Monday, November 27, 2006

Monster post: Treats, Sweets and Some Real Food, Too.

I hope you all had a lovely weekend. My brother-in-law and his wife headed back up to Seattle late Friday night because Max had a lot of stuff to get done for a work project that was due today. Sadly, they missed out on weekend brunch. Now, I know this is going to be, like, the third time in the past month I've posted pumpkin pancakes using the VwaV waffle recipe, but this time there's a twist:

A new, fantastic way to use up extra cranberry sauce! Katie's cranberry sauce was dee-lish and I had to figure out a way to eat some more, since Jim won't help in that department. It was very yummy, alongside our standard rosemary potatoes.

Jim and I got to go on a little road trip on Sunday to Eugene, about 2 1/2 hours south of Portland. We finally sold a car that we've been trying to sell for a few months and the buyer, who lives in southern Oregon, asked if we could meet halfway. The weather was looking ominous, so we didn't get to do much exploring, but we did make a stop at a bakery that I'd heard much about, Sweet Life Patisserie . It is a hopping little bakery that offers quite the spread of vegan treats.

This isn't the best photo ever, but it gives you an idea of the amazing and beautiful cakes that were all vegan. All of their cakes, vegan and otherwise, were really well priced, too, with whole cakes ranging from $15-30. Not too shabby.

This is a shot of some Mexican chocolate pots and chocolate dipped cookie sandwiches, both of which are vegan.

Some muffins and some incredible looking cinnamon rolls, schmeared with a thick vegan frosting. Wowzers! Jim and I were overloaded with options!

Jim really wanted something savory. Unlike me, he can't eat sweets on an empty tank. This was a Mediterranean pizzatta:

A soft, doughy roll smeared with hummus, spinach and roasted red peppers.

I'm a full believer in dessert first, so I got a pizzatta to go and indulged in a slice of possibly the best cheesecake I've ever had:

This was a tofu-based cheesecake. I didn't really think it was possible for a tofu cheesecake to taste good, let alone unbelievable! It was truly creamy, flavorful, sweet without being too sweet and just plain heavenly. The crust had the occasional little granule of salt, making it a fantastic taste experience. Sweet Life is clearly a hot spot in Eugene, at 4 on a Sunday the place was packed and we had to sit outside in the chilly weather to get a seat.

Last night, after getting home from our trip, we started decorating our tree! This is the first year in 2 years that we've had a regular tree setup because Linus is so crappy with it, but I really, really wanted a tree. So far, so good.

It's over half decorated, minus about a foot and a half of the bottom to minimize destruction via chewing.

I gave Bindhi the aerial tour of the tree. She liked sniffing all of the ornaments.

Today I did some bulk cooking. I had a few random ingredients that I wasn't sure what to do with, so I turned to my trusted friend, Martha Stewart.

Let me take a moment to talk about my serious love for Martha. Many people criticize her and dislike her, but I genuinely respect her from the bottom of my heart and this is why: She came from a generation of women who began to shun the domesticity usually associtated with women and then the tide began to change and people looked down their nose on domestic things like cooking and crafting. Martha stepped up and showed that you can be a successful business person and still enjoy making table centerpieces. I spent a large portion of my adolescence feeling ashamed that I liked to do things like decorate cookies and make handmade gifts because I felt this societal pressure that I was supposed to be "beyond" that. Thankfully, people have hung in there and now there is a whole crafty industry thriving from what I trace back to Martha's trailblazing. You can have your cake and eat it, too, so to speak. You can be an independent woman and a feminist and you don't have to reject things that are historically "girly" to do so. Because you have the choice of whether or not to do it in the first place. So that is why I love Martha Stewart, even if she eats meat and can be a bitch. You can't be perfect, I suppose, and at least her daughter is a vegetarian and got Martha to swear off fur. It's a start.

Anyway, I had some mushrooms I really needed to do something with because they were on their way out. A quick search her website came up with this recipe for Mushroom Barley Soup.

I altered the recipe by using 2 cups of sliced, chopped fresh cremini mushrooms instead of the dried ones and instead of using some sour cream, I just whisked the flour and 1 tablespoon of cornstarch into 1 cup of soy milk and added that to thicken it. I also pureed a couple of cups of the soup to really make it hardy and thick. I cooked up some wild rice to pack it up with for a very stick-to-your ribs meal that reminds me of Minnesota winters. I can never eat wild rice without thinking of Minnesota.

Then I wanted to try cooking with millet, which is new to my cooking and this recipe also used up a stray sweet potato that was lingering in my pantry as well.

