Thoughts on Whiteness & Privilege in Food Blogging | Southwestern-Style Stuffed Squash

Welcome to the week, ya’ll! I’m excited to finally make good on my word to offer up my current thoughts on whiteness and privilege in the world of food blogging. Though I no longer consider this space a “food blog” – rather, it’s now more of a platform for anti-speciesist, feminist, anti-racist political thought with some vegan yummies thrown in (see below, for example) – I’m still interested in examining the reasons behind the pervasive whiteness I see among a group whose work I peruse for recipes on a daily basis.

I want to start of by clarifying that in discussing whiteness and privilege in blogging, I’m speaking of a very specific subset of blogging: that which focuses on food and recipes. I feel it important to make that distinction, since broadly speaking blogs and other social media platforms have offered socially marginalized groups a powerful mechanism for community building, autonomy, and activism. Pattrice Cullors, co-creator of the Black Lives Matter movement, even avows that “the Internet is the only communication channel left where Black voices can speak and be heard, produce and consume, on our own terms.”

Take Black Twitter, for example. Breaking the story of the murder of unarmed Black teenager Michael Brown by white police officer Darren Wilson, Black Twitter used the internet to tell the story with their own voices while corporate media “lagged behind” (Cullors). As Soraya N. McDonald notes, Black Twitter also “increases the visibility of Black people online, and in doing so, dismantles the idea that white is standard and everything else is ‘other”; indeed, Black people use Twitter at higher rates than any other ethic group.

Clearly, to say that the act of blogging in general constitutes a white endeavor would be woefully inaccurate. However, when it comes to food blogging specifically, I’ve noticed that the vast majority of the food bloggers I see are U.S.-based white women of their late twenties/early thirties in heterosexual relationships. A 2011 survey by Norén of 280 English-speaking food bloggers provides further evidence for my hypothesis: of the total respondents, 85% identified as women, 47% were between the ages of 25 and 34, and 55% were married.

Though the study unfortunately did not provide specific data on the racial makeup of those 280 food bloggers, it did find that 51% had at least a bachelor’s degree, and 70% lived with no children at home. These particular statistics suggest a white majority among food bloggers, since in 2012 only 23% of Black and 15% of Hispanic 25-29-year-old Americans had attained a bachelor’s degree or higher (as compared to 40% of white Americans in the same age range) (NACUBO); while Black and Hispanic Americans tend to come from larger families (Keister).

Of course, given that food blogging requires some level of economic privilege, it makes sense that white people would dominate the food blogging community, since in the United States white people face far fewer institutional barriers to maintaining economic wellbeing than do people of color.

Consider that a food blogger must first purchase raw ingredients with which to experiment for a recipe; many low-income people of color may not have the money to shop at grocery stores when a full meal at a fast-food restaurant costs less than $5, and many may not even have access to a grocery store at which to shop (indeed, the proportion of Black and Latina/o residents living in food deserts is around 65 percent greater than those living in non-food deserts [Dutko et al]).

Consider that a food blogger must have sufficient knowledge of photographic skill and varying types of equipment, neither of which low-income people of color tend to be able to access easily.

Consider, finally (though these are certainly not the only three reasons for the predominance of white food bloggers), that a food blogger must have adequate time to experiment with recipes, take and edit photos, write blog posts, and maintain a social media platform – all of which proves  difficult if, like many low-income people of color, you’re spending the majority of your time working at a demanding yet underpaid job, trying to find employment, taking and waiting for public transportation, caring for a large family, etc.

All of these demands of a food blogger create significant barriers for people of color to make up a substantial portion of the food blogosphere. Additionally, since the food blogging community has established itself as a predominantly white one – not only in numbers, but also in values and practices – it would also make sense that people of color might not even wish to participate in the space of food blogging. If this is the case, then food bloggers have unintentionally created an unwelcoming space for people of color in an Internet world that people of color often otherwise depend upon for autonomy and activism.

This predominance of whiteness among food bloggers also means that white people are once again the majority recipients of material privileges, in the form of product donations from companies who seek to expand their customer base through blog reviews, giveaways, and other advertisements. Through this consumer basis of privilege in which white people are encouraged and given the means to consume, white people are given more legitimacy in the eyes of the state. As Retman notes, throughout U.S. history “the role of consumption [has been] integrally linked to citizenship: the consumer became the privileged citizen in the polity.”

Consumerism’s capitalist co-opting of the world of food blogging further suggests the space’s ideological whiteness, since capitalism in the Americas is grounded in the exploitation of African peoples. Indeed, the economic system of the New World revolved around slavery, becoming, thanks to merchant demand, the industry that defined the free trade of the Spanish Crown’s economic liberalization (Grandin 222, 508). In order to uphold this economic system on which their livelihoods depended, European Americans had to think of African peoples as property, excusing themselves from including slaves in “the most radical of all the revolutionary ideas then coursing through the new nation”: that all “human beings were born equal” (Grandin 1151).

None of this is to say that food blogs should be abolished or that white food bloggers are terrible people and perpetuate slavery. I simply seek to point out the racial cocoon in which we food bloggers have wrapped ourselves, as well as the potential reasons behind it, in the hopes that we privileged white people start to take the time to think about race even when people of color aren’t present, understand the institutional barriers they face to enjoying a safe and economically sound livelihood, and start to act in solidarity with them.

