Friday, November 30, 2007

From my favourite musicgeek's blog - the best collection of love songs EVER!

What's even better is that all the songs are 100% vegan. Enjoy!
Sorry, Stephen...what exactly is the mistake?

According to an article written by the CBC, Stephen Harper has referred to the Kyoto targets stamped and sealed by his ill-fated successor Paul Martin, as mistakes and unattainable. However, Canada may not become a environmental waste land just yet, as it appears that all three of Quebec's political parties have decided to maintain the targets for their provincial enviro-goals. Way to go Quebec. I am thinking that between your eco-friendly mindset and the bevy of brilliant poets, singers and authors you keep churning out you might have something pretty good going on over there.

In other eco-news, for those living in Belgium, check out Greenpeace's eco-rating of our electricity providers. This is a great link sent by a co-worker (who has been taking advantage of the all faculty option in our email software). And, for everyone living in Canada, you can also check out the Canuck-based site - but, in case anyone was deciding to buy me an iphone for Christmas, ignore this article.

Speaking of Christmas shopping - or holiday gift procurement if you prefer - I have to share this excellent site I stumbled upon at about 6 am this morning. It provides an huge array of gift ideas, and goes so far as to eco-rate suggestions by Dark Green, Medium Green and Light Green (however, they fail to provide a legend, but I think I have it figured out thanks to those good old inference skills). The links are to some pretty excellent, and perhaps otherwise hidden eco-organizations, gift companies and product sites. I found a great shoe store (I can give myself Christmas gifts). The company is SIMPLE - and they make, what look like, amazing vegan comfy clogs. Anyone who sells a shoe called the eco-sneak is wicked cool in my books.

Happy Clogging!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

I am on a posting frenzy today.
Why write reports, when I can be posting on vegancowgirl?

Thanks to my Google Reader, I have been filling my lunch hour by catching up on some tagged readings - most importantly, finally getting a chance to read The Discovery Channel's Planet Green web site. Now, I know, I know - it is a corporate site, it is corporation sponsored media wrapped in reusuable gift paper made to appeal to my hippie, eco, vegan, home-made-make-up-making sense of self. But, to be honest, this well designed, well written, and incredibly well thought out website has stolen my heart.

With a series of tabs as navigators, which anyone from the tech-spectrum (ranging from capabilities of my great aunt phyillis, to this physicist I know) can tackle, the website offers its readers a range of applicable, useful and fairly manageable products, projects and suggestions to make your life less of an imposition on the planet. Under the various sections, truncated versions (full available for free with one simple and obvious click) of clearly written DIYesque articles range in topic from: Recycle that Turkey Fryer Oil into BioFuel and Green Your Media: tell your favourite magazine to recycle to Ride Your Bike all Winter and Fold a Paper Wallet.

It isn't all treehugging and David Suzuki videos about how to install a brick into the back of your toilet. It is slickly designed and written by a number of sheik urbanites (who aren't even posing as slumming it up hippies). It is becoming a clear mark of the new post-AL-Gore documentary world - ecoism (s) is trendy, sexy and cool - and even black turtleneck wearing office types are loving the chance to put buttons on their blazers and can be caught using cloth bags (so long as they are from American Eagle Outfitters). But, hell, I say, expand the buses, take out more space in the jet liners, hire another car...the more people on the band wagon the better. Check out Planet Green.
Just in case you were thinking of starting a life of crime: some hot news - only steal the freezers of vegans.
Did I run to work this morning? Nope.
Did I walk to work this morning? Nope.
Did I tram it to work this morning? Nope.
Did I ride a donkey to work this morning? Nope.

Did I ride to work in an massive car/tank this morning? Yes. Argh. Let me bury my un-eco-friendly head in the sand. My ride in style was actually something I enjoyed, allowing me to lug a load of stuff from home to school - heavy books, pillows and other assortments, that would have only added to my usual heavy turtle-like lugging in the morning. I admit that I didn't purchase this snazzy little (and apparently eco-minded) diesel swilling mode of transportation. It is a rental - procured mostly for the dual purpose of a mid-week move and a Great Lake Swimmers Thursday night concert in Brughes, that if left to the train will see me looking like a sack of sweet potatoes on Friday morning.

Why the narrative on my morning travels? It is worth it to celebrate the glories of car sharing models in this oil hungry (and yet starving world). There is the 'member approach' - whereby, one pays a fee for a membership and is thus entitled to borrow a car at a preferred rate, picking up and dropping off at selected sites around your neighborhood. The likes of Zip Car and Flex Car are making profits off this fairly green endeavor. This is model is really picking up in urban centres, where, even in Europe I have spied a number of zipp-ish companies out and about. It works really well if you want a car, say once a week to do the heavy grocery shopping - you can reserve a car for the same time every week and still have the option to grab it for extra time when you need some smokin' wheels.

You can still go the old AVIS, HERTZ, Budget route (ohhh...excuse the pun - I think J. Healey would love that one), which works if you need a rental for a longer period of exclusive car + you time. The upswing of worrying about where to park your big lug, and filling up a whole tank after a weekend of wine tasting tours is that you get to meet some pretty cool people who have to put up with cranky tourists all day while they work like dogs to manage a fleet of company cars.

