Monday, April 28, 2008

Living Longer

While channel surfing, I caught a few minutes of the Friends episode where Rachel turns 30 and they flashback to everyone else's 30th birthday (i.e. Monica getting drunk before surprise party, Ross and his fancy car that is trapped via parallel parking). This felt a bit surreal knowing that I am fast approaching (a tad more than 16 months away) the age of the Friends characters that I watched a teen and in my early twenties. And it just so happened that this weekend we also helped a good friend celebrate her impending 30th birthday with a surprise party. I was in charge of the cake, chocolate with chocolate mousse filling and mint frosting. The candle set also came with a red "OH NO" which I chose to leave off. Like my top border? It's one I just learned in my second cake decorating class (which wraps up this weekend), so it still needs lots of work.

In addition to cake, I also brought a salad (my favorite roasted fennel with hazelnuts and creamy shallo dressing from V-con) and a vegan main dish. I tried to recreate the lasagna I had recently at the PPK Texas Gathering, since Crystal posted the recipe on her new blog, Vegan Explosion. I really wanted to leave the olives out, since I usually dislike them, but I stayed true to that part of the recipe and I think they really added a great flavor to the tofu ricotta. The only thing I did change was using fresh sauteed mushrooms instead of canned. If you notice my new twittering updates (sidebar), you'll see that I enjoyed leftovers of this for lunch today.
Now I know I've posted about Mighty O's several times before, but I just had to brag one more time. My mom brought these back for me after spending a week in Seattle helping my sister move to her very own condo. One of them was the special seasonal flavor; chocolate oreo. But I didn't hog them all to myself, I brought them along to an art car decorating party. I can't wait to show everyone the car (less than two weeks till the parade!), it is amazing, but here's a sneak peak at one unfinished part.
And finally, while we were driving to the birthday party, I saw this bumper sticker on a Texas-colored Ford truck "Live Longer, Eat Beef". I scrambled so fast to get a photo of this, I just couldn't believe it. I didn't know whether to laugh or scream. I ended up laughing with the birthday girl (a vegetarian) about it. Laughing and not eating animal products is what really helps you live longer.
Here's hoping that none of you are following this bumper sticker's advice....

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

One Year of Blogging

I had so many good intentions of a big one year blogiversary post. But with my business travel to Calgary last week, a busy weekend of running around, and top of everything getting a cold for the first time this year, it just didn't happen. Suffice it to say that the last year of blogging has been a wonderful experience and I thank every one of you who visits the blog and takes the time to read my sometimes random monologues. I have gotten so much more out of blogging than I had ever imagined, and for that I am thankful. (**here's the part where I blow out my imaginary candle and wish for many more years of productive, entertaining blogging**)

Over the weekend, we celebrated Earth Day with our local vegan society (Society of PEACE) with an all vegan picnic in the park! Everyone brought their families and we had about 40 people turn out on a gorgeous spring day. The picnic was BYOP&S (plates and silverware) in order to be more Earth friendly :-) Here's my plate, filled with a veggie dog (provided by SOP), twinkie, enchiladas, prospect park potato salad (from Vcon, which I made), fruit salad, green curry w/potatoes and chickpeas, broccoli salad, cabbage salad, and macaroni salad. More food came after I got my plate, and I tried a few including a bean salad, lentils and rice, and local green salad. All very yum.

The afternoon was full of lots of eating, chatting about veganism in Houston, and watching the kids (and adults) run around and play. Here's John and I... me with my dessert plate that included carrot cake, fat free chocolate cake, and chocolate peanut butter cookies. Like my new Vegan shirt from Cosmo's?

Just to prove that I haven't solely been living off of potluck food, here's some food from my kitchen.... Dinner last week of cumin lime tofu (from ED&BV), sauteed french green beans, and a baked sweet potato. I loved the tofu, especially with the crunchy pumpkin seeds on top. This will definitely be made again.

And I was a lucky recipient of some sourdough starter from the amazing Bazu!! John is a huge fan of sourdough, so he was especially excited to see this arrive in it's little green package (with a cute origami figure) in the mail. I began by making some sourdough pancakes to familiarize myself with the whole process. These were light and fluffy with a nice hint of sour. See all those instructions by the plate?!? I love how baking is a science. The next challenge will be making the crusty San Francisco style sourdough bread. You have not heard the last about sourdough here. Thanks so much Bazu for the starter!!

