Monthly Archives: October 2009

Chicago’s VEGANMANIA and a trip to Soul Vegetarian

When I landed in O’hare on October 10th you could feel the anticipation for Veganmainia in the air. I took the El to meet my good friend Becky at one of those crazy 5 way intersections that they have in Chicago to confuse the hell out of everybody. After searching for a couple blocks I could tell we were hot on the trail.

As we approached the Pulaski Park Fieldhouse the air was palpable with excitement for the celebration, finally we saw the big banner and knew we were about to be at the vegan event of 2009.The idea of veganmania was to celebrate Chicago’s vegan scene by having lots of free food from area businesses, a fashion gallery, an art gallery, speakers, and different activist groups all in one place. We got there a little late so a lot of the free food was gone but I did get to try cookies from the Chicago Diner (crunchy), chili with Match Meats (unfortunately burned but has potential), Chocolates from Cru Cacao (healthy tasting), 5 different cheeses from Ste Martaen cheeses (they had olive!!!) and some collards from Soul Veg ( mmm, southern). I also got some lemon lime lip balm that I love from Ethically Engineered. It was funny because every single booth that we went to mentioned that their product was vegan. In fact in the big hall you could hear the word “vegan” over and over in the general murmer.They also had musicians and dancers and I learned how vegans rock Chicago,It was a lot of fun and we laughed a lot, next year I want to volunteer to do their sound and my friend Becky wants to make baked goods! After sampling a lot of food but not having a whole meal we decided to drive across town to go to the actual Soul Vegetarian East. It is an entirely vegan restaurant that has an emphasis in soul food. We couldn’t decide what to order because everything sounded really good. First we got the tofu bites with barbecue sauce which were a meal in themselves. In a word; succulent. I have never had tofu that was so crisp on the outside and juicy on the inside, it was delicious. The barbecue sauce was really good too.For my entre I got corn on the cob (you have to eat corn in Illinois) and the Southern Seitan BBQ sandwich. There was also another BBQ sandwich but this one was promised to be on a whimsical roll. My roll wasn’t very whimsical but it was an awesome sandwich. There was peanut butter in the sauce! I will have to try that. When we first arrived we decided we were going to eat light so we could get dessert but it turned out we couldn’t control ourselves in front of all that protein and we went home stuffed. I loved the restaurant, everyone seemed so relaxed and though it took forever to get our check it was one of those places where you don’t mind whiling away the hours. We went into a food coma and missed my friend’s art opening but then we made it to my other friend’s 30th birthday party. We got him a balloon that played “rapper’s delight” when you hit it! Look how happy he is!Happy Birthday Borgia! I love you Chicago, I’ll be back when it isn’t so cold that I am worried my eyes will freeze in their sockets.

Koriente- A healthy vegan oasis in the debauchery of 6th St

Did you know that Austin is considered the live music capital of the world according to…. Austinites. If you didn’t, than that is probably because you don’t live here. It is a phrase I rarely go a day without reading. Like, when I lived in Springfield IL and it was all about being the Land of Lincoln.  Or how whenever anyone complains about anything at my office people say “it is an old building”. Anyway, we do go to a lot of shows which leads us into the 6th street and Red River area which is a combination of frat guys, drunk girls trying and often failing to walk in high heels, tourists, hipsters, partiers, and lots and lots of police. The other problem with 6th st is there aren’t that many vegan options. I usually go to Habana or Casino El Camino, and now there is Hoboken Pizza as well. If you are looking for actual vegetables, though, there is really one option. Koriente was opened by a woman who thought restaurants should have affordable healthy food and I think they have certainly succeeded in that goal. It is truly a nice little place next to Waller Creek right by the Beauty Bar. You order at the counter and almost everything on the menu can be veganized. Also, you can have all you can eat soup and salad with lunch or dinner. The miso soup is nice and it doesn’t have any bonito flakes in it. They also have quite a few different teas and bubble tea. They assured me that the pearls are vegan and many of the dairy ones can be made vegan using soy milk.Sadly the food is, so far,  a little disappointing. I have tried many of the items on the menu because and although some are better than others nothing has yet had a wow factor. The summer Rolls were actually disappointing. They didn’t seem to have any herbs in them and were made of just greens and avocados. I love greens and avocados but you have to do something to them! I ordered the noodle garden because I am kind of obsessed with the version at Lulu B’s but it had the same problem as the spring roll although I liked it more. It didn’t seem like they had really enhanced the food with herbs, other flavorful vegetables like peppers and onions, or preparations like marinating or dehydrating.  Most recently, I had Silk Tofu described as “Tender pan seared tofu with button mushrooms, broccoli and carrots, served with steamed rice.” They should have said “with soy sauce and sesame seeds” because that is pretty much it.The tofu seemed very homemade, kind of plain not even pressed and the vegetables were adequately seasoned and had some sesame seeds. It is the kind of food that you would expect in a vegan cafeteria if such a thing existed. The curry was a little better and what I will have again. But I do still go there all the time, the people are very friendly, you get a lot of food for your money, and it is very healthy!

