beer: it's what's for dinner.

i'm so in love with the beer brats i made yesterday, i worry all my meals might be centered around them. it's not unlikely, but i figure one day is too short a time for the honeymoon to be over, so i built a beerific dinner around them tonight. while drinking a beer (stone ruination IPA), i combined...

1 medium onion, sautéed in some canola oil,
3 beer brats, sliced thick and lightly browned with the onions,
1 mess of potatoes, cubed, and
half a small head of red cabbage, roughly chopped...

...with a cup or so of water and a cup or more of beer, to get the steaming going. chucked a lid on the pan and tried to distract myself so i wasn't watching the clock.

some time later, i got up and found everything was cooked just so. i chucked in a few caraway seeds for good measure and let things sit off the heat while i opened another beer. (credit where credit is due: i loosely based this on the kielbasa/potato/cabbage combination my mom used to make, though she forewent the beer and caraway.)

i served it with a little bit of beer mustard for the brats and a beer for drinking. i thought briefly it might have been a six-pack kind of dinner, with 6 beer appearances, but now i'm only finding five. i can't be bothered to do the maths on a dinner like this.

also, the picture is crappy and purple-y from nighttime and red cabbage and a geometry book. whatever.


eat your veggies, brats!

i tested joanna's beer brats tonight and they changed my life.
steamed seitan sausages, pioneered by julie hasson, is so incredible. combine the great texture with joanna's knack for flavoring (and a palate that sees eye-to-eye with mine - never mind the nonsensical nature of that metaphor) and you wind up with logs of straight genius. i tried one tonight, grilled for a few minutes on the stovetop and slathered with brown mustard, and it was phenomenal. rumor has it they're even better when cooled and reheated. i can't imagine.

i was hanging out with handsome william a couple weeks ago and he was eating some mixed veg for dinner. i have to admit i snuck a few bites (taking veggies from babies?!) and realized i haven't been including enough produce in my diet. so i sliced and steamed some carrots and quick-cooked some peas + corn to serve with my seitan and dare i say they rivaled the star of the plate. i will never understand people who claim to not like vegetables.

the final great thing about this dinner is that it will make my, indeed would make any, mother proud!


veganmofo #5: girlcrush.

i know keep saying it, but i feel like isa is not getting sufficiently jealous, so i must AGAIN point out that it seems terry hope romero taps right in to what fuels me, foodwise. okay, yeah, i know food is my fuel but i'm not talking strictly of nutritional sustenance here.

the onset of fall has made me long for hearty stews and soups. ever on the lookout for a reason to cook with beer, i decided to make a batch of the gumbo terry created for veganomicon tonight. never mind that i was in the late stages of a migraine and i have (yes, have...not done yet) a class's worth of tests to grade and 2 tests to make for tomorrow, on top of about eleventy billion other nuisance tasks. oh, wait, those aren't nuisance tasks. those are my job duties. i think i'm going to pursue national board certification, so i guess it might be a good idea to tend to them. but i need energy to do these things! and food = energy! what the hell do you think a calorie is, anyway? ugh, someone needs to go back and review their notes from high school health class.

anyway, terry's gumbo is no frigging joke. it's smoky and packed with veggies and has a stick-to-your-ribbedness that can't be beat. temperatures here in NYC are hovering around the 50s & 60s, so it's the perfect time for a meal like this. i'm sure i'll be repeating it time and again between now and april. ugh, so far away.

speaking of repeating, i cooked so late that it was way too dark to take a picture, so i'm just going to repost the gumbo shot i posted last year. (i feel kind of bad that i took 2 weeks off only to come back and rehash old dishes, but these are tried-and-true won't-let-you-downers. some things bear repeating!)


veganmofo #4: blugh.

i have been so uninspired to even cook anything for a couple weeks, likely due to a low-level cold or flu that i've been more or less successfully fighting off for the past two weeks. i'm tired as all get-out, but at least the only symptoms i've succumbed to thus far are a wee cough around bedtime, some minor stuffiness, and a couple of headaches. it's the being freaking EXHAUSTED that has been most prevalent, though.

however, yesterday i had a rare day of productivity. not only did i get up and do laundry and clean my kitchen before 11am, i also managed to go food shopping for critical ingredients to three of my favorite dishes from veganomicon. as it turned out, i only had energy to make two of them yesterday, but the third is on deck for sometime in the next couple of days.

terry's caesar salad is my most favorite way to eat raw greens EVER. the dressing is so simple it practically makes itself and when combined with some romaine lettuce and croutons, it makes for a salad that i not only want to eat but find myself craving. who'd have thunk it?!

and since autumn decided to make itself known this weekend, i figured it was time for one of my favorite fall dishes - pumpkin ziti with caramelized onions and sage breadcrumbs. (i don't know if that's the correct name, but i'm barely keeping my eyes open at this point, so it'll have to do.)

since i've been so lax about updating my mofo, i wanted to make sure to record my recent productivity. i'm not such a deadbeat flight-of-fancier, after all!

then i realized that i made both of these dishes during last year's mofo.
what can i say, like leek & bean cassoulet and gumbo, these two dishes make me think of jumping in fluffy piles of redorangeyellow leaves and wrapping a scarf 'round my head to run out to get a beer.

it's gonna have to do.


veganmofo #3: veganmofa

okay, so far not so good.

i started out the month on a high note, with that ice cream. but i've been really tired and uninspired the last couple of days, so not much cooking is going on. so i'm dedicating this veganmofo post to two awesome non-food items i've recently acquired. this is my Vegan Month of Fashion post. (ignore that only half of it's fashion-related.)

1. down alternative comforter

i've wanted to get one of these for a few years - at least since i moved back to the northeast. i finally broke down and snagged one from overstock.com and, MAN, am i happy i did. (note: dog also thrilled.) it's giving me all the weight and warmth of a down comforter with none of the bad karma hauntings that come with snuggling under a coat of feathers that were never intended for me. i'm stupid for having waited so long to get one. (for other reasons, surely, but this one is at my mind's forefront.)

