Monday, June 30, 2008

cats and cookies

First, I can't help but laugh at this photo. Dan was laying in bed listening to the radio last night, and I was in the kitchen doing dishes or something. I heard his voice, and peeked in. He said to me, "We're having a very important conversation." This is what I saw:
Silly guys.


I made cookies tonight! I tried the chocolate chip cookie recipe from Joy of Vegan Baking, varied only slightly. (I really, really, really struggle following a recipe as writ.)
I plan to take some to work tomorrow, (one of my coworkers underwent a very unpleasant, but routine, medical procedure last weekend, and had to fast for 24 hours beforehand. These are a welcome back party for her tummy!), and to save some for camping this coming weekend.

So far, I think the cookies are good . . . but my made-up recipe is still better! We'll see how they "age" over the course of the week/end. I have a feeling they will end up pretty crunchy . . . bah. (I likes me a soft and chewy cookie most always!)

weekend recap: muffins and dinners

I made Tropical Lemon Coconut Muffins!
I was a little wary of using pureed avocado in a muffin batter, but they turned out wonderfully! Coconutty, lemony, moist, rich, and filling, without a trace of avocado flavor. What a way to get in those healthy mono fats!

Dinner Friday night:
Yes . . . curried tofu from VCON . . . again . . . it's that good! Garlicky kale, mushrooms, and couscous on the side.

Dinner Saturday night:
Spelt topped with freshly grated parmesan, with tempeh, eggplant, red pepper, onion, and zucchini, soaked in the Mediterranean Marinade from a recent issue of Vegetarian Times. This dinner was definitely a home run -- everything was so flavorful and delicious! A variation on this dinner may be making a repeat while camping next weekend . . . !

Dinner Sunday night:
Tacos! It's hard to tell what's in there, but I promise those homemade tortillas are filled with homemade refried black beans, cilantro-lime rice, sliced avocado, queso blanco, salsa, and mixed baby greens.

Busy week ahead, even though it's only a four-day work week. We're going camping next weekend, and there's lots to get ready! Expect food pics and scenery pics upon our return!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

new fun!

If you think reuseable bags are fun, check out this website I just discovered! They have tons and tons of reuseable bags for almost every purpose. I may have to place an order soon!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

I went grocery shopping!

I win the award for most original post title. EVER. Don't you think??

Anyhow, here's what I bought:
coconut flakes
fair-trade, organic coffee
local, organic rolled oats
local, organic whole spelt

local "queso blanco"
local feta crumbles

jar kalamata olives
can quartered artichoke hearts
organic barley flour
organic oat flour
organic fire-roasted, crushed tomatoes

organic cucumber
four organic bananas
four organic avocadoes
two organic golden kiwi
six organic lemons
two organic limes
eight organic apricots
organic eggplant
two bunches local, organic, purple kale
organic bulk mixed baby greens
organic cilantro
local, organic, cremini mushrooms
organic red bell pepper
three organic zucchini
carton local gold cherry tomatoes

organic tofu
organic 3-grain tempeh
local humus
local, organic, whole-wheat pita

37.31% of my purchases were local! Woo!

I'm going to try very hard and not let the heat get me down, at least for the time being, and cook a little this week/end. Stay tuned . . . !


It's officially summer -- the projected high is 90 degrees Farenheight for today! Blech. Ugh. Ew. It's also REALLY humid.

Can you tell I'm not a fan of summer? :)

P.S. No A/C for me -- take pity on Oliver.

Monday, June 23, 2008


Double your pleasure, double your fun . . .

Nah, double your trouble with Terry's Favorite Almond Cookies from VCON!

Yesterday, I tried making Terry's Favorite Almond Cookies from VCON. Key word, aparently, is "tried." I preheated the oven, followed the directions, scooped out the first tray of cookies, and stuck them in the oven. I always set a timer for half the amount of time suggested for baking, so I can rotate the cookie sheet halfway through -- the back of my oven is a little hotter than the front, so I try my best to get things to bake evenly. Look what I found in my oven after only six minutes of baking!
The cookies had spread so much, they became one gigantic, caramelized sheet of cookie-concrete. I had to soak my baking sheet for a couple of hours before I was able to scrub it clean!

