Vegan Chews & Progressive News {10-24-14}

Farmers Market Vegan’s “Vegan Chews & Progressive News” series strives to promote artful vegan food and progressive discussion of social issues—both of which prove necessary in fostering a society that prioritizes the well-being of all creatures (not just the rich, white, or human) over the continuous striving for profit/resource accumulation.

On this pre-Halloween edition of Vegan Chews & Progressive News (# NewsandChews) that makes no further mention of the spooky holiday (sorry, Halloween fans), we’ve got a vibrant and substantial salad that makes use of the last of late summer produce and an oh-so comforting, veggie-packed bowl of chowda. To nourish your mind along with your belly, this week’s stories include an analysis of the pitfalls of neoliberal feminism, the most entertaining form of counterprotest I’ve ever seen, Laura Poitras’ new documentary on Edward Snowden, and a pivotal work in antiracist organizing by activist, yogi, and vegan extraordinaire Becky Thompson. Happy Friday!

Favorite Newly Published Recipe

Farmers’ Market Potato & Kale Salad with “Glory Bowl” Dressing
via In Pursuit of More

Photo via Shira of IPOM.

Photo via Shira of IPOM.

As we enter the autumn season, the last of the summer veggies – zucchini, bell peppers, tomatoes – make their final appearances at the market. Shira’s recipe for this colorful and substantial salad celebrates this dwindling summer produce, pairing sweet peppers and silky smooth zucchini with crispy roasted potatoes and the master of the leafy green world (aka, kale). With added tanginess from artichoke hearts, olives, and a noochy dressing, this salad provides a lovely culinary bridge from summer to fall.

Best Recipe I Made This Week

Smoky Vegetable Chowder
adapted from Maple Spice

Photo via Debbie of Maple Spice.

Photo via Debbie of Maple Spice.

With a lovely depth of flavor from caramelized onions, smoked paprika, and vegetable bouillon, this creamy, chunky soup serves as an ideal dinner to help you warm up after a chilly day. For additional layers of flavor, I roasted the veggies before adding them to the sauteed onions and simmering them in the almond milk-based broth, and also drizzled in a bit of liquid smoke (because, let’s face it, what dish doesn’t benefit from a dash of liquid smoke?). I also switched up the vegetables to accommodate the contents of my refrigerator, so my chowder featured carrots, green beans, cauliflower, and plenty of shredded kale. A comforting and nourishing soup if I’ve ever seen one, especially when served alongside a square of fluffy cornbread.

Must-Read News Story

Neoliberal Feminists Don’t Want Women to Organize
via Sarah Jaffe at Political Research Associates

National Domestic Workers Alliance members protest. Photo via Political Research Associates.

National Domestic Workers Alliance members protest. Photo via Political Research Associates.

From one of my favorite independent journalists, this article by Sarah Jaffe of Dissent Magazine’s Belabored podcast offers a clear analysis of how a neoliberal rhetoric has influenced mainstream feminism to position sexism as an entity defeatable through individual success stories. Jaffe effectively counters this insidious pseudo-logic by reminding us of the oppression women (particularly women of color) still experience in the workplace, and the “white savior” complex that “enlightened” Western pro-globalization feminism harbors in relation to the non-Western world (specifically, sex workers in the global South). An ever-important call to employ a lens of class, race, and other social issues when looking at sexist power relations.

‘Weird hobby!’ Couple gain hordes of fans after picketing pro-life abortion clinic protests with witty inappropriate signs
via The Daily Mail

Photo via Saturday Chores.

Photo via Saturday Chores.

As a bonus news story on today’s # NewsandChews, this photo-filled article highlights an absolutely hilarious form of counterprotest against anti-abortion activists. Get ready to smile until your cheeks hurt.

Favorite Podcast Episode or Video

Citizenfour: Inside Story of NSA Leaker Edward Snowden Captured in New Film by Laura Poitras
via Democracy Now!

Photo via Democracy Now!.

Photo via Democracy Now!.

Award-winning journalist Laura Poitras, one of the first individuals whom NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden contacted to expose corruption in U.S. government surveillance, just recently released her third documentary film in a trilogy about America post-9/11. The film, entitled Citizenfour after the code name Snowden used to contact Poitras and fellow journalist Glenn Greenwald, features highlights from over 20 hours of footage that Poitras filmed while Snowden revealed heaps of information about the National Security Agency’s Orwellian practices. On this episode of Democracy Now!, Amy Goodman and Nermeen Shaikh interview Poitras about Citizenfour, which opened today in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington D.C.

Book Recommendation

A Promise and a Way of Life: White Antiracist Activism
by Becky Thompson

Photo via University of Minnesota Press.

Photo via University of Minnesota Press.

Ever since learning of Becky Thompson‘s important activist work through a blog interview I conducted regarding her latest book Survivors on the Mat: Healing from Trauma Through Yoga, I’ve eagerly sought to get my hands on her writings on social and racial justice. A couple weeks ago, I had the tremendous opportunity to meet Becky in person when she spoke at my college campus on her multiracial yoga practice, and inadvertently reminded me that her work in white antiracist organizing could provide an ideal resource in a project I’m working on for my Geography and Social Movements course. In her book A Promise and a Way of Life, Becky features the narratives of thirty-nine white activists who have placed antiracist activism at the center of their lives, highlighting the strengths and limitations of white antiractist organizing along the way. An incredibly valuable read for any white activist looking to get involved in antiracist organizing.

In solidarity, Ali.

Vegan Chews & Progressive News {10-17-14}

Farmers Market Vegan’s “Vegan Chews & Progressive News” series strives to promote artful vegan food and progressive discussion of social issues—both of which prove necessary in fostering a society that prioritizes the well-being of all creatures (not just the rich or the human) over the continuous striving for profit/resource accumulation.