These are millet Veggie Burgers. I didn't have any parsley or peas (how did I run out of peas?!), but otherwise I stuck to the recipe. This makes 8 really big patties, so next time I will halve the recipe. We really liked them a lot. The sesame seed oil along with the spices created a truly complex flavor. They are like other typical patties, a little delicate and I recommend refrigerating them for at least an hour. We just had them on a toasted Dave's Killer Bread baguette with baby romaine lettuce, tomato and the standard fixin's and some green beans, or as Jim decided to rename them tonight, green French fries. The boy is weird.

After dinner we had to have dessert! I couldn't leave Sweet Life having tried only one treat, so we got this chocolate raspberry cake to go.

It was just as heavenly as it looks, if a tad too rich, but it was good for sharing.

Breakfast muffins: I got to use up some more homemade marmalade with these Orange Marmalade muffins from May All Be Fed, the recipe portion of a John Robbins book.
alt="" />
The recipes in this book are really well-rounded and this particular muffin recipe has no added sugar, it uses the marmalade and orange juice for sweetness. They are yummy, but next time I'm going to add some vanilla to make them taste like orange creamsicles. I plan on doing more cooking from this book soon, it's been getting neglected on my book shelf.

Okay, now I've been up far too late! I need to go to bed, so I'll respond to comments on my previous post tomorrow. Night!

Friday, November 24, 2006

It's NOT Turkey Day!

Or, at least, it wasn't in our house!

My brother-in-law, this wife and our friends Chris and his wife spent Thanksgiving with us yesterday and we had a very fun afternoon/evening stuffing ourselves silly, chatting and playing games. My brother-in-law, Max and his wife Katie (yes, we had 2 Chris/Kris' and a Kate/Katie combo) are getting ready this morning, so I thought I would sneak in a food post!

Sweet potatoes with caramlized apple bits on top (they didn't really carmelize that well) from Martha Stewart (links to recipe).

Kate's amazing stuffing that I'm now worshipping her for. Stuffing, to me, is the essential element of Thanksgiving and this was some very exceptional stuffing.

A garbanzo/mushroom/walnut loaf wrapped in puff pastry. The recipe was from Michelle. It was a lovely loaf that was very impressive and so easy, I whipped together the filling the night before and just had to stuff and bake them the next day.

Focaccia bread, trying to keep warm in the bread basket.

Chickpea gravy and Katie's incredible cranberry sauce. In the distance you can see the top of the banana peanut butter cake. The gravy was great as always (thank you Isa!) and Katie's cranberry sauce was the perfect mixture of fragrant, tart, sweet and spiced.

A pan holding dozens and dozens of cooked pierogi. Yum! It's always nice to have the memory of my grandma around when I can, in action. Normally this would be a Christmas treat, but it was nice to shake things up a bit. Aren't I a loose cannon, this is how I live on the wild side, forgoing mashed potatoes for pierogi. Whoo-hoo!

I didn't get pictures of dessert! We had the banana peanut butter cake I've posted about before as well as a Sweet Pea Bakery pumpkin pie, with vanilla ice cream and some Soyatoo Whipped Cream on top.

I hope you all had a lovely holiday and ate lots of goodies! I look forward to blog hopping and seeing what you are up to this weekend. While I have issues with the foundation of Thanksgiving really just being a Hallmark attempt at glossing over decades of cultural genocide, I also like to just make it my own thing because it's not going to go away and if we can turn it into something significant and meaningful now, then that's a step. And I figure when we have kids, I'll set them straight anyhow. As for me, in my book, today marks the first day of the Christmas season and I'm ready to decorate and be joyful, darnit!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Quick Pre-Thanksgiving Post

Yesterday, which was 2 days before Thanksgiving, I went to the grocery store after work and they were directing traffic! It was madness, but I was able to pick up my last few items and also pop by a new location of a local pizza chain that just opened up in the same strip.

Here are some Hot Lips vegan slices. Red sauce with red bell pepper, onion, kalmata olives, basil pineapple and possibly some other things I'm forgetting. The pineapple was removed prior to eating. Not on our pizza, thanks.

Prepping some food stuff for the big day, I made some garlic potato filled pierogi.

Here they are post boiling, prior to going into the freezer for a quick freeze. They'll be served fried up with onions and Earth Balance, yum! Normally pierogi would be a Christmas dinner thing for my family, but this year I decided to change things up a bit.

There will be a turkey in the middle of our table this year and her name is Oakly.

This is the 3rd year we've participated in Farm Sanctuary's Turkey Adoption Program. Oakly caught more than just our eye, because Leslie cooincidentally adopted her too!

