Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Black-eyed peas and cawwn bread

What is this "black-eyed peas are for New Years" bullshit? I ate black-eyed peas at least once a week for pretty much my entire childhood. Growing up in the South, black-eyed peas are not special occasion food. They are cheap, good, and actually fairly healthy, even when flavored with bacon fat or ham, so my family ate them pretty  much constantly. My grandmother used to make black-eyed peas ALL the time, and pair them with cornbread. She used a pretty simple combination of ingredients to flavor the peas -- garlic and onion powder, salt, and pepper.This would be pretty much the sole vegan dish that was at the table on a regular basis, since she rarely used pork to flavor it. This flavor combination worked, but I like to jazz mine up a little more. 


This will make a really big pot, which is great because now you have leftovers that heat up very easily in the microwave. Or you can just halve everything and make a smaller batch.

I like to serve this over a slice of cornbread. For this is use a basic recipe from the Veganomicon, which I remember by heart:


  • (Dry)
  • 2 cups of cornmeal
  • 1 cup of all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar 
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • (Wet)
  • 2 cups plain soymilk
  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar 
Preheat your oven to 350F with a greased cast-iron skillet in there. Mix the wet together and let it curdle while you mix together the dry is a large bowl. After you mix all the dry stuff thoroughly, make a well and add the wet. Mix it together and then pour the mixture into your how cast iron skillet. Bake it for about 35 minutes.

I like to use brown sugar instead of white. There are also some variations you can do with the cornbread, like saute onions of but I like to keep mine simple. I like to eat this with something green, fried okra, something meat-like (a MS Farms bbq strip for example). 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

My approach to veganism

I’m not very good at being an animal right’s activist. I support animal rights, but I’m not on the front lines protesting (much), handing out literature (much), taking part in direct action (at all), and the like (at least not on a regular basis). I do volunteer for things that I think improve my community, but I was raised in the South, and was taught that you don’t make a show out of the good things you do. Contrary to popular belief, the wave of self-righteous Evangelical Christianity is a relatively new thing. My great grandparents were very religious, devout Christians, but lived by the Biblical principle that you don’t make your piety and your self-perceived righteousness the first thing people notice about you.

And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
 -Matthew 6:5-6 

I’m not a religious person, but I do think that there is some wisdom in this principle. You can do something because you truly believe in it, or you can do something the show everyone else how great you are. I’m far from a perfect man, and I have had my self-righteous moments, but I can genuinely say that I try hard not be a holier-than-thou douchebag when it comes to my support of animal rights.

I’m not big into animal rights philosophy or ideology. My support for animal rights was a journey of self-discovery based on one fundamental truth I could not ignore: the animals we consume are sentient beings, capable of feeling pain, happiness, and fear, and that no matter how much I liked meat or dairy, their right to live free from undue suffering FAR outweighs my craving for a double bacon cheeseburger and a strawberry milkshake. (And I LOVED double bacon cheeseburgers and strawberry milkshakes!)

I try to be openminded, but I am skeptical of notions like speciesism and abolitionism. I know there are some very dedicated and good people that strongly believe in these concepts, and I don’t want to question their motivations in any way. I do, however, question the efficacy of some of the more hardline approaches to animal rights. Getting people to change their minds about something is one of the hardest things to do, period. And one thing I think most vegans – the more and the less ideologically inclined – can agree on is that in almost every society today (especially American society) we are raised to ignore the suffering of animals. Overcoming this socialization is, to put it bluntly, really fucking hard! It took me a long time to come around to finally embracing veganism as a lifestyle, so who the fuck am I to judge someone who hasn’t?

People are often surprised when they find out I’m vegan. In many ways I’m a normal guy. I like to drink more than I should. I have a sick, twisted, and caustic sense of humor. I appreciate Kenny Powers on a more than ironic level. Unlike “typical” (stereotypical) vegan men, I’m not into eating healthy – which is kind of the point of this blog. I’m not anything close to being a hippie or a metrosexual. Politically, I don’t consider myself a liberal or a leftist, and I don’t think to appreciate the sentience of other species you need to be. I also have a huge college football problem.

I once posted a joke on one of my favorite sports message boards about my recipe for vegan eggnog. It was two ingredients: Johnny Walker Black in a coffee mug. It was (obviously) meant to be a joke. I got a response something to the effect of, “That’s the first vegan recipe I’ve ever seen that sounds awesome.” I’m under no delusions that I converted anyone to veganism with that silly post, but I possibly did make someone (or maybe even more than one!) think that vegans can be likely anyone else. Veganism can and should be relatable to most people. 

