Odds and Ends, Plus Vanilla-Coconut Cream Coffee

Wow, it’s been a while since my last post! I would like to say that I have a good excuse, but of course I don’t. Work, teaching, kids, running, cooking…..amazing how much time that stuff takes up!

We’ve had a fabulous Memorial Day so far. I usually don’t work on Mondays, so this should feel like any other Monday, but somehow it really seems like a holiday! We don’t have any big plans. I had a nice 6+ mile run; I was proud of myself for running in 70+ degree weather. I usually wilt in the heat and don’t run after the sun comes up, but I purposely slept in this morning and still ran. Go me! 🙂  After running, the girls and I (well, mostly I) made some no-bake peanut-butter chocolate bars and brought some to two sets of our wonderful neighbors, then hit the playground for some slide-and-swing action.

these are one of my favorite recipes ever – quick and delicious, sweet and salty, crunchy and smooth, all at once

We are lucky to have 3 playgrounds in walking distance – I don’t know how I’d survive my at-home days without them! Completely unintentionally, the high-school age kids of our neighbors accompanied us to the playground. it was nice to have some adult company, and the girls love their “grown-up” friends. They are a simply lovely and gracious family. We’ve really enjoyed getting to know them. It turns out that we have quite a few things in common: reading, music, dogs, art. I found out today that the dad has a blog about gardening, which is fitting because their garden is truly beautiful and amazing. We admire it every time we walk by their house, which is usually at least once a day. They have offered to help us set up a container garden, which I’m excited about. Neither my husband nor I have a green thumb, but I’d really like to spruce up our yard a bit. I am so excited to have guidance and help with the garden.

This past weekend we hosted a small birthday dinner for my mother-in-law. I made the vegan paella from The Voluptuous Vegan. It was fabulous. Of course, never having had ‘regular’ paella, I have nothing with which to compare it, but nevertheless, this is a delicious and impressive dish. Instead of mixing the rice, veggies, rosated cauliflower/chick peas and roasted tempeh all together, as per the recipe, I layered everything on top of the roasted tomato sauce, which made for a beautiful presentation. We ate it so fast that I did not get any pictures.

I thought this cake looked really pretty, and it was sooo good, too. I usually don’t like nuts in my food, but the sliced almonds added just the right amount of crunch and contrasted nicely with the smooth, sweet almond frosting.

I made a vanilla cake with strawberries and almond frosting for dessert. It was scrumptious. I haven’t had luck previously with making the standard vegan baking-soda-and-vinegar chocolate cake as a vanilla version, but I tried again and it worked this time. Normally it’s too moist/spongy/sweet/baking-soda-y, but this time I got the proportions right and it was moist without being gummy or spongy, and sweet without being cloying.

Lastly, this afternoon I treated myself to a cup of coffee at home, with a touch of vanilla extract, over ice, and topped with some leftover whipped coconut cream. (My husband had made the whipped coconut cream to go on the cake, and we had a tad leftover). It felt like a decadent coffee-shop style treat; I enjoyed it while reading on the couch while the girls napped. I just brewed one cup of coffee, added a drop of vanilla and a touch of sweetener and soy milk, ice, and then topped it with the whipped coconut cream. Delish.

We have a really old-school, environmentally-friendly coffee maker. It makes exactly one cup at a time, which is great for portion control but not great for serving guests or combatting excessive sleepiness due to toddlers and nervous greyhounds. Oh well.

our super-dooper fancy-schmancy coffee maker

I’ve got some homemade seitan and tofu marinating in a mustard-y and olive oil marinade, and will bake it in a bit for dinner tonight. I’m not sure what else we’ll have; maybe some sauted zucchini? Definitely no-bake peanut-butter chocolate bars for dessert, of course 😉

I will post the recipes for the peanut-butter chocolate bars, and the cake, soon.  I also need to be better about posting (in general) and recording runs (in specific); I’ve got to start the official marathon training soon!

