Monday, March 31, 2008

MeatOut(reach) in Houston

Spring is a time of year when everything gets a fresh start... flowers are in bloom, baby birds are chirping, streets are lined with garage sales galore, and many people are taking a close look a their diet (no doubt some are trying to get their bodies in "beach shape"). This is where Meatout comes in. Every spring, this grassroots campaign asks people to "kick the meat habit" and promotes a plant-based, cruelty-free diet. Events were held throughout the world, and here's a few things that happened in Houston!

First, for my personal activity, I made a batch of cupcakes (also to celebrate a friend's birthday) to bring into work. My colleagues got to enjoy the mucho margarita cupcakes from VCTOTW. I kept them on my desk in my office, and as people came in, they could read my meatout literature and paraphenalia as the scent of tequila-spiked frosting wafted through the air.
On Friday night, I joined other members of Society of PEACE for Food Not Bombs in downtown Houston to serve up free vegan food to the needy as another form of Meatout outreach. There was quite a large turnout, but we were prepared and easily had enough food to feed 100 people! I made baked ziti topped (just free-formed this part) with pine nut cream from V-con. Not the prettiest picture I know, but rest assured that what it lacks in visual appeal was more than compensated by its creamy goodness.
Our final outreach event for Meatout was tabling and leafleting to the downtown Houston lunch crowd just outside of city hall. SOP had a table set up with plenty of veggie literature, including vegan starter kits and information about Houston area events. Five of us took to the sidewalks and handed out leaflets to anyone who would take them (and surprisingly, many people did!). My favorite combination to hand out was a post card saying "Stop global warming one bite at a time" and the Vegan Outreach leaflet entitled "Even If You Like Meat" My opening line? "Would you like some information about the connection between global warming and your diet?" Since global warming is a hot topic right now, I figured this was a good way to draw them in, and hopefully they would see how cruel and unneccessary the animal industry is as well. Many people did a double take and asked how global warming and your diet are connected. Sadly, I think this is a connection that many people still fail to make. At least now a few more Houstonians are aware!
And I couldn't let this opportunity for more baking go by, so for the volunteers, I made whoopie pies with pink frosting (recipe from My Sweet Vegan). I thought these came together nicely, the cakey cookie wasn't too sweet, letting the sugary frosting really shine through! Almost like a vegan dessert hamburger of sorts, or at least that was my thought process in connecting them to meatout!

I will be trying desperately the next few days to catch up with blogs! I was out of town this weekend (in Seattle, more on that trip soon) and came home to almost 300 blog entries to read! I hope everyone is enjoying the start of spring, or if it doesn't quite feel like spring where you are, you at least got to enjoy Meatout 2008!<

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

John Cooks

I took a night off in the kitchen! Chris, from Eat Air, proposed that we get the guys to cook for a night. So that's exactly what we did. Now that I've uploaded the photos... I'm handing the keyboard over to John to tell you about his first food blogging experience.

OK, so the cooking part I gladly agreed to, but I definitely got sucked into the whole blogging thing. I still don't understand what the difference between a blog and a website is, but I'll leave that alone for now. So, I rarely to never cook anymore, but have done quite a bit of it in the past.
A generation ago (and a few before that), my family made a living by cooking. When I first met Amanda, her speciality was a bowl of cold cereal. I can't claim credit for teaching her everything she knows though, she just started obsessing about it soon after her proclamation to "give this vegan thing a try". Just made some cabbage and mushroom curry tonight. I used to make it when I was single and had run out of fish to eat, usually in the winter. It's low calorie, easy, and lasts for a few days. Definitely made a fancier version than in the past (cabbage, mushroom, curry powder and tomatoes). That's about it but the recipe, which was very adlib, started with browning some mustard seed and onion in peanut oil, added garlic, ginger, serrano peppers, curry powder (hot), and garam masala. Then dumped in criminis and portabellos. Finally added cabbage for a while, then fire roasted tomatoes and let simmer for while. Poured that over basmati rice and served with roasted chickpeas (that Amanda made). Margaritas helped tame the heat of the serranos. Have to admit, it turned out a lot better than my solo attempts. So that's my post. No dessert with this one, better get another margarita.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Three Generations of Bunny Cake

