Thursday, January 29, 2009

Vegan Cupcakes From New Jersey, with Love

Okay, I cannot vouch for the flavor of the baked goods by the etsy shop, The Cupcake Mint because I haven't ordered anything from them yet. But I could not resist sharing their link for two key reasons: (1) everything is vegan and (2) they are based in New Jersey. I must support my home state. If these treats are as delicious as they are gorgeous, I will not be disappointed.

Consider gifting your loved ones or yourself with some local baked goods this Valentine's Day. If you're in the New Jersey-area, contact the Cupcake Mint--they offer free delivery to New Jerseyans who are within a 25 mile-radius of them (although you can still order and pay for shipping through etsy if you're not). If you're in the Philly-area, try Cakekraft or Microbaked. Microbaked made the amazing cupcakes I had at last year's Trenton Avenue Arts Festival.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Random Fridays: New Favorite Blogs and Something for the Dogs

* Vegbrarian is the musings of a vegan librarian. I love "Activism in the Stacks," which gives tips on how to increase the number of veg-friendly listing your local library houses, including:

Even if you skim through books you don't want to check out, leave a few on
a nearby table, study carrel or shelf. Books that are left on these surfaces are
routinely collected and scanned for in-house use, which can impact collection
development. Pulling books out of the stacks may also attract passerby who
otherwise would not have gone to the stacks.

* I listed Vegan Guinea Pig in my roundup of vegan cookbooks coming out this year. Check out the extensive product reviews, including white chocolate chips, and recipes for Papa Chorizo Frittata, which just looks yum.

* My Tea Cups is one Philly blogger's take on everything tea. She's been kind enough to share with me some Philly tea spots I have yet to visit, like Remedy Tea Bar and TBar. She also makes and sells the most adorable haiku teacups on etsy that honors all that is great about tea and the city of Philadelphia. My favorite is:

listen to the sound
of the teapot as it sings
water leaps inside

* I found Me, Myself An Eye after Sister Toldja's post on why white people shouldn't attend Obama's inauguration was featured Jezebel . It was satire but many commenters on Jezebel just didn't get it. The blog's banner includes images of RuPaul, an "I heart tofu," t-shirt, and false eyelashes, which was more than enough reason for me to add her to my feed.

* Through Me, Myself An Eye, I discovered Bed-Stuy Banana, which hooked me right away with its astute, personal take on gentrification and more than a few pictures of provocative or downright mystifying neighborhood signs.

* Punk Rock Human Resources gives the real deal on the HR job selection process. She also loves cats, calls out irresponsible dog breeders (though I argued in the comments that responsible dog breeding is an oxymoron), and states why the First Lady should get paid.

* And won't you please consider donating a Kuranda bed to your local shelter?

* What Brian and I will be up to this weekend:
  • a massage for me at Juju (my neck is totally giving up on me), courtesy of a gift certificate from Brian
  • buffet lunch at Essene (I can't go to Juju without this)
  • a free cooking demonstration by Horizons chef and owner, Rich Landau, at Foster's
  • maybe Wendy and Lucy if Brian doesn't drown in school work
  • vegan chili at a friend's house
  • some damn sleep

Monday, January 19, 2009

Neko Case's New Song is Helping Animals

Everytime a blogger posts Neko Case's new song, "People Got A Lotta Nerve," $5 will be donated to the Best Friends Animal Society. Read more about Neko Case's recent visit to the Utah sanctuary and how you can help Best Friends raise money by posting this song on your blog or Facebook profile.

Here's the song.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

New York City's Tiengarden, Babycakes, & More

On Friday, Brian and I took a vacation day to go into Manhattan and see Spring Awakening before it closed on Sunday the 18th. Of course, when we planned this trip, we had no idea it would be one of the coldest days of winter so far. Also, we hoped to get cheap student rush tickets with Brian's Drexel ID but these are not guaranteed without a very early start to the day. The idea of taking the train early in the morning only to have to hang around until 8 PM for the show did not seem like a vacation day to me so we slept in Friday morning and didn't get to New York until close to 2 PM.

By the time we arrived at the Spring Awakening box office, the student rush tickets were gone and the cheapest ones left were $87. Sorry but no. We passed some time until the TKTS booth at Times Square opened at 3 PM by grabbing a quick lunch at Food Emporium's salad and sandwich station. I got a simple salad of greens, grilled vegetables, black bean and corn salsa, red onions, and carrots. The menu said they had smoked tofu but all I saw laid out were some sad looking, unseasoned chunks. I love onions--raw, roasted, caramelized, every kind--but I had to give Brian about half of the onions in my salad because I was so overloaded with them, they were burning my mouth.