Vegan Chews & Progressive News (# NewsandChews) turns 20!!! (And only a month after my own 20th birthday.) Today’s roundup – as a testament to my beloved mother and the variety of soups she crafts on an almost daily basis during the winter – features two velvety, steaming purees of colorful root vegetables, along with another spoonable recipe of fruity succulence. For stories, an interview and a book provide meaningful models of transformative activism, while a podcast offers an eye-opening take on three otherwise familiar social issues. So, welcome!

Favorite Newly Published Recipe

Savory

Beet & Horseradish Soup with Thyme & Caraway Croutons
via The Circus Gardener

Photo via Steve Dent.

Photo via Steve Dent.

The first of two fall-centric soups of today’s roundup, this vibrant puree marries the sweet earthiness of beets with the clean sharpness of fresh horseradish. Lately I’ve found myself more enamored than usual of beets – chopping them raw into my daily lunch salads and baking them whole wrapped in aluminum foil – but have hesitated to implement them in a soupy application. This velvety looking recipe has convinced me, and I intend to throw some caraway seeds directly into the soup along with the thyme, rather than allowing the croutons to get all the caraway glory.

Sweet

Ginger Pear Butter
via Connoisseurus Veg

Photo via Alissa Saenz.

Photo via Alissa Saenz.

No soup, but still a smooth puree of yumminess. Quality ripe pears harbor a buttery quality all on their own, but I’m sure not going to argue with a recipe that capitalizes on this rich texture while adding a spicy zing of ginger. For an unrefined version of this delightfully copper-toned fruit spread, use a less processed type of sugar (such as date or coconut sugar) instead of the brown sugar.

Best Recipe I Made This Week

Kabocha Squash, Fennel, & Ginger Soup with Spicy Coconut Cream
via Dolly and Oatmeal

Photo via Lindsey S. Love.

Photo via Lindsey S. Love.

While I don’t have a photo of my own to share with you, I do have deeply fond memories from earlier in the week of savoring spoonfuls of this succulent, complexly flavored soup (the second of the day!). Ya’ll. This soup stopped me in my hungry tracks, necessitating after my first bite that I pause to fully appreciate its silky texture and multilayered flavor profile. Providing an example of expert flavor-building, this recipe forms a base of delicate sweetness with caramelized leeks before adding fennel’s notes of mild licorice and finally the most decadent of squashes – kabocha – roasted to tender perfection. I already miss this soup, and I finished the final batch of leftovers two nights ago…back to the kitchen!

Must-Read News Story

Turning Fear into Power: An Interview with Unarmed Peacekeeper Linda Sartor
by Stephanie Van Hook at Waging Nonviolence

Linda Sartor standing on a Soviet tank outside of Kabul, Afghanistan. (WNV / Peggy Gish)

Linda Sartor standing on a Soviet tank outside of Kabul, Afghanistan. (WNV / Peggy Gish)

I find that looking to more experienced, thriving activists can provide an inspiring model for burgeoning changemakers (like myself, I hope!), especially in demonstrating how to maintain our work in the long-term. Though I hadn’t heard of Linda Sartor before this article from Waging Nonviolence landed in my inbox, I think she offers a great deal of insight into how to sustain oneself as an activist, even while engaging in serious forms of civil disobedience. Linda’s practice of asking “Where is that violence in me?” when she witnesses violence manifested in the world particularly sticks with me, as I see it as a reminder that transformative change begins in ourselves; how can we build a just world if we reenact oppressive structures in our daily lives? All of our activism must incorporate a reconceptualization of the self, an idea that I touched upon in my most recent blog post.

Favorite Podcast Episode or Video

On Privacy and Privilege
via Radio Dispatch

Logo via Radio Dispatch.

Logo via Radio Dispatch.

While the daily Radio Dispatch episodes never fail to bring contemplation and laughter to my morning, Thursday’s edition of the show framed three issues with which I’m fairly familiar in a completely new light. Discussing the privileges inherent in being able to say that you’re not personally fearful of government surveillance, the paralyzing effect of telling young Black men that they have a set of predetermined life outcomes from which to choose, and the positioning of the white supremacist criminal systems as public health epidemics, hosts John and Molly provided me with a more nuanced manner of understanding these pressing issues.

Book Recommendation

Transforming Feminist Practice: Non-Violence, Social Justice and the Possibilities of a Spiritualized Feminism
by Leela Fernandes

Photo via Aunt Lute Books.

Photo via Aunt Lute Books.

In her realistically hopeful book Transforming Feminist Practice, political scientist Leela Fernandes argues that we – people living in contemporary times – have learned to define ourselves against external entities, and that our doing so has limited us from imagining new worldly realities. Fernandes contends that our inability to see ourselves beyond the possibilities of pre-existing identities prevents us from rejecting the ego inherent in all forms of identity, and instead fostering in ourselves a “radical humility required to really manifest social justice in this world” (44). To cast off these static identities through which we currently constitute ourselves, Fernandes calls for an understanding of the self in “radical interconnection” with the world in its entirety (36). In this task, Fernandes does not mean for us to cease taking responsibility for the very real effects of our identity-based privileges, but rather encourages us to envision ourselves as comprised of so much more than these fixed identities, and asserts that this re-envisioning constitutes a necessary aspect of fostering a world in which the social structures that determine our privileges do not exist. Fernandes encapsulates this re-envisioning well in the following passage:

“A strategy for white students dealing with racial privilege would be to recognize and address the social and economic forms of power and privilege associated with whiteness in contemporary society in the United States while realizing that their own conceptions of their self do not need to rest on such hegemonic conceptions of ‘whiteness'” (33).

