Texas–Just a Few Weeks Away

May 30, 2010

Peony I 'Borrowed' From My Neighbors

I spent last weekend in Columbus, GA, being reunited with my sweetie.  After 62 days of Army training, he was sleep-deprived and food-deprived, probably with some minor malnutrition.  To ensure I had something to eat and to encourage healthy snacking for him, I came loaded with Bolthouse Farms smoothies, hummus, carrots, Newman’s Own cereal, almond milk, blue chips, salsa, bananas, figs, Lara bars, and Happy Vegan chocolate chip cookies.  Since his fridge was empty and he was hungry every hour, this was a wise decision.  We spent Friday with our respective families and several of his good friends, celebrating his graduation and giving tours of the base, before being left to our own devices.

The remainder of the weekend we regrouped and enjoyed a bit of calm before our big move to Texas and the official cutting of the apron strings.  We went to Atlanta for a night and toured the Aquarium.  We’d last visited the Aquarium in 2005, right after it first opened, and, disappointingly, not much seemed to have changed other than the original 4 whale sharks and belugas had all gone belly-up and been replaced.  I still find it dark and cynical that both McCormick & Schmick’s and Legal Sea Foods are located right around the corner.

My husband felt he really really needed to try a Double Bypass Burger from The Vortex in Little 5 Points, so I indulged him and ate some of his tater tots.  The waitroids thought they were hysterical when they brought the burger and put it in front of me and tried to give my husband my half salad and bowl of Treehugger Chili.  We love The Vortex for it’s atmosphere, the fact that children under 18 are not allowed, and the extensive food options both of us can enjoy.  I love the fact that I can get any of the gourmet burgers with a veggie burger and one day, I WILL try the Elvis, which is topped with banana and peanut butter.

My husband liked his cookies so much, he asked me to bake more and shared them with his friends the Martins, who have 4 young kids.  It made my heart swell with pride when we watched the 3 year old twins eat some cookies and my husband said he wished he had saved more for himself.  We watched multiple movies, ran errands, and my husband made me an interesting stir fry with Szechuan vegetables, brussel sprouts, Salsa Lizano, Srichacha chili sauce, and red pepper.  I accompanied this with roasted asparagus and red bell pepper, and stir fried tofu marinated in ketchup and soy sauce.  Oddly enough, it was a delicious meal.

I left my husband and spent my last day before my 10 hour drive back to VA with my little brother and parents.  I had shared some of the original batch of cookies with my bro and now HE wanted some more.  These are so easy and so tasty, I could only comply. 

Now, I’m back in Fredericksburg, surrounded by boxes and actually enjoying making meals from the leftovers in my freezer.  Yesterday I had a bowl of frozen spinach with an apple and peanut butter.  Today, an Amy’s frozen meal with grapes and mango. 

I’m avoiding the roads, the traffic, and the tourists downtown and instead focusing on planning 2 successive roadtrips out to Texas to find somewhere to live and then move all my household goods.  We hope to be Texas residents by 14 June.  And if I hear one more joke about how I’m going to have to get used to eating baked beans while everyone else has barbecue….

'Joy of Vegan Baking' Chocolate Cake Recipe With Blueberries

Still Eatin’ Down the Kitchen

May 14, 2010

Which means no grand new pictures of food, sorry.  But I did finally get to use my crinkle cutter!  Don’t you have something I can crinkle cut for you, huh huh huh???  (Thank you BFF Kat!)  Here we have a butternut squash which I turned into some tasty fries, using an herb mixture out of The Moosewood Restaurant Cooking for Health.  Yesterday, I used the other half of the squash to make a version of The Vegan Table‘s Oven Baked French Fried Yams.  You can read Chay’s review here.  As far as I’m concerned, it’s hard to screw up sweet potatoes or butternut squash and both versions were satisfying and had me licking my plate.  It’s ok, I live alone and I can do that with no shame.

Moosewood-inspired Butternut Squash Fries

Lindsay from Happy Herbivore posted this article on her Facebook page and I’d like to pass it on here.