So please: the last thing I hope comes of this post is that readers will walk away with a stagnating sense of guilt. What I do hope this post encourages everyone to do is seek out resources to struggle for collective liberation led by those on the margins of society, and starting working such actions into daily life.

Aaaand…maybe you would also like to start working this delicious recipe for stuffed squash into your daily life? (How’s that for a segue?) Easy to prepare and super quick to whip up once you have the squash roasted, this recipe requires a mere six ingredients to create a hearty, piquant, and texturally fascinating dish, ideal as a dinner entree. You can, of course, omit the final addition of non-dairy cheese (or perhaps make your own vegan cheese sauce), as well as use homemade salsa, if you prefer.

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Southwestern-Style Stuffed Squash

Serves 2.

Ingredients:

1 small kabocha, acorn, or buttercup squash, halved and seeded
1/2 16-oz jar of your favorite salsa
2/3 cup corn kernels, fresh or frozen
1/2 cup cooked black beans
3-5 rings of pickled jalapenos, diced (optional)
2 slices vegan cheese (I like Field Roast’s Chaos Tomato Cayenne slices here; that’s what’s pictured) or 1/2 cup shredded vegan cheese (I like Daiya’s Pepperjack flavor here)

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Place the two squash halves, cut side down, on a rimmed baking sheet. Pour enough water into the pan to completely cover the bottom. Place the sheet into the oven and cook the squash until fork-tender, about 30-50 minutes. Cool the squash, cut side up, until cool enough to handle.

Lower the oven to 350°F.

Once the squash has cooled, scoop the flesh into a large mixing bowl, taking care to leave the squash shells intact (you’ll be stuffing them later). Add to the bowl the salsa, corn, beans, and jalapenos (if using). Using your hands, a potato masher, or a large fork, mash together the ingredients until well combined. Scoop half of the mixture into each reserved squash shell.

Place the stuffed squash shells on the same rimmed baking sheet you used earlier, and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until warmed through and slightly browned on top. Lay a slice of cheese or sprinkle half of the shreds on each squash half, and bake for another 5 minutes, or until the cheese has melted. Serve warm.

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References

Ayoub, Zareie and Nor Hafizah Selamat. “Blogging a Personal Window to Pleasure and Self-Therapy: A Case Study of Iranian Women Bloggers.” Asian Social Science 10.15 (August 2014): 16-22. ProQuest. Web. 11 January 2015.

Back, Les. “Aryans Reading Adorno: Cyber-Culture and Twenty-First-Century Racism.” Ethnic and Racial Studies 4 (July 2002): 628-651. University of Denver. Web. 11 January 2015.

Cullors, Patrisse. “Black Lives Depend on a Free and Open Internet.” CommonDreams. Common Dreams, 31 December 2014. Web. 11 January 2015.

Dutko, Paula, Michele Ver Ploeg, and Tracey Farrigan. “Characteristics and Influential Factors of Food Deserts.” Economic Research Report Number 140 August 2012. United States Department of Agriculture. Web. 27 January 2015.

Garza, Alicia. “A Herstory of the #BlackLivesMatter Movement.” Black Lives Matter. #BlackLivesMatter, 6 December 2014. Web. 11 January 2015.

Grandin, Greg. The Empire of Necessity: Slavery, Freedom, and Deception in the New World. New York: Metropolitan Books, 2014. Kindle file.

Gurak, Laura J. “The Psychology of Blogging: You, Me, and Everyone in Between.” American Behavioral Scientist 52.1 (September 2008): 60-68. Sage Journals. Web. 11 January 2015.

Hunter, Shona, Elaine Swan, and Diane Grimes. “Reproducing Whiteness in Organizations, Policies, and Places.” Social Politics: International Studies in Gender, State and Society 17.4 (2010): 407-422. Project Muse. Web. 11 January 2015.

Keister, Lisa A. “Race, Family Structure, and Wealth: The Effect of Childhood Family on Adult Asset Ownership.” Sociological Perspectives 47.2 (2004): 161-187. Web. 1 February 2015.

McDonald, Soraya Nadia. “Black Twitter: A virtual community ready to hashtag out a response to cultural issues.” The Washington Post. The Washington Post, 20 January 2014. Web. 11 January 2015.

Michel, Noemi and Manuela Honegger. “Thinking Whiteness in French and Swiss Cyberspaces.” Social Politics: International Studies in Gender, State and Society 17.4 (Winter 2010): 423-449. Project Muse. Web. 11 January 2015.

NACUBO. “NCES Report Examines Gaps in Educational Attainment by Race/Ethnicity.” Research. National Association of College and University Business Officers, 27 May 2013. Web. 1 February 2015.

Norén, Laura. “Food Blog Study Descriptive Statistics Part 1.” Graphic Sociology. The Society Pages, 29 September 2011. Web. 1 February 2015.

Retman, Sonnet H. “Black No More: George Schuyler and Racial Capitalism.” PMLA 123.5 (October 2008): 1448-1464. JSTOR. Web. 11 January 2015.

Sysomos, Inc. “Inside Blog Demographics.” Sysomos. Sysomos, Inc., June 2010. Web. 1 February 2015.


In solidarity, Ali.

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“But I Could Never Go Vegan!” Cookbook Review & Giveaway

Sorry, this giveaway has closed.

Can you feel it? The twinge in the air? The rumbling in the distance? It’s coming…it’s…another cookbook giveaway!!!

