Friday, September 28, 2007

Too Many Things in the Oven!

Last night was my first serious cooking since returning to Houston on Monday. Here's a peak at our crowded plate:

After seeing a sneak peak of some recipes for the upcoming Veganomicon on the ppk, I knew I had to try one out. And luckily, I had some tempeh in the fridge, so I made the Hot Sauce Glazed Tempeh. I used chipotle hot sauce, since I love that smoky flavor. And in my rush of trying to keep track of all the other things going on, I forgot to add lemon juice to the marinade, but it all turned out fine. Since I don't have a grill pan, I went with the broiling option. Alongside the tempeh (and the other things that took up space in my oven) was roasted brussels sprouts, roasted sweet potatoes and red pepper (seasoned with cumin, coriander, and garlic), and pan-fried polenta topped with roasted grape tomatoes. A delicious meal that even our omnivorous friend devoured!

While I was busy with the oven, we had pita chips and store-bought hummus to munch on (I know, very lazy of me). But I had to take a photo of my new chip and dip platter, a wedding gift from my grandparents!

For dessert we had leftover wedding cake (marble cake with the best chocolate frosting ever). I froze about half of it and the rest we're (meaning mostly me, John likes to be healthy but I can't resist) trying to eat. Maybe I'll freeze a little more.

Still working on getting wedding photos together. I'll post those sometime over the weekend.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Wedding Food!

So I figured I would start out with wedding food, beginning with, of course, the cake!! As I've mentioned before, Hippie Chick Bakery designed, baked, and delivered my wedding cake. I absolutely loved the colors, I didn't want just a plain white wedding cake. The vegan buttercream frosting was sweet and creamy, I could eat it by itself, and I'm not even a frosting fan!

To let our guests know what flavors of cake were available, I made a sign out of the tons of leftover paper we had from programs, napkin rings, etc. And of course I had to highlight that the cake was vegan! It is so hard to choose a favorite flavor. We haven't even tried the marble yet (It's in the fridge waiting to be cut, one quarter to the freezer for our anniversary and the rest we'll try and eat!). But both the pumpkin and the chocolate were amazing ....

Now moving on to dinner (we actually ate this first :-) There were plenty of hors d'ouevres to start with, but I didn't get pictures (at least yet). Veggie sushi, spring rolls, falafel, and samosas. The caterer (Celebrations Gourmet) was even nice enough to bring trays over while we were taking pictures! But on to the main course, here was my dinner plate (one photo I actually did snap myself).

The plate consists of a wild mushroom strudel made with shitake, crimini, and oyster mushrooms sauteed with leeks and Madeira wine rolled in phyllo pastry. This dish got rave reviews from many of our guests.

On the side we had roasted asparagus

And roasted sweet potatoes (a bit blurry)

I went back for seconds of the strudel. I even told the caterer that I'd leave it on my plate awhile and not to take it away, that I'd be back for it. Of course I had good intentions, but I was so busy I never made it back! So instead, they packed us a lunch for the next day and also gave all the leftovers to John's family. They'll be eating this stuff for days!

In other eating adventures before the wedding, we tried the Boston Hot Dog Company while in Salem. I of course had the Veggie Dog which was made of tofu I believe. The guy running the place was quite a character.

I give it an okay review. Not something I would really eat again, but at least I tried it!

And finally, dinner in Salem at Fresh Taste of Asia where I had the sesame tofu. Also tried their Idaho Maki roll, deep fried sweet potato sushi. It was delicious and even converted my not-so-crazy about sushi sister.

More wedding photos to come!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Getting Things Sorted

Well, it's official now .... I'm married! John and I returned from Boston last night after getting married on Sunday September 23, 2007. It was a perfect day. So difficult to even think of where to start telling you all about it. First off I must thank you for all of your wedding wishes. They meant a lot to me! I am still trying to sort out photos from various people that had their cameras during the wedding (I was a bit busy...) and of course once I have the professional photos in a few weeks I'll post some of those as well. I am pretty exhausted (and already back at work), but I will find the time in the next few days to do a few posts (or check out my flickr photos if you can't wait) and of course visit all of your blogs!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

I'm Off To Get Hitched!

Tonight we fly to Boston and our wedding is on Sunday!! So, needless to say I won't be blogging until we return on Tuesday (honeymoon is in December). But I will be back with plenty of pictures and stories. Thank you so much for all of your congrats and best wishes. I can't wait to return and catch up with everyone's blogging!

So I can't take off without a few pictures, although the last few nights have been anything that takes minimal effort to fix for meals. I did take the time though to make pumpkin muffins from Tamara's blog (altered version from VWAV). I couldn't resist eating one straight out of the oven and they were so tasty. These will be my saving grace for breakfasts at the hotel this weekend!

