Friday, April 30, 2010

Foodie Friday: Why yes, I do like spinach

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.

Often, perusing my pantry at dinnertime is like an episode of Chopped--I open the door and the things I find go together as well as water and oil. I don't always plan meals ahead, so sometimes I have to get creative. To make those hodge-podge meals come together a little bit better, I like to keep a good stock of canned goods and dried pasta on hand.

My Italian husband would eat pasta every day if I let him. I don't let him, but I do indulge him from time to time. Last weekend I threw together a linguine dish fit for the gods.

Linguine with Artichoke and Mushroom Sauce

1 lb. linguine
olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
2 heaping spoonfuls chopped garlic
8 baby bella mushrooms, cleaned and sliced (you could use more... I only had a few left in the package)
1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 14 oz. can artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
1 tsp. each dried oregano, basil, and marjoram
salt and pepper
fresh parsley, chopped

Prepare linguine according to directions on package. While that cooks, lightly coat the bottom of a pot or deep pan with olive oil and sautée onion and garlic until fragrant. Stir in mushrooms and allow to cook for another minute or so. Stir in diced tomatoes and artichokes. Stir in herbs and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook until heated through. Serve immediately over pasta, garnished with parsley. Serves two with leftovers.

I like to make big breakfasts on the weekend. On Sunday, we had cherry pecan scones (from 1,000 Vegan Recipes) and tofu sausage wraps (of my own creation).

Tofu Sausage Wraps

olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
1 12 oz. block of tofu, patted dry and cubed
8 oz. veggie sausage patties (I used Morningstar Farms this time, but I have also used Lightlife)
1 heaping spoonful chopped garlic
flour tortillas (I used whole wheat)
fresh parsley, chopped

Lightly coat a pan with olive oil and sautée onion and garlic until onions are translucent. Add the tofu and sausage. If you are using frozen sausage patties, I recommend thawing them out in the microwave first. Cook until sausage is browned and tofu is heated through. Mix in chopped parsley. Fold into tortillas and serve immediately. Makes about six wraps.

Sweet potato and peanut soup with baby spinach from 1,000 Vegan Recipes

Spanish bulgur (and baby spinach with lemon and garlic from 1,000 Vegan Recipes)

Broccoli with black beans and walnuts from 1,000 Vegan Recipes

I love green vegetables!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

This blog is honest crap

Oh, there's an S. Honest scrap. I still think honest crap fits this blog better.

The Random Blogette gave me this award the other day. Thank you, lovely lady!

The terms of the award are that I have to list 10 random things about myself and pass the award on to 10 other people.

I'm in a giving mood today, so I'm going to pass the award on to you. Yes, you, random reader! If you're in the mood to share 10 things about yourself, consider yourself awarded.

10 Random Things About Heidi Renée
  1. I wash a load of urine-soaked towels every morning because our diabetic kitty Jasper has refused to use the litter box ever since getting a bladder infection last month. Instead of doing his business in one of our FIVE litter boxes, he goes on the floor next to the boxes. I had the brilliant idea to set out towels in his usual spots so that I could just toss them in the wash instead of cleaning up puddles. He goes through 5-8 towels every day. Yes, we will be taking him back to the vet soon.

  2. This morning I saw the lowest number on the scale that I have seen in a while. It still started with a two, but I'm hopeful that my exercises are making a difference. It might also just be because we didn't have any dinner last night. Whatever the case, smaller numbers are better numbers, so I'm going to let Jillian Michaels keep spanking my butt.

  3. Jason is so cute when he falls asleep. He was snoozing next to me on the couch earlier and I had to make my creepy self stop watching him.

  4. I find Robert Downey, Jr. incredibly attractive these days. Sherlock Holmes? Yes please! If Jason wants to see Iron Man 2, I'll go willingly.

  5. I have to work this weekend, which means I get to sleep in tomorrow.

  6. Remember how my stylist sent me a coupon for hair coloring in the mail a couple of months ago? I got another one for a discounted cut with color the other day and it's valid for the entire month of May. I don't know if I'll be able to hold out this time.

