Friday, May 30, 2008

Argh! Too much sauce!... or too little salad?

Ok, so, remember in my first post when I said that I would share my failures? Well, here's one. I've been making these wicked salads as of late, with avocado and mushrooms and spinach leaves and flax seeds and sesame seeds and olives and fake meat of some sort, plus a dressing made of soy sauce and olive oil, to be simple. Well! Today, when preparing this salad for work, I totally didn't put enough salad in the container, and I totally put too much sauce. The result? Really slimy salad that's been overpowered by soy sauce. Merda! Sigh.

On the plus side, I went to Aux Vivres last night, my favourite vegan restaurant in all of Montreal. Magnifique! I went with some friends who'd never eaten in a vegan restaurant before, and they all enjoyed it. I was happy. :-)

That is all. I'm gonna force myself to finish off my salad. Meanwhile, my boyfriend and his friend are having Thai food right now, just down the street.... Grrrr...

Vegan in Suburbia

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A whole lotta excitement!











This is the way I wanted it to be: photos first, words later. Then again, who is to say that any of you will actually bother to scroll down to read my comments on the above photos (and how could I possibly blame you if you don't?). Anyway, I guess a greeting is in order--HELLO! How are you! I am fine. I haven't been baking or cooking as much as I would like to, considering that I'm slaving away at my summer course and trying to keep up some semblance of a social life and working and spending time with family and staying in shape (working out to counter the baking). But here is evidence that I've managed to squeeze in some quality baking time. First, there is vegan spanakopita. The recipe is by Robin Robertson, and I modified it slightly, with the inclusion of sun-dried tomatoes in the mushroom, spinach, and tofu filling. I was commissioned by my aunt to make them for my cousin Alex's 21st birthday, and they disappeared so quickly, I was stunned. No one was told, however, that they were vegan, for I made sure that only a select few people know.
Let it be known that, in many families as well as my own extended Italian family, vegan foods are somewhat taboo. Surprisingly (or maybe not so), people get freaked out when you label a food "vegan;" they automatically assume that it's covered in tofu and all types of "freaky" ingredients, like egg replacer or vegan mayonnaise or tempeh. Little do some people realize, but many foods that omnivores eat all the time are inherently vegan. Hummus? Yeah, that's vegan. What about minestrone soup? Most of the time, it's made with vegetable broth. Oreos? OREOS ARE VEGAN! Yet if I were to prance around telling people that Oreos were vegan, they might actually get grossed out. Here's the news: the "vegan" label doesn't mean that something odd has been added to a certain food product; rather, it means simply that it is devoid of any animal products.
Back to Alex's birthday party: I made sure not to make it explicitly known that the spanakopita was vegan. And so it disappeared and everyone was impressed and, sadly, no one knew it was made by me (for if they were to know, it'd get the vegan label [refer to preceding paragraph]); however, a great compliment was that one person thought that they'd originated from the store.
It seems that May, like November, is the month of birthdays. So, only six days later, I found myself baking once again, for my darling friend Irene. On the 23rd was her 22nd birthday, so I decided to make her cupcakes. Isa Chandra Moskowitz wrote a cookbook called Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World; well, I do honestly think that cupcakes could solve many of the world's problems. Think about it (and Isa talks about this in the book, too): Can you honestly picture anyone being presented with a cupcake and not grinning? Picture yourself not grinning, or can you. See, it's impossible! Cupcakes = smiles = world peace. Got it? Done. So I made a dozen cupcakes, as pictured above (actually, those I made tonight, mostly inspired by 1) a simple desire to make cupcakes, 2) complaints from various family members [namely my previously-mentioned Zia Mary] who either hadn't had the opportunity to taste the cupcakes I'd made for Irene or hadn't had enough of said cupcakes, and 3) my best friend's boyfriend who recently had a car accident. Cupcakes alleviate suffering [her boyfriend is fine, by the way, and thank goodness that he is]). Today's cupcakes, two dozen, were distributed many ways: Zia Mary and family get four; Maritsa and co. (boyfriend included) get five; I already ate two; Maritsa had two, too (haha!); Mom and Jess each had one; four remain, with one being picked at as it is the only one without icing... and it's 1 a.m. and it's sitting in front of me. Three hours to make twenty-four cupcakes, put icing on them, and wash the dishes. Phew!
