Adios, MoFo: Thanks & a Giveaway

Hey, you. Yes, you, person reading this post, about to hit the Next button in your Google Reader because you see too many words and not enough food porn. Stay a minute, why don’t ya? I’ve got something to say to you.

Thank you.

Thanks for everything. Thank you for your comments. Thanks for your food porn. Thank you for finding my blog while searching for “silly pumpkin pie” and “im with stupid muffins” and “gryffindor is lead.” Thank you for lurking and never leaving comments but betraying your creeperness by upping my blog hits (it’s okay; I’m down with the creepers). Thank you for your blog posts, the heartwearming and the creative and the mouthwatering and the nerdy and the intrepid alike. Thanks for your food porn. Thank you for your healthy treats and your sinful sweets. Thanks for taking me to faraway places from the comfort of my computer. Thank you for your Tweets and your vlogs and your talent for filling my Google Reader to overflowing. Thanks for your cookbooks filled with endless possibilities for delicious eats. Thank you for your community and for giving me something to look forward to next summer. Thanks for your compassion and your generosity and your sweetness. Thanks for your friendship and your support and did I mention your food porn? Seriously. Thanks for all the fish.

You – all of you – have made this a wonderful month o’ MoFo. I was stressed out and anxiety-ridden through much of it, but knowing that I could look forward to a Google Reader full of energetic, exciting posts and cruelty-free compassion and delicious, delicious food made everything a little easier to bear. You’re all amazing, and I thank you from the bottom of my silly little vegan heart.

And because you might not believe me unless I offer more than words, how about a giveaway? I’ve compiled a trove of treasures for you.

First, five adorable pins. Kala, who blogs over at Vegan Craftastic, didn’t officially participate in MoFo but did post about two of my favorite things throughout November: vegan food and vegan crafts! She has an Etsy shop stocked with oodles of adorable pins, bags, and notebooks – an awesome resource if you’re in the market for handmade holiday gifts! I chose a set of cooking-related pins, a cupcake pin, and a squirrel pin just because it was too cute to leave out!

Next up, two sweet cards. Amy of Tahinitoo was a MoFo champ, tantalizing us with droolworthy photos of brownies from the brownie cookbook she’s creating. But did you know that she, too, is a vegan crafter? Her Etsy shop, Chirp Cards, offers colorful, handmade cards for your writing and mailing pleasure. I think they’re super creative and fun, so I chose two to share with you.

Finally, a cookbook! Kris from Nom! Nom! Nom! Blog rocked MoFo with delicious food and fun giveaways. She’s also published a cookbook, The 100 Best Vegan Baking Recipes. Although I don’t own this cookbook, I’m pretty sure it rocks, judging just from the amazing baked goods she shares on her blog. So I figured I’d include it in my giveaway in the interest of supporting fellow MoFoers. ;)

Entering is simple. Just leave a comment telling me your favorite moment of this November. Easy peasy! For an extra entry (or two), blog and/or Tweet about this giveaway and then come back here and leave another comment for each of those actions. Yay! I’ll pick a winner on Wednesday, 8th December, around noon CST.

Also, if you already own Kris’ cookbook, I’d be happy to substitute another cookbook, so feel free to enter! I wouldn’t mind keeping the copy for myself or gifting it to someone for Christmas. :)

Good luck, and thanks again for the MoFo memories!

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I Can Haz Palak Tofu?

Disclaimer: I apologize in advance if this post is in any way disjointed, rambly, difficult to follow, grammatically unsound, or generally bizarre. I had to wake up a bit after 4:00 this morning to bring my friend to the airport for 5:00, and although I got back to my apartment a little after 5:30 and promptly went back to sleep, I am rather drained at the moment. Disclaimer over.

Despite being tired, I didn’t slack off for dinner. While I was at work, a strange hankering to make veganized palak paneer crept into my head and wouldn’t leave. Not one to deny strange hankerings, I promptly set to making palak tofu when after work. I used a mish-mash of recipes, mostly Susan’s Palak Tofu and the Vegan Palak Paneer from the copy of 101 Things To Do With Tofu I won from a Vegan Crunk giveaway. For the tofu paneer, I followed Susan’s pan frying technique, resulting in a panful of adorable golden tofu cubes:

Tofulets! Like Capulets only soy-based and not Italian.

