Tuesday, July 31, 2007


Update, 8/2: Thank you all for your votes and comments. You are all so thoughtful and eloquent, I recommend that everyone who reads this post makes sure to read the comments as well, for a fuller sense of the discussion than I alone could convey.

Like a lot of vegans, I have a love-hate relationship with Vegetarian Times magazine. On the one hand, it is a sleek and informative magazine with a fair number of vegan recipes in each issue. On the other hand, they sometimes do the craziest things- like not realize that the yogurt parfaits from McDonald's have gelatin in them, or encouraging the use of chemical sugar substitutes like Splenda. (Don't even get me started on that one...) For a more eloquent critique of VT, read this post by LindyLoo.

I just received the last VT of my subscription (a subscription I didn't really pay for, but got for free for sending in a bunch of soy yogurt lids) and read a seemingly innocuous letter to the editor that nevertheless managed to boil my blood. Daiku claims I'm overreacting. I decided to let you, my dear even-handed readers, decide.

Here's the letter:

"I am not a vegetarian, but I recently subscribed to VT. Let me just say that I love it. Who else but vegetarians would know how to make such wonderful vegetable side dishes? Thanks!"
- (name) via email


Sunday, July 29, 2007

Take this trend... and eat it.

black tea brewed with jujubes

Recently, I was inspired by Susan's post about fickle food trends. It got me to thinking how crazy the world of food is. Remember when it was "discovered" that cherries were the best fruits you could eat? Except then it was blueberries. Which were supplanted by pomegranates. Only now we're finding out that kiwis have more antioxidants than all of those fruits put together. Each time some new ingredient is "found", the wheels of the commercial food machinery go into gear to market the superfood du jour. 10 years ago, you couldn't have found pomegranate juice, pomegranate vinegar, pomegranate molasses, pomegranate smoothies, pomegranate cereal, pomegranate tea, pomegranate supplements, pomegranate face cream... etc. in every market the way you can now. It's the same with white tea. Or was it red tea?

My point is this- there is nothing new under the sun. We should not fall into the trap of thinking of some foods as superfoods and others as worthless. The fact is, all fruits and vegetables have their benefits, and our goal should be to consume vast quantities of them all, preferably in combination. Your diet should never depend on only one source for its nutrients, and besides, most nutrients work best in combination with others.

But, it is also fun to think of trendy foods. I remember "discovering" balsamic vinegar and pesto in high school, but my friend who had grown up in an Italian household had been eating them her whole life. Similarly, I'm pretty amused by the mad rush for all things pomegranate, since I grew up in an Iranian household where the fruit was ubiquitous.

So, just for fun, I thought I would show and tell some Iranian health foods that are ripe candidates for becoming the next "superfoods." When you see them on the shelf at your local market, let me know!

Exhibit A: roasted hemp seeds

I remember a few years ago, I "discovered" the health benefits of hemp seeds, how they are high in essential fatty acids, and nutrient-dense. I called my mom to tell her about them. She didn't know what hemp was, so she asked me to describe it. Finally she said, oh hemp seeds? I've been snacking on those since I was a kid. It turns out that hemp seeds, along with sesame and poppy seeds, are one of the most popular snacks in Iran. The omega-3's are probably better preserved by eating raw hemp seeds. The roasted salted ones are fun to snack on or include in trail mixes, though!

Exhibit B: jujubes

These fruits, (not to be confused with the candies of the same name!) are popular all along the silk road, especially in China, where they are made into candies and pastries of all kinds. In Iran, they are most often eaten dried, and it's traditional to brew black tea with them. (You can see a photo of this at the top of this post) They give the tea a subtle sweet flavor, and when you're done drinking, you can eat the reconstituted fruit. I wonder what their antioxidant counts are?

Exhibit C: apricot kernels

When we were kids and we would eat apricots, my mom would get out the nutcracker and crack the pits, giving us the bittersweet almond-looking nuts on the inside to munch on. Little did I know then that apricot kernels are packed with good fats and nutrients- I just liked the way they tasted! I was very surprised back in March when Daiku and I went to a health fair and got sampels of "the newest thing" a trail mix consisting of goji berries and... apricot kernels! Mom, it looks like you were right again. You can try this at home next time you have fresh apricots- just crack the pits like a nut! (Caution, don't try this with peach or plum pits, they are bitter and probably not good for you.) You can also buy apricot kernel oil in health food stores.

