Monday, August 30, 2010

insert "jury" joke here

Last week was a whirlwind of action. I went to the doctor, the dentist, and the eye doctor, and I am pleased to report that all of my body parts are functioning satisfactorily, if imperfectly. I ordered a fancy new kind of contact lense and was sorely tempted to schedule a fancy $600 teeth whitening procedure (but I didn't). We can only afford so much fancy at one time. See also: my teeth would be whiter if I didn't drink so much coffee.

I also went up against the man and prevailed. You see, a couple of weeks ago, I got a jury duty summons. I was due to report to court today. I had resigned myself to just going, but then Jason reminded me that I'm not technically a California resident, and therefore not obligated to serve. Because Jason's home of record with the Navy is Massachusetts, we pay taxes there and our various civic duties are owed to the commonwealth. All I had to do was fax some paperwork over to the county courthouse, and I was off the hook. Woohoo! An unobstructed workweek for me. Hmm, maybe I shouldn't be so excited about that...

Over the weekend I did some relaxing, but also some exercising, some cleaning, and some grocery shopping. It was my last weekend as a boat widow, so I wanted to get things in order around here before the husband hurricane returns.

I hung some pictures in the living room and in the hall outside our bedroom:

Owl print by Happy Doodle Land, wedding pictures by Jamison Wexler.

I had to evict the barn spider from the web she had strung from our patio roof overhang all the way over to her original web on the sliding door. I felt bad destroying her hard work, but there are plenty of other places for her to build a web that don't involve me inhaling it every time I go outside. You can't see the web in the picture, but she's hanging in the center of it. It was strung perpendicular to the two wind chimes. It was huge!

Had I left it there, this is what I imagine would have happened to me eventually:

Oh, and one more thing. These guys:

funny pictures of cats with captions

Look like my guys when they were little:

Friday, August 27, 2010

Foodie Friday: Eggplant steaks and the BEST. SALAD. EVER!

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.
This week I tried out two recipes that I can actually share with you, because they came from TV and the internet! But, before I do, here are Jason's thoughts on boat food:
I feel like I’ve been on an Atkins diet since I’ve been out on this deployment. All they’ve been serving is stuff with lots of sugar (donuts, cookies, cake) and meat products. For breakfast, they serve scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, and pancakes or waffles. This is what they serve EVERY day. I try to just get some cereal, but they run out of it so quickly. I wish they had soy milk. Powdered milk sucks. For lunch and dinner they serve chicken and beef with some mixed veggies. Needless to say, I’m looking forward to your vegan cooking. I feel like my arteries are going to explode.
To me, this is the ultimate compliment and a testimony to the healthfulness of vegan living. The standard American diet makes even my nonvegan husband feel like garbage, and he can feel the difference in less than a month. Nurse, one vegan detox, stat!

But on to the real reason for this post--the food!

My stepmom sent me a link to this saucy beans and eggplant recipe a couple of weeks ago, and I knew right away that I would make it. I love eggplant, and putting white beans in the sauce is genius--they add a creamy element without also drowning you in dairy, and beans are an excellent source of protein. I omitted the brown rice that the recipe calls for because I didn't have any, but I also think that quinoa or whole wheat pasta would be tasty accompaniments. I cut my eggplant slices extra thick to make steaks. They came out just how I had envisioned--tender, but firm enough to require cutting them with a knife. You could really sink your teeth into them, and I did just that over the course of two dinners and a lunch.

I watched this past season of The Next Food Network Star, and I immediately liked Aarti Sequeira, the eventual winner. I wasn't aware of her food blog until after the fact, but she is also a sharp writer. When her show, Aarti Party, debuted last weekend, I watched it in real time and DVRed it. I'm glad I did, because one of her recipes, massaged kale salad, combines two of my very favorite foods that I never would have thought to put together: kale and mangoes.

This recipe's title is a serious misnomer. It has kale, yes, but there's so much more to it than that. Sweet mango! Crunchy pepitas! Tart lemon-pepper dressing! This stuff is heaven in a bowl. It's what I had for dinner last night, and I'm probably going to make another batch tonight, it is that good. I even hand-washed my dishes so that I could have them ready to use today. And I DON'T hand-wash. Like, EVER. This salad is worth that.

