Thursday, December 25, 2008

<3 <3 <3


Hope everyone had a lovely day!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Alive but stressed to the max!

Man, school is kicking my ass. Finances are also as source of worry . . . so, after I take the NET exam (to get into a nursing program)in January, I am going to try to get a part time job somewhere that can be flexible with my school schedule. So, even more of my precious study time can be occupied.

I have had ZERO motivation to cook these days, especially with Jared also in school.

Jared and I are going to Orlando for Thanksgiving to see Jared's family and then shortly there after, I am going to Tampa to visit with my family. Hope to get some good pictures in and maybe even some cooking.

I do have hopes of revitalizing this blog someday . . . but until then, hope everyone is doing well!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

I want one!!!!

My dad is too cool for school. He finally got another motorcycle after years without one. Take that oil companies!
Being a badass runs in my family.

Hope everyone is doing well . . . I am super busy as you might have guessed!

Friday, August 29, 2008

back to the grind

Oh yeah . . . this semester is gonna be INTENSE. I'm only taking 3 class but 2 of them are Anatomy & Physiology classes (lecture and lab) so, I have my work cut out for me.
Also, our unlucky with money streak is not quite over either as we found out a bunch of stuff is wearing out on newer car (2006 Toyota Matrix) that is gonna cost us. I am not, however, giving up hope that things are gonna turn around for us because I know for a fact I have quite a few karma points banked.

I had my 29th birthday last week and I really cannot believe I am almost out of my twenties! Seriously, I don't feel that old and I don't think I look 29. It’s a strange feeling like my life is on warp speed now. What the hell happened?
Anyways, here are a few pics I took the past week.

Jared bought me (us) this AMAZING cookbook for my b-day (even though I said no presents!!!) and we love love love it. My Panda Drummer is peaking over and was mad impressed.
Well, I did say no presents but I also told Jared I wanted an aloe plant and of course he remembered. Surrounding the aloe plant is 3 figurines I picked up (pretty cheap too!) at different antique stores, as my own presents to myself. They looked sad and needed to come home with me. (in this pic, to the left is my Jesus Fish sculpture, which I'll show in next pick. To the right, is one of our wedding pics.)
I can't think of anything much cooler than a Jesus statue riding a Fish in the ocean (I actually made this for a ceramics class years back), that is being charged upon by a shiny white bad ass unicorn and having "Blinky" motor by. Nope, not much else cooler that that
. . . well, expect maybe these 2 Birthday pictures I was sent from my sister Erin of my nephew Gabriel. Gabriel is wearing a pirate outfit I picked out a long time ago that he can finally fit into.
Oh and the back view showing off his first "tattoo" printed on his bottom that says "Shiver Me Timbers" with a pirate ship. ARRRRH!
Is it possible to be both tough and adorable at the same time. Yep.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

breaks should be about easy going, right?

Let's see, I made all A's in my 3 summer courses and presently have a 4.0 GPA. This felt like a promising start to August. However, besides my lovely grades and overall healthy and happy family, this month has been kinda crappy so far . . . It all started with taking Sweetpea to the vet for all her shots and updates for the year that came out to about $250, then my 93 Ford Thunderbird (we call her the Dirty Bird) likes to give me the shit eye every now and again (the car version of giving the shit eye is by turning on the most dreaded CHECK ENGINE light). Oh, and because my birthday is this month, I had to get emissions testing done on the ole' Dirty Bird and pass for my license/registration to be renewed. We Passed!
Oh, and if all that wasn't enough, I found out I have to get a very expensive dental procedure done ASAP that won't be done anytime real soon because we just spent WAYYYYY too much on my tuition and books for fall semester.

Oh, and I turn 29 on Tuesday, August 19th AND that is the first day of my fall classes as well as the start of my last year of being in my 20's. Time to start thinking about, putting together and actually accomplishing my 30 before 30 list. I think the first on my 30/30 list will be organizing all of my random old pictures that should be respectively in proper photo albums instead of ratty ole' shoe boxes. There is quite a few and clearly, at my age, I would have a lot of OLD pictures.
I mean, I need to protect gems like this . . .
This was taken of me in Tampa, Fl when I was around 4 years old, blowing bubbles, lookin' sassy in my 1983 outfit, complete with some bad ass skates. Ah, to relive those carefree moments would rock.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Indian food could be the best thing ever.

