Sylvan Points at Stuff: Favorite YouTube Channels

Been a while since I pointed at anything, so let’s have some videos!  

I am a woman of odd enthusiasms, as are, I imagine, many of my readers.  Looking at the channels I subscribe to on YouTube or the Instagrams I follow would be pretty instructive to those trying to figure me out – just, um, don’t read too much into my Tumblr, I’m really not *that* into gay porn.

I think the entire internet just gave me this face:

While Instagram for me is mostly pretty things and food, however, I actually use my YouTube for some practical purposes, including getting the hell to sleep.  I follow a number of meditation music channels and ASMR-related channels to help my anxiety and help me sleep, so they make up a significant chunk of what you’d see on my feed.  I also have several art-related folk I follow, particularly devoted to art journaling and the like, and remarkably few planner-related bloggers, although I used to follow a bunch. A lot of planner-related channels pay way more attention to things like dieting than I really want to hear about, not to mention some of the ones I used to really enjoy have stopped updating (the eternal YouTube struggle).

Here then are some of my favorite YouTube channels, in no particular order.  I’m not listing some of the more obvious ones, like Maru – I wanted to point out YouTubers you might not have heard of.

ASMR Rooms

This channel is brilliant – the creator has built a variety of “rooms” that are basically soundscapes, combining nature sounds, ambient sounds, occasionally voices, and the background noise of a particular location.  In this example she’s captured the Ravenclaw Common Room at Hogwarts, but she’s done rooms from Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, The Hobbit, and others.  They’re all incredibly soothing and evocative.

Peaceful Cuisine

Another ASMR-ish sort of channel, this one combines lovely cooking noises with vegan recipes.  There are usually two versions of each recipe, one with music and one just with the cooking sounds so you can listen as you watch.  I’ve always found cooking sounds – like dicing, pouring, and stirring – really soothing, and the videos are beautifully shot.  The creator is Japanese and occasionally appears on camera but the emphasis is always on the food and the process of prep and cooking.

YellowBrick Cinema – Relaxing Music

A prolific channel for meditation and relaxation music.  They post at least once a day.  Some of their posts are classical music, some acoustic, some ambient, and they range from 15 minutes to 6 hours in length.  There are also videos meant to help soothe babies to sleep, and music for reiki and healing practices.

Vicky Papaioannou

Vicky is one of my favorite art/craft YouTubers, partly because of her wonderful Greek accent, partly because I enjoy the bright exuberance of her style, and partly because her cat Ginger makes periodic appearances walking around on her work table.  I’m not into making handmade cards, but I enjoy watching her try new techniques and show off new supplies, and her art journals are a totally different style from what I originally found online.  It’s obvious how much she loves doing what she does.  

Yoga With Adriene

Adriene is from right here in ATX, which was my impetus for clicking on her “beginners’ yoga” video when I was tooling around YouTube looking for videos to start playing with.  I loved her almost immediately – her teaching style is a good combination of woo-woo and pragmatic, asking students to meet themselves where they are and “find what feels good.”

She’s definitely not a plus-sized yogini, and there are a couple of weight loss videos on her channel, but she typically doesn’t bring up that sort of thing unless that’s the subject of the video.  Since that’s not what I’m there for, I just steer clear of those and stick with what inspires me.  She has videos that focus on all sorts of needs, from yoga for your back and shoulders, to yoga for swimmers or cyclists, yoga for migraines, anger management, yoga for those in wheelchairs, you name it.  There are also meditations and some videos that focus on getting deeper into a particular pose.

I also love her dog Benji.  You know you’re watching an Austin yoga video when the teacher’s dog is in it.

Molly Roberts: HerSpeak

A relative newcomer to my lineup, I happened across Molly when looking for meditations, and I don’t know if it’s her voice, her enthusiasm, or just her flat out adorableness, but I was hooked.  I’m planning to go back to the beginning of her channel and watch anything that sounds appealing.

