Archive for October, 2009

My grandfather, F.G. Yates, was born and raised in the Philipines until about the age of eight. In the forest, outside his village roamed a tiger. This gave tremendous power to his mother’s threat, “don’t wander into the jungle, it is dangerous.” Hunters killed and displayed the tiger, and the village breathed a collective sigh of relief. Someone took a snapshot of my grandfather posed over the lifeless tiger he once feared. My grandfather recalls this event vividly and I believe it contributed to his life of peace and non-violence activism.

But the story his children, (and thus his grandkids), remember circles around food. Specifically the unique variety of foods my grandfather would happily eat. While bugs were a delicacy in Manila, they provided giggle gross out factor to the power of 10 to the United States neighborhood where his family now lived. Children would bring him insects: cicadas, grasshoppers, june bugs- so they could squirm and laugh and watch him actually EAT them. One day he was presented with an exceptionally large green moth. “That is two big to simply eat,” he told the children. He raised a hand to their groans of disappointment, “I will need two slices of bread.”

Here is a vegan version of that infamous sandwich, it is best served open-faced so that the true beauty of the faux insect can be appreciated. 

Two slices of whole wheat bread.

4-6 spinach leaves

1/2 an avocado, sliced

1-2 Tablespoons Kalamata olive spread

2-3 cherry tomatoes sliced in half

1-2 Tablespoons Hummus

a few sprigs of parsley or dill

Spread Hummus on the bread, place avocado slices in the middle of the bread to form the “body.” Layer spinach leaves to either side of the avocado to look like wings. Dot with Kalamata olive spread, and decorate with small tomatoes, sprigs of parsley or dill make lovely antennae.


Luna Moth

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If an ideal vegan world means no living thing is ever harmed or killed so we can eat: we better learn to photosynthesize. Since we don’t convert sunlight to energy (vitamin D doesn’t count), I invite you to consider where you draw the line. Vegans and vegetarians must draw the line somewhere: for example- do you eschew meat but feed domestic carnivore animals (cats, dogs, ferrets, fish etc…) their preference? Do you buy products made from animals like gelatin, leather or wool? Do you purchase gas guzzling banana from afar? Do you kill germs? Or bugs?

Bugs… I watch ants “go marching 20 by 20 hurrah, hurrah!” and scream, “Aaaarrrgh!” The black speckled undulating trail shimmers from the compost to the counter, up over the cabinet, across the stove, down the sink to the crack under the door. Upon close inspection, I see they carry bits of food or even other ant bodies (did your friend get tired?). I dusted their sweet feet with baby powder (hoping they would slip), and tried to lure them outside with other treats, then I sprayed them with orange essence (OK it was herbal orange ant killer, but I tried to play nice!)

Ahimsa, the practice of non-violence, I understand; I am a conscious eater, animal lover and locavore (see Barbara Kingsolver’s book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle for a description). But, I can’t say my back is sore from sweeping the way in front of me clear of bugs. I do relocate spiders outside or to a better corner than the one above my bed. But I love the spiders because they eat the flies swirling around my fruit and compost bucket. I love the microbes and the bugs that eat my compost down to a rich, black humus which in turn helps me grow lovely vegetables and fruits (to toss in the compost bucket swirling with flies).

I do my very best to keep away from the inhumane slaughter of caged animals. However, I know that every mechanized harvest (including corn and soybeans) lops the heads off of countless bunny rabbits and mice, moles and other small mammals. I agree with Barbara Kingsolver that no type of food production escapes killing living things. I just try to eat lower on the food chain and local from my backyard, neighboring CSA’s and farmer’s markets.

But I must draw the line at insects. I know honey is a sticking point for some vegans. I have had to come to terms with that, so I buy local honey to keep the bees buzzing. I try to induce my ant colonies to take a pesticide free hint, but they don’t. This morning I rinsed my mouth with a few of them from the faucet- what were those black things in my teeth?

Aaaaarrrgh! Ants. Where is that orange spray….

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Out of Work

My brother whispered a question during the rehearsal dinner on the eve of his formal wedding, “What’s a horse doover?”

I nearly spewed my drink and laughed out loud during the Maid of honor’s speech.

The word, “h’ors d’oeuvres” on the wedding feast menu, really looks like “horse doover” for the less linguistic. I should explain that I know a “horse doover” from a hole in the wall. According to my high school French teacher, the term refers to both singular and plural and is accurately pronounced /ɔrˈdɜrv/. She translates the word for our class, roughly as “out of work.” These unemployed appetizers indicate something that requires little work served before the main meal. As I choked my way through this explanation, light dawned on my brother’s face and he grinned.  