A Man Walks Into a Restaurant…

In other news, I’ve discovered that Trader Joe’s does not exist in the state of Texas.  My kind parents are making a visit to their nearest store in GA this weekend and are taking my shopping list with them.  Now I know that there are other, perhaps better stores that I will find in Texas and I’m not going to starve to death, but the thought of not having another bag of my anti-oxidant mixed berry trail mix waiting for me when I finish this one??  Perish the thought.  They’re also going to hit up the Dekalb International Farmers Market for some bulked goods that will travel well.  It’s killing me, not being able to purchase bulk flours and beans and spices because 1) I don’t want to pack and carry them all over East Jesus and 2) I’m not sure how they would survive if we have to leave them in the back of a U-Haul in 90 degree heat for more than a day.  And again, I just have to keep reminding myself, Texas has food. 

Today was officially my last day at work and I am now effectively unemployed.  Well, technically not until the 22nd, but that’s splitting hairs.  So I clean, I pack, I pack, I clean, and I hope that I will be seeing my husband this time next week.  And then…..Texas bound!

A New Read, New Baking Experiment, and New Vegetable

May 11, 2010

My coworker Bonnie forwarded me this suggested reading from the Polyface Farms Facebook site (see Food Inc).  I’m only on Chapter 3, but so far I have found The Unhealthy Truth by Robyn O’Brien to be a new and insightful look at the food industry, environmental factors, and the rise of allergies, asthma, ADHD, and autism in kids.  It’s frightening and makes me think, even more than I already did, about every single item I put into my body, in addition to all the chemicals and pollutants I come into contact with daily.  I eat extremely healthily, I know, but yes, I do sometimes have Diet Coke or use Lysol–am I dooming my future children to a lifetime of autoimmune disorders?  Scary stuff.  My main takeaways, thus far, are from page 47 where Robyn notes 4 major factors behind the allergy epidemic:

1.  “Shift from a natural to an industrialized environment.”

2.  “Excessive exposure to antibiotices, both as prescribed…and as consumed through antibiotic-laden meat, milk, and poultry.”

3.  “The rise in pollutants and environmental toxins…”

4.  “Our tendence to eat more processed foods…”

So, with that thought in mind, on a happier note, let us turn to our most recent Joy of Vegan Baking experiment and first time using active yeast.  These cinnamon rolls were divine!  I used walnuts and had to omit the raisins since I didn’t have any.  I was concerned (see previous post) because my dough seemed a little, well, tough and flaky when I rolled it out, and the rolls are probably denser than meant to be, but they taste marvelous and that’s what matters.  Next time, I’ll use my mixer for the icing.  My confectioner’s sugar clumped up and left unpretty white lumps.

My experimental vegetable of the week was fiddlehead ferns.  At $10 a pound, they’re a special treat, but I loved them!  Sort of like a mild asparagus.  I baked them in a foil pouch with Brussels sprouts, garlic, onion, and rosemary for 30 minutes. 

Wrightsville Beach and Wilmington, Afterwards

May 10, 2010

I’m back from my family sojourn to Wrightsville Beach, NC, which is part of the Inner Banks in the metro-Wilmington area.  After only a 5 hour drive for me, my parents, little brother, and myself passed a most excellent weekend chilling out, playing games, getting facials, and walking gardens.  It was a bit too chilly to sit out on the beach, but it was just lovely to get away from Fredericksburg, contact with the outside world, and packing boxes.  Speaking of which…my guest bedroom looks like a lush’s hideaway and this is just a small selection.

So back to the weekend.  We went to Airlie Gardens and especially enjoyed the Sculpture Garden.  The joke was, as you’ll see from the photos below, that we would have loved to contribute by helping to empty all those bottles that form the sculpture.  They also have a butterfly house, but actually, it kinda grossed me out, all those insects fluttering around.

