Friday, December 23, 2011

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

I made this vegan pineapple upside down cake by my vegan hero Renee Loux because pineapple was on sale at Publix.

I think I messed something up, because it was basically impossible to move from the serving plate to an individual plate.  It crumbled up and made a complete mess.  It didn't really matter though, because it was one of the most delicious things I've ever eaten.  In fact, I ate half of it.  I am not exaggerating.  

After I ate half of it, I was pretty disappointed in myself.  I had been to see a personal trainer earlier in the day, and eating half of a cake after that is ridiculous.  The only thing that I can think of to make myself feel better about it is that pineapple upside down cakes are supposed to be for luck.  So I guess I am going to have enough luck to get me through Christmas!

Seriously though, go make the cake.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Another Top Ten List...

I don't have a choice about writing this top ten list.  I have to write it, or I will go insane with negative thoughts.  It's like therapy.

Top Ten Reasons I Love Being a Teacher
  1. Kids in the primary elementary grades are just cuties. They do and say some really adorable stuff, and they love me just because I am their teacher.  They love my picture of Diego that's sitting on my desk, they love my shirt, they love my hair, they love my lanyard that holds my badge...they love it all.  And they never stop telling me.
  2. I don't have to sit in a cubicle all day.
  3. I feel like I have more of a chance to get excited about things, like the approach of autumn, because I have to plan ways to get my students excited.
  4. It feels good to make a difference, even when we're just celebrating a minor gain.
  5. I seriously enjoy sharing my love of reading with emergent readers.
  6. Many components of my job change from year to year, mainly the students that I work with and sometimes the grade level.  It definitely never gets boring!
  7. There is always more to learn when it comes to pedagogy and best practice.  It's interesting to put new learning into action and observe how it affects children.
  8. It's fun to be the boss of your own classroom, but it's even more fun helping kids become independent enough to take some of the decision making into their own hands.
  9. Parents can be really appreciative when you go above and beyond for their children.  I didn't say all parents, but most.  And it feels good when they recognize that you love their child, too.
  10. Do I have to even say it? Thanksgiving Break, Winter Break, Spring Break, Summer Break, and all the little days off in between!
Okay, I feel a little better now.  Let's hope this weekend is restful and relaxing!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Top Ten Signs That My Teenage Years are Behind Me

I just jumped in the shower and realized that I was out of soap. When I searched for more under my sink, all I had left was a bar of Mickey soap that I stole from the Fort Wilderness Resort last October (Food & Wine Fest 2010, w00t w00t!) (Did anyone catch the Cash Cab episode when the answer was w00t w00t? I'm still confused). When I was younger, I never would have thought to save that soap in case I needed it. This got me thinking about the little details that prove that I am getting older. And a top ten list was born!

Top Ten Signs That My Teenage Years are Behind Me:
  1. I think twice about buying things, and I never use credit cards.  When I was in high school and college, I never worried about buying things. I had these magical pieces of plastic called credit cards, and I could have whatever I wanted. I'm still paying for that stupid Juicy strapless dress or shirt or whatever it was that I just HAD to have in 2005.  Good thing I bought that and its 95,000 identical friends, because every time I wore it people asked me when I was "due," and I cried.
  2. I don't even want to walk past Abercrombie & Fitch. If I smell that ridiculous amount of cologne that is probably pumped through the air conditioning system like those spray fans at Sea World, hear that blasting music that I can't even think over, or have to see a fourteen year old without any clothes on standing inside the door "modeling," I'm probably going to puke. Pretty soon I'll probably start calling it Ambercrombie. That store needs to go out of business before I procreate, because I can't handle it.
  3. I feel like an uncomfortable poser when I wear low-rise jeans. In fact, I actually don't wear low rise jeans. I don't think that it looks like I'm wearing mom jeans...uh-oh, I just realized that it probably looks like I'm wearing mom jeans.
  4. I drive a RAV-4.  It's a cross-over vehicle, that's really cool, right?
  5. I actually have to think about what is going into my body. If I don't, I get fat instantly. There's no room for mistakes. And I prefer my mom's home cooking to McDonald's.
  6. I don't listen to music very often in the car. If I do, it might even be Enya or Pure Moods. And instead of changing the channel with a flourish when I hear talk radio, I actually LOOK for it! What?!
  7. I actually tried to talk to a teenager about how he should listen to me about his college choices, because I've been through it before and I know what I'm talking about. I'm sure I made a great impact on his life. He's probably already mapped out his entire college career and beyond, thanks to my sage advice. I think he owes me money.
  8. I still call gift cards "gift certificates." This one always makes me think of you, Alli. You called this years ago.
  9. I don't want to drive around aimlessly just because I'm bored. Call me crazy, but I actually don't want to drive around ever. I'd rather clean my house than waste expensive gas money on pointless driving!
  10. I fall asleep while reading in bed within the first 15 minutes about 90% of the time. I used to be able to read for HOURS in bed. What's happening?
I'm sure I forgot some, so there may be a Part II coming soon.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Be Nice to Vegans (and, why shellac manicures are worth the extra money if you aren't vegan)

