Monday, 20 June 2011

am vegan, will travel: be prepared.

I travel a lot. And often, I get the comment "it must be hard to travel and stay vegan". Uh... no. You just have to be a little bit prepared. Depending where you are going (I am currently in the middle of nowhere, pretty much exactly...I think they call it Oklahoma), bringing a stash of food with you can save your ass (and your tummy). I've already posted on my standard vegan scooby snackz - but it bears reiterating that a little bit of preparation goes a long way. If you have some dried chickpeas, some dried berries, and some nuts, you can jazz up even the boringest and most iceberg lettucy of salads to be a filling meal. Add a few packs of powdered miso soup to your bag, and a bunch of powdered greens drinks, then buy some non-perishable produce when you arrive: carrots and apples are my standards. Even in the heat, they've been keeping fine in my room. I also picked up some rice cakes since I'm pretty sure that the bread at the conference isn't vegan. If you're gluten intolerant or super-picky, just pack the rice cakes in your suitcase. I also always pack a thermos, a sporknife, and some teabags (because it pisses me off to pay for a breakfast buffet where I can't eat anything). Finally, I *always* pack some fancy chocolate to share with others - this is vegan activism. I don't want people to see a deprived vegan, and when you're sitting there pulling dried chickpeas out of your bag to add to your iceberg lettuce while everyone else is eating a 3-course meal, you do stand out a little. A fancy treat can really turn the tables and make people see that you're not a martyr, and can also defuse a lot of uncomfortableness that others might be feeling (think about it - wouldn't you feel bad eating a giant piece of cake in front of someone who wasn't eating it because of allergies, but feel much more relaxed if they suddenly pulled their own dessert out? A lot of food eating is social - remember that sometimes a chocolate bar is more than just a chocolate bar.). Sure, bringing extra stuff with you means that you have to check a bag instead of going with only carry-on, but meh. It's not hard, and it's only the tiniest itsiest bitsiest bit inconvenient. Sometimes it's a little inconvenient to act in line with your morals. To all those who whinge that a few minutes of planning are needed: GROW UP already (unless you're an actual child, in which case, grow up at the usual speed, okay?).

Finally, you *can* get vegan food just about anywhere. It may not be fancy, but it will probably fill you up. Be polite. Smile. State exactly what you want, and be firm. Say please, say thank you, and leave a decent tip. Do not whine, throw a temper tantrum, or be an entitled bitch. And if that fails, pull the dried chickpeas and carrots out of your bag, accept the situation with good humor and grace, and enjoy the company (and the chocolate bar). So far, I've only failed once, which puts the chances of getting vegan food at about 67/68, if I've properly tallied my trips so far this year. Them's pretty good odds. So stop whining.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

I wanna be a chocolate god: vegan != healthy

This recipe singlehandedly (singlebrownie-ly?) disproves the often-made (erroneous) assumption that vegan == healthy. I modified the recipe from here, making it more spicy and less sweet. And... more chocolatey. I put some of them in the freezer "for later" and discovered that they are reeeeeeeally delicious and highly addictive frozen. Especially made into a brownie sundae on banana soft-serve. I imagine they'd also be good on coconut milk ice cream, but that much coconut at once is probably lethal.

Chai brownies

1 cup coconut oil
200g dark chocolate (I used about 80% cocoa content, leftovers from homemade bars)
1 tsp vanilla
chai spices: 1 tsp cardamom, 1/2 tsp each of cinnamon, ginger, ground aniseed and black pepper, 1/4 tsp of cloves. Optional 1/4 tsp of chili powder.
1 cup very strong black tea
1 and 1/4 cups sugar (1/2c white and 3/4 cup brown works best)
2 cups cake or pastry flour (I use whole wheat pastry flour)
1 scant cup dutch process cocoa
2 tsp baking powder (omit if you use self-raising flour)
1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsp flax seeds (ground)

1. Preheat oven to 350°F and grease an 8 x 8 pan, or use an ungreased silicone pan.
2. In a double boiler or makeshift equivalent, melt the coconut oil, chocolate squares and vanilla together. Add sugar and remove from heat.
3. Make tea (3 teabags). After it has steeped and the teabags have been removed, stir the flax into the tea. Let this sit for at least 5 mins. It will thicken into goo.
4. In another bowl, sift together the flours, cocoa, baking powder and salt.
5. When your flax mixture has thickened, add it to the chocolate/coconut oil / Now combine the chocolate/coconut oil/flax/tea mixture with the flour mixture and stir to incorporate. The batter will be less liquid than you are probably used to. Fear not.
6. Spread the batter into the greased baking pan and bake for 30-40 minutes. Test after 30 mins, but in most ovens that I've used, it takes closer to 40. I did have one very overzealous oven that used to do them in 30, though. Best to check.
7. When finished, remove the brownies from the oven, and *do not try to remove them from the pan*. They need to be completely cool before cutting them. Best is to make them the night before you need them.

I've also made these with Dove's gluten-free flour blend and tapioca flour (3:1 ratio), and they are delish, but need 1 more tbs of flax and an extra 1/4 cup or so of tea.

For the icing, I used 1 package vegan cream cheese (Sheese brand), 1/2 cup icing sugar, and 50 grams melted chai-flavored chocolate (I had some "failed" chai chocolates left over from making them for a friend) and a pinch of salt all mixed with a handblender.

Dancing for the brownies: Suzanne Vega: Nine objects of desire.