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Weird questions I’ve been asked about veganism

I feel like I’ve been reading a lot about weird questions vegans get asked lately. It’s no longer just “where do you get your protein?” — people want to know all sorts of strange things, ranging from where we get our fat (nachos!!) to whether we would eat our own placenta (gross — but technically okay?)

Maybe this is a sign that veganism has become so mainstream that everyone knows that animals are mistreated (why are you vegan??) and lettuce does not a meal make (are you sure there’s nothing you can eat here?), but sometimes, I don’t even know what to say.

Here are some of the questions I’ve been asked about my lifestyle over the years.

Are you allowed to dislike any animals? (friend)

Nope, vegans are contractually bound to love every single animal, ever. Even the mean ones, and the ugly ones, and the ones that have more than four legs, and the ones with no legs, and the ones with scales, and the ones that suck our blood, and the ones that might exist or might not exist, like unicorns — we give unicorns the benefit of the doubt and love them too, just in case.

Just kidding. I hate spiders. They freak me the f@#$ out. Veganism is about treating all animals with respect, and you can totally respect some things you don’t like, right? Like Condoleezza Rice. Or yoga.

Can you eat animal crackers? (some random guy)

Many brands of animal crackers are vegan. As with any product, check the label.

I like to bite their heads off while their friends watch.

How do you make pot brownies if you don’t eat butter? (lady at the Fremont Fair)

I may live in Washington state, but I’m really more of a beer/whiskey person. So, I’ve turned to the Internet for this one, and it is possible to make vegan pot brownies! I’m also pretty sure that hits to Vegtastic! are going to skyrocket for writing this.

Vegan pot brownies vegan pot brownies vegan pot brownies.

Do you eat fish? (guy at the Fremont Fair)

Ummm, no? Some people think that “vegan” means “dairy-free” or something. I was dining at a restaurant in my hometown not long ago and the waiter assured me that “the salad is vegan, the eggplant is vegan, the lamb is vegan…”

Vegan = consuming nothing from animals. At all. Unless you count consuming cuddles — those are acceptable.

What about roadkill? Like, it’s already dead and all. (my college friend Jon)

So, technically this happened when I was only vegetarian, but my friend Jon once offered me some jerky from this deer he hit with his truck. I didn’t eat it, but roadkill is already dead, unintentionally, so why let it go to waste?

As someone who initially stopped eating meat for environmental reasons, the idea of wasting something usable is appalling. However, as I’ve become an “ethical” vegan (I put “ethical” in quotes because I think environmental concerns are ethical too), I wouldn’t eat roadkill because I’m at the point that I do not consider meat to be food, don’t want to ever get to that point again, and would probably be sick from eating it. Also, I like my food with grill marks, not tire marks.

Most of us are not faced with the roadkill situation every day, but sometimes we are served accidental eggs, dairy, or meat in restaurants — even at restaurants that should be very vegan friendly.

What’s a vegan to do? Again, part of me says, “it’s already here and if you send it back, it will just be thrown away. Just eat it.”

But, it already exists and will already be wasted whether I eat it or not, either in the garbage or in my digestive system, so I am not wasting the animal product by not eating it any more than it has already been wasted.

So… don’t eat it.

This has soy sauce, which has wheat. But just a little wheat. (Waitress at a place)

Contrary to popular belief, being gluten-free and being vegan are not the same thing!! There are indeed gluten-free vegans, and sometimes restaurants or bakeries lump the two diets together to save work, and most gluten-free people are as whiny and obnoxious as vegans (kidding, kidding), but please don’t confuse the two. I love me some gluten.

If you were stranded on a desert island with a pig… (okay, this isn’t that unusual of a question, but it’s still weird, right?)

The people who ask me this question have a pretty overinflated sense of my ability to survive in the wild. I took that Buzzfeed quiz and got, like, 3 days. The pig would eat me.

Who can really say what each of us would do in a life or death survivalist situation? I would probably eat an animal, or even a person. Some people are pretty tender, I’m guessing.

Me possibly eating some pork, if it came down to life or death, in a completely improbably scenario, is not a reason for you to not be vegan in Seattle, WA in 2014.

What are your thoughts on Venus fly traps? (Mary)

My friend Mary asked me once what I thought about Venus fly traps and other carnivorous plants. I’m okay with them, but only if they’re rescued from plant shelters and not bought in stores. As the guardian/imprisoner of an adopted cat that I love to smithereens, I’m aware of the struggle to balance my vegan pledge to primum non nocere and my fluffy buddy’s desire to kill kill kill. Zeno reminds me a lot of a cuddly version of the murderous plant in Little Shop of Horrors (“Feed me, Helen! Feed me blood!”), so is a Venus fly trap really any different from a cat?

