Sunday, April 29, 2018

April Showers Bring.... (I wouldn't know, we're in a drought)

Well friends, here we are. April. Not just April, end of April.

April showers bring May flowers. What do Mayflowers bring? Pilgrims! Sorry, couldn't resist.

Actually, April showers barely exist where I am. Since we've last chatted, Big Pine Key had a wildfire. Actually tonight it's still going on, but it's contained in the high percentages now. But, for a while.... it was raging and out of control:

Wildfire, Day 1
Raging out of control on BPK
This was our view from across the island

Resources came from all over to assist in the fire fight. There is so much post hurricane vegetative debris, a wildfire has been of course at the forefront of many of our thoughts down here. Supposedly "they" are still investigating the cause, but my money would be that "they" already know what caused it, and somehow humans are involved.

We watched as a special helicopter that was dispatched to the island scooped up hundreds of gallons of water at a clip, flew up and staged, then dropped the water (cannot help but wonder.... did anyone else think wonder about the sea life at the wrong place at the wrong time? Swimming around in your water home and next thing you know poof you're out for a few seconds then free falling into the unknown....) Trip after trip after trip we watched, it was an amazing sight. The next day, the scene was much improved:

The firefighting efforts already paying off!
The next day, the scene was much different.
Still burning, but wow what a difference!
So, here we are 1 week later and there are supposedly still hot spots flaring up, but they are being controlled and extinguished. We finally had a real soaker of rain a couple days ago. We're in a huge drought down here. The animals are suffering because of no rain, plants need the rain too, and quite frankly this overload of brush which apparently is of no matter to local government needs to just stay super saturated all day every day, but not a chance. Honestly, I'm terrified of fire. The other happy vegan recently had to go on another road trip and I simply had no peace in his absence. Before he left I made him go around and switch "off" anything and everything he had plugged in that I had no use for, or didn't want plugged in, IE: all ceiling fans, tools, etc. I'm legit scared some shithead is going to illegally camp on the beach somewhere out here, flick a cig or have some illegal campfire and whoosh the entire 'hood will go up in flames. Maybe part of this comes from the fact that the house to the west of us burned down in the middle of the night a few years ago. I'll never forget that... the other happy vegan rushed into the house his voice with a tone never I'd heard before, or since, saying that house was on fire, call 9-1-1 and back outside he went over to the house. No one was in it, it was vacant at the time, but honestly we had no idea if 1) there were actually people in there that did not belong that had caused the fire (no), and 2) we had things of ours stored there (including a small boat) that were also going up in flames, very big flames, very scary flames.... flames seemingly everywhere at that moment. It's VERY rural out here, no hydrants, and an all volunteer fire department. We were evacuated, as were all our guests and animals of course. The great and wonderful Dr. Mader came here during the evacuation and helped us round up the animals.... I remember seeing him on our back porch trying to literally pry our cat Pink Moon off the wood ceiling. She gave him a very unfortunate beating, but he did manage to pry her off and get her into a carrier. Our place was filled with emergency personnel getting us out, there was literally zero time for gathering possessions. Get out with the clothes on your back (hopefully ya sleep in pajamas.....) and our animals.

So, yeah, fire scares the crap out of me.

Thank you to all who came to Big Pine to help battle the blaze. There has been a loss of a home, which is one home too many.

So... all that comes from April showers?

A few weeks ago, I made soup and tempeh Rubens special to post for Vegan MoFo... "rainy day food" theme. This was before the wildfire, and on a day it actually rained. Not much. And, with lightning, which I can SO do without in massive drought. Can't we just have rain without any lightning to cause my mind to whirl with thoughts of that starting a fire too? Sigh..... my ramblings are getting the best of me.

I made Rubens. Of the tempeh variety. Not as in "Kincaid" (hey, YOU don't have to love the Partridge Family, but don't expect me not to!) and I made soup. Potato cabbage soup. And, we lived it up eating said soup and Rubens. Now, the Rubens ... I didn't wing them, I followed a recipe, and sure, they were great but not worth all the extra effort I put into them. Did some sort of weird dry rub spice, then marinated, and put in a special pan to slowly brown. Bleh. Too many steps, too much effort. Usually I mix up apple juice, vegan Worcestershire, vegan liquid smoke and maybe a dash of veggie broth, let sit about an hour and bake. That's it. None of those ridiculous spend your day before blending spices, blah blah. So, you don't get a link for the Reuben. Because, just google "vegan tempeh Reuben recipe" and make the simplest one you can find. But... use the best ingredients you can get your hands on, including the best sauerkraut you have access to (or lucky for you if you make your own). I prefer Bubbie's sauerkraut, it's wonderful. And, use vegan cheese, or omit. Brutal honesty here, I prefer my Reuben w/o the added vegan cheese. Just the tempeh, sauerkraut and vegan dressing is my style on the grilled bread. And, I make my own dressing.... vegan mayo, ketchup and sweet relish. That's it for that, ok?