Making a full on Indian meal as my first attempt after about a 2-month cooking break was a gutsy move on my part. There isn't really a super fast way to make really great homemade Indian food, especially when you're a novice in the cuisine. I went to a local Indian grocery store this past week to get a couple things to help me through including some aged basmati rice and these two lovely products:
One of my favorite parts of eating out at an Indian restaurant is the gigantic spiced lentil cracker with chutney condiments they bring to the table when you arrive. I was on a mission to make these at home to enjoy. I found these lentil crackers at the store but wasn't 100% how I was going to handle and cook the large discs so I opted for the mini versions called Papad Jeera, which are the size of a small tortilla chip. These little babies are amazing to watch cook. As suggested from the various online sites I came across, these papads should be VERY slightly dampened with a touch of water and then let ALMOST completely dry again before cooking. I put a little oil in a small frying pan over medium heat and gently threw in the papads and watched in a matter of 5 seconds on one side and 5 seconds on the other side as they turned into the miniaturized versions of the one I always devour at restaurants. Besides purchasing tamarind-date sauce to dip these papads in, I also made another one of my favorite toppers at Indian restaurants: onion chutney. All I did was cook ground paprika, cumin and salt in a little oil for a few seconds, added a finely chopped Vidalia onion, tomato paste, sugar and a touch of tamarind date sauce. The onion in the chutney shouldn't really be too cooked but only heated to take the edge off and marry the flavors together . . . maybe 5 minutes? This chutney was pretty right on after being chilled for a few hours in the fridge.
So, just making these papads and the onion chutney took a while to make but I pushed through to make some of the best curry I have ever made at home. The main dish contained potatoes that I boiled whole before hand, cauliflower, peas, coconut milk, salt, and various spices such as coriander, cumin, chili powder, turmeric, fenugreek, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, bay, black pepper and mustard (there were a few more I can't recall now) as well as a half a can of coconut milk. Boy or boy was this tasty. It didn't have a spice/heat that hit you right away but rather came up from the back after a bite was swallowed. It wasn't a lingering spicy heat, which was pleasant.
Of course I made rice that complimented the curry perfectly. I prepped my aged basmati rice pilaf style in a bit of Earth Balance and these 5 lovely additives:
1 cinnamon stick, 5 whole cloves, 5 whole cardamom pods (green), 1 bay leaf and a pinch of saffron threads. I added a combo of water and coconut milk to the oil "cooked" rice and let it cook for about 20 minutes and fluffed it with a fork. Typically, I remove the spices so that people do not chomp down on one of those spicy bad boys accidentally.
I think the key to good Indian rice is to rinse the rice in a colander several times to get the excess white starchiness off. Just run it under water (or soak several times) until the water runs almost clear. Then let the rice totally dry out once again (you'll be surprised how fast this happens, actually) before adding to the oil. I swear this ensures that you won't get sticky, gummy rice but rather fluffy separated grains. I usually use a liquid to rice ratio of 2:1 (actually slightly less than 2 cups of liquid to 1 cup rice).
All and all, I was very happy with my first meal back, especially since it was so time consuming and labor intensive. And even after 2 days passing since this awesome meal, our house still has a lovely perfume of cooked Indian spices lingering.

Friday, August 1, 2008


Yeah!!! Summer term is over. Grades aren't out yet, but I think I did awesomely in all three classes. Oh, and get this . . . I really like chemistry now. It was pretty cool to start at something so abstract and have it built up into something amazingly complex and meaningful. Yeah, I know I'm a nerd.
To celebrate my summer courses ending, I made a trip over to Last Chance Thrift Store (Decatur location) to hunt for some treasures.
I LOVE LOVE LOVE 1970's kitschy designs and color schemes of yellow, avocado greens, browns and oranges. These magical color combos were a definite in the house I grew up in (*although I'm quite sure my folks would call them "tacky" or "hideous" instead of magical). I recall our kitchen being modest and a bit darker than other parts of the house due to the brown cabinets that overpowered the muted/pale yellow counter tops and linoleum floors (I think they were yellow . . . I'm getting old and my memory is fading). We had this amazing shaggy green carpet throughout the house and of course wood paneling on the walls in several rooms. I loved it!
One thing is for sure, I didn't grow up around fancy matching Pyrex glassware and I don't recall my mom hosting a Tupperware party at our house, but for some reason I am especially drawn to Pyrex casserole dishes and nifty Tupperware from that era. There is something about these things that are so comforting and really, really hard to pass up when I see them at a thrift store. Needless to say, I was super happy when I came upon 3 awesome items that only cost a total of $5.
The first thing I found were these matching Tupperware containers that didn't look quite deep enough to store salad dressing but clearly looked like some sort of container for a liquid condiment. After some research, I found out that these gems are oil and vinegar cruets. They are in very good shape and only cost $2 for the pair!!!

