Garden-Fresh Green Beans and Garlicky Tofu | VeganMoFo 2019 Day Seven

After work today, I opened the front door to head into the garden and found myself face to face with a hummingbird. Well — practically face to face. We were maybe four feet apart, and it was magical. There were two of them at first, flitting around one another, but one flew off as soon as I stepped out. The other remained for a good five seconds, seeming to stare right at me, before taking off for the safety of a nearby branch.

I love that we’ve creating a safe environment for wildlife by filling our yard with native plants. We do supplement with a hummingbird feeder, but our fast-moving friends also love to sip from bee balm and swamp milkweed, too. Steven has a little “office” in the corner of the living room right by two windows, and he’s constantly sending me photos and videos of the critters he spots throughout the day. We see both ruby-throated and rufous hummingbirds (the only two found here in Maryland!), and I’ve identified a particular branch where one of them likes to perch between feeding sessions. More often than not, if I look out the window and toward that branch, I’ll see a little one resting there. So sweet.

We had another heavy rainstorm this afternoon, and apparently it was strong enough to knock over my tomato cages — I had to fix up two of them. Yikes! I harvested a nice haul of green beans and a handful of cherry tomatoes while managing to avoid being absolutely savaged by the mosquitoes. (I think I only got bitten once.) It’s funny; I have terrible luck with full-size tomatoes, even though I plant plenty of them every year. There are a few growing now, but they’re still green and it’ll be a meager harvest. But my cherry tomatoes (of various types!) go bananas every year, and I had tons of volunteers this spring. I won’t complain; fresh tomatoes of any size are orders of magnitude tastier than any you can get at the grocery store. Eating them warm from the vine is one of summer’s greatest pleasures.

Those green beans went right into the dinner pot, metaphorically speaking. Well, I guess literally speaking, too — I cooked them in the same pot as the rice noodles I was making, for efficiency’s sake. I also lightly pan-fried a block of tofu and served it all with this fantastic garlicky black pepper sauce. I’ve been digging sweet and spicy sauces this summer, and this one’s a winner. I used Earth Balance rather than olive oil, reduced the soy sauce a bit, and substituted a large shallot for the red onion. I also used a bulb of fresh garlic (harvested from my garden last week!) rather than the 10 cloves called for because fresh, uncured garlic tends to have more of a kick than what you can buy at the grocery store. Delicious and surprisingly filling.

I’d love to hear your go-to sauce for simple meals; please share if you’ve got one! I like this one, too.

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Baked Potatoes and a Cheesy Sauce Query | VeganMoFo 2019 Day Six

After weeks of intense heat and very little rain, I’m sitting here watching it pour absolute buckets. It’s a gorgeous summer sort of rainstorm, with lots of hazy golden evening light and just the mildest rumbles of thunder off in the distance. My plants need this. Maybe I need this, a restorative cleansing of sorts.

I can hear a bird peeping through the heavy rainfall and my guilt-ridden conscience swears it’s the catbird mama, still trying to find her missing baby so she can feed him dinner. I keep second-guessing our decision to bring him to the rehab center. We showed the rehab folks a video before bringing him in and they agreed, yes, something was wrong and he needed help, but still. Would it have been better to leave him, even if he might not have survived? Then his mom would’ve known where he was, at least. After we brought him to the rehab center, I saw the mama bird hopping around, beak stuffed with a juicy pokeweed berry, looking for her hungry baby. I could’ve sworn her little peeps were plaintive.

The rehab folks emailed back today and said he’s doing better — much more alert and active than he was on intake. But he’s still having trouble staying upright; he could’ve injured his spine when he first fledged. I’m holding out hope he recovers but I’m worried he won’t.

(For the curious, we brought him to Second Chance Wildlife Center and made a donation when we dropped him off. A sign in their office said it costs $75 to treat each patient, on average. If you feel moved to do any charitable giving this time of year, might I suggest Second Chance? Or a wildlife rehabber in your area?)