A few notes on substitutions: The recipe calls for honey, which I don't buy because it isn't vegan, but I happened to have a jar on hand from my dad and stepmom's happy bees, so I used that. If you're allergic to honey or don't have several thousand bee siblings, use agave nectar instead. If you can't find pepitas at your grocery store, I recommend hulled sunflower seeds. And use fresh mango if you can--jarred or frozen will do in a pinch, but there is nothing quite so lovely as the tropical aroma of a fresh mango.

Coming up next week: I intend to begin Jason's vegan detox with a batch of these.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Daily Navy Wife, Volume 1

While Jason is out to sea, I frequently e-mail him pictures of home. More specifically, I send him pictures of myself. I want him to have a daily reminder that I love him, that I think about him every day, and that he is my reason to smile.
Here are Jason's daily wives so far this deployment:

His reaction: "It's nice to see your smile while I have to deal with this drudgery. It brings a little light to my day!"

My pictures are nothing fancy. Most of them have been taken with the camera built into my laptop. In some of them I haven't put on makeup or even brushed my hair. I want him to see me--the wife he loves--not some painted and primped version of that girl.

I hope that my pictures somehow help him to get through his day. Taking them and writing the e-mail to accompany them help me to get through mine.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Quotes from the Boat, Volume 1

My husband says funny things. Funny things that often become even funnier in the voiceless environment of e-mails sent amidst the chaos of deployment on an aircraft carrier. In my Quotes from the Boat series, I'll be sharing select gems plucked straight from my e-mail correspondence with the king of the cruise himself. From funny, to touching, to just plain weird, these are Jason's musings from aboard the "big metal city."
I can only stare at a wall for so long, you know?

I did not know that you tried to make crackers. I miss your home cooking.

Sorry about the kitty bodily fluid explosion too.

I hate it when there's a pool of water at the bottom of my salad bowl.

It’s like groundhog day out here on a carrier.

A praying mantis, eh?

I've never been one for liquor.

I don't even know what day it is anymore!

You're an attractive lady and it doesn't surprise me that someone else was trying to get your attention.

Glad to hear that your teeth are still in good shape.

Monday, August 23, 2010

keeping busy

While Jason is deployed, I try to space out my errands and find things to do that require leaving the house. Sure, I could stay in for a week at a time, but I try not to be a total shut-in hermit.

This past weekend I ventured out to run errands on Friday and Sunday.

Ok, so I didn't just do errands. On Friday I treated myself to a much-needed pedicure, and on Sunday I treated myself to a vegan Frappuccino at Starbucks. Yes, they can make them vegan now! Just ask for soy milk.

I also got the cats a new toy that is turning out to be very popular: a golf-ball sized wad of solid dried catnip. If you watch the video, pay no attention to my moronic cat-lady talk.

Lola checked it out first, but last night Jasper was playing with it so vigorously under the bed that I had to take it away from him so I could go to sleep.

I've also been keeping myself occupied planning for the aforementioned parental visit. My mom and stepdad will be spending two whole weeks in California next month! Jason and I will be taking a leisurely week off from our respective works so that we can enjoy our time with them here in Lemoore... and go to Disneyland! The last time I did anything Disney was our cruise and park visit back in high school, so I'm well overdue for a dose. I was even able to save us $120 by getting discounted tickets through our Navy ticket office.

In other news, I guess my spider friends are spreading the word that insects are welcome here, because look who stopped by:

A giant praying mantis!

I told Jason that I expect bats to show up next.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Foodie Friday: Cracker Fail and Vegan Shamrock Shake Redux

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 mentioned last week that my deployment eating habits are on the boring side. Still, though, I tried a few new-to-me recipes this week--with mixed results.

A veganized version of Betty Crocker's blueberry muffins. They were delicious, but I really did not need to eat 12 muffins all by myself.

Betty Heidi Renée Crocker's Vegan Blueberry Muffins

2 cups Heart Smart Bisquick® mix
2/3 cup soy milk
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
egg replacer equivalent to 1 egg (I used Ener-G)
3/4 cup fresh or frozen (thawed and drained) blueberries (Mine were still frozen and they came out just fine.)

1. Heat oven to 400ºF. Place paper baking cup in each of 12 regular-size muffin cups, or grease bottoms only of muffin cups. (I used a Wilton silicone pan, ungreased and without papers.)
2. Stir all ingredients except blueberries just until moistened. Gently stir in blueberries. Divide batter evenly among cups.
3. Bake 13 to 18 minutes or until golden brown.