I love this book. I think I shall sleep with it underneath my pillow.

In solidarity, Ali.

Winter Squash Soup with Sun-Dried Tomatoes & Basil | Where Did the Recipe Labels Go?

Congratulations to the winner of my Vega prize pack giveaway: Andrew Rogers!

When I launched my blog way back in August 2011, I had only just begun my journey of recovery from an anorexia-like eating disorder. (I say “anorexia-like” because, similar to most all individuals suffering from disordered eating, my experiences proved much too complex to neatly pathologize). While both my weight and comfort with eating/food in general increased – the former steadily, the latter sporadically – I still harbored a fear of putting foods I deemed “unhealthy” into my body. Essentially, as my anorexia-like disorder subsided, my orthorexia-like disorder endured, masking itself as a well-intentioned desire to make food choices that would nourish my body, but basing itself in the pseudoscience and trends that circulate among food blogs and Pinterest recipe boards.

squash tomato soup 2

Recovering from this aspect of my eating disorder required re-imagining food outside of the false dichotomy I had created that categorized food into “good” and “bad,” as well as understanding that truly healthy eating involves both physical and mental wellbeing (read more on this subject in a previous post that also contains an awesome recipe for Ranch Potato Salad!). Removing these categories helped me to avoid seeing foods both as the effect I presumed they would have on my body (i.e., kale would turn me into a superhero while sugar would slowly dissolve my insides) and as a measure of my self-worth. It also helped me to re-root my veganism in a consideration of and respect for the bodies and minds of non-human individuals, rather than in an oft-touted belief that one can only achieve good health on a vegan diet – an assertion that erases the many cultures that have enjoyed long histories of vitality while including animal flesh and secretions in their eating habits.

squash tomato soup

Since de-categorizing my food choices served as an integral tool of my recovery, it seems only fitting that I also de-categorize the recipes on my blog. Previously labeled as “Low Fat,” “Low Sodium,” “Oil Free,” “Gluten Free,” “Nut Free,” and more, my recipes now only fall under one category: food. Of course, while I recognize and respect the reasoning of other bloggers to apply such labels to their recipes (allowing folks with food allergies to more easily find appropriate recipes, for example), doing so on my own blog now feels antithetical to my past and continued efforts to fully reconcile my relationship with food and eating.

squash tomato soup

To usher in this era without recipe labels, I’d like to share with you a creamy, full-bodied soup ideal for bridging the summer and fall as we undergo this period of seasonal transition. In late September-early October here in the Northeast, we’re seeing winter squashes popping up alongside summer’s fading basil bounty, and it only feels natural to me to follow the earth’s logic and combine them in a warming concoction to enjoy on the chilly days starting to weave through the waning heat. Sundried tomatoes provide richness and umami, while a touch of vinegar brightens the soup at the very end.

Is this recipe low in or free of anything? Only fear.

Winter Squash Soup with Sun-Dried Tomatoes & Basil

Serves 2-4.

Ingredients:

2 tsp coconut oil
1 medium onion, diced
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 medium winter squash such as butternut, buttercup, or acorn, cubed
4 cups vegetable broth or water
3/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes (the kind not packed in oil)
1/2 of a large bunch of basil
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

In a large soup pot, warm the oil over medium heat. Saute the onion for 5-7 minute, or until it turns translucent. Add the salt and garlic and saute for another minute. Add the squash cubes and saute for another minute. Add the sundried tomatoes and broth/water. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat, then partially cover, lower the heat, and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the squash is tender. Stir in the basil.

Puree the soup either with an immersion blender, or (carefully!) in batches in a standing blender. Add water to thin, if desired. Stir in the apple cider vinegar. Bring back up to heat on the stove, and serve when the soup has reached your desired temperature.

Recipe submitted to Virtual Vegan Linky Potluck.

In solidarity, Ali.

Vegan Chews & Progressive News {9-26-14}

If you haven’t yet entered my giveaway for your chance to win a Vega prize pack, be sure to do so!

Farmers Market Vegan’s “Vegan Chews & Progressive News” series strives to promote artful vegan food and progressive discussion of social issues—both of which prove necessary in fostering a society that prioritizes the well-being of all creatures (not just the rich or the human) over the continuous striving for profit/resource accumulation.

Today’s edition of Vegan Chews & Progressive News (#NewsandChews) features a hearty soup for the fast-approaching cool fall days, a creamy tart studded with one of my personal favorite fruits, a multidimensional dish from a restaurant cookbook that required an entire day to prepare, a more collaborative notion of charity, a call for resistance against climate change to come from below, and an upcoming book that needs pre-order support!

Favorite Newly Published Recipe

Savory

Persian Lentil Soup
via Sweet Paul

Photo via Sweet Paul.

Photo via Sweet Paul.

When I return to my parents’ house for winter break from college, my mother puts soup on the dinner table nearly every night, much to the content and comforted bellies of my father and myself. I fully intend to ensure that this soup – rich with earthy lentils and brightened with Iranian flavors like mint, black lime, and sumac – weaves its way into our soup repertoire this January.

Sweet

Saffron Custard Tart with Figs & Blackberries
via Harmony a la Carte

Photo via Harmony a la Carte.

Photo via Harmony a la Carte.

I think that fresh figs will always seem like a huge treat to me, special and novelty no matter how often I purchase them (which proved pretty darn often this summer…). Though eating these perpetual personal delicacies right out-of-hand satisfies me to no end, I certainly wouldn’t pooh-pooh a dessert that incorporates figs – especially if that dessert also happened to involve a rich vegan custard in a sticky date-nut crust. With orange blossom water and saffron, this tart would provide a complementary ending to the soup above, now that I think about it. If saffron is out of your price range (aka, if you’re not swimming in a pool of dollar bills), turmeric will do the trick in imparting a deep yellow tone to this tart.

