Friday, November 30, 2007

veganmofo: we hardly knew ye!

Oh my gosh - can you believe VeganMoFo is over? Can you believe 30 days have gone by? I have to admit, I'm a little sad to see this challenge end- I've never blogged this frequently! I've learned that the more frequently I post, the more I enjoy blogging. It's also been interesting to note that the times when I blog most frequently are the times when I'm most productive in other areas of my life- I've gotten so much done this past month! I have also discovered lots of new blogs as a result of it, which has been a great thing.

This month, on our blogs, we've seen the best of what vegan food can be: delicious, inventive, comforting, time-saving, frugal, healthy, as well as what vegan food is on an everyday basis. We've eaten alone or with crowds, with friends or family, with fellow vegans or omnis, at home and on the road, decadently or ascetically, experimentally or reliably. It's been wonderful- there is no shortage of information on the internet should anyone ever go looking for it. Recipes, tips, warnings, shortcuts, recommendations... oh my.

For the final VeganMoFo post, I decided to do something quick and simple: a recipe for an onion-dill-rye sourdough bread. Vivacious Vegan asked me if I was having any luck baking whole grain sourdoughs, and the answer is yes! So far, I've baked multi-grain rolls, rye breads, and spelt breads. The difference when using whole grain is that the bread can take a lot longer to rise, so budget extra time. Also, I've accepted that my sourdough breads can't be 100% whole grain, since the starter gets fed with white flour. Often, the proportion is about 60 - 70% whole grains, 30 - 40% white flour. This is just fine with me, because it's the best of both worlds- the texture, crumb, and body of white flour, off-set by the flavor, fiber, and nutrition of grains. (The more I bake, honestly, the more I respect white flour)

So here's the recipe: (adapted from the
Yankee Grocery)

2 cups warm water (about 110 degrees F)
1 cup sourdough starter batter at room temperature
4 cups all-purpose flour, unsifted
4 cups rye flour, unsifted
2 Tablespoons light molasses
2 teaspoons plain or iodized salt
1 Tablespoon caraway seeds
2 Tablespoons dried dill
2 Tablespoons dried onion flakes
1 teaspoon baking soda
Hot water as required (see step #4)
  1. In a large glass or ceramic bowl, combine water, starter batter and 4 cups of the flour. Cover with clear plastic wrap and let stand in a warm place (85 degrees F) for 8 to 12 hours.

  2. Stir in the rye flour, molasses, salt, caraway seeds, dill, onion flakes and baking soda, to form a very stiff dough. Knead until smooth. (Add more flour if you need it) Cover and let rise in a warm place until the mixture is doubled in size, about (2 to 2 1/2 hours).

  3. Punch down and divide in half. Knead gently until smooth. Shape each half into loaf or round, Cover loaves lightly; let rise again in a warm place until puffy and almost doubled in size, about (1 to 1-1/2 hours).

  4. Carefully place a small pan on the shelf, below the oven baking rack, and fill it with hot water.

  5. Place your sourdough rye bread loaves on the baking rack, close the oven door and bake in a preheated (400 degree F) oven for 10 minutes. Then brush your sourdough bread loaves with the baste mixture. (edit 12/3: the baste mixture is 1 teaspoon cornstarch brought to a boil with 1 cup water, then cooled to room temperature. Thanks, Mihl, for catching the omission!) Close the oven door and continue baking for 20 to 25 minutes more until the loaves are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped.

  6. Remove the loaves from the oven and place on a cooling rack until cooled down to room temperature. Now for the hardest part of all in this baking recipe. Allow your loaf to cool completely (about 2 hours) before cutting into it. A loaf of sourdough bread is not fully flavored until it is fully cool. Also, bread is much easier to slice when cool.

Because our house has been so cold lately, I heat the oven for about 1-2 minutes, let it cool down a bit, and store my dough in there, covered with plastic wrap, for its first rise. I sometimes let this first sponge sit for up to 12 hours (overnight). I haven't gotten sick of sourdough yet- I hope to try more recipes soon!

To all my readers and fellow VeganMoFo-ers, thanks for this journey! I've fallen a bit behind on visiting all of your blogs, but I promise to catch up this weekend- I've missed you all!


Thursday, November 29, 2007


With the end of November comes the end of apple picking season here in central New York. Although the season
seemed to come very early this year, I was still sad to see it go. There is nothing like the taste a a freshly-picked apple, not to mention all the goodies that you can make with the bounty!

Right now, an entire produce drawer in our fridge is filled with locally grow apples. We're each eating a couple of apples a day, in addition to cooking and baking with them, so I thought I'd do one last apple post before the orchards are buried in snow the the apples are just a memory.

First of all, a little apple transgression. As Daiku and I were driving away from an orchard, whose name shall be kept secret, we noticed a cluster of trees with very interesting looking apples growing on them cordoned off near the exit. These trees were definitely not open for picking, and the apples looked like nothing we'd ever seen before- they were pretty large, with skin so dark, they almost looked black.

So, furtively, I ran out of the car as Daiku nervously kept the engine running. I ran to the forbidden trees and, quickly as I could, picked one of these black apples. I then ran back to the car, giddy and a little nervous. What if they follow us and punish us for touching their top-secret apples? What if the apples are radioactive, or some horrible genetic mutants? (Anyone remember "tomacco" from the Simpsons...?)

