Solstice Vegan Chocolate Mousse

I mentioned that I had this as part of my very lovely solstice evening, and someone asked for the recipe. I’m writing down how my genius friend Miriam showed me to make it.  She adapted it from somewhere else.   Despite the picky tone of my instructions below, it’s really easy and took about 15 minutes at most.  You can substitute non-organic stuff and a different brand of chips if you want; it might not be quite as virtuous, but it will still be incredibly tasty.  Fool your non-vegan friends — it’s that good.

Vegan Chocolate Mousse
1 package organic silken tofu — the very softest kind.  Press some of the water gently out of it by putting it in either cheesecloth or a thick paper towel (or a couple layers), placing the bundle in a colander, and putting a bowl or something on top of it. It’s not like pressing hard tofu; you don’t need much weight.  Leave it for a few minutes.  If you forget to do this ahead, you can squeeze it over the sink like Miriam did.  Be gentle.
1  10-oz  package Guittard or other non-dairy dark (= “semi-sweet”) chocolate chips.  Melt these on low or medium heat in the microwave. I use the defrost setting. Put it in for a couple of minutes at a time and stir frequently.  If you don’t like radiation you can also melt chocolate in a double-boiler but I have no idea what that even is.
Meanwhile, move the tofu into your mousse bowl and mash it up a bit.  Add a few shakes of organic vanilla and mix.  We’re not talking a few drops here, two to four liberal shakes of the bottle should do it.  Taste the tofu to make sure you’ve added enough vanilla to get rid of the (normal) slightly bitter aftertaste that all tofu has.
Are you remembering to stir your chocolate as you keep melting it?
Now get your electric eggbeater or immersion blender or mixer or whatever ready to go.  AS SOON AS the chocolate is all melted, pour it in a steady stream into the bowl while mixing with the mixer. If you have a sous-chef, have him or her pour the chocolate while you mix and hold the bowl. 
(If you dilly-dally, or if you try hand-mixing, you will cause your mousse to be lumpy since the chocolate will quickly harden into little bits as it cools.  It will still be yummy, but more like creamy pudding goodness with little chocolate flakes in it, rather than a mousse.  If you don’t have any of these devices and are considering investing in one, and/or have a last-minute Santa sugar daddy waiting in the wings, an immersion blender would be my choice. It’s a vegan’s best friend and you can also use it for smoothies, soups, etc. It has a sleek and sexy form. And it’s easy to clean up which is important so you can spend more time eating your mousse and less time cleaning up after it.)
When the tofu and chocolate are nicely combined and very smooth, put the bowl in the refrigerator for 10 minutes or so.  Occupy yourself by licking the bowl if you like.
Voila!  Mousse.  You can top it with real or fake whipped cream, or not.
I think it is important to have chocolate on the longest night of the year.

Grinching and Gifting

Every year I feel grumpy about Christmas.  Sometimes it’s severely raging grumpy bitchy grinchy.  Other years, like this one, it’s more sort of sigh-grumbly.  

For me, winter (especially this one, after I’ve been sick) feels like a time to stay indoors and enjoy the long dark nights and reflect, hibernate, restore.  I am attracted to the parties and social time with friends, but part of me senses that the holiday buzz and tinsel and lights are a cultural attempt at avoiding our bodies’ and planet’s natural, instinctive turn toward darkness.