Best Recipe I Made This Week

Stone-Ground Grits with Pickled Shiitakes and Tempura Watercress
via Dirt Candy: A Cookbook

corn polenta w shiitakes & tempura watercress (1)

Day before: make the shiitake pickles and allow their flavor to develop overnight. Morning: simmer the corn stock. Afternoon: blend the corn cream. Before dinner: cook the grits, fry the watercress, and assemble the dish. At dinner: marvel at the symphony of flavors you’ve created over the course of the last 24 hours. Yes, this dish may require a full day of preparation, but over my breaks from school I got time to kill and that means that I’m killin’ it in the kitchen. While I recreated this dish from Dirt Candy executive chef Amanda Cohen’s trailblazing cookbook/graphic novel last winter break rather than this week, my October break slowly approaches, bringing with it the ability to spend some good quality time with my pots and pans. Perhaps more grits are in their future…

Must-Read News Story

The Charitable Society or ‘How to Avoid the Poor and Perpetuate the Wealth Gap’
via Fred Guerin at Truthout

Photo via Shutterstock.

Photo via Shutterstock.

In the spirit of radically altering our socio-personal relationships with one another in order to cultivate a society based on respect and community, philosophy scholar Fred Guerin envisions a model of charity that drastically departs from the current self-interested, patronizing, paternal system of the 1% projecting themselves as altruistic while enabling their control over the institutions at which they throw vast sums of money. This article particularly speaks to me with its willingness to deeply investigate the implications of and propose viable solutions to a very real problem. A well-done piece of work.

Favorite Podcast Episode or Video

‘We Can’t Rely on Our Leaders': Inaction at Climate Summit Fuels Call for Movements to Take the Helm
via Democracy Now!

Photo via Democracy Now!

Photo via Democracy Now!

Time and time again, social movements throughout history have proven that for concrete and lasting change to take place, its driving force needs to come “from below,” from the people bearing the brunt of society’s burdens and their allies. On the September 24 (one day after my mother’s birthday!) edition of Democracy Now!, two prominent earth advocates invoke this wisdom in the context of climate change. Though the segment opens with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and Leonardo Dicaprio – two voices often privileged within the environmental  movement – the broadcast focuses attention on the voices of two much less visible individuals, which I feel is important to note considering the tendency of media to prioritize advocates already receiving substantial coverage.

Book Recommendation

Newsfail: Climate Change, Feminism, Gun Control, and Other Fun Stuff We Talk About Because Nobody Else Will
by Jamie Kilstein & Allison Kilkenny

Photo via Simon & Schuster.

Photo via Simon & Schuster.

While I haven’t actually read this book (it hasn’t even been published yet!), I’ve been listening to Allison and Jamie promote it every morning on Citizen Radio, and it sounds like a compelling, hard-hitting, and highly entertaining work (much like the duo’s daily podcast). Relaying the urgent news stories of our time accurately and fairly, Allison and Jamie provide a refreshing contrast to the corporate-controlled mainstream media. If you have the funds, I’d highly encourage you to pre-order the book in the hopes of generating popular attention for these groundbreaking journalists.

In solidarity, Ali.

Mushroom-Chestnut Soup

fancy

I’ve wanted to make a soup with chestnuts in it for the past three months. November failed in chestnut soup-making because who can expect the miniature grocery store just off of campus to stock chestnuts? December fared no better because clearly everyone else wanted to make chestnut soup, too, and thus yanked all of the bags of fresh chestnuts off of the shelves at the Whole Foods in Madison, WI (where I spent winter break) before I could get to them. January didn’t do so hot because chestnuts had just gone out of season and had therefore gotten expensive and I felt guilty spending $10 of my parents’ money on a jar of chestnuts when they’re already paying inordinate sums for my college tuition and soon my unfulfilled desire for chestnut soup resulted in me crying into my mother’s bosom, thanking her profusely for supporting my education and fully acknowledging my family’s privilege in being able to do so and…well, by then I had forgotten about chestnut soup.

photo 4

So I finally found inexpensive jarred chestnuts at, who knew, the miniature grocery store just off of campus. And I ate the subsequent soup without experiencing the need to sign my soul to my parents. A lengthy and emotional journey, all for soup with chestnuts, but I dare say that this soup certainly merits its preceding turmoil. Creamy, rich, unctuous, and full of comforting spices, this soup will warm you inside and out during the continuously arctic temperatures. Enjoy.

Mushroom-Chestnut Soup—Soy Free, Nut Free, Low Sodium, Low Fat

Serves 3-4.

Ingredients:

5 cups sliced cremini or button mushrooms
3 tbsp melted coconut oil, divided
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried sage
1 can coconut milk
2-3 cups mushroom broth
1 cup roasted chestnuts, jarred or fresh
1 tsp apple cider vinegar

Preheat the oven to 450°F.

Toss the sliced mushrooms with 2 tbsp of the oil. Spread out in an even layer on a baking sheet and roasted for 20-30 minutes, or until the mushrooms have taken on a golden-brown hue and released some of their juices.

While the mushrooms roast, heat the remaining 1 tbsp of oil in a soup pot over medium-high heat. Sauté the onion and garlic for 5-7 minutes, or until translucent, taking care not to burn the garlic. Add the spices and sauté for another minute. Add the coconut milk, mushroom broth, and chestnuts. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and simmer, covered, until the mushrooms have finished roasting, at least 15 minutes.