Anyway, on to the food. Tonight we had another simple dinner: baked potatoes, featuring jacket potatoes from the farmers market. I topped them with black beans cooked from scratch and this spicy nacho cheese sauce. They would’ve been excellent with roasted broccoli for something green, but alas, I didn’t have any. Steven prepped the potatoes while I was at work (he works from home) using my new favorite method: coating them with olive oil and kosher salt, then putting them directly onto the oven rack. No need to waste a piece of aluminum foil, and the skins turn out nice and crispy.

Question: What’s your favorite nacho cheese sauce recipe? This one was pretty good, but I’m always on the hunt for more. I do like the carrot- and potato-based ones, too!

Peanut Chews and Cruciferous Veggies | VeganMoFo 2019 Day Five

Well. Happy Monday. :) I’m feeling a bit more collected after yesterday’s rage-fueled rant, thanks to the curative powers of The Office and someone cooking dinner for me and Brooklyn 99 and puppy snuggles and a bite of chocolate ice cream.

And mid-day peanut chews.

I’d never had these little nuggets of chewy, chocolatey, peanutty goodness until I moved to Maryland six years ago (!!!) and started my current job. A former coworker (since retired) was known around the office for passing out peanut chews as little edible kudos, producing a handful from a pocket and sharing them with all and sundry. Not only are they accidentally vegan, but they’re also made locally(ish). The flavor is probably not to everyone’s tastes; rather than relying on a traditional caramel for chewiness, they use molasses — an ingredient well documented on this blog as it’s one of my favorites. I dig it, and I dig them.

Anyway, I grabbed a packet of peanut chews from the vending machine today because sometimes you just need a little chocolate to soothe your soul.

(Side note: Although I generally favor chocolate recommended by the FEP list, I just wanted something fast and easily available today. Looks like Goldenberg’s is on the “Cannot recommend but are working on the issues in various ways” list. I’m not perfect.)

An equally delicious thing I ate today was dinner, even though it was ridiculously simple: a huge skillet of cabbage, sautéed with Earth Balance and topped with salt, pepper, and some generous gratings of my precious Violife parm. I also made some spicy pan-sautéed kale with black-eyed peas for protein. I attempted to cook ye olde failed chickwheat by dicing it and lightly frying it, but… instead of getting crispy and edible, it became soft and mushy. Vom-o-rama. Steven kindly took some of the pieces I fished out of my bowl, but even he gave up after a while. I’m really trying not to let my failed chickwheat go to waste, but dang. It’s nasty.

Anyway, the rest of dinner was a delight. All crucifers benefit from high heat and a decent amount of cooking time, in my opinion, and sautéed cabbage is one of my favorites. It’s also a great foil to the salty parmesan. A perfect combination.

We’ve just gotten back from the gym, so hopefully those exercise endorphins will further buoy my mood. :)

(P.S. No update on my catbird friend. I emailed the rehab to check in but haven’t heard back yet. (They specifically requested emails rather than phone calls.) Sigh. Keep those fingers and toes crossed.)

Scones, and Also, Two Mass Shootings in Two Days | VeganMoFo 2019 Day Four

Hi, hello, it’s me, just checking in from the United States, where we have a mass shooting every day and it’s A-OK because ~*~ the second amendment ~*~ and ~*~ the founding fathers wanted us to be able to defend ourselves~*~ and other excuses that should’ve been rendered meaningless seven years ago (but really many years before that) when a white man murdered 20-plus CHILDREN AT THEIR SCHOOL yet have remained valid because our spineless politicians are deep, deep, deep in the pockets of the gun lobby.

Sorry (not sorry), I know I’m supposed to talk about food but I’m just emptied of all emotions except indignant, incandescent, impotent rage right now.

I am bone-tired of pointless patriotism to a country that refuses to protect its people and instead props up white supremacist ideologies and lax gun laws that lead to dozens/hundreds/thousands of people losing their lives. (“Losing.” What a bloodless euphemism.) I am sick of being told I should pledge allegiance to a flag that does not protect people (literally punishes people) who don’t share my skin color yet offers protection and succor to white people like me who commit heinous, murderous, treacherous crimes. (He was troubled. He needed mental health treatment; it has nothing to do with guns. He was a good kid. We took him in alive. He’ll get his due process.)

