Thursday, July 23, 2009

Style: Nikki, the Sentimental Thrifter

dress: Austin, TX; Belt found at estate give away in the Haight

One doesn't have to compromise on aesthetics to "live green". Nikki is a perfect example of this. She combines eco ethics with great fashion and home décor. This social worker always sports stylish thrifted outfits and adorns her beautiful Cole Valley home with furniture and bric-a-brac scored at small town antique stores, flea markets and garage sales.

Objects are always more than they seem to be. In this consumers' society, they are signs of status, wealth, social class, of whichever identity one wishes to display. But for Nikki, collecting objects is about much more than just owning valorizing stuff: every piece has a story to tell, a memory attached. Like Proust's madeleine, they transport her through time, and she can remember the circumstances, the people, the place, the smells, the weather, the sensations. She has also learned from her loved ones the art of scavenging, mending, repairing, and creatively turning used objects into something new. She's the sentimental thrifter.

Blue vintage suitcase: Portland, Oregon,
Blue polka dot dress : Austin, TX; Necklace : New Orleans

Why do you shop used?
I like treasure hunts. It's rewarding to work, to sort, to dig for that diamond in the rough. It's less wasteful to buy something second hand than to consume something new. It's more cost efficient. I like to give discarded things a new home where they will be loved (just like Joey my Chihuahua).

Joey the Rescued Chihuahua

Where do you shop?

I grew up shopping at the Goodwill in Cupertino. I still make pilgrimages back to San Jose to hit this little known goldmine. Many things in my home town have changed over the years, but the Goodwill still stands. Besides finding great stuff there, I like shopping in the same familiar building I roamed as a teenager.

"reading is sexy"
Skirt : Haight street Goodwill; Shirt: Buffalo Exchange on Valencia;
Patent belt: Austin, TX; Shoes : Goodwill Haight street
Antique chair: Alameda Flea Market

I also frequent the Goodwills in San Francisco. A friend turned me onto Savers in Daly City, which has become a favorite also. For home items, I scavenge Building Resources in the Bayview. There is a women’s shelter in my neighborhood. The residents leave all sorts of things out on the street as they are in transition. I guess you could say that I ‘shop the street’ regularly.

Sun dress: Painted bird, SF; Bandana: Williamsburg, NY

Skirt : Haight street Goodwill; Tee-shirt: Buffalo Exchange Market street;
Belt : found on street in Bayview during bike ride

What are your favorite pieces?
Many of my favorite pieces have an adventure associated with them. The thrift items become wearable souvenirs from trips I’ve taken. Like some people’s tattoos, they remind me of different times and people in my life. The pink necklace from New Orleans, the polka dot dress from Austin, the gold brooch from Portland- they are all bits of my special memories.

Red shirt: Crossroads Haight street, Marilyn skirt: Alameda flea market;
White beads : Cupertino Goodwill; Suspenders : Buffalo Exchange, Haight street

Rooster bell scored at the (sadly) now closed Pickled Hutch
in Noe Valley

Do you use stuff for other purposes?
Yes, it's good fun. Mom’s pitcher holds cooking utensils. Dad’s toothpick cup now offers Qtips. Soup pot becomes garden pot. Spaghetti jar becomes vase. The possibilies are endless.

Mom’s pitcher holds cooking utensils

What do you suggest for recycled gift ideas?
I make cards out of flyers I find, out of scrap paper, ribbons and out of old magazines.
I like getting dishware at garage sales and filling them with a home made food treat.
Old glasses can be shined and served up on a vintage tray. A lonely piece of crystal from a broken chandelier transformed into a gift necklace.

Nikki's apron collection

Nikki's homemade cards made of reused materials

A gift for a friend: this chandelier part is now a vase

Do you mend?
Bien sûr. And staple and tape and pin. Whatever it takes! Grandma’s sewing machine is a girl’s best friend for mending and alterations.

Knit shirt : Savers Daly city; Pleated skirt : Goodwill Cupertino;
Broche : Goodwill Portland;
Shoes : Goodwill Haight street; Sparkle belt Austin, TX

grandma's sewing machine, vintage fabric

vintage fabric

What are your tips to earn karma points?
Growing my own food.

Nikki's garden (here: zucchini plants)

herb garden

this over 10 y.o. plant was saved and is now thriving

Dad's lilies

the seeds of this corn were a gift from a squirrel

Nikki can be found walking her chihuhua Joey in Cole Valley, training for triathlons in the chilly San Francisco Bay, sharing with friends some home-made rosemary-infused vodka, or in a cute vintage apron, cooking elaborate vegan dinners with Queer Food For Love.

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Vegan Dessert Challenge

ice-cream sandwiches

Here are two ideas for delicious vegan desserts: ice-cream sandwiches and chocolate-walnuts zucchini cake. The first one is quick and cute, perfect when you are in a rush but still want to make an impression, and the second one is rich and decadent, when you really want to make a statement.

One of the things non-vegans usually say about vegan pastry is how inferior it is to the "real thing", that what it has in good intentions, it lacks in taste. I find such statements not only unfair, but also very butter-&-lard-centric!

