Friday, February 26, 2010

Foodie Friday: I'll never have to order Thai takeout again, either.

It's Foodie Friday! Foodie Friday is my weekly feature that gives you a window into my kitchen. I love to cook, I love to eat, I love to read cookbooks, and I love to inspire people to give vegan food a chance. Thus, Foodie Friday was whipped up and baked to perfection.
I've mentioned before how much I love Robin Robertson's 1,000 Vegan Recipes cookbook. And 29 recipes into it, I still love it. It was my intention to have tried more recipes than that by now, two months after receiving it, but I've found myself making things more than once because we like them so much... (chocolate coconut brownies)...

Here's a sampling of what I made this week:

One of our dinners was Indian eggplant fritters (from 1,000 Vegan Recipes) with whole wheat naan and coconut rice. This was my first time making fritters of any kind. The frying part was dicey at first, but I got the hang of it by the second round. The recipe called for chilies, which I never use and don't keep in the house, so I just left them out. The fritters turned out nicely, albeit much blander than the recipe intended. Jason liked them, so I'll make them again, but I think next time I'll serve them with a chutney to spice the dish up a bit. The rice was rich, creamy, and probably super-fattening because it's cooked with margarine and coconut milk.

Jason didn't get home until midnight one night because he had to stand watch, so I made us a light dinner to eat late: roasted zucchini and tomatoes (from 1,000 Vegan Recipes) with quinoa.

I made maple-walnut oatmeal cookies (from 1,000 Vegan Recipes) for a change in our usually chocolate-heavy treat lineup. We both loved them and Jason didn't miss getting his chocolate fix at all.

Macaroni and cheese is a staple for us because Jason is actually five years old really likes it. The "cheese" sauce I made was based on the mornay-style cheez sauce from 1,000 Vegan Recipes, but I tweaked it to adjust the flavors more to my liking and I added ground flax seed for nutritional value. I put some sautéed Lightlife Italian Style Smart Sausages on the side to make a meal fit for a small child king.

Last week's showstopper signaled my triumph over nasty Chinese takeout. This week's showstopper freed me from another risky takeout situation: Thai! I was miraculously able to find rice noodles at the commissary, so I decided to attempt pad thai from 1,000 Vegan Recipes. This was a must-make because we both love Thai food. The only thing I'll do differently next time is make a bit more of the sauce mixture because the noodles soaked it up incredibly quickly. This was so good though, I didn't even care.

Oh, and one last thing for you sad sacks who gave up treats for Lent...


Thursday, February 25, 2010

The NTCA's first order of business: jingle jingle jingle

I've been on a small typing break this week because the tip of my right middle finger had a bit of a disagreement with a serrated bread knife. The knife wanted to keep cutting and my finger wanted it to stop. Guess who won?

By the time I finish my eight hours of non-stop typing for work, my Massachusetts saluter has about had it for the day. I've been keeping my Facebooking and tweeting to a minimum and I haven't been returning e-mails. Yeah, sorry about that.

I'm waiting to take a batch of chocolate coconut brownies out of the oven, so I wanted to take the opportunity to check in and let everyone know about the event that took place in my back yard this afternoon: the first meeting of the Neighborhood Tuxedo Cat Association!

...aka Boots and Coco chasing each other, collar bells a-jingling.

They're both out there again now, probably keeping the neighbors' kids awake with all that jingling.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Lightening up

Lately I've been feeling super blah about myself in general, and about my hair in particular.

I haven't had my hair cut since November and I'm beginning to feel like it's turning brown, really brown. When I look at myself in the mirror, my brain screams "Brown, bitch, I'm BROWN!"

Me, the blondest blond child in the history of blond children! With brown hair!

From cutest baby on the block to BLAH BROWN

And not just any brown. The shade of brown reserved for tow-headed children whose recessive genes lost the battle for supremacy and whose scant amounts of eumelanin got tired of being a minority group. The shade of brown also known as the most boring color on the face of the planet: dirty blond--and not in the manner of Christina Aguilera circa 2002. Nope. Dirty blond in the manner of always looking dirty.

I haven't colored my hair at all since 2006, and before that there were only a handful of times that I used a boxed dye or got highlights in a salon. My blond ambition began with a disastrous run-in with Sun-In spray during summer camp in 1995, and it has come back with a vengeance this month. It didn't help that I got a 20 percent off coupon from my stylist in the mail today.

Alas, there are taxes to be paid soon and a room full of furniture that will require us to open our wallets again in a few months, so I feel like adding high-maintenance hair to our budget right now is out of the question.