But, y’know, life goes on (for me at least, until I’m the next victim of gun violence) so hey, I had some scones today. Steven made them this morning while I enjoyed some blessed hours of laziness, reading in bed with my pups.

They were cornmeal and blueberry. They were a little flat because Steven didn’t chill the coconut oil ahead of time, but if less-than-perfect scones are the worst part of my day, I have zero right to complain. (“My child was killed in Parkland and I should’ve done more to stop this most recent mass shooting. I failed my daughter.”)

I completed a hospice volunteer assignment, sitting quietly with a patient who is dying. I went to a brewery. I had beers with a friend who is dealing with his own heartbreak. I came home. (How many didn’t, today?)

All my thoughts are laced with expletives. I am out of words.

The catbird fledgling we found yesterday is at a local wildlife rehab center. He might have spinal trauma, or he might have West Nile virus, or he might just be too weak for this unforgiving world. I held him in a small box yesterday while we drove him the five and a half miles to the center. I listened to his mother cry, squawking indignantly as we picked her precious, weak, dying baby up off the ground and took him away. I don’t speak catbird but I heard her distress. I wanted to tell her, “I’m giving him the best chance I can. I’m trying to save him. I’m not stealing your baby. I want what’s best for him, just like you do.” He let out a few sad little peeps during the drive and I wanted to hold him close and tell him it would be okay; he would be okay.

I couldn’t tell him that.

He might die.

I might die.

I might die tomorrow, next week, next year, from a misogynist/white supremacist/guy with a grudge.

But that’s OK, because my neighbors ~*~have a right~*~ to own assault-style weapons. Because the men in this country ~*~have a right~*~ to attention from women. Because the white people in this country ~*~have a right~*~ to it (never mind that we stole it from the brown people who lived here before).

If I die from gun violence, please politicize my death.

It will not be too soon. It will not be unseemly. I will not want your ~*~thoughts and prayers.~*~

I want action. I want change.


I know a lot of people who read my blog don’t live in the United States. If that’s you — what do you think and feel about the gun violence here?

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! ;)

Friday-Night Pizza | VeganMoFo 2019 Day Two

After a day of lackluster food (not to mention yesterday’s total and utter failure) I needed a foolproof dinner for this, the first Friday of August. The obvious choice: pizza! We picked up ingredients on the way back from the gym yesterday, so all I had to do was make the dough and assemble our pie tonight.

I used this recipe for the dough; it’s an old standby and pretty reliable, producing a nice, soft puffy dough. I always add herbs as recommended. For the sauce, Steven and I love Don Pepino, which comes in a can and is available at our local Wegmans. We first bought it because that old-school design was just irresistible, and it turns out that it’s super tasty, too! Although I often make cashew cheese for my pizza, I decided to try Violife’s mozzarella shreds this time. I’m a bit of a Violife fangirl these days; the products are great, and I appreciate that everything is nut-free. Their parmesan wedge is easily one of the best vegan cheeses I’ve ever tried, so I was eager to give the mozz a whirl. We topped our pie with halved cherry tomatoes from the garden and some pickled banana pepper rings. Not terribly exciting, but sometimes you just want a simple cheesy pizza.

And that’s exactly what we got. As usual, I baked it on a pizza stone covered in cornmeal to prevent sticking… truthfully, I’m not sure how much crispier this makes the crust, but I’d like to think there’s a difference! We also cracked open a tasty Beaujolais — a friend once said that pizza and wine should be the go-to pairing, not pizza and beer, and that makes sense to me.

And about that Violife mozz — I tried a few cold shreds and was shocked that they were edible, unlike Daiya. Melted, the Violife was quite mild, although I guess I’d prefer that to aggressively unpleasant, as other cheeses can be!

Not a bad Friday night at all.