We tried the apple about a week after bringing it home. (We kept putting it off, because we wanted a "special" occasion to try this super "special" apple, and of course with our busy schedules, that special moment never came.) By the time we did get to eat the apple, we were afraid that it would be mealy from having sat in the fridge for so long. So, each of us bites into this apple and ZOMG! Possibly the most wonderful apple EVER! (And I've tasted plenty of really great apples). This apple had it all- sweet-tangy flavor, perfect crisp texture, perfume-like scent, it was indescribable. I wish I'd taken some more when I had the chance!

So now, I want to ask you, does anyone recognize this apple? Can anyone tell us what this is? Once you've tried something this good, the thought of living the rest of your life without it seems bleak!

Ok, enough about the magical black apple. Here is a muffin recipe to use up some of your own produce glut. I adapted this muffin from the apple zucchini muffins in the first edition of the "Don't Eat Off the Sidewalk" 'zine. Except, I made so many huge changes that I would feel bad saying this is that recipe, so I will give you my recipe for:

apple-apple muffins (makes 10 muffins)
  • 1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 C unsweetened soymilk (edit 11/30: I meant to say "1/2 C", not "1/c C"!
  • 1 C whole spelt flour
  • 1 C whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • a few grates of nutmeg (or 1/2 tsp. pre-ground nutmeg)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 C dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1-2 TB agave nectar (can omit if you want a less sweet breakfast muffin)
  • 1/4 C oil
  • 2 apples, grated (can leave peels intact)
  • optional mix-ins: nuts, raisins, dried fruit, coconut...
Basically I turned these into 100% whole grain muffins, decreased the sweetness, omitted the zucchini, and added some vinegar to make sure that they would have enough "puff" even without white flour.

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
  • pour the vinegar into a large measuring cup, pour the soymilk over it and let it sit while you complete the rest of the recipe
  • grate your apples and keep them covered until ready to use
  • whisk together all the dry ingredients
  • add the sugar, agave nectar, and oil to the soymilk/vinegar mixture, mix until well-blended.
  • add the wet ingredients to the dry, mix gently until just blended- do NOT overmix!
  • add the apples (and any optional mix-ins) and fold gently until mixed through
  • fill your muffin cups generously- until just under full
  • bake for 18 - 20 minutes, or until fully puffed and golden brown
  • allow to cool for 1 - 2 minutes before transferring to wire rack to cool completely before storing. (you can, of course, eat these while they're piping hot!)
These tasted incredible- and were healthy enough to eat for breakfast. They kept well for 3 days, and were very moist and tender. They re-heated well, and paired wonderfully with a dab of Earth Balance.



Wednesday, November 28, 2007

pasta puttanesca

Tonight, we had a meal that we eat at least once a week around these parts... pasta puttanesca. If sugo de puttanesca is the sauce of whores, then we proudly raise our hands and admit to being big ol' pasta-loving hookers. (I'm sorry, who can resist? The jokes write themselves!) Unfortunately, it being dark and all, I couldn't capture a good photo- that's where this picture from back in the summer comes in.

This sauce is so robust and full of flavor, that absolutely nothing is lost by leaving out the traditional anchovies.

I won't give an exact recipe, because everyone has their own preferences, but to make pasta alla puttanesca, make sure not to leave out:
  • capers
  • oil-cured black olives
  • garlic
  • onions
  • tomatoes - diced, crushed, fresh, canned, just make sure to use the tangiest, highest-quality tomatoes you can find!
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • red pepper flakes
Daiku adds these touches to his sauce:
  • balsamic vinegar (just a tiny bit to deglaze the onions and garlic)
  • pinch of basil, pinch of oregano
  • heat your oil, add your herbs
  • add your onions and garlic, sauté for a while
  • add chopped olives and capers
  • deglaze with the balsamic vinegar
  • add your tomatoes, stir to combine, and then let the sauce simmer on low heat until it's a bit thickened and has taken on a dark rich color
  • toss with pasta, and serve.
  • buon appetito!


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

2 tester recipes, 2 gifts

Tonight's post is yet another opportunity to use VeganMoFo to catch up! And when I say catch up, I mean some of the food photos I'm about to show you are from September! But they are all fresh in my mind, and in fact I look forward to making these again.

I love testing recipes (which I'm currently doing for 3 wonderful vegans) - not only do you contribute to the creation of a book, but it makes meal planning so easy! Each week, I look at the available recipes, and pick at least one or two that I'm going to test. So far, this has worked out really well for us.

Without further ado, here are two test recipes:

Melody's green goddess dressing. You know those recipes where you think you can guess what the end result will taste like? Well this recipe turned out to be so much more than what I expected- it was simultaneously green, fresh, thick, and creamy. The many different herbs played off of each other really well. The first night, I served the dressing as Melody suggested- on a bed of greens (escarole), with some brown rice and lentils, topped with a few caramelized onions. Both Daiku and I loved this, and there was enough dressing for us to play with for the next few days.

Here's a tester for Joni's upcoming book, which will feature 101 (!!) vegan burger recipes, plus all the necessary buns, condiments, and toppings to go with them. She will have sections for gluten-free, soy-free, and high-protein burgers, in addition to regular recipes, and I look forward to testing many more. Here you see some sweet potato chipotle burgers, served on a whole wheat bun with some lettuce. I kept the toppings simple because this burger was packed with flavor! The chipotle heat was a bit intense for me, but that didn't stop me from going back for more!

