Friday, December 23, 2016

Mini MoFo! For December... We Have A Prompt!

Have you missed me? Vegan MoFo is doing "Mini MoFo" so looks like from time to time there will be prompts and we can participate if we choose. Of course this is my first "mini" and of course I've waited until 33 minutes before closing time... and we've had weeks on this prompt. Of sure, I knew what I would do, but dang if I know where the entire month of December went.

Let's talk hot chocolate, shall we? That's our prompt. I used to love the stuff, in fact I still do, however I watch my sugar intake (cruel considering my occupations....) but yeah, I watch it. I don't drink it, haven't had it in years, besides since living in this beautiful tropical environment, hot chocolate isn't on my menu. Despite all that, I did reminisce a bit to the thick, dark, steamy hot chocolate of my past, including when I'd spend 6 - 8 hours shoveling snow, taking short breaks to warm up. With hot chocolate.

I found a recipe for Matcha white hot chocolate, what a great combo, so I took a stab at it, and you know what.... it's GREAT! Here's a picture with a couple of my version of holiday cookies, and of course there's a credit to the author of this recipe. Enjoy everyone, and if I don't post again in 2016, I wish you all a happy Solstice, because by the way Solstice is how this happy vegan rolls.


Vegan Matcha White Chocolate Hot Chocolate with So Delicious Coconut Whip, and my version of holiday cookies.

recipe courtesy of:

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Vegan Month of Food 2016 - Day 30 ... Gifts ("something" in a jar)

Today is day number thirty of Vegan Month of Food 2016, our last day for this year. Our prompt today is something like holiday gift giving, vegan food style.... do we or don't we? Here, we do.

Every year for the last few years I have baked and shipped countless vegan food holiday orders around the world. This year I am not. I will be handling things only local (lower Keys), sorry peeps. I will be giving family and some friends a few surprises in the mail, and I'm so happy to show you more of the homespun things I love to do.

I save pretty much any size wide mouth jars for repurposing. These are great for home gift giving. Inspiration lurks everywhere, you can put pretty much anything in a jar and make it look pretty. Popcorn (movie night... Netflix gift certificate, a jar of unpopped popcorn with some tiny bags of nooch and a small of Bragg's or any other topping you'd like to give... perfect!) Unbaked cookies in jar, with directions attached. Bath salts, teas, infused oils, the list is endless (thanks to Pinterest and such). Packaging is what makes the beautiful final touch, your gifts are worth the effort of packaging, and you can still be kind to the environment. I use biodegradable heat seal bags, they will compost in home composters. They look like plastic, but are a wood pulp, a far more Earth friendly choice. I use "Kraft" brown colored food service boxes, which are available to the home cook/baker too. The ones I use are 100% recycled content. I use tulle instead of thin ribbons, which most people will reuse too.... thin ribbon is horrible for the environment. All my swing tags are 100% recycled content, even my heat seal food service bags are recycled content bags. I like the "Kraft" choice because it can be customized for any occasion at all from weddings to graduations to holidays and so forth, plus it's the easiest for recycled content, and also the most budget friendly.

Today I'm showing you what I'm doing in jars this year, along with a few tips. Scroll past the video, you'll find the recipe for the chai hot chocolate and the cornstarch ornaments. Here we go, last MoFo for 2016 video:

(this recipe is readily available on many sites, so there is no credit)

1/2 cup cornstarch
1 cup baking soda
3/4 cup water

combine all ingredients in a large pot. Over medium heat, stir until it thickens, about 3 minutes. When it becomes a smooth texture, remove from heat, form into a ball, cover with a damp cloth, and allow to cool to a temperature you can work with (do not cool completely).

Preheat your oven to 175 degrees (reduce heat by 25 for convection)

Place dough on a rolling mat and knead a little bit. Add more cornstarch if it seems too sticky to roll.

Roll the dough on a board dusted with cornstarch to about 1/4".

Use a cookie cutter to cut out your decoration, stamp with lettering, designs, handprints, pawprints or whatever else you want. Poke a small hole at the top of each ornament.

Place gently on parchment covered baking sheet, bake from 30-45 minutes depending on your oven, turning the sheet half way through to get even baking. Keep an eye on your ornaments, they should NOT brown at all. If the edges curl up at all (mine never do) tap back til flat.

Cool, and paint/decorate as desired.

Take note: for anyone who is giving gifts for gluten free people, these ornaments are great, as people with gluten allergies should not even touch gluten. They will love you all the more for thinking of this.

CHAI HOT CHOCOLATE - Adapted from a recipe published by Frontier Natural Foods

2.5 cups powdered non-dairy milk (I used Native Forest Powdered Coconut Milk)
3 cups plus 2 tablespoons powdered sugar (sift before placing into your jar!)
1.5 cups plus 1 tablespoon cocoa powder (sift before placing into your jar!)
3.5 tsp cinnamon
3 tsp ginger
2 tsp cardamom
1.5 tsp allspice
pinch sea salt

Either layer your ingredients in a jar, or sift everything together and place in a jar. Wrap and tag with directions.

To use: Combine 1/3-1/2 cup mixture into a cup with 1 cup boiling water, stir until well combined. Serve with choice of vegan whipped cream, if desired.

It's been a fun run in 2016 for VeganMoFo. I've enjoyed finding and following many new writers and video people, and we still have so many to go through.

We wish everyone a peaceful holiday season, vegan style.

Peace begins on our plate. Go vegan.


Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Vegan Month of Food 2016 - Day 29 "Test Run & Fail"

It's day number twenty nine for Month of Food, and I cannot believe it. Where did the time go, for reals. Today we're supposed to bring you our "holiday test run" and "fails" recipes or something along those lines. Fails. I could wax poetic on fails for days and days on end. I think what I'm working on today will be in the "fail" category, but we won't know til tomorrow. More on that in just a moment.

