Delicious Daiya - Recipe and Photos

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

When I first decided I was going to try out being vegan in 2005 I made an ill-fated trip to my natural food store to pick up some shiny new products including a block of soy cheese that was hard, gray, and smelled like sweat socks. "I've been tricked," I thought. The pizza cravings set in pretty quickly. There was a place near Tim's apartment that advertised vegan pizza that was pretty decent but we eventually learned they were using casein-based cheese. Bastards!

Eventually I learned of Follow Your Heart brand soy cheese which made a reasonable substitute in small quantities and I started making pizza at home. Sometime in 2008 I believe, Chicago Soy Dairy came out with Teese. It was basically love at first taste. It melted so much better and the taste was a little uncanny. (Tim actually didn't care for the nacho Teese because he thought it tasted too much like the real thing.)

And then along came Daiya. For months I've heard it being hailed as the holy grail of vegan cheese, so when Rainbow Grocery finally started carrying it, I stocked up. It is very good. Perhaps I've gotten spoiled, but it didn't blow me away like I thought it would. But it has a lot of advantages going for it: it melts much faster than other vegan cheeses, it lasts a long time in the fridge, it comes pre-shredded, and it is soy-free, made rather from casava root.

I bought kind of a ridiculous amount of it though and I'm still looking for dishes to use it up. Here's a little collage of meals I've made with it so far:
Starting at the top we've got a veggie pizza and a basic spaghetti marinara (made with Mariquita Farms tomatoes). The middle two are from a lasagne which was awesome. By far the best vegan lasagne I've ever had. Bottom right we've got tempeh marinara with breadsticks and salad. The salad had Daiya in it too because I find that it works really well as a Parmesan substitute as well as a mozzarella. That's what inspired the last dish.

When I was just vegetarian I used to make this all the time using Parm, and it was probably really bad for me. I modified the recipe to make it a bit healthier and will share it for you here:

Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Broccoli, Chard, and Daiya

While your pasta water is boiling, chop up one stalk of broccoli into small pieces. Steam it in a covered pan for just 2 minutes or so so it's still somewhat firm. Add a tablespoon or olive oil, one chopped clove of garlic, a pinch of thyme, and a cup of chopped chard. (Spinach would work as well.) Add some vegetable broth keep it cooking and liberally add salt and black pepper. Once your pasta has nearly finished cooking add 1/4 cup of Daiya Italian cheese to the broccoli mix and keep stirring. Drain your pasta and toss it right into your pan to mix it all up.

Plate it and top it with some more Daiya and extra black pepper (you really can't use too much). It makes either one really large serving or two small ones.

If you've got any great recipes using Daiya let me know. Or if you can think of any meals you used to enjoy with mozzarella or parmesan and would like to see veganized, I'm always willing to give that a shot!

Help Me, Sydney-Siders

Sunday, September 27, 2009

As I mentioned in my last post the idea of moving to Sydney has been at least in the back of my mind for over six months now, and having not been able to really talk about it to any of the people I know in Sydney (because they're basically all my husband's co-workers) I've built up a number of questions. Now that we've set a date in January it's starting to feel real. We're realizing how many adjustments there will be.

Metric System! A whole new system of government! People spell things differently! They call arugula "rocket" and all kind of other different vegetable names! All new stores and brands!

There are all these every-day things I've become accustomed to, and I have no idea how they'll work in Australia. So I'm reaching out. Here are some questions:

  • Is there a composting program in Sydney? I doubt it's compulsory like it is in SF, but if I buy biodegradable bags can I compost at home and have someone pick it up?
  • What are some trusted brands/places to buy goods that are organic, eco-friendly, local, recycled, etc. I'm talking about both food (recommended farmer's markets??) and general household goods.
  • Does Sydney have Goodwill? Are there other second-hand/thrift stores in Sydney you recommend? (Both for clothes and housewares.)
  • Why don't you use craigslist? This has been disorienting. How do you find jobs? MyCareer is the best site I've found and it's not great. Please tell me there's a better site out there.
  • What are your neighborhood recommendations? My husband will be working in the CBD and it's unclear where I will be. We won't have a car so public transit proximity is a must. I'm torn between being in the east near the beaches, and being in the Newtown vicinity for the vegan-friendliness. What's good for a married, 30-ish, vegan, child-free couple?
Having done a little research on Sydney vegan bloggers, I'm tagging some here. Let's be friends!

