Monday, October 31, 2011

happy Halloween!


Somebody better get over here, quick, before I eat the whole pan myself and make myself sick:


Sunday, October 30, 2011

yoga today

A timely chant, from my yoga class this morning . . .

When you were born, you cried;
And the world rejoiced!
Live your life so that when you die,
The world cries, and you rejoice.

an epic cake disaster

Last night, I threw a triple birthday party for my friends Christine, Ann, and Courtney, as they all have their birthdays within two weeks of each other! We had a great time, ate some amazing food, and drank some delicious wine (thanks to Dora, for bringing beverages!)

However, pre-party, I experienced a cake disaster so spectacular, I would consider it epic.

I had planned on making an amazing, three-layer cake for this party -- I was going for a "chocolate-covered strawberry" cake, using chocolate cake layers, vanilla buttercream, and homemade strawberry jam as filling. I pulled out my favorite moist, tender, chocolatey cake recipe for this one, baked up the layers, let them cool, and set to work.

The cake was super-slidy when I was trying to ice it, and it didn't turn out very well, but I managed to get the thing assembled:

Things were looking okay for about two seconds, until this happened:

This was actually an action shot . . . the collapse/damage was even worse than pictured. What's a girl to do? There was way too much frosting involved already to make cake pops, and truthfully, I didn't want 700 cake pops, and I was so mad . . . I just threw the whole thing out. (Well, I picked off and ate a couple of the chocolate-covered strawberries, first.)

What a waste. Waste of money, (organic powdered sugar is expensive!), waste of ingredients, waste of time, waste of energy.


What did I learn?
1. Tender, moist cake doesn't have enough structure for layering. There is a reason most cake is kind of dry and sturdy.
2. Just make cupcakes. They are easier and less disaster-prone. (Plus, people like cupcakes!)

Or alternately, sick a candle in a persimmon:

(This works beautifully for people who don't eat refined sugar, who are called "Miss Persimmon" by the owner of the Asian grocery store! Ahem, Courtney!)

The dinner portion of our evening was great! I made . . .

Vegan Eggplant Parmesan:

Cheesy Eggplant Parmesan:

A beautiful salad, including honeycrisp apple, fennel, walnuts, and bleu cheese:

And sliced up some baguette.

We were too full for dessert, anyway. :)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

I heart soy foods

I have been the tofu and tempeh queen lately -- check out some of this weekend's eats:

Friday night's dinner was co-created by myself and my friend, Ann:

Hot Sauce-Glazed Tempeh, from Veganomicon, with sides of roasted brussels sprouts, roasted eggplant, and Messy Rice (also from VCON, not pictured, since the rice took longer than I expected it to, and we ate it after we ate everything else. Classy, I realize, but we were hungry!)

An egg and cheese bagel briefly interrupted the soy food marathon:

And then I made pho for lunch!

I decided, at the last second, to make a half-recipe of pho this time around, and it was just right -- I got two meals worth out of the deal, and ended up marinading the other two pieces of tofu and sticking them in the freezer for the time being. More soy leftover for another day!

What weekend is complete without a baking project?

I made Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes for a dinner party at Tiffany's house Saturday night; I, of course, edited the original recipe a little bit. I followed suggestions made by several reviewers to use oil instead of butter, and also used a full can of pumpkin (as recommended,) and I also skipped the cinnamon in the frosting. I LOVE cream cheese frosting, but wasn't convinced I would love cinnamon cream cheese frosting, and didn't want to potentially destroy perfectly good cream cheese goodness. ;) Additionally, I only baked off 12 of the 24 cupcakes; I filled the remaining liners and popped the unbaked batter in my freezer. I'm assuming the batter will thaw and bake off just fine in a few weeks, once I decide I need more cupcakes?

Anyone else out there ever tried freezing cake or muffin batter?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

blurry, but delicious

Here are last night's blurry, but delicious, tempeh fajitas:

Homemade corn tortillas (from my freezer,) topped with refried black beans, queso fresco, marinated/panfried tempeh, bell peppers and onions, and salsa. Plenty of leftovers means I get to enjoy this dinner again tonight!

Here's the marinade recipe, if you're interested:
1 clove garlic
juice and zest of 1 lime
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup water
(Puree everything together, unless you want to mince the garlic finely and then whisk)

Method? Simple: I simmered the tempeh for 10 minutes to "open it up" and get the bitterness out, coated slices of the tempeh in the marinade, added the raw peppers and onions, and then poured the rest of the marinade over top of everything. Parked in the fridge for nearly 24 hours, the tempeh became smoky, (thanks to the cumin,) flavorful, and delicious! I might add some cayenne or ground chipotle pepper next time, to make things even more interesting. :)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Saturday night baking

Sometimes, staying home on a Saturday night to do laundry and bake can be a very good thing:

makes 12

1 egg
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup non-fat Greek yogurt
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup oil
2 large apples, shredded and lightly squeezed if very juicy :)

1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
1 cup rolled oats
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp each cinnamon, Penzey's Baking Spice, and Penzey's Cake Spice (or any combo of warm spices you like)
1 tsp salt (UPDATE: I found the muffins almost too salty, although my friends who I shared with did not. I'd cut down to 1/2 tsp next time -- just saying!)

