vegansaurus!

10/31/2008

Recipe: Microwave potato chips!  »

I am fat, poor, and love electronics. Hence, the birth of the microwave potato chip. All you need are some large russet potatoes, salts, spices and herbs of your choosing and a microwave. If you’re one of those people who don’t have a microwave on principle, go away, you disgust me. If you’re one of those people who don’t have a microwave because you’re too poor, come over here so I can smack you in the head! Have you ever BEEN to a garage sale?! They are the no. 2 best garage-sale-seller after “white family selling the used-once rice cooker”! Don’t tell me $15 is too much to pay for your happiness! I believe my love for the microwave is so strong that I actually willed it into being. That is right, I think I invented the microwave. Along with the La-Z-Boy recliner, the movie Cabin Boy, and dogs.

So, first. You take the potatoes. You mandolin* slice them. Then, you lay the slices out on a piece of parchment paper. Next, you cover them in whatever deliciousness you desire: salt, pepper, salt AND pepper, fresh rosemary, dried rosemary, five-spice mix, Thai seasoning, whatever! Go crazy! We did each batch with a different flavor sensation. Then, you microwave them for two to three minutes, depending on how powerful (read: new) your microwave is. They should start to shrink and curl at the edges a little. Finally, take them out and transfer them to a plate or bowl. Or your mouth. However, I suggest waiting a couple minutes for them to finish the crispification process!

One large russet potato will yield a shitload of chips. I imagine you can also try other types of potatoes and go all Terra Chips-nutso but I haven’t tried that yet. Yet.

*SO FANCY! You can probably find a cheap-o one at any thrift store, or a pricier one at Williams Sonoma or Sur la Table or somewhere equally gay.

10/27/2008

Review: XOX Truffles!  »

I was given a box of truffles from XOX for my birthday last year and fuck me if I haven’t been hooked on these amazing bite sized bonbons since. The vegan flavors are Dark Chocolate, Orange, and Noisette (Hazelnut! in French!). They are rich and creamy and they literally MELT IN YOUR MOUTH. AND ALSO IN YOUR HAND. BE CAREFUL. Just thinking about these things, my mouth waters. And I’m not even really a chocolate person. Actually, I hate when women are like, “Chocolate is better than sex!” Is your name Cathy? Do you have a boyfriend named Irving? GET OUT OF MY FACE. Now, mashed potatoes…that’s another thing. I’d kill a man for some mashed potatoes. I would literally kill a man. I’d probably kill Colonel Sanders. I’d raise that motherfucker from the dead and then re-kill his ass. In fact, I’d love to kill any man involved with the Kentucky Fried Chicken regime, including the man known as Star Jones because I know he was a KFC stockholder at some point (or at least looked like one). I would like to send them all through a slaughterhouse while I take all of the lovely chickens out and we will enjoy big vats of mashed potatoes and have a dance party. It will RULE.
Another man I’d kill for some mashed potatoes is Tobey Maguire. I just don’t like the way that kid looks. He should donate his face to Down Syndrome research. While I’m at it, I’d kill Julia Stiles for a pack of Orbit gum. Seriously, have you seen Mona Lisa Smile? Well, I DID. IN THE THEATER. Ugh, I’ve said too much.

10/24/2008

Road Trip: Mineral in Murphys!  »

Okay Bay Area fat-asses, time for a road trip!

Murphys, California is about a two-hour drive from SF, or maybe more if you obey the rules of the road. Not me! I drive like a bat out of hell because YOUR LAWS DO NOT APPLY TO ME, I MUST BE FREE! Also, I have no regard for human life, yours or my own. However, should an animal cross my path, I will cause a 10-car pileup to avoid hitting it. I am a total asshole. Murphys the quaintest, cutest, most adorable, pinch-its-cheeks-and-show-me-where-the-hookers-lived little Gold Rush town in all of creation. I seriously love anything and everything having to do with the Gold Rush. If I could be alive during any other time, I would choose to be Queen Victoria. After that, I would choose to live during the Time of the Unicorns. After that, I would choose to live in a gold-mining town in the Sierra foothills. I would most likely mine billions of dollars’ worth of gold and spend the rest of the day sunbathing and eating bonbons. In the evenings, I would do it with lots of hookers and have shootouts with my twin brother, who looks just like me but is EVIL. My name would be Wild Laura Quick Draw. Seriously, does anyone have a DeLorean?

