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Vegan in China

So one of the reasons I haven’t been posting much (or at all this year) is that I’ve been doing a lot of travelling for work to China. I’ll admit, I was worried when I first started, as the Chinese are kind of known for their love of meat. Meat is in everything here; seasonings, sauces, broths, vegetable dishes, you name it, it’s probably got meat or meat product in it. However, I’ve learned a few tricks on how to maintain a vegan lifestyle here. It’s not impossible, but it will take some adjustments.

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I don’t know about you all, but over the holidays I indulged. I indulged in wine, beer, mai tais and rum. I also indulged in bread, fried things, vegan processed “meats” and sugar. All of which means that I gained a few pounds. Did you know that being vegan doesnt’ necessarily translate to being thin? There’s tons of unhealthy vegan foods out there. Don’t believe me? Look up the ingredients of Nutter Butters.

Carbs aren’t by nature “bad for you”. They’re an energy source. Like my in-laws, some people can consume vast amounts of rice, bread, and potatoes at the dinner table because they have this amazing metabolism, or they work out so much that they actually use these wonderful grains and sugars for energy. I don’t. I come from bread-basket Ukrainian peasant stock. The kind that didn’t die during the famines because their bodies held onto fat so much better than all those skinny dead kids. Plus, I don’t work out like Lance Armstrong, because I have a day job. So while carbs in and of themselves aren’t bad for you, they are weight-gain triggers for people like me that spend most of their day sitting in front of a computer and not walking around in the fields.

Anyway. Seeing as how The Eating Season is done, it’s time to cut the carbs (my primary weight gaining device), reduce the sugars (my other weight gaining device) and lay off the booze. Tonight I whipped up a nice big “Eggplasagna”…with no cheese, no dairy, no pasta, no gluten, and very low carb. Fortunately, it’s all flavor, sausage-y and onion-y and full of yum. Just try to keep your portions under control…just because it’s low carb doesn’t mean it’s low calorie.

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Vizza (aka Vegan Pizza), Take One: Hawaiian Pizza

No, vegans, you do not have to give up pizza. Your more socially conscious / healthy / kinder choice doesn’t include dairy but it does include pizza so good that you’ll be snacking along, only to find in the morning that you did, in fact, eat an entire pizza all by yourself. And you’re not ashamed. Because it was so good you’d do it again just to prove a point.

Jon and I make quite a lot of varieties of vegan pizza; so much in fact that we’ve toyed with the idea of opening a vegan gourmet pizza parlor named “Vizza”, where only the best wine would be paired with gourmet pizza strips, and we wouldn’t even need to advertise it as vegan because we’d be so pretentious and smug about the restaurant identity design and ingredients that hipsters would line up outside our door for blocks on end.

Anyway. This is one of many vegan pizza recipes I plan to post, the vegan take on a Hawaiian pizza (we’re headed to Hawaii in a week or so, so my brain is kind of focused on that right now). ┬áNote: we usually use yeast in the dough, but forgot to add it this time. It turned out great anyway, so don’t worry if your brain is mush at the end of the day and you totally space on that. Just smile and act like it was all part of your Master Plan and no one will know.

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Hot & Sour Soup, vegan-style

Vegan Hot & Sour Soup

Last night I might have had a few too many drinks. OK, I know I had a few too many drinks. This was made clear to me when I woke up this morning with a rockin’ headache and a bit of a hangover. Enter hot and sour soup, my salty-soury-rehydrating hangover cure.

I’m going to add a few things in here that I didn’t put in the soup this time because next time I make this I definitely will put them in. I think this soup will be just the thing to say tsai chien (goodbye) to this wretched hangover, and hopefully I’ll make better choices in the future. But I doubt it.

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Wings of Seitan (aka Seitan’s Balls)

Seitan's Balls

(photo courtesy of Jess Judge – thanks Jess!)

For many Americans, Superbowl Sunday (and other football-ey type of social gatherings) is a tradition of food. Namely, chicken wings. For my Dad, it’s about blue cheese and sour cream dip for rippled potato chips. It’s a staple, and it just wouldn’t feel like the Superbowl without it. Going vegan has strained me in these types of situations. On the one hand, I really want to enjoy the fun social aspect as much as anyone, but on the other hand (and I freely admit this) I miss the traditions I’ve grown up with.

