I Win, I Win!

April 14, 2010

Ricki Heller of the blog Diet, Dessert, and Dogs was kind enough to send me a copy of her book Sweet Freedom.  I’m savoring it, slowly working my way through breakfast and on to more and more and more glorious baked goods.  My coworkers are going to have to suck it up because they will be the beneficiaries of my tests!  Stay tuned…

So far, just a lovely spring week with good books and looking forward to the library booksale on Friday.  I like this quote from a novel I just finished: “He was an avid reader, after all, preferring the detached solace of books to most human interactions.”  I recently enjoyed Intimate Lives of the Founding Fathers by Thomas Fleming–it rocked my world.  Who knew that Ben Franklin was such a saucy minx?  And that Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemmings probably DIDN’T have lots of mochacino babies together?

Here’s what’s for dinner:

Herbed Vegetable Packet

From Moosewood Restaurant Low Fat Favorites.  It rates an “eh”.  Thinking I just didn’t care for the mix of green beans, bell pepper, and asparagus.  It was my first time trying tarragon, so maybe that was it too.

Salad With Seaweed, Mushrooms, Roasted Red Peppers

I want to introduce more sea vegetables into my life.  Why?  Well, I like to try something new every week, I read about it on other blogs, and I thought it would be a good way to get more iron in me.  However, I bought wakame, got it home, and looked at the nutritional stats–2% of my daily iron in 1 serving??  What kind of super powerhouse is THAT?  Oh well, I’ll try again.  I like the peculiar taste and texture, but the smell is AWFUL.

Last of the Delicata Squash

Winter squash season comes to an end in my household with a delicata I’ve been hanging onto for awhile, roasted with garlic powder and curry powder.

Any suggestions on what my next experimental fruit or vegetable should be for next week???  And what goodie should I bake this weekend?  Brownies?   Mexican wedding cookies?  Coffee cake?  Cinnamon rolls?

Birthday Girl Returns, No Worse For Another Year

April 12, 2010

The Birthday Girl has returned!  I don’t mind getting older, but I would like to pretend I’m 25 and holding steady, at least until I win Miss America, which has an age limit.   I believe a recap of my trip home to GA to celebrate my appearance on the planet as well as that of my little brother’s (3 years and 5 days after mine) is in order…

I flew from Richmond to Atlanta on Thursday evening.  On Friday I enjoyed a mom/daughter day with pedicures, Scott’s Antique Market (where my mumsey got me this super cool trivet), REAL Mexican food, topped off with a build-your-own salad from Mellow Mushroom and a few episodes of Blackadder with Dad.

Circa 1951

I also got to talk to my husband for approximately 25 minutes.  It’d only been, oh, 19 days without any communication, but who’s counting?  Not me!!!!!!  Only 6 weeks, plus or minus, to go.  Poor boy has poison ivy over 3/4ths of his body.  The joys of playing GI Joe.

On Saturday, I drove to Atlanta to meet my best lady, Katherine, at West Egg Cafe (http://westeggcafe.com/) and she surprised me with a bundle of kitchen goodies!  A crinkle knife, cake tester, silicon spatula, and veggie knife.  I think my husband might have issues with additional sharp objects finding their way into my paws without proper supervision, but does anyone need anything crinkle cut????  Pretty please??  How ’bout now??  For lunch, I enjoyed the tofu scramble with grits, followed by a Coca-Cola cupcake.  You know the sign of a good girlfriend get-together: you both leave thinking you talked the other’s ear off.  I only get to see my BFF every few months, and I miss her.  She came all the way from Chattanooga for our gab fest, which means a lot.  Not as much as the crinkle knife, but a lot.

I drove back south with the windows down, Z93 blaring on the radio, enjoying the sun and the wisteria and dogwoods and missing Atlanta.  Who would recognize Northside Drive in the 4 years since I’ve been away???  I know I say it EVERY SINGLE TIME, but I want to come back to Atlanta.  Sigh…for the days when I went to GA Tech and worked at The Carter Center and had no money and couldn’t afford to do anything fun or eat good food.  But moving on.  In the afternoon, Mom and I indulged in a girly shopping fest in Peachtree City.  We met up with the boys for dinner at Red Robin followed by Date Night starring Tina Fey and Steve Carrell.  The funniest and most memorable lines are not repeatable here.  Try explaining to your mother why googling “pop that c–tchie” is not acceptable to repeat to your elementary school teacher friends without getting too descriptive.

