Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Why Did the Fake Chicken Cross the Road?

… the answer to this riddle depends a good deal on whether the fake chicken in question has legs. The one I’m imagining does not have legs, so the answer is: “It didn’t. It had no legs.” ZING!

If you imagined a fake chicken with fake little chicken legs, then the answer is: “Because, since it was not a real chicken, it did not live on a factory farm and had the freedom to do whatever it wanted to.” ... zing?

On my recent trip to Lazy Acres, I bought some fake chicken nuggets on a whim. They looked delicious on the box, and sometimes that’s all it takes to convince me. Specifically, these were Health is Wealth All Natural Chicken-Free Vegan Meatless Stone Ground Whole Wheat Breaded Nuggets.

What a mouthful. Would that mouthful be delicious?

Tonight when I got home from yoga, I decided to find out. I was starving as always. So there was no time to prepare the fake chicken in a fancy, oven-dependent way. I went for the microwave directions, which were: arrange 6-8 chicken nuggets in a circle on a microwavable plate, with two paper towels beneath them. Heat for one minute. Rotate them and heat for another minute.

Well, we don’t believe in using paper towels here at Tigh Vino (remember: two out of the three of us are finishing up Masters degrees in Environmental Management). Miraculously, even the microwave directions had turned out to require too much from me.

Oh, well. These fake chicken nuggets were probably destined to taste wacky anyway. I went for it, sans paper towels. 

Here’s what they looked like post-microwave:

 
These little guys tasted… well, they tasted like chicken. Not like McDonald's chicken nuggets or anything, but they were pretty indistinguishable from any other frozen chicken nuggets I've tried.

I’m still not a fan of the idea of fake meat in general, but I think if something must pretend to be a meat, chicken is the best choice. So many things just taste like chicken already – it makes sense that you could batter one of those things (in this case, soy protein) and call it chicken.

So here's an alternate, less-depressing punch line for "Why did the fake chicken cross the road?" ... Because it was in my belly, and I crossed the road (to get to the Shell station).

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Ecua-fornia Style Cooking

Two summers ago, I visited my sister Katie in Ecuador, where she was serving in the Peace Corps. We spent some time traveling around the country to Quito, Cuenca, Mindo, and the little towns where her fellow Peace Corps volunteers lived, then ended up at my sister's site for a week.

Katie lived in Caimito, just north of Atacames in the province of Esmeraldas. It's on the coast of northern Ecuador and has gorgeous beaches and waterfalls. But I would have gone absolutely bonkers living there for two years like my sister did. She is so hardcore.

Chickens wandered in and out of her little house. There was a gap of about a foot between the top of the walls and the roof, so at night bats flew in. Even though I slept under a mosquito net and kept my body constantly slathered in DEET repellent, I left Caimito with so many bites my body looked like one big, puffy red welt. There were no showers, so to clean themselves, people just dumped buckets of cold water over their naked bodies outside in the backyard.

Lucky for Katie, her boyfriend in Caimito was a bamboo carpenter. He built her an outdoor shower with a curtain and a compost toilet with a view of the ocean. He even built a water tank outside the kitchen so she could have "running water" come out of the faucet at the kitchen sink.

Needless to say, Katie had gotten pretty clever with preparing food. She had invented recipes for baking bread in a toaster oven and a bunch of different variations of octopus- and fish-based meals (including peanut butter and fish bone soup, which was, incredibly, not bad).

But my favorite Ecua-meal Katie made for me involved the easiest ingredients for her to find: plantains, yucca root, and avocados. In Ecuador, people practically give away avocados. There are just too many of them to use, and you often see them rotting on the ground where they've fallen.

After being inspired to purchase the ingredients I'd need at Lazy Acres, I decided to cook up an Ecuador-style meal. Because my kitchen is in Santa Barbara (and because I like dorky word combinations), I'm calling this fusion cooking "Ecua-fornia Style." Here's what I started with:
 

First I peeled the yucca root with much difficulty. Its skin was waxy, crumbly, and a lot more like bark on a tree than skin on a vegetable. I cut it into three sections and boiled it in a pot for 25 minutes. Then I cut it into little blocks.

Meanwhile, I sliced the plantain into long strips and grilled them in coconut oil. I don't think people cook with coconut oil in Ecuador, but there certainly is ample access to coconuts. Just for fun, here's a picture of my sister trying to slice a coconut open with a machete:

That coconut didn't stand a chance.

The rest of the preparation for my Ecua-fornia Stye meal was pretty simple. I threw the chunks of yucca in with the plantain strips to grill for a bit. Then I sliced up an avocado I had bought at Plow to Porch. I arranged everything in a bowl:


It tasted pretty good. Yucca has a potato-like texture but stringier, and it complimented the mushy avocado quite well. I was disappointed with the fried plantains, though - I don't think I grilled them long enough, so they were still kind of starchy inside.

Oh, well. I think I'll attempt Ecua-fornia cooking again when Katie comes out here to visit me at the end of the summer. She's a much better cook than I am in general, and she has so much experience frying plantains that I bet they never come out starchy. I'm looking forward to coming up with other Ecua-fornia fusion foods together! Just as long as peanut butter and fish bone soup is not involved.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Lazy Thursday!

Ever since becoming a vegan, I've been dying to check out Lazy Acres Market. It's a grocery store in downtown Santa Barbara that carries "wholesome, natural, and organic foods." Sounds perfect, right? The problem is, well... Lazy Acres isn't the only one who's lazy, and I live within walking distance of the Isla Vista Coop.

I had this afternoon "free" (I should have been grading papers, but I figure grocery shopping doesn't really count as procrastination), so I decided to hit up Lazy Acres. First I checked out their website to see if they were having any specials, and much to my delight, today was "Lazy Thursday."

Every Thursday at Lazy Acres, students and seniors get a 10% discount. They also have a bunch of items that are marked down a bit on Thursdays. What luck! The name "Lazy Thursday" obviously brought to mind the 2005 Saturday Night Live Digital Short "Lazy Sunday."


The only thing I love more than 10% student discounts is the brilliance of Andy Samberg and The Lonely Island, so as I headed downtown I was feeling great. I even listened to "Lazy Sunday" on the drive, just to get in the mood.

