Friday, August 31, 2007

brunch with friends

A long time usually lags between when something happens in my life and when it shows up on my blog! Case in point, it's already been almost two weeks since I met another blogger friend in real life!

Jody (from Vegchic)
and her friend Jenna were driving through New York on their way back home from a wedding, so of course I asked them if they wanted to make a pit-stop in Syracuse. Happily, they did, and we got to have brunch together and talk. It was a really nice morning.

The best part was that instead of just Daiku, I now had 3 willing test subjects for two recipes I was testing and two that I was making for the first time- {cue evil laugh- mwahaha}

The first two recipes were testers for Melody - and both of them were awesome.

Veggie cream cheez spread (here served atop a sun-dried tomato bagel). Filled with goodies like carrots, pepper, and scallions, this is the perfect brunch item. Even though I had made a huge container of this spread, it was gone in less than a week. And the flavor kept getting better and better with each passing day.

The superstar of the day was this arugula salad with grapes, figs, pecans, and more. The complex and aromatic dressing really made this one stand out. I love salads, but I definitely fall into ruts. And yet, I never would have thought to follow a recipe for salad if I wasn't testing- now I want to test more salads!

Up next, a recipe from Joni's new book, Cozy Inside. I downloaded this book a couple of weeks ago (you can order a hard copy too, but since I have a fear of clutter and a desire to save money, downloading was an awesome option for me) and I'm blown away by the sheer number of mouthwatering recipes inside... I can't wait to try more out!

Here we have her tofu egg salad. Neither words nor this photo do any justice to the deliciousness of this salad- and this coming from someone who has made a lot of these! I loved this recipe, and it was perfect served on bagels or rolls, as you see above.

Finally, we have dessert. I chose to bake the crimson velveteen cupcakes with old-fashioned velvet icing from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. I have to admit, I was fantasizing about fire-engine red cupcakes, but these looked more like regular chocolate cupcakes. What was really cool was the old-fashioned, cooked icing. I love regular buttercream, but appreciated the different taste and technique of this icing- it had a gentle, subtle flavor. The fact that it has less shortening, margarine, and sugar than regular buttercream didn't hurt either!

For brunch, I also had a platter of cantaloupe and yellow kiwi (sorry, Jody, I didn't realize you don't like cantaloupe!) that I forgot to photograph. You can see the yellow kiwi in this previous post, though.

A good brunch, but what was really great was getting to share it with great company! It was so great to meet Jody and Jenna, and I hope they come through New York again- I know I can't wait to get to go to their neck of the woods...

Bazu, Jody, Jenna - pardon the special effects, I get carried away with iPhoto!


Wednesday, August 29, 2007

apple angst

I've been in a bit of a dour mood, which is why I haven't been blogging. The reason for my angst? Apples!

This past weekend, my two best friends Dorota and Sharon came up to visit. This was going to be a summery weekend, complete with drive-in movies, tons of food, and peach and blueberry picking. Except that Saturday turned out to be a cool, gray day and none of us felt like driving that far to get to the peach orchards. So, what did we find instead? The first day of apple season!

Even though going apple-picking (and apple wine and hard cider tasting) was fun, I feel that summer came to a screeching halt as soon as we did that. I mean, apple pie, apple butter, apple cider, those are all Autumn and Winter things! Whine, whine. So now I am sitting with a fridge full of Paula Red apples, but no desire to do anything with them, because to do so would be to admit defeat, to admit the end of summer.

I don't care that I went apple picking, that August is almost over, or that school has just begun. I will find peaches and blueberries before it's too late- mark my words!

Meanwhile, I'll wallow in my Arctic Autumn Apple Angst some more, while you enjoy these photos of us frolicking around the Beak and Skiff Apple Orchards. As you eat your peach pies and bask in the summer heat, please think of me up here in the frozen Tundra!


Dorota & Sharon


Dorota, Sharon, Daiku (note the sweatshirts, long pants, and gray skies)


Friday, August 24, 2007

pancakes and photo shoots, buckwheat and blogging

image of buckwheat plant courtesy of Wikipedia

It's so funny how blogging can get in your head. I'm sure many of you who are food bloggers share the experience of having food get cold while you orchestrate and take the perfect photograph, of having friends and family get more and more bemused as you seek that elusive moment of food photo perfection when your food, your camera, and the light are all working in perfect harmony.

