Friday, April 29, 2011

Wheat Grass: A Shot at Love

I've always thought of Jamba Juice as kind of "the man" of smoothie shops. I think I saw an improv sketch once in which a Jamba Juice opened down the street from a small, family-owned smoothie shop and put it out of business. But in my new vegan life, Jamba Juice has become indispensable.

They have a new(ish) campaign in which they're pushing "fruit and veggie" smoothies. There are three options: Apples 'n greens, Berry upBEET, and Orange Carrot Karma. I've tried the Apples 'n greens, which is apple-strawberry juice, carrots, spinach, bell pepper, kale, spirulina (!), lettuce, mango, peach, and banana; and the Orange Carrot Karma, which is orange juice, carrot juice, mango, and banana (apparently, at Jamba Juice, mango + banana = karma).
The other day, I was flipping through TV channels trying to find House Hunters International, when I stumbled upon a rerun of Sex and the City. It was Episode 9 from Season 3, "Easy Come, Easy Go" (I had to look that up on Wikipedia - I love Sex and the City but it's not like I have all the episode names memorized), in which Samantha is dating a guy with, as she puts it, "funky spunk."

She tries to solve the problem with wheat grass shots:

I don't think her plan works. But it got me thinking about wheat grass. In addition to the, erm, benefits suggested in the above clip, wheat grass is rich in amino acids and it's rumored to reduce the risk of colon cancer, help blood flow, and generally "detoxify" the body. "Detoxify" has always struck me as a vague hippie word, but it's better than the alternative. I don't want to be toxic.

So I flounced over to Jamba Juice to give wheat grass a "shot," so to speak. Since I didn't know how disgusting it would taste on a scale from "funky" to "vomit worthy," I ordered the smaller sized shot. It came on a little platter with an orange wedge:
My first instinct was to think of it as a tequila shot with a lemon wedge. But to me, tequila is (often quite literally) vomit worthy. And just thinking about the word "tequila" brought to mind that godawful MTV reality show A Shot of Love with Tila Tequila (also vomit worthy). Things were not working in favor of this wheat grass.

But it was, surprisingly, fine. It wasn't delicious, nor do I feel compelled to make wheat grass shots especially prominent in my diet, but it certainly wasn't nasty.

I'd like to pitch a reality show idea in which, instead of tequila, people do shots of wheat grass. If Sex and the City is to be trusted - of course it is - then the contestants chugging wheat grass would probably have a much better shot at love.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Considerably Less Epic Meal Time

This horrifying video was brought to my attention a few days ago:

Epic Meal Time is, apparently, a group of quasi-bros who cook the nastiest, meatiest things they can think of, eat them in the most disgusting way possible, then edit the footage to make it look "epic." In this episode, they make "inside-out shepherd's pie," then fashion it into two cars (each with 1,119 grams of fat and 23,266 calories) and try to make the cars roll. That part is kind of funny.

The only thing I approve of in this video is the guy's shirt that says, "Drunk off pancakes." I can get behind that. But if you couldn't watch it all the way to the end, I don't blame you.
Watch this instead! It's the vegan parody of/response to the previous video, and it is way funnier. Probably because "vegan" and "epic" don't usually go together.

They're making a Christmas Tofurkey: Soy to the World! My favorite part is when they combine a bag of black beans and a bottle of iron pills using a mortar and pestle. Oh, and the peanut butter glaaaaaze after it comes out of the oven.

I was inspired. I wanted to have Epic Meal Time! I went into the kitchen and took out all the ingredients I had to work with. I would crush them all up and smother them in each other, then dump incongruous ingredients on top of them and stuff the whole mess in my mouth.

Then I realized that I didn't really want to ruin my dinner by smothering it in peanut butter and soy sauce. I also didn't want to waste food.

So I would have to settle for a considerably less epic meal time; the epicness would come from my excitement about it. Here's what I started with:

First I put the CARROTS! in my wok with some OLIVE OIL! Then I added the KALE! because it often takes a long time to get soft. I chopped up the RAINBOW CHARD! and threw that in with the mix, making it so colorful. I noticed that Emily had saved me some FAVA BEANS! so I added those, too, right after the GREEN ONIONS! I didn't even cry while chopping the onions!

Look at all those COLORS! Meanwhile, I was grilling up some EXTRA FIRM TOFU! in a pan with some POLENTA! that was lying around. Here they are, together! What a crazy combination.

I didn't even pay attention to the tofu, so it BROWNED all UNEVENLY!

But that's not all. I also had a whole lot of LEFTOVER MUSHROOM STUFFING! from when I made Stellar Stuffed 'Shrooms, so I spooned some of that out and put it on top. That stuffing includes SPINACH! BREAD! GARLIC! and MORE ONIONS! and it was cold so I also got a mind-blowing combination of temperatures!

Then I remembered that I had forgotten to take my PILLS this morning! So I just balanced those on top of the leftover mushroom stuffing. CALCIUM! B-12! and a MULTI-VITAMIN full of who knows what!

Then I ate it all really quickly.

Now I feel ill.

So epic.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Stellar Stuffed 'Shrooms

A wise woman named Shirley Conran once said, "Life is too short to stuff a mushroom." I couldn't agree less.

Our friend Micah was coming to Tigh Vino for dinner, and I wanted to contribute to the meal. I decided to crack open The 30 Minute Vegan, a cookbook my friend Saloni had mailed me for my birthday (my birthday isn't until the 28th, but I have the self control of a Mexican jumping bean so I opened her present as soon as it arrived).

The 30 Minute Vegan is by Mark Reinfeld and Jennifer Murray, and it includes "over 175 quick, delicious, and healthy recipes for everyday cooking." I immediately liked it. I wanted to be a 30 minute vegan! So I got started.

Perusing the recipes in The 30 Minute Vegan made me excited, but it also made me kind of embarrassed. Most of the recipes require fancy things that I don't own, like spirulina, nutritional yeast, and something called mung spouts. I didn't really have any interest in finding out what mung spouts were (just saying "mung spouts" aloud makes me want to never eat food again), but things like cumin, basil leaves, and coconut oil seem like must-haves.

Saloni is one of those people who has a special sense about seasonings and spices when she cooks, like Ratatouille. I hope I can convince her to come out to Santa Barbara and teach me how to use The 30 Minute Vegan properly. By then, I'll have bought some fancy ingredients.