But the soup.... oh, you get a link for that! It was SOOOOO wonderful. Potatoes are life. I love potatoes any way they can be served. And, this recipe didn't disappoint. I used an entire head of cabbage. I took extra time to clean the leeks extra well.... leeks are always filled with dirt and do take effort... don't omit the leeks, they're worth the effort, trust me. Also, I used an immersion blender to blend up the soup partially, but I don't like a full puree of any soup so I'd say my version was about 60 nonblended/40 blended. Whatever works for you.

Here's the link:

Here's a picture:

Yeah, there's vegan cheese on this one.
I made it for the other happy vegan. I prefer mine without.
That soup though.... perfection. And, I jammed some coconut bacon on top!
My view on the day I made this:

It didn't rain enough to prevent a wildfire on Big Pine....
But, it did rain.

So, there it all is. Rainy picture. Rainy sandwich. Rainy soup. We're precariously close to the "rainy season" starting down here. That's code for hurricane season. Don't be a shithead and ask me if I'm ready for hurricane season. I will never be ready again for hurricane season. Nothing can make me ready for what really does happen in a natural disaster. But, yeah, we've got our plans nailed down as best as possible for "what if" and that's all I'll say about that here.

We welcome the rain. We will not welcome another natural disaster. One last tidbit that surprised me. When the wildfire hit, I didn't panic, but was all consumed by it moment by moment. Then, I went looking for the ferals. This was during the time that the power had been intentionally cut in that area, I guess it had something to do with protecting that infrastructure or whatever. Well.... driving down the Overseas the roads were filled with emergency vehicles parked and staged in various areas, as well as some with flashing lights speeding to different spots. And it was dark. Very dark. Very VERY dark. No lights. Nothing. So eerie. Major flashbacks to the post Irma time we lived through, along with physical manifestations of sickness from stress, anxiety or whatever you call that. I wasn't really prepared for those feelings. It's been difficult getting through even 7.5 months post hurricane, but I guess part of me didn't want to admit just how scarred I remain inside from what we've endured.

We'll be here for May blogging, but probably you won't find any pilgrims alongside. In the mean time, I suppose it would be nice if you'd do a rain dance but ask for no lightning please, and yeah, make some soup cuz even in summer soup is the bomb. 

Vegan soupy (and sandwichy) love to you til next time.


Saturday, March 31, 2018

March(ing) on.... Green Stuff (ie: food & crafts)

Well here we are last day of March 2018. Our prompt for MiniMoFo this month was basically sharing the green, after all it WAS St. Patrick's Day what seems like ages ago (although in reality merely about 10+ days ago).

It's been another busy month around here, if you follow along on Facebook you know I post more there than here, it's just easier for me. I had lots of ideas for green, but basically when it came down to the wire, I made a sandwich and I did my first post-Irma crafting. The sandwich was inspired by a gorgeous photo I saw on someones Pinterest page, all green things and of course vegan. My version was DeLand brand vegan gluten free bread stuffed with avocado (can you believe it?!! Me and avocado!), overloaded with organic greens, a super fast pesto I made using a purchased basil paste (hey don't hate.... it's March, where I am you try and find organic fresh basil that's not outrageously priced this time of year), a sprinkle of pico de gallo I made inspired by the cafe I'm working at part time, and a slice of Follow Your Heart vegan cheese. I made a toastee, or as we call it on this side of the pond, a grilled sandwich. If I had a panini press, it would've landed in there, probably would've looked better. I contemplated shoving this in the waffle iron, but was too lazy to rummage around... the kitchen is still mostly non-functional and the waffle iron is tucked away in a large tote somewhere. Here's my sandwich:

Mostly green!
So, perhaps it's not as pretty as the sandwich that inspired me, but dang this was super tasty. Here's what I used for the pesto:

1 cup vegan parm cheese
1/2 cup walnuts
1/4 cup olive oil
3T basil paste
pepper to taste
(yes you read this right.... no added garlic, amazing how tasty this is even without the garlic. I don't have garlic in the house anymore since basically I'm still not cooking)

I put a dash of vegan butter on the bread, heated a small skillet, built the sandwich, and heated it in the pan. Then I ate it. With avocado. Yes, I ate avocado. A miracle. Not a miracle are my photography skills. I should take a class to improve on that. Then again, I'm still using that antique phone so I'm grateful there's any photos at all, yay!

