vegansaurus!

07/09/2010

YOU GUYS. This is the biggest news of all biggest news! VegWeb.com (the world’s largest and greatest veg recipe site!) JUST launched a new iPhone (and iPod Touch*!) app, The Vegan Recipe Finder. It’s freaking amazing, putting over 13,000 (!!!!) vegan recipes at your fingertips! It’s kinda like having the world’s largest cookbook in your pocket. SO FREAKING RAD. What’s more awesome? Vegansaur Jonas designed it, and often-contributor Joel developed it. Oh and I worked on it too! FULL DISCLOSURE! What’s rad about that is that the whole thing was developed and designed by VEGANS!! It’s ONLY $2.99 and every penny goes back to vegans and making the world a better place for animals. Not to get all deep on you, but that’s fucking awesome. Plus, it runs great, constantly updates with new recipes, and will keep you busy in the kitchen for days. That’s where you should be anyway, right? Now make me some pancakes!
*Actually, word on the street is that it looks pretty great on the iPad too, and as we know, the iPad is the world’s best kitchen gadget. That’s right, throw out the Kitchenaid and the Cuisinart (give ‘em to me!), and just get an iPad! Next week I’ll talk about how the iPad can replace everything in your bedroom too. Rowr! Also, gross!

YOU GUYS. This is the biggest news of all biggest news! VegWeb.com (the world’s largest and greatest veg recipe site!) JUST launched a new iPhone (and iPod Touch*!) app, The Vegan Recipe Finder. It’s freaking amazing, putting over 13,000 (!!!!) vegan recipes at your fingertips! It’s kinda like having the world’s largest cookbook in your pocket. SO FREAKING RAD. What’s more awesome? Vegansaur Jonas designed it, and often-contributor Joel developed it. Oh and I worked on it too! FULL DISCLOSURE! What’s rad about that is that the whole thing was developed and designed by VEGANS!! It’s ONLY $2.99 and every penny goes back to vegans and making the world a better place for animals. Not to get all deep on you, but that’s fucking awesome. Plus, it runs great, constantly updates with new recipes, and will keep you busy in the kitchen for days. That’s where you should be anyway, right? Now make me some pancakes!

*Actually, word on the street is that it looks pretty great on the iPad too, and as we know, the iPad is the world’s best kitchen gadget. That’s right, throw out the Kitchenaid and the Cuisinart (give ‘em to me!), and just get an iPad! Next week I’ll talk about how the iPad can replace everything in your bedroom too. Rowr! Also, gross!

02/01/2010

Joel’s Moderately Fancy Meal: Pasta Kinda Carbonara*  »

Inspiration always seems to strike when fresh vegetables are low, the stakes are high, time is short, and various other nouns have various other quantitative adjectives applied to them. At least, that’s how it works at my house. At yours it doesn’t have to, because should you find yourself in similar straits, you can use this recipe instead of thinking for yourself.
Here’s the situation: I found myself with some sad root vegetables (a couple beets, a couple carrots, what I thought was a turnip but really it’s hard to say) and the usual dry and frozen goods. WHAT TO DO. Well, I got dried pasta, canned tomatoes, and frozen fake bacon; sounds like carbonara! But I should eat a vegetable that has seen dirt within the last year. Let’s toss a beet in there! Don’t like beets? Prepare to be surprised. The sweetness goes perfectly with the bacon, and the texture adds the body that, in the traditional recipe, the egg would provide.

Ingredients
1/4 lb. fake bacon
5 cloves garlic or to taste (what, you got a date to kiss the queen or something? Pile it on!)
1 carrot
1 golden beet (different colors are fine, they all taste the same, but it might not look as pretty)
1/2 tsp herbes de provence
1 lb. pasta of your choice (I use mafaldine because it picks up sauce really well and is adorable)
1 28-oz. can tomatoes (don’t use fresh tomatoes this time of year, you’re asking for disappointment)
3/4 cup non-dairy milk (use a sweetened, thickened milk like plain Silk)
1/4 cup nutritional yeast

Directions
Heat oil in a wide, deep skillet or pan on medium heat. Coarsely chop the bacon and add to the pan. If it’s frozen, hack off your 1/4 lb. hunk and toss it in whole; rotate it so all the faces crisp while the inside thaws, then chop and proceed.