And finally, while in Calgary last week I had some roasted beets and asked myself why I had never made any on my own. I took care of that last night. Just a simple salad with mixed greens, walnuts, shredded carrots, and a maple balsamic vinaigrette. The beets are topped with a bit of sea salt. And to imagine I hated beets as a child....

Hope everyone did a something kind for the planet today..... Happy Earth Day!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

PPK: The Texas Gathering

That's right, a room full of vegans with lots of homemade vegan food, two adorable chihuahuas named Charlie and Betsy, the game Apples to Apples, and all in Texas! This past weekend I made the drive up to Austin to attend a ppk potluck, done up Texas style. I made cupcake toppers especially for the event (oh, and cupcakes too... lemon macadamia with lemon buttercream and chocolate with peanut butter filling and chocolate ganash), because every Texas event has to include our lone-star studded flag (and here is a fun factoid for yall, we are the only state allowed to fly the Texas flag at the same height as the US flag because we entered the nation by a treaty rather than annexation).

Look at all the food!! For more food porn, visit here.

Here is my plate, I think I sampled pretty much every dish that was there. Let's see if I can remember them all (from the top moving clockwise): lasagna, macaroni salad, tempeh salad (which I also made), fruit, pasta salad with tofu, enchiladas, and in the center some carrots with ranch dip. I ate my dessert plate so fast I didn't take a picture, but I had a toffee bar, a chocolate chip cookie, and a cupcake.
And since someone asked for the recipe on the ppk boards, I figured I would list it here too. All ingredient amounts are approximate since I usually just toss them in and taste test until it's right. There were a few tempeh virgins at the potluck, and I didn't hear any complaints!
Southern Tempeh Salad
1 8 oz. package of tempeh
1/2 cup vegan mayo
1 T vegan sour cream (optional)
2 T chopped fresh dill
1 T fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup red graped, halved
1/2 cup walnuts, roughly chopped

1. Cut the tempeh into cubes and steam for approximately 10 to 12 minutes. Place tempeh in a bowl. Mash the tempeh with a fork so that no whole cubes remain.
2. Once the tempeh has cooled a bit, add mayo, sour cream , dill and lemon juice. Adjust amounts as necessary.
3. Add chopped celery, grapes, and walnuts and combine. Season with salt and pepper. 4. Chill and serve.

Here's the Texas Gathering crew! I had fun getting to know other ppkers/Texas vegans. Of course, we all kept forgetting everyone's actual names and called them instead by the ppk name. I almost made cupcake toppers with everyone's avatar... next time I guess. Hopefully at our next gathering, I won't be the only Houstonian!

And a trip to Austin in the spring wouldn't be complete without gratuitous bluebonnet pictures. I thought about posing one of my little cuppies with them (as pretty much every parent does with their child), but was afraid the sun might melt the buttercream. Can you spot the ladybug that instead posed for me in the picture?

A special thanks to the ppkers who organized and hosted this monumental event!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Vegan Bloggers on the Radio!

I will be cohosting a local radio show, Go Vegan Texas this coming Monday, April 14, and the topic of the show is vegan blogging! We will be interviewing two of your favorite bloggers, Bazu from Where's the Revolution and Emilie from The Conscious Kitchen! The show will be airing live from 10-11am CST. You can listen to it live on the internet here (or go to the homepage and click on the picture of the cow). Or if you would like to listen to it at your leisure, you can find the show on kpft's archives. We will be discussing some of the following topics (time goes fast on live radio!):

  • Path to veganism

  • Blogging as a form of activism

  • Blogging as a means of connecting with new people, as well as friends and family

  • Veganism and travel

  • The anatomy of a blog post

  • Meeting other bloggers face to face

  • Favorite posts

  • How much time do you spend on your blog? Reading and commenting on others?

I would love to hear everyone's comments about these topics, maybe I'll even have time to mention a few on the radio. I hope you take the time to tune in and listen to the show! And please forgive me if I sound a bit nervous :-)

Thanks so very much to those of you who tuned in, have downloaded and listened to, or are planning on listening to the show!! (link to the archives above) I really appreciate all of your support. I thought the show went wonderfully and I must thank Bazu and Emilie for being such amazing guests. Kristen (one of the GVT hosts) has asked me to join her again in the studio in June, which I'll be looking forward to. Here are a few pictures, one is of me in the studio and the other two are the drool worthy treats that I made from their blogs so we could taste test during the interviews. Let's just say I left the studio with empty plates!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Haselnuss and Chipotle

