Vegan Power II!

Another friend, gym-mate, and fellow vegan, Matt, will be fighting this weekend in San Francisco. Despite my jealousy from watching him eat platefuls of chips and guacamole, pizza, and a generous slice of Maggie Mudd ice cream cake less than a week before weigh-in, I wish him luck. Hurray for ass-kicking vegans!

Admittedly, I'm not the most disciplined eater. There's a half-box of candy cane Joe-Joe's in the kitchen calling my name. It's a little daunting when my coach just told me yesterday that he'd like to see me fight at a weight I haven't seen since high school. I like food and I like to eat! It's not too surprising that I managed to turn the freshman 15 into the sophomore 50. After several years and falling in love with the gym, I feel much healthier and happier than I used to. I still feel pretty good about cake, too, but I try to keep on track nowadays by starting each morning off with my go-to shake.

Breakfast of champions

The idea of green shakes always repulsed me until I tried one, but I've learned that they don't really taste like blended salad with the right combination of ingredients. I combine soy, almond, or rice milk with a couple tablespoons of hemp protein, 2-4 leaves of kale or collard greens, about 3/4 - 1 cup of frozen strawberries, 2 - 3 pitted Medjool dates, 1 teaspoon of flax seeds, and about a teaspoon of cocoa powder, and then hit it with the immersion blender. If I have it on hand, I'll throw in a handful of spinach, lettuce, or cilantro. Maybe some frozen pineapple, if I'm feeling really crazy.

To be honest, it doesn't sound too palatable when I see the ingredients listed out, but I promise that you can't really taste the greens (OK, you can taste cilantro...) They just add a fresh, bright flavor to what really just tastes like a chocolate-strawberry shake. It's a nice dose of protein and carbs, and full of vitaminy, fibery, Omega goodness, all wrapped up in tasty drink.


shane and I have made it a tradition to visit Farm Sanctuary in Orland for their Celebration for the Turkeys event. He was out of state visiting family this year, so I went up with friends Shalon and RJ instead.

It was a beautiful, sunny day, and as always, it was so nice to see these lucky animals living out their days on a picturesque farm, a wonderfully drastic change from the nightmares they had come from. I love seeing people interact with enormous steers and talkative pigs for the first time, and I appreciate that staff and volunteers take care to allow the less gregarious animals watch from a distance. It was also great to see Josh, Michelle, and the lovely Ruby, proprietors of Herbivore in Portland. Josh gave an excellent talk about everyday advocacy, and how to be eloquent with stupid people, even when all you really want to do is punch them in the face.

For the actual holiday, shane and I went over to Shaudi and Danny's home for a feast, where we enjoyed cornbread-stuffed seitan, tamales, biscuits, cornbread, stuffing, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, roasted brussel sprouts, and green beans.

Violet outdid herself with a kick ass pumpkin cheesecake. There was also apple, pecan, and pumpkin pies, and chocolate cookies.

My contribution for the night was stuffing and glazed sweet potatoes. As much as I like the traditional candied yams, they are never quite as candied as I would like. Most recipes call for boiling first, which doesn't let the potatoes live up to their full sugary potential, and they're usually so soft, they might as well be mashed.

Instead, I slowly roasted cubed sweet potatoes (nutritious skins on!), starting in a cold oven, to give the starches time to convert to sugar (thank you checkout stand America's Test Kitchen) until they were toasty brown. Meanwhile, I made a glaze from water, sugar, molasses, freshly grated ginger, cardamom, and a touch of cayenne pepper, that I boiled to a syrup. Once the potatoes were roasted, I sprinkled them with a bit of salt and tossed them in the caramel-like glaze. Finally, I topped them off with a bit of Shaudi's marshmallow cream and popped them in the broiler. Sweet, but not too sweet, crispy outsides with creamy centers, and just a little hint of spice.

Cheddar and nacho teese

I was very excited to come home to a box of teese's new cheddar and nacho vegan cheeses. I thought I would take a day or two to decide how best to use them, but the moment shane saw that nacho log, it was decided that we would have nachos for dinner.

We went to the store to get some chips and salsa. I sauteed minced garlic in olive oil, then added a can of black beans, cumin, lime juice, 1/2 a chipotle pepper in adobo, and a pinch of salt. Cilantro and sliced green onions finished things off.

For the teese, I recommend whisking it in a small saucepan over medium heat until smooth and melty. This worked better than some quick nachos I made a few days later in the microwave, where the oil separated from the solids, much like I remember conventional cheese doing. Whisking and stove heat is the way to go!

shane went down to visit family in Arizona for a couple days, so I decided to wait until he returned to make a meal out of the cheddar. I did sample some in a grilled cheese sandwich in the meantime, which was delicious. I even tried a bit of teese straight off the log; it tasted exactly like those individually wrapped cheese slices of my youth. Not quite my thing, but if you like cold cheese, the resemblance is uncanny!