Salt the bacon heavily, and add the herbs. Coarsely chop the garlic and toss it in. Stir occasionally to keep the garlic from burning, but it’s good if some of it browns a bit. Cut the carrot into coins and throw it in. Peel and grate the beet, then clear out the center of the pan and dump the beet in. Give it a few minutes to dry, then stir just the beet, so all of it is exposed to the cooking surface. When it’s fairly dry and has gotten some color, pour in the tomatoes, and break them up with your stirring implement.

At this time, start a large pot of water boiling for the pasta. Add the milk and yeast to the sauce, stir to combine, and lower the heat to a simmer. Ignore the sauce, except for a stir every once in a while, as you tend to the pasta. When the pasta is done, the sauce will be too. Taste the sauce for seasoning, add black pepper, and toss with the pasta to serve. Delicious!

Variations
I didn’t even have a freaking onion in the house! That’s how desperately low on foodstuffs I was. You may certainly add an onion; in fact, I encourage it. Aside from that, I don’t really understand why this recipe works (although I assure you it does), so go nuts and see what happens! Post your results in the comments!

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* I know this is not a real carbonara for any number of reasons.  Listen, bitches!  We’re in America now, we don’t have to do things by the rules, or produce food that Italian people would recognize!  Freedom of expression, OK??

This has been an installment of Joel’s Moderately Fancy Meal, brought to you by Joel, of Joel and Nibbler. Photo by Joel.

01/29/2010

Yoga, Veganism, and Complaining: I Love Them All So Much  »

I’m a yogi, in the American sense: a couple times a week, I go to a class to practice Hatha yoga, mostly for strength and flexibility. I try to meditate at the appropriate time, but it’s hardly the focus of my practice. There’s a big difference between what I do and what real yogis do: they are trying to reach a pinnacle of meditative ecstasy and therefore achieve “liberation from all worldly suffering and the cycle of birth and death.” I am trying to look good with my shirt off.

When I read the New York Times article about food and yoga, I thought “now I know how new vegetarians feel when they listen to grumpy old vegans talking about honey.”  People really criticize each other about this stuff? Don’t they have anything better to do? What happened to the worldly suffering? But if you think about it, that’s intimately related. The first proscription of yogic teaching is ahimsa, the principle of nonviolence towards living things. How can one be liberated from suffering if one does not embrace nonviolence?

Good question! Let’s ask Sadie Nardini, who apparently started this whole shitshow by writing a somewhat schizophrenic piece about her yoga-practicing, meat-eating ways in the Huffington Post. The Times piece is about the rift in the yoga community between those who eat anything they please, and those who think yoga compels practitioners to (at least) vegetarianism. But below the surface, it’s just as much about the culture of judgment some find in the community.

Nardini’s piece is all about that judgment. Making a fairly offensive Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell comparison, she argues that meat-eaters need to “stay in the closet” to reach the good graces of top-tier yoga instructors.  It’s easy to imagine that she wrote the piece to drum up publicity: “I’m risking a lot doing this, as I am moving to a larger arena in my own teaching, and could turn off the very people who are taking me there” [emphasis mine].  But motivation regardless, do yogis need to be vegan? If they’re not, do they need to hide their diet? Can yogis judge each other for this stuff?

Here’s the thing: the rules are pretty clear. Even Nardini, in her rejection of vegetarianism, makes an argument from ahimsa. It’s a spurious one: she brings up all the canards we’ve heard a thousand times before, about plants feeling pain and insects being killed with the harvest of grain and really it’s fine if you just honor the animal you’re eating and first and foremost, some people just need to eat meat or else they feel yucky and self-harm is the worst of all. Of course, we know the answers to all of these ridiculous objections. If you clear them out of the way, ahimsa is pretty straightforward: avoid doing violence.

Yoga, the real kind, is like any other discipline. There are rules you have to follow. It’s certainly not desirable for yogis to pass judgment on each other for failing to adhere to the rules; ideally, that would be an internal drive. But the thing is, if you’re not following the principles of yoga, you’re doing it wrong. No judgment need be attached to that; it’s just an evaluation of the rules. Much as with “vegetarians” who eat chicken, or “vegans” who eat eggs, it doesn’t matter if your reasons are good.  And it doesn’t necessarily make you a bad person.* It just means you’re not living up to the title you claim.