travel rant and a sick dog

You can skip this rant

I was flying back from Chicago to Austin and they took away my peanut butter. It made me so freaking mad (don’t worry, I internalized the rage and gave up the peanut butter without argument). It seems I always get into these stupid disagreements with the TSA about if things are a liquid or a solid. I have taken humus through O’hare plenty of times. Sesame paste, still in a sealed bottle, was taken away from me in St. Louis. Teese was OK. My olives were taken from me in Portland (they were more solid than the brine, which I offered to pour out, but they still threw them out) and today O’hare stole my freaking peanut butter. What the hell is the physical difference between humus and peanut butter? I just hate the waste of it all. At least, they could give it to a homeless person. I ate my orange and my luna bar but damn it, the crackers were dry. I also bought a soy latte from the Starbucks and it cost $4.91, I uttered “Jesus”, and the cashier said. “Welcome to O’hare”. Did you notice how they never say “fly the friendly skies” anymore? It is because they aren’t friendly anymore. And I don’t buy that all of these precautions have any effect on terrorism whatsoever. They just cause a lot of hassle which was probably one of the aims of the terrorists anyway, to make our country less free. So the terrorists won. Good job Homeland Security.

What kind of food do you guys like to take on through the airport?

Rant Over

So, I was also in a bad mood because after spending the last couple days taking care of my Baba Dinger developed a lot of problems with his hind legs, he wasn’t jumping up and he could hardly walk so he spent the last couple days at the vet. They still don’t know what is wrong but his x-rays showed that his spine is OK and they don’t think it is neurological. He is going to stay on pain medicine for a couple weeks with bed rest and we will see what happens.

They put him out with anesthesia which made me really nervous. He’s just a little guy! I have been so worried about him. I am just crazy about this dog. Even the doctor and nurse really liked him! They said he was an angel, aw.

Prijatno – Pumpkin Shell Casserole

I have been taking care of my Baba here in Merrillville Indiana outside of Chicago for the last few days. Growing up, I always thought “baba” meant grandma. It wasn’t until I went to visit family in the Croatia a few years ago that I learned that Baba actually means “old woman” to them. The funny thing is that all my American  friends always called her Baba too, like it was her name, and I always thought it was silly that they were calling her Grandma, but really they have been calling her old woman! She has a giant dog named Bear and they are best friends.

So I have been here cooking and taking care of her. Usually when I come I have to make do with eating typical vegetables and grains but this time when we went to the store I found Earth Balance, Almond Milk, Silk Creamer, and a wide assortment of greens! It sure is exciting that vegan products are becoming more available along with healthy vegetables.

I have been looking through an old cookbook called Prijatno and writing down recipes that sound interesting. It is a cookbook written by St. Sava’s Serbian Sister’s Circle in the 1970s. My Baba and her family were a part of St. Elijah but my Dad’s family all went to St. Sava so some of my other Grandma’s recipes are in the book. It makes me feel like a part of a long tradition of writing down recipes and sharing them with friends and family.

I came across this recipe and though I haven’t tried it, I thought I would print it out because I think it would be a perfect holiday recipe and I have been thinking a lot about what I am going to make this year. It is freezing here so I already have winter on my mind. I will be happy to get back to warm weather!

Pumpkin Shell Casserole

1 small pumpkin, 7 inches in diameter
2 cups peeled and chopped apples
1 cup raisins
1 cup chopped pecans
1/3 cup of sugar
1 tsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp cinamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wash & dry pumpkin. Slice off the top for a lid. Scrape out the seeds. In a bowl, mix all the other ingredients. Fill the pumpkin and return the lid. Place on a cookie sheet. Bake until the apples are tender. Begin testing after 45 minutes. It may take as long as two hours. Serve from the shell, spooning some of the pumpkin with each portion.

I think when I make it I will add some figs too and maybe toast the seeds and add them back in as well.

Spicy Sesame Potato Salad

Sometimes I get really inspired by the salads at Wheatsville Co-op. I had one like this a few weeks ago and I thought it was an interesting idea but needed more flavor and this is what I came up  with, it is all little crazy but I thought it was great!