Dinner from two nights ago involved sauteeing red pepper and sugar snap peas, tossing in some peanut sauce, and pairing it with some leftover spring rolls from my bridal shower and perfectly ripe mango.

This is probably a pathetic picture to post, but I really did eat a plate of broccoli for dinner last night. Oh, and I snuck in one of those muffins :-)

Here I am all packed (sort of, I'm pretty last minute about those kinds of things, although I've been packing since Saturday). My wedding dress is hanging in the background. Won't that be fun to carry around the airport?

Hope everyone has a wonderful weekend! Woohoo, I'm getting married!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Sieving Seeds for Supper

Although I hardly ever use store bought dressings and vinaigrette anymore, my idea of making a salad dressing is usually just combining olive oil, flax oil, balsamic vinegar, and some whole grain mustard, giving it a shake, and calling it a day. But some salads call for something a little more special. The raspberry vinaigrette from the Candle Cafe Cookbook calls for you to blend frozen (or fresh) raspberries with vinegar (I used balsamic instead of red wine) and some other ingredients, then sieve out the the seeds.

Here's what you're left with after sieving. This step reminded me of being in college, working in the soils lab. I sieved so many soil samples....

And what better way to use the vinaigrette than a simple salad welcoming in the fall fruit I love the most: pears. These are red pears over a bed of spinach leaves with toasted pecans and raspberries as garnish. A refreshingly sweet salad!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Down on the Bayou

Even though we live in the urban sprawl of over 6 million people that is Houston, John and I still have a little piece of nature to escape to when everyday city life becomes overwhelming. One of our favorite places to run, walk, and bike is along Buffalo Bayou, a quick five minute drive from our place. Yesterday morning we took a four mile walk around the loop. I brought my camera along and taking pictures made me really appreciate having this place so close.

So come along on a virtual walk with us now!

We start out at a beautiful, unique fountain. Often times this is full of white suds, a prank of local high school aged kids. I also have a theory that there is some kind of sensor for wind speeds, because when it is windy outside, it's always off! As you continue walking towards downtown, you reach Art Park. The sidewalk is painted blue and white alternating word combinations that have blue in them (blue moon, blue bonnet, blue grass, blue balls :-). There is also a strange statue that to me sort of resembles Buddha on stilts.

Here are some views of the water itself. As you can see, the water is pretty brown, but in places, very serene and calm. The park system has done an amazing job removing non-native species and trying to restore the area to it's natural state. Of course, it's hard to ignore the many freeway bridges crossing above you and there are constant reminders that this is the major drainage for most of the city (i.e. lots of trash in spots).

Along Buffalo Bayou is the downtown's unofficial dog park. This area is often underwater when we're had significant rain. There's even a few hills along the Bayou! If you're looking for hill training, you'd better enjoy running up and down the same hill over and over again. You can see John making his way up. There is also a wetland conservation area along the Bayou. I spent one Saturday helping to clean up and remove non-natives. If you look hard (bottom left) you can see part of the frisbee golf course that is also along the bayou.

There is also the second largest urban bat colony located along the bayou. This is a bridge you always approach with speed and a large breath.... whew it smells! How cool though to have a colony of bats right here in the city. We paused over the bridge and saw this turtle just hanging out in the water.

So four miles later we had worked up an appetite, so we headed over to our favorite local breakfast place, Baby Barnaby's. It is named after the owner's deceased sheep dog, how sweet (notice the bone on the coffee cup)! It is always packed for breakfast on the weekends, a sure sign of a loyal following.

For breakfast I had pretty much one of the only things I can veganize on the menu :-( It's listed as a chicken burrito with egg white and black beans. I get the tortilla, balack beans, guacamole, salsa, and fresh tomatoes with a side of fruit. It is filling and delicious, but I can't help eyeing everyone else pancakes and french toast! As I may have mentioned before, I have found NO place in Houston that serves an outright vegan breakfast option. No tofu scrambles, vegan waffles or pancakes, nothing. This place has veggie sausage but it isn't vegan. What's sad is this place has the right clientel to appreciate this kind of addition. So I've decided to write them a letter to try and get a vegan dish on the menu... or even just add soy milk and vegan sausage. Anything would be an improvement. I'll let you know how my quest to find vegan pancakes in the city of Houston turns out....