The next thing I did was my first post hurricane crafting effort. I saw a "thing" on line about cold porcelain. I was interested enough to give it a try. I used vegan white glue, cornstarch, mineral oil and lemon juice. Honestly, not worth my effort. I'm making a set of wind chimes. In the last few weeks, we've had a lot of new landscaping going in on our property, the 2 empty lots which used to be thick with hardwood trees that were completely destroyed, and the neighbor's house on the opposite of the lot. The lot is being reforested through the efforts of the neighbors. They, at their own cost and expense, are going through the effort, and major expense, to get the approvals and trees (have to have every tree approved by gov't officials) planted on these 2 County conservation lots. Because they want to see our area re beautified. The big diggers came and worked all day for a few days. It looks so much nicer, so great to see GREEN! So, there's more birds now. And bees. And, Key deer seem to be wandering through more often. Which made me want to hang chimes on my  property. So, I made cold porcelain hearts, stamped them, painted them, and will be stringing these on some driftwood (pick of the litter around these parts) and then hanging this eventually. They won't chime, and were a half hearted effort since I was very unhappy with the cold porcelain. But, tomorrow is the day I string them and hang them. The letters are here. I'm going to cover them with iridescent paint and seal them with vegan friendly outdoor sealer before they go out there. More green. Here's the lettering:

vegan is love
vegan cold porcelain getting ready to be turned into outdoor chimes
I'm pretty sure I'm hanging up my crafting apron for a long time. Most of my art and crafting stash was also destroyed and won't be replaced. I was lucky enough to find and save most of my brushes, and a very small amount of paints. I also found and kept my stencils which I plan on using for a larger scale pallet project to brighten up the grounds. That I will absolutely share with you, once that day comes.  The cold porcelain was no better or worse than cornstarch or clay, but I found it more difficult to stamp, which is why I painted on the letters. Nothing special here, just something I've been wanting to try. Since the MiniMoFo prompt said our green efforts could be pretty much about anything, why not crafting too.

March flew by. I always hope to have more interesting posts, and more frequent posts, but it's a challenge. Let's see what April brings (well, April showers bring May flowers.... this I know) and look for a post here over the next month. Maybe more if things swing my way.

Vegan for the win, green style. I miss you guys! Thanks for your support. xo

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Food is Love

This post is my contribution for February's "food is love" prompt in Vegan Month of Food world, but is also a little update about things.

I've not felt up to shooting videos for a while. The red tape boondoggle has continued, and it takes a toll on every level for us; financially, emotionally, physically (yeah, don't ask me why but stress sure does manifest with physical issues, right?) So, instead I've been working a couple jobs sometimes with odd hours. I've been treated to rising in pre-dawn hours which at times allows me to see the sunrise as I drive up the Keys, and also at times driving home very late with largely vacant roads (although still seem to find the annoying drivers who just "have" to pass in no pass zones.... ugh). The kitchen here is still not up to speed, so my forays into food preparation are nothing complicated. I'm really looking forward to summertime when the fruits and more veggies are back in season, not really sure what will come our way in post-Irma world of growing (so many farmers on the mainland took a huge hit, not just our local beloveds like the Grimal Grove) but I am sure there will be more variety coming down the pike.

So, this is February, and many people turn to thoughts of love because well, Valentine's Day. In years past, I've always made an extra nice presentation here at the bed and breakfast for guests, this year that was off the radar since we're still closed. I did reminisce though to the times I offered up "Single Awareness Day" cookies for the stores. 

Singles Awareness Day is always so much more fun than Valentines
in my opinion!
This year Valentines Day came and went with zero pomp or festivities. I have had it on my mind though to work more with aquafaba, so I took a crack at Valentines macarons, since my prior attempts at macarons with aquafaba had come out perfectly. You'll note there are no pictures here of Valentines macarons..... you do that math.

One of the perks of working in a natural foods cafe is the aquafaba. It comes my way. In copious amounts if I want. Since we finally have a freezer again for the last couple months or so, I have a few items back on ice in larger quantities, well ok 2 items... frozen wild blueberries and a bit of frozen aquafaba once again. Although I enjoy the concept of meringues, I seriously do not like the taste. Sugar, pure sugar, just far too sweet for me. But, I have fun from time to time making things out of little meringues. Since I'm a fan of chocolate, I've been wanting to make a chocolate meringue, but you must remember oils/fats are the enemy of meringues. As I was wiling my night away (insomnia....) a few weeks ago, I found a method for chocolate meringues. I improvised a little bit, and then a little bit more. The method on line was to make your aquafaba meringues, and then fold melted cooled chocolate into the meringue batter. When I followed this method, little by little the meringues deflated. But the flavor..... ooh, the flavor! So wonderful!

These are the aquafaba vegan meringues using the "fold in" chocolate method
Perfect flavor, but the structure.... not so much.

I then got to thinking more about filling them. I piped little discs onto the parchment, and then piped bits of cooled melted vegan chocolate onto the discs. I took a toothpick and swirled the chocolate just a bit on each one, and then piped a vegan aquafaba meringue "kiss" on top of every one. See?

As you can see, the meringues were much more full bodied this way.
I drizzled some additional melted chocolate on them too.

I've made the chocolate filled meringues a few more times, each time with varying degrees of success. No matter what, the chocolate contacts the meringue, and that causes them to deflate to a certain extent. My next batch will be the last method... I'm going to pipe larger "kiss" style meringues onto the parchment, and then with a smaller nozzle I intend to inject the chocolate into each meringue then dry. I also will try half of the batch in my dehydrator instead of the oven method just to test the differences.