Sunday was Flip Burger Boutique gloriousness!!!!  http://www.flipburgerboutique.com/  Our waiter approaches and asks if we have any questions.  Me: “Yes, does the warm Moroccan cauliflower salad have dairy”.  Him: “Yes, in the butter sauce, but it can be made without.  Do you have a dairy allergy?”  Me: “No, vegan”.  Him: “Ohh, well we can make the cauliflower with olive oil and the special burger of the day happens to be the Gardenburger which you can get in a lettuce wrap and don’t worry about the Flip whip, it’s actually tahini sauce, not mayonnaise.”  Me: “You did all the work for me”.  He got a good tip.  And that was the BEST damn Gardenburger I’ve ever had.  I also snuck some of my mom’s tempura okra and my dad’s fries and, I’m not ashamed to admit, totally had a Nutella and burnt marshmallow milkshake and some of my bro’s banana pudding milkshake.  It was my birthday!!!!!!!!!!  Good god, it was good.  Afterwards, we stopped by the State Farmers’ Market and got some more champagne mangoes because my family ate all of mine.  I heart champagne mango season (March-July, mark your calendars!). 

In the afternoon I made another batch of PPK sweet potato blondies, this time with no nuts and actual mashed sweet potato instead of pumpkin puree.  Even better!!!!!!!  My little brother is chincey with compliments, but he made my wittle heart swell.  I made the blondies at his request so he could take them back to Athens to share with his roomate and friends.  I gave him one to taste test before wrapping them in tinfoil for transport.  Me: “What do you think?”  Brudder: ::Deep sigh:: “Well, they didn’t kill me.  I find them acceptable.”  Me: “Keeper?”  Brudder: “I wouldn’t turn them down.  Oh, and I could put the hurt on some more of that blueberry cake you made.”  This is high praise indeed.

 After a few more episodes of Blackadder and an early wake up call, I’m back in Virginia and reality.  I was ‘surprised’ by a delivery of flowers from my husband, seen here with the lilacs I “borrowed” from my neighbors’ bush.

Tomorrow, it’s back to the grind and making my own food.  4:42AM, bleck.  Oh well, the end of the rainbow is in sight!  This week I’m looking forward to the Friday library booksale preview for Friends of the Central Rappahannock Library System (with light refreshments, yippee!), a lunch with friend Drew, FBI Agent extraordinaire, and further down the road, my next family trip to Wilmington, NC.   I leave you with Little Kitty, aka Re-Re. 

My Dad's Favorite Child

A Fantastic Book

April 6, 2010

“…Philosophical rigidity is usually combined with a complete lack of education or real-world experience, and it is often augmented with strange haircuts and an aversion to bathing.”–Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonseon

I want to whole-heartedly recommend this gem of a book, but at the same time, I want to keep it a little secret, so it can be mine, all mine!

Cake Please?

April 4, 2010
 
First, let me direct you to my first few months in February.  Remember those photos?  Remember how it seemed that the earth would never warm again, the birds would not chirp, the grass would not grow, LIFE WOULD NEVER EVER RETURN??  With every new spring, yet again, I am pleasantly surprised to find I am, in fact, wrong, and a bit of a doomsdayer with perhaps a bit of seasonal affective disorder.
Ahhhhhhhhhhhh (singing like Ariel, the Little Mermaid)
 

Instead of hiding Easter eggs and counting to 20 and then testing myself for early-onset Alzheimer’s by seeing if I could find them all again, I’ve been watching TiVo’ed episodes of No Reservations and Season 2 of the BBC Scotland series Hamish Macbeth.  A quick search on cast bios reveals that nearly every single Scottish actor in this series did appear in the classic 1995 film…you might remember it…Braveheart.  Isn’t that veeeeeeeeeered?

Moving right along.  I had a hankering to try out this recipe for Spiced Sweet Potato Blondies: http://www.6bittersweets.com/2009/11/month-of-vegan-cookies-sweet-potato.html.  It originated from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar.  I printed out the recipe weeks ago and I should have refreshed my memory with the photo because I was so confused why my blondies were so fudgy, rather than cakey.  I used canned pumpkin instead of sweet potatoes, but I’d try the recipe again if I felt like making some sweet potato puree.  I would definately up the spices because I could hardly taste them at all.  And maybe it’s because I used light brown sugar, instead of dark, but I would personally recommend using the entire amount of sugar the recipe suggests, rather than cutting.  I did half the oil with unsweetened applesauce, to cut down on fat.  And I used  both pecans and chocolate chips.  Cause I like ’em.  I want to test them again, with my aforementioned alterations, but I was pleasantly surprised.  I had previously tried this recipe from the same authors for plain blondies http://www.theppk.com/recipes/dbrecipes/index.php?RecipeID=52 and it was a huge failure.  I ended up with a massive Pyrex dish of oily chewy…stuff.

