Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Vegan Twinkies














Or, as I'm legally required to call them, "Twinkie-shaped mini-cakes."

Well, it's New Year's Eve, and Ben and I will pass the evening relaxing on the couch, ordering Chinese food, and playing board games. We're pretty awesome at entertaining ourselves (and are actually pretty smug about how awesome we are at entertaining ourselves, so it's probably time to have a kid). Oh, and we'll also be gorging ourselves on these wondrous vegan Twinkies I made! I stole the idea from this vegan blogger years ago. I use my own cupcake recipe, and a version of the filling recipe that came with my Hostess® Twinkies® Bake Set! (Go there and look at the Twinkie the Kid toy. That little guy came with our Bake Set. I wish it had come with the cupcake-shaped cupcake holder, too!)

Happy New Year, one and all!

They might not win any beauty contests...
















...but what did you expect from meat loaf? I made these for vegan mini-meat loaf night, and they were delicious--by far my best meat loaf yet (I've whipped up some bad ones). These ugly little loaves tasted great and held together like champs! A perennial issue with eggless meatloaf is, of course, the crumble factor, which I've resolved by replacing dry bread crumbs with sticky rice and WET BREAD! That's right, I said wet bread. Same thing as bread crumbs, except wet and not crumb-y. On the side, fresh baby spinach sauteed with red wine vinegar, and, of course, mashed potatoes and mushroom gravy. It's like Sunday dinner with the family, except vegan and on a Monday.

Vegan mini-meat loaves
(serves 2/makes 4 mini-loaves)

2 slices whole wheat bread
1/3 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 tube Gimme Lean vegetarian ground beef
1/3 c. cooked sushi rice or Basmati rice
dash of tamari or soy sauce
pinch each of oregano, basil, and crushed red pepper
1/4 t. salt
1/4 t. ground black pepper
2 T. tomato paste

Preheat oven to 375 and oil a mini-loaf pan. Place the bread in a shallow dish of room-temperature water and allow to soak for 2 minutes. Drain in a colander, pushing bread against bottom of colander to get as much of the water out as possible. In mixing bowl, use your hands to combine the bread with all remaining ingredients except tomato paste. When completely combined, divide mixture into four equal parts and press into four of the mini-loaf compartments. Bake 20-30 minutes, spreading the tomato paste over the surface of each loaf halfway through baking time.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas knitting made public!!!



















Now that I won't be ruining any surprises, I can reveal to all and sundry the various gifts I knitted for friends and fam for Christmas this year! First, there are these embroidered wristlets with thumb holes. Although the knitting was unchallenging (just some ribbing, stockinette, a basic gusset, and some more ribbing), the embroidery thing was new to me. I was a little gun-shy because when I tried embroidery a couple of years ago, the result was nothing to write home about. Maybe it's the year and a half of art school under my belt, but this time when I picked up the embroidery needle, it felt natural. I'm really proud of these. Truth be told, sending them off to their new owner--my good friend Jenifer in Cleveland--was not easy. My wrists wanted to keep them. But Jen's had a tough year, and the woman deserves embroidered wristlets.













Below, gaze upon the stripey socks I made for my mum. I know blue and yellow aren't technically complementary colors, but I've always thought they looked nice together. I remember making friendship bracelets* with embroidery floss in these colors when I was a pre-teen (we didn't have the word 'tween back then).


















Next up, another pair of warm socks. These big woolies were terrifically cozy, and went to my little brother KR. As you can see, they're definitely Man Socks.


















I still have one more knitted gift to disclose, but I'll save it for next post. Hint: yet more stripes, 'cause I'm crazy like that.

* Or, more correctly, trying to make friendship bracelets. I didn't really know how to do it, which was a significant disadvantage for a fifth-grader in the mid-eighties.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Sugar plums, etc.














Gingerbread cookies are so Christmas. Here are the vegan ones I made last week... I'll spare you the recipe because I think mine still needs some work, but they tasted pretty good and looked pretty pretty... especially compared to my embattled sugar cookie cut-outs (that's right, this a-hole isn't the only one who can be "embattled"), which were a complete disaster. I'm through with cut-out cookies! They're an enormous pain in the rear, and their dough is infuriatingly sticky, and 75 percent of the time they don't even taste good. So I'm done with them. Forever! Ben reminds me that I say that every December, but this year I mean it!

Christmas breakfast














Ben and I enjoy homemade cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning. We make them the night before and let them rise in the 'fridge, then bake the delicious little buns on Christmas morning.

Our "recipe" involves making some regular bread dough, letting it rise a couple times, then flattening it out on a floured surface. Shape it into a rectangle, then slather on some softened Earth Balance, cinnamon, brown sugar, pecans, and, if you want, a little orange zest. Roll up jellyroll-style, then use a serrated knife to cut into 4 or 6 discs. Bake in an oiled pan at 350 degrees until they pass the toothpick test (25-35 minutes?). Glaze with a powdered sugar + soy milk mixture. And now you have Christmas!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Chocolate-covered peanutbutter-filled pretzels...

...are my new favorite holiday confection, possibly my new favorite anytime confection. I'd been dreaming these up (not that I'm the first to think of this salty-sweet-blissful combination) for at least a year before I finally took a stab at making them a few days before Christmas. (And they are appropriate for Christmas, 'cause JESUS CHRIST are they good!)

Here's what they look like when you're shoving them in your mouth, and below that is an in-progress photo taken right after I pressed the peanutbutter filling (the same stuff you'd put in your PB cups--something like 1 part Earth Balance to 2 parts peanutbutter to 3 parts powdered sugar) into the windows of the pretzels, and right before I covered them in melted dark chocolate chips. As with anything one covers in chocolate, these are labor-intensive but completely worth it... because when you're done, you have a bunch of little things covered in chocolate.


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Sprucing up the place

The tree is up! And so are a few photos of some of my
favorite ornaments:

First, my sweet Chinese angel tree-topper. This photo is from
when I first bought her (can you guess the price?) last year.
I treasure her sweet expression and haircut, and that
unaccountable burlap dress. She's both rustic and
transcendental:




















An old blonde angel, papier-mache or something:



















One of my dearest... a decked-out, Christmasy toadstool house! Or is it a sweetbun? Either way, can I rent that apartment?



















"Lobster Claus" is one of our more bizarre trinkets:


















A vintage metal snowman... one of two I snagged for next to nothing at one of those churchy thrift stores where the white-haired ladies don't know what anything should cost. I almost felt guilty, but it's not my fault they price horrible, unsellable Cosby sweaters at $9.50 and then give away 1950s collector's items for fifty cents each. Really, it's not.


















This is one of several corn husk dolls I love. The lady shown here is a drummer, but we have a violinist and a few others who seem to be doing housework (like sweeping the floor). I should have photographed the one who appears to be shaking her fist at the Man.


















And this little exhibition doesn't even include any of the so-sweet-they-bring-tears-to-the-eyes Christmas ornaments given to me by my wonderful mother-in-law... irreplaceable memorabilia from my man's childhood. Those are precious indeed.

I'd love to hear about your favorite Christmas tree ornaments. And if you have one that's weirder than Lobster Claus, I'd like to damn well see it.

Christmas Eve weather report and
partial account of winter blessings

Here on the cold plains of Minnesota, the temps and wind
chills have been so far below zero for so long that today,
when we hit a balmy nine degrees above zero in the
Twin Cities, I was tromping around with my coat hood down
and mittens stuffed into the pockets of my enormous L.L.
Bean winter coat. It was sunny, cold, windless, and wonderful!

But we've still got a seven-inch snow cover, so I couldn't lose
the big, purple snow boots. And won't for a long, long time.

And yet... there are some things I like about winter in Minnesota:
1) hot comfort foods, like biscuits and gravy (see photo), for brunch,
2) staying home and snuggling on the couch,
3) reading books indoors instead of feeling that I should be outside
hiking or swimming or some crap like that,
4) piling on the blankets,
5) winter vacation!!!!!, and
6) the sense that we're all doing something very brave and special by
surviving winter in Minnesota.














Above: vegan biscuits and mushroom gravy, a feel-good winter breafast.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Cinnamon














Ben and I are both hooked on this stupid/fun Facebook game where you design a little creature and interact with it. It's called "Pet Society," and I'm spending way too many of my vacation hours giving Cinnamon a bath, feeding him leeks, filling his apartment with cute digital furnishings, and gambling away his coins at the Pet Society race track. As Ben joked, if I keep losing all of Cinnamon's coins at the track, Cinnamon is going to want to get emancipated. Ben's creature, incidentally, is a brown, furry thing with big, blue eyes. Definitely order Rodentia, maybe Peromyscus eremicus.* And I should correct the first line of this paragraph, because Ben is not "hooked" on Pet Society; rather, he kind of hates it, and only logs on reluctantly. Recently, after avoiding the game for a few days, he found the embattled Duncan covered with virtual flies.

What kind of creature is Cinnamon, you wonder? I can't rightly say, but he looks like an antelope-guinea pig hybrid. In the above screenshot, he's eating a meatball I obtained in the Pet Society grocery store. (Guess he's not vegan.) Also, he is wearing a yellow construction worker hat.

* Cactus mouse
.

Friday, December 19, 2008

WWI balaclava!















Here's my first knitted "helmet," based on a Red Cross Society pattern from WWI. During the first World War, the Red Cross would provide yarn, and more or less this hat pattern, to American women. Of course, the finished hats were sent to men in the military (and I'm pretty sure the knitters didn't blog about it). Anyway, damn is this hat warm! I love it! A perfect shoveling-the-driveway hat! But it will soon be on its merry way to Ohio in time for Christmas.

I'm knitting a second balaclava, this time in stockinette stitch. And in black. Cool.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

No chickens harmed in the
blogging of this blog



















Weather well below zero, and a "wind advisory" (which means the wind chill is so dangerous that you shouldn't go outside if you can avoid it), point to the necessity for soup-making. Although I was sort of flying by the seat of my pants when I made a vegan "chicken" and rice soup this afternoon, it turned out great. Hot and heavenly. In a soup pot.

Vegan “chicken” and rice soup
2 T. olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 medium potato, peeled and diced
5 c. water
2 T. Better Than Bouillon vegan no-chicken base
¾ c. cooked rice (3/4 c. when cooked)
1 t. salt
½ t. garlic powder
1/3 t. ground pepper, or to taste
1/3 c. TVP
2 cloves garlic, chopped fine or minced
½ c. chickpeas, cooked and rinsed (optional)
1/3 c. fresh baby spinach, chopped


In a stock pot, sautée the onion, carrot, and potato in the olive oil until the onions are translucent. Add water and bouillon. Stir to dissolve bouillon. Cover, turn heat up to high, and bring to boil. Add rice, salt, garlic powder, pepper, TVP, garlic, and optional chickpeas. Reduce heat to low, cover again, and allow to simmer 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Add spinach a few minutes before serving.

Monday, December 15, 2008

It's stuffing season!

One of our favorite holiday foods is stuffing smothered
with mushroom gravy. Here's the beautiful loaf of bread...














...which became a delicious mountain of Thanksgiving stuffing.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Thanksgiving was only a few weeks ago?

Seems like forever, probably because I've been much busier
than I'd like to be. (But the semester is nearly over!)

Ben and I whipped up a fine meal on Thanksgiving. Here's my
guy making one of his delicious vegan pies--this time,
pumpkin. It was really good, and gone fast. Especially
with that four-dollar box of vegan whipped cream (which
actually didn't taste half as good as my inexpensive fave,
the accidentally vegan Rich Whip).



Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Francesca et un Dîner

My first full-color comic is three pages long. It's done
with a brush and ink, and digital color. Bon appetit!

Oh yeah, click each page to enlarge. Voilà!, etc.



Friday, December 05, 2008

Friday, November 14, 2008

New stamps



















If you're like me, your disappointment when the post office only has flag stamps is palpable. They're so boring and ugly! That might be why my illustration instructor had our class design postage stamps for our current assignment, and why I chose a subject much cuter than flags, Ronald Reagan, or even chili peppers: dresses! Disclaimer: for entertainment purposes only (as they say); don't go using them on your phone bill.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Chocolate popovers!




















Don't be fooled into thinking that eggless pastries are the only thing on my mind in these days following the election of our first African-American president. They're not. But I'm too tired to blog about this, or even this.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Soup and sickness












This warm, winter wonderful-ness is a not completely photogenic soup I enjoy eating and preparing all year long -- and during the cold months especially.

Vegan potato soup

4 T. olive oil
1 small onion, peeled and diced
4 potatoes, peeled and diced
1 t. sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 c. water
1/4 c. soy milk or soy creamer


In a soup pot, sautée the onion in the olive oil over medium heat until medium-soft. Add the potatoes and cover. Cook over medium-low heat for about twenty minutes, or until potatoes are soft. Add salt and pepper. Stir. Raise heat to high and add liquids. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to low. Allow to simmer at least ten minutes, then carefully transfer 3/4 of the soup to food processor. Puree or liquify, then recombine with the rest of the soup. Stir and reheat, if necessary.

Recently I made this comforting, savory dish because creamy potato soup was all I felt like eating this week when my intestines starting destroying themselves. It's a pretty ugly situation. Some of my six readers know that I've struggled with this chronic illness for the last fifteen years, and that although it's been essentially in remission for the last year, the years previous to that brought some pretty scary twists and turns. Now, with my recent sickness, it looks like I'll be returning to a particular therapy that works like a charm but once had the unwelcome side effect of nearly fucking killing me. But things are a bit different now, and we're keeping everything crossed, and I'm having soup. Please keep the whole situation in your prayers or meditations or whatever positive mind-stuff you think may work.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Armature



































The spookiness of this armature is appropriate considering tomorrow's holiday, but in my vision these are eventually (like, next week) going to be pretty little papier-mache statues, not zombie-mummies. By the way, has anyone out there ever used Celluclay? It's an instant papier-mache powder I tried last night, and made a huge mess out of. I think I mixed it wrong (too much water). I might stick with strips of paper (torn out of the phone book! those tissue-thin pages are great for papier-mache!) applied with a glue-and-water mixture. A little kindergarten-y, but who cares? That shit works like a charm!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Two October birthday cakes

Ben made a delicious triple-layer chocolate cake with fluffy
caramel frosting for my birthday...













...and I made a vanilla cake with cherry filling and vanilla buttercream for Ben's birthday a few days later. Looks a little messy, but tastes goooood.














And that's the end of birthday news, except that I got a Wacom tablet from Birthday Santa (i. e. my parents-in-law)!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Vegan cabbage rolls are just
nice this time of year


























Autumn in the upper Midwest calls for the cooking of certain cool-weather dinners. Last night, it was stuffed cabbage (the cutest part of which is when you cover the cabbage rolls with the tough outer leaves instead of foil for baking*). One day last week, it was a nice pot pie.

I'm not posting a veganized recipe for the stuffed cabbage, 'cause all you've gotta do, peeps, is find a conventional recipe and replace the ground beef with some vegan crumbles, or break up a few Boca Burgers. And if the recipe calls for egg for some reason, don't do it! Thassit! As for what to serve on the side, some old-skool enthusiasts of the cabbage roll call for applesauce, but Ben and I went with mashed potatoes. What do you like with your cabbage rolls?

