Friday, December 22, 2006

Merry What Have You.

The solstice was yesterday, Hannukah is in process (I think -- correct me if I'm wrong, please!), Christmas is days away, and I'm all used up! I had a moment at work the other day when I realized I was maxed out on the holidays -- I didn't want to listen to any more Christmas music, be in a busy noisy store, deal with the commercialism, etc. The theme for my holiday this year seems to be "too much crap" -- too many people, too much noise, too much stuff, too much junk food. I'm actually looking forward to being on my own on Christmas day -- my plan is to stay in my pajamas as long as humanly possible, chain-watch movies until I can't take it any longer, and then maybe get dressed and take a walk. (Especially because I have to work the 24th and the 26th!)

I shouldn't really complain this much, because, after all, it did snow (finally) yesterday! I love the snow. :) Everyone was complaining about how bad the roads were; my reply was a shrug and, "well, I take the bus, and the bus just keeps plugging along, so I LOVE SNOW!"

So, I wish you all a Merry What Have You, (if even all you are celebrating is a day off of work,) and leave you with two food photos, because that's all that I've cooked that's been blog-worthy since I posted last!

broiled zucchini with extra-virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of romano cheese (everyone should own a Microplane, if you don't already! Get the one without the handle -- it works the best.)

Vanilla-Cinnamon waffles with bananas, pecans, and maple syrup. Breakfast this morning rocks. :)

(Oh yeah -- I did make scrambled tofu and hash browns, with a side of grapefruit for Dan and I for dinner last night, but since I've taken so many pictures of scrambled tofu already, I decided to spare you.) :) (The funniest part was, Dan was most excited about the grapefruit, I think -- he practically licked his entire plate clean, but kept talking about how much he loves grapefruit. Silly boys.)

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

etcetera, miscellaney, whatnot.

I completely forgot to tell you about my awesome day of work last Thursday! Since we surpassed our sales goals for November, all employees were awarded a $25 gift card! Woooooo! I ended up picking up a copy of Madhur Jaffrey's "World Vegetarian," which has been on my cookbooks to buy list for ages now, and a bar of Vosges chocolate. Have any of you experienced the pure, unparalleled pleasure that is Vosges chocolate? Click on the link above and go check out some of their products. These are, by far, the most incredible, unique, and perfect "candy bars" on planet Earth. I have tried the Barcelona, Calindia, Gianduja, Naga (probably my next purchase,) and Wooloomooloo bars, but my favorite to date has been the Black Pearl.
Imagine . . . the purest, richest, melt-in-your-mouth dark chocolate you can imagine, filled with black sesame seeds, and hints of ground ginger and wasabi powder. Holy. Chocolate. Heaven. They are worth every cent of the seven bucks they cost, (thank goodness I can get them at 25% off, and this time because of the gift card, it was FREE!), and several varieties will probably be my chocolate staple at home from now on.

The second reason my Thursday at work was so awesome was because my coworker, Ron, had an "Episcopalian Advent gift" (his exact words) for me! (He cracked a joke about whether, as a United Methodist, I could, in good faith, accept an Episcopalian Advent gift . . . I had no hesitations!) He was at Trader Joe's and bought me (and several of our other coworkers) a chocolate Advent calendar! I haven't had one of those in ages!
It's been super-fun getting to have a bite of chocolate with my breakfast every morning. :) I haven't had a chocolate Advent calendar in ages!

I know many of you may be interested in how the weekend went -- I think everyone had a good time! My parents and grandparents seemed to enjoy the Holidazzle parade, everyone enjoyed dinner at Brit's, and our concert on Sunday morning went well. My grandma was very happy to have a glimpse into my "world," so to speak, and she made a point of telling me that it looked like I had made a nice place for myself here. Dan liked the family, the family liked Dan, all is well. :) My parents had a few very nice Christmas gifts for me, including a waffle iron and a teakettle, and they enjoyed the aprons I bought for them very much! (They also had a couple little things for Dan -- my mom didn't want him to not have anything to open!) I also burned copies of the past year's choir concerts for my parents and grandparents, which they were excited to listen to later.

I did manage to get the tree decorated before the invasion. Oliver helped. :)
"Which ornament do you want to put up next, momma? I'll chew it to bits for you first, if you want."

"What went in here again? Regardless, this box is just my size. I would like to hide in here for a while."

The finished product:

In unrelated news, Oliver has begun climbing up on top of the kitchen cabinets again. He hasn't done this for quite some time . . . I wonder whether the slight weight loss he experienced when he was protesting the new food (which he happily eats now,) has contributed to him being more nimble? Perhaps.
Doesn't he look cute all the way up there? Cats are silly. :)

AND, last but not least, I managed to cook twice today! Michelle came over this afternoon to help me with a project, and I made us a lunch of cinnamon-vanilla waffles (using the new waffle iron -- woo!), tempeh and white bean sausage (from VwaV,) and grapefruit. It took a little while to figure out how much batter the waffle iron needed, but they were mighty tasty, regardless of what shape they ended up being!

