Friday, June 30, 2006

Chocolate and a few of my favorite things

For some reason, my local Bashas' gorcery store has had some amazing deals in their natural food section lately. A bunch of items have been reduced by almost 50%, if not more, and they aren't damaged or expired. I have been buying surplus oat, soy, rice and almond milk, thanks to this sale of sorts, along with treasures like organic shredded coconut, vegan jerky (which I will taste test as soon as I get up enough nerve), and frozen foods. I guess they are moving some older stock out to make room for new stock, but this still means I have been getting some sweet deals on food that I have wanted to try. Yip yip!

One of the items I bought was a chocolate bar by Green and Black's. I have never been a fan of dark chocolate, due to it's bitterness. My dad was always the one in my family that liked to buy dark chocolate, and I would never feel the desire to sneak any of it. I guess he was lucky, because I am notorious for sneaking bites of other people's treats. Well, it was time for me to try dark chocolate again. I bought a few bars of some different brands before, and liked them so-so, but nothing really jumped out at me as something I would crave or buy again, but I have read a few reviews of Green and Black's Organic chocolate products, and they are generally glowing on how delicious they are. The one I really wanted to try, the Hazelnut and Currant, was on sale for $1.99, so it was time to buy.

I tried it yesterday, after my picky daughter kept bugging me to let her have some. After one bite, I didn't notice too much bitterness! *does happy chocolate dance* And I liked the crunch of the hazelnuts. I didn't notice the currants too much, but I am sure they added the sweetness that masked some of the bitterness that I normally find in dark chocolate. I let both kids have a bite, and they both loved it. I am not overly surprised though.... :-) And I subsequently ate half the bar. I guess that says something!

Now I want to share a few of my favorite vegan face and hair products. These are the items that I enjoy the most out of all the brands that I have purchased lately.

From left to right:
Aveda's Brilliant Emolient Finishing Gloss. This stuff makes my hair so shiny and sleek. Love it!
Dr. Bronners Peppermint Castile soap
ShiKai Everyday Shampoo and Conditioner. I am super picky about my hair products, since my hair is very thin and straight. These make my hair smooth and manageable.
Alba Pineapple Enzyme Facial Cleanser
Origins Clear Improvement Charcoal Mask
In front, left to right:
Alba Aloe and Green Tea Oil-Free Moisturizer
Tom's of Maine Cinnamint Toothpaste
Desert Essence Tea Tree Oil Facial Cleansing Pads

I am pretty certain all of these are totally vegan. I am still weeding out my bathroom medicine cabinet of all the items that are not vegan friendly. It's a long process! ...and I know about the issues with Tom's getting bought out by Colgate. I am unhappy about it, but for right now I am still buying their toothpaste until I can find another brand that I like. I do love their toothpaste...

Now, I don't wear a lot of makeup, but I am looking for some ideas on the best brands for non-animal tested or produced makeup. I generally wear mascara and coverup (for my dark eye circles) and occasionally some blush. What brands do you all use the most or recommend? What about hair color?

And one final picture for's the pool! We are about 2 weeks away from swimming, finally! It's hot as blazes here these days, not to mention humid, and I would so love to go take a dip. Soon. Very soon. They are putting the tiles in pretty! And yes, that is our dog Zeppelin's butt in the corner.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Kids in the Kitchen

Yesterday was hot (107 degress!) and fairly humid, the kids were restless, the parents....lethargic. We were bored and stuck in the house. What to do? Make cookies (because there is nothing smarter than turning on the oven on a hot day....brilliant!)!!! Once again, I did a little internet sleuthing and found a recipe for Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies here. I didn't use the walnuts or the optional flax seeds. The kidlings thought it sounded good, and I had a can of pumpkin I found on sale for $.60 (it wasn't expired, I promise!) in the pantry just calling my name. Off to the kitchen we went.