Chocolate Walnut Zucchini Cake
(made by Nikki and Greg)

There was an episode a couple of nights ago when my good friend Jenn -a talented cook and the sister of a celebrated pastry chef- decided to make impromptu cupcakes at a friend's house, and to make them vegan for my sake. Isn't that sweet? However, an inner voice kept prompting me to tell her to forget about it and stick to something she would normally make, because, if the attempt failed, the vegan would be blamed for spoiling everyone's pleasure!

Brittney's Strawberry-Banana-Coconut Milk Muffins

Of course, something went wrong, the kitchen did not have the right kind of chocolate, and the cupcakes turned out super blah, which, sadly, seemed to settle once and for all the case of the inferiority of vegan pastry. I did argue that another friend had made those very same cupcakes with the right kind of chocolate and they had turned out lip-smacking good, but my statement was probably attributed to my unreliable taste buds and filed under "pathetic attempt at vegan propaganda".

Vegan desserts are not inferior, just out of the Western norm where butter, dairy cream, eggs and sometimes lard prevail. Western tastebuds are just dairy-centric, that's all! When I became vegan, rather than lowering my standards, I believe I expanded my horizons. I do know for sure that butter tastes good, and so does dairy cream, and cheese: I'm French, I was raised on the best stuff! But I also know for sure that there's much more to life than this, even from a purely pleasure-based point of view. Dairy-centered folks are missing out on tastes and textures that truly deserve praise. How sad!

These were from a Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World recipe...
(the Book, the Blog) -picture by Yasmin

The only thing we can do is to convince the agnostics by blowing their minds with incredible goodness! It doesn't sound so awful, does it? (Except maybe for your waistline...)

Ice-cream sandwiches
These were my contribution to a cocktail party. I knew the homemade beverages were going to be fancy and elaborate, and served in pretty thrifted glasses. I wanted to contribute with something bite-size that would look very cute.

Sorbet or non-dairy ice-cream
Small-sized vegan cookies

These delicate little thing complemented the fancy beverages.
In the pitcher: Greg's Limoncello Punch.

I simply went to the store and purchased fruit-sweetened raspberry sorbet and lemon cookies. I then made the sandwiches in 10 minutes, at the party. Easy peasy!

Of course, you can also be truly amazing and make your own cookies and ice-cream...

raspberry + lemon= yum!

kinda cute...

Decadent Chocolate-Walnut Zucchini Cake

This recipe comes directly from the Post Punk Kitchen Website.

Dang! I gained three pounds just uploading the photo...

bundt pan, mixing bowls

2 1/2 cups grated, peeled, fresh zuchini
2 ripe bananas, mashed well
1 cup canola oil
3 cups flour
2 cups sugar*
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup ground walnuts
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
*I could cut a little bit of sugar...

In medium sized mixing bowl, combine zucchini, bananas, oil, and vanilla. Stir well or beat with electric mixer if you want to be fancy. In large bowl, combine all remaining ingredients except chocolate. Add wet mixture to dry, mix well and add chocolate chips. Pour into lightly greased and floured bundt pan. Bake at 350 for 45-60 minutes, until toothpick or knife inserted comes out clean. Let cool upright 15 minutes, then invert onto cooling rack. Allow to cool 30 minutes before tasting. Enjoy!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Vegan Smoked Bacon Crumbs

I love smoked foods. Unfortunately the taste is mostly found in animal products (meats, fish flesh, and those delicious smoked cheeses...). Thankfully, there is this thing called smoked salt, which, added to your recipes, renders that special flavor.

I used it for the first time to make a mean baked beans dip. Then my friend Yasmin seasoned a Cajun stew with it, and I believe it made the flavor more subtil and "authentic". I also substituted it to regular salt in simple black beans and it made me feel like a Woman of the Wild West... (Yes, some simple American things are still exotic to me and evoke a mythical past!)

My favorite smoked creation is fake bacon crumbs made with crushed almonds. It's a great way of making use of the almond pulp that remains after making your own almond milk. Almonds give the "fakon bits" a pleasant crunchy texture.

You can sprinkle it on a simple salad, or include it in a vegan quiche.

this salad never knew what hit it...

1 cup of Almond Pulp
3 tbsp* Smoked Salt
2 tbsp* wheat-free tamari (or any soy sauce)
Vegetable oil (1 tbsp, to cover the bottom of the dish)
*I never bother to measure...

unsung heroes: wheat-free tamari and hickory smoked salt

oven dish with a large flat surface

Preheat the oven to 350º
Mix the ingredients until you reach desired taste (it should be VERY salty and smoky)
Lay the pulp flat on a dish
Roast for about 30 minutes (do check regularly, the time depends on the oven and the amount of pulp)
It should come out brown, but watch out because it burns easily if roasted for too long. Take it out of the oven when it's brown but not too much. Actually, some bits might still be light brown and a little wet: they'll become all dry and crunchy while cooling down.

the finished product

bacon bits make this simple salad very exciting