If anyone may be wondering what happened to the preplanned videos I shot, as I had a few in the tank so to speak, they got eaten by the devil that is the computer. Gone. Vanished. So, I've been plugging along on a daily basis mostly. And, for those who also may be wondering about the Key deer, things are improving. You can see my mentions of that occasionally on our Facebook page, and the Key Deer Refuges page offering regular updates (they've just moved to a weekly update, from daily).

A few years ago, I was gifted a beautiful rolling pin for Springerle.  I had no idea what it was for, but to me it was art. I loved it just for it's form, never mind the function. I had always been drawn to them in antique shops by the way, but couldn't believe the pricing. Then a friend gave me that one, and I thought wow, this is amazing.

I never used it.

Last year I finally figured out what Springerle is all about. I wanted to veganize it. My pin had vanished. Things like that happen when you move 4 times in one year (I had a year like that once, I hope you never do, it's awful) or when you move 2000 miles away from what was once home. Thus, I took to begging on the internet to my friends if anyone had a loaner they would let me use. No one had one. Springerle did not happen.

Then, a very special person in my life mailed me a new Springerle pin. I put it in my drawer where I keep the other pins.... I used to "collect' vintage rolling pins, but I donated them to thrifts mostly in my efforts to keep clutter at bay. I kept only those which I use (ok, I do have one that was my grandfathers, but that's a story for another day). The Springerle pin made the cut, and was tucked safely in that drawer.

After reading the history of Springerle, and looking at quite a few traditional recipes, I settled on one to veganize with some additional adjustments to measurements as well. Springerle has to sit for 24 hours before baking, it creates a "step" on the bottom of the cookie or something similar (if done properly) when the cookie dries out during these 24 hours which is also very desired in the finished cookie appearance. I believe my cookies will be a fail. The dough was tough and springy, not what I expected. I rolled them out flat, then used my fancy pin. I cut the cookies with a pizza cutter, and then set them on a sheet which I had dusted with ground whole star anise (seeds were not available anywhere down here that I looked). The house still smells like licorice, I have no problem with that. But, when I went to check on my Springerle to take pictures for you, most of the embossing has been lost. I'm so disappointed. I don't see how these are going to be good at all. These probably are the type of cookies that look very simple, but take a real expert to do properly. My version of Italian Christmas cookies are like that.... the recipe is so basic and simple, but one wrong move in technique and the entire cookie is ruined. It doesn't help at all that I've never even tasted a Springerle either. Anyway, here's my Springerle:

Tomorrow is our last day in Vegan Month of Food for 2016. I'll try not to let you down for the swan song here.


Vegan Month of Food 2016 - Day 28 "Let's Bake"

Note: Sorry this is published in the morning of the next day.... our internet service went on the blink in the middle of me working on this last night. It was out for hours, I gave up.

Let's get to it!

This prompt was made just for me! "They" want to see what we're baking for the holidays. Now, it's just a wee early in the month for me to be full tilt baking in the kitchen, but I DID do some holiday related baking today, and I have some pictures of years past to share. If you ever really want to know what goes on probably in most baker's kitchens during the month of December, I'd say it's a safe bet if you said "chaos."

Up until last year, if you asked me to bake something, it was available for the holidays. Nothing was off limits (as long as it was vegan), my entire inventory was always available. This resulted in tons of orders, sure, but unfortunately many different things. I've been known to pull all nighters baking, and it is NO fun. Last year I moved into a different mindset, I streamlined. I still had an enormous amount of work as a result, but it was better. This year, I'm even more streamlined, and I am not taking orders for shipping. It is just too overwhelming, you know the story.... be careful what you wish for. Especially if you're a specialty vegan baker. They say beware the Ides of March????? No one EVER mentions December. Hm.

Without further chit chat, here's some stuff I've baked today, some stuff I've baked in the past, and a general idea of what goes on around here to bring the goods to the vegan community for the holidays.

Vegan Gingerbread People
Many of them
This is my idea of how cookies should look every December
Many of them
Gluten Free Organic Vegan
I do like these. A lot.

Vegan Macaroons with cacao nibs
With beet added to make them extra festive
Many of them
I do these at Valentine's as well

More of my version of iced Christmas cookies

Many cookies
I don't give my own platters as much attention as I should
Here's some Solstice cookies I made for someone else's Solstice party a few years ago
I think these were lemon lavender, I forget
Many of them. Trays and trays and trays of these
Moon shaped

I observe the Winter Solstice
Unfortunately the last few years I don't have time to do things the way I really want
This was a rushed Yule Log, but so delicious
Chocolate Sponge
Whipped Cream
Dusted with cocoa
Fondant 'shrooms
Of course vegan
I was gifted a recipe by a NY Kosher bakery for rugelach
I veganized it
I only do chocolate
These are something I wish I everyone could taste
They are drops of Heaven

Italian Christmas Cookies--veganized!
I made these today, and will be making MANY
of these for the season
One of my prize recipes
Organic anise
Of course vegan down to the sprinkles
These cookies took A LOT of trial and error to perfect
They're awesome

At 4am-ish, things get a little skewed in the kitchen
A few years ago on a night I had no customers I worked all night in the kitchen filling orders
I had a little leftover icing
I made Vegan Black Metal Chef cookies
What did you THINK they'd look like produced at 4am-ish?
Maybe I should've saved this picture for "fail" day?
Sweet Taralli
Traditional Taralli

My version of veganized
black and white biscotti
Every holiday season!

