Saturday, September 30, 2006

my vegan lunchbox, and then some!

I forgot to show you my "vegan lunchbox" I took with me to the zoo on Thursday:
Apple slices, carrot sticks, and celery sticks for dipping in peanut butter, an apple-cinnamon muffin, and some Green and Black's Hazelnut and Currant chocolate for dessert! (Funny story: I offered a piece to Olivia, she took one look at it, her eyes bulged out of her head and she whispered, "oh . . . chocolate!" While she was eating it, she was trying to get down out of her chair; Chelsea offered to hold her chocolate for her; Olivia furrowed her brow at her mom, pulled her chocolate to her chest, and said, "no . . . !" I think Liv thought Chelsea was trying to sneak a bite! We all laughed.) This ended up being not quite enough lunch for me after all that fresh air and exercise, so I supplemented with some popcorn, and a cup of coffee. Man, I likes my coffee.
I made chili and cornbread for dinner tonight! I really love chili -- you can use up pretty much whatever veggies you have on hand, and it still somehow tastes good. Ingredients in this chili (most, if not all, organic):
canola oil
red onions
green pepper
yukon gold potato
frozen corn
canned tomatoes
black beans
pinto beans
green onions
chili powder
A short tower of peanut butter cookies. I made these yesterday for dessert -- Michelle came over for dinner before the Cloud Cult show at the Varsity. (I made roasted veggies and tofu, and whole wheat couscous for dinner.)
Hooray for Cloud Cult, by the way -- what a rockin' show! I love when a band has enough of a following and is popular enough that the show turns into a romping singalong. Awesome! (And it's really fun being on "the list," too! Michelle was healthy this time 'round, and happy to fill the role of "plus one.") It's also always fun to watch my buddy, Dan, play drums!
So, this started as a food post, but has turned into a little bit of the last few days kind of post! Bear with me.
Last thing . . . I just HAD to show you my spoils from the thrift store today! Christine and I poked around the Unique Thrift Store on Rice St. in Saint Paul, and I found three really awesome things:
The coat is clean and in reasonably good repair (one small rip in one of the seams, which can be easily mended,) and fits me perfectly. The scarf is fuzzy and warm, and matches all three of my new coats (this one, the green cord fall coat, and the blue wool winter coat.) The shoes are something special all together . . . yes indeed, those are patent leather bowling shoes! They are by "Soft Walk," and are some of the most comfortable shoes I've ever owned . . . no breaking in period, incredibly! They are just the right size, and are in perfect condition -- they had never been worn (I think -- the treads were sparkling clean and one of the footbeds still has scraps of the sticker from the shoe store that sold them,) and were only $14.95! (Christine mentioned she thinks Soft Walk shoes run around a hundred bucks, retail.) I spent less than $25 today, and got some majorly awesome stuff, if you ask me! I'm starting to feel like a thrift store goddess -- between today, and the Diesel jean jacket I found at Tatters a couple of weeks ago for $20, (the girl who rang me up told me that the jacket used to be hers, and she bought it originally for $160!), I've gotten some really awesome deals!
And that's all, folks. For now, anyhow.

Friday, September 29, 2006

A Play Date!

As Christine described me last night, since I am still a "lady of leisure" (i.e., still unemployed,) I have so much free time during the day right now, I don't know what to do with myself! Besides cooking/testing recipes for the cookbook, checking off items on my "to do" list, and spending an hour plus each day searching for and applying for new jobs, my friends have been very helpful in taking me on "adventures!" (For examples, going for walks, going to Target, going to IKEA, having dinner at my house or their house, etc.) I had the BEST adventure with Chelsea and her two daughters, Olivia (23 months) and Norah (just about 5 months.) Chelsea and I laughed that our adventure was a "play date for momma," although Liv and Norah had a blast as well!