Saturday Delights: Vegan Chocolate Soda and a Day of Food

Today’s run: a nice, slow easy few miles with my favorite guy, Shadow. Shadow does so well for an older dog. He used to be able to run 15 miles with me; I’m proud of him for still wanting to run, and being able to do a few miles. He’s my buddy.

I forgot to mention the most delightful part of Friday Delights yesterday: husband accidentally bought a container of chocolate soymilk instead of regular. We didn’t really want to give it to the girls, because we were fearful that this would turn them into chocolate-soymilk-monsters. Alas, what’s a conscientious parent to do but drink it herself? Heh. I love chocolate soymilk. I’m not much on chocolate in general, but chocolate soymilk is a different story. I think because it is sweet and creamy it is somehow better to me than hard, bitter chocolate.

Right after I had both girls and was nursing every 45 minutes (or so it seemed), I treated myself to chocolate soymilk. A lot of nursing books recommend that new moms drink a lot of milk to help produce milk (that’s basically complete nonsense, but that’s what the books say) so I would use that as an excuse to treat myself to chocolate soymilk. It was for the good of the baby, yes? And since I’m still nursing, I’m really doing it now for my toddler’s health, right? Right. 😉

I discovered a new and delicious way to enjoy chocolate soymilk. I’d heard of chocolate sodas for a while now but have never had one. After a busy morning of running, walking to the library/coffee shop/town square with the girls, and cooking a quick lunch of homemade tortillas with refried beans, I was feeling the need for a little refreshment. I had one (okay, more than one) glass of the chocolate soymilk and realized I needed to slow down my consumption of it. I decided to try a chocolate soda, having never had one and knowing nothing about them. I figured it couldn’t be that hard – chocolate milk + fizzy water. The only fizzy water we had in the house was some lemon Perrier leftover from my sister’s last visit. I decided to give it a shot, although I was skeptical about the combination of chocolate and lemon.

Goodness, was I wrong! It was SO GOOD. I had two before I could stop myself, and I really want another right now. Here’s the ‘recipe’:

approximately equal parts of chocolate soymilk and lemon fizzy water (not sweet), both cold

Pour into a glass. Delight in the resulting foamy cream, and the sweet-but-tangy, creamy-yet-sharp drink. Seriously, this stuff is fabulous. It is sweet but not overly so; the lemon is not overpowering  but is definitely present; the combination of the fizziness and soymilk creates a creamy, rich drink that is far better than the sum of its parts. This stuff was good. I will definitely make it again the next time we buy chocolate soymilk by accident. Or maybe on purpose.

I drank it too quickly to get a picture. Whoops. Guess I’ll just have to make more, right?

Today has been a day of cooking and baking. We are hosting coffee hour tomorrow. I have made: mini cupcakes (chocolate and vanilla), my mother-in-law’s strawberry-almond bars, and chocolate chip cookies. Husband is making homemade salsa and hummus.

Then, for dinner, I made an approximate version of an Ethopian stew from Isa’s blog. Here’s the recipe: http://www.theppk.com/2008/10/ethiopian-spicy-tomato-lentil-stew/ I didn’t follow it exactly; I used yellow split peas instead of lentils, skipped the paprika because we didn’t have any, and used zucchini instead of peas because I hate peas. Yes, that’s right, I just used the word ‘hate’ with respect to a vegetable, and I don’t take it back. I hate peas. Yup, I just said it again. So there. Anyways, this was a good recipe and pretty quick. It’s worth making.

We grew to love Ethiopian food when we lived in Grand Rapids, MI (of all places!). There were a few Ethiopian places there, and one in particular – Little Africa, in EastTown – was our favorite. It was  total hole-in-the wall, run by one guy who worked when he did; you never knew if the place was going to be open. It happened to be 100% vegan (though not advertised as such) and cheap, cheap, cheap. One time we went with my parents and the entire bill came to 9 bucks for all four of us! Crazy. Plus the food was fantastic. Ethiopian food can be hard to make at home because of all of the spices. I have made berbere before but I don’t tend to keep it on hand.

Upcoming recipes: the afore-mentioned mother-in-law’s strawberry almond bars; maybe a mention of those cupcakes; cranberry-cashew bread.