Saturday, July 28, 2012

Stop Your Yapping and Eat...a.k.a. Why New Vegans Annoy Me

So it's not often that I bother to post unless I have a recipe to share, but I'm exceedingly irritated right now.  Maybe it's the fact that I'm on my third cup of coffee....or that Mike has been banging out some good, hard beats on the turntables for the last hour....but whatever it is, I'm feeling the need to metaphorically punch someone in the face via a little rant on the internet.

So I don't just blog my own adventures in veganism, I also read the blogs of others for various reasons - new ideas, supporting other writers who are also lovers of this Earth's furry, feathered, and scaly creatures, and also maybe to try to feel some sense of community with other vegans, since I don't really have much contact with any in real life.  I was reading a blog today that shall remain nameless, and I realized something....."new" vegans annoy the hell out of me.  Not because they seem entrenched in using processed fake cheeses (although I swear, if I read one more blog post that tells me to use Daiya shreds as a main ingredient in a recipe I'm going to punch my computer) but because they're, on the whole, a bunch of self-righteous, narcissistic jerks.  Or at least that's how they come across on the internet.
The blog in question isn't written by one person, but accepts post submissions from anyone who registers with them.  The posts that get the most votes are featured on their site, and judging by the blogger profiles, most of these vegan writers have only been living the lifestyle for a year or so.  I originally signed up hoping to get some exposure for my own writing since I only have 7 followers and one of those is my mom (hi, mom!) and I really wish my love of food could reach a wider audience.  I ended up never submitting because once you submit a post to the site, they essentially own it.  Screw that.  I work HARD in my kitchen coming up with delicious creations and I'll be damned if someone else is going to claim ownership of that.  I readily share my recipes with anyone and everyone, but something about that didn't feel right.  So anyhow, I read this blog and most of the posts really, really irritate me.  Most of the recipes are terrible, relying heavily on "substitution" foods marketed directly at vegans, and there's a lot of "how to be vegan" or "what do you eat as a vegan" posts, which would be great if they were actually informative, but there's usually no "meat" to the articles (if you'll pardon the expression).  It's just someone blahblahblah-ing on for a few paragraphs about how awesome it is to be vegan without actually giving a new veg or veg-curious reader any substantial info on how to make those changes.  One of the "how to be vegan" posts even recommended "flexitarianism" as a method of going vegan without making the commitment.  I'll get into my beef (haha, there's another one) with that particular term in more depth another time I'm sure, but suffice to say at the moment that it pisses me off because it's not even a real thing.  Eating meat some of the time is just called being omnivorous, which ALL humans are.  Anyone who is so desperate to be different that they need to assign some BS, meaningless label to themselves so they can give themselves a nice pat on the back for how progressive and forward-thinking they are is just sad.  Veg*nism isn't about being "cool."  It's about living peacefully and with love for ourselves, each other, non-human living creatures, and this planet that we were entrusted with.
But enough about labels.  What set me off today was reading a blog post entitled "How to Talk to Non-Vegans" and, as you can imagine, it went on to talk about how (imagine me putting a hand to my forehead and speaking in my best damsel-in-distress voice here) vegans are sooooo persecuted by society at large.  The whole blog was about how all those mean and cranky meat eaters would say nasty things to you because you don't eat meat, and how you should counteract that by telling them why eating meat is so very, very bad.  Ok, well first of all, if you're going to be the kind of dickish vegan who sits next to someone eating a steak and starts telling them what a horrible person they are for eating it, you deserve whatever nasty comments you get back.  No one wants to hear crap about factory farms and downed cattle and migrant workers and fields full of animals walking around in their own poo while they're trying to enjoy a decent meal.  Second of all, where the heck are all these militant omnivores who are going around flinging horrible insults at nice little vegans and making them go home and cry into bowls of tofu?  I've been vegan for nearly eight years now and the responses I've gotten from family, friends, co-workers, and even complete strangers about my dietary choices have been overwhelmingly positive.  And bear in mind, it's not because I come from some hippie commune where we all eat nuts and berries and sit around singing Kumbaya all day long.  No one in my family is vegan (although my brother and sister-in-law had a short stint as ovo-lactos before starting to eat fish again), I've never dated a vegan, and I've had ONE vegan friend in real life and he went off somewhere out west to be a skydiving instructor and I never heard from him again.  I'm surrounded by lovers of good steaks, burgers, fried chicken and the like, and yet almost no one in the last 8 years of living vegan has had anything to say that even borders on the hateful attitudes that supposedly the world has against us.  The reactions I get range from bored indifference, to genuine interest, to actual admiration for being someone who takes a stand for what I believe in.  My friends and family are always more than willing to try my cooking (which is great because I basically show my love through feeding people) and are great about making sure there is something I can eat at gatherings (on the rare occasion that I don't bring ridiculous amounts of food with me to share, that is).  Then again, maybe I'm not your average vegan, in that I don't go around berating other people about their food choices either.  You want to eat a steak next to me?  Go right ahead; just don't ask me to take a bite.  Everyone is entitled to their own choices in life, and everyone has to be okay with their own set of morals.  If someone asks me why I don't eat meat, sure, I'll tell them, but I counter that with saying that I do it because I feel that I want to live peacefully....and part of that is accepting that others are not necessarily going to think or live like I do....and that's okay.

