Monday, June 28, 2010

Hot Chocolate knows what I'm talking about

The other day, Hannah blogged about her dream of being someone's miracle. I was totally blown away by how eloquent and heartfelt her words were, and it reminded me that every single one of us twentysomethings (or whatever your age bracket is) can--and should--be a miracle worker. Most of us will never get a hospital wing named after us, it's true. But that shouldn't stop us from aiming to make miracles every day, no matter how small.

Helping those less fortunate than I am has always been important to me. As a small child, I felt so special when my parents gave me a quarter to put in the offering plate at church. When I was in elementary school, I donated my "life savings"--everything that was in my piggy bank--to have Girl Scout cookies sent to the Gulf War troops. In high school, I volunteered as a Salvation Army bell ringer. (I'll be honest, I only did that to get the requisite amount of National Honor Society hours. The bells drive me nuts! But I do still drop my change in the red buckets when I see them at the mall.)

Now that I'm an adult, I often feel guilty that I have so much when others have so little. I can't always help solve whatever the problem is directly, and let's be honest, volunteering is not always appealing. So, I put my money where my mouth is. Jason and I are lucky enough to be able to give monetary support to a variety of causes, and I get to spend every day helping a cause because I work for a charity. We give a few dollars each month to my organization, and we also make a larger annual donation.

So far this year, we've also given to Cell Phones for Soldiers and Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières. Past donations have gone to Computers with Causes, the Lowell Humane Society, Massachusetts SPCA, and ASPCA.

I like groups like Cell Phones for Soldiers and Computers with Causes because they help me recycle my outdated electronics while also supporting a good cause. I always send our old phones to Cell Phones for Soldiers--they sell the phones to companies that refurbish them and the proceeds are used to send phone cards to U.S. servicemembers overseas. For me, getting a call from Jason while he's deployed makes my day, week, and month, so making it possible for another lonely wife to hear from her hero is a no-brainer. The next time all you fancy pantses get a new Blackberry or iPhone, send the old one to Cell Phones for Soldiers!

Do you donate to or volunteer with any charities or groups? Or, if donating isn't in your budget, what cause is closest to your heart?

P.S. Lots of health-related charities fund cruel and useless animal tests. Don't throw your money away on that! You can find humane charities at

P.P.S. And just to end on an upbeat note:

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Stuff I Like, Volume 4

These things make my life better. Note that none of these companies send me free stuff. BUT THEY TOTALLY SHOULD. Also, I started writing this at the beginning of September (yes, last year) but never finished it.
  • Misto Olive Oil Sprayer: I use a lot of olive oil in my cooking, and was frustrated with both the fat content I was adding to my food and the wastefulness of inevitably pouring in more oil than necessary just to lubricate a cooking surface. Enter the Misto! You just fill the canister half full of the oil of your choice, pump the top a few times, and spray away. Like aerosol cooking sprays, but better for the environment because you're not throwing away cans all the time. I love my Misto.

  • VIP steam-in-the-microwave frozen vegetables: These taste great and make one less pot on the stove. In fact, you don't need a dish to cook them at all because they cook right in the bag. They're easier to keep on hand than fresh veggies, aren't packed in preservatives like their canned counterparts, and, assuming you have a freezer at work, are a simple way to add something healthy to your lunch. They even have organic options! You now have zero excuse to not eat your veggies.

  • White Rain shampoo and conditioner: This stuff is dirt cheap and is probably sold at every grocery store in America (except, apparently, my local Target and the NAS Lemoore commissary and NEX... FAIL). Plus, it's not tested on animals. Win-win! I've been using the Tropical Coconut scent lately, and I love it. It smells like summertime.

  • Captain Morgan's Parrot Bay flavored rum: I recently bought yet another bottle of the coconut flavor, and let me tell you, this stuff is delicious. Summer is in full effect here in central California, and I foresee many fruity, boozy smoothies in my future.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Foodie Friday: You Don't Need Eggs to Make Quiche

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.

Because of Jason's surgery on Tuesday, I haven't made very many solid foods this week. I did, however, make a quiche on Monday as I promised last week.

Cheesy bacon and spinach quiche!