Next I found this crazy spaceship looking item that turned out to be a kitchen timer, made by Presto (Eames Era Space Age UFO design). I had a hard time finding out a lot about this particular gadget so, I'm not a 100% on the Eames Era tip, however, it was only a dollar, I needed a kitchen timer, it looks freakin cool and it works!

The last beauty I found was a Pyrex Woodland Brown Flower 1 quart casserole dish. It doesn't have a lid, but honestly, even when I have casserole dishes with glass lids, I hardly ever use them. This was $2, which is a little more than what I would spend on an incomplete piece, but it HAD to come home with me! It was practically begging me.

Now, I gotta start prepping for the Indian meal I am making for Jared tonight. It seems like I haven't made a decent meal in forever. I hope I didn't lose my touch in the kitchen and it turns out well enough to brag about.
I'll be visiting everyone's blog super soon!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

as you can tell . . .

I haven't blogged in a while. Jared has been doing most of the cooking these days and on the rare occasion I do cook, it's not really anything new or exciting. I really miss the inventive and experimentation side of cooking but I also really miss staying in touch with all my blog friends out there.

Anyways, I am still alive and still very much engrossed in my chemistry studies. My last final of this summer session is on July 30th and fall doesn't start until August 18th, so hopefully I'll be able to do some much needed cooking, blogging and catching up everyone during my little break.

Here's hoping that fall doesn't kick my ass like summer has.

still pleasantly plump (vegan),


Saturday, June 21, 2008

Cosmo's Vegan Shoppe Ice Cream Social

How awesome is it that Atlanta's one and only vegan store, Cosmo's Vegan Shoppe, is having an ice cream social saturday night to celebrate their first year on Highland Ave anniversary.
They are the coolest.
We'll be there, will you? Hope so. You should be.



Monday, June 16, 2008

Flying Saucer Snack Attack

Like a broken record, I am still swamped. Besides conquering chemistry, a huge struggle for me has been bringing brain sustaining food with me to school on the days I am there for over 8 hours, that doesn't bore me. I like sandwiches and all but I certainly couldn't eat one everyday like Jared does, so I have been racking my brain as to what I could make that will ward off hunger and keep my taste buds happy. Part of the problem is that I forget to pack my lunch/snacks the night before and food in the morning just isn't very appetizing to me. Another issue is that what I do manage to pack isn't anything I am in the mood for later on. By the time I'm on campus and hungry, it's too late. So, besides boring sandwiches, I have been bringing apples, carrot sticks and sometimes chips or pretzels. For someone who enjoys food, this is not cutting it. I seriously don't know how parents pack a lunch for their kids everyday (or just about everyday)!!!

Anyways, my friend Ashley (Vegan Invasion), made an awesome cheese ball for the ICE pre-party a couple of Friday's ago that I have been thinking about ever since. It is seriously as good, if not better, than the original cheese ball it is based on . . . You know, the incredibly dense cream cheese and cheddar ball covered in nuts? I didn't have one set recipe but made this version from several recipes I found online. My version was simply Tofutti cream cheese, shredded vegan cheddar block (Galaxy Nutritional Foods), Earth Balance, nutritional yeast, vegan Worcestershire sauce, Bragg's Liquid Aminos, granulated garlic, cayenne pepper, liquid smoke (the key ingredient!), dried chives and a finely chopped green onion mixed until fluffy and smooth with an electric hand mixer. I had trouble forming it into a ball, so it became a spread with a top layer of roasted chopped almonds. I'm not sure how long it will last once Jared gets home, but my plan is to pack this up for lunch this week with some crackers, in addition to my carrot sticks and apple. Thanks for the idea Ashley!


p.s.- I LOVE this picture of my nephew, Gabriel, because he looks how my brain feels every night before I go to sleep.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Pasta Primavera

This week has been one of my hardest weeks in recent memory . . . and it's not even over yet! So far this week, I've had 2 tests, a quiz, 2 chemistry lab experiments with write ups and several homework assignments all in a matter of 3 days, not counting all the studying time this past weekend. I had my 1st college exam in about 6 years AND it was a chemistry test. Ugh! I walked out feeling good about it, like I may have gotten an A, but alas, I ended up with a mid/high B. With my homework assignments, I'm not too far off from an A, but I can't say I'm not a little disappointed and discouraged, especially considering how much I KNOW I studied. Maybe I just needed to warm my brain up with this test???
Anyway, today was probably the 1st time I've cooked in a few weeks (well, thoughtful/not as fast cooking, anyway). This dish kinda reminds me of Pasta Primavera, minus the peas since I'm not a huge fan. All I did was blanch small-diced zucchini, yellow squash and broccoli florets in salted water. I cooked some thin spaghetti and just added my homemade nutritional yeast/garlic dressing over it and tossed in the crisp veggies. The heat from the spaghetti and veggies warmed up the dressing perfectly. It turned out really great compared to the veggie burger, tater tot or cereal meals I have been having. If I make this again, hopefully I'll have some fresh herbs to perk it up a bit.
Now I'm gonna do some much needed laundry and more chemistry crap (sorry to be a baby about this class but you have no idea what I'm dealing with in my classes as far as professor "teaching" styles and obnoxious/disruptive classmates.)