Over the weekend I made two batches of haselnuss (hazelnut) themed cupcakes. Haselnuss was one of my favorite words from German class back in the day. Sorry I didn't figure out how to insert one of those s set things for those of you that speak the language. The purpose of these cupcakes was twofold: snacks for an Art Car decorating party and dessert for a townhome potluck.
Here is a basic chocolate cupcake, with hazelnut liquor added to the batter. The frosting also is spiked with hazelnut liquor. On top, you see my first experiment with chocolate transfers (inspired by Emilie's post). These things are so cool, you can't really see the green floral scroll pattern on this photo, for a better one, see flickr. I have a few kinks to work out with the process (i.e. not all the pattern transferred, streaks in the chocolate, etc.), but for my first try I was pretty happy. The bending of this piece of chocolate is courtesy of the Texas heat.
Continuing the hazelnut theme are these haselnuss cupcakes filled with chocolate mocha hazelnuss mousse from VCTOTW. The mousse is perfect on its own, and luckily the recipe makes a little extra. I know I should have gotten a shot of the inside, but everytime I bite into one it somehow disappears in my mouth.
And just because you can't live on cupcakes (darn!), I'll show you some real food as well! Last week I tried out the chickpea romesco from V-con and absolutely loved it. This was quick and easy and is one of those dishes I should remember to make for company. I had just finished watching Iron Chef, so that's why I plated my chickpeas in a row (to compliment the asparagus). Oh, and I finally invested in some real sea salt, you can see those fatty grains on the asparagus. Very worth it!
In addition to bringing cupcakes to the potluck, I also made empanadas. The dough was from V-con (acorn squash and black bean empanadas), but the filling was my own. A mixture of Field Roast chipotle sausage, black beans, canned chipotles, jalapeno, onion, and some spices. These were HOT! Unfortunately, these suckers wouldn't stay sealed, and opened up a bit in the oven. I still have some learning to do as far as pastry goes. Oh, and I'm proud to say this was my first time using dried black beans!
Finally, a super duper late vegan mofo post. Back in November, I promised that I would use these dried faux meat patties that I got ages ago. Well, finally I got around to it. Actually, John got around to it because I had decided that they scared me. He marinated them in a pseudo teriyaki with chipotle peppers. Bless his heart for trying, but I thought the texture was too meaty and it weirded me out (though he enjoyed them). On the side is a chipotle quinoa with black beans and a grilled veggie salad.
Next post I'll have an announcement! And maybe some food.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Sweetness in Seattle

Vegan sensory overload!!! My senses (mainly that of taste) are still trying to figure out what's going on after our sweet weekend trip to Seattle. The purpose? 1. To visit my older sister, 2. To eat lots of good vegan food (but not necessarily good for me), and 3. To check out VegFest (in hopes of someday starting one in Houston) and score lots of free (well, almost, $5 to get in) samples!

And what better way to start the trip than a visit to Mighty O, home of the world's best (vegan or not) donuts! This place is mere minutes from my sister's place.... no fair. But at least that means it's easy for her to pick up a dozen on her way to visit Texas, just what she did at Christmas. Instead of trying to choose just one donut, we got a six pack that included the Don King (chocolate with coconut), grasshopper (chocolate mint), mocha, french toast, chocolate raspberry, and plain chocolate. I dream of the day they ship these nationwide, but until then I'll savor the last few bites of the mocha donut that's currently on my kitchen table.