Our menu:
garbanzo, walnut and mushroom loaf wrapped in a puff pastry
sundried tomato foccacia
mashed yam recipe with carmalized apples on top from Martha Stewart Living
stuffing, courtesy of Kate
cranberry sauce, courtesy of my sister-in-law Katie
roasted mini squash
chickpea gravy

pumpkin pie from Sweet Pea Bakery
banana peanut butter chocolate cake

There will be many pictures to show, I'm sure! I hope you all have a lovely, cruelty-free holiday with lots of food! Give your omni family members the greatest gift you can- a guilt trip about their eating habits! ;)

Monday, November 20, 2006

Thank you, updates and food.

Thanks to everyone for your condolences and support. While I knew we were attached to her, I didn't really realize how hard it truly was going to be. Moussa passed away while we were at work on Friday. We had known that this was going to happen for awhile now, but it was still a surprise, in a way. We felt happy that she was able to live with us in our home, so that we could bury her here. A few weeks ago, when she first started acting elderly, we went out and bought a little wooden box, figuring it was best to be prepared. Friday night Jim and I both wrote her a little note to tuck into the box and Jim took care of situating her in the box with some cotton fluff. It was dark and raining, so we left it in the cage. That night I woke up to see Linus staring into her cage, waiting for her to come out and play. It was utterly heart-breaking and I went and brought him into bed with us.

We weren't able to bury her until Sunday. It's amazing how once someone is a part of your life, it can be so hard to let go of old habits. I still keeping going up to the bedroom as soon as I come home to make sure the temperature is alright. I woke up last night because of the heat vent squeaking, thinking that it was her wheel and wondering if it needed to be adjusted. The spot where her cage was is not just a gaping hole on our dressers, but in our lives. I think what makes it so hard is that it's difficult to get closure from a relationship like that. We were infatuated with her and she was barely aware of us. There was no real way to say goodbye.

The passing is hard and then having to actually deal with it is its own thing. Jim, I know, is dealing with this much harder than he'd imagined. But he has had to actually deal with it, so that makes sense. He was the bearer of bad news to me, he took care of the coffin, he dug the grave, he cleaned the cage. I don't know what I would do without his strength because I'm a blubbering mess. So thank you all. Moussa really was a loved and special part of our lives and I'm glad that I was able to share her light with all of you.

Now, for all of our sake's, let's turn to less-serious matters: food.

Saturday was the Vegan Holiday Festival here in Portland. This was the first year of it and judging by the turn out and response, there will be many more to come. Jim came to help set up and ended up staying the whole day to check out the speakers who included Brendan Brazier, a vegan triathalon winner, and the famous Howard Lyman. Jim really liked Brendan's presentation and he adored Howard Lyman.

There was food, food and more food to be found! Samples out the wa-zoo, I tell you! I am curious to know what other attendees ate, though, because I got kind of sick that night and I heard a few other people did too. Jim and I ate most of the same things, though, and he was fine. It may have just been that I ate some junk, but I really didn't eat that much. Anyway, not to put a bad spin on it, because it was a really fun day.

I was super busy working at the Herbivore tables, so naturally I forgot to take pictures. Purely Decadent was there giving out 1/2 cup mini-pints of ice cream all day long. I thought for sure they would run out, but they didn't. I had a pecan praline one that was heavenly. Toby's was there with tofu pate samples, Tofurky was there, a hemp company called Living Harvest, giving out samples of their soon-to-be-released hemp milk! It was wonderful. There were tangible, non-digestible goods as well, but there was a lot of food. The only picture I did take was a festive cupcake from Sweetpea Bakery:

I didn't eat it, I just took the picture before it was consumed. All in all, it was a good and eventful day. Plus I met Jess and Erica which was very cool.

This isn't a terribly exciting picture, but it was a departure from my normal breakfast, so I found it photoworthy.

I usually eat oatmeal with fruit or fruit with soy yogurt, but last week, as I was about to thaw some frozen berries, I thought about making a smoothie. I hadn't even unpacked my blender from move up here, so finding it was a bit of a challenge, but I was able to dig it out and I made this smoothie with some frozen berries, some peaches, almond milk, pomegranate juice and some ground flaxseeds. It was a delicious and filling treat, along with a thawed orange poppyseed muffin that I baked the week before, with a little bit of Earth Balance melting inside.

