Saturday, March 29, 2008


This beautiful and effective article by Matt Ball is really
worth reading. Vegans and non-vegans will appreciate Ball's
approach to compassionate eating, I think. Here's a passage:

'For every person we convince that veganism is overly-demanding by obsessing with an ever-increasing list of ingredients, we do worse than nothing: we turn someone away who could have made a real difference for animals if they hadn't met us! Currently the vast majority of people in our society have no problem eating the actual leg of a chicken. It is not surprising that many people dismiss vegans as unreasonable and irrational when our example includes interrogating waiters, not eating veggie burgers cooked on the same grill with meat, not taking photographs or using medicines, etc.

Instead of spending our limited time and resources worrying about the margins (cane sugar, film, medicine, etc.), our focus should be on increasing our impact every day. Helping just one person change leads to hundreds fewer animals suffering in factory farms. By choosing to promote compassionate eating, every person we meet is a potential major victory.

Admittedly, this results-based view of veganism is not as straightforward as consulting a list. Areas of concern range from the example we set to the allocation of resources, asking questions such as: Do I bother asking for an ingredient list when with non-veg friends and family, perhaps not eating anything, and risk making veganism appear petty and impossible? How should I spend or donate my limited money and time?

Situations are subtle and opportunities unique, thus there can be no set answers. But if our decisions are guided by a desire to accomplish the most good, we each have enormous potential to create change.

It is not enough to be a righteous vegan, or even a dedicated, knowledgeable vegan advocate. The animals don't need us to be right, they need us to be effective. In other words, we don’t want to just win an argument with a meat-eater, we want to open people's hearts and minds to a more compassionate lifestyle.'

Vegan scalloped potatoes

These creamy scalloped potatoes taste exactly like the ones my mom makes with milk and butter. I use vegan ingredients and, ta-da! Easter dinner! We had some beautiful rainbow kale on the side, sauteed with balsamic vinegar.

Vegan Scalloped Potatoes

1/2 c. canola margarine
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
3 T. flour
1/3 c. soy milk
7 or 8 medium-sized Russet potatoes, peeled
1/4 c. yellow onion, thinly sliced

Keep the peeled potatoes in a sink full of water while preparing the other ingredients. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a small pot, melt the margarine, salt, and pepper over low heat, stirring occasionally. Gradually add the flour, whisking to form a thick paste. Add soy milk little by little, stirring constantly, to create a smooth sauce. You may need a little extra soy milk.

Slice the potatoes into 1/4"-thick rounds and arrange in a few layers in a casserole dish. Throw the sliced onions in there, too, then pour the sauce over them, cover, and bake at 400 degrees for fifteen minutes. Lower heat to 350 degrees and continue to bake for 30 more minutes.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Girls gone mild

It's spring break!

Here's what I've done in the first four days of
vacation from school:

1) Cleaned the bathroom
2) Started a 22x30" drawing for class
3) Threw away the 22x30" drawing and started over
4) Finished reading a book of French philosophy
5) Spent at least a cumulative five hours worrying about my film project, without actually working on my film project
6) Went to the pharmacy
7) Took one hot bath, my first in more than a year (I usually take showers, as opposed to simply not bathing)
8) Sewed a quilt-y self-portrait for a competition at school
9) Baked bread almost every day
10) Watched PBS' Mary Pickford documentary
11) Listened to about forty hours of NPR
12) Finally took out the recycling, after forgetting the last four or five times

In what remains of spring break, I hope to straighten up the living room, buy tofu at the Asian market, and call my mom. Spring break '08!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Potatoes au Verre

That's a fancy name for "the glass pan exploded in the oven."

Lest you believe that our vegan kitchen produces only cutie-cute cupcakes and perfect quiches, feast your eyes on the mess we made a few days ago! We had happily quartered a few red potatoes, drizzled them with olive oil and lemon juice, sprinkled on some dill, and popped the glass pan in the oven at 400 degrees. Now, Ben and I have used this formerly reliable Pyrex pan in this very oven at this very temperature many, many times. This time, though, we could not disregard the unsettling hissing and popping noises coming from the oven after about ten minutes. I removed the pan, and the split-second I set it on the counter, BOOM! It blew up!

So it didn't actually explode in the oven, thank goodness. Also, neither of us came down with glass-in-the-eye. So things turned out pretty okay.

But since there was no radical temperature change involved here, why did the glass pan suddenly detonate?

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Real vegans eat quiche

Julia Child probably never had a dairy-free, eggless quiche in mind when she brought French cooking into the American mainstream, but in 2008 even vegans can eat a really delicious quiche. Yesterday afternoon Ben and I came up with this recipe for a vegan one. He made the pie crust while I worked on creating a filling that would have the right texture and firmness, and when it was all done, and we sat down to sup, I braced myself: a tofu quiche is exactly the sort of recipe that could easily take half a dozen attempts to get right.