Molly’s a Pagan YouTuber, and does videos on magick, ritual, and some of my favorite subjects:  BoS/Grimoirekeeping and altar building.  To be perfectly honest it had never occurred to me to look for BoS tours and altar show-and-tell the way I’ve watched planner-walkthrough videos, and how could I have been so blind?!?  Those were always some of my favorite aspects of the Craft, and if I had a remotely video-friendly bone in my body I’d do a walkthrough of my old, hand-drawn BoS just to show how much work and love went into it way back when.

Anyway, thanks to Molly I have a whole new YouTube rabbit hole to fall down, and I’m looking forward to it.  But in the meantime I just love listening to her talk (her voice is an ASMR trigger at times, which only makes it that much more awesome) and love her ideas.  Not to mention she combines magick with something else I love hearing about:  Bullet Journaling.

Incidentally, do you have any mystical or spiritual YouTubers you love?  Pretty much any tradition, as long as it’s non-conservative.  I’m a soul-slut, as you know.  What I’d really love to see are more Pagan planners, bullet journalers, or BoS-keepers.  Recommend away in comments, on Facebook, or Twitter.  

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Sylvan Points at Stuff: Shaking My (Glittery) Fist at Fate

I know these days it seems extra trivial to care about little happy things…but right now for a lot of people (myself included) little happy things are the only things preventing meltdown. The world has become pretty awful pretty quickly (okay, let’s be precise: the awfulness that minorities and the marginalized already knew was there now has license to show itself and has thrown a mirror up at the collective batshit insane nastiness of large swaths of our country, and even without petrifying fear of the future that realization is a hell of a thing) and by damn if a bottle of pretty nail polish helps me smile enough to keep showing up and not bury my head in the sand, it’s a worthy enterprise.  

I am desperately trying to balance knowing what’s going on – not allowing it to be acceptable – and staying at least marginally sane, which was already a loaded proposition for me.  Part of me wants so badly to shut down social media and stop reading Tweets, but I refuse to allow myself that privilege.  There are people being hurt and a lot more who will be, and even if I can’t fix it, I won’t turn a blind eye.  (You hear that, you tangerine dickbag?  I will not go back to sleep.)

That said…even social justice warriors need their pleasures.  These for example:

1. Zoya “Olivera” nail polish

At the risk of sounding like someone who’s into fashion and such, Zoya is one of my go-to brands. They sell vegan nail polish (and also lipstick, which is fairly new) in about a zillion colors.  This winter they debuted a shade so gorgeous I nearly sprained my finger clicking “buy.”

It’s called Olivera, and they describe it as “a spellbinding color-flip metallic with an indigo base and a green and purple shift“  Basically that means it looks dark, dark blue in some lights, peacock green in others, gold-flecked and a little purple in others.  Zoya’s dark polishes are nearly single-coat, they’re so smooth and rich.  I’m also very fond of their polish remover, which has lots of conditioners and such in it and comes in a neat bottle.

2. Califia Farms Caramel Pecan coffee creamer

Califia Farms is one of the best brands of nondairy milk to debut in recent years – as if their cool-ass bottles weren’t enough, their products are top notch.  I’ve had a devil of a time finding a coffee creamer that I really loved, and this one’s amazing

Califia’s cold brew iced coffee is also a thing of beauty – their mocha, which is blended with their amazing almond milk, just needs a bit of vanilla syrup to sweeten it up and bam! Instant deliciousness without having to wait overnight and strain and strain and strain to make my own cold brew.  I’ve heard their holiday nogs are great too, but I haven’t tried them yet.

3. Funko Pops

Yep, I gave in.  I’d been puzzling over these weird little toys for months trying to figure out the appeal, and then I started seeing them for characters I loved…and I was doomed.  I’m trying to stick only to the few that represent my true favorites, but I suspect soon my desk at work will amass a small, giant-headed army.  Right now I only have three:

That’s Dorothy Zbornak, Patty Tolan from Ghostbusters, and Dr. Stephen Strange, hanging out on my printer. 