I made veganized cookie ornaments

These are veganized Polish Kolacky
My version is Gluten Free 
Key deer really do know how to fly

Coconut Mango Biscotti
All summer long I buy and dehydrate local mangoes
just for these cookies and macaroons

Last year, I finally perfected mom's Hermit cookies
using aquafaba
I have dozens of bins like this every holiday season
at the ready for shipping
Not this year though. I'm taking a little break.
Last year, during another all night bake fest, I pressed thousands of vegan spritz style cookies, bagged them up, and headed down to Key West dressed up foolishly in a tutu, and sparkly stuff. I had two friends with me. We walked up and down the streets of Key West handing out bags of free vegan cookies to people. We also stopped at a local soup kitchen where I dropped off dozens of mini-bundt cakes, and we walked around talking to the people there while we handed out cookies too. It was the second year I've done that, the year before I took the other happy vegan with me. I have to say the soup kitchen was pretty well received, however I'm not sure what other people we met thought of our randomness. Key West usually is known for it's "anything goes" attitude, but there were some questionable moments during the hours of passing out vegan cookies to anyone and everyone. 

That chubby dude in the red suit showed up everywhere
I sure hope my friends don't mind this picture...
my friend on the left is "Jen #2" on the far right is Julie
I'm in the pink tutu.
The guy in the red suit approved of the spritz.
By the way, it was about 80 degrees the day we were doing this...
major props to Mr. Chunky in the suit

Ho ho ho, plant style!

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Vegan Month of Food 2016 - Day 27: "Ex-Hideous Food"

Todays' prompt I'm tasked with bringing you a food that I used to dislike, that now I like. Easy!

Roll 'em:


Saturday, November 26, 2016

Vegan Month of Food 2016 - Day 26 "Cookbook Bonanza"

Our prompt today is to show you our favorite cookbooks. We touched on this last year, and my obsession has not slowed down since then. I now own over 200 cookbooks, of course some from very well known vegan chefs, but many others are from the local thrifts. I really like books from the 40s and 50s especially. They are simple easy ingredients, before processed foods really took hold, and I find them pretty easy to veganize. Easy on the budget, and a fun hobby for sure. However, the one cookbook I use more than any other lately is a concept cookbook which I think is brilliant, so unlike any other book I own. It's an original concept as well. I was drawn to this chef because of his music (METAL!) but the videos slay me every time. Epic.

I wish I had time to do this video properly, one that this concept book truly deserves. The amount of information in this book is unbelievable. It's not just food, there's philosophy sprinkled in (just enough), practically every recipe has a QR code which takes you to an original video tutorial with original music for each video/recipe, and the food comes out perfect every time. This book is the result of the vision of one person. I'm in love with this book, we backed the Kickstarter last year, and have to say the final product far exceeded anything we expected. I highly recommend this book. I owe Chef a debt of gratitude. I'm a baker, there's passion there for me there for sure but cooking? Not so much. This book is exactly what I needed, without me ever knowing it. It's changed how I work in the kitchen when it comes to food I'm willing to prepare for ourselves. Which book do I speak of....?



Friday, November 25, 2016

Vegan Month of Food 2016 Day 25 - "First Vegan Meal!"

I LOVE TODAY'S PROMPT!!! We're tasked with talking about what our first vegan meal was, or one we remember very well. I remember so MANY great vegan meals, and while I may not remember my first vegan meal (seriously, I mean, I've had many vegan meals before I even knew what vegan was....most of us have) but let's talk about my first experience as a vegan at a 100% vegan restaurant. It practically blew my mind, and I still reminisce about it.

My first vegan meal at a 100% vegan restaurant was at a place that is long gone. They were so far ahead of their time. This was a very long time ago, when vegan food was not nearly as prevalent as it is today, and when vegan restaurants were very far and few between. This wasn't just "plant based" eating, this was a place run by 2 ethical vegans who spoke of the ethics involved. They spoke about vast injustices towards animals, people and planet. They would come out of the kitchen to meet their customers. They prepared all the food themselves without any prep cooks in the tiniest kitchen you could imagine. They made their own staples of seitan and things like that. I remember walking in there as a vegan, sitting down, picking up the menu, reading it, and being jubilant. I could have ANYTHING on the menu! I was with a non-vegan; I wanted to be "cool" but my effervescence bubbled over. I ordered loaded potato skins, nachos, a garden salad, Southern Cajun seitan with collards and mashed yams, chocolate cake, and peach tea. I'm really serious about this.... I ordered all that. On a date.

When the loaded potato skins came out, I actually gasped.... they had vegan versions of bacon and cheese. They were perfectly crispy, and absolutely delicious. I don't remember if I shared... I'm serious about my food, that other person may have a fork mark scar on their hand knowing how I am. I was full after the first app, but remember all the other stuff I ordered was still on the way. Nachos were next, I do remember sharing.... loaded up.... jalapenos, vegan cheese, tomatoes, onions. OMG. Dinner had not even arrived, and there I sat beyond stuffed. Then the entree came. This place became a staple for me after that first visit, and I always ordered their collards and other greens. I've never had any place do greens any better, I think they cooked them with fresh lemongrass or something... they had a subtle flavor I have no idea what it was, today I might be able to identify. But, this was back in a time when I didn't cook at all, I hadn't a clue (we've already talked about that). So, I ate the greens not caring how they were prepared, they were vegan, and they were perfect. The seitan was unbelievable, it was the first time I even had seitan. I don't know how they prepared it, but it was fried. It probably had panko because it was so crispy, plus it was spicy. Chunks of heaven, with mustard sauce. I had the audacity to order chocolate cake and peach tea for dessert. On the ride home I honestly felt sick I had eaten probably more than ever my whole life, but it was so good, and did I mention, I COULD ORDER ANYTHING ON THE MENU!!!

I made a feeble attempt tonight to recreate the entree. Very feeble. The day got away from me here, we were volunteering medicating Key deer with Doramectin (that nasty screwworm is still around, but the fatalities have plummeted, the eradication efforts and medication is working!) so I'm sure anyone reading this will understand that the deer are a priority.

Here's a picture of my feeble version of my first vegan entree at a vegan restaurant, approximately 17-20 years ago, give or take....

My feeble version of one of the most memorable meals I ever had....
Southern Cajun seitan, smashed yams, sauteed greens

I actually hoped to bring you a video today on this, but turns out obviously there's no video, but not even homemade seitan. Worse yet, I bought strips not cubes because the strips were on sale, so the feeble got more feeble.