I started with my go-to pie crust recipe, using whole wheat flour instead of white. After doing some reading, I picked out this quiche recipe--all I had to add was a package of chopped up Lightlife Smart Bacon into the sauté pan with the onions and garlic. The bacon was Jason's idea, and I have to say, it was a great addition. I didn't know quite what to expect from an eggless quiche, but this was better than even I had imagined--rich, flavorful, and very filling. I had a couple of leftover pieces the next day, and spending the night in the refrigerator only improved the texture. This is the kind of thing that I would make to impress people.

Another element of my quiche was a project I started a week before I made it. I was watching an episode of Ten Dollar Dinners on Food Network a while ago, and the host mentioned that if you soak a green onion's roots in water, it will grow a new stalk. I love the idea of getting double for my money, so I tried it. This was the result after a week of soaking:


The only other chewing-required dinner I made this week was linguine with pesto-kissed tomato sauce from Vegan Planet:

Basil pesto (also from Vegan Planet) and the finished product.

This was my first attempt at making my own pesto. I wish I could say that the basil I used was from my own basil plant, but it wasn't. Since I repotted it, my basil plant has been pouting a little, so I could only use a few leaves off of it. Nevertheless, my pesto turned out to be delicious. Once I get myself a food processor that will be able to handle such things better than my blender does, I'll probably be making pesto all the time!

Since I didn't make much this week, I want to share the recipe for one of my favorite weekend breakfasts:

Black bean and corn tofu scramble

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 heaping spoonful chopped garlic (use more or less according to your taste)
1 12 oz. package extra firm tofu, drained and patted (or pressed) dry, and cubed
1 15 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 15 oz. can corn, drained
1 oz. jar black bean and corn salsa (try Newman's Own or Muir Glen Organic)

Heat olive oil in a large pan. Add onion and garlic and sauté over low heat until onion is just beginning to soften. Add tofu and sauté for another minute or so, stirring often. Add more olive oil to keep tofu from sticking, if necessary. Mix in black beans and corn. Stir in salsa and continue cooking over medium-low heat until mixture is heated through. Serve immediately.

brass + woodwind = true love

One year from today, these two nerds are getting married.

Yes, my sister and her fiancé totally met at band camp.

No word yet on whether Jay will be providing the musical entertainment with a borrowed mini tuba, but it looks like Katie is hoping that he doesn't.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

AT2 is SIQ

First, I want to thank everyone for the kind words on Tuesday. In my family, our furry friends are family too, so the goodbyes hit hard.


For the past month and a half, my dear husband has had this problem where he suddenly becomes unable to breathe. If you have ever been going about your business and found yourself devoid of oxygen, you know just how frightening the experience can be. Understandably, Jason didn't waste much time getting to medical after just a couple of these panic-inducing episodes.

They sent him home with a tranquilizer. Because the solution to having trouble breathing is to be unconscious? Um...

A week or so later he went to medical again after another episode. They sent him home with cough syrup. Never mind that he wasn't coughing.

After another series of episodes and a third trip to medical, they finally decided that the blame lies with all of the nasty factory farm pollution from the dairies in our area and the smog that drifts up from Los Angeles and gets caught in the San Joaquin valley. The air here literally makes people sick.

Jason came home yesterday afternoon with a rescue inhaler. Finally!

He also came home with puffy cheeks and a collection of pills that rivals the contraband bin at the Celebrity Rehab clinic.

Cue the question marks floating above my head!

It turns out that he also had the pleasure of having very short notice dental surgery yesterday morning--a bone grafting procedure that had been scheduled for July. Rather than have to reschedule for another date, he sucked it up and went through with it on the spot.

Because he had his wisdom teeth out in his twenties (at boot camp, no less) rather than in his teens, the bone in his jaw didn't regenerate itself as it would have at a younger age. So they sliced open each little area behind his molars, dropped in some bone bits probably harvested from somebody's corpse (ew), and sewed him back up.

He'll be home recuperating for the rest of the week, SIQ--sick in quarters--with nurse Heidi to attend to his every need.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

the pride of Putin

Boris was a dumpster cat from the mean streets of Ann Arbor.

At least that's what he wanted you to think. In truth, he was a Soviet agent, tasked with infiltrating American kittydom in idyllic Grand Ledge, Michigan.

His desire to return intelligence to mother Russia was eclipsed only by his curiosity about the outside world. The allure of America called to him at every moment. He was always the first cat waiting to dash out of whatever door had been opened.

