Wednesday, January 31, 2007

But I don't own an apron!

It's a rainy and cold day here in the desert, making for a perfect opportunity to join in on the Behind the Apron fun!

My name is Brooke, 33 years young. I live in Mesa, Arizona, the Valley of the Sun. My husband, John, and I moved here about 8 years ago after vacationing in Tucson and Phoenix for a family reunion while living in Tallahassee, FL. And now I can't wait to move far far away from here....

Anyhoo, we have two awesomely awesome kids, ages 4 and 7. We are a diverse family with totally different eating habits. It has been a challenge to create food that I think we all will like, and blogging and reading blogs has really helped me in that challenge.

I am an animal rights activist as well as an budding environmentalist (whatever that means...). I love to read, sell and buy on Ebay, teach myself to sew, cook (but hate to clean), and to constantly learn about animal issues. I am also a birth doula on the side, but haven't used that talent in about a year. I am looking to go to massage therapy school soon, and be just like my sister! (Hi Heather!) . I am involved in a few local animal rights issues, and protest as much as I can. I think my neighbors view me a the nutty vegan lady, but I am okay with that. Me and the kids in Luray Caverns, VA a few years ago.

My daughter and me at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum.

The latest picture of me. I seriously hate having my picture
taken. I am a total dork.

One day I will actually own a really cool apron. One day. :-)

*Edit to add: I would love to see a comment from everyone who checks my blog...come say hi!*

Sunday, January 28, 2007


My daughter's preschool teacher has redeemed herself to this vegan mama! After the cupcake incident (see post below), I was a little miffed, but had to remember that I am the first vegan most of these people have ever met. I guess I am special in that regard, and my food is special too. I think she only meant well, but just had a moment of poor judgment. A few days later she asked if I had any recipes for sugar cookies, since they will be making and decorating cookies as part of their Valentine's Day celebration. She wants everyone to be able to eat these cookies, so she wants to use a vegan recipe only....WOOT! So off I went to find the best vegan sugar cookie recipe EVER on the face of the planet, just to cement the fact into the non-vegan heads that COOKIES DON'T NEED EGGS! I did my usual googling (I love how this word has become a verb now!) and found a few recipes that sounded good, but one really stood out. I decided to test the recipe before I brought it to the teacher, just so I knew it would be kick-ass. And they truly were kick-ass! And no, I don't have any pictures of said cookies, mainly because I could not stop eating them. Thank goodness I halved the recipe or else I would still be at the gym on the elliptical machine trying to work off the cookie butt!

These cookies are a cross between sugar and shortbread cookies, which I like because you don't get the sugar jolt in your brain that occurs with those unmentionable grocery store cookies that come premade in a creepy tube (yes, I made those wayyy back in my dairy days...please don't hate me!). These are subtle and refined tasting, and oh so easy to use cookie cutters with. Perfect! I made big heart shaped cookies, and took a few to the teacher for final tasting...and she LOVED them, even without any colored sugar or icing on top.

So the moral of this story is......make these cookies and all will be good with the world. Or at least with one small preschool in Arizona.

(heart cookie cutter photo courtesy of

Saturday, January 20, 2007

What I did with blood oranges...

On my last trip to Trader Joe's, I picked up a bag of blood oranges, just because I thought they looked pretty. I don't normally buy bags of any kind of oranges (except when I am pregnant, but that is a whole 'nother story), but I felt the need to take this particular bag home with me. I am glad I did, as they came in a little handy later in the week. (photo from

It was my younger daughter's 4th birthday on Friday, and all week long I have been baking up a storm. She just started preschool a week ago, and we are the first vegan family to come through this preschool's doors so far, so the administration is really making a huge effort to become educated on the ins and outs of veganism. The receptionist who works at the desk in the front of the school is very interested in how and what we eat, and told me that she was looking forward to trying out some vegan fare, so I decided this would be a good opportunity to make some extra desserts for bring in for my daughter's birthday celebration. The list of yummies included mini fluffy white cupcakes with chocolate frosting, a chocolate raspberry cake, and a plain vanilla cake (last recipe at bottom of link page). I made lots of extra cupcakes so we could stash them in the school's freezer in case of vegan cupcake emergency. Now, when I started to pass out the cupcakes, one of the mom's reached into the container to get one, and the teacher stopped her and said..."just so you know...these are SPECIAL cupcakes. NO dairy, NO eggs." I don't think I have ever seen a person fearfully yank their hand out of a container of cupcakes faster! I wish the teacher hadn't said that, because it made a weird impression on some of the parents, but that mom still took a cupcake (after I quickly explained that they were GOOD! I PROMISE!) and said, yes indeed, they were good. :-) Sorry, no pictures of cupcakes. I figured everyone has had enough of vegan cupcake pictures lately.

