Sunday, August 31, 2008

i should have got the cinnamon roll.

So as I came to accept the realization that I'm two days away from a new school year, with all its tests and SATs and projects and rehearsals... I wondered what I could micromanage over the Labor Day holiday that I've put off for the last two and half months. Despite the mostly nonexistent opportunity to travel beyond a twenty mile radius of my Pacific Northwestern hometown for the majority of the summer (because God knows when I'll put aside my paralyzing fear of cars and apply for my license), a lot has happened that I've had to deal with. Thankfully, I was grateful to make the day trip down to Portland that I was hoping for.

Portland is a beautiful city with abundant natural and material treasures, as those who prescribe to the belief that it's a vegan mecca especially know. Portland's Vegan Mini-MallA day is not nearly enough to experience this, especially when one is not able to devote their day to shelling out the money to dine out breakfast, lunch, and dinner with cafe stops inbetween - because, believe you me, that would be my perfect day in Portland.

Our first stop was the obligatory and famed vegan mini-mall on Stark Street. Can anyone imagine anything more progressive and quaint? It's simple existence makes me wonder why not everyone in Portland sees the ease in veganism, but the fact that I can go and enjoy myself like this is satisfying enough for me.

Sweetpea Baking CompanyArriving around nine in the morning, I was just starving enough to ravage Sweetpea Baking Company for all its worth. On a Friday morning I came during what is apparently the middle-time between Danish and Donut Day. Still there was enough variety for me to sample and take home to treat myself for the weekend. For breakfast I ordered the Raspberry Linzer Bar in addition to a Chocolate Chip Scone. It was incredibly sticky and decadent, the sweeter version of a lemon bar. Luscious. Sweetpea Baking CompanyI expected the scone to be sweeter, but it's fluffiness and biscuit-like quality makes it good of-course-I-can-eat-chocolate-chips-for-breakfast food. Unfortunately, I have no pictures of most of the treats because I was too anxious to eat. I managed to halt stuffing my face for a moment to capture a particular piece of interesting wall art. Makes a statement, no?

Blueberry-Lemon CupcakeI bought a handful more goods to take home with me, including a Monster Oatmeal Raisin Cookie, a slice of Boston Cream Cake, a Blueberry Lemon Cupcake, and a Gluten Free Brownie. Unfortunately I blanked ordering the second time around and missed out on sampling the Cinnamon Roll with Icing that I was practically foaming at the mouth for. Ah, well. Both cakes seemed rather dry when I tasted them at home, but then again they had been sitting in a car all day. The frosting on the cupcake was nice and delicate but rather thick and creamy as well. The pastry cream filling in the Boston Cream Cake was delicious; I wish I'd had more to dump on top. The brownie was nice and soft on its own but became more moist and heightened in chocolatiness when nuked in the microwave - I finished it off for breakfast (oops) this morning.

PDX Goods - Food Fight GroceryI moved on to Food Fight! Grocery before Herbivore opened at ten to see what I could see. I live in Olympia, which is almost smack-dab between Portland and Seattle, so my closer in-state choice of all-vegan grocery is Sidecar for Pigs Peace. Food Fight is similar. I purchased only a few items that I don't see nearby, including Soy Curls (which seem to be all the rage), Ricemellow Creme (that I used buy from the local co-op, but I've been disappointed and unable to find it lately), and... TEESE. I'm very excited to try the latter, but I'm afraid that my expectations are too high.

Herbivore T-ShirtBecause no vegan has reached a certain level of well-deserved nirvana without some cruelty-free, activism wear, I practically burst into Herbivore Clothing. The shop itself has its delightful, spacious beauty, and all the graphic designs ranging from the bold and edgy to sweet and intricate make choosing just a couple items difficult.VGN/PDX Jogger Track Jacket The store also features islands of book shelves with book upon book of vegan delicacies. In the end I settled on the very lovely Herbivore Rabbit Tee and a VGN/PDX Jogger. Then I went back and immediately armed myself with a patch and sticker collection to rival the notebook collage of a third grader.

After a few more hours and more sales-tax-free shopping complete, we chose Vege Thai as our dinner spot - then arrived an hour before it reopened for the evening. Wonderful. This actually turned out to be a happy mistake because it forced us to peruse Hawthorne Blvd's House of Vintage for that hour. I recommend the vast labyrinth of a vintage shop to all antique mall patrons and fans of kitsch. The space is truly teeming with variety and houses an extensive list of retailers.

