Saturday, June 27, 2015

Oh Hai, Summer!

I am still alive and breathing I swear. For the past month I have been sweating a little more each day, drinking a little more iced coffee, and muttering under my breath, "It's still spring, It's still spring, It's still spring..." It is officially Summer now, so I wallow in sweaty sadness and miss my winter hat collection. To keep my spirit alive, I've been making lots of good food with summerful produce, cooking from some new and old favorite books, listening to some sweet tunes, and seeing some sick shows. I've been doing other stuff, too. Observe:

One evening I made some "summer" rolls from Thug Kitchen, which is fast becoming my go-to cookbook for flipping through and landing on something for dinner. I don't make summer rolls often because it usually involves sticky rice paper and a lot of cursing, but then I see a picture of someone's beautiful summer rolls and I forget the headache they were to make in the past and the cycle continues. I picked up some summer roll tips from Kittee, dear sweetheart to all in the vegan world, and my rolling game was upped several notches. 

No, really. Check out that tight roll.

Alex made the dipping sauce and he was really proud that he helped. He's cute.

This is what happened one night when Alex requested a "pilaf" for dinner. I don't think he really knows what he meant, but when I think of rice pilaf, I think of a box of rice-a-roni that has little pieces of what I now know as orzo in it with a package of salt to stir in. I wasn't totally into the box, so I made some brown rice and cooked it in veggie broth, added peas and garlic and Voila. Pilaf. Tofu and veggies also made an appearance on the "pilaf" plate.

I fell into a tot-ditch at some point during the month of June. I am not proud to admit it. I eschew as much processed food as I can. I make faces at in in the grocery store. I try not to go anywhere but the produce aisle. One day at work I was hit by a tot craving. Like any craving, it came inexplicably and without reason. I sent Alex to the store to buy them (I could never be seen buying them after making all those faces at them) and he brought home a big bag that goes in the freezer, so it doubles as an endless supply and reminder of how you gave into a craving. A modest 1 cup serving turns into 2 fast, and they require dipping, ketchup usually but sometimes I even dip in chipotle vegenaise (gasp). Needless to say I didn't buy a second bag. But the first bag is long since gone...

I served said tots with the chickpea salad sandwich from Thug Kitchen. I loved this recipe because the creamy-mayonnaise-y base is just avocado. I can get behind that. Also, so can Alex, who is a certified mayo-hater. The recipe made enough for like ten sandwiches so we ate them for days. Half the recipe would have been more than sufficient for the two of us.

One night with our leftover sandwiches, I made the Summer Squash Soup, also from Thug Kitchen. It was pretty good, but I liked the corn chowder better, which has a remarkably similar method. Chop, sauté, blend. Eat. 

I recently read Unorthodox, by Deborah Feldman. I was so into this book that I couldn't put it down. I think I read it faster than I've ever read a book. I knew virtually nothing about the Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn, so I had a lot to learn from the book. If you're into feminism at all, I highly recommend this book. I already gave it to my sister, an avid feminist and literature fan, because I knew she would be into it. It is so completely interesting and horrifying at the same time. I literally could not put it down.

I don't make pies with quite the fierce frequency I used to, but I still crank out a few pies from time to time. Those times are almost exclusively Thanksgiving, Christmas, early summer when strawberry and rhubarb seasons overlap, and late summer in August, when peach season arrives. Everyone, no matter what their dietary restrictions may be, ought to allow themselves pie during these seasons. Since we are, or I guess were, at the time of this pie-making, knee deep in strawberry season, I made a strawberry-rhubarb pie to bring home and share with my mom, who bestowed upon me her love of pie. I like to serve any fruit pie with vanilla ice cream. I picked up So Delicious Cashew for this occasion. Very smooth and creamy, not icy like some vegan vanillas I have tried.

