Food + Drink

A few weeks ago, superawesome artist Jen Ray (she who will make you happy) posted a photo of a yummy-looking mug of spiced almond milk with a weird-sounding list of components on Instagram, and she said it was her new favorite hippie drink. I told her the inclusion of tahini was freaking me out, but she assured me it’s delicious. It took me a while to get around to finding out for myself, but now it’s my new favorite thing. I want to drink it all the time! The weather in New York has dropped below freezing at night, and this is just the thing to warm me up and make me feel ready for bed.

You’ll need to play around with the amount of agave you use, since the type of tahini (some brands have less bitterness than others) and whether you use sweetened almond milk can affect the outcome. I suggest starting with a teaspoon and adding a little more only if you need it.

Spiced Almond Milk, a.k.a. “Jen Ray’s Hippie Drink” (vegan)
Serves 1

1 cup almond milk
1 tsp tahini
1 tsp agave
pinch turmeric
pinch nutmeg
pinch cinnamon

In a small pot, heat the almond milk on medium-low. Be careful not to let it boil, or a skin will form. Whisk in the tahini, being sure to blend any lumps. Add the agave and spices, and heat until steamy. Pour into a mug, add a little sprinkle of cinnamon so you can feel fancy, and drink up! So good.

And since I can’t mention Jen Ray without sharing a couple of my current favorites from her shop, Corduroy, here you go! Behold “Zukunft so hell muss ich eine sonnenbrille tragen!” and “Para bailar la bamba!” Makes you happy, right?

The whale cutting board is from Suddenly, it’s real!, the tea towel is from Bookhou, and the mug and spoon are from CB2. Alas, the tea towel is the only one of these things that’s not discontinued!

Oh, Brussels sprouts. How I love thee! It’s a tough call, but I think Brussels sprouts are the best cold-weather vegetable (broccoli rabe is a close second). There are so many ways to prepare them, but the classic boiling method is probably my least favorite—and also probably the reason why a lot of kids think Brussels sprouts are gross. The best way to make them? Pan-roasted.

I’m not going to lie, this recipe has a whole bunch of sugar and fat in it and probably a gazillion calories. I don’t care, though—there’s a time and place for junk food Brussels sprouts, and holed up after a hurricane is definitely it. Jen and I are both maple freaks, so I made this for lunch one day when she was visiting. Oh man, SO GOOD. I can’t stop thinking about it. Jen has now started using the word “maple” as a verb, so this recipe is named accordingly. The Brussels sprouts have been mapled.

I served the sprouts alongside a slice of Celebration Roast, a grain-based roast stuffed with butternut squash, mushrooms and apples. I really like the whole Field Roast line of products, by the way, especially the grain sausages. I don’t really think of them as a “meat substitute”—they’re kind of their own thing. Definitely recommended.

Mapled Brussels Sprouts (vegan)
Serves 2–4, depending on gluttony

2 lbs Brussels sprouts
3 tbsp grapeseed or canola oil (any oil that can handle high heat is fine)
Kosher salt and fresh pepper
2 tbsp Earth Balance or other vegan butter (coconut oil would also be OK, but it will affect the taste)
2 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar

Put the oil in a large, cast iron pan over medium-high heat. While it’s warming up, wash and trim the Brussels sprouts. I like to cut the end off, remove any weird-looking outer leaves, and then slice them lengthwise. It goes quickly with two people.

When the oil is good and hot, add the Brussels sprouts to the pan along with some salt and pepper. Toss quickly to coat, turn the heat up a bit, and then leave everything alone for a few minutes. The sprouts should get nice and brown and even charred a bit.

Add the Earth Balance and the brown sugar and slowly stir. Reduce the heat to medium, stir in the maple syrup, and let everything get roasty for 10-ish minutes (more or less depending on the size of the Brussels sprouts) until tender. You want the sugars to caramelize, but if the pan is looking too dry you can add a couple of table spoons of water and stir gently. Add the vinegar and cool a minute or so more.