  7. Jason and I use the same deodorant.

  8. I need to cut the grass again.

  9. I really don't like wine.

  10. I really need to go to bed, but I know that as soon as I turn off the light Jasper will start chasing Jacob around the house and I'll have to get up again to separate them.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Where in the World Wednesday: Smart Camp at Northwestern, part 3

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! Feel free to get creative and post where you WISH you could travel, old scanned pictures of vacations from years ago or even feel free to repeat a destination with different photos! Get creative.

The past two weeks, I've chronicled my first summer at smart camp at Northwestern University's Center for Talent Development.

This week I'll recount my third and final session of camp, in which I took literary analysis, had my first kiss, and fell in camp love with a boy whose heart I ended up breaking.

When I got back to camp in the summer of 1996, I discovered that three of my bestests from the previous summer were sharing a quadruple room right down the hall from mine. I pretty much spent every waking moment in their room and barely spoke two words to my own roommate.

Why yes, I am wearing my Taz baby tee from the previous summer. Note, however, that I grew out my frizzy bangs.

Minus bangs and expander, plus braces. Still plenty awkward.

There's not much to say about my class. I spent far more time worrying about boys and friends than I did about homework. Indeed, by the end of the first week I had kissed a boy for the first time in my life. One of my friends later overheard him telling another boy that he didn't really like me, but that if he could "get some" it would be worth it. I had never been so disgusted in my life--I was 13 and I wasn't planning on doling out any "some." No sir!

Do I look like that kind of girl? ---------->
(Picture from one of our dances.)

Despite getting burned, I was still looking for some sweet adolescent love. Soon enough, I found it--with a boy I knew and had made fun of the previous summer for wearing glasses so thick that they made his eyes look distorted. We called him Big Glasses, or BG for short. It turns out that in the year between camp sessions, BG had started wearing contacts and had gotten his braces taken off. In short, BG had transformed into a creature so beautiful that he took my breath away.

We were the camp version of "going steady." We even traded each other watches! He scratched up the glass on mine, but I didn't care. Who could be mad at that face?

We never progressed beyond holding hands (we didn't even kiss!), but we did have a "marriage announcement" in the all-camp magazine (four pieces of paper folded together) that my friends and I edited together and passed out at the end of the session:

[Heidi Renée] and [BG] got married while bungee jumping off the Mackinac Bridge on August 7. Luckily, the couple survived to go on a Caribbean cruise for their honeymoon.

I pretty much adored him. I didn't have e-mail at home yet, so we mailed flirty letters to each other throughout the new school year. I covered the remaining pages of my camp journal with "I love [BG] forever" and little hearts.

In January 1997, after five months apart and contact only via letters, he sent me a lovesick tome that "popped the question": would I be his girlfriend? I wish I had kept it, but it has long since been trashed. I responded, according to my journal, with a "rather harsh" letter pointing out all of the reasons why we couldn't be together. Namely, that he lived an hour away from me and I couldn't possibly maintain a long-distance relationship. (Said the girl who ended up marrying a sailor who can be gone for months at a time.)

My mom got an e-mail address soon after that, so we continued the debate electronically. He said that he understood, but he thought that I was being unfair. Really, I was just being a fickle 14-year-old who didn't know the first thing about having a boyfriend. A mutual friend told me that he constantly asked her if he had a chance with me throughout the spring months.

In July, when he was getting ready to head back to camp for a third summer (but I wasn't), he sent me this e-mail:

I will miss you still...I pretty much wrote to tell you that no matter how far away we are, or how long it has been since we wrote/saw each other...I will Always love you...I just thought that you would like to know that...


Heidi...I will always love you, no matter what happens, and that will never change in my heart...

Yours always


Swoon. What was my glitch, right? The poor guy was totally in love with me for a year and I turned him down cold. Who knew I was such a heartbreaker?

Addendum: Facebook tells me that BG has gained weight (um, like me), balded significantly, and still wears those damn glasses sometimes. I still think that his wistful e-mail is one of the sweetest things a guy has ever written to me, though.

