Monday, December 26, 2011

Vegan Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake

I've been meaning to make this pie since, man, something like 2008, when my then-roommate, Muckford, made it for the first time. WOW, that was good cake. I've taken his recipe and published it here, with a few alterations.

I'll be honest; Muckford's was WAY better. Sadly, I don't know what he did to make it better, but I'm guessing it's because he's simply a good baker. Baking does not come as naturally to me as other culinary skills, although I do a great job of faking it. :-)

V e g a n  P u m p k i n  P i e  C h e e s e c a k e

8 ounces Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese - Look for the non-hydrogenated version in the yellow container.
12 ounces light firm silken tofu - Or extra-firm
1/2 cup agave nectar - Or unrefined sugar, which is what I used
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup pumpkin puree - Canned, not pumpkin pie mix
2 teaspoons rum - Optional. I used it. Not sure what it added.
3 tablespoons brown sugar or natural, unrefined sugar - I used the latter
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon grated fresh nutmeg - I wish I'd used this! I used dried, ground nutmeg, instead.

1 pre-made 8-inch graham cracker crust

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Put the first set of ingredients (toffuti through vanilla) in a food processor and puree until completely smooth. It should be silky smooth--not chalky or lumpy.

Remove a cup of this mixture from the processor and spread it in the bottom of the crust.

Add the next set of ingredients (pumpkin through nutmeg) to the ingredients remaining in the food processor and process until well blended. Smooth it carefully over the white layer in the crust, heaping it slightly in the middle. Bake until the center is almost set, about 50-60 minutes. Insert a toothpick. If it comes out liquidy and cold, give it more time, until the center is firm. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Refrigerate until completely chilled, at least 3 hours. Serve to delighted guests.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

And This Is Why the Whole World Can Be Vegan

(photo cred).

"Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes... the ones who see things differently - they're not fond of rules... You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can't do is ignore them because they change things... they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do." 

- Steve Jobs

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Vegan Meals for $3 or Less

The Peta2 blog features a series of vegan recipes that cost $3 or less called "$3 Dish of the Day."

Right now I'm extra-superduper brokey-broke-broke, so I thought, what better time to try some of these recipes than now??

Here is a list of recipes that look I thought looked particularly delectable! And, as peta2 promises, each costs no more than $3 each to make. Some are old familiars, others are interesting twists on old familiars. :)

Split Pea Soup

Soy Chorizo Spinach Hash
Sloppy Joe Lentil Wraps

Tasty Baked Potatoes

Pimp My Ramen <--These are only $0.32 to make!!!!

I can't wait to try some of these!!! If you have any other recommendations for super cheap vegan recipes, please do pass them on! :)


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Vegan MoFo! Post #10: Potato Chipotle Soup

Much has happened between my last post and now!

First of all, my roommate and I revamped our Chipotle Taquito recipe a bit and ended up with a delicious soup recipe. Here's the recipe:

P o t a t o  C h i p o t l e  S o u p

-5 large brown potatoes, chopped into chunks (about 1 or 2'' ea.)
-2 TB canola oil 
-1 large yellow onion, diced
-2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (canned variety)
-1.5 TB of adobo sauce (from the can of chipotle peppers)
-2 cloves of garlic, minced
-1 TB earth balance
-sea salt, to taste
-a hearty handful of fresh cilantro, de-stemmed and chopped up


Add the potatoes to a pot of water. The water level should be higher than the potatoes. You want about a 2:1 ratio of water to potatoes. Bring to a boil and then turn down to medium-high heat.

In a frying pan, saute the onions and garlic in the oil until soft.

Once the potatoes are very soft and mushy, smash them up with a fork or potato masher. Add the earth balance and sea salt and mix well. Add the onions, garlic, chipotle peppers, and adobo sauce and continue to mash together with the potatoes. Add more water as needed - you want the mixture to be watery, soupy. Cover and let simmer for 20 minutes. Stir in the cilantro and let simmer for another few minutes.

Serve with cilantro as garnish.

I also spent some time at Occupy LA recently. I helped facilitate a discussion on why it's imperative that animal rights and environmentalism be part of this movement. If you're interested in joining me and others in this effort, shoot me an email. This revolution belongs to everyone. 


In other news, our all-you-can-eat vegan brunch in honor of Dia de los Muertos is only days away! It's been a long time coming and I'm really excited to throw this event. LA doesn't currently have ANY all-you-can-eat vegan brunch places, and it's about time that happens! I'm also really happy to be donating a portion of our proceeds to the wonderful animal rights organizations, ARME. Check out quarrygirl's advertisement of the event for more details, especially if you're interested in coming!

S'all for now!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Vegan MoFo! Post #9: Announcements and Chipotle Potato Taquitos!

I've got some good news: I'm finally getting over my flu! It's been an annoying two weeks of constant nose-blowing, coughing, achiness, and general blah. It's also put a huge damper on my Vegan MoFo-ing! But I think this flu is coming to its much-anticipated end.