Well, sometimes it doesn't work so well. Take last weekend. Daiku and I wanted some pancakes, and we pulled out the last of our buckwheat mix and decided to give it an almond twist. Well, the pancakes turned out just fine, but before we could sit down to eat, I had to get the photo just right.

I sprinkled the pancakes with just the right amount of agave nectar, a light dusting of powdered sugar, and a finishing touch of slivered almonds. But my pictures were all coming out looking sort of ... limp and washed out. Oh well, I thought. They can't all be winners.

So I went back into the kitchen where Daiku was assembling his own plate, with no thought to styling, lighting, or photography. And guess what?

His pancakes looked better than mine! This was a good reminder that sometimes, the food is more important than the photography.

Besides, the image isn't as important as the taste when we're eating the finished result, right?

So, on to the recipe:

Almond Buckwheat Pancakes (makes 8 large pancakes)
  • 2 cups of buckwheat pancake mix (to make your own, combine 1 cup buckwheat flour, 1 cup whole wheat flour, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 teaspoon baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon baking soda)
  • 1 - 1 1/2 cup soy milk
  • 1/2 cup soy yogurt
  • handful of slivered almonds
  • 1.5 tsp almond extract
Sift pancake mix (or dry ingredients for mix) into a large bowl, add slivered almonds
In another bowl, mix the soymilk, soy yogurt, and almond extract, let sit for 5 minutes
Add wet ingredients to dry, adding small amounts of soy milk or water as necessary to achieve a thick batter
Cook on a lightly oiled griddle on medium-high heat as you normally would pancakes
Serve with Earth Balance margarine and agave nectar, garnished with powdered sugar if desired

I am submitting these pancakes for the Weekend Breakfast Blogging #14 event, hosted this month by Glenna of the "A Fridge Full of Food" Blog. The theme this month was "ethnic dishes with a twist," and I feel that buckwheat gives all-American pancakes the requisite twist.

We usually associate buckwheat with Eastern European and Russian cuisine (think kasha), or East Asian cuisine (think soba noodles). Did you know that buckwheat is not related to wheat, that it's not even a grain at all? It is the seed of a flower, and is a great addition to any diet because it is gluten-free and easy to digest. It is also full of nutrients and has been used for hormonal balance, blood sugar control, and is even being studied as a natural cholesterol controller. Click here to read more about buckwheat on Wikipedia.

Maybe this weekend, you'll give buckwheat a try for a healthy and sweet breakfast. Enjoy!

One year ago today: what I was blogging about on August 24, 2006


Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Sacco and Vanzetti must not die

Nicola Sacco (4/22/1891-8/23/1927) &
Bartolomeo Vanzetti

painting by Ben Shahn, taken from

In commemoration of the 80th anniversary of the execution of two men who were tried for murder, but convicted for being foreign (Italian immigrants) and for having views considered dangerous by the majority (anarchism). May this be a reminder of what happens when we let fear and ignorance trump justice.

Please take time today to learn or re-learn about this dark moment in American history, and go out and commit a random act of kindness, justice, or anarchy in their name.

America Sacco Vanzetti must not die" --Allen Ginsberg, "America"

One year ago today: What I was writing about on August 22, 2006


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

now for something fresh

a tiny harvest from our garden: cucumber, oregano, mint, basil (lemon and purple varieties), pepper, tomatoes (green zebra and New York varieties)

I realize, looking over my last post, that all the food is really heavy! My excuse for that is that we've been having freakishly cool weather in Syracuse lately. I'm talking October/November weather: chill in the air, dark skies, the woodsy smell of Autumn... but the weather people have promised us that this will pass. I hope so, because I'm not ready to say goodbye to Summer yet! Anyway, in this post, I want to reassure you that we are eating fresh, light, seasonal foods too!

So now, a peek into the lighter side of things...

First, a refreshing start to the day: a glass of carrot/apple/grapefruit juice. I just can't get over this combination. If you have a juicer, try throwing citrus fruit in the mix- the pith creates a foamy, creamy top layer that is really delicious.