Sydney Vegan Bake Sale
The Humanimal Eye
ZB's Vegan Recipes

Also, please let me know of any other awesome vegan bloggers in Sydney that I should get to know. (Or follow on Twitter!)

A New Adventure!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Well, I was going to wait till next week to announce this, but I hate secrets, and even though many of you know we've been speculating about this for a while, it finally became official this week:

Tim and I are moving to Sydney, Australia in January!

For those of you who don't know us in real life, his company is based there. When I went to visit him on business in Sydney this past February I fell in love with it and talks quickly turned to, "Do you think you could live here?" "What neighborhood would you want to live in?"

Well, the answers were "yes" and "we're leaning towards Newtown, Glebe, Surry Hills, Paddington and Bondi." (If you have neighborhood advice feel free to comment. I was only there for 10 days so my experience in those neighborhoods was limited.) Anyway, Tim worked out the details at work and now the only thing we're waiting on is the visas which shouldn't be a problem. And assuming, you know, that these crazy red dust storms don't become a weather trend. Probably not great for my asthma.

I'm very excited for the move because, well, I've always enjoyed moving around and as much as I love San Francisco, my career here has proven to be less than I'd hoped for. I'm strongly considering starting with a completely clean slate in Sydney and going back to school for something brand new: nutrition. My interests have been shifting away from the arts and increasingly focused on food. I ended up signing up for that eCornell class in plant-based nutrition that I posted about a few weeks ago. That starts in October so it will be a good taste of what's to come.

Luckily I discovered that Sydney is actually very vegan-friendly, despite what Outback Steakhouse might have you thinking. Veg Table lists eight vegan restaurants, and with all of the Asian-influenced cuisine, we didn't have any trouble eating while there. And much like San Francisco the city hosts a regular Sydney Vegan Bake Sale. Maybe I'll post a Sydney vegan food round-up next week to gear up.

Anyway we've got a lot to sort out over the next 4 months. (Literally we're moving 4 months from today!) I just landed a part-time job that goes through the end of December, so the timing is perfect. I like it when things start aligning. It makes me feel like it's meant to be. While we're unsure how long we'll live there or whether or not we'll return to San Francisco eventually, we are pretty sure that our time in Australia is going to be an amazing new adventure!

(Photo via Shishberg)

There's a New Supper Club in Town

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Don't get me wrong, my heart still belongs to Brassica, but it was very exciting last night to have an opportunity to branch out into another underground dining club. Mission Gastroclub is normally not a vegan event, but since my husband and I happen to be friends with its proprietor and brewmaster, Eric, we were honored with a plant-based meal last night.

The head chef for the club is named Neil, and I'm not allowed to disclose where his "day job" is, but he's a chef at a prominent Napa restaurant. His training was evident in some of the techniques and creativity used to prepare our meal.

The appetizer course was fried cauliflower with ketchup made fresh from the tomatoes scored from this weekend's trip to Mariquita Farms. Eric selects a beer pairing for each course. The first was and ESB that he brewed at home. It's a British style beer to go along with our fried pub-style food.

Next up was the salad, which actually may have been my favorite part as it combined so many unique ingredients. The base was dandelion greens, topped with green beans, cara cara oranges, cranberry beans and sous vide fennel. I'd heard of the sous vide technique before but I'm not sure I've had anything prepared that way. It involves vacuum-sealing the food and then generally boiling it, which allows it to cook without turning to mush and creating an interesting texture. Also, apparently I love cranberry beans! Who knew? The salad was paired with a Saison beer from The Bruery in Orange County.
The main course was a homemade vegan sausage over polenta with pepper slaw and tomato confit. I was a little nervous about the sausage after Eric's attempt to smoke silken tofu to put in it. Luckily he scrapped that idea and went with a more "traditional" wheat-gluten based sausage. It went great with the polenta and the whole course really gelled, particularly with the beer pairing, another homebrew -- this time a porter. I tend to shy away from dark beers but this one had a really rich, smoky flavor.