Still, though, I know that I look good sporting a shade closer to my childhood hue. For example, the lovely highlights I got when I had my senior pictures taken in the summer of 1999... the same dye job that I was sporting in my Paris and Italy Where in the World Wednesday posts.

I'm going to try to ride this wave out. I do like my natural hair color. I do!

It's just hard to resist resorting to the bottle when you're craving a little upgrade to your appearance. Hair is the easiest thing to change without a huge commitment!

I've been coveting these ladies' flaxen strands:

Anonymous hair model [source], Ali from The Bachelor [source]

Actress Dianna Agron (a.k.a. Quinn Fabray from Glee) [source], Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn [source]

And here's whose dye job looks like a seventh-grader with a bottle of Sun-In (and I would know):

Vienna from The Bachelor [source]

I'm just saying.

Monday, February 22, 2010

the changing of the guard

The kitty guard, that is.

I haven't seen Coco outside since he spent the night with us a couple of weekends ago. I guess his people learned their lesson after leaving him out all night, because they seem to be keeping him inside exclusively now.

But... and you knew there would be a but... someone else has taken Coco's place as the resident stalker cat.

Little Miss Boots.

She has been here every day since Friday, when she showed up in our backyard to raid the dish of dog food I had set out. Thinking she was lost and hungry, I brought her in. As I expected, she wolfed down the canned food and the dry food I had set out for our cats. Then she proceeded to play with all of their toys. They were terribly offended.

So I called and left a message on her people's machine, and soon enough the little girl she belongs to came over to retrieve her.

On Saturday she showed up again. I let her in for a little while, but eventually scooped her up and took her back over to her own house. The little girl answered the door and we completed the hand-off. As I was walking down the driveway this woman came walking up and started talking to me about how I don't need to bring Boots back every time, because "we let her out." And I'm thinking, lady, who are you?

The first and second times Boots was here, Crazy Navy Wife came to get her, once with the little girl and once without. So I assumed that CNW was the girl's mother. So who is this other lady who was telling me what to do with Boots? I know that Navy wives tend to get all up in each other's business, but seriously, I am so confused.

And to make it even more complicated, there is a distinct difference in the ethnicities of these three people who seem to have a claim on Boots. My imagination has been going wild imagining the possibilities of how they might be related or otherwise involved in each other's lives.

It's getting all Wisteria Lane up in here, people.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Foodie Friday: Smoothies and why I'll never order Chinese takeout again

It's Foodie Friday! Foodie Friday is my weekly feature that gives you a window into my kitchen. I love to cook, I love to eat, I love to read cookbooks, and I love to inspire people to give vegan food a chance. Thus, Foodie Friday was whipped up and baked to perfection.
I didn't do a ton of special cooking this week. We (well, I) have been tired from staying up late to watch the Olympics--really, NBC? Figure skating at 11 p.m.?--and I just haven't been feeling like slaving over a hot stove. Barefoot. NOT pregnant.

Luckily for me we had a ton of leftovers from previous chef-ing sessions and we splurged on some Subway footlongs the other night (that's what she said).

Here's what I've been making recently:

Creamy orange smoothies (from Robin Robertson's 1,000 Vegan Recipes). This tastes like an orange Creamsicle! Jason looooved it.

I also made another fruit smoothie, this time of my own creation. I didn't take a picture, but it looked about the same as Mr. Creamy Orange right there. Try it for yourself:

Banana-Pineapple-Coconut Smoothie
Serves 1

1 large ripe banana
1 1/2 cups frozen pineapple chunks
1/2 cup coconut milk

Combine all ingredients in a blender. Add more coconut milk if your blender needs it, or use part soy, rice, or almond milk for a lighter coconut flavor.

Black bean and corn tofu scramble (my recipe) with corn muffins (from Robin Robertson's 1,000 Vegan Recipes).

This week's showstopper is General Tao's tofu. When I found this recipe while blog-hopping recently, I knew immediately that I had to make it. Jason and I love Chinese food, but we haven't been able to find a takeout place that we like since we've moved to California. We seem to have the worst luck with Chinese restaurants. We tried so many in Massachusetts, and when we finally found one we liked, it closed soon after! We miss our favorite place in Virginia Beach.

The process of preparing the tofu is labor intensive, but I doubled the recipe, so that was my own fault. All that work was worth it though--this is SO GOOD. Way better than any Chinese tofu dish I've had here in California.

And who's that in red in the corner of the picture? It's one of the pairs of chopsticks that my bloggy BFF Jamie sent me! It was a complete surprise and made my whole week--especially when I got to use them to eat something so delicious. Thank you, Jamie!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Where in the World Wednesday: Wales

It's Classy in Philadelphia's Where in the World Wednesday!