When the mushrooms have finished roasting, add them and their juices to the soup pot. Let the mushrooms simmer in the broth for another 5-10 minutes, then puree, either with an immersion blender or (very carefully) in a standing blender. Stir in the apple cider vinegar. Serve hot.

photo 3

Recipe submitted to Healthy Vegan Fridays and Wellness Weekend.

Until next time, Ali.

Vedge Cookbook Review + Spanish Roasted Brassicas Recipe

As I mentioned in my last blog post regarding development and consumerism, I find myself feeling quite uncomfortable during the holiday season—a time of family, love, generosity, and unity that our modern Western culture has overshadowed with greed, overconsumption, material accumulation, and Black Friday casualties. These disconcerting cultural tendencies, magnified during the holidays, bolster my urge to live simply, with minimal possessions and producing minimal waste. My view of living simply, though, does not necessarily mean living without gifts—indeed, they can provide a heartwarming medium through which to foster community and relationships—but rather prompts a rethinking of gifts and gift-giving.

My discomfort with our current mainstream notion of gifts stems from the attitude surrounding them. As a child, I judged the quality of my Christmas by the number of presents I received, even having the nerve to cheekily ask my mother, “That’s it?” if I felt dissatisfied. But would I ever feel satisfied if the importance of gift-giving lied in accumulating as much as possible? Could I ever escape the power that possessions wielded over me if the absence of the latest Apple product in my Christmas haul inspired in me resentment toward my mother?

Gifts with which I can feel comfortable stem not from the desire to own the latest technological gadgets, nor from a false need to surround oneself with “stuff,” but from a genuine feeling of love and gratitude between both of the gift-givers, and between them and the earth. In the dire state of our world, we must imbue all of our actions with a consciousness of alleviating our impact on the planet, and gift-giving proves no different. In my view, loving and earth-friendly gifts include those that the recipient can put to good use, and those that generate little to no waste. For example, the bulk of my Christmas list comprised of donations to various organizations such as Our Hen House, and Kindle cookbooks, which require minimal resources to produce as opposed to print books, and which I use every day.

But literally…every day. Not an exaggeration in the least. Because I view the act of providing non-vegans with flavorful, hearty, and unique food as integral to animal activism, I constantly look to my collection of virtual cookbooks for inspiration in such endeavors. I also view my cookbooks as helpful in honing the skills necessary for my ideal career path—one that creates a livelihood out of the aforementioned activism. Thanks to my dear mother, the latest additions to this Kindle cookbook collection include Vedge by Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby; Vegan Secret Supper by Merida Anderson; Dirt Candy: A Cookbook by Amanda Cohen; Vegan Soul Kitchen by Bryant Terry; Betty Goes Vegan by Annie and Dan Shannon; and The Baker Creek Vegan Cookbook by Jere and Emilee Gettle.

PicMonkey Collage

So that the section of my brain devoted to culinary creativity would not explode from all of the tantalizing recipes within the pages of these six cookbooks, I decided to limit my kitchen experimentation first to recipes from Vedge, since it comes from the masterminds behind my favorite restaurant. Featuring 100 recipes from the Vedge menu tweaked minimally to suit the home kitchen, Vedge perfectly reflects the sophistication, beauty, and locally sourced/seasonal philosophy of the highly acclaimed Philadelphia restaurant. Organized in a manner similar to that of the restaurant menu, Vedge starts off with “Small Bites and Small Plates” such as olives, salads, and light vegetable dishes; moves on to “Soups and Stews” that span from brothy pho to creamy parsnip-chestnut bisque; includes a “Dirt List” with preparations that maximally highlight seasonal and specialty varieties of vegetables; offers heartier “Plates” that hire beans, lentils, and grains as backup singers to the superstar veggies; appeals to the baker in all of us with creative fruit-based desserts (can you say Strawberry Sorrel Bread Pudding?) and unpretentious breads; and finishes with unique cocktails.

Spiced Little Carrots with Chickpea-Sauerkraut Puree (photo from the Vedge website).

Spiced Little Carrots with Chickpea-Sauerkraut Puree (photo from the Vedge website).

Eggplant Braciole (photo from the Vedge website).

Eggplant Braciole (photo from the Vedge website).

Salt-Roasted Golden Beets with Dill, Avocado, Capers, and Red Onion (photo from the Vedge website).

Salt-Roasted Golden Beets with Dill, Avocado, Capers, and Red Onion (photo from the Vedge website).

Since Christmas, I’ve had the pleasure of making and eating four of the book’s recipes, two of which my mother and I first enjoyed at the Vedge restaurant itself. The Shaved Brussels Sprouts with Whole-Grain Mustard Sauce constituted the appetizer of my family’s two-course Christmas dinner, though I used a homemade silken tofu mayonnaise instead of the Vegenaise recommended for use in the recipe (many of the recipes in Vedge call for vegan mayo, and Rich and Kate recommend Vegenaise. However, I found that homemade mayo provides a quality substitute in the recipes for those of us who like to avoid prepackaged products). A dish just as tasty as that we remembered from our visit to the restaurant, the smoky, just-charred sprouts with the tangy mustard sauce created a winning combination. My mother also noted that the texture of the shaved sprouts harbored so much substance that she almost mistook them for pasta. I have a feeling that we will be making this dish often.

Shaved Brussels Sprouts with Whole-Grain Mustard Sauce

Shaved Brussels Sprouts with Whole-Grain Mustard Sauce

The night after Christmas, Vedge once again graced our plates with Celery Root Fritters and Remoulade (a pseudo-play on crab cakes and tartar sauce). Fostering an intense love of the knobbly, underused root, I found myself immediately taken by its double use in the recipe: once, roasted with onions, mashed, formed into patties, coated with chickpea flour and Old Bay seasoning, and pan-fried; twice, grated, blanched, and combined with vegan mayo, capers, dill, mustard, shallots and tarragon to create a tartar sauce-like spread, the taste of which you’ll never want to leave your tongue. I only wish that the recipe had specified to squeeze the excess moisture out of the grated celery root after blanching it, for the remoulade turned out a bit waterier than I would have preferred. All in all, though, a fabulous dish (the veggies you see in front of the fritters comprise a simple sauté of brussels sprouts and sunchokes, not featured in the cookbook).

