Cakes for a Thirtieth Birthday | VeganMoFo 2018 Day Twenty-Three

Week Four: Occasions Week
We love a good celebration! This week focuses on those special occasions in your life.

On a rainy, chilly autumn Sunday, who’s thinking about celebrations?! Not me. So let’s go back a month or so to mid-August, when we celebrated Steven’s 30th birthday.

First, we celebrated his actual birthday with gifts and cake (and a homemade birthday card, per our tradition). When Steven requested a chocolate and raspberry cake, I knew exactly which one to make: the Raspberry Blackout Cake from Vegan with a VengeanceTwo layers of rich chocolate cake are sandwiched with raspberry jam and ganache, then topped with even more rich, fudgy ganache. Plus, you bake jam right into the cakes for added sweet berry deliciousness. I love this cake and I was glad for the chance to make it again. My presentation may not be impressive, but the flavor certainly was! (Steven’s mom also treated us to brunch at Barking Mad that weekend, which was lovely.)

The festivities continued a couple weeks later with birthday bowling! It was a semi-surprise; I didn’t tell Steven the exact nature of our “fun birthday activity” until we were on the way there, although he did know we were going to be celebrating with friends. I booked two lanes for two hours, and we had a super-fun time bowling with a small group. Afterward, we headed home, where my dear friends Sara and Sabrina had secretly festooned the house with all sorts of decorations, childhood photos of Steven (!), and a hilarious Office-themed sign (above). I’d purchased a vegan ice cream cake from Roots market, our local natural foods/veg-friendly grocer, which everyone enjoyed. (I failed to photograph it, but it was pretty!) We had a wonderful night.

Our final celebration took place earlier this month. We were in Rhode Island to celebrate a million different birthdays: my aunt’s 70th, my grandma’s 85th, and my cousin’s 21st. So my parents figured, why not celebrate Steven’s 30th as well?! We picked up burritos and brought them to a local craft brewery, where we played arcade games and drank beers with family (and one of my very best friends, who was able to stop by for a little while). Then, the next evening, my sister served up a homemade vegan ice cream cake! She used crushed Oreos between layers of soy- and coconut-based ice creams, then topped the whole thing with a layer of So Delicious’ CocoWhip. It was heavenly. And it was better than the store-bought cake I’d served at his actual birthday party! I need to steal my sister’s technique.

All in all, we had three celebrations for Steven’s 30th. One per decade! Good thing he’s worth all the fuss. ;)

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Small-Bite Sundays: August 27, 2017

Small-Bite Sundays

First things first: Have you entered my giveaway yet? Win a handmade vegan-emblazoned mug here! (And if you have a recommendation for another vegan small-business interview, drop me a line.)

I spent last weekend in Rhode Island, visiting with family, meeting my sister-in-law’s family (they’re visiting the U.S. from their home in Thailand), and celebrating my mom’s 60th a bit belatedly. All visits to RI give me the chance to spend lots of time with my two little nephews… meaning all visits to RI include about a 50/50 percent chance of me coming home with some kind of terrible kid-transmitted illness. This time, I ended up with a killer cold and spent about three days glued to the couch with my trusty tissue box by my side.

Luckily, though, the cold didn’t strike until later in the week, or else Steven’s and my eight-hour drive home on Monday would have been pretty miserable. During our drive, we stopped in a state park to watch the eclipse — what we could see from northern Maryland, at least. We had about 83% coverage, and I was (naively) surprised at how little change there was in the light. At least we had eclipse glasses to see what was happening, and we were able to share them with a family who was taking a mid-day hike but didn’t have any glasses. Anyway, the experience left me wishing we’d driven somewhere to see totality, and I think we’ll attempt to do so during the next one — just seven years from now. :)

Small bites: to read

Fellow vegan blogger Jenny has a brief piece on Medium about how a nasty vegan weight-loss site stole an image of her and used it to promote their vegan diet program. Ironically, the image was originally used on another piece she wrote… about the intersections (or frequent lack thereof) between veganism and fat acceptance.

The incident stands out to me for a few reasons. One, it’s an example of the bizarre way folks seem to think images on the internet are fair game for reuse, even when they’re not marked as creative commons. Two, it highlights the continued problem of fat-shaming within the vegan community and the icky idea that veganism should be/is a weight-loss tool. Third, it’s actually heartening to see the way people responded to Jenny when she put a call out on social media for others to demand the site take her photo down. Thanks to the folks who mobilized on her behalf, not only did the site remove her photo, but they deleted the entire post in which it was used.

If you’re interested in reading more about vegan body positivity and weight inclusivity, check out Jenny’s Big Fat Vegan Zine Tumblr.