And then there is also the share with a friend/partner/work mate/room mate option which is always a great way to save the environment and spark arguments. Go for it!

Quickly - here is the recipe that was almost good last night - my blender didn't want to whiz through too much last night - so the consistency was a bit more like sludge, then the desired soup.

Pea and Zucchini Soup

1 1/2 cups of green split peas
1 zucchini (cut into coins and then quartered)
1 onion - sliced
5 cups of water
lemon juice (to taste)
Herbs Provence

I let the onions cook down for quite some time in a large pot (and got a preemptive start on the peas - boiling them in about 6 cups of water - after giving them a good strain). I added some balsamic vinegar and the Herbs to the onions after about 7 minutes. Next I plopped in the zucchini and let them brown a tiny bit. I restrained the split peas, added water to the soup pot and through in the peas. I let the whole lot bubble for about 40 minutes (whilst boiling the soup I decided to cook up some basil and pepper covered tofu). I blitzed the soup as best I could and added a squeeze of lemon juice and fresh pepper to the top. It was acceptable fare - I think it could have been loads better....I will get back to you on that.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Oh Valencia....
Oh Madrid, oh Freeway.

I can't even begin to record the entirety of vegan nightmare I faced in Madrid - so I will keep it short and sweet. It was so much more than your average "please leave off the cheese from the salad". It was a little more like a "do you have anything on your menu that doesn't have ham in it?" experience.

The hotel was on a freeway, and from the outside resembled something equivalent to the atmospheric elegance of Bei Hai, China - essentially a big block of gray concrete, with maybe one fire escape and some really spacious smoking lounges. Opting more often for public transport, versus the Free Shuttle, we found this constructional abomination to be about a 30 minute drive from the city centre - which was, when given the chance of freedom, the place we found ourselves escaping to.

Beyond the breakfast that you found me raving about in my last post, the food at the hotel was wretched. There was literally nothing for me to select off the room service menu and the buffet lunch had a lentil soup that included an unusual addition - roasted sausage. Wednesday night saw me eating a roasted asparagus off the plate of a motherly darling Christine, how continued to fill my plate with bread and olive oil. Heading out on Thursday evening with Chris and Kevin I located a grocery store (literally, the one and only grocery store I saw the entire time I was trolling the many, many streets of downtown Madrid) and armed myself with a 6 pack of soymilk - which made my morning muesli a little more palatable.

Some of the more notable spots on my journey included Cerveceria Alemana, the bar where Ernest Hemingway used to drink and a really nice Tapas/Wine Bar across the same plaza. The one fantastic meal that was enjoyed in abundance was had at a little Indian spot behind Santa Ana called Indian Spice (located at c/Manuel Ferandez), with dishes well worth the price, I would have been happy to make this the nightly eating spot.

We did manage to check out two other specifically vegetarian places and a Japanese restaurant - none of which I was particularly pleased with.

Overall, I was pretty unimpressed with Spain's capital, and would only stop back in for a quick shopping tour - I did find some funky boots and a great skirt at Tierra (a designer owned clothing shop), where I picked out a great wrap skirt with the grooviest button design. I admit to drinking a load of really fantastic (and unusually cheap) red wine, and, hey, if you dig 'the pig' and are into seafood, smoke and Starbucks - then Madrid is the place for you.

As I was landing in the Brussels airport an air of comfort came over me (despite the Air Brussels discount leg allotment). Sanctuary. I don't have to get on another plane until the 21st of December and I couldn't be more thrilled. My next trip in the sky will include a destination where I am sure to be met with the love of La Luna (oh my god I miss your falafels and salad), Live, Juice for Life and other eco, vegan delights. Can't wait.

Until a future trip to Barcelona (which, living here, I am bound to take) I will keep my vegan-spanish dreams secluded to the realm of Decemberist songs and remembrances of teaching Hemingway to groups of enraptured (yah right!) second year Character and Culture students.......

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Madrid: Day I

A great hotel - totally impressed so far. Now, I know that I have a propensity towards being over excited about things - and this behaviour has led me down many prickly paths in the past ('I really love felafels, of course I will try it with chips'), but the basics are in place and the little extras are making my stay quite manageable.

After bemoaning my lack of hot water to concoct a meagre oatmeal oasis, I travelled downstairs to encounter a dinning room capable of holding over 2000 guests. The buffet table (sssss) in the middle of the room were laden with an assortment of fresh fruit (though I think much of it traveled a ways to reach not so warm Madrid), brown toast (rick - it was TEXAS toast. Big and chunky; memories of Sunday mornings on Francis Road came roaring back to me), an assortment of meat and cheese, pastries, a cereal table that could not be beat and some tea and coffee that only occasionally found itself refreshed. In addition to the food, I found my bright eyed and busy tailed mates, who managed to keep the party going until after one (you would never peg Geoffery as a party animal), sitting in the middle of the room.

I really enjoyed the melons and granola (despite a lack of soymilk I still gave it the ol' college try), but it was the pomegranate seeds that captured my vegan heart. They were amazing. The coffee was...ok - not Brussels-Saturday-morning-with soymilk-at-Coffee Club kind of good, but it passed in place of my desired green tea.