Lastly dessert was a vanilla panna cotta with strawberries, sous vide pineapple and agave syrup. I'm not usually a fan of gelatinous desserts (made with agar agar in this case) but this was unlike anything I've ever had before. It was my husband's favorite part of the meal. It was paired with an 1809 Berliner Weisse which was a little sour, a nice complement to the sweet dessert, and my favorite of the beers.

I was very curious to see how a chef who doesn't normally cook vegan food would stack up, and Neil proved that a good chef brings imagination to their dishes, whatever style the cuisine may be. My husband and I were the only vegans among the group, and everyone seemed to enjoy the meal as much as us. Perhaps I can convince these guys to do a vegan meal more often...

Click here for additional photos of our meal.

How Did You Become Vegan?

Monday, September 21, 2009

In light of the (still ongoing) debate that started here on Friday I've been thinking a lot about the tactics we use as vegans. I hate to use the word "convert" because it makes it sound like we're part of a religious cult, which is exactly the kind of reputation I try to avoid. But to some degree or another, we all promote this lifestyle.

So I'm curious to hear the story of what convinced you to go vegan? Was there a defining moment or a series of realizations? Did you go cold-turkey or slowly over time? Was there a specific book, website, organization or person that influenced the decision?

Mine was definitely a long journey that I'll now share. The first time I met a vegetarian I was in 6th grade. She was a CIT at the Long Island day camp where I was a camper and when she was telling me all the reasons why she didn't eat meat it made a lot of sense to me. When I mentioned this to my parents they told me it was unhealthy and silly and I more or less dropped it.

As I got older though, I was increasingly picky about the meat I ate. If I could see fat I wouldn't eat it. If it were too "bloody" I wouldn't eat it. Basically, the more it resembled an animal the more grossed out I was. Based mainly on the "squickiness" of it, I finally gave up red meat when I was 17 or so. In the year of college that followed I was living in Manhattan and ate every meal out, so this was pretty easy, but then I dropped out and moved to Michigan when I was 19.

This was the first time I was living on my own in a space that actually had a kitchen. Suddenly I had to go grocery shopping and cook my own meals. When I would pass by raw chicken meat in the store I simply couldn't fathom having to cut that up and cook it. I stocked up on veggie burgers instead and decided I would give this vegetarian thing a try. This was in 2001. After Michigan I moved to Texas where I was nervous that I wouldn't even be able to survive as a vegetarian. But I ended up having a few veggie co-workers who were helpful, and boy did I eat a lot of cheese.

When people asked my why I was vegetarian (which happened a lot while living in cow country. I even dated a guy who was a former cow inseminator on a dairy farm!) I usually answered "because meat is gross." Not a particularly deep answer, but I wanted to avoid getting into the uncomfortable topic that I felt it was "gross" to eat a sentient animal. If I wouldn't kill a pig in the wild, how could I justify eating pepperoni?

I moved back to New York to return to school in 2003. In 2004 the movie "Supersize Me" came out which led me to read Fast Food Nation. Even though I'd been vegetarian for three years, this was the first time I began reading about the atrocities of factory farming and everything that was wrong with fast food. I began examining my own eating habits and realizing that eating an Egg and Cheese McMuffin from McDonald's was probably not the best choice, so I swore off most fast food. 

And that led me to read Mad Cowboy which was concurrent with an Environmental Science class I was taking. When I started reading about the environmental effects associated with animal agriculture I was startled. And when the author Howard Lyman started encouraging a vegan diet, not just vegetarian I was torn. I sure did love my cheese and eggs. Plus I had a known a few vegans who seemed to me to be crazy extremists. I hated tofu, so what would I do for protein? I was also under the misimpression that most bread had milk in it, which just goes to show you how little most people know about what's in their food. I made some changes where I thought I could - I switched to using soy milk and would sometimes sub in Veggie Slices soy cheese. (Which I'd later learn were not vegan.)

In 2005 I moved to California and that's when I met Tim, the man who would later become my husband. He'd been vegan since 1996 so naturally I had a lot of questions, but still maintained that veganism would be too hard for me. After a few months of dating when I learned that I liked tofu after all I decided I'd try going vegan for a week to see if I could do it, if for no other reason than because it felt disrespectful to eat eggs and dairy around him.