So I know this is getting long, and I definitely apologize (not like many are going to read it anyway), but I guess my point is this: if you're going to be a vegan, do it for the right reasons - filling your body and your life with love and peace and compassion - not to give you something to self-righteously bitch about on the internet.  And then accept that maybe....just maybe....the world at large isn't terribly interested with what you are or aren't putting in your mouth.  Live the best way you know how, accept that others are trying to do the same, and the next time you feel like you're going to talk about how unfair the world is for us poor, persecuted little vegans...shove a vegan chocolate chip cookie in your mouth instead and shut the hell up.  You'll feel better for it.

The Fur Ninja

Friday, July 27, 2012

Nomz for Ninja-Grandmom's Birthday - Seitan Hot "Wings" and Roasted Sweet Potato Salad

I selected this post to be featured on Vegan Blogs. Please visit the site and vote for my blog!

It's summertime, ninjas!  Time for cookouts with good friends, good brew, and of course....good ninja eats!  My ninja-grandmom celebrated her 90th birthday a couple of weeks ago and I made some rockin' good food for the occasion.  I absolutely love any excuse to make an obscenely large amount of awesomely delicious food - especially when I get to please a crowd of omnivores in the process.  So of course I showed up to grandmom's shindig with a ridiculous amount of vegan scrumptiousness (prompting a comment from my ninja-love Mike, "Isn't this party catered?"  Well yes....but I wouldn't be me if I didn't cart around stupid amounts of food to a gathering) to share.

So here's a special double-recipe post of what I made for my awesome grandmom's party.  The "wings" and potato salad both travel well, and were scarfed down by vegans and omnis alike.  Next time you hit a pot luck or cookout, bring one or both, but be warned - you probably won't have much in the way of leftovers!

Onto the recipes!

Seitan "Wings" and Roasted Sweet Potato Salad

Seitan "Wings" With Creamy Dipping Sauce

Please note: these take some advance prep as they need to chill overnight.  Plan accordingly!  They are also VERY hot; you can adjust the hot sauce/butter ratio as you see fit.  Double this recipe if making for a crowd - I made 2 lbs and they were nearly all eaten up by the end of the party even though there were only 2 other vegans in attendance.


2 lb seitan, torn into bite-sized chunks
3/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup non-dairy butter
1 cup hot pepper sauce (I used a combo of Louisiana Hot Sauce and Frank's Red Hot)
2 Tablespoons tomato paste