Monday, June 9, 2008

Tootsie Pop

This past Saturday, Jared went to the Indie Craft Experience at Centennial Park while I stayed home and studied for chemistry. He said it was a good thing I didn't go because it was super-duper hot and there were way too many cute things that I would have wanted to buy. Being the sweetheart Jared is, he brought me back a very cute owl made by Love Yu (sorry I couldn't find a working website). I have named him Tootsie Pop because he reminded me of a modern version of Mr. Owl from the kitschy 70's Tootsie Pop commercial. He has off centered eyes, which makes him even more adorable to me, plus the colors are one of my favorite color combos: brown, blue and orange. He was a nice surprise to get after a stressful day of isotopes, unit-factor conversions and atomic structure. Now I just have to play defense with Sweetpea because she is fascinated with Tootsie Pop and wants him to be one of her babies to play with.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

i am spent

I'm sure you can tell from the lack of posting/commenting, school has taken over my life. I am pretty much at school or doing something for school from 8 in the morning until I go to sleep around 11 every night. It's madness how much work I have, especially for my chemistry class and lab. I seriously don't remember college being this rough . . . but I have been out for about 6 years. Plus, summer session is only about 8 weeks, so it is like whirlwind and flash taking 3 classes in that short amount of time. Not the best way to start college, but I only have 6 more weeks!
Jared and I are seriously on opposite schedules, so I barely get to hang out with him these days. Sucks a lot! Nearly as horrible is that my eating habits have gone down the drain. My head has been so into books that I have been not eating all that much. I have a hard time breaking away from studying and feel a bit guilty when I know I could be doing extra work . . . so, forget cooking and baking for fun. It's basically survival eating, which is not fun at all.
I was feeling bad for not making anything special for Jared, so last night during a brief break, I made an open-faced style apple turnover bake with all the apples we've had a round for a while and a frozen puff pastry I have been wanting to get out the house. It was just okay. Not my best creation, but it didn't stop us from eating it. If we had a little soy ice cream on top, it would have been so much better (as so many things are!)

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

despite the craziness, we have still been eating

I have had my face buried in textbooks and been so in my head lately, that I just haven't had much free fun time to catch up on everyone's blog or even update my own too often. Mad props to all my blog friends who have busier schedules than myself and still manage to keep up with our interactions. I need to pencil in my blog time, for sure!
This past weekend, although a very sad one, did include some good food. Since Jared and I couldn't officially celebrate our third wedding anniversary last Wednesday (since Jared was working), we ended up going to one of our favorite places, Doc Chey's, for lunch on Friday. I got my very favorite dish there called Spicy Garlic Eggplant with Tofu.
On Saturday we made taco salads for lunch. I cooked up some tofu crumbles with chili powder, cumin, cayenne, salt and black pepper along with a can of drained kidney beans and a splash of salsa to put atop a bowl of chopped romaine lettuce, diced tomatoes, chopped avocado and diced red onion. Since it was a salad, we used my dad's tostada vinaigrette that we call Rex Sauce (mixture of white vinegar, water, canola oil, salt and sugar) and a splash of sweet Thai chili sauce. I also placed a few corn chips on the side to crunch over top. Yum!
On Saturday night, I was feeling like having a good ol' plate of food that is good for the soul. I made fried tofu triangles that were coated in cornmeal, chipotle powder, chili powder, cumin, lemon zest and salt (inspired by the Chili-Cornmeal Crusted Tofu out of Veganomicon) along with some Cajun style red beans and rice and corn on the cob. I'm sad to say that the red beans and rice was a tad bit disappointing but what else might you expect from a packaged product? The tofu was addictive and the corn was sweeter than pie!
Okay, so after class today, dropping off the recycle items, laundry and studying, I really hope to catch up on everyone's blog today!!!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

a very sad weekend

It feels weird to be posting about food this weekend, so I'm not going to. A friend of Jared's, who was also Jared's best friend Hank's roommate/friend, Thomas, passed away this Friday. He had been battling cancer since he was a kid and unfortunately, he didn't make it through. I knew Thomas just as acquaintances, who I really only saw out at clubs, bars or parties, but he was very well known and loved by a ton of people back in Tampa, a few of whom are mutual friends of mine. I know this must be tough for anyone who knew him, his family and girlfriend, because it has been a tough couple of days for me. It is so sad to see Jared and Hank heart broken by the loss of a friend/brother, especially Hank who lived with Thomas for several years. Thomas was a great guy who was very funny/witty and had a smile I always looked forward to seeing.
This pic was taken quite a while back, before Thomas got super sick again, but it includes Jared's best friend Hank (on the left), Jared in the middle and Thomas (on the right).