So, I used my noodle, and thought I would put the rest of the cookie dough into a baking dish and make a cookie bar, since the sides of the dish would hold in the batter. They would have, if I had chosen a big-enough baking dish! Ack:
Aparently, my noodle wasn't working so well yesterday. In the end, I have just had lousy luck with oil-based cookie recipes. I may try the cookies another time, using Earth Balance, but for the time being, that recipe's going to remain untouched, at least until I clean out my oven!

One baking project did turn out well yesterday, though!
I made the basic scone recipe from Vegan with a Vengeance, and added the juice and zest of one lemon, and 3/4 cup frozen blueberries. (Pardon the blurry pic.) Delish! These did spread pretty far, too, (although they did retain their scone individualities,) so I think the almond cookie disaster had more to do with the heat and humidity than some major failure in the recipe.

For the finale, dinner tonight:
I am IN LOVE with the curried tofu recipe from VCON -- seriously, Dan might want to watch that I don't leave him for a batch of curried tofu! :) Why do I love this recipe so? It uses a small handful of pantry staples, takes seconds to throw together, moments to cook up, (after several hours of marinading, of course,) and is SO FREAKIN' GOOD. I threw a handfull of leftover sliced mushrooms into the marinade, too, and those were magically delicious as well. (In fact, that marinade might make a mighty tasty curried portobello mushroom sandwich in the future!) Coffee Cup Couscous and spinach salad with leftover beet and parsnip salad on the side.

What is "Coffee Cup Couscous," you ask? Well, simply put, it's a single-serving of couscous made in a coffee cup in the microwave. Try it -- you'll thank me for not having to wash an extra saucepot! (P.S. If you have big coffee cups, you can easily make two servings, too.)

Sunday, June 22, 2008

scary, but true.

This comic is titled, "Start Your Day Off Right."

Saturday, June 21, 2008

pie bars??

Courtney and I got together this afternoon to make the "Apple-Peanut Butter-Caramel Bars" from VCON.
I'm glad Courtney was over to team with me on this recipe, because it contained quite a few steps and was rather labor-intensive. I basically sliced apples the entire time, while she made the crust and crumble topping. However, with two cooks in the kitchen, (well, one cook in the kitchen and one in the living room -- yes, my kitchen is, indeed, THAT small,) we had the bars in the oven in no time. The peanut butter caramel was a cinch to make, (although we think we may have cooked it just a smidge too long -- it was more gloppy and less drizzly than we would have liked it to be,) and really adds something super-special to these bars.

After cooling, we experienced the same problem almost everyone else who's made these bars so far has experienced -- the crust didn't really hold together at all, and just sort of crumbled apart. I'm not sure I'd make these as a bar again -- they just don't hold up. They definitely require a plate and fork to eat, which in my opinion, is not a "bar."

HOWEVER, the flavor is so spectacular! Courtney and I decided these would make a much better pie in the future, and since I'm not a huge fan of graham cracker crusts, I'd probably make a regular piecrust.

I could eat that peanut butter caramel straight from the pan with a spoon, if it didn't involve potentially burning my tongue, however!!

In the end, I feel these bars deserve a mixed review -- they taste great, but are a little complicated to prepare. The crumble-apart factor also is a little frustrating. Now I know for next time, though!!

And I will be making a version of this recipe again, I guarantee. :)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

random mishmosh

The following consists of a few things I felt like posting. I apologize, in advance, for the randomness!

First, Oliver has been missing you all, since his badass feline self has not made an appearance here lately. He's been extra cute these days, just 'cause he misses having his picture taken. See?

Second, one of my all-time favorite fruits:
Gold kiwi! Find them and eat them, if you've never tried them. They are super-sweet, almost honey-like in their fruity/floralness, with none of the acidity of green kiwi. Expensive, but a lovely treat.

Third, a meme stolen from Syn. (Who doesn't love a good meme every now and then?)

1) Last movie you saw in the movie theatre
Body of War

2) What book are you reading?
I'm actually in-between books. I just finished reading A Framework for Understanding Poverty by Ruby K. Payne, and I haven't decided what's on the nightstand next!

3) Favorite board game?

4) Favorite Magazine?
Eating Well

5)Favorite Smell?
A three-way tie: baking things (bread, muffins, cookies, etc.), green things (nature, trees, etc.,) and freshly-showered boyfriend

6) Favorite Sound?
all kinds of music

7)Worst feeling in the world?