Thursday, September 13, 2007


I have been tagged by VeggieGirl and Bazu for a meme! (okay, will someone please explain what that means exactly...I could guess, it's like when you raise your hand in class and know the perfect answer, so you're thinking to yourself "me, me!" so the teacher will pick you.... but maybe I'm way off) Regardless, I will first repost the rules of the game:

#1 Players must list one fact, word, or tidbit that is somehow relevant to their life for each letter of your first or middle name.

#2 When you are tagged you need to write your own post containing your first or middle name game facts, word, or tidbit.

#3 At the end of your post choose one person for each letter of your name to tag. Don’t forget to leave a comment telling them, they’re tagged, and to read your blog.

#4 If I’ve tagged YOU (the bloggers that I've tagged are listed at the end), please join in on the fun!

Okay, so right off the bat, I'm going to break rule #1 and use my last name. As many of you know, I am getting married in a week and a half and about to get a new last name! So, to memorialize the last name I've had all my life, I'm going to use it, hope you don't mind. So here goes....


E - Engaged (literally) and engaging. Even though I consider myself a fairly shy person, once I begin a conversation with someone, I fully commit myself to that conversation. I find that many people only seem to half listen to what others are saying. Not only do I try and listen, but I also try to engage the person as well, by commenting, asking questions, and being supportive. One of my better qualities I believe.

L - Longing for the mountains. Even though I grew up here in Houston, I was able to escape for 7 years to Colorado (where I earned my degrees) and in that time, fell in love with the outdoors and more specifically, the Rocky Mountains. I still have fond memories of field camp (looking at rocks outside for five weeks straight!), driving through southern Colorado, listening to Tom Petty. And some of my proudest accomplishments are climbing a handful of the state's many Fourtneeners .... now if I only could have brought enough rocks with me to make Mt Elbert a little bit taller (I think they made a mistake surveying Whitney). Anyhow, I miss the mountains here in pancake-flat Houston, but I travel to them as much as possible!

L - Learning to be an adult. Even though I just turned 28, I feel the same as I did in high school (okay, maybe a little different). Maybe it is something about my generation, but many of my friends have struggled with this transition as well. The reality of a full time job was the hardest thing to swallow, I just want to be free sometimes. I guess I'm just trying to find the right balance between freedom and responsibility. I'll get there someday....

I - Inlaw or outlaw? I am related (somehow) to an outlaw in the old west, John Wesley Hardin. The story goes that it used to be our last name too, but to distance ourselves from this guy, we changed it to Hardy and kept it as a family name (both my dad and brother's middle name today). Funny story, my mom and I were traveling in Ireland and went to a Texas-themed restaurant (the food was awful) and actually saw his wanted ad on the wall, how weird!! Oh, and also my family can be traced to the group of 300 original Texas settlers that Stephen F. Austin led here in the early 1820's. Pretty cool, huh?

S - Scientist. I remember having one of those chemistry experiment kits growing up, lucky for me, mine had all sorts of cool things since my dad was a chemist. I would like to think of myself as a fairly quantitative, analytical person, which is why I am drawn to science (and subsequently why I have trouble writing, scientific writing teaches you not to use adjectives, so you'll have to excuse my redundancy of words like "yummy" when I describe my food). I have my masters degree in geology, and love to look at rocks and think about the time, place, and conditions they were formed under.

O - Organized and a bit obsessive. Yep, I'm a planner. I like to be on time, even ahead of schedule. Not to say that I can't ever be spontaneous, but I'm much more comfortable if I can anticipate anything that comes up. And I have probably mentioned my slight OCD tendencies. My current obsessions includes wedding planning (I promise I am not a bridezilla, ask John), planning my next travel destination (St. John, USVI), and of course veganism (which includes cooking wonderful vegan food for everyone and promoting animal rights).

N - Nailbiter no more. I used to bite my nails like mad, up until pretty recently. I still find that if I'm nervous I revert back to it. I have a vivid memory of being in elementary school and trying out that stuff you paint on your nails that tastes bad, in order to get you to stop biting them. Well, I forgot I had it on and ate a dinner roll (at Luby's, how embarrassing to admit that) with my fingers and it was disgusting.

Okay, so there you go, a little more about me. Hope it didn't bore you to tears. This worked out well because I haven't been cooking anything spectacular for the last few days anyhow. And here are the people that I'm taggin for this meme (7):

Pleasantly Plump Vegan

Melisser from Urban Housewife

Tamara from McFarland Designs

Don't Get Mad Get Vegan

Veg-a-nut (when she recovers from her daughter's wedding this Sat!)