But we got lucky, because our experimental French cuisine turned out without a flaw, unlike the dish we'd planned to prepare as a simple accompaniment to the quiche (here's a hint: it could have been called "potatoes au verre"--ouch!).

Here's our quiche recipe, followed by a photo of my sweet husband making a pie crust.

Vegan Quiche

1 bottom-only pie crust, store-bought or your favorite recipe
3 T olive oil
1/3 c. thinly sliced onion
1 1/2 c. broccoli, chopped
3/4 c. mushrooms, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
12 oz. firm or extra-firm tofu (not silken), pressed
1/2 block Follow Your Heart soy cheddar
1/2 c. nutritional yeast
2 T water
1 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper
1/2 t. dried basil
1 c. fresh spinach, not packed down

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a large pan, sautee the onion, broccoli, mushrooms, and garlic in the olive oil, covered, for about 8 minutes. Don't let the broccoli get too tender, because it will continue cooking in the oven. In a food processor, combine the tofu, soy cheddar, nutritional yeast, water, salt, pepper, and basil. Blend well and spoon into the pan of vegetables. Remove from stove and stir in the fresh spinach.

Pour the filling into the pie crust and bake about 30 minutes. Remove from oven when the center is done. Allow it to set for five minutes or so to firm up. And now, an action shot:

Friday, March 21, 2008

Vegan tembleque cupcakes

Tembleque is a Puerto Rican coconut pudding. I use Goya's packaged version in this sweet, coconutty cupcake.

Vegan tembleque cupcakes

1 1/2 c. flour
1 heaping T baking powder
1 heaping tsp baking soda
3/4 package Goya instant tembleque (reserve the rest for the frosting)
1/2 c. canola oil
Energ-G equivalent to 2 eggs
1/2 cup (or more) soy milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together the dry ingredients. Add the canola oil and Ener-G and mix. Add the soy milk little by little. You may not need the entire 1/2 c. soy milk, or you may need a bit more. Spoon the batter into cupcake pans and bake for 10-15 minutes or until a knife inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean.

To make the frosting, whip together 1/2 stick soy margarine, 1 c. powdered sugar, the remaining temblique mix, and a few T soy milk (as needed). Frost the cupcakes when they're cool.

Don't you love food
with layers?

When plain old beans and rice just doesn't sound fun enough, I make vegan corn-and-flour Johnnycakes and top them with spicy black beans, guacamole, and salsa. In this photo I forgot to include the baked yams, which are the perfect mellow sidekick to this dish--just prick them, bake them at 400 degrees for 45 minutes, then slide off the skins. We just sort of lazily half-mash them and serve them plain with the Johnnycakes and black beans.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Strong to the finich

A simple spinach and tomato salad is a great excuse to make homemade croutons! I always forget how easy these crunchy little things are to make. When I have a slice or two of thick homemade bread left over, I just cube it, toss the pieces on a baking sheet, and drizzle them with olive oil. Then I sprinkle a little salt, pepper, basil, and oregano on there and bake the croutons for a few minutes at 400 degrees. As if Ben and I needed another food genre to be food snobs about, we will now never eat croutons from a box again! Even the ones in the fancy boxes don't compare to these.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

All is well

On Saturday, Ben and I participated in our city's anti-war march and rally. In these photos from the Silent Majority blog, we're the ones with the "all is well" sign.

Ben's only complaint about these protests is that the chants are always a bit trite for his nuanced anti-war position. To use his subsequent words, we'd both be happier with something like: What do we want? An evaluation of policy as well as a strategic redeployment of troops to key Iraq sites to prevent civil war! When do we want it? Gradually!

Personally, I'm fond of a nice vague chant--multi-purpose and inspiring. My favorite has always been "the people/ united/ will never be defeated!" (In one variation, the last word is actually "divided"--unrealistic, but it rhymes!) Other popular chants are less successful, I think. What are we really supposed to do with blythe platitudes like "hey-hey, ho-ho, this occupation has got to go?" I mean, really. Still, I'm always glad when Ben and I have the opportunity to join with other citizens to register our dissent over this endless war.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The making of...

Knowing that Ben and I almost always send the DVDs back to Netflix without even considering watching the ubiquitous "Making of..." featurette, I'll keep this short.

The octopus puppet from the short animation I posted yesterday is made of nine major pieces: eight legs and a bulbous orange head. All are stuffed with polyfill, and each of the legs contains a piece of doubled-over 19-guage steel wire, which is what allowed me to pose the legs in a variety of fabulous positions (namely, up and not up). The features consist of removable eyes, eyelids, and mouth.

