October 23, 2008

Vegan Mofo: Cookies for Civil Rights

So. Some background: I hail from Florida, and though I am currently in Denver, I am voting via absentee ballot in the upcoming election. Florida's ballot includes a proposed amendment to the constitution that would define marriage as between a man and a woman. This pisses me right off, and I can't believe that this is 2008 and I am actually seeing something so backwards on an election ballot. And I would really like to see Florida not pass this ridiculous homophobic amendment. So what do I do?

I bribe my friends. With cookies.

Bribery in general is pretty sketchy. It is corrupt and dishonest and is unfortunately common in politics. But with cookies, somehow, it seems pure. I think this is because cookies are unlikely to change anyone's deeply held beliefs, but may have the power to encourage someone to act on those beliefs. So I issued a cookie bribe via a popular social networking site. Anyone who sends me a picture of their Florida ballot with Prop 2 marked No receives cookies.

Erin, my good friend and a Hooray Vegan zine tester, was the first to come through.

I am positive that Erin was already planning on voting, and I am pretty sure that our finished ballots would look the same, but I love love love that she submitted this, and that so many others have responded with promises to get out and vote in exchange for cookies. I love cookie bribery, and the idea that we could maybe bring about the revolution via vegan baked goods.

October 22, 2008

Nothing Says I Love You Like Caramel Corn

This is a sneak preview from the zine. It's seriously addictive, travels well (Care packages! Holiday gifts!), and is super easy to make.

6-8 C popped corn (Or one bag microwave popcorn)
Handful or so of peanuts (optional)
¾ C packed brown sugar
6 T vegan margarine (I use Earth Balance)
3 T pure maple syrup (Agave syrup or corn syrup works also)
¼ t salt
¼ t baking soda
¼ t vanilla

Preheat oven to 300. Combine popcorn and peanuts (if using) in large baking sheet that has sides.

In a saucepan, combine brown sugar, margarine, syrup, and salt. Stir over medium heat until mixture boils. Cook without stirring 5 minutes more. Remove from heat and stir in baking soda and vanilla. Pour over popcorn and stir gently, coating popcorn. Bake at 300 for 15 minutes. Remove from oven, stir, and bake 5 minutes more. Remove from oven, stir, and carefully pour the popcorn on another large baking sheet. Stir carefully with fingers to separate while cooling. Serve when completely cooled.

That's Christopher Columbus the cow in the background, in case you were wondering.

And huge thanks to all the awesome Hooray Vegan testers: Cait (Cornfields and Cookies), Elizabeth, Erin (Sundays in the Kitchen with Betty), Heather (The Liberal Vegan), Jennifer, Kristy, Lila, Lisa (panda with cookie), Mary, Stephanie. Visit their blogs and Etsy shops!

October 15, 2008

Vegan MoFo: A Ghost Story

I do not believe in ghosts. Well, not really. Well, sort of.

I didn't believe in ghosts at all until a ghost happened to me. This is the story of that ghost, and the incredible supernatural power of vegan food. So turn off your lights, put on some spooky music, and settle in for tonight's edition of Vegan MoFo's Spooky Stories.

In the fall of my sophomore year of college, my roommate (Stephanie) and I moved into a brand new townhouse downtown, which was inexplicably within our price range. We couldn't believe our luck, as our last apartment had been about a third of the size and very old. The floorboards creaked, the walls groaned as they settled, and shortly before moving out we were told that the place was originally a halfway house for the abandoned insane asylum down the street. As much as we loved the charm of our first apartment, we were thrilled to be rid of its spookiness, and welcomed the extra space of our new townhouse.

I was especially excited about being able to have a desk in my room. My mom and dad drove down to help us move, and brought with them an old library desk. My mom found the desk in a junk store, and estimated it to be about 80 years old. It was dark and heavy and had an inkwell. It was the last piece of furniture to be moved in, and we lugged it upstairs and then went downtown to celebrate.

Things didn't get weird until we had lived there about a month. One morning I woke up, went into my bathroom, and saw that my soap was missing. I am absentminded and tend to misplace things so I didn't think much of it when I found it on my desk later that morning. But later that week, the soap moved again. This time, I distinctly remembered that I had washed my hands before bed, and then closed my bathroom door so that my dog wouldn't shred the toilet paper or raid the trash can.

I mentioned this to Stephanie, and her eyes got wide. She said that strange things had been happening to her as well. Several times, when she was home alone in the evening, she would hear me come home. She could hear my keys jingling, the door opening, and my backpack dropping to the floor. The dogs would go nuts and run downstairs, and then return to her bedroom, all nervous with bristled fur. When she'd call hello, there would be no answer. When she went downstairs, there would be no signs that I had come home.