Yesterday night, the night after the festival, I woke up feeling not-so-good, so I had to call in to work on Sunday, which I spent getting pampered on the couch by Jim. I spent most of the day eating bland food and drinking ginger tea, but later that evening I wanted something more substantial, so Jim made some brown rice and thawed out some chili that was living in our freezer.

Not a terribly eventful picture, but more interesting than a stockpot of soup, like I've been doing so much of lately! Topped with a spoonful of salsa and a dollop of Toffuti sour cream.

Tonight I made a veggie burger that I got at Trader Joe's. The brand is Dr. Praegger and they were California burgers.

They are truly veggie burgers, as was evidenced by the bright green block I pulled out of the box. The ingredients read like the contents of a vegetable crisper. I cooked it in a splash of canola oil and ate it bare-bones on part of a Dave's Killer Bread Peace Bomb, along with some chips and salsa. The burger was good, if a bit flavorless. At least it's full of good stuff!

For those of you who didn't know this, I recently found out about a policy that Trader Joe's has that will most likely be of interest to you. TJ's will not carry foods that contain GMO's. This is a relief as someone who normally avoids anything that contains soy or corn ingredients unless it's organic. While I still prefer organics over anything else, it's nice to know that if I want to get something there, I at least don't need to worry about Frankenfoods.

And, in case you've never seen this, this video is a must-see for all vegans and vegetarians alike and is sure to put a smile on your face:

Friday, November 17, 2006

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Newspaper article and the kitty parade!

There was an article run in the Portland Tribune this week about the vegan community here, the resources available, and the migration of vegans from all over the country. Because we moved here for the community, the writer interviewed me a few weeks ago. 1 1/2 hours of conversation yielded a quote I never actually said, but whatever, it's still a good article. You can read it here.

Okay, I decided to do a little sampling of my kitty pictures and put them up here. There are just so many of them and they are so cute! 3 years ago we bought a digital camera to "start documenting our life together". At this point that amounts to approximately 5-6 pictures of us and over 3000 of the cats. I'm not kidding. They are just so cute!

Here's a lovely picture of my sweet little Ravi. We adopted Ravi from a coworker of mine on Thanksgiving weekend 2002. He's a totally mama's boy.

Here are Ravi and Bindhi, snuggling next to our fake fireplace at an apartment we lived at in Mesa. This was the winter after we found her, so she's only about 6 months old in this pic. It's hard to tell, but she's a lot smaller than Ravi in this picture. Bindhi was found on the side of the road in AZ, in July and she was only 4 weeks old. But man, she was one tough little cat! She put us through the ringer!

This is a classic Bindhi moment, when she was a little kid. She dug out this roll of t.p. on her own, but she was so cute, I just had to capture the moment and let her play with it.

A cute picture of Linus that Jim took during an extensive photo shoot while he was figuring out all of the setting on our camera. Linus loves the camera and if you have it out, you have to take a picture of him or he will make your life hell. Every night I take pictures of my food, he hears the camera, walks into the kitchen and starts yelling, so I have to take his picture as well. Linus was from a shelter in Minnesota.

Linus and Ravi when Ravi was a wee one. My baby boys!

We hardly ever have them all in one spot. This was also when we lived in Mesa. Linus likes Bindhi's company, but he's never been very big on Bindhi touching him, so this is a big moment for them. You can see Ravi's legs sprawled in the background.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

A mini-rant, soups, muffins and cat.

I just wanted to clarify, because there seems to be a bit of confusion, that the drawing for the goodies was random. I don't want you guys thinking I was judging it based on how "good" your memory was. I just wanted entering to be more interactive than just submitting your name and I thought that would be a fun activity.

On a different subject, I ran to the store today. In order for us to buy a house on our limited budget, Jim and I live in very east SE Portland. We live far enough out that Portland is our mailing address but when we tell people where we live their first response is always to laugh at us. But I don't care, we have a house that is ours and that's all that matters to me. Plus, Portland is so small compared to other cities I've lived in, everyone thinks everything is so far away, when in reality I can get to downtown in 20 minutes on the side streets, 10 on the highway. That's not far away. It is, however, inconvenient when I just need to get one or two things at the grocery store and I don't want to go on a field trip. Thankfully, there is a Fred Meyer just a few blocks from us. For those who don't have Fred Meyer, it's like a cross between a Wal-mart and Target. They are very big and you can buy your groceries and get name brand clothing and shoes. The quality isn't as cheap as Wal-mart, nor as nice as Target. But the workers are always nice from my experience, leading me to believe that they are paid better and taken better care of than other places. And they have a nice natural food section, with organic bulk selections (including vegan chocolate covered raisins!) AND I have been able to buy things there that were made in the US, which you can never find. I was able to find Jim American made underwear and undershirts and I just bought some new socks that were US made as well. And we've picked up and noticed lots of other things proudly saying they are made in the USA, so that makes me feel okay that we shop there from time to time.