Minnie Evans Sculpture Garden, Airlie Gardens

Detail From the Sculpture Garden

Butterfly Garden

My favorite meal was from Flaming Amy’s Burrito Barn in Wilmington where I had the Veggie Deluxe, no cheese, and my brother had the Treehugger, plus we sampled 8 different salsas including Wasabi Avocado, Cucumber, Pineapple, and Peach Ginger.  “Hot, Fast, Cheap, and Easy”…insert rude comment here.  Another good meal was the Veggie D-lite on a Kaiser roll from Sweet and Savory Bakeshop

Flaming Amy's Burrito Barn

For Mothers’ Day my brother and dad gave my mom a facial.  I went along.  This was my first time getting one, although I have had massages before.  It freaked me out when the facialist told me to take my top off and I could remove my bottoms if I wished.  I gotta get nekkid for a facial???  It was lovely, although the warm steam thingy was blowing right up my nose.  Mom enjoyed it, which was the important part.  All in all, a low-key, relaxing weekend.  No one killed anyone and I think we all appreciated each others’ company.

Now I’m back in Fredericksburg with only 3 full days left in the office!  5 or 6 realtors trooped through my house this weekend to show it to potential renters, which is just irritating, no matter how you look at it.  Thank goodness I was away…I’m going to be so crabby this weekend when I have to keep vacating so they can tromp through my stuff.  With packing, I’ve got all kinds of things in all kinds of places, but oh well!

I have a bowl of cinnamon roll dough rising in the kitchen that needs to be punched.  This is my first time using active yeast and I’m trying out the recipe from Joy of Vegan Baking.  I’m a little concerned because the recipe utilizes a mixer (although it notes you can do it by hand) and I did it by hand.  My dough isn’t really elastic-y and smooth, so we’ll see…

Pictures to follow!

Pre-Weekend Getaway With Family

May 6, 2010

Just a quickie before I drive ~5 hours south tomorrow to meet my family and younger brother at Wrightsville Beach, NC for a family vacation.  Wrightsville Beach is part of the Inner Banks (not to be confused with the Outer Banks) and is quite close to the town of Wilmington.  Wilmington is supposed to a top rated spot to visit if you want somewhere with character and not a lot of tourist traps–we’ve never been. 

My brother made the hotel reservations and I was responsible for researching things to do and restaurants to eat at.  When we went to Jekyll Island over Thanksgiving I got stuck eating a lot of iceberg salads and baked potatoes because steak and seafood restaurants were all that was available/open, so I researched the HELL out of Wilmington!  It was my own fault.  My parents are wonderful about asking if there’s something I can eat at every restaurant and they even call me when they go out to eat on their own and let me know what I COULD have eaten there.  In case I get hungry this time, though, I have packed chopped bell pepper, cauliflower, carrots, and hummus, the Joy of Vegan Baking blueberry bundt cake, in muffin form, Vegan Lunchbox’s fruit and nut bars (with cashew pieces, walnuts, and dried cherries), apples, bananas, and emergency Primal Strips.  I like my ‘nanners pretty ripe and brown, which means I don’t have to worry about my family (or most people) snitching them!  I packed my lunch of mango, grapes, Wasa crackers, and fruit/nut bars so I dont have to waste time at a Subway off the interstate and pay $4 for a piece of bread with lettuce and tomato.

Fruit and Nut Bars, Pre-Baking

Bro' Requested and Approved

Neighbors' Peonies and Irises

The only thing keeping me from sneaking over and helping myself to these peonies is the fact that I already packed away my vases and I dont want to use a cup.  I officially turned in my notice to work on Monday and I’m averaging packing 2 boxes a night.  My coworkers were all overwhelmingly enthusiastic for and supportive of my decision to take this huge leap of faith and join my husband in Texas.  Made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside : )  I was truly surprised how many people said they were jealous.  I mean, we don’t have a plan, we don’t have a place to live, I’m leaving behind a security clearance and federal job, we’re the blind leading the blind…and yet, our decision to say ‘to hell with it all’ and make it an adventure makes others jealous?  That’s pretty cool.  And strange.

