Sunday, February 28, 2010

(Mis)Adventures in the Vegan Community

Thursday night I was very excited to get out of work early due to a phenomenal job by my team. I celebrated by doing what I always do when I get out of work early, going to gymnastics class. I was really on point Thursday, working the rings, trying to learn the bars, hitting my new trampoline tricks. Then we had "the incident". I was doing a backhandspring when a guy walked right behind me, causing my arm to hit him in the face instead of making contact with the floor. I took a hard landing on my neck, and heard a very scary cracking sound. Luckily, I'm ok.... for the most part. I sprained my upper back and strained my neck, and I have been sore for the past couple of days. My doctor benched me from all working out, and  I have to wait and see how it heals before making a decision about gymnastics next week. This was in some ways a less serious injury than the great springboard incident of July, where I ended up on crutches for a week. However, I'm told that injuries like this can take a lot longer to heal and cause continued problems. If anyone wants to come visit me and bring me vegan food or movies, just give me a holler, because my apartment is boring. 
Last night was my first event with a vegan group I found on called Vegan Drunks Drinks (I heard that joke about 5 times last night and decided I had to use it here). We met at The Waffle on Sunset Blvd, which is a vegetarian-friendly restaurant, although I felt less than safe ordering off of their menu. No worries though, because luckily, a lot of liquors are in fact vegan. I had a delicious take on a Malibu Bay Breeze with pineapple juice, cranberry juice, vodka, and champagne. The bartenders were very nice, even if they were slow at times. I empathized with one of them, who was still in training.
Venue aside, the event was really great. I met more vegans in 2 hours than I have in the past 2 months, and it was great to talk about being vegan. I got a bunch of new tips for websites and different restaurants to try. It was great to also be able to talk about things like yoga and meditation. Everyone was super friendly and outgoing, which ,I'll be honest, I was worried about. Sometimes vegans get a bad rap for being boring, but these kids really knew how to party. I can't wait for the next one.
In other news, my business cards came on Saturday!. When I opened my mailbox, I actually squealed in delight, which completely freaked out my neighbor and his baby. So then I felt kind of stupid, but I ripped open the box on the spot, and was really excited to see 250 of these beautiful babies. They were just in time to hand out to some people at last night's event, so I will give a big hey and hello to my new favorite vegans.
I'm up to 901 hits, and on track to make it to a thousand at some point early this week. Maybe I'll celebrate with a special recipe for all my readers, or maybe I'll be selfish and just have a shot of patron by myself.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Indian Night: Part 1

Hey Everybody, I just wanted to let you know that my little blog is already up to 841 unique page views. So keep coming back, keep linking your friends, and most importantly, keep clicking on those ads to visit my wonderful advertisers. 

Sometimes, I like to do absolutely ridiculous things with my time. I specifically enjoy theme nights, as anyone who attended my Gray Gardens party or NYE '007 style knows. This past weekend, I decided to spend a few hours putting together an Indian-themed dinner. I had a great recipe for Batata nu Shaak from a co-worker, who also thoughtfully presented me with a bunch of ziploc bags full of spices. For those of you who are not in the know, Batata nu Shaak is a potato dish with about 5 million different spices. This weekend was not only the first time I've ever made Indian food, it was also the first time that I've worked with such a complex flavor profile.  I can't believe that I managed to grow up without ever trying Indian food. Now, I eat it all the time. Most Indian recipes do not even need to be veganized, because they rely heavily on staples like potatoes, tomatoes, and chickpeas.
I decided to round out my meal with vegan chana masala, whole wheat naan, and a broccoli and tomato side dish. I'll post two of the recipes today and two tomorrow, because I need to come up with reasons to keep my public coming back.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Pike! Pike! (If I did it Part II)

Read the name of this post aloud. Now, read it again with a Russian accent. Now, pretend that you are barking a command to a platoon of new recruits to the Soviet army.

Good, now you sound like my gymnastics coach, Yefim. Yefim is an ex-Olympian and I am lucky enough to train with him once a week at the Los Angeles School of Gymnastics, where I have been going since the fall. I am on the road to winning "most improved", but that's partially because my second class I cut my foot open on a springboard and needed stitches. It's all uphill from there, really.