Today, I spent a big chunk of the day doing work for school. It was time for lunch and although I didn't want to make anything elaborate, I also didn't want to settle for just a sandwich or a salad. So I decided to whip up a stir-fry, a meal I'd long abandoned after truly tiring it out as a staple meal for months on end a few years ago. Nevertheless, I managed to cook up something rather pleasant, and the peanut butter sauce that I put together turned out to be the best I have ever made. It was simple enough, too: organic peanut butter, organic soy milk, cayenne, stevia, organic tamari, and toasted sesame oil. Dee-lish!
Cooking news aside, over the last few days, things have been a bit hectic chez moi. Ma petite chienne, Brandy the Dog, seems to have injured herself somehow and the vet assumes it is a herniated disc. Ugh. On Monday night, at around 21:30, my sister, mum, and I noticed that Bijou (oh, god, don't get me started on how many names this dog of mine has!) was walking funny. And it wasn't an unfamiliar thing; we'd taken her to the vet twice before for the same ailment. Sadly enough, it returned. So Monday night, we took her to the animal hospital. Of course we got lost on the way there, but luckily the poor thing was calm in the back seat, which is evidence of how much pain she was in, as she normally is very jumpy and nervous and whiny in the car. We spent three hours at the animal hospital, and the final decision--among leaving her there overnight for blood tests and a subsequent $3000-dollar MRI, giving her pain meds, and giving her anti-inflammatory meds--was to give her pain meds, since the vet opted to not give her anti-inflammatory medication for some reason I didn't really understand. The Dr. was awesome, though, and really honest. We opted out of the MRI because of the cost, but also because we didn't want to subject Brandy to all the pokes and pains involved, especially since the MRI would tell us only what her ailment was and, afterward, because Brandy is old (she's 12), the surgeon would likely opt not to operate. That would be $3000 down the drain, not to mention the torture they'd put Brandy through. So now she is on pain medication, twice to thrice a day, mostly confined to her cage, and getting lots of rest. It's really sad that her age has manifested itself in this way, and I hope and pray that her health will be fully restored, and that her pain and awkward walking aren't manifestations of something more serious--after all, the vet said it's probably a herniated disc, though it could also be a tumour. Great.
And, to conclude, I'm reading a book on Vipassana meditation. It's called Mindfulness in Plain English, by Bhante H. Gunaratana. It's great, very insightful, and positive. It fills me with hope, cheesy as it sounds. I'm only on page 40 now, but I'm really learning a lot from it. I'm also reading Dispatches from Hell, by Daniel Peyser. It's a vegan dating and relationship book. It is absolutely hilarious. I have some issues with the editing, but other than that, it's awesome. GO GET BOTH OF THESE BOOKS! I'm still expecting another book by the aforementioned meditation author. Oh! I also got vegan shoes from ragazzivegan.com. They are totally not my style, as they are wedges (wtf is a wedge?) and bright green and BEAUTIFUL! My only beef (whoa, unvegan term) with them and the entire site, really, is that, as far as I know, their products are not sweatshop-free! What the hell! The shoes are made in China.... I should have researched the products further, ascertaining their vegan and sweatshop-free origin. I lose.
... for now, though, I WIN! I have VEGAN CUPCAKES!
Ok. 1:14. Time for zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
Oh, and this was hilarious, courtesy of my darling vegan boyfriend:
(via GoogleTalk)
matt: mmmmm better SAVE ME SOME [cupcakes] OR DEATH
me: lol dude, there are four put aside. Four! Specifically so that there's one for jess, one for momma, and TWO for you. Ass.
matt: no
1 for matt
1 for matt
1 for matt
ONE FOR MATT
<3