I also added tomatoes per Susan’s recipe, even though I’m not sure that a more traditional palak paneer recipe would include them. Then again, a more traditional palak paneer recipe would contain, y’know, paneer, so I wasn’t exactly going for authenticity, I guess! I also used lots and lots of baby spinach. If only spinach retained its bright green color even after being cooked!

Eat yer greens!

The final result, like so many pureed Indian foods, was something akin to what you might find in an infant’s diaper. Nevertheless, I served the saucy palak over rice and topped it with my cute lil tofu cubes and went to town:

The composition is intentional and also terrible.

Lookwise, it’s similar to traditional palak paneer, but tastewise? Not so much. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed it and it was worth the [admittedly minimal] effort, but it just didn’t quite live up to the creamy, salty, flavorful palak paneers of my youth… by which I mean the palak paneer I used to eat at the one Indian restaurant in my little college town. The entire dish was missing a certain je ne sais quoi. Actually that’s a lie; I do sais quoi is missing – the tofu paneer was more tofu than paneer – it was slightly crispy and not flavorful. Although I love gently pan-fried tofu, I think next time I’ll follow the boiling method in 101 Things To Do With Tofu, because I’d imagine that would create a more paneer-like tofu.

Beyond the rather distasteful task of cleaning a baby poo analogue from my blender and the fact that my spotty circulation + a really cold onion resulted in numb, creepily white fingers while I was chopping up my veggies, creating this dish this was pretty easy, and the result was a generally satisfying meal. Therefore,  I’m calling it a success. Huzzah! Still, I’m on the hunt for a more authentic version. Anybody have a good palak tofu recipe?

Man, I can’t believe MoFo ends tomorrow. Insanity! Stop by tomorrow for an end-of-MoFo giveaway featuring crafts and cookbooks by some MoFo stars. You know you wanna!

Restaurant Review(ish): The Great Dane

I’m playing hostess to my BFF at the moment, so I’m going to keep this short. I just have to share with y’all a delicious discovery I made tonight: the Inner Warmth Peanut Stew at the Great Dane in Madison. The Dane is a well-established local pub and eatery, serving local beer and all sorts of food, including quite a few vegan-friendly options. I’ve enjoyed falafel and a burrito on past [separate!] visits to one of its three locations, but this was my first experience with this stew. Now I’m kicking myself for not trying it sooner!

I don’t have a photo, but here’s the description from the menu: A stew of butternut squash, tomatoes, onions, garlic, ginger, hot peppers and cilantro in a zesty peanut sauce. Served over rice with beer bread.

A quick inquiry revealed the rice isn’t vegan (?!?), but they substituted Israeli cous cous, which I think I preferred. I also passed the beer bread on to my friends, but I didn’t need it – the portion size was perfect, and I was utterly satiated after my meal. It’s truly a warming and filling dish that avoids seeming too heavy. In other words, near perfection! I think I detected some cauliflower in my stew, and heaven knows I love anything with cauliflower. :)

So! If you’re ever at the Dane, definitely give this stew a try!

Christmas Reject!

How about another equation today? This one’s less boozy than yesterday’s, but that’s okay. See, for the past few years, I’ve made my own Christmas/holiday cards. One year I put Santa hats on pictures of movie characters, another year I made snowmen-shaped cards, and last year I used bits of wrapping paper to decorate my cards. This year, inspired by Bakerella, I decided to create my own Christmas cards using a photo of a delightful Christmas treat I baked. Today, in the spirit of Getting Things Done Early, I embarked on that process.

So, what does it take to create one’s own card? I’ll tell you using numbers. 1 Christmas card = 1 trip to the craft store + 1 batch of cookies + 1 handful of crushed candy canes + 1000s of red colored sugar + 1 more emergency trip to the craft store + 2 lamps + 5 different setups + 1 nasty incident of a cookie bit falling into a spiderweb + 3 cookies eaten for sustenance + 2.5 hours of photographing and Photoshopping!

Nice try, but I ain't usin' you.