Cats and Venus fly traps aren’t conscious of their actions in the same way that humans are (is that a speciesist thing to say?) — they can’t choose ethics over instinct. Even if they could, cats need meat to survive, and Venus fly traps probably need flies. Can you deny an animal that already exists what it needs to keep on living?

That said, I am against the creating of new predators through breeding or laziness (i.e., not spaying/neutering). Don’t breed or buy while shelter Venus fly traps die!!

Also, flies are gross and spread disease. I should probably get a Venus fly trap to do my dirty work. Also, cats are awesome. Also, I probably have this parasite in my brain that makes me choose my cat’s desires over my own.

I didn’t think this one out very hard.

Vegans: what’s the weirdest question you’ve been asked? Non-vegans: what’s the weirdest thing about veganism that you want to know?

10 places to eat vegan tacos in Seattle

Blue Water Taco tacos

Tacos are probably the world’s most perfect food because of their versatility, lack of utensils needed, and overall tastiness. Put anything in a shell or tortilla, sprinkle some hot sauce on it, and BAM — awesomeness.

You could — and SHOULD — make tacos at home, but Seattle has you covered if you want to eat out.

Bait Shop — Bait Shop’s black bean and squash (of the butternut variety) tacos are pretty tasty, with a nice mix of pickled veggies on top, though I’m not a huge fan of the flour tortilla they wrap it in. Corn tortillas are for tacos, flour tortillas are for burritos. (I know, that’s a comma splice — somehow, other punctuation didn’t feel right.) Still, it’s a satisfying meal if you’re out on the Hill.

Bimbos/Cha Cha — Bimbos’ potato tacos have their critics (“too mushy”) but if you get them double-decker style with vegan cheese, they’ve got crunch without cutting up the roof of your mouth and overall pretty bomb. Bimbos also has a lovely and extensive selection of hot sauces, so it’s fun to get a couple of tacos and put a different sauce on each bite for full-on flavor explosion. Yes.

Chupacabra tacos

El Chupacabra — El Chupacabra puts rice on their tacos, which basically makes them mini-burritos. This weirds me out a little. Nothing against burritos, but if I wanted a burrito, I would order a burrito. I guess you could ask them to hold the rice? Grains aside, El Chupacabra’s variety of Gardein meats and Daiya makes the restaurant always a welcome option.

Georgetown Liquor Company — GLC and I are back on speaking terms after Anika introduced me and some other people to their nachos, but for a while I was really hesitent to dine there because they served real cheese on their tacos once and then a second time after I asked for a do-over of the first batch. They’re just your typical fake beef/tomato/lettuce tacos, but they’re named after princess Leia and are pretty cheap, so that’s cool. Just be sure to ask to make them vegan.

El Borracho — I haven’t tried El Borracho’s vegan tacos, but they have a soyrizo and potato offering that looks pretty awesome. Remind me again why I haven’t tried it???

Veggie Grill tacos

Veggie Grill — I’m a fan of almost everything Veggie Grill does, and while these are not my favorite tacos in the city, they’re a decent option. I think it’s the only place to get vegan fish tacos now that Highline isn’t serving food — correct me if I’m wrong. However, if you’re at Veggie Grill and order anything other than their buffalo wings or Kale Caeser salad, I probably don’t understand the inner workings of your mind.

Rancho Bravo — For the longest time, I was under the impression that Rancho Bravo was not vegan-friendly. This is wrong. Their tacos are really just beans and veggies, but somehow they’re so good. Also, you’re probably a little drunk if you’re eating at Rancho Bravo in the first place, so their food is gonna be extra delicious to you anyhow.

Poquito’s — The yam tacos at Poquito’s can be made vegan without the cheese, and are fairly enjoyable. This is one of the only times you will ever see me endorse yam anything (down with sweet vegetables!), but something about the combination of grilled onions and cilantro balances out yammy sweetness. And the ambiance of Poquito’s is really fun.

Blue Water Taco — Several Blue Water Taco locations serve Field Roast chorizo (including the one on First Hill, where I go sometimes for lunch), which is a fantastic option for those of us accustomed to just getting beans at Mexican fast food joins. The Field Roast can be a little dry if overgrilled, so be sure to get guac and salsa.

Innkeeper tacos

The Innkeeper — Eating tacos with friends on the Innkeeper’s awesome patio on a warm spring or summer day is truly one of the joys in life. This is the only other time you will see me endorse yam anything (current offerings are sweet potato and yam, though I think it was yam/squash when I was there last). Unfortunately, I learned that the crema pictured here contains eggs — I am fairly certain they told me it was vegan when I ordered/ate it (though I might have just asked if it was non-dairy??), but just emailed the Innkeeper to confirm. Sigh. Still, the setting is nice and the vegan chili on the side is tasty.

2/26/14 update: Highline’s kitchen is open again on Mondays and Tuesdays and they have THREE KINDS OF TACOS!! I haven’t tried them yet, but hear good things.

