Sunday, November 28, 2010

Vegan MoFo! Post #15: What's that, you really wanted me to fill out this questionnaire?

...Well, sure, I can do that!

What is one food you thought you’d miss when you went vegan, but don’t?
When I went vegan, I didn't really think about what I'd miss because I was already pretty sick of everything non-vegan! (A post-college back-packing trip through Europe as a then-vegetarian made sure of this. Read: cheese, everywhere.)

What is a food or dish you wouldn’t touch as a child, but enjoy now?
Raw tomatoes. Also, interestingly, there were a lot of meat and dairy products I'd never touch as a child (and as an omnivore) that I love the vegan version of (e.g., bacon, mayonnaise, REUBANS).

What vegan dish or food you feel like you “should” like, but don’t?
Raw kelp noodles. Rarely do I ever spit something out, but oi... Luckily, I like all other sea veggies, which are basically magic. 

What beverage do you consume the most of on any given day?
Water, but coffee is a very close second.

What dish are you “famous” for making or bringing to gatherings?
Deathrow Mac 'N Cheese

Do you have any self-imposed food rules (like no food touching on the plate or no nuts in sweets)?
I will not eat normally-hot leftovers if they're cold. Will. Not. ...Unless it is capellini pomodoro. That is the only exception.

What’s one food or dish you tend to eat too much of when you have it in your home?
Pretzels. Just regular ol' pretzels.

What ingredient or food do you prefer to make yourself despite it being widely available prepackaged?
I wish my answer was "seitan." My actual answer is "salad dressing."

What ingredient or food is worth spending the extra money to get “the good stuff”?
Daiya cheese, Earth Cafe raw cheesecake, and high-quality dark chocolate. Oh and organic, fair trade coffee beans.

Are you much of a snacker? What are your favorite snacks?

I don't really know if I'd qualify myself as a "snacker" or not. But I do know that my favorite snack is hummus and raw broccoli.

What are your favorite vegan pizza toppings?
Daiya cheese, vegan meat, eggplant, spinach, anything spicy, fresh basil, garlic, and fancy things I've never tried on a pizza before (such as fresh rosemary or veggie burgers).

What is your favorite vegetable? Fruit?
This is probably the hardest question of all. I'll say kale for fave vegetable. Fave fruit is a tie between avocado, banana, and mango.

What is the best salad dressing?
The stuff on kale salad. Or a simple combo of flax seed oil, balsamic vinegar and spices.

What is your favorite thing to put on toasted bread?
I just realized this the other day, but I don't know why I don't put roasted garlic on my toasted bread more often. Other than that, I'm all about hummus.

What kind of soup do you most often turn to on a chilly day or when you aren’t feeling your best?
Potato soup on a chilly day. Vegetable-noodle if I'm sick.

What is your favorite cupcake flavor? Frosting flavor?
Freaking...Peanut butter marshmallow. They used to sell these at the vegan bakery I lived near in DC (Sticky Fingers) and I still dream about them.

What is your favorite kind of cookie?
Taraluche! These are the Italian cookies my late grandmother used to make. I *WILL* veganize them this Xmas.

What is your most-loved “weeknight meal”?
Something involving Italian Tofurkey sausage and arugula, but not together.



What is one dish or food you enjoy, but can’t get anyone else in your household to eat?
I live with all vegans. Getting people to eat what I make is not hard.

How long, in total, do you spend in the kitchen on an average day?

Maybe an hour on average, but the standard deviation is quite large (SD = 50). What, you didn't know I'm like half nerd?

How many fingers am I holding up?
I have to sneeze.

What kind of things are you doing for VeganMofo?

I found out about it like two days before it started. I am flying by the seat of my cruelty-free pants. 

Friday, November 26, 2010

Vegan MoFo! Post #14 Magic Marinade Tofu.

I'm back. And I've got a pretty tasty marine recipe to share with you. I invented this recipe late at night in Pennsylvania on Thanksgiving Eve. I had some leftover tofu that I used to make Deathrow Mac 'n Cheese (recipe for that forthcoming) that I just had to bake.

I used whatever I could find in my mom's kitchen. I thought the result was pretty delicious, but don't take my word for it - my 5-year-old cousin loved it. In fact, she gave it a literal "thumbs up." This is why it's called "magic" marinade. ;)

M a g i c  M a r i n a d e  T o f u

Ingredients:

3 oz Pineapple Orange Juice (1/2 of one of those little cans)
3 TB soy sauce
2 TB rice vinegar
1 TB sesame oil
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp hot cherry peppers (the chopped up kind you'd put on a sandwich)
1/2 tsp salt

12 oz of tofu (3/4 a standard block), pressed for a few hours

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir well.  Pour some into the bottom of a wide, shallow bowl. Place rectangular stripes of tofu on top. Pour more marinade over the tofu. Make sure each piece is saturated. Cover and allow to marinate in the fridge overnight (or at least 30 minutes if you're really in a hurry). Place the tofu on a cookie sheet in an oven pre-heated to 350 degrees F. Bake for approximately 15 minutes on each side.

Allowing the magic to seep in.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

It's Thanksgiving But It's Not All "Happy."

I can't muster up the same kind of energy I've had throughout the last 13 MoFo posts. I just can't.

To quote the current Facebook status of a friend, Lisa Goetz,

 

"Over two thousand birds have suffered and died this year because of the BP oil spill. 45 million birds suffer and die every year for Thanksgiving."

 

And another, the Facebook status of my friend, R,  

 

"['As long as people will shed the blood of innocent creatures there can be no peace, no liberty, no harmony between people. Slaughter and justice cannot dwell together.'] Happy Thanksgiving"

 

I'm just not in the mood for celebrating, you know? And who could, when you really stop to think about it. I know I'm "supposed" to blog about vegan food and carry on this month's Vegan MoFo spirit, I do. I mean, after all, the whole point of Vegan MoFo is to make veganism a reality. It just so happens that food is the way through which MoFo works toward this - food, a topic that, for me, usually means joy. 

 

Right now, to me, "Thanksgiving" feels like some sort of antithesis to joy. And I'm not just talking about the turkeys. I'm talking about the perpetuation of violence, I'm talking about turning a blind eye to mass murder. And the sick sense of apathy, or entitlement, or defeat, or all of these. Right now, "Thanksgiving" feels to me like nothing but the stubborn adherence to a tradition built on deceit and inequality. This land is your land, this land is my land. This land belongs to you and me!