Fennel-scented flax crackers from 1,000 Vegan Recipes. I didn't roll out the dough thin enough, so these baked up like flatbread. They weren't the least bit crispy, but they were tasty.

Roasted sesame asparagus from Vegan Planet. This was my dinner last night. I told you I eat oddly when I'm on my own.

And there's one final last-minute entry for this week, which I am enjoying this very moment...

At long last, I've revisited my vegan Shamrock Shake recipe. I wasn't happy with the original, and my do-over in March wasn't good enough, either. This time, though, I found the leprechaun's gold, my friends.

Heidi Renée's Vegan Shamrock Shake

1 1/2 cups nondairy vanilla ice cream (I used So Delicious Creamy Vanilla)
1/8 cup mint-flavored syrup (I used Torani peppermint syrup, but Monin flavored syrup would also be good--I like both brands)
1/4 cup soy milk

Blend all ingredients in a blender until smooth. Makes about 16 oz. You can add a few drops of green food coloring to make it look authentic, but I didn't have any, so I put it in my CN Tower 25th anniversary glass and called it good. And it was!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The hat in action!

I introduced you to all of my resident California spiders but one the other day, so here's the shy one a wee bit late. She runs a bit of web from each end of the corner and just hangs there in the middle.

In cat news, remember how Jasper has refused to use the litter box since March? I've been making the best of it and giving him litter boxes lined with towels instead. Well, on Tuesday I took away his towel box and he has begrudgingly started using the litter boxes like everyone else. There have been a couple of accidents, but he seems surprisingly willing to use the boxes with litter in them now. It's a miracle! Fingers crossed that this isn't a fluke.

Finally, my feather hat was such a hit that I thought you might like to see it in action. Blink and you'll miss me:

I know the timing is completely off from the middle to the end, but I can't do anything about a 12-year-old VHS tape's glitches.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

there she weaves by night and day

I used to be terrified of spiders. If I saw one in the house, I would suck him up with the vacuum and then have nightmares about him crawling back out to get me. Not all spiders were bad, though--in high school my sister and I shared a bathroom and a little spider lived up in the skylight. We named him Kud'ar Mub'at (after the Star Wars novel character) and said hello to him whenever we came into the bathroom. Or maybe only I did that.

These days, I try to take a more balanced approach. Spiders are useful in that they keep all manner of other annoying insects out of my house, and they're pretty neat to look at when they're not crawling on me. There are a few interesting California spider friends I've met lurking outside our house, and instead of freaking out about them, I've been working on identifying them.

Meet my friends:

This is a barn spider. She disappears all day and comes back to her web on our sliding glass door at night. Tonight I watched her rebuild a section of web.

This is a banded garden spider. Look at how huge her web is! It's woven all throughout the bush outside my office window. She never seems to move from that spot on the web.

I haven't identified this guy yet. He was hanging out at the top of the barn spider's web one day a while back, during the daytime when she goes into hiding, and I haven't seen him again.

I also have a teeny-tiny black widow living inside my kitchen cabinetry. She dangles off the edge of the cabinets by the floor sometimes, but hustles right back under the drawer if there's even the slightest movement of air. I haven't yet been able to take her picture--she's shy!

Does anybody else have cool spider neighbors? Have you ever named a spider?

P.S. Name the poem quoted in the title and the movie in which the main character quotes it and you will be officially crowned the emperor or empress of awesome.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

I told that cricket not to come in here.

Before Jason left for his deployment, we took Jasper to the vet for his routine bloodwork. The results were better than last time, but his blood sugar is still too high for comfort, so we increased his insulin dosage. We also had the techs clean up a hot spot on his face, resulting in a gnarly-looking open wound and a zombie haircut. Not to worry, though, Lola kissed it to make it better and he is healing up nicely.

Jacob and Lola have been keeping themselves busy with non-veterinary pursuits. Before Jason left, Jacob did everything he could to be a stowaway, including hiding inside Jason's sleeping bag and sea bag.

Lola has been working on her chameleon powers.

And finally, Jacob and Jasper take my safety very seriously while the man of the house is gone, and quickly dispatch all interloping crickets.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Foodie Friday: I wish I had made that!

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 wanted Jason's last weekend at home to be full of good times and delicious food. We went out for dinner twice, but I handled breakfast, which included chocolate chip scones from 1,000 Vegan Recipes and an abbreviated vegan version of an English fry-up that I created on the fly.

Hungry hungry husband ate every bite.