Once the Brussels sprouts are looking fully mapled, serve!!

(Based on this recipe from Food & Wine)

OK, so this is totally cheap, RECYCLED content, but I can’t help myself. Whenever the temperatures drop and autumn shivers start to creep down my arms, I crave one food more than any other: CHILI. I’ve been making this recipe for about 6 years now, and I have yet to taste a better chili. Seriously. It’s ridiculously good.

ANNA’S VEGETARIAN CHILI (vegan, actually)
Makes 6–8 portions

1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 medium carrots, chopped
4 cloves garlic, diced
1 large yellow bell pepper, chopped
2 jalapeno peppers, seeds removed, diced
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 tbsp chili powder*
28 oz can crushed tomatoes with basil**
14 oz can black beans**
14 oz can kidney beans**
1 cup corn kernels
1 tsp ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 1/2 tsp dried basil
2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup bulgur wheat
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

Heat oil in a large pot. Add onions, carrots and garlic; sauté until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add yellow pepper, jalapenos, celery and chili powder; cook another 10 minutes. Add tomatoes, beans (with liquid), corn, salt and spices. Bring to a boil. Cover, lower heat, and simmer for 20 minutes. Stir in bulgur wheat. Cover and simmer at least 30 minutes (I usually let everything simmer for a couple of hours to let the flavors really develop, but it’s okay to take it off when the veggies and bulgur are soft), stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Just as you’re taking the chili off the heat, stir in the balsamic vinegar. I know it might seem weird to put it in, but trust me—it really does make the chili taste extra amazing.

*What we call “chili powder” in the US is actually a blend of several spices. Please don’t use 2tbsp of straight cayenne pepper! If blended chili powder is not available in your part of the world, you can add an extra tbsp of cumin, and then just add your cayenne a pinch at a time to taste.

**I take the easy route and use canned beans and tomatoes. You can soak dried beans and use fresh tomatoes if you prefer, of course, but you will want to add water to make up for the liquid in the cans.

As always, I’d love to hear what kinds of modifications and variations you’ve made to this recipe, since it is really flexible. I’ve subbed chickpeas and edamame in place of kidney beans plenty of times, and I often use farro instead of bulgur wheat depending on what I have in the house. I’m really partial to Muir Glen’s fire-roasted crushed tomatoes, and using ancho chili powder in place of regular changes the flavor of the whole thing completely. Sometimes I sprinkle a little Daiya on top if I have it, but it’s definitely not essential.

This chili freezes really nicely, by the way. One pot will yield six very generous portions, so after you’ve gobbled down dinner, you can divvy up the rest into containers to heat up for lunches during the week.

I’m not sure how I missed this until now (and I apologize if it’s old news), but Dansk Kobenstyle cookware has been reissued and is now being sold at Crate & Barrel. There are two casseroles, a baking pan and a wooden-handled saucepan, each available in black, white and red. Nice!

The Kobenstyle line was designed by Jens Quistgaard, the co-founder of Dansk, in 1956. It’s been out of production for more than 20 years now, so this reintroduction is very exciting. Did you know that the X-handled lid doubles as a trivet and makes the pots stackable? Yup.

I love enameled cookware, and I’ve been admiring Kobenstyle stuff for a long time. I kind of feel like a jerk for saying this, but what’s held me back from buying any thus far is that I’m not all that into the colors of the vintage pieces (here’s a rather beautiful collection), at least in my house. I like the way those colors look in other people’s kitchens, but…well, you know me!

Is it weird that the prospect of having a couple of these guys sitting on an open shelf makes me feel a tiny bit less lazy about working on my kitchen renovation? But just a tiny bit…

If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, then you probably already know that for the past few months I’ve been drinking an awful lot of juice. Green juice, beet juice, carrot juice, pear juice, pineapple juice…JUICE. Not the stuff you buy in a bottle, but freshly pressed, nutrient and mineral-rich whole, raw, unpasteurized juice. I can’t get enough of it.