There were windows to be looked out of.

Boxes to be sat in.

And oh, those American birds.

In his younger days, Boris was the master of leaping into the air in pursuit of string toys, huffing and puffing "HA!" with each bounce. He would jump and "HA! HA! HA!" over and over and over. I would tire of the game before he would.

My dad and stepmom said goodbye to Boris today. He was ten years old. He had been battling lymphoma, but it finally got to be too much. He was a shadow of his former self. And so the vet came to their home this evening, as she did for Darcie and Alice last year.

I will miss him, that Blackie. I will miss making up ridiculous stories about him. I will miss his "HA!" I will miss how the only part of him that you could see in the dark was his eyes. I will miss how he slept on my feet at night when I went home for a visit.

Spokojnoj nochi, Boris, and do svidaniya.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

every time I bring it up, Jason falls into a coma

My friends, our anniversary is coming up on July 4. It's our five-year anniversary of being together (we met in 2005) and our four-year anniversary of being married (we got hitched in 2006). We actually got legally married on July 5 and our wedding wasn't until a year and a half later, but whatever. July 4 is the day we met and we consider it the most special of our three anniversary days.

Anyanniversaryhoarders, I have a problem. My husband is impossible to shop for!

Last year we had just moved into base housing, so we weren't in anniversary mode at all. We didn't do gifts, but we did go to a Navy keg party at Jason's old LPO's house. In 2008, he got me a camera, I got him tickets to see the Dropkick Murphys, and we went to Maine. That was a good year. I can't remember what we did in 2007, but it must have been crappy because we were in Massachusetts.

I don't know if we're making a plan to go anywhere or do anything this year because every time I bring it up, Jason falls into a coma.

My original gift idea was to surprise him with tickets to see Green Day when they're on the West Coast this summer. Naturally, the concert that we could have attended falls on his duty weekend (the Navy's form of being "on call"). Scratch that! So then I checked out the Dropkick Murphys' summer schedule, and they'll be out here, too!

...On a different duty weekend. FML, you guys, FML. His schedule is always clear when I want to go to a concert (remember NKOTB and Pink last year?), but never when someone he'd like to see will be within a few hours' drive. Curses!

Unlike him, I am easy to buy for once you know my quirks (for example, I don't wear wool or leather and won't use products from companies that test on animals). My Etsy favorites and my Amazon wish list are out there for the world to see, so even if you don't know quite what to get me, you can browse my hand-picked items and choose something that appeals to us both. And honestly, I was gleefully excited when we bought Rubbermaid trash barrels for our recycling last summer, so even the most mundane things bring me joy.

Jason likes video games, cars, and electronic equipment that only he understands. He does not like sports or most mainstream music and it takes him months to drink his way through a six-pack of beer.

So... I can't get him beer because he's still working on the last six-pack of Amstel Light I picked up for him. I can't get him electronics because I don't speak technician. I can't get him car stuff because he got rid of his Corvette.

And I am so sick and tired of buying him video games! Seriously, what a crappy gift. It's like saying, "Here, I couldn't be bothered to get you something personally meaningful, so I went to Gamestop instead and got you 40 hours of time during which you'll ignore me."

No thanks!

What do you recommend, internet people? How do you shop for the men in your life?

Friday, June 18, 2010

Foodie Friday: A whole lot of cooking going on.

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.

A note: I don't post the recipes that I make from cookbooks, and there's a reason for that. I don't feel like that material is mine to put out there. I didn't put the work into writing them, and cookbook authors don't sell any books if all of their recipes get tossed online. That said, I am happy to share a recipe or two with people who would like to take a vegan dish for a test drive. And then I hope you'll consider buying the cookbook it came from!

On Saturday I felt like having a dinner straight from the garden. Of course, I don't have a garden, so I consulted my crisper drawer and this is what I came up with:

Spaghetti squash with tomatoes and basil (from 1,000 Vegan Recipes), sautéed broccolini with garlic, and garlic bread.

The squash recipe gave me a chance to use basil from my newly-acquired organic basil plant. Lola approved of this. There's just something about fresh basil. It looks nice, it smells amazing, and it makes everything taste better. I ended up re-potting it in a cute little Peter Rabbit planter I had sitting around.