Today, however, I was really just observing the other people there and the store itself. Usually, I just walk in and the natural foods section is right in the front, so I get to stay in my little bubble, go get my stuff and leave. But I needed to walk across the store today and I was really struck by the food. Obviously, we all know how other people eat and I always sneak a peek at other people's grocery carts, but man is it frightening. I mean, "food" consists of Hot Pockets and Kraft cheese and white bread with 100 additives. And our society is plagued with diseases of affluence, yet people wonder how we, as Vegans, can stay healthy. My mother is so disconnected from her food that she couldn't even understand why I would ever want to make bread when you can buy a loaf of store bought bread (that won't mold for weeks, yummy) for under a dollar. The natural foods section is a little pocket within the aisle upon aisle of pre-packaged, single-serving size mush that is marketed as food. Shouldn't people be questioning why the food they eat isn't considered natural? I hear so many people complain that it's too expensive to eat well. My favorite food related retort to that is from Bob's Red Mill, "It's health insurance you can eat". But in reality, it's not expensive to eat better, you just have to relearn some things and plan differently. Those premade pizzas and frozen White Castle burgers are expensive to both your pocket book and your health.

Anyway, enough deep thoughts for now. Let's look at the all natural food I made today! No doctored photos here, ladies and gentlemen! Just real bonafide food, made by hand, from real ingredients. They still make those things, you know.

Yesterday I made Leslie's Tofu Noodle Soup. It was delicious.

I baked my tofu in a marinade of water, soy sauce, toasted sesame seed oil and crushed garlic. Jim and I both very much enjoyed it and Jim said that it reminded him of being a kid. Awww. Maybe next time I'll get some ABC noodles for him.

Today I made a recipe from a friend of mine from elsewhere in internetland. It's called "Gypsy Soup". It was a great, savory way for me to use some sweet potatoes in a way Jim will eat and it used up a bunch of odds and ends I had laying around in my fridge.

I'm not going to put the recipe on my recipes page, because it's not mine, but here is my adaptation of it. It's really amazing, the spices really give it an intoxicating smell. Plus I got to use some of my green garbanzos again!

Gypsy Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 cups diced peeled sweet potatoes
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon salt
1 pinch ground cinnamon
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1 bay leaf
4 cups veg stock or water
1 tablespoon tamari
1 cup chopped fresh tomato (I used a can of diced tomatoes)
1 1/2 cups cooked garbanzo beans
3/4 cup chopped green bell pepper

Heat olive oil in a stock pot over medium-high heat. Saute onion, garlic, celery and sweet potatoes for about 5 minutes, or until onion is soft.

Season with paprika, turmeric, basil, salt, cinnamon, cayenne, and bay leaf. Stir to blend, then stir in veg stock and tamari. Cover, and simmer over low heat for 15 minutes.

Add tomatoes, garbanzo beans and green pepper to the soup, and simmer for another 10 minutes, or until all of the vegetables are tender. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Remove the bay leaf.

Makes 4 large servings.

I made some muffins that are currently living in our freezer:

Dreena's Orange Poppyseed and some banana peanut butter chocolate chips. Basically I made a normal banana muffin batter, reserved a cup of batter and filled the muffin tins 2/3. Then I blended 1/4 cup peanut butter into the reserved batter and added a handful of chocolate chips. Spooned into the tins and then swirled with a toothpick. Voila!

Tonight I tried the BBQ ribs that Jess made for a recent post. They were okay. I might make them again, because they were insanely easy, but the consistency was too breadish for me. They were almost like a really big, BBQ'd dumpling or something.

Served with Green Goddess potatoes (again), mushroom gravy and some green beans and carrots.

Ravi was being so cute this morning, watching squirrels outside the windows. This is what we call his "pole cat" stance, which is also another name for a ferret.

Ravi also gets called ferret. He wasn't very happy that I was taking his picture and he pouted a little bit after this. It's his fault for being so cute!

Monday, November 13, 2006

And the winner is...

... but first, a story.

Crystal asked what my favorite holiday memory is, so I thought I'd share that to contribute to this activity.

To say that I have a fair relationship with my parents is a stretch. At best we are civil for short amounts of time. I truly have no baggage about this because my belief is that you can't change it, so you must go forward. This is a reason that I love the holidays so much now as an adult, because I can make my own traditions with my new family and they can be truly joyous experiences.

