potato-style sunchoke salad

My mother is mostly Irish. We had some form of potato - mashed, baked, boiled, friend - at least 4 nights a week when I was a kid. To mom, my nightshade allergy is a tragedy - what's worse, I got it from her! She's been able to tolerate nightshades pretty well for most of her life, except eggplants and peppers, but her allergy has gotten worse. Poor mom has had to cut back on potatoes!

I'm okay with this (sweet potatoes are soooo much tastier than their starchy nightshadey counterpart), but my mother misses her potato dishes. A customer of hers recommended Sunchokes (Jerusalem Artichokes), so we tried them on Thanksgiving. We mashed them and threw in a good deal of vinegar and dijon mustard - delicious! but not too potatoey. So the goal for Christmas dinner was to imitate all those mayonaise-drenched potato salads of my mother's childhood.

I washed 'em (aren't they cute?),
sliced 'em
and boiled 'em until tender (apparently I didn't wash 'em too well, though - look at the scuzz on the righthand side! ew).
the water turned a deep yellow color...
but they stayed pale!

With the addition of 2-3 large spoonfuls of Vegenaise, several TBSP apple cider vinegar, parsley, diced onion and celery, we had a delicious Potato-Style Sunchoke Salad:

Mom was very happy. After this, though, I want to try some sunchoke recipes that don't try to disguise the sunchokes. They're so tasty!

I've heard cassava/yuca/manoic is another really good - and convincing - replacement for potato. Maybe I'll give that a try soon...


christmas on the homestead

christmas in cooperstown (upstate ny) was pretty normal: my youngest brother woke us all up at 7 so he could open presents, mom and I planned and prepared the day's dishes, siblings helping with occasional chopping and stirring, dad running into town to our store for last-minute ingredients. The menu, all organic:

green beans (vegan)
potato-style sunchoke salad (vegan)
mashed sweet potatoes (vegan)
mashed potatoes (vegan, but nightshades)
mom's stuffing (vegetarian, contains eggs)
roast chicken (ew)
2 kinds of gravy (one vegan, one... not)
chickpea casserole (vegan)
2 kinds of whole-wheat rolls (one kind vegan, one with milk)
pumpkin pie (vegan)
some non-vegan pie

sparkling pear and apple juice

There will be some food preparation pictures later. But after everything was safely stewing or baking or boiling in the kitchen, it was time for what has become a holiday tradition (we did it last year, too, though it wasn't as festive): hauling wood.

For most of the winter, the only heat in my parents' house comes from our woodstove. We use wood from already-dead trees on our property, which means dad has to chop it all up and lug it to the porch to dry before it goes into the woodstove. It's a lot of work for one person, so when dad randomly decided to fell a dead ash at the bottom of our lawn on christmas morning... my sister Liz, my brother Rob and I decided to help. (Mom stayed in to watch the various foodstuffs on the stove, Danny stayed in to play his new videogame.)

Dad and Robby chopped wood:
Robby, ironically, bought me Evil Dead II and Army of Darkness for christmas, as he was so pleased by the evil dead reference in my durianomicon entry.
Liz and I hauled the wood in sleds to the top of our hilly lawn to load the wood onto the porch.
That's Liz, just before she tethered her sled to the porch, and here's your heroine, loading up the wood:
It wasn't all heavy labor, though. Liz and I raced down.
This is a race. I'm losing because she cheated.
This is me being a bad loser and ranting about unfair sled races. The chickens, smartly, stayed away from the wood-chopping and sledding.

But we came inside to delicious smells and quickly threw together this beeeeeeautiful spread:
It's at a weird angle because I wanted to cut out the chicken in the bottom right corner.

Here's the chickpea casserole. It's from christina pirello's cooking with whole foods. I really like that book, if you can' tell, because all of her recipes are simple, low fat, and nightshade free. The casserole has chickpeas, winter squash, carrot, onion and garlic. There's plenty of miso in it, too, and you grate mochi on top, so it's rather cheesy in taste and texture. Mom and I went crazy for it.