 

So it feels like sugarcoating to write about something joyful (food) on such a day. For me, at least. 

 

I'm not going to post photos in some cosmic sense of optimism that I simply do not feel right now. I'm not going to "channel my energy into something productive" in this instance here. That is not always the best solution, in my opinion. 

 

On this day, I will be with loved ones, and I will enjoy the delicious cruelty-free food I've prepared for myself and whoever else is willing to try it. I will laugh and feel glad for the things I always feel glad for. But I will not deny these other feelings I'm having. They exist for good reason. 

 

People always tell each other, "best to not make waves." I couldn't disagree more. Often, it is making waves that changes the course of history. World, I'm mad. And you should be, too. This isn't about me, and this isn't about you. It's bigger than that. It's about us. It's about the animals, the trees and the oceans and the people who get left out in the cold, ostracised, forgotten about or violated, abused, bullied. I won't accept this. Not on my watch. We, as humans, can do better than this. "Blame" is irrelevant here. It is crucial to accept this as everyone's responsibility. Every single one of us can be an agent of change if we choose to be. 

 

“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” - Gandhi


Every step counts.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Vegan MoFo! Post #13: Doomie's Home Cookin'

Doomie's Home Cookin' was a Los Angeles-based vegetarian restaurant that sadly closed down a while ago. The food was reportedly amazing and the vegan options were plentiful.

Now Doomie's is making a comeback and plans to have their grand re-opening on Dec. 11th, 2010 (incidentally, I am having a party that night, you're invited). Woohooooo!

Just to give everyone a taste of what's to come, Doomie's had an all-you-can-eat vegan brunch this weekend. I went. I ate.

It was amazing.

First, let's talk about the spicy potato balls. These things were fried and had breading on the outside and spicy, mashed-potato-y stuff on the inside. Hands down, this was my favorite item on the menu that day. I spoke with Doomie himself after the brunch, and he said he'd made them on a whim the night before. I wish my whims produced spicy fried potato stuff.

There were also really delicious chimichangas, my second favorite. Think chimichangas but tastier, crispier, and vegan. Basically, if something is fried and vegan, I will eat it. And I will usually love it.

Except when it comes to fried Oreos. These are only for the truly brave at heart. Don't get me wrong - they were absolutely delicious - but I could only eat a bite or two before my too-much-sweet alarm bells went off. You know what I liked about them, though? The taste was very reminiscent of funnel cake. Is funnel cake an east coast thing or do we have funnel cake here on the west coast? I wouldn't know, I'm not a native.

Hey, anyone else feel sassy when they talk about their love of fried food? Maybe it's just me.

Check out those crazy-beautiful innards and powdered-sugar-laden breading. p.s. Oreos are, in fact, vegan.

Other foods Doomie served included pasta with some kind of alfredo sauce (my third favorite menu item), chocolate cupcakes, breakfast burritos, green beans with a spicy-smokey dressing on them...and, according to people who got there at a reasonable time (who gets up before noon on a Saturday is what I wanna know), there was also French toast, home fries, and who KNOWS what other magic.

Doomie, who is super down-to-earth and friendly, also told us that he's considering having a small all-you-can-eat lunch buffet every weekday once the restaurant opens. I tried to talk him into having it on the weekends (R.I.P. Meet Market), too, but I'm not sure my powers of persuasion worked. We'll see.

'Til December...

Speecy Spicy Potato Ballz! And other goodness.

P.S. Doomie's Home Cookin' will be located at 1253 N. Vine St., #9, in Hollywood. There's a parking lot there, too.

Vegan MoFo! Post #12: Potato Leek YESSS! Soup

Potatoes, leeks... and then some surprising ingredients. This was a total experiment but it ended up tasting delicious. YESSSS!

First, for those cooking virgins out there, I want to tell you what I love about leeks. They are less pungent than onions, so they're good for when you want that onion-y flavor without overpowering the rest of the ingredients. You also won't tear up when you cut them. Oh, and they're pretty. FYI when you buy them, they will have a huge bunch of darker green leaves at the end, which has been chopped off in the photo here.

So, potatoes, 1 leek, and a few cloves' worth of minced garlic. Pretty normal so far, yes?

Check out that leek in the middle here. She's a beaut.

Here comes the fun. Next I decided to add some wack ingredients because I was curious to see what would happen. I also had some leftover pumpkin puree from cookies I'd made recently. 


Said wack ingredients.

That's right. I added cayenne pepper, pumpkin puree, and cinnamon.

I loved the end result. I'm generally into anything spicy. If you don't like spicy, you can always reduce the amount of cayenne. Also, screw store-bought vegetable broth! I just use water and spices and let the simmering veggies do the rest of the magic. DIY, bitches!!!!

P o t a t o  L e e k  Y E S S S S !  S o u p 

Ingredients:

5-6 cups potatoes, chopped (I used about 10 small red bliss potatoes) 
1 leek, chopped (just the white and pale green parts)
1 large carrot, chopped
5 cloves of garlic, minced 
6-8 cups water (approximately)
olive oil, to taste
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
a dash of cinnamon (stick to just a dash or so, trust me)
red cayenne pepper, a lot, maybe 2 teaspoons 
sea salt, to taste
black pepper, to taste
2-3 teaspoons lemon juice (optional)
dried parsley, for garnish


In a large pot, boil enough water just to cover the potatoes. Once the water is boiling, add the chopped potatoes. In a few minutes, add the chopped carrot. Stir occasionally. Once the veggies become softened, you can turn the heat down to medium.

Meanwhile, in a nearby frying pan, saute the leeks for about 5 minutes. Then add the garlic. Continue to saute until the leeks are somewhat translucent.

Add the pumpkin puree to the pot. Stir. Add the spices. Bring to a boil again, then turn down. Next, add the leeks and garlic. Boil again, then turn down.

With a small hand mixer, blend the soup until it is somewhat creamy. You decide how creamy you want it to be. If you don't have a hand mixer, blend the soup in a blender and then return to the pot. Allow the soup to simmer for at least 15 minutes, adding the lemon toward the end. You don't have to add lemon unless you want a tangier flavor. Garnish with dried parsley. While cooking, I also like to curse a few times, you know, for good luck, but you don't have to do that, either.

