Sunday, January 19, 2014

Levi's Mock Tuna Garbanzo Bean Salad

2014 is going to be a year of change, I can feel it in the air!!! These last few months have exhausted my bones and left me unmotivated.  My best friend and brother, Levi, took his own life November 12th, and needless to say, it has left my sister and I devastated.  He was my favorite taste tester, and a longtime vegetarian.  I used to leave him cupcakes and cookies on his doorstep, and one time when he was mad at me for being a brat, I left him an entire key lime pie on his doorstep and he forgave me. He hated chocolate, but his favorite cake was German Chocolate.  In fact, when I was a kid, the only cakes that stick out in my mind are the German Chocolate ones we would make for Levi's birthday.  I remember sitting on the counter in my mother's kitchen mixing boxed cake batter, and using the hand mixer...the most exciting kitchen tool ever!!! I always got to the lick the beaters and grease the cake pans.  The cakes my mother and grandmother got me were always very decorated with pink ballerina slippers, or neon pink hearts and silver balls for sprinkles, which I loved...but there was something about just slabbing some hot, thick, coconut and pecan concoction between and on top of bouncy chocolatey cakes then letting it kind of drip and be beautiful in it's natural state, that I loved.  Or maybe, it was just because anything Levi loved, I loved too. 
 (Photo: Levi's birthday party at our grandparent's 2013, I made him a Peanut Butter German Chocolate cake, and it was way too sweet, and he ate way too much.)
Levi introduced me to good music.  My life was saved by punk rock.  My whole world was created by the influence of my brother. He introduced me to my best friend and band mate, Omega, the singer/guitarist of So Unloved.  They started dating when I was ten years old, she was 16, Levi was 17, and all I ever wanted was to be near them and learn from them.  Omega helped me with my math homework, and took me to my first punk rock show at Wacky's to see Blanks 77, The Flatliners, and The Strap-Onz when I was 12.  When they broke up, she encouraged me to learn to play guitar, then asked me to play in her band.  If I hadn't had Levi, I wouldn't have Omega.  I wouldn't have So Unloved. I wouldn't have any of the amazing friends, and bands in my life that I do.  
(Photo: Omega and I Xmas 2013, she made me this amazing apron!!)
When I think of the things Levi loved, I think of FOOD.  I think of him always complaining about being too hungry or too full.  Him eating all day, and having an insane metabolism.  He went to Culinary school for a semester, and quit after watching the slaughterhouse videos for a butcher class.  He worked at Hogwild Records 9 years and started his own screenprinting company, Scapegoat Screenprinting.  He gave up alcohol and quit eating meat in the same day.  My brother had a very strong will power.  He did everything he put his mind to, and didn't half ass anything.  But, he would submerge himself in things, then abandon them at the drop of a hat.  He knew ALOT about EVERYTHING, and I looked up to him so much. 
He moved up here to Austin in September 2013 which was a big part in me moving up here with John at the beginning of November.  I left my job at Green, and decided to dedicate myself to writing recipes for a book amongst the inspiration of the amazing veg fare of Austin.  The last time I saw him, we watched Monsters University on my laptop, and got ice cream at Sweet Ritual, the ALL vegan ice cream shoppe off Duvall!!!  It was his first (and last) time there, so he went all out and got a giant waffle cone with 2 scoops of Salted Caramel ice cream.  I was giggling at his over indulgence while I ordered a scoop of pumpkin.  I loved his enthusiasm over the little things in life.  Tiny imperfections drove him crazy, and he always went out of his way to make sure you were happy and comfortable.  I loved went he went thru a phase of making smoothies with his Magic Bullet.  He would lure me to his house to drink these ice cold berry smoothies and we'd laugh and listen to records while sitting on his futon, which at night became his bed.  He had given his bedroom up to use as a workshop for screenprinting.  (Photo: Levi eating a meal I made for his birthday 2012)