Yesterday, Chelsea decided to pack up the girls, pick me up, and we all headed down to the Minnesota Zoo. They have a family plus membership, so I got in for free!! (I will refrain from sharing my full opinions about zoos right now, but suffice to say, the Minnesota Zoo falls into the "nice zoo" category -- the animals have lots of space, well-enriched habitats, look very well-cared for, and the zoo plays a major role in both education of people and reintroduction of endangered species to their natural habitats. So, the short version: I like the Minnesota Zoo, just like I like all "nice zoos.") Chelsea is one brave momma, because she did not bring a stroller! Olivia is a little scrapper, however, so she was just fine with walking the ENTIRE time! :) We all got plenty of exercise, saw lots of cool animals, and Chelsea and I laughed at our "dueling cameras." (You can go to Chelsea's blog to see her shots from the day.) Here is a small selection of the photos I took yesterday!

Here's Olivia, Chelsea, and Norah (the little pink head in the Mei Tei baby carrier.) Olivia has this thing for circles lately, so she found lots of opportunities to find circles and run around in circles during our day. Here, she is running in circles around "mama and sissy:"




Here are two little skate rats trying to take a picture . . .

. . . of a moose!

Miss Norah:


(And yes, it was cold enough out to merit the gear -- I was a bit too chilly in my long-sleeved tshirt, wool sweater, and hat! I should have brought a jacket and gloves, too! I love fall!)

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Food, Glorious Food!

As promised:

Sloppy Lentils (final version for the cookbook . . . and no worcestershire, Les!)

Cream of Pumpkin and Sage Soup (blurry . . . !?!)

Chocolate Chip Pecan Cookies (just HAD to test this one again to make sure I had the yield recorded accurately, right??? Michelle's eaten almost as many of these as I have, and she doesn't even live here!)

Random dinner: a brown and wild rice pilaf with dried cranberries, pecans, and green onions; yam fries with Vegenaise for dipping, and edamame with Earth Balance and a pinch o' salt

Will you ever tire of tofu scramble pictures? I hope not, because I scramble a helluva lotta tofu at my house.

Vanilla Apple Pecan Crisp

Breakfast this morning: cornmeal pancakes, leftover tempeh bacon, and grapes (not pictured: coffee with Hazelnut Silk creamer . . . yum yum yum yum yum!)

Lunch today: leftover alphabet soup:
Forgot to mention, this soup is

Dinner tonight: miso soup and potstickers!!! High-maintenance, but tasty. :)

Friday, September 22, 2006

Gratuitous Cat Photos

"I. Want. To. Play. Now."

"Oh, for the love of life! It's my Favorite Thing in the Whole Wide World!"

"Shhhh. Pay no attention to us shoes over here. No one over here but us shoes."

"Favorite Thing, how dare you come so close to me?!?! Now, you must pay."

"Get! Out! Of! My! Shoe! NOW!"

"Gotcha. Ah, Favorite Thing, how I've missed you so."

"Wait, come back . . . Favorite Thing . . . "

"What? In the closet? You're not supposed to go in the closet . . . come back, Favorite Thing! I will save you from the evil demons in the closet!"

"I love you."

(As an aside, I've been offline more this week, because after spending a couple of hours each day sitting at the computer looking for a new job, the last thing I want to do when I'm done with that is sit at the computer some more! Ack. Sorry for the absense. More food photos coming up this weekend. Still no job, by the way, but I have two interviews next week! Wish me luck!)

Thursday, September 14, 2006

kitchen superheroes

Leslie asked me about how to take care of a cast-iron frying pan, and that got me to thinking about my kitchen superheroes in general . . . namely, my cast-iron frying pan, my chef's knife, stainless measuring cups and spoons and mixing bowls, cutting boards, and my immersion blender. It's amazing how much you can do with a minimum amount of supplies! Anyhow, I'll ramble about all of that other stuff later.

On to superhero #1:
Cast iron. It's a good thing. It's cheap, lasts forever, adds a trace amount of iron to your food each time you use it, heats up quick and stays evenly hot, and is nonstick. (There's something "up" with my pan, however, which is driving me crazy. It has a hot spot, and food routinely sticks in the hot spot. Grrrrrr. That's what I get for buying my pan at an overstock store. I bet it's not really all cast-iron. Anyhow, my complaints aside.)