The idea of WITWW is to post a picture of you in someplace in the world... it doesn't have to be somewhere foreign or tropical. Just a picture of you somewhere that you consider traveling. It might even be somewhere in your own hometown!
Last week we traveled to London for the beginning of my college study abroad program. This week we're heading to Wales, where my program, Mass Media in Great Britain, spent one day during the trip. July 11, 2002!

We were so busy that day that we didn't get a chance to see much, but I did manage to sneak a few pictures in while we were at the BBC Wales studio in Cardiff. Or, as the Welsh would say, BBC Cymru in Caerdydd.

And here's where my memory fails. I can't for the life of me remember what we did at BBC Wales or what else we did that day. I chronicled it in my study abroad blog that died with Diary-X, but I didn't say anything much about it in my paper journal other than that we went. The lesson? Write it down on paper or back up your digital files, because you won't remember a thing in a few years.

The one thing I do have from that day is the only picture I got of the whole group together:

The only thing I have left from that outfit is the shoes.

Join me again next week for more European travels!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Vomit valentines, I has them.

It's funny because it's true. ------------>

We just got home from having dinner out, and what did we find on the living room carpet, just inches from the easy-to-clean entryway linoleum? That's right, a freshly barfed up pile of undigested yellow cat food.

Dessert, anyone?

I have a fresh pan of chocolate coconut brownies waiting for us after the barf gets scrubbed up, but I think I've lost my appetite for a while.

I know you're jealous of how glamorous and romantic my life is. Like how my husband was going to give me roses today but didn't because only the ugly flowers were left at the store. To be fair, I went and looked and he was right. They were totally heinous. At least he had the good sense to not bring me ugly flowers.

(And before you go thinking that I'm an ingrate, I wasn't expecting flowers at all. I specifically told him not to get me anything.)

He did bring me dinner on Friday night, though--a cute heart-shaped pizza from a take-and-bake place out in town, complete with his and hers halves. Just like those best friends necklaces that everyone seemed to have in middle school, except way better because necklaces don't come with black olives.

(My Ohio best friend and I had a cool BFF necklace, though--it was a dime cut in half. I think I still have it.)

How was everyone else's day? Did you get any sappy cards or ugly flowers?

P.S. I updated my blogroll. Get thee hence and entertain thyself.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Cats a-plenty!

Last Friday night I had a neighborhood's worth of cats in my backyard. Princess, Coco, and Boots were all here, Princess on the patio and Boots and Coco sitting by the gate. I went out to greet the troops, but they all took off into the night. The next night, however, Coco came back, so I let him in. He stayed for an hour, then I let him back out to go home for the night. He came back at 2:30 in the morning as we were heading to bed, so I let him in for the night. When I got up in the morning, he was curled up in a chair, fast asleep. I let him out later on in the afternoon and he headed back in the direction of his own yard. I haven't seen Coco yet this weekend, but I'm hoping he'll come back for another sleepover soon.

While he was here, he discovered Lola's favorite catnip toy. He spent at least 10 minutes rolling around drooling on the toy and making a complete fool of himself:

Not to be outdone, Jacob had to maul his own toy, his Spidey that we've had since he and Jasper were kittens:

And then he came back for a second round:

Never a dull moment.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Foodie Friday: Bats, cats, and the best brownies in the whole world. Seriously.

It's Foodie Friday! Foodie Friday is my weekly feature that gives you a window into my kitchen. I love to cook, I love to eat, I love to read cookbooks, and I love to inspire people to give vegan food a chance. Thus, Foodie Friday was whipped up and baked to perfection.
Here's what I've been making recently:

Peanut butter cookies (from Robin Robertson's 1,000 Vegan Recipes).

Angel hair pasta with olive oil and garlic (from Robin Robertson's 1,000 Vegan Recipes).

Fried tofu bats...

...and cats! Inspired by this.

Cheezy tomato macaroni (from Robin Robertson's 1,000 Vegan Recipes) with fried tofu bats and cats.

Kale (+spinach) and white sweet potatoes (from Robin Robertson's 1,000 Vegan Recipes). This also looks good with orange sweet potatoes (which are sweeter than the white variety).

Spiced oven-roasted white sweet potato sticks (from Robin Robertson's 1,000 Vegan Recipes) and Manwiches.

Chocolate coconut brownies (from Robin Robertson's 1,000 Vegan Recipes). This is seriously the best brownie I have ever had, vegan or otherwise. EVER. I made them last night, Jason and I each had one then, and we each had one for breakfast when he got up (at noon today, the lazybones).