What about you? What are the foods of your childhood or your heritage that are now marketed as "hot" or "superfoods" or "fancy pants"? Leave a comment and tell me all about them, I don't want to be left out of the trendy loop!

Friday, July 27, 2007


Ok, the memes have been piling up, because yours truly, the procrastinator extraordinaire, has to think before answering any questions or coming up with creative things to say. But no more! In this post, I will turn loose 3 memes upon the unsuspecting blogosphere, so that other fellow bloggers can deal with them now- ha ha!

I was really honored when Village Vegan bestowed the title "Rockin' Girl Blogger" on me. This means so much, especially coming from as talented a rockin' girl as her! I mean, have you seen her apricot Danish pastries? Holy guacamole. As part of the meme, I have to pick 5 bloggers that I think are pretty rockin', and I chose these 5 ladies, who all bring a unique voice and perspective to the blogosphere:
You guys rock- thanks for expanding my horizons!

* * *

Susan of Foodblogga fame, tagged me for this one. You'll see I borrowed one of her answers for my own!

What were you doing 10 years ago?
  • I had just finished my freshman year at SUNY Stony Brook, and was working my first "real" job... at Boston Market! At the time, ironically, I was a vegan, so I came home smelling like chicken and needing to take a long hot bath every night. That job only lasted 5 weeks. I learned a lot, though.
Five snacks you enjoy:
  • Cold leftovers of any kind
  • This sounds really esoteric, but a perfect organic Fuji apple with freshly made almond butter. It's really not the same as anything else! I used to get this snack every Saturday at Mother's Market back when I lived in Irvine, CA.
  • Brown rice and nori
  • Salt & vinegar potato chips
  • Baked goods of any kind with a hot cup of black tea
Five songs you know all the lyrics to:
  • I actually know all the lyrics to quite a few Edith Piaf songs. One of my high school French teachers used to make us listen to Edith Piaf all the time, because he considered hers the perfect accent and wanted us all to speak and enunciate like her! I still really like Piaf.
Five things you would do if you were a millionaire:
  • Definitely endow a charity or two: my pet causes being human rights, animal rights, social justice, environmentalistm and anti-consumerism
  • Pay off all loans and debts, and make sure all my friends and family can do likewise
  • Travel, travel, travel
  • I've always wanted to buy some art. Perhaps some political pieces (especially from Weimar-era Germany), or some works by Elfriede Lohse-Wächtler
  • If there's anything left over, back to the charities
Five bad habits:
  • Biting my nails and cuticles. I would love to stop
  • I'm probably the vegan with the worst ingredient-reading habits
  • I'm a pretty serious procrastinator- a pretty bad trait when attempting to finish a dissertation
  • Not exercising as regularly as I used to
  • A short temper that has actually gotten a lot better over the years, but which I still need to work on
Five things you like doing:
  • Cooking and baking, photographing the results, and blogging about the whole process!
  • Traveling- there is just this indescribable feeling of being in an airport, knowing you're about to go somewhere you've never gone before
  • Eating the crust off of pizza (including Daiku's pieces). Everybody knows that’s the best part. (I borrowed this from Susan- I love the crust of the pizza most of all and I will eat everyone's leftovers! I don't understand people who leave their crusts behind.)
  • Reading- whether it's serious or utterly non-serious, I've always been a voracious reader
  • Long conversations with friends. This might sound trite, but only by living thousands of miles from my best friends have I realized the true luxury of being able to spend quality time with loved ones.
Five things you would never wear again: These will all involve hairstyles, since I believe no clothes are bad enough to not warrant a kitschy comeback one day
  • A rat's tail (you know, when you had a short haircut except for a long strand in the back, which you often braided?)
  • That brassy orange color you get when your hair is dark brown but you convince yourself it's light enough to use Sun-In in
  • A style of bangs that involved copious amounts of teasing, back-combing, and hairspray
  • A short haircut, parted in the middle, and feathered on the sides
  • That haircut I got for free right before starting graduate school- let's say the phrase "1980's gym teacher" was thrown around...and this was 2002!
Five favorite toys:
  • The Word Game- my favorite board game
  • Any board game or trivia game for that matter
  • The peg game
  • Legos- I used to love building elaborate houses with them, and I'm sorry we no longer have that big bag of old-school Legos
  • Cameras- I got my first one as a 13th birthday present, and ever since then have enjoyed running around with my friends and taking silly pictures.
For this meme, I tag: Trac, Bridget, Veganista, Amey, and Vicki because I bet you would have interesting answers!