After standing on the TKTS line for maybe 10 minutes or so, my fingertips started to burn and sting. Even through my Isotoner supposedly nuclear thermal seal gloves, I felt like a mild case of frostbite on my hands was a very reasonable proposition. I did not want to get frostbite standing in line for $60 tickets to Spring Awakening all while putting up with crazysss Chicago promoters prancing around me in red tights and sticking fliers in my face. I told Brian that I could wait until his office got tickets to Spring Awakening for free when the tour arrives in Philly in June. We went with plan B instead.

The American Museum of Natural History is my favorite museum. More specifically, any planetarium is one of my favorite places in the world. I love this part of Manhattan, too. So often when I visit the city, I'm downtown where the streets are smaller, the buildings shorter, the space more compressed. Uptown is more like how I grew up when I lived in Manhattan (except without all the money and nannies)--more residential, a bit quieter, wider streets, kids coming home from school all bundled up with their friends, parents, or nanny. By the time Brian and I walked up to the museum and saw a lit up polar bear figure standing in the middle of an ice skating rink, I knew missing Spring Awakening was not a loss.

Still, it was late and we had less than 2 hours before the museum closed. Brian wanted to see dinosaur bones and I wanted outer space. It was such the perfect time and day to go because it wasn't crowded at all, mostly toddlers (many of them, for some reason, without shoes) and tourists. We were able to spend a lot of time admiring huge fossils and didn't have to scramble for seats at the planetarium. Halfway through the space show, "Cosmic Collisions," I felt the way I imagine the devoutly religious feel at a moving service: awe-struck, blissful, and humbled. Later on that night, right before Brian and I fell asleep I asked, "What is space? What would the end of space look like? What would nothingness be made out of? Doesn't that just freak you out!?" He answered, "Golden Girls is almost over. I'm going to bed."

After the museum, we headed downtown for food. I wanted to try Sacred Chow but Brian was craving Chinese food so we checked out the entirely vegan Tiengarden instead. We ordered soup--wonton for me and sweet and sour for Brian. The soup hit the spot on a cold night but it did not come close to being as wonderfully flavored as my favorite wonton soup at Philly's Golden Empress Garden. There wasn't much in the way of meat-like dishes other than veggie ham (barf for me, heaven for Brian). Just variations of tofu and wheat gluten with veggies. Brian loves his mock meats but this menu seemed a bit more wholesome to me. For my entree, I ordered soy nuggets in basil sauce with broccoli, zucchini, and red peppers. Brian ordered sliced wheat gluten in ginger sauce with carrots and broccoli. Although we were the only ones in the restaurant, our food took quite some time to arrive. There wasn't much in the way of portions and my vegetables were very crisp--just barely cooked--and lightly coated in sauce. Not a nice greasy takeout hit but a good thing now that I'm back on Weight Watchers. I liked the nutty rice mix and the crunchy veggies but I definitely could have done without the soy nuggets. They were off in a way I could not describe until we got home and Brian said, "Your nuggets tasted like feet." In fact, during dinner, Brian did something I have never seen him do: he gave me back the nuggets I shared with him. Brian said his gluten tasted like bread, which is basically what gluten is but the best seitan doesn't scream "soggy, salty bread."

We headed next door to Bluestockings Women's Bookstore, vowing to not visit Tiengarden again. I could have spent hours in New York's only feminist bookstore. Not because it's feminist but because it's a bookstore and I could basically live in any bookstore. I think I enjoy skimming countless books in a bookstore more than I actually enjoy just sitting down to read one book. Brian and I looked at a book called Body Drama for quite a while. It's the book I wish I'd had when I was 14. I'm pretty much over obsessing over my stretch marks and how I look in a clingy sweater but it's always nice to be reminded of what a world with sane body image can be like and it's nice to have a boyfriend who likes reading that kind of book with me.

Although Bluestockings had tea and a selection of pre-wrapped vegan desserts, since posting about the forthcoming Babycakes book, I had cupcake on the brain so I decided we should give Babycakes another try. I went for the gluten-free vanilla cupcake and a tiny agave brownie bite with Earl Grey tea. Brian ordered a sticky bun. By the time we sat in a corner by the window, the place was hot and popping. I tried the brownie and it was very moist with a hint of nutty caramel but not too sweet. Nice. I tried some of Brian's bun, which tasted more like a crumbly and dry biscuit. The second I dug into my cupcake, unfortunately, I knew my opinion of Babycakes would not improve. In fact, I had to downgrade it quite a bit. If I had ordered a corn muffin, this would have come closer to hitting the spot. But no, I ordered a vanilla cupcake. I know that Babycakes specializes in healthier, allergen-free fare and the place was not wanting for business but a cupcake should be moist, not dry. It should stay together and not crumble. And it should taste like sweetness and vanilla, not lemon and corn. A cupcake is a cupcake, not broccoli. If I do ever visit Babycakes again, I'll stick with the brownie bites.