I’ve even got a separate Amazon wish list just of Funko Pops.  Doomed, I tell you. Doomed.

4. Mad Lib Theater – Jimmy Fallon and Benedict Cumberbatch

I posted this one on Facebook right after it aired, but I think it deserves another showing – I still cannot watch this without laughing my ass off, especially the parts where they both break “character” and barely get the lines out. 

There’s just something so fantastic about seeing actors lose their shit in the middle of a scene.  Those were always my favorite moments on shows like The Colbert Report – this one in particular gets me every time:

5. Supergirl’s Coming-Out Plotline

(SPOILERS, OBVIOUSLY)  When I first started watching Supergirl last year, at my roommate’s behest, I thought it was cute but pretty cheesy.  Melissa Benoist’s portrayal of Kara won me over, as did – miracle of miracles – Calista Flockhart’s performance as her mentor/antagonist Cat Grant.  Sure, it had plenty of goopy saccharine plot points (they beat the bad guys with the power of hope? Seriously?), but the upbeat tone and its refusal to become another dark and dreary DC show like Arrow (don’t get me wrong, I love Arrow too, but all the superhero shows seem to use the same dull color palette and the same brooding antihero emotional palette as well) somehow made it even more appealing to my little Scorpio heart.  Go figure.

This season with its move to the CW, the show has been damn near brilliant in a lot of ways, and one of the best is the storyline in which Kara’s adoptive sister realizes she’s gay and slowly accepts it about herself – and her loved ones do the same.  Alex’s confusion and her slowly growing pride, and her family’s support, are perfectly in keeping with the hopeful world Supergirl shows us in which our better selves can, and will, prevail.

That kind of positive visibility is so important, and there’s no better illustration than this story from Twitter about a woman working at a comics shop and a young LGBT woman who, thanks to Alex’s storyline, was able to find a measure of acceptance for herself.  I’m so glad that Chyler Leigh, who plays Alex, heard about the story too.  I’d post the whole thing here but it’s pretty long, so go have a read on my Tumblr – I hope it makes you feel the kind of hope I did.

That’s all for now – you might have noticed this wasn’t a Planner Friday post, but that’s because I didn’t do a damn thing to my planner this week.  I just wasn’t feeling it, and by the time I realized looking at those empty pages made me sad, it was so late in the week I decided screw it, I’ll just make next week awesome.  Stay tuned.

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Ten Favorite Kitchen Items – Food!

Everyone’s got that weird little spice mix or particular variety of noodle they reach for over and over again.  These are ten of the food items I find myself using more than any other – and one gadget I totally forgot to mention last time that is kind of important, whoops.

1. Kosher Salt, and my Salt Cellar

Kosher salt is kind of a no-brainer for the modern cook; you’d be hard pressed to find a cookbook that doesn’t demand it.  Why?  The larger flakes dissolve differently than those tiny little table salt crystals, and if we’re talking sea salt instead of regular kosher, the mineral content can veeeeery subtly affect flavor. I just like the texture of kosher much better in cooking, even though let’s face it, it’s all going to dissolve.  

What I forgot in my last post was this:  The thing I keep my salt in.  It’s handy to have your kosher salt close by and easy to access – obviously using a shaker with the stuff is a problem, and it’s much harder to measure accurately shaking or grinding.  You need something you can both stick your fingers in for a pinch and scoop out of with a measuring spoon. Enter the salt cellar.  They come in a million different varieties, but the one I love most is my Alton Brown model:

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Made by RSVP, not only does it have a removable bowl (dishwasher safe), the bottom is weighted so you can flip it open without the whole thing flying across the counter.  It’s easy to reach into, keeps dust out of the salt (unlike an open bowl type cellar), and came with an adorable little spoon I have never, ever used.  

