Sunday, June 26, 2011

Dining Out: Cinnaholic, Berkeley CA

Its been a long time coming... Remember when I first mentioned Cinnaholic? I still haven't made the trip to taste these amazing vegan cinnamon buns, but that will all change in 3 days! My mouth is already drooling in anticipation. Full review will be updated soon. How am I supposed to choose a flavor combo? Look at this menu!

Gardening: Sprouts and Neighbor's Gifts

Buying your first home as a twenty-something is equal parts exciting and terrifying. The looming decades of debt ahead of you (though not unlike the debts racked up from college). Debts aside, what if our neighbors are lunatics? Well we were lucky enough to fall in love with our old pile of bricks, and have awesome, generous neighbors too.

When we moved in they had brought over a big meat dish, and when we answered the door they asked if we ate meat. I told them that we were vegans, and so they took their huge casserole dish back with them. It was sort of an awkward moment, and I didn't want to be unappreciative, but I also didn't want to cross my moral ground and accept a dish that would just be fed to our dogs or wasted. So I was honest. We didn't hear back from them for months after that. That was, not until their garden harvest was ready...

Thinking that we offended them with our vegan-ness, we were surprised to see one of their grade-school sons at our door come spring time. He brought us a large bag full of veggies from their home, organic garden. Tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, potatoes, and they all tasted so amazing. Later they came back and brought us a watermelon!

They grew a WATERMELON. With all the gifts that their garden provided, I got extra excited to learn how to make my own veggies. I'm starting, and this is a learning process. Our composter is full of good material for our fall planting season, and in the mean time I turned my first batch of seeds (tomatoes and bell peppers) into sprouts! Its like magic. Hope these keep growing... wish me luck.

Recipes: French Press and Chocolate Chip Cookies

My favorite breakfast lately is a strong cup of french press coffee (I buy the shade-grown, organic, fair trade beans from costco) and some vegan chocolate chip cookies. If you haven't invested in a French Press yet and love coffee, what are you waiting for? Its so worth it. The trick to chocolate chip cookies is to make all the dough, but only bake as many cookies as you want to eat. I save the rest of the dough in a tupperware and put it in the fridge so I can make fresh cookies whenever I want!

French Press:
  • coffee beans
  • grinder (tastes best when freshly ground)
  • french press
  • tea kettle (or hot water)
  • soy milk (or other dairy free milk)
  • sweetener (i use agave)

-Grind beans to a rough/large ground (I set my grinder to 5-4).
-Rinse out french press with hot water
-I like my coffee strong, so I add 1/3 of a cup of ground for every cup of water (test a few times to get the taste you prefer)
-Put the kettle on the stove for hot water (remove just before boiling rapidly)
-Put grounds into french press, add water and stir with a chopstick (or whatever's long enough to reach the bottom without burning your fingers)
-Let sit for 5-10 minutes, longer if you like your coffee stronger.
-Once the grounds settle, press the plunger down evenly and slowly.

Pour the best cup of coffee ever! I add a tiny bit of agave, and vanilla organic soy milk.

  • cup of earth balance (softened)
  • slightly over-full 1/2 cup of brown sugar
  • slightly over-full 1/2 cup of vegan white sugar
  • 2 EnerG egg replacements (or 1 and 1/2 large banana smashed and beaten with a fork)
  • teaspoon of vanilla
  • 2 and 1/4 cups of whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 bag of vegan chocolate chips (many semi-sweet chips are vegan, same with dark chocolate chips- but always read the package first)
  • 1 cup of chopped walnuts
  • (optional 1/2 cup of oats)

-mix together the earth balance, sugars, "eggs" and vanilla
-slowly stir in all the dry ingredients (I use a sift to make sure there's not lumps): flour, baking soda, salt.
-Add chocolate chips, walnuts, and any other ingredients you like (oats, dried cranberries etc of your choice)
-preheat oven to 350
-place cookie dough directly onto an un-greased cookie sheet (just as many as you can eat, the rest of the dough you can save for later)
-Once oven's heated, put in oven 15 minutes +/- depending on your stove (test with a fork to make sure they are done, no dough should stick to the fork).
-Let cool, and serve
-Put rest of the dough in tupperware, and put in your fridge for later.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Life: Four-Year Wedding Anniversary

As of June 23rd, it had been four whole years since my husband and I walked down the path on the headlands of Mendocino together to say our vows. The ocean kissing us with salty air and the wind giving us blessings (and challenging my veil to do the best helicopter propeller impersonation). It was the best day! The reception of course had all vegan cuisine, half catered, half potluck, and the most delectable vegan cake that I've ever had, that my step-mom made. All the guests couldn't believe it was vegan (as if vegan cakes couldn't be delicious haha). It turned out beautifully. Wow. FOUR years already.