Steam for 20 minutes

5 yukon gold potatoes


1 Tablespoon sesame seeds
1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds

Add to

3 Tablespoons peanut (or sunflower) oil

In a a large bowls toss potatoes, infused oil, and

1/2 cup cilantro, minced
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 Tablespoon Braggs Liquid Aminos (or soy sauce)
1/2 teaspoon smoked salt


A letter to a sustainability committee

So I know VeganMoFo is supposed to be all about celebrating vegan food but I wanted to share this letter with ya’ll in case anyone wants to use it for some other (vegan) purpose. I haven’t sent it yet so any criticisms or edits are appreciated!

Members of the Recycling and Sustainability Committee,

I applaud your recent efforts at making **** a more sustainable place to work and go to school. As someone who actively works at weighing the environmental consequences for most actions in my life I am glad to see that *** is taking a positive step forward. I am writing you to address some concerns that I have about some recent efforts to promote lowering carbon emissions.

As someone who has chosen to carpool to work with an older but efficient car rather than buy an expensive car that I do not have the means for, I have noticed the recent push to reward those that can afford newer cars without taking into consideration other factors that contribute more significantly to global warming. I feel, perhaps, I could help better inform this committee. While I think that driving a hybrid car instead of an old jalopy with a poor exhaust system that gets nine miles to the gallon is certainly better for air pollution it has been proven that people can make a much greater impact doing something that is simpler and requires no personal monetary investment. Switching from a meat based diet to a primarily plant-based diet has dramatic repercussions for the environment. Changing your diet is considerably more cost effective and uses less natural and personal resources than buying a hybrid car.

Recently, the United Nations published a report on livestock and the environment with a stunning conclusion: “The livestock sector emerges as one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global.” It turns out that raising animals for food is a primary cause of land degradation, air pollution, water shortage, water pollution, loss of biodiversity, and not least of all, global warming.

To illustrate more clearly, a recent study in New Scientist concluded that two pounds of beef produce the greenhouse gas emissions of a three hour drive.

Nearly every aspect of the meat and dairy industry creates environmental destruction. Most of the crops grown in the world are not used to feed people but instead used for livestock. Cattle, for example, consume fourteen times more grain than they produce as meat. 800 million people in the world are starving from malnutrition while five times more grain is required to produce the same amount of calories through livestock than as through direct grain consumption. In addition, 30 percent of earth’s ice-free land in the world is used to grow more and more livestock. All around the world people are cutting down the rain forests that are vital for the survival of every living thing on this planet to allow for the beef and dairy industries. Livestock production generates nearly a fifth of the world’s greenhouse gases — more than transportation. Many people have visions of happy cattle grazing on green grass. The fact is that the great majorities of animals are trapped in giant plants, fed on grains laced with antibiotics and other chemicals to fatten them and keep them alive just long enough to take to slaughterhouses.

Meanwhile, the great quantity of waste from the cows, pigs, and chickens contributes to polluting the air and water. Industrial agriculture adds so much manure that it is calculated to add 4.6 tons of manure per second (291 billion pounds a year.) to our world. In some cases, the land around them becomes so toxic that plants can’t even survive, much less humans and other mammals.

If you also take into account the whole transportation chain; corn and soy must be grown, transported, processed into feed, transported, consumed by animals which are then transported to slaughter, transported to be processed into consumable items, refrigerated and transported to the store, sold, transported by the consumer, refrigerated, and then finally prepared, you can see how many fossil fuels are used in addition to just keeping the livestock alive.

In addition to all the environmental havoc meat production causes, it also has been repeatedly shown to contribute poorly to people’s health. Heart Disease, the leading killer of Americans, along with diabetes and many forms of cancer have all been scientifically linked to meat and dairy consumption. The American Dietary Association has released information that a plant based diet is very healthy.

I think raising awareness for a plant based diet should be at the heart of any initiatives the college takes at promoting sustainability. A great start would be allowing vegetarians the use of the “green” parking spots, and to prominently display the reason why. I would also really encourage the committee to look into making sure that plant-based offerings exist for any campus activities. For many years I have attended the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and back to school parties where the only choice for someone who does not consume animal products is the slice of tomato or a jalapeño. I think these efforts could expand to the in school cafes as well as promoting vegan options at meetings and other *** functions. It isn’t enough, though, to have options. We must work together to promote this simple path towards sustainability.

The heart of our mission at *** is to be a catalyst for economic development, social equity, and personal enrichment. There is no quicker way to achieve these goals than to teach everyone a better way to live in world.

