Tuesday, December 31, 2019

2019, Over & Out

"Keep on smilin' through the rain, laughin' at the pain
Rollin' with the changes til the sun comes out again
Keep on smilin' through the rain, laughin' at the pain
Rollin' with the changes, singin' this refrain"
Hoo boy, if anyone puts into words what I need to hear it's just under 4 minutes of Wet Willie circa 1974, thanks boys!

If you've been with me for any length of time here on the blog, or in my life, you know that December and I just don't get along. We'll never be friends again, those days are long gone and I accept it with as much grace as possible. Not to mention that the whole end of the year countdowns that seem to be an obsession with so many all over the place are just depressing to me. Everything is amplified this time of year, and as someone who has endured catastrophic loss this time of year the simplest tasks are so challenging for me some days. However, that said, when I do look back at where I was this time last year and consider my mental health and attitude now the progress has been positive and immense. It hasn't come easy.

When I had my final make or break moment last year, one of the things I decided was allow myself the true power of the word "no." And with that has come the complete scaling back of almost all peripheral activities in my life that I used to participate in, some of which I enjoyed, many of which I did not. And, as I've begun to rebuild my life and my business I have found that the things I do choose to "yes" now more often than not have glimmers of happiness and genuine enjoyment. Those have been some really good moments.

This year I've bid farewell to more friends, some expected, some not expected. This is something that has always been a way of life living in a "destination" area (read: tourist area), but I never really adjusted to. Irma accelerated the goodbyes in my life, and I continue to struggle with that part of this recovery every day. But, for the first time ever, there was a friend of mine from many years ago who moved TO here! And when I say "here" I mean HERE! Like 15 minutes away from me. No matter how different our lives will be, we are friends and it's really refreshing to look through the lens of someone new here, excited about the differences here from where we come from, and desiring to embrace a way of life that perhaps is simpler at least in some ways. I'm super excited for my friend and her family, and that's the truth. This one thing actually HAS come easy, at least for me since I'm not the one who uprooted and moved. ;)

I recently picked up a new-to-me hobby (metal hand stamping) and as someone brand new at the stamps, I have discovered this is one thing I think will be around for a long time in my world. I've also finally fulfilled a long ago promise to myself and have started going to the photography club meetings at the Refuge down here. The few meetings I've already been to have been immensely educational, there's all levels of photographers in the group and right now I sit, listen and absorb. You know I love to look through life through a lens, but never seemed to have the time I wanted to learn more about the craft. When my camera was stolen a few years ago while I was out, I was deflated and angry. The camera that was gifted to me as a replacement has been one that I've struggled with... way too much technology and just not my style... but I've set a goal to learn as much as I can to trade it in and then choose the one I really want. This has been solidified by the trips to the Dry Tortugas that I've been taken on this year for the first time as well. Yup, after around 16 years here I finally saw in person the Dry Tortugas National Park not once but THREE times this year. My friend who goes out there quite often has sponsored every trip for me and it's changed my life. I still am in awe that there's a place like that in this country, actually even on this planet. I can run around like crazy taking hundreds of pictures of just one bird, or sitting there doing nothing. No pressure on me, none. It's sublime to be there! I find the history very interesting, the engineering and "trivia" of the actual building of the fort a never ending source of fascination, and the serenity second to none (at least until the ferry comes in, LOL). I've studied up on the birds that migrate there, and those who live there year round. Looking back, honestly those trips are true highlights of 2019 for me, indelible, unforgettable. Such a privilege to have been able to go, and have someone who has been willing and able to share that with me.

The nature has begun to spring back down here since the storm, although the landscape is very different now. The deer are still here, and despite a push by the Feds to delist them, so far that has not happened. I hear and see a lot of people living with an attitude of privilege instead of gratitude, I suppose that's just human nature and I'm sure I have my own moments that way despite making a constant effort to be mindful and understand people "where they are" not where I am so to speak. Through it all, I think I am as prepared as possible for whatever 2020 may throw my way. Many days I have felt like my life is a "duck and cover" mode of survival, but thankfully not as much of that anymore. I clearly know what I do want in my life, and what I do not want in my life. I predict more change in 2020 for me, not sure why that seems so surprising to say (at least to me) since really the only constant is change.