He always ordered Twizzlers and an Icee or soda at the movies. I'd bitch at him for it being too much sugar, then I'd ask for a bite and a sip. He binged on coffee, and always ordered large Vanilla Soy Lattes.  If he finished it, he would be jittery, but he ordered it anyways.  He loved Swedish Fish and Werther's Original Caramels.  A couple of times I bought him dehydrated space ice cream for his birthday, after we fell in love with it at the museum visiting our 2nd cousin, Sandy, in Houston.  He loved to order fried pickles and an Italian Soda at Alamo Drafthouse, and could eat chips and salsa for days.  He always ordered dessert at the Bijou theater then apologized to me for eating someone else's cakes.  He always gave me honest feedback on what I'd cook and bake for him, and even though he hated Daiya cheeze, he would eat it without complaining.  Pretty recently he got into almond cheeze, and I was excited about that.  We drank lots of Emergen-C together and no once can understand his excitement at the assortment of flavors at the Whole Foods on Lamar.  His favorite was the Citrus Immunity one, and when he died and we cleared out his apartment, there was half a box of those in his pantry.  They are my favorite now too.  
(Photo: Levi at Vinnie's Pizza on Bedford in Williamsburg, NY March 2013)
One of Levi's food habits that drove me crazy, was an occurrence at Thai restaurants.  He would order something off the menu, like Pad Thai or Green Curry, then ask them to add lemongrass and pineapple to it.  I always told him that was offensive and they would curse us by putting meat in our food, but he didn't care...he just wanted all the things he liked in one bowl.  
(Photo: My sister, Erica, Levi, and I in true Texas spring fashion. 2009)

One time, when I was teaching cooking classes at Whole Foods with Mike, Levi made me a mock tuna salad, and I begged him to let me share his recipe.  I went to his house and made him measure it all out while making it for me fresh. He refused to let me write in a formal way, and I promised to type it out how he said.  So, I hope you find this recipe format charming in it's simplicity.  It was a big hit at the class, and I hope y'all enjoy it as well. 
Thanks to Levi for teaching me so much and protecting me my whole life. I miss you. 


1 can Garbanzo Beans, mashed
3 stalks of celery, diced kinda
2 TBSP. Veganaise
1/2 tsp. Mustard
1 tsp. Braggs's Liquid Aminos or Soy Sauce
2 TBSP. Sweet Relish
2 TBSP. Dill Relish
2 Green Onions, chopped
Sprinkles of Seaweed (from Nori sheets, or Seaweed Snacks)

Mash beans. Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Eat fresh.  Store in your refrigerator.  

(Photo: Levi, Cheeba, and I 2013)

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Pumpkin Bread

I love everything pumpkin.  Obviously, the fall season rules for me, and after carving a pumpkin, and drinking a pumpkin spice latte, and showering with pumpkin soap, this pumpkin bread satisfies my craving.  Last night, I baked this loaf, and cut a slice to take to my friend Jeremy while he was hosting trivia at a bar in downtown Austin.  We were just starting to get a cold front, and this bread was eaten in perfect timing....warm, and with a beer. Enjoy!!

Pumpkin Bread (makes one loaf)

1 1/4 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. cardamom
1/2 cup vegan granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup canola oil
1 cup pumpkin purée
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 TBSP. non dairy mylk (I used sweetened Flax Mylk this time!! Omega 3's!!)

Pre heat oven to 350°.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, and cardamom.  In a medium sized mixing bowl, whisk together canola oil, vanilla, pumpkin purée, and mylk.  Pour your mixed wet ingredients into the bowl of your mixed dry ingredients, and use a spatula to fold and combine, mixing this batter well enough that there are no clumps of flour.  Once thoroughly combined, you could fold in any extra ingredients you'd like, such as walnuts, pecans, cranberries, or chocolate chips to give this perfect fall bread some extra zazz.  Spray your bread pan with coconut oil spray or grease it with extra canola oil, and pour pumpkin bread batter in this pan.  Use your spatula to evenly distribute the batter among the pan, and smoothing out the top.  Pop this guy in the oven for 25-30 minutes, until golden all around the edges, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let cool before cutting and serving.  Eat a slice with a little Earth Balance Coconut Spread on top, and you'll be living the dream.

