Thursday, January 29, 2009

Daring Bakers Challenge: Tuile Cookies

Tuiles so light so crisp
being a daring baker
you lifted my heart

No reinventing
Yum yum recipe and tools
I cut out my heart

Patience played its part
one broken for one intact
heart flutters each drop
Whipped a mango mousse
into shape you were molded
now i heart agar

Topped with raspberries
endless possibilites
a heart shape five ways

Hope you understood
my haiku lyric journey
tuile around my heart

This month's challenge is brought to us by Karen of Bake My Day and Zorra of 1x umruehren bitte aka Kochtopf. They have chosen Tuiles from The Chocolate Book by Angélique Schmeink and Nougatine and Chocolate Tuiles from Michel Roux.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Inspired by Apples

It is a happy day when the first US grown apples arrive in the produce section. Apples are one of my favorite staple foods during the cooler months, whether serving as a snack with peanut butter, in a salad with greens and walnuts, shredded in a slaw with carrots and lemon juice, or baked with an oat & pecan topping with vanilla soy ice cream in an apple crisp (as shown below). My favorite variety of apple? I'm partial to Fujis, but also love the honeycrisps and pink ladies.
Not only will this fiber-rich fruit help keep the doctor away, but it can also serve as inspiration for more creative outlets. I chose this bright, cheerful apple print fabric to use as a lining for the Frenchy Bag that I made at a recent Sew Crafty class. Now it makes me hungry everytime I look inside my bag!
The outside of the bag turned out cute as well. It's the perfect size to stash just about everything in, even a couple of apples!
The W.I.P stitch along was just the push I needed to start my first embroidery project! And with such minimal supplies, it's easy to get started. I picked up some organic cotton twill, embroidery floss (in pink, purple, brown, and green), a hoop, and a needle and that's it! I finished up embroidering the love bear last night and now just need to decide what to do with this cute little guy.
No shortage of projects in my queue. This weekend I went fabric shopping with two of my prego girlfriends (yes, I have entered that stage in life where everyone I know is pregnant) so they could pick out what they wanted for the nappy bags that I'm going to make them. I am currently in the cutting fabric stage (aka my least favorite part) for the first one which has a fast approaching due date!

This post is a part of Work-In-Progress (W.I.P.) Wednesdays where I share some of my projects that serve as a creative outlet for my mostly left-brained mind. I may be posting the results of finished projects, actual W.I.Ps, or projects that are on my to-do list. Be sure to check out others that are posting their projects as well. Thanks to Shellyfish for inspiring us all!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Dust Off the Shelf - Uncheese, Kitch, & Maximus

I mentioned a few posts back that I have been struggling somewhat to find cooking inspiration. Reviewing many of my recent posts, it may appear to my readers that all I eat are cupcakes and treats! While I do tend to indulge in something sweet once a day, the bulk of my daily food intake is actually quite healthy. All I had to do to find a little inspiration (in addition to your suggestions... thanks!), was dust off my cookbook shelf and rediscover all the recipes I already have at my fingertips! So, I'm going to be doing a series of "Dusting Off the Shelf" where every few weeks I'll make a recipe from 3-4 predetermined cookbooks, with particular attention being given to those I use less or that have been a new addition to my ever-growing and hopefully now less dusty shelf.

First up: The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook, Skinny Bitch in the Kitch, and Gastronomus Maximus.
The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook is one of those books on my shelf that I have yet to make a single thing from.. embarassing I know! I chose to try the Broccoli and Rice Casserole since it's a dish that I recall fondly from my childhood. This version was super simple to prepare and required minimal ingredients. If you are a fan of noochy rice, this one is for you.
I was one of the lucky recipients of Amey's holiday zine, full of wonderful recipes and adorable drawings. This recipe for Quinoa with Brussel Sprouts and Tempeh is originally from Fresh Food Fast. I used a mixture of red and regular quinoa to add some color to this healthful dish. (and shhhh... I also made a cookie recipe she put in the zine as well ;-)
The arrival of my Skinny Bitch Total Body Workout video reminded me to revisit Skinny Bitch in the Kitch. I am a big fan of their "Down Home Cookin" section (e.g. the meatloaf), so I took a chance on the Sloppy Joe recipe. My mom calls these "yummies" but I always called them "yuckies". Maybe I just needed to try the vegan version, because now I agree with my mom. Oh, and I made my own buns using Vegan Dad's recipe.... not sure if I have the patience to wait 5 hours for buns ever again, but they sure were good.
To accompany the Sloppy Joes, I also made potato salad, yet another Southern dish that I've been avoiding all of my life. And once again proving that vegan versions are far superior... I couldn't get enough of this stuff. The veganaise, the sweet pickle relish, the dill, mmm mmm! Bring on summer picnicing season (not so far off here in Houston) because I'm ready with my potluck dish to share!
And even though it wasn't included in last week's assigned cookbooks, here's a bonus dessert from My Sweet Vegan, the triple threat chocolate cheesecake. It pleased a table full of omnivores with it's rich, chocolatey, creamy layers.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Try Walking in My Shoes