And now, I want to share two vegan food gifts that I have received from fellow bloggers recently- definitely a huge perk, if you ask me!

Here, we have these delicious chocolate/strawberry pinwheels from Susie (Susie Tofu Monster for those on the PPK). She is a seriously talented chef! If you haven't checked out her new blog, Parsnip Parsimony, I recommend that you get over there, stat. Two words should suffice: vegan. challah. 'Nuff said.

And here we have some cookies from the always lovely Celine. Imagine my surprise on a cold day to look at my front door and see a box of cookies sitting there- the perfect reward after a punishing day of library research. Celine sent oreo cookie cookies and pistachio-rosewater cookies, which were so good, Daiku and I may have fought over them a little. Daiku ended up taking half to work with him, to be sure I didn't finish them all in one day! (I put the rose-colored crane next to the rosewater cookie, and the chocolate crane next to the oreo cookie one, for ease of identification!)

To all the bloggers out there who make life just a little more delicious by giving me new recipes to test, or by sending me sweet surprises in the mail, THANK YOU!

Monday, November 26, 2007

3 of my favorite things

Another night, another VeganMoFo. Before I get started, I want to thank all of you so much for your thought-provoking and intelligent comments to
last night's post. I can't respond to each of you individually, since your answers are so rich and multi-faceted, so I want to thank you collectively for carrying on the conversation. Questions of sustainability and social justice in relation to food are probably in the forefront of many of our minds, and it's always exciting to hear new perspectives on the matter.

Ok, on to tonight's post. I will show & tell three of my favorite things, food-wise.

1. Polish plum jam. My friend Dorota introduced this to me, and now I'm so addicted, I always have at least 2 or 3 jars stockpiled in the house. This is the only jam that I can eat with a spoon, straight out of the jar. The only ingredients are plums and sugar, so I don't know how they manage to get such a perfect flavor- tangy, sweet, rich, and awesome. If you have a Polish grocer near you, do yourself a favor and look for this brand of plum jam. It's perfect for toast, muffins, and hot cereal, yet complex enough to be used for sauces and savory recipes.

2. Porto Rico Importing Co. coffee sellers. They have two locations on New York City, or you can click over and order from them on-line. Porto Rico sells a wide variety of freshly roasted coffee (including many organic and fair-trade varieties), in addition to teas, flavoring syrups, and coffee and tea paraphernalia (like mugs, teapots, strainers, coffee makers, etc.) I can't even begin to tell you how delicious their coffees are. Any time either Daiku or I are in New York City, we buy a pound or two to bring back. For high quality coffee, their prices are beyond reasonable (often no more than $5-$6 a pound on sale). However, nothing beats the sale we stumbled upon when we were there a few weeks ago- an anniversary special blend for only $.85 !! Less than a dollar a pound for premium coffee! The only catch was that there was a limit of one pound per person. This problem was solved thanks to our lovely friends who agreed to help us out- and we walked away with 6 pounds of coffee- enough to last us through the year. Score!

3. Number three is a bit silly. You see, I'm hopelessly attached to this little rubber spatula. I bought it in 1995 on my first ever visit to Ikea (I believe it was the Burbank location). I picked up a 2-pack of these rubber spatulas, one large and this small one. It is the small one that I have become dependent upon- it is the perfect size, shape, width, and thickness, and the feel of the material is perfect. The sharp edge helps me to scrape the last bit of batter from a mixing bowl, the last bit of dressing from a jar, the last bit of food from a pot. When I'm blending something in my stand mixer, this helps me scrape the sides. When I'm making something in the magic bullet blender, this helps me to push the ingredients down. I use it at least once a day. I have bought a few similar spatulas, knowing that this one would eventually have to be retired, but none have been a perfect fit for me. I'm ruined for spatulas!

... which is too bad, because as you can see in the above photo, this poor little guy has to go! If any of you have a spatula you are particularly fond of (preferably silicone, which might last longer than the rubber), please let me know! Until then, I'll be clinging on to this perfect, humble, almost 13 year-old kitchen helper.


Sunday, November 25, 2007

local food pot-luck

One of the biggest skills I have to develop as an art historian is the power to describe what I see. Countless teachers have instilled in me the importance of being able to 'draw a picture' for someone, to make them see what I'm seeing, and how I'm seeing it. Well, those skills are going to come in handy for tonight's blog entry, because I'm going to try to describe an awesome dinner that Daiku and I went to last night, without any photos! Yes, the dreaded photo-less blog post!

As I'm sure many of you would agree, meeting new and interesting people is one of the coolest fringe benefits of blogging. One fellow Syracuse food blogger that I have had the pleasure of running into a few times over the last couple of times is Jennifer of Cookin' in the 'Cuse. Long before I even started blogging, Daiku and I were familiar with her blog, which we found when trying to answer the question "can you eat locally and seasonally in Syracuse, even in the Winter?" (the answer is yes, by the way)

