Thursday, March 28, 2013

My New Digs Where I Can Get Digging

Before moving on to the real post, I'd first like to invite you folks who read this blog to check out a guest post I had on the popular Vegansaurus! blog recently called Vegan Pierogie Night in PittsburghIt's exciting for me to have written something maybe people actually read!  I know that Pittsburgh vegans were right pleased with it, at least.

I moved out of my sister's apartment and into a small house in Oakland,California that's owned by a punk rock vegetarian librarian.  At first, only he and I lived here, but a little over a week after my arrival, his girlfriend moved in as well.  They both seem like cool, progressive people.  The best part, though, is the backyard, where there is plenty of room to garden, plus a fully-grown lemon tree and a baby avocado tree!
The avocado tree is flowering in the front, lovely lemons in the back.
A lemon tree is an amazing thing to be able to access at all hours!  You have no idea how often I've thought I had everything I needed to make hummus, then while I was making it I realized I didn't have a lemon and had to walk or bicycle somewhere to grab one.  Now I can stay more-or-less stationary and just go to the fenced-in yard, possibly while wearing pajamas.  The lemons are all huge and weird-shaped, but they are still great.
It's hard to tell from this angle that this lemon is round, not the shape you find in stores.
It's spring now, and here on the west coast of the US, it's warm enough to start putting down seeds, but the garden area needs a lot of work and investment, and although I want very badly to do this, I just cannot afford the things I'd need to get started.  Right now, the backyard is basically a playground for local cats.
She's winking at me!
The cats are scared of people and I can't decide whether to discourage them from hanging around my future garden or befriend them with food and sitting still in a non-threatening way.  I guess I'll do the sitting still but not the food, especially since cats are carnivores and I don't have anything to feed them.  By the way, check out the large compost area that's behind her.  Awesome, right?

That's the backyard in full.  Truly, lots of room for growing plants.  It gets a lot of sunlight and I can see birds in the morning that are different from any of the ones I ever spotted on the east coast.  So cool.  I love it.  Birds sing all day as though I was in the middle of nature instead of in the middle of a bad neighborhood, like I really am.

I don't know what all my neighbors are growing, but just over the fence by the avocado tree, check out this view.
 Whoa.  What all is in there?  I don't know, but I think it's awesome.  And here's another part of the neighbor's yard that's visible over the fence:
So lovely it hurts!  All container gardening, though, that's kind of unusual, I guess.

The most important thing, as always, is the kitchen.  The good: it's light and fairly large.  The bad: the freezer does not work (I cannot live like that for long), there is no microwave (I can get used to that), and the stove is very old (but so far seems fine).
Yes, the sign above the stove does say "THERE IS NO GOD."
I'm not totally comfortable here yet, but I've done a little cooking.  I lived alone for a long time and I'm not completely sure of the right way to interact with a housemate.  It's weird to enter into someone's already-full home.  I am relieved that at least it's an animal meat-free zone.  My housemate tells me he used to be vegan, but reverted to cheese-eating.  That seems to happen with a lot of people who, like him, do not cook.  It's what I'm going to call, "the pizza siren" from now on.  Dude just couldn't resist the call of the easily-accessible dairy cheese pizza.  He also has chicken's eggs in the fridge, but I've never seen him use one.  I don't feel judgy about it because at least he's a vegetarian and eats fairly plant-strong most of the time.  Our fridge is filled with fruit and veggies.

From Viva Vegan!, I made the Quinoa-Oyster Mushroom Risotto (recipe is here).  I don't have any ají amarillo or ají panca paste but I added some achiote paste and it was delicious.  I also sautéed some kale in my favorite way:  a few cloves of garlic minced and cooked in oil, then kale, tamari (maybe just under a tablespoon for the 20oz of kale I was cooking), and water as needed for moisture.  I just mixed my greens into the Quinoa Risotto, and also threw pinto beans into it.  Yum!  Plus, I roasted some cauliflower just with olive oil, lemon juice (fresh from the backyard), salt, and pepper.
Even though I feel a bit lost and rootless and jobless in California (though simultaneously happy and grateful to be here), I always feel better when I eat good healthy, varied food like this.  Also, I've been eating great big salads every day and I feel and look great, even if my mind is suffering from a bit of worried chaos. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Weekend in Nevada City, California

I have a car here in San Francisco and I'm not working currently and my dear friend Marah from back in Phoenixville (she's actually pictured in an old entry of my blog here) now lives under three hours drive away, in Nevada City, California, so I went to visit her a few weekends back.