Bake muffins at 400 for about 20 minutes.

I'm totally looking forward to breaking my breakfast rut with these muffins! Woo!

Friday, October 14, 2011

largest clove of garlic I've ever seen:

Shown with a moderately-sized bell pepper, for perspective:

Holy shit, right?

And what did I do with that gargantuan clove of garlic? Curry!

Tofu, red bell pepper, broccoli, green beans, acorn squash, red onion, garlic, and eggplant, coated in my standard curry sauce (1 regulation-sized can of coconut milk, 2 tbsp sugar, 2 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce, and 3 tbsp curry paste,) all atop short-grain brown rice. One of my go-to meals that you've seen a million times before, but it still never seems to get old! :)

Saturday, October 08, 2011


I took a much-needed, long-awaited vacation the last week of September -- it was nearly impossible to get significant time off at my old job, so as soon as I had 40 hours of PTO racked up with my new job, I was OFF! Woo!

I decided to split my vacation into two parts -- I spent the first half traveling, and had the opportunity to see old friends and some of my family! I look the Megabus to Madison straight after work on Friday night, and spent the weekend with my friend Anna, (we go WAY back, all the way to high school French class!), her husband, Langdon, and their daughter, Eliza. Anna is a wonderful "tour guide," and we had lots of fun during my stay!

I had a tour of their garden, courtesy of Eliza:

A trip to the Madison Farmer's Market:

(I saw many local foods that I haven't seen in Minnesota, including mushrooms, Door County cherries, nuts, aronia, sea berries, pears, and Asian pears. And, really, look at the size of that kohlrabi! Holy moly!)

We explored the state capitol:

And the zoo:

I had plenty of fun running around and exploring Madison with Anna and her family, but I think my favorite part of my trip was "naptime" -- Eliza is still plenty young enough to take a nap in the afternoon, and Langdon took the opportunity to head into work for a few hours, so Anna and I were left to lounge around their apartment, and enjoyed drinking tea and diet Coke, reading, and chatting the afternoon away. We've been friends for a long time and don't see each other all that often, so it was great to have some chill time to catch up!

Sunday evening, Anna drove me to Janesville, so I could spend a day and a half with my grandpa. I realized, when planning this vacation, that I have never really hung out with just my grandpa! We had a great time -- ate out too much, hung out around his house, etc. I also had the opportunity to spend some time with my cousins, which was awesome! We all went out for breakfast on Monday morning, and then I had the opportunity to head over to the barn to see Kristie's horses:

Megan's little boy is such a sweetie! I'm glad I had plenty of time to see them, (and a chance, last-minute dinner with two of my aunts and my uncle, Monday evening,) and time to get to know my cousin's son. I plan to make much more of an effort to get down to visit all of them in the future!


Now that I've been back to work for a week already, that trip feels SO long ago! But I was so thankful that I decided to go, and was also glad for my 5 days of down time at home! I spent a lot of time relaxing, (yoga, walking around the lake, watching "Wonderfalls" on DVD that a friend leant me, and reading,) and also got a lot done around my apartment, including piles of laundry and some deep cleaning. While I wouldn't say I was totally chomping at the bit to get back to work on Monday morning, I was definitely well-rested and caught-up! The perfect vacation, if you ask me!

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

vacation food

My goodness, I have barely been blogging lately! Is anyone still reading? :)

I was off last week for a vacation, of sorts -- a little traveling, and a little stay-cationing, but very little cooking. :) I am still going through the pictures from my vacation, and will post about what I did soon enough, but for now, here are a few things I've been eating, (besides more tempeh reubens . . . I'm still on a major sauerkraut kick!)

After being out of town and eating out too much, my body seemed to be craving two things: produce and protein!

Breakfast burritos definitely increased my protein intake for a few days:

Refried black beans, cheese, hash browns, scrambled eggs, guacamole, and salsa this time, stuffed into a whole-wheat tortilla. Sigh. Too bad I don't have time to make this breakfast this morning!

My need for more produce was met with giant, meal-sized salads:

I went the Greek-ish route this time, topping mixed baby greens with chickpeas, cucumber, artichoke, tomato, kalamata olives, red bell pepper, feta, and homemade balsamic vinaigrette.

And more produce combined for a giant pot of homemade minestrone:

Thank you to Ann, who kindly joined me for dinner (and took home some leftovers) so I didn't have a gallon of minestrone to get through on my own!


Vacation re-cap soon!