Veganmofo v.4: Weekend ‘mofoing

(Update: After some teeth-nashing this morning I think I finally got this photo thing working again)

How was your weekend? The weather gods smiled on NYC this weekend and blasted us with loads of sunshine, mild low 70’s days and cool and crisp fall-y nights. Now that my camera decided to finally make an appearance here’s a few pics from the past few days.

• Awesome vegan product to try: Penne Lane vegan ravioli.

If you live in the NY area (or as the website mentions the southwest too), your local gourmet store may be harboring some really great, restaurant-quality vegan ravioli in its fresh pasta section. I’ve been meaning to investigate why exactly this pasta company has three additional vegan varieties to its traditional line of raviolis, but I’m not exactly complaining here. These fresh ravioli are big, tasty, stuffed with a tofu-base and enriched with mushrooms or artichokes or veggies and other good things. Here I’ve sautéed cooked Portabella ravioli (my fave), in olive oil with garlic, thyme, basil and a splash of cooking sherry. Garlicky rainbow chard serves up great as a side.

• Fall into Middle Earth

Stay awhile, stay forever!

A handful of good friends and I set foot outside of the shire of Queens, deep into the hinterlands of Long Island, in search of Middle Earth. Which turns out to be a kickin’ pumpkin farm by the way. Family fun to be had including crawling around in a big fiberglass pumpkin, eating roasted corn on the cob, a pricey corn maze and pumpkin picking of course. Much market stand fruit and veggie fun was to be had on the journey home too. Not shown are my new family of gorgeous pumpkins, living large on the dining room table now. Just tell them the pie crust I’m making is for the new peck of Cortland apples on the counter instead, okay?

Middle Earth to-dos

Above: Ring toss Ent style, Corny, With market crash and housing costs…you’ll be happy to call a pumpkin home soon

• Robotic bake sale update
PB Lazer eyes

What did you miss? Deadly delicious cookies, that’s what. It’s not too late…two more performances and more bake sale this coming Friday and Saturday.

• Last of the kimchi

Kimchi pancake

Lastly but never least I found a fitting home for an old batch of homemade kimchi (developed for an upcoming Vegnews article in the winter). Well fermented after a few weeks in the fridge, it lost some of it’s crunch and gained some extra kimchi juice. But no need to toss since it’s still as explosively yum as ever. Perfect for one of the traditional Korean destinations for kimchi, the tasty and fun to eat savory pancake pajeon!

I’m still tweaking this vegan variation a bit, but the results made a great lunch today. I like my kimchi pancake a bit well done, served up with the a classic sweetened soy-vinegar-sesame oil dipping sauce.

A good weekend, and a great start to a week of veganmofo style.

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Veganmofo v.3:Robot Uprising

Tonight is the debut of Robot Uprising, a tantalizing cluster of 4 one act plays concerning the future, robots and relationships. The lovely and talented Evelyn of Veganfriendly (a delicious blog of vegan edibles in NYC if you don’t know it yet) has jumped through flaming hoops to pull together boatloads of talented writers and actors to make this happen. So if you’re in the NYC area this and next Friday and/or Saturday give yourself some love, future-robot-sexy style, and check it out!

Can I also entice you a little more with a pre-show bake sale featuring some vegan goodies by Semi-Circular Paula, myself and other super ladies? CPUcakes and Binary Chip cookies are on the man and machine friendly menu.

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Veganmofo v.2: Culture Clubbing

The 80’s are really making a big comeback, right? Leggings, neon purple jeans, big hair, homemade vegan yogurt…okay not so much the yogurt part. I’m just struggling to tie in the title of this blog post with my recent passion for making my own homemade soy yogurt.

At the risk of sounding like a total soy dairy curmudgeon (from my previous gripping about soy cheese), I’ve had some bad times with commercially made soy yogurt*. Flavored, unflavored, sweetened and not, soy or rice or coconut, big nationwide brands or up and coming manufacturers, I just can’t. Without going into agonizing detail about all my dislikes, the thing I can’t deal with the most is the abundance of thickeners and gums most brands have. Pasty is the word I’m looking for, which is fine for brushing teeth but not for my breakfast and smoothie making needs. And I hate sending all those little yogurt cups to the landfill.

