Thursday, July 24, 2008

Vegan chocolate cake

But not even a recipe for you look at! Soy una blogstress mala. Sorry!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Listening to

Bangs: Sweet Revenge
The Flaming Lips: Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots
Black 47: Fire of Freedom
The Dismemberment Plan: Is Terrified

Monday, July 21, 2008

Sweet potato fries; vegetable contest; prized baking sheets

The North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission is probably a little biased, but sweet potatoes really might be the healthiest, vitaminiest vegetable, as the NCSPC purports. Another org (not the sweet potato people) rated 58 vegetables by calculating the percentages of USRDA for Vitamins A and C, iron, calcium, folate, copper, and fiber. Sweet potatoes got the highest score out of the 58 veggies... 582 points. Raw carrots rolled in at a distant second at 434.

Sweet potatoes are almost fat-free, until you fry* them in oil! That's what we did last weekend, because I love oven fries with my veggie burger.

*Actually, we bake our fries, because deep-frying is a slippery slope, my friends. We just give them a light coat of a nice, fruity olive oil, sprinkle on a little sea salt, then bake them at 400 degrees on an inexpensive cookie sheet. (Ben and I have one cheapy cookie sheet from the grocery store that is allowed to get greasy and messed up and thrown in the garbage after 6 or 8 months. Our nice ones are sacred, though.)

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Knitted beet!

I almost forgot! Here's some documentation of the knitted beet I made for Beet Fest 2008! The thing was warmly received, passed around, and wondered at. Several women were simultaneously awed and disappointed that No Pattern Existed. (Amateurs! Just start knitting, that's how we do it in art skool.) The beet is made of chenille and the leaves are a wool/silk mix. When it comes to art materials, I am a total freegan.

Below: cute beet-curl; lace leaves.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

All hail the Beet Queen!

Ben and I had a lot of fun at the eleventh annual Beet Fest! We wandered Barry and Tami's astoundingly beautiful acreage, ate like animals, admired the vegetable gardens, played foozball, and much more, I assure you. All I can say is, at one point I was shaking a maraca so energetically that I felt sure my right hand would fall off. I wasn't chosen Beet Queen 2008 (neither was Ben, for that matter, although the competition* isn't gender-specific), but I'm genuinely happy for the fellow who will be reigning Beet Queen for the next twelve months (see above). Before the selection process began, I heard the soon-to-be-Beet-Queen tell his pals, "I'm going for it. I'm totally going for it."

*It's more of a mystical, beet-oriented lottery.

Below: Tami (first Beet Queen, eleven years ago) with another former Beet Queen and Beet Queen 2008; Tami being adorable; Beet Parade; royal beet court; beet-headed monster; newly-crowned Beet Queen; Barry driving the beet float; Beet Parade.

And, finally, below, my husband. You can't see the beet juice on his forehead, due to my identity-protecting Adobe Illustrator doodle, but we were all anointed with beet juice at the welcoming ceremony. Ben is so very not the hippie parade type, but since he is a classically trained percussionist the man knows his way around a tambourine:


My little self-portrait is in the Essere show at Park Nicollet Clinic, but when I biked over there on Friday to check out the art, I couldn't find any of it. I checked all three floors. Then, the staff looked at me like I was from another planet when I politely asked about the location of self-portraits. I never did find them!

Allegedly, the show runs June through September, but I doubt I'll go back. Not only was I totally frustrated about not being able to find the art, or anyone who knew anything about the art, but there was only room for three bicycles on the bike rack (compared to a 30-car parking lot, of course), and it was full, so I had to leave my cute new two-wheeler around the block by the sketchy bus stop. (Have you noticed that I'm acutely skittish? It's [partially*] due to being sick of having all our shit stolen!)

*And partially due to the fact that I'm the kind of vexing person who startles easily. Who jumps a mile when the phone rings. With frequency, I actually yelp in alarm when my poor, gentle husband makes his presence known in a room I did not hear him enter.

Friday, July 18, 2008

End-of-the-week dose of Third Wave

"Overeducated, underperforming
homebound women"? That's me!

If you're a feminist who'd just
rather stay home, read this
Atlantic Monthly article

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Dear Lovey Hart: I Am Desperate

It's no Degrassi, but I've been working my way through the complete collection of 1970s and early- to mid-'80s After School Specials for the last couple of years, and I totally love them. If you're my age, you probably remember watching these grainy cautionary tales at 4:00 in the afternoon.