Vege Thai - Portland, ORFinally dinner time arrived, and thankfully I was not disappointed. At a glance Vege Thai has an impressive menu with reasonable pricing, but we settled on the Red Curry with Tofu and a Sweet & Sour Stir-Fry with Black Pepper "Steak" served with brown rice. Really fucking good. I really enjoyed the curry although it wasn't more impressive than most take-out curries. It earns extra points for real nicely cooked eggplant, which really skeeves me out if even slightly improperly prepared. I was delighted by my stir-fry. It may seem like something easily prepared at home, but that freaking sauce was something else. Delicious. The steak was toothsome with a good overall flavor, but also a little rubbery. Not bad for faux meat, but that sauce made up for any and all unpleasantness. I ate leftover sauce cold the next day it was so good. I would return. I would return again and again and again, and perhaps eat something more than curry and sauce. Like a Thai Iced Coffee, perhaps. And maybe buy something from House next time. If you're interested, our total came to $16. I've spent more on samosas in Olympia, so all in all not bad. (You will have to excuse plate preparation - waiting an extra hour for food when I was already hungry does not lend me much patience.)

It was a good day trip, to be sure. I don't know if it's the subliminal blog posts or something in the Portland air, but one pilgrimage to the Holy Grail (do those two allusions even work together?) is not enough. A return must be made.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

avocados & iced coffee.

Growing Avocado I have been tired and stressed lately... consequently, stress-eating... but I always find solace in a creamy avocado. This weekend I decided to utilize the smooth, '70s-hued fruit in a couple of ways. And starting with my humble makeshift pit-receptacle, perhaps I might one day reap the benefits of a homegrown avocado.

First I whipped up a pie from Vegan Explosion that utilized a couple of 'em green babes. Not only are sweet avocado things very alluring to me, but I love when I can lie to myself that a treat is good for me. However, I had to make some adjustments: first, I have a sort of aversion to Toffuti Better Than Cream Cheese and am not of fan of paying so much for a tub since the closest Trader Joe's rarely has stock of them anymore. I subbed with a tofu recipe for cream cheese, but it really ended up more like sour cream. I didn't have the patience to adjust that any further and used it anyway. I also didn't have lime juice and used lemon juice with lime zest instead. The final product was too citrus-y, not sweet enough, and not showcasing the avocado enough for my taste. It is the loveliest pale-green shade, though. Sigh. I guess I'll need to make more pie when I have the proper ingredients and try again. If I have to.

In addition I've made the same raw soup today for lunch that I did yesterday: a Curried Carrot & Avocado rendition from Rainbow Green Live-Food Cuisine.Curried Carrot & Avocado Soup - Raw It's pretty simplisitic, which can be a refreshing change of pace. Essentially it consists (per one serving, which I reduced it to) of a cup of chopped carrots, half an avocado and half a cup of water blended with cumin, curry powder, cayenne, ginger, and lemon juice. I adjust the seasoning and juices to taste though amounts are listed in the recipe. I'm a cumin-ginger girl and go a little heavier there. Quick and easy is nice, and the fact that it's raw and almost pure fresh veggies and fruit is bonus. It might not be something I slip into regular circulation, but when I want to use up some carrots or avocado, it'll be the way to go.

The uncookbook itself is a mammoth raw compilation following the specialized namesake cuisine path. Flipping through, I found many inventive recipes I'd like to sample soon.

Despite the rainy, humid whether I'm surrounded in I've been craving a Vietnamese Iced Coffee featured in some back issue of Imbibe Magazine. The recipe requires two tablespoons of sweetened condensed milk, so I subbed in the veganized version that the Vegan Explosion pie recipe includes. For it, you'll need a special coffee brewer that'll set you back $4-5 from an Asian market or other supply store. We've had one for a while.

The grounds I use, by the way, are a French chicory roast, I believe. So it might be a different drink altogether. I didn't look too much into it.

Vietnamese Iced Coffee

2 T sweetened condensed milk (or perhaps 1 T milk + 1 T agave nectar if unwilling or unable to make the vegan version)
4 t ground coffee
6 oz boiling water (no tap; make sure it's good-tasting)
plenty ice

1. Place ice and milk in a tall glass like mine shown here.
2.Unscrew the filter plate from the brewer and add the ground coffee. Replace the filter plate, screwing in so that it remains a little loose.
3. Slowly begin pouring in the boiling water so that it only fills the brewer a quarter of the way at first. Wait about 20 seconds, making sure the water isn't filtering through too profusely. It should just be dripping slowly. If not, the filter plate is too loose and it needs to be screwed in a little tighter.
4. Pour the rest of the water over the brewer and replace the top. Again, the water should be dripping through slowly. Let it brew 4-5 minutes until it drips no more.
5. Stir and enjoy! (My sweetened condensed milk was a little too grainy, so I needed to strain it into another glass.)