Okay, actually, the above photo is not really the sum of the equation. Well, it sort of is, but that’s not the photo I’m using for my Christmas card. That one’s an outtake, a sad little reject. The final photo is similar to that one, but a bit better composed and Photoshopped differently. Yeehaw!

For my cookies, I used the recipe for Isa’s Mexican Hot Chocolate Snickerdoodles, minus the cayenne and cinnamon. Instead I added crushed candy canes, which made for a really yummy, chewy, pepperminty cookie – I might even recreate it for Christmas! I also made some plain chocolate ones rolled in red decorating sugar, but they didn’t photograph very well.

Now I’m just trying to find the least expensive option for getting this made into a foldable card. Any suggestions?

Do you send holiday cards? Do you buy them or make your own? Growing up, my siblings and I were subjected to an annual photo shoot wherein Mom and Dad would dress us, pose us, and photograph us until tears rained and/or punches were thrown and someone stormed off in a rage. Despite the painfulness of said photo shoots, it’s kind of neat to see 23 years of family photos. This year, Mom’s putting together a collage of pictures from our family’s trip to HP world… heheh.

Happy Saturday!

A Drinkable Equation

It’s Friday night, I’m f-f-freezing cold (seasonal weather has finally arrived in Madison!), and all I want to do is dive under the covers with another episode of Midsomer Murders and my latest knitting project. First, though, an equation:

Sharp!

almond milk

plus

Colorful!

 

cocoa

plus

Minty!

peppermint schnapps

equals

Frothy!

 

spiked minty hot cocoa

Yep. ‘Cause that’s how I roll on Friday nights. Check out the Christmas mug – I was quite excited to break that out now that it’s officially Christmas season. :)

And now it’s time for British murder mysteries and knitting galore. Happy Friday! What are you doing tonight?

Catch you tomorrow, friends!

Happy Vegangiving!

Happy Thanksgiving, American friends! Happy Thursday, non-American friends!

So far I’ve had a lovely day of movie-watching and knitting. My family called and my phone-self got passed around from family member to family member, which was lovely, if slightly tedious by the time I got to family member #4. I was totally fine with not eating a Thanksgiving-ish dinner until around 5:30 tonight, when I suddenly decided I needed some mashed potatoes in my life. One thing led to another, and soon I had a Thanksgiving-inspired meal for one.

And I made enough for seconds, too!

Featured here is a veganized version of Averie‘s Pumpkin Honey Tofu, garlicky mashed taters, a bastardized version of the Mighty Miso Gravy from How it All Vegan, and a mixed greens salad topped with walnuts and dried cranberries. Delicious, full of traditional Thanksgiving flavors, and totally painless to make – no oven-slaving for this girl. :)

Hope you all had a fantastic day! Now I’m off to have a mini-Lost marathon with the roomie. :)

Two Cashew Reviews for You (Woohoo)

Wow, sorry about that title. It’s day 24 of MoFo and I’m clearly going a little nuts. GET IT?! NUTS?? Because this post includes product reviews of two nut-related items. Hilaaarious.

So – at work we have this little general store where we can purchase fruit, frozen meals, drinks (including organic soy milk!), granola bars, candy, and various small toiletry items. They make it so easy to spend money, because you can just swipe your ID card and it gets automatically deducted from your next paycheck. Yowza. I work on the other side of campus, though, so I rarely make the trek over to the general store to buy a snack I don’t really need.

Today, though, I had limited food supplies and wanted something yummy to tide me over until lunch. Recently they started carrying vegan cookies made by the Simple Soyman, a Milwaukee-based company. So far I’ve only seen the Sesame Circle (made with peanut butter) and a Mexican hot chocolate-type cookie, both of which are excellent. Today I noticed that there’s a version of the Sesame Circle that features cashew butter instead of peanut butter. Consider me sold!

True to the Simple Soyman’s name, their products contain only the simplest ingredients. Check it:

It was a circle until I started eating it... oops.

I can get behind a product with only 8 ingredients! By which I mean, I can happily stuff said product in my piehole for a deeelicious midmorning snack. I love the Sesame Circles because they’re crispy and crunchy and just a little sweet. I think I prefer the cashew variety to the peanut one… peanuts are kind of overused, y’know? But cashews and sesame? That’s a less common combination, and a winning one at that.