My eye landed on a recipe for Stellar Stuffed Mushrooms. Not only do I love the word "stellar," I also love stuffed mushrooms. Mark and Jennifer (the authors of the cookbook and, I assume, successful 30 minute vegans) suggest a pretty elaborate stuffing recipe. I decided to alter it to better fit my slacker lifestyle. For the stuffing, I used:

2 slices whole wheat bread
1 cup spinach
1/2 medium sized yellow onion
2 garlic cloves

First, I pre-heated the oven to 450 degrees. I put all the ingredients (and the stems from the mushrooms) in the food processor until they looked stuff-in-able. I had bought about a pound of cremini mushrooms at the Isla Vista Coop to stuff. I greased a cookie sheet with olive oil and laid them all out on it, then overstuffed them with the mixture.

After baking for 15 minutes, the mushrooms looked like this:

Everyone loved them. The best part about the 'shrooms (what makes them "stellar") is that they are so healthful. The only possible unhealthy part of the recipe is the olive oil with which I greased the pan, but that hardly counts.

I ate them with some carrots and parsnips that Emily had prepared. Please be advised that the photo below does not represent the amount of food I ate for dinner, by any means:

There were so many mushrooms that I ate some for lunch and dinner the next day as well. I had some leftover stuffing, too, so I refrigerated it to spread on crackers later as a snack. I severely altered the recipe from the cookbook, but once I purchase some fancy ingredients, I think I could be quite a successful 30 minute vegan.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

An Irreverent Easter Story

It's hard to say whether or not Jesus would have included vegans on his To-Save List, since I really doubt vegans existed in the year 33 AD. Beggars can't be choosers, after all, and I think pretty much everyone was a beggar back then. Except for, you know, Herod et al.

But Easter, like Christmas, has become so much more than what, religiously speaking, it "should" be. And, unfortunately for me, the whole commercial aspect of this holiday is not too vegan-friendly.

When I was little, my family and I used to make hard-boiled eggs the night before Easter, then draw designs all over them with crayons and dip them in cheap dye. Sometimes my sister Katie would get really artsy and make her eggs striped with different colors, but mine usually ended up unevenly tinted and with fingerprints all over them. I never really looked forward to eating the eggs on Easter morning, because the dye had usually leaked through to the egg whites and made them look weird.

But no eggs for me this year. And no milk chocolate bunnies, either!

I spent most of the afternoon at my friend Erin's apartment, where I made delicious vegan pancakes with 100% pure maple syrup for everyone. I had to say no to Erin's homemade lavender ice cream, but I had a whole plate of her breakfast potatoes with peppers and onions. The reason I ate so much at Erin's is because I was starving. I had not planned well for the morning.

One of my jobs is to sing at the Lutheran church where my friend Adam is music director, and this morning I had signed on to perform at both the 8am and the 10:30am services. There were two reasons for that decision: I am desperate for money and I like making up harmonies to Christian rock songs.

Adam had told me that there would be a huge potluck brunch at the church all morning, and that I could help myself to any of it during the break between services. I heard the word "brunch" and stopped listening. I just love brunch.

So after the first service (during which - and I am not making this up - the pastor terrified the congregation with a synopsis of Hitchcock's "Final Escape" and then told us that we were all buried alive until Jesus came and dug us up), I skipped over to the church's multipurpose room to get my hands on some brunch.

The room was filled with all kinds of dishes that the members of the church had brought to share. There were all different varieties of muffins and moist-looking breads, quiches, sausages, pudding, and bacon.  But I couldn't eat any of it. The one dish that I could have eaten, roasted potatoes, had been covered with scrambled eggs. It was as if the parishioner who made it had prepared the potatoes and, just before heading out the door, thought to himself, "Oh wait - a vegan might eat some of this!" then promptly dumped a pan of scrambled eggs on top of it.

Certainly not for the first time in a church, I felt ostracized. But I didn't want to bring it up to anyone else because - again, not for the first time in a church - I felt guilty. These people were really enjoying their Easter brunch, and I didn't want to complain. I found a sad-looking bucket of fruit and put some in my mouth so I could at least avoid keeling over during the second service. The worst part was that the guy who plays the drums in the band asked me to bring him back a plate of food. So I heaped everything I wanted to be eating onto a plate and delivered it to him, trying not to look down at it.

So does Jesus love vegans? Who knows, probably. Should I have brought my own vegan dish to the parish potluck instead of trying to be such a mooch? Yes, definitely. Because I am not a beggar, I'm a chooser. And choosers can't be complainers.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Restaurant Review: Crushcakes & Cafe

Crushcakes & Cafe (website)
1315 Anacapa St. Santa Barbara, CA
Cafe hours: 8am-5pm every day
Crushcakes hours: 9-6pm every day

Vegan-Easy or Meat-and-Cheesy?
.   .   .


I discovered Crushcakes soon after moving to the Santa Barbara area, and every time I go back I love it more and more. The people who work there are friendly and helpful, there are indoor and outdoor seating areas, they use compostable to-go boxes, and there is a little sign above the stack of napkins in the coffee area that says, "We come from trees!" I think it's cute to imagine the napkins shouting that in their little napkin voices.

Crushcakes also has a vast selection of hot sauce options (and I am not one of those people who overuse the word "vast"). That doesn't matter much to me because I have zero tolerance for spicy things, but it's the cafe's best selling point for some people.

Imagine my delight when my Yelp search for "vegan brunch" in Santa Barbara brought up Crushcakes as one of the first listings! There aren't very many vegan breakfast options, other than oatmeal with fruit, but they're pretty flexible about making any lunch option vegan. Some of their menu items are even labeled with the word "vegan" in parentheses.

I went with the crushed tomato basil soup and the "tree hugger" panino (roasted portobello, zucchini, red and green peppers, caramelized onions, tomatoes, goat cheese, and house aioli) on wheat toast. Obviously, I asked them to hold the goat cheese. Here's what I got:

I was quite pleased with the little heart shape drawn on top of my tomato soup - until I realized that it was probably made out of cheese. Luckily, it was just kind of resting on top of the soup and hadn't permeated through it. 

Andrew had brought a few different hot sauce bottles over to our table and was, apparently, alternating hot sauces for each bite of his breakfast burrito. I interrupted his ritual to ask him to eat the cheese-heart off the top of my soup, and of course he obliged. After that, the soup and panino were both tasty.