A Chickwheat Seitan Fail | VeganMoFo 2019 Day One

Y’all. Y’ALL. I’m starting VeganMoFo with an epically wonderful fail. It seems appropriate in this new era of raw, unvarnished blogging, right?!

Yesterday evening I decided to get a head start on today’s dinner by preparing some seitan — specifically, the chickwheat shreds from Avocados and Ales. Let it be known that I’ve made seitan plenty of times in the past, using recipes from plenty of different sources. Although I’ve never been able to get it quite as juicy and tender as the kind you buy at the store, it’s always been perfectly fine, and I’ve never had any of the difficulties or spectacular fails I’ve read from other folks who’ve attempted seitan. (Ah, hubris.) So I was excited to try this recipe, which uses a new-to-me method: a long, intense kneading period in a food processor or KitchenAid rather than a few quick kneads by hand. I loved the look of the resulting chicken-style shreds and planned to use them in a quick stir-fry tonight.

Well. I blended up all the wet ingredients before adding the vital wheat gluten. As I stirred it all together, I thought the texture seemed… off. The dough was much softer, smoother and more liquidy than seitans of yore, and I couldn’t detect any of the distinctive gluten strands that tend to form as soon as you add the wheat gluten. But I persevered, dumping the mass into my KitchenAid (fitted with the dough hook) and beginning to knead.

And knead. And knead. And knead.

Rosie is judging me for my seitan fail. I GET IT, ROSIE.

Occasionally I stopped to check the dough, and I began to sense that something was amiss. There were a few stringy strands, sure, but nowhere near the amount I get even when kneading by hand. I’d reached the point where I had to make a decision: Either abandon the project or persevere — knowing that something was dreadfully, fundamentally wrong with my dough and that the results would likely not be as intended. I chose the latter. Maybe it would be edible, if not perfect. This is what I get for my hubris, I thought to myself. I shouldn’t have been so smug about seitan-making!

After 20 minutes (the time recommended by commenters who had also used the KitchenAid method!) my poor mixer was hot and my sad dough was… awful. Basically soft, sticky taffy. I dumped it all out onto aluminum foil as recommended and tried to fold it up into a packet, only to look on in absolute horror as the taffy-seitan oozed right out of the crevices. Panicking, I tried lifting it up to rearrange it on the foil. My hands sunk deep into the ooze and the foil ripped, a big glob of dough (batter?!) still attached.

Eventually I managed to wrangle about half the dough onto a new piece of foil, which I quickly wrapped up and dropped into my steamer. (The recipe calls for an InstantPot, but commenters say it works fine in a stovetop steamer too.) By now I knew the texture was wrong, but perhaps it would become something edible in the steamer.

It did not.

Two hours later (well past my bedtime) I removed the swollen foil packet and set it to cool for a few minutes. When I cautiously peeled back the foil and poked at the blob within, I realized it hadn’t improved with steaming. It was soft and squishy and could absolutely, positively not withstand the post-steam shredding that makes the chickwheat recipe so tantalizing.

As I brushed my teeth and got ready for bed, I had a sudden and horrible thought. I ran to the pantry and checked the flour shelf. Here’s what I saw.

A very obviously labeled bag of chickpea flour next to a canister of another flour.

On the left is a glass canister of white whole wheat flour. On the left is a bag — a very clearly, very obviously labeled bag — of vital wheat gluten.

Guess which one I used.

Sigh.

IN MY DEFENSE, I used to keep my vital wheat gluten in that jar, and Steven was the one who repurposed it for the white whole wheat flour a few weeks ago, so I didn’t have a tactile memory of putting flour in the jar. In my mind, it was still wheat gluten. Also, when I made the chickwheat, I measured the flour/wheat gluten by weight, so I just poured it in — I didn’t really look too closely at the consistency of the flour I used, or I would have noticed it didn’t have the very specific, silky texture of vital wheat gluten.