Anyway, things you expect to find in Murphys are: antiques shops; things with “Frog” in the title (it’s Mark Twain country, baby!); Local Experts on the Gold Rush who might also be Skeevy Old Dudes Who Want to Do It with You; more antique shops; people who collect things like “Mountain Man Doll” (see photo—it’s great); wineries, a.k.a. FREE ALCOHOL; and more antiques shops. Oh, and a few cowboy/biker bars because rape was really big during the Gold Rush. Listen, I never said history was pretty.

One thing you might not expect to find is ONE OF THE BEST VEGETARIAN RESTAURANTS I’VE EVER EATEN AT. Jigga what? THAT IS CORRECT. Jigga who? YOU HEARD.

Mineral is an intimate (read: hella teeny tiny), super-cute vegetarian restaurant right on Murphys’ Main Street. Yes, it is called Main Street. I told you this town is fucking adorable. Inside, it gets even better. The lighting is amazing, even dogs* would look super-hot in this space. It has an exposed kitchen so you can watch the chef do his thing, and his thing is making the most goddamned delicious food you ever sunk your fat face into! Some of the food was so good, words failed me. It’s kinda like a fancified California Cuisine, I guess? My menu favorites were the Red Miso and Mexican Lime Bisque with House Made Smoked Tofu, Potato Coriander Seitan in a Hemp Fondue with Chive Oil, and Indian-Spiced FRIED CHOCOLATE. HELLO! Everything is vegetarian and most everything on the menu is vegan or can be made vegan. I went to dinner with some talkative bitches but I’m telling you, the entire meal was basically silent with the exception of a few “HOLY SHIT!”s.  I don’t know how to grammatically work “HOLY SHIT”s out so I’m moving on.

Afterward, the chef and waitress/hostess/co-owner sat with us and shared some wine and we talked about how amazing they are. They are both completely down to earth and sweet and welcoming and fantastic. It’s not the cheapest place I’ve ever eaten but it’s on point with the other nice restaurants in the area, and when you see the quality of the organic, local ingredients they use, it’s more than reasonable. Apparently the lunch is off the hook too with the best homemade veggie burgers on EARTH. I tried to get back but didn’t make it out of bed on time and they close at 3 p.m. for lunch. WHAT? I WAS ON VACATION.

If you are a veggie or vegan or AWESOME in the Bay Area or Sacramento (it’s only about an hour from Sacto and don’t you want to get the fuck out of Sacramento anyway?!), I definitely advise a road trip up to this area with a must stop at Mineral for both lunch and dinner. Also, if you bring a lady friend, you will totally get laid. Just saying.

*ugly people, not real dogs, that is a health code violation!

[photos by the author]

Friday link-o-rama!  »

It’s that time of the month, er week again as we take you on a tour of the internet. Some stuff we liked this week:

1. The folks at Ethical Pizza gave local vegan donut baker People’s Donuts a visit and showed us some vegan donut-making and -frying in action. It’s amazing to me how quickly People’s has expanded, I remember when they showed up on Yelp just a year ago. It just goes to show what a huge demand there is for vegan goods.

2. Always helpful Ask Metafilter has a useful vegan question: What are some good bulk vegan recipes?

3. Tips for stocking your pantry on the cheap in this tanking economy from Vegan Guinea Pig.

4. Really clever vegan lifehack: put a list of common animal ingredients to watch out for your on your iPod! (via I Am Not A Rabbit)

5. A funny vegan rant, in video format. This guy is either a genius and a saint, or an obsessed serial killer. (via Vegan Soapbox)

6. Ezra Klein noticed that Obama got Michael Pollan's open letter. Unlike some politicians, Obama reads!

And of course… your cute animal picture of the week! What is it? A baby tapir!