* * *

Jackie, from the Vegan Diet, tagged me for this meme:

-Start Copy-
It’s very simple. When this is passed on to you, copy the whole thing, skim the list and put a * star beside those that you like. (Check out especially the * starred ones.) Add the next number (1. 2. 3. 4. 5., etc.) and write your own blogging tip for other bloggers. Try to make your tip general. After that, tag 10 other people. Link love some friends! Just think– if 10 people start this, the 10 people pass it onto another 10 people, you have 100 links already!

1. Look, read, and learn.

2. Be, EXCELLENT to each other.

3. Don’t let money change ya!

4. Always reply to your comments

5.Blog about what you know & love.

6.Don’t use filthy language-buy a dictionary.
http://shinade.blogspot.com **

7.Blog about something educational

8. Always give a link back when using others' info.
http://thevegandiet.blogspot.com/ *

9. Veganize favorite recipes from your childhood!

For this meme, I tag: Celine, Diann, SusanV, Nicole, and Monika K. (for respectively, creating tons of gorgeous recipes daily, reminding us to eat our veggies and love them, teaching us that fat-free can be voluptuous and indulgent, setting an example for healthy eating and living, and transporting us to a different continent. Not that I'm telling you guys what to say in the meme or anything!)

Have fun and have a great weekend, everyone!


Wednesday, July 25, 2007

We met Whisper!!

Some of you might remember Whisper, the Thanksgiving miracle turkey that we adopted back in the Fall. Well, we finally got to meet her at Farm Sanctuary this week! (Look how she's grown up, awww.)

Words can not express my love of this little bird and all of her companions that live here. So I'll just let pictures do most of the talking!

My favorite picture of Whisper and me. The turkeys love being rubbed under their wings. I really dig the blissed out expression on her face!

The turkeys were so playful and friendly on this day! You haven't lived until you've touched a turkey's wattle (the red fleshy skin under their neck). I was shocked at how incredibly soft it was- softer than a baby's finger!

This turkey is preening the way a male turkey would. The male turkey is kept separate from the female turkeys, and some of the female turkeys in turn take on male behaviors such as this.

And now, some animals other than turkeys that we got to meet and play with!

If you ever have the chance to visit a farm sanctuary, you should do it. There is something so profoundly peaceful about hanging out with calm, contented farm animals living a happy life. As vegans, we too often associate farm animals with the suffering that the majority of them go through, so it's nice to be able to see what is possible, in a better world.

Oh, and if you visit Farm Sanctuary, you better come visit me in Syracuse!

Last but not least, a vegan ice cream cone from Great Escape ice cream shop in Watkins Glen. This was the only vegan flavor left the day we went (black raspberry), but I didn't mind- it was super creamy and delicious.

To read about our last visit to Farm Sanctuary, click here.

P.S. A special thanks to Dan at Farm Sanctuary, who led us on a leisurely tour and made sure to know which one Whisper was, even though we showed up too late for regular tour hours!


Sunday, July 22, 2007

Summer Tasties

Two easy summery dishes (which incidentally go great together):

Penne with garlic and tomatoes and fresh basil from the garden. Lately, Daiku and I have been experimenting with getting intense, charismatic, assertive pasta, and then serving it with a simple sauce to let the pasta's characteristics shine through. It's a revelation!

Easy Marinated Radish Salad

Combine together and allow to marinate overnight:

1 cup red kidney beans
2 stalks celery, sliced thin
3-4 radishes (or 1 gigantic radish) sliced thin
1/2 cup thinly sliced english cucumber
1/4 cup rice vinegar
dash extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Before serving, top with a few basil leaves

I really want to experiment more with marinated salads, they are a great change of pace!


Friday, July 20, 2007

The mother of all zucchini

I fell out of the blogging loop for a few days, due to an unexpected and last-minute trip to New York City. (I'm not complaining, though!) This is what I wanted to blog about on Monday...

During June, a small new farmer's market opened here in Syracuse, right in our own neighborhood! Even though it's still very small, Daiku and I were excited to go check it out and support local (very local) farmers and organizations. (Read another Syracuse blogger's report on the Eastside farmer's market here)

And look what we found!