I appreciate all of you who take time to read my posts, and hope that 2020 brings more writing as well, something I have long enjoyed but long neglected. I'll be around for VeganMoFo (at least that's the plan as of now) and I hope to share as much as I am able with you about the miracles in the Florida Keys. Once I settled in here, I thought I'd never leave. Then Irma hit and I thought I couldn't get out of here fast enough. Since it's taking so long to get through our recovery, I am now at a place where I allow myself the thought that anything is possible, I may stay, I may go... I have no clue and I'm comfortable enough right now having no idea what to do beyond my immediate future. For someone who likes schedules a lot (read that as A LOT) it's pretty liberating to not know what comes next.

Happy New Year to you and yours. Go vegan, stay vegan. 

Saturday, September 7, 2019

VeganMoFo 2019 Day 32 (or 31a) ... Cake: The PS

"Love is spending the rest of your life with someone
you want to kill....

but you don't, because you'd miss them."

I simply cannot help myself, I need to share this cake. It was the best cake of 31 cakes in 31 days, falling slightly outside the parameters of the time, but close enough to the month of cakes... can we call this one #32 perhaps? Maybe 31a?

The other happy vegan saw to it that I would have a birthday cake that I didn't have to make myself. Not that I was planning on making a cake for myself, perhaps he just wanted a chocolate cake and knew that it's going to be a long time before I'm inspired to cake again after the past month. Waking up at 4:30am (according to him, I have no idea, I'm still with the foster kitties in the pet room most of the time) he found himself in hostile territory in the kitchen. The man that raised our business from the ashes post Irma... built innumerable homes... can go toe-to-toe with most engineers on even their best day... is an incredible mechanic, and so much more....  he took on the ultimate challenge, taking his restless soul into the hostile territory known as MY kitchen. Rummaging around for egg replacers and other items that don't require a hammer or power tool in pre-dawn hours, the poor guy was lost. He explained he wanted to make me a gluten free cake, so he bought a boxed cake and set out to veganize it. In solidarity for him, all I will say about that effort is that at some point I did accidentally witness that aftermath in the compost. Impressive even by my epic failure standards. After that first effort went down in flames, he explained that he next ventured into the REALLY hostile territory of my cookbook collection. I can only imagine what went on as he went through book after book as I was busy doing my best sleeping in the (by then) morning hours. He tells me he settled on a Chef Chloe recipe and got to work on a from scratch cake. If you catch sight of him anytime soon, and you have about an hour or so to hear the story, you can ask him about the making of the cake(s). I call this one the "Taj MahCake" indeed the cake gift truly is "the journey," not "the destination." He really scored a lot of brownie points on this one folks, I mean after all these years he sometimes still continues to surprise me in very sweet ways; I must admit I was quite taken when I saw this. I bought the Hello Kitty pan many years ago because I always wanted a Hello Kitty cake, never used it. Ironically she made it through Irma, only to continue to remain unused. I said to him that night "well, she got used at least once!" and he immediately corrected me saying "twice, you forgot my compost walk." Yes, yes I did forget. The pan has officially been used twice.

I knew I saved some of Gretchen's minty frosting for a reason, who knew it would be for a Hello Kitty cake with strawberry eyes and nose. That night we lit her crazy whisker candles up, I made my wish. I cut the cake, served her with a side of NadaMoo and thus ends cake #32 in my very complete quest for a month of cakes.

I always look for the postscript at the end of every story. Now you have mine, vegan style of course.