2 –  Nasoya Tofu

Easily available at the megamart in an array of styles, this particular tofu is thus far my favorite to cook with.  Nasoya makes both regular and silken tofu, but I haven’t tried their silken yet (regular is what you’d cut into cubes and fry; silken is kind of cream-cheese textured and usually gets blended into stuff).  Their organic extra firm is my fave, and after a night in the freezer and a day in my tofu press it has a truly badass texture.  I want to try their superfirm variety but haven’t seen it at my usual stores – one of these days when I can afford to set foot in Whole Foods or our local food co-op, Wheatsville again, I’ll find some and report back.

3 – Nielsen-Massey Mexican Vanilla Extract

Vanilla is, of course, indispensable in baking.  There are three well-known types:  Madagascar (Bourbon), Tahitian, and Mexican.  Madagascar is the most popular, but Mexican has always been my favorite – there’s something robust and rounded-out about its flavor that I love.  Not to mention I was raised on it; living in Texas means access to a lot of cheap, horribly low quality “vanilla” that probably has a thousand toxic chemicals in it, but also to good quantities of the real thing.  Generally I advise against buying it out of the back of a truck.  But Nielsen-Massey is a well known brand of fabulous quality, and while I use other brands depending on available funds, it’s my favorite.

4 –  Jarred Garlic and Ginger

Lord, we thank Thee for whatever genius decided to sell pre-minced garlic and ginger in jars.  Sure, garlic is cheap and easy enough to smash, but being able to scoop out a spoonful without peeling and mincing is one of those little conveniences that makes a huge difference in my culinary enthusiasm.  I don’t care what the hipster foodies say – not every ingredient needs to be fresh-picked and peeled by hand.  Is it better? Probably.  But it’s not always realistic. When you demand that kind of labor and inconvenience you end up with piles of takeout containers.  Pick your battles, guys.  

Jarred ginger is an even bigger helper.  If you make much Indian food, or Asian of any kind, you need fresh ginger, but you have to peel it, mince it, measure it if it’s called for by the teaspoon (most decent recipes specify a size, like a 1″ knob)…or you can open a jar.  I recommend the jars from The Ginger People, who also make medicinal candies (I keep Gin-Gins on hand for motion sickness – a godsend), jarred sushi ginger, ginger syrups, and crystallized ginger.  

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5 – Vadouvan Curry Powder from World Spice Merchants

Curry powder is a curiosity to actual Indians. They don’t use it.  It was in fact an invention by the English to try and recapture the flavors of the subcontinent they’d subdued; in India, home cooks make spice mixes from scratch, usually starting with a base of Garam Masala (“warming mixture”) that they then add to.  Even garam masala varies from house to house; everyone’s granny has her own recipe.  But curry blends can be awesome if you get them from dealers that understand the value of fresh spices (as opposed to a can of yellow dust that’s been on the shelf ten years).  I’ll talk about curry and spices more later, of course, but right now, I have to recommend this particular blend.  It’s a bit different from most masalas in that it originated in an area of India with a lot of French immigrants, and often includes dried shallots and herbs in addition to the spices.  

I used to buy mine from Williams-Sonoma, but apparently they quit making it.  Any excuse to visit World Spice Merchants’ gorgeous website is a good one, though.  It’s beautiful, and their selection is amazing.

6 – Gardein Szechuan Beefless Strips

The first Gardein product I tried was their chicken, and I thought it was absolutely gross.  I’m not sure what possessed me to give the “beef” a shot months later; their stuff isn’t cheap by any means, and I was still mad that I’d wasted whatever it was.  Turns out, the beefless beef was a totally different story, and these spicy, sweet-ish, easy and effortless to prepare strips are a thing of beauty and a joy forever.  I eat them at least once a month, and would more often except that 1) I don’t want to get sick of them and b) as I said, they’re not cheap.  But I can make two meals off of them if I add in a bag of frozen Broccoli Normandy mix and some rice, and it ends up being about five bucks a meal, which still isn’t cheap but is way better, and less horrendous, than anything takeout.  Gardein has a crapload of new products coming out in the wake of this year’s ExpoWest – has been posting all the fun new foods over on Instagram.  I’m particularly jazzed about the two-person frozen skillet meals.  Convenience is important, and convenience with a modicum of nutrition is always a welcome sight.