VKO from Lifestyles of the Chic and Vegan

Oh, and since I'm the bride and can do whatever I want (teehee) I'm adding one more:


A random photo of me from the Airplane Vortex in Sedona. Don't I look like I'm gathering energy?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Muffins from the Garden

Breakfast on the go is just a fact of life sometimes. I usually prefer to sit down, have a tall glass of vanilla soy milk (I've never gotten used to "adult" beverages, i.e. coffee, tea, etc) with some cereal or peanut butter on toast, or quinoa mixed with banana, pb, and agave nectar. But lately, sleep has been winning the morning battle, so I have turned to a grab-n-go style breakfast. Sunday I made these Garden Muffins from Damn Tasty Vegan. My first muffin to include veggies, I was so proud! They have the perfect balance of subtle sweetness and hearty whole grains that I crave in the morning. Out of curiosity, I calculated the nutritional information (yes, I'm a bit of a science nerd, plus I like numbers). Just a note, this probably isn't exact, data source is ingredient labels and the USDA nutrient database....

Garden Muffins Nutritional Info (per 1 muffin, including optional walnuts)
Calories: 164
Fat: 6.5 g
Saturated Fat: 0.4 g
Carbohydrates: 24 g
- Fiber: 3.75 g
Protein: 3.6 g

In other news I've been double-tagged for a meme by VeggieGirl and Bazu, which I will hopefully post before the end of the day!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Someone Else's Baking

I've been lucky enough the past few days to have someone else do my baking for me! It began with John baking his first cake ever, the Caramel Banana Pecan Ice Cream Cake from Vive Le Vegan. I have loved ice cream cakes since I was a kid, and thought this would be a fun thing to try! Here is John mixing the wet ingredients with the dry for the bottom cake layer...

We opted to use chocolate soy ice cream instead of vanilla, this was a good call I believe. It paired well with the vanilla cake, pecan, and caramel sauce. Here is John scooping the softening ice cream over the layer over bananas and pecans.... looks like the perfect finger licking opportunity.

And here is the finished ice cream cake! I don't think we let it sit quite long enough in the freezer, hence the fast melting ice cream, but we still both devoured our own pieces in record time. Not sure how long this will last in the freezer, but my guess is not long! (I'm sure you're wondering, what happened to cutting out sweets....)

Before enjoying half melted ice cream cake, we went to celebrate my 28th birthday at Ruggles, one of our favorite more upscale Houston restaurants (I even went dinner there before prom back in the day). To start off with I had my favorite green salad, which I have my own version that I love to make at home. ( yes, I know this isn't baked... but cmon, give me a break)

Follow that up with a vegan veggie pizza topped with plenty of basil, spinach, zucchini, artichoke hearts, mushroom, onion, and asparagus.... and you've got yourself a meal!!

And finally, the last baked good that I didn't have to make myself I ordered from Celine of Have Cake Will Travel on etsy (you must know by now that I'm addicted). The cookies arrived right on my birthday and even included a sweet birthday card to go along with the sweet cookies :-) I ordered a combination of coconut chocolate chip and chocolate peanut butter fudge. She even threw in a few chocolate chai snickerdoodles as a little extra! My fave had to be the choco pb cookies, they were HUGE and moist and absolutely chocolatey, peanut buttery good. If you get a chance, go order some yourself!!

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Hen Night

Wow, first off I want to thank everyone for their helpful comments about the makeup situation, I'll be sure to let you know what I come up with! Also, thanks for all the birthday wishes, yesterday was the actual day and I'll be sure to post what we had for dinner, but first I need to play some catch up!

Friday night, several of my girlfriends were kind enough to have a "hen" night aka bachelorette party for me (my mom refers to it as my hen night, since they just returned from living in the UK, plus I think it sounds more unique than bachelorette). My only request was that it be tame, just an evening of cooking dinner, having a few drinks, and maybe some dancing. Luckily my request was honored :-) We started off the evening by fixing a vegan meal together, how sweet of them! We enjoyed bruschetta as an appetizer, then moved on to the main course of mango-tofu springs rolls, tempeh with curry peanut sauce, and a simple green salad with plenty of veggies. Everything was delicious, thanks so much to my girlfriends for a great meal!

For dessert, we had chocolate fondue (dark chocolate mixed with chocolate soymilk), with long-stem strawberries and coconut covered vegan marshmallows as dippers. My friends were blown away by the vegan marshmallows!

And I couldn't help posting a photo of me opening some of the "fun" gifts that my friends got me, censored of course for the public eye :-)

My days as a bachelorette are numbered, in fact, two weeks from now exactly, I will be standing in my wedding dress and reciting my vows!!

Friday, September 7, 2007

I Need Some Help Here....