People everywhere seem to love meringues. I brought the chocolate ones to the store cafe where I'm working and people went mad for them, which made me happy. Anything cruelty free that brings to smiles about is what it's about.

I missed last month's prompt, it was "creating warmth." I'm still going to work on my creation, I desperately wanted to veganize my mothers stroganoff, but I couldn't find eggless noodles, and worse yet, her tiny yellow recipe book (remember that thing from a video years ago?) is MIA since Irma. There's hardly any recipes in there to begin with, but it had the stroganoff recipe... she used dead cow back in the day I have extra mushrooms, or if I change my mind I will forage for a bag of vegan crumbles conveniently for sale in the store of the cafe where I'm working. I have a bag of beautiful organic mushrooms again in the fridge, I'm so hoping I can find her book, because as a little miracle I did finally find eggless noodles while up on a very short road trip to the mainland last week. I have tomorrow as a day off and my intentions are of course spend half my time doing administrative work that all of us are coping with in post Irma world, but the other half of the day is devoted to locating mom's book and veganizing that recipe. As I always say... hope springs eternal.

So, there's my contribution for "food is love" during the month of February (today is the 27th... I'm a day ahead, right? haha!) I hope you've been continuing to follow the monthly mini prompts on the VeganMoFo site, and that you're continuing to follow along the happenings here at the inn. We're getting there, slowly but sure, we're getting there. In just about another month or so, it looks like the kitchen will be back to almost full function too.... makes me look forward to all the wonderful prompts coming down the pike for VeganMoFo!

Till next time.... sending the vegan love! xo

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Happy New Year - Welcome 2018, Hurry Hurry!

When you are born
in a world you don't fit in
It's because you were born
to help create a new one

Happy New Year dear ones.
Let's make it big.

Kiss My Ass 2017
Cheers to 2018 in the biggest way possible!

Go vegan, stay vegan.

Monday, December 25, 2017

And So This Is Christmas

This time of year I do my best impression of a hibernating bear. Mostly it's due to super long hours in the kitchen bakery getting orders ready for shipping and local delivery. This year sure was different since my kitchen remains almost totally offline (still not conducive to VeganMoFo, mini or not). I found myself retreating inwards even more, not for the best of reasons either. Finally I decided to make an effort to shake the blues and I've started working outside the bed and breakfast. Two part time jobs, one involving food (vegan!) the other involving animals (aw). The scheduling is a lot harder to get used to than expected, and the driving involved can be quite treacherous this time of year (we've moved into season here, honestly even with less visitors to the Keys due to Irma, the roads remain very clogged with people taking ridiculous and unnecessary risks like passing in no passing zones, speeding, shooting iPhone video while driving, and so forth). Since we're not reopened yet, and I couldn't take a single baking order, I thought it best to find a purpose, that's where the jobs come in. We are making slow progress around here,  I'd like to say slow and steady progress but it's not that way. Some days we accomplish far more than other days, some days it seems absolutely nothing gets done. Once January hits, things will get back to a more normal schedule and it will be hopefully easier to get things done. The County has been slower than normal, contractors that have been working like mad have taken some well earned time off, and many people tend to get caught up in this whole holiday madness thing.

Down here, the community did a lot of nice things for a lot of people in need. We did our small part, for what we were able, driving around a couple neighborhoods, being silly and handing out small boxes and bags of vegan cookies. I'd also like to say that really brought a warm fuzzy but damn it was so hard being in such hard hit areas (yes, our neighborhood is among the hardest hit too, but since I don't go out much, I ignore the realities that go with all that). Both of us happy vegans were out there, and we had a little elf with us... the son of our neighbors, he is such a fine and sweet boy. He was so sweet and excited handing out the cookies. People were hugging him, thanking him. It was just cookie, not a magic wand. It simply sucks looking at shattered lives when all you have to give is a cookie. After we were all finished, the little elf said something like "wow, those are some messed up houses, we should do this more often." Mind you, this sweet little elf had his own life and house shattered thanks to Irma, and they too are putting back their own pieces. But there he was with a smile, a big heart, caring about others knowing full well we should do that more often.

The reality is, at least for us, we can't. At least not yet. We have to keep our eye on the prize though, and that means rebuilding our lives and our business. There is so much red tape that has been an issue, and so much unnecessary nonsense that we have zero control over. If you've been following us for a while, you know full well the way I cope with stress is either through running, exercise or working with food. Triple frustrating because those things have all been compromised as well.

So frustrating.