The mother of all zucchini! The guy selling them assured us that they would taste great and that all we had to do was scrape the seeds out. We bought it mostly for novelty value, but when we cooked it up it turned out to be very tasty indeed!

Here's the recipe for stuffed zucchini. Go to a farmer's market and find the most comically large zucchini possible and make this! Well, you can also make it with 4 regular-sized zucchini too.

Daiku's Middle-Eastern Stuffed Zucchini

Spice mixture:

(Daiku created this spice mixture, going for a middle eastern flavor. Experiment and vary the amounts of spices to taste)

1 tsp. black peppercorns
4 allspice berries
4-5 cloves

  • grind together and toast briefly in pan


olive oil
1 tsp. red pepper
1/2 small onion
2-3 garlic cloves or garlic scapes, chopped finely
3 soyboy sausage links, chopped up
spice mixture from above
1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes
1/2 - 1 cup kidney beans
dash sour grape powder
salt to taste
1 cup water
3/4 cup whole wheat couscous
2-4 TB toasted pinenuts

(our garlic scapes have bloomed! Is that bad...?)
  • Pre-heat oven to 350
  • Heat oil in a heavy-bottomed pan, add red pepper flakes and heat through to bring out flavor
  • Add the onion and sautee 3-5 minutes until translucent. Add sausage and garlic and sautee together with onions to combine
  • Add spice mixture, tomatoes, salt and sour grape powder, allow to heat through
  • After 5-10 minutes, add water and couscous, cover and take pan off from heat
  • Meanwhile, cut your giant zucchini open and scrape out the seeds, making room for the filling
  • Stuff zucchini with mixture, patting down to pack it in if necessary. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 35-45 minutes. Take foil off and bake another 5 minutes. Top with pine nuts and eat!

Enjoy the freakishly abundant produce of summer!


Sunday, July 15, 2007

SVS: all-you-can-eat vegan brunch!

Have you ever woken up on Sunday morning and thought to yourself, "I wish I could go somewhere and have a vegan brunch"? Well, this morning, Daiku and I got to do just that, and only steps away from our house.

The Syracuse Vegan Society (SVS) held its 3rd get-together today, for an all-you-can-eat brunch (!!) at Funk'n Waffles restaurant. (Read about our first and second dinners) The restaurant is a bright, friendly place located right next to Syracuse University.

Bridget and Tracy, our intrepid organizers made sure the event ran smoothly. We had over 40 people show up- and some people even had to be turned away!

Some of the crowd, enjoying brunch.

Lining up at the buffet.

Behind the scenes in the kitchen.

But enough of that, on to the food! Everyone agreed that it all tasted fantastic:
  • waffles & maple syrup
  • french toast
  • hash
  • fruit salad
  • tofu scramble
  • sausage
  • tea & coffee

Here's one of Funk'n Waffles' ginger-spice muffins. (Sorry! I couldn't resist taking a bite or two before taking the photo...)

And here are the pumpkin-chocolate chip cupcakes that Tracy brought. She also baked several batches of cupcakes that some lucky attendees won as door prizes. Let's just say the phrases "tiramisu" and "s'mores" were thrown around...

In conclusion, this was such a fun event! I'm so glad to have restaurants like Funk'n Waffles willing to whip up amazing vegan food and groups like the SVS to enjoy it with! Thanks to everyone who made today so enjoyable.

Restaurant Information:

Funk'n Waffles (http://funknwaffles.com)
727 S. Crouse Avenue (in Campus Plaza)

Friday, July 13, 2007

What do I do when it's 90 degrees and humid?

So I think the sun and the humidity have finally been getting to me. Last week, in the midst of a heat snap, I became convinced that I needed to bake. Repeatedly. At one point, I caught myself sweating in the kitchen in front of a hot oven. Irrational? Perhaps, but then again the ends could be said to have justified the means...

For movie night at Trac's house (we watched "Who Killed the Electric Car," an absolute must-see that will leave you intrigued, frustrated, optimistic, and angry at the same time) I decided to bake the simple vanilla and agave nectar cupcakes from "Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World." I had seen these on Textual Bulldog's blog and had had them on the brain since. When I tested one, however, I thought they tasted too plain, so I topped them with a quick chocolate ganache and sprinkles.

However, the next day, I tasted one of the cupcakes that I had left plain and guess what? After a day of resting, these cupcakes develop such a lovely flavor and texture. It tasted like an old-fashioned honey cake- dense, sweet, and floral. If you make the agave cupcakes, definitely experiment with leaving some of them plain- you'll thank yourself the next day!

