Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Welcome Boden!

I can't believe it has been almost a year since I have posted on here. I have really missed blogging! The last year has brought a few changes, most notably the arrival of my son, Boden Hardy Mariano! He came into the world on April 2, 2010 at 11:16pm weighing 6 lb. 15 oz. and 19.5 inches long. After a quick stay in the NICU (thanks only to my high fever during labor, he was perfectly fine), he came home and we have been enjoying our time together ever since! Being a mom has been everything I hoped for, and so much more. Here we are just after Boden was born...

I am still doing the vegan thing. During my pregnancy I found it very easy to maintain a healthy diet. My midwife said I had the textbook healthy pregnancy (perfect weight gain, fundal height, etc.). I never had morning sickness and I felt pretty good right up until delivery. Here's a photo of me and my belly just a week before Boden's birth...

I am going to attempt to visit some blogs in the several weeks and catch up a bit. Not sure at this point whether I will start blogging again, but I'll at least update with some cute baby photos every once in awhile :-) Hope you are all doing well!

And since I'm a proud mama, here's a few more pictures of my sweet baby boy!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Houston Represented! Worldwide Vegan Bake Sale Recap

Houston's Worldwide Vegan Bake Sale this past weekend was a huge success!! Despite temperatures that could melt vegan buttercream in a matter of minutes, we drew in quite the crowd of hungry vegans and non-vegans looking to satisfy their sweet tooth for a good cause. Proceeds from this Society of PEACE sponsored event are going to Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary in Colorado (a place both near and dear to my heart). I think our electric blue "Vegan Bake Sale" sign really got the point across!

Check out our goody table! This was taken before even more cupcakes and brownies arrived. We had some seriously skilled bakers throw down for this bake sale. Embarassingly enough, I think I tried one of almost everything and there's no way I could choose a favorite (though John is still talking about the mexican wedding cookies and the pineapple upside cake).
Want a close-up? Of course I'm sure you're all wondering what I baked. Suprisingly enough I chose not to make cupcakes (shocker, I know), and instead made some healthy low-fat banana bread with pecans(Vcon), banana split brownies (VWAV), and coffee cake (VB).
In addition to all the tasty vegan morsels for sale, we also had a literature table chock full of information on why we should all go vegan, including pamphlets from Peaceful Prairie, how to bake without eggs/dairy, vegan recipe booklets, and upcoming vegan events in Houston.
At the end of the day, we sold almost everything (plus, for those of us lucky enough to stick around till the end, we got our pick of the leftovers!). And in the process we spread the vegan word and raised $650 for our friends at Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary!!
Thanks so much to our wonderful volunteers and talented bakers for making this happen, Mango's Cafe for hosting (more on them in an upcoming post), the coordination efforts of the Worldwide Vegan Bake Sale folks, and everyone who came out to support us!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Houston Represents! Worldwide Vegan Bake Sale Tomorrow!

Hey Houstonians! Join Society of PEACE tomorrow as we represent the Bayou City in the Worldwide Vegan Bake Sale! We will be at Mango's Vegetarian Cafe (where you can also grab some excellent vegan brunch) tomorrow, June 20th, from 2:00-6:00pm. Proceeds will benefit Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary and Society of PEACE. Here's just a sampling of some of the goodies we are going to have:

  • Rice krispy and fruity pebble treats
  • Chocolate chip, mexican wedding, and ginger snap cookies
  • Cherry pineapple squares and pineapple upside down mini cakes
  • Plenty of cupcakes to choose from, including red velvet, chocolate, and coconut lime
  • Traditional and banana split brownies

Not in the Houston area? Check out the mega-list of other vegan bake sales happening all around the world in the next week. Hopefully there is one in your area, if not, throw one together yourself!

I will of course post a full report on the bake sale next week!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Brunch Crawl

Every Sunday afternoon, my neighborhood is overtaken by drunken yuppy hipster brunchers literally crawling from one brunch hangout to another. Unfortunately, just about the only vegan item on the menu is a mimosa or a bloody mary (which I'm happy to partake in, but it leaves a girl needing some food!). So now join me on my own mini brunch crawl, courtesy of the fabulous new Vegan Brunch cookbook, as I take you from the savory all the way to the sweet.