Lunch rolled around (a welcome break from what is turning out to be a rather boring institute), and I found myself dinning with an interesting group of women - one from Scotland/Seattle, another from Munich/Australia. Great conversation. The food wasn't quite as yummy as the morning, but I managed to make myself a pretty good salad of corn, wilty looking lettuce, WHITE asparagus, olives (with pits), roasted red and green pepper (which weren't as good as they looked) and some shredded carrot. Needless to say, I am pumped about heading out for dinner tonight.

Sorry about the blurry picture. My photographer isn't arriving until tonight.

After my afternoon session, I headed to the good-sized gym and had a really good run with Allen and an excellent strength training session.

My room seemed to have miraculously recovered from the tornado that went through it this morning. My jeans had even been folded and my argyle sockies had been rolled into a ball. I have to say that it made me feel a bit shame filled. It has been a long time since I lived in China - having someone pick up after me isn't really my thing. Something I just don't think I could ever get used to. My mom did a great job (usually by threatening to throw away my stuffed rabbit and piles of clothes if I didn't put them away) of instilling in me a sense of self preservation and responsibility around the house. Thanks mom. Did I mention that my mom rocks? I think I need to have an I LOVE MY MOM post. She can do some pretty amazing vegan dishes (not to mention her PUMPKIN BREAD) and she is a wonderful person to boot.

Well, I am off to experience the massive tub in my bathroom (which I think may be larger than my entire flat in Brussels).
I had grand ideas about being a vegan in Spain, some of which still might come true. However, last night, after a delay in Brussels airport and than a 40 minute drive in the airplane from our runway to our deboarding area, I was hardly in the mood to battle my way through a veggie-only tapas conversation (trying to explain that I wasn't Kevin Healey, nor was I Mrs. Healey, but YES we are sharing accommodations was more than enough).

Some quick thinking on Tuesday morning saved me from going hungry. Hidden inside my checked baggage was an apple, a bag of oats and a tonne of dried fruit and walnuts. I tucked myself in with my new Eco book and got down to making my way through the ziploc bag of dried fruit. I awoke this morning to find empty plastic bags stuck to my face. Super hot.

The room is lacking in the usual coffee maker, making it impossible to start my day with any oatmeal, or the bags of green tea that popped out of my desk and into my bag before jetting off. We'll see about this. I have a pre-conference institute buffet awaiting me at lunch time today - fingers crossed that I won't have to forage in the streets for a bit of lettuce.

Just as an aside, I don't usually talk about the kids I work with, but yesterday, they just went beyond what I could have expected from them. I came in feeling quite blue from some news that was sent to me on Monday night. Despite the comfort of some jumpered arms and a bar of chocolate, I was still feeling hit in the stomach with sadness. I had to tell my kids that I was just feeling sad, and that I wasn't mad at any of them, but that I just needed to be quiet. After a wonderful morning of whispers and random acts of snuggles, I came up from lunch to find a handmade card on my desk. Full of love and support my kids put their thoughts on paper....holy cow. AND than, checking my email this morning I noticed that one of them had also sent me an email telling me that she was sorry that I was sad and to have fun at my conference......I am so lucky to have these kids in my life. They deserve a batch of vegan chocolate chip cookies as soon as I get back. (I admit to using smarties to teach math and as little treats....not so vegan).

Ok - enough gushing about 5DA. I have a conference to tackle and a Sasquatch to await. me your olives! Damn it, I didn't wear this bunny shirt for nothing.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

How do you upstage a 13 year old violin prodigy named Esther Yoo?

You wear black leather pants, a velor turtleneck twelve sizes too small and add a special touch with a faux-diamond belt buckle.


My Monday night couldn't have gotten much better than being in the audience for the Charlemagne Orchestra's Dance With Violins show last night.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

A whole day of vegan goodness...

The chance to sojourn around midi market was the catalyst for our Sunday excursion today - and the recipes that flew out of the kitchen throughout the afternoon and evening hours, made wrestling with volumptious scores of people well worth it.

Lunch was a debatable subject - in or out? Loaded with a bevy of choice, soup was the answer to my lunch time menu. I tried a variation on Crank's Chickpea Soup - mostly just omitting the riotous lentils and taking my own route to reach a similar end. It was fabulous, served with seedy bread and some spicy olives

When we came back from a trek across some communes, I started to cut up the day's apple-take for a desired apple crisp. However, dodgy ovens make for disapointments. No oven tonight. But that wasn't about to stop anyone from enjoying the dish I had already concocted. Its' entirety was tipped into a pot, avec soya milk and set to simmer. Oh my god. The finale of the evening (I haven't even shared dinner yet) was unreal. Raisins, a full vanilla bean, canadian maple syrup (that cost about a million dollars) and some descent cinammon were added to this little pot of love joy. A perfect desert and an already-in-the-fridge-portioned-and-ready-to-go breakfast. Excellent.

Dinner. Hmmmm Dinner. After the trek and the near fatal brush with apple crumble disappointment I went for my run through the abbey and around Ave. Louise. I came home with red cheeks and a hungry tummy. Satisfaction was to be had! Cooking nice and slowly atop the stove (stove - yes, oven - no) was a big pot of curry....nice, slow, yummy curry - all done by Kevin. We waited a little longer for it to cook down, busying ourselves with hanging up elephants, stashing away suitcases and cleaning out the tea cupboard.