I've got some other exciting news: My roommate and I are planning a pop-up brunch cafe at the end of the month. It'll be an all-you-can-eat, Mexican style vegan brunch in honor of Dia de los Muertos. We're going to donate a percentage of our proceeds to a wonderful animal rights organization, Animal Rescue Media & Education (ARME). I'm thrilled to be bringing the community together to enjoy some vegan food, recognize this awesome Mexican holiday, hear some good beats from our DJ, and help a cause that I feel passionate about.

photo cred.

If you live in or around Los Angeles, you should come over and celebrate with us! Buy your tix in advance and you can save money plus be automatically entered to win a number of cool prizes.

In preparation for this event, my roommate and I have been performing many kitchen experiments in which we test out foods we plan or hope to serve. Although we didn't list taquitos on our finalized menu, we're working on perfecting a taquito recipe to add to the list. Everybody loves taquitos.

I think our experiment was a success. Here's what we did:

Chipotle P o t a t o  T a q u i t o s

-4 red bliss potatos, chopped into 1'' pieces
-plenty of canola oil 
-1 yellow onion, diced
-a hearty handful of fresh cilantro, de-stemmed and chopped up
-10 small corn tortillas (about 6'' diameter)
-3 chipotle peppers, chopped (we used the canned variety of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce)
-1 TB of the adobo sauce from the jar of chipotle peppers
-1 tsp cumin
-1 tsp garlic powder
-1 tsp salt
-1 tsp paprika
-a dash of black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Oil a cookie sheet and set aside.

Boil the potatoes in a large pot until very soft. Drain. Mash potatoes with a fork or large utensil. Add the spices (except black pepper), the chipotle peppers, and the adobo sauce. Mix well.

Saute the onions in about a TB of canola oil until softened. Add the cilantro to the onions and saute for another minute or two. Add a dash of black pepper and stir.

Add the onion mixture to the pot of potatoes. Stir well.

Warm some canola oil in a frying pan using medium heat. Turn down heat to low. One at a time, saute each of the corn tortillas for about 45 seconds, flipping over frequently. Continue adding canola oil as needed. The goal here is to keep enough canola oil in the pan to get the corn tortillas to soften.

Spoon about 2.5 TB of the potato mixture onto a tortilla. The potato mixture should be placed in the middle of the tortilla, forming a line across the diameter of the tortilla. Gently roll the tortilla until you have an inch or so left to roll. Before you finish rolling, spread some more potato mixture along the remainder of the tortilla (the part you haven't rolled yet). This will serve as a paste to keep the taquito closed. Finish rolling the tortilla and place on the cookie sheet, seam side down. Repeat for each tortilla.

Bake for about 10 minutes, then flip the taquitos. Bake for another 10 minutes.

Serve with hot sauce, salsa, or guacamole!

Chopped cilantro and onions

Potato-onion-spices mixture

Monday, October 10, 2011

Vegan MoFo! Post #8: Curried Split Pea & Chick'n Soup - Medicinal and Delicious

Curry contains a wealth of disease-fighting herbs and spices. I mean, below I offer a mere brush of the wonders these spices can offer. There is so much more and I encourage you to continue reading up on the many health benefits of curry!

Curcumin, found in tumeric, is thought to possibly help with arthritis and protect against heart disease and Alzheimer's. It may prevent colon cancer by reducing precancerous polyps [1], as well as other cancers, including cancers of the breast, blood, and stomach [2]. The way curcumin works to reduce or slow the growth of precancerous polyps as well as other precancerous masses is by inhibiting the enzyme aminopeptidase N (APN) [2]. Remember capsaicin, the natural substance that makes chili peppers hot? Well not only is capsaicin useful for fighting colds, but it's also helpful in reducing pain and increasing blood circulation [2]. Speaking of fighting colds, garlic is also thought to fight against cold and flu viruses [2] [3]. Cardamom and ginger are both useful in aiding digestion [2] [3].

C u r r i e d  S p l i t  P e a  &  C h i c k ' n  S o u p
adapted from Vegan with a Vengeance

1 TB olive oil
1 can Companion brand mock meat in Curry Chicken*
1 medium-sized yellow onion, diced
3 carrots, sliced
3 stalks celery, diced
1 large red bell pepper, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 TB fresh ginger, minced
2 tsp red chili pepper flakes 
2 tsp curry powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamon (I ground mine fresh, using a mortar & pestle)
a generous pinch cinnamon
2 tsp sea salt
8 cups water
1 lb dried split peas
fresh cilantro for garnish

In a large pot, combine the 8 cups water and dried split peas. Add a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil and then immediately turn down heat to low. Allow to simmer until peas are softened (about 30 - 45 minutes).

In a pan, saute the onions in the olive oil until almost translucent. Add the celery, carrot, and red pepper and continue to saute until soft. Add the mock meat, garlic, ginger, spices, and salt, and saute on low heat for another five minutes or less.

