Friday, July 30, 2010

My Kind of Town - Chicago Trip

I'm back from my travels to the great state of Illinois, which is not the most veg friendly place on earth. However, I managed to find some great veggie places and ingredients.

One of the highlights of the trip was the PPK meet up at the Chicago Diner. We had a great turn out of 15 people. It was such a blast. Much to our surprise VeganAide and her honey picked up the tab without our knowledge. I didn't get a chance to talk to them or thank them as they were on the opposite end of the table. But as you can see here, my handy dandy photographer Fred caught him red handed signing the check. LOL. Seriously. Thank you so much for your generosity. It was so special.

It was such fun to meet everyone. I'm hoping to sit at the other end of the table next time so that I can get to know the rest of you better. I didn't get many pictures of the food because I had Kelly (Autumn Vegan) sitting next to me with her awesome camera and photography skills. I knew she would get great pics.

I'm back to work and reality this week. I will soon post more good food stuff!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Bountiful Baskets Food Co-op

Summer always brings such wonderful things: no school for the kids, fire works, fireflies, picnics, vacations. But the thing I love most about summer is all of the summertime produce! Growing up in the midwest, summer was always a great time to pick sweet corn, berries, asparagus and all sorts of other seasonal wonders. Here in AZ it is actually a bit sparse in the summer. But thankfully Fred has devised some great shading for our garden. I love going to the farmers market for veggies too. This time of the year the farmers sometimes bow out of our market because it is located in a hot asphault parking lot. I needed to find another alternative to fill my summer produce desires.

I really try to eat mostly organic produce from the US. I don't know if it is true, but someone told Fred that all produce that comes out of Mexico gets fumigated before it can cross the border, which pretty much negates the "organic" labeling in my mind. It has been getting more difficult to find US grown produce at Whole Foods. My good friend Daphne told me about Bountiful Baskets co-op. I sure am glad she did. The co-op offers produce boxes. The regular box is $15.00 plus handling ($1.50). The organic box when available is $25.00 plus handling. They also offer an option to purchase bread. There are times they will have other special purchase. For example this week they had a screaming deal on flats of blueberries. You must place your order online with a credit card by Tuesday of the week you want to pick up.

The down side is that you have to be there at a specific time and on time to get your goodies. It's really no big deal, but some people are a bit more spontaneaous in their shopping habits. I find it completely worth it. I'd love to see an option for and all fruit or all vegetable basket. I know a lot of juicers like this option as well. I'm not a huge fruit eater myself, so an all veggie option would be perfect for me.

Fred picked up our first basket this week. I was bummed I was working, because I find getting produce baskets/boxes a bit like Christmas. He said the pickup was very quick and organized. I made him call me when he got the box home to tell me all the goodies that were in the box. It was loaded with organic fabulousness. There were fresh green beans, a bag of sweet potatoes, spinach, romaine lettuce, a zucchini, a cucumber, a giant cantaloupe, a huge bag of grapes, gorgeous strawberries, apples, and plums. I think I got it all. It was really a bargain for $26.50. I know I would have paid a lot more at the market or Whole Foods!

I have tried other co-ops, CSA's, and other produce delivery services. What stands out about Bountiful Baskets in my mind is that you do not have to take an order every week or every other week. You only order when you want to. This is huge for me as I often travel or need specific items for recipe testing. The quality of the produce is excellent. They have lots of pick up locations.

I wish I would have gotten a picture of the whole kit n kaboodle, but I started using things up before I thought of it. It was an impressive take! I did get a picture of these beauties.

Zucchini Bites (based on this recipe from Webly at the PPK) and Baked Sweet Potato Fries

The zucchini bites are easy breezy to make. You don't have to measure things out here. Just slice zuchs to about 1/4 inch thick. Spread a very thin layer of Vegannaise on one side of each slice. Place slices, mayo side up, in a single layer on cookie sheet sprayed with oil. Sprinkle Vegan Parmesan, panko crumbs and Italian seasoning on each slice. Bake for 20 minutes at 350. Eat and enjoy. I'm going to try a variation next time by turning the slices half way through and sprinkling the other side with the panko and parm.

The sweet potatoes are pretty basic. Slice unpeeled sweet taters into thin matchsticks. Toss in a bit of canola oil and seasonings (I love to use Penzey's Northwoods Fire Seasoning). Bake for about 25-30 minutes at 350 until crisp on the edges, turning once.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Blog Awards

So there is this fun little award thingy going around the blogs. The Blog Awards. Here are the ground rules:

1 - You have to thank the person who nominated you.
2 - You have to tell 7 things about yourself
3 - You have to nominate 15 other awesome bloggers

So to start off I must thank the lovely Rikki Cupcake from Seitanic Vegan Heathen. Rikki and I met at Trader Joe's where she was working. She is fun, creative, compassionate and all around awesome. I am hoping we can hang out more when my life gets a bit less crazy. In the short time I've known her I can tell she is going to be a great friend.

The lucky seven.

1 - I was once arrested for beef theft. Actually I was an accomplace. When I was in high school I dated a very bright, artistic, slightly obnoxious guy who would occassionally steal things when he was bored. I honestly don't think he was a clepto, but just liked the adrenalin rush. We lived in a small town, so there wasn't much excitement. The story goes something like this. We have a day off of school because president Reagan got shot (yep I'm dating myself). We decide we're going to cook. We head to the grocery store to pick up supplies.

