Spring Cleaning: The Super-Hot Cupboard-Organizing Edition

Last weekend, Mama Nature walloped the Midwest with a most un-springlike heat wave – 90-degree temperatures, humidity, blazing sun… the whole works. Many people complained and avoided the outdoors, but me? I reveled in it. I’m one of those poor souls who’s always cold – slight breeze? I’m a-shivering! Less than 75 degrees? Where’s my sweater?! Heck, I even keep a fleece blanket at work for those days when my office is just too chilly for my taste. I just switched teams at work, and I’m sure my new co-workers think I’m utterly nuts when they walk past my office and see me sitting in dim lamplight, wrapped up in a blanket… but hey, the fluorescent lights hurt my eyes and I hate air conditioning!

Anyway, last weekend most people retreated indoors to their air conditioning and their cool drinks. Me? I basked in the sunlight and then went on a vitamin D-fueled cleaning spree. Besides giving my kitchen floors a long-overdue washing (Mom, don’t be ashamed of me!), I also organized my kitchen cupboards. This was, perhaps, even more long-overdue than the floor-washing.

Not exactly a "before," but this is a cupboard that has yet to be organized... gag!

You see, I am a slightly compulsive grocery shopper with mild packrat tendencies. I freaking love grocery shopping. I could spend hours meandering through the aisles, reading labels and checking out new-to-me food items and even just people-watching, shaking my head at all the junk most people throw in their carts as they zoom around the store, rushing through their shopping. I don’t spend a ton of money on groceries, but I just love having variety in my cupboards – who doesn’t need four types of rice and three kinds of nut butter and at least five varieties of beans?! I suppose if I had a family, this might be more justified, but I’m just a lady cookin’ for herself. I know many of you like-minded foodie folks can empathize with me, but let’s be real – most people are content with a big ol’ bag of white rice, a jar of Jif, and some refried beans for taco night. Me? Not so much. And my love of variety led to a rather unfortunate spacing situation – my cupboards were haphazardly filled with foodstuffs, making each cooking experience an adventure. Would the soba noodles fall to their death, scattering small soba sticks all over my floor? Would the nutmeg container roll out of the spice cabinet, knocking me on the noggin? Anything was possible!

Grr!

Not so now, however. My packrat tendency of saving jars finally paid off with more than just an overstuffed jar-and-kitchen-towel-and-dishcloth-and-large-utensil drawer. Now, those jars have a new lease on life. Check it:

Ahhh.

Beautiful, no? Those are my grains, re-homed, re-labeled, and generally re-organized. I didn’t even realize that poor bulgur wheat was languishing behind the beans! Who knew that I was in possession of such a quantity of cous cous?! Heck, I wish I’d saved more jars – I still have some bagged varieties awaiting a new home.

I only organized one shelf, but I already feel at least 37% less anxious when I open my cupboard now. I’ve got grand plans for my other cupboards, too – my spice shelf is a mess, and my pastas are out of control. But I’ve been re-inspired to continue my organization by Lindsay‘s oh-so-timely post about kitchen cabinet minimalism, and I’ve become obsessed with looking at canisters on eBay. So – what are your awesome kitchen organization tips? I know you’ve got ’em, so do share!

Five Minute Photoshop: Know Your Onion

You know those disorienting moments between wakefulness and sleep when the line between dream and reality blurs and you can never quite tell what’s real and what’s not? I tend to have a lot of those, mostly because I’m a bit abusive and like hitting my Snooze button a couple of times before getting out of bed. This morning, as I waited for my alarm to go off one final time at 5:45, I found myself in that nebulous stage of half-awake, half-asleep. And suddenly I had a panic-inducing thought:

“MY ALARM’S GOING TO GO OFF IN ONE MINUTE AND I HAVE TO DICE THREE ONIONS BEFORE THAT HAPPENS!!!”

…yeah. That got me up and out of bed before I realized that, no, I had no pressing need for diced onions at 5:45 AM. Still, I feel like it’s indicative of something: food is always on my brain, even when I sleep!

To sleep, perchance to dream of onions.

Anyone else have a funny half-awake, half-asleep dream lately?

Image taken from here and then lolcatized by me… obviously.

Adios, MoFo: Ghosts of Halloween Past and Cupcakes of Halloween Present

Happy Halloween, blogpals! I wish I were a kid, because it’s 70 degrees today – perfect trick-or-treating weather! All the neighborhood kidlets will be able to gather their candy without having to hide their costumes behind icky winter coats. Awesome.

Before I move on to the Halloween fun, I just want to do a little MoFo wrap-up. This has truly been an amazing month. I can’t imagine a better way to spend my first month as a vegan! To everyone who participated, read posts, and left comments, thank you so much for your support. I can’t tell you how much it means to me! The vegan community is amazing, and I felt so welcomed during this month. Your support helped me to post every single day this month. THANK YOU! See the end of this post for an exciting announcement – you’ve all given so much to me, so now I’m giving something back!

Now for the fun. This year, I’m celebrating Halloween in true MoFo style – I baked and decorated a lovely batch of Halloween-themed cupcakes. I was intending to share them with all my little cousins tonight, but a bunch of them are sick and they’ve decided not to gather so as to prevent the further spread of germs. :( Oh well; I’m sure I’ll find someone to share them with! I made a batch each of the Golden Vanilla and the Basic Chocolate cupcakes from VCTOTW, and decorated them in a variety of styles.