The soy yogurt I make is as simple as it gets. I don’t add additional sweeteners, flavors, agar or starches. The resulting stuff may not be like the thick goo that most Americans are used to, but that’s how I like it. This soygurt has a light, delicate texture. The flavor is clean and sharp, with just a hint of creamy sweetness. One of my goals with homemade soy yogurt was to also steer clear of the tremendous amount of sugar that’s dumped into most brands (as much as 22g per 6 ounces…give me a real dessert instead!). I’ve successfully strained it to make it thick ala Greek-style yogurt, and even made some tasty cherry vanilla frozen yogurt.

Homemade yogurt is an insanely simple affair, as an freshly Googled blog or website should tell you. No need for special equipment, just any old glass jar or thermos, some old towels, a patient oven that lingers for hours at 100 degrees or so. Well, for a modern girl like me that would rather use time spent digging through the closet for old towels or stressing over the oven temperature, I’d much rather be browsing the web for new pleather ankle boots. So it’s all about an actual yogurt maker appliance for me.

There’s something both space age and retro-70’s (in a Logan’s Run kind of way) about my EuroCuisine yogurt maker. It sits like a spooky little spacecraft on my kitchen countertop, literally incubating seven jars of yogurt like space marines in cryogenic stasis, awaiting their time to be roused and intercept some granola. It only requires I boil up some soymilk, forget about for a while as it cools, stir in some purchased soygurt (I know, but it’s the lesser of many evils) and forget about it again. You too can feel the thrill of opening up your fridge and seeing pale white mini-jars of soygurt quietly waiting in anticipation, like in that scene where they discover the clutch of glowing eggs in Alien.

So if you’re as picky about your soygurt as I am, or am apparently as obsessed with creepy 70’s sci-fi, do find yourself a yogurt maker. The thrifty among you may very likely be able to find a vintage model at yard sales or thrift stores. Or just be impatient and order one online.

Last but not least a few tip I’ve discovered along the way:

-Get yourself a 2 quart glass pitcher for yogurt-making. It’s far easier to strain, mix, and pour milk from a pitcher than mess around with a mixing bowl.

-Kitchen sackcloth towels are great for straining cooked soymilk. Much more sturdy that cheesecloth.

-The same thing that enables soymilk to readily curdles and makes yummy tofu also help soy yogurt happen. I attempted a batch with hemp milk (which I adore for it’s creamy taste) with utter failure. I still have my sights set on almond-soy yogurt, someday.

Get culture clubbed already! No neon green spandex necessary!

*My recent UK trip lead me to Sojade , much loved by visiting US vegbloggers. Yes it deserves to be the holy grail of soy yogurts and really is all that.

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Veganmofo : A sorta melodramatic tale of foreign non-dairy products and Homeland Security

Welcoming myself to my first ever VeganMoFo!

In the tradition, my tradition, of involving myself with time-pressuring activities (ala NaNoWriMo) I’m a late bloomer. About a week late, just like I always am with that certain bang-your-face-on-the-laptop tradition. I show up for the fun and stay for the pain!

I recently returned from the UK, home of the best cheese-analog in the world, the legendary Cheezly. I’m not really a fan of vegan cheese to begin with, and I’ve tried pretty much tried all the ones available in the NYC area. Life pretty much goes on without adding soy cheese to most of the everyday foods I prepare for myself, but the one thing that really just can’t be done justice is the perfect grilled cheese sandwich. I know there are many a homemade concoction consisting of tofu, cashews, endless quantities of nutritional yeast, just to name a few things. But it just seems like a lot of effort for a lovely meal that really should be effortless.

Few vegan cheeses are up to the cheddary, tangy, creamy heights that I require for such a sandwich. I heard of the wonders of Cheezly and was curious. It really, really melts, they say! The texture is perfect! It’s even edible out of the package! I know I can order it online, but something like purchasing vegan cheese for me requires an element of spontaneity. And yeah I know of one little store that stocks it time to time, but spending $9+ makes me feel guilty for an imported lump of oil and potato starch.

Then I find myself in the UK, London proper, just around the corner from a Fresh n’ Wild (the UK’s manifestation of Whole Foods). Cheezly indeeds lives here for a modest 2 pounds. A real bargain, even when mentally doubled to $4 American. Even better, I am wildly fortunate enough to be stashed away in a gorgeous apartment with an adorable and underused kitchen so Cheezly, a sliced loaf of very soft bread and a tomato come home with me. This cute kitchen is attached to an apartment in Camden Town and is a rotating home for out-of-town artists, music-company employees and tag-alongs like myself sometime, so not unsurprisingly the kitchen itself has been a little neglected. But not so much that some forward-thinking human left a jar of Coleman’s Mustard in the ‘fridge, which no grilled sandwich should be seen without.