Here are two tomatoes from our garden. We have a tiny garden patch, and it's not producing too well this year (not to mention the great tomato caper of 2007), so we're grateful for every little tomato we get.

Of course, sometimes a little tomato won't do. When I saw this gnarly little locally grown heirloom tomato at the market, I had to have it.

And why mess with perfection? We ate it in its perfect form- with just the tiniest smidgen of sea salt and extra virgin olive oil.

Finally, this refreshing salad. I don't know about you, but I don't eat watercress nearly as often as I should. It's delicious, it's inexpensive, and it has abundant nutrients. (According to Wikipedia, it has abundant iron, calcium, folic acid, vitamin A and vitamin C). So pick some up next time you have a chance and make my:

Watercress Salad with Creamy Parsley Dressing** (makes 2 generous servings)
  • 1/2 bunch watercress, carefully washed and drained, chopped into large pieces (tender stems included)
  • 1/4 white onion, sliced thin
  • 1 large tomato, sliced thin
  • 3 TB Tofutti sour cream
  • 1 TB apple cider vinegar
  • handful of fresh parsley
  • 1 small clove garlic
  • 1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper, to taste
To make dressing, blend all ingredients in a blender. Toss with salad at the last minute before serving. Enjoy!

**Remember, for optimal absorption of all the nutrients in a salad, make sure to include some vitamin C- rich foods as well as some good fats. Eating a salad with fat-free dressing or no dressing at all means missing out on a vast majority of the veggies' nutrients- fats are our friends! Click here for an interesting article on this matter**


Monday, August 20, 2007

I <3 bloggers

Hello and welcome to another edition of "I <3>

First up, these Sweet and Sour Moroccan meatballs. I originally got this recipe from Shelly last year, and have been making them since. Shelly originally veganized a recipe from a magazine, and I think she has created a perfect texture. I'm reposting the recipe here, noting my changes in orange:

2 cups tvp flakes
2 teaspoons marmite dissolved in 2 cups boiling water (I use Vegemite instead)
8 oz. fresh figs, finely chopped (I use rehydrated dried figs when fresh aren't available)
1/3 cup finely chopped onion
1 large piece of whole grain bread, crumbled
2 teaspoons each minced garlic, ground coriander and ground cumin, divided
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup wheat gluten (gluten flour)
1 cup ketchup (I don't make the sauce, eating mine with simple ketchup or BBQ sauce instead)
1/4 cup each red wine and water
1/4 teaspoon each ground cinnamon and cayenne

Heat oven to 400 degrees. In large bowl combine tvp flakes and marmite broth. After about 10 minutes, and most of the liquid has been absorbed by the tvp, add figs, onion, bread crumbs, 1 teaspoon each of garlic, coriander, cumin, and salt. Mix well to blend. When mixture has slightly cooled, sprinkle gluten over the mixture and quickly stir to incorporate. Form into balls about 1 inch in diameter and place in single layer on greased baking pan. (I bake these in cast-iron skillets, which browns them up nicely) Bake for about 30 minutes, flipping balls over once (the original recipe said 10-12 minutes but that was not at all enough time for this vegan version. I kept resetting the timer for 5 minutes and lost track of time :) Just bake until they are browned and fairly firm to the touch)

Meanwhile, in large saucepan, combine ketchup, remaining 1 teaspoon each of garlic, coriander, and cumin; add wine, water, cinnamon, and cayenne. Cook over low heat until heated through, about 4-5 minutes. Place finished meatballs in a large serving bowl and pour sauce over them, stirring gently to coat.

Makes about 3 1/2 dozen.

Click here and here to see two previous posts where I've made these meatballs.

Next up, my very first vegan mac & cheese! This is the New Farm recipe, posted here and made famous by Jess and others. Daiku and I decided to take the plunge and bake them exactly as the recipe called for, fatty fat fat and all. And it was good! We broiled it for the last few minutes, ensuring a crunchy texture on top. We knew we had a hit when we finished the entire dish within 24 hours. I can't wait to try it again, this time playing around by adding greens or breadcrumbs.