Kevin's Curry was amazing.

Not Quite the Crank's Chickpea Soup

1 shallot - diced
1 garlic clove - sliced
1 can of chickpeas or two cans of chickpeas (I miss President's Choice Chickpeas)
1 handful of cilantro
1 tablespoon of mustard seed
1 squirt of harisa
juice of a whole lemon
1 pinch of salt
1 tablespoon of olive oil

warm up the oil and add the onions - let them cook on a low heat for about 20 minutes. This new little technique which I have stolen from a British friend of mine is working out quite well. After about 20 minutes, add your garlic and everything else in one shot. Let it simmer for about 30 minutes, emulsify and add a sprinkle of sumac and pepper.

The Apple Crumble Bumble

3 large apples - cored, cut and diced
2 cups of oatmeal
3 tablespoons of maple syrup
1/2 cup of brown sugar
1/2 cup of raisins
1 cup of soymilk

I can't really provide instructions for this because I had prepared it in a crockery dish for apple crumble only to realize the shite over wasn't working......Just add all of this yummy stuff together and cook it for ages. Serve with soymilk and walnuts. Enjoy!

It's 9:49 here in mighty Brussels and I am just waking up.....terrible. I know. But I need as much sleep as I can get in preparation for Madrid. I have a feeling that in order to make up for the long hours of listening to conference papers, that I will be forcing my self to stay up in order to enjoy the city.

I went to see The Wedding Present last night with Kevin and Chris. Amazing band, amazing show - even better than Arcade Fire. Perhaps it was knowing I was going home to my own bed, rather than keeping my fingers crossed that I didn't get a case of the always potential travelling bed bugs, or maybe it was the pretty appealing plate of Turkish food I had before the concert - either way, it was a wonderful way to spend a Saturday night.

After a day of art store shopping, tummy aching, hairy-olive eating and wardrobe pushing we headed out for The Rotunde (the great venue where I saw Blanche). Before settling into our standing-room-only positions, we ventured to the favourite street or otherwise known as 'the site of the really dodgie kebab'. I was tempted to make Kevin bring me to that wonderfully exceptional, high quality establishment one more time....but decided against it, didn't want Chris to have too good of a time. We kept on walking and came to another row of 'dish specific' restaurants. This time it was Turkish pizza, rather than the 'kebabs' (read: chip buddies) served by their competitors on the more southerly end of this northern quarter curved street. My advice to anyone looking for a pre-concert bit is to keep on walking - this little place (the name of which has fluttered out of my head) was a world better - in fact, you could say the difference between this restaurant and the wrap hut was about the same as the distance between New Zealand and the rest of the world.

Anyhow, before you go on the hunt for Turkish pizza, double check your internal vegan sensitivity meter and make sure it doesn't say: MONDO POLITICAL, INFLEXIBLE AND WILL FLIP OUT IF THERE IS EVEN A SUGGESTION THAT MY FOOD WAS TOUCHED BY A HAND THAT AT SOME POINT MAY HAVE MASSAGED A COW THAT WAS ON ITS WAY TO THE SLAUGHTER HOUSE. I ordered my Roman-boat-shaped pizza sans fromage. This actually only meant that they didn't put cheese as the bottom layer; my pizza came with two huge triangles worth of feta atop it. There was a brief and calm exchange of "I can't eat this" and the pleading eyes of "I don't want to take this back". In the end, I was quite happy to receive the original pizza back with the feta lovingly and understandingly scraped off with the spatula that had not been moving the hache around the pan.

The crust was exceptionally thin (thinner than the Lyndsay Special at Il Fiasco, or the Skinny at Pappa Cieo), and was dressed up with a smidgen of tomato sauce, diced onion, and chopped mushroom. It took me a while of watching other patrons, but I realized that the large salad that is plunked down into the middle of the table is communal, and everyone is meant to pile the lettuce, tomato and mild chillies from the salad onto their pizza. The meal was great, and the service was acceptable. The atmosphere was perfect for: we are going to see a really loud and sweaty band. Great dinner.

The Wedding Present
was amazing.

Ohhhh...and I am also in the middle of planning a menu for K and L's Christmas Party -done totally vegan style.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Vienna Day II
The morning was crispy, but manageable, as far as the weather was concerned. Before heading out into the hat-hunting weather, breakfast was had in the hotel dining room. Although others may argue this point, I actually enjoyed the rustic (read: somewhat falling down, basement of someone with a mullet) type feel to the room, and the food - despite being replete in soy milk, was actually quite lovely, and included in the room price. There was a table in the middle of the room laid out with your run of the mill fruit selection, a big bowl of muesli and a variety of cold meats and cheese, jams and other spreadables (including Europe's answer to peanut butter - nuttela) were available. I grabbed a bowl of the muesli and a banana, which I sliced into the cereal - asking the uniformed waitress (with her impressive mantle of flaming red hair) to furnish this little vegan with a cup of boiling water - done and done: Oatmeal. The waitress brings each guest a little platter with an assortment of breads, tea or coffee and some ham spread - just what I needed.