Almost ate it straight from the pot, but then thought better of it and opted for a spoon & bowl. Guess I have a sophisticated side. YESSSS!

This recipe was inspired, in part, by Sarah Kramer's cookbook, La Dolce Vegan. I freaking love that cookbook, and I don't get money for saying that (though if anyone wants to pay me, I'll prob take you up on it).

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Vegan MoFo! Post #11: CSA Slaw!

Last night, I went to a vegan potluck in Redondo Beach. I decided to make something using (shocker, I know) whatever I had in my kitchen. Thus, I created "CSA Slaw," named such because it consists mainly of items we received in our CSA box.

Radicchio! photocred.

If you'd like to make this, there's no need to follow my recipe exactly, as I basically threw in whatever I felt like. The crucial ingredients are: Radicchio, carrots, apples, Veganaise, vinegar, and sugar. Anything else can be skipped or substituted.



C S A  S l a w

The Crunchy Ingredients:

1 head of Radicchio, shredded
5 carrots, diced
2 Granny Smith apples, diced
1 Gala apple, diced
2 or 3 pears (any variety), diced
2 Fuyu persimmons, diced
5 small radishes, diced 
2/3 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup sliced raw almonds

The Dressing Ingredients:

1  2/3 cups Veganaise
2/3 cup unrefined sugar
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
sea salt, to taste
black pepper, to taste

Combine the crunchy ingredients into a large serving bowl. Combine the Veganaise, sugar, and vinegar in a smaller bowl and whisk until smooth. Pour dressing over the crunchy ingredients and stir until well-combined. Add salt and pepper, to taste. NOTE: You may need to add more crunchy ingredients, depending on the crunchy-to-dressing ratio.



This was pretty well-received at the potluck last night. I hope you enjoy it, too!

Vegan MoFo! Post #10: Banana Oatmeal Chocolate Carob Walnut Cookies

Hey folks, I'm catching up on my MoFo posts! I'm not going to enter the contest for posting every day, but I want to live up to my promise of posting at least 22 posts this month.

Without further ado, I will share with you this delicious recipe. It's the one that I was talking about in the previous post. As I said before, I must give credit to one of my former roommates, Muckford, for finding the majority of this recipe.

B a n a n a  O a t m e a l  C h o c o l a t e  C a r o b  W a l n u t  C o o k i e s

Ingredients:

1 cup margarine, cold
1 1/2 cups tightly packed brown sugar 
1 cup non-refined sugar
1 large (or 2 small), ripe, mashed banana
4 teaspoons vanilla
2 tablespoons water or soy/almond/rice milk
2 cups all-purpose or whole-wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 1/2 cups vegan chocolate chips
1 cup carob chips
3/4 cup chopped walnut pieces

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Beat together the margarine and sugars. Electric mixers are unnecessary - you can just use a fork or some other utensil! Add the well-mashed banana and mix well, then add the vanilla, then the water. The water will try to separate; keep mixing with a figure-eight motion and add the dry ingredients, in the order above, bit by bit.

The final batter should be almost too dry to hold the chocolate chips. If the batter is too wet, add a little more flour + oats or else the cookies will turn out hard and flat. Put big gobs of batter onto an uncreased cookie sheet. You want these cookies to be kind of gigantic, trust me.

Bake them for 10 or 12 minutes. Cook them longer if you prefer a hard cookie, but be aware that bananas only approximate the action of an egg in the mix, and you can get cookies as hard as the cookie sheet if you aren't careful.

Let them congeal on the sheet for a moment after removing them from the oven, then cool on a plate or a wire rack. Store in an air-tight container. They taste even better after they sit overnight or in the fridge.

I have taken these cookies so many places and I can say, both vegans and omnivores alike have raved about them! They appeal to those without much of a sweet tooth, and also seemed to be the most popular cookie at Bitchcraft last week.

Sadly, I do not have a photo of these...They just get eaten that quickly. ;) Here's a cute photo of my boyfriend's dog instead. Enjoy!

Nico Puppins at her favorite dog park, waiting oh-so-patiently for my boyfriend to throw her ball.

Vegan MoFo! Day 9: A review of last wkend's Bitchcraft Trading Post!

As I mentioned in this recent post, last weekend I sold my hand-made vegan accessories at the first ever "Bitchcraft Trading Post" event!

Basically, Bitchcraft Trading Post is a collection of Los Angeles-based artists (some professional, some not; some starving, some not) who live in the LA area and know each other. We wanted to have a FREE event where we could sell our stuff without having to pay the huge fee that we would've paid in order to sell at the typical local art fair (ya'll know how I love DIY stuff).

As many of you already know, chooseyourownfoodchain also has a small vegan 'biz called "foodchain." The business consists of...me...and I make and sell jewelry, re-usable lunchbags, totes, clothing, and more. I make my stuff with only VEGAN materials, so NO fur, feathers, ivory, shell, wool, leather, etc. I also try to use recycled materials as much as possible.

A close-up of one of the reusable lunchbags I sold. Designed and hand-stitched by yours truly. The felt is made of recycled materials, and some of the brown you see is actually from an old skirt I cut up.

I didn't just sell my vegan goods last weekend - I also did something I've been wanting to do for ages: I gave out FREE vegan baked goods. I whipped up about eight dozen vegan cookies and a dozen or so vegan cupcakes, and arranged them next to the stuff I was selling with a sign saying "FREE vegan cookies & cupcakes!"

Why did I do this? Well, it wasn't just a marketing gimmick - I really wanted to show people that vegan food can be AMAAAAZINGLY tasty. I knew that if I charged money for these treats, I wouldn't reach as many people, so I gave them away fo' free. Most people were sort of shy about taking free food, given that pretty much nothing is free these days... One very kind woman even insisted on paying me $1 for a cookie. 

By the end of that day's Bitchcraft event, most of my baked goods had been eaten. Of course, I told *everyone* who ate one that they were vegan, and explained that "vegan" meant that I'd made them without milk, butter, eggs, cream, or any other animal-derived ingredient. Some people who ate these had never tried a vegan baked good before. I like to believe that I accomplished my goal of turning some people on to the idea that "vegan" does not have to equal bland. Happy sigh. True to the Vegan MoFo spirit.