I think the best way to help end animal suffering is to make people think and understand that consuming animals is a choice, as that is best accomplished by being a salient cultural force. Vegans being present and visible, but not in-your-face is the best way to do that. What we need is not more animal rights ideologues. What we need are more vegans!

Okay -- the rest of this is a bit tangential, but relevant. This has become longer than I intended. I have tried my hand of humor writing before (here and on an LSU blog) I kind of think what veganism needs is a good humor writer, as opposed to yet another blog on animal rights philosophy. I'm not saying I'm up for this, or good enough, but this is my idea – a brief snippet where I will point the guns away from my vegan brothers and sisters and toward the meat industry. The subject: fast food chicken nuggets. Go!

What the animal right activist says about them to a non-vegan:

They are usually made from chickens who are kept in cramped conditions, with beaks chopped off, unable to move, genetically modified, sad, suffering, and hopeless. They are pumped full of hormones and antibiotics, then brutally slaughtered by people who work in subhuman conditions with no safety standards, mechanically separated, portioned back together piecemeal, and artificially pressed into nugget shapes. This process is cruel, inhuman, and a sad commentary on our society.
Oh, how inter-uhhhhhh

Now all of that shit is true, but I would put it a different way. Check it:

Most people think chicken nuggets are made of actual chickens. This is true in a nominal sense. They are more like blind, crippled, suffering creatures that happen to remotely genetically resemble what we casually think of as a chicken. These miserable things are shot up with that same shit that Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens took for decades (so it’s gotta be safe, right?), while having their DNA fucked with to the point that they have three heads while being able to be successfully grown upside down in a garbage can right outside the basement of an unsavory rural Chinese train station. After being “harvested” they are then pureed into something that resembles soft-serve strawberry ice cream. 

Mmmm.... Delicious! 

That's how I roll bitches.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The art of whipping up a good marinade

I've noticed that I'm actually getting more and more pageviews on this blog. God only knows why, but hey, I'll take it. I feel obliged to actually write a little something, and I guess I will touch on something that's actually a little topical as we head into the summer months: marinade for grilling stuff.

The first thing you need to know about making a marinade, or pretty much anything else food related that isn't baking: this shit ain't science. I've posted a marinade recipe before, but sometimes I think that by focusing so much on recipes that we forget that just winging it sometimes can work. I made a marinade today with my friend Karla to use for portabellas and brussel sprouts, and it was a lot similar to the one I made before, but with a few differences. I decided I would try apple cider vinegar instead of white, since she had some, and I added some cayenne pepper. I didn't measure anything and my friend told me it was some of the best I'd ever made. I know everyone doesn't feel comfortable just "eyeballing" stuff, but I think a lot of cooking is about confidence and trusting your instincts. If you make something that's not so good, well that's fine -- we've all done it. I think it's good though to not be afraid of screwing up a bit. Also, it's hard to really screw up a marinade to the point where you make bad food. That's because you can (and should!) give it a taste before you actually use it. If it's good, you know to use it. If it's not, throw it out and try again.

Some thoughts on making good marinade:

1) Keep the ingredients list small. I subscribe to the idea that we should be as simple as possible in cooking. Never use seven ingredients when three will get the job done. Don't add stuff just for the sake of adding stuff. I think of this kind of like mixing paint. If you want to get a good color, keep it simple: yellow and blue will make green, for example. If you want a lighter green, carefully add some white. But you have to exercise some caution. If you insist on mixing in more and more colors you will just end up with an ugly grayish-brown.

2) Think of complimentary flavors. Brown sugar and cumin go very well together. Vinegars and fats work well together (especially balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil). Think of your favorite complimentary/contrasting flavors. There, you already have an inspiration for a really good marinade. Also keep in mind that not everything goes well together (which I why I discussed above that you shouldn't keep adding stuff, because if you do eventually you find two ingredients that don't like each other, or more likely, add an ingredient that conflicts with several of the ingredients you already added).

3) Don't go for subtlety. Marinades aren't about nuance. They are about hitting you over the head with "holy shit, that's really good" flavor.

4) Don't be afraid to experiment. This is how I found out that beer works really well in a marinade. You can always whip up small batches and give it a quick taste to see how it works. I'm doing to try doing something with red wine soon. (Suggestions always welcome.)