After she told me that, the soap started moving on a nightly basis. And then other things would move; makeup, keys, even shoes. And it always moved to the desk.

The idea of a ghost seemed ridiculous to us, but we couldn't explain what was happening. We decided to experiment one evening, to be sure that it wasn't a friend, or even one of us, pulling a prank. I shut and locked my bathroom door, and put a small piece of clear tape over the door and doorjam. We shut, locked, and taped the door of the apartment as well, and left for the grocery store. It is important to mention here that no one else but our landlord, who lived over an hour away, had a key to our apartment. When we returned a half an hour later, we found the tape undisturbed and the doors locked. And everything that was on my bathroom counter was now on my desk.

At this point, we were uneasy. Even scared. But I was still skeptical, and expected a reasonable explanation to turn up. A week or so passed and nothing happened, and I was deep into midterms and nearly forgot about the strangeness in our apartment.

And then one night, very early in the morning, I woke to the sound of an axe chopping wood. I sat straight up in bed, eyes wide open and instantly awake, and stared at my desk, which was directly in front of my bed. The desk was fine and everything was in order. And then I heard the chopping again, but much louder this time. It sounded like someone was chopping firewood in my bedroom, right in from of my bed. It was clear and close and incredibly loud. I ran to the window, hoping to see a lumberjack on the front stoop at four in the morning. The street was empty, and the sound was now behind me, where my desk was, and growing louder. The room went instantly cold, and the chopping got faster and more intense, and I got the distinct impression that my desk was being hacked to pieces.

I ran to Stephanie's room and jumped into bed with her, shrieking. The next morning, I found my desk exactly as I had left it. Nothing on it had moved and inch, and it was certainly not in pieces all over the floor. I freaked. We both freaked.

I called my friend Elizabeth, who knows about ghosts and witches and all manner of spooky things. I usually thought her hobbies (tarot cards, seances, books on witchcraft) were silly, but I was desperate and scared and needed some help. Elizabeth, totally, unruffled, told us what to do. And we did it.

She supposed that it was the desk that was haunted, and recommended that we concentrate our ghost-eviction activities there. First, she said, we had to introduce ourselves to the ghost, and tell it that it was scaring us, and that we'd like very much for it to leave. So we did. (The vegan part of this story is next. Pay close attention.) Second, she said, we should cleanse the space by burning sage. So we did. And the third, and most important step, was to make a peace offering. She said beer and bread was the most traditional offering, and thought to be the most effective. So we left a poppy seed bagel and a Miller High Life on the desk, and left the ghost to ponder its behavior. When we returned, the bagel was gone and the beer was empty. And after that, the spookiness stopped.

I think the moral of the story is that vegan food can fix nearly everything. And that is the spirit of Vegan MoFo.

Epilogue: When we moved the following fall, I took the desk back to my parents' house. It is there now, in the library of their hundred year old home. I, Stephanie, and her now husband Patrick recently visited my parents, and Patrick took pictures of the house. Check out his picture of the library:

It could be a wonky flash or a trick of the light. Or it could be something else. If it is, I would bet that it's nothing a little tofu couldn't fix.

October 12, 2008

Vegan MoFo: Cooking with tunage.

Sometimes, I really, really like cooking alone. My favorite cooking situation involves the following:

1. Plenty of time to prep and do things right (pie crusts are homemade, vegetables are chopped before the stove is turned on, etc).

2. Guests or housemates not showing up until just before dinner/brunch/whatever is to be served.

3. Loud music of my choosing. Music so loud that it covers up my terrible singing. Music that I know every single word to, and that my roommates and friends are sick of.

So today's MoFo post is my top five favorite albums to cook to. Don't make too much fun of me. Here they are in sort of random order:

1. The Avett Brothers - Emotionalism

This one was introduced to me by Patrick and Stephanie, and it is definitely for brunch. I've never heard this band properly classified. They're always described with several genres, and they're rarely the same from review to review. Punk/bluegrass/rock/country/folk/whatever. They are fantastic, and I play a whole lot of spatula banjo when this album is on.

Also, they've got the Hot Jesus thing down pat. *Swoonswoon*

2. The Misfits - Self titled

Danzig may be kind of a jerk, but this album is awesome if you have several dozen cookies to crank out.

3. Ben Kweller - Sha Sha

One of my old roommates appropriately renamed this "Sing Along with BK." This album is cozy, and I like it best for soups, pot pies, and other wintery foods.

4. Cat Power - The Greatest

She is so lovely, and her voice is so smooth and and sultry. For some reason this album makes me want to drink red wine, and so dinner is usually pasta and bruschetta.