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

disaster cupcakes made with love

*Update* Jared actually liked the "frosting." I believe him since he ate 3, one right after the other!

Jared and I are celebrating our 3rd wedding anniversary today! Well, we are at least acknowledging it because Jared is working tonight and won't be home until late. I still wanted to make today extra special, so I made chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter “frosting.”
I got both the cupcake recipe (pg. 37) and frosting recipe (pg. 151) out of Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. The cupcake part turned out perfectly moist, rich and chocolaty, much like a Devil's Food cake. The peanut butter frosting on the other hand was just plain awful.
I'm not sure how people make a perfectly "fluffy" frosting, but I have never had any luck, vegan or not. I know it can be done, as I have eaten my fair share of homemade cupcakes, including way too many at my first vegan potluck I attended. I know it can be light and airy with the perfect balance of fat, sugar and flavor, but whatever disaster I whipped up today wasn't it. Mine turned out greasy, way too sweet and a thick and somewhat separated goo. Even though I was expecting a pillow of whipped peanut butter atop the perfect chocolate cupcake, I wouldn't have minded the texture of the frosting so much if the taste wasn't so bland. Really, it just tasted like oily powdered sugar with little evidence of peanut butter flavor. For some reason though I was hopeful that the peanut butter goo would match up all right with the chocolate cupcake but that was just wishful thinking. Oh well.
Since the cupcake part did turn out so well, I think I may just scrape the frosting off and save the bottoms to eat with a cold glass of soymilk when Jared gets home tonight.
While it would have been nice to make the perfect cupcake to surprise Jared with, today isn't about that. Today is about making something with all my love for someone I am so lucky to be married to. Disaster or not, I know Jared will appreciate the effort!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Tester Meatless Balls

While I haven't been too active in the kitchen with my own recipes, I did get around to testing Grammy's Meatless Balls for Happy Herbivore. Jared and I ate these up really fast and we both think Lindsay is a genius. I see myself making these meatless balls again and again.
Can't you just see the possibilities with these babies!
Although I could have (and did) just eat these straight up, I made a quick and simple spaghetti and meatless ball dish. Awesome!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Dangerous Brownies

When I became vegan, like the rest of you, I thought that some of my favorite childhood recipes would be completely out of the question. This was especially true regarding the “Killer Brownie” recipe my step mom, Delia, is famous for. If I recall, her brownie recipe was simply sugar, flour, eggs, butter and some sort of extract such as vanilla, almond or orange. Somehow, these few ingredients (and tons of them) baked into magical bite-sized squares that could be devoured in a day or two. They were dangerous but amazing. I never thought any vegan brownie recipe could match up to Delia’s Killer Brownies until I made Hannah Kaminsky’s Crumb-Topped Brownies out of My Sweet Vegan.
Due to some personal preferences, I did make a couple changes to Hannah's recipe. I am not a huge fan of cherries, so instead of using black cherry soy yogurt, I used raspberry soy yogurt. Raspberries and chocolate are one of my favorite combos, so this was a good move for my taste buds. I also left out the instant coffee powder because coffee isn't too kind on my body. I do love coffee and I know what it does in chocolate dessert recipes, so I can only imagine how awesome the hint of coffee would have been. Along with the vanilla extract, I added a touch of almond extract. The crumb topping and the chocolate chips were a nice touch and made me feel like I was eating a gourmet brownie you’d get at a fancy pants bakery, but honestly, I could’ve skipped the topping and left out the chocolate chips and they still would have been ranked one of the best brownies out there. While Hannah’s recipe does have quite a few more ingredients than my step mom’s recipe and created a sink full of mixing bowls, spoons and measuring cups, they are just as rich, fudgy, decadent and deadly as the Killer Brownies I grew up on.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