We headed back to Penn Station in time to make the 10 PM express back to New Brunswick. Due to it being Alaska-cold, however, NJ Transit had its infamous signal problems and we waited on the track for over an hour and a half. Even though we missed Spring Awakening, didn't have a single great meal, and got home exhausted and freezing, our day of hooky was fun and relaxing. I also got an extra weekend day with Brian before he headed back to Philly on Sunday night and another chance to right the cupcake wrongs on Saturday when I made the Toasted Coconut Cupcakes with Pecan Fudge Frosting from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World for my friend's birthday. They were a huge hit with all the Wii-playing adults although one seven year old passed on the cupcakes, instead requesting "normal" ones (meaning without nuts).

*I'm copying personal finance blog, The Simple Dollar, by bolding critical parts of this post, namely: vegan or vegan-friendly restaurants, meals, recipes, and things I find funny.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

2009 Vegan Cookbook Preview

There is an impressive roster of vegan cookbooks being released this year. I really don't need more cookbooks. It's a travesty how many recipes I don't end up making from each one. Still, I enjoy reading them while tucked into bed and derive pleasure from just the idea of a new recipe. I don't really buy shoes or clothes or fancy smart phones so I indulge in cookbooks. Here are the ones I am excited to check out over the next year.

Vegan Soul Kitchen: Fresh, Healthy, and Creative African-American Cuisine by Bryant Terry “Terry’s new recipes have been conceived through the prism of the African Diaspora—cutting, pasting, reworking, and remixing African, Caribbean, African-American, Native American, and European staples, cooking techniques, and distinctive dishes to create something familiar, comforting, and deliciously unique.” Check out some of the recipes: Cajun-Creole-Spiced Tempeh Pieces with Creamy Grits; Caramelized Grapefruit, Avocado, and Watercress Salad with Grapefruit Vinaigrette; Sweet Cornmeal-Coconut Butter Drop Biscuits; and Molasses-Vanilla Ice Cream with Candied Walnuts. I’m already sold. Thanks to Johanna at Vegans of Color for this tip. Publication date: March 2, 2009.

Ani’s Raw Food Dessert: 85 East, Delectable Sweets and Treats by Ani Phyo I’ve actually not done much in raw the foods way (other than, you know, eating raw vegetables) but what better way to investigate any new field than with dessert. Publication date: April 27, 2009.

BabyCakes: Vegan, Gluten-Free, and (Mostly) Sugar-Free Recipes from New York's Most Talked-About Bakery by Erin McKenna I’ve only been to Babycakes once and the cupcake I got there was pretty good but not the best (that honor goes to the coconut cupcakes at teany and the ones I indulged in at Sugar Sweet Sunshine in my pre-vegan days, both in NYC). That, however, might have been due to the fact the I unwittingly ordered a spelt cupcake and this was prior to me getting into all things spelt. I look forward to revisiting Babycakes in person and checking out their cookbook. Publication date: April 28. 2009.

Vegan Brunch: Homestyle Recipes Worth Waking Up For--From Asparagus Omelets to Strawberry Pancakes by Isa Chandra Moskowitz Philly needs a good spot to get a Sunday vegan brunch of more than just tofu scramble. This book will allow me to turn Brian’s kitchen into that spot. Publication date: May 25, 2009.

The Vegan Table: 200 Unforgettable Recipes for Entertaining Every Guest for Every Occassion by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau The Joy of Vegan Baking is one of my most frequently referred to cookbooks. I’m excited about being able to try Compassionate Cooks’ savory dishes as well. Publication date: June 1, 2009.

Two bloggers have forthcoming cookbooks sometime in 2009. One is The Urban Vegan: 250 Street-Smart, Animal-Free Recipes by Philly food blogger, Urban Vegan. After previewing pictures of such dishes as Crème Brulee, Booze-Infused Layer Cake, and Panko-Crusted Tofu with Raspberry-Tamarind Glaze, I’m definitely hooked. This blog is one of the ways Philly turned me vegan (one was the boy and two, the vegan greasy Chinese food restaurants). The other is by the blogger at Vegan Guinea Pig. I just discovered this blog after its creator, Alicia, posted a most excellent essay about lactose “intolerance” at Vegans of Color. Anyone who can share ideas on how to make vegan cupcakes out of a Duncan Hines mix is alright with me.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Vegans of Color on Animal Voices

In December, Johanna, founder of the blog Vegans of Color, and I did an interview with Animal Voices. It originally aired on the Toronto radio station, CIUT last month and is now up on the Animal Voices online archives. Thank you to Johanna for allowing me the opportunity to blog on VoC and sit in on this interview. It was nerve-wracking but the host and producer, Lauren Corman, and the technician and DJ, Karol Orzechowski, were incredibly warm and friendly and their kindness and preparedness definitely put me at ease (so did having Brian in the room while I did the interview). Overall, the experience was very fun and productive.

Please take a listen to the interview and check out the other Animal Voices shows. It is definitely one of my favorite radio shows and podcasts. Animal Voices was instrumental in my transition to a vegan life and it is crucial in keeping me informed and dedicated.