10/23/2008

Review: Udupi Palace!  »

The first time I went to Udupi Palace, we were a group of eight, and our bill for eight dosas, four (or five) appetizers, and six (or seven) beers was something like $120. That is (hang on, I have to work out the math) $15 per person, for that much food! Incredible. I guess their overhead is lower because they are a vegetarian establishment and do not have to pay for things like the bodies of murdered lambs, which tend to cost more than vegetables and grains. Their dosas are enormous, crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, and the different fillings are delicious. They have a large selection of vegan tidbits, but look carefully for yogurt sauce, it is a wily foe. The plain coconut chutney is scrumptious, though not very adventurous for the spicy-minded among us. You get two other, spicier chutneys for dipping, so worry not.

That first excursion was on a Tuesday night during its first month of business, and by 8 p.m. the place was packed. At that point they had a few kinks to work out with service; that said, they certainly were generous with the water, which is very smart and considerate, especially of weaklings like me who can’t handle even moderately spicy food.

I had the Udupi special spring dosa, which came with the standard Mysore Masala filling plus spring vegetables ($7.95). It was delicious, and way too much for me to finish at one meal. One of my dining companions got the spinach masala dosa, which made me want to order next time, it was so good. The fried idli and sambar vada were really, really tasty as well.

My gentleman friend and I stopped in for an early dinner last Sunday, four months after my first trip (eating in is saving money!), and we split a Mysore Masala dosa and an idli, which was plenty of food to carry us through until bedtime. It’s still delicious, and your water glass never stays empty.

In sum, Udupi Palace’s menu is quite superior to its neighbor Dosa’s, and significantly less expensive as well. It is the best South Indian food I have had in the city, and I will definitely eat there again. And again and again. Nuts to you, Dosa the restaurant, with your overpriced menu and your pushy waitstaff and your pretensions. Udupi serves the dosa of the overprivileged middle-class, and we will have our meal for $3 cheaper, and we will use that $3 to buy an expensive gourmet coffee, which will make us feel guilty for wasting money we could have saved by drinking coffee at home, so when we arrive at our extremely overpriced apartments that we can afford because of our low-level white-collar jobs, we will use our computers to donate money to causes like the Yes on 2 campaign because by god we are overprivileged jerks who appreciate our ability to buy Indian street food at 500 times its price in India, and we show it by giving some of our wardrobe money to charity! DAMN IT!

[photos via yelp]

Recipe: Vegan mac ‘n’ cheesecakes!  »

So yesterday, Jonas sent me a link to this video on the New York Times website. It features Kenny Shopsin, this fabulous cursing muppet dude—basically,  Bruce Vilanch done over as a truck stop chef; seriously, watch the video, this guy’s the best*—making something that blew my mind: MAC ‘N’ CHEESE PANCAKES! I knew I had to have them for dinner, if not right now! So, last night, we fried up a big batch of mac ‘n’ cheesecakes and some Match Meat Italian Sausages!

Here is what we did. Follow these directions TO THE LETTER. I am unyielding.

First, pour yourself a Crown and water, on the rocks. If you skip this step, everything else will suck.

Next, you need to boil up some macaroni. Or whatever pasta you want, really. I didn’t have enough macaroni last night and so I used some spiral pasta too. I AM A REBEL! When the pasta is cooked al dente then you drain and stir in a little olive oil. Set aside.

Then, grate some cheese into a bowl. I suggest Teese or Follow Your Heart, if those options are available to you. If they’re not, either 1) move the fuck away from whatever Podunk town you’re dying in or b) just kill yourself with a block of veganrella. I think just trying to eat the whole thing should do it.

Set the bowl of macaroni and the bowl of cheese close to the stove so you can reach them easily for assembling your pancakes! And now you need to make pancake batter. I suggest:

  • 1 cup flour [experiment with different kinds. I used whole wheat last night but I think chickpea could be good!]
  • 1 Tbsp. vegan sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. baking powder
  • ⅛ tsp. salt [I would mess around with types of salt here: kosher, truffle, etc.!]
  • 1 cup soy [or almond/rice/hemp/coconut/human breast] milk
  • 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil

First mix the dry ingredients together. When that’s done, start your griddle (that word literally makes my mouth water) on high so that it gets super-hot. Go back to your batter and mix in your wet ingredients. DO NOT OVER-MIX, over-mixing will kill your fluffy mac ‘n’ cheesecakes and you will be all :-(. Next, add some Earth Balance to your griddle and wait until it melts and is kinda bubbly. Then, you want to add enough batter for the size pancake that you want. I wanted one the size of a crop circle but Jonas was cooking so.