Vegan pumpkin pie! I'd never made it before. I've made sweet potato pie, but my sweet potato pie recipe is different from my mother's pumpkin pie... we replaced the egg with ground-up flax seeds - TERRIBLE IDEA. The egg in pumpkin pie is as much for texture as for binding/lift - and the flax seeds made it rubbery. The taste was awesome (especially with a little soy whip!), and my brother wolfed it down, but mom and I decided next time we're either going with tofu or a fruit-and-baking powder mixture (with sweet potato I used sweet potato baby food mixed with baking powder and it worked great) to replace the egg.

soyatoo's whipped cream tastes like a less-sweet version of store-bought whipped cream, the kind that my mother didn't allow in the house when I was a kid (she always made her own). I love it.

I hope you all had a happy christmas. Even if you didn't celebrate it, I hope you at least got the day off from work ^_^


quick one-dish meals

being at my parents' house for the holidays is nice - not very relaxing, though, as we work all day at their organic and natural food store. So making dinner at night is a rushed affair - we are all tired and very hungry, as we spend all day looking at food. I have to be creative at home with quick meals, because there is one thing I love that my mother does not: the one-dish meal.

My mother likes having sides, salads, thick crusty bread (my mother would like thick crusty bread with every meal, if I'd let her get away with it, no matter what - stir fries, curries, tacos) with her entrees. One-dish meals don't do it for her. So this entry is in honor of the thing I can't have until I get back to boston (tomorrow night): The one dish meal.

I don't have a recipe for one-dish meals. Some, like this oriental-style millet, comes from cookbooks - this is from Christina Pirello's cooking with whole foods.

But I can give you a basic guide to a one-dish meal. Take a grain, any grain: quinoa, millet, amaranth, rice, pasta, couscous. While the grain is cooking, saute some veggies - carrots, celery, and spinach are my defaults, because they go with any kind of cuisine, but mix and match! - with a protein (tofu, beans, or nuts) - and then the third and final element: a flavor. Christina Pirello's is sesame oil and tamari, or you can do pesto or tomato sauce, or a store-bought stir fry sauce, curry or chili powder, or even a salad dressing - and you have a one dish meal!

mmm, fennel pesto pasta...

In ice-cream news, I DID bring the ice cream home - I packed it in a plastic bag filled with snow, and it made it through the four-hour drive home without melting at all! I had a tasting with my vegetarian aunt, my vegetarian (almost vegan!) mother, my non-dairy meat-eating brother, and my vegetarian-starting-on-new year's father. The chocolate was a hit all around, as was the pumpkin (in fact, dad, who won't eat non-dairy ice cream under normal circumstances, attacked the chocolate late last night) My non-dairy vegetarian mother LOVED the pina colada. The raspberry won fewer accolades, but that disappeared last night, too.

internet in cooperstown is a dismal situation - this took, I kid you not, two hours to finish : / I'll update again after christmas - in the meantime, have a great one!


the sweetest thing: wheeler's black label vegan ice cream

I promised you a sweet surprise... and here it is!
What kind of surprise is this, you ask? a dim picture of ice cream? lame, you say. BUT NO! this is not just any ice cream. This is Wheeler's Black Label Vegan Ice Cream. I hadn't heard of it before a few weeks ago. According to some of my friends in the boston vegan association, the company made a stunning debut at the Boston Vegetarian Food Fest, but I missed them there because the lines were too long for their samples. I got to try some at a local restaurant's thanksgiving dinner, and then people from Wheeler's magically made an appearance at a friend's holiday potluck recently. Apparently someone clued them into the fact that there was going to be a large group of vegans celebrating the holidays, so like santa claus - they appeared with two large containers of ice cream! Chocolate chocolate chip and butter pecan... the latter was good, but it was the former that had us all moaning and rolling our eyes up in our heads - "can this really be vegan?!"
YES. So far, Wheeler's Black Label has been doing mostly restaurant tastings and private events - as well as catering to clients who hire them to make special gourmet flavors. There's a list of all the flavors they've made on the website.

Anyway. Wheeler himself asked me if I'd like to review a couple of his flavors, so the good, conscientious blogger I am, I decided I must. For your sake, gentle reader, not for my own, of course. I told him I'd be happy to try what ever he brought me.