Frankly, I’m shocked it even remotely resembled seitan. There were definitely some strings forming when I kneaded it, likely because whole wheat flour has a slightly higher protein content than all-purpose flour. (And yes, I know one can make vital wheat gluten from flour.) I don’t know what I’ll do with the monstrosity, but I might try to flatten and fry it up into some kind of patty? Or dice it and fry it? We’ll see. Mostly I’m mad I used so much electricity kneading and steaming the dough, but hey, we have solar panels so at least I don’t have to be too guilty.

As for dinner, I made a quick fried rice, loosely following the method in Appetite for Reduction. I used green beans and garlic from my garden (woo!) along with a bell pepper from the farmers market and a shallot from the… grocery store. (I also used ginger paste, which it such a lifesaver when you don’t have fresh ginger!) It was good. It would’ve been better with some chickwheat shreds. Next time.

And with this illustrious beginning to MoFo, I’m off to the gym, a new habit for me. I lift weights! I have defined muscles! I wish I had the added protein from chickwheat shreds coursing through my veins so I could get even more ripped! NEXT TIME.

P.S. I see that today’s MoFo prompt asks participants to introduce themselves. You can check out my bio here — it’s still accurate!

P.P.S. In retrospect I know I should’ve taken more photos of my chickwheat process, but hey… I expected it to come out perfectly and I didn’t realize I’d need to document my failure. Oh well.

VeganMoFo 2019: Something New (Actually Something Old)

I went vegan in October 2009 and kicked off my big lifestyle change here on this bloggo by participating in VeganMoFo — the Vegan Month of Food. Since then, I’ve participated in every. single. MoFo. by posting every. single. day.

That’s 10 years of MoFos. That’s a lot of MoFo. That’s a lot of vegan food.

But truthfully, I haven’t enjoyed MoFo that much during the past few years. Instead of feeling like a joy, a chance to rekindle my old love of blogging and enthusing about vegan food, it’s felt more like a chore, something to tolerate rather than embrace. But I hate breaking a streak, so I slogged through. I found ways to make it easier and more manageable and often, yes, enjoyable. But when I saw that VeganMoFo this year was scheduled to begin in August, I felt… dread. Not excitement, but apprehension. Bad news.

Me when I thought about VeganMoFo 2019.

Because summer is sacred to me. I run cold, so the rest of the year I spend waiting for those 90˚ degree day when I lounge outside and not shiver. (Extremely air conditioned office spaces fill me with a near-murderous rage.) I want to read lots of books and daydream about traveling and go to the pool and putter in my garden and watch my pups frolic. I do not, repeat do not, want to obsess over putting up blog posts and photographing food perfectly and following prompts.

So I started making peace with the idea of not participating in MoFo. You had a good run, I told myself. 10 years! That’s a whole lotta posting!

But. Then I had a thought.

What has become Not Fun about blogging to me lately is the pressure to produce Content That People Want. Posts I can pin on Instagram. Posts with (moderately) well-composed photos and lots of SEO terms thrown in. It’s not that I want my blog to become a business, but I’ve always thought, why not monetize it and make a little bit of money off something I’m doing for fun?

But it’s not really fun anymore, and I have a very sparse posting schedule to show for it (outside of MoFo, of course). I genuinely enjoy writing what I do write, but you know what I miss? The old days of blogging. The 2009 era, when I talked a little bit about my day and a little bit about what I ate. Diary-style, casual conversation. Back then, I followed a bunch of bloggers and we commented on each other’s posts on a near-daily basis. It was a fun little community. I could’ve told you their dogs’ names and where they lived; their favorite Isa Chandra cookbook and probably their PPK username (I lurked and rarely posted, but I followed along!).

I frequently reminisce about how much I miss those old days of blogging. I love reading through my old blog posts because they remind me of my life back in 2009, 2010, 2011. There are details I’d lose if I hadn’t written them down, like how unnecessary/fun/ridiculous it was to take my own photos for Christmas cards multiple years in a row. (I can be very extra.) Like how stressful my previous job could be. Like the joy in trying a new vegan product back in the days before every single company out there was producing plant-based items.  (I ate Rice Dream ice cream, for god’s sake!) Don’t get me wrong; I love the ubiquity of vegan products these days! It just used to be more exciting when new ones hit the shelves. I miss that casual approach to blogging.