5) Soy sauce be salty, yo. It's great, don't get me wrong, and is a nice starting point for lots of marinades. But it's potent shit, so don't go nuts with it. I find it's good to cut soy sauce with broth or beer. (I don't think wine would work though. I have not tried it, but I feel pretty confident in that.)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

"Chicken" noodle soup

What excuse do I have this time? I've used the I'm-depressed-because-some-soulless-harpy-tore-out-my-heart excuse in the past. I've used the I'm-a-busy-guy excuse. Neither of those apply. I'm just lazy I suppose. I've been incredibly unmotivated, which sucks because some people have been wanting this recipe since they tried it at a recent vegan potluck I went to. Potlucks aren't the best places for soups in general, but I wanted to show this off. So yeah, for those of you wanting this, I'm sorry it took me so long. Feel free to guilt me in the future bout stuff; it works as a good motivational tool for me.

Okay, this is my recipe for fake chicken noodle soup. It pretty much tastes like the real thing, as has been confirmed by several omnivorous friends, as well as my own memory.


  • Five celery stalks, chopped fairly thin
  • Four large carrots (or like twenty baby carrots), chopped
  • One medium onion, diced
  • Five cloves of garlic, minced
  • One teaspoon of red pepper flakes (or more if you like)
  • About one cup of fairly well chopped seitan (use this recipe
  • Extra virgin olive oil 
  • Four cups of Better Than Bouillon vegetarian fake chicken base
  • Three to four bayleaves (depending on size)
  • Half a pound of dried linguine pasta (half of a regular package) 
I'm sure there are other good vegetarian chicken broths out there, but the Better Than Bouillon is the only one I can vouch for. It's damn good. I have to get it at Whole Food here in the Saint Louis area, but there's a good chance that other places carry it depending on your region. 

You're going to separately prepare the broth and the rest of the ingredients. The bouillon stuff I'm recommending  can get a little uneven in consistency and density, so it's best to taste it to make sure it's a consistency you want. Heat the four cups in a pot on the stove. Put on a low setting -- you don't want to boil the hell out of it, you just want it to get warm. Go ahead and get this going on the stove before you start with your other stuff. Also, throw in the bayleaves now so they start to infuse in the broth. 

In a separate pot coat the bottom of a pot with the olive oil and heat it on a medium-high heat. Then add your celery, onions, and carrots. Saute this for several minutes until your onions start to caramelize an the celery start looking a lighter green. Then cut the heat down to medium and add the garlic, seitan, and red pepper flakes. Let this heat up for a good five to seven minutes. 

Pour the broth into the pot and turn the heat back up to medium-high. Then you break up your pasta and throw it in. I suggest you break it into thirds, not halves, otherwise the noodles are a bit long and harder to eat. 

Heat it up to a boil then put the heat back down to medium. Don't crank it up here -- the point is to get a solid but gentle boil. You will cook this for a while until the noodles are nice and soft (well past al dente) and the carrots have pretty much no crunch to them at all. The broth should also soak into the seitan giving it a chicken-y tastes. Be sure to stir regularly. This should take at least 30 minutes but probably no more than an hour. 

On a personal note, in lieu of hair of the dog, this soup is the best hangover remedy I have ever had that didn't involve alcohol. My theory is that this soup will go especially well with a gin and tonic or three, and be pretty much the perfect hangover reprieve. 

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The four most annoying types of vegans

Most people think vegans are annoying, and for good reason. We are. Generally speaking, our tribe tends to rub people the wrong way. A lot of that is just because we are different. However, a lot of the antipathy people have towards vegans is well deserved. So partially in the interests of showing we vegans can laugh at ourselves (but mostly just because I like making fun of people), and also because stereotypes are fun, I thought I would give a list of the four most annoying types of vegans - or rather the four I thought I could come up with enough funny stuff to write about. 

Mr. “I’m more vegan than you”
Some people don’t go vegan because they want to help animals, or even for health reasons. Some people go vegan so they can be better than everyone else. Inevitably, as omnivores (rightly) tell these self-appointed paragons of virtue to go fuck themselves, they turn their insecurities on the more patient and iron-deprived vegan community. Often these are so-called “abolitionists” crusading against the imaginary “welfarists” they constantly see lurking in the dark corners of the vegan world, who will try to make you feel guilty for doing anything even remotely resembling what they call “animal exploitation.” Using the wrong kind of toothpaste? Eating vegan crackers from the wrong manufacturer? Watching a porno with a cat who’s incidentally in the background grooming himself, who gets no royalties for his appearance? He will let you know how horrible a person you are, but at least he’ll be an asshole while doing it. He practices this trait regarding everything, up to and including chastising your appreciation cinematic classics that feature animals, such as Every Which Way but Loose and Smokey and the Bandit 2. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I refuse to sacrifice high culture just to satisfy the whims of some holier-than-thou jerk.