Pumpkin Blondies

I had more than half a can of pumpkin leftover and “waste not, want not”, so I mixed it up with some extra boiled kale and added cumin and chipotle powder for a fantastic lunch side dish.  Pumpkin does, however, splatter in the microwave.  Noted.  Speaking of kale, how about some glorious kale chips, with a bit of balsamic vinegar and garlic salt to accompany another round of Mom soup (mulligawtney this time, and no, I will not spell-check that)?

 

Finally, my ode to my handmade, maple, 3-tiered, glorious spice rack.  When my brother and mom ordered it for me for Christmas, my brother told my mom he didn’t think there was any way I could possibly fill it.  My mom, rightfully so, worried that it wouldn’t be ENOUGH space.  I adore spices and wish I knew more about when to use what and what to mix together, rather than relying on tried-and-true recipes or combinations.  I hope to acquire some mustard seed, more curry powders, and better extracts in the near future.  The only herb on here that I haven’t tried is tarragon. 

I would love to give my monster, death-defying pansies the ole heave-ho and put in some boxes of herbs, but for reasons that will be revealed, that’s just not possible this year.  Oh for the day when I can at least have some fresh herbs all summer long, if not my own pots of tomatoes, etc etc etc.  Right now I’m craving eggplant and okra.  Yes, I could get some at the grocery store, but I will not give in!! 

Just in case I fall off the face of the earth for the next few days, I am heading back home to GA on Thursday to celebrate my birthday and my little brother’s birthday.   Remembering birthdays past (and maybe my current struggles to interpret heavy Highland accents) makes me think of my 25th birthday, which I spent in Dublin, Ireland with my brother and my parents.  Aside from the fact that I didn’t get a freaking cupcake, or any cake for that matter, and my husband (then fiance) forgot my birthday, it was a really cool way to celebrate my birth : )  Some of my funny memories: my father, getting louder and louder telling the coffee folks he did not want whipped cream in his coffee, but just freaking cream, CRE-EEE-AM.  It took a day to learn to ask for milk, but that was a broken man, with no half-and-half to start the day off right.  We were appalled, just appalled at the butter on every single sandwich, but could totally get into eating fries (or chips) right out of brown wrapping paper on the curb.  The mysticism of the Hill of Tara was a little ruined by the necessity of avoiding copious amounts of sheep droppings, but ‘free’ pints of Guinness in a 360 degree room overlooking Dublin in a hail storm (complete with Lucky Charms rainbows!) kinda made up for it.  That was a good trip. 

Last year, I spent my birthday in Colonial Williamsburg and, once again, did not get any cake.

Let’s cut the no cake crap, huh?

Get In My Belly

April 2, 2010

It’s the end of a long week.  I had a glorious dinner, even if it was slurped down too quickly.  I’ll take more time to enjoy the leftovers.  For now, I will simply post my dinner pictures.  And then I will go plop on the couch and zone out. 

Simple Roasted Fennel, Butternut Squash, Onion, Parsnips, and Garlic

Spaghetti Squash Stir Fry With Peanut Sauce

Peanut Sauce derived from this recipe: http://fatfreevegan.com/blog/2010/02/25/peanut-sauce/.  I replaced the lime juice with rice vinegar and left out the red pepper flakes cause I had a spicy lunch and (gasp) wasn’t feeling it.

Stir Fry and Foil Pack Sprouts

My favorite way to prepare Brussels sprouts, originating from a Hungry Girl post.  Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Spray square of tinfoil with olive oil.  Trim and slice sprouts and put on foil.  Add 3 TB or more chopped onion, 1TB or more minced or chopped garlic, some kosher salt, about 1 tsp rosemary.  Light spray of olive oil on top.  Add another sheet of tinfoil and crimp up all 4 edges.  Voila!!!!!!  Cook ~30 minutes to get ’em really soft, less if they’re small sprouts.