The relentless moralizing is one of my favorite things about the series, but I'm guessing that Americans of my generation remember the After School Special (and its rival, CBS' School Break Special) with a near-toxic mix of fond nostalgia and resentment. Often based on young adult novels, the highly alarmist series addressed such social issues as alcoholism, teen pregnancy, shoplifting, runaways, dyslexia, and mental illness.* (I've got "Andrea's Story: a Hitchhiking Tragedy" cued up on the DVD player as I write this.) But some of the most awesome After School Specials were slightly less sermonizing, and presented teenage characters turning into dogs, becoming millionaires, switching bodies with their dads, having wishes granted by genies, defeating their boyfriends in violin competitions, and writing anonymous advice columns for the school newspaper.

Captivating though these plots might be, spotting pre-fame celebrities is really the latent purpose of watching these [mostly badly-filmed] old Specials. Recognizing Dana Plato, Melissa Sue Anderson, Chris Knight and Eve Plumb (in the same ep!), Kirk Cameron, Robert Reed (RIP), my girl Nancy McKeon, Malcolm Jamal-Warner, and Felicity Huffman is a ridiculously happy experience, and would make a first-rate drinking game, if I were into that.

Gotta go, it's almost 4:00!

*I'm sure there was one about latch-key kids, too, since this was the '80s.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Vegan cinnamon rolls à la Globe

These frosted cinnamon rolls are a weekend brunch treat that remind Ben of Friday mornings at the Globe in Seattle, where Robin would turn out enormous two-person cinnamon rolls topped with a mountain of fluffy vegan frosting (like in that second photo, no joke). Cinnamon rolls are so delicious, and have such a special place in our hearts, that Ben and I always make them on holiday mornings, especially Christmas and New Year's Day.

Vegan cinnamon rolls

2 1/2 c. flour (unbleached white, whole wheat, or a mix)
1/2 t. salt
Scant T. yeast whisked into 1/4 c. water
1/4 c. canola oil
1/3 c. soy margarine, room temperature
1/3 c. brown sugar
2 1/2 T. cinnamon
1/4 c. chopped pecans or walnuts

For the frosting
1/3 c. soy margarine
2 c. powdered sugar
2 T. soy milk
1/2 t. vanilla (optional)

Combine the flour and salt in bowl. (If you have a Kitchenaid mixer with a bread hook, combine them in your mixer bowl.) Making sure that the yeast is completely dissolved in the 1/4 c. water, add the yeast mixture to the flour mixture and either stir by hand until combined or attach your bread hook and mix.

Knead the dough for ten minutes by hand or a few minutes by mixer/hook. Cover with plastic wrap and a clean dish towel and place in a warm spot to rise. (Sometimes I put the rising dough in the living room, because that room is a little warmer than the others.)

After a couple of hours, when the dough has doubled in bulk, punch the dough and scrape down sides. Cover again. A couple hours later, when the dough has doubled again, punch the dough, scrape the sides, and form dough into a ball. On a floured surface, flatten the ball and roll out into a rectangle 1/2" thin or thinner, using a floured rolling pin or just stretching and flattening the dough with your hands.

Combine soy margarine, sugar, cinnamon in a small bowl, then spoon evenly over the dough. Sprinkle chopped nuts on top. With floured hands, roll the rectangle up from short end to short end, jelly-roll style. Using a serrated bread knife, gently cut the roll into 4-6 equal-sized pieces, depending on how big you want your cinnamon rolls to be. Place each piece, with a swirly side facing up, in a lightly oiled square pan, rectangular Pyrex, or round cake pan. Cover and allow to rise one more time. (You can even prepare these in the evening and allow them to rise overnight in the refrigerator.)

Bake in a 325 degree oven for about twenty minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center of a cinnamon roll comes out clean.

To make the frosting, whip the soy margarine using electric mixer. Add powdered sugar while mixing. Drip in soy milk little by little (you might not need all of it) and add optional vanilla. Whip until fluffy. Apply generously!

Basil-cannellini bean fritters...

...are what we came up with when there didn't seem to
be much in the kitchen on Sunday evening. No tofu even.
So I whipped these up with a can of white kidney beans,
a minced onion, lots of basil, some olive oil and lemon
juice, and some garam flour (yes, we were pleased with
ourselves for just having garam flour sitting around).
A prized food processor made it simple.

While I fried these little cuties on our griddle, Ben sautéed some yams, onions, yellow squash, thinly sliced carrots, and spinach. Voilà! Nothing-in-the-house vegan supper! Since the bean patties ended up having such an Italian flavor, we ate them dipped in our favorite pizza sauce.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Our weekend of Gogol, zines, bagels,
bikes, and Brits

If you've read much nineteenth-century Russian literature, you understand me when I say that I had certain expectations of the Nikolai Gogol play Ben and I saw on Saturday night. Suffering, loss, absolution, individuals crushed by bureaucracy, failed love affairs, imprisonment in Siberia... these are some of the themes and events I expected from the author of The Overcoat. Instead, we enjoyed a genuinely funny comedy of errors. Literature: it's always full of surprises!