You can probably see where this is heading.

Said garden, earlier in the year. It is now fully wild and unruly.

For VeganMoFo 2019, I’m going back to basics, baby. Back to simple, diary-style, here’s-what-I-did-and-ate posts. It’s gonna be a big middle finger to monetizing and SEO and page rankings, but ohhhh well. It’s gonna be fun. There will probably be lots of photos of my garden, and my dogs, and my favorite summertime beers. But there will also be original recipes and reviews, because I do enjoy creating those… only not when I’m forced to do so!

(And if you’re not into old-school blogging and prefer recipes without personality and content that serves a single, utilitarian purpose, I get it. I hear those Twitter hot takes:  “But why do food blogs have three paragraphs of personal details before you get to the actual recipe?! Just give me the recipe; I’m trying to make dinner, not read your autobiography!” My default response is something about SEO and needing to include searchable terms so you can actually FIND that recipe in the first place. But. What about including personal information and a little bit about your day just because… it’s nice and interesting and fun to read about other people’s lives? And maybe you just want to share? What’s so wrong with that?)

So, that’s what to expect. I’m actually excited about VeganMoFo this year. And I haven’t been able to say that in a while. So here’s to 2019, and a more casual, relaxed, old-school blog.

Not-so-Kitchen-Tour | VeganMoFo 2018 Day Thirty (!)

Sunday 30th: Kitchen Tour
Now the month is concluding, show us where the magic has been happening!

Wow, here we are at the end of September and this year’s VeganMoFo! I have to say, my laidback approach to the themes this year made it all so much easier and more enjoyable. I never felt crunched for time or stressed to come up with a post. What a relief! Who could’ve guessed that going easy on yourself and not requiring perfection would make for a more enjoyable experience?! <insert eyeroll emoji, because duh>

Anyway, today is the odd day out; it’s a Sunday and thus the start of a new week (and theme), but also the last day of MoFo. The provided prompt asks participants to give a kitchen tour, but I did that pretty comprehensively last year. Not much has changed since then, except for one minor tragedy.

Dining room detailsSo… about those custom-built, super-neat corner shelves. Turns out they maaay not have been securely fastened to the wall. One day late last year, we heard a massive crash come from the dining room. We rushed in to survey the damage and found that the top shelf had fallen off the wall, releasing the big red Pyrex casserole dish (which had a pretty Friendship pattern on the lid) and the smaller Fire King casserole dish to meet their makers upon the floor. Luckily, the glass used in Pyrex (and, apparently, Fire King) dishes doesn’t really shatter, so we were able to pick up large pieces of the broken crockery rather than need to sweep up tiny shards. (Good news for our pups’ delicate paws, of course!) We cleaned up the mess relatively quickly and then made sure the shelves were more securely fastened. Since then we’ve had no mishaps, and I replaced the casserole dishes (RIP) with two small Butterprint-patterned dishes on that top shelf.

Otherwise, the kitchen is mostly the same as in those photos. We’ve added two more wooden spice racks from Ikea, and the beverages that top our bar have changed a bit, but we haven’t done any major remodels. (We’ve only been in the house for two and a half years, and the kitchen is still very modern and functional.) We’re hoping to replace the floral canvases in the dining room with a gallery wall in the next month or so, but we don’t have quite enough photos to respectably fill the space yet, and I don’t want it to look bare.

So, that’s the kitchen (and dining room)! And with that, VeganMoFo comes to a close. I’ve got some great posts planned for the weeks and months ahead, so don’t worry; I won’t be going silent. I’m also heading to Tallinn and Helsinki later this week, so you can expect full reports of the vegan options on offer in those two cities when I return. :) Happy MoFo, y’all!