The pictures would be prettier if I'd been able to stop myself from digging in as soon as I opened the darn things. You can see where my spoon went. ^_^ It wasn't just me, though. My omnivore roommate Michele and her visiting sister tried and loved this stuff, too - and Mich is a really big dairy eater, so that's saying a lot.

I have tried a staggering number of vegan ice creams, but have pet peeves with all of them: 1.) most vegan ice creams are full of junk - just read the ingredients labels (tofutti, for example, uses high fructose corn syrup). 2.) They are ALL really sweet. It's like they try to compensate lack of dairy with overabundance of sugar. 2.) The texture is generally off-putting to vegans and almost always off-putting to nonvegans: some are too grainy, some are too watery, and some are creepily smooth. 3.) I'm allergic to a few (potato starch **weeps**)

Wheeler's does not fit into any of these categories! Wheeler's uses high quality ingredients, is sweet but relies on the actual taste of the product to carry it, not the sugar-content, contains nothing to which I'm allergic, and has a texture that made a few of us BVAers do a double-take. Plus. It tastes awesome.

That picture above doesn't do justice to the darker flavors: chocolate and black raspberry:
The black raspberry was not my favorite - I'm not that big a fan of fruity ice creams. But the Pina Colada was fruity - and AMAZING. it had little flakes of coconut throughout and was very rummy (Wheeler's does a lot of alcohol-themed ice creams. I feel very trendy/mature eating this). My roommate and her sister lit into this one pretty quickly. And then... the pumpkin. oh. my. god. I don't know how to explain this one. Imagine the best pumpkin pie you've ever had, then multiply that by 10, then make it ice cream. Yes. I'd had the chocolate before, but that didn't make it any less amazing. The chocolate chunks rival the ice cream itself for flavor. The texture is a dream. I couldn't stop smiling while I ate it - chocolate ice cream this good just makes you happy. I have to stop myself from going to attack my freezer as I write this.

Wheeler is going to send me a write-up of his ingredients, but the ice cream is Vegan, nightshade free, and as far as I can tell, it's also gluten free. While the ice cream isn't available on open markets yet, you can contact them for information, AND there's a Wheeler's Black Label Vegan Ice Cream location opening up soon here in Boston. Wheeler is a friendly, engaging guy who really wants to hear input from vegans. If you have questions, comments, or ideas for new flavors (seriously, how cool is it to be able to design flavors?!), let him know.

Check out the website. Try the ice cream. Come to Boston to try the ice cream. You won't be sorry... until it's gone : /

So here's the question: do I try to bring some of the leftovers home to my (mostly dairy-free) family in NY when I visit this weekend, or do I keep it all for myself...


okay, fine, you win, the bear loses

"You are not a bear. You are just a silly man who needs a shave and wears a fur coat."

It's confusing, apparently, that I call myself a bear (long story) when "lion" is part of the blog name. So despite some lost sentimental value, I'm taking the Bear out of my blog. I'm just Vegetalion now: please update your records accordingly (links bookmarks, etc). Also, I know I have some banner issues (above), but I'll have to resolve that a little later, since I'm writing from my work computer (shhh).

You might remember from this post that "Vegetalion" comes from (the french word for) vegan+lion. But if you don't know that, or don't speak french, does it look like vegetable+lion? I kinda like that.

Speaking of carrots and lions, id any of you read the Tawny Scrawny Lion as children? I LOVED it when I was a kid - it's about a very hungry lion who wants to eat a rabbit, but instead the rabbit brings the lion home with him to enjoy carrot soup with the rabbit and his family. And on a steady diet of carrot soup, the tawny scrawny lion isn't scrawny anymore!

Could this story have planted the seed of veganism in my head as early as infancy? Thanks, mom!

annnnnnd as for real food: I have a sweet surprise for you later this week - possibly TOMORROW.

note: "the bear that wasn't" and "the tawny scrawny lion" are not my ideas, nor are the pictures of my creation. They're just childhood favorites who belong to their rightful owners/publishers/licensing people. please don't sue me.


kale soup. with no abbreviations.

