pull up the covers

tonight, i'm performing in a cover band (team dresch!!) at a show, where TEN other cover bands are playing. ten!! cover bands are kind of a west philly halloween tradition, and this one just might take the cake. i am ridiculously excited and a little nervous and so amazed by the level of participation that went into this show. from the generosity of the house that's hosting it - The Mitten @ 4918 Kingsessing Ave. in west philly - to all the people sharing and lending musical equipment, to the over 175 confirmed guests on facebook...just totally life affirming. and it's ryan's birthday, so it'll be a hell of a night. fellow philadelphians: maybe i'll see ya there?


p.s. i made that little flyer!


pumpkin party

last night i had the privilege of attending a pumpkin party with my dear friend anabell. her whole foods pals were throwing an autumnal themed party and she invited me along knowing my love of food, parties and themes! fancy cheese platter aside, the drinks, soups and dessert were vegan friendly and certainly delicious. cobwebs adorned the walls, the birds played on the television and the fog machine...fogged all night long.

the root veggie soup was hearty and filling made with turnips, potatoes, tomatoes, leeks, carrots, celery and beets. optional garnishes included toasted walnuts, scallions and goat cheese!

spiced wine with cardamom and a clove studded orange warmed the belly and loosened the tongue, making everyone flush in the face and merry (literally, people were acting merry!). homemade apple cider boiled in a le creuset pan on the stove with orange slices bobbing about, which everyone happily combined with a nip of brandy in mugs.

a bowl of pomegranate seeds on the table made for a light sweet snack and a bowl of pumpkin chocolate chip bars made for a not so light but decadent sweet dessert. candy corn flavored soda was passed around the in the tiniest, cutest little 8 oz cans!

(jones "candy corn" flavored soda!)

then, we carved pumpkins! and it was REALLY FUN!

throw a scarf around my neck and call me cozy, because i sure do love autumn.



1st cake of the fall

the silver lining to all of this chilly rain and gray skies (so relentless sometimes, you can feel the raindrops pelting against your very bones), is that it's finally time to turn the oven back on! the first few weeks of fall still prove to be too pleasant and breezy to have an appliance in the kitchen emitting hundreds of degrees of radiant heat. but now...now is just the perfect time to put on a jazz LP, all fuzzed out against the record player's needle, to make a late afternoon french press, and to dig up old baking recipes banished to the back of the pile.

our first cake of the fall was a truly collaborative effort. lauren whipped the cake up in minutes flat, and i improvised on the filling and the glaze. chocolate, cinnamon, apples, cinnamon, cider and rum - can you think of a dessert flavor profile more fitting for autumn?

Choco Cinnamon Cake w/ Apple Rum Filling & Black Pepper Cider Glaze
takes about 45 mins, 25 inactive
makes 2 round cakes, 2 cups of filling and 1/2 cup glaze
cake recipe adapted from Eat, Drink & Be Vegan by Dreena Burton

ingredients for the cake:

2 cups +1-2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1/2 cup regular cocoa (not dutch processed)
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/8 cups sugar
1/2 tsp salt (scant)
2-2 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 3/4 cup water
1/8 cup balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup canola oil

ingredients for apple filling:

1 teaspoon vegan margarine
2 medium to large crisp apples, such as gala, sliced thinly
2 scant tablespoons brown sugar
2 big splashes dark rum or brandy

ingredients for cider glaze:

1 cup of apple cider
pinch of cinnamon
3 black peppercorns

- preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

- combine all the dry ingredients: sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt, and then stir in the sugar.

- combine all the wet ingredients.

- add the wet to dry and mix until just incorporated.

- pour the batter into two round pans, lined with parchment paper. pop 'em in the oven and set a timer for 23-25 minutes.

- while the cake is baking, make the filling: put the margarine into a cast iron pan over low to medium heat, and let it melt. add the apples and stir gently until they're softened and slightly browning, about 6 minutes. slightly turn up the flame, and add the brown sugar. let it get melt-y over the apples, maybe 2 minutes. turn the heat up even higher and add the liquor. it should sizzle loudly and caramelize onto the apples. stir gently and taste a piece of apple. does it taste awesome? if so, its done, so turn the heat off. cover the pan and let the apples sit in their stew til you're ready to fill the cake. if the apples do not taste awesome, add a bit more sugar and let it cook for another few minutes.

- the cakes should be done by right around this time. test with a toothpick or knife for done-ness. put them on a rack (still in the pan) to cool.

