Friday, November 28, 2008

Fall Harvest

Long ago, I veganized this Butternut Squash and Parsnip Baked Pasta recipe from the November 2002 issue of Cooking Light. I hadn't made it in years because it's very time-consuming, but I missed this comfort food and decided to tackle it this past Saturday. Its warming fall flavors are perfect for this time of year and it's a dish I look forward to eating for lunch when I bring leftovers.

Here's my vegan version of the dish I've renamed Fall Harvest:


1 T olive oil
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups (1/2-inch) cubed peeled butternut squash (about 1/2 a small squash)
2 cups (1/2-inch) cubed peeled parsnip
1 T chopped fresh or 1 tsp dried rubbed sage
1 T chopped fresh or 1 tsp dried parsley (optional)
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4-1/2 tsp salt, divided if using 1/2 tsp
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided
8 oz. uncooked penne pasta (you might need 1/8-1 tsp cornstarch depending on type of pasta used*)
1/2 cup grated vegan mozzarella cheese, divided
Vegan parmesan to taste (optional)
Cooking spray
1 1/2 T vegan butter (I use Earth Balance)
2 T all-purpose flour
1 cup vegan milk (I use fat-free soy)


Preheat oven to 375°.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add red pepper and garlic and sauté until garlic turns lightly golden. Add squash and parsnip and sauté for 10 minutes. Stir in sage, parsley, nutmeg, allspice, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper and remove from heat.

Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain in a colander over a bowl, reserving 1 cup cooking liquid. Return pasta to empty pot, then add squash mixture and 1/4 cup cheese, and combine. Pour the mixture into an 11 x 7-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and cook for 3 minutes, stirring constantly with a whisk. Add milk and cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly with a whisk. Gradually add reserved cooking liquid and cook for 2 minutes or until thick, stirring constantly with a whisk (*you might need to add cornstarch, 1/8 tsp at a time to thicken the roux if your pasta water isn't starchy enough). Add 1/4 tsp salt (omit if your butter has salt in it) and 1/4 tsp pepper.

Pour milk mixture (roux) over pasta mixture and sprinkle the casserole with 1/4 cup cheese. If desired, sprinkle vegan parmesan on the casserole to taste. Bake at 375° for 30 minutes or until lightly browned.

This time around, I used quinoa rotelle pasta, which apparently doesn't release much (if any) starch into its cooking water. When I realized that the roux wasn't thickening properly, I started adding cornstarch, a little at a time, until it thickened. I didn't measure, but I don't think I added more than 1/2 tsp.

Since I had Teese in the fridge, I thought I'd see how it worked in this dish. The flavor works very well with the veggies and spices, but, as you can see, it didn't melt! Well, it melted on leftovers that were heated in the microwave, but not when I baked it in the oven. Follow Your Heart mozzarella is just as good and effective in this casserole.

I'd say this is the most involved recipe I make because it requires 3 different pots and pans and the roux demands undivided attention. The results are worth the effort, but it's not something I could ever make after work on a weeknight. Save it for a weekend when you're craving comfort food.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Vegan Potluck at the Short Stop

For the last two years, the lovely Julie has been hosting the Vegan Happy Hour & Potluck at the Short Stop, a bar in Echo Park. Although Foodeater, Your Vegan Mom, and I had been trying to plan an outing to this potluck for months, we weren't able to get it together until this past Thursday. It was worth the wait!

It just so happened that we were also able to coerce Miss Anthrope and Mr. Meaner of Quarrygirl to join us and, as a wonderful bonus surprise, JennShaggy of Twinkie fame and Veganize It...Don't Criticize It was there! Hooray for an L.A. vegan blogger meet-up! I was so very excited to meet the three of them and chat the night away with like-minded people. We're already planning our next event.