Off to scour the kitchen for anything not nailed down that I probably wont need for at least the next month and can pack in a cardboard box…

Informative op-ed from the NYTimes (yanked from the Food Inc Facebook page): http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/06/opinion/06kristof.html

And Dr. Gupta: http://pagingdrgupta.blogs.cnn.com/2010/05/06/presidential-panel-cancer-risks-underestimated/?hpt=Sbin

Success! And…It Begins

May 2, 2010

First, let’s get the food out of the way.  I made Susan V’s tofu omelette for one for, like, the 6th time and I finally, FINALLY got an omelette!!!  Made my day!  I added twice as much corn starch as the recipe calls for and a little less milk.  I also left the temperature on med-high for a bit longer.  You can’t see from my super cool picture, but there are fresh shiitake mushrooms inside this baby.

Look at that color!

 I had a can of black beans and some bananas in the freezer, so I experimented with Happy Herbivore’s low-fat black bean brownies.  Tasty and different, but I would rename them cocoa bars or something other than ‘brownie’ because they are not remotely similar.  This is a horrible picture, but if you go to Happy Herbivore, you can get a better view.  And no, they really, truly DO NOT taste like beans!

Finally, these were just too cute not to take a picture of.  Baby summer squash from the farmers’ market, roasted with onions.  Awww.

For Mother’s Day weekend I will be meeting my parents and little brother in Wrightsville Beach, outside Wilmington, NC.  I’ll be packing some fruit and nut bars, originally from Vegan Lunchbox, which are my traveling staple.  I use whole wheat flour instead of spelt and mix up the type of nuts and dried fruit, but I love these suckers.  The only downside is that they need to be refrigerated.  Suffice it to say, I don’t share well when I have my fruit and nut bars.  My brother has also requested ANOTHER Joy of Vegan Baking bundt cake.  I suppose the Orange-Blueberry Bundt Cake has become a stand-by (although I use lemon, not orange, so the name is misleading)…stick with what you know is good!  This will be the first time I’m putting it in muffin form, for easier transportation and delivery.  To my mouth.

My mother-in-law called me this week to chat.  This is unusual.  She’s a lovely lady, but one question has stuck with me and I can’t shake it: “How about you, are you healthy?  Are you getting all your vitamins and protein?”  Mind you, this was a totally random question.  Just so you know, I did my yearly bloodwork this week, and I’m getting ALL my vit-a-mins, thank you very much!  Good on B12, iron, calcium, low cholesterol…I’m a vivacious vegetarian!  Nanny nanny boo boo.  Ok, that was childish and uncalled for, but I feel contrary when I get peculiar questions like that.  And I’m still not sure what she was insinuating or what was really motivating this question, but I have my suspicions. 

So, big news for the week: I’m moving from Fredericksburg, VA to Texas!  Hopefully within the next month-ish, somewhere in the Ft. Hood area.  I’ve already joined Vegans Rock Austin and you can see I’ve added Sugar-Skull’s helpful Austin blog to my daily reading list in anticipation.  I read in the VRA forum some chick from LA complaining about what a vegan back-water Austin is since there are only 8-10 vegetarian restaurants.  Are you kidding me??  8-10 ALL VEGETARIAN restaurants, plus the flagship Whole Foods–Mecca!  Unfortunately, we will be outside Austin, but I hope to find a happy medium between the world of the U.S. Army and my home with tree-hugging crunchy granola-eating hippies.

Am I scared?  Terrified.  I’ve found so much to love about Fredericksburg and I’ve never been to Texas before.  But in the 9 years I have been with my husband (married almost 7 months), we have never lived in the same zip code together before and now is our chance to see if we really like each other.  Huh, guess we should have decided that BEFORE we put on the rings!  We met in high school, but even then lived in different towns.  So not only am I moving to a new time zone, not only am I facing imminent unemployment for the first time in 11 years, and not only am I faced with packing an entire house up by myself, but I also have to learn the habits and foibles of my dear husband.  Excited, but a little skeered!