On that same day, I brought in a gigantic slab of the raspberry chocolate cake for the receptionist to try, and she was ecstatic! I look forward to hearing how darn good it was! Now, I also meant to bring in some of the vanilla cake as well, but I had issues with that cake. I greased and floured the pans like I always do before filling them with batter, but for some reason, after baking and cooling, this recipe wanted to stick. And boy, did it stick! I tried everything to get those cakes out of their pans...inverting them and smacking the heck out of them, prying them out with knives, leaving them upside down on the cooling rack for hours hoping they would somehow slip out of the pans. NOTHING. I was bummed, but darnit, I perservered. After finally scraping a piece out in semi-decent shape (the ONLY piece that came out in decent shape, mind you), I decided to juice a few of the blood oranges and make a sauce for the cake. I got about 3/4 cup of juice, added it to a sauce pan with a tablespoon or so of maple syrup and a bit of cornstarch, boiled and reduced it down to a nice syrup. Poured on top of this elusive cake, it was fantastic! The cake tasted like a big moist sugar cookie, and the syrup added a fancy sweet touch!After that, I browned up a few pieces of firm baked tofu for lunch today, and decided that it could also use a bit of sprucing up. Once again, back to the blood oranges. This time I used about 1/2 cup of juice, added a few splashes of pomegranate glaze from Trader Joe's and reduced it down to a thin syrup as well. An excellent tart and fun topping to your average tofu! I am on a kick!
Who knows what I will do next...I still have a few oranges left!

I don't know how many of you have heard of Freecycle, but I encourage all of you to check it out and have fun with it. It is a world wide non-profit program where people are getting and giving stuff for free in their towns...and keeping their stuff out of landfills. You can post your old unwanted stuff on their site designated for your area, and people who are interested respond to you, or you can post a desire for something you need/want, and people can contact you if they have that item to give. And it is all free! I have given a ton of stuff away to some great people in the past year or so, and have also gotten some great items as well. One of them is this cabinet:It wasn't in great shape when I picked it up, and it wasn't painted yet either, but it became my project this past fall. I was able to sand it down, give it a decent paint job and add a few new pieces of hardware to it...and now I love it! And it was free, minus the new paint and hardware.

Now, I also got a practically unused Sunbeam bread machine for free a few months ago, and I haven't made anything yet. I was able to download the manual off of Sunbeam's website, but I am curious....what is the easiest vegan bread machine recipe you guys have? I want to start slow and easy, but also healthy and kid-friendly. Any advice?

Oh, and here is a picture of one of the grossest and most completely awful things I made this week....Vegan Hushpuppies. Egads, these were disgusting!I googled for a basic hushpuppie recipe, and used a few that I found as a template for my disastrous creation. A normal recipe consists of corn meal and flour, onion, milk, egg and salt, all fried up in oil. I read that some people substitute beer for the milk, so I did, and I also used Ener-G in place of the egg. Oh. My. Goodness, they were bitter, vile and foul. Does anyone have a decent recipe for hushpuppies????

Friday, January 12, 2007

That darn cat!

First, I must post this picture of my cat, Mouse, from last night. As I was about to go upstairs to head to bed, I looked at my cat who was sitting on the couch as always. I did a double-take, because I noticed she was sitting upright. Completely. She was sitting, totally relaxed, hind legs spread out. She wasn't resting against the back of the couch either...just sitting, like someone who has had a few beers while watching a couple hours of football. I couldn't stop laughing at her, with all of her fat belly just flopped in front of her. At one point, while my husband and I were giggling at her, she just sighed a huge sigh and practically rolled her eyes at us....silly humans. I assume I caught her in this position because she had just finished a nice lick-bath, but since I did not witness the cleaning act, I can't be sure. I like to believe that once we go to bed, she struts around the house on her hind legs, opens the fridge and takes out a bottle of beer, cracks it open and turns on some HBO.Now, on to some food.