Yesterday was a hangover day for my little sister (and today is one for me, unfortunately).  We had already made plans to get manicures and pedicures in preparation for her big batchelorette weekend in Orlando coming up on Thursday, and with company in town we had no room to budge on that.  I'm really not sure that I can think of a worse punishment for excess indulgence than sitting in a nail salon that smells very strongly of ear wax and nail polish remover, so I was really proud of her for pushing through.  We went to the nail salon by Earth Origins that has shellac, because Robyn's nails always look amazing when she gets it.  (Side note:  this is yet another reason why I can only be considered an almost-vegan.  When I googled "shellac" to check the spelling, I found out that it is a resin secreted by the female lac bug.  Hahaha, she-lac.  Funny.  Another reason why I'm almost vegan?  It doesn't really bother me because the bugs secrete the resin onto the bark of the tree and then it is scraped from there.  I guess I'd need to see a video of the lac bug getting harmed from this process for it to affect me, because I can't picture it.)   

     Anyway, our manicures always chip the day we get them, so we opted for the shellac in a pretty pale pink.  As we endured the half torture, half awesomeness that is a pedicure, we paged through the cookbook Quick and Easy Vegan Comfort Food by Alicia C. Simpson.  I've been ignoring this cookbook for a while, even though the few recipes I've used have turned out nicely, because I've never been huge on fake meeeeet and cheeze.  Recently I've been more into experimenting with that stuff (and I'm getting fatter too, so I might stop), so I decided to bust out with some vegan hangover relief for Kristen.  Everything sounded delicious, but we went with two vegan spins on American classics:  mac and cheeze and buffalo chikn sandwiches. (Official recipe name for the buffalo chikn = The Hot Chick.  There were two other chikn sandwich ideas, too.  I'll give you the titles, and you can imagine the sandwiches!  The Fat Chick and 1000 Chicks.  Good luck.)

     Our company was not around, so the menu was planned for Kristen and me, with an option for my dad.  If you know my dad, and you know how sensitive I can be, and you read the title for this post, then your prediction is probably correct.  I'll get to that later.  We went to Earth Origins for the missing ingredients, which gets a shout out for having 10% off everything on Sundays!  Using Earth Origins instead of Publix was essential, because this mac and cheeze recipe is the kind that uses nuts, oils, spices, and cooked vegetables to emulate a cheesy sauce.  The bulk section at Earth Origins allowed us to purchase the exact amount we needed.  Let me rephrase, it allowed us to purchase an estimation of exactly what we needed, since for some crazy reason they don't provide any measuring materials at the bulk station.  My macadamia nut estimation of 1/3 cup was almost spot on; my cashew estimation of 1/3 cup was so crazy at an actual 1 cup!  How I didn't estimate the same amount for the same measurement eludes and confuses me.  Oh well, my kindergarten students always beat me in estimation activities anyway, so I guess it's just not my strength.

     OK, apparently I can go on and on about a trip to the grocery store, so I'm going to fast forward here to the prep of the mac and cheeze.  Kristen and I worked like crazy in her kitchen trying to get everything ready because we were starving.  We were moving along nicely and quickly for once, splitting the work in a logical way, until we got to the step with the blender.  I do not own a blender, and Kristen's blender is new to her in this capacity as well.  Those of you who cook probably know where this is going.  We poured the simmering potatoes, carrots, onions, and their cooking water into the blender, along with the nuts, oil, and spices.  We put the blender cap on, without opening the little hole, and Kristen held it down and turned the blender on, high speed.  Damn.  Explosion.  It looked like vomit, all over the blender, in Kristen's water glass, on the floor, on the counter, on the hot sauce bottle...everywhere.  It sucked.  Don't put hot stuff in a blender unless you know what you're doing.  I think I'll go to a Food Network Demo Video or something for next time.