One thing leads to another and shreddy chunks of Cheezly, red ripe tomato, slathers of Coleman’s and olive oil (forgot to buy marge, but this is so much better anyway) finally make contact with an apparently virgin frying pan. I have to make due with a rubber spatula in lieu of real utensils, so some sandwich damage occurs. Some very miserably flipping and a few minutes later and ohmihgod, I am tasting perfection. I swear I even saw one delicate cheese-like strand appear as I ripped apart a chunk to feed to my starving partner. This is good. Finger lickin’ good.

Fast forward to the day before I have to head home stateside. I spend the last of my pounds on three wedges of Cheezly and a few very sexy jars of Stanton pickle (I’m guessing an all-natural jab at Branston pickle) and alluring date n’ raisin ale chutney. I have visions of laughing my way through the horrible jetlag the next few days as I inhale delicate faux cheese slices smothered in deep plum-hued pickle, or toasty grilled sandwiches, or even just alongside a slice so-right-now Macoun apple. I get up extra early that morning to read more than a few websites involving US Customs and what foodthings are allowed. Seems like “hard cheeses” are okay, which sounds suspicious but whatever…this isn’t cheese or dairy or ever seen an animal besides vegan people, Uncle Sam! I lovingly pack away my jars of pickle, chutney, jams and Cheezly into my carry-on bags.

Have you caught my mistake already? I am such a careful airline traveler. I avoid checking bags like anyone’s business, no lost luggage hell for me thankyouverymuch. I search high and low before a flight for the perfect little 3 oz. travel sizes of creams, gels and little tiny deodorants. And now what a dumbass I feel like when I’m standing in line at the airport realizing I have presumed 14 oz. weapons of terror in my awesome (and deeply discounted) Besty Johnson hot pink vinyl carry-on bag. I appreciate everything airport security does for us and all I want to do is bang my head on the tarmac a little before I proceed into the gauntlet.

There’s no way my partner is going to let me check my bag at this rate. Heathrow is vast, we’re in a hurry and who knows where we have to go. I timidly ask the guy-who-asks-you-about-gels if this jar of chutney is okay, expecting defeat but still hopeful. He proceeds to wave the jar around in the air, whooping questions to the line of wide-eyed travelers behind me if this could be a plastic explosive. How enterprising of him. I take my jar from Mr.Post911haha, turn around and wheel over to a nearby kiosk. I attempt to give away a jar of pickle but it only results in strangers tearing away as fast as possible from my crazy-person antics. With tears in my eyes and little time to spare (for getting through inspections and finding our gate) I toss these jars of promise in the trash bin. My partner suggests beforehand that we break open a jar of Seville orange marmalade and have a farewell taste but I won’t have any of it. I have totally lost my appetite.

The plane ride home is about all that you can hope it to be, including a surprisingly edible vegan meal thanks to Virgin Atlantic. But you better believe that for many of those hours I’m sweating the thought of explaining what soy cheese is to a tired and surly JFK customs agent. Especially nauseating after a seven hour and forty minute ride in an airtight metal tube over the Atlantic. An hour to home and I’m filling out the little customs form, suggesting fines and other ominous fates if I’m not honest about what I’m bringing back across our borders. I pull aside a lovely flight attendant and ask her about things soy cheese, my last desperate move. She looks concerned and says she’ll get back to me. She never does, but like any flight attendant she has a zillion things to do before touchdown. Matters concerning international boarders and mock dairy products probably are not near the top of the list.

The story ends with me losing my nerve and leaving three perfectly good wheels of Cheezly stuffed in the front pocket of my airline seat. Big laughs or curious shrugs for the plane cleaning crew perhaps? Or maybe one of them is vegan and he or she scored a happy few days of grilled cheese heaven. I can only hope. Yes of course we fly through customs without so much as a raised eyebrow. Never have I been so disappointed about hassle-free bureaucracy.

So for now I’m Cheezly-less. I have some Dr. Cow (which I love but is no grilled cheese material) and an aging lump of Scheese cheddar chive to hold me over till I decide it’s time to plunker down the big bucks for the most wonderful plug of oil and potato starch ever. I know that out there somebody has brought back a chunk of this faux cheese of legend home without a snag (real or self-generated). You are my hero. Spill a little gooey filling from your next grilled sandwich for me.

(Image from dlisbona)

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