4 weeks until the Fredericksburg 5 Mile/Spotsylvania Farmers’ Market opens!!!  The Hurkamp Park one may be operational now, but I was so disappointed and disgusted last spring when the few vegetable vendors out this early were trying to pawn off Florida hothouse tomatoes.  Thanks, but I can get those at the grocery store.

Healing with Everyday Superfoods

April 2, 2010

http://wp.me/pNES2-182

I just discovered Meghan’s website and I love the premise: “If food and lifestyle are the greatest contributors to ill health, why not turn that right on around and make the awesome choices that allow our food to heal us?”

A Cookbook Giveaway from Ricki and Sally!

March 29, 2010

http://www.dietdessertndogs.com/2010/03/28/review-recipe-and-giveaway-500-vegan-recipes/#comments

Sally’s asking what your favorite childhood dessert was and how you feel about it now.  Me?  I miss Little Debbie Oatmeal Creme Pies…ah, trans-fatty goodness in a plastic wrapper.

http://www.sallyashbrook.com/60in60/blondie-brownies-gf-allergen-free-a-cookbook-giveaway/comment-page-1/#comment-144

A Low-Key Weekend

March 28, 2010

This weekend was devoted to spring cleaning and trying to prepare as many meals ahead of time as possible in order to free up my evenings.  I also found time to begin watching the BBC Scotland series Hamish Macbeth, which was recommended by a coworker.  It’s quirky, hard to understand, and yet, I’m kinda hooked.  Seriously, I think I’m missing a good third of what the characters say, given their thick Scottish burrs.

Baby Bok Choy

I haven’t used bok choy much because I didn’t really know what to do with it, other than saute it and slap some soy sauce on it, but thanks again to this website for providing me with a new and extremely easy bok choy cooking method: http://sweetbeetandgreenbean.net/?s=bok+choy.  Perfectly wilted leaves, and the body still had some crunch. 

PB and J Cookies

I had a hankering for some peanut butter and I’m doing my best to incorporate more recipes from cookbooks I own into my weekly rotation, so I made these PB&J thumbprint cookies from The Vegan Table.  Oh yes, of course I used my homemade peanut butter : )  You can read Chay’s review here: http://pinkvegan.wordpress.com/category/colleen-patrick-goudreau/peanut-butter-jelly-cookies/.  I liked ’em, but didn’t love ’em.  I made these with strawberry jelly and set aside one with raspberry jelly.  Next time, use the raspberry.  Or chocolate!!!!!!  I didn’t have to add any extra liquid or any other modifications.

Messa' Collards

Crockpot collards from Fresh From the Vegetarian Slow Cooker.   I like the liquid smoke option rather than the vinegar option as the final addition.  One note–push those collards down in the pot as the space becomes available, otherwise they stick to the sides and burn and who wants to waste perfectly good collards?  These collards are great as leftovers and will be the perfect accompaniement to my tofu/bell pepper/zucchini roast with Susan’s Golden Mustard BBQ sauce (http://blog.fatfreevegan.com/2006/08/south-carolina-golden-mustard-barbecue.html). 

And so, the week begins again.  It’s raining outside with possible thunderstorms this evening.  I suppose it’s “out like a lion”, but we’ve been lucky so far.  After such a hard winter, I welcome the rain since it means flowers and vegetables and good good things!  But I hate worms.

A Compendium of Random Thoughts

March 26, 2010

Properly Dressed with Chili Sauce

Hot and Sour Shiratake Noodles with Tofu

Howdy!  This week has been a little all over the place.  What follows will probably closely resemble a stream of conciousness!  First, food:  Up above, you will see a meal taken from Fat Free Vegan http://blog.fatfreevegan.com/2006/05/hot-and-sour-shirataki-noodles-with.html.  I used the lazy girl’s pre-packaged coleslaw mix instead of Napa cabbage and added some dried shiitake mushrooms.  Quick and easy!  This week’s experimental vegetable was the sunchoke, aka Jerusalem artichoke.  This link intrigued me: http://sweetbeetandgreenbean.net/2010/01/22/sunchokes-roasted-with-lavender-and-garlic/.  I didn’t use lavender, but the sunchokes did, in fact, have an earthy potato-like taste.  I liked ’em even better as re-heated leftovers.  I took photos, but they look like strange fungi and are simply NOT photogenic.  Just click on the link.  Up next…fennel!  And may we all do a little jig because champagne mango season is finally upon us? 