I'm sure you'd like to know all about the food, since it was a potluck and this is a food blog. I baked tester Classic Peanut Butter Cookies from the upcoming Sweet Freedom cookbook (she blogged about these cookies on October 26, 2008). Foodeater's contribution was fudgy brownies that quickly disappeared. YVM brought her delicious meatballs, which were extremely welcome as the savory offerings were quite few, and yummy mint brownies. Speaking of savory goodies, JennShaggy's galettes were scrumptious and she specifically made the onion easily removable. Miss Anthrope baked cookies that I may or may not have tried (they weren't on the table when she was there, so she thought they'd already been devoured, but a bag of cookies mysteriously appeared after she'd left and I'm just not sure if they were hers that had been set aside or if someone else had brought them).

You might not believe this, but Foodeater, YVM, YVM's husband, and I headed over to Pure Luck after the potluck. Foodeater and YVM wanted to try the new faux fish, but the waiter cleverly explained that the faux fish maker "is just as flaky as the fish" and there wasn't any to be had that day. I wasn't hungry, but took it as an opportunity to grab something for the next day's lunch and ordered the Pure Luck Spring Rolls (from the menu: Spinach, basil, sprouts, lime and tofu rolled up in a flour tortilla. Served fresh or fried, spicy or mild). I chose fresh and spicy and they were perfect. I think it might be the best thing I've tried there so far. Foodeater also generously let me have few of her Potato Pals (from the menu: Small potato dumplings (gnocchi), lightly fried.). I found them doughy and not particularly interesting, although the dipping sauces were good.

All in all, it was a lovely evening with good food and great company. We really should get together more often.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Silver Lake

Two Saturdays ago (can you tell that I meant to post this blog much, much sooner?) started out on the crappy side since I woke up to a very smoky house and ash on all the surfaces where ash could have gotten inside. Fortunately for me, the Sylmar fire that started late that Friday night was several miles away, far enough that my home wasn't in danger, but close enough for me to feel the effects of the smoke and ash. My heart goes out to all those who lost homes and suffered on a far greater level.

My plans for that day included yoga followed by a fun afternoon of cooking at my house with Your Vegan Mom. We ultimately decided that it wasn't going to be fun to cook in a smoky house and met for lunch instead. I FINALLY ate at Flore!

After chattering away with a folded menu for long enough to prompt our server to give me a verbal nudge, I ordered the Burrito Flore (from the menu: Brown rice, black beans, tempeh bacon, cilantro cream, cashew cheese, lettuce, avocado (none for me!), and tomato wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla. Served with pico de gallo and green salad.). This was a very yummy burrito! It needed a little spice (I've been on a spicy kick for some reason), but was otherwise quite satisfying. I liked the tempeh bacon and wished there had been more of it! It was all on one side of the burrito and I would have preferred it throughout. The tahini dressing on the salad was good, too, with a little citrus twist.

It was hard to not play "spot the blogger" at Flore. I kept wondering if there were others hiding behind their menus!

Flore's dessert options that day didn't appeal to me, so YVM and I headed over to Vegan Spot to get me one of those ever-elusive vegan Twinkies that the amazingly talented JennShaggy makes. I have it on good authority that there were no Twinkies to be found at Vegan Spot the following day, but when I was there, there were at least 10. Don't worry, I only bought one and took it to go, so it's not my fault that there weren't any the next day!

Once the Twinkie mission was accomplished, we took a walk through the neighborhood behind the restaurant, climbing a very long staircase (at the top of which we saw two butterflies engaged in a prolonged kiss), admiring the pretty houses, and then walking down the famous Music Box Stairs. I was growing more and more enamored by the minute with the view of the city that YVM was giving me, but it doesn't stop there!

Our next stop was Nature Mart, which is split into two parts: a bulk foods store and a natural foods store. I didn't have my grocery list with me, but I had a great time browsing.

Then, we headed over to Skylight Books, a fabulous independent bookstore in Los Feliz. I absolutely loved the little block where the bookstore was situated! There was a newsstand, a brasserie, a playhouse, the bookstore, and an independent movie theatre all sandwiched between two side streets on Vermont Ave. Oh, and across the street, there was a beautiful brick apartment building with fire escapes.