If ya’ll caught my late-December post about some changes I intend to make very soon on the blog, then you’ll remember the dilemma I’ve been grappling with concerning product reviews and giveaways. To sum up, I’m trying to navigate challenging the consumerism that has overshadowed the anti-speciesism at the heart of veganism, and worry that product reviews and giveaways re-center the materialistic focus of the capitalist system in which we as Westerners are so indoctrinated.

Two fabulous readers, however, offered up some super helpful advice in response to my concerns. Here’s what Elizabeth and Raechel have to say:

“I appreciate your dilemma – as Zizek is fond of saying, it’s easier for most people to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism, that’s the extent to which neoliberalism has captured our very capacity to think. So those of us engaged in imagining alternatives have our work cut out for us. The problem is, we anti-capitalists (or vegans, or Christians, or whatever epistemological designation we prefer) inhabit a capitalist world, in which we have to survive somehow. Etienne Balibar distinguishes between “communism” (which doesn’t exist, and has never existed) and “communists” (of which there are many) and the impossibility of extrapolating between the two, because every communist will make different compromises with capitalism. We can extricate ourselves only so much – the more conscious we are, the more we succeed, in avoiding the language of the marketplace in describing social relations, for example – but we won’t succeed completely, so it doesn’t diminish your message if you support your local farmers’ market or a [vegan] company.” ~ Elizabeth A.

“Although it is admirable to not participate in gross consumer habits and although it is super important to make clear that real ethical consumption doesn’t exist in global capitalism, the real struggle rests in the labor and production, not the consumption. Even outside of my politics, by both choice and necessity, I am not a very material person […] but I have come to realize that it doesn’t actually matter that much. […] [A]ssuming our individual consumption habits can do anything to challenge capitalism is a neoliberal idea. I don’t think it’s useless to buy fair trade products, nor do I think it’s meaningless that I don’t buy animal products, but as you know, what those buying habits do is invite more products, not less. What I’ve come to realize now, as a Marxist, [is that] it only really matters to not buy things if there is a call to not buy it/support it/shop at it/etc. *from the workers.* I support worker-led boycotts, and other than that, I buy things that are good on my conscience, while fully knowing it doesn’t make much difference outside of me feeling good. So […]*not* doing product reviews won’t challenge capitalism. And doing product reviews doesn’t make you a bad activist, at least not from a Marxist perspective.” ~ Raechel.

So there we are. We all get some fantastic food for thought, and ya’ll get your chance to win a cookbook. Win-win. Just don’t let it threaten your commitment to anti-capitalism, ya hear? 😉

Photo via The Experiment Publishing.

Photo via The Experiment Publishing.

I do also have an inkling that highlighting the work of those who envision a more just world for all beings has the potential to contribute to fostering the very community that capitalism’s individualistic rhetoric stifles. For example, I’m overjoyed to share with ya’ll the latest project of Kristy Turner, a committed animal activist and talented vegan blogger with whom I’ve had the privilege to connect during my time in the blogosphere. Her just-released book, But I Could Never Go Vegan!: 125 Recipes that Prove You Can Live Without Cheese, It’s Not All Rabbit Food, and Your Friends Will Still Come Over For Dinner, is an absolute masterpiece, and I’m thrilled that one of ya’ll will win a copy!

Author Kristy Turner / Photo via The Experiment Publishing.

Author Kristy Turner / Photo via The Experiment Publishing.

With a bright and inviting layout, mouthwatering photographs by Kristy’s husband Chris Miller, and charming text from Kristy herself, But I Could Never Go Vegan! serves as one of the most innovative cookbooks I’ve come across in a long while. Organized into sections by the excuses one often hears for not adopting a vegan diet, But I Could Never Go Vegan! playfully and deliciously refutes such justifications as “I could never give up cheese!” (how about after a bite of Tempeh Bacon Mac ‘n’ Cheese with Pecan Parmesan?), “It’s all rabbit food” (I’m sorry, I couldn’t hear you over my enormous pile of Jackfruit Nachos Supreme), “Just thinking about salad makes me yawn” (even this BBQ Cauliflower Salad with Zesty Ranch Dressing?), “You can’t bake without butter or eggs!” (then what on earth is this Rosemary-Lemon Pound Cake with Lemon Glaze doing here?), and beyond.

Of course, I would like to note that there are many legitimate reasons for not being able to adopt a vegan lifestyle that are not listed in this book, such as lack of access to plant foods because of geographic location (think “food deserts”) and/or socioeconomic status, desire to distance oneself from a movement made up primarily of people with whom you don’t identify (i.e., people of color looking at a movement where upper-middle-class white people dominate), and desire to preserve one’s heritage — threatened by Western forces of assimilation — through one’s diet. But that’s another post.

I had the pleasure of preparing four recipes from Kristy’s new book, but choosing among them proved a phenomenally difficult task – I don’t encounter recipes this well thought-out, creative, or clearly written very often (and I must have email subscriptions to over 30 different food blogs at this point…). Rest assured, I labored through this heroic effort to bring you a glimpse into But I Could Never Go Vegan! with the following four recipes.

