Thursday, August 26, 2010

Eating on Staycation

Last week I took a staycation from work.  Hung around town and, looking to eat something kind of typical but something I don't eat much, I cooked some eggplant parm.

I used Dynise Balcavage's recipes from her book Urban Vegan.  I love this book.  One of my favorite things about it is that the urbanity she's referring to is none other than Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, otherwise known as "my parts."  Local girl makes good cookbook!  Also, on the cover of her book, she's wearing this gold necklace that has a fishy and various other items on it.  I have that necklace!  I got it at Forever 21, which I probably shouldn't admit.  But I've rocked it for years.  See, here I am with my siblings wearing it.  You could tell if you could manage to look beyond my outrageous cleavage.  Perv.

Anyway, it's a great cookbook.  Particularly good for vegan ethnic recipes that aren't too complicated, yet are freaking delicious.  And, judging by how outrageously good John's Marinara Sauce is, it's good for Italian!
My momma used to make a similar sauce, although hers had a lot less garlic.  I'm all for garlic, though!  I made a ton of this sauce and froze what I didn't use on the eggplant parmesan.  I mostly used the recipe from Urban Vegan to make the parm, but you know how eggplant parm goes.  It's all more-or-less the same, and you're really going to adjust it the way you like it no matter what a recipe says.  For instance, Dynise has you putting a whole lot of nutritional yeast in it.  But I wasn't really feeling just putting a whole bunch of loose nooch in my layers.  I put a light sprinkling -- very light.  I did, however, purchase Daiya fake cheese for the first time ever and put that on top.  And since it is the job of every vegan blog to discuss Daiya, like Vegan Dad, I'll give you my two cents.  Verdict:  I agree with Papa Vegan.  I could just as well do without the stuff.  It's fine.  I mean, it's better than other vegan cheese, but I wouldn't say it's really worth the expense.  

So, I cooked up some sun-dried tomato pasta and served some eggplant parm on top and ate like a queen on staycation!  Here it is all mushed up together, which may not look too purdy, but it tastes a lot better than it looks.

At the end of my week-long work break, I actually DID go somewhere: Philadelphia Folk Festival.  Let the debauchery begin!  It's a wild, crazy scene there.  And hard (but not impossible) to eat vegan.  I did, however, bring some cookies, which I gave out to anyone and everyone.  I don't mess around when it comes to bringing cookies to a situation where everyone's going to be into eating cookies.  I made Macadamia Ginger Crunch Drops from the book Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar, otherwise known as the Best Cookies In the World!  

I'm not kidding, these are the greatest cookies ever, and they're pretty much foolproof.  The only way you can really mess them up is if you overcook them.  I, for one, never overcook any baked goods.  I mean, really, what's the point of baking vegan if you're not going to take advantage of the fact that they contain no raw eggs and leave them nice and soft and chewy?  I tend to reduce the cooking time for baking by at least two minutes under the minimum time.  These cookies, though, I've just got to tell you about these cookies!  They're a little crispy on the bottom but chewy throughout, and every single bite just explodes with candied ginger flavor that absolutely makes you fall over from delight.  Feeding them to folks at the Fest, people would take a bite, then go, "Oh, my god, these are really good."  It never failed.

On the downside, though, I left them in my little cookie container inside my tent on a hot summer day and I think they got cooked a bit longer because of it.  So they didn't quite make it to Sunday.  But everyone who got to eat them before that were able to enjoy cookie perfection.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Pop Ice Therapy

There probably isn't one single secret to world peace, but if there is such a thing, I suspect it is Pop Ice.

Pop Ice is the most common brand in my life, but I know most people call all the brands "ice pops" or "freezey pops."  You can buy them in K-Mart or in a grocery store in large, unfrozen boxes of 100.  Put them in the freezer, and you have a vegan dessert treat with no effort that stays good forever and ever.
Pop Ice is nothing but flavored sugar-water.  They're fun to eat, so inexpensive that they're pretty much disposable, and great on a hot summer day.  There's nothing healthful about them -- they're really devoid of nutrients -- but at least they're fat free.  The best thing about Pop Ice, though, is that they're an invaluable tool in conflict resolution.

One time, outside my window where I live in North Phoenixville, which is widely known as the "worst" corner in the Borough, a girl started fighting with another girl and her boyfriend.  I could hear it so I went and watched from my window.  It sounded like the angry girl used to go out with the guy, and she was pretty well freaking out at his new girlfriend.  I can't say whether she was justified or not, but I can say that she was in a blind rage.  Her blood was flowing, and it was hot out.  I always think fights are worse in the heat.