Next, we have english muffins, courtesy of Amey over at Vegan Eats and Treats. I've made these before, and love them because they are so easy and so foolproof. I usually use about 75% whole wheat pastry flour and 25% white bread flour and the texture is wonderful. Above, you see one of the muffins with açai jam. I think it's perfection with just a little dab of Earth Balance margarine, but it also goes perfectly with savory things like soup. They also freeze really well.

Check out these nooks and crannies!

There's a lot of consensus among bloggers that Bunnyfoot's veggie burgers are the best. I am very picky about veggie burgers. (I have them categorized into 3 distinct categories: "veggie", "bean" and "meaty") These definitely fall into the meaty category, but I really like their texture. However, the flavor was a little too salty for me, as I'm pretty sensitive to salt. I'd definitely decrease the soy sauce next time, and perhaps play around with the spices a little.

Here is the burger into the bun, waiting to be anointed with all the fixin's:

Now for dessert!

Here are two cookies. On the left, we have molasses cookies from Vegan Yummies and on the right, we have Dreena's banana oat bundles. (Scroll down the post for the link to the recipe). I chose both cookies because they were simple, relatively healthy, and most importantly, I had all the ingredients in the house. Definitely worth turning the oven on for on a hot day.

Late one night, I was in a baking mood and really wanted something chocolaty, but had very few ingredients in the house. I mean, a serious shortage: no flour, no baking powder, very little soy milk, you name it. I googled "vegan oatmeal chocolate cookie recipe" and the first recipe that popped up were these wheat free chocolate chip cookies from the Post Punk Kitchen. These were amazing! I just ground up some oat to make oat flour and I was good to go. The cookies came out so well, and they are the chewiest, most "cookie-like" cookies I've baked since going vegan! The fact that they're 100% gluten-free (edit, 3-4-08: it was pointed out to me that even though oats don't contain gluten, they might have traces of gluten due to the production process, so tread carefully if baking these for someone with a true gluten allergy) and super simple is just the icing on the cake. I will definitely be making these again, as they keep so nicely.

Well, I have a serious backlog of food to write about from the past couple of weeks, and another meeting with a fellow blogger (yay!) so I'll be putting up plenty of posts and recipes in the coming days. Meanwhile, as a thank you to all my fellow bloggers for the constant inspiration, here's a photo of a double rainbow that Daiku and I caught last week. I feel lucky to have been able to photograph it, because the whole thing only lasted a few seconds, and my camera batteries ran out right after I snapped 2 photos. Double rainbow, 2 seconds, 2 photos... hmmm.

One year ago today:What was I writing about on 20 Aug 2006


Thursday, August 16, 2007

in an ideal world...

Isa posted this over on the PPK forums a few weeks ago, and I've been wanting to repost it here since then. So, with her permission, behold a letter sent to Isa and 3 other vegan guests from her [non-vegan] friends about their upcoming wedding:

"Hey guys -

Just wanted to say that we're really excited that you all are going to be coming to our wedding, and to give you a little heads up about the food so you don't have to worry about leaving hungry!

The food is all going to be kosher, and since we're having meat in some of it, the good news is that you don't have to worry about hidden dairy in any of the recipes. We've talked to the chef and found out what gets cooked with chicken stock or egg in it, but for the most part, what you see is what you get.

Ok, so on to the food. After the reception there will be a cocktail hour with a bunch of pased hors d'oevres. The ones that are vegan are:

Stuffed Mushrooms
Grilled vegetable kebabs
fruit kabobs
vegetarian sushi roll
marinated artichokes

There will also be a tabble with raw veggies and dip, and another with hummus and other mediterannean salads.

Then, we go upstairs for dinner, which is going o be served buffet style. There will be a salad station, where you can make your own salad. And that's it for you guys.

Ok, kidding.

There's a pasta station where you can get your choice of linguini and rigatoni, with three different sauces to choose from - filetto di pomodoro (kind of a chunky marinara), broccoli and olive oil, and dairy-free pesto.