     After that, things got easier.  We assembled the ingredients in a baking dish with panko on top, and popped it in the oven.  It came out looking like mac and cheese! 

     While the mac and cheeze was in the oven, we worked on the buffalo chikn sandwiches.  Kristen had some buns, tomatoes, and spinach/arugula mix, so all we needed was fake mayo, hot sauce (duh - Frank's - please don't even tell me if it's not vegan.  Please.), and chikn.  Last time I bought fake mayo, it wasn't actually fake.  Why even make Lemonaise if it's not for people who don't eat dairy?  Nobody who is on a regular diet wants Lemonaise.  Trust me, it's not even very good, and I'm a fan of lemon.  This time I was pleased to find Earth Balance Mindful Mayo with Olive Oil.  It was just as good as Earth Balance Buttery Spread, yummmmmm.  For the chikn, we decided to go with the Gardein 7 Grain Crispy Tenders, because those for real taste like chicken and I'm obsessed with them.  We marinated them in the hot sauce for ten minutes.  Next time, I won't do that, I'll just toss the chikn in the Frank's after cooking.  The chikn was still good, just a little soggy on the outside.  We toasted the buns, put some Mindful Mayo on, and topped the buffalo chikn with tomato, spinach, and arugula.  At this point my dad was really letting us know how hungry he was, so we made him one with real provolone cheese on top.

     Kristen and I informed dad that the mac and cheeze could be thought of as a pasta dish with a vegetable and oil-based sauce so that he wouldn't directly compare it to real mac and cheese, and that the sandwich was not real chicken.  He said he'd eat it, which SHOCKED me.  I had no expectations of my dad giving this meal a chance.  I started thinking, wow, what a great opportunity to show my dad that you don't always have to have meat and dairy to enjoy a tasty meal.  I had no delusions of him becoming a vegan and singing my praises for opening his eyes to a whole new world, a dazzling place he never knew, but I was hoping for a little more respect on the personal diet choices front.  I tasted my food, and I was so proud of us for creating this comfort food that really did taste cheesy and comforting, meaty and spicy.  It tasted real, or almost-real, and my sister agreed.  My dad took a bite of each, walked into the kitchen with his plate, and slammed it in the trash without a word.  Even though he was "so hungry hours ago," our vegan food was not good enough for him.  I'm not trying to call my dad out on the Internet or anything, and I certainly respect and love him with all my heart, but grrrrr.  He must not have understood that when you make extreme lifestyle choices for a very personal reason, and they are very different from the norm, you are very sensitive to negativity.  It's so unnecessary. 

     Kristen and I took our plates into the other room and enjoyed our food in peace while catching up on last week's episode of True Blood, stuffing our faces and exclaiming how delicious it was and how close it tasted to the dishes with the classic ingredients.  Maybe Kristen really meant it, or maybe not, but either way she made me feel good about sharing a vegan meal with someone who was open-minded and kind.  I'm really lucky to have her as my sister.

     (And after washing dishes used in the preparation of two recipes, my shellac held up perfectly.  I am admiring it as I type right now.  I can't believe it's real, and I can't believe it's not vegan!)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

All good things must come to an end.

Back in 2001, I made a life-changing decision.  You might think I'm exaggerating when I say "life changing," but I'm really not.  I was shopping at Target and saw the book Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone for the millionth time.  It had so much hype, and I wanted to know why.  I bought the book and then forced everyone around me to read it.  You're welcome, by the way!

     I'm so happy that I started the book series before the movies came out.  J.K. Rowling creates such a magical place, with so much detail and description that I really believe I'm picturing Harry's world the way she wants me to.  And once the movies did start coming out, it was fun (and sometimes stressful) to compare the books to the films. 