First, you need to get your seitan as dry as humanly possible.  Whether you make your own seitan like I do (try the recipe in Veganomicon - amazing!) or buy it at the store, chances are when you start this recipe it's swimming in some sort of broth.  You need to get as much moisture out of the seitan as possible if you want it to get crispy.  Take the torn up chunks of seitan, and one at a time squeeze them between paper towels until they are relatively dry.  This will make a huge mess and use up about half a roll of paper towels.  Just decide to be okay with this before you start.  Once the seitan chunks are dried, mix together the flour, cayenne, garlic powder, and salt in a bowl.  Dunk the chunks in the flour mixture, making sure to tap the chunks on the side of the bowl in order to shake off the excess.  Place the seitan chunks in a lidded container lined with paper towels and put in the fridge to chill overnight.  If you can't wait that long, make sure they're in there for at least an hour.
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F and line two baking sheets with aluminum foil.  Grease the foil lightly with cooking spray or olive oil.  Melt the non-dairy butter in the microwave or a small saucepan over low heat.  Mix in the hot sauce and tomato paste with a fork.  Remove the chilled seitan chunks from the fridge and dunk each one in the hot sauce mixture and place on a baking sheet.  Bake for 1 hour, turning once, or until the chunks are browned, but not burnt.  Serve either hot or room temp with dipping sauce.

Creamy Dipping Sauce
I didn't like bleu cheese even BEFORE I was vegan, so I'm really not sure how close this is.  Probably not very....but it was delicious on the wings.  It also makes a great dip for veggies and is yummy spread on veggie wraps, burgers, and sandwiches.
1 cup soft silken tofu
1/2 cup tahini
1 Tablespoon agave nectar
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/4 teaspoon vegan worcestershire sauce (sub soy sauce if you can't find any)
1 clove minced garlic
3 Tablespoons canola or other light oil
1 Tablespoon lemon juice

Put everything in a blender and blend until smooth.  Chill until ready to use.  That's it!

Tips and Tricks:

1. Make your own seitan. it.  Store-bought seitan is SO overpriced and definitely not as tasty.  I use the recipe in the amazing Veganomicon.  If you don't have this cookbook, you need to go out and buy it...right now....I'll wait............ok then.  Isa's recipe in Veganomicon only makes 1 lb so you'll have to double it, or if you're like me and don't have a pot big enough to make 2 lbs of seitan at the same time, you'll have to make two batches.  Seitan is pretty easy though, and yeah - it needs an hour to cook, but I figure that's how long it would take me to drive to the store and buy some anyway.

2. All ovens are different, and these little wingies can go from deliciously crispy to burned and horrible in a very short time.  Check them every 20 minutes or so.

3. You need the silken, shelf-stable boxed tofu for this recipe.  You can usually find it in the aisle with the Asian food.  In a pinch, use the water-packed, refrigerated kind, but the texture might not be as smooth.  Measuring tofu is a pain, but just kind of smoosh it into the measuring cup and do your best; it doesn't have to be 100% precise.

4. Vegan worcestershire sauce can be challenging to find.  Annie's Naturals makes a good one that I always keep on hand for when I need a bloody mary fix.  I've also found some cheapie store-brand worcestershire on occasion that does not contain anchovies.  If you are stuck, just substitute soy sauce and it won't be too much different.

And now, onto the next recipe!  This potato salad got RAVE reviews from everyone at the party.  The spiciness of the onion, pepper, and Mexican-inspired spices contrasts beautifully with the cooling dressing and sweetness of the roasted veggies.  It's freakin' delicious.  Make some.  Make some now.

Roasted Sweet Potato Salad
If you can't find vegan mayo or don't want to use it, just substitute more soft silken tofu.  You might have to adjust the seasonings slightly if you do this, so make sure you taste, taste, taste!


2 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1" chunks
1/4 cup olive oil 
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons cumin, divided
1 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoons salt, divided
2 ears corn, un-husked
1/2 red onion, diced
1 serrano chili, minced 
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup soft silken tofu
1/4 cup vegan mayo (I used Vegenaise)
3 Tablespoons canola or other light oil
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon spicy brown mustard
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 cup chopped cilantro

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Toss the sweet potato chunks with the olive oil, cayenne, 1 teaspoon of the cumin, and 1 teaspoon of the salt.  Place on a baking pan.  Place the un-husked corn on another baking pan.  Put both in the pre-heated oven.  Roast the corn in the husk for 30 minutes or until corn is tender and remove from the oven.  Continue to roast the sweet potatoes for another 15 minutes (for a total of 45 minutes) or until easily pierced with a fork.  Allow the corn to cool enough to handle, remove husks, and cut kernels off of the cob.  Allow the veggies to cool completely.
Meanwhile, make your dressing.  Combine the tofu, vegan mayo (or just more tofu if you're not using vegan mayo), canola oil, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, and chili powder in a blender and blend until smooth.
Once the potatoes and corn have cooled, place them in a large bowl with the onion and serrano chili.  Add the dressing and mix gently to combine.  Add the cilantro and mix again.  Taste for spices and adjust to your tastes as necessary.  Chill until you're ready to eat!