Even though my cast-iron pan is giving me grief lately, it's still the #1 used pan in my kitchen:

~ I keep my pan out on the stovetop at all times, covered with my splatter screen to keep dust out of the pan. Why? Because it's heavy as hell and bulky as sin, and it's just easier to leave it out on the stovetop. Plus, it gets used that much.

~ If I'm going to be using the pan, I turn the burner under it on (at about medium heat) before I even start taking ingredients out of the fridge. Why? Because the cure takes about 5 minutes of preheating to become truly nonstick.

~ After I'm done using the pan each time, I just dump out the crumbs (if the food in it was dry,) or give it a quick rinse under hot water and wipe with the dishrag, and stick it back on the stove for about a minute over low heat to dry it fully. Then, shut off the heat, leave it sit to cool, and you're ready for next time. No scrubbing, soaking, or otherwise yukky clean-up tasks.

~ To cure: rub the pan all over (inside, outside, handle, bottom, etc.) with either high-heat vegetable oil (such as canola) or nonhydrogenated shortening (such as Spectrum or Earth Balance.) Stick the pan in a 250 degree oven, upside-down on top of a cookie sheet (to catch oily drips) for about an hour. Shut off the oven, take your pan out, wipe off any excess oil with a rag or paper towel (if there is some,) and stick it back on your stovetop to cool. Folks say you should cure your pan about once a year, but I do it more often than that, especially because my pan is a pain in the neck. If your pan is new and you are developing a cure, you'll probably have to cure it more often, too. Anyhow, any time you are displeased with your pan's performance, just cure it again -- that's my motto, anyway.

Good things come from cast iron frying pans:
(I made tofu scramble for lunch today.)

Pain Perdu

No, not pain . . . "pain," as in the French word for bread. Somewhere, I read that the original recipe name for French Toast is actually "pain perdu," which translates to "lost bread." I guess that's what those crazy French did with bread that they misplaced for a couple of days. Anyhow, breakfast today:


This is not the best French Toast I've ever had, but it's definitely the best vegan French Toast I've ever made. I've been tweaking this recipe for the cookbook for quite some time now, and after Crystal and Ryan were kind enough to test both the normal and vegan versions for me, I concluded it was time for a wee bit more work. So, back to the kitchen.

I think I'm happy enough with this version, given it's as healthy as I can make it while still leaving it tasting excellent. My only complaint is that it sticks to the pan just the teeniest bit . . . but then again, that could be because something is off with the cure on my cast-iron frying pan. (I re-cure it every month or so, and it's still not as slick as a whistle. Argh.) I wonder if I used a nonstick skillet, whether that would happen. I bet not.

Then again, I'm trying to get away from my nonstick pans, after all of this craziness I've been reading about Teflon lately. I don't think there's a huge health risk to me using them, but I'm more concerned about the icky that is produced when making Teflon.

One more excuse to go out and buy a couple of beautiful, stainless, All-Clad saucepans and saute pan, right? ;-)

(We'll have to wait for that one until a job shows up.)

Speaking of a job, I should go keep looking for one now.

P.S. Best strawberries of my life. Swear to God. Hooray for organics!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

So I've been cooking . . .

. . . and taking pictures, and uploading them to Flickr, but not blogging about what I've made! Alas. Catch-up:

To start, dinner tonight. This looks better than it tastes. The rice and the sweet potato are both, unfortunately, a little undercooked, but well, what can you do when you're hungry, eh?
I think I'm starting to get a handle on how to "wing" Indian food. My method: veggies, chickpeas, spices, salt, something creamy (this time, a mixture of Tofutti better than sour cream and rice milk.) This could have used some golden raisins to sweeten it up a bit; alas, no raisins in the house. Bah! I also tried a new method of cooking rice -- boiling, as you would pasta, per a suggestion from the Bittman cookbook. It's WAY faster than steaming, and I think if I had let it cook for 5 more minutes, would have made perfect, not-glumpy rice. My troubles with rice run deep; I tend to cook hard little nuggets of burned-ness, or glumpy glops. I've been thinking about a rice cooker, but this boiling technique may save me the cost and space taken up in my kitchen!