So for the next few weeks, food posts will slow down considerably as I eat my way through my freezer of Mom soup and transition to Central Standard Time.  Wish me luck, I’ll check in occasionally.  Any tips on living in the Ft. Hood area or how to properly enjoy Austin are always welcome!  Oh boy, vegan Mexican food!  Happy happy joy joy!

Lemon Cheesecake, a Review

April 26, 2010

Not a cheesecake in texture, for sure, more like a cream pie, but yummy and the birthday girl had TWO slices.  High praise indeed.  I’m glad I added the strawberries; they provided some pizazz.  I’d be interested to try it again in a springform pan and let it sit in the fridge even longer than the 16 hours this one had. 

It was good, a keeper, but not a cheesecake like what I had my mouth set for.

Hippity Hoppity Bunny Loot and a Lemon Concoction

April 25, 2010

Plans came to naught, but these things happen and I had an enjoyable weekend anyways.  I nearly cried when I left the re-opened Spotsylvania Farmers’ Market on Saturday morning.  I felt like a bunny rabbit on crack–asparagus, spinach, swiss chard, kale, and butter lettuce (which I have never knowingly had before).  From there, I made it to the LibertyTown Arts Gallery yard sale.  I was supposed to be shopping for gifts, but found a charming pie plate in my blue and green glaze and had to have it.  Especially since the artist was a Dutch lady named Els–my best friend’s mom is Els, Dutch, and a potter!  The gallery was really neat.  Each resident artist had their own little nook behind the gallery where you could see their workspace.  Not sure what was going on in downtown Fredericksburg, but dodged gaggles of teenagers wearing coordinated t-shirts on my way home and, I swear, there was a cannon going off somewhere.

I’m still indulging my Jane Austen kick with Sense and Sensibility.  The wigs are HORRIBLE and the actors are much prettier than Pride and Prejudice, but I love Hugh Laurie and the costumes.  On Thursday I went to an art film at the library–Les Silences du Manet.  Most edifying and I think I successfully met my smug cultured quota for the week.

For the first time in my life, I was asked, seriously, if I’m considering having children in the near future.  The world tilted.

Food.  In that strange place between eating down what I already have and waiting for more crops to come in, so it’s a little barren.  I cheated and got some green beans and a red bell pepper from Wegmans.  They were just too festive looking not to snap a photo.

The 3rd and final Mom soup, some kind of basil-y split pea yumminess.  I’d ask for the recipe, but I’d rather she makes it for me.  I baked a little cornmeal johnnycake and broke it up in the soup, with kale chips on the side.

More ‘sausage’ and meatless patties with shiitake mushroom gravy and a whole mound of broccoli.  I was hungry!

Apples with Trader Joe’s almond butter (thank you Dad!), a huge mess of farmers’ market spinach, champagne mangoes and red grapes for Sunday lunch.

And finally, the piece de resistance (maybe), Lemon Cheesecake from The Joy of Vegan Baking.  I used a pre-made vegan graham crust and had almost 3/4 cup of batter leftover.  Next time, I would do half lemon juice and half lemon extract because I like a sharper tang.  This is my first cheesecake attempt and I’m anxious to see if it turned out right when I take it to work tomorrow for a birthday treat.  I think they would notice if I cut into it to check!  At first glance, it doesn’t look like  a standard cheesecake texture, so we might rename it Lemon Pie and I will be sad because this was one of the most expensive desserts I have ever made.  I hope the birthday girl licks the pan.

Lemon Pie? Lemon Cheesecake?

The week ahead will bring 2, count ’em, 2 trips to Pancho Villa Mexican Restaurant and a scheduled sick day.  Who knows what else is around the corner?  I do know I might be tired of lettuce by Friday.

