Saturday, December 15, 2007

Bad news first

Wow it's been a while since my last post. After that "little stuffy" post I started feeling a little stuffy myself - and it got worse. I'm on the upswing now, barring a little soreness in my throat, and started reading the table of contents of Science magazine, when what do I find? More bad news about the environment.

A few examples:

§ No hope in sight for coral reefs

§ Even native species can help the spread of crop-eating pests

§ Wild salmon are dying from lice from salmon farms

§ Biodiversity is changing in the Amazon

So this is the bad news. The good news is:

Species are sometimes more resilient than we think. For example, ants can fight off infections in really smart ways, we may be able to predict El Nino type effects better soon, and Archaebacteria can suck up CO2 in new ways.

But it's all nothing if we don't do our own part. You know, stop the endless consumption of STUFF, change policies, fight for the environment that cannot protect itself. And other things, like the daily idea here. (And that is your eco-tip of the day)

Monday, December 03, 2007

A Little Stuffy

Yes I do have a cold and sore throat, but I'm still working on some projects. Haven't you been dying to know what I've been working on? No? Okay.

Here's a picture anyway.

Can you tell what it is? No? A clue: It's a type of food.

Still no idea? It's a SAMOSA SET.


- 3 samosas
- purple sweet date chutney
- green spicy chutney
- a cup of chai

I put it in a cute japanese box someone gave me.

We went to Ikea and found a fantastically soft elephant there that we almost bought. Instead, it inspired me to make something a lot less complicated. So I used up the last of my fiberfill to make another stuffed toy:

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Greeting Cards - Is Recycling a Waste?

One of my favorite pastimes is converting old junk mail and old cards into "new." I'll take a cute saying from a card, mix it with the front of another, and include a gum wrapper ("Stay sweet!"). I take little scraps and glue them together into a design on the front of a card. I use the patterned insides of envelopes to make more cards and bookmarks and gift tags.

After all, recycling is good. All that paper would have gone to the recycling bin. Reuse is always preferable to recycle - less energy involved.

But then my mother pointed out that while reusing and recycling are both good, the whole concept of card-exchange is a somewhat wasteful exercise. Isn't the act of giving out things of paper something we don't necessarily want to encourage? Why should I assist people in giving out a million holiday cards to people they only write once a year? Why should I give a birthday card when a genuine Happy Birthday will do (and the card will be most likely tossed the next day)?

For me, making cards is something I feel the need to do - my hands need the activity. I want to save something from the recycle bin, and at the same time make something of beauty.

I think I'd like to strike a balance. Make only beautiful, functional, useful cards, or make them for people who might give them anyway, or to encourage the very act of recycling paper (after all, billions of virgin paper cards are still made and sold every year!).

In my ideal world, people would only ever exchange reused/recycled cards, and they would reuse them until they fell apart, until they put them into the recycling bin. They would exchange beautiful cards only for geniune sentiments, not mass communication (Do I really need a holiday card from a national phone company?).

Until then, I'll still be making some recycled cards, especially out of things that cannot be recycled easily, and I hope they will be things of beauty.

Seven Things #41, #42

Last week's Seven Things:

11/23 #41
- 2 scarves
- plate
- 3 more packs of cards
- broken sunglasses
- old key

8 items

We also bought a number of new things. Sigh - the Compact is really out of the window.
- kitchen rug
- curtain rods and sheers
- a mattress pad

11/30 #42
- showerhead
- map of Iowa
- another jar of jam
- 1 top

Only four this week. So that's a total of 587.

I'm making a hopefully interesting new craft, but in the meantime, I made a set of 3 magazine placemats or trivets (like the ones at the top here - i'd like to try the bowl next!).

VeganMoFo 31: Oh it's over!

I just realized that VeganMoFo is OVER. Hmm, and I have been planning all these interesting things I'd like to eventually post (after I try them).

I'd still like to write about the super-sour orange we plucked that grew over from the neighbor's yard.

I'd still like to write about the slightly bitter spinach khakra of which I ate 6 with the spicy powder that came with them.

I'd still like to write about the food we had at Komala Vilas where they serve you endless food Indian-style and you have to eat with your hand.

But I guess all of that will have to wait for next year!

VeganMoFo 30: Thai food

On Friday we went to Indochine, which is nearby and after being doubly reassured of no fish sauce and no oyster sauce and no egg and no egg noodles, I ordered the pad thai. I took a chance.

On the other hand, the food tasted simple, homemade and fantastic, with the perfect amount of spice. I hate the whole thing. It was also nice to have a dish without having rice on the side.

That morning I made cinnamon-apple bread. I took a thick slice of my dense whole wheat bread, added some vegan butter and toasted it, then spread on some apple jam, sprinkled on some cinnamon and raw sugar. With a cup of herbal tea, it's heaven.

Friday, November 30, 2007

VeganMoFo 29: Bay Area Dosa

I forgot to post yesterday. Somehow I thought yesterday was the 30th and I was freaking out that it was December already. And it soon will be.

Last night my dear husband made me dosas when I went home on a break from what would be a late night of work. And then we had the brilliant idea of trying out the Pondicherry Dosa we had in New York.

We passed on the potatoes (not good for you, and they require extra cooking...) and I chopped up some red bell pepper and shredded a bit of cabbage and broke off some broccoli florets and sliced some zucchini (wow there are so many ways to say "cut"). A medley of this went on top of the dosa, which we folded over and ate hot with the brussels sprouts sambar I had made the day before.

That is quick dinner bliss.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Crafting away

Lots of posts lately.

I used up some of my last beads to make another necklace.

And here, finally, is a picture of that baby jester hat:

I also took a couple of photos from inside our bathroom. Here is a view of some newly bloomed flowers visible through the skylight - Dahlia imperialis. The second is a white orchid - I am waiting for it to regrow.

VeganMoFo 28: Tapioca?

I forgot to post all about another dish my mother made while she was here - a kind of tapioca pudding. Instead of tapioca (which is from a plant root), Indian foods use something called javvarsi, or sago, which is made from a type of palm tree trunk instead. It's still small and round and white.

You soak the sago in lukewarm water for an hour, and then cook and prepare. This version included turmeric and chilies and spices sauteed with it, and makes yet another gooey chewy meal:

I also wanted to show you this amazing thing:

What is it? Take a guess.

Well, it was only $1 because we got there at the end of the farmer's market and the man who was selling it didn't want to do the work involved in preparing it. Amazing, huh?

I'm making a curry with it today.

Review - Peter & Jerry

While in New York, on Saturday night we saw the play "Peter and Jerry," by Edward Albee. It's a modified version, played in two parts - the first, a discussion between Peter and his wife Ann about their perhaps too comfortable marriage. The second continues when Peter goes to the park to read, and encounters the wandering Jerry, who has just returned from the zoo and lures him into a conversation and more.

Both are really philosophical. Originally, the play was written only as the second part (Zoo Story) but Edward Albee recently added the first.

Peter was played by Bill Pullman and in the audience, sitting in front of us, was Alan Tudyk, otherwise known as "Steve the Pirate."

It was horrifying and funny and interesting and touching, and I generally had a great time. More about Peter and Jerry is here.

VeganMoFo 27: Headed Back

On Tuesday I had some leftovers - corn on the cob with hot chocolate.

Here is a simple way to make some fresh, lovely hot chocolate:

put 1 tbsp of chocolate chips or broken chocolate pieces (semisweet is great) into a mug. fill with soymilk. microwave for 2 minutes, stopping every 30 seconds to stir.

when the chocolate has melted, stir and sprinkle with cinnamon and nutmeg. serve with a spoon for sipping, or a cinnamon stick.