Add the contents of the saute pan to the large pot. Stir together with the peas. Allow to simmer for at least another 15 minutes, but longer is better. I allowed mine to simmer for about 40 minutes.

Serve over jasmine rice, with fresh cilantro on top.

*If you cannot find Companion brand canned mock meats, any mock meat will suffice!

This is sold at my local Asian market.

Curried split pea soup over jasmine rice, garnished with fresh cilantro!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Vegan MoFo! Post #7: Frickin Pumpkin-Spiced Coffee!

Ugh, I'm STILL sick! I literally slept all day today - hence the sore lack of MoFo posts on my end lately. I don't think I've been ill this long since...maybe ever? I'm seriously on my 12th day of this flu thing. I normally avoid taking any extra medications, so as to build up my body's ability to heal itself (even if that's not scientifically accurate, I believe there is some psychological merit there), but this has been so bad so long that I decided it was some time for antibiotics.

It's a bummer that the past few days, I haven't been well enough to continue my planned themes (Foods That Heal, Cultural Cuisines, & Vegan On A Shoestring Budget). However, as promised, here is the recipe for the Frickin Pumpkin-Spiced Coffee! that my roommate made the other day. It's so obvious it's nuts, but I seriously never thought to do this.

Enjoy, and stay well, people! I will have much more MoFo magic for you within the next few days. I should be back to normal by then. :crosses fingers:

O l i v i a ' s  F r i c k i n  P u m p k i n - S p i c e d  C o f f e e !

...perfect for fall. :)

...also a great trick if you're short on money --> use cheap coffee and spice it up to cover over the flavor. Voila. Gourmet coffee.

-coffee beans, freshly ground
-pumpkin pie spice

You'll also need a French press. I think this would clog up an electric coffee maker. Er, maybe it wouldn't, but a French press = coffee done right (actually, chemex pot = coffee done right, but I'm not financially there).

Prepare your beans as you normally would, grinding them coarsely and putting them into the French press. Then, add approximately 1 or 2 teaspoons of the pumpkin pie spice and stir it around once or twice. Steep your coffee as you normally would, using boiling water. That's it. I almost flipped out when I realized I could just add whatever to the steeping coffee beans!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Vegan MoFo! Post #6: Brian's Special Vegan Banh Mi

You'll recall that I recently bragged about my roommates' plentiful and delicious vegan cooking. Well, here's the recipe for one of the dishes they made the other day! 

Banh Mi (pronounced "bon ME") is everyone's favorite Vietnamese sandwich. If you live in a major city, you very well may have had it before. It's traditionally made with meat, lots of meat, and, in Vietnam, it is typically a fast food (take out). My roommate's vegan version replaces the meat with tofu and it's deeeelicious. 
 Brian's Special Vegan Banh Mi

-pickled daikon and carrot shreds (available at your local Asian market)
-1/4 avocado, sliced
-1/2 jalapeno, sliced
-a small handful of fresh cilantro
-about 4 pieces of fried tofu, cut into small (approx. 2'' x 2'') squares or rectangles

Line the inside of the baguette with Vegenaise and Sriracha. Add the tofu, then the jalapeno, avocado, pickled daikon and carrot, then the cilantro. That's it!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Vegan MoFo! Post #5: Friendship Is When People Know All About You But Like You Anyway

Oh man, this is like Foods That Heal, Foods of Various Cultures, and The Barebones Kitchen all rolled up into one tasty blog post.

So, I woke up still not feeling well today (for those of you who may've missed my Sinus-Zap Tea post, I've been dealing with a flu-virus-type-thing for the last few days). Today, I am home from work, and yesterday, I even (gasp!) skipped my MoFo post of the day.

But here I am, bringing you vegan tasties, and you know how?

...Because I have fabulous roommates, that's how! I stumbled out into the kitchen this morning (cough, afternoon), my groggy-eyed, hair-like-a-birds'-nest self, and behold! THIS was going on:


 Olivia: Yes, in fact, you can try this Some Kinda Spicy Potato Pancake Thingie! that's still hot:
Yeah, that's a Hello Kitty toaster. Deal with it.

Olivia (adding): Want some Frickin Pumpkin-Spiced Coffee, too?

Me: Um, YES.

Dinero: Can I have some?
Typical cat, right? But he's so cute, so he gets away with it.

Refrigerator magnet: 
I just love this quote. The one on the green magnet, not the word salad thing above.

 I'm going to link to the 3 recipes above...very soon!  Two of the recipes are linked now! Working on the third. In the meantime, you should click on the linkz to said fabulous roommates' astrology and painting sites.


Monday, October 3, 2011

Vegan MoFo! Post #4: Raw Vegan Ice Cream at Home for PENNIES!

That's right. Forget about that $6.99 raw vegan grocery store-bought stuff. You can make it at home for WAAAY cheaper! 