Of course, the police showed up.  Folks were being very loud.  The angry girl's friends saw and, while the police spoke with the two-timing boyfriend, her friends tried to calm her down before it was obvious to the police who was causing the ruckus.  "Calm down, just calm down!" they were saying.  "I CAN'T!" she yelled, "I CAN'T calm down when I get like this!"  The more they tried to calm her down, the more it upset her.

Now, if her friends had been smart, what they would have done was go inside to the freezer and get out a couple Pop Ice and some scissors to cut them open (god forbid you should forget some scissors, because trying to gnaw it open is bound to cause a brand new tizzy).  Telling a girl who is upset like that to calm down is just ineffective.  She's got to be distracted.  So you come outside and you say, "Want a Pop Ice?  I've got green, red, and blue, which would you like?  Don't you just love these?  I always used to eat them when I was a kid." I don't think anyone can keep fighting while suckling on a cold, colorful, sugary treat.  But instead, the girl ended up yelling about the new girlfriend to the police officer, who, to his credit, let her yell about what terrible people they were and then told her she should probably go inside for now.

Since that time, I always keep Pop Ice in my freezer, just in case.

Anyone starts anything, I'm whipping these out.  Don't worry, you get your choice of colors.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Two Tickets to Pittsburgh

Here's a joke.  Two guys are talking about this and that, and the first guy asks the second, "Hey, do you know what a Freudian slip is?"  Second guy says, "No, what's that?"  First guy says, "Well, it's like when you go up to the bus counter, and the woman selling the tickets has large breasts, so instead of saying, 'I'll take two tickets to Pittsburgh,' you accidentally say, 'I'll take two pickets to Titsburgh'."  Second guy says, "Yeah, I think I know what you mean!  Like, the other day, I meant to say to my wife, 'Dinner is delicious,' but I accidentally said, 'You stupid bitch, you ruined my life!'"

ANYWAY, speaking of Pittsburgh, dinner, and marital bliss... 

I went to Pittsburgh this weekend, staying with my friends Brandon and Erin, who took care of me in every possible way.  They gave me a super-comfy bed to sleep in, took me out, drove me around, fed me, made me coffee, and Erin even gave me a bunch of clothes that she was going to get rid of (I'm wearing her pink shirt today).  Their adorable little dog licked my legs and feet and I got to give kisses to their adorable kitty.  I could not have asked for a better weekend.
Oh my god, I love their dog.  He is sooo cute and little!  I want to eat his face!
There was a farmer's market at a truck stop on the turnpike, so I picked up a couple squash and zucchini, and on Friday night, Erin and I randomly prepared them and some potatoes, a portobello mushroom, pressed tofu, and some yummy bread for grilling.  You know what I learned?  Everything is better when grilled!  Also, food is better when prepared and eaten with friends.  We prepared everything simply, mostly with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper, and it was just ridiculously good.  Marveling at the tastiness of the potatoes, Erin informed me that CSA veggies are just better, which I'd always kind of figured to be true.  I wish that I could do better than just get on a CSA waiting list here in Chester County.

The next day, we were going to a potluck BBQ, so I quickly whipped up some one of my baking favorites: Banana Split Pudding Brownies from Vegan with a Vengeance.  The bananas weren't super-ripe like they are supposed to be, but you know what?  It turned out excellent anyway.  Also, Erin didn't have a brownie tin, so we overfilled it into a pie pan.  Somehow, the brownie underneath broke through the topping in this perfect, lovely circle -- and once the bananas were sliced on top, it made the most gorgeous banana brownies to date.
I actually took this picture while the brownies were in my lap in a moving vehicle on the way to the BBQ, so it's not the nicest picture, but you get the idea. 

On Sunday, they took me to a vegan restaurant called The Zenith Cafe, and although it was a really cool place with a whole antique shop attached, and a style of ordering where you get an entree and then there is a full buffet where you can go crazy on the sides, I didn't actually think the restaurant was very good.  I had this coconut curry wrap thing, and it was pretty plain.  I don't know.  In my opinion, one should aim to impress with vegan cooking, or else people will just hold on to their ideas that vegan cooking is not as good and unsatisfying.  Erin got some french toast and let me have a lot of it, and although it was ok, I thought it was pretty spongey and I couldn't help but think with longing of the blueberry pancakes I have in my freezer, which no one would ever guess was vegan.  The french toast, I'm sure, would not fool any omnivores.  So that was a let-down, but I don't regret going because, really, it is such a cool place.  But I know that if I want something done right, I must do it myself (with the help of awesome cookbooks, of course)!

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