We finished our meal in the "& Cafe" section of Crushcakes & Cafe. But there's a whole other section: the cupcakery! That's where they give away free bumper stickers that say, "Make cupcakes not war." I have one stuck to my refrigerator with a magnet. I wistfully stared at the cupcake case as we walked past it:

Then my eye landed on the plate of chocolate cupcakes in the front right corner, and my heart skipped a beat (not actually - that would only happen after I had ingested the entire plate of cupcakes). Look what the sign said:

These were vegan cupcakes! With little chocolate hearts on top! I bought one (of course) for $3 and ate it up quickly. It tasted just like a regular cupcake except a bit moister. And "moist" is one of those words that is only acceptable when used to describe a cupcake.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Laughing Alone with a Salad

Sometimes I just feeling like laughing alone with a salad.

Photo credit: Mike Vitalino
It’s been a month now since I decided to be a veghan, and I thought I’d use this post to reflect on how it’s been going so far. I was about to refer to it as my “progress,” but that implies some kind of end point, and I don’t really have a goal to progress toward.

The coolest (and most surprising) thing has been the support I’ve gotten from my friends, who have gone out of their way to send me vegan recipes and websites about veganism, and in some cases have even cooked me vegan food. My whole family has made a point of learning about veganism and calling me to share what they’ve learned. My roommates have come up with ideas and participated in my vegan cooking endeavors. Andrew has been totally flexible about trying vegan-friendly restaurants with me, and he's even done a good job of hiding his jealousy as I mourn my polyamorous breakup with bacon and cheese.

Photo credit: Mike Vitalino
Since I post my blog updates on Facebook, people I haven't talked to since college have been confronted with my veganhood on their newsfeeds. I'm sure most of them see my newest post and think, "Isn't that the chick who tried to take 21 shots on her 21st birthday? Nice to see she's still craving attention!" But I've received a bunch of messages from people just wanting to say that they enjoy reading about my hapless adventures as a vegan. In some cases it's turned into a little catch-up session with people I haven't seen in years.

I'm getting more comfortable identifying myself as a vegan. I'm still tempted to preface my special requests at restaurants with, "I know this is probably an annoying question, but..." because I feel guilty for being one of those customers with insane dietary restrictions. I've made a point of only asking questions when necessary. I always carefully investigate the menu to find out as much information as I can before asking for details.

But sometimes I still catch myself being obnoxious. For instance, at my friend Sasha's birthday dinner at Hollister Brewing Company the other night, I ordered a Market Salad with no cheese. It was served with some moist-looking bread, which I really wanted to eat. I asked the server, "Excuse me, what is in this bread?" She scrunched up her nose and said she'd ask in the kitchen. When she returned, she very politely explained that it was sourdough bread that the restaurant ordered from a bakery downtown, and she had no idea what was in it. Of course she didn't. Did I expect her to have baked it from scratch, so she could report its animal-product content to any obnoxiously inquisitive vegan who might ask?

Photo credit: Mike Vitalino
My anxiety about interacting with servers at restaurants has resulted in my avoiding eating out whenever possible. That's good because I can put the money I would have spent at restaurants toward vegan ingredients for cooking meals at home.

I've done a really good job of sticking to eating vegan food. My only slip-up was when I got macarooned (!) at a party a few weeks ago. Most of the time, I don't feel like I'm depriving myself of anything. I feel quite healthy and content.

Being a vegan has been isolating in some ways. Eating is often a social activity, and now I'm a little bit excluded from that experience. It might seem like those women laughing alone with salads are about to burst into tears and cry, "I'm so lonely!" as soon as the camera turns off.

But they might just be really happy about their salads.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Cookie Doughn't You Wish There Were Eggs in This?

The title of this post is a reference to Coldstone Creamery's signature creation called "Cookie Doughn't You Want Some?". It's a delicious concoction of french vanilla ice cream, caramel, fudge, chocolate chips, and chunks of cookie dough. I'm not that bummed about missing out on Coldstone Creamery - their ice cream was always a bit too rich for me and I could never even make it though a "Like It" size - but cookie dough is another story.

In my pre-vegan days, whenever I was feeling particularly indulgent, I'd purchase a tube of cookie dough with my groceries. It might last a week... but that was only if it got hidden behind something else in the refrigerator and I forgot it was there.

I once babysat for a family that always had a 36 oz. tub of Toll House cookie dough in their refrigerator. Anyone who has ever babysat knows that the biggest perk is digging through the family's kitchen after the kids are asleep and finding new, strange snacks to nom on while you watch TV. This tub of cookie dough always haunted me. I wanted to eat a lot of it, but I felt embarrassed that the family might notice how much of it was gone each time they got home after I had been babysitting. I would try to scoop spoonfuls from places that had already been attacked, so the mound of cookie dough still in the tub didn't look markedly different.

After three heaping spoonfuls, I always felt kind of sick and had to stop eating it. It was the raw eggs. Those raw eggs! They'll also kill you with E. coli and salmonella. But cookie dough is worth the risk.

When I was shopping at the Isla Vista Coop yesterday, I spied with my little eye a tub of vegan cookie dough. It's made by the company Eat Pastry, whose website looks like a mix between Willy Wonka's most terrifying dream and a particularly colorful interpretation of the Book of Revelation. But their cookie dough looks pretty unremarkable.

I wanted to give the vegan cookie dough a fair shot, so I waited until last night when I had changed into my pajamas and was about to watch an episode of House Hunters International while pretending to do school work. The time was right for a heaping spoonful (or three) of cookie dough.

Unfortunately, it seems that in addition to E. coli and salmonella, raw eggs also contribute most of cookie dough's great taste. The vegan cookie dough wasn't disgusting tasting, it just wasn't satisfying. I guess I'll have to become one of those people who thinks of cookie dough as just a means to an end: cookies. So I baked some:

They were incredible. So yummy. And better even than the ones I baked from scratch a couple of weeks ago. I guess the moral of the story (the way the cookie crumbles, if you will) is that even though you don't have to be afraid of E. coli or salmonella when snacking on raw vegan cookie dough, it just doesn't measure up to the real stuff in taste. The Eat Pastry cookies themselves, though, are definitely something to write home about.