Let it cook for about a minute and then put a couple tablespoons of the macaroni in the middle of the pancake and immediately top that with a bunch of cheese. Using a thin metal spatula, quickly turn the pancakes and gently tap to make them uniform in thickness. Cook until golden, about two minutes. Serve, macaroni-side up, with Earth Balance and warm maple syrup. HELLO DELICIOUS!

This photo is with a Match Meat patty we grilled up to go with our mac ‘n’ cheesecakes. Yes, I know it looks like Pizza the Hut. SHUT UP, IT TASTED DELICIOUS.

If you’re feeling adventurous (read: extra-gluttonous), make it vegan heart-attack-style by crumbling some fake sausage (we used the Match Meat Italian Sausage) and throwing it on top of the macaroni, before the cheese. That was our best pancake; a Hamburger Helper pancake. We dubbed it über-pancake, the Cheesy Beef Cake; it won the Blue Ribbon at my State Fair in Fatlandia, pop. All the Awesome Fat People.

Finally, DO NOT GIVE ANY OF YOUR PANCAKES TO HAZEL. SHE IS CUTE AND SO IT IS ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE BUT PANCAKES ARE NOT FOR DOGS, THEY ARE FOR HUMANS!!! Now, a photo of Hazel begging for a pancake.

*Please be sure to check out the menu for Shopsin’s General Store as well. It is insane but actually includes a few vegan items! But don’t order from the menu or you will get thrown out!

[photos by the cooks]

10/22/2008

Recipe: lemon curd!  »

I love citrus desserts. More precisely, I love citrus flavors in both sweet and savory dishes, just more in sweet ones. Thus I am happy to share today this recipe for vegan lemon curd, tastiest of spreads, tart and sweet, gooey and delicious.

Laura had given me a great deal of Meyer lemons from the tree in her common backyard, and they needed using before they went bad. Why lemon curd? Because it requires a lot of lemons, which I had, and because the previous batch of lemon curd I’d made had been not at all what it should have, and I had something to prove.

This recipe—passed along to me from Friend of Vegansaurus Melisser—makes two cups; I doubled it, and will note the changes I made. Remember that I was using Meyer lemons, which are sweeter and milder than standard lemons.

Ingredients
1 cup fresh lemon juice [about 4 to 5 lemons per cup. Zest before you juice!]
½ cup water
1½ cups white sugar [doubled, I only needed about 2 cups]
4 Tbsp. cornstarch
⅛ tsp. salt
Zest of 2 lemons [the finer the better! Zest an extra lemon!]
⅓ cup plain, full-fat nondairy milk or creamer [I used a 50-50 mixture]
2 Tbsp. Earth Balance

Instructions
Using a food processor/blender, combine lemon juice, water, sugar, cornstarch, and salt. When the mixture is smooth, pour it into a saucepan and add lemon zest. Turn the heat under the saucepan to medium, and whisk until the mixture comes to a full boil, about 10 to 15 minutes. Allow to boil for one minute undisturbed; the mixture should have noticeably thickened and started to turn clear. Remove from heat.

Add milk or creamer and Earth Balance. Whisk until everything is fully combined. Allow the lemon curd to thicken and cool in the saucepan until it reaches room temperature, then pour it into the lidded containers in which it will live, and refrigerate; I used recycled glass jars.

Ridiculously easy! Especially if you can wrangle someone else into zesting and/or juicing the lemons for you. Plus, you can read (play iPhone games) while whisking. Besides, you already have most if not all of the ingredients at home, excepting perhaps the copious amount of lemons. Never fear, soon it will be citrus “season” (as though there are certain times of year that we can and cannot have different fruits and vegetables anymore, what a silly joke) and we will be awash in four-for-$1 lemons. Also limes. Perhaps a foray into lime curd is in order.