The following is a recipe for polenta horse doovers, may they make your mouth amused*. 

1 cup cornmeal Polenta

4 cups water

topping options:

diced tomatoes, cherry tomato halves, tapenade, chopped basil, black beans, diced green onions, diced green chilies, chopped oregano, vegan parmesan, flavored salt, etc…

Cook the polenta according to package directions, spread over a lightly oiled cookie sheet, cover with plastic wrap and refridgerate until firm. Cut into 1″ diamonds, or small cookie cutter rounds and place on a lightly oiled cookie sheet. Cook with desired toppings equal to about 1 Tablespoon. Try diced tomatoes or tapenade or black beans. Drizzle with olive oil. Bake until golden brown about 20 minutes at 350 degrees F. Garnish with fresh herbs such as parsley, green onion, oregano, basil and a dash of flavored salt or vegan parmesan.

*a one bite appetizer, an amuse-bouche translates as a happy mouth.

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Ok, there were about three things my mom cooked really well, consistently. They were always a hit at potlucks. These vegan enchiladas are an adaptation of that once “chicken” meal. It is not from scratch, she was a divorced working mother of two. So the meal is simple, quick and easy to make. By all means feel free to make it better with fresh beans, fire roasted chilies etc. In a pinch, for a potluck tomorrow, try this:

1 4 oz. can diced green chilies

1 28 oz. can Enchilada sauce ( I like La Victoria, Mild)

1 15 oz. can black beans, drained.

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons dried oregano leaves (or fresh)

10-12 fresh corn tortillas (corn, lime, salt should be the only ingredients!)

1-2 Tablespoons olive or canola oil

1 medium onion

1-2 cloves garlic

1 small bunch of cilantro (or parsley), chopped fine to garnish the top after baking.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. In a food processor or blender pulse chop the onion and garlic. Transfer to a medium to large pan and saute with oil. Remove from heat, add the herbs, drained beans and diced chilies. Using tongs to flip gently, heat the tortillas to soften them over a gas stove flame, or in a dry saute pan if using electric heat. When the tortillas can be bent without breaking, fill them with a few large spoonfuls of the bean mixture, roll the tortilla up and place in a lightly oiled large baking pan. Continue until all the tortillas are filled, or the pan is full of neatly rolled enchiladas. Cover with sauce and foil. Bake covered for 20-30 minutes. Garnish with fresh cilantro or parsley and serve.

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I was MIA from the Vegan Mofo III thanks to a technology holiday offered by my buggy computer. It is back and working thanks to my partner in Mofoing from Wok on the Wildside. In addition to his technical savvy, Tofu seems to be on the same page once again with his tribute to John Robbins as Vegan Hero of the Week.

Here’s a bit of what I did:

1. I went for a long swim with my mom and about 15 dolphins in the Pacific Ocean. If you love marine mammals visit the Marine Mammal Center in San Pedro, CA.

2. I learned how to knit with a Sip and Stitch group in South Pasadena.

3. I saw hermit crabs, sea stars, anemones, sculpin and an octopus! in the tide pools at Crystal Cove in Newport Beach.

4. I visited Tanaka Farms, a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) for their pumpkin patch, veggie festival.

5. We saw the Lagunatics, a show made even funnier when it is your dad on stage in drag.

6. I caught the first rain of the season, in buckets. 

7. Can you read this? If so, you might like to help tutor an adult who can’t through a program at your local library- I volunteer with Pasadena Reads.

8. I was asked why I became a vegan 19 years ago, I recalled John Robbins’s Diet for a New America film and my work with Earth Save.

9. I am still deciding what I think about fake meats. We enjoyed some wonderfully authentic ones, with Tofu et al at the Veggie Grill.

10. For the umpteenth time, I listened to Barbara Kingsolver’s audio book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.

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She peels the willow switch with a knife

pointed away from her in one long motion like a sigh.

There will be no more fruit cake.

After the death of my paternal grandmother, Ruth, I took up a trowel and began heaving the hard earth from itself. I recall a similar motion, a service learning project in Yosemite National Park with 73 curious city bred 8th graders.

The students and I, dug after the deep roots, followed them to a tangled source of thorns. We ripped out invasive non-native blackberry bushes planted near the Awahanee Hotel by some innovative chefs near the turn of the century. While the dark purple preserves made the tourists happy, the bushes wreaked havoc on the native raspberry canes and bracken fern used by the Miwok for basket making.