laptop issue

**Update** My laptop might still be under warranty!

I'm sorry I haven't been reading everyone's blogs in the past week. The connector jack on my laptop (the jack that connects the adapter to the computer) decided to short circuit and is no longer able to charge my computer, which is apparently a rather common thing on Gateways. Thankfully, we have a second computer, a Mac, that Jared uses for music stuff so I can make this quick update and check my emails. The Mac has also started to be a troublemaker and so I try not to use it for long periods of time. Hopefully, within the week we will be able to have my laptop up and running again and I can catch up with everyone!!!
Thank you to all who wished me congrats on my one-year vegan anniversary and one-year Atlanta anniversary. You rock! Also, to make a very long day short, my orientation went well and I am officially a student again. My In State tuition status was accepted which means cheap tuition! I start my first three summer session classes on May 27th. Two of the three classes this summer are chemistry and a chemistry lab. I haven't had any chemistry studies since I was a freshman at FSU in 1997 and its been 6 years since I graduated from USF, so it's also been a while since I was in a college setting. Yikes!
Just for kicks, I found a picture of one of my very first days at FSU taken June of 1997! My baby brothers Drew (in the red, who is now 19) and Stephen (next to me, who is about to turn 22 in a few weeks) and my beautiful mom are also in the picture. I remember this day as if it just happened yesterday and cannot believe that this picture was taken about 11 years ago when I was a fresh-faced and very smiley 17-year-old freshman.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Orientation Smoothie Shake, Bikes!

**Update** Jared has informed me he put his break back on his bike.

I am not one to eat breakfast when I wake up but I have my orientation this morning at the college and know I'll need something in my belly to help me pay attention. I made a very filling smoothie shake out of vanilla soymilk, a frozen banana and a handful of frozen strawberries. I seriously doubt the campus will have any thing to munch on today and the orientation lasts about 4 hours, so I may have to pack a snack.
Oh, and I also wanted to show off our bikes. We went biking in downtown Decatur on the Trail this past weekend and had a lot of fun. It's starting to get hot though!
My bike is the pink Schwinn cruiser bike and Jared's is the orange IRO fixed gear/no break. I'm thinking about selling my cruiser bike and getting a fixed gear myself, although I personally would like to have a break on mine. Jared is super into bikes, so it would be a nice hobby for us to share together. You can check out Jared's blog here.
I love this picture of Jared!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

a weekend of two anniversaries

It was this weekend last year that I moved from Tampa, Fl to the Atlanta, Ga area. It has truly been one of the best years of my life. Mind you, I do miss living near our families, but it was always a dream of mine to move to Atlanta, and Jared and I made it happen. We are close to the mountains (my favorite scenery) and we actually had four distinct seasons instead of just two seasons in Florida (too hot and not as hot). I got to enjoy snow for the first time in my life (at least that I can recall . . . I was, after all, born in Indiana). In this year, I decided to make a career change by going back to school, something I probably wouldn't have done in Tampa because I had a comfortable job there. I got to experience life as a homemaker on accident since finding a job here has proved to be almost impossible. Lastly, one of the biggest things this year has brought was a complete lifestyle change by becoming vegan.
This weekend marks my one-year anniversary of being a vegan! Deciding to live a cruelty free life has been one of the most satisfying changes in my life. I don't miss anything about being an omnivore because I have exponentially improved my cooking and baking skills by recreating my old favorites. I had a 40 drop in my cholesterol levels, love that I am no longer tempted to eat at 99% of the restaurants I would have in the past and maybe most importantly, my soul just feels so much better knowing that I am not contributing to any suffering for our gastronomical cravings or fashion needs.
Jared helped me celebrate my one year vegan anniversary by taking us out to lunch at one of our favorite restaurants in Atlanta: Soul Vegetarian. We rarely eat out now that we are savings for school costs, so when I get to eat at Soul Veg, I do it up right.
Most meals here start with a nice little salad with their famous Prince Dressing (which is what I loosely base our homemade house dressing on).
Jared also got a small bowl of Orange Lentil soup with his salad.
For my main meal (not the greatest picture), I got what I affectionately call, the "brown plate" which includes BBQ cauliflower (deep fried battered cauliflower drenched in BBQ sauce . . . trust me it is sooo good) and 2 sides. I almost always get their famous mac and cheese with onion rings. I could be less naughty and get collard greens or broccoli for a side but it's hard to pass up the mac and cheese and the BEST onion rings on the planet.
Jared got his usual tofu sandwich with onion rings. This sandwich kinda has a fried fish thing to it since it's dredged in a cornmeal batter and then placed on a bum with their homemade tarter sauce. You can't go wrong with this!
If lunch at one of my favorites places wasn't enough, Jared also took me to Abbadabbas and bought me pair of new flip-flops. I love shoes, generally, but I almost always wear flip-flops. I had my last pair for so long and wore them so often that the bottoms were completely slick. It feels weird breaking in these new flip-flops but I love them so much!
What's the best way to celebrate two anniversaries? Ice cream, of course! I have an ice cream maker but didn't have time to make a base to chill and then freeze, so we went to Whole Foods and picked up some Purely Decadent, my favorite brand of soy ice cream. They were on sale too! I was in a chocolate mood but they were all out so I tried a new flavor called Turtle Trails, which has caramel sauce, chocolate covered pecan pralines in vanilla ice cream. YUM!!!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