Luckily for me, I had grandparents in my life as a child and because I was a major "oops" and was the only kid in my generation in my family, I got to grow up with my great-grandmothers as well. I grew up when I was young in Pennsylvania (Erie) and Christmas was always a big shindig at my great-grandmother's house in Dubois. Family would come from all over the country and it was the only time of year that I ever got to see most of these people. We would have a big Polish, Catholic holiday that was filled with decorations, paper hats, Polish carols and, most importantly, my grandmother's cooking. She would make pierogi and kielbasa and cookies! Oh my, the cookies! By the time I was in 8th grade we'd moved to Minneapolis and the last Christmas I got to spend there was my freshman year of high school. There were so many people in town that the grandkids were camped out on the living room floor. I remember sneaking down to the cellar (which was surprisingly not spooky, even though my great-grandfather died down there) to snack on my favorite cookies, taking them from the less-obvious reserves, rather than from the cookie trays upstairs. These Christmases are some of my most cherished memories of all. This sense of love and family is what helped me deal with my own, less-than-ideal family.

My great-grandmother died in the spring of '04, still living independently at the age of 96. My other great-grandmother is still alive and living independently now at the age of 99. We're tough cookies in this family. When my Grandma M died I requested 2 things that I wanted.

This ceramic squirrel that I used to play with as a kid. See, obsessions start young!

and this:

A bottle of mysterious liquid (probably some kind of liquor) that she used as the doorjam to her pantry. I played with this thing all of the time when I was a kid and you can only imagine the weird responses I got upon asking for it when she died, while everyone else fought over the grandfather clock and the roll-top desk. The bottle now lives in my kitchen, keeping me company as I cook meals for my family.

Probably too much information and a bit long-winded, but that's my story.

Thank you all so much for sharing yours, I can't say how touched I was by them all.

And now, what you've all been waiting for...

The winner is: Laura Faye!

and the runner up, getting a mini treat bag: Ruthie!

Please email me at squirrelsvegankitchen at gmail with your address and I'll have them out to you!

Thanks again to everyone, this was a lot of fun!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Vegan Cupcakes Take Over My Tummy! (and the tummies of others)

Oh boy, do I have some food pics!

On Friday night we had some friends over for dinner. Our friends Chris & his wife have a fantastic online weekly vegan comic called Totally Not Vegan! It is updated every Friday and it's very fun. They like to capture those moments, as a vegan, where you are humbled or baffled by others and the vegan experience. You can see the latest ones and the archives online.

Anyhow, we had them over for dinner and I made a dinner from bloggerland. I made Dreena's Morrocan Chickpea patties (with ginger dipping sauce), as well as Don't Get Mad's Green Goddess Potatoes and an incredible Hazlenut Red Wine Stuffed Mushroom recipe that Jess wrote, which will appear in the next issue of Herbivore. I forgot to take a picture until I was half way through my plate, but this is what it looked like:

My first time cooking with fennel and kale. Not too shabby!

For dessert, I wanted to make a treat from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, but I couldn't decide which kind to make, so I made two varieties: s'mores and chocolate orange.

You'd think, in Portland of all places, that you could find vegan graham crackers. Nope. But I used ginger snaps and they worked out deliciously. The recipe didn't have enough chocolate involved for my taste, only a sprinkling on top, so I smeared a layer of ganache on top of each cupcake before frosting them. To the left you can see the tops of the chocolate orange ones.

I never tried one of those chocolate orange candies before, so my decision to make these was out of pure curiousity. I was afraid that they were going to be too orangey- there's orange in the cake, in the pudding filling and marmalade on top- but they were perfect. It's all very subtle. An instant favorite.

These were especially fun because it was my first time piping a filling into a cupcake. I liked it so much, I don't know if I can go back to regular old unfilled ones! I also got to use some of the marmalade that I made this summer. It's spread in a super thin layer on top, under the ganache. You can't see the filling that well in the picture, but it's there.

Our lovely guests brought a treat for the hostess- fancy olives! I've just recently joined the land of grown-up olive-eaters and I'm enjoying the journey. These are so brilliantly green, they look like little apples in person. I'm not sure what kind they are (Kate, if you're reading this, little help?), but they are firm with an almost floral or fruity undertone.

I had some leftover orange pudding from the cupcakes and didn't want to waste it because it's heavenly on its own. So I used it to top some VwaV pumpkin pancakes the next morning, along side some rosemary potatoes.