While unexpectedly home, I caught up with this fella, my late aunt's dog. His name is Tucker. He's a rescued Yorkshire Terrier and very sweet. He misses my aunt :( We are doing our best to keep him company, and so many people have offered to take him in. He is the best. 

We made use of some of our free daytime hours to stroll through the Ashley Reservoir in Hoyoke, MA. I kind of can't believe such a beautiful place exists in our world. It is the most calm, serene and breathtaking place I have been in a long time. Whenever I go, there seems to be barely anyone there, but when I ask around if anyone else knows about it or has been there, almost everyone says yes and how they love to go and stroll or run. I guess the beauty of it is in part due to it's sparseness, much like Western Mass in general. 

We were back the next day for real-life duties and activites before heading back in a few days for other pre-planned festivities. But first, what has been the highlight of my year, we saw Neko Case in Brooklyn. Outdoor shows in beautiful weather should be what summer is for. 

Neko case is my favorite and I have become increasingly obsessed with her catalogue, especially in the past two years. She is so smart and cool, and my spirit animal, if I ever had one. Best show by the most talented musicians. 

In other news, when you leave New York and find yourself at a Starbucks, put coconut milk in your iced coffee. It is the milk of choice for all iced coffee. I have tried every kind of plant-based milk in my iced coffee so you should trust me, probably.

They spelled KZ wrong

My mom and I went strawberry picking one Saturday in mid-June, the best time for strawberry picking. We picked a lot... I made strawberry smoothies every day for 2 weeks and still had a ton left over. I froze them for a rainy day. 

My best friend and maid of honor, Jessica, planned me a cute little bachelorette party while I was home. She made me wear all sorts of bride-to-be paraphernalia, the cutest being this sash she made for me. Here's a great pic of the two of us, after over eight long years of best-friendship. 

I love this picture of my friend Julia, and I. Julia is amazing, smart, cool and newly vegan (!) and she is moving to California in a few months. She will be missed dearly, by me and many East-coasters alike.
Dear California, 
Stop stealing all of my friends and family.

I don't have the clearest of memories to describe my bachelorette, but I did manage to photograph this margarita at one point during the evening. Needless to say, it was tequila-themed. I woke up foggy-headed feeling like a junior in college again wearing a veil and couldn't have been happier.

More from Thug Kitchen, I have been wanting to make these BBQ Bean Burritos with Grilled Peach Salsa for sooo long. Now that it is burrito season, I found an occasion to do so. I decided to lose the tortilla and pile all my food in a bowl á la Patton Oswalt, figuring that I can fit way more food in a bowl than inside a wrapped tortilla. I was right.

This bowl was the biggest win. It did require a lot of steps, like making the Baked Spanish Rice, first. It was totally worth it, because I loved the baked spanish rice and have made it twice since then. It goes like this: Make sauce by throwing stuff into your blender. Blend sauce, pour over rice. Bake. So obviously, I was into it. The beans came together in a similar fashion, except replace "bake" with "simmer." While the rice was baking and beans simmering, I made the grilled peach salsa. Turns out there was so shortcut to peeling and cutting unripe peaches while they aren't in season yet. I had to slice off the skin and carefully cut the peach away from the pit. In August, when the peaches are perfect, the skin easily slips off by hand, and the peach slides right off the pit. We're not quite there yet... But anyway I loved the salsa, and loved the bowl. I will make it again many times throughout this summer. Especially in August.

Another summery dish I'd love to share with you is this little pizza I made! I would share the recipe but it is not totally my own. I took the concept from this age-old favorite of mine but used the White Bean Rosemary Hummus from Thug Kitchen as my spread. Then I sprinkled chopped tomatoes, chopped olives, and fresh basil. While I was putting this all together I was thinking it was maybe missing something, and I had worked too hard to have my pizza be missing something. So I sautéed some tempeh crumbles with some thyme, oregano, basil and soy sauce. This made my pizza complete.
 An Instagram Classic

