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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Meals I Didn’t Make: S Does Dinner!

S and I maintain a very fair relationship. We share our household duties, with the general principle that whoever likes a particular task more (or dislikes it less!) does it. He sweeps the stray hairs off the bathroom floor; I clean Moria-pee* from the carpet (shh, don’t tell my landlord!). When it comes to cooking, we try to take turns, but I often end up cooking more frequently for a few reasons – I enjoy it more, I’m more comfortable in the kitchen, and I’m usually better able to whip up a quick meal than S is (he’s fine following recipes but doesn’t quite yet have the kitchen confidence or experience that I have). However, dinnertime often devolves into the two of us standing in front of the fridge or the pantry, poking at things, shooting down each other’s ideas (or, um, that might just be me) and getting increasingly irritated as our stomachs start rumbling. It’s no good.

So, last week, we finally implemented meal planning, something I’d wanted to do for a while. On Saturday or Sunday, we each choose two recipes to make for the week. We write down ingredients we need, do a grocery store run, and then take turns cooking throughout the week. We’re only on week two, but it’s already made a world of difference. Dinnertime is less stressful, and the meals we’ve cooked so far have been much better than the “Well, I guess we could do pasta and a cheezy sauce…” meals we might’ve resorted to in the past.

In celebration of our newfound – and oh-so-simple – solution to the mealtime quandary, here are some shots of a couple delicious meals S has cooked up lately!

Small white plate with a six-inch long baguette sliced nearly in half and stuffed with veggies, seitan, and a paté.

Sandwich heaven!

We had these delicious bánh mì sandwiches on Friday. S made some lightly pickled carrot strips, sliced up some daikon and cucumbers, and whipped up the Walnut-Mushroom Pâté from Veganomicon. We spread a bit of Vegenaise on a fresh baguette; added the pâté, veggies, and some seitan strips (err, chunks…); and topped it all with a sprinkling of cilantro. So yummy and fresh-tasting!

Nonstick pan filled with a dark sauce that features mushrooms, seitan, and peas.

Stroganoff.

This pan is full of the Seitan-Portobello Stroganoff from Vegan with a Vengeance. Although I’ve made a whole lot of recipes from VwaV, this was a first for me! S did most of the work on this one, but I did some chopping sous-chef style to speed along the process. I also made a big batch of seitan ahead of time using the PPK recipe; I couldn’t bring myself to shell out nearly $10 for 3.5 cups of seitan when I could make it myself for a fraction of the cost! It worked perfectly in this recipe, and we served it up with whole-wheat linguine.

Bowl full of linguine and stroganoff sauce.

Saucy!

This whole meal-planning thing? Yep, I’m a fan. It reduces stress and results in extra-delicious dinners. Everybody wins!

Do you do meal-planning?

* No joke – Moria peed on the carpet as I was drafting this post! I don’t know what gets into her, but every so often she goes through a period of floor-peeing. Then it stops. Daft doggy!

The Ugliest Cookies in the World (except, not really)

Orange rectangle with the white fist-shaped Vegan MoFo logo and the text "Vegan Month of Food 2012."

Full disclosure: these aren’t reaaally the ugliest cookies in the world. They’re just… they’re not pretty, but they’re not aggressively ugly enough to be charming or appealing. Instead, they’re uncomfortably misshapen, with half-hearted hatching and odd little bits sticking out.

I didn’t set out to make ugly cookies on Saturday night. I was watching an episode of SVU (I wasn’t joking in my other post!) and wanted a break from knitting, so I decided to make cookies. I’d roasted up and pureed a big ol’ butternut squash earlier that day, so I decided to use squash in place of pumpkin. I turned to a favorite cookbook – Vegan With a Vengeance, of course! – and flipped to the cookie section. The Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies were exactly what I craved, so I blithely set to work… only to discover, mid-mixing, that I didn’t have any rolled oats. Whaaa? I always have oats! I must’ve brought them to work and forgot to bring them home. So, instead of using oats, I just upped the flour content and hoped for the best. I also added mini chocolate chips in place of the raisins and walnuts because, ew, raisins.

Five cookies arrayed on a long white rectangular serving platter. Off-center and out of focus are two small orange gourds.

Sad hatch marks.

Okay, I know that the front cookie doesn’t look all that ugly. But the rest of them are odd-looking! I swear!

…looks aside, these are still pretty tasty. Not the best pumpkin/squash cookies I’ve ever had, but certainly good enough to sate me. I’ll just need to remember to bring my oats home from work so that my next batch is even better!

What do you do when you realize you’re out of an ingredient mid-baking?