VeganMoFo 26: The Search Continues

Monday was the last day for two of our fellow visitors, and our last day to track down the Dosa Man. It was not looking good - raining all day, and by the time we got there just after noon, the roads were slick and muddy. Walking up to the park, I was not optimistic. He wasn't there the last two times, why would he now?

And then...there he was! A green cart with an overhang, and he was pulling down the rain guards. "Hey boss," he greeted us. "How you doin?" We chatted amiably, including a discussion of where we were from and how he should open up a branch in San Francisco. First thing, he gave us small cups of steaming hot sambar which warmed us right up (and the quality of which was as good as any I've had in India). We ordered the Pondicherry dosa, a unique dosa with potatoes and fresh veggies that he invented, and the Special Rava Masala, which is the same but with a wheat dosa. It was thin, wrapped around the veggies so you could almost see them through the dosa, and served with more sambar and some coconut chutney. I also got a vegan drumstick, which is on a sugar cane stick and made of soy protein, with a to-die-for chili garlic sauce. We had just enough, and he even insisted on a discount since we had come all the way and looked for him for two days. By then the line was long, and we said our goodbyes with smiles in our hearts (by way of our stomachs).

In the evening, I had a craving for pizza. We ordered from Cafe Viva, where vegan thin crust pizza is available in a number of varieties. We ordered the Il Fiore, with eggplant, garlic, soy cheese, tomatoes and a lovely note of rosemary, and the Pasta Puttanesca, with capers and two types of olives. We finished it off with a slice of vegan Death By Chocolate, which was. And that was the end of the Culinary Tour of New York.

VeganMoFo 25: The Morning After

It was not too good - we again got up too late, and took the train to visit relatives in New Jersey. There we had Indian food for both lunch and dinner - idlis, pooris, various mixed rices, and hot pickles.

Idlis are another South Indian favorite. They are bland and simple comfort food, without much taste on their own, so they are perfect for pinching apart and dipping into curries or chutneys. They're made of a thicker version of the batter used for dosas, and are steamed through until they are fluffy round pillows. The perfect idli has a characteristic aroma, with little holes and a softness rivaled only by the most cuddly stuffed animal. It is not pasty, nor does it have a sheen on top, but comes apart at your touch without crumbling, and soaks up a good sambar almost immediately.

Pooris are made like rotis or chapattis - wheat flour made into dough and rolled into small flat rounds. Instead of toasting these in a pan, however, they are deep fried until they puff up. They also make a tasty, though much less healthy, bread to accompany many different types of sauces, especially North Indian curries like chole (chickpeas) and cauliflower.

VeganMoFo 24: The Search For the Elusive Dosa Man

Again we went in search of Dosa Man for lunch. Again he was gone. The hot dog vendor nearby said "I told you to come on Monday" (not what we heard), so we left him alone, wondering where Dosa Man had gone. Was he okay? Had he gone out of town? Was he coming back before we left?

We called up the Indian Bread Company and headed there. They had several vegetarian options, and a couple of them could be made vegan. I had the aloo gobi (potato-cauliflower) naanini, a really tasty panini made with naan and with spiced veggies inside. Course two was bhel puri, made with puffed rice and a spicy-sweet sauce. It wasn't too spicy, but it was still good.

And a confession - I had several sips of my sister's diet coke. It was kind of flat, but carbonated drinks were indeed involved. She was considering moving within delivery distance. Overall, highly recommended.

For dinner, we had reservations at Hangawi, where the ambience alone bowled us over. We removed our shoes at the entrance and made our way to sunken seats with lovely silken pillows. The table was set with woven mats and wooden chopsticks and spoons. We ordered drinks with flowers in them, spicy carrot-ginger juice, plum juice, and hot tea. We ordered pumpkin porridge and vegetable pancakes, hot pots with tofu and veggies, multigrain rice bowls with kimchee, and a sauteed mushroom dish. Another very satisfying experience.

Afterward, we went to 235th, an upscale rooftop bar for drinks, had entirely too much, shouted ourselves hoarse singing to old songs and chatting, and stumbled home at nearly 4 am. Ahh, blissful sleep.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

VeganMoFo 23: NYC Eating

Friday we began our culinary tour of New York City. We slept in (actually we got up at 10, which is only 7am on the west coast) and then headed out for lunch. We were in search of Thiru Kumar, aka "Dosa Man," who is known for his dosas and other vegan foods.

Why would someone who has so much access to South Indian food look for South Indian food all the way across the country? I'm not really sure, but the answer is probably a mix of curiosity, his reputation, and ... more curiosity. Curiosity which was piqued even further because we showed up at Washington Square Park and he wasn't there! We searched up an down the neighboring blocks, and finally asked another street vendor, who told us to come back tomorrow.

Disappointed, we walked down the street, and I was pleasantly surprised to see a number of vegan restaurants nearby. We settled on Red Bamboo, which had been recommended by a friend, especially for its desserts. Unfortunately, we forgot to take that into consideration and ordered shared appetizers but separate entrees. The creamy (vegan) broccoli soup was delicious. I had been craving eggplant parmagian and ordered that. The other dishes were seitan and lots of fake meats (I'm not a fan of fake meats). My eggplant parmagian was quite good and solid in and of itself, without too much vegan cheese, but much too large an entree for me (four pieces). It didn't include any pasta, and the garlic bread was hard as a rock. The others were less impressed with their food, except for a curried seitan dish that had a great sauce.

In the afternoon, we went to a little cafe for coffee, and then a silly Indian movie at Times Square.

That night for dinner, we went to Zoma, an ethiopian place. They didn't include butter in their vegetarian platter, which was entirely delicious (I liked the two Wet dishes and the spinach best), though the injera could have been a tiny bit more sour for my taste. We had drinks and were treated to an extra round by the owner, and even ordered seconds of the Wet. Thoroughly satiated, we went back for a good night's rest. No going out.

VeganMoFo 22: Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving (belated)!

So here is my thanksgiving recap. We are in New York City. The Big Apple. The melting pot.

I'm visiting my vegetarian sister and she made a bunch of us a lovely vegan meal (gasp - forgoing the cheese!)

One thing I'm thankful for - no tofurkey. I am not a fan of fake meat, since I've never really eaten meat, so I'm missing or craving nothing.

Instead, she had a lovely appetizer:

- Store-bought, but good - small toasts with an artichoke spread and an olive spread

For the main meal:

- corn on the cob, with Earth Balance
- mashed sweet potatoes with slivered almonds and brown sugar
- spicy arrabiatta-like penne with zucchini and mushrooms

For dessert:

- a 7 layer cookie with coconut and chocolate chips and graham crackers. Yum (they are now gone...)
- fresh fruit salad with mango puree

We paired that with wine and stuffed ourselves silly!

VeganMoFo 21: Dosa Day

I'm writing this long after thanksgiving, so this is the first of my "make up" posts.

The Wednesday before thanksgiving, I didn't do too much in the way of cooking at all.

My mom had ground some batter to make dosas for us, and we made those and served them with hot mango pickle and the apple chutney. Dosas are like crepes, but with a saltiness and mild sourness instead of the slight sweetness of crepes. They are versatile - you can stuff them with potato curry or various veggies, or mix things into the batter (like chopped chilies), or top them with melted Sheese. They can be made thin and crispy of soft and chewy, and they can be eaten with sweet jam or spicy chutneys.

They are also made with a mix of broken partly-boiled rice (which is better for you than plain raw rice, like brown rice) and lentils, which provide protein.

However, there is a downside - since dosas are to be made thin and crispy, they often require good amounts of oil to keep them from sticking. To avoid this, I use a nonstick or anodized pan and use at most a few drops of oil per dosa (sometimes I can leave it out altogether by keeping the pan clean and free of crumbs during cooking).

