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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.

Poppy seed cookie fail

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I tried to veganize Aguonu Sausainiukai, Lithuanian Poppyseed Cookies, by subbing out 2 TBS flax for two of the eggs, 1 1/2 tsp EnerG for the other egg, Tofutti for the dairy sour cream, and canola oil for melted butter.

They turned out puffy and soft, not golden and flat like the picture. Any idea what I might have done wrong?

Vegan MoFo 2013: Eastern EuroVegan

Putin is a jerk. I’m going to say that first and foremost. 19th century Russia saw itself as “backward” compared to the rest of Europe, and nothing seems to have changed — the country’s current policy on homosexuality and free speech is archaic. As much as I would like to go back to the country (I’m not Russian but spent a few months there in 2005/majored in Russian Studies), I can’t justify a visit. Nor would I even want to go there right now — their politics are somewhat terrifying.

However, I love Russian food (yes, really) and for a long time have been wanting to veganize a bunch of my favorite recipes. I’ve done it with a few already.

So, I am bringing St. Petersburg to Seattle for Vegan MoFo by cooking recipes from and inspired by those in Soviet Bloc countries.

The plan is to post every weekday. I’m in the middle of moving to a new place and my kitchen is in boxes/I have no Internet at home, so we’ll see how realistic this is, but I’m also really excited for the challenge.

Along these lines, no food today, but here’s a sneak peek of some things to come:

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VEGAN MOFO 2013 WILL BURY YOU!

Vegan bento, Spanish style

This post comes from my friend Xurxo Martinez (pronounced “sure-show”), who lives in Madrid but studied with me at UW. He posts pictures of the wonderful lunches he prepares to Facebook and Flickr and makes us all jealous. I admire both the stunning composition of his shots, vibrant yet simple, and the unusual ingredients and flavor combinations he uses.

As someone lucky enough to have tried his food when he lived in Seattle, I know that each of these meals are as delicious as they look! Not all his dishes are vegan, but here are a sampling of those that are.

Orange salad with a tapenade of black olive, fennel seeds, and tarragon

I wanted to use orange in a salad, mixing its sweetness with something salty. Thought about one I tried once in Granada with olives, a little lettuce and onion. But then I remembered this one, from one of Mark Bittman’s videos for the NYT, replacing thyme (too obvious) with tarragon and putting it—and fennel seeds too—inside the tapenade, not only as a side flavour. To me it makes for a more complex flavor, a better contrast for the well-known orange taste. Then I added some pumpkin seeds as a crunchy contrast, more for the texture than for the flavor.

Steamed violet potatoes (Vitelottes), purple cauliflower —when cooked it loses that color and gets just green— and carrots

I simply love steaming everything (I’m trying steamed fruits that then I keep for a couple days in the freezer. Then it taste like confit fruit without the excess of fruit). The Flavor is so intense, and it gives so many options on the texture side. I specially love small potatoes, cooked with the skin. Is a surprise to discover its real taste. You just need a little bit of olive oil and salt to make it even better.

Chickpeas, black quinoa, and broccoli


Chickpeas were boiled, the quinoa was made in a rice cooker and the broccoli was steamed.

Quinoa is such an versatile food. I find that the black version tastes stronger, earthly. I wanted to mix it with something “meatier”, and that’s where chickpeas enter. Broccoli was the contrast, something “greener” and sweeter. And the colors really work, obviously. Better served warm.

Purple cabbage, Squash, and chard


All the ingredients were steamed.

I’m more used to use purple cabbage in salads, so crunchy and different. But when you cook it (is really good boiled with apple and then mixed with pine nuts) is sweet and deep. The Squash is also sweet, but has a different texture. Chard was the contrast element. A trickle of olive oil and sherry vinager sticks everything together. Better served cold.

Korean rice cakes pan-fried in a wok with eggplant, broccoli, butter squash, red bell pepper, and onion.

As it happens with the Chinese ones, the Korean rice cakes absorve the flavor of the ingredients it is cooked with, and needs to be soaked for 4-8 hours before being fried. The result is a mix of the cake’s chewiness and the veggies almost crunchy. Instead of salt I like to use just soy sauce when cooking with the wok, and add some Japanese spices mix named Shichimi Togarashi. So you have some kind of pan-asian dish with local vegetables (i.e. no pak choi [bok choy]).

Oh, and why the black tupperware?

Well this is the food I prepare in the mornings to take with me to work, and this is my favorite tupperware. Is a japanese one from the shop Muji. I don’t think they sell it anymore. A friend gave it to me seven years ago. It really works because is black, the proportions are similar to an horizontal photo, and framing the food really works. After starting with the series (just because a co-worker told me once “your food is always weird and nice, you should take photos of if”) I realized that in a way I was doing a version of ’scanwiches’. Sometimes you have something hidden in one corner of your mind, just waiting for the right moment to wake up, combine with some other reference or idea, and become something new.

Another personal story about the bento/tupperware is that I basically didn’t use it (not even twice) for the first 3-4 years. Somehow I decided to take it to Seattle, and there started to carry it with me almost everyday, because I used to take it with me to my study place (a complex in south campus, in the Health Science area, by the lake). Now I use it everyday, even if the hooks that help to close the lid are broken. I guess that it reminds me of Seattle.

Portlandia visits Casa Diablo

One of the things I love about the Internet is the ability to watch something funny and then embed it on your blog without worrying about copyright and stuff.

This clip from the folks who do Portlandia sends a fellow who has never been to a strip club into Portland’s all-vegan strip club, Casa Diablo. Hilarity ensues.

Kinda reminds me of my own Casa Diablo adventures, only with delicious vegan eats.

Vida Vegan Tech Seminar recap!