This was lunch over the weekend sometime. Notsomuch cooking as it was taking soup out of the freezer and heating it up. But I did make the pita chips fresh! Anyhow, PPK French Lentil Soup with Tarragon and Thyme:
I never completely follow the recipe for this one, nor do I ever make it quite the same way twice. But, I love tarragon and I love lentils, so I love this soup. (Especially with the addition of mushrooms -- not in Isa's original recipe, tho.)

And this? Pumpkin spice oatmeal with diced apple. Sometimes, you just want a big bowl of orange goo for breakfast.
I bet it would look more appetizing if I photographed it in a dark blue bowl. Ah, next time.

I also fed Michelle and I twice this past week/end, because her fridge is malfunctioning and the new one won't arrive until Monday. Saturday night, we had a quick pasta (Butternut Squash ravioli -- yummy, and vegan!) and salad dinner before going to see The TV Sound and The Hopefuls at the Nomad. Monday night, I went a little more extravagant -- I made homemade Tomato-Basil Soup (from La Dolce Vegan,) and grilled tomato, avocado, and provolone sandwiches. (Yes, cheese. Sometimes I make cheese for others, and I enjoy a little cheese every now and then.)

No news on the job front yet. I have been applying like crazy, and have received few responses so far. No interviews yet. I think the rest of the world moves more slowly than the education field

And, I leave you with this, because it's just too cute for words:

Monday, September 11, 2006

Friday, September 08, 2006

oh, happy dinner!

I made the best dinner tonight, and it was so simple! I chopped up a bunch of veggies, pressed and cubed some tofu, tossed it all with some extra-virgin olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, and fresh herbs (fennel fronds, parsley, sage, and thyme,) and roasted the whole mess in the oven for 45 or so minutes at 400.

Going into the oven:

Coming out of the oven (not much different . . . !)

Ready to eat (with a side of oven-roasted sweet corn)

I forget how much roasting shrinks down veggies, because when I put the pan in, I thought, "sheesh -- this will make at least three servings!" Notsomuch -- I ate half of it for dinner tonight! The ONLY change I will make in the "recipe" for next time will be marinading the tofu in something first (it was a little bland, despite all of the herbs.)

Oh -- and to top it all off, I had a couple scoops of Cookie Avalanche for dessert . . . !!!!!

a tale of three cooking projects + job update

First, when I got home from the State Fair on Monday night, I was feeling more than a little icky from the junk I had eaten at the fair, so I decided to make something simple and healthy for supper. I had half a can of diced tomatoes in liquid left from a recipe earlier that week, and I had been wanting to make them into soup of some kind! I just sort of started throwing leftovers in the pot, and here's what I came up with:
I did a naughty thing with this soup -- I BOILED it for ten minutes to cook the macaroni! And what happened? The white beans I had added completely fell apart and turned into this lovely, thick, almost-creamy broth. Yum. I love happy accidents.

Next, I made "Fig and Almond Bars" from Cooking Light yesterday. Except that I didn't have any figs. Or almonds. In fact, out of the 11 ingredients in the original recipe, only 4 of them made it into my revised version -- "Apricot Coconut Blondies."
I used commercial egg replacer, which I think was my first mistake. Bah! They are flat and too sticky and kind of oily, because I used margarine, which has a higher fat content than butter, which the recipe originally called for. Changes for next time: less margarine, a bit more flour, use something else for the egg (maybe tofu?), and increase the baking powder by 50%.

Last, I made a loaf of bread from "The Enchanted Broccoli Forest" last night. I followed this recipe/method pretty closely, except I used margarine instead of butter, and used all whole-wheat bread flour. It is definitely the most tender homemade bread I've ever made, but almost to a fault -- it reminds me more of a biscuit than a loaf of bread. I will definitely cut back on the marg next time.The 20 minutes of kneading got very tiring, but I was able to achieve halfway decent gluten development . . . but I should have kneaded for a little longer. (Sunflower seeds were popping out everywhere, though, so I was getting a little frustrated.) I also didn't let it rise enough during the final rise, methinks, but I was just so stinking tired at that point, I chucked it in the oven after 40 minutes.
Regardless, it made pretty good toast this morning. Sunflower Millet Bread:
P.S. My first time working with millet, too!