But not as sweet as this.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Foodie Friday: Can't Fight the Moonlight

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 always wanted to be a bartender à la Coyote Ugly. Dancing on a bar? Yes please! I have done it before (back in my Norfolk days) and I loved it.

I also think I'd be good at the actual work part of it. My barista skills would have translated well to the harder stuff.

Since the days of it being possible for me to be a boot-stomping bartender are well behind me, I have to settle for mixing up drinks of my own at home. And you know that I already dance at home.

To that end, I recently created a cocktail for myself. Actually, I am drinking one right now. It's a twist on the basic vodka soda. I call it...

Sparkling Strawberry Lemonade

club soda
vodka (I used McCormick... no need to go top shelf for this)
strawberry syrup (I used Torani)
fresh strawberries (optional)

Add 3 or 4 ice cubes to a 12-ounce highball glass. Fill halfway with club soda. Add one shot of vodka and 1 shot of strawberry syrup. Squeeze in juice of one lemon and add pulp to taste (I like it, I think it adds flavor). Top off with club soda if needed and stir lightly to combine. Garnish with a lemon slice and serve immediately. Muddle in some thinly-sliced strawberries if you want to be fancy. Extra points if they're pre-soaked in vodka. If you don't have any lemons, use limes! I have tried it with both and it's good both ways.

Moving on to food...

Since Jason liked it so much last week, I made an amped up version of rigatoni and kale this week, using spinach instead of kale, whole wheat penne instead of rigatoni, and adding white beans for protein.

For a light, quick dinner the other night when Jason got home from watch well after our bedtime, I modified a recipe for quinoa and green bean salad. I omitted the mint and scallions because I didn't have them. It tasted fine without them, and Jason liked it a lot.

Crap. Now I've made myself hungry.

P.S. You can't fight it!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

hey good lookin'

Some of you might have noticed that my blog got a little makeover last week. I had to take a few days to work out some kinks, but the new look is more or less complete. If you're in a reader and haven't clicked through for a while, you should now!

Somebody else got a new look for the occasion, too.

My stove.

It's clean!

Foodie Fridays don't clean up after themselves.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Where in the World Wednesday: Smart Camp at Northwestern, part 2

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!

This week we're back in Evanston, Illinois, for my second session of smart camp at Northwestern University during the summer of 1995.

I went home to Michigan for a week in between sessions, then headed right back to start my second class, creative writing. Does anyone still wonder why I became a blogger?

I came out of my shell a little more during the second session. After surviving the first session, I felt like I owned the place. I quickly made friends with the girls on my floor.

That's me on the bottom right, in the sunglasses.

Although I came out of my shell more, I was still pretty shy. Part of the problem was that I had gotten an orthodontic expander put in during my week at home (because my mouth was too small for all of my teeth) and spoke with an odd lisp because of it. As the session passed and it did its job, I also developed a gap between my two front teeth. If you look closely, you can see it below.

This was before our first dance of the session. Oh yes, we had dances. Most people stood around shuffling awkwardly, but not me. I was a dancing queen!

On the way to the Museum of Science and Industry.

After the second dance of the session.

In class on the last day. See how light my hair looks? That would be the infamous Sun-In incident. And yes, I am definitely wearing a Taz baby tee. Hello, 1995.

As for my class, creative writing, I ended up with a B. The teacher wrote in my evaluation that I "hardly participated in class discussion..." Um yeah, that was because I felt like a freak with my charming little speech impediment.

Nevertheless, I did get to learn a lot about writing and penned a few things that made me very proud. I also wrote some ridiculous poems. Behold:

I was supposed to write a poem today,
about anything,
or everything.
About and endless black void,
or the crystal snowflakes
that fall gently on
my hair
in the winter.
About a meadow
in the spring,
weeping willows
in the
light, airy breeze.
About happiness, sadness, love, regret,
I was supposed to write a poem today.