The second installment of my weight loss series is not about gymnastics specifically. All that I'm saying is that, if you want to be truely healthy, you need to find some kind of physical activity that feels good, ignites your passion, and makes you sweat. Most of us spend our days sitting at a computer. In fact, if we are not sitting at our desks, there is a general perception that we are slacking off or not doing our jobs. Maybe this sedentary lifestyle is one of the reasons why America has an obesity epidemic on its hands.

Maybe you decide to take a dance class, or perhaps you and your friends decide to put together a basketball game. Maybe your thing is roller skating or fencing or Parkour. Maybe you ride a bike. It doesn't matter what you do, as long as you do it a couple of times a week. Me, I go to gymnastics once or twice a week and spend the rest of my week lifting weights, doing yoga, or doing cardio specifically to make myself a better gymnast. Working out is not only going to burn calories, it's also going to increase your resting metabolic rate and improve your heart and lung function. It's going to help you sleep better and need less sleep every night. It's good for treating depression and reducing stress. So, make a point to get outside a few times a week, even if you start by walking. Personally, I started by walking in the mornings before work. That was August, and now it's February and I've got a verifiable gun show going on.

Editor's note: Disclaimer: I did not go to gymnastics class this week because of work, but I will be making every attempt to go twice next week. 

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Let's Talk About "Gravy"

Gravy is a term that some people use to refer to hand-crafted tomato sauce. It implies that said sauce did not come out of a can, but rather was painstakingly prepared over the course of several hours. I have never used the term "gravy", but when I think of tomato sauce, I don't think of Prego. I think of tomato paste, like the can pictured above, whole canned tomatoes, onions, garlic, and a kitchen that smells absolutely heavenly. I love to put on a pot of tomato sauce and then freeze what's left over, so I have some on hand for pizza and pasta dishes.
I know that canned sauce is very convenient, but who the hell knows what they put in there. Usually it's a lot of additives that rack up the calories. Real tomato sauce should have no more than 5 or 6 ingredients, and as a result, it will be low in fat and full of lycopene, which is an important free radical phytochemical that fights free radicals (Thanks, Lori). If you want, you can start with actual tomatoes and cook them down or some such nonsense. Instead, I do what my mom did and I take some important shortcuts. The only time-consuming part of my tomato sauce recipe is the time it sits on the stove. This recipe is super easy and super delicious. So, grab a knife and a pot and prepare to impress the hell out of your friends.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Great Debate

On my desk you will find 3 different kinds of vegan blueberry bread, along with a tally sheet. Please stop by and try one of each, then record your vote.
First Up we have a blueberry bread with walnut and brown sugar streusel topping
Secondly, a lemon blueberry bread
Lastly, a blueberry banana bread.
Details, ingredients, and nutritional information can be found at
1 vote per customer

This is the actual e-mail that I sent out to a select group of my co-workers after lunch today, hoping that I could harness their afternoon sugar cravings into a focus group. As you know, I spent most of the weekend trying different blueberry bread recipes, hoping that I would be able to get a definitive answer today about which one was the best. Well, it was a useless idea, because we ended up with a 3 way tie. Personally, my favorite was the lemon blueberry bread, but I thought it was maybe just a tad too dense. I liked the banana bread as well, and it rose better than the lemon, but it was fat-free and a little dry. Perhaps I could have taken it out of the oven a few minutes earlier. 
I'm told that it was a three way tie because all of them were so good, but I think that it just goes to show that everyone has different tastes (except for one curmudgeon who does not even like blueberries). As such, I am going to take the dry ingredients from the banana bread recipe and mix them with the wet ingredients from the lemon recipe, and add lemon zest to the whole damn thing. I'm also going to try my new favorite flour, whole wheat pastry flour from the Whole Foods bulk section. I used it to make whole wheat naan last night, and it did not disappoint.