After a trip to the commissary on Saturday afternoon, I mentioned to Jason that I had bought us some fresh strawberries. He immediately asked me if I would make him some strawberry shortcake. But of course!

So after dinner on Saturday I got out my trusty box of Heart Smart Bisquick and set to work. Strawberry shortcake is ridiculously easy to make, but don't tell Jason that. Actually, maybe you should. Because then he would know that there's no excuse for him not to make shortcake for me!

The shortcake biscuit recipe is super simple if you're using Bisquick (and the recipe is right on the box): just stir 1 cup of Bisquick, 1/3 cup of (soy) milk, and 2 tbsp. sugar into a sticky dough, plop heaping spoonfuls onto a pan lined with a silicon mat, and bake at 425 degrees for 10-12 minutes. I doubled the recipe because I like big biscuits (...and I cannot lie, you other brothers can't deny...):

I gave Jason the heart strawberry. He thought that it was cute, but he didn't notice it until I pointed it out. Men!

On Sunday I made the customary special breakfast for his highness:

Flax-berry pancakes from Robin Robertson's Vegan Planet.

This recipe incorporates ground flaxseeds, which are a good source of Omega-3s and fiber, can reduce cholesterol, and can be used as an egg replacer when mixed with water. Healthy pancakes? Maybe not entirely, but they sure were good. The recipe calls for the blueberries to be mixed into the batter, but I decided to mix them up with my leftover shortcake strawberries and put them on the plate for more of a "fresh fruit" experience.

I've cooked a lot throughout the week, too.

Monday: Vegetable fried rice and stir-fried sesame asparagus from 1,000 Vegan Recipes.

This used up the extra brown rice that I had left over from last week's General Tao's tofu.

Wednesday: Red bean and bulgur chili from 1,000 Vegan Recipes.

Bulgur is hearty and filling. I used Bob's Red Mill.

Thursday: Miso soup from 1,000 Vegan Recipes.

This was a grand success. It tasted exactly like the miso soup from Kotobuki, my favorite Japanese restaurant back in Norfolk. Jason doesn't like brothy soup, so I ended up doubling the amount of tofu and mushrooms called for in the recipe and using an entire bunch of green onions. My changes did the trick, because he ate his bowl without complaint and only left a small amount of broth when he was done.

Come back next Friday to hear about my project for this weekend: veganizing quiche!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Ten years ago today

I was doing this:

Graduating from high school--my first grade teacher read my name as I crossed the stage.

I think my sister took this picture. I have no idea where I am in it, but I know that I was on the other side of the gym. It was miserably humid and threatening to rain, so we had to have the ceremony inside. It was awful.

My dad got me a commemorative brick in the school courtyard.

This was my class song (I don't know why):

I thought it should have been this:

But this song was flooding the airwaves at the time:

I can't believe that it has been ten years.

Foodie Friday: Baker Oats

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.

Our food week started out strong on Sunday with a repeat showing of General Tao's Tofu, which looked way better the first time that I made it. Food photography fail, but dinner win! When Jason asks to have tofu for dinner, I never turn him down. I served it with brown rice this time to make it a little healthier.

Monday night Jason wolfed down a plate of leftover General Tao's while I was cooking up something else:

Cherry chocolate chip oatmeal cookies for the sailor suits!

After my batch of oatmeal cookies fell flat two weeks ago, I had to redeem myself.

Since this recipe was veganized by moi, I can share it with you. I think it originally came off of a package of Quaker oats, but it doesn't match the recipe on current containers, so it may have been changed by my mom or by Quaker over the years. All I know is that this is how we've been making oatmeal cookies since I was a wee little Heidi. I called them "baker oats" because I thought the man on the canister was a baker. Hey, it makes sense!

As a bonus, you get my mom's funny directions (with my notes in parentheses).

Baker Oats Oatmeal Cookies

3/4 cup vegetable shortening, room temperature
1 cup firmly-packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated (regular white) sugar
egg replacer equivalent to 1 egg (I used Ener-g)
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3 cups oats

Preheat oven to 350°

Beat shortening, sugars, egg (replacer), water, and vanilla extract together until creamy. Stir in flour, salt, and soda and blend well. Eat some now because it tastes good. Stir in oats. Eat some more because it tastes good this way too. Now add chocolate chips and/or chopped nuts (...and/or dried fruit), the amount doesn't matter. Eat some more now. Grease cookie sheets with shortening (I used a silicon baking mat). Eat some more dough. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto greased cookie sheets. Bake for 12-15 minutes. Don't burn them. I always use a slightly lower temperature and bake for a little less time. Eat more dough.