2. faux leather jacket

again, been wanting this forevers. i keep my dad's old leather bomber jacket, but it's both beat up and sad, so i don't wear it very often. but i really love the look of a plain leather-like jacket. i found this one at urban outfitters online (go ahead, judge me) and took a chance. it really could have gone either way: totally sucky or freaking awesome. lucky for me, it was the latter. this jacket makes me feel hot. and not because i'm wearing it while snuggled under my new comforter, either.


veganmofo #2: my vegan achilles heel.

i'm sure i've gone years without eating a single marshmallow.
now that sweet & sara's are readily available, though, i'm helpless against my cravings for sweet little puffy pillows. so hooked am i that it seems perfectly reasonable that i had a marshmallow for breakfast today, then finished off what was left of the tiny $7 package of vanillas i bought only 24 hours ago.
washed down with a beer.

had i the energy or inclination, i might strive to supplement the day's meals with foods that fall outside the realm of dessert ingredients.
had i another package of marshmallows, however, i'd be fast on my way to a killer stomachache.

is it just because regular marshmallows aren't vegan that these things have become so prized?


veganmofo #1: chocomint cookie ice cream.

i don't know that there's anything i can or need to say about this ice cream, but...

i'd like to first thank pandacookie, whose suggestion of using vitasoy peppermint chocolate soymilk to make ice cream during warm weather months has haunted me since january. i never got around to making it during the summer, but it hit the spot on this beautifully sunny first of october.

paula provided not only inspiration (it was one or both of us who decided that the addition of candy cane joe-joes was essential) but also constant reminding that this simply HAD to happen.

also, i don't know agnes but it was a recipe from her vegan ice cream paradise that i used to whip this up today.

making ice cream without an electric ice cream maker was simple as can be, required very little kitchen time, and resulted one of the tastiest vegan ice creams i've ever had. it was a little crystal-y, only because i had to leave to meet friends for dinner instead of staying home, dutifully blending.

i've been a little on the fence about winter's impending arrival, but this little enterprise helped me turn a corner today and i'm now looking forward to all the season brings. i love cooking in the colder months and really want to up my culinary ante. i hope that this month's challenge will get me geared up and inspired to be more creative and daring in the kitchen, even as i continue to learn about cooking's fundamentals.
i can't wait to see what other veganmofos have in store!

(recipe heavily adapted from here!)
3 c vitasoy chocolate peppermint soymilk
2 T arrowroot powder
1 c crushed candy cane joe-joes

set soymilk to boil, reserving a bit to mix with the arrowroot. (agnes says 1/4 cup. i didn't bother measuring...)
thoroughly mix the reserved soymilk and arrowroot.
when the soymilk comes to a boil, remove it from the heat and add the arrowroot slurry. it should start to thicken a little, noticeable by the way it coats a spoon. (it won't get thick, though. just thicker.)

since i don't have an ice cream maker, here's the freezing method i used:
after your soymilk & arrowroot are mixed, pour the mixture into an 8x8 pyrex dish. (i'd put mine in the freezer a little earlier, so it was already frosty.) place the dish in the freezer.
every half hour or so, remove the mixture and mix it up to prevent it from freezing solid. i used a fork and an immersion blender, but i guess you can also run it through a food processor or just fork it.
when the ice cream is starting to set sufficiently, after a couple of hours, mix in the crushed cookies.



lipstick-wearers for mccain/palin?

i know this is kind of beside the point of this blog, but...

i promised the masters of this website i would pass on info about their ridiculous and infuriating policy of donating $1 to the mccain/palin campaign for every one of these hideous lipsticks sold, so here is my passing on of said info.

i know it's small potatoes, but these people present themselves as environmentalists, yet intend to make donations to that campaign based on sales of "power pink" lipstick, which is apparently perfect for sarah palin while it also "celebrates the many faces of women as girlfriends, wives, mothers, entrepreneurs, corporate executives and even vice presidents."

if you should feel so inclined (as i did), please contact them and let them know how paradoxical it is that they purport to be concerned environmentalists yet are supporting candidates who are anything but.

for reference, the league of conservation voters' most recent scorecard gives john mccain a ZERO percent on environmental voting. couple that with palin's views that global warming is not the result of human activity, polar bears should be removed from the endangered species list, and her gung-ho attitude towards drilling in ANWR and there's pretty clear evidence that these two do not "offer a very balanced policy on the safety of our environment, both for now and for the changes that need to be made in the future," which harry maddox (i'm assuming the husband of pamela cronan-maddox, who runs the alchemist's apprentice website) said they had concluded after doing "a great deal of research."

sorry to go on. it just really pisses me off.
thanks for reading...and for writing to them, should you so choose.


about using cookbooks.

a reason to read the recipe fully and carefully before you start making food:
if you don't, you will finish prepping everything before you realize it takes 75 minutes to cook.

a reason not to read the recipe fully and carefully before you start making food:
you will not realize it takes 75 minutes to cook and therefore not be swayed away from making maple-mustard-glazed potatoes and string beans (VwaV). holy tuesday, batman!

crappy picture, but that's what happens when your dinner has to cook until ~9PM.


using cookbooks.

katie said we need to use our cookbooks more and i think that's a right-on idea. i've really only made select dishes from any of my cookbooks and i know there are some gems within that remain hidden to me. time to start digging.

recipes to try in the next couple weeks, all from vegan with a vengeance:
1. baking powder biscuits and white bean gravy.
2. potato-asparagus soup
3. mango summer rolls
4. tempeh-mango salad sammiches
5. brooklyn pad thai
6. strawberry-rhubarb-peach pie

i'll do a few here, during my last week of vacation in florida, and a couple when i get back to NYC.



i went with my friend larry to sublime in ft. lauderdale a few weeks ago. i drove past a zillion times when i lived in south florida and every time i visited after i moved back to NYC, it was kind of unclear whether they were open or not. apparently there was some internal restructuring, but now they're open for business and came highly recommended!

the restaurant interior is beautiful, really streamlined and structured to capitalize on the sun streaming through the two giant skylights. i felt like taking interior shots was a bit too much and i'm not inspired to be more descriptive, so you'll just have to make do with that lame synopsis.

