Scones and Sandwiches and Sweets | VeganMoFo 2019 Day Ten

It’s been a lovely Saturday so far, and it’s not even 4:00 p.m. — the day is young!
I made my weekly pilgrimage to the farmers market in (relatively) cool weather; it was just 71˚F when I headed out. Positively autumnal! I forgot to snap a photo of my haul, but here’s what I picked up:
  • Brussels sprouts
  • An heirloom tomato
  • Cilantro (a nice bunch for $1.50, score!)
  • A basil plant (I had bad luck with basil seeds this year, so I bit the bullet and bought a plant. Yeah, it’s a little late in the season, but I’ll get lots of use out of it!)
  • Two heads of broccoli
  • New potatoes
  • Sansa apples
  • White nectarines

When I got back home, Steven was baking scones! This is becoming a bit of a weekend tradition for him, and I’m not mad about it. This week, he made tomato-basil scones, which I enjoyed with a cup of coffee. I quit coffee a couple months ago after realizing I was getting caffeine withdrawal headaches when I didn’t drink it, so it’s a somewhat rare treat now. I enjoy the taste of coffee and I liked the morning ritual of drinking it, but I haaate the idea of having a caffeine addiction, so I quit cold turkey as soon as I realized what was going on. :( Now that I don’t drink it regularly, I’m extra sensitive to it — a glass of cold brew gets me wired! Anyway, this was just regular ol’ hot coffee with So Delicious caramel creamer. I usually drink hot coffee black, but I had some of this leftover from a family visit last month and didn’t want to waste it.

After the scones came out of the oven, a loaf of sourdough bread went in! I blogged about Mary Berry (my starter <3) last MoFo, and she’s still alive and kickin’. I don’t bake bread every week, but I’ve got some heirloom tomatoes that are just crying to be eaten atop fresh bread, so this loaf will serve us well.

Post-bread baking, we headed across the street to celebrate our friend Ron’s birthday! Sara had gotten a platter of vegan sandwiches from Firehouse Deli, a local deli that bizarrely offers a TON of vegan options, so I feasted on an Italian cold cut sandwich. She’d also picked up a really tasty sesame slaw, along with chips and dip — basically, the perfect summer party plate. Firehouse also makes vegan cupcakes; I chose lemon while Steven had birthday cake (!). I really appreciate that we can support a small local business when we need vegan catering rather than a massive company like Whole Foods. Firehouse is a funny little place located right along a busy main road, but you can spot it by the electronic marquee that flashes the word “VEGAN” along with “GYRO” and “REUBEN.” Ha.

Sara and Ron have a pack of four small and wonderful puppers, including their newest addition: Scooter! Look at this little doofus.

Now I’m off to do a bit of cleaning — we’ve got friends coming over tonight. Happy Saturday, all.

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Farmers Market Haul (and Bonus Baby Bird Content!) | VeganMoFo 2019 Day Three

Ah, summer Saturdays. My weekly ritual is to have a quick breakfast, pop in my earbuds, fire up an audiobook, and walk to my local farmers market. It’s about a mile away, and although I’m usually pretty sweaty by the time I return, I enjoy the walk.

This week, though, I left a little later than usual because I was distracted by a very important duty: monitoring a fledgling! An adorable catbird baby was just hanging out by our laundry room downspout, a puffy grey ball peeping away while Mom watched nearby and frequently flew over to drop insects into the baby’s beak. I was a little concerned because although the baby looked nicely feathered and mature, she didn’t have tail feathers and was only hopping around, peeping piteously. And when I looked a little more closely, I saw a few ants crawling on her. :( This behavior is appropriate for fledglings; they often leave the nest before they can fully fly, so Mom monitors and feeds them while they finish learning. But this little one was worrying me a bit. I tried calling our local wildlife rehab center to get their input, but nobody picked up. Generally, it’s best to leave babies in the wild with Mom — they have a much better chance at survival, and rehabbers are so busy this time of year that you never want to take up their scant resources with cases they really shouldn’t have to deal with.