First up are the Chesapeake tempeh cakes with a tangy remoulade sauce. Holy moly these things are tasty. For those of you that are tempeh-haters, give this recipe a try and I think you'll be pleasantly surprised. Really, you can't go wrong with capers and panko. If you don't have Vegan Brunch yet, you are in luck because this recipe is online.
After a few failed previous attempts at making vegan omelets, this recipe made it so easy! I filled my omelet with roasted plum tomatoes, grilled asparagus, melted teese, and fresh basil. I could have eaten ten of these things they were that good. On the side are baked hashbrowns, a nice variation to the typical fried version.
Oh, the bagels. Now I know making bagels sounds a bit daunting to some but you must try it (plus people will be impressed). I literally ate three bagels 20 minutes after they came out of the oven, I couldn't stop myself. The toppings were a bit finicky with them coming off in the boiling water, but it was all worth it. I made an assortment of cinnamon-sugar, poppy seed, and sesame seed bagels. They were perfect plain but my favorite way to eat them was toasted and slathered with some tofutti.
And now moving on to a few sweeter items.... these are the bakery style berry muffins. I used a mixture of frozen raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, and a few frozen strawberries. These muffins had a delicate crumb... so delicate that a few of the berries exploded out (result of no muffin liner, but hey, that's bakery style!), but they were eaten regardless.
And the sweetest of all, really a dessert, the East Coast coffee cake. I followed Isa's suggested variation of adding both frozen raspberries and chocolate chips. This is a sure way to win over your friends and family when hosting vegan brunch.
So don't crawl, don't walk, run and get a copy of Vegan Brunch. You will have people lining up at your door for good food and good times on a Sunday afternoon! Oh, and don't forget the mimosas.

Monday, May 25, 2009

It's Not Spring Without a Little Bling Bling

Friday night I had the most awesome job of baking and giving out (free!) over 150 vegan mini cupcakes to a crafty crowd of Houstonians at the Spring Bling event. Held at Sew Crafty (my go to spot for learning all kinds of crafts), several local artists came out to show off their handmade goodies. Plus there was drop-in crafting fun for everyone! Plus appetizers, wine, candy, and vegan cupcakes, of course.
These vanilla minis with lemony buttercream were the most blinged out of all my cupcakes. Hot pink disco dust is my new favorite thing to sprinkle on cupcakes!
The crowd favorite was definitely the green tea minis with green tea glaze and finished with a marzipan flower (a la VCTOTW).
And no cupcake tower would be complete without at least some chocolate, and these minis served double duty. Chocolate cake topped with a swirl of mocha hazelnut mousse. They may not be pretty, but damn they were good!

A shout out to all of the local crafters! You ladies inspire me.
A Punkin Card Company
Apt 3305 (I couldn't resist purchasing a dessert-themed sugar bowl and creamer from her)
Knotty by Nature

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Walking Like a Vegan Chic

Have you heard that Vegetarian Shoes and Bags is now Vegan Chic? And they have an even bigger selection of 100% vegan shoes, as well as bags, belts, wallets, and clothing! The easy-to-navigate website makes it a cinch to find what you're looking for. Eco-sneakers for running errands around town? Check. Gladiator sandals for brunch with the girls? Check. Sexy peep-toe pumps for a night out with your honey? Check. Best of all, they have plenty of very affordable shoes (plus bags, wallets, and belts) in all the latest styles.

So what look did I go for? Some super sexy, oxford-detailed vegan pumps in cappuccino that will take me from the office to an evening of cocktails with friends. The Caroleena pump by Neuaura has a glossy brown finish with details that makes these shoes look more expensive than they actually are, but these shoes are built to last! I chose to wear mine without the ankle strap.
So the shoes look good but do they feel good? I felt these shoes ran true to size, though slightly on the narrow side (perfect for my narrow feet). The wide heel makes it such that I don't feel like I'm having to balance on my toes while walking. They certainly aren't as comfortable as my trusty flats, and if I didn't have a desk job I probably wouldn't last in them all day. But I thought they were cute enough to withstand a little pain. (no blisters, just sore arches and ankles)
A lot of my friends often remark that they wouldn't waste their time purchasing shoes online... too risky. But I have found that with a little practice (yes, this likely involves returning a pair or two of shoes), you learn what brands and styles fit your feet. And for most vegans, there aren't too many options at local stores for quality footware. What are your experiences with buying shoes online?

Thanks to Vegan Chic for the opportunity to review a pair of shoes! They must have known that shoes are my weakness....