Beyond just drinking an occasional glass of juice here and there, I’ve actually gone as far as doing two juice “cleanses,” each three days in duration. If you’re not familiar with the world of juice cleansing, the most basic premise is that for a specific length of time you consume nothing but freshly pressed juices—no solid foods at all. (Note: This is not the same thing as Master Cleanse or any of the other lemon-water cleanses. With a juice cleanse you are typically consuming between 1000 and 1500 calories per day—it’s not a starvation diet.)

I’m not sure exactly what initially put the thought of doing a juice cleanse in my head, but the first time I did it I was coming off a run of eating really, really poorly and drinking more coffee every day than I really care to admit. I desperately felt like I needed to “reset” my eating habits, rid myself of cravings for things my body doesn’t want or need, and put myself on a generally healthy path of eating well.

I can only speak for myself here, but I know that when I stop consuming something for several days at a time, generally no longer crave it anymore. This was certainly true when I gave up dairy a couple of years ago, and when I gave up all artificial sweeteners a year before that. I basically don’t have a sweet tooth anymore. My hope with doing a juice cleanse was that I’d rid myself of the constant cravings for fries, bagels, coffee…all of the things I love that are fine in moderation, but bad news when consumed excessively. If you’ve hit a point where you’re consuming three bagels, a large order of tater tots, and a couple of gigantic iced coffees on a typical Saturday, there’s a problem. (Hello, myths of veganism!)

Rather than run out and buy a juicer right away, I decided to see what kind of options are available locally for fresh juice cleanses. The answer is A LOT, at least in New York City. After much Googling, Yelping, Twittering and speaking to actual live humans, I decided to go with BluePrintCleanse. They deliver for free in NYC, and their prices are pretty much in line with the rest of the juicing companies in this area.

I chose the mid-level cleanse, Foundation, and ordered a three-day supply. I scheduled the delivery a few days in advance so I’d have time to prepare (basically limiting my diet primarily to raw fruits and veggies and cutting out caffeine—since I already have a vegan diet, it was really just a matter of eliminating the processed foods, since meat and dairy obviously aren’t a part of my life), and had everything delivered to my office. The fresh juices BluePrintCleanse sells are raw and unpasteurized, so they have a very short shelf life—they’ll only delivery three days’ worth at a time, and it all needs to be refrigerated immediately. They arrived in a cardboard box with tons of ice packs and a free cooler bag sized for transporting a few bottles at a time.

And so I was off! Honestly, it wasn’t that big of a deal for me in terms of self-control. I already love green juice so the taste wasn’t an issue (if anything, I found the pineapple-based juice a little too sweet, but I’m definitely in the minority), and it’s such a large volume of fluids that I really wasn’t hungry at all. A lot of people say they feel a desperate need to chew while cleansing, but that didn’t happen to me. My digestion was fine as well. The only really torturous part was giving up coffee, but even that was only horrible (headaches, exhaustion, moodiness) for the first two days when I was preparing for the cleanse. By the time I was on day three of drinking juice, I wasn’t even thinking about coffee. I wasn’t even really thinking about food, frankly—I kind of wanted to just keep drinking juice forever.

How did I feel during the cleanse? The first day I felt a little tired, but I suspect that was lingering caffeine withdrawal. Generally speaking, I felt GREAT. I slept really well, I didn’t feel bloated or “stuffed,” and more than anything, I had a sense of control. That might sound a little weird, but I don’t like feeling like I have no self-control when it comes to food. Either you understand where I’m coming from with that or you don’t, I guess. At any rate, I like being disciplined about what I put into my body. Moderation is hard for me when it comes to eating.

Then day four arrived, the morning after my last juice. Time to break the cleanse! The first thing I ate was some cut mango with sea salt, and it was delicious. It tasted so flavorful and satisfying. I also had a tiny cup of coffee, and let me tell you—if you stop consuming all caffeine for a week, that first cup is an AMAZING thing. I wanted to crawl inside of that cup and live there forever. How nice to actually LOVE a cup of coffee again and not just feel compelled to drink it out of necessity or routine!