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

VeganMoFo 20: Pain and gain

Somehow I've been steadily gaining weight over the last week or two. Five pounds, anyone?

I think it can be attributed to the cupcakes. And the sweets. And the snacks. And the candy made from soymilk and soymilk powder.

I haven't done any other major cooking so I am instead going to tell you about a new vegetable: drumstick leaves. If you don't know what drumsticks are, they are long bean-like veggies that grow from a tree hanging downwards. They can be cut and cooked and put into curries.

But the leaves of the tree are small and round, and taste a little like clover raw (here is a picture I found here (they also have a good recipe there). You have to remove all the stems and stalks, because they are tough and inedible. Then you boil the leaves for 10 minutes in water.

For seasoning, I prefer the simplicity of a little curry powder and salt. The leaves are slightly bitter, but that adds depth, and they are a lovely dark green when cooked which is oh so good for you.

Monday, November 19, 2007

VeganMoFo 19: Kali part 2

After the vegan peda fiasco, I wasn't eager to try out anything else new.

Still, we made the buttermilk version of the kali using plain Silk soygurt (they were out of Wildwood). I reasoned that a little lemon juice might be necessary to add the sourness but it turned out great. That was lunch.

We also made good use of the juicer - cut up a whole bunch of the small leftover apples and seeded a couple of really sour pomegranates. Along with a couple of pieces of ginger, it was a sweet and tart, delicious juice!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

VeganMoFo 18: Failures

I tried making the vegan microwave peda according to the recipe I posted before. And it was a complete disaster. I must have used at least 2 cups of soymilk powder, plus an extra 1/4 stick of margarine, and it was still as soupy and goopy and sticky as, say, cake batter. Not good.

My mom tried to save it by adding in all-purpose flour and more soymilk powder, plus more Earth Balance, and still, not much better (though slightly thicker). Sigh.

Finally, she added coconut powder and even more sugar and butter and cooked it until it was thick. When poured to cool it came out like taffy and we rolled it into little balls until it cooled to a solid hard-candy. Phew - too much work!

In the meantime, my dad made up a fantastic cream sauce with pasta. It had coriander and jalapenos and kalamata olives and zucchini sauteed in olive oil, in a cashew-soymilk sauce. As before, filling but gone like *that*.

Friday, November 16, 2007

VeganMoFo 17: Kali

Kali (pronounced kuh'-lee, like scully) is a dish that has a special importance to me, mainly because I've had it since I was little. It's a breakfast or brunch dish, a goopy paste that you lick off your fingers to eat.

You can make kali in two major forms: more kali (buttermilk) or puli kali (sour, or tamarind). The former is white and the latter is brown. As a vegan, I'm banned from the former (until I find a good vegan buttermilk substitute).

So we made the brown version. Basically it's rice flour and a little wheat flour mixed together with a lot of water, tamarind, some spices, a good dose of oil, and LOTS of stirring until it thickens and turns almost translucent. I sprinkled it with some ground flax for protein.

Serve with a healthy dose of nostalgia.

VeganMoFo 16: Chocolate chocolate

At lunch I had a lovely angel hair pasta with a tomatoey sauce with tomatoes. Tomato tomato.

Then, I came home today with a craving for chocolate and cookies. All we had were chocolate chips (which I had intended for baking, but I'd eaten nearly half the bag already!).

Enough was enough, so I made up Village Vegan's lovely double chocolate cookies (from Orangette). I used the same subs but used soymilk instead of the yogurt because...yes...I was out of soygurt.

I also added in about 2 tbsp of oats just because my mother suggested it. And voila:

They required a little longer baking in my gas oven (about 2 extra minutes), but they were ultra chewy inside. And they looked so tempting we had at them before they cooled all the way.

VeganMoFo 15: Pate de choux

(Catching up on two posts)

Yesterday I caught some Food Network. I don't often watch (many things are not vegetarian, much less vegan), but I like to see recipes for more complex things that I might not try myself.

So I watched me some Good Eats, which covered pate de choux this episode.

Things I learned:

- pate´ de choux is pronounced "pa-de-choo"
- that's the real name for any pastry with a big hole in it caused by the evaporation of water as steam
- that's the stuff of cream puffs and eclairs, yum.

It was interesting to see all the details of how to make it, and the little ticks and trips that make it easier. I was disappointed, however, that he chose to use plain old vanilla pudding for the filling instead of teaching us how to make it!

The vegan substitutes are obvious - vegan butter and soy milk. However, the eggs are a trickier issue - they need to beat up for softness and you need the protein or you won't get that characteristic hole in the middle. I think a combination of more soymilk and soy flour or flax seeds would be the way to go, or maybe even silken tofu, but it needs some experimentation.

I also watched Ace of Cakes. They're not vegan, but I love the way they present beautiful and complex decorations and really interesting concepts (like the gross cake head with brains half-eaten by zombies)!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Seven Things #39, #40

Before I forget, last week's and this week's Seven Things I gave away (just enough):

11/9 #39
- book to my mom
- pack of cards (to mom)
- salwar bottom
- gold skirt
- pink top
- 1 sari blouse
- glass doll

7 items

11/16 #39

- 6 bangles I made (see previous)
- stuffed spider (see previous)
- wee bunny (see previous)
- scarf
- plate

10 items

Total 575 items

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

VeganMoFo 14: Vegan Miscellany

Somehow, amazingly, I got AHEAD in my VeganMoFo posts. So I decided to take a day's break and then post this today.

Yesterday we went on a hike at the Stanford Dish. It has a beautiful view of the Stanford campus and surrounding areas, all the way to the very blue San Francisco Bay (yes, that's a hawk!).
We took along some snacks to munch on, including the last of the thenkuzhal and rava laddu (see here):

Then we plucked the squash - now grown large and I hope, ripe enough to cook and eat

What to make with it? We've already made koottu with a previous one, so I need ideas. Suggestions?

In the meantime, I'm reading the VeganMoFo feeds a little at a time. Like

- Sarchan's waffles with ice cream are making me drool

- I just got some sour salad-ready pomegranates so Tofu Mom's pomegranate vinaigrette salad is perfect timing.

- a stranger in the alps mentions restaurants in New York, where I'm going for Thanksgiving, so it's timely, also. And scroll down for that lovely romanesco.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Bunnies and bracelets

Here are three of the bangles I made a while ago:

My mom and I also made the wee bunny found here. It came out a little more lumpy than planned, and my mom sewed on the eyes, but still she's pretty cute. She will go to another baby after she gets out of bed.

I rediscovered one of my old colored pencil drawings as well. This is of Diana, the Huntress (and sister of Apollo, from Greek mythology). She's just taking aim...

Edit: The link to the bunny pattern is now working above.

Monday, November 12, 2007

VeganMoFo 13: Not So Punny

Today is pun day. It WILL be corny.

First a few interesting tidbits:

- great article on Recipes. Ruminate on it, then go down and click on the link of Judith Jones on writing a good recipe, too. Good advice to stew on (except the pork and tenderloin bit...)

- I tried my pb-apple-oatmeal again yesterday, but without sweetener at all, and it was still good - crunchy, creamy, and plenty sweet enough! Today I had it again, but with bananas. Easy as pie.

- A couple of more Diwali treats came my way, including mixture (that's the official name, a kind of salty-spicy chex-mix without chex) and payasam (a liquid made of sweet jaggery and lentils and soymilk) and vada (deep fried salty lentil donut?). (I've been currying favor with the respective cooks of these for recipes) All these sweets and fats are sure to accentuate my pear-shaped figure.

The coolest new thing is that Isa has concocted a VeganMoFo blog feed (she's one smart cookie). So you can read all about the food-related goings-on of other vegan bloggers, and feast your eyes on their pretty pictures sandwiched between great anecdotes and recipes (Link here).