the owner stopped by to say hi while we were sitting at the bar and also checked on us after dinner. she seemed really happy, like there was nowhere else she'd rather be. that's a pretty good sign, i think. the menu states that 100% of profits are donated to animal rights organizations. i don't know how the specifics of that works out, but right on anyway.

here's what we had to eat. we washed them down with yummy lychee martinis and mojitos. mmm.
(note: happy hour, 5:30-7, M-F. two-for-one drinks at the bar!)

pesto polenta amuse bouche.
this was really good! honestly, probably my favorite of all the food. that may seem a little odd, seeing as it was just an amuse bouche, but it was really flavorful and the texture of the polenta was couscous-y and perfect.

these were okay, nothing special. the seitan had a good texture but i think maybe there was too much bun and/or not enough accompaniments. the special sauce was kind of bland and the cheese (it seems like they use follow your heart or something similar) was just kind of...there.

mac + cheeze.
this smelled JUST LIKE traditional mac + cheese. it was tasty, if a little dry, and again the FYH-like-quality of the cheese was pretty evident. i would have liked it better had it been prepared with a little more bechamel. still, you can't really go wrong with mac + cheeze so i was happy enough.

this was my entree. i ordered it not only because i LOVE piccata, but also because i wanted to compare it to the stupendous seitan piccata at candle 79. the chickeny seitan was breaded and pan-fried and the sauce was good, but i could have used some more capers. (i'm crazy for capers, though, so that might just be my thing.) it was served with olive oil whipped potatoes, which were nice, and grilled fresh asparagus.
i know candle's piccata is a hard act to follow and perhaps it's not fair to judge by comparison, but i couldn't help but do so. candle's version is, in my view, culinary perfection. sublime's piccata definitely doesn't disappoint, it's just not anything to write home about. but seriously, if you're writing home about piccata, maybe it's time to get out and see the sights or something.

sublime loaf.
larry ordered this and i'm really glad he did. i've not experimented much with loafs, but i know they are a great way to incorporate protein and the combinations of ingredients are nearly limitless. i only had one bite, but it was yummy. served with wasabi red bliss mash (can't go wrong there) and more fresh asparagus. i'll definitely order this next time i visit sublime.

for the first time in recent memory, i restrained myself and decided against ordering dessert. larry and i have vowed to go back for coconut creme cake and key lime pie sometime, but i experienced a rare moment of self-control that night.

i'm really glad to see an all-vegan restaurant in south florida and, particularly, one that's "nice" but not TOO nice. we had appetizers, entrees, and drinks, and i'm pretty sure our bill was less than $100. i had four lychee martinis all night, though, so i can't be positive. sublime's atmosphere is casual, but the emphasis they place on the quality of their food preparation is obvious.

all things considered, i really enjoyed my visit. a couple things were great and everything was at least good. hopefully they'll be around for a long time and i can stop in whenever i'm in south florida!



i haven't read it, but wikipedia tells me that the eric frank russell short story now inhale refers to the tower of hanoi game as "arkymalarky." myself, i think tower of hanoi, or even tower of brahma or tower of benares, is a much more dignified name for this compelling little math game.

the object is to move a set of graduated spherical solids from one position to another, usually indicated by pegs. there must be at least one empty peg on which to hold the spheres, a sphere may not be placed atop another with a smaller diameter, and the final tower must exactly mimic the starting configuration.

naturally, there are algorithmic ways to approach the puzzle and it gets more challenging as the number of spheres increases. here's a fun little virtual tower to play with.


peachy custardy cobblery crumble

desdemona brought up the idea of making this kind of a dish and it turned into kind of a call for experimentation among myself + jordanpattern. i have been feeling really stifled in the kitchen lately, like i've lost the ability to improvise, and this was just the thing i needed to get my cooking juices flowing again. it wasn't a complete success, but the part that wasn't successful didn't impact the rest of it and the rest of it was SLAMMIN'.
here goes:

5 medium peaches, peeled and sliced
1/3 c. demerara sugar
1 t cinnamon

custard (optional):
4 T bird's custard powder
3 T demerara sugar
3 c. rice milk, plus a few T extra

crumble topping:
3/4 c. AP flour
1/2 c. margarine, cold
1/2 c. light brown sugar

preheat oven to 350.
combine the cinnamon and 1/3 c. sugar. layer the peaches in an 8x12 baking dish and sprinkle the cinnamon sugar mixture over them. bake for 15 minutes.

while peaches are baking, prepare the custard. combine the custard powder and sugar in a bowl and mix well with a splash of milk.
heat the rice milk to nearly boiling and pour into the custard/sugar paste. mix well and return to the pot, heating to the boil.
here's where my problem came in: my custard never set. i'm not sure if it's because of the rice milk, if i might've accidently left out 1 T of powder, if i didn't heat it long enough. but it was thick over the heat and thinned out once it cooled a little. like, too thin. i'll keep experimenting with it, and it tasted fine once all done, but i think the custard part is totally optional because the peaches would be fine with just the crumble topping.
pour the custard over the peaches, just to cover them. you might not need to use the entire 2 pints of custard.
bake for 15 minutes.

while the peaches + custard are baking, prepare the crumble topping by mixing the flour and sugar and cutting in the cold margarine. mash with a fork, your fingers, whatever, until everything is well combined and crumbly.

increase oven temp to 400.
sprinkle the topping over the peach/custard mixture and bake for an additional 25 minutes.

then i let it cool down and topped it with a little soyatoo. oh, man.


memphis IV.

i have been trialing a memphis-style barbecue sandwich, traditionally bbq pulled pork topped with cole slaw, for months now.

round 1:
my first attempt utilized some morningstar farms beefesque strips, mainly out of laziness. it was a raging success, so i set out to properly recreate the sandwich without using super-processed frozen foods.
i am down with cole slaw, but i am REALLY down with celeriac slaw. it is tangy and tasty and really elevates this sandwich. there's a really good vegan recipe out there on the interwebs but i'm not going to bother linking to it. just search for "celery remoulade" if you're hot for it.

round 2:

tofu, is there anything you can't do?! i cut a block of frozen, pressed, tofu into sort-of strips and marinated them in a bunch of junk: liquid smoke, molasses, probably a whole host of other things i can't remember. easy, check. cheaper and better than frozen "meal starter" strips, check.
but still, the feel of the sandwich was kind of...off.