How have things been post-cleanse? Pretty great, actually. My diet is incredible now! I eat really, really well—tons of veggies, fresh fruits and whole grains. I constantly crave raw vegetables. Sometimes I lie in bed and fantasize about kale. Really. On the few occasions when I’ve eaten poorly, I don’t feel good afterward. Not sick, but not good. I find myself thinking a lot about what the foods I eat can do for me nutritionally rather than how they’ll make me feel emotionally—and that’s a good place to be. I’ve lost about 20 pounds in the past three months (!) without even trying; a nice side benefit for sure, even though that wasn’t my goal.

I know there’s a lot of pseudo-science out there are about the benefits of fasting and cleansing and “detoxing,” and while I don’t know how much I buy into some of the more wild claims, I do know what juice cleansing has done for me, and I plan to make it a regular part of my life. I’m thinking maybe once every season? I’m also going to buy a juicer now that I’m confident it won’t just sit around gathering dust.

If you have ANY questions about my experience with juice cleansing, please feel free to ask. I hadn’t planned to blog about it when I started, but after getting so many questions on Twitter and Instagram, I figured there must be some more interested people out there! I’m definitely not an expert, but I’m happy to share what I do know. I’d also love to hear from others who have done juice cleanses, or even those of you who are just fellow juice fanatics!

BluePrintCleanse is actually having a 21% off sale on Fab this week, so if you’re interested in trying it out at a discount, this is a good opportunity. If you don’t already have a membership, this link will function as an invitation to join.

On a related note, have you seen Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead yet? It’s basically a documentary about the wonders of juicing. It’s a little bit overly-inspirational (what can I say, I’m a born cynic), but sometimes that’s a good thing. If nothing else, it’ll make you feel like you can have some control over your physical health and well-being by taking very simple and direct measures. It’s a good movie, and you can watch it for free. Worth the hour and a half.

Daniel and Max came over for dinner last night, and I used the meal I prepared as an excuse to try this crazy spicy peanut butter I’ve been fantasizing about. I also wanted to try out one of the recipes in the Teany Book. (I’ve written before about my intense love for Teany and their vegan turkey club sandwich in particular, as well as my goofball appearance in the book!)

Here’s what I put together combining the two…

Soba noodles and veggies with spicy peanut sauce (vegan & gluten-free*)
Serves 4

Spicy peanut sauce
2 tbsp The Heat Is On peanut butter from Peanut Butter & Co.**
2 tbsp grated ginger
2 tbsp sesame oil
4 tsp liquid amino acids***
2 tsp brown rice vinegar
2 cloves minced garlic

4 large carrots, cut into thin strips (I used a peeler to make ribbons)
1 cup sugar snap peas, julienned
2 cups red cabbage, shredded
1 tbsp green onions, chopped

9 oz dried buckwheat soba noodles*
2 tbsp sesame oil

4 tbsp crushed peanuts
lime wedges

Prepare the peanut sauce first in a big bowl. You can just whisk all of the ingredients together by hand, no need for a food processor or anything like that. When all of the veggies are prepped, put them in the bowl with the peanut sauce and stir everything up.

Follow the directions on the soba noodle package, taking care to not overcook them. With buckwheat soba, it’s important to rinse them very well in cold water as soon as they’ve finished cooking, otherwise you’ll wind up with something mushy and gross and unappealing. It’s OK that the noodles will be cold after rinsing! This dish actually tastes best cool/room temperature rather than hot. Toss the noodles with sesame oil.

Divide the noodles into bowls, put the veggies/sauce combination on top, and sprinkle with crushed peanuts. Serve with lime wedges, and enjoy with good friends and a nice view! We ate up on the roof of my apartment building, a spot I will never cease being grateful to have access to.