Celebrating Easter, like all holidays in my childhood, came a long with a set of traditions that were anticipated all year long with much excitement. For this spring time holiday, there was always getting a new Easter dress (I still remember my favorite one, I'll have to dig up a photo), dyeing eggs (of course if I ever do this one again they'll have to be wooden), getting out the Easter baskets my mom made us, and searching through all of our plastic eggs for the best chocolates and of course any money. And in my younger days, we always looked forward to a bunny cake! I first remember these from visiting my maternal grandmother (both my grandmothers are master bakers) during the Easter holidays. Guess which one is me in the picture below....

I'm in the middle, about seven months old. The traditional bunny cakes that my grandmother made used an angel food cake cut in half yielding two bunnies, then frosted with a marshmallow cream frosting, and decorated with paper ears and whiskers, all lying on a bed of green coconut grass with jelly beans strewn about.

My mom also made us the bunny cake on the holidays we spent together at home. I'm on the right in the photo below (this was not my favorite easter outfit), about 3 years old.
And so, after many years of no bunny cakes, I decided to bring it back this year. Of course, we all know that vegan angel food cake is a near impossibility (though I've heard of a few recipes that attempt it), so I changed it up a little and made the coconut cake from ED&BV, along with the coconut dream frosting. I baked an 8 inch cake, cut it in half, filled it with frosting, then turned it on it's side. I cut out a notch above the eyes to give it a bit the head more definition from the body. The pink tail is a cake truffle made with the cut out cake and some pink buttercream frosting. And of course, the jelly beans for the eyes and nose are vegan (from pangea)! You'll also see my bonus bunny, after a tip on the ppk boards, I ran out and got this vegan dark chocolate bunny (Lindt brand), cause you can't have Easter without a chocolate bunny.
So there you have it, three generations of bunny cakes!! Happy Easter!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Cooking for Your Constitution

Cooking classes are a wonderful opportunity to learn new techniques, new recipes, and meet others who enjoy cooking (and eating!). Last week I attended an Indian cooking class that was based on the principles of Aryuveda. Before the actual cooking demonstration began the instructor, Karuna, explained that in Aryuveda (which translated means the knowledge and wisdom of life), each person is unique, and therefore different. Karuna used a saying that I liked, "nothing is right for everyone, and everything is right for someone". She explained the three doshas; Vata, Pitta, and Kapha; and that we are all a unique blend of these qualities. This balance of energies is your constitution. Eating foods that are aligned with your constitution will restore balance in your life (and in your bowels!).
The demonstration took place in a cozy kitchen with a group of about 10 people. Karuna explained and passed around the spices she used in her recipes, stressing the importance of using fresh, organic ingredients. She gave us tips on where to obtain some of the lesser known ingredients, such as asafoetida powder. Most importantly, she kept her cool in a hot kitchen and made juggling five different dishes look easy!
One of the five dishes included in the demonstration was not vegan (included dairy), and Karuna was very aware and respectful of the vegans in the class (that's right, plural). In fact, she had planned on making one of the later dishes in a pot that she had just made dairy curd in, but when discovered it wasn't quite clean, switched to a different pot. She mentioned to me after the class that she is considering making future classes completely vegan!
So how was the food? Amazing!!! On my plate below, there is green split pea dahl with spinach and coconut milk, chapati, lemon rice, and curried cauliflower and potatoes. I went back for seconds along with everyone else. My favorite had to be the rice, with subtle hints of lemon, crunchy toasted cashews, and fresh shredded coconut. This meal definitely agreed with my constitution and I will be making each one of these dishes again at home.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Eating Green: Mini Food Journal

Happy St. Patrick's Day! I've decided to do a mini food journal today to record my Irish (and not so Irish but at least green) eatings. I do believe I have some Irish blood in me, though I am mostly English and Scottish. But John is half Irish, 2nd generation American, so there is definitely a reason to make it somewhat authentic for him. You'll see later what I have planned for dinner....