round 3:
i don't think i even bothered blogging round 3. i grated some seitan on a box grater and sautéed it in bbq sauce. it tasted grody.
i think i also was famished when i undertook round 3 and tried to throw together my slaw too quickly, ignoring obvious missteps in procedure.
i'm pretty sure i tried to pick the slaw off the sandwich unsuccessfully before finally giving up, in disgust, and eating angel hair for dinner. AGAIN.

round 4:
my buddy mike has been promising to send me canned jackfruit in brine for months, but he hasn't because he's real-jobless in san francisco. i mean, mopping jizz at the lusty lady is a job, but it's not a good job-type job in an expensive city, so i haven't pressed him about it. PLUS, i have been promising to send him a bottle of brooklyn local one for months and have neglected to, despite the fact that i DO have a real job-type job and i live kinda close to a post office and work even closer to another post office. but, really, i've been BUSY! where am i going with this?
oh, i managed to track down some jackfruit here in NYC, at dual specialty products (formerly dowel quality products), an AWESOME indian grocery that stocks massive amounts of essential cooking supplies. (also, where i got my first indian mango.) so finally, today, the 4th of july, after i had spent 3 hours "cleaning" my kitchen only to find myself halfway through a major restructuring and reorganization process, i simultaneously threw my towel and my hat into the ring and decided the time for bbq jackfruit had come.
folks were making jackfruit carnitas like it was going out of style a few months back, with good results. i'm happy to report that my endeavor was typically successful.
i soaked and rinsed the jackfruit to remove most of the brine they were canned in, then marinated them in bbq sauce for a bit. then i fried up two thick slices of vidalia onion (untraditional, but delicional) before sautéeing the jackfruit pieces in some more sauce, breaking them up with a fork as they cooked. threw together a small batch of celeriac slaw and here, my friends, is what i ended up with:

easy, check. cheaper and better than frozen "meal starter" strips, check. better mouthfeel than tofu, check. just what the doctor ordered when you're gutting your apartment and reorganizing/cleaning everything because you're heading out of NYC for 7 weeks and it's the least you can do to leave a sparkling (all things relative) pad for your subletter, check.

i still have one more trial round, utilizing the ever-popular soy curls. if i don't object to them, as is the case i've heard with a few people, i have a feeling they will be the winner. the jackfruit is pretty awesome, but i think i'd like something a tiny bit sturdier for the memphis.
ideally, i'll make it sometime next week and i can put this project to bed.
in the meantime, however, i'm glad i decided to make this today because it's motherflipping july already and despite isa's nagging i haven't posted anything since may.
didn't i say i'd been BUSY?!


william rocks the hanbok.

at his birthday party yesterday, this handsome devil foretold his future.
he is to be a great scholar!

also, a cake-smashing ladies man.



i've recently (and temporarily) given up cooking (and cleaning), choosing instead to focus my energies on fretting (and agonizing). i haven't much felt like writing, either, for the past month or so - first because i was enjoying the springtime too much and then because the aforementioned fret & agony kicked in.

old milo has developed cognitive dysfunction. i mean, he has dementia. since i haven't posted about it, i feel like it's had a really quick onset. poor thing. (me? or him? whatever.) it's a total roller coaster situation; he has his good days and his bad. thing is, his good days are still pretty bad but his bad days are not at all good. he was pacing like a lunatic initially. when that subsided a little, i worried that he was on his way out. he spent so much time sleeping and slept so soundly that i had to physically rouse him to go out. well, he's gone back to pacing a lot - which i find...encouraging?! - but now i'm losing sleep over the lack of "cold, wet" on his nose.
maybe some drugs will help, but not for a month or so. and that's after they finally arrive, since i opted for $0.17-per-pill online ordering over $1-per-pill at the corner pharmacy.

my no-cooking philosophy, which has seemed not so much a lifestyle choice as an admission of defeat, is really taking its toll. i feel like shit physically because i'm just not fueled properly. this is an unfortunate recurring cycle for me - i feel bad so i eat poorly so i feel bad, ad infinitum.
so this week i intend to snap out of my funk and start taking care to make myself feel better. lots of fresh fruit and veg and satisfying lunches packed for work every day. fortuitously, i did some testing for joanna's next yellow rose book prior to falling into the pit of nutritional despair, so i have lots of easy options to put in rotation. like...

3-bean salad with warm cumin lime vinaigrette

cabbage salad with lemon dill dressing

lemon mint pasta with zucchini and petit pois
(or peas, if you shop in washington heights.)

and the worst picture of the bunch but the biggest hit amongst all the YRR testers, southern-style "chick" salad. (with grapes!)

in final news, it's a babytastic week 'round these parts. tomorrow is my little love william's first birthday (his korean "dol!") and his future girlfriend kelly finally made her appearance this week, born may 6th at 6:40 a.m. i can't wait to meet her tomorrow!


the accidental eavesdropper.

one of the mixed blessings of my apartment is its location on the ground floor of the building. i have a private entrance, a rarity in the city, so i can get the dogs in and out without being a nuisance to other tenants. but although it's east-facing, i don't get a lot of sunlight, it being blocked by the buildings across the street.

now that spring is in the air and it's getting warmer outside, i've been opening my windows, four of which face the sidewalk. so i get to hear a lot of conversation snippets as people walk by. they're usually pretty trite, as i guess most conversation is, but sometimes i'll get lucky and hear something that makes me laugh. and then there are the times when i feel like i'm hearing things i shouldn't, things that are meant only for the person to whom they're directed. just now, for example:

he: "i can say that."
she: "no, you can't say that. you want to know why?"
he: "why?"
she: "because for three months, i cried every day. so, no, you cannot say that i was happy."

i felt bad for overhearing, though to be fair these people weren't exactly keeping it down.
but mostly i just felt bad for them. bad for her, obviously, for having been so unhappy for such a long time. and for him, too, because it must hurt to find out now that he was so wrong or so blind or so whatever that he just couldn't see the truth.

there's still time; hopefully another passerby will lighten the mood tonight.


nice pair.