We spent Saturday doing yard work and errands and not too much cooking, so I was kind of fried. Then I had some work and was nearly going bananas (I'm constantly afraid I don't cut the mustard) but I milked the opportunity and got some brownie points from my boss (I hope) for working on the weekend.

I passed out several bottles of jam (they are already going like hotcakes). Sunday we went out, and I was whipped, but then after that I was a couch potato for a while, because I was sour as a pickle for no reason, and yelling at everyone.

Then my mom and I did a little craftiness. What am I making? It's still half-baked, so I'm not ready to spill the beans.

Today I'm cool as a cucumber and thinking about my clumsiness. Left-handers in a right-hand world tend to be more clumsy (as Gaia noted), and I am definitely a butter-fingers. Add that to the fact that I can be a bit of a fruitcake and thick as molasses at times, and I might truly be a nut-case. Of course, all this punning doesn't help that situation, does it?

Bon appetit, epicures!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

VeganMoFo 12: Left-brainer

I just found out this (unsubstantiated) fact: Right-handed people live, on average, nine years longer than left-handed people.

This is terrible news! As a natural left-hander, I write, draw, and cut vegetables with my left hand, but I do several other things with my right, though partly out of force.

Does that make me ambidextrous? I am not sure.

The life-span thing is luckily balanced by the longer life spans of vegans.

I guess that just means that I'll balance everything out by eating a healthy vegan diet, getting exercise, and trying in every way to let nurture win over genetics!

Edit: It just occurred to me (duh) that this was not a food-related post. So here is 12.5, which covers the Green Festival, which I attended today in San Francisco.

If you haven't been, it a HUGE event in the exhibition center which is chock full of booths, food, talks, music, and events. There's constantly something going on, and everything is geared to be environmentally friendly and socially conscious. My favorite part is just walking around to various booths - and tasting things!

One year in the past, I tasted plain old flax oil. It's hard to swallow a tablespoon of oil! But it's stuffed with omega-3's so it was worth it. And when else would you voluntarily consume fat for the sake of your heart?

I also enjoy the organic & vegan protein bars, free fruits, tasting of hemp milk and tea and oj and soymilk and berries. And yes, chocolate as well. Quality organic chocolate, for free!

We also went by the food court, where everything is vegetarian, and anything can be made vegan. I had a lovely dish of vegetables sitting atop polenta from Back to Earth.

Add to that a few tote bags and some lip balm and plantable cards and tips on green living, and this is truly veggie heaven.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

VeganMoFo 11: Persimmons

This post is going to be quick. I love persimmons. Especially fuyu persimmons. And they are in season!

Our extremely sweet neighbors dropped off a bag of them.

They are all not yet ripe but I cut two of the ripest into eighths. They were gone inside of 2 minutes.

The rest are going to stay out or in a paper bag to ripen.

A quick google search pulled up a bunch of recipes for things I didn't know existed, like:

- persimmon pie
- persimmon jam
- persimmon pudding

Who knew? I'd like to try a persimmon burfi. It would be made like this banana burfi, but with peeled persimmons (maybe the cooking kind instead) and soymilk powder and Earth balance.

VeganMoFo 10: Vegan Microwave Peda

In one of my earlier posts, I seem to have typed "I am now entered VeganMoFo." What is that? English? Anyway, I am now entered craziness.

Now, this time, I'm going to talk about something I used to cook but don't anymore. Bittersweet stories are running through my head.

My choice is an Indian sweet called peda. Specifically "microwave peda." As the name implies, it is a traditional sweet modified to be made in the microwave (rather than hours of stovetop stirring). Made with sugar, and BUTTER, and evaporated MILK, and MILK powder (oh my!). Definitely not vegan.

In the bad old days, large groups of friends would get together to make this round sweet, all stirring and rolling and sprinkling for some great international food festival or another.

Here is what they look like:

And I finally got to imaginarily make-up a vegan version. Pretty simple substitutes. I imagine that if you can't get soymilk powder, you'd have to use extra thickened soymilk, and cook longer to make it thick and dry, rather than batter-like. But that's all my imagination, since I haven't tried any of this yet...

Vegan microwave peda

1/4 stick unsalted non-dairy butter
1.5 cups soymilk powder, plus more as needed
a few strands of saffron
chopped pistachios
1 cup sweet soymilk (vanilla is okay)
1 cup sugar
1 bottle cap (from a water bottle is good)

Heat the butter in a bowl on high until melted (usually 2 minutes). In a large bowl, add saffron and sugar to soymilk and mix. Heat 2 minutes twice on medium, until sugar is melted and combined.

Add butter and soymilk powder to soymilk solution. Stir well, until batter-like. If it's too thick, add soy milk. If it's too runny, add more powder.

Microwave for 5 minutes, stopping to stir well every minute. Let cool, oil hands, and try to make into small 1-inch balls. If it's still too runny, add more powder and microwave again until right consistency.

While the mixture is still warm (not burning but not cool enough to harden), make 1-inch rounds, and flatten slightly.

Press bottle cap into top of round. Sprinkle with pistachio pieces.

Variations: you can leave out the nuts if you don't like them. Whole pistachios, or whole or chopped almonds or cashews also work well here. You can use almond milk instead of soy for a richer flavor, but rice milk will make it more runny.

VeganMoFo 9: Diwali Part 2

How did I manage to miss 4 days of posting? No idea, so I'm trying to catch up today.

I'd like to introduce you to the specialties of Diwali, particularly those related to cuisine.

In our house, you get up early and brush your teeth, and then you get a bit of "Diwali lehiyam," which is basically a special sweet medicine made uniquely for this occasion.

Diwali medicine is often, these days, made from a store-bought powder, but it includes such tasty things as ginger, jaggery (unrefined solid cane juice), peppercorns, cumin, coriander seeds, ajwain, and a certain type of spice called kanda thippili.

Kanda thippili is a relative of long pepper, and is good for body aches and flu.

The whole concoction, however, is a fantastic digestive aid, especially after you have overindulged in holiday sweets and snacks!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

VeganMoFo 8: Happy Diwali!

Turns out my spicy cupcakes are a hit. The curry powder variation (see here) REALLY worked out well and all the non-vegans are loving it and eating it up (plus one vegan ate 3. ok it was me).

That is well balanced by my fruit leather. After a few hours in the sun (not too much sun these days) for two days, I got impatient and turned on the oven. Only I left it on and turned it off too late. So the edges burned. And the center is tough and chewy. It tastes like a weird protein bar. Ick.

So I'm leaving the apple stuff aside for a while. Meanwhile, we have been making sweets and snacks for Deepavali (aka Divali/Diwali). While Deepavali is mostly celebrated by Indians, for my whole family it's not a religious thing. In fact, it's the only holiday of the year when you're allowed to pray and do things without bathing. I will explain the whole ritual in another post. Now, more about those sweets and snacks.

My mother-in-law is the lead on this, with crispy omam podi made of besan and ajwain/carom seeds and sweet burfi. She used real ghee in the sweet though, unfortunately. She's also making another crunchy snack made of rice flour and cumin called thenkuzhal.

(photo to come here)

She also made a special vegan sweet for me. And she taught me how to make it. It is a laddu, which is a term for any medium-to-large ball-shaped sweet. Rava is semolina, also known as sooji, or cream of wheat. This works better with the fine kind, rather than the coarse, but she used the coarse because that's what we had, and you just have to grind it more finely and it comes out great.