To celebrate, we took ourselves out to The Steeping Room. Its fairly close to our house, and I had been hearing about it for a long time. There are tons of vegan menu options, (tea cookies, and sweets- cupcakes and such included), and more teas than you can shake a stick at. This place a great! Aside from being smack-dab in the middle of The Domain. That place sort of creeps me out, because its like a tiny part of L.A. has been transplanted into Austin. Seriously. Once you enter I think you are beamed to an isolated section of Los Angeles. It sorta gives me the willies. But I digress. The Steeping Room was great.

 I had the vegan cesear salad (cashew cesear dressing) and the TTLT (tempeh, tofu, lettuce and tomato). Jason had the large spring rolls, with extra hot sauce (which surprisingly filled him up). Here's their menu.

I ordered an iced Moroccan mint green tea, and he had the fresh lemonade. Both were super tasty, and my food was so good and filling I didn't have room for the vegan double chocolate cupcake that the waitress kept trying to persuade me into (usually it works, but I was too full after eating every last bite of my plate- i mean everything ON my plate haha).

After the Steeping room we went to see Super 8 (we both love Sci Fi). It was so awesome! And to be super indulgent, we had made reservations at the Gold Class Cinema (also in the Domain), where we had complimentary popcorn (vegan- no butter- most theater popcorn is made with canola oil in the machine- no butter unless added, always ask first though), and ice water. They also provided clean, plush, fuzzy blankets to wrap up in while we hit the electronic buttons to extend out our foot rests and snuggle into the most comfortable, ridiculously luxurious theater seats ever. Since they have in-seat service, I of course also ordered a fancy mixed drink with champagne, pureed strawberries and mint that was amazing (no pic, I was watching the movie!).

Here's a pic of us during the end credits Such a fun night!
We exchanged gifts as well, he got me my own kindle (so I don't keep stealing his), and I am looking forward to adding some vegan cookbooks, vegan gardening books, amongst others. Right now I'm reading the paperback versions of, "The Vegan Girl's Guide to Life," by Melisser Elliott (I met her at a vegan meet up a few years ago and she was totally awesome. I recommend her book!), and also reading, "The Sexual Politics of Meat - A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory" by Carol J. Adams that I picked up at a recent clothing swap. Very theory-rich so you have to be in the mood for that. Comment if you have any good vegan book recs for me, I'm always interested in book recs! :)

My gift for him was a das keyboard. Ever since I started working there, he's been asking me for one, so I finally made it happen. Since he's a gamer, I of course also got him the gaming keycap set as well. This is true nerdy, geek love.

Happy anniversary Jason! To many years to come. <3

Gardening: New Discoveries at Our New (Old) Home

When we moved into our new place it was December in Texas. Everything was brown, all the plants in the backyard, all the trees, and we didn't think anything was even alive.

Then came spring. In the following months we discovered we have pomegranate trees (two large, very fruitful ones), rose bushes, passion flowers, lilies, and all kinds of flora that is alive and well but had just been dormant for the winter months.

I am making it a new goal to learn how to grow our own veggie garden. With the house also came a green house that so far I've started sprouts of tomatoes and bell peppers (totally the wrong time of year to plant seeds, but they are already starting to sprout so I guess I'm doing something right). Its so wonderful to have a yard we can call our own. In the fall I am hoping to focus a lot of time, energy and love into some raised beds and landscaping our backyard with edibles (lets just hope the dogs don't dig everything up).

Watch our backyard story unfold in pictures:

This is what everything looked like in December when we moved in (and check out our lil buddy the albino squirrel that lives in the front yard oak tree). I was trying to be artistic with a dew covered spider web.