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Celery Root Fritters & Remoulade; Brussels Sprout-Sunchoke Saute.

To please the ethnic food-loving palate of my best friend Maddie, whom I invited over for dinner one night, I played with Vedge’s Squash Empanadas with Green Romesco—homemade dough encasing a mash of squash roasted with coriander and cumin, accompanied by a bright yet deeply flavored sauce of roasted green peppers, garlic, cilantro, and toasted almonds. I substituted spelt flour and coconut oil for the all-purpose flour and vegan butter/shortening called for in the recipe, yielding flaky, toothsome results. However, the saltiness of the dough proved a bit much for my saltily sensitive palate, and I would probably omit the salt altogether as I usually do if I decide to recreate the dish. The other qualm I have with the recipe comes from the amount of roasting time specified. The recipe calls for roasting the squash at 400°F for 8-12 minutes and the peppers for 6-8 minutes, yet with small-diced veggies and an oven that errs on the side of too hot, the veggies required about double the time specified to adequately cook (I experienced the same problem with the celery root in the fritter recipe above). If you find yourself with the Vedge cookbook, I would recommend planning on roasting the veggies in any recipe for longer than specified, and to plan the cooking of your meals accordingly. Recipe technicalities aside, the dish proved crowd-pleasing and flavorfully stunning. I served it alongside a recipe of my own creation for Spanish Roasted Brassicas (recipe below).

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Finally, I tried my hand at another recipe with which my mother and I fell in love while dining at Vedge: Saffron Cauliflower Soup with Persillade. Between bites of the soup, my mother and I could not help but exclaim, “This tastes exactly like bouillabaisse. But there can’t be fish in it…dear goodness, I hope there’s not fish in it…”. Rest assured, the folks at Vedge had not decided to renounce their morals in a single dish, but they sure created a memorable gastronomic experience for my mother and I. The soup features simmered cauliflower crushed to a rice-like consistency surrounded by a tomatoey broth spiked with white wine and Old Bay seasoning, complimented by a gremolata-like topping of parsley, lemon zest, and garlic. My version of the recipe increased the amount of rice called for and added chickpeas for substance, substituted brown jasmine rice for white, and (sadly) omitted the veryveryveryveryvvery pricey saffron. While I quite enjoyed the texture of the soup, I found its flavor a bit lacking, and I doubt that this unfortunate occurrence owes itself completely to the omission of the saffron. Unfortunately, this particular dish might be best left in the hands of the Vedge team (or in the hands of someone with some damn saffron…).

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Saffron Cauliflower Soup with Persillade

Tomorrow, I plan to experiment with Vedge’s Soba Bowl with Shiitake Dashi and Market Greens (a dish that authors Rich and Kate purport to enjoy every morning for breakfast with their son, Rio), adding a bit of pan-fried tempeh for some good old-fashioned protein. Beyond this surely warming and grounding soup, recipes I’d still like to try from the Vedge cookbook include a dish of peeled-open, marinated, and grilled portobello stems known as anticuchos; the Napa Cabbage Funky Kimchi Stew; the Warm Ramp Hummus; and the Whole Roasted Carrots with Black Lentils and Green Harissa.

If you enjoying playing around in the kitchen with involved recipes that feature the best produce the earth has to offer, then I would highly recommend picking up a (digital!) copy of the Vedge cookbook. With that, I shall leave you, dear readers, with the simple, Spanish-inspired dish I created to accompany the empanadas featured above. Enjoy.

Spanish Roasted Brassicas—Soy Free, Nut Free, Low Sodium, Low Fat.

Serves 2-4.

Ingredients:

1 small/medium head cauliflower, chopped into smallish florets
2 small/1 medium head broccoli, chopped into smallish florets
1 tbsp melted coconut oil
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tbsp sherry vinegar

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

In a large mixing bowl, toss the cauliflower and broccoli florets with the oil, paprika, and sherry vinegar to coat.

Roast for 20-30 minutes, or until the brassicas are tender and golden-brown. Serve.

Until next time, Ali.

Catering Adventures: An Autumnal Menu for Fifteen

As the fall semester nears its conclusion, I find myself in the midst of a catering quasi-business. My position as co-president of the Vassar Animal Rights Coalition (VARC) has developed to include (and I’m thrilled that it has) the responsibility of event-catering alongside speaker-coordinating, meeting-facilitating, campaign-organizing, and conference-planning. Indeed, in the past three months, I’ve provided quality vegan grub for two campus lectures hosted by VARC: the first delivered by the ubiquitous Carol J. Adams (author of The Sexual Politics of Meat, don’t-cha know), the second by thought-provoker extraordinaire James McWilliams (can you say vegan pizza buffet?).

Most excitingly, my burgeoning catering skills have begun to elicit requests from other student organizations to provide fabulous animal-free goodies for their events. Doing so works to cultivate my ideal role as an animal activist of opening individuals’ hearts and minds to veganism through bountiful, flavorful, satisfying, and creative plant-based foods. Not to mention, it offers me a legitimate excuse to devote my time and energy to experimenting with new recipes and cooking techniques…for a profit, no less.