Still, I’m inspired by my friend DH, who lets her inner child really enjoy the lights and the magic of the season.  Perhaps one of these years I’ll rediscover that part…  
I only had a couple of years of the full-on Christmas experience as a kid.  Until age seven, I grew up in New Zealand. It was a homogenous Christian country at the time, and people tended to mark it as a religious holy day in private or with their churches.  It certainly wasn’t the humongous commercial extravaganza that it is now in the United States.
I was in second grade when we moved to the United States.  My parents started getting a tree and (more?) gifts for us each year. They didn’t want us to feel left out (which I appreciate!), and I think they liked it, too, even though it was probably lots of extra work and required careful budgeting.  It was fun to get Stuff, and I liked singing Christmas carols in school. I was already 7, though, and maybe I believed in Santa Claus for a year or two, or maybe not even that. 
Eventually, as an adult, I started being grossed out by the commercialism and the obligatory nature of the holiday.  So many people I know just dread, absolutely dread, having to spend time with certain family members whom they can barely tolerate and don’t see for the rest of the year. And the consumption mania is rather out of control.  So a few years ago I tried to stop exchanging gifts with my family, suggesting we just spend time together but not shop.  
My brother agreed, so now he and I don’t exchange gifts.  He’s got a big family and plenty of people to shop for.  Plus, we’re both grown and neither of us really needs Stuff.  Or maybe he was just like, “Whatever, weird sister.” 🙂
But my parents weren’t having it. My mother said: “You don’t have to get us anything, but I’m gonna get YOU something no matter what!”  Way to lay down the law, Mum. So I feel sort of sheepish writing a letter to Santa at my age, but it’s best if I say what I really want, and find out what they really want, and it can all be rather nice if I keep it in perspective and stay grateful instead of getting stressed.
I still think Christmas is best for kids, though.  My nieces don’t need any Stuff either, of course; their toy room overfloweth.   But now they are old enough (5, 5, and 6.5) to have definitive preferences: One likes fairies and princesses, while another despises them. One likes pink, another likes purple.  So their letters to Santa are actually quite helpful, and I think I might actually do the Xmas thing for them this year.  (Usually I send them stuff in an erratic, year-round way instead.)  My brother and sister-in-law try to ensure that the girls’ lists for Santa are realistic (no ponies) and include a range of prices.  
So here, from the mouths of the babes, is what’s hot in the kindergarten set:
Tea also wants fairy and princess stuff.  Zoe likes books, so I’m going to get her A Poet’s Journey, a lovely fable that the author says is suitable for pre-readers and readers age 4-7 (or just young at heart).  
And Ava wants a model V8 engine.  Go, Ava!  Who says the auto industry is dead?
I also have a god-daughter, but I suspect she and her little sister are a bit too young to know what they really want.  They would probably be happy with a big cardboard box to unwrap and climb inside of.
My parents are getting something I won’t post here, in case they happen to read this.
Me, I want:
  • a camera (was gonna write, digital camera, but I guess they’re ALL digital now) that can take both still pictures and a few minutes of video, is Mac-compatible, and has an underwater housing so I can take it diving.  
  • a bundt pan, because I’ve been wanting to try out some cool cake recipes from this awesome vegan cookbook that require one.
  • world peace.
What can I say, I may be grinchy but I’m still greedy.  Does that make me a true American?
I also would like a pony.  No, make that a unicorn. 
Happy holidays to you, if you celebrate.  May you be granted everything you need this season, and the best of what you want, too.

Eat, sleep, rehearse

Last night Patty took me to Manzanita, a little macrobiotic place in Oakland.  Yummy, in a totally unpretentious way.  It’s the kind of food you’d cook at home if you were in a healthy mood and/or lived in a Berkeley commune.  There’s just one menu each day (posted daily on the website), and depending on how hungry you are, you can choose between the “simple,”  “moderate,”  and “full” meals.  We had ginger miso soup, curried hummus, a wild rice thing, stir-fried greens, and corn on the cob with ume paste (I might need to create a whole category for my blog entries with ume in them).  I have been limiting my sugar to once or twice a week, so I splurged for the mini chocolate bundt cake with kahlua — super moist.  All organic, all vegan!   I do so love the Bay Area.

This morning I woke up way too early, couldn’t go back to sleep, and ended up doing yoga in my living room at 6 a.m.  It’s actually supposed to be the perfect time, and I could sorta see why — very nice to do the sun salutation toward the rising sun.  Not that I’m ever going to do it again, if I can help it, cuz I do love my sleep!  Then I meditated for a bit, and for breakfast I made a delicious non-traditional breakfast taco — a homemade (not by me) corn tortilla with grilled zucchini slivers, japanese yam I had roasted and diced up, black beans, chopped fresh cilantro, and a dash of cayenne and salt.  I laid down again — the post-yoga post-breakfast nap is really quite lovely.  Woke up just in time to be just a little late to my bodywork session. 

Afterward, I had a lovely mellow lunch at Park Chow. They make an awesome garden burger, although it’s annoying that you have to remember to ask not to get the weird white yogurt sauce.  Why make a perfect vegan food into a non-vegan thing?  It makes no sense. 

Then I looked at my script for a while, got home, took out the trash, gave the cat a washcloth bath (you really wanted to know that, didn’t you? well, he was filthy), and took another nap to make up for not sleeping enough.  I slept a lot harder than I expected, woke up at 5:56pm and FLEW out the door to make it to 6:30 rehearsal — whew.

Rehearsal was, well, whew!  We were all supposed to be “off book” for our Act I “stumble-through,” meaning we went through the first half of the show all the way through without stopping.  It was the first time I got to see all the scenes I’m not in, and wow, what an amazing talented cast!  Of course, we also have our work cut out for us.  All of us are definitely works in progress.  Like a dork, I forgot to memorize a whole scene because I thought it was in the second act!   Now that I can see where we are, I’m madly trying to clear my schedule for the next few weeks to cram in extra rehearsal and script time for myself. 

Tomorrow:  Sleep in (I hope), and rehearsal again.  In between, who knows?  Options:

a) do some work — oh yes, I do have SO much work to do.  i MUST i MUST i MUST make my media & publicity list.  I MUST!

b) enjoy the heat wave and go boogie boarding!

c) cook and fold laundry and do house stuff.

d)  some combination of the above.

e)  none of the above.  Just wait and see what the day brings.