After getting our fill of vegan donut heaven, we headed over to the U-district to do some shopping at Washington's only all-vegan store, Side Car for Pigs Peace. Even though it's a small shop, I could have spent all day here browsing! In the end, I definitely splurged a bit, but I felt better knowing that 100% of their profits go to the animals. So what did I score? Let's see.... ricemellow cream (I see frosting cupcakes in my future), veggie scallops (all John, based on my last experience with canned faux meat), vegan caviar, Cheezly (battle vegan cheese coming your way soon!), a vegan princess t-shirt (so not me, but that's the fun of it), fake vegan tattoos, Sweet & Sara peanut butter smores (which I devoured in one sitting), the cutest little cupcake wallet, a "meat is murder" rubber stamp, sjaaks chocolate, and veggies chicken chunks. Whew!
We then made our way down to Fremont for some window shopping, sadly cut short by the rain and cold. But we did duck into the Flying Apron Bakery, where we were tempted to eat lunch, but ended up just getting two cupcakes to go, one chocolate with chocolate frosting and a cardamom chai cupcake. The chocolate cupcake was a huge disappointment. It was so dense it stuck to the roof of your mouth and it didn't even taste like chocolate. The cardamom chai cupcake was a bit redeeming, but still didn't live up to my cupcake standards. Was it the lack of gluten? Unrefined sugars? Bad technique? Not sure, but if I ever go again I'll be choosing a different kind of baked good.
For lunch, it was back over to the U-district for Hillside Quickies, a greasy spoon type sandwich shop. A "quickie" lunch it was not, we waited over 45 minutes for three sandwiches!! Finally our sandwiches arrived, a gyro for John, and NYC deli style tofu sandwich for my sis, and a bbq seitan burger with mac and "yease" for me. We all agreed that the mac and yease was the best thing out of all the dishes... it had a spice that we couldn't quite place; maybe fennel? The burger was pretty messy and tasted too much like the yellow mustard they slathered all over it. John liked his gyro except there wasn't enough seitan. While waiting for our food, we did get to sit and watch the snow come down outside.
To escape the weather we spent the afternoon watching a movie inside, then did some grocery shopping to make dinner that night. I showed my sis how to roll her own sushi and we ended up making way too much. But the best part about sushi is that it doesn't leave you full for very long... which means there was plenty of room for the chocolate mousse cake, purchased from whole foods. This one deserved it's own picture because it was just that good. My sis even had to tell her boyfriend to stop eating it (and a good thing cause it meant there was more left for me!). Now I just need to convince our whole foods to start carrying it.
And now the main event, VegFest! John and I took the bus down from Greenlake to the Seattle Center. I had never been to a veg-themed festival, so I wasn't sure what to expect, but I was promised lots of food based on the website and flyers that I saw around town. It certainly lived up to that expectation, there was so much food that I don't think I could have tasted everything if I had wanted too! There are way too many to list here, but here's a sampling of things I tried: Field Roast, Tofurkey dogs, cyberdogs (local), mighty o donuts (as if I needed more), Tofutti cuties, So Delicious ice cream, Lara bars, Sheese, Lightlife chili, Wildwood tofu, Odwalla, Green&Black chocolate, FYH cheese, and local smoked tofu. My only tiny complaint is that things weren't really marked vegan or not, so I had to do lots of label checking (booths are manned by volunteers, not people from the actual company). We also went to one of the cooking demos given by Bryanna Clark Grogan, featuring Italian food (including a handout with the recipes).
Eventually, we dragged our full bellies out of the Seattle Center into the outdoors, and even into some sun! We took the required touristy pictures of the space needle, then made our way over to Queen Anne for more sweetness.... coffee with Mrs. Cakespy herself! If you haven't seen cakespy's dessert detective blog or her insanely cute cupcake drawings, you must be living in a hole. We had fun chatting about blogging and desserts (of course!), career dreams, and life experiences. Mrs. Cakespy is as witty and charming as her blog, and meeting her made the trip even sweeter!
Now you may be wondering, were we able to stuff anymore food into our faces? The answer is a resounding yes. We ordered pizza from the all vegan Pizza Pi, each of us getting a personal pizza so no one had to comprise on what they wanted. The garden pizza with it's creamy white garlic sauce was my favorite. The vegan cheese they topped the pizza with was pretty useless, definitely no melting action going on, and next time I would just order it without. And luckily there was more chocolate mousse cake which we supplemented with a few vegan chocolate cupcakes from Whole Foods (which were nothing special).
We had to make just one last stop on the way out of town, brunch at Squid & Ink in Georgetown. I must admit, we were a little skeptical pulling in. We weren't even sure if it was open, even though I checked the times. The heat hadn't been turned on yet, so we kept our coats on till enough people arrived that our bodies warmed the place up a bit. I had decided on the french toast, though I thought about the waffles, but overheard the woman running the place saying that they should take it off the menu because their waffle iron had been broken for months! John chose the ohmlett and my sis went a la carte with hashbrowns, toast, and veggie sausage. We all got the signature orange slice with spinach leaves underneath. I was quite impressed with the food, the hashbrowns especially. I wished the french toast was on a heartier/hardier bread, I think it was just white and the maple syrup seemed like it had been thinned out. And I was pretty excited too because they had lots of back issues of Herbivore to browse while you waited on food.
But all sweet things must come to an end. And I must thank John and my sis for being such good sports on this vegan-centric weekend. My dream of the moment now is to move up there and open a vegan bakery called "sweetness in seattle"... sorry, still trying to wake up from my sugar-induced coma....