8) What is the first thing you think when you wake up?

9)Favorite Fast food place?
About the only place I'll eat is Chipotle, which I think is pretty good.

10) Future childs name?
Don't know

11) Finish this statement... If I had a lot of money I would...
pay off my student loans, travel, start saving for retirement, and donate a helluva lot more to organizations that need it than I'm able to do right now.

12) Do you Drive fast?
Not really, when I drive, which is rare. (I don't have a car!)

13) Do you sleep with a stuffed animal?
I did when I was little, but not any more.

14) Storms... cool or scarey

15) What was your first car?
1993 Chevy Blazer S10

16) Favorite drink?
Coffee, first thing in the morning, water throughout the day, and herbal tea before bed.

17) Do you eat the stems on broccoli?

18)If you could die your hair any other color.. what would it be?
I've never dyed my hair, and don't plan to! I like it the color that it is.

19) Name all the different cities you have lived in?
Wauwatosa, WI, Minneapolis, MN, and very briefly Roseville, MN

20) Favorite sports to watch

21) One nice thing this person who sent this to you?
Syn seems to have a lot of energy!

22) Whats under your bed?
A lot of cat fur fluffballs, and a flat plastic box of wrapping paper and other gift-giving supplies.

23) Would you like to be born again as yourself?
Uuuh . . . meaning, would I like a second try at my life? Probably not.

24) Morning person or night owl?
Both, depending on the day.

25)Over easy or sunny side up
Poached, thank you very much!

26)Favorite place to relax...
A tie between the woods and my couch. (My couch in the woods . . . now that would be something!)

27) Favorite Ice cream flavor?
Too many!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

VCON-athon, part III

I did make ONE more thing from VCON, to squeeze the last few ounces of fun and tastiness from the weekend:

The vanilla pound cake is spectacular! Even better topped with a scoop of buttermilk-lemon sorbet and some fresh strawberries. :)

Dan and I both liked this, even though neither one of us much cares for cake, as a general rule. (We're more pie people, really.) He even took a couple slices home for the week! (And a whole bunch of other leftovers, too -- it's nice to have help getting through all the food.)

I hope everyone else had wonderful weekends, too!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

VCON-athon, part II

I can't stop cooking!! Aaaaaaa!!!

I guess that's really okay, in the end. Lunch today:
Veggies and Seitan in Mole, courtesy of VCON. I sort of combined both mole recipes, wanting a little seitan and a few veggies, too. This was INCREDIBLE! Dan had two helpings -- he has a thing for mole. Unfortunately, most moles aren't vegetarian, so I can't ever join him . . . until now! Woo!

I did discover, however, that in order to effectively brown the seitan, I should have used a nonstick pan. The seitan totally stuck to the bottom of my stainless pan . . . grumble. It came off later when I added liquid, which turned out fine, but a little crumbly, in the end. Also, if you make the veg recipe, definitely salt the zucchini -- it totally held its shape, as you can see!

Dinner tonight:
Curried Tofu from VCON, (panfried, since I don't have a grill and didn't want to turn on the oven,) sliced tomatoes, steamed broccoli, and garlic-mashed potatoes. The tofu is fantastic! I have a feeling it will become a repeat visitor at my house -- and probably Dan's, too, since it's so easy!

And lastly, a snack:
I baked the Banana Date Scones, also from VCON. My first impression of these scones was . . . holy cow, they are HUGE! (And I got nine scones out of the recipe, even though the yield said eight.) Also, they were slightly fussy to prepare, since I had to chop both the dates and the walnuts, mash the banana, and then mix everything together, but it was worth it! Moist, dense, and slightly sweet -- perfect, if you ask me. These would make a great portable breakfast, since they are so substantial, and chock full of good-for-you ingredients.

Tomorrow, we enjoy leftovers.

VCON-athon, part I

I've been cooking like a madwoman lately!

Lunch last Sunday:
Green Onion Egg Drop Soup on the left, and fried rice on the right. (We had leftover rice from dinner out a day or two earlier.) The rice was excellent, but the soup was just okay -- I probably wouldn't make it again.