Despite all the stumbling blocks, I was very determined to do something for us, and something... anything... for the community. The cookies started out as a donation for one of the great feeding the community programs that has popped up, but they didn't get picked up on time. That's when we decided to head out ourselves, which was a good, but hard, move.  I baked several hundred very plain, but still kinda cute vegan sugar and gingerbread cookies in (Key) deer and people shapes. They looked like this before bagging:

And this after bagging:

We had a visit from one of Santa's reindeer on Christmas Eve:

We took a trip up to the mainland a few weeks ago to do some business, have some really important meetings about some really important issues we're dealing with, and we stopped into IKEA to have a look around at some ideas for decorating when we finish the rebuild. Yup, IKEA is know for ultra modern, but we were super pleasantly surprised to find 1) vegan food in the cafeteria and 2) furniture styles that can blend into coastal styling and some really great storage design ideas. We also stumbled upon an accidentally vegan gingerbread house that (of course) needs assembly, IKEA style. It was $4! I had to get one! So, with some accidentally vegan candies from the local CVS (by the way, I never knew that CVS has it's own brand of candy, some of which actually says "vegan" on the label), a little aquafaba royal icing, and some vegan sprinkles I get from Sweetopolita, we came up with this:

Since cooking and baking really is not happening on a regular basis here due to logistical issues as well as mechanical issues (you have no idea how much went into baking those couple hundred bags and boxes of cookies.... but it was still worth all the challenges), and I knew I wanted to do my best to have a nice post for MiniMoFo as well as keeping my own tradition of an annual Buche de Noel, I had my wishes granted by the raw fairy when I stumbled upon a photo of a raw Yule log on facebook. The recipe is offered in a free seasonal e-book download from Joey's Kitchen. Seriously, their picture is mind blowing, it stole my heart. I knew as soon as I saw it that was the ticket. I headed out a few weeks ago to get the 1 ingredient I did not have (psyllium powder), and this is what I came up with:

That, dear hearts, is a raw, vegan organic Buche de Noel. I decorated it with organic pomegranate seeds I had left from a few poms we picked up while at Whole Foods on the mainland, as well as some raw cacao nibs. The ganache softens quickly at room temperature, I think if I let the cake chill a little bit longer the sugar snow would've held up better, but I was happy, very happy, very VERY happy. If you want to make that same cake, you can look up "Joey's Plate" on facebook and sign up for the free ebook. I'd give you the link, but it's only a sign up link. Get the book, its free and has several recipes.

I do write about life post Irma, because that is my reality. I suppose if one doesn't live here or visit here to help repair lives, it's hard to fathom what it's like right now, but basically it's all consuming and exhausting. Knowing this, we HAVE to keep our spirits up, do silly things, find a way to get through the day helping someone else, find a way to laugh, anything along those lines. We lost most of our family things for Christmas, and what was saved just didn't make sense to drag out only to be covered in the dust from drywall sanding or whatever else is floating around. Instead, I had an idea and asked the other happy vegan to grab the ladder that was our very good friend for a couple months as a stand in for when we had no steps. I came up with this:

He opened up the ladder and together we started grabbing random things lying around.... contractors demolition bags, paint chip samples, stirrers, outlet covers, caution tape that we had leftover from the house we lived when we had it roped off before final demolition... you get the idea. The "angel" on top is a safety lantern that was donated to us in a relief delivery from Adam & Timberly along with one of the respirators they donated as well. I popped on the head of a broken angel that my dad gave to me many years ago retrieved from underneath some rubble. It made us laugh, mission accomplished.

And, finally, last night in the stillness I decided to find it in me to be with nature, which used to be one of my most favorite things. I rarely go outside anymore, I don't think walking from where ever I may be to my car counts either. When I went outside I saw the deer walking by, a fish jumping past the flats, and was treated to the most amazing technicolor sunset:

After I took the shot above, the sun did set, and the sky went from fire oranges and amber to pinks and purples, then finally to black. Since it was Christmas Eve, I stayed out there til the other happy vegan joined me, and we walked up onto the roof to watch Santa & Rudolph fly over. Every year some kind pilot gets some special clearances and flies down the Keys with just a red glowing light. High enough so the wee ones can't see him, but low enough that us not-so-wee ones hear the gentle buzz of the props. The schedule is published ahead of time, and indeed Rudolph came at the stroke of his appointed time. The astronomy buff in the other happy vegan came out in him last night as we talked about Orion and a few other constellations. It was crystal clear where we were last night, perfectly still and quiet. There actually was a slight chill in the air, but that's probably only Keys style talking, I mean if I had to take an honest guess I'd say it was about 72 degrees. When I looked at the temperature during cookie delivery time, it said 81. I'm so not a white Christmas, holly jolly, rolly polly with Santa gal.

So, even for a Solstice loving, summer loving, tropical kind of gal like me, Christmas came and gave us a few moments trying to fool us into peace and good will. We don't wait for holidays and such for that kind of thing, that's why we went vegan, you know.... to actually DO something about the troubles in the world, not just give lip service and SAY we'd like to change the world.

I was able to keep up the Yule log tradition in spite of some really difficult circumstances, and I'm just pleased as punch (kombucha?) about that. No matter what Yule 2018 brings, I know cake will be involved because if I can do it this year, seriously I can do anything. One more week of 2017.... to take a page from Queen Elizabeth, with a little Key's twist:  "2017 is not a year on which I shall look back with undiluted pleasure ... In the words of of one my more sympathetic correspondents, it has turned out to be an 'Annus Horribilis' I suspect that I am not alone in thinking it so." Oh Queenie.... if only you and I both had a crystal ball!