*Soba noodles are gluten-free IF they are 100% buckwheat, so check the package to make sure if this kind of thing matters to you. I use Eden brand. People with true gluten allergies should make sure the brand they buy is certified gluten-free, since contaminants can always be an issue.
**If you can’t find this fancy peanut butter, just use regular peanut butter with some chili sauce mixed in to taste.
***You can use gluten-free tamari instead of aminos, or soy sauce if you don’t need it to be gluten-free.

I know, this post is a bit overdue! Chances are you’ve already heard on Twitter or seen another blog post, but two weekends ago, I hosted a sleepover party at my house with Victoria, Lisa and Jenna. I’ve never had so many overnight guests before! We had such a wonderful time. I wish I had more photos to share, but for some reason I tend to not think about picking up my camera when I’m with friends. I wish that weren’t the case, because it’s so nice to have visual memories of time spent together.

Breakfast on Sunday was exactly how I like it to be: perfect tofu scramble, collard greens, bagels from Beacon Bakery across the river, vegan sausages…and plenty of coffee, of course. There are fewer things that make me feel happier than preparing food for people and feeding them in my home.

On Saturday night, we all made ancho lentil tacos together. It was truly a collaborative effort (FYI, Lisa makes a mean guacamole!), and it felt really good to have a bunch of people in my kitchen. It’s hard for me to let go on control sometimes and allow guests to help me (even with stuff like washing dishes!), but I forced myself to just let it go for the weekend—and it was soooooo worth it.

We ate dessert (coconut milk ice cream and cookies!) in the garden. VERY exciting! We’ve been working on the garden for years now, and a lack of time, budget and resources have meant it’s been very slow going. Until that weekend, I’d never really spent any time in the garden just relaxing and enjoying myself. It’s only been a place for hauling, digging and sweating. The garden is still far from being done, but I’m glad I didn’t label it off-limits—something I tend to do with parts of my house that aren’t “perfect.”

(Hanging up those globe lights helped a lot. They’re just $12 cheapies from Target, but they added so much cozy atmosphere!)

I can’t say enough how much I love my friends. Having so much time together just felt right. I’d met all of them before, but being all in one place at the same time was very special. It wasn’t about networking or blogging or work or any of that stuff. It was just about talking, relaxing, watching movies, eating, staying up late and being friends. I didn’t want to say goodbye.

It’s funny, people are so critical of Twitter and blogs and how the internet supposedly takes us out of “real life,” but if I’m speaking truthfully, the internet (Twitter in particular) is the reason I actually have any semblance of a real-world social life. I’ve made a lot of friends online over the past 15 years, and a great many of them have become very real parts of my life—online and off. (And before the internet, I made lots of friends through writing letters with penpals.) Some of us just aren’t good at getting to know new people face-to-face. I’m one of those people. And that’s OK. Most of my friends are like that, too.

Lisa, Jenna and Victoria each wrote a post with pictures about our weekend together. They’re all much better photographers than me!

1. New York weekend at Lisa Congdon’s blog, Today is Going to Be Awesome.

2. Slumber party weekend at Jenna Park’s blog, Sweet Fine Day.

3. Unexpected guests at Victoria Smith’s blog, sfgirlbybay.*

*Victoria actually took a WHOLE BUNCH of photos from all over my house, so it’s sort of like an updated house tour. I know I’m kind of stingy with photos of my house lately (I guess because I haven’t been working on many projects), so if you’d like to see how it looks these days, head over! This is the first time anyone other than me has photographed my house, and I’m honored that Victoria found my home worthy of sharing on her beautiful blog.

I’m puttering around the Brooklyn apartment this 3-day weekend, still getting over the remains of a head cold and avoiding the flash thunderstorms we’ve been having around here lately. I’m determined to use the time to get this place looking better. I made a to-do list I think is pretty realistic.