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Where in the World Wednesday: London

It's Where in the World Wednesday!

The idea of WITWW is to post a picture of you in someplace in the world... it doesn't have to be somewhere foreign or tropical. Just a picture of you somewhere that you consider traveling. It might even be somewhere in your own hometown!

- Classy in Philadelphia
This week, I'm rewinding to the good old days of college. In the summer of 2002 I studied abroad for five weeks, June 30 to August 4. My program was called Mass Media in Great Britain. We started out in London, where we were housed in the University of London dorms. This is a few of us in the lobby of our dorm the day we arrived:

We're all looking pretty rough after our trans-Atlantic flight.

Here we are on July 4 posing for the obligatory red phone booth shot:

That's me in the middle.

That evening some of us met at the University of London Union--ULU for short--for some Independence Day adult beverages. We would have used any excuse to go out and party, but celebrating a national holiday in the country whose defeat the day symbolizes was a given. At 19 years old, I was not much of a drinker. Actually, I wasn't a drinker at all. This picture is pretty representative of the whole night--blurry. I got drunk, spilled a drink all over myself and my friend, lost my dorm keys, and basically looked like an idiot. Yeah, not my finest moment. Live and learn, right?

Duh, whaaaaa?

Later that night a group of us went down to the U.S. Embassy in London to see what was going on there. All we found was a dark office building guarded by a man with a a semi-automatic weapon. I don't know what we were expecting, but then again, most of us were drunk. At the time though, it seemed like the best idea ever.

By July 6 we had all recovered from our Fourth of July festivities and were back exploiting the phone booths.

There were four of us in there.

Join me again next Wednesday for more of my across-the-pond adventures!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Whose broad stripes and bright stars

It's Super Bowl weekend! I don't care much about the game, and I probably won't watch any of it on TV. But Carrie Underwood will be singing the national anthem tomorrow, and that got me thinking about how much I enjoy good performances of it. Carrie's already proved that she can slay it (at an NBA game in 2005, an NFL game and the MLB All-Star game in 2006, and a World Series game in 2007), so I know I'll enjoy it.

There has been a diverse crop of Super Bowl anthem-performers over the years. A lot of people consider Whitney Houston's Super Bowl 25 rendition from 1991 to be the definitive national anthem performance. It is good, but to me it isn't particularly stirring. This one, by the combined military academy choirs, from Super Bowl 39 in 2005, gives me chills and brings tears to my eyes:

And the harmonies in the Dixie Chicks' performance at Super Bowl 37 in 2003 are spot on:

Faith Hill's performance at Super Bowl 34 in 2000 remains one of my favorites:

Other singers I think have done particularly well are LeAnn Rimes and Jordin Sparks. Of course, I can't write about anthem performances without mentioning homegirl Karen Newman, the voice of the Detroit Red Wings.

And then there are the versions performed by children. I can't get over the Cactus Cuties or the PS22 Chorus.

Who is your favorite anthem singer?

Friday, February 5, 2010

Foodie Friday: Inaugural Edition

After doing my food porn post last week, I thought to myself that I should set aside a day where I just post pictures of food. What better day for a picture post than Friday? Foodie Friday is an adorably alliterative title, and it spares me from having to come up with something clever to write about when I'm tired from a long week of work and cat-herding.

I love to cook, I love to eat, I love to read cookbooks, and I love to inspire people to give vegan food a chance. Thus, Foodie Friday was whipped up and baked to perfection.

Here's what I've been making recently:

Hot cocoa (from Robin Robertson's 1,000 Vegan Recipes).

Chocolate chip cookies (from Robin Robertson's 1,000 Vegan Recipes).

Potato-tomato frittata (from Robin Robertson's 1,000 Vegan Recipes).

Savory artichoke squares (from Robin Robertson's 1,000 Vegan Recipes).

Whole wheat drop biscuits (from Robin Robertson's 1,000 Vegan Recipes).

Punjabi chole (with spinach), jasmine rice, and whole wheat naan.

Double chocolate brownies (from Robin Robertson's 1,000 Vegan Recipes).

Pasta shells and broccoli (from Robin Robertson's 1,000 Vegan Recipes). The cheesy sauce makes it rather like Velveeta shells and cheese.

Sautéed mushrooms with onion and garlic, couscous, and cornbread stuffing.

Penne with vodka-spiked tomato sauce (from Robin Robertson's 1,000 Vegan Recipes). And by "spiked," what I really mean is "I poured in waaaay more vodka than the recipe called for and it was boozily delicious."

Now tell me you aren't hungry.