mississippi(update, 4/26: Diann corrected me, this stuff is available west of the Mississippi too! If your store doesn't carry it, ask your manager to do so), please support them (and do yourself a favor) by buying some. And check out their website: http://www.welovesoy.com/

.
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Monday, April 23, 2007

TV turnoff week


image courtesy of: http://adbusters.org/metas/psycho/tvturnoff/

Yes, it's that time of year again, ladies and gentlemen, time to turn off your t.v. for a week. This annual event asks us to tune out and step back for a week to reflect on the role that television plays in our lives. Whether you watch for one hour a week, or 10, or 50, television is innundating your psychic space with commercials and other ideological goodies. The result is a profound polluting of mental space and subtly increasing urges to consume.

In the continuing spirit of Earth Day, turn off your t.v. (and DVD player and on-line t.v. shows, etc.) from April 23-29 and see how it feels. How will you feel when you miss your favorite show's new episode? How will you feel when you don't have the t.v. on as background noise? How will your children react when deprived of televisual stimulation? For the past 6 years, I have participated in t.v. turn-off week every year that I have had a t.v. It's always caused some frustration- what do I do when my roommate wants to watch t.v.? What about the third-to-last episode of "Friends"? What about the t.v.'s in the gym?- but it has always been an intriguing and meditative frustration.

Think of it as a detox for your mind and psyche. Take all the time and energy you would have spent in front of the t.v. and focus it into another activity- exercise? cooking? getting together with a friend? hiking with your mom? finally tackling that long-neglected knitting project? writing a letter to your representative? staging a protest or boycott? organizing your files? taking those boxes to Goodwill? trimming your kitty's nails? writing another chapter in your novel? leafletting? It's fun!

Oh, and for you people who don't have t.v. to begin with, you have my admiration. Take this week to lend a hand and drag someone you know away from their televisions.

Who knows? You just might see an unusually large number of blog posts from me this week!

Links:

TV turn-off week main page

Adbusters.org

Something fun to ponder with all your extra time: True Cost Economics


image courtesy of: http://adbusters.org/metas/psycho/mediacarta/

SPREAD THE WORD!



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Sunday, April 22, 2007

Earth Day

Happy Earth Day, everybody!

I thought long and hard about something to write for today. This blog is, after all, devoted to green living. Should I make a list of environmentally friendly things that I do? Nah, that would be self-indulgent and boring. Should I do some product reviews of green products that I use around the house? Nah, I didn't want Earth Day to be only about consumption (buy this! don't buy that!). Should I blog about how I planted a tree today? Nah, it's still too early in Syracuse for tree planting!

Then I realized that Earth Day has relevance not for what we do on this one day, but rather how our choices and actions impact our environment on a continuous basis. There is always time to share tips, product recommendations, or news. Today, I'll leave you guys with these photos that Daiku took from the airplane as he was leaving New Orleans this past week. Looking at these pictures of Louisiana wetlands reminded me of just how big, and how awe-inspiring the Earth is and why we are all so passionate about protecting it! There is always more we can do.

And, for some more thought-provoking reading, check out these blog posts:
  • Amy, from "Musings of a Crunchy Domestic Goddess", has compiled a very long and link-filled list of environmental actions you can take, from the small to the monumental. Click here to get inspired!
  • This latest post from the blog "Better Politics Through Food" really makes you think about our place in the world- how our choices, purchases (or lack thereof), and positions affect those around us.
* * *
New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.A., Earth, as viewed from above:







P.S. If you have a lot of time, click here to see more of Daiku's photos of New Orleans


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Friday, April 20, 2007

Cooking, Laughing, and Crying with Birthday Gifts



I want to share two wonderful cookbooks I received for my birthday and eid (new year) last month. My mom gave them to me, knowing that I never buy cookbooks for myself. Thanks, mom!



The first one is a book that Daiku and I have had our eyes on for a while, "Silk Road Cooking: A Vegetarian Journey" by Najmieh Batmanglij. If you, like me, read cookbooks not just for recipes, but also for the story that they tell, this book is for you. Illustrated with hundreds of sumptuous photos (of people and places as well as food), this book follows the author on a journey on the ancient silk road, starting in Italy and ending in China. I have learned so much about the shared culinary heritage of the various countries on the silk road- Afghanistan, Iran, Uzbekistan, the list goes on and on. I don't know why the author decided to focus on vegetarian cuisine (her other books are not vegetarian), but I'm thankful and intrigued that she did! I will definitely be cooking and posting from this book frequently. Batmanglij, who is Iranian, has included many Iranian recipes, which will help me greatly in my "vegan Iranian" project- stay tuned!