But first, the breakfast that made me late for work. You guessed it, irish oatmeal!! (aka steel cut oats). I couldn't think of anything green to add to these, so it's topped with agave nectar, bananas, and frozen raspberries. It's sticking to my bones right now. Oh, and do you like our crocheted green shamrock? That's from my sister-in-law. Isn't it cute? I really need to learn to crochet. More updates as the day goes on, I need to get to work now.

Lunch time!! Which usually means leftovers for me at my desk. Over the weekend I made a tofu scramble with Mori Nu tofu. Usually I use the refridgerated kind, but John wanted to experiment because the aseptic package has fewer calories. We discovered this was mostly water since the tofu cooked down to about half the starting amount. Oh well, still tasted fine. So this isn't really Irish, but it's very green! Additions include asparagus, swiss chard, mushrooms, onion, and pesto. Wrap it in a whole wheat pita and you've got yourself a meal. Over lunch today I made my shopping list for after work: raisins, Earth Balance buttery sticks, and more swiss chard. Any guesses as to what I'm making?
For dinner, I wanted to have one of John's more traditional St Patrick's Day foods, Irish Soda Bread. (you were right, chocolate covered vegan! the chard was for another part of dinner) I veganized a recipe that has been passed down in John's family, my only modifications were to use non bone-char sugar, soymilk, and nonhydrogenated shortening. I followed cakespy's advice and soaked my raisin in sugar water, yielding a plumper, moister raisin when baked. This stuff is hard to beat when freshly baked with a few pats of Earth Balance.

The rest of the meal was a bit less traditional, but one component is still typical Irish fare. I made veganyumyum's version of colcannon (you were right too, amy!). My modifications were using blue potatoes, swiss chard instead of kale, and tempeh bacon instead of seitan. I left the skins on the potatoes, which gave a nice texture. The saltiness of the tempeh was the perfect contrast to the creamy potatoes. We have lots of this leftover. On the side were some sauteed apples, which ended up getting stored in a tupperware because the soda bread and colcannon were so filling. But they'll be yummy warmed up with some vanilla soy ice cream. Or maybe even for breakfast. Still one more treat coming your way this evening. Hopefully I'll have some room to eat it, otherwise you may just get the photograph.
And finally, dessert!! These are neither green nor Irish, but they are super fudgy and rich. Yesterday I made a batch of the crumb topped brownies from My Sweet Vegan (after oogling them on other blogs such as overflowing with awesome ). Oh my, I like to think that I am one of those that has endless amounts of room for sweets, but these brownies fill you up. The crumb topping adds a fun crunch. Oh, and can you see the little face on the corner in the center of the photo (down in the fudgy part of the brownie)? Hopefully it's not just me.
Hope everyone enjoyed eating, drinking, and wearing green today! Maybe this post will help give me a little luck of the Irish.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Houston Rodeo Demonstration

It is that time of year again, no not tax season (I always wait till the last day to do mine), but here in Houston it is Rodeo time again. Growing up here, rodeo was the time of year that it was acceptable to wear your boots, super-tight jeans, and western button down shirts to school (no... we don't wear that all the time here), you were forced to square dance with the ickiest boy in school, and all your friends were planning which rodeo show they attended. The only attraction for me at the Rodeo was the big name singers, and since I'm not really a country music fan, that wasn't much of an attraction. I don't think I ever came early enough to see the broncing bucs, calf roping, or horse races for the few rodeos I did attend.