So, you see, that Saturday afternoon was a very happy one. I can't wait to explore that area a little more!

P.S. Can you tell from the photos that YVM introduced me to my camera's macro function that day?


Friday night, a friend (same friend with whom I saw Jack Johnson and ate at Native Foods) and I went to see Alanis Morissette play at The Orpheum Theatre in L.A. She put on an amazingly energetic performance and was very in tune with her audience.

Before the show, there was food!

While we intended to eat dinner at Shojin, a series of events (fortunate or unfortunate depending on your outlook) meant we couldn't actually find the restaurant. We were forced, instead, to head for the theatre and hope there was something vegan to eat in the area. I spotted a sign that said SipTea a couple doors down and thought there might be a decent chance of food there, so we walked in and I asked the woman behind the counter if there were vegan options. Lo and behold, there were 4 vegan menu items and multiple vegan desserts, plus soy or rice milk for the tea!

I ordered the Tofu Salad (from the menu: with heirloom tomatoes, green onion, and miso dressing (bonito flakes optional)). Let me tell you right off the bat that the menu at the restaurant did not say what the online menu says. There was no mention of bonito flakes on the menu, so thank goodness I made myself explicitly clear that I was vegan. Of course, I asked for no onion, and you can see from the photo that there was arugula included in the salad. The menu also omitted the fact that by tofu, it meant a half block of plain tofu with miso dressing on top. Now, thank goodness I'm far enough into my veganism that I can enjoy a plain block of tofu with a little miso dressing on top, but this is probably not a meal that an omni or a blossoming vegetarian would appreciate.

On top of it, my half block of tofu (which would have cost about 50 cents at Trader Joe's) cost $10.95! Oh, and when I asked for a roll so that I could at least make a sandwich out of my tofu, they charged us an extra $1 plus tax! So, a total of $12.03 for what would have essentially cost $1 to make at home. Cue the voice over: "A vegan meal two doors down from The Orpheum Theatre...priceless." All kidding aside, this was really a delicious meal that contained fresh ingredients and had clean flavors. The heirloom tomatoes were absolutely gorgeous, too.

Oh, let's not forget dessert! I convinced my buddy that we needed to try the Coconut-Lime Bar instead of the Pomegranate Cheesecake (both vegan, of course). I thought the dessert was ok, but there was something waxen about it. I could tell that it had a pureed date base, but I had a really hard time putting my finger on the waxy issue. It bothered me until late that night when I realized that it tasted like a Larabar, so that explains why it wasn't high on my list of desserts. The chai with soy milk I had was really lovely, though.

I feel like SipTea needs a disclaimer because it's only a month old. What I had there was enjoyable, the restaurant space was bright and cheerful, and they had a lot of customers in the hour we were there. I'd definitely go back and I think they can only improve. They already get big points for having so many vegan options for both meals and desserts. Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Monkey Minestrone

Sunday night, I made a huge pot of the Monkey Minestrone from Eat, Drink & Be Vegan. Seriously, I got 7 full dinner-size portions of soup from this recipe! I was in the mood for soup and I had all the ingredients to make this one.

However, I did reduce the oil to one teaspoon, substituted additional celery for the hated onions, and substituted peas for green beans (I didn't have any green beans). My beans of choice this time were white kidney beans and chickpeas. For the pasta, I used quinoa shells and the remaining one half of a brown rice lasagna noodle (broken into small pieces) that was lonely in its box.

I love the pop of flavor that the fresh thyme and oregano impart. Still, this soup is a little bland, probably because it's meant for children. I added more black pepper and, next time, I'll probably increase the garlic, herbs, and spices. This is a comforting, delicious soup that definitely hit the spot and made enough for an entire week worth of lunches!

Everyone at work loved the cupcakes! I think the Christmas sprinkles brought a little extra spirit to an otherwise mundane, albeit beautiful, Thursday in mid-November. I just love spreading the vegan joy through baked goods!