7 – Frozen Bananas

I’m a relative newcomer to the whole frozen-banana “soft serve” craze that flew around Pinterest for a while.  But this past Christmas my mom gave me my Ninja blender, as noted in my last list, and I became a fool for smoothies; obviously I had to at least try the banana thing, since I already had frozen nanners for smoothies.  Holy crap it was tasty!  My favorite combination thus far is frozen bananas, vanilla almond milk, cinnamon, brown sugar, and a bit of vanilla extract.  Om nom slurrrrrp.

8 – Haagen Dazs Sorbet – Raspberry and/or Lemon

You’d think with the proliferation of vegan frozen treats out there I’d have a favorite in one of the dairy-mimicking lines, but no, my favorite nondairy frozen thing is raspberry sorbet (with the Zesty Lemon coming in a face-puckering second place.) In fact, I have a little song I sing when I eat it, thanks to Prince:

She ate raspberry sorbet
The kind you buy at the grocery store
Raspberry sorbet
And once it was gone she’d go buy some more

Yeah, I’m weird.  I also have a taco song, to the tune of the Dreidel song:

Taco taco taco
I made you out of soy
Taco taco taco
You give me taco joy!

And let’s not forget the immortal Choppin’ Broccoli:

9 – Frozen Veggie Mixes, Especially Birdseye’s “Steamfresh”

Me and früzenveg are like *that.*  (So are me and making up silly words like früzenveg.)  Our local grocery chain, HEB, has a great store brand of veggies, but my favorite mixes are still the ones from Birdseye’s Steamfresh line:

Asparagus, White&Gold Corn, Baby Carrots
Broccoli, Cauliflower, & Carrots (aka Broccoli Normandy in other brands.)
Italian Blend
Baby Potato Blend

10 – Soy Sauce.  Any Soy Sauce. Dear God.

A few years ago I started taking lithium as a mood stabilizer, and two things became apparent within the first few days:  One, it made me pee like a racehorse; and two, it made me crave salt like a madwoman.  I’ve always been a salt slut, but Lithium actually sucks salt out of your body (partly due to all that peeing), so they warn you to keep an eye on your intake and make sure you’re getting enough.  Finally a legit medical excuse to eat more salt!  Suddenly I found I wanted soy sauce on EVERYTHING. I’m not a big rice eater, but I’ve discovered one of my favorite things to fill up on when I “don’t have anything to eat” is a bag of früzenveg with a mess of rice soaked in soy sauce (the traditional kind, shoyu; or tamari, which a lot of people favor – I honestly don’t care which).  

I’m sure there are like a dozen other things I forgot to list, but lucky me and lucky you, I have full editorial control over this blog!  MUAHAHA!  LISTS FOREVER!

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Ten Favorite Kitchen Items

While I’m working on an actual recipe to post, I figure, let’s have lists and stuff!  Everybody loves lists.

Here are my kitchen must-haves, part 1:  Non-food items, whether equipment, gadgets, or fun dishware.

These are not big things like knives or pans – to be honest I have shitty cheap Ikea knives, and cookware is one of those things where you buy what you can afford.  I’m not slave to cast iron or any other particular kind of pan.  These things are specific little doohickeys that make cooking easier for me; they’re generally inexpensive and easy to find and use.  Anything that makes cooking more fun or at least less of a chore meal-in-and-meal-out is awesome, whether it’s a big fancy stand mixer or a little silicone bowl.

1. Ninja Master Prep Blender 

Mine is smaller than the one in the picture, but I think it might have been a discontinued model – it was a Christmas gift from my parents, and it totally hooked me on smoothies and frozen banana “soft serve.”  It’s small, lightning fast, and surprisingly quiet – and it can make ice into powder in a few pulses.  Grownup boozy snowcones ahoy!