My foodchain table.

Let's talk about the food. Here's a list of the treats I made:

1. Lemon Icebox Cookies
I found this online recipe for raw lemon cookies and decided to give it a go. Loved these! They're basically lemon zest, raw cashews, and agave nectar, so you can eat them for breakfast OR as a treat. My only problem was that I couldn't get them to keep well unless I kept them in the freezer at all times.

2. Banana Oatmeal Chocolate Carob Walnut Cookies
Thank you, Muckford, for providing the basis of this recipe. I've only tweaked it a little bit. 

3. CYoFC-Approved Chocolate Chip Cookies
As I've said, I'm not a huge chocolate chip cookie lover, so I invented a kind that I *do* love.

4. Pumpkin Cookies
These are an all-time favorite of mine. I make them every fall, at least once.

5. Coconut Cupcakes (recipe from Vegan With A Vengeance)
This was my first time making these. Oh my god. They're delectable. Very creamy, and not overly coconut-y. I topped mine with store-bought coconut shavings. Vegan Cupcakes 4 LFE!

The coconut cupcakes, in all their delicious, vegan glory.

The event overall was a HUGE success, too. There were art-makers, there were pizza-makers, there were sangria-makers, there were merry-makers. There were also quite a few people who brought their cute puppies along.

Let's talk about the other vendors.

There were about 20 of them. People were selling potted plants, hair accessories, paintings, vintage items, silk-screened posters, candles, jewelry, mulled cider, pizza, ties, etc. Allison Davidson was selling her photography, Oh Boy Cat Toy was selling buttons, beer kozies, vegan cat toys, "fake messes," and postcards, Lori Jackson was selling potted plants, Rachel Pitler was selling her paintings, Monica Katzenell was selling her silk-screened posters...

...Mignonne was selling hand-stitched baby onesies, Ryn Rina was there selling felt hair accessories, Molly Sullivan was selling vintage purses. Mystic Pizza was selling vegan and other pizza (Mystic Pizza is a covert, one-man operation, making and selling pizzas from his home near Silver Lake/Los Feliz...you can find him @mysticpizzala on Twitter ).  This is just a sampling - let me know if you'd like to be listed or linked to! 

For more info about my tiny, one-woman vegan business, aka "foodchain," click on the "Merch" page at the top, or go directly to my etsy site.


peace & carrots,
CYoFC

Vegan MoFo! Day 8: The Barebones Vegan (Part II)

This post is part of a series I'm writing this month. My hope is to establish a set of basic, essential, and affordable practices for vegans on a budget. You can read the first post here.

T h e  B a r e b o n e s  V e g a n  P a n t r y

Below is a partial list of the cheapest pantry items I've found (based on US prices). They're also very versatile and generally healthy. If you're a vegan trying to survive on a tight budget, these are your non-refrigerated staples.
  1. Nutritional Yeast - Usually bulk bin places are cheaper, but it depends. It's probably cheapest to find a food co-op near you. They generally have cheap bulk bins (and other cheap food, too).
  2. Dried Beans, Split Peas, Lentils - Compare these to the price of the canned variety. Sometimes canned is cheaper, depending on what's on sale and where you shop. These items are great because they're so nutritious (protein, fiber, + vitamins) and they're filling. Eat them with rice, put them on a salad, or toss in the blender to make a bean dip.
  3. Oils - Not totally necessary if you're really watching your fats, however.
  4. Vinegars
  5. Pasta
  6. Rice - A great grain to have on hand because a small amount can be so filling. I've heard that "broken rice" is the cheapest.
  7. Flour
  8. Canned tomatoes and tomato paste
  9. Spices/seasonings 
  10. Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP) for soups, stews, casseroles, etc. - This is a much cheaper alternative to fake meat.
  11. Nuts
Bulk bins @ a food co-op. photocred.

T h e  B a r e b o n e s  V e g a n  F r i d g e 

Here are all the vegan refrigerator items you really need, as far as I'm concerned.
  1. Veggies and fruits - A vegan must. You may have to shop around to see what's cheapest. Cost will also depend, in part, on if you want organic, local, or not. Concerned about pesticides? Get to know the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15, the lists of worst and best produce to buy organic as determined by the Environmental Working Group (EWG). Still concerned? Well, according to doctors like Joel Furhrman, M.D., no matter what shape produce your produce is in, you're still going to get less pesticides than you would from consuming meat, given that eating animals means eating a very concentrated, lifetime's supply of the pesticides that those animals have consumed. Cheapest fruit I've found? Bananas, hands down. And they give you a lot of options: you can freeze 'em for smoothies, eat them on-the-go, have them with peanut butter, fry them, use them as egg substitutes in baking, etc. 
  2. Tofu - Cheaper and more versatile than fake meat, so you're getting a lot for your money, in my opinion. 
  3. Peanut butter - Get the all natural kind, not the sugary, commercial kind. That stuff's nasty. Trader Joe's sells decently-priced all natural peanut butter. I always refrigerate mine because my 10th grade science teacher told us your peanut butter can harbor botulism bacteria if you don't.
  4. Bread - This one varies widely according to what kind you buy. Be sure to check the ingredients list - sometimes bread manufacturers sneak unnecessary dairy ingredients into their bread. Lately, I've been on a whole wheat pita kick, because I like how I can use for sandwiches, personal pizza crusts, or for dipping in hummus.
  5. Soy or nut milk of your choice - You can also make this, though it takes some time and dedication. It is cheaper to DIY, though, plus you get a lot of other edible products out of the process.
Soy beans. photocred.

T h e  B a r e b o n e s  V e g a n  F r e e z e r

In my opinion, it's generally best to skip most frozen foods, as they're usually expensive. Use your freezer mainly for freezing leftovers plus fruits, veggies, and herbs that you plan on using later. Sometimes, there are cheap deals on pre-packaged frozen fruits and veggies, depending on where you shop.

Oh! There is one exception: many varieties of berries tend to be cheaper if you buy 'em frozen! I, personally, will only buy my organic strawberries when they're in season because they're so damn expensive. All other times, I buy them frozen. Thanks, Queer Vegan Runner, for reminding me of this important exception!