My first foray into Kristy’s realm of culinary genius involved her Thai Seitan Satay with Spicy Peanut Dipping Sauce, housed in the book’s “Where’s the Beef?: ‘Meaty’ Food, Minus the Meat” section. Subbing tempeh for the seitan to test if the recipe would hold up to experimentation, I was verily impressed by the intense flavor lent to the tempeh by a bright marinade of lemongrass and curry powder. And who can argue with a creamy, spicy-sweet sauce chock full of the master of all nut butters?

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Next up on my recipe testing list: the Chickpea Scramble Breakfast Tacos, which emphatically answer the skeptical question, “What about brunch?” Showcasing a method for plant-based breakfast scrambling that fascinated me upon first read, Kristy first stirs up a polenta-like batter of chickpea flour and savory spices (including the infamous black salt that imparts a sulfurous, “eggy” flavor to foods) that she then chills until firm, cuts into cubes, and browns in a skillet to create a creamy-chewy-umami-super flavorful scramble. Honestly, what could you do with it except stuff it into crispy corn tortillas along with roasted sweet potatoes, bell peppers, and avocado? And then finish it off with cilantro and hot sauce, of course.

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From the “Fake ‘Foods’ Freak Me Out: Solid Vegan Recipes That Aren’t Imitating Meat, Dairy, or Anything Else” section, the Potato & Pea Samosa Cakes with Tamarind Sauce immediately caught my eye. My unquenchable enthusiasm for potatoes and green peas made it very difficult not to rave about these tenderly textured and generously spiced patties, and my tamarind fangirl-ing drew me even closer to the recipe. While I do wish that the colorful cakes cooked up a bit crispier and were perhaps a bit more delicately spiced, dipping them into that sweet-and-sour sauce made it difficult to focus on the ever-so-slightly negative.

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Finally, I tackled the “I’d Miss Pizza” excuse section with Kristy’s Seitan Reuben Pizza with Caraway Seed Crust. I’m sorry, allow me to repeat: SEITAN REUBEN PIZZA WITH CARAWAY SEED CRUST. A winning sandwich transformed into a defining food of my Italian heritage? Be still my beating heart. First, whip up a batch of Kristy’s simple yet juicy and oh-so flavorful homemade seitan, then “corn” it in a bright marinade of beet juice and characteristic spices. Next, get a ball of super easy pizza dough rising, rife with the fragrant savoriness of caraway seeds. An almond-based swiss cheese sauce and mayo-ketchup Russian dressing later, and you’ve got a flavor-drenched pie packed with that classic Reuben sandwich charm, ready for a generous forkful of sauerkraut. Yes.

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I’d feel cruel for tantalizing you with all this deliciousness without offering you the chance to taste it for yourself, so I’m excited that the folks over at The Experiment Publishing have graciously offered to let me share with you the full recipe for Kristy’s Caramel Apple-Stuffed French Toast! Enjoy, and be sure to enter the giveaway to win a copy of But I Could Never Go Vegan! by following the links at the top and bottom of this post.

Photo via The Experiment Publishing.

Photo via The Experiment Publishing.

Caramel Apple-Stuffed French Toast

Serves 4 t0 6.

Nut-Free.

From Kristy:
French toast on its own is a normal weekend breakfast, and chickpea flour and non-dairy milk make for a simple vegan version. When you stuff a delicious filling inside, you’ve got more of a special-occasion meal on your hands (or plate)—especially when that filling is warm, caramelized apples tossed in a rich, date-based caramel sauce, and even more especially when the French toast is dusted with powdered sugar and drizzled with extra sauce. One of my recipe testers made it for her husband on Valentine’s Day, and they thought it was the perfect celebration meal. Breakfast in bed, anyone?

Prep time: 30 minutes

Cook time: 20 minutes

Caramel Sauce Ingredients:

10 Medjool dates, pitted
2⁄3 cup (160 ml) non-dairy milk
1⁄4 cup (60 ml) water
1⁄2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Salt to taste

Apple Ingredients:

1 tablespoon vegan butter
2 Granny Smith apples, cored and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons coconut sugar or vegan brown sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice

French Toast Ingredients:

1 cup (250 ml) non-dairy milk
1⁄2 cup (125 ml) canned coconut milk or vegan creamer
1⁄2 cup (55 g) chickpea flour
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 1⁄2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1⁄2 teaspoon cinnamon
Dash of nutmeg
Dash of salt
1 large loaf of French bread, about 4 to 5 inches wide (not a baguette)
Vegan cream cheese
Cooking spray
Maple syrup, for drizzling
Vegan powdered sugar or powdered xylitol, for dusting, optional

In a food processor, combine the caramel sauce ingredients. Process until completely smooth, scraping the sides as necessary.

Melt the vegan butter in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the apple slices and coconut sugar; stir to combine. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is gone and the apples are softened and golden. Stir in the lemon juice and remove from the heat. Stir in 2 tablespoons of the caramel sauce.

In a large shallow bowl or baking dish, mix the non-dairy milk, coconut milk, chickpea flour, maple syrup, cornstarch, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Slice the bread into four to six 2-inch (5 cm) slices. Use a bread knife to make a slit in the top of each slice, keeping the sides and bottom intact, creating a pocket.

Carefully spread the cream cheese inside one side of each pocket, then stuff it with about 1⁄3 cup (80 ml) of apples.

Preheat the oven to its lowest setting. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Set aside.