During the two weeks that I was not a vegan, I had my friend Noelle order some Girl Scout cookies from our bosses' daughter, who comes around the office every year and shakes us down is kind enough to sell us cookies. I absolutely love Girl Scout cookies. As a former Girl Scout myself, I think that it's important to support the entrepreneurship and initiative of the girls who sell them. However, much to my dismay, Girl Scout cookies are not vegan. Some varieties are, but not the ones that I decided I needed to buy. I picked up my cookies this morning and promptly unwrapped all three boxes, deposited them on a desk, and let the vultures descend. I feel good about my decision. It was a major step for me, resisting the cookies that I used to eat by the boxful. I rewarded myself with peanut butter soy ice cream when I got home from work today, because we can't all be perfect all of the time. It did get me thinking, however, that my next blog series might focus on reinventing Girl Scout cookies as vegan.

Vegan Lemon Blueberry Bread

Even though I had trouble falling asleep Saturday night, I was up super early Sunday morning so I could bust out another loaf of blueberry bread before going to tutor. This variation uses lemon zest for a delicious, citrus-y flavor. This bread is a serious contender in my blueberry competition. I modified a recipe from Joy of Baking by using agave, earth balance, applesauce, and ener-g egg replacer.
I was still up in the air about whether I wanted to do a lemon recipe or just do another regular one and vary the flour, until I had dinner at Sante La Brea, a vegan restaurant near the New Beverly.  The dinner was ok. I had a vegan patty melt with cashew cheeze, and it tasted pretty much like I expected it to. The one thing that I like about vegan food is that it's pretty consistent. It usually tastes the same no matter where you get it, so the mark of a really good vegan restaurant is one where you are pleasantly surprised. Anyway, dinner was ok, but what blew me away was the lemon cake that we had for dessert. It was moist and delicious, with the most amazing lemon icing. My recent tribulations have given me a newfound respect for any vegan baker, and this guy was on top of his game. I highly reccomend Sante La Brea for dessert. Maybe the next time I go I will try something different as a main course. Like I said, it's right next to the New Beverly, and I'm in that neighborhood quite often to fuel my double feature addiction.

So, without further adieu, here is the third contender in the Great Blueberry Bread Bake-off.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Blueberry Bread

 As you know, I am very focused on making a good showing at next weekend's vegan potluck brunch. I feel a little bit like Michelle Trachtenberg in Ice Princesses, where she had only been taking skating lessons for a few weeks when she had to enter some big ice-skating competition. Like Michelle's character, I want to make a strong showing and shoot up about 3 or 4 divisions from amateur to junior novice, or whatever the shit she did. It's been awhile since I've seen the movie, but feel free to correct me in the comments. I'm a little disappointed that no one ever comments on this blog. Let's start a flame war or something, people.
Anyway, let me shift back to the potluck. I have committed to the idea of a vegan blueberry bread, but I have 3 different recipes. One is for a straight up blueberry banana bread, one incorporates a walnut struesal topping, and one will use a hint of lemon and possibly some sort of a glaze. So, I'm going to do what any ex-highschool overachiever would do, I'm going to bake all three of them this weekend and then force my coworkers to do a taste test on Monday.

I love breakfast breads. They are super easy to bring in to work, because they require relatively little prep time, can be healthier than cookies, and aren't as messy as cakes or pies. Everyone at work knows that my desk is usually a good place to find baked goods, and it was even mentioned at my last performance review when my boss got to the topic of "contributing to team morale". I also like the idea of anything that I can cook on a Saturday or Sunday morning and eat for the week. A loaf of this bread, baked on the weekend, can save me a lot of time in the mornings, making it easier to get to the gym. I just have to toast a slice and smear it with a little Earth Balance or perhaps some preserves. Lately I've been jonesing on Trader Joes Pumpkin Butter. It was delicious on oatmeal scones, and I imagine that it would be pretty good on this as well. Another option might be to mash up half a fresh banana and use it instead of spread. The possibilities are endless.