She kindly went out of her way to shop for some vegan items for me.  I told her I didn't require anything special -- vegetables, that's it.  Some fruit.  I also brought hummus and carrots and some pita pizza I'd made and frozen.  She got some stuff for me that I never buy but are such a treat, like cherry soy yogurt and this weird veggie meat that comes in a tube and you cut it open and shape the meat into patties and fry it.  I'd say it mostly resembles veggie sausage.  Greasy, but really quite tasty and it hit the old grubbing-during-a-night-of-drinking spot.  Also, Marah seems to gravitate toward veg foods naturally, although perhaps my being there was influencing her.  She made a seriously killer kale salad.  It was soooo good.  I keep meaning to email her to ask what she put into her dressing.
I know it looks like a lot of quinoa, but this picture was taken before it was mixed in, so there was actually just a nice sprinkling of it.  She threw this together to take with us to the worst kind of gathering: a barbeque.

Really, I think I may not voluntarily attend a barbeque again if it's not one that is specifically veg-friendly or all veg.  As soon as Marah told me we were going to one, I was pretty let-down about it.  The average barbeque, to me, is a worshipful, gluttonous orgy of corpse-eating.  This one did not even have one thing besides animal meat itself.  It had no condiments, no bread, just dead chickens and I'm not sure what else because I wasn't too hot on looking.  I'm not going to lie, the whole "fuck our health and being decent and the environment and our usual disdain for corporate influences, we're eating MEAT!" attitude is pretty offensive to me, and it gives me pain in my heart, and makes me feel like finding the nearest kitty cat and hanging out with her instead.

Of course, my veganism came up quite a bit.  You know something I've observed recently?  I think that "Plants have feelings too" has surpassed "There's nothing wrong with 'ethically raised' meat" as the most popular response to vegans.  I seriously cannot believe how often I hear this bit of confused thinking.  They all apparently read an article about how when you pull a carrot from the ground, an electromagnetic response can be detected in nearby carrots, which, to them, indicates fear on the part of the carrot.  I cannot seem to locate this article or study, but I'd like to see it.  In any case, if it were a well-known and duplicated study, I would be able to find it.  Plus, even if there is an electromagnetic response, what is that supposed to mean?  You know what else causes electromagnetic responses?  Practically everything!  For instance, when you rub the two blades of scissors together to cut something and it magnetizes the blades.  To claim that this indicates that scissors have feelings would mean that you were either very daft or just a troll, trolling it up.
definitely watch this video to see these women's simple response to "plants have feelings too"

Anyway, I gave my standard response to this stupidly-common objection, which tends to be affective: plants don't have a nervous system or brains and do not feel pain.  It is part of their reproductive strategy to be delicious so animals will spread their seeds.  You have to kill an animal but you can eat plants while they're still alive, and why would you want to eat dead corpses instead of living, nutrient-rich leafy greens?  Then I make a little joke about how I only want to eat things that are still alive when I eat them.  Har har har, vegan vampire, blah blah.

Actually, though, there were really nice, friendly, accepting people in Nevada City and I do not mean to paint them in a broad stroke.  I just don't want to go to any more non-veg barbeques, that's all.

So, OK, now let's get to the best part -- eating out at restaurants!   We went to two.  One is a little macrobiotic/raw place called The Fix (or maybe it's called The Fix for Foodies, it's confusing) which, in my opinion, has a lot of problems, but has potential.  It was not vegan, as they had dairy cheese and milk for coffee (as well as non-dairy milks).  They also had terrible coffee that I actually sent back, something I never, ever do.  The little cup of raw sugar had ants in it, which I wouldn't mind too much, I'd just make sure I don't drop any ants into the coffee and live and let live about it, but their French press brew was just weak.  We ordered a few things that were good, but nothing very special.  Like, here's The Tuscan Flatbread Pizza.