My first non-VARC catering request came from the Queer Coalition of Vassar College (QCVC), who planned to host a spoken-word poetry night with the two queer activist poets (and gluten-free vegans) Alok and Janani who comprise Darkmatter, and wanted to host a small dinner for the artists after the event (funny how many individuals who fight for other forms of social justice also lead a vegan lifestyle…). Check out a couple of Darkmatter’s powerful performances here.

Stipulating only that I not use any walnuts and include a kale salad, QCVC bestowed upon me full reign over the dinner menu, with a budget of “not ridiculously expensive.” Turning to my infamous 49-page “Recipes to Try” Word document, I formulated an autumn-inspired catering menu to satisfy the vegans in the group and wow the non-vegans.

The meal began with a succulent, creamy Parsnip-Hazelnut Soup, inspired by the Parsnip-Chestnut Bisque in the newly released (and positively magical) Vedge cookbook. With only olive oil, onions, parsnips, hazelnuts, coconut milk, salt, and pepper as ingredients, the soup highlighted the sweet, earthy flavor of the parsnips, accentuated further by the toasty richness of the hazelnuts. Though I would have loved to create the original soup recipe with chestnuts, the natural foods store I visited for catering ingredients did not carry them. Thus, I turned to nuts of a similar sweetness as chestnuts, and ended up immensely pleased with the modified soup’s final flavor. Served in a slow-cooker, the soup remained steaming hot throughout the entire dinner.

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To provide textural contrast to the smooth soup, I roasted up two trays of chickpeas coated in maple syrup and cinnamon, inspired by My Whole Food Life. Proteinous croutons, no?

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Next to the soup sat a big ol’ bowl of kale salad. Though I didn’t follow an exact recipe for the salad, I did draw inspiration from this salad featured on Choosing Raw. My method of salad creation follows: cut three bunches of lacinato kale into chiffonade; massaged said kale with the flesh of two avocados, two tablespoons of olive oil, four tablespoons of maple syrup, and two lemon’s worth of juice; stirred into the massaged kale one kabocha squash’s worth of roasted squash cubes and 1 1/2 cups of toasted pumpkin seeds. The resulting salad featured an amalgamation of flavors and textures, with the melt-on-your-tongue, succulent squash; the crunchy toasted pumpkin seeds; the rich, creamy avocado; the complexly sweet maple syrup; and the tanginly acidic lemon. Honestly, though, how could a dish that incorporates kabocha squash, maple syrup, kale, and avocado not inspire gastronomic nirvana?

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As per the request of my VARC co-president Katie, the meal’s vegetable side dish comprised of meltingly tender roasted sweet potato fries, accompanied by the oh-so garlicky cashew aioli from Christy Morgan’s cookbook “Blissful Bites.” One spoonful of this aioli and it became all I wanted to put in my mouth for the rest of my life (well, until I remembered kale…and roasted brussels sprouts…and kombucha…okay, the sentiment didn’t last very long). I only wish that my blender could have pureed the aioli into a smoother consistency, though I suppose I’ll have to wait for perfectly silky cashew creams until I receive a Vitamix for my college graduation gift (some students ask for cars, Ali prefers blenders).

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Because I’m familiar with the sheer joy of encountering good-quality gluten-free bread, I wanted to bake up an artisan loaf for Alok and Janani. I had seen this recipe for Farmhouse Seed Bread circulating all over Pinterest and garnering rave reviews for months, and yearned to experiment with it myself. Since the natural food store I visited did not carry teff or sweet rice flour, I substituted equal amounts of buckwheat and tapioca flours, and experienced fabulous results. The boule featured a crackly crust and a moist, dense interior—ideal for soaking up the Parsnip-Hazelnut Soup.

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Finally, to round out the meal, I made the dessert that never fails to impress any eater, no matter how picky or averse to veganism: a raw cheesecake. With a silky smooth filling and a simultaneously crunchy, chewy, and caramely sweet crust, it’s no wonder that of all of the catered dishes, only the cheesecake did not produce at least a small amount of leftovers. I employed this basic raw cheesecake recipe, layering thin slices of crisp apples on top along with a scant drizzling of maple syrup.

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The dinner guests offered only positive feedback about all of the dishes. I can hardly wait until my next catering gig, and in the meantime, will plan to engage in some publicity measures in order to gain attention for my…business? Wish me luck!

Until next time, Ali.

Vegan MoFo #18: Dinner on Empty & Dinner on Full

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Every month, Ferry House experiences a complete reversal of our food supply levels. As the weeks after our most recent bulk food order wear on; as our stock of dried chickpeas, brown rice, and peanut butter wanes; as the 21 house members clean out the refrigerator’s veggie-laden shelves within mere hours of grocery shopping, Ferry members must employ their utmost culinary intuition in order to adequately nourish themselves on the lone eggplant, bag of sweet potatoes, and dregs of lentils left in the house.

Obviously, these so-called “food shortages” don’t actually prove dire, seeing as all of us Ferries can easily access campus dining and off-campus grocery stores. I would never even fathom suggesting that any house member actually faces a danger in the kind-of-lack-ish of food in Ferry that occurs every so often, for to do so would essentially crap privilege all over the groups of people who live in food deserts and harbor legitimate worry regarding the origins of their next meal.

In any case, I thought that comparing Ferry meals made from an abundance of supplies with those made with a dwindled stock would prove fairly interesting. Ooh! Let’s play a game: guess which meal came from empty, and which came from full.

Meal #1: Vinegar-brined roasted potatoes, curried cauliflower casserole, tamari-ginger green beans, millet, and baby kale, all sprinkled with nutritional yeast (courtesy of darlings Gabe and Tim).

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Meal #2: Gluten-free flatbread, farmers’ market cherry tomatoes, curried lentil stew with garlic and carrots, and roasted brussels sprouts (provided by the always fabulous Noah and Lanbo).