Sugar-Free Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

Yes, I'm fully aware that we're still nearly 2 months from Christmas! What can I say? Those were the sprinkles I had and I felt like decorating!

I'd been trying to come up with a suitable vehicle for the Sugar-Free Chocolate Buttercream Frosting Sweet Freedom test recipe and finally decided on Your Basic Chocolate Cupcake from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. These pretty cupcakes will be featured on my cubicle at work tomorrow and I give them, oh, one hour to disappear.

This frosting is yet another delicious and innovative recipe. I encourage you to visit Ricki's other blog, Diet, Dessert and Dogs, where she features numerous recipes and her engaging prose. I think you'll find her recipes clever, healthful, and delicious.

In other news, I finally looked in the manual and learned how to turn off the flash on my camera!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

I'm It!

A Vegan with a Reason tagged me to reveal 7 random facts about myself. I'm not really sure what you don't know about me by now, so I'm going to give you 7 little pieces of information from the year I lived in Toulouse, France (1996-1997).

1. I lived in a modern building in a furnished studio apartment that had very 80s decor. It was owned by a family who wanted an address in town so their son, Olivier, could go to school there. My rent was low in exchange for me tutoring Olivier in English once a week. Olivier was a heinous, horrible child who is now probably 23 or 24 years old. Regardless, I really loved that apartment.

2. I didn't know how to cook when I lived in Toulouse (gasp!). One of the other American students (I was in Toulouse for my junior year abroad through the UC (University of California) system) taught me how to perfectly cook white rice (I further perfected it by toasting the bottom of the rice in my not non-stick pan). Every night, I heated up half a can of lentils and made a cup of rice, and that was dinner. Every single night and I never tired of that meal. In fact, I sometimes miss it! Lunch wasn't much better: a "salad" of canned corn and garbanzo beans.

3. Although I can't remember its name now, I frequented an amazing independent movie theatre that was a block from my apartment. I could buy a book of tickets at a discounted price and I would always look forward to picking up their monthly film schedule. I saw so many fantastic independent films there and, for some reason, I can only name two off the top of my head: "Breaking the Waves" and "Reservoir Dogs." Believe me, there were so many more. At a mainstream movie theatre, I saw the Woody Allen movie, "Everyone Says I Love You." To this day, I still call it "Tout Le Monde Dit I Love You."

4. I traveled on my own to Nice, Monaco, and Monte Carlo for a week around Easter. As I neared the end of my trip, I was running out of money and decided to buy a loaf of bread and peanut butter. I'm not sure what I was thinking because I'd already been in France for about 8 months and knew that peanut butter and sliced bread were fairly uncommon there. However, I managed to find them at a store in Monaco and lived off them for the rest of the trip.

5. I'd never cared for tea until my year abroad. Then, on the flight I took to London, I was absolutely freezing and I really never cared for coffee. So, I gave tea a try and continued to drink it the whole time I was in London. However, I didn't become a tea lover until a couple months later when I came down with gastroenteritis while visiting the Louvre around Christmas time. It's been one of my staples ever since.

6. I took all my classes in French that year (I was a French major, so it was an amazing opportunity to absorb and learn everything I could). With the exception of 2 students, none of my classmates knew I was American. Until, that is, the day my linguistics teacher called me out to pronounce a few English words for the class.

7. Toulouse was the first place I'd ever attended a farmers' market and it's where I learned to love grapefruit. It's also where I tried my first fig, date, dried plum, eggplant, and quinoa!

I can't possibly choose 7 other bloggers to take this challenge, so I'll just put it out there for anyone who would like to share.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Chocolate Peppermint Cupcakes

Happy Herbivore says she created this Pudge-Free Holidays recipe just for me and my love of chocolate mint. Trust me, that is a very high honor and one that I do not take lightly. In fact, I think I blushed when she told me! These are must-make cupcakes for the holidays, so go buy the e-cookbook!