About a year ago, I wrote about making raw vegan ice cream out of frozen bananas using the idea I'd read about on Choosing Raw. This stuff is amazing. Seriously, if you've never tried this before, YOU MUST TRY IT RIGHT NOW. It's everything you could want in a homemade ice cream recipe - fast, easy, cheap, healthy, versatile, and delicious. Oh, and kind of magical.

Anyway, this recipe is a staple of my own personal Barebones Vegan Kitchen, and yet I'd never paused to snap a photo of the finished product - until now.

The frozen banana chunks being whipped into ice cream by the food processor.
The final product. Kinda looks like ice cream, right?

And now you have photographic evidence.

Here's what I do:

-A bunch of bananas

(yeah, that's it.)

Chop each banana into quarters (or whatever) and freeze them. You'll probably want to keep them in the freezer for at least 8 hours, if not longer. I like to keep mine in a re-usable plastic container to keep them from freezer burn.

When the bananas are frozen solid, put them in a food processor and process them until they form a custard-y, creamy texture. You may be tempted to add water at first, but trust me, just let them do their magic. :-)

Eat plain or top with melted vegan chocolate, melted peanut butter, chopped mango, coconut shreds...whatever you love!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Vegan MoFo! Post #3: Capellini with Vodka Sauce

Foods of Various Cultures...

Hands down, my favorite pasta variety is capellini. I love the delicate texture, and how the thinness provides more surface area to pick up even the lightest of sauces and flavors.

That said, vodka sauce is not, by any means, a light sauce. It's okay. It's still a great pairing, trust me.

It is common in Italian cuisine to use alcohol to bring out the flavor in tomatoes and other vegetables. This is often accomplished with wine, but vodka sauce uses, well, vodka. This was my first time making vodka sauce and I totally winged it. I didn't even know I was going to be making vodka sauce until mid-way through the process of making it. If you tend to shy away from free-style cooking, I encourage you to experiment with whatever's in your kitchen. No recipe, no plan, just go with it and feel liberated! When it comes to cooking, I'm a firm believer in not having firm beliefs. This is why there is jalapeno in my vodka sauce.

So, in the spirit of experimentation, take this recipe as a guideline rather than a formula!

C a p e l l i n i  w i t h  V o d k a  S a u c e

1/2 red onion, diced
1 jalapeno pepper, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced 
3 large-ish roma tomatoes, diced
2 cups of mushrooms, diced - I used white button
1 1/2 cups basil, cut into fine shreds
1/3 cup French Onion style Tofutti cream cheese 
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup tomato paste 
2 ounces of vodka (or, one and a half shots)
sea salt to taste 

Saute the onions until softened. Add the jalapeno and garlic, then the tomatoes, then the mushrooms and 1 cup of the basil.

Heat some olive oil in a separate, large pot. Add the tomato paste and cook until almost boiling. Add the ingredients from above, along with the vodka, olive oil and water. Stir. Add the cream cheese and stir until evenly distributed (the sauce should lighten). Bring to a boil and then immediately turn down to simmer. Cover and let simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Salt to your taste.

When serving, garnish with the remainder of the finely shredded basil.

What I'd Do Differently Next Time:
Incorporate the vodka earlier. I think this would enhance the flavors of the vegetables even more than adding the vodka when I did. Use more roma tomatoes.

I served this with a side of broccoli and Tofurkey Italian sausage.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Vegan MoFo! Post #2: Sinus-Zap Tea

Foods That Heal... 

I've been sick for the past week, and I'm at the point where my voice, my sense of smell, and my ability to taste are all compromised. Yep, with a busted tailbone and the flu, I'm in pretty bad shape right now. So I'm in on this lovely Saturday night when I would otherwise be at my friend's birthday party/housewarming bash. I don't want to miss out on more than I already am, so I'm ready for this flu thing to be over! (I want the tailbone issue to be resolved, too, but I realize that takes time and it is healing quite nicely, albeit slowly.) At the helpful suggestion of my roommate, and because of my fascination with Prometheus Springs, tonight I decided to concoct a special get-well-now drink. Not soon. Now.

My favorite Prometheus Springs drink, and really, a favorite juice combo of mine in general, is Lemon Ginger. All of their drinks contain capsaicin, the compound that makes chili peppers spicy. Capsaicin will create a burning sensation in any tissue that it touches, including skin (anyone who's ever chopped jalapenos will tell you this!).

Chili peppers have been used since 5000 BC in South America and China for both cuisine and medicine. Today, the capsaicin in chili peppers is still believed to have a wide range of medicinal properties, including but not limited to improving digestion, helping with stomach ulcers by stimulating the production of mucus, and strengthening heart function [3]. It apparently increases blood circulation, [1] and can prevent or even stop a heart attack [2]. It's also supposed to help with pain relief when applied topically, including mouth sore pain from chemotherapy and radiation therapy, as well as sore throat pain [3] [2]! These are just some of the things capsaicin can do for your health. 