VegFests! | VeganMoFo 2018 Day Twenty-Nine

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

Aaagh! I had hoped to have a really great celebratory post today. Roots, our favorite vegan-friendly grocery store, was hosting a small vegan festival at the location closest to us. The store is also somewhat close to the facility where I’ve been visiting my hospice patients on Saturday mornings, so I figured that I’d hit up the festival after my visits (instead of swinging by the farmers market like I usually do). I planned to snap some photos of the exhibitors and vendors, pick up a yummy lunch for Steven and me, and maybe get one of the swag bags they were handing out to the first 100 visitors. Final celebratory post done and dusted.

Well. It was not to be. I drove the 15 or so minutes from the facility to Roots, only to find that it was a madhouse. They’d requisitioned part of the parking lot for the event, meaning the already-too-small parking lot for that strip of stores was super crowded. There was a massive line forming (for food, I assume), and I could see that people were parking on side streets already. I did one loop of the parking lot and got the heck out of the there. I was hungry, it was crowded, and I was not in the mood to navigate the situation! (Of course, I’m glad the event was popular, but maybe the location was not the best!)

As I drove home, I pondered what to post about while trying not to get too annoyed that I’d missed the farmers market for this bust. Hmm… maybe Steven and I could switch our plans, take advantage of the warm weather, and go somewhere for lunch. We could sit outside and I could share something about the simple joys of a good meal on a nice day. But then I looked at the clock; it was already nearly 1 p.m. and there was no way we’d get out to lunch and back again by 2. Why did we need to be back by 2? Well, Verizon (our internet service provider) accidentally cut our internet yesterday (Friday) while doing work next door (…) and couldn’t send someone out to fix it till “between 2 and 4 p.m.” today, Saturday. Yes, they broke our internet and couldn’t fix it for 24 hours. Steven works from home (…using the internet…) so his Friday afternoon was a bust. I was pretty livid that Verizon couldn’t send anyone sooner and contacted customer service on Twitter and on their website, but of course they couldn’t change it.

Anyway, home I went, where I whipped up a quick quinoa and sweet potato dish while we waited for Verizon. I typed up this post (internet-less) and thought about what else to share. Why not talk about vegfests of the past?

Me in front of the Vegan Treats tent with lots of vegan doughnuts in the background!

That’s me about five years ago, thrilled to be at the D.C. VegFest and ready to stand in line for some amazing goodies from Vegan Treats. VT was new to me when we moved to the east coast, but it is an absolute staple at vegfests ‘round here! People will stand in line for literally hours to get a box of eclairs, cake pops, cheesecake slices, whoopee pies, doughnuts, and other beautifully decorated sugarbombs. (The Maryland area is not exactly bustling with vegan bakeries, so we take what we can get.)

This year, the Washington D.C. VegFest was cancelled when Hurricane Florence threatened to wreak havoc and D.C. declared a state of emergency. For a few days we waited for the storm to hit, but then it… didn’t. The Saturday of VegFest dawned clear, sunny, and perfectly temperate. A real bummer. Though I don’t go every year, this would’ve been the perfect day for it!

We also sometimes visit Baltimore VegFest, including a couple years ago when my mom flew in for the weekend to join us. Though a smaller event than the one in D.C., both feature speakers, exhibitors, vendors, and looooots of food. We’ve enjoyed sandwiches from Nourrie’s Cuisine (a vegan catering company that just opened a restaurant (!) in Baltimore), soul food from NuVegan Cafe, and coffee from Brewing Good, among other delights.

Back when we lived in Madison, we attended the first-ever Madison Vegan Fest. It was so long ago that the details aren’t clear to me anymore, but it was indoors and a bit small. Now, though, it looks like it’s grown quite a lot.

For new vegans especially, I think vegfests are great ways to feel like you’re part of a community, stock up on veg goods (especially since Herbivore Clothing often exhibits at the big ones!), and try local vegan-friendly dining options. While I don’t make it a point to attend every local one anymore, I still like stopping by to re-energize my vegan batteries. :) Do you have any local vegfests?

(P.S. Our internet is fixed! Obviously! :D)