Heat a large frying pan or griddle over medium heat. Spray generously with cooking spray. Take one “sandwich” and soak in the milk mixture, 15 to 20 seconds on each side. Place the soaked sandwich on the heated pan and cook until golden and crisp, 3 to 4 minutes on each side. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet and place in the oven. Repeat with the remaining sandwiches, spraying the pan again before each. Serve warm, topped with maple syrup, the remaining caramel sauce, or both. Dust with powdered sugar if desired.

Variations

Simplify the recipe by leaving out the caramel sauce and replacing the apples with uncooked strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, or even mango!

Make plain French toast by slicing regular-size slices of bread and leaving out the fruit and caramel altogether.

Recipe from But I Could Never Go Vegan!: 125 Recipes That Prove You Can Live Without Cheese, It’s Not All Rabbit Food, and Your Friends Will Still Come Over Dinner, copyright © Kristy Turner, 2014. Reprinted by permission of the publisher, The Experiment. Available wherever books are sold. www.theexperimentpublishing.com

This giveaway will end at 11:59 pm on Thursday, January 29, and I will announce the winner on the following day on #NewsandChews.

Sorry, this giveaway has closed.

I was not paid to run this giveaway, though I was provided with a free copy of the cookbook. All opinions are completely my own.

Strawberry-Chipotle Glazed Tofu Panini

Welcome to Monday, ya’ll! For today I had planned to pen a blog post regarding some thoughts on whiteness and privilege exhibited in food blogging (I even took notes on scholarly articles and everything!)…but other responsibilities got the best of me. I know I’ve promised that particular post for a while now but, rest assured, that post will indeed be coming in late January/early February.

To keep you sated until then (or, at least, until this Friday’s # NewsandChews post), why not cook up this little gem of a sandwich – all hot and gooey and spicy and creamy and chewy and crunchy at the same time? Inspired by a recipe in Carla Kelly’s new Vegan al Fresco, this sandwich utilizes a fun kitchen gadget, a vegan convenience food that recently entered the ranks of my faves alongside vegan mayo, and a surefire method of ensuring optimally textured tofu:

Gadget=cast-iron grill pan.
Vegan convenience food=non-dairy cream cheese.
Tofu method=simmering tofu in marinade then sauteeing, grilling, or baking (works better than pressing!)

Though I’m only highlighting food in this post, I know that all ya’ll radical activist readers out there will understand that vegan consumption practices merely constitute a logical extension of anti-speciesist politics, rather than a full-scale movement for the collective liberation of all beings. So enjoy this panini – and I mean like for serious enjoy this panini in all its messy glory – but remember that just because it doesn’t contain the bodies of other animals, it’s really not doing much to challenge the larger social structures and embedded ideologies that turn all beings into profit-making automatons.

That’s why we organize! We get out in the streets! We look deep inside ourselves and ask how we’re perpetuating oppression in our daily mode of being! We develop a praxis of radical humility!

And, of course, to fuel all of this exhausting, necessary, and fulfilling work, we eat sandwiches (and maybe even take really terrible photos of them).

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Strawberry-Chipotle Glazed Tofu Panini

Makes 2 sandwiches.

1 dried chipotle pepper
14 oz (1 package) firm or extra-firm tofu, drained
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp tamari
1 tsp cumin

1/3 cup strawberry preserves (preferably one without added sugars)
1 tbsp lime juice

4 slices bread (I like Ezekiel’s sprouted whole-grain breads)
1 tsp coconut oil
4 tbsp vegan cream cheese
About 10 slices of pickled jalapeno

Place the dried pepper in a heat-safe bowl. Pour enough boiling water to cover over the pepper. Let sit for at least 10 minutes, or until reconstituted. Drain and dice the pepper.

Meanwhile, lay the block of tofu on its widest side and slice it vertically to produce 8 uniform slices.

In a large saucepan, whisk together the reconstituted pepper, maple syrup, lime juice, tamari, and cumin. Lay the tofu slices in a single layer on top of the marinade. Turn the heat up to high and allow the marinade to come to a boil. Turn down the heat and allow the tofu to simmer in the marinade until it has absorbed all of the liquid, flipping the tofu once when the marinade has been about half absorbed.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the strawberry preserves and lime juice. This is your glaze.

Brush a grill pan with oil and preheat it over high heat. Once the pan is hot, coat each tofu slice in the glaze, then place them into the pan. Grill the tofu for about 5 minutes on each side, or until grill marks have appeared on the tofu. Remove from the heat.

Alternatively, if you don’t have a grill pan, you can use a regular skillet, or bake it in a 400°F oven for 20-30 minutes, flipping once halfway through cooking.

Once the tofu is done cooking, wipe out your grill pan (or regular skillet). Preheat it again.

Coat one side of each piece of bread with 1/4 tsp coconut oil. Spread 1 tbsp of cream cheese on the other side of each piece of bread. Lay two slices of tofu on each slice of bread, add a layer of pickled jalapenos to two of the four tofu-covered slices, and sandwich both pairs of two slices together.

Place one sandwich in the preheated grill pan or skillet, place another heavy-ish skillet on top, and cook for 3-5 minutes, or until the bottom slice of bread is golden brown. Remove the top skillet and, with a spatula, flip the whole sandwich over. Return the top skillet to the top of the sandwich and cook for another 3-5 on the other side, so that the second slice of bread is golden brown. Remove the top skillet and carefully transfer the sandwich to a plate. Repeat with the second sandwich.

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In solidarity, Ali.