Last night, we attended our first "local pot-luck" - an monthly event that we finally got to go to for the first time. It was unbelievable to see how much local food can be had, even though we are approaching the dead of winter. We got to meet so many people in addition to Jennifer and her husband- members of the community, both newcomers and old-timers, farmers, bakers, teachers, people involved with the food co-op. And we got to have a long conversation, where I mostly just listened, learning new things and getting new perspectives along the way. As is usually the case when the conversation turns to issues of food and health, food and justice, local, sustainable, organic food, food and community, etc., there were a lot more questions than answers. So I figure I want to keep the conversation going on this blog, especially because so many of us have been thinking of food because of VeganMoFo. What do you, dear awesome readers, think of the following issues?
  • how can we shed local, sustainable food (and the wider issues of environmentalism and social justice) of their "elitist" associations? Why do so many people think that this type of food is rarefied, and the sole occupation of wealthy, liberal people? ("NPR listener issues" in the words of one guest)
  • along those lines, how do we bring this kind of food to a wider audience? Is it possible, for example, to re-train palates trained to love the artificial, salty/sweet/fatty tastes of fast food and junk food?
  • how do we get people to try new ingredients? to connect with where their food comes from?
  • how can we really address the issue of farm subsidies, when so much of our nation's economy is built on them, even if they represent a very skewed view and practice of farming? For example, if all farm subsidies were taken away tomorrow, how many people would be out of jobs? how many communities would suffer? where would our food supply come from?
  • are major supermarkets (Wegmans for us upstate New Yorkers, Whole Foods, Wild Oats, etc. for other places) good, evil, or somewhere in-between? Is there anything to be gained by local foods (or organics, gourmet, specialty foods) becoming "trendy"?
Of course, as a vegan, and someone concerned with local and sustainable food, my takes on many of these questions are colored by my consideration of animal rights and the belief that veganism is a huge step in the right direction. But there are so many other aspects of food that need to be examined, what are your thoughts on any or all of these?

P.S. What local food did we take for the pot-luck? Why, an apple-raspberry crisp made with Jonagold, Empire, and Macintosh apples from Beak and Skiff orchards, and raspberries from Henkel's berry patch (picked in August and frozen).

The dish wass based on this Whole Foods Market recipe for apple-cherry crisp, we replaced the cherries with raspberries (in the past we've also made this with blueberries, with wonderful results) which colored the apples a gorgeous pink color. This recipe has never failed for us, so if you want to make a fruit crisp, using the best local ingredients at your fingertips, give it a try:

Apple-Cherry Crisp


Serves 6–8

  • 6 cups peeled, sliced tart apples such as Granny Smith (2 pounds total or about 5 to 6 apples) we used a variety of tart apples
  • 2 cups pitted cherries (either fresh or 1 bag (10 ounce) frozen) we used frozen raspberries
  • 1 cup frozen apple juice concentrate, thawed apple cider would also work wonderfully here
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch or arrowroot
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest, chopped we used 1/2 fresh orange zest, 1/2 dried
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

  • Topping
  • 1 cup quick cooking rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour we usually increase the whole wheat flour a bit and decrease the white flour a bit, with perfectly fine results
  • 1/2 cup unbleached white flour
  • 1/3–1/2 cup natural sugar such as maple sugar, Sucanat, or evaporated cane juice we used a mixture of local maple sugar and brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) organic butter, softened good old Earth Balace vegan non-hydrogenated margarine came to the rescue here!

Preheat oven to 375°F. Place apples and cherries in a 7x11-inch baking dish or other pretty dessert dish of similar size. In a small bowl, stir together apple juice concentrate, lemon juice, cornstarch, cinnamon and ginger; pour over the fruit and toss gently to mix. Set aside.

To make topping and bake cobbler: Stir together the oats, pastry and white flour, sugar, nutmeg and salt. Using a pastry blender cut the butter into the flour and oat mixture until completely blended. Evenly spread the topping over the fruit, pressing down slightly with fingers.

Bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until top is golden brown and the fruit is tender and bubbly. Cool for 10 minutes and serve warm.


Saturday, November 24, 2007

fighting the sniffles: elderberries

We just got home from a very enjoyable local food potluck (more about that later!) but all I could think about was that I had to get home and VeganMoFo! Tonight, I want to blog about one of my favorite discoveries from the last few years- elderberries! When I first moved to Syracuse, there was a magazine article about the power of elderberries and elderberry extract to treat the flu and the common cold. Well, we bought some in bulk from our local health food store in the form of dried berries. We made a simple tea with them- and guess what? They totally work! If you drink elderberry tea within the first day or so of sensing a cold coming on - you know, scratchy or sore throat, heavy head, headache, etc. - it lessens the impact of the disease, or eliminates it all together! We gave it to my aunt one day when she was visiting our house and had a cold- she drank a cup in the evening, and by the next day was markedly less miserable. Our whole family witnessed this, and now can't get enough of the stuff!

In addition to making the tea from the dried berries, you can also find elderberry extract at health food stores (although it's substantially more expensive.) Daiku and I try to remind ourselves to drink a cup of the stuff as frequently as possible, to boost our immune system. It's natural, it's inexpensive, and it's more effective than any other cold remedy that I have ever come across, so I recommend it to everybody! How does the tea taste? To me, it has a kind of prune/raisin taste, although it is not sweet like those fruits. It just has a very mellow, dried fruit kind of flavor.

Here are two articles that go into more precise detail about the nutritional benefits of elderberries:

From Article #1: "The edible berries are rich in vitamin C and get their dark color form their high anthocyanin and bioflavonoid content. They are primarily used to treat flu symptoms and as an immunostimulant."

"Acting as an antioxidant, elder may protect the body against damage from free radicals. Flavonoids, including quercetin, are believed to account for the therapeutic actions of the elderberry flowers and berries. Anthocyanins are special class of bioflavonoids, which offer powerful antioxidant protection against cellular aging. Elderberry extract reduces the damaging effects of LDL, or bad cholesterol, and serves as an antioxidant for the body."