Confession: I used to be a shopaholic when it came to shoes. I loved them all... rugged hiking boots, dainty ballet flats, trusty running shoes, funky wedges, and even those killer spiky heels. After going vegan I realized that most of the shoes in my growing collection were born of cruelty so I slowly began to purge my closet and took them to Goodwill. I kept a few pairs that I really loved, figuring it seemed logical to wear them out before getting rid of them. But I found myself not wanting to put those on either, and they eventually got the boot. So you can only imagine my excitement when a representative from Gaiam contacted me asking if I would like to review a pair of their vegan shoes! Let's take a walk in my new J41 Yoga Slide shoes (which are on sale right now!) and I'll let you know what I think...

These slip on shoes are constructed with a cute and colorful corduroy upper and recycled rubber soles . The treads are tough enough to take you on a short rocky hiking trail but still comfy enough for walking to your neighborhood coffee shop. I have an older style of this shoe (which I still love), and I'm happy to report that they have added more cushioning to the insole, allowing for endless hours of roaming through the city in search of vegan treats. The handy velcro closures allows a snug fit for both narrow and wider feet, but you still have the luxury of being able to slip these shoes on and go!

I have worn my J41s both with and without socks (got a tiny blister the first time I wore no socks, but after that no problem), with jeans and with skirts, to the grocery store and to work and all without missing a step. Speaking of missing steps, if you are a bit of a clutz (like me), the super reinforced rubber will keep your toes safe from whatever you smash them into. Plus, it's super cool that they have the word "vegan" written on the inside.. just in case your friends have any doubt.

Overall I would rate these shoes as excellent and they are key player in my line up of everyday shoes. My only suggestion is they should add more color combinations so I can get another pair!

In a world that is full of yucky leather shoes, it's nice to know that our options are growing everyday with stylish, eco-conscious, well-built vegan shoes that with every step we take, we are making the world a more compassionate place. Thanks Gaiam for the shoes... I love them!

** My only compensation for this review was a free pair of shoes. Sweet!
** In other shoe-related news in my life... I bought John a pair of his first vegan work shoes for Christmas this year and he loves them!! He says they are not only more comfortable than his other work shoes, but they also make his feet sweat less. Bonus!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Bienvenue dans la jungle, bébé!

Two of my closest friends will be welcoming a baby girl into this crazy jungle of a world in just about a month, so this past weekend I cohosted a co-ed baby shower in their honor. The mom-to-be's only request (besides minimizing the pink) was that I make a cake for the occasion. All that pressure! So I really didn't want to disappoint...