Rava Laddu

1 cup rava
3/4 cup sugar
1 stick unsalted vegan butter (unsalted margarine works)
a few cashews (optional)

Heat the butter on the stove, and boil. Allow to simmer up to 20 minutes until you can see the liquid is a darker golden amber color, and there is froth on top and sediment on the bottom. You will see water evaporate from the top. DO NOT STIR. Turn off the heat after it stops simmer and the color has changed. Set aside to cool a little. This liquid is now the ghee, which you can leave outside the fridge and use up to a year.

In the meantime, on low heat, dry-roast the rava until it darkens slightly. Set aside. Dry roast the sugar just a little, and add to the rava. Grind the two together to a fine powder.

In a tsp of ghee, saute the cashews until they brown. Add the ghee and cashews to the rava.

Slowly add the liquid ghee to the rava until it starts sticking together a bit (be careful not to add too much, or else you will have to make more rava-sugar powder). Make fairly round balls by pinching some rava tightly in your palm and very gently rolling it between your palms. They should be about one inch across. If the laddus don't stay together, add a little more ghee. When they stay round when picked up between two fingers, they are just right.

Set on a tray to cool. Serve with a salty snack for balance!

Variations: you can add raisins, powdered cardamom, and ground cloves to laddus for more flavor.

VeganMoFo 7: Potlucky

This time, I'm back on the list and telling you about my favorite dish to bring to a potluck. (though I don't have a picture)

These are the reasons it's my favorite (yeah, it's a list):
- it's quick and easy to make
- it's gluten-free
- kids usually like it
- i can make it spicy or not, and it still tastes good
- it's a nice fresh summery dish, even though it's rice
- it can be served warm or cold, and on its own
- it's not liquidy so I can carry it around in tupperware without fear

The dish is a very simple Lemon Rice. It's not fancy. It doesn't look fancy or elaborate. But it works.

Lots of people make lemon rice in various ways, but here's my version. It's good to make the rice first, then cool it by spreading it out on a plate. The chili powder is for extra spiciness - you can leave it out altogether if you want something mild (or add more if you're a glutton for punishment).

Lemon Rice

1 tsp oil, plus extra
1/2-1 tsp chili powder
3/4 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp chopped ginger
1 green chili, chopped finely
1/2 large onion (or 1 medium), chopped
salt to taste
2 cups rice, cooked (1 cup raw)
8 cashews, chopped roughly (optional)
1 tsp vegan butter (optional)
juice of 1 lemon
bunch cilantro, shredded by hand

Heat 1 tsp oil in a wok or pan. Add chili powder, turmeric, ginger, and green chili until they bubble and darken. Add onions and saute until golden brown.

Mix a little oil into the rice, then add to onions and combine well until rice is an even yellow color.

Heat butter in a small pan, and add cashew pieces. Saute until lightly browned and add to rice. Combine.

Just before serving, add lemon juice and cilantro, and mix well.

Variations: some people don't like onions, so I leave those out. For something more healthy or substantial, I sometimes boil chopped veggies or a potato and add them before the rice. If you don't like cilantro, just leave it out - it still tastes good.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007


I thought of this poem in the car today. It was inspired by this William Carlos Williams poem, which is one of my favorites:

This is just to say

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast.

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold.

Isn't it amazing?

Well this doesn't come close, and it's a totally different poem anyway, but here goes

you need to know

i have made
the terrible mistake
of giving you
my heart.
Be careful with it -
it's fragile,
and even in your gentle hands,
crumbling, already.

In other news, my progress on NaNoWriMo is slow. I have 4000 words, roughly. That means I have 23 days to write 46,000 words, or 2000 words a day. Yeah, right.

It's a spider! It's an octopus! ...

... It's an insect?! Well, I only made 6 legs, not eight, and it's kind of badly sewn because the mouth is lopsided and I couldn't figure out how to sew the legs on so they wouldn't be floppy, and I suck at hand sewing the open top closed. (Tips appreciated)

Anyway, here is the fella:

It was going to be a gift for a cousin's baby (which is why the eyes are not buttons!).

I also am working on a hat from The Yarn Girls' Guide to Kid Knits - it's a floppy jester-style hat. This may be the real gift, given the results of the above.

And then I whipped up a few Random Bead bracelets (basically I stick my hand into the bead box and thread whatever comes up) from my leftover glass and metallic beads.

(photo to come, camera is now out of batteries...)

Lots of relatives I know have or are now expecting children, so this is the time for this sort of craftiness.

VeganMoFo 6: Yogurt rice

No one believed me when I told them I mixed yogurt with rice. Even when I told them it was plain, unsweetened, slightly sour yogurt.

My sister once took some (with spicy hot mango pickle) for Halloween and called it mashed eyeballs with ant sauce. Yum.

Yogurt rice is a staple of the South Indian diet. It's the equivalent of dessert - a meal just wouldn't be a meal without it. The idea is that after having all that hot spicy food in that hot spicy weather you cool yourself off with something cold to eat and settle your stomach (can you say "active live cultures" ?)

So when I turned vegan, that was a hard thing to give up. I searched high and low for the perfect yogurt. Yogurt made of unsweetened soymilk at home is good, but somehow just this side of sweet. So imagine my joy when a while ago I discovered Wildwood Unsweetened Plain Soy Yogurt:

It's just the right sourness for taking straight from the fridge, mixing with cooled rice, and having with the latest spicy pickle. Which reminds me, I need to get more!

Monday, November 05, 2007

VeganMoFo 5: Vegan Cookbooks

I'd like to take this opportunity to admit I don't have a copy of Veganomicon, or Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, or any others by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. Though I am in awe of those books and am longing for someone to (by chance) surprise me with a copy.

The reason I don't have them already is that I signed up for the Compact earlier this year, and although I decided not to be strict about it, I'm trying not to buy anything new that I don't absolutely need. So I'm waiting for a used copy on Amazon or elsewhere to get, or else for the end of the year.

In the meantime, I do have two Vegan cookbooks at home:

Vegan World Fusion Cuisine - beautiful pictures, but I haven't tried anything from it.

and Table for Two, from which I made a nutritional-yeast pasta that was pretty good.

I also own Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, which I consult regarding any new vegetable or grain I'm using (most are covered with simple recipes and info on how to prepare). A search for apples on there gave me nearly 20 recipes.

One of my favorites is new vegetarian. It's not vegan and it even uses eggs, but it has several really brilliant vegan or vegan-convertible recipes. I've made things as a novice from there for the first time with delicious results.

Here's to new food and new recipes!

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Friday Sevens

I've been TRYING hard to give away seven things a week (somehow I still have a lot of stuff anyway!) Okay I missed posting a couple of weeks, so here they are.

Two weeks ago #37
- 2 more gift bags
- 2 more books
- 2 packs of greeting cards
- a skirt
- scented stones

8 items

Last week #38
- metal candle holder
- candle
- glass plate
- gift handbag
- set of 6 wineglasses
- set of 2 wineglasses
- glass candle holder

7 items

Total 559.

Various trinkets of INs, including several housewarming gifts. As my sister noted, groceries should not count, so I'm not including those! (But I did buy some more baking items).

I'm just floating above the radar on these, but I think I'm making decent progress with this week's, so let's see!

VeganMoFo 4: Indian cooking

I seem to be off of Katie's list, having a lot of ideas for things to write about already!

So let's start at the beginning, with a few firsts:

- I made mint tea using fresh leaves that are growing in the backyard. I don't have a steamer so I just poured boiling water over the leaves and let it steep. It's spearmint, and the leaves are a bit tough so they can't be eaten, but the tea smells very minty.

- I have some progress on the fruit leather. It's sitting outside in the sun now, after sitting in a warm oven overnight without any apparent drying (well, maybe just the top a little). I've covered it with a thin cloth, but let's see if it dries before the insects get to it.