From Article #2: " Elderberry (Sambucus nigra) has been used in folk medicine for centuries to treat influenza, colds, and sinusitis. Elderberry extracts have been found to have anti-viral activity in preliminary laboratory studies. A Norwegian double-blind, placebo controlled study found that elderberry syrup (15 milliliters four times a day for 5 days) was more effective than placebo at relieving symptoms and decreased the use of rescue medication."

**Warning- you should only buy commercially prepared elderberry products, since the berries, when unripe and/or raw, and much of the plant (leaves, etc.) can be poisonous.**

So go out and find some elderberries today! (Or elderberry jam, wine, syrup, candies, etc. Did you know that Sambuca is made with them...?)

And with that, yet another VeganMoFo post right under the wire- woo!


Friday, November 23, 2007

and now, some recipes

Thank you guys so much for your kind words about our Thanksgiving meal! As promised, here are some of the recipes that we used:

Daiku is known for his pecan pies. (Funny story: the first Thanksgiving he ever spent at my parents' house, he brought over two pecan pies. My mom, who had never had any before, fell in love with them, and spent the next week happily eating a slice with her afternoon coffee). So he was a bit leery of veganizing it, but we both agree that this pie kicked some major ass! It had all the flavor of a regular pecan pie, without that unpleasant "scrambled egg" aftertaste. And, it set up really well. If you miss this dessert, I encourage you to give this recipe a try. And after we made it, we noted how totally healthy it is- no processed sugar or flour, a reasonable amount of fat and sweetener, chock full of fresh nuts- it's a winner!

Vegan Pecan Pie (Recipe from:

From Lorna Sass's Complete Vegetarian Kitchen

Oatmeal Pie Pastry
1 c. rolled oats
1 c. whole-wheat pastry flour
1/4 tsp. cinnamon or allspice
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/4 c. canola oil
2 T. maple syrup (here is the only change we made to this recipe: Daiku used Steen's dark syrup instead of maple syrup, to give the pie an even more traditional southern flavor - you can take the boy out of Louisiana...)
2-3 T. apple juice or water

image courtesy of:

Mix oatmeal, flour, spice, and salt together in a bowl.

In a measuring cup, whisk together the oil, syrup, and juice or water. Pour the liquid into the dry ingredients and stir.

With moist hands, press the dough into an oiled 9-inch pie plate or 10-inch tart tin, put in beans or pie weight, and bake for 15 min. in a preheated 375-degree F oven.

Pecan Pie
1 1/2 c. brown rice syrup
1 1/2 c. water
1/4 c. agar flakes
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. sea salt
2 T. arrowroot or kuzu (we used arrowroot)
water to cover arrowroot or kuzu
2 c. toasted pecans
1 tsp. vanilla

In a heave saucepan, prepare the filling. Whisk together the rice syrup, water, agar flakes, cinnamon, and salt, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer over low heat until the agar dissolves completely, stirring occasionally, about 5 min.

In a small bowl (or coffee cup ), dissolve the arrowroot in water to barely cover and add to the agar-rice syrup mixture. While cooking the mixture at a low simmer, whisk it until the chalky color becomes clear.

Let the mixture cool for 15 min. Stir in the pecans and vanilla and pour into the prepared pie crust, distributing the pecans evenly.

Let the pie cool to room temperature and set, about 2 hours (or refrigerate for 1 hour).

Next up, we have the Sicilian Crostata recipe from the Silk Road Cooking book. We were both instantly attracted to this dish because it looked so good, and featured two of my favorite things, lima beans and dill. That is one fabulous flavor combination, if you ask me. The recipe for the crust was easy to veganize- we simply omitted the egg. The filling, however, was a bit more challenging, because it called for several eggs and parmesan cheese. We played with that a bit, and were really happy with the results- and it set really well, too, so take that, eggs.

Vegan Sicilian-style lima bean and dill crostata filling (to pour into a pre-baked crust and bake for 30-40 minutes at 375 degrees)

1 1/4 C. unsweetened soymilk
1/4 C. vegan sour cream
1 - 2 TB nutritional yeast
1/2 C. fresh (refrigerated) silken tofu
1 tsp. Ener-G egg replacer (we put this in as security because we were replacing eggs, it may or may not be crucial!)

mix the above in a stand mixer or with a hand mixer at medium-high speed for at least 2-3 minutes, until well-incorporated.

Meanwhile, sauté the following with some oil in a wok, until onions are translucent and just beginning to caramelize:

1 small onion, chopped
4-5 cloves garlic, crushed
a handful of fresh and 2 TB dried dill
1 lb. lima beans (we used frozen Fordhook lima beans- they were huge!)
salt and pepper to taste

Add the liquid mixture to the veggie mixture and heat through. Add a slurry made up of 1 TB cornstarch and water and stir through. (Again, we did this as egg replacement insurance- it may not be crucial!)

Pour the mixture into your prepared and pre-baked pie crust (we used a 7" X 10" rectangular dish, but I imagine a 9 or 10-inch pie dish would have been good too) and bake at 375 for 30-40 minutes, until golden.

The results were awesome! It might have resembled a quiche more than a crostata, but I'm not complaining! We will be making this again.