Dudes, I don't know why I'm not a famous poet.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Seniority, part 2

As a followup to yesterday's senior picture post for Bev's challenge, I want to share a few more photos today.

Not only did I hate my senior pictures, they also weren't usable for the school yearbook. The photographer swore they'd be fine. But of course, they weren't.

So I had to get a second headshot taken. This time I went to the fancy studio in town--the place my sister got her senior pictures taken. I wish we had bought some of these, because this one shot turned out better than any of the pictures from my senior session. It scanned like crap because I had to smoosh my yearbook into the scanner, but it looks more me than any of the ones I posted yesterday. The dimple is in full effect!

By the time my college yearbook picture was taken four years later, I had more going on than just the dimple.

Way more. Indeed, the fat was in full effect. My face had ballooned to epic proportions. I blame the free bagels and cream cheese at my coffee shop job. And the free half and half that I occasionally regularly dumped into my free coffee. With all the carbs and fatty cow's milk I gobbled down, I was quite the heifer. I have no idea what was going on with the lipstick. I guess I was trying to draw attention away from my massive chin. Mission not accomplished.

When I finished my third year of college, I had enough credits to graduate with my journalism degree. But I was only 20 years old and totally unprepared to go be a grownup... not to mention that I knew that I didn't actually want to be a journalist. So I decided to get a second degree in women's studies to buy myself some time.

That extra year yielded me a bit more perspective and a lot more lard. Had I gone to grad school, I probably would have gained another 50 pounds. Luckily for my figure, I was all set with school after 16 years of summers spent at smart camp, testing out of high school classes, and rushing through college's condensed summer semesters. My horrific grades my last semester definitely showed how completely I had checked out of academia.

All's well that ends well, of course. It took me a couple of months after graduation, but eventually I found a job I like and a man I love.

And speaking of that man, this is Jason's boot camp graduation picture. It was 2003. He weighed 135 pounds. By the time we met in 2005, he had bulked back up to a healthy 175.

Sadly, I don't have any pictures of Jason from high school. He didn't get a yearbook and his parents never bought school pictures.

I know, isn't that tragic? Who doesn't buy school pictures of their kid? To be fair, he says that he didn't photograph well as a teenager, but I still would have bought one for posterity's sake.

Oh well... It's all the more reason for us to get lots and lots of pictures taken of the two of us!

Monday, April 19, 2010


Last week Bev challenged us to a game of show-and-tell... of our senior pictures! I'm always up for a challenge, and you guys will not be disappointed, because my senior snaps were pretty, um, not pretty.

First, though, check out these lovely ladies:

My mommy, class of 1974. She's starting a new job today, wish her luck! (My mom's name isn't Packer. That must have been the studio's name.)

My sister, class of 2003. I am totally jealous of how well her pictures turned out. She hit every senior picture cliché (flower patch, furry animal, and instrument), and looked adorable doing it!

Here's what you've all been waiting for--high school Heidi, class of 2000:

I hate these pictures. I got them done at the local Olan Mills studio (you know, the place responsible for so many awkward family photos). I refused to let my mom spring for the fancy studio pictures. I thought it was a complete waste of money. I also refused to have a high school open house. I don't know why I had such a chip on my shoulder, but I guess it saved my parents some money. I wish I had gotten nicer pictures then, but I didn't feel so bad when I demanded a pricey package for our wedding pictures a few years ago.

Once I drop some of this weight, I'm hoping to get some cute family photos taken of me and Jason. He doesn't know it, but it is SO HAPPENING.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

My grasses. Let me show you them.

When we moved into base housing late last June, it was already summer in California and all of the grass in our back yard was either dead or near dead. Either way, all I had to do to it was ignore it.

Lawn care service and inground sprinklers are part of the base housing package here, except for the back yard patch. The landscapers do not enter the walled area and the sprinklers don't reach it. Fair enough, it's just a little 12' by 17' postage stamp. Surely we can manage that. Right?

Well, central California winter, aka the rainy season, was very kind to our grass, and even kinder to the weeds. By March, our barren rectangle of scorched earth had turned into Pandora.