The afternoon of shane's return, I tried to think of the best way to use the cheddar teese. The great melting quality of teese made pizza seem like a good solution, but tomato sauce and cheddar didn't quite sit right. I saw the last of a bag of soy curls on the counter and it struck me. BBQ pizza!

My laziness turned into much more work than I had originally planned, following a bike ride to Trader Joe's for premade dough and BBQ sauce, where I discovered I had left my wallet at home. Not wanting to ride home and back again, I figured I should just make my own. I used the pizza dough recipe from Vegan with a Vengeance with whole wheat pastry flour, and made sauce from tomato paste, apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, maple syrup, mustard, sriracha, water, and liquid smoke. After soaking, I precooked the soy curls in canola oil, with a bit of soy sauce and pepper. Sliced red onions were added before the pizza went into the oven, and cilantro and green onions topped it off when it came out.

It was one of the best pizzas I've had in a long time!

If you want to pick up some teese of your own, check out locations on their website. Rainbow Grocery also carries teese, for those of you in the Bay Area.

Butterscotch pecan cookies

I was never a big chocolate fan growing up; these were my go-to cookies instead of classic chocolate chips, but it's probably been almost ten years since I've made them. I had been on an ongoing search for accidentally vegan butterscotch chips for a long time when I learned there are a few locations on the east coast that sell these dairy-free morsels (Price Chopper and Food Lion). Some gracious folks were willing to mail some over. It's probably for the best that I don't have regular access to butterscotch chips. They're filled with partially hydrogenated fats, artificial flavorings, and all sorts of things I would generally avoid, but as a rare treat, I don't mind indulging in these soft, chewy cookies.

This recipe is just the basic Toll House cookie with a couple modifications: soy yogurt for eggs and doubled-up brown sugar for an extra molasses chew that matches well with the butterscotch chips. Buttery pecans finish things off with a smooth crunch.

Butterscotch pecan cookies
2 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup margarine, softened
1 1/2 cup lightly packed brown sugar
3 tbs. plain soy yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 c. butterscotch chips
3/4 c. chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 375F. Line cookie sheets with parchment.

Whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt, and set aside.

Cream the margarine and sugar together until slightly fluffy, then add the yogurt and vanilla and beat until combined. Slowly stir in the flour mixture, then once combined, stir in the chips and nuts.

Drop rounded tablespoons onto your prepared cookie sheets and use a dampened finger to flatten slightly. Bake for 8-10 minutes until just barely turning golden. Remove from oven and let cookies cool on the sheet for about 2 minutes, then slide the entire parchment sheet to a wire rack to cool completely.

Happy Birthday, Shaudi!

Shaudi turns a whopping 25 today! Yay, Shaudi!

Burning calories.

Consuming calories.

Violet's adorable cupcakes

Chocolate chip cake with chocolate mousse and vanilla buttercream.

She'll kick your bazzaz!

Vegan power!

My friends, gym-mates, and fellow vegans Shalon and Violet will represent Pacific Ring Sports on the undercard for an all-woman, Muay Thai competition on October 25 in Daly City.

I'm looking forward to watching them kick ass in their amateur debuts. Wish them luck! (And good luck to Diane, too!)

Sugar Beat Sweets

Last week, I helped Melisser prepare for a busy weekend at San Francisco's World Veg Festival with Sugar Beat Sweets. She had spent the previous day in the kitchen with the talented Carmen, baking hundreds of cupcakes and mixing up giant bowls of frosting. I came in on Friday for 11 hours of more cupcake making and non-stop frosting-piping. As much as I love baking, it was a long day!

On Saturday, Sugar Beat Sweets set up a booth at Veg Fest next to the friendly folks at Save A Bunny and their adorable, and amazingly calm, Mr. Pinkerton.

Cinnamon buns, brownies, and candy corn went quickly and were gone by the early afternoon.

We had 8 flavors of cupcakes: Chocolate, Vanilla, PB&J, Orange Dreamsicle, Snickerdoodle, Peppermint Patty, Peanut Butter Cup, and Chocolate Snowball.

It was another long day, but lots of fun! It was great seeing young children get excited at the opportunity to indulge in treats that they probably have watch sadly as their peers devour the conventional versions at school and parties. The crowd loved Melisser's recipes, with several repeat customers coming back again and again, claiming they were the best cupcakes they had ever tasted.