 After just moving in, this is the view from the living room, into the attached greenhouse (excuse the mess). Pictured is Zombie.

First rose discovery...

 ...and they kept coming...

 ...then these beauties appeared. They are HUGE (picture with me for scale)... and smell absolutely amazing.

Meanwhile, what used to be two large bundles of sticks started to sprout leaves, and finally all these gorgeous bright red flowers began appearing... hmm....

We have ourselves two pomegranate trees!

Things started to fill out some more, and even with our severe draught, the leaves have managed to grow back and add some green to our backyard (that big round orb is our composter, getting some good material going for the fall!) Note the red puppy in the flower bed on the right. He's such a big goofball!

Above on the left, this bush with the yellow flowers was also a large pile of brown sticks when we moved in. There are several of these built-in planters filled with this stuff around our backyard... not sure what it is, but the leaves are shaped like mint, and it smells like mint (perhaps its mint?) didn't know mint blossomed so maybe not?... in any case its pretty and smells good. Here comes the puppy! as usual :)

The most recent surprise has been these amazing, weird flowers, (passion flowers?). They are so fragrant, and are really cool. I love them!

We're looking forward to what's in store for the next months to come...

Animals: Mayfield Park, Austin, TX

I recently took my first trip to the Mayfield Park nature preserve, where there are dozens of wild peacocks roaming the grounds of this beautiful historical garden.

The experience was completely magical. I didn't realize peacocks could fly, watching their full wing spans push their enormous tails up into flight and land in the various tree branches overhead was an experience unlike any I've ever had. So awesome.

I highly recommend visiting if you're in Austin. You can bring a picnic, sit by the koi ponds, walk through the garden trails, and there's no charge. Just remember to bring your camera. Its no wonder they offer the space for weddings, but only for brides who don't mind being upstaged. If my husband and I ever renew our vows I think this would be the place to do it. Here are some photos I took on my iphone...

Animals: Volunteer at Austin Pets Alive! Attend Fundraiser 6.25.11

I always put whatever extra money I have in my wallet into the Austin Pets Alive! collection jars when I pass them on South Congress, or see them on the front desk of a local business. I had never volunteered with them, until my cousin came out to visit me for her Spring Break (she's a sophomore in high school). Volunteering was such a rewarding experience, we helped bathe puppies before heading out to their adoption days, put water in several kennels, and scooped poop (the less glamorous task, but it makes such a difference to all those pups).

APA! is entirely run almost exclusively by volunteers, its a non-profit organization that is dedicated to saving as many animal lives in Austin as possible (read about them here). Thanks to their efforts, Austin passed a no-kill city bill in 2010, and the animals being euthanized has gone down from 45% in 2008, to 11% today in 2011, while they are continuing their efforts. I love this organization and will definitely take a few morning hours out of my usual routine to volunteer with them again. Here's how to volunteer. Get involved!

Tonight there will also be a fundraiser, at the Uptown, watch this video and make your $30 donation to enter, to see three bands, have complimentary wine and beer, and eat complimentary food. There will also be a silent auction:


I'm Brining Vegan Back...

And you mofos don't know how to act. Here's a bunch of photos to share what I've been up to while I've been away. Gentlefolk, rev your engines... its food and cute overload time! vrrrrrrrrrrooom.

 More new home-cooked recipes and ordering out tips to come...

my hands have been full with this new edition, Holden is 7 months old and already bigger than our 85lbs Husky/Shepherd mix. And he's still growing. Just graduating his first basic obedience class (now knows 23 commands, and still as goofy as ever).

our kitties are getting used to the new (huge) puppy, and team up to prove they are smarter and rule more than the canines of the household (Molly- the black cat is naturally, the alpha of the house).

Moving into our new house, we have found all kinds of garden treasures. I'm learning how to have a better green thumb, and yes that is a pomegranate tree (we didn't know we had them when we bought the house. We're excited to try them).

I've been spending time with some culinary artists, jody of butter and sugar, and laine of laine hardy

So get ready for donuts that are bigger than my head, favorite new places to eat in Austin, and how to work a menu when it doesn't seem like there are any vegan options listed. Also I'm sure there will be lots of lots of cute animal family pics. Stay tuned.