After the ham spread option the museum quarter was explored, but no time was really spent - beyond some meandering with the pachyderms, none of whom were sharing the mystery of the austro-hungarian empire. Buggars. I even offered them peanuts.

The coolest part of this ancient part of Europe was the cornered off section just outside of the palace gates where the ruins of a first century Roman road still exist.

Lunch was a beautiful and wonderful thing. It seems that the heavy and traditional food of Austria has not defied the talents of some vegans. Just to the south of the Jewish monument is The Bio Bar. This family run business (cousin in the kitchen, cousin serving) was quite impressive. Not just because the food was fantastic (from the hot chocolate to the coconut balls...fantastic), but because they manage to extend beyond the trendy fashion food of LIVE and Fresh (I love you, but you are a style) and actually offer healthy and happy vegan food in the tradition of their culture. The whole atmosphere spoke of an authenticity - from the vegan literature and half cut up pumpkins exposed in the in-view-of-customers refrigerator, to the waitress named Lily who kept calling you darling and the crazy haired chef humpfing and humping around the grotto-like kitchen. I had an amazing meal, though I am not sure what exactly it was....potatoes, peppers, roasted tofu, onion. Excellent. You just knew that this was REAL....not just a veg option that meant you had to eat the over processed veggie burger that the restaurant stocks so that they can tell the guide books that they are a vegetarian restaurant.

The vegan hot chocolate was brilliant and the pumpkin soup was out of this world. My most wonderful lunch partner ordered the most interesting dish: A vegan version of Knuddel, served with a cabbage and apple dish.

Overall - an amazing meal and great service. Really impressed and recommend it to any vegan visitor of Vienna.
B and A met up with us at St. Stephens and we headed straight for a little beer garden close to our hotel. After a few hours of good chatting and a smelly waiter we needed some food and failed, finding our initial destination closed at 7 on a Saturday....what? We eventually settled on a vegetarian Chinese restaurant where the waitresses liked cash and indulged Bernie in his Mandarin. We, being pressed for time, ordered the easy Meal for 4 and we impressed with most of the food included in the smorgasbord of dinner. I really liked the cucumber salad - reminded me so much of hanging out in Beihai.....
We grabbed a cab to the GASOMETER, where Arcade Fire was awaiting us. A great show. Really well done.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Vienna Day I
Whoooahhhh. Happy to be home, but oh my, did I ever love Wiener. It is an amazingly wonderful, fantastic, hip, exciting, expressive, beautiful, antiquated, contemporary and well planned city. I had an amazing time and some of the best done european old-school style vegan food.

After a great little hug train starting at my desk and winding its way around the classroom I jumped a cab (the first of three crazy cab rides the weekend was to hand me - on this one, the cab driver commented on my remarkable ability to imitate a pigion. Must have been all of those days standing in Gore Park as a child) and headed for the airport....early me + late plane = a long time to contemplate how cute the three different sizes of stuffed Snowies the airport has to offer. After finally taking off the flight was mega smooth and my pre-departure salad bar adventure stayed right where it was supposed to.

The cabbie who was the commander of our arrival was a chemist from Croatia, and a wonderful sightseeing guide. The dark sky was my back drop for yet another first glance at a city (see Manchester), but the outskirts of Vienna was well lite by a rash of industry and development. Hotel Kugel was an acceptable spot of rest for the two nights stay - the area was FANTASTIC (7th quarter I think ---- wait a second, I am teaching fractions right now and I know damn well that there isn't a 7th quarter.....more like 1 and 3/4. Nice try Vienna). Anyway, there was an inspection of the crocked floors and a homage paid to the glue that was holding the 60's wall paper firmly to the year 2007 - way to go adhesives; food was next on the agenda, and the concerige was able to suggest a great little vegetarian (almost....despite the fish...but it is Europe and I have come to be happy with just about anything close to lettuce as an option at most restaurants) asian place down the street. We found the one and only Bhung Bui after a bit of hunting and enjoyed a really good tofu/veg/ stir fry. It wasn't anything to write home about, but it was satisfying to some hungry bellies and the wine was organic.

Through the frigid wind the way was found and I tooked into bed quick to fall asleep even faster.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Feeling a little challenged?

I am taking on Susan V's (of the Fat Free Vegan Kitchen blog) challenge to fix a recipe that she blundered some time last week.

The goal is to take the majority of the ingredients used by Susan in her self-proclaimed 'flop attempt' at making Thai Pumpkin Croquettes and substitute the failed can of pumpkin with something that 'works'. My list of items to add are: zuchinni and lentils, and use corn starch instead of wheat glutten and omit the brown sugar.

My goal is to fit this in sometime tomorrow night between cycle class and bedtime. I have to have a photo and the recipe in by November 11th at midnight and I can't imagine Arcade Fire is going to let me use their kitchnette to cook anything......and besides when you can hunt down whatever it was that inspired the depressive but delicious writings of Kafka, who has time to bake Croquettes?

Anyway, wish me luck!
On the way home from work last night a quick pit stop was made at the local Bio shop, where I picked up everything a good vegan needs to fix a autumn evening pot of soup and salad, which is what, in the early hours of the morning, was decided would be on tap for the evening's fare.