Not seeing a flatbread pizza in there?  Look harder.  It's on the right with the arugula on top.  Tiny!  With a pretty salad.  That's cool, it would make a nice light lunch, for, like $8-$9.  But it cost $13.  And it wasn't one of the greatest raw pizzas I ever had.  I'm so sorry to be mean to this place, I'm sure there are people who love it and to each his or her own.  We also ordered their "macrobiotic special" which was really kind of a "macrobiotic typical," in that it's salad with quinoa and avocado.  Now, look, that's cool!  I love to eat that.  But I guess I was expecting a little something stand-out and, well, special.  I think it cost $10.  I dunno, I guess I just think it needs work. 
I'm so sorry to be harsh to this chilled out place, though.  They're just trying to eat healthy whole foods.  I do wish they'd go vegan.  I wonder if my whole perception would have been different if it had been a vegan place.

You know what place was awesome, though?  Ike's Quarter Cafe, a Creole-styled diner with a bunch of good veg options.  They had vegan biscuits and gravy and it was appropriately inexpensive, but I could not allow myself to get something I can make at home so easily, even though I won't because it's not healthy.  When I eat out, I love to get things I am unlikely to do for myself.  Like friggin' Vegan French Toast.
I have not had French toast, vegan or otherwise, since I was a kid.  If I remember correctly, my older sister had a phase where she'd make them in the typical style, dredged in chicken's eggs and fried up with cinnamon  (I think that's how it's done?).  At first I really liked it, but then I started to hate it.  I think my parents just bought crappy thin white bread and that's not ideal for French toast.  I remember finding them to be soggy and too sickeningly filling.

But when I saw on Ike's menu that you could get just one slice of Vegan French Toast for $5, it sounded like just the thing.  And it was.  It was so amazingly delicious.  I think it had some almond flour going on on the outside.  They had Earth Balance but I didn't use it because in my family, it was just unheard of to add butter to pancakes or French toast.  There was maple syrup, why the need for butter?  That familial tendency sticks (no pun intended) with me to this day (OK, the pun was intended).

I also ordered the Vegan Creole BLT because I love a good BLT but I rarely make any of the many, many options for vegan bacon except the Bacos-style TVP bacon bits to sprinkle onto stuff.  Plus, it had this vegan creole remoulade on it and a side of vegan potato salad, as well as all kinds of bread choices.  I think I chose, like, bulgur wheat bread or something?  Anyway, it was all to die for. Or maybe to live for.  I guess it depends on your current emotional well-being.  In any case, buenissimo!

Ike's is small and packed.  There's a large area to wait outside.  It's completely worth the wait.
Marah chooses food off the large menu
Another highlight of the weekend?  Marah's tiny little rescue dog!  She's a nervous little baby who barks at anything and does not much care for visitors, but I managed to convince her that we were buds after I slipped her some of those pita pizzas I'd brought and maintained my non-aggressive physical stance, allowing her to come to me at her leisure.  Within an hour, she was in my lap and we were best of friends for the rest of my time there.
Cuteness, right?

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Wildwood Zesty Garlic Aioli Goodness

When I first visited San Francisco, I saw Wildwood brand garlic aioli in the stores and I thought to myself, "Self, that sure does sound good."  And then I kept hearing about it!  So when I moved here and had the pleasure of shopping at places like Rainbow Grocery, I picked some up.  Then I looked for vehicles for this garlic mayo goodness.  Believe me, it was not difficult.

First up, from Practically Raw, I made the Mushroom-Nut Burgers that grace the upper right hand corner of that book, a page I'd had dog-eared in the book since I bought it.  I don't have a dehydrator, so I baked mine. 

Gotta love a burger that's made up of seasoned mushrooms, walnuts, veggies, flaxseed, and spices! That's really how a "veggie burger" is supposed to be, I think.  Does it taste like a burger?  Well, no.  Instead, it tastes like fresh yummy ingredients that are a terrific vehicle for the aioli so, don't mind if I do.
Not gonna lie, I ate it open-faced with some toasted bread on the bottom, which means it was even less raw than it already wasn't because I baked the burger.  Don't judge me.  I like some carbs.  This was a real winner and, like every recipe in Practically Raw, so easy to make.  I just love that book!