Cayenne pepper, one of the many types of chili peppers, is what I decided to use in creating my own lemon-ginger-capsaicin drink. I used the powdered form. It's such an easy way to incorporate capsaicin into a drink because you can get it relatively cheaply, it's non-perishable (well, within reason), and a little bit goes a long way. Not only that, but cayenne, specifically, is said to be full of vitamin A and vitamin C, as well as some of vitamin B6, vitamin E, riboflavin, potassium, and manganese [1] [2].

It cures what ails ya.

There you have it. And does this miracle food work, you ask? Well, I can tell you that it certainly did temporarily clear my nasal passageways so that I regained my sense of smell and was better able to breath. It also helped temporarily relieve my sore throat pain. See below for what I did!

S i n u s - Z a p  T e a

100% pure ginger tea leaves (bagged or loose, whichever you prefer)
2 lemon wedges
1/4 teaspoon cayenne powder 

Steep the tea in boiling water. Add the cayenne, then squeeze lemon juice into the cup. Let the lemon wedges remain in the cup.

Let me know if you try this and tell me how it goes for you!

Vegan MoFo! Post #1: Let the MoFo COMMENCE!

Oh, I'm so excited about this year's MoFo! Oh, the delicious and fun experiments I have planned! Oh, don piano!

This is how it's gonna break down:

Foods That Heal  I'm really into alternative medicine and healing, and I've been wanting to have a better understanding of the healing properties of different foods. I'll explore this from various perspectives: Ayurveda, traditional Chinese medicine, herbalism, and others. Of course, all remedies I post will be vegan.

photo cred.

Foods of Various Cultural Cuisines  I'm gonna discover what I never would've discovered before. I'm also gonna re-visit some all-time favorites. This will be all over the place, geographically. Hey, wanna be included? If you have an old favorite that your Burmese/Malian/Swedish/Bulgarian/Brazilian/Mayan/Lebanese (you get the picture) Grandma used to make, send it to me and I'll make a veganized version to post! You and your heritage will go down in vegan infamy.

photo cred.

How to eat vegan on a shoestring budget  Broke? Me too. Let's figure this out. I started The Barebones Vegan Kitchen during last year's MoFo and plan to continue throughout this year's. Follow me as I explore how to subsist - no, flourish - as a vegan with no cash in the bank! This is also useful for helping your broke friends become vegan, promoting the notion that veganism can be accessible to more than just the middle-upper class, removing the financial barriers....veganism for everyone!!!!

Mice forage for food as a primary means of survival. photo cred.

I will rotate among the themes throughout each week of MoFo, so that within every week, you will have the opportunity to see what I've got cookin' in all three of these categories. Sometimes the themes will naturally overlap, as well.

So there you have it. My triple-threat theme for Vegan MoFo 2011. Mangia, my pretties!

Stay tuned for another post later today...

Friday, September 23, 2011

Updates and Forecasts!

It's been a few months since I last posted, and a lot has happened.

First, I successfully defended my dissertation in July.

Naturally following from this, in August, I graduated! I am now Doctor Foodchain. Or, Foodchain, Ph.D., if you like.




After finishing, I traveled around the east coast a bit. I re-visited some of my favorite vegan cafes and sampled other vegan hot spots for the first time. Reviews to follow in the coming weeks.

Once I returned to LA, I threw a celebratory pool party. 

A rare piece of French impressionism, likely from the splash pool collection.

Next up was a road trip to the deserts of Nevada. A camping trip happened. I learned how to survive without running water - in the desert - for a week. I fractured my tail bone. I saw lots of cool art and practiced radical self-reliance. 

A scene from Black Rock City, NV

Yeah, ouch.
photo cred:

As I slowly heal and seek employment, I will also be participating in Vegan MoFo. This is my second year in a row. You can find my 2010 MoFo posts here.

I have some pretty amazing sh*t planned for this year's MoFo. 

'til then,
dr. foodchain

me & nico. she's not big on still shots.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Barebones Vegan: Another Quick Dish for Less

Orzo-Steamed Spinach

I'm going to tell you about a recent dish that my boyfriend and I invented, called "Orzo-Steamed Spinach." Well, technically, it was mostly me that invented it, but I'll give him credit for getting me to love orzo. :-)