Steven was helping our neighbors/friends with a desk-building project, so I went over there to report on the bird’s status and express my concern. When I got back home just a few minutes later, my little friend was gone! So was Mom, who’d been staying nearby and monitoring (including angrily squawking at a female cardinal who crossed her path!). The funny thing was that I could still hear the baby’s peeping, and it seemed to be coming from the eaves, where I know a few birds have nests. So I figured all was well and headed off to the farmers market.

The market is small, but it gets the job done (I ignore the gross butcher stall). I frequent one particular produce stand and one fruit stand, although there’s also an Ethiopian stall with veg options and even a cookie stall with a vegan choice or two. I hit up my two regular stalls this week and came home with a respectable haul.

 

Although some of the veggies are packaged in plastic pint containers, I always switch to my reusable produce bags at the market. The vendors seem to appreciate it; they get to reuse the containers. (Though I did keep the mixed salad greens in their plastic bag; I don’t think they’d reuse a bag like that, so it’d go to waste anyway.) I’m particularly pleased with that bag of peaches and nectarines — I asked the fruit vendor whether they ever sell seconds, since those bruised, bumped, and otherwise visually imperfect fruits make just as good pies, crumbles, and jams. They sold me three pounds for $3, a respectable deal. I’m going to do the same in apple season so I can make applesauce. :)

I took advantage of the slightly cloudy weather when I got home from the market and did some weeding in my garden. Things are looking good out there! I pick a handful of various cherry tomatoes every other day, and the green beans are just as plentiful. The squashes and melons are flowering and some are fruiting, while my carrots are finally taking off. I have terrible luck with peppers every year, so this year my dad brought some seedlings when my parents visited in July. I transplanted them about three weeks ago, and they’re finally beginning to flower. Crossing my fingers they fruit, too!

After a good 45 minutes of weeding, pruning, and becoming a buffet for the mosquitoes that are going nuts this year, I realized I was in dire need of lunch and headed into make that most perfect of summer meals: a big ol’ salad with fresh veggies. I used mixed greens, a cucumber, a pepper, and a gorgeous heirloom tomato from the farmers market, then topped it with a super-simple dressing: lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, and a clove of garlic to infuse a little flavor. I also piled on some chickpeas and nutritional yeast. It was sublime. The tomato was just… *kisses fingers* (I also chopped up some radishes from my garden, but they were bitter and tough so I didn’t end up eating them.) Ugh, I love meals like this.

After lunch, Steven came back from his desk-building with an update on the fledgling: Our next-door neighbors’ kids had found the baby bird in their yard, and went to our desk-building-help friends (also vegans!) for advice. The kids left the baby near where they think the nest is located and have reported that Mom is still feeding the baby, so I’m crossing my fingers she just needs time and strength to start flying.

Finally, I’ll leave you with a shot of a female Eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly who was enjoying the Joe Pye weed this afternoon. We have a big pollinator garden filled with native plants, so I’ve been trying to overcome my fear of bees by photographing the literally dozens of pollinators who feast on the mountain mint and Joe Pye this time of year. The butterflies are much easier to capture without giving me a panic attack, though! ;)

Simple Spicy Green Beans and Tofu

Two  months ago, Steven and I bought a house. We’d been looking for for something old, with lots of character, in the country(ish).

We bought an early ’70s midcentury-inspired, contemporary-as-all-heck house in the suburbs. And we love it.

What I love perhaps most of all is having a beautiful backyard where I can garden and my pups can hang out. My wonderful parents came down to help us move, and my dad built us two raised garden beds. He also brought plants galore and taught me all about the best ways to transplant various little plantlings. (It pays to have a master gardener who spends most of his free time at a greenhouse for a dad!) We planted relatively late in the season and had a little deer-eating-all-the-baby-tomatoes incident, but things are finally starting to pick up out there. I have more basil than I know what to do with, and everything is coming in beautifully. I love it. Just look at these sweet filius blue peppers — aren’t they cute?!

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Cutest lil peppers that you ever did see.