Annus Horribilis or not, we still have cake. Raw, vegan, organic, fair trade, blissful, beautiful cake. And that, my friends, is where it will always be at. Vegan style, for the win.

Wishing us ALL a better 2018... getting it in now, in the very likely event I don't get back to the computer before January washes in. And, oh what a year 2018 will be. I am SO kicking 2017 in the ass come December 31. New Year look out, here we are totally ready for you with open arms, and we plan to make it fabulous beyond comprehension.

Happy Solstice. Merry Everything. Happy New Year. Go Vegan. Stay Vegan.

Yup, we've got it all covered.


Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Plate That They're On

Last night I put up a picture on our Deer Run facebook page of vegan egg nog muffins. As I said then, probably only the second time I've baked since Irma. Between having to throw out thousands and thousands of dollars of ingredients, and also have some equipment impacted, I just cannot find my way in the kitchen right now. But..... muffins are doable, and in the spirit of the season I thought I'd come up with something not so run of the mill as far as a seasonal flavor. Anyway, the muffins came out pretty darn great, and I wanted to put them on a holiday plate for the picture. When I posted the picture, I said something about maybe someday I'll talk about the plate they're on.

Vegan eggless nog muffins
On "the plate"

Let's talk.

When dad was alive, he would give me gifts at Christmas of certain things that were cumulative over time. Crystal for example. I have this amazingly gorgeous set of lead crystal which I have not used once since I moved to Florida. In fact, I even wrote about that crystal on a prior blog post, because I remember writing about how a box I picked up one day actually still had a shred of Christmas paper attached. It was causing me angst because I have these things that I do not use, but couldn't seem to part with.

Irma has given me quite a change of perspective.

Take, for example, the plate those muffins are on. Along the lines of those "cumulative" gifts from dad was a set of Spode "Christmas Tree" dishes. He started me on them, and kept me going for years. I actually really liked them, and I began to pick up little "fillers" here and there as I would see them at thrifts (not often for Spode, but it happens), on sale in department stores (goes to show how long ago this dates back for me), and other stores. I had some nifty pieces like a cake cutter, a quiche dish (used quite often as it was just a perfect size for my own chickpea quiches) and other neat pieces that aren't really dishes. I was looking in my cabinets a year or so ago and decided some things had to be packed up since I wasn't using them, and this included my Spode. I had so much of it all in protective china cases and boxes. I pulled it all out of the cabinets and packed everything away into plastic tubs. And, then I put them into my storage trailer where I also had the bulk of my personal items which were removed from here when we put the place on the market.

Hello Irma. You really suck.

Irma took our storage trailer, and everything inside. She didn't flood it. She took it. She moved it from here to there, and along the way she decided just taking it wasn't enough, she wanted the exclamation point of it actually exploding into pieces. Even writing these words actually cause a sort of nausea for me. The things that were in there and will never recover... maybe I'll never completely come to grips with the personal nature of it actually. I'm not talking about things like clothing (although that was in there too), it's more like the tubs and tubs of photographs going back decades before I was even born. My books, I'm a book lover. I love the smell of the, the feel of them, and the experience of reading a book instead of a computer screen. 95% of my books are gone (cookbooks excluded). Things like that which would have no value to anyone else, but were irreplaceable to me. So sad. Anyway.... Irma took the Spode. All of it. Gone. Vanished.

Not too long after Irma, I put a video up about my experience with "death cleaning." I was surprised when I opened up the cabinets where the Spode used to live and saw that it was already gone. In that moment, I realized yet another thing that was gone not by my choice. Big empty spaces in those cabinets where years of memories through dishes used to be. I even used the Spode during Christmas time here for guests. Not every day, but I used it. Not because it was Christmas, but because it brought me good memories.

I've been out to the Coupon Bight several times searching for things that Irma took, including clothing, photos, books, paintings, furniture, you name it. I found so little, but there were a few victories. One of the lowest moments for me after the storm was the time I was out in the Coupon Bight in the post storm blistering heat. Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, I was wearing my non-fishing fishing boots, a swimsuit and sobbing as I sifted through the silt trying to retrieve as much of grandma's silverware as possible. At that moment, a rental carload of 'bags came down the not-yet-repaired street still rife with asphalt washouts, (so obviously not from around here in their shiny new Mustang convertible, laughing) holding their iPhones up high recording every image, including me. It was humiliating, sickening, infuriating, and a moment I just wanted to give in to all my misery and run away. I didn't go back out there anymore after that until the other happy vegan and I went out there together in an effort to survey the wreckage of the Save-A-Turtle trailer and see what we could salvage from that for the non-profit (so very little, unfortunately). Yeah, that trailer also was eaten by Irma, and I've not gone back out there again since, but the other happy vegan has made a few trips on his own. Alone, he's brought a kayak to load anything he found, just as I had done in the early post-Irma days. After one of those trips I saw a small pile of mud encrusted zippered china/dish protectors sitting in the sand near my sad room. I knew immediately what it was.... Spode! I plopped myself down in the sand and unzipped every case right then and there. Not a single dish had nary a chip or crack. They had been submerged for more than 2 months, ripped out with a huge storm surge pushed by winds that reports say at times were in excess of 150 mph in my zone.