- I had a great oatmeal variation today. I wanted to use another apple (yes, we have more), and I had a craving for peanut butter. So I googled up this recipe and made vegan peanut-butter apple oatmeal. I used soymilk and sweetened with a few drops of amaretto agave. If you haven't tried this (and you like amaretto), Madhava's agave syrup, though not organic, is fantastic also in hot chocolate. It also comes in other flavors like creme de menthe, which I intend to try one day soon.

- I made a meal today after a long time. (Sorry for the blurry photos) It included cumin-pepper rasam,

vegetable sambar,

and snake gourd koottu (a lentil-and-vegetable dish). I love making koottu. It's a simple, fresh dish without too many spices so it really brings out the taste of any squash or vegetable.

The rough recipe is as follows (I didn't measure amounts very exactly, so proceed with caution!)

Vegetable Koottu

Pressure cook or boil about 2 cups chopped vegetables and 3/4 cup moong dal (it's the small oval-shaped yellow lentil), preferably together, until soft. Drain/boil off excess water (you may want to save this water for later or for use as a stock). Add salt to taste and mix.

Toast together 1 tsp cumin and 1/4 tsp black pepper. Grind together to a medium-fine powder and set aside. I often make a small bottle of this in advance.

Heat a little oil and add a tbsp of vegan butter to it. When it's hot, add 1 tsp black mustard seeds, let pop, add 1 tsp split udad dal, a few curry leaves, and the cumin-pepper powder.

Add to the vegetables and serve!

Variations: leave out the cumin-pepper and use chopped green chilies for spice instead. It tastes entirely different. A tsp of coconut add richness sometimes. A lot of different vegetables can be used - zucchini and yellow (or any) squash, chayote, pumpkin, even spinach. I like to make it with spinach and grind up the spinach a little for a smooth, creamy taste.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

VeganMoFo 3: The Apple Saga Continues

I forgot to include the VeganMoFo logo. So there it is.

If you're a new reader, you don't know that I've been making various things from apples from my apple tree, including sorbet, chutney, cupcakes, and jam.

Yesterday my husband and his father and I peeled and cored and chopped apples. Then I made apple jam (see previous post below) that was a little sweeter than before, because everyone wanted some sweeter jam. We now have 12 jars of jam (1 of which is a huge jar!).

This time I saved the cores and boiled them with a little water, and strained and pressed them to get juice, which was very sweet, so I diluted it with a bit of water.

The peels are sitting there, waiting for me to make fruit leather out of them, which will be an experiment. This will count as making something that intimidates me!

I did grind up half of the peels with grape juice and folded it into the apple cupcake recipe. This time I left out the cinnamon, added 2 pinches of nutmeg, and added (ta da!) 1.5 heaping tsp of a homemade curry powder my mother-in-law made. Topped with leftover frosting, it's got a gingerbread feel with a spicy kick!

And a few apples are left, with which my mother-in-law will make vegan apple halwa (which is like carrot halwa).

And now there are a few more apples, which I will use for SOMEthing else. You'll just have to wait and see.

Flowers and plants

I found my camera!

And I used it to take several pictures, and uploaded some of the apple recipes I tested (see below).

Here are some flowers from my backyard:

And here is a tulsi (sacred basil plant) that is slowly making its way:

And my own baby cilantro/coriander plants:

And a squash that is amazingly bulging from the plant (sorry, sideways photo, too lazy to fix):

Friday, November 02, 2007

VeganMoFo 2: Grandmas

For this issue of VeganMoFo Defashionista, you will learn about my grandmothers.

I have never (to my recollection) tasted my mother's mother's cooking. Very sad, but true. However, she has shared with me many many recipes, which I will be sure to share with you when I can find them. (I seem to have a problem finding things lately)

Her particular specialty is jams and burfis. She used to make jams out of exotic fruits available only in India. Fruits with names like vilaambaram that sound like the jiggly jelly they are destined to become. She also made burfis, which are small sweet bars made of mostly sugar and other flavorings. Traditional burfis are cashew or almond or coconut or just plain, but she has made mango and banana and every other fruit, I'm sure.

My father's mother is also an accomplished cook. While her sensitive stomach doesn't allow her to eat most of the delectables she makes, my family has always enjoyed them! She, too, makes a variety of burfis, but my favorite is her chocolate burfi. It is a piece of dense cake-like sugary stuff, flavored chocolate but somehow with a hint of caramel.

Two years ago, I asked her to make it for me vegan. And she did it. I don't know how! But now that recipe has reached perfection.

But I haven't cajoled it out of her yet...


On behalf of weirdly-capitalized abbreviations everywhere, I am now entered VeganMoFo, or Vegan Month of Food, sponsored by Post Punk Kitchen (my new fave online hangout).

The idea is to write about food very often this month (it's flexible).
Since my camera is still AWOL, I'm just going to write, inspired by ideas from Katie's List. Eventually you may see a photo, but you can see more at the Flickr group.

Today's entry: My first vegan restaurant memory.

The first restaurant I went to that I knew was vegan was Millennium, in San Francisco. I went there for their VegNews award ceremony, after I had recently turned vegan. And I was floored!

There were little hors d'oeuvres covered in creamy stuff, vegan wine by the glass, free delicious chocolates, lovely decor, and the vegan elite of the world, it seemed. I met lots of people, not knowing they were HUGE in the world of veganism.

Julia Butterfly-Hill was there, as vegan-of-the-year, and when I expressed dismay that I didn't even realize I was wearing an old wool jacket (I was new at the vegan thing), she was so sweet and kind and said (I paraphrase) the most important thing is to do the least harm and to try to be as true as you can, not to obsess over the little things. I was touched. Even Mayor Newsom was there, schmoozing. But my favorite part was the look on dh's face (and I'm sure, mine as well) as we ate delicious things that we were sure were not vegan. I kept having to ask the waiters if there was any cream or butter in anything. They smiled indulgently and told me, again, no.

Pockets full of free samples of Tropical Source chocolate, brochures on everything from vineyards to grocery stores and newsletters, bellies full, we headed home, a smile on our faces, a warm, glowing intro to the world of vegans.

Thursday, November 01, 2007


No that's not a weird new technological gadget, that's the short form of National Novel Writing Month, which happens to be... this month!

I didn't officially sign up for it, because I am really unsure whether I can do it, considering the number of partially-written stories and novels that are now littering my various computers and email Draft boxes.

The rules are to write a 50,000 word novel within a month, from Nov 1 to midnight Nov 30. That's a lot of words. In fact, it works out to almost 1667 words a day.

I started today with a story for which I'd already written 400 words. I added 1300 words today (I'm amazed at myself, must be beginner's enthusiasm).

Suffice it to say - it's environmental and partly autobiographical and not very fictional. I'm definitely not qualified to sign up this year!

My first sentence: "Okay, I'll be the first to admit it: I'm a hopeless optimist."

It just goes to show that a hopeless optimist would be trying to write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days. haha.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Vegan Indian

Food is on my mind...

My hunt for a vegan Indian cookbook has been in vain. Granted, many Indian cookbooks are mostly vegetarian, and it's just a matter of substituting (your favorite margarine/shortening/vegan butter here) for ghee, and soy/rice/almond milk for milk. For some things. But not others.

There is one vegan Indian cookbook out there - A Vegan Taste Of India but it doesn't get rave reviews and I'm not convinced it's very authentic. Many other vegan cookbooks have Indian cooking recipes in them, amidst a plethora of other dishes from other parts of the world.

My two favorites for South Indian cooking are Dakshin by Chandra Padmanabhan and a book that appears to be available only in India called "How to cook?" (it's a literal translation, hence the question mark). A similar good one is called "Cook and See."

