Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween Costumes

Every year around September 1st I try to get the kids to figure out what they want to be for Halloween. It's not that I'm overly organized, far from it, it's just that I don't like to be up until the crack of dawn the night before making costumes. (though I have done that)

I try to make their costumes every year, but we have had our share of store bought ones as well.

This year my son wanted to go as some scary urban legend thing called "Slenderman" but I reminded him that he wouldn't be able to wear it it school anyway. He relented and we settled on Marty McFly from "Back to the Future."
All I needed to find was the puffy vest at the thrift shop and we would be good to go.

Here's the final result.

I made the Hover Board out of foam core and hand painted it. Unfortunately it's not functional...:)
I doubt we'll win any Comic Con cosplay contests, (say that five times fast) but I think it's quite passable for McFly.

My daughter is fascinated with penguins right now. She knew immediately what she wanted to be and I was quite happy that it was something simple to make.

Here's her final result.

The base is a black sweat suit and I added the details with felt. Easy to wear and warm for the chilly weather we are having here. She is happy with it, which makes my day.

Happy Halloween!


Friday, October 26, 2012

Lazy Vegan Pasta

The title of this post implies that the "vegan" is's more the sauce in this dish that is lazy, but "Lazy Sauce" sounds a bit off.

Wait, scratch that...I'm starting to think "Lazy Sauce" is the tired cousin of  "Awesome Sauce" so maybe it works. This is what I made for dinner this week, for myself since no one else in this house will dare eat vegan with me. It's one of those dishes that you make when you are worn out from the day and need some filling comfort food. Pasta is that dish for me. I could eat it every day and for every meal, usually with loads of Parmesan though I try not to since well...who needs that many carbs?

Here's "Vegan Pasta with Lazy Sauce." (Much better...)

What I used:

Vegan Pasta ( my mom found some at the health food store where she lives)
EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)
Marinara from a Jar (the lazy part)
Raw Baby Spinach

What I did:

Cook pasta (obviously)
Toss with a little EVOO and then Marinara
Add spinach and zap in the microwave to warm

See...lazy...but SUPER tasty.

Notice no Parmesan :(
I think I'll live though. 

Southern Comfort Food

(Guest post from Kristy)

I know that Danna's a big fan of the Sookie Stackhouse stories, so maybe this southern treat will hit the spot, and fortify her for a long night of novel-reading.

(Not) Fried Green Tomatoes and Black Eyed Peas

First, get the black eyed peas started by rinsing them. Then bring a pot of water with the beans to a rolling boil, and lower to a simmer. On to the tomatoes.

I followed the general principles for Oven-Fried Green Tomatoes (a non-vegan recipe) over at the "Baked-In" website.  The site might be worth a second visit one day when I've been a very good girl, for the Baked Avocado Fries (what?! yes).

Anyway, the OFG tomatoes were easily veganized.

This is an assembly line process (once the tomatoes are sliced), usually consisting of a dip in flour, then a dip in a scrambled egg, then a dredge through some seasoned breadcrumbs or panko.  Simply replace the egg bath with a quick dunk in water (I added a tablespoon of maple syrup to the water, for an extra flavor dimension), and poof: it's vegan.

With the breadcrumbs I used salt, pepper, garlic powder, a little cayenne, and mexican oregano.

Baked at 425 for about 20-25 minutes.

Returning to the beans, you can add or subtract water, as needed, to make sure nothing burns or goes soupy. I added a teaspoon of ancho powder here.

Pull out a 1/4 c. of beans and puree with a few chipotles en adobo and a splash of water.  Return the spicy mush to the beans and stir well.

Throw in the greens of your choice (try mustard or collard), and some sliced jalapeno or serrano. I used a few jalapeno peppers that had over-ripened on the counter and turned red.  Leave the beans on low heat, or covered to let the flavors meld and to soften the greens. 


And finally - here is where it all came together.

And now, the lesson: I thought the pickled jalapenos looked cute on the side, but next time --or if I were actually serving this to anyone-- I'd skip them. Their flavor is so sharp and bright, they belong with pizza or something. They really don't "make sense" with this warm and soft, and gently tangy/spicy meal.  But they are still kinda cute, right? 

Sunday, October 21, 2012


(Guest post from Kristy)

Okay, so I guess I should share my latest obsession.  It is this sauce that escorts any vegetable or dumpling into soy-sesame heaven.

My measurements are approximate here, since you can always taste as you go and make corrections, but it is essentially this:

1/8 c. soy sauce
1/8 c. white vinegar (or cider vinegar or rice vinegar)
1 tsp. sesame oil
a couple cloves of garlic, crushed 
a small bunch of green onion, thinly sliced

a tablespoon of fresh ginger, grated or matchsticked

The choice of vinegar can make a huge difference, so play around with it.  Cider is usually my favorite, but since I LOVE vinegar, I can appreciate the intensely acidic taste of the white vinegar. Rice vinegar is sweeter, more subtle (and probably more authentically Asian).