As I used Google Maps on my phone to figure out where on earth Lazy Acres was, I remembered the lyrics: "Google Maps is the best!" / "True dat!" / "DOUBLE TRUE!" Google Maps is the best, and it got me to Lazy Acres in about 20 minutes.

I felt excited and overwhelmed as soon as I stepped into Lazy Acres. It just looked so much fancier than a regular grocery store. I think as a general rule, the word "market" (not preceded by "super") indicates a certain level of class. I was particularly struck by how colorful the produce section was:

I wanted to eat everything in the whole store. But I knew I had to be choosy. The student discount was, after all, only 10% off. I got the basics like almond milk and whole grain bread, but I couldn't help being tempted by the vast selection of produce. I felt inspired.

I grabbed a plantain and a yucca root to combine with the avocado I still have from Plow to Porch. I wanted to make an Ecuador-style dinner. When I was visiting my sister in Ecuador two summers ago, pretty much every meal we ate consisted of some combination of plantain, yucca, and avocado. In Ecuador, we found the avocados outside on the ground, we used the yucca Katie grew in her backyard, and we paid about one cent for each plantain. Here I was, paying $3/lb for the same ingredients at a trendy organic market in Santa Barbara. I am nervous about misusing the word "ironic," but I'm pretty sure this situation qualified.

I also decided to try some "chicken nuggets" that are really chicken-free. I am generally grossed out by the idea of fake meat, but this fake meat looked delicious on the box. (I realize that judging frozen foods by how they look on the box is a less-than-sound way to make purchasing decisions.)

But the product I was most interested in trying was the vegan chocolate mousse. It's made of raw young coconut milk, organic virgin coconut oil, organic dates, and organic raw cacao. I still had a Tupperware full of soy frozen yogurt in my freezer, so I bought the chocolate mousse for the purpose of putting on top of the fro yo. It was a heavenly combination.

In conclusion, I'm going back next week for more "Lazy Thursday" groceries. Lazy Acres might not be "The Chronic-what!-cles of Narnia," but it's a dreamworld of magic in its own crazy-delicious way.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Kale, Fruit, and a Little Root

Two years ago, I didn't even know what kale looked like. When my roommates and I started getting Community Supported Agriculture shares from Fairview Gardens, I discovered a slew of new vegetables like turnips, rainbow chard, and green onions - but kale is my favorite.

It just makes anything you add it to taste better. Usually I just grill it up in olive oil with whatever other greens I have lying around. But recently I've been getting creative with ingredients. A few weeks ago, I made this braised kale and apple dish. It tasted good, but I don't have much experience braising things, and I am pretty sure my kale got a bit too brown.

So this afternoon, I decided to experiment with some other fruits: oranges and strawberries. I still had one orange left from my trip to Plow to Porch, and we got a little basket of strawberries in our CSA share yesterday. Would kale and fruit be enough?

I opened the door to the refrigerator and saw a bundle of little root vegetables. I stared at them blankly (my default face when it comes to gazing into the refrigerator). They were too small to be beets and too reddish to be turnips. Aha - radishes! You might think it's depressing that I don't know a radish when I see one, but at least I know what a tomato looks like.

Yesterday, my friend Than identified the hitch-kick as "the Goldilocks of dance moves - not too big, not too small, but just right." In case you don't know what a hitch-kick is, here's an incredible demo video. Following Than's fabulous analogy, a radish is the Goldilocks of root vegetables. Any bigger and it would be a beet. Any smaller and it would be... too small to care about.

So I had my winning combination: kale, oranges, strawberries, and radishes. For dressing, I decided to use the carrot, ginger, and miso OM Sweet Mama dressing I had purchased at Plow to Porch.

Ingredients (makes one serving):

5-6 leaves curly kale
1tbsp carrot, ginger, and miso dressing (or balsamic vinaigrette if you're feeling less fancy)
3-4 strawberries
1/2 orange, diced
1 radish, sliced thinly

I wanted the kale to wilt a little bit, so I put it on low heat with just a bit of water and pushed it around. After about four minutes, I took it off the heat and drained it. Then I poured the dressing on top of it and spent a while mixing it in. Kale leaves are tricky because they don't really hold dressing the way that other greens might, so you have to either massage the dressing into them or (if you are weirded out by the idea of massaging kale) spend a while pushing them around in a puddle of dressing.

I arranged the kale all nicely on a plate with the pieces of fruit and radish on top of it. It looked adorable:


It was quite tasty! I was so proud of myself for inventing a yummy salad recipe and for taking a lovely picture of it that I attempted a hitch-kick. That knocked my pride down a notch pretty quickly. I'm just going to stick to making salads.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Libido Burrito

Burritos are one of those foods that are delicious at any time of day, from breakfast (when they tend to consist of eggs, bacon, potatoes, and salsa) to late-night second dinner (when they can consist of whatever they want to, because you are too incapacitated to know the difference). But they're known to have a negative side effect. It has to do with the main ingredient, beans, which didn't earn the moniker "the musical fruit" for nothing.

Understanding that burritos cause general gastro-intestinal discomfort can be helpful in making social judgments. For instance,  if you are out to dinner with someone and you're not sure whether it's a date, consider what they order to eat. If they order a dish drenched in black truffle oil or something else with rumored aphrodisiacal qualities, it's a date. If they order a burrito, it's not.

I've been eating a lot of burritos from Freeb!rds and other awesome restaurants in the Isla Vista area, ever since my nutritionist recommended the combination of beans and rice. Apparently, beans + rice = a complete protein, comparable to what you'd get from eating meat. But I was sick (literally) of having to brace myself for an uncomfortable afternoon following the consumption of a burrito.

And I was tired of scheduling my yoga practice around it. If you're considering practicing yoga after eating a burrito, stop considering it.

So I decided to invent my own burrito that wouldn't have the same negative gassy consequences. The way to do this, I reasoned, was to cancel out the effect of the beans by including ingredients that are known to be gas-antidotes.

A little poking around online led me to two satisfactory options: anise seeds and coconut oil. My sister has been bugging me to use coconut oil in my cooking because of all its health benefits (apparently, there is an entire Coconut Research Center dedicated to discovering those health benefits), so now was the perfect time to purchase some. Obviously, I headed to the Isla Vista Coop because they carry everything I've ever wanted to eat and about 100,000 other things.

And now I present...