For this jungle-themed cake I made the raspberry blackout cake from VWAV and added fresh raspberries to the ganache layer in the middle. After frosting it with the thick chocolate ganache, I rolled out white fondant to cover the cake. The zebra stripes were cut freehand from black rolled fondant and I piped a pink buttercream border. But the funnest part of making this cake had to be molding the elephant topper from fondant by hand! It turned out so cute! I have a feeling I will be making more fondant figures in the future...
And just in case the cake went fast (which it did, once I could bring myself to cut into it), I also made a dozen lemon macadamia white chocolate chip cupcakes (VCTOTW) in zebra striped cupcake liners with a piped buttercream swirl, a pink fondant flower, and placed in these adorable cupcake cuppies from Etsy.
I wanted to give the expectant parents a few more personalized gifts than just what was on their registry. So I got out my dressmaking shears, some pretty fabric, and 6 plain, white, organic cloth diapers and turned them into a bib and four colorful burp cloths using tutorials from Chickpea Sewing Studio. I thought the Eiffel tower bib was especially appropriate since the baby daddy is French and they are expecting a little girl. These projects were both so easy!
Testing my beginner sewing skills a bit more... ever since Shellyfish posted about the animal friends fabric book from Natasha who runs Hanies Etsy shop, I knew I wanted to make one for the parents-to-be. They have two rescue dogs and mom is a vegetarian, so animals are a big part of their lives (not to mention the jungle-themed party)! Each page of this fabric book features a different animal, including a cat, elephant, dog, lion, and a chicken. Sewing those tight little curves was a bit stressful for me, luckily my mom was there to help out and we cheered each other on through the tough parts.
And since I enjoy decorating real cakes so much, I figured I would attempt my first diaper cake for the occasion. Since this wasn't just a girly shower and I didn't want the guys feeling too threatened, I kept it simple with a few different ribbon trims and a bow on top. You can't see it, but on the inside are two bottles filled with baby stuff. Not edible, but still fun to look at.
I can hardly wait to meet their little girl! Now I am trying to figure out what homemade foods to make so I can help stock their pantry, fridge, and freezer. After all, they're going to need something to eat during those late night feedings!

This post is a part of Work-In-Progress (W.I.P.) Wednesdays where I share some of my projects that serve as a creative outlet for my mostly left-brained mind. I may be posting the results of finished projects, actual W.I.Ps, or projects that are on my to-do list. Be sure to check out others that are posting their projects as well. Thanks to Shellyfish for inspiring us all!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Going the Distance for Vegan Pizza

Can you believe it's 2009?!? It seems like we just rang in Y2K and now all of a sudden it's nine years later. I have high hopes for 2009 though!

To celebrate the new year, we joined some good friends for dinner at Houston's new "green" restaurant, Pizza Fusion. Well, calling it Houston is kind of a stretch since we had to drive 40 minutes to get there (which, I know, isn't very green to drive that far for dinner), leaving the 610 loop which we rarely venture outside of. Pizza Fusion is a restaurant chain that prides itself on minimizing their ecological footprint through the use of organic ingredients, hybrid delivery vehicles, reclaimed building materials (the floors and tables in this one were from the basketball court of a local high school), LEED certification, and recycling. All good things if you ask me! Of course, the fact that they have a vegan cheese option as well as a vegan dessert, also helped lure me outside the loop.

It was kind of surreal to see the word "vegan" emblazed on a building in the suburbs of Houston. If that's not progress, I don't know what else is.

After some confusion over volumetric conversions with the bartender (the 16oz glass of beer came marked in a 0.4L glass, which is equivalent to about 13.5 oz, but we were still charged for the 16oz), our vegan breadstick order arrived with a mix of both white and multigrain minis and a marinara dipping sauce. We probably would have ordered two if we knew our pizzas would take almost an hour to arrive....
But arrive eventually they did. Two specialty pizzas, a veggie medley (mushrooms, broccoli, bell pepper, onions) and a Seattle (onion, garlic, basil, balsamic vinegar, and artichoke hearts) both with FYH mozzarella on a crispy white dough crust. The Seattle was my favorite with the bite of the vinegar, the sweetness of the onion, and the creaminess of the melty "cheese", all the flavors melded into a perfect pairing. The pizza was definitely a hit with the vegan and non-vegan parties at our table.
To make up for the very slow service, the manager gave us a few freebies... "I'm a vegan" bracelets, coupons for soy cheese pizzas, and dessert! This vegan, gluten-free brownie was a nice ending to the meal. Not as good as my homemade brownies (they were a little grainy and could have been more chocolatey), but still good.
While I enjoyed out trip out to the boonies for a vegan pizza, it's not likely a trip I'll make very often. Luckily, Pizza Fusion has plans to open more locations throughout Texas and the country. Maybe one will be opening close to you (and me)!

I have been in a cooking rut lately. I think last week I ate out 4 nights in a row which is very unlike me. So I'm searching for some inspiration... what have you cooked lately that you absolutely loved?