Luckily, I don't have to bother writing home because my mom and dad read this blog.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Corpse of Milk

"A corpse is meat gone bad. Well and what's cheese? Corpse of milk." - Ulysses

I realize that is a disgusting quotation to begin a post with, but I have to give props to James Joyce wherever I can.

I'm not crazy enough to try to eat vegan cheese plain, or even on a cracker. It would be too devastating, since I just broke up with real cheese. Yes, I also just broke up with bacon. I was kind of a polyamorist.

But the Isla Vista Coop was having a sale on macaroni and cheese, so I picked some up. Well, it's not macaroni and "cheese," of course. It's Amy's Kitchen brand Rice Macaroni with Dairy Free Cheeze. And yes, "cheeze" is just "cheese" but spelled with a z.

I love the Isla Vista Coop because they have handy labels identifying which foods are vegan and which foods seem like they might be vegan but aren't. The best part about the labels is the little cartoon dinosaur. As you can see, there were two seemingly vegan macaroni and cheese options next to each other in the freezer, but Vegan Dinosaur said to go for the one on the left. The one on the right has a label with a little cartoon cow and the words "contains dairy."

I'd heard good things about Amy's Kitchen, which makes only vegetarian (and sometimes vegan) foods. There are recipes posted on their website that involve their foods, and they've put together a 3-week vegan diet that includes mostly Amy's Kitchen products. This seems like the least-healthy vegan option, since most of their meals are frozen. But frozen vegan food would be a good option to have around in case I get lazy one night and don't feel like preparing anything creative.

I was pretty nervous about trying this cheeze, and the stuff's appearance upon removal from its cardboard box was not helping:

Gross. But all frozen meals are gross when they're still frozen, right? I followed the microwave directions (no way was I investing the time to heat this cheeze up in the oven) and while it cooked, I perused the nutrition information on the box.

Here's what I want to know: how come gluten free, dairy free, soy free rice macaroni with cheeze still has 22 grams of fat and 520 calories per serving? I'm already getting a year's worth of sodium in any frozen meal (including this one), and I'm not even eating cheese!

Aha! I found the answer(s) in the ingredients list: high oleic safflower oil and coconut oil. I wasn't surprised that the only way to make a macaroni and cheese substitute that has none of the regular macaroni and cheese ingredients and that doesn't taste like sawdust is to shoot it up with oil.

The microwave beeped and I braced myself. I was committed to trying a few bites, at least. Then I could always eat the cardboard box it came in.

Not only does Amy's Rice Macaroni with Dairy Free Cheeze not taste like sawdust, it doesn't even really taste like cheeze. I'd be annoyed if I ordered macaroni and cheese at a restaurant and they served me this dish, but for a frozen meal it's pretty tasty.

So this encounter with cheeze was like an OkCupid date that went... okay. It was a little awkward, but that's to be expected. At least I didn't throw up.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

I Meet Fake Meat

A few days ago, I was checking out the list of different booths that were going to be set up at Santa Barbara's Earth Day Festival (I told you I love booths). The name of one of the food booths caught my eye: Strictly Vegan. Obviously, I was intrigued, and I decided to bop over to the Earth Day festivities today to try some of the food at Strictly Vegan for lunch. Strictly Vegan doesn't have a restaurant - they just set up and cook food at various festivals around southern California. According to their website, they also cater events and offer vegan cooking lessons.

I was a little hesitant about trying their food for a couple of reasons. First, they call themselves "Jamaican cuisine." I don't know that much about Jamaica, except that in fourth grade, one of my friends went there on a family vacation and came back with her hair in cornrows.

I've tried Jamaican food only once in my life, at Island Fresh Fish Market and Restaurant, a tiny place Andrew and I checked out a few months ago because we were feeling adventurous. I ordered grilled shrimp, but Andrew ended up eating most of my meal because it was too spicy.

The second reason I was hesitant about Strictly Vegan is because they use Gardein™ in most of their meals. I had never tried Gardein™(which gets its name from the clever combination of garden + protein), but I am not all that into the idea of fake meat in general. I didn't give up eating animals and animal products so I could replace them with a weird, synthetic substitute. Fake meat just creeps me out. I'm also pretty skeptical of companies that insist upon a ™ sign following their products' names in writing.

But vegan restaurant options in Santa Barbara are sparse, so I wanted to at least see what Strictly Vegan offered. There was a short line at the booth, with one person taking orders and handling money and three people cooking in back. I could see one of them mashing up what must have been the Gardein™ in a big bowl. It looked a lot like tofu. Here's what the booth looked like:

I decided to order a Reggae Wrap ($10) because I liked the sound of the name. In addition to the Gardein™ (which, in this case, is made to taste like chicken somehow and marinated in Jamaican jerk spices and ginger wine), the Reggae Wrap consists of organic baby greens, carrots, "tropical salsa," avocado, and homemade vegan ranch dressing, wrapped in a spinach tortilla:

This meal really resembled the one I had at the GOOD LA launch last weekend, and it made me wonder if my festival eating options were always going to be limited to various vegetables stuffed into spinach wraps. The answer: probably. But there was one big bonus served with my Reggae Wrap from Strictly Vegan. Fried plantains!

I hadn't had fried plantains since my big sister Katie taught me how to make them in Ecuador almost two years ago. She was a volunteer for the Peace Corps, and I think nomming on fried plantains was the only thing that kept her sane way out in the middle of the Ecuador wilderness. Look how happy the fried plantains made her:

Fried plantains (unlike cornrows) are always a good idea.

The whole meal from Strictly Vegan was delicious, but it didn't taste vegan. I'm sure that's due to the fake chicken and fake Ranch dressing. This was my first experience with fake meat, and I guess it was a good one. But the fake meat was hidden inside a wrap; I think if I had to slice the fake meat and eat it with a fork, it might turn my stomach a little bit.

I wish I could have tried more of the food options at Strictly Vegan, but I'll just have to wait for another festival in Santa Barbara and hope they pop up there.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Syrup Snobbery

One of my most scarring childhood memories involves imposter maple syrup. I had woken up to the sound of gentle rain and the smell of pancakes grilling. I flounced downstairs (I was one of those little girls who flounce everywhere) and sat at the kitchen table, ready to devour the delicious pancake breakfast my daddy was about to serve me.