Whole Foods Doughnut, why do you suck?

Over the summer I went to Portland. At that point in my life I really couldn’t have cared less about doughnuts. It was a kind of food that I never really even thought about. I had heard about Vodoo Doughnuts but I didn’t add it to my mental “must go” list. That all changed when my friend came to pick me up and take me to Washington. She really wanted to go to voodoo before we left town, and so we went to the one downtown. They had a line around the block in the middle of the afternoon and I couldn’t believe it. We went to the second location and found no line and a whole assortment of vegan doughnuts for me. It was one of those moments where your life changes forever and you know it is never going to be the same again.

They had every kind of doughnut I have ever seen and they were all vegan! They even had voodoo doll shaped doughnuts that came with a little pretzel to stab him with. I had a chocolate covered cream filled doughnut and it brought me right back to Mel-O-Cream Doughnuts which is the only place I ever had doughnuts as a kid. They had these little tiny trays for your doughnut and it was always a very special treat. In high school we would go there sometimes at 4 in the morning when they just opened for a late night snack. They were glorious, the perfect example of a fresh, sugary, comforting doughnut. I realized that after I left Springfield doughnuts weren’t special anymore; good but not something to be sought out. I think I blocked them out. The voodoo doughnut transported me back to another time and I didn’t want it to end.

When I got back to Austin after my experience I saw the prominently marked “Vegan Doughnuts” staring at me while I waited in the taco line at Whole Foods. I knew they wouldn’t be as good as voodoo but every time I went back, there they were taunting me.  I finally tried one expecting something like Dunkin Donuts or a Krispey Kreme. These doughnuts can’t even began to compete on even that level. It isn’t even as good as one of those doughnut that you get at the gas station that is wrapped in a plastic wrapper and has been on the shelf for 2 years. In a word, disappointing. If they weren’t labeled doughnut I never would have guessed from taste that that is what they were. I think Melisser described it best in a recent post on the Urban Housewife when she wrote that they reminded her of a dinner roll. The worst part about it is that I imagine all sorts of people trying this doughnut because Whole Foods is a really popular place and thinking that this is the best vegans can do. I imagine someone thinking “huh Vegan doughnut, sounds crazy but I will give it a try. good god, I was right that vegan stuff is always gross”. Or that young vegan kid, out with his friends for the first time downtown. They decide to go for doughnuts and he tells them they should go to Whole Foods because he can eat the doughnuts there. Those kids would probably make fun of him for the rest of his life.  Maybe he would even get beat up. Is that what you want Whole Foods? To be responsible for anti-vegan violence? This is not the best veganism can be!

Thank God that sitting right next to those doughnuts is the true love of my life, the breakfast taco. I promise I will never stray from you again.I did see a new doughnut cart, though, on Lamar, I am holding out hope that I will have vegan doughnuts again!

Mushroom & Dried Cherry Tomato Fettuccini with Cuban Oregano

My favorite raw cookbook is without a doubt Raw Food Real World. I am very lucky that my friend Carrie bought it for me when she was staying here a few years ago because it is pretty pricey and I wouldn’t have gotten it myself and I am so glad I have it. The only problem I have with the book is the title. It only works if by “real world” they mean “well-off New Yorker”.  They use ingredients that I have never heard of which adds a whole challenge to the book but also makes it somewhat inaccessible especially when that is coupled with the huge amount of planning involved in making some of the dishes. Usually it starts with soaking something over night and then dehydrating for 8 to 24 hours. If you lived in a smaller city that doesn’t have a major Asian grocery store or a raw food community I think it would be pretty hard to come by some of the staples in the book like cases of young coconuts and date powder. But the weird thing is the recipes are almost always totally worth all the planning and searching. It should have been called “Raw Food Will Blow Your Mind” because that is how I feel about a lot of the things I have tried. None of my other raw books come close to the great taste, style, and photography of this book. And the authors do a very nice job of telling you what you could substitute for what. I like to seek out strange ingredients so the book is perfect for me and when I saw this recipe that called for Cuban Oregano I kind of kept my eye out for it. Years later, I saw some growing at the Natural Gardner and scooped it up and brought it home. Over the summer is has grown into an enormous and beautiful plant so I highly recommend picking some seeds up or take a cutting if you ever see it. It has great flavor. So with my Cuban oregano plant mature and the last of the summer tomatoes still to be eaten I decided finally the time was right.