Vegan Chews & Progressive News {12-26-14}

Farmers Market Vegan’s “Vegan Chews & Progressive News” series strives to promote artful vegan food and progressive discussion of social issues—both of which prove necessary in fostering a society that prioritizes the well-being of all creatures (not just the rich, white, or human) over the continuous striving for profit/resource accumulation.

Welcome to the holiday edition of Vegan Chews & Progressive News (# NewsandChews)! I mean, holiday in terms of the date of its publication, not at all in terms of its content. Instead, below you’ll find a fabulously jewel-toned winter salad, a mound of breakfast creativity, and an elaborate Christmas Eve feast. Then, on the News side, you’ll read about yet another white supremacist non-indictment (this time mere miles away from my hometown), an abbreviated history of U.S. imperialism, and a memoir written by one of my favorite human beings on the planet. Because ’tis the season, right?

Favorite Newly Published Recipe

Savory

Roasted Vegetable & Farro Salad
Via Joe Yonan

Photo via Deb Lindsey.

Photo via Deb Lindsey.

I live with a perpetual craving for the caramelized tenderness of roasted vegetables, and this hearty winter salad would certainly satisfy (well, temporarily…). Tossed with the toothsome ancient Italian grain of farro, chewy and candy-sweet dried figs, crunchy almonds, and the master of all spice blends (helloooooo za’atar!), roasted vegetables never looked so good. Instead of the feta cheese called for in the recipe, some homemade cashew cheese or tofu feta would work wonders.

Sweet

Granola Pancakes
Via Connoisseurus Veg

Photo via Alissa Saenz.

Photo via Alissa Saenz.

Granola definitely constitutes a staple of my diet, but I never think beyond spooning it atop a green smoothie or stirring it into soy yogurt. Enter Alissa of the hilariously branded Connoisseurus Veg (there’s a t-rex on her blog! Get it?!?!?) to blow my previously held granola conceptions out of the water (or smoothie…?). But think about it: crunchy, nutty breakfast deliciousness enveloped by fluffy, cakey breakfast deliciousness. Sounds like a perfect match to me.

Best Recipe I Made This Week

Christmas Eve Dinner
Inspired by Plenty More by Yotam Ottolenghi

xmas dinner collage

Every year when I return home for the holidays, my mother and I like to craft rather elaborate dinners on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. This year, completely smitten with my recently procured copy of Plenty More by genius vegetable (though definitely not vegan) chef Yotam Ottolenghi, I decided to create an entirely Ottolenghi-inspired Christmas Eve dinner. Minimally altering three recipes from Plenty More, I enjoyed with my mother a wintertime cornucopia of Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Caramelized Garlic, Candied Lemon Peel, and Tarragon; Buckwheat Polenta with Orange Spice Roasted Butternut Squash and Tempura Lemon; and Smoked Beets with Caramelized Macadamia Nuts, (Soy) Yogurt, and Cilantro. Whoof. Very yummy whoof.

Must-Read News Story

Milwaukee Police Officer Won’t Face Charges for Shooting of Unarmed Black Man
by Nadia Prupis at Common Dreams

Photo via Light Brigading.

Photo via Light Brigading.

Yet another non-indictment to prove the pervasiveness of white supremacy in the criminal legal system (and everywhere else in American society…), this time very near my hometown in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Shot 14 times at a park by former Milwaukee police officer Christopher Manney, 31-year-old Dontre Hamilton joins an ever-growing pool of unarmed Black individuals murdered at the hands of white police officers. Um, hi, #BlackLivesMatter, anyone?

The story to which I linked above doesn’t feature an extensive amount of details about the shooting, so be sure to check out Democracy Now!‘s coverage here.

Favorite Podcast Episode or Video

How the Iraq War Began in Panama: 1989 Invasion Set Path for Future U.S. Attacks
Via Democracy Now!

Photo via Democracy Now!

Photo via Democracy Now!

Also on Democracy Now! this past week was an extended interview regarding the U.S.-led 1989 invasion of Panama, of which this month marks the 25th anniversary. Launched by President George H. W. Bush to execute an arrest warrant against Panamanian leader Manuel Noriega, Operation Just Cause unleashed 24,000 troops in a bloody attack on the Panamanian people, and served as a template for future U.S. military interventions (including in Iraq). I find it immensely important as a U.S. citizen to know about the imperial history of my home country so as to begin to foster within myself a sort of radical humility that refuses to regard as inferior modes of being different from that which I inhabit myself. Because without that radical humility, imperialism, colonialism, capitalism, white supremacy, and all other systems of oppression will live on.

Book Recommendation

Not My Father’s Son: A Memoir
by Alan Cumming

Photo via Harper Collins.

Photo via Harper Collins.

Ya’ll, I am unwaveringly and unapolagetically in love with Alan Cumming. I mean, have you seen him in Cabaret? Or followed his shit-ton of LGBTQ activism? Or heard about the vegan soups (because he’s vegan!!!) he makes in his slow cooker every night for cast parties? Perfection is a shitty and impossible ideal, but dammit, Alan Cumming is my idea of a near-perfect human being. And he has a fraught relationship with his father, just like me! Clearly, we’re meant to be best friends. So yeah, read his book, mmmk?

In solidarity, Ali.

Cinnamon Plum Granola | Rishi Tea Giveaway

Sorry, this giveaway has closed.