I'm sorry to say, this story does not have a happy ending. It's been almost twenty years, and I still shudder when I think about the moment those pancakes touched my lips - they were drenched in fake maple syrup. We had run out of 100% pure Vermont maple syrup, and my parents had figured that high fructose corn syrup calling itself "breakfast syrup" and hiding behind the unfortunate stereotype of Aunt Jemima would be an acceptable substitute.

Ever since that rainy Saturday morning, I have been a syrup snob. It wasn't really an issue while I was growing up; the syrup drama never escalated beyond the fights I'd sometimes get into with my little brother (who, unbelievably, prefers fake maple syrup) that went something like, "Well, when I'm the president, I'm going to outlaw your type of maple syrup!"

Then I moved out to California and tried to order pancakes at restaurants. At first, I asked my server if I could please have some "real" maple syrup. That server responded by picking up the pitcher of fake syrup that was already on my table, pouring it on top of my pancakes (helpfully, he thought) and asking, "What do you mean, real? Look, there's real syrup in here. Do you not see it?"

After that disaster, I tried rephrasing my request. I asked my next server, "Is this 100% pure maple syrup?" She snorted and responded, "Well, it ain't cut with baby formula, if that's what you mean!"

So I just no longer order pancakes at restaurants. I rarely make them at home, either - except for the month following my birthday last year, when I made pancakes almost every day to eat with the 100% pure Vermont maple syrup my friend Saloni had mailed me from the east coast.

Last night, my roommate Amy sauntered into the living room (she was sauntering because she was trying on the new shoes she had ordered online that had just been delivered) and announced that she was going to toast some frozen blueberry waffles. The frozen blueberry waffles weren't vegan, so I had to turn them down, but the mention of waffles got me thinking about 100% pure maple syrup and how much I love it.

I decided to try making something that I could eat with maple syrup, so I looked up recipes online for vegan pancakes. I went with one of the first ones I found, because it got such great reviews: 5 Minute Vegan Pancakes. The recipe says to use:

1 cup flour
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder
1/8 teaspon salt
1 cup soy milk
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

I substituted coconut milk beverage (left over from the failed macaroons) for the soy milk and canola oil for the vegetable oil. The batter was much different from normal pancake batter. It was frothy and aerated, almost like Cool Whip in texture.
The pancakes looked just like regular pancakes, except fluffier. I served them (to myself - Amy was busy nomming on her frozen blueberry waffles and Emily wasn't hungry) with strawberries and, of course, 100% pure maple syrup. Here they are, right before I poured syrup all over them:

And here are Amy's lame frozen blueberry waffles, posing with the butter she was about to spread on them:

There was no contest. I'm sure it had to do with the canola oil I grilled them in, but my vegan pancakes were phenomenal. They were literally the best pancakes I have ever made. And I'm not one of those people who overuse the word "literally." I'm so glad I've found a vegan excuse to indulge my syrup snobbery.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Meghan the Veghan Goes to the Nutritionist

The Vegan Food Pyramid
I'd like to say I get consistently awesome advice from my friend Jess. It's quite close to consistently awesome advice, but I am pretty sure she gave me the go-ahead to attempt to take 21 shots on the day of my 21st birthday. As we've gotten older, Jess has become a dependable source of reason. Though I can always count on her to listen to me gripe about specific problems, her advice usually comes in grand, sweeping form. For instance, before she left for a year-long trip around the world, she reminded me, "Don't die before I get back. Also, don't get married."

Things like that.

Jess has been a vegetarian for as long as I've known her. She calls it avoiding "food with face." The idea of a face seems rather flexible, though; I would be hard-pressed to identify a face on a shrimp (though I could guess the general vicinity), but she doesn't eat shrimp.

When I told Jess I had decided to be a vegan, she was delighted. But the second sentence out of her mouth (after "Hooray!", which counts as a sentence in my world) was, "You'll need to go to a nutritionist." So I decided to take that good advice. I called university health services immediately, but the earliest appointment I could get was for yesterday afternoon.

The nutritionist at university health services is named Betsy, and as it turns out, she was a vegan for fourteen years. The first question she asked me was, "Why did you decide to be a vegan?" Later in our conversation, she revealed that she asked that question to see if my answer would involve any combination of the words "weight" and "loss." It didn't, so we proceeded.

Betsy confirmed my belief that flax seed is awesome. She also recommended walnuts and purslane as sources of omega-3 fatty acids. I responded, "" Purslane is a weed-like green that's yummy when mixed with veggies, and Betsy said I can pick it up at most farmers markets around here.

But Betsy's main concern was that I am not getting enough calcium. Apparently, our bones only accumulate calcium until we're about thirty years old. Then we're stuck with whatever we've got. It's like a savings account from which you can only withdraw money after age thirty. But it's worse because if you run out, your bones fall apart.

I find that terrifying. Luckily, I eat a lot of spinach, which is a great source of iron and calcium. But the iron and calcium compete for binding sites in the intestinal tract. Betsy said to squeeze something acidic like lemon juice or balsamic vinegar on my spinach before I eat it to inspire the fiber to "let go" of the iron and calcium. Or I can swallow one of those horse-tranquilizer-sized calcium supplement pills every morning. Or both. I don't want my bones to fall apart.

I used to get all the calcium I needed from cow's milk. Almond milk is usually not enriched with calcium, but Betsy said that often soy milk is. I've been trying to steer clear of soy milk because I've heard some crazy rumors about Japanese people's brains shrinking after eating too much soy. I told Betsy I didn't want my brain to shrink. She told me that as long as I don't consume more than 35 grams per day, I will be fine. And it would take a real effort to consume more than 35 grams in a day.

As we wrapped up our session, Betsy urged me not to be influenced by crazy people who do cleanses or who restrict their diets in absurd ways. She urged me to eat cheese when I'm in France this summer, but I already planned to. I don't know how to say "ridiculous American vegan chick" in French, and I don't really want to find out.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Senator Jon Kyl Eats Vegans!

A candid shot of Senator Jon Kyl, looking for vegans to eat.

The title of this post is not intended to be a factual statement. (The above photograph isn't actually Jon Kyl, either.)