it always makes me super happy when i'm out with the dogs and a passerby says something nice about them. big dogs and pit bulls don't always elicit pleasantries, i've found, particular not in my neck of the woods; it's the rare stranger who recognizes and acknowledges their awesomeness!
while raja is stuck in seemingly perpetual puppyhood, milo continues to age (relatively) gracefully. at almost 13 years old, he's as beautiful as ever and his gentle nature remains unchanged. i have seen the advancing years take their effect on his body, though, and am ever conscious that he won't be with me forever. though i'm pretty confident he'll see another birthday, i sometimes wonder whether he's experiencing his lasts. and even though i don't expect him to leave me in the immediate future, it is really nice when a stranger passes along a compliment - about either of my boys, but particularly the oldest man.

when we were out walking tonight, a woman passed us and said simply: "nice pair."
i had to laugh because it sounded kind of inappropriate and perverse, but it really was such a sweet thing to say. she was so right on.


over the weather.

to my mind, there's nothing quite like a good, harrowing sickness to really force some reëvaluation into one's life. old habits and patterns and mindsets are called into question in a desperate "why me?" quest to understand what it is that ails. and while the path to a new understanding is fraught with phlegm and woe, coming out alive and with a renewed outlook can almost make it seem worthwhile.


last saturday, i was sidelined by the grippe of death. a trip to the urgent care clinic on tuesday started me on proper recovery, but it wasn't until friday that i really started to feel human again. (i do have to note, though, that i'm glad i didn't listen to all those people who said i'd have to "ride it out." there's a lot to be said for the relief that can come from treating a flu's symptoms!) as i have emerged from the sick fog, i've been giving a lot of mind-time to questions of where i am - at times, more literal than others - and also to where i am heading.

i've been living in my apartment in washington heights for nearly three years now and i think it was only june and july of 2005 when i truly felt happy here. there are a whole host of reasons why that is, but it's the unfortunate reality, so i find myself considering a move with ever greater frequency. the catch, of course, is that moving is an unreasonable prospect. my rent is affordable, i'm 15 blocks from work, and my neighborhood is as quiet and pleasant as any i'm likely to find. when i consider areas where i'd consider living, they're prohibitively expensive, distant, or both. red hook, brooklyn was my most recent fling; it has high rent and crazy travel possibilities in spades!
so rather than moving, i'm resigned to spending the next two years of my teaching contract in this apartment. i'm not, however, resigned to being unhappy here, so i'm embarking on a big spring cleaning and decluttering, to be followed by painting and maybe some furniture upgrading. if nothing else, hopefully my projects will keep me busy enough that i won't be dwelling on what could be.
my state of where extends, naturally, beyond the walls of my apartment. i'm just over halfway through my five-year commitment with Math for America and have thus far not had any great misgivings about accepting my newton fellowship. i have found, however, that discontented naggings are coming more frequently and i'm (again) faced with the reality that new york is not my place. although that's temporary, it still leaves me feeling kind of up in the air, as i'm not sure where my place is, if indeed i have one.
changing one's geography is easy enough, though. what really vexes me is that while i'm relatively happy and satisfied with my job - certainly much more fulfilled than i've ever been before - i'm not sure it's, well, enough. but, then, i don't know that anything could be and am well aware that i may be chasing some ideal that will never materialize. again, i've got a couple of years left on my contract. i'm going to try to use that time wisely, exploring other options and interests and if i don't come up with something that's more "right" for me, i'll hopefully at least be upping my satisfaction level, in general.

ah, well, these are all longer-term thoughts. what really matters most now is that i'm returning to work tomorrow after a week off and i'm trying to keep my focus squarely on being healthy. i ventured out to fairway yesterday to stock up on groceries because i just didn't eat much when i was sick and i don't feel up to eating anything too process-y. got lots of fresh produce and some staples and i'm off to plan some meals for the week that are healthy and light. the weather is warming up and there's a definite spring-like air about new york right now, which i think helped lift me out of the sick doldrums high enough that i could start to look to the future.
i started the week off with the most perfect, sunshine-y breakfast i could think of: lemon soy yogurt, ezekiel sprouted grain cereal, and a bunch of fresh berries. i honestly don't think there's any way you could improve on such a meal. it's the kind of fuel i really need right now, nutritionally and otherwise. i'm putting it in heavy rotation.


brunch bunch.

brunch is the most awesome hybrid meal and it's kind of anything-goes, so i'm really excited that isa is working on a vegan brunch cookbook, the crack of noon. (which, to be honest, is on the early side for me as far as brunch goes unless someone else is doing the cooking, but that it is a catchy title cannot be denied.) i treated myself to a gigantic pre-oscars meal yesterday and finally got around to making a few of the recipes she's released for testing.

i've never made a frittata before, i guess because it never really spoke to me. i didn't expect all that much from this swiss chard frittata recipe, but boy was i ever underselling it. it's a really simple tofu-chard-seasonings mixture, but something happens during baking that elevates it beyond the simplicity of its ingredients. it's hearty and healthy and a really satisfying dish for brunch or anytime, really. i guess there's something to be said for feeling like a testing slacker because i probably wouldn't have made this if i didn't. anyway, it's opened my eyes to the wonderful world of frittatas. disillusionment can be a beautiful thing.

potatoes + brunch = no-brainer. they're easy to cook and hard to screw up. perfect for hungover brunches, lazy brunches, buffet brunches...in fact, i feel like if you're calling something a "brunch," there better damn well be potatoes involved. i made these paprika rosemary potatoes with hot hungarian paprika and they were a touch spicier than i'd have liked, but i think isa meant for them to be made with sweet paprika. but, i mean, potatoes are forgiving and there are more brunch occasions that call for spiciness than not (see "hungover brunches"), so i think just reducing the seasoning would do just fine.

and last but not least, a two-fer: herbed whole wheat drop biscuits with smoked almond gravy. this was like a flavor explosion. the biscuits are super-simple to make and tasty in their own right, but smothered in this gravy that's impossible to screw up and so fast to prepare it's practically done before you start, they took this meal to new heights. even if isa doesn't include any variations on the biscuit recipe, i'm sure i'll tinker with it and come up with my own different versions because they're so delicious and easy they'd readily complement many meals.