J: Wow! Look at all of that beef sitting in the back of that truck. (This is in front of a huge glass store front).
Me: Yeah.
J: Do you know how easy it would be to steal that?
Me: Yeah. (laughing)

We buy the supplies and I am carrying them to the car walking in front of J. I get to the car and hear him coming towards me. I turn around and he is carrying a hind quarter of beef on his shoulder. He throws it in the back seat of my friend's car who is waiting for us and says "Go!". She's shocked and just takes off. Later on J feels the urge to return to the scene of the crime. Of course because the truck was in front of a plate glass window, the store employees witness his crime. He gets arrested and we all get taken in to the station as his accomplices. I'm a minor and they release me to a very unhappy mommy. This is the story of the "Great Beef Caper". Another reason it is fate that I no longer eat beef.

2 - When I was 1 1/2 years old, I fell of a top bunk. On the way to the floor I hit a air conditioning vent that had a little handle on it. The little handle went through my cheek from my ear to very close to my mouth. I have a nice scar that gets bright red if I get a lot of sun.

3 - My parents owned a pet shop when I was a kid. My job was to clean all of the animal cages for 50 cents. I used to buy penny candy and 45 records with my earnings. Sadly, it burned down when I was in 4th grade. My dad was amazing at nursing sick animals back to health, but oddly was very afraid of dogs. My love of animals started at a very young age.

4 - I have an irrational fear of malfunctioning toilets. As a kid I feared all toilets working or not. It is a deep seated, irrational and intense fear that has thankfully gotten better over time. When I was a kid, I refused to go into public bathrooms. My 1st grade teacher was so concerned she sent me to the school counselor. I had to talk to an imaginary friend any time I went to the bathroom so I would not be scared. I can name several times as an adult that I ran from a malfunctioning toilet screaming for my life. I'm pretty sure this manifested from my brother always threatening to flush me down to the poo plant.

5 - I arrived for and left my wedding on a jet ski.

6 - I am a 10 year breast cancer survivor and thriver! I organize the Joanne Wood March Madness for Mammaries Hike to benefit the Breast Cancer Fund and the Wellness Community - Arizona to honor the memory of my Aunt Jo who lost her battle in 2006.

7 - One of my friends calls me Potato because of an incident we had waiting tables together. Never put two alpha dogs on a waiting team together. Your guests are likely to wait a long time to get a freaking potato. Long story.

Well this was a fun little trip down memory lane. Hopefully you are still willing to read my blog now that you know I am a criminal and a crackpot. I hope you stay with me, but just in case you need some new blogs to haunt, here are my nominations for the Blog Awards. These are blogs I find great resources for recipes and cooking ideas. All of them are food related, because, well, you know, I love food and cooking. Enjoy!!

Vegan Appetite
Cooking the Vegan Books
My Veggie Kitchen
The Year of the Vegan
Seitan Beats Your Meat
Vegan Dad
Chicos and Beans
Maple Spice
Vegan Explosion
Get Sconed
Every Day Dish
Vegan Crunk
The I-40 Kitchen (he hasn't updated in a while, but I follow him on FB and PPK. Awesome creative cook.
Cake Maker to the Stars
What the Hell Does a Vegan Eat Anyway

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Quick and Easy Vegan Bake Sale by Carla Kelly

This has been a great year for even more great vegan cook books. I had the honor of testing for another incredible vegan author, Carla Kelly. For those of you who have followed my blog or know me in person or from the PPK, you have oft heard me complain a bit about my lack of baking skills. I was a little bit reluctant to offer my services for testing for a baking book. I'm so glad I didn't let my past failures keep me from being part of the testing crew for Carla's upcoming Quick and Easy Vegan Bake Sale cookbook (due out in January, 2011).

Her recipes include both savory and sweet morsels of deliciousness. A lot of her inspiration comes from British classics that I have never experienced here in the good old US of A. It was a fun and mind expanding experience. Most of the recipes are easy and quick. Most ingredients are pantry friendly (except maybe vegan custard powder which can be found online or some specialty grocers. My favorite recipe, the Car Tire Cookie (pictured below) is a little bit more time consuming than most of the recipes because of the steps involved. Do not shy away from this recipe the steps are pretty simple. I'd buy the book for this recipe alone. Thankfully this is just one of many fantastic recipes, giving you even more reasons to buy the book. I have to say I put on a few lbs. testing for her, but it was worth every pound.

I know I have said this about other books, but you really need this one for your collection. I feel very lucky to have tested for so many wonderful, creative people. Feast your eyes on a few samples from Quick and Easy Vegan Bake Sale.

Car Tire Cookies

Nanaimo Bars
Yes you read that right. VEGAN Nanaimo Bars. Awesome!

Banofee Pie

Raspberry Clafouti Tart

I must give you a preview of some of the savory goodies too. They are equally yummy!

Up Side Down Olive, Sun Dried Tomato and
Roasted Red Pepper “Cake”

Spicy Corn Biscotti

Asparagus, Pine Nut,
and Roasted Garlic Quiche