But how does it move? I think it's cute how no one under forty ever asks me this question. Young folks just know, or intuit, everything about technology, and if you ask them how they just say they learned it on the Internet. For everyone else, here is the quickest of explanations: to make a stop-motion animation, you shoot hundreds of photos using a regular digital camera. In each photo, you move your subject (for example, your orange knitted octopus, or your felt gnomes) very slightly. Over the course of many, many images, the inanimate appears to move! You just take your hundreds of digital photos, upload them to your laptop, and use a software program (Apple's iMovie is an easy one, but I'm required to use the more complicated and exasperating After Effects software by Adobe) to put your frames in the right sequence, decide how fast you want them to move, and, if you want, throw some music or narration in there.

End of featurette.

Monday, March 17, 2008

A half-assed school project

Watch my recently finished stop-motion animation
to learn the stunning truth about the octopus.

I didn't pick the music, but listen to it anyway!

By the way, how many octopuses does it take to
screw in a light bulb? Answer: 1/8.

Lucky vegan

I'm not so sure about dying the nation's rivers green, but a shamrock-hued cupcake is something I can get behind.

Still working out the recipe... these turned out a little heavier than I wanted, but still delicious, cute, and appropriate for the seventeenth of March.

Friday, March 14, 2008

I'm addicted to chocohol

After this week's pizza and teriyaki posts, I thought it was time to rock the choc up in here. These rich, cakey brownies aren't as chewy as some, but your brain will be so busy being stimulated by chocolate that it probably won't even notice.

Double dark chocolate vegan brownies

1 3/4 c. flour
1 1/2 c. sugar
1/3 c. fancy cocoa
1 t. baking soda
1/3 c. oil
1/3 c. applesauce

For the frosting:
1/4 c. soy margarine
scant 1/4 c. non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening
1/2 c. brown sugar
2 1/2 c. powdered sugar
1/4 c. fancy cocoa

Preheat oven to 350. Make the batter by mixing the dry ingredients, then adding the oil and applesauce. Pour into a baking pan and bake for about 20-30 minutes. (Just check it a lot. You would not believe how different oven temperatures can be. Just take the pan out when a knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out with just a couple of crumbs on it... if it comes out totally clean, your brownies might be a little dry.)

Make the frosting by melting together the soy margarine and shortening. Place the brown sugar, powdered sugar, and cocoa in a mixing bowl, add the melted mixture, and whip it all together. When the brownies are cool, frost and cut into squares.

P. S. Have you seen the episode of "The Simpsons" that this post's title references? Homer gets a giant SUV and, beginning to indulge his road rage, is forced to admit that he is a rageaholic. "I'm addicted to rageahol," he laments.

Teriyaki for two

The difficulty to deliciousness ratio of tofu teriyaki with seared onions is easy to live with. It's simple to prepare (the trick is to press the hell out of the tofu, and to put a little something sweet in your marinade), and tastes so very nice. I like to put the tofu and the marinade in a giant pan on the stovetop and cook it on medium-high heat until the liquid is gone and the tofu cubes are a sticky, yummy mess.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Pizza night!

On a very recent pizza night, Ben and I made and enjoyed both an onion, mushroom, and soysage pizza (top) and a garlic-tomato "white" pizza (bottom). To make a meatless Italian sausage, we spiced up some Gimme Lean soysage with basil, oregano, and hot sauce, then sauteed the cute little soysage balls in a bit of olive oil. They were two of the best homemade pizzas I've ever eaten, with a soft and chewy deep-dish crust.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Creative, smart, and knows
how to swing a hammer

Here's my sweet and brilliant husband building a rubberband guitar for my sound project. He's probably the one who should be in art school.

Cuckoo for cookies

These truly international cookies are known variously as Viennese sugar balls, polvorones, Mexican wedding cakes, and snowdrops. Like the Russians, I call them tea-cakes.

Anyway, Ben did a huge, wonderful favor for me this weekend, so I made his favorite cookies. We usually only make these sugary tea-cakes at Christmas, because there's more soy margarine in them than anyone should really eat, ever, but... like I said, it was a really big favor.

Vegan Maple Tea-Cakes

1/2 c. soy margarine
1/4 c. sugar
1/3 c. maple syrup
1 c. flour
1/4 c. walnuts, broken into pieces
2/3 c. powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 325. Cream the margarine and the sugar. Mix in the maple syrup. Add the flour and mix until combined, then mix in the walnuts. Roll into balls a little more than an inch wide and place on a cookie sheet--no need to oil the pan, that's for sure. Bake for 6-8 minutes and remove from pan. Pour the powdered sugar into a flat-bottomed bowl or casserole dish, and when the cookies are cool, roll them lightly in the powdered sugar.