Tonight, it was getting close to dinnertime, and I was hungry, but not in the mood to cook much, nor did much of anything look terribly inspiring to me. I ended up digging through my cabinets, finding inspiration in the barley, and making up this barley, mushroom, and white bean pilaf! It's pretty plain, (and not much to look at,) but very tasty, healthy, and filling:
All I did was saute some onion, celery, a bunch of mushrooms, and garlic in oil until soft, added some dried fines herbs and crushed fennel seeds, vegetable broth, salt, pepper, and quick-cooking barley, brought it all to a boil, covered the pan and let it simmer for 12 minutes. I then stirred in 2 cups of cooked white beans and a few splashes of balsamic vinegar, before covering the pilaf and allowing it to sit for 5 minutes. Yum! More vinegar next time I think, but otherwise, superb!

Tomorrow begins my "seven-day stretch," (I work the next seven days in a row,) so wish me luck!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

I'm being invaded!

The 'rents and g-'rents are headed to town this weekend, to celebrate early Christmas with me, and also to attend my choir concert Sunday morning. Hence, I have been busy this week preparing for the upcoming festivities -- cleaning, baking, putting up the tree, and finishing wrapping presents. Michelle was kind enough to join me this evening to help put the finishing touches on the (non-vegan) Christmas cookies! Thank ye, Michelle!

Gingerbread dudes:

A close-up (I found the sad gingerbread dude to be particularly hilarious, for some odd reason):

Michelle, hard at work:

Me, hard at work:

Finished butter cookies with peppermint frosting and sprinkles:

And, after all of that cookie decorating we were pretty hungry! A quick dinner of couscous, broccoli, squash, and barbecued tofu:
(In fact, we were so hungry, I forgot to snap a dinner photo until we were halfway through. Oh well -- presentation isn't everything, right?)

Here's hoping, despite my busy next couple of days (a show tonight, work tomorrow and plans with Dan tomorrow night, and dress rehearsal Saturday morning,) I can manage to finish decorating the tree before they roll into town! Wish me luck! (P.S. -- Dan's meeting the fam this weekend, too.)

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

cold weather food.

I can tell it's finally getting to be winter. Why? Because I can't get enough toast, soup, and pasta. (Carb-tastic!!) Protein has almost been an afterthought these days . . . all I want are whole grains!

Here's a pasta I enjoyed, in leftover form, for lunch today:
Whole-wheat elbows tossed with garlic, mushrooms, spinach, some dried fines herbes, salt and pepper, and "salad beans" (a mixed can of garbanzo, kidney, and pinto beans) sauteed in a little olive oil. Finish with a splash of balsamic vinegar! Yum.

Dinner tonight:
My infamous sweet potato coconut curry soup, with a side of pita chips. (This soup is more of a Thai curry flavor, as opposed to an Indian curry flavor -- ginger, red curry paste, coconut milk, and cilantro are the key players, besides the sweet potato, of course!)

I also indulged a little bit the other day . . . I had almost an entire box of Annie's Bunny Pasta, with some shelled edamame mixed in. (When you consider, however, I was feeding the end of a migraine, I don't think that indulgence was all that bad!)

I wish to conclude that, despite all of the carb-loading these days, I have not gained any weight . . . in fact, I have managed to drop five pounds (well, seven, if you count the two that I gained while unemployed,) over the past couple of months. My jeans are baggy . . . this is a problem . . . I can't afford to buy new clothes! Hopefully, the holidays will fatten me back up a little bit. ;)

Speaking of the holidays . . . photos of Christmas cookies coming up in the next couple of days!

Here's lookin' at you, kid.


Monday, December 04, 2006

mad kitty.

Oliver does not seem to share in my enjoyment of Dan's company. He hisses, spits, gets all puffy, hides, and throws up when Dan comes over. (And Dan really likes Oliver!) Poor guy (well, poor guys!) Oliver actually sat in front of me tonight (in between Dan and I) and howled and growled as Dan was on his way out the door. Anyone have any tips for dealing with a mad, mad kitty?

Saturday, December 02, 2006

put THAT in your vegan lunchbox . . .

. . . and EAT IT!

Even though I sort of already took a picture of this food, I had to show it to you again, because leftover miso soup and a spring roll made just about the best vegan lunchbox EVER!


Miso soup, a spring roll, peanut dipping sauce, a clementine, and a few bites of Green & Black's organic super dark chocolate. Mmmmmmm.

Speaking of chocolate, I had a lesson the other day on how to taste chocolate -- it was pretty interesting! I never really realized that, like wine, chocolate has many subtle nuances hiding in its dark depths. I tasted this one bittersweet one that had strong cherry-like undertones . . . holy moly! I also tried one the other day that had a very dark, almost coffee-like bitter finish to it. Happiness.

Free high-quality chocolate tasting is just another one of the reasons why I love my job. :)