Now, I didn’t intend to eat something cashew-y twice today, but I’d brought along a cashew-based soup for lunch, so that’s how the cashew cookie crumbled! I remember reading a review for various vegan soups on someone’s blog (if it’s yours, let me know!), and Pacific Natural Foods’ Cashew Carrot Ginger soup received top marks. When I saw it on sale for $2.50, I picked up a carton and saved it for a rainy day. Or, y’know, a cold day that eventually turned rainy, although it wasn’t raining when I ate this soup. Full disclosure; you haz it. Anyway, I gave it a try today.

Sittin' on my food shelf at work!

My verdict? Eh. I think it’s partially because I still don’t totally care for soups with noticeable coconut flavor, but I was not in love with this soup. I also realized that I have a slightly less than high tolerance for very liquid-y soups – I like pureed soup, but it needs some texture! This was nearly drinkable, and that didn’t do much for me. I did enjoy the otherwise pleasant flavor and the delightful back-of-your-mouth, slowly-building spiciness – mild but enjoyable. Would I buy this again? Probably not. Do I regret trying it? Nope.

Have you eaten anything cashew-y and delicious lately?

If you’re celebrating Thanksgiving tomorrow, happy cooking & eating & giving thanks! I am not doing anything, and I’m actually quite relieved. I didn’t want to fly to RI for a long weekend, because that would’ve required taking Friday off work and I want to use my vacation days for Christmas. A friend invited me to her family’s celebration, but they live ~2 hours away and I didn’t feel like driving there after work tonight and then leaving tomorrow night so I could be at work on Friday. I also received an invitation from the Madison veg meet-up group for a big veg potluck with any displaced Madisonians, but honestly, the thought of socializing with strangers for an entire day was too exhausting to contemplate (yes, I know that’s an issue). So – the roomie and I will chill out and enjoy our day off work. If I could Apparate and celebrate with my family, I totally would, but as it stands, I’m excited to spend the day knitting and watching movies. Anyway – happy Thanksgiving, again!

Today, I am the Cookie Monstaaah

Happy Tuesday, all! I’m glad to hear that some of you also enjoy young adult literature – and thanks to Theresa for bringing a new [to me] YA book series to my attention! I’m going to have to see if the library has these available, because I’m in need of some more easy, enjoyable reads. :)

Other than YA novels, I also enjoy cookies, and today I am massively enjoying the Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies from VWAV. OH MY GOSH. They sound so simple and, perhaps, boring, but I LOVE them. Or, rather, I’m addicted to them. But that’s the same as thing as love, right?

And you thought crack was a white powder. As if.

The thing is, I don’t even know WHY they’re so addicting. Maybe because they’re both chewy and soft all at once? Or because the pumpkin flavor is subtle and pleasing, not in-yo-face obnoxious? Or because the chopped walnuts are such a nice surprise? I so rarely think to add nuts to my cookies (my sista is allergic to them) that when I do, it’s always a revelation. I also – shockingly! – added Zante currants to my cookies, because I’ve had a box of these fellas sitting in the pantry for far too long. Luckily, they don’t taste at all like raisins (i.e. like bloated, nasty, gross-flavored bugs) in baked goods, and I barely noticed them in my cookies.

Anyway, I don’t know quite what it is about these guys that has captured my heart, but I’m hooked (or “hookied,” as I just typed… hooked + cookies?). I made a half batch last night, and… well… it’s almost gone. Lest you think “oh, a half batch isn’t that much,” let me tell you that the “half batch” resulted in about 24 cookies. Granted, they were small (only 3 or 4 bites each), but still. Pig, much? I’m addicted; it’s not my fault!

Do you like raisins in your cookies? What about other add-ins?

Erudite Eats: District 13 Bean and Onion Stew

Yesterday morning, as part of my campaign to slow down and make time for myself, I took a bath, an honest to goodness fill-up-the-tub-and-scald-your-girly-bits bath. I used a Lush bath bomb I’d been holding on to for a year or two, and it was glorious. Sure, I learned that the stopper in my bathtub’s drain doesn’t actually work very well, so I had to cover it with a sponge and anchor the sponge with my foot, and sure, my long, curly hair doesn’t take well to immersion-washing and might’ve turned into a bit of a rat’s nest afterwards, but hey, I spent twenty minutes soaking in hot, almond-y water and reading. So you know what? I’m calling it a success.