By the way, the Academy’s snubbing of Clyde’s performance will forever be remembered as a black mark on the Oscars.

The perpetually indignant vegan
People that go around looking for things to be offended about are going to be successful, and the perpetually indignant vegan certainly is that. Every small inconvenience and slight is legitimate cause for outrage. The sky is always falling, and not only is every small vegan-inconveniencing problem a travesty; it’s a goddamn war crime! Whenever PETA makes a stupid ad with scantily clad women, these are the first ones to express outrage at how this is an injustice of the highest order, on par with the Bataan Death March, the Holocaust, or the Michael Bay Transformers movies.

That motherfucker retroactively ruined my childhood.
Their pathological pessimism knows no limits regarding tact or context. But really, what constitutes true injustice? How woman are stoned to death in Saudi Arabia? Or how children are made into child soldiers in Africa? Come on – let’s have a little perspective here people! No, the local bistro taking one of their vegan sandwiches off the menu is obviously a worse injustice.

Sorry Baakir, but Emily not being able to get her bean sprout Panini deserves priority over your petty concerns. Back of the line, asshole!

The “Oh my God, this is SOOOOOOO good!” vegan
You know the people that think if it’s vegan then it has to be good? No matter how shitty or disgusting a dish is, this vegan will insist it’s one of the best things they have ever eaten. Then the next they try will also be one of the best things ever. And so on. “Mmmmmm! This vegan lasagna is seriously one of the best things I’ve ever had in my life!” No it isn’t. The only flavor that reminds you of animal products is the taste of paste like I used to eat when I was four. “Wow! This vegan Pad Thai is just amazing!” Wrong asshole – it tastes like peanut butter flavored toothpaste. In other words, it sucks. I know cognitive dissonance can be a bitch, but at least try to be discriminating!

“Dude! If we pan sear these with some sawdust, butternut squash, and liquid smoke… OMG it will be sooooo amazing!”

The conspiracy nut vegan
Think 9/11 was done by the government, who is also building secret concentration camps for us all in the upcoming American Holocaust? Believe that ancient aliens build the pyramids and Stonehenge, and gave King Solomon some sweet pick-up lines so he could fuck all those women? Or that the illuminati lizard people are responsible for the commercial success of Nelly? Well then congratulations - this is you! 

Okay, maybe there’s actually something to that one.

Is there something about veganism that attracts the wackjobs, or is it a deficiency of B vitamins that make a disproportionate number of vegans believe stupid, outlandish, crackpot theories? These gullible idiots will believe anything if it’s insane enough. I’m convinced that if I got one of them high enough (as most of them are stoners anyway) I could convince them that the world is governed by a cabal of celebrities that faked their own deaths, which includes Biggie, Tupac, Elvis, and Ike Turner, who all act at the behest of their leader, the most powerful and insidious of them all: Charles Nelson Reilly.

Now that you know the truth, bow to your true overlord .

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Chili recipe -- my Xmas gift to you!

There are a few dishes I feel that I just have down. This includes my red beans and rice, and my gumbo (recipe coming soon). The first recipe I ever truly feel like I truly mastered though was my chili. I've been making vegetarian chili for probably 13 years or so now, and I have settled on a basic process -- it's like I make chili on autopilot at this point.

A lot of vegan chili recipes call for some sort of fake meat, like tvp, Boca crumbles, or something comparable. I tend to like fake meat products, but for some dishes like this I think it's best to leave out processed stuff when you can. The role of meat in this dish is played by the diced mushrooms. I prefer crimini mushrooms (as I love the flavor they add), but any mushroom will work. Note they are diced, not sliced! For one thing, having little cubes of chewiness is preferable to having large slices for the same reason that having smaller pieces of meat would be better than having large strips or chunks of meat in your chili. If you absolutely must, you can use a meat substitute, and for some things (like gumbo) it's kind of unavoidable to use something processed like that, but I like to avoid it when I can. One day I might experiment with dicing some seitan that I make myself, but i don't see it topping mushrooms.

I also don't like majorly non-traditional stuff in my chili -- no celery, no squash, and certainly no fucking carrots. This is not something that is supposed to be a montage of good healthy ingredients, or even stuff that you happen to like. It's supposed to be simple, flavorful, and robust. It's there to kick your ass, not be your artistic medium of culinary expression you fucking hippie. This is chili, not vegetable soup.