The kind Antonio of Flacos traded cupcakes for his crew, for a delicious lunch of tamales, taquitos, and pozole. Our friend, personal chef Jesse Miner gave a presentation about cooking and preparing heirloom beans and shared the leftover garlicky bruschetta with us. There were also samples galore from the various food and services vendors throughout the hall.

If you missed out on cupcakes and are in the Bay Area, make sure to stop by any of these locations that carry Sugar Beat Sweets:

Rainbow Grocery - 1745 Folsom @ 14th Street
Other Avenues - 3930 Judah Street @ 44th Avenue
Real Food Co. - 2140 Polk @ Broadway
Ike's Place - 3506 16th St @ Sanchez
Underdog - 1634 Irving St @ 17th Avenue
Harvest Urban Market - 191 8th St @ Howard

Melisser also takes special orders through her website.

World Veg Festival Weekend - San Francisco

October 4th and 5th brings the World Veg Festival to San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. There will be speakers, cooking demos, tasty food, and other good things.

Saturday & Sunday, October 4 & 5, 2008
$6 suggested donation
Free for Kids, Students, & Seniors
San Francisco County Fair Building in Golden Gate Park, entrance 9th Ave & Lincoln Way

Sugar Beat Sweets will have a booth with cupcakes and other goodies for sale. I'll be helping Melisser out on Saturday, so stop by to say hi!

Don't let these burnt cupcakes die in vain!

Picnic season

Thanks to Living in the O for the tip, and for those of you in the East Bay who don't already know, Middle Harbor Shoreline Park in West Oakland is just about the coolest park ever.

It's about 1 1/2 miles from West Oakland BART (or 3 miles from downtown, or a nice 6 mile cruise from my place in the North). Since it's in the Port, access can be a little sketchy during the week with all the semis and such, but the roads are like a ghost town on the weekends and very flat, with the exception of a slight grade at the underpass, making biking a breeze.

Gorgeous views of San Francisco, the bridge, and the bay; grassy fields and a little, sandy beach in the shadow of the cranes; plus trails and an observation tower.

Arsenal v. Fulham: Pie and Mash Party

Ever since he heard Becks mention it, shane has been fascinated with the idea of Pie, Mash, and Liquor. With the Premier League season now underway and his two favorite teams playing each other this past weekend, we decided it was due time for a pie mash party. I modified this recipe for minced beef pie, subbing seitan for beef; using extra mushrooms and carrots, plus some thyme, for additional flavor; and threw in a few new potatoes I had lying around.

We sauteed the onions and mushrooms first, to remove most of the water, then added the rest of the vegetables and seitan and let them cook for a few more minutes before tossing in the garlic and thyme until fragrant. Next came some tomato paste and mustard. Once mixed, I added a couple spoons of flour and stirred it in well and let the starch cook for a moment. Finally, I added some water to form a gravy. The whole mix was simmered for about 15 minutes until the potatoes were tender.

I made a basic pie crust recipe and rolled it out to line the individual pie tins. Each tin received a couple ladels of filling before getting a top crust put on.

They were baked at 350F for about 25 minutes until golden and served with mashed potatoes and parsley liquor.

Along with some root beers (thanks, Neel!), we had the perfect game meal.
Arsenal had a sorry showing and lost to almost-relegated Fulham, 1-0.

To complete our fine meal, Pranjal brought a trifle of sponge cake, strawberry custard and jelly, strawberries, bananas, and whipped cream. It was like 5 delicious desserts rolled into one!

There's rumors of fry ups or fish and chips for next time. We need to put Neel's deep fryer to work!


I've been a bad blogger! I apologize for the lack of posts recently. I hope to have some new recipes up soon.

Meet Hiboux:

She's our new tortie from the East Bay SPCA They're currently having a deal on cat adoption fees, so please check them out if you're looking for a new, furry friend. She's been keeping us very busy!

Also, Melisser's bakery is up and running. Please contact Sugar Beat Sweets if you're in need of some tasty treats in the Bay Area for your special event.

And happy birthday to our comrades Sergio and Lizzi. We had the pleasure of enjoying some awesome vegan food at Sergio and Jo's lovely home this weekend, courtesy of Sergio's mom, and Josh and Emily and their vegan grill. I made a 4-layer, basil-lemongrass cake with tapioca filling and coconut frosting, but unfortunately didn't get any shots of it. I hope everyone enjoyed it!

Hot dogs are murder.

So you don't own a turntable, or care for sneakers, but really want to stand in line for hours for some limited edition gear? Actually, there's no line-standing involved, just some button-pushing.

Buy a t-shirt from
Zu Boutique and help my friend Danny support his life of leisure.