Oh hey, guess where this recipe is from! Thug Kitchen? YUP. I wanted a creamy pasta and was close to reaching for my secret stash (which is embarrassingly large) of Earth Balance Mac and Cheese, when this recipe saved me. This is the Creamy Cauliflower Pasta with Fresh Herbs. I had just fallen into a windfall of fresh herbs from my mom's garden and had some cauliflower in the fridge. The cauliflower Goddesses were smiling on me that day. This sauce is just cauliflower in a blender with some almond milk and spices. It's really nothing to feel bad about. I topped it with my almond parm, a special blend I pride myself on, which is a humble blend of lemon zest, almonds and nooch...

 Like most things, it looked better on Instagram...

As if we didn't waste our hard earned rent-dollars being out of the city enough this month, we re-escaped again last weekend to CT where our family rents cottages for a couple weeks every summer. Teachers, right? WTF why did I not become a teacher? Highlights of that included a long walk with my Dad on Father's Day weekend, many margaritas, outlet shopping, and petting dogs. This dog is a husky, super friendly and cute and at the height of shedding season. He covered the floor in a rug of his fur. His name is Atlas. His brother, Apollo, is bigger and fluffier and I wanted to pet him so bad, but he is scared of Alex :(.. Since I was sitting next to him, I was guilty by association and couldn't pet him. Next time...

I love to go visit them at the beach. I have been every summer of my life and would be so sad if I didn't get to go one year. It has a special scent that reminds me of childhood. Whenever I smell anyone grilling, I always think of 4th of July cookouts in the backyards of our cottages here. Maybe someday my kids will smell grilling and think of veggie burgers and grilled mushrooms.

I think I made this on Monday. We were going for our typical chickpea salad and baked potato night combo, but I had extra veggies in the fridge so I cooked all of them! I can eat straight veggies all day every day as long as I can eat them with a giant scoop of guac.

 Even though I just shared 1,000,000,000 pictures with you all, I still have more (gasp)! I will post soon and talk about May. Swear.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

This Is Not A Music Blog

I have had a busy month! Kicking off the month of May, we took a trip back to our hometown so that I could try on my wedding dress (!!!!!) which finally after 9 long months came in, and more importantly, for our Jack and Jill, which to New Englanders is a modern wedding shower. You see, nowadays kids (adults) live in apartments so small we couldn't possibly fit another cookie scoop (or could we?) into our drawers let alone a dishwasher or juicer or whatever you get at a normal wedding shower. When my generation gets married, we need cash -- and not household items. I mean I literally own everything I could ever need that would fit into my apartment, kitchenwise. I have a vegetable spiralizer, pineapple corer, ice cream maker, keurig, panini press, waffle iron, Le Creuset pots and pans, and a collection of stolen 16 oz pint glasses. I have more stuff, I just only listed the things that are completely unnecessary to a normal life. A Jack and Jill is a party the family of the bride or groom (or both) throws as a sort of fundraiser in place of a shower. Except it's a party. So it's actually fun to go to, versus a wedding shower, which is not. Everyone agrees with me. So now that we all know what a Jack and Jill is, and that we just had one for our forthcoming wedding, we can talk about food. 

 I have been loving the Thug Kitchen cookbook that I got for Christmas! The food is exactly the kind of food I want to be eating all the time: healthy, satisfying, full of whole ingredients, still awesome. This one is the Spring Veggie Bowl with grilled bok choy and asparagus with tofu and rice noodles. The sauce is a red curry paste base with things like soy sauce and agave and brown sugar thrown into the mix. It was so perfect and awesome and I want to eat it again, and again and again....
So Silk came out with these yogurts, and I really have never been a take-a-yogurt-to-work kind of person, and I never really liked portioned flavored yogurts vegan or otherwise, so I am not sure what made me give these a try. It must have been the word "plant-based", or to people who like to get real, "vegan." Anyway, this vanilla flavor was so amazing and it tasted like pudding or something dessert-like. I bought this flavor, peach/mango, and blueberry. I liked them in that order, vanilla being the best.