I have a love/hate relationship with Rachael Ray. First of all, the gratuitous A in her name and her abbreviations ("EVOO") drive me crazy. But back when the only TV show she had was "30 minute meals," I thought she was pretty interesting. Here's this normal woman, I thought, with no culinary training, who makes quick, healthy (well, there's almost always a salad) meals. Some were vegetarian, many were veganizable.

Then she exploded. Travel eating shows, restaurant rating shows, Dunkin Donuts commercials (ugh!), her own daytime talk show. The love/hate business had ended. Rachael was the enemy. But last week I had some free time in front of the TV and (of course) Rachael Ray was on. And she's kinda adorable. And she made some really neat dishes for which, she kept saying, the recipes were posted on her website. So I went to the website... and came back with a treasure! OR SO I THOUGHT.

It was a kale soup that, once veganized, had no flavor (I have no idea what chicken broth tastes like, but I'm under the impression that even un-veganized this wouldn't've been great). So I changed it, and I present the result to you:

Better-Than-Rachael-Ray's Kale Soup

2 TB Olive Oil
1 medium to large onion, chopped
1 bunch kale, washed and chopped
1 15-oz can (scant 2 cups) cannelini beans
6 cups veggie broth*
1/4 Cup tamari/soy sauce*
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 cup whole wheat spiral or other pretty pasta**

* I use Rapunzel's no-salt-added veggie bouillion; if your broth contains salt, use half as much tamari. You can always add more later if it needs it.
**Gluten-free option: use rice noodles instead of wheat.

In a large pot, saute the onions in oil until translucent. Stir in kale and beans, saute 2-3 minutes. Add veggie broth, tamari, and pepper: bring to a boil. Reduce heat. Add pasta and cook 6-8 minutes, or until pasta is al dente. Add more pepper/tamari to taste. Serve with crusty bread, or, in my case, with salad and orange-glazed turnips.


it's not autumn anymore

...it is very much winter. Boston's been covered with a thick layer of ice after all the freezing rain and cold nights we've had. My thick skin is used to upstate NY's winters, so I can take the cold... but I don't like falling down every time I leave my apartment! So we're going to pretend it's autumn again:

I made the Autumn Puree from Eat Drink & Be Vegan a little while ago:

pretty, n'est-ce pas?

I'm sorry about the lack of updates. Between grad school applications and starting a new job, things have been crazy around here. But I'll be better from now on.

I've also made a few things from the Veganomicon - I'll post some of those later.


chick peas are worth the time

Chick peas, garbanzo beans, channa, ceci beans: whatever you call them, I am obsessed with these beautiful little legumes. Think about all of the things you can do with chick peas: stir them in with pasta, sprinkle them into salads, fry them into falafel, simmer them in curries, boil them in soups, fold them into casseroles, roast them to eat like snacks, mash them into hummus or eat them right out of the can.

Wait. Right out of the can?!

While I have to admit that I sometimes take the lazy way out and eat canned chick peas, there is NOTHING to match the flavor of a chick pea that you have prepared yourself. Canned beans are inexpensive to begin with, but dried beans are laughably cheap and super easy to prepare.

I started with a one-pound bag of dried chick peas from my mother's natural food store back in NY:

Since preparing beans on the stove top takes a while, I figured I might as well do the whole bag.

Rinse them and check for debris (dried beans and grains can have pebbles, sticks, and other foreign matter mixed in). Pour into a bowl with water to cover by 2-3 inches.

Leave them for 4-6 hours, or overnight.

They get humungous! these guys were even poking up out of the water.

Drain, then in a large pot, boil chick peas with enough water to cover 1-2 inches. Once boiling, add a piece of kombu (optional, but it reduces bloating and gas for you bean-dreading types) and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 2 hours, or until chick peas are tender. Drain to use right away, or store the chick peas in the fridge in their cooking juices for up to 7-10 days.

Look how much bigger they get!