If you make a purchase, be sure to include a note demanding that Danny use this money to adopt a sweet dog in need of a loving home.

Royal icing decorations

I recently donated some mini-cupcakes on behalf of Sugar Beat Sweets to East Bay Animal Advocates' 5th Anniversary celebration and fundraiser. The director requested "birthday" style cupcakes, with a nod to their 5 years of animal rights work in California. I thought royal icing decorations would be a great way to top off the cupcakes. This is a technique I learned originally while making lattice-work for a Victorian gingerbread house when I was in high school. It's great for numbers, letters, or any fancy, little flourish you want to add.

Royal icing decorations (enough to cover an 11 x 17 cookie sheet)
1/2 c. confectioner's sugar
1 1/2 tsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. lemon juice
food coloring (optional)
2-3 tsp. soy milk

Sift the sugar and cornstarch together. Stir in the lemon juice and any food coloring you wish to use. Add the soy milk, 1 tsp. at a time, until the mixture becomes a smooth, but thick, paste.

Place a sheet of waxed paper over the back of a cookie sheet, or any firm surface that you can move your decorations on (cutting board, cardboard, etc.)

Make a parchment cone and fill with the royal icing. Only trim the tip of the triangle a little at a time. You can always make it bigger, but it would a big pain in the butt to have to make a new one!

Holding the bag at about a 45 degree angle to your work surface and using gentle pressure, "draw" whatever shape or design you would like to create, and repeat until you run out of icing. Try holding the tip of the bag about a 1/4 inch from the paper and letting gravity help the lines fall where they need to go. It's always best to make more than you need, for insurance against breakage, even though these do set up rock hard. You can also create templates, if you don't trust yourself at free-handing, and place a piece of paper with the image of your shape below the waxed paper to trace through.

Move your sheet of designs to a safe, dry place where they can set up. It will take 2-3 days for your icing to harden. Test the firmness of your decorations first with any ugly or practice shapes, so you don't ruin any of your pretty ones. Remove icing shapes by grasping the waxed paper between your thumb and forefinger, pulling down on the paper with your thumb, while pushing up against the back of the shape with your forefinger to pop the shape off.

Place in an airtight container until ready to use. The icing will keep indefinitely, as long as it isn't too humid. Don't dress you cake for more than 36 hours before serving, or they will soak up moisture from the frosting and become soft.

Watermelon tapioca

We got the first watermelon of the season recently from my CSA. Aside from snacking on fresh bites, straight from the fridge, I wanted to incorporate it into a dessert I loved as a child. Typically done with honeydew, this chilled, melon tapioca soup is refreshing on Summer afternoons. The recipe is simple, but needs some planning ahead of time, because it requires a bit of waiting on the refrigerator.

Watermelon tapioca, 4 servings (about 1/2 c. each)
1/4 c. small tapioca pearls
1/2 c. water

3/4 c. water
1/3 c. unrefined cane sugar
1/4 c. soy milk

3/4 c. watermelon
1/2 c. coconut milk (full fat!)

Soak the tapioca pearls in 1/2 c. cold water for 20 minutes, drain.

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring 3/4 c. water to a boil. Add the tapioca pearls and reduce heat. Simmer pearls until translucent, about 8-10 minutes. Turn off heat and stir in sugar until dissolved. Stir in soy milk. Pour into a lidded container (or use plastic wrap), and refrigerate until completely chilled. Overnight is great.

Puree the watermelon and coconut milk in a blender until smooth. Depending on how sweet your melon is, you may want to add a spoon or two of sugar. Strain through a mesh sieve to remove any fibrous gunk or seed bits. Refrigerate until cold.

Immediately before serving, whisk together the watermelon mixture and tapioca pearls until the tapioca is evenly distributed and any big chunks are broken up. Ladle into bowls or cups and enjoy!

Variation: This is also great thinned out with a tiny bit more coconut milk and served over crushed ice as a yummy beverage.

East Bay Animal Advocates' 5th Anniversary

This weekend in Oakland, East Bay Animal Advocates celebrates their fifth year of animal protection work though consumer education, corporate outreach, direct aid, and legal research. EBAA's mission is to examine and analyze the impact of the California agricultural industry on animals, humans, and the environment.

Where: Micio Mambo
474 Santa Clara Ave.
Oakland, CA
When: June 29, 3:30 pm
How Much: $25 donation minimum

From 3:30 to 5:00 p.m., Micio Mambo will be open for your shopping pleasure. All attendees are welcome to ten percent off purchases (excluding any sale items, skincare & cosmetics).

At 5:30 p.m., join EBAA for a champagne toast to the animals.