Earlier that day, Ben and I had wandered over to the the Twin Cities Zinefest, where I had the opportunity to put a couple of faces to names. Turns out Sparky at Microcosm is a girl, and Tuesday B. and her t-shirts are totally adorable.

The next day, Ben and I spent Sunday afternoon monopolizing a tiny table at a neighborhood coffee shop. The place has a pretty square/yuppie/corporate vibe, and there are nineteen-year-olds everywhere, but they have vegan food and they compost and they use organic ingredients and they pay their employees a living wage, so evidently the place isn't as square as it seems. Plus, it's hard to complain with a hummus onion bagel in one's mouth.

After that, we transacted some Craigslist business that resulted in me acquiring a ridiculously cute pink bicycle to replace my stolen Green Machine. Huzzah for Craigslist! You may be sure I will tell you more about my new-ish two-wheeler in posts to come.

Finally, Sunday night, we made some dinner and finished watching the British "Office" on DVD, a series Ben and I had both been wanting to see for a while now because the U.S. version is probably the funniest, most original thing on American TV right now. (Of course, we don't have cable, so my perspective is limited. And, now that I've seen the British series, I have to qualify my use of the word "original.") Anyway, both versions are brilliant! Of course, I didn't understand half the jokes in the British original (about trifles and such) and about a quarter of the actual words, so I have to prefer the U.S. version.

That's my weekend in review. I'd like to thank Professor Gary R. Jahn, professor of Russian literature at the University of Minnesota, for unknowingly supplying the image of Gogol.

"I was feeling kind of seasick / but
the crowd called out for more..."

I'm not sure why I'm so captivated by this mid-1960s music video, but I am. I really am.

Could you direct me to the nearest bake sale?

A variation on my standard vegan cupcake, these colorful, sprinkle-topped ones remind me of the confetti birthday cake for which I longed when I was nine or ten. (There were rainbow sprinkles in the cake itself! In the cake itself!)

My vanilla cupcakes don't have sprinkles in the cake, just on top. Adding a handful to the batter would be easy enough, but, as they are, these moist, fluffy cupcakes are birthday party-worthy.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Haven't seen her for a while...

The unforgiving hand of the past delivers a silly photo of this blogger (ten years ago!) goofing around at Coventry Elementary playground in Cleveland. I do have lots of memories of the day on which this photo was taken, including my own highly positive impressions of this all wood-and-rubber playground. There was, and I think still is, a race car, an amazing dragon with rubber tongue, and huge pirate ship on which to monkey around! Fabulous!

But, come on, the real treasure here is obviously that outfit. How late-90s granola-alternative are those threads? I was 21 and about to finish college. I wore that pale blue wool thrift store sweater all the fucking time, when I wasn't wearing an identical green one nabbed at a different thrift store. And those pants? I'm really not even sure what to say about them, except that I nearly died of happiness when I tried them on at the Salvation Army and they actually fit me. That great plaid, those tremendous colors, the optimal post-Grunge flare at the ankle. Perfection. And remember when those Doc Marten t-bar Mary Janes were the absolute thing to have? They spoke at once of the wearer's subcultural affiliation and good aesthetics (or so we all thought). As I remember it, Beth Wolak (née Meeker) had a sweet navy blue pair back then, and I chose the darling maroon ones you see above.

And, finally: the long, if ratty, hair, parted down the middle. I've resisted, my whole life, the pressure to have any hairstyle other than the lazy, lanky one you see above (but even longer and a little less ratty). Notable exceptions include the time I cut my hair like a boy's and dyed it platinum blonde, and my two years of Bettie Page bangs. Like I said, notable.

The graininess of the picture cracks me up. It's partly the fault of the recent scanning process, but it also has to do with the reality that regular people did not have digital cameras ten years ago. I'm certain this picture was taken with some piece-of-crap plastic thing from a drugstore.

Another thing regular people didn't have ten years ago? Blogs on which to post hilarious and charming old photos.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

A break from cupcakes to discuss the
concepts of human autonomy and free will

This totally fascinating article describes new research indicating that our brains make decisions ten seconds before we are aware of having made a choice. We think our decisions are conscious, but our brains know what we're going to do ten seconds before we do! The implications for human autonomy are pretty creepy; as John-Dylan Haynes at the Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience puts it, "This doesn't rule out free will, but it does make it implausible."

I was thinking that this research sheds some light on the phenomenon of "sleeping on it." Like many people, I find that letting my mind work over a problem while I rest is a bizarrely effective way to come to decisions and solve ordinary problems. And research does suggest that, when we have an important decision to make, it's not always best to deliberate heavily; instead, we often make better decisions when we're slightly distracted.