I usually have thawed frozen fruit on my pancakes, I'm not really into maple syrup, so this was a nice change for me. I'm as in love with the pudding alone as I am with the cupcakes. It's incredible! Jim just stuck to dipping this dripping-with-EB-pancake-bites into a ramekin of maple syrup. Yuck.

Last night Jennifer McCann came to do a book signing of Vegan Lunch Box! She was just as sweet in person as I'd imagined. And much taller! But everyone is taller than me. No Shmoo, though. He's apparently very bored by the book and he and dad went to see the Star Wars exhibit at the science museum.

Here's an enormously dorky picture of my getting my book signed. And I have red eye. Sexy. Josh was taking the pictures, so this is best one. He's really into artistic angles. :)

After work, I called in a to-go order at Ya Hala and stopped to pick it up on my way home. Saturday nights there guarantee at least a 1-hour wait, so it's nice to stop in and just pick up your bag and eat it in the quiet oasis of home. Well, I got there and low and behold, the Shmoos were there, with some friends, patiently waiting for their table! So if that doesn't tell you something! Jennifer McCann comes to Portland and has dinner at Ya Hala, out of all the restaurants!

I have tomorrow AND Tuesday off, so some bulk cooking is guaranteed. Oh yeah, I think I have to draw a winner for the drawing too... ;)

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

A Blogging Milestone....

Two posts in one night?! What am I doing?

Well, this post, my dear blogger friends, is my 100th. I have been waiting for this post for some time now, with great anticipation.

You see, I like the internet. I am anti-social. I'm a little awkward. I can have a hard time loosening up around people, but online there is none of that stuff to worry about. And so I've been able to carve out a little niche here and you lovely folks are nice enough to stop by, take notice and welcome me into your lives, just as I welcome you into mine. And I appreciate that. I have made some very good friends this way, learned ohsomuch, heck, I met my husband online!

And now we're coming in on my absolute favorite time of the year: the holidays, namely Christmas. I am a holiday nut, so hopefully I won't annoy you guys too much. I don't know how Jim can put up with me. Every year he has to tolerate me messing up every flat surface in our home with my projects, decorating everything to the gills, baking, baking and more baking, and insisting that we handmake a majority of our gifts. To me the holidays encompass everything that I hold dear: good food, making things for people and sweater weather. What else could I ever want?! When else could you actually go out on the street dressed in sparkily garland and some flashing LED tree lights and have people not even look at you twice? Only the most wonderful time of the year...

So, with my Christmas spirit already jump-started and on high, I wanted to celebrate my 100th post with a gift:

A Portland gift extravaganza! An organic cotton tote filled with vegan treats mostly from Food Fight. There will be a few more things in the final tote, but this is the gist of it. Vegan cookies, candy bars, rice krispy treats, cheetos, gummies, lollipops, jerky, soywhip, and other assorted goodies.

Here's how it works:

Leave a comment with your fondest holiday memory. Christmas, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, whatever holiday you'd like. Entries will close on Sunday night and I will randomly draw a winner!

Horray! And to that, I'm going to eat another Mocha Chocolate Chip Muffin.

Calzones and muffins

I'm very excited because this Saturday Jennifer McCann, who does this little blog, you may have heard of it ;), Vegan Lunch Box, is coming to the store to drop off our books (5 days early!) and to do a book signing. I was lucky enough to preview the cookbook to review it for Herbivore and it is everything we ever could have hoped for and more, so I'm really excited to meet her and get some signed copies for the holidays. And I do believe that Shmoo will be there too! I'll definitely report back this weekend with pictures.

We needed to hurry and finish up the Real Food Daily tofu ricotta cheese I made last week and we already did pasta, so I decided to make some calzones. I love pizza and adore marinara sauce in excess, so having a calzone that I can dip to my heart's content is just heavenly to me.

I used a great oatmeal pizza crust recipe from aTxVegan's blog. It was really delicious and nice change of pace from a traditional pizza crust. I added a heaping teaspoon of Italian spices to it. Inside we had black olives (olives are growing on me lately, thanks to Lebonese food), cremini mushrooms and sundried tomatoes along with a healthy smear of the ricotta cheese. I always lightly pan cook my mushrooms before adding them to pizza so they don't leech water all over the place. Nothing's worse than soggy pizza dripping with mushroom water.