A few days ago, I had never heard of Senator Jon Kyl, a Republican from Arizona. In the debates leading up to the almost-but-not-quite government shutdown last week, Jon Kyl made the following statement about Planned Parenthood (whose funding was on the chopping block):

He claims that abortions constitute "well over 90% of what Planned Parenthood does." He was just slightly off; according to Planned Parenthood's 2009 Annual Report, abortions in fact make up only 3% of its services. But politicians lie all the time. The real shocker came when, confronted about this blatant lie, Kyl's staffers explained that, "His remark was not intended to be a factual statement, but rather to illustrate that Planned Parenthood, an organization that receives millions of dollars in taxpayer funding, does subsidize abortions."

Ah, I see. It wasn't intended as a factual statement. So no need for an apology.

In response to this bogus response to a bogus statement (which, of course, is now permanently part of the Congressional record), Stephen Colbert began incessantly tweeting things about Jon Kyl. He can say whatever he wants, as long as he follows it with the hash tag #NotIntendedToBeAFactualStatement. The idea caught on after he explained it on his show on Monday night, and since then there have been some clever contributions.

Some of my favorites from Colbert's writers:

Jon Kyl can unhinge his jaw like a python to swallow small rodents whole. #NotIntendedToBeAFactualStatement

Jon Kyl murdered a caricaturist for drawing him with a basketball instead of a surfboard. #NotIntendedToBeAFactualStatement

Jon Kyl is one of Gaddafi's sexy female ninja guards. #NotIntendedToBeAFactualStatement

And the most fitting viewer contribution, given my recent break up:

Jon Kyl is anti-bacon. #NotIntendedToBeAFactualStatement - Mathew Davoli

Anti-bacon? I guess that's something I (do not actually) have in common with Jon Kyl.

I wanted to make a contribution to the fun hash tagging, but how? I had no ideas. Then I remembered my friend Katie's T-shirt, which she wore last night in my honor:

At first, I thought it was a nice, supportive message. Then I realized that the man is in a bovine position, with dotted lines crisscrossing his body as if to indicate different cuts of meat. Katie (yes, the same Katie with the uncanny knowledge of bees) meant to say that she has love for vegans in the same way she has love for bacon.

And she does (not actually) have that in common with Senator Jon Kyl.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Breaking Up with Bacon

I spent this Saturday at the GOOD LA launch at the Atwater Crossing space in Los Angeles. It was a really fun scene, with local artisans selling crafty things, tons of food samples, free screen printing, artsy activities (like paper crane making), demonstrations, a $5 open bar, and free Grinberg Method massages.

I love booths and situations involving many of them, so my boyfriend Andrew and I spent a long time meandering among the various merchants. One whole end of the indoor space was dedicated to fancy food makers and most of them were providing samples.

My first reaction was one of excitement - I love samples. One time about a year ago, my mom and I went to the Whole Foods that had just opened near her home in Massachusetts (it's the biggest Whole Foods store in the country, no big deal). She was very proud of it, so we went there on an outing without needing to buy any groceries. I wouldn't have thought life could get any better than wandering around the biggest Whole Foods in the country, but it did: there were sample tables set up at the end of every aisle. We walked directly from one sample table to the next, trying everything. Without a cart or basket, we didn't even have the pretense of actually shopping. It was shameless and awesome.

So when I saw the sample tables set up at the GOOD LA launch, my heart swelled with happiness and my tummy swelled with the expectation of being filled with a mish-mash of things that no sane person would ever consume in the same sitting. But then I remembered that I am a vegan. I comforted myself with the thought that my veganism was helping me resist unhealthful temptations. That worked for a while... until I saw the bacon table.

Rashida Purifoy owns Cast Iron Gourmet, a company specializing in homemade bacon products. And there were samples. Samples of caramelized bacon chunks, bacon bourbon chutney, bacon mayo pimento cheese spread, and something Rashida called "couch mix," which consisted of dried fruit, nuts, chocolate, and bacon.

I knew denying bacon would be the hardest part of being a vegan. Even though I never used to purchase bacon to make at home, I would always order it any time I was at a restaurant that offered it. And I mean any time. For instance, a couple of years ago when my friend Perry was visiting me in LA, we went out for drinks at a bar called The Abbey. I didn't feel like drinking, so I ordered a plate of bacon. Look how happy I was about it:

Anyway, back at the GOOD LA launch, Andrew was enjoying samples of Rashida's bacon concoctions and not trying hard enough to mask his bacon-induced ecstasy.

Meanwhile, I was starving to death. I decided to go check out the food trucks parked outside. The only one that looked promising was Greenz on Wheelz. But despite its name, Greenz on Wheelz actually has very few vegan-friendly options. I went with what the guy taking my order suggested: the veggie melt with no cheese, served in a spinach wrap. I wasn't expecting much, but I was pleasantly surprised:

It was pretty yummy and it momentarily distracted me from my bacon cravings. But I couldn't help wistfully thinking, "This veggie wrap would be so much more delicious with bacon. Everything is better with bacon." Then I burst into tears. Just kidding. But I needed to take some action.

Did I mention the $5 open bar? It was calling my name. I had just encountered bacon for the first time after breaking up with it, and it was time to drown my sorrows. The bar offered all the usual drinks, but I ordered one off the special menu featuring drinks made with O.N.E. coconut water.

Who am I kidding? I tried one of each. And it worked. I didn't even think about bacon.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Tiggers Don't Like Honey.

"Well," said Pooh, "What I like best..." and then he had to stop and think. Because although eating honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn't know what it was called.

About once a week, my friend Erin has me and two of our other friends over so she can cook for us. She does this because she likes to cook, but also because she likes us. We hadn't gotten together since I decided to be a vegan, and I was a little nervous about how my food choices would affect the dinner and the mood of the group. I didn't want Erin to feel obligated to cook a vegan-friendly meal, but I also didn't want to make her feel awkward by not eating what she did cook.

As it turned out, Erin is an even better friend than I thought, and she prepared a yummy meal I could enjoy with everyone else. She made angel hair pasta with asparagus, two kinds of potatoes roasted with onions, and green beans, all cooked in black truffle oil.

Erin told me that during her extensive online research, she found some evidence that many vegans don't eat truffle oil, since truffles are sniffed out by pigs. I guess those vegans don't like the idea of eating food for whose production animals had to do any work. But that's a slippery slope: would those vegans be against animal labor in the harvesting of vegetables? It seems to me that pigs probably like sniffing out truffles - that's about as good as life gets for a pig.