T h e  B a r e b o n e s  V e g a n ' s  O t h e r  S e c r e t  F o o d  S o u r c e s:
  1. Picking fruits growing off public trees - For so many reasons, I think THIS IS AWESOME! Basically, public trees are public property, right? So, this means the fruits of those trees are the public's, too. Free fruit for everyone, YEAH! Lots of cities worldwide are catching on to this and creating "fruit maps" of their area. For example, at this website, you can download a map of the Fallen Fruit of Silver Lake - a great source if you happen to live in/near Los Angeles! Thanks to awesome folks Matias Viegener, David Burns and Austin Young for starting this project! Don't live in Los Angeles? Here you can find fallen fruit maps for other places, including Copenhagen, Denver, Madrid, Malmo, Mira Flores, and more. 
  2. Grow your own garden  - Don't have a back yard? Not to worry. Community gardens are shared spaces of land that you can essentially rent. In Los Angeles, they can be as cheap as $3/month, and I'm guessing that other places are similar if not less. If you live in LA, you can search for a community garden in your area here. If you live in the US, you can search here. Another option? Start an herb garden on your window sill. Herbs, especially, are expensive if you get 'em store-bought! Freeze anything you don't immediately use so you always have herbs on hand. 
  3. Join a CSA group - Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is when a group of people in the same area all pitch in money to the same farm, and in turn, the farm distributes "shares" of the season's crops to each person. It's a cheaper way to get organic produce than if you bought it in the store, because it essentially cuts out the "middle man." Prices, therefore, are based on more accurate costs of growing the crops. I just found this directory of CSAs in the United States, if you'd like to search for one near you. 
CSA delivery box. photocredit.

    Friday, November 12, 2010

    Vegan MoFo! Day 7: FREE CYoFC-Approved Cookies!

    I'm not sure exactly what day of MoFo it is, but I do know that this is my 7th post! I am determined to catch up, however, and catch up I WILL!

    Anyway, here I'm going to share with you my new favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe. I think it merits saying that I don't actually even like chocolate chip cookies that much, but I like these. They're that good.

    Here it is:

    C Y o F C - A p p r o v e d  C h o c o l a t e  C h i p  C o o k i e s

    Ingredients:

    2 cups flour (white)
    2 tsp baking powder
    1/2 tsp sea salt
    2 tsp cinnamon <--the crucial ingredient, in my opinion!!!
    1 cup sugar (either the "evaporated cane juice" or "raw turbinado" kind)
    2/3 cup olive oil, yes I said olive oil

    1/4 cup orange juice or soy milk
    2 tsp vanilla extract1/2 cup vegan chocolate chips, but add more if you like!

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Add the chocolate chips. In a separate bowl, mix the sugar and oil. Add the vanilla and orange juice/soy milk. Form small patties (for larger, flatter cookies) or balls (for smaller, rounder cookies) with your hands and put on a baking sheet. Bake for 5 minutes, then rotate the baking sheet 180 degrees and switch it to the other oven rack. Bake another 4 minutes and then check every 2 minutes. Be careful not to overbake - take the cookies out while they are still soft! They will harden once they cool.

    I made one sheet of bite-sized cookies, which started out as balls of dough.
    Then I made one sheet of bigger cookies, which began as plump patties of dough.
    A warm plateful of cookies on blue China makes me feel all domestic.

    Oh and by the way, I made these for the Bitchcraft Trading Post that I'll be participating in this Sunday. How much will they cost, you ask? Oh, they'll be going for FREE.

    That's right. Free. I am going to be baking like a mad woman and bringing the vegan goodies with me to hand out to anyone who stops by my table. My "shop" is called "foodchain," and I make and sell jewelry, re-usable lunchbags, totes, clothing, and more. I make my stuff with only VEGAN materials, so NO fur, feathers, ivory, shell, wool, leather, etc. I also try to use recycled materials as much as possible.

    By the way, Bitchcraft Trading Post consists of me and a bunch of other Los Angeles-based artists, artisans, craftsmen/women, and vintage collectors.

    Tell your friends and family who live in LA, Glendale, Pasadena, Long Beach, etc. That would be awesome. :)




    Once more for good luck: FREE VEGAN BAKED GOODS FOR EVERYONE*!

    :)

    Peace,
    CYoFC

    *While supplies last. So come and get 'em while you can!

    Tuesday, November 9, 2010

    Vegan MoFo! Day 6: Can Veganism Be Cheap? The Barebones Vegan Solution (Part I: Kitchen Equipment)

    I've been thinking a lot about whether veganism is a demographic choice. In other words, is veganism a "privilege," limited only to the middle and upper classes who can afford it? Or is veganism accessible to everyone, regardless of income?

    Apparently, others have been thinking about this issue lately, too. Bess of idreamofgreenie just informed me of Business Week's article about veganism being for the rich and powerful. The article cites recent vegan converts including Bill Clinton, Bill Ford, Russell Simmons, Steve Winn, and Mike Tyson (yes, he's vegan), among others high up on the financial ladder, like CEOs and major business owners.

    However, as a vegan, I can say that you don't have to be wealthy to be vegan. This past August, Natala at veganhope set up a really thought-provoking $21-a-week-challenge to show that it really is possible to eat vegan on a tight budget. Twenty-one bucks is the amount of money allotted to you, per week, if you receive food stamps here in the US. Check it out.

    Veggies = a huge part of a healthy vegan diet. How can you get the most for your buck?

    Now, I have not tried Natala's $21/week challenge, but I do have some ideas for eating cheaply as a vegan. As a PhD student, I have been living off small stipends and student loans for several years, so I have some experience with finding cheap vegan deals. Throughout this Vegan MoFo November, I'll be posting a multi-entry series on what I'm calling The Barebones Vegan, offering tips and advice on how to be vegan on the cheap.

    I recognize that some of my suggestions will take more time than their more expensive alternatives, but if you have the time, the patience, the internet access, and the interest, there are some low-cost ways to be vegan. 