We enter a museum, the still artifacts of intricate baskets and tools whisper. Then, we see her, sitting on a low platform surrounded by basket making tools and weaving a basket of her own. She is a living piece of history and a volunteer named Julia Parker. Some students step near, she smiles at them and explains what kind of Miwok basket she is making and shows them how. She asks them what traditions they have learned. Some say cooking, one girl is learning how to knit. I hear Julia Parker tell my group of 8th graders,

“it is important to be able to do something with your hands”

as she demonstrates Miwok basket weaving. This sticks with me like a seed. I teach, but do I really produce anything with my hands?

The one week Yosemite Institute trip, gives education a good name. We see a bobcat 10 feet away, we feel geology with every step, we see the direct effect of people on the environment.

One lesson learned when 12 teens caution a man and woman cruising through the valley in a convertible. The couple is about to toss some Cheetoes overboard- “Don’t feed the coyote!” The students yell for they have seen firsthand it does more harm than good to give wildlife a taste of human food.

My tastes for human food have changed. I remember when our family chose a more healthy planet-friendly diet, it involved donating a lot of food to homeless shelters. We saw the film, Diet for a New America by John Robbins and progressed quickly from free range to vegan. It just made sense.

Sequoia Strawberries

Sequoia Strawberries

However, we didn’t think to tell my grandmother. (Not recommended!) We visited one spring to find her usual “spoiling the grandchildren” treats. She had stocked the cabinet with sodas, cheese puffs and her fresh homemade beef jerky. We steered clear. (No pun intended) She couldn’t understand why we weren’t eating anything. We asked for watermelon instead and told her that we were now vegetarian. The usual you-will-starve-not-get-enough-protein-what-is-your-mother-thinking conversations ensued.

She calmed down. And later, she helped us build more vegan friendly traditions- baking fresh strawberry rhubarb pies and baked potatoes with all the fixings. But the jerky still needled her. As she lay dying, she demanded not Proust’s window-to-watch-her-casket-construction, but rather, she recalled the abandoned beef jerky. How could we turn away from something she marinated for days- then carefully dried for 14 hours with so much love and care? We should have told you, I offered. Our non sustainably raised meat animals are like blackberries, I thought. They have deep sharp roots.

We planed to make a strawberry rhubarb pie (with the rhubarb from her sister’s farm) when she came home from the hospital. She didn’t come home from the hospital. So we made rhubarb pie in her honor and my dad ate the last of her homemade fruitcake. There will be no more fruitcake made with Ruth’s hands. And not eating it is not an option- it won’t sit well in a museum. Like seeds, traditions require that we share them; we have to enjoy them, plant them, harvest them- keep the cycle going.

3 years later I am doing those things I saw my grandmother do with her hands. Digging a hole for vegetable scraps, planting mint near a dripping faucet, sporting bright yellow gloves to juice fresh pomegranates, picking olives to hit with a little stone, saving seeds, freezing peaches, drying persimmons, and making strawberry rhubarb pie. I am growing heirloom tomatoes, kabocha squash, three types of basil (Thai, purple and Italian), bell peppers, heirloom dry beans including a red and white patterned Christmas Lima bean that looks too beautiful to eat.

Baby Kabocha Squash

Baby Kabocha Squash

I have finally tended something with my hands into a shape, a basket of memories, traditions, love and appreciation. Oh, yes, and I have raspberry canes that will one day bear fruit and be fit for making baskets.

For more information about Julia Parker, visit Yosemite Basket Makers

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Cashew Cream

Cashew Cream

1/2 cup cashews

1/4 cup of water or almond/rice/soy milk

1 teaspoon of vanilla

3 Tablespoons liquid sweetening (local honey, agave nectar, or brown rice syrup)

In a blender pulse chop the nuts until they resemble a coarse meal. Add water, vanilla and sweetening blend 3-5 minutes until creamy. Use non-dairy milk and less liquid for a thicker creamier consistency.

Add more liquid for a cashew non-dairy milk. Top with fresh grated nutmeg and serve instead of egg nog.

Delicious over pancakes like those at http://wokwildside.com

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Hummus also, hommos, hoummos, humous, humus

Which is really rich soil or smashed garbanzo/chickpeas/cici beans*

not to be confused with hubris or exhume.

Middle Eastern Cookery. a paste or dip made of garbanzo/chickpeas/cici beans* mashed with oil, garlic, lemon juice, and tahini and usually eaten with pita.