The soup preparation and ingredients were merely only suggested by me, and concocted while I was spinning my heart out to Dead or Alive's one and only hit (I admit to still only being able to see visions of Jason M all tied up in that multicoloured ribbon when ever I hear this song).

I came home to a bubbling pot of goodness that needed only the tender love of my emulsifying hand blender and the creation of accompanying salad....lucky me.

The soup was fantastic, and I am positive that the zucchini played a big role in this otherwise root heavy dish. Give it a whirl, I promise you won't be disappointed, especially if you are one of the lucky souls living in the wet and wild weather of Brussels.

Ingredients pour le lentil pumpkin soup

6 carrots (washed, hacked in half)
2 shallots (diced)
1/2 a pumpkin (peeled and cut into largish pieces)
2 zucchinis (washed and cut into chunks)
really expensive wild rice (5 euros 30!!!!)
curry powder

My instructions were thus:
(though not sure if they were followed)

1. Wash the veg
2. Hack them into the biggest bits the pot can manage
3. Heat up the spices in a little bath of the spices
4. Throw everything (including the lentils and rice) into the pot.
5. Add 5 cups of water
6. Simmer for one hour
7. When spin crazy girl comes in let her take over
8. Add chili flakes
9. Emulsify
10. Serve in cute little white bowls that you need to get on a step stool to retrieve
11. Whip up a salad of red lettuce, grated carrot, pine nuts, sliced apricot (dried), tomato, olive oil and balsamic vinegar
12. Enjoy while listening to I Like Trains and Sun Kil Moon
13. Have a really hot bath after you drink your wine
14. Fall fast asleep and don't wake up until 4 30 am when the screaming transvestite wakes you up screaming: "You don't love me because I am a man!" Excellent.

2 days left until I take on the Holy Roman Empire! Can't wait. Happy Cow tells me that there are many a veggie restaurant in Vienna. Must have been the Congress. We can redraw the map of Europe with a couple of well placed vegan restaurants!

Monday, November 05, 2007

Books, Books and more Books.....

I found a couple of new and really quite fantastic reads over the Fall Holiday, and they go a little something like this:

The Cranks Bible - this is the title that I picked up at Waterstones, but it is a part of a larger empire that started crafting wholesome and vegetarian food way back in the early 1960s in the U.K. I stumbled upon a 1981 version of The Cranks (now out of print) which introduced its virgin vegetarian reader to concepts such as 'Non-Dairy Milk Products', Texturized Vegetable Protein and (the horror) Soy Sauce. The recipes, in both the updated and the dusty and cool looking 1981 version, were not made ALL with vegans in mind (and you should ALL be writing everything with vegans in mind), but there are some amazing recipes that are either vegan or totally adaptable. Including (mom, write these down for when I come home in December): Mushroom Wellington, Algerian CousCous, and Fresh Fig and Port Sorbet. This particular cook book has just been released in smallish size trade paper back and is sorted into the nicest little chapters. I really dig the laid back, and yet totally non-jamie oliver style that the writing seems to have. Something I look forward to tonight's potential meal of: Roasted Veg with Mango....

The other book I found this past week, but seems to be out of stock at Waterstones (if anyone can find it PLEASE let me know) is a great big fat BBC Vegetarian book, written by Delia Smith and is full of a bevy of really fantastically gourmet recipes. Although most of the food concoctions in this book could be easily converted into vegan delights, Delia has provided a nice little index at the end to help us less creative vegans find Vegan Recipes.

In the world of less vegan page turners I was fortunate enough to find a rather good non-fiction title: The Adventure of English (the biography of a language), which was written by Melvyn Bragg. I am also reading: You Are the Earth by David Suzuki.

Lastly...guess what came out this week (in the UK at least), which I am just dying to see: Elizabeth 2. I am a little nervous. All sequels make me feel a bit uneasy (especially after my uber-geek heart was broken by Matrix II), and.....Clive Owen is in it. Yikes. Ah well, worth a trip to the theatre I suppose.
Best Vegan (Recess) Snack Contest

I need some assistance in selecting the best vegan recess snacks. Here are the contenders:

Banana - all by itself, peel it and chomp

Soy Drink
- in a handy little tetra pak (watch the recycling in your community though - if you live in Calgary or Manchester you are out of luck)

Sliced raw veg
- quick and not mega messy

Left Overs
- whatever is staring at you in the morning when you open the fridge. (my choices this morning were rather limited as I was SO late.......damn car alarm at 3 30am).
What do you think?

Don't be shy....share your thoughts. I have had enough private little emails to last me a life time, share via the POST button below. I have high expectations, and would love some ideas - even from you meat eating vegancowgirl readers...carlos, MEGHAN, rob, heather, claudia, emily, michelle, kevin....let's get this on!

Oh...and check this out while you are at it. This site comes highly recommended from the ISB Physics department. Please watch the Sunday Cinnamon video.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Earthly Delights

Friday was an early start, but one that got going with another super yummy breakfast of oats, dates, bananas and soymilk.....I just can't get enough.
We went into the city with Dr and Dr, who were kind and cool enough to show me around the university. This little mini-side trip actually afforded me one of the coolest moments in my life: I got to handle a prehistoric (mesolithic) spear. It was incredibly gob stopping to hold something in my 29 year old hand that had been hanging around for tens of thousands of years. I had to have a think on that one.