After I unwrapped each plate, I soaked them in tubs with anti bacterial cleaners, scrubbed them with soap and a special scrubby, rinsed them, and then ran them through twice in my superheated dishwasher (new, also since Irma). I stacked them, opened the cabinet where they had lived for well over a decade since I moved here, and put them right back where they sat all those years before I moved them into the trailer as an "unnecessary" item, although they no longer sit in their protective pouches, and there's a mere fraction of what used to be.

None of the special cute pieces have been located, including the cake server, and the quiche dish. Not a single cup has been located, but almost all the saucers have been retrieved. I don't have all the plates, cake plates, salad plates, rather just a few of each. But, I do have some. I know I did a death cleaning after Irma, but I feel like these dishes are meant to be kept, at least I'll say not meant to be given away just yet.

It was astonishing to me to come full circle with something as innocuous as plates. But for whatever reason(s), these dishes are a sign of either ridiculous excess, or the exact opposite. I'm not sure which, and actually since most days I'm not really coping very well navigating life and all the bombs that come with it since September 10, I'll try not to read too much into any of this. But.... I cannot help but to some tiny extent think of my dad more than ever right now. It's been really difficult to go through the storm, and everything that's happening since. The ground is constantly moving under us both personally and with our business since Irma, we are constantly adjusting our sails and it's exhausting at a time when I'm already exhausted.

So, I have some Spode and it's a pretty safe bet that I'll be eating off that plate after December is long gone. Seems like the right thing to do, when there are no rules anymore anyway. I think a nice red dragonfruit will look just as beautiful on it as the vegan eggless nog muffins.

And that is the story of the plate that they're on.

Vegan love my friends.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Mini MoFo November 2017: LAZY AF!

Ok, I added the "AF" to the "lazy" part. I've got a bit of a chip on my shoulder these most recent post Irma days. Roller coaster baby, it's a roller coaster down here and we're all on it together as a community. Hence the AF part, since I have said chip.

I'm dragging myself out from under my safe space of the desk to be here and write this post. I've retreated. Away. From everyone. Everything. Except for the animals. I am with them. All. The. Time.

I went up to pick Angel's ashes up today. I ended up stopping somewhere else first, and then I forgot why I went up to Marathon. Yes, I forgot to pick up Angel's ashes. I suck beyond words. This is what it is like for me now, this is my newest stage. I forget everything. What I do seem to remember, I want to forget. Someone linked a hurricane video to me a few days ago, I felt physically sick. It ruined me and I think I made it through 6 seconds. This is what life is ... I'm a bit of a mess.

But.... we always have MoFo! Praise MoFo! I saw the prompt of "lazy" and promised myself I would do a post. I have done so. Sort of what I planned on, but not quite. We're tasked with showing you essentially just how lazy we can be with our vegan food.... that doesn't mean BAD vegan food, it just means, um simplify?

In my post Irma world, I now wear my "lazy" badge with honor. I admit the wind is knocked out of my sails with Angel dying and Lemon getting diagnosed. That kinda pushed me over the edge a bit. I'm still not cooking, although I did muster enough kitchen cleaning and ingredients to pull a few things together for Tina & Phil's vegan ThanksLiving potluck in Key West on Thanksgiving Day. Beyond that, basically I'm still going into the food donations daily, rummaging around, seeing what I might be able to eat enough of to consider a meal (still on the Irma diet, and so many of us still are) Yeah, still not hungry a lot, but I eat because I'm reminded when headache comes along.

When I got the Vegan Black Metal Chef's Seitanic Spellbook, my perspective on cooking changed a lot. I've talked about this before, in my better days. I became far more experimental on my own with cooking. And I learned to really simplify things. One of the best "hacks" in the book is carmelizing onions in a crock pot. Absolutely epic. The first "lazy" thing I did for this post was do the onion thing. I pulled out the tiny crock pot that Adam & Timberly sent in a relief delivery (thank you Robin!!!), sliced up an onion, put some olive oil over it, set to low and left it overnight. Viola, beautiful carmelized onions! I mean, I was so lazy I never even stirred them. That is REALLY lazy.

Lazy Crock pot Onions Before Crockpotting

Lazy Crock pot Onions After Crockpotting

But, then I got to thinking.... what else can I do with this crock pot besides make lazy soups, lazy onions, and lazy stews. Bread?

Don't mind if I do.