Any other vegan taco recommendations?

Vegtastic’s favorite vegan things of 2013

Obligatory year-end wrap-up post!!

2013 went by in a flash. Here are my favorite vegan-related parts of it — not all of the things I mention originated in 2013, but all of them became special to me this past year and I want to share my love with you.

The 13 best parts of 2013

Veggie Grill: When Veggie Grill announced they were opening a couple of locations in Seattle, I was PUMPED. This was actually in 2012, but 2013 has been the year of Veggie Grill for me for sure. I can’t pass up a visit when I’m in either South Lake Union, U Village, or that shady block of downtown. I’ll even walk from my office on First Hill to the downtown location on my lunch break to pick up an online order and walk back to my desk. I may be eating Veggie Grill right now. My most memorable Veggie Grill moment was in March, when I lost my wallet and broke my iPhone within a week of each other. With a hunger in my belly, five dollars in my pocket, and a new, unactivated debit card in my wallet and no way to activate it, I asked the guy behind the counter at the U Village location if I could use his phone to call the bank so that I could order some buffalo wings. He complied without judgement, even though I felt super-sketch.

Trader Joe’s Japanese-style fried rice: Trader Joe’s is generally a friend to the vegans, and this one of my favorite new releases of the past year. It’s salty, chewy, a little umami, and super easy. And cheap. Mmmm…

Vida Vegan Con II: How often do you meet your heroes? When else do you get to hang out with hundreds of vegans from around the country and world and discuss issues like race, body image, and animal activism and even speak on a panel about stuff you care about? What other opportunity do you have to sip champagne and pose for Prom photos and bid on auction items to benefit a sanctuary and dance to beehive-hairdoed DJs and eat veggie burgers at a strip club in one of the most vegtastic cities in this great nation? If you can think of one, let me know. Otherwise, I’ll await with eager anticipation for the next VVC.

Tacos: Tacos really came into their own in 2013 thanks to the efforts of the Austin vegan crew and their monumental Taco Cleanse. My soccer team also got really into post-game tacos over the summer to the point where I think our mascot is now a squirrel holding a taco. Memorable tacos I ate this year include breakfast tacos at the Whole Foods in Austin, the potato tacos at Bimbo’s, the fish tacos at Highline (RIP) and my friend Danny’s homemade soyrizo and tater tot tacos.

Grocery Outlet: if you think you can’t eat vegan on a budget, you don’t shop at Gross Out. Or, if you think you can’t shop at Gross Out and eat vegan, you don’t shop at Gross Out. While the selection is never consistent, the selection of vegan products is consistently available. I’ve bought everything from Amy’s veggie burgers to soyrizo to vegan ice cream to Earth Balance to baked tofu to non-dairy cream cheese, and can always find raw tofu, non-dairy milk, and legumes. And save hellllllla money.

Artisan vegan cheese: I know that the PPK called 2012 the year for vegan cheese, but I finally joined the trend in 2013. I haven’t been vegan that long (5 committed years, and toying with it for a few years before then) but I’ve watched vegan cheese’s progress in this period, from gnarly “will it melt?” blocks to something I would (and did) serve my dad at Thanksgiving. From commercially available to DIY options, vegan cheese has come very, very far, and I’m eager to see where it goes in the next few years. Since so many people say, “oh, I could never give up cheese,” I know that a lot of us are optimistic that mainstream America will change its tune after a few slices of non-dairy alternatives.

NARN: The Northwest Animal Rights Network has been around since 1986 but I only got involved this year. It’s a fantastic group of committed animal rights activists, and I have so much to learn from this dedicated crew. For a while, I was helping the board update their social media sites, but then I got my new job and could only handle so much non-profit communication (after reading about car crashes and AIDS and dying children all day, it’s hard to then read all about animals being horrifically murdered and exploited) so I had to resign. Still, it’s an organization that every Puget Sound-region vegan should be involved in. Get beyond just the food, people.

Okay, back to food.

Brown Sugar Baking Company: Brown Sugar Baking Co. sorta snuck onto my radar at Central Co-op, but it wasn’t until their weekly booth at the Virginia Mason Farmer’s market that I really grew to love this tiny little bakery out of the CD. Their Southern chocolate whoopie pies are really fantastic — not too chocolatey at all, which most people would consider sacrilege but I’m not really a chocolate person (please don’t stop reading. I’m not crazy. I swear.)

Vegan Cuts: This monthly service is a fun way to discover new vegan products. I have written rather lengthily about both the snack box and beauty box, so will spare you the details, but their success has been fun to watch over the past year. Nice, nice people running the show, too.

Beanfield’s nacho chips: these are my favorite salty snack of 2013, without exception. They’re gluten- and corn-free, but taste just like Doritos. I haven’t tried this yet, but I’m certain that you could make some awesome vegan, gluten-free stoner nachos.