- put the cider in a non-stick sauce pan over a high flame; bring it to a boil. turn the flame down, add the cinnamon and black peppercorns, and let the cider reduce until it's about 1/2 a cup. it should be syrupy and glaze-y. if it sits for awhile before the cakes fully cool and thickens up too much, you can re-heat and thin it out with a bit of water or more cider. make sure to fish out the peppercorns!

- when the cakes have cooled enough to safely touch the pan, gently wiggle them out of the pan.

- unlike using frosting, you don't have to wait for the cakes to fully cool before adding the extras.
so set one cake on a plate, and spread the apple filling out across the top, making sure to save a few pieces for a garnish. put the 2nd cake on top, and press down very gently. then pour the cider glaze on top, and garnish with a few slices of the apple you saved. serve immediately. this cake will be good for up to 4 days if you keep it in a cake saver!



quick & ease - sweet pot salad

it's a great feeling when you can tell that a new recipe is gonna be a lifelong keeper, before the food is even finished. that's exactly how i felt when rocking mark bittman's sweet potato salad, as posted on his most righteous blog bitten, in the new york times (sigh). even though bittman sure loves his meats and fishes, this spicy little salad came out of the box 100% vegan, so all i had to do is cook. using a recipe for a simple salad may seem a bit silly, but as our friend halimah put it, "they just always turn out better when you do." the secret, i think, is all in the dressing. if left to my own devices, i most likely would have over complicated it, adding extra spices or whatever that would muck it up. this one is simple as anything - just some jalapeno, garlic, lime juice, olive oil and salt. absolutely gorgeous, and adds such a lightness to the decadent roasted sweet potatoes. the completed salad is a lovely, vibrant mix of colors and textures, and takes maybe 10 minutes to make (not including the time the potatoes are in the oven). one addition that i think could be nice for a heartier dish would be some roasted crimini or baby bella mushrooms. but it's pretty perfect on its own, too...

sweet potato salad
adapted from bitten by mark bittman

see the original post here
takes about 50 minutes, 40 minutes inactive
makes a big bowl full

4 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
a few tsps + 1/4 cup of olive oil
1 red onion, chopped or sliced
2 tablespoons fresh jalapeno pepper, minced
1-2 cloves of garlic, peeled
juice of 2 limes
2 cups of cooked black beans
1 red pepper, diced
handfull of cilantro
salt & pepper

- preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

- toss the sweet potato and onions in a few teaspoons of olive oil, salt and pepper. lay it out on a pan, and roast in the oven for 30-40 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes and tender and brown around the edges.

- while the taters are cooking, chop the peppers and drain the beans.

- put the jalapenos, garlic, lime juice and 1/4 cup olive oil into the food processor. blend until smooth. taste for salt and pepper.

- when the potatoes & onions are done, toss them in a bowl with the red pepper, black beans, and the spicy dressing. sprinkle with a healthy dose of cilantro. done!



goodbye gourmet

ok, ok, here's someone not so controversial. did you hear ruth reichl on a recent episode of fresh air on whyy? she's so cute! reichl is the editor of gourmet magazine, and as most of you probably know, gourmet magazine's november issue will be the last issue ever. this totally sucks.

gourmet magazine isn't the most vegan friendly magazine, but damn if i haven't loved reading through their glossy pages every month for the past four years, lusting after some recipes and veganizing others. a gift subscription for christmas was one of my favorite presents, and it was mysteriously renewed every year and continuously enjoyed since (thanks, kevin!). i'll be sad to have to settle for bon appetit and food&wine. sorry, but they just aren't the same.

check out the interview with terry gross to hear about reichl's experiences with gourmet, some of her favorite dishes, and just all around cuteness from an awesome foodie woman. and then let out a little sigh as you say goodbye to gourmet. be sure to pick up the november issue because in 2034 it's going to be "vintage".



The Food Issue

magazine recently ran a piece by everyone's favorite food critic (pun intended) michael pollan, entitled "rules to eat by". the article was important to me because it talks a bit of smack on food marketers , a subject i gained a bachelor's degree in less than two years ago. the article brings up some good points, namely, how it is hard to trust marketers these days when froot loops are being labeled as "smart choices", an industry label indicating healthfulness.

pollan goes on to indicate how the most widely trusted opinion comes from those closest to you, your mom, your family, your friends. he asked people what their rules were for eating well in an effort to gain aphorisms for his new book "food rules: an eater's manual". here are twenty of his favorite responses.

i still haven't gotten around to reading omnivore's dilemma, and after seeing food, inc. recently, i'm a bit nervous about how depressed and dejected the book might make me. for now, i'll stick to bustling around my kitchen cooking up a head of (local) napa cabbage and drinking (organic) hot apple cider, thank you very much.



