Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Back soon

I've almost recovered from Coachella ... and now I'm off to Disneyland.

I'll be back soon with food updates from both!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

My so-called pizza

The girls came over recently for a marathon viewing of "My So-Called Life," which was my favorite show when I was in high school. I remember watching it specifically to get ideas for what to wear to class the next day. I wanted to be like Rayanne, even though I was more like Angela, always trying to assert my own identity and always obsessing after the boy who ignored me.

So what do you serve up with that much angst?

Pizza, of course.

Vegan pizza

The recipe for the crust came from Vegan With a Vengeance, and it's the best pizza crust I've ever made. Then I sauced it up and added sliced mushrooms, diced red pepper, sliced seitan sausages and big dollops of fresh pesto.

It is totally good enough to make Jordan Catalano fall in love with you.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The proof is in the pudding

Chocolate fix

JASON: So what is this?

ME: Chocolate pudding.

JASON: Well, I know that. But what's in it?

ME: I don't know. A bunch of crap I blended together until it tasted good.

JASON: Uh, could you elaborate please?

ME: Tofu. Cocoa powder. A couple squares of dark chocolate. Vanilla extract. A pinch of brown sugar. A splash of almond milk that was about to go bad. Two old dark-chocolate covered espresso beans that I found floating around in the pantry; I think they might have been from Valentine's Day. Pretty much whatever was laying around ...

JASON: I think it's better that I don't know.

ME: Yes.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Getting juiced

I juice some crazy stuff. If it goes in the crisper, chances are I've juiced it.

Some of the results are pretty terrible. (Uh, a spinach, garlic and jicama concoction comes to mind ...)

But every once in a while, I end up with something that tastes almost magical.

Here's the surprisingly good juice I made this morning:

Not Guinness

It was made of four celery stalks, one giant broccoli stem, two pink lady apples and a tiny blood orange.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

On a roll

I don't think most people consider nori a pantry staple, but I sure do. That way I'm always ready to make sushi when the mood strikes.

And it did last week.

Vegan sushi

I made a spicy eggplant mixture that I was hoping would taste similar to the weird mush in some spicy tuna rolls. The flavor worked well, though the texture was a tad too smooshy. I think I'm on to something though.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Wine and dine

For a story I'm working on, I had a small wine tasting with my friends on Sunday to sample five bottles from Frogmore Creek.

It was challenging to come up with a variety of dishes light enough for a hot evening (it almost got up to 100 degrees), substantial enough to hold us through five bottles of wine and cheap enough for my budget.

For starters, I made spinach and artichoke dip and baguettes. For dessert I chilled a spicy Mexican chocolate rice pudding. One of my friends brought wonderful, syrupy sweet strawberries and candied nuts.

And for the main course I made fresh gnocchi from scratch with thyme vinaigrette and lemon cashew cream, a recipe from VeganYumYum.

I've never made homemade gnocchi before, and it was more time-consuming than I thought it would be.

First you have to bake a couple russet potatoes, then peel and grate them. Let that air dry for a little bit, then shape into a ball. Add flour.

Potato with flour

Combine to form a weird dough. Not too sticky, not too dry, not too combined, not too lumpy ...

Gnocchi dough

Roll that out into a long dough snake, then cut into bite-sized chunks.

Gnocchi pillows

Curl each chunk around the tines of a fork, until they look like real gnocchi. (Don't forget to say, "Awwww!" and nearly die from the complete adorableness of what you've made.)

Gnocchi dents

Boil. The second, third, fourth and fifth batches turned out better than the first; I think it holds together better when there's starch in the water.

Boiling gnocchi

The photo really doesn't do the dish justice. Each gnocchi was a little pillow of potato perfection. The thyme vinaigrette was salty and grassy, while the cashew cream had a really bright taste that melted all the other flavors together. (The cream looks lumpy here, but it was silky smooth and delicious.)

Finished dish

It was a dish that was truly worth the effort. I'm really glad I had people here to impress!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Rabbit food

I have this co-worker. Every time he talks about a restaurant, I ask, "Do they have anything for vegetarians?" and he says, "Well, yeah. They have salads."