Texas VegFest: Oh, Te-jas. You are so unvegan friendly in so many ways, yet Austin is, like, my new favorite place on earth. Texas VegFest was so well-run and fun that it had to make the list. I’ve already written all about it, so I’ll spare you here, but it’s definitely worth a trip to Austin. Actually, Austin itself is worth the trip to Austin, but Texas VegFest is the cherry on the proverbial non-dairy sundae.

Beyond Meat: Some vegans don’t like this stuff because its flavor and texture is so similar to chicken, but these little strips are great for the people considering veganism who don’t want to think outside the poultry box. A one-for-one substitute like Beyond Meat makes this so much easier, and because it so closely resembles the real thing, might sustain people before they develop a taste for tofu. Beyond Meat is pretty tasty too.

More mainstream acceptance: Ag-gag bills failed, Beyonce and Jay-Z dabbled, Al Gore finally took the plunge, Ellen continued to be awesome, Time posted some stuff, Mercy for Animals did a huge expose featured in Rolling Stone, and more.

Also, Vegtastic’s least favorite vegan thing of 2013

Highline stopping kitchen service. Why, Highline, why? WHYYYY??? This leaves GLC as the sole player on the Seattle vegan bar food scene, and they’re dead to me after they served me real cheese and then put the same real cheese back on my order after I sent it back. 2013: the year the Seattle vegan bar scene died. RIP.

Vegan Cuts Beauty Box (October box)

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Have I ever told you about how much I procrastinate? I’ve probably been putting it off.

Well, a couple of months ago, I received an email from the fabulous Melisser at Vegan Cuts asking if I would like to review the October Vegan Cuts Beauty Box.

Would I? Oh yes.

My beauty routine is fairly minimal. I sometimes go days without combing my hair (the brush just gets caught in all the split ends, okay??), and while friends have commented that one can gauge my mood by how much eye makeup I am wearing (just mascara = normal, a little eyeliner = feeling good, full-on-raccoon = feeling bad, none = I’m slowly giving up on life), I don’t tend to use  many other cosmetics, so this opportunity seemed like the perfect excuse to get out of a rut.

It’s now December, but here’s my review!

The contents

Beauty Without Cruelty lavender shampoo: I’m a huge fan of BWC’s mascara and face wash and have been enjoying a sample bottle of their Vitamin C lotion from VVC, but their shampoo didn’t de-grease my hair as thoroughly as I would like from a hair-cleansing product.

Earth Science Pure Essentials Fragrance Free Shampoo and Conditioner: these, on the other hand, made my hair look/feel/smell (JK — it’s unscented) awesome. I’ve never going to give up the hippie mud shampoo I’ve been using since high school, but I did go out and purchase a bottle of this conditioner at Central Co-op for a fairly reasonable price ($8.95), even though I’m pretty sure that conditioner is an unnecessary luxury that Big Soap has manipulated us into thinking is critical to our hair not falling out. (Maybe this is where all my split ends come from. Or maybe I should get my hair cut more than twice a year.)

All Natural Face Matte Cream Blush: This stuff makes me feel so pretty, and works as lipstick or rouge — I like wearing both simultaneously for a natural(ish)-looking glow. Vegan Cuts gave us Dusty Rose, which is more neutral than the whorish pinks and reds that I usually pick. Use your fingers to apply it — super easy, and the case even has a little mirror to prevent you from giving yourself clownface when applying on-the-go. Plus, using your fingers allows you to spread it to the contours of your kisser better than any stick — I apply lipstick like a toddler. But wait — there’s more: it’s only $5.75!! ZuZu luxe lipstick is going to cost you three times that. Hells yeah.

Concrete Minerals eyeshadow: okay, I don’t know how to wear dark purple eyeshadow without looking like I’ve been in a bar fight, but I like the eggplanty color and shimmer of the eyeshadow that was in the box. It’s easy to apply, as long as you, umm, know what you’re doing, and at $7 a pop isn’t too unreasonable a price. Plus, Concrete Minerals’ products have fun names like “Blood and Guts” and “The Vaccine.”

Bare bones facial cleanser: this stuff is kinda an IQ test. The first time, I got my face all damp like I was going to be applying normal soap, then was all “MY FACE FEELS LIKE CRAP” after using it. Turns out, I just did it wrong because… it’s not soap. Ahhh. So, the next day, I applied it to dry skin, and, voila, squeaky-clean face — very nice. I’m fairly acne-prone so I’m hesitant to change my face routine much, but this stuff was developed with sensitive skin in mind. I’m going to use the rest of the tester bottle before I decide whether to buy again, but I like that the company is a one-woman operation and would like to support her!