The Dilemma Over Vegan Sugar

I have been vegan for nine years.  One of the first things I learned about from reading Joanne Stepaniak's "Vegan Sourcebook," was the process of refining granulated sugar thru cattle bones to achieve that clean, bright, white color Americans know and love.  As cattle bones are a by product of the slaughterhouse, and would be otherwise garbage to the profiteers from murder, they have banked in on selling the bones to sugar plants for an additional buck.  It is an age old process to use bones in the filtration of sugar, but is absolutely unnecessary.  Often referred to as "natural carbon," most sugar you know and see, is filtered in this way, and as there is sugar in what feels like almost EVERYTHING with a label on it, how does one know if this sugar is "carbon free," aka VEGAN!!?? 
Well, I thought I had made an amazing breakthrough after the restaurant I worked for, Green Vegetarian Cuisine, was being certified Kosher.  While going thru all the detailed process of having our pilot lights lit by a Rabbi and having all of our pots and pans blessed, I confronted the Rabbi with this question..."Is it Kosher to use a sugar that has been filtered thru cattle bones?  Even if you mix it with a dairy product?"   Traditionally, Orthodox Jewish folk consider it a sin to consume dairy and meat at the same time, on the same if there is a cake made with sugar that has been filtered thru cattle bones, and has dairy milk in it as well, where does that stand in their minds?  The answer I received was a big fat "NO."  He explained to me that this would never be considered Kosher, and that if a sugar is certified Kosher ( a big K, or U with a circle around it) there is no way it has been filtered thru cattle bones.  Now, I should have known better than to believe him, but people who practice eating Kosher have extremely high standards, and are very strict, in fact MUCH more than strict vegans, in my opinion. 

To be fair, the filtration process, is simply that....a process, and does not mean there is actual bones in the sugar.  It is, by definition, not vegan, because it is a by product of an industry exploiting and murdering innocent animals.  I strive to live a life as cruelty free as possible, and therefor I do not wish to consume these sugars.  The problem is, after speaking with the Rabbi, I stopped calling companies to check their standards, and instead began considering any sugar with a Kosher symbol on the package, as vegan.  Imperial Sugar, being my go-to option for recipes, is based in Sugarland, TX, and was a small company for many years, before being bought out by a private investor in 2012.  I endorsed this sugar for a long time, before wandering on to the PETA website which has an updated list of what is and what's not vegan, and finding Imperial on the carbon filtration list.  I was shocked, and called Imperial, only to have them say, that indeed all of their sugars are filtered thru natural carbon, and is considered "unsuitable for vegans."  Bumming out, I began to call a bunch of other sugar companies that are certified Kosher, and got the same response most times.  

So, I have come to a pretty solid conclusion, and I hope this can help anyone else who is confused and annoyed with this situation.  
Always assume the sugar is filtered thru cattle bones...UNLESS it is...

Organic Sugar-
Organic sugars are packaged to have their natural color, and therefor do not need to be filtered to have a pearly white hue. 

Pure Cane Sugar-
Pure cane sugars, are meant to be completely pure and natural, and although some may have a white color, these are only considered pure if filtered naturally, not thru carbon.

Turbinado Sugar-
These sugars are offended referred to as "Sugar in the Raw," and are larger crystals with a darker hue. They are pure cane sugars that get their name from being spun in a cylinder in the creation process.

The name refers to "SUgar CANe NATural," and is completely unrefined, with nothing being added, and nothing taking out in the creation process.

Also, Whole Foods makes a great granulated sugar that is labeled VEGAN on the front of the package really big.  

Florida Crystals is a sugar plant in south Florida that does not use bone filtration, and can be bought at most grocery stores, with a label stating "Carbon Free."  That plant is actually owned by Domino, which is the largest sugar producer in the country, and although you cannot be sure where Domino sugars are made when buying it at the grocery store, there is a way to purchase it in bulk directly from that one Florida Crystals plant, making it an option for vegan bakeries such as Vegan Treats in Bethleham, PA and most currently, for Green in San Antonio as well.  