The recipe was pretty basic, which made it easy for me to incorporate the kids into the steps. Each kid got a turn dumping in the ingredients, and helped stir the dry, then wet, mixtures. Then they happily took turns making big wet cookie mounds on the baking sheets, and then promptly licking their fingers. It's nice when you can let your kids lick their fingers (bowls, mixer, spoons, etc.) without fear of salmonella from eggs. Yay vegans!

Here are the kidlings slowly adding the raisins into the wet by one. They are meticulous, yes indeed.

Mmmmm. Cookies.

Here is an indication of what good-eater-kid thought of the cookies!

After working in a hot kitchen with two kids, I figured I should cool us off with a tropical smoothie (frozen bananas, mangoes and peaches with coconut-pineapple juice). Delicious! Note my Marilyn Monroe glasses by Andy Warhol. Yes, I am cool, thank you very much!

Cookie rating:
Brooke-o-meter: 7 peas (I should have made something a little lighter. These cookies are yummy, but a little heavy. I bet these are perfect during the cooler months, with a big cup of vanilla soy milk or hot cocoa)

Picky-kid meter: 10 peas, but she would leave the raisins out next time.

Good-eater-kid meter: 10 peas. One big thumbs up!

Meat-eater-meter: hasn't tried them yet, unless he snuck some after I went to bed.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Herb the Vegetarian Dragon

I found this book today, while passing time sitting at the computer....isn't it fantastic? I think I may get it for my kids, just to give them more confidence when asked why they are vegetarian (other then the typical response..."because our mommy makes us!"). The description says :
"The story of a very gentle but courageous dragon, Herb the Vegetarian Dragon teaches young readers that it’s ok to stand up for what you believe in. When the local villagers take the vegetarian Herb captive – instead of his meat-eating companions – he must rely on the truth and help of a small friend. A charming tale to start the conversation about respecting others’ lifestyles and beliefs, this book and toy Herb are great gifts for your small friends."

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Shepherd's Pie and Chocolate Raspberry Cupcakes

Today I found bugs in my flour. Normally I keep my flour in an airtight container in the pantry, but for some reason I kept the last batch of cake flour I used in it's original box. That was a dumb move...I went to make cupcakes today and found lots of buggy things crawling around inside the flour box. Heebie jeebies ensued. So, off to the grocery store for some more cake flour (and I hoped that would be all, since after taking notice of how much money I spent on food on the last credit card statement, I decided to reduce my spending by a lot. Or else my husband might dismember me and leave me out for the coyotes).

Well, I did buy one more thing today, and that was a frozen Amy's Shepherd's Pie. Now, I am not fond of too many prepackaged frozen dinners, but thought since I am a taste tester of sorts, I figured I should buy it and try it out. It sounded good, with mashed taters and lots of veggies packed inside.

Got home, made cupcakes using this chocolate raspberry cake recipe that I adore (thank you Susan! You are a goddess!), and promptly popped the shepherd's pie into the oven. I figured I should eat a dinner before devouring some cupcakes, to lessen my guilt. While the pie was cooking (45 minute cooking time...holy cow! For such a small pie! This better be good....), I frosted the cupcakes using a veganized version of the chocolate frosting recipe on the back of the Nestle cocoa box (Earth Balance for the butter, soy milk for the milk, etc.). I left a few cupcakes unfrosted so I could pipe a little bit of raspberry jam into the centers for a bonus treat before I frosted them.

Time to try the shepherd's pie! The mashed potatoes looked somewhat appealing on the top, so I dug in. Okay, the inside looked nothing like it does on the box, but I have come to expect that from packaged food. First bite: eh, pretty good. Subsequent bites were about the, pretty good. Adequate, I would say. I ended up eating most of the garbanzo beans and chunks of potato with the tater topping, and leaving the rest of the innards for the trash (and I hate wasting food!). Well, this left more room for the cupcakes, which was really my wish all along...more room for the chocolatey goodness!

Cupcakes=Brooke's butt just got bigger.

Shepherd's pie, 5 peas.
Cupcakes, 10 peas.