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2. Tofu XPress

This little baby has enabled me to make truly awesome tofu.  Most bad tofu you’ve eaten probably had a lot to do with how it was prepared.  The best method I’ve found involves freezing the ‘fu and then thawing it (the formation and melting of ice crystals changes the texture), then pressing the heck out of it to get as much water out as possible.  The XPress makes that part effortless – a tension spring does all the work, and you can leave it in the fridge overnight if you want (though it only takes about 30 minutes).  It’s totally dishwasher safe, very important in my world.  It’s kind of pricey for a few pieces of plastic and a spring, but if you eat much tofu (and you will once you figure out how to cook it!) it’s a godsend.  Before the XPress I was doing the traditional “bunch of books on top of a pan on top of tofu wrapped in a kitchen towel” method. Such a pain.

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3. “Write Like a Motherfucker” mug from The Rumpus


4. Oxo Good Grips Nylon Flexible Turner (in blueberry)

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Heat resistant up to 400 degrees, dishwasher/nonstick safe, flexible but not floppy – I use this thing for everything.  I should get a second one someday, in fact, just so I can have the pretty green one.  $6.99 on Amazon.

5. Lock & Lock Food Containers

This is another one I owe my mom (and her QVC habit).  I’ve used a lot of food containers but this brand is exactly what they claim to be – you can shake and spin and drop and even through them across the room and not a drop of their contents will leak.  In fact that’s how I marinate my freshly-pressed tofu – cut it up, put it in a Lock & Lock with the marinate, clamp it shut, and shake the shit out of it.  They make sort-of-bento-esque models with removable cups, item specific containers for bulk foods in the pantry, and even a tofu marinating vessel (which I didn’t know about until just now – as soon as I can afford it IT WILL BE MINE).  I don’t have anything like the collection Mom has but I’m definitely a devotee.

6.  Pinch Bowls.

Mise en place, people.  If you really want to cook without stress, you need to learn this idea – it’s French for “everything in place,” and refers to having all your ingredients and equipment prepped and ready before you even start cooking.  The best way to do that employs prep bowls – pre-chop and dice and measure out all your veg and spices and whatever else you need, and have it in bowls around the stove where you can see what you’ve already used and don’t have to stop mid-sauté to chop an onion.  This doesn’t have to involve specialist equipment – any old bowl will do.  But I’m especially fond of little bitty bowls like these adorable silicone numbers; the term “pinch” bowl means of course that you can reach in and grab a pinch of something, but in this case you can also pinch them shut partway so they’ll pour right out.

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7. The Ove Glove

No Ove Glove, no ove love.  Way less awkward than a traditional hot pad, I’ve been using an Ove Glove to take stuff out of the oven since (yes, again) my Mom gave me one for Christmas years back.  It’s made of Nomex and Kevlar, and can stand temps up to 540F.  I have a mild phobia of fire and high heat, so using regular hot pads and mitts made me really uncomfortable – I couldn’t get a good grip on what I was doing, and was always afraid of the pan slipping out of my hand.  I feel a lot more secure using a glove, and as bulky as it looks, it’s actually snug enough that it doesn’t feel like a giant monster paw like a lot of silicone gloves.

8.  Coffee Grinder

Not for coffee.  For spices.  If you’re going to use one for the latter make sure you have a separate one for the former – no matter how well you clean them, the last thing you need is turmeric in your fancy ground coffee.  Trust me, you’re going to want to grind your own spices at least sometimes once we’ve talked about it.  *stern face*  But coffee grinders are magnificent for grinding spices – this cute little KitchenAid number is less than $15, but if you look at a thrift shop or dollar store you can probably one for five dollars.  Before I got one, I used the Punk Rock Piss Off Your Downstairs Neighbor Method – I put my spices in a zippy bag and smashed them with a hammer.  Don’t do that.