Lotus Moon Vitamin E hydrating gel: you know that scene in Alien where they’re playing the knife game and that one cyborg guy cuts his hand and that white goo comes out and everyone’s all “OMG, he’s a robot”? It’s basically the first scene in the movie, so I’m not really giving anything away. (Spoiler alert: AN ALIEN POPS OUT OF A GUY’S CHEST LATER ON!) Well, the color and consistency of this stuff sorta reminds me of that goo. That said, I like the way it makes your skin smooth, soft, and hydrated without feeling greasy or heavy — it’s designed for oily, acne-prone skin like mine. My mom says I need to moisturize, so I’m thinking of buying a vial, even though it is a spendy $27.95. Who can put a price on looking good though, right? (Me, that’s who.)

Meow Meow Tweet Bergamot face & body tonic: I don’t really know how to use this – Meow Meow Tweet’s website says to mist it on your face, but the sample came in a pour bottle, so all I can really say is… it smells nice? I love the name and idea of the company, though, (CATS! TWITTER!) and may explore their offerings in the future — their gift packs look like they would make adorable holiday presents (though never, ever, ever get a girl random body products as gifts unless there is some sort of additional personal meaning attached or you want her to know that you know absolutely zilch about her personality — nothing says “I haven’t bothered to figure out what you really like” more than miscellaneous lotion and soap. If it’s a scent she likes or something fancy she’s been wanting or smells like kittens, sure, but just generic stuff, no. Since these are vegan and small-batch and artisinal and cute, these fit in with the “additional personal meaning” part and are acceptable.)

The culmination of it all:

TELL ME I’M BEAUTIFUL, INTERNET!! IGNORE THE CROOKED PHOTO BEHIND ME!!

Not gonna lie — I Photoshopped out some blemishes and fine lines here. I already admitted I don’t brush my hair — girl’s gotta maintain some vanity.

The Box

Like the Vegan Cuts snack boxes, the beauty box makes a great gift and is wonderful for discovering new favorites — I bought some Earth Science conditioner, and ordered another pot of All Natural Face cream blush for me (in a whorish red), the dusty rose for a friend, and a couple of tubes of their lipstick just to try them.

I can’t see myself subscribing regularly, since I don’t realistically need that much cosmetic stuff, but the beauty box is a sweet little boost out of the occasional rut. I highly recommend it as a fun sometimes treat!

Pies and Tarts with Heart’s parsnip pie

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So you know how I mentioned Jameson’s and my pie fail? Well, we turned that pie frown upside-down and created an overwhelming pie success.

Jameson received a copy of Dynise Balcavage’s fantastic Pies and Tarts with Heart, and gave me three choices: pumpkin, sweet potato, or parsnip pie.

Parsnip? Sounds weird. Heck yeah!

We split the shopping. Jameson still has a little bit of parsnip PTSD from this super chatty chick at the Broadway Farmer’s market who would. not. stop. talking. about parsnips, while I found Trader Joe’s Cinnamon Schoolbook Cookies to be a decent vegan crust option — the recipe calls for vegan gingersnaps, which I could not find, so we added a bit of powdered ginger to increase the spiciness. I bet TJ’s Speculoos cookies would make a delightfully decadent alternative.

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The photography in Pies and Tarts with Heart is beautiful, but I think that this is the first time that my version of the recipe actually looks better than the book’s (the actual pie itself, not my gross blurry yellowy crappy lighting iPhone photos); Dynise’s version is a little chunky, while when smoothly pureed (as we did) the filling is gloriously silky.
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We ruminated on all of the different possibilities that one can take with this pie. Sub out the cookies for saltines and make a savory version with caramelized onions? Add some dried cranberries for color or candied pecans for crunch? The possibilities are endless. The parsnips are constant.

The parsnips add a slight hint of earthiness to an otherwise decadent experience — this pie is the new millionaire who’s still a country boy at heart; you can put some fancy clothes on him and give him the keys to a fancy German car (and I ain’t talking Jetta) and stick him in a luxury condo, but he still enjoys rustic pleasures like Budweiser and cowboy boots and treating a lady right. I’m not entirely sure whether we’re still talking about pie or the 50+ erotic novel that I’m about to write.

Umm, pie. right.

Despite the sweetness radiating from every custardy bite, it’s a health food compared to other pies gracing your autumn table — the filling is mostly parsnips and tofu instead of your traditional egg and condensed milk variety.

The other recipes in the book look equally delicious. I haven’t cooked any of them yet, but I’ve drooled a ton over the cheeseburger pie, the “yo rocky” road pie, frozen grasshopper pie, and so many others. At first, I was all, “how many different pie recipes do you really need?” but Dynise’s variety of crusts, from traditional to exotic potato-based delicacies like hashbrowns, and styles make you want to buy another pie plate (I totally did — thanks, Grocery Outlet!) and eat (n/360)πr2 after (n/360)πr2 (where n is the number of degrees in the central angle of the sector — get it? A wedge?) of pie, glorious pie.