Would make 5 dozen, but you will only get half that because of the dough you eat. (You don't have to worry about salmonella when the dough is vegan. I'm just saying.)

Wednesday's dinner was sesame kale and cardamom carrots with orange from (what else?) 1,000 Vegan Recipes. Plus a Morningstar riblet for good measure.

I've now tried 54 of the 1,000 recipes. I guess I don't need to get new cookbooks any time soon.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

It's pretty awesome how my life revolves around cat food.

funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures

When last we spoke about Jasper, I was practically starving him (with our veterinarian's blessing) in an effort to get him to eat a canned food-only diet. He warmed up to the canned food for a couple of days at the end of May, but that only lasted for a weekend. He's now back to refusing to eat his very favorite stinky fishy canned food.

We knew we couldn't go on like this, so Jason did some reading and discovered a prescription dry food specifically for diabetic cats. We had our veterinarian special-order some and and I picked up the bag yesterday.

funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures

I don't know how this food is any different than their previous kind of dry food, but all three of our cats are crazy for it. They line up to take turns eating it, and this morning Jacob was licking the bowl so vigorously that he pushed it right off the counter and into several pieces on the floor. Oops! I guess I'll have to put both bowls on the floor from now on.

I'll be taking Jasper back to the vet in three weeks for a checkup, but in the meantime I'm going to keep trying to convince him to eat some canned food.

I'm not giving up on my big kitty!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.

Through a series of events that are keeping his usual superiors out of the shop, my sailor has found himself as acting LPO for the week. LPO stands for leading petty officer--the person in charge of everyone else, and usually the highest ranking person in the shop. Jason is a second class petty officer, as are a number of other people in his shop, but the powers that be decided to give him the "big man" honors in their absence this week.

I'm pretty proud that they picked him to keep things afloat. I've always told him that he excels at this Navy thing and that he is leadership material, so it's nice for him to now be getting that same vote of confidence from his superiors. I'm sure he appreciates my praise, too, but it means more when it's coming from the guys who sign your evals. Unfortunately, Jason sees it a little differently. He thinks that they picked him because he was the least of the evils--like he won the "Least Likely to Drown in His Own Saliva" contest. While I choose to look at the situation in a positive light, Jason's stress level keeps his mind in the basement.

He has been under a lot of stress lately between work and school, and he wasn't sure how taking a leadership role would go. If I'm being honest, he believed wholeheartedly that it would be a disaster.

The thing is, he's relatively new to both his command and his particular job, having just come back into the Navy last year, so he's still learning the ropes. Although he's the best technician in his shop by far, he says he has a lot to learn about procedure, which puts him at a disadvantage leadership-wise because he's learning things by trial and error.

As a second class petty officer, he's expected to know certain things simply because of the amount of time he's been in the Navy. That's assuming, of course, that he's had the same job the whole time. Not so.

He started out training to be a nuclear power electrician's mate during his first enlistment, switched to working on fighter jets (F-14 Tomcats and F/A-18 Superhornets) part of the way through, got out and spent two years as a civilian, and now in this enlistment he works on the jets' electronic systems--radars, radios, whatever.

So he knows a lot of Navy things, but he doesn't know every single little thing about being an "I"-level aviation technician. Unfortunately for Jason, when a chief is chewing him out for being unsure about a procedure, the chief isn't interested in hearing about how he just started being LPO yesterday and has only been "I"-level for a year. Most guys work in their rate for years before becoming LPO, and some never advance that far. Jason skipped the frying pan and got tossed straight into the fire.

Morale is an issue in any workplace, and the Navy is no different. Jason's command is notorious for its lackluster morale, so he was worried that no one would be motivated enough to put in an effort for him, especially because he doesn't outrank most of his coworkers. But, things are going well enough so far. Nearly everyone in the shop put in a good effort yesterday, and today was OK, too.