A coworker of mine was talking about this delicious non-vegan recipe that she has for blueberry banana bread. It got me to thinking that I would love to take said recipe and turn it into a healthy, vegan breakfast bread. I did what I always do, and consulted a couple of different recipes until I decided what to use in my own. This recipe uses a banana base. I like using bananas in cooking, but they tend to have an overpowering flavor, so I usually only put them in something that I actually want to taste like bananas. I also used some steel-cut oats to supplement the flour. This is my second blueberry bread recipe test, and I was much more pleased with the results this time. The bread is still very dense and satisfying, but it's also baked all the way through and not too chewy. So far, this is clearly the front-runner.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Blueberry Bliss

My coworker Kristin is a ray of sunshine. Even though she spends her days ,like me, as a warden at the mental institution, she has a great sense of humor about the whole thing. Yesterday, Kristin gifted me with two recipes for blueberry bread as well as a recipe for Indian Batata Nu Shaak and a collection of carefully labeled Indian spices. It was like a culinary Christmas. One of the blueberry bread recipes comes from her friend Jess Thomson, who has her own very wonderful health food blog. You can check it out at However, you have to promise to come back to this blog, because hers is much better and I wouldn't blame you for wanting to spend the whole day browsing over there.

Anyway, Jess's recipe for Almost Unforgettable Blueberry Breakfast Bread incorporates some really great healthy ideas, like a hearty walnut topping, whole wheat flour, and yogurt instead of some of the oil. I took some steps to veganize it, omitted the flaxseed because I didn't have any, and further reduced the fat content by using applesauce instead. I've had great success cooking with applesauce lately, as it makes my cakes and breads deliciously moist and has about 1/10th the calories of margarine or oil. If weight isn't an issue for you, I reccomend using the original recipe, just using soy yogurt and ener-g egg replacer. If you, like me, need to watch what you eat in time for swimsuit season, I hope that my recipe will do the trick.

Let me be straight with you, gentle readers. My real motivation behind this recipe is to come up with something very delicious and very vegan for February 28th, when I am attending my very first vegan potluck, with a great group of Vegan Foodies I found on It's going to be my first event on the Los Angeles vegan "scene". Sure, I've been to Golden Mean and shopped the Whole Foods salad bar, but on the 28th I'm going to become a real part of it. Needless to say, I'm suffering from a bit of "performance anxiety", and really want to come up with a brunch recipe that is simple, delicious, travels well, and is super-healthy. I ordered business cards, and I am hoping 1: that they will arrive on time and 2: that I won't give anyone food poisoning because they will be able to trace me back here.

Friday, February 19, 2010

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

String beans and mushrooms and garlic and vegetable broth. Yum!

Before the revolution, I used to be wild about string bean casserole with cream of mushroom soup and fried onions. Now, I find the idea a little revolting. However, I can still get behind the flavor combination of mushrooms and string beans. It has been awhile since I picked up any string beans, and I decided I wanted to work them into my weekly menu plan. I buy mushrooms just about every week, and put them on everything from pizza to veggie burgers, so I'm always looking to use them.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

If I Did It: A Tribute to OJ Simpson

You've got to hand it to the guy, he found an interesting loophole and managed to write a book so he could make back some of the money he had to pay when he lost his civil suit. Overall I think that's a win.

So here is the elephant in the room. Over the past couple of months, I've lost a lot of weight. People are constantly asking me how I did it and what my secrets are. I'm going to be doing a series of posts for those of you who want to know how I did it (if I did it). If you're not interested, don't disappear for the next week or so, because I'll still be doing my regular updates too.

So, let me set the record straight once and for all. My secret is that there are no secrets. Maintaining or changing your weight comes down to one thing: math. Calories go in through food and calories are expended in daily activities, as part of your basal metabolic rate, and through exercise. I will say that not all calories are created equal. My body responds worse to beer than it does to wine, worse to pasta than it does to fruit. If I go out for pizza and a beer, I basically know that I'm going to be carrying around an extra pound or two for a few days. However, over the long term, it really does come down to the math.

Now that I've told you there are no secrets, let me try to be at least a little helpful.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Vegan Jambalaya, Say What?