Jameson brought over some fortified wine leftover from another article for us to sip with our pie: a dry Madeira, a sweet Madeira, and a port. I was a newbie to all of them, and found them to be quite drinkable and similar to vermouth: the port and sweet Madeira were sweet and smooth, while the dry Madeira would make a nice compliment to green olives in a Martini glass. Maybe?

But then Daniel forever ruined Madeira by introducing me to the song above that apparently his mother used to sing to him as a kid. Looking back as an adult, he agrees that was a little weird that his mom would sing ditties about date rape to her child.

Have some Madeira, m’dear.

Surprisingly Sweet Parsnip Pie

Thanks to Dynise for letting us publish this!
Makes one 9-inch (23 cm) pie

Ingredients:

  • 1 All-Purpose Cookie Crust made with gingersnaps (see below)
  • 2 pounds (908 g) parsnips, peeled and cut into 1-inch (2.5 cm) chunks (about 4 cups [520 g]
  • parsnip chunks)
  • 1 (12-ounce, or 336 g) box aseptic-packaged tofu (do not use refrigerated tofu; it is too
  • grainy for this recipe)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup (170 g) packed light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C, or gas mark 7). Prepare the cookie crust and press into a pan. Refrigerate until the filling is ready.
  2. Boil the parsnips until soft, about 15 minutes. Place in a large bowl and mash until creamy.
  3. Blend the remaining ingredients in a food processor or in a blender until well incorporated, then add the parsnips and process until smooth-ish and well combined. You’ll need to scrape down the processor every now and then.
  4. Pour the filling into the crust, leaving 1/4 inch (6 mm) of space to the crust edge. Bake for 15 minutes, then lower the heat to 350°F (180°C, or gas mark 4) and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the pie top is golden. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours before slicing.

All-Purpose Cookie Crust
Makes one 9-inch (23 cm) crust

Ingredients:

  • 11/2 cups (150 g) crumbs from dry vegan wafer cookies or graham crackers (try chocolate, gingersnaps, lemon snaps, animal crackers, or just the tops from Oreo-type cookies minus the creamy filling; you’ll need about 3 cups [150 g] cookies or crackers to get 11/2 cups [150 g] crumbs)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons (55 g) margarine
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions:

  1. Whiz the cookies/crackers and salt together in a food processor until very powdery and fine. Add
  2. the margarine and whiz again. Press into your pie pan. That’s it!

If you need to prebake, bake for 10 minutes at 350ºF (180ºC, or gas mark 4).

Bake and Destroy and Riesling

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Natalie Slater of Bake and Destroy is definitely one of my biggest food blogging ladycrushes. She’s beautiful yet tough, has great style, and comes up with the awesomest vegan dishes (Doritos encrusted tofu, anyone?). Plus, she named her son Teno, which rhymes with Zeno, and y’all know how much I love my Zeno. Also, my childhood cat was named Natalie, so there’s that too.

Basically, I love her because she cooks badass food and reminds me of various cats.

CATS.

Anyhow, a while back, my friend Jameson Fink approached me with a proposition (not as shady as that sounds): he had received a copy of Natalie’s new book (also called Bake and Destroy) from the publisher, and suggested that we bring our blogs together for vegan meal paired with wine. Jameson writes Wine Without Worry and hosts the podcast of the same name, and while he is not a vegan, is a general lover of deliciousness, meaty or planty.

Jameson and I met when we were both with Foodista, me as an intern (also not as shady as that sounds) and him as a freelance wine writer. We’re both huge history buffs (he has a masters in it) and adore Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita. Jameson started to build up his own wine writing business a few years ago and I’m always envious of his travels – we had to postpone our initial cooking session because his flight back from a wine tour of Italy was delayed in Heathrow.

He told me to pick a couple of recipes from the book, one sweet and one savory, and he would find a wine that matched. I went for a circular theme with the green bean casserole pizza (pg. 106 – recipe also on GoodVeg, h/t to Jameson for finding that) and frozen lemonade pie (pg. 20), and he selected a couple of dry rieslings to go with them: Pewsey Vale’s Eden Valley Dry Riesling (Australian) and Weingut Stadt Krems’ Steinterrassen Reisling (Austrian).

You can read his thoughts on the pairing, including probably the best quote on vegan wine I have ever read. And is much better edited than this long and rambling one.

Jameson says of these selections,

Dry Reislings compliment lighter dishes but also have enough liveliness to cut through a rich sauce — like a hot knife through cold vegan margarine. They’re vegetable-loving wines, for sure.

Green bean casserole is my absolute favorite part of Thanksgiving (aside from the family and gratitude, I guess), and this pizza is kinda like when you’re a kid and you make little sandwiches of everything between Grandma’s dinner rolls because food isn’t fun enough on its own.