Finally, we have the jerusalem artichoke soup. (Jenna, we loved them!) Never having tasted jerusalem artichokes (or sunchokes, as they're alternately known), I was surprised by the flavor- so light, so sweet, so creamy- a perfect ingredient for this type of soup. Daiku and I came up with funny ways to try to describe the flavor- my favorite was "a mixture of blond wood and ice cream" - somehow, this soup struck us as the Ikea furniture of the food world (don't ask!) - don't let the crazy description stop you, though, this is a definite must-try.

1 - 2 TB extra virgin olive oil
3 shallots
1 small onion
2 TB sherry
1 pound jerusalem artichokes, sliced, peels intact
1 cube veggie bouillon (we used Rapunzel brand), dissolved in 3 1/2 C. warm water
1 C. unsweetened soymilk
1 TB vegan sour cream

Sauté the shallots and onion in the olive oil for 5-6 minutes, until they are beginning to turn a golden color. Pour the sherry into the mixture, to deglaze. Add the 'chokes and bouillon/water mixture and bring to a boil. Lower heat to a rapid simmer, and cook for 20 minutes.

Pour the soymilk and sour cream into a blender, then add the soup. (This is where I really wish I had an immersion blender!) Blend on high, for at least a few minutes. This is important to ensure that everything is uniform, the peels of the 'chokes disappear, and the soup achieves a frothy, ethereal texture.

Serve warm, topped with caramelized shallots and some truffle oil. (Note: after blending this soup, we kept it on low heat for almost an hour, and it held up just fine)

Looking back, our Thanksgiving meal turned out to have been a fairly healthy one. We didn't plan it that way, but most of the dishes are free of processed sugar, we only used white flour and margarine in a couple of them, and they were chock full of fruits and veggies, so I consider the meal a success. I hope you try some of these recipes- perfect cozy, Autumnal food for cold, brisk days.


Thursday, November 22, 2007

a very vegan thanksgiving

Here I am again, posting just a few minutes before midnight... Like many people in the U.S. right now, I'm exhausted from a day of marathon cooking! I will post photos from tonight's Thanksgiving meal, which will correspond directly with
the menu I posted last night. I hope everyone had a wonderful day, I know I did!

Before I let the pictures speak for themselves, I just want to take a moment to get all mushy and sentimental. I am thankful for my family, my friends, and all the wonderful people who make up our blogging community! It can't be said enough- being vegan would not be nearly as fun without all of you, so thank you! xoxoxo

I will try to recover enough to post some recipes tomorrow- good night!


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thanksgiving menu: an exercise in fancypantsery

As promised, I am going to post my Thanksgiving menu here tonight. I'm sorry that I didn't have a chance to blog about it any earlier, but Daiku and I are both procrastinators when it comes to menu planning, and we didn't want to make any final decisions until we saw what looked good at the market today, so this is the best I could do.

I have to admit, before I go any further, that much of this menu is a shameless rip-off an homage to Millenium restaurant. Daiku and I have always wanted to eat there, we've even walked right by, but we've never actually done it. However, when I saw their Thanksgiving menu for this year, I was inspired by it, and I'm sure you'll see the echoes between the two.

Another thing about this menu is that Daiku and I had a great deal of fun "fancypantsing" the menu. Fancypants is a game we play, where we mockingly try and see who can come up with the best "gourmet" version of a regular dish's name. We started playing this many years ago, when we noticed that things like "balsamic reduction" and "molten lava cake" suddenly started showing up everywhere. In this game, simple breakfast oatmeal can become multi-grain porridge with seasonal dried fruit and maple-date glaze. This is our reaction to snooty and played-out food descriptions, but it's also a really fun way to organize a menu- how fancypants can you make your humble food sound? So here, I've given you our Thanksgiving menu, both the normal and fancypants versions. See which ones you like better!

Vegan Thanksgiving Menu 2007

With help from:

Millenium Restaurant
Silk-Road Cooking: A Vegetarian Journey
Papa Tofu 'zine
And countless blogs and websites, especially B36 Kitchen, because Jenna convinced me to finally try Jerusalem Artichokes, already!


Sunchoke soup / Jerusalem Artichoke and Roasted Garlic Bisque with caramelized shallots, heavy cream, and an Amontillado Sherry reduction


Veganomicon Caesar Salad, with a few substitutions, since there was no good romaine lettuce in the market today / Medley of Organic Baby Greens with an Almond-Caesar dressing


baked acorn squash stuffed with rice (from the Silk-Road Cooking book) / Roasted Golden Acorn Squash filled with a Middle-Eastern fruited wild rice pilaf

ETA 11/23: I can't believe I totally forgot to include one of my favorite parts of the menu- a Sicilian-style lima bean-dill crostata from the "Silk Road Cooking" book!


cranberry sauce / spiced cranberry quince compote

Ethiopian Collard Greens, from Papa Tofu / Gomen with Nitter Kibbeh

Smashed potatoes, parsnips, and sweet potatoes / Seasonal root vegetable mash with black truffle oil

Sourdough bread / Artisanal Sourdough Batard


Pecan Pie / Toasted Pecan Caramel Tart with a whole wheat-oatmeal crust

Some fruit that we don't usually treat ourselves to, like pomegranates and persimmons, with Soyatoo / Assorted Seasonal Fruits with a light soy whipped cream


Water / still and sparking mineral waters
Vegan Red Wine / Organic Sulfite-free Red Wine
Wild Turkey / Oak Barrel Aged Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey (more for sprinkling on some of the food we'll be making than drinking!)

puttin' the Turkey back into Thanksgiving!
(image thanks to

So that's what we hope to eat tomorrow. It seems like quite a bit of food for two people, but both Daiku and I will make sure that none of it goes to waste- we love leftovers! We don't feast like this very often, but that's the fun of the holiday, right? I hope you got a giggle or two out of the fancypants names for these dishes- I know we did!