A quick pit stop into The Eighth Day, where I held off on shopping and just enjoyed a quick boo around. I really, really suggest this cafe and grocery shop for any vegans/veggers that are coming out to Manchester. The selection of dried goods/household items and the cafe downstairs make this place a heaven for anyone who might be in need of a good veg fill up. It is really easily accesible by any one of the many privatized bus services that head out towards the university. It gets my vote FOR SURE.

Continuing our walk on a super beautiful Friday, we ended up in the more commercial part of Manchester, and proceeded to pop in for a quick look at the reconfigured Cotton Exchange, which is now a theatre in the round, and had a quick tea in Starbucks...sorry, I needed some chai with soy milk...Waterstones made quite a hefty amount on us (though nothing compared to Pic's take a couple of days before). I bought a gift-book (How it All Vegan) and a book for my kiddies - Egyptoplogy. K bought a bunch of Physics books and a little treat for his favourite vegan: The Cranks' Bible (more on the new books I discovered...I promise). We also bought each other these wicked geek mugs - I got K: Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep and he picked me out Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own. We also stopped for some vegan-friendly deoderant and soap at LUSH. I found myself thinking mostly of my mommy who adores the smells and fizzies of this usually pretty good shop. I also bought the all time shitiest lip blam ever: EGGSNOG. You would be better to snog sans lip jelly, than get it on with this stuff. Any boy who gets a taste of your lips in this gunk is bound to hit the road. Yuck.

I made friends in the BEST vegan restaurant I have eaten in since I left the land of Fresh and Live - Earth Cafe is amazing! Totally amazing - and I ate way too much, but with zero regret - ZERO. The cafe is in the basement of the Buddhist Centre, and I am able to look past the way too hippie-stereotype-vegan-buffet style they have going, in pursuit of being able to praise the buddah out of this place. Here was my meal: 1 Transcendental juice (carrot, apple, ginger and orange), 1 bowl of green pea soup, 1 nut burger (hold the mushroom gravey and bread please), 1 side of roasted potato...and...oh my....1 really really really amazingly good BANANA, DATE and CASHEW CRUMBLE....I am going to work on trying this recipe out in my new kitchen...and will get back to you on it. All you need to know for now is that you MUST go to Manchester JUST to eat this bloody desert....maybe it is my deprevation of vegan deserts, but oh my was it good. The odd couple next to us, who were jointly from Toronto and Brussels, enjoyed their meal as much as we did - so that's four out of four....take the risk.

We totally needed a walk after that festival of food delights, but decided to hop on a bus to Chorlton where I was in search of The Unicorn. Not the mythical creature...the vegetarian grocery store. We did manage to find it, but I was a bit disapointed, and much more impressed with the Eighth Day. Ahhh well.....I did manage to get a really cool pink turnip bag (because I don't have enough bags) a really wicked Fair Trade apron, a cool 100% cotton tea towel and a couple of posters for my kiddlets. I also found Sumac, which is an essential ingredient in Fatoush Salad.....and some flax powder which will allow me to whip up some vegan chocolate chip cookies.

We arrived back at the University in time to meet up with K's parents, where we began our evening adventures that included: a good meal of Chinese food (complete with do-it-yourself lettuce wraps) and a concert put on by the BBC Philharmonic. They were recording for Radio 3 - so if you are interested in hearing a rather good piano concerto, and an amazing symphony (no.5 by Nielsen) then check out BBC Radio 3 on Thursday November 29th. Great Sound.

I feel asleep, like a little girl, in the car to the sounds of the 10 30 news........and only just managed to make it up to bed.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Hanging in Macc

Thursday was a day of slow baked food, hair cuts and a trip to Marks and Sparks

The morning was slow and greyish, and with Oats in my belly I headed out in search of a hair dresser. I found an alright place, where for 37 pounds I now have a reshaped cut and my mullet is no more.

While we were out, Dr. E. H used the left over squash and whipped up an amazing lunch: soup and some really great bread. She knows everything there is to know about Obsidian AND she can cook up a storm! After lunch we headed out for a long awaited outing - Marks and Spencers...which used to have a home in Hamilton, but, by the time I had any spending power, had packed up and moved back across to the UK. It was loaded with folks being pushed quite forcefully into the Christmas spirit....but I found underpants in the plenty and a new little black dress (they sell in PETITES!!!) We also went through TESCO's and found some tofu and some descent looking mushrooms.

To accompany the really amazingly well roasted sweet potatoes (that went with the lamb K and his poppa had), I put together a triangled tofu dish that turned out really really well!!!

Pomegranate Tofu Bake

Here is what you need:

Extra firm tofu (cut it into triangled pieces)
1/2 a pomegranate (all the little bits separated from the pith)
Balsamic Vinegar
Olive Oil
Fresh Cilantro
Fresh Rosemary (Not toooo fresh - Kevin washed the cat pee off before handing it over)

Turn the oven to gas mark 7

Oil a baking pan and throw in your triangles. To prevent them from sticking give them a good bath in quality olive oil and balsamic vinegar - add the herbs and pomegranate seeds and mix. Send them into the warmth of the over for about 45 minutes, turning maybe 2 or 3 times.