There's also a crepe station - the chef is pretty sure that the crepes are not made wih egg, but he is checking on it for us. Assuming they aren't made with egg, you can get a spinach filled crepe with mushroom sauce. If the crepes DO have egg, then I guess you can get some spinach with mushroom sauce on it... sad

There will also be grilled corn, vegetable rice, and polenta fries (again, 99% sure they will be vegan, but need to check on day of) at the various stations that will be around.

We're still working dessert out, but we'll probably have something brought in special for you guys.

Can't wait to see you all there!


In an ideal world, all of our friends and family would have this level of understanding, empathy, and respect for veganism. Isa's friends, you rock! Isa, I hope you gave them an excellent wedding gift! (Some ginger chocolate chunk scones, perhaps...?)


Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Belgian, vegan, sweet

Thank you for all your comments and well-wishes about my last post! Bijou and Marble are both doing much better today, and whatever cosmic disturbance was occurring yesterday has passed!

A few weeks ago, Daiku's parents were here for a visit. That led to Daiku and me doing very... uncharacteristic things like agreeing to go to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. As some of you may know, I am in no way a fan of mega-corporate team sports, so it was a strange excursion indeed. For an outsider like me, the whole thing seemed like a shrine to white masculinity. There was a little room discussing female baseball players, and a little room discussing the significance of the Negro League. But the very fact that these got their own separate rooms underscored how far outside of the "main" story of baseball they fall. Here's an illustrative little snippet of conversation I overheard at the Hall of Fame: a group walked into the room, a father and 3 kids, 2 boys and 1 girl. "Daddy, I want to go over there to see the girl players," said the girl. "No you don't," replied the dad. Sigh.

However, Daiku and I had ulterior motives for agreeing to go to Cooperstown. Because only a few miles outside of town is a bona fide Belgian beer brewery that offers free tours and tastings: Ommegang.

We went into the beer tasting room, where an assortment of pretzels and mustards was arranged as a guide poured beers and described them. We asked him if he knew whether the beers are vegan. He said he personally didn't know, but to ask one of the brewers. Daiku spoke to a brewer who told him that indeed, all of Ommegang's beers are vegan, they do not use any filtering ingredients such as isinglass (fish) or gelatin (assorted cow, pig, and horse? I don't even know what gelatin is made of!).

Score! This meant that we could taste the beers. We tasted 4 different beers, of which the White was my favorite. The Hennepin was a little too hoppy for my taste. But the last beer we tasted was a revelation:

The Three Philosophers beer is a dark and assertive brew with hints of dried fruit and dark chocolate. (We also got to tease Daiku mercilessly, since he is a philosophy professor and this beer is only too appropriate for him) Appropriately, the tasting guide handed out little squares of dark chocolate to taste along with the beer, which amplified the tasting experience. (He also made sure to tell us that the chocolate was vegan, which was a much appreciated gesture.)

Here's the dark chocolate we tasted with the beer- it was magnificent, and it was as if the beer and the chocolate were made to go hand in hand.

Which brings me to the best part of visiting Ommegang...

The Belgian chocolates in the gift shop! You know, I consider myself a connoisseur who regularly indulges in pretty darn good chocolates, but I have to admit these chocolates blew me away.

From the top, you have Neuhaus dark chocolate, Dolfin dark chocolate with green aniseed, and Dolfin dark chocolate with coffee. Daiku, his mother, and I all did a taste test of these chocolates and agreed that far and away the best one was the Neuhaus. Its luscious creaminess offsets its intense cocoa content. In fact, its texture and mouthfeel rivals some of the best milk chocolates I have ever tasted, and all this without a trace of animal ingredients.

The dark chocolate with coffee offered up some heavy-duty chocolate and coffee flavors, with both components asserting themselves clearly. But the dark chocolate with aniseed was like nothing I've ever tasted- what a fantastic flavor combination! If I ever go to Belgium, I'm taking an empty suitcase with me just to bring back with chocolates!

Daiku's dad was generous enough to buy us some beers from the brewery gift shop, but a word to the wise: our local supermarkets sell these beers for a much lower price! Overall, it was a really fun experience to see the beers getting made, and meet people truly devoted to their craft. If you ever have a chance, visit the Ommegang brewery, or at least order up one of their creations at your nearest pub.