The Libido Burrito

Ingredients:

Organic whole wheat wrap (I used Trader Joe's brand)
Fair trade, organic virgin coconut oil (to grease the pan; as much as you want)
1 tbsp anise seeds
1 packet Seeds of Change organic quinoa and whole grain brown rice combination
1/2 avocado
1/4 can black beans
Daiya dairy-free mozzarella style "shreds"

I grilled the tortilla wrap in the coconut oil (anti-gas ingredient #1) for a few minutes on medium heat, then flipped it over. While it was on the heat, I sprinkled the mozzarella "shreds" on top (I think "shred" is a particularly ridiculous noun, but I guess Daiya is just too classy to call it cheeze). I wasn't sure if the fake cheese would melt like regular cheese, so I smeared it around with the bottom of a spoon to encourage it. Then it started looking gross, so I stopped.

Meanwhile, I was heating up the black beans on another burner and the quinoa/brown rice combination in the microwave. Those Seeds of Change packets are incredible: all the ingredients are organic and there are no preservatives, but you just have to pop them in the microwave for 90 seconds before you eat them.

Then I mixed the anise seeds (anti-gas ingredient #2) into the quinoa/brown rice combo. The seeds are really little, so they didn't affect the texture much, but they certainly added that distinct black-licorice flavor.

I laid the quinoa/brown rice/anise mixture, the black beans, and the avocado on top of the grilled tortilla wrap like so:


Then I wrapped it up to eat it. It was really yummy! The anise and coconut flavors made it taste special, not like just any old vegan burrito. The fake cheese "shreds" didn't add much - they were pretty bland. But they certainly didn't taste bad, and it was fun to have the stringy-stretchy cheese experience when biting into the burrito.

Since it was grilled, this was actually more of a quesadilla/burrito blend; a "quesarito," if you will. But as my friend Keith pointed out, "Libido Quesarito" just doesn't have the same pleasing ring to it as "Libido Burrito."

So did the Libido Burrito live up to its awesome name?

Well, "libido" isn't exactly the opposite of "gas," so the whole premise of this experiment is, admittedly, a bit of a stretch. It's not like I filled the burrito with oysters or something (blech). But the anise seeds and coconut oil definitely did the trick, and I had a comfortable, non-embarrassing yoga practice later that afternoon. So the answer is yes.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Vegan Black Metal Chef

I am a vegan opera singer. That never struck me as a strange combination, especially since my friend Sasha has told me about at least one other opera singer who, though not a vegan, comes up with a bunch of tasty vegan recipes. I guess the stereotypes don't mesh: vegans are supposed to be stick-thin and generally chilled out, while opera singers are supposed to be obese and high-strung. But I just discovered an even weirder combination: a vegan black metal chef.

His name is Brian Manowitz, and he recently posted an instructional video in which he prepares pad thai. But he narrates in a scary, growly voice over what is, I assume, generic black metal music. The best part is his costume: he is dressed up as (and this is just a guess) Lucius Malfoy at a KISS concert. And he uses terrifying weaponry instead of regular cooking utensils to do things like slice his tofu and stir his sauce.

This hilarious little video has gotten a lot of attention. I'm not sure why the combination of vegan + black metal seems so ridiculous; it might be because of the rumored animal sacrifices that took place back in the day at Ozzy Osbourne concerts. But apparently, there is a whole subculture of vegan and vegetarian black metal listeners. Who knew.


Above all, I really respect this guy's eyeballing skills. He doesn't measure anything. It means that you have to be watching the video while you prepare the recipe, so you can put in the same amount as he does.

I can't try out this recipe yet since I've given up peanut butter for Prarial, but I like pad thai and I'm excited to make "the best pad thai sauce ever." I don't think I'll press my tofu into the symbol of the ancients, though, and I'm certainly not going to use any chilli powder (my tolerance for spice is the only thing lower than my tolerance for black metal music).

As a vegan, I am excited. As a singer, I am concerned. As I (fittingly?) head out the door to sing at church, I feel obliged to send Brian Manowitz a letter that says something like:

Dear Vegan Black Metal Chef,
Please stop destroying us.
Love,
The bloody stumps that used to be your vocal chords

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Plow to Porch to My Belly

I buy a lot of Groupons. I like to think that I only buy Groupons when I would have purchased the product/experience anyway, but it's pretty easy to convince myself in the moment: "I'll probably end up treating myself to a fancy massage anyway. Why not pay half price for it?" or "Of course my dad needs a joy ride in a Lamborghini. And it's only $60?!"

Yesterday I remembered that the world was going to end today. My first instinct was to use up all my Groupons. Unfortunately, there wasn't enough time for that, so I had to prioritize food. You know, for post-rapture rations.

Luckily, I had a Groupon to Plow to Porch on upper State Street, so I headed down there to check it out.


This little shop made my (potentially last) day (on Earth). Their main business is delivering organic produce from local farms to people's homes throughout Santa Barbara, Goleta, Carpinteria, and Montecito. It didn't make sense for me to put my Groupon toward that service, since my roommates and I are already members of a Community Share Agriculture program at Fairview Farms.

The woman who was working there, Joanna, was incredibly friendly and helpful. I told her I was a vegan and she showed me around the market, pointing out the vegan products I might like. They also have all kinds of fresh cuts of meat, eggs, tea, coffee, and an entire corner of honey and honey-based products from San Marcos Farms.


For my $20 Groupon, I got two naval oranges, a basket of strawberries, two avocados, a bar of chocolate, and a bottle of OM Sweet Mama salad dressing.

OM Sweet Mama makes a few different salad dressing varieties right here in Santa Barbara, at 1535 Santa Barbara Street. I got the Carrot Ginger Miso one, which is made of olive oil, water, safflower oil, carrots, rice wine vinegar, miso, Bragg Liquid Aminos, raw agave, sesame oil, garlic, tahini, shallot, citric acid, and - believe it or not - xanthan gum. Now that I have xanthan gum in my cabinet, I might try to concoct this delicious stuff myself when I run out. Lord knows what else I'd do with it.

I'm more excited about the chocolate bar, though. Joanna pointed out to me that Twenty-four Blackbirds hand-made artisan chocolate only uses two ingredients: cocoa beans and sugar. It's made locally in Santa Barbara without the use of emulsifiers or additives. Yum.

I wish there were more markets like Plow to Porch. In my ideal world, supermarkets would follow Plow to Porch's lead and start carrying only local, organic products. Until then, I'll just have to keep going back and stocking up on delicious organic food.

Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to go use up another Groupon before the world ends. I forget exactly what it is for, but it has to do with wine.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Glenn Beck Fails at Veganism, Life

Ever since Facebook encouraged me to start counting my friends, I've become more and more aware of certain friend "deal breakers." In a romantic relationship, a deal breaker might be something like "has a quick temper" or "has feet that are too stinky." There's no negotiating when it comes to deal breakers, and they're intensely personal; no two people have the same set of deal breakers.

I'd always known about relationship deal breakers, ever since I discovered my first one: "carries a Vera Bradley man purse (and calls it a 'murse')."

But Facebook deal breakers only came about with the introduction of the news feed. Now that my Facebook friends could broadcast so much information about themselves so quickly (and now that I could access it so effortlessly), Facebook deal breakers started becoming apparent.

I had a Facebook friend who would often update his status with angry/angsty song lyrics followed by vindictive messages directed toward whatever girl he had just broken up with. Deal breaker. Emily was invited to a wedding via a Facebook event. Deal breaker.

But if you want to get un-friended by me, the most surefire way to do it is to post anything that indicates any modicum of support for or belief in anything Glenn Beck says or does.

Photo: redglitterx
(Note: this picture is clearly photoshopped and doesn't represent
an actual "equation" fabricated by Glenn Beck.)

That's why I was so disturbed when I learned that Glenn had gone vegan. As much as I abhor everything he stands for and promotes, I couldn't complain about having another vegan in the world. And it was something we had in common. Shudder.

Of course, he complained about it nonstop. Granted, he was adhering to a raw vegan diet, which is pretty hardcore. But calling the food "vomitus" is a bit much.

More interesting to me is the discussion that ensued in the comments section of the report from vegansaurus!. Some readers, like me, had the initial reaction to be glad about anyone going vegan, regardless of how terrible he or she is. But others believe that veganism is, at its core, an oppositional political position in line with anti-sexism and anti-racism; Glenn, as a sometimes-sexist and a usually-pretty-freaking-racist, is not welcome in the vegan club.

Though I think the connection of veganism to anti-sexism and anti-racism is tenuous at best, I do understand the commenters who are annoyed at Glenn's veganism because of his attitude toward it. It would be one thing if he were embracing it for environmental or ethical reasons; I think it would be awesome to have a conservative personality pushing veganism to his listeners/viewers/cult followers. But he seemed to feel forced into it by health concerns and never had a positive thing to say about the diet. He was just reinforcing the common opinion (which I would imagine is especially prominent among his listeners) that vegans are weirdo hippies. Luckily for my sense of identity, he recently quit:

Photo: vegansaurus!
Said Beck, “I had a bet with my security detail that I could go 21 days on a raw vegan diet, and I made it 20. I made it 20 whole days. I was 23 hours away from winning! And I couldn’t take it anymore.”

If that's not failure, I don't know what is.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Fro Yo = No Go?

As I explained in a recent post, when I go out to eat, I prefer an interactive experience. I get a real kick out of combining my own ingredients. And the only thing better than combining my own ingredients to make a meal is combining my own ingredients to make a dessert.

I loved going out for frozen yogurt ("fro yo" for short) and choosing my own toppings when I lived in Boston, but I always resented the person behind the counter putting the toppings on my frozen yogurt. Every fro yo shop would have one guy who was really generous and would keep heaping on the toppings until you said, "Perfect!" but sometimes you'd get the stingy guy who gave you like, two strawberries and three chocolate chips. I hated that guy.

So imagine my joy when I discovered do-it-yourself fro yo shops in LA. The trend has probably spread back east by now, but a few years ago when I moved to Venice Beach, I'd never seen one of these shops before. You get to put the toppings on yourself. As much as you want. And you pay by the total weight of your fro yo cup.

When I moved to Santa Barbara, I discovered a do-it-yourself fro yo shop just down the street from my apartment. My roommates and I often went to get fro yo late at night when we were bored with doing homework but felt that it was still too early to go to bed. I just couldn't say "no" if someone suggested going to get fro yo; likewise, if I had a fro yo craving, I knew there would always be someone willing to make the trip with me.

The best part was that I got to feel like I was making a healthy decision by choosing fro yo instead of ice cream - even though I would cover my fat-free frozen yogurt in hot fudge, whipped cream, oreo crumbles, chocolate chips, coconut shavings...

Well, now I'm just getting depressed. I've been missing fro yo for a while - the taste as much as the do-it-yourself experience. I've seen some vegan ice cream and frozen yogurt options at the Isla Vista Coop, but grabbing a box of frozen yogurt from the freezer just isn't the same. It's not work-intensive enough for me.

So I decided to make my own vegan fro yo. I used this recipe because it doesn't require an ice cream maker. I own a lot of random things, but an ice cream maker is not one of them.

3 cups plain, unsweetened soy yogurt
1/3 cup agave nectar
1/8 cup finely ground cashews
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1/8 tsp. xanthan gum

I know what you're thinking: What the pho is xanthan gum? It sounds like something you'd pour into a super villain's weapon machinery to foil his plan. But it's actually a polysaccharide used as a thickening agent in salad dressings, cosmetic products, and, apparently, homemade vegan frozen yogurt.

I used Amy's spice mill (which we usually use as a coffee grinder) to grind the cashews up. Then I combined the soy yogurt, agave nectar, cashews, and vanilla in a food processor. Here's where I ran into problems: I couldn't figure out how to use the food processor. I know that sounds like a rookie problem, but seriously - this food processor is from 1965 and it won't start unless all the pieces are clicked in together just so.

I fumbled around with it until I was thoroughly embarrassed. It wouldn't start. So I decided to go medieval on the fro yo mixture and beat it up by hand. When the mixture was smooth, I added the xanthan gum and mixed everything up for another 30 seconds.

Then I poured it into a shallow pan and stuck it in the freezer. After an hour, I pulled it out and mixed it all together again - then back in the freezer for another hour. I repeated that process one more time, then pulled it out of the freezer and...


It was tasty! It was a little tart, and I am still not sure why ground cashews needed to be in the equation. But Amy and Emily agree that the vegan fro yo was a successful endeavor.