This can be used as a dipping sauce for dumplings, or as a marinade for tofu, or as the final addition to a stir fry. I just gently steamed a huge bunch of kale, then tossed it with the sauce.  

Watch out for the sodium in the soy sauce.  I can't detect a difference in the taste (maybe my taste buds are blown from all the vinegar!), so I always use the "less sodium" soy sauce. Even that has a shocking amount of sodium, but sometimes -for the perfect veggie side dish- it's worth the splurge.


Friday, October 19, 2012

Soy Milk and Quilting

It's been several days since I posted anything here, obviously. Kristy has had some tasty looking recipes. As for me...I've hit a vegan dry spell. I tried coming up with a new recipe for Jicama and Radish salad, but it was a dud. I moved on, but couldn't think of anything else worthy of posting.

I did try to find a suitable substitute for my favorite breakfast of Greek yogurt with honey and berries, but the only vegan yogurt I found out here in the boonies was Soy. I was excited to try it, though my experience with Soy milk was that it was pretty foul. I am not a milk drinker anyway, though I do use milk on cereal and occasionally as an accompaniment to Oreos, but I rarely drink it straight. I've tried Soy milk and hated it, so I had my doubts about the Soy yogurt.

I wish I could say that my opinion of Soy dairy had changed after trying the yogurt, but sadly, it was only solidified. I'm usually pretty good about new flavors, but the Soy is just something I cannot stomach. Sorry Soy lovers, I tried. Now, if I could find the Coconut yogurt anywhere, we might have a deal.

I still have 4 yogurts left and I will probably use them in smoothies so they won't go to waste, but I'll most likely add honey to that making them a non-vegan recipe. I doubt I'll post that.

So, on to something non-food related...

About a year and a half ago my sweet nephew was born, adopted by my brother and sister in-law, and brought into our lives. I call him "Short, Dark, and Handsome" and he is my little buddy. I get to see him most of the week and he's as much a part of my life as my own children are. We are lucky to have him in our family.

When we knew for sure he was going to be here, I immediately started a quilt for him. Now my record of starting quilts is greater than my record of finishing them, but this one, I was determined to finish. I needed a simple but striking design and found one at the Moda Bake Shop. A very clever and useful site with tons of great free patterns.

I found some fabric locally and got to work. Here are some of the pictures...

Here's where I laid out just how I wanted the blocks to go

This is the top pieced together. You can see it's a tad wonky...

This is the back. 

Lovely shot of my walking foot and  the quilting process. Again you can see how wonky the blocks are. 


This is the finished product. Wonky or not, I still like how it turned out. 



So all in all, I was happy with the finished quilt. Here is the pattern if you'd like to try it yourself. I hope to get back to vegan food soon. Thanks for reading!


Thursday, October 11, 2012

Autumn Food

(Guest post from Kristy...)

What better way to cheer on your favorite sport team or political faction this autumn than to rustle up a nice steamy pot of vegan chili and cornbread?

My first ever attempt at the Fresh Corn & Scallion Cornbread from Appetite for Reduction hit the spot. I'm pretty excited about the cornbread, which didn't require any unusual ingredients, and popped with fresh corn kernels and green onion. When I make it next I'll sneak in some jalapeno (because that's how I roll), but otherwise this was an excellent basic recipe, with surprisingly little oil and salt.  And let's be honest, what is cornbread if not a luscious, savory cake?

The chili... well, everyone has their own chili recipe, and on this occasion it was a kitchen sink affair ("everything but the..."), so I don't think it reached the soaring heights of chili nirvana, but I will share one super tip for cooking dried beans, since dried beans are the cheapest, lowest in sodium, and also produce the least waste. 'Old school' conservative cooks tell you to soak overnight, but it's not essential. Bean moderates will tell you to pour boiling water over the dried beans then let them soak for an hour or so, then proceed.  I, my friends, am a card-carrying legume liberal, and I will tell you there is no need to soak at all! Just rinse the beans well, cover with a lot of water, and start cooking. Once you get the water to the boil and bring the heat down a notch, add a dash (half teaspoon, maybe) of baking soda.  I can't credit the tip, which I've seen in a few places, but it really works to soften the water, and take the last bit of toughness out of beans. I was always unable to duplicate the melt-in-you-mouth creaminess of restaurant beans, but now I can! It's magic.  Okay, now I sound like I have some weird bean obsession. 

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Beet Slaw from the Old Country

(Guest post from Kristy...)

I just got back into the USA, so what's the first thing I see after logging in to check up on Vegan MoFo, but an Iron Chef Beet Root Challenge that suddenly sends me right back to Eastern Europe for inspiration.  To recreate some of the flavors from my vacation, I pulled out some cabbage, caraway seeds (the ones that make rye bread taste like rye bread), vinegar, and vegan bouillon, and the key ingredient: beet root, for a jazzed up slaw.

beet slaw ingredients
 Here's what I did:

2 cups green cabbage, very thinly sliced
   Cover cabbage shreds with boiling water then immediately drain in colander.)