That restaurant experience totally changed my outlook on food. It made me realize my thoughts on vegan food were FAR off base, and I needed to up my game, as well as my expectations. Those ladies opened my eyes and mind to so many other ethical issues, not just my simplistic view of going vegan "for the animals." I used to drive almost 1 hour each way to eat there, and when they closed to move on to other ventures I actually cried. To this day I remember their menu, their regular specials, the art on the walls, the smells, and the joy I felt every time I made plans to eat there. In time, the other happy vegan made the trek there with me. He wasn't even vegan back then, but going there was always something he would look forward to although certainly a non-vegan probably will never understand the joy of being vegan at a vegan restaurant and that realization that nothing on the menu is off limits.

By the way, that chocolate cake was the best I've ever had too. One year, the other happy vegan actually drove all the way to that restaurant to pick up a secret chocolate cake he had ordered for me. Again, this was back in a time when practically no place did vegan baking, not to mention an entire custom order cake. Damn, they made good cake.

Some days I sit and think that the world is going backwards, that we will never have a vegan world, and I feel very helpless maybe even occasionally hopeless. But, when I really stop and think, there's been huge steps of awareness as to the reasons we need to go vegan, as well as the growth of vegan companies and availability of vegan foods. Thinking back to this very first vegan meal at the very first vegan restaurant I ever set foot in makes me realize how far we've come... and reminds me how high the bar was set even close to 2 decades ago.

I owe a debt of gratitude to those pioneers for many things, least of which is the great vegan meals I ate for years at their place, as well as the complexities that come with farmed food.

If they were still in business, they'd be getting tons of referrals from me, and you can bet I would still be eating there even though I'm thousands of miles away. I'm known to plan vacations around restaurant hours, who knows if they were still in business I may have never even moved here.

Plant strong forever!

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Vegan Month of Food 2016 - Day 24 "Show Us Your Food!"

Happy Thanksgiving to anyone who observes this holiday. Personally I choose to use this day as one of reflection and gratitude.

Our prompt today depends upon who we are and where we live. Americans are asked what are we making for Thanksgiving, and non-Americans are asked to have a go at making something Thanksgiving inspired.

We are non-formal here, and also today was a regular work day for us. The best part of the day was going to the gym in the middle of the day with not a soul in sight, so much wonderful. We had a late supper of Tofurky, roasted veggies, baked veggies, bread stuffing, cauliflower mash, mashed potatoes and gravy. I don't like stuffing, so I stayed away from that, but otherwise I did a sampling of everything. I set the table with the Russian grandma placemat for him, and a bright harvest cotton mat for me (actually my mat ended up just being a place for Diesel to sit and stare while we ate). Anyway, for picture purposes, I put each plate on the grandma style mat. We fixed our own plates, and the other happy vegan was a little sorry he didn't understand I was taking a picture.... guess which one he did, guess which one I did, haha.

So, the cauliflower mash and Brussels sprouts were lovingly made at Food For Thought in Marathon and they came with a delicious mustard sauce, SO good. I also purchased that beautiful acorn squash   at Food for Thought as well. The Tofurky came from Publix, I used the same recipe I've done for years, a modified version of their caramelized onions & cherries recipe (I use sweet onions and dried cranberries). Also, everything I prepared was oil free too. For dessert, the other happy vegan has a slice of vegan pumpkin cheezecake also made at Food For Thought, while I stuffed a couple of dates with sunbutter and dipped them in chocolate. 

No way I could finish all that food, but I thought it looked pretty on the plate. Princess Glitter FancyPants took a cue from Diesel, being a little more than brazen she sampled the other happy vegan's plate as you can see. Now that I'm looking more at his plate, I see far too few veggies, he and I are going to have to talk.

We have much to be thankful for, and while I do make a point to be thankful every day, there's nothing wrong with having a day specifically set aside to reflect and be grateful. Personally I choose to not honor the "authentic" roots of this holiday, and have allowed this day to morph into what is acceptable for me, and that works just fine.

For those who are observing the holiday with compassion, we thank you. For those who are not "there" yet, our hope is that as the sun rises tomorrow, you will choose that path.

We hope anyone observing today has had a peaceful day with family and friends. We remember all those who are alone, lonely or struggling in any way. We hope all of us who have much to be grateful for will always remember those in need, and that we all act to aid those in need.

Blessed be.


Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Vegan Month of Food 2016 - Day 23 "Traditional Holiday Food....Not Quite"

Vegan Month of Food 2016 rolls on with today's prompt of "are there any traditional holiday foods you make."

As usual: zip, zilch, zero, nada, nope, none.

What's a gal to do????

The other happy vegan to the rescue! More specifically, the other happy vegan's Russian grandmother to the rescue!

Today he shared this memory with me. His grandmother's place was where family gathered, not just for holidays, but pretty much for everything. Thanksgiving was generally hosted by her as well. He told me that something she used to do was collect different colored leaves that fell from the 2 giant maple trees on the property as autumn settled in. Then, she would arrange the leaves in ovals and circles, stems in, putting large leaves in the center. She glued them all together like this, enough leaves to make enough placemats for every person who was coming to the meal. Then, she would set the (Russian) harvest table using those leaf mats for everyone. Again, this comes from the mindset that I spoke of yesterday with my own mom.... making something out of nothing.

Today while I was busy cleaning up the kitchen after breakfast service for guests, the other happy vegan was outside collecting sea grape leaves and gluing them together. He made this placemat for me, brought it upstairs and told me the story of his grandmother, so I'd have something "traditional" to share for you today, as he knew I'm running on empty.

Take a peek:

The other happy vegan speaks of his Russian grandmother probably more than anyone else, besides his mom. His Russian grandmother adored and doted on him. He was fortunate enough to have her in  his life long enough to really get to know her as a person -- not just a grandmother -- before she passed on. I know he misses her terribly, and I'm very sorry I never got to meet her. Even after all these years together, I still learn new things about this part of his life, there's many traditions that the family had.