Ommegang Brewery: 800-544-1809 (open year-round, located 5 miles south of Cooperstown, NY)

P.S. As much as I complained about the Baseball Hall of Fame with its slick corporate feel, there were a few fun things to see there, such as the above poster of an old advertisement for Wrigley's gum. It gives a "firmness" and "vigor" to your body? It "soothes and steadies"? It stops the grinding of your molars...? Did turn of the century baseball players have little-discussed drug addictions or what? Kidding, kidding. Man, I'm being a bit of a crank- better go pop a Wrigley's...


Tuesday, August 14, 2007

weird day

Today has been a strange day.

First, my cats got into a huge fight. Bijou and Marble don't exactly love each other, but they do stay away from one another- so when I heard hissing and meowing, I knew they were up to no good. I found a very angry Marble and a Bijou with a scratched up nose. Why? I have no idea. But for the rest of the day, these two cats slunk around the house, royally pissed off.

So then I go to the store to pick up some toilet paper and laundry detergent. Uh, guess what a friendly bird decided to deposit on my toe just as I was walking into the store. This is supposed to be good luck, right?

Look what I found at the supermarket! I had to bring this guy home. I'm a fan of mutant produce, I always feel like if I don't take them no one else will! (Kind of like on "Friends" when Phoebe felt bad for the puny Christmas trees, remember?)

Fortunately, there was a happy ending to a rather bizarre day. Bridget brought this tortilla soup by! I'd never had tortilla soup before (crazy, right?) and she instructed me to eat it with the tortilla strips, fresh avocado, and sour cream. It was so flavorful and spicy. Thank you Bridget! (Go to her blog for the recipe link)

I'm going to go to bed now, and hope tomorrow is slightly less Twilight Zone-ish!


Monday, August 13, 2007

follow us as we follow the Hudson river

Well, after our fun trip to New York City and Long Island, Daiku and I decided to head back on Tuesday morning. I was pretty happy to be getting out of the city because, even though the whole weekend had been pretty hot and muggy, Tuesday's heat index was forecast at over 100 degrees- yeowch!

Instead of a regular straightforward drive home to Syracuse, which should normally take 4 hours, we took the meandering route by following the Hudson River and stopping in as many of its picturesque towns and attractions as possible. It took us 11 (!) hours to get home, but we saw SO much. So follow us as we...

...visit Lyndhurst castle in Tarrytown, one of America's biggest Gothic Revival-style structures, and an example of the huge mansions all along the river... the town of Sleepy Hollow, where the cemetery houses such notables as...

...Washington Irving (no headless horseman on this day!) and ...

...William Rockefeller (gee, robber barons didn't like their graves to be understated, did they??)...

...the town of Beacon, home to the wonderful contemporary art housed at the Dia Center (which, in a true "d'oh!" moment, we realized is closed on Tuesdays)...

...but there was a cool coffee shop with magnificent pieces of furniture such as this chair, where we cooled off with an iced coffee before heading to the...

...Franklin D. Roosevelt museum and library in Hyde Park (also home to the kinder gentler CIA, a.k.a. the Culinary Institute of America) where Daiku posed with the president and the first lady....

...and where we saw beautiful flowers such as this lavender growing in the expansive gardens...

...then we got to the Vanderbilt mansion, perched on a cliff overlooking the river...

...with grounds that inspire ambling...

...and finally to the town of Red Hook, where we were happy to find a deli (J & J's Gourmet Deli) that had plenty of veg. options such as this handmade veggie burger and thick-cut fries...

That wasn't all- we got to see so many other towns, such as Yonkers, Saugerties, and Woodstock, whose names immediately inspire familiarity. Even though it was a really hot day, the heat was not nearly as bad as what our friends in NYC were living through that day, and the further north we went, the cooler we got. We later found out that we just barely missed the torrential rains and floods that took place in the city later that day and into the night. In fact, the road we took, the Bronx River Parkway, was so flooded the next day that some people had to abandon their cars. Whew- dodged a bullet there!

P.S. Most of the attractions mentioned in this post are free of cost, and for those that opt not to drive, the Amtrak stops at many of the towns along the Hudson River, such as Tarrytown, Beacon, etc.