Having grown up eating and preparing vegetarian Indian food (especially the lesser-known South Indian food), I have a little expertise in this area. Indian cooking requires some very specific spices that may be hard to get, and some specific techniques that make certain seemingly impossible-to-make-just-right foods surprisingly simple. And it turns out making most things vegan is a breeze. A few, however, require a little skill and experimentation.

Is there anyone out there who'd be interested in new ideas for veganizing specific Indian dishes in an authentic way? Would you be interested in seeing some of those recipes here?

Feedback welcome.

Sunday, October 28, 2007


Edit: photos now!

Today (this was Sunday) I did some major baking-supply shopping: molasses, baking cocoa, flour, marzipan (which I might eat before I use...), chocolate, cookies, and other necessities.

So I promptly locked all that away (except the marzipan, just for a taste) and made more apple-licious creations!

I tried: Apple jam

Used this recipe. I added a tbsp of agar-agar to help it gel and a pinch of ground cloves for taste. I blended it afterwards to make a smooth paste.

Then I had lots of apple peels left, so I made a spicy Apple Chutney.

In oil, I sauteed a pinch of asafoetida, then added the peels, 1/4 tsp turmeric, 1.5tsp salt, and 2 tsp chili powder. Cooked covered 5 min until softened, then 2 more min uncovered (until the liquid is gone). Then ground medium-fine (not a paste but no recognizable peels) and jarred.

It's REALLY spicy so it'll go best as a side-dish to chapatis or on bread.

Of course, all the cores, etc. got composted. In retrospect, I could have boiled them (sans seeds) to make a juice. My mom also told me about some pretty apple-seed necklaces people make. I'd like to make one of those someday.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Vegan Cupcakes Take Over My House

This post is brought to you by the letter "A." As in Apples. Edit: photos now!

As in Apple sorbet, based on this recipe here

A is also for "Altering," because I used 1 big fuji apple and 2 red delicious, and I used grape juice instead of apple (because I didn't have any), and I skipped the apple chips (see previous) and didn't use an ice cream maker (see previous). It's icy, but refreshing. In the future I'll put it in my little

A is for Apple cupcakes. I finally made cupcakes!

I veganized this recipe.

I used whole wheat pastry flour, and I couldn't find the nutmeg, so I skipped that, and used 3 of my small home-grown apples instead of the large granny smith. For the eggs, I used 1.5 tsp ground flax in 3 tbsp water.

For the icing, I used the recipe here.

I used 1/2 cup vegan margarine (Earth Balance, organic) and (my first time...) made confectioner's sugar from sugar and cornstarch. I added a dash of cinnamon to the frosting and left out the lemon juice. And lots of whipping. And a bit too much soy milk. Smells and tastes yummy.

The cupcakes smelled more like muffins (maybe because of the flour). But they sure are good. Especially after the melty frosting. And they are almost gone. Already.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Dreaming of cupcakes

I have recently had an obsession with cupcakes. Why? Who knows. But all I can think of are soft cupcakes with gooey centers and creamy frosting. Dark chocolate ones, with black centers swirled with vanilla buttercream, or chocolate chip ones, or lemony vanilla ones with flat colored sprinkles. (feel free to drool now)

But vegan cupcakes are hard to come by. Instead, I ordered up a baking mix (see below) and an icing mix from VeganEssentials, and for an arm and a leg and an afternoon, made up some chocolate-chip cupcakes with cream-colored icing. They were delicious. I ate three before dh had even one. And then, in a fit of generosity, I gave four to a neighbor. She called me up later to say her family loved them at breakfast, and I nearly shouted into the phone, grinning ear to ear, "They're vegan!" I think she had guessed already.

Since then I've eaten up the remaining icing and scraped the bowl clean.

But still I dream of floating cupcakes. I dream of standing at the kitchen counter and catching frosting as it falls. Of licking crumbs from my fingertips. Of biting deeply into a cupcake so it fills my mouth with moist cake and oozes cream.

And then I came across this blog, and the book shown here: Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World! Am I the last vegan on earth to discover this? Perhaps.

Add to this my new issue of VegNews that boasts several delicious recipes for desserts (including chocolate cupcakes with cocoa frosting!) and I'm regretting giving away my electric beater. But my arm can use the exercise.

Now I'm making plans to go buy cocoa powder and chocolate chunks, turbinado sugar (I've been using agave), and shortening. Mmm-mmm.

Eco-tip: Going vegan or vegetarian can save a lot of resources, from water to land to fuels. If you've been on the fence, now is a great time to start. Learn more at

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

No Takers for Freebies? Seven #36

Hmm, looks like no one wants my handmade cards :( Oh well. They are off to Goodwill or a hospital or something.

I got rid of a LOT of things this past weekend. We had a bunch of people over and gave out goody bags:

- about 30 small gifts, including utensils, candles, small boxes, earrings etc
- about 10 kids' books
- about 30 handmade gift bags and ribbon to tie them
- set of candle holders

We also gave away a lot of apples from our tree. They have now turned from tangy and green to yellow/red and SWEET!

The books were part of what came IN (mostly from mom, but also more housewarming gifts)
3 vases, 3 small oil lamps, 2 candles, 2 tea lights, 2 plants, 2 decorative dolls, and the books to give out (see above)

So that makes 61 things out (I won't count the books since they came in) for a total of 544.

All in all, good to see that more went out than in. A few of the lovelier INs will also be off to India (or regifted...) very soon.

Eco-tip: Are you turning things off when you leave a room or go out or go to bed? A routine check can save you money and energy.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Seven Things #35, More Free Cards

This week I'm offering up a bunch more greeting cards I made over, plus a few envelopes. Leave me a note if you're interested and I'll send you a pack.

This is what went OUT this week for my Seven Things:

- chipped stained-glass vase (beautiful but now dangerous!)
- tube of perfume (this scent gives me a headache)
- baby rattle I made (as a gift)
- 1 pack of greeting cards
- music CD (as a gift)
- CD case
- VCR head cleaner (no more VCR!)
- returned book "Walden Two" (great read)

That's 7, for a total of 483. I also returned "Walden Two" and a few things to my mom.

Things that came in: wine glasses, disposable tupperware, "instant" foods, wine (all from a friend who visited, bought stuff, and left it all!), small ceramic container (a party favor)

Friday, October 05, 2007

A Compact Post (and Seven #34)

I now consider myself off The Compact. The reason is that I have been buying and receiving things that I feel are violations, or I condoned the buying of things, like a stuffed animal my in-laws recently bought a baby, gifts of soap I took earlier this year to India, some new books for my library, and a set of curtains. We are also looking into new covers for our sofa and other house things.

Okay all of that is an excuse, and the Compact really has saved me a lot of unnecessary purchases, but I can no longer in good conscience say that I am Compacting. Instead I am a Compacting wannabe.

I'll start by chronicling things that came INTO our home new (marked *) and not new this week:
- groceries*
- vegan goodies (peanut butter cup, cake mix and icing, sheese), sweets*
- binoculars (free gift as award from dh's work)*
- weight scale (returned)
- stuffed animal* (but given away)

And the other seven things I gave away:
- pair of shoes (1 heel broke off)
- cassette recorder
- scarf
- another skirt/petticoat
- small box of makeup powder
- baby dress I made
- small bottle of glue
- compost bin and worms (we now have a Biostack that came with the house)
That's a total of 476.

And that's that.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

More Fridays

I missed last week's Friday Seven, so here it is:

- polo top
- broken timer
- sponge organizers
- sponge rollers (never used)
- photo frame stand
- burned music CD
- office supplies (labels, folder, envelopes)
- small plastic bottles (about 5)
- pair of silver hoop earrings
- old underwear (just had to go)

That's 10. Total 461.