Another note -- the prep time for this chili is at the least two and a half hours, so keep in mind this is not something you can just whip up at the last minute.

  • Two medium onions, diced
  • One large green bell pepper, diced
  • One head (that's right, a whole head) of garlic, minced
  • 16 oz of mushrooms, diced (I prefer criminis)
  • Several tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • Red pepper flakes, however much you think you can handle (no more than 3 tablespoons unless you are really bad ass)
  • Chili powder, 5-6 tablespoons
  • Brown sugar, 4 tablespoons
  • Salt, not too much (you can always add salt; you can't take it out)
  • Large can of crushed tomatoes
  • Large can of diced tomatoes
  • Three cans of beans (I used one each of black, red and navy)
  • A 12 oz. bottle or can of beer
Get a good sturdy pot and coat the bottom with your olive oil. Saute your onions and green pepper over medium-high heat. While doing this add at least some of your red pepper flakes. I like to get the heat going in there early. (I like to add more a little later after tasting for a sort of layered effect of the hotness, but that's not necessary at all.) After the onions are getting translucent cut the heat down to medium and add the garlic. Continue the saute for about two minutes and then add the mushrooms.

Keep the saute going until the mushrooms cook down and are saturated with moisture. Then turn up the heat to high and add the beer. Any type of non-flavored beer works, and will do slightly different things to the chili. I've tried IPAs, lighter wheat ales, darker ales, lagers, and they all work. During the colder months I like to use Schlafly Oatmeal Stout. Bring that up to a boil and add the chili powder and brown sugar. Keep this boil going for three or so minutes. Be sure to stir it to make sure nothing sticks.

After this add all the tomatoes and the beans. I don't drain the beans, I just pour the whole can in there. (Now you can use cooked beans of your own if you want of course, but you will need to add some water.) Bring it up to a simmer.

If you happen to do a quick taste at this point don't expect much. It won't taste great. You're going to have let this simmer for at least a couple of hours before it's ready. Make sure to stir it at least every fifteen minutes, scraping the bottom well so nothing sticks for too long. A little sticking will probably happen though, and that's no big deal at all, but you don't want any charring. During this time you can also give it an occasional taste to see if it needs anything, like more chili powder (as all chili powders are not created equal), or more red pepper flakes (or cayenne pepper if you want).

So after a few hours you will have a pot of kick ass chili. I like to eat mine over thin spaghetti noodles, also known as chili-mac (which is probably the Midwest's sole positive contribution to Western civilization).

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Rotel "cheese" dip - way overdue update just in time for bowl season!

Okay, so I was out drinking last night with friends, and got scolded by The Little Vegan that Could for never updating this thing. She's right -- I'm just fucking lazy. Every time I make a new post I resolve to "do better." And I never do. Meh. Whatever. Maybe I will start to post more. We'll see.

So yeah, I've been meaning to share this dip that I whipped up a few weeks ago when I was craving cheese dip. As someone that LOVES college football, I'm glad I managed to get this post down before college bowl season, as this is a vegan take on a tailgating classic.

Aside about college football: It's been a great year to be an LSU fan. Not only are we* in the national championship game, but have the chance to become one of the best college football teams of all time. An LSU player -- a DEFENSIVE player no less! -- got invited to the Heisman Trophy presentation. This was a great year for us, and it will be even better after we kick Bama's ass again in Nawlins. Geaux Tigers!

*Yes, I use the inclusive plural pronoun -- roll your eyes all you want, I really don't give a shit. Plus I actually went to LSU, so I'm not a sidewalk alumnus.

Okay, this is a food blog, so back to food stuff. Here's how to do it:

  • A can of Rotel (whatever kind you like -- I like the hot kind)
  • A can of coconut milk
  • 4 tablespoons of garlic powder
  • 5 tablespoon of nutritional yeast flakes
  • Arrowroot slurry (3 tablespoons of arrowroot powder mixed with a cup of water)
  • Salt to taste
This is super easy to make. Simple heat up the Rotel and c milk in a pot and add the dry ingredients when it start to simmer. Then all the slurry a bit at a time and stir it in. It should start to thicken pretty nicely. Add as much as you want to get your desired thickness.

This is great to dip chips in, and will legitimately remind you of the one good use for Velveeta -- making a fake cheese dip, only this time instead of the dairy-infused plastic product you are using coconut milk. This is perfect when you get that craving for food made out of petroleum products.

So enjoy bowl season y'all, and remember, Auburn sucks!

Obligatory. Also, my ringtone.