my regular countdown to the weekend has taken on a heightened urgency thanks to this meal. i can't wait to try out some of isa's other brunch foods. only this time, i'll start cooking a little earlier so i eat before 3PM. i guess it's good that i ate late yesterday, though, because it carried me through to a late-ish dinner of hot dogs and potato salad at the 1st Annual I Drink Your Milkshake Oscars Social. slurp.


muffin challenge #3: raspberry muffins!

the muffin challenge has been on hiatus, but i know debya's going to bring a new combination today. with raspberry still on the table, i thought it high time to get baking.
i considered adding another flavor element - citrus, chocolate, cream cheese - but opted, instead, to do a straightforward raspberry muffin. i adapted it pretty much straight from a real simple recipe i found, which lent itself nicely to veganization. i'll post a photo when i'm done baking.

raspberry muffins
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup canola oil
3/4 cup soymilk
1/4 cup soy yogurt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups fresh raspberries

heat oven to 400 ° F and line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners.
in a medium bowl, combine 1 3/4 cups of the flour, 1/2 cup of the sugar, the baking powder, and salt. add the earth balance and combine.
in a second bowl, whisk together the oil, soymilk, yogurt, and vanilla. (i used peach yogurt because, well, it's what i had!) gradually add the milk mixture to the flour mixture and stir until just combined. the batter will be lumpy.
toss the berries with the remaining flour in a bowl and gently fold the berry mixture into the batter.
fill each muffin cup 3/4 full. sprinkle the batter with the remaining sugar.
bake for 17 to 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. transfer pan to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. serve warm.


taking back tennessee.

well, it's super tuesday and news has come in that hillary clinton took the majority of delegates in tennessee. here in new york, i was really proud and quite moved to be able to cast my vote for barack obama, so i'm hoping her future gains are few and minor. after visiting the local polling place, at the older adult's luncheon club down the street, i came home and reclaimed tennessee in obama's name by creating a newer, more wallet-friendly version of the memphis forque sandwich i made a couple of months ago. well, truth be told, i wasn't so much trying to cast my vote with my dinner plate as i was seeking to quiet a nagging craving i've had for this meal. it's one of the only things i long for on a regular basis and i've been wanting some bbq and celeriac slaw for a week or so and i finally had to give in.

i was really pleased with this version, which replaced the meal starter strips i used before with some smoky marinated and sautéed bbq tofu. it was way cheaper and easily as good. i'm sure it'll be amazing when i finally get around to preparing it with seitan, but i'm also keen to make a jackfruit carnitas version.
regardless of what the bbq component is, it's the tangy sauce and creamy, dijon-y celeriac slaw that take this sandwich to nosebleed heights. it's so nourishing and delicious with a side of simple potato salad. i'll never take it out of rotation.


beans 'n greens soup.

i should have been grading algebra tests tonight but after my nap i was hungry for some beans & greens soup, so i threw together this little number. it's tastes a lot like it looks: green.
i used less vegetable stock than i would have normally, but i just made a fresh batch the other day and most of it is frozen. i didn't feel like defrosting, so i just used what was in the fridge. this soup is pretty light but so chockfull of stuff that it's got some stewy character. whatever, there's a soup-stew continuum and this is somewhere in the middle. (here, i will admit that i thought i invented the "stoup" concept, only to find that rachael ray, that beast in the kitchen, had already coined the term. so now i'm kind of reëvaluating my life's work and worldview. seriously, those tests will NEVER get graded.)
ate it with some olive oil & garlic ciabatta from trader joe's. would have been perfect with a delicious, crusty italian bread.

spinach, leek & navy bean stoup
1/2 t dried basil
1/2 t dried oregano
1 t ground cumin
1-2 T olive oil
1 stalk celery, halved & thinly sliced
bulbs of 4 leeks, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
32 oz. vegetable stock
~2 cups navy beans (i didn't measure, but it was a few handfuls of cooked beans)
1 pkg. frozen chopped spinach, defrosted
salt, to taste

toast basil, oregano & cumin in stock pot over medium heat for 1-2 minutes, until fragrant.
add olive oil and heat for a minute or so, then sauté celery for 2 minutes.
toss in leeks and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes.
add garlic to stock pot and sauté for an additional minute, being careful not to let garlic brown.
pour in vegetable stock, stir in beans, and bring to a boil. reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
add thawed, drained spinach. cook for 5-7 more minutes, then remove from heat.
add salt to taste. (when i make vegetable stock, i don't add much salt, so i end up having to add more than you would if you used commercial stock or stock powder.)

i ate it right away, but i'm pretty confident it's going to taste so much better tomorrow!


muffin challenge #2: spiced cranberry apple

i flaked on the debya-calcy muffin challenge last weekend, despite the fact that i had three days to get it done. so this weekend, i knew i had some making up to do. come saturday afternoon, i hadn't gotten word from deb of any new muffin outings, so i thought i was off the hook. alas, she came through around 8:30. though i was out, i came home realllly late to find that i was not one but TWO muffins behind. so this is actually the recipe that was due last week and i'll be attacking my newest challenge in the next day or two.

these spicy cranberry apple muffins came out really well balanced, despite a host of SNAFUs i either encountered or caused during the first production run. i made some straight-up stupid mistakes (like, you know, not following preparation directions and creaming the sugar & earth balance, duh.) but they came out really good despite that. i've heard or read about so many people who have major baking issues and it always leaves me thinking that baking is some crazy exact science and if you stumble even the slightest bit you will end up with inedible compost on your counter. not so! i had to improvise with ingredients a little and tweak the batter to correct my mistakes, but i still ended up with a delicious wintertime muffin. i tried one when it was still warm from the oven, and it was good, but i found they're actually better after they've cooled and the flavors have time to develop a little bit. i just ate another half-muffin and it was fantastic!
next time i'll include a streusel top because that would have put these muffins on the express train to awesometown. but as they are, made with half whole wheat flour, they have kind of a healthier feel, so a topping might detract from that.

i'm now undefeated in my muffin challenge, but i'm afraid my judge will consider penalizing me if i continue to be late on delivery. my confidence bolstered, i'm ready to get a handful of raspberries and get to work on debya's next find.