Vegan Vietnamese Iced Coffee Vegan Vietnamese Iced Coffee
milk & ice; the coffee brewing

Psst... if you choose to go with milk and agave, try the Madhava Agave Nectar in Irish Creme. It's new (or I've been blind) and it's tasty.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

a hundred you can count on.

Still very little notable activity in the kitchen. I've kept my baking to a minimum since becoming unable to fit in my jeans. However, I vow to make a day trip to Portland before summer is over and will hopefully relish at least a piece of the city's finds.

In the meantime, Hannah of Bittersweet just posted the revised Vegan's Hundred, and I accept her challenge to complete it. As proprietor of this blog, I challenge you to do the same.

So here it is, The Vegan's Hundred complete with a few of my own barely-relevant anecdotes.

1) Copy this list into your own blog, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
4) Post a comment here once you’ve finished and link your post back to this one.
5) Pass it on!

1. Natto
2. Green Smoothie
3. Tofu Scramble

4. Haggis (I'd eat it, but it seems so vaguely like the original that I wouldn't call it haggis. Not that I have a problem with avoiding the implication that I was eating a stuffed animals' intestine.)
5. Mangosteen
6. Creme brulee
7. Fondue

8. Marmite/Vegemite
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Nachos
12. Authentic soba noodles
13. PB&J sandwich
Aloo gobi
15. Taco from a
street cart (If you're ever eating from one of the California Taco wagons we see in Olympia, get the pickled carrots: you might never be able to eat them plain again.)
16. Boba Tea
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Gyoza
20. Vanilla ice cream

21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Ceviche
24. Rice and beans
26. Raw scotch bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
28. Caviar (Because the whole connotation just bothers me. I really don't see the appeal in a veganized version either.)
29. Baklava
Wasabi peas
32. Chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Mango lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Mulled cider
37. Scones with buttery spread and jam

38. Vodka jelly
39. Gumbo
40. Fast food french fries
41. Raw Brownies
Fresh Garbanzo Beans
43. Dahl
44. Homemade Soymilk
45. Wine from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Stroopwafle
47. Samosas
48. Vegetable Sushi
49. Glazed doughnut
50. Seaweed
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Tofurkey
54. Sheese
55. Cotton candy
57. PiƱa colada
Birch beer (Not a fan.)
59. Scrapple
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores

62. Soy curls
63. Chickpea cutlets
64. Curry
65. Durian
66. Homemade Sausages
Churros, elephant ears, or funnel cake
68. Smoked tofu
69. Fried plantain
Mochi (A dessert I grew up with, considering my parents grew up in Hawaii and the majority of my family still lives there.)
71. Gazpacho (Isn't that the cold soup? I don't like cold soup. Unless there are many beans in it. And by soup you mean chili.)
72. Warm chocolate chip cookies
73. Absinthe
74. Corn on the cob
Whipped cream, straight from the can
76. Pomegranate
Fauxstess Cupcake
78. Mashed potatoes with gravy
Jerky (All Primal Strip varieties are so bomb, it warrants the almost unforgivable use of the word "bomb.")
80. Croissants
81. French onion soup (I'm not a picky eater, especially not when it comes to soup, but the soggy bread deal is not my thing. And without it, it's just a Toffuti slice floating in some broth with onion chunks.)
82. Savory crepes
83. Tings
84. A meal at Candle 79
85. Moussaka
86. Sprouted grains or seeds (My favorites are buckwheat groats - I think they're the most versatile and tasty plain.)
87. Macaroni and “cheese”
88. Flowers

89. Matzoh ball soup
90. White chocolate
91. Seitan
93. Butterscotch chips
94. Yellow watermelon
95. Chili with chocolate
96. Bagel and Tofutti
97. Potato milk
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Raw cookie dough

Monday, August 4, 2008

houserat vegan singlehandedly supports movie rental industry.

So maybe it's a little disappointing that after one post on the new blog, I have nil to say on the recent products of my kitchen, even though the only (and I mean only) productive outcome of my summer thus far has been devouring my "Instant Queue" on Netflix... and baking a lot of treats (both sweet and savory) for my sole consumption.

Eh. Whatever.

The truth is, personal and home issues have put me in a place right now that hasn't warranted much motivation for social or "productive" activity. One might argue that the only stated purpose of this blog is to share the goings-on of and around my kitchen. But I've got you on that one: the cooking and baking (and eating) is the easy part. The blogging is where it, for this purpose, becomes productive.

