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