Last Sunday, I participated in my first demonstration against the rodeo. Actually, it was my first demonstration ever. I must say, I went it to it with a bit of anxiety. In talking to others who had attended the demonstrations in previous years, it seemed like there could be some tense situations. This tends to happen when rodeo, testosterone, and alcohol are in the mix. Luckily, I chose to attend the evening of the Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus concert, so the majority of attendees were families with young children, tweens, and teens. We held up our anti-rodeo posters while standing on the public sidewalk. The cops directing traffic at the intersection appeared to have no problem with us being there (which I've heard isn't always the case either). The poster I held I thought was very powerful "Rodeos are Legalized Animal Abuse". Quite a few people took the time to read all the posters, some took some of the anti-rodeo literature, and we even spoke to a few of them the abuse that rodeo animals endure. I think the part of the demonstration that really touched my heart though, was seeing all of the children (maybe from 8-16) who would read the signs and you could tell it registered to them that this was wrong. Those parents likely had to do some explaining after the rodeo. Hopefully many will never return.

I won't go on about the reasons of why rodeos are so cruel, since I'm sure many of you already know. I will give you a link to this video that I thought was extremely powerful, I actually couldn't bear to watch the whole thing. The calf roping was just too horrific.

To end on a bit of a happier note, I brought some cookies for the other demonstrators, the mochadamia bars from Damn Tasty Vegan. Next time I think I would add more instant coffee mix, to bring out the mocha flavor a bit more. I loved the combination of macadamia nuts and chocolate chips though (so did the other volunteers) And finally, just a question for everyone. Have you ever attended an animal rights demonstration? Did you enjoy it? I think we all have our own forms of activism (all of are blogs and vegan food are definitely activism!), and depending on our personalities and strengths, we are comfortable with different methods. What is your favorite form of activism?

Monday, March 10, 2008

See? I Have Been Cooking...

Looking back on my posts from the last few weeks, there has been very little vegan noodle-made food! That comes along with being out of town and just being generally busy (like everyone else isn't and you're still cooking fabulous dishes, puts me to shame...) and not cooking anything too spectacular. But I thought some of these were definitely blog-worthy. Let's see if you agree.

Here is the spinach tarragon "quiche" from V-con. It was different from other vegan quiches that I've tried because it's not made with tofu, but navy beans and walnuts and asparagus. I subbed dill for all of the tarragon, just because I needed to use it up. We both really enjoyed this dish, plus I thought it was kind of pretty. Oh, and I was really proud that I made the crust on my own, usually I just cheat and use the frozen ones.

A side and up-close shot of a slice. I served this with a simple spinach salad topped with pine nuts and grape tomatoes (and I think avocado, but I don't see it in the pic and I've since forgotten). I think next time I would top it with some balsamic glace to finish it.

The Sunday before last, my family came over for brunch since my brother was in town for a bachelor party (impressive that he made it to our place on time!). My mom was awesome enough to make cinnamon rolls from JOVB. Yum yum yum. This is the one I saved for the next morning when I was up in Calgary.

My contribution was another V-con recipe, the blue flannel hash, fitting since my latest obsession has been with blue/purple potatoes (I have a bag in the pantry, any suggestions on what I use them for next?). And of course you can never get enough tempeh.

And finally, for dessert, the lower fat deep chocolate bundt cake from V-con. It really was some seriously deep chocolate, thanks to the coffee I'm thinking. My first bundt cake ever too. I was so glad to have a piece of this on the plane ride (and shhhh, for breakfast)

I was recently tagged by LizzyQ to tell all you readers five things about myself. So, here you go...
1. I have never owned a pet (excluding inheriting my best friend's two hamsters when she moved to Singapore). But I would like to someday if we live in a place with an actual yard. I'm thinking I'm a dog person, mainly because I'm allergic to cats.
2. I am eligible to run for president in 2016. I figured this out when I was about twelve.
3. I have never eaten a fast food hamburger. As a kid I thought they were disgusting.
4. I have been married 169 days / 4063 hours / 243803 minutes / 14628214 no 15 no 16 seconds
5. Okay, what a spinoff.... I was going to write here that this year is my ten year high school reunion and instead of going to my own, I'm gonna crash (with her permission) my friend's in Las Vegas (she's the one who went to Singapore, so they're meeting back in the US). BUT out of curiosity I google my high school, and what do you know, they are actually getting together. Now I'm wondering, should I go??