No it's not food, but neither one of us here wants to re live the carcasses of our years as non-vegans. I'm much happier picturing his grandmother collecting leaves for weeks in anticipation of making special place mats for family and friends who were gathering for harvest.

I'm thinking I'll probably keep this mat and use it on our own harvest table tomorrow, only ours will have a beautiful roast Tofurky to set upon it. Woot!


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Vegan Month of Food 2016 Day 22 - More Memories

For today's Month of Food prompt, we are tasked with bringing you some silly food memories and/or traditions we have.

As with yesterday, I'm running on empty here. No judging, what I offer up is all I have.

My mother was an interesting woman. She was very smart, exceptionally creative and artistic, and had a flair for making something out of nothing. She played the guitar, could paint, was a seamstress, and her life was far too short. We grew up in an area which was generally middle class, but we were not. My dad had a very good job, but the house they got was big (4 kids), very old (about 200 years or so), and a total fixer upper. We didn't live a lavish lifestyle at all, money was exceptionally tight. My mother used to make my clothes. I hated that back then, now all I can say is how I wish I understood then what I do now, and how I wish she were here to design and make my clothes. The thing is, when you are 10, and in no way want to stand out in the crowd, home sewn clothes aren't the way to go. Let's just say I had immense character building in school as a child.

My mother made great effort to create a traditional home, and I mean old school authentic Colonial traditional. My one brother says something along the lines of "wasn't it great growing up in George Washington's home!" I laugh, but it's true. My mother loved traditional Colonial design, and we were surrounded by it. On a shoestring. She was always buying things at garage sales or picking things up at the curb to refinish, but she was super picky.... only traditional Colonial, aka what you'd find in George Washington's home as my brother says. By the time she finished with a project, it was a shining example of perfection. She had a flair for design, learned enough about antiques to "deal" a little bit further on down the line, and had an eye for good "bones" in furnishings as one would say. She filled her traditional Colonial home with those completely redone discards, and then at holidays all the stops came out with traditional super old fashioned decorating. This included the annual "making of the pomander balls." Every year we had to do this. We didn't use a pointy thing, nope, we had to stick the cloves one by one into the oranges weeks before Christmas so they would be ready on time. I absolutely hated doing them, my fingers would be stinging and raw doing them, but they got done. A week or so before Christmas, she would begin to rummage through her antique trunk which was absolutely packed with fabric remnants (you know, the bits and pieces from those odd dresses I was forced to wear that got me beat up that built character). She'd take her freshly sharpened pinking shears and cut the fabric just the right size, wrap the pomanders in the fabric, tie them with beautiful ribbon, then box them up for special people. Although the process of making them was something I dreaded every year, the finished product was something I truly looked forward to. They were magnificent. Talk about making something special out of practically nothing.... they were little bits of art. No one finished them the way she did.

When my mother died, I found a pomander ball that was about 20 years old hanging in her closet. That was a very chaotic time in my life; I did not keep that pomander, but remember to this day what it looked like, and that it still smelled so pretty. Of course there's many things I wish I kept, including the lone pomander.

Anyway, a few weeks ago, I was gifted with an abundance of Key limes and I decided to make some pomanders. I used a little toothpick to poke the holes, then stuffed them with cloves. This was about 7 weeks ago. They're all dried out, perfectly light, airy and fragrant. I will be threading the ribbon through them this weekend, and probably dressing the ribbon with some fancy beads or doo-dads before I decide what to do with them. But, for today, I jammed on a piece of white ribbon and took this picture:

Here's approximately what I used to make roughly 20 pomanders:

3/4 cup orris root
2T cinnamon
1T allspice
1T cloves
1T nutmeg

You can make pomanders with your choice of citrus. I've only ever done oranges though, and these Key limes. You can make little designs in your fruit, or stud them full like I did. Leave room at the top and bottom for a hole to slip the ribbon through when they dry out.

Stud your fruit with cloves, mix up your spices, pour the spices into a brown bag, and toss in your studded fruit. Shake the bag a couple times a week so the fruit rotates, and keep in a cool spot to allow them to dry. Mine probably were ready in about 2-3 weeks because Key limes are so small, but plan on about 3-4 weeks for an orange.

It's not a silly memory, and it's not something you'd eat, but these are food ingredients, of course they're vegan, and I was able to throw in a memory/story for you.

Somehow I just don't picture Martha Washington making pomanders.

Plant strong forever.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Vegan Month of Food 2016 Day 21 - Memories....

We're into the home stretch of Month of Food for 2016, so very hard to believe. Today's prompt is to recreate my favorite food memory. Sounds easy enough, but no....

I have virtually no special memories of food, or at least none I purposefully want to re live. Growing up, there were no food traditions in our house, beyond the fact that on our birthdays we got to pick our birthday dinner. I was always a taco girl, heavy on the tomatoes and salsa. Today if I do eat a taco, it's stuffed with kale, or chickpeas or some other luscious vegan option. But, I got nothing to call upon from the old days.

My memories of food are not good ones. I had a total disconnect of where my "food" came from, was not a very good cook, didn't get much teaching on cooking til I was in my 40s either. I survived my 20s on spinach salads and ramen noodles, barely remember even living my 30s, and then found myself finally learning to cook when I contracted the services of a professional chef to teach me so I could manage the kitchen here. I was so unskilled it wasn't even funny.... I remember when I was a teen, I loved boiled potatoes. One night, I over cooked them. I was absolutely astonished to see that they came out as mashed potatoes. I mean, mashed potatoes came from a box.... right? I am totally serious about this. I do remember thinking "why do we buy potatoes from a box, when I can just boil a potato and mash it...." but of course would never ask that because in my house one did not question authority. I don't think I was raised poorly, in fact my parents were great parents who worked hard to instill good values and ethics into me. It was my own choice to follow, or not, and yes they were good parents in my opinion. But the food thing.... it really was nothing worth remembering.