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I am so intrigued by the thought of cooking with so-called “roasted sugar,” sugar that’s been slowly, well, roasted in the oven until it develops a deeper and almost caramelized flavor. I’m looking forward to experimenting with it! (I contemplated putting this in the “To eat” section, but even I, a lover of sweets, would not sit down to a bowl of roasted sugar.)

 

Small bites: to watch

It’s a bit long, but I enjoyed this video demonstrating the absurdly long process of getting dressed as an 18th century Western woman. Fans of 18th century British novels in particular (guilty!) will likely appreciate this visual; female protagonists in these books frequently reference their dress.

Small bites: to eat

I am always on board for cashew cream, and these adorable creamy tomato-basil tartlets from Vegan Yack Attack feature a basil-infused cashew cream in spades. I’d sub in a gluten-full crust, and I’d probably make a full-size tart (alas, I have no tiny tart pans), but otherwise this recipe is a perfect way to do justice to your end-of-summer tomato stash.

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Aquafaba is a seriously versatile ingredient — not only has it revolutionized vegan meringues and macarons, but apparently it makes an amazing caramel. I love the inclusion of macadamia nuts, too; I can imagine them adding a perfectly rich and buttery element to this caramel sauce.

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As I mentioned earlier, we celebrated my mom’s 60th in RI last weekend. What I didn’t mention was that my dad basically catered a three-course fully vegan meal for 20+ guests all by himself. He’s always been the star cook of the family, but he really outdid himself here. We enjoyed appetizers (Texas caviar and a seriously incredible three-bean dip), a soup course (spicy sweet potato and kale), and a main course featuring twice-baked potatoes (augmented with mashed cauliflower!), a light salad, and grilled veg sausages and veggies. Plus, Dad made three original cocktails to order, including an incredible chocolate drink that was perfect for my chocoholic mom. Oh, also? Nearly everything was gluten-free so my celiac aunt could enjoy it. Yeah, my dad should probably go into the catering business.

We followed everything up with a vegan cake from a local bakery. They decorated it like a barbell weight as a nod to my bodybuilder mom’s favorite hobby. :)

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What was your eclipse experience, if you’re in the States? What have you  read/watched/eaten lately?

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Turning Twenty-Six… with Tacos

In case you were suspicious that my blog was going to turn into an all-out sentimentality-fest with lots of uncomfortable monologues about unconditional love and babies and crap, never fear! I’m back on solid ground with a post about food. Birthday food! By which I mean, tacos. Naturally. I’ll get to them in a second, I promise.

Last Friday, I turned 26. I feel surprisingly neutral about this birthday, even though I’m officially closer to 30 than 20 now. Or maybe I just haven’t had time to stop and think about it – my excitement over Teddy’s birth kinda eclipsed my own mopey musings on aging. But I think I’m okay with 26. It’s a solid number, respectable, even. I feel good about where I am in my life and the people I share it with. And that’s what really matters, right?

Happily, I shared an early birthday celebration with most of my immediate family when I was back in RI. Mom made a batch of these yummy blondies (and gleefully crowed about the secret ingredient when certain family members couldn’t guess what it was), the adults all sang “Happy Birthday,” and Teddy snoozed away. I received gifts from my parents that night and gifts from some other relatives at various points during my visit. It was low-key and lovely – just the way I like it.

On my actual birthday, the 15th, S and I kept it equally low-key. We decided to have dinner at Tex Tubb’s Taco Palace, a taco-centric establishment that we’ve been meaning to visit for a while. We were seated after a short wait, and we promptly ordered drinks – a Shiner for S and a blue agave margarita for me – while perusing the vegan menu. We wanted to order their vegan nachos as a starter, but the waitress abashedly informed us that they were out of vegan queso. Boo! Instead, we got chips and a cute tub of guac.

Squat cast-iron bowl of guacamole topped with diced tomatoes.

Bowl o’ guac.

Yum! This guac was perfect – creamy, simple, and fresh. The diced tomatoes and onions on top (not mixed in!) were a nice touch, and the portion size was perfect for the both of us. Actually, it might’ve been a little large for me – I couldn’t quite finish the two tacos I ended up ordering! I went with the two-taco plate and chose the Avocado Frito (fried avocado, mushrooms, black beans, tomatoes, and red onions on corn tortillas) and the Black Bean Something or Other (no list because it’s not on the online menu, but it was pretty similar to the other one). The platter came with a side of beans (I chose refried) and rice.

Green plate with two fully loaded tacos, a pile of rice, and a scoop of refried beans.

Two-taco plate.

The tacos come sans salsa and mostly sans spice (except for one burning bite in my bean taco – weird!), which lets the eater customize the level of spiciness. This is made easy by Tex Tubb’s salsa bar, which features four different salsas. The spiciest one wasn’t too exciting, the next-spiciest chipotle-ish one was flavorful and yummy, the tomatillo salsa was good, and the mild red salsa was just fine. The tacos themselves were decent, although I’m pretty sure my avocado was not frito and was instead raw. Not that I’m complaining! I prefer the fresher flavors. The beans and rice were simple but tasty. S also got the avocado taco, along with some sort of Roasted Veggie Tostada (yeah, no list here either, but there was lots of corn!)