Saturday, August 31, 2019

VeganMoFo 2019 Day 31: Kombucha Cake and a Wrap Up

"All my life I've been searching for somethin' Somethin' never comes, never leads to nuthin' Nothin' satisfies, but I'm gettin' close Closer to the prize at the end of the rope"
"Done, done, and I'm on to the next one Done, done, and I'm on to the next one Done, done, and I'm on the next one Done, I'm done, and I'm on to the next"
"One by one, Hidden up my sleeve"
You needed to see yesterday's offering again. Look at her! She's magnificent! The texture set up overnight, it's perfect.

Today I made a Kombucha cake for you "soda cake" style. Not my best work. These were the ingredients:

That's my  home-brew there... grapefruit!

I used my own home brew grapefruit kombucha. Something is definitely off with this combo. The texture is not right, it's not dense but it is chewy. The flavor isn't bad at all though. Perhaps my home brew has too much sugar? Too little sugar? I have no clue. My frosting is an on the fly cream cheese using only Tofutti cream cheese, powdered sugar and kombucha. Way too soft and almost runny. I used those sprinkles because I had purchased them especially for the month and never got to the cake they were for. I made this cake "naked cake" style because the icing is so soft, no way I was getting any swirls on this cake. I tinted it ever so slightly with the Watson brand of natural food coloring you saw way back earlier this month. Then I warmed up some of that tequila icing and drizzled it over the sides. I think the tequila frosting is a very good compliment to this cake, the cake itself has a very faint citrus flavor. Remember, that tequila icing has lime in it. The tequila icing really takes over this entire combo, I have zero problem with that, this frosting is fire.

This box cake mixed with 12 ounces of grapefruit kombucha filled 3 6" layers. Not only do I still have tequila frosting left, now I have this super soft cream cheese icing left too.

This month flew by faster than I expected. I didn't miss a day for you, despite many challenges around here. The last prompt for us today is who inspired us through the month as far as other bloggers. I checked in with every single participant that posted (some registered but didn't post, not many but I checked back on them a few times hoping to see content). I enjoyed Herbivore's Heaven, Kittens Gone Lentil, Amber Eats Veg, My Apologies for the Novel, AfroVeganChick, and so many more. Truly the one that blew me away the most was the angel food cake post from Gonna Go Walk the Dogs, I'm still marveling over that cake, or rather it's more appropriate for me to say that cake will haunt me until I nail it too. I will not give up on my efforts, I'm on a mission, I will get it done. I was truly inspired by that cake.

I hope you enjoyed my content and made a point to read other bloggers offerings as well. So many of us pour a lot of effort into our daily posts. Even I am surprised how much work these cakes took on some days, and I actually had a jump on things with a few cakes "in the can" before the month started. I didn't share a cake that I meant to, so here's one more:

This one of my "leftovers" cake.
I had the frosting, salted maple pecans, and caramel sauce left from other cakes.
I baked another version (half recipe) of Gretchen Price's banana layer cake.
I found this recipe in particular needed more liquid;
I think I added up to 1/4 cup more non-dairy  milk.
The cake was not dense, and way better when I made it that way.

At this point in my life, I have no idea what tomorrow brings (literally and figuratively) but surely it is my hope I'll be back here blogging for Vegan Month of Food in 2020. I feel very fortunate to be back working in my kitchen, being back at the burners preparing breakfasts for our guests for the first time in 2 years, playing with cakes for you, dodging a major hurricane this week, working hard to reclaim my health (physical and mental), and looking forward to our first event here at the bed and breakfast, it's coming up quick, there's going to be a ThanksLiving celebration here catered by Chef Gail Patak. I cannot even believe that is happening, after all we've been through, so many days I thought I'd never see the sun again. It's been such a long road for me and so many others, still not through it all, but we're getting there. Speaking of the hurricane, it's still anyone's guess where she'll hit if she comes ashore, but here in the Keys we are clearly out of the cone. Last night I slept in the dedicated "pet room" that we now have for travelers as that is where our 2 fosters are for the time being until they relax a little. Perhaps they felt my own stress, they didn't come out from under the bed at all. I didn't realize just how hard this Dorian storm was weighing on me until today. I stayed in bed til after 10 (all reservations we had on tap cancelled with the impending storm so I had the morning and the place to myself) and put zero demands on my time today except for the cake. Not too shabby a recovery day I'd say.

Thank you to all the bloggers who worked so hard with your content, I've read dozens and dozens and dozens of your posts. You've had to deal with hard and heavy things in your life, including even a mass shooting in your town (I'm so so very sorry). Through it all, you persevered, and I so appreciate you all.

My blog will continue of course, but for now I'll be switching back to regular life. See you in JULY 2020 for VeganMoFo, if the Universe allows me.

Go vegan, stay vegan.

#31... "I'm done, I'm done, I'm done."


Friday, August 30, 2019

VeganMoFo 2019 Day 30: Italian Ricotta Cheezecake, Dorian and 2 New Faces

"Cheesecake Will Always Taste Like Love"
This is a vegan version of an Italian Ricotta Cheesecake. It is from a recipe published today (or perhaps last night) by Gretchen Price of Gretchen's Vegan Bakery (online) and author of Modern Vegan Baking.  Since this recipe was only published less than 24 hours ago, if you're thinking I wasn't planning on this today, you're correct. Since basically I'm a bottom line kind of gal, I'm going to edit out about 10 hours of my day's story and tell you this much. I planned a different cake, it had multiple components. A lot of things are happening around here right now to interfere with plans and routine, especially Hurricane Dorian spinning in the Atlantic. I was having time management issues with the planned cake to say the least, and then I got a call from the local animal shelter explaining in an abundance of caution, they were emptying the shelter with storm fosters. Since I'd previously signed up, they asked if I would be able to honor the commitment. Of course the answer was yes, all I needed to do was get there before closing tonight. With that, I tossed out the planned cake, stumbling with what to do instead. Like magic a post came up in my social media from Gretchen with her vegan recipe for Italian Ricotta Cheesecake. Editing almost everything out as I said I would... I made the cake. It's not fully chilled yet, but I sliced it for the photo. You'll probably see a better picture of it here tomorrow (if plans go ok). I tasted it. I've never had Italian Ricotta Cheesecake, but when you read Gretchen's post or watch her video, you'll understand when I say it came out exactly as she said, a little more wet which is not a bad way, it's perfect. The flavor is excellent, the texture is beautiful. I'm not even really a fan of cheesecake (another "plus" in the column, or so I thought, since I simply do not want to eat my stress today). I say "or so I thought" because this cake is so good, I'm not sure I'm going to refuse a slice tomorrow at some point. There was only 1 ingredient which I didn't have and didn't have access to; I posted a question on Gretchen's page and in less than 20 minutes she had responded and coached me on substitutes. So, her recipe was followed EXACTLY (I weighed the ingredients) but instead of the special egg replacer, I added 1 tablespoon extra of cornstarch per Gretchen's advice. I cannot imagine this cake being even better than it already is, but come tomorrow we shall see.

Now, for the hurricane and the fosters. Looks like we're out of the cone at the moment, but we are expected to receive some "weather." We hightailed it up to the shelter for 1 foster, but came home with 2... siblings. We could not separate siblings especially in such a time of need. These terrified little kitty cats are named Trixie and Gracie. They're all set up in quiet space, have eaten and had water. They need some time to adjust to this huge upset in their lives, we will be there for them. Here they are in the car ride home:

Trixie sitting on Gracie.
They are sisters.
There you have it for today's cake. Tomorrow is my last cake day, as I keep mentioning I have so many more cakes I want to bring you. Not sure what tomorrow will bring, if I have time I hope to take a crack at what was supposed to be today's cake, but it's anyone's guess at this point. I'm off to be a presence with Trixie and Gracie for the rest of the evening. For anyone reading this in faraway places, I have to ask you to please hold good thoughts for all in the path of Dorian.  I've been doing my best channeling for her to just stay far at sea there are so many in harm's way.

Cake #30 over and out, vegan style of course.