Vegan in Suburbia

Friday, May 16, 2008

Apple Pie + Moussaka + Zucchini Brownies = Heaven + Hardcore Workouts

I've been done school for exactly a month now. My last exam was on the 15th of April, and I have been free as a bird since then. Actually, I'm taking a summer course, but it's offered online, so I don't really feel like I'm "in school" at all. As a result of my being "done" school, I now have a whole lot of free time on my hands, but I am one who despises idleness; I need to be occupied. Bless those who can spend an entire day vegging, for maybe that isn't such a bad idea every once in a while; vegging is something I just can't do. So, to pass the time (and to just do what I think needs to be done), I work out every day, and sometimes I bake. During these past couple of weeks, I have tried out a whole bunch of new recipes, some of which have failed miserably--namely, the brownies advertised in VegNews' most recent magazine--and others which have, well, completely rocked and made me look like a culinary goddess--namely the moussaka I made just two days ago. I don't have any proof of how badly the brownies turned out, as the only proof is in the garbage can. My mum and sister said they were "good, just dry"; I thought they were complete crap, and I was especially upset because I was sure that I followed the recipe properly. And I hate throwing things away... but to the garbage they went.
Next: apple pie. I got the recipe from one of my vegan cookbooks, though I don't recall which one. (I'll check back later.) I'd never made a pie that had a crust to go on top of it, and I was pleasantly surprised to find out how easy it is to make. All you need is flour, water, and salt. Booya! (I discovered, thanks to my mummy, that you can [should] add sugar to the mix so that it isn't so bland.) Here it is, along with a photo of a sliced piece. OoOoOoOoOoh!
It was quite good, and of course I depended on my boyfriend eating most of it when he came back from a road trip to B.C. And of course he was enraged when I told him that, while he was away, I baked an apple pie; he was frightened that he may not get to try it, but I'm too nice of a girlfriend to not save him a piece. (Aww.)
Next: MOUSSAKA! I'd like to say that I'm cultured most of the time, but, to my dismay, my sister brought to my attention that I was horribly mispronouncing this word; then, my boyfriend pronounced it another way. What confused me most was that both were right: I pronounced it "mouss-AH-ka", though, for those who consider it a Greek food, it is pronounced "mouss-ah-KA"; for those who consider it a Lebanese food, however, it is "mouss-ah-HAH", with the sound like the "j" in Spanish. You learn something new everyday! Anyway, this recipe I got off of vegcooking.com; it was called Oopa Moussaka (hahaha). I found myself with an excess of zucchini in the fridge, and I did not want it to go to waste (which would explain why I made zucchini brownies.This recipe called for eggplant, though, and I did not have any. So, as this was a recipe that required layering, I used spinach lasagna for the eggplant layer; it turned out to be a pretty genius move, if I might say so myself. Also, I did not peel the potatoes, as they said to, because potato peels are ever so precious. <3
Bonus! Very special boy posing with food... awwwww
What's next... Ahh, yes, the zucchini brownies. The recipe I use--and it's fanfriggintastic--comes from allrecipes.com. I have to say that these brownies are beyond godly when you make them with icing on top (included in the recipe); this time around, however, I made them sans frosting, simply because they are very moist and beautiful on their own, and also because I wanted to reduce the calorie content of the brownie. I noticed also that since I didn't stir the batter well enough, the brownies came out a little crumbly on top, so I just shook off the crumbs and ate the rest of the brownies. Finally, I omitted the walnuts: I hate walnuts in brownies. I don't usually like to add nuts to baked goods because I find that it distracts you from the taste. Beato te, papa--my father loved walnuts in banana bread, so, because of him, I'd make two banana loaves: one with and one without walnuts (and with chocolate chips instead MMMMMMMM). Anyway... Mmmm... I'm giving most of the brownies away, because if I keep these around, I will be rotund by next week. Haha! Evidence time!