Even though I know I can make my own vegan substitute for fro yo, I'm still bummed about not being able to partake in fro yo outings. But there actually haven't been too many instances in which I've had to turn it down. That makes me think that maybe I was the one always pressuring everybody to get fro yo with me in the first place. Now that I'm not interested, maybe the fro yo trips just don't happen anymore.

If that's not the case and you guys go without me all the time, thanks for not metaphorically rubbing it in my face (or literally rubbing it in my face, for that matter).

But if it is the case - if you are reading this and thinking, "Meghan's right! Now that she doesn't suggest getting fro yo, I just don't go anymore!" - come on over. And bring some toppings.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Let's Get Pho'd Up

The other night, Andrew and I were feeling too lazy/starving to buy ingredients to prepare our own dinner, so we decided to hit up the Venice Whole Foods already-cooked-meal section. I hadn't been there since becoming a veghan, but I wasn't worried about it. Whole Foods is known for catering to yuppie feeding trends (like being allergic to gluten or having a thing against pasteurization).

As expected, there were nearly as many vegan options as non-vegan options. They had a Vegan Taqueria right next to their plain old Taqueria and a whole corner called Venice Raw Foods (though not all those raw foods were vegan). But I was most intrigued by the pho bar.

Pho is a Vietnamese dish including noodles, broth, and vegetables. The reason I was excited about the pho bar is not because I love pho - in fact, I had never tried it before - but because I love food experiences in which I can put together all the ingredients of my own meal. It helps if the ingredients are already cooked (I struggle with Korean barbeque) and laid out in an appealing way so I can choose what looks tastiest.

I called over my shoulder to Andrew, "I'm going to try some pho!" I pronounced it "foe," as in someone who is your arch nemesis. Andrew is one of those people who always know how to pronounce foreign words. He scrunched up his whole face like he didn't understand what I was talking about, even though I was walking toward the pho, pointing at the pho - I was practically already preparing my pho to eat.

"Oh, you mean pho?" He asked, pronouncing it "fuh," as in the first sound of the word "funky."

Obviously that was what I meant. What the pho, Andrew.

The Venice Whole Foods Pho bar had everything I was looking for: vegan broth in a pot right next to the beef broth, tofu right next to the beef, and tons of veggies. I am generally pretty nervous about trying new foods from countries where the people like hot, spicy things because my body has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to spice. If my food has even been in the same room as cayenne pepper... pho-get about it. But I figured if I avoided the hot peppers and stuck to mild vegetables, I'd be okay.


The pho bar even had directions written on a chalkboard so I wouldn't get confused:

1) Choose your noodles. I chose mung noodles because, although the word "mung" totally grosses me out, my friend Jess had shamed me for saying so and I felt guilty. I decided to give mung a chance.

2) Choose your protein. I chose tofu, obviously.

3) Choose your vegetables. I chose bean sprouts, shredded carrots, and scallions. They were all fresh and pho-nomenal tasting.

4) Pour in broth. I filled the rest of my container with the vegan broth.

Andrew had pho for dinner, too, but he used beef instead of tofu, rice noodles instead of mung noodles, and beef broth instead of vegan broth. Now that I knew how to pronounce the word "pho," we spent most of our dinner coming up with dorky "pho" puns so I could use them in this post.

As for the meal itself? It was pho-cking delicious.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

I Can Has Burger Substitute?


I never used to eat hamburgers (or cheeseburgers) when I was an omnivore, so it wasn't like I really had to give them up to become a veghan. But now that I can't eat them, I've become interested in burger substitutes.

In my omnivorous past, the only poser burger I had tried was a Boca Burger. My mom sometimes made Boca Burgers for dinner when I was in high school and I always felt indifferent about them. They weren't gross, but on a scale from 1 (unsalted saltines on cardboard) to 10 (a fancy 30 Minute Vegan meal I lack the skills to prepare), they were only about a 4 or a 5.

So I haven't purchased them. Instead, I have been eating Dr. Praeger's California Veggie Burgers, and I find them delightful. The reason they're awesome is because they don't try to be beef. When you bite into one, you experience exactly what it is: vegetables all packed together. Sure, it's in the shape of a burger, but it embraces its veggie identity rather than weirdly striving to be meat like some other foods - ahem, Gardein™.

My parents were visiting this past week, and we drove up to San Luis Obispo for dinner one evening. (We came up with this plan without consulting Google Maps; when we got on the freeway and discovered that San Luis Obispo was about 95 miles north, we were already committed to the plan and had to continue.) While we wandered around a slightly-more-bizarre-than-expected pawn shop, I used the Yelp.com app on my phone to search for vegan restaurants in San Luis Obispo.

I settled on Big Sky Cafe, which I had written about when I worked as a travel writer for Let's Go Publications. In the summer of 2008, after I graduated from college, Let's Go sent me up the west coast of the country from San Diego to Seattle, writing about restaurants/hotels/attractions. Most of the restaurants I checked out have kind of blurred together in my mind, but I remembered Big Sky Cafe as soon as we walked in.

All the vegetarian menu options are marked with a little "V." When I asked the waitress about vegan options, she trotted away and returned with a huge 3-ring binder. She opened it up to a page titled "VEGAN," and went over all the different vegan menu items and possible alterations on non-vegan items. That 3-ring binder must have contained a page for every diet restriction. I hope it included a page for "LEVEL 5 VEGAN," in case Jesse from the following episode of The Simpsons ever shows up looking for a meal:


I ended up ordering the Vegetarian Bean Burger, which is made of tofu, pinto beans and black beans mixed with oats, salsa, and rice. It came on a wheat bun with lettuce, tomatoes, and vegan aioli. I decided to get fries on the side, too, just to make it feel more burger-ish. Here's what it looked like:

It tasted pretty good! Much better than a Boca Burger and almost as delicious as a Dr. Praeger California Veggie Burger. The only problem with Big Sky Cafe is that it's in San Luis Obispo and not Santa Barbara. But it was heartening to discover that I can successfully maintain my veghan-hood even while traveling around to various cities on the California coast. I think I'm all set, as long as I keep eating food that casts a shadow.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Are You There, Peanut Butter Toast? It's Me, Meghan.

In a recent post, I explained that since I'm already Meatless in May (and in every other month), I'd get on the deprivation train by giving up the food I love most, peanut butter toast... but not until we got to a month that begins with the letter "P." For alliteration's sake.