Whatever you call them, call me over when you bake them!

Friday, March 07, 2008

Elvis was right

A peanutbutter and banana sandwich for breakfast? Yes, thanks! It's proteiny, sweet, and keeps me going until noon! Elvis famously loved these sandwiches, by the way, but the King liked his PB&B fried.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Soup's on

Coconut dal, my favorite soup, is a food Ben brought into my life six years ago. His thicker, heartier version--the original--is designed to be eaten with big scoops of fluffy white rice, while my variant is thinner and easier to slurp. Both go great with roasted cauliflower.

Coconut Dal

1 T olive oil
1 T mustard seeds
2 1/2 c. red lentils
1/2 c. chopped onion
4 cloves of garlic, minced or thinly sliced
1 1/2 T salt (or more to taste)
1/2 tsp each cumin and coriander
1/4 tsp cayenne
13.5 oz. can coconut milk

In a large soup pot, sautee the mustard seeds in the tablespoon of oil until they pop. Fill the pot with about eight cups of water and the red lentils. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and allow to simmer, covered, for at least 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer for at least 30 minutes, continuing to give it a stir every now and then. (We like to let our dal simmer at very low heat pretty much all day to incorporate all the flavors.) Add more water if the soup looks thicker than you'd like. Just before serving, stir the coconut milk into the soup, retaining a bit to drizzle or swirl into each individual bowl.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Vegan pistachio cupcakes

These cutie-cute pistachio cupcakes turned out delicious, but just because it's vegan doesn't mean it's good for you! We almost never use junk like instant pudding in our baking, but having discovered that Jello-brand's pistachio instant pudding is accidentally vegan, I was compelled to come up with a recipe incorporating the stuff. I loved pistachio pudding and pistachio ice cream when I was a kid, and these cupcakes retain that strong pistachio [fake] flavor and the weird green color. If the cupcakes still sound good to you (I swear, they taste awesome), here's how I made them.

Vegan pistachio cupcakes

1 1/2 c. flour
1 heaping T baking powder
1 heaping tsp baking soda
3/4 package instant pudding, pistachio flavor (retain the rest to use in the frosting)
1/2 c. canola oil
Energ-G equivalent to 2 eggs
1/2 cup (or more) soy milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together the dry ingredients. Add the canola oil and Ener-G and mix. Add the soy milk little by little. You may not need the entire 1/2 c. soy milk, or you may need a bit more. Spoon the batter into cupcake pans and bake for 10-15 minutes or until a knife inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean.

To make the frosting, whip together 1/2 stick soy margarine, 1 c. powdered sugar, the remaining instant pudding mix, and a few T soy milk (as needed). Frost the cupcakes when they're cool. Then go nuts over your pistachio-green cupcakes.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Knitted falafel

Another food post... but this time the falafel is made of chenille! The pita and fries are acrylic, and the lettuce is wool. And Ben took the photo.

There's plenty more knitted food where this came from, citizens.

Sunday, March 02, 2008


Why does almost everyone, whether right- or left-handed, tilt their head to the right to plant a kiss? Check out this really interesting article from Scientific

Saturday, March 01, 2008

A fritter is a sometimes food

Ben and I loooove eggplant fritters. When we're feeling fancy, we call them eggplant beignets. It's not an every day food (to paraphrase Cookie Monster, who now eats healthy foods in addition to cookies), but they just go so well with lasagna! Here's my recipe.

Vegan Eggplant Fritters

3/4 c. canola oil (for frying)
1 small eggplant
1 c. flour
1/4 c. cornmeal
1 tsp. baking powder
2 T sugar
1 tsp salt
Ener-G equivalent to 1 egg
Squirt of Sriracha sauce
Generous 1/2 c. soy milk

Heat the canola oil in a large pan until a drop of water dripped into the oil makes a nice crackling sound. Not too hot or you will totally hurt yourself! Make the batter by whisking together the dry ingredients. Add the wet ingredients to make a thick batter--a little thicker than pancake batter, if that helps; it needs to be thick enough that it won't slide off of your slices of eggplant. Slice the eggplant into 1/2-inch rounds and dip each into the batter. Fry several at a time in the oil, removing with a slotted spatula to a paper towel- (or brown paper-) covered plate THAT YOU HAVE PREPARED BEFOREHAND! Seriously, people, you do not want to be ripping up brown paper bags while holding a spatula full of nearly-burned beignets in one hand! I have been there and it's a bad time.