Sunday, May 17, 2009

I Know You Were Expecting Mighty O's...

Has it really been almost two months since I last posted? I didn't mean to drop off the face of blogworld, but it has been an emotionally challenging past few weeks and I really needed some time away. I am trying this weekend to catch up all of your blog posts, and can't wait to see what everyone has been up to!
It feels like forever ago that I was promising yall photos of all the Mighty O's I was going to consume in Seattle. Unfortunately, that trip didn't happen, but I wasn't about to go without donuts! So I used Vegan YumYum's recipe to make these baked donuts with chocolate glaze and vegan sprinkles. A suitable substitute until I can get back up to Seattle.

To celebrate Earth Day our local vegan group organized a potluck picnic, which always means lots of great food to sample! Since we were minus a kitchen at my place (we were getting wood floors installed throughout the house), I went with a simple but classic picnic favorite... potato salad! My favorite recipe lately has been the one from Skinny Bitch in the Kitch, but I just spotted an avocado potato salad in the new Vegan Brunch book that I'm excited to try.

Did I mention I visited NYC for a long weekend as well? Despite the rainy weather, John and I walked up and down Manhattan Island in search of good vegan (for me) and Italian (for him) food, while seeing some of the sights along the way. One of the coolest things we saw was on Ellis Island, where John's grandparents had their names engraved on the immigrant wall... a piece of family history! So I know you're waiting now for food pics, but I didn't take any! So instead you get a photo of me on the Brooklyn Bridge....

Okay, so maybe I took one or two food photos, here is a spelt chocolate cupcake from Babycakes! I also picked up their new cookbook, and am excited to try some of their recipes in my own kitchen. In addition to Babycakes, this was the food line-up: fauz meat dinner at Red Bamboo, pizza in Little Italy, fancy dinner at Candle 79, and brunch at Counter. I desperately wanted to make it to Lulu's for ice cream but ran out of time. Gives me yet another reason to return.

And check out the goodies I got in the mail this week...

Amey sent me homemade cookies! From the top down they are maple walnut, chocolate cherry almond (my favorite of the three), and chocolate chip. Thanks so much Amey for sweetening up my week; these cookies put a big smile on my face.

No plans to be disappearing again. I have a shoe and book review to post soon!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Snuggle Up for a WIP Wednesday

So many crafts! So little time! For this Work-In Progress Wednesday post I'm showing off a bunch of finished projects. So grab a cup of tea, a snuggly blanket, and follow along...

First, it's time to reveal this month's completed stitch-along! The last few days I have been embroidering like a mad woman to finish up the Bear & Bunny dolls. I must admit to struggling a bit with stitching up the final bit after stuffing. My slip stitch isn't the best, so I often resort to other techniques (such as forcing the stuffed animal through my sewing machine, with mixed success). But it worked out in the end and these two dollies have now found good homes. (oh, and that is my childhood Easter basket with them that my crafty mom made!)

I made these boxer shorts for my brother's birthday (hopefully he won't read this and spoil the surprise). This is my first pattern from Sew Everything Workshop, and the directions were a bit cryptic for me, but I was still happy with the final product.
Did you know that March 20 was Meatout Day 2009? Actually, everyday should be meatout day as far as I'm concerned, but that's beside the point. Our local vegan group held a movie screening with an accompanying bake sale, so I made vanilla Meatout cupcakes complete with a fondant piece of meat.
Remember those giraffe parts strewn about that I showed you last time? Well here is the final first birthday cake. The recipient was even sweet enough to send me a few pics of her little one blowing out the candles and getting all messy with the cake (I made a separate, mini-cake just for that). So cute!
I finished sewing the first of three aprons this past week, and I love the way it turned out! The pattern is from Amy Butler's book In Stitches. A quick and easy pattern that can easily be finished in a few evenings of sewing.
And my final sewing project to show off... I made this fleece-lined paw print blanket to donate to the Snuggles Project, which provides blankets to animal shelters. My hope is that a lonely cat or dog finds some tiny bit of comfort in resting on this blanket rather than a concrete floor. My stuffed koala, Barnaby, is demonstrating one potential use.

That about wraps it up for this WIP Wednesday! Be sure to check out other wipsters posts!

I am off to Seattle this weekend to visit my sister and have a girly few days of facials, yoga, baking, visiting a chocolate factory, and shopping. And of course, there will be Mighty O's, lots of Mighty O's....