I made a savory Happy Herbivore test recipe for dinner tonight. The quesadilla using Jalapeno Cheddar Cheeze didn't photograph well, so you'll have to take my word for it that it was good. Unfortunately, you have a long wait for the recipe; I'm not sure of the release date for the e-cookbook in which it will appear.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Sweet Harvest Muffins

These amazing Sweet Harvest Muffins were part of my baking and cooking extravaganza the weekend of October 25th. Yes, I prepared so many different recipes that weekend that there are still many left to share! That's not to mention all the baking and cooking I've done since that weekend.

I shared these Sweet Freedom test muffins with my yoga teacher and massage therapist, both of whom enthusiastically requested the recipe. Of course, I had to let them down easy because I can't share test recipes, but I promised to make them again. I'd say that's good enough!

Today has been blustery and cold (I run extremely cold, so anything below 75F is cold to me, but today was 65F in the afternoon and I was freezing!) and the only thing I've had on my mind is soup. I'm about to make Monkey Minestrone from Dreena Burton's Eat, Drink, & Be Vegan for the first time.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Traditional Thanksgiving Stuffing

Did this post's title throw you off or did it make you think I was crazy? Although the U.S.'s Thanksgiving is still nearly 3 weeks away, I made this stuffing as a test recipe for Happy Herbivore's newest e-cookbook, Pudge-Free Holidays way back in October. As a variation, I added leftover Grammy's Meatless Balls, which I tested from the same cookbook and blogged about here.

The little green pouch that sneakily made its way into the photo is my new camera case.

Vegyogini's test kitchen is open for the weekend, so I'd better get baking. Happy Saturday!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


Can you believe that this lasagna was a first for me? Ricotta was always something I couldn't stand growing up (I never grew out of that) and that made lasagna a "no, thanks" food for me. Obviously, that means that I've never missed lasagna as a vegan because I couldn't possibly miss something I'd never eaten. However, I promised ma meilleure amie that I would give lasagna a shot sometime soon.

I had an 8 oz. bag of crimini mushrooms, 7.5 oz. of spinach, and 2 zucchini in the fridge, plus about 2 cups of leftover Marinara from Yellow Rose Recipes and it seemed like those were just the right ingredients to concoct my own lasagna. All I needed to buy was a box of brown rice lasagna noodles and I was ready to create!

My first step (after pre-heating the oven to 375 F) was to prepare vegan ricotta. I based it on the Basil-Tofu Ricotta from Vegan with a Vengeance with these changes: I halved the recipe and used extra-firm tofu, a small clove of garlic, 1 tsp of Toffuti Better Than Cream Cheese instead of olive oil, and vegan parmesan instead of nutritional yeast.

Next, I prepared the veggies. I dry sauteed the mushrooms and zucchini in a skillet over medium heat (I'd cut them into thin half-moons first) with about 5 garlic cloves (minced) that were on their way out. The reason I dry sauteed the veggies is two-fold: 1) I didn't want to add fat to the dish by sauteeing in oil and 2) I knew the veggies would release water after they'd been in the skillet for a few minutes, thus providing their own sauteeing liquid. I allowed the veggies to brown and then, once they released their liquid, added the spinach to the pan, put the lid on, and let the spinach steam until bright green.

When the veggies were ready, I started layering the lasagna in a 9"x13" Pyrex casserole dish. The layers were: a little sauce to coat the bottom of the dish, 3 lasagna noodles, 1/2 the ricotta, 1/2 the veggies, a little sauce, 3 lasagna noodles, 1/2 the ricotta, 1/2 the veggies, a little sauce, 3 lasagna noodles, the remaining sauce, and a ton of Teese mozzarella on top. I filled in the gaps of the dish with extra broken noodle pieces (the brown rice noodles were of the no-boil variety). Then, I covered the dish with foil, put it in the oven for 30 minutes, removed the foil, and baked it for an additional 25 minutes.