I can, however, recommend some television shows and stand-up comedy that have very little to do with the vegan lifestyle. Other than I'm vegan, and I've recently styled my life around watching these programs.

Weeds: I sat through the entire series in one weekend, and it is hands down the best thing I've discovered via all of this. Suburban widowed-mom deals against the backdrop of a catty and stereotypically status-driven surbuban neighborhood in California while still managing to raise two sons, house her brother-in-law, and keep business under the radar (even if the neighborhood is her customer base). It's as good, dramatic, ironic, and reassuringly hilarious as it sounds. And if it didn't sound like all of those things... it is. My few gripes are that the script seems to suggest that Mary Louise Parker's Nancy Botwin can drag herself out of most any pickle by her sheer sex appeal (and even when it's not obviously about how hot she is, you most always can trace the outcome back to, oh yeah, how hot she is), and throughout the series Nancy's concern with how her lifestyle directly impacts her children lessens more and more. But one could argue that that's not entirely unrealistic for all intents and purposes.

Wonder Falls: Produced by the brains behind Dead Like Me, the one-season, 14-episode series (starring Canadian favorite Caroline Dhavernas as well as Tracie Thoms (Rent)) is an entertaining and less-than-obivous take on the Joan of Arc story. This variation is quirky and animated, following Jaye Taylor, a cynical-but-endearing, "over educated and under employed" employee of the Niagra Falls gift shop Wonderfalls. Beginning with a smooshed-face wax lion, little souveniers and cartoonish animal images of all kinds begin communicating with Jaye in order to fulfill some grand master plan that's never clear until the end of an episode. The exposition is simple and mostly unchanging, but the plotlines hold interest. Dhavernas' demeanor as Jaye often comes off a little cartoonish herself, but she maintains watchability. Tracie Thoms' character is the easiest to watch, and Jaye's siblings Sharon and Aaron are likeable supporting characters. The love interest (a bartender at the bar Jaye frequents and Tracie Thoms' character works), played by Tyron Leitso, is sincere but a little flat. The tension between he and Jaye is obvious, and not in an endearing way. Essentially, I recommend the series as a rental. It's fun, dark-humored, and moralistic in it's Joan of Arc allusion but not in a religious, familial, bullshit way.

An Evening with Kevin Smith 2: Evening Harder: Just fucking watch this if you've seen Clerks, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Dogma, Chasing Amy, Mallrats, the first An Evening With Kevin Smith... even fucking Jersey Girl or those episodes of Degrassi that Kevin Smith guest starred on. Or just know who Kevin Smith is in general. It isn't "stand-up comedy" but a Q&A with Smith in Toronto and in London that often ends up brilliant, like the hilarious, irrelevant conversation that his movies' dialogue plays off of. It's humor is comforting to say the least. Like, in a "At least people still say shit like this to an audience." sort of way.

Daniel Tosh: Completely Serious: I've seen this special quite a few times on Comedy Central, I'm sure. If you wait long enough you can probably it catch it rather than actually renting it or clicking "Play" on its Netflix page. And still, his frat-like, spot-on observations and clever humor are just as brilliant. As Tosh points out halfway in, jokes often open funny and spiral on and on till its end punch and a handful of audience members have held on long enough to catch it. Definitely tune in if unfamiliar with his offensive and sarcastic performance, as apparantly the material hasn't varied much from other recordings. Worth the Comedy Central channel-lurking, at the very least.

Super High Me: Comedian Doug Benson does the opposite for pot than what Morgan Spurlock did for McDonald's in his playoff documentary. The film, which started out as a joke in Benson's act, follows him on the road during a comedy tour, introducing the beginning of the concept, a 30-day sobriety, and ending with 30 days of being stoned in order to study the effects between a variety of tests (including lung capacity, memory, and even psychic ability). But it's okay: he's got a California medical marijuana license. Not that such licenses are recognized by the United States Federal Government, due to a convuluted system of laws between the federal government and the states that recognize patients' use of marijuana. The difference is explained briefly and touched upon when the "dispensary" that backdrops the documentary is ransacked by the DEA. It's interesting and informative in its representation of the recreational drug unfamiliar to most of the general public, but its comedic aspect shouldn't disappoint people familiar with Benson either (or, you know, stoner humor in general).

Look at me; blogging like I know shit about reviewing. Ain't it cute. Don't be fooled or disappointed with my former claims; I've watched far more television than this.