After that I wanted something sweet and I was eyeing my copy of Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, but I'm going to be doing some special recipes from that this weekend and plus I didn't want something too sugary. So I pulled out Vegan with a Vengeance (I think the spine is going to crack soon) and paged through it until I got to these guys:

These are Mocha Chocolate Chip Muffins. But I really wanted some banana and had been eyeing a lone banana on our counter this evening, so I replaced the soy yogurt with a mashed banana and decreased to oil and soy milk about a tablespoon each to make up for the extra moisture. I also only used 1/2 cup sugar and 1 cup wwfp with 1/2 all-purp. I normally always make muffins jumbo size, but for some reason these were just asking to be made regular sized. So yummy.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Comfort food, festival eats, and bulk cooking.

Last Friday when I went to Food Fight Chad gave me a little treat. Locally we are blessed to have an incredible vegan bread company called Dave's Killer Bread. It is the most wonderful bread you could imagine. There are several different varieties, including wheat-free, and I love them all. Well, I guess Dave tried making some mini baguette style loaves and brought them in to Chad as a treat and he was kind enough to share the wealth with me. I knew exactly what I was going to do with it, so I picked up some chik'n nuggets while I was there.

I finally tracked down the vegan Caesar dressing I'd gotten hooked to in Phoenix! I thought it would be easy to find here, but it was not. So I used this delicious loaf of Good Seed bread to make 2 spectacular chik'n Caesar salads with it. Yes, it's faux meat, but this is a serious comfort food for me. Back in the day I would eat chik'n Caesar day in and day out and this bread! Oh, it was incredible! We had some Mexi-Snacks with them, which are kind of like vegan Doritos. Dave's brother owns the company Nature Bake, which also makes bread (not all varieties are vegan), as well as the kick-ass vegan cookies I reviewed for the latest Herbivore.

Saturday for work I went to a Give Green gift event with about 60 other vendors. It was meant as a way to get out there and buy things that are local and ethical for your holiday shopping. Portland may be a vegan mecca, but it's also full of meat-eating enviromentalists who aren't always receptive to what we're doing, so I was a little worried about how the festival would go. I was relieved, however, when I saw that Blossoming Lotus was going to be there, as well as a vegan bakery and chocolate maker. Yay! So I had plenty to eat all day.

Raw cashew hummus with raw seed crackers. Very, very good.

And this, well, it looks gross, but it was great! Cauliflower enchilada with green sauce on top. I'm not all sure what was going on in it, but it was super good and a new way to have cauliflower, for sure. Jim hates cauliflower, but loves Mexican food, so maybe I can sneak some in that way.

Yesterday Jim spent the day, while I was at work, lovingly cleaning the kitchen so it was spotless when I got home. Today, I lovingly destroyed it while doing another batch of bulk cooking. Last week I made a stew and a chili, so this week I opted for pilaf and soup.

This pilaf is a hodgepodge of an herbed basmati rice mix from Trader Joes, some quinoa, frozen peas, sauteed onion and red lentils. I had some extra firm tofu to use up, so I cut it into strips and marinated it in some toasted sesame oil, soy sauce, crushed garlic, sage and rosemary. I baked it for about 40 minutes, turning it every 10. Jim can't eat things quite as plainly as I can, so I imagine he'll be drenching these containers in teriyaki sauce, but it will be tasty all the same.

And I made some corn chowder at Jim's request and I got to use a fun new item I bought at Trader Joes last night: green garbanzos! Those green blobs that look like peas are actually garbanzo beans! I couldn't resist trying them, even though they weren't organic. They are slightly softer and more moist than a regular garbanzo, but basically taste the same. They're definitely more colorful than the usual beige, though. I wonder how gross green chickpea gravy would look...

Tonight we went on a weekday date, which is something we never do. We went to our absolute favorite restaurant, Ya Hala, for dinner. This isn't the best picture, but it gives you an idea.

Clockwise we have: falafel with tahini sharing a plate with some lightly fried cauliflower, baba ganouj, an bowl of olives, fresh, puffy pita bread, veggie kibbeh (my favorite!!!), tabouli, and hummus. Including a 25% tip this spread costs us a mere $20. The kibbeh is AMAZING! It looks kind of unappealing, in person it looks kind of like raw hamburger, but it's a tomato and bulgur pate that rawks my sawks like none other. Ya Hala is really close to our house and because it's so cheap we eat there a lot.

After dinner we walked down the block to a renovated movie theater from the 40's and saw "The US vs. John Lennon". Even if you don't like or don't care about John Lennon, the cultural and political events surrounding this movie, that time period and those issues so eerily echo what is happening today, I high recommend seeing it. If you like John Lennon, well, that's just a bonus. It's less a movie about John Lennon than it is about him being a high profile supporter of dissent and peace during an adminstration that was not too happy about free speech. Sound familiar?