Yet MORE cobbler:
Straight rhubarb this time. YUUUM. I will be sad when rhubarb season is over for the year. :(

Dinner Thursday night:
Tempeh fajitas! I sliced a package of three-grain tempeh into sixteen slices, and marinaded it for a couple hours along with thickly sliced red bell pepper, green bell pepper, and half a red onion, in the following:
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp chili powder
1/4 tsp chipotle chile powder
zest and juice of two small limes
3 cloves garlic, crushed (no need to peel or chop)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 cups water
After their soak, I pan-fried the tempeh and veg in a hot cast-iron skillet, and served them in homemade flour tortillas, (recipe from the Joy of Cooking), garnished with Chile-Chocolate Mole, (from VCON,) sliced avocado, and mixed baby greens.

P.S. I used a new kind of flour in the tortillas. My co-op carries all-purpose flour in bulk, but also something called "white flour," which is milled from wheat that has had the bran removed, but not the germ, so it has a better nutritional profile. This may be my new all-purpose flour from now on! It sure made heavenly tortillas.

I've been missing prepared breakfast cereals with my whole "five or less" rule, so I decided to try a new granola recipe:
I've been kind of displeased with homemade granola in the past, but this recipe did not disappoint! This is the best homemade granola I've ever made, the simplest recipe by far, and the closest-tasting to "commercial" granolas, in my opinion. (But without all that extra yukky stuff, of course.) I loosely based it on a recipe for Apricot-Almond Granola from Cooking Light, but with several modifications. Here's my version:
1. Combine in a mixing bowl: 2 cups quick oats, 1 cup puffed brown rice cereal, 1/2 cup sliced almonds, 1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts, 1/2 cup dried cherries, 1/2 cup chopped dried apricots, and 1/3 cup golden raisins.
2. Melt 1/2 cup agave nectar and 1/3 cup Earth Balance together. Pour over oat mixture and combine well.
3. Spread the granola in a greased 9X13 baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees Farenheight for fifteen minutes. Stir, and bake an additional 10 minutes. Allow the granola to cool in the pan before stirring again. Transfer to an airtight container for storage.

And here, finally, is the VCON-athon:
Sauteed chard, Shredded Parsnip and Beet Salad in Pineapple Vinaigrette (from VCON,) Broccoli Polenta (from VCON,) and Louisiana Crowder Peas from the Farmer's Market last weekend. Both the salad and polenta are incredible -- make them NOW, if you haven't already!

Here's the (vegetized) recipe for the peas, if you can get your hands on some:
1. Rinse 1 lb. peas, and place in a pot. Cover with water and soak for 30 minutes.
2. Drain the peas and return to the pot. Add 8 cups of water, 1 canned chipotle in adobo, 1 tablespoon adobo sauce, and 4 tablespoons Earth Balance. Bring the peas to a boil, then allow to boil for two minutes. Then lower the heat, cover partially, and allow to simmer for one hour.
3. Saute 1 large onion, chopped, in a small amount of oil. Add to the peas with 2 teaspoons salt, 1 tablespoon mixed dried herbs, (I used Fines Herbes,) a bunch of freshly-ground pepper, and 1 clove garlic, peeled. Continue to simmer the peas for 30 minutes, or until soft.

And, I finally, finally, broke out the ice cream maker:
Lemon-Buttermilk Ice Cream from Cooking Light. This is an unusual sorbet-ice cream hybrid, and is addictive and delicious! Sweet, tart, creamy, and refreshing, it sort of reminded both of us of lemon cheesecake. My only complaint is the yield of the recipe -- it made so much, I had to freeze it in two batches! I'll just cut the recipe in half next time.

Stay tuned, because I have more cooking planned for the remainder of the weekend!

Sunday, June 08, 2008

30 before 30

First, a weekend update:

Friday night, Dan and I had tickets to the Varsity Theater to see Retribution Gospel Choir and Mark Kozelek, of Sun Kill Moon and Red House Painters. RGC was awesome -- their drummer was super crazy and show-offy (but in a good way,) they had tons of energy, were super loud and jammy, and just generally put on a good show. Mark Kozelek left a little to be desired -- he writes beautiful songs and has an amazing voice, but his set lacked energy and momentum. (Probably because he changed guitars and tuned between EVERY song.) And then he broke a string. We left early, for fear of falling asleep standing up. :) Too bad, really, because the tickets were $15 apiece! Bah.