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I also love living a mile from a wonderful weekend farmers’ market. On Saturday mornings, I walk over to the market to stock up on lush fresh veg and fruit, then treat myself to a cold-brew coffee from Brewing Good Coffee Co., a local craft coffee roaster that just happens to be run by vegans. (Their motto is “Drink coffee. Save animals.” Done.) By the time I get home, I’m extra sweaty from being weighed down by all that veggie goodness, but at least I’m caffeinated!

This Saturday, I picked up a big ol’ carton of green beans and knew I had to gobble them up right away. They starred in a spicy dish alongside some tofu and hot peppers from the garden (not the ones in the photo above). I finished everything off with a nice spicy sauce and served over brown rice. Yes, this recipe is super simple — in fact, it’s barely a recipe at all. But this time of year, when all this gorgeous produce is in its prime, I like meals that are simple enough to let the veggies shine. Plus, who wants to spend hours in the kitchen when the sun is shining and you’ve got a backyard calling your name?! :)

Green beans and tofu star in this simple, spicy vegan dinner.

Simple Spicy Green Beans & Tofu
Serves 2-3

  • 1 T coconut oil
  • 1 T freshly grated ginger
  • 2-3 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 small purple cayenne hot peppers, diced OR 1-2 t dried red pepper flakes*
  • 2 T low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 T brown sugar
  • 1 tsp seasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 lb extra firm tofu, cubed
  • 1 lb green beans, chopped or snapped into roughly 1″ pieces

Melt the coconut oil in a large saucepan over medium-low heat, then add the ginger, garlic, and pepper/pepper flakes. Cook for about 3 minutes, or until the garlic starts to brown, then add the tofu.

Cook the tofu over medium-low for 7-10 minutes, turning every few minutes, until the cubes start to get crispy and golden. Keep the heat on medium-low so the tofu doesn’t burn.

Add the green beans to the saucepan and cover. Cook for another 3-4 minutes.

Remove the lid and pour in the sauce. Stir to coat, and cook for another minute or two until the sauce is absorbed. Serve immediately over brown rice.