     I know some of the world is disappointed in the last film, but I have to say that I loved it.  I'm glad that I didn't re-read the book right before I went to the Cinebistro (21 and up, the only way to see movies that might be overrun with screaming, talking, crying, and horrible teenagers - you'll catch me there for Twilight and Hunger Games, too) to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part II.  I'm way too critical when I do that.  This way, I remembered the important events but didn't get caught up in what was missing.  For me, the four highlights (and sobbing points - don't worry, I was crying silently so as not to disturb my fellow 21 and up moviegoers) were when Harry finally sees Snape's memories, when Harry is in the forest with the stone, when Harry and Dumbledore are at King's Cross, and of course the end.  I tried to keep it vague in case you didn't see the movie.

     Following Harry's journey through the wizarding world has been such a special part of the last ten years of my life.  To honor Harry, his friends, and his foes, here are some of my favorite quotes from each book (although there are so many more terrific quotes in each book and by each character):

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone:  "It takes a great deal of courage to stand up to your enemies, but a great deal more to stand up to your friends."  -Professor Dumbledore

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets:  "It's our choices, Harry, that show who we truly are, far more than our abilities."  -Professor Dumbledore (I knew this would happen - try as I may to be equal to all characters, I can't resist Dumbledore's wisdom.  Most likely the rest of the quotes I choose will be Dumbledore quotes.  Can I name my first child Dumbledore?)

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban:  "The consequences of our actions are always so diverse, so complex, that it makes predicting the future very difficult, indeed."  -Dumbledore

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire:  "If you want to know what a man's like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals."  -Sirius Black

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix:  "Youth can not know how age thinks and feels, but old men are guilty, if they forget what it was to be young."  -Dumbledore

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince:  "I am not worried, Harry," said Dumbledore, his voice a little stronger despite the freezing water.  "I am with you."  (If you've read the books and you are familiar with the characters, you know why this is such a powerful quote.  If you haven't, I think you need to head to the library and get started.)

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows:  "Above all pity those who live without love."  -Dumbledore

All is well...

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Barbecue "Chicken" Panini and Sauteed Kale

Ever since I started my vegan diet last August, I have been wishing for a meat substitute that actually tastes like meat.  I don't like the texture of tofu.  I don't like the texture of tempeh, unless someone else cooks it.  Seitan is pretty good, but again, when I've made it at home, it's just not the same.  Luckily the most glorious thing happened to me today - I discovered gardein fake chicken!  It seriously tastes like actual chicken.  I think it just changed my life.

     I decided to make this memorable day even better by making something I haven't had the pleasure of eating in a long, long while.  I got out my copy of Skinny Bitch in the Kitch by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin and found the perfect candidate - the barbecue "chicken" panini.  Quick, simple, and for vegans like me who are skeptical of fake meat, to die for.


    I started with two slices of Ezekiel 7 Sprouted Grains Bread.  Have you ever used Ezekiel?  It's really good, but it makes me so mad when I have to pry a slice from the frozen loaf.  I always waste a big chunk because it's stuck together.  This time I got smart and let it thaw out for a while before I needed it, but to no avail.  I lost two big chunks.  Damn.  I smoothed a little coconut oil on one side of each slice, just enough to moisten them, and set them aside.  I popped four (three for the sammy, one for dipping in BBQ sauce) of my new favorite gardein 7 grain chiken nuggets into a 430 degree oven for 20 minutes (flipped once), and got my bottled barbecue sauce and pre-made vegan coleslaw out.  When the nugs were ready, I assembled my sandwich:

I spread some BBQ sauce on the dry side of one slice of bread.

I placed my three gorgeous nugs on top of the BBQ sauce.  They totally smelled like chicken.  I took a quick break to savor my leftover nug, double-dipping it into the sauce.  Yes.

I spread some coleslaw on top of those bad boys.

I closed it up and heated it on a medium flame for 4 minutes on each side.

Mmmmm.  I promise this tastes like a real barbeque chicken sandwich, even though it's chiken.  I'm really picky, so you can trust me.  And with some sauteed kale on the side, it served as a satisfying Thursday night dinner!

4th of July Fake Meeeeet-Off

*Originally posted on a different site on July 4, 2011

Let me preface this post by stating that I am completely delirial.  This is a term that my sister coined, meaning that you ate so much that you probably shouldn’t be held accountable for your actions or words.  Basically, it’s being drunk from eating too much.  If this post doesn’t make sense, that is why.

