Friday, July 2, 2010

I’m attempting to consolidate all of my disparate interests and manifestations of myself, so from now on I will be making all blog posts (food or poetry related) on my tumblr blog: For now, it’s an experiment to see if all my thoughts and interests can go in one crazy place. If you’re following my blog, please switch to that feed. I will tag things with their subject matter to make it easier to follow what you’re interested in. See you on tumblr!

Monday, May 10, 2010

London's Bag of Vegan Tricks

In my three months here, I’ve found that the UK has some fun and not so fun products in its vegan bag of tricks. Of course, I ran straight to the closest nice-looking supermarket in my neighborhood (Pimlico). This was a nice big Sainsbury’s on Wilton Road that is surprisingly well stocked with vegan goods. Overall, supermarkets here seem to be quite sensitive to the idea of people with allergies, and so even in a mainstream market like Sainsbury's there is a whole isle of "free-from" items. This means free from all dairy, eggs and gluten. Unlike in the U.S., they don't seem to try to sneak in any dairy additives like whey or butter fat, etc.

Hence, this package of completely vegan caramels that are pretty damn good, especially the caramel filling. They also make mint chocolate circles that are a nice little after dinner treat.

Pudding is a big deal here and vegans can participate in this with these lovely little alpro vanilla and chocolate pudding cups. They are creamy and smooth and yummy, perfect with a sprinkle of cinnamon on top!

Another product from this section that I have taken advantage of is this giant tub o’ curry paste! Why in god’s name do we only have the tiny little glass jars in the U.S. when we could have this huge tub! And, it’s really good too! It’s very similar to the Thai Kitchen red curry paste that I usually get, but you have a lot more leeway with proportions with such a large bucket! I’ve included a photo of it in action with a nice glass of wine.

Now, I have to explain that meat is kind of a big deal here in the UK. It’s a huge part of the culture and all the talk of sausage and meat pies can sometimes make a veggie kid feel a bit alienated. Luckily, Linda McCarthy was awesome and her company has done its best to make sure us veggie kids can have some of the traditional British treats sans the meat and dairy. Not all of her products are vegan, but the pies and sausages are, and they’re both pretty delicious. The pies are especially good with a big pile of peas mixed in. Peas are also a big deal here. Sadly, the butter substitutes are not quite up to par with these other products. Their best attempt at something like my beloved Earth Balance is Pure, and to me, it tasted kind of like what I imagine that paste they made you use instead of glue in kindergarten tastes. It’s very bland. I also found the non-cold soy milk to be kind of unappealing, though the cold alpro is fine. All in all, I’ve found a fair amount of products to be bland when I was least expecting it, but just like any city, as long as you have enough vegan tricks up your sleeve you’ll be just fine in London.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

I’ve been wanting to talk a little bit about my cleanse experience here for a while, so even though I am far, far away in London and basically doing the opposite of a cleanse, I’m sharing some thoughts on what it means to give up the sweeter thing in life. First off, I do seriously heart wine and cocktails and, contrary to popular belief, beer too! That’s part of the reason I started this blog, coupled with my deep love affair with veggie food. However, it was really refreshing to socialize sans the alcohol for three weeks. My boyfriend and I threw parties, went to social events and even bars and felt totally fine sipping tonic water with a lime wedge (note, this is a great drink for a night off the booze, since no one will offer to get you a drink if you already have something that looks like a drink in hand, plus it’s yummy). So, lesson learned, it’s possible and even pleasant to go out to events involving alcohol and abstain.

The second lesson I learned was much, much more difficult but well worth it. That’s right, my other great love, caffeine! For some it may be completely difficult to believe, but I gave up coffee, tea and soda for the full three weeks (OK, had a little white tea to curtail the massive headache that came upon me the second night). Cleansing my body of caffeine was an intense experience. The second night, I felt that my head was caving in and was oddly emotional (I was nearly in tears when my boyfriend offered to get me tea and tried to take care of me). After my evening from hell, it wasn’t so difficult and I found myself able to get up and about without my usual caffeine boost. It felt nice to actually detox my body of these chemicals that I had been so dependent upon. It’s also allowed me to drop my usual intake down to a small pot of chai or a single latte per day (down from a double latte plus soda or tea). It was like pressing the reset button on my body.