Mighty-O Donuts dunked in coffee with fancy coconut creamer made a nice breakfast, Veggie Grill served a very, very tasty lunch (wouldn’t have expected anything less!), and Pacific Northwest Kale Chips provided afternoon sustenance — they’re my new favorite snack, for sure. I really like the nutty, spicy Stumptown Original.

I took/Instagrammed some pictures:

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Yep, I’m a glutton.

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“Our god is kale” – Dawn

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Fooled me all day.

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I won this! OMG OMG OMG! #beernerd

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how’d that get in there?

As usual, the people were the best part of the day!

This was a great opportunity, one Dawn and I are so grateful to have been given, and so much fun.

Many thanks to Jess, Janessa, and Michele for organizing!

Gotcha Day!


Basically, this post is just an excuse to gush about my cat. Vegans like cats, right?

Zeno joined came into my life Memorial Day weekend, 2010 (May 31, to be precise) — that’s him above back when he first captured my heart, when his Purrfect Pals-designated name was still “Undie.”

I marked the occasion this year by getting him a new toy and a special snack at Mud Bay.

“It’s my cat’s birthday!” I breathlessly told the Mud Bay cashier. “Actually, no… it’s just the anniversary of when he came to live with me.”

“Ahhh,” she replied, “We call that his ‘gotcha day’ — the day they ‘gotcha’!”

Here he is playing with said new toy:

The catnip donut was cool, but probably the best moment of his Gotcha Day celebration (which I call my Zenoversary) was when Zeno’s biggest wish finally came true: eating off the same plate as The Cobra without being swatted.

Yep, he got me!

Celebrating our 2 year blogiversary

putting my department’s iPad to good use, clearly

The past two years have been great for Vegtastic! and I — two years ago today, we started on our journey together. Our relationship has gone from just a casual fling to something much more serious, and I just can’t imagine life without her.

Since May 17, 2010, I’ve learned a few things about blogging. This is mostly because I’ve spent this time coaching lawyers how to blog and use social media in my day job, but Vegtastic! has allowed me to test what I teach.

  1. The people you meet are better than the recipes you make and the pictures you take. I’ve met some awesome people through Vegtastic! and Twitter.
  2. Blogging can help you solidify those nebulous ideas you have floating around in your head, and strengthen arguments. Sometimes you need to write through something to really understand it.
  3. Venting can be cathartic, but usually should stay as a draft. Vegtastic! has a number of dirty little unpublished secrets.
  4. If you blog it, they will not come — you need to get together with other vegans in real life, supplement your posts with social networking, leave comments, and share others’ content.
  5. That first non-spam comment? It’s the greatest feeling in the world.
  6. Updating your title tags really can help you rank better for the terms you want to be found for (yeah, yeah, I know: SEO talk is tacky, but I told you: Vegtastic! allows me to practice what I preach to clients).
  7. Sometimes, a blog is just a tool, a reference, to give you credibility and nothing more — umm, yeah, I really am vegan: check out my blog. Sometimes, it’s much more than that.
  8. The most visited pages are never the ones you think they will be. Apparently, people love baked oatmeal.
  9. It’s awesome looking back at where you’ve started and realize you’re two years closer to being the blogger you want to be.
  10. When in doubt, post a picture of a cat. Terry Hope Romero uttered these wise words at Vida Vegan Con, and they’re so true.

I don’t know if Vegtastic! and I are in it together forever — people change, technology changes — but I want her in my life for a long time to come.

Thanks for reading.

Here’s a picture of my cat.

Vegan (and a few vegetarian) dudes who blog

There’s this idea that only ladies:

a) are vegan

b) blog about food.

Au contraire, mon cherie.

There are tons of manly dudes who follow a plant-based lifestyle and record the contents of their stomach (or brains) online, though not enough that I don’t get excited when I find an awesome new blog and it turns out the author has a Y chromosome.

It’s kinda like being the one guy in that cross-referencd Women’s Studies/ English class in college: you get some extra attention from your peers.

Someone in the Vida Vegan Con Facebook group commented before the event on the dearth of male attendees, so I’m clearly not the only one who’s noticed.

I don’t intend for this post to start any gender wars or be construed as sexist, but I do want all of the men out there who think they can’t be vegan (or blog about it) because of the unfortunate real men eat meat stereotype to think again. It’s the “Women in tech” of vegan food.

So, I made a list, posted in the order that Word sorted their URLs:

The vegan blogosphere may seem like it’s one big estrogen zone, but these plant-loving gentlemen prove that it’s anything other than, uhh, whatever is the opposite of a sausage fest. (A donut fest? A bagel fest? A salad fest? I mean, if stock photography proves anything, it’s that women love salad.)

I’m probably missing someone, someone really important, so let me know if there’s some vegan guy that you read that I don’t.

image by John C Abell via Creative Commons

A quick one, while she’s away

One of the greatest aspects of Northern California life is the variety of fruit that grows locally.

Eating a RawDaddy cone at the Palo Alto farmers market is also pretty neat.

As is House Kombucha — tarter than the typical kombucha variety. I’ll admit that I bought it at Country Sun mainly for the bottle.

Soup and salad at Fresh Choice. Best salad bar experience in ages — this may merit a whole post at a later date. TBD.

Trail mix bar at the Los Altos Whole Foods: so fun. so unnecessary.

It was great to (help) make my parents and brother a vegan* dinner: lentil shepherd’s pie, apple-roasted brussel sprouts, and tossed salad with homemade vinaigrette.

*Not pictured: chicken noodle soup. I had no hand in that.

Roasting pumpkin seeds: ur doin it wrong.

Guess who’s getting a gift certificate to Penzey’s for Christmas? My parents! Anyone have spices older than 18 years in their pantry?

Back to our regularly scheduled programming tomorrow.

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