Next up, another book on vegetarian cooking from a well-known author, "World Vegetarian" by Madhur Jaffrey. I know many of you are already familiar with this book, I myself have been wanting it for a long time. Like "Silk Road Cooking" this book offers diverse recipes from a vast number of different countries and regions. Jaffrey recounts a meeting with a woman who asked her, "What do vegetarians eat? A lot of steamed broccoli, I guess." and says that she spent years writing this book to prove that woman wrong. And I am glad she did!

We have cooked several recipes from this book so far:


coriander, cumin, salt, turmeric, and cayenne for...


Punjabi Style Cauliflower with Potatoes and Ginger (Aloo Gobi.) This recipe helped take us out of our Indian cooking rut (who knew that authentic Aloo Gobi doesn't have onions or garlic? Not me!) and was delicious, even though we used frozen cilantro instead of fresh. I might have increased the spices a bit, as this was a milder dish than I'm used to, but the flavors played well together.



Spicy cole slaw with mustard seeds. I knew I loved this book as soon as I saw the sheer number of different cole slaw recipes- I can't wait to try them all! As you might know, cole slaw, in all its manifestations and variations, is among my all-time favorite things to eat. This was a nice counter-balance to the hot and hearty aloo gobi.



Cauliflower and okra fritters in a chickpea flour batter. We don't often deep-fry (I have a pathological fear of oil splatters. But did you know that properly done, deep fried foods can have LESS fat than sauteed or shallow fried foods?) but these were delicious. As you can see, we put them in our coffee filters to soak up some of the oil and get that great street food look!

We replaced the egg whites in the batter with flax egg replacer and it worked just fine.



Close-up of a fritter dipped in a spicy ketchup/sriracha combo.

I can't wait to cook more from both of these books!

Here are two non-food related gifts I got for my birthday:



From my friend and grad. school comrade, Nicole, who knows that my writing has me drowning in a certain genre of 20th century art... These are Surreal post-its, or "Surreal-its". The picture of Salvador
Dalí alone made me laugh out loud. I love imagining that whatever I stick these on will be surreal-ized. Thanks for the thoughtful gift, Nicole!


image courtesy of http://www.cbsd.com/inventory.aspx?id=19976

Another book I have wanted for a while is "So What", a selection of poems from Palestinian poet Taha Muhammad Ali. He writes about the experience of exile, one's uncanny relationship with home, and the longing to return to something that may no longer exist. Even though his poems have frequent glimmers of hope, I often respond to the sad tone of nostalgia and pessimism in his words. This book has Ali's poems in Arabic as well as their English translations.

Here's a one of my favorite poems from the book:

"Ambergris"

Our traces have all been erased,
our impressions swept away--
and all the remains
have been effaced...
there isn't a single sign
left to guide us
or show us a thing.
The age has grown old,
the days long,
and I, if not for the lock of your hair,
auburn as the nectar of carob,
and soft as the scent of silk
that was here before,
dozing like Arabian jasmine,
shimmering like the gleam of dawn,
pulsing like a star--
I, if not for that lock of camphor,
would not feel a thing
linking me
to this land.

by Taha Muhammad Ali


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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

I hate when this happens...



My name is Bazu and I am a vegan failure. Sometimes, I read "cues" instead of ingredients. To me, a package of flatbreads in the food co-op that screams "natural!" and "whole grain!" and "kamut!" has got to be vegan. In my universe, there is no need for any sort of animal products in a cracker, especially a flatbread. So I grabbed this box out of the sale bin and came home to find... egg whites in the ingredients list.

So now I'm mad at myself. But I'm madder at Suzie's. Quit putting egg whites in your crackers, dammit! Oh well, chalk this one up to learning the hard way.

Here are a few other instances when something that has no right not being vegan has turned out to contain animal ingredients:
  • Wegman's Calcium Fortified Orange Juice (vitamin D3)
  • A white bean dip that had cheese in it
  • A loaf of Wegman's whole wheat bread advertised as having Omega 3's... because of fish oil! (Ew, fish oil in bread)
  • Ghirardelli chocolate chips (semi-sweet and bittersweet- one is vegan, one is not- I have to double-check the labels every time)
  • A seaweed and tamari rice chip that had dairy in the ingredients (again, I read "seaweed" and "tamari" and "rice chip" and I feel a false sense of vegan security)
Has this ever happened to you? If you know any products that would seem vegan, but are not, please let me know!


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Monday, April 16, 2007

Is this what they meant by April Showers?