Tips and Tricks:

1. Vegenaise is really amazing.  I'm definitely not a proponent of vegan-specific, pre-packaged foods, as they tend to be rather unhealthy and VERY expensive, but I was a great lover of mayo on many things before I was vegan, and Veganaise thus has a special place in this ninja's heart.  It's amazing as a base for dressings or just smeared on the bun of a portobello burger.  The taste is pretty spot-on and I love it.  If you're subbing more tofu for the 1/4 cup vegan mayo, just taste the dressing before pouring it on, as you may need more vinegar, mustard, or lemon juice.  Remember - all good fur ninjas taste, taste, taste as they cook!

2. When you mix in the dressing and cilantro, be GENTLE.  The sweet potatoes will be very soft, so they will get mushy easily.  If some of them break up, that's ok, but you don't want a goop-y mashed potato consistency.  There should be some whole pieces of potato going on in there.

3. This recipe makes for a lightly-dressed potato salad, which I felt was great because it allowed the flavors of the veggies, spices, and cilantro to shine through, and the use of softer sweet potatoes rather than white potatoes added creaminess to the finished product so not a lot of dressing was needed.  However, if you're a huge fan of potato salad that's just DRIPPING with dressing, the dressing recipe can easily be doubled.

So that's it for now, ninjas....I hope those recipes will keep you busy for a while and give you lots of ninja-cooking inspiration.  I DID make one more thing for the birthday party - insanely decadent brownies that put everyone into a complete and total chocolate and sugar-coma.  I'll be posting those soon!

And now, I leave you with a pic of my big awesome ninja family with the lady who inspired me to come up with both of these recipes.  Thank you, ninja-grandmom a.k.a. Leatrice for being such an integral part of my life, and being the inspiration for me every day to be a more kind, generous, and loving soul.  I hope you loved your birthday party....can't wait for the 100th!

Whether related by blood, marriage, or love alone (us ninjas like to "adopt" random people!), my family is loud, obnoxious, opinionated, and absolutely the bestest family anyone could ever ask for.  Here's to good food, good family, and  ninja-love!

The Fur Ninja

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Roasted Butternut Squash Quesadillas

So it's been quite some time since I've had the pleasure of biting into the blissful deliciousness that is a quesadilla.  This ninja is not only a vegan, but also a huge proponent of eating food in as close to a natural state as possible.  Because of that, I really hate using vegan fake-cheese products (not to mention that they are very expensive).  That's not to say I don't indulge in the occasional box of macaroni and Chreese (Road's End Organics makes some deliciously easy comfort food), but on the regular, when I'm taking the time and effort to make a meal from scratch, I want to avoid pre-packaged foods if at all possible.  So because I never came up with anything that was a decent substitute for creamy, melty cheese to nestle between halves of toasty tortilla, I've just gone without.  But one hit me.....squash!  Roasted butternut squash is creamy, slightly sweet, and gooey enough to hold a quesadilla together.  I decided to try it and these were a huge hit.  My ninja-love Mike was all about them, and his 15-year-old daughter liked them too.  His little ninjas (10 and 5) weren't so keen on them, but I'm unsure if it was due to lack of cheesiness or the fact that they were pretty spicy.  If you're going to feed these to little ninjas, I'd cut out the cayenne entirely and at least halve the other spices.

The squash blossoms in this recipe are entirely optional.  I honestly don't think they added much in the way of flavor.  Maybe I didn't use enough.  I have a squash plant in my garden though and decided to try it.  Pretty much the only way you're ever going to have access to fresh squash blossoms is if you grow squash yourself (because once you pick them you have to use them right away) so if you don't have them, no worries. With or without the blossoms, you'll love the creamy, slightly sweet and spicy filling between halves of crisp fried tortilla.  Just as good, if not better than the cheesy ones!