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9.  Ziploc Zip’N Steam Cooking Bags

There are some disposable things I’m willing to buy, especially if they’re all that stands between me and just not cooking.  Fact:  I’m never going to buy a steamer.  Actually I think I have one somewhere, but why would I ever boil water when I can just open the microwave?  I love that so many frozen foods now come in steam-in bags, but what do you when you’re starting from raw?  Enter these beauties – specially designed for microwave steaming.  There’s even a chart on the side telling you how long to nuke your bag o’veg.  They’re awesome for potatoes – you can make life a lot easier for yourself by pre-cooking potatoes for a lot of recipes, but again, boiling them is often inconvenient.  There are other brands, these are just the ones I’ve used for years.  They’re recyclable, but not reusable as far as I can tell; there are other less disposable microwave steaming solutions, but I’ve never tried them.  Got one you love?  Let me know in comments.

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Note:  If you’re doing frozen and the bag your food is in isn’t made for steaming, don’t fret.  Set it on a plate, poke a few holes in it with a knife, and nuke it for 4 minutes.  See if it’s done enough, nuke a minute more if needed.  No, really, it can take it – I wouldn’t cook it for 20 minutes or anything, but a quick par-cooking to get the veg ready to do other stuff with won’t melt the bag.

10.  Offset Spatula

Even if you never go near a cake, you need an offset spat.  Anything that involves spreading whether it’s frosting or the top layer of a casserole is infinitely easier to deal with if you don’t have to worry about getting your knuckles in it.  They’re inexpensive, come in several sizes, and will amaze you with their usefulness.  In fact a straight spat is also really cool to have – trust me, they work better than butter knives for smoothing things over.  Spatulas are more flexible, and have the same shape on both sides, so you get an even spread you can’t get from something like a butter knife or rubber spatula that’s blade-shaped.  Angled things are great for getting into the nooks and crannies of a jar or bottle, but straight-sided spats are where it’s at for besmoothing.

Next on Stumbling Towards Ahimsa:  Indispensible Foodstuffs!

I think Indispensible Foodstuffs will be the name of my new band.

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Ten Things to Know About Me, Food, & This Blog

Welcome!  You might remember Stumbling Toward Ahimsa as a short-lived recipe blog I had going several years ago; it faded into obscurity before it had even emerged from obscurity.  This new incarnation will serve as a recipe testing ground for my eventual cookbook (as yet untitled), as well as a place for me to talk about food – its history, science, preparation, philosophy, all that happy stuff.

Here are ten important things to know about my food philosophy going in:

1. I’m an ethical vegan, or 90% of one aiming for 98%.  As such there won’t be any animal products in any of my recipes.  This will not be a vegan ranty blog, but I will occasionally talk about it, and it will probably get emotional.  This is something I consider of vital importance and it informs my entire food and cooking life. I can definitely promise no mid-recipe ambushes – I won’t stop midway through to go on about the evils of the dairy industry when you thought you were just learning how to make pudding.  All posts will be as accurately labeled as I can make them.  If I need to tell you why I use a particular ingredient over another for environmental or ethical reasons I’ll put it at the end of the recipe in a note.  AT NO POINT will there be pictures of dead baby animals or other cruelty.  I can point you toward exposés and videos that will show you the horrific reality of factory farming but I’m not going to show that kind of thing here.

2.  I’m anti-diet.  Like, vehemently.  I did write an entire book on the subject, but suffice it to say, you’ll find no Paleo, low-carb, low-fat, “diet” “skinny” “clean” or “raw” stuff here.  I don’t do gluten free – my apologies to those with actual celiac whose serious health condition has been co-opted by the weight cycling industry.  For me veganism is not a weight loss diet, it’s a way of living intended to reduce the suffering my personal choices cause to other beings on this planet and the planet herself.  It’s not about the size of my ass, it’s about the call of my conscience.