Except for the part where a chief didn't understand what a bag is, nor why an aviation shop is not equipped with sewing equipment. Bag (noun): a portable container for carrying articles. Yes, really. That happened.

To give Jason a better chance at keeping the troops happy, I sent him off this morning with a boatload of cookies. No sailor is immune to food bribery!

At the very least, it gave Jason a sweet escape in between headaches.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Happy birthday, beebeards!

Did you know that June is Jacob and Jasper's birthday month?

It is! They're five years old this month.

Since we don't know what day they were born, we consider the whole month their birthday. What we do know is that they are littermates and that some idiot person dumped their tiny, adorable kitten butts at the Virginia Beach SPCA soon after they were born.

We adopted them a little bit later, when they were big enough to not require constant care, in August 2005, when they were two months old.

Who could resist these faces?

Not us.

Fittingly, June is also Adopt A Shelter Cat Month. I would like nothing better for my boys' birthday than to know that somebody out there gave a homeless cat or dog a second chance at life.

So, please, if you're thinking about sharing your life and home with a whiskerface, adopt!

Three to four million cats and dogs must be euthanized at shelters every year simply because there aren't enough homes for them. Every animal bought from a pet store or a breeder means that a sweet, loving animal at a shelter faces being put down.

Don't be a part of the problem. Adopt!

I'm glad that I did.

Happy birthday month, beebeards!

Do you have any rescued animals? Tell me about them!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Foodie Friday: Like Noodles, But Not

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 cooking this week. I blame those long weekend late lunches! But what cooking I did do was extra-super good, and I even have some of my own recipes for you!

First up this week is a healthy dinner.

Oven-roasted spaghetti squash (before shredding and after)...

...and carrot spaghetti (with Newman's Own Sockarooni sauce)!

Both of these pasta substitutes turned out to be delicious and got the noodle-loving husband's "I'd eat it again" seal of approval. Even if you don't use either of these dishes as dual main courses like I did, try them! I'm sure they'd be excellent veggie side dishes, and the leftover carrots made for a tasty cold lunch the next day. I'm hungry just thinking about them!

And now for something a bit heartier:


Heidi Renée's Chili
Serves two very hungry adults with leftovers, so probably serves four normally)

2 tbsp. olive oil
1 huge yellow onion, chopped
3 green onion (scallion) stalks, chopped
8 tsp. chopped garlic (about 16 cloves)
12 oz. veggie burger crumbles (I used one bag of Morningstar Farms Meal Starters Grillers)
2 28 oz. cans diced tomatoes
3 15 oz. cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 tbsp. chili powder
2 tsp. ground cayenne
8 leaves chopped fresh basil plus more for garnish

In a large soup pot, sauté yellow onion in olive oil until translucent. Add green onion (reserve some for garnish if desired) and garlic and sauté until garlic is fragrant. Add burger crumbles, tomatoes, and kidney beans. Stir until mixed evenly. Add chili powder, cayenne, and basil. Stir well. Simmer uncovered until everything is heated through and bubbling merrily. Serve garnished with green onions and basil.

Note: Two teaspoons of cayenne makes for spicy chili, in my opinion. It was a bit too hot for Jason, but I enjoyed it after the initial shock. If I had served it to my dad he would have asked me if I was trying to kill him. If you don't like spice, use one teaspoon of cayenne or leave it out altogether and just use chili powder to taste. Chili powder is much more of a muted spice than cayenne!

The great thing about chili is that you can adjust everything in it--want more beans? Add another can! And you can keep nearly all of the ingredients in your pantry or freezer so it's easy to throw together on short notice without a trip to the store.

For this week's showstopper, I present to you tonight's dinner:

What is it?

Red velvet pancakes!

Here's my recipe, based on this one and veganized by yours truly:

Dry ingredients (same as recipe linked above)
1 ½ cups flour
2 tbsp. cocoa powder
3 tbsp. sugar
1 ½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. salt

Wet ingredients (veganized!)
1 ¼ cups soy milk
2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
Egg replacer equivalent to two eggs (I used Ener-g)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tbsp. red food coloring
2 oz. nondairy butter, melted (about 1/2 a stick, but I just scooped a couple of spoonfuls of Smart Balance Organic out of the tub and it was about right)

You'll need two bowls--a large bowl for the dry ingredients and a medium bowl for the wet ingredients. Combine all of the dry ingredients in the large bowl, stir well, and set aside. In the medium bowl, add soy milk and apple cider vinegar and stir well--these ingredients mimic buttermilk. Add egg replacer. Melt nondairy butter in a bowl or mug in the microwave. Add melted butter, vanilla extract, and food coloring to the other wet ingredients and mix until thoroughly combined and uniformly red. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients bowl and mix, mix, mix. Pour batter by the quarter-cup onto a hot pan or griddle, cook, and enjoy!