Next project: vegan spanakopita. I have been commissioned by my aunt to make it for my cousin's birthday this weekend. (I'm not kidding when I say commissioned: she gave me 25 bucks for ingredients. Sweet!)

Happy Victoria Day weekend, my Canadian friends!

Vegan in Suburbia

(EDIT: Oh man! My sister pointed out to me that there were a bunch of clarity issues [due to poor formatting on my part] and one or two spelling errors. How unlike me! Thanks, Jess, and my apologies.)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Because I feel like it

Ciao a tutti!

Tutti? Who's "everyone"? I guess I'm starting this off just for myself, and if anyone feels inclined to read it, then I'm all the luckier. Welcome, nonetheless.

I used to have a blog. There was no order to it, though. I'm probably fooling myself by thinking that this one will be any different, but I do have goals for Vegan in Suburbia.

First of all, why such short paragraphs? Because I feel like it. Second of all, why Vegan in Suburbia? Because I think that that kind of sums me up well, though, despite my dislike of such constricting and restricting labels. But really, this is how I see it: I'm a vegan, and I live in suburbia. That's messed up. No, really, it is. I guess it really depends on the city in which you live, and maybe even the country, but I see veganism as a type of urban phenomenon. Here's an example, and a bad example at that, to illustrate my point: I'm eating a salad right now (yay for cliché number 1!). It has mixed organic greens, flax seeds, sesame seeds, soy sauce (I like using soy sauce instead of just putting salt on my salad), olive oil, chopped mushrooms, organic avocado slices, organic cherry tomato slices, and (my favourite part) fake chicken pieces. Now even the supermarket (bless you, Loblaws) nearby sells fake chicken strips, but they are nowhere nearly as godly (yes, I do often use this adjective to describe food, and most often to describe only food) as the ones they sell in N.D.G. at a godly (oh, exception to the rule) little place called Fleur Sauvage. This fake chicken tastes like actual chicken (not that I'm looking for chicken taste, but I'm stating a quality), it's relatively pricey (but oh-so-worth it), and it actually tastes good (unlike the one from Loblaws which tastes good only if you fry it up or smother it in mushed avocado. Mmm... avocado...). All that just to say that if you want the good stuff, you usually have to step out of the West Island, the part of Montreal where I reside. Plus, there is only one entirely vegetarian restaurant (as far as I know, and I've been living here all my life, 5 years of which I've been vegan), the godly (again!) Indian restaurant called Pushap; of course, you have to head downtown and further east if you want vegetarian or even vegan restaurants. So, I thought Vegan in Suburbia would suit me quite nicely, don't you think? (Maybe Parentheses Abuser would suit me better....)

So I shall sum up my goals for this, and let's see how far I stray; I'd like to

  • chit-chat about vegan life on the dark side;
  • show off photos of baking and cooking projects, successes, and (occasional) mishaps and failures;
  • express my love and devotion to new and exciting vegan products;
  • annoy and intrigue everyone with random interjections in various languages (I study Italian and Spanish, and I live in a primarily French-speaking city, so sometimes expressions in those languages come to me more fluidly than they do in English... or I'll just use those languages when I feel like hiding things from the reading public.... There's always electronic translation, but that's no fun);
  • spread the word about yummy things my mum and my boyfriend's mum and other non-vegans have cooked up for us, because those around me who make a special effort to veganize food deserve my adoration (my boy is a convert! And his mummy loves us so she makes us nice food, like, really nice food);
  • gossip about my boy, that crazy Matt, because there's never a dull moment when I hang out with my love;
  • talk about animals, especially my dog, Brandy, because she's great;
  • post poetry;
  • ponder life and grammar, for I love life, and I love grammar;
  • reminisce and keep my father's memory alive, for he passed away in December 2007, and I miss him very much;
  • tell you what I'm up to in general. Period. Just because I feel like it.
And yes, I like Green Day. But I am not Jesus. Brian is.

I hope you enjoy, and that I don't abandon this after just one post. Oi!

Vegan in Suburbia