peanut butter-oatmeal-chocolate chip cookies

Jared has been working really long, weird hours this week, so I made him these cookies. I used the Big Gigantoid Crunchy Peanut Butter-Oatmeal cookie recipe from VWaV but added a handful of chocolate chips because Jared loves chocolate and peanut butter together (I don't know many people who don't though). I halved the recipe so we wouldn't have too many cookies around the house and instead of making 12 big cookies I decided to make "normal" sized cookies (which yielded about 20 cookies) so we wouldn't feel as guilty eating more than one! They aren't big or gigantoid but they are pretty damn amazing.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

the awesome, the awful, the so-so

I haven't felt very hungry lately and so, I haven't been super inspired to cook or bake. I think this may be a good time to thumb through my many cookbooks for ideas and inspiration. This week especially, it seems more often than not, I just haven't been very satisfied by anything I eat . . . even stuff I normally love.
I'll start with something I wasn't even in the mood for (but Jared was) that ended up being really awesome. Keeping in line with my plan to get rid of aging pantry/fridge/freezer items, I made a tofu potato skillet type breakfast with red potatoes, firm tofu, red and orange bell peppers (sliced and frozen), a part of a red onion from the fridge and a ton of dried spices and spice blends. In one big frying pan I steamed then fried red potatoes in canola oil with salt, black pepper and a healthy dose of Sarah Kramer's "Needs a Little Extra" spice blend out of La Dolce Vegan! Once the potatoes were cooked through, I added the slightly thawed bell peppers that I ran my knife through along with the diced red onion. In a smaller separate pan, I fried up diced and then slightly smashed tofu in a little canola oil with yet another spice blend, the tofu scramble seasoning mix out of Yellow Rose Recipes. Once the veggies were cooked and the tofu was crisp, I combined the two in the big frying pan and added a touch of maple syrup. The two spice blends married perfectly and of course everything taste better with a little maple syrup.
Now, the awful. I never thought a salad could be bad, but I was wrong. I cut up a head of Romaine (that was a bit bitter), sliced grape tomatoes, shredded carrot, a couple green onions, half an avocado, a few crunched up crackers, a shake of Bacos and my favorite homemade house dressing. I was going for a Chopped Cobb Salad. Besides the lettuce being bitter, the grape tomatoes weren't sweet at all, the avocado was funky, the Bacos overpowered everything and I used way too much dressing.
And the so-so . . . Jared personally loved these nuts, but I thought they were just okay. I have been munching on nuts lately and was in the mood for a candied spice mixed nut blend. So, last night for a sweet snack, I melted Earth Balance with corn syrup (another pantry item I want out of my kitchen, for good), sugar, cinnamon, freshly ground nutmeg, vanilla, salt and a dash of cayenne pepper. I mixed in raw cashews, roasted almonds and raw pecan pieces (all from the freezer), placed the sticky mixture on a cookie sheet and baked for about 13 minutes. I let these cool on parchment paper. After about an hour of cooling, I was able to break apart the pieces. These kinda tasted like brittle that was assaulted by Christmas. I could barely taste the cinnamon because the fresh nutmeg overwhelmed all the other flavors, even the natural roasted nut flavor. Next time I'll leave out the nutmeg and add some chili powder instead. Thank goodness Jared digs it, because I'm not a huge fan.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Kitchen Clean Out = Beans & Rice

Spring-cleaning has still got a hold of me! The past few days I have been throwing clutter away (which is really, really hard for me) and reorganizing the whole apartment. Part of my reorganization plan is cleaning out the kitchen cabinets/fridge and using up items that I know are getting a bit old.
On my last trip to Tampa, my Dad shared his pillow-sized sack of jasmine rice with us, so I needed to use my old supply. We also have way too many dried beans (if there is such a thing) and so I decided to make plain old black beans with rice, with a side of fried plantains and an avocado tomato salad. The beans were cooked in water, garlic, onion, olive oil, dried oregano and sofrito (that has been lurking in my fridge for way too long) for a few hours. The beans weren't nearly as good as my Dad's but they filled me up none the less. The rice wasn't all that. I don't think my (almost always) trusty steamer cooked the rice very well. It was a tad on the al dente side, which is not a good feature in rice. The avocado and tomato salad was simply an avocado, tomato, red onion, red wine vinegar, salt and olive oil. The plantains were perfectly sweet and fried in canola oil. Dessert and side dish all in one!
Since I have been so busy with stuff around the house, this meal not only got rid of a few items in my kitchen but also gave me a much needed energy boost.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Spring Cleaning Pizza Party