Monday night my friend Jay was kind enough to cook us all dinner. He is just starting to discover himself in the kitchen and he made a great Cajun meal. The only downside for me was that I couldn't eat anything except the bread pudding. The upside for me was that I couldn't eat anything except the bread pudding :) 
Anyway, it really got me thinking about Cajun cooking and about how nice it might be to do a vegan recipe for Mardi Gras. Last year I made two absolutely delicious King Cakes, but they were smothered in thick, sugary, almond icing. I could have veganized that, but after Singles Awareness Day this past weekend, I really didn't have the stomach for any more dessert. Also, I'm always on the lookout for quick and tasty weeknight meals. After I finish with work and the gym, I usually am not in the mood to spend an hour in the kitchen. Not only do I not have that kind of time, but by the time I finish cooking, it's usually too late to eat dinner anyway.

Then, this morning, I realized that I had vegan sausage in the freezer, canned tomatoes, rice, and a shit ton of chili powder left over from Enchilada Saturday. I'm not entirely sure what's supposed to go into Jambalaya, but I had some at Disneyland's Blue Bayou once. I think that this pretty much makes me an expert. For this recipe, I used my favorite vegan sausage: Tofurkey's Tomato Basil. 

You need to be careful when buying veggie sausage, or any "veggie" product really. Read the ingredients, because a lot of them contain cheese or some kind of dairy by-product. Since a lot of animal-derived ingredients have complicated, hard-to-remember names, I'll either look for the words vegan on the packaging, or rely on one of the many vegan safe lists that exist out there.  
Trader Joes' Vegan Food List 
Peta's Vegan List

A Season for Giving (Up)

I describe myself as a recovering Catholic, meaning that I was raised Catholic, went to Catholic school, and now am sorting out residual issues from that experience. The one tradition that I have held on to is that of lent. Lent is the 40 day period before Easter when all good Catholics give up some kind of a vice. It’s an exercise in self-discipline that is supposed to help us prepare for the symbolical rebirth that is Easter.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Veggie Enchiladas

 Ok, so the blog may be called (Mis)Adventures in Vegan Cooking, but I'm not always 100% Vegan. While I mostly maintain a vegan kitchen, I do have my occassional lacto-vegetarian moments. Sometimes, I'm cooking for carnivorous friends, which creates quite a quandary. On the one hand, I like to stick to my guns. However, on the other hand, when someone cooks for me or we go out to eat together, I expect my eating preferences to be equally weighted against theirs. I wouldn't like it if I showed up at a friend's house and was handed a steak, or showed up for a date only to be whisked away to a Churrasco restaurant. So this past weekend, I struck a happy medium and decided to share the recipe here anyway.
I started off by doing a lot of research on enchilada sauces, mostly because I had no idea what went into one, just that it was spicy and delicious and red. As it turns out, you are supposed to use chicken broth, tomato paste, cumin, and chili powder. Other ingredients like garlic and oregano are optional. I switched out the chicken broth for veggie and I was in business. I also added a clove of garlic, because I love garlic and don't think you can ever go wrong with it. Thus, we ended up with a fat-free, cruelty-free sauce that packs in a nice serving of vegetables.
Then I started to think about the enchiladas themselves. I was pretty clear on the concept: tortillas + cheese + enchilada sauce. However, it didn't feel like nearly enough vegetables. I read some recipes with spinach, but then came up with a very whimsical idea. I would add red and green peppers and onions to the middle of my enchiladas, thus creating fajita-style enchiladas. It was almost as earth-shattering a culinary moment as the pizza bagel, I am sure. If you wanted to, you could use any vegan cheese in place of the regular stuff, or I bet you could even blend together tofu and nutritional yeast, like in my vegan lasagna, and spread that over the tortillas instead.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Sometimes you have to show a little skin. This reminds boys of being naked, and then they think of sex.

Alicia Silverstone graced the silver screen in Clueless, a movie that spoke to the mid-90's zeitgeist. Alicia is one of my favorite vegans, and I really do need to get out there and buy her new book, The Kind Diet. Alicia touts the benefits of veganism, including weight loss, improved health, and general good karma. I think that it's great that she is using her notoriety to promote a plant-based lifestyle, especially when there are so many celebrities who are happy to plug fast food restaurants and soft drinks.  I could gush for days about Alicia, but this is my blog (her's is here).