I made a lot of rookie mistakes in that week, buying all kinds of awful fake cheeses and terrible soy products. But when I didn't try to replace the things I was missing and instead focused on trying out new foods and combinations I started to really enjoy it. One week turned into a month and a month has now turned into four plus years.  Over the course of this time I've educated myself a lot more about the health, environmental, and ethical implications of veganism. 

Though I'm certainly far more vocal about it than I used to be, I'm still  a bit of a reluctant activist. And in the past two weeks I've managed to write posts pissing off both vegans and non-vegans. I'd go crazy if I tried to please everyone or got too worked up over it though, so perhaps I should stick to writing recipes

But first I want to hear your story! Tell me about your vegan journey in the comments!

You Say Tomato...

Sunday, September 20, 2009

At some point this weekend I managed find time in between internet arguments to have a fun, beautiful Saturday. Although Slow Food Berkeley is not known for its vegan-friendliness, a friend of mine did invite me along to an event of their that happened to be right up my alley: tomato picking!

I dragged myself out of bed before sunrise so we could make the drive down to Mariquita Farms in Hollister, California. Essentially, it's getting towards the end of the season, so rather than letting the crop rot on the vine, they invite people to come take home as much as they can carry for a staggeringly cheap 50 cents per pound!

When you factor in the Zip Car cost, it may not be that great a deal, but you can't beat the freshness. We were sampling cherry tomatoes right off the vine and it was soooooo delicious. We got to chat with the farmers, who were also selling peppers and greens at great prices, and hear their stories. Some were heartbreaking like the spinach farmers who were basically bankrupted during the E. coli outbreak last year.

As someone whose lack of a green thumb has caused her to kill cactuses, I was in awe standing out in the massive vegetable fields. California's beauty never ceases to amaze me. 

Once we'd filled our boxes full of a variety of tomatoes (San Marzano, Green Zebra, Beefsteak and more) we hit the road in seek of lunch. Just about the only place with any Yelp reviews in Hollister was called Casa de Fruta. What a happy accidental discovery! It's almost like a theme park, what with its Casa de Carousel and Casa de Choo Choo. Unfortunately the Casa de Restaurant was pretty lacking in vegan lunch choices, but it made up for it with its marketplace. 

It had more  dried fruits and nuts than I've ever seen in one place, along with candy, produce and canned goods. I stocked up on pickles, dried mangoes, and rosemary flavored pistachios. Though I was exhausted from being in the sun all day, I managed to find the energy to come back to San Francisco for dinner at Saha.

Saha is an "Arabic Fusion" restaurant and I highly recommend it as a great place for vegans and omnis alike to find a great meal. They mark all the veggie items, and although it's on the pricey side I've never left disappointed. Last night I had a great dish of spinach, tofu, chickpeas and Yemeni noodles.

Now I'm off to make a sauce out of my San Marzano tomatoes to go into a lasagne. (Luckily enough Rainbow Grocery recently started carrying Daiya vegan cheese! I've already made a pizza and absolutely loved it.) I may also try out this fried green tomatoes recipe. If you have any other amazing tomato recipes I need to try, let me know!

Not Vegan Enough

Friday, September 18, 2009

I will always remember in 2005 when I was first considering going vegan and trying it as an "experiment." I posted on a vegan forum to find out how long it would take to build up a lactose intolerance. I wanted to make the commitment to veganism but was worried it would create too much of a rift at family dinners, so if I ate my mom's Christmas Lasagne in six months, would I get sick?

Most people were supportive and offered helpful information but one user immediately lashed into me saying that my parents are awful people if they don't support my veganism and wondering how I'll live with myself if I contribute to the evil dairy industry, and much more importantly, informing me that I won't be able to call myself a vegan.

And there it is. The label. I constantly hear people from within the vegan community telling other people "Well, you're NOT REALLY VEGAN if you..." (do this, eat that, support this, don't do something else.) On one of my favorite blogs, Vegansuaurus! I noticed  a recent comment thread devolving into this argument. Similarly, I know a lot of vegans, including personal friends of mine recently were upset about a website called Virtually Vegan because the writer includes recipes that occasionally use dairy and fish. Others were attacking Bryant Terry, writer of Vegan Soul Kitchen for not being fully vegan. And recently I was accused by another vegan, via Twitter of encouraging the exploitation of animals because Veg Table promotes restaurants that are not exclusively vegan.