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Daring Bakers Challenge: Noodles!! for Lasagna

Time once again for another Daring Bakers Challenge!! Only this month we have a new website, new logos, and a very different kind of challenge: making your own pasta! And not just any pasta, spinach lasagna noodles layered with a country ragu and bechamel sauce. Veganizing this challenge wasn't even an issue. Those eggs that pasta recipes call for? Not needed at all! For the pasta dough I used a recipe from Nonna's Italian Kitchen, but substituted semolina flour for regular flour and added pureed spinach. I made my ragu using a simple marinara sauce recipe and adding some texture in the form of sauteed onions, green pepper, soy crumbles, fresh basil, and plenty of garlic. The bechamel started with a simple roux of Earth Balance and flour, with soymilk, white pepper, and nutmeg added to the mix and thickened. But really the whole process is best illustrated in pictorial format...

Since I am lucky enough to have a husband who is half Italian, we actually own a pasta machine! Not that I've ever used it until now. With John's help we cranked out pasta sheet after pasta sheet...
After cutting the pasta into shapes resembling lasagna noodles, they were spread out to dry. I had quite a bit of pasta leftover!Vegan Noodle holding one long vegan noodle!
Sauces simmering....
One thing about making your own pasta... it makes a mess. Flour everywhere and in every crevice!! It was even all over the floor by the time we finished.
But it was all worth it in the end. I'm not sure I'll ever be quite as happy with dried pasta. The two sauces complimented each other nicely and the noodles were amazing.

The March 2009 challenge is hosted by Mary of Beans and Caviar, Melinda of Melbourne Larder and Enza of Io Da Grande. They have chosen Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna from The Splendid Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper as the challenge.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Breathing Some Soul Into My Kitchen

You would think that since I grew up in the South, my formative years were filled with Southern comfort and soul foods. Truth be told I was never a fan of fried chicken, grits, collard greens, or most of the staples of the South. But all of that seems to have changed in the last few years (except for the chicken part, of course), and now I savor the flavors of soul cuisine. So when I was asked to review Vegan Soul Kitchen, a new cookbook by Bryant Terry, I took that chance to breathe a little bit of soul into my kitchen.... and here's what I came up with.

One mandatory recipe to make (for anyone who gets this book) is the one that inspired the book itself; citrus collards with raisins redux. This was my first time cooking collards in my kitchen, and I was worried that the bitterness would be too much for me. Wrong! The burst of citrus and sweetness of the raisins was the perfect compliment to the greens.

Along with the collards, I made whole-grain mustard and cornmeal crusted seitan and sweet cornmeal-coconut butter drop biscuits. The biscuits ended up looking more like cookies, but none of that mattered once you slathered on a little Earth Balance and took a bite... these just melted in my mouth. I also loved the crunch I got from using coarse cornmeal.

Another meal I made was the blackened tofu slabs with succotash salsa. The blackened tofu was quite a hit, and I liked his suggestion of chilling, slicing, and putting it on a salad. The succotash was alright, I don't think it turned out so well because I used both frozen corn and lima beans (fresh is recommended), plus my tomatoes were less than stellar. But during the right season (summer) I think this would really compliment the tofu.
And to round out my review, tonight I whipped up a trio of salads for dinner, including: carrot-cayenne coleslaw, chilled citrus broccoli salad, and roasted red potato salad with parsley-pine nut pesto. The pesto had a very unique flavor, thanks to the addition of miso I am guessing. Next time I would use more red pepper, but this is a potato salad that would certainly please a crowd. The broccoli was also full of flavor, though the citrus wasn't too overpowering. The only unfortunate thing is that the acid in the citrus turned my bright green broccoli into a mucky brown color! The coleslaw wasn't much of a standout, and I didn't end up tasting the cayenne at all. But my cabbage-loving husband still devoured it with pleasure.
Overall, I have really enjoyed the recipes from Vegan Soul Kitchen. Bryant Terry gives us quite a variety of traditional southern recipes, but with a modern twist. The tone in his directions is smooth and relaxed (he actually told me to "massage" my broccoli!). And his soundtrack selection for each dish allows the food to really sing to you in more ways than one (though I didn't have too many of them on my iTunes playlist). Surprisingly, though, I'm not even sure Bryant Terry is a vegan (based on his comments in the introduction... haven't confirmed this!). I guess this is one detail I am willing to overlook, because I sure do like his soul food!