5. Peter Bjorn and John - Writer's Block

This is also one of my favorite albums to ride bicycles to. I think it's because of all the whistling.

October 10, 2008

Vegan Mofo: Lovely Sundays

If you work a Monday through Friday sort of job, Sundays are the best and worst day of the week. There is nothing quite like that wonderful lazy feeling you get first thing in the morning, and then that bummed out Monday-is-coming feeling you get as the day is coming to an end (Danny calls this The Sunday Sad).

I try to stretch out the good feeling with brunch, farmers markets, and bike rides, and stifle the bad feeling by distracting myself with an afternoon movie. Yesterday was an example of a perfect Sunday, and it was full of excellent vegan food.

We were up and at 'em at the crack of 11, and off to City Park with Cooper and Jipetto. It was sunny and bright, but the air was crisp. This is my favorite sort of weather.

Frolicking wiener dogs are the best kind of wiener dogs.

Around 2 we headed to Watercourse for brunch. It was fantastic, as usual, and we lingered a little too long over our post-brunch cookies and coffee.

The Dona Lee (Crispy seitan, avocado, and vegan ranch). This isn't typical brunch food, and we didn't have it at typical brunch time, but I think brunch is more the style of eating (relaxed, served whenever, maybe a little decadent).

Watercourse fries are just the right sort of crispy. I forgot about food porn until it was a little too late.

Cookies and coffee. The both of us let out a simultaneous audible sigh after the first bite.

After scarf and hat shopping (we are ill equipped for Denver winters), and a movie downtown, we went to City 'O City (Watercourse's sister restaurant) for a late dinner of tea and pizza.

Pesto, vegan mozzarella (made in house), seitan sausage, and mushrooms. So good.

And then a short ride home and early to bed. Sigh.

October 3, 2008

Vegan Mofo: Vegan Exploring!

Vegan Mofo is here and I am so excited. My goal is to make twenty posts for the month of mofo, and read five blogs a day. I love how everyone is getting into the spirit, and there will be a later post highlighting some of my favorites (so many already!). But for now, I want to discuss VEGAN EXPLORING.

This is a fairly new concept to me. It's only been in the past year or so that I've started to plan my vacations and weekend road trips around food. I think this happened after I went to Portland. The Vegan Pilgrimage to Portland is a bit cliche, but it's a necessary cliche. Vegan bars with tofu fritters on the menu and vegan hardcore on the stereo? Food carts with vegan breakfast burritos? Vegan donuts? This is the stuff vegan dream vacations are made of, and it is the reason why I consult Happy Cow or The Square at The PPK (Use the search function!) every time I am traveling more than three miles from my house.

Because, as it turns out, there is incredible vegan food to be found nearly everywhere. And one of the many perks of veganism is that your fellow vegans love to share their good finds.

Danny and I went exploring in Ft. Collins today. Ft. Collins is an adorable, bike friendly, liberal college town, so you'd expect to find some decent vegan fare. VegColorado pointed us to Mugs, a coffee shop and cafe, and we were not disappointed.

Danny had the Seitan Caesar. It was good (not fantastic), but I have never seen nooch (nutritional yeast) sprinkled on anything as condiment on its own. I have heard that this happens, but it was not until this salad that I've seen it done. I was skeptical, but it was actually really good.

I had The Med, a panini with spinach, basil, tomato, chicken style seitan, and Follow Your Heart Mozzarella. I assumed the FYH would be melted (I can't stand it unmelted), but the sandwich arrived with the cheese just slightly warmed and still very much unmelted. And you know what? It was awesome. It tasted just like the caprese I loved in my pregan days. I have no idea how this happened. Maybe it just needed a different context (in this case, a panini), to show its true, delicious colors. I still won't be eating it straight out of the package, but I am thrilled that I don't have to melt the hell out if it to enjoy vegan mozzarella.

Extra props to Mugs for having a whole section of the menu clearly labeled vegan. I am a sucker for menu recognition.

After lunch and a tour of CSU, we went to mooch free beer from the New Belgium Brewery. Minus the ones that are clearly labeled as containing honey, New Belgium beers are vegan. And they are environmentally conscious in their building and brewing procedures, and promote the hell out of bicycles as transportation.

Beer and bicycles! These are my people.

Complimentary and delicious.

We are nothing if not classy.

My manifest.

Vegan Exploring is different from plain ol' exploring in that you have to dig a little deeper, and so the rewards are that much sweeter. Also, because vegan cuisine has not yet been worked over the way omnivorous cuisine has, I learn new things about cooking almost every time I eat somewhere new. If you've got the time during this busy mofo season, tell about your favorite Vegan Exploring experience.