Wednesday, February 28, 2007

PRISM and Pride High at WonderCon!


For more information on WonderCon 2007 in San Francisco, please visit http://www.comic-con.org/wc/.

Feb. Challenge, Conclusion

So today marks the end of the February $100 challenge. I didn't meet my goal (I spent $150), but I still learned a lot. Specifically I've gained newfound empathy for parents on a budget. Pride High is my baby. It requires not only a lot of money, but a lot of time & energy. And at the end of the day, I'm so glad that I'm doing this. I don't go out very often anymore, I rarely watch TV (I catch Heroes online), I don't socialize with friends as much... but I don't regret the domestication of my life. The comic book is part of realizing a dream, and all these things I do, I do them gladly. I realize I'm stretching the metaphor rather thinly, but there you have it!

Monday, February 26, 2007

Oasis Magazine

I was recently interviewed by Oasis Magazine, an online publication geared toward LGBT youth:

Oasis Magazine article on Pride High

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Pride High #3 now available in print!

The third issue of Pride High, "Unison," is now available in print through IndyPlanet.com!

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Bike Wheel Stolen

One of the real estate agents asked for help with an open house this weekend. She offered $120 total for Saturday & Sunday, so I thought "why not?" All I had to do was let people in, and the rest of the time I read Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire. And then at the end, when I was collecting the signs, I realized that someone had ripped the back tire of my bike off. I went to the bike shop, put in an order to have the tire replaced, and with new rim, inner tube, puncture resistant tire and labor -- the total came out to $130. And I still have to go in and help tomorrow. Ugh.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

$11.63, Falafel

After last week's akara, I decided to stock the freezer with another deep-fried bean dish. This time around I chose falafel. There are tons of recipes online, but the more authentic ones feature uncooked beans. I've made falafel before with canned beans, and the taste and texture are noticeably different. Not bad per se, but the dry bean version is cheaper. As with many of my recipes, I like to spice things up just a bit. Feel free to improvise.

Verdant's Spicy Falafel

2 lbs dry chickpeas
1 bunch parsley
1 dozen garlic cloves (Add more if you like. I do!)
4-6 carrots (personal improvisation, totally optional)
3 Tbsp ground coriander
3 Tbsp ground cumin
3 Tbsp cayenne
1 Tbsp black pepper
4 tsp salt (feel free to adjust)
2 tsp baking soda (optional - if you prefer denser falafel, leave it out, which is what I did)
Oil for deep-frying



Soak the beans overnight in plenty of water. Grind all the ingredients together with enough water to make a very thick batter. You should be able to make little patties in the palm of your hand. Make a few patties in advance if you like, and heat oil to 350-375 degrees F. Oil is ready once a small piece of batter bobs immediately to the surface once dropped in. Fry until golden brown.



Drain on paper towels. Like akara, these freeze well.



Falafel



Chickpeas, carrots, garlic, & parsley - $4.95

The $100 February Challenge

Saturday, February 17, 2007

$16.58

This week went well. I made a large batch of black beans from the pantry.



Combined with the free juice from work, this provided lunch for the entire week, except for Friday.



Dinners were the same every night, but with my love of deep-fried food, I didn't mind at all. Plus, a little bit of teriyaki sauce and srirachi make rice damn good.



Friday was special, as I was treated to an AMAZING lunch at the home of Tuan & George, two real estate agents I work with. I really wish I had my camera with me. Their home was AMAZING. The whole theme was modern Asian, with bamboo accents and black lacquer throughout. Writing that out just doesn't do it justice. If I ever make it back there, I'm taking pictures! Lunch consisted of baked brie with shiitake sauteed in garlic olive oil and a French-Vietnamese platter of potatoes, beets, and snow peas. I have no idea what the dish is called, but it kicked butt.

Later that night Paul & Dex (the creators of Pandemonium) treated me to dinner at Malacca, an Indonesian restaurant with Portuguese and Chinese influences. Not a bad week at all!

$3.24 - Red Sonja, Annual 1

The $100 February Challenge

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Monday, February 12, 2007

$19.82, Blood Work

I got my blood work results back from the hospital and everything looks great. The last time I had my cholesterol checked it was at 118, after I had been a vegan for several years. After I reintroduced eggs and dairy into my diet, I worried a bit that my cholesterol might shoot up. 2 years later my fears have been put to rest with my latest cholesterol reading of 123 total cholesterol and 47 HDL.