Saturday, Dan and I headed out to the Minneapolis Farmer's Market. We explored all of the stalls (both the produce and soap/craft/other vendors,) sampling everything we could, and sort of snacking our way through the market. We had freshly roasted sweet corn, limeade, and I also had a veggie burrito, while Dan had a locally-raised spicy Italian sausage. I didn't buy any produce this week, but I did pick up some locally-grown beans!
I had never heard of Crowder or Lady Cream Peas before, and am now excited to try them. The grower included a recipe on the back; one of the ingredients includes "seasoning meat," which I'm obviously not going to use. :) My best idea for a substitute would be a canned chipotle chili in adobo sauce (or two -- it is two pounds of beans, after all.) Anyone have any other suggestions?

After the farmer's market, we went to Target (Dan needed socks,) and then to Barnes and Noble, so I could spend my birthday gift card from Dan's parents. I bought a cookbook, of course. I hear this one comes highly recommended:
I've been reading through it . . . it looks awesome. I can't decide what to try first! Suggestions?

We took it easy the rest of the afternoon. I made dinner a little later:
(Moroccan Chickpea Stew over whole wheat couscous, with a big salad,) before we headed to The Theatre in the Round to see "Harvey." The play way excellent! Dan and I had realized we'd never been to a play together, too! We'll have to fix that in the future. :)

P.S. The Theatre in the Round is my most favorite theater in the Twin Cities. The tickets are reasonable, their productions are always very good, and the layout of the theater is such that you are practically sitting on stage with the actors! Very, very fun. Plus they sell cookies at intermission. :)

AND NOW, on to "30 before 30."

I can't remember who gave me the idea for creating a list like this, (it may have been Bazu?) but since my 29th birthday, I've been working on a "30 before 30" list -- a list of 30 things to do before I turn 30. Here it is:
1. Sleep in a tent.
2. Put 200 miles on my bike.
3. Leave the country at least once.
4. Renew my teaching license (which has expired . . . oops!)
5. Make tamales from scratch.
6. Learn how to play three chords on a guitar.
7. Go camping with Dan, my dad, and my uncle Stu.
8. Contact friends that I haven't heard from in a while.
9. Take a yoga class.
10. Read 10 books.
11. Try 100 new recipes.
12. Walk around Lake of the Isles 25 times.
13. Learn how to steer a canoe.
14. Find a consistent (monthly at least) volunteer opportunity.
15. Go through my things, (clothes, kitchen stuff, books, etc.) and make a big donation of stuff I'm not using to the Goodwill.
16. Frame the "lucky" $2 bill my great-grandmother gave me.
17. Go visit my brother and his wife in Idaho.
18. Expand my charitable giving to include the Minnesota DNR, Theatre in the Round, and my church.
19. Replace at least 2 pieces of my cookware.
20. Make yoga a habit (at least 4 times per week.)
21. Learn how to knit.
22. Save at least $1000.
23. Open an IRA and start contributing to it monthly.
24. Bake bread and make it a habit.
25. Make flossing a habit.
26. Go vegan (at home) for one month.
27. Buy a bike that is the proper size for me.
28. Buy a new bike helmet.
29. Learn how to drive stick shift.
30. Take a beginning photography class.

So, that's that! I'll post updates occasionally to let you know how it's going. Advice/ideas are always welcome!

Saturday, June 07, 2008



We're under construction over here!

(I'm working on my links. Sorry if you're not there yet!)

Thursday, June 05, 2008

more cobbler

I finally broke out the local rhubarb I've been stockpiling in my freezer:
I might have had this for breakfast yesterday morning . . . and again for dinner. Shh . . . don't tell.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Happy Birthday to Me!

My birthday was last Friday, and it was an action-packed weekend of celebrations!

It all began Thursday night . . .

Typically, my friend Ann and I go for a walk on Thursday nights, but last week, I had had a very long, very physically intense day of work, and I was feeling just about completely exhausted. I suggested we go out for dinner instead, and Ann was very supportive of that idea! We ended up pigging out at Sushi Tango, which was a blast. We had vegetable tempura, two sushi rolls apiece, (I am in love with their avocado-asparagus roll!), and then we shared (well, I ate most of it, really,) a tempura green tea ice cream for dessert! AND, Ann treated, since it was very nearly my birthday. :) After dinner, we did a little shopping at the kitchen store, where I picked up a few gadgets, thanks to birthday money from my grandparents! Wooo-woo!