This week of prompts are going to be challenging for me, and today is one of the most difficult. I finally settled on waffles. About 100 years ago, when the other happy vegan and I had just gotten together, he showered me with Hello Kitty appliances. Nothing makes you realize someone loves you truly until they recognize a Hello Kitty addiction, and run with it. In due course, he presented me with a Hello Kitty coffee maker (totally hilarious because back then I would never even touch a cup of coffee), a Hello Kitty Toaster, a Hello Kitty Waffle iron, and other little things like a HK lamp, alarm clock, blah blah. He would make me waffles in that waffle iron and present them to me like it was an Iron Chef masterpiece (yes, vegan style.... I was vegan even back then). I had never personally used that waffle iron.... until today. It's something for him to make special for me, but it's Vegan MoFo, so I wanted to give you pretty much one of the only (or THE only) food memories I have. Mine didn't come out fancy like his always do, in fact you cannot even see their little faces,  but they're on there. I made my coconut waffle recipe, which is basically just a vegan waffle recipe done with unsweetened coconut milk, unsweetened dried coconut, coconut extract, and ground oats instead of flour. I didn't use measurements at all for this.... I included some baking powder, a dash of non-GM safflower oil, and that is everything. FYI, you should be able to adapt pretty much any waffle recipe to flourless using ground oats. I always omit the sugar, especially when I'm making things for myself. I sliced a banana, and called it dinner:

Aw, there she is.
Still going strong after all these years...
my beloved Hello Kitty waffle maker

I'm not sure how he does it, but when he makes me waffles
they come out perfect, you can see the tiny faces too
Somehow I am incapable of doing even that.

All the other Hello Kitty appliances are long gone. Planned obsolence I guess. Somehow the waffle iron survived, and still has a place of honor in my pantry. As this week progresses and other prompts come up, hopefully I'll have some type of epiphany and remember something every day. Hope springs eternal.

Vegan is love.


Sunday, November 20, 2016

Vegan Month of Food 2016 Day 20 - "It's Easy Being Green!"

Ah, with day number 20 comes one of the best prompts.... GREEN! You want to see green, green it shall be.

For your information, we took it kind of easy today. We took a trip into Key West for a plant show, bumped into some friends, puttered around the beach when we got back, stood still in nature, and all that fun stuff.

We have the option of showing you green as in food, or green as in eco initiatives. Every day of my life is advocating for eco-initiatives, both through this business, and our home. I went with my own vibe of taking it easy today, and made a Matcha green tea latte the way I like it. 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk, 1/2 cup filtered water, 1.5 tsp Matcha. That's it. No sweetener. I warmed everything up, then poured it into my $1 hand pump frother from the thrift.


I know this doesn't LOOK green, but it is!
Matcha green tea latte, unsweetened.
Under all that pretty foam is the prettiest shade of green.

Now, about those eco initiatives. As someone who runs an authentic green lodge and happens to be a certified wildlife paraprofessional, I'd like to ask you to do these things:

-make an investment in reusable straws. We use stainless here at the inn, they're fantastic and go straight through the dishwasher. They come in other materials too, including tempered glass, which I happen to like just as much, but wasn't available back when I made my purchase years ago.

-carry a stainless water bottle with you. Stop buying water in plastic. It's full of chemicals and pollutes the planet as well.

-stop using plastic bags! Carry canvas, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE CARRY CANVAS. Plastic bags look strikingly like jellyfish once they hit the ocean, sea turtles eat them and die, it's a HUGE problem. The problem is not limited to just sea turtles, but all wildlife.

-stop buying balloons. That's right, stop now. Helium is a finite resource, plus balloons are NOT biodegradable, that's just propaganda from the balloon industry. Further, the ribbons used on balloons somehow seem to end up in watersheds too. I still mourn the beautiful cormorant I pulled dead off the beach who had choked to death on balloons and ribbons she tried to eat from some idiot who obviously couldn't see past their own ego, and did a balloon release. This is a tough one to educate about at times, but crucial. Heck, even where I live, right here in nature central, people actually do lantern and balloon releases. They're not legal, but somehow everyone gets a free pass. Just say no.

-Carry a thermos when you travel, put your soups and chilis in there when you get things to go.
-carry stainless or other suitable reusable containers for take out. We leave ours in the car at the ready!
-carry reusable utensils all the time with you, you'll use them more than you think!
-Buy in bulk, close the loop before it's open if you get my drift.
-collect rainwater and use it!
-install low flow valves on all faucets
-install setback thermostats
-upgrade appliances to energy savers/hi efficiency
-Shop thrifts
-do more with less

Just to name a few things.

Oh, I'd like to mention that I'm super upset with Stephen Hawking lately. For the second time in a year, he's made his urgent plea that humans have very little time to colonize another planet if we are to insure our own species survives for long term. I'd love to have a chat with him on this topic. Go ruin another planet? That's the advice from one of the most brilliant minds of our modern times? NO! The thing we have to do is go vegan NOW, stop wasting NOW, conserve NOW, and stop with the massive human population growth. So far, he has not called, but I'll be ready when he does.

Lastly, we're a green lodge who has to go through a process to get this accreditation, and are subject to audit at any time. We also have to submit our hard data on consumption including water, electrical, waste, among other things. Isn't it interesting that the number one thing we do here (vegan) is not even factored into the equation for our accreditation. We're working to change that. We've been in the program for about 12 year, so far our plea continues to fall on deaf ears. That's just a reminder for all of us.... not a moment to spare, always advocate.

You want to be green? Be an advocate. Poof, you're green! Now, go make your tea and enjoy.

Green strong!! xo

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Vegan Month of Food 2016 - Day 19: "The Goth of it All"

Today we are on Day 19 of Vegan Month of Food, our prompt is "Goth Day," show off the blues, blacks and purples.