I don't know who started the rumor that vegetarians/vegans only eat salad, but I wish it would stop.

Sometimes when I say I'm vegan, I can see the wheels turning in people's heads, imagining me night after night with a tiny plate of wilted iceberg, sad slivers of carrot and one fat wedge of hothouse tomato.

Bleh. I am not a hamster.

Don't get me wrong: I do enjoy a salad every now and then, but by no means are they my only source of sustenance. And the salads that I do eat are far from ordinary fare.

I eat inventive, fun salads with bright, vibrant flavors, like this kale salad, tossed with creamy avocado and chipotle dressing:

Kale salad

This yin-yang salad is another standard in my household, since the sweetness of beets and carrots go so well together. (And for some reason, I enjoy them both more when they're shredded. Maybe because they look more fancy?) I made this with a dressing of wasabi oil and rice vinegar.

Yin and yang salad

I was seduced by this jicama salad at Mijita, a casual cocina Mexicana owned by celeb chef Traci des Jardins in San Francisco. The pink grapefruit and avocado were an unexpected but perfect pair.

Jicama salad

Hardly your typical rabbit food.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Not buying it

I don't remember exactly how the idea was hatched, but somehow I came up with this plan: I won't buy anything for one month, then I'll write about my experience for the paper.

But in our society it's pretty much impossible to not buy anything, unless you pull a Christopher McCandless and completely fall off the grid. Instead of doing that, I came up with a few rules to rein in my spending:

1. I will still pay my bills and rent.
2. I can fill my car with gas.
3. I can buy food, though only with a budget of $25/week. (And that's for me and Jason.)

Making this even more challenging is that I'm trying to ease into the "Eat to Live" plan, which involves consuming a ton of fruits and veggies. I know I could easily make it through a month on ramen noodles and pasta; it's a lot more difficult to stay on a tight budget while eating a balanced, organic produce-based diet.

So far spending less on food has been much harder than not spending in other areas. I'm fine with not shopping for new clothes. I'm OK with not meeting up with my friends at the movies. I'm fine skipping out on the bars. I don't need to swing by Coffee Bean on my way to work. It's been hard, but not impossible.

But I'm not OK with staring longingly at a can of artichoke hearts at Trader Joe's and knowing that I can't have any.

I did some searches online for how to be thrifty at the grocery store. A lot of the stories I found were about those "super shoppers" who can go into a store and come out with a cart full of hot dogs, chips and cereal for just $1.73 or whatever -- but most of those tips don't apply to me. They don't make coupons for cabbage or nutritional yeast or any of the other things I buy. And tofu never seems to go on sale.

I've done OK, though. I pretty much cut out processed food altogether. I switched from canned beans to dried. I got a lot of deals at the farmers market. I shopped the produce sales. I made a lot of stuff into soup.

Tomato and bean soup

The first week I went over budget by 52 cents. That's not bad, considering that I helped to host a party on Saturday night for about 10 people and made a bunch of food for that, which also came out of my grocery budget.


I did make one exception so far both on my spending and on "Eat to Live" -- I went out to lunch on Friday for Deborah's going-away party. She's a good friend, and I would have been really upset if I hadn't gone. Plus, yummy Indian food!

Indian food

Any tips for how to save more on food?

I don't think I'm quite ready for freeganism yet ...

Friday, April 4, 2008


I was supposed to go to some event the other night where the meat would be real and the people fake. In other words, it didn't sound fun.

Plus it was a chilly night ...

My couch looked so comfy ...

I wanted to curl up with a blanket ...

And I know where the best food is ...

My kitchen.

Comfort food

(The BBQ tofu recipe came from Veganomicon. Perfectly roasted veggies were all my own.)

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Half-assed stirfry

Getting home from work at 8 p.m. + Jason at night school = wimpy stirfry.

Here we have Trader Joe kung pao noodles, plus some mushrooms, broccoli, water chestnuts and tofu.

But you know what? It's STILL better than most of the takeout I could get around here. And half the price, too.

Half-assed stirfry

Besides, our household is too busy growing orchids lately to spend too much time in the kitchen.

Check out some of our new blooms: