28 December 2010

2010 - Looking Back, Looking Forward

2010 was a hell of a year, and to be honest, I'm glad it's over.

I realise that New Years is an arbitrary date that doesn't really have any effect on its own, but I'm taking this week to reflect and to make some changes. I start a new job, and therefore a new, much less ridiculous schedule on January 4th, so that's my D-Day for Self-Improve 2011.

I did have some victories in 2010. Let's start there...

1. I lost 20 lbs. It was difficult and I'm not done yet, but I am extremely proud of what I accomplished, and I'm healthier and happier for it. I even had to buy all new pants!
2. I raised nearly $4500 for Save the Brains in Kevin's memory.
3. I continued sponsoring our foster child in Haiti despite some hairy financial times this year. Her year was infinitely worse than mine could ever be!
4. I got 99% on my Medical Terminology exam, the first exam I've written since 1997. I finished the course with a 96% overall.
5.Through my ongoing health and fertility issues this year I learned a lot about myself and what's important to me. It's been a very long time since I took the time for serious introspection, and being forced to was a blessing (although it's sometimes difficult to remember that).

The biggest thing that brought me down over this past year was a sense of powerlessness - over my health, my fertility, my marriage, my work life/schedule and my finances. This has to stop. I'm taking back the power, when ever and where ever I can. I've already changed my work situation for the better. Here are a few of the other things I hope to accomplish in 2011...

1. Lose 10 more pounds and stay at a healthy weight.
2. Exercise more regularly. Find an activity I like doing, other than yoga.
3. Raise at least $5000 for Save the Brains.
4. Get our finances under control. We won't be able to pay off all our debt this year, but we can come up with a plan and stick to it. This will alleviate an enormous amount of stress.
5. Take the time to paint and craft more, and sell some stuff. I'd really like to actually get a viable online business going by next fall.
6. Cook more. I got Great Chefs Cook Vegan from my brother and sister-in-law for Christmas, and I already have The Artful Vegan, so I plan on making some new fancy dishes. I'm also planning on taking advantage of my slow cooker and making regular hearty dishes on the cheap.
7. Blog more. I totally shit the bed on the last 10 days Vegan MoFo 2010. I tried my best, I really did, but work and school just killed it.
8. Join some classes and meet some new people. Maybe I'll start a meet-up of my own. I went to a Knit n' Sip at a pub in Nanaimo last year that was a lot of fun...

There are a few more things I need to work on, but I'm not ready to put them out into the world yet.

What are your plans for the new year?

23 November 2010

Vegan MoFo Day 23: I'm still here!

Please excuse my tardiness in posting. It's been a super busy week, plus my Photoshop is now crashing my computer every time I try to use it *sob*.

On Sunday morning Kirk and I had brunch at Chopper's, a great little diner on Nanaimo near Broadway that our friend Meghan just happens to work at. I love Chopper's brunch because I can have a full meal and leave satisfied and it doesn't include tofu scramble. I have nothing against tofu scramble, mind you, but it's nice to have something else for a change. They don't have a vegan option on the menu, but I order the veggie option with fried tomatoes instead of eggs. Yum!

It comes with bbq baked beans, fried tomatoes, potatoes topped with onions, mushrooms & bell peppers, veggie sausage (or veggie bacon) and toast. It's so good!

Choppers Diner on Urbanspoon

20 November 2010

Vegan MoFo Day 20: Repost

I have nothing new to write about today - I've been too busy (and have to leave for work in half an hour) and haven't been cooking much. But here's a repost: My first "This Week in My Kitchen" post from nearly a year ago. Enjoy!

This Week in My Kitchen: Barbeque Chipotle Weiners n' Beans, Veggie Pot Pie, Vegan French Onion Soup, Tom Yum Soup Broth

The past ten days have been ridiculously busy with work, socializing ('tis the season), chores, and various other stuff. But I have had time to do some cooking. I'm certainly not the best cook, but I do love to create new dishes in the kitchen. I'm one of those cooks who just can't follow a recipe verbatim - I'm always experimenting, with generally good, but sometimes mixed results! My goals are always to create yummy, healthy vegan food that's going to satisfy me as well as my omni hubby and friends. Here's a selection of the food I've made this past week (Barbeque Chipotle Weiners n' Beans, Veggie Pot Pie, French Onion Soup).

Barbeque Chipotle Weiners n' Beans
One of my favourite things to eat is baked beans, and last week I decided to make a vegan version of weiners n' beans (or beaners n' weins as my mom calls them). I used the sausage recipe from Vegan Brunch to make the weiners, chopped them up, and added them to cooked pinto beans and a sauce made from barbeque sauce, chipotle hot sauce, vegan worcestershire sauce (I use Annie's) and a bit of vegetable stock to thin it out. I baked it, covered, for about 45 minutes. Yum!

sausages steaming

sausages ready for chopping

weiners n' beans fresh from the oven

hearty dinner for a cold night

Veggie Pot Pie
On Tuesday my friend Stephanie came over for dinner. She made salad and I made veggie pot pie. I always use the hot water pie pastry recipe from How it All Vegan. For the filling I just chopped up and par-cooked yams, a russet potato, a parsnip, some carrots, broccoli (florets and stems), mushrooms and finely chopped spinach. With the leftover filling and pastry I made a cute little single-serving galette.

pie, made with love

the galette made a good lunch the next day

French Onion Soup
My husband Kirk's birthday was yesterday, and instead of going out for a fancy dinner, he wanted to stay home and have home made french onion soup with me and our friend Hugues. It's one of Kirk's favourite meals, and I used to love it too (before I found out it's made with beef broth). I've never made french onion soup before, so I looked at a bunch of recipes online and watched Alton Brown make it on Good Eats, season 1 episode 9 (I have all the seasons - it's my favourite cooking show). Then I just went for it.
I chopped up three large sweet onions, one medium red onion, and one medium white onion. There were many tears. I melted a couple of tablespoons of margarine in my non-stick high-sided frying pan, added the onions and carmelized them over medium-low heat. I made the broth from organic vegetable broth with a bit of apple cider vinegar, simmered with a bouquet garni of fresh sage, thyme and rosemary and a halved garlic clove and two bay leaves. I added the onions and simmered it for another half hour, then spooned it into two ramekins (for the guys - they had cheese on theirs) and a bowl (for me). I toasted french bread and rubbed a fresh clove of garlic on both sides. Paired with some nice red wine and good company, it was a great dinner.

a lot of sliced onions

carmelized onion smells fantastic

my bowl of soup with garlic toast on the side

Yum is right! Right now, as I write this, I'm making some lemongrass broth for my favourite soup - tom yum, or Thai hot & sour soup. I eat tom yum soup for lunch three or four times a week, but I've never truly made it from scratch. My methods are by no means traditional, and I'm making it up as I go along. To make the broth I'm boiling three lemongrass stalks, two garlic cloves, an inch of ginger and a dried red chile in a few cups of water. I removed the chile after half an hour so it didn't take over the flavour. The house seriously smells amazing!! I'll make soup in the next couple of days and post the results.

19 November 2010

Vegan MoFo Day 19: Loving Hut Lunch

On the work days when I'm too lazy to make lunch in the morning, I go to Loving Hut for lunch. Loving Hut is a completely vegan chain restaurant with locations in nineteen countries, and I love it. It's super casual, inexpensive and fast - perfect for a quick lunch break. And I absolutely adore restaurants where I can order anything on the menu!

Yesterday I had the Golden Rice Bowl, which is brown rice with veggies, tofu, "shrimp", Gardein beef tips and miso gravy. Pretty awesome, and filled me up for the whole afternoon. Yum!

 There were a lot of veggies in it - you just can't see them in this crappy photo...

Loving Hut on Urbanspoon

18 November 2010

Vegan MoFo Day 18: Workday Lunch

I try to bring my lunch to work every day, for health and financial reasons. Here's my typical workday lunch:

I always have breakfast on my first coffee break - I have a protein shake made with 1 cup of almond milk, 1 scoop of Vega Whole Food Health Optimizer and 1 cup of water. Sometimes I add a bit of coconut milk for some variety.
At lunch time I have 1 cup each of organic apple sauce, baby carrots and grape tomatoes, and 1.5 cups of home made hummus with whole grain crackers or thin rice cakes. I also keep a package of granola bars in my locker (right now it's Kashi Dark Chocolate Coconut Bars) for days when I just need a bit more to keep me going.
On my afternoon coffee break I'll have an apple or some dried fruit & nuts.
I also drink at least a litre and a half of water during my workday, which helps me stay awake and stay focused, and it forces me to get up and take bathroom breaks!

17 November 2010

Vegan Mofo Day 17: Solly's Veggie Meatballs

Solly's is a pretty well known bagel place/deli with two locations in Vancouver. I went to the Mount Pleasant location for breakfast the other day and discovered they have veggie meatballs! Guess what I ordered?

They were really good! I don't know exactly what they were made out of, but there was definitely nuts involved. The meatballs were served piping hot with a super good marinara sauce and some nice, fluffy couscous. Definitely recommended!

Solly's Bagelry (Mt. Pleasant) on Urbanspoon

16 November 2010

Vegan MoFo Day 16: Coconut Milk Jasmine Rice Pudding

Last night I went to Mum's after work to study for my exam on Wednesday. She made dinner and dessert! I could get used to other people cooking for me...

For dinner I had a Gardein Santa Fe Good Stuff - a "chick'n" patty stuffed with spicy black beans & corn with a slightly spicy sauce - and some steamed broccoli. Yum! Broccoli is my favourite veggie. Plus, I love Gardein stuff, and the Santa Fe Good Stuff is my favourite. I'm pretty sure it doesn't taste like chicken, but it sure tastes like delicious! Unfortunately, I was so anxious to dig in, I forgot to take a photo of dinner.

But don't worry, I took a photo of dessert! Inspired by the Belly Pleaser breakfast she had in Portland, Mum made her own Coconut Milk Jasmine Rice Pudding. It was so good, and almost the same as the Tin Shed version. She's got some tweaks planned for the next batch, and I won't mind being a tester...

15 November 2010

Vegan MoFo Day 15: Baked Apples

Last night my lovely husband Kirk made dessert! Anyone who knows us knows that this is a rare occurrence indeed! He made Baked Apples (pretty much my favourite dessert) and they were delicious.

He cored a couple of gala apples and stuffed them with frozen mixed fruit (peaches, blueberries & strawberries, thawed & mashed), pistachios, cinnamon, sugar and maple syrup and baked them until soft. He served them with a scoop of So Good Vanilla Ice Cream topped with some of the leftover fruit & pistachio stuffing. Heavenly! Thanks Kirk!

14 November 2010

Vegan MoFo Day 14: Sausages!

Last night I made a huge batch of vegan sausages using the recipe in Vegan Brunch and my new spices from Portland. Yum! They freeze really well, so I figured I might as well make a bunch and have them on hand in the freezer, since I'm working six days a week for the foreseeable future (or at least the next 6 weeks...) and won't have much time to cook. The spices worked really nicely and the sausages came out great!

Some of the sausages fresh from the steamer, still wrapped in foil.

Tonight's after-work dinner for one: Quick Thin Crust Pizza with Sausage

13 November 2010

Vegan Mofo Day 13: Butternut Squash-Apple Soup

So I actually had a rare day off at home for Remembrance Day (Veteran's Day to you Americans), and, other than quietly paying my respects to our military, past and present, I did six loads of laundry and made a gigantic pot of butternut squash soup. It's Kirk's favourite, and it just so happens that we recently got three, count 'em three, butternut squashes in our Spud deliveries - two wee ones & one honkin' one. We've also been getting tonnes of apples in our Spud boxes, and I am not the biggest fan of eating apples that aren't made into something, so I decided to put some of them to good use too.

The soup turned out beautifully, even though I just kinda winged the recipe, but after I finished peeling and cutting the squash I noticed that the skin on my left (non-knife-holding) hand was stained orange and really tight. I went to wash my hands and the skin started peeling like a bad sunburn! I basically got a chemical peel from the squash. They were organic squashes, so it shouldn't have been anything on them. Has anyone experienced this before? Everything's fine now, but it kinda freaked me out...

Butternut Squash & Apple Soup
* 1 tbsp olive oil
* 2 shallots or 1/2 sweet onion, diced
* 2 cloves garlic, peeled & crushed
* 3 medium butternut squashes (or 2 wee & 1 huge), peeled, seeded & cut into 1" chunks
* 3 apples (I used golden delicious), peeled, seeded & cut into 1" chunks
* water or vegetable stock
* 1 tsp salt (optional if using vegetable stock)
* 1/2 tsp ground allspice
* sprinkle of ground nutmeg
* 1/4 cup sweet white wine (I used a moscato), or 1-2 tbsp lemon juice

Heat the olive oil in your biggest soup pot then add the shallots and garlic and sweat until soft. Put the squash and apples in the pot and add enough water or stock (or a combination of the two) to cover. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-high and continue to simmer until the squash and apples are soft (mine took about 20 minutes). Ladle out some of the water, just so there's only a bit of liquid peeking out over the top of the squash pieces. Use your hand blender to puree the soup right in the pot, or spoon it into a food processor or blender (you'll have to do that in batches). Add the salt, allspice, nutmeg and wine and stir to combine. Serve warm with crusty bread and a glass of the wine you used in the recipe.