    Here we go:

    T h e  B a r e b o n e s  V e g a n  K i t c h e n  E q u i p m e n t 

    Because home cooking is ultimately cheaper to do than eating out, I list the basic kitchen appliances and tools you'll need to acquire in order to create your own meals. Nothing fancy here, just the stuff you'll need to get by.
    1.  A reasonably-priced blender. In my opinion, a blender can do most, if not all, of the things a food processor can do, and they are generally cheaper. Glass jar blenders can do more (such as blend frozen fruits and ice) and are sturdier, but a cheaper, plastic blender will work just fine as long as you don't put ice or very hard frozen fruits in it. The smaller you chop your fruits before freezing them, the less likely you will injure a plastic blender. You can also partially thaw frozen fruits in a bowl of warm water prior to tossing them inside the jar. 
    2. Pots and pans. You can get by with: 1 very large pot (for soups, stews, curries, pasta puttanesca, etc.), 1 medium-sized pot (for re-heating things, cooking rice, making sauces, single-serving items, steaming vegetables, etc.), 1 large frying pan (for stirfrys), and 1 medium frying pan (sometimes you'll want to have two things sauteing at once). It's best to have lids for the pots and pans, too. Nonstick pots/pans tend not to last long, plus who knows what those "nonstick" chemicals will do to you as they inevitably scratch off the surface! Look for cast-iron, which will last you a LONG time, is easy to clean, and tends to be much cheaper than stainless steel (for example, a cast iron skillet goes for around $25, whereas a stainless steel one is over $100).
    3. A cookie sheet and a casserole pan, for baking desserts, seitan, casseroles, vegan pizzas, tofu, etc., plus re-heating food. 
    4. One decent-quality 8'' or 10'' chef's knife. This will save you from needing any fancy schmancy food processor-type dealie. Plus you won't really need to buy a variety of other knives, this way. I, personally, do most of my chopping and food prep with just one quality knife. Keep the knife clean and dry and it should last you a long time.
    5. Two wooden spoons. Two because you'll sometimes be cooking two things at once on the stovetop.
    6. A wooden cutting board. Trust me, these will save you money in the long run, as their plastic counterparts tend to get gnarly pretty quickly. Just be sure to keep your wooden cutting board clean and dry, and it should last you a long time.
    Skip the toaster, as you can use your broiler for toast. A microwave is also unnecessary, because you can re-heat your foods using your broiler, oven, or stove-top.

    Try to avoid paying full-price. How can you get these cheaply? Check out The Freecycle Network, where you may be able to find free, used kitchenware, plus you'll be participating in a very eco-friendly practice. Craigslist.com is also good for finding cheap (sometimes even free), used appliances. Amazon.com is maybe the 3rd cheapest option, since you'll have to pay for shipping, although Adam says you can sometimes find expensive blenders that have been refurbished selling for half their original price. Also, thrift stores and yard/garage sales can be great to find cheap deals.

    Lasagna doesn't lie. You can go veg - it just takes a little know-how.

    Stay tuned for upcoming Barebones Vegan posts this month, including the Barebones Vegan Pantry, the Barebones Vegan Fridge & Freezer, The DIY Guide To Cheap Veganism, and more.

    Hope this helps!

    Peace,
    CYoFC

    P.S. Please feel free to share your own suggestions on how to eat vegan for cheap!!! I may end up using them in future Barebones Vegan posts. 

    Sunday, November 7, 2010

    Vegan MoFo! Day 5: Experimentation with the Mystery Fruits of My Neighborhood

    I missed my Friday MoFo post last week, so instead, I bring you...a Sunday MoFo post!

    Two plump persimmons from the CSA and three key limes from a friend of our roommate.
    They say there are two types of kitchen talents: cooking and baking. I am definitely way more blessed with the former talent than with the latter. I'm very much of the mentality that goes more like "A dash of this, a sprinkle of that, let me taste it, and oh, just a touch more salt and it'll be perfect" than anything so scientific and exact as baking.

    But, thanks to our most recent CSA delivery + an invitation to a vegan wine & dessert party, I was motivated to take a stab at inventing my first ever cookie recipe. And what fruit or vegetable, you ask, could've possibly inspired me to do such a thing? Well, inside this week's CSA box, I discovered these reddish-orange, tomato-looking things that I couldn't identify. Turns out they were Fuyu persimmon fruits. I don't think I'd ever encountered a persimmon before, let alone eaten one, so I did some research and found out that there are two common varieties: the Fuyu and the Hachiya. There are also a bunch of other kinds, which you can read about here if you're curious. 

    Even Nico was curious about these strange fruits.

    According to my internet research and personal experimentation, I can tell you that the Fuyu is solid in composition (when ripe), subtly sweet, and can be eaten like an apple or used in recipes for dishes such as chutney, salads, and sorbets. It's shaped like a tomato. The Hachiya, apparently, tends to be astringent, but I think it becomes really sweet once it's ripe, and to be ripe, it must be extremely mushy/soft. This kind of persimmon has a more oblong, pepper-type shape. Based on my research, it seemed as though it was the Hachiya that had earned the superlative Most Likely To Be Baked, but I was adamant about baking with my Fuyus and nothing was going to stop me. We'd received some beautiful red barlett and comice pears in our CSA, as well, so I figured I could just make up for any missing sweetness with a CSA comice and a fig from our fig tree.


    So, after much deliberation, internet research, and cookbook cross-referencing, this is what I came up with:

    S p i c e d   P e r s i m m o n   &   P e a r   C o o k i e s

    Wet Ingredients:

    2 Fuyu persimmons, peeled and diced
    1 comice pear, peeled and diced
    1 fig's worth of fig filling
    2/3 cup Earth Balance (vegan butter), softened at room temperature 
    1 teaspoon almond extract
    OPTIONAL: if you want moister cookies, also add 1/3 cup of soy milk

    Dry Ingredients:

    2 cups all-purpose flour
    1 cups rolled oats
    1 1/2 cups cane sugar (regular or brown; I used mostly regular and a little bit of brown because I ran out of regular. I think whatever will do.)
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1 teaspoon cinnamon
    1 teaspoon ginger
    2/3 cup sliced almonds

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Mix the wet ingredients in a bowl and set aside. Mix the dry ingredients, EXCEPT for the almonds, in a separate bowl. Combine the wet and dry ingredients and stir until well mixed. Fold in the nuts gradually.