Throughout the party, EBAA will host a silent auction featuring awesome items such as:

· Zuzu Luxe Cosmetic Gift Basket
· Frey Vineyards Vegan Winetasting and Lunch with Wine Teaser
· A 75-minute Swedish and/or Deep tissue massage
· Autographed Book: Why Animals Matter
· Autographed Book: Striking at the Roots
· Bizarro and Other Strange Manifestations of the Art of Dan Piraro
· Farm Animal Art
· Pangea Printed sweatshirt and tote bag
· Guitar Lessons: Three Sessions
· Candle Illumination Gift Basket
· Vegan Home-Cooked "Dirty South" Dinner for Six People

And what's a birthday without treats? This event will feature seasonal vegan appetizers, desserts donated by Sugar Beat Sweets, Lagunitas brews, straight edge mojitos, and much more!

Cupcakes and drug free mojitos sound like my kind of party! Unfortunately, I have obligations at the nine-to-five, and won't be able to attend, so please support them in my stead!

Visit their website to learn more about the work they do.

Eat my treats!

I'm filling in for the lovely Melisser this week at The Usual Suspects Cafe, while she's up in Portland.

Stop by for lunch or dinner, Tuesday through Saturday, to have some chocolate cupcakes with vanilla buttercream and ganache, peanut butter oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, and vanilla-strawberry cake!

EDIT: June 3, 2008
Rumor has it there's only 4 cupcakes left after one day! Exciting! There's also a banana-chocolate swirl cake with icing, that I forgot to mention. I didn't have a chance to taste it, but Mark says it's fab!

The Usual Suspects Cafe

Update: The original chefs at The Usual Suspects Cafe have resigned due to a hostile and threatening work environment. Please don't patronize this establishment!

Watch out, Herbivore, there's a new cafe in town, and they actually know how to cook!

450 Broadway St
San Francisco, CA 94133
(415) 434-4444

Tuesday - Saturday
Lunch, 11:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.
Dinner, 5:00 p.m. - 10:00 p.m.
Plus, an early morning coffee bar, hours TBD (8 a.m.-ish)

This North Beach restaurant has just re-opened with a new organic, vegan/vegetarian menu featuring the dishes of Chefs Mark and Ted, culinary school friends who both interned at the famed Millennium Restaurant.

The menu features comfort classics like pizza, pasta, panini, wraps, and salads, dressed up with the freshest, organic produce, macadamia and cashew cheeses, homemade seitan, and coming soon, Teese. The owner has insisted that dairy cheese options be included, but hopefully people won't even feel the need to order them due to the variety of vegan choices available. Let's convince him we don't need cheese! It's great to see a menu where everything is served vegan by default and the asterisks denote non-vegan dishes.

Pressed taquitos (Amazing!)

Shawarma (Giant!)

Tofu panini with spinach, cashew cheese, and pesto


BBQ Tempeh

Dishes were incredibly generous (we all went home with leftovers) and were served with the option of salad (Ranch, Thousand Island, Cherry Balsamic - all vegan, of course!!) or house potatoes. Get the potatoes! You have not lived until you've eaten organic potatoes!

Desserts are courtesy of Melisser and Sugar Beat Sweets. Unfortunately, we didn't get any pictures, but we shared slices of a wonderfully moist chocolate-peanut butter cake and strawberry rhubarb cobbler (made with help by yours truly!) Once things get going, she'll have a full assortment of cakes, cupcakes, cookies, and specialty desserts available.

Please support these great folks!

Happy birthday, Shalon!

Our friend Shalon celebrated her 29th birthday with a party at an indoor "inflatable party zone" in Oakland that featured two rooms of bounce houses and obstacle courses. We took the place over with a large group of people probably far older and bigger than the structures were designed for. The staff of 17 year olds tried to play it cool as we promptly broke every rule in the orientation video.

Despite all of the bruises, scrapes, friction burns, and even Shalon's self-inflicted black eye, it was a ton of fun. It also made me feel incredibly out of shape; jumping and running around while trying to keep your balance and not get slammed in the face with over-sized boxing gloves and balls is a lot of work! All of the sweating was balanced out by a ridiculous amount of treats.

3-layer chocolate cake with peanut butter caramel and peanut butter buttercream, by Shaudi.

Strawberry cupcakes, by Shaudi.

Mini-funfetti and mocha cupcakes, featuring a super decadent chocolate frosting recipe that I'm working on. I think I overloaded the cocoa this time, so the texture was a little off, but it's getting closer!

Shaudi also made coffee cream filled cupcakes with ganache, and Molly and Krisi brought amazing chocolate chip cookies with oats and chewy snickerdoodles, that I enjoyed for breakfast the following day. I'm going to need to get those cookie recipes!