Thursday, August 29, 2019

VeganMoFo 2019 Day 29: Eat My Feelings Part 2

"Give your stress wings, and let it fly away"
or, at least give it cake. Yes, absolutely.... cake.

As Doria churns out in the Atlantic, many eyes are on her including mine. It's been a busy day or so around here, while we don't expect a direct impact, I cannot deny that the timing is bringing back too many bad memories. Last night I had my first real hurricane nightmare, probably triggered by the fact that instead of leaving the TV turned to true crime all night I left it on weather. We had an absolutely glorious morning here, which also triggered some feelings for me similar to right before Irma, that beautiful weather we had. Here's a picture of this mornings double rainbow after a big boomer passed through (so big that Pink scurried back under the covers in the pre-dawn hours which is when she's usually out and about, one of her nicknames is Vampira).

If you look in the center of the picture by the water, you will see
a flock of birds turning in unison.
I think they were kites but I'm not sure.
I stuck mostly to my word from yesterday that I would not over schedule myself again, which meant I had time to take a power nap. When I woke up, it was 7pm. I made the perfect cake for a day like today... mug cake! This one is really good! It's banana, chocolate, peanut butter... everything good all wrapped up into a mug. The link is here fro ""

I stuck true to the recipe (it's a mug cake for crap's sake, what's to change?!) and made it in one of my new cute deer mugs I got at the thrift this week, how absolutely stinkin' adorable is that mug. I bought them for soup, but now I know they are cake cups. I'm working hard not to eat the cake. It's warm and smells so good. Sure I tasted it, but hopes are the other happy vegan gets back here before I completely breakdown and eat my stress (he's out on patrol for feral kitties to feed). I'm actually keeping this recipe in my collection, I really liked it. That's a little bit of chocolate ganache on the cake leftover from one of my other recent cakes (I think Fran's torte).

There's only 2 more cakes after today... so many cakes, so little time, where has the month gone?!!

#29 closed out!


Wednesday, August 28, 2019

VeganMoFo 2019 Day 28: Mocktail Cake

"You Bring the Tequila, I'll Bring the Bad Decisions"
Today there's a prompt for us to make a mocktail/cocktail drink. In keeping with my own theme of 31 cakes in 31 days, I cake-ified the margarita cupcakes from Isa and Terry's Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. I've had this book for many years, but this recipe never appealed to me as I'm not a tequila fan.  I also like fluffy frosting, the cupcakes don't have either, it's a thin and flat, very soft icing. These issues of my own precluded me from making this delicious cake for years, wow this recipe is YUM! I made a half recipe of the cupcake batter, and baked it in one 6" round pan. I made the entire icing recipe because usually I need more and just double it. Big mistake, the frosting made plenty and then some. Since this was a cupcake recipe, any issues I have with the cake I chalk up to my own change of baking in a cake pan. The cake baked up very quickly (about 16 minutes) and is tender. The edges however are a bit chewy, not in a doughy way either. I'm not sure how to describe it, I mean it's not bad at all but I noticed it. As far as the frosting goes, this is a very soft, wet, almost fluid frosting. While it's doesn't harden up like royal icing, it does set and is firm to the touch. I'm going to experiment and see if I can freeze this frosting I have quite a bit left and I'd like to use it again. If alcohol is not your thing, I think you should just skip this recipe completely. I'm not sure what would be a suitable sub for the tequila. If you just like lime flavor, that's fine, but I would think you can just use a lime citrus cake recipe and not deal with the measurements being off in this recipe by omitting the tequila. 

This cake is surely not for the wee ones, it has tequila in the batter AND the frosting. The cake tastes like lime to me (yes, obviously there's lime in both cake and frosting as well), but in the frosting the tequila totally shines through and is a star. This is a delicious combo. I knew I was going to be making this cake today and all day long I figured I'd pop a slice into a martini glass for a cute photo op. Early evening I realized I have no martini glasses, they vanished in the storm. I keep forgetting the stupidest things like that. I decided to pop the slice of cake into a wine glass (which isn't really a wine glass, it's what I use for parfaits here when I serve guests). It looked ridiculous, but I took the photo anyway. As you can see, I didn't use it. Once I downloaded (uploaded?) the photos, I found a perfectly placed cat hair lying on the surface just next to the glass. Invisible to the eye when shooting, but glaring in all it's glory when I looked at the photo. Sigh.