First up is Mr. Pumpkinhead. Isn't he cute?

I hope you're not scared of spiders...

All hail the Pumpkin King - it's Jack Skellington!

And here’s the whole gang (minus their less-than-photogenic pals, who will soon find a home in my tummy).

All together, now.

I also finally got to use my new Halloween mini-cake pans! They make cute little ghosts and pumpkins.

I think they're a little scared of Yorick...

And here I am with my creations.

Do you like my Jack Skellington earrings? ;)

I may have to make cupcake baking a new Halloween tradition! I’m breaking with old traditions this year – I’m not dressing up. This is my first costume-less Halloween ever! I know, I know, that’s horrible, especially because I absolutely love costumes! But this year I just felt like taking a break from the partying and dressing up craziness. I politely declined a few invitations, so for the first time ever I’ll be staying home and handing out candy to the kids. It’s a far cry from the past four years of college Halloween fun, but I’m okay with that. Next year I’ll be in Madison – which is supposed to be absolutely insane for Halloween – and I’m sure I’ll be up for crazy costuming once more. In the meantime, here’s a little collage of my costumes from previous years. They’re not all from Halloween, but I think they illustrate my love of dressing up. We’ve got some Lord of the Rings, some Harry Potter, some Nightmare Before Christmas, a zombie witch doctor, and a Goth Detective front and center (if you get that reference, I think I love you), among other things. :)

I may or may not be holding a huge bottle of vodka in the center photo.

Happy Halloween, friends! Be safe and have fun. Also, MoFo may be over, but the fun sure isn’t. Check back tomorrow for my first ever GIVEAWAY! Yay!

P.S. If I were dressing up this year, I’d definitely be one of the girls from Subtle Sexuality. ;) Office love!

Five Minute Photoshop: Ms. Mac N. Cheeze

Ladies and gents, I’d like to introduce you to a new friend of mine. She’s comforting and reassuring and, um, delicious. Meet Ms. Mac N. Cheeze.

Mac N. Cheeze in da house!

I know, I know. You thought I couldn’t get any lamer after my Banana Muffin Photoshop stupidity. But, oh, I can, and I did.

It seems to me that making – and, ideally, enjoying – dairy-free mac and cheese should count as a rite of passage of sorts, a hurdle to be cleared on the way to vegan nirvana. I’m happy to say that I’ve jumped that hurdle and avoided any embarrassing falls.

While vegan mac and cheese has never exactly scared me, per se, I’ve always been a little reluctant to try it. I didn’t think I was a bit nutritional yeast fan, and I was never fond enough of regular mac and cheese to make finding a vegan substitute a pressing need. Truth be told, I always associated the rich, homemade versions of mac and cheese with tummyaches; my stomach has never dealt well with large amounts of fat (and probably dairy), and super creamy dishes never sat well with me. I did enjoy Annie’s white cheddar shells, but overall macaroni and cheese was never high on my list of all-time favorites.

That said, there came a point when I began to crave something creamy and warm and reminiscent of those cholesterol-laden dishes I used to occasionally enjoy. Tonight I decided to fulfill that craving. After perusing various mac and cheese recipes, I settled on this simple one from VeganYumYum. Although cashew-based “cheeze” sauces seem to be all the rage – and that VegNews recipe looks intriguing – I wanted my first vegan mac and cheese experience to be more traditional, meaning I wanted to try it with nutritional yeast, even though I was a little uncertain if I’d even be able to stomach it.

Happily, I was more than able to do that. I really and truly enjoyed this recipe. Even though I left out the miso, I thought it was wonderfully creamy and tasty. I think I may’ve used a bit too much tahini, as it was bordering on the verge of too sweet, but that’s my fault since I was halving the recipe and eyeballing measurements. I’m pretty sure my eyes almost bulged out of their sockets when I first tasted this “cheeze” sauce, I was so pleasantly surprised. I thoroughly enjoyed my bowl of penne and, um, yeast, and I’m happy to say that it didn’t leave me feeling full and sick like “real” mac and cheese used to do.

The only downside to this meal was its rather unflattering aesthetic. I didn’t bake it and top it with breadcrumbs, so it was pretty ugly… hence the Photoshop jobber. But other than that, it was a wonderful introduction to the world of vegan mac and cheese and I can’t wait to try more variations on this wonderful dish. Ms. Mac N. Cheeze, we’ll meet again soon – I promise!

Five Minute Photoshop: Banana Muffins

Okay guys, I am being a big lame-o today.  I had a fun and enlightening time at my little bro’s frat party last night, but we didn’t leave his college until 3:30 this afternoon, and then the family went out to dinner, so… I’m feeling a little lazy and uninspired for this MoFo post. However, I will tell you that I made some kick-ass banana muffins the other night, based on this recipe. I modified it a bit and will continue to tweak it until it’s perfect, but I loooved the results of my initial experimentation. And I’m not even much of a banana muffin type of girl! But these were fantastic. I’ll definitely share my modifications next time I make them, but for now, here is a “photograph” of a yummy muffin.

EAT ME.

…yup, I am that lame. And generally my Photoshop skillz are way more advanced, but like I said – lazy and uninspired. I’ll do better next time, I promise.