Alright, I'm supposed to tag five people but I'm sleepy, so consider yourself tagged if you are reading this!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The Coup on the Company

Business travel can have it's perks, especially when the destination includes veggie restaurants and the tab isn't on you!! I am spending the week in Calgary, home of the Stampede (more on the rodeo in Houston in a few days), Alberta beef, and big (heavy) oil. Amidst all of this is The Coup, a mostly organic &local, vegetarian establishment with a devoted following. I was so impressed the first night, I went back for seconds. There is something kind of fun about sitting alone in a bustling restaurant, ordering multiple courses all the while jotting down notes and reading a book. Made me feel like and undercover food critic (and in some ways I am!). Since both nights I ordered a starter, main course, and dessert, I'll present them in a head to head comparison. But first, a Calgary photo montage for fun...

And the restaurant entrance, adorned with a recycled metal sign and the only bike racks I saw on the block.
First up, drinks. Now this wasn't much of a competition, because I got ginger ale both nights (best I've ever had!), but I thought the pictures were kind of cool.

I had read several online reviews raving about the pseudo sushi, so on Night 1 this was the first thing I tried (though I'm not sure what was pseudo about it). I have always wanted to make my own brown rice sushi because of it's healthier attributes, but have feared it would just fall apart mid-roll. Their rolls were filled with yam, tofu, veggies, and, according to the menu, seasonal fruit (which I couldn't quite place). I had to hold myself back from gobbling these up in a matter of minutes! Night 2 I had a craving for some protein, so I chose the cajun tempeh sticks, served with a side of dijon maple sauce (which I swear had wasabi in it, but maybe it was just the dijon). These were lightly battered and fried (I think) on the outside and moist inside. Although I didn't really get the cajun flavor, these were quite enjoyable and hit the spot. Winner? The sushi.

On Night 1 I had a major hankering for sweet potatoes (aka yams here in Canada). The upstream burger is a blend of yams, tofu, and pumpkin seeds, plus it came with a side of yam fries! The fried were a bit of a disappointment; they were wedges, i.e. no crispy outside. The burger had a wonderful blend of flavors, especially with the garlic aoili and dill, but it kind of fell apart in my hands. Still a great alternative to the standard veggie burger. For Night 2 I was in the mood for pasta, probably due to the disappointment at lunch where I was supposedly served a vegan meal that was pasta laden with a creamy, parmesan scented sauce. My waitress promised me a very creamy (thanks to coconut milk), guaranteed vegan sauce on the magic mushroom pasta. Along with the sauce and kamut noodles was spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, red onion, and cubes of smoked tofu. I struggled a bit eating pasta with chopsticks, but I managed. The verdict? A draw.

I had to stop short of finishing both meals in order to save room for dessert. With several vegan desserts to choose from, on Night 1 I had the waitress pick her favorite. She must have been reading my mind because she picked the chocolate torte. Made with silken tofu, but you'd never know because it was so rich and chocolatey. I especially enjoyed the accompanying raspberry sauce that I dipped each bite in. Now I must be honest, if I wasn't doing this for research (i.e. blogging) purposes, Night 2 would have been a dessert repeat. But for those readers who aren't chocoholics like me, I had to be fair and give the apple pie a chance. I actually wrote most of this post on the back of my printed Calgary maps while waiting for this to be baked in the kitchen, listening the the girl at the table next to me snort with laughter :-). Topped with tofulatti soy ice cream, I appreciated the temperature contrasts and the fact that I was eating fiber via apples... but I think you know where I'm going with this. The chocolate torte won over my taste buds for sure.

Whew! I'm full. Good thing though because tomorrow night is a work dinner at some steakhouse I'm sure, so I need to store some extra calories. Back to my home, kitchen, and honey in Houston on Friday.