 Look, Vanilla bean seeds!

Two things occurred to me recently: that Iced Coffee Season has arrived and I am obsessed with Iced Coffee. The second thing is that Iced Coffee is outrageously expensive. Why is it always over $4?? Why do soy and almond milks separate in it??? Why does it cost $2 to add soy or almond milk? YOU GUYS ARE KILLING ME! 

 Oh, and a third thing occurred to me: There is a keurig machine upstairs at work that I have never used. I occasionally bring my own coffee from home but way more frequently stop and buy some on the way, or several other times throughout the day. I could be saving all of those dollars by bringing my k-cups and creamer (which does not separate in iced coffee) to work, and having it all day long for the cheap price of about $1.09 per giant iced coffee! I brought lots of coffee supplies for me and my (also dairy-free) coffee-drinking coworker but he won't drink any of my coffee. Maybe I have cooties or he's too proud. More for me?

I drink my coffee out of a 32 oz mason jar and it is awesome. And cheap. Sigh... I'm so happy.

Alex used to be so obsessed with the Terminator that he dressed up like him for halloween in 1993. We have been lugging a VCR around from town to town for all these years and finally popped a VHS in for some throwback movie nostalgia. Everyone knows Terminator 2 is the best Terminator.

More stuff from Thug Kitchen, like this Summer Corn & Basil Chowder! It was so awesome and easy and Alex helped me make it. They keep it relatively simple with the ingredients, and it's probably easy to follow the recipes if you're new at cooking. I really dig this soup and I think I will make it again for sure. But next I have to try the flautas, and the burrito, and the torta! And the...

In addition to Iced Coffee Season, it's also Margarita Season. There's a place down the block from me that has killer margaritas. They aren't cheap, but they have frozen passionfruit margaritas and you can't exactly pass one of those up. On Mondays and Tuesdays they only cost $6. I had one this past Wednesday and Thursday, so I'm definitely looking forward to Monday and Tuesday of this week.

I am keeping it real lately with salads. I have so many salad recipes to try and I know I've been proclaiming it the season of all sorts of things, but it is also Salad Season. This salad, below, is from Isa Does it and is called the Farmer's Market Salad or something to that effect. I fell into a whirlwind of arugula from my Italian customer who has an amazing garden. He brought us butter lettuce this week, so I used up what was left of my arugula mixed with some of the new butter lettuce and made this salad with it. It has sliced and sautéed trumpet mushrooms, and boiled whole baby bliss potatoes. The dressing is a mustardy-chive blend with some lemon and agave, and it has a ton of sliced snap peas in it. The potatoes are the star of the show here. I mean, what kind of monster doesn't like little baby bliss potatoes?  

Today I woke up and began the very best Saturday ever. I did a crazy Jeanette Jenkins workout for 2 hours, and then ate a cookie. Okay I ate a few cookies. Then I got a chance to try out some new vegan beauty products I hadn't worked into my schedule yet and relax a little before Alex woke up. I am an early riser, he is absolutely not. After we got up, we went to Champs, because it's Saturday, and beat the line! We didn't have to wait at all! Although we probably missed the rush rather than beat it, since we didn't get there until 2pm.
I got an Iced coffee, obviously, and a Drunken Cowgirl, an old favorite that I decided to revisit. I realized I love this dish because I don't need to add anything to it. For a while I was doing the Soltero bowl and adding guac, but that is $3 extra, and the bowl costs $13 already, so why not order the Drunken Cowgirl, that has ALL of the bases covered and pay only $12? Goddamn I am so smart lately. It must be my new Vans. They are thinking shoes.