Man, I'm beat. Jared and I have been cleaning like crazy today. It actually started last night with us taking everything out of our little computer room/nook, scrubbing it down and reorganizing the whole room in order to make it a haven for me to get some serious studying done once school starts. Then, before we knew it the rest of the house became shiny and new. To reward our immaculate surroundings (at least to our standards), I decided to throw Jared and I a mini pizza party. I made the pizza dough from VWaV in my bread machine (on the dough setting), and it turned out awesome! I made 2 pizzas, which were a little bigger than personal-pan size, both with tomato sauce, Teese, veggie pepperoni, garlic salt, dried oregano, nutritional yeast and red pepper flakes. I would've added extra stuff like bell peppers and onions, but I was so wore out from cleaning. Seriously, if you can get your hands on some Teese, make a pizza ASAP! So freakin good!!!
I even made a sweet pizza with the left over pizza dough that had cinnamon and sugar! Jared said it was really good but I think if I made this again, I'll roll the dough out thicker to form bread sticks. Perhaps I'll make a Tofutti cream cheese icing to drizzle over it too.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Good News Muffins

Not only is it my Dad's birthday today (HAPPY BIRTHDAY DAD!!!) but I also found out I was accepted into school to start this summer! Whoa Whooo! Granted, I still have a lot of work to do before I can apply to the actual nursing program, but at least I am finally able to take the prerequisites to get the ball rolling. I am still working on the residency issue, but hopefully I will get that cleared up before orientation in a few weeks. So, I am relieved I finally got in. Now the real work starts!
As usual, when I'm a little on edge, I like to be in the kitchen. Today, I made these beautiful 4 Berry Banana Muffins to clear my mind. I typically use soy yogurt in my muffins but I didn't have any so I used a mashed up banana and added lemon juice to the soymilk. Also, since fresh berries are pricey, I used frozen mixed berries that included blackberries, raspberries, blueberries and strawberries.
Can you tell I <3 muffins?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

stir fried rice, grilled Teese sandwich

Jared gets off of work kinda late so I try to make stuff that tastes amazing reheated. This week I cut to the chase and made 2 of my favorite dishes into 1: Stir Fried Rice. Early in the day I steamed jasmine rice and let it hang out at room temperature. When I was ready to eat I fried up a block of tofu in canola oil and set it aside. I diced a broccoli crown as well as a small zucchini along with a shredded 1/4 of a green cabbage and placed the washed veggies in a colander. I slowing poured boiling water over the veggies in the colander to slightly steam/wilt the veggies so they wouldn't be raw in my fried rice. I then fried up my cooked jasmine rice with a bit of canola oil, sesame oil and sesame seeds until the edges were browned and crispy. I added the steamed veggies in with the rice with a little Hoi sin sauce, soy sauce and red pepper flakes. At the last minute I combined the fried tofu. I topped it all off with chopped green onions and more black and white sesame seeds. This was nothing ground breaking but Jared really, really enjoyed it after a long day at work.
Is it true that one of my favorite foods of all times is back: Grilled Cheese!? Thanks to Teese and Cosmo's Vegan Shoppe for carrying it, we can again enjoy a grilled cheese sandwich when nothing else will do.
I'm not gonna lie, the very first grilled cheese I made with Teese didn't blow me away. The problem? I cut the Teese (insert joke here) too thick and it overwhelmed the whole sandwich. It tasted too soy milky and got really juicy/drippy when it melted (kinda like Buffalo mozzarella when it's melted). Plus I didn't think it was salty enough and kinda tasted like dill (not my most favorite thing). So, for my second grilled Teese sandwich, I cut the Teese thinner and added a bit of garlic salt, which gave it a salty bite and toned down the dill taste. Both times I made this I did add thin sliced tomatoes because I don't know about your tomatoes right now, but ours (from Florida which we got at our local farmers market) are so wonderful. Sweet, full tomato flavor and bright red! Plus I think grilled cheese sandwiches are a little boring without sliced tomato.
Perfection on a plate!
The price of Teese wasn't too bad either, about $8 for a pound of it (I have definitely spent more on an imported cheese before). I'm not sure it will be something we will always have around, because I could dangerously eat too much of it, but it is certainly the best non-animal milk cheese I have had since becoming vegan and I am thrilled I CAN have a decent grilled cheese sandwich once again.