There are a lot of ways in which this dish is awesome. Allow me to elaborate...
  • It can be made in less than 10 minutes.
  • Its ingredients are either very cheap or, if they're expensive, they are the kind that last a long time. I have listed the prices after each item on the "shopping list" for this dish, below. Although the Earth Balance is pricey, it will last you a while, provided you use it as a condiment and not for baking. Same goes for the sea salt and pepper, which you may even already have. As for the organic baby spinach, it's much more economical to buy the huge container, as the price per ounce is significantly less than that of the smaller containers (trust me, I checked!). Plus, it's a hearty vegetable, so you won't have to worry about it rapidly going bad, so long as you keep it refrigerated.
  • It's a great way to consume a large portion of green vegetables without having to go the salad or green smoothie route (which you may be sick of!)
  • You only have to dirty one pot, yet you get two hot foods.
  • Cheap and/or long-lasting ingredients, plus quickness (seriously under 10 minutes to make!!!), means that it's the perfect "eating for several days in a row" meal when you're mega-busy and don't have time or feel like meal-planning - like during finals week! or a week when you have to work late every night! or while you're writing your dissertation, like me!
  • It's really delicious, despite its simplicity! 
So here's your ingredients shopping list:

1. a box of "orzo" which is a type of pasta shaped like little, flat footballs (1 store-brand box costs about $0.99 or less here in LA)
2. Earth Balance Natural Buttery Spread (usually about $5.99)
3. the huge, 16 oz plastic container of organic baby spinach (I think this cost me something like $5.39)
4. sea salt (prices vary depending on container size)
5. black pepper (prices vary depending on container size)

And here's the recipe:

I'm not going to list the ingredients because they're just the 5 grocery-list items above. So, what you do is cook at least a couple "servings" (say, 1/3 of the box) according to the package instructions. When the orzo is done, stir in a teaspoon or more of the Earth Balance and mix it up real good. Hey, you could even use olive oil if you wanted. Put a mound (really, go nuts) of the fresh spinach on a plate. Cover the spinach some of/all of the hot orzo. Sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper. Wait a few minutes for the hot orzo to "cook" the spinach a bit. Makes more than enough for one person.

This is meant to be a light meal or an accompaniment to something else, say, a heap of white beans (which are also cheap and easy to prepare!).

My camera phone doesn't really do it justice, but you get the idea. In this particular photo, you'll see I added some yellow peppers. This was only because we had some from our CSA and I wanted to try them out.

For other cheap, easy ways to be vegan, see my other Barebones Vegan posts.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Deathrow Mac 'n Cheese

It's about time I post about this recipe. If I were famous for a recipe, or famous at all, really, it would be because of Deathrow Mac 'n Cheese.

A brief history is in order. The recipe itself was inspired by a google search long ago, when I came across this recipe

I decided to alter it a bit to suit my own personal tastes, which ultimately evolved into my signature recipe below. 

The name, "Deathrow" comes from my friends, AJ and R, who declared it the meal they'd want for their last, should they ever find themselves on death row. Yes, people think it's that good. AJ liked it so much that she even adapted the recipe a bit and posted her version of it on her blog, here. I've also been told, by an omnivore who does not like the dairy version of mac 'n cheese, that this tastes amazing. Like I said, lots of credibility for this dish.

Here's the recipe:

D e a t h r o w  M a c  ' n  C h e e s e 

1 1/2 cups plain soymilk (unsweetened kind)
1 cup water
1/3 cup low sodium soy sauce
1 cup nutritional yeast
2/3 cup canola oil
1/4 block of firm tofu
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 tablespoon of German-style mustard (I have mad love for inglehoffer's stone ground mustard)
2/3 a bag of mozzarella Daiya cheese shreds 
1.5 pounds/1.5 boxes of brown rice pasta, either the mini shells or the elbow macaroni variety

Preheat oven to 350 F. Combine all ingredients except for the Daiya and pasta into a blender, and blend until smooth. Cook the pasta according to the directions on the box/bag. Once the pasta is done, drain and spread evenly into a casserole pan. Pour the blender mixture over the pasta, and stir around until it is fully integrated throughout the pasta. Do the same for the mozzarella Daiya, and save some to sprinkle over the top.

Bake in the oven for approximately 30 minutes (or slightly more or less, depending on your oven). The cheesy mix should be bubbling and the pasta should look slightly goldened/browned.

Highly recomended: Serve with kale salad.

Note 1: You may be skeptical about the brown rice pasta, but one time I didn't have any other kind on hand, so I used that, and the results were amazing. The other party guests even said that it was particularly good compared to how it usually tastes! So I now make it exclusively with brown rice pasta.

Note 2: This makes a lot and keeps well in the fridge. To reheat, just put it back in the oven or microwave. 

Hope you enjoy! Let me know if you come up with your own variation that you love!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Mother's Day Re-Cap & The Saddest Sound In The World

Yesterday was Mother's Day. I sent my mother - who lives over 2,000 miles away from me - a card (in which I wrote things!) and a pair of earrings that I made myself. I was really happy to do this. I am really happy that my mom appreciated it so much.