I had the curd on sourdough waffles the next morning. Then in the evening, I made this génoise cake and used the curd for the filling. It was not as magnificent as it looks, but it was still quite delicious. Lemon curd, such a versatile spread! you know you love it.

[photo by Joel]

10/20/2008

Review: Fraîche frozen yogurt!  »

As Maria has said, Fraîche’s storefront is cold and joyless. I would think that places serving frozen treats would want to make customers more comfortable, rather than forcing them to sit on freezing metal chairs at pointy-cornered tables. And yet, they do not, so when you leave you can see the bruises you got from bumping into those pointy table-corners already forming underneath the first few layers of your skin, which has become creepily translucent with the onslaught of cold it’s suffered. Such are the penalties one pays for delicious soft-serve vegan frozen yogurt, right?

I appreciate the idea of vegan frozen yogurt. I love vegan yogurt that tastes as close to my ma’s homemade cow’s milk yogurt that I ate throughout my childhood. The vegan fro-yo at Fraîche combines the texture of the most perfect frozen yogurt with the sour tang of plain yogurt, which confused me with every bite. Is it dessert? Mixed with jam, is it my ma’s version of dessert that never fooled anyone? It has been almost seven months since I went and I still cannot make up my mind about it.

I can’t accuse them of false advertising, as they don’t say anything about it being sweet; they also serve their non-frozen yogurt with oatmeal, but this in particular seemed a little schizophrenic to me. Further, the gentlemen at the counter who served my friends and I were not the most helpful people I have ever done business with. To wit:

Laura to yogurt-server: Are your toppings vegan?
Yogurt-server to Laura: I don’t know; ask him (gestures to his right at a barista, because of course Fraîche has an espresso bar in addition to offering vegan and dairy frozen yogurt, and oatmeal, and granola)
Yogurt server to barista: Are the toppings vegan?
Barista to yogurt-server (does not look up from the coffee he is artfully pouring): No.
Yogurt-server to Laura: No.
Laura to (frustratingly idiotic) yogurt-server: I assume the fruit is (gestures to various small bins of fruits, including strawberries, bananas, blueberries, &c.)
Yogurt-server: (shrugs)

So. If you are jealous of the soft-serve frozen yogurt everyone else is eating, get down the Peninsula (public transportation options include Caltrain and SamTrans) to Palo Alto and order Fraîche’s oddly sour vegan version. I advise at least trying it; I also advise limiting your interaction with the employees to the barest minimum, and not eating inside.

(Fraîche is the feminine form of the French adjective for “fresh;” the French word for “yogurt,” yaourt, is masculine; so, if the name of the shop were in reference to its main product—frozen yogurt—it ought to be Frais, “fresh” in the masculine form. But it seems that noun-adjective agreement was not this establishment’s highest priority so much as “foreign word pleasing to the Anglophone ear,” and so instead we have a terrible parenthetical diatribe on French grammar.)

[photo via Fraîche]

Review: Love & Haight deli!  »

San Francisco is a town that goes to bed early. Or rather, it stops eating at around 9 p.m. Then, it takes itself to the Power Exchange for a nightcap. We are a city in which you can come to be who you want to be and everyone will love you and ask you to get married illegally, unless the person you want to be is someone who wants to eat a meal that doen’t come from the liquor store after 10pm. That person is welcome to return to New York or LA or London or whatever place they came from.

Sure, there are a tiny number of all-night diners, but with the exception of Sparky’s—which I’m sure we’ll get to in a bit—none offer much in the way of vegan options. Unless of course you are looking to eat the universal vegan meal: french fries. But when looking for something with a bit more substance to pre-empt your nasty hangover or to just accompany your late-night dinner cravings (some of us just get hungry later, geez!) there is Love & Haight Deli in the Lower Haight.

It’s very easy to ignore this place; I know I did for the first 1,000 times I walked by. But, once I discovered the magic within, I haven’t been able to stop eating their sandwiches. I swear, I have been to Love & Haight probably 50 times in the past two years and I have only ever ordered one thing: the “veggie chicken steak” sandwich on sourdough roll with avocado. It is a sandwich that will take you out on a date, open doors for you, give you an amazing kiss goodnight and then text you before you even have a chance to take off your shoes when you get home. It’s that good, you guys.