I'm happy I at least will get this post up before midnight. This was the first day in a really long time that I've found myself completely overwhelmed and over scheduled. It's not a good feeling. I'm still functioning at the "do one thing a day" level, and that's been working well since I set that rule in place with the New Year. I've learned my lesson, tomorrow I recommit to my own set rule.

I have 3 more days of cakes. I'm getting a little sad because I have way more cakes to share than days on the calendar.

#28 down and done, tequila style.


Tuesday, August 27, 2019

VeganMoFo 2019 Day 27: Fight for the Right... to ParrrrrrrrrrrTY!

You wake up late for school, man you don't wanna go
you ask your mom, please? but she still says no!
You missed two classes, and no homework
but your teacher preaches class like you're some kinda jerk!
You gotta fight, for your right to party.
Today is my sister's birthday. It's a safe bet she doesn't read this blog, even the other happy vegan doesn't read this blog, which is why I can get away with as much as I do, bwah ha ha. Anyway.... my sister lives far away, but it's her birthday and we're both Virgo so I baked a birthday cake today!

I've been wanting to bake a "white bakery flavor" cake, even though I wasn't sure even what that was anymore. I haven't had a conventional bakery cake in decades, I don't feel like I'm missing anything as this month has shown there's plenty of cake in vegan world and it's superior to conventional anyway. I chose a recipe from "Yup, It's Vegan" and ordered the accidentally vegan Wilton butter flavor a few weeks ago specifically for this cake, it's clear. I was supposed to order clear vanilla flavor to keep the cake pure white, but that's not really my jam (non fair trade vanilla) so I skipped it. The recipe link is at the bottom, I kept true to the recipe, except I cut it in half, and made 2 6" layers. I hoped half the recipe would be even less and I could get away with 2 4" layers, but it's a generous amount of batter. I stuck with 6.

As soon as I tasted the cake I remembered what "white bakery cake" is. No, it's definitely not vanilla, and it's surely not a yellow cake. It's a flavor all of it's own, and I'll stick with "white bakery cake" for the name too. This cake is very delicate and tender. My layers took 24 minutes to bake, which is a bit longer than most 6" cakes I've been baking. I chose a basic vanilla frosting to ice the cake, and used my non-parieles from Sweetopolita, I have a 5 pound bag of them. These little dots used to get a lot of use around here, not so much lately though. I wish I had baked this cake earlier in the day so there was natural light. The cake really is white! I'm sure my teeny bit of vanilla made it a bit off, but it's way whiter than any vanilla cake I've ever baked, super pretty. It's after 9pm as I write this, my kitchen is pretty dark.

As far as the recipe itself, there's a few things you should know. It's very runny when you pour it in the pans, almost watery. No worries you didn't make a mistake, it's the way it is. Also, this recipe specifically said do not use convection on this cake or it will bake "weird." I have a convection bakery oven, there simply is no way to turn the convection option off. I wondered what would be "weird" about it, and I discovered these tiny little creases in my baked cake I'm not sure if you can see it in the photo, I tried to hide it a bit, but they are definitely there. I suspect that is what is meant by "weird" about convection baking. Since this was a "no reason" cake these creases do not bother me, but I wouldn't be happy if this was a for purchase cake. I made 3 slices, and each one had weird creases.

I'll probably never make this cake again, despite how white the cake turned out. I'm a fan of chocolate, no apologies will be forthcoming. I'm going to wait til tomorrow when the other happy vegan road tests this cake. Among his favorite cake flavors is vanilla. I really need him to evaluate this one for me, I'm just not the right person to run with vanilla.

Recipe link:

#27 dedicated to the birthday girl, Happy Birthday Sis!