*You can really use any fresh hot pepper you’d like — I just happened to have two of these little guys ripe and ready to go.

~~~

What’s your favorite easy summer veg-forward dinner?

Note: This post contains an affiliate link. If you purchase something through my link, it costs nothing extra for you, but I get a few pennies.

Lazy Sunday II

Just like I did last Sunday, today I’ll take a breather and answer some of the official MoFo blogging prompts. (I know, yesterday was nothing if not a breather… but a girl’s gotta rest up on the weekends!) So far today I’ve fed and walked Moria, had breakfast (tea, a grapefruit, and toast), and finished reading The Ocean at the End of the Lane (if you like Neil Gaiman at all, read it!). I’m currently trying to decide whether I’ll bother showering today, and soon I’ll mosey over to the kitchen to start prepping some food for the week. If I can work in some knitting later, this will be pretty darn close to my perfect lazy Sunday.

Anyway, enough about my slothdom. On to the questions!

What’s the best vegan meal you’ve ever eaten?

Here’s the thing. I am horrible—horrible!—at choosing a favorite anything. While I do have strong feelings about many topics (feminism, not texting while driving, the repellent nature of stray hairs), I’m often hard-pressed to choose favorites, especially when put on the spot. And with this question in particular, well, I’m lucky to have eaten many scrumptious vegan meals.

But.

One particular meal stands out.

nut-roll-at-hendersons_7988884834_o

Just over a year ago, between shows at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, S and I had dinner at Henderson’s, and the Nut Roll blew. my. mind. so much so that I still remember it every so often with a little sigh. You can read about the details here. Bottom line? It might very well be the best vegan meal I’ve had. My mouth is watering just remembering it.

But a meal is about more than just the food. It’s about the circumstances in which you ate it and the people with whom you shared it. I shared this meal with my steadfast, sweet S during a truly wonderful vacation together in a city (and country) I just adored. It would be difficult to top that. :)

What was your first vegan cookbook?

This one’s easier to answer! I received Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World and Vegan with a Vengeance for Christmas in 2008. I’d been vegetarian for a while and, after slowly realizing that being vegetarian didn’t quite hold with my ethics, wanted to explore veganism. These cookbooks helped me feel comfortable cooking and eating vegan. I treasured them, thumbing through them over and over, learning about new-to-me ingredients, and delighting in my vegan enlightenment. I still cook from them.

Talk about your favorite place to buy vegetables.

My favorite place to buy vegetables is at the west-side Willy Street Co-op at around 8:00 PM, when the store is mostly empty and I can have the aisles nearly to myself. I feel like I ought to say the farmers’ market, but honestly? Crowds make me nervous, and my experiences with farmers’ markets are never fully positive because they are invariably crowded. Not so my beloved co-op. Plus, it always has a good selection of local vegetables and includes info about their sources on its price cards.

Alas—I now live exactly 696 miles from my beloved co-op, and I’ve yet to find a worthy replacement. We can walk to a Giant in five minutes, but their produce is your typical big-box grocery store fair. Trader Joe’s is a seven-minute drive away, and they do stock a small amount of local fruit and veg, but the selection varies and is not often organic. Whole Foods is about a 15-minute drive away, but it’s not cheekily called “Whole Paycheck” for nothin’! So, all that’s to say that I’m still searching for a new favorite place to get my veggie fix. I think I’ll participate in a CSA next year, because I’ve had very good luck with them in the past… and there are no crowds. ;)

What’re your answers to any/all of these questions? What are you doing on this Sunday?

Labor Day Weekend Treats

Happy Labor Day, Americans! S was away on Friday and Saturday, so I took the opportunity to get up early(ish) and hit up the West Side Community Market all by my onesies. Sure, we’re getting another CSA basket on Wednesday, but a girl needs her fresh produce fix in the meantime. ;)

I picked up some beautiful, vibrant tomatoes…

<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/37675965@N02/7924803342/" title="Farmer's Market Tomatoes by keddylee, on Flickr"><img src="https://i1.wp.com/farm9.staticflickr.com/8442/7924803342_4dbb078a7f.jpg" width="375" height="500" alt="Farmer's Market Tomatoes"></a>

Love my Pyrex!

…and an equally colorful eggplant.

Large light purple eggplant with white striations.

Purpled.

I also snagged a head of garlic and a quart of apple cider. I know it’s not quite apple season yet, but I couldn’t resist! Sadly, this cider was not the best I’d ever had… but it’ll tide me over until the kind made with honeycrisp comes out. Mmmm.

What did you do this weekend?

I’ll be back later this week with more travel tales. :)

A Simple Supper

I don’t know about you, but the onset of spring and summer always makes me crave simple meals that let me focus on the deliciousness of fresh, seasonal veggies. In Madison, there are ample opportunities to purchase just such produce. Two of our farmers’ markets opened this past weekend, including the one I most often attend: the West Side Community Market. Although it’s nowhere near as large or happenin’ as the Dane County Farmers’ Market (it’s difficult to outshine the largest farmers’ market in the country, one that surrounds Madison’s gorgeous capitol building!), I love the west side market because it’s nowhere near as crowded and it’s closer to where I live. So S and I made a point of stopping by this past Saturday, where we picked up a modest selection of produce, including two big, beautiful golden tomatoes.