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Please Show Me the Nipple

I don't understand where soymilk comes from. When someone can show me the nipple on a soy bean, that's when I'll drink it
This is perhaps the most misguided and entertaining quote I've ever heard about soy milk. It came from a guy in the middle of him challenging me on my vegetarian(then vegan) ways. I get a lot of questions about why I'm doing this, where I get my protein from, how this can possibly be healthy, et. cetera. So, I thought that I should blog a bit and try to put some perspective on it.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Valentines Day Cookie Recipe

Valentine's Day is coming up this week. Yes, it's a completely made up holiday to promote consumerism. However, it's still one of my favorite holidays. I love the chocolates, the flowers, and the idea of spending a special evening with the person you love. Unfortunately, due to circumstances out of my control, I will not have a valentine this year. But, just because I'm going to die alone doesn't mean I shouldn't post a delicious cookie recipe.

This recipe is a veganized version of my mother's potato cookies. She makes them at Christmas every year, and I absolutely love them. Her version is exactly like mine, except I use earth balance instead of butter and sweet potatoes instead of white. Sweet potatoes are rich in vitamins A and C, so it could be argued that these cookies are good for you.

I think that there's something to be said for giving baked goods instead of a bunch of store-bought chocolate hearts. It's quirky and interesting and more special because of the effort that goes into it. I once had the brilliant stroke of genius to bring a few of these very cookies on a first date. It was a little ballsy, but it was one of those rare first dates (for me anyway) where he actually called when he said he would. If these cookies can get Ms. Unlucky in Love a phone call, they will probably bring the man (or woman) of your dreams to their knees.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Return of the Pancake

In December, I was lucky enough to have someone make me the most delicious vegan pancakes I've ever had.

 Like a crack addict, I scoured the internet for a vegan pancake recipe similar to how I remember his. You will remember the recipe I posted earlier in the week. They were good, but they weren't "the pancakes I was looking for". So, I guilted him into providing me with his recipe. I was overjoyed at the prospect of having a steady supply of these pancakes, because I really did like them THAT much. They're the perfect combination of chewy vs. fluffy, and they taste delicious.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Hey Garfield, it's Lasagna!

Who didn't love the comic strip and television cartoon about that fat orange cat who seemingly lived for the sole purpose of shipping dogs off to Abu-Dabi? More importantly, who doesn't love a good lasagna?
I used to take great pride in finding the perfect ratio of mozzarella to ricotta to tomato sauce to pasta. Then, I realized that putting 4 tablespoons of spinach into a 12-serving tray did not a healthy dinner make. Lasagna is comfort food, and with my discovery of vegan ricotta cheese, seemed like a good idea to me. This recipe has two components, first is a tofu-ricotta made with a food processor. This ricotta would be suitable for a baked ziti, or even on top of a vegan pizza with lots of garlic.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Vegan Pancakes

Let's talk about Vegan pancakes.
Anyone who has ever been to Swingers in Santa Monica knows the joy of vegan chocolate-chip pancakes, which they only serve on the weekends. And who doesn't fondly remember the beloved Mrs. Buttersworth or Aunt Jemima? I've spent way too much time at I-HOP in my lifetime. Pancakes are hands-down my favorite breakfast food.
I have a friend who makes fantastic vegan pancakes. They're thin and light and chewy, more like a McDonald's pancake than anything else. I have had great trouble replicating his recipe, although I have finally identified the right type of flour and will be doing another test batch this week.

Saturday, February 6, 2010


Welcome to my new blog.
In October, I committed myself to living a healthy vegetarian lifestyle. Since then, I've been an on and off vegan and experimenting with different kinds of vegetarianism. For those of you who don't know, there are all kinds of vegetarians lacto-vegetarians (milk and dairy), ovu-vegetarians (eggs), and pescatarians (fish). Right now I'm a lacto-vegetarian, mostly because of my addiction to fresh mozzarella. However, when I'm at home I try to stick to vegan cooking, because I really believe that a plant-based diet is the healthiest way to live your life.
Since taking up the vegetarian flag, I've lost an additional 15 pounds(more on that later). My skin is clearer and fresher looking, and I have more energy at the gym.