In the interest of saving time, we subbed out Natalie’s pizza dough recipe for Trader Joe’s (whole wheat, gross, because they were out of the regular type), which worked pretty well. Except don’t use whole wheat pizza dough. You’re already indulging — might as well go for the real deal. It’s pizza, not salad, for crying out loud.

The ridiculousness of the concept aside, this stuff is fantastic and could fool even the most sensitive omnivore palate. My one recommendation is to cut the green beans into bit-sized pieces instead of halving them, like Natalie recommends, which will make it easier to slice and then eat — it’s basically knife-and-fork pizza.

I also can’t follow directions, so we elected to sub out the flour for corn starch, as I neglected to add the flour before the stock. Jameson worked in a bakery when he was in grad school, so he was skeptical of adding a warm sauce to a pizza and we let the sauce cool a little, but it all turned out okay. Perhaps that’s why the directions instruct you to pre-bake the crust? We also debated whether to maaaybe use a little less sauce, but ended up putting all of it on.

So. effin’. good.

Our frozen lemonade pie was a disaster (mea culpa), as I had never used my roommate’s ice cream maker. So, while we weren’t able to taste the finished version, the flavors of the soupy pre-churned filling were wonderfully zesty and creamy, and I bet it would have been awesome. Sigh. We did collaborate on another dessert pie from another vegan cookbook, which I am super excited to tell you about in a separate post.

SOON.

The other recipes in Bake and Destroy, ranging from savory nacho cupcakes to spaghetti pie to falafel waffles (but also including your classic mac and yeast and green smoothie), are fun and unconventional and mostly not the healthiest (with some exceptions).

Bake and Destroy is too weird to be your one and only vegan cookbook (unless maybe you aren’t vegan), but will convince new vegans that plant-based cuisine isn’t boring and is also great for long-time vegans who want to rediscover the magic of cooking. If you have young’uns at home, I bet you’d like this too.

ANYHOW. WINE.

As Jameson said, the dry Riesling cut through the richness of sauce and fried onions like a lightsaber through Luke Skywalker’s wrist. Dry Riesling isn’t that stuff you might have gotten sick off when your idea of class was chugging cheap wine instead of cheap beer (if you’re anything like my roommate Daniel, who paled when I offered him a glass) — it’s more robust than a chardonnay, but with a bit of a bite instead of cloying sweetness. I’m a fan.

Even better, Jameson also confirmed with the distributor that both of these selections are vegan. I don’t know where you would find them in Seattle, but Jameson might. Go over to his blog and ask him.

You can also do a quick Barnivore search to find a vegan dry Riesling — those of us here in Washington State will be please to know that Chateau St. Michelle’s dry Riesling is considered vegan.

So, this is where the post gets a little technical, because I’m going to talk about vegan wine. If you already know about what makes a wine vegan, you can skip this part and scroll to the picture of Zeno wearing a scarf at the end of this post.

If not, read on and educate yourself.

Though wine’s ingredients are all plant-based products, many people (even a lot of winemakers I’ve talked to) are unaware that wine is not always animal-friendly due to how it is fined (the process of removing impurities).

Basically, after you foot-stomp your fruit and leave it to age in barrels, there are a lot of little grapey and yeasty particles floating around in the liquid that need to be removed so that so that the consumer isn’t drinking wine with pulp.

Here is an artist’s rendering of what that looks like:

Traditional fining agents are animal based — gelatin, egg white, or isinglass, made from fish bladders. The vintner throws these into a vat of wine, and they float around eating up particles like Pacman.

Vegan wines use benonite, a clay, to filter out impurities and ensure that a purple stain is the only thing caught in your teeth.

According to Wikipedia, some countries, like Australia and New Zealand, require their wines to list animal-derived fining agents as potential allergens, so if you’re concerned about vegan ingredients, you might start there. (I don’t know if this actually is true in the US. I should ask Jameson.)

So, in conclusion, check out Bake and Destroy and drink more wine.

Here’s that picture of my cat wearing a scarf.

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Have you cooked anything from Bake and Destroy? Do you have a favorite wine? Isn’t my cat the cutest? I’d love to hear your thoughts (especially about how jaunty my cat looks in his scarf).

Meet your new best friend at Seattle Humane Society’s Meow Mixer

I adopted Zeno when he was 8 weeks old from Purrfect Pals. He was super cute (see below), but I am never, ever getting a kitten again.

While the love of a cat is a priceless joy, kittens are (adorable) little terrors. They wake you up at 5 a.m., poop and pee themselves and your bed indiscriminately, and scratch your face while you’re sleeping. Plus, they get into little crevices and cracks that you can’t really reach into and bite you when you try to get them out.

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Ugh. The worst.