What is this all about?? I understand the Abolitionist viewpoint that we must work to end all suffering. But how does attacking people who are FAR more aligned with you than average advance the cause? Some may say that they confuse people about veganism and what "real vegans" do and do not consume. Is that really such a big deal? If anything it opens up a conversation and creates a chance to explain why you eschew eggs or leather, or whatever the offending item is. 

And frankly the people who are vegan in diet alone, but still wear animal products are probably a lot more likely to be convinced not to. The people who are cooking mostly vegan meals but occasionally eat fish are more likely to eventually go vegan someday. As I mentioned earlier, I was vegetarian for five years before I decided to go vegan. But when I started being attacked by someone with an absolutist view, I'll admit, my instinct was to recoil and say "Well, if I'm going to be kicked out of the club because I'm only vegan for 99.99 percent of my meals then why should I try to be vegan at all?"

I came to realize of course that I wasn't considering veganism because I wanted the label. Veganism, in my opinion, is about making choices. It's not about putting yourself in a box, where everything outside of it is suddenly intolerable. When people say, "I could never go vegan because I like cheese too much" I say "Ok, then give up everything but cheese." And I guess some vegans would say that this makes me a bad person. That I'm then supporting the dairy industry and that instead I should show that person videos of what happens to dairy cows.

To use a non-vegan metaphor though, I believe that you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar. If I can get people on board with making some amount of change, even if it's not "all the way" then I consider that a success. 

I use the label "vegan" to describe myself because I enjoy being a part of the vegan community. I like my vegan friends and I like that we're reasonable enough that we can disagree on the finer points but still realize we're on the same team. And yes, our team sometimes includes shrill voices, judgmental members, and straight up whack jobs. What group or ideology doesn't? It's just important to remember why we made this choice. I imagine few, if any of us, did it for the label.

The San Francisco Vegan Bake Sale is Coming!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Those of you who are denizens of San Francisco like myself may recall that I participated in a vegan bake sale back in June -- the World Wide Vegan Bake Sale, for which the San Francisco proceeds went to benefit Animal Place and East Bay Animal Animal Advocates. Well thanks to some enterprising local vegans, we're turning it into a regular thing. Yay!

Do you want to help this time? Of course you can attend and buy lots of stuff but you can also bake for us! Although we'll have goods from Fat Bottom Bakery and other famed local bakers, you don't need to be a pro to participate.

Last time I baked Jelly Donut Muffins (from Veganomicon) and Black and White Cookies (from My Sweet Vegan, which is an awesome book!) and both sold out really quickly along with the tons and tons of other baked goods people wonderfully donated.

If you're not vegan but still like to bake and want to donate your wares let me know. I can recommend some easy, no fail recipes if you're nervous about vegan baking for the first time. Either way if you want to participate in any way, leave a comment and let me know or email me at 

Some other info that would probably be helpful... The bakesale is Saturday, October. 17th and will take place in front of Ike's Place (3506 16th St at Sanchez) from 11 am to 4 pm. All proceeds to go to Give Me Shelter Cat Rescue(UPDATE: You can follow SFVeganBakesale on Twitter!)

You might as well get on board now because you can expect to be harassed for the next month otherwise. It's for the kitties! Do it for Cleo:

Are Pain-Free Animals the Solution?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A friend of mine posted a link to this article from New Scientist yesterday and I still haven't really decided how I feel about it. The gist of it is, scientists are working on ways to essentially engineer animals that feel no physical pain. From the article:

"In a provocative paper published this month, Shriver contends that genetically engineered pain-free animals are the most acceptable alternative ... 'I'm offering a solution where you could still eat meat but avoid animal suffering.'"
I have several responses to this. First of all, this assumes that physical pain is the only kind of suffering endured by animals on factory farms. (Because, to be clear this is proposed for animals going into factory farms, not as an alternative.) What about mental anguish? I know people start rolling their eyes when you suggest that cows have feelings. But go watch cows in line for slaughter and tell me they're not aware of what's about to happen. Listen to their moaning and tell me they're not suffering. Furthermore, pain or no pain, is it ethical to enslave any sentient creature? Is it ethical to engineer an animal in this way? Would we engineer humans to not feel pain?