I used the in-tub downtime to start reading Mockingjay, the third and final book in Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy. I’ve already shared my bibliophilic tendencies, and yes – those tendencies extend to young adult fantasy(ish) novels. I’m not ashamed; I think the series is great and definitely worth a read. They’re like brain candy; quick to get through and immensely enjoyable. As I read my book, MoFo was the last thing on my mind; I was more concerned with, y’know, the story’s plot. But then I read the following line and knew what I had to do:

“Either because the prep team’s incapacitated or I’m too on edge, Plutarch releases me from Mockingjay duties for the rest of the day. Gale and I head down to lunch, where we’re served bean and onion stew, a thick slice of bread, and a cup of water.”

There was just something about the idea of a warm stew that appealed to me yesterday, possibly because it was chilly, grey, and drizzly. So I headed into the kitchen to whip up District 13 Bean and Onion Stew:

Katniss-approved?

Inredients
1/2 [very] large yellow onion, thinly sliced (If I’d had a whole onion, I would’ve used it!)
2 T extra virgin olive oil
2 C roughly chopped mushrooms (I used baby bella)
2 C vegetable broth (I use Better Than Bouillon’s Vegetable Base, but I think a faux-beef stock would work fantastically here)
15 oz cooked Great Northern beans
1 bay leaf
3/4 t dried sage (I used sage I’d dried during the summer… mmm!)
1/4 t thyme
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a saucepot, heat the olive oil over medium heat and add onions. Cook until the onions begin to get soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook them down for about another 10 minutes. Add the vegetable broth and the remaining ingredients and bring soup to a boil. Turn heat down to low and simmer for another 30 minutes, until the onions are very soft.

Simple, yet so delicious – I was quite pleased with this stew! I didn’t think adding mushrooms was too much of a stretch from the book version, as I’m sure they could be grown easily in District 13’s underground gardens. Or, if not, Katniss and Gale could gather them during their 2 hours of sanctioned daily hunting time. And I bet potatoes would make another great addition to this rustic, homey stew.

I served this with the Dijon-Thyme Bread from 500 Vegan Recipes, which was not entirely successful. It was my first yeasted breadmaking experience (!), and I realized too late that I didn’t have either of the kinds of flour called for in the recipe. Really, though, the only problem was its failure to rise; it tasted just fine. I know Dijon-Thyme Bread is probably a little fanciful for District 13 – it’s more appropriate for the Capital, perhaps – but maybe my baking error humbled it a little bit. ;)

Have you read the Hunger Games series? Do you ever read books that aren’t targeted to your age group? I’ve already said that I’m a diehard Harry Potter fan, so perhaps it’s not surprising that I’ve enjoyed the Hunger Games books so much!

Sundae/Sunday

First, I must thank you for your kind, thoughtful comments on my last post. Your wise words have helped strengthen my resolve to remember that I can’t [and often don’t need to] do everything, and that carving out “me time” doesn’t mean I’m a failure in other aspects of my life – in fact, it’s rather necessary so I can have the reserves to accomplish what I need to accomplish. So – thank you again!

In honor of my newfound resolution to take a may-juh chill pill when things start stressing me out, I let today be my day of rest. I took a bath. I read a book. I cooked because I felt inspired and compelled to cook, not because I wanted to post about it. I’ll share that with you tomorrow, but first let me show you one other low-key way I indulged myself today:

Melty, minty goodness.

I fixed myself a little ice cream sundae tonight, something I haven’t eaten in who knows how long. I had some vanilla Rice Dream leftover from that off-the-wall crazy Toasted Marshmallow Milkshake, so I took a page out of Keri’s book and added some crushed up candy canes. Then I made my own hot fudge sauce by melting chocolate chips and a couple of dark chocolate squares in heated almond milk. I added peppermint extract to the sauce, but it ended up getting overtaken by the chocolate. That’s okay, though, because I have lots of leftover hot fudge, and I think I prefer plain ol’ chocolate sauce to minty-chocolate sauce.

Yum.

What did you do to relax or to indulge yourself today?