Magenta plate with an avocado-filled taco and a tostada piled high with veggies.

Pink platter!

S and I both saved one of our tacos for later, and I saved some of my rice and beans, too. They made great leftovers!

Tex Tubb’s is oh-so-conveniently located down the street from The Green Owl, so we swung by there after dinner to pick up desserts for later – a berry-lemon cheesecake for me and a passionfruit cheesecake for S (his was superior). We enjoyed them at home while watching Rise of the Planet of the Apes. All in all, a really great birthday. S gave me some sweet gifts, and I’ll probably blog about a couple of them soon. :)

Now, you might remember that last year, when I turned 25, I gave myself a list of 25 things to accomplish before I turned 26. Full disclosure: I totally failed on a lot of them. But I’m okay with that. Many of the things I didn’t do were the more self-indulgent goals, like making things for myself or getting a tattoo. That stuff will happen eventually, but it’s not as important as the more meaningful goals I did accomplish, like volunteering more often and keeping in better touch with friends. So with that ringing endorsement of my success, here’s my final list:

  1. Pay off a loan. Completed! (I actually paid off two or three smaller ones!)
  2. Sew myself a dress. FAIL.
  3. Blog at least five times a month. Completed! (Or, I’ll complete it at the end of this month.)
  4. Drive in a big city. FAIL.
  5. Send people birthday cards and gifts on time. Completed!
  6. Work out weekly. Completed! (Very proud of myself for this one. I know it’s not much, but it’s consistent, and I’ve never been good at keeping up a consistent workout schedule. I intend to amp it up in the next year!
  7. Learn how to use InDesign. Um… I used InDesign to make the invitations to my sister’s baby shower, but I’m no expert. Not quite completed!
  8. Knit myself a sweater. FAIL.
  9. Do more creative writing. Completed! Nobody will ever read it, but whatever!
  10. Start making Christmas gifts during the summer. Completed!
  11. Make a pie with a lattice crust. Completed!
  12. Re-learn how to crochet. FAIL.
  13. Get another tattoo. FAIL. (Cry!)
  14. Read more poetry. Completed(ish)! I read more than I usually do, so… it counts. ;)
  15. Take the GRE. FAIL. (And I probably won’t.)
  16. Try hot yoga. FAIL. (Stupidly. Would’ve been so easy.)
  17. Start and maintain an Etsy shop. FAIL. (But I’m working on it)
  18. Consistently make some of Moria’s food. Completed! (I had to stop for a while when she had a bladder stone and needed a special diet, but for the most part I’ve augmented her dry food with veggies and/or rice.)
  19. Knit a pair of socks. FAIL.
  20. Call (or write to) far-away family and friends more frequently. Completed!
  21. Visit a new country. Completed!
  22. Do more hands-on volunteering. Completed!
  23. Super-secret private goal! Completed!
  24. Super-secret private goal! This is an ongoing goal. But I made progress!
  25. Super-secret private goal! Errr… nope.

Not great, but not bad. I’m happy with what I accomplished this year. I’ve got some thoughts in mind for how to approach this next year of my life, but I’m keeping quiet on that front for a while. ;)

Sweets for a Sweet Sister

It’ll be my little sister’s 18th birthday in 11 minutes. I guess she’s not actually “little” anymore, what with her being a legal adult now, and what with her being 3 inches taller than me, but you know what? She’ll always be my baby sister.

So when Mom asked me to make some vegan treats to accompany the decidedly non-vegan ice cream cake Rhiannon requested for her family party yesterday, how could I refuse? I decided to whip up a batch of the Cookies ‘n Cream Cupcakes from VCTOTW using some accidentally-vegan Oreos.

Yum in my tum.

Mmm. I love that this frosting looks and works best just haphazardly slapped on top of the cupcakes. Don’t get me wrong; I enjoy whipping out the ol’ pastry bag and piping beautiful swirls of frosting atop my cuppers, but for reasons of time and laziness, this method gets an A+ in my book. And these little guys didn’t just look pretty. Suffice it to say that these cuppers were absolutely delicious and received rave reviews from the omnis who tried them. Great success!

Even though my sissie was feeling a little under the weather on the day of her party, it was still a great evening. All our little cousins showed up, even the ones from out of state, and we had fun bonding with the kids and being amazed at their boundless energy. So even though Rhiannon had to head back to college today (she was home for Thanksgiving break) and therefore won’t be spending her actual birthday with us, it was okay. We enjoyed the time we had together, and that’s really all that counts.

So, happy birthday, little sister. :)

My wonderful sissie.