Sidecar for Pigs Peace

alright, last west coast post, i promise. i need to get my head back on the east coast, and keep it there, especially with the phillies getting ready to take on the dodgers. EAST COAST IS THE BEAST COAST!!

ok, and on to the blogging. tucked away in seattle's university district, away from the hustle and bustle of student life there lies an oasis, a mirage, a vegan mecca on one little street corner. on one corner is sidecar pigs for peace, washington's only 100% vegan store.

everything up in this place is vegan, you don't even have to check the labels! i bought a bag of dandies marshmallows (cutest logo ever!), which i have yet to use, a few little chocolate treats and two vegan doughnuts, courtesy of mighty-o. check out the major vegan goods:

the sweet treat section could've been my downfall,
but the vegan doughnuts were really what i was after

a vegan "dairy" case. HA!
so much fake cheese, so little time

i very much like the sound of this

vegan truffles as far as the eye can see

i then enjoyed double fisting the vegan doughnuts outside of pizza pi, a totally vegan pizza shop across the street from the vegan grocery store! does it get any better? actually, there was a little variety shop next door and a spice shop across the street! plus a cool independent theater down the way and a little further walk took you to an adorable park. sadly, i wasn't very hungry and didn't get any pizza from pizza pi, with plans to return that never happened. next time, pizza pi. unless you deliver, that is?

portland and olympia were subject to a dead camera battery and a forgotten charger so no pictures of cajun tofu sandwich with handcut french fries, big old burritos, tofu benedict, MORE vegan doughnuts and even a house of vintage. someday portland i'm going to come back and then, THEN, will i capture photographs of your delicious victuals.

back east and eating,


tortas sin carne

usually, the combining of two great food groups turns out all gross/wonky, prizing concept or "cleverness" over actual taste. baked ziti on a pizza? um...no. apple pie translated into a cocktail? NO. bacon flavored lip balm? vomit! i know lip balm isn't technically a food, but, well, it almost is.

well, the torta - basically taco + sandwich (2 of the holiest food groups in my book) - does not fall prey to this silly fate. i often see very delicious sounding but very meat-ful tortas on mexican menus around the city, and never a vegan, or even vegetarian option crosses my little plate. so psyched i was, when perusing the september issue of food & wine, to see that not only was there an entire article about interesting sandwiches, but a mexican torta was included! no matter how difficult, i was going to veganize that sucker...veganize it straight to hell.

this recipe was from the much loved rick bayless, from his new "street food"-centric restaurant in chicago, xoco, and he says it's meant to show people another side of mexico besides tacos. i accept yr challenge sir rick: BRING IT ON!

the recipe:
Mexican Tortas with Black Beans, Vegan Goat Cheese and Vegan Chorizo
adapted from Food & Wine magazine, Sept 2009 issue
makes 4 tortas

1 tsp vegetable oil for brushing the sammy rolls
1 order/0.5 pound of vegan chorizo (i made the TVP-based recipe from vegan with a vengeance)
1 15 oz. cans of drained, rinsed black beans
4 long hoagie rolls, i used portugese rolls from the supermarket - sooooo good
4 ounces vegan goat cheese (recipe to follow)
1 ripe avocado
shredded lettuce
lil tomatoes
pickled (or fresh if you're feeling wild) jalapenos
sprigs of fresh cilantro

vegan goat cheese (i made this up!):
1/2 cup almond or cashews, soaked in warm water for at least 15 minutes
1/3 block of mori nu firm tofu
6 fat green olives, pitted
olive oil
1 lemon
apple cider vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

- first, make the vegan cheese so you can let it chill for as long as possible. basically, throw the first three ingredients into a food processor and pulse until well mixed and thick. add a teaspoon or so of the olive oil, approx. 1/2 the lemon juice and a bit of lemon zest, and pulse some more. add a pinch of salt and pepper, and a tiny splash of apple cider vinegar if it's not sour enough for your taste. it should have a dense, chees-y texture. i didn't add anything else, since the tortas were going to have so much flavor, but if you're using this for another purpose, basil, sun dried tomatoes or black olives mixed in could be good. scrape out of the processor and into a small dish or ramekin. let it "set" in the fridge for as long as possible.

- if your chorizo is from another day, reheat it in a skillet. if you just made the chorizo, keep it warm over a low flame.

- add the black beans to the chorizo, and mash them with a potato masher until creamy. season with s&p, and cover to keep it warm.

- prep the sandwich fixins.

- cut the hoagie rolls in half, and pull out some of the bread from the inside to create a small cavity. brush the cut sides of each roll with vegetable oil and put the rolls, cut side down, on a skillet or griddle over a medium flame, and cook until toasted, about 2 minutes. turn and cook the tops for just a minute.