Yesterday I also handed out free carnations to passersby in my neighborhood. I work, part-time, in a children's thrift & vintage shop a few blocks from my house. Anyone who came into our shop yesterday got free Mother's Day carnations. We are a store that loves to celebrate people that bring love and joy into others' lives. Often these people are the usual suspects - you know, like moms, dads, grandparents, teachers, nurses... Or they're the people who are struggling to "make it" in this town - local artists, musicians, writers, actors, puppeteers, one-man comedy shows. The store is like a platform from which its employees say, "Hey, all you out there, doing something good for society and being all awesome. You're valued and appreciated."  I love being a part of that process! I loved handing out flowers yesterday.  

Despite my joy, however, there was also a heaviness in my heart. Yes, the two can co-exist. Although I've been vegan for a long time, Mother's Day felt a little different to me this year. I couldn't stop thinking about the mothers that suffer on this day and year-round. These mothers are not celebrated but, rather, forgotten.

I'm talking about the mother cows. And the mother pigs. And the mother goats, and the hens, and the dogs, the tigresses, the dolphins, the seals, the salmons. Yeah, I said the salmons. They give birth, too, after all. And contrary to the many a belief, they also have nervous systems, which means they can feel pain.  

More often than most of us will ever know, the most horrible, terrible, abominable things happen to these gorgeous beings. A fellow Los Angeles-based vegan advocate, Gary Smith of The Thinking Vegan, wrote a Mother's Day post about a variety of these things yesterday. In this post, I'm mostly going to focus on our mother cows.

The mother cow I am referring to here is the cow who is used for her "product" - that is, her breast milk, which can be made into cheese, butter, cream, ice cream, yogurt, or just consumed in its original liquid "milk" form.

But did you know? Every single milk product you will ever encounter will have come from a mother whose baby was taken away from her prematurely. That may come as a surprise to you at first, but think of it this way: the breast milk is what we're after, right? So in order to reap as much of that milk as possible, we must eliminate our primary competitor: her baby. The calf. On the majority of farms, that calf is taken away from his or her mother immediately after being born.

Have you ever heard the saddest sound in the world? Well, that's probably it. That is, the sound of a mother and a child being immediately ripped away from each other at birth. Animals can and do cry, moan, and scream. 

Marc Bekoff, Ph.D. writes about the emotional lives of non-human animals. In one of his books, he discusses the theory that animals with what we as humans would consider a "lower" capacity for reasoning (basically, a lower "IQ"), are the animals that actually feel the most pain. Why would animals whose brains are not as sophisticated as ours suffer more than us? Because, Dr. Bekoff says, they have less ability to develop coping strategies to deal with painful situations. Thus, they face the pain head on.

Imagine if you would've gotten that root canal without Novocaine, or couldn't reassure yourself with "This too shall pass" after passing that kidney stone, for example. What if your cheek were to be suddenly pierced with a thick, needle-y piece of metal? Or what if you were suddenly denied access to breathing for an indefinite length of time? Any of these would utterly terrify and hurt you, right? Even if you used all of your very advanced brain's coping mechanisms to deal with these events, they would still be incredibly traumatic.

Remember those salmons?

Dr. Bekoff also emphasizes that not only do animals feel physical pain, but they experience emotions as well. In fact, they lead rather rich emotional inner lives, sharing many emotions in common with humans. There are documented occurrences of animals like elephants and magpies mourning their dead kin in a ritualistic, "funeral" style. These are just a few examples of many. And as Dr. Bekoff states in The Emotional Lives of Animals, there also is evidence that animals experience emotions that humans do not.

Back to the cows. What happens after mother and baby are separated? Well, if the baby is a girl, she goes through exactly what her mom endured. Most typically, the way she is impregnated is via artificial insemination. Usually there is force involved. And a cage-like thing to restrain her. 

She will then proceed to give birth, have her baby involuntarily taken from her, and have her teats squeezed by metal clamp devices. For those who use similar devices for pleasure, note that these devices are not removed for long periods of time, even after her teats become infected. By the way, infections = the development of pus, which gets into the milk. (Yes, really.) This "milking" process occurs over the course of one year, and then, literally sucked dry, she is impregnated again so that she produces more milk. Repeat, repeat, repeat, until she is too old to physically withstand this anymore. Probably about six times. She's then loaded onto a crowded truck, sent to a factory, and killed. Her death therefore occurs about 20 years earlier than it would've naturally.

Don't even get me started on how she is killed. I'll save that for another post.  

What happens to the male calves, who are obviously not capable of producing milk? Well, that's where veal comes from. After birth, the male calf is kept in a small, dark crate in which he barely has room to lay down and turn around. Sometimes he is also tethered within the crate, to further restrict his movement. All of this is so that he does not grow or develop, which would ruin the "tender" characteristic that his flesh ("veal") has. After about four months of this, he is slaughtered.

Guys, I know some of you buy "free range" or "humane" or "organic" milk and meat, but many of the same damn things happen. With "free range," the laws and regulations are pretty loose. And most typically, the mother and babies are sent away to the same slaughtering place. Read all about this and more at, an entire website devoted to revealing the little-known facts of the "humane" variety of the meat and dairy industry. I especially encourage you to watch the slide shows. Please, you owe it to yourself to know the truth, and (in my opinion), you owe it to the animals to at least have an understanding of what really happens. Do not fall for marketing and advertising techniques that use the words "humane" or "free range." Business is business, and these techniques were specifically designed to increase profits, not educate you.