Zeno, while still a jerk, is much mellower as a full-grown fuzzball. When I do get a friend for Zeno (not in the near future, since my roommate already has two cats, though I already have a ton of future cat names picked out), it will be a grown up. Adult cats are calmer, their personalities are already formed, and there isn’t as much of a demand as there is for kittens (suckers).

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Adult, and especially senior, cats just aren’t adopted as much, which is why Seattle Humane Society’s Meow Mixer on October 24 from 6 – 8 p.m. is such a good idea.

SHS says,

We hope that our Meow Mixer event will spotlight some of our overlooked adult senior cats who are in foster homes. For foster cats, coming back to the shelter can be a stressful change of routine and environment so this event held in our offices will help create more of a home setting for them. Foster parents always have plenty to say about their foster cats who have been with them for a month or many months!

Plus, Seattle Humane is serving vegan wine from Northwest Cellars (confirmed vegan by Megan) — if Zeno is my best friend, vegan booze is a close second.

So, drive/bus/bike to Bellevue on October 24, enjoy a glass of vino, and possibly go home with your new best friend.

Vegan Czech kolaches

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My last name is Pitlick (pit-lick), which is Czech for “scrotum.” Yup, hard to believe that it’s even worse in its native tongue.

Technically, it should be spelled Pitlyk (or was it Pytlik?), is pronounced peet-leek, and is the diminutive form of the word “bag” or “sack,” literally translated as “little sack.” Which, of course, colloquially means… scrotum.

Now that we have that out of the way, the only other reminder in my life of my Bohemian heritage are kolaches.

If you’re Czech or Texan, you are well aware of kolaches. Kolaches are sweet buns filled with jam or poppy seeds. Texans make savory versions too. Weirdos.

My dad would bake these every once in a while when I was a kid with jam from our apricot tree. I highly doubt his Czech dad made them for him while he was growing up — he confirmed that the recipe he used come from an aunt.

However, when I asked him for her kolaches, he forwarded me an email from a few-times-removed cousin with a couple of recipes from a cookbook, which I combined to suit my own needs.

This version takes much less time to make than I recall, but time passes differently to a child. My dad would add a streusel stopping to the jam, which is delicious but unnecessary.

Vegan Kolaches

Ingredients

  • 2 cups lukewarm non-dairy milk
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 packages dry yeast
  • 1/3 cup oil
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 6 cups flour, divided
  • 1 can poppy seed filling or jam of your choice

Instructions

  1. Add sugar to lukewarm milk and stir in yeast in a large bowl. Let sit for a few minutes until foamy.
  2. Stir in oil, 3 cups flour, and salt and mix until combined. Stir in remaining 3 cups of flour.
  3. Shape into small balls and place on a greased baking pan about 1 inch apart. Let rise until more or less doubled in size.
  4. Press down centers with your thumb and fill with desired filling.
  5. Let rise again and bake at 350° for 15 – 18 minutes.

Sweet tea vodka

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Chai is really big in Russia.

Not the spicy sweet chai that we drink over here — chai  is usually plain ol’ black tea, but it could be green or white or whatever. Chai just means tea.

Russians like tea and Russians like vodka, so why not combine them? Sweet tea vodka ala Firefly is really really easy to make. You just soak 4 or 5 black teabags in vodka for a few hours, remove them, and add 1/4 cup of vegan cane sugar and let that dissolve over a few days. This is easiest in a large mason jar.

BAM — alcoholic Arnold Palmer in no time.

Wild mushrooms

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As I’ve written before, mushrooming is a popular pastime in Russia and other Slavic countries.

It’s also a favorite hobby of my new roommate, Steve, an all-American dude from Wisconsin who spends a lot of time on Mt. Rainier for his job.

He returned yesterday from a few days of collecting data with three bags of assorted species of fungi, all of which, he assured me, are edible.

Steve displayed his finds on a plate, educating me on each variety and how comfortable he felt eating them. The chanterelles — two varieties, golden and blue — for sure, the chicken of the woods — probably, the porcini — mosttttt likely.

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He invited me in on the tasting, starting with the safest: the chanterelles. He washed a large one (even though you supposedly shouldn’t, as it makes them waterlogged), chopped it, and sauteed it in olive oil with some sea salt, garlic powder, and black pepper until the flesh reached a golden sear. He said that I was under absolutely no obligation to sample it, and he would understand if I didn’t.

With eager trepidation, I took a small piece. It was delicious: buttery, savory, earthy, in a familiar way. Definitely a chanterelle.

We put the others in the fridge, and I don’t think I’m brave enough to try them. Steve has a scientist’s eye and they all resemble the pics of safe mushrooms in his mushroom hunting book (no white gills — “white gills kill“) but I’m going to let him confirm.

Supposedly the most common cause of mushroom sickness is the placebo effect — the stress of thinking you’ve eaten a poisonous mushroom when it’s really the edible variety.

I’d just rather not find out.

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