Besides, black truffle oil is an aphrodisiac. Truffle-sniffing pigs know what's up.

Anyway, for an hors d'oeuvres, Erin had mixed up some olive oil with tomatoes, cucumbers, bulgur, parsley, and sweet onions, and we ate it wrapped in lettuce:

Here she is, being a skilled chef:

 And here's the main course:

But the existential crisis of the evening had to do with the alcoholic accompaniment to that delicious meal. Our friend Katie brought over some honey mead to share. Then she realized that, as a vegan, I was not going to drink her honey mead (despite the aphrodisiacal black truffle oil). So she launched into an explanation of why bees making honey is not the same at all as animals being tortured in factory farms. I was enthralled (and, frankly, shocked at the breadth of Katie's knowledge about bees). She argued that bees make honey whether we eat it or not, as an emergency backup plan in case they are ever in a situation without food. Sure, we steal their honey, but they're not injured in the process and they just make more. After all, according to Winnie the Pooh (who is the wisest animal I know):

"That buzzing noise means something.
If there's a buzzing noise, somebody's making a buzzing-noise, and the only reason for making a buzzing noise that I know of is because you're a bee...
And the only reason for being a bee that I know of is making honey...
And the only reason for making honey is so as I can eat it."

Of course, there are many arguments against the consumption of honey by vegans, too. Some of those arguments make sense, and some involve the idea of bee slaves. Definitions of exactly what veganism is vary (arguably by person), so it makes sense that there are conflicting stances on the honey issue.

I tried a sip of the honey mead, but I've decided to continue substituting agave syrup for honey whenever possible. There are lots of arguments for and against all aspects of veganism, and if I'm going to go vegan, I might as well go "whole hog," so to speak.

Otherwise everything will get too complicated. After all, Pooh also said, "It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn't use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like, 'What about lunch?'"

Thursday, April 7, 2011

1981 Was a Great Year

My mom loves library sales. Especially the kind where you pay a few dollars for a big paper bag that you can fill up with as many books as you can carry home with you. She's a very thoughtful lady, so she always fills her bag with books (and VHS tapes) she thinks we'll be interested in. Recently, she gave me a book called The Los Angeles Times California Cookbook (of course, because I live in California), which she picked up at a library sale in my hometown in Massachusetts. The cookbook includes recipes that "illustrate the California style, with its outdoor life, accent on fitness and good nutrition, fresh garden produce, and tropical foods."

It was published in 1981.

As of last night, I had yet to crack open the Calfornia Cookbook, but - having identified myself as a California stereotype from 1981 - I felt obliged to check it out further. And it was time to get some inspiration about what to do with the rest of my pile of lentils. Yup, they were still in my fridge, despite my dedication to eating at least a serving of lentils per day for the past week or so. It was time to get rid of them once and for all.

So I decided to try to make lentil burgers. Here's the recipe from The Los Angeles Times California Cookbook:

2 cups cooked lentils
1 cup soft whole wheat bread crumbs
1/2 cup wheat germ
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 and 1/4 teaspoons salt
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
3 tablespoons oil

Mash lentils slightly. Stir in bread crumbs, wheat germ, onion, salt, eggs, and Worcestershire. Form into six 3 1/2 inch patties, using 1/2 cup lentil for each. Heat oil in large skillet. Cook patties until golden brown on both sides, about 5 minutes. Serve in whole wheat pita breads, if desired.

Well, there would be a few steps to veganizing this recipe. First of all, Worcestershire sauce has anchovies in it, so I can't eat that. I decided to substitute soy sauce because, well, it's soy. Second, the eggs! Eesh. I was skeptical of the powers of ground flax seed after getting macarooned the night before, but I didn't have another option. I decided to substitute flax seed for the wheat germ, too, since I just didn't have any wheat germ lying around.

Nor did I have any bread crumbs, but of course I had whole wheat bread (what else would I use to make my peanut butter toast every day?), so I just crumbled that up and called it breadcrumbs. After everything was mixed together, I packed it into little slider-sized patties (smaller than the recipe indicates) like this:

The good part about having the job of patty-packing was that my hands were covered in lentil goop, so I could ask Amy to do everything else that had to be done (mix up a yummy Tahini sauce, toast the pita pockets, wash the dishes, etc.). The little patties stuck together surprisingly well, because I made them more round than flat. Here they are sizzling up:

 And here's the final product, stuffed in a pita (pre-Tahini sauce):

This was the most successful vegan cooking night I've had so far. The lentil burgers are delicious (thanks, California Cookbook!) and as a plus, I got to use up the rest of those silly lentils.
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Wednesday, April 6, 2011


I believe "macaroon" should be a verb. It's such a fun word! It could mean doing anything that has to do with coconut or any other kind of macaroon (if other kinds exist). But it sounds best when it implies some kind of duping.

For instance: last weekend at a party in Venice beach, I got macarooned. A woman was sitting at a little table with a plate of delicious-looking coconut macaroons on it. She was energetically (borderline maniacally) offering them to everyone who walked by, and I was no exception. Our conversation went like this:

Macaroon lady: "OMG these are the best macaroons ever! Try one!"
Me: "No, thanks. I'm a vegan so I'm not really eating any of these snacks."
Macaroon lady: "These macaroons are vegan."
Me: "Oh, you made them?"
Macaroon lady: "No, but I know about macaroons. All macaroons are vegan." (And her eyes said, "Duh.")
Me: "Really? In that case, I'll try one."

The lady was right - the macaroons were the best ever. But out of curiosity the next morning, I Googled macaroon recipes and discovered that macaroons are not, in fact, inherently vegan. In fact, most macaroon recipes call for egg whites and milk. I was macarooned!

I imagined shaking my fist in the air and yelling, "Macarooned!" It felt good.

Last night I decided to try to make my own macaroons, so I would know they were vegan. I started with this recipe from Savvy Vegetarian.