Well, my friend Linda pointed out that although there is no month that begins with "P," the French Republican Calendar, used by the French government from after the Revolution until 1805, included a month called Prairial. Thanks, Linda.

So I pledged to give up peanut butter toast for the month of Prairial, thus committing to be "Peanut Butter Toast-less in Prairial." A bit clumsier than Meatless in May, perhaps, but I like clumsy things. I used to celebrate Lent (I used to do a lot of crazy things), so I figured it wouldn't be too hard to give up something I love to eat for one month.

Photo credit: www.aduckinherpond.com
Prairial begins on May 21st and lasts until June 19th, meaning the peanut butter toast fast is going to begin in just ten days. I have been consuming as much peanut butter as possible so I won't have a big jar full of peanut butter whispering, "Put me on toast and eat me!" from my cabinet during Prairial.

But as it turns out, I might not have to give up peanut butter toast for Prairial after all. That's because Family Radio in Oakland, California has predicted the world will end on May 21st, 2011. Apparently, the Bible says so. The Family Radio website has a countdown ticker and everything. So that means in ten days, nobody will be eating peanut butter toast (or anything else, for that matter).

I think one of their writers, Harold Camping, really nailed it when he identified gay pride as a "sign of the end" planned by God, and from there, all the puzzle pieces just fall into place, leaving no room for doubt. I could go on forever about the wonders of Family Radio's website, but if they're right, then I can only go on for ten days. And I'm not about to waste my last ten days complaining about Family Radio.

On his segment called "Yahweh? Or no way?" last night, Stephen Colbert covered Family Radio's commitment to spreading panic. They are traveling around the country in RVs hanging up billboards like the one below:

If you are wondering what it might feel like to have your head explode, visit the website they advertise at the bottom of the billboard.

Now that I know the world is going to end in ten days, I have to ask myself, am I going to keep being a veghan?

Yahweh or No Way? 

Yahweh. My plan was to binge on peanut butter toast until May 21st, and I'm sticking to it.

Besides, let's say that God/Jesus/Buddha/Peanut Butter Toast/Sacred Cows really do decide to hold judgment day on May 21st. Frankly, not eating animal products is pretty much the only thing I have going for me. I just hope the sacred cows get the last word.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Oooh Baby I Like It RAW!

I think I probably would be offended by the lyrics of Ol' Dirty Bastard's Shimmy Shimmy Ya if I understood what he was talking about. So I choose to believe that when he says, "Oooh Baby I like it RAW!" he is just expressing his commitment to the raw foodist lifestyle.
The raw food movement, whose adherents only consume foods that have not been heated above 115 degrees Fahrenheit, is based upon the idea that when food is heated it loses many of its natural enzymes and can even be harmful and toxic. Most raw foodists are vegans, but there are also omnivorous raw foodists, as well as some who eat only meat.

I always strive to emulate Ol' Dirty Bastard (except for, you know, the whole drug overdose thing), so I wanted to try some raw food. Obviously, I eat raw food all the time (like carrots, almonds, and other things that just make sense to eat raw). But I am not creative enough to come up with fancy raw food recipes, so I knew I'd have to seek out a raw food restaurant. And I knew it would have to be in LA, since Santa Barbara doesn't have a lot of vegan options.

Conveniently, I was in LA yesterday to pick my parents up at the airport when they arrived from Boston. They were stahving. (People from Boston don't starve, they stahve.) Since I was the one driving, we could go to whichever restaurant I wanted, so we shimmy-shimmy-ya'd (i.e. drove) on over to Better Life Cuisine in Santa Monica.

It doesn't even make sense to rate Better Life on a scale from Vegan Easy to Meat and Cheesy, since everything there is vegan.

The menu at Better Life is misleading. Most restaurants' menus are misleading in that things that seem like they might be vegan really aren't vegan. But Better Life's menu has quite a few menu options that seem like they are not vegan when, in fact, they are.

My parents were good sports. My mom spotted manicotti rolls on the menu and suggested them to my dad: "Oh, John, don't you love manicotti rolls? You should order those." My dad pursed his lips together into a tense smile and nodded enthusiastically: "Oh, yes, Mary. I do love manicotti rolls. And I bet the vegan version is just as delicious."

The ingredients listed next to the manicotti rolls were marinara sauce, parmesan cheese, alfalfa sprouts, zucchini, ricotta cheese, and basil. Two types of cheese? Spelled with an s and not a z, no less?

Well, as it turned out, the ricotta cheese (much like the ricotta cheese at Sojourner Cafe in Santa Barbara) was made of tofu and the parmesan cheese was made of almonds, turmeric, and salt. The manicotti rolls were not even made of pasta (since pasta is, of course, cooked at a temperature above 115 degrees); instead, the tofu ricotta was wrapped in thin slices of zucchini:


The yellow powder all over the whole thing is the fake parmesan cheese.

Andrew, fooled by the misleading menu, was considering the Salmon Wrap. But then the chef revealed to him that the "salmon" was actually dulse (a type of red seaweed), dill, and nama shoyu (unpasteurized, "raw" soy sauce). Andrew went with a strawberry smoothie.

Meanwhile, my mom and I both ordered the lasagna, which was quite filling and tasted, in my opinion, better than a lot of regular lasagnas. Again, no pasta was involved:


As a side, we got the kale salad. It was, contrary to its rave reviews on Yelp.com, kind of bland. There was nothing wrong with it, it just wasn't satisfactorily flavorful:


And for dessert, we split a cinnamon roll. We couldn't agree on what we tasted in the cinnamon roll, but we suspect there were dates involved. It was quite dense and sweet:

They might have been humoring me, but everyone said they were pleased with their raw vegan meals. I was pleased, too. Liking it raw might not be the best lesson I've learned from Ol' Dirty Bastard, but it's definitely up there in the top five. Right behind always recognizing that if I want to look good and not be bummy, I better give him his money.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Meatless in May

Everyone has heard of Meatless Mondays. If you were annoyed when the cafeteria at your place of work struck meat from the menu one day per week, well... prepare to feel really ticked off. Now, Your Daily Thread has teamed up with Chelsea Green Publishing to sponsor Meatless in May, a movement that encourages people to cut meat out of their diets for a whole month.

I use italics in the above paragraph without the slightest hint of irony. I know it's difficult for a lot of people to imagine not consuming meat every day. A lot of people really enjoy eating meat.