And of course, this says nothing of the dreadful environmental impact of factory farming. If you think about it, environmental concern is ultimately an ethical issue, albeit a separate one. So how exactly is this the most acceptable alternative? It seems what he means is that it's the laziest alternative.

It's the alternative that doesn't force to consumer to examine or change his or her purchasing habits. It's like people who don't want to eat better diets or exercise and just want to take drugs to lower their cholesterol. You're not actually creating healthier circumstances.

But then what about the welfarist side of this issue? Should we support any efforts being made to decrease suffering? The way I see it in this case I have little control over the results. I don't get to vote on how the money going into this research is spent. I could protest but that would do very little. So I suppose I am passively supporting it and if factory farming is going to continue then it is better that animals will suffer to a lesser degree. But I will continue to remind people that at best this is a weak-ass band-aid on a pretty gaping wound.

What do you think?

Supper Club Street Cred

Monday, September 14, 2009

Internet memes seem to have increasingly truncated and predictable shelf-lives. You hear about something funny on Twitter. You link to it on your blog. Next thing you know, everyone you went to high school with has posted it to Facebook, and then your Aunt Nancy is forwarding it to you in an email because she read about it on Within three days of your initial discovery, it's now officially old news.

So too come San Francisco trends. Street food carts started springing up and in the course of a few months were given their own festival. Unmarked bars with speak-easy-style passwords are now listed in every city guide book. And then there's the underground vegan supperclub. 

For a while I debated about even listing Brassica Supper Club on Veg Table because I knew they were trying to keep it on the down low, but given their recent spike in press, I figure they're safe. We went to several of their dinners early on and then dropped off for a while this summer due to traveling or other plans. Returning this past weekend I couldn't help but notice that there seemed to be a shift in the crowd.

The news of Brassica has indeed spread to the "Aunt Nancies" of the vegan community who went so far as to poll fellow diners about how they'd heard of this since it only just came out in VegNews. (Aww, you get your news from print media? That's so quaint.) 

I kid. Their enthusiasm was actually kinda cute. But publicity can also alter expectations. To wit, we were seated with another couple who grumbled throughout the meal about having to sit on the floor and seemed impatient all night. Jeez, people, the wait staff are the chefs serving you in their home. You're not at Fleur de Lys.

Anyway, like the fans of indie bands now playing in packed venues, it's easy to feel indignant because you knew them back before they got popular. However it's also easy to see how ridiculous that sounds when discussing a supper club that opened a mere four months ago -- especially a vegan one. I want every vegan enterprise to do well and when it's run by three talented chefs who work their butts off to make it great, I certainly don't begrudge them their success.

It's well-deserved. I mean, check out this photo of Friday's dessert, a Belgian Stroopwafel with Toasted Almonds, Huckleberry Sauce, and Almond Anglaise:

It tasted even better than it looks. It's hard to take photos of the food there with the low lighting, but I've tagged the ones I've taken from all my meals there. I especially loves their soups since I'm a bit of a connoisseur. So the secret is out now, and I'll just have to compete for a reservation each weekend they're serving. But at least I'll always have the indie cred of having dined on their first weekend.

Back to School?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

I'm looking to bone up, so to speak, on my vegan nutrition. I'm thinking about enrolling in this program in plant-based nutrition through eCornell, a subsidiary of Cornell University. I don't suppose any members of my HUGE blog reading audience have taken it? Or know someone who has?

It's a chunk of change to spend on a course and I have to wonder if it really brings much more benefit than just reading The China Study. I've always been a bit skeptical of e-learning in general. Not that I don't think it's great for some people, but I've always preferred a discussion-based classroom experience to just reading on my own. Plus a friend of mine who's a Cornell alum inferred to me that the eCornell program is viewed there as just a money-maker/taker. Though it was first starting up when she graduated.