12 November 2010

Vegan Mofo Day 12: Portland 7

Voodoo Doughnut

What's a trip to Portland without a visit to Voodoo Doughnut? This time we went to the second location at 1501 NE Davis, which is in a freestanding building and a lot bigger inside than the downtown location (very nice when it's raining!). There was only one couple in line ahead of us and we got to order without much delay at all. We got a half dozen so I could bring some home to Kirk, his only request for this trip. Mum picked out a buttermilk bar, and I picked out five vegan doughnuts (thank you, Voodoo Doughnut for spelling doughnut correctly!)

Clockwise from top right: Voodoo Doll, McMinnville Cream, Chocolate Coconut,
Triple Chocolate Penetration, Maple Blazer Blunt

Food Fight! Vegan Grocery

After leaving Voodoo Doughnut, we stopped by Food Fight! Vegan Grocery, which is fairly close by, but because of one-way streets it took us a while to get there... I was hoping to find some Secret Aardvark Habanero Hot Sauce, but they were sold out :(  But I still managed to find some different local Portland hot sauces, along with a few other things that were priced significantly less than at home.

We'll see if Flameboy is as good as Secret Aardvark - I'm especially looking forward to trying the Hot Mango Sauce. And I think some rice cereal treats are in my future - I've never had vegan marshmallows before!

11 November 2010

Vegan Mofo Day 11: Portland 6

There was a Chevy's Restaurant right beside our hotel, and being a slave to my love of Mexican and Tex-Mex food, of course we had dinner there one night! Chevy's is a chain restaurant, and I've eaten there before, in San Francisco and somewhere else that I can't recall at the moment. Every single time I eat way too much because their portions are obscenely large and I have no self-control. But it's so good!

While you wait for your order they serve you fresh salsa and chips. The salsa is delicious, and I think must be made with roasted tomatoes, judging by the colour and the slightly sweet undertones. And the thin, white corn tortilla chips come warm and lightly salted. I love them!

Chevy's makes their own Smokin' Hot Habanero Hot Sauce. It's no Secret Aardvark, but it is good.

I had the veggie burrito - which as far as I can tell is one of the only veganizable items on the menu - with no sour cream or cheese and with black beans. It was tasty and gigantic and I ate just over half and left with a bit of a tummy ache. I need to learn to ask for a doggy bag when my food comes and package up half right away. Maybe next time...

10 November 2010

Vegan Mofo Day 10: Portland 5

I love finding funky local restaurants a little off the beaten path in cities I'm visiting. Hungry Tiger Too is one of those places. Half bar and half pub/restaurant, it seems like a hang out for twenty-somethings and college students, with crazy murals on the walls and mismatched cutlery and dishes. We walked right in and sat ourselves in a booth and got prompt and attentive service. I really liked the place, and although we didn't quite fit in with the hipster vibe, our tattoos acted as a good cover.

Hungry Tiger Too is located at 207 SE 12th Ave. As far as I can tell from the internet, there was an original Hungry Tiger, but it's no longer open.

 They definitely cater to us veggies, as they have two menus, a classic menu and a vegan menu. Both menus feature classic pub fare, including burgers, nachos and sandwiches.

A very respectable selection of condiments on the table, including Secret Aardvark Habanero Hot Sauce (see below).

Secret Aardvark Trading Co is a local Portland company that makes a couple of sauces and marinades. I can say from experience that the Aardvark Habanero Hot Sauce is great. It's not kick-in-the-pants hot, but a nice combination of rich spiciness and a bit of smoky tomato flavour. I'm going to see if I can find some to take home before we leave Portland, because I would put it on anything!

I had never before in my life eaten a corn dog, so when I saw vegan corndogs on the menu I pounced! And anything that comes with a side of tater tots is alright in my books... Verdict: I love corn dogs! I topped them with yellow mustard and habanero hot sauce, and they were delicious - crispy on the outside and moist on the inside. Not something I'd eat every day (notice that there is no colour other than brown in my meal, save the mustard), but a great treat. I washed the dogs n' tots down with a pint of Rogue Dead Guy Ale, a nice, slightly hoppy brew from the famous Portland Brewery, also brown.

I really want to try Hungry Tiger Too again - I need to try their Mac n' Cheeze and Biscuits n' Gravy! Guess another trip to Portland is necessary...