    Scoop small spoonfuls of batter onto a cookie tray. Be sure to leave ample room in between cookies, as these WILL expand. Bake for 10-12 minutes. They will likely not seem fully "done," but trust me, they are - vegan cookies tend to solidify well after the baking process, so you can safely stop baking them before they reach the point where they look browned. Allow to cool. For extra cooking cred, garnish with a cinnamon stick or two.

    The result is a cookie that's at least somewhat nutritious, just the right amount of sweet, and nice and chewy. It's also a very autumnal treat, given its gingery spice and in-season ingredients.

    Let's get a visual representation of that recipe, shall we?

    Dicing the persimmons
    What the inside of a Fuyu persimmon looks like up close
    The peeling of the comice pear
    Spiced Pear & Persimmon cookie batter! pre-almond-adding

    The finished product
    A glimpse at the innards of the cookie when it's broken in half

    And Now, A Sneak Preview...

    That's right. I didn't mention this before because I thought it'd be a bit overwhelming, but Nico and I discovered a mystery fruit #2, pictured below, during our walk today. It had been hanging precariously off a skinny tree branch in a residential part Silver Lake, alongside other fruits of its kind. Curiously, not all of the other fruits were this size; there were a few that were this ginormous citri-bulb size, but the rest resembled standard-sized lemons. I mean, is this just an overgrown lemon? Or is it the adult version of something else we've never encountered? Maybe it's a pomelo, if they even grow here in southern California?

    At any rate, stay tuned for my next Vegan MoFo experiment, in which I will get to the bottom of this fruit and turn it into something delicious!  

    Nico generously lent me her tennis ball so you could see the shocking size comparison.

    Thursday, November 4, 2010

    Vegan MoFo! Day 4: Stuffed Shells Because I Love You

    This recipe is another one among my favorites, right up there with kale salad and Death Row Mac 'n Cheese. I must credit my former housemate, Muckford, for discovering the original recipe somewhere on the internet a while ago. I've modified it slightly, but only slightly. This is another one of those recipes that delights vegans, omnivores, and Italian families alike.

    In fact, legend has it that one of my uncles, a lover of all dishes meat-and-cheese-related, had no idea this was vegan until I told him. After he ate a plateful. I believe his words were something like, "This is vegan, really?! It tasted exactly the same as regular stuffed shells." Hell, I'm betting even babies and dogs would love these shells, but please, please, don't test that hypothesis. Because I love it so much, let's repeat that one sentence real quick: "This is vegan, really?! It tasted exactly the same as regular stuffed shells."

    I am tagging this as "students," too, because it can be made cheaply, and we all know students are poor.

    The following, I share with you, because, CYoFC readers, I do love you. <3


    V e g a n  S t u f f e d  S h e l l s

    Ingredients:

    About 40 jumbo shells
    3 jars tomato sauce
    2 pounds firm tofu
    2-3 cups of baby spinach (optional)
    1 & 1/3 cups low-fat vegan mayonnaise
    1/2 cup nutritional yeast flakes
    2 teaspoons salt
    4 teaspoons dried parsley
    4 teaspoons dried basil
    4 teaspoons onion powder
    2 teaspoons garlic powder

    NOTE: If you don't want to make this much (the above serves about 12), just halve all of the ingredients. Don't forget to halve the seasonings and salts, though!

    Directions: 
    • Cook the pasta according to directions the on the box
    • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F
    • Drain the tofu well and pat dry. With a fork (or potato masher), mash the tofu, vegan mayonnaise, nutritional yeast, salt and seasonings together until the texture resembles ricotta vegan cheese. Yep, no blender or food processor needed here. OPTIONAL: include 2 cups of baby spinach leaves in the mix before you mash it.
    • Cover the bottom of a large baking dish with a thin layer of pasta sauce. Using a small spoon, fill each shell with a scoop of the tofu mixture. Lay each stuffed shell gently on top of the pasta sauce, seam facing up. (FYI: The original recipe said seam facing down, so choose what you will.)
    • When the baking pan is full, pour the rest of the tomato sauce evenly over the shells. Sprinkle with a small amount of nutritional yeast. OPTIONAL: gently arrange a baby spinach leaf over each shell. The vein of the leaf should run perpendicularly to the seam of the shell. This will make your tray of shells look prettier, and your friends/family may think these are actually basil leaves. Mine did. Extra cooking cred points, score.
    • Bake for 30 minutes or so.  

    This looks complicated and daunting, but really, the basic steps are 1) cook the pasta, 2) mash together the fillings, 3) put sauce and pasta in the tray, 4) fill pasta, 5) cover pasta with more sauce, 6) bake.


    In da tray.

    What do I mean by "jumbo shells," you ask? Here's a photo:  


    There they are, looking all jumbo and menacing.
     
    Yep, that's an American flag napkin. I made these for our 4th of July party like two years ago. When I was in preschool, I used to do stuff like refuse to say the Pledge of Allegiance or sing My Country 'Tis of Thee, so making "foreign" food on a patriotic holiday is pretty standard for me.

    iMangia, my pretties! 

    Love,
    CYoFC

    Wednesday, November 3, 2010

    Vegan MoFo! Day 3: Green Thai Curry

    Hey there! For my Day 3 MoFo post, I'm going to tell you about the green thai curry I made!

    I mostly followed the recipe in Vegan with a Vengeance, but with a few "grad student changes" (i.e., skipping any ingredients that would break my poor grad student bank and adding some ingredients that were much cheaper).


    Here are the changes I made to the chile paste:
    • I didn't have fresh lemongrass so I skipped that part. Looking back, I think this was probably a vital ingredient.
    • Rather than grinding coriander seeds and cumin seeds, I used the powder forms of both. 
    • I didn't have fresh cilantro, which was also probably rather important. Need to start growing more of my own herbs. Right now we only grow mint at my house.
    • Didn't have shallots, either, so I used yellow onion. Seemed to be fine.
    • I added an extra Thai green pepper. What? I'm a glutton for heat.

    And here are the changes I made to the rest of the recipe: 
    • I didn't use tofu. I ate all of my tofu. Woops. The SO told me that baked tofu probably wouldn't have worked out in a curry dish anyway, although I disagree.
    • I added chick peas. This made me feel better about the lack of tofu.
    • I added eggplant. Eggplant is one of my favorite veggies to work with. 
    • I added some sliced up carrot.

