Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Homemade Pickles!

I absolutely LOVE pickles. I have to confess that my inspiration to start making them myself started with a small obsession with an adult beverage called picklebacks, which involves pickle brine. I wanted to make this beverage at home, but couldn't find pickles in the store which weren't laden with chemicals. The organic pickles I found were unbelievably expensive. I then discovered something amazing: it is about the easiest thing on earth to make your own pickles. It is probably the simplest thing I will ever post on this blog. The one caveat is that these easy pickles cannot be stored in the cupboard. You have to put them in the fridge.

Here is how to make pickles:

Boil 1 cup vinegar, 1 cup water, and 1tbsp salt.
Pour this mixture over a bunch of cucumbers, cut up or not as per your preference, in a jar.
Leave the jar in the fridge for 3 weeks.

If you want to get a little fancy, chop up a couple cloves of garlic and about 2 tbsps of fresh dill and throw that in too. I did so and the result was the closest thing I have ever had to a Kosher Dill from the Jewish deli on Kings Highway in the 80s, which probably no longer exists.

Once you have piggishly eaten then entire jar in 2 days, you can reuse the brine at least once, just add more cucumber.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Vegan/Vegetarian Thanksgiving Survival

The holidays are often stressful, but being a vegan/vegetarian at Thanksgiving, traditionally an orgy of animal foods, can be miserable if you don't have a supportive family. Here are a few suggestions on how to make it more enjoyable:

Discuss your diet with the person or people cooking in advance. Explain that you can't eat stuffing that was inside the turkey or vegetables cooked with meat. Something as simple as leaving the marshmallows off the sweet potatoes or the ham out of the collard greens might open up several more options for your meal, and your host may be happy to oblige. For vegans, see if it's too much to ask for mashed potatoes or squash to be made with non-dairy milk and butter.

If your host won't oblige these requests or you still feel your options will be too limited, bring your own food to the party. Offer to be in charge of the vegetable dishes to take some of the pressure off the cook. Suggestions include butternut or acorn squash baked at 350 with Earth Balance, cinnamon, nutmeg, and a pinch of sugar; potatoes mashed with Earth Balance, almond milk, and fresh dill; collard greens or kale sauteed in olive oil and garlic; baked yams; barbecue blackeyed peas; homemade bread; lentil walnut pate... The possibilities are endless and chances are, your guests will not miss the dairy or meat traditionally in these dishes after gorging themselves on turkey and gravy. You'll actually be performing a public service. Too lazy to cook? Check out Whole Foods and Trader Joe's for a host of premade vegan foods, or go super gourmet with The Cinnamon Snail's Thanksgiving menu. Most health food stores also carry vegan pies and pastries.

Finally, have a discussion with someone you're close to who will be at the gathering and explain that being singled out as The Vegan or having your diet critiqued or analyzed makes you uncomfortable and unable to enjoy the celebration. Announcing to the whole room "These green beans are for Suzie because she's A VEGAN" is not nice, nor is saying "come on, just eat the pie, it's Thanksgiving, it won't kill you," nor is getting all huffy because Suzie won't eat the nice souffle Grandma spent all day making, nor is asking where you get your protein, etc etc etc. You are going to politely refrain from talking about the miserable life and death of the poor turkey and how high everybody else's cholesterol probably is, so everyone else can refrain from making you a pariah or a conversation piece. Enlist supportive family and friends to intervene on your behalf if these remarks come up. Or you can just send people this article.

Finally, if you aren't obligated to go to someone else's house, consider hosting your own plant-based Thanksgiving and inviting others to join in the feast!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Vegan Pate

Pate is one of those fancy foods it seems one will never eat again after going vegan. When I discovered something called Faux Gras, a vegan version made from lentils and walnuts, in the health food store, I was hooked, but deterred from buying it frequently as a tiny container is about 6 bucks. One day after making too many lentils, I invented this extremely simple recipe and discovered I could make an equally delicious version for pennies at home! This scrumptious pate is great with crackers, bread, raw veggies, or apple slices. Bon appetit!

4 cups cooked lentils w bay leaf + garlic
2 cups walnuts
Juice of 2 lemons
1 package of dry miso
Splash vinegar (apple cider or balsamic)
Splash tamari or soy sauce

Blend on high for about 5 min. Pate!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Vegan Food Truck With A Big Heart

I recently had the pleasure of eating at The Cinnamon Snail, a gourmet-ish vegan food truck which serves in a different neighborhood every day! Part of the fun is finding the truck. The best way to stay in the loop as to its whereabouts is to subscribe to its facebook page where daily updates are provided. The truck serves in Midtown, Queens, Brooklyn, and New Jersey. The day I went, I got there about 30 minutes before it closed and was disappointed to see many of its treats were sold out. I had been very much looking forward to sampling a bourbon creme brulee vegan donut and a lavendar pear turnover, but alas, they were all gone. I ordered a maple pumpkin glazed seitan with spiced roasted pecans, marinated kale & dark beer whole grain mustard on grilled baguette and a ginger cookie and was THRILLED. I vowed I would begin making weekly visits to this delectable truck.

And then the hurricane hit. The truck was out of commission for a few days, and then its owners decided they would get back on the road-- only they would be going to some of New York's hardest hit areas and serve people for free. They are now doing this indefinitely. Obviously, this makes me like them even more. They are requesting donations to support this effort to their paypal: thecinnamonsnail@gmail.com

After seeing many instances where people were subsiding for days on hastily made PBJs, cold food out of cans, or nothing, I think it is amazing that this truck is enabling people to get hot, fresh, gourmet vegan food for free. I'm sure it's lifting a lot of spirits as well as filling a lot of bellies. And I will certainly be patronizing this truck whenever it returns to normal service!

Finally, if you are interested in sampling their food for Thanksgiving, they have a special menu here where you can pre-order their delicacies and then pick it up Thanksgiving day.