Here in The Mission, there are so many little groceries selling fruit and veggies, and I like one on 24th Street in particular because it has a lot of organic stuff and it's all really inexpensive and fresh and colorful and the salad greens never have as much dirt on them as the organic veggies from any of the grocery stores do.  As such, when I was craving some roasted veggies, it was a piece of vegan cake to walk over, spend under ten bucks, and buy a shit ton of veggies to roast.  Look at how much I got:
All that, mostly organic, under $9.  Frankly, even I'm jealous of me right now.  I'm moving across the bay to Oakland in a few days and I'm not sure I'll be able to find the equivalent there.  Anyway, I cut 'em all up, adding in some leftover broccoli I had, and put some olive oil and salt and pepper on 'em and roasted 'em on a bunch of cookie sheets, and when I was done, I put them all together in this one container for fridge storage:
And then, for days, I toasted some bread, heated up some veggies, spread the Wildwood Garlic Aioli onto it, sprinkled on some homemade Bacos, added lettuce, and had me a nutrient-dense and friggin' delicious simple sandwich. 
Best thing ever!  I mean, OK, there may be better things.  But not lunch and dinner things that are so simple, inexpensive, and healthy.  The aioli really makes it.  If you can get a hold of this stuff where you live, do it.  Warning: addictive.

I've also started juicing for breakfast again, because when I have such easy access to high-quality, inexpensive organic veggies, how could I not?  Again, for under $10, I got all this to juice:
I've been enjoying these for breakfast all week.  Did you know I never get sick?  This is probably why:
Breakfast of champions!  Sure, OK, of a champion Boggle-player**, but still.

**I'm really only a champion Boggle-player in my own mind.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Yummy Food from Supermarket Vegan

When I first got to San Francisco, I brought only one cookbook because I flew here first and couldn't carry too much stuff, but I knew I had to have a book so I could get right down to cooking and eating in the way I prefer.  Whenever I move, I tend to rely on one book above all others: Supermarket Vegan by Donna Klein.

This book rocks because even someone like my little sister, whose idea of cooking is to take mini tacos from the freezer, open them up, add extra cheese, then put them in the microwave, has many of the ingredients on hand.  And because it contains nothing that cannot be bought at any grocery store, it has recipes my sister will actually eat, which makes us both happy.  I want to feed her good food instead of crap, but she will not even touch anything that has tofu, nutritional yeast, Earth Balance, artichokes, mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, or sundry other items that, to me, are just normal things.  You know, there isn't one plant I can think of that I just don't like no matter how it's prepared.  But my sister will be afraid to eat a mango chutney and peanut butter pita pizza with broccoli just because it's called "pizza" and she knows it doesn't have dairy cheese.  (She did eventually eat those, and regretted having missed out previously when she was scared of it.)

With her tastes in mind, from Supermarket Vegan I made the Sweet Potato and Red Pepper Soup with Toasted Corn (recipe is here) and the Coconut-Curried Lentils with Basmati Rice (recipe is here).  I cooked my rice with a large pinch of saffron, an expensive spice my friend Sara gave to me that I may never replenish after it is gone, but that really gives basmati rice an authentic Indian oomph, especially when it's cooked in a rice cooker.  And I served it all together with salad.  Healthy and colorful and delicious!
The lentils are the bomb, man.  A little sweet, so flavorful, and very simple to make.  But the soup was even better.  Donna Klein may be my go-to soup resource!  Its thick base is sweet potatoes blended with roasted red peppers from a jar (although I'm sure you could roast your own peppers), and then to top the whole thing off, you toast some corn on the stove top in oil and put them in there.  It's a perfect flavor combination, and definitely the kind of thing to use as an example to people to show that going vegan causes you to expand the variety you eat, not restrict or limit it. 

Since all that is so healthy, I thought I'd destroy it all with Klein's easy-peasy Blueberry-Oatmeal Bars (recipe here).
Please, do not think for one moment that because it says "blueberry" and "oatmeal" in the title that this is healthy.  Oh no.  The fat is vegetable shortening, and although I used non-hydrogenated, organic vegetable shortening, it's still a high-fat dessert.  It's a classic recipe really, the kind that people made before anyone had heard of the word "vegan," an accidentally animal free, low-cost, delicious, easy recipe that I totally could have seen my mom making.  Flour, sugar, fat, oats, and fruit preserves.  It doesn't even require vanilla extract. 

Even my picky sister enjoyed this food!  Mission totally accomplished. 
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