It had become difficult to step over the shock of weeds and grasses that bordered the patio. It was so bad that I hadn't even noticed that Coco had made himself a secret spy nest in the corner of the yard. I decided that something must be done.

So I, in my infinite wisdom, headed out with my scissors, thinking I'd snip off the worst of it, dump the cuttings in the trash, and be done. Then Mother Nature laughed in my face. Not only were the weeds too thick to cut through, they also had prickly stems so I couldn't pull them out bare-handed.

And do I have gardening gloves? Of course not! This little area is the first "yard" that Jason and I have had. Don't get me wrong--this gal knows her way around a tool shed and can operate just about any motorized gardening equipment there is. I mowed the lawn at my mom's house many a time in high school and college, and my dad and stepmom run a farm, for pete's sake. I just haven't had reason to acquire any accoutrements of horticulture since moving out on my own. Jason, on the other hand, has never had a yard of his own to tend because his parents have always rented. You can't find someone more clueless about yard work than he is.

It was decided that we would get some thick gloves and some heavy garden clippers with which to handle the beastly weeds. So a couple of weekends ago I sent Jason off to the Navy Exchange to procure said items. He came home with a weed whacker... which we had specifically agreed that we weren't getting because we didn't want to spend money on one. I got over it when he told me it was only $40.

I was all ready to go tame the wilderness when we realized that the darn thing didn't come with a cord. So back to the NEX he went. And then he went again when the first extension cord he bought didn't fit into the whacker. By the time I got started, it was already late afternoon. I did as much as I could before I ran out of daylight.

It took two days' worth of hard work, but I finally got the weeds pulled out and the grasses trimmed down to a normal level. It doesn't look great, but at least I can walk through it.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Foodie Friday: Double Kale and Double Down

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.

It has been a pretty good food week here in the haus of Heidi Renée.

We had scones! We had black bean and corn tofu scramble! And that was just the weekend menu.

Chocolate chip scones from 1,000 Vegan Recipes and my own scramble recipe

I've been trying to eat healthier. I'm not going to give up the things I like, hence the scones and pasta this week, but it won't hurt me to work some superfoods into the mix. So, when I saw Maris' recipe for baked rigatoni and kale, I went out and stocked up on Velveteen's favorite nom.

Since the original recipe is dairy-heavy, I made my own version.

Here's what you'll need:

1 lb. rigatoni
olive oil
1 bunch kale, chopped
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1 jar spaghetti sauce (I used Newman's Own Sockarooni)
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
1/4 cup soy milk

Get the rigatoni started. While that cooks, heat a deep pan lightly coated with olive oil. Toss in the green onions and the kale. Cook over low heat, stirring often, just until the kale begins to wilt. Stir in the spaghetti sauce, nutritional yeast, and soy milk until everything is evenly mixed. Keep on low heat until mixture is heated through. Drain pasta and return to pot. Pour in sauce and stir until pasta is evenly coated. Try it with roasted asparagus or garlic bread!

I had some leftover kale, so when I saw that Maris had posted another leafy green recipe for which I already had all of the ingredients, Moroccan-style chickpea soup, I threw a pot on, using chopped kale instead of spinach. Jason doesn't eat much soup, but he ate this two days in a row.

And finally, this afternoon I took one for the team and did a little experiment. Everyone has been talking about KFC's new "sandwich," the Double Down. I kept saying this week that I would make a vegetarian version, so that's what I did as a late lunch for Jason. Rather than get all complicated like this recipe for a vegan Double Down, I slummed it and used the stuff I already had.

Morningstar Farms Chik Patties, Vegenaise, Lightlife Smart Bacon, Galaxy pepper jack Veggie Slices, and mustard

I'll be honest, after I took this picture I dismantled the whole thing and put the patties on buns. Jason thinks that the idea of chicken as bread sounds nasty, and I'd rather not have him wiping greasy fingers on his pants.

So, mission accomplished. And if I don't hear about the Double Down again for a whole hundred years it'll still be too soon.