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Back home in Madison, one of my favorite yoga studios keeps its lobby well-equipped with pots of strong-brewed tea, steaming hot from the tea lights flickering beneath. The tea in question? Cinnamon Plum Tea from Rishi Tea – rich, succulent, hued in deep magenta, and intensely spiced like a good mulled cider. Unwinding after a sweaty yoga practice with a small mug of this tea simultaneously awakens and calms the senses, tempting my fellow yogis and I to stick around the studio long after savasana.

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With the biting cold setting in and my return to Madison for winter break fast approaching, I’ve recently found myself in a state of nostalgia for the heated yoga studio and the Cinnamon Plum Tea that accompanies it. To concurrently quell my longing for the time being and share the Cinnamon Plum wonders with you all, I crafted a Cinnamon Plum-infused granola and reached out to the wonderful folks at Rishi Tea (based right near my hometown in Milwaukee!) to provide a couple boxes of loose-leaf Cinnamon Plum Tea for my blog readers.

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Though virtually anyone engaged in a business endeavor is operating under the oppressive logic of our capitalist system, the folks at Rishi are trying to do so in a manner as conscious as possible in such a harmful framework. Maintaining long-term personal relationships with farmers and artisans whose families have been making traditional teas for generations, Rishi commits itself to environmental sustainability and social responsibility through its organic and fair trade certifications, eco-friendly packaging, partnerships with other socially conscious organizations, and more.

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(Quick side note: On the subject of capitalism, I’ve been doing a lot of contemplating lately surrounding the functioning of veganism as a consumerist movement, and intend to flesh out my thoughts in future posts. I’ve also been pondering the privileges that come along with blogging and running giveaways – an idea that I brought up in my last giveaway but hope to expand upon in the near future, as well. But for now, allow me to play into your consumerist sensibilities with this giveaway. That is all.)

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The following granola recipe celebrates the full-bodied flavor and comfort of my beloved Cinnamon Plum Tea. Crispy, nicely sweetened, and oh-so fragrant, this granola proves ideal for topping smoothies, with ice-cold non-dairy milk, or plumped up in muesli. Don’t miss your chance to win the tea that makes this granola possible by clicking on the links at the top and bottom of this post!

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Cinnamon Plum Granola

Makes about 12 cups.

Ingredients:

4 cups oats
3 1/2 cups mixed raw nuts and seeds, chopped if large (I used almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, and black sesame seeds here)
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 cup Rishi Cinnamon Plum Tea, ground into a powder in a spice grinder
1/4 cup maple syrup or agave nectar
1/4 cup melted coconut oil
2 tbsp tahini
1 tsp hazelnut extract (can substitute vanilla)
3 cups chopped dried fruit (I used raisins here, but mission figs or currants would work quite well)
3 cups neutral-flavored vegan cereal of choice (optional; I prefer the Millet-Rice Flakes from Nature’s Path)

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Have two large baking sheets ready, coated in parchment if you so choose.

In a large bowl, place the oats, nuts and seeds, salt, and ground Cinnamon Plum Tea. Stir well to combine.

In a separate, smaller bowl, whisk together the maple syrup or agave, oil, tahini, and extract until well-combined.

Pour the wet ingredients over the dry and stir very thoroughly to coat. At first it will seem like there isn’t enough of the wet mixture to sufficiently coat the dry, but have faith! (And mix with your hands if necessary. I find that handiworking the granola is much more effective in getting everything coated).

Divide the mixture evenly between the two baking sheets and spread it out in an even layer on each sheet. Place in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, stirring after 15 minutes.

Once the granola has turned golden brown but definitely not burnt, remove from the oven and stir in half of the raisins to each baking sheets. Let cool completely before storing in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a month.

Recipe submitted to Virtual Vegan Linky Potluck.

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Now you, dear readers, have the chance to win the tea that can help you make this granola a reality. Three of you will win two boxes of loose-leaf Cinnamon Plum Tea from Rishi. Simply click on the links at the top or bottom of this post to enter the giveaway for your chance to win! And don’t forget to connect with Rishi Tea on Facebook, TwitterYouTube, Flickr, and Vimeo.

This giveaway will end at 11:59 pm on Sunday, December 14, and I will announce the winner on the following day.

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Sorry, this giveaway has closed.

I was not paid to run this giveaway. All opinions are completely my own.

In solidarity, Ali.

{UPDATED} How to Dehydrate without a Dehydrator

Since its publication way back in August of 2011, my “How to Dehydrate without a Dehydrator” post has continually surpassed any others in terms of page views. Since then, however, an ironic set of developments has occurred: I’ve become significantly less enamored of raw foodism, finding the culture rather militant and unhealthy for me considering my fraught history with food (Gena has more thoughts on approaching raw foods pragmatically); yet I’ve also honed my oven dehydration skills. Though I by no means dehydrate frequently or with fancy 3-day raw meal preparations, I do enjoy a batch of homemade banana chips or broccoli nibblers every so often, and experience greater success than ever with these recipes thanks to a more detailed process of oven-dehydration.

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Oven-dehydrated broccoli nibblers.

Before specifically outlining my oven-dehydration process, I’d like to share with you some helpful tidbits of dehydrating knowledge, courtesy of Dirt Candy Executive Chef Amanda Cohen in her phenomenal restaurant cookbook qua graphic novel.

Photo via Dirt Candy.