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Buy Nothing Day!

I have always liked Thanksgiving, ever since I was a kid. When we first moved to the U.S. and I got a 4-day weekend for the holiday, I thought that was the best thing. I distinctly remember thinking to myself, on that Saturday night, "wow! I've been out of school for three days already and there is a whole other day off left- this holiday rules!" I have a lot of traditions that I maintain for Thanksgiving, some old, and some new. In this post, I want to share some of these traditions with you.

The first is Buy Nothing Day, brought to you by the fine folks at Adbusters. Basically, this event, now in its 15th year, is a way to give the tradition of "Black Friday" a big fat finger. I don't know about you, but the increasing media attention paid every year to throngs of people rushing to the shops the day after Thanksgiving gives me the serious creeps. When did we become lemmings, completely internalizing the idea that we have to wake up early and hit the shops on this day?

And when you think about it, one of the biggest aspects of veganism is a rejection of overconsumption. It's not good to eat without a thought to the impact of your food on the environment, just like it's not good to buy, without a thought to the impact of commercialization and just plain stuff on our mental and physical environment.

What if the corporations threw this pathetic party and nobody went? What if we all decided that the Friday after Thanksgiving was a day for relaxing? exercising? spending time with friends or loved ones? volunteering? doing schoolwork? meditating? participating in activism? making art? knitting? organizing? grooming our pets? making out? raking leaves? sleeping? fixing our bikes? winter-proofing our homes? backing up our files? mending our socks? planting bulbs? writing letters? calling old friends? giving someone a hand? cutting up credit cards?

Daiku and I have been participating in Buy Nothing Day for longer than I can remember- at least 6 or 7 years. I can honestly say that I haven't bought anything on the Friday after Thanksgiving - not a pack of gum, not a piece of fruit, not a used book on - nor have I gone window-shopping - physically or on-line - in all this time, and it rocks! When you don't participate in an event, you get a really good vantage point from which to observe it, and frankly see the insanity in the whole thing. So, check out the BND and Adbusters websites, see if there's an organized event taking place near you to celebrate this event. Find something fun to do this Friday, something that doesn't involve consumption - of anything except Thanksgiving leftovers.

Ahem. So allow me to climb onto my soapbox for just a moment... Brothers and sisters unite! You have nothing to lose but your tired feet from rushing mall-goers stepping on your toes, and your credit card debts! Are you with me?? Buy nothing this Friday!

Whisper as a baby (top left) and all grown-up at Farm Sanctuary in July 2007

The second tradition is the idea of adopting a turkey from Farm Sanctuary instead of eating one. As many of you know, we adopted Whisper last Thanksgiving (we got word the day before the holiday that the adoption had gone through!), and were lucky enough to get to visit her this past summer. She is gorgeous, and our dinner table on Thursday won't be complete without her photo. You can go to to find out more about adopting a turkey yourself - it only costs $20! It is such a life-affirming, satisfying thing to do, and much like Buy Nothing Day, it is a great way to just say no to an unappealing aspect of the holiday. (By the way, you can adopt animals all year along, costs vary from $10/month for chickens and $15/month for turkeys, all the way up to over $100/month for a larger animal like a sheep or a cow - look into it if you have been looking for a good charitable cause!)

The final tradition, one that we started seriously paying attention to last year, was the idea of a local Thanksgiving Feast. As some of you might remember, I participated in's 100-mile Thanksgiving Contest - and won! How cool that a vegan meal placed first, right? But even better was learning how easy it is to discover wonderful sources of food right in my own backyard- I still get food from some of the same producers and farmers that I discovered in designing a 100-mile Thanksgiving meal last year. This year, as you plan your meal, pay close attention to where your ingredients are coming from, and try to be as local and seasonal as you can- your food will taste more delicious that way, anyway!

Here's our local Thanksgiving entry to last year
Here's last year's Thanksgiving meal post
And here's our other Thanksgiving meal from last year
Here's the post about adopting Whisper
Here's last year's Buy Nothing Day post

I'll post our Thanksgiving Menu tomorrow. Wow- we're VeganMoFo-ing right along! I've never posted this many times in a month- and there's a way to go! I don't even know if anyone will be reading blogs on Thanksgiving, but I will post and we will see!


Monday, November 19, 2007

what do you do for a gorgeous vegan on her birthday?

You make cupcakes, of course! In this case, fluffy peanut butter cupcakes with a chocolate ganache topping...

...and a few butterscotch chips on top!

Today was Bridget's birthday, and luckily she works near me so I got to take some treats from "Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World" over for her! Bridget's greyhound, Sally, has been having some medical difficulties lately, but fortunately today she seems to be feeling a tiny bit better. That's the best birthday gift, isn't it?

Today's VeganMoFo was brought to you by the letters B (birthdays), C (cupcakes), and D (doggies). Happy birthday, Bridge!