When it came time to make dinner, I knew I wanted something simple that would let us savor the tomatoes, not drown them in sauce or hide them in a jumble of other flavors and ingredients. So I sauteed lots of garlic and a dash of red pepper flakes in a bit of olive oil, cooked up some whole-wheat fettuccine, chopped up one of the tomatoes, and then tossed the tomatoes and pasta in the warm, garlic-infused oil and topped it all with some freshly ground black pepper. With a simple side salad, it was the perfect way to celebrate spring and its bounty of fresh produce.

Simplicity at its finest.

What simple meals do you enjoy? I’m sure I’ll cook lots of beautiful, simple dishes this summer, because S and I have purchased a CSA share! I split one with my roomie two years ago, but didn’t get one last year. I’m very excited. :)

Mashin’ on Memorial Day Weekend

When I was a kid, I never understood why adults got so excited about three-day weekends. Sure, having a day off from school was great, but I certainly didn’t look forward to it for weeks ahead of time. That may have been because I was an incurable nerd who hated missing school, but we don’t have to talk about that. The point is, now that I’m a Working Adult With a Real Job, I get it. This Memorial Day weekend? I’ve been waiting for it since Easter. And after this Friday – which was easily the most stressful day I’ve had since beginning work in December – it was like a gift from above. Three-day weekend? Bring it, baby!

To celebrate, my roommate and I went to the west side farmers’ market yesterday, and then headed to Bratfest before spending the evening chilling by Lake Monona and walking around downtown. Yeah, you heard that right – the vegan went to Bratfest, a quintessentially Wisconsin celebration of gluttonous pigging out on brats. While I may not particularly approve of that behavior, all the proceeds go to charity *and* they have vegan brats. So I decided to take part as a cultural experience. I certainly feel more like a Wisconsinite now, and really, it wasn’t that bad – there was live music and carnival-type food and a really fantastic atmosphere. Much better than I’d expected!

My lunch today was also much better than I’d expected. I whipped up the Chickpea Mash from Toni Fiore’s Totally Vegetarian, a cookbook I won a while back but haven’t used that much. But I wanted something light that would showcase the amazing Country Sourdough bread I picked up at the farmers’ market, and this simple, filling mash totally did the trick.

Mashity-mash.

Paired with a massaged kale salad and a few pickles, this was a delicious, simple summer lunch. The mash is not overly seasoned, but you could definitely doctor it up to meet your personal tastes. It’d work great either warm or cold, too. And the local, organic kale and tomatoes – also from the market – shone in the salad; you really can’t beat fresh, juicy tomatoes when you want something that screams “SUMMER APPROACHETH!” …cuz my tomatoes are Shakespearean, obviously.

Happy Memorial Day, American friends! Enjoy the three-day weekend (if you’re lucky enough to have one) but – as trite as it sounds – don’t forget to remember you have the day off in the first place.

Purple + orange = green.

Remember preschool, when you learned about adding one color to another to make yet a third? It was pretty damn magical when you could mix red paint and blue paint and get a lovely shade of purple (or, um, poo-brown, if you were bad with proportions). Tonight I learned another color combination: purply blue + orange = green.

Craptastic stovetop photos ftw!

Yeah, you always thought green came from blue and yellow. WRONG, suckas! I don’t know if that picture quite conveys the vivid green that my water turned as I boiled up potatoes in preparation for dinner, but let me tell you – when I drained that pot, the water was green as the Grinch. Craziness.

Last week at the Madison farmer’s market I made some fun purchases: a crusty, satisfying loaf of spelt bread, a jar of cherry-rhubarb jam, and a kale plant for my garden plot at work (!). But I was most excited to discover organic blue potatoes (really more purple than blue), a variety of tater I’d read about but never personally eaten. I purchased three but didn’t use them ’til tonight, when I boiled up two blue potatoes and one sweet potato before sauteeing that shizz up to make a surprisingly wonderful potato hash.

I want to eat this photo.

Perhaps it’s not the most beautiful creation, but this was one of the most satisfying dishes I’ve had in a week or so, and that’s sayin’ something – I’ve had some pretty darn good food lately. It was so simple, too – I sauteed up some garlic and some onion flakes (in lieu of real onions; I inherited onion flakes from our college house’s pantry last year and always sneered at them until I had need of them tonight). With a little salt, pepper, and cayenne, this was so delicious. The blue potatoes were tastier and less starchy than your average Idaho, and the organic sweet potatoes were truly heavenly. And all those little burnt bits from the bottom of the pan? Freakin’ amazing.

Maybe I’m a cretin for covering this heavenly hash (heh heh) with ketchup, but I love Muir Glen’s organic ketchup alongside potatoes… such a fantastic flavor juxtaposition. It took a whole lotta willpower to save some of this hash, but I thought I might appreciate it for breakfast in the morn. Rest assured, I’ll devour those leftovers without hesitation tomorrow morning before a busy day of thrift-couch-shopping. Yeehaw!

So, what is your favorite naturally fun-colored food?