It's kind of like me and peanut butter toast. I eat two pieces of it almost every day, and a week ago I would have thought I could never give it up. But then I ran out of peanut butter and I was too lazy to go buy some more, so I had cinnamon and sugar on my toast instead. I liked it so much that I ate it the next day, too, and I still haven't bought more peanut butter.

You might say to yourself, "Well, Meghan, since you're already meatless, why don't you give up peanut butter for the month of May?" My answer would be that "Peanut Butter-less in May" just doesn't have the same ring to it as "Meatless in May." It's all in the alliteration. So let's just wait until we get to a month that begins with "P," and then I'll give up peanut butter.

Flawed logic aside, there are quite a few compelling reasons to cut meat out of our diets, at least for a little while. Your Daily Thread and Chelsea Green Publishing are mostly concerned about the environment. Livestock farming uses up a ton of the earth's arable land, wastes water, and emits a shocking amount of greenhouse gasses.

Tracy and Lauren explain further in this little video. If you're intrigued, watch it for some scary statistics that might convince you to try going meatless. If you're skeptical, watch it because Tracy and Lauren are two very attractive ladies.


You might think it's too late to be Meatless in May, since it's already May 5th. Consider this: "Meatless in Most of May" packs even more alliterative punch. Just finish eating meat with a bang - maybe with an intense taco-eating contest to celebrate Cindo de Mayo - and then pledge to be meatless for the rest of the month.

And now I must cut this blog post short, because today is Cinco de Mayo and margaritas are vegan.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Just Say, "I Love Crêpes!"


Sacha Baron Cohen would never have to break my arm to get me to say that I love crêpes. I say it every time I pick up a menu and see crepes listed as one of the options. I just yell it as loud as I can, right before I order one. And I don't lower my voice before I order, either, so it comes out like, "I LOVE CRÊPES AND I WILL HAVE THE CRÊPE SUZETTE PLEASE WITH EXTRA ORANGE ZEST!"

Arrow Street Crêpes is one of my favorite places to eat in Harvard Square whenever I'm home visiting my parents. The closest thing I've found to a replacement out here is Café Crêpe on the 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica. Andrew and I ate breakfast there before we took a lesson on the flying trapeze at the Santa Monica pier last year, and let me tell you: I was awesome at the trapeze. I think it had to do with the crêpes.

The other day, my friend Aliana invited me over to her apartment for crêpes. She said that her boyfriend, Stefan, makes incredible crêpes. Well, people say that their boyfriends make incredible lots of things that aren't that incredible, so I wanted to see for myself. Then I realized: I can't eat crêpes. Not even a little bit. On a scale from one to "I can't eat this," crêpes are the equivalent of cracking an egg into a bowl of cow's milk and washing it down with a bloody steak.

Well, I'm exaggerating. I didn't want to be left out of the crêpe fun, so I showed up at Aliana's house with all my vegan substitutes. Stefan got to work making some yummy non-vegan crêpes for Amy and Andrew, and I got to work mixing up a vegan crêpe batter. Stefan gave me his recipe, but I halved it (since I can only eat so many crêpes) and made some substitutions:

1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup almond milk
1 tbsp flax seed + 2 tbsp water (egg substitute)

I was nervous about using flax seed as an egg substitute, since it hasn't always worked out for me. But I figured that if Stefan just dumped my vegan batter onto a crêpe dish and tilted it around, something would happen. It might not be a successful crêpe, but it definitely would be something I could put fruit on top of and pour 100% pure maple syrup all over.

According to Stefan's directions, I mixed all the dry ingredients in a bowl and added the almond milk slowly, mixing it up as I went. Stefan said adding the milk that way keeps clumps of powder from forming and ruining your crêpes. Then I added the vanilla and flax seed mixture and handed my batter over to Stefan. I waited anxiously, totally cramping Stefan's style by creepily peering over his shoulder with my camera:

video

It worked! My vegan crêpe was a bit brittle in comparison to normal crêpes, which are usually kind of rubbery because of the eggs. It was also a bit thick; as Stefan says in the video, it was "kind of a pancake/crêpe hybrid." But I didn't mind. I stuffed it with strawberries, bananas, cinnamon, and sugar, and I covered it with 100% pure maple syrup (but that goes without saying), like so:

 
I was pretty excited to have satisfied my crêpe craving in a vegan way. Even though I won't be able to order crêpes in restaurants anymore, I can just make my vegan version at home and yell, "I LOVE CRÊPES!" to myself before I dig in.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Guest Post by Emma McCullough: Meghan the Veghan Has a Birthday


Meghan's blog has quickly become one of my new favorite procrastination tools. It's funny, sometimes my friends and I get shout outs, and as someone who likes to cook and bake, I've learned a lot. When I realized Meghan's birthday was coming up, I suggested that maybe I could make her a vegan cake and write a guest post on her blog.

I'm not a vegan and could never survive as one. All forms of cheese (especially string cheese), decadent non-vegan desserts, and disgustingly processed junk food are all too much a part of my life for that. I am a pretty avid baker, though, so I was interested in trying to bake something vegan-friendly.

I have a friend who doesn't eat eggs for religious reasons, and I attempted to make a cake he could eat last year. I just used a box cake mix, but substituted about ¼ c. of applesauce per egg, as the internet suggested. It came out looking like this:


Not so appetizing, right? It was SO fudge-y that it was impossible to frost. The boys thought it tasted pretty good, but I wasn't impressed by it. It was too moist to be considered cake. Thus, I was a little nervous going into my second adventure with vegan cake-making. The stakes were higher this time since there was a birthday involved!

I sat down one day this week to look for a recipe online. The first recipe I clicked on touted itself as “The BEST chocolate cake ever...that happens to be VEGAN!” As I was looking at the recipe I realized that it looked kind of familiar. (It's not often you see vinegar in cakes.) I went to my recipe box and found an almost identical recipe that my mom and I have been making for years and love. We know it as “chocolate snack cake.” Really, it should probably be called “chocolate anytime cake,” because I'm positive I've eaten it for breakfast, but I think the fact that it doesn't have frosting (in our version; the online version includes a recipe for glaze) is what earned it the name.

At first I was a little torn about using a recipe I already knew well. Meghan is so good about trying new recipes for her blog posts and I felt like using a tried and true recipe went against the spirit of the blog a little, but since it was her birthday, I decided I'd rather not risk having a sub-par cake in case something went wrong.