- spread the top of the hoagie roll with the gauxt cheese, and spread the bottoms with the delicious chorizo and black bean mixture.

- add the avocado, tomatoes, lettuce, cilantro and jalapenos.

served with a some chips and homemade roasted carrot salsa on the side:

party time! excellent!!



there is a light(house) that never goes out

(this post has nothing to do with being vegan, enjoy anyway!)

one night i got to see japanther for free, drank quite a few rainiers and danced the night away, photobooth sessions at 2am and then hopped in a cab to play rockband, eat vegan pizza and sleep IN THIS??

yes, i slept in a lighthouse in seattle. i'd highly recommend living in one of these (oh and if you have great taste in style and design and decorate your house until i die from cuteness, that's a plus).



tiny kiwi

the vegan gourmet is always on the look out for interesting produce options. because so many ingredients are off limits, we gotta keep it fresh. i mean, really...think about it. there are hundreds, thousands, millions? of items, ranging from everyday staples (butter, cream, lard) to all forms of strange exotica that we mindfully omit from our each and every dish. so when we come across a special breed of potato (we saw some the other day at the farmer's market called "red cloud," which inevitably makes me think of floating dreamily on a fluffy cumulous of mashed potatoes), or white asparagus, or green paradise figs, we get our organic cotton panties all in a wad. new products mean new possibilities, and when you just can't face another stir fry, that is a beautiful thing.

the other day when i was walking through the italian market, i was scanning the produce stands for an interesting fruit option to adorn my morning granola. berry season is mostly over (sob! see ya next year), figs were expensive, etc etc. and then a small container caught my eye. kiwi berries! the label said "kiwi grapes," but that didn't fool me for a second.

i first learned of kiwi berries at work, and have loved the little dudes ever since. on the outside, they don't resemble kiwis at all: smooth skin with not a spot of fuzz. actually, they kind of look like - and are roughly the same size as - green cherries.

but then when you cut them open:

like a tiny kiwi! so i bought a box for a dollar and experienced the little buzz of finding something special. i bet these would be a snazzy little garnish on cupcakes or a fancy cocktail...

the wikipedia tells me that while we associate kiwis with tropical climates, kiwi berries are native to korea, china and siberia. the vines are quite hardy, and though they need a frost free period of 150 days to properly grow, they do survive temperature drops. also, the vines apparently smell like cat nip and cats love it! so next year, i'm growing these babies in my back yard, to snack on all summer long and to attract a gaggle of kittens to hunt the mice that frolick in our kitchen at night!



mushroom hunters of the pacific northwest

when you meet someone for the first time and you tell them you had a "lord of the rings-ian experience" on a rowboat yesterday, and their response is to inquire if you'd like to do another lord of the rings-ian adventure tomorrow and go mushroom hunting for chanterelles, you can be damn near positive you're going to like this person.

josh powell is the kind of guy with a beard and a smile that makes you immediately think, "yes, i will go into the forest with you for hours, finding potentially poisonous or psychedelic edibles in the hopes that ingesting them for dinner in a vegan cream sauce will not kill me or leave me wandering in a hallucinogenic haze for 12 hours straight, but will only be, in fact, delicious."

after a hearty meal at the wayward cafe, josh picked us up with a bucket full of books and tools and we drove northward to north bend, the town where twin peaks was filmed and also modeled after, home of the double r diner with the famous cherry pie and sporting two actual peaks, you know, the ones during the intro.

josh had a book THIS THICK (a good three inches) just chock full of mushroom information. fortunately, instead of having to read this in the back seat during the hour drive, i just bombarded josh with a shitload of questions and he more than happily obliged. here are a few we spotted on our jaunt:

chicken of the woods, not to be confused with hen of the woods
we picked this one! totes edible

this was the only totally "do not mess with this mushroom"
mushroom that we found on the hike,
spotted by yours truly! those little dots are bad news,
no matter what mario tells you

the artist conch is called so and so cool
because the underside is super soft
and you can write stuff on it with your fingernail

lobster mushrooms are not only beautiful,
they are also quite expensive,
plus we found like 20!

at this point, my extremely unreliable camera bit the dust and i couldn't take any more pictures of our hike. call me a bad blogger if you will, but get this, i had a backup battery and THAT was dead too! i tried to be prepared, i really did.

fast forward to dinner at josh's house where he was whipping up some fierce vegan cream sauce with lobster mushrooms, fettucini, garlic bread with angel mushrooms and a big old salad. ah, gourmet delicacies on a forager's budget.

to (literally) top it off, josh brought out a little saucer of ground white pepper and pink sea salt. be still my beating...stomach.