Now that you've read what I've written (which is awesome, by the way - and not for my benefit, but because you have hopefully learned a lot!), I have some questions about you. I hope you will consider each of them.

1.  Are you a mother?

I can claim no children myself, but I cannot imagine the agony of having my newborn literally taken away from me. The pain must be unbearable.

2.  Have you ever lost someone you loved? 

If you have ever felt the pain of loss, a loss of any kind, then you can probably relate to cruel and unfair separation of these mother cows and their calves. You don't have to have gone through the exact same experience as someone to relate to their pain. Emotions are emotions, even if we cannot fully "get" precisely what someone went through and how it felt to them.

3.  Have you ever felt physical pain?

Unless you are among the few who suffer from the rare congenital analgesia, then I know you have.

   And what about emotional pain?

Unless you are among the estimated 1% that go through life with a marked inability to feel genuine empathy, then surely you have.

4.  Are you a feminist?

If so, how do you fit this knowledge about female dairy cows into your feminist ideology? 

5.  Do you believe in equal rights for all?

If so, do you limit that equality to humans only? If yes, what are your reasons? If you believe in equal rights for all sentient beings, then how do you find this knowledge about the dairy industry?

6.  Are you one of those people who believe in the adage, "everything in moderation"?

If so, can you fit the goings-on of dairy farming into that schema? If yes, how so?

7.  Do you live with any animals that you consider "pets"? 

If so, how do you reconcile the vast differences in how you treat your pets versus how you treat cows?

8.  Do you consume dairy products and still feel that you are not contributing to the atrocious treatment of dairy cows?

If so, how do you reconcile that feeling with the knowledge that the money you pay for dairy products goes toward these practices? How do you feel about the quote, said by the late Martin Luther King, Jr., "In the end, we will not remember the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends"?

My article may have irritated you or even made you quite mad. But you can hardly complain. 'Cause you know who's probably the most pissed right now?

Those mother cows.

To become part of the solution:
Starter Guide to Becoming Vegan
Go See This Movie That's Out Now
And Rent This One
Eat At Vegan Restaurants Near You
Read Some of Marc Bekoff's Books
Help Rescued Cows (and other farm animals, too!) In The LA Area
Help Rescued Cows In Other Areas (scroll to bottom)
Want more? I'm happy to help.

C'mon, if not now, when? Really, I'm happy to help you. Send any questions my way!
Male calf ("Cowboy" is his name!) at Animal Acres. Cows can live up to 25 years. Cowboy now has a chance. (photocred.)

If you haven't yet, you should do yourself a favor and meet a cow. Trust me. Their presence is at once majestic and gentle, and they are even more beautiful than they are in photos.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Barebones Vegan: Cheap 'n Easy! (Just how you like it)

This is my third of the "Barebones Vegan" posts, in which I tell you how to get by as a vegan without sacrificing your wallet or principles (screw you, Big Business!). You can find my other two posts on this issue here and here.

In the kitchen, practicing my "Look me in the eyes and say that" face. I never said I was fierce.

Here's a cheap and easy recipe that I adapted from The Vegetarian Meat & Potatoes Cookbook.

Spicy Spanish Potatoes:


7 or 8 small potatoes (use red bliss or Dutch yellow), sliced 1/4'' thick
1 TB (or so) olive oil
sea salt and black pepper to taste
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/8 cup rice vinegar or white wine vinegar
Sriracha ('cause I'm crazy like that)

Parboil your potato slices for about 3 minutes. Then fry them in the olive oil until they're slightly browned on both sides (about 5 minutes). Reduce heat to low and season with salt and pepper. Add the cayenne and paprika, making sure to flip the potatoes over a few times to coat. Cover the pan and let it cook until potatoes are soft.

In a small bowl, mix together the tomato paste and vinegar. If you're also crazy, add however much Sriracha you want. Stir the mixture into the potatoes and cook for an additional 5 minutes or less, making sure to flip the potatoes occasionally.

The beauty of this dish is four-fold:
1. it's cheap
2. it's easy
3. it uses mostly natural foods
4. it acts as a sinus decongestant because it's so damn spicy 

I paired these potatoes with heated up black beans topped with melted Daiya, and a salad of arugula and tomato. I think adding a side of sliced avocado would also be good.

P.S. Peta2 does a $3 Dish Of The Day if you're interested in checking out similarly cheap vegan recipes.

Like this necklace? Get ready for a shameless plug: Support small, vegan businesses.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Food Choices By Numbers

According to a report by Kling and Hough (2010), of the organization, Brighter Planet

Click image to enlarge (photocred)

And there you have it!