Below: the pot pie. Looks nicer than last time, right?















* Don't eat those outer leaves, though. They're just there to keep the moisture from escaping from your little hand-rolled cabbage parcels during a torrid hour in your 350-degree oven.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

"Acute" snack












Well, they are cute! For take-to-work (or take-to-school) lunchies lately, I've been making little edible packages out of phyllo and whatever filling we've got on hand that seems like it wouldn't be gross to eat cold or at room-temperature. I think the above triangle parcels were filled with leftover roasted vegetables, but it's kind of hard to remember. I've also done curried sweet potato filling recently. Little box-shaped (well, roughly box-shaped) packages fit nicely into the square Bento compartment, but the triangular ones are more handsome and more fun to make.

Just cut up the phyllo, plop some filling onto each piece, fold it how you want it, and bake on a cookie sheet for five or ten minutes at 325 degrees or so.

These are also tremendous filled with apples and cinnamon and brown sugar (cook the filling first to soften the apples, as you would with apple pie filling--which is what this is, really), but we are usually in greater need of satisfying lunchtime savories than of sweets. I mean, we've always got sweets.

P. S. Today I spent the morning making Ben's birfday cake, a magical three-layer thing with vegan buttercream and cherry preserves slathered between layers. I frosted it with a fluffy vegan frosting similar to the ones in VCTOTW, although I don't have a copy of that book (I just remember they call for vegan shortening, which is a good idea). I think Ben's gonna like it, I'm just sayin'. I actually lost the recipe to the really great-tasting (but structurally unsound--it collapsed!) cake I made for him last year, so I just winged it this year. All I knew for sure is that I would put Sour Supreme in the batter, because that is the secret to truly moist and fancy and out-of-this world vegan layer cakes.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Garden goodbye














I felt a little like God creating Adam when I finally beheld these short, fat carrots from the garden. I'd never grown root vegetables before, and there's just something heartening in the discovery that it can be done in the backyard. So when the U.S. and global economies collapse and we're all living like animals in the street, we'll be able to grow some potatoes or something.

We still have a few carrots in the ground that we'll pick this weekend. Ben and I haven't pulled our scallions yet, either, and I'm pretty psyched about seeing how those turned out (and cooking them in some soup).

Known for its tendency to appear in enormous bumper crops, zucchini is something Ben and I planted with high hopes. Years past, we've had more zucchini and yellow squash than we knew what to do with (almost--we actually do know what to do with it, and that's make cake!). But, somehow, we only got three zucchini this season. Three! They tasted great sautéed with a little sea salt and olive oil, but left us hungry for more.

Autumn is here, but hopefully that won't mean the absolute end of gardening until next spring. I'm not talking about indoor herb gardening (although we do have a pretty sweet basil plant rockin' the kitchen counter these days), I'm talking about planting garlic in the backyard! I've never tried to grow garlic, but I'm given to understand that it flourishes in the Minnesota climate. You plant the cloves in October and get garlic bulbs in July--quite a time investment, but eight of those months involve nothing but sitting indoors and knitting. Wish me luck.

Below: not exactly an excess yield:

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Always bento














Just because it's a cute, Japanese-style lunchbox doesn't mean you can't put a sandwich in there. Above: eggplant-couscous salad, orange slices, lemon bar with shortbread crust, and a tofurkey and spinach sandwich on homemade bread (I just make little rectangular buns to fit in the compartment). Incidentally,
Candy Penny
and I bought our bento boxes around the same time, and I enjoy seeing what she's putting in hers. Check out that black quinoa! And by the way, you know about this vegan bento site, right? I wouldn't be toting a cute, satisfying, practically-waste-free lunch every day if it weren't for Jennifer's blog.

On an unrelated note, I'm exhausted by school and work. And although Ben and I try to keep ourselves and our home clean and civilized, last night we saw a mouse in the living room (guess it wanted to watch the debate) and mold under the kitchen sink. Gross.