It's hard to find nutrition programs that focus on vegan nutrition.  I see plenty of vegan dieticians out there with nutrition degrees and I imagine that they either went vegan later or just had to suck it up and write about the healing powers of fish oil. 

Similarly with culinary school, I always wonder how vegan chefs make it through. Of course many chefs at major vegan restaurants are not actually vegan. (I'm looking at you, Eric Tucker.) But there are plenty of vegan personal chefs, etc. out there. Very curious how they all forged their career paths. Again, there are some great courses both online and off on vegan cooking, but few (if any?) that are actual degree programs.

As you might have guessed I've been exploring making a major career change/heading back to school. That's the thing to do when you're unemployed during a recession apparently. This is all further complicated by a potential move I might be making, but can't really talk about till it's finalized. But regardless if you know of other plant-based training programs in nutrition and or cooking, let me know about them in the comments.

Can't We All Just Get Along?

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Good grief. What I thought was a pretty innocuous post yesterday about a summer barbecue somehow turned into a flame war. Pretty inevitable for any vegan blog. I wrestled with whether or not to allow anonymous comments on this blog in the first place. My thought process was, "well, I don't want to exclude people just because they don't have a specific account."

What I've come to decide that anyone with anything *worthwhile* to say will sign up. As my husband pointed out, if you let the comments get overrun with unintelligent babble, it discourages actual discourse from reasonable people.

And that's the key word: reasonable. I believe that there is room for debate on issues of veganism. As tiring as it sometimes feels to constantly have to defend my views, I also think that engaging in debate on the subject helps sharpen your beliefs and keeps you from being lazy or stuck in an "I'm right; they're wrong" mentality. It's good to re-examine every now and then.

Veganism, in my opinion, should not be dogma, but rather an on-going choice, wherein ethical considerations from all angles are weighed. I face these decisions all the time. Consider what I call the Hot Dog Bun Dilemma.

It seems that every market near my home offers two choices when it comes to hot dog buns:
  • Organic, whole wheat, locally produced hot dog buns that happen to contain honey.
  • White flour-based, high fructose corn syrup filled buns made in giant midwestern factories that happen to not contain any animal products.

If I weigh the ethical, health, and environmental concerns against each other here, the arguably* non-vegan choice makes more sense to me. And there are plenty of vegans who would give me crap about it, saying that I'm not actually vegan if I eat honey. And that's fine because I don't choose this lifestyle because I want the label. And that is something I'd be happy to engage in a reasonable debate over because I think it is healthy.

Are zoos inherently oppressive to animals? I don't think, and enjoy frequenting them, but I'm willing to be convinced otherwise. Is wool ok if it comes from a small family farm where the sheep live full, happy lives? Especially if the alternative fabric is made in sweat shop using synthetic materials. Things aren't always black or white, right or wrong.

Within the vegan community there is debate all the time. Abolitionists vs. Welfarists. Sexism and racism in PETA campaigns. All of these topics are still perfectly fair game on this blog. Flaming, name-calling, stereotyping, unfounded assumptions,  and blatant mistruths are not.

*Here's an article from Slate on the honey debate. I could have sworn Erik Marcus wrote about this a few years ago, encouraging vegans not to put much emphasis on honey avoidance, but now I can't find any evidence of it. Am I mis-remembering it? Feel free to reasonably debate me in the comments.

Soupy Tuesday 2: Sweet Basil, Cauliflower, and Toasted Corn Chowder

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Well, I've certainly made a dent in the current corn surplus in my apartment:

Not gonna lie, this was one of the best soups I've ever made, and I make a lot of soups. It's a great late summer evening soup for when you're still feeling bright and sunny but the weather is starting to cool down.

I'm not going to post the full recipe because frankly it was too experimental. I was just adding dashes of things I had around without really measuring. But I will give you what was basically the key to making this delicious: toasting the corn.

While my base was simmering I cut the corn straight from the cob (4 ears) and sauteed it in Earth Balance, black pepper, and the leftover basil sea salt. When it started getting all toasty I glazed the pan with a little white wine. This could make a great side dish on its own, and I'm pretty sure that whatever soup base I put it into, it would have made it heavenly.