So once again, I took the bull by the horns and whipped up some vegan-friendly appetisers that not only have quelled my cravings for That Which I Choose Not To Eat Anymore, but as of a few weekends ago won the admiration and respect of some of my most meat-happy friends. They gobbled these up faster than I could say “Wait, that’s not meat!”. I quickly had a photo snapped before the entire dish was gone, so you’ll have to forgive the fact that it’s not as styled as I’d prefer. Next time I’m bringing out the camera before I present the meal.

I recommend these hot “wings”, or “Wings of Satan Seitan”, or if you’re more vulgar than that, “Satan’s Seitan’s Balls” for all those social food gatherings where you find yourself questioning your commitment to animal kindness, or if you’re just in the mood for spicy protein and blue cheese. And, it’s meat-eater tested and approved, so you can’t go wrong there. Unless you encounter my Catholic mother who is mortified that I’d cook with something that is a homophone for the Devil Himself.

Hail Seitan, y’all. And his tasty balls.

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Last year was a bad year for tomatoes here in Northern California. Cold temps and lots of wind kept them from doing well, so I was thrilled when early this spring we got a a ton of rain. Followed by the sunniest summer I’ve seen here in a while. What does that mean to your normal not-weather-obsessed person?


Heirloom tomatoes. For $1.25 a pound.



We picked up our first haul today from the Alemany Farmer’s Market and tonight I’m making minestrone. With heirloom tomatoes. My kitchen smells so amazing right now, I decided to pass some kitchen waiting time by posting the recipe. It tastes fine with normal tomatoes, but then you can’t call it Heirloominestrone, and where’s the fun in that? [Read more →]

BBQ tempeh “ribs”

What? I haven’t posted this entire year yet? What the hell is wrong with me?

I’m so sorry. *makes the puppy-dog eyes*

I’ll make it up to you, right here and now. With my dad’s beef short ribs recipe, vegan-style.

My dad has a habit of sending me mouth-watering recipes, but conveniently forgets every time that I’m vegan and I don’t put veal bones in my soup stock (for example). He sent me this recipe for beef short ribs the other day. It sounded so good (and I miss BBQ ribs so much) that I decided to *gasp* change my dad’s patented recipe.

That’s right. Here you go. It’s time-consuming but really easy to prepare, and so worth your time. Enjoy.

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Grandma’s Gingersnap Holiday Cookies

My grandmother’s mother was a professional baker. She made my parent’s wedding cake, and her recipes have been used in our family cooking as long as I can remember. Every Christmas, my grandmother would bake a huge batch of cookies; sugar cookies with frosting, peanut butter cookies, chocolate drop cookies, and gingersnaps. I hated them as a kid. The gingersnaps, I mean. My dad LOVED them, which meant every year she made a full batch of them just for him. She had two recipes: soft and crispy. I don’t know if she got them from her mother, but in any case they’ve been baked in our family as long as I can recall. Every year. My grandmother is no longer with us, but her recipes are. And this year, I thought I’d send out a special Thank You Christmas card to all the design firms and people who have recommended me, interviewed me, hired me, or even just looked at my work. In the card I included a homemade cookie, because I’m of a firm belief that nothing says thank you like homemade cookies. Well, the response has been great, and I’ve already had requests for the recipe. By the way, I must have been nuts as a child. These cookies are delicious, bursting with holiday spices and cooled with delicious vanilla icing. So without further ado, here we go. Thanks, Grandma!

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Four Bean Chili with Roasted Chiles

Why haven’t I posted this before? This was one of the first vegan recipes I made on my own. If I had a spice scale, from 1 to 10, with 1 being a bland potato and 10 being a habanero pepper, I’d put this recipe at a 3 or 4. It’s got some heat, but not in a way that overwhelms the flavors. You can get HP sauce at any British import market or Cost Plus; it’s a delicious brown sauce that is also fantastic as a french fry dip. But I digress. I served this with blue corn jalapeno bread, the recipe for which I’ll post soon. This recipe makes a lot of chili; have some friends over to enjoy it, or have some plastic or glass storage containers on hand to freeze the remainder.

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Corn & Flour Tortillas, from scratch

My sister-in-law told me, on my recent visit to her home, that I was silly for buying tortillas when I could make them easily from scratch, costing a fraction of the price. And my husband wanted enchiladas a few days ago, so I decided to give it a whirl. But, there was no recipe I could find quickly for my favorite tortilla – corn AND flour. There’s recipes for corn tortillas and flour tortillas but none that mixed the two. So I made one up based on the flour tortilla recipes I saw, and it turned out delicious. I’m never, ever buying tortillas again. This recipe makes about 12 tortillas, and I highly recommend using a small cast-iron skillet so that the heat is nice and even.

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