If you're interested in some of the history of red velvet cake, definitely read through the original recipe post.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

I already made like infinity of those at scout camp.

OK, so my mom doesn't go to college (not currently, anyway), but my husband does. Oh yes, Jason is halfway toward earning his bachelor's degree in technical management. It basically means that he knows how to fix things, and also how to be the boss of people who fix things.

(My degrees mean that I know how to write things and how to be outraged by the patriarchy. So basically I learned how to be a blogger in college. I'm sure my parents both just died a little.)

Jason takes classes online through Southern New Hampshire University, which is an actual school with a campus in Manchester. (When we still lived in Massachusetts, I insisted we go there to check it out, because no husband of mine is going to attend Imaginary Internet College Named After A Mythical Bird.) SNHU Online specializes in offering educational opportunities to those serving in the military.

Although Jason doesn't need a degree to work successfully as a civilian--as he proved during his two year break from the Navy before he reenlisted last year--he wants one because he's a go-getter like that. He'll also be the first person in his immediate family to have a college degree.

I don't think I have the words to explain how proud I am of my husband. He does amazing things. He is a 100% self-made man and gets very little recognition for his accomplishments from the universe at large and from certain people in particular (and shame on them for that).

So hear ye, hear ye, Internet!

My husband is the Jet-Fixing, Zombie-Slaying, Cat-Herding, All-Learning Master and I could not possibly be prouder of him unless he crapped diamonds.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Where in the World Wednesday: Mount Vernon

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.

Back in August of 2006, when we were newlyweds and still lived in Virginia--the good old days--we went to visit my sissy dearest in Washington, D.C., where she was interning with the Secret Service.

Yes, really. My sister is a badass.

My mom and stepdad came out from Michigan, so we had a good gang together. While we were there, we hopped out of D.C. for an afternoon to visit Mount Vernon--George Washington's home.

Jason took this picture of us in the Washingtons' garden.

I stole these off of my sister's Facebook page.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

weekend wrap-up

Although I had to work through the holiday weekend, we managed to have a good time, sleeping in a little and getting off base two days in a row. Most of the time Jason feels like a prisoner of the Navy, so by the time the weekend rolls around all he wants to do is get the heck out of Dodge.

All weekend we wanted to go try the lunch buffet at our favorite Indian restaurant, Taj Palace in Visalia. On Sunday we got there too late, so we went to the Firkin & Hound instead, where we sat on the patio soaking up the sun and their pirate booze. I had a sesame vegetable sauté that was out of this world. The waiter kept molesting my shoulder and at one point he asked me if I fight the law, to which I replied, "I'm fighting the law right now." Jason just laughed, because of how absurd it was that this guy was hitting on me while he was sitting right there. As if, right?

After that we went and saw Prince of Persia. I've watched Jason play through all of the video games, so I liked it. And even if you don't know the games, Jake Gyllenhaal looks pretty good as a Persian.

Yesterday we got to Taj Palace plenty early only to discover that they're closed on Mondays. Duh! So we trekked to Fresno and took over the Cheesecake Factory's patio for another two-cocktail lunch. I had my very favorite white bean hummus, my very favorite fresh vegetable salad, and a double hit of my very favorite pineapple mojito.

After the drive to Fresno, I needed a brain-erasing beverage or two. As we were heading down the highway, traffic suddenly slowed to a crawl. A fire truck, an ambulance, and a police cruiser screamed by. When we finally got up to the scene, I saw a mangled motorcycle in the ditch and immediately looked away. Jason told me that the driver was lying face-down on the side of the road surrounded by paramedics. I cried the rest of the way into Fresno. I can't find anything about the accident online, so I don't know what happened, but it sure didn't look good.

Anyway, this isn't going anywhere, is it? But I am--to bed.