Labor Day Barbecue Wrap-Up

Hope you're all recovering from a fun-filled labor day. In San Francisco we've been delighting in some beautiful weather as of late, so my husband and I decided to take advantage by having a vegan barbecue. In the past we've gone to Dolores Park, but this time we decided to keep it close to home by grilling on the roof of our building, which has a pretty kickass panoramic view of the city.

I've always preferred grilling fresh veggies over faux meat products, so though we had some Tofurkey sausages, the stars of the show were the veggie kabobs. I made two varieties:
  • Mushrooms, zucchini, asparagus and tomatoes marinated in garlic, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and fresh thyme and rosemary
  • Pineanpple, red pepper, red onion and tofu cubes marinated in garlic, hoisin sauce, olive oil, and Chinese five spice blend
I also made potato salad (red potatoes, vegenaise, white vinegar, silken tofu, chopped sweet pickles, mustard seed and dill), had fresh watermelon slices, and another highlight: Watermelon Martinis with Basil Sea Salt -- a recipe that came courtesy of Bryant Terry's book Vegan Soul Kitchen. The book is chock full of summery recipes and though I haven't made a lot of them, it's also an entertaining read from someone with a passion for food.

A little tip for those throwing a vegan barbecue. I once observed that if you invite omnis to a vegan brunch, they will bring fruit. Similarly if you invite omnis to a vegan barbecue they will bring corn. Not that I am complaining -- grilled corn is awesome, with a little earth balance, salt and pepper. But we have a ton left over. So anyone got any good corn recipes?

Mid-Week Fancy-ish Dinner: Papardelle Primavera

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

One of my favorite things about eating out is the inspiration it lends to my own cooking. When I try a dish I love I'll do my best to try to figure out what's in it, and how I can re-create it. If I were a Top Chef contestant I think I'd do well at those challenges where they test your palate to see how many ingredients you can name in a dish.

Anyway, as I mentioned in my last post, I fell in love with San Diego restaurant Spread -- most notably their papardelle dish. Papardelle is my favorite pasta and it can be difficult to find a vegan version of it because it usually contains egg, which helps hold together the wide noodle. But I lucked out and found some fresh vegan papardelle in Whole Foods this week and knew I'd have to attempt to re-create the Spread meal.

This isn't an exact replica. It's more of a cross between theirs and a pasta primavera. But I was still pretty pleased with the results and it was pretty simple. Here's my recipe:

Ingredients Used:
1/2 Large Carrot, chopped
3/4 Can crushed tomatoes (I used Muir Glen fire roasted.)
1/4 Cup olive oil
1/4 Cup vegetable broth
1/2 Zucchini, chopped
1/2 Cup peas
1 Tbsp chopped red onion or shallots
1 Tsp lemon olive oil (use 1 tsp oil plus 1 tsp lemon juice if you don't have an infused oil)
1 Tbsp white wine or sherry
Assortment of fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme and sage) chopped. About 1 tsp all together.
Salt, black pepper, dry sage to taste
12 Oz. pasta (this would be good with penne too)


In a small pot, heat the veggie broth and olive oil. Chop the carrot finely and add to pot along with salt and some dry sage. Simmer over low heat, covered for 15-20 minutes. Now's a good time to start the water boiling for the pasta.

In a separate small frying pan bring the peas, onion, zucchini, lemon oil, and wine to a low simmer. After 5 minutes or so, add half of your chopped herbs, along with some salt.

After your carrots have simmered, they should be able to easily be crushed using a fork or potato masher. Add the crushed tomatoes and some more salt, mash and continue to simmer, covered, over very low heat.

Keep stirring the peas and zucchini. You may want to add a bit more wine if they're looking dry. Once your water is boiling and the pasta. If it's fresh pasta it will only take about 5 minutes, and you'll want to continually stir it to avoid sticking. (Mine actually stuck together really bad which may have been the draw back to using it fresh. Tongs can be useful in helping separate while you stir.)

Once it's ready drain and dish out onto two plates. Cover with several spoonfuls of tomato sauce, topped with the zuccini and peas. Sprinkle the remaining fresh herbs and a little cracked black pepper.

Voila! Serve it with a nice white wine and a simple side salad - mixed greens and what not. This meal will probably get you laid.