Photo via Dirt Candy.

–Tip #1: A dehydrator set at 120°F (an average dehydrating temperature) takes four times longer to dehydrate than an oven. That means that with any recipe whose directions specify dehydrating times with an actual dehydrator, you’ll need to divide that time by four if you’re dehydrating with your oven.
–Tip #2: Your oven needs to be on its lowest setting – 150°F or below – in order for it to function like a dehydrator. If this setting is not below 150°F on your oven, you can do the following: preheat your oven to 200°F, turn it off, place the food in the oven for an hour, then take out the food and repeat the process until dehydration has completed.
–Tip #3: Raw vegetables take 1-3 hours to dehydrate in the oven (4-12 hours in the dehydrator) since they are made up of mostly water. Oily foods like sauteed vegetables and nuts, on the other hand, require 6-12 hours of oven dehydration (24-48 hours in the dehydrator). I find that raw crackers, breads, desserts, and other raw food recipes that start as “batters” require 4-6 hours in he oven (16-24 hours in the dehydrator).
–Tip #4: Check out the Excalibur website for more specific tips and ideas regarding how to dehydrate fruits, veggies, herbs, nuts, and grains. You can apply most all of their tips to oven dehydrating.

Dehydrated sweet crackers.

Dehydrated sweet crackers.

With those tips in mind, here is an outline of my preferred oven-dehydration process:

How to Dehydrate without a Dehydrator {Updated}

You will need:

The food you’d like to dehydrate (raw cracker/bread batter, sliced fruit, cut veggies, fruit puree to make fruit leather, etc.)
Nonstick silicon baking mat such as a Silpat or parchment paper
Aluminum foil
Oven set at its lowest temperature (a toaster oven with a baking setting also works)

Preheat your oven to its lowest setting. If this is above 150°F, see Tip #2 above.

Place a silicon baking mat or parchment paper on an oven-safe cooling rack. Place your to-be-dehydrated food on the mat/parchment. If you are dehydrating simple fruit or veggies, place them next to each other at even intervals. If you are dehydrating something that needs to be spread on the mat/parchment (such as raw cracker batter or fruit puree), spread it out as evenly as possible so that it doesn’t dehydrate more in some spots than in others.

 Take a large sheet of aluminum foil and crumple it into an elongated, snake-like shape. Place the cooling rack full of food into the oven, and prop the oven door open ever so slightly with the foil snake. For even more effective dehydration, place a fan in front of the small oven door opening to ensure air circulation.

Updated Makeshift Dehydrator

Keep the food in the oven until it reaches your desired texture, flipping as necessary (raw crackers and other spreaded items need to be flipped once halfway through). See Tip #3 above for estimates on how long specific foods take to dehydrate in the oven.

Ta-da! You’ve successfully dehydrated without a dehydrator. Now go out and celebrate with all that money you didn’t spend on buying an unnecessary piece of equipment (but that you’ll probably end up shelling out anyway thanks to your increased energy bill…).

Tutorial submitted to Virtual Vegan Linky Potluck.

In solidarity, Ali.

Pickle-Braised Greens & Beans

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Well folks, last week I provided you with a critical thought piece on Thanksgiving, but no recipe, since I had devoted all of my recipe energies to creating tempeh chili, cornbread, pumpkin pancakes, coconut whipped cream, cookies, and spicy mac & cheese for the Vassar Animal Rights Coalition (VARC)‘s week-long event series on government repression of animal activism. This week, I’m leveling out the blogging playing field by offering up a recipe…but no thoughts, since I’m currently channeling all of my intellectual energies into a 20-page paper on white anti-racist activism due in the next couple of days.

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If any of you find yourselves in similar time crunches, I’d highly recommend incorporating this no-fuss, 10-minute, 4-ingredient side dish that boasts a ton of tangy flavor and nutrient density to provide the energy you need to accomplish all those tasks ahead. Not only does this recipe provide a spectacularly fast, simple meal when paired with a whole grain or piece of toast, it also makes phenomenal use of the flavor-packed brine left over after you take that last, sweet bite of pickle.

pickle-braised greens (3)

I’ve recreated this recipe with a wide variety of leftover pickle brines, from a smoky, paprika-laden okra pickling liquid to the maple-and-bourbon laced brine of bread-and-butter cukes. Each unique pickling liquid produced essentially an entirely new dish, so this base recipe truly never tires. Now go on and get down with your pickle-loving self (while I finish writing that paper…).

pickle-braised greens (2)

Pickle-Braised Greens & Beans

Serves 1-2.

Ingredients:

1 jar’s worth pickle juice left over after pickles have been eaten
5-ish cups (about half a bunch) kale or collard greens, chopped
1/2 cup chickpeas
1 tsp coconut or flaxseed oil (optional)

Pour the pickle juice into a medium-sized saute pan. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat.

Add the chopped greens to the pan, cover, reduce the heat slightly to medium-high, and cook for about 5 minutes, or until the greens are starting to wilt and turn tender; their color will also start to darken.

Uncover the greens, stir in the beans, and continue to cook over medium-high heat for another 3-5 minutes, or until most of the liquid has boiled off. Remove from the heat.

If desired, for a more full-bodied mouthfeel and richer taste, stir in the optional coconut or flaxseed oil.

Serve immediately.

Recipe submitted to Virtual Vegan Linky Potluck.

In solidarity, Ali.