The upshot of 1&2:  Pro-diet and anti-vegan comments will be deleted.  I can’t believe I have to actually say this among adults, but:  any kind of hateful or trolling commentary, including “concern trolling”  will be deleted.  This is not a debate blog, and it’s not a democracy.  There are plenty of places out there you can argue as viciously and condescendingly as you like.  This is not one of them.  Here, I am Queen Shit of Fuck Mountain, and I have unilateral control over the delete button.

3. I am lazy.  I don’t make my own vegetable broth from scratch, I don’t cook on Sundays to have food all week.  I’m doing good to plan ahead by a day.  That is actually one of the things I’d like to work on here on the blog – I’d like my cookbook to involve meal planning for singles, cheap lazy people, and others who don’t fit the typical meal-prep demographic.  But I love convenience foods, I love frozen and canned and prechopped veggies.  I have to be choosy because of finances, but anything I can do to make it more likely those vegetables will end up in my mouth and not rotting in the Drawer of Broken Dreams is in my mind the Best Idea Ever.

4.  Hates include:  Green smoothies, excessively spicy food, cabbage, the smell of vinegar, the slimy white food group (mayonnaise, ranch dressing, yogurt, etc), cooked bananas, okra, sea vegetables or any kind of fake fish, avocados, giant burritos (soggy tortillas, ew), and so far I’m really not on board with any of the nondairy cheeses though I am willing to be persuaded otherwise; martinis.

5.  Loves include:  Broccoli and cauliflower; the smell of garam masala or simmering curry; Gardein Szechuan Beefless Strips; bread dipped in things like hummus, pesto, or olive oil with garlic; big juicy portobello mushrooms cooked up like steak; a gigantic baked potato with butter and a crispy, salty skin; roasted veg like sweet potatoes, asparagus, and carrots; frozen banana “soft serve” with peanut butter and cinnamon; veggie pakoras; simple stir fried veg with rice and lots of soy sauce; frozen then thawed tofu, marinated and baked; pasta with garlic, butter, and sauteed mushrooms; coffee flavored anything; cupcakes; pumpkin muffins; margaritas.

6. I love cookbooks.  I consider them a form of literature – most people don’t realize how much writing skill and talent goes into creating one.  Let’s face it, in the modern world cookbooks aren’t so much how-to manuals as they are books of wishes and dreams; we read them and fantasize more than we take action.  My goal is to write a cookbook that does some of both – gives you recipes you’ll use, but also something to just sit down and read on a rainy day.

7.  I suck at food photography, or at least I do now.  That’s one thing I plan on doing through this blog – I’ve been doing research, practicing, and plan to take an online course or two on food photography.  I can’t afford nifty equipment but I’ve already learned that you can do amazing work with just an iPhone and a few sheets of white posterboard.  So chances are my first forays will be dreadful, but my hope is by the time I really get the cookbook underway I’ll have improved drastically.

8.  I know a shit-ton about food.  Things you’ll read about here besides recipes will include history, science, technique, information about equipment that is genuinely useful versus what’s just counter candy.  Top ten lists of products, books, cooking shows, and other resources. I went to culinary school for about six months – just long enough for the resulting debt to outweigh what I’d accumulated from three years at university – but my real culinary education came after that, once I found a fascination with food science and history.  Some of my favorite food books aren’t even cookbooks, but histories of spices, ingredients, and trailblazers in the culinary world.  I plan to share a lot of that here.

9.  There will be affiliate links on this blog.  That means if you click on a product I mention and go buy it from Amazon, I’ll get a wee kickback from the sale.

10. Examples of some of the things you’ll see here in addition to recipes:

The Grand Unified Pancake Theory
My 10 must-have kitchen doohickies
Cooking Playlists:  Curry Night
What’s a Maillard With You? Chemical reactions on your stove
Chopped: The Drinking Game
Vanilla: It’s Anything But
Five Random Facts About Cumin

If any of that sounds fun, stick around.  Welcome aboard, fellow eaters, and enjoy!

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