Growing up I always heard the rumor that mascara was made with bat droppings (eww! and NOT vegan). Still not sure if this is true or not, but by now I do know for certain that there are plenty of non-vegan ingredients in cosmetics. Which brings me to my dilemma. I do not normally wear makeup, not even to go out on weekends or anything like that. I am a strictly slather on some lip balm and go kinda girl. But for my wedding I'd like to look a little fancier :-) My bridesmaids and I will be having our makeup done for us at a place called I Natural in Peabody, Mass. I hadn't really thought much about it (soooo many other things to worry about), but I'm realizing now that most of their products likely won't be vegan. I'm going to give them a call today and ask what products they use and do some research online. But otherwise, I'm prepared to do some purchasing of my own and bring in those products for them to use. Seems a bit crazy, but I have no idea how to apply makeup, so it's best to let an expert handle it. So, my question for all you ladies (and guys too) is, do you have a favorite kind of vegan makeup? I don't even know what colors would look best on me, so I guess I will stick with neutrals. Any suggestions would be welcomed and much appreciated!
Sorry for the lack of photos, not much cooking these past few days. Tonight I have my bachelorette party (which includes cooking a vegan meal together!) so I'm sure I'll have some fun things to post next time!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Pronto Pesto

Pesto makes meals quick and easy, especially if it's frozen and ready to go! I had some basil and walnut pesto in the freezer that needed to get used (I've heard it only lasts about two months in the freezer? anyone have any advice?), plus it made it easy with all the details to attend to in these final days before the wedding (now less than three weeks away, omg). This was the perfect opportunity to enjoy some heirloom tomatoes in their simplest form: sliced and drizzled with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and some pesto.

Along with the tomatoes, I picked up some pre-packaged gnocchi to try out. Threw in some frozen peas, lots of pesto, and sun-dried tomatoes for garnish, and voila! Of course, the only downside is that I still have garlic breath today..... luckily both John and I have equally garlicky breath, so kissing isn't out of the question :-)

Monday, September 3, 2007

Koala Cupcakes

Here is Barnaby, the koala birthday cupcake...

Last night I headed over to my parents place for an early birthday celebration, since they are headed to England for vacation and another wedding this week. My mom went all out, as she usually does for birthdays, and fixed an excellent meal including stuffed manicotti, green beans, her homemade bread (which I've love all my life), and a delicious fruit salad. The best part though had to be these adorable koala cupcakes (inspired by Bake&Destroy on flickr), which have been my favorite animal since I was a little girl (I even went through quite an obsessive period, when I planned to move to Brisbane, Australia and work for the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, but that's another story...). My mom used the chocolate cupcake recipe from VCTOTW and the fluffy buttercream frosting. The ears are walnuts (obviously), eyes are a sugar wafer with a dot of white frosting to hold on the chocolate chip pupil, and the nose is a dark chocolate covered almond. She served it with chocolate soy ice cream on the side. I thought I could have eaten ten of these, they were so good!! My family was quite impressed with the vegan cupcake. Here I am before blowing out the candle....

My family really spoils me, they are the best!! Not only did my mom make an all vegan birthday meal (she makes all vegan meals most every time I come over actually), but my parents, brother, and sister, all gave me awesome vegan gifts! I feel so very lucky.... thanks for an wonderful early birthday! Here are the roses my dad picked out for me....

Okay, gotta run now. Off to enjoy the evening with some friends and the end of this rainy holiday here in Houston.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Blog Food

Saturday, we dined purely on blogworld food! After a long morning walk (it's actually getting a bit more bearable outside now), I made Bazu's buckwheat pancakes!! I had bought buckwheat pancake mix ages ago for a vegan fried chicken recipe that failed miserably (not sure why since it had so many great reviews!), and I knew that pancakes could never fail! My only change up was to add some cinnamon (which I'm not sure I tasted in the end) and served the pancakes with a mixture of maple syrup and agave. These were a tasty change up from regular pancakes, and will certainly be added to my breakfast repertoire! (plus I love to make extra to keep in the fridge as snacks, just slather on some pb)

All week I have been trying to find pre-cooked polenta to make Polenta Lasagna. Finally while making a stop at Central Market to get apple cider (John's going to start a batch of hard cider and not many stores carry this quite yet...), I hit the jackpot! So we came home with some basil & garlic polenta as well as sun-dried tomato and garlic. Instead of kale, I used spinach (yay, it's still on the shelves!) and also added in plenty of zucchini. As you can see it came out of the pan a bit of a mess (check out Susan's pic), but we both still scarfed it down just the same.

Okay, I can barely contain my excitement for my early birthday dinner celebration with my family tonight!! Rumor has it there will be cupcakes involved. This is one of those instances where I'm making an exception to my little "diet". Oh, I am just salivating thinking of them!!