Been there done that (anyone remember my Vegan Black Metal Chef video?) Despite the fact that working with black, purple and/or blue coloring is my least favorite (do you know how much black dye it takes to get a true black, even using chocolate frosting?!! do you know the damage blues and purples does to my spatulas, cake equipment, not to mention my poor hands!) I went with it anyway.

The other happy vegan is a space freak. He's always watching NASA channel, science fiction movies, staring at the stars (he's got one of those fancy telescopes, a gift from me..... wish he had time to use it more), and making his best efforts to explain the science of it all to me. I don't want to hear any of it.... as you might also recall, I see smoke, mystery and glitter dust when I look to the sky, don't take that away from me. Yes, he's a sciencey space freak and he had a birthday recently. I plotted and planned a special space cake for quite a while. Just before his birthday, he announced "NO CAKE!"


I was left dangling without a plan. The best I could do was a feeble attempt at galaxy cookies and some purple, blue and black coloring. WAIT? WHAT? Purple, blue and black??? Isn't that a prompt for Vegan Month of Food, if I decide to do it for 2016?

Yay! Besides, I already had the meringues (hundreds of 'em) done.

Scroll below and you'll see some photos. If you look on YouTube, there is an absolute masterful person going by the name "SweetAmbs" who has created something called "galaxy cookies." I saw them long ago, and fell in love with them. The YouTube version is not vegan, but no biggie, I simply veganized using royal icing with aquafaba. The colors are Wilton brand synthetic coloring which as of now is still vegan, vegan glitters and sprinkles (Sweetopolita on Etsy ... she has a vegan section) and my own vegan cake/frosting recipes. The cookies were a labor of love, they are not perfect by a long shot. It was the the first time I've ever made them. If you take the time to watch the tutorial on YouTube, you will understand how difficult these actually were in the size I chose (nickle size, I'm a fool!)

Don't hold it against me as a "Pinterest fail" when you see SweetAmbs Galaxy Cookies, and then see mine. My issue with my galaxy cookies are that they are not even close as "clean" looking as the beauties on YouTube. This has nothing to do with the "vegan" of it all, rather the size of my cookies, as already mentioned, the smaller cookies are about the size of a nickle, the larger ones no bigger than about a quarter. I came to realize by the end of my decorating session that the tutorial on YouTube is done with much larger cookies. All things considered they came out ok, and you know I'm honest here posting my successes, my fails and my "meh, they're ok" all the way around equally.

If you didn't already know, when using black dye use chocolate frosting as your base if possible, it will help cut down on the quantity of coloring you'll need. I used chocolate ganache for the black filling. Honestly I just cannot take the taste of icings that are colored with so much dye, it's against my organic grain, but I will comply for those who want it, and yes as a vegan baker I do get requests for it as well. No judging, you get what you ask for, as long as it's vegan. Kids seem to LOVE the choices of blue, purple or black frosting because it certainly does make for spirited contests of "what color is your tongue" among the wee ones.

Aquafaba meringues
before drying
so glossy!

Some of the meringues
after drying
and sprinkled with
vegan luster dust
More aquafaba meringues
after drying and sprinkled with vegan luster dust
More aquafaba meringues
before drying
so glossy!
I boxed up some of the cookies for him.
Cupcakes before frosting
I just "inject" any fillings into my cupcakes
Far as I'm concerned, cutting a hole in the cupcake
is a waste of time
Vegan chocolate ganache
colored with vegan synthetic food dye
SEE! This is why I loathe using black dye!
That container and spatula are still suffering from
the after effects
This is, believe it or not, vegan chocolate ganache
I wish I had a better photo
I wish I had a better end product
this is a vegan vanilla cupcake
injected with black chocolate ganache
topped with purple and blue vegan vanilla icing
vegan luster dust and stars
vegan space cookie
vegan meringue

Some of the cupcakes had ganache on top too.
Sprinkles are vegan, I get them from Sweetopolita on Etsy
She has a vegan section
I liked the galaxy cookie on this cupcake, but don't like
the cupcake photo
That cookie isn't quite perfect, none of them were,
but it's only about the size of a nickle
If you see the Galaxy Cookie tutorial
you would be more astonished at my own
nickle sized galaxy cookies
I love love LOVE the Galaxy Cookie concept, and someday when I have a little more time am going to do these again, on a normal size cookie. I give huge credit to SweetAmbs.... you make it all seem SO easy.

So, maybe there's not metal music blasting in the background, maybe I'm not wearing my black nail polish and choice of black wigs (yup, I got 'em) and oddly enough that is probably what I would've done at least as far as getting metal music here (never like to miss an opportunity for that), but heck, the other happy vegan had a birthday, and he's just not that. Despite this, yin still needs yang.

And just like the big bang, goth day is over.


Friday, November 18, 2016

Vegan Month of Food 2016 - Day 18: "Into the Darkness"

Today's prompt is to make a food that is either black and white, OR take a photo of food in black and white. I'm all in.

I must let you know I make the best black and white cookie ever. No, seriously, I do. But, I didn't have time for that today; that cookie would have been my choice despite the fact it's not completely black and white, if only I had more time. We spent the large majority of our day volunteering for the Refuge, going door to door canvasing, handing out information regarding the screwworm outbreak. Immediately after we finished that by late afternoon.... into the evening.... we were out medicating Key deer we could find. "Black and white" prompt doesn't count for the day and night of my day.... if only.

 Black and white meringues for you!!!

I use a lot of aquafaba around here, and I used it today.

I took a picture of each view first without the black and white filter.... see how they look much more cream colored? Must just be the poor lighting in my kitchen.... it's pretty late right now, zero natural light, and shadows being thrown from all angles. Sorry.

Without further delay, my black and white vegan meringues. They are PERFECT (if meringues are your thing!)