And (to bring it back to my original point), they’re open until 1 a.m. on weeknights and 2 a.m. on weekends. You heard me! Not only that, they have an awesome selection of beverages, chips to go with your sandwich, and for dessert, they sell Alternative Baking Company cookies! A full meal—and I don’t consider it to be a full meal until I’ve had a cookie—will set you back about $10, a reasonable amount considering the enormousness of the sandwiches.

More useful info if you don’t enjoy my life-changing prose: they very clearly mark what is and isn’t vegan on their menu, which is very helpful when choosing breads. Besides the veggie chicken steak, they have a few other fake meats on their menu, like veggie roast duck, veggie BBQ steak, and a few others, all from Layonna Vegetarian/heaven in Oakland. Unfortunately they do not offer vegan mayonnaise.

We all know Ike’s is the current king of vegan sandwiches in the Bay Area, but Love & Haight still deserves a shout-out; it will be there for you when you just want a nice warm piece of wheat gluten with half of an avocado on top of it at 1:30 in the morning.

[photo by grahamc99]

10/19/2008

Product review: Match Meats!  »

I don’t miss meat. I do, however, enjoy fake meat—not as an approximation of what I don’t eat anymore, but simply as an expansion of my available menu. If soy and TVP and wheat gluten taste good, then I’m all for it. Whether or not they’re anything like the real deal is pretty much beside the point for me. That being said, this new Match Meats stuff tastes really good, and is a lot like meat. God I miss meat. KIDDING!

Match Meats come in six flavors: beef, pork, chicken, breakfast sausage, Italian sausage, and (of all things) crab. Each package is a pound’s worth for $7.50.

For the time being, it seems, the main way to get Match Meats is by ordering it directly from them at their website. This is unfortunate, because their shipping rates truly blow. The shipping is about $5 per item, regardless of how many you order, regardless of the fact they are all shipped together anyway. This means that when I ordered one of each of their six flavors, the shipping came to over $30! I thought this was a little ridiculous, and sent an email off to them asking if this was normal, and also WTF? I received a very nice email back from the president, Allison Burgess, informing me that

"If there is one thing I hate about our current situation is the cost of shipping/handling of selling our products online. It includes the picking of the order, the styrofoam container, the labeling and the UPS shipping. It is prohibitive, but we don’t know how to get the products to individuals until there is a store in their neighborhood who will carry them."

So there you go. Try and get your local Whole Foods or wherever (hopefully also MY local Whole Foods) to carry Match Meats, so we don’t all have to pay the ridiculous shipping. Now that I’ve tried Match Meats once, I’m willing to wait until I can buy them locally. I’m not Scrooge McDuck over here! Or I kinda am but only the stingy part…. I’m not swimming in dollar-sign-shaped pools or anything. (I do, however, tuck my tie into my pants. Classy!)

What it is, basically, is TVP and wheat gluten amalgamated into a sort of ground-beef like mash. This is different from a product like Yves “Ground Round,” and unique in that it can be molded into different shapes, and doesn’t just crumble apart. They say you can use it pretty much as you would real meat, and there are a lot of recipes on their website to try (my order also included a few actual printed recipe cards, a nice touch) but they all basically involve doing the same thing with your Match Meats: shape it into a patty and then fry it. There are variations on this, sure—sometimes you bread the patties, or bake them after you fry them, or mix some veggies and spices in with the meats, or what have you—but the basic formula is the same. Whatever, it works. What you get is a really hearty, meaty chunk of protein to sink your teeth into. It even has little gristly bits in it, sort of. And the pork tastes like pork. The chicken tastes like chicken. The snozzberries taste like snozzberries.

All the recipes I’ve tried so far off their site have been delicious but did need to be veganized here and there: crab cakes (delicious!); chicken picatta (delicious!); beef, eggplant, tomato and macaroni bake (sort of like Hamburger Helper—delicious!); and pork schnitzel (delicious!). Would that I had taken photos. Mea culpa. They had a recipe contest which came and went, but the results have not yet been posted. I’m sure that there are more adventurous chefs than I that will figure out amazing and creative things to do with this product once the bar has been raised.

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