Please don't think this first attempt at lasagna was perfect because it most certainly was not. I didn't have enough ricotta (I'll make a full recipe next time), veggies (who would have thought that all those veggies wouldn't be enough?), or sauce. I'd use a slightly smaller dish (one that the noodles would fill easier) and I'd leave the foil on for 45-50 minutes, cooking for 55-60 minutes total. One of the noodles slipped and arched awkwardly and the Teese melted unevenly. However, my first lasagna was (well, is, since I'm still eating the leftovers for lunch every day this week as you can see from the above photo) absolutely delicious! I'm pretty excited about the little culinary world I just opened for myself and I've decided that the next lasagna should definitely include roasted or grilled eggplant.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Election Day!

Election Day is finally here! It's a day we've all been anticipating for what seems like ages. I voted at 7 a.m. before leaving for work, not wanting to stress about sitting in traffic on the way home and cutting it too close for my personal comfort. Isn't there something so incredibly satisfying about voting? I feel that way especially this year when California has so many important props on the ballot and, of course, this is the most exciting presidential election of my lifetime so far.

I actually wrote the above paragraph last night in anticipation of today's election. I did, indeed, arrive at my polling place at about 7 minutes to 7 a.m. and I was behind 50 people who had beat me there! The line kept growing and growing. Everyone there was in a congenial mood, chatting with strangers, and excited in general. An older man brought donuts for the crowd (obviously not vegan) and a woman brought her dog.

When it was finally my turn, I opened my sample ballot and VERY carefully filled in my real ballot. I literally triple-checked to make sure I didn't accidentally vote the opposite of how I wanted to vote. Finally, I was satisfied, took my ballot to the box, inserted it, and collected my "I voted" sticker, proudly displaying it on my Matt & Nat purse.

It was business as usual in the office until we got to about 3 p.m. Our assistant, who I also consider a good friend, had convinced me to hit happy hour with her (the restaurant offered a free plate of 3 little tacos and a free tequila shot per person who had their "I voted" sticker; both my tacos and my shot went to our assistant) to watch the election coverage. Our second stop was to be a free Obama party at the Century Plaza Hotel where Diane Feinstein, Barbara Boxer, and many others were slated to be. The doors were scheduled to open at 8:01 p.m. when the polls closed in California. When we left the office at 6, we never expected the tally to happen so quickly. The next thing we knew, Obama had 207 electoral votes under his belt, so we left happy hour for Ben & Jerry's (serving up a free scoop of ice cream, sorbet for me, to everyone) and then for the Plaza. As we walked toward the Plaza's front doors at 8:01 p.m., screams erupted. Obama had already won! The energy was intoxicating, the screams were joyful and hopeful and contagious. We joined the celebration in the hotel's lobby, but never made it to the party itself. People kept spontaneously bursting into chants of "O-BA-MA! O-BA-MA!" We would have stayed longer, but it was just too crowded and we both wanted to hear Obama's speech.

We made it back to the car just in time to hear the tail-end of McCain's concession speech. I will look up the footage later so I can hear the whole thing. I did, however, hear the entirety of Obama's speech and am grateful to have had that experience.

One of my closest friends has been tirelessly working on the Obama campaign for over two years. He is in Chicago celebrating tonight after driving people to the polls and performing other campaign duties. I both thanked and congratulated him tonight. Without people volunteering their time, campaigns would never get off the ground.

This is one of the most personal posts I've written and one that has nothing to do with food. Hugger Food will return to its regularly-scheduled programming with the next post in which I will tell you all about my first experience making lasagna. :)

Vegan Drinks Meetup

Saturday evening, Happy Herbivore, her husband, and I set off for the Vegan Drinks Meetup at Sante La Brea. Lex of is the Meetup organizer and he very generously bought a round of drinks for everyone (mine was a passion fruit iced tea, although I think he really meant beers!). Thanks, Lex!