In case you haven't ordered the Drunken Cowgirl, and I know you probably have, It's 2 slices of fluffy Texas toast, a pile of vegan bean chili, tofu scramble that has been cooked on a flat top so there's crispy bits of it, big chunks of potato home fries, vegan cheese, and a bunch of avocado. Bases covered, cowgirl. You are the winner. 
After Champs, we go to Dunwell donughnuts, because ever since Champs moved, they are walking distance from Dunwell and do you think I'm an idiot? So we got one for now and one for later, but I took both of mine out for photos, while Alex kept his second flavor in the bag as a secret. I looked to my left and saw the same girls we were sitting next to at Champs sitting next to me at Dunwell, so I obviously had to make friends with them and now I know more vegans so my life is better than it was before. 

 My flavors are the good ones, ie the raspberry pistachio and apple pie, while Alex got vanilla sprinkle and cinnamon sugar (not pictured).

After Dunwell we went to Haymaker's Corner Store, an all-vegan grocery in Champs' old residence. I picked up this cold brew, because -- well we already talked about Iced coffee.. I stocked up on Earth Balance Mac and Cheese because I have no shame, and few other things. It's such a cute little store, and a short distance from my place. 

Pardon this non-food related interlude:

I forgot to tell you about our other tradition. So when we go to Champs, we usually intercut the decadent vegan food with a trip to Human Head Records. Alex and I have been collecting vinyl since college, well mostly Alex until recently. I started helping contribute to the collection only a few years ago. I've actually enjoyed listening to vinyl as an activity so much more than other methods I used to listen on, and learning more about it, I can understand what makes it better than CD or other mediums. I like putting on a record and sitting and reading to it, or sketching while Alex works, or enjoying it with friends as an interactive experience. It's not that you can't do that with CD, but I like the experience of putting on a record, because it allows me to pay more attention to the order of songs, the choice the artist made to put the tracks in that specific order, on side A rather than side B, realizing that making a double LP is badass and prolific and most artists' records aren't very long, and when you find an artist who puts 15 songs on their record, well... I realize how they had a lot to say, appreciate it all the more, and well, I just like the big artwork on the 12" vinyl rather than on a clunky plastic scratched CD case. There, I said it. I've been buying records that are new to me and ones like the one above, that I grew up listening to. Today, I got this one:

Human Head Records on Johnson Ave in Brooklyn is a favorite of mine, and one we frequent more often than most others. We dig Other Music near NYU, Earwax in North Brooklyn and Bleeker Street Records, on Bleeker street.. obviously.

Speaking of Double LPs, here is my most recent Double LP purchase, Neko Case's latest, but still 2 years old, The Worse Things Get... Totally amazing artwork/Totally amazing record. I cannot wait to see her next month at Northside!!!

This one was a deluxe version, has 3 sides, the 4th side has eels etched into it, came with several booklets, and came with a bunch of eel-themed temporary tattoos. I put one on my ankle and my mom freaked out because she thought it was real. Tricked'ya.

We have been playing Hop Along's new record pretty much non stop since it was released. We saw them at Rough Trade on their first stop on their tour. I can't say enough good things about it, so I'll just tell you to listen to it. Listen while you walk to work, listen while you walk back. Listen while you workout, listen while you type up your blog or your zine. Listen while you cook. Listen. 

The album cover is painted by Frances, the singer, songwriter, and rhythm guitarist. It is fruit in a dish but sometimes it looks like a big pile of melting ice cream scoops to me and I like it. It makes me want ice cream. Vegan, of course. She also includes a great handwritten lyric sheet that I have read many times over by now.

So now you know what I've been spinning and what else I do besides cook and eat vegan food. Hopefully you all still like me.

 So as not to end on a non-vegan-food note, I picked up this candy bar that I found at Haymaker's that is like a Milky Way. One time my sister and I searched high and low at a Whole Foods for it but couldn't find it. We were stocking up on vegan snacks to bring to a wedding that we didn't anticipate having food at. I love my sister and am so happy I have her to be awesome and vegan and cool alongside me.

More posts soon and fewer gaps in between! 
<3 KZ