(recipe veganized and adapted from somewhere on the internet, don't know where just now, but i changed it up a fair amount so i'm okay with taking the credit. or blame. as you see fit.)
spiced cranberry apple muffins
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup earth balance margarine
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup applesauce
1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup chopped apples
1/2 cup chopped cranberries

preheat oven to 375 degrees and line a 12-cup muffin pan.
in a medium bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder & soda, and salt.
in a large bowl, cream together earth balance, sugar, and applesauce. add vanilla and stir in apples.
gradually blend the flour mixture into the creamed ingredients. (if your batter is really thick, add a splash of soymilk!)
bake ~30 minutes or until they pass the toothpick test.
remove from muffin pan and cool on tray.
makes 12.


ways of the weary.

i'm not sure if it's the midwintry blues settling down on me, if i'm feeling stressed about job-related stuff, or what, but i have been avoiding just about everything i have going on in my life and also feeling constantly exhausted. my sleeping is erratic and insufficient and that's adding to my general crankiness. it just seems like everything is slipping into disarray and i'm not up to fighting the entropy.

i know what i need to do. first things first, take control of the sleeping issue. when i get good, regular sleep, everything else seems to fall into place. until i do that, i'll just move through my days zombie-like, getting little to nothing done and slipping further under the surface of my responsibilities. i'm applying to (yet another) graduate program for the fall and am going to take a class this semester, so this rein-grabbing is ever important right now. plus, i'm really annoyed at being so crabby all the time. it's not good for me, it's not good for my dogs, it's not good for my kids or friends or coworkers. so my goal for tomorrow is to rectify the sleep issue: no nap, to bed at a decent hour.

a side effect of all this is that my cooking and eating have been pretty minimal, as far as effort goes. at the end of the long weekend that just passed, i managed to throw together some yummy pesto and oven-roast some grape tomatoes, at least. but one of the things about living alone and making a big portion of food is that if you don't freeze or share it, it tends to be what you eat for every meal for days on end. i've been in meetings the past two days, so lunch was provided for me, but my dinners have been the same: corkscrew pasta with pesto & tomatoes. and it looks like that's going to be lunch for the next two days, also. i am thankful, at least, that pasta is up there with potatoes in my food hall of fame and that i adore pesto, but really - i'm already kind of tired of it. another thing i'm tired of is my shitty camera and the lack of natural lighting in my apartment.

what i have REALLY wanted is cassoulet, but it's a little labor-intensive and i've preferred to lie on my bed and listen to mike watt than slave away in the kitchen. the week's almost over, so that might be a weekend cooking endeavor, but i also have to consider that i'm behind on the muffin challenge debya proposed (spicy cranberry apple? something like that) and if i know anything about deb, it's this: come the weekend, she's going to seek out a new vegan muffin variety. and i'll be tasked with producing a recipe for it. so tomorrow: muffins.


cardamom vanilla pear muffins

debya got me all worked up at the notion of vanilla pear muffins this morning and i couldn't get them off my mind. she flatly refused to bring one up to me (so WHAT if it would have taken her an hour and a half to get here?!) and wishing for them to magically appear didn't work. or didn't work fast enough, whatever.
so i realized i'd have to take action. not really up for traveling to the coffee shop where she found them, heights coffee lounge in brooklyn, i figured the only way to sate my craving was to make them my damn self.

i started with a pretty basic pear muffin recipe from recipesource and then veganized and tweaked the ingredients a little bit, adding the vanilla and cardamom. they came out really good, but fell just short of perfect. i might consider reducing the cardamom next time, but i'm not sure. it spices them up nicely, but overwhelms the pear and vanilla a little bit, i think. i'll probably also reduce the liquid a touch. my pear was pretty juicy and the muffins ended up a little more moist than i would have preferred. they were pretty cakey, but i'd have liked them a little more toward the scone end of the spectrum. regardless, they were kind of awesome and totally scratched the itch that debya started when she brought it to my attention that such a delicacy as vanilla pear muffins could exist.
added bonus: i now have breakfast sorted for the week!

cardamom vanilla pear muffins
2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup soymilk
1/4 cup applesauce
1/4 cup vegan margarine, melted & cooled
1 medium pear, shredded (1 cup)
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground cardamom

preheat oven to 425F.
sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
incorporate shredded pear into flour mixture, tossing to combine.
mix together soymilk, applesauce, and margarine. add vanilla.
gently stir liquid ingredients into dry ingredients. don’t overmix!
spray muffin pan with nonstick spray or line with muffin liners. fill cups 2/3-3/4 full. bake at 425F for 20 to 25 minutes, until tops are browned. remove from muffin pan immediately and serve warm.


besame, béchamel.

i don't know if i'm trying to make up for my slackitude or something, but i'm all about cooking stuff i should have made long ago. not because i've missed out, but because that's kind of what recipe testers are supposed to do. as soon as i figure out what it is i should plead to excuse myself, i'm going to draft some affidavits and try to clear my good name. truth be told, i think i'm just more interested in food now than i've been for some time - a fact my waistline can attest to.

tonight, i was relishing my early evening - home from work, dogs walked, shoes off, all right with the world - when the regular what's-for-dinner quandary hit. i'd never really been interested in making this béchamel before, but i knew i had some fresh shiitake and cremini mushrooms in the crisper and, well, it just seemed like the right thing to have for dinner. i hesitated for a bit, since last night's meal was pasta heavy, but i was already craving some delicious grilled mushrooms, so there really wasn't any turning back.

the béchamel cooked up really easily and i was able to keep an eye on the funguses while i was making it. though i love my chambers range, i was really wishing i had a fourth burner to get the spaghetti going toward the end, but i guess a commitment style comes with a price. no matter, it all came together perfectly in the end. the sauce was really good and i have the feeling it's going to creep up on me, so that eventually i'll wake up in a cold sweat and feel compelled to whip up a batch. also, it's official: i am a mushroom lover. i think what turned me off about mushrooms when i was younger was the kind of brown-grey appearance of the canned variety. i can't remember ever seeing fresh mushrooms on anyone's plate before i was an adult. oh, well, better late than never, or so they say. i'm psyched that i realized how awesome those little poop flowers can be.