The last difficult task was eliminating refined carbs from my diet (the rest was cake, no pun intended, since I clearly have experience eating vegan food). I have a hardcore addiction to baguettes, udon noodles, capellini, white jasmine rice, brown sugar and so many other refined carbs, and I had to let them go. It’s not so difficult to replace rices and pastas at home, but going out became a challenge. Luckily there are a few places in SF that offer brown rice and whole wheat bread. I found myself visiting Gracias Madre and Herbivore more than once. While I will never fully give up an occasional sour baguette with earth balance and hummus slathered on it, this definitely showed me I could go for long stretches without them.

In case you’re wondering what sorts of things I ate, here are some of the yummy foods I made at home. Most are foods I’ve already mentioned here with whole grains substituted for any refined grains.

Here is some miso soup I made with brown rice miso base. It’s a little more pungent than the white miso, but still palatable.
Next some delicious curry I made for a game night we had during the cleanse. I used cabbage (Farm Fresh to you had been sending us an ungodly amount) and peas, but the recipe is the same as my former post.

This is sort of an impromptu peanut noodle dish. I bought the ginger people peanut sauce (yum!) and sautéed some veggies (of course including cabbage) in it, then served it over soba noodles.

This is a big stand by in our apartment, Pho! Here it is in the pot with our mulled wine ball (used for the pho spices instead). We basically threw in any veggies we had on hand (yes, more cabbage) and cooked in the lovely pho spices, then ladle it over brown rice udon noodles.

I loosely based this spicy tomato and leek pasta on a recipe from gourmet, but I changed around some stuff. It’s basically sautéed up leeks with chili peppers and garlic and then some chard thrown in for good measure. The pasta is brown rice macaroni. By the way, one thing about whole grain pasta is it has a very short window of time where it’s cooked right. You have to somehow be ready for it or you end up with hard or mushy pasta!

Lastly, here’s a shot of my chickeny noodle soup. I love this stuff, and it’s cleanse friendly as long as you use a whole grain noodle.

Stay tuned for my adventures in London food. Instead of my usual home cooking posts, I’ll probably focus more on the fun vegan products they have here and restos I visit, since my kitchen isn’t quite as well set up here.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Chocolate Bark

To be fair, these were my X-mas treats. I made them for my friends, but even though it's belated I thought they were worth posting, because they are so delicious and super duper easy to make! Also perrty. When I saw Ina Garten make Chocolate bark on food network TV by simply melting some chocolate chips and sprinkling stuff on top, I thought it can’t be that easy! Oh, but it is.

I did use a double boiler to make sure I didn’t burn or chunk up the chocolate (just took a Pyrex bowl and put it on top of a pot of boiling water). I used one bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips with a handful of bittersweet chocolate chips and melted them down. Then I just spread the mixture out on a baking pan and sprinkled on my treats. I took a special trip to the Ferry Building farmer’s market for the best dried fruit and nuts I could find. I ended up with dried figs, dried white nectarines, candied ginger, almonds that I roasted myself and a little sea salt for toppings. I just chopped them up and pressed them into the melted chocolate. I threw that in the fridge, and a few hours later, voila! Impressive and delicious treat to give my friends.

For pairing, I would definitely go for a port! There are so many wonderful ones out there and many made here in California that pair beautifully with dark chocolate.

Oh, how I wish I could eat some of this with a nice glass of port right now, but alas, I have embarked on a 3 week detox (a la Great American Detox Diet only compressed into 3 weeks instead of 6) where I eat completely vegan (der, not difficult), no refined grains, no refined sugars, no alcohol and worst of all noooooo caffeine, my most beloved and dearest drug of all. This is day 4 and I’m feeling a bit sluggish, but powering through. I’ll be sure to post some detox-friendly foods in the coming days.