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And here’s where you contemplate.

And here’s where you guess.

And the reveal…

Meal #1 came from a largely empty pantry and fridge, while Meal #2 came from a house stuffed full of newly purchased groceries and bulk supplies. If you’re so inclined, be sure to leave a comment professing your guess.

If perhaps you’re curious to know what sort of food sustains a 21-person vegan co-op for a month, below I’ve listed a number of the supplies included in our most recent bulk order:

1.) 24 packages of tempeh
2.) 25 lbs each of brown rice, quinoa, navy beans, and black beans
3.) 64 cartons of non-dairy milk (a mix of almond and soy)
4.) A 9-lb container of crunchy peanut butter
5.) 12 jars of tahini
6.) 12 cans of coconut milk
7.) 5 lbs each of almonds and dried figs
8.) 6 bottles each of balsamic vinegar and agave nectar

Quite understandably, house excitement surrounding bulk delivery parallels that of a house member’s birthday. Ah, bulk. How I love you so.

Until next time, Ali.

Vegan MoFo #16: Pinto Beans n’ Greens Stew, Rosemary-Sage Roasted Root Veggies, & Seasoned Millet

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Last night I once again assumed the role of Ferry Dinner Cook, along with my dear housemate Allie. I began my culinary task with the goal of employing in our meal as many of the fast wilting green leafies, as well as the underused root vegetables, in the refrigerator as possible. It seemed to me that the greens (an amalgamation of kale, collards, and leaves from carrots, beets, turnips, and radishes) would marry well in a stew with the pinto beans that I had set to soak that morning, while the roots (a mix of turnips, butternut and kabocha squash, beets, and sweet potatoes) would best showcase their comforting succulence in caramelized, roasted form, accentuated by fresh rosemary and sage.

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Though I intended to recreate this recipe for Garlicky White Bean Stew with Kale, a couple of unexpected factors complicated this task:
1.) I discovered a surprising lack of garlic in the Ferry kitchen last night.
2.) The Ferry pantry currently houses only pinto beans, garbanzos, and lentils, with no mention of white beans (though this will soon change with the bulk order delivered this Thursday).
3.) I mistook the jar of cayenne for that of paprika, thus imparting a spicier kick to the stew than I had originally intended (darn Ferry’s unlabeled spice rack!).

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Despite these setbacks, the stew turned out as a hearty, comforting, and immensely nourishing dish that harbored a nice depth of flavor thanks to the caramelized onions that simmered with the beans, as well as the multiplicity of bold greens. Since one would have to either tremendously undercook or burn to a crisp roasted root vegetables in order to detract from their deliciousness, that aspect of dinner proved predictably perfect (points for alliteration). The millet provided a bit of a surprise for my diners, who did not expect the punch of umami that pervaded the unassuming side dish, thanks to the generous sprinklings of nutritional yeast, cumin, and tamari that I mixed into the creamy cooked grain.

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As I always do when I cook Ferry dinner, last night I felt honored to provide a scrumptious and satisfying meal to the 21 thoughtful, generous, kind, and vivacious individuals with whom I live. I’ve recently realized that aiding others serves to improve my own mood, as showcased when I sought advice from my Ferry room neighbor, ended up working through his own difficulties, and left his room sharing a sense of complete uplift. Once again, Ferry offered its constant reminder of the strong power of community, especially a community largely revolving around wholesome food that minimizes harm to all beings.

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Until next time, Ali.

Vegan MoFo #12: Chickpea-Tomato Soup & Rosemary Roasted Potatoes

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I often reference here on the ol’ blog my lifelong cultivated, deeply meaningful relationship with food—even before adopting a vegan lifestyle, I viewed my personal food choices as profoundly political acts, votes against an exploitative agricultural system dominated by a corrupt corporate-governmental alliance and for a mode of food production that nourished the earth and all of its inhabitants. Hell, I felt like Wonder Woman (the not overly sexualized version reinforcing the patriarchy) every time I shopped at the farmers’ market, kicking the butts of the GMO and pharmaceutical industries with my three bunches of organic lacinato kale. My food activism has become much more nuanced and effective since the days in which I understood supporting local farmers as the utmost act of social justice, and in turn, my appreciation for unprocessed, unpolluted, unchemicalized (it can be a word, don’t worry about it), unexploitative food has only intensified.

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Though this omnipresent connection with food prompts me to recognize my every meal as celebratory events (even the packed lunches I shovel into my mouth between classes), some meals inspire in me a more acute sense of nourishment—both internal and external—than others. Last night’s Ferry Dinner offered one of these special meals.

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While yesterday boasted a rather balmy temperature of 80 degrees, it also featured gloomy skies and an overall atmosphere of grayness. Thus, when Ferries Robyn and Matt presented the house with a dinner of steaming chickpea-tomato soup and rosemary roasted potatoes, I experienced a feeling of comfort akin to an embrace from an old friend. Since Robyn set the soup to simmer about two hours before dinnertime, the wafting aroma of savory herbs vastly ameliorated the task of reading rather dry articles of China’s economic development, and only contributed to the sense of fulfillment engendered by my first spoonful of the soup.

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Robyn and Matt’s soup featured home-simmered chickpeas, carrots with their greens, celery, mushrooms, and herbs in a tomato broth, while the roasted potatoes harbored a strong flavor of fresh rosemary, as well as an impeccable balance between creaminess and crunchiness. I honestly could not offer this meal any higher praise, and feel indescribably lucky to have enjoyed it among the most caring, kind, witty, and thoughtful housemates in existence. Joy consumes me every day that I live in Ferry House.

Do you have a space in which you feel profoundly at home? Is there a particular food or dish that contributes to this sense?

Until next time, Ali.