How to make basic Hum…

Long version: Harvest chickpeas/garbanzo/cici beans* from rich humus soil. Sort, rinse, drain, soak overnight. Then cook the clean soaked beans in a crockpot on low for 6 hours- or

Short version: just open a can of organic beans. You will need about 4 cups cooked chickpeas/garbanzo/cici beans* blend or food process with 3 Tablespoons of sesame tahini, 3/4 cup of fresh squeezed lemon juice, 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt, 1 heaping Tablespoon of crushed garlic (for the short version, Trader Joes sells this in a jar). Carefully drizzle a good quality extra virgin olive oil about 1/4 to 1/2 cup into the blending processor, scrape down the sides as needed. You can add other ingredients to specialize your Hum… 1/2 cup of roasted red peppers, 5-6 cloves oven roasted garlic, 1/4 cup of chopped fresh herbs- parsley, cilantro, etc, 1/4 cup of chopped olives, or artichoke hearts.

Serve with fresh vegetables, or whole wheat pita or use as a base for a creamy pasta sauce.

*chickpeas/garbanzo/cici beans are really all the same thing, a tan roundish dry bean.



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MoFo Survey

1. Favorite non-dairy milk?


2. What are the top 3 dishes/recipes you are planning to cook?

M&C versions 1-10, Kabocha Pumpkin Soup, and Herb/Spice quick guides

3. Topping of choice for popcorn?

Braggs or Tamari with Creole Seasoning

4. Most disastrous recipe/meal failure?

Meal failure? I believe there are only lessons learned that I relegate to the compost pile.

5. Favorite pickled item?


6. How do you organize your recipes?

That is the trouble isn’t it?

7. Compost, trash, or garbage disposal?

Compost all veggie, fruit scraps, leaves etc, Sheet Mulch with newspaper and junk mail, redeem CRV for all bottles, cans and plastic.

8. If you were stranded on an island and could only bring 3 foods…what would they be (don’t worry about how you’ll cook them)?

Sweet potatoes, Reeds Premium Ginger Ale, and a Crusty Seeded Whole Wheat Sourdough bread.

9. Fondest food memory from your childhood?

My mom made me pink soup because it was my favorite color- nevermind it looked like Pepto Bismol and had heavy cream and hot dogs in it. It was pink!

10. Favorite vegan ice cream?

Rice Dream used to make a Mocha Almond Fudge oh where oh where has it gone?

11. Most loved kitchen appliance?

My Oster Blender my mom had when she was 20, still going strong.

12. Spice/herb you would die without?


13. Cookbook you have owned for the longest time?

The Good Earth from the restaurant at UC Santa Cruz, back when being vegetarian meant strict protein combining- aka beans must accompany brown rice.

14. Favorite flavor of jam/jelly?

Anything berry, except straw.

15. Favorite vegan recipe to serve to an omni friend?

Stuffed Baked Potatoes or Tostadas.

16. Seitan, tofu, or tempeh?

Seitan, of course.

17. Favorite meal to cook (or time of day to cook)?


18. What is sitting on top of your refrigerator?

The big skillet’s lid, a red trivet, a handmade ceramic vase by Lou Vaccerro holding all our chopsticks (sorry they are vertical!), and the wi-fi router.

19. Name 3 items in your freezer without looking.

Two gallon bags of sliced Peaches! Cranberries and ice cubes.

20. What’s on your grocery list?

What grocery list? I tend to go to the market to see what is fresh and local, then build my meals around that. Oh and yea I guess, Almond milk, Rice milk and soy cheese always seem to be there too.

21. Favorite grocery store?

The local farmer’s market, Market World (All things Asian) and Superking (All things Armenian, Latin and Russian)

22. Name a recipe you’d love to veganize, but haven’t yet.

The pink soup.

23. Food blog you read the most. Or maybe the top 3?

See my To Do list…

24. Favorite vegan candy/chocolate?

There is vegan candy!?

25. Most extravagant food item purchased lately?

Puff pastry dough.

26. Ingredients you are scared to work with?

Anything with fangs.

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To do…

On my to do list for the Vegan MoFo is to visit everyone’s blog at least once and to vote for my favorite from each letter category. I made it through the A’s last week and the B’s, C’s and D’s today. So far, I enjoy the international vegan blogs for their new food and ingredient ideas.

Check out  [A] Alien’s Day out http://aliensdayout.blogspot.com

[B] Australian vegan at http://brissievegan.blogspot.com/

[C] Ok besides my blog, I love the flair for eclair chef at  http://cafekarma.wordpress.com 

Bien sur, c‘est moi! writing, cooking, taking photos! https://consciouscooking.wordpress.com

[D] I just read What’s a Mulligan with You by http://diannesylvan.typepad.com/dancing_down_the_moon/ and found another kindred spirit on the theory and practice of fake meats.

[W] With my co-writer extraordinaire, Tofu at  http://wokwildside.com

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