I hope that the beginning of a new week is finding all of you well. As you might have heard, the Northeastern part of the U.S. is being hit with massive storms. I woke up this morning to a white wonderland of snow. So far, we've had about 12 inches and counting. I took some pictures with my phone (hence the low resolution) to share with you. Daiku, I hope you're enjoying your last day in New Orleans!

Have a great day, everybody!


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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Fabulous food finds and farewell, Daiku

You know those great Eureka! moments, moments where you find something so cool, so good, that you wondered how you ever lived without it? Well, in the past week, I've been lucky enough to have two Eureka! moments, both of them food-related.



First up Susan's vegan pepperoni recipe, based on the infamous Seitan O'Greatness from the PPK boards. (I've heard that recipe itself is based on an older vegan pastrami recipe from Joanne Stepaniak, so this is definitely a gem that's been around the block!) I know a lot of people have already made this, but if you haven't, I say do it! This was officially my first attempt at cooking seitan from scratch, and it was so easy. The texture and taste are not just better than regular boiled seitan, but honestly better than any store-bought meat substitute. Make it yourself, know what goes into it, save money, get a better taste, you can't lose!



While it was baking, the whole house smelled like an Italian restaurant. We used this pepperoni to fill some calzones. (The dough was left over from the infamous deep dish pizza night). The fennel seeds and other Italian seasonings made this pairing perfect, but the seitan o'greatness has an infinite combination of flavors that you can play with to make it suitable for any recipe.



Calzone out of the oven.



Calzone food porn: filled with pepperoni, broccoli, bell peppers, mushrooms, red sauce, tofu ricotta, and other goodies.

* * *



Next revelation? I've found it. After years of searching and many recipes, I've found the perfect vegan brownie recipe! It's moist, chewy, and fudge-like, not fluffy and cake-like. Click here for the recipe from the Vegan Ice Cream Blog. This satisfied a late-night chocolate craving like nothing else. The only thing I might change next time is reducing the fat a tiny bit. But if you've been craving that perfect fudge brownie taste and texture in vegan form, this is a must-make recipe.

The other great thing about this recipe is that it gives instructions on how to make a proper flax egg substitute. In the past, I've merely mixed some ground flax meal with water when a recipe called for an egg substitute. However, I've now learned to blend it with warm water at a high speed (i.e. in a blender, not by hand). The result is much more gooey and suitable as an egg replacement. Bonus: I've kept the extra in the fridge for any future recipes that call for flax egg. And, I've added it to my morning smoothies instead of straight-up flax meal, resulting in a MUCH smoother, less gritty smoothie.



This brownie heart goes out to the lovely Daiku who will be gone from Friday until Tuesday. He will be attending a conference in New Orleans. (Enjoy the French Quarter Festival, sunshine, and warmth, traitor!) If any of you know of any good veg-friendly restaurants that he can check out while he's there, please let us know! I'll miss you, pookie.

Ok, time to go back to the books.



Bijou and I usually have the same expression when we sit in front of schoolwork!

* * *

P.S. One more shameless plug: a BIG thank you to everyone who has voted for me in the Blogger's Choice Awards! You still have time to vote for this blog (and all the other wonderful blogs nominated). Click here to vote! And a special shout-out and thank you to Domino for the nomination.


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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Blogger's Choice Awards... and tea

Hi all,

I am sorry for my lack of blog posts lately... it's that time of year for me, when deadlines kick in and I have to come out of my fantasy world (wherein I'm a full-time blogger/food writer/cook) and into the real world (wherein I'm a poor graduate student that needs to write about surrealist art).

I promise to come out of the fog of school work and post more regularly soon, though.

In the meantime, I was so happy and proud to notice that some of our favorite blogs have been nominated for Blogger's Choice Awards! If you haven't already done so, go check out the nominees in "best food blogs"- and vote!

Congratulations go out to:

Lolo @ Vegan YumYum
Susan V @ Fatfree Vegan
Jennifer @ Vegan Lunchbox
Jess @ Get Sconed!
Isa @ Vegan Cupcakes
Urban Vegan @ Urban Vegan
Vincent @ Vegan Improv
Kenny @ Vegan Lunchcast
Melody @ Melomeals
Sarah Kramer @ Sarah's Blog
&
Don't Get Mad, Get Vegan

UPDATE, April 11: I'm seriously humbled to note that this blog has also been nominated. (How did I miss this??) Since you can vote for as many people as you like, please vote for me too!



This is a serious showing for the vegan community! I love all these blogs (please tell me if I've missed anyone), mad props to all the fine vegan bloggers out there. I know you inspire me (and fill my belly and brain) every day.