Still no job (or interviews for that matter,) but I did receive one rejection email yesterday just two lousy hours after I sent in my letter of interest and resume. Well phooey on them! Anyhow, I found the most interesting job opening yesterday, which I immediately applied for . . . my co-op is looking for a baker! It would be a huge paycut, and probably funny hours, but I applied for it anyway, even though I have zero professional baking experience. Here's hopin'!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

cookbook enchantment + job update

I had been meaning to dig through my CDs, movies, and books, and make a trip to Half Price Books to sell my no-longer-used stuff. Being unemployed offers lots of free time for these kinds of "meaning to" projects!

While I was waiting for them to calculate what they were going to offer me for my four bags of stuff, I found TWO used cookbooks that I HAD to have. :) I picked up copies of "The Enchanted Broccoli Forest" and Mark Bittman's "How to Cook Everything: Vegetarian Cooking." Even with my purchases, I still walked out of the store $36 richer!

I am in love with "The Enchanted Broccoli Forest." It's a little butter-cream-cheese-eggs heavy for my tastes, but it is so sweet, well-written, and charming with all of the hand lettering and silly drawings, that I'm hooked. My favorite silly joke from the book is a small drawing of a frog with a word bubble coming out near his lips that says, "trivet!" Cute. I may need to make some bread from that book this week, and definitely will be adapting a muffin recipe or two!

I haven't attacked the Bittman with quite as much enthusiasm yet, but I will clue you in when I do.


Just to clarify, I have NOT found a new job yet. I applied for three more jobs yesterday, and have heard nothing about any of them yet. But then again, it's only been a day or two, and last weekend was a holiday. (And, a couple of the University jobs I applied for, I don't expect to hear anything until next week or maybe a little later -- fall semester just started, and people are stressed out, I assume!) Off to do a little more web searching! Anyone used any online job searching systems and have positive things to say? I'm planning on using Monster, CareerBuilder, and looking on Craig's List. I'm also going to check one of our local free presses, City Pages. (I checked the regular paper already, and applied for two jobs from that.)

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

yoga update

Last night, I was so tired after being at the State Fair all day that I decided to just do the 10-minute PM yoga. (So I cheated a little. But I still did a little yoga, right?) So, tonight I did "Yoga Now 30-minute Core Workout."

"Yoga Now" is a little weird. It's a combination of yoga and aerobics; nice in some respects because you get your heart rate up more than with traditional yoga, but less relaxing, in my opinion. Hm. I'll have to do it a few more times and let you know what my final verdict is.

I did manage a little more exercise this morning, too -- I walked to do quite a few errands, and also did many stairs in my building while working on the laundry. :) Amazing how those everyday things can add up to a whole workout, eh?

(P.S. Michelle and I finally made it to the "dollar basement" of the Salvation Army tonight. It was pretty scuzzy, but I managed to pick up a few plates for 50 cents each for some prettier photo styling for the blog/cookbook. White plates don't make for the best photos -- I think they tend to overexpose my pictures a little bit! Time for a little something different.)

(P.P.S. I updated my resume and applied for one job today. More work on that front tomorrow.)

Monday, September 04, 2006

my top 5

So, I got "tagged" a few days ago, and will now post my top 5 foods of all time (at least for now!):

Garden fresh tomatoes
Pumpkin pie

I'm not going to tag anyone, because I think you've all done it already! If you want to tag yourself, however, go right ahead -- I'd love to read about your top 5!

(If my list were to continue, it would include pasta, brie cheese, coffee, fresh herbs of all kinds, sweet potatoes/yams, ice cream (both soy and dairy), black beans, artichokes, fresh mozzarella cheese, really good bread, berries, dried cherries, almonds, couscous, barbecued tofu, tempeh bacon, spinach, mushrooms, potatoes, fennel, corn (on the cob, popcorn, and all things made with cornmeal), herbal tea, chocolate, pecans, yogurt, falafel, peanut butter, and salt and vinegar potato chips.)