I want to apologize if I have ever misdirected you towards Imperial Sugar, and explain that things change all the time, and is very difficult to keep track of what companies are doing what.  I had reached a state of comfort in my veganism, where I was no longer being diligent about certain brands or items, and thru this dilemma, regained my fury.  It is just such a confusing and annoying situation when you want to use Ketchup and have to choose a high fructose corn syrup, because it's vegan, but most likely GMO, over a sugar, because it's been filtered with bones.  I want to encourage you to make choices that you feel most comfortable with, and strive to learn and be aware of what you are supporting with your dollars.  Being vegan is a never ending learning experience, and is completely different for everyone.  As long as we are all trying as hard as we can to live cruelty free and not be apathetic, we will make a difference in our impact on this planet, and help our friends, the animals, along the way.  

Monday, October 21, 2013

Monday, September 2, 2013

Piña Colada Rice Pudding

Refrigerate and serve this cold, as dessert, with fresh diced pineapple on top.
Or eat it fresh and hot like oatmeal for breakfast.

Piña Colada Rice Pudding

1 cup long grain Rice
3 cups Soymylk
2 cups Coconut Mylk
1/8 tsp. Salt
2 Cinnamon Sticks
1/3 cup Agave Nectar
1 TBSP Vanilla extract
1 cup sweetened Coconut shreds
1/2 cup diced Pinapple

In a sauce pan, combine rice, 3 cups of soymylk, cinnamon sticks, vanilla, and salt and bring to boil.  Once a boil is achieved, lower heat to a simmer, and cover pan with a lid.  Stir every 5 minutes until most of the mylk is absorbed, and rice is tender.  Remove rice from pan, turn the heat back up to medium, and use the same sauce pan to toast coconut shreds.  Once the coconut is golden, pour in coconut mylk and agave.  Let this mixture come to a boil while stirring occasionally.  Pour your cooked rice into this pan of hot coconut mylk mixture and stir continuously, allowing the mixture to thicken.  Cook rice pudding like this for 3 minutes, then remove from heat and pour pudding into a heat safe bowl.  Refrigerate and let pudding cool, then serve with a generous amount of fresh, diced pineapple on top.

Homemade Horchata

A traditional, cinnamony, rice based drink from sure to use organic long grain or jasmine rice.  Parboiled brown rice won't work. I promise.  

Homemade Horchata

2 cups long grain Rice
1/3 cup Agave Nectar
1 1/2 tsp. Vanilla Extract
3 Cinnamon Sticks
1 tsp. ground Cinnamon
4 cups Water

Soak rice, vanilla, and cinnamon sticks in two cups hot water for 4 hours, or overnight.
Remove cinnamon sticks, and pour soaked rice contents into a blender, with your additional 2 cups water.  
Add agave nectar and ground cinnamon, and blend on high until a smooth texture is achieved.  This may take up to 2 minutes.  
Use a fine mesh strainer placed over a pitcher and pour contents of the blender slowly thru the strainer.   It should collect all the fine pieces of rice and let the horchata pour thru. Throw away rice granules collected by the strainer.  Repeat this process 2 more times to remove as much of the rice granules as you can.  
Horchata should be just a little gritty and frothy.  Serve over ice.  Will last up to 3 days if refrigerated.

Spicy Avocado Kale Salad

Serve this as a side with your enchiladas, in a taco salad or burrito, or wrapped in a collard green with raw veggies to make a raw taco!!  Put extra serrano to make it super spicy, and add cilantro if you're a jerk and you like that stuff.

Spicy Avocado Kale Salad

1 large bunch Kale
2 large, ripe Avocados
1/4 cup Lemon Juice
1 tsp. granulated Garlic
1/4 tsp. Onion powder
1/4 cup Unsweetened Soymylk
1/2 TBSP. Apple Cider Vinegar
1/8 tsp. Salt
1/8 tsp. Black Pepper
1/2  Serrano pepper (1 whole Serrano if you're loco)
1/4 cup diced Purple Onion

Rinse kale, and use hands to tear into small, bite size pieces.  Place kale in a bowl and set aside. Place all other ingredients in a food processor, and blend on high. Once smooth, pour a generous amount of avocado dressing over kale and toss until thoroughly coated.  Add diced purple onion and serve right away.  For extra zazz, add pepitas or sunflower seeds.