I didn't want to mask their deliciousness with a recipe, so I prepared the chick peas my faaaaaaavorite way: sprinkled with olive oil and LOTS OF SALT. I ate them right away for dinner.

I had the same thing for lunch today. (don't worry, I had salad on the side, I'm not entirely fixated on the chick peas...)

Fun fact: Roman politician/philosopher Cicero's name comes from the Latin name for chick peas (cicer arietinum)!


vegan cupcakes take over my blog

My mother sent me the Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World cookbook a short while ago and I have been drooling over its pages often. And I have made a couple recipes from it as well!

My first attempt:

Peanut Butter Cupcakes

with Rich Chocolate Ganache on top.

These were amazing, of course, though I ate so much of the batter beforehand that I nearly didn't want them. I brought them to a non-veg friend's potluck and everyone there was full of that backhanded compliment "These don't taste vegan at all," as well as the more friendly "oh my god these are better than most non-vegan cupcakes!"

And because I can't get enough of the chocolate and nut combination, when it came time to make snacks for the boston vegan association's monthly meeting, I made a variation on the basic vanilla cupcake recipe by using almond extract instead of vanilla for some pretty little
Almond Cupcakes with Rich Chocolate Ganache and Marzipan Daisies

The daisies were REALLY easy to make: I used the leftover marzipan from my day of the dead celebration (it's been in the freezer), mixed some of it with Turmeric for the color (I don't like food coloring), and called up a friend to pass the time while decorating.

In non-cupcake news, I threw out the durian. There are three main reasons: 1.) Mish and I made terrible faces whenever we thought about breaking it out to try something with it, 2.) it was making our ice cubes taste funny and 3.) we are low on tupperware.

While frozen things generally DON'T stink, this was not the case with the durian. As soon as I opened the tupperware - STENCH. Any guilt I felt was gone. Plus, look at it:

Not convinced it's evil? A little Microsoft Paint might change your mind...
STILL not convinced? Here is the cover of the Necronomicon, the evil book of the dead in wonderful zombie movies such as Evil Dead and Evil Dead 2.

See a resemblance?!

But I don't want to leave you with nightmares. Here are some more cupcakes. Stop thinking of the Durianomicon.


what to do with a crisper full of turnips

"It was as true... as turnips is. It was as true... as taxes is. And nothing's truer than them." - Charles Dickens

As you may remember from the Halloween Turnip entry, my mother brought me loads of turnips a month ago. Turnips keep practically indefinitely, so I have been slowly working my way through a very full crisper.

At first I tried to highlight the flavor of the turnips:

Pickled Turnips (pictured in the upper left), which, after keeping in the fridge for a while, tenderized nicely. Their sort of daikony taste went really well with the veggie fried rice!

And then:

Apple-Turnip Bake

This highlighted the flavor of the turnips a little too well, and my roommate and I decided we were turnipped out.

But our crisper wasn't.

So I threw them into my favorite kind of soup, figuring it would warm me to turnips again:


I never use a recipe for borscht, but sometime I'll bother to notice the amounts I use and will give it to you. After this meal, I was okay with turnips again, especially because I was down to the LAST TWO POUNDS!

So I made:

Mashed Turnips with Orange Sauce

2 pounds turnips (about 5-6 turnips, depending on size)
2 TB Brown Sugar
1 TB Earth Balance (or other vegan "butter")
1 1/2 cups Orange Juice
1/2 tsp Salt
1 Orange

Peel turnips and cut into cubes. Boil for 20 minutes until they are soft. Drain, mash.

While the turnips are boiling away, combine the sugar, butter, OJ, and salt in a small saucepan. Stir frequently over medium heat until smooth.

Stir the sauce into the mashed turnips, put into baking pan. Top with orange slices. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes.

It was really tasty. And pretty. And this dish has renewed my faith in the humble turnip.

And now Mish and I have sworn off turnips for... MONTHS. But the moral of this story is that if you are looking for a vegetable that keeps well and can be used in many different dishes, the turnip is your man. Er, veggie.

Oh and they age amusingly, too! I leave you now with the dried, withered, more life-like version of my oogie boogie halloween turnip:

I keep him on top of the fridge.