The only items of concern were my hematocrit and hemoglobin levels, both indicators of anemia. Though I'm not anemic, I was on the low end of for both readings. I eat plenty of iron-rich foods, but as a vegetarian, it helps to have vitamin C with an iron-rich meal, as it aids the absorption of non-heme iron. I've been pretty lax about that combination for a while now, but now I've got a good reason to get through the box of grapefruit that's been sitting in the pantry since late December. Amazingly they're still fresh!

On the budget front, I cooked up a large batch of black beans from the pantry which should get me through the week for lunch. With the unexpected windfall from my tax return, I also purchased a $62.00 bamboo cutting board, but I'm not counting it toward the $100 challenge. I've gone a year without a proper cutting board. With all the cooking I've been doing, it was about time!

$1.25 - cheese roll (last one I'm having this month)

The $100 February Challenge

Friday, February 09, 2007

$21.07, Speckled Akara

Akara is a Nigerian snack of deep-fried black eyed peas. I took some liberties with the traditional recipe, but the results were still delicious. They're a lot like South Indian vadas, which are also made from a legume batter and deep-fried.

Verdant's Speckled Akara

1 lb dry black eyed peas, soaked overnight
1 lb dry kidney beans, soaked overnight
(don't use canned beans!)
2 eggs
8 cloves of garlic
3 Tbsp red chili flakes
1 cup chopped onion
1 Tbsp black pepper
1 Tbsp salt
water as needed
oil for deep-frying



Traditionally, the black eyed peas are rubbed by hand to remove the skins. I didn't bother. In a heavy-duty blender, grind together all the ingredients except for the oil. Add water to blend everything together, but only add just as much as needed. You want a very thick batter.



Heat the oil to 350 - 375 degrees F. Use a long-handled spoon to scoop a bit of batter up, and use a regular spoon to slide it off the spoon into the oil.



After a minute, flip over and add a new batch. Once the newest ones are ready to flip over, the others are done. This recipe garned nearly 200 pieces of akara (estimated after counting one plate of 30). I named my particular rendition of this dish "speckled" for the pattern that the bean skins and red chili flakes made.



Deep-fried bean snacks like these freeze very well. To munch on them later, just pre-heat the oven to 350 F, toss them on a cookie sheet and cook for 10 minutes. No need to grease the pan.



Akara topped with Sriracha hot sauce, served with rice and toor dal



$9.89 - gallon of corn oil
$4.18 - 5 lbs white rice & 1 lb black eyed peas
$3.75 - 3 cheese rolls

The $100 February Challenge

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

$38.89, Toor Dal, again!

Channa dal used to be my hands-down favorite, but I'm not so sure anymore after that last batch of toor dal. I think it was the addition of fennel to the tarka and the black cardamom to the pot. In total volume, neither spice contributes as much compared to the big three I use (cumin, coriander, and mustard seed), but in flavor they meld really well with the taste and texture of toor dal. I was in the mood to make things even fancier than last time. Rather than the basic recipe, I went with this instead:

Ingredients

A
1 lb dry toor dal / split pigeon peas
4 cups of water (add more as necessary while cooking according preferred texture)
1 tsp oil
1 heaping Tbsp of turmeric
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 whole cloves
2 crushed black cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick

B
1 Tbsp cumin seed
1 Tbsp mustard seed
1 Tbsp sesame seed
1 tsp fennel seed
1 tsp whole black peppercorns
1/2 tsp hing
2 bay leaves
2 - 4 Tbsp oil

C
1 Tbsp coriander powder
1 Tbsp cayenne
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp paprika



Mix A well and bring to a rapid boil. The little bit of oil added to the water prevents foaming from getting out of control. I was able to take a shower while this was on a hard boil without any worries. Also, if you don't already have a garlic press, I highly recommend you get one. It's made it a lot easier to add fresh garlic to my meals.



After about 30 min or so, start checking the toor dal for tenderness. I've found that this bean can really vary on the amount of time it takes to cook according to how long it's been sitting in the pantry. Lower A to a simmer.

In a separate small sauce pan, saute B. This method of frying spices prior to inclusion in a dish is known as tarka / tempering / chaunk.




Once the mustard seeds begin to pop turn the heat off and add C. The ambient heat will quickly fry the ground spices. Cayenne and paprika can become very bitter if they burn, so stir everything rapidly, then add B & C to A.



Mix well, boil down to your preferred thickness, and serve with rice.

Verdant's Toor Dal


$0.00 (all from raiding the pantry)

$38.89, Sausage Factory

My new roommate Sydney and had dinner last night at one of the best-named restaurants for a gay neighborhood, the Sausage Factory. When she first asked if I wanted to go to a restaurant, I reminded her of the whole budget thing. And then she reminded me that I treated her to dinner at Hahn's Hibachi back in January, and so the meal was on her. Score!