You can’t make the argument from ahimsa that it’s ok to eat meat; it doesn’t hold water. Eat whatever you want, but don’t pretend that you’re living up to the ideals of a yogi. Start your own thing, be a flexiyogini or whatever, but don’t dilute a meaningful term just because you want the benefits without living up to the responsibilities. We see enough of that already.

*OK yes it does, but because you’re killing chickens, not because you’re breaking rules.

This guest-post has been brought to you by Joel, of Joel and Nibbler.

04/23/2009

Product Review: Quong Hop tofu  »

Please welcome guest writer and frequent Vegansaurus photograph-provider Joel!

"In 1906, Sing Hau Lee established Quong Hop, the first tofu shop in America.” This was in San Francisco proper; the company now manufactures its soy products in South San Francisco. “He brought with him his family’s tofu-making secrets that had been a tradition for generations.”

Man! That is old! And old things are quality, unless they’re people! I mean really, what else do you need to know? I obviously consider that to be a rhetorical question cause I am about to tell you the rest of what you need to know.

I’ve been eating tofu for many years, friends, and I am pleased to say that Quong Hop tofu is the best I’ve had the pleasure of stuffing in my face. The irregular edges give it a welcome personality that is entirely missing from your average House-brand tofu  bricks. And the flavor and texture are head and shoulders above the rest. Delicate flavor; firm, chewy texture. Great for marinating (it will not fall apart!), great for stir-frying (it still will not fall apart!). The texture becomes a thing of transcendent beauty should you venture to freeze the tofu.

While I’m at it, a quick lesson for those who don’t know. Freezing tofu gives it a meat-like texture, more porosity, and less water content. This means that frozen tofu will work better in almost any application. Why does this happen? A block of tofu contains many tiny droplets of water, totaling a good portion of the weight. When frozen, water expands. That means that these tiny droplets (a) create holes (“pores”) bigger than normal, and (b) compress the interstitial tofu-matter correspondingly. When the tofu thaws, the network of newly enlarged pores allows the water to drain out.

To freeze tofu, simply pop it in the freezer in its original packaging. Once it has frozen solid, move it back to the fridge to thaw. After it’s thawed, drain and use as normal. If you’re in a rush, thaw it in the microwave. If you’re feeling dedicated, leave it out to thaw and put some weight on it so that it newly melted water is immediately drained—this will yield the best texture but is probably not worth the work unless you’re showing off. The simplest thing to do is thaw in the fridge and then squeeze the water out with your bare hands, over the sink. The freezing will have toughened the  tofu so it won’t crumble, and the porosity will be such that your hands can easily get most of the water out. This is cool because you can feel like some sort of macho he-man*, able to dry a block of tofu with nothing but a spasm of your mighty delts.

No matter what, you do want to drain some water, but this is where things get tricky. Depending on the application, you might want to treat it differently. For dishes where you’ll be cooking the tofu in a sauce—curries or soups, for instance—you want to drain all the water you can, lest it dilute the cooking liquid. If your recipe cooks the tofu over a fairly low heat, or for a fairly short time—pan-frying with vegetables, maybe—you’ll want to squeeze out most but not all of the water. And if you’ll be cooking over high heat, or for a long time, you’ll want to squeeze out only a little of the water. My example for this is stir-fries. I want my tofu to get nice and crispy, so I cook it over very high heat for about five minutes. If I had squeezed out all the water, it would end up hard and dry through and through. Instead, most of the water I left in steams out the top while the bottom crisps, and is then replaced by the stock or sauce added in the last portion of the stir-fry. Magic!

If this was too in-depth an exploration of cooking nerdery for you, just squeeze out about half the water. Everything will be ok.

Now! My minions! Take your new knowledge and show the tofu-doubters in your life what’s what! Although, for practical reasons, you might want to try it out once or twice by yourself. Get the technique down, and get all the he-man grunting out of the way in private.

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*or, uh, a mucha she-woman?**

**obviously I know that the female counterpart to He-Man is She-Ra but that’s not exactly germane to a blog about veganism, is it? Why don’t you write your own blog post about it over at NerdsFightingAboutHe-Man.com and we can talk about it there.

Nerd.

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