In other news, I went to another “Great Lives” lecture at the University of Mary Washington.  This week author Caroline Weber spoke about her book Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution.  She was an extremely engaging speaker.  I read the book and I’ve read many other works on Marie Antoinette, but I always love learning something new and this lecture sent me home with some new, juicy tidbits!  For instance, the reason 4,000+ peasants marched on Versailles prior to the Revolution, convinced that Marie Antoinette was personally hoarding flour from the starving masses, was because she was the icon of the massive 2+ foot hair pompadour, which was held together with massive amounts of…flour paste!  I’ve always just kind of passed over the reasoning behind why they would hold her responsible, but here’s just one more example of how fashion and personal taste, for a French royal, could truly have political consequences.

From flour to cauliflower.  Remember my previous post where I discovered the textile artist Kaffe Fassett while reading Margaret Drabble’s memoir??  Well, in late August my husband and I are planning a pre-deployment road trip from TX through the Southwest, up the coast of California.  I started poking around Monterey sites online and my co-worker Bonnie went into ecstasies about Nepenthe Restaurant in Big Sur.  I pull up their website and who do you think sells her works at the gift shop??  Kaffe Fassett!  What a peculiar, roundabout coincidence.  I went to San Diego when I was 3 and my husband lived in Monterey when he was in elementary school, but otherwise the whole western part of the U.S. is uncharted territory.  I think we’ll stay in hotels on our sojourn through the NM and AZ deserts, but perhaps try to camp in the numerous national and state parks in Cali.  Should be about 60 hours roundtrip, if we drove all the way through, but we’ll stop and smell the air and enjoy the sites, naturally : )  Maybe go to a rest stop occasionally.  Eat.  Sleep.  You know.

I finally saw Food Inc. and enjoyed it.  Just reaffirmed my committment to knowing what I’m putting into my body and creating a healthy, natural environment for myself and my husband, as much as possible.  I suppose that’s the nurturer.  My husband was more intrigued by the economic implications of a food system monopolized by a few industrial corporations.  He is an omnivore and does not actively shop for organic foods, but if all-natural meats are available, that’s what he’ll choose.  He’s just somewhat convinced that organic eating is too cost-prohibitive.  And, I can say, it just hasn’t been that important to him, but maybe now…

Happy Friday.

Brief Trip to Columbus, GA Causes Brief Blog Hiatus

March 22, 2010

No exciting new foods that I have cooked or pictures of things I’ve eaten, but while I was away from Fredericksburg for 4 short days, spring crept up on me!

Cherry trees in bloom and a tulip poplar

Some sort of poplar and the Rappahannock River

I flew into Atlanta on Thursday to see my husband before a 2 month hiatus on conjugal visits, phone calls, and emails.  We enjoyed Atlanta’s best mojitos at one of our favorites, Eclipse de Luna, a traditional tapas joint in Miami Circle.  I had patatas bravas, spinach with pine nuts, and white bean hummus…not just a mojito!  During our weekend in Columbus we made a trip to Callaway Gardens, visited with friends new and old, finally saw Food Inc., also saw Alice in Wonderland, and successfully got my husband hooked on The Tudors.  There aren’t any vegetarian restaurants in Columbus (it IS a military town, catering to a particular audience), but I did find some good choices at a local Mexican joint and Mellow Mushroom.

Unsurprisingly, I really enjoyed Food Inc., having read Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser’s books.  I approached the film from what I would call a nurturing perspective–ain’t no way I’m putting that crap in my body or my husband’s body.  Our health is my primary concern and I don’t want to screw up any future children before they become twinkles in our eyes.  My husband looked at it from an economic perspective.  He was appalled by the monopolization of the food system, but feels like organic and natural foods, meat in particular, are still too expensive.  I know that I spend a lot of my paycheck on organic foods from Wegman’s grocery store, but when the farmers’ market is available, I save a lot of money.  If we had co-ops or if it was feasible to invest in a CSA share, I’d do that, as well as growing our own vegetables, all of which would save even more money.  Can’t help him with the meat, but I’d much rather trek hours to a place like Polyface Farms to invest in their products if it would mean he would eat healthier meat products.

After I dropped my husband off with the U.S. Army, I spent my last afternoon at home with my parents.  They had visited the Dekalb International Farmers’ Market and we had quite the veggie feast.  Baked sweet potato, roasted squash and zucchini, okra with Cajun seasoning, snap peas and baby new potatoes.  Mm mm mm mm good!!!!!!!!