Since Jason left, I haven't been making myself full meals. I have a bowl of cereal here and some frozen veggies there, but those things aren't worth talking about.

The dinner I had tonight is worth showing off, though:

Avocado maki, cucumber maki, a Chef's special vegetarian roll, and seaweed salad from Toshiko!

Sushi craving: satisfied.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Back to the fire and eyes to the sea

I was browsing Facebook this evening to spy on catch up with my friends when I came across this video of soldiers surprising their loved ones. I blubbered the entire time and it put me in a sentimental, missing-my-man mood.

While converting my VHS tapes, I found a performance by the choir that I was in freshman year of high school that seems quite à propos this week. The song is a variation of Buffy Sainte Marie's "The Dream Tree":

I'm on the top row, second from the right. I was 14 then, all the way back in 1997.

And here's another fitting song from the same concert, just because.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Sing, tapestry

Top of this Tuesday evening to you!

I had a happy birthday weekend relaxing with my sailor. Friday night we went to a local bar and grill for dinner, Saturday we stayed in, and Sunday we trekked to Fresno for the evening. We had dinner at the Cheesecake Factory, and in a happy turn of affairs, I convinced Jason to get his own digital camera in order to document his deployments.

Speaking of those, Jason left yesterday afternoon. He'll be gone for the rest of the month. I took the day off from work in order to bid him a proper goodbye, so we slept in later than usual, I made him a nice breakfast, and then I sat with him at the air terminal on base until his plane was ready. I let out a few gulpy sobs when I got in the car, but sucked it up quickly and got on about my day.

Last night I had a hot date with my VHS converter, uploading clips from my fourth grade spring program. That was way back in 1992, and the tape is somehow still holding together after 18 years. Miraculous!

Check it out, and stick around until the two-minute mark, because the second soloist will give you chills:

That's me on the left end of the front row. Choir for life, yo.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Foodie Friday: I steal plates.

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.
First, something that is not food, but somewhat related: I was browsing my sister's Crate and Barrel wedding registry, and I fell in love with her fiancé the chef's dishes of choice. I'm thinking of getting a set of them to replace my hand-me-down/Goodwill dishes.

Worst sister ever, right? I know it's horrible to steal their dishes before anyone buys them a single salad plate. I know! But hear me out: My dishes are mismatched, two of the three sets came from a Goodwill in Norfolk, Virginia, and darn it, food will look good on them. Plus, I asked my sister if she'd be mad if I got the same dishes, and she said no.

What do you guys think? Would it be totally gauche if I got the dishes? Give me your best lady-friend advice.

On to the food (and think of how much better everything would look on a snow-white plate):

Chef Jason's chocolate chip cookies, from 1,000 Vegan Recipes.

Saag (Indian-spiced spinach) from 1,000 Vegan Recipes and baingan bartha, an Indian eggplant dish that I made using parts of two recipes. Jason raved about the saag. If I had been thinking right I would have spooned it onto the plate instead of poured it, so there wouldn't be so much liquid pooling under it. Lesson learned.

Roasted lemon asparagus with pine nuts and sesame spinach, both from 1,000 Vegan Recipes. Again with the pooling sauce, ugh. Hip square plates are not going to solve that problem for me.

Macaroni and cheez with a sauce of my own creation.

This sauce doesn't taste like cow cheese sauce, but it looks like it. It has a much more mature taste than blue box mac and cheese. Nutritional yeast has its own unique flavor, and ground flax seeds add thickness and a nutty note. This sauce is based on the mornay-style cheeze sauce from 1,000 Vegan Recipes.

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 14 oz. can vegetable broth
2 cups nutritional yeast
1 Tbsp. corn starch
1 cup plain soy milk
1 Tbsp. ground flax seeds
1 Tbsp. yellow mustard

In a large pan, cook onions and olive oil until onions are soft. This should take about ten minutes over medium heat with the lid on, but check the onions often to make sure they aren't burning.

Add the vegetable broth, nutritional yeast, and corn starch to the pan and stir well. Use a whisk if you have one--it will break up any clumps of cornstarch or nutritional yeast. Cook for a minute or so.

In a blender or food processor, pour in soy milk, ground flax seeds, and yellow mustard. Spoon or pour in onion mixture. Blend until smooth.

Pour into a pot of cooked, drained pasta and stir to coat.

Eat, rejoicing in the knowledge that no cows were stabbed with pitchforks in order to make your meal.