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

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


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