* * *



Next up, tea. Specifically, "The Staunton Earl Grey" tea. I bought this tin at Trader Joe's 7 or 8 years ago (remember when they carried cool loose teas in tins rather than just store brand tea bags?) The tea is long gone, but I can't bear to let the beautiful tin or the memory of its taste go. This stuff is so delicious- if you like Earl Grey, I'm sure you'll love this complex, citrus-y interpretation.

Problem? I can't find this tea anywhere (loose, in a tin), not even on-line. Does anyone know where I can find this? Is it still available in the U.K.? I'll be eternally grateful to anyone who can help me track this down.

Please. I need my fix. Just this one time. HELP!


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Thursday, April 05, 2007

A few local animal rights events...

There are a few animal rights events brewing up right here in Central New York.

First up, an event sponsored by the People for Animal Rights of CNY:



As a cat-owner, the activities of the group Operation Wildcats, Ltd. is close to my heart. The address the feral cat problem in the most humane way- by arranging for feral cats to get fed and taken care of, and also by paying to have them spayed or neutered. In my opinion, this is the most effective long-term solution to feral cats- much better than ignoring them or putting them down.

On April 17, representatives from the group will give a talk to raise awareness about the feral cat situation and their group activities. (Click on the flyer for more information)

Next up, some of you may remember the first Syracuse Vegan Society dinner that was held last month. (Click here and here for photos!) Last month's dinner was held at a Mexican cantina. Next month...





Trac and Bridget were kind enough to invite Daiku and me as they taste-tested the next restaurant. (We also got to meet Trac's son!)

We are very excited about the next dinner... can you tell what kind of cuisine it might be???


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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

New Year end-up round-up


sprouted lentils for the haft-sin table

This past monday, the celebration of Iranian New Year, or Norooz, came to an end. To mark the occasion, I thought I would present you with one last Norooz post- what we ate, how we celebrated, etc.

The traditional new year's meal in Iran is sabzi polo (rice pilaf with herbs), kookoo sabzi (kind of a frittata with herbs), and fish. We left out the fish part, of course! The use of green herbs in abundance is meant to symbolize the season and the hopes for abundance that it brings.



Here I am chopping herbs with my trusty mezzaluna. I needed to chop the herbs very finely, but didn't want to use a food processor, since that would make more of a paste.

Which herbs did I use? I decided to keep things simple (and Syracuse-seasonal) and use the same in both the rice and the kookoo: parsley, cilantro, scallions, and garlic. (If you have them available, garlic shoots are a much more subtle and gentle substitute for garlic cloves.)



Here is the rice, with the "tadig" crust on top. To make sabzi polo, simply follow my instructions for making rice from here, but after the first parboiling, fold a combination of 1/2 bunch parsley, 1/2 bunch cilantro, 1/2 bunch scallions, and 1-2 cloves garlic chopped finely and combined, into the rice as you are adding it back to the pot. Finish cooking as usual.



With the other half of the chopped herb mixture, make the kookoo. Traditionally, kookoo sabzi is made with a bunch of eggs, a mixture of herbs, walnuts, and zereshk, cooked on the stovetop like a frittata. I substituted silken tofu and flour for eggs in my recipe, but I'm still tinkering with it. My kookoo came out a little softer than I would have liked (the taste was fine, though) so I'm still trying to get it to a firmer texture. I finished the kookoo in the oven. Amey has a recipe for this dish using firm tofu (click here) so you can use her recipe!

Depending on availability, you can use different herbs or herb combinations: try dill, chives, etc.



Here is our norooz dinner, pictured all together.



Close-up of the sabzi polo.

13 days after the beginning of Spring, Iranians finish up their new year celebrations with "sizdeh be dar." On this day, everyone goes out to a picnic in the park with their friends and family to celebrate the last day of the holiday. (After this, it's back to school and work!) Sometime during the picnic, it's traditional to take your sprouts from your haft-sin table, make a wish on them, and throw them into a creek, river, or some other moving water.

I sprouted lentils this year. It's also traditional to sprout wheat berries. Heck, last year, I sprouted some cat grass so the kitties could join in the festivities! As long as it's green, it's good.

Daiku and I were unable to have a picnic on Monday due to cold weather, but we decided to take our sprouts out anyway. First, we walked to a little park by our house, but the little creek there was stagnant- definitely not moving! So we drove a little bit and, boy did we find moving water!



Ha ha!

The next series of photos shows our sprouts being thrown into the canal... enjoy! Everyone, thanks for sharing in my new year's celebrations with me, and have a fantastic year to come.







bye-bye, sprouts...


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