Shepherd's pie, 7 peas after a tiny, tiny taste
Cupcakes, 8.5 peas

Well, they barely ate their dinner, so no cupcakes for them. Oh, the looks of agony on their faces! Ha! And they were not interested in trying the shepherd's pie.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

It's A Good Ting!

Why didn't someone tell me about Tings earlier?

I have been eating Fruity Booty and other Robert's snacks for quite a few years, and love them a lot. But I guess I just never saw Tings on the snack aisle. Too bad. All those wasted years not enjoying Tings!

After seeing a few people post about Tings over the past few days, and checking out the Ting testimonials at Vegan Essentials, I decided to track some down at Sprouts. Yay, they had them! Now, I am still unsure of my liking of nutritional yeast (but am coming around), so I was a little wary, even after reading that they taste just like Cheetos. When I opened the bag, wow there was a yeasty smell....uh oh, that can't be good. But I dove in nontheless. First bite: Hey, these are good! Second bite: Hey, these are really good! Third bite to the bottom of the bag: Hey, who put Cheetos in this bag?! These are fabulous!

Cheesey, crunchy, salty. Everything I love in a good snack product. Finger licking good, and there was no scary yellow-orange "cheese' residue on my fingers, unlike those pesky Cheeto things. And they are vegan! Woo Hoo!

Brooke-o-meter: 10 frickin' peas (on a scale of one to 10 peas)!

Meat-eater-meter: 7 peas, but only tried one small Ting. I guaranteed him that if he ate more than one, he would be licking the inside of the bag.

Picky-kid-meter: 10 peas.

Good-eater-kid-meter: 10 peas, but she needed a big drink with them...a lil' salty!

Sunday, June 04, 2006

An Adventure with Fondue

After reading Vegan Lunch Box for a while now, I decided to make one of her famous recipes...the Lunch Box Fondue! Fondue is one of the few things that I really crave since going vegan....the OMNI and I used to love going to The Melting Pot on special occasions and indulging happily on the fantastic swiss cheese fondue. Yummmmm. I miss that, and when I saw that fondue recipe I thought I might be able to have fondue again! Yippee!

I have been squirrelling away the ingredients for the recipe for a few days, but could not find the miso! Ackkk! Where does one find mellow miso??? Well, minus the miso, I made the fondue with just a few slight adjustments. I am still unsure if I really like nutritional yeast yet, so I decreased the amount just a bit. I figured I could always add more if I felt the desire. I also added a bit of white vinegar in lieu of the miso in hopes it could impart some tangy-ness (tanginess?). Well, after I blended and cooked as the recipe reads, I tried it with a piece of bread. BLAND! Very Bland! Was the miso really that important to the taste or did I just expect more from the recipe....I dunno. But I was determined to not let this mixture go to waste, so I wracked my brain trying to figure out what to add to make it either more cheesy or just to give it more flavor. I added a few tablespoons of apple cider vinegar (cuz I love vinegar!), and then added a few splashes of hot sauce, hoping to wake up the flavor. It was better, but still not great. Even the OMNI tried it and said it was pretty darn bland. :-(

Then, I decided to give it one more shot and use it as the base for a Spinach Artichoke dip! Ooooh ooooh! So I thawed a bit of spinach, cut up some artichoke hearts, chopped up half a clove of garlic and added it to the fondue mixture, then topped it off with a few more splashes of hot sauce. Threw it in the oven at 350 degrees and waited. After about 10 minutes, it smelled pretty garlicky in the kitchen so I figured it was time to take it out and try it.

And, oooh oooh! It was pretty good! Here it is with some fantastic roasted garlic bread I picked up at my local grocery store.

Too bad I was too full from taste testing the first batch of fondue to eat up all of this dip, but there will be more for tomorrow!

3 peas for the original fondue, 8 peas for the final outcome

2 peas for the original fondue, no rating for the final outcome (he was too full and bloated from his trip to Taco Bell to taste test! That's right, may the Vegan Gods smite you for eating Taco Bell!!!)

She actually liked the original fondue! No rating though.

Not a chance! How weird!

Thursday, June 01, 2006

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