(meyer) lemon artichoke pesto.

i'm the world's least reliable tester, but this is one of the recipes i did test for joanna's yellow rose recipes. i'm in the early stages of being sick and didn't really feel like cooking, but wanted to make use of some meyer lemons i got this weekend. well, this was the perfect dish. it's got a really bright flavor and is so easy to throw together you don't even really feel like you're cooking when you make it.

i cooked at around 10PM tonight and i always feel kind of bad when i use my food processor after 9 or so, because it sounds like it's powered by a jet engine. i temper that by remembering the regular percussive onslaught i get from my upstairs neighbor's drum machine and the inane TV chatter that pipes through the closet between my kitchen and living room. and also, i only ever use it for a few minutes, so if someone wanted to complain i'd likely be done processing by the time they got to my door. still, 2008 is my year of increased compassion, so it bothers me regardless.


yumbo, more like.

this recipe is one of those "meant-to-makes" that i had great intentions of testing for veganomicon. for whatever reason - probably because i thought no soup/stew would ever top isa's corn chowder - i never got around to it. well, the mercury is dropping here in the northern wilds of manhattan and i felt like i needed something strong and hearty to get me through the night. since i couldn't find a willing dude on such short notice, i thought i'd cook instead. HA. (sorry. it won't happen again.)

much as i love isa (not in that way, much to her chagrin), i am slowly but surely realizing that terry and i are culinary soulmates. her caesar salad kind of tipped me off to it, the pumpkin ziti made it impossible to ignore, and i made a batch of her gumbo tonight that has me fighting back the urge to send her email love poems. for real, if you were one of my taste buds, you would have a picture of terry with puffy hearts drawn all around it hanging in your gym locker. i mean, i guess if you were one of my taste buds when they were in high school. not now. now you'd have tiled terrys as your desktop wallpaper.

now, i'm not big on cooked peppers, in general. i find them overpowering more often than not and am only ever SURE i'll like them when i have them in thai food. even more so, i'm not that fond of roasted peppers. the sweet brawniness of cooked peppers becomes a curbstomp when they're roasted. so i was going to forego the roasted reds the recipe called for. i try to put my faith in someone's recipe, though, at least the first time i make it, so i went all out. i roasted a couple peppers on my crotchety old stove, popped them in a paper sack to steam, and hoped for the best.
well, i wasn't disappointed. everything comes together just perfectly in this gumbo and none of its characters are "too." it's got just the right amounts of smokiness, heat (with cayenne added to taste), and acidity. it leaves nothing to want, really, and it turned out to be the perfect counterbalance to the bitter cold outside.
also, i'm kind of a sucker for anything that is meant to be served either on top of or topped with rice. really warms my cockles.


m*a*s*h: christmas v2.0

my mom gave me an awesome double-sided griddle/grill pan for christmas last year. alas, my stove is too small to season it in, so i didn't get it ready for use until i visited last month. i finally got to use it tonight to grill up some tofu. it needs about a hundred more break-in meals before it's perfect, but so far, so good!

i'm considering maybe trying to have potatoes a new way every day this year, but i wonder if there are 365 ways to eat potatoes. tonight, i combined them with my most recent food infatuation: celeriac. that sweetened the mash up a little and also made it taste sort of pea-like. (which i realized only after i'd made peas to accompany it!) i'm finding that there are people out there who are totally anti-celeriac, which is unfortunate, in my eyes. it's an ugly root, no doubt, and may not be the most versatile of foods, but it's got character and i admire that. there's a little bitterness, a little celery-ish flavor (though not, i don't think, really "celery"), and wikipedia says it's been termed a "rastafarian turnip," which alone is enough to put it among my favorite root vegetables. i'm looking into all sorts of ways to prepare it and have found soups and mashes and slaws; sometimes it's paired with apples or pears, in keeping with its seasonal nature.

anyway, if you haven't given celeriac a go, i suggest you do. and i'm not just saying that because i'm the vice chair of the UN celeriac consumption committee. go ahead. you know you want to.


happy. oh, ate.

i spent most of new year's eve and day driving back to NYC from delray beach, florida, where my mom lives. it was, all things considered, a pretty relaxing ride. i chose (wisely, i think) to stop overnight in north carolina to avoid crazy drunks on I-95 and get some sleep so i wasn't totally exhausted when i got home. well, it seemed like i met my first goal, but within a couple hours of being home, i was fast asleep. i don't think it was all physical tiredness, though. i was pretty out of sorts when i got back - my neighborhood just didn't look the same and i was feeling kind of melancholy. i don't know if it was the quick transition from sunny, warm florida to overcast, chilly new york or if it was a side effect of having essentially two days of total alone time, mostly spent taking stock of years past. that always makes me a little blue. i end up thinking about friends that are gone, things i wish i could re- or undo, and retracing the path that winds up at my doorstep.

the nap was what i needed, though, because i woke feeling pretty refreshed and also significantly more optimistic and motivated than i'd been when i lay down. there are so many things i want to do and work on this year and i've given a lot of thought to perspective and how it really colors what we think and do and feel and how that perspective can be altered at our whim. it was a few hours well spent sleeping.

i'd wanted to make a sort of traditional new year's day meal of collard greens and black-eyed peas, not quite giving over to superstition but signifying my commitment to bringing some prosperity to my life. when i woke shortly after 9PM, though, i had to make do with what the 24-hour deli had in store. so i strayed slightly from tradition and cooked up some cannelini beans and dandelion greens. beans and greens are always a bonus, so i wasn't bothered by having to make exceptions.
and in honor of 2008 being the year of the potato, i whipped (literally) up some yukon golds. i've been intrigued by a potato puree i recently saw on a blog that featured some unfortunate short ribs, or i would link it. i just whipped these with EB and soy creamer, but if i ever invest in a ricer i might make a truer attempt at making a fluffy potato cloud.

anyway, this is what i ate on the first day of 2008. it hit the spot, i tell ya, and i'm going to bed sated and (relatively) happy.
here's hoping everyone else is, too!