This week's:
- new sheet (too small)- to inlaws
- new pillowcases (too small) - sent to in-laws
- 2 too large sari blouses
- postcards
- 1 gold long skirt
- pair of earrings

So that's just 7. Total 468.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Checkers is solved!

Imagine my surprise when I read this headline in this week's Science magazine.

Turns out computers have been working on it for years. The question:

What would happen in a game of checkers if both players play perfectly (no mistakes, anticipating the other's moves)?

In tic-tac-toe, the result is known - a draw, unless the first player (X) wins by choosing a corner for the first move.

How did they do it? They calculated the number of possible positions with up to 24 checkers (which is the mind-boggling number 500,995,484,682,338,672,639). Then they disregarded the positions that don't make sense (like jumping across the board, which you can't do) and found a "best path" of positions. They did this by playing forward (just playing) and by playing backward (imagining the end and extrapolating the moves in reverse).

And the result: A perfect play by both sides (no mistakes!) results in (tada!) a draw.

Hmm. Kind of a disappointment, yet an amazing mathematical discovery, and the most complex game solved so far.

In the past they have also done Connect Four - first player can force a win. They've also solved a whole bunch of games I haven't heard of :)

Makes me wonder if perfect play by more complex games results in either a first player win or draw. No wonder there was such a fight over eenie-meenie-miney-moe!

Water Week Eco-tip: How do you brush your teeth - with the water running? Instead, fill a cup with water and use it to wet your brush. You can rinse out your mouth, the sink, and brush with the cup of water at the end. Compared to leaving the water running, you save at least 10 gallons over a 2 minute brush, or 2 gallons even if you only let the water run at the beginning and end. Even if you only brush once a day, that saves you 730-3650 gallons a year!

Friday Friday Friday Seven Seven Seven #26-30

I have actually missed posting 4 Seven Things, so here are 5, including this week's. So you won't think I haven't been giving stuff away:

August 17 #26
- electric beater (I can make do with a whisk)
- set of oil pastels (to a kid who will love them)
- hanging decoration (faded and worn)
- spice rack (no space in the new cabinets! I saved the bottles)
- bath toilet seat cover (old and stained)
- returned cable modem? (got a new one though)
- 1 top (given as gift)

7 items - total 413

August 24 #27
- 4 cushion covers (given as gift)
- 1 old rug (threadbare)
- returned duvet cover (to mom)
- returned 2 frying pans (to friend)
- 5 plant pots (to cousin)

13 items - total 426

August 31 #28
- ribbon/notebook fastener (from an old handmade journal, which I've also tossed)
- set of old pens (some that write, some that don't)
- petticoat (which is worn under a sari)
- 4 metal bowls (as gifts)

7 items - total 433

September 7 #29
- 2 scraps of fabric (I seem to have a lot of these)
- 2 small ceramic lamps (for tea lights or oil)
- 2 sets of duplicate photos (to mom and mil)
- espresso machine (hardly used)
- stuffed doll (as gift for a baby)

8 items - total 440

And now, this week:

September 14 #30

- 4 tops (various old ones I rediscovered, to mom and Goodwill)
- skirt (black, long, see-through)
- pair of pants (way too baggy)
- bed dust ruffle (torn apart)
- plastic clothes bin (to sister)
- set of old "wish" cards (nice wishes, but no longer necessary to keep)
- keychain
- paris brochures

11 items - total 451

That's an average of

Okay I feel up to an eco-tip now. Based on my own experience.

Eco-tip: How fast does your shower run? Put a bucket under it and run for one minute. Measure out the bucket with a gallon milk jug (use the water for plants or save in another bucket). If yours runs faster than about 3 gallons per minute, invest in a low-flow one with aeration. You'll hardly feel the difference and you'll save a LOT of water.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Everything is different...and the same

Moving changes everything.

My whole Riot for Austerity cutback is up in the air - we now have a lawn and plants to water, plus new home expenses.

How do you not buy new stuff for a new house? Well, I'm trying. Haven't bought any new furniture yet, but I did have to get a can of ant repellent. Yuck. Feeling terrible and guilty about that.

So, I've also been breaking my other rules left and right:

- I drank some (admittedly, flat and warm) Pepsi that was sitting in the car. Mmmmmmmm

- I browsed an Asian fashion magazine and drooled over swimsuits I'll never wear.

- I stood in front of my new closet and new bathroom mirror and tried on old clothes in new ways.

- We now only have a shower, no tub, so I haven't taken a bucket bath in a month.

- I've created a few more lists. I am going to have to find more list-avoiding strategies.

- I've been dishing out clothing compliments, too!

After all of that, I feel glad I've managed to remain (technically) vegan, still compost and recycle, and unpack a couple more boxes!

My mom would say this goes to show that overdoing it is never good, but I do feel like it's out of my system. I'm now raring to get rid of some more stuff.

There's no eco-tip this week either. I'm feeling too hypocritical for that. I hope you all fare better than I do!

Thursday, August 30, 2007


If there happens to be anyone out there who wonders where I've gone - a hint: it involves liquidating bank accounts and a truck.

Yes, we bought a house.

Here is a picture of our new home:

So that's what I've been busy doing. Now comes all the unpacking, decoration, etc. I've just started putting up some photos, organizing bookshelves by color, and just getting things out.

I've been getting rid of a LOT of things, so the Seven Things lists are on hiatus for now! I'll catch up when I can get a real list together.

Projects that have emerged? I've found that I need to recover some furniture and other cushions with fabric to match my new airy home (not my usual deep red and tons of eclectic, dizzying prints in dark colors). I'd like to eventually repaint. Some gardening.

I also have a lovely new apple tree in the backyard. Lovely tangy macintoshes (I think)!

(photo by a friend's 4-year old daughter - isn't she quite the budding photographer?)

Eco-tip: Corn ethanol is not all it's cracked up to be, and is likely WORSE than gasoline. Read about all the dangers, vow never to use it, and find a great alternative.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Ninety percent

A while ago I posted about the Riot for Austerity 90% Emissions Reduction Project.

The idea is to reduce your emissions by 90% - to 10% of that of the average American or East European.

Here are the amounts that 10% should be, and our household usage:

Gasoline - 50 gallons per person per year
- I'm stopping car use to get to work, but dh still drives 20 miles a day, and we go about 50 miles each weekend, and with our 45mpg car, that comes out to about 180 gallons a year, or 90 gallons per person. Of course, any bus trips and long distance trips are additional. A long way to go to reduce, which might mean not driving..

Electricity - 90kwh per household per month
- We use WAY more than this - average 250 kwh per month over the year. We will see how that changes over the next year, being a little more careful about heating usage. Need to work on it.

Natural gas - 100 therms per household per year
- We use about 20 a month, or 240 per year. To cut by half? Maybe eat fresh more often (salads and fruit), and use more efficient pots and pans? Work to be done.

Garbage - 0.45lbs per person per day
- We make only about 0.5lb per person per day, since we already compost and recycle pretty much everything. So I'm okay being this close on this one. But it means making no MORE trash.

Water - 10 gallons per person per day
- Our water bill tells us we use about 86 HCFs, or about 64000 gallons per year, which for 4 people living there comes to a whopping 44 gallons per person per day. And we didn't have a lawn for most of the year... More bucket baths coming.

Household purchases - $1000 per household per year
- We spend about $50 per month on items, and since we're not buying clothes, we've only spent about $200 this year on other items. So we are probably pretty close to $1000 per year.

Food - local and organic 70%, dry/bulk 25%, other (still organic) 5%
- We shop for fruits and veggies only at the farmer's market, but milk is still a problem. My estimate is more like 50-35-15. Some work to do.

Eco-tip: Calculate your usage using the 90% guidelines. Where do you stand?