1/8 c. cider vinegar
1/8 c. hot water + 1/2 tsp. better-than-bouillon paste 
(or whatever bouillon cube or veggie stock you choose)

   Toss in:
1/2 tsp. caraway seeds, lightly toasted in a dry pan
1 small beet (raw), scrubbed, trimmed and grated on a box cutter

It's a beautiful combination of red and green -- not quite uniformly pink, but with a little more tossing, after a rest in the refrigerator, it will get there. It would probably look stellar if I'd kept some of the green slaw separate, in order to plate it in stripes. 

The quick hot water bath softens the cabbage, though it retains a little crunch, and the beet adds color and a lovely sweetness. Though I'm using vinegar here, it's not enough to put this anywhere near sauerkraut territory; and the bouillon and caraway give the dish a depth and richness. This was delicious in a salad bowl, but the leftovers are ideal to garnish a potato pancake.

Oh, yum.  This is like being back on the other side of the world, for a taste of Prague, or, as they translated on a banner at the street festival I stumbled upon accidentally last week: "Thus Tastes Prague."

Friday, October 5, 2012

Oh For the Love of Carrots!

The title of this post can be spoken with different inflections and the meaning will change. My son will say it with an exasperated surly tween voice, or just sigh and roll his eyes. Carrots are the only vegetable I can get him to eat on a regular basis without him gagging. It's a constant struggle to get him to eat anything remotely healthy. Carrots, for the moment, are it.

My husband will eat them if they are there. He finally admitted, after about 10 years of marriage, that he does not like cooked carrots. Glad I knew that...

My daughter and I on the other hand, LOVE carrots. She will eat them cooked, but prefers them raw. I will eat them cooked or raw, but there is one way I will not eat them;

Candied carrots are just wrong. In my opinion, carrots need to be raw, steamed, saute'd, sometimes in a cake, or nothing at all.

I find that most people either love them or abhor them, but the first vegan recipe I decided to try/make up while lying awake in the middle of the night, is...Curry Roasted Carrot Soup.

Now there may be something like this already out there, but I honestly did not look this up online.

Here's what I bought;

A bundle of whole carrots
Fresh Garlic
White Onion
Veggie Stock

Things I had:

Curry powder (the yellow kind found in every grocery, though I think any kind will work)
Kosher salt
EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)

What I did:

Chop the veggies roughly into same size pieces (4 big carrots, 2 large cloves of garlic, 1 small onion)
Roast said veggies with EVOO, 1 t curry powder, and salt in a 400 degree oven (my fav. temp) turning every so often to even the color.
Puree the veggies (add 1C veg stock to help with this process)
Press the puree through a sieve to remove any chunks though it will still have texture after you do
Stir the veggie stock (additional 1C) into the puree until you get the consistency you like (I also added 1C of water)

I served this warmed with a side of mashed avocado with salt and lime on Triscuit crackers.

Today was cold and rainy and this was the perfect lunch to warm me up. The curry compliments the carrots perfectly and the color is nice and sunny, especially on a gloomy day like today.

Give this a try, tweak it to your liking and let me know what you think.


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

"Vegan hotel breakfast in Prague"

(A post from Kristy all the way from Prague!)

(Vltava River via Paddle Boat)

I'm lucky enough to be visiting Prague this first week of October, and extra lucky that the friends I am traveling with "know somebody" with a connection to the Marriott, and secured a fancy suite for each of us.  The hotel does a really nice breakfast spread which is mostly continental.  It includes juices and teas, one steam tray with hard boiled eggs staying warm while resting on a bed of salt, and a pile of tight little sausages, which even the omnivores in my midst are pointedly ignoring.  Aside from that, they have a load of breads and fruit, a cheese-and-cold-cuts tray, pickled onion and gherkins, cereal bar and a schmantsy automated coffee maker.

My beautiful vegan breakfast today is: dried apricots, fresh fruit salad, cherry tomato, mixed nuts, caraway roll, baby gherkin pickles, and a banana, with a cup of espresso. I should think about trying to eat so well at home.

This is not the first trip to Prague for any of us. (I visited the city briefly in the late '90s, and my boyfriend and our friends lived here for several years in the early/mid 90s.) So it has been interesting to start the MoFo in this beautiful city whose strongest culinary impression on me, as a vegetarian, was previously the entree "smažený sýr" (fried cheese).  It's a treat to get to fill up at breakfast with such a colorful and nutrient packed plate before heading out to a more traditional Czech world where I anticipate mostly potato and cabbage. Truth be told, I am finding the food here much improved since I was here a decade or so ago.  The variety is impressive, and veggie options much more plentiful than before.  All but the most traditional smoky pubs have a really good salad or two, and some veg items on the sides menu. There is still a heck of a lot of cheese going on here.   -KK