It's an easy recipe:

Preheat the oven to 325 and grease an 8x8 square pan (with canola or soy bean oil, if you're going for a vegan-friendly cake).

Combine:
1 2/3 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. light brown sugar, packed
¼ c. cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking soda
and ¼ tsp. salt

Add to the dry ingredients:
1 c. water
1/3 c. vegetable oil
1 tsp. vinegar
¾ tsp. vanilla extract

Beat until smooth and top with ½ c. chocolate chips (again, if you want it to be vegan, be sure they're semi-sweet, not milk chocolate). I don't measure the chips... I just sprinkle them on until it looks suitably topped.

Bake 45 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean and cool on a cooling rack. (Because the cake is covered in chocolate chips, it can be difficult to get a clean toothpick reading. Use your best baking judgment.)

I was nervous that I'd make some kind of dumb mistake and the recipe would turn out non-vegan friendly, so I was pretty careful about checking labels. The chocolate chips were fine—apparently cocoa butter is no relation of regular butter.

The first bottle of vanilla extract I grabbed from my cupboard made me question its vegan-friendliness, so I moved onto a second that was pure vanilla extract (as opposed to the bourbon kind... sorry Meghan, no booze in this cake).

For vinegar, I usually use plain white vinegar (which I use for this cake, dying Easter eggs, and nothing else), but my bottle had disappeared, so I used what I had, which was white balsamic vinegar from Trader Joe's. I'm sure you could use whatever you have on hand.

The online version of this cake suggested mixing the whole thing IN the cake pan. This is an intriguing idea. I always support having to do fewer dishes. I recently made a recipe without benefit of my beautiful Carolina blue Kitchen Aid stand mixer, though, and decided that there was really no way to live without it. It's so much easier to get things mixed well quickly (which is good both for time-saving and for the texture of the baked good) with the mixer.

Plus, I didn't want there to be unsightly residue on the side of the pan. What would Martha Stewart say?!?!

The online version of this recipe also included a vegan-friendly chocolate glaze, but I was tired and short on time, so I decided that I would just dust it with powdered sugar to make it a little fancier. Here is Meghan with her cake:


And here's a slice up close:


So there you have it: my first real vegan baking experiment and my first blog post! I think if I was going to try it again, I'd be a little more daring and try a new recipe. It's nice to know that I have a good vegan recipe up my sleeve, though!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

A Very Veghan Birthday

On my past two birthdays, I've had minor emotional crises. That's because my mom came up with clever ways to make my first 22 birthdays awesome, and my 23rd and 24th never stood a chance at measuring up. At our house, birthdays were sacred.

For as long as I can remember, my mom would bake us a muffin for each year we had been alive and arrange them into the shape of the number we were turning that day. We weren't even annoyed at having to share the muffins with everyone else because by the time we were old enough to be bratty, there were too many muffins to eat on our own.
Then she got the idea to hide our gifts around the house and make a scavenger hunt key for us to use to figure out where they were. Her clues were usually less than enlightened (along the lines of: "Look high, look low, look where the cups and plates go!"), but it didn't matter. Some of my best childhood memories were made tromping around the house after my sister or brother yelling, "You're getting warmer!" as they struggled with my mom's often-cryptic clues.

Moving to college didn't hinder the birthday festivities. On my 21st birthday, my whole family showed up at my dormitory suite and recruited my roommates to participate in a game of Meghan-themed Jeopardy!. My mom played an mp3 of the Jeopardy! theme music and called out hints along the lines of, "This is the name of Meghan's best friend from her fifth-grade soccer team," while everyone scribbled their best guesses on small whiteboards. (Nobody got that question right. I don't even remember who it was.)

So the transition to celebrating my birthday without my family was traumatizing. It seems that nobody else cares about birthdays nearly as much as the Joyce family, and that most people even think I am unreasonable for expecting them to sing "Happy Birthday!" to me in joyful harmony at every opportunity.

But this year I had no crisis! It might be because I know my parents are coming to visit me here in California in a week, but it also might be because it's my first birthday as a veghan.

I came home from yoga on the night of my birthday to find Amy and our friend Aliana sipping champagne in celebration while Emily baked a vegan chocolate cake. She used this recipe. Here's what the final product looked like:


She invented the recipe for the frosting herself (but she wants it to be known that this recipe resulted in all together too much frosting):

1 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup soy milk
1 cup sugar

The frosting kind of melted into the cake (because we were too impatient to let the cake cool all the way), making it even more delicious.

But the veghan birthday fun did not stop there. On Saturday, I had a small birthday dinner at Sojourner Cafe in downtown Santa Barbara. There are lots of reasons to love Sojourner Cafe: they use local produce, their service is friendly and flexible, and there are many vegetarian and vegan menu options. Their dessert list even includes handy indications of whether the plates include honey, dairy, eggs, nuts, wheat, gluten, etc.

I decided to split the Japanese Wakame Sea Salad from the specials list with Amy. It came served on a bed of brown rice (which nicely balanced the strong seaweed flavor) and greens:


For a main course, I ordered the Vegan Jumbo Pasta Shells served with non-dairy garlic toast, mostly because I was curious about the tofu "ricotta" cheese the shells were filled with. As it turns out, I prefer fake ricotta to actual ricotta (although I think ricotta is the only cheese for which this would be the case), and I plan to call up Sojourner Cafe and bribe them into giving me their fake ricotta recipe. Here's what my meal looked like:


The dessert menu had more vegan options than the main course menu, but most of them didn't sound all that appealing to me. Apparently, you need to order dessert immediately upon arrival at Sojourner Cafe in order to guarantee that you get what you want. They only make a certain amount of each dessert and when it's gone, it's gone. Tough cookies, so to speak.

And now I have a confession to make. I ordered the "Almost Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookie." Of course I had to inquire about why it was "almost" vegan and not completely vegan. The waitress explained that although the cookie itself is vegan, they don't use vegan chocolate chips (?!).

That is so weird to me. If you're going to go to the trouble to make a vegan cookie then why... argh, I ordered it. And I ate it all up, non-vegan chocolate chips and all.

After dinner (and first dessert), we came back to my apartment for some more vegan cake, courtesy of my friend Emma. Guest blog post to come!