Sunday, November 18, 2007 which the New Yorker helps me write about Thanksgiving

November 19, 2007 issue of The New Yorker magazine

It's so fitting that VeganMoFo should fall in November, because Thanksgiving, as it's celebrated in North America, is such a significant holiday in the lives of most vegans. Love it or hate it, celebrate it alone, with friends, or family, embrace or boycott it, you are nevertheless reacting to it on some level. After the positive reaction to Nipplegate 2007™ , I bring you my meditations on Thanksgiving, helped out completely by the latest copy of the New Yorker. The entire issue was like one big pot of faux chicken soup for the vegan's soul- nourishing, thought-provoking, full of morsels to chew on. Shall we? (Click on photos to see bigger versions with clearer text)

This ad greets you on the inside of the front cover. I normally would have overlooked it, since I try to avoid all Thanksgiving ads, especially those featuring turkey, but something caught my eye. The "turkey" was unnaturally bright and shiny. Upon closer inspection, one learns that the hostess says "it was my first tofurkey and I wanted it to be just right."

Wait, wait. Let's just pause right there. Why is there this huge cultural misconception that vegans and vegetarians eat A HUGE BLOCK OF TOFU IN THE SHAPE OF A TURKEY for Thanksgiving?? Ok, ok, I'll admit, the name "tofurky" is a bit misleading. So as a public service, I want to show everyone not familiar with it what an actual Tofurky looks like:

photo courtesy of

See, it's a roast-shaped thing. And while it does contain tofu, it also contains wheat gluten (seitan), beans, vegetables, and a host of other ingredients. And no, all vegans don't eat this for the big day- take me, for instance- I've never (gasp!) tried it!

Back to the ad- the weird turkey-like substance aside, it's a good sentiment, right?

Reading the copy on the next page, we note that it's a Citibank ad with the phrase "All the trimmings All in the family" intended to give you the warm fuzzies. The ad reads, "Well, my son Jack went and married a vegetarian. So I grabbed my Citi card and went to the store. I picked up the old favorites like cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, green beans, and turnips. (Bazu says: "yay!") As well as 15 pounds of 'turkey' tofu. (Bazu says: "sigh.") The dinner was a hit. Alice knows she's already more like a daughter than an in-law. And all aroud, our family was feeling a lot of love. (Bazu says "awwww. I don't care that you're a big bad corporation. I love the fantasy of an in-law that would serve 'turkey tofu' for Thanksgiving, whatever that imaginary thing is.)

But wait! It goes on!

"... My husband Steve especially loved that I made a small turkey for him to eat later." (Bazu says: "D'OH! Fooled by the corporate machine again!")

Later in the magazine, there is a review of the book "My Last Supper: 50 Great Chefs and Their Final Meals" in which the author asked chefs to describe their fantasy meals. The article mentioned that truffles of all sorts figured prominently in the chefs' responses, as well as foie gras. (Bazu: :'-( ) So it was a little life affirming to read Tyler Florence's response, pictured above. "No frou-frou French. No snout-to-tail. No fucking foie gras." (Bazu: yayyyy! down with foie gras! I never thought I'd say anything positive about Tyler Florence!)

Thankfully, the article touches on the rather macabre underpinnings about such a question about a "final" meal- the implicit understanding that your final meal precedes your death. I think the connection between not just food and life, but food and death is something that is too often glossed over.

Which is why the above quote, by a scholar of the death penalty, is really thought-provoking. As you know, inmates on death row are allowed to order whatever food they want before they die. "The taking of a human life is too daunting a prospect to accept on its own, so we surround it with a lot of ritual." I am most decidedly against the death penalty, and arcane rituals like the last meal really horrify me, the way that the condemned is given a last hurrah before being brutally put to death. ...Which in my vegan mind is a short leap to the horrible rituals against the killing and eating of animals. We do all kinds of things to turn our faces collectively against the death that is contained in the consuming of flesh, just as we do our best to shroud the killing of humans behind closed doors and intricate rituals, bringing together food, law, religion, and the state in an awkward dance.

Which leads us to this cartoon, also in this latest issue of the New Yorker. (I told you the issue was a cornucopia of potential veganica, didn't I?)

Here we have a turkey with a sad and resigned look on her or his face, strapped down to a gurney. The farmer, a blank expression on his face, holds up a needle, and we are meant to infer that this turkey is about to receive a lethal injection, akin to how the vast majority of executions in this country are carried out. The cartoon most likely is meant to be a "lighthearted" play on the fact that millions of turkeys are on death row this month, awaiting execution. (Not for any crime they committed, it should be added.) But it is hard for a viewer to find the image of this turkey, splayed as if on a crucifix, all that funny. The fact that the syringe filled with poison could just as easily be the syringe with which so many will be "injecting flavor" into their sacrificial turkeys this coming Thursday underscores this uneasy connection between Thanksgiving and death. The death of the Native Americans that was precipitated by the coming of the Pilgrims to this continent. The death of millions of slaves on the backs of whom this country was founded. The death of the animals on whom we feed. The death of those who are put to death, but not before being offered one last fancy meal. You know, the fancy meals that don't mean anything because the person feeding you is about to kill you? Kind of like those meals that farm animals, especially those raised "humanely" get up to the moment they are led to the chopping block or the slaughterhouse.

In the coming week, I'll be posting about Thanksgiving. I don't celebrate the holiday's history of death and carnage, both historical and contemporary. But I do plan to celebrate Thanksgiving as a meditation on food, and how the simple acts of eating and breaking bread can have such deep political, historical, and social implications. More to come.