I had the fettucine pesto. It was good, but I really miss the homemade pesto I used to make back in Florida. My ex, Doug, had several varieties of basil that he grew in large pots on the porch. The plants really thrived, and I could harvest two cups worth of leaves every week!

$0.00

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

$38.89, Red Beans & Rice

Creole Red Beans and Rice is one of my favorite dishes. And for the quantity the standard recipes yields, it's pretty cheap. I made a batch last night using Chuck Taggart's Red Beans and Rice recipe.



The last time I featured this on my blog I used fried tempeh for a "bacony" flavor, but tight budget = no frills.



Creole Red Beans & Rice



$4.67 - 2 lbs kidney beans, 28oz brown rice
$4.01 - onion, green bell pepper, celery

Sunday, February 04, 2007

$47.57, Rebel Girl / Moron

Last night I went out dancing with my new roommate Sydney and her friends. It was a lesbian club night called "Rebel Girl." Given the lack of dance nights in the city for women, I wanted to show my support. I gave two copies of Pride High #1 to the DJs. Rebel Girl is totally the sort of thing I'd like to advertise in the comic book. Though I have to say, when "Push It" starts blasting in a room full of lesbians, it's time to leave the dancefloor! I got jostled around like a ping pong ball in a lottery tumbler!

Though none of this has anything to do with why I am a complete moron. Here's an excerpt of the email my Aussie ex sent me: "If you're free this Sunday (4th) of Feb, I'd like to catch up."

I have no idea how I got the dates mixed up like that!

Dinner with ex-bfs can be awkard to say the very least, but thankfully that wasn't the case with Rob. We had a good time catching up. It was definitely worth the $.

$7.00 - Rebel Girl cover charge
$12.70 - Thai House Express

Friday, February 02, 2007

$67.27, The Aussie Ex

With my mind on the declining health of a good friend and delays with Issue 3 of Pride High, I nearly forgot about plans for dinner with my Australian ex with the sexy accent, Rob. Unfortunately, we no longer had each other's numbers, so dinner didn't happen. I went home and had leftover toor dal. At least I got that long overdue haircut.

Expenditures:
$1.25 - cheese roll
$25 - haircut
$3.24 - Midnighter #2

Thursday, February 01, 2007

$96.76, Toor Dal

I really had the urge to splurge after a rough day of work. And I really didn't feel like walking home or cooking after work. But I stuck to the plan. I wasn't about to wimp out on the FIRST day. I raided the pantry again and found a bag of toor dal (dried pigeon peas) that I purchased about a year ago. I love the shelf life of dried beans. I had sambar in mind, but since I didn't have tamarind extract, I just followed this basic dal recipe, just with toor dal instead.

The bulk of my meals this week have consisted of leftover split pea soup (I cooked a gargantuan amount on Monday) and whole yogurt. I'm not on a diet, so I decided to get the cream top vanilla yogurt, since it packs more calories for your buck. And omg, cream top vanilla is SOOOOOO GOOD! I'm not sure I'll ever be able to go back to nonfat.

To add some veggies to my meals, I've added kimchi to the split pea soup. Not exactly a traditional combo, it's pretty good. The cold kimchi has the added benefit of cooling piping hot soup down just enough to savor sans tongue-burn.

Work is another budget-saver. There's free tea and juice, and often agents will offer to buy me something when they head out for coffee. Though I appreciated the gesture, I used to refuse. But with this budget crunch? Bring on the free food! I had a free egg salad sandwich for lunch yesterday, one of my favorites.

Expenditures:
$1.25 - cheese roll from Noe Valley Bakery
$1.99 - iTunes download for Battlestar Galactica's latest episode

$100 February Challenge

Once again I'm REALLY feeling the budget pinch from the comic book. So I'm taking up a new challenge for the month of February. I'm going to withdraw $100 from the ATM and see if I can last the entire month on just that for both food and miscellaneous purchases. Obviously I'll have to cut out all the Chinese food I've been ordering recently, along with the sushi nights and Indian brunch buffets that just rack up too much $$$. I'm also going to walk or bike to work every day like I used to. It only occured to me yesterday that using the bus to get over the huge hill to Noe Valley costs $60 a month! Since bus tickets are $1.50, I just never really thought about how that little bit accumulates over a month's time. $1.50 each way, 5 times a week... with only $100 to spend in February the bus is definitely out. I'm still going to try to eat well, as well as have fun. It's going to be a challenge, but I'm up for it. Anything for Pride High!