Friday began slowly . . . because I treated myself to the day off from work! (Gotta love that vacation time!) I visited my chiropractor at 9:45, then went downtown to renew my driver's license. I was bracing myself for the worst, but I was in and out, with big yellow sheet and clipped license in hand, in less than fifteen minutes! After my errands, I treated myself to a Wonder Woman tote bag purchase from Target, and lunch at Chipotle. I order two tacos, and that's just enough for me! In the afternoon, I lounged around my apartment, reading magazines and working on a little laundry.

After Dan finished work Friday night, we drove south to visit his parents for the first part of the weekend. Dan's mom and dad had made a lovely birthday dinner for me, (eggplant parmesan, coleslaw, haricots verts, and kalamata olive bread,) and there was birthday cake, too!! (I'm still working on the leftovers Sandy sent home with me -- thank you!!!)

Saturday morning, Dan and I took our time getting out the door for my birthday celebration. We took a 22-mile (round-trip) bike ride along the Douglas trail, which runs from Rochester to a small town called Pine Island. The scenery was beautiful, Dan's mom sent us with delicious roasted mushroom and goat cheese sandwiches, and we stopped in Pine Island for INCREDIBLE ice cream; Dan had pina colada, and I had buttermilk-cinnamon. Although our tushies were pretty sore by the end of our ride, we felt refreshed, almost. We made one last stop in Mantorville on our drive back to Dan's parents house -- Dan had never taken me to the old-fashioned candy store, until this past weekend! They had many types of candies and chocolates in bulk, and I settled on a quarter-pound of some extremely tasty black licorice. Hooray!

After the drive back to Dan's parents' house, a nap, and a shower apiece, we joined the folks for a quick supper before heading back to the city. Upon our arrival, we discovered we were hungry AGAIN . . . must have been all that exercise. We grabbed a quick mini-meal at Salsa a la Salsa, just a short walk from my apartment. Dan and I shared a cheese quesadilla, and I also ordered a side of their grilled vegetables, which are incredible! (Dan ordered a couple of tamales.) They also make great, fresh salsas -- hooray!

Sunday morning, I met up with my friend Courtney, and we visited the Minneapolis Farmer's Market for the second week in a row! I'm quickly falling in love with the Farmer's Market. Why? Because I spent $28 this week, and scored all of this deliciousness:
TWO POUNDS of local asparagus, already trimmed, for a meager $8.50, (there's a lot more than what I photographed,) plus huge stalks of rhubarb, mixed salad greens, green onions, a loaf of wild rice sandwich bread, and a pint of Wisconsin maple syrup!
A close-up of the asparagus:
After wrapping up at the FM, Courtney and I hopped the bus Uptown to Namaste Cafe, where Courtney treated me to a delightful birthday lunch. I ordered a sweet lassi and their "Namaste Special Curry" with tofu and vegetables. Namaste serves Nepalese food, and caters to herbivores and omnivores alike -- they even list specific items as "vegan/can be prepared vegan" on their menu. Although I eat a little dairy and eggs every now and then, Courtney's vegan, so it was wonderful to eat somewhere where we both would be satisfied!!

After our lunch, I ran a few more errands and did a whole bunch of cooking "back at the ranch." Dinner Sunday night:
Roasted asparagus, crenshaw melon, homemade barbecued seitan sandwiches, and poppyseed broccoli-slaw. Delish!

I had never made seitan before -- although it was a bit time-consuming, it was really easy!

Even though I was back to work today, I still cooked tonight. I realize this doesn't look like much, but I promise you, it's mighty tasty!
Red Lentil Stew looks boring, but tastes spectacular!! It also freezes well, which is good, since the recipe yields 8 servings. (I served it over quinoa.)

I also received a birthday card from my friend Lauren in the mail today, a small birthday package from my friend Anna, and several birthday emails over the course of the weekend.

What a wonderful birthday weekend I had! Thank you, everybody, who contributed to all of my fun!!