The stuff I've read on this research, though, doesn't address the obvious problem of what it really means to know something. If my cells "know" something before "I" know something, well, isn't that really the same as me knowing it? I mean, we are our cells, after all, and our cells are us. So, to some degree, it's a matter of consciousness. But I probably need to sleep on it some more.

Vegan creamsicle cupcakes

High quality vanilla extract is the key to an orange creamsicle cupcake that doesn't taste like children's chewable aspirin.

Vegan creamsicle cupcakes

1/4 c. orange juice
1/2 T. Ener-G egg replacer
1 c. unbleached flour
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 c. sugar
dash of salt
scant 1/4 c. canola oil
1 1/2 T. plain soy yogurt
1/2 t. vanilla extract
1/2 - 1 T. soy milk, water, or additional orange juice

For the frosting
2 T. soy margarine
1 c. powdered sugar
1 1/2 T. orange juice
1/4 t. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a small bowl, whisk together the 1/4 c. orange juice and the Ener-G. Set aside. In mixing bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, egg replacer, sugar, and salt. Mix well, then add the canola oil, yogurt, and extract. Pour in the Ener-G mixture and stir until barely combined (over-stirring makes for stiff batter and tough cupcakes). Add the extra soy milk, water, or juice if necessary. Oil cupcake pan if you aren't using papers, then fill each well slightly more than halfway. Bake for 13-18 minutes. Oven temps vary; take the pan out when a sharp knife inserted into a cupcake comes out clean. (Because thees cupcakes are so very fluffy and moist, the cupcakes may look less dry than your usual cupcakes. But if the knife comes out clean, they're done!) Allow to cool.

Combine frosting ingredients. Mix with electric mixer until fluffy. Apply avec générosité.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Summer soup!

A nice summer soup can sustain me for a week of lunches. This veggie-packed one is heavy on the cilantro, and the fresh tomatoes are so worth all the chopping. As an afterthought, I added garbanzo beans, and am pleased with myself for thinking of it. They pack protein and taste nice.

Forgive the cop-out recipe, but soup is an art and I have no idea how much of anything I used. Just chop up a few cups of vegetables (potatoes, green beans, onions, squash, or whatever you like) and sautee them in a big soup pot with a little (okay, a lot) of olive oil. Cut up six or seven tomatoes and throw those in. Salt it all, add five or six cups of veggie broth or water (I used potato water left over from boiling potatoes earlier in the week). Bring to a boil, then season with cumin, oregano, and basil. Add garbanzos or other beans. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for at least 45 minutes (I let mine cook on low all afternoon). Add lots of chopped cilantro in the last ten minutes of cooking. Unless you've never, ever made soup, you know that anything goes... throw in your leftover rice or pasta, use some frozen corn, change up the spices, include whatever vegetables are local and in season. It's hard to make a bad soup, so don't be skittish.

Thrill of the grill

We grilled on the patio a couple of times over the long (and yet so short) July fourth weekend, and there was something patently festive about it. Eating outdoors in and of itself isn't particularly enchanting, in my book, but when one is stuffing oneself with juicy, enormous portobellos that were cooked out of doors, somehow things get exciting. So much so much so that we cooked out on both Friday and Sunday, and I've smooshed the photos into one tidy little themed blog post. Above: grilled eggplant with nothing but some good olive oil and a little sea salt. Below: grilled zucchini and potatoes; grilltop view of various beautiful vegetables; portobellos on homemade rosemary buns; more beauteous eggplant.

How does my garden grow? ...exclusively
with the aid of my gentle husband

Here's Ben, working in the garden I swore to him I would weed.

We have several beautiful zucchini plants growing, plus tons of beans! Lots of carrots, too. I'm not getting my hopes up for the scallions, though.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

You got peanut butter in my
chocolate cupcakes!

A batch of moist vegan chocolate cupcakes piled high with peanut butter frosting made our Tuesday night a special occasion. The frosting is mild and perfectly sweet, and because it's a good stiff frosting, it pipes well and even works as a cake filling. I did pipe it on several cuppycakes, and frosted a few with a reg'lar old butter knife. But I think the messy, smeary ones are almost cuter than the ones I used the pastry bag on! Top these with grated vegan chocolate.

Vegan peanut butter frosting

1/2 nonhydrogenated vegetable shortening
heaping 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1 - 1 1/2 c. powdered sugar
1 T. maple syrup
2-3 T. soy creamer

If it's hot in your kitchen, chill the shortening in the freezer for 5-10 minutes. When it's cold, use electric mixer to beat together the shortening and peanut butter in large bowl until fluffy. Add the powdered sugar and beat. Scrape down sides, add maple syrup, and continue to beat. Add soy creamer little by little, using more or less as needed. Scrape down sides and beat until fluffy.