Some people ordered food, including Happy Herbivore's husband, who ordered the Blue Corn Nachos (from the menu: Toasted blue corn chips topped with black bean sauce, melted soy cheese, cilantro, and scallions). I tried the one chip that had some soy cheese on it and not a dreaded scallion. I didn't really care for the soy cheese, unfortunately, and the chips were far too salty. Also, there wasn't a black bean sauce, but actual black beans, which is just as good, if not better, in my opinion. While I wouldn't order these nachos myself (try Real Food Daily's Better with Cheddar Nachos, though!), I'm glad I got to try them.

A very sweet girl in a "Powered by Tofu" t-shirt was kind enough to share a bite of her chocolate peanut butter pie with us. Happy Herbivore said it best when she exclaimed, "It tastes better than how I remember a Reese's peanut butter cup tasting!" She was absolutely right, too. I took a bite and my eyes got huge. It was really good!

While I was hoping to meet all the L.A. vegan bloggers that I'd not yet met, I believe the only other bloggers there were the couple behind the Vegan Collection (check out their blog for some beautiful photos, including one of the chocolate peanut butter pie). That just means more new people to meet next time! Everyone I met that night was friendly, generous, and eager to engage in conversation. I had so much fun spending an evening with like-minded people and it was a great way to celebrate World Vegan Day!

Before the Meetup, I had an eat-and-run dinner with some of my family at our favorite Italian restaurant, Gio Cucina Napoletana. I can't speak highly enough of this restaurant (I briefly reviewed it for VeganMoFo 2007). They not only understand the definition of veganism, but they offer an amazing selection of vegan dishes, including 4 seasonal vegan daily soup specials. I usually get a bowl of soup when I dine there and this time was no exception. I was sold on the chickpea soup (the first time they've had that on a day I've eaten there) and it was deliciously hearty and comforting.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

World Vegan Day 2008

Happy World Vegan Day! I'm waiting for my cup of tea to finish steeping while I listen to the rain outside. Yes, it's actually raining in sunny southern California despite what the old song says. To those of you celebrating Dia de los Muertos today at the Forever Hollywood Cemetery, I hope the rain is adding to the ambiance.

Having curly hair and being constantly cold, I'm not a huge fan of being outside in the rain. I'm always grateful when the rain arrives on a weekend so that I don't have to sit in 405 traffic, but today is not a day when I have the liberty to hang out at home baking and watching movies. I have a baby shower and a family dinner to attend before the fun part...a vegan meet-up! I think that's a fitting way to spend the evening of World Vegan Day.

Yet another wonderful way to celebrate is by purchasing Happy Herbivore's new e-cookbook, Pudge-Free Holidays. It's finally here and ready to help you create wonderful new memories this holiday season. Pictured above is the incredibly delicious Cornbread Stuffing with "Chorizo." This stuffing features the Southern Cornbread about which I posted a couple days ago from the same e-cookbook. Not only did I enjoy eating this stuffing, but I got multiple compliments about how good it smelled on the days I heated up leftovers in the microwave at work. It was definitely a conversation starter and simply solidified the notion that food is the best ambassador for veganism.

Before I end this post, here's a little anecdote from Halloween last night: I've lived in the same place for 10 years and had literally had one trick-or-treater here (it was 9 years ago) in that time. Obviously, I never buy treats because I never have trick-or-treaters. So, you can imagine my surprise when my doorbell rang last night and I found a miniature SpiderMan and a miniature Bob the Builder (a little girl, no less) on my doorstep. I had one individual-size bag of vegan chocolate soccer balls and one little box of raisins, but those weren't a match and I'm all about fairness. The only thing I found that I had 2 of was ProBars, the Original Blend flavor. The reason this is so awful is twofold: 1) I gave kids meal-replacement bars for Halloween and that is just intrinsically wrong; 2) ProBars are disgusting, loaded with fat, and highly caloric. (I had the Koka Moka flavor once and it was foul, then I tried 3 bite-size samples of other flavors at Whole Foods and they were outrageously salty.) Even though I'd never seen those children and their mother before, I still feed bad about it and wish I'd had something better to offer. Next year, I will be better prepared!

I'm so excited that November is finally here because it means we get to vote in 3 days! Have a fabulous Saturday!