Order new sconce for bathroom
Mount hanging rail in kitchen Hmmm, I actually think we don’t need it…
Install closet shelving
Organize closets
Pack up winter clothes
✚ Figure out how to hide the electrical panel (I need to think about it more)
✚ Plan food for the week (I’ll do that tomorrow)

Yeah. So. That last thing. Coffee. Not drinking it. I know, I know. I have a reputation as being a bit of a coffee fiend, and it’s no joke. I’m not one of those people who drinks cup after cup, but I definitely have at least one giant cup of the stuff a day—and more often than not, two giant cups. Or maybe three. I don’t really need it to get going in the morning, but I cannot make it past noon without coffee if I want to avoid developing a massive, throbbing headache that never fails to make me think I’m dying. Then I have a coffee, and everything is better.

Next week is going to be a bit of a “detox” test for me, though. I’m doing a three-day BluePrint Cleanse and eating raw food for three days on either side, and I want to cut out caffeine completely for a full week. It’s a bit of a reset, really—I need to get myself back on track with eating well. I don’t really believe in temporary “cleansing,” but mentally I do think that having a regimented diet for a set period of time is a very good thing for me. I’ve been eating way too much packaged, processed food lately (seitan, frozen veggie burgers, Spicy Sweet Chili Doritos…you get the picture), and I just don’t feel good.

I’ll let you know how THAT goes, and I’ll take photos of the apartment as it comes together, too. I’m excited about both things!

→ “It’s Always Worth It” print by Lisa Congdon

“David Lynch Signature Cup Coffee” commercial // Directed by David Lynch, 2012

Last year, I posted about the first commercial for David Lynch Signature Cup Coffee, and boy, was it a doozy. I’m not one to get overly excited about advertisements, but that ad made me not only want to buy David Lynch Signature Cup Coffee for drinking purposes, but also for bathing, tooth-brushing, and as an eyedrop substitute. It was that good.

So here’s the new one. Oh yeah.

p.s. Have you ever watched David Lynch cook quinoa for 20 minutes?

You know, it’s funny—a year ago today, we spent New Year’s Eve at home, eating nachos, drinking wine and painting the living room black. And also watching Lifetime movies, even though I didn’t mention that in my post. This year we’re at home, we’re eating cookies, drinking coffee (me) and vegan white Russians (Evan), and painting the dining room black. And watching Saturday Night Fever. Progress!

Our stove has been busted for a while (the top burners were usable, but not the oven) so roasting and baking stuff has been impossible lately. This morning the repair guy came ($130 for what literally took about 5 seconds and involved tapping a knob with the back of a screwdriver…ugh), so tonight I made the most of the restored service and made a really good dinner to send off 2011.

For the main dish, I made Hottie Black Eyed Peas and Collard Greens (SO GOOD…but then every recipe Isa writes is awesome) and a side of roasted carrots. I’m usually not big on cooked carrots, but seriously, these were AMAZING. The key is cutting them thinly enough and roasting them long enough that they get tender (not mushy!) and caramelized and crispy at the edges.

Make however much you want!

You need: Carrots, olive oil, garlic, coarse salt.

Step 1: Preheat the oven to 375°F and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
Step 2: Peel some carrots. Cut them into strips that are roughly 1/2″ thick and 2–3″ long.
Step 3. Put the carrots in a mixing bowl.
Step 4. Add a few glugs of olive oil (how much depends on the amount of carrots you’re making) and some coarse salt. Toss to coat!
Step 5: Slice a few cloves of garlic in half lengthwise. Toss into the mix.
Step 6: Spread everything out on the cookie sheet and roast for 40—50 minutes. Just keep an eye on them. You want nicely shriveled and maybe even a little charred here and there, but not burnt to a crisp.
Step 7: YUM.

For dessert, I made Mexican Hot Chocolate Snickerdoodles. OMG. Like I said, everything Isa comes up with is magic, and these are no exception. They’re nice and soft and chewy, chocolatey, and just the right amount of spicy. Mine didn’t get all crackly on top like hers did (maybe because I used coconut oil instead of canola oil), but ooooooohhhhh. So good.

Alright, it’s time for me to get back to my paintbrush. Happy New Year, everybody! Best wishes for a happy and healthy and productive 2012.