The next day, I felt the need to bake- again. Cupcakes- again. This time, I took the basic chocolate cupcakes from VCTOTW, substituted coconut milk for the oil and added orange zest.

Speaking of orange zest, I keep a stash of dried organic zest like you see in the picture above in my pantry for times when I don't have fresh oranges on hand. (As you know, if you are going to use any citrus zest, it's essential that it be organic, because conventionally grown citrus fruits have large amounts of pesticide residue on their skins that can not be removed by simple washing.) I buy this zest from my local health food store, and pulverize the amount I need in a coffee grinder, it adds great flavor to muffins and breads.

The coconut milk gave the cupcakes a glossy finish and a subtle flavor. However, I couldn't decide how to decorate these cupcakes until a day later when I made the Boston Creme Pie. I simply used the leftover ganache and custard to make a fancy-schmancy pattern on top.

Ok, enough of the oven. (Even a crazy person such as myself has her limits!) I finally did something season-appropriate in the form of... ice cream. Am I the only person that's been falling in love with all of Emilie's mouth-watering ice cream creations over at the Conscious Kitchen??

After much drooling, I decided to ignore the small fact that I don't have an ice cream maker and make my own ice cream against all odds. I used my Magic Bullet to blend together some frozen mixed berries with some coconut milk and a dab of agave nectar. I then froze the mixture, taking it out to stir every 10-15 minutes for a couple of hours. The result was delicious, although I'm sure an ice cream maker would have yielded a smoother texture.

Never mind that, though, because for the past week at least, common logic had no place in my mind or my kitchen!


Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Happy Birthday Daiku!

Today was Daiku's birthday. We started the day with pancakes for breakfast, then had a thoroughly enjoyable junk food dinner involving Boca Chick'n patty sandwiches and tater tots. But the best part of the day, food-wise, was the cake I made to celebrate the occasion, Boston Creme Pie from the Damn Tasty Vegan Baking Guide. This is the third recipe I've made from the book, and the third recipe that I've ended up loving. If you make it, I highly recommend the fresh organic strawberries on top. (Update, 12 July: This cake is even better the next day! The custard really sets and the flavors of the cake and ganache mellow and meld. Next time, I'd consider making it the day before, or even the morning of a celebration and letting it hang out in the fridge for a bit longer than I did.)

Happy birthday to a wonderful person and a wonderful partner! Daiku, I'm so happy to be able to share the funny and twisted adventure that is life with you.

And for you, wonderful blog reader, I leave you with Boston Creme porn galore... enjoy!


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Cherry 'n berry picking

Inspired by this post on Vicki's blog, Daiku and I went cherry picking last week. Even though the 4th of July was gray and damp, we braved the weather to catch the first day of cherry season at nearby Grisamore Farm.

Is there anything more giddy than running around a grove full of fruit trees with a bucket to fill?

Daiku picking cherries.

Bazu packing as many cherries into her mouth as into her bucket!

We also picked some raspberries, at $1 a pound, who could resist?

The raspberry bushes were so fruitful, I'm inspired to plant my own. I want a cherry tree too! So my question to you, fellow bloggers, where can I find raspberry bushes to buy? For those of you who have fruit trees or bushes or vines, what advice do you have to offer?

The farm also had an assortment of animals, my favorite being this friendly bleating sheep who came coming up to us, then running away, then running back towards us. He was adorable.

So what did we do with our pounds and pounds of fruit? Smoothies, pies, cakes, cobblers? Nope, we ate 'em all out of hand (or out of bucket, as the case may be). I tossed raspberries onto salads and Daiku tossed them onto ice cream. We devoured the cherries. I am not ashamed. But I do want to go back and pick some more next week. This time, I might even get creative with them!

Oh, one last thing. As we were leaving to drive to the farm, we saw this deer running behind our house. While it's very cute, it's also a little heart-wrenching, because the deer have to cross a major road to get from their hang-out to our house, which means a chance that they'll be hit by a car. I'm sad to report that last year, we even saw a deer get hit right in front of our house. It was traumatic beyond belief. So now when we see deer, we try to help them across the street and back home by watching to make sure no cars are coming by. Sigh. Sometimes I forget that I live within a 10-minute bike ride of the downtown of a major city!

S/he made it home ok!