Close up
The white is actually pure white
I think it's just the bad lighting in my kitchen throwing them off

I chose a black and white filter for this shot
Super pretty.

Shadows, off-center and bad lighting...
absolutely a photo taken by me!

I chose a black and white filter here

Oooooo, bonus!
This is a picture of one of the ferals we feed and check up on every night.
She's black and white!
Shh..... don't tell anyone, but if we catch her....
we're keeping her.
What's one more?
She so wants to be our friend, but is so not trusting of us.

Ebony & ivory, vegan style, forever together.


Thursday, November 17, 2016

Vegan Month of Food 2016 - Day 17 "At Least I Tried!"

I had high hopes for today, you'd never know it based upon what you'll see here today.

Our prompt is to prepare something in a color we rarely cook up. For me I'd say black is the #1, unless you count all the stuff I burn, which I'm leaving off the list because this is Month of Food, not Month of Stuff I Burned. Anyway, goth day is coming up so I decided on purple, because purple food is rare in my world, no matter my undying love for purple cabbage.

Plans were for blue corn tacos, using pickled purple cabbage. Well, you get the cabbage, but that's about it. Don't ask about the tacos. They just didn't happen, ok?

I found a recipe for quick pickled cabbage, which I made a few days ago. It's super delicious, but apparently I can get into trouble if I publish it here as I didn't ask permission. Instead I'll say it's on the Edible Perspective page, and yes totally worth making.

My picture looks more pink than purple, but it's the most beautiful shade of purple, trust me. I also happened to toss in just a touch of regular cabbage left over from last week's "fusion" prompt. I hate to waste food, and the regular cabbage was just a dot in my veggie drawer looking all sad and lonely. Even the plate color looks "off" but trust me on this as well.... the plate is blue. I thought it would bring out the purple. It didn't.

Although my contribution today is not up to par, I'm filing it under "at least I tried" and honestly if you look up the recipe and make it yourself, you won't be disappointed. If pickled cabbage is your thing I mean. You could pickle cardboard and I'd be all in, I just love pickled stuff!

Not that you'd know it, but this IS
really delicious pickled purple cabbage.
On a blue plate.
WTF is going on with my camera?

I'm glad today's prompt is over. I never figured this one would give me any trouble. Even though it doesn't look like much, it's delicious thanks to Edible Perspective, although sorry about that copyright thing......

Purple plant love to you all. 


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Vegan Month of Food 2016 - Day 16 "Compliments, Please!"

Today we're tasked with bringing you food in complimentary colors. Why re-invent the wheel is what I say.... Winter, Spring, Summer or Fall, red and green continually appear all around me. Don't believe me.... look at all this!

I actually remember preparing this....
Polenta with fresh red sauce.
It took a LONG time to make the polenta....
stirring.... stirring.... stirring
Green plates count, right?
Saw a non-vegan version on Pinterest
Bah to non-vegan!
This is vegan!
This is what happens when I spend far too many hours in the kitchen...

I think this was a kale salad with vegan parm and tomatoes
I made it, I photographed it but....
this was a long time ago, not sure!
Sublime, Ft. Lauderdale
Greens from their rooftop garden
Might not be the best picture
but holy hell, vegan eggplant parm and local greens
w/mango dressing!
The other happy vegan makes the BEST
eggplant parm!!!
More Jersey autumn splendor

Autumn splendor from Jersey

Tropical complimentary splendor!

Red... right next to those sprouts
Brussell sprouts getting ready to roast
I picked this mango, indeed I did!
It IS red and green!

We have a huge hibiscus bush here
The iguanas love the flowers
It's ok, iguanas are green, so it works
Did you know hibiscus are edible, of course you did!
Another great meal at Kaya, which is gone.
Vegan pesto, with grilled asparagus and tomatoes.
Those were the days my friend.
I couldn't resist
This is how people decorate for the holidays where I live
I love this!
This is some kind of flame plant
it actually grows in my garden!
Oh so long ago....
garden grown basil
whipped into vegan pesto
served on linguine w/tomatoes
This too was a masterful creation from Scott
at Kaya.
We really miss that place.
Vegan sugar cookies
Key deer style!
Falafel waffles
with cucumber sauce and tomatoes
Of course vegan.
They were an experiment,
never to be repeated.
OMG, complimentary mango splendor
The first or second year after I had moved here
my brother sent me a care package for my birthday
Jersey corn and Jersey tomatoes
I practically cried
If you live in Florida, you understand
My compliments to Mother Nature
Tofu Benedict with avocado hollandaise
The Cafe, Key West
Homemade ravioli
Used the dough recipe in the Vegg cookbook (best EVER!)
tofu ricotta using a recipe from Whole Foods site
I can tell by my plate and mat
this was at Christmas
Why do I use so much red and green,
I don't even celebrate Christmas!
Well, it's red, and it's green
but beyond that I have no idea
what I cooked here!
Long lost Yule cake
I make one for us every year
This was one of the less elaborate ones
but... see, red and green!
This is a Caprese plate I made for a Meetup last year
The theme was vegan wine & vegan cheese
We had over 50 vegan cheeses represented!
One of my contributions was this plate
Miyoko's wet buffalo mozzarella style cheese
This is the inside of lasagna rolls, before I rolled
Tofu ricotta made by me of course
This is a velvet apple
growing at the Grimal Grove!
Italian Rainbow Cookies
I saw them non-vegan style, and took on the challenge
These were a ton of work, but
real showstoppers
Papayas, green but.... look below...
Local red cherries (some type of cherry I think!)
a huge bundle given to me long ago by a friend
These are tart with a giant pit in the middle
A challenge to work with, but oh so beautiful!

Until I was scrolling through photos for yesterday's prompt, I honestly didn't realize how much I love red and green plants and food.

Nothing, and I mean NOTHING beats fresh organic greens with ripe Jersey tomatoes and a simple vinaigrette.

Red and green forever, go plants!