They were AMAZINGLY yummy.

We washed the night down with some really good red wine and a couple of Marcelinni chocolates. I also found and read some really great British cook books on Thursday - will share in my next post...but they were so great that I went out to fetch them on Friday afternoon.

Friday, November 02, 2007

My first day in Manchester was yummy and interesting.

The train from Macclesfield to Manchester was mega packed: like the GO at 4 30 on a Friday before a long weekend. Packed. 20 minutes dressed up as sardines got us into Piccadilly Station where we made a quick pit stop for a not mega yummy coffee and a view of M.C. Rudolfo (a 10 week old Jack Russell Terrier who was waving at us through his weird mesh carry bag).

We made a quick plan and headed for the Manchester Art Gallery, which houses a descent amount of Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood paintings - including the heavy bodies of Dante's girls. There was a really excellent DYI-flavoured exhibition on the lower floor that shared the history of 'the button'. Personally, that was my favourite.

After a quick realization that my Belgian bank card was not working in the UK, we headed for Chinatown where our only parameters were that the menu had to be in Chinese and there had to be at least a couple of vegan-friendly dishes. We went for The Great Wall restaurant, and were rewarded with a stunning meal that was fit for a Bei Hai Wednesday afternoon. The meal began with the super thin waiter bringing out our steamed veg dumplings, which were stuffed with diced mushrooms, vermicelli and subtle spring onion. Our next course included the following:

1. an amazing Tofu and Black Bean dish
2. a really good and goey aubergine dish, which wasn't quite as hot as I had wished for
3. a disappointing mushroom and veg stirfry that seemed to just sit at the end of the table like the girls who are never picked for dodge ball at recess (me?)
4. a small silver pot of rice

We also indulged in a pot of green tea, which we drank for longer than we wished in our endless wait for the bill - no complaints though, the conversation was great and the people watching was plentiful.

After lunch we went to went to a super exciting warehouse-type building in the Northern Quarter called Afflecks Palace. This made-to-look dilapidated building houses the uber-teen magnet four level shop space where a variety of small business owners sell a cornucopia of style-supplies. The style of courses is not quite the sleek look of the suburbanites sliding from Macc to Manchester to set up in their office towers. Rather, this style fits more with the ripped tights and patent leather of disenfranchised youth. I was busy remembering my youth in Hamilton and Burlington when I found myself a vegan wallet made by Vintage Originals, which has now replaced my tired looking Matt and Nat.

We also had a CD party at Piccadilly Records where we captured the first Sun Kil Moon, an Arts and Crafts remix of the Stars debut C.D., the first National record and a slew of other goodies. Piccadilly Records was chased with a long drink of Earl Grey (with Soy Milk) at ModPopCafe. This scrubby little place hides underneath a retro shop (with the BEST furniture ever) and uses a collection of my grandmother's kitchen tables to populate the serving area. They have a a few vegan options for lunch, but I don't really know if I am still in a place where zitty boys serving my beans on toasts is either a) totally gross or b) an interesting experience.

The best part of the day was when we found the cool craft warehouse where artists and craftey crafters set up shop in an old building and peddle their goods to middle class passerbys. I picked out a whack of stuff that I would actually drive back for. I even managed to catch some inspiration and have some art project thoughts for when I get home.....keeping in mind the new scarf I have been knitting for....7 weeks.

We came home via train and went round to the grocery shop for some ingredients. I had the chance to tackled a big fat curry that even included a pasting down of the essential curry ingredients (how nice is it to be in a full size kitchen again). I (what I mean is we) modified a recipe from Nigel Slater the great British food writer, and I think, besides the atomically-hot vegetables, the dish turned out pretty good. I even made myself a little ramekin full of apple crumble to top the meal off.

Curry Paste
Fresh Ginger (I thumb's lump)
Fresh Cilantro
Chili Peppers
2 sticks of Lemon Grass
4 Garlic Cloves
5 Shallots

chop all of these guys up - but don't stress about their size - they are all going into the processor. giving them a good chop releases the flavours though, so its worth the trouble.

2 zucchinis
1 chunk of tofu - cubed
1 big fat squash (we only used half, while the other became lunch the next day)
1 can of tomatoes
1 can of coconut milk - light
3 limes
2 small eggplants
1 apple

While the paste was being pasted, the veg and fu was roasted in the over at about gas mark 7 for about 35 minutes.

When ready the veg and the fu were slide into a lovely roasting pan atop the stove that was already filled with the tomatoes, the curry paste and the coconut milk. We let the wet ingredients simmer and cook down to something a bit thicker before adding the veg.
The final lot was served with a nice rocket salad and some basmatti rice. Yummy!

Off the Cuff Apple Crumble

What you need:
1 smallish apple
4 table spoons of coconut milk
a bit of cinnamon
5 table spoons of soy milk
1 handful of raisins.

I just threw all of these ingredients into a ramekin baking dish (about 5 inches across) and cooked it for about 20 minutes at gas mark 5. It was super yummy.