     For the past few years, my 4th of July holiday has been spent with my dad’s side of the family, grilling, eating, drinking, and fireworking.  This year marks my first vegan Fourth of July, and I was not about to let that stop me from the all-American grilling fun.  I decided to entertain myself by holding my first ever fake meat competition.  The fun was planned for just me, because I’m pretty sure everyone on my dad’s side of the family thinks I’m crazy for cutting out meat and any other animal-based products from my diet.  I headed to my local Earth Origins Market, determined to find two different types of fake meat that would be competing against each other.  I was in luck - 2 brands were on sale.  I grabbed some Tofurky Beer Brats for $3.99 and some Yves “The Good Dog” fake hot dogs for $3.99 (which I just looked up online and read that “With added dairy, the Good Dog now tastes more like a real meat hot dog!”  Great.  Let’s just pretend we didn’t know that and continue on, since 2 Good Dogs are currently digesting inside my body).  I tossed in some organic hot dog buns, vegan potato salad from the deli, a 3 liter jug of sangria, and 2 vegan chocolate chip cookies from the bakery, and I was ready to roll out to my Uncle Curt and Lisa’s 4th of July Barbeque.

     When I arrived, I immediately prepared myself a refreshing glass of sangria with fruit and started to prep my “meat.”  (Have you every noticed that people call fake cheese “cheez” and fake tuna “toona” and ridiculous stuff like that?  Let’s call our fake hot dogs “hawt dawgz,” fake brats “brawtz,” and fake meat “meeeeet” for the remainder of this post.)  I became extra excited when my sister, Kristen, arrived, because I knew she was the only one who would play my Fake Meeeeeet-Off game with me.  I made her some sangria too, and then I sent my Uncle Curt off to cook up some hawt dawgz and brawtz.

     My Uncle Curt sensed something was amiss when my hawt dawgz started to grow some nasty bumps on them.  I still don’t know what was up with that, I guess something with the cazing on the dawgz.  I figured that meant that they were ready!  I put my dawgz on some organic bunz (JK, they were real buns) and topped them with my favorite simple toppings - ketchup and mustard.  I topped the brawtz with deli mustard and onions.

     Have I mentioned yet that I actually hate meeeeet?  I think it’s gross.  The texture is always wrong, the color is off, and the spices and/or flavoring is overcompensating for the fact that this is not actually meat.  Ew.  With my hate of meeeeet in the back of my mind, I tasted my hawt dawg for the first time.  Primarily, I wasn’t sure what to think.  The texture seemed surprisingly OK, and there was only a slight taste of “health food store.”  I took another bite.  Not bad!  Not bad at all!  My sister sampled and agreed.  So far, Yves Good Dogs are the best fake meeeeeet I’ve tried (now I know why - dairy - fakers!).  The brawt came next.  I was a little nervous, since the brawt was bigger, fatter, and grayer than the dawgz.  I took a bite, and all I tasted was confusion.  Is this good?  Is this gross?  Is this anything?  I took another bite.  I offered it to my sister.  She seemed confused, too.  Overall, I think it was pretty good.  The texture was OK, the flavor wasn’t overboard, and it only tasted a little “health food store” (more so than the dawgz, though).  Kristen mentioned that the brawt tasted a lot more “tofu” than the dawg, and I have to agree.  To me, that is a bad thing, since I hate tofu.

     My final decision in this competition is that it’s back to the drawing board.  The Yves Good Dogs cheated because they contained dairy and I didn’t know it.  That makes the Tofurky Beer Brats win by default, but I don’t want them to win, so I call a do-over.  Next time a grill is fired up, it’s going to be a VEGAN hot dawg vs. a VEGAN hot dawg.

     *You may be wondering, Lindsay, why didn’t you know there was dairy in the Good Dogs?  Are you an idiot?  The answer is no, I am merely lazy.  Recently, I’ve been looking past the ingredient lists and down to the “CONTAINS: DAIRY, EGGS, MILK INGREDIENTS, SOY, WHEAT,” etc. part of the package.  I guess this doesn’t work, because the Good Dogs package said “Contains: Soy and Wheat.”  I guess I have to get less lazy.