Lazy bread..... in the tiny crock pot. Ok, honestly the crock pot was too small, I needed a bigger one, or I should've cut the quantity in half. But overall, the method itself was enough to prove this IS doable. I found a recipe on line, but .... LAZY...... I decided to do my own based on the first recipe that popped up. All I remembered was 2.5 cups of flour, after that, it's all me:


2.5 cups flour
2 1/4 tsp yeast (1 envelope if you do the envelope thing)
wad of diced lazy carmelized onions
oregano, basil, crushed red pepper flakes, cracked black pepper
about 2T vegan sweetener (I just jammed a spoon 2x into my sugar bin)
a little oil (ok, here, check this.... the height of laziness.... I didn't even measure this, I simply used whatever liquid was floating in the bottom of the tiny crock pot from the onions and dumped it into the dough, for reals)
some sea salt
some wheat gluten (no measure, I just added it to the dough til it wasn't overly shaggy anymore)
3/4-1 cup filtered water (1 cup was too much with the onions cuz they are wet, so if you don't use onions use 1 cup, if you do use onions reduce the amount OR add the wheat gluten like I did)

Put the warm water, yeast & sugar in a cup and let it fizz about 10 minutes.

Mix the rest of the ingredients, add the fizzy yeasty water, and knead til smooth, and not overly shaggy (I love using the word shaggy when I describe dough, cracks me up... it's the little things, what can I say?) Use a mixer if you have one. Use your hands if you don't.

What next?

I lined the tiny crock pot with parchment. Why? Cuz the thing I saw online said to do that. So, I did. I mean, I didn't even wash the pot from the onions... LAZY. I unrolled some parchment, cut it then just stuck it into the crock pot. I then dumped the dough into the tiny crock pot, sprinkled some fleur de sel over it, and flicked it on high for an hour. Came back in an hour... oopsie the crock pot it a wee bit small... the dough is hitting the lid but... I'm LAZY... not gonna swap the pot out. I removed the lid, scraped the wet dough off, and plopped a sauce pan on top of the crock pot like a hat. Yes, I really did this. LAZY! Then what? Well, then I went to Hell Depot for 3 hours and subjected myself to the lights, sounds, smells and FREAKING CHRISTMAS MUSIC up there. Why? Because I had to. I have to pick flooring, tile and whatever else I'm forced to do in my post Irma days instead of flipping pancakes and playing with cupcakes. Dammit. Oopsie, I'm raging again.... back to LAZY.

Come back after my Hell Depot experience and look at the bread, holy bananas, basically it worked! The top was a teeny bit doughy, the bottom a teeny bit dark, but it actually was bread!

Lazy Freaking Crock pot Bread Before Crockpotting
Ok. There it is. Lazy me doing 2 things with no quantities (basically), no measurements, and just fly by the seat of your pants. You know what else? I'll bet I could do lazy mushrooms in the crock pot.... am I the only one that could sit down and eat an entire super large bowl of cooked mushrooms? But it takes a long time to sweat them out if you do it right...... maybe the lazy in me will crawl back out of my safe space at some point again to go to the store and get some mushrooms. Then again, maybe not. The social in me, which barely existed before, is gone now. You don't mind, I mean do you? Nah, I didn't think so.
Lazy Vegan Crock pot Bread After Crockpotting
Lemon is still with us, if you are wondering. Ellin at Food for Thought gifted us a bottle of True CBD brand 325 mg CBD oil for him. And you know, it is helping. I have been giving him relatively large doses. No, it's not going to cure him. But it is absolutely giving him a better quality of restorative rest. And, he is eating. He is walking. He is on my lap some days for hours and hours and HOURS at a time. I love it. He is my main purpose right now. I know we don't have much time together left. He and I have been through a lot, and I mean A LOT in our years together. He's my last connection to my pre-Deer Run life. I cannot imagine being without him, so most times I just pretend he is not sick, he's just sleeping and purring in my lap.... I rotate the chair to face sun and let him bask and purr while in my lap. Lazy? No... this is SMART. It's a big difference.

My boy Lemon
Ok, oh, yeah... I forgot. When I said this was mostly what I meant to post about as far as lazy food, this is true. What I did intend to do was make something more out of these ingredients though. I pulled a polenta out of the donations.... some roasted red pepper hummus..... a couple bags of fancy crackers. All from the epic, magic "ingredient" trailer.... I considered making a small plate of appetizers with the onions and the bread. But... I got LAZY. Oopsie daisy. Here's what happened instead:
Ok, Ok, I opened a pack of red pepper hummus
Spread it on the lazy bread
covered it with the lazy onions
Crawled back into my cave and ate this
Lazy, but REALLY delicious

Maybe next month for the mini MoFo I'll remove the AF from any post, and not be as lazy. Then again, if I were a betting gal, I would NOT take that bet. After all, somehow it finally dawned on me (at Hell Depot I guess) that next up is December, and for the love of dog, people actually cook, and bake, and socialize, and have parties, and wear sparkly things. No, no, no.... just no. Not me. Not this year. No.

Lazy? Yes..... I got that... no prob.

Thanks for checking in.