First, I finally made a Pantry Taco Soup recipe that I have had bookmarked on my computer for many, many months. It got such rave reviews that I felt compelled to make it. I did substitute a can of fire-roasted tomatoes, and used black beans and garbanzo beans. It truly was delicious, since I ate it non-stop for three days, and so easy and quick to make! I topped it with some roasted pepitas, which are my newest snack craze. Next I made some Provencal Spinach Gratin from The Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen, which I happily received from John for Christmas (which I failed to mention in my last post....sorry honey!). This recipe didn't turn out as creamy as I thought it would, but I also halved the recipe, so I don't know if that had anything to do with it. As it was baking, it was getting really dry and crispy, which as far as I know, are not good adjectives for something the should be creamy and moist. I kept taking it out of the oven and adding more liquid (veg broth mixed with some flour). After doing this at least 3 times, it finally started to take on a more gratin-esque appearance. All in all, it was good (and garlicky!), especially smeared on some fresh rustic bread slices. I will tinker with the recipe again soon.
For those of you that shop at Trader Joe's...have you ever tried these?Hmmmm....dried dragon fruit. I had to get some, for more than just the sake of trying new food. Mainly, I just wanted to freak my daughters out by giving them something with the word dragon in it. Talk about some scared faces! These were interesting. I like them, not too sweet, different, very seedy....but oh what a lovely shade of pink they are! I'd love to incorporate them into some recipe of sorts, but haven't a clue how or what. Any ideas?

Next, I made my basic go-to meal of an Amy's California Burger (bunless, please), but for the side item I made some Roasted Green Beans with Slivered Almonds, also from The Mediterranean Kitchen. Dang, these were delicious! Very light, with a simple marinade of lemon juice, veg broth and olive oil. I love the idea of roasting green beans!
And tonight, I made a simple pizza with TJ's pizza dough, some barbeque sauce, browned crumbled tempeh bacon and some FYH mozzarella cheese. Easy and good!
And for dessert, a strawberry watermelon smoothie, made from bananas, frozen strawberries, some passion fruit flavored frozen peaches and watermelon juice. Now I need to go complete a few more squares of Sudoku before I go to bed. Man, I am addicted to Sudoko...but it is the bane of my existence right now.
must. complete. one. sudoku. puzzle. before. sleep.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Holidays make me eat too much!

Happy New Year to you all! I hope the holiday season was good to all of you, and many good vegan creations were consumed!

We had a very gentle New Year's Eve, just watching movies with the kids and making vegan chocolate cookie milkshakes. Both of our kids managed to stay awake until past midnight, but as soon as their heads hit the pillows they were happily snoring away.

My parents visited us here for a week, and it was nice to see them again. My eternally shy kids never completely opened up to them, but I think it was a great visit for all. One of the things my mom is currently addicted to is homemade Chex Mix, so we set off to make a vegan version of my own, since it has been a long time since I ate/made chex mix. We found vegan worcestershire sauce (yay!!) and used Earth Balance. Tasty and salty!For Christmas dinner, the three omnivores ate a roasted chicken with stuffing and gravy (booooo!), so I made my mashed potatoes and some steamed peas, and I cooked up one of my favorite veggie patty with some vegan gravy. It was fine by me! My mom and I did some shopping at Trader Joe's before Christmas and bought some cranberry orange sauce/relish for dinner, and it was great, but very strong. We ended up only eating a small portion of it, and I didn't want to waste the rest, so my dad said I should try making some muffins using the leftover sauce. I googled a few recipes and found one that worked pretty well. I modified and veganized it using what I had on hand, and they came out pretty good. They work well as a breakfast muffin, as they are slightly dense and not too sweet.The kids and I made an easy food craft project out of pretzel rods that I dipped into melted chocolate and rolled into some crushed toppings such as Fruity Pebbles (not the healthiest of treats, but fun nontheless), sprinkles and peanuts. Messy, indeed. These were good to give as fun treats to neighbors with kids.
Here is a gift I bought for myself this year: Vegan Shoes!! Happy Holidays to Me!
I also made some of VWaV sparkled ginger cookies for the first time. Darn tasty! I tucked a few into some gift baskets as well, but kept the majority for myself. Naughty me.Note the new plate! My sister gave me some new fun plates to add to my quirky plate collection for Christmas! This is the more serious of them...but still nifty!

Speaking of my sister...and cookies...she also had a big bag of vegan cookies shipped to me for the holidays! Oh lordy, as if my butt wasn't big enough! Sunflour cookies rock my world. Lemony Lemon, peanut butter, chocolate chip and german chocolate. And, ummm, the are all gone now. Yep, I ate them all, with just a smidge of help from the kids.
Today I finally joined the pack and made the tofu quiches created by Susan at Fatfree Vegan Kitchen. I eliminated the bell pepper and mushrooms and added in some spinach, sundried tomatoes and green onion. Mine were kinda skimpy compared to hers, but they are pretty good. I may pop them back into the oven before I serve them again just to firm them up a bit more, since I never liked my eggs even remotely loose in my prevegan days...they had to be super dry and very firm. I may also drop the amount of nutritional yeast down next time, just because I know the rest of my family isn't as open to nut. yeast like I am. But all in all, very good!
And I will leave you with how one of my kids opened her presents this year:

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