Roasted Butternut Squash Quesadillas


1 medium-sized whole butternut squash (about 3 lbs)
2 portobello mushroom caps, cut into 1" chunks
1 large sweet onion, sliced into 1/2" thick half-moons
 4 Tablespoons olive oil + more for frying the quesadillas
1 1/4 teaspoons cumin (divided)
1/2 teaspoon oregano
10 large squash blossoms, washed and sliced thinly (optional)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
pinch of cayenne pepper
Juice from 1/2 a lime (about 1 Tablespoon)
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
6 - 10" flour tortillas (burrito size)

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F.  Cut the stem off of the butternut squash and slice in half lengthwise.  Scoop out any seeds and stringy stuff and discard.  Using 1 Tablespoon of the oil, coat both halves along the cut (just the flesh, not the skin) liberally with oil.  Place cut-sides down on a baking sheet and bake for 30-45 min or until the squash is pierced easily with a fork.  Meanwhile, toss the mushrooms and onion with another 2 Tablespoons of the oil and place in another baking pan.  Add 1/2 teaspoon of the cumin and the 1/2 teaspoon oregano and toss again to distribute evenly.  Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or until the mushrooms are tender and the onions are very soft and starting to brown.  Allow the vegetables to cool enough to handle.
While the vegetables are cooling, heat the remaining 1 Tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over low heat.  Add the minced garlic and squash blossoms (if using) and sautee gently until the garlic is golden and fragrant and the blossoms are wilted.  Remove from heat.
Once the squash is cool, scrape the flesh into a large bowl.  Mash the squash with the nutritional yeast, the remaining 3/4 teaspoon cumin, salt, pepper, cayenne, and lime juice.  Mix in the garlic and squash blossoms (or just the garlic if you don't have the blossoms).  Add in the chopped cilantro and mix again gently.
To assemble: place 1/2 cup of the squash mixture and 1/2 cup of the mushroom/onion mixture on one half of a tortilla, leaving about 1/2" space around the edge (because some of the filling will squish to the edge during cooking).  Fold the other half of the tortilla over the filling.  Heat about 1 teaspoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Fry each quesadilla for about 2 minutes per side, or until golden brown.  Allow to cool slightly and slice each one into three triangles.  Enjoy with lots of fresh pico de gallo and guacamole!

Tips and tricks:

1. If you have extra filling, you can just make more quesadillas (duh) or the filling is delicious on it's own or rolled into a wrap or burrito.

2. Make sure you don't over-fill the tortillas.  The filling stopping 1/2" from the edge is very important unless you want it oozing out everywhere when you're frying.  Use your judgement.  Obviously, if you use smaller tortillas, use less filling.

3. The best way to flip the quesadillas is with two spatulas - slide one underneath and place the other on top to keep the quesadilla from opening while you flip.  Flip gently and your filling will stay where it needs to be!

4. Mike contests that "real" quesadillas need to be fried in butter, not oil.  I haven't tried this with non-dairy butter, but Earth Balance might give you good results so give it a try if you like!

5. Let the quesadillas cool slightly before cutting.  This will allow the filling to firm up a bit.  I let each one cool for about 2-3 minutes and had no problems with filling coming out.  Also, the best way to cut quesadillas into triangles is with kitchen shears rather than a knife....perfect triangles!

And because I love you so much, here's how you make pico de gallo in case any of my readers don't know.  It's not really a recipe since it's all pretty much to taste and uncomplicated:

3 diced tomatoes
1 diced onion
1/2 finely minced jalapeno
to taste:
lime juice
chopped cilantro
Mix everything together and enjoy!  Remember - the fresher the veggies, the better it tastes!

That's all for today, ninjas!  Just had my grandmom-ninjas 90th birthday party this past Saturday and I made seitan hot "wings" with creamy dipping sauce, roasted sweet potato salad, and cashew-caramel brownies with toasted macadamias and coconut for dessert.  Everything was a HUGE hit at the party with both vegans and non-vegans alike, so those recipes up soon.  As always, feedback welcomed and thanks for reading!