Sunday, September 03, 2006

a little something for everyone

Follows is a little shopping, a little cooking, a little sugar, and a little yoga . . .


Michelle, Christine, and I had a VERY long shopping adventure today -- we went to the "Black Hole of Death" (aka, the Mall of America,) to go to H&M so Michelle could spend her 50% off coupons (she's an employee,) and then stopped at the petite department at Macy's again. We also went to IKEA so Michelle could look at CD towers and Christine could look at fabric, searched for the Unique Thrift Store (which was closed) and the Salvation Army Target Dollar Basement (which was also closed.) We then ended at Super Target, because they both needed groceries. I bought some sweaters!!!
Top row: green cable v-neck and brown cardigan v-neck, both from Macy's. Bottom row: pink stripey sweater, crazy Cosby-style cardigan sweater (both from H&M), and blue and grey argyle cardigan v-neck (from Target.)
I am now officially done shopping for fall clothes. I promise.


Here's what I had for dinner tonight:
Quesadilla made with homemade refried black beans, spinach, mushrooms, and a little soy cheddar. Soy sour cream and Muir Glen organic salsa for dipping, and mango slices on the side. Yum!


This is a two-part note . . .
First, I made another tofu pumpkin pie. I really, really, really like pumpkin pie.
Second, this is my other new favorite dessert lately:
Coconut popsicles! As far as I can tell, the base is made from coconut milk, water, and sugar, and there is raw flaked coconut frozen inside the bars. I have loved coconut my entire life, and can't ever seem to get enough of it, since it is an odd flavor and many do not care for it. These popsicles are like coconut explosions! I found them at my co-op, and the brand is "Natural Choice Full of Fruit Organics." If you love coconut, search out and devour these popsicles!
P.S. Oliver could care less about coconut popsicles, as you can plainly see. :)


I am going to spend my time "off" working on many things; one of them, hopefully, will be developing yoga into a habit. I plan on doing a 10-minute AM stretch DVD, rotating one of four "workout" DVDs, and one 10-minute PM stretch DVD every day. I will report on my progress! Assume I did the AM/PM stuff every day; repeating that could get redundant, right? Tonight, I did a 45-minute Gaiam video, "Yoga Conditioning for Weight Loss."

Saturday, September 02, 2006

catching up!

The end of the week proved to be both busy and eventful for me. On top of helping friends move last weekend and all through this week, my employer and I decided to part ways Friday afternoon. (I had been planning on looking for a new job anyway, and they are looking at it as a "mutual decision.") I'm receiving one month's severance pay, so I'm not panicked. I will spend the next month job searching, interviewing, cooking, and working on the cookbook. I may be posting more than usual, since I'll be home A LOT with not an incredible amount to do . . . besides cook, that is! So, in the end, it's a good thing.

My master plan: I hope to get a reasonably well-paying office job (with benefits) at the University of Minnesota, because they have this wonderful program where they offer their employees FREE TUITION! (Something like one class a semester.) What does that translate to? Low-stress job, time and energy to work on the cookbook, and funds to work towards that degree in nutrition . . . are the planets in alignment, or is it just me? Now I just have to find the job!

On to the food:

1. I posted about the "Emergency BBQ Tofu" in the comments of my last post, for all of you who were wondering about it. :) P.S. Even if you didn't comment, read the comments, because Dori's is really funny.

2. Midafternoon meal today: (I felt yukky this morning, so I didn't eat anything besides toast and cereal until way after normal lunchtime)
Leftover blueberry pancakes (they are a little dark because they got kind of mushy in the fridge, so I re-crisped them in a dry skillet,) mango slices, Isa's Tempeh White Bean Sausage patties from VwaV, and some sliced avocado. (My avocado slices are usually perfect, but this one was ever so slightly underripe, so it was a little difficult to pit and peel. Sheesh!)