    I served the finished product with jasmine rice. One thing I loved about this recipe, other than the ah-mazing taste, is that it made a lot. I'd say this yields about 4 hearty servings, if you make it the way I did with the extra veggies and jasmine rice. Next time, I'll aim to add shiitake mushrooms, too. I think the earthy shiitake flavors would make this even closer to perfect.

    Also, I must say, I never realized how easy it is to make your own chile paste. I mean, it's basically just a few types of peppers + spices + water all ground up together. Again, I wonder how this simple fact evaded me for so long? I feel a new obsession coming on.

    And now...for the food porn:

    Chile paste, just waiting to be added to the coconut milk and simmered into glorious aromas.

    Yep, there's some wafting happening up in here.
    iViola! A dish that's pleasing to all of the senses.

    Thanks for stopping by! Stay tuned for day 4. I've got some good stuff coming up!

    Tuesday, November 2, 2010

    Vegan MoFo! Day 2: My Secret for Perfect Tofu

    As a vegan of over 5 years, it's hard to believe I'd never made baked tofu...until yesterday.

    Let me just say, wow. I tested out the recipe for Asian Style Baked Tofu in Veganomicon and it was probably the best tofu I'd ever tasted (I give Isa and Terry full credit!). Where has this recipe been all my life, and why did I wait until now to try it?


    Succulent baked tofu, waiting to be added to a kale salad.

    As for the "secret" tip to getting your baked tofu perfect (no matter which recipe you use), the trick is in the pressing*. Typically, I'll press my tofu for a mere 15 minutes, maybe 30 if I'm feeling ambitious. This time, however, I pressed for about 3 hours (flipping the tofu block over a few times throughout, so that the top and bottom sides get pressed equally). Pressing for longer, I found, created a firmer, chewier composition and a heartier texture. My boyfriend, who often makes baked tofu, noticed the difference, too. From now on, any time I'm going to work with tofu, I will press it for a few hours!

    *For those not familiar, to "press" tofu, you must drain the water out of the package and then place the block of tofu between two hard surfaces. It usually helps if you wrap the tofu with thin cloth first - that way the moisture can absorb into the cloth and keep the tofu-hard-surface sandwich from falling apart.

    Keeping it brief today; I'm at work for most of the day, then going to see Little Stranger tonight at Detroit Bar.

    Monday, November 1, 2010

    Vegan MoFo! Day 1

    Happy World Vegan Day, everyone! What better day to say...I have an exciting announcement! I've signed up for Vegan MoFo, which means I'll be posting a food-related blog entry every weekday for the entire month of November. That's 22 entries! I'm pretty stoked, as this year, November promises many interesting food opportunities for me.

    What are those opportunities, you ask? Well, first off, today my house got a brand new vegan roommate! We are already plotting to host our first vegan potluck this month. Date TBA.

    Next on the list, I was the very lucky recipient of quarrygirl's Healthy Taste of LA 2010 drawing! This means I'll be heading to Redondo Beach on Nov 7th to watch renowned vegan chefs perform cooking demos and taste their samples. There will also be speakers on nutrition and veganism. I believe tickets can still be purchased, so if you're interested, here's some more info!

    On Nov 14th, I'll be participating in the first annual Bitchcraft Trading Post. There, I'll be selling my cruelty-free jewelry and other products. While this isn't exactly "food-related" per se, art is one of the ways in which I like to disseminate knowledge about veganism.

    Then there's Thanksgiving on the 26th. I'll be helping my mom with the cooking, and creating an entire vegan menu.

    My birthday is Nov 27th. Hopefully the S.O. and I will be road tripping up to northern CA, where there will be lots and lots of vegan restaurants I've been dying to check out.

    I've also got a few cooking projects brewing. Below, you will see my beautiful "pumpkin pie" pumpkin, which I hope to use for some vegan pumpkin pie. I'll also roast the pumpkin seeds, which went over smashingly at my Halloween party last night. (My recipe is at the very bottom. It's super easy and delicious, so you should try it!)

    Next to a standard-size coffee mug, so you can get an idea of its size.

    We're due for another CSA delivery soon, too, just in time for starting Vegan MoFo off fresh and local! I can't wait to see what's inside the box this time. I really, really hope we get more purple bell peppers. Those taste similar to the more typical bell peppers, but more "peppery" and they're also crunchier. The smell made me nostalgic for my late Grandfather's vegetable garden. He was always growing green bell peppers and marveling at their beautiful, shining skins and robust aromas.

    Colors matter a lot to me. Purple is one of my favorite. So, naturally, I nearly jumped outta my shoes when we received this here purple pepper.

    Speaking of peppers, I'm currently concocting my first, ever homemade curry paste! I'm following Isa Chandra's recipe in Vegan with a Vengeance, but with a few of my own tweaks. A word to the wise: if ever you choose to embark on such an endeavor, DO NOT touch your eyes or face after you touch the peppers, EVEN if you have washed your hands. Don't be like me and think that washing your hands will suffice. It won't. That capsaicin takes time to fully come off your skin. I touched my forehead tonight after chopping my jalapenos and Thai green chiles, and it was as though I'd applied Icy Hot to my forehead for the next hour. ;) Hey, come to think of it, perhaps I'll start using hot peppers instead of Icy Hot... (Kids, do not try this at home.)

    R o a s t e d  P u m p k i n  S e e d s

    Ingredients:

    1 medium or large pumpkin

    dried basil
    garlic powder
    ground thyme
    ground cayenne pepper
    dried rosemary
    salt

    Preheat oven to 350. Save the seeds after you remove them from the pumpkin. Rinse in a colander to get the pumpkin bits off. Spread them out on a cookie/baking sheet. Then sprinkle all of the spices onto your seeds. I always just wing it and go by what seems tasty, but if you're one for measurements, then I'd say to use about 1/2 tsp of each spice. Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes, checking occasionally. The finished seeds will be a golden color and slightly browned on the edges. Oh, and your kitchen will smell absolutely to-die-for fabulous.

    Happy Dia de los Muertos!

    The S.O. and I succeeded at making our jack-o-lantern creepy-looking, no?