So really this recipe is years in the making. It called for King Oyster mushrooms which I haven’t found but I saw a really similar looking kind at a Korean store so I picked some up.  It also called for goldbar squash but I don’t know what that is either  so I used an heirloom summer squash and I think it might be the same thing. Here is the recipe pretty much as it is in the book.

King Oyster Mushroom & Dried Cherry Tomato Fettuccine with Cuban Oregano

2 or 3 goldbar squash ends trimmed
Sea Salt
2 Cups heirloom cherry tomatoes, stemmed & sliced in half
2 to 4 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
2 Cups king oyster mushrooms, stems removed and cut into bite-sized pieces
2 teaspoons of balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons braggs liquid aminos
2 to 3 stalks rosemary, plus two teaspoons minced
1 shallot, minced
other herbs for garnish

toss the cherry tomatoes with half the olive oil & season with salt & pepper. Dehydrate cut-side down at 115 for 6 to 8 hours

separately toss the mushrooms with half the olive oil, balsamic, & Bragg’s. Add salt & pepper, rosemary stalks, oregano, and shallot. Toss well and place them on the dehydrator sheet at 115 for 3 to 4 hours until the mushrooms are soft. Get rid of the bigger oregano leaves & the rosemary stalks.

cut the squash into long ribbons using a vegetable peeler. Salt & put in a colander for 30 minutes to drain.

Toss everything together & season and serve with fresh herbs.

Overall for Raw Food Real World this was a really easy recipe, I only had to grow one ingredient and it was only 8 hours of prep time. And it was pretty good. Next time I would omit most if not all of the rosemary, it kind of overpowered the dish.  And I think I would add some olives because I love them. And twice as much squash, too. The recipe didn’t yield very much food but overall it is a great recipe and the whole house smelled like tomatoes and oregano. Now that I have the cuban oregano and tomatoes growing I will undoubtedly make it again.

Love letter to my co-workers

Today I got to my desk and this was sitting there. There is nothing better than a breakfast taco to start the day. I have the best co-workers in the world! Not only do they help save turkeys with me and make donations to Farm Sanctuary but they are just the best people ever and they don’t seem to mind that I sing all day long. Sure, most of them distract me all day with pictures from Cute Overload and there is endless talk about the minutia of life but without that I could never get through the day. Plus they help me decide which picture of tofu is the best out of 10. And they bring me food. And sometimes make me cupcakes. It is great. Thank you guys! I love you!

Black Bean & Plantain Empanadas

The word empanada comes from the Spanish empanar which means to wrap or coat in bread. Sometimes, I wish I was wrapped in bread. It sounds very warm and comforting. I made these empandas for a couple of guys who really liked them, in fact one of them said I have a gift. The other gave me chocolate so it was a pretty good deal. The empandas were inspired both by a trip to Costa Rica where everything involves black beans and plantains and one of my favorite cookbooks “A World of Dumplings“.  One of my many dreams is to open a food trailer and call it “Sumpling in my Dumpling” where it would be all dumplings all the time. I think this picture kind of looks like the empanada is an oyster at the bottom of a swimming pool. It didn’t taste like that at all, the crust was perfect and flakey and the filling was really tasty with pockets of sweet plantain. They went really good with the green salsa I had.

Black Bean & Plantain Empanadas

4 Cups All-Purpose Four
2 Cup Cornmeal (I used blue but any will work)
1 Cup vegetable shortening
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder

Combine the dry ingredients. Add the shortening and rub it into the mixture with your fingers. Add water one tablespoon at a time until a dough forms. I used about 1/2 of a cup. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, chopped,
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
14 oz of diced tomatoes (fresh or canned)
1 Tablespoon Maple Syrup
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups cooked black beans
1 plantain, chopped

Toast the seeds and then grind up. Add the onion, garlic, jalapeno and seeds to a hot oiled skillet and saute until onions are starting to brown (5 minutes). Add the tomatoes, syrup, 1/2 cup of water and salt and then blend the mixture. I used an immersion blender but you could also use a potato masher because a little texture is nice. Add the beans and the plantains and cook until plantains are soft, about five minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375. Slice the dough into 20 pieces and form into 20 balls. Roll each out into a flat disk. Spoon 1/2 tablespoon of filling into the center of the disk and fold in half, seal the edges and then press edges down with a fork to complete. Do this 19 more times. Oil a baking sheet and place the empandas on leaving a space in between. You can brush them with a little oil if you like. Bake for 45 minutes or until golden. Enjoy with salsa or guacamole.

It was raining in Austin over the weekend which means that the dogs were overcome with sleepiness. I wonder if there is a Spanish word for being wrapped in beagles?