Today’s Contest

April 19, 2010

Today’s contest is brought to us by Vegan Crunk (Bianca).  She’s giving away a copy of American Vegan Kitchen, which I SERIOUSLY hope I win! : )

Booksale Mayhem and the Weekend in Review

April 18, 2010

On Friday evening I went to the Central Rappahannock Library’s booksale preview soiree.  I arrived on the dot at 7PM and the line was out the door.  At first, it was quite congenial–folks my age, retirees, parents with kids, all gathered to peruse and enjoy books.  However, chaos followed.  There were folks with dolleys, huge plastic tubs, handheld ISBN scanning devices, crazy people with Mom jeans, men with scary facial hair, women with skin that had possibly never seen the light of day, and old women who used their substantial girth to impede all traffic past them.  It was  a dorkfest.  And yes, I was there and realize that, by extension, I am a dork.  I only found a few books, nothing spectacular, and when I started getting the “ExCUSE me” tone, I knew it was time to leave.  So I hightailed it upstairs and helped myself to a plastic cup of cabernet sauvignon, put together a goodie plate with baked goods from the volunteers, and walked home. 

Speaking of books, one of my current reads is Jane’s Fame about how Jane Austen became one of the greatest authors of all time.  In honor of her, I’m watching the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth as the hunka hunka Mr. Darcy.  I think the first time I watched it, I must have been way too young, because now it has me in stitches.  And even though I’m a happily married woman, I’d leave my husband for Mr. Darcy.  I guess that makes me a statistic.

So, some of my recent eats and treats.  I don’t pretend they’re pretty, but they were pretty good:

Orange Cauliflower With Curry Sauce

From Moosewood Low Fat Favorites, subbing silken tofu for the yogurt.  I like spicy, so I think I tripled the cayenne, belatedly realizing that the cayenne I’ve had for 2-3 years is still quite potent.  Next, Fat Free Vegan’s Omelette for One.  I love this omelette, but although I’ve made it several times, it never ever ever turns out as an omelette.  Why???  Am I not spreading it thin enough???  Is it because I just guestimate the TB of cornstarch???  The bottom is a lovely golden brown, but when I go to fold it over, it breaks and when I leave it alone, the top never cooks all the way.  Oh well, still yummy in MY tummy.  This one has swiss chard with onions.

Another from Susan at Fat Free Vegan.  Substituted thyme for ajwain and added chopped spinach.  This was a make-ahead for this week’s lunches.  Dal is one of those dishes that improves as a leftover.

The piece de resistance!  East Coast Coffee Cake from Vegan Brunch.  I don’t own it, but–sneaky sneaky–copied some intriguing recipes from the library’s copy.  I did a double-whammy, adding blueberries AND raspberry jam swirls.  Next time, I would bake it a tad bit longer and add more raspberry, but it was moist and delish.  I made the coffee cake because 1) I enjoy baking, 2) I’m trying to ‘eat down’ my pantry and freezer, and 3) I was meeting up with my friend Drew for lunch today.  Drew is a super duper secret squirrel and now that he’s moved to DC, I dont see him as often.  We met at Eileen’s, where I discovered, to my glee, that they now do lettuce wrap sandwiches.  Unfortunately, no hummus or bean spreads, but the very nice gentleman behind the counter let me know they did have avocado.  I felt kinda like a rabbit, with my sprouts and leaves, but a happy rabbit.

Part of My Bday Present From Kat--Cake Doneness Tester Thingy

And finally, what I am grateful for today–bananas, mangoes, and apples.  I eat ’em everyday.  Interesting sidenote: I did not eat bananas AT ALL until I was 25 and now I can’t live without them.  In fact, when I was little, I would flush my bananas down the toilet and my parents didn’t catch on for years until the potty finally backed up and the plunger brought up my nanner.  In fact, I was at Giant Grocery at 6AM the day the big snowstorm was supposed to hit, raiding their stock of bananas to ride me through.  On that note, what did you abhor as a kid and now you can’t get enough of?  Or, what did you like then and won’t eat now?  I can think of plenty of things I loved as a kid–Little Debbie Oatmeal Creme Pies, sausage gravy, Fritos, butter, MEAT–that I wont eat now because I know it’s the devil, but nothing comes to immediately to mind as something I just don’t like the taste/texture of.

Pyramid of Gloriousness

Sayonara Sunday.