2 bizzy 2 blog

This was a busy busy week! 

Last Saturday I did the film shoot for “Hey, Sailor” — six hours, sundress, cold drizzly SF night.  Ah, the glamour of the acting life!

On Sunday I worked about 10 hours on my page proofs.  (This, after a 12-hour day on Friday.)  A couple more hours Monday morning, then I was done!  This was the very last set of changes I get to make on my book before it goes to press. 

George came over Monday morning and we went to the shipping store together.  We watched our “baby” get weighed on the scale, and I made the guy box it up and tape it in front of me before leaving the store.  Sigh!  Then we went to Burma Superstar to celebrate.  I had the veg samusa soup which sounds ridiculous (lentils PLUS falafel PLUS broken-up samusas??), but is delicious.  (Hey lookie, I made a rhyme.) 

We strolled over to Green Apple Books to look for a copy of BKS Iyengar‘s Light On Yoga book, because it’s a required text for her yoga class this fall at SJSU, but they didn’t have it.  So we gave up and went home to take a three-hour nap.  (“A three-hour nap….”)

On Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday I worked at my magazine gig (Turning Wheel: A Journal of Socially Engaged Buddhism) and we got the pages out to the printers Thursday afternoon.  Hoorah!   Another project nearly wrapped up; we get the blue-lines back this coming week, and then that’s it.  The magazine looks gorgeous, it’s a 92-page special anniversary issue, and it’s a bit sad that it’s only going out to members of the organization rather than newsstands.  Such is the economy of small magazines, though!  (The org, by the way, is the Buddhist Peace Fellowship, a totally great, progressive, and diverse organization, very worth joining if you’re interested.) 

Also on Wednesday and Thursday nights I had rehearsal.  I’d sort of forgotten how physical the work of performance can be.  It seems like I’m just standing around saying lines, but somehow I’m a sweaty exhausted heap by the end of the evening!  I am absolutely loving the work, though, and starting to get a deeper sense of my character, bond with the other cast & crew members, and get comfortable being in my performance body again.  To do list: This week, memorize Act I.  Next week, memorize Act II.  Whew!  Another rehearsal this afternoon.

After all that, yesterday I went to the Kabuki Springs with Zombie Mom.  We had been trying to plan this excursion since her birthday back in February, but with both of our crazy schedules, here it is August!  The timing couldn’t have been better for me, though, after this week.  She’s a Pisces and I’m a Cancer so of course we both find it the absolutely most perfect way to spend a few hours — soak, steam, nap, soak, steam.  There is something very satisfying about the kind of nap that happens in a steam room, or just outside it, when your body is all warm and relaxed and your brain is on vacation and you just kind of float away. 


Then we went up into the Japantown Center for lunch.  I love that there’s awesome vegan sushi available pretty much all over this city!  I had a caterpillar roll — asparagus tempura & cucumber inside, avocado draped outside — as well as an ume roll (salty pickled plum!) and miso soup.  Yummm. 

And THEN we went shopping for the cutest of cute office supplies at the Kinokinuya Stationary store and Ichiban Kan, which is quite possibly my favorite little shop in the city.  When I was writing the book, I used to go there for my ‘treat’ at least every few weeks — an awesome place to do some quick retail reward therapy for under five bucks. I got very cute folders, a notebook (cuz I always need notebooks) with little dots instead of lines in it, sticker tabs shaped like ducklings, and a set of half-sized index cards on a ring, which I’m going to use to help me memorize my lines. 

Zombie Mom had to go back to work, but I had decided to take the day off (yay!), so I sat in the cutest little tea place and drank hot honey ginger tea.  I am trying to drink soup and herbal tea as much as possible because all the rehearsing is getting to my throat, and it needs soothing.  I also had some kind of delicious little sweet red bean bun thingie.  All refreshed, I then had more shopping energy, so I went into the downstairs manga section of the Kinokinuya bookstore. 

I browsed around for a while and then bought the first volume of the Buddha series by Osamu Tezuka, which I’ve been wanting to read!  I decided that’s going to be my treat over the next few months… every time I do a big task, I get to buy a new volume.  There are 8 total, so that should carry me for a while!

Came home, took 2nd nap until my cat woke me, jonesing for his dinner.  Read Volume 1, it was beautiful and moving and funny and made me happy.  Got back in bed, drew and wrote in my journal for a while, and went to sleep very satisfied with myself.

Today:  Back to work!  Class this morning (working on my business plan) — actually I’m late! — and rehearsal this afternoon. 

Tomorrow, George and I are going to my god-daughter’s 2nd birthday party.  Balloons, bubbles, and toddlers, oh my.