The problem was: math. I didn't have any Ener G-Egg Replacer, this nonsense ingredient that almost every recipe I try to make calls for. I wanted to use ground flax seed as an egg replacer instead. The recipe calls for 2 Tbsp Ener G-Egg stuff, and I know that 1 egg = 1/2 Tbsp. So the recipe calls for the equivalent of 4 eggs. Then I looked at my bag of ground flax seed and made the calculation based on 4 eggs... but I have a feeling I used too much flax seed/water mixture. Here's what the batter looked like:

The reason I think my math was off is because the macaroons took way too long to bake. The recipe said 20-25 minutes, but after 25 minutes they still looked exactly the same as when I put them in - not browned at all:

I waited a total of another 15 minutes (my oven is weak), and then just took them out, even though they still looked too moist, because I was bored of waiting for them. Here's what they looked like:

Well, they were cooked enough, I guess. They just aren't that good. It's not that they taste unpleasant, they're just not the right consistency nor are they sweet enough. My roommate Amy likes them, so she can eat them all as far as I'm concerned. This is a recipe in which a flax seed substitution does not work so well, unfortunately. Macarooned again!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

OMG Thank you, Oprah! Thank you!!

I don't watch Oprah, but I got a heads up from my friends Nadia and Jenny who apparently do watch Oprah - sorry for outing you guys - that Oprah just did a whole special on veganism. She and a bunch of her staffers tried to eat only vegan-friendly foods for a week, and now her website is full of fun vegan information and videos, mostly having to do with a "veganist" named Kathy Freston.

In a behind-the-scenes style video on Oprah's website, Kathy offers easy ways to veganize your eating habits. First of all, thank you, Kathy, for explaining that the "ist" means someone who does.

I'm a musicologist. You're a veganist. Got it.

Kathy goes on, "Just like a violinist is someone who is very interested in the violin, I'm a veganist because I'm interested in all things vegan." Well, I would argue that a violinist is someone who plays the violin and, probably, plays the violin well. So I guess that's why Kathy Freston is a veganist and I am just a vegan; she's a professional violinist and I am the awkward kid who sat next to you in seventh-grade orchestra and tried really hard.

This isn't the first time Oprah has taken vegan advice from Kathy Freston. In 2008, she tried a 21-day cleanse. The diet was intense: not only was she eating like a vegan, but she also cut out caffeine, sugar, and (!) wine. The only situation in which I could pull off a cleanse like that would be during a month in which nobody expected me to do anything productive (no coffee) or to be pleasant, ever (no wine). But at least this cleanse seems way healthier than some other crazy-ass cleanses I've heard about people doing.

So Kathy Freston is kind of a mixed bag for me. She offers the following rather misleading advice: "Whatever I'm eating, I also have a big salad so it keeps me healthy." This is great news, because it means that, after mindlessly spooning peanut butter into my mouth for an hour while I watch TV from last night on Hulu, I can just also eat a salad and the whole situation will magically become healthy! I'm pumped.

On the other hand, she does have a good philosophy about not pushing her vegan habits or ideals on others: "I never impress my thinking on anyone else because it's not my business to tell someone how they should eat." And it's pretty cool how she's trying to make veganism mainstream. She's also been on Ellen DeGeneres's show, encouraging people to try being vegan for a week. She may come off as a little silly, but what she's doing is awesome.

But enough about Kathy. The most helpful tool on the website in my opinion is the Vegan Starter Kit. There is a Grocery List, a Three-Week Meal Plan, and a Simple Substitutions guide. The grocery list suggests cheese substitutes, but unfortunately, it doesn't offer an opinion on whether or not they are tasty. I have yet to try any vegan "cheese" because I'm afraid I'm still in love with my ex-lover, regular cheese, which is obviously better tasting. It might be too soon. But when the time comes, I now know to try Daiya, Soya Kaas, Sunergia Soyfoods, or Galaxy Nutritional Foods (which is carried at the Isla Vista Coop!).

Oprah's grocery list got me really excited to go shopping again. She recommends Amy's Kitchen brand frozen foods, and that reminded me that I have been meaning to pick some of those meals up. I can get vegannaise (yup, that word exists - vegan mayonnaise) from Follow Your Heart, and Kashi cereals to eat with my almond milk.

Aside from providing lots of shopping ideas, Oprah's grocery list also helped me realize that all vegan food companies sound like they should be the names of either a meditation retreat center or a kindergarten daycare. Tofutti Cuties, anyone?

Monday, April 4, 2011

Everything Delicious Bread

Last night I wanted to bake something sweet. Quite conveniently, I had some random fruit in my kitchen that was ripe and would go bad if I didn't eat it quickly. I had three bananas and a bunch of pineapple slices left over from the Über Smüthie, and a bag of shredded coconut from... I don't know why I had that bag of shredded coconut.

Just to check, I searched online for all those ingredients + the word "vegan." I actually found something! Somewhere in the world, another woman looked in the kitchen and discovered that she had exactly the same random ingredients to use... and she is a vegan. And she knows how to bake (obviously, if I were on my own here, I would have made a pineapple-banana-coconut salad). That woman is Joy the Baker, and she's not really a vegan (she says she likes bacon too much), but she provided me with this recipe: Coconut Pineapple Vegan Banana Bread.

I was into it. I also had some chocolate chips left over from my vegan chocolate chip cookies, so I decided to throw those into the mix. I happen to think that everything is better with chocolate chips. Except for pizza, maybe. And chicken. Luckily, I don't eat either of those things.

Here are the ingredients I was supposed to use:

2 large or 3 small very ripe bananas
1/4 cup crushed pineapple, drained
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
generous pinch of ground ginger
pinch of allspice
1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut

I had three (kind of ripe) bananas, big slices of pineapple that I figured I could "crush" with a fork myself, and all the other ingredients except for the allspice. I followed Joy the Baker's directions (and tossed some chocolate chips into the batter) and felt pretty satisfied with myself.

But after the bread had been in the oven for 15 minutes, I realized I had made a mistake. Since I didn't have any whole wheat flour, I had planned on using 2 cups of all-purpose flour... but I hadn't. I had totally forgotten about that modification. So I had only used 1 cup of flour, or half the required amount. Argh! There was nothing to be done.

I let it bake for 38 minutes, then opened the oven door, afraid of what I might find (I was picturing a hot, wet puddle of fruit).

But it was perfect - the lack of flour didn't ruin it after all! It just meant that the bread was super moist and more like a dessert than a breakfast. I shared it with Emily, Amy, and our friend Jim who (conveniently) showed up at our apartment for an unannounced visit seconds before the oven timer went off. Here's what the bread looked like right before I ate the first slice:

It is either Vegan Pineapple-Coconut-Banana-Chocolate Chip Bread (with not enough flour), or more simply: Everything Delicious Bread.